Tag Archives: writing

Adding a new quote . . .

https://i2.wp.com/steamboattimes.com/images/mark_twain_writing/mark_twain_desk565x390.jpgMark Twain (bless his Connecticut Yankee heart) offered some very fine advice that took me a lifetime to hear.

Substitute damn every time you’re inclined to write very; your editor will delete it and the writing will be just as it should be.

An elegant and kind man with a poet’s touch

roger_ebertRoger Ebert, who died yesterday, began blogging in earnest some years back after cancer robbed him of speech. He racked up millions of hits and every post generated hundreds of comments.  I’ve written about him a few times. From March of 2010:

I discovered his blog a few months ago and was enchanted – a fine writer, a profoundly human man and very very brave. He’s wasting away from cancer – can no longer speak or eat. He doesn’t even have a jaw anymore. And yet he blogs. And he cares. And he has his finger on the pulse of the humanity that is us. I wish I knew him.

Roger Ebert’s Journal was much more than movies; while he chronicled the challenges of his illness he also wrote – always elegantly – of so many other things – of politics, music, art, children and cooking.

He and I were born in the same year, so when he wrote of his own youth, which he often did – as often happens with those battling terminal illnesses – I went back in time with him. Like in this passage from a very recent post titled “How I am a Roman Catholic”:

The nuns at St. Mary’s were Dominicans. They lived in a small square convent behind the school, holding six nuns (some taught two grades) and a cook and their housekeeping nun, who kept a sharp eye trained on us through her screen door. We had humble playground equipment, a swing set and two basketball hoops. Our principal sport was playing King of the World. This involved two boys standing on a log, each trying to push the other off. The housekeeper would open the screen door and shout, “If you break your necks, you have only yourselves to blame.”

It was from these nuns, especially Sister Nathan and Sister Rosanne, that I learned my core moral and political principles. I assumed they were Roman Catholic dogma. Many of them involved a Social Contract between God and man, which represented classical liberalism based on empathy and economic fairness. We heard much of Leo XIII’s encyclical “Rerum Novarum”–“On Capital and Labor.”

I’ll miss him and his writing but I’ll go back now and again to the archives. There is wisdom there.

Hiatus? Hiatus over? Mid-hiatus? Even I don’t know (I’m going with hiatus almost over)

It is my habit at breakfast to keep a pen and notepad at hand along with a small pair of scissors. While I read my paper and sip coffee, glorious coffee, I jot down thoughts to perhaps follow up on later, and often – too often – clip articles with interesting passages highlighted. (I tried that underlining thing – did you know that ball pens often cut through newsprint?) And thus do I seed posts for Whatever Works.

After the ritual, I drop  the morning harvest into a wire basket in the office. If the basket starts to fill up, I do some aggressive weeding, which isn’t hard since much of this is far less interesting at second look.

Right now the basket is full. It is overflowing. It is intimidating.  It has become the enemy. It mocks me mercilessly. And it impedes blogging.

I’ve learned that some things can be left unexamined without doing any harm. So it shall be and so shall I be unbloggy until I face down that nasty basket and strip it of its power. The wastebasket and I shall overcome. Soon.

Meanwhile, it’s summer, the pool and grill beckon, the days are blessedly slow and quiet time is here for the taking, not stolen as in other seasons.

This may be over tomorrow – hell, it could even be later today. So this post shall serve either as explanation for why no blogging, or a return . But that’s summer:  non-committal, and that’s okay.

The newfound movie critic

I just read something touching and remarkable by a man who is himself remarkable. Who knew? All those years watching or listening to Roger Ebert tell us about movies, and the whole time, hiding in plain sight, there was a philosopher, a raconteur, an acute observer of life. A few weeks ago, I posted a link to a letter he’d written to Rush Limbaugh. (Whether he actually sent it or not who knows, but Ebert was pretty fed up with the nonsense.) As soon as my post was up, I forgot about Roger Ebert.

But just now, following a stray link, I found myself back there. And this time I found the man himself. A man who’s been fighting cancer, has had endless surgeries, has lost his speech and oddly, his ability to eat and drink. Life is a different place for him now, and I just read a long post about eating and drinking – and not eating and drinking. Not an appealing subject matter, but in his hands . . . His writing is elegant in its simplicity. His voice is true and honest and humble and makes me wish I knew the guy. This passage makes me think we would get along very well indeed.

EBERT:  [driving around town] I never look at a trendy new restaurant and wish I could eat there. I peer into little storefront places, diners, ethnic places, and then I feel envy. After a movie we’ll drive past a formica restaurant with only two tables occupied, and I’ll wish I could be at one of them, having ordered something familiar and reading a book. I never felt alone in a situation like that. I was a soloist.

He wrote the post recently and it has nearly 700 comments. One doesn’t see those kinds of comment numbers outside the rarified atmosphere of the blog giants. I will explore his blog a bit more now – I’m sure it’ll be worth it.  While he still does movie stuff, his writing often veers toward this new journey he finds himself on.

Here’s another gem, from another post. First, he quotes Brendan Behan:
I respect kindness in human beings first of all, and kindness to animals. I don’t respect the law; I have a total irreverence for anything connected with society except that which makes the roads safer, the beer stronger, the food cheaper and the old men and old women warmer in the winter and happier in the summer.
And he adds, speaking for himself:
For 57 words, that does a pretty good job of summing it up. “Kindness” covers all of my political beliefs. “

Nice stuff.

UPDATE: Just added a link to Roger Ebert’s Journal to the blogroll on the right.