Archive for October, 2009|Monthly archive page

Bleu, bleu, bleu et encore bleu

In Collages, Story material on October 31, 2009 at 6:36 am


The source of the dream image is easy enough to figure out: thanks to our finally sharing the same software, my daughter and I could see each other as we talked last night – a first in more years than I care to count.  But in the dream, it was all story-related:  I was looking at a webcam view on Québec City’s Plains of Abraham; it was wintertime, the sky was clear and it cast a bluish light on the snow.  My first thought on waking was of story: it centered on the specific shape of the Ice Castle at the Winter Carnival in nineteen eighty-one, and how it reminded me of an Aztec structure revisited by a Las Vegas designer.

I really enjoy looking at the search terms used to find my blog as they often turn up interesting sidebars, whether intended or not by the searcher. In this instance, a title of a previous post of mine led me to a wordpress feature on portfolio designs. The “blue leather wordpress theme” further reminded me of the graphics on Blue Note Records – one of which is the ‘theme song’ for one of the characters. (In my mind, I  see the recording in the cover designs they used in the sixties, though – black with the names in blue and white lettering.)

That’s how it goes over here: night finds and early morning gleanings more or less giving shape to whatever direction the writing will first take. Setting the boat on the river, sort of thing.

Same with today’s photo: both the shades of blue and the woman ironing relating to a product called ‘bleu de lessive’ which looked like a block of blue chalk, some of which was scraped into the rinsing water to make white clothes appear whiter still.  Another called ‘bleu de méthylène’ (methylene blue) which was used as a desinfectant for throat aches – a swab of the stuff at the school infirmary  usually produced a  solid gag, followed by a fine and indelible spray of blue droplets out of the child being thus treated.

What will come of this particular mix of elements today? I have no idea yet. That’s the whole fun of it right there.

Tales, witnesses and talebearers

In Animals, Collages, RLB trivia, Visual artists on October 30, 2009 at 8:13 am


Strange morning. Woke from a dream where the internet server  was down to find my email accounts disabled again and the message that someone or thing is attempting to fake my server password. Happens every once in awhile; requires reconfiguring the data and so forth. A bother to which I’ll attend later.

First, this for story purposes. Today is a relative’s birthday, one  associated with heavily negative childhood connotations. I had never managed to divert any of it into good story material, until I started developing one of the ‘secondary’ characters in the group of stories on which I’m working at the moment. Well, not that I ever doubted it but here is confirmation: there is not such thing as a secondary character. He or she may be ‘onstage’ only to deliver a line or two, or he may be an important feature in a handful of scenes only. It makes no difference. The character is there for a reason; if he isn’t … why is he even taking up space on the page or on the stage?

I took the above photograph in Cahors a few years ago – a pilgrim, I would say, from the cockle shell on his hat; and one bringing news of great import, from the expression on  his face and the thrust of his torso. In this instance, the photo serves as a placeholder for the emotions associated to that part of the story.


19:10 Folks, I realize we’re all busy people with important concerns, full lives and so on. But us here writers, we need our break time,too.  I understand if you can’t follow the full nine minutes and twelve seconds of the vid right this minute, but know it will always be here, should you want to try it out. (If you don’t have an American dollar bill handy, I bet another rectangular piece of paper just might work.) Ready? Enjoy and a goodly morning/day/evening/night to you.

(No, Susan, I am not making fun of your bats; I just happen to like cute little Sumatran rhinos, myself.)

“Be ay of chere…”

In Collages, Current reading on October 29, 2009 at 7:57 am


The photo is a placeholder for a thought relating to the only holiday two of my characters ever took together (in real life, I grabbed the shot in the Pyrénées some three years ago.) The holiday scene doesn’t appear in the story but what happened then and why informs all of the subtext in it.

Fascinating night, split in two like a walnut. The first part provided a dream related to the woman in this story. The second yielded another dream related to another story in the series, plus the first line spoken by the woman: “Be ay of chere as light as lefe on linde,”* she says.” Guilt is a waste of time.” (No, that’s not me talking; it’s the character in the story. She’s a journalist by profession but some of them are well-read people who will quote Chaucer over a an excellent single malt.)   Not trying to be cryptic here, people; simply organizing my thoughts for this new day of writing.

Should you want to feast your eyes on something gorgeous, don’t miss the NASA Picture of the Day for October 29. Taken  near Valparaiso, Chile yet.  I’ve never been there. Don’t need to; I love Valparaiso through Pablo Neruda’s eyes. I bet he would love the light over Laguna Verde. (Yes, I’m still reading his Memoirs; he’s just escaped with his life from the possessive frenzy of a Birmanian woman. His was not a  boring life.)

I’m off to see what’s happening in storyland. Meilleurs voeux. As the talking head on French television used to say: Madame, Monsieur… (and the old woman in her living room, delighted, would say: “You see? He saluted me again.”)

* Picked the quotation up in another context but should anyone be interested, it appears in The Clerk’s Tale. (The character in my story may be an admirable woman in some ways but her fortitude and constancy are not of the same variety as Griselda’s. Methinks Griselda must have been a walking statue, myself. Unless she eventually turned into Pablo’s frenzied Birmanian stalker.)

The way it works

In Collages, Film, Music on October 28, 2009 at 7:01 am


Yesterday’s random grab of a random shot as Pic of the Day led to a great plot development in the story on which I was working: a school incident between two of the characters who go from best friends to  fierce rivals. This then led to another plot development years later in the story.

It also inspired a neat dream in which my knees had mended to the point where I could join a running  team. There was a scheduled run the next day and I was told I would be on the team if the organizers could find the money for gas. Why gas? Because the running team ran after a moving car. No gas, no moving car, no run. This was only of minor concern to me in the dream, since I thought  ‘so what? I’m running already’. I woke up on the news that the coach of that team was really great but  you had to run like crazy because he was a ‘bourreau de travail‘ – a French expression meaning somebody who works himself and others to the limit. The thought was not in the least bit depressing, quite the contrary.

Which brings me to today’s Pic of the Day. I chose it because of someone’s comment yesterday about Neil Diamond. Personally, I neither love nor hate him as a singer, no more than you can love or hate tepid bathwater. Tepid is tepid; in some cases, tepid is a step up from ice cold. All relative, all the time. But the point here is I then remembered seeing Neil Diamond in the remake of The Jazz Singer. This was in Tel Aviv on a Saturday, which tells me it was in 1980 or early ’81 since, in that time frame, I actually got a full day off from my job on Saturdays. I don’t remember which cinema it was; in any event, it was one where no one threw rocks at you if you chose to honor the Sabath by watching a lousy movie. And lousy it was. Don’t throw rocks if you happen to like this scene; I promise to stay polite also. But honestly: does this send a tingle up and down your spine? I think this is supposed to be the big come-back scene.  ‘Real strong here, please,’ says Neil on the clip, while the lady looks… looks what, exactly?  No comment.

I mostly remember that day for the fact I had time off, and the long walk that followed the movie. I used to walk for hours at a time, organizing stories in my head before scribbling away for extra hours after that. I don’t know what the photo above will inspire, writing-wise, but the Pierrot combined with Jazz definitely reminded me of Neil Diamond. The  movie is in the right time frame for part of the storyline on which I’m working right now, so who knows? Maybe The Jazz Singer will go through another reincarnation in storyland at the wonderful, fictional Pierrot Jazz Club in Québec City.

For the fun of it, here’s the first talkie announcement for the original The Jazz Singer. Can the youtube generation imagine that folks once marvelled at listening to moving pictures? Ain’t life amazing?

Lest ye forget

In Collages on October 27, 2009 at 6:08 am


Thanks so much to the kind soul who found my blog by typing these search terms: a man said to the universe summary. It truly does summarize things most efficaciously. Whoever you may be, here’s wishing you that – no matter what the circumstances – you also find within yourself whatever resources you need to deal with that fact. At this end, it ties in perfectly with what I wrote during the night.

An excellent continuation to all.


Have a … zoological day?

In Animals, I Ching on October 26, 2009 at 7:03 am


The shot above would simply be a boring shot of a fisherman putting up with an opinionated passerby were it not that I just woke up from a dream in which I was swimming in that lake. The water was clear enough to see the bottom and I was amazed at the quantities of dead catfish I was seeing.  Woke up to the words: “And now, we deal with reality”, followed by I Ching hexagram 26 which usually turns out to be  one handful of a day. The NASA Picture of the Day just showed up – with a title like  “Galaxy Zoo Catalogs the Universe” and squigglies of impressive dimensions. You will be pleased to know that the universe is ambidextrous – in other words, galaxies spin to the right or to the left, with no apparent preference for one or other direction. With these factoids in hand, I predict an animal-themed day over here. Will let the world know how it plays out in real time – at least, in those elements that will hold my attention. Salutations amicales for now.

Flying and Spinning Machines

In Artists, Circus, Collage, Hautvoir, Story material, The Crab Walker, Theater on October 25, 2009 at 7:57 am


The clock by my bed says it’s 7:40 am; the one on my computer says, no, it’s 6:40 am. In other words, Europe has now switched over to winter time, or gone  back to regular time or whatever. Apart from adding to the general confusion, the purpose of this  semi-annual exercise is totally lost on me. The good news is we don’t move around quite as fast as the pulsar at the heart of the Crab Nebula – thirty rotations per second, try to imagine if you can. (Today’s date for the fabulous view of the  Crab Nebula; it definitely got the ‘wow’ treatment from me this morning).

Apart from which… apart from which I’m still trying to get my bearings after a night with too many thoughts and not enough deep sleep. Ideas about some of the characters, urge to get up and start a collage with torn bits of paper, old memories of long-gone relatives – a busy night, it was. What to choose? The sagacious ones would say: when in doubt, wait. I am notoriously unsagacious, so I say: When in doubt, choose everything.

In other words: tea, note-taking, the collage idea really appeals, plus write-up of a scene. After  which we’ll deal with whatever else decides to get thrown into the mix.

Photo: I grabbed this photo of one of the productions by Les Plasticiens Volants while doing some shots at the newly spruced-up Office de tourisme in town. I’ll have to do a feature on them in the community blog one of these days. In the meantime, enjoy their website.  Hm.Which gives me an idea for the evolution of the tannery in the French story gurgling gently somewhere in the mix in my head. (Crab Nebula also reminded me of a description in the novel involving ghost crabs; forget what it was, putting this down as a placeholder for the thought).

(Oh: it’s not mentioned in the English material on their website. The Flying Plasticians are planning a new show of humongous street theater puppets for 2011. Theme: The Big Bang.)

Close cropping (some reasons for)

In Collages, Poetry, Story material on October 24, 2009 at 7:20 am


Yesterday, a phone appeal from a very nice lady made me drop one of my characters rather unceremoniously in mid-sentence. Camera in hand, I snapped photos of the massive outcry against the privatization of postal services, presently being planned by people for whom I never voted, so why should they care what I think of them and their schemes. I give you above a shot of the people – their anger, their wrath, the swelling forces of social discontent on the march, as it were. For obvious reasons, I decided even close cropping couldn’t save this (or other similar shots).  On the community blog, I went with a photo of a  lone woman standing in front of a closed post office.

C’est la vie, mes amis. Will go with an early community blog post this morning. Then, considering I did three community services yesterday, I declare my good deeds covered for both today and tomorrow, and repair to the land of dreams, nightmares, lost souls insisting on finding a decent angle on an indecent world and – occasionally – having a goofy, happy time with no questions asked and nobody’s special requests to honor.  Tchüss for now.


19:50 Just discovered this poet through this poem. I can’t begin to imagine myself spending eight years studying zen practice anywhere. But I can certainly relate to the notion that  “poetry is based on a thoroughly lived life.” Same holds true for any writing, yes?

And now, the day is done.

Best to all.

Self-portrait of the writer, whistling in the dark

In Collages, RLB trivia on October 23, 2009 at 8:51 am


That’s me on the right. At least, that’s me when I wake up at 2am as I did this morning, from one or another dream revealing one or another of my numerous existential inadequacies, and my impending appointment with the Mysteries that Lie Beyond. There are so many from which to choose  – both inadequacies and dreams on this general theme – I need not fear a dearth of  subject matter in this regard. In all fairness, I must give myself a few points for keeping a game (if somewhat fixed) smile on my mug during last night’s exercise. (If you look at the smile on the stuffed lamb’s face, you’ll get the general idea.) In this particular dream, I’d been prepped and pre-sedated for a life-threatening surgery involving the back and the heart. I must say the prep was done amidst much jocularity and good spirits by the hospital staff. So much so that there really was nothing else for a polite patient to do than to smile and joke right back – even once the staff decided a little run uphill was just the thing before moving on to the operation itself. (I have a terminal fear, rarely admitted, of my heart conking out with no advance warning; it is only matched by my terminal fear of my heart conking out after long, painful and debilitating attempts at I-told-you-so involving exercise, eating habits, etc.)

So it goes. You acknowledge the stuffed lamb, the spent shells, the fear of what comes next. Then, you get on with it. In my case, same old same old.  Thank goodness, it only sounds boring and repetitious. No matter what the result may be, the actual doing is anything but. So, today, guess what?  Prepped and pre-sedated or not, I’ll be reading, I’ll be writing, and I’ll be attending to whatever else crops up.  Onward, kadima and so on.


17:35 One community service led to a second community service which led to a third. I’m signing off to do a few blogstrolls, then batten down the hatches to get a bit more writing done. File under trivia: I picked up some gingko biloba extract after reading some medical journal info concerning confirmed positive effects on blood circulation, neuropathic pains and other marvels too numerous to mention (all of this confirmed by websites selling the stuff, it goes without saying; I  have nothing against placebo effects, but it’s always nice to know there’s some scientific basis to it all.) Oldest tree still in existence, the gingko. Long may he thrive (actually,  he and she; they come in both varieties. Sweet, no?) Oldest tree extant – some 270 million years. That’s pretty sweet too.

Cheers to all.


In Collages, Current reading, Visual artists on October 22, 2009 at 8:38 am


First, the literal one: the picture above presently serves as  wallpaper  on my computer  ‘desk’ – which is just as messy as the large Danish-inspired teakwood and metal one beside it. Said real-life desk was picked up for twenty euro in a furniture repository outside a French village called Capestang in the Languedoc. This was in early 2005, shortly after deciding “come what may, I am now in France and so, France it will be.” So much for physical background.

Story background is a more complex equation at the moment. The time has come to spend money on printer ink again in order to read as most readers do. Maybe the Kindle generation no longer needs to see words on paper but there always comes a point where I must revert to early childhood experience: illustrated or not, stories are printed on paper. You don’t scroll down; you turn the pages to find out what happens next.

The purpose of this exercise being to distance myself from what I know of the background to the stories and see with my own eyes what the reader can make of them from what is on the page, not  from what is in my head.

Read some stories in various literary journals last night. A few interviews also. I’ll definitely be reading all of the interviews provided by  the Paris Review’s Fall Issue online. Suffice it to say for now that, craft-wise,  my opinions run closer to Mister Miller’s than to Mister Ellroy’s.

I leave the reader with this morning’s discovery. I like all of the cartoons but the reference to natural disasters appeals most to me at this juncture in my own storylines.


17:25  Before signing off for a long walk after a difficult day of writing (or maybe I should write: a good day of writing difficult material), my thanks to the person  whose search terms for this blog led me to a story by Stephen Crane.  I read it for the first time during this afternoon’s break. Had Crane written nothing else in his brief life,  The Open Boat would suffice to inscribe him indelibly in my memory cells and in my appreciation.

Best to all.