RANDOM NVDT – Writerly Concerns #22

Authenticity –

“You’re telling me nobody in Washington DC has a piano you can rent?”

“No.”

“Not Washington Music or Venneman or the Steinway Hall or any of the back-line places? Jesus, you’d think there’d be a shit load of pianos in DC. All the parties and weddings and receptions, hotels.”

“No, man. I’ve called them all and nobody has a grand piano I can rent. That’s why Rick told me to call you. He said you could hook me up.”

“Rick?”

“Wakeman. He’s coming in to play a classical music concert. A live broadcast, and he needs a good piano.”

Right. Rick’s a real comedian. Here we go. “I can get you a ProMega3, from Chicago, with Rick’s programs blown into it. Have it there in three days.”

“What? A Pro…What?”

“A Generalmusic ProMega3. It’s a physically modelled digi –”

“A digital piano? No way, I can’t have that. Those sound like shit, everyone will know, Rick will hate it.”

“Rick won’t hate it, that’s why he told you to call me. It’s not a sampled piano. Yeah, those all sound like audio Polaroids. But this is a real-time physically modelled instrument, sympathetic resonance figured on the fly like a real piano, all the math done by the physics department at the University of Padua. Padua being where the piano forte was invented.”

“It’s still a digital piano, no matter how good it is. It isn’t an authentic piano. I have $5,000 microphones set up in here for a real –”

“Riddle me this. You put five of those microphones on the piano. Run them through the board –”

“A digital console with high end Prism ADA converters. Those things are –”

“Ten grand a pop. Great. What do you have at the end of that signal chain?”

“What do mean, what do I have?”

“You have a digital piano. Just like the one I’m offering you. Five high end mics, data conversion to harmonic and volume modelled envelopes, real time resonance. The sound board and wooden case is done with math, not samples. It’s as authentic as your mics and digi board. If anyone notices or complains, I’ll eat it.”

“Well, hell, we’re out of time now, I don’t have any choice. And Rick said…Shit…Are you sure you don’t have a real piano?”

“Positive, but I’ll send you a ProMega3. Tell Rick everybody loves a clown and to poke around the first bank, Herbie Hancock’s fave Fazioli tweak is in there. Sound check for Artist Not Present in Rick’s case is number 2, RW Stein. Any problems, call me.”

A week later I make the call. “Anybody complain about Rick’s piano?”

“No. Did you hear the show?”

“Sure,” I lied. “He’s crazy funny and can play his ass off.”

“Yeah. So, uh, look, how can we get two of those ProMega things for the studio?”

***

All you have to do is make me, or any reader, believe it. I have a WIP set in LA in the early 80s. I wasn’t there, I was in NorCal. I have friends who were. What is needed is “A studio in Silverlake.” It works because there were a lot of them. A high-rise ocean-front condo in Santa Monica. Yeah, duh. A funky old 8 plex apartment in Long Beach. L.A. is the global center of funky small apartments that could have been shotgun houses, old motels, two story office buildings. They’re in every TV show ever shot in L.A. from Dragnet to Transparent. I read Laura Levine’s fluffy mysteries, her heroine lives in an apartment in West Hollywood. Some colorful neighbors, funky houses. Traffic sucks on the 5, the 1, the Harbor Freeway, Santa Monica Blvd. Of course it does. Who am I to quibble? Fancy restaurants on the beach, Mexican places with huge burritos, everybody accepts that. More importantly, it’s enough. Robert Parker used to beat me with Boston, but not too hard. Tony Hillerman could put me in an old beat up Suburban in the New Mexico desert with few words and a few mountains. Elmore Leonard, Get Shorty in L.A. Are there any map coordinates?  No. Descriptions of big houses and restaurants and grubby offices. Raymond Chandler’s Farewell My Lovely. A dumpy house, a grimy bar, a nut-case estate. For me? In and Out Burger on Beverly. A vegetarian walkup in the parking lot of a strip center, or off the 1 in Malibu. Pre-War apartment courts on the bay in Huntington. They’re there. Why not? Authentic is the story, on a believable set.

Authenticity, then, does not require 200 pages of Irvine Welsh’s phonetic Scotts, or an accurate down to the nails in the shutters description of a side street in the Bahamas or a page and a half of verdant pastures or a horticulturalist’s coffee table book version of Louisiana garden and potted plant life. Or $20k worth of mics and preamps. Authenticity is a few locations, a few props, carried by the story. All the set decoration in the world isn’t the story. If the story works, it could be next door or a far-off land. Make me believe the characters and their stories without gumming up getting them around and putting them somewhere. Authenticity is the story. 

***

Authenticity – When asked about Jeff Beck’s guitar rig his tech answered with all the right techy stuff. He finished by saying “But he could play an old Masonite Silvertone through a Pignose and he’s still gonna sound like Jeff Beck.”

More Authenticity – Rick’s version for an Australian magazine. Zoom to read.

 

 

 

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Gambits #11 – Rattlesnake, Whiskey and Uranium

Plus a Handgun, a Suspended License and a Stolen Car

Character Study +

John D MacDonald, Elmore Leonard, Dashiell Hammett, Laura Levine, Fitzgerald – A few words and a reasonably complete picture. From characters to towns. Solid. You know who and where and aren’t bogged down in details. His suit looked dirty but wasn’t. Avocado appliances, a small box-store table for two. A Grand Canyon dishtowel hung from the oven handle. A big man. Pink. Rubbery. Thin and nervous enough to make it contagious. Yellowish skin. Dark circles under unsteady eyes.  He was wide and plodding. Neckless, shoulderless, bald. His necktie short, loose, the knot partially buried by a third chin.

Okay, enough fun. Gambits is about writing prompts, cues, unusual manners of death. Here’s another one from an old friend of mine. From The Daily Oklahoman. A paper I threw in my youth (quite accurately) from a red Sting Ray.

GUTHRIE (AP) — Police in Oklahoma say they found a rattlesnake, a canister of radioactive powdered uranium and an open bottle of Kentucky Deluxe whiskey during a traffic stop of a vehicle that had been reported stolen.

The traffic stop happened June 26 in Guthrie, about 30 miles (45 kilometers) north of Oklahoma City. Guthrie police Sgt. Anthony Gibbs told Oklahoma City TV station KFOR that police don’t know why the uranium was in the vehicle or how it was obtained, though uranium ore can be bought on Amazon.

Gibbs says police also found a gun in the console and a terrarium in the backseat containing a pet Timber rattlesnake.

Gibbs says the driver, Stephen Jennings, was charged with possession of a stolen vehicle, transporting an open container of liquor and driving with a suspended license.

There’s the setup, here’s the character – What the hell was this guy up to? A hit man gone to seed?

 

Trivia – Guthrie was the original state capital of Oklahoma. A handful of bu$ine$$ men wanted it in Oklahoma City. Guthrie, the original territorial capital didn’t want to give it up. The capital is where the state seal resides, by God, and it’s in Guthrie. As bu$ine$$ men will do, they arranged to have it stolen from Guthrie. When it arrived they removed it from a canvas bag and set up shop in a downtown OKC hotel. Where there were smart enough to keep it locked up and guarded.

RANDOM NVDT – Writerly Concerns #21- Guest Shot

Fix it in the mix

A saying widely used both facetiously and in earnest in the music biz. Generally alluding to a high suck factor in a recorded performance that can be buried or overdubbed.

Here’s David Limitre’s take on FIX from a shotgun come-read-my-blog email. But I liked it. Because it is about word power. How we associate, how we interact with a word.

FINALLY! I may be getting a handle on this color thing. At least, what I want to do with color. I experimented with toning the ground first. Then the color seemed to appear quite naturally. You be the judge. 11”x 8”, collage, acrylic and graphite on wood. © 2019 David Limrite

“Failure is simply the opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligently.”
Henry Ford

Hi Phil,

Eliminating The Word “Fix”

If you use the word “fix”, as in, “Something is wrong with my painting, so I need to fix it”, I would like to suggest that you eliminate the word “fix” from your vocabulary.

To me, the word “fix” implies that my painting is broken and needs repairing.

First of all, there is nothing wrong with your painting. If you are having the thought that you need to “fix” your painting, all it really means is that your painting is not “there” yet. It means that your painting is currently not looking how you want it to look. Yet.

All it really means is that your painting is unfinished, and that you have more work to do.

It probably means that you want to re-work some parts of the painting. But, it definitely does not mean those areas are broken.

Eliminating the word “fix” from my vocabulary has provided me with a much healthier way of self-evaluating my work in progress. And, it helps me have a better attitude about going back into my paintings to re-work them.

Eliminate the word “fix” and let me know how much better you feel.

Best,

David

David is here: 

For all I know he’s the Dan Alatorre of painting, but I don’t care. Painting is one of those things like singing. You get it or you don’t. You can or you can’t. Kind of like writing. Some would be better off dictating. Remember when Herb Alpert and Burt Bacharach tried to sing? Like totally thank God for like Dionne Warwick, right?

Gambits #10 B

Why Make It Up When It’s All Right There?

Friends send me strange news bits knowing I will find a use for them. I believe to distract me from using anything personal they might have told me that would read like great fiction. Here’s the real story about the dead woman and the TV from last week. Straight from The Daily Mail. 

“A woman has been killed after falling from the ninth floor of a block of flats in Russia while having sex – but her partner survived after landing on top of her.

The woman, aged 30, was found dead at the base of an apartment block in St. Petersburg on the night of July 5 during what neighbors described as a wild party. Witnesses said they saw a television thrown from the window of the flat, after which the woman and her 29-year-old lover plunged to the ground below. The woman landed head-first on the asphalt and died instantly, local media reported, but the man survived after his fall was broken by her body and nearby bushes. Witnesses told local media that the partially clothed man then got up and went back to rejoin the party.

Police were called, and when they arrived the revelers allegedly threw a mop out of the windows at them. Initial reports suggested the woman had been killed by the falling TV, but images from the scene clearly show her naked from the waist down. After interviewing witnesses, investigators concluded that the couple were having sex on a windowsill when they fell. Two other men were in the flat when the fall happened, but are not thought to have been involved.”

In my Dick Derringer PI version the cops walk away from it because of the TV, no one comes forward about the partially clothed dude for pick-your-reason. In the cop’s interviews the party dudes paint the girl as depressed and despondent over a break up, and the dude who landed on her has bailed. Derringer sets out to uncover the cover up after a scared old lady with an ankle biter dog throws a mop out her window to get his attention. A mop later used in a funny fight scene.

There you have it. Who’s writing it?

Gambits #10

If I Were A Procedural Writer – This One is as Perfect as They Come

Set up for Dick Derringer, Private Eye – A woman, naked from the waist down, falls 9 stories out of an apartment window. So does a television. Both are dead. Investigators do a perfunctory inquisition. Satisfied it’s accidental or suicide they walk away. Bruising on the body is from the fall or the TV landing on her. Doesn’t matter, she landed head first. Splat.

Next – Attractive woman, well dressed, composed (or wild haired wild eyed young woman in sweatshirt with too-long sleeves) walks into Dick’s office. “It wasn’t an accident, it wasn’t suicide. Find out what happened.” Dick, the consummate formula PI is always looking for opportunities to 1) get laid, 2) embarrass the cops, 3) strong arm some smart asses, takes the case.

The assignment – What really happened?

Next installment, the real answer. Lets hear it from you plotters out there.

Gambits #9

Get Your Forensics Chops On

In 2013 a Colombian man checked himself into a hospital in Medellin complaining of fever, weight loss and difficulty breathing. Tests revealed he had cancer cells in his lungs but they were 10 times smaller than human cancer cells. More tests and they figured that a tapeworm had infested his body and subsequently contracted cancer, or had already been infected, and passed it on to its host. The man died three days after being diagnosed.

I can see this one. Opening – sweaty emaciated week old stubble man in dirty shirt, his belt obviously cinched to hold up too big pants stumbles in and clutches ER counter. “Hehhh…heh…help…meeee.”

Okay, mystery buffs, who is the victim? How does the murderer do it? Conspire with a restaurant employee, shoot the tapeworm full of radioactive material, active cancer cells, some dread disease? Procedural from hell y’all, promise. Unless you approach it from the ‘shouldn’t have eaten that street vendor cheeseburger in Boys Town’ angle, and then it’s just a case of stupidity complicated by Hepatitis and a random STD.

Source – Rachel Rettner, “Tapeworm Spreads Deadly Cancer to Human”  Scientific American November 2015

RANDOM NVDT – Writerly Concerns #20 – More Is Too Much

If you cannot learn to love real art at least learn to hate sham art and reject it. – William Morris

I’ve had a theme in my head for some time now. It escapes editing and goes off down the rabbit hole. Because it is ill-defined. Excess? (yes, to me) Sloppy? (not always) Lazy? (lots of toil involved in some cases) Self-serving? (difficult to say). Style? (close, but…) Wanking? (depends on sloppy or lazy)

What I’m trying to get to is superfluous content, author agendas (preaching), and the middle of the road. By MOR I mean clichés, weak language, lack of logic. Which brings me to Lester Dent. If you don’t know Lester Dent there are numerous websites dedicated to the man who prototyped the superhero, much as Morris did for fantasy. Dent’s “Doc Savage” was better looking and more charismatic than all the 007s, had more toys than Batman or M dreamed of. Without Doc Savage Stan Lee would have had no one to put in multicolored spandex. Dent’s take on pulp construction is short and explicit. It should be studied for no other reason than the discovery of truth in short noir-ish fiction formatting. To the point –

Dent told a funny story about setting, and fooling editors (and readers). If you want a story set in an exotic locale, foreign land or someplace you’ve never been you had to sell it. The editors were fearful of misrepresentation and exposure of the author as a phony. Dent’s example was Egypt. To con an editor into believing you’d been to Egypt, or were an amatuer Egyptologist, throw in a local character saying something in Egyptian. Use the old ploy of having another character translate it, or the main character translate it himself. “Yes, Afkhan, I know it’s a tree.”  It also helps to find some pictures of the area to recreate, if only briefly. I would suppose along the lines of the distance between two pyramids a character had to cover without being shot. Palm trees or whatever, a crazy colorful bazar (Indiana Jones). A little of that and the editor signed off on Egypt. Note – a little. Just enough to sell it, not a full-blown travelogue for Egypt (or wherever).

I mention this because I have read some books lately that are more travelogue than story. I enjoyed Helen Simonson’s Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand save for the scheduled injections of rural Sussex that rivaled the output of the Romantics. She said in an interview that those parts of the book were a romanticized paean to her homeland. At least she owned it. And she could have pushed a real modern race/bigotry agenda in the book. Instead she made it a classic shot of Jane Austen-ish satire of manners with a touch of romantic fairy tale for the 21st century. Good for her. But I still flipped through the many pages of pastoral mist on England’s green and pleasant getting to the story. I should add I learned a couple of things about backstory insertion and character exposure tricks from that book.

Another glaring example is James Lee Burke. The man has sold a gazillion books. I picked up his Creole Belle at the library to see why. After maybe forty pages I have a couple of story, a lot of opinions about New Orleans, way too damn many descriptions of plant life. Characters can’t step out of a door without witnessing a half page laundry list of flora and bugs and snakes and the various states of the water – black in the shade, green with algae, glistening from a streetlamp and rain drumming in various quantities on every surface imaginable. I shouldn’t have had to get out my iPad and Googled botanical pictorial lookups to refresh my memory on caladiums and rhododendrons and fifteen other types of plants on the patio of an office building we’ll never go back to. Everything is described in massive detail. Substance rehab, stinky trailers, all a reason to go off for a page or more on philosophy and agenda and the evils of the world, the nasty yanks and the brave confederates. Some with not so transparent preaching ascribed to them. Do we really need all that shit to find out where Creole Belle went?

Tony Hillerman can put you on a rutted road in the New Mexico desert without all that. Robert Parker can put you on a corner in Boston, all you need. He can even wax good versus evil. You know Spenser and Hawk are hard guys without constantly being reminded of it. Yet Burke throws it in every couple of pages. Maybe because his big tough guys talk, on occasion, like teenage girls. “Isn’t that neat?” Like a couple of tough guys I read about trapped by gunfire saying, “What shall we do?” That wasn’t Burke, but he gets close. By page 40 we have been reminded 5 or 6 times the detective’s sidekick’s secretary is an ex nun. And the only dialect is Cajun Creole, from Creoles or Blacks. Everyone else reads exactly the same. Even the lady detective we’ve been reminded 4 times makes people uncomfortable because she’s a lesbian. You think we got the nun and the lesbian by now?

When people write like that, I wonder what they’re selling. Simonson admitted it. She also admitted to no liking the weather, the food and warm beer. All things she left out of her postcard from Sussex. All things Burke overdoses on. Minutiae. I find myself wanting to shake the book to get the crap out of it and get to the story. How much description do we need? How much clutter, how much crap?

***

The William Morris quote was taken out of context to sound elitist. I did that on purpose. It is offered below as contextual. Had I used it all up front it would have obviated the need for this post. That is, if you get it.

Simplicity of life, even the barest, is not a misery, but the very foundation of refinement: a sanded floor and whitewashed walls, and the green trees, and flowery meads, and living waters outside; or a grimy palace amid the smoke with a regiment of housemaids always working to smear the dirt together so that it may be unnoticed; which, think you, is the most refined, the most fit for a gentleman of those two dwellings?
So I say, if you cannot learn to love real art; at least learn to hate sham art and reject it. It is not because the wretched thing is so ugly and silly and useless that I ask you to cast it from you; it is much more because these are but the outward symbols of the poison that lies within them; look through them and see all that has gone to their fashioning, and you will see how vain labour, and sorrow, and disgrace have been their companions from the first — and all this for trifles that no man really needs! – William Morris, speech in London 1880

Two Updates –

1 – Someone asked me where I got the trite rant from – Here you go.

Thick tendrils of mist embraced the thick bases of the gnarled trunks transforming them into tortured faces. Deep knotholes became dark, hooded eyes and missing chunks of bark, sighing mouths. Frothy fronds of foliage framed  (Say that fast three times) the desperate looking figure like wild unkempt hair.

Margaret stood for a long, immobile second at the top of the stairs. The cellar, with its gradually unfolding secrets and strange silence, attracted her. She knew she couldn’t go there, but it sang an alluring siren song that was difficult to resist.

Roberta Eaton Cheadle.

Look for Roberta’s book The Nethergate to be published in September. I smell my favorite internet “editor” all over that. I made a comment about the redundant use of thick, the alliteration and the complete lack of logic in the second bit. I was told “We all like different things.” Count me in the group that likes things to make sense. My wife reads me excerpts from her freshman comp students. I considered them expert at stringing words together for effect not sense. Now I know published authors do the same.

2 – If you wondered, which I doubt, what I did to fix my own perfect sounding but illogical line in Octopus! you may go see the whacked version.

If you’d like to know William Morris The William Morris Society is a good place to start. He is considered by many, including Tolkien and C.S. Lewis, as their greatest influence on fantasy, utopia/dystopia and faerie stuff. Be advised do not go into that Morris lightly because a lot of it is in honest to God Olde and Middle English which is a lot harder to read than the pidgeon/pirate talk we have today. Plus it’s like really long. His speeches, though, rock. A consummate, if reluctant, rhetorician.