I must lead the creative life: my correspondence with Ray Bradbury

“Tom! Come see the play next Sat night. -Ray” Bradbury thought I was a guy named Tom which was perfectly all right with me.

Ray Bradbury died this week. and his death couldn’t have been timed more perfectly.  I had been out of the routine of writing every day because as most insecure writers feel, I did not know if what I think means anything new or important.

A quote by Bradbury flashed through my mind a few days ago.  Sometimes that happens before I learn of someone dying.  I don’t think it’s a sixth sense, it’s more kismet.  The quote is from Zen in the Art of Writing:

“Every morning I jump out of bed and step on a landmine. The landmine is me. After the explosion, I spend the rest of the day putting the pieces together. Now, it’s your turn. Jump!”

His routine was to write a thousand words in the morning (the landmine) then spend the rest of the day editing (putting the pieces together).

About 3 years ago I was mesmerized by an English teacher friend who had been corresponding with Bradbury for years.  I thought I’d give it a try and send him two of my poems.  He sent them back to me with this note scrawled:

“Tom!” AI (I think) Thanks! – Ray” I guess my handwritten name might have looked liked Tom to the 89-year-old Bradbury.

He included the next item which is my favorite piece.  It’s a brochure about Fahrenheit 451 in Spanish.  You can see the ragged edges, where he cut it to fit into the envelope I included with my poems:

“Tom! Love!”

Here is the play he invited me to, Falling Upward:

Although I included an envelope, I mistakenly forgot to include a stamp.  Luckily Bradbury had a stamp of Edgar Allan Poe, whom he referred to as “Ray’s Papa.”

In a story he tells on his website about how he became a writer, he talks about meeting a magician named Mr. Electrico at a carnival:

Mr. Electrico was a fantastic creator of marvels. He sat in his electric chair every night and was electrocuted in front of all the people, young and old, of Waukegan, Illinois. When the electricity surged through his body he raised a sword and knighted all the kids sitting in the front row below his platform. I had been to see Mr. Electrico the night before. When he reached me, he pointed his sword at my head and touched my brow. The electricity rushed down the sword, inside my skull, made my hair stand up and sparks fly out of my ears. He then shouted at me, “Live forever!”

It was then, Bradbury said, that he knew he must lead the creative life.  And through that creative life, he did exactly as Mr. Electrico commanded him.

Apologize for What? A View of Andrew Breitbart From an Internet Acquaintance

Media personality Andrew Breitbart gives a spe...

Image via Wikipedia

On February 22, 2012, Andrew Breitbart‘s second to last radio show he guest-hosted for Dennis Miller, he talked about the quick passage of time.  He said if you ever want to slow time down, stare at the clock like you did in grade school.  Time goes by so quickly that we don’t even know what day it is.  He said, “If someone asked me the date, I’m usually about 3 or 4 days off.”  Staring at a school clock will slow everything down, he assured us.

Sadly, we lost Andrew shortly after midnight on March 1.  I first heard of Andrew way before the James O’Keefe/Hannah Giles sting on ACORN.  I met him on Facebook in the fall of 2008 when I first joined the Dennis Miller Zone (DMZ), the message board for the radio show. Andrew was a member of DMZ just like the rest of us.

I saw him online one day on Facebook and chatted with him.  All he talked about was how Dennis was his idol and he couldn’t believe that he’s guest-hosting his radio show.  Shortly after I posted that I’d be sure to call in one day. He was afraid he wouldn’t have a lot of callers,

On December 19, 2008, I called to ask him how he breaks up fights among his 4 young children.  I held on for an hour.  I didn’t mind it really, I just had to use the bathroom bad and I didn’t know exactly what time I’d go on air.  I was afraid I’d go on at the exact time the toilet flushed (which Erik Estrada later did in a phone interview with Dennis on-air!).

Then I heard the click and excitedly said, “This is Terri Jones, I’m one of your Facebook friends!”

To which he replied, “I know who you are!”

I asked my question but he said when it came to parenting ask his wife because he’s never changed a diaper. I would have responded with amazement that his wife was the only diaper changer but I didn’t want to expand on that topic with a full bladder.

He did, however, have a strategy for breaking up fights which was to sit his kids on the stairs until they resolved their differences. The show rewarded me with “Call of the Day” that day.  I like to think it was because out of pity for holding on for so long in more ways than one.

Though this was more than 3 years ago, it’s like it just happened.  When someone dies you don’t really measure time.  You just remember those moments like they are still happening and they never ended.

Tonight, I think I’ll get my analog clock and just stare at it for a while, like I did back in grade school.

retyping the classics with hunter thompson

Gonzo: The Life and Work of Dr. Hunter S. Thompson

Image via Wikipedia

I watched the Gonzo documentary before going to bed so naturally I dreamed of Hunter Thompson. He was with me at a party with all the young dudes as the David Bowie song goes.

I convinced these young men that Hunter was alive and well and within these 4 walls. They all got up to talk to him like teen girls with the Beatles in 1964.

I learned from the documentary that he had a sweet side which you can see in the way he touches his chin in an episode of To Tell the Truth. Both of his wives said he had a vicious side, like when he screams at one of them to find his g–damn medicine.

I also learned that Ralph Steadman, Hunter’s illustrator, is not a crazy person. I mistakenly thought so based on his work as you can see here:

image via signatureillustration.org

He appears normal and well-spoken, like a nice gentleman you pass in the supermarket as shown here:

British cartoonist and caricaturist Ralph Stea...

Image via Wikipedia

In the film Hunter said he typed the words of F. Scott Fitzgerald (Great Gatsby) over and over just to get the flow. Did it work for him? Obviously.

So to get over the dreaded writers block that possessed me over the holidays I’ll do what Hunter did with the Gatsby.

Instead of writing I rewrite.

I checked out classics from the library by authors like Bradbury, Faulkner, Conan Doyle, and Fenimore Cooper. What a way to feel like the author to retype their words, to see what they saw and what made them get it all down on paper. You don’t get that by just copy/pasting.

So because of Hunter sneaking into my dreams I remembered the most vital part of writing: rewriting. I’m ready for more trips into the subconscious as long as the Steadman drawings stay at home.

dear today’s shopping mall, I unfriend you

Dear (insert every city’s major indoor/outdoor shopping mall),

As a teen, I fell in love with you.  I visited you with friends to buy the trendiest of clothes with my meager wages.  I got Orange Julius though I didn’t know what was so great about it.  I walked by girls (and boys) getting their ears pierced since it was the eighties. I snatched up every pair of parachute pants paying full price because getting spotted in K-mart was worse than leprosy.

Then in the nineties something smart happened.  You became the place  for The Intellectual.  Electronic stores invaded, major book stores opened for the now mature shopper who no longer needed hair scrunchies and leg warmers.

One could sample music through headphones while sitting around other people like a music bar. Game and puzzle stores laid out chess games for passers-by to play.

You bore toy stores stepped up from the usual Barbies and fake flipping barking dogs.  You sold science experiment kits and (gasp) art supplies.

If an artist or scientist suffered at an impasse, a trip to your glittery cages and “mall air” cured what ailed us with a salted soft pretzel, of course.  Like when we eat ice cream while suffering sore throats.

Then the recession of ‘Aught 8 rolled in.  Electronic devices blew up with books, music, movies and games that nobody had to touch except for touch pads.  Book stores dropped you and set themselves up outside your parameters with no weary shoppers to wander in.  Hot potatoes be damned.

Today, if we want to open a book we must do so whilst standing because big name book stores no longer offer comfy chairs to relax and browse. We must buy the magazine we want to look at along with a drink otherwise we can’t sit at the tables.

But face it, we get magazines solely to read in the bathtub because we can’t risk dropping our iPads in the water, unless you have a bowl of rice and a heat source handy to dry it out.

There’s hardly nothing left to touch before we buy.  The only place left in your vast expanse for The Intellectual is the overly sterile Apple store. There’s nothing colorful to feast on except the casings for their devices.

All that’s left now, Dear Shopping Mall, are stores with clothes, shoes, shoes, clothes, clothes, jewelry, and shoes.  And you know the sad part?  Nobody’s in those stores.  High-heeled Lady Gaga shoes sit on stands, shining their rhinestones and leopard and cheetah prints, lonely and soon to be forgotten in 2 months when they are shamefully out of date.

I shouldn’t complain, Shopping Mall.  I’m typing this on a software program that provides me with links, articles and pictures to accompany me which is pretty nifty.  I just wish something nifty was left over in your glass-windowed hallowed halls.


The Average Intellectual Shopper

that’s enterplainment

Adam Carolla at 107.7 The End's Lonely Hearts ...

Image via Wikipedia

Jerry Seinfeld coined a term on Twitter called  “Enterplaining.” It’s complaining and entertaining at the same time.  Adam Carolla has perfected Enterplaining.  On his podcast, he has a segment called “What can’t Adam complain about?” He’s complained about everything from the lifting of prohibition to his bathrobe belts.

However, in real life, someone who constantly complains is draining. But in entertainment, it’s as funny as all get out. Since I don’t get my complaints out verbally (most of the time), I’ll note them here and hopefully you find them enterplaining:

  • Playground parents obsessed with cleanliness.  If you’re so clean, don’t bother bringing your kids to the park. One mother looked horrified when my barefooted daughter stepped on her blanket.  If you don’t want your kids to play with others, play with the your kid in your own backyard.
  • People who don’t like dogs.  I don’t have an example, I just don’t know how someone could not love a dog unless one mauled them when they were young. Then I’ll give them a pass.
  • Whenever I put a schedule together, I get upset when life messes it up. I know life happens when you’re making other plans, and I don’t know if John Lennon or John Chancellor said that but c’mon! Let something go right at least some of the time.
  • Not knowing what to throw out.  The stuff I do throw out I regret soon after. When we moved, I tossed everything I wrote since college. Granted it wasn’t all Hemingway but every poem and journal got chucked. I also got rid of children’s books that my older daughter grew out of, but my younger one still enjoys. She’s almost 8 and still likes to read from picture books. Bad mom.
  • People who swim backwards in a crowded pool without looking behind,  I know you’ve perfected your back stroke and you like to float, but the bruises on my legs from people slamming into me aren’t going away soon, okay?
  • Driving through gas station lots. Today 3 cars in a row pulled out in front of me like I wore a cloak of invisibility.  Just because I’m driving slow doesn’t mean I’m not here.
  • Books with REALLY LONG acknowledgements, forwards and introductions. Nobody reads the thank yous except for kith and kin and if you forget someone they never forgive you.  Remember when Julia Roberts thanked everyone who worked on the movie Erin Brockovich except Erin Brockovich? Make like an Oscar acceptance speech and keep it short.
  • I also don’t need friends writing your forwards telling us how great you are. The can use it for your eulogy. Lastly, work your introductions into the body of your book because I read at night and I don’t want to fall asleep before the good stuff.  Capiche?
  • Finally, people who complain too much.  Save it for reality television.

midnight in paris: on a whim movie review

Salvador Dali with ocelot and cane.

Image via Wikipedia

I was in the mood for an artist’s date yesterday and in true form, I planned nothing ahead except for bring with me a free movie pass I won in a raffle.

Without checking to see what was playing, I went to the theater to see what movie was starting next.  One couple bought tickets to Midnight in Paris.  I’m not a movie goer so I’m not familiar with anything on the silver screen that doesn’t involve Harry Potter. The couple said it was a Woody Allen film.  I’ve loved his movies for many years but got creeped out with him marrying Mia Farrow’s daughter, but I thought I’ll give it a shot.

And what a shot it was.  We hear but not see Owen Wilson as Gil Pender talking to his fiancée (Rachel McAdams) about how tired he is of being a hollywood hack and how he wants to live in Paris to write a novel but she wants to stay in Malibu. They are in France on business with her parents so they take in the sights.

Gil goes for a walk at midnight and on a whim he gets picked up in a cab from the 1920s with some partygoers. At the party he meets Zelda and F. Scott Fitzgerald, while Cole Porter entertains on the piano.  The Fitzgeralds take Gil to a bar where they meet Hemingway then see Gertrude Stein (Kathy Bates) where he gives her his novel to critique.  By the way, Picasso is with Stein analyzing a painting I swear looks like something my 7-year-old concocted, but hey, it’s Picasso.

Other artists from the 1920s make appearances such as Adrian Brody as Salvador Dali.  I never knew Dali could be so sexy and crazy at the same time especially since he only spoke of rhinoceroses.

This is the kind of movie I’d write.  Or it would at least be in my dream journal.  It was like walking through all of my lit and art courses in college.  If this movie existed back then, I’d have straight A’s, no problem.  We want to see the people we study come to life.

After the movie I felt inspired as an artist so on a whim I walked to Michael’s.  I still felt like I was in the movie as I walked by an Italian restaurant as a street performer sang, “It’s a wonderful night for a moon dance.”  I walked straight to the artist supplies and saw sketchbooks on sale, so I picked one up with some charcoal pencils.  I plan on using these at the beach today like Reginald Marsh as he sketched by the ocean.

What a terrific unplanned artist’s date’ it’s something we all need to unblock our creativity.  I give this movie a rating of all the stars Vincent Van Gogh ever painted.

we need a holiday: george harrison day

George Harrison in the Oval Office during the ...

Image via Wikipedia

There’s too much fighting and protesting and anger today.  We got Libya, Egypt and Wisconsin holding up signs and marching through streets to the tunes of bongo drummers (I’m from Wisconsin and I never thought I’d ever lump my home state with Libya and Egypt).

Yesterday morning while Wisconsin, Ohio and Indiana senators played Midwest Chinese Fire Drill, I strolled into my Starbucks.  A showdown between two sisters played outside:

“**** you!” said one.

“I’m telling you the truth!” said the other.

“I don’t have a sister!”

“You have plenty of sisters!”

“Yeah, but I don’t have a sister named Julie.”

I assumed it was Julie the other sister yelled at.

With all this unrest there is no better time for a holiday.  I hereby declare February 25th, George Harrison‘s birthday, a spiritual holiday.

Do we give each other gifts on this holiday?  No.  We use the gifts God gave us. Rumer Godden, author of the children’s book “The Story of Holly and Ivy” said:

“There is an Indian proverb that says that everyone is a house with four rooms, a physical, a mental, an emotional, and a spiritual. Most of us tend to live in one room most of the time but unless we go into every room every day, even if only to keep it aired, we are not a complete person.”

With the help of Mr. Harrison’s songs, here’s my outline on how to celebrate this day in those four rooms:

Take a yoga class.  My orthopedic surgeon and dentist, both of Indian descent, recommended yoga for my back and thyroid.  Indians in the medical profession got it goin’ ON.  I can see why George was so fascinated with Indian culture and learned how to play sitar.

Play Scrabble online.  You’ll learn new words when the computer gets away with words you never heard of, like Qi and Ka.

Read to improve your mental well-being.  Adam Carolla‘s In Fifty Years We’ll All Be Chicks is good for laughter but it’s also eye-opening.  Did you know you can get rid of a zit by taking a shower, sterilizing a pin to pop it, then covering it with Oxy-10?  That’s what Adam says.  Why didn’t I know this as a teenager?  I just covered it with make-up with an icky way-overused sponge which made my acne worse.

Whenever we apply a method to deal with anger it never works.  So I let Angry Birds take out my rage for me.  Shooting birds shaped like bombs through sling shots to destroy little green pigs is at least a little entertaining.  See if you’re still mad after that.

One of the easiest ways to enhance your spiritual life is to sign up for a daily e-mail.  I get mine through Heartlight.  They send me a Bible passage and a quote for the day.  Rumer Godden’s quote popped up in my in-box just a few days ago.

Men, on George Harrison Day, grow mustaches.  Respect the ‘stache!  Since George Harrison Day falls on a Friday this year, you get a 3 day weekend to grow it.

So roll out your yoga mats, wear breathable cotton and go barefoot.  Report back to me on Monday.

generation of say that again? hunter thompson on letterman

22 years ago, Hunter Thompson published the book Generation of Swine about the 1988 Presidential Campaign.  This video is from what I think is an interview with David Letterman.  Thompson brings his hat and jacket with him on stage (probably because there was something in them he could get arrested for).

Letterman never asked why his fingers were in a splint.  The only question Thompson answered was about him speaking at a Catholic university in Milwaukee where he asked if you believe George Bush is a guilty politician then invite him up on stage to stomp him to death.  The secret service came after him the next day.  At least I think that’s what he said.

Thompson lives up to the Ernest Hemingway quote, “A writer must write what he says. Not speak it.”

If anyone talented with transcribing Thompson speak is reading this, please let me know.

8 good things about facebook

Facebook has completely redefined the term “friend.”  It’s like the Greeks’ definition of love.  There are 4 types: Agape (brotherly love), Eros (passionate love), Philia (friendship), and Storge (familial love).  In the Facebook world, there are also 4 types:

1.  Old friends from high school and college.

2.  Family and friends of the family.

3.  Internet friends you’ve never met in person but you truly admire.

4.  People you don’t remember but you accepted their request because you had like, 30 mutual friends.

I’ve spent the last 16 years of my life on the internet.  It started when I found people on Prodigy who, like me,  adored Brent Spiner (Data from Star Trek).  At times the internet consumed me.  Other times it bored me.   Sometimes it made me laugh so hard that if I tried to explain it to anyone in the real world, it made no sense.  Other times, it left me face down in the bed crying.

But I don’t have ups and downs with Facebook.  If necessary, I can do without it but it has enriched my life in ways I never thought possible. This is why:

1.  I learned about a high school friend named Kathleen diagnosed with breast cancer.  She updates her status with Vince Lombardi quotes like this one:

I firmly believe that any man’s finest hour, the greatest fulfillment of all that he holds dear, is that moment when he has worked his heart out in a good cause and lies exhausted on the field of battle – victorious.

2.  Another friend named Jody whose daughter lost her friend when a car struck her as she walked along a road.

3.  I followed my cousin Kim’s relationship status which blossomed into a happy wedding in Mississippi (she also provided me info about my uncle who was a World War 2 hero).

4.  Found lots of pics of me and my family at my nephew Neil’s wedding.

5.  Saw an album my brother Charlie created of our brother Bruce who passed over 2 years ago.  There were pictures imprinted in my brain and some I’d never seen before.

6.  Whenever I write an entry here, it appears under my status so I get a few more clicks.

7.  I see pics of children of my high school and college friends to see how much their young’ns look like them.

8.  My friend Becky, who I haven’t seen in 20 years, lives fairly close to me.  Now we go to the beach together with our five kids total.

So whatever your reason for Facebook time, good or bad (in my case good because I stopped watching television), look at what happened with social networking.  I bet the good outweighs the bad.

UPDATE:  One more good thing about Facebook.  I found out my very funny friend Eric met Hunter Thompson twice.  Here’s what he wrote:

First meet was through a motorcycle racer/cycle magazine buddy and it was, “Hi, this is Eric,” and we said “Hello.” Second meet was Aspen on a motorcycle trip. I pulled into the Shell gas station and he rode in on a Ducati. He was doing an article for Cycle World magazine. We briefly talked about the Ducati and I mentioned we met before. He looked at me like I was an idiot eating paste from the jar.