Which brings me to this summer's cheerful little ditty with the refrain "duh."
Sure, there's a reason for labels like this.
Which brings me to this summer's cheerful little ditty with the refrain "duh."
Some warming-up exercises from my writing day.
Story 1: Got an Eye on You
They might be watching from the most unlikely of places: from your own wristwatch, a smudge on a painted cinderblock wall, the unfurling tendril of kudzu.
If it looks like, it looks.
An eye for an eye.
You might speculate, but how will you ever know what thoughts –– or if thoughts –– drift across those observer's minds. They are made to watch, certainly, function following form, but by whom and for what possible reason?
Story 2: Fisheye Lens
Fish always look surprised when lifted from the water. Well, not all fish: Sharks aren't so much surprised as continuing to look as if they are hunting, cat eyes blank in those smooth faces. But most fish tilt a that sequin of an eye and flex a jaw, possibly astonished by the wide airy world that has taken them.
Maybe it's gravity that surprises them, even more than the suffocating air: the sense finally of the earth pulling on every cell, unsupported guts tending downward, gills crowding one another in a single direction.
Are they at the apex of surprise when hauled alongside a boat? Is there further astonishment at being unhooked and slid back into the sea? Surely even the most inexperienced of baitfish can not be surprised or outraged when the rigging hook circles a spine and the wire leader dictates their way. But no, that feels false. We all treasure secret ambitions. No baitfish knows for sure that she is bait, even when she's twitching away from the cotton net in the aerated tank.
Imagination is like the common cold virus: it's always there, lurking, waiting for the chance to nip in and take the wheel. There's no sure cure, though you can treat the symptoms. Medical advice says let it run its course.
Today's fiction prompt: a photo I took on a fishing trip to Wyoming.
Rudolph was no fiberglass elk, bugling soundlessly on the street of Thermopolis.
He was neither the victim of a fierce electrical taping nor did he lose an ear during a wrestling match with a drunk guy.
He did not lift his rack of fiberglass antlers into the wide Wyoming sky in an effort to voice his pain.
He did not wear a saddle-pad of twinkling holiday lights.
He did not sport a compact fluorescent bulb painted red at the distal point of his noggin.
They might have let Rudolph join in any reindeer games, but little matter.
Was he like Bartleby before him, preferring not?
Or like Robert Cratchit, beetling away for the chance of a day's liberty?
Or Balthazar, with the insight to know what lay ahead?
Or maybe, inert as can be, he is like the Yule log, waiting for the dark to yield to light and then celebrate another year beginning.
Hope your season is bright.
Life is not the only thing out there imitating art.
Evidently Nature's in on it too.
According to Edgar Degas, "Art is not what you see, but what you make others see." And for that I might as well go ahead and apologize.
I was thinking about the Alexander Pope quote, which was –– I thought –– Art is but Nature to advantage dressed. Or, in this case, not dressed. I meant to rift extensively on part about being undressed. Low humor, sure, and possibly dragging in the topic of saggy pants.
But when I checked the quotation (From his Essay on Criticism, which is in strictest truth a poem), Pope actually wrote:
"True wit is Nature to Advantage drest,/What oft was Thought, but ne'er so well Exprest,/Something, whose Truth convince'd at Sight we find,/That gives us back the Image of our Mind."
Oh Alexander Pope, you navel-gazing noodler.
Trachinotis carolinas. Characterized by small silvery scales, forked tail, related to Jack-fish but highly valued for eating.
A Fishing Story –– Version 1
Caught me a biggun. Though he had me whupped, but I turned the tables on his bipedal ass. Bootless meet toothless. How do you like them airless apples? Huh? Swim like a fish much?
All he had to do was let go, but it's greed what catches em, every time. Sparkle sparkle! Just let go and get back to your spot, but no. Gotta cling. Dunno why it's called landing when you reel one in. Land's the one thing they ain't much of in that situation, if you know what I mean. I figure he'll eat pretty good, give him a few days.
A Fishing Story –– Version 2
A short list of ways I've avoided writing today: rearranged the fiction bookshelf, cleaned my stainless water bottle with bleach, followed by cleaning the bottle-brush. With bleach. Made a few calls. Perused Writer's Digest. Bootlessly researched a specific twitter from a specific Twit. Cleaned the keyboard with rubbing alcohol and q-tips. Listened to samples of Billie Martin's songs on iTunes. Decided listing my excuses was nearly as good as writing anything. Words are words when you are trying for a daily word-count.
A Fishing Story – Version 3
Swimming, swimming, swimming, biting at a shrimp.
Shrimp has sharp –– ow!
And damn! What the hell?
Swimming swimming, vaulting into air.
Tractor beam or something yanking.
Don't beam me up.
Swimming, running from the grasp.
"Chrysanthemum" comes from the Greek for "gold" and "flower."
You know these flowers: big tidy pots of blooms that last for ages. They show up for sale in the front of high-end grocery stores and at the big hardware warehouse stores. Mums, as we call them in English. Mums at Halloween, autumn colors for Thanksgiving. In Australia, mums are the traditional flower for Mother's day.
In China, they are the symbol of autumn and purity. The chrysanthemum is the official flower of Chicago. Who knew?
In India, a girl wearing chrysanthemums in her hair is said to bring happiness to her family. And in Japan, they represent longevity. The royal family sits on the chrysanthemum throne. But also –– so I understand after reading one of the Sano Ichiru mysteries by Laura Joh Rowland –– it's a symbol of homosexuality in samurai times. Yeah, don't think about it.
But in France, they are the flower for tombstones. People put them in the graveyard on All Saints.
For years, I have mistakenly believed that Charles Baudelaire's famous book of poetry Les Fleurs du Mal –– a chunk of which I translated in college, for pity's sake –– was both "the flowers of evil" (a metaphor) and also an actual flower: chrysanthemums.
Whenever I saw the cheerful round faces of chrysanthemums, my busy brain would supply the subtitle, "Les fleurs du mal!"
But nope. Baudelaire anyhow wasn't referencing these particular flowers in his poems about the pursuit of novelty and erotic decadence.
How odd: such an infinitesimal and utterly trivial prejudice against an innocent flower, but I have held it for decades. Of course, it's worth remembering that one might also translate the title of that book (which I don't recommend, btw, as fun reading) as "the flowers from evil, or from suffering." Or something.
Anyhow. They are long-suffering and colorful blossoms, no matter what I've mistakenly held against them.
But in shadows? As with every happening hotspot in the known world, predators are just waiting for the opportunity to prey.
It might be a small life-and-death drama, but at the Farm, we are talking actual life and death.
Along comes the big bad. Slithering. Licking the air with a forked tongue for the scent of mousey love. Perhaps the big bad has developed a taste for these tender morsels in their nuptial bower. Or wants to.
In a moment comes a squeaking in the humid dark. A thump perhaps, and a scrabble...A fierce little battle that no diminutive St. George can hope to win.
A final squeak and silence fills Base Camp.
The big bad curls around a full tummy and snoozes for a day or a week, and wakes to the delightfully stretchy feeling of impending shed. The nuptial bower now a spa room. Exfoliation and microderm abrasion. Buffed. Polished.
And then vamoosed.
Leaving the mess for the maid.
That. Ain't. No. Bird.
Enter your amusing name for this creature, or a caption, or something –– in the comments area below and I will pluck a lucky winner from the crowd and award him or her a prize.
Such as, perhaps, a bar of homemade almond-oatmeal soap –– or an actual physical book. Or maybe lunch. As the whim takes me. Thanks for stopping by, and thanks in advance for playing!
I spent my first years as an adult in Manhattan. This meant putting aside my hayseed discomfort with seething masses of humanity and suppressing a powerful native impulse to avoid conflict.
And –– the more important bit of immigrating to the Big City –– transforming my near-constant uneasiness (oh, call it fear!) into bravado and a solid grasp of the island's geography. The zeal of the new convert in action gave me a passionate opinion about Katz's deli, the Old Town vs. the Cedar Taverns, street dogs, knishes, the best route to the softball fields at the East River, and every other New York City thing.
I was a broke young creature with a super-cool job, and I knew that NYC was probably the best metropolis in the universe. I mean -- Korean salad bars open at 3 am? The Met? Central Park? Subways and monasteries and amazing retail?
But then I went a little farther afield. Bella Roma!
At seven in the morning, at least on this day, the Fountain of Trevi gets cleaned. City of Rome workers sporting the ubiquitous Romulus-and-Remus-suckling-from-a-wolf logo drain the water, sweep the coins into buckets. (It goes to charity), and scrub away the algae. The square is empty, the gelatarias shuttered, just the one tourist in attendance.
New York has a sewer museum. New York has Broadway and a eye-popping number of celebrities-per-square yard of sidewalk.
But it lacks enormous classical statuary being scrubbed –– with typical Roman aplomb and nonchalance (Tota va bene!) –– by a team of rubber-booted workers on a regular basis.
Boom! Advantage Rome.
Pariediolia is the name for the native human tendency to construct faces out of random patterns. Like Arcimaboldo's work, but by chance rather than art.
The word comes from the Greek for something like "wrong image." Spotting the face of St. Lucia on your flatbread pizza –– mental illness notwithstanding –– is bonus in our evolutionary heritage of pattern recognition.
It's related to the way that when confronted with a paper plate decorated with bull's eyes, a wee bitty baby serves up the same charming goo-goo eyes for the plate as he gives to actual human faces. Survival of the most charming.
Which tells me that the point of imagination is to actually and genuinely save your life.
But what's it called when you spot horses everywhere?
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