August 27, 2005

so whats my point?

* get a journal, load your gun *

when i was a kid, i thought keeping a journal and being a whacked-out assassin type was a tautology. every time the media would shine a light on someone like charles manson, or arthur bremmer, or lee harvey oswald, or james earl ray, or sirhan sirhan, sure enough every one of those crackpots would have a journal and the public would get a big peek into their individual versions of warpland.

so you can imagine my shock when i was in my twenties and i discover my wife having a journal. i mean here was a woman who wouldn’t even dare go to bed without the dishes being done, let alone fire a gun at a famous person – and yet she had a journal.

it piqued my interest enough that i started keeping my eyes open and paying attention to what at that time were always called “diaries.” surprise, surprise, it turns out it’s something people do. hmm.

* when the pen is a sword, and the depth to which it cuts *

for years i wanted to be a writer. i’d write and write and write. copy this. practice that. do this in that style. but i’d never show it to anyone. i thought it was all crap and as a result i destroyed a lot of writing.

then, through a series of coincidences, i did a little writing for apple, then did some more. i found out my work was tolerable and learned the huge advantage of having an editor. then i did some writing for infoworld and then got hooked up with a daily column. quantity was becoming important and, strangely, it was actually improving my quality.

i picked up several marketing jobs as a consultant and my breezy-jokey-smart-ish style was popular with the internet bubble set. and that too was improving my quality.

somewhere between here and there i hit my stride. i became confident that i could do something “on paper” and i became less worried about how it seemed. (and believe me, anytime i get convinced that i can do something of quality, it takes a monumental amount of proof – i’m overwhelmingly under-impressed with myself and what i do. i don’t have an inferiority complex – i have an entire inferiority apartment building, complete with moat, gates and a lame security staff that’s always at lunch whenever you want to go in.) i guess you could say the effort was more important than the final product.

* count it out *

i’ve always had a fascination with haiku. when i was eight our third grade teacher gave us an assignment to write a haiku, and instead of sitting in class and churning them out by the hundreds, i asked to be excused to the library. the idea grabbed me and i needed to know more.

i learned things that i remember to this day. haiku as a form was refined by bashō in the 17th century and in its pure form has three essential elements:
* three lines of five, seven and five syllables.
* it should be about, or make reference to, nature.
* the poem, typically in the closing line, should have an “aha” moment (there’s some japanese word for this concept that i forget) – the point where the poem wrinkles and you suddenly understand a new nuance. i always like to think that about the closest thing we have to this in the west is the concept of a punch line.

i put on my thinking cap. this would be my first haiku ever and i needed to really lay it down. i was a math kid and this was words – but there’s math stuff under the hood there. i could dig it. at the end of the hour there were kids in the class that had turned massive numbers of haiku, but after reading in the library and thinking for 20 minutes, i wrote this single one:

one-eyed snail slowly
climbs up mount fujiyama
and looking back, dies

nice and solid. a good reference to japan (which was so exotic to my eight year old mind it might as well been another galaxy). a little bit of nature. a little bit of weirdness to keep the teacher off-balance (even if she did have those ultra-groovy dior bell bottoms). and an aha moment to set you right on back. the ambiguity of 17 syllables was my super-friend. and, really, who cares if it has a comma?

it got a call to my parents.

my mom thought it was horrific and hinted that there might be deeper problems in my eight-year old mind – this was reinforcement of a concept that a school psychologist had dropped on her three years earlier. my dad thought it was funny and bought me an ice cream. with a reaction like that i knew i was onto something.

in retrospect, and if you ignore the mind that wrote it, the only real flaw is “fujiyama” is japanese for “mount fuji,” making the second line redundant. but hey, gimme a break, i was eight – and when backed into a psychological corner, i’ll tell you that i consider it to be the wabi-sabi (“beauty in imperfection” for you non-buddhists) element of the poem. if you overlook that one triviality, the poem is good news and bad news for me …

the good news is it’s the best haiku i ever wrote. a watermark that i only occasionally see well above my head as i tube down the aqueduct of my writing canal.

the bad news is it’s been all down-hill since i was eight.

{as an aside, modern haiku now is thought of as not having to necessarily follow any rules, the loosest maybe being “any poem you can read in one breath,” so …


… could be considered haiku. however i exclusively use classic structure (often minus the nature references) – i like the forced meter and limited form of expression. and it actually pleases me to know that i’m abiding by some stupid rule somebody else made up. it's important to note, however, that i consider english haiku to be a fake -- i don't care how jingoist it sounds, i think of haiku as having been developed by and for the japanese language and mind; therefore when i write in english, it's actually a fraud. but that doesn't mean i don't love it.}

* all together now *

i put all this together one day and thought, “maybe i should have a journal that is just one haiku a day.” describing the day’s events in 17 syllables for posterity later. then i thought maybe i should just write a haiku a day. but in the end i thought, no way, i’m not a presidential assassin.

then came the internet and suddenly the logistics of writing it all get easier.

then blogs.

then tools for blogs.

it’s right about here in the timeline that i started getting pressure from a small circle of friends. the conversations varied, but essentially went like this:

them: “you should write a blog.”
me: “why?”
them: “because.”

the because reason varied a little: you’re smart, you’re funny, you’re interesting, you’ll be famous, you’ll be rich, dinosaurs will return to the earth and honk like buicks … that kind of thing.

and i thought that i couldn’t *really* be that narcissistic. could i? no. not really.

but still, these people are all smart friends. in general, your life goes quite a bit better when you listen to your smart friends than when you ignore them.

no matter. it wasn’t enough. i told them “no,” in no uncertain terms.

as if that did any good. the debate continued. in fact, it became a regular topic of my standing friday breakfasts.

three days after a particularly spirited discussion (essentially them screaming “yes,” and me bellowing “no”), i got a jones soda when i was out with my friend bo3b and his spinner girlfriend. jones all have fortunes in the bottle caps and i cracked mine open only to find it saying, “start your journal.”

okay. now i am vain enough to believe that some things happen for me specifically and do think that some coincidences actually have deeper hidden meanings. i had no choice but to take it as a sign. this was no longer a discussion, it had become a law, and one that i would abide by.

now the only question was when to start. i waited, waited. more than a year passed.

then my third cousin, hunter thompson, died and they announced he was going to be shot from a canon. for some reason i suddenly thought of the journal idea. that was the signal i had waited for. the death of a distant blood relative and a great great man who both lived and died by his own rules. in the grand scheme of parity, when a writer goes away, another needs to step up. and i’m no hunter, but i have thompson in my blood, so that’s where this starts. and that act is why you’re here.

* who are me? who? who? who? who? *

one of the things i hate about the ‘net is the fact that so much happens anonymously. you never see the man behind the curtain. i don’t like the way it makes people behave and i don’t like the direction it drives society.

and yet, there’s a snoop-factor of today’s connected world that’s mildly disturbing – you can poke around and find anything about anybody. it’s not that the ability to snoop hasn’t always been there, it’s just that it’s so damn much easier now. google makes everyone look like a genius.

so i’m posting this anonymously, even though i think that’s a pretty damn weak thing to do. that may change in the future, but for right now, no.

* what you’ll find *

i consider this to be a scrapbook of thoughts, ideas, stories, and email exchanges that in the past would have been lost.

i also have a mild passing interest in low resolution digital photography – especially pixelvision and cell phone cameras. you’ll find occasional shots i find interesting. what you learned looking at naked aboriginal peoples in national geographic when you were five is still true now: picture books are more fun than those with just words.

as dumb as it may sound, the fundamental thing i’m trying to do is have a home for my haiku. everything else is just filler. in the future i may split the haiku out from everything else, but for now, it’s just hodgepodge. (i’m showing a lot of enthusiasm here in the early days – it’ll be interesting to see how it’s going in a year. or ten.)

(you’ll probably be pleased to know that you will not be finding lots of long-winded explanations … in fact, this will very likely be the only one you run across.)

* your rights and responsibilities as a viewer *

the majority of posts will allow you to comment. feel free to do so, but please don’t feel compelled to. in general i will not respond directly to the comments you make -- i don't really think of this sire as being "conversational." i’ve got an email address set up for contacting me directly if that seems better suited to your needs.

in general i’m a blog hater (there’s only one i read religiously) because i think they’re filled with ideas that are either insipid, inane or profane. so if you hate this one of mine, i don’t blame you, and believe me, i understand.

the one thing you will find here is what judeo-christians would call “blasphemy,” and i know a few of those i’ve invited are fairly hardcore christians. if this bothers you, i have exactly one piece of advice: don’t read it. my perception of god and religion is not in strict alignment with fundamental judeo-christian precepts, which means the mere concept of blasphemy doesn’t even register for me. like it or not (and you very well may not), you’re getting a peek at my world here. if you don’t like it, don’t go away mad, just go away -- with what you believe, beelzeebub will have his way with me anyway.

if you’ve been passed this link by me it’s solely because you’ve shown interest in my writing in the past. you’re welcome to pass it along to anyone you’d like, although it’s completely beyond me why you’d do so. my anonymity isn’t required. be warned that any comment you send to me about the writing on this blog, including my personal email account(s) may be posted as a comment here.

if you’re reading this by some other means, well, i hope you find something here interesting or worthwhile. for you this must be a lot like saratoga, wyoming -- it's always interesting in hearing how you got here, and i'm even more curious as to why the hell you stayed.

[10/6/05 -- i use auto-notification on my comments. you can comment on any part of this blog, at any time (and again, don't feel that you have to), and i'll know about it immediately.]

[10/16/05 -- if you link to my blog, i'll link right back atcha.]

[2/20/09 -- minor changes to reflect the current state of the 'blog.]