Raymond Chandler’s LA

June 30, 2008

So I just got back from LA and I have to say that LA really has changed a lot, it is no longer the cool, seductive and slightly secretive place that Chandler used to describe in his mystery novels. Well having just said that I wonder if it was ever like that? LA in Chandler’s books seems to have mystery to it, to be quite, but loud if you speak the lingo. This is contrary to the image of LA today that noisy, crowded and much more interesting to the young bohemian types than it is to detectives and their dames. Anyway, it would have been interesting to be in LA in the 50s to see if it was like the Chandler LA. Maybe a new writer will come out and be able to write about the LA of today. I doubt it will appeal itself to a mystery though.



I love these journals! I have three of them now and I love the idea that they were used by famous writers (like Hemingway), but also that they are just simple, clean and beautifully classic journals. I know it seems silly to talk about a journal, but it is an important part of writing to have something to write IN and when you have a Moleskin you can almost sense yourself being more creative. Anyway, I highly recommend checking one out, they are expensive, but the benefits of writing in one out-weighs the costs, trust me.

If you think that title is written correctly, then kindly stop reading this blog post and go back to 5th grade. Writing well is not an easy task and I know that I am not the best, but I did find this list on writing tips and I thought I would share it because it seems helpful.

  1. Always avoid alliteration.
  2. Prepositions are not words to end sentences with.
  3. Avoid cliches like the plague—they’re old hat.
  4. Employ the vernacular.
  5. Eschew ampersands & abbreviations, etc.
  6. Parenthetical remarks (however relevant) are unnecessary.
  7. Parenthetical words however must be enclosed in commas.
  8. It is wrong to ever split an infinitive.
  9. Contractions aren’t necessary.
  10. Do not use a foreign word when there is an adequate
    English quid pro quo.
  11. One should never generalize.
  12. Eliminate quotations. As Ralph Waldo Emerson once
    said: “I hate quotations. Tell me what you know.”
  13. Comparisons are as bad as cliches.
  14. Don’t be redundant; don’t use more words than necessary;
    it’s highly superfluous.
  15. It behooves you to avoid archaic expressions.
  16. Avoid archaeic spellings too.
  17. Understatement is always best.
  18. Exaggeration is a billion times worse than understatement.
  19. One-word sentences? Eliminate. Always!
  20. Analogies in writing are like feathers on a snake.
  21. The passive voice should not be used.
  22. Go around the barn at high noon to avoid colloquialisms.
  23. Don’t repeat yourself, or say again what you have
    said before.
  24. Who needs rhetorical questions?
  25. Don’t use commas, that, are not, necessary.
  26. Do not use hyperbole; not one in a million can do
    it effectively.
  27. Never use a big word when a diminutive alternative
    would suffice.
  1. Subject and verb always has to agree.
  2. Be more or less specific.
  3. Placing a comma between subject and predicate, is
    not correct.
  4. Use youre spell chekker to avoid mispeling and to
    catch typograhpical errers.
  5. Don’t repeat yourself, or say again what you have
    said before.
  6. Don’t be redundant.
  7. Use the apostrophe in it’s proper place and omit it
    when its not needed.
  8. Don’t never use no double negatives.
  9. Poofread carefully to see if you any words out.
  10. Hopefully, you will use words correctly, irregardless
    of how others use them.
  11. Eschew obfuscation.
  12. No sentence fragments.
  13. Don’t indulge in sesquipedalian lexicological constructions.
  14. A writer must not shift your point of view.
  15. Don’t overuse exclamation marks!!
  16. Place pronouns as close as possible, especially in
    long sentences, as of 10 or more words, to their antecedents.
  17. Writing carefully, dangling participles must be avoided.
  18. If any word is improper at the end of a sentence,
    a linking verb is.
  19. Avoid trendy locutions that sound flaky.
  20. Everyone should be careful to use a singular pronoun
    with singular nouns in their writing.
  21. Always pick on the correct idiom.
  22. The adverb always follows the verb.
  23. Take the bull by the hand and avoid mixing metaphors.
  24. If you reread your work, you can find on rereading
    a great deal of repetition can be by rereading and
  25. And always be sure to finish what

Now that is what I call a good list, thanks to the people over at Plainlanguage.gov for the list!

I found this shirt after I was thinking about another one of PKD’s books “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?” which was also made into a movie starring Harrison Ford called “Blade Runner.” Anyways, I really like the shirt because it is in that cool 8-bit style that is super l33t hax0r. Anyway, check it out below.

Electric Sheep shirt

Electric Sheep


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Best Sci-Fi Novel

June 21, 2008

Philip K. Dick is one of the best science fiction writers that the US has ever produced and the Pièce de résistance of his body of work has to be The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch. What makes PKD novels so great is how they are rooted in a future that seems possible (and probable), but still get to the greater core issues of living and existence that people of this time grapple with on a daily basis. In The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch the main character deals with a society that is need of faith and at a crisis where they turn to consumerism for their answers. Should familiar? It’s like PKD was writing about the crisis of what the US is becoming. Anyway, I don’t want to give away any more, just go get it and read it. The book is short, but it will challenge you more than the SATs on two-hours of sleep.

Hills = Pregnancy

June 19, 2008

Did you get it? Well those luscious hills in Spain were not what the two characters were really talking about. Instead they were talking about her coming pregnancy! Yes, the lead female character was pregnant and the two characters were on their way to get her an abortion since the child was unplanned and they may even been unmarried. The problem is that she is having second thoughts and tries to communicate that through her dialog, but is unsuccessful with the rigid male character.

Anyways, it is a story that shows that often two characters can be talking about something and really mean something else. And when the writing is really good, they are talking about something, meaning something else and even conveying their change in belief and the entire spectrum of emotions when talking about something else. That is what Hemingway is amazing at in this story.

Alright this is a deep analysis test. You need to read this text and post in the comments what you think they are actually talking about. I will give you a hint, it’s not the hills. Don’t go snooping around to sites that give it away. this is a test for yourself and for you to see your own understanding of lit.

I will post the answer soon enough 🙂

Hills Like White Elephants
By Ernest Hemingway

The hills across the valley of the Ebro were long and white. On this side there was no shade and no trees and the station was between two lines of rails in the sun. Close against the side of the station there was the warm shadow of the building and a curtain, made of strings of bamboo beads, hung across the open door into the bar, to keep out flies. The American and the girl with him sat at a table in the shade, outside the building. It was very hot and the express from Barcelona would come in forty minutes. It stopped at this junction for two minutes and went to Madrid.
‘What should we drink?’ the girl asked. She had taken off her hat and put it on the table.

‘It’s pretty hot,’ the man said.

‘Let’s drink beer.’

‘Dos cervezas,’ the man said into the curtain.

‘Big ones?’ a woman asked from the doorway.

‘Yes. Two big ones.’

The woman brought two glasses of beer and two felt pads. She put the felt pads and the beer glass on the table and looked at the man and the girl. The girl was looking off at the line of hills. They were white in the sun and the country was brown and dry.

‘They look like white elephants,’ she said.

‘I’ve never seen one,’ the man drank his beer.

‘No, you wouldn’t have.’

‘I might have,’ the man said. ‘Just because you say I wouldn’t have doesn’t prove anything.’

The girl looked at the bead curtain. ‘They’ve painted something on it,’ she said. ‘What does it say?’

‘Anis del Toro. It’s a drink.’

‘Could we try it?’

The man called ‘Listen’ through the curtain. The woman came out from the bar.

‘Four reales.’ ‘We want two Anis del Toro.’

‘With water?’

‘Do you want it with water?’

‘I don’t know,’ the girl said. ‘Is it good with water?’

‘It’s all right.’

‘You want them with water?’ asked the woman.

‘Yes, with water.’

‘It tastes like liquorice,’ the girl said and put the glass down.

‘That’s the way with everything.’

‘Yes,’ said the girl. ‘Everything tastes of liquorice. Especially all the things you’ve waited so long for, like absinthe.’

‘Oh, cut it out.’

‘You started it,’ the girl said. ‘I was being amused. I was having a fine time.’

‘Well, let’s try and have a fine time.’

‘All right. I was trying. I said the mountains looked like white elephants. Wasn’t that bright?’

‘That was bright.’

‘I wanted to try this new drink. That’s all we do, isn’t it – look at things and try new drinks?’

‘I guess so.’

The girl looked across at the hills.

‘They’re lovely hills,’ she said. ‘They don’t really look like white elephants. I just meant the colouring of their skin through the trees.’

‘Should we have another drink?’

‘All right.’

The warm wind blew the bead curtain against the table.

‘The beer’s nice and cool,’ the man said.

‘It’s lovely,’ the girl said.

‘It’s really an awfully simple operation, Jig,’ the man said. ‘It’s not really an operation at all.’

The girl looked at the ground the table legs rested on.

‘I know you wouldn’t mind it, Jig. It’s really not anything. It’s just to let the air in.’

The girl did not say anything.

‘I’ll go with you and I’ll stay with you all the time. They just let the air in and then it’s all perfectly natural.’

‘Then what will we do afterwards?’

‘We’ll be fine afterwards. Just like we were before.’

‘What makes you think so?’

‘That’s the only thing that bothers us. It’s the only thing that’s made us unhappy.’

The girl looked at the bead curtain, put her hand out and took hold of two of the strings of beads.

‘And you think then we’ll be all right and be happy.’

‘I know we will. Yon don’t have to be afraid. I’ve known lots of people that have done it.’

‘So have I,’ said the girl. ‘And afterwards they were all so happy.’

‘Well,’ the man said, ‘if you don’t want to you don’t have to. I wouldn’t have you do it if you didn’t want to. But I know it’s perfectly simple.’

‘And you really want to?’

‘I think it’s the best thing to do. But I don’t want you to do it if you don’t really want to.’

‘And if I do it you’ll be happy and things will be like they were and you’ll love me?’

‘I love you now. You know I love you.’

‘I know. But if I do it, then it will be nice again if I say things are like white elephants, and you’ll like it?’

‘I’ll love it. I love it now but I just can’t think about it. You know how I get when I worry.’

‘If I do it you won’t ever worry?’

‘I won’t worry about that because it’s perfectly simple.’

‘Then I’ll do it. Because I don’t care about me.’

‘What do you mean?’

‘I don’t care about me.’

‘Well, I care about you.’

‘Oh, yes. But I don’t care about me. And I’ll do it and then everything will be fine.’

‘I don’t want you to do it if you feel that way.’

The girl stood up and walked to the end of the station. Across, on the other side, were fields of grain and trees along the banks of the Ebro. Far away, beyond the river, were mountains. The shadow of a cloud moved across the field of grain and she saw the river through the trees.

‘And we could have all this,’ she said. ‘And we could have everything and every day we make it more impossible.’

‘What did you say?’

‘I said we could have everything.’

‘No, we can’t.’

‘We can have the whole world.’

‘No, we can’t.’

‘We can go everywhere.’

‘No, we can’t. It isn’t ours any more.’

‘It’s ours.’

‘No, it isn’t. And once they take it away, you never get it back.’

‘But they haven’t taken it away.’

‘We’ll wait and see.’

‘Come on back in the shade,’ he said. ‘You mustn’t feel that way.’

‘I don’t feel any way,’ the girl said. ‘I just know things.’

‘I don’t want you to do anything that you don’t want to do -‘

‘Nor that isn’t good for me,’ she said. ‘I know. Could we have another beer?’

‘All right. But you’ve got to realize – ‘

‘I realize,’ the girl said. ‘Can’t we maybe stop talking?’

They sat down at the table and the girl looked across at the hills on the dry side of the valley and the man looked at her and at the table.

‘You’ve got to realize,’ he said, ‘ that I don’t want you to do it if you don’t want to. I’m perfectly willing to go through with it if it means anything to you.’

‘Doesn’t it mean anything to you? We could get along.’

‘Of course it does. But I don’t want anybody but you. I don’t want anyone else. And I know it’s perfectly simple.’

‘Yes, you know it’s perfectly simple.’

‘It’s all right for you to say that, but I do know it.’

‘Would you do something for me now?’

‘I’d do anything for you.’

‘Would you please please please please please please please stop talking?’

He did not say anything but looked at the bags against the wall of the station. There were labels on them from all the hotels where they had spent nights.

‘But I don’t want you to,’ he said, ‘I don’t care anything about it.’

‘I’ll scream,’ the girl siad.

The woman came out through the curtains with two glasses of beer and put them down on the damp felt pads. ‘The train comes in five minutes,’ she said.

‘What did she say?’ asked the girl.

‘That the train is coming in five minutes.’

The girl smiled brightly at the woman, to thank her.

‘I’d better take the bags over to the other side of the station,’ the man said. She smiled at him.

‘All right. Then come back and we’ll finish the beer.’

He picked up the two heavy bags and carried them around the station to the other tracks. He looked up the tracks but could not see the train. Coming back, he walked through the bar-room, where people waiting for the train were drinking. He drank an Anis at the bar and looked at the people. They were all waiting reasonably for the train. He went out through the bead curtain. She was sitting at the table and smiled at him.

‘Do you feel better?’ he asked.

‘I feel fine,’ she said. ‘There’s nothing wrong with me. I feel fine.’

Mark Twain Mug & Quote

June 14, 2008

I like this quote because it is really funny on the surface, but also has a much deeper underside that speaks to real advice every person should embody. In fact, it has two key points that I think Twain would want a person to understand, and live by. The first, is that you must be skeptical of what you read, hear or gather. There is no such thing as perfect information and if you take everything at face value you will part of the blind masses making senseless decisions that are bound to destroy the freedoms and liberties of another person. Two, don’t be so serious! I know these two interpretations seem to be in contradiction to each other but they aren’t. Both deal with the relaxed, non-fanatical approach to life. If this quote was a friend of yours, he would be the person that sits in a rocking chair on the porch saying “Take it easy…”

Be careful about reading health books. You may die of a misprint.
-Mark Twain

Mark Twain mug

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Sedaris has a new Book

June 13, 2008

So when I was writing about Sedaris like two days ago, I also found out that he has a new book coming out called When You Art Engulfed in Flames, which is another nonfiction collection of stories and essays about his life. It 30k copies in the first week! Good job Sedaris. I always love to know that writers are doing well, especially ones that have such great talent like Sedaris (Grisman – I don’t give a shit). Anyway, I want to get the book, but I will post a little blurb someone else wrote about it since I haven’t read it and therefore cannot pass judgment. Well I can since I read some of his other stuff, this book is fucking awesome, buy it.

Here is the quote from the International Herald Tribune:

That basic formula for both his personal essays and his popular public-radio broadcasts has made Sedaris a best-selling author with a huge following, and his writing seems a perfect mirror of a confessional culture that revels in personal revelation – a self-dramatizing, post-Seinfeldian talk show culture in which nothing (not even a boil on one’s butt or the use of a catheter with a self-adhesive condom) is too embarrassing or too private or too trivial to recount.

How is it that you are still reading this post and not buying this book?

David Sedaris is one of the great satirists of our time and this little essay reading that he did on Letterman about his “Stadium Pal,” is further proof of that. I read his book “Me Talk Pretty One Day” when I was college and this video brings right back to that book. Also, here is a link (to give you taste for his style) to his story “You Can’t Kill the Rooster.” You need to read it! Also check out the essay below.