Monday, April 27, 2015

Musical Monday: Me and My Uncle

Whoa, how did it get to be Monday already? I'm not ready.Going back for more coffee. Have some music.

Me and My Uncle was written by "Papa" John Phillips of The Mamas and The Papas. Phillips was apparently mystified when he started receiving royalties for the song from Judy Collins' record company. Turns out he wrote the song in a hotel room one boozy night in 1963 or '64 while hanging out with Collins and others. He didn't write any of it down; fortunately, someone had a tape recorder running. Collins somehow ended up with the tape and began performing the song shortly thereafter, and released it on an album in 1964. Phillips would later record the song himself; he joked that he remembered the song more with each royalty check.

The Dead, they started playing the song in 1966. According to those who keep track of these things (and there are, indeed, those who keep track of these things), they played Me and My Uncle more in concert than any other song, performing it over 600 times. 

Bah, that's all I got today. How was your weekend?

Friday, April 24, 2015

A(nother) Matter of Perspective

Many years ago, a friend told me something his little cousin said whenever someone called the kid a drip. 'Drip' is not big on earth-shattering scale of insults, at least not now; even then, it was pretty uncommon. Still, I guess the kid heard it enough that he had this pat phrase, just in case:

"A drip is a drop, a drop is water.
Water is nature, nature is beautiful.

Thanks for the compliment!"

I don't know about you, but I just heard that in my head in the sort of sing-songy voice of an 8-year-old. I digress.

I imagine at the time I kind of chucked over the phrase, but as "drip" is really not in use anymore, I never had occasion to use it myself. It just sort of got incorporated into my memory, to resurface once in a blue moon just to let me know it's still there if I ever need it.

The phrase--it's not really a phrase, I guess, but I'm not really sure what to call it--came to mind again yesterday after an exchange with another friend. He's a sarcastic sort of person who forces you to watch your every word. He will take you quite literally just to prove a point. He's a lot of fun to be around, though he can also be quite exhausting.

He's been volunteering to help set up an event that my organization is running this week, and he was giving me the business over me spending "a disproportionate amount of time" with someone who dropped things off. In explaining why it took me so long to extricate myself from this person, I said, "I don't want to come off as an...."

"As a what?"

Now, lots of people might not think the word 'asshole' is a swear, but it's also not a word I throw around in conversation with everyone, everywhere. I was hesitant to use it, even though my friend had used the word "fuckhead" just the day before in relation to a common acquaintance. I tone down my language considerably among some people and in some situations. But I said it.

"I don't want to come off as an asshole," I said.

"Why not?"

This pretty much stopped me in my tracks. Was he really asking this question? Seriously? It took me a second to answer, because I was looking for the hole I was undoubtedly about to fall in. Finally, I just said, "Who wants to be seen as an asshole?"

He said, "You don't want to be indispensable? Reliable? Efficient? I would think it would be quite the compliment!"

"I never thought of it that way before," I said. It seems we can put a positive spin on just about everything, doesn't it? Have a nice weekend, all.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Monday Musing

I missed my regularly-scheduled posting time last week. Work was busy, with a huge project deadline looming. On the home front, there were 3 things last week happening in the evening hours. When I had nothing on Friday morning, I thought, "I'll do it tonight," but we had a meeting that kept me out, then I had a work event on Saturday that wiped me out. Once I get past a certain point, forget it, I'm not posting.

I think I'm in that funny phase of writing known as "recharging" or "filling the well," or insert your own metaphor. I also skipped my writers' circle on Sunday, using the excuse that I was tired and that we were doing a lengthy spring cleaning. Both were true, but the other truth of it is I just haven't felt a whole lot like going lately. I've been valuing the socializing aspect of it more than the writing lately. The writing (mine, that is) has been rather pedestrian; I haven't been enjoying it quite as much, so it may be best to stay away for a little while. The big project, the current novel, has comments from 2 readers now, both full of excellent insights and commentary. I'm not burned out on THAT writing and will be diving back in this week. How quickly I can turn it around and get it in Agent Carrie's hands? I don't know. I was hoping to be able to be submission-ready before the dead days of mid-summer. We'll see how that goes.

As for the blog, you know me--I'll threaten (promise?) that I'm shutting down for a little while, and then I'm back with little or no interruption.

That's all for me, for now. How's everything by you?

Monday, April 13, 2015

Weekend Update

Greetings, all. This will likely be a short post today.

-Big news for me, one of my betas sent me back my latest last night. Funny how it is, she made two very raving (in a good way) comments on Facebook over the last couple of weeks, and the first line of the e-mail (which is visible in the subject line) starts with "I absolutely love TITLE"--but I still haven't read it. My wife doesn't understand how I can let these things sit. I am a ripper when it comes to removing Band-Aids, but not when it comes to stuff like this. We've been over this ground before. I always have to work up to stuff like this.

-This weekend, my organization ran an Earth Day-related event. It was very well attended and seemed quite popular. When we were walking out the door on Saturday morning, it was breezy and cold, and a few very tiny bits of snow were seen flying around. That kind of weather actually helps attendance, I think. In April and May around here, if the weekend weather is halfway decent, folks are out doing around-the-house work on gardens, lawns, the house. Yesterday ended up being sunny and somewhere around 60. Very nice to have that kind of day finally.

-At the event, I received a very nice compliment from a woman about the series of occasional columns I've had in our local paper. It's always great to hear something like that.

-Because I'm always behind on these things, I finally started watching The Walking Dead last week. I had seen the first two episodes when it first aired, but lost track of it and let it go. Gruesome stuff, but pretty good overall, I'd say. The question is always, "Can they keep it up?" (In this case, I guess it's more, "Did they keep it up?")

-The Bruins pulled a colossal fail and missed the playoffs, as they dropped their final three games of the season. All year long, even when they had dropped out of a playoff spot, I thought, "They'll be fine, they'll make it." But heading into those final three games, I was less sure. The Bruins had just won five straight games, and the last time they did that (March 7-14), it was followed by six game losing streak. They had also lost six straight in mid-February, so there was a pattern there. We'll see whether the coaching and management staff pays with their heads. I'm not so sure they should, but professional sports has become very much a "What have you done for me lately?" industry, and few are afforded a down year like this one.

And I think that's about all I've got to say this morning. How was your weekend?

Friday, April 10, 2015


It's funny what happens sometimes when you read other people's blogs. Earlier this week I was commenting on a post on Krista Van Dolzer's blog and started thinking, "Hmm,  that can be a post"--and now it is. Whether it should be or not is another question.

Krista was writing about a feeling of "meh"  that has settled in after the high of holding her first published books. Instead of continuing on Cloud 9, all she can muster lately is "a feeling of ho-hum ambivalence." Says Krista: "I've been letting the noise, both good and bad, get under my skin. Reviews have been coming in for the last couple of months, and if they haven't been awful, they've just been all right. (And by "all right," I mean they haven't been starred.)"

On a certain level, Krista's ambivalence is understandable. Life in general is a series of peaks and valleys. It's almost impossible to live on a continual high (without chemical help, that is). A sugar high is followed by a sugar crash.What Krista is finding is what we all find at one time or another: that this really Great Thing we've been waiting for for so long doesn't really change life a whole lot. Is it great to hold your first ever book? You bet. But you still have to get up and go to work in the morning. You still have to deal with THAT GUY at the office. The car still needs to be fixed. We want to believe that moments like this will change our lives forever, and they do--often, however, it's not enough of an order of magnitude to impact our day-to-day life.

But I found myself wondering if there was something else behind Krista's ennui, and I started to think of trees, of all things. At the end of the growing season, deciduous trees (the ones that lose their leaves each year) form what's called an abscission layer at the border between leaf and twig. As the abscission layer expands, it pushes against the cells on the leaf-side of the border and releases chemicals that help break down the those cells. Eventually, the leaf falls off.

Writers live with their books for a long time. I don't know how Krista works, but when I write, I'm pretty much on one project at a time, and I'm a slow writer. The story, the characters, the scenes, they're with me for months, and even when I put something aside to let it 'rest' or let my betas have at it, I still often see things that could be different, could be better. "Oh, here's a new scene I could add at the end of Chapter 12!" You know how it is. Revise, revise and revise, always revise.

Krista's situation is different, however. Hard copies are printed. Her book is unchangeable. Soon it will be in bookstores and on websites where it can be downloaded to your e-reader immediately, or at your door in a day or two. It's too late to change. No way to kill off or give birth to a character; no subplots to prune; no ability to put new words in someone's mouth. And I wonder if her newfound indifference is less a function of reviews and letdowns and more a kind of authorial abscission, a way of hardening yourself to the past so that you can move on to the next one.

What do you all think? Have you experienced something along these lines? Have a great weekend, all!

Monday, April 6, 2015

Weekend Update--Chestnut Edition!

It is spring. So says the calendar, anyway; the weather is not quite so sure. However, we've had a lot of water in the streets and in the creeks this past week, and there is some greenery to be had. The growing season is not quite upon us, but I thought it was time to start The Chestnut Watch.

For those who may be new to this, two years ago I received an American chestnut sapling. I planted it on a nice, open space on my lawn in September. Last spring, I eagerly checked its progress, declared it dead, then was surprised to find that it actually survived. Here's the first post on the subject, from one year ago tomorrow. It's too soon to say whether it will ever thrive or not, but it managed to poke some new growth out of an otherwise dead--hmm, not quite sure you could call it a trunk, but we'll go with it--trunk and put on about 3 fragile inches of new growth. This seemed like a good time to see how it's doing, so here goes:

Humble, yes, but I'm hoping this is the year it takes off. That tiny, thread-like bit on the left side of the picture was what grew after I was certain the tree was dead. The tall stem on the right is really most sincerely dead. It's still living in its translucent, corrugated plastic sleeve. I'm considering swapping that out for a cage made of hardware cloth instead so it can get maybe a little better light. I'm not sure that all day direct light is best for this species.

Oh, and yes, that's fresh powder on the ground. Winter does not give up easily in this part of the world.

We celebrated a milestone birthday for The Catbird this weekend, and all I will say is "Where did the time go?"

On the writing front, yesterday saw me decide to move ahead with The Next Project while I'm waiting for my betas. I had been kind of stuck, and I think I'm still stuck, so I tried playing around a bit with an outline. This did not answer the lingering question that brought me to a standstill last time, but I did rewrite a new opening. Cheers for new projects.

On the hockey front, my Bruins have now won five in a row (apparently the third time they've done that this year). This follows a five game losing streak, which followed a five game winning streak. Making the playoffs seems kind of pointless, as they're not likely to get out of the first round, but you never know, right?

That's all I've got to say about things. How was your weekend?

Friday, April 3, 2015

Word Nerd Friday: Bogart

The other night at dinner a word popped up into my head, a word I haven't used in a while I don't know where it came from, I don't know why I thought of it, but there it was. The word was Bogart, as in Humphrey Bogart, legendary star of movies like The African Queen, The Maltese Falcon, Casablanca, and at least one Bugs Bunny cartoon.

Of course, it's also known as a verb, and in this usage it means to hog something, keep something for oneself. The most famous application of the verb "Bogart" was in the 1968 song, "Don't Bogart Me" (typically cited as "Don't Bogart That Joint") by an obscure band called Fraternity of Man.

Whether the phrase preceded the song or the songwriter coined it himself is unknown. In all likelihood, he simply used a phrase he had heard and wrote a song about it. Where did it come from? Presumably it came from the fact that Humphrey Bogart smoked in his movies--a lot. I'll be honest, I haven't seen a lot of Bogart's films, but I have the image in my head of him with a cigarette either hanging off his lip or pinched, joint-style, between his thumb and first two fingers (or both):

So the phrase as applied to pot smoking seemed to come from there. But it soon had many other uses. Back in high school, we adopted the word and applied it quite liberally to everything. If you spread out on the couch so no one else could sit on it, you were Bogarting the couch. When we were limber enough to play hacky sack (does anyone do that anymore?) if someone kept the sack to themselves, going from foot to foot to knee to foot to knee, etc., they were Bogarting the sack and we'd call them something like "Sackus Bogartus"--we were big on that sort of pseudo-Romanizing. If you kept the bag of chips for yourself you were Bogarting the chips.You get the idea.

One other interesting use of the phrase I found. Apparently "Bogart" was a word used in prisons in the mid-60s to describe someone who acted tough or bullied other inmates into getting things. That use certainly makes sense, as Bogart portrayed a lot of tough guys.

And that's it for me. Have a nice weekend, all.