The Seeker

A Meta-Cognitive Journal About Writing… Plus Other Stuff

Archive for February 2011

On the Rebound pt. 3

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If you ever want to test the knowledge of even the most hardcore basketball fan, ask him to explain the concept of a “team rebound.”  It’s a stat that shows up in most every box score, but is seldom understood even by coaches and analysts.  The most frequent explanation I’ve heard is that a team rebound is scored when the ball hits the floor after a missed shot, and the team rebound goes to whichever side grabs the ball at that point.
The team rebound statistic exists in the first place so that the number of missed field goals is equal to the number of rebounds.  It seems, too, that a team can ‘t inentionally get a team rebound; one happens only circumstantially.  No game has ever been decided by the difference in team rebounds.  Nonetheless, here’s how your team can register a team rebound:  when you miss a shot at the buzzer, when the other team misses a shot and it goes out of bounds without touching a player, when the other team misses the second (or third) free throw in a sequence and the ball doesn’t touch the rim, and when a missed shot goes out of bounds off a member of the opposing team.
This chart has absolutely no bearing on anything I’m saying.
That’s all good, but team rebounds are pretty much irrelevant in the grand scheme of writing, unless you are using the concept of rebounding as an over-wrought metaphor to explain how you’ve tried to recover an abandoned short story so you might turn it into something decent or at least personally meaningful.  Even then, you play fast-and-loose with the concept and refer to the “team” part of “team rebounding” as the members of your writers group who are nice enough to look at your story and give you some feedback (those same members who are probably cringing at all this pain-inducing figurative language).

So that’s where I am now, in the “team rebounding” stage of my writing.  I’ve ground through six drafts of the story, and am ready to have other critical eyes on it.  It has to be this way when you write.  So seldom do I speak in absolutes, but this one is unavoidable.  If you’re going to do anything with your writing except keep it as a warm memory, you have to open it up to others.

I already have some feeback, and it has made a difference.  Now the rest of my homies are going to pile on their drop-dead assessments.  I’ll walk away with five or six sets of notes on where things went right, but mostly about where I need to fix things.  My biggest fear with this story is plausibility.  I’m dealing with two clinical settings, neither of which I have had any real experiences with (nor have I researched them).  I’m hoping I’ve handled the nuances of both settings with aplomb so as not to ring any false notes and so that the experiences of the characters carry the story without it getting snagged on jagged edges.

This is hard stuff for me.  I’m not trained as a fiction writer, and it seems that I like to build beyond my means with little deference to the strength of my foundation.  Sometimes the structure holds, but it seems over the last year that after the building inspectors get done with me, I’m left standing around with chunks of plaster in my hands, covered in sawdust, and that I don’t feel like pounding many more nails or hanging anymore drywall.  But I’m better for having tried to build something.  I guess.

A visual representation of another lame metaphor about writing.

Written by seeker70

February 13, 2011 at 10:28 am

Posted in Uncategorized

Day 2 of the Snow Typhoon: How I Survived The Class 3 Kill-Storm of 2011

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Wednesday, Feb. 2, 2011

9:15AM:  I woke up just a little bit ago, eager to see what damage had been wrought overnight.  The news reported that this blizzard is the third worst weather day in Chicago history.  Following are the five top winter storms to hit Chicago (taken from the Chicago Tribune website):

1. 23.0 inches on Jan. 26-27, 1967

2. 21.6 inches on Jan .1-3, 1999

3. 19.5 inches on Feb. 1-2, 2011 (and counting)

4. 19.2 inches on March 25-26, 1930

5. 18.8 inches on Jan. 13-14, 1979

The word on the news is that we’re not over it yet.  I don’t see anything on the radar.  This is what the balcony looked like this morning:

I hate to think how bad it would be if I hadn’t shoveled three times yesterday.

So I got up and made pancakes for breakfast.  I tuned Netflix to True Confessions, and have been enjoying it quite a bit.  It seems like a decent companion piece to L.A. Confidential.

2:30PM:  Something as simple as a well-deserved nap can derail your plans on a day like today.  That didn’t stop me from taking one, but I did have to force myself off the couch so I didn’t linger.  It was difficult.  Kitty loves naps, and if she could speak plain English, she probably would have lobbied for me to stay put.

I shoveled off the balcony once again and set up the grill.

My major concern right now is that we don’t have another snow day tomorrow.  It’s a bit sketchy and this point, but I am mostly confident that I’ll be back at the chalkboard tomorrow.  This is counter-intuitive, yes?  My concerns are purely selfish.  If we have to take another snow day, we’ll end up going to school on Pulaski Day, which would disrupt my plans for the 12th Annual Casmir Pulaski Memorial Poker Game.  That takes place on Sunday evening before Pulaski Day, and it’s hard enough to get the game together and get players without having to change it to Friday night.

There’s something more to my wishes, though.  Our students need those days off in the winter months.  They can quickly go stir crazy, and trouble usually follows.  When they have no school on President’s Day and Pulaski Day, it’s a chance to decompress.  That makes a huge difference with what happens in the hallways and classrooms.

6:26PM:  Well, shit.  No school tomorrow.  I guess that means this will be another night of staying up ’til the wee hours watching movies and writing and whatnot.  It’s not like I don’t have anything to do or am bored, but I would really rather be at work tomorrow.  The culprit this time isn’t just the snow, but also the temperatures.  We’re supposed to be down in the negative single digits tonight, maybe even lower.  Roads are pretty gnarly still, too, which means it’s dangerous to transport students.

This afternoon was great.  Once I roused from my nap, I fired up the grill, mixed a beverage, torched a cigar, and got out on the balcony.  I pulled my outdoor speaker out of the closet and tuned it in to some Ray Charles radio on Pandora, and had a grand old time of it in the cold while the steaks slowly sizzled.  You know what I learned about grilling?  Get your meat to room temperature, and then lay it on the grill at the lowest temperature setting.  Low and slow.  It gives you plenty of time to relax and enjoy the grilling process, you don’t have to worry about burning anything, and the meat is nice and juicy.

Despite the found joys of the day, I’m in a funk.  I think the only thing that can resusitate me is an epic war film.  I tried the obscure Shout at the Devil, but it’s barely passable and I’ve only had it on for background noise.  Looks like it’s time to dig through what I have at my disposal.  If I can find The Bridge on the River Kwai, that might do.  Funny thing about that one:  The book upon which it was based was written by Pierre Boulle, who also wrote Planet of the Apes.  That’s an odd combination.

11:45PM:  I just finished movie #3 for the day, The Pledge.  I had seen most of it a few years back, so I decided to go all in and take it in start to finish.  It’s a pretty decent flick for a standard police procedural.

It’s 8° outside and dropping.  Tomorrow I’ll clean the house for a little bit and make a list of everything I need for the Super Bowl party I’m hosting.  I have more stuff to write.  Maybe I’ll read some, too.  God forbid things would get so bad that I’d actually do some school work.

Written by seeker70

February 2, 2011 at 11:51 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Day 1 of the Snow Typhoon: How I Survived The Class 3 Kill-Storm of 2011

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Kent Brockman:  Roads closed, pipes frozen, albinos…virtually invisible. The National Weather Service has upgraded Springfield’s blizzard from “Winter Wonderland” to a “Class 3 Kill-Storm”!”  ~ from The Simpsons Season 12, Episode 8, “Skinner’s Sense of Snow”
 Tuesday, Feb. 1, 2011

5PM:  There is a white blot on the weather radar map that stretches from eastern reaches of Kansas and Nebraska past Chicago and into southwest Michigan.  I’m watching it as I work out in the gym next to my condo.  It’s not moving so much as it is crawling over 500 miles of real estate and deliberately inching its way northeast.  We could get as much as two feet of snow by this time tomorrow.  I’m working out now so I can totally wallow in the joy of a snow day tomorrow without worrying about making time for the gym.

For the first time that anybody at my school can remember, school has been called off the day before a weather event.  We are notorious for not cancelling school.  In 2008, we were one of the only schools in Lake County to stay open despire a foot of snow that was imminent.  In 1994, temperatures plummeted to -20 and we still had school.  We’re hardcore.  Or at least stubborn.  Maybe we’re a bit ridiculous, too.

You’d think that this would mean that it’s time to go crazy:  stay up late, drink some cocktails, watch movies, surf the internet, call your friends.  You’re right.  It means all those things and more–hence my workout tonight so I don’t have to think about it tomorrow.  But as a teacher, you have to be careful not to over estimate things.  It’s only one day (at least so far).  Try as you might, you can’t do it all.  But I have plans to stuff everything I can into tonight and tomorrow.

7:30PM:  The parking lot of my condo is getting plowed.  It will be the first of several plowings, I’m sure.  I shoveled off my balcony, turned my grill to face the door, and turned on my Christmas lights.  I’ve been kicking myself for not taking them down, but now it’s all good.  The bulbs are glowing beneath a blanket of snow.  It looks warm; festive.

There are at least 15 movies I could watch tonight.  I just scanned through them on my TV guide.  That’s not counting what can be found on Netflix, which I have streaming on my TV.  That, and Pandora.  I have plenty to keep me busy and entertained.

9:11PM There are icicles hanging from the hoods of the light poles in the parking lot.  It is snowing so furiously that you can almost see the icicles growing by the minute as the snow melts on top of the hoods and drips to the edges and is frozen by the blasts of wind.  Some of the icicles are 7″ long.  I watched one get blasted from its perch a few minutes ago and shatter on the asphalt, which has been plowed three times now.

Priority #1 tonight has been to keep working on the short story I’ve been writing about in On the Rebound.  That’s going well.  Now it’s time for a burger and a cocktail as I watch Solitary Man.  I’m going out in this mess later on.  Just for the hell of it.

 11:13PM:  I shoveled off my balcony again, and cleared off my grill.  Both are taking a high priority right now because they figure prominently into my plans for tomorrow.  I have two steaks thawing in the fridge right now, and I’m going to grill them tomorrow afternoon.  While I’m at it, I’ll probably smoke a cigar.  Why not?  It’s a snow day!  Get crazy!  Hog wild!

The icicles on the hoods of the light poles are much longer now.  They look sinister, like an opaque handful of claws casting a spell of frigid death.

The blowing snow and ice feel like hundreds of needles stinging your face, at least for the few minutes you can feel them before the arctic blasts numb your flesh.  That’s when you walk into the wind, which I had to do coming back to my condo.  Walking with the wind, down the block, it wasn’t so bad.  The wind buffetted my back, which I hardly noticed.  I trekked a block down the street to check things out.  It was easier to shuffle and slide my feet than it was to actually walk.  I dug a swim mask out of my closet that I could wear to protect my eyes so I could at least see as I walked.  The lenses are tinted, though, so visibility was low.  I walked past an abandoned mini-van that was left in the middle of the street with its blinkers flashing.  By the time I got back, the seal of my mask was crusted with ice.  Snow had somehow been blown into the zipper liner of my coat.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

1:57AM:  I shoveled the balcony and cleared the grill again.  I’ve never heard the wind whirl and howl like it is; it sounds like waves crashing on a beach.  Big waves.  I snapped this picture while I was out there–  that’s 8″ of snow on my covered balcony:


 So now it’s off to bed.  I’ll stay up for a little while and work on the story, and then sleep until who knows when.  It’s like a little weekend right in the middle of the week.  I have a big day planned tomorrow…  movies, writing, working in the kitchen, cocktails, cigars, steak, potatoes…

Written by seeker70

February 2, 2011 at 2:17 am

Posted in Uncategorized

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