Monday, 28 March 2016

To the young of heart.



A report on a recent turn in the classroom taken by the writer on behalf of Edmonton's Windsor Park School 2016 Arts Blitz is this week provided.

The long ago failure of my academic career has occasionally been mentioned here at the blog.  Imagine my surprise to receive an invitation to present a talk about music and literature to a group of elementary school children.  With no small amount of trepidation I embraced the new challenge as they are, for obvious reasons, rare for a fellow my age.

It was a delight to be granted such an opportunity!

Another mention regularly made is that fascination with literature and music arrived early in my case.  In elementary school classrooms occupied by a version of myself no older than those I spoke with at the Arts Blitz were made discoveries that shaped my life.  The power and influence of ideas is perhaps greater at such a time than at any other in the average person's life.

I approached the assignment with joyful trepidation.

The presentation compared the fundamentals of creating musical and literary works for consumption by an audience.  Though technical the primary interest hung on the methods shared by the individual artistic practices.  While apparently distinct and doubtless unique the model provided showed the fundamental similarities embodied within distinct process types.  Delivered in equal segments totaling approximately 40 minutes the musical presentation concluded with a song while the literary component ended with a short reading.

Though difficult to imagine the discussion was less exciting in delivery than by description.

The writer thus owes his survival of the punctilious presentation to the fortunate compassion of both staff and students.  Public thanks are here and with profusion offered.  In all ways it would appear the modern elementary school participant exceeds the knowledge and awareness of those encountered in youth.  At no time was the writer other than over-matched by the intelligence and vast educational advantage enjoyed by students yet to depart sixth grade.  A veteran of many the humbling given the writer equaled the majority and was without doubt the most amusing.  The world may look forward with hope to the rise of a generation thus enabled by technology and enlightened by information.  The future as always is safest held in the sure and capable hands of the young.

Consider the writer both relieved and prepared, when requested, to vacate the stage.

Thanks for being here and thanks for sharing the blog.

-          TFP
March 28, 2016

Monday, 21 March 2016

Time considered.



A few thoughts related to time and its use by the writer, specific to either wisdom or waste, are this week offered the reader.

Though doubtless a significant concern to all appreciation of time is relative as Einstein long ago postulated the stuff itself to be.  With few points by which to anchor temporal reality other than the clock each is forced to assign specific value to experience of all kinds that may or may not correspond to the actual.  Similarly the subjective nature of individual consciousness eliminates objectivity as either practical or reasoned consideration.  A logic riddle wrapped more intractable within a theoretical conundrum has no doubt only rarely been discovered.

A discussion of the specifics is thus best left to scientists and other disciples of the bizarre.

In these parts the renowned waster of it notes here yet another confluence of experiences that illustrate the often misunderstood influence of time and necessarily experience.  A short description of the particulars follows.

An extended cycle of repetitive injury begun in late 2008 functionally ended with my return to routine fitness training in early 2016.  Forsaking extensive detail a kinetic chain of minor training wounds compounded leading to debilitating injury preventing most physical activity for two years.  The recalcitrant series of obstacles is lately overcome via therapy and rest.  Misery related to the repetitious cycle was undeniable and subjectively perceived as even lengthier than revealed by the calendar.  We now fast-forward the story to the latest post-recovery period.  A scant eight months of training, diet, and carefully managed intensity later near eight years of distress is relegated to status as rapid-fading bad memory.  The perceived value of the later positive experience now subjectively outweighs that of the earlier negative.  As the injury cycle falls further into the past an apparent value ratio roughly equivalent to ten-to-one can with reason be applied if approximate measurement is desired.

An example of yet another mysterious quality of time is there identified.

The eight years spent struggling through the cycle of injury/therapy/recovery/re-injury/therapy/recovery; repeat ad nauseam meanwhile exceeds that of most career pursuits aside from music and literature in the writer's personal vocational history.  Though celebrated for the athletic accomplishments of youth the time also surpasses that spent by the writer in the squared circle of either amateur or professional boxing ring.  The length of my erstwhile career as recording artist likewise extended over seventeen years while my performing career both preceded it and continues.  Worth noting is that the writer had written prose for years prior to setting foot either onto a stage or into a boxing ring and practices the remorseless habit to this day.  While the length of time invested in the three vocational activities so plainly differs their value as experiences are often weighted unequally when considered by my fellows.  For most overestimate the importance of both youth and success when compared to that of time in describing the individual character.

The work of a man like his nature has ever been both revealed and enabled only by the passage of it.

Since departing my father's home at fifteen the variety of career pursuits and travel I've been fortunate to enjoy certainly exceeded my youthful imagination.  With paid stops along the way including field hand, cow herd, pot washer, construction worker, contractor, doorman, bartender, stagehand, soundman, hotel manager, restaurateur, private investigator, personal trainer, salesman, scaffold rigger, systems integrator, IT security consultant, and dot com entrepreneur, the journey proved much more than insightful.  To be remunerated while seeing the world meanwhile has long been promoted by peacetime military services to those born absent a silver spoon.

The writer considers it good fortune to accomplish the task minus the odious imposition of orders.

In other news work continues on what will eventually be novel number three here at beautiful and greening Thorsby.  The arrival of spring coincides with continued progress on draft number eleven though revisions are best left uncounted.  A man notes the passing of the days while fixing his attention on a goal reliably located on an ever distant horizon.  The catalogue of works completed is behind the writer while that of what will be commands full attention.  Thus with cheerful resignation on the path of stubborn resistance does the aging penman with practiced resolution avail.

Few are greater blessed by time's favor.

Thanks for being here and thanks for sharing the blog.

-          TFP
March 21, 2016

Monday, 14 March 2016

A practice of process.



Brief thoughts on the writing process as practiced in these parts are offered to the reader this week.

Though as always the discourse is valued for its entertainment much above concern for any perceived instructional worth.  Remarks will be limited as even a one-sided discussion of the subject is beyond the length best suited by a blog post.  Regular visitors also appreciate that aside from examples provided by his work the writer offers no advice other than that of disinterested if reliable observer.  Those seeking argument are thus encouraged to look elsewhere despite the reliable presence of opinions here that may on occasion rankle.  I also remind that while the comment process is reviewed it remains open to all while continuing to demand a modicum of discretion.

A policy of family-friendly content remains in effect here.

The habits of a working life here demonstrated meanwhile despite occasionally appearing either invented or unique are far from that in fact.  Like most my efforts are modeled after techniques popularized by craft pioneers and educators.  It's a monkey-see/monkey-do world if routinely described otherwise by our kind.  The writer is thus not immune to the genetic reality of being part of the tribe.  While living for the most part separate from my fellows I'm not only a product but a recipient of extreme good fortune and grateful for it daily.

The genetic lottery was kind to the writer and gratitude for it remains ever forefront.

My vocational practice was defined by the great educator, poet, and poverty advocate Brian Mackinnon during teenage years in the inner city at Winnipeg, Manitoba.  A city of moderate size found in western Canada, the place is remarkable for a colorful history if less so in reputation.  With literary talent identified in grade school early efforts while appropriate to their maturity were also reliably encouraged.  The writer was then introduced in high school by the English teacher Mackinnon to a variety of practical methods suited to creating both poetry and prose.

That which eventually proved suitable to the writer when drafting prose is an essentially stream-of-consciousness style.

While work habits used to this day were influenced by descriptions of some length provided by Hemingway ~ courtesy of a magazine article attributed to the famed George Plimpton published prior to my birth ~ the process employed here is owed largely to the great teacher of poor and disenfranchised children.  While doubtless an extreme over simplification of what was a long and often difficult process of methodical refinement the point is conveyed.  This development also extended far beyond my school years and the editorial assistance provided by Mackinnon throughout was no less than invaluable.  Without the help there remains serious doubt my work in either literature or music would today exist.  A celebrated Canadian poet Brian continues to work on behalf of the disadvantaged to this writing while I continue with poor effect trying to recall his teachings.

A more fortunate student there has likely not been.

No small amount of hesitation precedes the laying of such enormous blame upon a man for whom the writer holds tremendous respect and admiration.  That the writer was then a horrible student is made plain by the work found in the wake of such a profligate abuser of the loosely applied descriptor.  For all such offenses the teacher is declared blameless by the student guilty of the egregious and continuing errors.  With continued effort the writer hopes in time to reflect more positively on the work of his most honored instructor.

While not prolific the writer has long been noted for a certain mulish persistence.

The perseverance is worth its trouble when mated to the drafting style described as each relies on the other for effect.  A work completed by the writer is often the result of dozens of draft manuscripts, major and minor revisions, multiple line and copy edits, and occasional entire re-writes.  This is aside from and for the most part prior to the proofreading, formatting, and design work also critical to the publishing process.  Thus despite a routine daily writing output of between fifteen hundred and two thousand words a finished novel is many months and sometimes decades in completion.

This of course is due to the copious revisions and edits demanded by a creative process the writer will admit to being at the least lengthy.

Perhaps a more apt descriptor might be re-writer or editor for the hapless scribe so afflicted but to each an individual metaphorical cross is no doubt assigned.  Here the writer remains convinced of both the efficacy and the reliability of a relatively arduous process despite the extensive effort often required by the practice of it.

The history of works completed speaks louder than any criticism that might be applied against it.

In other news 'A Dog and His Boy' continues to earn good reviews while work on novel number three continues unabated at Thorsby.  Steady progress is made and approaching spring speeds the writer to this most loved and difficult of tasks.  Few are so fortunate to discover the relief found among those dark places the writer travels with his work and for it no thanks are too great.

To paraphrase a great craftsman long past but not forgotten, in these parts it most assuredly continues.

Thanks for being here and thanks for sharing the blog.

-          TFP
March 14, 2016

Monday, 7 March 2016

On fitness.



A consideration of fitness physical and otherwise is the topic discussed with an eye to brevity this week.

The practical knowledge lent by personal athletic endeavor in a variety of disciplines will be leveraged as are those of professional trainer.  Opinions expressed as always are intended for the sole purpose of entertaining both writer and reader.  Neither results nor guarantees are either inferred or implied by the contents of this discussion.  In all cases the reader is advised to seek the advice of a physician before attempting any exercise.

Though it has been widely noted fitness of the mind is directly affected by that of the body.

The writer as a matter of regular practice has made a habit of physical training of one kind or another through the majority of life.  From schoolboy athletics through a professional boxing career being fit was a requirement of youth.  Time spent on stage as performer and offstage as personal trainer would demand commitment to fitness training into later life.  The ravages of serious injury and chronic illness with advancing years meanwhile would eventually prove best mitigated by a program of vigorous and consistent exercise.  As the journey through middle age ends and the passage into old age begins the benefits of maintaining fitness are without doubt magnified.

While age may indeed be a state of mind without doubt it imparts real effect.

Thus a program of physical training consistently applied has been a lifestyle pillar upon which much has rested in these parts.  The writer though a pirate often badly damaged by a reckless passage through rough seas has survived as often due to rote as by precision.  For the professional fighter knows the actual truth of the body's ability to continue to deliver its trained response in the absence of the mind's control.  In times of greatest peril the physical fitness of the combat athlete when required makes a contribution not readily apparent.  If either brain or mind is temporarily disrupted during conflict the body will continue a trained response until control of the mental faculties is regained.  In many instances the experience occurs without the athlete being cognitively aware of either disruption or recovery.  While the consequences of the ability are unknown the physiological facts of the experience are not debatable.

The insight is provided courtesy the misfortune of personal experience.

While lacking the immediate threat of combat however the ravages of time and lack of care for the carton within which one carries the self is equal dangerous.  Entropy is a fact of temporal reality that carries consequences best not ignored.  Like it or not, the body is the physical container in which we carry the mind and when broken the best of intentions add up to nothing.  Restoring a body incapacitated by either injury or illness is difficult and usually steeped in bouts of extended misery.  Now more than eight months into the latest return from catastrophic training injury the two years spent in recovery remind the writer that health remains fragile as glass.  An ounce of prevention is thus accepted as doubtless worth many pounds of even the most modern cure.

This remarkable perspicacity is another product discovered via bitter individual history.

That being said the cure is often counter intuitively found very near the cause with athletic injuries.  Unlike those suffered mentally and emotionally most physical wounds respond to treatment.  Rehabilitation though at times lengthy is now routine when commitment and consistency are maintained.  Pain tolerance is often the only strength required beyond that of a willing physiotherapist.

Again the misery of firsthand knowledge provides unfortunate reassurance on behalf of the quoted formula.

Mental and emotional scarring though less effectively is also reliably improved by a program of consistent physical training.  Though emotional detritus and mental aberration are often recalcitrant staying fit has been proven to help balance the brain chemicals that govern mood and behavior.  An addiction to fitness is also preferable to any other while programs of counseling and therapy are much recommended.

The knowledge; empirically acquired, has been invaluable to the writer.

All pursuits whether physical or mental require fitness of one kind or another.  The writing of fiction though primarily a mental pursuit is thus subject to a similar demand.  Much like creating literature achieving physical fitness requires commitment to both discipline and practice.  Regard for the beauty of the work is discovered first through the discipline of its practice and only later revealed to both creator and consumer.  The benefit to each meanwhile is conferred by means of individual appreciation.

In actual terms, the practice is its own reward.

As ever, the writer speaks here only of personal experience, seeking to neither advise nor encourage.  A six-days-per-week training schedule adapted to the limitation of injury and the needs of the work; used for many decades and employing methods proven over a similar period is adhered to in this locale.  This lifetime love affair for fitness training enjoyed by the writer is well-known by close associates if the results are regularly disguised due to gluttony.  Though speaking exclusive to this experience the writer advocates on behalf of fitness and the training lifestyle.  Without hesitation physical fitness is also credited for contributing to the longevity of the writer's creative output and his continued indulgence in life's hedonistic pleasures.

The practice of each is doubtless enhanced by the other.

Thanks for being here and thanks for sharing the blog.

-          TFP
March 7, 2016