On Writing

Full confession: I am a serious football fan, and I dork out over fantasy football. I watch games all weekend long. My wife thinks I need help; my daughter loves it. "Ball-ball!" she says, and we eat the Cheetos and cheer for the ball-ball.

But I can't stand it when folks call into the radio shows, seeking the advice of fantasy football "experts." Seriously? Experts? On giving advice about watching football and deciding which players you should play?

If you have a fantasy football team, then you obviously care about the game of fantasy football, and you've gone one large step beyond a large percentage of football fans. You probably watch a lot of football. So why should you call into a show and ask someone else about which players you should play in a given week?

If you play fantasy football, then play it! Don't ask others about how to play it!

In unrelated but sort of barely tangential news, please read this
post by Scalzi on writing.

Listen, you either write or you don't. Just like you either play fantasy football or you call people to solicit advice on how to play fantasy football (nah, it really doesn't work as a clear parallel...).

If you go around making fiction with your mouth, you're not a writer, you're a liar. If you go around telling people about how you'd like to write, but you just don't have the time, then why are you talking to people? Shouldn't you just be writing right about then?

And if you say you can tell a story on paper but you never do it, then you're making fiction with your mouth.

Writers write, and then they also do the other stuff. They exercise, parent their offspring, keep an orderly house, maintain social obligations; if you want to write, then you should actually produce some writing. Amongst those other things.

When I can't sleep, I tell myself a story.

Some dumbass named Dan was typing on a keyboard. He had a blog...

It helps me sleep to create those stories, but if I never put anything together on a page, then I don't think that makes me a writer. Others views, of course, will vary...

But here's a refreshing development from my creative writing class at FSC this term. These kids can write. A few of them will likely publish soon. I'm competing with one, I think, in the upcoming Apex anthology, and I'm likely wormfood. His story has character and panache.

Bully for him!

I write this post because this is sort of becoming frustrating. Pick your own fantasy football players. If you say you want to write, write something down, all the way until you type the words "The End."

Or, if you prefer, just keep telling everyone about how you would like to write. Tell folks about how you've always had the absolute craziest dreams! And wouldn't they just make the best movies! If only you had the time to write them down!

Sheesh, your creativity astounds us (as do your dream recitations over brunch--seriously...stop it)!

I don't tell people that I write anymore (for the most part...occassionally I meet actual writers). It just sucks to have to shake my head every time in mock sorrow about how it's such a damned shame that the world was deprived of these fantastic tales.


Do it when you can, and produce something when you are finished. Tell that danged story. People would like to hear it!

Oh, and start Demaryius Thomas this weekend at home against Oakland. They'll be rolling coverage to Brandon Lloyd and Kyle Orton will need an outlet option...


Tom Coughlin's Jay Fund

We live in a beautiful world.

Ours is a world in which, on a daily basis, we are blessed by the offerings of nature and the promise of a fresh tomorrow. For the vast majority of us, long-term plans are just that: somewhere out there, nebulous, beyond the next cloud or the next week or month or year.

But, and of course I understand that everyone who reads this blog also knows this, there is a population that can't imagine what that next cloud might look like. Cancer kills people, and it kills kids, and when that happens it simply shatters lives. Not a one of us knows if we'll have to endure such an experience, but we all see the reality of it in our communities.

Tom Coughlin is a damned good man. He's worked hard to make the lives of children suffering from cancer, and the lives of their families, much better. He has been very successful, contributing over four million dollars to the cause.

I'm not wealthy (not sure that I wish that I was, to be honest), but I was moved today to make a donation to this foundation. The Jay Fund does an awful lot to help those in need. They pay bills, they pay for treatments, they provide entertainment, they take care of burial costs--this non-profit helps with the reality of cancer.

I was driving home today and I heard a man from Lake City call the radio show I was listening to. The Jay Fund had literally lifted his family from the debris of sorrow. His son has gone through two chemo treatments; he is now in remission.

I want to help, and I hope that anyone reading this might also want to help. The Jay Fund delivers on its promises. Tom Coughlin's foundation is a staple--a foundational beacon--of the Northeast Florida community.

I thank those that give, and I'm amazed by the families that stand up to the beast that is cancer.


Oregon Goes to #1 and The Living Dead 2

Let me begin by talking a little bit about the pride I feel for Oregon's football team achieving the #1 ranking this week in both the coaches poll and the AP poll. This is a very big deal for the state of Oregon and its fans.

I've been following sports at the University of Oregon closely since the early 1990s. The university is well known for its track teams, which are perennially ranked among the country's best. They have a pretty rich tradition in basketball (their "tall Firs" team won the first ever NCAA national championship), and there are loads of Ducks in the NBA. We made the Elite Eight in hoops twice in the last decade.

But when it comes to football, Oregon has had a pretty rough go of it through the years. In the late 1980s, the Ducks began to be more competitive. The early '90s saw that trend continue. Then, in 1995, behind the strength of its "Gang Green" defense, the Ducks made the Rose Bowl. While they didn't win, it was a major achievement for Oregon to win the PAC-10. Since that time, we've been ranked as high as #2 (2002) and have become nationally relevant year in and year out.

Autzen Stadium is one of the loudest places to play, with 60,000 passionate, knowledgeable fans that pack the place ever Saturday. The facilities are amongst the best in the nation, thanks to our generous alumni, including Nike CEO and former U of O track athlete Phil Knight.

We owe a lot of this success to coaches like Casanova, Brooks and Belotti, but Chip Kelly has really taken this team to new heights. Even though we lost the Rose Bowl last year to Ohio State, I'm extremely proud of how those young men won the PAC-10. In this year of parity, the Ducks were fortunate to see Wisconsin knock off those same damned Buckeyes.

We're only at the midpoint of the season, though, and there is a heck of a lot still to do. The bullseye is clearly on our backs, and we've got tough games against Arizona and USC ahead. It all starts this week, with a Thursday night game at home against UCLA. I encourage you to watch; if you haven't seen Oregon play, it will be worth your time.

Coach Kelly has more depth in his program than in any previous era in Oregon football. This team deals in speed, and our players are young, fast and hungry. There is talent on both sides of the ball, and we haven't had to burn any redshirts. To be honest, we can be scary good in 2011--the team is great right now, of course, but the best is yet to come.

Also, I'm really enjoying The Living Dead 2. This anthology of original stories features an excellent assortment of both familiar and up-and-coming writers, and it focuses more closely on emotion and pathos than on gore or shock value. Full review when I finish it up...


The Ultimate Anthology: "The Pear-Shaped Man"

When I think of compliments as they apply to fiction, the word "unsettling" springs to mind. The best of Rod Serling's work was unsettling. Tales like "To Serve Man" and "The Shelter" and "The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street" touch deep places in the human psyche. They pick the scabs of the worst of our experiences, and they do so in such thorough and creative ways that they stick with you long after you read them or watch them.

Stephen King's stories are unsettling. So are Joe Lansdale's and Laird Barron's. I'd heard from a number of speculative fiction fans that George R.R. Martin's "The Pair-Shaped Man," which won the Stoker award for best novelette in 1987, was just such a tale. I read it last year and it blew my mind. It's a creeper--a story whose esoteric/exoteric treatment of perception and revulsion gets under the skin and festers. Martin's story is about usurpation, loss of identity, marginalization and judgment.

In The Twilight Zone: The Movie, there's a segment in which a young boy with supernatural gifts has the ability to create any environment he wishes. The adults in his world placate him, fearful of how he might exact his revenge if they don't. In one haunting scene, the innocent who stumbles upon this nightmare world is shown the boy's sister's room. The sister's figure is huddled in the dark, silently watching a snow-filled television screen. It's not until we get the reverse-angle shot of the horrified youngster that we see she is silent because her brother has removed her mouth.

That sense of inarticulation, of being trapped, is perfectly rendered in this story. Martin's observational qualities, from the eponymous weirdo's physique to his love of cheez doodles and scads of Coke, render this an uncomfortable read. I mean, the Pear-Shaped Man probably lives on your block. We have one on ours, I can tell you that--only ours is like 6'8" and shaped more like a giant string bean. When he walks down to the mailbox, that cigarette smoldering in his hand, I usually look the other way.

His smile...it's kind of creepy.

Of course, everything is relative; maybe to him, I'm the Pear-Shaped Man.

Martin's a gifted stylist and this one is a real treat--probably the most horrific of the stories I've included in my dream anthology thus far.


The Joy of Parenthood

If you've ever driven past a couple of frantic parents on the side of a country road, scurrying about a half-naked scamp whose vomit is as voluminous and regular as Old Faithful, you probably had a chuckle and wondered how they were feeling. I'm here to tell you, the emotion is nothing much more than calamitous fear.

Nothing big, mind you. Just stark raving terror that a little sucker could hold that much inside of her.

We went to Georgia for the McGladrey Classic. It was a wonderful golf tournament--top notch on every level. I've never been hit with so many "ya'lls" in my life, and folks were very kind. I was eating a Southern Soul pulled-pork sandwich and watching the Bulldogs on the jumbotron when when of the tournament directors spotted me out and came to my table.

"How's the barbecue?" he asked, only it came out, "Haws tha bah-be-cyuh?"

"Good," I said, some red sauce slopping onto my shirt.

The tournament was awesome, and Lyla enjoyed it for a few hours before needing her nap. Jeanne took her to the motel, bless their hearts, and I stayed and watched Arjun Atwal's third round. Dude has serious game...

Anyway, we hit Brogan's for beer and Burgers after the tournament and then took a stroll on the pier and got milkshakes. We had Lyla down for bed for her usual 8:00 p.m. night-night and she slept through without an issue.

Breakfast was uneventful. We were on our way to Fort Frederica to appropriately dork out over local history when she started to barf like barf was gold and the price of gold had skyrocketed due to a bad economy, and all the barf in the world was scarce, so the more barf the better and she was trying to turn the Powells into some modern group of Flaglers or something.

That's not the best simile, but there was a lot of barf. Stinky, tart, acidic barf...

We cleaned her up and quieted her down (think of how that must feel for her--to have no idea what is happening or why!) and tried to move on down the road, but she got sick again. And again. Soon, Jeanne was sitting in back with her. She fell asleep and we drove home and got her a bath and some quiet time. Still more puke. She made it through last night okay, but her temperature has been sky high all day.

I cancelled classes and stayed home with that sweet girl. We had a good day, taking care of each other. She hates the old way of taking temperatures, so we plopped thirty clams down for a special ear-hole model. She hates that way too.

If she's still got a fever tomorrow, Jeanne will be home with her.

Sheesh. I know it's nothing more than a bug (still--two trips to Georgia, two illness episodes), but these little experiences just get under the skin. One wants a child to be healthy, and to see them in pain--even in such trivial circumstances--can be unsettling.

And on top of this, it turns out that I need to stop scaring her. All the Halloween decorations (and the zombie guy in today's metro section of the Florida Times-Union--it's National Zombie Day!!) have really scared her. No more luring her into rooms and jumping out, which is a shame, because she used to really dig it.

Ah, well. We're learning...


Time to Go Green!


Chris Dudley is Bad for Oregon

There are some shady characters lined up to take serious positions of power throughout the country. From Rick Scott and Marco Rubio here in Florida to Christine O'Donnell up North, we are seeing a dangerous cadre of inexperienced and misguided candidates for public office. Chris Dudley is not a shady character--in fact, I think he's a sincere and honest Oregonian. That said, his platform is wrong for the state of Oregon. His fiscal proposals stand to seriously damage low-income earners in the state, and I think he lacks the political acumen to effectively lead from the front. I'm not saying former governor John Kitzhaber is the remedy (although he did a fine job in his previous appointment, I thought), but I think Dudley needs some seasoning before he's ready to step up to the plate for Oregonians...

You Know When It's Good

If you spend any real time at the word processor, you understand that sometimes the writing flows and you just know in your heart and in you...