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Archive for the ‘writing & poetry’ Category

Another older bit of writing.

She leaned back languidly and twisted herself a little more comfortably, the last few golden drops of scotch sliding around the rocks. Her eyes wandered over the room, covered in plush green velvet and gilded in gold wherever the proprietor saw fit to gild. The place was dark and quiet – dark in its low lighting, provided by tarnished gold chandeliers, none of which quite matched the others; dark in its polished hardwood floors and tables and chairs; dark from the curtains drawn over the two lone windows placed squarely in the front wall. For show only – those curtains were never open. It was a place of private, lush solitude – a blessed retreat for the rich and reticent. She inhaled and held the smoke in, letting her mind go fuzzy for a few moments before exhaling upwards and watching the smoke twist itself around the ceiling.

She lifted her glass but it never reached her lips; halfway up, she remembered that it was empty. With a slight sigh she let it rest on the dark polished table at her left, keeping her hand curled around the cold empty glass, absentmindedly tapping a finger or two to the melancholy voice playing softly on the record. In her other hand she lifted, equally listlessly, a cigarette, mostly ash in its long elegant black tube. The lone bartender, needlessly wiping already spotless glasses, gestured vaguely: would the lady like another? She waved him off with her cigarette hand and he returned to his inane task, she to her despondent thoughts.

She didn’t need to drink and didn’t even particularly enjoy the heady sensation most bar-goers so eagerly seek. She drank tonight not to block out an unpleasant past or to erase some distasteful memory; she had few of those. She drank now on behalf of the future.

The door opened with a smooth hushed creak and closed quickly, though not quick enough to keep out the elements – a draft of iced air crept in and wound around her bare ankles, sending a sprinting chill up to her knees and sprinkling onto her thighs. She lifted the glass and again remembered that it held nothing further for her. As the smoke dissipated with the draft, she turned her attention to the bar’s newest patron and her interest was slightly piqued.

The man didn’t fit in with the velvet and gilding and quiet sophistication – his appearance jarred with the understated greens, browns and golds. His coat was too worn, his hat too outdated; coat and hat, once removed, revealed what could only be described as battered finery, sad gaudy silks that had seen better days in the drunken exploits of frivolous youth. His eyes slid quickly sideways to her, still halfway reclining on the velvet chaise, and after a brief second turned to the bartender. “Vodka, on the rocks,” he ordered resignedly as he sat.

And there he stayed, intermittently sipping his drink until the last drops had been downed and the ice chips had melted. She watched him all the while and, after some time, came to a gloomily ironic conclusion: This man, she decided, who was so obviously out of his depth, was like her – so like her. He too stared off into the room, unseeing and unfeeling, barely thinking – a miserable bent-back grey mare put to pasture too late, barely extant. Another inhale in and she pondered this. They were the same person, she realized, only at different stages – she earlier, he later. He drank to eradicate what she hoped to dull to comfortable numbness. Life had happened to him; it waited for her, lurking in wait to spring from some unseen shadowy corner.

Ridiculous dainty sandwiches sat untouched on their tray beside her, toothpicks stuck in as though the morsels were so large they couldn’t stay together, the little bits of attractively placed lettuce now slightly wilted – no use to anyone except as decoration, she thought imperiously as she breathed in the last few dregs of smoke from her cigarette. Ignoring the monstrosity of a grandfather clock that loomed in one corner, she pulled from her jacket a heavy gold men’s pocket-watch, opened it, and snapped it with a satisfying click.

In keeping with the implicit laws regarding one’s conduct in very nearly deserted bars, she left silently, not disturbing her barmate’s solitude. Slipping her glass and bill on the counter and donning her furs, she gave the necessary polite nod to bartender and wretched client and fairly slunk out, leaving the bar as desperately melancholy as it had been when she’d entered a day earlier, the plaintive record providing ambient noise for clinking glasses waiting to be filled and tired minds to wander.

~ r

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This is actually from last February, but I never posted it.

The weather lies… oh, it lies.

I walk down the driveway and hit the asphalt running, heading toward the dirt roads I plan to run on. They form a lattice, a grid of road handy for running. The air is surprisingly warm on my skin and I am glad I left my gloves sitting on my floor. It must be nearly forty degrees – unheard of for February. And this sun – what’s it doing out? Shouldn’t it be ducked behind a heavy curtain of unforgiving grey? But the sun is out and if you close your eyes and imagine, it could be the brink of spring, the grass about to paint the world green and the blooms about to spill a myriad of colors, tumbling forth from their gardens and flowerbeds. I will imagine.

After a minute I reach the dirt and turn right, skitting over a brown icy patch. As I approach the first hill, rising up between the frozen marshes at its flanks, I breathe in deep the deliciously icy air and look up. The sky is blue and the sun is shining; spilling whitish-yellow light over a landscape that would otherwise be dull and dead, devoid of exuberance. The dead trees, brown and spindly, reach creakily and penetrate the blue, but it isn’t dark. They are merely silhouetted, adding depth and value to an otherwise unblemished stark blue canvas.

I begin to feel the slight change in elevation that increases as I race forward – I am running a little too fast, perhaps, but it’s ok. I push myself up the hill and allow myself a little smile of satisfaction – reaching the top of a hill, this hill in particular, always fills me with a wonderful sunny sensation. I continue on, up the next two hills and turning onto the second dirt road. I am almost two miles into my run and haven’t run outside in some time – I am, admittedly, somewhat of a wimp when it comes to cold-weather running. I confine myself to the treadmill and take advantage of glorious days such as this when they present themselves.

Another small hill: I power up and feel myself tire slightly, but roll my heel and stretch and my stride and carry on. The trees lining the road begin to thin out, exposing the crisp sky again. A cornfield stretches into view as I reach the intersection; before I make the turn I glance to the right, scanning up the road. My eye automatically travels along with white fences, and I notice how sharp everything looks in the sunlight.

I make the turn, running into the wide shoulder. My foot sinks into a few inches of mud rather than the expected slate of frozen grit. After minimal slippage, I slop my foot from the mess and carry on on the cracked asphalt. The last few remnants of subdivision living grow distant behind me and soon I am flanked by fences and fields; the asphalt crackles out into a gravelly road. No cars whiz by any more, stirring up unwanted eddies of dust and flinging bits of rock at me. I run on in peace; the only distraction comes from my own doing: I spit and it backfires. I wipe most of it off but some stick stubbornly to my face. I shrug and laugh a little at myself; such is the life of a runner.

I’m almost to the trail now – I see the orange and red sign denoting its nearness. I catch myself wandering in my thoughts – composing this, no less – and force my mind to focus on the task at hand. My stride lengthens and my heel contacts the ground more smoothly and by the time I round the corner and onto the trail I have sped up.

I hit mud again; this time it is a dark mix of black dirt and white snow, creating a mix that rather resembles cookies and cream ice cream. For the first few meters I attempt to avoid the cold watery patches, but my foot betrays me and sinks in and after that, I give up. I spit once more and it arcs cleanly off to the side, as it usually does. I’m in the zone now with only a mile or so to go. I pick up the pace again, quite consciously this time, and before I know it I’m at the bridge, looking down to the left at the partially frozen stream. A ribbon of cold coppery-blue water runs between and under the shelves of frozen white snow that line the streambed and I watch my long shadow move across the brambles.

With a creaking push I leave the bridge and am quickly turning onto the last dirt road of my run; not long now. I see the final hill and run faster still. My breathing comes harder and faster now, but it doesn’t matter – I can expend all my energy, I’ll be done soon and won’t need it. I stare straight ahead and up as I feel the hill beneath my feet but don’t let my mind settle on the matter – the hill will beat you if you think about it; it’s not steep, but it is a long hill to have at the end of your run.

I fairly leap over the small icy ditch that has formed over the years between the dirt road and the asphalt of the subdivision roads. Only a few hundred meters now – I can see my house. The road bends a little and I begin to sprint, really sprint, and soon I’m at my block and the driveway is just there – I break into a full headlong sprint and stride in, arms pumping and breathing like a pump. As I round the last bend I see that my mom has just gotten home from teaching; she stands now in the driveway, watching me, and I feel her proud approval from the distance.

The driveway is a mere hundred meters away now and I am closing in on it fast. I’m in a race – there is no question as to that. I straighten my back and stretch my legs to their limit. My fingers tingle. My heart races. My feet pound.

Then I’m at the line and that breaks the spell; I slowly jog out of my stride and circle slowly back and forth in front of my house. My legs ache with that wonderful tired feeling of physical exertion and I begin to steady my breathing. Eventually I stand on the rounded curb, stretching my calves and hamstrings, and rest my hands on my hips and spit in the driveway. I look up and my mom calls, “Nice finish.” I issue a noncommittal grunt of acknowledgement; my brain hasn’t returned to normal functioning yet. It’s still in running mode.

~ r

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Read this and felt the need to share… for more witty/insightful/education repertoire, check out Brian White’s blog Talk Wordy To Me. For grammar geeks and word nerds alike.

Ars Technica had a story yesterday that said that copyright holders (mainly the music and movie industries) are reconsidering their preference for using the word “pirate” to describe people who steal music, movies, and other content:

Copyright holders have long preferred the term, with its suggestions of theft, destruction, and violence. The “pirates” have now co-opted the term, adopting it with gusto and hoisting the Jolly Roger across the Internet (The file-sharing site The Pirate Bay being the most famous example).

Now, in the post-Pirates of the Caribbean world, though:

Some of those concerned about online copyright infringement now realize that they may have created a monster by using the term “piracy.” This week, at the unveiling of a new study for the International Chamber of Commerce which argued that 1.2 million jobs could be lost in Europe as a result of copyright infringement by 2015, the head of the International Actors’ Federation lamented the term.

“We should change the word piracy,” she said at a press conference. “To me, piracy is something adventurous, it makes you think about Johnny Depp. We all want to be a bit like Johnny Depp. But we’re talking about a criminal act. We’re talking about making it impossible to make a living from what you do.”

Seriously? This is very silly. I don’t think anyone sits down to illegally download Avatar or the new Gorillaz album because they are thinking, “Arrr! I be a pirate of the cyber-seas and I be plundering the entertainment industry! Where’s me rum? Where’s me wenches? I am a little bit like Johnny Depp! Arrrrrr!”

Nor would more widespread use of the word thief to describe people who do this be a wake-up call. People aren’t stupid. No one in 2010 who is downloading copyrighted content thinks it is legal, whether it is called piracy or theft.

Way to blame your problems on words rather than your slow adaptation to emerging technology, entertainment industry.

On to the word nerdery. Here’s the etymology for pirate, culled from a few dictionaries and mashed together: Middle English, from Old French, from Latin pīrāta, from the Greek peirātēs, from peirān, meaning to attempt, to attack, assault, from peira, meaning trial, from the Indo-European base per-, meaning to bring through, penetrate.

[DISCLAIMER: I didn’t write this.]

~ r

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Grammar geek-out time!

I’m one of those grammar nazis – NOT nazi’s, mind you, *shudder – but I also have a strong affinity for words. Good words. Strong words, descriptive words, accurate words. My grandparents (a physical chemist and English professor, respectively) pointed out over Christmas break that, compared to other languages, English is extremely accurate – we have so many words that, in other languages, would be boiled down to one or two. Unfortunately, as today is, in fact, the last day of exams (which means that my brain is currently fried and running on peanut butter ice cream and saltine crackers)(yum), no examples immediately spring to mind. But they will. Eventually.

But I digress. I wrote my final article for news staff (due tonight at midnight – not procrastinating, no…), and I used the word “perk” to describe the benefit of getting college funds from joining the Marines. I had my dad (an engineer, but one of those rare engineers who are both [1] very competent engineers and [2] able to string together a decent sentence) look it over. He pointed out to me that “perk” was not actually correct, and that “perq” was.

“Perk” is now one of those words that, while technically incorrect, has become so widely used that “perq” is the choice regarded as incorrect. “Perq” is a shortened form of “perquisite,” meaning:

Main Entry: per·qui·site
Pronunciation: \ˈpər-kwə-zət\
Etymology: Middle English, property acquired by means other than inheritance, from Anglo-French perquisit, Medieval Latin perquisitum, from neuter of perquisitus, past participle of perquirere to purchase, acquire, from Latin, to search for thoroughly, from per- thoroughly + quaerere to seek
1 : a privilege, gain, or profit incidental to regular salary or wages; especially : one expected or promised
2 : gratuitytip
3 : something held or claimed as an exclusive right or possession

So I changed perk to perq and, in anticipation of my teacher not knowing the difference, provided a helpful PS.

And thus ends today’s verbal adventure. A demain!

~ r

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1.25 // Insomnia?

[from last night’s post-midnight musings…]

There is something undeniably romantic – albeit a tad irksome – about one’s inability to fall asleep, particularly if it is raining, which it is. You lay in bed, eyes wide open to the dark nothingness – which is in reality a whole world unto itself – or fitfully closed to another entirely different stark nothingness, darkness. You may lay awake, your mind a blank slate except for the awareness of being awake – the deaf and dumb world around you. Or your mind may be rushing, racing full of thoughts, wandering (or, indeed, zipping) to and fro. You may lay awake and ponder one’s life, view it as an outsider might, and so view your varying different paths.
It is an interesting thing to lie awake and feel that you are alone in the world – though not in a despicable way, not in the least; it is more the feeling of self-inclusion in a special club – as the rest  of the world goes by or slumbers on, slumbering as you, and your eyes, so yearn to, but the mind does not allow it.
Then, slowly, as the clock ticks unmercifully on and the rain patters gently on the roof outside your window (and your wrist cramps from writing what your mind requires), your lids finally, blessedly, begin to fall of their own accord and your head sinks to the pillow. Sleep has come.

~ r

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“I was never that girl, never the one who wasted hours and days pining away for that unattainable model of male perfection… I was focused, intent. Then I met Andrew and it was like… my world was turned inside-out with sudden, immense ferocity and I found myself to be that girl. The hopelessly in love girl who’d cease to exist the moment he walked out of the room… I was in love. And then he died, and my world was snatched away.”

~ Sacha Ivanonova

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…and it’s over! (Although I did finish a few days ago, technically, my novel is nowhere near finished. At the moment, it’s just over 100 pages/about 58,000 words… I’m thinking it’ll be over 400 pages by the end… hopefully…)

And the manuscript (a few days ago, at just over 80 pages):

…and now I’m getting sick and haven’t run since last Wednesday (or done abs or weights… hmmm….) Ciao!

~ r

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