Momentary reflection

Say: What you have to say.

Do: What you have to do.

Pledge: What you have to pledge.

In other words: Do what the moment requires.

Every moment has its needs, after all.

How do you know what needs to be done?

Listen. Learn. Do.

That’s as good a process, I imagine.

Listen. Learn. Do.

Right this moment? Right this moment.

Is there any other moment? Let me look …

No, there is only ever “now.” Only this moment to deal with.

See? That moment passed and now is THIS moment.

Best get on with it. There’s no time like now.

In fact, there is ONLY time like now.

It’s all about the saying

And now what? Some days I feel like I have said all I have to say in every possible permutation, and I can either repeat myself or shush myself and say, “Go look at what I said, and read it again until you get it. I said it better then anyway.”

But if you have said nothing today or yesterday, or the day before, it’s as if you no longer exist. And soon it’s, “Whatever happened to him, or to her, it’s like they must have died, I guess.”

And so I repeat myself. Hi, remember me? Remember what I said? Of course, one thing about saying it again is that someone will hear it for the first time, and others will hear it in a  new way and maybe we’ll make the connection this time.

And maybe I’ll think of it in a new way and realize I was wrong — and sometimes I discover I was more right than I realized, or as wrong as wrong could be.

So don’t stop, cries the bottom line. Never say die until you’re dead. Let it be said, “Man, that guy never shut up,” in hopes the response is, “Yeah, but he had something to say.”

So now what? Now, what? Wait, what? I can’t be serious. Or can I?

Keyboard evolution

I was tippety-tapping along on my laptop writing a news story on Monday when my mind flashed back to the bang-bang-bang-bang of the Associated Press teletype in the newsrooms of my youth. They made a constant racket as they banged along shouting the news of the world at us in ALL CAPS, as was routine in broadcasting.

I remember my fingers hurting after a day of typing stories on the old manual typewriters, each typewriter key connected to a hammer with a letter on it, and you had to hit the keys hard enough to bang the hammer through an inked ribbon and leave an impression on the piece of paper beyond.

Now you need only tap the keys to make the letters appear on an electronic screen. If I had to guess, I’d say you need about one-tenth the amount of energy — and probably even less — to achieve the same effect as pounding the old typewriter keys.

Of course, memories become nostalgia, and now there’s a certain charm about the jangling thumping and bumping machines with their occasional alert bells, which had to be kept in a closet down the hall lest they be a background distraction every time the studio mike was live.

As time went on, the pounding of the automated typewriter became the zzzzt-zzzzt-zzzzt of dot-matrix printers, but the bell remained for bulletins. I remember the bells going off and the zzzzt-zzzzt of the AP bulletin “SHUTTLE CHALLENGER LIFTS TEACHER INTO SPACE,” followed 73 seconds later by more bells and a second, more sobering bulletin.

Our machines and devices have grown quieter, faster and more efficient through the years. Bells and whistles belong to a bygone age now, an age of “We interrupt this program” and the like.

OK, boomer, what’s my point? Some stuff I’m nostalgic about is just remembering younger days; I’m thrilled that the technology has advanced to the point where I can type at all hours of the day or night and not wake a soul in the house. I’m grateful that I’m tippety-tapping these words into existence instead of BANG BANG BANGing at them. 

W.B.’s Book Report: Fairy Tale

I know Stephen King is considered one of the great storytellers of our generation, but he hasn’t been my cup of tea that often. Of course, I read Carrie — didn’t everyone? — but after that I didn’t keep following. I like science fiction and suspense, but I’m not the biggest fan of horror, and that was King’s forte — so I skipped The Shining and Cujo and Christine and It and all that. I couldn’t finish 11/22/63, one of his more recent books, after it failed to capture my interest after around 100 pages. 

But I also respected his book On Writing and the story that the film Stand By Me is based on, and The Shawshank Redemption is quite a feat. So my mind is open to trying any of King’s efforts.

So when Fairy Tale kept coming up in a Facebook reading group I frequent, I finally couldn’t resist. And my, oh my.

Charlie Reade is a 17-year-old boy in rural Illinois whose mother was killed in a horrific traffic accident 10 years ago. His dad descended into the bottle and didn’t start climbing out until one night Charlie — in desperation, not faith — prays for a miracle. That very night a friend of his father stopped by and talked him into going to an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting,  turning his life around, so Charlie figures he owes God a good deed or two. 

One day a dog’s whines lead Charlie to discover the crotchety old man who lives in the mysterious “Psycho House” at the top of the hill. The old guy has fallen and severely broken his leg, and Charlie ends up promising to take care of the German shepherd, Radar, while the man is hospitalized, in large part because he figures it’s time to keep the promise he made in that prayer, but a bond begins to grow with the old man and especially Radar.

The cover of Fairy Tale shows a young man and a German shepherd climbing down a mysterious spiral staircase, and it’s an apt illustration, because this is the story of the boy, the dog, and what lies at the bottom of those stairs. The story includes shoutouts to Ray Bradbury’s Something Wicked This Way Comes and H.P. Lovecraft’s The Call of Cthulhu, but on the bottom line Charlie’s story is exactly what the title promises, a dark fairy tale. And that’s a good thing.

I’ve already told you more than I knew about the story going in, and I think this is a good novel to go into cold and let the surprises surprise you, so I’ll stop here, except to say I highly recommend Fairy Tale as one of the best books in recent memory.

It’s a magical world

We live in a world filled with contraptions that would seem like magic to the folks of not long ago — but also magical devices FROM long ago that, preserved, continue to do magic. I’m looking at my 1941 Philco radio and my century-old records when I refer to the latter. 

Here is a recording from some afternoon in 1915 when a band sat in a studio and played into a megaphone — three minutes captured in amber to be heard in 2022. Magic?

Here are books from 50 – 75 – 100 years ago that still mean something now.

But imagine the band members getting a peek at 2022, where their three minute performance can be stored on a computer chip along with hundred of other performances. Imagine the author of a book from 1910 taking a tour of a modern library.

Magic!

Art for its sake

There was this seagull. It soared above it all, looking down on the rest of us, and we gaped in awe at the way it glided on the air currents when all the time it was scheming ways to take the food from our mouths.

“It was a metaphor for the soaring political hacks that feed on sheep in the night,” he mansplained.

“You think I don’t know that?” she scoffed and took another sip of the expensive wine they were sharing.

“I’m sorry, you’re right, I’m everything you say that I am,” he said stiffly.

The moon loomed over them like a concerned parent, and over the fence a chihuahua barked like a coonhound on 78.

The howls echoed through the neighborhood, and they were ours. 

Suddenly everything changed, but it took years.

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“People always make the mistake of thinking art is created for them. But really, art is a private language for sophisticates to congratulate themselves on their superiority to the rest of the world. As my artist’s statement explains, my work is utterly incomprehensible and is therefore full of deep significance.” — Calvin, aka Bill Watterson

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