Sunday, January 31, 2010

Monday, January 25, 2010

The Importance of Being Earnest

Oscar, you bad boy!
One never knows what you'll say.
(Except when one does.)

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Poetry for Practice

If you've been reading this blog for… oh, about five or six minutes, you must have noticed the striking number of haikus. The last thing I'd call myself is a poet, but writing haikus is a habit I got into years ago after a (deceptively) simple creative exercise. The idea was to write ten haikus in one hour; they didn't have to tell a story, but they had to be linked by a theme or a recurring character/object.

Haikus (English ones, that is) are poems made up of 17 syllables broken into three lines of 5, 7, and 5 syllables, respectively. They're like poetic darts – fast and small – and when someone skilled is writing them, they'll hit the target dead center. I wasn't thinking that at the time, however. I was thinking, "Only 17 syllables each? No problem!" Jumping ahead to the punchline: it took me an hour to write six and another hour to write the other four.

I was exhausted, and the haikus, in a word, sucked. But – proving those two hours hadn't been in vain for nothing - I realized that writing haikus was a good way to hone my skills. In fact, trying your hand at any type of poetry can be beneficial. Yes! Let it be widely reported: Poetry is not a floaty misty shimmery form that descends from the heavens upon the minds of a few chosen mortals. Even you, the prose-inclined-scribbler can compose poetic lines! (Just don't run to show them to your family, friends, and coworkers – you'll probably feel mortified, but that's another story.)

Why? You ask, in amazement and/or concern and/or panic. I'll tell you:

Word choice. When writing poetry, you become far more conscious of individual words and the impact they make on a phrase, line, or stanza. Now don't misunderstand me and feel slighted on behalf of your carefully selected expressions. When writing prose, we tend to focus on larger elements – character, plot, theme, dialogue, description, action, and so on – but when writing a poem, you become that much more aware that every single word (every syllable even) can be of great significance. Which brings me to the next point:

Sharper focus. Plot, characterization, and so on – can be all-consuming. Poetry gives you the opportunity to forget all of that and focus on the words alone. Which brings me to the next point:

Smaller structure. Though poetry can certainly reach epic proportions, poems usually tend to be shorter. Meaning, it's much easier to see the whole than it is with a novel or even a short story. And that can help you focus on the way elements come together to form a whole.

Rhythmic movement. The rhythm a series of words creates is surprisingly easy to forget when you're not writing dialogue. Poetry brings that back into play.

Thematic games. Speaking of playing, a (comparatively) short form like poetry is a great method for brainstorming about a topic and making connections between ideas. Which brings us to the last point:

Figurative inclination. Since words themselves take center stage in poetry, the form is especially useful for experimenting with figurative language – metonymy, synecdoche, similes, metaphors (mixed and unmixed), etc.

WARNING: you may start to like practicing poetry so much that you'll write poems for their own sake. And then you're on your own. All madness is strictly your responsibility.

Monday, January 18, 2010


around and around
in your own private ocean
feeling stir-crazy?

Monday, January 11, 2010

Mad Men, Season Four

August is ages away
thank you very much

Friday, January 8, 2010

Gone with the Pun

There are some serious posts on the horizon, but this morning I'm in a comic mood and can't manage to type a reasonably complex sentence. I know that doesn't sound promising, but stay with me.

Gone with the Wind is easily a template for epic melodrama. The title is also handy for renaming other films that are similarly epic in tone, style, or story (whether intentionally or unintentionally). The idea is not to include any word from the original title, although "Gone with the Ring" seems an inevitable mock-title for Lord of the Rings. "Gone with the Elves"? Anyway.

Some obvious epic mash-ups:

Gone with the Old Testament – The Ten Commandments
Gone with the Chariot – Ben-Hur
Gone with the Snow – Doctor Zhivago
Gone with the Sand – Lawrence of Arabia

This also works well with sci-fi:

Gone with the Final Frontier – Star Trek
Gone with the Monkeys – Planet of the Apes
Gone with the Force/Jedi – Star Wars
Gone with the Spice/Worms – Dune
Gone with the Spoon – The Matrix

Some other titles:

Gone with the Rum – Pirates of the Caribbean
Gone with the Vampires – Twilight
Gone with the Candles – Phantom of the Opera (2004)
Gone with the Staring – Pride and Prejudice (2005)
Gone with the Cattle – Australia
Gone with the CGI – pick a special-effects extravaganza
Gone with the Bodice – pick a costume-drama spectacular

Next time I'll post something less flip, although I can't absolutely guarantee that it will be a lot less flip.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

(Somewhat) Shameless Promotion

Just a brief post to say that I did an interview with Mark Andrushko of Scriptapalooza over at the ever wonderful The View from Here magazine. A lot has been going on at The View over the past few months – lots of interviews and guest articles, along with the usual features of the talented crew.

That's not a very subtle hint to check it out, huh?

Hope you're all having a good week.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Two for the Road

together we ride
scratching each other's eyes out
sadly, lovingly

Friday, January 1, 2010

A Year of Possibilities

Are you drowning in lists yet?

Best/worst [whatever] of the year/decade, resolutions, wishes…

While the end of 2009 (and the '00s – whatever they're called) and the beginning of 2010 (and the teens) are bringing the usual bout of introspection and inventorying, the thing that strikes me most is that we don't know what's going to happen. The coming year is full of possibilities and no matter how many lists we make (and I'm fond of making lists), we know that something could happen tomorrow or next week that will make those conclusions and plans irrelevant. Wherever you are and whatever you're doing, I hope that even if you're not dancing in the street, that you're at least looking forward to something, and that if it doesn't work out, you'll find something else.

Now enough with the philosophy.

I've yet to run across a decent slogan for 2010 and how oh how can we start the New Year without one? I couldn't come up with many. "Ten" has a surprisingly limited range of rhymes.

2010: Here We Go Again
- resigned and maybe more than a tad cynical

2010: Begin Again
- determined, optimistic

2010: The Year of Zen
- think calm and collected

2010: New Decade, Amen
- hallelujah

2010: Year of the Pen
- ambitious...

Happy New Year, everyone.