On Blogging

Batting Back Blogger’s Block with Current Events

It’s been real hard coming up with decent, original material lately.

None of my current ideas lives up to the usual high standard of trivial blather that the readers of this blog have grown to expect, and which they so richly deserve.

I thought of writing about oil exploration in New Zealand, in light of the Gulf of Mexico being turned into a gigantic pot of toxic gumbo. (I can almost smell the fried sea turtles from here. Yum.)

Not to miss out on the Peak Oil beach party, New Zealand recently granted Petrobras a five-year permit to search for petroleum deposits in the Raukumara Basin off the East Coast of the North Island.

New Zealand has barrels of pristine beaches, like this one at Port Waikato.

What excited me most about this announcement was the solid assurance of Energy and Resources Minister Gerry Brownlee that nothing like the Gulf of Mexico disaster could happen here.

“I’m of the strong view,” Brownlee said, “that any of the oil companies who might be interested in pursuing their options will themselves, for the matter of their own liability, want to make sure that they are as safe as they possibly can be.”

I’m sure Brownlee is right. Look at British Petroleum, after all. Left to its own devices by a neutered regulatory agency, BP exposed the entire Gulf region of the States to untold risk rather than invest up to $7 million in preventative measures.

The company lost half its stock valuation as a result of following industry best-practices. But that seems irrelevant compared to the cost of destroyed industries, decimated ecosystems, and lost life.

Perhaps Brownlee’s assurance refers to the invisible hand of the free market and its ability to plug-up any hole with just its pinky finger. He’s right. The invisible hand of the free market is always ready to give us the finger.

BP being as safe as it possibly can be in Tairua.

But enough with stupid cheap-shots and preachy hyperbole. I’ll admit that being a long-time consumer of fossil fuels hampers my credibility as a critic.

But how did this disaster come to be known as a spill?

I doubt people that call it a “spill” have ever spilled anything in their lives.

It’s not like if you were sipping a Martini in a crowded bar and your arm got jostled and vodka and olives continued to flow for three straight months so that drink experts would be called in to suck up the mess and Congressional committees would have to cross examine bartenders and everybody who lived near the crowded bar would be drunk all the time from the vodka fumes. I mean, if that were the case, I’d seriously have to consider moving next to a bar.

I thought of writing all that, but then I thought, “What a bunch of crap. Maybe I should write about the weather instead.”

It’s now officially winter, which means it’s finally colder outdoors than it is inside my apartment. But only a little.

The cold, hard light of the Winter Solstice, June 21. The sun rose at 7:48 a.m. and set at 4:58 p.m.

See, as many of you have probably guessed by my demeanor, hygiene and grammar, I live in a cave.

We all do down here. That’s because most residences in New Zealand do not have central heating.

We get by. We put on our indoor fleeces (as opposed to our fancy, outdoor, doing-the-town fleeces) and we crank up our electric heaters to 3 and we burn architectural elements in our fireplaces.

So the temperature, I can deal with. In the cold and damp, however, there thrives a mold, the national flower of New Zealand, that aggravates my asthma.

This, unfortunately, is also a bunch of crap.

Maybe this week, I just don’t have it in me to write original material. Maybe it’s better for everyone if I just re-print material from someplace else.

Like this partial transcript of a White House Press Briefing about President Barack Obama’s reaction to Gen. Stanley McChrystal disparaging the Administration in a Rolling Stone article:

Press Briefing by Press Secretary Robert Gibbs, 6/22/2010

James S. Brady Press Briefing Room

12:52 P.M. EDT

Q    Were you with the President when he reacted in any way to this story?  And if so, how would you describe it?  Was he surprised?  Was he angry?

MR. GIBBS:  I was — I gave him the article last night.  And he was angry.

Q    How so?

MR. GIBBS:  Angry.  You would know it if you saw it.  (Laughter.)

Q    What did he do?

MR. GIBBS:  I’d rather not talk about it.

Q    Come on. Don’t tease.

MR. GIBBS: Well, I went in to show him the article. He said, “I thought I told you never  to interrupt me when Cougar Town is on.” I told him it was important. “Wait for the commercial,” he said. It was the longest five minutes of my life.

Q    Why?

MR. GIBBS: Because he was wearing his eye patch and he had a snooty looking persian cat on his lap, which he caressed menacingly. When the commercial came on, I showed him the article.

Q    And?

MR. GIBBS:  First he bit my ankle. Then he smashed me over the head with a portrait of one of the presidents. (Laughter.)

Q    Which president?

MR. GIBBS:  I don’t know. It was wrapped around my head and facing the other way. The President laughed at me. He kept saying, “Now you know how I feel when someone interrupts me watching television.” And then he said, “Oh, don’t start crying now. I’ll give you something to cry about.”

Q    How deep was the bite?

MR. GIBBS:  I needed six stitches. They gave me a tetanus shot and they injected me in the abdomen with a Rabies vaccine, just in case. (Laughter.) It was very painful.

Q    But what did the president say about the article? What were his first words?

MR. GIBBS:  The last thing I heard before I passed out was something along the lines of, “I’m going to fix myself a sandwich. You want anything?”

Last Night’s Sunset

I call this one "Celestial Impressions." From March 20.

And this one from last night I call "Angel Breath."

And this one I call "A-to-the-k-to-the-47" or "Dear

And last but not least, I call this one, "Oh, Delicate and Gossamer Sky" or "Will my Goddamned Neighbor Across the Street Ever Play Anything Besides Dire Straits When He's Working in His Garage, and What Exactly is He Doing in His Garage All Day and All Night Anyway?"

A special note to my mother: Happy Birthday, or whatever.

A special note to everyone: Click here to read my debut  contribution to bkish.com, a blog for people who think books are worthwhile. I’ll be posting stuff there a few times a month, which at this point is more often than I post on my own blog. Or whatever.

They Write About Shooting Horses, Don’t They?

Have you ever sat in your windowless office, suburban tract home or hobo encampment thinking, “Gee, I sure would like to write a fictional account of a horse. But, I wouldn’t even know where to begin.”

Well now you can know where to begin thanks to the people who’ve thought of everything: wikiHow. Just use their easy-to-follow instructions, and you’ll be chomping at the bit just to get started on your very own fictional account of a horse or horses.

Here are highlights from wikiHow’s 11-step guide (thanks to my Facebook friend Diyan for drawing my attention to it in the first place). I’ve put in bold the advice that I will follow or at least keep in mind whenever I get around to writing my own fictional account of a horse:

  • Learn about horses…If you can, spend some time observing real horses and interacting with them. If you can’t get to a place with live horses, watch videos with horses to get a sense of how they move and behave
  • (A horse’s name) can say something about the horse’s character. For example, a horse named “Flame” might be wild and rebellious, maybe a stallion, and likely bay or chestnut colored….Try to have horses in your story with a variety of different personalities. No one wants to read about a bunch of horses who all act the same.
  • While humans are not always essential in a story about horses, they are frequently present. They should be just as fully developed as characters as the horses are….
  • Do some prewriting…List the characters, both horse and human, as well as the setting, and some specific details about them. For example: Hudson (horse): Clydesdale, bay, old, smart
. Danielle (girl): 14 years old, blond hair, owner of HudsonYou may also want to draw pictures to help you visualize the story.
  • …Some possible conflicts include:
 An orphaned foal struggles to survive in the wild; A band of wild horses are brought to live on a farm; A horse is purchased by a cruel owner; An old horse and a young rider must learn to work together; A group of people acquire a wild horse and try to tame it.
  • events should relate to the main conflict in your story. For example, if we have a story about wild horses coming to live on a farm, some events that could happen are:
 A headstrong mare gets loose and runs away. The foals like the humans, but worry about losing the respect of the lead stallion. The humans try to ride one of the horses for the first time. One of the horses is ill and the humans must nurse him back to health.
  • Write a rough draft…this is not the final copy. Don’t worry about spelling and punctuation yet.
  • Edit the rough draft with a pen or pencil
  • Complete the final copy. You may wish to type it, or you can simply write the story on paper.

Jumping the Shark, or “Everyone Loves a Kitten”

It’s been a busy week, so I haven’t had the time to post as much as I would have liked.

But then what do you care? That’s what I told Jacquie the other night when I showed her the blog statistics. Our readership was at an all-time low. I didn’t know you could get a number below zero visits. Obviously, we’d sprung a leak somewhere along the way. There were tough decisions to be made.

“Jacquie,” I said, “We’ve had a good long run. We’ve had a few laughs, a few tears, and a few dozen whip-its. But maybe it’s time we tossed in the towel. Maybe these stats are a sign to shut the lights off on this ‘Basement’ we call ‘Life.'”

“You could shut down the blog,” Jacquie said. “But who would notice?”

“Exactly. So what do I do?”

“I have just the thing that will boost readership.”

“What is it?”

“Shhh, come here.”

Jacquie opened her arms and gave me a hug but before I knew it, she managed to cover my nose and mouth with a damp handkerchief, and by the count of 10, I was unconscious. My wife had chloroformed me, just like on our wedding day.

I don’t know how much time passed, but when I woke up, I found us standing inside a long, brightly lit corridor with 25 cages built into the walls on either side, and a couple of strange people with ID badges, smiling at me.

“Feel free to ask us any questions,” one of them said.

“Who are you horrible people?” I said.

“It’s the Auckland SPCA,” Jacquie said. “We’re going to adopt a cat.”

“Damn it.”

The volunteers showed us several models to choose from. We learned that Auckland had just gotten through one of the biggest “kitten seasons” on record, but there didn’t seem to be many in the cages so I assumed that most of them had already been culled by licensed hunters or adopted, whichever applied to “kitten season.”  We didn’t mind so much, anyway, since Jacquie and I were accustomed to adopting old cats. Norman was four or five when we took him in, and Puffy was probably 14 or 15, and Graeme, well, we’re not so sure because, as it turned out, Graeme had probably been dead for several years before we rescued her.

But the older ones at the SPCA gave us the creeps, to say nothing of the cats they were showing us. We were none too impressed.

Until we met this young buck.

Ladies and gentlemen, for the first time in public, Kitten #102358. I mean, Chester. (Yes, observant reader, he is part blurry.)

A volunteer told us that Chester was the last of his litter to be adopted, because he was “naturally shy.” But that probably had nothing whatsoever to do with people constantly lurching at him with their big grubby hands. From my perspective, the nine-week-old seemed more than eager to come home with us and destroy our furniture.

So the volunteer took Chester out of his cage and whispered something into the poor guy’s ear. “I speak cat language because I’m an honorary non-feline member of the Cat Council*,”  the volunteer informed us. “I want you two to know, we all think you’re doing such a great thing.”  (“We” referring to said Cat Council, presumably).

Jacquie and I made for the exit as quickly as we could, but not in time to escape another volunteer who tricked us into buying thousands of dollars worth of unnecessary junk, like a scratching post, catnip toys and food. Then as we were carrying all this crap out to the car, I looked into the carrier.

“Hey, this carrier is empty,” I said.

“Oh, ha-ha, I must have unknowingly exchanged your carrier with an empty one while you weren’t looking, by mistake,” the volunteer said. “How did that happen?”

Chester tended to amuse himself with the scratching post before he discovered our credit cards.

Chester has been home with us now for three days, and I have to say he’s behaved like a perfectly normal kitten, playing with his catnip toys, smashing precariously stored plates and glasses, and scratching my corneas out with an X-acto knife. And the blog? Did Jumping the Shark by shamelessly and lazily exploiting the biological hardwiring of humans to take interest in all things small, doe-eyed and vulnerable, did that help bring our stats up?

Well, it’s too early to know. For now, let’s just say that if you don’t get everyone you know to read this blog right now, the kitten just might have an “accident,” if you know what I mean.

*This is a reference to a very old inside-joke in my family. With apologies to my sister, the lawyer, and her gracious decision to never pursue litigation against me, Jacquie or Basement Life and its subsidiaries, licensees, franchisees or partners, in perpetuity throughout the known universe.