The Pilot’s Plight

March 31, 2008

grief in paradise

It was a deep gash, open, letting the air nip at his heart and into the soul every time his natural intake of breath would pull at the wound. The swarms of commuters passing by ignored his plight, seemingly unaware of the extent of damage he had endured or even that he was hurt at all.

Unable to make the trip to work, incapable of returning home. Stuck, wishing for Virgil to guide him, seeing nothing but a glimpse of blood, boiling in the distance.

A quick prayer to the Saint falls on dead ears. The Rosary, with forgotten mysteries, fails him as the gods send a mirthful laugh that only he can recognize. Tomorrow’s child will feel his grief, but there is no word to warn it.

Image courtesy of Queen of the Universe. Used by permission.


I have to hand it to the fine folks behind The Office, as tonight they:

  1. Piqued my curiosity;
  2. Made me laugh incredibly hard.

“How did they do that”, you ask? Well, on tonight’s episode, entitled “Women’s Appreciation”, the esteemed Dwight K. Shrute was duped into putting up posters depicting a local pervert, complete with a phone number for anyone to call with information on said pervert. When I noticed that the phone number did not contain the typical 555 prefix of American television, I was interested to see what this possibly real number would bring me.

I grabbed the phone, rang up the 800 number, and proceeded to hear a message from the Lackawanna County Anti-Flashing Task Force. To listen to or download the message, follow the link below.

Sound File The Office – Anti-Flashing Hotline

I’m glad to see them moving away from the 555 numbers that — at least for me — take me out of the moment as it is something that is easily recognizable as fake when seen in a show or movie. And on top of that, they’re adding additional content for those who wish to pursue it.

Kudos to you, whoever came up with this in the offices of The Office. You’ve made this viewer smile.

Icon from Silk, courtesy of famfamfam.

Copying Machine, from MarriedToTheSea

The CBC recently filed a story on how Leo Tolstoy’s epic masterpiece, War and Peace, will now be available with a reduced page-count (from 1,500 pages to approximately 900 pages) for those of us with a short attention span. Typically, this kind of announcement wouldn’t affect me too much, except to get me wondering where all those great Reader’s Digest Condensed books I read as a child got to, but alas, this announcement had more to it than just an editor’s take on the novel.

War and Peace: The Original Version is not just Tolstoy cut to pieces by Mister ADD; rather, it is Tolstoy’s first draft of the tome, published in all its glory — its unfinished glory. If part of the motivation behind releasing this edition is as they say — that it will be a great way to get people who are busy or have short attention spans reading a classic — then I don’t understand why Harper Collins doesn’t just hire an editor to cut out what they consider unnecessary and market it under a new “Attention Deficit’s Guide to Classic Literature” imprint. Publishing a first draft for general consumption (there was talk of releasing it “as a resource for scholars”) is akin to playing Beethoven’s 9th symphony without the strings, or releasing the prototype of a product instead of the completed, production-ready version. Releasing these things wouldn’t be a horrible act, as musical experimentation can lead to some wonderful discoveries and sometimes prototypes are all you need; the problem comes with calling them the “original version”, which implies “the correct version”, when there is a different, more complete version that the creator intended to be experienced. There is a reason Beethoven didn’t call his opus complete and release it as such to the public when it was only half done, and there is a reason Tolstoy didn’t stop after his first draft.

I have no problems with an early, unfinished version of something being released — in fact, I would encourage it, as it can be a great inspiration to others who are creating as well1 — but when the unfinished edition is marketed to the general population as a time-saver or a boon to those with short attention spans, whoever is releasing the product is doing a disservice to their entire field. I’m not up in arms because Harper Collins is assuming (and cashing in on the fact) that readers will not read the (actual) original text and experience the completed manuscript as intended for release by the author, but because they are actually encouraging this.

1 To see how a first draft can act as a document of the creative process and even inspire others by demonstration, look at this example of a photographic “first draft” from The Urban Refugee. His “first draft” adds to and enhances the final picture because of the story and process involved in reaching his finished product; without seeing that final product, the story, or “draft”, is moot. [back]

Image courtesy of MarriedToTheSea.

Cemetary - Untitled

I was lying in bed trying to fall sleep, as I had to rise relatively early the next morning, but there was a nagging in my brain that wouldn’t let me drift away. It was nothing more than a short string of words, floating through my head, reflecting on an experience that had been near to my heart and mind for some time. I tried to convince myself that I should sleep and just write out the phrase in the morning, but there was no use in trying to convince myself.

My mind was eased only after turning on the lamp and putting all the words down on paper. From that first stroke of the pen, the words flowed from me, filling the page. The poems from that night are snapshots of my heart and mind, illustrations of brief moments on the time line of my life.

Poetry isn’t my chosen literary form. Actually, I have a problem even calling poetry a literary form, as it is so much more than the written word. It is so much more than an artistic form — as it is an essence, an emotion, a beauty that cannot be sequestered into any one expressive form. It is that moment, thought, feeling, or idea that is captured by the artist, whether they be scientist, author, painter, dancer, or any of a myriad of other formal or informal occupations, with whatever tools they choose to use.

I’ve rarely attempted to capture these moments of beauty on paper, so I am somewhat proud of the times I have managed to do that successfully (though reluctant to share those successes with others). More successful than my poetic interpretations on paper have been those in the form of photographs.

Even as I strive to capture that poetic essence in my photographs and, at times, on paper, I am deeply indebted to many who have chosen other avenues of expression. Musicians, such as Beethoven, Clint Mansell, Hawksley Workman, Godspeed You! Black Emperor, and many more; painters, including Kelly Pound, Sheila LeBlanc-Joyce, Wayne Boucher; many photographers, such as Noah Grey; many writers, including Jerry Spinelli, Mark Haddon, and John Wyndham…there are so many more people worthy of being here. I don’t expect the names on this list to mean anything to you; instead, replace these names with those from your own life. These names represent just a few people I have come across who have captured that essence that is poetry and shared it with me, whether directly or indirectly. They are artists who speak into my life with snippets of beauty and emotion — they are people who make my heart sing.

Brook - Untitled

When looking at the formation of poetic expression, it is hard not to wonder if poetry begets poetry. In the example I shared, my poetic writings seem to have been prodded into being by my attendance at a concert which was full of poetic expression, even though the concert had nothing to do with the contents of my writings. The barrage of poetry (lyrical, musical, and even physical) that night brought me into a state of mind wherein the easiest way to deal with those ideas and feelings was to put them on paper — to write poetry. To be more clear on the point, I suppose I should say that poetic expression incubates further (and wider) poetic expression. It greases the gears, if you will.

At long last, a question: do you have poetic incubators in your life? Who is on your list of people who bring beauty, emotion — poetry — into your life? And finally, are you finding your own way to capture those poetic moments that are unique to you?

Please, do. And when you’re ready, share them. Many people are waiting for you to prod their own poetry into being; they just need your name to be on their list.

Boardwalk - Untitled

Clumsy, a book review

February 9, 2007

This is a review of Clumsy, a graphic novel by Jeffrey Brown.

Clumsy is an autobiographical story of love which begins with Jeffrey and Theresa falling for each other while on a summer road-trip with mutual friends.

Written and illustrated by Jeffrey Brown, the story of their year together as long-distance lovers is told through a series of snapshots of their times on the phone as well as their monthly trips to visit each other.

The writing is similar to that of Liz Prince’s Will You Still Love Me If I Wet The Bed? in that it is very slice-of-life. The stark honesty in the tale shows not only the moments of love and happiness, but also the arguments and times of depression that occur in their relationship. By including both the good times and the bad, Brown proves the adage true, at least from the point of view of a reader, that the bitter times make the sweet times sweeter. He might disagree with that though, as he’s the one who actually experienced those times.

As Brown is shockingly honest in his tale, it makes the book hard to read at times, as the depression felt by Jeffrey carries through from the page and can have a strong impact on the reader. He isn’t afraid to point to his own quirks and deficiencies and how they contributed to the dark moment of lost love. That honesty in his storytelling keeps the story real for the reader, making Clumsy a hard book to put down.

Clumsy is the kind of book I don’t think I’ll sit down regularly and re-read in its entirety, even though I enjoyed it the first time around. The emotion was, at times, too much to thoroughly enjoy, even though I did appreciate it. On the other hand, I do have a feeling I’ll crack it open every once in a while just to flip to a random page and get a dose of joy or sorrow, depending on the vignette.

Warning: The book contains explicit content. Reader discretion is advised.

Bibliographic and other information:

Brown, Jeffrey. Clumsy. Marietta: Top Shelf, 2006.

224 pages. Paperback. ISBN 0971-3597-68.

Clumsy at Top Shelf Productions website.

Jeffrey Brown at Wikipedia and Top Shelf.

Sample pages:

Clumsy, by Jeffrey Brown Clumsy, page 33

Images (c) 2006 by Jeffrey Brown. Used by permission.

a man in exile

February 9, 2007

I am currently in a state of web hosting exile; my old host has turned into a steaming pile of feces and I am now searching for a suitable host for my various websites.

While in exile, I figured I’d give a go, as it seems my days at diaryland are numbered. It’s at this point that I wish desperately that I was not using the hosted wordpress, and instead using my own installation, as many of the options that I’m switching from diaryland in order to use are not actually accessible in this incarnation of wordpress (such as adding footnotes).

I’ve already found a few things about that annoy me, but I’m under the impression that most of them can be changed when using a personal installation. Time will tell.

So here I am — finally writing in a space that can handle comments per post (RIP guestbooks), categories, tags, and all sorts of other goodies. I’m finally coming into this millennium.

Wish me luck, and while you’re at it, feel free to recommend some books for me to read over the year, ’cause I sure as heck don’t have anything better to do during reading week…


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