1. To begin: Flaws. One of my many, is that I've never been able to calculate. Calculus, trigonometry, even algebra, simple logarithmic functions, escape me. In high school, Geometry was the only category of mathematics that I was somewhat able to grasp. That's because it included doodling. (Well, didn't it?) I've often wondered if this failing was solely because I could not understand mathematical relations or if I simply refused to try, refused to to understand. Or. Refused to accept that anything could be answered with such certainty. One plus one, yes, two. But even that simple equation never seemed so simple to me. And this suspicion was confirmed after my second child was born, when in the haze of endless nights punctuated by frightening infant caterwauls and toddler walkabouts it became clear that the idea of one plus one equalling two was nothing more than an algorithmic farce.
I wonder if my inability to calculate bears any connection to a cognitive deficit known as dyscalculia, which Wiki describes as an "innate difficulty in learning or comprehending arithmetic." The reason, though, is more likely disinterest. In any event, I've no compulsion to further explore what I've accepted as a lifelong inadequacy and limitation. I surrender all calculations to the accountants. After all, not everyone can be a mathematician.
2. Some of us have to write.
3. Some of us have to tell stories.
4. And some of us, well, all of us, should listen...
5. To this...
A short short film that I came across the other day while visiting one of my favorite magical depositories on the internet, Brain Pickings. Brain Pickings is, in the words its remarkable curator, Maria Popova, "a human-powered discovery engine for interestingness, culling and curating cross-disciplinary curiosity-quenchers, and separating the signal from the noise to bring you things you didn’t know you were interested in until you are."
Ken Burns, on story:
Stories as acceptable and sincere manipulation. Waking the dead. Building emotional truth. Keeping wolves from the door. Continuing ourselves. Reminding us that it's just Ok.
At about 4:20 Burns illustrates the how and why in which he conveys story. It's a powerful and vulnerable moment that offers us insight into to his success. Moreover, he shares my suspicion that one plus one does not always equal two.
6. (Now, there's something called story algorithm, but I don't want to go there just yet.)
7. As a sort of book club experiment, I've been reading Ray Bradbury's Something Wicked This Way Comes along with Lu who is currently reading the book for her English class. Other than Zen in the Art of Writing, it had been a long time since I'd read Bradbury, since I'd read Something Wicked, and as I flip the pages of his book, I'm reminded of why I adored his stories as a young girl. The grand collector of metaphors set out to have a helluva lot of fun. He stuffed his head with anything he could from every imaginable field. He went to carnivals and cinemas and read comic books and nearly everything else he could collect from the library—short stories, essays and poetry. Only the greats, nothing modern. He likes to say that he practically lived in the library.
The world in which Bradbury lived as a child is very much alive in his works, and it's hard for me to believe that a man who extols the virtues of writing only for the pure joy and fun of writing ever had a moment in which he feared he'd waste time writing something that might not be very good. Even so, by the age of thirty he had his first novel published. And what followed was awfully good.
At the library, from Something Wicked:
Out in the world not much happened. But here in the special night, a land bricked with paper and leather, anything might happen, always did. Listen! and you heard ten thousand people screaming so high only dogs feathered their ears. A million folk ran toting cannons, sharpening guillotines; Chinese, four abreast, marched on forever. Invisible, silent, yes, but Jim and Will had the gift of ears and noses as well as the gift of tongues. This was a factory of spices from far countries. Here alien deserts slumbered. Up front was the desk where the nice old lady, Miss Watriss, purple-stamped your books, but down off away were Tibet and Antarctica, the Congo. There went Miss Wills, the other librarian, through Outer Mangolia, calmly toting fragments of Peiping and Yokohama and the Celebes. Way down the third book corridor, and oldish man whispered his broom along in the dark, mounding the fallen spices...Something Wicked has instantly transported me back to the world of Will and Jim, and Mr. Dark and the salesman toting the curious lightening rod—back to the eclipse of morning's first hours when a flashlight under the bed covers lit fantastical words ablaze. It's been difficult to fight the temptation to read ahead of Lu and her class, but I'm holding back, filling my time with other stories, considering what and how I will write, collecting ideas, piecing words together in such a way, reminding myself that it's just Ok. These are the kinds of calculations I can do in my head. And it's a helluva lot a fun.
* * *
Dead Combo is the ten year old band of friends Tó Trips and Pedro Gonçalves, of Portugal. They began their partnership after they recorded together, for the first time, a contribution to the tribute album to the late Portuguese guitarist, Carlos Paredes.
Together, Trips and Gonçalves have created their own story as well as their own incarnate personae whom they describe as "characters that could have come from a dark comic book: a caretaker and a gangster." They have recorded together, as well as with the Royal Orquestra das Caveiras (Royal Skulls Orchestra), with whom they released a live DVD in 2010.
Story can be told many ways. You can find more of Dead Combo's story music here.