Saturday, November 28, 2009

I want to go to MIT and be an engineer of Writing



Ah, summer time. When the publishing was easy.
Writing my poems in the summer with sure publishing by fall time in something called the Fifth Page, my college's literary magazine. Once in with the editors, knowing their ways, their foibles (one had a problem with impotence, so your wrote about impotence)-- you stayed in.
Young man on the make. And one poem in The Fifh Page could get you a job at the Toronto Star. Hang the journalistic requirements. One poem or short story could do it for you.
But once in the real world, you realize that your chances at the big time were not really good. "This is The Star. And at The Star, we have a policy of 'No stars'". So you did rewrites of crime stories, became a grunt, wrote headlines. Interviewed fire victims after a blaze, chased ambulances.
Forrest Grunt.
I wrote, on a copy sheet, "Get me out of here so I can hear the angels sing, to write poetry. Get me out of this portrait painting crapcan!" I had crumpled the copy cartridge up, but a woman editor picked it up later and read it. "What are we doing to you?"
Nice lady. Gave me the Education Beat where there was at least some hope. There was certainluy more satisfaction. My new milieu was among brighter, more accomplished people.
Besides writing about new developments in education philosophy "Make education student-centered and not teacher-centered", was the mantra of the Sixties, till they tried it as a matter of policy and hardly anyone could add or spell. Great for the genius, but not so great for the grunt.

I tended to my work and meanwhile entered a circle of really fine writers who did journalism to pay the rent whlle working on their books.
Ah, those were the days before published writers became snobs and snots, where you were welcome, and any number could play. Less egotistical, giving.
Hugh McVicar and Pat Williams.
Support, support. "Writing is a lonely business." "Talent seems to hide in the strangest places." "You got into The Star through a poem...But you can actually do the work. No fluke."

The poem? Frankly, it was not very good.

You tower over me like music
my lofty green-boughed tree
You whisper,You speak
In Paleolithic silence
Till the wretched hour of adulthood comes.


The other published poem, the whimsical one about Sex and the Slavic Social Climber was, I think, better and funnier.

And there had been the short story of impotence and woe, which surely pleased my prissy editor at the Fifth Page, but somehow gave people the impression that I was a poet of mpotence and woe. Maybe that was why Hugh had said, "Talent hides in the strangest places."
In fact, my glamorous new job had strange women calling me at night. Unlike my poor literary editor, there were actually chicks under my bed. Ah, youth. And a star at the Star where "there were no stars."
And then clunk. I was moved to the business pages where I produced grey copy among grey men and women.
I left the Star disappointed. They did not recognize genius, I keened. Are they blind, lazy, or just stupid? Heh.
Slavic social climber indeed.
Seemed to me more like "Nuke the Uke." There were maniacs in journalism. Don't give the cub an even break!
"Nothing personal," wonderful Star editor Gerry Toner had said.
"You just didn't amass enough experience berore getting to The Star."

Going back to Ryerson for my final year, a professor had been less kind. "All talent and no judgment, no experiencece. And I don't like your short stories."
Ah the young fool in the real world.
I went on the the Star Weekly, less fast paced, more open to creative writing. But it seemed I had cooked my own goose by 27. And the Leonard Cohens and Irving Laytons were ploughing deep furrows in Canadian Literature. I was nowhere near those luminaries in talent, but neverheless seemingly stuck in second gear at The Star Weekly, writing about baton twirlers, olympic wrestlers, skaters, professional athletes.
"Watch it, baby," my wife had said." With your stories of impotent professors, you may yet be abused by professional athletes. I worry about you sometimes. While driving the car, you seem to be really shy of being rear-ended," she laughed.
I worried about it too. A professional jock sniffer made good money. "But I want to be a novelist," Martha.
"So why don't you write a novel?"
Ah, nice work if you can get it.
That took much time and learning. Developing your craft.
And I was the hare among tortoises. And the turtles were crowding me. And at this, at the novel writing, I had hardly begun.
So what to do. I was a zippy writer, but not a writer.

I would have to go back to university, to be among professional writers, to really learn how to write.
Hell. Go first class. Go Ivy League, though pedigree requirements were high.
I perused the MIT writing programmes.

The Writing Center (12-132) offers several services to the MIT community during the academic year. Students and staff members can get free individual consultation about any writing difficulty, from questions about grammar to matters of style, including difficulties common to writers, such as overcoming writer’s block, organizing papers, taking essay exams, revising one’s work, or presenting scientific information. They may visit the Center during any stage of the writing process: prewriting, writing a first draft, revising, or editing. Consultations may concern papers that have been (or will be) submitted for a grade. The Center is not, however, a proofreading service; it aims to treat writing as a process, to clarify and promote techniques of good writing. The Center also offers instruction both to individuals and groups in methods of oral presentation (how to write a speech, how to use visual aids, how to conduct oneself when presenting scientific or nonscientific information). The Center provides specialized help to those for whom English is a second language.

Well, English was surely my second language but I saw myself as Zipppy the Lood King, the ougragegeous raffish character out of, I thought, R.Crumb. Write rings around ya!
But, sadly, my marks at Ryerson had not been high enough, I could not possibly make Northwestern or MIT, so I bypased MIT, too rich for my blood, and settled for the Instituto Allende, in Mexico, a branch of the University of California.

Durn. No sooner I get off the plane than they promote me to professor of nonfiction because of my journalistic credits.
And I still didn't know how to write fiction.
I am wondeting to this day if I will ever get it.
Hm. I just got a note about MIT from somebody who had noticed my blog.
Be a novelist. Go to MIT. There are real writers there. The woods are polluted with them!
Ah Walter Mitty. There is hope. There is always hope! Even if long in the tooth.
##

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

I'm a poet, I know it. I think I'm gonna blow it



A toxic teacher at Ryerson U, for some arcane reason of his own, kept handing my copy, rejecting a lot of it, and telling me, "You're all talent and no judgment."

Maybe he was right. Here is a poem I just pulled out of my back pocket.

Beware of Mary, wicked lass
She won't show you much money
But she'll invite you to her place
To feed you gin and honey

But you're simple Slavic guy
You don't ask at all the why
And you just jabber and spill your mind
What revelry this is, you say.

And you're simple Ukie dude
And your behaviour is so rude
Come from Alberta, bubbling crude
You need to caper, to be lewd.


You think you're great,
a boozy lecher
As on the couch you start to stretch her
You, poor old idiot savant
Who's spouting Socrates and Kant.

But Mary's foils are suble, sly
And you're a pretty simply guy
Despite your grandeur, oh so Slavic
And you free speech polysyllabic.

"Get off me you thin social climber.
Upon this Wasp you'll never lie
You mixed up idiot savant
Who's spouting Socraties and Kant.

"And here's your raincoat and your shoes
Thoughfully picked by laber, Hart.
Youre aspirations can be seen
You're really not that fuggin' smart."

So if you're ever down at Mary's
And social climbing is your game
give up those foible, feints and ploys
You'll end up drinking with the boys.


...Odd things are produced when your are out of cigarettes and booze...Hell, and even cooze. :)

##

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

The Flash of the Phoenix




Phoned by many a lady in a poetic fugue, wanting, seemingly to end it all, I was somehow getting into a funk myself. When the computer stole the poem I had been working on for years, I contemplated hanging myself. Just before I looked for the rope, however, I realized that I had, just before my depression, pressed Find.
And what do you know? I didn't have to kill myself, even if an editor had remarked, looking over an earlier draft, "You do not entirely avoid self pity."
Blame it on all my self-pitying ladies. Osmosis. I think it's catching.
Anyway, here's the poem:

THE PHOENIX

At first they tried to starve the phoenix.
Cut off his income. Take away his wife.
The Phoenix went from field to barren field, picking plucking, thinking.
They finally tethered the phoenix
Force-fed him pebbles, gruel
Called him a French Canadian.
Ha ha.
Gruel for you. And peasoup.
You are de woodpecker, no? Bash de face against de tree.
The Phoenix became spavined. It molted.
Till one day a flash.


##

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

"If I work my hands in wood."



"No intellectual work at night...you won't be able to sleep," father-in-law used to say..

Oh, what the hell, I won't be able to sleep anyway. Seems that that Blogger Walking Mans appears to do his best work at five a. m. I might as well get started a four in the wee. But. what I have to offer right now is just scrabble-scrabble scrabble.This is not good. This is not professional copy. Professional copy is different. The You is taken out of it. It has specific demands. Not a word wasted. Poets of typography we media freaks.
It is too easy to compose on the keyboard. I am so used to the old Smith-Corona, of pounding it, of making something with my hands. Odd thing about art--if you can call ratscrabbling that. . .You make it with your hands.
Or your feet.

I walked ten miles to Aurora, a pretty, town that used to be full of dressage horses and kids. Aristocratic little town, home of famed Torchy Miller at the Olympics, lately fallen prey to developers. The horses are gone, but the kids still around, going crazy as more often than not, in these new monster homes, there is no front or back yard. Running from room to room, screaming, texting each other.
Playing war.

Four miles into the trek, I hear echoes of Fats Domino:

It's time I'm walkin' to New Orleans
I'm walkin' to New Orleans
I'm going to need two pair of shoes
When I get through walkin' to you
When I get back to New Orleans

I've got my suitcase in my hand
Now, ain't that a shame
I'm leavin' here today
Yes, I'm goin' back home to stay
Yes, I'm walkin' to New Orleans


Why am I "Walking to New Orleans."

Well, like my father used to say, "You gotta use your head to save your feet, but but if no head, well, feet."

Gotta use both head and feet. Haven't sold anything for months. No money, no "funny".

I am walking to Aurora.
Follow your instincts. They will never let you down.

Along Yonge Street, a drunk is chased by a police cruiser. He throws a bottle of Bicardi rum out of his drivr's side window--which I immediately pluck forth. First time I caught anything but the flu in years. Hands like old Balitnikov. Heh. In this writing game there are times I wished I had been a homosexual so I could write better--don't they now?--but always quarteback of the stupid football squad. Well. Like riding a bicycle. I can still catch. Almost a full 26er. Holy Cow. There is a God.

There is certainly a Talmud. "Life lays down strange paths for men to tread upon in the dark."

Well, it's light out and something is guiding me.

"I am guided by the beauty of my weapons," Leonard Cohen sings. I have no weapon. Only my 26er of Bicardi rum, and hey, that ain't bad. Fer nuttin'. Gift from God. "Thou preparest a table for me..." Power in the psalm.

I walk right through the two miles of town, along Yonge Street, longest street in the world;goes all the way to Toronto.

I pass a woodworking shop. Antiques.

I step in. I love the smell of the place. Pine and lacquer. Linseed oil. Shiny, angled machines. New, laminated sidboards all around. Cabinets not yet finished. Sawdust on the floor. My father was a cabinet maker. I can hardly nail two boards together.

The professors had been too kind. "He writes like a Ben Franklin cabinet maker...a careful joiner."

Well, not so careful now.

I write like I make love. Everything goes in but the skill.

I need to work with my hands, maybe for therapy.

I recognize the shop owner. It is Paul.

"So how are you?"

"'Walking to New Orleans."

"Again?"

"Still. Flatfuggin' busted."

The last time I worked for Paul I composed an ode under a sanding machine for which I was paid a hundred dolllars.

"Paul, I need a job."

"What else is new? Get into the truck. We need to make some deliveries. Then we'll get you on the sanding machine."

There is a God.

##

Saturday, November 14, 2009

My "frosty sphincter" remains unclenched, much as Stephen Colbert seems to be after my oval.




'I'm calling on Saskatche-whiners to unclench their frosty sphincters and let Americans on to their oval.'—U.S. comedian Stephen Colbert


The Oval, of course, or more properly, the Richmond Olympic Oval, located South of Vancouver will be the site for the speedskating events during the 2010 Winter Olympics.
On last Thursday's show the impish Colbert had more:


"Those syrup suckers won't let us practice at their Olympic venues.… At the Salt Lake Games, we let the Canadian luge team take 100 practice runs ... and you know how Mormons feel about two men lying down on each other," said the tongue-in-cheek night talk-show host."

Hilarious.

Meanwhile, VANOC maintains it is playing by the rules.

"We've offered ample training time to international teams, including the U.S. team," said Smith-Valade. "We had training earlier this year for international teams and we're working right now to offer one more session of access to the international teams before the games."

Some international teams even failed to show up for their training sessions and the Oval sat empty, said Smith-Valade, but she couldn't say if the U.S. was one of those teams." She added that she thought Stephen Colbert was really funny.

..............

Myself, I'm getting some humour out of Swine Flu vaccine additives.

(Understamd now that the only Doctoriing I do is only my poor literature).

Anyway, the additives:

"In addition to the viral and bacterial RNA or DNA that is part of the vaccines, here are the fillers:"

aluminum hydroxide
aluminum phosphate
ammonium sulfate
amphotericin B
animal tissues: (pig blood, horse blood, rabbit brain, dog kidney, monkey kidney, chick embryo, chicken egg, duck egg, calf (bovine) serum
betapropiolactone
fetal bovine serum
formaldehyde
formalin
gelatin
glycerol
human diploid cells (originating from human aborted fetal tissue)
hydrolyzed gelatin
MSG (monosodium glutamate)
Neomycin
Neomycin sulfate
Phenol red indidcator /
Phenoxyethanol (antifreeze) /
potassium diphosphate and monophosphate
Polymyxin B
Polysorbate 20 and 80
Porcine (pig) pancreatic hydrolysate of casein
Residual MRC5 proteins
Sorbitol sucrose
Thimerosal (mercury)
tri(n)butylphospate
VERO cells (a continuous line of monkey kidney ce

...What do I know? I took my won buckshee MD from this One-eyed flying Purple People eater MD from the Rain Forest.

Hell, I don't even understand Global warming, except that it's late November and I am in my shorts. Really. In Canada.

##

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

"You are teaching them about the Gracchi Brothers? Gad. You are bad enough to be teaching at the University of Toronto, not Flintstone University..



Listen up now. This is the Hunk who somehow found a back door into Toronto's premier Trinity College, where all the teachers and the budding politicians go. It is like high shool, but three times as hard.

So I only drew a 63.

Heh, I chortled. Polish mark. My foreman at the construction site, himself a Pole, said, "That's what we get. The Polish mark. Sixty three per cent."

I had put my hand up quite often in class. Already a graduate of Ryerson Polytech in Toronto, I felt I had things to say.

The professor, British through and through, ignored my question. "You know, Canada has this way of absorbing all this foreign riff-raff who couldn't make it in their own country."

I countered that he himself didn't exactly sound as if he came from East Jesus, Ontario.

That did it. Sixty three per cent, though he had earlier apologized to me in class, saying that racial prejudice was always negative and led to negative consequences. That, I must admit was big of him since tha escutcheon of University of Toronto tree was so wasp-ridden it may as well have been a hive.

But no more. Now it's more like a rainbow. And I grow more conservative and wasp- like.More like Oxford now. "Many of our fine Brtish boys were not born here." But Trinity College still somehow remains British. It teaches Classics, and you need an A to stay on top. I got the Polish mark. Heh. But I had sneaked in the back door by way of the technical university where all the "Polish" guys had to go. I had made Varsity.

Hey, just like in the movies. Go Notre Dame!

But on this day we were studying politics

Tiberius and Gaius Sempronius Gracchus of about 140 B.C, (Or B.C.E as the hippies now say).

The Gracchi brothers were so much like the Kennedys and were offed in pretty well the same way, but by senate chair legs and and by drowning. "No tribune should fight for the poor, the minorities or land reform. You're gonna cause Rome to fall." The senator could have added, "Motherf*cker!" The senators killed the Gracchi brothers. Violently. Like the Kennedys.

I would be really interested in what the students at Trinity are now saying about the Gracchi. Aparently in the U.K, if the Gracchi were seen as liberators, the country would go left in the next election. If perceived as conservatives, the country would go Tory.

Well, our New Democrats in Canada are making some headway, by inches, but headway nevertheless against the minority Conservatives. Liberals seem lost in a funk....I'm really wondering what they're saying at old Trinity and along its Philosopher's Walk.

The country will probably remain Conservative, and all the worse for Canada, for it strikes me that the New Democratic Party is the only way to go in this recession and time of war. So call me a Commie...So was Uncle Tommy.

I weep for Fort Hood in Texas.

And the resemblance of Barack Obama to Gaius Gracchus.

So far, no Senator has raised a chair leg. But they have their ways.

##

Friday, November 06, 2009

"Will you stop firing off those guns on this old warhip, Fatty? It's giving me a migraine."




Nothing to get excited about.

Just potpourri this weekend.

Prince Charles and Camilla are in and around town. They left Hamilton last night for Victoria and then Vancouver tomorrow. Should be a great reception there.
Hey, Josie,(who has popular blog A Majority of Two): Gonna be in Victoria B.C. about now? Charles and Camilla will be there; the place is full of Brits--even South Africa Brits from way back.. Heh.
Myself, I must confess I am a Royal booster, even if it's for Ethlelred the Unready. There is one thing Prince Charles and I have in common: we both screw up our personal lives. How could you, Charlie? Dipping the old wick while married, huh? Yeah. Happens to the best of us. But I must say new wife Camilla is no dog when it comes to social graces, likeability and bearing. She's got the royal jelly...I dasn't reach for a pun.

And a segue here to goodnatured Canada bashers:

From the National Post:

American comedian Stephen Colbert accused Canada of cheating at the upcoming Olympics on Thursday night during an episode of The Colbert Show.


"Those syrup-suckers won't let us practice at their Olympic venues," he said. "This is the most unsportsmanlike conduct by Canadians since it was discovered Toronto Blue Jays pitcher Roy Halladay is a moose."


His comments come in light of recent criticism from the U.S. and Britain about how Canada is taking advantage of playing host to the Winter Olympics in February. Athletes in luge and speed skating from other countries complained they had limited access to the Vancouver facilities while Canadian athletes enjoyed numerous training benefits.

Colbert wants Canada to grant access to the U.S. team, calling Canadians "Saskatchewhiners" and stating that the organizers of the Salt Lake City Olympics in 2002 let Canadian lugers go for at least a 100 runs at their facility.

On Monday, Colbert announced that the show is now the official sponsor of U.S. Speedskating after their sponsor declared bankruptcy, and encouraged Colbert Nation to make a donation.


U.S. speed skater Joey Cheek was a guest on the show, calling the alleged Canadian venue-hogging "a dick move" on the part of the organizers. Colbert suggested that Canada might be trying to sabotage the Americans.


"I have a theory they are going to turn the freezer off and when the U.S. gets on, they are going to sink into the pool," he said.

"I say we put Canada on notice."

Colbert then reaches into a box and pulls out a sign that says "Canadian Iceholes," placing it on his On Notice board between the likes of Jane Fonda and "limey squirrel eaters" while Celine Dion's My Heart Will Go On plays in the background — a song Colbert refers to as the Canadian national anthem.

Heh.


My third item is on a bit of a sad note.

This just in from R.J Baker from his blog, Confessions of a Starving Mystery Writer.

The Death of Erik Ivan James
I knew a man named Jerry Ogg that wrote on the Blogisphere as Erik Ivan James. http://erikivanjames.blogspot.com - he was a great renaissance man. He has a completed novel that he was shopping to publishers but hadn't yet gotten pciked up.

The following is something he wrote a couple of years ago and sums up the last several months of his life. He was a Veitnam Vet and had been a well repsected legal consultant. He had been to the hieghts of his profession and to the depths of human misery. I loved Jerry and he will be greatly missed. He did good things.

"Middle-aged and well traveled in the trenches of human gutters; he wept through his story of hopelessness and despair. He cried over the loss of his soul.

He asked if it would ever get better. He asked if he would ever know peace within himself. He asked if he would ever again find dignity. He asked if he could ever again know love.

That night, he would destroy the most precious of gifts. He would pinch out the flame on the candle of his life.

I’ll always wonder what more...."
Jerry Ogg(aka Erik Ivan James)


Myself I so did enjoy corresponding with Jerry OggJames.

I even edited some of his novel, but it looks like he found no publisher before he died.

Damn. Why do writers off themselves. It make me nervous.

##

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Life as Linus van Pelt




I dreamed I saw St. Augustine,
Alive as you or me,
Tearing through these quarters
In the utmost misery,
With a blanket underneath his arm
And a coat of solid gold,
Searching for the very souls
Whom already have been sold.

"Arise, arise," he cried so loud,
In a voice without restraint,
"Come out, ye gifted kings and queens
And hear my sad complaint.
No martyr is among ye now
Whom you can call your own,
So go on your way accordingly
But know you're not alone."


The romantic always hears more than the band is playing, and maybe it's just as well, since Dylan's lyrics are so close to the original melody line by Joan Baez's "Joe Hill" that it's almost the same song, though with an opposite meaning to that of Joe Hill the dead union organizer.
But Dylan's St. Augustine tells you something else, and when heard for the first time, knocks you right off your horse.

St. Augustine, the once- randy Bishop, trying to get it all together precisely at the time Rome fell once and for good. And to what avail now is your repentance, your newfound piety when the Huns have crossed the gates and the See of Rome is no more.

Another Dylan line:

All and all can only fall
With a crushing but meaningless blow...

Or more prosaically:
Fucked again.
A Christiian without epistle or pistol
steamrolled by another more ancient code to life, the code of plants and animals, the code of men and women.
And with men and women it is more structured, borne out of, easily, 20,000 years of living.

So call out, call out for St. Augustine, Bob Dylan, John Updike, to all of us, our souls already sold, blanket on one arm, thumb in mouth,like Linus, and yet still somehow faithful..

##