Category Archives: Rants about Writing

Did I Read That Right? – Part 2

Once again, I am saved by a “friend of a friend” with a whole new set of weird newspaper headlines:

MESSIAH CLIMAXES IN CHORUS OF HALLELUJAHS

– The Anchorage, Alaska Times

THANKS TO PRESIDENT CLINTON, STAFF SGT. FRUER NOW HAS A SON

– The Arkansas Plainsman

CLINTON PLACES DICKEY IN GORE’S HANDS

– The Bangor, Maine News

STARR AGHAST AT FIRST LADY SEX POSITION

– The Washington Times

TEXTRON INC. MAKES OFFER TO SCREW COMPANY STOCKHOLDERS

–  The Miami Herald

MARRIED PRIESTS IN CATHOLIC CHURCH A LONG TIME COMING

– The New Haven, Connecticut Register

GOVERNOR CHILES OFFERS RARE OPPORTUNITY TO GOOSE HUNTERS

– The Tallahassee, Florida Democrat

EGG ROLL INCLUDES GAY PARENTS

– The Eugene, Oregon Register-Guard

(In that case, we’ll have the won-ton soup…)

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There are more but without attribution:

GRANDMOTHER OF EIGHT MAKES HOLE IN ONE

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TWO CONVICTS EVADE NOOSE, JURY HUNG

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SAFETY EXPERTS SAY SCHOOL BUS PASSENGERS SHOULD BE BELTED

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QUEEN MARY HAVING BOTTOM SCRAPED

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IS THERE A RING OF DEBRIS AROUND URANUS?

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DR. RUTH TALKS ABOUT SEX WITH NEWSPAPER EDITORS

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DEALERS WILL HEAR CAR TALK AT NOON

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NEVER WITHHOLD HERPES FROM YOUR LOVED ONE

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3-YEAR OLD TEACHER NEEDED FOR PRE-SCHOOL – EXPERIENCE PREFERRED

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DRUNK GETS NINE MONTHS IN VIOLIN CASE

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OLD SCHOOL PILLARS ARE REPLACED BY ALUMNI

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Did I read that right?

 

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Did I Read That Right?

This assembly of signs and article headlines comes from a friend of a friend.  They are not new but too good to pass up.

Proofreaders, editors (or former proofreaders and editors), English teachers and writers may want to cover their eyes.  I’m not sure how you then read this post but you may not want to.

Did I read that sign right?

On the door of a restroom:

TOILET OUT OF ORDER. PLEASE USE FLOOR BELOW

In a Laundromat:

AUTOMATIC WASHING MACHINES: PLEASE REMOVE ALL YOUR CLOTHES WHEN THE LIGHT GOES OUT

In a London department store:

BARGAIN BASEMENT UPSTAIRS

In an office:

WOULD THE PERSON WHO TOOK THE STEP LADDER YESTERDAY PLEASE BRING IT BACK OR FURTHER STEPS WILL BE TAKEN

In another office:

AFTER TEA BREAK STAFF SHOULD EMPTY THE TEAPOT AND STAND UPSIDE DOWN ON THE DRAINING BOARD

Outside a second hand shop:

WE EXCHANGE ANYTHING – BICYCLES, WASHING MACHINES, ETC. WHY NOT BRING YOUR WIFE ALONG AND GET A WONDERFUL BARGAIN?

Notice in health food shop window:

CLOSED DUE TO ILLNESS

Spotted in a safari park:

ELEPHANTS PLEASE STAY IN YOUR CAR

Seen during a conference:

FOR ANYONE WHO HAS CHILDREN AND DOESN’T KNOW IT, THERE IS A DAY CARE ON THE 1ST FLOOR

Notice in a farmer’s field:

THE FARMER ALLOWS WALKERS TO CROSS THE FIELD FOR FREE, BUT THE BULL CHARGES.

Message on a leaflet:

IF YOU CANNOT READ, THIS LEAFLET WILL TELL YOU HOW TO GET LESSONS

On a repair shop door:

WE CAN REPAIR ANYTHING. (PLEASE KNOCK HARD – THE BELL DOESN’T WORK)

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Proofreading is a dying art, wouldn’t you say?

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Man Kills Self Before Shooting Wife and Daughter

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Something Went Wrong in Jet Crash, Expert Says

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Police Begin Campaign to Run Down Jaywalkers

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Panda Mating Fails; Veterinarian Takes Over

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Miners Refuse to Work after Death

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Juvenile Court to Try Shooting Defendant

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War Dims Hope for Peace

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If Strike Isn’t Settled Quickly, It May Last Awhile

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Cold Wave Linked to Temperatures

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Enfield ( London ) Couple Slain; Police Suspect Homicide

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Red Tape Holds Up New Bridges

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Man Struck By Lightning Faces Battery Charge

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New Study of Obesity Looks for Larger Test Group

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Astronaut Takes Blame for Gas in Spacecraft

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Kids Make Nutritious Snacks

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Local High School Dropouts Cut in Half

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Hospitals are Sued by 7 Foot Doctors

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Typhoon Rips Through Cemetery; Hundreds Dead

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Did I read that right?

Writing the Next Great American Novel

Happy writers are all alike.  Every unhappy writer is unhappy is his own way.1

paraphrased from Anna Karenina

Writing_novel

Actually, that’s not true.  Unhappy writers are all alike as well.  Like me, they stare at a blank page and wait for inspiration.  I decided the other day that writing the next great American novel can’t be THAT hard.  What do these guys do but find a plot, put a bunch of words together and, Voilà!, in roles the reviews and the acclaim, not to mention the road tour, the book signings, the money and of course the novel-loving groupies.

On Monday morning, having decided to write the next great American novel, I wake up, eat breakfast, prepare for a great start and now stare and stare and expect that somewhere on the blank page is that magical smudge that will grow and grow and turn into page after page of magnificent verse.

1 pm:     I found the smudge on the page but it refuses to grow.  It’s probably shy or a slow grower or a late bloomer.  It just needs a little time.

3 pm:     No change.  I think that I will retrieve the mail and get a snack.

5 pm:     Still no change.  Man, that smudge is not cooperating one bit.  I think that my sock drawer needs rearranging.

7 pm:     You guessed it.  A glass or two of wine while I’m waiting would be helpful.

9 pm:     This smudge is starting to irritate me.  I need another glass of wine.

11 pm:  C’mon smudge!  I’m not looking for the next War and Peace, just your basic inspiring novel.  Time to break out another bottle of wine.

1 am:     Wass th’ matta, smudgy?  Gimme break.  I jus’ wan’ ta zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz. . .

Okay, so maybe the next great American novel was biting off more than I could chew.  How about the next great American screenplay?  After all, how hard can THAT be?  You slap together a background to set the tone, assemble a few notable characters, give them some dialogue and Voilà!, your off to the producer and then opening night and the road tour, the signings, the money  and of course, the screenwriter-loving  groupies.

On Tuesday morning, I wake up (slowly), take an aspirin, eat breakfast and prepare myself for the next great American screenplay.  Now let me see, a choice backdrop.  Of course, a castle in Victorian England, where all great screenplays begin.  A few choice characters – Heathcliffe and Violet.  I’m rolling now.  Add the dialogue and I’m there.  I knew it was easy.

1 pm:  A scene in a Victorian castle drawing-room.  Violet enters the room where she finds Heathcliffe busily at work at his writing desk.

Heathcliffe:  “Damn, these accursed bills!”

Violet:  “Why, Heathcliffe, whatever is the matter?”

Heathcliffe:  “Can’t you see that I am busy, Violet?”

Violet:  “O, Heathcliffe, why do always act so severe with me?”

[Aside to myself.  Does anybody talk like this nowadays?  Did anybody talk like this in Victorian England?  I need to rethink this.]

3 pm:   Revised Heathcliffe, Violet dialogue.  Yech, this revised dialogue stinks.  Maybe a walk around the block would help.

5 pm:  Newly revised dialogue.  No, this isn’t it.  Underwear drawer needs rearranging.

7 pm:  New, newly revised dialogue.  No better than before.  Relax and have a drink of wine.

9 pm:  Still no improvement.  I need another glass of wine.

11 pm:  I should be done with Act 1 by now.  Damn, where’s that wine bottle?

3 am:  Sla, bluk …? Huh? Where am I?

Alright, so maybe screenplays are just as hard as novels.  Perhaps I should ratchet back a notch before attacking novels and screenplays.  Hmm…  I know, the next great American cartoon.  How hard can THAT be?

1 pm:

Writing_cartoon1

  3 pm:

Writing_cartoon1

5 pm:

Writing_cartoon1

The Unplanned Visit

Note:

What follows is the start of a short story, which I haven’t finished, about a man who returns to his decaying, old home town and unearths a startling secret which he wishes he had not discovered.

I am not sure if I will finish the story so I welcome your thoughts, comments and criticism.

C-a-L

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You can’t go home again.  Isn’t that what Thomas Wolfe wrote a book about?  Every time David made the turn north of Harrisburg, he thought about the fact that he wasn’t really going home again.

The town was still there, more a ghost town than a town.  The house he grew up in with his older sister was still there – vacant.  The elementary school building was still there – also vacant.  The two block downtown was still there but most of the buildings were either boarded up or struggling, except for the bakery, the florist and the bank.  David guessed that, even with death, the relatives of the deceased had to eat, get flowers and pay bills.  The bank and florist had undergone some revisions, from name A to name B to name C, but the bakery, strangely enough, stood in the same spot, with the same name, the same curved glass front window and the same glass counter shelves, unchanged since David was a kid.  The baked goods were fresh but David suspected that the servers were the same, ghost servers in a ghost town.

The high school was still there, too.  It had been added on to when David went there, the renovations completed just in time for the population to peak and subsequently decline.  It looked the same but, inside, the corridors echoed when the remnants of the town’s youth marched down the halls to class.

And his sister and her husband were still there.  He was on his way to see his sister now, bringing with him the old chair from their childhood house along with him.  Why she wanted that old chair was beyond him.

“It’s a nice old chair and it would fit in my living room,” she said, “especially after you clean it up.”

The clean up was part of David’s job.  The chair had sat in David’s garage collecting dust, bits of paint, bird droppings and God knows what else for decades and now, suddenly, his sister gets a craving to see it, sparkly and fresh, in her living room.

David had spent the better part of two months, slowly scraping all the old wood flakes and chips off, using wood filler for old holes and worn spots, then sanding and varnishing until the chair lived up to a semblance of its former self.  It was a simple Queen Anne style chair reproduction with curving back and straight legs and both David and his sister had spent many hours sitting it in the living room of their old house.  It held no particular memory for David and he was happy to fix it up and give it to her.  He wasn’t sure why she hadn’t asked for it when they had sold and emptied the house years ago.

Hours earlier he was making the drive along Interstate 81 near Harrisburg with seemingly endless chains of semis and RV’s rumbling by west to east.  Where were they all going?  To Allentown?  Eventually, David came to the turn north on 81, where 81 separated itself from Interstate 78.  He noticed then that his was the only car making the turn.  He called it the turn into the “empty quarter.”  Even now, in early fall, the landscape seemed to alter rapidly, from green pastures, rolling hills and dairy farms to bleak mountains and gray horizons.  David always hated this part of the trip.  It was at best dreary and, when the weather did not cooperate, downright frightening.  Fog, driving rain and snow over the ridge of the Appalachians always made a long ride longer.

David braked slightly down the grade and made the turn from interstate to local highway.  It would be about 20 more minutes from the turnoff.  He would pass through the old town on the way to his sister’s house and the thought struck him that he might have time to pass by the old house before going to his sister’s.   Detours in this part of the world never amounted to more than a few minutes.  He turned off the local highway at the sign for the town, drove through the nearly deserted main street and headed north up a hill to his street.  Fourth from the end of a string of lower-middle class houses, mostly wood or stucco, he recognized his boyhood home.

How could homes vary so much and still be the same?  Eighth acre rectangular plots, a small or non-existent front yard (some house fronts abutted the sidewalk), a porch, generally two stories with a driveway on one side or the other.

The house had belonged first to his grandparents and then to his mother.  It had undergone some changes.  The porch was now enclosed; the old garage on the side, built by hand by his grandfather, had been demolished.  It didn’t meet the town’s building code for some reason or another.  You would think that a town with little or no architectural standards, as evidenced by the polyglot of house patterns and styles, wouldn’t pay much attention to self-built additions.  The garage always seemed study enough to David.  But, no, the town required its demise so down it went.  Nothing had replaced it so, if someone were occupying the house, their car would be sitting in the driveway alongside.

David pulled into the empty driveway, turned off the car’s engine and sat back, letting out a sigh of exhaustion.  Not liking long car trips always took a lot out of him and it would be good to stretch his legs for a moment before moving on.

And then it struck him; in an odd way, he had come home.

Search Terms, Schmerch Terms

A while ago, I came up with the idea of a mad-lib contest based solely upon your blog’s search terms.  Little did I know where this would lead me.

I began to wonder what search terms other bloggers used to get to mine.  Thanks to WordPress’ statistics on search engine words and phrases, I was able to look at my all-time list of search terms.  The top five separated themselves quite cleanly from the rest.  In reverse order, they are:

5.  Unusual cars.  I posted an article with photographs of weird and unusual cars from the early 20th century.

4.  Victorian letter writing.  I created an imaginary letter from a Victorian gentleman, in the fashion of Jane Austen, apologizing for a written affront.

3.  Trebuchet.  A trebuchet is a siege engine that was employed in the middle ages.  Every curmudgeon needs one.

2.  Curmudgeon at Large.  Well, it’s who I am.  I did write, as my very first post, a credo of my objectives.

And the winner, the top of the list, the ne plus ultra, The Donald Trump of wonders, the idol finalist, the biggest loser…   Oh, you get the idea…

Drum roll please: http://instantrimshot.com/index.php?sound=drumroll

1.   Sex with animals.

Yes, I know.  People, this is sick.  Animals, this is sick.  Aliens, this is sick.

I wrote a post entitled According to Recent Studies which included a study published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine that stated that men who have had sex with animals were twice as likely to develop penile cancer as those who stick with their own kind.  How could I have imagined that this post would generate the number one search term of my first year of blogging?

It overwhelmed anal probing, condoms for wild horses, lizard aliens, smash alarm clock and ‘we hate dumpster brokers’ among others.

What does this say about the depraved, immoral, ungodly, disgusting, perverted society in which we live that sex with animals is the number one topic on peoples’ minds?

Is this not wacko and insane?

Are we so degenerate and dissolute that intercourse with animals is our strongest interest?

Have we not already joined the inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrah?

So, what’s your very favorite sex with animals experience?

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By the way, sick – I mean sixth – place was a tie among Tropical heat, Suntan on a beach and Origami turkey.