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Joseph E Bird

Let's talk about reading, writing and the arts.

spidey is a woman

I saw Bob Foster in the coffee shop Saturday. I asked about his daughter, Julie, who graduated from our small town high school in St. Albans, WV and made it to the big time working in New York City as an architectural preservationist. But she doesn’t just sit at a desk and review historic documents. She rappels down New York skyscrapers with a camera and a hammer and inspects for deteriorating masonry. Yep, that’s a thing. She was one of the preservationists featured on the Today show recently. She’s in the group scene at the end.

Bob told us that to allay the fears of her mother, she told her that she doesn’t rappel down buildings more than 60 stories. Which, as it turns out, wasn’t exactly true. As if 90 stories is any more dangerous than 60. Click the link below to see the Today show clip.

Go, Spidey.

https://www.today.com/video/women-building-inspectors-rappel-down-new-york-s-high-rises-1503459907634

choices

1950s movie starlet at home for the Christmas holidays.

Could have been. She had those classic movie-star looks. She always wanted to be “discovered.” But her choice was her family. She was a stay-at-home mom. That’s what most mothers did back then. So maybe life in the limelight was not her destiny. In some ways it was a sacrifice. Still, it was her choice. Her calling was hard, sometimes wearisome, and largely unglamorous. But it was also noble and virtuous and rewarding in immeasurable ways.

She was my mother.

“Her children arise up, and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praiseth her.”


photo credit: Eugene A. Bird

the guitar

Come sit by the fire. I have a story to tell.

Ok, so it’s Verlon Thompson’s story. And Guy Clark’s.

still they come

we are the land of the oppressed

and still they come

we are the land of the unfair, the unjust, and the selfish

and still they come

we are the land of the destitute, the marginalized, the ignored

and still they come

we are the land of prejudice, and bigotry, and hatred

and still they come

we are the land of assault, and theft, and murder

and still they come

we are the land of toxic waste, and foul air, and undrinkable water

and still they come

we are the land of filthy cities, the homeless, and needles in the playground

and still they come

we are the land of division, and tribalism, and democracy in decline

and still they come

we are the land of despair, and shattered dreams, and lost hope

and still they come

we are the great Satan, the imperialist nation, the evil America

and still they come

.

we are the land of friendships, and neighbors, and welcoming strangers

and still they come

we are the land of charity, of goodwill, and acts of kindness

and still they come

we are the land of giving, and helping, and sacrifice

and still they come

we are the land of your faith, of my faith, or no faith

and still they come

we are the land of mountain majesty, of fruited plains, and sparkling rivers

and still they come

we are the land of small towns, and family farms, and shining cities on the hill

and still they come

we are the land of hard work, and opportunities, and reward

and still they come

we are the land of dreaming, of possibilities, of anything can happen

and still they come

we are the land of the underdog, and second chances, and comebacks

and still they come

we are the land of the brash, the home of the brave, and defender of rights

and still they come

we are the inspiration of yesterday, the bread for the day, and the hope for tomorrow

and still they come

.

we are the land of hopelessness and hope

we are the land of the poor and the rich

we are the land of the atheist and the faithful

we are the land of oppression and liberty

we are America

and still they come


copyright 2019, joseph e bird

clean the ashes from your hearth

Spring is the death of death and the erasure of memory.

Who can ruminate over what was lost in the ice and snow when the brook runs free and clear? This is new life, again. Stop your brooding and take off your coat and hat. Clean the ashes from your hearth and open the windows and let the accumulated scents of stew and woodsmoke escape into the gold and blue. — Larry Ellis, from Mid-day Post, March 30, 2019.

whitey on the moon

I just got around to seeing First Man, the story of Neil Armstrong, first man on the man. It’s the 60s. You remember the 60s. Maybe you don’t. Young’uns. Crazy times, the 60s, culminating in 1969, of course, a year crammed full of historic events.

The movie sets the scene and doesn’t gloss over the turbulence of the day. There’s a snippet of a song, a poem, really, by Gil Scott-Heron that plays for a few moments, to illustrate that not everyone was thrilled with the space race. We should be spending money on other things, they said.

Whitey on the Moon.

Yeah, it’s easy to get riled up by the words, whether you agree or disagree. It’s easy to be offended. It’s easy to scream, right on.

That’s the power of the piece.

And it’s powerful because it’s poetry. Urban poetry set to music.

It’s hip and cool. The forerunner of rap.

Set aside the message for a moment. Listen to it as art. Appreciate the rhythms and the cadence and the genius of the form.

Dig it.

it takes a thief

“Don’t worry about parking the car,” says the art thief. “Anywhere near the museum is fine.” When it comes to stealing from museums, Stéphane Breitwieser is virtually peerless. He is one of the most prolific and successful art thieves who have ever lived. Done right, his technique—daytime, no violence, performed like a magic trick, sometimes with guards in the room—never involves a dash to a getaway car. And done wrong, a parking spot is the least of his worries.

— Michael Finkel, from GQ Magazine.

A fascinating story by a great writer. It’s got to be a movie some day. Click the link below to learn everything about Stéphane Breitwieser and the art of the steal.

https://www.gq.com/story/secrets-of-the-worlds-greatest-art-thief

how to write a novel

If only it were so easy.

On page 83 of Cormac McCarthy’s novel The Crossing, I had a moment of realization.

In the years before World War II, young Billy Parham has trapped a wolf and is determined to take it back from where it came, the mountains of Mexico. How the wolf is trapped, how he frees it from the trap, how he manages to transport the wolf while on horseback, is in itself a captivating story. The details provided by McCarthy, the knowledge of the pre-war cowboy, the behavior of wild wolves, his knowledge of geography, his use of language is masterful.

And on page 83, I realized that he couldn’t have accomplished all of this in the first draft. Or the first major revision. As I marvel at his writing, I know, without the need for confirmation, that this part of the story required so much work. I can see a first draft getting down the basics. Then another layer of detail. And another. And another. I can see complete restructuring of scenes when something strikes McCarthy as unrealistic or implausible or maybe not the right tone.

So much work.

Yeah, it’s hard enough to get to 80,000 words. But if you think you’re done after the first draft, you fooling yourself. The first draft is not worth reading.

It will be better after your first round of revisions. But it will take more. Painful edits. Re-writing entire sections. Killing off beloved characters. New beginnings. New endings.

But the truth is, if you want to be good, you have to work hard. It’s true for anything you do.

Can you handle that?

Buck up, friends. Do the work. Don’t expect it to be easy.

Musical Chairs

Matt Diffee was a starving artist. A failed comedian. And then…

A few years ago he told his story on The Moth. It’s an entertaining twelve minutes. Click the link below.

https://player.themoth.org/#/?actionType=ADD_AND_PLAY&storyId=413

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