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Archive for May, 2016|Monthly archive page

Why people get tired

In Absurdlandia, Animals, Break - coffee, Hautvoir, Local projects, proto drafts, Synopsis on May 31, 2016 at 8:51 am

At least, for the time being, there’s still a human presence behind the wicket. With a bit of persistence, you even get admitted into the Holy of Holies beyond the waiting room. Into a small room where fingerprints get recorded on a green screen atop an electronic gizmo shaped like a cube. Four fingers of right hand, four fingers of left hand, then both thumbs. Followed by an official paper attesting the holder’s  right to wander from departmental administration to municipal bureaucracy for another stretch, seeking an official address the préfecture accepts as the one and only place worthy of receiving her acceptance or denial of the right to stay for another year.

What will be the next step when The System goes all-out electronic? No more human presence to greet, treat or mistreat you and your application for a renewal of your right to take the bus to and from the préfecture. If you happen to live on the street with the rest of your family and if your French isn’t all that extensive, where will you find access to a computer? How will you fill out the electronic queries? I mean, how will you even know how to get online – assuming the library staff allows you inside in your dirty, sorry state? Where do you park the wife and kids while you tackle the screen?

Etc.

Why people get tired. Why they cut corners or ignore LAST AND FINAL notices. Why they shrug their shoulders (if they still have the energy for a gesture that extravagant) or just sit like lumps with occasional glances of the common-misery variety.

Why people just give up and let others do what they will, for better or for much, much worse.

I look at the piles of papers on the table. At the scanner the electrician managed to revive the other day. I look at the novels, the poster from Hassen Ferhani’s excellent documentary Dans ma tête un rond-point. I add  a few lines to the synopsis-in-the-making. I add a few brief notes to a story in the first-glimmer stage. I tell myself I must see the dentist and the doctor too. I look at postage stamps, the battery from my camera, in need of recharging. I tell myself I should eat a bite of breakfast, and ignore the rain, the rain, the rain.

I smile at the absurdities because if I don’t, who else will in this house? The dog? She’s a good sort but not too gifted in the smiling department. In fact, jokes and laughter worry her. She likes sad songs and vocalizes to some of them. Eh, sad songs cross the species barrier, but comedy? not so much. As for absurdity…

Are we making sense yet?

In Absurdlandia, dreams, Hautvoir, Local projects on May 30, 2016 at 6:58 am

Some dismiss you as a fat, but harmless, old fool. Some dismiss you for no reason. Some don’t like you. Some like you for reasons to which you don’t relate. Some you like who don’t like you. Sometimes, there’s not much that makes sense and the disconnects leave you wondering if you landed on your head at an early age and everyone’s been too embarrassed  to tell you.

Making sense? Long stretches don’t. The million-copies-sold crowd get it right. Somehow, they figure out not many lives make sense, therefore, give the folks something that adds up. Ah-ha. For five hundred blessed pages, the readers let the pilot take them safely through all kinds of mayhem, on to the words The End. You’re in good hands with celebrated writer X, Y or Z. Fasten your seatbelt, suspend your disbelief, nobody will get hurt for real, no matter how realistic (or fantastical) the tale.

The week looms. I feel like an idiot who boarded the wrong train, and only discovers this when all the money’s gone and no one aboard speaks a language even remotely familiar. Some Monday mornings are less appealing than others.

So. Gather what wits I have about me. Deal with yet another bus ride to la préfecture in Albi with a man who still hasn’t mastered French after three years in the country. Nothing adds up except well-kept account books i.e.  math and straight lines drawn with a ruler. I flunked math a long time ago, and no matter what any of The Books say, being a human is one hell of a crazy ride with no promised land where the train tracks leave off for no reason.

Monday morning blues? Let’s call them that. Onward and so on, of course. Bounce along. Pretend you’re the boulder rolling downhill, and not the one who will have to roll it uphill again. Inertia to the point of complete standstill. Enjoy the standstill while it lasts. Pretend you enjoy absurdity in all its manifestations – who knows, you might even convince yourself you do. Those long periods of waiting in parking lots, for instance,  while others drift from one thing to the next, and before you know it, there’s another day gone in absurdlandia. Absurdlandia rules.

Allez.

 

Synopsis-challenged

In Synopsis on May 29, 2016 at 10:53 pm

Sometimes, so much gets crowded into a brief period of living, you’re not sure on which of the mental snapshots to concentrate. Writing a synopsis is a lot like such a piece of ‘real-life’.

A funny moment: about twenty lines away from the words The End in Joseph Heller’s Catch-22, Major Danby says to Yossarian : “It must be nice to be in Sweden now…The girls are so sweet. And the people are so advanced.”

As it happened, the seaside cottage the group had rented for the weekend was full of “noir”-type novels, ranging from Ludlum to…a sweet Swedish girl by the name of Camilla Läckberg, represented by a novel titled The Ice Princess. Which I read in French translation – all five hundred and nine pages (although a lot of the reading was more of the skimming kind. I’m not about to knock the writing of someone who has sold fifteen million copies of her detective stories.  But…what can I say? The overall effect felt like reading  instead of watching a made-for-tv movie. Well done? Yes, of course; but that’s not the point.)

What’s the point, then? What I have written. Pulling away from it enough to write something meaningful about it.

***

Why so challenging? There’s a self-consciousness effect involved. The writer attempting to explain, and introduce the characters, like a hostess at a party: Mabel, I don’t think you’ve met Victor yet. Victor, this is Mabel, you know Victoria’s sister who sells seashells at the seashore? etc.

Somehow, something like attempting to grab a shot of a seagull at lift-off. Oops, gone. Leaving so soon?

DSCN7994

Away

In notes on May 28, 2016 at 7:03 am

“You don’t scare me with your T-shirt,” le ministre du Travail tells the striker. “Working is the best way to buy yourself a suit.”

Which words, in their way, summarize some of the basic disconnects between a millionaire politician and a militant union member from the rank and file.

No, I’m not going there this morning. Airwaves, tweets and assorted pundits are in full bloom with analyses, comments, invectives. France, on the brink of…etc. Emotions are contagious. Anger and rage are close neighbors. Add panic, and the stage is set for troubles.

I’m off to the sea this morning. Back tomorrow evening. The laptop stays home. Bringing a notebook and pen, of course. Most of all, bringing my availability to look and see, hear and listen, and jot down whatever insists on the need of a pen and paper witness.

Then when I come back, I’ll take another look at what I wrote this past year. One certainty remains: for the writer, writing a piece of fiction beats writing a synopsis and query letter.

To the sea, with Aly and other neighbors.

Since then

In notes on May 27, 2016 at 8:00 am

Where are they now? How have their lives changed since then?

Since then. Several come to mind. Since the year industries shut down, big owners moved out with their money, little owners floundered and lost everything and workers went on the dole. This, as applies to the town in which I live, these days.

Since last seen in person. One such, once witty and funny in her unguarded writing, now advertises sessions in which to Express the Goddess Within and celebrate “feminine” qualities. Her list: compassion, tenderness, sensitivity, creativity, intuition, delicacy. Hm. For Women Only? (Dear participants: please check all “masculine” traits at the door. Such as?)

Further back: people never met in person and only encountered as avatars (in the contemporary meaning of the word): blogger such-and-such, and other blogger so-and-so. Some, no more than a passing blip on the screen, others as meaningful as any other significant encounter through reading.

This computer, back to usual operating speed. The phone: working again.*

*But, I discover, for incoming calls only. I guess I’m denied full privileges because the dog’s illness put my bank account under distress when the automatic payment was due on the phone service. Ergo: punish the faulty spendthrift. Stands to reason. Artificial intelligence is singularly devoid of “feminine” qualities.

***

You write for your friends – real or imaginary. Sometimes, neither the real nor the imaginary friends write back. Or like, or pay attention, or “get” your meaning. Same as in everyday life. Silence is also a response. Stay alert.

***

Ever since making it aboard a leaky dinghy and on to the Italian shore, he’s wanted to go back for a look at the sea. The sea, as seen from these shores. The sea, as the setting of pleasant times. The beach as a place for strolls during which to sort out your head. Tomorrow and Sunday, six people will head down to the Mediterranean. He will be one of them. A lot has happened to him, since then.

A lot goes on happening. Stay alert.

In strictest confidence

In Hautvoir, notes, Sanford Meisner, Story material on May 26, 2016 at 7:39 am

I won’t even try to describe what “navigation” on the web looks like at the moment. Suffice it to say, I get to sort through papers on my desk, or water the plants, while the whirligig whirls or the page freezes over. Yes, hoping for some relief today. If no relief shows up, I’ll see what happens next.

This morning, the judge in the case being on sick leave, the President of the Tribunal in Castres will hear the lawyer’s appeal. Yesterday, I spent close to two hours listening to what the woman had to say because, good bad or no decision today, she needed someone to listen. So I listened. Took notes. Asked questions, and listened some more.

She’s hoping the President of the Tribunal will designate her as “tiers digne de confiance” (English  literal translation: trustworthy third party). The designation is somewhere between a tutor and a foster parent. If she gets the designation, the boy she’s been sheltering, feeding and otherwise protecting for the past six months can get the knee operation he needs. The surgeon won’t touch him without a signed authorization by an adult officially designated as – well, as something.

The boy’s plight – a variation on a now-familiar theme: the only official paper that survived the crossing of the Mediterranean in a dinghy gave his (true) age. However when his buddy got turned back at the French-Swiss border (the Swiss? Not the Italian?? Yes, and don’t ask for details if you veer toward impatience). I continue: his buddy got turned back, so he claimed he had no papers at all and was over eighteen. Then French authorities took his certificate for authentication in Albi, he was placed in a home, got kicked out after the infamous bone test, and so on. (The certificate of birth? Now proven authentic.)

The woman told me all this. Some parts of the story, I knew already. More than anything, she needed to talk about her own life and her own plight. A lot of that sounded damned familiar. She’s a shade better off than I am, financially speaking. But at age sixty-one, after a professional career in the medical field, she now works crazy, irregular hours as a nursing assistant in an old people’s home. In other words, helping those who can’t help themselves anymore in their own feeding, bathing and other bodily functions.

The sun was out so we sat outside the tea room a local friend has opened close by. She had coffee and paid for my pot of Earl Grey.

Yesterday afternoon, two teen-aged girls (in the 12-14 range) shared the names of their beloved with me. In strictest confidence, for the thrill of speaking the beloved’s name out loud. Then we got back to the serious business of nailing those damned multiplication tables once and for all – for those times when electronic devices don’t deliver the goods as expected.

A post

In A post to keep afloat, Absurdlandia, Animals, Current reading, Food, Fun, Games, Hautvoir, Synopsis on May 25, 2016 at 7:36 am

This morning, I type these few lines after a lousy night, sleep-wise, and after reading that unionized staff in France’s nuclear power plants are the next considering going out on strike. Never a dull moment.

So I’ll stay with the tiny and the closest at hand, since there’s not much else to reach for anyway. I need help from someone with real and practical knowledge of computers, but can’t afford the services. Everything else is at that same level of need vs available resources. The green plants are thriving and, thanks to a can of bug killer provided by a friend, the termite-like wood-chompers aren’t eating away at the base of my kitchen table this morning. There’s not much breakfast to speak of since the dog polished off my bread supply while I was out. Apart from which, there’s not much else to report on the home front.

Synopsis? Not yet, that’s for sure. I’ll leave the story alone for a while. Maybe read through a few more of the fools in Shakespeare’s plays. In the intro to my copy of Melville’s Moby Dick, there’s mention of the fool in King Lear having served as a model for the character of Pip.

Apparently, my computer has lost the connection again. I’ll assume this writing won’t get erased when I press publish. If it does, what can I do about it? Not much (ah, a little thingie shows up; it reads draft saved at 7:34:16 am. Let’s find out if that’s true.)

Once more into the fray…or not.

In Drafts, dreams, Hautvoir, Local projects, Querying, Rejection, Revision, Synopsis on May 24, 2016 at 7:47 am

Every day (except when I shut down the phone, and close the shutters),  I meet people who aren’t blips on a screen or figments of my imagination. A lot of them cope with problems that make mine pale the same way the moon does when the sun comes out. Most days, I also read from some writer whose work makes mine seem ridiculous. Somewhere in the whole mix of uncertainties, I whistle a happy tune or crack a joke or blow off a huge amount of steam (this last in private, as much as possible; enough other people blowing off and blowing up in public, I see no point in joining that parade).

No amount of self-delusion will convince me I handle rejection well. I don’t. Rejection hurts. I don’t like pain. I hate getting the facts wrong. I hate getting brushed off. I hate ridicule, unless self-inflicted.  I forgive a lot and forget little.  I’d be better off forgetting more and forgiving less? Maybe I will some day, I haven’t found the trick for it yet.

All this is about the loathed and dreaded trio called Synopsis, Query and Rejection. Plus the underlying question: if writing is the part of the exercise I like, can I just give up on the dream of joining the Heavenly Choir of Published Ones, write on and deal with life as it shows up, period. Lots of folks have dreamt of making It – publishing, acting, singing, painting, tap-dancing, you name it. They didn’t. They did plumbing, copy writing, accounting, dentistry or gold smuggling instead. C’est la vie, and all that.

Yes, others became literary agents, editors, publishers, producers, film makers, etc. Some start off reading queries (or a few lines of same). Some read part of the synopsis. Some ask for the first ten, thirty or fifty pages. I assume most of the ones doing that drudge work are young, and, of course, on the lookout for what their boss wants. Do I have the time, patience, energy and stamina for another ride in that direction, while keeping the rest of my life from foundering on low-lower-lowest income and the growing problems this entails.

I don’t know how to describe what I write. Especially not for a three hundred word max drop-down page on someone’s web site. I’m an almost seventy-year old university drop-out. I had something resembling a career, ages ago, and dropped out of that too. I live in a run-down town and teeter on the edge of… what do you call it? Poverty? Yes, I guess that’s what you call being poor in this country*, unless political correctness strikes those words from your vocabulary. I laugh a lot. I cry a lot, too. Some of my characters do the same. Some do nasty things. Some would love to get even, and don’t. To my knowledge, none of them make it to the Promised Lands, no matter whose promises they listen to.

There. The paragraph above captures some of it, except for the laughing part. Without the laughing part, none of it is worth bothering with. If you don’t laugh, you may as well close the shutters for good, and just give up. Which would be a pity because you’d miss the saffron yellow and the orange and wine red on the curtains, the light on the bookshelf and the sight of Aly walking by on his way to the bus out of town.

*this makes for a lot of us living under the official poverty line, by the way. There’s life and lots of it, below the poverty line. But this seems more annoying than interesting to those for whom gross and net earnings are what matter – and all my best to them if that’s what keeps them going.

As the man said: “Sanity’s a hard concept to define”.

In Absurdlandia, Drafts, dreams, Hautvoir, photography, Poetry, Rejection, Revision, Synopsis on May 23, 2016 at 7:36 am

Dreams are impossible to share. With some dreams, you try anyway because they were so horrific, you need words to exorcise them. With others you don’t try, because they’re so close to perfection, you don’t want to mess them up.

The dream last night was of the second category. Rather than attempt a description, I flip through the images in my head, secure in the knowledge no one else has access to them. What? a dream of sexual fulfillment? Of world-wide fame and fortune? Nothing of the kind. A dream of someone lost between two cities, wandering in a third and what she records there with her camera. See? You know nothing about what made the dream something close to perfection.

A poem I didn’t copy down yesterday. One of the Russians, I’ll find it again. Sometimes, things you don’t copy down linger the longest.

Last night, I typed in the infamous The End on my latest attempt at fiction. Will it fly? Will anyone else catch the mix of Little Nemo and…never mind. You build your paper plane. A few strokes on a computer can destroy it. Objects built with 3-D printers have more consistency than a piece of unpublished fiction – a thing almost as fragile and elusive as a dream.

Meanwhile, in the world of real: the astounding space of a so-called service provider. With a computer-savvy someone yesterday, I spent two hours finding the access to – well, to the service provider’s automatic answering device. My query now carries a Ticket Number. No, it doesn’t match up to the number of seconds evolved since January 1st 1601 (the computer-savvy someone tells me this is one clocking device used by another entity). I may or may not receive a satisfactory explanation + adequate solution. This is the world of real where things screw up a lot, then a bit more after that.

Occasional stop-overs in dreamland: mandatory, the body decrees. Don’t even think of dealing with Real without them.

Bleary’s a good word too

In Hautvoir, Local projects, Revision, RLB trivia, Sundays on May 22, 2016 at 7:53 am

A local journalist put up the woman’s post on his Facebook page. I shared it on mine. Until yesterday or the day before, the woman was stationed in Egypt for a French newspaper. Following the crash of the Egyptian plane, her desk chief asked her to stay away from the “factuals” and do a paper on the families’ grief, plus some questioning on potential Egyptian responsibility. She refused. They fired her.

She refused because she hadn’t met any of the families since they don’t want to meet the press. With no details on the causes for the crash, she refused to imply anything whatsoever. She did the right thing. Therefore, good luck to her. Doing the right thing doesn’t sell the evening paper. Doesn’t sell the morning one, either.

In more local news, my body went on semi-strike yesterday and seems to have the same leanings today. I spend more time nodding off than I do getting things done. Why, I don’t know. After three prolonged naps yesterday, I fell into bed at seven pm and slept through till six am. I’m just about ready for another snooze. Revision proceeds accordingly.

Meanwhile, more glitches on an email account: I receive messages but can’t reply. Comes a point when the aggravations don’t even aggravate anymore. You just nod off and snooze instead. I guess the body knows best.

(You must add a title and categories, woman.)

(Huh? What? Who’s…oh, yes, title. categories. Then, I can sleep?”

(Yes.)

(OK… Do you know I don’t even feel like having coffee?)

(That’s weird.)

(Weird. I like that word.)