Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Write about a black-and-white photograph

Here's another writing exercise. I've skipped a few and some of the writing I've done in the past month isn't ready to put up. But I like these because I write until I'm done and then put up the first draft. So here it is.

The picture on the mantle had everyone in it; Uncle Joe, Aunt Mabel holding her little baby Jane, Grandpa, Gramma, Ma, Pa, my brother Enoch, and me and the dog. We were all in front of the old farm house that Pa had until he couldn’t farm any more. We had scattered to the wind and now were coming back around to put Pa in the ground.

You’d think that Grandpa and Gramma would have died first but that wasn’t so. Aunt Mabel was the first to go. Uncle Joe shot her dead when he was in a drunken rage. He died in prison waiting to be executed. Cousin Jane and her little brother Joe Junior came to live with us after that.

Ma never forgave Joe for killing her sister and took it out on Jane and especially Joe Junior, who looked and acted so much like his dad that it would drive Ma a little crazy. We had a shed out behind the barn and Jane would hide out there when Ma was on a tear. We all had our places to go. Pa could always calm her down but he was out working in the fields. He had some guys working’ for him but he’d grab Enoch and me and put us to work as much as he could. But Jane and Joe Junior were there at her mercy. And as much as I love my Ma, she could have very little mercy.

School time was better as we were all out of her hair most of the time. But even then I could see how Ma shorted those two when she was dishing up dinner. They always got the smallest pieces of meat and the worst of anything else we had. It wasn’t fair but Ma felt she was justified after taking in her sister’s kids. They never starved and always had clothes and shoes and a winter coat. But love, there wasn’t a lot of that. Pa tried to make up for it some, especially with Joe Junior. He was the only one who stayed and looked out for them as they got older. Ma never liked him.

He was a bit of a hell raiser and he had his hide tanned so often there wasn’t a good switch left on any of the trees. But as soon as he was able he joined Enoch and me in the fields and made a name for himself on the school football teams. He has a job in town and works on cars for extra money. He never got married. At some point I think he realized he was to much like his Dad and didn’t want to hurt anyone. But he’s always around fixing things at the house and making sure there’s food and the bills get paid. Now that Pa’s gone I don’t know if he’ll stick around. I’m going to talk to him about putting Ma in a home near me so I can take over and give him some peace.

Jane ran away when she was fourteen. We heard from her later. She was with a boy who graduated the year before and they went off to stay with his cousin in the next state over. I’d hear from her every now and then. Three kids and several guys later she found a man who helped her raise the kids and gave her a couple of more. He’s a good man. They showed up last night and checked into the only hotel in town. We hugged and had a laugh about how the kids are growing up.

Eventually Grandpa and Gramma passed. And then Enoch was taken in a trucking accident. He was driving on a snowy highway and got caught in a multi-car pileup. The funny thing was that he was a truck driver but was in a car driving back to his wife from a job up north. His car was sandwiched between two big rigs and that’s all she wrote. His widow is here with their kids. She’s a nice woman. She has a new husband but he didn’t come. This is her family and the kids grandparents. Some people are like that.

That just leaves me and the dog, buddy. He wasn’t a young dog when the picture was taken. Pa gave him to Ma before I was born and he grew up with me hanging all over him. But as I got older and hit my stride, he got older and slowed down. I remember sitting with him in my lap as he took his last breaths. He was in pain and not getting better. The vet gave him a shot and I held him as he went to sleep for the last time.

I did well. Got a scholarship to the state college, did some wrestling, met a girl, got a job, had kids and got another dog. Sheila is in the other room with Ma. She’s good and puts up with her, but I can tell she’d rather visit her own parents. I have two girls. Margie and Betty are in high school now and have no concept of how good they have it. I’m old and lame and uncool but still there if they need me to help pick up the pieces after some boy does something stupid.

It’s about time to wheel Ma out in front of the church so we can take another big picture; this time in color.

February Blog Post

It’s been about a month since my last blog post so I thought I’d write another one. I’m mainly writing a lot of cover letters these days and filling out on-line applications. It’s hard to say how much good any single application does but it’s kind of draining. My favorite are the ones where I can send a resume and cover letter without filling out everything again in an HR application. But those are what most companies are using so I do it.

My last job ended on December 31, 2015. It was a one year contract with Volt (VMC) working at Microsoft helping to support the Exchange developers in the Office 365 group. There was some data center work with physical servers and wiring and power and such and there was a lot of sitting at a computer fixing things through an IP KVM (keyboard, video, mouse) switch. It was kind of neat to be able to log into computers from Oslo, Norway to Beijing, China and fix what was ailing them. Of course most of the servers I dealt with were in one of several buildings in Redmond, WA or California but there were days of international crisis. But that job is over and now I must cast forth and hope a hiring manager smiles upon me.

I’m also trying to use my unemployed time wisely and take some on-line training classes, get some writing done, try to make a habit out of working out and maybe even practice a musical instrument. But the main thing is to find a job; a full-time job with benefits and a bright future and time to be creative.

I’m in an odd middle ground. I’m old enough that I’m not young; and yet young enough that I’m not old. I have about 20 years to give a company before I can think about retiring. My finances have been beaten up to the point where taking off early and cruising around the world isn’t an option. So I will honor the age-old traditions of trading time for money. Hopefully the time is spent doing things you enjoy.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Writing Exercise - Write About A Wound

I'm trying to get back into writing on a regular basis and my idea machine is stuck in the La Brea Tar Pits. So I've pulled out my handy dandy "A Writer's Book of Days" and the January 10 prompt is "Write about a wound." And here for your reading pleasure and so I can remember it years from now is my take on this prompt.

Write about a wound

The pain stabbed into my side and I new the recreation was going too far. But there wasn't much I could do about it. I would bleed out in a few minutes and be dead; still hanging from the cross in nothing but a loincloth.

Everything was going well at first. They didn't spike my hands or feet with nails and the crown of thorns was carefully made so that there were no inwardly facing spikes. There was even a nice little ledge I could stand on so I didn't get fatigued while the passion play continued.

My side still hurt but I wasn't getting woozy. The authenticity of my crying out in pain got the crowd going. I forgot about the bladder that had been strapped to my back during the part where I was tied to the cross. The danged guard had hit me when aiming for the bag. His second jab hit the bag and the blood that flowed realistically from me was enhanced by more fake blood. It made my wound sting.

All of a sudden I realized that things were getting quiet. I looked around and everyone was looking at me. A spotlight started shining right in my eyes. At this point I realized that volunteering to replace a Jesus with a stomach flu was probably not a good idea.

There was something Jesus said at this point and all I could think about was the flesh wound on my side. Don't they know what they're doing? Oh wait, they don't.

“Father, forgive them,” I said and lolled my head around like I was about to pass out. “They know not what they do.”

The bladder on my back had one more squirt of blood as I moved about. It hit my wound and I grimaced in realistic pain. I could tell the audience was getting into it.

“Into your hands, I commend my soul,” I said and slumped down on the cross. I had to grab the ropes holding my arms to the cross or I would have slipped out. It was not long before I realized this was not a good dying place. There were a couple of more minutes before the curtain and I was hanging in a bad way with a stinging flesh wound on my side.

I didn't even hear the last lines of the play but I felt them lower me to the stage to get me off the cross. I was quickly bandaged and the guard apologized for cutting me, he was a quick replacement too. Eventually the director stood over me.

“Good job. Hopefully Jerry will be better by the next performance.”

The end – don't want to write on this any more.

Friday, January 01, 2016

About 2015 and a writing exercise.

2015 was an interesting year. I set some goals and feel like I was able to follow through with them.

My year started with me working as a contractor for Volt at Microsoft. I won't say I was working for Microsoft because I was not a Full-Time employee of Microsoft. No. I was a contractor working for Volt at Microsoft. My immediate superior was a Microsoft FTE and I worked on systems in the Office 365 Foundations Labs keeping stuff running that the Exchange team needed for their Dev testing.

I would have four alarms set 5:00 am, 5:15, 5:30, and 5:45. The five am alarm I would snooze. 5:15 would be my call to kick my ass out of bed and get ready. The 5:30 alarm was a reminder that I had only 15 minutes until I had to leave. And the 5:45 alarm was the call to leave the house so I could make it to the bus on time. I would take a 6:03 am bus from Northgate in Seattle to the Microsoft campus in Redmond and get to work about 6:50 am. I would then work from 7 am to 3 pm and take a bus back to north Seattle. I was often very bad about getting to bed on time so I would nap on the bus. I would always wake up on time to get off at my stop.

When I wasn't working I would be trying to get more into film production in Seattle. I wanted my focus to be directing and I did direct four short films during the year. Two of them were for the 48 hour film project and two were in conjunction with a Facebook group “Weekend Warriors Film Group.” I think three of the films are pretty good but I hope to do better work in 2016. I also used my sound equipment to record field audio on a variety of short films. And my camera skills were utilized on one of my short films and on another project for a different director.

I did what I could to help my boys whenever I could. There were some difficulties that we handled. Duncan and Calvin are both moving forward with their lives. Duncan is about to visit friends and Calvin is studying Japanese in school.

My second marriage ended in 2014 but it was this year that the paperwork was finally submitted to the proper authorities to have the marriage dissolved (Washington State's term for divorce). So that's final.

Near the end of the year I started dating again. I won't go into any details. I'm not sure what I want but I'm pretty sure that alone isn't it.

So the year has ended. And my Volt contract at Microsoft has ended. And I'm now 51 (I was joking that I'm now 33 in hexadecimal or 110011 in binary). What the new year brings will be new.

I'd like to continue with film. I think I'd like to focus on a feature but I have such a block sitting on my head that I can't think of anything to write. The ideas I have are sitting there caught in the mud; not sinking away but not jumping up demanding to be written.

Write about Sunday Afternoon
(a daily writing exercise for January 1 from the book “A Writer's Book of Days.”)

What is a Sunday Afternoon. Most weekends you sleep late after staying up late on a Saturday so Sunday Afternoon is the morning. A late breakfast or a jump ahead to lunch and the slow crawling dread that tomorrow is a work day. And even if you love your job the start of a work week kind of sucks. So you rush out to do something to grab the day to squeeze the last bit of juice from the fruit of the weekend. And you run into everyone doing the same thing. The mall, the traffic, the park full of people and kids and dogs, the movie theater with lines to get in and lines for popcorn and lines for the bathroom and after spending the last of the day out you go home and figure out what to eat for dinner. As you pick through leftovers and boxes of mac and cheese you remember the times when your mother would make a roast with all of the trimmings for Sunday dinner. You'd remember getting up early for church and wearing your good clothes and being shuttled off to Sunday school while the adults went off to arcane places. And the day would be spent running around after church with all of the neighborhood kids getting into all sorts of mischief and dirt and scraped knees and trees to climb and the day would last forever and then the whistle from your Mom calling you home because no one had cell phones or computers or anything with technology. And you'd go home to dinner and a large TV in the family room that was controlled by the adults with all of four channels to choose from. And then off to baths and jammies and bed way too early and promises that you'd stay up as late as you want when you're an adult. And as an adult you go to bed early because you have to get up and get to work in the morning.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Thoughts On Why I'm Doing Film and/or Writing

With all of the twists and turns my life has gone through recently, I started re-evaluating what it was about film making or novel writing that makes me want to be involved in it. I mean I can watch movies and read books and evaluate and appreciate the nuances and subtleties of each form and each piece without devoting time to creating new content. Additionally I’m not going to count on or pine for clawing my way into the blockbuster/tent pole arena that seems like a natural ‘pipe dream’ of an aspirant film maker. So why do it?

I’ve thought a lot about this from a philosophical and a personal satisfaction viewpoint. I’ve been writing off and on for over 20 years and actively expanding my knowledge and participation in film making for the past five. Both activities have elements that are solitary and elements that are social. Writing is solitary, reading is solitary, being on-set is social, showing a film is either social or solitary, interacting with people who have read your stuff or seen your film is social.

Without going too deeply into a personal philosophical treatise on external motivation, self-awareness, the indoctrination of cultural norms and how these affect the relationship of the individual to society, mediated reality, and the question of free-will, I can say that I get a great deal of personal satisfaction creating stories and characters and settings and scenarios and would do this even if I were alone on an island (or space station) for the rest of my life. But I also enjoy the social aspects of debate and feedback and egoboo (ego boost) of others appreciating that you’ve done something well or at least in a way that made the experience fun for the group.

I also am a geek that likes to learn about, study, replicate and tinker with hardware, software, and techniques used in writing and film making.

So that’s what I’m going to do. I’m going to try to tell some good stories in an interesting way and work with fun people to create stuff we can all be happy about. And if that makes money or becomes a full-time endeavor, that’s OK too.