In 2012, I attended Viable Paradise, a one-week, intensive writing workshop held annually on Martha’s Vineyard the thirdish week of October. “Paradise” because duh, Martha’s Vineyard in October. “Viable” because only one week, not six. You don’t have to get a second mortgage and put your entire life — job, family, friends, etc. — on hold.
But you still get an amazing experience. A lot of awesome information from top-notch instructors; a lot of amazing socializing with your fellow students, the instructors, and staff; a lot of tasty food; and probably a little something else, as well: a tribe.
I wrote a retrospective post about it a few days after I got back. It’s linked from Viable Paradise’s page, and I notice an uptick in the number of hits each year around the time the new crop of students are accepted. :)
This year, 2016, marks the twentieth anniversary of Viable Paradise. Twenty. A two followed by a zero. That’s a lot of writers they’ve guided (~480ish!). They’ve put together a reunion the week before VPXX, and I’m going! As part of the whole ‘Twenty Years of Viable Paradise’ thing, they (the organizers) asked for volunteers from past years to write blog posts talking about their experiences, to help the VPXXers be ready for their week in Paradise. :)
This is one such blog post. And . . . it got a little long. I apologize, but I tend to get very excited and effusive about Viable Paradise. I can go on about it for hours if you let me. Just ask my very, very patient friends. :)
The rest of this is addressed directly to the twenty-four newly selected students of VPXX.
So, first things first! Which, I’ve discovered, is the perfect place to put things which are first!
Curse you, my old nemesis! I have it. Chances are, you have it, to some degree. I was absolutely convinced — convinced — that the only reason I got into VP was that they had found twenty-three awesome writers and needed a twenty-fourth person to make up the last place, and they pulled my application out of a hat. Never mind the illogic involved in that. Impostor Syndrome doesn’t do logic.
Know this, and try to take it to heart: you were selected because of your talent. Your submission was good enough, and you are in because you deserve to be there.
A lot of high-density information is going to be coming at you at relatively high speed. It will be fun information, and you will enjoy the lectures and the symposia and the . . . activities associated with The Horror That Is Thursday™. :) With that in mind, however, you might want to arrange to take a recording device to capture audio to take some of the pressure off of trying to take coherent, detailed written notes. They talk fast. :) A good many of the VPXVIers made recordings, and we have since shared them with one another using DropBox. They’re quite interesting to listen to and remember. I took notes and recorded. The notes consist mostly of bullet points.
You will get and give critiques. Maybe you’ve had a lot of critiques going into VP (I had), or maybe you’ve had very few or none. Either way, getting critiques from strangers — some of whom will be the instructors — can be a little daunting even if critiquing is old hat to you. One thing to keep in mind: No one there is against you. Or, indeed, your story. Some people may honestly not like it. Some people may gush over it. But all the suggestions, even the ones that might unfortunately be worded harshly or in such a way as to feel pointedly aimed at you and not the story, are done from a place of helping you to make your story the best it can be. To paraphrase Shakespeare (because pretension): “The story’s the thing.”
So! Try to make your own critiques about the story at hand, not the author, and try to phrase your critique in a way to emphasize what worked for you (and why!) as well as what did not (and why!). Avoid offering ways to fix it; just point out your issues and let the writer figure out the ‘how’ part. You’ll understand after VP. </cryptic> :)
Different things are going to stick with different people. And some of it doesn’t feel like you’re being instructed in writing at all, at the time. One of the instructors was showing us what I then took as just random stuff. Tangentially related — if at all — to the lecture he was giving at the time. But! The point he made when showing us the model house with the hidden, detailed room has stuck with me longer than any single thing any of the instructors said. I think about it almost every time I sit down to write. Your experience will almost certainly be different, and something another instructor says may resonate with you more than what Uncle Jim said does with me.
MacAllister Stone. OMG. I cannot say enough effusively wonderful things about Mac. But I’ll try. :) You’ve probably already received the email from her asking about dietary needs. And here’s the thing about Mac: she will take all of those requirements from everyone and come up with a menu that will be remarkably like all the other VP menus, but everyone’s specific needs will be addressed. For dinner, you will eat well. If you’re still concerned (and that is to be understood; I have issues I was very concerned about; see below), my big suggestion is this: ship some “safe” food to yourself at the hotel.
Dinners are social events at VP, but you’re expected to fend for yourself for breakfast and lunch. Uncle Jim has pancakes and what I’m told (see below) was amazing maple syrup for breakfast. But what I did was to get a box of non-perishable stuff and ship it up to the Island Inn about a week before we were supposed to arrive. When I got there, my box was waiting for me in the office. Cereal I knew to be safe for a diabetic. Stuff for late-night snacks. Whatever you think you’ll need that’s light enough to not cost an arm and a leg to ship, won’t spoil, and that you might need while you’re there. Just ship it and forget it. You will be told that food is expensive on the island (it is), and while they took us directly from the ferry to the grocery store/supermarket before hitting the hotel, I was glad I had shipped certain things from home. I bought perishables. Stuff to make enough lunch for the whole week (I know some people bought bread, peanut butter, and jelly; I got tuna, cheese, noodles, and veggies, and made a casserole.) Every room will (I believe) have at least a stove top, if not an oven. Plan accordingly. :)
When the week was up, I had some of my shipped stuff left . . . and I just tossed it. It wasn’t worth taking back home. I used all the perishables (milk, eggs, veggies). I had some olive oil left that I think I gave to Mac. :)
The staff of VP consists of VP alums, for the most part. They’ve been where you are, know how things work, and are there specifically to help you. If you have any problem, seek out a staff member. Feeling overwhelmed? Talk to them. Need a trip to a pharmacy or grocery store? Ask the staff. Need to blow off steam? Go to the staff suite. Want to socialize? Head to the staff suite.
Special Medical Needs
This one is aimed at people with specific medical issues. You can skip it if that doesn’t pertain to you. I have a chronic intestinal thing that crops up periodically, and has for more than twenty-five years. It comes with horrible pain and, if left untreated, a visit to an emergency room. My doctor and I go way back, and I can call him up and say, “Doc, I have that thing again,” and he believes my self-diagnosis and phones the pharmacy with a prescription for antibiotics. No wait, no muss, no fuss. Because this thing crops up related to stress and diet, I let him know that I was going to be on Martha’s Vineyard for a week, that I’d be eating food I didn’t have any control over, and that there would be potentially high levels of stress involved. He gave me a prescription for the antibiotics, just in case. You don’t know how much of a load of worry this took off me. If I ate the wrong thing or got too little sleep or whatever, and came down with this issue, I could have missed a day or more of VP dealing with the fallout. As it was, I knew that I could get the medicine in a matter of a couple of hours. So take care of yourself and if you have a medical problem like mine . . . maybe talk to your doctor ahead of time and set something up to ease your mind.
Now, onto more fun things. :) Socializing! This was something I deeply wish I’d done more of. There were dinners and other times when everyone was together, and I had a great time. I’m very much an introvert (No, really!), and shy around people I don’t know. (Golly! A writer who mostly spends time alone and has problems getting to know people? Go on! ;)) It’s very hard for me to start a conversation with people, even when we have a blindingly obvious thing in common: writing. As a result, I didn’t seek out more socialization. This is the biggest regret I have about VP. I’ve kept in touch with almost everyone from VP to one degree or another. But I barely got to know several of the others, and it’s entirely my own fault, and no reflection on them. So my advice: if possible, get to know those people. They’re your tribe. But, at the same time, you know you better than anyone else does. So take care of yourself, as well. If you need me-time, take it. Everyone will understand. Most of them probably need it, too. :)
I didn’t partake of any of Uncle Jim’s pancakes and maple syrup because I was worried about my blood sugar. But I could have gone up and joined in the fun, regardless. I went to bed freakishly early (midnight) every night, listening to everyone having a lot of fun upstairs (I was on the lower floor), but I knew (thought?) that I needed a certain amount of sleep or my immune system might compromise and I might get sick . . . but I wish now that I’d just gotten a couple of hours less sleep per night and spent time hanging out. The cold I probably would have gotten the week after would have been worth it. :) But again, you know you, and take care of yourself. People will understand.
Uncle Jim’s hikes! Again, I didn’t go on any of them because Reasons. Mostly because I felt like I needed that extra hour of sleep rather than getting up and spending an hour walking around Martha’s Freaking Vineyard in October getting a little exercise in the insanely fresh, nippy, early morning air and talking about . . . who knows what? I didn’t go! I have no idea what they talked about. But I’ll bet it was interesting! :) If you can manage at least one morning walk, don’t make the mistake I did. Again with the ‘you know yourself’ caveat.
The Wifi at the Island Inn is . . . there. Mostly. I wouldn’t rely on it too heavily. You won’t have time to be online much, anyway. But just know that if you’re used to lightning-fast network speeds, you’re going to be underwhelmed.
Bring a memory stick or something along those lines. Something handy to have on you for, say, copying documents on . . . to then dash up to the staff suite for printing . . . in the wee hours of Thursday morning, for instance. </cryptic> Oh, and virus-check the crap out of it. No need to give the staff your nasty computer virus. :)
Stay An Extra Day
I know this is something you’ve heard before, but if at all possible for your schedule and your expenses, stay the extra night and leave on Saturday instead of Friday. There is a lot of socializing that goes on that last night, and it’s a lot of fun. Also, since you can’t take home the open bottles of booze, they tend to form a . . . booze buffet, if you will. I did not partake, being a non-drinker, but there was much rejoicing. And music, and just . . . an all-around good time. So if you can, stay until Saturday.
I will close this lengthy post by relating a little story that exemplifies the entire VP Experience™ for me. I smile every time I think about it.
On Wednesday, a group of us walked into town for lunch. We also spent some time sightseeing. When we walked back, Nicole came dashing out of her room and ran up to us and said, “Quick! I need a way to dispose of a body by burning, but I have to be in the room with it while it burns!” (I’m paraphrasing, here, and I hope Nicole will forgive me if I’ve made her sound not like herself. Or, you know . . . kind of murdery. Which, one hopes, is not like herself. You know, I’m going to stop, now.)
Now, a random group of people selected off the street might have many reactions to a statement like that, but none of us even blinked. Instead, several people started offering suggestions and asking clarifying questions. “A fire that would consume a body will need to be hot. How big can the room be?” “Do you want the body reduced completely to ash?” “How much time do you have?” Etc. A short discussion ensued, but I didn’t hear most of it. Because I kept walking while grinning to myself. It had just hit me. These people are my tribe. They get me.
And that is a wonderful feeling to get.
Enjoy yourself. Get drunk (if you drink), but not too drunk. Have some Scurvy Cure. Play silly games. Play poker with Steve-with-a-Hat. Have pancakes. Take walks. Go and see the fireflies of the sea. Tour the town. See the Methodist Munchkin-land. Visit the lighthouse and watch the sunset. Read a dreadful romance out loud. Sing along. Have a beer with Billy. Bring your pajamas. Lament the dreadful, Dreadful, DREADFUL, unexquisite agony of writing. Become a Thing. Join the Mafia. Enjoy the food. Take a binding oath (or two). Seek out the staff if you have problems: that’s what they’re there for.
And the less said about The Horror That Is Thursday™, the better.
I hate my brain.
No, no. Don’t even try to defend that . . . that wrinkly, three-pound lump of fatty tissues! It and I are not talking at the moment.
On, you want to know why? Fine.
INT. GARY’S BATHROOM – NIGHT. BRIGHTLY LIT BY EIGHT (DOWN FROM TWELVE) CFT BULBS.
Gary brushes his teeth, then rinses his face and, especially, his eyes with warm, soothing water to relieve the slightly sandy, scratchy feeling. On Saturday, he tore his right cornea. On Sunday, his left. He has no patience for more cornea-tearing.
He applies copious amounts of the ointment he uses to prevent more-frequent cornea-ripping. He swirls his eyes around to spread the ointment, then makes his way across the bathroom, only able to make out bright and less-bright shapes. He makes it to the door of his bathroom, plots a path to his bed, then shuts off the bright bathroom light.
INT. GARY’S BEDROOM – NIGHT
Gary climbs into bed and spends several minutes getting comfortable. Pillows in just the right places. Blankie pulled up just to the right level. Breathing slows . . . he’s starting to drift off . . .
Gary snuggles into the pillow emphatically.
What do you mean, ‘no’? You don’t even know what I —
No! Whatever it is, it can wait until tomorrow. When I’ve had sleep. Remember ‘sleep’? You need sleep. My eyes need sleep. Otherwise, I’ll have a hard time staring at a computer screen tomorrow.
(in a disgustingly sing-song tone)
But you’re going to really liiiiike thiiiis!
Go. Away. I’m trying to sleep.
Brain vomits out the entirety of the remaining plot points of the novel Gary and Brain have been agonizing over for several months. In detail. With red herrings, false leads, and answers to all the difficult parts they’ve been butting against. With — BONUS! — motivations for the secondary protagonist.
Gary rolls over, opens eyes, stares blankly in the direction of the ceiling.
I loathe you. Why did you wait until — ?
Yeah, yeah. I love you, too.
Listen, you should probably write all that down.
Gary rolls over and closes his eyes, snuggling into the pillow once again.
I’ll remember it.
Gary gets out of bed, stumbles through blurry darkness to blurry slightly less-dark adjoining office. The night-light in the office is green, which casts eerie shadows on the walls. He moves the mouse on his PC. Immediately, bright light floods the office — and his bleary, blurry, ointment-filled eyes — with searing whiteness. He leans into the screen, locates the blurry outlines of the Evernote icon, clicks it. Types for about fifteen minutes, eyes closed, hoping he’s making some sort of sense.
You’ll thank me, later.
Gary makes his way back to bed. At least it’s still warm. He goes to sleep in less than five minutes.
So, yeah. My brain and I aren’t on speaking terms, today.
I know, I know. It sounds like I should be thanking my brain, doesn’t it? But, you see, what it did was, it waited until after I sent my first five thousand words off for critique at Paradise Lost 6 to supply me all this. Until after I wrote ten thousand or so words of the novel. Most of which now have to be rewritten. Or at least heavily edited.
Couldn’t it have done this . . . I don’t know, three months ago?
There’s this memetic question that people ask from time to time, and it’s a fun exercise. The question: “What six people, living or dead, would you invite to a dinner party?” One assumes, here, that any dead people you invite would be alive, again, for said party. Because otherwise that would kind of be a party killer, whether they remain corpses or become zombies. So, I picture it as more of the kind of thing as in that Babylon 5 episode “Day of the Dead,” where the dead come back, but only briefly, and without all the rotting or brain-eating. But I digress.
I don’t know why it’s always six, and I don’t know why it has to be a dinner party. Let’s assume that bonding over food is a thing all humans share, and that seven (because I’m the seventh person) is the largest group of people who can have any sort of meaningful conversation without it splintering into sub-conversations. Yeah, let’s assume those facts (that I just made up).
My answer to these memes is usually something along the lines of “my current friends,” because it’s an easy answer that is also very flattering to the person asking, because they’re in that group. It’s also true. I mean, that’s why they’re my friends. But it’s also beside the point.
The most recent time I saw the meme was on Facebook. Thanks to a conjunction of that appearance of the meme along with some videos I’d watched over the last few days, I realized I actually had an actual answer! But I will not be artificially constrained to just one party. Because . . . well, because reasons, that’s why.
. . .
Oh, fine. I think it’s important with any dinner party that your guests get along with one another, have things in common, and get along with one another (it bears repeating). I mean, you wouldn’t invite your loudmouth, racist uncle Bob to dinner with your Jewish or African-American friends, right? That would be inviting disaster. And we’re dealing not with just friends and family, we’re dealing with people throughout history.
(This is what is called “setting up the premise of the post.” See how seamlessly I did it? You’re welcome!)
I’m always kind of amused by people’s answers to this question. “Jeanne d’Arc, Jesus, Cleopatra, Albert Einstein, Sir Isaac Newton, and Madonna” would be a typical, ridiculous answer. It’s asking for trouble. It would be the worst dinner party ever. I mean, come on. Cleopatra and Madonna would get in a sexy-off contest (possibly involving underwear and snakes) while Einstein and Newton argued physics in at least three languages and Jesus tries to convince Jeanne not to slay everyone else for being heretics. Talk about a party buzz-kill. But it would make an awesome YouTube video. Guaranteed for millions of hits. But I digress once more.
So I decided that I’d have to have four parties. Because I immediately thought of four people in vastly different categories, and was fairly sure they would not get along, in the very unlikely event of a Day-of-the-Dead-style resurrection just to come to a dinner party thrown by a total stranger. So even though I had to have them, it would be kinder to them to have them in related groups. </premise set-up>
Also, these are for me to selfishly sit and bask in the inevitably wonderful conversation(s) that would grow organically. Or I’d toss a few leading statements out there to see how they’d react.
Party the First: Teh Science
These guys are not only scientists, they are all excellent at communicating complex ideas in science to the lay public. That’s me! I’m so lay, I might as well rhyme! I have just enough understanding of physics that I could probably follow them if they remembered to speak down to on my level. All of them have books or podcasts or TV shows or some combination of the three. The reason I put Ann Druyan and Carl Sagan on the same line is that they were married until Sagan’s death in 1996. They’re kind of a package deal. :)
Also, one of the tracks that is on the Voyager space probe’s golden record is a representation of Ann’s EEG while she’s thinking about how much she loves Dr. Sagan. I literally tear up every time I hear or read the story. So even without Dr. Sagan, she’d be on my list.
Party the Second: Teh Funny
Do I even need to justify or explain this list? I didn’t think so. Also, I’ll add that if you’ve never experienced the comedy of Adam Hills, you owe it to yourself to look him up on YouTube and/or NetFlix and just . . . enjoy. He definitely fits (as far as I’m concerned) with the other luminaries on the list.
I could add so, so many more people to that list.
I would, of course, have a supply of oxygen on hand, and some medication to ease my aching jaw and abdominal muscles from all the laughter.
Party the Third: Teh Fanboy/Squeebait
I would challenge the last three to collaborate on a project and hire the first three to star in it. I might also suggest that it wouldn’t suck if the project also included Drew Barrymore and Neil Patrick Harris. Just saying. And I would sit and squee with (barely suppressed inner) glee while the six of them tossed around ideas and then probably die of happy with a smile on my face that no mortician could ever eradicate. Just the thought of it makes me hyperventilate a little. Maybe I’d need the oxygen from the previous party.
Party the Fourth: Teh World-Changers
Malala Yousafzai impresses the absolute hell out of me, and her cause (making education available for all girls/women) is arguably one of the most important causes in the world. The Gateses, Musk, and Carter are accomplishing amazing good in the world. You may or may not agree with any of their politics (or religious views), but it’s hard to argue against their collective net positive effect on the world.
And, frankly, any group of world-changers without Fred Rogers would be woefully incomplete. He may not have literally saved the lives of millions of people or negotiated with world leaders or used his billions of dollars helping humanity, but his simple message of “You are worthy just as you are” goes very quietly right along with what the others are doing. Teresa Heinz Kerry (wife of John Kerry) said of Mr. Rogers, “He never condescended, just invited us into his conversation. He spoke to us as the people we were, not as the people others wished we were.” And that was his magic.
So these are my “dream teams” as it were. I only included seven people, total, who are not living, and those all died relatively recently. The rest are contemporaries. No historical people like Shakespeare or Leonardo da Vinci or Billie Holiday. Don’t get me wrong: those people are great. I just want people who could relate to the current state of the world.
People who know me won’t be at all surprised by the first three, but might raise an eyebrow at the last one. Good. I like surprising people who think they know me. :)
I could easily add several more themed parties.
A lot of people who know me might be surprised that there is no ‘authors’ group in there. There’s a simple reason for that: I literally have a plethora of interesting, intelligent, talented authors around me so often, there is no way I could limit it to merely six.
Who’s on your dream team(s)? What six people, living or dead, would you invite to a dinner party/-ies?
- Disaster is one guest that’s never on my list.
- It’s a pun! On two very different meanings of the word ‘lay’! . . . Trust me, it’s extremely funny.
- The story is here. It’s worth reading. Search for “I had this idea” and read. Or, you can listen to NPR’s Radio Lab’s interview with Ann Druyan about the EEG here. About seven and a half minutes.
- He has so many oars in the water, I couldn’t find just one website for him, so I linked his Wiki page with links to all his endeavors.
This is a bit of a departure for this blog, but I figured, “What the heck?” and here it is. :)
Full disclosure: This was originally something I wrote on Facebook as a note. It was inspired by a comment on my friend Nick Falkner’s wall. I started to respond to Nick’s comment, and it got long, so I decided to create it as a note, instead. Another of my friends (Carol Cassara) liked it enough that she asked if she could host it as a guest post on her blog. I was (and am) quite flattered, and it ran on the 8th of December. I waited a few days to put it on my own blog so as not to steal Carol’s blog’s thunder. There may also be a few minor differences between what’s here and what’s on Carol’s blog and on my Facebook page. This is the “definitive copy.”
The characterizations herein are based solely on my personal experience with the sites. Sites I didn’t mention, I have no personal experience with. (Or I do, but couldn’t think of anything pithy to say.) Your mileage may vary, and that’s awesome. Feel free to comment with your own characterizations.
is my living room. I’m very careful about the people I invite in. I expect them to have a certain sense of decorum and to not leave garbage all over the place. I expect people I invite in to respect me and the other people in my home. Or if not respect, at least show tolerance. Or if not tolerance, just politely ignore me/them, or come back at a time when the others are not there. No one has to agree, but you don’t have to get in anyone’s face, either. I’m not always the most gracious host because I forget others are around, but I do at least try. If I overstep, I expect to be shown the error of my ways. I have certain rules, though, and if you break them, out you go. It is my living room, after all.
is the busiest train station downtown (the one where all the lines meet). Everyone is standing on their own soapboxes, shouting into the wind. Some of them use megaphones. A few people are gathered ’round some of the louder voices, listening intently, but most people are busy and hurry by without paying attention, occasionally looking up from their phone to listen for a few seconds, then moving on. Some people toss heart-shaped coins at speakers’ feet; others yell things at them. A lot of people are just animatronics blaring the same things over and over. A lot of people are just animatronics blaring the same things over and over. Other people just say the same things others are saying without contributing anything original. It’s kind of a mess to figure out which are which.
is the monorail station at Google HQ. Everyone is still standing on their own organic kale-boxes, but the only people listening are other geeks and nerds with the same cross-section of interests. Most everyone is wearing Google Glass, and some of them are tuning you out, even though they look like they’re in a circle around you. For some reason, a lot of people are intensely angry that they had to go through this station just to get to YouTube. It is an unnecessary stop . . .
is a bare-bones, designed community that has fallen into disrepair, and no one really goes there anymore, except on a dare. All the buildings look pretty, but if you examine them more closely, they’re all merely façades. They all say, “IN DEVELOPMENT” on the door. There are two people there, right now, wandering around on opposite ends of the subdivision saying, “Hello? Anyone there? Is anyone listening?” The guy who sold you the property led you to believe it was going to rival all the other communities, but now he’s nowhere to be found. Good luck getting a refund.
is looking at everyone’s boring vacation slideshow at the same time. Some of them are interesting, but most of the time it’s nothing anyone would ever want to see except your closest friends and family. The occasional celebrity shows up and everyone runs over to see their boring vacation slideshow. At least there are a lot of cats.
is looking at all of your great-aunts’ friends’ scrapbooks at the same time. All of them. They’ve all gone a little “off” and think they’re Martha Stewart, but deep down, they’re closer to Rod Stewart. You know they’re never going to try to do any of those things they put in their scrapbooks, and if they did, they’d never show the results.
is kiosks at Burning Man.
is the lunch room at the largest high school, ever. Everyone is so self-obsessed, it’s just a bunch of people standing around taking duck-face selfies and obsessing over finding just the right filter, while talking endlessly about themselves. There’s the occasional streaker, but they mostly seem to be looking at themselves, as well. No one stays for more than a few minutes, and then everyone forgets them, because me!
is the largest cineplex ever, and people just go from theater to theater, watching videos. Sometimes, you find yourself in a theater and wonder how you got there, but it’s OK, because the “safe” ones are just across the hall. Every time you turn a corner, you find another huge -plex of related content. The cat video -plex seems to be the most popular, but no matter what your interest is, if you keep looking, there’s a whole wing devoted to just that. Every once in a while, the RIAA or MPAA will send goons in and rip films out while they’re playing, but if you wander next door, someone already posted the same video. It’s probably in Portuguese with English subtitles, but it’s there. The films vary wildly in quality because it’s free to show them. In every theater is a group of 9-year-olds who shout ‘fat’ and ‘gay’ and ‘ugly’ and ‘go kill yourself’ and ‘first!’ because they’re at the age where they think that kind of thing is funny. Sit in the front with your bluetooth headset on and ignore everyone behind you and you’ll do fine.
is an infinity of iPads set up in an infinite theater lobby, each playing a six-second video that loops continuously. People wander from iPad to iPad. And then wonder where Tuesday went. Every six seconds, there’s an enormous laugh from the people clustered around the funniest clips.
is pretty big, like YouTube, but the theaters are all IMAX. You have to pay to get your videos on screen, so the quality is amazing, but other than that, it’s basically just like YouTube, only not as full of 9-year-olds.
is a diary that just happens to be public. You pour your heart out onto its pages, and other people copy it and share it without attribution, or draw a big pink heart on it to let you know they liked it.
is a break room full of water coolers where everyone you’ve ever worked with eventually shows up. Recruiters dash from cooler to cooler, desperately trying to get everyone’s attention. Every time someone gets a promotion or changes jobs, a PA announces it to the whole room. Everyone golf-claps. Occasionally, someone you barely remember shouts, “This guy/gal? S/he’s great at” some skill you don’t actually possess. You look around, embarrassed, and wonder who let them in. People you’re glad you no longer work with solicit you for recommendations and you have to pretend you didn’t hear them.
is a 70s disco. The people who are in there have no idea it’s not 1979. Don’t tell them. It’s . . . kinder, this way. ♩♪You should be daaaaanciiiiin’, YEAH!♬
is that apartment where you used to live in college, where all your friends were in and out at all times of the day and night, having lively discussions about anything. But then the Russian mafia took over the management right after you moved out. Now the security gate at the complex entrance is locked on more days than not. It’s too bad, because it used to be a really nice place.
is an infinite book store where readers and authors tear each other to shreds in public, while onlookers cheer with bloodlust, often turning on each other in the excitement. Meanwhile, in nooks scattered about, peaceful groups of readers and writers meet, ignoring the spectacle going on around them.
is a bulletin board in the rec room at a college dorm. People post all kinds of crazy stuff on it, and other people can move it around so it’s more (or less) visible. People hang smaller bulletin boards off the big one, but around corners so you have to go looking. Often, if you do, you find yourself scrambling back to the main board, wishing for eye-bleach.
Hope you enjoyed. I wrote it in about 20 minutes of inspiration, not giving a lot of thought to it, and it turns out to be one of the most popular posts I have made on Facebook. Go figure. Such is the fickle nature of humor. :)
Perhaps you read my adventure going to WorldCon 73 in Spokane, WA. If not, go do that. I’ll wait.
<Elevator music: an all-pan-flute rendition of “Bingo Jed Had a Light On.”>
Back? Good. Now, allow me to relate my adventures coming home from said convention, also in the form of a story I shall call “The Boy What Were An Moran, Part Too [sic].”
But first! I suppose I should get a thing or two out of the way. I had fun in Spokane, in spite of the fact that there is pretty much literally a ring of fire surrounding the city. There were two days when the air quality sucked so egregiously that the con organizers told everyone to limit their outdoor activities. People were walking around wearing surgical masks. The area of the con (the Convention Center and Riverfront Park) could not have been more lovely and convenient, at least for me. I stayed in a Best Western right across the street, and all the activities I had planned were a short walk. The weather — ignoring the whole ‘ring of fire’ thing — was spectacular. I had a nice walk around the park on the last day of the con.
And now, without much further ado . . .
The Boy What Were An Moran, Part Too [sic]
You read Part Won [sic] of the story, so you know that the hapless protagonist, Gary (a.k.a. “The Boy Who Were an Moran”) foolishly left his photo ID at home — in the valet on the shelf in his closet back in Atlanta before flying to Spokane where he would desperately need it — when traveling by air. Not on purpose, but because he was so intent on making sure that he didn’t carry any extraneous cards along, he managed to leave that very important one. But that’s all in the past. As we learned in Part Won [sic], getting out of Atlanta wasn’t (much of) a problem. (This is called ‘foreshadowing.’)
Getting out of Spokane? An airport approximately 28 times smaller (in passengers per year) than Atlanta? Way easier, right? Wrong! Gary did the same thing, there, that he did in Atlanta. He approached the KTN queue and explained his situation. The patient, friendly TSA agent furrowed his brow and called his supervisor. When Mr. Supervisor-man finally responded some twenty minutes later, however, he was not impressed by Gary’s moranity [sic]. He kept asking Gary over and over if he had some form of photo ID, and obviously did not truly believe our hero’s response of, “No, sir, I’m sorry.” Mr. Supervisor-man gave Gary several suspicious side-eye glances. These failed to entice the Universe to cause his photo ID to miraculously appear in his wallet. He checked. Stupid Universe.
Mr. Supervisor-man then directed Gary to leave the TSA Pre™ line and get into the regular line with the rest of the unwashed public. Then he had to go through the whole explanation again with the patient, friendly TSA-woman in that line. It was like déjà vu all over again! It was like déjà vu all over again!
Gary ended up getting the full-body x-ray. And the post-x-ray pat down. And his bags searched. And he had to take off his shoes and belt. The many TSA agents who performed all these tasks were all very polite and professional, and Gary was good-natured about the whole thing. He tried joking a little with the nice, hard-working TSA agents.
“Do you have any sensitive areas where it’s painful to be touched?” asked the kind, young TSA agent wearing blue gloves.
“I guess we’ll find out,” answered Gary in a weak attempt at something vaguely resembling a thing that once had a heartfelt desire to someday be humor, but started drinking young and never really achieved its goals.
TSA: Not. Even. A. Smile.
“Just a tip,” Gary said to one of them, because learning is apparently not his thing, “don’t ever leave home without your photo ID.” Big, sheepish grin.
TSA: Not. Even. A. Smile.
“I’m going to change gloves,” said one agent. Gary said, “I would appreciate that.”
TSA: Not. Even. A. Smile.
Three strikes! You’re out!
Lesson: TSA doesn’t have a sense of humor. It’s in the handbook. It’s not even clear that they realize those are allowed aboard an airplane.
So Gary went back to just using ‘sir’ and ‘ma’am’ and smiling. A lot. And instantly doing anything they told him to do. A lot. And thanking them for doing it. A lot.
As an aside, the pat-down is nowhere near as intrusive as people make it out to be. Granted, Gary did have to re-tuck his shirt into his pants because the TSA agent ran his gloved hands along the inside of Gary’s pants’ waistband. The nice, patient TSA agents swabbed their gloves afterwards and put the swab into a machine that sniffed for explosives residue (one assumes).
As an aside within the aside, Gary was glad that the smoke particles wafting around in the air around Spokane didn’t count as explosives residue. That would have been . . . unpleasant.
They swabbed Gary’s backpack and carry-on luggage. They examined — and swabbed — every item in both of those. They opened literally everything and examined it, including his glasses cases (yes, plural), his Kindles (yes, plural), his laptop, his phone, and his digital voice recorder.
As another aside within the aside, Gary was glad he didn’t have anything embarrassing in his possessions, because all of this was all out in the open. The friendly, kind TSA agents asked him if he wanted the search done privately, but he said, “Nah, it’s fine.”
They did all of this very efficiently and quickly, and put things back . . . roughly where they had been.
After that, our intrepid, photo-ID-less traveler was allowed to continue on his way! Since he didn’t have a hotel or convention registration to look forward to for the rest of the trip, everything would be smooth sailing, right? (This is called ‘foreshadowing.’)
That morning, he had given himself an extra half-hour to get through the Spokane airport. The hotel clerk the night before when he had scheduled his taxi said, “It’s a really small airport. I’ve gotten there thirty minutes before my flight and made it with plenty of time to spare.” He still gave himself nearly an hour and twenty minutes. He was glad he did! Because by the time all of the above festivities were done, Gary made it to the gate literally just as they called A-zone boarding, and he walked directly from the TSA not-quite-a-strip-search onto the plane. Alas, he had intended to use the extra time to buy a Coke Zero (nectar of the gods) and some snacks for the flights. Oh, well.
We should take another moment, here, and exposit a bit of Gary’s family background, giving away some of what is to come. His mother and he share something that they call ‘the heebie-jeebies.’ It’s when one gets so tired that no position is comfortable. Sitting? Uncomfortable! Reclining? Uncomfortable! Standing? Uncomfortable! Lying down? Uncomfortable! You simply must move. You simply cannot remain still another second. The compulsion to just get the hell up and move the hell around is very nearly unignorable. We now return you to your regular storytime, already in progress.
The flight from Spokane to Las Vegas is only like two hours. Maybe two and a half, being generous. And even though Southwest Airlines has a policy of no assigned seats so one can sit wherever one wants, Gary blithely ignored this (because he’s used to flying Delta, who does assign seats) and went all the way to the back of the plane and took a window seat even though he prefers the aisle seat. Why? Because he didn’t want to have to get up to let people past him. (Did you notice the foreshadowing that time? Because, frankly, it was pretty darned blatant, and we’re getting tired of pointing it out. In fact, you’re on your own from here on out.)
About an hour into the two(ish)-hour flight, Gary had a truly epic attack of the heebie-jeebies.
A comedian once remarked that airline seats are designed for twelve-year-old, anorexic, Japanese school girls.
Our intrepid hero has exactly not that physique. He is rather round. He is sufficiently beyond twelve. He is not Japanese. Although that particular quality is not necessary to the argument at hand, it does parallel the remark of the comedian, thereby creating a satisfying feeling of completion to the comparison. (Yet another literary trick.)
It should be noted here that the couple who seated themselves in the aisle and middle seats to Gary’s right had promptly both fallen fast asleep as soon as the plane began to move. There may have been snoring and/or drool. When the heebie-jeebies hit, there was literally nowhere to go. He could not stand in place, nor could he find a comfortable position. He fidgeted and bounced his knees and squirmed like a two-year-old on cocaine. He tried distracting mental games. Nothing worked.
In addition to the diminutive dimensions of an airline seat, the materials used to construct same are not made for comfort. Gary began to sweat because of the constant fidgeting and the heat-retaining material from which the chair is constructed. The more he fidgeted, the worse he sweated. The more he sweated, the more uncomfortable he became. But then, at last! The couple awoke when a flight attendant came around with snacks, and Gary took the opportunity to ask to get up to visit the restroom.
If airline seats are designed for twelve-year-old, anorexic, Japanese school girls, the restrooms are designed for their four-year-old, equally anorexic sisters. Or, quite possibly, for members of some alien species that do not in any way resemble humans. Perhaps the blue water in the toilet is some form of alien nutrient. Gary moistened a paper towel (in the sink, not in the aforementioned blue nutrient solution) and used it to cool down his face and neck, which helped slightly to ease the heebie-jeebies. He returned to his seat.
The rest of the flight passed in moderate discomfort because Gary had sweated through all of his clothing, including his socks. He had also sweated through the seatbelt. He felt a certain sense of chagrin at this, and mentally apologized to the next hapless individual who had to sit in seat 21A.
Yes, Gary had become That Guy No One Wants To Have To Sit Next To™. But it wasn’t like it was a choice. Well, technically, it was a choice, because of the whole ‘no assigned seating’ thing. But we’ve covered that.
Finally, the plane landed in Las Vegas. Temperature outside: 105° Fahrenheit. (105 – 32 / 1.8)° Celsius. Do your own math.
The plane landed and attached to a gate at the far end of the C concourse (C-12). The connecting flight to Atlanta was at the far end of the B concourse (B-16). Because of course it was. Gary had approximately two hours, but he didn’t know that, because he was exhausted from the unrelenting heebie-jeebies, wet with sweat, and tired from lack of sleep and therefore unable to do time math in his head and he wasn’t sure whether Las Vegas was even in the same time zone as Spokane, and he had turned his phone on Airplane mode and then forgotten to take it off, so it kept saying it was one time when actually it was an hour later, but he was adding two hours . . . and math is hard.
In short, by the time Gary made it off the plane, he firmly believed he had only thirty-five minutes to make it all the way across the airport instead of the hour and thirty-five minutes it actually was.
In another completely unsurprising aside, we will now explain that the Las Vegas airport, thanks to it being Freaking Hot° W outside, was about 80° to 82° F inside. Add to this that the entire square footage of the airport is designed to bleed the very last cent from trapped travelers by enticing them to GAMBLE GAMBLE GAMBLE, thereby reducing the usable walkways to about 1/3 the size of every other airport Gary has ever seen, and you get a very slow, impeded, annoying, uncomfortable trek across the entire expanse of airport. Behind slow people who likely had approximately twenty-six hours (judging by their walking speed) to get to their gate. And Gary had only had breakfast, and that was some seven hours ago. And he had had nothing to drink since then except the approximately three drops of liquid in the ice-filled plastic half-cup of beverage the flight attendants served during the heebie-jeebie-inducing flight.
In short, Gary “ran” “pell-mell” through the “airport” trying to make it to the gate before the connecting flight began boarding.
He made it! With three minutes to spare! Only . . . no plane was at the gate. And people were blithely sitting around reading instead of boarding the non-existent plane. Had it already left? Oh, crap! Had he, in fact, missed the flight?
No. Time math. Is hard. He finally remembered to turn off airplane mode on his phone and discovered he had an entire hour! Whew! He remembered passing a Wendy’s and went to get a burger, fries, and a Coke Zero (nectar of the gods). He sat at the gate to inhale his food. Normally, this would be a cool-down period. But the
airportcasino was > 80 degrees. He soaked through his clothes again. Ugh!
When, at last, the plane for Atlanta boarded, Gary was (finally) smart! He sat on an aisle! In row four! He took his shoes off! He had the remnants of his
Coke Zeronectar! The flight (more than four whopping hours) went with only minor heebie-jeebies, but since Gary was sitting on the aisle, this time, he was able to stand with impunity and move around! Sure, he sweated through his clothes (and seatbelt) again, but at this point, damp clothing was de rigeur! We hear it’s all the rage in Paris next year!
Finally! The plane descended slightly from the sky! Gary’s ears began to pop! He knew he was almost home! He could get off the miserable aircraft and wallow in the sweet, sweet bliss of a car blasting air conditioning, and then sleep in his own bed with his own damned pillow!
The plane landed. It taxied along the runway! It was within sight of the gate! And then . . .
Gary was annoyed when the plane taxied to a complete stop. Outside, many flashing lights split the night sky. Ambulances. EMTs. Firetrucks. Police. Probably other things. It was very festive.
The pilot came on and told the passengers that the plane directly in front of them — a Delta™ plane — was being towed by a hydraulic tow-tractor when a catastrophic malfunction occurred. In short, the tow-tractor spewed highly toxic hydraulic fluid in giant arcs all over the place, contaminating the entire area! It was very festive.
Gary and the other passengers had to sit on the plane and wait. With little to no air conditioning, no water, and no bathroom (they were not allowed to get out of their seats) until things were cleared up.
About twenty minutes in, the airport messaged the pilots to allow the passengers water and bathroom. Meanwhile, ten more planes had landed and were waiting behind Gary’s plane. No more planes would be allowed to land until the toxic spill had been cleaned. When the airport finally got their ducks in a row, they decided to re-route the waiting planes on the ground around the contaminated area and put them at alternate gates. All connecting flights were being held so Gary’s fellow passengers would not be stuck in Atlanta overnight. But since Gary’s plane was first in line behind the Delta flight, it meant they would be last getting re-routed. How festive!
It took, all total, about an hour to get everything rerouted.
To make a long story very slightly less annoying, he finally made it to baggage claim, his ride home, and his own bed and his own damned pillow.
And so he
lived happily ever afterslept the sleep of a dead, exhausted, sweat-damp, heebie-jeebied-out thing.
We hope you enjoyed the second story as much as the first. If you enjoyed either one, of course.
The Moral of the Story: Flying sucks.
As a final coda, I was not kidding — I mean, I was joking and making light, but I was not actually making anything up — about how nice, professional, and helpful the TSA agents were. All joking aside, I actually went to their website and filled out a form complimenting the agents in both airports for doing their jobs efficiently, competently, and with a minimum of attitude, and not making me feel any more like an idiot than I already did. I imagine they get very few such comments, what with people being people, and refusing to accept responsibility for their own actions (such as leaving their photo ID in a valet on the shelf in their closet in Atlanta when they’re desperately going to need it).
- “Jet Airliner” by Steve Miller Band. See, it’s kind of like a theme for the post . . .
- I apologize profusely for putting Johnny Cash’s song “Ring of Fire” in your head. Really. No, really.
OK, I don’t. Because it’s a great song, and you should have it in your head more often. Like now.
- Gary decided that he did not need his AAA card, Zoo Atlanta membership card, insurance cards, Costco membership card, Sam’s Club membership card, Barnes and Noble card, or the credit card he uses exclusively online. Or so he thought! In the press of time to get packed, he took all the cards out and only put back in the ones that were on his aforementioned two-page checklist. Photo ID wasn’t on that.
It is now. :)
- Two by two, hands of blue! Aieeeeeee!
- He is, in fact, sufficiently beyond four times twelve.
- Whatever scale you like. F, C, K, A . . . knock yourself out.
- Have we mentioned that Gary is, at this point, unable to do time-math in his head?
- This is one way Gary and his mother can occasionally stave off the heebie-jeebies. If their feet are comfortable, the rest of the body follows suit. Usually.
- In both the ATL and GEG airports, TSA specifically asked if Gary had his CostCo card on his person (after him saying, specifically, that he only had two credit cards). Apparently, a CostCo card can serve as sufficient photo ID. Remember this useful piece of information!
- It’s a Firefly reference.
Here’s a little story I wrote called, “The Boy Who Were an Moran.” [sic]
The Boy Who Were an Moran [sic]
Gary woke up on the day he was supposed to fly out of Atlanta to Spokane for WorldCon 73 and instantly tore both his corneas. Oh, no! He then had to sleep an extra hour so he could use his eyes at all. What a day for this to happen!
Then, Atlanta traffic was spectacularly horrendous, so the 45-minute drive (his housemate drove him) to the airport — the busiest in the world! — turned into an hour and a half. As each second ticked on the clock, Gary could feel the missed flight! But there was nothing he could do because teleportation is inconveniently still impossible.
He made it to the airport — the busiest in the world! — just barely in time to make it through check-in. He had noticed on the drive to the airport — the busiest in the world! — that his Known Traveler Number had not made it onto the tickets he had printed out the night before when he did early check-in while he was packing.
While we’re at it, let’s take a moment to mention that Gary made a two-page checklist for packing that he meticulously followed. To. The. Letter. [This is called ‘foreboding.’]
He made it to the SouthWest Airlines desk in the airport — the busiest in the world! — and informed the polite ticketing agent that he needed a printed ticket with his TKN on it.
The polite agent asked for his photo ID.
I should interject, here, that, on Gary’s aforementioned (and foreboding) two-page checklist which he followed to the letter were ‘wallet’ and ‘cash.’ [This is called ‘establishing a pattern.’]
Gary reached into his pocket and pulled out his wallet. He thumbed past his Coin card, his Discover card, his Visa ATM card . . . and that was all the cards that were in his wallet! Oh, no!
He pulled them out and looked at them again. Tragically, none of them had magically changed into a driver’s license. How, he wondered furiously, was that fair? Didn’t the Universe know he needed his photo ID?
He informed the polite agent that he did not have his photo ID. She, surprisingly, did not have a problem with this. She gave him his tickets and sent him on his way.
Chastising himself bitterly with every step, he made his way to the TSA area of the airport — Have I mentioned that it’s the busiest in the world? The line was very, very, very long. So long, in fact, that he felt his stomach and other internal organs sink into his lower abdomen. His flight would leave in only 40 minutes! He didn’t have time for this!
Wielding his tickets, he swallowed hard and got in the TSA Pre™ line anyway. It wouldn’t hurt to at least try, right?
The polite TSA agent asked him for his photo ID. Gary explained what had happened and added that his license was sitting in his closet in the valet where he had apparently put it after making very sure that his wallet contained credit cards and money. Which were on his two-page checklist, right before where ‘driver’s license’ wasn’t.
She said, “Do you have any other form of Id with a picture on it? Passport?” He shook his head “no.” He similarly shook his head “no” for all her follow-up questions. For he had also left home without his insurance cards (they were (presumably) with his driver’s license), library card, ZooAtlanta membership card, Barnes & Noble card, CostCo card, two other credit cards, and a Sam’s Club card — which is the only other card he owns that has his photo on it. A 15-year-old photo, but a photo nevertheless.
“I’ll get my supervisor,” she explained, and did just that by calling for one on the PA. Gary waited patiently (really!) while ten, fifteen, twenty people were processed through the short line.
Finally, a supervisor came over! He asked the same questions the polite TSA Pre™ agent had asked, and Gary answered as before. He added, “I have a credit card and a debit card, my phone, and business cards.”
As it turns out, the debit card and credit card were enough! He was allowed through! He didn’t have to remove his shoes or take his laptop out of his bag, but did have to go through the “Naked X-Ray” device because he wears shoes with giant metal springs in the heels.
He made it to the gate with only minutes to spare, and boarded without incident! Whew!
Thanks to the adrenaline rush of thinking he was going to miss his flight, Gary had no time to eat more than the breakfast his housemate had made, and that had been a full two hours before. He started to feel a little shaky. The snacks the airline provided were barely enough.
Looking at his flight itinerary, Gary noticed that he would have only a few minutes at Denver to make it from whatever gate he arrived at to whatever gate his connecting flight would depart from. His internal organs sank again! In the Atlanta airport — the busiest in the world! — this almost always means running pell-mell through the airport from gate A1 to Z99 only to arrive, winded, at the departing gate with no time to spare. When would he get lunch?
Just before landing, the flight attendant announced that the gate for Spokane was only a few gates away! Hurray! He’d have time — barely! — to get lunch before boarding. If, that is, nothing went wrong.
He found a McDonald’s in the airport and ordered, and made it back to his gate literally two minutes into the boarding process. Only . . . the plane wasn’t boarding.
In fact, the plane wasn’t even at the gate. In fact, the gate had moved.
All the way across the airport!
With all the other passengers waiting patiently (really!) for the flight to arrive, Gary high-tailed it across the airport to the new gate, only to find out the flight had been delayed by one hour! Plenty of time to eat his lunch!
Practically everyone on the flight was headed to WorldCon. He spoke briefly with some other passengers about that, and got some advice on how to get from the airport to the vicinity of the con hotel.
He made it to his hotel (address: on the two-page checklist) without any problems, after having a nice conversation with the cab driver about all the fires around Spokane.
He gave the polite clerk at the hotel desk his information (on the two-page checklist), and they asked . . . for his photo ID.
He explained what had happened and they looked up his name. And didn’t find it. They looked up his reservation number (on the two-page checklist). And didn’t find it. They looked up other information that he gave. And didn’t find it.
The polite clerk’s manager asked if it was possible the reservation was under a different name. [This is also called ‘foreboding.’] Gary said, “No, I’m sure it’s not.” He then spelled his name meticulously, since he often gets called Greg Anderson, Perry Hendrickson, and about a hundred other incorrect names on a routine basis.
Finally, he used his phone to email the reservation information he had received from the hotel chain to the polite manager. Meanwhile, the polite clerk took his information again and issued another reservation.
As Gary was leaving the check-in desk for the elevator, the polite manager returned and said, “I found your reservation number under the name ‘William Hubbard.’ Do you know a ‘William Hubbard’?”
No. No, he did not.
The polite manager said she would fix it and not to worry.
After stowing his luggage in his room, Gary walked to the convention center to register for WorldCon and get his badge.
You know what’s coming. I think it’s obvious at this point.
Turns out that although the TSA and Best Western were OK with not having a photo ID because you stupidly left it in the valet on the shelf in your closet in Atlanta before flying to Spokane where you would desperately need it, WorldCon is not. He was directed to leave the very short registration line and stand in the much, much longer ‘Problems’ line. Another polite waiter-in-line suggested that if they Googled his name and it came up with his picture — which it most certainly would — that should be proof enough. Gary clung to this possibility.
But it also turns out that when you explain the situation — how you left your photo ID in the valet on the shelf in your closet back in Atlanta before flying to Spokane where you would desperately need it — and they call up your information and ask you to give them your address and it matches, that’s enough to get your registration card! Sweet!
The Moral of the Story: Put ‘photo ID’ on your stupid two-page checklist.
Stay tuned for the next, exciting episode of ‘The Boy Who Were an Moran [sic]’ in which Gary tries to maneuver his way through a week without needing his photo ID because he stupidly left it in the valet on the shelf in his closet in Atlanta before flying to Spokane where he would desperately need it.
When I first created this site, I liked this theme I’m still using. It’s called “Structure,” and the logo they had by default was a block-capital S and T connected by the T’s crossbar. I thought how neat it would be to have my own logo in a similar style. I got an icon designer application and spent far too long (probably close to three hours) drawing a 32 x 32 pixel icon, literally pixel by pixel. If you look at the tab on your browser where you’re reading this, you should be able to see that icon. It’s a light gray capital “W” superimposed on a black capital “W”, slightly offset to the lower right.
But I’ve wanted something better since then. Because ugly. Because lack of graphic design talent. Ideally, it would replace or augment the image at the top of the page where it says “WriteWright The blog of Gary D. Henderson.” Ideally.
The other night, I had a new contact through the “Contact Me” widget and went to that site to deal with it. They were encouraging me to upload my business’s logo. The desire to have my stylized W/W icon/logo hit again, so I spent a couple of hours trying to find sites that would allow me to design logos.
Did I mention that I suck at graphic design? I mean, like really. I have a certain amount of artistic ability (I took art classes for years, and didn’t suck too badly), but I stopped trying to develop it when I discovered computers when I was a junior in high school. (Making a computer jump through logic hoops I designed seemed more fun (and easier, and faster, and more rewarding) than drawing, painting, etc.)
I found quite a few sites out there that allow one to design a logo for free. They usually have a selection of “clip art” one can choose from, and then text can be added. I went through quite a few of them, poking at them to see if they had anything I didn’t hate. (Started off on the right foot, at least. “Didn’t hate” instead of “liked.”)
I was surprised when I found something on every site I tried. I stopped after five. Below are my results. Some sites allowed me to download the design; for others, I had to take a screenshot and clip the image. Which is why, for instance, one of them has visible grid lines and a couple more look a bit rough.
That won’t be the case in the finished logo.
While most of them allow you to design the logo for free, if you want to actually use it, of course, you have to pony up. What I don’t know is what “should be” a reasonable price would be for something like that.
So I thought I’d put the potentials up here to see what people think. Because with the whole ‘suck at graphic design’ thing I have going.
I’m not attached to any of these to the point that I couldn’t just delete them and move on. But these do represent what I thought looked best from the alternatives each site offered me.
This was the first site I tried. As I flipped desultorily through many uninspired suggestions of clip-art, this one popped up randomly, and looked enough like my original vision that I took notice. It was originally in shades of sickly green, but one of the options they allow is to change those colors, so I did just that. I like the monochrome look I’ve selected for this site, so I stayed with blacks and grays. I would probably play around with colors a bit more and dump the text entirely.
This one is arguably the closest to my original concept, although I’m not overly fond of the font. (I think it’s the curviness.) But it is the only font they supplied where the W allowed an exact overlap, with all the widths and the angles lining up. I know because I tried every single font I didn’t hate.
On this one, I don’t think I got the colors exactly matching, but the concept I was going for is obvious. Again, it kind of goes with the “W” theme, closer to the first design than my original idea, but it’s kind of appealing, to me. I like the ‘rite’ and ‘right’ added on this one, and would probably keep the text.
Total departure. This site didn’t have any “W” designs that weren’t hideous, but instead of ditching it altogether, I decided to flip through the hundreds of clip-art images they had to see if any of them called to me. They had a whole section for “writing and writers” and the quill pen is a natural enough association that I went with it. Others that drew me were a stylized pen nib, and a pencil reminiscent of the LiveJournal logo. (Neither of which is shown, because ultimately, I got tired of designing logos. Also because the pen nib design could be taken as a stylized depiction of cleavage, which is probably the point.)
Is the quill maybe a little too cliché?
Finally, this one is back with the overlapping / nested “W.” The original colors were somewhere in the puce range, but I switched to graytones. Again, I would probably dump the text. This one has a certain . . . “Art Deco”? . . . look that I like. But is it too much like the Volkswagon logo? :)
I did a Google image search for “W” logos. There are a lot of them. Some of them are close to some of the designs above, but then there’s only so many ways you can twist a “W” and have it still recognizable as a “W.”
Anyway, you tell me. I lack the graphic design skill, and frankly, they’re all kind of blurring together at this point. Does anything stand out?
I frequently have vivid dreams that involve quite elaborate plots that, on occasion, stick with me after awakening. Unfortunately, almost as soon as I start thinking about the day ahead — the minute my eyes open — the wistful vapors of the dream vanish and the ideas are gone.
I also tend to get writing ideas at times when my brain is otherwise disengaged, but my body is doing something habitual. The two main times this happens are when I’m driving and when I’m showering. If it weren’t for driving and showering — in addition to me being a social pariah and being unable to work — I’d have virtually no ideas for writing.
The third time my disengaged brain offers ideas up to me is in those few minutes between when the sleep monster begins to immobilize my body and when I drift off into unconsciousness. The sheets are so nice and soft, the blanket so snug, the pillow supports my head just right . . . and then blam, an idea pops into my head. A really good idea.
For that scene that I can’t seem to finish, or to end the story I’m having trouble with. And my brain whispers to me, “Don’t worry. It’s a great idea. I’ve got this.”
Because my brain is a lying bastard. It never remembers. Never. Oh, it remembers that I had an idea, and that it solved that sticky problem I was having, and that it was a beautiful, shining idea that would set animated animals to singing and dancing around me if I could only . . . remember . . . the actual content of the idea, and not that there was an idea. Of some sort. That was good.
So I decided that I would keep a notepad next to my bed. One of those big, yellow legal pads, and a pen.
I need to back up for a moment to explain that I have this . . . medical condition called Recurrent Corneal Erosion. You can Google it if you wish, but suffice to say, it means that I have to put ointment in both eyes every night before sleeping or I have a very good chance of tearing the cornea of one or both eyes when I wake up in the morning. I’m not telling you this to squick you out or to elicit medical advice — believe me, if you can think it, it has already been thought by me or suggested by others. The ointment works great, usually about 99% of the time. About once per month or so, I’ll end up tearing a cornea and have to miss a day of work. It’s just . . . a thing that happens, and has been happening for the better part of twenty years. But my telling it serves to explain some of what is about to be related.
The ointment is thick and has the texture of petroleum jelly, and is opaque, so it impairs my vision almost completely. I can distinguish light from dark, and vague shapes. That’s about it.
I kept the notepad by the bed for quite a while. I’d wake up with a dream or an idea, and I’d write as much of it down as I could, but since I can’t actually focus my eyes on anything because of the ointment, my handwriting is . . . sub-optimal.
So I guess you could say it sort of worked. And as I got used to having the notepad next to the bed, I’d retain more dreams and ideas just long enough to jot something down before burrowing back under the covers and getting more sleep.
And then it happened.
I woke up out of a sound sleep. I had had an Idea. Not just an idea, mind you: An Idea. The best, shiniest, most magnificent Idea in the history of Ideas. It would make a fantastic story.
And it was so singular an Idea (to borrow vocabulary from H. P. Lovecraft) that a single word — as from the Oracle at Delphi — would suffice to remind me of the entirety of this beautiful, blossom-like Idea.
Squinting in the general direction of the notepad, brain clamoring for more sleep, I grabbed the pen and scribbled down this singular word that was absolutely sure to bring back the entirety of the Idea to me upon waking.
Smiling the smile of the satisfied, I put down the pen and the pad on my night table, put my head back on the pillow, and slept for several more hours, content in the knowledge that all was saved.
The alarm went off later that morning and I awoke, as usual, remembering that I had had An Idea. That it was a very, very excellent Idea, and that the story that would spring, Athena-like, wholly and beautifully formed from my mind upon seeing the word that appeared on the notepad would practically write itself because it was Just That Good.
I quickly stumbled into the bathroom and using a clean towel and warm water, cleaned the ointment out of my eyes, then hurried back into the bedroom.
I approached the table, giddy with anticipation. I could see that there was a single word on the pad, in crude, blue letters, blocky and spiky, diagonally scrawled across the yellow paper.
I picked it up.
I looked at it.
And thought, “What?”
The word that I wrote that night was this: SkullCosm
Just that. SkullCosm. Three syllables, capitalized exactly like that.
I sat heavily on the bed, wracking my brain. What could it mean? It was clearly some kind of cyberpunk thing, right? A cosm, or ‘world,’ inside a skull, or the mind.
But . . . I don’t read cyberpunk, or even much enjoy it. Much less write it.
Nothing. Not a single thing remained from that fantastic Idea I had but the single word I found scribbled in blue ink, as though written by someone not looking at the paper.
To this day, I have no clue. None. Zero. Zilch. The place in my brain which should be occupied by whatever marvelous Idea that, in a perfect world, would have been recalled in toto by the word SkullCosm has so far remained a void, filled only with the sound of a soul-crushing wind blowing through a desert of pain.
Well, that’s a little melodramatic, but you get my point.
I’ve carried the word around with me for years, now, playing around with it in my head, seeing if the shape of it fit any of the incomplete puzzles in my head. It’s never a good fit. The puzzle from which SkullCosm was left over was obviously constructed using non-Euclidean geometry.
I’ve tried on two occasions to force a story using SkullCosm as the seed word. To no avail. The non-Euclidean edges of the word are too hard to focus on clearly, and they keep causing the rest of the puzzle to warp and collapse.
In a last-ditch attempt to get some use of the word, I sent it to Len Peralta when he was doing his Monster By Mail campaign to raise money after the birth of one of their children. Just to see what an artist accustomed to drawing monsters would do with it.
I think he mistook ‘cosm’ for ‘plasm’ based on the picture I received back, shown above. But I like it, and it captures perfectly my frustration upon knowing that SkullCosm should but ultimately fails to trigger the memory of that perfect, shining story Idea that my brain cruelly forgot.
So if you ever see me mention the word SkullCosm, you’ll now know to what it refers.
So, where did the name of my blog come from? I shall tell you, and it’s a short tale.
I needed a ‘professional’ site, unassociated with my other two blogs, where I could blog about all things writing-related. My non-writer friends didn’t want to see that for the most part, and the kinds of things I write about on the other two sites aren’t “professional.” I use language I don’t use here, etc.
I wanted my name as a domain, but some lawyer already owned garyhenderson, so with some trepidation, I looked for and did not find ‘garydhenderson.’ So I bought it. Looked for hosting, and set up WordPress. Within days I was ready to go, having picked what I had been told was the best kind of template to use for writing: black text on a white background, with a simple design and no extraneous pictures or colors or fonts.
But I didn’t want to just call the blog ‘Gary D. Henderson’s blog’ either. I wanted something with pizzaz. Panache. A certain . . . je ne sais quoi.
I love me some puns. And I also love homophones. Words that sound alike but have different meanings and etymologies. Words like pear, pare, and pair. Or pedal, peddle, and petal (if you’re from the south, they’re practically identical).
Or write, rite, wright, and right.
I tried desperately to work all four in, but in the end, none of those sounded like anything I wanted to read, much less write.
And what is a writer if not a wright, of a sort. So: write wright. Or WriteWright.
Since that domain is taken and so is the Twitter account (I tried to get the guy parked on it to let me have it, but he did not answer), I couldn’t fully embrace it other than using it as my blog title, which I’ve done, as you can see.
I also own several other domains relating to the series of novels I’m working on, but they are parked and not pointed at anything right/write/wright/rite now.
All in good time. :)
This post is in response to The Writer’s Post Blog Hop 2014 #4 prompt, Explain the Name of Your Blog. The host is Suzy Que. Other entries are linked from her blog post.
I’ve been a bad blogger. Because I’ve been working on stuff, but haven’t taken the time to mention anything.
And what’s more, I’m still not, because this post isn’t about that. It’s about what is believed to be the oldest artificial eye, discovered in 2006 in Shahr-e Sukhteh in what is now eastern Iran. So far east, it’s almost in Afghanistan.
What struck me and made me want to post this was this description from the Wikipedia article on the find.
[The artificial eye] has a hemispherical form and a diameter of just over 2.5 cm (1 inch). It consists of very light material, probably bitumen paste. The surface of the artificial eye is covered with a thin layer of gold, engraved with a central circle (representing the iris) and gold lines patterned like sun rays. The female remains found with the artificial eye was 1.82 m tall (6 feet), much taller than ordinary women of her time. On both sides of the eye are drilled tiny holes, through which a golden thread could hold the eyeball in place. Since microscopic research has shown that the eye socket showed clear imprints of the golden thread, the eyeball must have been worn during her lifetime. The woman’s skeleton has been dated to between 2900 and 2800 BCE
Now, picture that coming at you. A woman a head taller – or more — than most other women of the region. And maybe, given the time period, taller than most of the men, as well.
Staring at you out of one eye socket is a golden eye that catches the sun and glints, seemingly with its own light. as though she has captured and tamed the sun-god.
Now imagine her angry. With a sword.
That’s the image that is stuck in my head, at any rate. I have to see if I can possibly use that in a story.
And it’s totally not Xena, although I may – just may – be picturing Lucy Lawless. ;)