Monthly Archives: August 2012

Do it Yourself Blogging or the Self-Help Blogger

Cover of "On Writing:  A Memoir of the Cr...
Cover of On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft

I’m sure that a lot of people blog when they can. Just like writing a book, screenplay, or even a short story we have to write regularly. Every book or article I’ve ever read says the same thing. Blogging is writing so…

You have to write every day.

Because these books or articles are written by ‘published’ authors I believe this rule to be true. Each self-help book or article gives a different formula for meeting this daily goal of writing.

Years ago I read a book that had compiled a group of  published and well known authors who gave tips on how they succeeded in not only finishing their books but getting them published. It was an interesting read. John D. MacDonald, writer of the Travis McGee books and hundreds more ‘non-McGee’ books had a brilliant point to make about plot.

More recently Stephen King wrote his own take on the ‘how to book‘ of writing. On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft is a brilliant little book that explains the basics, gives a good list of do’s and don’t’s and gives us a little look into King’s own writing process. I bought it and still read it when I need inspiration.

One thing King does mention is that most people have the essential tools already. If you want to read King’s On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft it is available on Amazon and most book retail sites. I enjoyed it, but then, I’d enjoy reading Stephen King’s grocery list.

I am in the process of writing a book, a short-story or two, and a memoir. I am doing all these very, very slowly. I keep getting distracted. Bills, cleaning the house, going to work, working out in the garden and blogging all take me away from the writing I need to do.

Blogging is perhaps the biggest culprit of all when it comes to distraction. I will admit that blogging is, at least, a pleasant diversion. It has the advantage of relatively fast feedback. You publish it. There is no waiting around to be published. At the stroke of a laptop key or two there you are, up and available for the world to see.

I didn’t read any ‘how-to’ articles on blogging I just started doing it. But there are lots of guides out there to help you become a successful blogger. Although I’m not sure how you would measure what a successful blogger is. For now though, lets look at the articles that can help you become a more consistent blogger.

WordPress.com has a great support system which features all kinds of great advice and tips on blogging. They even go so far as to tell you how your blog can be featured on the much desired Freshly Pressed section. But don’t stop there. The net is full of blogging tips for burgeoning bloggers.

Blogging Heroes
Blogging Heroes (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Most of these tips come from successful bloggers who have hundreds, if not more, of followers. They write well and know how to engage their readers. They are a mix of people. Some are published authors who blog because they have a dearth of information or opinions on things beyond their books.

A lot of them are people who love the written word and writing. They are not hesitant to help new writers to get started because they know that new blood is needed to keep literature alive.

I didn’t read any articles on blogging until I left my old blogging site. By the time I ‘defected” I’d been blogging for over a year. I just kept plugging away and kept an interested eye on what got read and what got ignored. I slowly began to realize that what I could write well and what I was better off leaving alone.

Of course writing anything like a blog, or a book for that matter, is all about communication. If you can’t do that you might as well stop now and take up knitting or stamp collecting. If you are good at communicating then go on. Write and publish and practice.

While you’re doing all of that writing, teach yourself to edit and re-edit. When I write I do it quickly. When I’ve got that bit between my teeth I gallop across the keyboard at breakneck speed. When I’ve finished I’m always amazed at the mistakes and the utterly cringe worthy ‘boo-boos’ I’ve managed to make in just one blog post.

I will then re-read what I’ve just corrected to make sure that I’ve gotten rid of all the things in the post that make me look mentally challenged or at the very least like I’ve typed the damn thing with my eyes closed. Invariably, after I’ve posted it I will read it and wince because I’ve missed something.

But the nice thing about posting your own blog is that you can go a edit your post as often as you want. That is, if you even want to. I still do it months after I’ve posted something. I cannot imagine getting a book published and then finding out that after (hopefully) thousands of copies have been printed and sold that I’ve left some whopping great error on page 21.

The chances of that are slim I know. That’s why you have editors. But I do still have this paranoia lurking around the back of my mind that worries nonetheless about making myself look semi-literate.

I have just remembered the other thing I like about blogging. The community. The blogging community is supportive, helpful and generous in their feedback on your efforts. It is also full of fascinating folks that you would never meet outside of the blogging world. Folks who have lead interesting lives much different than your own.

Some are well known. Others are very well known. A lot are on their way to getting noticed in a big way. But in the blogging community we are all on the same page, if you’ll pardon the pun, and on a level playing field. We all share the love of words and the act of stringing them together to create ideas, stories and more.

So what about you? Do you have any tips or advice for beginning bloggers. I’d love to know, because I still class myself as a beginning blogger.

Blogging 101.

200 Pounds Beauty (2006): Life in Plastic, it’s Fantastic

Ha-Na and Jenny poster for 200 Pounds Beauty

Directed by Yong-hwa Kim (who also co-wrote the screenplay with three others) 200 Pounds Beauty (Minyeo-neun goerowo) is a ‘feel good romantic comedy’ that really hits the spot.

We had seen a trailer for this film about four years ago. It was on a Tartan Extreme DVD and it looked funny as hell. Unfortunately we could not find a copy of the film anywhere. My daughter and I watched clips from the film on YouTube and searched fruitlessly for a DVD with sub-titles.

Fast Forward to 2012. We found a website on YouTube called Eat Your Kimchi (kimchi is a disgusting dish that is made up of cabbage being buried in the ground for months. It is then dug up and eaten. I’ve smelt the stuff and if it tastes as revolting as it smells…) The channel is run by Simon and Martina. Two Canadians who teach English in South Korea and they are YouTube personalities.

Their channel is funny, cute and informative. One of their videos explained how the Koreans felt about personal appearance and the fact that they are not shy about telling you what your shortcomings might be. They feel no shame in telling that you’re ugly, fat, too skinny, or funny looking. In Korea looks are very important. Too important.

If you look at which country has the highest number of plastic surgeries per year you’ll be surprised to find out it isn’t the image concious USA but Korea who ranks number one in going under the knife. Which brings me to the plot of the film.

Kang Ha-Na (Ah-jung Kim who plays Ha-Na in a fat suit at the beginning of the film) is a ‘ghost singer’ for a music promoters big act. The beautiful Ah-mi (Seo-yun Ji) is the singer, but unfortunately, she can’t really sing. Ha-na does it for her while she syncs the words.

Ha-Na works at two jobs. Ghost singer for Ah-mi and she’s a phone sex worker. Because of her caring personality and lovely voice she has a regular list of clients who ring her. She’s doing both jobs so that she can pay for her dad to be in a home. He is suffering from Senile Dementia and when she visits him, he thinks that she is her mother.

Ha-Na is shy and has a huge crush on Ah-mi’s manager/producer Sang-jun (Jin-mo Ju) who values Ha-Na highly because of her  beautiful singing voice. Ah-mi humiliates Ha-Na at Sang-jun’s birthday party. She goes home to commit suicide. She opens all the gas jets in her flat and waits to die.

Suddenly her phone rings. She lets the answer machine take the call and it turns out to be one of her clients. He is a plastic surgeon and she suddenly changes her mind about killing herself. She goes to his office and with a mixture of blackmail and appealing to his ego as a plastic surgeon convinces him to re-make her from head to toe.

She disappears for a year to have all the surgery done. She changes her diet and exercises regularly. After  the year is up she is ‘unveiled’ and she is beautiful. Slender, sexy and stunning she causes accidents when she walks down the street.

The new improved Ha-Na.

A lot is made about her new beauty and how everyone reacts to it. That is where most of the comedy is centred. She still has a huge crush on Sang-jun and she starts following him. This leads to her purchasing a second hand car. As she’s driving it she crashes into the back of a taxi. The male driver insists that its his fault and the traffic cop agrees with him. The female passenger makes the cop check Ha-Na’s drivers license.

The license looks nothing like her as the photograph was taken before her plastic surgery. She gets taken to the station and has to call her best friend Jeong-min ( Hyeon-sook Kim) to come and identify her. Jeong-min rushes into the station but she doesn’t recognise Ha-Na and goes to a drunken fat lady laying on a bench.

What makes this film work so well is the knowledge that South Koreans are obsessed with looking perfect. They have a very set idea of what makes someone attractive and they will go to any length to achieve that ideal.

The other thing that makes the film work is the fat suit at the beginning. It is 100% convincing. Film-makers have used this type of prosthetic before in Wishing Stairs. It looks disturbingly real. This effect combined with Ah-jung Kim’s performance as Ha-Na completely sells the whole idea.

Kim still walks ‘heavy’ after her operations. Despite her new svelte figure, her gait is awkward and lumbering. It takes her a while to get to grips with her new body and she doesn’t just walk ‘heavy’ her movements are those of a heavier person as well. It was her physical acting that helped to really sell that she had been the huge Ha-Na before her surgery.

We had to wait to see this film for ages, but, it was worth the wait. I had a lump in my throat as big as the state of Texas at the films conclusion. A conclusion, I might add, that sends a mixed message. It didn’t spoil the film in the least.

If you like romantic comedies that will make you sore from laughing too much. Don’t miss this film. Fortunately it is available on YouTube. The whole film, not just clips, is there for the watching. If you want your own DVD copy? I wish you good luck and if you are lucky, let me know where you found it.

I give this film a one  bag of popcorn rating. Not because it deserves a lower score, but because you’ll be laughing so much, that’s all you be able to eat.

Rebuilding Your Life After Divorce: Freedom Costs a Lot

Everything you thought you had has gone up in flames.

This was actually going to be a post about the rapidly approaching likelihood of insolvency. Insolvency is also known as going bankrupt or ‘going bust.’ But as I stood in the kitchen thinking of how I’d gotten to this stage, I remembered what started the whole shooting match.

It was while having this internal dialogue with myself that I remembered that, despite my current predicament, credit cards have always been good to me. I’ve worked hard all my adult life to get a good credit rating. Credit has allowed me to do and own many things.

My first house, cars, furniture, and when money got very tight, eat. I’ve used them to pay bills so my family didn’t freeze to death in the winter or starve in the summer. I felt like these ‘magical’ cards had saved me more than once from my family getting thrown out into the streets.

I was satisfied that I ran the cards. They did not run me.

Then the late summer of 2010. Things had been ‘over’ for a very long time. I won’t go into the reasons or who might or might not be to blame. The bottom line was simple. We were through.

After one night of staying in the house my ex-wife and I shared together, she stayed God knows where and my daughter stayed with a friend, I packed a couple of bags and left.

Do you have any room? I’ve run away from home.

I went to the closest hotel near my old home. I went into the reception area and asked if they had any vacancies. The lady looked doubtful and  began to check her computer. They did have one room left and unfortunately it would only be for one night.

She smiled at me and asked, “Is your visit for business or pleasure?”

“Neither,” I replied. “I’ve just run away from home and I have no place to stay.”

The reception lady smiled again and said, “Let me see if I can get you some rooms for tomorrow on, then.”

Despite her best efforts, the town I lived in and it’s surrounding area did not have one spare room open. Not in that particular branch anyway. I went into my room and took advantage of the internet service and immediately started my search for a place to live.

What followed was a whirlwind of a week that involved work, looking for and finding hotels that had vacancies and moving from one hotel to the next. My daughter joined me and we shared rooms for just over two weeks. We stayed in some very nice places and some not so nice places. Regardless of the nice factor of the hotel rooms, they all had one thing in common. They were expensive.

I never learned why the hotels in my area were so full those two weeks in September of 2010. There really is nothing of consequence for folks to flock here to see. I’m still baffled by the whole thing.

I took the credit cards with me as my soon-to-be-ex-wife had money at her disposal, I did not. I told her that I would take responsibility for the money already owed on the cards. My first big mistake. The money owed was soon joined by the costs of hotel rooms, food, petrol and replacing things I no longer had access to. On top of that, the internet that was so vital for my search of a more permanent place to stay was quite expensive.

Someone was definitely looking out for me and my daughter though. Because I found a flat to live in about the midway point of my fleeing my previous life. So after two weeks I had my first new home.

Please don’t watch the video all the way through, I only put it up because I couldn’t find a picture of my first new home.

While I was working, finding a flat, moving and trying to ‘carry on regardless’ I found myself going through the motions in a sort of fugue state. Above everything else, I had to be there for our daughter who was still attending university and needed to move again.

The items I needed all came out of the credit cards. Cash for my deposit and the first and last month’s rent. The eight new tyres that I needed to replace because the ‘flat fairy’ visited me often that first year. Paying for items I needed replaced because, apart from the electric items, my clothes, books, dvds, and some files, the only other thing I left with was the existing debt on the cards.

Credit cards also paid for my divorce, easily the least expensive thing I had to purchase that year.

I further added to my scarily increasing mountain of debt by going back to America for the first time in 21 years. My daughter and I both needed the break and there were family members that she had never met. Plus the last time that we were there she was all of nine months old and didn’t remember the family she had met.

Eating a childhood favourite, shaved ice aka ‘the snow cone.’ En-route to my parent’s farm.

The added allure of ‘going home‘ included seeing my son, who I had not seen since 1996 and this was the first chance he had to meet his sister.

Of course while we were there the cards took a further hammering. Motel rooms, Silver Dollar City, and Dallas helped to increase my debt.

Everything spent was worth it. For the first time ever, I had both of my ‘kid’s’ together and it was, sadly, very brief but so satisfying. We came back home and settled back into our new life.

The flat which was so comfy for one person, started getting claustrophobic for two. A mate at work mentioned a house that was for rent and we took it. More expense for the card as I had to use them to make another deposit.

But we now had a garden (that’s yard if you’re from the other side of the pond) and more importantly room!

Our new gardens first snow.

While all this was going on, my daughter and I continued our ‘normal’ life. Work and living. We both still are a little shell shocked by the divorce. We are also trying to come to grips with a few mental and personal issues.

We both suffer from trust issues. We’re both also trying to find out who we are again. It seems that in the shuffle we’ve lost a bit of ourselves.

I don’t know if we’ll ever find all of what we’ve lost or misplaced. But apart from the ups and downs of everyday life, we are still looking.

You can rebuild your life after having 25 years of your life suddenly changed forever and gone in the blink of an eye.

I will say the the journey of self discovery is not over yet. For me or my daughter. The journey so far has been painful, sad, unfocused and sometimes fun.

I stayed in a situation that was miserable for all concerned for far too long. Mainly because of money. I didn’t think it was financially affordable to leave a bad relationship. I now know that you can do it. It has for me been costly, too costly for right now. But I’ll hang in there and get hold of the right people to help me out of the mess I’ve inadvertently gotten myself into.

It seems I was right about it not being financially possible. I did find out though that it’s not about the money or the debt you find yourself trying to manage. It’s not even about the money mess that you wind up in. It’s about escaping and finding your freedom and you. And of course about straightening up the debt.

So, until I  get out of this mess, I’ll continue rebuilding. And along the way I’ll find out new and forgotten things about myself. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got some discovering to do.

To infinity and beyond!

I’ve Been Given the Beautiful Blogger Award! Wow

Just when I thought that my week could not possibly get any better, it did! The kind and generous (and vastly entertaining blogger) Marilyn over at Serendipity (who is not only a voracious blogger, but who has the best site name ever.) started my rather bleary eyed morning with a note of praise and an award.

The Beautiful Blogger Award is another of those Blogging awards that is designed to help bloggers let the community learn more about their site and the blogger who feeds it. *I have to refer to it as “feed” because I don’t know about you, but my site is a starving creature who demands that I feed it on a regular basis. If I don’t uphold my end of the bargain, it invades my sleep and nags me constantly until I do.*

So before I go any further I have to firstly thank the lovely blogger who nominated me for this lovely award and provide a link back to her blog. Serendipity aka Teepee12 aka Marilyn, writes well, steadily, constantly and entertainingly. She never fails to make me smile, think, question and chuckle. Her writing is erudite and refreshing. Please check out the link and read her blog posts. They will make your day.

As with any of these awards there are a few rules that must be adhered to. I do have to say that as far as rules go, this one is pretty much pain-free. I’ve done what I always do when presented with something new, I’ve gone back and read every ‘related’ link to see how this all works.

It looks like you can do the “seven things you don’t know about me” list if you want and you can then pass on seven questions for your nominees to answer. I will have to say that the ‘chain letter’ feel of this always make me feel slightly pained.

Why?

Well, I feel like I’m intruding to a small degree and more importantly, I’m afraid that if I make the award process too labour intensive that folks won’t receive the award in the spirit that its given.

So, after a very long winded dissertation about the rules, I am opting to not include seven more things you didn’t know about me.

Hey! You in the back! No giggling! As for the rest of you, I can almost feel the collective sigh of relief. Without further ado, I’ll list the, somewhat, shorter rules.

  • Copy the Beautiful Blogger Award logo and place it in your post.
  • Thank the person who nominated you and create a link back to their blog.
  • Nominate 7 other bloggers for their own Beautiful Blogger Award.

The first two items I’ve taken care of in my own long winded fashion. Now here is the part I really dread. I follow a lot of bloggers, it is my habit to follow anyone back who follows me. It’s kind of like the ‘misery loves company’ rule but in reverse. I feel that if someone has take the time and effort to follow me, the least I can do is follow back.

Because of that practise, I’ve gotten acquainted with quite a few blogs and the writers who power them. So I now have to winnow out seven to pass the award to. I would tear my hair and rend my clothes in frustration, but my hair is too thin to even think of tearing, the rending of clothes would leave my wardrobe short a few items that I can ill afford to replace. I will have to do a bit of a lottery system of choice.

I will apologise, in advance, for ‘choosing you’ and ‘not choosing you’ in that order. Now that I am firmly straddled on the fence (and nervously looking out for splinters) here are my seven nominees:

1. Head In A Vice Tyson is a great guy and one of the busiest bloggers I know. He does great reviews and Desert Island Films.

2. jpfmovies J P is another great guy who does some brill reviews and thoughts on movies.

3. DeLeDesserts is a recent addition to my list of follows. The clue is in the title. Desserts, natch! Check it out.

4.  tryingtowriteit is another recent addition and it’s a brilliant site. A lovely writing style awaits you.

5. Popcorn Dinner I can’t do a nomination and not include Janet over a Popcorn Dinner. She’s fab!

6.AndyWatchesMovies Another great guy and prolific blogger. Check him out, it’s worth the trip.

7. shesinthesky I have to add Zoe over at shesinthesky. She’s brill as well.

There you have it. My list of seven. Now that I’ve managed to alienate everyone else that follows me, I can only apologise. I did use the lottery system for everyone listed above, except for two…well, three. These folks all comment regularly and helpfully. They’ve also been a source of support since I’ve been in the WordPress community.

I now have to notify the folks that I’ve nominated and I’ll be done. Thanks again Marilyn aka Serendipity! You are a star!

Dario Argento’s Suspiria (1977): A Cacophony of Sound and Colour

I have been banging on about this film for years. Well, not just the film, but Dario Argento as well. Unless you’re not a fan of horror films or at least horror films made way back in the 1970’s you will have heard of Argento and  his high standing in the horror film community.

Since Suspiria is being remade and due for release next year in 2013, I was very interested in seeing it again. I had not seen the film in years. In fact it had been so long that I had forgotten the main plot point and the ending.

I found a blu-ray copy on LOVEFILM and put it on my ‘wish-list’ to see. It came in and I bullied my daughter into watching it with me while we ate our tea. To say I was surprised would be an understatement.

We watched a very young Jessica Harper (as Suzy Bannion the young ballet student)  leave a German airport and attempt to get a taxi. As she goes to hail a taxi the heavens open and she is drenched to the skin in a matter of seconds. The approaching taxi’s all ignore her outstretched hand until she steps in front one to make it stop.

Once inside the cab she says the address she’s going to ‘something’ Strasse (I cannot for the life of me remember the actual name of the dammed street) the cab driver makes a big show of not understanding her. Finally he corrects her pronunciation after reading the address on a note that she shows him. He drives off and ignores her one attempt to talk to him.

In the first few minutes Argento has shown us the epitome of a ‘stranger in a strange land’ in this case it’s an American girl in Germany. Our sympathies lay with her before the film has truly begun.

Argento’s Suspiria is a mixed collage of colour that almost leaps from the screen. From the fuchsia shades of pink on the walls to the (this is the same shade  used to represent blood) deep blue of the ‘hidden’ rooms in the ballet school. The film seems to bleed these colours. So much so that your eyes start to hurt from the over stimulation.

The scene following Suzy’s aborted attempt to gain entrance to the school is the first murder in the film. It is in actual fact a double murder and again it is a frenzy of colour that leaps from the screen through the entire scene. But it is here that I had my first shock of the evening.

Fuchsia Pink ‘Bad’ Ballet School

The music.

I swear I don’t remember it being this loud when I saw it years before in the drive in. It might well be that the updating of the sound system is the culprit here. I am pretty sure that in the year 1977 when the film was originally released that the sound system used was not of Dolby Digital quality. I’m pretty sure it was the good old mono system that had been used since the first emergence of ‘talkies’ in film.

Unfortunately the music was too loud with the Dolby Digital sound system. Annoyingly I had to keep the  TV remote in one hand so I could keep lowering and then raising the volume. The dialogue was so low between the actors that it seemed they were mumbling. I can only guess that when they remixed the soundtrack they didn’t bother to remix the looping that had been done when the film was originally dubbed.

In essence  it ruined the film. The music that was so crucial to the feeling that Argento was trying to evoke actually just irritated and intruded on the film’s story. The very action of having to turn the dammed volume down every time the discordant and (let’s admit it) brilliant cacophony of sound came on was distracting. I found myself getting annoyed at a film that for years I’ve touted as being a top-notch horror film.

I can honestly say that apart from getting to see actress Joan Bennett in one of her later roles and a also very young Udo Kier (who was brilliant as the vampire elitist who get’s his teeth yanked out and it left in the sun to die) and as I mentioned before the young Jessica Harper.

I still think Dario is the master of Italian horror. He is in a sense the Takashi Miike of Italy. His films are full of the type of characters you would find if you visited the underbelly of any city. His ‘normal’ characters all treat these unfortunates poorly and it adds to the unease that you feel when you see them on the screen.

He is the ‘Godfather’ of gore. He used bucket loads of blood gleefully. I’m sure that I’ve read that Miike states that Argento was an influence on him and his film making style.

I can only hope that the remake due out next year loses none of the vibrancy of the original in the area of colour and that the sound issue is corrected. The music won high praise and awards at the time of its 1977 release. It will be a shame if the too loud music  ruins the new version of the film like it ruined the blu-ray version.

Either way, I know I’ll be queueing up to see it when it comes out.

Dario Argento answers questions at the Brussel...
Dario Argento answers questions at the Brussels International Fantastic Film Festival in 2007. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Getting Freshly Pressed: Riding the Crest of the Wave

I decided to write this post as a ‘thank you’ to the editor who liked my post well enough to Freshly Press it. I am so grateful and amazed at the same time. I’ve never kidded myself that I’m the new Hemingway or the next Stevie King. I just like to write. A lot.

I love the Blogging community. Except for one ‘troll-like’ creature that followed over from Tumblr, I’ve not had many folks be mean or rude. So I feel like WordPress is full of grown up type folks who, if they not just nice, at least have manners.

So thank you Cheri Lucas for picking my little post. It’s been one helluva ride and I’ve really enjoyed it.

I am a relative newcomer to the world of WordPress. I had blogged on Blogger.com for about a year and a half without setting the world on fire. If I got 30 views a day  I got excited. I finally got a grand total of 7 followers on Blogger and I kind of felt like I was spinning my verbal wheels.

I then started a blog on Tumblr called (are you ready for this?) Random Thoughts for a Random World. Same as the title of my other blog. The only thing I didn’t like about Tumblr was the inability to see how many folks stopped by for a ‘gander.’ But I did like their choices of themes for the site.

I found WordPress quite by accident. I liked the look of it so much that I decided to start yet another blog. This time I decided to change the name of the site to say a bit more about me. I am a dedicated film nut. My whole family is. I honestly think that we’re the only people in the world who precede almost any conversation with the phrase, “Oh! Did you see…” Oh I’m sure that there might be more folks out there who are more dedicated film buffs than us, but I’ll bet that we talk about films more than just about anyone.

I noticed the Freshly Pressed section on WordPress and I was intrigued. ‘What,’ I wondered, ‘do you have to do to get Freshly Pressed?’ Luckily for me and all the other bloggers in WordPress land, there were (and still are) posts that give all kinds of great advice on how to get “FP’d” and what it would do for your blog.

I am by nature a very cynical person. I am not, though, a pessimist that would make me completely unbearable. *Don’t listen to my daughter, she’s most definitely prejudicial on the subject of my personality.* So I was not overly concerned about getting FP’d and I couldn’t really imagine it making a difference.

Wrong.

I had given up ‘hoping’ to get on the exclusive list of Freshly Pressed Bloggers whose blog posts were included on this wall. I started reading the ‘How to get your blog post on Freshly Pressed’ and tried a few of the tricks and still nothing. I couldn’t even get my comments put up. *That turned out to be a spam issue about email addresses.*

I finally wrote a pithy and (let’s face it, whiny) post about not getting FP’d. Of course Karma has a wicked sense of humour and I got my previous post FP’d. Who’d a thunk?

So I’d like to tell you, the advice is sound. Do keep doing what they recommend, even if you have to accidentally hit all the nails on the head like I did. If you haven’t read their helpful hints, check em out. So You Want To Be Freshly Pressed and What Makes a Post Freshly Press-able? The Frailest Thing are just two of the helpful posts on how to get Freshly Pressed.

In a nutshell, the rules are quite simple.

1. Have an eye catching title, also known as a hook. That has always brought up horrible visions for me, you know, hooks and eye catching.

2. Make your subject different, not different as trying to find something no one has ever written about, but writing about something, differently. See the difference?

3. Use pictures. Big ones and something appropriate for the subject. I think that personal pictures probably count more.

4. Make it personal. If you can use your voice or experience to round the post out all the better.

5. Write a pithy post about not getting your comments through the spam filter on the Posts who have been Freshly Pressed. *Just kidding, I did that and luckily the editors didn’t hold it against me.”

I think I’ve mentioned everything in a nice nutshell manner, but, really you’d be better off to check out the support posts. They do have good information and they not afraid to share it.

In the mean time, keep doing what you love doing, writing. I’ll be seeing you on the Freshly Pressed page soon. I’ll warn you, your views, hits or whatever you want to call em are going to go through the roof. Plus you’ll get loads more followers. It’s pretty exciting, and not a little daunting. So until then…

Peace out!

Michael Smith 27/08/2012

WordPress
WordPress (Photo credit: Adriano Gasparri)

Urban Exploration: The Abandoned Hotel – Just A Coffee Break Away

The back of the reception desk and bar.

*DO TO THE FACT THAT THIS HOTEL VISIT WAS NOT OFFICIALLY SANCTIONED, I HAVE NOT GIVEN THE NAME OR THE LOCATION. BUT, FOR THE CURIOUS, IT IS IN THE UNITED KINGDOM.*

**This has been posted because of the interest generated by my other post about Urban Exploration. Time will tell if this is a popular enough feature to make it a regular thing.**

1. The building and it’s abbreviated history. 

The hotel first opened in the late 1500’s. It has been known by two names, one was when it first opened. In more modern times it was known by another. Writers, painters, politicians and celebrities have stayed in the hotel over the years. Infuriatingly I can’t find a specific date for when the hotel closed down. There are plenty of references to the fact that this historic place now houses a world famous coffee house and a hiking gear retailer, but, no date anywhere about when it closed its doors for the last time.

It had to be open as late as 2003 because I remember going there for a work’s party. It was old and had the look of a shabby but stately lady who’d seen better days. The carpet was plush, if a bit faded and the walls and ceilings were stained almost dark brown from cigarette, cigar and pipe smoke that had been exhaled over the years.

My daughter worked at the newly fitted coffee house and it became a regular talking point amongst the employees as to what sort of condition the place was still in, whether squatters were living there and if it were haunted. One of the coffee house managers told them that he had keys to the hotel and if they wanted to have a look to let him know and he’d give them the keys.

2. Entering the Dragon.

My daughter and a colleague decided to take him up on the offer and one day after their shift had finished they did indeed ask for the keys. Armed with the keys and nothing else but a growing sense of excitement they unlocked the door and went in.

Last orders, please. The Bar area of the hotel.

Despite the fact that the hotel had only been closed for a few years everything was covered in a thick layer of dust. This was probably due to the advanced age of the building itself, it was built in the late 1500’s and old places tend to manufacture dust, and it’s location in the town center.

The electricity was off and the whole downstairs area was dark, dank, and eerie. It was also deathly quiet. The entire hotel, in fact, felt as if it had been wrapped in an insulating layer of cotton wool that refused to allow the noise of the busy town to invade its dead halls.

The two coffee shop explorers wandered over to the reception desk and found most of the room keys were still mounted on the board behind the desk. Telephones and stationary still adorned the counter top. Letter boxes still awaited post for guests who were never going to stay there again.

My daughter’s exploration mate found where the mains electric box was and he turned on the electricity. The entire hotel hummed visibly as the electrics geared up and started running up and down its three floors. They both went to the lift (elevator) and went up to the first floor (second floor in the US).

They headed down the hallway and looked in rooms with open doors. Some of the rooms were in complete disarray, while a few others still had beds with linen on. They looked like a guest had just awakened and thrown the covers back to get out of the dusty bed.

In one room, they found holiday snaps (pictures) that a guest had left behind. Pictures of a better time, perhaps, but in the haste of leaving and heading to their next destination had been left behind. No one it seems from the hotel staff had bothered to collect the pictures and see that they were sent to the missing owner.

Still very clean, considering. You could spend the night here.

Besides an air of sadness the hotel felt as though it were still inhabited by some sort of ghostly guests. “The rooms,” my daughter said, “felt as though the floors, ceilings and walls were full of memories just waiting to come out and be noticed.” Not too surprisingly they both began to get a bit spooked by the place.

Especially after they’d found the ‘bird room.’

One of the hotel’s guest rooms had a broken window and birds from around the town had obviously set the room up as a giant nest haven and nursery for their young offspring. Nests littered the walls and floor. Broken eggshells and loose feathers were scattered everywhere. The only thing missing were the birds.

As they rode the lift down to the ground floor and turned the electricity off, they heard noise coming from the vacant floors where they’d just been moments before. This added to the already spooky feeling that they both felt growing in them. The beat a hasty retreat to the hotel’s connecting door to the coffee shop and it wouldn’t open.

Fighting back a rise of panic they began to bang on the heavy oak door to get someone’s attention. Finally after what seemed an age the manager opened the door. With raised eyebrows he asked them why they hadn’t just opened the door themselves as it was unlocked.

The creepy and slightly gross ‘bird room.’

They explained that it must have been locked or stuck. The manager shook his head. “No to both of those ideas,” he said, “It wasn’t locked and I opened it with one finger on this side.” My daughter and her colleague looked at each other and said, “Oh.”

3. The big finish.

The first floor hallway.

Neither one of them ever went back to tour the old place again. Like Shirley Jackson‘s The Haunting of Hill House, whatever walks the halls of that hotel, walks alone.

Waiting for Freshly Pressed: A Timeline

Sat, 25 August 2012 1554 – I  post a pithy post (say that fast three times, I dare you) on Freshly Pressed and have a moan about my comments not showing up in the Freshly Pressed comment section.

Sat, 25 Aug 2012 15:59:40 –  Get an email from Cheri Lucas telling me that my urban exploration post had been picked for Freshly Pressed.

Huh?

Sat, 25 August 2012 1600 I try to tell my daughter that I’m going to be Freshly Pressed. She is playing a game on her vita and has her earplugs in. I decide not to wait for her to get to a save point and start playing MOW3 to keep me occupied.

Sat, 25 August 2012 1700 I try re-reading the email and inadvertently delete it. In a state of panic I almost hurt myself trying to retrieve it and re-save it.

Sat, 25 August 2012 1730 Back to MOW3 and reading the odd blog on WordPress. I make a few comments and read a suggestion from Andy about changing my email address as it might solve my spam problem.

Sat, 25 August 2012 1800 My daughter and I make tea (that’s dinner if you live in the US) and decide to watch old episodes of Spaced with the brilliant Simon Pegg and Nick Frost and co.

Sat, 25 August 2012 2359 I decide to go to bed and stop checking the Freshly Pressed page every two minutes. Despite my excitement and paranoia about my post not going up yet, I drop right off to sleep.

Sun, 26 August 2012 – 0630 I wake up early because the temperature has dropped and I am freezing to death. I go downstairs for a drink and a quick look at my laptop. My post isn’t up yet, as I am half asleep, I don’t spend too long on the site. I opt to go back to sleep.

Sun, 26 August 2012 – 1030 I wake up for the second time of the morning. Warmer and better rested I go downstairs to see if I’ve been posted yet. Checking the page and no, not yet.

Sun, 26 August 2012 – 1100 I decide to check the Freshly Pressed page again and see that a new post has been added, but, it’s not mine.

Sun, 26 August 2012 – 1130 I start hyperventilating slightly as I look for the fourth time at the Freshly Pressed page. I decide that it was a mistake or a practical joke (who says I’m paranoid, who?) which I decide would serve me right after my ‘snarky’ post about not being Freshly Pressed.

Sun, 26 August 2012 – 1200 I make the decision to not check the FP page every half hour. I decide that I’ll just relax and not get so impatient, a trait that after 53 years of living I still cannot rid myself of.

Sun, 26 August 2012 – 1230 I totally disregard my earlier decision to not check the FP page half hourly and check again. I go upstairs and talk to my daughter for a half hour in an attempt to keep my mind off of the fact that another post has been put on the wall and again, it’s not mine.

Sun, 26 August 2012 – 1300 I now decide that I probably should have replied to Cheri’s email. I set down and because of my increasing paranoia that this is some kind of horrible karma or bad joke it takes me 14 minutes to write a simple email.

Sun, 26 August 2012 – 1330 I go outside and sit with my daughter in the lovely sunshine. My contribution to the conversation is minimal. Why? Because I’ve seen another post on the wall that is, again, not mine.

Sun, 26 August 2012 1400 I finally decide that this whole thing is a wicked joke, serendipity, or just ironic. I finally decide that it must be the real deal. Hyperventilating slightly, I check to make sure that I sent an email to Cheri thanking her and expressing my excitement.

Sun, 26 August 2012 1430 I make a snack and while I am eating it, I compulsively keep checking the Freshly Pressed wall for my post. I discover that I’ve given up the ‘not checking every half hour’ and I am now checking it every few minutes.

Sun, 26 August 2012 1500 I finally decide that I am a truly sad individual to keep checking the bloody page. It will get posted when it gets posted, so stop checking dammit.

Sun, 26 August 2012 1515 I decide to do this timeline and about halfway through I mistakenly hit the wrong key and lose half of the timeline. cursing wildly I try to find an earlier draft. There isn’t one so I have to re-write half the post over.

Sun, 26 August 2012 1557 Pausing for a moment to give my poor fingers a break, I notice I’ve gotten another email notification. I check it and it’s from Cheri. She tells me it will be late this evening or early tomorrow when my post will be added to the wall. I relax, a bit, and send a hasty email back thanking her.

Sun, 26 August 2012 1600 I am now more relaxed and a bit calmer. The excitement is still making me a bit giddy (giddy?? Did I just say that a 53 year old man was giddy?? I must be if I’m describing myself that way) but now that I’ve had a ‘confirmation’ email from Cheri, I’m hoping that my pithy whiny post has been forgiven.

Sun, 26 August 2012 1700 Get another email from Cheri, so now I’m definitely feeling like this is going to happen. I still cannot stop looking at the FP page and then refreshing it to see if my post is up yet.

Sun, 26 August 2012 1800 Finally decide to make tea or at least to think about making tea. As we are both peckish it seems like a good idea. I check the wall yet again.

Sun, 26 August 2012 1830 We put Dario Argento‘s Suspiria in the player and watch while we eat our meal. My laptop is closed for the first time today.

Sun, 26 August 2012 1900 –2230 Put the dinner dishes in the kitchen, watched the rest of the film and talked about it for a long while after eating. We then load up Netflix and then Lovefilm and start watching Crazy Eights, a low budget horror film.

Sun, 26 August 2245 – 2330 I put the dishes in the sink and start washing up, still haven’t looked at the FP page. I am very proud of myself.

Sun, 26 August 2359 – 0100 I fall asleep in my chair after doing the dishes and ‘old man’ thing that drives me to distraction. I check the page again and find that four more posts have gone up. Again none of them mine. Decide to go to sleep and not look at the FP page till later this morning. I feel like a kid at Christmas waiting to open up my presents, excited and just as impatient.

Mon, 27 August 0930 – Get up and stumble down stairs half asleep and thirsty. Turn on the laptop and gulp down some squash. I come in and click on my WordPress link. My post has exploded! It’s finally happened, it is up!! Now I am too excited to do anything else but keep checking the view counts and follower counts (which I need to keep track of so I can follow back) and ‘likes’ and comments.

Thanks Cheri Lucas and Word Press! You’ve made my day! 😀

Balloons and confetti By tamara.craiu courtesy of FLICKr

Neil Armstrong (August 5, 1930 – August 25, 2012) Gone But Never Forgotten

I was sad to hear that Neil Armstrong died yesterday. He was a true American hero and pioneer. He will be missed but he will live on in the history books of the world as the man who walked on the moon and said those iconic words as he planted the American flag on the moon’s surface.

I say that he was a hero. Of course he was. My somewhat limited definition of a hero is pretty straightforward. A hero is an individual who generations of schoolchildren and other more adult people look up to. They are touched by their achievements and strive to live their lives as the hero in question does.

I also say that he was a pioneer. My definition of a pioneer is also quite straightforward. As a child raised on stories of the settlers in the early years of America making their way across a country so vast to find places that no man had seen before, Armstrong fall in that category easily. He was making his way across space.

All the astronauts were heroes and pioneers, and they still are. Like the Star Trek narration states at the beginning of every episode, “To boldly go where no man has gone before.”

I was ten, almost eleven, years old when the moon landing was televised worldwide. I can remember sitting with my parents in front of the television and watching the ‘scratchy’ and noise filled images that came from space of these brave men and their first steps on the moon.

All of us in the room that day were excited and fearful. No one knew what this might mean to the world. We had not only broken our earthly boundary but we’d landed on another ‘planet.’ We were all very proud to be Americans that day. The first country in the world to put a real man on the moon to interact the the existing ‘man’ on the moon.

I do remember, much to my embarrassment, that just after Neil Armstrong had utter those words destined to go into the history books, I turned to my parents and said, “How come we can land on the moon, but we can’t get a decent picture of it? Why is it so fuzzy?” If I remember correctly I think both my parents laughed and then told me to ‘Quieten down’ until the broadcast was finished.

You can read books that were written about that time that have nothing to do with space and a lot of them will have made a reference to that event. The date 20 July 1969 is an important date for all of mankind not just for America. I remember reading a book by John Ketwig called …and a hard rain fell: A GI‘s True Story of the War in Vietnam. In it he tells of walking around the countryside in Thailand and telling, and showing with the aid of matches and a rubber band,  local villagers about the moon landing.

Neil Armstrong hero, pioneer, father, brother, man. Like Icarus, he flew and challenged the Gods. His words, “One small step for [a] man, one giant leap for mankind.” Will be his legacy for generations to come.  Neil has made his last journey, one that has taken him higher than the moon.

Neil Armstrong gone, but never forgotten. RIP great man, we’ll remember you as long as we breathe. I know for certain that I will.

Freshly Pressed, Hold the Wrinkles

Do you want a crease in that?

I will come right out and say it, “I love the Freshly Pressed section on WordPress.” But as much as I love their ‘picks’ of the day and the introduction to new or not so new bloggers, it also frustrates me just a little.

Some of the blogs picked are erudite, clever, and so perfectly put together it makes me shed a tear of envy. Others make me wonder whose biorhythms are shot when making that particular choice.

Seriously though I can usually see why they choose the ones they do. If not for content alone, the subject matter seems to be a major driver. Pictures also are a factor, although not a necessity, and if said pictures are taken by the owner of the post it’s even better.

I can well imagine that most, if not all, of the folks who contribute to the WordPress blogging community dream of getting their blog post exhibited on this prestigious wall.

I know I do.

It’s a bit of a silly thing to wish for. I only say that because I do not blog for praise or recognition or recompense (well, not yet anyway). I do love the immediacy of blogging. If someone ‘likes’ my post and hits the corresponding button I am happy. I have said this before in other blogs.

If I have more than ten people read a blog post (that is assuming that a ‘hit’ equates to a ‘read’) I am also very pleased. I have a very low expectation threshold.

I do, however, get annoyed when I try to leave a comment on a WordPress post that is ‘helping’ the community to adhere to certain practises or formats to help them to get Freshly Pressed and said comment never appears. These articles are very helpful actually. I had never put pictures in my earlier blogs on another site.

I can only think that my remarks, comments, or pithy observations are getting relegated to the spam bin. I’ve had problems with this before. One of my friends on another blog site, Tyson Carter from Head In A Vice told me that for some reason my remarks were getting posted to his spam folder. A problem I’ve encountered with other WP sites leaving comments on my channel.

So I must admit to a little frustration at the current situation. Not only am I waiting, not so patiently, for inclusion to this illustrious page, my comments aren’t even showing up. Comments, I might add, that are always congratulatory in nature.

So I will end this little diatribe with a thought that I wrote on the comment section of a WordPress post not too long ago.

Guys, I love your Freshly Pressed feature. I am however beginning to think that the only way I’m going to get one of my posts freshly pressed, is to take a steam iron to my laptop.

I think there might be a wrinkle here…