The Finale

Day 14 of the writing challenge has arrived. With whatever I post here, I've completed the challenge. As soon as I push that button, poof. Test complete. Passed, with colors that, if not exactly flying, put up a strong leap. 

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What did I gain from the experience?

Well. A more nuanced blogger or a more considerate writer might have taken time before the penning stage to consider what she was going to immortalize. As may be evident from my slapdash posts, I am not that writer. I am not so considerate. I write pretty much whatsoever comes to mind, even to the point of shunting many of my own ideas into the shadows so the newest rising star can snag the spotlight. 

It's a big hogwash, a bit improvised. Fueled in part by anger, in part by hope, and in part by my own lovely pineal gland. It's a lot of things, these posts I create. But planned and sorted, they are not. 

This spot I designed for myself -- this tiny corner of the web -- it's my place for verbatim. Unedited, reckless, moment-by-moment that it is, it is mine. And maybe someday I'll take these thoughts somewhere else. And if I do, I'll be the one to say the word, as it happens, and the next. 

Image result for staking a claim oregon trail game

All in all, a successful experiment, I think. Even if the output is largely rambling to the casual observer. They're my ramblings, then, and I like them that way -- for now. 

For what are our storytellers but ramblers who've learned to spool in an audience?

For now, I'm ready to practice with a few more yarns. 

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Next time we stop counting days, except perhaps to mark here at the bottom of the screen. 

For those who read all the way down -- did you make a bet in the beginning of this thing as to which side of the coin it would hit? Did you win? Your prize is self-satisfaction! Or self-loathing! Dealer's choice :P


Day 13 of the writing challenge and I'm feeling lucky. 

Haven't done fiction in a while. 


Theme (why not be brazen with it?): 

cancer is the warning. 

It had all become about the telomeres very quickly. One minute it was the fountain of youth's been cracked! and infinite youth forever! and then the papers (ha!) were looking for a buzzword and telomeres caught on. Who can say why?

When the newsmen and women reported the stories, they all started by saying it was very complicated, very technical, and they would be telling us a dumbed-down version of things. I remember I put my cereal spoon down. The coco puffs had been delicious, but I put the spoon down and leaned back and watched while they reported that morning because in all the years I'd spent listening to these same two-to-six blowhards tell the news, only a shy handful of times had I heard them explain away their own ignorance. I sat up to pay attention to that.

The news was always complicated. That was the nature of the everyday -- complications. The newspeople's job was to distill all that complicated nonsense down and fit it into a sound bite that the everyman could consume, maybe even with a little relish if the newspeople did their jobs right. That particular morning, the day they first started talking about the telomeres, I had looked up from my cereal, tuning in with my whole attention, before they mentioned the little T-low devils for the first time. The newswoman pronounced the word with no particular inflection, nor did her face take on any particular, marked interest. What a strange attitude, in retrospect, knowing what was to come. 

The newspeople finished their warnings about the rudimentary nature of their explanation, then they buzzed in with the word about "telomeres," explaining they were "caps on the edge of the cell that wore down when cells divided." Finally, they said that scientists had "created a kind of indestructible coating" for the caps and that they were moving quickly on the project. Then they newspeople again, mentioned that what they had just explained was the dumbed-down version of something highly technical. They promised more details as the story developed. I went back to eating my cereal.

The next time they mentioned the telomeres, it was the evening news. I didn't usually watch the news then. I'd fallen asleep and tuned in to them using the word a lot, my foggy brain climbing out of the darkness to know what the fuss was about, so who knows how long they were at it before my brain tuned in and I woke up? Eventually, anyway, I did, and my brain didn't manage to unfog itself too much before the commercial break came back on. The lull of the familiar, trickling sounds in my tired head put me back under. 

In the morning, though, I came to understand what the fuss was about after all. The telomeres -- everyone said while wearing huge, beaming smiles -- were going to keep everyone alive forever. The details were almost worked out, they said, and human testing was already under way. No one added any caveats this time. No one explained, before or after, how technical the whole thing really was.

The buzzword -- telomeres -- it caught on quick. Came up in every kind of comedy routine, since no one knew exactly what it was still. No one was asking too many questions, though. The FDA had approved it. The CDC had approved it. For all I knew, the ABC through XYZ had approved it, because nobody was saying boo. I certainly wasn't going to. 

People through telomere parties, dressing up in whatever they imagined the "caps" to most closely be. They wrote articles about telomeres, got the word tattooed on their bodies. I heard of a lady up in Wisconsin named her daughter Telomere, and all this without any big news source coming right out and saying what it is we were getting with this fountain of youth. Beyond, of course, the infinite youth. 

Problem was, once the second point in that argument came up, people tended to drop the first. Everyone was just so happy. The whole world had, with telomeres, solved a problem plaguing mankind since time immemorial, and there were no red flags to wash out the fun. None of the countries were fighting over it -- everyone had the technology, whatever it was. And nobody was arguing over who would get access to it it. Everyone was content to let his neighbors drink from the chalice, so long as he could wet his lips first. But then, the newspeople assured us all that the telomere cure -- no, there was no firm brand name or specific company to tie the cure to, as of now -- the cure made possible by these miraculous, invincible telomere "caps," was in no short supply. There was no need to jealously guard the cure. After all, the telomere cure wasn't based on scarce resources or limited by tedious effort or requiring of massive manpower. No, it had none of the faults of man's earlier advancements! It was made possible by pure, somehow unexplainable science. 

As good as it was, people still shouldn't have accepted it as easy as we did. Why we did, I don't know. I doubt anyone knows. I wouldn't be surprised, in fact, to think there were nervous Nellys, paranoid Petes, who tried to raise a stir and were cut down by the joyous. Grandparents would live on. Children need never die. The future could handle whatever mankind threw at it, there would be a way, once eternal life had been won. And it had been won, the newsroom said. And we believed. 

If they'd used the word "cancer" instead of telomeres, we might have stopped it. Even with eternal life on the table. We were animals, then. That animal part of us that feared cancer, feared a lingering, near-unavoidable goodbye, that part would have cut a sharp cry at the c word. It would have urged us caution! even through the thick haze of greed and joy and relief. But no one said the word cancer. What they said, what we repeated, was the word telomeres, telomeres, telomeres, over and over, until we were chanting it in the streets, eager for redemption, eager for grace. We were ready to be our own gods and worship at the telomere altar. 

No one uses the t word much anymore. Those who do are beaten, though perhaps less violently so than those I imagine were repressed during telomere fever. I imagine a lot, nowadays. A man who has been beaten can howl for a long, long time, and the noises of our everlife are not so different than the noises of before. I do not want to be dragged away to where the men who are beaten too badly remain. 

When I imagine, quietly in my head, I wonder why they chose to use telomeres as their term. I wonder who "they" really were, if they were hit with immortality the way the rest of us are. I wonder if this is the way it was meant to play out. I wonder, sometimes, if the telomeres had some truly unknowable power after all, and we are punished because we managed to taint it. 

But no, I have to remind myself. I have to remind myself many things in such a quiet world. I remind myself that it was never telomeres, never some mystical scientific force. We were simply playing with fire, and we knew it. We saw how flames ran wild, ravaged leagues and miles and souls. But we saw a secret hidden in the dancing flames, and we wanted it, and we thought that by renaming that piece of flame it would stay in the center of the pile. 

It was a kind of cancer. It was a type of fire. 

And now we are living gods of the telomere dance. 

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Well of inspiration

Today, on day 12 of the writing challenge, I'm pulling up an empty bucket. So it's time to go fishing in the well o' inspiration. 

(That is, the notepad in my phone where I record stuff I like). 

Image result for old well`better visual effect with the well, though.

well, well, well...                             today's quote, from Coleson Whitehead's The Underground :

"...he was so liberal with flattery

 that he was obviously a young man 

 open to the sweet mysteries of fate."*

*Since I happened to be listening to an audiobook in this case, I hope I got all the words right. 

Why is this quote here? Because I like it. And, briefly, I'll tell you why.

  1. the use of the word "liberal" to define how "he" handles "flattery"
  2. the attitude of the word "obviously"
  3. the final phrase "open to the sweet mysteries of fate" 

Note that I'm not delving into any backstory of character or theme today at large -- this is very much a surface investigation. 

1. When I think of someone doing something 'liberally,' I think of applying grease or of passing out candy. But the interesting thing about this phrase is that he is not, in fact, doing something 'liberally;' he is liberal in his flattery. He happens to be flattering freewomen, a quite liberated -- excuse me, liberal -- class indeed. 

Related image`someone had a free hand in decorating

2. Backhanded narrators are the best. Although the story is told from a 3rd person point of view, as is the above quote, our protagonist is a woman named Cora. She is a person of no uncertain opinions. Therefore, although we have a reliable, 'removed' narrator, the use of the word "obviously" gives us as the reader a little urging to consider this man's liberal flattery as though from Cora's perspective. We'll hear what she has to say about it soon enough anyway. 

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`credit to the BBC

3. "open to the sweet mysteries of fate." ahhhh. Isn't that a delightful phrase? Phonetically, warbling back and forth from light 'oh's to 'eh's to 'ih's and finally into a realization and resolution of an "ah - eh" (or "ae" in "fate"). Conceptually it's fae-like and gentle, yet it ends with a tongue-in-cheek jibe. The gentleman in question is not just passively waiting for fate to deliver up pretty women. With his liberal flattery, he is laying bait left and right to secure his sweet reward. Open, indeed. Subject to fate, not so much. 

In this short phrase, we see the summation of a point: 

fate becomes sweeter when it's taken into one's own hand.


More points about language, or else something completely different maybe, tomorrow. 

Jazz and parrots

Have you ever lost a day? Looked behind you and realized, all of a sudden, that it was Wednesday instead of Tuesday. Or Sunday instead of Saturday. What the hell happened to Saturday?

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In summary, in a completely reasonable move, I skipped day 9 of the writing project. 

In regular life, time moves forward. We don't get to go back and scoop up those 'lost' hours or days. Whatever they were, they were and are no longer. 

In writing, we get to do whatever the heck we want. Accordingly, 

welcome to day 9 of the writing project,

located after day 11 chronologically,

in the usual fashion. 

To kick off our topic -- let's talk about Jazz. 

John Coltrane

The nice thing about writing consistently is that it allows for easily-dissectable AB testing. For instance, I'm getting kind of into the "inspired by" format I've been going with the last few posts. I'll be continuing that until I decide to try something else. 

Today's topic, jazz, comes from a quote I read on the Weekly Standard while researching John Coltrane (featured above). It goes thusly:

"The English saxophonist Ronnie Scott used to tell a joke about a man who goes to a pet shop in search of a singing parrot. 

The proprietor turns out to have three parrots in stock. 

The first and cheapest parrot is a richly plumed specimen that can sing all of Louis Armstrong’s solos. 

The second is in equally splendid condition, but costs more, because he can sing all of Charlie Parker’s solos. 

The third is blind, can barely stand on his perch, and has lost most of his feathers. But he costs more than the other two birds combined.

'What does this one sing?' the customer asks.

'I don’t know,' says the proprietor, 'but the other two call him ‘Maestro.’'

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The article goes on to say that "most of the people who play jazz view Coltrane’s late period like the proprietor regards his parrot, with baffled respect...We talk about the 'Coltrane changes' more than we play them, and we tend to play them in their milder iteration by Richard Rodgers." By "Coltrane changes," the author is referring to the depth of Coltrane's artistic elasticity -- the various forms he introduced us to in jazz, that are impressively reached as a matter of concept and have heavily impacted the furtherance of musical study...but are not so fun to listen to. 

Jazz is particularly well known for pushing the boundaries of expression. Yet, the author makes a final, baffling statement at the end of the article, saying 

"it is a sad fact of musical history that after Coltrane, there was nothing left to say on the saxophone."

Ok. Problems with this. It seems to fly in the face of jazz to say that an entire instrument is, after the master's finale, only as useful as a paper weight. 

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Beyond that, there is the sentiment that the master, realizing he has nothing to contribute, acts best by keeping silent. If there's nothing left to say, why say it? By failing to contribute useless or potentially hazardous information, he succeeds. 


Who wants to bet the parrot in the joke was thinking the same thing?

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credit to

2 Worlds

Day 11 of the writing project -- today is another piece of inspiration from media. Thanks to Bomb Girls season 2, episode 1, about 36 minutes in. The line:

If you straddle two worlds long enough, you'll end up nowhere. 

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A lot of us straddle 2 worlds. In what we do, and in who we are. We work two jobs. We keep a home life and one at work. We do what we want, sometimes, and at others we do what we must. In this case, the man speaking recognizes that his female companion is facing internal conflict. Her wealthy family's values are at odds with those she shares with her fellow factory workers. 

The line above, about the dangers of trying to live in two worlds at once, was spoken by a character who was: 

1. a Canadian citizen

2. translator to Chinese dignitaries 

He knew the war from the Asiatic side because of his work. He also loved his country. He lived in both continents, metaphorically speaking, and understood what it was to straddle two wholly different lives, two cultures. 

But wait -- there's more.

He was also:

3. the son of a Canadian serviceman

4. the son of a Shanghai woman his father met in WWI, and

5. living in Canada, and travelling outside it, during WWII. 

Image result for chinese-canadian man WWII Canada

His female companion, in contrast, was:

1. a Canadian citizen

2. a 'Bomb girl,' aiding the war effort in the munitions factory

Like the translator, both characters are serving the war from their home country. In these ways, they occupy one world together. 

She was also:

3. the daughter of a powerful food manufacturer

4. the daughter of a proper high-society woman

5. living in Canada, with no plans to travel outside her home, during WW2.

and in these ways, she was living in a very different world from everyone she cared to talk with, translating present company included.

Image result for chinese-canadian man WWII Canada

We can punnett square what makes us different and what makes us the same until the sun sets, and the occupation is a good way to pass the time. But ultimately, when the sun sets, when the sky darkens, we do know day from night. And it is just the gentle turning of the globe that lets us live now in the world of day, and now this other world, that is so dark and different.

What turnings do we make in ourselves to live now in one world, now in another? I'd guess its our own gravity. And, too, I wonder, in how many different worlds we live our lives. In how many could we?

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~fin, until tomorrow.