convenience

[As I said last week, I wanted to put up an example of my writing that is more recent than the poems I’ve posted recently – here is a short story (flash) that I wrote just a few years ago. I hope you all enjoy it!]


She won’t go to the doctor for the diagnosis that’s sure to be bad for lack of convenience. Too much to do. Shows on TV that can’t be TIVO’d. Words in the search that can’t wait to be circled, and won’t find themselves. A chair to keep warm. Bills that don’t exist yet must be paid on time. Grass to monitor the non-cutting of. Baths to not take and Depends to change and slowly walk to the outside garbage can to deposit.

Eighty-two years is a long time to live. A lot goes on in that life of ‘following my military man around.’

“My mother came over one day to visit. She was out talking with me while I hung the wash on the line and I said something about my ‘kids.’ My mother shook her finger in my face and said, ‘Don’t you raise kids – you raise children!’” [finger shaking in the air, eyes glistening with tears that never fall]. I must have heard this on a daily basis in the years of vascular dementia as I moaned something about my own ‘kids.’

Staying in somebody else’s house because she can no longer live by herself – again, that’s just not convenient. Things aren’t the same in someone else’s house, even if it is your favorite son. For one, that damn daughter-in-law changes the TV channels too much. And listens in on phone conversations with the lawyer and the ‘out-of-town-children-that-never-come-to-visit-anymore-but-want-to-put-me-in-a-home.’ And complains about a lack of showers and insinuates something stinks.

Burying a husband of 60+ years is also not convenient, but when the bush-hog flips into the lake and crushes him against the dam [drowning was too damaging to the heart to even consider, we’ll never talk about it and it won’t ever be a possibility—instant death doing what he loved while painfully dying of cancer and a radiation seared prostate that never heals keeps the imagery happy] then there’s nothing left to do but hear the honor guard shoot and plant him in the ground. He’d love the image of planting, having worked a garden for as long as anyone left alive can remember. The minister, a grandson (18 great-grands to date!), gave a light-hearted eulogy that focused on accomplishment and autobiography and how a man loves a woman. Perhaps that’s how a funeral should be — no talk of abuse/alcohol/anger/war/death/anything-bad-at-all-especially-a-painful-memory-dammit.

Having your driver’s license taken away by a man who sees you for a few minutes every few months (but wears a nice white coat and has some paper from University Medical Center that gives him all the power) is absolutely not convenient. Now who will go check the PO Box? The mailbox is there at the end of the drive, but the mail is directed to the PO Box, and not the house box. No one should actually know where you live. Do you realize how much time it takes to cut your name and address off of every piece of mail you get and then shred it so no one will know where you live? Or steal your mailing address?

Now the cars will sit idle and the oil will thicken and the plates will expire and the insurance will run out or get cancelled. And what about emergencies? What do you do when you can’t drive and the only person around is the youngest son who still delivers pizza (at 40+ years of age) and really just visits for the free food and the cash and running water and a/c?

Age, perhaps, is the ultimate inconvenience in life. When you can’t remember and you can’t move or go or come and you just feel so tired all the time but can’t sleep. The grass keeps growing. The fences fall down. The dust piles up. The tractors and equipment rust in the rain. All that was once so precious to so many slowly decays with the passing of time and the neglect of care. The material things, and the intangibles.

Preparing for the next phase of life is not convenient either, especially if it’s a place we never wanted to go. Especially if it’s for death. There’s just too much to think about and plan out. What am I going to do with all my stuff? Who gets what? Who wants what? Who’ll be potentially disappointed and who won’t care? Too much inconvenience—doctors and lawyers and paperwork and decisions. Right now there’s too much living to be done to think about moving or dying. Too many years to remember and forget.

Perhaps when times aren’t so busy there’ll be a chance to work these things through. And hopefully [maybe this one will even get a half-prayer to help it along] hopefully, one day there’ll be a more convenient time to die.

Matthew Jackson

movie reviews

As I mentioned in my first movie review (of Anna Karenina, HERE), I’m not sure what it takes to qualify as a real movie reviewer, but I like to use these reviews in much the same way as I use book reviews – to capture a bit of my reaction to a movie. I don’t review books or movies that I read/watched in the past, rather I review the things I am experiencing right now. I’m always open to suggestions for books to read or movies to watch…heck, I’m always open to any type of suggestions about what people might like to see me write about! With that said, here are a few thoughts about a few of the movies I’ve seen recently.

as2 Atlas Shrugged 2: The Strike – This movie didn’t just come out, but it’s recent enough to be considered a “new release.” I am a big fan of the writing of Ayn Rand, and one of my favorites is her book, Atlas Shrugged. I was moderately impressed with the movie Atlas Shrugged part 1, and have been awaiting the second film in the series bringing the novel to life. It’s sad to say that, even as a person watching for the release of the film, I had no idea it was out until I accidentally ran across it while scrolling through available movies “On Demand.” The box office was small, but I’m not shocked with that since I never noticed a single drop of advertising for the film. The film was also panned critically – the critics all but hated it for a variety of reasons. I guess it’s no surprise, but by and large I don’t agree with the critics on this one. I thought the acting was passable – I definitely didn’t like that so many of the actors were different than those in the first movie, but the cast did a decent job nonetheless. The “stiffness” of Rand’s dialogue (another critical jab) works perfectly, both in the novel and in the film. For someone who is a fan of the novel, I thought they did a good job of keeping the general feel of the novel. A lot of gushing and dramatic dialogue would have totally broken that feel. The tension that Reardon and Dagny feel between themselves and over the business models that they cling to is highlighted and conveyed to the audience very successfully. Much of the important dialogue, places where Rand really drives home her philosophical points about free market and contribution and what is the public good – much of this is retained, thereby giving the viewing audience a good idea of the things Rand thought were important to convey with this particular novel. The only place I agreed with the critics was that some of the editing and effects were rather juvenile looking; the plane chase scene is particularly poorly done, forcing me to acknowledge that I was no longer suspending my disbelief, but rather watching a film with a tacky plane chase stuck on near the end. That one fail aside, I would definitely recommend this movie as one to see. I’d say see Part 1 before Part 2, and if possible, read the book before watching either.

ozOz the Great and Powerful – Any of the movies that I’ve seen in the theatre recently have been movies that I’ve taken my kids to see. Luckily, they have good taste and want to see things like The Hobbit. I was a little apprehensive to go and see the new Oz movie, but the kids wanted to go, so I rounded them up and off we went. I’m a big fan of the original Wizard of Oz; the kids have seen it, but have never been all that keen on the movie. For them, Oz the Great and Powerful was practically an introduction into the wonderful world of Oz, and I have to say that I was not disappointed. From the very beginning of the film, paying homage to the original by using black and white outside of Oz, the film captures the imagination and takes you on an adventure on par with the classic original. The story line of this film was well planned and original, with a fairly complete backstory developed over the course of the movie. The acting was not the best I’ve ever seen, but it was passable for an effects ladened movie targeted at a younger viewing audience. Speaking of effects, by and large they were magnificent – the land of Oz was brought to life in spectacular detail and color, and everything from backgrounds to fight scenes were very well put together graphically. There were just a few failures with the effects (for instance, a group of horses in the background of a scene which were poorly formed and lacked detail, leaving them looking like 4 legged blobs), which was disappointing because you expect a movie of this caliber to ensure that every single item is as perfect as it can possibly be. The only other issue I had with the movie was the choice to include some rather bizarrely shot scenes with the Wicked Witch. The camera angles in some of the shots was terrible, making her look like a giant head stuck on a tiny body. I know that capturing this classic character must have been something the director and editors struggled with – and mostly they did a good job – but the from below wide angle lens shots were a total failure (at least for this viewer). I think my kids had a good introduction to the world of Oz with this film, and I’m looking forward to re-watching the original with them soon, and seeing how they react now that they have more of a back story to lean on. All in all, this was a fun movie – we saw it in the theatre in 3D, and I would say it was worth the trip out with the kids to do so.

frankFrankenweenie – And now for a review “just for the kids.” Even though I have 5 kids that keep me fairly caught up on what’s new and hot in kids movies, every now and then a movie slips through the cracks. Frankenweenie was just such a movie. We saw it this weekend at Redbox, and upon discovering that we hadn’t seen it, I promptly rented it to watch with my 8 year old (while the other kids played video games or went to their friends). It was a delightfully done and quite enjoyable little film. The whole thing is done in black and white, which I loved, and which the kids asked tons of questions about before settling down to actually watch. They’ve never seen much in black and white. The animation was incredibly well done in this film, and both for the tone and the characters, black and white was perfect. I was impressed at how round the characters felt, as opposed to the typically flat characters we find in film, and animated characters in particular. The themes and tone of Frankenweenie are rather dark, but done in such a way that the viewer never loses sight of the possible light just head. Viewers are asked to think about love, loss, and death, and the deeper emotions aren’t just covered with a joke or a zinger every now and then (like in most animations) – the questions and emotions stay with the audience through much of the film. The story line is a little dark, and perhaps a bit slow for younger viewers near the middle, but the fullness of the characters and the roundness of story/plot left me satisfied at the end of the film.

Matthew Jackson

a note and a poem

I first want to apologize for missing my usual Monday morning posting. I noticed that a good number of people visited my blog yesterday (thank you!), and I assume that you were looking for my typical Monday post. This weekend was a rough one, mainly because I was horribly sick on Saturday, and trying to recover enough on Sunday to make it to work yesterday. I didn’t have any time to think about this week’s posts, and I was simply too weak and busy yesterday to get anything going. I haven’t been as sick as I was over the weekend in a long time, but thank goodness, it’s passed now.

So, to today’s post – I think I’ll post another poem from the journals I am reading back through. It continues to show development in my writing, and I love the way this particular poem takes some shape. Shape is something that became important to me at various times, and in various ways. This poem is shaped physically, and grouped by thought and by mood. Many of my poems (even today) have a physical shape that is somewhat related to the flow of the words/ideas, and as I post them here I will do my best to mimic the shape of the original. Again, I’ve certainly penned better (this was written when I was 17), but I find this particular piece enjoyable to rediscover. [Scroll so that you can have the entire poem, with its shape, on your screen as you read.]

        why – hello –
        i knew you once –
        many a day ago
        when lands were green
        and seas transparent –
        now they fade to grey –
        once i knew your name
        and smile –
        but that was many a
        day ago when gods were good
        and lovers true –
        now, the Anger seethes –
just in case you’re wondering – no i’m not lamenting
nor am i still crying (unless i draw a breath)
        once i knew your
        loving touch –
        how time erases memories –
        now i know the cold and
        hunger living alone will bring –
        now i know the pain and
        sore of sleeping on the ground –
        why – goodbye –
        i fear i no longer
        miss you
(until you cross my mind)

(written 4/4/96)

I think I’ll have to follow up these older poems with something more recent before too long. I have a harder time choosing something to post from my more recent writing…but I’ll make that my goal for next week – post a recently written piece of creative writing. Until then, I’ll keep going through my journals, and I have a few other ideas for later this week.

Matthew Jackson

camp nanowrimo

nanowrimoI first discovered NaNoWriMo this past November. NaNoWriMo – National Novel Writing Month – is essentially a challenge to write 50,000 words of a novel in one month. The contest takes place annually in November. I made it to about 52,000 words in November 2012, and that novel now stands just shy of 90,000 words. Here in the netherland between 80 and 90 thousand words, I’ve fallen a bit off track. It’s not that I don’t enjoy working on my novel, and it’s certainly not that I’ve run out of things to write, or am experiencing writer’s block. The novel is going wonderfully, and I have many more things already planned out for the story line. I know where the novel is going, where it will end, and how it will get there. I’m just struggling to find the time to set aside and actually do the business of writing.

Just a few days ago I received an email from the people who organize NaNoWriMo – this year, there will be a Camp NaNoWriMo in April! I immediately went to sign up. I’m excited to again give myself a deadline and a word count, and I’m hoping that I’ll find the time to work intensely, just like I did in November. This camp will even let you set a word count other than 50,000 – though I think I’ll leave mine right there. Another 50,000 will bring me right to the edge of completion, if my calculations are correct.

If you’ve never done NaNoWriMo, or even if you have, I invite you to join me for Camp NaNoWriMo this April. If you decide to accept the challenge, you can look me up and “friend” me – my username is matthewejackson

Here’s the link – Camp NaNaWriMo

Happy writing (and reading) to you all this weekend!

**Next week, look for at least one more poem, a book review, and who knows what else may show up!

Matthew Jackson

tour

As I mentioned with my last post, I’m combing through old journals and writings with a few specific things in mind. [If you haven’t read the previous post, it provides a little context for this one – HERE]. This particular poem is certainly not the best I’ve found, but it’s here with a purpose.

I’m very much enjoying watching my writing grow and evolve as I move forward in these journals – so I think I’ll mirror that a bit on my blog. The earliest poems in this particular journal are not worth printing at all [I’m tempted to print one just to show how bad they are] (though a few of them actually will be printed elsewhere) – this poem seems to be a point of demarcation in the journal – the poetry coming after it is much more mature than the earlier. Hopefully, we’ll all agree that it continues to improve as we move forward and see additional posts over the coming weeks. This particular poem certainly has a few weak lines, sags in the middle, and still has a touch of that teenage angst – but it also seems to be a more mature work coming from the mind of someone continuing to think seriously about writing, and working to improve the craft he loves.

Tour (written 4/3/96)

I saw you, once again today,
As I do most all the time –
Arm in arm and looking so sad
Behind the plaster masked grin –
I walked along the pavement streets
And watched an old man playing chess –
Talking to the cold night air and
Turning black within himself –
I sat in a courtroom, smiling inside
At Irony having her way with man –
Shackled & chained & orange clad
They march to meet their doom –
I stared into the mirr’r, today
And could not pull my eyes away –
For some reason I detest what I see,
I do not like what I’ve become –
I sat alone in my room and cried
As I’d done so many nights before,
Reaching to the midnight sky that
Always keeps inches out of reach –
Again I toured the city streets
And stared into the faces of agony –
Begging me for just a dime to
Fill their hungry cravings –
I wondered, sitting in a park
Upon a freshly painted bench –
Why not me among the crowds
Of sunken – desolate faces.

Still has a bit of that “teen-edge,” but perhaps it shows a bit of promise…I have several (increasingly better) poems planned for next week (and short fiction coming soon)!

Matthew Jackson