Thursday, May 15, 2014

My Helium Balloon has Popped

This may not matter much to most of you, but it is a sad day for me: Helium, the online venue for writers to work on their stuff and get feedback, plus the joy of being published and even making a few pennies in the bargain, has ended its eight year run. As of May 21, it will no longer accept new submissions. As of December 15, I believe it is, it will not be available at all even for read-only viewing. What makes this so sad is that its existence was a boon for new and aspiring writers, a place to go and try. I believe that every one of us has stories to tell. Some choose writing -- poems, essays, articles, short stories. Helium was there. But times change. Helium tried to change with them, expanding its scope over the past year. Perhaps it was too much; the warm friendly feeling of the old system of submitting was slipping away. Mostly, though, I suspect that there just is too much competition for online viewers -- and writers. Still, Helium was a safe place to work, to try, to experiment. Especially for poets, who struggle in the best of conditions to find an audience, Helium had a built-in support system of fellow poets. I found these fellow artists to be open and caring and helpful. Fortunately. some of those poets are establishing a new forum, and I plan to be there. So, again, a sad day. But when a door slams shut, usually a window jimmies open. I like windows.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Mother's Day Movie Reviews

HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY! Yesterday Diane and I treated ourselves to a double feature thanks to the timely delivery of films by Netflix. Yeah – we still do it the old fashioned way, getting our rentals through snail mail instead of simply streaming them directly to our TV. It works for us, and helps keep my old employer in business. It is a leisurely way for us to watch great and terrible films, the latter of which we often give up on at some point and stop watching. We did that with Being Lewelyn Davis just last week, while being totally enthralled by Dallas Buyer’s Club. Both were critical darlings and Academy Award conversation pieces – I get the one, I do not understand the other. 12 Years A Slave was a worthy attempt at depicting a horrendous chapter in American history, but watching it I felt disengaged instead of engaged. I’ve gotten a closer connection to the characters from documentaries. It is seen as an important film, and well it may be, but somehow it is not involving on a personal level – at least not for me. I felt great sympathy but little empathy, little emotion, as if I, like the main character, were merely walking through a series of horrific situations and events instead of living them. yet this was named best film by the Academy for 2013. Last night’s double feature was of two films which were likewise in the running for best film. Either would have been a better choice. Philomena is a tour de force in quiet rage, with Judi Dench brilliant as always as a woman whose toddler son was sold away from her fifty years before, and now she has the help of a journalist to try to find him. The story is told without calculated tearjerker moments, but keep the Kleenex handy – there is so much raw emotion in the 95 minutes the film lasts, that you might need the whole box. And stick around for the extras – co-author, producer and co-star Steve Coogan offers an enlightening discussion about how the film differs from true events, and how his own agenda creeps into the script. It is honest and offers balance. The second film is also based on true events: Saving Mr. Banks. In 1961 the author of Mary Poppins travels to Hollywood to collaborate with the people at Disney Studios, including Walt Disney himself; her main aim is to protect her characters from being overly Disney-fied. But underneath her concerns is a back story involving her childhood and her relationship with her father. Both stories interweave in a delightful, often poignant, often funny story punctuated by great performances all around. These two movies may be chick films, and it is true that my tear threshold is pretty low, but any Mom or Dad or anyone with a spoonful of sensitivity would love these films, so enjoy!

Friday, May 9, 2014

Poet in Montana, Espressoing Myself at Glacier Perks

Well, here I am, writing a blog. It’s been several days since my last blog – the days slip by you so quickly, even more so the older you get. And here I am, 64 years young and some days I feel every bit of it. So, while I am trying to think great thoughts, I find myself overwhelmed by life. Two grandbabies on the way. The attic fan warning buzzer going off. Dealing with the upspring of Spring, and its accompanying outburst odf dandelions and cockleburs all over my plush green lawn. Mowing that plush green lawn. Walt White’s ultimate fate on Breaking Bad. Meanwhile, I write. Mostly, these days, I wrote poems. The trouble with poems is that the poet never knows how many, if any at all, will read his work. Still, he (or she, but in this case, me – or is it I) trudges forth, antiquated XP on lap (as opposed to pen in hand). Right now I am working on one of the most important projects I have ever undertaken, and yet I am terrified that no one will ever realize it. I love where I live: I have as much writing time as I allow myself. It is a well known axiom that writers will do everything they can to avoid writing, even when they have no excuse. Up here, I have no excuse. Not even Breaking Bad, which is done now, or Farscape, which, done or not, will live forever and for ever re-watching. There is only one drawback to being here and having the free time: my friends and family (which are the same thing) are all too far away. The one excuse I willingly take to set aside all my work is visiting. Here or there, it does not matter. and even then, my pocket sized notebook is always handy, so excuse me if the Muse strikes over an espresso and scones at Glacier Perks.