I study Ray Bradbury because I wish to convey joy and wonder the way he does with his words … or Paul Harvey.
I’ll always remember Paul Harvey describing the amazing car of the future, rhapsodizing about its many features and technological wonders for three or four minutes, and then revealing he had just described his new Oldsmobile Toronado.
Ray Bradbury and Paul Harvey were so good at using words to create that excitement in your chest as you breathe more rapidly because what you’re seeing is so wondrous … to call the reader or listener’s attention to the miraculous right before your eyes … Continue reading “Our lives are magic”
I don’t know much about Seth MacFarlane – mainly that he has a different sense of humor than mine, because many of his jokes fall flat with me – but he seems to be an intelligent and talented man, so when the characters in his scripts say or do something, I think he knows what they’re saying or doing.
I’ve been mostly enjoying MacFarlane’s television show The Orville, his homage to Star Trek, but he stopped me cold last week with an exchange during the episode titled “All the World Is Birthday Cake,” written by MacFarlane, in which Capt. Ed Mercer’s crew makes first contact with a civilization much like ours but a century or two behind the enlightened Union space travelers.
During a banquet scene, one of the natives asks about the economic system of the visitors, saying, “I’m fascinated that there’s no form of currency exchange.” Continue reading “Slipping poison into a vial of laughter”
The notifications – the dings and chimes and beeps and boops – the shouts, the rhythms, the alarms – the clangs and flashing lights – all of these served to keep the people from thinking too hard, to blur their focus, to mesmerize them, and after a while they forgot.
They forgot why they had considered it so important to be free. It was more important to be secure, free from the valleys, all mountaintops for them, not touched by bad things, only safe and warm and comfortable.
And the safety net, built so meticulously to help the struggling and the poor and the old and the infirm, became just a net. Continue reading “How liberty died to thunderous applause”
Not long ago I was browsing through a book called The Essential Thomas Jefferson, a collection that – like all “Essential” albums – includes his greatest hits and a rich selection of deep cuts. The following is excerpted from the final entry in the book, a letter to Roger C. Weightman written June 24, 1826, two weeks before Jefferson died.
The letter leaves the old man feeling as if his mission was fulfilled and with the hope that what he and his fellows had accomplished 50 years earlier would continue to serve as a beacon to humanity. Continue reading “A signal to burst the chains”
Almost a month into my Year of Finishing, and I haven’t finished anything yet. Even the schedule of what to finish, and when, isn’t done. What gets finished first, hmm?
What time is now?
I’m amused by the new bosses who have spent the last eight years screaming in the faces of elected officials that their policies are shameful and hurtful and mean, and now, having succeeded in winning significant seats from those they have treated as mortal enemies, now call for civility and bipartisanship. Where was civility when their duly elected opponents were passing their legislation? Where was civility when they were shouting from the gallery and fighting to have courts declare their opponents’ laws illegal and immoral?
What time is now? Is it time for civility and bipartisanship – the latter a code word for “cave to my demands” – or is it simply time to resume the battle, with the battle lines redrawn? Continue reading “3 journal fragments: What time is now”
The Printer. The Librarian. The Disk Jockey. Three denizens of Sunset Electronica, a story or novel or series of stories or novels for which I have a premise, a setting, but no story to tell.
They all preside over electric or electronic devices but old ones, built before computers were installed and equipped with tracking devices. The press was just a big machine – so was the turntable, and the book.
We can add The Mechanic to our cast of characters. And The Tracker, a hunter who does not depend on electronics to find fish or deer. They are the Keepers of the Old Ways, regarded with awe now but once with bemusement, for of what use were the Old Ways in a digital utopia? Continue reading “A premise in search of a story”
In the time of the great empire, when the people were hypnotized, when the air carried a hint of smoke wherever you journeyed, when birds sought shelter in concrete conclaves and rusted steel, when standing solitary to celebrate one’s self was an act of bravery hated by the crowd, when despair was life’s default setting …
SomeOne sat alone, and then stood.
“May I have your attention?” SomeOne said to the crowd, which gave no attention. Continue reading “SomeOne steps forward”
Click this link to discover an article that should be required reading for everyone who loves literature.
It’s also for everyone who asks to ban The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn because Huck uses the “N-word” to describe his friend Jim, for everyone who refuses to enjoy old movies or read any book more than 10 minutes old because the ancient artist’s point of view is abhorrent seen through our modern eyes.
It’s as if we imagine an old book to be a time machine that brings the writer to us. We buy a book and take it home, and the writer appears before us, asking to be admitted into our company. If we find that the writer’s views are ethnocentric or sexist or racist, we reject the application, and we bar his or her entry into the present.
As the student had put it, I don’t want anyone like that in my house.
I think we’d all be better readers if we realized that it isn’t the writer who’s the time traveler. It’s the reader. When we pick up an old novel, we’re not bringing the novelist into our world and deciding whether he or she is enlightened enough to belong here; we’re journeying into the novelist’s world and taking a look around.
The difference in perspective, the clarification of who exactly is doing the traveling, might lead to a different kind of reading experience.
Please, for your own sake, read the article.