Fuzzy Thinking

Apr. 27, 2016

Writing is an interesting and complex business.  Many think a fiction writer sits down and simply creates.  To a degree, that’s true.  They do invent worlds or go to far off locations.  It is fiction after all and as fiction, it is a work of the imagination that describes events, people or places.

Fiction is not all fabrication though.  Regardless of what the copyright page in books might tell you, often writers base their characters or locations on of real people and places.  In the end, they are amalgamations, but at some time they were real. For fiction to work, it has to be believable.

To make it real, description is employed to set the stage.  Through description and dialogue, the writer is charged with taking the reader on a journey with all the associated scenery.

To achieve some level of authenticity and to give me a sense of where I am, I rely heavily on the internet to take me where I need to go.

Let’s say I want my character to drive from point A to point B.  Both points exist in the real world.  I can go so far as to select the type of car the character is driving.  The manufacturer’s website is replete with images of the interior and exterior of the car.

When the character arrives, let’s say it is a government building or a shopping mall, there is probably a website for that location.  The site will doubtless give me images that will show places I wouldn’t be allowed access to otherwise.

Let’s say you present yourself at the central government complex in Nuuk, Greenland and ask, “Hey, I’m a writer.  Would you mind if I take a quick peek at your cabinet chamber?”

I feel sure after the initial investigation, the police would let you go.  Probably.

Another tool I can use is Google Earth.  I can look at the exact route from A to B and go down to the street view to see what the character sees – or doesn’t notice.  I may have been there, driven the exact route, but do I remember the color of the awning over that deli on the corner of Queen Ann Street?  Probably not.

Does my character turn left or right at this or that intersection?  Cross any railroad tracks lately?  Is he on a newly paved road or one pockmarked with potholes?  Will she be passing through farm country or is it miles of subdivisions or is it all in an urban setting?

I can see it all as the character sees it.

Google Earth comes in several variations.  It can be accessed as an application downloaded to one’s computer.  It can be opened via the internet or seen on a smartphone.

But it can do more.  I’m not restricted to the roads and landscape.  I can view the ocean or sky or 3D images of specific buildings.  I can go to mars or the moon or lay on my back in a forest and look up at a dense canopy of trees against a night sky.  I can fly around cities or go back in time with historical images.

I can flesh out the scene.  I create it in the dictionary sense of that word, but the tiny details are what makes it real for my readers.

I’m sure there are those who would say I don’t have enough imagination.  Perhaps they’re right.  Let me assure those people I will cry myself to sleep tonight and turn in my writers’ union card tomorrow morning.

 

May. 4, 2015

      I live, rather happily, in an emerging nation in Central America.  Living as an Ex Patriot, it is easy to notice things, ‘cause we don’t have a lot to do.

      Many, but certainly not all, from our ExPat community have an unshakable need to hear and impart the appalling details of each other’s aches, pains, treatments and procedures.  We seem to relish them, bathe in their awfulness and almost wish we had more noteworthy ailments.

      The more horror-filled your story, the better.  We, as individuals, then go into a very special one-up mode, a la, “Oh yeah!  You think that abdominal aortic aneurysm was something?  Last week I died of Dengue fever!”

      I suppose it is not a thing unique to my little part of the world.  It is what happens when people get old.  Health care and disease states increase and we get comfortable thinking about such things in great detail. 

      Thinking, inevitably leads to talking.  Talking about health issues, because it is a subject common to us all, leads to Too Much Information.

      Remarkably, telling people you don’t want to hear about things that are essentially and often disgustingly biological only causes them to intensify their efforts to tell you. 

      Please, don’t get me wrong, there are people with serious, life-ending illnesses and for them I wish there was something I could do.  Often, all they need is all we can do – listen and offer support.

      The problem shows up because I’ve found that folks for whom the end of life or serious injury are real things, don’t generally bitch about it nearly as much as I would.

      This line of convoluted thought led me to the current trend in the first world nations commonly called First World Problems (FWP’s).

      For moderately hale and hearty geezers, health and wellbeing are things in which we are keenly interested.  But who in the First World is riveted by FWP’s?

      It would seem an uncomfortable number of people.

      In the industrialized world it is possible to hear someone say, “My life is as good as over!  After I left Starbuck’s with my double cupped, venti one pump caramel, one pump white mocha two scoops vanilla bean powder, extra ice frappuchino with two shots poured over the top (apagotto style) with caramel drizzle under and on top of the whipped cream, double cupped, I stumbled over a bump in the sidewalk and the little kitten the Barista had painted on my coffee got ruined!”

      I think you will agree, this is a tragedy in any world. 

      By the way, if you know what a double cupped, venti one pump caramel, one pump white mocha whatever is, there is probably a thirteen-step program with your name all over it.  Believe me, that extra step is necessary, do don’t skip it or we will all know.

{Feel free to castigate me roundly for my debilitating un-hipness Re: coffee, in the comments section below.}

      In the first world it is possible to here:

    “My diamond earring keeps scratching my iPhone 6.  Each new scratch makes me cry.  Will this never end??!!”

    “I toasted my bagel before I realized I was out of butter.  I had to use margarine.  Margarine!”

☞     “I put my earbuds in my pocket for just a minute and now they are all tangled.  I don’t understand how this keeps happening to me.  How much longer can I take it before I snap!”

    “This software update requires me to restart my computer.  Requires!  Imagine!”

    “My remote unlock is broken.  I had to unlock the car with a key, for the love of god!  What am I some kind of animal??!!”

    “The shower curtain blows into me when I’m showering and makes me feel yucky.  Seriously, who can I talk to about this.”

      It is all out there boys and girls.  All in living color.

      Believe me, I feel your pain if your problem is, “Do you have any idea how many passwords I have??!!  AND I’m expected to remember all of them!”

      “So what, Ryan, you sly and charming prince?  What does this have to do with me and my über-serious health issues and/or life-threatening dental work??!!”

      Here’s a thought that may help us avoid FWP's - let’s go a week without mentioning our individual disease states.  Just one week.

      You never know, we all might feel better and if we don’t, well, we always have last week’s illness to fall back on. 

      Also, remember, few of us can remember what was said an hour ago, so your health issues will be news to everyone!

      Oh, and leave off with those double cupped, venti one pump caramel, whatever. 

      You’ll live longer.  Maybe.

 

Just say NO to FWP's

Mar. 20, 2015

Of course they’re not.  As they say in statistical analysis, correlation does not imply causation, but what are the implications of propagation via intentional exacerbation?

Park Dietz, MD, PhD, MPH, is a forensic psychiatrist and criminologist and has consulted or testified in a score  of US criminal cases including that of Jeffrey Dahmer, the Unabomber, the Beltway sniper attacks, Jared Lee Loughner, and the Aurora and Columbine mass murders. 

Here is what he has to say we should do:

In the last 20 years of mass murderers, I have repeatedly told CNN and other media, if you don’t want to propagate more mass murders:

  • DON’T start the story with sirens blaring.
  • DON’T have photographs of the killer.
  • DON’T make this 24/7 coverage.
  • Do everything you can NOT to make the body count the lead story, NOT to make the killer some kind of anti-hero.
  • DO localize this story to the affected community and make it as boring as possible in every other market.
  • Because every time we have intense saturation coverage of a mass murder, we expect to see one or two more within a week.

 

Here is what we do - daily

  • Gunmen Kill 11 at Paris Satirical Magazine
  • Gunman Kills Doctor, Self at VA Hospital
  • Gunman, 2 Others Dead in UPS Shooting: 
  • Gunman Dead in NYC Firefight, 3 Officers Shot
  • Gunman Dead in NYC Firefight, 3 Officers Shot
  • Gunman in Custody in Bronx NYPD Shootings:
  • Gunman Ambushes, Kills Pennsylvania State Trooper
  • Cops: Son Shot Hedge-Fund Dad Over Allowance Cut
  • Cops: Man Drove 1K Miles to Shoot Girlfriend's Family
  • Cops: Man Kills 4 Kids
  • Cops: Man Murders Ex, New Boyfriend at Class Reunion
  • Cops: Gunman Who Killed 3 Mounties Captured
  • Cops: Man Kills 6 Grandkids, Daughter
  • 3 Die in 'Random' Shootings; Suspect Held
  • 3 Suspects in Custody for Shooting of NYPD Officers During Robbery Call
  • 21 People Shot Last Night in Chicago
  • 3 Shot After Nas Concert at Red Rocks
  • 1 Dead, 1 Wounded in Department Store Shooting
  • 15 Shot in Dance Club
  • 4 Killed in PA Shooting Spree
  • 2 men arrested in shooting of NYPD officers, police say 
  • European Student Opens Fire in Classroom
  • Elderly 'Nice Guy' Shot 4 Times Answering Door
  • Texas Man Shot Kids Execution-Style
  • Man Doesn't Get Job, Shoots Up Shop
  • Journalists might protest that tailoring their stories is nothing more than censorship of the worst kind.

That would be true if they weren’t already tailoring their stories to exploit the most salacious and gruesome aspects of the ‘News,’ for the purpose of selling their product.  In this, the product is fear.

Feb. 17, 2015

Prez Obama is plotting to nuke the entire population of the US of A!

Seems President Obama is plotting with that Commie billionaire George Soros to cut loose some almighty hellfire on the USofA and they are going to do it from Air Force One.

“How come?” I hear you asking.  Well, well, ah well, President Obama and that Commie billionaire George Soros, that’s why!

I suspect the pair of ‘em are going to kick the nukes out the door of the plane because the thing really isn’t set up to do it any other way.  A mere detail.

I do have a bit of a problem though. Having annihilated your whole kingdom, what is the point of being the Dark Lord of nothing at all?  I mean in the Dark Lording business, Kim Jun Un would outrank you!  How embarrassing is that??!!

Fortunately, according to no one at all, a small group of high ranking military officers thwarted the attack.  This makes it all true because we’re still here.

Makes perfect sense

Jan. 18, 2015

Headline:  Saudi Cleric: Snowmen are Sinful

     Seems a nasty winter storm covered much of the Middle East, including northern Saudi Arabia with snow last week.  That prompted a Saudi cleric (because we don’t say Muslim or Islamic any more) to  rule making snowmen was “un-Islamic.”  Said cleric said, “It’s not permitted to make a statue out of snow, even by way of play and fun,” because, well, fun is out of the question. 

     As though he hadn’t stepped in it quite enough, "God has given people space to make whatever they want which does not have a soul {snowmen have souls}, including trees {huh?}, ships, fruits {huh?}, buildings, and so on," the cleric said.

     That’s right, snowmen, my friends.  Regardless of your religious or policical flavor, at last someone has recognized the vast evil that besets the earth.  Studies that I just made up have shown snowman building is “A tawdry imitation of infidel-ism that fosters laziness, eroticism, other salacious behaviors and who knows what else.  Snow-women we don’t have to worry about so much.  They melt quickly in a burqa.”

     Yup, Snowmen = Evil (pictured)

     I wish I had enough imagination to make this stuff up.