30 April 2016

Something for Everyone: A Potpourri of Miscellania

I awoke this morning as I usually do on Saturday (which means I actually awoke sometime in the afternoon) and realized that if I hurried I could get a second post done for the month of April, which would make me seem a little less like a slacker than having only one post would. Last week I posted about mortality, a heavy topic. So this week, as part of my spring cleaning, I offer some little bits of overheards and downloads and random thoughts in the wee hours and more of what might be called et cetera. I hope something in this collection will be worth the perusal. 


The apotheosis of the form.

Beethoven #5

Tchaikovsky #6
Mahler #10
Sibelius #2
Shostakovich #5
Dvorak #5
Prokofiev #1
Brahms #3
Berlioz Symphonie Fantastique
Nielsen #4

I just call it "Italian dinner":  Tomato Basil Pasta

Pasta, Tomatoes, Veggie Broth, Olive Oil, and Seasonings

Throw it all in the pot, INCLUDING the uncooked Pasta, and cook! - Bring it to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. The starch leaches out of the pasta and makes a rich, warm sauce for the noodles. The other ingredients cook right along with the pasta


12 ounces pasta (I used Linguine)
1 can (15 ounces) diced tomatoes with liquid ( I used zesty red pepper flavor)
1 large sweet onion, cut in julienne strips
4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 teaspoons dried oregano leaves
2 large sprigs basil, chopped
4 1/2 cups vegetable broth (regular broth and NOT low sodium)
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Parmesan cheese for garnish


Place pasta, tomatoes, onion, garlic, basil, in a large stock pot. Pour in vegetable broth. Sprinkle on top the pepper flakes and oregano. Drizzle top with oil.

Cover pot and bring to a boil. Reduce to a low simmer and keep covered and cook for about 10 minutes, stirring every 2 minutes or so. Cook until almost all liquid has evaporated – I left about an inch of liquid in the bottom of the pot – but you can reduce as desired .

Season to taste with salt and pepper , stirring pasta several times to distribute the liquid in the bottom of the pot. Serve garnished with Parmesan cheese.

It seems, these days, that exams are all about personal validation...not about how much has been learned.

Getting an A means you are blessed; B means you are lucky; C means you are normal and fit in with the crowd; D means the test was too hard so it's not your fault; F means you are too cool for school and can have a better life on the streets in some "street" line of work.

“Immature poets imitate; mature poets steal; bad poets deface what they take, and good poets make it into something better, or at least something different. The good poet welds his theft into a whole of feeling which is unique, utterly different from that from which it was torn.” 

~ T.S. Eliot

“From the moment we are born until we become adults, we call countless people ‘friend’. From the time in kindergarten until college graduation, one individual accumulates hundreds of friends, and believes these friends to be true friends. However, these are not true friends, but merely passing relationships.

At age 30 and age 40, out of the friends that you called ‘true friend’, only a few will be left by your side. The people that you believed were your true friends, will think of you as a passing relationship.

So, do not be pained or hurt by this passing relationship. After all, it will all pass.”

– Ahn Saehee

My advice about writing...or how I do it.

1.Get an idea.
2. Think up a story about that idea.
3. Use characters based on people you know to make them more authentic.
4. Keep in mind you have to have tension and conflict once in a while but don't let that keep you tied to a rigid plot line.
5. Have some fun. Let the scene play out naturally. People don't talk straight to the point.
6. Revise heavily for overall story arc(s). Revise each scene for its arc.
7. Proofread the hell out of every paragraph.

1. supposably = I suppose I am able
2. For all intensive purposes = this is for those purposes which are intense
3. irregardless = not regardless = regardful
4. I could care less = I could care less but I choose not to
5. Expresso = expressing oneself with a complex coffee order
6. Pacifically = referring to the Pacific Ocean
7. Ex cetera = used to be similar
8. I seen it. = I used to see it but not any more.
9. Of upmost importance = the person at the top of the ladder
10. I need to lay down = someone with a duck feather fetish

“Life isn’t divided into genres. It’s a horrifying, romantic, tragic, comical, science-fiction cowboy detective novel. You know, with a bit of pornography if you’re lucky.”
Alan Moore  

FOOL = F.O.O.L. = Fickle Observer Of Life  (Yes, it's a real job.)

It's truly amazing the great number of things that get done without requiring my attention, much less my approval.

Why do I write?

So I can put bread on the table, and get a table, and find a horse to take me to the table store, and then on to the bakery for that bread, and then, perhaps, if the weather is inclement, to consume all that bread before returning home with the table, folded on the back of that horse, and put it together in that home, which is closer to a hovel than a home, and sit at that table on a chair I failed to mention previously, and then only imagine some bread atop the table because I ate it already, and in that imagining of bread uneaten come to some realization of the state of the universe and my lonesome place in it, aliens be damned, and how a table, some bread, a horse, and me--and thou--somehow come together in a cohesive manner that truly makes the world, this world, a better place for bakers and horse thieves, no matter what style of bread is for sale down the lane, no matter how many bolts are needed to put together a table, no matter whether the horse is chestnut or dun, and no matter what device I type this on--it will all make sense in the morning.

Mother's Day is a two-way street with intersections, ice cream trucks, and horse-drawn carriages, half in shade and half in sunshine, and people pass once or many times and never think of it again.

Numbers 1 through 12 in Icelandic (Trust me, you'll need them someday):

einn, tveir, þrír, fjórir, fimm, sex, sjö, átta, níu, ellefu, tólf

Longest English Word:   Praetertranssubstantiationalistically   (37 letters)

GADFY, written by Earnest Wright in 1939 is a 50,000+ word book, which doesn't contain a
single word with 'e' in it

In 24 Hours Average Human:
1)      HEART beats 103,689 times.
2)      LUNGS respire 23,045 times.
3)      BLOOD flows 16,80,000 miles.
4)      NAILS grow 0.00007 inches
5)      HAIR grows 0.01715 inches
6)      Take 2.9 pounds WATER (including all liquids)
7)      Take 3.25 pounds FOOD.
8)      Breathe 438 cubic feet AIR.
9)      Lose 85.60, BODY TEMPERATURE.
10)     Produce 1.43 pints SWEAT.
11)     Speak 4,800 WORDS.
12)     During SLEEP move 25.4 times

Last but not least, something interesting was noticed in the University of Manitoba bookstore (Winnipeg, Canada): A GIRL CALLED WOLF. Also available at Amazon, just like everything else in the world.

(C) Copyright 2010-2016 by Stephen M. Swartz. All Rights Reserved. No part of this blog, whether text or image, may be used without me giving you written permission, except for brief excerpts that are accompanied by a link to this entire blog. Violators shall be written into novels as characters who are killed off. Serious violators shall be identified and dealt with according to the laws of the United States of America.

23 April 2016

Coming to terms: Blog-reality vs Life-reality

Yes, I know it's been a while. Don't worry; I have excuses. Mostly the timing of events in the month of April left me off-balance as far as putting up blog posts. Then things happened: bad things, awful things, and I was numb and unable to find the words to express anything, either about the horrors happening or even about ordinary mundane episodes of amusement which are my usual stock in trade.

I was forced to think in a deeply profound manner. What is the point of a blog? Many of my colleagues have answered that question already. But aside from a little personal pleasure ("thoughts on waking up too late"), self-promotion ("check out my latest book"), sharing writing tips ("I really have nothing new to offer"), or celebrating holidays ("here's my annual Thanksgiving post"), why take the time to dabble when there is so much going on that is decidedly undabble-worthy?

Let's face it: There are a lot more important things happening in the world today, the past week, this entire month - but if you're a writer, all that matters is the story in front of you. (The story in front of me often serves as an escape from the reality of the world I hear about on social media and television.) All this is meant to say is that not even writers can solve all the problems in the world. Long gone are the days when we could right wrongs with a well-turned phrase. Where are those word warriors who fight with sonnets instead of swords?

I'm working on an epic fantasy, as everyone and their grandparents know, yet I fell into a funk - writer's block, if you will - because of everything going on in the world: death and destruction, terrorism and earthquakes, storms and murders, crashes and floods, lots and lots of inane arguing, lying, shouting, cursing, and more or less deception by just about anyone who makes it onto the national or world stage. Plus deaths of people who were minding their own business in the music business.

It's always sad when a celebrity dies, regardless of the reason. As a public figure, we all tend to feel we know that person. We have close loved ones who die, of course, but we share that person with fewer mourners. Every day it seems another actor or musician passes on, and we are surprised because we've grown accustomed to their immortality. Theirs seems to be real while our own we understand is finite. So we pay tributes, listen to their songs, watch their movies, remember the good times we were having while they somehow were invited into those moments with us through the music or the shows. This week I've heard several people say this or that musician provided the soundtrack to his or her life. 

The phenomena remains. Time stops, the past flashing through us, like memories we wonder if we really ever had or if we are creating anew just for this moment, just so we can join in with others in mourning, in remembering, in sharing a feeling of joy at having known that person. And a feeling of sorrow at that person's passing. What once was an endless stadium of space suddenly collapses into a closet-sized reality: if this person, so celebrated, who had everything, can pass so easily, so suddenly, who am I in the greater scheme of the universe? And in that flicker of recognition, we are born again. And we go on.

An anecdote: I had been in the National Guard for about a year when a new guy arrived. On one weekend drill, I happened to see a small flyer advertising a concert which he had sitting at his station. I picked up the flyer to look at it closer. On the flyer was a striking face of the musician performing at the concert, smug expression under a wild mop of hair. The name on the flyer said Prince. I said to my colleague, both of us in our fatigue uniforms, waiting for the final formation late on a Saturday afternoon, "Who would name their kid 'Prince'?" He shrugged and said he was going to the concert that night. This must have been in Fall 1980. Kansas City. A few years later I went on a first-date which began with the movie Purple Rain. I finally put two and two together. 

(C) Copyright 2010-2016 by Stephen M. Swartz. All Rights Reserved. No part of this blog, whether text or image, may be used without me giving you written permission, except for brief excerpts that are accompanied by a link to this entire blog. Violators shall be written into novels as characters who are killed off. Serious violators shall be identified and dealt with according to the laws of the United States of America.