My feelings exactly...

Eh - too lazy to upload pictures right now, but I found this instead:




(Hmm, I can't seem to make it bigger. Here's the original source, if you're curious. Click on her version there to make it bigger.)

Yes, the fear of spoilers has kept many a poor Harry Potter fan locked away from society for the last week or so. The instant I had a copy, I knew the entire world...nay, the entire physical cosmos, were conspiring to leak some vital bit of information. Hooray for surviving to the end with absolutely no leaks!

TSO, are you still in the process of reading? I thought for sure I was the last human on the planet to finish that darn thing. There shall be no more spoilers, so read on, read on with ease.

Why Oh Why, Book 7?

Thus having finished with time to mull it over, I will now proceed to divulge a few opinions on zee Book 7.



* mah-hajor spoiler alert ahead *



* seriously, I'm going to use names and everything *



* are you still reading? by golly, you'd better have already finished the book, if you are *



Anyhoo, I can't say I actually enjoyed it. About halfway through I was thinking, "This is really painful. I am not enjoying this experience." Granted, it was probably the tension of not knowing how everything was going to end up, and wondering where the heck Snape was, and getting bored with the trio running around aimlessly in the woods having a bicker-fest. This one was a lot less fun than the other six books - no structure of going to school at Hogwarts, no familiarity. And - this really bugged me - rather than fill in holes already developed from the other books, it led us down a whole new direction with Dumbledore's weird history. What was that? What the heck was the business with the Hallows? Was all of that really necessary?

It irked me that the characters I really cared about were being brushed aside for this new plot development, which never led to anything substantial except that A) Harry was tempted to go in a wrong direction, and B) Voldemort's got a really powerful wand. Like he needs it.

After I finished the chapter where Harry broke his wand, I actually put the book down and said, "Are you kidding me?" Since I was carefully meting out chapters, I didn't continue, but for the rest of the day seriously wondered if JKR had actually published several versions of the last book, and I ended up with the one where everything goes horribly awry. (Wouldn't that be a great idea? And there could be another version where Snape lives and actually gets credit. She'd make a fortune as everyone rushed out to buy all the different versions.)

Finally, finally, the last part of the book starts doling out the goodies, but they were all so crammed in there and rushed that I never really got to enjoy them. Telling Snape's story in a chapter of flashbacks... meh? All right, so it confirmed my Snape loves Lily theory, so it proved he's a good guy and all that, but it felt as satisfying as going out an asking someone, "Hey, did Snape turn out good in the end?" Man, I tell you... the antihero always gets the bum rap. Everyone thought that Harry might end up a tragic hero, but I believe that honor goes to Snape. And I'm still waiting for a word from his Hogwarts portrait, you stingy author, you.

I'll say it again - JKR is a great storyteller, but a horrendous writer. Her ideas and characters were fantastic, but she really ran them through the blender with her delivery. A better writer would have known which parts to dwell on, which to skip through. Not going to complain too much about her, though, because obviously she's created characters which I care enough about to be mad when they aren't given proper justice.

And the epilogue. Ooooooh.... the epilogue...I agree with the posters at the Leaky Lounge who are calling the epilogue "craptastic." First of all, 19 years in the future? Really? It's so far out there that it hardly matters, does it? What do we care about the next generation, other than a drawn out way of saying that life continued on as normal. JKR could have saved space by simply writing, "And everyone married and had lots of babies." Bleh.

But A.S.P., that was brilliant. Sappy, yes, but the only part of the book where I cried. We can keep that bit.

One last gripe - what the heck with killing Tonks and Lupin? That was poorly thought out. I imagine JKR sitting down at her desk and saying, "Hmmm, yeah...there's a war going on, so more people should die. Yeah, I'll go ahead and kill him, and him, and her, and him..." Not everyone and their frikin' dog has to die to make it a tragedy! Ooo, one last gripe, really - Snape dying was very unSnapelike, don't you think? Very powerful wizard, can't defend himself against a snake? Was kind of hoping he'd use some of those handy dandy healing incantations on himself, but I guess he was distracted by Harry's pretty eyes.

Bits I thought were cool:
The Silver Doe - saw it coming a mile away.
Dobby just being all around awesome.
The Malfoys surviving. Narcissa being sneaky and Draco finding humility. White peacocks - braaa!
Neville, who hated Snape, killing the snake that killed him.
The blind dragon, who is cute and who I shall adopt as a pet.

So, in a nutshell, overall good story, wish it had been better written.

It was worth standing in line for 4 hours, though! I'll write about that next!

*squinting into the light*

Whaa... ?

Oh, hello...world. Are you still out there? I'm back again. I couldn't resist any longer. I had to rush the last several chapters and get it over with so I could reemerge into the rest of human society. The real world seems a bit boring now, doesn't it?

Having just finished the book, I am a bit grumpy, possibly because the series is done, possibly because...

*** POTENTIAL VAGUE SPOILER AAAGH RUN!!! ******

... because of certain characters getting certain bad knocks without ever receiving rightful restitution, woefully reminiscent of the biggest gripe I have with my favorite book of all, "Les Miserables," where, after playing such a critical role, the sympathetic antagonist drops abruptly out of the story with nary a regret or an epitaph, as though Victor Hugo suffered a blow to the head and forgot what happened in his first thousand pages. My thoughts on this book run parallel, but I have no one to grumble to about it right now. Will have to wait until I can make vocal contact with other Potterific friends.

Cried only once, last chapter, thank you very much. Have discovered minor plot holes and many grammatical faux pas which, as an aspiring writer, have made me feel slightly smug. I will cling to the smugness so as to eclipse the emotional exhaustion of the last chapters. Will now continue work on my own epic.

This is the joy of writing, that at the end of the day, when you sit back to admire your own story, everything is exactly the way you want it, and you don't have to shake your fist at any invisible author and say waaaaa!, which is exactly what I was saying towards the end of Book 7.

Anyway, I'll start catching up on all your blogs now, hey?

Still reading...

Yup, I'm the slowest reader in the world. Resisting the urge to jump ahead has been difficult. Sometimes I have to cover half the page with my hand so my traitorous eyes don't scan ahead. Have not been reading anything else on the internet and am thus far insulated from spoilers, although every time I hear the book mentioned on TV, I run screaming from the room. Nearly read a review on it in the paper, but realized in time that it was about to give away the ending.

Who knew reading one book could be so stressful?

Tonight our church held a going-away party for a very good family. We sent them off in grand style, with a big broo-ha at the local pizza digs and a bonfire at the beach. I relished the chance to dine in the bay, watching out the window as the boats go up and down the harbor, munching on my local love - a cheese and spinach and oyster pizza. Smoked oyster on a pizza are a rare and beautiful thing, and I recommend it to anyone.

Then it was down to the beach for the grand challenge of making smores over the bonfire without getting sand in them, burning outstretched hands, or impaling nearby onlookers with sharp metal prongs. Little kids running everywhere with torches of flaming marshmallow. The beach was a strata of age, with the old farts up by the rocks on lawn chairs, the movers and shakers sitting on blankets further down, and the children frolicking like sandpipers along the water's edge. One ingenious soul managed to toast twelve marshmallows simultaneously by using the prongs of his lawn rake, truly a sight to behold.

My family came equipped with our 4th of July fireworks, which we had intended to set off inland on the 5th, but dry weather and grass fires made for an unexpected fireworks ban. With no better prospects, we tossed them into the fray of the goodbye party, thus ending it with a spectacular show and many near-kid-fatalities. (But that's okay; our church has a lot of them.)

No, no, I'm a terrible person and I'm kidding. No one was hurt, but the kids kept insisting on flinging themselves bodily at the sparkling fountains the moment they went out, whereas I was taught as a child that every seemingly "dead" firework may still contain a smidgen of unexploded gunpowder, sitting there hot, ominous, waiting for you to drop your guard and lean over it with outstretched hand before
BOOM!
Fingers and body parts everywhere! I'll admit, I probably had more fear associated with fireworks than I should have, and every time my dad went to light one would wail, "Daaaad! Nooooo!" as though he were off to battle. That fear is now gone as an adult, but manifests itself in the half-hearted warnings I was throwing at the kids.

"Careful now, kids. There might still be some gunpowder..."
"Do this one next! Do the 'Exploding Killer Rebel!!' Light it in my hand!!!"
"Oh... All right..."

I'm not fit to be a parent yet, I suppose.

There is nothing quite as relaxing as an evening at the beach, especially my home beach. The sun sets in pink and gold as a rolling blue cloud bank edges in, the waves slurp at slap at the jetty stones; the seagulls crying swing low overhead while the bass-toned fog horn echoes across the water. Slowly the lights of the bay appear, and then a ship crossing the bar, coming home with the catch of the day. The fire is cracking, popping, growing stronger against the darkness, and then, over it all, the first visible ray of the lighthouse flashes by. There is something so perfect in that combination - wave, horn, seagull, light - a song of the sea that envelopes your senses, so that even after you have left and come home for the night, it is still there, still pulsing, like the brightness of the full moon after you look away.

Sand in my hair, waves in my memory, and oysters in my fridge - could life be better?

An Apology...

I have had a week choc-o-block full of action, and am currently reading the new Harry Potter book as slowly as humanly possible. To avoid the inevitable spoilers, I'm going to avoid the internet until I finish.

But just wait! The release party I went to was unbelievable, and I have more than a few stories to tell...

Surviving Summons

Whoof... what an exhausting week. To top it off, yesterday I was called to jury duty. Had to leave at 6:30 in the morning and drive an hour and a half to get to the county courthouse, only to be dismissed two hours later, most of which was waiting time. It wasn't a total bust, though. I was treated (or tortured, depending on how much coffee is in your system) to a video entitled "The Jury Selection Process and You," circa 1980's, if the hairstyles were any indication. It went something like this:

Narrator: "Hi, I'm (fill in some random "famous" person's name), and I'm here to teach you about the American justice system. Serving jury duty is both your right and your responsibility. In 1776, Thomas Jefferson wrote that blah blah blah, lots of crap about history."

(I am now looking down at the National Geographic in my lap.)

Sally: "I'm an ordinary hard working career mother with three children and a bad eighties hairdo. When I got my summons in the mail, I didn't understand what to do. I thought I would have to abandon my family and move into the courthouse for weeks. When the jury coordinator told me that I could go home every night, I was so happy and relieved and grateful for our American justice system. I didn't know anything about justice, so I decided I should start looking around to see what it all meant." (Image of Sally's head looking around superimposed over pictures of courthouses and scales of justice.)

Roberto (in a Latino accent): "Hi, I'm Roberto, and I don't speak English very well. I hit another man in the face and am now on trial for battery. Luckily, the American justice system let me choose to have a jury at my trail. Thank goodness for America, and its wonderful American justice system! Even thought I can't speak English very well, I was so grateful that all those people took time out of their lives to come sit on my jury."

That was about the gist of the video, or at least as much as I can remember through my early morning haze. (I think the end might have shown a floating jury summons while "Battle Hymn of the Republic" played in the background.) Has anyone else ever seen this thing? I wonder if it's a nationwide requirement to numb potential jurors with the same video. It reminded me, for you Gould Farm folks, of our fire safety training. "You have no time, NO TIME! You MUST GET OUT! Leave your toys, leave your pets, leave your grandma, and GET OUT!! Here is the most important thing for you to remember..." (Puts on his oxygen mask.) "Blrm en grmmph erng brpgreph!" And for you, Wirgin - "Fire is not light, it is dark! DARK!"

Which reminds me, here is my practical advice for the day, gleaned from a recent personal experience. Do not eat Bertie Bott's Every-Flavor Jelly Beans in the dark, when you can't identify the flavor. Just don't do it. I must have gotten a cursed box, because I had a run that went - pickle, sausage, pickle, black pepper, dirt, pickle, earthworm. I kept popping another in, desperately hoping that the next one would be a nice flavor to wipe out the others, but it never happened. If I had gotten vomit next, I think I would have. It's all fun and games until you get three pickles in a row...

Blogging Sabbatical

I will be taking a blogging break for much of this week to travel, visit people, write cover letters, and other such irrelevant "offline conversations."

In other news, today (Monday) is the last day to vote for which Springfield should host the Simpson's movie premier. It's a silly contest, but of course everyone already knows that Springfield, Oregon, is where Portland resident Matt Groening got his inspiration from. So be a dear and go vote for us here. If you don't, the angels shall weep for you.

Fairies and the Manly Art

Ah, it's nice to see summer in full swing, the hills bustin' out all over with life and the berries starting to redden, the call of bullfrogs in the valley, the sight of swallows in the evening sky... I could go on and on, couldn't I? Unlike the rest of the nation, we in the coastal GPN (Great Pacific Northwest, y'all) are enjoying cool breezes and perfect basking days, the kind that make you glad to be alive.

(Not to insinuate that the rest of the nation would make you miserable to be alive - New Jersey excluded - but a quick glance at the weather map shows, well... this:

Hooray for our little green wedge!)

Anyhoo, he sun is out and festival season is in full bloom, every town making the tourist call of love, hoping that passing flocks of travellers will come to roost.* Garlic Festival! Scandinavian Festival! Smelt Festival! Mushroom Festival! "Stand By Me" Festival! I'm not being silly - these are all real events scheduled in the upcoming months within the Great Green Wedge.

*(And lay eggs and make more baby tourists.)

But there was one in particular this summer that I could not miss, one which started after I left for college and has been taunting me wickedly ever since - Chainsaw Fest. It is, sadly, not the one and only Chainsaw Festival in the world, but one of the many competitions held throughout the country that draw international chainsaw artists with the lure of prizes and big money and bigger competitions. It weeds out weak carvers (those whose sculptures end up looking like a pine beetle attack) and sends the best ones on to compete in the national circuit. Kind of like a rodeo, only nicer to wear sandals to.

So over the course of four days I endured the buzz and broo-ha-ha of The Chainsaw Fest, watching ten foot high old-growth logs slowly dissolve in a cloud of sawdust. Admission was $1 at the door (25 cents for earplugs) allowing the lucky ticket holder and chance to enter the closest thing my town has to fairgrounds- a gravel lot. A classy gravel lot, thank you. And if said ticket holder got tired of watching the 30 or so carvers, he/she/it could eat crab, shop for chainsaws, or buy one of the ten thousand carved bears for sale. Why bears? This is a subject of great distress. I will elaborate.

For some strange and cosmic reason, every carver is required by the Carver Law to carve bears. I believe it is some kind of secret symbol with a far greater, sinister meaning, sort of like the thing the Free Masons have going. I'm sure if they had dug further into Alexander the Great's hidden treasures, they would've eventually discovered a carved bear. Freakin' bears.


I guess I have a deep-seated hatred for chainsaw carved bears. I don't know where this comes from, other than the fact that I'm tired of seeing them and wish carvers would get hooked on carving something else, like vegetables, or foreign children. Maybe I'm a bit sadistic, but I entered the free raffle at the door for the prize of a cheesy gigantic bear looking oh-so-adorable with a fishing pole in his paw just so that if I won it I could go burn it on the beach. I really don't like carved bears.

For those attending the festival who were disappointed to find they still had their hearing after an hour or so, the organizers had thoughtfully provided a Tent of Perpetual Deafness. Within this tent, you could take your place on the bleachers and bid on carvings up for sale, mostly the results of the one-hour Quick Carve competitions, provided you were not driven to blindness by the bellowing sound system mere inches away. The festival organizers also took into account the times between auctions, during which the meandering crowds of people might accidentally start trying to have conversations among themselves, and wisely safeguarded against this by blaring louder-than-chainsaw country music all across the grounds. Thus, sounds of the Chainsaw Festival:

*bzzzzzzzzz* "Nice carving!"
*bzzzzz -rmm -rmm* "What?"
*bzz- rmm -bzzzzzz* "What?!"
*bzzzZZZZbzzzzz -rmm -country music* "WHAT?!?"

The thing I love most about Chainsaw Fest, though, is that here is a activity designed for the manliest of men, guys who are trucking around in ripped T-shirts and steel-toes with their dogs watching from the bed of their pickups, guys who brag about the length of their bar, and yet it is basically an art festival. Art for the manly man. If you went up to one of these gentleman and said, "Oh, you're an artist!"... you would get a punch in the nose. It takes a lot of gas fumes and wood chips to disguise an art festival.

To top it off, this year's theme was "Fairy Tales." Yeah. So now you have about 30 or so burly guys with sharp implements trying to figure out the best way to carve a fairy princess. It's hilarious. I just love this concept. Some guys ditched all fairy efforts and ended up carving manly knights and bigfoots and Tarzan.

Sorry for so many piccies on my blog, but I just have to share a few from the fest. Here is me and ma' dawg enjoying the sight of fairy and frog.


And here is something you are not likely to see again- Big block of wood + power tools = SpongeBob. I really want to meet the kid who says, "Mummy! I want the big splintery wooden chair, mummy!"


The event ended with the awards ceremony, where I entered the Tent of Perpetual Deafness to discover an enormous pyramid of boxed chainsaws to be handed out. They gave out nearly a hundred chainsaws for things like "Best Friday Morning Quick Carve," "Squarest Wood Shavings," "Fewest Cuts to Self." All the while I'm standing there saying, "Give me a chainsaw! These people already have at least 6 chainsaws apiece! Aaaiye want a chainsaw!" So unfair.

Moral of the story - Buy one chainsaw. Enter competition. Win another twenty chainsaws. Live in happiness.

Dancing on the Edge of Disaster

I just have to say, I often write a rough post and save it as a draft before getting around to revising it. Every time I do this, I feel like I'm tempting the Fates.

Ones of these days, I'll be too groggy to know any better and hit "Publish" instead of "Save," and then y'all will get to see something random like:

ocean waves at night
highway driving/possum
coffee shops, lack thereof
(And probably many typo-and-bad-grammar-plagued sentences.)

If and when this happens, I'll be mortified, stand up from my desk chair, place my hands upon the sides of my head, gaze up at the stuccoed ceiling, and say,
"AAaaAaAaAAgh!"

In the event, I hope everyone will humor me and pretend they didn't notice.

Accio Book 7!

With the release of Book 7 still two long weeks away, and with everyone else writing about it, I figured I would while away the time with my own little passing tribute to the Harry Potter series.

The first time I encountered it was while riding in a van in England with my fellow college classmates. Someone had bought a British-version copy of The Chamber of Secrets and began reading it aloud in a badly faked English accent, not having anything better to do on our long drive. (I believe we were heading to the Cotswolds, or someplace with sheep, which pretty much narrows it down to all of England.) By the time she got to Professor Lockhart's grand appearance, I was hooked.

But it took a few more years before I realized how fantastic the series was, and it wasn't until Book 6 that I actually went to a release party and read something hot off the presses. (My usual tactic has been to borrow a friend's book several months after publication.) Thank goodness I caught up with the Harry Potter phenomenon when I did, because this next release is going to be amazing, and woe to anyone who misses out on it.

I was thinking about this the other day. Since when have millions of people all around the world been so excited about the same book? The thought that so many people will be reading the same thing at the same time is staggering. And since when has anyone even paid attention to a book's release date? It beats out any movie by far. Hooray for J.K. Rowling, who has managed to elevate the simple act of reading to such prominence despite our age of media and hype!

This surely must be one of the greatest literary events of all time, as far as the number of people eagerly awaiting it. The closest thing I can compare it to is Charles Dickens, one of my favorite authors, who serialized his novels, publishing one chapter at a time. The anticipating public devoured each new chapter with excitement, (the Americans lined the docks to greet the ship carrying them), and fans would write in to plea for case of a favorite character before the next chapter came out. Dickens actually tailored his writing to the voice of the fans, blossoming popular characters and quickly disposing of lesser ones, whatever earned readership.

But in a Dickens novel, there's not much mystery as to what will happen in the end. I don't think he ever finished anything, so much as let it wind down to a good stopping point. (And few of his novels are lesser for losing the last chapter or so.) That, beside sheer scale, is what separates his literary events from this one. Despite the millions of people debating it, absolutely no one knows how the saga will turn out, who will win, who is on what side, whether blast-ended skrewts make good pets. (Okay, maybe not many people are debating that last one.) I shake my head. No obvious endings and no blatant clues... It takes a dang fine storyteller to keep the whole world guessing even after six books.

Me, I have my money on a few theories of my own. For instance, Snape is definitely good. Are you kidding me? He has to be. He's one of my favorite characters, and I don't really want to find that in the end I've been cheering for the bad guy all along.

And the entire series will end in a parade of rainbows and unicorns and dancing elves, so there.

Well... so far this post has helped me kill a few minutes waiting for the book. If anyone else out there is getting sick of waiting, let me offer a few of my favorite Harry Potter fun sites to help pass the time:

In the way of artwork, Simply Potterific has several hilarious and quite random comics, although best avoided if you can't stomach the thought of Hagrid in pink knickers...


AccioBrain is the artwork of the witty Makani, including her current project to illustrate The Half Blood Prince. If you are anything like me, after perusing her site for a while you will
A) think the Malfoys are way better than that, whatsisname, Potter kid
B) wish you were in Slytherin, and
C) wonder how hard it would be to get Makani to illustrate all of the books...

In the way of video, these are all just plain dumb, but the make me laugh. Potter Puppet Pals has two lovely cartoons, "Bothering Snape" and "Trouble at Hogwarts." (I really think this is how it will all end, a cornucopia of love...)

And then, finally, this flash cartoon shows a terrifying depiction of The Flaw with Apparition. Oh... so wrong... and yet I think I giggle every time I watch it.

Anyway, there you go. A lot of time-wasting. Let's see, how long do we have to wait now... ?

Bobcat Eggs

Most of the time my dreams give me a bucket of nonsense, random images and events thrown together with no meaning at all, like Muppets fighting a war on the backs of dinosaurs, or diving into a bowl of salmon eggs to discover a magical underwater realm. (Both actual dreams.)

But every now and then a dream will give me something that's worthwhile, like a new song, or a plot resolution to a story I'm writing. It doesn't happen often, but it happens often enough that I'm content to put up with the fluff I get for the other 99% of sleep.

Recently a dream supplied me with a handy new phrase. In this dream, I was working on the assembly line of a very cheap factory that took chicken eggs and packaged them into cardboard cartons. The place was so cheap that they couldn't be bothered making sure all the eggs actually came from chickens. They just threw in any old egg until they had a dozen, sealed it up, and called it good. Me, being the investigative sort, went hunting around until I found the back room where the eggs were collected, and there I discovered the shocking truth: that the mysterious "other" eggs were coming from an assortment of quails, ducks, and - naturally - bobcats.

I'll bet you didn't even know bobcats laid eggs, did you? They do in dreams, though... nice chicken-sized pale green ones. Pretty.

So after I warned everyone in my dream to avoid purchasing from the disreputable egg company, I woke up with that phrase on my lips - "Bobcat eggs." I use it to describe something that's just plain wrong. For example, if someone suggested using babies as oven mitts, I might well respond, "Bobcat eggs!" Here are some other bobcat eggs I stumbled upon recently.

Senator Mike Gravel is running for President. This video shows why you should vote for him. For me, I might have put it in the "just plain strange" category, but the fact that now I can't get that picture of his face out of my head classifies it as a bobcat egg.

I've managed to avoid every bit of Paris Hilton in the news, but it hasn't been easy. Don't we have anything else to be keeping tabs on? Like... a war? The rest of the world? The topper was when CNN broadcast the two-hour program titled "Why Are We Fixated on Paris Hilton?" to which I said, "I'm not fixated on her. You guys are! Will you please report something else?" Next, I suppose, they'll have a show called, "Why Are News Programs So Obsessed with Figuring Out Why We Are Fixated on Paris Hilton?" Bobcat eggs.

This one is funny, but also somehow disturbingly wrong.


The toymaker says, "This Cold War Unicorns Play Set allows you to play out the intense struggle between two global superpowers in the majestic fantasy world of the Unicorn! Can the Communist Unicorn’s horn of classless social structure hold up against the Freedom Unicorn’s hooves of capitalist opportunity?"

Nice, but not as bobcat eggs as the Avenging Unicorn Play Set with Real Koala-Impaling Action.

Happy 4th of July, y'all!

Mundanities

The tsunami alarm went off today. I stood outside, staring up into the sky, wondering what the heck it was. It sounded like a kid had taken control of the town's fire alarm. A quick call to city hall revealed that it was just the monthly test, and they were gladdened that the many calls they had received meant citizens were paying attention.

Took time to work outside on my Pond&Stream v2.0. I dug my original backyard water feature, Pond&Stream v1.0, about 8 years ago and dramatically reworked it to its current version a few years later. It has two main ponds, three catch ponds, a sump pump pond, seven waterfalls... and leaks like a sieve. Yesterday I chased after a few stream leaks, uprooting many confused earthworms and a colony of ants which screamed and snatched up their babies to run, and today I found myself smashed between a railroad tie and the fence trying to dam a particularly pesky overflow in the upper pond. End result - me covered in mud, digging with my hands, grinning maniacally. I like that playing in the dirt as an adult can still be classified as "work."

Made the mistake of watching the nightly news. They reported so intensely on terrorism that I felt the twinge of paranoia that I so often hear mentioned these days... the Muslim extremists are out to get us. Which is partly true, but to what extent, I don't know. I am a smile-and-ignore sort of person, perhaps to my discredit. Watched the telly upside-down to see if I could read the text faster than it disappeared, and discovered that Scooty Libby looks a lot like Senator Biden (upside-down), and that police cars and flames at the Glasgow airport look about the same no matter which way you view them.

That's all. Just a few mundane notes on a day in the life of me.

The Author's Corniche - 2

In a recent writing class, I was asked the question, "Why do you write?" We were given ten minutes to write out the answer.

I didn't need that long. I knew my answer immediately, and wrote it down. "Because I have to."

There must be authors out there who sit down and say, "All right, me. I think I'd like to make a living at writing. Let me copy a plot form from a popular genre and make a lot of money." These are the people who churn out books by the cord, and are very successful, and have boats and ponies, and don't stay awake at night fretting over backstories. You can find their works right next to the TicTacs, or left over on the shelves of group housing.

Oh, I'm being harsh on some probably very talented people, but it's only because I'm a frustrated wannabe writer. I would be perfectly happy to quit trying, but my "projects," let's call them, come after me like a scene from "The Birds." Caw - write us! Caw. Caw. We won't leave you alone until you do! I feel like the parent of a bunch of bratty kids. Since I can't kill them, I'll have to graduate them and kick them out the door and hope they never come back. I have to finish writing. Can't help it.

When people ask me, "Are you still writing?" my eyes take on a gleam of terror, much like a man in front of the bulls of Pamplona who has just been asked, "Are you still jogging?" Do you understand me, people? No choice... no choice!! I marvel that the question implies one can stop writing, like you can sit back one day and say, "Yup. That's enough."

Maybe if I actually finish a project I'll reach such a state of zen, but I don't see that happening any time soon. It's surely one of the comedies of existence that the harder I focus solving my narrative dead spots, not only do those spots grow more tenacious, but suddenly I begin to question elements of the plot that I thought were working fine. My story, if it was a car, would be a paid mechanic's dream, with bits breaking off even as it sat motionless in the garage. And so I spin myself in circles trying to straighten everything out, garbling what sense the story used to have, creating new characters, killing old ones, changing the setting by a few hundred years, and finally collapse with a cry of, "Magic! A big magical butterfly drops down from the sky and fixes everything, fer hfnxig!!!" (That last sound is me choking on spit.) Ah, deus ex machina, how I long to dance the dance of love with thee!

Then I stop thinking about the story altogether. I do the little Dutch boy thing and shove my finger into the leak in the dam. (Stops that thought, by crikey!) But by and by, that irresistible writing urge blows open another leak in a totally different part of the story, and suddenly I'm thinking from a new perspective, solving problems from another end, and making a few new ones as I go.

Is it this difficult for every novice writer? In the pinball game of authorship, I feel like I'm getting whacked around more than normal on my way down the table.

Burns Night in July

I ha' ta say it honest
But being tha' I'm Scottish
I'm duty bound ta relish
The puddin' known as Haggis

It is a bitty beastie
Wha' through and through is tasty
When on the hills ya' chase he
He'll move his hiney hasty


But if ya canna' catch it
Ya nae the speed ta match it
You're too rotund ta snatch it
An' cap ta kilt feel wretched...

Tha' Haggis Tree will mend ye
A Haggis kindly send ye
If sure ya' treat it goodly
And hum Hey Tuttie Tatie

Oh Robbie, you ken rightly
This chieftain puddin' savoury
Tho' none may kip it bravely
Tis Scotland's gift to all!

Happy Random Robert Burns Night!