Friday, March 26, 2010

Slaughterhouse 63

END TIME: 11:01 PM

“You've been doing these for over a year now, so what have you learned? Where have you gotten better and what are still weaknesses?”

Taking a clear look at this project is hard for me to do, because I’ve tried to impose a discipline on myself that writing has never really required. I know that I can write SOMETHING that comes out around 500 words in about an hour or so, that it may be confusing, or hilarious, or occasionally incoherent.

The most interesting part of the exercise, other than the topics at hand, is the timeframe that I chose to do it. I picked Friday nights with a midnight deadline because, in all honesty, I’m usually up. But increasingly I find myself keeping those hours in a sort of twilight, half-asleep-but not-awake haze that leads to unfinished sentences, meandering topics, and tacked on addendums in a futile attempt to cross the word threshold. I look at the finished results on Facebook as well as the blog site, and usually I’m amused to find out that the words are all spelled correctly, but I’ve forgotten to finish a sentence or a paragraph.

Slaughterhouse is not good writing, but fast writing, the same way that fast neurosurgery may not necessarily be good neurosurgery. Everyone who sets eyeballs on this reinforces the idea that I should write some more. I know that I should be writing about the projects that I’ve been working on, but right now it’s not as if the rest of my life is running with Swiss-watch precision. My work days scurry into the hours on either side of them. Training is ever-present. We’re beset with clouds of mulberry pollen all over the valley. I’m driving all over and actually enjoying life as a participant and not a spectator.

Where I’ve gotten better is just writing what I want and letting it go; avoiding the temptation to go back and repair everything was not easy to arrive at, but once I forced myself to realize I had to let the stuff I was doing stand by itself as I was prizing speed over quality, it made the rest of it go a little bit quicker.

I think I’ve done a better job of picturing who the target reader is, and interestingly, it’s no one who’s probably heard most of the stories or comparisons before. Occasionally I feel like I’m writing to the questioner but that assumes we each know the back stories – usually true but irrelevant to most of the broader audience. I have had the distinct pleasure of having other people quote back the experiences that I’ve had (and forgotten that I had written about) to me as I was talking to them about other topics entirely. That was surreal.

Weaknesses still include my maddening inability to write a beginning, a middle, and an end, the fact that I juggle points around whether or not they’re germane to the subject, and that more than a few of these haven’t provided any enlightenment but have the grim feel of punching the clock. Granted, it’s designed to be a punishment, but the reader shouldn’t feel like it’s theirs.

Writing Project Update

WORDS WRITTEN THIS WEEK: 250. I haven't had time to touch anything project-related in a very long time.

RESPONSES TO LAST QUESTION: 1, correctly pointing out that I botched the syllable count in the third haiku.

SUBMISSIONS THIS WEEK: 3 (Ken, Ken, and Ken)

THIS WEEK'S QUESTION: You've been doing these for over a year now, so what have you learned? Where have you gotten better and what are still weaknesses?

500 WORDS DUE BY: Midnight 3/26-27

Friday, March 19, 2010

Slaughterhouse 62

END TIME: 10:46 PM
WORD COUNT: 501 (Seriously, look it up. I’m exhausted, but it’s for real.)

“In the form of a poem with a clear rhyme scheme or a clear structure of syllabic count, what are your thoughts on the NCAA tournament?”

Pretty sure I’m now
Assured of complete failure
With 50 games left

My West regional
Hacked apart with a Ginsu
Chose Florida State

Must have thought it was
January, football
And puzzled seniors

Of course they could beat
The Syracuse Orangemen –
What have those guys done?

National number one?
I should be watching the games
Or maybe TV

Lost to Gonzaga
Popular in March, disappears
Just like St. Patrick

And whoa, look, Georgetown?
This was not the Ohio
I picked to beat you

John Thompson would have
Twisted open someone’s head
Like a coconut

What? His kid coaches?
Suppose next you’ll tell me that
Ewing’s kid plays too

“Jim, if you were any less
Informed, you’d be dead.

“He was drafted by
The Kings, traded to Houston,
Then wound up in New York.

Played in the D-League,
Hurt his knee pretty badly,
Joining Jamaica.”

“Jamaica?” I thought.
“How the irie have fallen –
Dad started Dream Team.”

Then I realized
Being prone to distraction
Had several drawbacks.

I returned to the
Scene of withering collapse –
My erstwhile bracket.

Louisville got thumped
Which made my bracket entry
10 points less funny

The name that I chose
Was “Pitino’s Dine and Dash”
True schadenfreude

You’d think a wealthy
Motivational speaker
Won’t tryst on the floor

But apparently
He was overtaken by
Passion, not hygiene

Guess I picked Marquette
With the misguided belief
Dwyane Wade was still there

Somehow and some way
My Elite Eight selections
Are still quite intact

Picked Temple; looks like
Those numbskulls get drubbed by the
Ivy League Champions

They lost to Cornell!
The hotel management school!
They’d better walk home!

Notre Dame lost, and
Suddenly my smile brightens
With dark-hearted glee

If the football team
Joined the Big East Conference:
Pounded like cheap veal.

But in March Madness
You collect conference bucks.
Doesn’t work solo.

UNLV lost,
Newly minted Las Vegans
Act disappointed.

They miss the days of
Ol’ Jerry Tarkanian
When they weren’t from here.

“If a kid can’t read
And after 4 years, reads some,
You’ve done right by him.”

Are you thinking that
A true university
Should aspire to more?

You must be in league
With those racist jackals at

The world got to see
How genuinely crazy
This place really is.

The courtside is still
Nicknamed “Gucci Row”
By the media

UNLV’s coach
Lon Kruger, fits in here like
Bacon with gum drops

The former coach was
Bill Bayno, who got
Caught with some hookers

I know! In VEGAS!
You’ve really got to wonder
“Wow, what are the odds?”

God knows where he’s at.
Wikipedia must know;
I could not care less.

The happy mistake
That would have let me win this;
It never happened.

If my picks were an
Expensive thoroughbred horse
They would have a limp

Got me an express
First Class ticket to Suckville
Population: Me

Clicking on “Word Count…”
Like a crack-addled mule deer;
Am I almost done?

But I finished this
Insane assignment in time;
Victory is mine!

Writing Project Update

WORDS WRITTEN THIS WEEK: 250. (Seriously? You mean it's already Friday?)

RESPONSES TO LAST QUESTION: 2, who interestingly each had different ideas of what the metaphors were. Were they right? Yes.

SUBMISSIONS THIS WEEK: 3 (Ken, Ken, and Ken)

THIS WEEK'S QUESTION: "In the form of a poem with a clear rhyme scheme or a clear structure of syllabic count, what are your thoughts on the NCAA tournament?"

Ye Gods. I've seen a grand total of eight minutes of basketball in the background all weekend. Let's give it a try.

500 WORDS DUE BY: Midnight 3/19-20

Friday, March 12, 2010

Slaughterhouse 61

END TIME: 11:23 PM

"Describe an aspect of your life only using metaphors."

The metronome is ticking, ticking, ticking, and I’m losing myself in the rhythm. The notes are laid out in front of me and so much of this piece is committed to memory that I’m playing with something much deeper than fingers and ears and timing, but I’m going for precise, I’m not interested in playing just to hear it. I stopped having to actually play the piano to know what it sounded like many, many years ago. Maybe you can read the script from a movie and hear the actors saying the lines that you saw play out? That’s me. I can read the sheet music and hear the symphony. Look at the walls – I’ve been there and done that.

When a lot of people hear the piano, they can identify it as such. Everybody’s probably been near one or touched one and maybe learned a song or two. I did a little more – OK, a LOT more – than that, but I still need to practice. There’s an aspect of something more finite that someone who walked by the room right now would understand that I’m looking for. I want the piece to work completely, and there’s a spot over here that’s a little bit off. Something seems a little out of tune, the high E is a little too sharp, and the natural translation that I’m hoping for isn’t quite there.

Repetition, tuning, more tuning, more repetition.

The funny part about it is, I’m not that good of a piano player. Don’t get me wrong, I can play, and I can almost certainly play better than you. But the end result of all of this piano, night after night, day after day, is it’s hard for me to just sort of lose myself in what it sounds like to play for the hell of it. A lot of times it isn’t fun because I’m searching for those minutiae, the difference between me and some of the greatest pianists in the world. I’m listening for fluidity. I’m listening for how it will fit together with the orchestra. Right there is where the bass player comes in. Here’s where the drummer will do the fill with the cymbal.

But I can still let it go, and I still love it, and when it all sets up and I get something to feel the way that I want it, everything all lined up and straight and smooth and precise – I love it even more, and I know enough to appreciate it. What I’ve never understood, though, is the assumption that if I walk into someone else’s house, and there’s a piano there, that I couldn’t possibly want to play it because it isn’t a concert grand in a room with session musicians. If I didn’t love the sound of it I’d never have wound up in that room with those session musicians. I can play just to play, without flourish, without showing off, without a care in the world. It’s still fun. If it stopped being fun, I’d worry.

Writing Project Update

Words written this week: Very, very few. I was busy getting my head shaved and working like a crack-addled lab rat. It simply wasn't happening.

Last Week's Responses: One.

This week's questions: 4 (Ken, Ken, Ken, and Anonymous)

This week's question: "Describe an aspect of your life only using metaphors."

Does an allegory count? I'll have to look it up. We'll be wrapped up at midnight.

RESPONSE DUE BY: 3/12-13 midnight

Friday, March 05, 2010

Writing Project Update

I just got home from work and Slaughterhouse won't be done in three minutes, so I'm taking the night off. I'll write Sunday if the chance arises. Thanks for your patience.