Well, I just wrote a quick email to the author over at BlackChampagne regarding his blog about a kid getting expelled for a story he wrote. I am just going to cut and paste that into the bottom of this update since it is better than anything I had planned to write about today anyway.
Not a lot to talk about today, the family is fine, thank you. I have not been to any news sites for the last couple of days (sometimes it is good to just turn off the world for a few days), and the only depressing thing in the local news is the visit of the President to the valley, that is unless you count death and rape as depressing. I think most of us are so hardened from watching so many movies that those only bother us if it happens to us, or someone we know. Of course I am just a tad cynical.
The reason that I find it depressing that the president is visiting my state is that the only reason he is doing it is for one of those “charity fundraising” events. Pay for a plate to watch him talk about how good he is. This is expected from politicians to be sure, but when that politician has a war chest so big that he is already slamming the opposition in televison ads, eight months before the election, it is just a terrible display of just how many backers (powerfull ones) he already has. But, that is political and I do not want to get into it so I will try to find a tangent.
Just did a quick check of news for some inspiration. The world is going to hell. More specifically, the U.S. part of the world is going to hell. The USDA is trying to keep companies from testing all of the cattle that they raise for mad cow disease. Their logic seems pretty sound, so few cattle have the disease that it is not necessary to check all of the cattle. Isn’t that just a bit backwards? Just to make a point, and I do not know the actual numbers, let’s say that one in eighty people has the HIV virus. Would it make more sense to check every 80th person or to check every person? If you roll a single six sided dice, for instance, the odds that it will fall on the number one are only 16.67%, if you are looking for the occurances of the number one would you check just once every six rolls? I mean really, WTF are they thinking? The U.S. is slaughtering some 37 million cattle a year, the USDA wants to test 270,000 and call it good enough? Then they only want to test the ones that they have to drag to slaughter, since they can’t walk, and do 20,000 random tests. Yeah, that should be a pretty accurate measure, random tests for .05% of the cattle that are slaughtered, how could there possibly any error? Hell, if you did a random test for HIV on just one out of 1850 people, that virus might not exist, right?
I’m rambling again, I am gonna call it a night.
The following is an email that I sent after reading this blog over at Blackchampagne. It might make more sense if you had read that first, no guarantee.
Just a quick note on the story about the kid getting expelled over a story. I also wrote some crap like that when I was young, like late teens. I read one of my old stories the other day while looking for one worth posting on my site -it seems that most of what I have written is far from the literary gold I thought it was when I wrote it- and found one that I had written first person about a serial killer. It was just sick.
I didn’t get into any sex or child rape or anything quite that unsavory, but it was very gory and graphic. Why I felt the need to make the killer cut open each body and force their right arm under their ribcage (putting their own hand on their heart, in theory) is something that did not do anything for the story, it was supposed to be his ‘trademark’, but looking back on it I know that my only intention was to make it shocking and gross. Unfortunately, it did not make it shocking, nor did it really make it gross, it just made me wonder what the hell was going through my head when I did it.
I really think that the reason that I did stuff like that when I was younger was either because I had never read anything like it, so I assumed that I was the first person that ever thought to try it, or that I didn’t have enough life experience to know how to write an interesting scene, so I used gore in the place of captivating descriptions. It was probably a little bit of both.
I guess that is why most people who did write a lot of short stories never go back to them later. Honestly someone like Stephen King probably wrote a lot of really horrible gory crap back when he was in high school, then found that it was just too poorly written to even try to salvage. I am much worse off, with a file cabinet full of probably a couple hundred ten or twenty page stories that have a good idea as the basis, but writing quality that would not even pass in a creative writing course. Out of all of them that I have read recently I can only find a few where I think the idea is good enough to even try to do a complete rewrite. And it would be a complete rewrite, I would not even have the story in front of me as I was doing it, since the idea is the only thing worth preserving, not a single word from the actual pages.
The only good that I have found in reading my old stories is that as the ink gets darker, the stories get better. They were mostly all done on a manual typewriter a long time ago and the ink is badly fading. I had thought that I would start to retype some of the oldest ones before they just faded away, but after reading them again I think it may be better to let them fade. It seems that they are so much better in my memory than they are on the paper that I could redo them if I really felt the urge, but there is no way that any of it could ever make it to a publisher so what would the point be.
On a side note, I remember having asked you about a problem that I was having opening some old stories that I had saved to disk but no paper copies of. I was finally able to open them using the “Quickview” program. The entire story would then appear as a single line of text that was Extremely long. All punctuation in them was either missing or just strange symbols, after a bit of experimentation I was able to just cut and paste each one into word pad and do a find and replace for the symbols. That resulted in almost coherent sentences, but as these were the oldest of the stories that I did on a computer they turned out to be just slightly better than the rest of the crap I was talking about. I almost wish that I would never have figured out how to open them, so that I could believe that they were some sort of literary masterpieces forever lost to the world, instead I see that they are more like literary slightly-polished turds. Depressing.
And finally a story from my time in high school. I had to do an essay, I am not sure if I chose the subject or if it was assigned (not that it matters) and the subject was mythology. Now Oregon is not exactly in the bible belt, but there are a lot of really white, really nervous people in charge of the schools up there that had a problem with which particular mythologies I was discussing. I chose to compare Christianity and Satanism. It took me a week or so to get my hands on a copy of the Satanic Bible, my school and local library refused to send upstate to borrow a copy and that led to me having to drive all the way to the University of Oregon to research it. That book is absolute crap, nothing like I thought it would be. I figured it would be much like the Christian bible but the other side of it, in reality it is just a guy telling a story, more or less.
My essay then focused on the practices and customs of Christianity. I left the title the same “Comparing Myths: Christianity vs. Satanism”. Just to be an ass (mostly because I was pissed off at the lengths I was forced to go to read the satanic bible) I started most sentences with, “In Christianity you must” followed by whatever ridiculous, cracker eating crap came next. I sure wish I still had a copy of that essay, it was one of the best that I have ever written, lots of details about what one MUST believe to say that they are Christian.
Because I had to compare the two mythologies, I had to put down something for Satanism, I did, the last line of the essay, “Satanists mustn’t.”
I thought I put together a pretty good essay, but it resulted in me being suspended from school for three days. They say it was because I didn’t follow the guidelines and actually ‘compare’ the two mythologies, I say that was impossible since they wouldn’t get the book for me to compare Satanism to anything (I never told them that I actually had read that book and it swayed me to do the essay the way I did).
It is really bizarre the way the schools handle such mundane things. But what can you do?