Thursday, July 03, 2008

Journo Good Journo Good, Baby Journo Good.



In my checkered career as a journalist and literary hired gun, I was often like that Al Capp character out of the Fifties, Joe Btfsplk, "World's most loving friend and worst jinx who always travels with a dark cloud over his head. Trouble always followed his enounters, even his most innoncent encounters."

Hardly anybody today would remember Joe Btfsplk, or for that matter Al Capp, twisted genius, who himself a gifted product ot the fifties, was one day caught with "greasy kid stuff".
I dare not elabortate.
Except to say there was a song in those days that went like

"Nothing could be finer
Than to be in Carolina in the Morning..."

With poor Mr. Capp, it seemed to go

"Nothing could be finer
Than to shack up with a minor
In the moooorrnin'


Looking back on my days as the Joe Btfsplk of journalism.

For a long time, I had this little black cloud over my head, with a lightning bolt cocked and ready.

I swear that for a year this version of a misemployed and misguided Joe Btfsplk had done more damage to the profession than any nymber of community college graduates who thought they could write.

I could write okay, but a misemployed "creative writer" in a factbound business brought more libel suits, firings, and threats to ones life.

I have hard time with facts.
I play fast and loose with them.
I am a producer of fictions, lies.
I made a terrible Joe Friday ("Just the facts ma'am") and I spun terrible yarns.
My poor editor, Gerry Barker, out of Bradford, Ontario almost got himself fired from the Star one day when I gos so bored with covering courts I produced, out of my own head, a miscreant sheep always in trouble with the law.

"Sheep fingered in trial", I would invent the headlines.

"Sheep goes berserk. Slays eight.

"Sheep say Baah to accusers."

Somehow some of these yarns actually got into print, like the story of Sarah the Goose, who had fallen in love with a Toronto-bound GO train, a locomotive god that made her go "all feathers" every time he roared by, and one day there was this terrible coupling. A north-going Sarah and a south-going train.
"Come on train," sighed Sarah--and there was this sudden, crashing climax.
Clear the track. GO Train coming!
Swoose Goose.
Anna Karenina of the webfooted set. Heh. Put her on my own web.

Never let the facts distort a good story.

There was just this poor goose offed at the level crossing I had to make amends. Had to invent something.

(Curiously, W. Somerset Maugham does say somethere that this kind of tendency is what makes a novelist. Says Maugham:
"You should indeed distort the facts to produce a good story. It's almost de rigeur.")

Beware of a madman with a typewriter.

I was not "a penis with a thesaurus" as some have teemed, termed he great John Updike, but I was certainly a liar with a laptop.

SHEEP CLAIMS HE WAS PATSY IN PEN

And then there were the days I was a literary hit man for disgruntled public school teachers who wanted their principals fired.

I would invent improrieties perpetrated by the school heads, get myself into libel suits.

Principal feels "sheepish" after bestiality romp.

"I've never sent a valentine to a sheep in my life," protested the subject....And you, Sir, are *&^%ing crazy."

The original practioner of my kind of writing in those days was old Thomas Sterne, and his Tristram Shandy written way back, in the eighteenth century.
"Shandyism"was its name and b.s. was its game.

Pull a shandy.

Make them choke on their kippers.

Yellow journalism,

Well, I tried to be "The Yellow Kid" out of the old Heast Papers three generations ago. Some say "The Yellow Kid" was he first real comic book character.

Katzenjammer Kid, looking for trouble.
I found it.
And after all the lawsuits and the firings,
Ended up like poor Joe Btfsplk.

Ah, but never let the facts distort a good story.

Sheep dyed-in -the-wool
claims damages.


You don't have to be crazy to be a writer...

And how many normal decent hardworking people seem to want to go that way.

I know I did.

Now it's too late.

27 comments:

the walking man said...

Journo good, novelobad? ha ha ha ha ha old man you crack me up.

I never could figure out how Btfsplk was pronounced. Yes it is important to be able to pronounce it when you move your lips while reading the comics or the journo; yello or otherwise. All I know is buttspfluck was in there somewhere. That Andy sure do like his socker after a quid for the pub from the missus.

Why not get a job writing headlines for factual journos? Write long ones and charge by the linear foot.

ivan@creativewriting.ca said...

You dig old Andy Capp strips too? :)

Monique said...

Oh well Ivan, you're great in making up stories. I loved the one of the goose and the locomotive.

In our local paper, some time ago, someone advertised his Bantam chicken cross with chicks for sale. Many indignant letters. Never cross a Bantam chicken (for reasons I have forgotten). This went on for many a week. Many, many indignant, even angry, letters about this chicken cross.

Then the owner owed up.

The Bantam chicken, he said, had six chicks. They were unruly chicks. Always mischievous. Always in trouble. So, the mother hen had had enough. She was so cross with her chicks that she no longer wanted to care for them. The owner also had enough of this situation and put in the ad. Bantam chicken cross with chicks for sale.

Monique said...

Oh by the way! Happy Birthdayyyyyyyyyyyyy

benjibopper said...

i'm pretty sure you do have to be crazy to want to be a writer, or at the very least misguided.

this reminds me of Jefferson Foote, an accident-prone character in Paul Quarrington's 1996 novel, Civilization, and its part in my Downfall, which i just read and enjoyed a great deal. I love a good comic tragedy, especially one with rodeo.

Charles Gramlich said...

You mean Sarah the goose wasn't real? but I based my whole life's work on her.

ivan@creativewriting.ca said...

Monique,

You are so thoughtful.

And I hardly need to add, creative.

The dada musician Frank Zappa liked to tell the story of this genius who had a heavily made up chicken in his attic..."And somehow was the only guy in town who knew anything".

ivan@creativewriting.ca said...

Benji,

YOu're way ahead of me.

I have only seen reviews of books by Paul Quarrington.

Used to get my kicks from old Kurt Vonnegut Jr.

Especially the part about this green alien who could sniff out accidents beore they would actually happpen, and would signal the coming disaster by farting and tap-dancing.
He alit upon a golf course, farting and tap-dancing till an irate Texan finally dispatched him with a nine-iron.

ivan@creativewriting.ca said...

Charles,
Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha!

Lana Gramlich said...

Journalist, literary writer, art critic...Wow...What else have you done in your life? Very interesting.
You really submitted false stories to the Star? I assume you're talking about the Toronto Star? Why risk your job like that?

ivan@creativewriting.ca said...

True story, Lana.

Yes, it was the Toronto Star.

Still another story gooes with that.

My mistress had thrown me out, seizing my typewriter, guitar, all my manuscripts and (probably) my shorts, laundry and jockstrap.

I was reduced to an old l920 model upright Remington which would jam so often that I finally gave up and let fly with the Sara the Goose foolishness in longhand.
I was hoping he creative instinct would get me through.
It didn't.

Editors at the Star found factual errrors in the story....Factual errors? I had made the whole thing up, though there really was a Sarah the Goose.
Earlier, they did find Sarah (before her actual Anna Karenina trick)..They knew I was drafting the story. They took a picture of her stutting her feathers for the train. But I think she was just strutting for to get some sandwich meat at lunchtime at a factory almost abutting the track.

They ran Sara's picture but killed my story. Picture went gangbusters, all over the front page of the Toronto Star NEIGHBOURS section.

Don't know what really happened there. It was a chaotic time in my life.

You do pose some penetrating and apposite questions.

I had known my editor and friend for years.

But he did say something to do with the goose story.
"Hell, I could sit in my apartment all day and dream up stuff like that. The other editors are really upset!"

Holy crow.

Could one of my best friends have been a bit envious?

In any event, sometimes you take a creative chance after a dry spell in the factual business. And sometimes you lose.

Well, at least I can put it down in these mini-memoirs.

Dirary of a Madman?

Cheeers.

Anonymous said...

sometimes you're the pigeon,but most of the time you end up being the statue...life's like that,ain't it?...

ivan@creativewriting.ca said...

I guess I didn't have the luck of an old Canadian movie star in Hollywood: Walter Pigeon.

More like like Peerless Percy the Canda Post building pidgeon in Newmarket.
I think they got a an employee to clean up all the guano. But he fell off the tower.

You lose more postal workers that way.

Anonymous said...

not the same Peerless Percy that was trying to part Sarah the Goose's feathers every time the train came through and blew his whistle?...

Donnetta Lee said...

Here a goose, there a goose, everywhere a goose goose. Such goose life.
Donnetta

ivan @creativewriting.ca said...

Peerless Percy, the Main Steeet pigeon likes the way Sarah flaps her wings.

Coo!

Going to petition the Pigeon Rights Committee up in Ottawa for inter-species sex.
He is not stopping there.

Marry the goose of your dreams!
The United Church is just next door.

ivan@creativewriting.ca said...

Honk, if you love Jesus.

ivan@creativewriting.ca said...

Donnetta,

Got your card with the Florida pix.
..."Homesick" for Fr. Myers beach.

Anonymous said...

wonder what Nigel,the locomotive,thinks about Sarah spreading her wings for Peerless the incomparable?...Sarah had initially stoked Nigel's boiler,long before Peerless had even begun to contemplate desecrating the postal arch with his "personal best"...

ivan@creativewriting.ca said...

Clear the track.

Here comes Thomas the tank engine.

And he even looks like bird.

the walking man said...

Ivan I first started reading Andy Capp when I visited my great aunt in Ottawa wayyyyyyyyyyy back in the early 60's.

Midnight said...

Btfsplk = Butt fucks plick

Gawd, even writers can neglect their imaginations...

Midnight said...

Deep sheep never surface.

ivan@creativewriting.ca said...

Midnight,

We seem to be in between butt-banging and theology.

ivan@creativewritng.ca said...

Mark,

Thee used to be a swell Scots' pub here in Newmarket called The Grey Goat until a good, rollicking mangagement sold the business and it became a hang-ou for teenagers, though there is still An Andy Capp or two there; Scots navvy though, and not English.
Sure miss it. I was sort of an honourary Scot, "Ian Proctor" until I picked up the old Glasgy lifestyle of not having a good time till I got laid-- or into a fistfight, the two activities being more or less interchangeable.
There would be philosophic discussions, debates over whether the Scots or Irish had more power in Canada...I maintained that the Irish did and was rewared by several punches to the head by the captain of the Bayview Thistle, a local soccer team. Kind of held my ground until the captain stopped hitting me out of pure fatigue-- My face broke his punhches....I had intended to charge the guy with assault, but earlier I had made a large move for his wife, which led to the complications in the first place, and made my point moot. Jeesus, don't make a move on a soccer captain's wife.

We would have deep philosohical discussion and points would be made, but one Scotsman would say, in Sean Connery mode, "Ferget it.
Your mother is a whore."
Definitely not the Socratic method.

Yep. Andy Capp, Scots version is alive and well, and lives in Newmarket, Ontario.

Very probably you can still get punched out at the Grey Goat. If you want to. Ah That Rabbi Burns ain't no theologian.

Getting laid is a little bit harder.
More properly you end up feeling really f*&ed with ten Scotsmen on top of you after you make a move on somebody's wife or girlfriend.
Did these guys ever leave Glasgow?

Tried to take over the town in one generation.

And I kinda smile when I seem them all over at the welfare office.

And echoes of the taunts that I'd heard. "Forget it. Your mother is a whore."

Lana Gramlich said...

Thanks for the reply...Too much!

ivan@creativewriting.ca said...

Well, some of us work at being mad by taking LSD or something.

I seem to come by it naturally.