Showing posts with label experimental. Show all posts
Showing posts with label experimental. Show all posts

Friday, September 13, 2019

Rejected Stories - Unwanted Snark

To keep the ball rolling, sometimes
you need to cut parts out. 
I have a file where I keep text that I find particularly interesting but useful to the task at hand. I use it as a prompt for other writing. This didn't fit because the narrator isn't the important person at this point in the story. You can file this under: "I wish this was fiction".

     The professor glared at us. The upside of being 44 years old and in college for the first time is, I am doing this on my own dime. I purchased a book, a seat and a professor. I don’t mind saying that if I have a need. The professors hate it, but word is out that I have the college’s customer service number. I’ve asked for the supervisor of two different deans. They frigging hate me. I can’t say I like me, either.
     My adviser is a double doctor. He has a Ph.D in Electrical Engineering and another in Adult Education. He is insufferable. We hit it off well. He told the 150 or so freshmen that if we wanted a different adviser, we would not be able to find a better one than he. 
     I snorted.
     “Did you have a better adviser in mind?” he asked.
     “Yes,” I said.
     “Your mom sounds pretty good,” I replied.
     At the time, thought I was sharp.
     It turns out his mom also has a Ph.D. And she is on the college’s board. I wish I had done some more research before opening my mouth.
     In retrospect, it was all fairly predictable. 

Monday, August 5, 2019

Writing is Art

This section is for rough works, slightly better than drafts, but still incomplete experiments. As experimental works, they should not be taken as true, or factual, even though each item does contain a bit of fact. In many cases, these experiments have been abandoned because I couldn't figure out where they were going or in some cases, what the rules or boundaries were.

Occasionally, poetry will appear. I'm sorry, I'm not good at it but sometimes it pops into my head.


Again, this is a semi-fictional story about my time in high school. All of the named people are real, some of the facts are real, but the timeline and criticality of events has been altered to make an effective story. 

     In 10th grade, I had a homeroom teacher named Mr. Camhi. He was the 12th grade English teacher. How he drew that assignment was beyond me. He was exceptional at homeroom. In 9th grade, I had come up with a scheme to skip school that wasn’t merely good, it was unstoppable. I would come into Mr. Camhi’s class, turn in my note for the prior day’s absence and then turn in my book report for the week and write it on the chart in the corner. Each report was an extra ten points in my final grade, and there was no limit to the number of reports I could turn in.

     It didn’t take Mr. Camhi long to figure out that I skipped school as much as I read books. Back in 1987, it was not common for children to type homework, but I did. Not only did he notice that, he also noticed that I skipped a lot of school. He did not notice that I made $10 a book report from classmates. He was merely a high school teacher, but I was a student of high schooling. I had everything figured out. Or so I thought.

     One day he commented that every book I read was science fiction and I should try something else. I couldn’t say that I was reading other things because someone would have picked up the fact that I was selling papers to fund my extracurricular activities. The funny thing was, I wasn’t really reading anything other than science fiction until Mr. Camhi called me out. Sure, I was writing book reports on the Great Gatsby, The Milagro Beanfield War, and the classic, Killing Mister Griffin for other students for weeks before Mr. Camhi caught up with me. I wish I could say I stopped, but the money was too good.

     But he did affect a change in my behavior. He gave me a book called The New Centurions. It blew me away. It is the story of a rookie cop and his African-American girlfriend, in LA during the 1960s. It could not be further from what I had been exposed to previously. I wanted to know more about this sort of American life, one so distant from me, that I had to put off my shenanigans to use the library at school.

     I lived in that room for months. I noticed every time I was in the library, Mr. Camhi was in the library, too. There was a noticeable lack of 12th grade students with him. He also carried around a bowl of salad. Usually, his appearance was preceded by a disappearance of the librarian. This man was skipping his lunch to keep tabs on a student that had stopped skipping school, but was skipping classes to read everything about racial issues from the 1960s, in the library. I didn’t mind if he didn’t. He was a very welcome person to direct my searches in the card catalog.

     As the 1960s came to an end, so did 10th grade. And with the coming of the new school year, I escaped Mr. Camhi’s watch. However, a second teacher became my keeper.

     Mrs. Cross, my Spanish teacher took on Mr. Camhi’s role. She would have me transcribe her notes and worksheets into Braille. I would spend a few minutes each day with Perkins the Brailler, before ditching out to Perkins the Restaurant. I hung out there so much that they offered me a job as dishwasher. The downside of this was, I couldn’t go there to skip school. They said as much, which was emphasized by the Amherst Police, who drove me back to school.

     I was rather diligent as her assistant. I made sure that she had not only her notes transcribed, but also had a steady stream of trustworthy students to escort her to and from classes, since I was occupied elsewhere.

     One day, she cornered me in her office. She complimented me on my transcription skills. I never made a mistake, in English or Spanish when Brailling.  She thought that was unusual since I couldn’t read phonetically. She was fascinated by how I was able to “read” items she asked me to transcribe for her class, while struggling with simple handouts she had not let me read and memorize ahead of time.
She commanded me to come to her office and transcribe those handouts. Another several months of truancy was wasted. Eventually, I wised up and transcribed the whole workbook so I could visit my new favorite daytime haunt, “Your Host”, on Main Street.

     Mrs. Cross whupped that out of me in rather short order. Since I had an unstoppable method of skipping school, I was rather frank with her as to where I spent my time. She asked me to steal her a menu, as she went there often herself. When I brazenly delivered it to her, as requested, she clucked her tongue. She asked, “Where is this from?”

     “Your Host,” I said.

     “You’re smart, but not that smart.” She held up the menu. “It hasn’t been ‘Your Host’* for quite some time. Can you tell me what is really called?”

     I was silent because I really couldn’t ¡SEE! where it what it said.

     “You have dyslexia and you don’t even know what you can’t see. Funny that you see for me and I have to see for you.”

     I wish I could say that I stopped skipping school, but I continued to be blind for a very long time.

     However, even blind, I knew that I had very special people looking out for me, seemingly, for no good reason that I could discern.

     In 2010, I returned to school and the blindness lifted. Thirty years after graduation, but not too late.

* Many of the local “Your Host” restaurants had opted to stay in business under the name “our Host”.

A (Fictional) History of Writing

This is work of fiction. It is a blending of real events, people and places. Every event occurred, but not in the order presented. Without the proper order, stories lack impact, Such is the way of the world. While much of this tale is based on my own experiences, the point of view is based on the challenges faced by a classmate of mine from Vietnam. 

For a child, the story is about victory. For future educators, it is about failure. 

     When I was in 5th grade, our school received its first computer, a TSR-80. When it turned on, it made a rattling noise and the screen filled with garbage. No one knew what to do with it. It was placed in a room, in the library, for student use. The students were given the manuals and the disks, but there was nobody to teach us what to do with it. After a while, the light was turned off and the door was locked.

     I was the odd kid at school. PS 95 was a Magnet AND an open school. Children were shipped to the Waterfront from all over the city, to classrooms that had no desks or walls. To stand out as an odd duck in that sort of environment is an accomplishment. And not a good one. I had a poor command of English as I had been brought up speaking Italian until age 5 or 6. By fifth grade, I didn’t so much speak English as nod at the correct times.

     I plucked up the courage to beg for the key to the computer room. Thankfully, the librarian lived down the street from me. She was friendly, but more importantly, familiar with my odd communication methods. It was less humiliating to plead with her than other people. A number of adults either ignore or mock me. My parents were called a lot that year.
     As an open school, students were instructed for the first and last few minutes of the day. All of the time in between, except for lunch and specials, was open study. Since I couldn’t read or write effectively, it wasn’t particularly hard to disappear into the computer room. I wasn’t going to produce anything anyway and I was not causing trouble, so where was the harm?

     I left the light off, locked that door and took a seat. Behind me, light streamed from the window across the floor. It was the first level playing field I had ever seen.

     I had seen the machine turn on and display garbage. Everyone saw the same garbage. We all agreed that no one knew what it meant. Except, I knew it had to mean something. So I turned the machine on.

     Nothing happened. No rattle, no lights, no garbage.

     Something wasn’t right. So I drew up my first program. If it had been in words and not in pictures, it would have looked like this:

     1. Turn on monitor.
     2. Turn on memory module.
     3. Turn on keyboard.
     4. Turn on the computer.
     5. Screen displays Garbage!

     Some of the buttons were hidden and other seemed redundant. The order of operation was key to switching on the machine. Those five instructions, button locations and their correct order took over an hour to implement. I felt drunk with success and returned to my class in IB feeling wonderful.

     Soon, I had discovered a book on programming in the library. It had the words “Don’t Panic” on the cover. It was for a completely different computer, for the wrong computer language and licensed quotes from Douglas Adams’ The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. It was a bit baffling, but by comparing it to the computer manuals, I was able to reason out how to make the machine work. After some trial and error, I knew how to boot the computer, load disks and save information. Then I began writing code. I was going to make a game.

     It was a Herculean struggle, oddly made easier by the strange Hitchhiker’s quotes interjected into the coding instructions.

     “Don’t Panic”.

     I knew I had seen those words someplace before. They were on a record cover, in the audio bins of the library. The record would say the words. Not just the words from the coding book, but other words. A whole story, just like the Star Wars record I had at home. Except better because they made me laugh.

     It wasn’t long before I had a record player on a cart, next to the computer as I plugged away at my game. It had seemed like an easy program, but since the book had the wrong language and syntax for the computer I had, it was harder than it looked. Many days, I would leave the room with a pad of graph paper covered in code and the record. The librarian said, “You know, you can keep the record for a week. You don’t need to return it every day.”

     Yes, I did. And I would be returning, every day.

     One day, I noticed a teacher from the 7th grade poking around the computer room door. She was always mean to me. She was one of the few staff that went out of her way to make me uncomfortable. She would ask questions I couldn’t answer, which ended in with me crying and a call to my parents. I hoped she would ignore me so I could finish my game. I was very afraid she would take the computer away from me.

     However, I felt more confident than I ever had in all my life. Mr. Gallagher, my teacher, had called my parents. He brought me to the phone so I could listen in. He said that I was participating. I was talking and reading. It didn’t look like they would need to hold me back.

     Not too long after that, the mean teacher, who’s name I might never have known, pounded on the computer room door. She yelled at me, accused me of stealing her cart and the record player. Even through the door, her voice echoed and boomed in the computer room.

     The yelling brought every adult within earshot. That was good because I was done and I wanted an audience. I opened the door, returned to the computer to press a button with a flourish. The drive whirred and words popped up on the screen:

     “Game time! Pick a number, 1 to 10.”

     The record player was forgotten. The fully functional program for writing language was the item for discussion.

Poem #2 Un Truco

This was an assignment for a class on Argentina, taught in English. The requirement was to create a tango, utilizing Spanish phrases. What was interesting was that each writer (including me) was not particularly knowledgeable about Spanish anything, let alone language. 

In my mind, these four items are superimposed on each other, not independent pieces. 

Dos Bailarines, vén y va.
Media vuelta, medio rechazado.
Todavía una pareja.
Aún abrazado.
Agujas susurradas
En azul frío.
Y naranja caliente.
Cada en un gancho.
¿Castigando a quien?
Titubeo. Escucha, una pausa.
Un descanso. Mira, una parada.
Retroceden, se tuercen.
Una amague arrepentida.
Antes de abrazar de nuevo.

One Trick
Two dancers, come and go.
Turn about, half rejected.
Still a couple.
Still embraced.
Whispered needles.
In cold blue.
And hot orange.
Each on a hook
Punishing whoever?
I hesitate... Listen, a pause.
A break. Look, one stop.
They go back, they twist in
An apologetic feint
Before they embrace, anew

One Trick
Two dancers, vén y va.
Media vuelta, half rejected.
Still a parejas.
Still embraced.
Whispered needles.
In cold blue.
And hot orange.
Each on gancho.
Punishing whoever?
I hesitate... Listen, pausa.
A break. Mira, one stop.
They go back, they twist in.
An apologetic amague.
Before they embrace, anew.

One Trick
The cabeceo and she nods.
He is half rejected.
Two dancers, vén y va.
Media vuelta,
Yet, they are still a parejas.
Still embracing, in the caminata for the people.
But whispered needle are traded.
Breathed, in cold blue.
And hot orange.
Each on a gancho.
What will happen at the Cortina?
I hesitate... Listen, pausa.
A break. Mira, one stop.
They go back, they twist in.
A swirl of feet, a sway of hem.
An amague of separation for the people,
Before they embrace, anew.
An amague of a cortina,
As each goes their separate ways.
The Tango is at its end,
But is it resolución?

Poem #1

I don’t do prose, poetry, or song. 
Not even on free beer and open mic night. 
At church, people move away when I sing. 
But I’ll give it a shot.  

I can’t bring you sunlight. 
You can’t taste tasteless water. 
Or discern greenie blue from bluey green. 
We don’t have our drinks for long.
Or the fire that alcohol brings.   
You can’t hold the infinite.  
Or can you? 
The only place I have, 
Is space between my ears.
The only thing you have, 
Are the echos of what has been.
We keep words, concepts and meanings,
To quantify all of I/You am/are. 
Do we hold the infinite? 
We do, within limits,
Called words. 

Friday, November 24, 2017

Fractal Logic

This image was rendered for a class on Writing. The red text reads: 

Language holds the logic of 
Why a raven is like a writing desk
Like a piano with 81 keys
Recursion saves the signal
From the lapse of memories

To read the smaller text, I suggest looking at the Google Drawing.

Within each box, is the same text with errors injected. Sometimes on purpose, other times by accident. The first error was that the whole thing was broken down by syllables. However, this is not an accurate rendition of the syllables as the software used was designed for singing, which is wildly different than the more technical definition of a syllable.

Lan-guage holds the log-ic of
Why a ra-ven is like a writ-ing desk
Like a pi-a-no with 81 keys
Re-cur-sion saves the sig-nal
From the lapse of mem-o-ries

I also put in typos and misspellings by going as fast as I could when typing. It was painful not to go back and correct it. I did allow myself to go back and delete incorrect letters, but not actually change them. I mean for this to look frustrating. 

The grid-like fractal pattern was generated on graph paper by the following method: 

Draw a line along one edge of a box on the graph paper.
Toss a coin, heads turn left, tails turn right. 
A lot.

To speed this process, I alternated between cupping a dime in my drawing hand and allowing it move as I drew lines and grabbing a bunch of pennies out of a cup and lining them up dozens at at time. When I reached the boundary of the paper, I would move over into the next blank space with little care as to how it was positioned. 

It was a slow process. Additionally, when I took the pattern to digital, I made more errors. That was something the graph paper was mean to prevent. Oops.