Dec 11

The Lacunae Explanation

Here’s a confession. It’s one familiar to writers across the globe, good, bad and in-between.

I hate reading my own writing in the same way almost every human on the planet has an atavistic revulsion at the sound of their own recorded voice. This is paradoxical, since writers… well, they sort of have to write or they’re something other than writers.

Seeing something I’ve composed in print or in cyberspace—this includes Tweets, Facebook statuses, forum comments—almost always triggers a critical analysis ranging from a well-deserved self-critique of lazy rhetoric and language to a witch hunt. The constructive critique side of the spectrum builds better writing. The witch hunts shut down the creative brain.

When Facebook/Twitter/this blog goes days or weeks with little or no sound from my online voice, it’s a pretty sure guess I’ve either (1) written something I thought was terrible or (2) spent too much time away from composition and fallen headfirst into the self-fulfilling prophecy of “It’s been so long since I sat down and wrote regularly that anything I attempt will be terrible.”

These long lapses in quality text are usually broken when I’m inspired by a great book, show, movie, or song. Or when something gets me a little fired up and I go online to wage war with the people who are wrong.

These days, I’m trying to get my compositional skills back up to speed before launching my primary New Year’s resolution: write something every day.

And just to remind myself (and you, my Five Faithful Readers) of the potential in this noggin of mine, I thought I’d tag on one of the better blog entries from the archives: Conan (the Barbarian) Goes to the Grammys.

Warning: strong language ahead. Enjoy!

Original art from The Savage Sword of Conan #7 (August, 1975) by John Buscema and Alfredo Alcala.


Permanent link to this article: http://www.instituteofhigherthinking.com/2013/12/11/conan-goes-to-the-grammys/

Dec 05

Missives from the front lines of the War On Christmas

A very few of you might be interested in a little political/religious/media criticism piece I threw onto the blog of my former employer, The Statesboro Herald. There’s some chunk of background required to inform the reading, though.

The primer:

Todd Starnes (via Media Matters)

Todd Starnes (via Media Matters)

Bulloch County (home of the Institute of Higher Thinking) has schools confiscating Christmas cards: http://radio.foxnews.com/toddstarnes/top-stories/georgia-school-confiscates-christmas-cards.html

Uh, maybe a little context is in order: http://www.wsav.com/story/24126881/moved-xmas-card-poster-at-brooklet-elem-causes-headaches

But don’t let facts get in the way of a good story: http://www.foxnews.com/opinion/2013/12/05/religious-cleansing-bulloch-county-georgia/

So the Bulloch school board met tonight, besieged by the Uptight Christian Army running on Fox Fuel (their motto, “Put Fair and Balanced In Your Tank”). Meanwhile, folks like my friend Jake who have tried to post reasonable doubts about journalistic process and bona fides on Todd Starnes’ Facebook page have had posts deleted and, in Jake’s case, been banned from the pundit’s page.

So, I weighed in.

http://community.statesboroherald.com/blogs/detail/14134/

It’s a linkfest, I know. But if you want to see some serious socio-journo-political dysfunction at its finest, this is a pretty good example.

Permanent link to this article: http://www.instituteofhigherthinking.com/2013/12/05/2717/

Dec 03

Kid Loquacious

In August, I began writing a regular column for the Statesboro Herald’s “Moments” magazine. Emphasis on the “mom” in “Moments.” As the official “Dad” columnist, I named my space “Broments,” and made a game attempt at sounding cool, wise, paternal and bewildered all at once. This is the first column that appeared in “Moments.”

These conversations take place in my house:

“Atticus, say ‘Momma.’”

“Momma.”

“Say ‘Daddy.’”

“Dada.”

“Say ‘banana.’”

“Bah Nanna.”

“Say ‘Dinosaur.’”

Elmo.”

“Say ‘bird.’”

Elmo.”

“Say ‘bye bye.’”

Elmo.”

“Say ‘Elmo.’”

“Dada.”

The complexities of human language—filled with higher brain function, precise muscular and respiratory control; hinging on the ability to codify objects, actions and concepts into a series of show-offy bird calls—crumble in the face of an obstinate 18-month-old fixated on a Muppet.

For the next hour, any request for a specific word is likely to result in the stock response: “Elmo.” One might as well ask a politician a question and expect a straight answer.

In a nutshell, this is parenthood. But let’s not have this column descend into gross generalizations. Someone in this family has to display a command of language and semantics.

Compared to many of my friends’ kids, Atticus is lagging behind in the quest to pick up speech. Of course, most of my friends’ kids are much older than 18 months. Some of them are in college. Still, I can’t help but wondering if it is really okay for Atticus to consistently use “buh” in place of “thank you.”

“’Thank you’ has two syllables, Atticus.”

“El. Mo.”

“Touché.”

True story: my son’s name for my mother is expressed by clicking the tongue on the roof of the mouth. He may as well be the guy with the Coke bottle from The Gods Must Be Crazy. (I’ll wait while everyone under 30 runs to IMDB to look up The Gods Must Be Crazy and everyone over 60 runs to Google to find out what IMDB is.)

Thanks for coming back.

I waited almost 40 years before becoming a father. In the interim, I sometimes imagined how my progeny might express itself. Honestly, I expected something between a chess-playing Super Baby and one of those toddlers the people at the 911 call center know by name.

It’s the Garner boy again, they’d say. He’s got hostages and is demanding diapers and an audience with the lady from “Baby Signing Time.”

More telling, I imagined myself the wise and hip father, directing the massive force of will contained in my obviously exceptional offspring with a mix of informed wisdom and folksy, from-the-heart panaceas for any and all situations. Ward Cleaver, if you will, standing with the police, a pipe clamped in my teeth, shaking my head and saying “boys will be boys.”

Instead, the 19,833rd utterance of “Elmo,” sends me into a parental panic, even though I can clearly hear him practicing words like airplane and parasaurolophus when he doesn’t think anyone can hear him.

Even the simple act of just imagining my son confronted by a developmental hurdle sends my mind scurrying to the dark corners of possibility. Each new scenario traipses down a dark path, ending, at best, with Rain Man. I did it when he didn’t smile at the earliest window outlined in “the books.” I repeated my neuroses as the boy took his first steps, then decided crawling was just more efficient for the next three weeks. My son is a developmental glacier.

I try not to ignore how happy he seems to be, how skilled he is with tasks of manual dexterity, how he loves the water and swims like a champ.  I fail. I fret the one thing he’s not doing on schedule.

“By the time you were his age,” my grandmother offers, “we had already taught you how to stop saying [incredibly inappropriate swear deleted].” Unwittingly, she has reminded me of the dangers of a too-verbal toddler.

Perhaps the reticence to cultivate more vocabulary and string together words and syllables into sentences bears some watching. Or perhaps the boy is just on his own time table. These things, parenthood has taught me, have a way of resolving themselves. And if it takes a little outside help to do the job, there’s nothing wrong with that, either.

As a dad, I just have to learn the words “patience” and “vigilance.”

They’re both pronounced, “Elmo.”

In case you’re wondering. Four months later, Atticus is still woefully short on vocabulary. He still uses “buh” for “thank you.” But he has been seen by speech therapists, who assure us his comprehension and hearing are just fine. He understands every word we say. Any day now, we expect his burgeoning vocabulary to evolve into full-blown soliloquies.

Probably soliloquies about Elmo.

Permanent link to this article: http://www.instituteofhigherthinking.com/2013/12/03/2713/

Dec 02

Welcome back for the first time

If you are coming here for the first time, or just the first time in a while, you may be perplexed by the utter lack of content. If you are one of those folks who once regularly trawled these online spaces—the crew I lovingly refer to as my Five Faithful Readers—you may even be on your knees, shaking a fist at the heavens.

“YOU DAMN FOOL! YOU BLEW IT ALL UP! IT’S ALL GONE!!”

Should you be one of the visitors falling into the fist-shaking-Planet-of-the-Apes-style crowd, two things: 1) bless you, and thanks for caring; 2) cool yer jets—all the old content isn’t gone, it’s just invisible.

"Tiny Thor gives exactly zero shits about your writing. You should have done your writing before Tiny Thor required you for deeds such as changing the soiled sheepskin around my loins!"

“Tiny Thor gives exactly zero shits about your writing. You should have done your writing before Tiny Thor required you for deeds such as changing the soiled sheepskin around my loins!”

Welcome to The Stonebrook Institute of Higher Thinking, 2.0.

For newcomers and lookie-loos, this means almost nothing, as they will have no real indication what sort of blogging space this was before I put all the old content behind a curtain and started over with a fresh slate. But veterans of the Institute’s past pieces will see a pretty profound change. Let’s start with a one-paragraph description of the blog’s new mission:

The Stonebrook Institute of Higher Thinking is the online home and imperfect resume of freelance writer and aspiring fiction creator Scott Garner. The Institute will come to be the home of fiction, non-fiction and discussion about the challenges and rewards of writing. Regular posts should appear weekly, with more or less coming based on the amount of non-blog writing going on inside the Institute. New pieces will also be somewhat at the mercy of my two-year-old son, because kids don’t care about your stupid writing schedule.

So that’s it, really. The Institute is back up and running. I plan to blog with something resembling consistency. I plan to post more fiction and less general blathering. As always, I’m going to do my best to be entertaining.

As for the older pieces from IHT 1.0, look for them to begin appearing next year with fresh new edits and occasionally complete facelifts.

Permanent link to this article: http://www.instituteofhigherthinking.com/2013/12/02/welcome-back-for-the-first-time/