Category Archives: Blog Entries

Friday, April 25th, 2014

It has been a productive couple of days, save for the writing and blogging. In an attempt to bolster foot traffic at the family business, I’ve joined a networking group to get the word out. I’ve not been officially sworn into the chapter, but I’ve already been asked if I’d like an officer’s position. That sounds promising.

In the literary world, I’ve recently started to gnaw on the concept of democratization in art culture. My introduction to the whole idea began by watching Andrew Keen’s interview in PressPausePlay. In it, he describes the proliferation of “art” we are experiencing as “global masturbation.” The digital age has brought about technology (e.g. Instagram, self-publication, Guitar Hero, etc.) that gives a false sense of artistic worth to any individual. It simplifies the craft and vetting process of art to where talent is lost in the hurly-burly of media. People in Keen’s position would tend to consider the fine arts an “elitist business.”

This is what’s known as art’s “meritocracy,” an idea in which individuals should be recognized for their achievements. I’m not going to wax philosophical about meritocracy, because it’s not bulletproof. Sometimes, there’s still an undervalued artist. Such was said about James Purdy, a once-Hooterville resident. On the other hand, how do we know the next Kubrick isn’t languishing somewhere in a sea of piano-playing cat videos? The answer is we don’t.

As I was digging through creative writing articles, I found an old letter to the editor of the New York Times dated 02.08.1981. In it, the writer explains the pitfalls of the NEA focusing on a racial group, rather than individuals. This is the  pre-Internet America version of meritocracy. This isn’t a new problem, just magnified and adapted for more modern times.

So, as I sit here creating my part in the chaos, I am left to wonder about my “work.” What do I have to say about this concern? It seems to me while the fine arts are truly better off an “elitist business,” we all have to start out as amateurs. Natural talent is welcome, but several people can be trained to be an artist if they stay dedicated to the cause. Yes, there are some people who cannot be helped, period, but we as “amateur artists” should not be discouraged so easily. What are our alternatives, really? We either create and claw with the tide, or die against it. There is no happy medium.

This all reminds me of a quote from Anaïs Nin:

If you do not breathe through writing, if you do not cry out in writing, or sing in writing, then don’t write, because our culture has no use for it.

My question to you is this: Are there any hallmarks of mediocrity? Would one know if they’re cut out as an artist after a certain period of time?

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Sunday, April 20, 2014

For most of Saturday, I was tapping away my thoughts about the digital age and the democratization of fine arts. I find it a very engaging topic, and wish to give it further study before I submit it to my blog. After a last-minute night of empty bars, I come home to a laptop and my thoughts… a dangerous situation indeed.

In a fit of tittering schoolboy, tabloid-esque humour, I decided to peruse the love advice columnist for the “perpetually single man.” Why would I do such a odd thing? That is me, you see, and with the aid of a finely etched, leaded crystal tumbler of Maker’s Mark I digest the salient point noted in more than one article:

Never-married men are questionable.

How lovely! It’s nice to have confirmation. At least you people aren’t telling me it’s all in my head, which is the gaslight programme of my foul, contemptible existence upon this absurd crust of rock. Thank you for being honest! It means the world to me.

It’s bad enough to deal with that “man of a certain age” poppycock, but to be faced with such acute judgment is just the thing I need to dismiss the human race in total. Out of my house! Out of my house! You confused my punch bowl for a bidet, and now it tastes like society. For shame. How many times have I wiped those cheeks without complaint?! Several, I tell you and I even used two-ply.

As I sit here in my home office, I’m left to contemplate my life and its owner-given meaning. What doesn’t sound so ridiculously unattainable right now? So, nothing. Not potential but rubbish thoughts for a rubbish life. Jessica, Shylock should dance to know my worth and your eyes.

With that in mind, ladies and gentlemen, I present to you Nate the Skate and his Butcher’s Block Orchestra’s anthem: Giuseppe Verdi’s “Anvil Chorus” from Il Trovatore

 

Chi del gitano i giorni abbella?

I ASK YOU!

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Tuesday, April 15th, 2014

thought I was in the clear when Sunday turned out to be 26° C (80° F). Alas, this morning I woke up to a pronounced layer of snow all over everything. This has been, by far, the worst winter in years. I need to move somewhere warmer.

Not much has been brewing since I published “Dusk,” which I found to be entertaining. I’ve been reading Ezra Pound’s “Homage to Sextus Propertius” and “Hugh Selwyn Mauberly.” Apparently, the two are meant to be fitted side-by-side and is done so in Diptych Rome-London. These poems are a bit much for the casual reader, as “Homage” includes a lot of lesser known historical figures such as Sextus Propertius and “Mauberly” uses a ton of imagery. That’s not surprising, as Pound was the developer of Imagism.

There is a very moving section, as noted in the introduction of the book, where Pound strikes hard at the cost of world war.

There died a myriad,

And of the best, among them,

For an old bitch gone in the teeth,

For a botched civilization…

– (“E. P. Ode Pour L’Election de Son Sepulchre, V”, 1-4)

This really puzzles me, as he aided and abetted the Axis powers in the Second World War. One would think he’d remember what it felt like to go through it the first time. Even though I’ve gone through the poems once, I’ll have to read them a few more times to really “get it.” As of right now, I only consider this an “experience” of Pound.

 

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Thursday, April 10th, 2014

I finished reading A Man Without a Country by Kurt Vonnegut a couple of days ago and found it a little disappointing. The book felt like Kurt dropped a box of post-it notes at my feet and said “well, I’m out to lunch.” Being the observant reader, I was able to take home a few nuggets of value away from the text though. First and foremost is his quote about the arts. This has been circling social media outlets for some time but I enjoy repeating it.

If you really want to hurt your parents, and you don’t have the nerve to be gay, the least you can do is go into the arts. I’m not kidding [his way of making sure the reader knows he’s not being sarcastic from earlier in the book]. The arts are not a way of making a living. They are a very human way of making life more bearable. Practicing an art, no matter how well or badly, is a way to make your soul grow, for heaven’s sake. Sing in the shower. Dance to the radio. Tell stories. Write a poem to a friend, even a lousy poem. Do it as well as you possibly can. You will get an enormous reward. You will have created something.  (p. 24, Random House Trade Paperbacks, New York)

How can I argue with that? It dovetails into my quote from watching Press.Pause.Play. The arts aren’t about money, anyway. Really. Sure, we’d all like to roll around on a bed full of money a la Demi Moore in Indecent Proposal, but how many of us will really cash in on that? How many of us have the real support of the people around us and others who know how to make stuff happen for writers, actors, comedians, etc.? We can’t all be professional writers. We all can’t be baseball players. We all can’t be Hollywood-types.

There’s just too many of us, and some of us have friends in very high places. It’s a game to some, but not me. It’s only a game when you make it about money. At this point in my minute existence, all I want is to leave something behind much like a slug that leaves a trail over a sidewalk. You may get the same sense of discomfort or disgust while reading my work, too. Good on you.

The current book I’m reading is Unleashing the Ideavirus by Seth Godin, and he would say it’s not a matter of technical ability or money. To him, it’s a matter of creating an idea to circulate material to as many people as possible. This kinetic, wide-eyed thinking is the amusement I miss in my economics classes back in the day. It totally misses the point, the one I just told you in the last paragraph. This is not to be confused with an “it’ll sell itself” attitude, because that’s not what’s being discussed.

Vonnegut also spoke of how he was regarded at English departments. “Critics feel,” he writes, “that a person cannot be a serious artist and also have a technical education, which I had.” (p.15) This is very meaningful to me, as I’ve found myself in the same boat. What I have to ask myself is “do I want to be recognized as a ‘serious artist’?” It’s a legit question, and I suppose I couldn’t say at this point. Maybe if I were younger I’d be gung-ho about the idea. Now, I’m not so sure.

At any rate, I’m still here. I’m still breathing, writing, and working. Maybe someday I can look back and laugh at this? I certainly hope so, because it’s pretty damned depressing.

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Sunday, April 6th, 2014

Hoo, boy! My head’s spinning. I’ve spent the morning finishing Mother Night by Kurt Vonnegut and it is easily my favorite work of his. Simply tragic and beautiful and gave me the rare occasion to laugh in public while reading. I’ve resolved to read A Man Without a Country as soon as I possibly can, but there’s work to be done.

It’s 10° C (50° F) here in the Fields today, and the sun is shining! It feels like a heatwave. This is also an opportunity I shouldn’t squander. There’s yard work for a lawn waking from its slumber. There are a few items for the business to wrap up before tomorrow, and a flash fiction piece I’m worrying to death because it’s so unlike what I normally write but I want to finish it anyway.

Yes, that’s why I haven’t posted in a few days. I’m fussing over a piece of writing that isn’t what I’m known for. The whole piece started out benignly enough, but took a wrong turn and ended up in the bad part of town. The NSFW district. Part of me appreciates the break away from my traditional guidelines, while the other berates me for penning two-bit erotica fit only for a smutty romance novel. I need to revise. I need to reshape it to my original focus, but I desperately want to broach the field and still have some form of artistic value.

Aside from this, my weekend has been exceptionally noteworthy. There was an international night at the local university, and I was pleasantly surprised by friends during my weekend pilgrimage to a college town north of here. I made the acquaintance of an acquaintance last night who is starting to date said acquaintance. Poor girl. I felt sorry for her, as her new beau really (and I mean REALLY) needs to step up his game with her. As little as I know on how to court women, he’s even further behind. I wanted to shake him a couple of times and say, “pay attention to your lady! Make her feel like the VIP of the bar!” He didn’t ignore her on purpose. He’s simply ignorant of the dos and don’ts of dating. We’ll see how long this lasts.

Unfortunately, that’s all the time I have to journal right now. I’ve got a lawn to clean up. Happy Sunday to you all!

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Sunday, March 30th, 2014

I’ve recently returned from a bar having finished H.G. Wells’s science fiction classic The War of the Worlds. This did not disappoint! What it possessed in outdated technology, it captured in basic human nature. Even more appreciative was I at the fact it didn’t have Tom Cruise as the main protagonist. Gone are the days of the plucky naval pilot. They will be missed.

There have been prior attempts to bring the story into then modern forms of media, such as Orson Welles’s 1938 radio broadcast and the 1953 film directed by Byron Haskin. I’ve only watched pieces of the Haskin film. So, I don’t feel fit to provide a worthwhile evaluation of it. Orson is rather maniacal in his work, but I will give him the benefit of the doubt and suggest his enthusiasm here is due to fandom, not his sizable ego.

For all serendipity’s worth, it also fit neatly into a little dilemma I had over the weekend. Apparently there has been a demand for writers to minimize the use of adverbs in their writing. The premise is to “show” the reader the story rather than “telling” them outright.  This is all presented as if it were a piece of toilet paper stuck to the heel of my boot. Being a novice writer I will readily admit I’ve used such devices in my work.

At first, I felt incredulous over the idea critics would pan material simply for the use of some innocent part of speech. It seemed quite petty, and the rule-makers of language are often trying to find ways to look down upon the common users. They are the hipsters of the literary world. I’d like to corral them with the same people who get bent out of shape over Comic Sans.

After I calmed down, I tried the old “constructive criticism” approach and took everything in with an open mind. “Sure,” I thought, “if people feel they see a more vivid picture without them, I suppose it’s worth the energy.” I carried this thought on through most of the past two days. As a writer, you are trying to communicate to an audience. The better the communicative techniques, the more well-received it will be.

This leads me to Wells. As I have discovered, The War of the Worlds has plenty of adverbs. I’m almost certain he could have re-written a “better” sentence several times. If this book was so besotted with criminal text, how could it have lasted this long? Could it be that if a story is compelling enough, the number of times a writer adds an “-ly” word to modify a verb or adjective doesn’t matter? Oh yeah.

My current position is this: don’t sacrifice your work for the sake of style issues. If you can make a better sentence, then by all means do but don’t get hung up over it. Are we to tell the H.G. Wells of the world their story isn’t good enough because there are too many adverbs? I don’t think so.

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Thursday, March 27th, 2014

As stated in my last post, I have purchased a new set of work boots in hopes the quality will last me a few years. These Red Wing shoes were styled after those used for working in the mines of the Mesabi Iron Range in Minnesota. Does that mean much to a guy in Ohio? No, not really. I liked the design. Had the Farmer’s boot come without white soles, I would have bought those. Go figure.

It seems the Mesabi Range has had a bit of a troubled past. It’s the largest iron ore deposit in the world, yet mostly filled with taconite. This is the lesser quality ore that only rose to prominence because the better ore (hematite) was exhausted. Even at that, the demand for ore had declined in the mid-20th century. It seems Chinese buyers have taken a recent interest in the mineral, but the region should know by now not to hang their hopes upon one hook in the closet.

Many miners were laid off in the mid to late 1900s. They stewed in unemployed and drank like a fish. I know those feels. Regional native Bob Dylan mentioned the problem in “North Country Blues” off of The Times They Are A-Changin’ album.

So the mining gates locked and the red iron rotted

And the room smelled heavy from drinking

When the sad, silent song made the hour twice as long

As I waited for the sun to go sinking

If it wasn’t the lack of job opportunities, it was the conduct of the miners that gave the area headaches. Generally speaking, Lois E. Jenson v. Eveleth Taconite Co. was a class-action lawsuit against EVTAC (a mining company) for not preventing the sexual harassment of sixteen female employees. The case bounced around the court system in the 80s and 90s until it was settled for $3.5 million. Flat out, it’s not surprising. Know-it-all government officials and disingenuous human resource departments will throw out the “training” card as a solution. Mea culpas and whatnot.

Coming from a guy that has been in a blue-collar environment before, guys who do that know what they’re doing. There is no ignorance that would be miraculously erased through a training video. No. They know their life’s at the bottom of the societal totem pole. Throwing them in jail or fining them money they don’t have isn’t going to frighten them.

Power is a very dangerous concept. I’m willing to liken it to precious metals or stones. There are many people out there who would do very underhanded things for power as they would wealth. For the American stooge, pushing around a woman is a cheap attempt to fill that emptiness inside, that lack of importance.

On the other hand, I’ve seen workplace seduction that ended up in a lasting marriage. This world is mad.

 

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Tuesday, March 25th, 2014

I’ve done well, I think, in the past week by providing more material to read. This is decidedly because I’ve worked on Reddit writing prompts for eight days now. Do I always end up with something that fits the prompt? No. Yesterday’s story went far off into left field, but so what? So what if I use prompts in general? An art class can look at the same still life and come up with no two pictures exactly alike. I’ve been there.

I’ll have you know I scared off two groups of three people at a bar while writing that last piece. It was so much fun to get into the flow, I get all sorts of “weird” and make “odd” faces. There’s nothing more than that, but others don’t want to be around people like me let alone say anything. I’m sure this is one reason I haven’t met anyone yet. Maybe it’s the population around here? Maybe it’s just better I stay single and die young? I’ll be sure to buy a part from James Dean’s car.

Regardless, what is important in all of this is that I haven’t stopped. The engines have not been cut and I haven’t drifted for too long. The longer one drifts, the easier it is to give up. I don’t want to give up. When I find a second job, I don’t want to give up. After battling depression, I don’t want to give up. Why? Because it’s something to hold on to. Right now, it’s the only thing I’m holding on to.

On a different note, there’s nothing inside of me that desires a “Freshly Pressed” logo on my blog. I’ve determined this as my phone decided to thrust the front page in my face Sunday. Why? That’s not an easy questions to answer, but it can be done. An easy take is that I’m not looking to compete with others. That makes life in America a tad more difficult as there’s always the Ayn Rand jerk off that thinks they’re allowed to step on you. No, you’re not. Not now; not ever.

Other reasons aren’t so clear cut. In a way, I’ve despised trophies in the past. Maybe it’s because acceptance speeches aren’t my gig, but there seems something else to it. That’s not my reward. My reward isn’t that tangible. Notoriety is one thing, but I’m not looking for a gold star to show off to others. Would a best-selling publication be awesome? Sure! However, I’ve lived life long enough to know there’s a plethora of interference between me and that success.

Accessibility seems to be part of that problem from time to time. Often do I get the whole “I don’t get it” routine from the public. That’s not saying everyone doesn’t get it, or that sometimes I don’t get others but people do miss the more subtle things I put into my writing. Maybe I’m wrong and they just don’t care, but that’s not what I’m picking up from of them.

Speaking of stepping, I’ve decided to acquire some new work boots as my Sketchers decided to fall apart after a year. These boots were expensive, but if I polish and oil them they should last a long time. That’s what I’m counting on, at least. Boy will I be upset if they get ruined.

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Saturday, March 22nd, 2014

It’s nine o’clock on a Saturday. Well, it’ll be later than that when you read this post. I seem to have ground a little too hard on the last story and find myself in a fog today. Certainly things like the laundry got done, but nothing creative. I feel like a lout when that happens. To be in the flow of writing is such a wonderful experience. It’s direction in an otherwise listless existence. There’s even a writer’s prompt I’m halfway interest in. It seems as though I’ve not the energy to answer it right yet.

I love Saturday night. It’s a night I like to be out of the house. Unfortunately, I’m trying to figure out if it’s worth spending the money to sit at a bar and pay $5.00 plus tip for a Fat Tire. Now before I hear “that’s cheaper than (location)” I’ll remind you they pay us less in the Fields. It’s a wash. I suppose I could hit the $2.00 Bud Light specials… no, I’ll go without before I go Bud Light.

The additional work is still in the searching phase. It seems if I don’t have a Commercial Driver’s License (re: trucking) or manufacturing experience, I’m out of luck right now. There is an ad for an exotic dancer. I’m sure they’re talking about females. Even if they weren’t, I’m not exactly dancing material. I even hate doing the hokey pokey.

One thing that cutting back has helped me with is cooking at home. Granted most people would get tired of baked chicken, but its time delay lets me do other things around the house. Normally, I’m the type to focus on what I’m doing with little distraction but manual work’s always multitasking. Funny how that works.

My mind’s getting to me. Where did I put my car keys?

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Friday, March 14th, 2014

These past few days have been very reflective, and not much has been said on here. I know I excitedly discussed the options I had over the last weekend, but Sunday brought a certain withdrawal of such claims. There is a lot to be said about The Jungle by Upton Sinclair, and I’m not entirely sure it could be done justice with a blog post. To say that Americans are in a better position financially now than 100 years ago is truthful. A person of my station at that time would not be able to afford a house or possessions without the use of graft or other crime. On the flip side of the coin, there has been a deep sacrifice in family to procure such things today. Sacrifice. Something tossed about these days, as if it were a foreign war. As it stands right now, I am staring down the barrel of acquiring a second job. It’s nothing new for a guy like me, as I have been there before, but it does make me wonder if others aren’t fully recognizing the damage done to this country. This is the point in my life that I fully understand the honest man isn’t the common man. The honest man is the uncommon man, which is only paid lip service by those who “know better.”

Naïve? Yes. I will not argue the naïveté of such. What should it matter, at this point, to anyone anyway? Being frank is a part of who I am. Should anyone hold it against me that I try to make it work? It was that hope which made this all naïve.

There are brighter notes to this, and I’m willing to move on to them. Tuesday night brought me an acquaintance for a chat. He learnt I wrote, and was very enthusiastic about the idea. He’s a potter, painter, and teacher. In the middle of discussing motivation and inspiration, he recommended the documentary PressPausePlay. Having a deep respect for Eliseo, I watched it the following afternoon piecemeal between projects. They key for this particular movie is to take it all in without expressing an opinion until afterward. It touches on many aspects of what the artist has to grapple today.

My take had multiple thoughts, but initially there was only one. It takes time for me to sit and think for the rest to come to light. Regardless, I wrote a note to myself which eventually found its way to my home office wall. It reads:

Nate,

You cannot spend your life worrying about the ends. The only true end is death. It’s the process of making [creating] that means more than death.”

I found something personally useful this week,  and with a bit of spirit, I won’t forget it.

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