HODGE-PODGE & SELFIES….

Hodge-Podge was the name of a character I created for a children’s story back when I was in my twenties. He was an elf-like being who lived in a land filled with castles and crooks and a little dragon buddy. I liked Hodge-Podge because, like his name, he had a personality filled with so many unrelated traits that I could take him anywhere. He traveled between the wings of Finnegan, the aforementioned dragon, and together they made sure that the forest was healthy and all the woodland creatures were safe. That was over forty-tears ago and I realize now that little Hodge was way ahead of his time. I kind of wish I’d finished that project.

I haven’t thought about Hodge-Podge for decades and the only reason he came to mind now was when I titled this blog. It was to be a literal hodge-podge of lighter subjects to break the chain of heavier topics I have found myself pursuing lately.

Instead it’s just going to be a hodge (or a podge if you prefer) on one subject…selfies.

I appreciate that the majority of these photographs are meant to casually capture a moment with friends or a visit to some exotic location and that’s fine…they accomplish what they are meant to accomplish.

I am a big proponent of self-portraiture for many reasons but shots taken in a bathroom mirror do nothing for me and I don’t believe they do anything for the subject either. Before too many shackles are raised I will admit I’ve seen a few of these ‘selfies’ that were interesting photographs…in particular one that was shot in an old mine shaft. The subject was looking into the shaft, away from the camera (or phone) and I found myself trying to see what she was seeing. As simple as this photograph was, it drew me in. It was balanced and beautifully lit with a hidden story line that begged further thought. It’s the old “location, location” theory and in this instance it worked.

Aside from the obvious benefit of always having a model handy, a self-portrait can say so much about the person. After all, the photographer truly understands the subject…or does he?

In a self-portrait you have the flexibility of experimentation. Different locations, clothing, and moods dictate the leaning of the image and all at your own pace. Digital imagery has made this easier. You can shoot as many pictures as you want and choose only those you are comfortable with. In the end you see yourself as other people see you and then the realization sets in that you don’t see you as they see you. Seeing yourself through other eyes is a learning experience if you choose to explore it.

When I signed on to facebook I decided that I wanted my profile pictures to be different than the norm. I wanted them to say something about me and my interests. I have been a photographer forever and I had my own studio and darkroom back in the day but those days are gone. Today the glut of digital art programs is what stirs the creative stew a might. Surprisingly these programs are, for the most part, extremely easy to use and I’ve heard that some of them are even available apps for phone cameras.

The subject of self-portraiture could provide fodder for countless blog postings but I like keeping my comments to fewer than 700 words so I’ll end this one here. Suffice to say it’s easy to take those standard selfies and, with a little practice on the laptop, create images that are more memorable, interesting, and telling. Attempting serious self-portraiture could open up a whole new creative outlet and who knows…you just might get to know yourself better. Ain’t nothing wrong with that.

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FERGUSON

First…pardon my venting on the previous post. It was a knee-jerk reaction to the photograph and while I usually sit back and think about my approach to an issue before commenting this time I just charged ahead. Had I thought a little more I probably wouldn’t have uploaded it.

This is the good (and bad) thing about social media. Anyone can have an opinion published and sometimes that opinion is based solely on emotional outbursts. Sometimes comments are part of an agenda and, depending on the author, this agenda can take on a face that might not be representative of society in general. Events in Ferguson have brought about a glut of comments definitely emotional and opinionated on social media…mostly without reference to the facts released in the evidence documents.

I too was going to share my thoughts on the situation in Ferguson but I wanted to wait until I knew more about it. This morning I read a lot of the evidence presented to the Grand Jury and I’m still not sure what I think. At this point the way I see it everyone involved is both guilty and innocent. Regardless of certain eyewitness testimony (most of which was retracted after the evidence came to light) the forensics prove that Michael Brown did attempt to take Darren Wilson’s side arm (powder residue/bullet inside the car door) but I do question the extent of the “assault” on this police officer. The fact remains that Brown was trying to get the weapon and that’s enough for me to justify Wilson’s response. But, as I said, both parties are equally guilty in my eyes. The number of times Wilson shot Brown seems unnecessary. I feel that a few less bullets might have saved a life so, from that aspect, I feel the guilt falls directly on Wilson. I must also point out that my not being there and never having experienced a like situation makes it difficult for me to judge exactly what went through either Wilson’s or Brown’s mind during those terrible moments.

Perhaps if I take the time to read all the evidence I might have a clearer understanding of the situation but probably not. In this case it’s not about the evidence or the news stories and interviews…it’s about people and their environment.

I’m a white male living in Kamloops B.C. and I’d never heard of Ferguson until this story broke. I have no idea what it’s like to live there therefore I would expect (and rightly so) that my opinion would be lightly passed over by anyone who is from Ferguson.

The behavior of the citizens (a small percentage of them) after the decision was announced left a lot to be desired. It was a knee-jerk reaction on a grand scale and while I don’t for a moment believe that this was supported by the majority of people from Ferguson it is the face presented to the world. I can’t believe it was the good citizens that took away the livelihood of the families who live in and support the community with their businesses…those families who faced the cold morning reality of their burned-out buildings. There is no doubt that the people that created the mayhem would have done so regardless of the Grand Jury outcome. These are the few who want to raise hell and are determined to destroy any hope of peaceful protest. Unfortunately people like this have been around forever. Fortunately they are still the minority.

I believe Ferguson will pull it together simply because they have to. Perhaps some good will come of this debacle not only for Ferguson but the entire country. It certainly won’t make this story any more palatable but it might provide the impetus needed to forge ahead with discussion and action to create a world where stories like this become fewer and fewer, eventually disappearing from those 24 hour news channels.

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ONE DISGUSTING PHOTOGRAPH!

It isn’t often that a photograph can piss me off instantly but this one did.

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It isn’t just the obviously over-fed entitled s.o.b. proving his manliness by canned hunting in this photograph but the plethora of such stories as of late. Elk gather to feast in a field and the word gets out. Up to 30 hunters surround the animals and just start shooting…same happened in Grand Teton National Park where a couple of dimwits ‘hazed’ another herd of elk until they ran into a circle of hunters sitting on the roadside, guns at the ready. This is NOT hunting…this is mindless slaughter. Outfitters who trap wildlife and put a bullet into their feet so they can’t run from those high-paying “clients” when released into a secured area are less human than the animals they destroy. Thankfully a few of these knuckle-draggers are getting caught and charged but I have to wonder how many are never found out. Even when they are caught it usually amounts to no more than a slap on the wrist and a misdemeanor.

Animal cruelty (both wild and domestic) is running amuck and as a society we are failing not only the animal kingdom but the ecosystem and future generations of humans. I’d like my grandchildren to grow up in a world with wildlife in the wild, not just stuffed replicas in museums or misplaced creatures in zoos. I’d like them to find the respect for wildlife that I was taught and as much as I try to instill this in them, the rest of the world in general seems to be losing that respect.

Pipelines through fragile habitat, hunting derbies (with dollar store trophies and cash for the biggest animal shot, the most animals shot…etc., etc.), wetlands infused with industrial waste, and governments opening the way for big oil and lumber to further rip through our forests and public parks is…well, just a sign of the times.

Oh and don’t bother to protest. Do you remember when civil (and peaceful) disobedience was not only okay but expected? Keep that thought in mind while the RCMP hauls you away. And no, I’m not blaming the cops. It’s those big corp-execs behind desks a thousand miles away that can’t deal face-to-face with people that I blame. They’re the shadow folks that requested the police attend the soiree. I’m sure each of those officers has somewhere else they’d rather be.

As for the two-ton self-serving piece of trash proudly propped up behind that lion…never mind. I should sign this off before I really lose it.

 

http://exposingthebiggame.wordpress.com/2014/11/22/petition-no-more-canned-hunts/

THANK YOU JOE SOUTH!

I love it when I have one of those ‘out-of-the-blue’ and ‘ain’t-that-weird’ moments.

I’m in the process of tweaking a scene where my main character Evan Morris goes back to Edmonton, Alberta…the city he called home before he moved to Kamloops. I started off by walking him down a once-familiar street but then I hit a bit of a block and found myself wondering where I was going to take the internal narrative. I resorted to one of my usual distractions.

When I stumble with writing I’ll sometimes pick up a guitar and just strum random chords and stare at the screen. Normally it doesn’t take long to come up with something but today I found myself listening more to the chords I was playing and I realized that they weren’t all that random.

It took me a while to figure out the melody but when I did my ‘ain’t-that-weird’ moment arrived.

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It was a song I learned back in 1969 titled “Don’t It Make You Want To Go Home” written by Joe South. This is a song I haven’t really thought about for thirty or so years but it came back so easily and quickly. Of all the random chords or songs that those chords could have represented this was the one that I needed it to be. As I played it and recalled the lyrics I stared at my computer screen and everything started to come together.

Inspiration sometimes comes from the damnedest places doesn’t it?

http://www.joesouth.com/

YEAH, I’M SIMPLE…SO WHAT?

“Evan likes the simpler stuff. Cheese is cheddar and coffee is coffee…none of that frothy crap they serve up these days. His idea of continental cuisine is cruising the drive-through in a Lincoln. He has no airs about him whatsoever when he’s on his own time.”

Okay so maybe I’m a bit more like Evan than I care to admit.

The idea for this blog came to me while I was cleaning a couple of my old smoking pipes from the Sixties. A pipe and a beaten pouch of tobacco was standard equipment for my group back then, the significance of which I’m just beginning to realize. There are a lot of memories surrounding those chunks of briar and just holding them brought back some simpler times.

The guys in my group used to have ‘boy time’ where we’d sit on a creaky derelict porch or rickety old steps with some wine or beer and a pipe-full (mostly legal puffinstuff I assure you Arlo). We’d talk about everything and nothing…and we’d laugh a lot. There was no problem that couldn’t be solved if we took the time to talk it through. Things seemed so much more innocent and easy back then but maybe it was just because we didn’t know any better. We respected each other’s opinion and respected each other. Our boy times were often short-lived as the girls in the group would usually crash our little party but it didn’t matter. They were each just one of the guys anyway…except they smelled better.

My grandson just completed a game on his new Playstation4…to the end…finished it! It took him less than a week. I watched some of his play and I couldn’t get by the graphics. It was like watching a video for crying out loud. I had to use the controller to sign him on and I was completely befuddled with all the buttons and toggles and…well you know where I’m going with this. He’s sixty years younger than me and can easily glide through various screens pressing three or four buttons at a time while providing a boisterous running commentary of “What the…” and “Take that sucker”.

Me? I still love my Atari 2600. Okay the graphics leave a lot to be desired but it’s a joystick and one button. There’s an alien space ship coming at me? I line up my cannon and press the red button then watch it explode into a multitude of square pixels and disappear off the edge of the screen. It’s my speed doncha know?

What has this to do with writing?

In the middle of editing some work last night my computer froze then shut down. It saved most of what I’d done to a backup file but not all of it. It’s not that big a deal really but it does remind me of why I still prefer hard copy and pencil. My pencil has never frozen on me…not once. It doesn’t require updates and the only virus it contracts is from an unexpected errant sneeze.

I’m also reminded of how NASA spent millions of dollars to create a pen that would function in zero-gravity while the Russians solved the problem by using, yup, a pencil.WRITEs

This past summer I spent a lot of time on my newly-built deck writing or editing and most of that time was spent clutching a little white golf club pencil. I don’t play golf and I’ve never heard of this golf club but somehow I ended up with their pencil. I suppose I could complicate my life and try to figure out how I obtained this little instrument but really…does it matter?

Life today isn’t simple. In my humble opinion all the stuff we’ve invented over the last few decades to make our daily lives less-complicated has done exactly the opposite. I believe it would serve us all well to occasionally peace out on a back porch with a little baccy and a glass of wine and watch the sunset. To simply appreciate the moment.

You might call that a pipe dream…and you’d be right.

A RANT…or something like it.

Excuse me while I gently let off a little steam….

People who know me know that it takes a lot for me to lose my temper. It does happen but not often enough to consider it a character flaw. When someone spouts a silly comment my way I normally resort to the Dude’s (The Big Lebowski) philosophy: “Yeah, well, you know, that’s just, like, your opinion, man” and move on. But it’s time I set one, no…let’s make that two things straight. These two naggy little things pop up every so often and I need to put them to rest. I appreciate that I might be preaching to the choir on the second reason but I have to say it.

Number one reason for the rant: Retirement. Ah yes…retirement. I sit around all day with a box of bon-bons, a few glasses of wine, and a good sci-fi flick in the dvd player. That’s how many people see me in my retirement. Of course these are people who aren’t retired. I don’t believe I’ve ever eaten a bon-bon, I might have an occasional beer after mowing the lawn and unless there’s a major news story breaking my television sleeps during the day. My wife is a realtor and she spends many long hours away from the house so the daily upkeep falls on me. I actually enjoy the housekeeping chores but it can be a lot of work, not necessarily difficult labor but definitely time-consuming. There’s also that sense of accomplishment when you’ve finished scrubbing down the kitchen and polishing all that stainless steel. That would be the time for a congratulatory glass of wine.

Just because I’m retired doesn’t mean I’m not busy which leads me into reason number two…discipline.

I write, therefore I am. Okay that was cheesy but in a way true. I made a comment about how long it takes to properly maintain a blog (I admit I’m not all that good at it) and someone “inferred” that I need “discipline”. While it was just an off-hand comment it really got the hackles up. Most of the people that follow this blog are writers, thus the “preaching to the choir” comment. They know how much work and discipline it takes to write an average of 1800 words a day or edit that 115,000 word manuscript down to 85,000 words.

Everyone who works from home has to have discipline but those pursuing the creative arts (of any kind) have to have an extra measure. It would be so easy to turn on that television, cruise the internet, or simply take a nap. Y’know…just to recharge the creative energy. I would also suggest that many of you are like me and also fall into the category of writer and housewife/husband. We play out our lives jumping between the real world of dirty dishes, plugged toilets, and runny noses and our fantasy realm where we live vicariously through characters who exist only because we do what we do. I admit that I’d like to spend some time with some of my fictional characters…perhaps offer them a bon-bon or two and a glass of wine. Maybe we could curl up on the couch and catch a movie…but the dryer has stopped. Time to fold and file the underwear.

Those outside our world have no appreciation for the juggling acts that we sometimes have to perform. The conclusion of the workday is whatever time we finish doing what needs doing and sometimes that goes on well into the night. In the end we accomplish something that most of these naysayers will never accomplish. Whether through writing, art, or photography we have taken our thoughts, dreams and yes, the occasional nightmare from the abstract into a physical form that we share with anyone willing to join us.

If you don’t think that takes discipline…yeah, well, you know, that’s just, like, your opinion, man.

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REKINDLING THE DEKINDLED

It’s been two years since I’ve read White Wolf Moon from beginning to end. Occasionally I’ve had to go back and read selected passages to ensure I don’t contradict anything with the new book but generally I haven’t spent a lot of time with the original story.

For reasons that will hopefully soon become clear I have spent the last five days going over that old story word by word and finding a few minor things that I had missed. Fortunately there weren’t that many. When I finally finished the read-through a light came on. I realized why I’ve been having some issues with the new story. It’s all about flow and while White Wolf Moon was a veritable stew of different thoughts, approaches, and styles it came together nicely. This one hasn’t.

I’ve known for a while that something was wrong or missing but it took going back and starting over at page one of WWM to make me understand what it was. I wanted the second book, although a sequel, to be able to stand alone which required that an introduction to the characters and basic story-line of the first book be included. I’m pleased with how I managed to accomplish this but upon re-reading the original story I realized that the bond between the characters wasn’t as evident as it should be this time around. I also noticed that while I prefer to let the characters and dialogue drive the story line I used far more narrative in the first book than I have in the second. The narrative is what gave it the flow and that flow was missing in what I’m writing now.

I think this demonstrates my previous post about occasionally “going back” and starting over. The process of getting a book out there is one of learning and I learned so much over those two years. While I appreciate and will utilize this knowledge it’s important to look at writing the way I did back then and see it through less educated eyes.

For me White Wolf Moon was magic, from writing that first rough draft to holding that finished hardcover in my hands. It was fresh, new, and exciting. Going back through it has rekindled that magic and I’ve found myself spending up to ten hours a day at the laptop rereading the old and reworking the new. I also find myself exhausted by the end of the day (which goes by all too quickly) but it’s a good exhaustion.

Two years ago, in my delusionary euphoric state after the initial publication, I decided I should make this a trilogy. I have since reversed that decision. While a few Ginn fans might be upset, I’ve decided that after this I want to move into another area although I’m not yet certain what that will be. There’s still a lot to be done on my current project but it’s not looking as formidable as it did a week ago.

The magic is back.251794_114200048731938_327331232_n