Wednesday, April 28, 2010

A Mental Snack (14)


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"We can't solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them." ~ Albert Einstein

Monday, April 26, 2010

Magnetic North- "Drift Away"

Check out this rap song by Magnetic North, who are not your average rap group. Their rhymes are like poetry to the heart, soul, mind, and ears. If you have any opinions to share, let me know what you think about both their song and the music video.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

The Music in My Life


“Vatche, how are you ever going to make it as a writer with the words you use?” Clara took a bite out of her ice cream sandwich and sat at the table.

“What do you mean?” I snagged an ice cream sandwich for myself out of the fridge.

“Well, you use a bunch of simple words to convey your thoughts. You don’t use big, extravagant words like some of those people that comment on your blog or other writers.”

I took a seat at the table in front of her. “You don’t understand.”

“Hmm,” she said with ice cream in her mouth, “what are you trying to say that I don’t understand?”

“Writing is like playing an instrument like for example, a harp.” I placed my hands in front of me and started to press the strings of an invisible harp. “You see, writing is like playing a harp for me. You press one string and you make a sound. You understand that one sound that the string makes, as a listener in the audience, right?”

“Of course,” she finished her sandwich.

“If you write one word, you also make a sound—a sound in the mind of the reader. You strike a chord in their mind. You strike a chord in their heart. You strike all these things with a single word that the reader understands. What I’m trying to say is that I know the value of being simple.”

“So what about those people who use those big, fancy words?” Clara crushed the wrapper in her fist. She brushed her brown, stringy hair out of her face. Crickets chirped outside the house in steady beats as they called out to their families and lovers.

“Those words are like a cacophony.” I smiled as I saw her face twist.

“What’s a ‘cacophony’, Vatche?”

“Exactly. Does that word strike any emotion for you?”

“No, not really,” she shook her head.

“Readers want words they understand. If you use words like that, they won’t get it. Like I said before, it’s like playing a harp. You play a word that a person doesn’t know and that word sounds like an off-note, something that doesn’t belong in a piece. Some people just try to sound smart by using giant words and they create these pieces that sound like a group of wrong notes. They don’t get their messages across using those words. It’s conveying those messages, those themes, with the simple words that make a person a good writer.”

“What about all the writers that you read? Are you saying they’re stupid now?”

“No, don’t misunderstand me.” I smiled. “The writers that I read, they use the simplest of words. Remember a few weeks ago, I saw Jim Butcher?”

She nodded her head.

“Well, even he said to use the simplest of words, because no one will understand what I’m trying to say if I use those fancy words. He and all those other writers that I’ve met always give me the same advice: to write simple and to simply write.”

Clara shook her head in agreement and took my sandwich wrapper out of my hands without another word. She threw both our wrappers away into the plastic abyss of the trashcan and smiled at me.

“What? Why are you smiling?” I looked into her eyes.

“Maybe you stand a chance in this world,” she said, “as a writer.”

The crickets ended their songs.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

A Mental Snack (13)

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"The critic has to educate the public; the artist has to educate the critic." ~ Oscar Wilde

Monday, April 19, 2010

David Sedaris on Letterman

I think David Sedaris is one of the funniest modern writers ever, but this is my opinion. Listen and watch this video of him reading his essay on the Stadium Pal and let me know what you think.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

The Psychopath's Waltz



Poem Co-written with Melody...

Melody sat emotionless with her notebook, which had some words scribbled down on it, in her lap. She stared at the scenes in front of her. She watched the blades of grass swish, trees that pushed and shoved, and the children that played soccer in the fields. She did not smile or cry. She was like a human statue sitting on the park bench’s tabletop.

I walked on over to her. “Mel, you ok?”

“I don’t want to talk today,” she said bluntly.

“Ok,” I sat there with her on the bench’s tabletop staring at the world around us. For fifteen minutes, I watched her infinite gaze and thought something was strange about her today. She was usually so hyper and excited, but today was different. She was dead inside for some reason. Since I was one of her best friends, it was my job to find out why.

I snatched a glance at her notebook, which was also mine. We shared our ideas together in that book, which is why we called it the Idea Book. All our ideas, poems, stories, memories were trapped in those pages by the leather bound covers of that black book.

On one of the pages she wrote:

Gun shot,

Pierce air,

Hearts stop,

Can’t stare.

There were also a few crossed out words, but I couldn’t read them, and some doodles from our last session in the park. Why would she be writing about gunshots? Could it have something to do with her attitude today?

“How was school?” I smiled. She went to a different school than I did. I went to a private school; she went to a public one. We were close friends and we would tell each other everything and anything, but Melody was distant today, so I tried to break the ice.

A tear dropped from her eye down her cheek. “Why d-do y-you ask?” She forced a smile as she wiped away the tears. “Wh-hy do you a-ask? Hmm?” More tears were born from her eyes, but I couldn’t speak. I was frozen at the fallen Melody before me. She was always so happy and bouncing off the walls. Who was this broken figure?

She buried her face in her knees and sat in a fetal position. I did what any friend would do: I hugged her. “It’s ok, Mel. You can cry.”

“He shot someone,” she cried out. “I can’t believe he shot someone.”

“At least you weren’t hurt, right?” I comforted her by rubbing my hand on her back.

I wasn’t hurt, but someone else was. One of my friend’s was shot by some psychopath.” Her face was flushed red; only I could see it through the strands of her long, black hair.

“Is he or she ok?”

“She’s ok.”

“Then, why are you crying?” I lifted up her head with one gentle hand so that she could stare directly into my eyes.

“Because… I don’t know…I was scared.”

“Well, everyone is scared of death. Didn’t we discuss this before?”

“I’ve never experienced death up close though.” She wiped her tears away and drank some water from a bottle. “It’s ok just talking about it, but once you see it, once you experience it…It’s as scary as…I don’t know…It’s probably the scariest thing I’ve ever seen in my life. How someone could end another person’s life with a single bullet.” She pointed an index finger out and cocked her thumb back to resemble a gun. “Just BAM,” she pretended to shoot the air with her finger. “Then, it’s the end.”

“It’s ok,” I told her as she put her head against my shoulder.

“Do you want to know what happened?” She knew I was a curious in the beginning.

“No. I think it is best you don’t say anything. You know what? Why don’t you write it out instead, since that’s what you do best? You turn all that energy and emotion into one of those poems.”

She nodded her head and began to work with me. By the end of the day, we had this:


Gun shot,

Pierce air,

Hearts stop,

Can’t stare.


Point, click,

Clothes stained,

Tick-tick,

Tears drained.


Soulless corpses,

Both living and dead,

Life and its courses,

Friends ‘til the very end.


Dust falls,

The living rise,

Penetrated walls,

Faces surprised.


Phone on,

Nine—one—

Cut off,

Can’t talk.


Say, “Stop!”

BANG! BANG!

Doors unlocked,

Bullets sang.


Re-load,

They cry,

Explode,

Says, “Die.”


Ears ring,

Bloody lips,

Screaming,

Final kiss.


Step outside,

Cops doubt,

Sirens cry,

They count,


“One, two,”

Bloody shoes,

“Three, four,

Hands on the floor!”


Last was five,

He ended his life.

A single BANG!

One bullet sang,


The dead haunt,

The person who never thought,

About that atrocity he just commit,

That person who only shot,

With a point and a click.


“Now, how do you feel?” I asked her after the poem was done.

“Better, I guess,” she sniffled and pushed her long, black hair behind her ear.

“That’s good, now what are we going to title this?” I snatched the notebook from her hands. “Any ideas?”

“Pfft, what a question, Vatche. You know we’re both full of ideas.” She took the Idea Book from my hands.

“So do you have a title for it or not?” I handed her the pen that we shared.

“Yes, I do.” She wrote down the title, “The Psychopath’s Waltz.”

“Why that?”

“Isn’t it my job to be the poetic one here? Plus, it’s better than my original title,” she smiled and was back to her normal self.

“And what title would that be?”

She laughed and wrote down the words, “That Son of a Bitch.”

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

A Mental Snack (12)


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"The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear. And the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown." ~ H.P. Lovecraft

Monday, April 12, 2010

In Memory of...Everything


Yesterday, I went to my grandmother’s grave. I visited her every once in a while, because she was one of the people who raised me when I was a kid. I noticed how much I’ve changed on my attitude towards life. When I was a kid and I used to step on those cold, cement steps and see the millions of graves ahead of me; I did not care. I was a kid. I did not comprehend that there were tons of bodies rotting in wooden boxes underneath me. I would just go play around and look at the statues.

Now, I am eighteen. I realized that there are those same bodies that I saw not too many years ago. I dressed up nice this time and did not slip on just some polo shirt. I put on a nice suit for the evening, because I was meeting an important person, my grandmother.

I stood there in silence, while my family talked to grandma as if she were still there. I didn’t bother saying anything, because I believed that she could hear me without my voice. She could hear my thoughts and prayers from Up There, while I stay Down Here. After I told her my usual blessings, I talked about how much I’ve grown as a young man, how proud she would be of me now, and how I know she’s watching over me like she did when I was a little kid.

I held back some tears because I knew she doesn’t want me to cry, so I took a walk around the statues. I viewed them one by one with an analytical eye. One was a white statue of a mother holding her child in her arms. My mind flashed a memory of my mother doing the same to my brother when he first came home from the hospital.

Another statue was of a man teaching his son to walk.

Another memory flashes in my mind’s eye. My father held out his hands to me and asked me to take just one-step; even one-step was an improvement for him when I was learning to walk.

I had enough of all the memories I can handle, so I stopped staring at the statues and instead looked at the nature surrounding me. The trees were engraved with the names of lost ones. There were hearts around the names of lovers. There were drawings of smiling faces.

Memories flashed again and hit my brain like a hammer. The names I carved in the park with my friends. We all wanted to come back to the park one day to see if the tree was still there twenty years from now. We even assigned a date. It was our promise to never forget each other.

I rushed out of the cemetery and into the car because I couldn’t take it any longer. As we left, I stared out the window to see not only a graveyard filled with the dead but also a museum filled with memories.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Neil Gaiman's "Instructions"

Neil Gaiman just came out with a book that has his poem, "Instructions", with some beautiful illustrations by Charles Vess. Check it out in this fantastic five minute video presentation read by Neil Gaiman himself. You be the judge!




Wednesday, April 7, 2010

A Mental Snack (11)


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"If they give you ruled paper, write the other way." ~ Juan Ramon Jimenez

Monday, April 5, 2010

We Are Rebels: A Poem


Inspired by George Orwell's 1984


Dangerous is the eyes that can read,

Dangerous is the hand that can write,

Dangerous is the mouth that can speak,

Dangerous is the mind that can think.


It is dangerous to be human, can’t you see?

It is horrible to be ourselves, don’t you agree?

We can’t do anything, just stand here and wait,

For our lives to end in this cruel world, in our controlled state.


We have to wait patiently, ‘cause that’s what they said,

So hush-hush now so that we can be fed,

If you don’t be quiet, they’ll hear,

They have eyes and ears everywhere.


Cameras with blinking red eyes,

Bugs that look just like flies,

Microchips in the back of your brain,

Isn’t this a wonderful place?


Jail is what our city has become,

How could we be so dumb?

We have given in to them,

Our city was such a gem.


Let them take control of who we are,

Let them take control of what we are,

Let them take control of who I am,

Let them take control of who I used to be.


What type of life is this?


A life full of hatred for those who move us pawns,

We will never see a new dawn,

Those players of the massive chess game of life,

Have made it so our executions happen tonight.


So do you want to escape?

Do you want to live another day?

In another world?

In another place?


Just give me your hand,

Take a stand and be a man,

We will head where the sun shines,

We will cross all the borderlines.


Be prepared to live a life where you must think,

A life where you can write with fresh ink,

With brand new eyes that can read anything,

And with brilliant words, which you can sing.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Why Writer's Block? Why?


Sometimes the characters just don’t speak. Sometimes the plot just doesn’t stick. Sometimes I just don’t really know what would happen next and I am afraid to take the next step forward. Writer’s block affects us all, whether we like it or not.

Lately I’ve been affected by writer’s block and I hate to admit it to anyone really, because so many people want to know what’s going to happen next in the story.

“I’m writing it,” I would tell them, “just give me some time.” They would wait patiently, but still ask me everyday how much I’ve progressed. I see their eager eyes glisten with curiosity. I wish I could fulfill their needs but sometimes I just can’t concentrate on the story.

I find myself pushing aside the writing and taking a brisk walk across the neighborhood to get my mind going. As I walk down the streets, the trees quake from the hurling winds. The children laugh as they hold their parents’ hands. The dogs bark as I cross the street for fear of me being a stranger.

Step by step, I realize that I am not in search of a plot point or a story, but outside looking for the character. Where did he/she/it go? Why won’t they talk? I walk these aimless streets in circles to find those who would not speak, those who would not call back when I called for them.

“Olly olly oxen free!”

I go on to do other things after the walk, besides writing. I read. I draw. I play the piano. I do homework. I do some chores. Time passes by slowly as I do the most important thing of all: I wait.

I wait for the writer’s block to crack and have the character’s talk to me again. I know some of you, readers, probably don’t believe me about my characters. I know also that you probably think I’m some sort of schizophrenic, but all I really have is a strong imagination. But even my imagination gets turned off sometimes like a light switch. Now, I am in the dark in search of turning that switch back on, so I could see the culprit.

When I finally turn the switch back on by waiting the writer’s block out and not by forcing myself, that’s when I can face those eager eyes. I can face the blinking cursor and the blank page that needs to be filled. I can face the world (in reality and in the story) again with someone by my side. The characters are there, but they are just hiding.

Why are they hiding?

They are hiding because they are scared of the next step, they don’t want the story to finish. They don’t want to leave just yet. They turn off the switch and wait there in the dark for a few days, because they are scared of the ending. They are scared of the ending much like we, people, are scared of death. Once a reader is done with a story, some of them tell me, “It’s like you lose a friend when you’re done.” And that could be said about any story and about any book.

I created a universe though that ties in all those books, which I’ve written, together. The reader would see all those old friends that they lost for one more time, for one more fight, against the biggest enemy/obstacle ever. And they’ll face it together with all the other characters, with the readers, with me, and with you.