Looney Lunes #144


headline Central Somerset Gazette (UK)

What was the problem? Going Coed? Allowing non-Christian heathens access? Threatening to leave the EU? Interrupting non-stop Cumberbatch streaming in the lobby? Firing the riding chaps only barista? I mean it must have been something major because these guys are the poster boys for diversity and can’t we all just get along.


Looney Lunes #143

Ain’t No Baby Ruth, Geniuses


Headline, Omaha (Nebraska) World Herald

I want to say “Well no shit duh…” but I won’t. I managed (was) the concession stand at a City Park run public olympic size pool complete with lo-hi dive one summer. Find me a better gig for a 19 year old male.

Trivia – Nebraska has the longest, straightest main street in the world. Sort of the way your intestine feels after a colonoscopy prep.

Random NVDT – Writerly Concerns #14

Art or Wallpaper

I am a fan of Noir. I do not consider myself any sort of expert. I like Pulp and Hard Boiled and Soft Boiled and Neo 20th Century Realism. Simple stories, human failings, all the Seven Deadlies and Femme Fatales. As you can tell by the gratuitous cheesecake I think the latter is probably the lifelong addiction. One only needs to be young and see Rita Hayworth and Glenn Ford set the screen on fire, or Lizabeth Scott and the rest of the blonde bombshells go coy and bat their eyelashes or the wide eyed innocent yet sultry Loretta Young brunettes…I digress.

I watched The Stranger a few nights ago. Edward G.Robinson, Loretta Young, Orson Welles. Hard to beat the cast. Directed by Welles. Unlike his other looming epics, this was a straight up nut case, sweaty faced maybe over acted bad guy and the guy after him flick. With Welles shot calling. With caveats. He had to come in on schedule and on budget (he hadn’t had a directorial gig for 4 years) or risk he and wife Rita Hayworth’s income potential going forward ending up in the producer’s pocket until it was even. A guy named Nims was assigned the editing tasks and he whacked 32 pages of script before they even got started. Sixteen pages from the front end, setting the stage.

“He was the great supercutter,” Welles said, “who believed that nothing should be in a movie that did not advance the story. And since most of the good stuff in my movies doesn’t advance the story at all, you can imagine what a nemesis he was to me.”

Therein lies the creative vs. the commercial, the artist vs. the editor, style and substance vs. shelf space. Let’s be honest. Most people with a grasp of the language who want to write could crank out serial romance, commercial YA, Kiddie books. An English degree might help, a good eye for what sells and how to plug yourself into that. Cloning is a cinch. From the Hardy Boys to I’m not really Robert Parker, give me a salary, a style sheet, an antagonist/protagonist scenario and a computer. You want what? When? Thank you. But…

A good deal of what Welles wanted, although he retained a lot of control for what made it, got cut. On the cutting room floor or never shot at all. He wanted to dial it up into nightmare, the money guys wanted a movie, not a statement. Noir film critic and historian Bret Wood wrote –

“Character development suffers from the loss of these scenes.

What? Show me the “editor” or “content consultant” today who would say that.

Scenes that set up a more intense tone of suspense. Nope. The Bishop’s Wife as thriller. Box office. Good guys, bad guys, formula. Top notch formula. One could put it in the pop literary category with Elmore Leonard. Sweaty, swift, BAM, done. Well executed, suited for screenplay, good guys and bad guys and some tension.

What about the emotions left floating in the air in Faulkner, the things Steinbeck and Twain drop on us we never even see that most editors today would say we didn’t need? Particularly things hinted at and left unsaid that drive the story deeper, make readers participate? Reading what could have been in The Stranger and what was left out and considering the subject matter (Nazi war criminal), I can understand how it pales to what might have been. Still, it fares much better than the hint of Gothic and similar nutcase of 1950’s The Second Woman, which looks like it came in on time and under budget as a derivative NorCal Rebecca.

Welles pulled it off. One day early and under budget. I figure being married to Rita Hayworth and her ass being on the line with his might have been motivational. But considering other projects he did that pissed the money people off, that he did his way, are now considered high film genre art and classics, there’s a nasty undercurrent standard at work in this film. And the The Stranger, although excellent for what it is, failed to make the Welles art lexicon. It did well at the box office. But…

Steinbeck called it Hooptedoodle. Did he write some? Yes, he did. By current standards Faulkner’s intro to The Great Gatsby seems almost endless, but it sets the tone. It could be stark and short and bip bop or we could have been dropped right in it, but then the pictures wouldn’t come off the page like peeling Andrew Wyeth watercolors on a hot, breezeless summer day. The pace, and the “excess” that paints the picture, sets the scene and the tone are vital. Unless there’s a deadline and a budget and an editorial mandate. This by page 6, this by page 10, where’s the sex and the motivation by twenty or you’re out, show don’t tell unless it’s critical to character development and tone then- why are we seeing this?

I was prompted to write this after a trip to the local Half Price Books. Where all the buyouts from publishers and Amazon and the Barnes and Noble across the street sit on shelves in shiny similarity. The same covers, the same fonts. Pick your genre, shelves of sameness. And then there’s the well worn, well loved classics and obscure gems commanding higher prices, getting all the traffic. If it looks like it’s been read, maybe more than once, it’s a treasure. If it’s another MacComber or Rowling clone…

Once again, if you missed it – “And since most of the good stuff in my movies doesn’t advance the story at all,”

We can all tell a story, but the good stuff?

Art or Wallpaper.

What do you want to write?

Writerly Concerns – That Show/Tell Thing Again

It was asked here by Anonymole (and all over everywhere) when to show and when to tell. I can’t answer that, directly, but I have a few ideas. First, and this is critical to making the show/tell judgment call, here is an excerpt from Charles Ardai’s Afterword for James M. Cain’s The Cocktail Waitress. (The book discovered, edited and published by Ardai.) This is lifted out of context but hits the nail on the head.

“It’s the inherent contradiction in any work of fiction, the one we all conveniently ignore each time we sit down to enjoy a novel: Can we believe what this narrator is telling us? Well, no, of course not – it’s all lies, it’s all made up, that’s what fiction is. But within the fiction, you say, if we imagine ourselves inhabitants of the characters’ world instead of our own, can we believe what we’re being told then…?”

Credibility. With any audience, we need to judge when they will keep their suspension of disbelief going and hang with us, and when they will pull up and say, “Whoa, now. Really?” Here are a few thoughts about show vs. tell.

Ease up on the Minutia – An editor once told me that we don’t need to take every step of every day with the characters. We need to see them in their environment and show them in conversation and interaction with other characters when it matters. Telling is often scene setting, or setting up an important conversation or event. Janie brushed her teeth, threw on her clothes, picked up a drive-through coffee and made it to X in twenty minutes. We don’t need to stand there with her while the toothbrush timer runs down, button her blouse or select shoes (unless we’re showing some character) we need to get her and her hurried state of mind to the next show by getting the basics told.

Ass-U-Me – We might understand something physical or conceptual and ass-u-me the readers do as well. If a doohickey has a name, and only the fifteen people you work with know what it is, either tell what it is (if it’s mandatory to the story), show the doohickey by character interaction, (M in Bond) or drop it. The way Hans Solo used sci-fi slang to sell the speed of his ship in the original Star Wars always drove me nuts. But he glossed over it, the people at the table bought it, so we let it go and ass-u-me whatever the hell he said, it meant fast and he was some kind of hot dog space jockey to pull it off. Great generic transplantable bar scene, though, in spite of the gratuitous techno-babble.

Weather, battles, travel and digressions – If the weather matters, or turns into an antagonist/protagonist, get into it if you must. Otherwise, conditions if they matter told. Think of the intros to Dragnet. Do we really need to know it was a hot and muggy/wet and cold day in Los Angeles when it never really mattered to the ensuing story?
Battles and fight scenes are an either/or. Jim kicked Bob’s ass. Told. Extended blow by blow of Jim kicking Bob’s ass. Shown. Make the call. Do we need to see it, or is it enough to know it happened?
If a journey matters, show it. If not, tell it. Think Huck Finn on the River. “Me and this black dude named Jim, we got up to all sorts of stuff. The End.” No way. How about the Bible? Woops, Jesus is 12. Man, that went by fast. And now he’s 30 something! But those are the story markers. Why waste time on The Messiah helping Joe build furniture and go to Messiah school? TV and all genres of fiction (okay, leave Eco out) do this all the time. Example – “Springtime was cold and muddy in Colorado, which made Texas look pretty good. By early summer a gambler in Galveston had taken his horse and saddle, newspapering didn’t appeal to him, so he thought he’d try doctoring for a spell.” Now we could watch “him” lose the horse and saddle in the poker game, that would be fun, or it needs to come out in a backstory/catch up convo with a bartender or a “saloon girl nurse” so we get the character’s side of it, not ours, but we don’t need to ride across Texas with him if it’s just a ride and campfire trip. And the audience has been primed to accept those things. Ever see or read about a cowboy getting off his horse for a potty break?
Digressions, into characters’ minds or daydreams or god forbid lengthy postmodernism authors and their mindset and philosophy and opinions and preaching ad nauseum. Or endless architecture, seasonal weather, travelogue and set decorating ramblings. Moby Dick and whaling how-to. That is all us  telling and we often need an outside opinion to point it out and defend it or let it go. In Cain’s book mentioned above his digressions into weather and architecture got cut as they did nothing for the story and weren’t in sync with his style. But – in another genre, another style? Judgment call.

Bottom line for show/tell is what happens to characters that we can dispense with and what do we need to show. Test – can you sell it without selling the story short.

Some authors can’t. Every gadget, every garden, the smell of leather and horse and…I prefer people to things, and if properly done we don’t need owners’ manuals for things in stories. Look how easily we accepted Warp Speed or salt shakers as stun guns or scanning wands in Star Trek. There are those who would invent a language for aliens. Roddenberry did not. Nor did he explain his dystopia. It was Bonanza in space. Dress the set, get to the people. Tell, show. This a classic chapter/scene set up since forever. Where are we, and…Action.

Which brings me to: why don’t a lot of (burgeoning) writers like dialog? Ask yourself that. Don’t like people? Aren’t comfortable talking? Can’t hear them in your head? Don’t know how the conversation should go? While you’re at it, ask yourself this: do you buy the leap you’re asking your readers to take by being so uninvolved with your characters? (telling). I faced this in Affable. I wanted Jackson out of the dump he’d landed in for several reasons. How? One line, two? Whatever, is it believable? “Oh my, Jackson is suddenly wearing a tux vest and ponytail playing in a piano bar off the strip and is also the houseboy for the I Felta Thi sorority of upscale hookers. Because they liked him.”

What? Why? How? In a movie it could have been some quick cut soft focus double exposure layers, girls at the dive, Jackson playing, laughing, girls hustling the talent guy, girls at the gas station, BAM. I didn’t have that luxury, nor did I buy it at two or four lines. A chance to reinforce Vegas without a travelogue, put up some strong, independent female characters (important for tone), lots of visual language, some foreshadowing. I could have gone over the top with damp carpet smells, told more scene setting, more sideline character development, bumped my word count, but why? Or simply told the whole thing. Divergence should have a purpose. Credibility and putting Jackson in a position for what’s next. For what’s next to be credible we needed to see it. I needed to see it. I couldn’t have told Savannah as vehicle and persona or Jackson’s improved caste half as well as showing it.

In the next chapter of THG3 I gloss over something that an erotic writer would have been all over for a couple of pages. So what’s important varies by genre. Regardless, credibility and stylistic consistency are the show vs. tell litmus tests. I got that straight from the editor’s mouth.

Looney Lunes #140

This Explains Everything

headline – Los Angeles Times

I’m not taking sides, but that right there explains the current political situation

He Believes His Words Have Value

Weird. That’s the second comment of mine you deleted. It’s almost like you were happy to pick a fight with me on my blog and make light of the fact that I almost committed suicide. But now that you’ve realised I’m not the ‘crybaby’ you thought I was, you’re deleting comments and running for the hills. You’re a weak piece of shit Phil. You were all too willing to play the bully, but now that you’ve realised that you’re the bitch in this situation you’re clamming up.
For someone who talks about putting on their big boy panties it didn’t take much to upset you. I called you old and irrelevant and you’ve gone silent.
Make sure we don’t cross paths again. Stay off my site, and I’ll stay off yours. Otherwise I’m going to tear you apart, over and over and over again.
Enjoy what’s left of your pathetic existence you decrepit old fuck.

Jesus. People read this shit? Sad really. You’re a talentless hack with a chip on his shoulder. Next time you come to my site and talk shit, make sure your own is a fucking snooze fest. (I liked that one)
I’ve read stories by third graders that are more concise than this rubbish (the period was missing)

Wow. What a heap of shit. Show me brilliance I the face of adversity. You’re a fraud who calls himself a writer, and a pathetic human being.
Terrible blog. Truely terrible. (Truely arrived like that)

Yours “truely” – Chris Nicholas

Now, if you’ve followed this little saga I have not once insulted the artist or his creation(s). Belittled his demeanor or maturity (or distinct lack thereof). I have wondered aloud why the forward to his autobiographical romance novel apology to the woman who broke his heart is the same as his blog and how the two year love affair with that heartbreak is starting to look like a marketing scam. To me. No one else need agree. If anyone has a hard time with that, read his blog ruminations and the forward of his book. They are genetically similar.

I chose to shunt this garbage off to the trash where it belongs. But, not being a thin skinned, weak piece of decrepit shit or some big mouth’s bitch or fearful of words or the threat of physical violence over the internet I will give it the air it deserves. Stay upwind. The real creative genius is exposed in the cheap “personalized” pot shots and vitriolic responses above.

Were I to bother with a response to this, as a creative and fictionalized effort only, I might start off –

“Here’s the deal, Junior. I was getting paid and hanging Addy’s on the wall when the best part of you was running down your retarded two-dollar over medicated crack whore Momma’s leg. Your insults are plebian, your threats empty. Judging by  your track record it’s a good thing you tried to write a happy ending because the only one someone as angry and bigoted as you will ever find is in a Travolta style massage parlor or handful or creme rinse in the shower.”

However I left all that on the table. His insults to me and age in general provide no reason to go down the same “well, you’re so ugly…” path.*

As Mr. Nicholas finds his words so valuable I will put them on display for him. For the last time. This discussion is closed, the hate mongering over. But perhaps his words of age bigotry, threats of violence and general hate should be shared with any and all potential publishers, available here, any time.

Age is the great equalizer, the great revenge. It’s coming for all of us, nobody gets to dodge it unless they go coward. Therein lies the real humor of this little skirmish. For the record “almost” only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades, all else is merely posturing.


*There was an old blues thing we used to riff on, The Ugly Blues. No telling where it originated, but it went like this, sort of –

Baby baby baby
I dunno what I’m a gonna do
Cause baby I done looked in the mirror
And I am ugly down to my shoes

But baby baby oh baby
I doan let it give me the blues
Cause baby oh my baby
You be so motherfuckin’ ugly too.

Silly, huh? You bet it is. Next.

Random and Rambling NVDT – King Arthur Syndrome, Vitriol, Hate and Factionalization

I think a healthy difference of opinion is a good thing. However, in the last week I have become personally aware of the internet phenomenon that has sparked the culture of factionalization. A real-world version of the nightly news and the speculating talking heads on CNN. Disagree, call someone out for their position and you don’t get reason, you get hate. Personalized, vitriolic, stereotype equivalent of bigotry hate. I don’t disagree with what you say or insinuate or believe, I hate you hate. How you look, what you do, what you wear, what color or age or demographic you are, everything about you. Everything that is you down to your nasty DNA. I fucking hate all of everything that is you. And by the way, everything you are or have ever done or will ever do is shit, your momma’s ugly and so are you, you have to roll in steak sauce to get a kiss from the fucking dog you pathetic miserable excuse for a human being. Asshole. “Fuckwit.”

Wow. Thanks!

No reasoned response. The same old laundry list of how wrong the original premise was, spiced up with some maybe I should find a way to drive over and beat your ass you sorry excuse for a human being who questions me.

All for asking a direct or rhetorical question?

In another post I mentioned a set-to with an internet “editor”. I read his commentary throughout a short story I submitted to a “contest” ($20 entrance fee and editing advice). Some of the advice was sound. My response to a lot of it was “Are you even reading this?” Something I mentioned in an email. Nothing profane. No name calling. I asked if he’d bothered to read the story before he dusted off his editor hat and started commenting. You know, so for the $20 I got an idea of how it read. He blew up, told me I was denigrating the entire process, insulting his integrity and furthermore I was an asshole. I mentioned that one only needed to read his outline of commentary to see that he didn’t get it from word one. He might have been able to offer constructive criticism if he’d read through it and then gotten after it. By God, I was an even bigger asshole then, and jacked out of the contest I would have been a runner up in. Here’s a screen shot of what I sent him along with my questioning of his methodology. Hello? If you’re gonna bluff and bluster for money at least be good enough at it not to blatantly tip your hand. Plus, he missed the hints at intimacy all along the way by writing clever observations like “they sure touch a lot” completely clueless as to where it was heading.

Why didn’t you read the story, earn your $20 and comment on what it was, not what your editor hat waded through? Oops, sorry, I’m a asshole for asking. Or even expecting you do to do what you offered to do for the money. I’m glad this reactionary business hasn’t gotten to plumbers or the pizza place. Yet. The “expert” geezers at the hardware and DIY box store places are getting there.

I can hear Chicago’s updated for the 2k-teens.

“Does anybody know what time it is?”

No, you stupid fuckwad, nobody has time for your pathetic bullshit questions and if they did they’d tell you nobody cares. About time or your ugly ass or the horse you rode in on or your momma or your ugly baby or your ugly dog – Wait, that started to drift off into country. Add a line about your beat to shit truck you sorry drunk unemployed loser with a bad hat and broken razor and it’s a crossover smash.

Jesus. A friend of mine who uses Facebook to do no more than advertise his blues band, led by a fantastic guitarist and long-time band member of John Mayall’s Blues Breakers, told me “Don’t have an opinion on the internet, about anything, unless you want more vitriol spewed in your direction than you can imagine.”

Well, yeah, I can imagine. Now.

Being me, I look for commonality in behavior patterns. What both of these “authors” have in common, reading a couple of free pages of their work, is a workmanlike craftsmanship of patently unoriginal sameness. Adverbs and useless dialog tags and throwaway action tags that define nothing about a character but take up writerly residence indside a formula. They could swap names on the covers and no one would know. Same behaviors, obviously editors from the school of bland, the same “stuff” on the pages. And hair trigger anger fed vitriolic personal abuse if anyone happens to notice.

When, exactly, did it become illegal to have an opinion and be answered with hate? When did reasoned response turn into front and center insult driven hate? When did riots become an answer? When did “asshole” become an answer?

Forget it, I didn’t ask. But I do understand the psychology of factionalization. It’s all about anger and hate as first responders to a question someone might not want to answer. A response modeled by the leaders of the world. King of the Rhetorical Hill via the language of hate and obfuscation. All coming to an inbox or on a blog comment near you.

These episodes should teach me NOT to ask someone if the ongoing almost two-year infatuation with their personal heartbreak saga is real depression, or are they simply milking the crybaby routine in hopes of attracting a wider audience to promote book of similar content. Or are they half-assed con artists or the real deal because the evidence points to…Phil, you asshole! Okay. Maybe I’ll learn better. Not.

I do not ask these things lightly or facetiously. Preying on the susceptible is an unfortunate truth. Like continuing to beat an emotional horse that has long since left the barn for attention or performing at a minimal level for someone’s real money thrown at their dreams raises questions. At least in my mind. What if I was thin skinned and dreamy eyed and spent my baby’s formula money on the entry fee? Sadly, that’s the people they’re looking for. There’s one born every minute, right? The machinations of the capitalistic dream.

I was in the music biz for years. On the product end someone wise once held up a guitar and asked a room full of salesmen, “What are we selling?”


“No. We’re selling dreams. And that, my friends, comes with the caveat of responsibility.” He also said, possibly the most succinct thing I ever heard in a business meeting, applicable to everything –

“Don’t confuse the pieces with the game.”

Victims of abuse, rape, any sort of criminal violence, chemical imbalances, I get those as being hard to get around and depression triggers. Not everyone gets raped, beaten into a coma, their vagina filled with lighter fluid and set on fire. That is depressing on any number of levels. So to all the internet I’m so depressed marketers, gauge your level of “should give thanks” over “depression” against something truly sinister. It’s like lactose intolerance, all this marketed personal “depression.” There are places in the world where a thimble full of milk would be a godsend, not a “no thanks, intolerance” wave off.

Down to it, I think if they talk hate loud enough non-stop over you as their only weapon, words become meaningless. We have come to a gazillion meaningless new books on Amazon a day and a gazillion meaningless videos on YouTube a day and a gazillion meaningless hate filled discussions a day all stored on servers with mammoth environmental footprints. Toxicity finds a home creating a toxic wasteland. The meaningless archive. I am reminded of the Krell.

There’s a book in that somewhere. 1984 plus meaningless hate. Forbidden Planet of Cheesy Insults? Any volunteers?

Oh yeah, the King Arthur Syndrome. Ask a question, get an insult. I think these guys were prophetic.