Tag Archives: myth

Sunday writing 20150802 (#BayWriteClub): A (second) fantastical start, cont’d: Birth of the recorder; Rewrite second half of first scene first- to third-person

The eldest woke up in rain. It had washed the mud from him and shriveled his skin, but no wind blew and he learned some summer comfort. From his rock, he looked out on the world, and it was all rolling waves of mud. The waves washed over the rock, dirtying him and his home, but the rain would wash it away. The mud would roll, and the rain would fall, and in this way, hours or days passed. The sky was too overcast to tell, and he had not yet learned about time.

As he was becoming used to this boredom, fidgety but accepting, he noticed the rain letting up, and eventually the waves subsided. The sky broke open and sun streamed through, and his eyes hurt to behold it, and he squinted and covered himself with his arm. His skin warmed and began to itch as the mud on him began to dry and flake.

He scraped fleks off him and wondered at what would come next. More hours passed, and the sun fell again behind clouds, and a certain foreboding darkness crept across the overcast sky. There, in the damp and primal darkness, the toll of his first day and night crept into him, and the eldest did his best to clean the dried mud from the rock and laid down to sleep.

He woke to the sunrise the next day, the first weak beams of the sun’s very top hitting his eyes. The clouds had vanished, and his eyes adjusted to the ever increasing brightness of the quickly rising sun, and suddenly it was day, and everyone around him brown reached out to blue until the met far off in the distance. The eldest felt both a sense of anxiety and a modicum of pleasure at the open expanse of the world about him.

As the day crept on, he stood and stretched and moved about his little rock, but he felt too wary to leave it. Restlessness eventually set him, and he felt the ground around the rock, and was pleased that though it was moist, it was no longer liquid. He pushed his fingers in and then picked up a handful at a time and squeezed, and it pressed through his fingers and fell back into place. He stepped a foot out into it and sunk down to his ankle, but then it held his weight. Anxiety again got the better of him, and he retreated to his rock again.

He slept some in the afternoon, and when he awoke his body began to cramp and make discomfiting noises. He stood and stretched again and tested the ground, but this did not alleviate the feeling. Then he noticed one little upshoot from the ground just a little bit away, a white flower dry in the afternoon sun. He sank to his hands and knees, and crawled towards it suspiciously, and when he reached it, he snuck a petal from its flower and put it in his mouth, and chewed and swallowed. He liked the taste, and he liked the feeling of having chewed it and having swallowed, and he plucked another petal and ate it, and another, until all that was left was a little green stalk with a small yellow bulb. More skeptical of the remants, he licked the yellow bulb, but its taste was unpleasant and bitter, and he left that part of the plant alone.

His body no longer moaned or ached, and he walked quickly back to his rock. He noticed the sun now in the position where it had broken through the clouds, and he wondered whether the world would darken again today as it had the day before, and he sat down to watch and see.

No clouds formed, and the sun sank down, and the eldest saw the first sunset rival the first sunrise. The sky flamed white, then burned orange, and then the sky darkened to purple and to black, and everywhere its darkness was broken by winking pinpoints of light. He marvelled and wanted to keep marvelling, but again, when the sun had set down at last and all was dark, the toll of the day took him again, and he slept.

He woke later the next day, with the sun already ascended and climbing the sky blue and unbroken. He smiled at the certain sadness that he could not see the stars forever but steeled himself to wait for night again, when the bright sun would sink and the stars would wink.

The eldest stood and stretched, and gasped when he noticed that where yesterday there had only been an expanse of ground and sky broken by the single flower, today there stood a field of the white flowers, stretching as far as he could see and shimmering like stars with morning dew.

He stepped off his rock down into the field, and he plucked a flower’s stem and held it up in front of his face, and he smiled at it. He plucked its petals with his teeth and ate them, and he tossed the stem aside and grabbed another. As he moved through the field, he ankles chilled with the flowers’ wetness, and underneath the sun he had an urge to feel that wetness all over, and he fell to the ground and rolled in the flower bed, and as he rolled a sweet scent flew into the air. Once he was covered in dew, he rolled to his back and flung out his arms, and he sighed and breathed deeply the flowers’ smell, and he smiled and lay there until his front was dry.

Then he heard a grunt and a rustle nearby, the unmistakeable sound of breath happening to somebody else’s rhythm.

He shoved himself up and over onto his hands and feet, his body tight and ready to move. Then he heard the rustle again and snort again, and he looked to his left and saw an animal. He wondered at whether it would be dangerous to him. It had noticed him, too, and also looked at him warily. Then it resumed its snuffling and grazing.

Those are mine, a thought shot through his mind.

There’s plenty, another thought answered.

They might not be there tomorrow, the eldest thought to himself, thinking about the differences between his days so far.

He relaxed and pulled his legs under him and sat looking at the animal. It had four stubby legs and couldn’t walk as he did. It also had protrusions from its mouth that looked hard and sharp, and he knew they might be dangerous if the animal charged or caught him with a swipe of its head.

The eldest plucked another flower and ate the petals, discarding the stem. He watched the animal root about and wondered how many flowers the animal would eat, and how many he himself should eat. He saw then that the animal had trampled several flowers, crushing them back into the ground and bruising the petals, at which he felt a hint of sadness.

The eldest watched the boar until nearly sunset, when it turned and wandered away through the field. He had a desire to follow it, but also he did not want to leave this place he had come to know, for who knew what might come tomorrow, or what might be beyond, just out of sight. So he watched until it was gone, and then he watched the sun until it was gone, and from his flat rock, he spied the stars and they pierced the oncoming darkness. Hey lay on his back with his hands behind his head, and sighed at the beauty, and slept.

He awoke before sunrise to the sound of a loud pop. The stars were gone but the sky was dark, a deep and rolling gray, and rain was falling again. Panicked, the eldest looked for flowers to collect and save, but they were all gone, replaced by the waves of mud which surrounded him again.

A muffled shout reached him over the dull drum of the rain, and he turned in its direction and saw an arm flailing out from the mud. It slapped the surface hard, and the hand closed on the wet earth, and it sunk beneath.

The eldest sprung from his rock into the waist-deep mire and trod his way over to where he’d seen the arm, and there was a soft, squelchy sound, and the arm rose again from the earth. The eldest grabbed at it, but it was slimy with mud and slipped through his hands, and plodded back into the mud again, sinking below the surface.

He took another step closer to where the arm emerged and slipped, feeling his knees crash into another body thrashing around beneath. Legs kicked him softly and then arms grabbed him about the ankles, and he would have been pulled underneath if the earth beneath his feet had not held firm. The hands grasped desperately, crawling up his front, and a man broke the surface and sucked several deep breaths of air. He grabbed the eldest’s shoulders and pull himself to his feet and then immediately began to cry. He sobbed and moaned against the eldest’s chest, and the eldest stood in silence, shock, and awe.

After a moment he regained himself, and he pulled the new man over towards his rock, and when he found the lip he pushed him onto it and crawled up himself. The man curled his knees up to his chest and continued to suck in air and to weep, and the eldest could think of nothing to do but pat him on the shoulder. He felt and instinct to make soothing noises as well, but he did not, instead just maintaining constant contact.

The rain washed them clean, and the mud washed lightly over the rock with its waves, and finally cried himself to sleep. The eldest wondered, decided that the sun would not rise today in the rain, and laid down himself and wept.

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Sunday writing 20150726 (#BayWriteClub): A (second) fantastical start

Mud. Mud and its earthy fragrance was all I knew for the first minute of life. I breathed in deep, relishing breath. I had never experienced it before. Nobody had, and mine was the first body.

The caked on dirt kept my eyes closed, but I could breathe and smell, and I filled my lungs with that primal scent. Mud may still exist and have its certain reek, but even when I bend my face into swamps, I cannot find again that first sweet smell of my own life there in Earth’s vital soup.

“Man,” a voice above me said. Even my ears opened before my eyes.

“And what is man good for?” a second voice asked. “Small, no claws, dull teeth: They’re no good as predators and no good as prey.”

The first voice answered, “They’re something new I’m trying. Sometimes hedging your bets guarantees a loss, and I’ve already maxed out the crueler and the protective traits on others. Now I’m trying wits.”

“Wits?” the second voice asked with a bite of contempt. “Wits will win no contests and cost these creatures all.”

A chime sounded, and the heat I had been born into dissipated, and the mud collapsed in on me, and I first felt the sensation of drowning, mud caking my throat. I panicked and began to kick wildly, and a heel broke the surface — I knew, because I could feel it go colder. Then I knew where to scramble, and first my right hand, and then my head and shoulder broke the surface, and I tried to climb out, but my weight pulled all of me back under. Different parts of me broke free and then resubmerged, and a frantic, instinctive fear told me I was going to drown and to die. To think, I had only been alive a moment and already knew to fear death.

I flailed more, rolling onto my back one more time, and as I did my right elbow and arm broke free, and I drove my elbow onto a rock. Pain shocked my whole right side, but panic drove me over again, and my left arm grasped upon it and pulled me finally from my birthplace. My breathing was fast, and all I could see was a blinding white, and I was afraid, but within a moment I had fallen asleep.

I woke up in rain. The water had washed the mud from me and shriveled my skin, but the wind didn’t blow and the rain was warm, so I actually felt refreshed. From my rock, I looked out on the world, and it was all rolling waves of mud, and they washed over the rock, resoiling me, and the rain would wash it away, and the mud would roll, and the rain would fall, and I sat like that for hours.

I had nowhere to go. I was the first, and no homes existed before me, and I saw only rolling gray clouds and rolling brown waves. But when the rain stopped, I stepped off my rock and found that the mud wasn’t deep at all, only covering my ankles. The gray sky split to a wondrous and bright blue, and the water receded.

I stayed on my rock and wouldn’t leave it. The sun rose and fell, the wind blew and turned bitter in the night, and my hunger turned as bitter. Creatures came and went, and I felt fear of some with their claws and their teeth, but none attacked me, and eventually they all left. I wept, and I felt fear and its several flavors, and I wept. My body groaned against this stagnation, but still I wouldn’t budge.

After some count of days the mud turned to dirt, and the manna sprouted, and I was saved.

My rock just happened to be here when I was born here. And I’ve never left it; it was my safety that night, and I feel like it keeps me to this day.

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Giving Value: A practice in blogging

It’s about time I put an actual blog post on this blog. Mostly people have contacted me saying I should call it an ezine since blog seems ill-used here. I don’t often post my opinions, and I don’t cover popular topics. Is this, really, a blog?

IT IS NOW !! MUAHAHAHAHA.

**

The echo chamber

A general word of advice in blogging is to give value to your readers, to provide some service that they find worthwhile. This theory is so well accepted that I hear it at least five times a day through various social networking sites and how-to-blog services.

The very existence of such an echo chamber should serve to make the irony of a statement about providing value so stark that serious readers couldn’t ignore it. However, the statement merely provides the words which the reader should repeat as the writer so that his reader can repeat them, (seemingly) ad infinitum.

However, it is also said that, while web viewers claim to view the internet for entertainment and education, they in fact expect to learn nothing and, while browsing hundreds of pages, somehow manage to learn nothing. Also, the subjects of their entertainment are so abused as to weather away fascination, and yet they, the readers, keep plugging away at article after article waiting for some new tidbit to come up that they can gleam or meme, twist or copy as long as they can link. Millions of readers of this type exist, just as do millions (probably only thousands, but what the hell) of blogs.

To change tactic a little bit

Gold. The word looks closely related to God. For all intents and purposes, it doubles, either critically or actually, for a god. It replaced the materials in the scales of justice. It has moved countries and reshaped societies. It has single-handedly killed more men than any other artificial force on this planet, fueling wars (even [or especially] the religious ones), driving slaves, falsely empowering some men over others. In its mythic power, gold has generated false cities and idols, and even fabricated tales of glory.

One story in particular matters to us today because it shows a symptom of blogging as a means of American entrepreneurialism, which we usually hold so high. The people of the gold rush weren’t concerned with adding to the wealth of our nation, though a drive for success fueled them as mightily as any tycoon; the rushers wanted, as many of us dream, to get rich, preferably for as little effort as possible, but who’s going to complain about a few days’ worth of digging?

Unfortunately, quite a few of them died trying (for a fun expiriment, research how many actually died), and the ones who survived their trials merely settled wherever they ended up. The greatest problem they faced, as anyone playing the game Oregon Trail soon learns, was a lack of planning. The thoughts that run through your head–generated by the basic managerial imagination we each have, honed to greater or lesser extents by experience–are not sufficient to survive the trip. Even the people that did survive found out quickly that they had no idea how to look for gold or even where to find it. But the west coast looked pretty good by the time the Rockies were behind them, I bet, and you can read a brief history of Seattle if you want to see where the survivors’ remaining entrepreneurial instinct took them.

Blogging, to writers, resembles these traits. We put our ideas onto electronic drives where they appear as pixels to whatever ghostly visitor happens to stumble across them for whatever reason. Just like the ’49ers, we bloggers barely grasp the technology, hardly fully or in a way that would benefit us most, and more importantly we understand or misinterpret the tools and benefits of social media. Yet despite the technical inability of most writers and our lack of ambition to succeed in the ethereal communities of the internet (as opposed to our ambition to succeed in the commodifiable community of publishing), we press on into this dream. Why?

Blogging: A mythopoetic

Because we hear tales, of course, great tales of success. The recent movie Julie and Julia highlights the basic success fantasy that lies under most of our attempts: write blog, gain readers, break the media ceiling, get published. In what ways is social media most useful to us? Doesn’t matter; people will find the blog somehow, and my uneducated efforts will help. How hard do I have to work at generating compelling content, and what does that even mean, anyway: compelling content? I can write, we answer; I have thoughts.

To these arguments, I answer with an Eve6 lyric: “The liar in me says something’s gonna happen soon because it must.”

Despite our overpowered fantasies, there is no moment in which, climactic, the phone will suddenly ring, filling our voicemails with phonecalls from studios seeking our hands. In the current market, where blogs are a cute fuzzy place where MFA students and other writers post their cute fuzzy brains, there’s only one instance in which that might happen, and I promise you that you don’t want to follow that path.

Ashley sent me an email copied from her friend Steuart [sic] that addresses this hope:

I think that there are some individuals that understand social networking sites and how to leverage them effectively, but most don’t. Typically, the larger the company/corporation/label/band the more they -don’t- get it.

The power in social networking sites doesn’t have anything to do with your own individual or your group’s/company’s presence on it. You don’t need a twitter account to leverage twitter to your advantage. The power of social networking sites are in the PEOPLE that comprise it. From a marketing standpoint, twitter is best viewed as the ultimate in word-of-mouth amplifiers, NOT just another place to plaster plugs for yourself.

Marketing over social networks and the internet, as things sit now, is not about yelling the most and yelling the loudest yourself; it’s getting other people to do the yelling for you. As it pertains to the music business, people will be happy to start ‘yelling for you’ IF your music is good, with very little extra effort on your part. But if that takes up 95% of your efforts…well you’re doing it backwards and doing it wrong.

The only way in which Steuart’s breakdown of social marketing rings true is through viral marketing. It works one way: you produce something so astounding that it constitutes a freakshow, it doesn’t matter whether it’s genteel or actual freakishness. Child prodigies, the “LEAVE BRITNEY ALONE” guy, Shamwow… the list goes on quite a while and is mostly comprised of multimedia, not text. Companies trying to break into viral marketing attempt to break it down to a list of rules, but really it flows from this basic socio-instinct: one thousand quirks snap quite suddenly and almost inexplicably. That’s all it takes to generate a meme, as irrational as it is unpredictable.

Social networking as marketing

If you’re serious about your work and the work you make has value on its own, people are less likely (in my own, brief experience) to take the effort to spread it around. If anything, they’ll expect you to succeed on your own without their help outside of their continuing to view what you produce.

So what’s the right answer here? Buy a spambot that will get a thousand other spambots to follow you so that you have a thousand viewers, none of whom are listening to you because they’re all just bots that help you feel cozy at night? Well, no; the answer is work hard and do your research, even though I know that doesn’t sit well with some of you.

My strategy for maximizing my Twitter experience is relatively simple and, if I knew how to code, could be mostly automated.

  1. If the tweep have over two thousand followers, it’s unlikely we’ll be friends.
  2. If the tweep has a follow ratio larger than 1.5, same goes.
  3. New tweeps are found only by crawling retweets from friends and follow fridays, though some friends prove their recommendations more worthwhile than others.

I’m beginning to add people by channels, but it’s proving largely unnecessary as I’m fairly aggressive about following the tweeps my friends retweet. I use several websites to aggressively cleanse my list of followers and followees (contact me if you want a list, but I’m not certain I’ve got the best tools). If you don’t follow back after a few weeks, toodles. If you follow me and you’re a spambot, you get BLOCKED. If you follow me and I’m not sure I want to follow you back, you have three weeks to respond to any of my posts via mention or retweet or get blocked. I strictly maintain a near 1:1 ratio and keep Twitter bloating to a minimum.

Also remember that despite the upgrade in technology, this basic axiom still applies: You will be your greatest supporter. Connections through a network will amplify your advertising, but if you don’t speak out on your own behalf, how can you expect that of others? Rather, even if your fans/viewers are inclined to send out a message on your behalf, it will generally be in the form of a repost/retweet, which necessitates that you have something fresh in the stream for them to repeat when the mood strikes.

But such a force will strike rarely and in full force only on others who are paralleling your struggle. You have to work hard and work reasonably. You have to sing like an angel and then shout like a demon about it. If you’re not prepared to do this, you’re not prepared to succeed. If you’re not prepared to do this, you’re setting out on the Oregon Trail without a shovel. If you’re not prepared to do this, you’re chasing the myth rather than living the dream.

And for those of you who are prepared to tread down the well-worn path of celebrity and political gossip rather than make the psuedo-tantalous trip up the path of creativity, fair you well with your immediate success, and may you keep your viewers. May you carry your banner into the mudpits that might’ve been fields, and may bugs sting your ankles forever.

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Author: Greg Freed

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Filed under Criticism, Humanistic, Journalism, Publishing