Fourth of July!!!!

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american flag photo: American Flag american-flag.jpgUnless you’re getting damned old like me you may not remember, but once long ago (1973 it was, to be exact) Independence Day was included in the Monday lineup of Federal Holidays. That lasted only a few years, because dammitall, we call it “4th of July!” and that’s that. But this post is actually about ageing.

On 4th of July back in my days when I lived in Bowling Green, Ohio, my friends and I had an annual tradition of taking LSD and going to the park to sit as close to the fireworks as they’d let us. I don’t know if you’ve ever done that, but, honestly, you probably ought to. It’s awesome! But I digress. My point is that, a mere fifteen years later, my tolerance for recreational drugs had deteriorated rather shockingly.

When I was about 40 years old I was at a hot springs resort in the Sangre de Christo Mountains of Southern Colorado. I hadn’t used any sort of illegal drug in, well, just about fifteen years, but in the evening, in a common room, somebody rolled a joint and passed it. Old habits kicked in and I took a hit and passed it on. Ten minutes later I actually made it to my bed before passing out. From Acid Freak to Narcoleptic in only a decade and a half. Sheesh!

I know that I’m probably better off. And, if you’re thinking of turning me in, go ahead, all of my drug use was too long ago to prosecute, and not in the jurisdiction where I live anyway. But my ageing, well, it’s progressing quite nicely, thank you.

I can’t tell you my best “getting older” stories because they’re a bit raunchy, but they illustrate just the sort of physical deterioration shown by my drug tale. But, for all of that, I would never go back! In more ways than I can count, it’s better to be old than it is to be young! Not least of which is that I truly can do whatever I want, pretty much, and nobody says anything about it.

Getting back to the title theme of this post, there was something we used to shout every year on Independence Day. Given Mr. Adams’ prescription on how to celebrate the occasion (which we follow to this day) it seems appropriate. Ready? Here it is:

4th of July!!!

4th of July!!!

4th of July!!!

Monday holiday my left foot!

Stages of Anguished Joy

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A short post this week. I want to mention the stages I go through when I’m writing a new work. It’s simple:

First, I draft the thing at a furious clip. Then I read it over, and guess what? It’s the most wonderful story ever conceived. I’m so lucky to be alive at the time of its creation!

Second, I put it away for a while, so that I can see it with fresh, and newly re-amazed eyes.

Third, I take it out and start reading through it, looking for things like superfluous modifiers, excessive gerunds, unclear phrasing, and so forth.

Fourth, I sink into the depths of despair because I now see that the project is some of the most awful, unworthy, boring and repulsive prose ever spawned. I can’t imagine what I was thinking when I drafted it.

Fifth, I start working on revising it anyway, looking for characterization, crisp prose, clarity, grammar and spelling. But all the while I stay depressed because I just know that no matter what I do it is going to be be a dog in the end. And I don’t mean dog in a good way, either.

Sixth, I put it away again for a while. Maybe a long while.

Seventh, I get it out again and read it. Now I’m surprised because it doesn’t actually suck. In fact, parts of it are actually reasonably good! So,

Eighth, I revise it again to clean up the stuff I missed the first time, and now the work is all ready to go.

To somebody else to read, after which I look at the revisions and sink deep into despair again. But, that’s all a part of the process, innit?

Louie, Louie

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My copy of the record was from the third release. The title was listed as “Louie, Louie 64, 65, 66 . . .” I tried playing the 45 rpm disk at 33-1/3, of course, but mostly the lyrics were a complete mess. You could hear “we gotta go” quite a few times, and “yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, I said” too. But that was about all. Because you couldn’t understand the lyrics, it was easy to imagine almost anything comprising the message of the song. In fact, the FBI did, in fact, imagine almost anything. They said it must be dirty lyrics. And the Governor of Indiana jumped in with his opinion that the lyrics were obscene. Which meant that every adult wanted to ban the song, and every kid wanted to buy a copy and listen to see what the words were, really.

If you’re curious, the link above will take you to a page displaying the lyrics as sung by the Kingsmen. You’ve probably read about how they couldn’t afford a good studio so the lead singer had to shout the lyrics up at a dangling microphone. Nasty stuff, and no wonder you can’t understand the words. I try to respect copyright, so I’m not going to reproduce the lyrics here, but I can say that Louie Louie is the pained lament of a Jamaican sailor boy longing for his girlfriend back home. That’s all it is, and not a single lyric is dirty or obscene. Anyone at the FBI, or even the Indiana Governor’s office, could have checked out a copy of the sheet music for the song at a music store. It was released for the first time, I believe, in 1956. So, what was all that “dirty lyrics” stuff about?

It was about the same thing that so many Facebook posts go nuts about. Somebody posts something that sounds like it just might be true, and it’s outrageous! Sharia Law is Being Forced on Students! WTF? People, no such thing is true, at least not in this country. It’s the same thing, actually, but it spreads faster, which means that there is time for people to see so much more of it. I do have a simple test for such rumors. Here it is:

If it:

  1. is simple and easy to understand, and
  2. gives you an emotional jolt (good or bad) to believe that it’s true, then it almost certainly
  3. is false.

It is a true fact of human nature that upset people buy more stuff. So, it behooves anyone wanting to sell stuff to get people upset. Maybe they’re selling a political ideology, maybe they’re selling insurance, maybe they’re selling air time during commercial breaks, but upset people buy more stuff. If you’re thinking that Facebook should do something about all the silly and false information people are using Facebook to spread, forget it. Facebook lives off of ads, and upset users will respond better to ads than relaxed users. Because, honestly, being a little upset feels kind of good. Makes you feel alive, involved, and relevant. Too bad it also shortens your active life and ruins your health, but that’s the way it is, so there!

My point being that it is a good thing to note the words and assertions that upset you, and realize that they’re probably false. Because that’s what they are: probably false. That way you can concentrate on upsetting other people, you know, like a comedian . . .

 

Stand Up, Sit Down

Fight, fight, fight?

Okay, it’s not a fight. But doing stand-up requires writing, of course, and just like other writing, the writing requires revision. I even have a few jokes about writing. They’re not great, but I did write them myself.

You may not know this, but query is an old Sanskrit term that means, roughly, “Throw it down a deep well.”

Okay, not that funny. That’s because I used it once, in my first stand-up class, and never used it again. It’s never been revised. But anything I do on stage certainly has. For instance, here’s a revision sequence for a joke I’m probably going to include with my next performance.

1. My cousin got a ticket the other day. Used his turn signal.

Not a bad idea, but is it funny enough? Who the hell knows? But could it be funnier? Well, almost anything could.

2. Traffic in Vegas is sort of weird. My cousin got a ticket last week for not using his turn signal. He caused a six-car pile-up.

More detail, probably be funnier when delivered. Is it funny enough, though? (See above.)

3. Traffic in Vegas is so weird, a friend of mine got a ticket for not using his turn signal. They’re sending him to traffic school to learn to be an asshole like the rest of us!

#3 is the funniest of those, and the most revised. I prefer it because it flows more smoothly, it includes more people in the punchline, and it’s a lot more unexpected at the end. That’s one joke that takes maybe fifteen seconds to deliver, and you can see what a bit of revision has done for it. I did a lot of that revision aloud, and I’m not saying that it will remain as you see it here, just that it got better at each revision. And now, I come to my point about writing and revision, to wit:

When I revise out loud, I stand up. Then when I type it into my file of material, I sit down. (See how I cleverly worked in the title of this post here?) Revising out loud helps me see where things hit snags, where I can make something stronger, and which parts maybe I should just toss and forget. (What? Forgettable jokes? Say it ain’t so!) And this technique works not just for comedy, gentle readers, but for any writing.

Right now I’m metaphorically bleeding as I slowly revise a YA romance I drafted during the last Nanowrimo. The revision will take a lot longer than the first draft, I can tell you. Sometimes I find that reciting a passage aloud provides a lot of insight into what’s right and wrong about it, which makes the process a lot easier. How about that? A perfectly serious book can be helped by a technique from stand-up comedy? Who knew?

You may not know this, but “First Draft” is an old Farsi phrase meaning “Five-Hundred Hours on Facebook!”

That last one is true, of course. ;-)

 

Comedy Last Nite

Okay, a little late when I got in last night, so I’m posting this morning. I was out at Haza Las Vegas, in Chinatown, trying out a new short set. Meh. But, it was a fun evening, all the same, thanks to Leo Gets and his partners. There was a $50 prize for the performer voted the best. That brought it to two singers (a couple of lovely chanteuses) and half a dozen comics. I didn’t win (I’d have been disappointed in the voting if I had) but the guy who did got my vote, so everything was fine at the end.

Haza serves Yakatori amongst other things; it’s a Japanese restaurant in Chinatown (on Jones) run by a bunch of Polacks, so you know it has to be good. There is comedy every Wednesday, usually professionals, not open mike. They serve a special comedy show drink, but I have no idea what’s in it. It costs $4.50. They have specials on Sapporo beer, too, and sake. There’s also a special comedy menu from 7PM, and the show starts at 8. Check it out!

Blog Day

I hereby declare Wednesday to be “Blog Day.”

Shhhhhhyyyyeah. Sure.

Anyhow, I put it into my calendars, so I’ll be getting reminders about it, so maybe. We’ll see. But for now, here’s what I’m up to this week.

In the world of real estate I have one condo for sale and two rentals. One of the rentals has been hit with a lot of vandalism as it sat empty. It took me months to get the owner in Kentucky to understand what was happening here in the big city. He lives in Bowling Green, a nice college town, where people are not so eager to mess with other people’s stuff. But, enough about real estate. Check my pages on Facebook if you want more of that.

In the world of writing, I have a middle-grader ready to pitch, assuming I can find someone to pitch to. I’ve joined RWA for the quality of their conference, in particular since a fellow children’s’ writer, Jay Asher, has so heartily endorsed them. Tami has been a member since forever, even served on the board once upon a time. I’m looking forward to the conference. I have begun plowing very slowly through my YA romance, about a chapter at a time, trying to make it read well and all. I’m up to page 15. Don’t hold your breath, but it shall be done.

And then there’s stand-up. I took two courses from Philip Paredo, a recent import to Las Vegas who is a comic and also runs Tickle Me Entertainment. I haven’t decided how far to pursue this field yet, but this very night I plan to be at Legends on Boulder Highway for open mic night, starting at 9pm. Don’t go there to see just me, ’cause I may not make it, but I’m going to try. Go there if you want to hear some fresh comics, though. Definitely for that.

I’m hoping to get additional creative juices flowing through this blog, so if you want to help out in comments or whatever, and tell me what you’re up to, or trade links, you know the drill, I’m open to that.

I’ll see you, I hope, next week. Same bat time, same bat channel.

SPYWARE AND STUFF

In a spirit of helpfulness and public duty, I want to mention three products which I use to keep my computers free of headache. No, wise guy, not one of them is from Apple.

First, it’s easy to pick up a load of spyware. Spyware is just cookies that have enough program in them to track where you’ve been on the Internet and what you’ve done there. Potentially, this includes recording your keystrokes and sending them off to someone else. Maybe not too awful even at that, unless those keystrokes happen to be the password to your online bank account. Hmmm. Even absent that sort of malice, these little devils can be nasty. That’s because they must send data back to wherever they came from in order to do their jobs. If you get enough of them, that can add up to a lot of data. I had a laptop get so infected that it would barely function until I cleaned all of the spyware off. I used Spy Hunter, from Enigma Software to do the job. $30 a year for 3 computers, and worth every penny.

If you use Windows you should get Windows Defender, or the Windows Live Essentials download, all of which is free. The price is right and it will take care of most common viruses. If you do nothing else to protect yourself, do this. Just search for it on your computer, and if you don’t see it, go to Microsoft.com and you’ll find it there. If you don’t have it, get it.

Defender is good for common viruses, but sometimes you get some sort of nasty thing that Defender can’t remove. Not often, to be fair, but I got one once that redirected every single web page I tried to visit, downloaded tons of advertising videos for things I had no interest in, and generally made it impossible to use my computer normally. For that, and similar baddies, I use Malware Bytes. Malwarebytes (It actually shows up as all one word like that) got rid of that nasty and has been silently seeking out new ones, and sometimes finding them, in the background ever since. It’s $25 per year for 3 computers and well worth the investment.

Finally, and you don’t have to do this but it makes your computing experience more fun, I use a program called System Mechanic from Iolo to keep things in trim. It does things like defragment the registry, recover memory, defragment your hard drive, optimize your Internet connections and much more. It’s $40, but that’s not a subscription, it’s the price, for as many PCs as you have at home. (They have business versions as well.) Again, well worth it, and you only pay once. It updates periodically at no extra charge.

There you go. My recommendations. There are other programs that probably work as well, although for the price it’s hard to beat Defender. No reason not to use that, but use another as well. On my home PC I use Defender, System Mechanic, and Malware Bytes, and I have zero problems.

 

Mercedes M Yardley

Beautiful Sorrows
A Creepily Good Book

 

I have this book, signed by the author. There is one very short story, in particular, that gives me the chills because it is so effective. It’s only a paragraph or so long, but it’s complete. Want to see? Buy the book. The image links to Amazon.

Mercedes not only signed my copy of this book, she also presented to the Las Vegas Writers’ Group an excellent presentation on how to blog. Not that I’ve been doing it right, mind you, but I did get better than I had been. I’m working on it, you see. I did give this book a good review on Amazon, but this is not her only work. The thing is, her stories are not only creepy, they’re funny, which makes everything okay, doesn’t it? Unlike a lot of authors I’ve never met, I’ve known Mercedes and her husband for a few years now. I have, unfortunately, never met her chickens, who I’m sure are exemplary birds.

My point being that this lady writes better than I do and you should check her out. She has a blog, A Broken Laptop, and a page on Amazon, so it’s easy to find her . Go ahead! Tell her I sent you.