The Seeker

A Meta-Cognitive Journal About Writing… Plus Other Stuff

Archive for September 2011

Something’s Brewing pt. 7–Herb Takes Exception

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Note:  If you’ve been reading The Seeker for the past few years, you’ve come across some of Herb’s writing.  He reflected on Michael Jackson’s death a few years ago, and last year I was honored to put up his elegy to a late friend.  Though he never comments in public (despite my requests that he do so…), he does email me frequently with reactions to whichever posts attract his attention.  A few days ago, in what I can only imagine as a spit take when he read it, Herb let me know what he thought of my assessment that the Cubs played sorta respectable baseball this year.

Herb commented:

Respectable? Most teams have at least one hitter near Ramirez’s .300.  Certainly Castro is a true find even if he throws errantly at times or spends more time spitting sunflower seed shells than watching what’s going on on the field, and hits is the only area in which he leads compared to the leaders in all other categories in the National League. Plus, the Cubbies are tied with the Pirates as of this moment with a 70-87 record, 22 games out of first and ahead of only the Astros in the central division. Only two other teams in the National League including Houston have won less games, with Colorado having lost as many. Zambrano was an embarrassment and hopefully will not dirty the Cubs’ towels again. Hendry got fired before the season ended. Their boss seems to think all will be well if he goes out to the bleachers and hands out free baseballs. Soto may have 17 homers for the second straight year but is nowhere near his Rookie of the Year status from 2008.  Quade has not been the inspirational answer the players fought for at the end of last year, and it remains to be seen what kind of refreshing new g.m. Ricketts will bring in.  So, respectable?  I think not. But as you say, that’s the beauty of the game. It’s like starting a new school year: everything is clean and shining and nice and full of promise, and then…

 I did wrap up my very brief thoughts on the Cubs by noting that silver linings were hard to find anywhere near the corner of Sheffield and Addison, and honestly I skimmed over the crap that is that Cubs in favor of focusing on The Brewers, which is exactly how I dealt with the Cubs this year.
Truth be known, it was easy to unplug myself from the annual Northside Misery.  I still like the Cubs, but I’m tired of them.  I’m tired of the bumbling play and management.  I’m tired of the ticket scalping scene around Wrigley.  I’m tired of Zambrano.  I’m tired of the frat party atmosphere on game days.  Hell, I’m tired of being tired of it all.  Before this summer, it had been over two full seasons since I had gone to a game at Wrigley, and I didn’t miss it.  I was apathetic to the pathetic.  These feelings started to take root several years ago–last year I ran Carlos Zambrano Must Die, a serial examining the dolt’s game-by-game performance and his overall usefulness to the team.  Thankfully he short-circuited my short-sighted painfest by getting demoted to the bullpen, so I didn’t have to keep up with the serial.  Three years ago, I posted Notes on the Last Night of Misery, all about the assininity that was the Cubs playoff “run” and questioning the effectiveness of Lou Pinella.  Furthermore, at the risk of sounding heartless, I didn’t shed any tears when Ron Santo died.  While I respect his work for the Juvenile Diabetes Relief Fund and appreciate what he brought to the Cubs as a player, he was an unintelligible buffoon on the radio who all too often was out of touch with what was happening on the field and how to perform his job.  His pandering to the Hall of Fame diminished his accomplishments.  Fans ignore the fact that his fingerprints are part of an unbelievably epic collapse in the summer of 1969.  Instead, he is celebrated for being almost good enough.  Given all this, I’ll ultimately remember Ronnie as the embodiment of the most profound problem happening at the Friendly Confines:  He was all about nostalgia with no regard to excellence.
So yeah, I’m with Herb.  I guess I’m lucky in that I can unplug my Cubs feelings with relative ease when there is meaningful, well-played baseball to watch played by a nearby franchise that is finally getting things right.  And this shouldn’t be a surprise to anybody who knows me or reads this blog.  One of my first published stories, Shades of Blue, is all about how I came to my dual citizenship as a Cubs and Brewers fan.
Thanks for checking in, Herb, and setting the record straight.

Written by seeker70

September 27, 2011 at 4:44 pm

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Something’s Brewing pt. 7

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I wasn’t expecting to shoot out a blog entry tonight, mainly because I wasn’t expecting the lowly Mets to mount a late-game comeback against the Cardinals and then win the game in extra innings this afternoon.  But that’s the beauty of baseball:  The Unexpected.  Some would call it irony.  Since the ironic Mets decided to get their act together and not fold to the Cardinals for a fourth straight game, the Brewers magic number is now at two.  That means they could wrap up the division and start preparing for the playoffs as early as tomorrow night.  Let’s hope they do it post haste–they should have had things wrapped up by now anyhow.

If they don’t win the division at this point, I’ll eat that Milwaukee Braves hat I bought last April.

I'll be lucky if this thing tastes half as good as it looks.

This is a good time to check on the predictions I made for the National League Central last spring:

  • The Pirates and Astros will suck:  Check (though Pittsburgh looked good up until the All-Star break)
  • The Cubs are rebuilding but will be respectable:  Sorta Check (Starlin Castro will reach 200 hits, Aramis Ramirez somehow battled to a +.300 batting average, and they probably are rid of Carlos Zambrano for good.  Not many silver linings here.)
  • Dusty Baker will screw up the Reds:  Check (this is almost as good as seeing the Brewers make the playoffs; with any luck Dusty will be out of baseball for good in about a week)
  • The Cardinals will cap out at 85 wins:  Sorta Check (they can still win as many as 92, and had Adam Wainwright been healthy they would be in a serious dogfight with the Brewers right now)

So now I’m going to sit tight for a week until the playoffs start.  If things go right, I’ll be blogging about this for another month.  I’ve already planned my road to the World Series:

1.  Cheer for the Brewers

2.  Cheer for the Tigers

3.  Cheer against the Yankees.

Written by seeker70

September 22, 2011 at 7:35 pm

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Digging Up Bones

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I spent Saturday morning finishing the first draft of a story.  That’s better news that you might think–it signifies that I am finally back on the horse since returning from The Skids.  I hadn’t done a whole lot of writing since returning, other than to potter around a bit with a poem and edit a piece for a friend.  Then school got started and I was enveloped in the back-to-school rush, so I was busy.  But it’s that back-to-school rush that is in some ways responsible for me getting back on the horse.  Lots of “back” being referenced here, I know…

I was arranging my hard drive space at school when I came across a story I started last spring.  It looked foreign to me; couldn’t remember much of anything I had written that I titled “Anthropology.”  So I peeked at it and it all came back to me.  The idea had come to me in a rush one day over Spring Break when I walked into Starbucks; I went there in the first place to work on “Duty,” a story from last winter, which I actually started in early summer of 2010.  Are you following all this?  I furiously scratched out as much of the first life of “Anthropology” I could in about an hour and a half that day, then returned to it a few more times, never quite getting as far as I wanted.  Within two weeks, I had done even more refining of the rough start and a major overhaul in the point of view.  Then I got stuck.  Then I got frustrated.  Then I kicked myself for a while, and abandoned the piece.

I looked at it with new eyes two weeks ago, and thought almost aloud, “That’s not too bad….”  Then the ending of the story came to me and I understood what the story is really about–all in about the time it took a synapse to fire in my brain–and I knew I had to put some time into it.  I dug through the journal I was using last spring and found 3 drafts of the start, each one inching a little futher along.  So I started to work anew in my current journal, from the very beginning.  It was like I was clinging to that journal for life, too.  For whatever reason, the first full draft had to exist in my journal if it was going to exist anywhere.  So now it does.

Aside from being happy with the first draft, I’m even happier to have put together a piece of the fiction writing puzzle in my head.  I recognized a pattern in my process:  I start short stories with fury and passion, work to the point of frustration, kick myself for biting off too much, and then come back months later with a fresh set of eyes and crank out something I’m happy with.  What’s really important here is that I now recognize my process.  I’m not interested in analyzing it any further than that.  Knowing what it is helps me work with it as effectivley as I can and not freak out when things don’t fall together for me the way they tend to when I write nonfiction.

More to come on this one.

Written by seeker70

September 12, 2011 at 8:54 pm

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Steinbeck’s Turkey Shoot

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I’ve referenced John Steinbeck before in these pages, both as a writer who inspires me and as a voice for working class labor struggles.  Steinbeck has been on my mind again of late as a school community with which I am intimately acquainted manages its labor issues.  I am reminded of a symbolic act described in The Grapes of Wrath.  The scene comes in Chapter 24 after an attempted break-up of the fruit picker’s camp .  A character named Black Hat suggests a course of action for his fellow beleaguered laborers by relating something he heard about:

“…  Fella tol’ me what happened in Akron, Ohio.  Rubber companies.  They got mountain people in ’cause they’d work cheap.  An’ these here mountain people up an’ joined the union.  Well, sir, hell jes’ popped.  All them storekeepers and legioners an’ people like that, they get drillin’ an yellin’, ‘Red!’  An’ they’re gonna run the union right outa Akron.  Preachers git a-preachin’ about it, an’ papers a-yowlin’, an’ they’s pick handles put out by the rubber companies, an’ they’re a-buyin’ gas.  Jesus, you’d think them mountain boys was reg’lar devils!…  Well, sir–it was las’ March, an’ one Sunday five thousan’ of them mountain men had a turkey shoot outside a town.  Five thousan’ of ’em jes’ marched through town with their rifles.  An’ they had their turkey shoot, an’ then they marched back.  An’ that’s all they done.  Well, sir, they ain’t been no trouble sence then.  These here citizens committees give back the pick handles, an’ the storekeepers keep their stores, an’ nobody been killed.”

The actions Black Hat describes are fictional, but he alludes to an actual episode.  An annotated edition of The Grapes of Wrath explains that in February, 1936, ten thousand workers formed an 11-mile picket line around the fences of Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company to picket against layoffs.  Within days, Akron citizens formed a “Law and Order League” to encourage labor organizers and other outside agitators to leave town (this was common elsewhere in the midwest).  As such, the war veterans in the union ranks began conducting military-type drills to prepare for any attacks.  The conflict was resolved the next month.

It’s not the threat of violence from the fictional mountain men or the real-life war veterans that fixes my attention–it’s the rallying for a common just cause.  It’s the preparedness to meet outside threats.  It’s the show of unity.  It’s all very inspirational.

Written by seeker70

September 1, 2011 at 9:03 pm

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