Gambits #13 – The “Thing” Syndrome

Here it is – The Possessed Hand

There’s a neurological disease known as ‘alien hand syndrome’ that causes the person afflicted to be completely unaware of what one of their hands is doing.

Whaaaaaat?

Yes. Anyone with the disease is estranged from the behavior of the hand (or limb) which will behave “capriciously and without direction” from its owner. Sufferes have been awaked by their random hand stroking their face, pulling an ear or messing with their privates.

There are a number of etiologies that could be involved, from certain Alzheimer’s brain lesions, stroke, dementia and uncategorized “damage”. A fall, a blow to the head. Regardless of cause, the hand does its own ‘Thing”.

Instead of the angry severed hand, though, a great plot I’ve only seen a few times would involve a connected hand with a politically incorrect mind of its own. Instead of a middle finger popping out, an involuntary Incredible Hulk style power-choke grip lifts a conveniently deaf convenience store clerk over the counter while the owner demands half the two-fer price for a single bag of Doritos.

Or Murder.

Take a serial killer who is by day a pleasant enough high speed interface engineer who gets driven around at night by his hand to commit murder most foul. It could be written from the Grisham-Turrow-Gardner angle, the Cornwell-Garritson angle, a pick an author whodunnit, a Laura Levine-esque humor take or a Noir shamus riff titled The Upper Hand.

Bonus – Give the hand owner Tourette’s to go with and the comedy at the convenience store explodes. I’ll spare you a demonstration.

Further – https://www.thecut.com/2015/03/woman-who-was-attacked-by-her-own-hand.html

NVDT #88 – Rita Hayworth’s Impossible Dress and Other Lethal Misconceptions

 “The trouble with my husbands was they all married Gilda and woke up with Rita Hayworth.”*

Part of Open Link Blog Hop

The Prompt: What historical/public figure would you most like to learn more about? Would you ever write about them?

I should recuse myself. For two reasons. 1) My mother researched the snot out of someone with the idea of writing a book about them. One afternoon she huffed down from upstairs, poured vodka into a big glass of iced coffee. Which was her leftover float-a-spoon strength regular morning coffee with ice cubes. After a while I asked her what was up. She said: “Don’t ever go deep on any of your heroes, Philip, whoever they are. Because they all have clay feet.” 2) After (a lot) of years as an Artist Relations manager, among other things, I got to hang, work, eat, drink with a number of heroes from my youth and other people’s heroes as well. Not unlike Rita’s husbands. I don’t care what passion, talent, public persona famous or infamous someone has, in any field. They are just people. They burp and fart and put their pants on one leg at a time and might hold a fork like a shovel and make pig noises when they eat. What I’ve discovered is that the stories from the cul-de-sac of pick-a-town are often more interesting than the ones that shaped history. Because first, we must remember that history is written by the victor’s to promote their leaders, and nobody famous or infamous did it by themselves.

I’d like to be the guy that made extra-strong coffee for Beethoven, or let my buddy Monet hit me up for my last five bucks. Would I write about them? Never seriously. All we need to know about them remains. I mean Gilda rocked the silver screen, so who cares how Rita kept that dress on? To that end I offer this little ditty about (mis)perceptions —

***

Alderson watched the green dress disappear behind the shush of the antiquated door closer, let the room decompress. It took him a while but he got around to “Cute girl.”

“Little tall for ‘cute’.”

“You’re probably right. Woman told me, oh, thirty years ago now, ‘Save cute for little girls under three, or grown girls under five-three’. That one was neither.” He leaned back in the leather executive chair held together with black duct tape, propped a shiny shoe up on an open bottom desk drawer. Alderson looked a smooth, tan sixty. I might be the only person alive who knew that landmark was nearly twenty years gone.

“You ever think about a new chair?”

“I’ve liked this chair, maybe longer than you’ve been alive.”

“Looks it.” I was rubbing my index fingers with my thumbnails, noticed it, stopped. Alderson wasn’t paying attention. He stared at the door, manicured fingers laced over his vest, rolled the slim dead cigar to the other corner of his mouth.

“What would you call her?”

“Who?”

“‘Who’ shit, Comparo. The Latin cover girl with insurable legs.” His fingers rippled on the vest. “She must work out. Spanish girls don’t get definition like that liftin’ babies and skillets.”

“Was that racist, or sexist?”

“All of the above. I was married to one once, gives me a right.” He produced a thin, silver lighter from the vest, lit the cigar, the lighter disappeared back where it came from. “I tell people I’m so old I can remember where stereotypes come from, lived a few of them.”

“There’re people who would still argue –”

“And there are people who can still go fuck themselves. I say walk a mile in my shoes, assholes, then we’ll talk.” He changed tone, leaned on “What would you call her?”

“Who?”

“Unless there’s a fuckin’ owl in here that bit’s stale. If it was ever fresh.”

“Some days I’d like ‘Bitch’,” I followed his gaze that had shifted to the gray drizzle outside. Drizzle that obscured the parking lot, streaked the dust on his window, turned the green dress he was looking for into a blur. “If I could get away with it.”

“We both know that’s out. What else have you got?” That sat on the desk between us while I shrugged into my black, not-as-waterproof-as-advertised windbreaker. I checked Alderson, the cigar was out again, our eyes locked.

“Lethal.”

*This quote has been rehashed so many times – shortened, expanded, inspected, spawned social debate. This is a version a friend of mine got from the source when Ms. Hayworth rehashed it during his interview with her for TV Guide.

NVDT #87 – To Epistolary or Not

Or – When a Letter is More Than a Single Phonemic Unit

The Prompt: Dear Diary. Write a diary entry or a letter from your character’s point of view.

Part of (not so) Open Blog Hop. In the spirit of fairness this first bit was on-the-fly.

Darling,

You’re just going to have to learn to like it, Jax. Darling, I mean. Like I have had to learn in Cambridge graduate school from hell that it doesn’t matter what I think, or how outrageous or sexist or complete bull the patriarchal hierarchy spews, I accept it, field it and spew it back. That really gross thing you used to say about ‘education by regurgitation’ is my quotidian existence. Like that one? You owe me a fifty-center in return. And God, Jax, if I thought the world held the line on one opinion I’d quit and come home tomorrow, learn to cook and sew and all that girl shit I kind of skipped on purpose, but I am only two terms away from Dr. Shirotra, who is the female antithesis of the other Dons and directs the women’s studies program. So there is hope.

I heard how Alix had to bail you out of your middle finger trouble in California, and I was like ‘seriously, Jax? Really?’ But it made me think. And the more I thought about how you and Amanda coached me I realized that I am a figurative middle finger with a voice. You weren’t trying to make me jealous or mad with what you said that time about that folksinger dentist’s presentation and her being able to sell ice to Eskimos. It was something you needed me to hear, wasn’t it? Maybe all of this academic regurgitation is my purgatory for not listening when I had the chance.

***

I have used letters several times as a way to stay out of character’s heads. Rather, a different road to their heads to show balance to their behavior(s). I dislike writing things like ‘Jean’s embarrassment over the bar episode deepened over time, etc. etc.’ Because that’s me, writing. Telling. However, letters are a form of narrative disguised as interior dialog. But unlike ‘over the hill and through the woods’ narrative, they belong to the character, not the ‘author’.

In my case, I needed a way for a self-exiled protagonist to come to grips with the consequences of her behavior.

No one letter is representative. If you choose to read them, Deanna’s first series of reaching out and attempting damage control is here – https://philh52.wordpress.com/2018/10/18/3141/

So long as no one is offended or oppressed by an author in possession of a fine arts degree, from a country with colonialism in its past, and you want to see epistolary elevated to art form, check out Griffin and Sabine. A book Kurt Vonnegut called “…a masterpiece in four dimensions.”

What do other authors think? Check it out!

NVDT #86 – Write, or Draw?

The Prompt: Inspired by a comment on a recent post. Discuss:
It never fails to amaze me that ALL the books ever written are made up of just twenty six letters.

Part of Open Link Blog Hop

Once we get past the supreme vanity that there’s only one alphabet, think about how many more books there are out there that translate into a 26 letter system!

What gets me is how many languages have alphabets of more letters, and some much fewer than ours. The Hawaiians have 10? Maybe? Most (not all) Native American tribes had no written language, so a combination of Latin/Roman script (thank you, Monks) phonetics and diacritics serves to form their language from pieces of ours. Arrogant, you say? Who knows. Without a written history once the last storyteller from a tribe dies, they never were. So maybe loaning them a toolbox of letters and a liguist or two to get it down on paper isn’t a bad thing. Particularly when their language is more disciplined than ours.

Step away from our phonemic linguistic form of letters that have no intrinsic meaning to logograms and it’s a whole other thing. I believe a logogram system serves to reduce ambiguity by vocabulary reduction. For example, there wouldn’t be 154 synonyms and antonyms for “cheap” on Thesaurus.com. However, based on context, the hanji means cheap. Or relax. Even “Set your cheap ass in this here chair and relax” with the same character twice would be unambiguous.

And without logogram languages, tattoos (tah-ooze for the Brits) would just go to hell.

Check out what others think on this week’s –

Open Link Blog Hop

NVDT Random – HAPPY SM58 DAY!

Very few modern musical instruments or accessories are in the bulletproof box. In fact, there’s only one thing guaranteed to be in that box. A Shure SM58. Stanky windscreen and all.

“Whatcha got boilin’ in the big pot, Doiron? Crawfish?”

“Fifty-eight windscreens.”

“Counted ‘em, didja?”

“Anybody ever told you – “

“They have.”

“I know dat’s right. What color’s the water?”

“Light rusty orange? Smells kinda like cumin.”

” ‘Bout right. Nonstop country an cumbia on five Cinco de Mayo stages.” Bob quit wiping a snake cable with Goof Off, set it on an amp rack impersonating a workbench. He wiped his hands on his jeans while he walked over, bent, picked up a wood handled meathook and pulled the fry basket full of microphone windscreens out of the big pot of boiling water and headed for the open warehouse load-in door. “Harper? Grab that Crescent on the floor there an open the draincock on the pot, will ya?”

“Did I just get employed?”

“Do it for the muse, bitch. I gotta go turn the hose on these puppies.”

“After the rinse cycle what?”

“You ever stop talkin’ long enough to start that pot to drainin’ you can light the joint on the table there and bring it out back with ya.” He stopped, looked over his shoulder. “Don’t start up no ‘you don’t see a proper table only a amp rack’ bullshit, neither.”

There’s nothing nastier in rock n roll-dom than an SM58 windscreen that’s been used on a rental or festival stage. Alcohol, weed, cigarettes, vomit, name your poison food spit, tobacco juice. Depending on the artist(s) a crotch wipe or two, lipstick, geezer halitosis capable of peeling paint or being weaponized, sweat, beard pubes, blood, snot …

Replacement ball screens are inexpensive at dealer cost, and under ten bucks at retail. Most of them get a wipe and a spray. Bobby Doiron was retentive.

From Karen Carpenter to Sinatra through Roger Daltrey, Paul McCartney, Patti Smith, Alice Cooper, Freddie Mercury, Stevie Wonder, Buddy Guy, Snoop, Martina McBride, Megadeth, Katy Perry, Sting. The International Space Station.

If you’ve ever grabbed an improperly grounded SM58 you get astronaut hair without the space ride

It’s not much of a reach to say that anyone who has ever used a microphone to perform has probably used an SM58. Theirs, gold plated, or a rental. Scary, huh, all that DNA floating around in the windscreen from yesterday’s bill of Heart, Boston, Van Halen, Ted Nugent … I used that mic.

I prayed it was Nancy Wilson’s.

You know, because no telling where David Lee Roth’s mouth had been.

The man who designed the 58, Ernie Seeler, once said, “I love classical music, but rock and roll, I don’t take very seriously.”

Well, Rock n Roll took the SM58 seriously and here we are 50+ years later still using it for a microphone, a makeshift hammer, a shim to get an amp off the floor or prop up a piano lid, a spittoon, a weapon …

Which is why, on your next book tour, you should always pack a travel can of Lysol spray in case you meet an SM58 hooked up to the suitcase bookstore PA. Because who knows who was there last. Ahh, eau de Marlboro and Onion …

Happy SM58 day!

You never woulda heard it without one!