Saturday, December 30, 2006

Pigeon Power

I ain't afraid of no owl.

Friday, December 29, 2006

Age Old Question

I’ve been taking a watercolor painting class, and although I make industrious, concentrated efforts, my paintings all look like crap.

The teacher is an interesting woman, seemingly undeterred by her students’ uneven results. You know the kind of teacher I mean. One who, when presented with an unrecoverable steaming pile, will at least manage a compliment on the warmth if not the composition.

Luckily for the poor dear’s sanity, in every class there are a few who excel. A few who only need a nudge in the right direction. A few whose latent talent flowers under skillful tutoring. And then there are those who only have desire, hope and effort.

After she repeatedly told us that drawing is a skill that can be learned. Painting is a skill that can be learned. I asked her, what about talent? She shrugged.

Excuse me? Talent dismissed with a shrug?

No, I persisted. You know what I mean. Talented youth. Those students whose painting seem to flow from a well unmapped. Whose work is amazing, from its very beginning.

She shook her head.

Our class was in the art room of the local high school. Every week, the high school students’ current projects were displayed in the hallway. A short stroll by this display wouldn’t take an art critic to see the range between the kids. Some still drew like they were in Second Grade. Some flashed with brilliant ideas and struggled with technique. Some had everything going on. Their work stood out like a bare ass at the symphony.

Surely, you must admit, I said to the teacher, some students have a talent for art and others do not.

“If you want to learn to paint,” she replied, “desire is the most important ingredient.”

Desire will make you work hard enough to learn any skill, is her point.

Wishing don’t make it so, is mine.

Of course, she probably could not make a living if she only taught talented youth. It is in her interest to encourage everyone with desire. Although, I was aware of this reality as our conversation progressed, I didn’t hold that against her. If she couldn’t produce results with her students, she wouldn’t make a living either.

I wanted her to say that talent mattered. Talent is a gift, unevenly bestowed, perhaps, but an important gift, nonetheless. Talent counted toward success. Desire only counted in bed.

Her final answer - wanting is what you must have.

Professor Harold Hill took Iowa by storm with the Thinkology System. If you think you can play music, you can. I wonder if there was an Art Corollary -- If you want to paint, you will.

Those tricky steps between desire and result remain a mystery to me.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

You Might Live In Montana

Attributed to Jeff Foxworthy, this list is making the rounds via email.

If parking your car for the night involves an extension cord –
You might live in Montana.

That’s right. And propane jells at –55 or so, if you’re smart and live in Montana, you also have a wood stove.

If you consider it a sport to gather your food by drilling through 8 inches of ice and sitting there all day hoping that the food will swim by –
You might live in Montana.

Or Minnesota, or you’re an ice fisherman. Not that this ever offered any attraction to me, but I hear the big ones are nearer the surface when the top foot or so is frozen and walleye are so good I don’t care how they make their way to my table.

If you're proud that your state makes the national news primarily because it houses the coldest spot in the nation –
You might live in Montana.

Well, I already mentioned that 55 below zero which occurred one Christmas Eve just outside Billings with no wind and the propane jelled and church was canceled.

I believe the last few times Montana was in the news, they were whacko alerts. One was the Unabomber and another was when the local militia barricaded themselves on a ranch and stood off the FBI for a while, which occasioned the new State motto:

Montana, the Last Best Place to Hide-Out and Hole-Up.

If someone in a store offers you assistance, and they don't even work there –
You might live in Montana.

Strangers will push your car out of a snow bank, if you’ve been so silly as to get stuck, and the only thanks they expect is a wave goodbye.

If you have worn shorts and a parka at the same time –
You might live in Montana.

After a few weeks of 20 below, zero feels like a heat wave.

If you know how to correctly pronounce Butte –
You might live in Montana.

If you haven’t been to Butte on St. Patrick’s Day, you’ve never been to a real party. But try to leave before the riot.

If you measure distance in hours –
You might live in Montana.

When last I was in Los Angeles, we noticed no one knew how far it was to anywhere. They only knew times. An hour to the drugstore. Two to the mall. This is because if you live in LA and it’s three blocks to where you want to go, it might take five hours to get there.

If you often switch from "heat" to "A/C" and back again in the same day –
You might live in Montana.

I think the temperature ranges we get are more interesting than how cold it is. 90 degree temperature change in one day, now that is interesting. Plus freak snowstorms are always good for a laugh. Remember the year in snowed on the 4th of July? Fireworks against snow are extra pretty.

If you consider Red Lodge exotic –
You might live in Montana.

Wrong. Red Lodge is not exotic. See Butte.

If your idea of creative landscaping is a statue of a deer --
You might live in Montana.

Warning! If you put a stature of a deer in your yard, someone is going to shoot at your house. That someone being an out-of-state hunter who knows it’s going to take him two days to get home.

If you find 0 degrees a "little chilly" –
You might live in Montana.

That’s just a little notion we put around to keep the out-of-staters from coming back.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Curtain Call

When I was 19, I wrote:

like old bitches
spayed after five litters
not knowing what to do, now
clutter buses
and supermarkets.

Now I'm [older than that]. I wonder,
was I looking forward
or back
at 19.

At [ ],
is there any forward
left to see,
or only back.

[ ]
feels like 19
from the inside.
Except in the morning.

No matter what,
I stay off buses
to avoid 19 year olds,
and my future, if possible.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006


The trash of Christmas Past.
And it had been so pretty before.Alas.

Monday, December 25, 2006

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Santa and the Animal Rights Activist

Twas the night before Christmas and at the North Pole,
The team was held hostage by an activist named Lowell.
“Flying reindeer are endangered,” he told those who gathered.
“Nine left. We must save them. And that’s all that matters.”

The elves hollered, “Santa, will know what to do!”
They sent one to find him. Even Rudolph looked blue.
Santa showed up then, his jolly old self.
But he soon wore a frown when he heard from an elf.

“This guy says the reindeer must live a free life.
You’ve abused them and used them and put them through strife.”
“Why, you must be mistaken!” cried Santa to Lowell.
“I love all the reindeer. I’m a jolly old soul.”

“Listen Fatso,” sneered Lowell. “I don’t care what you say.
These elegant creatures shall go their own way.
Read this and weep. These deer will not budge.
Here’s a court order sent up from a federal judge.”

Santa was horrified. He watched with alarm.
As Lowell nailed the order to the door of the barn.
“But what of the children who’ve been good a whole year?
We can’t disappoint them. I need my reindeer.”

“Don’t care what you need,” said Activist Lowell.
One elf whispered softly, “He’ll get nothing but coal.”
On that note, Lowell left them, the elves and the deer.
And Santa, who worried ‘bout Christmas this year.

He said to the elves, “Pack up all the toys.
I won’t disappoint all the good girls and boys.
I’ll deliver the goodies, on foot if I must.
Forget Lowell. I’ll never let Christmas go bust.”

When they filled up his bag, he walked into the night.
And the elves heard him mutter as he trudged out of sight,
“Merry Christmas to all, but oh, what a bummer.
Be good and take care. I’ll be back in the summer.”

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Friday, December 22, 2006

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Merry Meme

1. Wrapping paper or gift bags?


2. Real tree or artificial?

Real tree. Artificial trees are against my religion.

3. When do you put up the tree?

As soon after Thanksgiving as I can manage.

4. When do you take the tree down?

After the presents are opened.

Top three things I can't bear to see – a lost dog, a crying child and the Christmas Tree after the presents are all gone.

5. Do you like eggnog?

Yes. May I have brandy in mine?

6. Favorite gift received as a child?

Cockpit of an airliner with engine noise and blinking lights.

7. Do you have a nativity scene?

Yes. And I made the stable myself.

8. Hardest person to buy for?

Husband. Never says what he wants.

9. Easiest person to buy for?

Kid. Never stops saying what she wants.

10. Mail or email Christmas cards?


11. Worst Christmas gift you ever received?

Computer I didn’t want.

12. Favorite Christmas Movie?

Die Hard.

13. When do you start shopping for Christmas?


Just kidding. First payday in December.

14. Have you ever recycled a Christmas present?


15. Favorite thing to eat at Christmas?


16. Clear lights or colored on the tree?


17. Favorite Christmas song?

Silver Bells.

17b. Christmas Song That, When You Hear It, Makes Your Eyes Bleed And Your Brains Start To Leak Out Your Ears, Because That Is Less Painful Than Having To Listen To That *&%^&$# Song One More Time!

Twelve Days of Christmas. Stop already.

18. Travel at Christmas or stay home.

Used to flit between the in-laws and my parents. Have reached the age now that everyone comes to my house.

19. Can you name all of Santa’s reindeer?

Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donner, Blitzen and Rudolph. I can name the Seven Dwarves too. Happy, Dopey, Doc, Bashful, Sleepy, Grumpy and Sneezy. But I sometimes forget where I parked the car.

20. Angel on the tree top or a star?


21. Open the presents Christmas Eve or morning?

Christmas morning like at 3 AM.

22. Most annoying thing about this time of year?


24. Favorite Christmas Tradition?

Used to be the annual Christmas letter, but blogging has relieved me of that impulse.

25. Outdoor decorations?

Too cold out there.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Happy Birthday, Baby

Isn't he cute?
And still is, after mumble-mumble years.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

After the Forest Fire

This is what's left.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Have Some Fun

One of the neat things about Holidailies is cruising the other entries, finding new people to read. Following one link after another here are a few fun things I found.

Find your age in Dog Years. That will put a spring in your step.

Find your Body/Mass Index. Or Don't.

Calculate the difference between dates. This is a useful tool for character ages. I can't tell you how much time I spend with a calculator figuring out who was born when, and by that I mean, I won't tell you.

Want to know how cold it really is? Use the Wind Chill Calculator.

See the current Phase of the Moon. In case it's too dark and cold to go outside and look.

For the screenwriter who is both math-challenged and structurally-confused, the Screenplay Beat Calculator. I remember back in the Dark Ages, scripts were 120 pages long and the Inciting Incident occurred on Page 17. I was reading an article last night that said the Inciting Incident should occur by Page 10. I predict, one of these days, we'll just put in on the Title Page. Under the Title. This is the story of what happened after this Inciting Incident occurred.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

What Do You Know?

In this world of uncertainty, what are five things you know for sure?

1. They're not kidding about death and taxes.

2. When a person is absolutely, positively, unrepentantly sure of something, the universe is about to reveal just how wrong one person can be.

3. Never eat at the airport diner.

4. Harlan Ellison was right about television.

5. Babies should come with directions.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Four For Friday

Gratefully lifted from BeliBlog.

Q1 - Image: Does it bother you that the rest of the world seems to hate the United States? Do you think the U.S. has to change its politics or simply do a more effective job at public relations?

Yes. It might help if we stopped acting like we own the world.

Q2 - Education: Which do you feel is the best environment for children's education, single sex or co-ed?

Coed, like the rest of life.

Q3 - Convenience: The 2007 Lexus LS has a feature that helps its driver parallel park or back the vehicle into a parking space. At the touch of a button, the 'Advanced Parking Guidance System' automatically parallel parks the LS or backs it into a parking space with just a little brake work by the driver. If this feature were available for your car, would you use it?

Heck yes. Everytime I click on the cruise control, I think it would be nice if the car steered itself too, so I could take a nap.

Q4 - Work: If you had to choose between working in sales or customer service, which would you choose?

I've worked in both. Didn't like sales. Too cranky for customer service now. Guess I'm out of a job.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

A Writing Meme

Here is one I made up myself. If you’re a writer and so inclined, consider yourself tagged.

1. Do you have a favorite writing instrument?

2. Do you imbue said favored writing instrument with special powers; for example, the ability to jump start your work?

3. Are you superstitious or analytical about your muse?

4. Is it better to write or to have written?

5. There is a certain celestial alignment present in many famous writer’s astrological charts. Whether or not you believe in astrology, is there something different about you that made you a writer?

My Answers

1. Yes, but there are more than one. Not being able to lay hands on one of my favorite pens or perfect pencil is my version of the end of the world.

2. I saw an interview with a famous actor who longed to be a writer and he said he kept buying Mont Blanc pens but they hadn’t made any difference in his ability to write. I thought, what a dope. Does he think the magic’s in the pen?

On the other hand, when I want desperately to move something in whatever story I’m working on, I work on it in longhand. There is something sensual and satisfying about putting pen (or perfect pencil) to paper that never fails to nudge problems aside.

3. I’m not superstitious about the muse because I trust it. I don’t, however, analyze how or why it works.

4. To write.

5. Someone asked me recently, how long I’d been writing and I replied, since kindergarten when I learned my ABCs. I remember making up stories in my head when I was very young. I was nine when I wrote the first one down.

I don’t know what makes one person love language more than the next. Or why some people can read a book and move on, and others read a book and think, I want to do that too.

I don’t know why writing is a joy for some and torture for others.

I don’t know if my facility with words is genetic like blue eyes, or a choice, like blue jeans.

I don’t know if being a writer puts me at some special juncture on the spectrum of being human or if it’s just a blip within the standard deviation.

I don’t know if the heavens aligned on the day I was born or if some hitch in genome pointed the way or if I woke up one morning and said, that’d be cool.

I guess that makes me different from all those who didn’t.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

It Had To Happen

A meme, which may be a social brain virus, is actually the last resort of someone trying to think up something to say 31 days straight.

Gratefully lifted from Tuesday's Tales.

Old Man Winter…

What is your favorite winter memory?

My parents used to drive two hours into the mountains so my sister and I could play in the snow.

What do you think or feel when you walk through freshly fallen snow?

I like the squeaky noise it makes.

What are three things that you enjoy most about the winter season?

Sweaters, hat hair without prejudice, Alpines.

How does the cold winter weather and shorter days affect your mood or outlook on life?

Makes me feel Christmasy.

Why do you look forward to the winter season?

I like sweaters, fires in the fireplace, Christmas, that driving can become an adventure and weather a trial, that cozy becomes an end onto itself, and community means we survived another one.

Monday, December 11, 2006

An Art Photograph

From my college portfolio.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Day 10 - A Dog Story, Cat Picture and One Minor Celebration

This is my 100th published blog post. I've been casting my lot into the ether for almost one year and at least 100 times. I thank everyone who has ever stopped by long enough to read one of my missives, either on purpose or by misdirected search engine. Blog On.

A Dog Story

Our first Welsh Terrier was a young show bitch named Maggie. We called her Little Maggie No-No. She was a terrier with every inch and molecule of her being. Which means, dear reader, she had a sly, cunning intelligence and was game to the bone.

Game as it applies to dogs means, they never give up. Never. (Which is not a bad trait for wannabee screenwriters, but I digress.)

One day, while Maggie watched from her kennel, a squirrel had the audacity to run around the yard, up one tree and down another, conducting his squirrely business where he had no right to be -- which is in Maggie's yard.

When I let Maggie out for her afternoon exercise, the first thing she did was run right up the trunk of the last Golden Willow tree where she had seen the squirrel. Leaving me yelling, "Maggie, no-NO," and wondering how in the heck did she run up that tree?

Earl and I watched Maggie track the squirrel on tree branches twenty feet from the ground. Up and back. Up and back, she ran on limbs from two inches in diameter to twigs.

Earl stood under the tree and held his arms out in catching position. I didn't think this was a very good idea as Maggie weighed about twenty-five pounds. Someone who can do math could figure out how great a blow a twenty-five pound weight falling from twenty feet can deliver. I didn't know what to do.

And then I had an epiphany. When something is about to happen, and there is nothing you can do, the best solution is to do nothing. So, I stood and watched.

First one back foot slipped off. Then the other back foot. She hung between a fork in the tree by her little elbows or whatever doggie underarms are called. Then she fell. Hit Earl a glancing blow on the head, then she hit the ground.

She immediately jumped at the tree to climb back up. I grabbed Maggie by the tail, and Earl by the arm as he was teetering from being half-knocked out by falling dog.

And then I started laughing, because my house may be a lot of things, but dull ain't one of them.
Dogs in trees. Like that could happen.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Day 9 - Pictures

We decorated the tree last night. I love Christmas.

And in preparation for the Day 10 Dog Story and Cat Picture, have you ever tried to take a picture of a cat?

A super-model, he ain't.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Sexism Saved Humanity

This article in the NY Times quotes this scientific paper that says Neanderthals died out because the women were too busy hunting with the men to stay cave bound taking care of baby cave people, and hence or voilá, whatever scientists say, if you want to maintain a viable breeding population, you can't be throwing Mom in front of wooly mammoths.

One proof they offer is that “Neanderthal sites include no bone needles, no small animal remains and no grinding stones for preparing plants.”

Which is kind of like saying since the last archeological study that sifted through my living space* did not find any frilly dresses, curlers, bobby pins or high heels, obviously no female of the species resided herein.

Now, according to my in-house anthropologist, this study ignores a few things, like Neanderthals and the humans that became us lived side by side for quite a while before the hunting/gathering activity developed. The Neanderthal tool set was different from the archaic human tool set. And, if I might add, we really haven’t got a freakin’ clue what was going on back then. The evidence is too scarce. These scientists are evaluating a partial record through the perspective lens of modern times to make gigantic leaps of logic.

Or, as one of the scientists who commented on the paper said more elegantly;

“While archaeologists have spent a vast amount of time and effort attempting to identify male versus female artifacts, activity areas, and task roles in the archaeological record, the more fundamental question why we expect hominins to have a gender-specific division of labor remains unanswered.”

The topic of the article was Neanderthals, but the conclusion to be drawn about good old homo sapiens is no small one. That the division of labor is what allowed our version of humanity to prosper. Keep that little woman at home and the next thing you know, you’ve conquered the world. That sexism is bred into our DNA, which makes it a problem more likely to linger.

Although, there is more evidence for that theory, it’s not a leap I’m willing to make.

*In this Era commonly called Spring Cleaning.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

News for Screenwriters

Here are a couple of links to fairly recent articles about screenwriting from the LA Times.

Not like they're good news or even new news, but they're interesting in the continuously evolving scribe world.

Screenwriters in the ...

LA Times Scriptland

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Ireland Forever

Just because.

The oft-heard Americanized form is spelled wrong and grammatically incorrect.

Please feel free to copy this image if you'd like the correct version.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Day 5 - Holidailies Epiphany #1

I’ve caught myself a couple of times saying, “Just a minute. I’m working on my Holidailies post.”

Or “I’ll be right there as soon as I’ve updated my blog.”

Yes, friends. It is that bad. Put the world on hold, I’m updating my blog.

And then I’ll catch myself several times a day, thinking -- What should I put up tomorrow? What can I say? Do I have a picture?

Just as I was about to note the end of myself as a useful person on earth, it occurred to me –

Why don’t I bring that same energy to my writing?

I’ll be right there as soon as I’ve finished this scene, these script pages, a plot reveal, some juicy dialog, Act 2, a line.

But I don’t. I let everything intrude. I wash clothes. I let the dogs out fifty times. I answer the phone. I look at the dust on the furniture. (Yeah, just look. Let’s not go crazy and do something wild like DUST the place. My career is too important to me.)

Several times, I’ve resolved to write first, everything else second, but what actually happens is I write between everything else.

The Holidailies challenge has shown me how little a bit of energy need be to make something important in a day.

So, here I go, to write first and make everything else wait.

Well, except the dogs. That’d just be silly.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Day 4 - Boys In The Hood

My neighborhood anyway. My yard to be exact.

A little farther down the street -

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Day 3 - Women in History - Jeanette Rankin

Jeanette Rankin was the first woman elected to Congress at a time when most women were denied the right to vote. She voted against US entry into both World Wars and protested the Viet Nam War.

Although her anti-war stance was unpopular during her Congressional years, she never backed down.

Ms. Rankin on War

“I want to stand by my country, but I cannot vote for war. I vote no.” 1917

“There can be no compromise with war; it cannot be reformed or controlled; cannot be disciplined into decency or codified into common sense; for war is the slaughter of human beings, temporarily regarded as enemies, on as large a scale as possible.” 1929

Concerning Equal Rights

“Men and women are like right and left hands; it doesn't make sense not to use both.”

“We're half the people; we should be half the Congress.”

“The individual woman is required . . . a thousand times a day to choose either to accept her appointed role and thereby rescue her good disposition out of the wreckage of her self-respect, or else follow an independent line of behavior and rescue her self-respect out of the wreckage of her good disposition.”

About the picture

This picture is from my photography exhibit, Women at Work, a show I created for Middle School girls. The exhibit was funded by a grant from the Puffin Foundation.

The photograph is a darkroom composite of a frame of the Rankin statue on the second floor of the Montana Capitol building and a formal portrait of Ms. Rankin.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Day 2 - In Which I Wonder, What To Say

Now that I’ve committed to the Holidailies challenge, I’m wondering if I have that much to say.

The noise you just heard was my family falling on the floor laughing. They know the problem isn’t that I don’t have anything to say. The problem is I don’t know when to stop.

For example, when someone asks, “Do these pants make my butt look big?”

If one says, “Do you think it’s the pants?” One has said too much.

If someone asks, “This gravy isn’t too lumpy, is it?”

One should not reply, “Gravy? I thought this was crunchy peanut butter.”

Occasionally, the shoe gets placed on the other foot.

I just joined the local Volunteer Fire Department and am studying to be one of my communities’ EMTs. In a burst of pride, solidarity or dementia, my Loved One gave me a pair of Fireman Boots. Such as these are ordered specially from the Policeman and Fireman Supply Catalog which holds a multitude of items that someone with an active imagination shouldn’t be allowed access to, but I digress.

The Fireman Boots have thick soles for standing a long time on hard surfaces. Rugged lug treads for climbing slippery slopes. High tops to protect fragile ankles. A broad width across the ball of the foot, so one’s toes don’t get squished. In other words, when Dr. Frankenstein bought footwear for the Monster, he shopped in the Fireman’s Supply Catalog.

I said to my Loved One, “These shoes make my feet look enormous.”

And he said, “Are they warm?”

“I can’t even cover them up with my pant leg,” says I.

“And they’re warm,” says he.

Discretion, the better part of valor, also makes for long marriages.

So, I ask you, dear reader, do these boots make my feet look big?
I know they're warm.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Day 1 Holidailies 2006

So, I decided to join in this year because it sounded like fun and all the cool kids were doing it.

If you haven’t heard, Holidailies is a free community writing project. All 2006 participants promise to update their personal web sites every day from December 1 to January 1.

Fifty words or a picture. Post every day. The point? Repetition creates habit. Not that I think posting everday to the blog is a habit worth cultivating, but writing every day is.

But check back about Day 10 when I’m down to a dog story and a cat picture.