© 2008 -- 2011 the Grandpa at The Word Mechanic. All rights reserved.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

The Sight of Music


Sunday, October 30, 2011

Tuesday Starts NaNoWriMo

Novemeber is Nanowrimo -- 50,000 words of your novel in one month. I'm joining in this year, and hope to make it further than I have in the past. It's a program being directed by the Office of Letters and Light. Check out the video, and happy writing.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

If Bud and Lou Were Alive Today

I got this from a listserv for medical writers I'm on and think it's worth sharing.

If Bud Abbott and Lou Costello were alive today, their infamous sketch, 'Who's on First?' might have turned out something like this:


ABBOTT: Super Duper computer store. Can I help you?
COSTELLO: Thanks I'm setting up an office in my den and I'm thinking about buying a computer.
COSTELLO: No, the name's Lou.
ABBOTT: Your computer?
COSTELLO: I don't own a computer. I want to buy one.
COSTELLO: I told you, my name's Lou.
ABBOTT: What about Windows?
COSTELLO: Why? Will it get stuffy in here?
ABBOTT: Do you want a computer with Windows?
COSTELLO: I don't know. What will I see when I look at the windows?
ABBOTT: Wallpaper.
COSTELLO: Never mind the windows. I need a computer and software.
ABBOTT: Software for Windows?
COSTELLO: No. On the computer! I need something I can use to write proposals, track expenses and run my business. What do you have?
ABBOTT: Office.
COSTELLO: Yeah, for my office. Can you recommend anything?
ABBOTT: I just did.
COSTELLO: You just did what?
ABBOTT: Recommend something.
COSTELLO: You recommended something?
COSTELLO: For my office?
COSTELLO: OK, what did you recommend for my office?
ABBOTT: Office.
COSTELLO: Yes, for my office!
ABBOTT: I recommend Office with Windows.
COSTELLO: I already have an office with windows! OK, let's just say I'm sitting at my computer and I want to type a proposal. What do I need?
COSTELLO: What word?
ABBOTT: Word in Office.
COSTELLO: The only word in office is office.
ABBOTT: The Word in Office for Windows.
COSTELLO: Which word in office for windows?
ABBOTT: The Word you get when you click the blue 'W'.
COSTELLO: I'm going to click your blue 'W' if you don't start with some straight answers. What about financial bookkeeping? Do you have anything I can track my money with?
ABBOTT: Money.
COSTELLO: That's right. What do you have?
ABBOTT: Money.
COSTELLO: I need money to track my money?
ABBOTT: It comes bundled with your computer.
COSTELLO: What's bundled with my computer?
ABBOTT: Money.
COSTELLO: Money comes with my computer?
ABBOTT: Yes. At no extra charge.
COSTELLO: I get a bundle of money with my computer? How much?
ABBOTT: One copy.
COSTELLO: Isn't it illegal to copy money?
ABBOTT: Microsoft gave us a license to copy Money.
COSTELLO: They can give you a license to copy money?

(A few days later)
ABBOTT: Super Duper computer store. Can I help you?
COSTELLO: How do I turn my computer off?
ABBOTT: Click on 'START'...

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

The Letter Writer

The tip of the pen had worn away
and scratched at the page,
making him shudder the way hard chalk
scraping on a blackboard once did.
Still, just one more letter to write.

One more letter. No one writes letters anymore,
not with a pen with a broken tip.

It would be easier on a computer --
e-mail. Just hit send, and it's done before
there's time to think, do I want to send this?
Computers are safer. They protect
him the way his own handwriting cannot.
But his computer's in a dark
room inside an empty house.

A room void of other breath but
his own. He thinks he'd rather hear
the scratching. At least here, men
with great rings of keys pass back and forth
with great practiced ceremony,
pushing brooms, wearing rags
on their belts, coughing phlegm. Not pretty.
Not like a friend
would be.
Not what a dog or cat
could be. But still he prefers

the company of their loneliness
to such silent dependency,

the smell of ammonia and polish to
sour milk and rotting grapes
behind the beer in the fridge at home.

He wants to like this place. This time.
But he can't. The letter's unfinished and
the pen won't let him. He thinks
a new pen, one that didn't scrape
but rolled as easy as the surf

would make this place perfect.
The words would spill out the way milk
Leaks from a mother's breast. We've
become too private, he writes and then
throws the paper away because

that's all there is that's left to be.

First published at Carcenogenic Poetry July 24, 2011

Copyright 2011, Joseph Saling, the Grandpa,  at The Word Mechanic Blogspot
All rights reserved

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

No Exit

Just got this in an email and thought I'd share:

Let's face it. After Monday and Tuesday, even the calendar says "WTF."

Wednesday, September 28, 2011


I apologize in advance to all people who grt annoyed by filling out the word verification for making comments. I took it off because Braja said she would refuse to send me any more comments if I left it on. Since I took it off I have received multiple daily "comments"such as the following.
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I was receiving them constantly after removing the word verification the first time. That's why I readded it. That's why I'm adding it again. If you don't want to comment, just know I'll miss hearing from you.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Newest Poem

For those of you who missed it, here is my latest poem published at Carcinogenic Poetry.

The Last Day of His Life

The last day of his life began
like all the rest except
he found some pills above the sink
and took them down to stare
into their white infinity
then said out loud, Why white?

The last day of his life he packed lunch for his children
and stood waiting at the door while each one filed by
taking the brown bag from his hand and smiling
as he admonished them to study hard.

The last day of his life he kissed
his wife and told her not to worry.

Getting in the car he drove
until he couldn't be seen from the house
then followed the long narrow path through the field to the beach
with its white sand that seemed to stretch into infinity
and sat there watching white clouds disturb
the sky with shapes that had no permanence,
with weight that wasn't there,
and wondered once more Why white?

First published at Carcenogenic Poetry July 24, 2011
Copyright 2011, Joseph Saling, the Grandpa at The Word Mechanic Blogspot
All rights reserved

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Man of God, angel of vengence and death, maker of changes

Daniel Silva has a new novel -- Portrait of a Spy. It's the thirteenth book in an ongoing series of books about Gabriel Allon, an art restorer who is also an Israeli spy and counter terrorist assassin. Some of you may remember I've written about Silva and his skill before.

It isn't easy to write about the same character doing the same thing in novel after novel with the same supporting cast of characters. Len Deighton, another of my favorite writers of espionage thrillers, wrote a trilogy of trilogies that began with Berlin Game and ended with Charity that I would highly recommend to anyone. The problem is, though, those nine novels demonstrate the difficulty. Because while each book must stand on its own, it also must put itself into context with the preceding novels. And my feeling by the time I got half way through the nine books was that for much of the time I was rereading the stories I'd read before.

Silva, on the other hand, is a true master of three important creative traits. The first is letting his characters age naturally from novel to novel. So in a sense, they actually become different characters. The second is giving just enough information about the recurring characters and their past exploits that you don't have to know what happened earlier to understand who they are and what they are like while at the same timethe reader who does remember them can recall the earlier story. The third and most important trait is describing the character in such a way that you don't need to have known the character at all to get an image of who and what the character is.

One of the most important characters in the books is Ari Shamron, who is legendary within the Israeli intelligence community, the man who recruited Allon as well as Allon's father figure and linchpin for what happens in each novel. He often isn't introduced, other than in brief allusions, until midway through the book. Here is how Silva introduced him in Moscow Rules:
There is a VIP reception room at Ben-Gurion Airport that few people know and where even fewer have set foot. Reached by an unmarked door near passport control, it has walls of Jerusalem limestone, furnishings of black leather, and a permanent odor of burnt coffee and male tension. When Gabriel entered the room the following evening, he found it occupied by a single man. He had settled himself at the edge of his chair, with his legs slightly splayed and his large hands resting atop an olive-wood cane, like a traveler on a rail platform resigned to a long wait. He was dressed, as always, in a pair of pressed khaki trousers and a white oxford cloth shirt with the sleeves rolled up to the elbows. His head was bullet-shaped and bald, except for a monkish fringe of white hair. His ugly wire-framed spectacles magnified a pair of blue eyes that were no longer clear.

Note "like a traveller on a rail platform resigned to a long wait." In Portrait of a Spy Sharon is older, supposedly retired, but still at the center of Israeli operations. Half way through the book, Silva introduces him this way:
A few minutes after the speech ended, a message arrived from the Operations Desk at King Saul Boulevard. It was just four characters in length -- two letters followed by two numbers -- but its message was unambiguous. God was cooling his heels in a Montmartre safe flat. And God wanted a word with Gabriel in private.
Then on the next page at the start of the next chapter we get this description of God:
The door to 3A hung slightly ajar; in the sitting room was an elderly man dressed in pressed khaki trousers, a white oxford classic shirt, and a leather bomber jacket with an unrepaired tear in the left shoulder. He had settled himself at the edge of a brocade-covered wing chair with his legs slightly splayed and his large hands bunched atop the crook of his olive wood cane, like a traveller on a rail platform resigned to a long wait. Between two yellowed fingers burned the stub of a filterless cigarette. Acrid smoke swirled above his head like a private storm cloud.
An angry storm cloud above the head of an angry God waiting to have a private word with his archangel Gabriel. (One meaning of Gabriel is man of God.) As much as I want Silva to write about other things, I hope he never stops writing about Allon and Shamron.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

2012 election

Got this today from a liberal mail list I'm on. Too good not to share. I enjoy good biting satire (and sarcasm):

 I really don't think that we have to worry about Obama getting re-elected. I'm pretty sure he's a shoe-in. The reason being that he'll get most of the votes of the Democrats & Liberals and I can't see why Republicans wouldn't vote for him since he gives them pretty much everything they ask for.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Notable quote of the day.

From Roger Ebert's review of the remake of Straw Dogs about "David's" and "Amy's" first day in their new home -- the Mississippi small town where she grew up:
Their first day they go into a bar and grill where any sensible person would know to make an immediate U-turn and walk out again.
BTW: Our local newspaper -The Atlanta Journal Constitution -- which often picks up Ebert's reviews, and which is the only local paper I've disliked more than the Manchestser Union Leader,  printed an intellectual comparison of the the original Peckinpah movie from a new York Times article. In it's guide to movies that it prints on Fridays, it gave only the briefest summary of the movie and said "not reviewed for publication." But the AJC should be the topic of another post.

Enjoy the weekend.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Just picking up where I left off

I have a character in one of my unfinished novels who is a poet. Early on in the narrative he's asked, "Do you write every day?"

"Sometimes," he answers.

Monday, July 25, 2011

2 new poems

Today is my birthday. I've nothing special planned except to work. S left yesterday for California to spend 2 weeks at a spa. But we went out Saturday night for dinner to celebrate. So I expected today to just be a day like any other.

But when I opened my email, there was a pleasant birthday surprise. Carcenogenic Poetry sent me a message saying they were publishing two of my poems -- The Letter Writer and The Last Day of His Life.

You can see them here.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

50 years ago today

I was 30, and it was my first term in graduate school. Outside, the air was hot and humid, the way it was supposed to be in September in the middle of Ohio. But I wasn't outside. I was in the office I shared with six other graduate student TAs, three of whom would turn Columbus into Paris for me over the next four years. I was the only one there. It was middle of the afternoon and everyone had taught and gone home or gone to the library, and I took advantage of the quiet to focus on the literature I was supposed to digest that quarter. I was sitting at my desk in the corner, my favorite novel of the 20th century open in front of me, reading the wonderful passage in which Jake is riding a bus to fish for trout in the Pyrenees for probably the fifth time in my life, and suddenly, I leaned back in my chair and thought, "For the rest of my life, they are going to pay me to do this."

"Oh, Jake," Brett said, "we could have had such a damn good time together."

Ahead was a mounted policeman in khaki directing traffic. He raised his baton. The car slowed suddenly pressing Brett against me.

"Yes," I said. "Isn't it pretty to think so." (Ernest Hemingway, The Sun Also Rises)
It wasn't the right time or the right way for him to die. Ray Bradbury didn't think so either.

"Oh he had readers all right, all kinds of readers. Even me. I don't touch books from one autumn to the next. But I touched his. I think I liked the Michigan stories best. About the fishing. I think the stories about fishing are good. I don't think anybody ever wrote about fishing that way and maybe won't ever again. "
The hunter in "Kilimanjaro Machine" by Ray Bradbury
Read the story, then come back to see the video.

 "I waited one heartbeat, then reached over and opened the door."
"The Kilimanjaro Machine" Ray Bradury
Ernest Hemingway July 21, 1899 - July 2, 1961.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Think about it

I came across this little gem of wisdom today on a listserv I'm on.

The moon is more important than the sun. That's because the moon shines at night when it is needed.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Worth visiting

Take a look at CARCINOGENIC POETRY. I think whether you write poetry or simply like poetry, you might find it interesting.

Friday, June 10, 2011

"I drink champagne."

Does anyone know how to motorize a piano? I don't play any wind instrument other than a harmonica, but S suggested we join this band to expand our circle of friends. 


Wednesday, June 8, 2011


I've been struggling with the idea of later

and how there comes a time
when you have to stop putting it off and say,

this is later.
This is the time you've always said there would be
for whatever has to happen now.

At first it felt sad.
But today I came back to poetry
and knew I should have abandoned the idea of later
a long time ago.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Cats and Dogs

My sister-in-law sent this to me a while back, so I thought sharing it would be a good way to get back into the blogosphere.

The Dog's Diary:

8:00 am - Dog food! My favorite thing!

9:30 am - A car ride! My favorite thing!

9:40 am - A walk in the park! My favorite thing!

10:30 am - Got rubbed and petted! My favorite thing!

12:00 pm - Milk bones! My favorite thing!

1:00 pm - Played in the yard! My favorite thing!

3:00 pm - Wagged my tail! My favorite thing!

5:00 pm - Dinner! My favorite thing!

7:00 pm - Got to play ball! My favorite thing!

8:00 pm - Wow! Watched TV with the people! My favorite thing!

11:00 pm - Sleeping on the bed! My favorite thing!


The Cat's Diary:

Day 983 of my captivity.

My captors continue to taunt me with bizarre little dangling objects. They dine lavishly on fresh meat, while the other inmates and I are fed some sort of dry nuggets. Although I make my contempt for the rations perfectly clear, I nevertheless must eat something in order to keep up my strength. The only thing that keeps me going is my dream of escape. In an attempt to disgust them, I once again vomit on the carpet. Today I decapitated a mouse and dropped its headless body at their feet. I had hoped this would strike fear into their hearts, since it clearly demonstrates my capabilities. However, they merely made condescending comments about what a "good little hunter" I am. Jerks!

There was some sort of assembly of their accomplices tonight. I was placed in solitary confinement for the duration of the event. However, I could hear the noises and smell the food. I overheard that my confinement was due to the power of "allergies." I must learn what this means, and how to use it to my advantage. Today I was almost successful in an attempt to assassinate one of my tormentors by weaving around his feet as he was walking. I must try this again tomorrow, but at the top of the stairs.

I am convinced that the other prisoners here are flunkies and snitches. The dog receives special privileges. He is regularly released, and seems to be more than willing to return. He is obviously retarded. The bird must be an informant. I observe him communicate with the guards regularly. I am certain that he reports my every move. My captors have arranged protective custody for him in an elevated cell, so he is safe. For now.

Friday, January 28, 2011

January 28, 1986

25 Years Ago Today

Challenger: An Elegy

“The world stopped when the Challenger exploded.”
A visitor’s note at the Challenger Web site

Nothing works. Neither day nor night.
All the stars disappear. Birds in mid flight
Fold their wings and fall, refusing to fly.

The sun sinks slowly then freezes in the sky.
The winds stand still. Fish die in the ocean.
The pendulum’s swing remains the only motion.

That night I saw Orion rising overhead and knew
That things exist beyond the meaning of the words we use.
Some things are only light, or sound, or pressure on the skin.
Some things inhabit space before the space where words begin.

Now all the words in all the books cannot inhabit space
Reserved for things that vanish from our lives without a trace.
The names we give we give to things we know can be recalled.
And words won’t salvage anything when you see the heavens fall.

Once Jupiter held up the stars for a longer night of love.
Jehovah stayed the sun with force for slaughter from above.
But never once has someone made a minute fail to pass
Or just by willing made the trilling air of bird song last
Beyond its final note dissolved inside an evening wind.
Yet still the sky at night gives hope you’ll hear it once again.

goddess boat -- serpent
at the feet of Orion,
trailing the heavens

bodies without down-
link fall from the sky, and you,
leaping like a hare,
lift the hunter killed
by his love past my window.

gods and goddesses
tease the human isolate
with monstrous burning
while we raise new myths
from the scattered debris
of human yearning.

Originally published in A Matter of Mind, Foothills Publishing, 2004.
© copyright 2004, 2009-2011 the Grandpa at The Word Mechanic Blog.

All rights reserved.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Say What Redux

This came from a set of author's instructions from a book publisher:

 "Chapters may include up to 15 references, with a maximum of 30." 

Friday, January 14, 2011

Say What?

From a transcript of a discussion at a conference:

“If I add up the 5.4% mortality, the 5.2% permanent dialysis rate, and 2.4% permanent paraplegia rate, I come up with a number of 15% of patients that either walked away dead or miserable.”