The death of the verb to be

vintage TV

It’s been almost 20 years since I first noticed. The first TV anchor I noticed using partial phrases in lieu of complete sentences was Shepard Smith of Fox News. Maybe he started it, maybe he didn’t, but it remains an irritating distraction, and the practice has gone on so long that now it’s ingrained in the news-writing culture.

A generation growing up with the mistaken belief that this is a complete sentence.

I think the practice was started to effect some sort of headline-speak. It certainly wasn’t to save time and use language more economically. Reporters saving only a nano-second by not using the word “are” where it belongs in this sentence.

Perhaps, metaphysically, by not using the various forms of the verb “to be,” they are making a statement about the nature of being, of existence. By not saying “is,” “are,” “it is,” “you are,” “they are,” etc., they question reality itself.

That, however, is probably assigning too much credit to those who first condoned and enabled this usage.

Easier calling it just bad writing.


Murmurs from my right mind

my right mind
When I am in my right mind, I wake up at 5 a.m. and settle into this blue chair a few minutes later, pick up pen and journal full of blank pages, and begin to spread words over the paper.

When I am in my right mind, I set my mind to writing words that will encourage people waking to uncertainty, to inspire them to face the day and tackle it straight on, and comfort them that they’ll get through whatever the day holds.

When I am in my right mind, the words are as much to reassure myself and think of what I would want someone to say to me to give me strength to go on.

Whatever is right, whatever is good, whatever brings love, joy, peace, I think on those things, to paraphrase Saul of Tarsus. We each need to be encouraged, entertained, enlightened, so I try to be of service that way.

With hours left in NaNoWriMo

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It’s Nov. 30, and thousands of would-be novelists are reaching the end of their quest to lay down 50,000 words worth of story in NaNoWriMo, the National Novel Writing Month challenge.

Many have finished and learned just how few words are 50,000. Others have struggled and discovered that 50,000 are too many. In both cases they’re right.

I have probably composed millions of words in my lifetime and produced hundreds of hours of radio and other audio programming. (80 Uncle Warren’s Attic podcasts, 150 Ikthuscast podcasts, and 13 78 Revolutions Per Minute podcasts = 40 hours + 37.5 hours + 6.5 hours = more than two work weeks of stuff to listen to in that format alone.)

But I have yet to produce 50,000 words worth of one story. The closest I’ve come is the accumulated 160,000 words or so of Myke Phoenix adventures, but that’s 16 novelettes.

And so I understand how daunting 50,000 words are.

That’s why I hesitate on the brink of committing to write a minimum of four 60,000 word books in 2019, essentially the equivalent of five months of NaNoWriMo over 12 months.

More on this later.

For now, congratulations to those who reached their 50,000 words this month, and for those who did not: Don’t quit. Ray Bradbury wrote, in seven words I have taped just below eye level on this computer, “You only fail if you stop writing.”

How to get it done

how to get it done

“I don’t have time for all this!”

Yes, you do.

A person is what she thinks about. As a man thinks, his thoughts become him. If she thinks she will fail, she will. If he thinks he can do it, he will find a way. It’s that simple, and it’s that complicated. Because thinking is step one; now comes the doing.

A person does what he thinks about. As she works on the task, her thoughts determine the outcome. If he thinks he’ll miss the deadline, he will. If she thinks she can make it, she will. As Mr. Ford (or whoever) said, whether you think you can do it, or you think you can’t, you’re right.

Break it down so you can see the possibilities. Can I plot out a book in X days? Sure, if I invest Y minutes or Z hours a day. It’s like the person who wants to stop drinking: Can you go without a drink for this minute? Good. Now, how about this next minute? And the one coming after this? Pretty soon you’ve gone without drinking for a half-hour, then an hour, then two hours and four hours and eight.

Don’t have time for all this? Can you focus on doing it for one minute? Good. Now, how about this next minute? And the one coming after this? Pretty soon you’ve made the time and it’s done. Try it.

5 thoughts that probably make me an old fogie

audio-technica+ I’m listening to 50- and 60-year-old LPs this morning and reflecting on how if you take good care of the discs and have the proper playback equipment, the technology still works. Much of the technology that was supposed to “replace” records is now obsolete; I transferred some of these albums to CD and digital files but it’s easier to access the original records than to keep moving those files to newer and newer devices.

+ I’m always puzzled when people say that paperless technology is better for the environment because it saves trees. The thing is: Trees and paper are renewable resources. Have you noticed how hard it is to recycle electronics?

+ No doubt, going digital saves space. These days you can pack hundreds if not thousands of books into a device the size of a cellphone. But you need the device. I have read books and newspapers that are 150 years old and more; what guarantee do we have that today’s paperless materials will be accessible in 2168?

+ I don’t think there is a more joyous bit of old-time country music, or bluegrass or Americana or whatever you want to call it, than Side 4 of Will The Circle Be Unbroken.

+ When I was a teenager, we listened to Top 40 music on the radio and often could often hear soul, country, big band, jazz, rock, old-time pop, Christian, and oldies music back-to-back within the same half-hour – I was specifically thinking of hit songs by James Brown, Glen Campbell, Herb Alpert & the Tijuana Brass, Chuck Mangione, the Beatles, Frank Sinatra, Sister Janet Mead and Jerry Lee Lewis as I typed those words. I think we are for the worse that those diverse genres have been segregated into their own radio stations or playlists.

UPDATE: I had a sixth thought.

+ Our landline still has better fidelity and reliability. The only advantage our cellphones have is portability.

about that box

dreamstime_xl_9150573 box vertThink outside the box, because there is no box. Not really.

The box is the little cube where you store all the ways you have done things as they always have been done, the ways you have done them, and the ways everyone says they’re supposed to be done.

But you know there has to be a better way. And what you may have forgotten is the box is not there. It’s just a mythical construct created to memorialize the routine.

The routine is easy. The routine gets the job done. But is it enough? Does it get you to the goal? More important, does it get you to YOUR goal? Does it fulfill you, or is it just a paycheck? The paycheck is even sweeter when the work fulfills you.

Imagine how it could be done if you weren’t in this box. Because remember, there is no box. It’s a convenient structure you and your colleagues built to get the job done. It you poke your hand at the walls of this box, it will pass right through and you may be on your path to a better way.

So: Imagine what could be done outside the box, because you’re already outside, because there is no box.

4 short stories less than 30 words each

4 short storiesSo there was this dragon and he had to pee and the house was surrounded by wildfire and about to be lost. The yard stank for weeks, though.

The guitar mounted on the wall came down, and he began to pick. They found him that way, guitar where it belonged, a grin on his face.

The last thing anyone remembered was the stranger turning to them with a smirk, saying, “I wish you hadn’t done that.”

“You’ve done well today,” she told the class. “That was a thoughtful and insightful discussion, but truth be told, the first thing you know is old Jed’s a millionaire.”