Starting Life in Pahrump, Nevada

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Four Sentences

Just found this. Moby, sampling Bessie Jones and Joe Cocker. “Honey.” I knew the song, not the video.

A very few artists can produce experimental, artistic music that is also popular. The Beatles did that throughout their career but they were the Beatles.

I get my honey come back, sometimes
I wanna rap that jack, sometimes
I get a hump in my back, sometimes
I’m goin’ over here, sometimes

editing writing revising writing Uncategorized Writing by others Writing tips

Three Good Paragraphs

I’m happy if I can write three good paragraphs in a row. In my now dead book project of 60,000 words, I probably had 11 or 12 instances in which I produced a set of three good paragraphs. I still liked the work overall but only those groupings approached what I’d call memorable writing or perhaps great writing.

Certainly my book did not compare to what the great writers produce routinely page after page. What’s happening here? Shouldn’t I have more to show after writing for work and publication since 1994? After all, I have practiced and struggled and endlessly edited and researched and read dozens of great writers. Yet, I’m happy to achieve only three good paragraphs in a row? Shouldn’t there be more? Perhaps not.

Practice does not necessarily lead to greatness. Ray Bradbury advocated writing several thousand words each and every day but that only leads to better discipline. Hunter Thompson once wrote that before he went into a coffee shop, he stole a newspaper, “just to keep in practice.” I can’t do that. I’m not that witty. I don’t have his imagination or his life experience to make a casual remark like that seem funny and convincing. Your high school English class won’t teach you that and Journalism School won’t teach you that.

Orwell’s first novel is wonderful and depressing at the same time. In his twenties he wrote a work that I cannot and will never match if were to keep practicing for another hundred years. Great writing involves not just practice, intelligent and diligent research, fretting over word selection over hours or days, but inspiration and insight as well. I understand there are comedian schools but I doubt they will produce a Mark Twain, a Will Rogers, or a Jerry Seinfeld. Practice all you want, but realize there are other things at work with great writing.

I consider myself a draft horse rather than a thoroughbred. Like a Clydesdale or a Friesian,  I can pull my weight and get the job done. I finish my assignments. Like a Friesian sometimes used for dressage, I can be showy at times but I am still a draft horse. As working writers, we need to be proud of what we do, even if we can never measure up to our heroes.

Too often practice is said to be the way to greatness when that may never be enough. If you  look at long distance runners, every one of them is trying equally hard. If you look more closely, though, many have genetically superior physical characteristics which help them push into elite, world class status. A different body type exists for most athletes and you’re not going to be a superior volleyball player if you are a male who is 5′ 4″ tall, no matter how much you practice.

The thing is, get better at what you do. Meet deadline, meet word count, listen to your editor. Produce clean copy. Double and triple check your research. Pare down word count.

With the exception of the Corvette, the early 1960s produced a number of stodgy looking American vehicles until the 1964 1/2 Mustang came along. Where did that design come from? Completely different, beautiful looking, instantly popular. A design later destroyed by people who had to fiddle with it. The same weight of sheet metal as in a 1964 Dodge, yet much better looking. Same thing with words. We all have equal access to them, but who  is better at making them go together? This is beyond practice and into art.




Thoughts on writing Uncategorized

But We Shall Continue With Style

In the Eiger Sanction, Clint Eastwood’s character named Jonathan and his climbing partner are stuck on a mountain wall that has completely iced over.

Andrei, a Frenchman, remarks to his fellow trapped climber, “Johnathan, you’re very good. I have really enjoyed climbing with you.” “We’ll make it,” comes the encouraging reply. “I don’t think so,” says Andrei. “But we shall continue with style.”

Indeed. For what is more important in the face of death or an impossible situation? I want to tie this into mental health and the invisible, iced over mountain that so many of us are stuck on.

Mental health problems aren’t often visible. People that mumble incessantly, talking to themselves or to people that aren’t there, are clearly disturbed. That shows. People too depressed or anxious to go outside may give up on hygiene and present a ragged appearance when they do go out.

For most of us though, we keep up appearances. We keep ourselves clean, work if we can, get groceries, drive around, and run errands. What else can we do? Who would do these errands for us? We can’t be a burden on anybody else.

Unfortunately, this outward appearance of normality completely fights against our inward struggles and nightmares. The more we try to appear normal, the less people think we have problems.

I remember walking in San Francisco toward the Embarcadero Plaza one year. A completely disheveled street person was sitting on the sidewalk as I went by, asking for a handout. I ignored him, although I am normally prone to charity.

He yelled after me in a very angry voice, shouting about how I would like it to be where he was, sitting on a sidewalk like him. I closed my eyes and kept walking.

For several days before, I had some of my worst nightmares, which I have written about before. (internal link). Bloody, violent, suicide inducing nightmares, which have come and gone since October of 1988. Chronic, along with an induced anxiety in the day that is often unbearable. Would he trade his life for mine if he saw what I had seen? Too often, what I continue to see?

Appearing completely normal, and fighting to keep that way, those of us with mental health problems erase all indication of what we are going through. We have no credibility with the outside world as to our condition, we look just fine.

I don’t know what to do about this. I can’t worry people with descriptions of my nightmares, I can’t relate my anxiety, and believe, me, therapy doesn’t do any good for a condition that has gone on for decades. Although, yes, I am still seen by a psychiatrist. I hold out hope, still, like playing the lottery.

There’s an odd sounding theory in the law called the eggshell skull rule. Let me quote the Pepper & Odom Law Firm (external link) before getting into this.

“The basic principle of the eggshell skull rule is that the Defendant in a civil case must take full responsibility for all the damages that they caused to the victim, regardless of the fact that the particular Plaintiff was more susceptible than a normal person may have been.”

“This is a very important rule when it comes to personal injury claims and it shows up all the time in car wreck cases. For example, if an older person is rear-ended while sitting at a red light, and they suffer a broken back because they have weaker bones – whereas a younger person may only have suffered soft tissue injuries in the exact same situation, the person who hit them is still responsible for the full extent of the damages they caused.”

You take people as you find them. That’s the conclusion. That’s the point of law. Appearances aside, you take the whole person as you find them. Without appearing so, some people are more prone to damage.

You need to be kind. We all need to be kind. We don’t know each others’ lives, what stress they are under at work or if they just had a death in the family. Or a history of mental health problems. We need to be kind. There’s too many careless people in the world running people over.

“They were careless people, Tom and Daisy – they smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back into their money or their vast carelessness, or whatever it was that kept them together, and let other people clean up the mess they had made.”

Worse, though, are the mean and cruel. Management at my apartment here is like that. They won’t kick a puppy when no one is looking, I think, but they will do violence to the truth if their job depends on it or if they are just feeling like it. Like that woman who told me what I had seen was in fact an opinion. She told me that behind my back. As I was walking away. (internal link) No guts to say it to my face. It is this lying and tearing down of things that is so easy.

It is far easier to be destructive than constructive. You can burn down a building with one match what it took a year to build. Similarly, lying is easier than admitting a mistake. Being mean and cruel are like running downhill, there’s no effort involved. Compare that to being positive in the face of difficulty, that is like running uphill.

Cruelty has inherent power that kindness lacks. Kindness and good acts should be effortless as rain falls to the ground, however, most good works require some kind of deliberate, conscious, willful effort. Meanness is too often a thoughtless impulse, an immediate reflex, for the more inculcated, like Ribbentrop or this apartment’s staff, a way of life.

The mean have no interest in building up or caring. You have to care to be kind.

I continue, however, without as much style as a Frenchman. I never looked good in a beret. I try to make up for it, though, by watching early Bridgett Bardot movies. My mountain wall is not quite iced over yet, but until then, I am still setting anchors and handling  ropes as best as I can. If only people knew. If only people knew how many others are like me. Don’t worry, we won’t worry you. But please, be kind to everybody. Please. Thank you.

non-fiction writing organizing writing Thoughts on writing Uncategorized Writing by others

Soulless Creatures

Opinion, hell

‘When I use a word,’ Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, ‘it means just what I choose it to mean—neither more nor less.’

‘The question is,’ said Alice, ‘whether you can make words mean so many different things.’ Lewis Carrol, Through The Looking Glass

I live at a large senior apartment complex in south Summerlin called Carefree Senior Living.

We’ve just been informed that a COVID-19 case has developed here for the first time. This notice was posted in 8 point type on green paper in the mailroom. Unreadable. The type is so small it could be a warranty registration card printed on Christmas paper. Normally, an important notice gets taped to the door of the more than 400 units here. That’s because many residents check their mail only once a week. It’s important, therefore, to post notices on every door when something major happens like a water shutoff or service to the fire alarm system. In this life or death case, a barely legible notice got posted in one part of the complex. I asked one resident in the parking lot here if he had read the notice and he said no. He said he was basically shut in and only visited the mail room now and then.

There may be 500 to 600 residents here, I know the average age is 77 because Carefree released that number some time ago. We’re listed as a “vulnerable community” by the State of Nevada and there are numerous and specific restrictions on what activities can now take place. The clubhouse is shut down, the pool restricted, previously completely shut down, no bus service any longer, no breakfast, and the list goes on. So be it.

In their notice they described the fault as probably being from residents not masking up. However, front office staff never masked up during the first few months of this crisis, while most of us residents were doing so. Only the maintenance staff has faithfully masked up from the start. Congratulations, Bambi and Sam. In fact, I donated masks to the front office when they became available and never saw staff use them. Maybe they gave them to residents, I don’t know. I sure know they weren’t using any masks of any kind. I always masked out of an abundance of caution, even with the experts disagreeing. Why risk the residents when wearing a mask is so simple?

Ken Templeton, the absentee owner of the complex, wrote in the latest monthly apartment newsletter on the importance of masking. Yet his staff never masked up. To be fair to the complex, one case may not be considered serious given the large number of people here, however, testing has just begun in earnest.  Yet, staff has never followed best practices and now we are getting blamed. This is inexcusable.

I care about the residents here. Asking that my name not be mentioned, I donated toilet paper whenever I could, I donated masks at great expense when some finally became available, and I donated $200 to help residents pay for Lfyt and Uber rides since the bus was shut down. Many people here are on fixed budgets. I care about these people. Many remind me of my parents, now passed.

When I got back from Pahrump this afternoon I saw that the letter had been put in each resident’s mailbox. It was full of nonsense and blame. I was so mad I marched into the office and yelled at the staff for their failure to mask up during this time and for now blaming the incident on the residents. Having said my piece, I started to walk out when the lead manager said behind my back, “Everybody has their opinion.” I totally lost my temper and started screaming. An opinion? If I see a neighbor’s dog crap on my lawn, that is not an opinion when I confront the owner. It’s a fact. Opinion, hell. As Dr. Frasier Crane famously asked Woody on Cheers, “What color is the sky in your world?”

I have seen for months now the front office people going without masks. Every time I went in I was masked up. These are facts, not opinions, and nearly all residents here have seen the same thing. Opinion, hell. This is a way for them to blame others for their bad behavior. It is sickening and I am glad I am moving. No doubt this is a coverup for legal reasons. And also because they don’t really care for the people here, just for that monthly rent check.

Templeton himself is undoubtedly the cause of this poison. This owner has never responded to the four times I tried to communicate with him. I even sent him snail mail on one occasion about the lack of security cameras. No response. Nothing. Nada. And I gave him my full name, apartment number and phone number every time. He missed the last two community meetings here at the complex, much to the disappointment of everyone. Everyone had questions for him, he didn’t have the time. And this ruinous behavior filters down to the people he employees, at least the front office staff. Who, unfortunately, come into contact with the most residents.

Opinion, hell.

A pox on all of them.

editing writing non-fiction writing revising writing Uncategorized Writing by others Writing tips

Bad Revising

My last post was on how I revised the work of a writer on our team. (internal link).

The next example is of bad revising, in which some unknown scriptwriter revises the book of one of the greatest minds of the 20th century. The arrogance and gall of this writer  is appalling.

“The novel’s utopian vision, with its ugly flares of racism and misogyny, also required renovation. ‘The book’s hugely problematic,’ Wiener said. So the show pivoted toward equality, race-bending and gender-flipping several of the supporting characters.” (external link)

This paragraph relates to a new miniseries which is bringing to life the book Brave New World. The New York Times, incredibly, quoted that writer’s drivel.

If you’ve read Brave New World, I’d suggest reading Huxley’s set of essays in Beyond the Mexique Bay, particularly ‘Copan.’ It is masterful creative nonfiction (external link), with Huxley speculating and ruminating on many themes besides a drugged out future.

On comparing the view of Christ in Central America to that of our Western World, Huxley casually rattles off phrases like “numinoisty is in inverse ratio to luminosity.” Can that screenwriter match that writing? Would he understand that essay at all?

Huxley is challenging. He was formidably educated and conducted provocative, mind-enlarging discussions. He wrote for the well read who had been brought up with the classics and who knew Greek and Latin.

As with all difficult writers, however, the internet has made him more accessible than at any other time. While reading his writing online, you can look up his references and allusions as you go.

To read the uncensored Huxley is to know the true, full man of his time, not the man we want to manufacture today.

It is an absolute tragedy that young people will watch this bilge and think this film represents the book.

It is a continuing tragedy that our history is being erased to fit the times, that our society, our great achievements, and yes, our great writers, are all being brought low to satisfy our present day short attention span culture, with its attendant political correctness.

Henry Ford once declared that history was bunk. That’s not a bad quote from a semi-literate. But to have academia embrace that thought is a breaking down of our most bedrock intellectual principles. It does violence against reason.

Those who forget the past are condemned to repeat it. We’ve heard that maxim since third grade, it’s accepted wisdom. Inviolate. Yet, how do we learn from the past if we alter its record? A bumper sticker once read: “Seat belts, helmet laws. What next, comrade?”

Huxley’s Doors of Perception led me to try LSD. His experiences with that drug while it was still legal were beautifully expressed. So much so that I had the confidence to try it when the right opportunity presented itself.

I’m waiting for that book to be banned. For their own good, we can no longer let young people make free, risky choices. We want to take away all risk today. Look at our colleges.

They have gone from trying to protect a young person’s physical health to protecting their mental health and their emotional state.

Dare to read. Dare to decide. On your own.

I have a suggestion for those crippled  screen writers. Work on your own writing instead of tearing down the writing of someone else. Someone you will never equal.

Here are just two paragraphs from Beyond the Mexique Bay, a travel book into the land and mind of a distant place. Numinosity, by the way, refers to something invoking a strong spiritual feeling, perhaps of the Divine. . . .

Esquipulas is the home of a Black Christ of such extraordinary sanctity that every January pilgrims came, and still come, from enormous distances to worship at his shrine. It seems that in the eyes of all the aboriginal American races, black is traditionally a sacred colour; so that what draws the worshippers from as far as Mexico in the north, and as Ecuador in the south, and even as Peru, is probably less the saintliness of the historic Jesus than the magical sootiness of his image. With us, black is symbolical only of grief. The black uniform of our clergy is a kind of chronic mourning that is meant, I suppose, to testify to the essential sérieux of their official character. It has no magical significance; for on all ceremonial occasions it is discarded for a praying costume of white linen, or of cloth of gold, or of gaudily embroidered silk.

But though black is not with us a sacred colour, black images of exceeding holiness are none the less fairly common in Europe. The reason, I suspect, is that such statues have a somewhat sinister appearance. (The Holy Face of Lucca is very nearly black and,
with its glittering jewelled eyes, is one of the strangest and most terrifying sculptures ever made.) In Otto’s terminology, black idols are intrinsically more ‘numinous’ than white. Numinosity is in inverse ratio to luminosity.

Last thought. Do you think our idiot screenwriter could ever pen something like this?



editing writing non-fiction writing organizing writing Thoughts on writing Uncategorized Writing by others Writing tips

More on Revising

Updated August 26, 2021

Editing and proofreading fiddles with copy, revising recasts. A team member submitted a page with this paragraph. He is a fine writer but under deadline. I have more time as I am generally not doing original research and writing, rather, editing and revising material already written.

Here’s the troublesome paragraph:

“When you are in a difficult situation, you don’t want your lawyer to be inaccessible, unsympathetic, and only speaks in confusing legal jargon. You want legal service that’s not only effective but compassionate as well. That’s exactly the kind of service our clients get at Donovan and Reed.”

Did you catch all the negative sounding words? They are: 1) difficult 2) don’t 3) inaccessible 4) unsympathetic 5) confusing 6) not.

Public business writing must be positive. These everyday words and phrases together present a negative tone. Instead of saying what a client doesn’t want, say what a client does want. And, perhaps most importantly, what the firm wants as well.

It took an hour and at least ten revisions before I was happy. This time was abnormally long for a single paragraph, however, this was for a client’s home page. Home pages must be positive, copy has to move — no rambling!

Here’s my revision:

“You want a lawyer who is accessible, sympathetic, and plain speaking. You also want legal service that’s effective and compassionate. That’s what we want, too. And that’s exactly what we provide at Donovan & Reed.”

Details? Besides knocking out the negative words, I eliminated, “When you are in a difficult situation.” The client is undoubtedly already in one if they are looking for a lawyer.

As I mentioned, it’s important to state that the law firm’s wishes are the same as the client. “We want that, too.” This invests or aligns the company with the client’s concerns. It’s not just the client desiring something, it’s the business as well.




Legitimizing Censorship

Censorship today is run by a goon squad of various political activists. They are killing the free speech movement that people like them started fifty years ago.

While they should rightfully choke on the bile of their own hypocrisy, these self-appointed, self-righteous people are beyond shame and any personal reflection into what they are doing. Their thin garment of social reform hides a much thicker cloak of hatred and revenge. And, if they can manage, to get a check.

These people are assembling a modern day lynch mob to hang free speech. Quiet Americans, those with jobs and families to feed, have little time to fight against this teeming crowd of highly motivated political activists. Most of us have to get up in the morning to go to work. For these people, this is their work.

Today’s atmosphere is poisonous, none of us knowing if we can ever speak freely again or even make a joke. They are pushing us into silence so that they alone can speak. And make the decisions. And cancel our history and our culture.

I ask you, for all the bad things that the Spanish did to Mexico, would the Mexican people today reject Roman Catholicism that was introduced by the Spanish?

Would the activists protesting today go back to a world of primitive medicine, a poor food supply, and bad roads? Chiefly designed by a bunch of old white guys? These people want the benefits of modern society while criticizing the people who designed and invented it.

These protestors are ghouls, trolls, and bullies, no more concerned about the truth than the brownshirts were in Nazi Germany. It’s all about the party line, their party line, as they line you up against the wall.

As O’Brien put it, “If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face—forever.”

These people say they admire Martin Luther King Jr. but they won’t follow his example. They decry the practices of the Old South but they will employ those terror tactics to shut down anyone they don’t agree with.

Freedom of speech just isn’t at risk, our very lives are. The police are stepping back from enforcing the law. Soon, we may be all on our own. If we aren’t already.

“Every record has been destroyed or falsified, every book rewritten, every picture has been repainted, every statue and street building has been renamed, every date has been altered. And the process is continuing day by day and minute by minute. History has stopped. Nothing exists except an endless present in which the Party is always right.” Orwell, 1984.


Back to China Ranch and On to Shoshone, California

The drive down China Ranch Road into and through the China Ranch Wash is dramatic. Limited turn-around for any RV pulling a car or trailer. Small RVs can probably find parking at the main parking lot. No cell coverage! You must be self-reliant in the desert. You can read about my practicing with a satellite terminal that provides voice calls here:

China Ranch Road from Thomas Farley on Vimeo.

Here’s the shorter video for those with shorter attention spans:



Back to North Nopah and The Mary Ann Mine