Tag: Storytelling

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Missing Kuma

Five years ago, Jan. 15, 2012—also a Sunday—our Maine Coon, Kuma, glanced up at me quizzicality before shimmying under the back gate and into oblivion. We never met eyes again. I still feel guilty about his loss. The cat and I had developed a bond of trust, which I betrayed by letting him out at 6 a.m, into darkness—alone. Typically, he left the apartment an hour later with me as see-him-off, down-the-alley companion. Sixteen days later, city workers found his collar in a nearby canyon, leading us to believe that a coyote got our bear, which is Kuma’s meaning in Japanese.

The 18-month-old Maine Coon and I were constant companions in our apartment building’s courtyard, where I often wrote news stories on my laptop. I have fond memories of Kuma coming and going, slipping under the back gate. Even now, I still look for him when walking up from the alley or along the street when returning home. I no longer work outdoors, because it unsettles the other cats, Cali and Neko, which want to come out, too. 

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Valleywag May Be Gone, But Its Spirit Lives On

I follow few bylines. Matt Taibbi tops the short list, which also includes Gawker writers Sam Biddle and John Cook. I read them for their biting style and searing sarcasm. But one of the vehicles for their content is gone, and I should have seen the end approaching.

The New Year left behind Valleywag, the snarky insider rag that over the course of 9 years shamelessly scorched Silicon Valley’s power elite. But no more. On December 31st, John posted “R.I.P. Valleywag, 2006-2015“.

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Protesting Greenpeace?

The weather is perfect here in San Diego—what my wife and I call a Maine Day: 22 degrees Celsius and breezy. We hauled off to Ocean Beach, where navigating people busking or begging for money takes almost as much talent as negotiating a kayak through rocky rapids. Sure enough, I looked left and missed the approaching, friendly fundraiser from the right. Smack!

The singing circle of happy people distracted me. Oh no! Greenpeace? Again? Just cut an artery why don’t they and bleed me? But this dude—the one holding the yellow sign—had a different pitch. Greenpeace hires for two-week jaunts, he claimed, and those who don’t meet their quotas are dismissed from service. There be women with kids about to lose their livelihood. Yikes! The small cadre raised money against Greenpeace. 

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Gregory Peck: The Eyes Have It

Apologies for going dark, letting Flickr a Day run on automatic (as I keep about a week’s worth of advanced photos primed to post). Wednesday afternoon, May 6, I picked up my first new pair of eyeglasses in six years, resulting in downward spiral of my vision rather than upwards. I couldn’t much read or write, which is why the absence. My wrong assumption: Customary adjustment period for aging eyes that require severe astigmatic correction and progressive lenses with bifocals. Wrong guess.

I have returned to using my old eyeglasses while the others go out for redo. I see so well, the temptation to demand refund and keep the aged pair is almost overwhelming. Almost. 🙂

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The Bear Cub

On an autumn evening in November 2005, I recalled true story “Somewhere Between Dickey and Rivière-Bleue“, which gives glimpse of Aroostook County hunting lifestyle. In August 2013, I greatly expanded the tale into the “The Bear Cub”, which I submitted to Amazon as consideration for a Kindle Single. Unlike my previous, and only other submission, the retailer didn’t dignify the nearly 5,000-word story with a rejection email.

Last year, I had planned to expand the vignette into a short book with other stories, and some family recipes. that reveal something about Aroostook culture then and now. That project sidelined, like several others, because of blurred vision problems that are in 2015 remedied enough to return to serious writing. I hope to finish the book, tentatively titled Growing Up Aroostook, sometime this year.

For today, I share the text as submitted to Amazon—for your reading education and entertainment. Please note: Because of its length, the Henry David Thoreau book excerpt is italicized rather than put into block quote. Enjoy! 

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SDCC 2015 Open Registration Success!

In theory, I will go to San Diego Comic-Con this year—as a paying customer. For that I am most grateful and for the ease of the Open Registration process. From 2009 to 2014, I attended as registered press, but for some reason my status wasn’t re-certified. There was no formal rejection, just no approval during the typical “within 6 weeks” period after verification document submission.

SDCC’s streamlined process is a grabbag of chance. If you have an active ID on the system (before a cut-off date) and attended the previous year, you receive a code to participate in the registration process. That means using the number and last name to enter the waiting room between 8 a.m. to 9 a.m. PST. Anyone in the room when sales commence at 9 o`clock can be randomly chosen to purchase passe(s). Chrome refreshed me to the buying queue about 20 minutes after sales started. 

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Comic-Con Heroes: The Writer

Among the 12 profiles that are the core of my book Comic-Con Heroes: The Fans Who Make the Greatest Show on Earth, the one that follows offers the most interesting content for science fiction fans. The convention isn’t just about superheroes. Sci-fi is part of the core culture dating back to the very start during the 1970s, and it’s even stronger in the 2010s. Because what was niche more than 40 years ago is mainstream, and more, today.

This profile also introduces some valuable historical insight—if 10 years can be considered old, and measured by Internet time it most certainly is. Fans’response to a new sci-fi television show, and their torrenting it, kicked the pebbles eventually unleashing an avalanche of legitimately-available streamed TV programming. So-called video pirates of 2005 are indirectly responsible for there being Hulu, Netflix streaming, and Google’s purchase of newbie service YouTube. 

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The Old Man

With the exception of song lyrics (see “Empire State” and “Surrealistic Pillow“), my storytelling has mostly been non-fiction. My forthcoming serialized ebook My Blood will be the first fictional foray. But for years, I also considered writing short stories. “The Old Man” is draft version of one of them, for an anthology with tentative title Unhappy Endings. I can’t say that I will ever complete the concept.

The opening sentences are real life. Once, while standing in a pharmacy line, I heard an elderly gentlemen spat those snarky sentiments at the clerk. None of the rest of the story is based on any living person in my life or experience with anyone whom I know. Some of the cat description comes from our lost Maine Coon Kuma. Any resemblance to reality stops with the opening and the feline.

Something else: I am not an angry or resentful person, so writing about someone who exhibits such emotions is unfamiliar territory to me, which is one reason for undertaking the storytelling exercise. They say you should write about what’s familiar; my attempt is the opposite. I wrote the draft story a few days after San Diego Comic-Con ended in July 2013.

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A Storyteller Returns (Or So I Hope)

One of my favorite bloggers is photographer Carl Rytterfalk, whose voice silenced several years ago. But in a post overnight (in my time zone) he asks: “Am I back?” That’s a good question, which answer is complicated.

“In February 2013 my life changed dramatically with the early birth of my son who was born with the rare and somewhat difficult chromosome disorder named Trisomy 9 mosaic”, he writes about his absence. “Since William was born I’ve been using Facebook instead of rytterfalk.com and I think it should be the other way around. So I’m trying to convince myself that it’s ok for a while to post more from life and when ready—about photography, too”. 

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The Best Content is Original

A dozen or so times a day, I figuratively puke all over my iPad Air, out of disgust when reading stories that are plagiarism aggregated, rumors that source nothing more original than some blog or would-be news site, or an echo chamber of repetition—news posts repeating the same, unsourced or poorly-sourced allegations. But occasionally, original content shines through, like Josh Lowensohn’s “I used Apple’s AirDrop to troll strangers with photos of space sloths (And it’s been going on for months)” for The Verge.

Josh doesn’t recap another blogger’s experience, by aggregating something original into a shallow repeat. He produces something enthralling, a story told with vigor, drawn from experience. It’s a confessional. About something sneaky. Invasive. Maybe even illegal. But fun, and activity the reader might wish he or she had been clever enough to have imagined or fearless enough to have done. 

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A Veteran’s Day Story

I took my father-in-law to IKEA for lunch today. He prefers to eat there, but never on Sunday because the store is so busy. The eatery is by far the most hectic area, with little kids running round and little seating to pick from. He had asked me to choose where to dine, and I decided to challenge the masses. The man also likes a good deal, and the retailer advertised free food for Veterans from November 9 to 11. But we got something better: A cashier’s thoughtfulness.

My father-in-law was 18 years-old when Germany invaded Poland and set World War II in motion. The young man started his active military career in 1943; he already was a reservist because of ROTC. Seventy-one years later, the elder gent is reluctant to discuss his service—and he is no fan of war movies. 

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O Canada, What Say You?

What do two forts share in common? Kaci Hickox, the 33 year-old healthcare worker from Fort Worth, Texas, taking refuge in Fort Kent, Maine. Surely you know of the so-called Ebola nurse and the legal scuffle about quarantining her. As an Aroostook County native born about 70 kilometers (okay, I rounded up) southeast of FK and having traveled widely across the Lone Star State, I know something about the character of both regions. Think independent-mindedness times two, which equals “Don’t tell me what to do”.

The simple story: She volunteered in Sierra Leone, where the disease rages. She returned to the wrong state, New Jersey, which put her in isolation. She fled to one of the most rural and remote areas of the Northeast. Maine’s governor demanded voluntary quarantine. She defied it. A federal judge ruled against the Gov. News reporters who couldn’t find Fort Kent with a Google Map ruined the autumn tourist trade by filling up the only hotel. We all wait to see if she stays symptom free through November 10. Pass the popcorn. The suspense is thicker than a horror flick.