October 23, 2023

                 Martin Heavisides' Rules for Writing, Or: Elmore Leonard is Not the Boss of You

1. Begin all books with a prologue set in a thunderstorm.
2. Use any verb you like but said when your characters speak. Which one ices words out? Which one comments as if perpetually writing an editorial? Which one is sarcastically nasal? Which one talks through their nose ironically? (and note the subtle difference between the two similar stylesof speech)
3. Describe your characters minutely. Do not spare the patterns on their stockings if any.
4. Use as many modifying, qualifying, recontexting or time-adjusting adverbs as you like, but never use them to modify the word 'said', in fact never use the word said.
5. Use as many exclamation points as you like. Elmore Leonard is not the boss of you.
6. Never use the words 'gradually' or 'Heavens to betsy'.
7. Do whatever the hell you like about regional patois or dialect, but don't use words like patois s'il vous plait.
8. Go into immense detail (including longitude, latitude, GPS coordinates) describing places.
9. Ditto things.
10. Always leave space for one rule that isn't one.

January 8, 2022


 So I've often quoted a line from Shakespeare thus (even once in a play of mine, as an actor's allusion:

“Excellent, i' faith, of the chameleon's dish. I eat the empyrean air, promise-crammed. You cannot feed capons so.” but just now I've consulted two texts of Hamlet (a director who does one or two productions a year and was considering a script of mine is doing a Variorum Hamlet, thought I'd have another look) and in both versions there is not a trace of 'empyrean' (which would be rare air indeed for a chameleon, even up a high tree: empyrean. noun. Definition of empyrean (Entry 2 of 2) 1a : the highest heaven or heavenly sphere in ancient and medieval cosmology usually consisting of fire or light. b : the true and ultimate heavenly paradise. Not sure how the tongue of a chameleon would handle mouthfuls and mouthfuls of fire and light, maybe they're insulated; I don't think Y-hw-h would tolerate 'em chomping up acres and acres of the true and ultimate heavenly paradise (unless in sections where it's overgrown and could use a little culling). So I naturally wondered--apart from the obvious fact that 'empyrean air' is considerably richer than mere 'air'--whether I was remembering this from somewhere else entirely, so I Googled Shakespeare empyrean and made a discovery I wouldn't have stumbled on in a million years by mere chance: https://www.apollo.io/people/Brock/Shakespeare/54a22b757468692e71182a13
Don't think he's any relation (I'm not related to the fellow who discovered the Heaviside layer in the stratosphere or dare I say it? lower empyrean): except in the sense that we're all God's children, eager for our own particular taste of Paradise. But why did I remember the line wrong all these years? I'd make the insertion if I ever directed the play myself.

June 24, 2020

Potus V Hawk

I still like W.C. Fields' idea. Broadcast it on every platform available so a virtual audience comprising thousands of arenas can attend, but leave the vast arena where it's held, football stadium size, completely empty except for crew of record, who would all be masked and at an appropriate distance from the combatants (what are zoom lenses for). The combatants if they wished could wear a mask, but POTUS has considered it beneath his dignity in the past, and this is the largest audience he can ever expect to attend an event he participates in; it's likely the Hawk with the new book would feel obliged to dispense with a mask also, though the battle will be close work.  About a dozen dumpsters are provided at each combatant's end of the field to supply ammunition, viz: socks full of horse manure. (Neither wants to be unprovided for at a crucial junction.) Go at it, gentlemen! Grab those socks and come out swinging.

June 13, 2020



I don’t know why I was thinking of Last Year at Marienbad when we were getting ready to visit the Laking Garden in Burlington. There was no more than the slightest similarity of geometrical design between the vast lawn where most of its exteriors were shot (whose statues were slightly more real than the grass, less sculpted than the trees) and the Garden grounds with profusion of irises and peonies in labelled rows, and even a small patch of clematis, a few stray hibiscus round rust red tree-constructs. I’d have to see the film again to be sure, but I wouldn’t be surprised if there were not a single flower to be seen on that immaculately manicured lawn the whole length of the film. Then it occurred to me: the masks! I was going with a medical mask, better than half the people we met there in passing had them too, and Marienbad (never seen in the film, because it was last year, which is notoriously difficult to photograph) was a town famous for its health spa.
I saw a deep purple iris I didn’t remember from last year called Anvil of Darkness, which cracked me up: by day an unassuming flower, by night a sturdy tool for pounding a horse shoe into shape.
I wouldn’t have called that middle-tone violet iris Zebra Night; it seems to me you need some kind of striping for a name like that.
A robin perched in a red iron tree form barren of leaves, except for the vine climbing up it on which bloomed a light purple hibiscus (a shade deeper than Zebra Night)—couldn’t get Marysia over with a camera quickly enough to capture the tableau.
Reading in a corner of the garden, on chairs conveniently provided—a fine occupation with a garden for backdrop over the top of your page: Rodge Glass’s biography of Alasdair Gray. I’m told (or more likely reminded, though I can’t remember from when) that Alasdair Gray did a comic lecture at a 1959 Scottish Fringe venue on the useful topic: How to Assemble Your Own Rhinoceros. I should try to find that lecture—did anyone ever bother to get it down on tape? I have most of the required parts, but I could use some tips on how to assemble them.
*Note: Co-Habitants Excluded*
            Please Knock Before Entering
(I should say so if there’s any wee chance someone’s taking advantage of the co-habiting loophole.)

September 30, 2019

Tales of Impotence

Not sure why outlets that carry
Fair Trade Coffee
Carry so little of it
1 brand in ten on average
Assuming the spirit is willing
The supply chain is weak?
Not sure why fair dealing
Should be anything but a given in trade and employment
But I do know inequities of this kind
(Look over the shifting quicksand
Of union contracts sometime)
Are the first link in the chain
That armours climate change against all sane resistance.

September 27, 2019


                                                                              GAME ROOMS

            If you were blindfolded and transported in a wandering, deliberately deceptive way to a site deep in the bowels of one of the following: a casino, an AMC, an HMV, a state-of-the-art supermall, athree-storey "theme" restaurant and bar, an AMC or triple-decker bar inside a state-of-the-art supermall, it's unlikely, unless you wereexceptionally attuned to the subtlest audio impressions, that you could guess which it was by sound ambient alone. You would be able to
guess that it was an establishment top-heavy with flourescent and neon,its surface--walls ceilings fixtures--the kind of glossy metal that returns and multiplies the sheen of tube lighting. You'd know not only because of the low-level sputter--which without the blindfold you'd very quickly cease to notice--but because of the impress of the light on your eyeballs through the cloth.

            If you were spun round three times before the blindfold was removed, it might still take quite a while for you to identifiy your surroundings. When you did, it would be function, not design and decor,that gave the game away. And even that might jumble in your head, in
certain circumstances. A disorientation complete enough to make you think, playing a slot machine, you were actually watching, or performing in, a movie?--unlikely, but certainly far from impossible.
            You certainly wouldn't know, without outside information, if it were day or night.
            How long would it take--and what techniques would have to be applied--before your disorientation was so complete you could be persuaded you'd been shrunk, flattened and inserted into a "hyperreal"videogame? A man in Florida confessed to a murder he was acquitted of
because all the physical evidence pointed away from him. So: six days tops I think, of sleep dep, sense dep or the two in tandem before almost any of us could be persuaded we were manipulable figures in a mechanical game with a strictly limited set of entirely predictable moves.

            "Hyperreal" in quotes because this refers to the technology that makes the simulacra in those games more apparently lifelike, not to any slightest tendency in videogames to project conditions in the real world. (Hyper-commercial units tend to resemble them only because
both borrow their looks from currently dominant styles in film and video.) You don't get three chances to die in real life before you're out of the game--and when was the last time you had to kill even one person in self-defense on your way to the local mall for groceries? Bet you marked your calendar.

            This does however suggest a purpose for the brainwashing technique desribed earlier: it would be perfect for prepping assassins.No; not unless it were irrelevant to you who or how many because they'd be as anarchic and univeral in their killing sprees as a videogame hero. And how would you ever direct that purposefully in a political sense?

            There is another application. This would be an ideal technique for breeding hyper-consumers. The only key difference is that they're self-assassins as well, since the giddy whirl of exploitation and exhaustion of resources, planet-wide, is killing off eco-support systems at an accelerating rate. This is most unwise unless you have, at least, a planet or so in reserve to move to.

September 25, 2019

Apocalypse, Ah-Ha! Ah-ha, I like it (Ah-ha, ah-ha!)

My neice Ula posted this on Facebook, a reminder that young activists like Greta Thunberg have been around quite a while as the ecological crisis deepens. If there's anything encouraging about the current protests, it's that they're more widespread and harder to ignore, a fact underlined by the dismissive and patronizing 'reviews' of Greta Thunberg's activism (which is since Climate Strike Day the activism of a multitude). I had a look at one which suggested Greta Thunberg was the victim of child abuse in that she'd been inflected with apocalyptic terrors whose origin was politcal and ideological rather than scientific--which is more nearly the reverse of the truth. Most of the reasons for ignoring climate change have to do with political and media fawning over the wealthy, who stand to gain in the short term and have, as Mailer once noted, a 'psychopathic disregard for the future'. The most apocalyptic projections are written in dry, matter-of-fact language by concerned scientists. But what do you finally make of somebody who writes that concern for the rainforests goes back to the seventies and yet the rainforests--where uncontrollable fires range, hectares disappear to clearcutting every day, and erosion and desertification marches on apace--are 'doing ok'. Before very long somebody's bound to point out--on the bright side--that hurricanes, typhoons and tsunamis are a growth industry.