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Posts Tagged ‘writing’

Forty-two years ago this month, we learned the answer to life, the universe and everything. Even if humorous sci-fi isn’t your thing, Douglas Adams’ work has permeated pop culture.

42 years later, how ‘The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy’ has endured

The influence of the Hitchhiker’s Guide “is everywhere,” says Marcus O’Dair, author of The Rough Guide to the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.

“We can see it in culture, where Adams’ story is rumoured to have inspired everything from the band Level 42 to comedy show The Kumars at No. 42,” he says. “We can see it in tech: in the real-life ‘knife that toasts,’ for instance, or in-ear translation services reminiscent of the Babel fish. The most visible sign of its ubiquity, though, might be the fact that we can celebrate its anniversary not at 40 or 50 years but at 42 — and everyone knows why.”

This book let me know that there was a place for humorous absurdities in writing, and that it really doesn’t pay to take yourself too seriously.

“The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy is an indispensable companion to all those who are keen to make sense of life in an infinitely complex and confusing Universe, for though it cannot hope to be useful or informative on all matters, it does at least make the reassuring claim, that where it is inaccurate it is at least definitively inaccurate. In cases of major discrepancy it’s always reality that’s got it wrong.

This was the gist of the notice. It said “The Guide is definitive. Reality is frequently inaccurate.”

― Douglas Adams, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

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Cake, with bypass. To scale.

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Sunday
Malibu Hotel

The sun just broke through the morning clouds bringing warmth and new life to the ocean. Not that it needs it. Birds are everywhere, their presence indicating a basically healthy ecosystem. It also tells me that despite not seeing much in the water, there’s a great deal of life in the ocean. None of this is familiar, from the crash of waves on a choppy day to the glint of sun off water or the gulls floating above the shore. I am here to attend a wedding but right now, that’s the least memorable thing about this trip.

On the way down to breakfast yesterday I passed an old photograph of Malibu Colony. It was taken from the north looking down toward the Adams House and beyond to LA. The houses were small then and pressed close to the beach, low against the wind. A two-lane highway separated the houses from a bit of farmland, a road house that is still there, and a series of empty fields that says all that’s needed about land values in those days. 

It was a very different place and yet the ocean still dominates, the hills still face the water. The narrow road still provides a winding lifeline to the city, although it’s less adequate than it was a hundred years ago. Life is easier here now, if only because the residents have discovered, and packaged, the true value of the land. These rows and rows of pink houses, mansions on the bluff, and motels of all stripes exist because we enjoy the beauty of this place, but also because we love to walk to the edge, lean over as far as we can, and wonder what’s out there.

In my mind, this town at the edge of the continent is an outpost, our leaping-off point into the unknown. What an appropriate place to start a marriage, at the edge of the familiar, loved ones sending you off with well-wishes and heartfelt blessings. 

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We met for brunch at a café down the road from the hotel and I was treated to my first insider glimpse of Malibu life. Despite its unprepossessing location on the strip the parking lot was full of Mercedes. This is a mall, and it is treated with respect.

Squinting against the summer glare, I thought I’d stumbled into a supernova. Instead I was surrounded by women with blindingly white hair, their helmets and war paint and sleek-fitting uniforms overwhelming. Perfect hair, boobs, makeup and noses all packed into bodies at various stages of preservation. I let them pass.

Hands grip the boat’s side
golden skin on the water
summer sets so fast.

Photo by frank mckenna on Unsplash

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My public service announcement for today: Good does not equal perfect. While they may be related, I’m pretty sure that Good is Cinderella and Perfect is the wicked stepmother. Just saying.

Here’s a Venn diagram for the visual learners out there.

It’s an idea I’ve discussed before but needed to hear again, and I thought you might too.

Go forth and be awesome!

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Photo by Kadarius Seegars on Unsplash

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I spotted this article the other day:

What I Learned About My Writing By Seeing Only The Punctuation

Hmm, I said, “That’s interesting in an upside-down sort of a way. I wonder what my writing looks like without, you know, words?”

My first thought was that I probably use too many commas. I headed over to the site developed by the article’s author and lo! I was right.

Punctuation from “Just Like [Illegible] Used to Make,” about 5400 words.

My second thought was to see how that story compared to other authors’ work. I visited Project Gutenberg and evaluated first chapters from a selection of famous and/or cherished books. 

Now that was interesting, both for the differences in punctuation and for the variety and length of chapters. (Nineteenth-century authors also loved commas, it seems. Is it time to hang up my keyboard and pick up a quill?)

This approach certainly provides a new perspective on the building blocks underpinning different authors, eras and genres of writing. Will it help my writing? Maybe, maybe not, but it was fun.

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Photo by Nitty Ditty on Unsplash

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This is a nice combination: Green yaupon + peppermint lemongrass tea* = pretty very good. Maple syrup takes it over the top, because it’s awesome in everything.

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Photo by Carli Jeen on Unsplash

* No Camellia sinensis was harmed in the making of this beverage.

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It Matters

This morning I did something that I don’t do enough: I wrote a thank you note.

After a year and a half, Mr, Man has an appointment with his barber this afternoon. (After a year and a half of decent but time-consuming cuts by yours truly, I think we’re all pretty happy about that:) Sending along a card felt like a good idea.

As I’ve mentioned, it can be hard to know exactly what to say and easy to let the moment pass by, but I gave it a shot.

Here’s to letting folks know that what they do matters.

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Photo by Wilhelm Gunkel on Unsplash

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A long-time family friend always says goodbye by saying “Be good!” My father always answers the same way: “Have fun!”

You can see which side Samuel Clemens occupied.

“Be good + you will be lonesome. Mark Twain” British Library digitised image from page 10 of “Following the Equator. A journey around the world [With a portrait.]”

I at least try to split the difference.

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You know those days when hoped-for sun never arrives and the design project that should have taken half an hour takes three and the pears you thought would be perfect in a fruit torte are rock hard and the bananas you need today aren’t anywhere near ripe, even after you bake them in a 300F oven for an hour?

It’s that kind of day.

So, ok, not great. But then I came up with not one but two solutions to the design issue and turned the pears into slow-cooked lemon, cinnamon and cardamom pear butter and made blueberry Grand Marnier tortes and I can work around the banana problem, I probably didn’t need the extra sugar anyway.

And you know what? It’s fine if the sun doesn’t come out today.

I’m shining on the inside.

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Photo by Johnny Briggs on Unsplash

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The good news is that there is a lot of up and coming fiction addressing issues of climate, change, and the environment. (The bad news is that we need it.)

Grist/Fix: Solutions Lab has a new climate fiction issue out, with discussions about the role of fiction in fixing reality and a dozen new stories from their “Imagine 2200: Climate Fiction for Future Ancestors” short story contest to get us started.

The Climate Fiction Issue: How fiction can change our reality | Fix

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I recently finished a book that should have checked all my boxes, but in the end… didn’t. The characters started off interesting but came down with a case of the stupids and never fully recovered.* The characters also spent most of their time floating around like bobbers on an unbaited line. When they eventually found their purpose it was too late, and the book finished before actually ending.

When a story is like that I find my mind stays twisted up in it, fidgeting with its edges, trying to work out how it should have fit together rather than how it did. Like a jumbled Rubik’s Cube made of words. A stream flowing in the wrong direction. Or an itch I can’t scratch.

Sometimes that itch gets to the point where I find I have to Do Something about it.

Once upon a time I read a British coming-of-age novel called I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith. I remember it as charming and it mostly worked for me, at least until the end. I finished the book and thought, “Nope, I’m afraid that won’t do.” And as an exercise for the annoyed problem-solver at the back of my mind, I rewrote the final chapters.

I moved a stack of Jim Butcher books yesterday and happened upon that new ending. It now sits on my bookshelf next to the original book. 

I bound everything in gold-stamped cover stock and ribbon that year.

Sometimes what you need is to step back and think, “This little piece of the world could be better.” And then work to make it so.

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Photo by Thom Milkovic on Unsplash

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* This is, of course, just my opinion. At some point you may read the same book and think, “That was the most brilliant and lyrical story ever.” That’s cool too.

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