On being gregarious when things are precarious

I used to think that I wasn't gregarious
but now that everything seems so precarious
and sometimes even just downright nefarious,
and everyday pleasures grow mostly vicarious,
I see my old thinking as almost hilarious.

Stay well, my friends, and keep your distance.

B.J.

The New Desiderata (2003)

Pulled from the archives…


With apologies to Max Ehrmann
Desideratum = something desired as essential. – Merriam-Webster

Go noisily among the silent and apathetic and remember what virtue there may be in saying what you think. Suffer not the fools of the earth but be on good terms with all others. – Think carefully before you speak, but say your truth plainly and loudly enough for all to hear. – Yes, listen even to the dull and ignorant, especially those who became so through no fault of their own. The purposely ignorant deserve nothing more than your scorn; they have their stories, too, but none that are worth knowing. – Avoid telemarketers, insurance salesmen and yammering pundits; they are vexations to the spirit. – Compare yourself with others only to see how you can grow as a human being; find someone to be like who is worth emulating.

Sunday Goose, Lake McIntosh, Longs Peak, Colorado

For your successes, give due credit to your maker and your parents and your teachers; your failures and mistakes are your own. Forgive yourself and go on. – If you can, devote yourself to meaningful work that you enjoy, but remember that any honest labor is worthwhile if it contributes to the well-being of your family. – Steal from no one; if you want something, be willing to pay for it. – Entertain no silly ideas about the inherent honesty and goodness of the people; many have high ideals, but many hold to no universal truths other than their own consciences and desires. – Be true to your school.

Trust those you love; with others, verify. – Give no one reason to doubt your word or sincerity. In the face of cynicism and reality that is only virtual, your word is still your bond and your good name all you can take with you. – Unless misfortune or disease strikes you down, you will get old; deal with it. – Few things are as bad as you imagine they will be. Think of all who have taken your path before; they managed somehow.

Being here is a gift you have been given and there are strings attached: You are here to help the universe unfold, and others are counting on you. – Live a good life, and do nothing that would displease your mother. – It really can be a beautiful world if you treat it that way. Don’t worry. Be happy.


Found on a PC in East Central Iowa, circa 2003.

© B.J. Smith

Read a book – free on me!

I’m like a lot of people who have some extra time on their hands these days. Instead of taking the bus to work and back, I walk downstairs to work remotely and walk back up later. With all that commute time saved, I’ve been poking around and moping around here at The Smith Compound.

ebook cover

Today after work I Zoomed a friend to wish him happy birthday and catch up a little over a remote beer. His birthday was yesterday and a surprise party got canceled, like almost everything else. We adjust.

Anyhow, while I was poking (and moping) around earlier, I came across some free ebooks that I’ve been meaning to offer to whoever is interested. I have giveaway links for four (4) Detective Red Shaw novels, one for each of the next four readers who join my mailing list.

Which reminds me I haven’t actually sent anything to the fine folks on my list in quite a while. I did promise not to overdo it, but now I’ve got an idea for something that might work.

We shall see.

Read on, my friends, and keep your social distance.

B.J.

The Book Hunt

It started with a tweet, the book hunt did.

Ebooks are OK, but eventually a person gets the urge to feel the real thing, smell the ink and old paper, to riffle through pages like a deck of cards and listen to the slap-slap-slap, fast or slow or both, again and again.

On a nicer day I would have ridden my bike, but today I took the Prius the quick eight miles to Inkberry Books in Niwot. I walked in the door with two paperbacks I’d grabbed from the cart out front. A buck each.

I told Gene I felt like I was stealing from him as I dropped a faded Nero Wolfe on the desk. Prisoner’s Base by Rex Stout is older than me by a year. The real steal, though: The Black Lizard Anthology of Crime Fiction from 1987.

Successful hunting

Gene rang them up before I knew it. $2.16.

“I’m not done yet, Gene,” I said. I told him it was a great start but I was on a hunt. I wanted more crime fiction, the classic stuff. He pointed the way.

I soon latched on to The Case of the Blonde Bonanza, a hardback Perry Mason by Erle Stanley Gardner. Continuing down the shelves I passed by my own Detective Red Shaw novels, two copies of each. Then Micky Spillane caught my eye: The Goliath Bone, a Mike Hammer novel that Max Allan Collins finished after Spillane died in 2006.

Small world.

Max led a week-long mystery writing workshop I attended in Iowa City way back when I’d only written the first draft of a couple of chapters of my first crime novel. He encouraged me to keep going, as did some of the other writers. He chided us all one day for being so polite in our critiques of each other’s work. Nobody cried. He took us all out for ice cream downtown the last day.

Years later he autographed his Road to Perdition graphic novel for my daughter and me at Barnes & Noble in Cedar Rapids.

Nice guy. Helluva writer, prolific as they get.

Bonus: One of his stories is in the anthology I stole from Gene.

Read on, my friends. Read on.

B.J.

Advice for writers: Don’t call yourselves something else

A documentarian is someone who makes documentaries, right?

That’s what I’ve always thought and my favorite dictionary agrees with me, which makes it an excellent dictionary.

Some time ago, however, I came across a group for writers called Write the Docs – a “global community of people who care about documentation.”

Just a suggestion…

The people call themselves documentarians.

I get their monthly newsletter and that word bugs the hell out of me. (I know what Wiktionary says on the topic, but I don’t care and neither should you. It’s Wiktionary, for crying out loud.)

I’m sure WtD is an otherwise fine organization that meets the needs of some thousands of humans who write and edit documentation and so on. The website has lots of links that various types of writers will find valuable.

What I don’t see on the site under the “Job listings” heading are any jobs for documentarians. That use of the word may catch on more widely someday, and even land in my favorite dictionary, where you can already find documentalist.

My advice? Don’t use either of those words on your résumé if you want to find a job.

Write on,

B.J.

Curiosity, Irish history and the gombeens

Curiosity often gets the blame (or the credit, depending on your point of view) for killing cats, but more often it leads to learning.

Take this morning, for example, when I was fortunate enough to have Presidents’ Day* off and learned that someone named Eamon Loingsigh from New York had started following this blog. I’m not good at all about acknowledging this, but every new follower is a big deal. I look at their profiles and usually read a post or two – out of curiosity, of course.

This time I landed on Petition – Stop Calling it a Famine!

Having some ancestral ties to Ireland, and a photo of my mother visiting a hovel somewhere in County Donegal, I read Eamon’s piece and signed the petition. The words “potato famine” do not do justice to what they are used to describe.

Donegal Castle, 2004. B.J. Smith photo

I did not know such a discussion was ongoing. As a writer and editor, I support calling things what they are. (I was impressed by the polite back and forth in the comments on the blog post.)

I also learned a new word, which I hope to be able to use in a sentence someday and force the curious who’ve never seen it before to look it up:

gombeen

Always curious,

B.J.


* It certainly doesn’t mean what it used to, does it?

Guess who says there’s a war on cars

A person can almost always save some time by skipping to the end of a guest commentary in a newspaper, magazine or other publication to get an idea of who the guest is behind the commentary.

Take Denver is waging a war on cars and drivers, as a recent example.

The guest is identified as Tim Jackson, president and CEO of the Colorado Automobile Dealers Association. I could have stopped reading then, but I didn’t. Call me curious.

Key takeaway: If a guy representing car dealers can pin the blame on someone other than those who pay him, he will do exactly that.

Toward the end of his commentary, Jackson quotes an op-ed* from a California newspaper. The authors of that piece maintain that deliberately slowing traffic to increase safety for pedestrians kills anywhere from 35 to 85 victims of cardiac arrest “due to delayed emergency response.”

What Jackson fails to point out: Emergency responders would get to people who need help much more quickly if there weren’t so many damn automobiles on the streets.

Image by StockSnap from Pixabay

* By a Cato Institute senior fellow and his lawyer co-author.