Friday, June 27, 2014

der Bankdrückers

If the scheduling feature of Blogger works, you’ll be reading this while I’m at the “No Girls Allowed Campout.”  You may recall my experience from last year.  You may not.  I certainly do, and so do my boys.  We’re looking forward to it.

Athos, Porthos, and Aramis

In honor of the NGAC, I’d like to look at the movie Benchwarmers today.  If nothing else, it proves that if  you’re friends with Adam Sandler, you can have your movie made.  Netflix suggested 2 stars for us and ordinarily that would be true, but this “film” had a lot more going for it than you might think.

First off, the title tells you exactly what you are going to see.  It’s a sports movie about underdogs/nerds/geeks getting the best of the dumb jocks.  The only question is which sport – until you see the poster.  There is absolutely no need for a logline.  But if you read the logline, you know the entire story.

The theme of Benchwarmers is that bullying is wrong.  As a parent I can totally support that message and it’s at the heart of some great films – like The Karate Kid and Schindler’s List.  Then there’s the fact that about 25 baseball games got compressed into less time than it usually takes to watch one (and it had upbeat music) so it’s kind of like watching a highlights reel.

The characters in this film are the same ones we’ve seen in every geek revenge story ever, there is no surprise arc or deep development.  The purpose of everyone is to make us laugh in the simplest way possible – farting in faces, spitting in faces, putting bugs in faces, atomic wedgies, and spoofing agoraphobia.  Oddly, in this movie it worked.  You need to think “kids movie where half of the kid’s roles are played by adults.”  Unless, of course, you don’t think that Rob Schneider and David Spade are adults…

We ended up enjoying the movie and probably because #3 and #4 were laughing so hard we sort of got infected by it.  It’s not Major League but it doesn’t pretend to be and that’s what makes it work.  Everything is right out there in front of you.  The dialogue is terrible, there are no actual challenges for the characters to overcome (or arc – nobody changes at all), and the story is about as dense as a cheeseball.  Yet despite that, it’s the first David Spade film I’ve actually thought he was funny in.

But there were problems, despite the “fun” attitude and positive theme.  The biggest thing for me was when Gus lies to his wife.  It came out of nowhere and served absolutely no purpose in the story.  The “pay-off scene” was a robot editing newspapers – not much of a laugh – which meant that there was no consequence to his action.  “Hey, Kids.  Bullying is wrong, but it’s okay to lie to people when you feel like it.”

The second thing was how women were portrayed.  With films like Hunger Games and Divergent and Frozen topping the weekend box offices, it wasn’t surprising that my daughter had no interest in this movie.  There were only 2 female characters and neither was written with any depth.  In fact, all they did was gush over their man and worry about biological clocks.  There’s a series of scenes with kids playing the part of sports commentators and one of them is a girl but she didn’t say a word.  Not one.  That’s inexcusable.  It’s not how the world is.  I’m not saying that the movie would have been better, but it would have been more interesting.

Do I recommend it?  If you’re a boy between the ages of 8 and 15 you’ll like it.  Beyond that?  Depends how well you relate to boys that age.  I laughed out loud a dozen times.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

61 Seconds is All it Takes

I’m going to let you in on a little secret.  Ready?  Maybe you should look behind you, you know, over your shoulder so that Mary in accounting won’t learn the secret too.  And you might want to switch from your phone to your desktop computer because phones aren’t very secure.  Actually, you should probably go down to the library where the computers are all still networked by plugging into the wall since wifi is notoriously unprotected – one could even say infectious.

Sure, I know what you’re thinking.  “Get on with it, man.” or “Stop stalling.”  Hold on to those thoughts for after the big reveal.  Here it is:

The answer is obvious.

See?  Huge shocker.  Nobody thinks that’s the answer.  They think you have to eat a certain way or do a weird exercise or write/sing/run on your head at a specific time of day for so many heartbeats.  But that isn’t true.  You want to get something done?  You gotta start and then you gotta put in the heartbeats.

Look, for a moment, at exhibit A – an 1800 mile road trip with two small children.  That is a big undertaking.  When you are on the road it feels like it is taking forever.  Especially when you’re diving over the causeway in Jacksonville and the traffic is so bad you finish all of Lion King before you’re over it.  In fact, things are so bad that one of the kids is threatened with being left on the causeway if he doesn’t just STOP and he starts undoing the car seat so he can get out.

But the kid doesn’t get left on the causeway and the traffic breaks free and after covering the miles the trip is over, as insurmountable as it seemed at first.  It really was that simple.  It was about driving one mile at a time.

Want another example?  Think of words as seconds.  There are 86,400 seconds in a day.  You need 86,400 words for a novel.  As I sit on the train writing this, my dinner is a lot of seconds away but I know it’s coming because no matter what I do, those seconds are ticking away and I will get there.  Sure, a minute isn’t very long, but that’s 60 more seconds under the bridge.  A few more of those and I’ll have an hour.  A whole hour!  If you only write 300 words a day, you’ll still be 300 words closer.

I know, they aren’t the right 300 words but hey, think back over the last 5 minutes.  Were they the right 5 minutes?  Okay, you’re reading the blog so yes.  But think about the 5 minutes before that.  When you were on Facebook.  Some of that time wasn’t wasted.

Remember what you told me at the beginning?  I’m going to say it back to you now.  “Get on with it.”

Monday, June 23, 2014

It's Better This Way

Had a couple of funny things happen over the weekend.  The one that will probably find its way into a story someday involved a young boy, an electric fence, and a forehead.

It’s Better This Way
by Jon Stark
June, 2014; 475 words

The rain seems cliché.  I have time to think about that.  I think about the time I was riding in the middle of the cab of the box truck with Fat Joe driving and Bob on the other side of me.  We were crammed in there, like we were every day all summer that summer, and Fat Joe was his usual awful driving self and I was sure we were going to die and we crested the hill on Leary Farm Road that I used to hop with my motorcycle and the whole truck sort of shook when we landed.

Like it always did when Fat Joe was driving but today there was also a tractor with two hay wagons loaded down and it was sort of in the middle but more on our side of the road and Fat Joe panicked and we had three wheels in the soft gravel and then two of them in the ditch and the whole box truck was leaning over so far that I knew we were going to capsize but then the box caught on an apple tree and bounced us back on the road and Fat Joe said, “Oh, yeah!” and Bob said something else and I just shook my head.  Babies and Fools.  And there I was, stuck in the middle.

I’m not on the side of Leary Farm Road now and I can’t blame Fat Joe for sitting in a capsized truck.  This was my fault.  The rain keeps splashing off the dashboard and hitting me in the face.  It’s annoying.  I remember an early summer afternoon rowing around the pond up at Feldman’s.  It was somebody’s birthday, I think, but I don’t remember cake, I was rowing with Tara and didn’t want it to end.  She splashed me too but it wasn’t annoying.

I think I can see part of my leg.  Or maybe that’s the kid I hit.  I’m not sure.  I can’t turn my head.  I can’t move my arms either.  I think about being paralyzed and how that might change things.  I wonder about my leg – it has to be mine, I recognize the shoe – and if they give fake legs to people who are paralyzed.  It would be bad enough to have everyone stare at me for driving my chair around with my teeth.  The least they could do is give me a fake leg.

But I’m just wasting time.  I won’t need a fake leg.  Or one of those chairs.  I’m glad I’m paralyzed and can’t feel anything.  Maybe that makes me a coward, I don’t know, but I’m glad anyway.  I’m also glad that I never had a family.  They’d be sad now.  I think about the pond and Tara and for the first time in my life I am free of regret.

It’s better this way.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Home Sweet Home

Wow, so I totally forgot that I changed the schedule and was working on a short story for most of the ride.  I was getting frustrated with it because it was taking too long to get to the parts that I saw in my head and I was making too much of the stories for the blog because now I’m not writing flash as much as actual stories and suddenly realized today is supposed to be “Tales From the Script.”

I saw “Sweet Home, Alabama” when it first came out on video.  I have not watched it since.  It was okay.  I didn’t understand why everyone thought it was so great.  I didn’t live in the South then.  It’s a funny movie.  But more to the point here, it was a well written movie.

There were lots of pay offs and setbacks which moved the plot along, the characters had interesting arcs and while there was absolutely nothing at all surprising about how things turned out, getting there was generally creative and if we were surprised, there’d be a big complaint about lack of consistency.

One thing that really struck me about the film though, other than some clever lines, was how much more I respected how the story was told rather than the story itself.  I kept saying, “I like how they worked that in,” or “That’s a good touch,” or “Nice setback.”

I don’t think that’s necessarily bad, but it makes me wonder if the reason I didn’t think it was all that in the first place was because the story wasn’t that strong or if the reason I liked it now was that I can appreciate the skill in telling a story even when the story itself doesn’t appeal to me personally.

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Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Put me in, Coach.

We had the end of the season little league picnic/whiffle ball tournament last night.  It was hot and sunny (except our coach snagged a pavilion in the shade – yeah! coach).  The Papa John’s guy delivered pizza to the park.  That was a nice touch and reminded me of October, 2001 when I was traveling with a friend and we had pizza delivered to the train station.  Talk about people getting jealous…

The head coach of the team this year was a woman named Anne.  (I actually don’t know if she uses the ‘e’ but Anne Shirley taught me that, when in doubt, it’s best to use it.)  She had a staff of four assistant coaches and wonderful things to say about them.  I agreed.  It was a great experience for my son and they all impressed me with their attitudes and how they treated the kids.

Then one of the assistants started talking about Anne.  About how the league made an extra team (ours) without having a coach.  It didn’t look good for a week or so and then Anne stepped up.  She said, “I don’t know anything about coaching baseball, but somebody has to do this or we won’t have a team.”

Let me just say that she absolutely knows how to coach baseball, she just didn’t realize it.

The assistant went on to say that once she took on the job it was easy for the rest of them to agree to help out.  They did an amazing job for her.  So did the kids.  There was real leadership there accompanied by the desire of everyone on her team – coaches and players – to do their absolute best.  Even when it came to our end of season party, the parents really stepped up.  All of them.  You should have seen the cupcakes!!!!

So why was she so successful in getting people to follow her?  Part of it was that she willingly took the job that nobody else wanted and never once complained about it.  There wasn’t anything she wasn’t willing to do and it made it easy for someone else to say, “I’ve got this, you have other things to do.”  It was honest humility.  She was also very approachable.  The kids liked her and if anyone had a question she was ready with an answer or promise to get the answer.

But there’s more to it than that.  She’d have been successful even if she’d started out as the head coach.  Anne had a plan.  Right from the very beginning.  It was a plan centered on teaching kids to play ball and letting them find their strengths.  It focused on enjoying the season and playing with heart.  It made the kids want to do well and love the game.

People would ask me what position my son played and I would say, “1st, 2nd, short stop, pitcher, and catcher.  And one game he covered left field.”  During any given game he’d play in three or four different places.  Did he have a favorite?  Sure.  Did he ever complain when he was doing something else?  Well, yes, a little, but not seriously.  And it never changed his hustle.

During the play-offs she built a more aggressive lineup and they kicked butt until their pitchers met the league maximum for innings pitched in a week and forced us to play some “2nd stringers” but nobody was too upset.  They played their hearts out because they wanted to – for themselves, for each other, and for the love of the game.

I don’t know anything about coaching (or baseball or basketball) but I felt like I’d missed a great opportunity with that team.  A chance to be part of something great and to grow as a man and father.  That’s good leadership.

Monday, June 16, 2014

One Rung at a Time

I went to a graduation Saturday morning.  Saturday afternoon we went out for dinner.  On the way home we saw a hitchhiker.  The graduate suggested that we should give him a ride.  I said we didn’t have any room – which was true.  The graduate said that the hitchhiker might be an angel and we’re supposed to show hospitality.  I repeated that there was no room and this time the graduate acknowledged the fact.  Then the graduate’s mother pointed out that hitchhiking is illegal so it’s doubtful that an angel would be doing it.  Then the graduate wondered what would happen if you picked up a hitchhiker, made a citizen’s arrest, and dropped him off at that jail.

Who thinks like that?

One Rung at a Time
by Jon Stark; June, 2014

Will really wanted to be a G-man.  FBI all the way.  He could taste it, some days, getting caught in his teeth like corn silk.  He’d work his tongue at it until somebody said, “Hey, Will.  Where are you?”  Then he’d come back to the present, wipe off his hands, and get to work.  There were stages and he’d have to earn his way.

The way he saw it, if you wanted to be a G-man you had to be cop first and the best way to do that was to get a job at the jail.  But they weren’t hiring green horns so he needed some security experience – maybe Spectaguard, or Pinkerton if he was really lucky and aced the interview.  Of course none of the guard companies were interested in someone until they had bounty hunter experience which meant that Will had to lock up a few bandits.  He didn’t know much about it, other than what he saw on TV, but he’d responded to an advertisement on Greg’s List and was now the padawan of one Dwight J. Schmoot.

The first lesson had been to watch “The Phantom Menace” since he’d mistakenly asked Mr. Schmoot what a padawan was.  There were worse ways to spend a day – like watching the third movie in that series, a film so bad I can’t even remember what it was called.

Will actually did well in his studies and soon Dwight had him out working the streets, trolling for bandits and protecting freedom and democracy as a volunteer sheriff’s deputy’s assistant.

But Will was hungry.  He needed “a grab” and the pickens were slim in West Boonieland.  He dozed off, imagining that he and Special Agent Mulder were hot on the trail of agent Scully’s abductors.  A car horn woke him and he swerved violently to avoid colliding with the Mayor’s caddy.  He fishtailed through the truck pull-off sending gravel and retreads into McGee’s field, and rocked to a stop inches from the sign pointing to Farmville, just 13 miles away.

A man stood leaning against the sign post.  When the dust settled he coughed once, looked at Will through the dusty windscreen, and stuck out his thumb.

Will rubbed his eyes.  It looked like a hitchhiker.  He ran the wipers and squirted the last of his washer fluid (he didn’t realize that that, though).  The dust smeared but he could see a little better.  It was a hitchhiker.  He ran the wipers again and discovered he was out of fluid.  The windshield got really bad so he climbed out and looked at the man.

Sure enough, there was a real, live hitchhiker.  He had an army surplus back pack, a nasty sleeping bag, and smelled like Mrs. Tibertson’s garage.  Will wanted to ask if he needed a ride but was worried about entrapment. Sure, the man had stuck out his thumb and that would be enough for Judge Howard, but Judge Wood was a bit liberal with his interpretation.  “What do you need?” asked Will.

“Looking for a lift into Farmville.”  said the hitcher.  “You’re pretty good behind the wheel, it’s be an honor to ride with you.”

Will thought he had him, right up until the last.  Would that be enough for him to beat the rap?  “So you’re asking me to give you a ride to Farmville?”

The man nodded.  “That’s right.”

“But you don’t know me.”

“Sure I do, you’re Will.  The guy working with Schmoot.” said the hitcher.  He held out his hand.  “I’m Jake.”

Will wasn’t a lawyer but he was pretty sure that now hitching was out.  The man seemed to know him and being strangers was one of the elements of the crime.  “I don’t think we’ve ever met.”

“That’s true and it would be fair to say that a reasonable person would not consider us acquaintances for the purpose of determining whether or you’d give me a ride.” said the hitcher.  Will smiled.  That was almost textbook.

“Well hop in then, Stranger.”  Will didn’t care for the odor, but he was excited.  This wasn’t getting someone after they committed a crime, it was actually interrupting it and saving some innocent bystander.

He pulled into the police station.  “Hey.” said Jake.  “This isn’t Farmville.”

“That’s right.” said Will.  “It’s the police station and you’re under arrest.”

“For what?”

“I ask the questions here.” said Will.  “Will you get out of the car, please?”

They two men walked in to the station.  Jake protested quite loudly that this was totally unfair.  Dewey was at the desk and rolled his eyes when Will came in.  “What is going on?”

“Here’s one for the tank, Dewey.” said Will.

Dewey ignored Will.  “What’d you do?”

“Nothing.” said Jake.  “I was out by the truck pull off and Maverick here came sliding through.  We started talking and I asked for a lift into Farmville.”

“See!?” shouted Will.  “From his own mouth!”

Dewey looked at him, waiting for the rest.

Will continued.  “Hitchhiking!  He just admitted to you that he was hitching.”

Dewey nodded, gravely.  “Thank you, Will.  I’ve got it from here.”

“Do you need me to help with the processing?  I don’t want to be rude.”

“That’s okay.” said Dewey.  “I’m good.  You better get back out there.  I heard that Phil was driving his tractor on Highway 47 without a slow moving vehicle sign displayed.

Will couldn’t help it.  One of those things that just sort of happens.  He saluted and gave a crisp, “Yes, Sir.”  Which would have been okay if it weren’t for the hug.

Friday, June 13, 2014

One liners are funnier in The Middle of a scene

I drive by a high school to get to the train station.  Today there was nobody there because, except for Graduation on Saturday, school’s done.  But check this out.  With no high school, there was no traffic.  As in none.  As in even though I still hit every light there weren’t any cars in front of me.

There was even an accident in the middle of the road that I had to get around and I wasn’t even close to late.  Wow.

Which brings me to timing.  Sometimes things just work out.  Other times you need to plan.  It’s as true in writing as it is for the commute.  Case in point, a scene from the TV show, “The Middle.”

I love that show.  It’s very clever and they write well.  I am often surprised but it’s easy to backtrack and figure out how they got there.  Wonderful learning experience.

In this particular scene, the oldest boy, Axel, delivers the line, “Some people just mature faster.”  It’s got comedic potential, but isn’t huge.  The actor’s delivery helps, naturally, but the scene has to work and here a whole lot of things came together.  For two seasons Axel has been set up as wandering around the house in nothing but socks and boxer shorts.  He also is known to drink directly from the carton – any carton.  And he has a way of speaking that has been built over dozens of episodes – kind of over the top unless you actually have lived with a teenager and realize that, no, it isn’t over the top.

So all of the classic elements of his character are in place – standing in front of the fridge (holding the door open) in boxers with a jug of milk in one hand and jug of juice in the other.  But then there’s this new thing just for the one episode, he’s trying to grow a beard and it looks terrible.  So terrible that he’s failing miserably.  Of course he doesn’t realize how awful it is.  But it’s all we can think about when he turns to face the camera with his smug little smile covered by a mascara enhanced cookie duster and delivers his line.  “Some people just mature faster.”

That’s funny stuff BUT they weren’t done yet.  The juice spills when he takes a drink and runs down his stomach.  Captain Oblivious and hysterically funny.  It isn’t nearly as funny without all the pieces.  That’s planning.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Isn't it better to take care of your own lawn?

#4 had a baseball game last night.  They are in the end of the season playoffs and the games are very exciting.  I wanted to see at least part of it so I took an earlier train.  Which is to say I left my office a bit early with plans to take the earlier train.

Things didn’t work out.  The earlier train arrived 10 minutes after my later train usually does.  It was very full and they didn’t take everyone waiting.  Over the next hour five trains went by and only 2 stopped.  I took the 2nd one (the first that stopped wasn’t going my way).  When all was said and done I arrived home more than three and half hours after I left my office.

That may sound like a complaint and I’d be lying to you if I said I wasn’t a bit frustrated by the experience at the time, but it really wasn’t that bad.  I’ve sat for that long in a car trying to make the same trip.  I’ve spent the night on a park bench because there had been an explosion in my hotel.  I had a family member who spent three days hiding in a wood pile literally surrounded by German troops during the Battle of the Bulge.

It’s all about perspective.  I’m not a bestselling author.  “What’s the hold up?” I want to know.  “I’ve been at this for a year now.”  You should laugh at me.  But that’s the ego that will get me there someday.  This isn’t about if, it’s about when.  It’s about showing up.

#3 just finished reading, “The False Prince” and he said that, “It’s the best book I’ve ever read.”  Then he said, “When I finished it I was going to tell you to write the movie, Dad, but Mom and looked on line before you got home and someone else is already working on it.”

My daughter told me Sunday night that what I should do is publish my movie as a novel so that someone would make it, “You know, like Divergent and Hunger Games.”  That’s a great plan.  I had to explain how getting a novel published works.  “Okay.” she said.  “What’s taking you so long?”

Indeed.  I have the faith of my family and friends.  And I really do have the write perspective.

Oh, and I got the t-shirt.  Thank you.

Monday, June 9, 2014

It's Too Bright

This week is the start of the new schedule.  Mondays will now be short fiction, Wednesdays are for a bit of inspiration or interesting site out in the world, and Fridays I’ll look at film or television.  If you don’t want to have to remember all of that, subscribe to the email feed at the bottom of this page and you’ll get each post delivered to your inbox automatically the day after it goes live.

I never see you email address and you won’t get spammed. 

Hopefully this new lineup will keep it fresh, deliver a sufficient quantity of what you’ve come to expect from my keyboard, and free up some time in my schedule for more work on the big money projects.  HA!  Big money.  Everyone at the station is looking at me because I’m ROTPL.

True stories from auto-correct: I just typed ‘htat’ but instead of correcting it to ‘that’ it changed it to ‘Htat’ which is insane.

It’s Too Bright
50 cars.  That’s what the rule was.  It had been drilled into his head at the academy and then by his patrol sergeant.  50 cars.  No more.  No less.  Then the other way.  Fair and fast, win-win.  Everybody’s the same.

The trouble was that 50 cars took a long time.  And it was too bright.  He couldn’t keep looking that way.  His head hurt from last night when he woke up.  The exceedingly painful sunlight was going to ruin the day.  So he only let 20 go before switching sides.  There was a lot of honking but that didn’t hurt his head quite as badly.

Of course now, as he counted 10, 11, 12, his arm hurt from where he’d fallen on it during the ill-advised trip over McGee’s wall to steal flowers for the ladies.  By 18 he’d had enough and switched to another direction.

The honking was obnoxious and several drivers even called him out, rather brazenly, he thought.  His head was pounding and after only a dozen cars he needed to use both hands to keep his brains from exploding.  Didn’t these drivers get it?  He had a busy life too full of all sorts of problems and they shouldn’t be mad at him because they were late.  That was there fault.

He’d made it in to work on time, even hungover and with a dislocated shoulder.  And 50 was more of a guideline than a rule.  He was the authority here.  They would wait for his head.

Friday, June 6, 2014

The Land of Bronze and Iron

The Land of Bronze and Ironby Jon Stark
June, 2014; 1137 words

Misphat walked behind the plow behind the ox.  It was slow, but it was finally happening.  His brother had not wanted to loan the plow – “You’ve got too many rocks.  It’s why your own plow is broken.”  But Misphat had a way of convincing people.  He always had.

That was why he had a bushel of seed in his house.  And why he had Eli’s ox today.

A loud thud drew his attention downward.  The plow stopped, wedged under an enormous rock.  The ox strained for a moment and then stopped.  Misphat tried to back the plow off but failed.  He coaxed the ox forward but it couldn’t budge the plow.  Always something.

Misphat left the rig anchored in his field and fetched some tools.  He worked through the rest of the afternoon and into evening.  He was supposed to have the ox back before sunset but he didn’t think it would be free by then.  It wouldn’t matter.  Eli wouldn’t come after him (or need the ox, for that matter) until after the Sabbath.

A full moon rose on his labors.  The ox slept where it stood.  Misphat dug and pried and pounded and cursed the rock until it broke loose.  The beast stumbled forward, free from the trap and startled by the excited cries of Misphat who suddenly grew silent.

The rock had been a capstone and when it was moved bronze flowed from the hole.  It covered the ground and crept outward, flowing toward him.  He stared as it flowed around the plow and then the ox and then even his own unmoving feet.  Panicked, he tried to lift his feet and found that he was not stuck.  But the ox was.

The rock shot into the air on a jet of iron, released into the sky with such force that the ground shook and Misphat fell to the now bronze earth.  Now he exulted the rock and rejoiced in his wealth.  Bronze.  Iron.  No more borrowing or begging.  No more toiling on the earth.

He walked to the edge of the bronze flow and broke a piece off.  He made several small pieces.  It was the Sabbath, but he was certain there would be someone in town who would trade with him.  And there was.  Always there were.  The village people clamored over him and for not the first time Misphat thought that Eli might be the only man who still worshipped in the old ways.

He returned home with his goods, his step lighter than ever.  Along the path he was waylaid and fought brutally.  The bandits underestimated his wily and cruel ways.  Misphat was a survivor.

The bronze flowed all day, through the night, and into the next day.  It consumed his field.  It covered his house.  Iron filled the sky.  He collected some of the iron from where it still erupted and went to the forge.

The forgemaster had heard of Misphat’s bronze.  Now he accepted some in payment to fashion a blade from the iron.  It was good and he was pleased with the result.  “I could become rich making blades such as this.”

Misphat smiled at the man.  “Then you shall.”  He returned the next day with more iron.  The two men labored over the forge to craft weapons and armor.

When Misphat returned home he found Eli standing in his field and watching the flow.  “They are afraid now.  Of this.  And where it came from.”

Misphat laughed.  “They are blind.  Clearly this is from God.”

Eli shook his head.  “Clearly.  But it is not what you think.  Flee this place.”

Misphat waved his hands.  “Shoo, little gnat.”

The bronze flowed into the village, covering the fields and consuming the livestock while the sky turned to iron.  It was cold and harsh. When Misphat returned he found men fighting at the storehouse.  It was all the food that was left.

Misphat stopped them.  “There is more than enough food around us.”  They stared at him.  “We will take it.  None shall stand before us.”  He ordered the forgemaster to fetch the weapons.

They marched.  And conquered.  Always on the move.  Always adding to their number.  Before them people fled, those who didn’t were consumed by their bloodlust, and in their wake came the bronze, coating the earth while overhead the sky turned to iron.

Misphat gained fame.  They created machinations from the bronze and iron, behemoths that crushed and pulverized whatever was before them.

Eli stood beside Misphat and warned him.  “You must not do this.”

“Who will stop me?”  Misphat gloried in the conquest and no land could stand before his army or the advancing bronze.  But Eli persisted.

They reached the capitol.  Misphat’s army laid siege and within the walls men starved.  Disease consumed the people, boils and tumors grew unchecked, and those who died were themselves consumed.  Fathers ate their children and turned their backs to the wives they loved, children they still had, hoarding the food.  Women, even the most delicate, secretly consumed their young in the night and shared not with their families.

Josiah stood on the city wall and called the people to prayer but they did not listen.  Eli called to Josiah from the field of battle.  “Misphat is upon you.  Open your gates and end the horror.”

The sky was cold iron.  Bronze had reached the city’s outer walls.  Now it rose toward the parapet.  The metal echoed each iron soled step of man and beast and machine.

Misphat came to the field of battle.  He stood alone, encased in iron with fire in one hand and his banner in another.  He roared at the men on the wall and it was the sound of an avalanche.  They fell to their knees and at Josiah’s commend, to their bellies.

Everywhere in the city men took note and heeded the cries of those at the wall.  It was here.  The end.  Make peace.  Turn back to God before it’s too late.

Misphat watched Eli shambled toward him.  “You see?” he called out.  “They bow before me.”

Eli shook his head.  “No, they bow before God.”

Misphat laughed.  “I am the only god here.”  He launched the attack.  The men of the capitol did not fight.  They lay prone, repenting that they might find mercy at their deaths.  Misphat’s army crashed against the bulwarks and shattered.

The sky cracked.  Sunlight broke into the iron night.  The metal crumbled.  The invaders turned on each other, machines smashing everything until they too melted in the sun.

Eli picked his way through the rubble.  He found the dying Misphat and knelt with him.  “Are you prepared to return to God?”

Misphat laughed weakly.  “What does business does God still have with me?”

Eli spoke quietly.  “God sent you, Misphat.   He will take you back.”

Thursday, June 5, 2014

The Sleeper Life of Walter Mitty

I’ve always like Walter Mitty.  I saw part of the movie on TV once at my Great Aunt’s house and then read the short story and then watched the whole movie.  I can relate to Walter.  And I’ll argue with anyone who says that he’s about escapism, pure and simple.  There’s a far more complex motivation.  But that’s neither here or there.

I finally watched the remake this past weekend and it left me torn.  I didn’t think it had anything to do with the original.  That disappointed me.  But it was a fun movie to watch.  In the end, I liked it.  I would probably enjoy it even more a second time because I won’t have the expectation that it should be different than what it is – sort of like the Bourne Supremacy which I didn’t really care for the first time because I couldn’t get passed how much they ruined one of the best espionage novels I’ve ever read.

You may think watching a movie like Walter’s more than once to be rather dull since you already know what’s going to happen and there aren’t exactly exciting chases/fights/CGI migraine inducing flights of whimsy, or even the cleverness of the original’s fantasies.  You would be mistaken.  If I had any honest complaint with the film it was how incredibly predictable it was.  To be fair, it wasn’t as clear to the rest of the family so either I was in tune or they were content to sit back and enjoy it.

That’s also not much of a complaint.  You know exactly where it’s going from the moment you decide to watch it.  It wasn’t as funny as you’d expect from a comedy, and it wasn’t nearly serious enough to be drama.  Sort of exactly kind of like, well, you know… life.

Walter had a wonderfully portrayed arc.  Sean Penn let me down but that could easily have been his dialogue.  It didn’t matter.  This was about Walter and the movie took time to let us enjoy his adventures.  I mean, really, what other movie would invest so much time in long boarding down a deserted mountain highway in Iceland?  And make it worthwhile?

It was also very funny in places.  Clever funny and smart funny and bumbling funny without ever being gross.  The shark and porpoises.  It’s worth watching just for that.

Part of what made Walter so special before was his tendency to drift off into dream worlds all the time.  That happened a little bit in this version but really not very often.  It was talked about a lot, but we stayed with the real Walter most of the time.  That bothered me at first but it worked.  This was a different telling for a different time.  And it drove his arc.

If you think that Transformers 2 was the greatest movie ever made you will likely find The Secret Life of Walter MItty to be dull.  Otherwise you will discover a man you can root for, the quintessential introverted nice guy who learns it’s okay to chase your dreams.  Walter is different at the end of the film than the start, but unlike most other character stories like this, the difference is on the inside and his life really only changes for him.

The rotten tomatoes rating is overly harsh.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Cluck, Cluck, Cancer

I watched about half of a baseball game last night.  The games start about the time I get off the train so I don’t usually catch the start.  Too bad, #4 pitched the first 2 innings.  I did get to see him catch and cover 1st base.  He’s got a better arm than I do.

What I did not get to do was hear the game.  A woman from the other team – she turned out to be a mother but that wasn’t clear at first, I thought she might be an escaped mental patient – sat down behind my wife (which is where I sat when I got there) and started talking to a mother from our team.

It was like being on the train and having the woman behind you complain about how the Memorial Day plans have changed on her phone only you got to hear both sides.  Guess what?  It doesn’t make it more interesting.  Maybe that’s not true – as annoying as it was last night (I almost snapped a picture to show you) the nature of their conversation is quite interesting to me today.

Do you remember that scene in Lethal Weapon 3 where… No?  Okay.  It doesn’t matter.  They were comparing health problems and adventures and expenses.  I feel a top 5 list coming on.

The top five “I can’t believe she just said” comments from the girls at the game:

5. I’ll get fined $600 when I do my taxes next year because of Obama Care.  Just keep sticking it to us, that’s what I say.

4.  I don’t cheer for my son.  I can’t even say hello without embarrassing him.  I have to give it time and hope he sees that I’m here.

3.  They rushed her into triage because they thought she had meningitis.

2.   Well I actually had cancer.

1.   I know it’s to save my daughter’s life, but I don’t have that kind of money.

At least they are involved in their children’s lives and not glued to the screens of their smart phones like most of the folks I see at Target and Starbucks.  That’s another post but it sure looks to me like we’re raising a nation of orphans.

Oh, and I made it home in time (barely) to post an entry in the 5 minute fiction contest.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Blogs, blogs everywhere but not a word to read.

It’s June of 2014.  “Yes, thank you for telling us, Jon.  But we knew that already.”  Of course you did.  But did you know that Rejected and Alone is a year old?  I started at the end of May, 2013.  Now we are hundreds of posts and thousands of page hits later.

I’m declaring the blog a success.  Not commercially – you’ll notice that there are no advertisements – but as a writer.  I started R&A with two goals and they’ve been achieved.  The first was to get into the habit of writing everyday with the blog deadline (and my reputation) as the prod.  The second was to get better.

The original goal was to write for a year.  I wanted the “been there and got the t-shirt” of daily blogging for a year.  I don’t want to just stop now.  But I do want to make some changes.  The blog is 350-500 words a day that aren’t going into a script or novel.  That’s a lot of words.  And time.

The changes will be in the schedule, frequency, and topics of the posts.  Turns out I wasn’t being clever when I started writing for inspiration on Monday or a short story on Friday.    With bits and pieces heading out the window, let me know what you’d like me to keep.  Or switch to.

And then there’s the move to Wordpress.  Maybe.  Baby steps, Jon.  Baby steps.

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Monday, June 2, 2014

It doesn't have to be right the first time.

To those who don’t write, writing can seem like a colossal waste of time.  Sort of like doing push-ups.  And, much like push-ups, when you spend a lot of time writing but don’t really seem to get any results, the evidence sort of points to the idea that it is, actually, a waste of time.

It’s not.  If you are a writer.  Which is to say that, like anything (push-ups?), if you obsess it is a bad thing and a lack of balance in your “workout” or failing to use proper form will keep you from getting any positive results.  I really don’t care for push-ups.  Lots of fitness type people have told me, over the years, that if I do nothing else, I should do push-ups and sit-ups every day.  (Sit-ups being the only thing worse than push-ups and an exercise I freely admit to skipping whenever the person forcing me to do them isn’t looking.)  Funny thing here – people say the same thing about writing.  “Do it every day.”

This is not a “write everyday” post.  The lesson is that if you do something habitually, when you need it, it’s there.  Like this weekend when I fixed my garage door.  You read that correctly, I FIXED my own garage door.

What does a challenging carpentry task have to do with writing?  The lesson I’ve learned over the last year.  It doesn’t have to be right the first time.

It doesn’t have to be right the first time.

I didn’t realize how my perfectionism and fear of failure had snuck into so much of my life.  I was terrified of carpentry because I don’t know what I’m doing.  I’ve tried several projects that have failed miserably.  There’s a few things I’ve done, simple things or things I’ve done many times under the watchful gaze of an expert, but something new and complicated?  Forgetaboutit.

But Friday night when my kids hit the button for the garage door opener, the bottom of the door fell off.  First thing I did was look at how much new garage doors cost.  Then I looked at the price of a 10’ 2x4.  That’s when something interesting happened.  I thought about all of the other projects I’ve worked on.  How this should work.  I examined the structure of the door.  How the piece had fit there before.  I made a plan.  I knew what had to be done, I just hadn’t tried it before.

This is not my garage door.

The next morning I went to Lowe’s and bought what I thought I needed.  I ripped a groove down the top of the 2x4.  I put a bevel on the top edge.  I attached it with lag screws and liquid nail adhesive.  I cut out a corner of the new board because something isn’t level and it was binding.  I painted the new board, the rest of the door, and the trim a matching color.  My wife said, “That looks really good.”  I heard a lot of surprise in that.  I was surprised too.

What that has to do with writing is this: The broken garage door was a blank piece of paper.  The longer I stared at it doing nothing, the longer it would take to fill/fix.  Starting got me closer to being done.  I would learn what worked and what didn’t.  I would make corrections.  I would walk away and come back with fresh eyes.  But regardless of how it turned out, I would do it.  And if it needed to be done again (another draft(!)) I would do that.  Because I’m a writer and I’ve learned that it doesn’t have to be right the first time.

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