Friday, 15 December 2017

128 - Collier/Frost/Bradbury

Short Story:
John Collier: Mary
Mary is a spoilt pig in this story, and Rosie finds the competition for Fred's affection rather tough. I loved this:
He came out with a huge box of chocolates. Rosie smiled all 
over her face with joy. "For me?" she said. 

"Yes," said he. "To give to her as soon as she claps eyes on you. 
They're her weakness. 

Robert Frost (1874 - 1963): An Old Man's Winter Night
All out of doors looked darkly in at him
Through the thin frost, almost in separate stars,
That gathers on the pane in empty rooms.
What kept his eyes from giving back the gaze
Was the lamp tilted near them in his hand.
What kept him from remembering what it was
That brought him to that creaking room was age.
He stood with barrels round him—at a loss.
And having scared the cellar under him
In clomping there, he scared it once again
In clomping off;—and scared the outer night,
Which has its sounds, familiar, like the roar
Of trees and crack of branches, common things,
But nothing so like beating on a box.
A light he was to no one but himself
Where now he sat, concerned with he knew what,
A quiet light, and then not even that.
He consigned to the moon,—such as she was,
So late-arising,—to the broken moon
As better than the sun in any case
For such a charge, his snow upon the roof,
His icicles along the wall to keep;
And slept. The log that shifted with a jolt
Once in the stove, disturbed him and he shifted,
And eased his heavy breathing, but still slept.
One aged man—one man—can’t fill a house,
A farm, a countryside, or if he can,
It’s thus he does it of a winter night.
I'm in awe of Robert Frost. Like so many poems, it has to be read aloud, and each word savoured. I want to read a poem a night for the rest of my life!

Ray Bradbury: Investing Dimes: Fahrenheit 451(1982)
The story of how the book (and play) came into being, being typed by a madman paying 10 cents for half an hour on a rented typewriter. The joy and passion are infectious.

Thursday, 14 December 2017

127 -- Collier/Kipling/Bradbury

Short Story:
John Collier: Little Memento
Another delightful story -- this one about a man who collects mementos for his 'museum', which is
piled high with the most broken, battered, frowzy, gimcrack col- 
lection of junk he had ever seen

I am now determined to use the words frowzy and gimcrack in my own stories!

Rudyard Kipling: If
If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:
If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;
If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools:
If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breathe a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: ‘Hold on!’
If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with Kings—nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son!
Ray Bradbury: Drunk, and in Charge of a Bicycle
Drunk on life, of course. This essay is about some of the moments that made Bradbury the writer he was, especially his meeting with Mr Electrico when he was 12. He also gives a routine for writing 52 stories in 52 weeks (or 520 stories in 10 years): write at least 1000 words a day; write the first draft on Monday, the second on Tuesday, a new draft every day until Saturday, when you send off the story.

Wednesday, 13 December 2017

126 - Collier/Bradbury/Romey

Short Story:
John Collier: De Mortuis
I laughed out loud at the end of this one. I love it! How come I never heard of John Collier before I started this challenge? He was brilliant! These are real stories, with real characters, a real plot, often an intriguing twist, and they're filled with humour and... humanity. And they're stories that are worth telling, and that are memorable. In this case, I probably won't look at a patch of wet concrete the same way ever again.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (!807-82): A Psalm of Life
I think this poem is a call to get off our butts and get on with doing things. Time is marching on and we'll all be in the grave before we know it, so get out and achieve what you really want to do...
Lives of great men all remind usWe can make our lives sublime,And, departing, leave behind usFootprints on the sands of time;—
I love the perfect rhymes of Longfellow - it seems so effortless and so impossible to use any other words.

Kristin Romey: The Search for the Real Jesus (National Geographic, Dec 2017)
This is a well-written and beautifully illustrated essay/article about the archaeology of the sites associated with Jesus. I'm not much wiser at the end of the essay though -- as really, it's just too far back in the past to be certain of anything. There's a lot of speculation, but a lot more faith than fact. Jesus probably did exist, according to the archaeologists, and there are tantalising hints that this could be the tomb, this could be the temple, and so on. Certainly, there's enough to suggest that he probably did exist. And there's enough mysteries to sustain another 2000 years of enquiry.

Tuesday, 12 December 2017

125 - Collier/Milton/Bradbury

Short Story:
John Collier: The Touch of Nutmeg Makes It
Another fabulous story. I'm becoming a big fan of John Collier. It's such a shame he's so little known.

John Milton: On His Blindness
I didn't know that Milton became blind by the age of 42. I don't find Milton a very accessible poet but I am warming to him.

Ray Bradbury: Run Fast, Stand Still, or the Thing at the Top of the Stairs, or New Ghosts from Old Minds
'The faster you blurt, the more swiftly you write, the more honest you are.'

Ray's advice is to make lists of nouns -- words that mean something to you from your life, like the town clock, the red dog, the pocket watch, the circus, tyrannosaurus rex et. Just make lots of lists and then pick one of the words out and write a prose poem or essay about it. Somewhere in the process a story will come into existence and write itself.

Here's a song Ray mentions in the essay (his favourite in his early childhood, which he remembered later when writing a story about a man who is horrified to discover he has a skeleton under his skin):

Monday, 11 December 2017

124 - Collier/Shelley/Bradbury

Short Story:
John Collier: Bottle Party
This is a real short story, and I can see why Ray Bradbury loved Collier's stories so much.  They're imaginitive, surprising, and lots of fun. Here is a copy I found online. I like this sort of story so much better than the slice of life anecdotes that pass for stories today.

Percy Bysshe Shelley: Ozymandias
A sonnet published in 1818, and possibly inspired by the British Museum's acquisition of a big chunk of a statue of Ramesses II. Ozymandias is apparently Greek for Ramesses, according to Wikipedia. I had to look it up in Wikipedia because I had no clue what this poem was about. Once I had looked, the poem did make sense. It is interesting to see Shelley's poem side by side with another by Horace Smith on the same subject. It's easy to see Shelley is a far superior poet.

Ray Bradbury: The Joy of Writing, 1973 (in Zen in the Art of Writing, 1994)
'If you are writing without zest, without gusto, without love, without fun, you are only half a writer.'
'What are the best things and the worst things of your life, and when are you going to get around to whispering or shouting them?'
'What do you want more than anything in the world? What do you love, or what do you hate? Find a character, like yourself, who will want something or not want something with all his heart. Give him running orders. Shoot him off. Then follow as fast as you can go.'
God, this book is good.

Saturday, 9 December 2017

123 -- Bradbury/Lazarus/Wilson

Short Story:
Ray Bradbury: A Piece of Wood
Suppose there was peace. World peace. This story is available as a reading on YouTube:

Emma Lazarus (1849-87): The New Colossus
This is the sonnet that is transcribed on the Statue of Liberty in New York City.
Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”
Jane Wilson: Bushrangers in the Australian Dictionary of Biography

This is an excellent essay on the history of bushrangers listed in the ADB, and it's been especially useful to me tonight as I'm researching this period of Australian history for a short screenplay I'm writing. Wilson has a couple of odd lapses in her understanding of the difference between the words 'hung' and 'hanged', but other than that, the essay is extremely well written and fascinating. There's enough material in it for at least a dozen films.

Friday, 8 December 2017

122 - Bradbury//Larkin/Singer

Short Story:
Ray Bradbury: The Ravine
You can see a Youtube video of this short story here. A serial killer -- the lonely one -- is on the loose, and two women take a short cut at night through the --gasp-- ravine.

Philip Larkin: This is the First Thing:
This is the first thing
I have understood:
Time is the echo of an axe
Within a wood.
There's nothing more to say really is there? A short but profound poem that I've never been able to get out of my head since the day I first read it.

Peter Singer: Escaping the Refugee Crisis
OK. Yes, I know. I said I was done with Singer, and maybe this is the last one.
And maybe the last one should have been the last one as this essay adds little to nothing to the debate about how to best help the many tens of millions of people who are now refugees.