Category Archives: Blogging

Abstract Expressionism—in Writing

There has been an explosion of flash fiction in recent years. Flash fiction has been around a long time, parables and fables go back to ancient times. Some writers berate it by claiming that modern readers have attention deficit disorder, hence the popularity of Twitter, but I don’t believe this is entirely true.

If I want to read a book, I’ll read a book. I don’t have Kindle or any kind of e-reader, can’t afford to keep up, and seem to survive just fine without them. So, when I’m at my computer, which is often, there’s just no way I can sit here and read 1000 word stories, posts, or articles unless it’s part of research for work, writing, or my own curiosity. It would have to draw me in immediately, and there are a few who do, but they usually pertain to a subject I’m interested in.

I believe in the principles of flash fiction and wish all writers would apply these to their work. There are so many longwinded posts, articles, and bestselling fiction, full of superfluous text or boring or irrelevant details that I want to bleed a red pen over them.

But there’s something else in flash fiction that is just as cumbersome, and that is fiction so surreal it defies explanation. Reading a short story ten times trying to figure it out takes just as long as reading a long story once. I keep getting told it’s all about the reader’s interpretation, but stories aren’t dreams nor should they resemble a Jackson Pollock painting. Even a very short story should give you some basic facts and have a beginning, middle and end, even if it’s just 100 words. That’s what a story is. This is done by choosing each word carefully and not assuming the reader knows what’s inside your head. A page from an imaginary novel is not a story. By leaving out important pieces of information, writers think they are being profound but they are simply leaving many readers asking “huh?”

Bloggers can write whatever they want, it’s no one’s business but their own. But I would like to see writers of surreal fiction ask their readers what they think it means. I would like to see the commenters who write “awesome post” explain why they think it’s awesome. I love puzzles—cryptograms, crossword puzzles, Scrabble, jumbles, and hangman. I don’t get the same enjoyment from a puzzling piece of fiction. You can be just as profound without leaving the reader bewildered.

Better than Tuna?

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Better than Tuna?

What a bunch of dopes. Look at them down there, always making a big commotion about every trifle. A gnat flies by and they gotta let you know they’re on Stupid Patrol. I get to go outdoors but I don’t need no stinking fence. I’m sitting here on the ledge out of their sight, but my route to the branch that goes into the park is a well-marked course. I like to sit here for a bit and meditate before I go in. I’m quite Zen, you know.

I leap smoothly to the branch and wind my way through the tree into their territory. All it takes is one little meow and here they come. Look at them all barking and howling around the base of the tree. Though my own dogs are much better trained and know they’ll get a sharp slap if they chase me, they just can’t resist acting like a bunch of barbarians when they see me in a tree. Some primitive instinct to corner something I guess. Idiots, will they never evolve? Now their owners are all yelling at them to quit it. Ha ha. Whoa, was that the sound of a can opening? Gotta go!

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Stephanie’s responses to prompts at BeKindRewrite are exploding. It seems like a lot of work for a person who has a busy life. She puts a lot of thought into these prompts, and it doesn’t seem fair to her to combine her excellent prompts with others from different sites. Also, all you have to do is pingback somewhere in your post to Inspiration Monday VIII  or whatever number it is. You don’t have to print your entire story on her website or bug her to look at your story. She’ll be notified of your pingback and give you credit on Monday night. I’m afraid we’re going to lose this wonderful opportunity if we don’t respect these simple rules. I’m not trying to be a dick, but she is just one person, and I for one do not want to overwhelm this brilliant woman who has a full-time job, a book she’s writing, and a lack of sleep she has written about.

Prompt is A Cat in a Dog Park.

Death’s Artwork

I promised Miss Stephanie at Be Kind Rewrite that there would be no evasion of assignments this week. These two pieces of short fiction are inspired by Inspiration Monday VII   and the prompt “Death’s Artwork.”

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Queen for a Day

Josie fiercely protected a shopping cart abundant with the priorities of her life—newspapers, cans, tattered old coats, and bags filled with carefully chosen bits of shiny detritus—castoffs from a world of excess. She had a life once, a husband, children. But that was before the illness and one by one they abandoned her, or maybe she abandoned them. She was not so much old as she was shrunken into a wizened floating sylph—life sucks and then you live. Though she muttered and raved, sometimes pure reason would erupt from her cracked lips, heard only by those who sensed the value of words spoken in cipher.

When I found Josie one morning stiff and cold in an alleyway behind my apartment, I knew there was one last thing I could do before they came to bury her in a pauper’s grave. I bathed her and brushed her tangled hair, discarded the rags and dressed her in a simple blue shift. With her face made up, the years dropped away.

The state provided a simple wooden box, in which I arranged her priceless treasures. A small funeral was held. Other street people came, and they all said that Josie never looked so beautiful.

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Interview with a Lepidopterist

Oh those butterflies are so beautiful! You must have worked on this collection for a long time.

I have. It’s my pride and joy.

You must know so much about butterflies. How do you catch them?

I use the traditional nets. I know just where to find the best specimens. I’ve been all over the world and have some very rare specimens—sometimes I even sell them to make money to further my art!

Wow. Are you a scientist?

No, it’s just a fun hobby.

What happens after you net one?

Well, we have these special pins we use to mount them for display.

No, I mean before that.

You mean how do I arrange them?

No, I mean how do they go from alive to dead? You don’t stick pins in live butterflies, do you?

Of course not, that would be cruel! I euthanize them first.

How?

There are a couple of ways. The most common is to squeeze their thorax. The force breaks their exoskeleton, but sometimes you have to do it twice if they survive the first attempt. The other way is the killing jar. I usually add a few drops of ethyl acetate to asphyxiate it, otherwise they beat their wings against the glass trying to escape, and that damages the specimen.

Oh.

What?

Why not just take a picture?

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Freshly Pressed—Be Careful What You Wish For

It seems the goal of many bloggers is to be Freshly Pressed. I even read forums where bloggers complain they haven’t been Freshly Pressed, and damnit they want to know why, and they’re rude to the volunteer moderators!

My experience was totally unexpected. I woke up to 700 hits, and by the end of the day I had 3200 hits and hundreds of comments. I was overwhelmed.

I confess I don’t usually read Freshly Pressed posts, because I get much more satisfaction from new blogs with potential, or any blog I can relate to where the author actually wants to talk to me. I’m here to share, learn, and connect. I enjoy dialogue with likeminded people. It’s not as easy as you think.

Many of the comments I received were extremely generic, “great post” or “loved it.” I began to wonder why people would do this. I went to the Freshly Pressed blogs of that day and found many of the same bloggers who left me generic comments wrote the same comments on other Freshly Pressed blogs. I began to see a disturbing pattern. Many comments were simply a link to that person’s blog! Others came from people trying to sell something. I’m certain they didn’t even read the post, and I did not approve those comments.

The other day I received notification of a pingback, and when I went to the site what I found shocked me. It was set up to look like a news blog, but every post was the first paragraph of a Freshly Pressed blog with a link to their site. The “About” page was blank. However, there was an enormous blogroll of about 50 hardcore Islamic blogs and websites. I wrote a comment under my own pinged post and asked them to remove it. They did not respond.

Under “Blog Info” at the top of any WordPress post is a “Report as Spam” option. A box comes up to state your case. I explained that I thought this site was a front for Islamic sites using Freshly Pressed blogs as a lure. Within about 15 minutes, I got a response from WordPress saying they had shut the site down. When I clicked on the site again, a banner came up that said “This site has been suspended for violations of terms of contract.” I never expected such immediate action. I wrote WP a thank you note and asked if I could write about this experience, to which they replied “of course!”

A friend told me she had similar experiences with other blog publishing platforms before she switched to WordPress. Her requests to delete her blogs have been ignored, four years later she is still getting spam from her former blogs, and that writing the administrators accomplishes nothing.

Those of us who have chosen WordPress have the best blog publisher available. For free. WordPress rocks bigtime. They make it easy to set up, post, and  contact. Problem? They fix it.

I also received sensitive, perceptive, and observant comments and met some new bloggers because of my Freshly Pressed experience, some of whom I am now subscribed to and consider part of my “circle.” I’m not looking for thousands of hits or pingbacks. All I want is mutual, friendly relationships with people who have something to say that I’m interested in. WordPress has them.

The Prods…I Mean Prompts

This is my second attempt at weekly writing prompts from  BeKindRewrite called  Inspiration Monday II. Stephanie provides five prompts, and this time she has participated with a beautiful story of her own.

I chose two prompts and used them as titles:

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Raised Eyebrows at the Checkout Line

I placed my pile of slender plastic bags on the belt. The bags, carefully folded over and bound with stickers, appeared insubstantial but each measured the weight of hope. One shrimp, one slice of ham, one of roast beef, one liverwurst, one turkey breast, one corned beef, one bologna. I had already endured the discontent of the deli clerk—friendliness is ineffective when you’re out to personally ruin someone’s day. The checkout girl raised her eyebrows but was too apathetic to comment and I too weary to explain.

When I got home I ripped open every bag and tore the slices into pieces. I took them to Buck’s bed and held them in front of his nose. No reaction to the ham or any other savory cold cut—but as I held out the shrimp, he raised his head. I ripped the shrimp into shreds and he took a bite, then another. As he finished the shrimp, I grabbed my car keys, this time with a purposeful stride.

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Everyday Villain

The witch woke up midday, bleary from the last night’s bender. She looked older than her 50 years, a dessicated hag with a vindictive scowl. The fucking phone again, more idiots with their stupid complaints. Blah blah blah can you call me as soon as possible. Blah blah blah I have a problem. Blah blah blah what should I do. Screw ’em all, that’s what.

As in many depressed former mill towns of Connecticut, the witch inherited the position from her father. She hated the job, the callers, and the responsibility, but most of all she hated her wards. Today was cold and rainy and she’d be damned if she was going to walk all the way out to the kennels at the end of her property to shovel shit with this hangover. Ugly needy mutts with their empty bowls and dirty cages. Many complaints were made about the witch, but change is rarely on any town official’s agenda. One lone volunteer would come a couple times a week to clean the cages, take pictures for flyers, and cry with the dogs.

A year later the witch died of liver cancer. Nobody mourned. The nepotism ended when the witch’s deranged adult son was deemed unfit to be the new dog warden. The kennels were closed and the pound moved off the property. The long-awaited interruption of this family’s reign brought the town one step closer to outlawing this vile tradition.

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Panicking Through My First Prompts

Stephanie at BeKindRewrite has initiated a weekly writing prompt post, Inspiration Monday. She provides the prompts, we write. I think prompts should be kind of weird or what’s the point?

Every word we write is prompted by something—research, experience, or imagination. In dictionary research, the entry or topic is the prompt, and our mission is clear.  But this is my first time using a prompt as a creative process. My world is all about facts—essays are easy. Stories are not.

Stephanie provided five prompts. I chose two and used them as titles:

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Our Last Kiss

Like I could ever forget. December 28, 2005, a couple days after a shitty Christmas and a few before a shitty New Year. I held him close. I was numb, out of tears, dazed. Who knew it would end this way—the love of my life, in my arms, kissing me goodbye. None of the bad things mattered—over the years they only endeared him to me more. His late nights out, lousy toilet habits, his rejections, the bloody lip he gave me one night as I was getting ready for a meeting. As with all the boys in my life, I forgave him everything because of the laughter and the lovin’.

The vet gave him two shots. The first to sedate him, and then the second, final needle. I watched his body grow still, and then cold. I had written a letter explaining how very much I loved him and always will. I left his collar and tag on and put him in a box with the letter. I wanted to make sure that wherever his travels took him, it’s understood we belong to each other forever. I buried him in the backyard in his favorite spot under the big pine.

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Leftover Humans

We skulk around the outskirts of the city and fend for ourselves. We live on garbage and scraps and a few hidden gardens. They know we’re around but we don’t let them see us. They’re probably going to hunt us down at some point. They’ve taken everything else from us, but we’ve taken something too.

We have fights about breeding but young are born. Zira is only a year old and already she’s 100 pounds and can run as fast as a car. She speaks in sentences and can count. We’re all changing, and they don’t know. We’re getting stronger, faster, smarter. We no longer have much need for clothing as thick wiry fur grows from once-smooth skin. If they saw us they might think we’re devolving, but I wouldn’t call it that.

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Learning Things the Weird Way

It’s impossible to keep a secret in cyberspace. Last summer I wrote a post called Bulls, Boobs, and Burkas Along the Border. The bulls and the boobs are real—both are a common sight here in Arizona where cattle are raised, the weather is hot, and the girls are lush and full of life. The burkas, however, I just mention because of my revulsion toward all things misogynistic (I get to do that).

But apparently men are fascinated by cultures who enforce keeping them boobs hidden under a shroud, never to be seen by anybody but your arranged husband. Every single day I get search engine hits for:

show big boobs in burqas

naked girls boobs in burkas

Pakistani boobs in burkhas

beautiful girl’s boobs burqhas

boobs in Iran in burkas

women’s boobs under burqas

and, the mysterious:

boobs on bulls (?????)

Under my search engine terms, the word “burka” is spelled every imaginable way. I could put a stop to this by changing the title of the post, but I don’t, in hope that maybe one of these boys will, after landing on my blog, actually read something.

Now that I’ve written this post, I’m certain to get many more hits from disappointed boys. Ha ha.

Existential Nausea

Rants

Most left unsaid. I’m usually disconsolate, but try to squeegee off deathwish before attempting dialogue—I am not anonymous and surly soliloquies are best spoken to myself. I never contemplated the downfall of western civilization so much until Facebook. Sharia law is evil.

Politics and Religion

I do not believe in God, but neither in atheist websites. Agreement is no good reason to suffer feral presentation. I’m liberal but flinch at the left, I’m conservative but recoil at the right. Read between the lies. Sick to death of arrogant manifestos and evangelical devotion to ideals that don’t work. They want approval, they get the opposite—I’m fully alienated. I still subscribe to several to keep the hate alive. Even longhaired town hippies disappoint in their conformity as they hiss “fascists!” rendering further discussion futile. (Criticism of chained dogs or piles of garbage in my neighborhood is forbidden.)

Blogging

Struggling to co-exist in same body with my rants without suppressing soul. I have strict policy against tracking unsharpened mud across comments sections. Bloggers who leave same generic message for all: “great post!!!!!” when finally overwhelmed with indifference, spring into action by unclicking “notify of follow-up comments.” If I become comatose, do not insufflate. Give me substance-syringe or pull plug. I thought blogging was about writing. If you don’t think your comment is worthy enough to check back on, use Facebook. If I spend 15 minutes writing a thoughtful comment and you don’t have the courtesy to respond at all, then disable your goddamn comments so the rest of us don’t waste our time.

Lists

Guilty of refusal to fatigue you with laborious lists (see Facebook). My prototype for lists would include such questions as, have you ever been in a torrid love triangle? Did you break someone’s heart? Does the sound of your partner’s breathing ever make you want to put a plastic bag over their head? Do you waste your time because you think you have to please people? Is your enthusiasm embellished? And they would be essay questions.

Tag Surfer

Kafkaesque. I seek enlightenment from the undeceived, the skeptic’s sweet talk, midlife confessions and observations on personal unrest. I avoid pregnancy chronicles, recipes (I’m safe around stoves), and new-age bloviation. Request the pleasure of your ennui-defying feats of sensuous sentences. Curses courted, regrets revealed, jealousies acknowledged. Passion without persecution, but rage required for honor killings, animal abuse, and blood of innocents. Questions: why why why. Discuss.

Helping Others

Not for love. Not for money. Not for fellowship or familiarity or fraternization. But Karma is a debit not credit Kard—penalty for exceeding withdrawals will drain account. My random acts are not of kindness as defined in the dictionary, but of hope receiver will be less angry. We are all obligated to contribute to the society which contains our sorry carcasses. To leave it better than we found it. I do it to live with myself, or there will be no life in me.

Bullying Comes of Age

I grew up with bullying. At a young age I learned to see it coming but was powerless to stop it. It came in particular from members of my own “family.” I put this in quotes because these people are no longer any relation to me in any way. Later I chose boys who bully girls. I thought that was the way it worked.

Over the years I learned that bullying is a lifestyle chosen by antisocial people with empty lives and too much time on their hands. No real friends, no enjoyment of the small things, no compassion.

Children and teenagers are most susceptible to bullying because they have little power to fight back. Many kids who are bullied do not report it because whether an adult believes you isn’t the issue—kids know the price of telling means life will get worse. Complain and your pet cat disappears. Later the bully taunts the victim with what they did to it. Many parents are clueless as to sibling bullying, or they may see a bullied child as “overly-sensitive.”

In the old days, bullying was done in person, on land lines, or by mail. Today’s technology makes it much easier. Witness the trolling and personal attacks on comments sections of political blogs. Party-line liberals and conservatives consistently use the words retard, fascist, imbecile, moron, paranoid, ignorant, subhuman, racist. I read comments to learn—but all I’ve learned is that there is precious little productive exchange of ideas. And, it’s really, really boring.

Both liberal and conservative blogs tend to be snide and sarcastic. Any questioning of their views results in a hard slap with fanatical rhetoric. They welcome your questions as an opportunity to unload more blah blah blah. Not once have I asked a question and received an answer that specifically addresses my question in a rational way. Just more fundamentalist bullshit, cut and paste from a numbered menu.

If you write about anything that is even slightly contentious, you are inviting trolls and bullies into your life. The stalkers who leave nasty comments have one thing in common—they desperately want to engage you in some dysfunctional mindgame, but they’ve already lost my attention long ago. I’m never mean to anybody because meanness begets meanness. If I’m mean to people how do I know they won’t go kick their dog? I want no part of this evil chain.

On WordPress, there is a “My Blacklist” option which I am now using. To enable, go to My Account, go to Settings (last icon down), and click on Discussion. Scroll down until you see “Comment Blacklist.” There is a space to type in the URL and IP address of the troll. You will never see or even know about another comment from them. Let them bring it on if it keeps them from kicking their dog or a family member. If they start e-mailing you personally, keep copies and report it to your internet provider and the police.

Hate Mail for Dummies

A while back I wrote a post that some readers found disputable and felt compelled to discharge a barrage of nasty comments—my official initiation into the world of public hate mail. It wasn’t my first experience with it, but it was the first on my own blog.

I appreciate passion—without it we’d still be living in the stone age. Passionate people create great art and literature and build cities and save lives. And even if they accomplish none of these great things, passionate people are at the heart of the small things that make a difference in the daily lives of creatures everywhere.

Which is why I want to hear from them. I don’t expect every reader to agree with me—blogging isn’t about accumulating a thousand “friends.” But even if you disagree so fervently that it causes you to feel abusive, there are still guidelines to observe in order to be taken seriously. These basic rules are stated on almost every comment section of online news sources, message boards, discussion groups, and chat rooms. A few simple golden rules that many people, obsessive about their own views, choose to completely ignore.

Some of the mail I received was unprintable, and caused me to switch to moderating all comments instead of only those I have not previously approved.

The comments were passionate, yes. But civil, tactful, or even coherent—no. The unmistakable outcome can only be the exact opposite of what the raging, sarcastic commenter wants me to embrace. I read a wide assortment of news and blogs every day (no TV) because it’s important to consider all sides and remain open to changing my mind. In fact, sometimes I want to be swayed—I’m just seeking good reasons why I should. But hostility is the last tactic on earth that’s going to magically transform anybody’s thinking.

How easy it would be to edit nasty comments and print them! Some came from bloggers who fancy themselves respectable. But once you catapult that condemnation into cyberspace, you no longer have control of it. I could take that comment, now fully in my possession, and twist it to make the sender appear to be a criminal, comically deranged, or a pervert. Or worse yet, I could make the commenter agree with me.

I don’t do those things because I believe you reap what you sow, and I want better than that. There is a time to attack. You attack to protect yourself or somebody you love from harm.

Reckless comments can plague a person forever. And if you truly believe in your passions, your aim should be to persuade me–with logic and reason–that you’re right and I’m wrong. Use your passion to influence, impress, seduce. It’s why presidents have speechwriters—so they don’t make jackasses out of themselves on videotape. Before you go public with your passion, consider the most effective way to convey your view. You might feel brief satisfaction after a furious offensive, but it’s a hollow victory because you haven’t accomplished a thing except to expose your own intolerance. And that’s not going to convince anybody.