What It Is (posts below left; rate sheet, client list, other stuff below right)

My name is Bob Land. I am a full-time freelance editor and proofreader, and occasional indexer. This blog is my website.

You'll find my rate sheet and client list here, as well as musings on the life of a freelancer; editing, proofreading, and indexing concerns and issues; my ongoing battles with books and production; and the occasional personal revelation.

Feel free to contact me directly with additional questions: landondemand@gmail.com.

Thanks for visiting. Leave me a comment. Come back often.

Monday, December 31, 2012

Happy New Year

My brother, proofreader extraordinaire and usually an astute observer of culture, said a few years back that he eagerly awaited the end of the decade of the 2000s, so that we wouldn't have to look at any more stupid eyeglasses on New Year's Eve.

Brother, I wish they'd listened.

Happy New Year to everyone who reads this. My wishes are for everybody's safety and good health going forward.


Tuesday, December 18, 2012

My Stablepan Overfloweth

The photo at the bottom of the previous post notwithstanding, I’ve tried to keep this blog pretty PG-rated, especially if you discount the comments section and the occasional YouTube link. Yet a particular word has been running through my mind lately to describe not just a few recent projects but the whole genres of books of which they are a part. And I’m going to use that word here. These days, if it were the only such word in a script, the production would merit a PG-13.

Along with the word comes one of the dark secrets of this line of work that I’ve not explored in detail:

Some of the books I edit, proofread, or index are pure horseshit.

There. I’ve said it. Now I can talk about it.

I am surprised, frankly, that the horseshit percentage is not greater than it is now. But over time, I’ve come to identify almost from the get-go certain types of books that have this pungent quality.

First, though, we can note that authors who are overly protective of their writing styles are supreme primers of the horseshit pump. Cowering behind such self-assessments of their prose as “literary” and “subtle” delivered in whiny manifestoes to managing editors, these types of authors bully professionals around them into accepting unclear manuscripts under the excuse of “my voice.” Horseshit. These types of authors are generally masking writerly deficiencies and have too big an ego to accept editorial changes. They’ll routinely trumpet their thirty years of experience in a field, not realizing that their editor has the same thirty years of experience trying to make horseshit writing come across a little better, regardless of the field.

Now, I have no problem with authors who have a particular style that works. I’m thinking in particular of a few pieces of agrammatical experimental fiction that, once I surrendered to the sparse writing styles, read just fine. On the other hand, I had an author once say that a few hundred random commas in the manuscript were intended as pauses for when the book is read aloud. (And actually, this book was not horseshit at all, but I’m speaking to nonworking writing styles.) Well, that’s a horseshit excuse, because you’re writing a book that will be read silently, not a script for an audio book.

Overly protective authors, however, are not the only ones who produce books that, regardless of subject matter, go in the General Horseshit classification of the LandonDemand Card Catalog:

1. Books that try to appear scholarly by association.

2. Books in which authors make themselves part of the research.

3. Books that try too hard to tell you what they are all about.

In good academic or homiletical style, I address each in turn.

1. Books that try to appear scholarly by association.

“I have an idea that some Horseshit Theory can be applied to a particular element of the human psyche. Because A affects B, and studies show that B might affect C, and since C relates to my D . . . well, there you go: A to D, thanks to me. Here’s 240 pages over seven chapters detailing serious studies addressing A and C, and at the end of every 20 pages or so, I’m going to ask you, ‘Now, wouldn’t all that serious stuff lead nicely into my own very special brand of horseshit?’ The answer is, ‘We really don’t know, because I’m not bothering to do any hard research myself. I’d rather do a literature survey, and then fancy myself a scholar by piggybacking my own horseshit onto some earlier, legacy horseshit.’”

("Legacy horseshit." I like that.)

Folks, if you have kids in college (I have one in and one just out), keep in mind that some PhDs under whom your little darlings may be studying have received their pedigree by passing off such garbage as scholarship. You’d not believe the horseshit books I read that are slightly massaged PhD dissertations, and I’m not talking about the obscurity of the topic. It’s the lack of quality of the scholarship.

You’d be well within your rights to ask, “Well, you’ve just got a 30-something-year-old horseshit BA degree in English and political science. What do you know?”

Damn good question.

What I know is a good book versus a bad book. That comes from reading more than a hundred books a year for many years, every character, cover to cover, and I can tell horseshit from something meaningful.

Occasionally I look at the institutions that grant authors their degrees. And I’m amazed. You’re better off not knowing.

2. Books in which authors make themselves part of the research.

Good lord, these might be the worst. Let me qualify the following statement by saying that I’m not talking about anthologies or anything like that. I’m talking about one- or two-author books about some subject of presumptive interest to someone other than a dissertation committee or the authors’ moms.

Readers, take note: Anytime you have front matter — preface, foreword, acknowledgments, special note from the author — that totals more than 20 pages, the horseshit sensors should start going off like mad. If, even after lxvi pages of front matter, the author is still referring to herself or himself by about page 50 of the running text, you know that the book’s featuring a healthy amount of horseshit content.

“I have an idea that some Horseshit Theory can be extended to spiritual practice. I tried it on a really good, statistically scientific sample: Me. You’re reading my book, so I know that in your mind, I’m a celebrity. I know My Self to be the ipsissimus of pious and well-meaning generalities, although I’ll play mock humble for my readers. Because I claim that my practices work for me, they are certainly going to work for you. I’ve read some very important books that back me up, and occasionally these folks are friends of mine, and sometimes I’ll recommend whole systems of life that you can start learning about if you buy their books [and ancillary materials for $400].” (Thankfully, the money thing is rare.)

Note two: If you run into an author who claims that only poetry can sufficiently express what’s going on at that point of the text — and you’re about 150 pages into the book — you’d better strap on some protective gear, because you are getting ready to read some horseshit poetry. Prose horseshit is one thing. It really doesn’t get much worse than horseshit poetry.

I’ve mentioned it back in the bowels of this blog, but I once was reading some front matter — and yes, it was on about page xlviii of the front matter, so by that time I already knew I was in trouble on several horseshit fronts — and the author busted out with, “Thanks to Professor SoandSo, who praised my poetry before I named myself Poet” (bold added, but not the capital P). Alzheimer’s will need to be pretty well established before my brain will cleanse itself of that horseshit.

3. Books that try too hard to tell you what they are all about.

Books in this category are not immediate horseshit deliverers in the manner of the categories above, but their presentation drives them into the fetid realm. For this horseshit, I can partially blame in-house editors for not asking the writer to deliver a tighter manuscript.

In a well-organized and well-written book, an author should not have to remind readers every 10 pages of where they’ve been, where they’re going, or what the book is going to do. Some books are so choked with cross-references that I wonder when the actual content appears.

As an indexer, such horseshit occasionally works in my favor, as I refuse to index content that the author repeats throughout a book as reminders for what the book has already discussed. In a recent book, I was able eventually to skip over the first two pages of the final chapters as the author went through the twelve-days-of-Christmas routine for every previous chapter of the book.

Then there’s “which we will discuss in chapter xx” or “which we covered in chapter xx.” Once in a while, such a phrase may be helpful. Repeated too often, it’s filler — that is, horseshit.

Someone had to say it.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Tricks of the Trade, lesson 114

To an overseas author with whom I’ve worked before, who has written to ask me about copyediting a project next year.


I was just writing you a follow-up, then I’ll leave you alone.

Clarification: The work doesn’t take [four to five weeks], obviously, but it’s the usual turnaround that publishers and authors would expect for a manuscript of that length. If you found yourself in a position where you needed the work done, say, in two to three weeks, that’s not a problem -- especially if you’ve kept me apprised of scheduling along the way.

Do, please, let me know if or when I should lock this in on my schedule. I have a few publishers these days who tell me about their whole seasons two months in advance, so sometimes my work schedule starts filling up oddly for a particular month that’s far down the road.

If you don’t mind my asking, I have an unrelated item that’s been on my mind for some time. June Bug referred to you as her editor at Such-and-So Press. If I remember correctly, you’re a rather well-traveled and in-demand scholar. Do you do acquisitions for Such-and-So on the side? Or maybe you were an in-house reviewer for her book? 

Of course, I’m asking for mercenary reasons. If, by chance, you do have any role with Such-and-So Press that puts you in contact with authors or production people who might need editorial vendors, I’d welcome your passing my name along. Sometimes a UK press would like to have an American copyeditor or proofreader, and I index books as well -- a pathology that crosses borders. If you know any production managers whose names you could pass along, that would be great, too. It’s rare these days that I send out any feelers looking for work, but this little item’s lodged itself in my head, and there’s usually a reason for it.


A managing editor in a religious publishing house once told me,
"Bob, you know what we call you around here? 'The whore.'"

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Letter to an Author

An author I've worked with for many years finally came out with a self-published edition of a book, and is discouraged after no sales and a rejection from Books-a-Million. The topic is one about which the author is passionate, but based on the discouragement, the author is entirely ready to throw in the towel and, so to speak, close the book on the entire endeavor. This author, moreover, is typically upbeat.

Names changed, and correspondence slightly edited.


Jan: I’m sorry to hear this, especially from a person as typically positive as you are. What I’m about to write might seem like a little tough love, but I do care about you.

I’m not sure what you’ve done from your email or conversations with you to market the book. A rejection by Books-a-Million is to be entirely expected. The chances of Books-a-Million accepting a book from an unpublished author on a topic of, yes, limited interest are about the same as Walmart agreeing to put on its shelves Jan’s Great Breakfast Cereal. You’re talking about extremely valuable real estate, and you received a form letter response; the “and/or” indicates to me they didn’t even read it, and I’m not sure why they would read it, as they probably receive tens of thousands of unsolicited submissions each year. I’m also not sure why that’s a litmus test anyway; most people I know who buy books probably haven’t been in a Books-a-Million or any chain bookstore in ten years, except just to kill time. You’ll be around longer than Books-a-Million. Also, if you were dealing with a local or regional marketing person, I don’t think you’re working with someone who is necessarily in the position to assess the value of the book.

Have you done the festival route? That’s a proven way to sell books and make contacts in your area. Have you spoken with Jamie’s group or any of those authors? Have you begun signing up for festivals and authors’ signings for 2013? The local authors who are selling books are doing just that. And they sell books. And write more.

Have you contacted small presses — sending them a copy of the book, along with notice that you’re a professional lecturer and a topic expert, and you’d be willing to do anything to promote this book if they accept it? You could do two small presses a month for a year, in areas that would be interested in this book, at a total cost of about $40. 

You’ve experienced what every author experiences: a rejection. So what? Writing and researching for you were the easy part. If you want to get published or sell the books, it takes work, too — and it’s not the fun kind. I’ve probably told you, or you already know, that the authors of the first Chicken Soup for the Soul books received 150+ rejections. A hundred million copies later . . . 

I dropped a quick note to a writer about your email. Part of the response is as follows:

Is the book great literature? No. Is it scholarship? No. Will it make Jan millions or even tens of thousands of dollars? No. But it does represent a very good effort on Jan’s part to bring something Jan is rightly passionate about to light. Thousands of similar books are published each year to great response that are more poorly written and with less exciting a topic. I think Jan has something here that IS appealing — just needs to find the market.

Jan, I don’t think I’ve made any secret along the way that the publishing world is not going to beat a path to anyone’s door who is not a known and very saleable quantity. With all the tools these days, hundreds of thousands of people annually are publishing books, some with very wild expectations of the results. Even big publishers tell authors, and I’ve heard them say it to a room full of them, “Don’t expect that we’re going to do the work of marketing for you. That’s your job.”

I’m not sure what I can say that you’ve not heard from other writers or me numerous times before. At this point, selling the book becomes personal. No book, especially one on a limited topic by an unknown author, will get recognized except through the author’s efforts, which need not cost much at all. It sounds like you’ve put up your registration money and done all the training for a race you were really looking forward, then decided to stop because a cloud came out. I’m sure I’m missing something, because this isn’t the Jan I’ve come to know.

Apologies if I’ve overstepped my bounds.


Thursday, November 22, 2012

Author Contact, Codes, Thanksgiving

Some presses put me directly in touch with authors. I speak of dreading that experience, but the exchanges are often pleasant and rewarding.

Most of the time, a press's managing editor sends me a job, and I edit and return it to the managing editor. No mess, no fuss. I also can say certain things to the managing editor about a book that would be more difficult to say to an author.

[Sometimes, though, I wonder if presses don't always know when there's such a problem with the manuscript, and they want the anonymous copyeditor to blame when they bring the hammer down on the author.]

When I'm put in touch with the author, I can't hide behind the anonymity that copyediting usually provides. Thankfully I've never had the paths cross of Author Contact and Rancid Book. I recently had one back to back with the other, and I started thinking how fortunate that the author I was dealing with had written a very nice book and wasn't trying to pass off a bunch of financial and demographic research done in 2004 in the present tense as if it were still relevant.

But I digress. Imagine that.

In a recent project I copyedited, the press had coded the book before it came to me. Thus, the material below in angle brackets appeared before most blocks of copy. The material following the second bracket is what the code stands for:

<2HT>Second half title
<BMH>Back matter head
<BML>Back matter list
<BMT>Back matter text
<BQ>Block quote
<CN>Chapter number
<COT>Chapter opening text
<CPT>Chapter part title
<CT>Chapter title
<ESIGN>End of <SIGN>
<FMH>Front matter head
<HT>Half title
<L>List, unnumbered
<LH>List head
<LTR>Letter opening
<LTRT>Letter text
<NH>Notes head
<NL>Numbered list
<NLH>Numbered list head
<PN>Part number
<PST>Part subtitle
<PT>Part title
<SB>Strong break
<SIGN>Used for newspaper article titles, etc.
<T>Regular text
<T1>First paragraph of text
<TFL>Text flush left
<TOCBM>Table of contents back matter
<TOCCN>Table of contents chapter number
<TOCCT>Table of contents chapter title
<TOCFM>Table of contents front matter
<TOCPN>Table of contents part number
<TOCPST>Table of contents part subtitle
<TOCPT>Table of contents part title
<TP>Title page

NOTE: Ethnographic sections, which should be typographically distinct from regular text, are indicated by an “E” preceding individual code elements (e.g., <ETFL> for ethnographic text flush left, etc.).

This manuscript has more elements than most, but a list half this size isn't uncommon for most books. Part of what I do -- when the press doesn't do it first -- is put similar codes in the manuscript myself, thus telling the designer how to lay out the book. Put as simply as my brain can understand it, the designer can set up a certain style for chapter heads, search all text coded <CH>, apply style to code, and voila. Of course, there's a whole lot that goes on after that and before that, and nothing is quite that simple, but that's what the codes are for.

For this reason, authors, the look of a manuscript ultimately doesn't matter. 

Theoretically you could send a manuscript to a typesetter in 4-point Ridiculous, superscripted, and as long as these codes are in place, the designer should be able to work jes' fine.

The obverse (?) is also true. No matter how much you try to fancy up your manuscript, there's a point of diminishing returns for everyone down the line -- and you, too. A properly coded manuscript needs no formatting other than bold and italics and a few other things that import into design software. Boxes and shading and all that goes away, and a designer needs to re-create it. 

That's why an author should never put boxes and shading and auto-lists and all that other unnecessary noise in a manuscript in the first place.

Not that this author did. Well, actually I don't know, because the press obviously intervened on the manuscript before I saw it. But when I compiled my answers to some of the author's concerns, I noted that many of them dealt with how the manuscript looked, and the codes -- which, after all, are significant to me (duh, like knowing proofreading marks and reading subway maps -- aren't these universal survival skills?) -- weren't much help to the author.

My email to the very nice author follows, and please note that this was not my initial correspondence with the author. We'd already established a rapport and worked some things out between us, with some give and take on both sides. This email was sent essentially after my work was complete.

Hi. Just responding to some of your queries, so you don’t worry about this stuff.

1. The columns of contributions not lining up -- actually, they are, in theory. There’s a tab space between each number on each line, but just not a tab in the ruler, so the spacing is all different in appearance. Once the designer imports that text, the tabs will be there, and everything will line up pretty.

2. <LH>Oyster Dressing.

You’d wondered about this not being bold. The designer determines all those specs at typesetting time. The LH indicates it’s a head. I’m sure it’ll all make sense on the page.

3. You should be reborn a human being so that you will have a good life.” [Q: Shouldn’t there be end quote marks here (or somewhere) to close the instruction?]

No, because the text preceding it is set as a prose extract.

4. [Q: Can we put a blank line between the ends of all the poetry sections and the next paragraphs?  It bothers me that it all looks so crowded.]

Again, that’s a design thing that will be resolved at typesetting. There’s typically space around extracts and lists in most books. Don’t worry about how the manuscript looks. The designer goes by the codes, not the spacing on the page.

5. <CT>Silk Stories [Endnote 1 is here after “Silk Stories,” not at the end of COT]
No can do. Note markers after chapter titles, heads, etc., are verboten. Needs to go after the first next logical block of running text, usually the first sentence -- as done here.

6. Need to keep “nowhere” lowercase in “middle of nowhere”: From Merriam-Webster’s 11th Collegiate: middle of nowhere : an extremely remote and isolated place  *ran out of gas in the middle of nowhere. 

If we wanted to uppercase the term, really it would be Middle of Nowhere, Montana, but we shouldn’t do that either.

Hope that helps.


Happy Thanksgiving, folks. Hope it was a good one. We forsook the home event, and three of us -- myself, my wife, our younger son -- drove to Weaverville, NC, to a nice little restaurant and had a delightful meal and walked around a little afterward. Back home, nothing but another night at home. Nice change of pace. No preparation, no clean-up, and 90 minutes or so of quiet conversation that might be better than we'd get at home, with all the jumping up and down around the table that would be going on. My younger son's the type whom sometimes you don't know what's going on until you ask, and some of the time you don't even know what to ask, so the occasional direct answers and questions we get out of him in such situations are always helpful. His older brother has gone through parts of his life when we seemed to hear most of the goings-on in his head. That has never, ever been the case with our younger issue. I guess there's benefits to both. And it comes and goes. Once our younger son gets on a roll, it's nice to find out what's happening in his life.

I'll probably fry a turkey at Christmas, but I think we just made it a family tradition to get the hell out of town and go eat somewhere else on Thanksgiving. I guess it's our Central Appalachian version of Thanksgiving in Chinatown, which we've also done. With Asheville and environs 75 minutes of a beautiful drive down the road, that's not a problem.

View from 19/23, Tennessee/North Carolina

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Why It's Always Better to Query

Alrighty, put on your copyediting or proofreading hats. What do you notice about the following sentence?

At the funeral home, I wrapped up all the ashes from the burned part of the family money gift [tshuab ntawv vam sab].

Careful readers will note that the "v" in "vam" is not italicized. [Be honest. Did you see it?]

Most cases, one might simply think it's an error and italicize it, right? I queried, and received this pretty fascinating answer from the author:

"Nonitalicized if spoken aloud; italicized if thought. Stet."

I hope Hmong copyeditors get paid the big bucks.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Haiku Monday Winner: Southeast

After announcing the theme of "southeast," I remembered an I-don’t-think-entirely-apocryphal story from Atlanta back in the 1970s. Chickory may be familiar with this incident. It happened soon enough before I arrived in Atlanta that I don’t think it emerged out of whole cloth. Fleur may know it, too.

In a long-demolished shopping center known as Broadview Plaza near Piedmont and Lindbergh and Buford Highway was an intimate concert venue known as the great southeast music hall. They served buckets of beer -- about the equivalent of four and a half cans — and a glass. And you sat on the floor, as they had padded backstops you could lean up or pass out against. I saw a few very good concerts there. I think.

Back in the mid-70s, before he broke through on Saturday Night Live and elsewhere, Steve Martin did a show at the Great Southeast Music Hall. So few people showed up that he did only a quick set . . . and then took the audience bowling at the lanes nearby. Talk about a brush with fame.

Times have changed. Broadview Plaza is long, long gone. Atlanta has been torn down and rebuilt three times since Sherman finished his own mode of urban renewal. Steve Martin is now very self-consciously high culture.

Times have changed in Southeast Asia, too. With the CIA in the news lately, I wonder what’s going on in the parts of the world we don’t hear about so much anymore. As with any relationship gone south(east), in our national collective mind — and in the national subconscious — do we ever really walk away? In other generation or two, will we be back for another round? The words “Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos” mean little if anything to my children, who are not uninformed yutes. Will those names mean something again to their children?

Consider this little ditty, from 1974 (I hope the author/compiler, who previously checked in on the blog, doesn’t mind): “I took the rock [from Laos] to Lausch Test Labs in Seattle. They assayed this material, and it assayed out at 1.1 ounces of gold per ton. Oh my, that’s a high gold content! More than double anything in Alaska or the rest of the U.S.! Also there was 0.58 ounces of silver, and the rest was iron. When I got that assay report I called Bethlehem Steel and I talked to their exploration department. I said, ‘Would you guys be interested in something like this?’ They said, ‘My God! Where is it?’ I said, ‘I’m sorry but you won’t be able to get to it at this time. Not for at least a quarter of a century.’” Bethlehem Steel might still be waiting. Maybe not. We don’t know.

But your neighbor might. And that’s OK. I wish I had a marketable skill to lead me to a life of intrigue.

Where was I?

Fishy: Nice pieces evoking Florida beach culture. We lived at the beach in FL for two years -- although not a spring break destination. What I used to love in those years was going inland to I-95 to eat at the Waffle House during Bike Week. Great clientele. And Waffle House would issue special Waffle House Bike Week uniforms.

I like “Tops down flirty girls,” on a number of levels. I remember one year when I was still not yet old enough to drive legally (it might even have been right after I fell asleep at the wheel) and Dad Czar rented me a Camaro convertible for use for a week in Miami; I think it was to keep me out of his hair. So, sure, I had a Camaro convertible when I was 16 years old for a week in Miami. Unfortunately it was still me behind the wheel. No get lucky. Wouldn’t even know how to try.

Serendipity one (Alaska): Interesting story. You live a life with which I am unfamiliar. I also have tried to make the point that in these grand disasters that happen in life, not every person who dies is necessarily a saint or didn’t have it coming — although maybe they didn’t go in exactly the way someone imagined.

Moi: That’s just hilarious, as was the video. I must admit that I still get the occasional “pin”/“pen” thing wrong with the czarina. Dad czar says my vowels are all wrong since moving down here. “Rurnt”!

Becca: Great entries. Florida is an odd amalgam — if I might stretch your second one there, too. As a two-year Florida resident, I remember the excitement of receiving in the mail our first fall there an offer for a Florida residents’ pass to all the Disney properties — something like unlimited usage for three months for $99/person. At the time, we had a nine- and a six-year-old. I’m not sure we ever would have gone to Disney otherwise. And there is nothing like an ocean. As Mark Twain said upon his first view of the Atlantic, “It appears to be a success.”

Serendipity two (sunset over your shoulder): Sublime and witty. I see those colors often around here. Quite nicely done.

BlazngScarlet: A lot of past and present Floridians checking in. My heart doesn’t really yearn for anywhere, but there are certain state borders I cross over and think, “Back home.” Two are in the Southeast. I don’t see myself returning north in this lifetime, but I think at this point I’d feel out of place. On the ’Bama thing . . . the czarina grew up in Alabama, and her whole family went there. I need to be careful. Although she’ll pull for Georgia, her alma mater, over Alabama. And I think at this point she’d pull for Virginia over either of them.

Karl: Ever the man who can make as much sense in seventeen syllables as anybody, and with a lilting rhythm, yet.

Chickory: I need a lifeline. I know the Mason-Dixon line, and I know the gnat line. What’s above the gnat line and it’s not so important that it’s below the Mason-Dixon line? What am I missing? Arrggh! Thankfully, for me, we have syllable issues that add to the mystery. But I’m sitting here messing with Venn diagrams.

This week’s winner grabbed me right off, and while I might discount eating up five syllables with one’s own name, when one’s own name captures the moment and the haiku as it does here, I’m not one to quibble.

And you need the visual and the story:


A southeast sunset?
Serendipity reflects;
surprise from behind!

It was a delightful surprise for me, too — with an interesting and multifaceted twist to the theme, and a timeless look at a theme that's ever in flux. The win goes to Serendipity. Thanks, all, for another grand time.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Haiku Monday, 11/12/2012

In some fit of Savannah-induced euphoria or election-induced despair, Fishy gave the local liberal the nod for a Castro-inspired haiku in a week that also included a national election that, well, didn't break the way many folks around here hoped.

Personally, I was insulted to see a vote total at one point in the night for my home state that included Virgil Goode's numbers, but not Gary Johnson's. I went to the secretary of state's website, and Johnson was pulling more than twice as many votes at that time as Goode. So what's the takeaway here?

Don't forget, folks, I spent much of my adult life voting Libertarian. This year, I realized that the vote I made for the Libertarian ticket in 1980 included one of the Koch brothers as vice president. Yowza.

Savannah and youth and change have something to do with this week's theme.

Sunrise at Isle of Hope, Savannah
I'm working on a large and rather interesting volume about the CIA's secret war in Laos from the late 50s/early 60s to the mid-70s, the evacuation of the Hmong, Hmong funeral rituals . . . all told through the life and death story of a smokejumper who was over there for many years, and died and was buried in his early 40s under mysterious circumstances.

It's 170,000 words of mostly oral history and reprints, and that's a nice few days on the farm for a copyeditor. Not a lot to do.

Interestingly, I was familiar with the Laotian cast of characters from this little ditty (no, you don't have to watch it):

The book I'm editing is part of a series on Southeast Asian history and U.S. involvement in it during the post-World War II era -- from Texas Tech University Press. If you're interested in military history and U.S. history in the 1960s and 1970s, the books are well worthwhile. And no, folks, it's not a bunch of anti-U.S. claptrap. Not at all. Texas Tech is devoted to Vietnam and Southeast Asian studies.

Believe it or not, Laos has something to do with this week's theme. Texas, thankfully not. Ginsberg? Nothing much I'm aware of, except for his appearance at University of Alabama in Huntsville in 1977 -- a tape of which was the first recording I heard of the song above.

(It was part of the same speakers' series in which I met Dr. Hunter S. Thompson, a native of Louisville, KY, the next year.)

Back in the days even before I was old enough to start voting Libertarian, I spent a lot of time traveling up and down I-95. Dad Czar and I, like good New York Jews, would drive dutifully down to Miami Beach in the middle of every December (1967-1976), and then in 1977 I began my regular New York-Atlanta-New York drives for three years, continuing them off and on for many years after that.

I always knew I was firmly back in the Southeast when I'd emerged from the Baltimore/Washington nonsense, and made it through the perpetually under construction freeway through downtown Richmond, to break onto traffic-less highway and inhale deeply the smell of the RJ Reynolds tobacco plant -- a strange and surprising and welcoming odor when you're driving 65 miles an hour in the middle of the night.

We're back where we started. Savannah to Richmond. My Montgomery, AL, native wife and my two sons born in Atlanta would be proud.

This week's Haiku Monday theme is southeast.

That might be Asia, or the United States (my adopted home, whether the locals like it or not), or for those of you of a more directional bent, something the compass kicks off. For those of you who enjoy American football, there's always the SEC. You don't have to worry about my having favorites in that conference; I dislike them all, some more than others.

And it doesn't have to be southeast geographically; whatever you can take away from the word is fair game.

Visuals: Smoke 'em if you got 'em. Links: Yeah. Music: If it's good. Just haiku? Delightful.

Limit two entries, please. I'm strict on syllables but little else (although I will say this: punctuate purposefully). Other than that, post entries in the comments below. Deadline is midnight PST on Monday.

Have fun, folks. Thanks, Fishy.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Haiku Monday: New Yorker Covers

The host is the inestimable Fishy at her pond, and the theme -- with a wonderful accompanying write-up -- is New Yorker covers.

Smoldering island's
Ashen past; dreams wintering,

Seasons go and stop—
In the black strip ’tween Mom’s grin
And child’s pigtailed angst

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Storm Update: It's All about Me

I mean, you can get news and worldwide significance elsewhere, right?

Sandy plows fiercely through czar's childhood: Staten Island, where I grew up, and Breezy Point, on the same spit of land where I worked for two summers.

Not, of course, that I think of Sandy as divine judgment, but lyrics of a certain song came to mind when I heard of the events at Breezy Point. And I want to emphasize that I don't think anyone deserved what happened here. They're just lyrics, and I can't really stop the linkages -- not that I have to report them here, either.

I wish I could find the John Miller version of "Where Shall I Be" online, but it's impossible to find any John Miller on youtube from the mid-1970s, or much at all. If you like blues, gospel, American songbook, high-quality finger-picking guitar, and a voice kinda in the range of Alan Wilson from Canned Heat, find John Miller music. (I've got all the albums, and one day I'll digitize them. Of all the albums I have, those are close to the top of the list. And Fahey.)

[I throw it open for discussion: What's the one song you wish you had a digital version of but, as far as you know, has never been digitized? The first song I digitize is Cool It Reba, "Money Fall out the Sky."]

Lyrics of "Where Shall I Be" (trad., arr. John Miller; not the song in the video below):

Where shall I be when the first trumpet sounds
Where shall I be when it sounds so loud
Sounds so loud it'll wake up the dead
Where shall I be when it sounds?

I'll be trying on my robe when the first trumpet sounds
Trying on my robe when it sounds so loud
Sounds so loud it'll wake up the dead
Where shall I be when it sounds?

God gave Noah the rainbow sign
Won't be water but the fire next time

Sounds so loud it'll wake up the dead
Where shall I be when it sounds?

Plenty of interesting versions of "Where Shall I Be" on the youtube, but none I found included the lyric highlighted above.

I heard from my brother, a Staten Island resident who thankfully lives about 400 feet above sea level. He has made it through so far with only a crushed and totaled car, 37 hours without power or hot water, and a live-in 85-year-old recently immigrated Russian mother-in-law whose cognac supply was almost exhausted. Lucky indeed.

Staten Island lost 19 people of the 94 dead from Sandy so far, and was also disproportionately the most affected locale by the events of September 11, 2001, in terms of loss of life.

Horrible events, and I'm very sad to see my hometown take another devastating hit.

[More from my brother: just received another message. His wife and mother-in-law went yesterday to be with some folks they know who were understandably upset at seeing corpses washing ashore. My brother also did some exploring last night. Said that there were 300 vehicles lined up for gas at midnight near our family's old car dealership . . . at a station that wouldn't open for another seven hours.]

In the meantime . . .

Monday, October 29, 2012

Storm Alert: Sandy in SW VA

From the local rag:

“In Southwest Virginia, they’ve advised possibly toward the later part of the week we could be looking at rain or snow,” said Pokey Harris, emergency management director for Washington County, Va. “We’ll continue to monitor the system.”

Could you take seriously an emergency management director named "Pokey"?

Oh, wait.

[UPDATE 10/31: I've apparently offended the image gods, and the photo below -- pulled from images.google.com -- has been removed. Thanks for keeping up with the blogs, folks.]

Given the tornadoes here a few years back, she's had to deal with some serious issues, and I'm sure does a hell of a job . . . but still.

I must admit to reading "Pokey" and thinking something more along the lines of this:

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

George McGovern, RIP, and Other Stuff

Of all the tomes I read in my younger days, I'd say that none politicized me like Hunter Thompson's Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail '72 -- not for forming my political opinions, but for raising my interest in the political process. And that was an interesting year, given that two years later, both the elected vice president and president who trounced McGovern would be gone from office in separate scandals. As I saw McGovern quoted in one of his obituaries, "We'd have had a better chance two years later." Indeed.

One of the lines that Thompson quotes -- I believe from Jeremiah -- is "The harvest is past, the summer is ended, and we are not saved."

Of course, I'm prone to misinterpretation and plucking quotes out of context, but I feel like my harvest just past with one of the most ridiculous work stretches I've ever encountered. The red leaves tell me summer has ended. Salvation? Don't get me started.

Just finished a mildly interesting book on the mutual dialogue ("trialogue") of Christianity, Islam, and Judaism. The Jews don't have much to say about the afterlife. What happens now is what counts.

One of the chapter's authors brings up the interesting point, though, that a religion that excludes people in its afterlife necessarily is saying something about how the religion will treat those excluded people in this life.

I've found myself giving rather specific advice to a couple of editorial newcomers lately -- as far as mapping out a freelance career and how to approach editorial changes. I enjoy doing that, and I hope they get something out of it. Some folks helped me along the way.

I'm enjoying a moment of relative calm. One of the hardest things about being a freelancer is making yourself work when you'd really rather not. It's been months and months since I've felt like I should be doing anything with my waking hours but working, so that I've not even had to face the choice. I have nothing due in the morning, and my world's not going to fold like a napkin if I don't work to exhaustion. It's a nice feeling.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Report from Central Kentucky

By my hasty calculations, close to one hundred times each and every day, maybe more, the monks at the Abbey of Gethsemani chant a version of the Doxology that ends "the God who is and was and is to come / at the end of the ages."

On the matter of the end-times, I can think of no better image of the apocalypse than needing to wear earplugs in a library at a Trappist monastery, where silence throughout is the presumptive ground zero.

I want silence that goes to eleven.

It's not like the monks were running around singing show tunes. More to the point, some of the other retreatants weren't wrapped up in the silence concept, even though that's the exact point, and one about which the abbey makes no secret. You almost literally can't turn around in some places, and certainly in the rooms, without a reminder to keep your piehole shut, suggested very nicely and thoughtfully, of course.

But, what are you gonna do? I'll be back another time, and it'll probably be more like the first time, where the silence was pretty well observed.

I also availed myself of some more Catholic devotional moments this time -- specifically, recitation of the Rosary and the Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament.

Now that's some wild stuff. I need Aunty to fill me in on the latter. The former seems to be bundled up in meditation and numerology. I can deal with that. I don't know what's going on in the latter. I spoke afterward with one of the devout, a Eucharistic minister, who tried to explain what I'd just sat through for an hour. It didn't help.

I mean, I'm in a room with people who sincerely believe that they are in the presence of Jesus (I found that out afterward, although I kinda knew it), and most of them sat like they were waiting for the bus. Maybe hanging out with the Messiah and Son of God just gets routine after a while. Perhaps all the activity is going on internally. Fine. What's the point of the device then? A monk comes and gets this thing out of a little medicine cabinet behind the altar, blesses it or kisses it, places it on the pulpit, and leaves for an hour. Comes back in, gets it, holds it up, puts it back in the cabinet, turns the key. I guess it's to help people focus? The Catholic Church is into totems?

I was hoping for a splinter of the cross or part of Jesus's foreskin or something. I can't imagine what the same rite looks like at the Catholic church around the corner from me.

Anyway, settling back in the saddle. Because of some family medical issues that consumed the run-up to Gethsemani, I was not able to go there without work, although the work done was at least appropriate to the site.

One day, hopefully in 2014, I'm going to schedule a seven-day stint there, and maybe the no-work thing can be realized at that time. To spend seven days there with nothing I have to read . . . and not needing earplugs . . . would be, like the Blessed Sacrament, ineffable.

To the water pump, approx. two miles

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Sketches of Ulysses, 3

From Wikipedia: The Rolling Stone Album Guide calls it “a work of unparalleled grace and lyricism.” In 2003, the album was ranked number 356 on Rolling Stone’s list of the 500 greatest albums of all time.

I call it virtually impossible to leave playing for five minutes.

For me to say that any music is unlistenable is quite the achievement on the part of the composer, arranger, conductor, and musicians. With few exceptions I can sit through just about anything.

Exceptions: Opera and Led Zeppelin, both of which I’ve always lumped in the same category — they’re great until the singing starts.

I’d heard that Ulysses was one of the great unread novels of all time, the kind of literature that people like to say they’ve plowed through in order to impress other people, but which no one has actually read from beginning to end.

Maybe that was Finnegans Wake. Or Pynchon’s Gravity’s Rainbow.

My Boyz (as opposed to my sons) were dragged with me through elements of my Ulysses work, whether they wanted to be or not.

[First, let me say that my Boyz are vastly, vastly better educated and well-read than I am. Giants and geniuses all.]

Beast told Scooter, “You should read it. It’s not that difficult (no more so than Absalom Absalom or Gravity’s Rainbow).”

Strongboy piped in, “I tried [Gravity’s Rainbow] recently and couldn’t locate a major plot—or a minor one—by about page 50 and aborted. I like to be challenged as a reader, but a little positive reinforcement for the effort would be nice, too.”

Paisan, resident polymath, responded quickly, “One plot starts at the White Visitation, where the behaviorist Pointsman is studying Tyrone Slothrop because he gets a hard-on and screws a British gal BEFORE the V2 rockets hit that London locale (they are silent, traveling faster than the speed of sound). Response, THEN stimulus. Of course, there is Roger Mexico, also at the WV, plotting V2 hits according to the Poisson distribution; as Pointsman dwells in the Zero and the One, Mexico lives everywhere in between, in probabilities. There are three other major plots (involving the suicide of Herero tribe, a German chemist, a Russian and the Kirgiz lights)—‘any one of which would have enhanced the status of every novelist writing in English,’ according to the NYT review.”

I love my Boyz. Paisan can hold the floor for hours on the Civil War, Shakespeare, baseball, statistics, Pynchon, politics, city planning, and probably half a dozen other topics I can’t even imagine. And that’s without anything to lube his delivery.

Trust me, Paisan needs nothing to lube his delivery. And it’s always well informed and hilarious.  

When I knew Ulysses was coming in, I’d committed myself to read the novel first, and then the front and back matter. The front matter introduces the novel, discussing its construction, themes, and publication history. The back matter presents the explanatory notes, the semiofficial errata sheets, and 200-some-odd pages of some of the most soul-numbing proofreading I’ve ever done, because of the quality of the scan, not the nature of the material.

And when I say “soul-numbing proofreading,” that’s an area with which I’m well familiar. I spent the first 17 months out of college proofreading airline timetables and lottery and scratch-off tickets—one of the most enjoyable and, in retrospect, perhaps simplest times of my life. Ah, the Helen Estates, and Atlanta before it went nuts.


I read Ulysses front to back, with the exception of the play chapter, which was far too frustrating from a bad-scan perspective to continue, and I needed at that time, as Strongboy said, some positive reinforcement. After that chapter, the proofreading was easy, especially Molly’s rant at the end. Then I went back and finished the play chapter, which ended up containing my favorite character in the book, a progressively drunker military type who is the prototype for the kind of folks who really groove on Lee Greenwood’s “Proud to Be an American.”

My thinking as page gave way to page was that Joyce didn’t really care about the reader. Joyce cared about Joyce. Joyce cared about showing folks how clever he was, and how he could write in any genre (not all equally well, in my mind, but some damn good). Joyce was more intent on the structure and the detail and the variety of his styles than in presenting a story that anyone would, could, or should follow.

Sometimes when I’m returning a manuscript, I’ll tell the author what an accomplishment the work was. I’m always sincere about that statement, and it occasionally is uttered when I’ve just read a very good book. But sometimes that statement is coded language for, “I’m happy for you and your career that you’ve devoted so much time to this incredibly arcane topic, but in the long run, you’ve just spent the last ten years of your life creating a beautifully packaged doorstop that should function for years to come.”

And maybe I’m displaying my own ignorance here, and I never mind doing that. It’s how I learn, when I have an open mind to do so. Hilarious to me are comments that people make about Citizen Kane: “It’s all clich├ęs.” No, dummy. It created the form. Some dude who ended up being a caricature in his later years was a Boy Genius who invented whole new worlds of filmmaking and storytelling when he was twenty-six years old.

I guess I’m opening myself up to, “Hey, Dummy.”

But reading the front matter for the Oxford World’s Classics edition of the 1922 printing confirmed my general impressions.

Joyce, after meeting only with meager publishing success to that point, went on to attempt this master work of Ulysses. But along the way, he goosed interest in the developing manuscript by letting people know how the book should be interpreted. Nearing publication and a little thereafter, he gave two different folks schemata of the book, indicating its links to the Odyssey, somewhat to Hamlet, what genres each section of the book paired up with, what colors, what body parts and functions, what times of day, and so on.

Please see:

Somewhere in the notes, the editor of this edition—obviously no slouch in the brains department—stated that without Joyce’s assistance, it’s unlikely that folks would have made any connection between Ulysses and the Odyssey, much less Hamlet.

And there’s more than a little of the following mind-set involved for the readers, too:

Joyce not only gave the world a new way to look at novels; he gave the world a particular piece of work and enough semi-informative and occasionally contradictory data to goose enough critical interest in this book to last forever, obviously.

Some of Ulysses is beautiful. It’s all challenging. It’s an amazing accomplishment. But Joyce’s greater accomplishment still, as far as I’m concerned, was in marketing.

No one needed schema to figure out Citizen Kane. And did Joyce really have all that stuff in mind before he wrote the damn thing? Call me skeptical.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

More Interludes Than Running Text

A book designer and I have worked together for years, occasionally contentiously, but I think that often came from the stress of dealing with mutual clients who really have no idea what they're doing. And that's OK; we're professionals with decades of experience doing this kind of work, and they are not.

One book series we worked on, or tried to, came from an author who didn't understand that most good books have a story -- you know, a beginning, a middle, and an end. When things work out really nicely, even individual chapters read that way.

This author would include so many sidebars and boxes and pull quotes and illustrations that determining the actual theme of the book became damn near impossible. As a copyeditor, that's a problem for me, because part of my job is coding the text: instructing the designer how each element of the book should be treated. When a chapter is 75 percent non-body-text, it's a sign of bad organization.

As much as my book designer pal and I tried to explain it to the author, the concept never really seemed to sink in.

Another problem is that this author is the type who wants to sit down with a designer and create each page to accommodate all the switches and turns. That might have been OK decades ago. No one has the time anymore. It's an age of specialists. And if you're an author reading this, take away this one fact: In a perfect world, the person designing your book should never have to read a word of it, nor care in the least what the book is about. The text should arrive at the designer's coded and ready to go.

And here's a little secret, too: I don't really care what your book is about either. When an author asks if I want to know what a project is about, I'll generally say, "It doesn't really matter, but if you want to tell me, go ahead."

What's my point? I have a few.

A. I'm too busy to be writing this blog entry. But I'm avoiding a very particular project. Why am I avoiding that project? Because it involves me getting down and dirty with artwork. Czar don't do artwork -- at least not with a smile on my face. But I know that once I get started, it'll be easy and I won't dread it next time . . . that is, unless I wait for the muscle memory to fade.

B. If you came here expecting the further tales of Ulysses, it's going to have to wait. I might just go Raoul Duke and start repurposing emails I sent during the course of the project to some of my pals. It's a story that must be told, because it informs much of what I do. That is, how do I approach a stack of paper when my goal is reaching the bottom of that stack of paper in the most efficient manner, regardless of its content?

For example, I just finished working on a collection of short stories and poems -- the kind of stuff I studiously avoid in the New Yorker, because fiction and poetry ain't my bag. But what do I do when I'm in the middle of a really intense short story and I don't want to turn the page because I'm already emotional as hell and living on the edge, and nothing at all can send me into weeping spasms? I was reading one story in particular, and I was in good page-turning, moneymaking mode, and I got to a point where I didn't want to know what was going to happen next -- because I didn't know how my fragile psyche would respond.

That's a good story. My usual metric for whether I like the fiction (novels) I'm paid to read is if I care about what happens to the characters by about 30 pages into the manuscript. In a short story, though, that number of pages is vastly compressed.

Frankly, I never had that feeling about Ulysses. But I personally don't think that Joyce's book was designed to make readers care about those characters either. Maybe I'm wrong.

C. I've said this three times today to different people: Anyone who is good at what they do seems absolutely exhausted these days. And the exhaustion just seems to attract more work. There's really no way out.

But . . .

I just lined up 5 days at the Abbey of Gethsemani. Early October.

If you see me there, ignore me. I promise you I'll do my best to give you the same treatment.

Monday, August 13, 2012

The Art of the Snarky Query

Trying to do a week's worth of work in a day, so not much time for a post. I don't feel right leaving that haiku stuff up too long, especially as it spills into another Haiku Monday -- which, if you're playing at home, is available at Fishy's fine pond this week.

In the meantime, I offer an email I just sent to a managing editor, one who fears showing up in this column of the blog. But that's what she gets for loading me down with crazy, though remunerative, deadlines.

Ah, the power of the virtual press.


Just a few to get your heart started. And this is a second edition, huh?

page 36, line 2: uppercase bible.

page 39: Hitler's first name was Adolf. Adolph's is a brand of meat tenderizer.

page 42: period at end of paragraph.

page 48: you can't elide digits on BCE numbers, for very obvious reasons.

page 51: with the script, it's a little hard to discern, but I'm about 99 percent sure that seder plate is upside down. the three-letter word on the plate is the Hebrew pesach, and it should read correctly in the photo

Good thing I'm not reading this book too carefully. 

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Haiku Monday: Just Like the Lottery: You Can't Win If You Don't Play

So many thoughts and themes.

It’s been a long time since I’ve hosted, and I’m going to echo what previous hosts have been saying lately: More and more of the enjoyment from this weekly parade comes from seeing what people whose personalities we know do with a topic — or do at all — rather than the actual execution.

Too, as Woody Allen or Albert Einstein or Yogi Berra said, “Ninety percent of life is showing up.”

The return of Fleur. Chickory breaking her hiatus. (Thanks to you both.) Aunty, Aunty, Aunty . . . was your finger hovering over the Publish key, waiting for 11:59pm to strike? Priceless. And Kristen, thanks to you, too, for joining us for recess. It seems that no one has time for HM, but here we are again.

Thanks to all for meeting the deadline. Delivering this blog posting might be the only deadline I make all week.

[What’s my life been like? Let’s just say that 19-hour workdays, not eating, and an inability to achieve any kind of deep sleep (but waking up drenched in sweat) is a wonderful weight-loss plan.]

So, yeah, it’s as much about the people as the poetry; the collective wisdom of what people have to say about a topic is so damn instructive.

* * *

My takeaway from this week’s entries is that unless you’re very young or not human at all, play (as a verb) comes fraught with peril and maybe pain — from Fleur’s hard landing to Serendipity’s preseason march (and the forecast of pain for lugging the beast back to camp) to Becca’s incredibly ominous “be careful where you bleed” to Rafa baring his “charms.” CoreyJo addresses the addiction aspect of HM, and even good addictions can be intrusive. (Czar to self: Get to work! It’s already 5:30am! You’ve been up two hours and haven’t turned a billable page yet!)

And bad addictions, which typically start out as play? Don’t get me started.

So, who can enjoy relatively unfettered play? Shadows and trees (Grins); squealing cousins in summertime (Fishy); grasshoppers (Chickory); ravens and martins (Serendipity and Kristen, respectively).

Caveat: Even — or especially — childhood play can come with its bumps and bruises, as Fleur attests. And here’s where knowing the players (oops!) gets interesting. If someone else, some unknown, had submitted Fleur’s entry . . . fine. But knowing Fleur’s haiku history, is it possible to read about two people in joyous rhythm, then with a sudden end, as anything but metaphor?

* * *

I’ve mentioned that my son is an actor, so when I hear the word “play” these days, my mind goes to the stage, and I’ve experienced far greater catharsis in a theatre’s setting than just about anywhere else. Plays are about conflict. No conflict, no play (or at least not a very good one).

Conflict? You want conflict? Where else but this crowd can a host throw out the word “play” and the first three submitted words are “a nuclear war,” and it’s right on topic (Karl)?

Catharsis? Becca addresses the tears in the ultimate final scene — but what really nailed me with Becca’s verse is that, as any member of my family will tell you, at some point at every play I cry (if not empty the tear ducts). It’s the emotion of live performance, the joy of seeing something done well, sometimes even the content of the play itself (or now, seeing my son on stage living his dream [I’m crying as I type; yes, I am]).

I cried (finally) at my mother's funeral, but nowhere near as hard as I've cried in a theatre. And, as part of czar family lore, I remember hearing that my mother was so overwhelmed at seeing Camelot on Broadway back in the early to mid-60s that she needed to be carried from the theatre.

The most cathartic moment ever in a theatre for me was watching my younger (nonactor) son, as a high school sophomore, as Pippin — for a million reasons. If I had time, and if you had time, I’d tell you the tale. But, as I've learned this week through all of you, the reality of "play" in any of its forms can be a bit brutal. (And knowing what my parents' marriage was turning out to be at that time, I suspect ma czar was carrying more than a little emotion in with her, as was I at Pippin.)
Play can be hard. Look at Jon’s words: “screaming,” “unmerciful hammering.” And how much pain went into being able to play like that? (Oops, I’m back to verbs. I’m off the clock. So shoot me.)

* * *

Parting comments:

“Childhood’s popsicle”: Great, Grins.

“The fountain of youth”: Chickory, the czarina told me the other day that she saw a cartoon of a man at a fork in the road with two signs. One said “Fountain of Youth”; the other said “Bacon.” Now, that’s a tough choice. But if I’m reading you right, obligations lead straight to the grave. Wow. And I agree entirely.

“Twirling laughter sky”: Love it, Kristen. Always the kind of phrase that seems to grab the host’s attention.

 * * *

I need to wrap this up. Even facing a 19-hour day, I can avoid work with the best of them.

* * *

A friend has written and directed a new play, which will be performed this week at the New York Fringe Festival (Fleur, you should go see it; if you’re interested, I’ll get details). But the apparent theme of the play (which I’d never pick up on, because my friend’s IQ is about 80 points higher than mine) is that we become what we fear.

I’ve never been playful in any traditional sense of the word. Ever. Not in the hopping-skipping-jumping-fancy free sense. But that’s what immediately comes to mind when I hear the word. 

Maybe I fear the verb “play.” And maybe my fear went out over the series of tubes. Because what I’m learning from these entries is that, for everyone, play isn’t as playful as it sounds. As a verb, it often involves some pain. As a noun: catharsis, war, death.

Unless you’re damn, damn lucky.

* * *

Oh. Did someone win this week? Yeah. That would be Fishy with her seventeen-syllable evocation of the Bard's A Midsummer Night's Dream:

B’neath light of moon
Oberon’s mischief reveals
William’s Summer farce

Thanks, everybody. I wish I could write this stuff all day. Or sleep and eat. Or do anything else but what the rest of the day holds in store. Like play . . . although now I'm not so sure.

Love you all. Really.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Haiku Monday, 8/6/2012

I have no idea what I’m doing here — in the winner’s position.

I think the incomparable RafaDe granted me a Haiku Monday achievement/participation award -- like the ribbon you give at summer's end for the camper who showed up every day, had enough grit to finish the race every time, but never really had a chance in hell of beating the kids who clearly could run faster and jump higher.

Thus, I’m viewing this week’s hosting of Haiku Monday as receiving the poetic equivalent of a pity f—, to segue from Rafa’s parting imagery. (If you know that term, okay. If not, don’t worry about it.)

And you know what? I’ll take it.

Rafa is, after all, the host with the most post, or something like that. And I must say that of all the haikuers, Rafa somehow seems to get me, for what it’s worth. I’m not sure if that’s worse for me or him. After introducing my dear friend Fleur to this mess, who seemed to revel each week in letting the others know just how inappropriate my submission was . . . well, as Warren G. Harding said, “My friends . . . my god-damn friends.” Maybe it's best I stick with people who don't know me too well.

You can look up that Harding quote, by the way. It's real.

Damn, off-track already. Or maybe not. I’m just playing around.


This week’s word is play. Many places to go with it. As a verb, it’s never had much play for me. As a noun, the word now plays out with a revitalized meaning in my life.

Visuals. Sure, if you want. I’ll be honest: They won’t help you win, but they won’t hurt you either. If that makes me a bad guy, I can live with it.

5-7-5. I’m strict. And I may or may not request a correction for an entry that's off-count. Depends on time and mood. The syllables are your responsibility. Really, it's the only rule to follow, other than the deadline. You can do it. I'm sure of it.

Content. Whatever — as long as it relates in some way to play. And that’s a mighty wide berth.

Number. Post as many as you want, but only the first two are for judging. Put them in the comments section below.

Deadline: 12:01am, Tuesday, EDT.

Host’s promise: A winner announced on Tuesday, following the instructions of the judge in William Burroughs’s Naked Lunch: "Be just, and if you can’t be just, be arbitrary."