Fast Fiction: Motorcycle Drivers are Philanthropists, or at Least the Unselfish Ones

August 5, 2017

TerminatorFootHello everyone,

As I mentioned last month in this post, I’ve decided to pre-schedule a new series of blog posts based around writing exercises I’ve done during my monthly writers’ group meetings. This is the third that I will be sharing, and like the first two I feel it stakes out some contrasting ground for the ground and tone I want to cover in these displays of fast fiction.

Okay, as with all the posts in this series, let’s begin with a rundown of  the rules:

Rule #1: These pieces of fast fiction were generated from a prompt chosen at random, and that prompt will appear clearly labelled before the fiction and then clearly labelled again where it appears in the prose.

Rule #2: WordPress allows me a ‘click here to read the rest of the story’ break, and that will be used before the fast fiction begins in earnest so people browsing through this blog are not overwhelmed.

Rule #3: The prose of the fast fiction shall be transcribed from my handwriting accurately: Line breaks, grammar, punctuation, spelling, what-have-you. The point of showing a 10- or 15-minute first draft is saying what you tried to do in that time, so what does editing really get me? It’s more impressive showing how few mistakes I made and what I managed to do in the time allotted rather than correcting my errors or improving my first efforts for the sake of appearances. The very rare changes I really do deem necessary shall be noted with an asterisk and an apologetic explanation at the end.

Rule #4: After the fast fiction I will include a few sentences about my first thoughts of the prompt, what I was trying to do, what I am happy with, what I am unhappy with, and some other general thoughts. These entries are less about the actual prose and more about the exercise as a whole. Post-gaming that exercise will be a big part of the end result.

Rule #5: I have all my blog posts set up to automatically go out through Twitter. If I’m going to queue up twenty or so of them into the distant future, I will schedule them to go out at 3 am. I would not want to find myself in the midst of a happy moment or a sad moment tweeting some piece of irrelevant and therefore inappropriate short prose. Hopefully a 3 am posting time will keep me clear of that concern. I also reserve the right to reschedule these posts based on other things that should take priority on this blog.

With all that said, let’s go!

Prompt:

On the sticky paper next to my bare ass was a Polaroid picture of my foot that no one wanted.

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Fast Fiction: It Came From Above

July 22, 2017

FlyingSaucerHello again everyone,

As I mentioned in this post, I’ve decided to pre-schedule a series of blog posts based around writing exercises I’ve done over the last couple of years as part of my monthly writers’ group. This is the second that I will be sharing, and I chose it to go second both because I like it a lot, and also because it’s a stark contrast to the first one I posted. I might as well show some range as long as I am getting this idea up and running.

So, with that introduction done, I said I would start each one with a quick recitation of the rules:

Rule #1: These pieces of fast fiction were generated from a prompt chosen at random, and that prompt will appear clearly labelled before the fiction and then clearly labelled again where it appears in the prose.

Rule #2: WordPress allows me a ‘click here to read the rest of the story’ break, and that will be used before the fast fiction begins in earnest so people browsing through this blog are not overwhelmed.

Rule #3: The prose of the fast fiction shall be transcribed from my handwriting accurately: Line breaks, grammar, punctuation, spelling, what-have-you. The point of showing a 10- or 15-minute first draft is saying what you tried to do in that time, so what does editing really get me? It’s more impressive showing how few mistakes I made and what I managed to do in the time allotted rather than correcting my errors or improving my first efforts for the sake of appearances. The very rare changes I really do deem necessary shall be noted with an asterisk and an apologetic explanation at the end.

Rule #4: After the fast fiction I will include a few sentences about my first thoughts of the prompt, what I was trying to do, what I am happy with, what I am unhappy with, and some other general thoughts. These entries are less about the actual prose and more about the exercise as a whole. Post-gaming that exercise will be a big part of the end result.

Rule #5: I have all my blog posts set up to automatically go out through Twitter. If I’m going to queue up twenty or so of them into the distant future, I will schedule them to go out at 3 am. I would not want to find myself in the midst of a happy moment or a sad moment tweeting some piece of irrelevant and therefore inappropriate short prose. Hopefully a 3 am posting time will keep me clear of that concern. I also reserve the right to reschedule these posts based on other things that should take priority on this blog.

With all that said, let’s go!

Prompt:

She turned to the television screen waiting for me to finish my sentence. I didn’t because I couldn’t.

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Inca – Prologue and First Chapter

February 17, 2017

Cover_ImprovedAs I mentioned earlier in the week, I expect there’s going to be a spike in traffic to this blog in the coming days. A friend recommended I should put up sample chapters of my novels. I will start with Inca, which is my most popular book to date. It really seems to have found a home with people going to Peru as tourists, as it isn’t a travel guide or a text book.

It’s the life story of a high-ranking Inca bureaucrat: He is born into wealth and privilege; he spends his early adulthood living as a fugitive from Imperial justice; his middle years see him watch the Empire he loves tear itself apart, and by his old age he lives in the ruin of his life’s work, telling a Spanish friar to write down what he has to say so that through his words, his people will be remembered.

Here’s the Prologue and First Chapter:

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My (Belated) Favourite 15 Tweets of 2015 and 16 Tweets of 2016

February 14, 2017

toptweetsHello again everyone,

Once upon a time I made a regular habit of picking out my favourite tweets of the previous year and posting them on this site. Here are the posts for 2010, 2011, and 2012. I did 2013 & 2014 as a combined post, as I am now doing 2015 and 2016 together.

I have my tweets from @faceintheblue set up to automatically post as Facebook updates, so I get a lot of enjoyment from micro-blogging: It keeps me writing even when I only have a few seconds; it gives me something to look back on to reflect upon; it lets me engage with friends and strangers.

Anyway, if I am going to start building new content into this blog, I suppose resurrecting this little tradition will be a good place to start. It’s worth pointing out Twitter now allows line breaks in exchange for a character, so some of these tweets will use that freedom to allow multi-line structure.

Here are my favourites from the last couple of years. Enjoy!

 

My Favourite 15 Tweets of 2015

Feb 21, 2015

Through a Toucan Sam-like ability to follow my nose, I have found a bar specializing in local craft beer. I am establishing base camp…

(I tweeted this upon my first visit as an adult to Atlanta, Georgia. The beer was excellent.)

April 3, 2015

Saw my first guy out in shorts non-ironically: His legs are the same sun-starved white as his tube socks. #Toronto #SpringHasSprung.

(Spring in Toronto is often a fickle, tentative thing.)

June 8, 2015

This is a lot of rain, #Toronto. I’m pretty sure there’s a field mouse equivalent of Noah leading earthworms two by two into a shoebox ark.

July 24, 2015

A friend and I were talking politics at lunch with such gusto that the guy at the table next to us bought us a round and paid for our meal!

September 5, 2015

I have a theory that my cat’s joy in life is eating spiders while I’m away. In four and a half years I’ve never seen a spider in my home.

September 27, 2015

I just caught myself having an opinion about soup spoons: I prefer a broad, shallow bowl. Child-Me is appalled at what Adult-Me cares about.

September 30, 2015

That raccoon (or “trash panda” as I’ve lately heard them called) was the size of an obese border collie. I’m crossing the street. #Toronto

October 3, 2015

Forgot to buy cat food yesterday. My cat is having cat treats for breakfast. This does not bode well for my hypothetical future children…

October 10, 2015

Ah, the old ‘Visit your parents on Thanksgiving weekend with a suitcase of dirty laundry’ trick. It’s a classic!

October 29, 2015

Co-workers have discovered a service that rents kittens by 15-min increments. A new office threat? “I’m going to rent you so many kittens!”

November 12, 2015

#FIFA’s presidential candidates sound like Bond villains: Prince Ali Al Hussein? Jérôme Champagne? Gianni Infantino? Tokyo Sexwale? C’mon!

November 14, 2015

Thoughts on the flight: The distance between Air Canada Rouge’s seat rows is exactly equal to the length of my femur. Ask how I know that?

November 15, 2015

Disconcerting: When my drycleaner puts a note in with my suits & shirts saying, “Sorry, this is the best we can do”  but nothing is wrong.

(I never did figure out what was wrong.)

November 22, 2015

Half of the conversations at antique fairs are customers telling exhibitors what they would do if they were exhibitors instead of customers.

December 10, 2015

My co-worker has taken ordering food online too far: He just had a cup of coffee delivered by bike messenger. He’s gone mad with power.

My Favourite 16 Tweets of 2016

January 9, 2016

I’m a bachelor. I don’t know how to shop for babies. I’m about to give a 3-month-old a copy of Dr. Seuss’s The Lorax. He’ll grow into it…

February 20, 2016

There must be a class at Barber College about hating sideburns. I asked to keep mine as I sat down. “What? You want-a look-a like Elvis?!”

March 17, 2016

An old man asked if I was in line. I told him there’s no line at the bar.

“Aye? Then it’s a race, then!” He said.

I won.

#StPats

(This was on St. Patrick’s Day at a crowded Irish pub. I ruled that place with an iron fist. No one seems to understand the importance of eye contact, tipping early and well, and knowing what you want when it comes to getting a bartender to serve you over someone else.)

March 31, 2016

Shooting some of the best pool of my life on a first date. This was not the plan.

April 21, 2016

I’m trying to think of the last time I bought new underwear when I was not also out of clean underwear. So far nothing. #BachelorLife

(The hashtag #BachelorLife is a barrel of laughs, by the way.)

April 24, 2016

Just thinking about lucky rabbit feet: How lucky can they be? The rabbits had four apiece, and it didn’t do them any good.

May 22, 2016

I just passed a man walking a dog so pregnant the word ‘gravid’ came to me unbidden. That was one gravid bitch, technically speaking.

May 27, 2016

Some say I chose the Procrastinator’s Life. I disagree. The Procrastinator’s Life chose me… Eventually.

June 17, 2016

Sentences you don’t expect to say? I’ve joined my mother & father at a high-end hotdog joint to hear what Dad describes as, “A Hootenanny.”

(Note: This may have been tweeted after midnight on the 18th. If so, I stayed at the ‘hootenanny’ for a long time. It was a lot of fun!)

June 18, 2016

After the first stop, the only free seat on an otherwise sold-out bus is the one next to me. I feel like a leper: A leper with elbow room.

June 23, 2016

If I can liken my work computer to a dog –and I believe I can– it is starting to look like the last twenty minutes of Old Yeller in here.

(I did not end up having to put my computer down.)

July 8, 2016

‘By the skin of my teeth’ is an expression in the Bible. Exactly how much dental plaque do you need before you start calling it skin?

August 9, 2016

Trump gets that it’s not a dog whistle if everyone can hear him, right? I’d make a slide whistle joke, but he’s in trombone country now.

(This was when Trump said Second Amendment People should do something about Clinton after she wins the election.)

September 24, 2016

It’s interesting how often men in their 60s refer to table salt as ‘White Death.’ Oh, they still eat it, but they know they’re doing wrong.

October 20, 2016

“Trivia starts in 15 minutes. It can get a little loud.”

“That’s my fault,”” I admit.

The cafe’s polite laughter confirms it is true.

November 20, 2016

Baileys on the rocks? Check.

Music from 30-300 years before my birth? Check.

Very old Santa hat? Check.

Let’s decorate a Xmas Tree!

#HoHoHo


The rules to what I lovingly call “Old Man Poker”

April 20, 2015

cropped_fishing_photo

Hello again everyone!

I thought I’d start off my return to regular blogging talking about something near and dear to my heart: Hanging out with my father and his cronies during the annual fishing weekend. It began more than thirty years ago when a group of young men would help each other open a cottage in the spring or close it for the fall over the course of a long weekend, and it has evolved into an excuse to get together and spend some guy time away from the wives and kids. There’s golfing, and fishing, and telling the same tall tales the grow with each year’s repetition, and of course a healthy dose of eating and drinking like they still have the metabolism of twenty-somethings. They’re a cool bunch of guys, and I could go on at some length about how much fun we have, but for the sake of talking about something specific, I want to talk today about something we do every year that I never see anywhere else: We play what I lovingly call “Old Man Poker.”

fish_storyNow when most people of my generation talk about poker, they’re talking about Texas Hold’em. I can’t speak for everyone, but I believe Hold’em first rose to prominence in my imagination during the 2004-2005 NHL lockout. Canadian television was a wasteland that winter as station after station scrambled to fill all the airtime we normally spent watching the Toronto Maple Leafs lose, the Ottawa Senators choke, and Vancouver and Montreal whip themselves into a rioting fury whether they win or lose. Someone seized upon the bright idea of televising no limit Texas Hold’em tournaments as a cheap airtime filler, and before you know it every young man with at least four friends was organizing a get-together where he could push all his chips into the center while trying to deadpan, “All in.” I had a lot of fun with that as a young man, and without claiming to be any good at it, I won more than I lost. I enjoy Texas Hold’em a lot, and I can get my father and his friends to play it from time to time, but it’s not their game at all. For them, Texas Hold’em emerged as the king of Poker when they had already been playing poker for thirty years. They’re loyal to their way of doing things, and more power to them!

So what exactly is “Old Man Poker”? Speaking in broad terms, it’s the traditional poker games that would not have been out of place in a Legion Hall basement in the Fifties and Sixties. Everyone gets a turn as dealer, and each dealer calls his own game after anteing for the privilege. A dealer who starts describing his game of choice without putting his money down is met with a chorus of clearing throats and requests for him to speak up because no one can hear him. It’s a rule that mystifies the non-regulars at the table, but everyone learns in time.

Anyway, all manner of stud and draw games are welcome, and some truly rare and magical variations have been created over the years as well. My Dad’s crowd plays a friendly game with between twenty and thirty bucks in coins each. A dime is the traditional wager in each betting round, with a nickel almost automatically raised on principle and pennies not welcome. Twenty-five cents is big money, and the maximum raise per round is fifty cents. That said, many of these games have ten or twenty betting rounds, so folding money does trade hands over the course of the night. A player who goes bust is allowed to play on without anteing on the understanding that when they start winning again, they start paying again. It’s a pretty solid way to guarantee everyone will have a good time for the entire evening.

Here are a selection of some of the games that a dealer may choose from:

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Chasing Atlantis: Something You Should All Know About

November 23, 2012

Hello again, everyone,

I’m going to start with an apology: Once upon a time I resolved to write on this blog regularly, making a point to have at least one entry a month, come what may. That was a pretty easy thing to commit to when I had a couple hundred readers a day –many of them personal acquaintances– but my most recent post from three months ago now has had 168,597 readers to date, and I found myself paralyzed by a feeling of inadequacy. I’ve been retweeted and reblogged and followed on Facebook to the point where I know what I write next will be read by a thousand people expecting at least a few minutes of entertainment and possibly something worth thinking upon deeply and making their own. I’ve found myself gun shy: What can I possibly say next to all of those people who are going to read this blog one more time? What would hold your attention and give you value for your visit?

And then I remembered what my friend Matt Cimone has been up to lately.

As a rule, I don’t mention my friends by name on this blog. I do so now after careful deliberation. Let me back up for a moment and give some context to what I hope is going to be a worthwhile read: I have had the great good fortune to know a man for the last twelve years who I believe will one day make a positive mark on the collective human experience. I look forward to the day when I can say with pride I knew him in his youth. After my late grandfather, I strongly suspect Matt Cimone is the finest man I’ve ever known. When I find myself confronted with an ethical or moral dilemma, I ask myself, “What would Matt Cimone do?” I rarely follow that course, but it’s an interesting question to pose for the sake of finding one’s bearings.

I could give any number of examples of why I’m fortunate to know this man, but for the sake of brevity I’ll say he was a United Nations Goodwill Ambassador in his mid-20s; he’s founded his own charitable organization that uses the micro-credit model to empower entrepreneurs in third world countries, and he’s dedicated his life to being the change he wants to see in the world, a humanitarian who speaks openly and often about how we can all contribute in our own small way to a better future.

A year and a half ago, Matt Cimone asked me to go on a road trip with him to see the very last space shuttle launch. With deep reluctance I had to decline: I’d just quit my job, and I had to commit all my efforts to finding my next step. I watched Matt pile into a car with several friends and drive to Florida to join a million spectators as Atlantis hurled itself towards the heavens. In his usual above and beyond approach, he decided to create a short documentary about his experience on a hand-held digital camcorder. But that initial vision has since grown.

“There are a hundred films about the shuttle technology, but we are more interested in the people inspired by human space flight; those like us who always stood in wonder of the night sky.” Matt told me. “It began as a simple video about our trip. I thought we could put it online. Thankfully one of the five who came with us was my friend Paul Muzzin, founder of Riptide Studios. Paul is a filmmaker, and his expertise breathed new life into the film.”

“I’ve known Matt for almost 2 decades and I saw his passion for this trip,” Paul said. “His story is compelling, and I believe will resonate with an audience. While something shot on a handicamDigital SLR and put on YouTube would have still been from the heart, I believe that with some work this documentary could have a place in festivals and theatrical exhibition. I have also been a fan of the space program and always wanted to see a launch myself. In a sense, between directing this film and seeing the shuttle, I was fulfilling two dreams.”

Space exploration has always fascinated Matt, and witnessing the last shuttle launch was a catalyst for him. Human spaceflight brings out the dreams and aspirations of people from every walk of life, and so both he and Paul started interviewing people: Witnesses of the last launch, NASA spokespeople, fans of science fiction –both Matt and Paul are huge Trekkies, and Wil Wheaton even agreed to do an interview—even the astronauts themselves. The duo asked them what they thought, what they dreamed about.

Matt calls the story Chasing Atlantis, and from the humble beginnings of a road trip video of five friends to see the shuttle launch, it is evolving into a professionally shot, edited, and scored feature-length documentary about space exploration, ambition, and the freedom to imagine a future where the best that we hope we can be is given voice.

“Initially I only dared to think we’d make it this far.” Matt said. “When we combined the initial concept with what Paul envisioned we could accomplish with his production company behind us, doors started to open. We asked if we could conduct interviews, and people said yes. Suddenly we were doing something bigger and better. I would have never thought I’d be sitting across from future ISS commander Chris Hadfield or cast members from Star Trek when we first started planning all of this…well…I hoped, but I thought it would be a long shot.”

The common thread through all those interviewed is that the end of the shuttle program is just the turning of a page in the story of human ambition, of human discovery, of human aspiration and that regardless of if your dream is to go to space, or make a film, we all must chase the “Atlantis” in our own lives.

Here’s the current trailer:

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In a Mass Knife Fight to the Death Between Every American President, Who Would Win and Why?

August 22, 2012

Hello everyone!

One of my most-visited sites on the web is Reddit.com, and one of my favourite subreddits is HistoricalWhatIf, an online community that debates historical hypotheticals. Earlier today someone asked the question, In a mass knife fight to the death between every American President, who would win and why? Someone beat me to the obvious answer that a final showdown would see Andrew Jackson, Abraham Lincoln, and Teddy Roosevelt doing a dagger-wielding version of a Mexican standoff, so I took it too far and walked through how I thought every president would turn out. An hour later the result greatly exceeded the maximum 10,000 character limit for a post, so I’ve decided to blog about it instead.

To begin, here were the original conditions of the hypothetical, as suggested by the redditor Xineph:

  • Every president is in the best physical and mental condition they were ever in throughout the course of their presidency. Fatal maladies have been cured, but any lifelong conditions or chronic illnesses (e.g. FDR’s polio) remain.
  • The presidents are fighting in an ovular arena 287 feet long and 180 feet wide (the dimensions of the [1] Roman Colosseum). The floor is concrete. Assume that weather is not a factor.
  • Each president has been given one standard-issue [2] Gerber LHR Combat Knife , the knife [3] presented to each graduate of the United States Army Special Forces Qualification Course. Assume the presidents have no training outside any combat experiences they may have had in their own lives.
  • There is no penalty for avoiding combat for an extended period of time. Hiding and/or playing dead could be valid strategies, but there can be only one winner. The melee will go on as long as it needs to.
  • FDR has been outfitted with a [4] Bound Plus H-Frame Power Wheelchair, and can travel at a maximum speed of around 11.5 MPH. The wheelchair has been customized so that he is holding his knife with his dominant hand. This is to compensate for his almost certain and immediate defeat in the face of an overwhelming disadvantage.
  • Each president will be deposited in the arena regardless of their own will to fight, however, personal ethics, leadership ability, tactical expertise etc., should all be taken into account. Alliances are allowed.

(Note: On February 22nd, 2017, the redditors who originally came up with this historical what if contacted me asking if I could update this post to reflect their authorship of the points above. Of course I am happy to do so. Thank you Zach Ehrlich and Luke Conley for creating this fun writing prompt.)

With the scenario set, here’s my take on it:

1) George Washington – Commanding presence, strong physique, military training, viewed as a hero by everyone asked to shank him: He makes Top 10 without question. Of the guaranteed top three (I’m going to call them the Holy Trinity for the purposes of this rambling rundown), my money is on Jackson being the one who murders him; he wouldn’t blink, either. They were closer in age, and the hero myth wouldn’t be quite as firmly set. Besides, I’m pretty sure Jackson didn’t blink when he sneezed…

2) John Adams is going out early. Nothing against the man, but portly well-spoken lawyers bring lampoons to a knife fight. It doesn’t end well.

3) Thomas Jefferson. I’d like to say he’d make a good show of it, but he was a bit of dandy… Middle of the pack, but his dying words would be incredibly quotable.

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