Tuesday, May 1, 2018

How many New York minutes can you cram into nine days?

We have three grandchildren in New York City and we try to visit them as often as we can muster up the energy and coin. Let’s see, we were there nine days. In that time, we saw a Yankee’s game, celebrated our son’s birthday, celebrated our granddaughter’s birthday, watched our two grandsons play collectively ten—count them, ten—lacrosse games, saw our youngest grandson play two baseball games, watched our granddaughter perform in a school production of Pirates of Penzance, attended our grandson’s First Communion, ate innumerable meals in restaurants, and rode in countless cabs, ubers, and car services. All this, while being entertained by a new bernedoodle puppy that made the energizer bunny look languid. We even snuck in some private time to tour Radio City Music Hall on tickets we bought two years ago.

I know I forgot tons. The entire week is a blur. We’re a couple of retirees who on most days lumber from room to room to get enough exercise to laze about some more. When my wife yells that we need to go to CVS tomorrow, I mutter that she ruined my entire day. If it’s CVS and the hardware store, I get out my iPhone and schedule the chockablock activities in my calendar app.

We love New York, and we really do love all the activity, especially when the weather doesn’t mug us. This was not one of those visits. My son never leaves a Yankee game early, but in the top of the eighth, the stadium turned into the biggest icebox on the planet. A near capacity crowd was thinned to a few guys hawking sodas before the Yankees came to bat. We left our hotel in fine weather to walk to Radio City Music Hall. Halfway there, it turned blustery, cold, and wet. Us, without an umbrella or decent coats. We even entered the restaurant after our grandson’s first communion drenched, with teeth chattering. Last Saturday, the weather for the lacrosse games was perfect. Perfect. It was a trick. On Sunday we were smart enough to wear layers, but twenty wouldn’t have been enough. It went down to forty with gusts of hurricane proportions that made me understand what chilled to the bone really meant. I’ve posted recently about the springtime snow in Omaha. New York likes to do the chill bit without the pretty white fluffy stuff.

In the end, it was all good. We hit the Big Apple at the perfect time to see all three grandchildren strut their stuff, and we got in on some nifty celebrations. But we were exhausted by our last day. 

As we drove back into the city from some farm that boasted plenty of lacrosse fields, my daughter called from Omaha. She wanted to know what time we flew in that night. What’s up, I asked. Our Omaha grandson wanted to know if we could make it back in time for his Sunday evening baseball game.

Friday, April 6, 2018

The weather outside is frightful: Part Deux

Yesterday, the gardener showed up for Spring Cleanup. This morning, I woke to this.

Since the same person does my snow removal, I guess he show up today to clear my driveway.

Monday, April 2, 2018

The Weather Outside is Frightful


Every year, I leave my home in Omaha after Christmas to spend the winter in San Diego. I return each Easter to spend the holiday with family. What’s an egg hunt without grandkids, nieces, and nephews? This schedule has worked out great in past years. I avoid the worst of winter in the Midwest, visit my west coast friends and relatives, bask in the sun, get a little surfing in at Pacific Beach, and return for glorious springtime on the plains. Only not this year. This year, they predict snow three times this week. There’s not a leaf in sight. The prominent color is brown. And polite Midwesterners are a bit grumpy.

I even built a fire the first night to ward off the chill. With the thermostats set at fifty in our absence, the couch cushions made us wrap in blankets. Yeah, “But the fire is so delightful.”

Deluge is still at the editors, but I expect it back soon, which will keep me busy. I also have three more essays to write for this year’s Constituting America’s 90-Day study. Lots of indoor work. Unfortunately, I have a couple problems that need attention in the garage, which is more like an icebox. Oh well, whenever I get lethargic writing, I can get my blood moving again by doing garage chores. 

Or … maybe I’ll check for discount airfares back to San Diego.

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Mark Twain's 10 Writing Tips

Curiosity.com published a list of writing tips from Mark Twain. Now, Twain never actually published a list, but his letters provided plenty of tips that just needed to be gathered up in one place. 

1. "Write without pay until somebody offers to pay."
2. "Don't say the old lady screamed. Bring her on and let her scream."
3. "Great books are weighed and measured by their style and matter, and not the trimmings and shadings of their grammar."
4. "The time to begin writing an article is when you have finished it to your satisfaction."
5. "If I had more time, it would have been shorter."
6. "The more you explain it, the less I understand it."
7. "Substitute 'damn' every time you're inclined to write 'very.' Your editor will delete it and the writing will be just as it should be."
8. "The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightning and a lightning bug."
9. "Use plain, simple language, short words, and brief sentences... don't let fluff and flowers and verbosity creep in."
10. "As to the adjective: When in doubt, strike it out.”

Good advice, but I believe scrutinizing Twain’s castigation of James Fennimore Cooper provides even more guidence. Among other things, Twain wrote “Cooper's art has some defects. In one place in "Deerslayer," and in the restricted space of two-thirds of a page, Cooper has scored 114 offenses against literary art out of a possible 115. It breaks the record.” 

If the criticisms of Cooper were rewritten as positive statements, they would make a great guide to great writing. Which I took the liberty of doing here. You may also want to check out my catalog of writing advice from the masters. 

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Leadville Laurel comments on my book Leadville

"Author/Blogger James D. Best found me on the web and sent me his novel Leadville: A Steve Dancy Tale (2nd in a series) to review! I haven't yet posted my review on my website, but I can tell you that even if I weren't living in Leadville, I'd still love this Wild West mystery adventure! Best's writing style is a romp, and he nails the dialogue. Two thumbs up!"

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Friday, February 9, 2018

Blade Runner vs. Blade Runner 2049

Blade Runner 1982

Blade Runner 2049

IMDB users rate Blade Runner 2049 at 8.2 out of 10. Pretty heady rating for IMDB. I’m aware that anyone who preferred the original gets dissed as an ol’ fogey. I fall into the old category, but don’t admit to the fogey part. Nevertheless, I will go on record as preferring the original. (Both films scored 8.2)

My reasons are from a different perspective than most. Admittedly, film is an art form and presentation certainly plays into the craft. From a visual perspective, I might even give Blade Runner 2049 the edge. It paints a dystopia world with deft precision. Where it falls behind the original is the crux of good storytelling. Bad guys gotta be bad.

In the original movie, Rutger Hauer portrayed Roy Batty with relentless malevolence, yet managed, in the end, to elicit compassion for his character. Batty was a worthy rival, who transitions into a sympathetic victim. A fine piece of acting, that.

Luv vs. Roy

On the other hand, Sylvia Hoeks plays Luv like a high school mean girl, and the script resorts to clich├ęs to portray her evilness. For example, when Luv stomps on K's mobile projector to kill Joi, it reminded me of a B-movie where the antagonist kicks a dog to convey dastardliness.

And then when Luv finally dies, we think, oh good, it’s over. When Batty dies, we weep.

I’m prejudice, of course. I believe the art in storytelling requires an antagonist that presents a heavy challenge to the protagonist. Heroes need villains to be heroic. We want the protagonist to win, but he or she keeps losing until just before the curtain falls. The tension comes from uncertainty. Even though we’ve seen story upon story, each time we are transported to another place and time where the villain might actually win. Sometimes, we get a reveal at the end that turns the protagonist’s victory poignant. A neat trick, when done right, and the original Blade Runner pulled this off with panache.

And that’s why I prefer the Blade Runner 1982.