Monday, June 25, 2012

Today's Word: anaclitic

Considering that the prefix ana- can mean "upward" or "backward," I'm certain those dirty-minded among you can come up with a snigger- (or grimace-)worthy definition for anaclitic.

Although it's true that you could use anaclitic when describing your involvement with a woman, that woman is probably your mother or grandmother. Or your father, for that matter.

Friday, June 15, 2012


A bit of flash fiction. Microfiction, really. It's only 25 words:

Eldon didn't stop arguing with the flight attendant about how his smartphone couldn't possibly interfere with the pilot's instruments until the plane hit the water.
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Stewardess, circa 1949-50, American Overseas, ...
Photo credit: Wikipedia

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

A Visual Three-Word Wednesday

Today's three words for Three-Word Wednesday are cling, murmur, and taken. It seems like all I've been doing lately is writing and copy editing, so today I thought I would do something different. Which means that all you're really going to get from me are the three words themselves. Here they are:

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Middleborough Says "Fork You!" to Protected Speech

Warning: Contains profanity, but for a good reason. If you live in Middleborough, Massachusetts, reading this aloud may cost you.

I was both mildly amused and annoyed last week when I heard that the town of Middleborough, Massachusetts, was considering an ordinance that would allow the police to fine people for swearing in public. Here, I thought, was another stupid idea espoused by small-minded people trying to get the government to force others to live and act the way they, the small-minded, want people to live and act. The ordinance couldn’t possibly pass because it is so obviously not only unconstitutional, but downright wrong.

And then, this morning, I learned that the ordinance passed. I was astounded. And horrified.

And it wasn’t just passed by a small council of old, curmudgeonly, right-wing, fundamentalist Christians as one might expect; it was passed in a town meeting by a vote of 183 to 50.

I couldn’t believe it. Is this what democracy has become? Is this what America is now?

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Ray Bradbury: Literary Artist and Hero

Photo of Ray Bradbury.
Ray Bradbury (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Ray Bradbury died today.

Of course, I only ever knew the man through his works, but he sure taught me a lot about what our language can do.

Ray Bradbury is one of those literary artists whose work straddles the line between prose and poetry. He’s the one who taught me that there is so much more to a great story than just the story, that there’s so much beauty just in the words themselves, the way they string together and sound and feel on our lips, regardless of what they actually mean.

Ray Bradbury, for me, was a wonderful poet who just didn’t worry about adding those incessant line breaks that make poems look like what we think poems should look like.

Consider the beginning of The Martian Chronicles:
One minute it was Ohio winter, with doors closed, windows locked, the panes blind with frost, icicles fringing every roof, children skiing on slopes, housewives lumbering like great black bears in their furs along the icy streets.

And then a long wave of warmth crossed the small town. A flooding sea of hot air; it seemed as if someone had left a bakery door open. The heat pulsed among the cottages and bushes and children. The icicles dropped, shattering, to melt. The doors flew up. The children worked off their wool clothes. The housewives shed their bear disguises. The snow dissolved and showed last summer’s ancient green lawns.
Read that passage out loud. Listen to the words. Feel the words on your lips and tongue.

“...housewives lumbering like great black bears in their furs along the icy streets.” This could be a line straight out of Ginsberg’s “Howl.” And can’t you just feel the pulsations when you say “cottages and bushes and children”?

And consider the images that he forces into your mind! Can you see the closed-up buildings, the housewives, the icicles?

Or this bit, from later in the book:
See all the carnival lights? There are beautiful boats as slim as women, beautiful women as slim as boats, women the color of sand, women with fire flowers in their hands. I can see them, small, running in the streets there. That’s where I’m going now, to the festival; we’ll float on the waters all night long; we’ll sing, we’ll drink, we’ll make love. Can’t you see it?
Can’t you see it? This isn’t just narrative. This isn’t Hemingway-esque simplicity. This is using language to create not just a story, but an artwork. This is the difference between a lecture on the Spanish Civil War and Salvador Dalí’s “Premonition of Civil War.”

It’s poetry, pure and simple.

Foreshadowing the conflict: Salvador Dalí's So...
Salvador Dalí's Soft Construction with Boiled Beans (Premonition of Civil War) (1936) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
And that's what I learned from Ray Bradbury: When you're writing, how you say something is every bit as important as what you say. Your words can be brief and straightforward. They can be relaxed and familiar. But most of all, they can be beautiful.

Ray Bradbury wrote so many beautiful sentences.

There are some who say it’s difficult to feel sad about the passing of a man who lived a full life into his nineties. But that’s the thing about heroes. It isn’t enough to cling to that metaphor that they will live forever in your heart; we want our heroes to live forever in the hearts of everyone. We want our heroes to be everyone's heroes.

And Ray Bradbury was one of my heroes. Still is.

I have to wonder if he had any idea how important and instructive and inspirational his work was to me and to millions of readers and writers like me. I hope he did. I hope he died knowing that the world was a better place because of what he did during his short time on it.

But I shouldn’t have to wonder. It’s a simple thing to let our heroes know, while they’re still alive, what influence they've had on us. And there’s no reason they shouldn’t know that they are our heroes, that their lives extend beyond their bodies and into the hearts and minds of others.

So I encourage you today, right now, to write to your heroes — to your favorite author, or artist, or politician, or teacher — whoever it is that has pointed you toward your definition of success, or excellence, or happiness. Tell them how they have changed you. Let them know that the world, or at least your world, is better for having had them in it.

And do it now, before your heroes are gone.
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