Ars Est Celare Artes

olympic-rings

The above title is a Latin motto which means ‘The Art Is To Conceal The Arts’. To properly awe an audience with the performance of a difficult task, it is often necessary to make it appear easy.

A comedian, commenting about the Olympics, said that all he understands about gymnastics is this; he hopped into the air, and landed on his feet, perfectly erect, and said, “That’s good!”  He hopped into the air again, and landed leaning slightly backward, so that he had to put a foot back to keep from falling over, and said, “That’s bad!”  To win gold, you have to make it look easy.

I recently had the chance to read the beginning of an online novel by a writer who, like many of us, hopes to be a published author. He’s a member of a highly respected profession.  He’s intelligent and well educated.  He has a (reasonably) good vocabulary and grasp of grammar and composition.  What he is not, is an author – or writer.

I only managed to read the first three paragraphs, before I had to stop, or suffer nausea and vertigo. Here are the three paragraphs.  Remember to take Gravol. (Americans may take Dramamine.)

You are on the beach, watching the swaying of the waves. The waves sweep across the steeps like a flock of stampeding sheep speeding over the steppes, the snaking waves hissing over the driftwood steeped in the sandy wrack.

A squadron of gulls lifts uneasily into the air and then dissipates against the grey sky. You look meaningly at the gulls. They hover, the flurry of gulls. The gulls lull heavily in the air, squealing their dull squeals.

You incline your head downward and stare at the inrushing waves, each one a hungry-mouthed sheep, coming toward you ravenously. The water is deliquescent twenty feet from the shore. Beyond the shoal the surface seems lacquered, solid, unbreachable, enameled, brackish, thick, as if it were a spreading mass of viscous aquatic jelly. From the shore you cannot fathom, through the spume lid, the pelagic fathoms. The lake’s lid is swarming with wavelets, each one undulant and alive—afroth, the lake’s lip, frosting wisps.

That opening is almost as bad as, “It was a dark and stormy night.” This thing has more verbiage slathered on than icing on a Wal-Mart birthday cake.  This is like the parlor of a Nevada brothel – cheap, gaudy and ostentatious.  Typos, overdone alliteration, excess words, redundant words, repetitive words, overly ornate words, eight-dollar words, employed to seem interesting and impressive, but used incorrectly.   Steppes, and steeps, and stampeding sheeps – oh my.

To ‘look meaningly’ is to use a facial expression to convey information to another person. You cannot look meaningly at seagulls, because their tiny bird-brains don’t get it. And speaking of seagulls, I can think of five verbs to describe the noise they make.  ‘Dull squeals’ is not on the list.

Deliquescent means; The process of a solid dissolving or becoming liquid through the absorption of moisture from the atmosphere. That obviously is not happening here. It’s a good, solid, proud word.  It’s just hanging out in the wrong neighborhood.

Instead of smooth, clear, economical communication, this writer seems to have gone out of his way to confuse and impress, and say, ‘Look how much work I went to, to attract and hold your attention.’ It is not concealed. (But it should be!)

spacehounds-of-ipc

I recently re-read E. E. ‘Doc’ Smith’s Subspace Encounter. Doc was the mentor who taught Robert Heinlein much about writing.  An engineer by trade, Doc always used the exactly correct word, and the exactly correct number of words.

In this book, he has Mankind meet another galactic civilization. Physically, they are Human, but their society is vastly different.  Not cruel, but they are pragmatic to the point of making the Spartans look like soft amateurs.

To identify their empire, he coins the word ‘Justiciate.’ This is literary irony.  It is like referring to The People’s Democratic Republic of North Korea.  It is not ‘for or by the people.’  It is not a democracy, and it is not a Republic.  There is little ‘justice’ in a society, where the ruler of 180 planets is identified as the Supreme Tyrant.  And the supreme ruler of the red-skinned sect, who wants to kill 90% of those of other skin colors and keep the rest as slaves – identifies himself as The Grand Justice.

Having invented the Justiciate, Doc went on to invent an interplanetary monetary unit for them – the Junex, meaning the Justiciate Unit of Exchange.  For an imaginary empire, he created imaginary money to give believability.  No sheeps or steeps or gulls were needed.

As a young adult, I missed much of his precision. Re-reading it now, with life experience, I have a greater appreciation.  He made it look easy, when it really wasn’t.  I’m glad Jim Wheeler made me do it.  😀

I Have A Confession

confession-box

A sixteen year old girl goes to confession.
Father, I called a man a son-of-a-bitch
yesterday.

Why did you call him a son-of-a-bitch?? the
priest asked.

Because, Father, he touched me on my arm
without permission.

Do you mean like this?? He touches her arm.

Yes Father.

That’s no reason for calling him a son of a
bitch.

But Father, he also touched my breasts.

You mean like this?? He touches her breasts.

Yes Father.

That’s no reason to call him a son-of-a-bitch.

But Father, he took off my clothes.

Like this?? He takes off her clothes.

Yes Father.

That’s no reason to call him a son-of-a-bitch.

But Father he then put his you-know-what in
my you-know-where.

Like this?? He put his you-know-what in her
you-know-where.

Yes Father, she says sometime later, after
catching her breath.

But that’s no reason to call him a
son-of-a-bitch.

But Father, he has AIDS.

That son of a bitch!

***

A newly ordained Catholic priest was nervous about hearing confessions, so he asked an older, more experienced priest to observe one of his sessions and give him some advice. After a few minutes of watching and listening, the older priest pulled the younger one aside to give him a few suggestions.

“Try folding your arms over your chest, and rubbing your chin with one hand. This gives the impression that you are listening thoughtfully. Then try saying things like: “I see.”, “I understand.” and “Yes, go on.”

The younger priest practiced these things for a minute. Then the older one asked, “Don’t you think that’s better than slapping your knee and saying, “No way! What happened next?”

***

If you’ve seen the above post before, it’s because unforeseen technical difficulties accidently deleted it from my list of posts.  I’ve been able to re-publish it, but I’m missing all those lovely likes and comments.   😯

Flash Fiction #126

 

lost-head

PHOTO PROMPT © Liz Young

Gone – And Forgotten

Johan was the most disorganized, forgetful person I’d ever met.  Instead of putting things where they belonged, and knowing where they were, he just dropped them….wherever, and spent his days saying things like;
“I wonder where I set my beer down.”
“Has anybody seen my smokes?”
“I have to leave soon.
  Somebody help me find my keys.”

After locating his glasses for him – 8 times, today – I suggested that he arrange his life a little more carefully.  He agreed that it was a good idea.  “Honestly, sometimes I think I’d forget my own head if it wasn’t screwed on tight.”

***

Go to Rochelle’s Addicted to Purple site and use her Wednesday photo as a prompt to write a complete 100 word story. 

 

A To Z Challenge – V

April Challenge

As we slide toward the bottom, and near the end of all this alphabetical silliness, we finally reach the letter

letter-v

Back in April for some reason (laziness, stupidity, forgetfulness, distraction….what was I writing about?, the fact that all Challengees who were going to write about V were killed when a transport truck full of bowling balls rolled over) I only wrote down two prompts, verbose, and vicarious.

Verbose can match with voluble.  Both mean ‘wordy or longwinded’ and tend to refer to the spoken word, but can also refer to (my) writing.  Learning to compose 100 word Flash Fictions has tightened it up a bit, but my compulsion to deal with every conceivable detail still has me occasionally running overtime.

I’ve written about how age and finances have me regarding the world vicariously.  There was a time when its partner could have been voyeur, but there’s almost no need of window-peeking these days.  There are now a vast number of voluptuous vixens, only too willing – anxious – to voluntarily allow men to view their ass….ets.

Where the Hell was sexting, when I was young and needed it? When the only choices were hard-to-obtain, airbrushed Playboy, or Sunbathers Monthly?  Even the words nudist or nudism were hidden behind the veil of ‘Community Moral Standards.’

A Voluble Trivia Addendum

In the late 1960s, after the grudging establishment of Playboy and Penthouse magazines, another entrepreneur decided that he also wanted to print and distribute a skin mag. After his first issue, he was taken to court on morals charges.  He cited Playboy and Penthouse as precedents, and argued that his magazine was an artistic publication, for the appreciation of the glorious female form.

The judge looked at the fact that he had intentionally chosen Intercourse, Pennsylvania as his mailing address, for titillation purposes, (Ooh!  I wrote ‘tit.’) and convicted him of pornography. 😯

***

Okay, mission accomplished. I’m going to take a Vicodin – and a nap!

Flash Fiction #125

bigfoot

PHOTO PROMPT © Ted Strutz

Rochelle turned the tables this week, by writing about exactly what’s in the picture. I’m going to turn them back again, by writing a tale about something that’s not even there.

ENQUIRING MINDS

“See, I told you. There he is, by the big tree.  Take the shot.”

“What tree, the maple??”

“No, the big oak, by the dock, quick, he’s getting away. Take the shot, take the shot! ….The lens cap is still on??!  You’re the photographer, I told you to have your fancy camera ready! ….  Argh!  He’s gone.  We could have been rich and famous.”

“A clear picture of him hiding from humanity would be worth $20,000 to the tabloids, but the shot you missed, of Bigfoot fishing from someone’s porch chair in the lake, would have made us both millionaires.”

***

Go to Rochelle’s Addicted to Purple site and use her Wednesday photo as a prompt to write a complete 100 word story.

A Lotto B.S.

lotto

I recently watched a video where Atheist, Richard Dawkins spoke to a group about the non-existence of God, or Jesus, and took questions/comments after his speech.

One well-mannered, deeply-faithful man stood up and said, “You claim that God, and Jesus do not exist, but I experienced Jesus personally. He came to me and stood before me, and said to me that if I believed in him, I would be saved.  What do you say about that?

Dawkins quietly replied, “You suffered a delusion.”

The man did not relinquish his spot at the front of the line, and instead said, “My friend has allowed me to take his place. God and Jesus must exist.  I cannot afford to be in error about my salvation.  I have too much invested in it. I have seen the face of Christ!  He has spoken to me!   What is your response to that??!

Again, quietly, Dawkins told him, “You have experienced an hallucination.”

But there, ladies and gentlemen, you have the truth about religion, and it’s not an honest truth. Unwittingly, he has revealed that Religion is a commercial transaction – “cannot afford – too much invested”.  If you do something for me now, later on, when nobody can see, or prove anything, I promise to do something nice for you.”  Police break up similar scams and people go to prison on a weekly basis, for cons like that.

A moderator on the Atheist Experience show had a similar protest. (They are all too common.)  His response was, “It’s like the man who, all through his working life, took every dollar not spent on food, clothing, housing, etc. and bought lottery tickets. Now that retirement is looming, and he has nothing in a retirement fund, he is forced to keep buying lottery tickets in a desperate attempt to beat the already-proven shitty odds.”

Which brings us, strangely, sideways, to Bob. I worked with Bob.  He was a gorgeous creature.  He could have married anyone he pleased – he just didn’t please anyone.  He had the body of an Adonis….and the mind of a milk-cow.  Strong like ox – almost as smart.  No-one ever suggested that was because his gym membership included an all-you-can-eat steroid buffet, because they might have caused ‘roid-rage’ or testosterone-induced posturing.  If Bob had been any meeker, someone would have had to water him twice a week.

My wife worked with a young woman in her late twenties, who had gone to school with him. Bob had no wife or kids.  He lived in a nice apartment, owned a nice car, a big flat-screen TV, a high-end computer when they were expensive and not common, stereo, and furniture almost as gorgeous as he was.

The two met one day in a supermarket, and Bob bragged about all his beautiful possessions. Somewhere, he had obtained black satin sheets for his bed, and insisted that she come to his apartment to see them.  (Yeah, right! Oh well, could be a fun tumble.)

He showed her all his fabulous furniture, and took her into his bedroom and showed her his magnificent black satin sheets and then, having bragged about his beautiful possessions (again), he all but pushed her out the door.

When our standard, net, weekly take-home pay was $383, one week Bob decided that everything was paid for. Instead of depositing his paycheck in a bank, he took it to a Lottery kiosk, and spent the entire sum on Lotto tickets.

He told people at the shop what he had done.  Me??  I’d have kept my mouth shut.  When the inevitable question was asked, “How much did you win?” the answer was, absolutely nothing! Not $10.  Not $5. Not $2.  Not even a free ticket for next week’s draw.  $383 for a handful of something that couldn’t even be used as toilet paper.

I could never afford to do that, and probably wouldn’t, even if I could….but some people can and do. A young, dot-com millionaire received a half-million dollar bonus that he hadn’t expected.  He flew from LA to Vegas, dumped $500,000 in cash on a roulette table, and bet it all on black.  It came up red.  He shrugged, and picked up his empty briefcase.

When someone asked him how he could calmly do such a thing, he replied that he still had a small fortune; as much as he’d had yesterday, and he’d had fun. He said that, if he’d won, he’d probably just have wasted it on something.  Not a church, though.  You always lose, betting on salvation.

 

It’s All Newton’s Fault

I’m not talking about Sir Isaac Newton. I’m referring to Newton Minow, an American who was Director of the FCC during the Kennedy Era.  In 1961, he declared television to be a vast wasteland.  This irritated many within the industry, to the point that, the SS Minnow that washed up on Gilligan’s Island was named after him.

The cost of accessing this wasteland by cable continued to increase. About 12 years ago, we dumped cable, and went with satellite TV.  Satellite rates soon followed Cable rates.  Two years ago, when the wife’s mobility problems meant that she had trouble going down to the basement rec room to watch TV, we cut the satellite cable also.

Almost 50 years of marriage means that we have little new to talk about, so we relied on books to fill the excess time. OH!  WOW!  Last year’s list of 51 books, has increased this year to 57.

Jim Wheeler’s question about rereading books had me going back to reread some old Sci-Fi. I have quite an interest in time travel and temporal paradoxes. Note toward the bottom of the reread section, the time travel group.

pebble-in-the-sky

nemesis

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

tunnel-in-the-sky

spacehounds-of-ipc

the-far-traveller

to-conquer-chaos

the-world-swappers

the-super-barbarians

 

armageddon-2419

the-outposter

starlight

the-dark-light-years

i-aleppo

the-world-at-the-end-of-time

renegade-of-time

serving-in-time

masters-of-time

time-raider-1-wartide

Continuing with the time travel theme, I recently bought and read

tales-of-the-time-scouts

I also purchased Book II, and will read it this year.

a-wanted-man

never-go-back

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

personal                                                                                                        make-me

skeleton-coastghost-ship

treasure-of-khan

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

the-judas-strainaltar-of-eden  the-last-oracle

devil-colony

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

the-doomsday-key

the-emperors-tomb  the-jefferson-key

the-kings-deception

 

 

 

 

 

 

the-lincoln-myth

the-alexander-cipher the-exodus-quest

magic-breaks magic-shifts

all-the-rage hosts

fire-with-fire

crazy-english

And a couple from an up and coming author – not published yet, but look forward to them.
He’s Will Greany.

Blue On Blue

blue-on-blue

Domestic

Tank

locked-on threat-vector

command-authoritysupport-and-defend

guns-germs-and-steel  This one came highly recommended by BrainRants.

flesh-and-blood

the-crusades-from-beginning-to-end  Not what was promised.  Quite disappointing!

the-tau-ceti-agenda

hell-hath-no-fury

the-fold

robert-a-heinlein

free-short-stories-2013free-short-stories-2014

Now that you’ve spent all that time lookin’ at the pretty pitchurs, you won’t have time fer yer own readin’.  Sorry!