’19 A To Z Challenge – M

McMuffin

I want to talk about

McGuffins.

They’re not those breakfast sandwich things that you get at the Golden Arches.

McGuffin = MacGuffin = Maguffin

Noun; an object or event in a book or a film which serves as the impetus for the plot

Word Origin for McGuffin

C20: coined (c. 1935) by Sir Alfred Hatchplot Hitchcock

Most stories, whether books or movies, have a beginning, middle, and end. Some stories though, have lots of action, and a great climax, but need a boost to get underway.

Dashiell Hammet’s novel, The Maltese Falcon was a great novel of the 20th century. There was lots of action – treachery, deceit, lies, double crosses, assaults, murders, and back-stabbing – literal and figurative. When the exciting ride finally came to a stop, the little sculpture that everyone was fighting and scheming about, was just a small, ugly, statue of a bird, just an excuse for all that excitement.

At the last Star Trek movie that I went to – Star Trek Into Darkness – for the first half hour, I fidgeted and twitched in my seat. Is this thing never going to get underway? I even considered walking out – and I NEVER walk out of a movie, especially a Star Trek.

What should have been served, hot off the griddle, as the McGuffin, the impetus, to catch and hold the viewers’ attention, was dropped cold, an hour and a half later, as a by-then, un-suspenseful and un-dramatic ‘Great Reveal,’ a story of brotherly betrayal, abandonment and revenge.

So remember, those of you who want to write – even if it’s just blog-posts. If you think that your story needs a little something to draw readers’ attention, get that McGuffin out early. Craft a catchy title, and compose an interest-grabbing opening line. Once you’ve got ‘em hooked, you can reel ‘em in.

I’d be reel real happy if you stopped back in a couple of days, for another instalment of Do-It-Yourself Philosophy. Phil will be reel happy too. 😉

Reel

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I’ve Never Herd Of Smith

People Named Smith
H. Allen Smith once wrote a book titled People Named Smith. This was a financial move on his part, as he knew that if only five percent of the Smiths in the United States bought the book, he would be able to retire rich. Unfortunately, he discovered that “almost everyone named Smith is either (1) stingy, or (2) illiterate, or (3) both.”

He did this because Mark Twain had shown him how. Twain claimed that he had met a John Smith in every town he had ever been in, and cynically dedicated his first novel to “John Smith,” claiming that people who have a book dedicated to them, will purchase a copy of it.

Captain John Smith was an explorer of note, and an island he discovered near Cape Charles was named “Smith Island” after him. However, Captain Smith wasn’t happy with the island chosen to honor him, and he complained, “Why, I could spit across it.”

The book is mainly about names, and not all of them were of people named Smith. He once met an imposing man, when invited on a cruise on a yacht in the Caribbean. Not impressed with the commonness of his name, Smith, he declared, “A man’s name is a mere label – nothing else – and has no more meaning than the label on a can.

The gentleman disagreed, and introduced himself. He was Theron Lamar Caudle, the assistant Attorney-General of the United States. His name was all old Anglo-Saxon, and represented a complete sentence. Theron means ‘go seek.’ Lamar means ‘the sea,’ and Caudle is a ‘hot toddy.’ Translated literally, it means, “Go seek a hot toddy by the sea,” and here he was, with a drink in his hand, on a boat, in the Caribbean.

People afflicted with the last name Smith, sometimes go to lengths to have a first name of some significance which sets them apart from all the other multitudes of Smiths. Labels are important to many, although one Appalachian mother cared so little that she insisted to the interviewer, that the official names of her two kids, on the ‘Guv’mint papers, really was Shithead and Fartface Smith.’

One child was named 5/8 Smith. I don’t know if he was the runt of the litter, or maybe, just not all there. One father christened his son Smith, so that he went through life with the double-barreled name of Smith Smith. A photographer, whose work appeared in newspapers and magazines, legally changed his given name to Another, because he was tired of hearing, “Oh, another Smith.”

One day the author was speaking to a writer friend. They discussed some personal things, and then he said, “What are you working on these days?”
“I’m collaborating on a book.”
“With whom?”
“Man named Ira Smith.”
“You serious??”
“Certainly I’m serious.”
He said, “My God, that’s exactly what I’m doing.”
“What do you mean?”
“I mean that I’m collaborating on a book with a man named Ira Smith.”

It was true. The other writer was working on the memoirs of Ira R. T. Smith, who for 51 years had been in charge of mail at the White House. At the same time, H. Allen Smith had been working on a book of baseball anecdotes with Ira L. Smith, a Washington journalist.

Ira wouldn’t seem to be an especially common first name, yet Ira L. had had his share of confusions. He was forever getting newspaper clippings from friends;
Ira Smith caught drunk driving in Georgia
Ira Smith an upstate New York cabbie, kidnapped, robbed, tied to a tree, and murdered
Ira L. Smith, a retired Virginia lumberman, dying at the age of 91

He even had a newspaper ad which said;

FOOL your friends. Pretend you are in San Francisco
3 postcards sent 25 cents (20-$1) You write
message, address, return. I remail in San Francisco
Letter mailed 15 cents. Your friends will think
you’re travelling. Ira Smith, 153 Liberty St., San
Francisco, Calif.

The middle name of our Ira L. Smith was Lepouce, his mother’s Belgian maiden name, meaning ‘the thumb’. He was once under consideration for a great job in Washington, but a senior executive named Smith, didn’t want him hired. There were already too many Smiths in the office, and he didn’t want another one messing up phone calls and mail.

Ira went to the man, and offered to apply his middle name to all phone calls and correspondence. The exec replied, “Anyone who would permit himself to be called I. Lepouce Smith in order to get a job must want that job pretty badly. You’re hired.”

The author mentions a situation called Ultra-Smith, where one Smith marries another. My sister did this, confusing all sorts of folks. As you climb down from the family tree, EVERYBODY is named Smith.

(* I have a framed reproduction of a Feb. 13, 1923 Saturday Evening Post cover, with a Norman Rockwell painting and an article about Wodehouse’s recent Psmith book, which refused to upload to WordPress.  It, and a mug with his name, Cyril, were all I got from the nursing home when my Father died.  I didn’t even know he had it.  Perhaps if/when I figure out the problem, I can display it in a later post.)

In England, we have the interesting case of Mr. Psmith, a dashing young character invented by P. G. Wodehouse. In the novel Leave It to Psmith, we find him engaged in a colloquy with a young woman.

“The name is Psmith, P-smith.”
“Peasmith, sir?”
“No, no. P-s-m-i-t-h. I should explain to you that I started life without the initial letter, and my father always clung ruggedly to the plain Smith. But it seemed to me that there were so many Smiths in the world that a little variety might well be introduced. Smythe I look on as a cowardly evasion, nor do I approve of the too prevalent custom of tacking on another name on the front by means of a hyphen. So I decided to adopt the Psmith. The P, I should add for your guidance, is silent, as in phthisis, psychic, and ptarmigan. You follow me?

This Smith book was written in 1952, which explains the ancient, minuscule postage fees, and the somewhat formal construction. Aside from the P-ed off words above, the author used ‘expatiate,’ which means, to enlarge in discourse or writing; be copious in description or discussion: ramble on and on – which I’ve done magnificently with this post. Thanx for rambling along with me, and some of my questionable namesakes.

Flash Fiction #200

Jokes

PHOTO PROMPT © Linda Kreger 

THAT’S FUNNY

I’ve never heard of a scavenger hunt for jokes.

There’s a couple! Scoop them up.

What’s the difference between a porcupine and a Porsche?….
….The porcupine has the pricks on the outside

My doctor told me that I have insomnia….
….but I’m not going to lose any sleep over it

You find them everywhere. Grab that pair!

What did the fish say when he swam into the wall?….
….Dam

My girlfriend hates it when I joke about her weight….
….She should lighten up.

One more, then home.

What do you call a lawyer with an IQ of 50?….
….A politician

***

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

Milestone

Well, I’ve done it. I’ve been at this long enough to have reached the FF #200 milestone. Thank you Rochelle for having the patience to herd all these cats, and thanx to all the rest of you who come to read my silly stories.

Friday Fictioneers

WOW #44

Kyle's Scrimshaw

This is MY definition of ‘Griffonage.’

Doctors have learned to use computers, and no longer hand-write prescriptions. Pharmacists give thanks for modern technology. That brings us to the Word Of this Week

GRIFFONAGE

Careless handwriting: a crude or illegible scrawl

The art of cursive writing is going the way of the Dodo VCR. Generally, the more someone writes, the more rushed the writing is, and the worse – the more illegible – it becomes. If you are fortunate enough to get a celebrity to autograph a book or a program, they vaguely wave a marker over it.

What results, could not be proven in a court of law – or anywhere else – to be an actual signature. You might as well have had one of the roadies scribble something. You could sell it at a neat profit, and no-one would be any the wiser.

This old –but new-to-me – word, brought me to another new-to-me synonym…. Cacography, who is related to cacophony, which means
harsh discordance of sound; dissonance:
a discordant and meaningless mixture of sounds

So, where one infects the ears, the other afflicts the eyes. Give your eyes a rest on Monday, with a post with a few jokes.   😉   😆

’19 A To Z Challenge – A

AtoZ2019Letter A

 

Life is moving too fast! I want to get off; I’m feeling woozy.

Logrithmic Scale

Humans used bows and arrows for thousands of years, then someone invented the crossbow. We used that for a couple of centuries, and someone invented the musket. That was used for over a hundred years, till someone invented the rifle. After less than a century, someone developed the repeating, lever action rifle. About fifty years later, the automatic rifle came into being.

Don’t like the idea of killing and maiming?? Let’s talk about recorded communication.

For eons, we scratched things into pottery or soft rocks. Then, some genius carved up a goose feather and dipped it into a dark liquid, and wrote on vellum (Scraped lamb-skin). We did that for a millennium, till paper was developed. Then later, someone created the reloadable fountain pen. A half century later, technology allowed Lazlo Biro to produce the first workable ball-point pen.

The typewriter was created, and Mark Twain was the first author to compose a novel, using one. He disliked the experience so much, that he tried to give it away – 8 times. Each time, it was returned to him. 75 years later, the first word processors became available, and in half that time, they’ve become quicker, more efficient, smarter…. and almost indispensable.

Isaac Newton said that he accomplished what he did, “Standing On The Shoulders Of Giants.” What I’m saying – the point I’m trying to make is that, as we progress, the progress comes faster and faster. Once, we had millennia, centuries, decades to get used to the idea of our basic world changing. Now, changes come in years, months, weeks!

Author Alvin Toffler invented the term “Future Shock,” the future is the way of life. The only constant, is change. Many of us have a hard time keeping up. Not only does the constant, rapid change keep us mentally off-balance – shocked – but it produces a related condition.

Alterity-
Alterity is a noun that means otherness; specifically: the quality or state of being radically alien to the conscious self or a particular cultural orientation.

Alterity is related to the verb alter, which can mean to change something, into something other – something different. It’s also cousin to the adjective alter – as in alter-ego. Batman is Bruce Wayne’s radically different alter-ego.

The Canadian band, imaginatively named The Band, says that Life Is A Carnival. It often has me spun. Why don’t you spin back again in a couple of days??  😀

 

’18 A To Z Challenge – Y

Letter Y

I was desperately pondering what word, beginning with the letter Y, to write about. I had yesteryear, yonder, yardstick, and yield, any one of which may still show up this time next year. I thought about Yule, but it’s long past. The Easter Bunny is already hopping over Santa’s sleigh tracks. I told all my yolks, when I published my E For Eggs post, a couple of years ago.

Suddenly it came to me! I should write a post about

You

Crowd

A few of my fans, awed by the magnificence of my prose.

Yes, you, my regular readers, and faithful fans – who have been with me and my blogging, through thick and thin…. Who am I kidding??! When, during the time that I have been blogging, have I ever been thin? It’s been more like thick, and thicker. I’m a little like comedian Gabriel Iglesias – so well-fed that I’m somewhere between FLUFFY and DAMN!

Fortunately for you (and me), my writings benefit greatly from considerable editing. If it were not for the miracles of the word-processing program, the prose that my over-fed, sausage-like fingers (Mmmm – sausages!) typo out, would look like my Back Up A Sec post.

My readers and online guests are important to me all the time after a meal that would have Santa Claus leading a Weight-Watchers intervention raid, but you’re here now, reading my output, and giving me a warm happy feeling – just like a large serving of French fries and gravy.

Since it’s Lent – even though I’m not a Catholic – I hereby vow to give up excessive calorie intake for 40…. minutes. I promise to be back in a couple of days, with a post that’s sleek and svelte, even if I’m not. Thank you, to the visitors who have come here before, and thank you to the ones who will gratify me by continuing to show up later. 😀

 

Book Review #16

The Whenabouts of Burr

I just got back from a short time travel trip.

I recently visited the website of a female author. She has written 5 or 6 Young-Adult Sci-Fi books, all centered on Mars – ‘The Tunnel on Mars, A Ranch on Mars, Subduing Mars, etc.’  The post I read was her book-review of Time And Again, a seminal time-travel novel.

I told her that I was also fascinated with time travel stories. I showed a bunch of them in my post of books read in 2016. I remembered a somewhat different time-travel book, and suggested it to her. Later, I went back in time, dug it out of my hoard of old Sci-Fi books, reread it, and decided to do a book review of it.

The Book: The Whenabouts Of Burr (1975)

The Author: Michael Kurland

The review: The time travel in this book isn’t – quite. It’s a story about parallel Universes, and alternate Earths, created by different choices at significant historical nexus points, like the Aaron Burr/Alexander Hamilton duel. Like a deck of cards skewed sideways, each reality is just over nine hours from its neighbors. The more levels you travel through, the further back in time you go.

It’s a great device for the author to make sociological comments – a fun game of “What If”. In some levels, Burr lives, but becomes an exiled political outlaw. Some levels have benevolent, supportive democracies, others have restrictive tyrannies. On some worlds, Europeans did not reach the Americas, and the natives have developed their own civilizations.

The sharpest social comment/warning comes from the author’s description of Prime Time, the world which originally developed the Temporal Translation Technology. The people have become like professional Victorian tourists, slumming, and gaily gadding about the alternate words, observing. The entire society has become effete and static. There is no interest, or challenge, nor further research or advancement through struggle, because they now steal/import all discoveries and new technology from the other ‘Earths.’

Published only a little over 40 years ago, it’s not as old as many of my books. It was a fun re-read, and a warning reminder of how Western society may be going. I got back in time to publish this post, and I’ll move forward, to have another ready in a couple of days. See you then. 😀