Trial Balloon

Like a Lion

Posted at 6:00 AM on March 1, 2010 by Dale Connelly (47 Comments)
Filed under: Bubby Spamden

Welcome to March! Here's a communiqué from Wendell Wilkie High School and perennial sophomore Bubby Spamden:

Hi Mr. C.,

I have a terrible injustice to share with you and your blog people. It's a report I wrote last week for my Science & Nature class.

"They say 'March Comes In Like A Lion And Goes Out Like A Lamb". People think this means that the beginning of the month is supposed to be harsh and stormy and the end is usually nice and calm. True? Sometimes, but not always. Animal biology tells a different story!

Lions aren't all that ferocious, unless you happen to be a sick, straggling wildebeest and lions have their mighty jaws clamped around your neck. Otherwise, lions just lie around most of the time. So when people say that "March Comes In Like a Lion", they are thinking about the way a lion acts during a very short part of its life.

Lambs, on the other hand, are full of crazy energy. We think of them as cute and gentle, but Dr. Kirk Esmond, a veterinarian in Texas, says this about lambs in his blog: At the Ranch With Kirk.

It is very common for a lamb to be up and nursing on its feet within 10 minutes of birth. By the 4-5th day, they are seeking out other lambs and enjoy beginning to head butt one another. By 2-3 weeks of age, they definitely run as a group, often just jumping up off all 4 feet and kicking out with their back feet. They are just like very active small children on a playground.

That's about as busy as you can be.

So if the saying is true about all lion and lamb behavior rather than just a few highly publicized minutes, March should begin in a very relaxed, drowsy way and end with a lot of pointless running around and head butting.

I think the saying is true, especially about human behavior here in our Science & Nature class. At the beginning of March we can expect to be sad, beaten down and demoralized about the endless winter and really needing to sleep during Ms. Pakratz's very, very detailed lectures. And at the end of March, we should be all jazzed up about Spring and are probably going to be bouncing off the walls, especially during this class, which comes at the end of the day.

So I think we should follow nature's rhythms and let this useful bit of folk wisdom guide the lesson plan. There should be no tests or difficult reading assignments at the lazy beginning or at the frantic end of this most misunderstood month - March."

Cool report, huh? I worked really hard to write it, plus, it's exactly 402 words, which just makes it over the minimum requirement for this assignment!

But Ms. Pakratz gave me a "C -" and told me I was trying to cause trouble in her class, which is sorta true but anyway, I think I nailed it and the logic holds up. I'm kinda bummed out about that. What do you think?

Your Pal,
Bubby Spamden

I told Bubby I recognized all the usual tricks for stretching a little bit of information into a finished report from my days as a high school sophomore - using misdirection, generalizations, rash assumptions, manufacturing controversy and including a lengthy quote from an outside source. An example of bad writing and faulty logic? Sure. I don't know about the C-, but it's certainly not an A.

However, I did confess that lazy scholarship and being argumentative for its own sake is excellent preparation for life as an adult, particularly if you're planning to be in politics, or you want to write a daily blog.

It reminds me of the time I got a "D" in my Freshman Composition class in college. It was an offense against conventional wisdom - my certain belief that I was very, very smart.

Have you ever received a surprisingly low grade for work that you thought was pretty darn good?

Comments (47)

Good Morning All,

I think that was a really good effort by Bubby. Well there was a part that I supose the teacher wouldn't like.

It reminds me of the time the teacher heard me say, "no more pencils, no more books, no more teacher's dirty looks" when leaving school on the last day of the school year. I was asked to return to the class room and sit at my desk for an extra leason.

I am also reminded of all the times that I tried to write a good paper and my teachers only seemed to be interested in correcting my spelling, not what I wrote

Posted by Jim | March 1, 2010 6:22 AM

G' Morning Heartlanders

Do I get to be first? The comment area is pure white and unblemished by cliches, typos and labored statements of the obvious. As much as I dislike snow, it feels sacrilegious to be the first to walk through a perfect field of smooth snow, leaving a set of tracks like a scar.

Bubby seems to be on to something. That lion and lamb thing is pretty lame. A Minnesota March might come in like an emperor penguin and go out like an eelpout. They're all different.

I don't recall a humiliating grade for good work--more the opposite--but I have a theory about Ms. Packratz. I think she might be putting inot effect a very subtle program to teach students to expect life to be unfair. Where is it written that good reports WILL get high grades? I think our president is doing well, but he keeps getting miserable report cards. Ms. Packratz probably knows that Bubby will leave school to enter a maze of cubicles somewhere like Dilbert's world where great effort is directed at confusing objectives for reasons that are totally obscure.

That's an important lesson!

Posted by Steve in Saint Paul | March 1, 2010 6:33 AM

poor Bubby - a good effort in mostly good faith. Ms. Pakratz may be tired of Bubby's efforts or she may be just tired (because it is the beginning of March) or maybe she has seen this paper before. who knows why she would "give" him a C-
maybe he took a C-. there are always two sides of the story and i'd like to know Ms. Pakratz's story.

as many times as i can think of getting a grade lower than i wanted i got a grade higher than i expected. it all evens out...... :-)
Happy March and i can tell you the end of March here at MeadowWild Farm will certainly be more lively than the beginning. kids due 23rd and 24th.

Posted by barb in Blackhoof | March 1, 2010 6:38 AM

Barb--how many births do you expect in those two days? It sounds like an exciting but tiring time.

Posted by Steve in Saint Paul | March 1, 2010 6:47 AM

Poor Ms. Pakratz. Bubby is why I have always thought that teachers should be paid LOTS and LOTS more and most of them should probably be canonized as well. I remember being in high school when I realized being a teacher wouldn't be for me. Took a quarter class called "GHOTI Spells Fish", that dealt with language and pronunciation. I was really excited about it, but most of the rest of the kids who signed up must have thought it would be their easy A for the semester. It was hard to watch the teacher struggling w/ one kid who cared and 20 who didn't.

So for all of you who are teaching or have taught... YEAH!

Posted by sherrilee | March 1, 2010 6:55 AM

Good morning, everyone.

I once got an F on a paper I wrote in French in one of my French literature classes. I never understood why that paper so offended the professor, but I certainly made every effort to make the rest of the papers for that class stand out against the first. I managed A's on the rest of the papers. I'm sure happy not to have to write papers anymore in life!

Posted by elinor | March 1, 2010 7:04 AM

I almost posted in the Saturday show thread. Glad I caught that error! Great show so far Dale! No requests this time around, but just say hi to me on air, just to show that you actually read every word of these comments.

Posted by Aaron | March 1, 2010 7:16 AM

I think I just got an F on that comment for not even answering the question.

Posted by Aaron | March 1, 2010 7:18 AM

I just thought of a theme. After 24 years, I am moving out of my parents into my own apartment. So could you play some moving type songs in honor of the occasion?

Posted by Aaron | March 1, 2010 7:21 AM

Greetings! I remember in particular a paper I wrote in college for a class I disliked. Before professor handed back papers, he singled out one paper, saying how it was well-written but did not include information from class lectures (which were boring!). He went on at length how this paper had good info, but not quite what he lectured on.

Then he handed out papers, and that one was mine! Oops! I think I got a C or D -- don't quite remember.

Posted by Joanne in Big Lake | March 1, 2010 7:31 AM

i had an english that they brought back to the classroom after 10 years in the district offices pushing papers and she was ill prepared for the class of 73. we were about causes and big ideals and she was picking out different hatpins everyday. i was a pretty verbal participant in her small group interactions and was feeling sorry for the poor 10th graders who would tyr to answer but get told that their answer was not what she had in mind. they ended up sitting like lumps in their chairs and it was a tough class i eventually dropped and retook with a great teacher who was stimulating and worked wit me to make english meaningful. back to the hatping teacher...she gave an assignment out that required us to wrire a satire. her name was cornelia nachbar so i wrote a paper where the main charachter would use the sylables of her name and use synanyms corn/ asperigus kneelya/ standme knockbar/ bangrod
so the story is about asperagustandme bangrod and the giant bingo game of life. it was a parody on her class and how she would be giving out the bingo numbers and each time someone would raise their hand and offer their bingo she would tell tham that she dion't think their nimbers were right and here is what she is after. by the end of the game she had used all the numbers and no one would volunteer tohaving bingo and she was getting upset at the fact that no one was offering an answer. i was laughing so hard as i wrote the paper it had tear stains on it and when i got it back with the red pen cursive saying that" i obviously didn't understand that his was supposed to be a parady and i missed the point entirely" with a c- on it, i felt vindicated. it was to funny. i had a hard time hanging in there for the end high school and the challanges that modular scheduling of the 70's presented but it prepared me perfectly for the entrapraneur role i have embraced. thanks to dale for bringing back asperagustandme bangrod one more time.

Posted by tim | March 1, 2010 7:31 AM

dale how about" father and son" cat stevens old tune for aaron? we need to cater to the young blood in this group of aarpers

Posted by tim | March 1, 2010 7:34 AM

Joanne - I wonder if you had the same professor that I had...

I remember getting a paper back from a similar professor - I was actually given a *lower* grade for using outside sources in the paper. Lectures and the course text were supposed to have been sufficient. Apparently using materials from texts assigned by other professors in the same department was verboten (though not spelled out anywhere in the syllabus). Sigh. After that first misstep, I did fine with that professor (and then didn't take any more classes from him).

I liked grad school better where synthesizing ideas was as important as the research behind it. Fun stuff. I kinda miss the challenge of a 10-15 page paper.

Posted by Anna | March 1, 2010 7:47 AM

dale can you give anna an assignment please. she is calling out to you

Posted by tim | March 1, 2010 7:54 AM

Thanks for the tunes. it made me smile!

Posted by Aaron | March 1, 2010 7:57 AM

thanks for asking, Steve - (you'll be sorry you did and will never ask again, as others have learned :-)
we have two does due - Alba w/ her second year on the 23rd. and Dodger w/ her third year on the 24th. but with Dodger, one never knows. she usually is two days late, but yesterday i could swear she would kid sooner. and she looks like triplets this time. uffda. that's it - our little herd. Dream is not pregnant, although she would like to be (again last wednesday yelling out her back door at T in the Gentlemen's Club) and i reminded her of those triplets she had and how much work that was and how she needed a little rest this year. i am milking her twice a day. a couple weeks after the kids arrive i'll begin milking three again (saving ample amounts for the kiddos of course).

i don't have to write papers anymore - retired - but i got an F on Alba's twins last year. we tried and tried but they both died. no arguing that grade. this year we want that to be a better experience for her (and for us).

Posted by barb in Blackhoof | March 1, 2010 7:59 AM


I think I have "Father and Son" at home - I'm not so sure about here at MPR. I'll check the library during the next long song.

Give Anna an assignment? Giving an assignment is also an obligation for the assignment giver - not something to be done casually.

But since you bring it up - I have a two week Blog Holiday coming up during the last week of March / first week in April.
Would anyone like to write a guest blog?
You can nominate yourself here, or directly to me by e-mail -

Posted by Dale Connelly | March 1, 2010 8:08 AM

barb send pictures of the kids. don't take the stillborns too much to heart. its part of the deal and my irish upbringing tells me that if it was meant to be it is meant to be. you are just there as a witness sometimes. it teaches us something but it is hard to see waht that might be at the time.

Posted by tim | March 1, 2010 8:09 AM

i'll take one if none of the wanna be guest bloggers come forward. i have been there once so i'll get out of the way for a newby. how about giving mike a shot ata day?
cmon mike you can do it!!

Posted by tim | March 1, 2010 8:13 AM

I spent 24 years teaching English, and therefore correcting papers, correcting papers, correcting papers. The I have spent 19 years working with teachers and writing materials for teachers, primarily on the question of what should we grade and how should we grade it. (Did I say I corrected papers?)
So, this topic is way too close: I will take it into the red on the pomposity meter and blow past the stop-pin on the length meter. I will only say I am appalled at the impression some of us teachers, with the best of intentions, made on out students.
(Oh, and I corrected papers.)
Aaron's check to see if Dale read the blog (careful, Aaron, he does indeed) reminded me that when I move back to the North Shore, in the first long paper I assigned I kept finding weird phrases like "Freddy the frog loves Fritos" buried in the papers. A check confirmed what I thought, the teacher I replaced was famous for not reading the stuff he assigned and they were checking me out.

O, and I did correct some papers, one or two million.

Posted by Cly de Shame | March 1, 2010 8:34 AM

Argumentative? Lazy? I'm sorry but I find it a positive thing when the status quo is questioned and found that other interpretations are equally, if not more, valid. Maybe it's not 100% 'A' material because he could have tied it all together with human psychological implications or at least some hot topic, like climate change, that would make it easier for Mrs. Packratz to get 'on board' with.

My worst grades came in my college financial accounting class. But I really discounted those 'D's' because the instructor was (IMHO) the worst I'd ever had. If you didn't understand something, he'd consistently say, "Debits, the book...I can't help you...the world needs garbage men too..." He would say this repeatedly in class. Yeah, some 'teacher.'

What really stung was a guest critic we had in my college photo class. He was some high-fallutin' photographer/critic and I was the darling of my photo teacher and the jewel of my photo class. So, I hung up my six images for critique. Granted, they weren't my best work (because we weren't told that this guest was coming) but he took it to me a lot more than I thought I deserved. One of his big things was that I took (and still take) a lot of my pictures vertically (long edge up and down). He said that was not a valid format for photographic art because people's eyes are side-by-side (horizontal). Therefore, art should do this as well and vertical photos were, by default, not good. What a buffoon. When my wife was getting her Master's in creative writing, she had a professor that actually told her that 'science fiction was not a legitimate form of literature.' I swear...some 'teachers'...

Posted by That Guy in the Hat | March 1, 2010 8:45 AM

A graduate school friend told me that once, when her parents were away from home for a few days, she and her sister decided to do their mom a favor and clean the sterling silver flatware. It was old, family silver, and they cleaned and cleaned until it was totally shiny. This was problem they later found out when their mom came home, because it had areas that were supposed to stay black, and she and her sister had removed that, too. Her mom was very upset.

Posted by Renee | March 1, 2010 8:46 AM

TGithH--thanks for proving my point, but it's an easy point to prove; so next time prove it in a diagonal format.
When I was 20 or so i discovered the expression is "comes in like a lion . . . "
I thought it was "March comes in like a lamb and goes out like a lion" because as I recall on the North Shore, at least, this time of year is often calm and the end of March is often vvery storming, the antipodes of the Gales of November.
Okay, one piece of consultant pomposity: "IF you are going to assign it, tell them what how much it counts, and how you are going to grade it as specifically as you can." If you cannot do that, then you cannot grade and then you cannot assign it."

Posted by Cly De Idioete | March 1, 2010 8:59 AM


Did you ever correct papers?

At the college were I work, -- and I'm not a "teacher" in the legal sense of the word... I work with the students that come into the theater shop and I may teach them some things but I'm not 'the' teacher--but seeing some of the papers they write and the atrocious misspelling and poor grammar. Makes me crazy. I keep asking the real teacher 'how do you handle that?' Well, it depends; this wasn't a test on 'grammar'; it's not English class....

My eighth grade English teacher had us keep journals which was probably one of the best lessons I ever learned in school. Writing in a journal got me through lots of teenage angst...

Last Friday I rode on the school bus with my daughter and a bunch of other 8th graders. "OH MY GOD! The Girl Behind Us Had SO Much To Say!!"...
Whew.... my ears are still ringing. I only hope half of what I heard was actually true...

...what was the question again? I'm noticing a pattern... if I wait until later to post we're all pretty much off topic and I don't have to answer the question.

Posted by Ben | March 1, 2010 8:59 AM

In homage to Salinger, we are now morphing into Catcher in the Rye and the issue of digression.
We have statement this morning about teachers who are focused on the spellling and not the content and a statement about how kids cannot "spell," (Ben , reducing your comment into a one-word metaphor). Welcome to the joy of correcting papers, which you know I did do.

Posted by cly de Holden | March 1, 2010 9:08 AM

renee i have a wife like that. don't set it down if you ever want to find it again. clyde, i think you were like the 5 or 6 teacers that made school the best along witht eh worst. i had a creative writing teacher, a philosophy teacher , a math teacher, a couple of science teachers an art teacher and a theater teacher who were the ones that understood that the brain in there needs a workout evry now and again note just to be regurgitating information.
tgith good story, i have a tire guy who used tto leave his mensa magazines on the coffee table in the waiting room. the comments he got were funny. no one thought that a tire guy could be a genius. "debits and credits the world needs garbage men too". a mantra for morons if i ever heard one"
clyde... did you ever grade any papers?

Posted by tim | March 1, 2010 9:09 AM

good thing this is not about spelling huh? ben great posts of late. i enjoy what you bring to the party. the kids on the bus are a kick arent't they?
crappy spelling and handwriting from hell makes me wonder how these kids think they are presenting themselves. i think someone is a normal human being and then i look at their scrawl and i feel sorry for the poor kid,. he obviously has a hidden handicap. i think this whole generation may grow up not having a clue in a number of areas. not like us save aarpers at all

Posted by tim | March 1, 2010 9:16 AM

Over the weekend I discovered I had not posted Friday, which is just as well. I wrote a poem about Friday while it was Friday, but never mind. The topic Friday was seeing the results of your effort, which is about where we are now. I have several ex-students with esoteric degrees who build houses, or the like because they want to see a concrete result, and earn a living. Stumbled on a book yesterday at B & N about a writer who builds an office in the woods so he can have a concrete expression of his efforts. Bought it. So I must have been alert enough to know thew topic.

Posted by Cly de HeAddd | March 1, 2010 9:24 AM

I'm afraid I deserved every low grade I was handed. But like Barb mentioned, there was balance - I can remember sighing with relief at passing the written part of my Philosophy 101 final... I also remember surprise when I went back in my 30s to take some dance classes because I WANTED to learn the material, and aced everything! I hadn't realized how big a deal motivation was.

Dale - out here in Robbinsdale we're at 27 degrees this morning, and you over in St. Paul are at 13! Oh, and I would write a guest blog if you need it, but like Tim, let the people who haven't written before have first dibs.

Posted by Barbara in Robbinsdale | March 1, 2010 9:38 AM

Wow, I posted the above after returning to computer and neglecting to read the entire last hour of posts before writing. I love how we take 90 degree turns, and was LOL at Ben's "...what was the question again?..."

Clyde, I am thankful to this day that when I was teaching it was kindergarten and guess what -- NO PAPERS to correct -- they can't write yet! What I remember best about teaching was that at 3:05 on Friday afternoons, a group of us were in the car headed to this daquiri bar out by the beach in San Fran...

Posted by Barbara in Robbinsdale | March 1, 2010 9:54 AM

Ah, you made me laugh...
You too Clyde.
You must be familiar with Dorothy Parker? I'm reading her biography called 'What Fresh Hell is This'. I only wish I could be as witty as her...

Please allow me to share this story:
This weekend I was at a small wedding. There were 4 young boys there fairly bored after the dinner... so I created an improptu science class which started as dissolving sugar into a glass of water. Then we added salt. And Pepper. And we'd stir it up and I'd ask 'why didn't the pepper dissolve?' And then they'd say What else can we add?? Can we add cake?' Go for it. Crackers? Sure, why not. And then me shining my flashlight through it and then they started adding whatever we could find on the table; chocolate milk, cake, kale, paper, and eventually yes, beer… oh and crackers which led to ‘why do the big chunks sink and little chunks float’ and a discussion on “Fluid movement” and how it compares to wind.
I may have unintentionally created some bad future consequences here... but we sure had some harmless fun at the time. And just to get these boys to be creative and imaginative was fun.

Mostly I was amusing myself; we made a sculpture of cake using frosting as glue. And stuck a piece of paper on the top. And I told the kids if they wrote something on the piece of paper regarding food then they were making a 'statement'! But they should be prepared to 'defend' their art. (Reference last weeks TB blog...)

Posted by Ben | March 1, 2010 9:56 AM

Thanks for the compliment, tim, and I think you complimented me Friday.
Okay, more pomposity-isms because of the compliment so you can see if I deserve it and to honor Ben's comment and tim's about bad writing and grading..
1) I do not know how to grade Bubby's paper because I do not know what he was told were the grading criteria, other than 400 words. Now I would have not assigned 400 words; I would have required 400 words worth of content, not just 400 words. I would sure give some credit for unusual thinking, but I would have said so in the grading criteria.
2) To balance the "spelling versus content" issues, I gave a grade for content, with specific criteria identified and applied, including completeness, creativity of thinking, support, clarity, etc. and a separate grade for "presentation,"
meaning all of the grammar and mechanics issues, sentence structure, clarity, word choice, etc. I also said there was always an X factor for trying, reaching, going beyond, risking, etc even if you failed. X factor could only count as a plus, never a minus.
Both grades counted equally and I taught and worked on both. And all grades were discussable and negotiable. You know I did grade some papers and could have become numb and misread what the student meant or tried to do, and missed the X factor effort.
Regarding OMG on the bus. No teacher anywhere ever has controlled students verbal behavior with peers. English teachers are not the guardians of the mother tongue. Old farts, including me, have forever whined that kids, language, and the world are going to hell. But it has survived so far (I do have me 65-year-old doubts about now.)
Oh, and I would have given Bubby all passing grades to get him out of 10th grade finally.
So, now do you want my whole six-hour workshop on this topic?

Posted by cly de pompompoos | March 1, 2010 9:59 AM

yes i want the whole 6 hour workshop or i at least want to know more and see if it is possible to get you into the eden prairie schools system to help my kids chances of having kids who have teachers who get it.

i also want fridays poem. don't hold back

ben great story. i did exactly the same thing with young nieces and nephews at a perkings with the water glass and we still laugh about it 20 years later. big people don't get down on their knees often enough to shate the view with the kids.

ben clarify for clyde that you thought the girl on the bus was excited about life and had lots to say vs the potty mouth impression he got. i am wrong on a regular basis but i got tyhe opposite idea from where clyde ended up.

it is so nice that you ar able to be involved in thekids school. i get to do that and it is a treat to have the kids come up years later and remember you as the dad who was there at the museum or the art class or whatever.
i will check out dorthy parker

Posted by tim | March 1, 2010 10:44 AM

I write a post which settled all of life's questions in 38 words; then the power blinked off. It's lost forever.

Ben--there is a very good movie about DP. I do not think I qould read a book about her and her depression, which would only kindle my depression.

Posted by Cly de Blankee | March 1, 2010 10:44 AM

All will enjoy this one, but Dale and Mike:
My wife has never been able to listen much to the many versions of this show because of her illnesses and related sleep issues and the fact that she is not a morning person. So she had only a slight acquaintance with the MS, which is why it has been so much fun to buy Bill Stains etc and watch her fall in love too. When I signed up for sustaining membership, I was going to take no gift, but then I saw we could get the last MS. We played it yesterday straight through. It was wonderful for me to hear it again and she fell in love with it for the first time. She is jeoulous of my past years and understands why I listen to this.

Posted by Cly de Grateful | March 1, 2010 10:57 AM

cmon clyde dig, do todays version of the 38 word answer to lifes problems. are you sure thats not a dream. i have that one every now and again that i have all the answers in my pocket and thne i can't find them. do version 3/01/10 instead if necessay. i love the poetry efforts.
i have tried the autonomic writing a couple more times and just love it. give us another.....

Posted by tim | March 1, 2010 10:57 AM

Life in 38 words.
In the BBC version of Shadowlands (not the Hollywood one, which is descent) when C.S. Lewis exits the church after his wife's funeral, the young Anglican priest says to him something like "It is so wonderful you have your deep faith to keep you strong through your grief.” C. S. Lewis looks at him for at moment and says, “Life’s a mess and that’s all there is to it.”
So there it is in 10 words. (See his book “A Grief Observed” about his grief experience.)
Dorothy Parker Movie—“Mrs. Parker and the Vicious Circle” 1994 with Jennifer Jason Leigh as DP
Book I bought—“Place of My Own: Architecture of Daydreams” Michael Pollan, who later wrote “In Defense of Food” and “The Omnivore’s Dilemma”

Posted by Cly de pro--found | March 1, 2010 11:22 AM

Clyde - I'd take your class but, as a buddy of mine that is a full-time pro writer says about my wife reading his work, "She'd need two hands to read my to turn the pages and one to hold her nose." My wife keeps harping at me about 'the rules of writing' and whacking me with the 'bad writer' stick. I keep telling her that there are differences between 'writers' and 'storytellers' and that the only 'rule of writing' I'm interested in is whether or not the words convey the story that I'm trying to tell. She usually rolls her eyes and mutters something about comma usage...

Posted by That Guy in the Hat | March 1, 2010 11:54 AM

TGitH--as I tried to explain to a young writer who was doing a piece for a collection I edited and published on a very low level, almost all great writers had great ediors, needed edting, wanted edited while they fought evey idea the editors gave.
Many great writers were atrocious at the cmma rules, etc. but knew they needed help. Many a great writer had a good to great editor wife.

Posted by clyde | March 1, 2010 12:00 PM

I have no problem with editors and I listen to constructive critique. But I'm usually writing in a genre that has some conventions of phrasing that the audience looks for and enjoys. If it's a question between my reader and Strunk/White...I'm going with my reader. As my buddy says, "We're not writing the next 'great American novel.'"

Posted by That Guy in the Hat | March 1, 2010 12:25 PM

Clyde - I heartily agree that a good writer can be made that much better by a good editor. I have a suspicion that a key difference between a mediocre writer and a good one is the willingness to give your work over to someone else for editing. (On a related note, I had a friend edit my masters thesis years ago - we still joke about "four commas do not a verb make.")

Posted by Anna | March 1, 2010 12:44 PM

TGitH... I enjoy your comments. Always an interesting twist on things...

Clyde-- thanks for the movie on DP; I'll look that up. You are right; she certainly had a lot of issues in her life.

Tim / Clyde... my attempt to impersonate 'Eighth grade girls in general' (SWEEPING GENERALIZATION ALARM) works better verbally than it does in print. I was making light of the way so many of them seem to talk. Actually didn't hear very many "...Like, You know... Like..." but every statement seemed to begin with "Oh MY G--"... And the things she did actually talk about "When I was on anti-depressants..." "Grandma says I have to get a job..." that was the frightful part that makes us all hug our kids tighter at night...

EVERYONE- I enjoy these posts so much... Thanks all for posting.

Posted by Ben | March 1, 2010 12:48 PM

Okay, Tim, this is pretty self-pitying, but I wrote it in full flair-up, the worst I have ever had. And this is why I do not do 6 hour workshops. But it was interest5ing that working on this did disipate some of the issues. This is just for tim, everybody else ignore it.

The Chronic Beast in Flair-Up
Out there is the world somewhere, going along its way,
Doing well or not, but passing along for now without me.
For how long this time will I neither grind nor glow
against, amidst the others who have moved afar.
The sheen of pain has again slowly layered over me.
Slowly drifting down across me, veiling others from me.
Enfolding me, encasing me, wrapping me in myself.

Pain always whispers, in its minor pulsing way.
But now, throbbing and demanding, it wants to become who I am.
Don’t tell me the good news, don’t tell me the bad.
I fear of either, for either can anger Beast.
He, my Beast, is only an illusion of chemical messages,
messages in substances, thus real to my mind,
which take over all, all but that which I fight to keep free.
A battle lost for moments, and then won again,
waiting to be lost again, hoping to be won
and held longer next time. Finally won, but not the war.
Beast will come again, at some unknown time.
In hours, days; then and when.

The Beast is a rushing command to act, to move,
to do some required thing, which I cannot name.
A weight on the chest, a pressure in the skull.
Demanding an exit, but no exit is ever found.
Behind my eyes, out into once-forgotten bones.
In legs, so intensely, legs can only wish to act,
but know not with what act, so act of own command.
And then grow weak down the back,
in muscles that wish not to hold me erect
and walking in the distant world.

I will not speak aloud of this, only in these hidden words.
If the word pain I speak, They tell me to deny it,
as if I could deny that which denies all else of me.
Certain they know what I feel, certain they can mend it.
Or on their hurts they expand, as I have done so to others,
forgetting we each have burdens to be honored, seldom are.
This place I occupy alone; even she who is closest to me
cannot know, but knows no words will amend pain
nor build a bridge across which she may walk to my island.

All know pain.
But the blessed cursed few know PAIN,
know a voice inside so loud there is no other sound
Except a few distant words not wanted, heard but
requiring effort to decode and answer.
Or SOUND that jolts through mind and muscle.
Or LIGHT that is lightening bolt electric in nerves.
TOUCH that is piercing, numbing, raw, creeping.
SMELL that is a rocket to brain, then to pain.

Beast speaks to me in words of pain,
in languages foreign to all but the blessed cursed few.
Beast can whisper, shout, cajole, pout, imply.
Beast can jump, crawl, needle, pinch, appall.
Beast is my Beast, I battle best alone,
best in dark and silence.
Beast is like a friend, I know him so well,
but not as well as I think,
the way we know and do not know a friend.
I am often alone with him;
how could he not be friend?
Beast is my Beast, given to me by chance
Not by choice, as some would say.

But Beast is not me.

Let me battle my Beast when and as I must.
And I will be me when and as I can.

Posted by Cly De Whine | March 1, 2010 12:50 PM

All kinds of writing, all sorts of publication, all writing purposes have their special rules which vary the norms of mecahnics (puncutation, capitlization, etc.), style (word choice, sentence structure) voice/tone, and format.
Amd all rules are meant to be broken because to break the pattern, the expectation is to have impact, but you have to know why you are breaking the rules and test the impact and limit the use.
TGithH--regarding picture orientation. On Hwy169 north of here are a series of billboards in a vertical format. I look at everyone of them and ignore the other standard billboards because my eye is drawn to the unexpected format.

Posted by Clyde | March 1, 2010 1:06 PM

To get back to fun stuff. My son gave me a book called "Am I the Only One . . ." It is a collection of letters to the editor not published in a London newspaper. The title comes from the fact that so many such letters in England start that way. I suppose such ab book in America would be called "Oh My God." My two favorite are:
The man who objects to the question at the airport asking if he packed his own bags, this he has to publically admit that he has fallen so far that he can no longer employ a valet.
The woman who thinks grooming standarda and thus English civilzation is collapsing because so many of the Page 3 Girls have messy hair. (If you don't know, Page 3 girls are topless photos that are published regulary in some British newsapers. )

Posted by Cly de Angleterre | March 1, 2010 1:43 PM

Cly De Whine: I couldn't ignore your poem. I knew it would have something to say whether funny, wise, sad or profound and this one really had me thinking.

Posted by Barb in Starbuck | March 1, 2010 6:02 PM



very powerful

very strong

written to let me in on your secret life behind your closed doors that are no more easy do descricbe than to endure.

beautifully done or maybe heroically done.

thanks clyde

great stuff.

i like the messy hair on the girls on page 3

Posted by tim | March 1, 2010 10:06 PM

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