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A Dark and Stormy Night
1/21/2008 2:11:32 PM
I pride myself as a Bizarro James Joyce. This is to say, an excruciatingly bad writer of Irish extraction. I am at my best (read: worst) when waves crash, winds howl, Tommy Makem and the Clancy Brothers are in full cry, and there's a plentiful supply of Two-Buck Chuck on hand. Bear with me as we steer unsteadily into the raging torrent, full ahead, and unmindful of the shoals of mediocrity! Yoiks!
IT WAS A DARK AND STORMY NIGHT
"It was a dark and stormy night; the rain fell in torrents--except at occasional intervals, when it was checked by a violent gust of wind which swept up the streets (for it is in London that our scene lies), rattling along the housetops, and fiercely agitating the scanty flame of the lamps that struggled against the darkness."
So starts the epic, timeless prose of Edward George Bulwer-Lytton’s archetypal 1830 paragon of bad writing to which we are all indebted for inspiring innumerable annual contests (the purpose of which is to encourage us mortal word-hacks to aspire to similarly stunted parody opening paragraphs). The most well known of these competitions is, of course, the original Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest. Immediately below appears another such classic specimen offered to the world by internet guru Dave Taylor.
“The hair flew in Prudence Truebottom's eyes as the wind kicked up, blowing the curtains in a ghostly waltz, tipping the paintings ever-so-slightly akilter, forcing the clouds outside even thinner, and ensuring that however she turned herself, she'd have to face the reality that Alex, her beloved Alex, wasn't coming back and that Daddy was right yet again: hot air ballooning without a control valve is a sport for fools, not adventurers."
Here are two further gems possessed of high amusement quotient:
"The Insect Keeper General, sitting astride his giant hovering aphid, surveyed the battlefield which reeked with the stench of decay and resonated with the low drone of the tattered and dying mutant swarms as their legs kicked forlornly at the sky before turning to his master and saying, 'My Lord, your flies are undone.'" (Andrew Vincent).
"The ancient Peruvian Airlines DC-3 lumbered slowly over the snow-capped peaks far below as Gunderson turned to Ricketts and marveled at how their avian import business "Incahoots" had led them once again to the far reaches of South America in search of the elusive gray-spotted owl."
Naturally the level of intensely word-wrenching blitherance only gets worse with each succeeding year. For those of you dead keen on overdosing on more such specimens of terrible tomery, visit the official website of the Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest, which is found at www.bulwer-lytton.com/ .
One could spend a whole day there, immersed in the sort of immensely entertaining literary effluvia old Bulwar-Lytton’s efforts inspired, way back in the mid-1800s, but unless you have a strong constitution and an inversely weak modicum of respect for your own wretched writing abilities, it is perhaps better to limit the visits to a short dive on each immersion. I should say here for possibly the zillionth time that I am not unmindful of the abysmal nature of my own writing, since it is generally known that in order to fully appreciate something, one must have intensely resonant sympathetic affinities (sort of along the lines of the cause/effect result of successfully applied homeopathic medical therapy). Having declaimed that little airburst of alliterative ebulence, it shouldn’t be surprising to hear that whenever I plough through the Bulwar-Lytton competition entries, my whole being absolutely quivers with sympathetic vibrations. QED.
December 7th. “Pearl Harbor Day”. Outside, the storm that was predicted earlier had finally blown out of the Pacific in full force and right onto the doorstep. Before I rose in the AM, the sound of the surf outside seemed louder in tenor to my ears as I lay bundled up in multiple layers of warmth in front of the hearth. Having elected to eschew the sleeping loft for a smaller futon in the main room the night before, things were quite cozy enough with the combined body heat of two huskies and a human, and I had no real desire to arise. Raki and Laika, still engaged in their endless turf war for dominant claim to my attentions even as they sleep, were arrayed on either side of me, providing furry bolsters of active warmth to enhance the duvet’s warmth. The air inside the cabin was crisp with the residual chill of the passing night, but offset as it was by the wonderful womb-like comfort of my tight little knot of bedding, the sensation of sticking one’s nose outside the covers was not uninvigorating and not all that unappealing. There’s something deliciously synergistic about chill air and the strong scent of still fresh pine logs with their oozing sap rivulets that positively stimulates the olfactory organs. The distinctive aroma assaults the nose not unlike the undeniably cloying scent of stale, unwashed underclothes, but in a diametrically opposite and highly pleasing manner (that’s a Bulwer-Lyttonism, heh-heh! You see how easy it is?).
As I listened for a few more moments to the thunderous roar of the pounding surf, my full appreciation of the moment was only interrupted by two other intrusive elements: a chorus of sporadic husky snorts of the sort that doggy-dreams produce, and the occasional banshee howl of wind gusts as they cut across the corners of the cabin’s windward façade like a sneeze from Betty-Jo Biolosky’s protuberant nose. The overall enticement of the combined effect was too great to resist and despite the coziness of my gow-dow (that’s Cantonese for ‘dog house’) cocoon, it was time to rise and briefly perform the obligatory morning high mass offerings at the high alter of the Chief God Caffeineus Strongus. My struggles to remove myself from the confining unconscious embrace of two somnolent furry forms was finally successful and we all got up together, tails wagging (theirs, not mine) and tongues hanging out (all of us, as they anticipated the first treat of the day and I salivated over the thought of ingesting my first decoction of French Roast and Sumatran Arabica beans of the day).
After the water had reached a tentative boil on the propane stove I reached for the press, having already used the creaky old hand grinder to produce a perfect course grind suitable for the press-pot coffee technique. After letting the just boiled water cool for a minute, I carefully cascaded the water into the pot, glancing out the window at the now turgid, now swirling waters stretching out beyond to the horizon. The ocean, which the day before had had the consistency of smooth glass, was now filled with rank after rank of white-topped waves steaming relentlessly toward the land at a slightly northwest angle to the shore. At each windward blast of salt-laden air, clouds of saline spray and sea-spume whipped off each of these monsters as they collectively approached the land with the inertial determination of an army of horny Viking raiders. The clouds over them hung low and gray, blending into the gray bulk of the sea so perfectly that it was almost hard to tell where the sky began and the sea left off. It appeared to have the making of a perfectly wonderful storm (note: there is a difference between ‘a perfect storm’ and ‘a perfectly wonderful storm’, since the former is not necessarily agreeable to the human sense of aesthetics and implies cold, wet, directly sensate misery, whereas the latter suggests a warm, cozy vantage from which to witness the stormy effects in perfect comfort).
I have found that it is exactly on such days, at such times as this that the creative juices run around wildly rampaging in my noggin, supersaturating my cranial sap, and it is a certain bet that during such sensorally stimulating moments, the words literally flow off my finger-tips in an effusively irresistible emulation of talentlessness that surely must mimic the best output Bulwer-Lytton was ever capable of at his most supreme moments of literary inspiration! Such stormy conditions as this have always been moments of creatively catalytic impetus for me and I cannot think of anything more suitable for filling up endless pages of virtual paper with non-relevant drivel that these climatically chaotic moments that all tumble forth at the merest bidding.
Think of writing for those of us who are definitely at the bottom of the literary barrel as a form of journalistic masturbation, if it helps to visualise the process. Falling somewhere in between GB Shaw at the top of the Periodic Chart of brilliant linguistic gibberish and Bulwer-Lytton’s younger and incoherent half-wit brother at the nether extremity, my own musings probably fall somewhere at or about the lowest 2 percentile. While GB Shaw may figuratively whack off with the supreme clarity and creative imagination of a mythical Onan, old Bulwer-Lytton and I must be content with the obligatory and dysfunctional rote hand motions of a cerebral palsy afflicted person suffering from the latent effects of a C-3 fracture. It is about as pretty a process, by any stretch of the muse’s imagination.
At any rate, and with grotesquely misapplied and inappropriate figurative metaphorical anomalies mercifully overlooked, stormy days for me are stimulating days that get the convolutions of the old cerebrum positively buzzing with tangential thoughts that have little or no connectivity to any larger body of meaningful or useful reflection. One such thought that popped up as I lasciviously enjoyed the morning’s first steaming cup of joe was the fact that it was December 7th, the anniversary of that fateful day in 1941 that FDR alluded would forever live in infamy. The great clouds of billowing gray storminess and the chaotic agitation of the spectacular waves that crashed into the land outside The Bunker were certainly an appropriate accompanying backdrop for a thought like this about the actual event, since that event is best characterised in the mind’s eye by successive spectacular explosions and unending, roiling towers of thick, black diesel-fired smoke over Pearl Harbor, on 7 December of 1941.
Of the fact that 2000+ soldiers, sailors, and civilians died on that day there is no argument, but of the event’s relevance as a never-to-be-forgotten moment in history there is considerable difference of opinion that to this day creates a curious and highly emotion-laden dialogue between individual Americans. As the survivors of the Japanese attack on the Pearl base drop away, the contentiousness is nontheless heated, since the human condition unanimously predisposes to a fondness for conspiracies just as surely as it does toward a regard for trashy gossip about public celebrities whose last names end in Hilton. Invariably on this annual remembrance of that day, interviews with the American (and most recently Japanese) survivors are trotted out and faithfully aired on both local and national television. The Pearl harbor interviewees repeat the same stories, and bring forth carefully recollected and congruently similar personal experiences incurred on that moment in early December when waves of Japanese warplanes swept over the island. You can literally see in their faces the intensity of the memories forever burned into their brains at that time, as if left by some great, white-hot cattle brand of fate.
As fascinating history, these accounts of personal ordeal and reflexive response to the very real imminent peril each of these men faced are edifying and instructive….up to a point….since story-telling is invariably great fun when properly accomplished, and always instructive in some manner or another. It’s when the old geezers begin moralizing and trying to make ethical sense out of their experiences that the value of these unavoidably annual excursions into the vault of American memory becomes tedious, irritating, and aesthetically repellant. The principal reason for this is because any discussion of war, killing, violent national struggles, and/or catastrophic contexts of international sociopolitical will by nature presuppose the establishment of some sort of absolute moral hierarchy in consequent association.
There are several uniform characteristics to this process of remembering war experiences that bear focusing upon, whenever an old war vet purges his vault of wartime memories. Most characteristically, at least to me, the ascendant sentiment that surfaces from every single account of extremely personal association with war that has been undergone is that there is an unconsciously irrepressible need to establish one warring side as ‘the good guys’ and the other as the ‘bad’. Thus a sort of moral struggle to pin the blame on one’s enemies immediately takes the advance guard position in these reminiscences, as inevitably as vaginal dryness chronically occurs in post-menopausal women. In those vets who are not intellectually endowed, that’s where the ruminative process is forever halted, frozen in the mind and soul like a fly forever sealed in petrified amber resin. For those old war-horses with a bit more gray matter to play around with, however, sooner or later an awareness dawns that those yellow-skinned boogeymen (substitute ‘enemy of choice’ here, whether turban-topped, slant-eyed, or as much of a pasty-white honky as am I) who were trying so hard to kill you are, after all is said and done, also human beings, the universally shared commonality of whom (each with basically similar human hopes, thoughts, desires, outlooks, and needs) inevitably comes into sharper focus later in their lives.
The next phase of the process mandates contacting old surviving enemies and getting together in an atmosphere of amicable co-acceptance of what fate has handed them to together commemorate those youthful days of nationalistic antagonism in rites of somber celebration. This is the classic ‘shared experience’ dynamic of human life that serves to eventually bond others who may have once been violently polarized by political hatreds (so perfectly exemplified by emotion-charged war propaganda) earlier in their lives. Pearl Harbor Day remembrances are today accordingly increasingly characterised by such gatherings of aged, former American and Japanese soldiers who in the twilight of their many year spent trying to puzzle out the whole mess of their involvement, typically succumb to the geriatric effects of diminished Testosterone titers and FINALLY are able to see beyond the belligerent purple haze created in their minds, by that always contentious biochemical component of the human body, to grasp whatever truth may (or may not) lie beyond.
At first glance and without any deeper thoughts on this curious process, it is easy to become indignant and impatient with the obvious futility of such a highly predictable and cyclically recurrent aspect of human of affairs. Why, after all, charge off to battle, mindlessly slaughter as many of the opposing army as possible in the most deviously clever and merciless manner possible, and then later come to the awareness that these are actually future potential good buddies with whom you might greatly enjoy quaffing a few root beers and sharing stories some day? In a word, hormones. Once the basic biochemistry of the causative process behind Pearl Harbor day (and any other collective or personal human conflict you can think of) is better understood, and a broader awareness of how this status quo has affected the entire history of the human race since Day One is crasped, one is tempted to think that perhaps the mythical Amazons of ancient Greek legend had it right after all: get rid of all the male babies at birth and just keep a few specially selected studs around for breeding purposes (preferably well hung, I would imagine, and not especially endowed with IQ).
The sad fact is and always has been that all wars are the product of a fatal admixture of two elements (virtually exclusively male in origin), one of environmentally formative substance and the other hormonal in nature. These are: 1) the clever tool-using ability of us opposed-thumb higher primates, and 2) a severe imbalance between estrogen and testosterone (with the bias being towards the latter) in the genders. As regards the latter influence, it is well known that the balance of these gender-specific hormones changes over the term of the human life span, diminishing remarkably towards the end of the cycle. Thus women become progressively aggressive and may altogether lose that softly feminine nature (that is so fatally attractive to us XY types) as they age; men, for their part, become mellower, less aggressive, and more compliant as the male/female temperament characteristics tend to reverse poles.
When you take the deplorable male condition in early life of being mentally immature, whilst charged to the eyebrows with testosterone, the question of why humanity is constantly at war over the usual trivial differences of economic or political opinion is no longer the enigmatic riddle, wrapped in mystery that it might at first appear. Young guys are prepared by nature to be thoughtless physical fighting machines…a condition that obtains with some constancy throughout their lives until shortly before the end of their days (assuming they don’t end up as premature cannon fodder, rotting away on some remote battlefield). At that time they are finally released to a substantial degree from their hormonal captivity and may perhaps reconsider their world through the more unclouded hormonal lenses (e.g. the present state of the Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day events) that age confers. Thus also an explanation of the fact that former Imperial Army Sergeant Yukio Fukutume and US Navy Chief Petty Officer Rock Bawls are now to be found at the Pearl Harbor O-Club enjoying a beer together as mutually convivial drinking companions on 7 December every year (a circumstance that predictably ends up being used to great personal advantage on the evening news by some drop-dead gorgeous split-tail news-anchor to pad out her nightly agenda of inanely stupid examples of inanely stupid human behavior).
It’s certainly a waste of my time (and I hope yours as well) having to be subjected to more absolutely boring dullness of this sort on the national news media at this time of the year (and thank goodness there’s no television here in The Bunker).
Meanwhile, outside the rising storm has grown in increasing fury as wave after wave of black clouds comes roaring in from the sea, and the heightened fury of the gray ocean threatens to pulverize that part of the coastline left over from Mother Ghea’s last sea-borne attack on our cretinously sedate human misapprehensions of our Universe. The pups have grown restless and my butt has long since gone to sleep, perched on the edge of this flat and thinly padded chair that I use. The long promised rain has finally begun to thunder down and things are getting, as Bertie Wooster (of P.G. Wodehouse’s Jeeves and Wooster) would put it, “dashedly wet and all”.
I’m going to give my somnolent and sore nether extremity an amulatory break to re-enervate itself, and take the pups outside for a quick leg-lift or two, leaving this annual remembrance of the Pearl Harbor Day nonsense to torpedo itself and sink back into the miasma of eternal human befuddlement that typifies human life on this lovely planet (that most of us don’t appreciate anywhere as much as we should).
Since I’ve already reached the exalted heights of the 10,000 worst bad writers level in Bulwers-Lytton competition, the next objective on my literary list of aspirations is the most challenging yet: The “Best Bad Sex Writing Contest”. [Someone pointed out to me recently that I should have a fairly good advantage in this particular endeavor, given the previous products along these lines that have already sprung forth from the dried-up little coconut of my fecund imagination…..].
REMEMBER PEARL PUREHEART! Woof!
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