Thursday, July 31, 2008

Henry Bemis

What bibliophile doesn't freak while watching The Twilight Zone episode about a bookish man whose dream of unending time and unending books comes true?

Freak again: take a look at CBS's website, which streams video of classic TV shows, including that Henry Bemis episode.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Zero-Sum Game

A summer-story prompt, overheard from a teenage caddy:

When golfers drink beer, the happy guys get angry and the angry guys get happy.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

On- and Off-Stage

From Maureen Ryan’s Chicago Tribune article about tonight’s second-season premier of Mad Men:

[P]art of what makes Mad Men special is its affinity for the slow burn. There are secrets and contemplative moments. Some of its most evocative scenes show characters sitting and thinking. “You get to see what you don’t get to see on most TV shows,” [series creator Matthew] Weiner said. “You get to see them with [their public] faces and then finally, you get to see them alone.”
I like both aspects mentioned here. First, the slow burn -- which also draws me to Lost (its first season, especially) -- that the camera stays on a character for a long minute while the story deepens and then moves forward solely through an evolving expression.

And second, that this slow burn leaves air for the private moments that clarify character. It reminds me of an early passage in Uncle Tom's Cabin, where a senator votes to pass the Fugitive Slave Law, prohibiting assistance to runaway slaves even in northern states. Not many pages later, he personally gives money and transportation to an escaping slave couple. A simple question is: are people’s truer characters revealed by what they do when others are watching ... or by what they do when no one is looking? The complex answer: you need to see some of each to even suppose.

Saturday, July 26, 2008


There are the six-word memoirs to prompt little flashes of inspiration in your story-telling, and discussion threads of six-word stories (scroll through for links to similar sites).

But if you’re writing a steamier story, or have a romantic subplot in need of complications, try letting your mind wander through these eight-word sex memoirs (contains audio and text, mild adult content).

Monday, July 21, 2008

Too Cute

Well done! -- Photoshopping a Cute Overload screen into this fancy-pants scene...

...makes the men's interior monologues practically write themselves.

Go on, take some dictation.

Friday, July 18, 2008


It was an accumulating series of comments.

First was a passage in the soon-to-be-released novel, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society:

I have been looking at a book about artists and how they size up a picture they want to paint. Say they want to concentrate on an orange -- do they study the shape direct? No, they don’t. They fool their eyes and stare at the banana beside it, […] They see the orange in a brand-new way. It’s called getting perspective.
Similarly, A Whole New Mind: Why Right-Brainers Will Rule the Future suggested that while my left brain is busy analyzing something, my right brain takes in the essence of what I’m really interested in -- the something else.

Then there was someone’s passing comment -- that she always pays more attention to the extras in a scene than to the stars.

So I'm interested: that man on the very far right.*

What’s his story?

* photographed at the International Museum of Surgical Science

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Playing Tourist

My husband and I had a little staycation.

His choice: a Schaumburg Flyers minor league baseball game. A neat thing: taking a book along to read between innings (heck, between batters!).

My choice: a visit to the International Museum of Surgical Science. A neat thing: learning that ants served as the original surgical sutures. From the exhibit: “Around the 10th century BC, [suturing] called for an ant to be held over the wound until it seized the wound edges in its jaws. The ant was then decapitated and the death grip from the ant’s jaws kept the wound closed.” !!

Then we walked through Chicago’s utterly beautiful Gold Coast neighborhood (scroll down), to have lunch at FoodLife in Chicago’s Water Tower Place shopping center. A neat thing: using the Dyson Airblade hand dryer in the restroom, amazing!

Our mutual choice: a river cruise narrated by a docent from the Chicago Architectural Foundation (CAF). A neat thing: seeing the Marina City towers and thinking of my friend L, who suggests that their design is an homage to corn, the king of the Midwest (which, if it isn’t true, should be).

Another neat thing: we’ll keep the vacation mood going by ending an upcoming workday or two with a CAF Happy Hour Tour.

Monday, July 7, 2008


Contrary to the title, When You Are Engulfed in Flames is David Sedaris’s sixth collection of essays … not a survival guide. Except maybe for one passage:

…I’m still reluctant to put anyone out. Once someone sent a cake to my [hotel] room, and rather than call downstairs and ask for silverware I cut it with my credit card and ate the pieces with my fingers.
Clever and neat! At best, I’d have stabbed out the messy border of a piece using the handle of my toothbrush.

Friday, July 4, 2008


More fun with complex characters.

Yet mere randomness doesn't make for satisfying complexity. Why is this combination surprising? … and then, why is it believable?

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Oil Rig

I'm lucky: I'm not unduly affected by the rising gasoline prices. (In fact, I welcome their long-overdue prompt of conservation.) But the prices will eventually mandate more of these rigs, or at least differently located ones.

What if living and working on one for 18 months was your next job?

Conceive a week's worth of entries from your gratitude journal -- three things, each day, that you find you appreciate out there.