Category Archives: Thoughts and Rants

Random thoughts about life, love and other unimportant stuff. Rants about stuff I can’t control . . . which is everything except what I write.

A Note Before I go

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A note before I go

To the ones I leave behind

Not in the event that I choose to remove myself

But in the event that I am removed

 

Most important, top of the charts

Is my bride, long-suffering my foibles and frailty, stubbornness and stupidity.

What love! What Beauty! What strength!

What more can be said …

 

My oldest, most cared for

And thus most damaged by my ignorance, my helicoptering gaze

Yet managing to rise above, to learn and grow

Most brilliant, most kind, most evolved …

 

My middle, following (surprisingly) in my footsteps

Sure and confident, clear and composed

Nothing for granted, everything possible

A truer star does not shine …

 

My youngest, surpassing all expectations

In music, in thought, in love, in action

Potential unlimited, accomplishments many

The universe opens its arms…

 

To all I give my love and hope

There is more

There is so much more

I pray you experience everything … accept everything

With open arms

With open heart

And open mind

 

Remember me truthfully

Do not embellish

For all that I am

I am …

By choice

By design

And by all those who came before,

Whom I loved and who loved me

As I love you

The Green and The Blue

 

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To live among the green and the blue

Far from the maddening hue

Of neon and incandescence

 

To abide within the hum of life

Not the discordant strife

Of Television nonsense

 

What dream of flowing stream

Would drive one to scream?

What vision of wind swept trees

Would cause one disease?

 

To fall and sleep under pristine sky

Hear the song of the wild

In ringing harmony

 

I feel the winds of fate blowing strong

I know it won’t be long

Ere I finally see

Remembrance Day Special Part 2 – Juno Beach and Canadian War Cemetary at Beny Sur mer

We must jump forward yet again to July 17, 2015 when we are in North of France, staying in the pretty seaside resort village of Honfleur.

We had been eager to see Juno Beach, the place where so many Canadians helped spearhead the victory against Hitler, and where so many Canadians died for freedom. We had another very special reason, to see how a member of MLW’s family was being honoured, because he also landed there … and lived.

It was a cloudy and windy day, but not raining yet, so as our thoughts continued to echo with versions of ‘How dare we complain’ from the visit to Ypres, we found the Juno Beach visitor centre (with some parking consternation that will be discussed at the appropriate juncture in the blog proper) and made or way to the entrance.

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MLW’s uncle by marriage, Armand Denicola –  now 92,- found himself on June 6, 1944 as a young private in the Canadian Scottish regiment just eight days before his 22nd birthday, in one of the landing craft, speeding towards a beach of an unimaginable Hell.

When asked how he survived, he calmly says, “Luck. You keep your head down and keep going and hope you might be one of the lucky ones who makes it.”

But in reality it is we who are the truly lucky ones.

We as a nation are lucky because we can live free from tyranny in our own country today. Our family are also lucky because had Armand not made it out, we would not have had the benefit of his influence on MLW’s family, with the subsequent cousins who have enriched and continue to enrich our lives, as does Armand himself.

Over the years, the dead have been rightly honoured, and lately as Canadians watched the ranks of the old veterans dwindle each passing Remembrance Day, I think we grew uncomfortable with the fact that the names of those who also fought but lived, had no plaque or engraving in stone to mark their deeds on that day and many others.

These humble veterans did not ask for the honour, it was others who bestowed it.

And so we were very happy to see the diamond-shaped kiosks erected outside the centre …  DSC_0005

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upon which we found this plaque.

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Canadians should feel pride; their centre is extremely well done, with movies and slide shows, presentations of individual stories and narratives of various themes which are added or changed each year. This year one added theme pertained to the lives of the ordinary citizens of Normandy and Canadians, from occupation to liberation. Some stories are told in letters which are read out in audio clips. Others are told in pictures and text.

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My father was in the merchant marine and faced many harrowing days aboard ship, not the least of which was the evacuation of British troops after the so-called Phony War, the Battle of Dunkirk, in which 861 vessels including freighters and fishing boats participated and of which 243 were sunk during the operation. The merchant marine played a vital role with little compensation or subsequently bestowed honours.

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Many people are not aware of the major role Canada played in early days of the modern Intelligence community.

Opened by Sir William Stephenson, a Canadian from Winnipeg, Manitoba, and a close confidante of Winston Churchill and FDR and dubbed Intrepid, a little place called Camp X in Whitby, Ontario trained not only Canadian but many British  agents from the Special Operations Executive,as well as agents from the FBI and the American Office of Strategic Services (OSS) the forerunner of the CIA. Most notable was Colonel William “Wild Bill” Donovan, war-time head of the OSS, who credited Stephenson with teaching Americans about foreign intelligence gathering.

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The man called Intrepid

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And there are the pictures that tell it all.

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The face of this poor man on the bottom left of this photograph is worth a million words.

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As you go into the final presentation room … DSC_0143

You must go and experience it

Outside the centre …

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They have guided tours of the beach and a German bunker which was uncovered when they cleared the park for access in 2004.

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Guided tours as of 2014 also include the tunnels that lead to the underground Command Post of the 6th Company, 736th Infantry Regiment of Hauptmann Grote, which controlled the site in 1944. The German Command Post was originally connected to the observation bunker by a covered tunnel

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According to our guide, the bunker had been known to be there in the 50;’s, but gradually got covered by the sand (the actually placement of the bunker would have been on the edge of the cliff in 1944; that is how far and fast the sands have moved) and so was forgotten, until some young people drinking there uncovered an access hole, and it was re-discovered.

The guide was able to tell us what rooms were which, as the plans for the most part followed the plans laid out for all the coastal bunkers forming part of the Atlantic Wall defense system which consisted of 9,671 Tobruk pits, 5976 bunkers 1, 591 other edifices

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10 million four hundred thousand tons of concrete!

1,350,000 workers!

In 1944, it contained radio equipment that allowed its occupants to communicate with other bunkers and coordinate the defense of the beach. A machine gun post was positioned on the top of the bunker.

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Going down into the command post …

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As the guide said “Imagine yourself as a villager being forced or coerced by resultant favours to build these bunkers. They did everything they could think of to sabotage the efforts, such as concreting in the hollow bricks sideways so they would collapse under an assault, or conveniently forgetting iron rebar reinforcements.

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The guide supposed that if you were an enemy solider taking the bunker, you would spy these air vents and think a great place to throw your grenade.

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She got someone to toss a rock in the top hole and it came right back out the bottom … BOOM! DSC_0055

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Back out on the beach, a pill box can be seen blown up and half-collapsed from the assault. This is Cosy’s pill box:

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This man in the Tank Corps, Leo Gariepy fought to liberate the beach and the town he would later return to and become an honoured citizen. DSC_0168

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It is so hard to imagine what it was like there,

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when you see the scene today …

DSC_0069   DSC_0157 DSC_0170 A part of me wishes more could have been left to show the next generations the landing craft, burnt out tanks, the barriers set up by the Germans, but …

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After all, this is what they fought for, the ability fo families to live and to enjoy a nice day at a beach without fear…

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These were the Canadians, and Armand’s regiment among them.

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This was the order of the day.

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Armand might add… and be lucky.

If you think it can’t happen again, consider the PM Mackenzie King, the PM of the day’s position

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We need to remember

They thought it would be easy

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It wasn’t … Victory was not assured.

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But  we got the job done, horrible and difficult as it was.

And Canada needs to be ready if called again.

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We left Juno and traveled to Canadian War Cemetery at Beny Sur mer. We overheard a man talking to a visitor there. He said the French have great respect for their fallen, and the dead of other countries who helped liberate them. All war cemeteries in their country are immaculately kept. I will let the pictures do the talking.

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We Will Remember Them

Part 1: go here                                                                                                             Part 3: go here

Artist Statement

Apparently everyone who is in the creative arts should have an Artist Statement, much like organizations have vision statements and mission statements.

It is not goal-setting; this comes after that chore.

The idea is to keep you on track with your goal, add fire to your muse and motivate you to carry on when difficulties and obstacles arise, which they always do.

Re-reading your Artist Statement, polishing it, making sure your goal and path align what it states is  important. Sometimes we get lost in the morass and chaos of creation. We get so excited and interested in a new project or work we don’t realize that although we are on track with our goal, suddenly the path or the goal itself are slightly off-kilter from our Artist Statement, our vision.

This is not always a bad thing; often the Artist Statement is made in the early stages of the journey, and we don’t know what we don’t know … or our interests change as we grow.

Using myself as an example, when I set my goal to publish a novel in five years (not a lofty goal, I know, but one I thought I could manage), I was interested in writing suspense/horror thrillers like Stephen King or Dean Koontz. I had an idea in mind for a story and I jumped into it.

Thus, when I threw down my Artist Statement, it looked like this:

I want to write to explore the depths of my own psyche, to bring out previously unheeded or unwanted thoughts and ideas within others, and to set something down that will live beyond me.

I wish to speak of the life interrupted, the lightning shift of life events.

Over the last year or so, I have taken to writing stories and works in progress that are better served as crime fiction./thrillers along the lines of Lee Child.

So today I realized that, while my  Artist Statement still applied within the scope of what I was writing and my goal, it was not quite aligned with my current path. So I changed it to match my changed path to my unchanged goal.

I added one line:

I desire to excite the reader and myself with a plot-driven yet character-rich crime fiction novel.

I believe this incorporates what I am doing and how I want to feel about my work.

The Artist Statement is not meant to be shared with the world, as it opens the artist up to the laughter of loved ones, scorn of so-called friends and the onslaught of hordes of were-gypsies casting spells to steal your soul, but hey! I can always delete this later.

So …

What about you?

Do you have an artist statement?

If so, how is it looking today?

Does it align with your goal and the path you are on now?

Are you brave enough to share?

<steps back, laughs, shovels a heap of scorn onto your head, and morphs into a wolverine wearing a diklo and a gold necklace, chanting “tolle animam eius!”>.

No?

OK, <returns to simpering scribe>

No problem, you’re not supposed to, remember?

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I, Me, My, Mine, Myself

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For the most part I think of only myself. I spend time pondering on my daily activity, my comfort and my own problems. I worry about my own challenges, my health and, in short,  my life.

I have held out a faint hope that most other people operate the same manner, but I ruefully suspect that this is not the case. I have a sneaking suspicion that almost everyone else is a champion of one cause or another. This one goes to Africa on a regular basis, that one volunteers at the Food Bank, the other one enters at least two Rides for Cancer every year.

The list goes on.

I console myself with the fact that I send money every month to a behemoth NGO with the fly-covered face of a frightened child in Darfur. I pray that the child-scrawled letters and photographs I get back are not fake, all the while knowing deep down that the money actually spills into a regional pot with at least 10% taken off for administration and does not directly benefit the woebegone waif on my brochure.

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I can live with myself, I can deal with my rue, I can smother my suspicion … most days.

But … there are other days.

Like the day I hear about the university student who dumpster-dives in her ‘spare time’, then takes the food home and cooks fantastic hot meals to take the homeless on the Downtown East side of Vancouver.

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Talk about making it hard on the rest of us! The nerve!

I confess my first thought in this regard is: “How can these people find the time to do this?”

My second thought is: “There must be something wrong with them.”

Naturally, my third thought is: “No, there must be something wrong with me.”

That’s when I look at my personalized Christmas card sent to me by the NGO with the encouragement to return it signed to my sponsored child and oh yes, “please send more money to Little Hussein so his family can buy a goat for his birthday”, and realize…. It just isn’t enough.

It is never enough.

I suspect that it’s never enough for the other wonderfully altruistic souls, either. In fact it might be what drives them. It’s like Oskar Schindler saying, “I could have gotten one more person … and I didn’t!”

More. Just one more. Always just one more.

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No, my life is not altruistic, it is a selfish one. I can never measure up to the other saints of whom I write.

But we all have the one thing in common: no matter how much we can do or want to do, it will never be enough.

However little our contribution may be, it is something. And something is better than the alternative.

I think.  I guess. I hope.

 rockydd

Bad writing ?

Recently I read the blog of an agent I admire because of her no-nonsense advice on querying and general writing tips and I was somewhat taken aback by what she believed was bad writing. While I agreed with 3 out of the 4 examples she gave, I found myself pondering 1 of them. The agent said the following was just plain bad writing:

“A scream escaped her throat.”

She preferred the minimalist:

“She screamed”.

Now, I do understand why she included this, as it certainly feels awkward, but leaving that aside … it does in fact convey something much more than simply “She screamed”.

It infers that the screamer attempted to hold back the scream; thus, the scream just couldn’t suddenly come out, it had to escape her throat.

This raises more questions: was she choking or being choked; was she so terrified to make noise that she wanted to hold in the scream but couldn’t?

In essence, the writer is trying to convey something more than a simple scream, and to generate reader engagement with the screamer’s predicament.

So, is this truly bad writing or simply writing that the readers of today won’t accept, because it may seem too literary in composition and therefore hard to read?

I personally believe the latter.

I mean, Charles Dickens was a fabulous writer of words, providing incredibly rich descriptions. He was a literary giant, but his style of writing would fail miserably today. No one has the attention span to slog through the verbiage. Elmore Leonard rules, Dickens drools. Which is mildly funny, since Leonard had been called ‘the Dickens of Detroit’.

I get it. A writer must go with the flow and realize that his / her writing must be as spare as possible to allow the reader of today to access it. This is or presumably will be your audience after all.

However, perhaps a better example of what the agent was trying to convey might be this: (Full Disclosure: I plagiarized this from http://jakonrath.blogspot.ca/ in a guest blog of advice by Leslie Wells)

“Meticulously and carefully, Dr. Pedantic graded the exams.”

Edited sentence: “Dr. Pedantic graded the exams meticulously.”

Meticulously and carefully convey similar meanings, so the writer needs only one of them to get the point across. Here, the first sentence certainly contains too much verbiage and adds nothing to the sentence or to the story.

Do you agree, disagree?

Do you have more examples?

If so please comment below.

(BTW, if anyone is interested in writing advice and how to self-publish in today’s market, I am just delving into the website mentioned above by Joe Konrath and it looks full of information and good advice ferom someone who has gone that route. Another excellent site is Hugh Lowey’s http://www.hughhowey.com/my-advice-to-aspiring-authors .)