Sunday, December 20, 2009

I'm Killing Time and It's Dying Hard...Raymond Chandler

I'm still poking along. Still have some residual pain and stiffness. Hopefully by the end of the month I'll be able to ramp it up and enter a recovery zone whereby I can connive and get people to do things for me that I should be doing for myself. We'll see.
It is still irritating me that I cannot seem to focus long enough to do any significant reading - my comprehension seems to have too much mileage on it. I guess it is the side effects of the pain meds, but I'm not sure I care why anymore; I just want it to stop so I can think in a straight line. Ditto an increased inability to find the words I want to use (as may be evident in this blog). It's akin to sitting down to eat a wonderful meal, searching all the kitchen drawers for the eating utensils and not finding them. I guess I shouldn't complain since I've always had a lot of "ask whatshisname to pass the whatchamcallit", just seems to be more so lately.
But it got me to thinking how much we rely on words. I guess words are symbols for we define, limit, and validate our senses and feelings. Self explanation and conversation with our own thoughts. The important thing to remember is that even if I can't quite recall the "word" I want, the thought as concept or feeling is still valid and experienced. Just like I'm doing now as I type this sentence. Got that? Wow - sorry to get so high fallutin!
Words can be fun too. One of my guilty pleasures is looking up the tabloid headlines of the NY Post or NY Daily News on the Internet. They frequently miss the mark and/or can be crude; but always entertaining. The hands down classic, "HEADLESS BODY FOUND IN TOPLESS BAR", is filled with an almost child-like wonder and gleeful astonishment. Gee! How did this happen? After the Red Sox won the World Series in 2004 and ended the "Curse of the Bambino", the NY Post ran a caption on the sports page, "HELL FROZE OVER", personal favorite. Imagine if the Council of Nicaea and subsequent Church Councils subcontracted the chapter break titles on the Old and New Testament with the News or Post. Could be interesting; "MANNA FROM HEAVEN-NO INJURIES REPORTED" OR "GOD TO SODOM AND GOMORRAH-DROP DEAD."
It is also fun to read a well crafted simple sentence made up of simple words-elegant:

"Outside the hawk (wind) blew hard off the lake and flattened itself against the bay windows" (author Michael Harvey). That's exactly what wind does.
"He dragged home $8500 a year, kicking and screaming". (Harvey again)
"He was six feet two and had to runaround in the shower to get wet".(Harvey)

Some authors will fill up pages to describe a single object or person and I enjoy reading those descriptions, but others, like Harvey above with the shower quote, and Raymond Chandler, sometimes leave it up to the reader to fill in the space around their sparse words, "The lawyer's briefcase looked like he got it from Noah and Noah got it second-hand." (Chandler)
Placement of words are important too. Have you ever taken a music lyric or short paragraph from a book and tried to improve it? It is not that hard in most cases, but with very good writers it can be difficult if not impossible.

"he was gray and venerable, and humane of aspect: but he had the calm, possessed, surgical look of a man who could endure pain in others." Mark Twain describing his dentist. It is the last four words that get you and makes him write, well, like Mark Twain.
"Another love before my time made your heart sad and blue,
And so my heart is paying now for things I didn't do." Cold, Cold Heart - Hank Williams. Every word counts and conveys.

On the other hand.

Sometimes it is better to leave things vague. Last month(?) there was a crawl on TV you may have seen: "Man from Brazil attends his own funeral." Normally this would beg further investigation. I could have gone on the Internet to explore this piece of news, but then I thought...why? More fun to speculate.
A safe bet the Brazilians wife probably did it. He probably kept serving her the morning coffee in a mug dedicated to tea and she just couldn't take it anymore. But with the onset of memory loss due to aging, she probably forgot to do the deed, but did remember to make the funeral arrangements - and being a good wife made sure she dragged him to the family event.
The guy was probably a Brazilian "baby boomer" and being a self absorbed boomer didn't quite trust God with his end of life event. Control is always better: Who to invite? Who should give testimonials and what should the testimonials proclaim about his life? How much? Better the Brazilian stages the ceremony himself before death so he can enjoy the experience. After all, what's the point of death if it can't be enjoyed?
Well I'm done... I've run out of words. Except these two.
Happy Holidays

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