So, the Great Minds of WordPress asked: “What’s the longest stretch you’ve ever pulled off of posting daily to your blog? What did you learn about blogging through that achievement, and what made you break the streak?”
Well, now that’s a fine question. I was reading CHRONICLES OF AN ANGLO SWISS and realized while I was answering her, I was writing the whole answer (more or less), so really, she was my morning’s inspiration. That and discovering the new little Shark rechargeable vacuum cleaner I bought really picks up the dog hair. I was dubious about their claims, but by golly, this little machine has balls!
I digress and apologize. It’s hard to keep on point this early in the day. Well, maybe it isn’t all that early. Never mind. I need more caffeine before I can properly focus on being witty.
First of all, blogging is my current profession.
Otherwise, life as a senior citizen is 24/7 tech support to family, friends, and sometimes random strangers. I admit, I get a buzz when the young whippersnappers ask for my help because they don’t know anything about their computers except how to turn them on and off. Oh, they also know how to plug them in. They grasp the finer points of supplying electricity and charging batteries, but that’s as far as they can go.
I don’t know exactly when I started daily posting. More than two years ago. It’s not a statistic WordPress provides. My streak was rudely interrupted by a vacation at a Cape Cod dump where WiFi didn’t work. While I was in the hospital, I had to send in substitute authors while I did a little pas de deux with death. I was very lucky that Garry and Rich were there for me or this blog would probably have died, even if I didn’t.
It turned out, Garry got better stats than me, which is embarrassing. What a guy. He didn’t let popularity go to his head , which might have something to do with other prizes he won over the years. I think he only counts success if it comes with a statuette or plaque.
There I go, digressing again.
In any case, the moment I could write, Garry retired. My husband is a noble man.
And so, with all the flaws in the system, I forge (forage?) on ahead (a head?).
The more interesting question is why? I don’t know why I started posting daily. I know I’m as addicted to writing as I am to the coffee I drink while I do it. It keeps my brain ticking along, keeps my writing skills from fading into something I “used to do”. Writing stimulates all those electrical impulses in the cranium. Because I blog, I have a use for the strange thoughts that pop out.
In retirement, blogging is a healthful activity. The alternative would be sitting around the local senior center waiting for the next bingo game. I’ve never been big on bingo.
What did I learn from daily blogging aside from the satisfaction it gives me? Here it goes:
- Write often.
- Write well.
- Post good photographs.
- Be nice to the people you meet online.
That’s it. That’s all of it in a nutshell. And beware of enraged squirrels.
I read a post about how dreadful (yet gripping) romance novels can be. It’s true. They are the potato chips of the literary world. Bet you can’t consume just one! Even if you don’t like them (and mostly, I don’t, much), they grab you and won’t let you go, even though you know in advance exactly what is going to happen, pretty much from the opening page.
That’s not the point of these books. If as a girl, you read the back of cereal boxes, romance novels are the next step up. I’m not sure what the literary equivalent is for guys, but I’m sure there is one.
As the former editor of the Doubleday Romance Library, I can tell you our research showed readers of romance novels to be far better educated than average readers. Many have advanced degrees in the sciences. They read romance novels exactly because they are mindless pulp. They aren’t looking to be informed or improved, to have their world expanded, reading-level or awareness raised. They want a book they can pick up, read, put down. If life gets in the way, they can just forget them without regret.
I read each 3-book volume, one per month. It contained three romances: 2 modern with a Gothic sandwiched between. Every novel had the same plot, the same outcome. They sold gangbusters.
Regardless of what we, as writers, would like, people don’t necessarily read books because they are good. Me? I often avoid “good” books. I don’t want to go where the book would take me. I’m not stupid or lacking in culture. I just don’t want to read it.
Why? Too depressing, too intense, too serious, too ugly, too educational. Too real. I read for the same reasons I watch TV and movies. To be entertained. I am not seeking enlightenment. Perhaps I should rephrase that. I am no longer seeking enlightenment. If I ain’t enlightened by now, I’m pretty sure it won’t happen in this lifetime.
The wondrous thing about the world of books is there are so many books. Enough genres, themes, and styles for anyone. Everyone. An infinity of literature so no matter what your taste –low-brow, high-brow, middle-brow, no-brow — there are thousands of books waiting for you. That’s good. I’d rather see someone reading a bad book than no book.
I’m not a culture snob. I think reading crappy novels is fine if you like them. Watching bad TV is fine too. Snobs take the fun out of reading. While I’m not a fan of romance novels, if you are, that’s fine. Since I love reading about vampires and witches, I’d be a hypocrite to act like your taste is somehow inferior to mine.
These days, I’m rarely in the mood for serious literature. Tastes change with the years. Mine has changed more than most. Life has been a very serious business for me. When I read, watch TV, or see a movie, I am happy to escape from reality.
Finally, my favorite professor at university — a man I believe was profound and wise in every way that counted — was a big fan of Mickey Spillane. He said there was a much truth in his books. I believe for him, there was.
BLAST FROM THE PAST:
A mere two years after a double mastectomy, I’m facing another medical crisis. I’m not handling it gracefully. Too many crises. Dozens of surgeries. I can’t bore you with details; I have, thankfully, forgotten them.
I’ve spent more time in the hospital than most interns. I’m a professional patient with the scars to prove it. When I die, they should stuff me. Put me in some kind of museum proving with enough medical attention, even the totally unfit can survive. Each doctor who redesigned some portion of me can tattoo his signature along the appropriate scar, assuming all the doctors are still alive. Probably they aren’t because I started my career on the wrong side of medicine while still a teenager and apparently am not due for retirement anytime soon.
I need a new mitral valve. I used to joke and laugh, saying the only major system in my body that continues to work is my heart. I laughed too soon. Probably jinxed myself.
I go into each surgery with fear and resignation. I know how I’m going to feel when I wake up from the anaesthesia. I will hurt. I will be sick and disoriented. I will realize I must have survived because I’m aware how totally miserable I am. Again.
Last time I woke up and the first thing I did was look down at my chest to see if I had a semblance of breasts. I did. Lumpy, not flat. Though I knew they weren’t original equipment, I was comforted by the familiarity of the landscape. With all the pain, drains and anger at my body for betraying me, it was nice to know I would at least appear — on the surface — female.
That was when I said: “Never again. I’m never going through this again.”
I should just shut up. How stupid am I? I can’t remember how many times I’ve woken from that weird deathlike anaesthesia sleep and have fought my way back up to the light. Each time, just a little weaker, a bit less sure of the future — but alive. Hanging on.
It’s too soon. I’m not ready. Maybe this time the magic won’t work. My first husband died following complications of mitral valve replacement surgery. I watched him die. After the surgical accident that killed his brain, he remained technically alive, but in a vegetative state for 9 long months. I took care of something that looked like him, but whose eyes were empty. When finally he passed completely, I and the rest of his friends gratefully wished him well on a journey he should have taken nearly a year before.
Probably no surprise that this particular surgery holds a special terror for me.
Less than two years since I vowed “Never again,” again has come. I suppose I’ve already made the choice to let them fix me, or try anyhow (does “or die trying” sound too ghoulish?). The alternative — slowly dying while my heart becomes less and less able to pump blood — doesn’t sound attractive. An attractive option does not seem to be available. But, there’s no advantage in waiting. I won’t get younger or healthier. The older I get, the more dangerous surgery is.
I gave myself a little gift of time. I put off my appointment with the surgeon until the beginning of September. I need to get my head into a better space, to settle down emotionally. A few weeks of denial before I tackle another scary reality.
So for the next three weeks If you ask me, I will tell you. I’m just fine. Thanks for asking.
I have always felt kind of sorry for the oysters. Silly little shellfish, so foolishly trusting. “The Walrus and the Carpenter” is a narrative poem by Lewis Carroll. It appears in Through the Looking-Glass, (1871). The poem is recited in chapter 4, by Tweedledum and Tweedledee, to Alice.
A friend asked me why I do this, why I blog. So I asked her why she plays golf.
We do what we do because we love it, need it. Or both. Because, despite the fact the many bloggers pretend they “write for themselves,” it’s untrue. We blog because we want other people to read our words, to connect with our ideas. If we wanted to write “for ourselves,” we’d keep a diary.
Why are bloggers so coy about wanting an audience? Is it because they aren’t getting a good response, so instead of trying to figure how to bring in more readers and followers, they say they don’t care whether or not anyone reads them?
And then when one of us is moderately successful and popular, they get all squinchy-eyed and moralistic, as if we’ve ruined the purity of the blogging experience.
Really? Seriously? When did we achieve that lofty spiritual level where we are above worldly concerns … like popularity and success? The hypocrisy of it takes my breath away. If that is how you really feel, you shouldn’t be blogging.
We all care. Anyone who says otherwise is lying — probably to themselves and definitely to us. We all want to be read, to be seen, to have an audience. If we take pictures, we want people to look at our images and say “Wow, that’s amazing.” Because we want to be amazing.
Writing is like breathing. If I don’t write, I suffocate. My friend? She needs to compete. To play golf. Or she will suffocate.
TELL ME HOW TO WRITE
I can’t begin to count the number of people who tell me they want to be writers, but don’t know how to start.
That they ask the question suggests they will never be writers. Writers write. No one has to tell you how or when. You write and will keep doing it because it’s not what you do, it’s what you are. You may not write brilliantly, but you will write. You’ll get it right eventually. Doing is learning.
I started writing as soon as I could read. Putting words on paper was the same as speaking, but took longer. I didn’t mind the extra time because I could go back and fix written words. Being able to change the words and keep changing them until they said precisely what I wanted them to say was the prize.
I was socially awkward and my youthful verbal skills not well-suited to my age and stage in life. I wasn’t good at sports. No one wanted me on the team. In retrospect, I can understand it, but when I was a kid, it hurt.
Games and other social activities let you become popular, make friends, and do those other things which matter to kids. I couldn’t do that stuff, but I could write. And read. I might be a klutz, but words let me build worlds.
If you are going to be a writer, you know it. Practice will make you better, help you understand how to build plots, produce books publishers will buy. But writing itself is a gift. If you have it, you know it.
Writers have words waiting to be written, lining up for the opportunity to be set on paper or in the computer. It may take a while for you to find what you want to write about. But you will write.
Talent comes in an endless number of flavors. If you are a musician, you’ll find a way to make music. The same with painting, photography, drawing, running, hitting a baseball or throwing one so that it just skims that outer corner of the plate at 96 miles per hour. Mathematics, engineering, architecture … creativity and talent are as varied as the people who use it.
ADVICE FOR THE BEWILDERED
My advice to hopeful writers is simple. Write.
Don’t talk about it. Do it. Write a lot, as often as you can, even if most of it is crap and you won’t show it to anyone. Sooner or later, you’ll find your way. If you don’t write, it’s your loss, but it may also be the world’s loss. You never know how good you can be if you don’t try.
This blog is my outlet for the millions of words stuffed in my head. Yes, I really want you to read it. It matters to me and I see no reason to pretend it doesn’t.
On the other hand, I hate golf. Can’t figure out why anyone would want to walk around an enormous lawn hitting a little white ball. I can’t think of anything more boring, but I know a lot of golfers. They live for it. The rest of the week is just a pause between tee times.
So, if you don’t get why I write, that’s okay. You don’t have to get it. That I get it and can do it and other people read it … that’s fine.
You do your thing, I’ll do mine. And we will all find happiness doing stuff we love.
World War I (WWI) officially began on July 28, 1914, though its real beginnings were rooted in events beginning decades, even centuries earlier. An ugly, devastating war consisting of 4 years of slaughter ending on November 11, 1918, they day we celebrate today.
The official number of military casualties is 22,477,500 killed, wounded, or missing in action. The combined number of military and civilian casualties is more than 37 million. If, as I do, you consider World War II as chapter two of the same conflict, the number of dead becomes even more incomprehensible.
Turner Classic Movies (TCM) has celebrates Veteran’s Day each year, usually by inviting historians and military people to do introductions and closing comments on war films. General Wesley Clark has been doing TCM’s commentaries, most recently for Oh! What a Lovely War.
He referred to the movie as a musical comedy. While it has amusing moments, calling it a musical comedy doesn’t cut it. If comedy can be dark, this is totally black. It’s also surprisingly informative. I can date my interest in World War I and modern American history to having seen this movie when it was released in 1969.
In his closing comments following the movie, General Clark said he hoped we had learned our lesson from this and all the other wars of the past century. I turned to Garry and said, “And what lesson, exactly, might that be?”
“Obviously,” said my husband, making a sour face, “We have learned nothing.”
I agree. Well, we did learn a few things, though nothing good. We learned to build more lethal weapons. We can kill more people faster than we did 100 years ago. Much of our military technology emerged during and post-WWI.
I don’t see this as progress. If you want to know why I’m so cynical, why I have trouble believing in a benign deity, look at the casualty figures from the collective wars of the past century.
I love this movie. Not only because of its historical veracity — it’s accurate — but because the music is wonderful. The cast includes everyone who was anyone in British cinema at the time — Laurence Olivier, John Gielgud, Maggie Smith, Vanessa Redgrave, Dirk Bogarde, Ralph Richardson and more, all having a great time.
I’ve seen this many times and I guess so has Garry since we can both know the words to all the songs. Very catchy.
Directed by Richard Attenborough (his directorial début)
Until I saw this movie, I didn’t get the connection between poppies and World War I.
All I knew was that veterans organizations gave red poppies to people when they donated money, but I had no idea why. After you see this movie, you will never forget why.
I originally saw “Oh! What a Lovely War” when it was released in 1969. It’s World War I — in song, dance and irony. Its catchy score sticks in your brain.
The songs were sung by the troops and the cast includes everyone who was anyone in British stage or screen in the 1960s. The credits are a who’s-who of English actors.
World War I is hard to understand. Its causes are rooted in old world grudges that make no sense to Americans. So many ancient hatreds — thousands of years of scores to be settled.
My mother summed it: “Everyone was armed to the teeth. They wanted war. They just needed an excuse. Europe was a giant bomb waiting for someone to light a match.”
Hers may be as good an answer as any other. When the war began, it was the old world. The crowned heads of Europe ruled. When it finally ground to a halt in 1918, the world had changed beyond recognition. The European monarchies were gone. A generation of men had been slaughtered. The death toll was beyond belief. The callous indifference to loss of life by those in command remains incomprehensible.
More than 9 million men were killed in battle. This does not include collateral damage to non-combatants and death by disease or starvation. It paved the way for major political upheaval throughout the world.
Says the movie at the beginning: “The principal statements made by the historical characters in this film are based on documentary evidence, and the words of the songs are those sung by the troops during the First World War.”
The first World War could be called an orchestrated, organized international effort to murder a generation of men. They did a good job.
The statements of the historical characters — all lodged a safe distance from the fighting — are ludicrous. General Haig, looking at the staggering loss of life on both sides, really said: “in the end, the Germans will have 5,000 men and we will have 10,000, so we will have won.”? He said it. And meant it.
The arrival of the Americans and their takeover of the endless war — bringing it to a conclusion while there was still something left to save — is a great cinematic moment. I wonder how long it would have gone on without American involvement? Would Europe exist or would it all be a wasteland?
The war is told with music and dancing. Songs mixed with pithy comments from generals, kings, Kaisers and soldiers. It’s a long movie — 144 minutes — and I can promise you that you will have a far better and more visceral understanding of this war and what those little red poppies the Veterans organizations give out (do they still do that?) to commemorate the war to end all wars. Until the next war. And the one after that.
The music is ghastly, funny, catchy. The movie is out of print. It was only in print for a couple of months. I had been looking for it for a long time and was thrilled to snag a copy. A few copies are still available through Amazon. If you are a history buff and love great movies, grab one.
Great directing, biting sarcastic humor, terrific music and informative, this movie is in a category all by itself. It was unavailable for more than 20 years. You won’t be disappointed and you won’t forget it. In the 45 years since I first saw it, I haven’t forgotten it.
If you are willing to pay an exorbitant price, Amazon has a few copies here.