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Archive for the ‘Literature Smiterature’ Category

Here at the writerly offices of The Curmudgeon, we are well aware of the travails of the Detroit school system.  At the helm, the school board president Otis Mathis, fighting the good fight to drive the system on the right road; to provide an education to Detroit students. By the way, in terms of school achievement, Detroit is the worst big city district in the nation.  It’s a hard enough task, even harder since Otis Mathis can’t write.

“How bad can’t he write, Crusty?” you ask?   Here’s an example”

If you saw Sunday’s Free Press that shown Robert Bobb the emergency financial manager for Detroit Public Schools, move Mark Twain to Boynton which have three times the number seats then students and was one of the reason’s he gave for closing school to many empty seats.”

As one of his colleagues put it, “He has…communication issues.”  Oh, just say it:  Dude can’t write.  In his student years, he was kicked around from school to school, but always managed to graduate.  College too, but it took ten extra years because he couldn’t pass the English proficiency test.  Does it strike you as odd that the guy running the district can’t even do what every student should be required to do?

That’s the enigma of the nation’s education system.  It’s often so bad even the slightest improvement seems like a complete reversal.  And by all accounts, Mathis is an improvement.  In all other ways, people like his style—his honesty, his ability to lead, his knack to inspire—and view those qualities as enough to do the job.  He just can’t write, that’s all. If being a nice guy can get you an inappropriate career, I want to be an astronaut.  I’m coming, NASA.

“I’m a horrible writer. I know that,” says Mathis.  Horrible?  Some of his emails seem cryptic, like code, but its not:

Do DPS control the Foundation or outside group? If an outside group control the foundation, then what is DPS Board row with selection of is director? Our we mixing DPS and None DPS row’s, and who is the watch dog?”

Quickly, Robin, put that secret message into the Bat translator!

Mathis himself says that because of his own travails and educationally challenged life, he is a role model.  But the other side of that coin says, sure, you ‘re a role model to kids who don’t think they need to read or write.  Well, whichever side the coin lands on, the Detroit school system has been bleeding a long time.  I hope he truns out to be the band aid.

Thanks you, for talking this.  I preciate you times took.

(Information for this story came from the Detroit News.)

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typewriter Valeriana Solaris

Photo by Valeriana-Solaris/flickr

Here in the beehive offices of The Curmudgeon, it is pleasant to hear the tap-tap-tapping of  tiny little fingers on the keyboards.  Unfortunately, all the tap-tap-tapping is coming from my office.  I am participating in the National November Writing Month, wherein you write a novel of 50,000 words are more during the month of November.  That’s why I’ve handed this column over to the staff, which is why it isn’t getting done.  I’ll have to take away their company cars, and restrict use of the Bentley.

How, Crusty, you may ask yourself,  can you expect to write a novel in such a short amount of time?  Here’s the thing:  It doesn’t have to be good.  You’re not supposed to go back and fix things, or correct things, or spell check, but rather just keep writing.  Even if you don’t know what comes next, keep writing.  The point is to get a novel completed.  You can go back and fix things later, after you have a rough draft.

This has always been my problem. I must make a chapter perfect (or as close to perfect as I am able) before I continue.  Eventually, I don’t continue.  I become frustrated.  So I think, “This is the thing for me.”  And due to my nature—and the fact that I write pretty fast anyway—I do go back and fix a little, but not too much.  And it’s working.  As of last night, I was about 1000 words ahead of being on track to finishing on time…and it’s pretty good.

vintage typewiter letters Nir Tober

Photo by Nir Tober/flickr

I didn’t know what comes next, or who the characters were going to be, or what the plot was, or how it would end, but it all magically appeared, stepping into formation like a well-trained soldier.  Is it putting a grind on my schedule?  Yes, it is, but I’m loving it, and I’m going to have a novel when I’m finished.

So my point is, you can do it too.  Start tomorrow.  To write a 50,000 word novel, you have to average 1666 words per day, and it doesn’t matter if you’re starting late.  Set your own schedule and stick to it.  Do it in two months if you want.  Thats only 833 words per day.  And at this point, this post you’re reading is 385 words NOW.  Piece of cake.  That’s almost on pace to write a novel in 4 months.  Surely you can double it?

Of course, you’ll miss all the groovy prizes, (a certificate and your name on some honor-roll thing, wow), but the biggest prize is all your very own.  Your novel.  Here’s the link for NaNoWriMo, if you’d like to check it out:  <http://www.nanowrimo.org/>.  And this is how many words it takes to finish in four months…NOW.

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The World's Most Famous Fire Picture

The World's Most Famous Fire Picture

Here in the turgid but not bursting offices of The Curmudgeon, things have been at a fever pitch since the election of our new President, Barack Obama.  Firstly, I had to leave the ship awhile and leave the mice at the helm, as I attended the inauguration festivities in Washington, D.C.  It was inspiring and a lot of fun.  Obama moonwalking with a lampshade on his head had the whole room rolling, until Michelle passed out with her face in the ice cream, at which point the party broke up and we went back to our suites at the Watergate.

The point is, I have seriously neglected this space which I hope to remedy now, though I’m going to cheat.  One thing I did manage to do is get out the old brain and excercise my literary writing muscles with a short memoir titled The Boy Who Played With Matches.  I had a bit of a fire problem when I was younger, and this is a recounting of those times.  It’s funny with a sweet undertone that, for some reason, makes people cry, first with laughter, but then for some reason they are at a loss to explain.  Some nostalgic remembrance of their own childhood, I guess, but what the hell do I know.  I consider that a success.

Here then, is a short excerpt.  If you like it enough, I invite you to read the piece in it’s entirety via the link I will provide below.  I also, as always, invite you to share your thoughts, insights, abusive language, insults, sexual come-on’s, opinions and criticisms–constructive or otherwise.

The Boy Who Played With Matches (excerpt)

He was only 5 years old. He had been told not to play with matches, of course, for his parents were good people. They made him eat his vegetables and limit his desserts. He wasn’t a firebug. Not really. Not a budding arsonist. No pyromania smoldering in his tiny brain. No incendiarism waiting to be struck on the emery. But humans have had a long and intense fascination with fire and so it was with this boy. It certainly wasn’t one of the usual motives for fire raising: there was no animosity, no vandalism, no psycho pathological factors, no crime scene concealment, no profit, and no political objectives, like demanding less brussel sprouts and more ice cream.

No, it was just your garden variety fascination with all things “grown-up.” The desire to be an adult. It was probably all that family talk about being descended from Davey Crockett, which may or not be true, but he just had to live in the woods, wear a coonskin cap and hunt bear, and all possible descendants of Davey Crockett know you can’t do those things if you can’t build a campfire. It’s instinctual. Maybe not for you, but it is for all possible descendants of Davey Crockett. And just maybe fire made him feel a tiny little tingle in his tiny little pecker, but I don’t really remember, for that 5 year old boy was I.

Into the Woods

There was a great expanse of woods behind our house. It was probably actually something like a copse of woods, but to me it was a forest. There were rickety tree-houses, labyrinth paths, foxholes, and secret tunnels hastily dug by the children, made all the better by the constant danger of collapsing and suffocating the little explorer within. Countless lush memories were grown in its fertile soil.

There was the time the people a mile or so down the road had their pet monkeys escape, about eight of them. My parents read about it in the paper, so we hiked down the road in the direction I had never been before, and there they were, monkey’s swinging in the trees just like in the Tarzan movies. I still don’t understand why those people had all those monkey’s, but at the time all I knew is there were monkeys in the trees. So you can take your copse of woods and shove them up your arse. I’ve got a forest. There are monkeys in the goddamn trees.

And so when the neighbor kid and I came across the carton of matches in his garage, where else would we go to practice our campfire skills but to my forest, the one with the tree houses, paths, foxholes, tunnels, and goddamn monkeys.

The Campfire in Awry

Murphy’s law says that whatever can go wrong, will go wrong. He could have said it will go wrong immediately. We carefully constructed our campfire. A clearing was chosen, clear of any stuff that might accidentally catch fire, and built a ring of stones. Our kindling was stacked neatly in the center with larger sticks piled nearby for when our campfire got going. Neither man nor beast remembers who struck the match and held it to the brittle tender.

What happened next was astounding. The fire paid no attention to our ring of stones at all and immediately began spreading across the ground like…well…wildfire. Frantically we ran round and round the burning ring stepping on flames, children performing a macabre clog-dance of death. The fire simply scooted round our tiny feet, proceeding on its merry way. Clearly, even in duress I could see that we were getting nowhere but fast. I turned to my compatriot and…there was nobody there. The bastard had bailed on me.  I did what any 5 year-old boy would do.  I ran.  I ran and I ran.  I ran faster than I had ever run before.   I ran like a 5 year old possible descendant of Davey Crockett with a tingling pecker runs from a bear.   Straight home to mommy.

(end excerpt)

If you enjoyed it, I invite you to read it in it’s entirety by following this link:  The Boy Who Played With Matches.

Thats it for now.  I promised Michelle I’d call her and give her my grandmother’s recipe for chicken and dumplings, which is for sure the best.  She’s kinda hot.  Uh…Michelle…not my Grandma.

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