Show, Don’t Tell

The month of September came to us in a blaze of glory. The weather was absolutely outstanding. Warm sunny days, and cool evenings, the kind you can sit outside in to shoot the breeze with friends over drinks. Then something changed and we now find ourselves in a cool spell with grey rainy days. My mood has changed significantly. I find it hard to be my usual gleeful self. Morbid is the word I would use today to describe mood.

Yesterday’s post reminded me of an english teacher I had in college. His last name was Walsh. I can still see his face and hear his voice. He was what I will call a dandy. His background before teaching was the US Military. How he survived twenty or thirty years with his effeminate manners and speech I cannot fathom. Nevertheless he was a great man. He must have liked me because he often used my writing as an example of what he liked in a piece. His likes, however, never got me more than a “C” grade.

One thing his encouragement did for me is to foster a notion that I could write, and tell a story. He never mentioned the current teachings of “show not tell” the story. When I read books today, I take particular note of how the author shows me what he is writing about. At first I didn’t understand what was meant by show. Now, I understand it, and recognize how it is done. Showing does make a story more readable, and more easily understood. Seeing a scene in your mind makes the story more compelling. Telling a story is often blah.

I rationalized that telling a story takes a bit of drama, but I didn’t understand that even when telling a story it is better if the listener converts what he hears into a picture in his mind. Seeing that picture makes things come alive for the listener. Of course the whole thing changes if one is writing non-fiction. In non-fiction the narrative is based on facts. I suppose it is possible to also include a show aspect to describing COVID-19 statistics in a dissertation on how the virus affects a body. It never hurts to spice up the numbers with gory scenes of internal mechanisms gone awry.

As an engineer I wrote many reports on experiments I conducted. Often I had to compare design A to design B. It was common to use third person in the narrative. Terms like “the sample was tested” or “the sample-A was conditioned.” My grammar checker always pointed out that using third person narrative was not as effective as using first person. That may be true when writing fiction, but I don’t think is is as effective when writing lab reports. First person narrative implies that you are in the act of doing something while third person describes what was done. It took several years for me to get out of the habit of writing in the third person narrative, and now I can’t write a very good lab report anymore, but I will never have to write another lone again so what does it matter?

. . . that’s all I have to say about that.

Lessons From the Oldies

When I was in college one of my English Profs suggested a method to find a topic to write about. I won’t bore you with the details but it is simply to make a list of topics. Period. Then select one and begin. That is what I am doing right now. When I hit the very first key I had no idea what my topic would be for today. I still don’t, but eventually it’ll kick in and I will start pounding keys at a great rate.

I spent a few minutes reading other peoples BLOGS today. It always amazes me as to the variety. Some are so simple yet so entertaining, others are eloquent and just plain confounding. Some writers write words, words, and more words. Usually these are eloquently phrased words, and sometimes I even understand what they say. In most cases they read like an eighteenth century novel. The author is speaking English but with a different twist. It makes for very hard reading. During COVID I began reading books that I downloaded off the internet for free. The operative word there is “Free.” Many of them are extremely old. Like “South, the Story of Shackleton’s Expedition,” or “The Pioneers,” by James Fenimoor Cooper, or The Kama Sutra of Vatsyayana. The oldest and toughest to understand is the Kama Sutra.

Reading stories like these gave me a greater appreciation for our modern language. One thing I noticed throughout the works is the author’s use of vocabulary. I found myself constantly switching to the dictionary to learn the definition. In most cases I had a sense of the word, but not the exact meaning.

Currently, I am being visited by a friend who migrated to our country from the Baltic States. Frequently, during our conversations she will stop me and ask what does that mean? Every time, I have to stop and think about how I will explain the meaning of a word without using it in the definition. Most times I am able to finds simple words that I can use to explain. In rare cases I find myself going to the dictionary for help. Recently she asked me the difference between woods and forest. Again, I was challenged, but came up with the difference; “woods” pertains to a small grove of trees, while a “forest” is endless acres and acres of trees.

Another thing I am gleaning from these ancient stories is a better understanding of the hardships people lived with. For instance, In “Pioneers” by Cooper, the harsh temperatures of northern New York during the winters of the late 1790’s was explained in detail. Just cutting the amount of wood that was necessary to heat a small cabin during the cold months required continuous back breaking labor. Cooper also pointed out that if locals continued to cut down centuries old trees that soon there would be no more trees to cut. He further realizes that the trees they were using for heat take a hundred years to grow. He relates a similar concern about fishing. Instead of using the native Indian philosophy of, if you are hungry catch a fish, they used the more modern approach of let’s use a long net, sweep it through the lake and catch a bunch of fish. He questioned how long it would take the pioneers to fish the lake empty. Today, we ask the same questions not only about our inland lakes but about the world’s oceans as well. Thankfully, we have been smart enough to regulate fishing seasons and to put limits on fish populations.

All in all, I have enjoyed reading the oldies, but didn’t like the difficulty which I encountered trying to understand the written words and grammar of the age.

The most disappointing book I read was the Kama Sutra. Having heard so much about the work beforehand I expected something like an ancient Playboy. I’m sure in it’s day, it was that, but in my day it was not very stimulating, and I had trouble with the philosophy that led the authors to write this tome. I am also certain that the ladies of the world consider this to be a male chauvinist work because it is written from a man’s point of view with little regard for that of the woman’s

Here I am seven hundred and thirty-one words after beginning a post that had no direction at all in the first paragraph, and that is all I’m going to say about that.

PSA-200826-Fun With Words

I love it when friends feed me things I can post.


Lexophilia

 “Lexophile” describes those that have a love of words, especially in word games, such as: “To write with a broken pencil  is pointless.”  An annual competition is held in New York Times to see who can create the best original lexophile. This year’s submissions:    

I changed my iPod’s name to Titanic. It’s syncing now. 

England has no kidney bank, but it does have a Liverpool. 

Haunted French pancakes give me the crepes.

This girl today said she recognized me from the Vegetarians Club, but I’d swear I’ve never met herbivore. 

I know a guy who’s addicted to drinking brake fluid, but he says he can stop any time. 

A thief who stole a calendar got twelve months. 

I got some batteries that were given out free of charge. 

A dentist and a manicurist married. They fought tooth and nail. 

A will is a dead giveaway. 

With her marriage, she got a new name and a dress. Police were summoned to a daycare center where a three-year-old was resisting a rest.
Did you hear about the fellow whose entire left side was cut off? He’s all right now.
A bicycle can’t stand alone; it’s just two tired. 

The guy who fell onto an upholstery machine last week is now fully recovered. 

He had a photographic memory but it was never fully developed. 

When she saw her first strands of gray hair, she thought she’d dye. 

Acupuncture is a jab well done. That’s the point of it. 

I didn’t like my beard at first. Then it grew on me. 

Did you hear about the crossed-eyed teacher who lost her job because she couldn’t control her pupils? 

I stayed up all night to see where the sun went, and then it dawned on me.

I’m reading a book about anti-gravity. I just can’t put it down.

Moaning is tolerated and rated for effectiveness.

Not My Bag Of Tea

The peaceful protests across our country are telling us one thing; there are a lot if sick bad ass people living here. Why they are so mentally sick is not clear. Maybe they think they are being patriotic and the only way to cure the country is to tear it apart. My question is what the heck are they trying to cure? I have often played a scenario in my mind about the next revolution against the government. In my scenario we are always trying to keep our freedoms. In today’s rioting the protestors are trying to establish the opposite of freedom. They want to control every aspect of our lives and they won’t stop until they have succeeded. They must know that their ideology of socialism, progressivism, communism will never work and it has been proven not to work too many times.

If I were leading any aspect of the government I would need to be restrained from blowing these protesters to hell. I give some of these mayors, governors, and the President credit for being patient to allow the protests to play out, but will they play out? Eventually, when all businesses, government buildings and monuments have been destroyed, and they have nothing else to apply their anger towards they will have to end. Otherwise they will begin to hurt themselves.

I see the news casts daily and they exploit the fires and the broken windows with people running in and out of stores; their arms loaded with booty. Add this to the damage we must live through caused by the COVID-19 nonsense and America has met a new type of terrorism perhaps worse than any Muslim form we’ve seen on our shores. At least when we see the Muslims as the enemy we are not afraid to blow them away. With these new terrorists we see them as peaceful protestors, and we must protect their Constitutional rights. I say to hell with them and fight fire with fire. See, that is why I am never going to be in charge.

The one positive thing I see in these nightly car burnings is that they are making Ford, and GMC very happy. All those burned cars will be replaced.

Insurance companies will take it on the chin at all the stores because I’m sure that every business has insurance against these types of events. Of course the insurers will opt not to cover any new events in the future. The entire damage will be owned by the businesses. I wonder how many will decide not to reopen. Will the protesters consider that a victory? All it will do is force them to move to another neighborhood where there is still some business going on.

My recommendation is to let the National Guard loose in these communities and let the bodies pile up. I don’t think they will use rubber bullets like the police do. Let the mainstream media show me dead bodies stacked at riot sites and I predict the rioting will stop, and the people living there will be applauding the mayhem.

I Remember Eddie

All the latest news about how poorly our mail service does has reminded me of my first recollections of the same service. Today, we complain about how much it costs to run the department, how long it takes to get a letter, and how often we find boxes of undelivered mail lying about in secret stashes. I will use a cliche to make my point, back in the good old days getting mail was considered sacred. Remember the old creed “Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds”? Today, it is still somewhat a sacred bond to deliver the mail, but it is no where near to the service we once had.

My first bone of contention is related to the position of the mailbox. In my home town of Chicago the mailboxes were mounted to the front of the house next to the door. Some doors had mail slots instead of boxes, and your mail was delivered to the interior of your home. Of course they couldn’t do that in the rural areas where homes are often many yards back from the road so the USPS allowed farmers to have post boxes along the road side. When did a suburban community become a rural farm?

My parents were poor and had a very small home in the city. The houses were two feet apart. In the modern vernacular that is known as urban density.

Our mailman’s name was Eddie. Do you remember your first mailman’s name? No? Probably because you never see him when he flys by in his cute little USPS delivery van and pokes his hand out the window into your box. Back in the nineteen forties and fifties, mailmen (Women who delivered mail were scarce back then) carried all their deliverables in a heavy leather pouch that he slung over his shoulder onto his back. He carried a hand full of mail that had been pre-sorted and gathered together in the order of delivery. The man or woman in the delivery van also use this system. It seems to work better when all the mail is bunched by address in the same order as the houses on the street. We knew Eddie because he knocked on the door to let us know when he put something important into your box. My mother was a very personable woman and made friends with him soon after meeting him.

Eddie’s first deliver was in the morning. When his leather bag was empty at the end of the street he was in front of a drop box. He opened the box with a special key that hung from his belt. Inside the box was more mail. After filling his pouch he went back to delivering. After lunch, Eddie made a second round of deliveries, and this happened six days a week. Today, the service is limited to one delivery a day to a box at the curb.

Back then, most mail we received came from someone we knew with news of the family. Today, I picked up six pieces of mail. Of the six, four were vanilla grade advertising flyers and two were important to me, namely bills. Yesterday, all the mail was of the type I label as junk-mail. Most mail is junk these days, and for this reason the USPS is seventy-eight billon dollars in arrears this budget season. If my math is correct every citizen of the US now owes the USPS $260 on top of what they normally spend in the budget year.

One year, I remember Mom gifting Eddie with some Bantam hen eggs for his kids. He was amazed at how small they were. Eddie could not stop thanking Mom for these eggs. Their friendship became really solid after that gift. I don’t remember when Eddie retired but after he did we never saw him again.

Evolution overcame the USPS and slowly the twice a day deliveries were stopped, Bags carried on the back lost out to bags on a carts, and eventually in the nineteen eighties the carts lost out to the zippy little Grumman vans designed especially for delivering mail.

Stamp collecting was huge hobby in the fifties. I began in the fourth grade and stopped collecting in the eighties or nineties. Today, I am pondering how to deal with the collection. People my age are flooding the market with old stamps in their collections making them valueless. I heard rumor that collectors who bought entire sheets of stamps as an investment are getting as little as thirty cents on the dollar for them. Talk about losing your ass, that is one sure way to do it, buy a stock for ten dollars and sell it for three. Have you ever wondered why some junk mail comes with a block of old stamps of small denominations? It is because people can buy the stamps cheap and the USPS has to deliver the letter as long as it has the correct amount of postage on it.

When I collected, I often thought the USPS was missing the boat. I thought they were dumb for not issuing more new stamps than they did, because collectors buy the things just to look at them, the postal service never has to provide any service for all those stamps they sold making collector stamps a huge profit. I would have provided collectors with special service above and beyond that of regular mail because other than selling me the stamp they didn’t have to do a single thing for that money.

Anyway, we find our selves debating how and when we will cover the 78 billion dollar shortage.

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