Plot Generator

This morning, I sat staring at my computer looking for inspiration. I noticed a bookmark that I saved ages ago. I left it in the nav bar so I could go back and check it out later. Instead, I proceeded to forget about it. Until now.

The book mark is to a plot generating website. It is similar to the game, Mad Libs.  With Plot Generator, you put in a bunch of words and it will write a full short story for you. With my need to have some inspiration I plugged in a bunch of words, moods, places, and descriptions then I indicated I wanted a short story. It took a matter of about 5 seconds and VIOLA I had a short story.

Now, mind you, I had no idea what to expect. The words I gave were pretty arbitrary and some did not match up to what they asked for. It was a hodge-podge of gobbely-gook. As a result…this short story is too, but it’s also really funny. It is worth noting that I did not edit, change, reword, or touch this in any way. This is raw and right off the press. So, without further delay, here is an amazing short story.

Two Steady Uncles Swimming to the Beat

A Short Story
by KJ Scrim (written by Plot generator)

Kaitlin Manning looked at the heavy cup in her hands and felt depressed.

She walked over to the window and reflected on her homey surroundings. She had always loved small Parker with its quirky, quarrelsome quaint. It was a place that encouraged her tendency to feel depressed.

Then she saw something in the distance, or rather someone. It was the figure of Sam Goodman. Sam was a smart giant with rugged eyes and robust feet.

Kaitlin gulped. She glanced at her own reflection. She was a nasty, moody, cocoa drinker with skinny eyes and large feet. Her friends saw her as a barbecued, bitter bread. Once, she had even helped a shiny puppy cross the road.

But not even a nasty person who had once helped a shiny puppy cross the road, was prepared for what Sam had in store today.

The snow teased like playing dog, making Kaitlin happy.

As Kaitlin stepped outside and Sam came closer, she could see the bitter smile on his face.

Sam gazed with the affection of 9,468 funny flaky fish. He said, in hushed tones, “I love you and I want equality.”

Kaitlin looked back, even more happy and still fingering the heavy cup. “Sam, Is that real leather,” she replied.

They looked at each other with satisfied feelings, like two clumsy, calm cats drinking at a very loyal party, which had rock music playing in the background and two steady uncles swimming to the beat.

Kaitlin regarded Sam’s rugged eyes and robust feet. “I feel the same way!” revealed Kaitlin with a delighted grin.

Sam looked curious, his emotions blushing like a fluffy, fluttering fork.

Then Sam came inside for a nice mug of cocoa.

THE END

Praise for Two Steady Uncles Swimming to the Beat

“I feel like I know Kaitlin Manning. In a way, it feels as though I’ve always known her.”- The Daily Tale

“About as enjoyable as being hailed on whilst taking in washing that has been targeted by seagulls with the squits.”
– Enid Kibbler

“Saying the snaw teased like playing dog is just the kind of literary device that makes this brilliant.”
– Hit the Spoof

“I could do better.”
– Zob Gloop

U is for Universe

When the sun goes down and the stars come out, how many can you see? Where I live the night sky is getting filled with flood lights from shopping centers and parking lots. 18 years ago we could go out in our backyard and were able to see quite an abundance of stars. Today the numbers have dropped.

Isle of Man is considered one of the leaders Dark Sky sites in the British Isles. There are 26 sites given the status of Dark Sky Discovery. These are areas are so dark that the Milky Way seems to envelop the viewer. You can reach out and hold the universe in the cup of your hand. I’m told it is breathtaking.

The Isle of Man Observatory has a great photo montage that compares a night sky in an urban area all the way to a Dark Sky. Scroll down further on their site and you’ll find a calendar that shows the best viewing days for Dark Sky. Weather is a factor no matter where you star gaze, and the Isle of Man has it’s fair share of rain and clouds.Be sure to check the forecast before you make plans.

There is a wonderful inspirational piece by Nancy Willard that I keep by my desk:

Be hopeful…
I haven’t a clue as to how my story will end.
But that’s all right.
When you set out on a journey
and the night covers the road,
that’s when you discover the stars.

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

This post inspired by – U

V is for Vampire Grave

Pop’s Story

I recently completed editing my great grandfather’s autobiographical manuscript about his life as a railroad man in the early 1900’s.  It was inspirational to read his words and be a part of something he started to write so long ago. He wrote everything in longhand and, in turn, my great aunt would put the words to the typewriter. Correspondence was by snail mail so each leg of the writing was done over weeks and months rather than the minutes we enjoy in today’s electronic world. There was no spell check, just a dictionary. Errors were erased and retyped, or the page was just pulled out of the typewriter and thrown away.

Research, and his manuscript, have taught me a lot about the railroad business of the early 1900’s. It was a mix of brutality and joy with a little despair mixed in. Grand-“Pop” was a civil engineer who found the lay of the land and supervised the workers to lay the track, and with this unique perspective he wrote about events that happened nearly a hundred twenty years ago. He loved this work that it took him through hostile lands both here and abroad.  He fought swamps and deserts, along with rebels and farmers.  He went so far as to be a founding father of a small town just so a railroad station could be built there. He had moxie.

I am working on my own novel based on some of his stories. I find it challenging to try and put words into his mouth for fear of painting him with the wrong palette. Even after reading and transcribing his memoir, I still worry. To put words in his mouth brings him back down to the human plane when, to me, he is larger than life. I ask myself if he would say something like what I’m writing? How would he look at his men after they berated a Chinese laborer? What did he actually say to them? What would he be thinking as he lay nearly frozen to death in the north woods? How did he get across the muskeg, on foot, so many times?

My great grandfather passed away in the late 40’s. To know him and what he might say is lost to time. I hope that the character I have created for him lives up to him at least a little bit. Only when I join him in the afterlife will I know who he really was. So, until then my imaginings will have to do.

I Like to Feel Literary, Too

Interrobang‽

I occasionally frequent a poetry reading in a well-known college town perhaps a bit outside the capital city I live in. (Hey kids! Being vague is fun!) It takes place at one of only three poetry-exclusive bookstores in These Corporate States of America. Innisfree is also, wonderfully, a hole-in-the-wall coffee shop. The sort of place with high stools to look at passerby through big windows, lots of table space to drink your large mocha, skim (delicious, by the way) and whip out your overdue assignment for that week’s writing workshop. The staff are the sort of beautiful not-quite-hipsters that make you feel like yes, today, you are a poet, and no, you don’t have to look or act a certain way to do it. I’m serious. The guy who runs the poetry reading they have every Tuesday has this shocking pink fringe that falls from under his pageboy hat and…

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Vietnamese Culture Camp Makes A Wonderful Weekend

I have just returned from a wonderful weekend in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado! This was the Vietnamese Heritage Camp at Snow Mountain Ranch. Our whole family had an incredible time and this is our view on the event.

We went up on Thursday evening to allow us time to get settled and find out the where and when of things. We had dinner at the Buckboard Grill which is right there at the ranch. The menu was your basic grill food … nothing to brag about but good.

Friday was a day for all the families to have time together. Most of us went on a wagon ride which the kids thought was great fun. They took us to the original settlement homestead where the kids saw first hand how the early settlers of the west lived. After the wagon ride our family divided with Mark taking Cody on the pony ride and the petting farm, and I and Kyra on an hour horseback ride through the beautiful woods. We then went back to the Rawley Room (where registration and workshops were held) to find many families were arriving. A total of 42 families came from California, New York, Colorado, Tennessee, Ohio, Illinois, and Michigan. While registration was in full swing some of the families made “lacquer” boxes. Everyone created some wonderful boxes. The opening ceremony introduced everyone that organized this years event with a loud round of applause going to Marcia Baird who was the director of this year’s camp, along with a standing ovation for the camp counselors. Many thanks were given to all of the volunteers who helped to make this camp a success. We then broke into groups for volunteer training. Everyone that attends the camp (adults) has a volunteer position at the camp to help in some way whether it was as clean-up crew or the dragon parade, everyone pitches in.

Saturday was the big day. We started the day with a group photograph at 8:30 AM which was followed by the start of the workshops. All of the kids went with their camp councilors divided by their grade in school. Their day was spent in one of 6 areas. The middle school kids went on a Challenge course with the Snow Mountain staff where they learned team building skills. The younger kids were off to build a dragon, learn Vietnamese songs, hear folk tales, plant “rice”, make dragon masks, learn a little of the language, or have HeART Talks. HeART Talks is a wonderful program that uses art as a form of expressing feelings and thoughts regarding adoption, culture, family, and more.

The adults were off to their own programs.Trish Maskew talked of the issues involved in bring a new child into a family, whether the child was an infant or older. Jeanie Sumrall-Ajero shared her experiences and photographs while she was living and teaching in Vietnam. There was an open discussion with Jessica Medinger and her adoptive mother about being adopted and being an adoptive parent. Sister Sen Nguyen, who was born in Vietnam and left as one of the “boat people” shared slides and talked about the religion and philosophies of Vietnam and how these have melded together to make the Vietnamese who they are and why. Cherie Clark was there for an informal discussion on IMH issues as well as a book signing. Then, of course, Kathy Jorin joined this wonderful group to share her expertise in a Vietnamese Cooking class which left our cabin smelling delicious!

Saturday evening was very special. We had a blast! After dinner the children dressed in their best Vietnamese outfits for the Dragon Parade. Each class had made their own dragon that they were able to show off with the company of dragon dancers from Queens Vietnamese Modern Church youth group. We were then treated to a show that was introduced by Cam Tren. There were songs, a fan dance, a skit that acted out the games Vietnamese children play, plus another dragon dance. The encore was performed by our own children! They sang the song they had learned during one of their workshops in Vietnamese! What a fabulous closing to the day.

Sunday brought kite flying for the children. They made and decorated their own kites to fly in the picnic area. The adults were treated to an incredible presentation by LeAnn Thieman. She told her story of her involvement in Operation Babylift. There wasn’t a dry eye in the room.

The weekend was over so quickly! What a fantastic weekend! If you were there you know what I mean, if you weren’t there…come next year and experience it for yourself! They have already set the date for next year so start planning now. It will be August 9, 10, 11, 2001. I highly recommend that everyone attend. It is a unique opportunity for you and your children to share a weekend filled with everything Vietnamese.

Published 2000; “Adopt Vietnam”

Bat Trang

The artistry of Bat Trang is well known throughout Vietnam for its beautiful ceramics that have been created for over 700 years. Vases of the finest quality have graced the homes of aristocracy, rice bowls have held the food of the farmer, and electricity goes across the country using Bat Trang insulators. Young men, in expressing the strength of their love for a woman, promise to build a home from Bat Trang bricks.

Thanh Hoa potters founded Bat Trang sometime in the late 15th century. They came for the rich deposits of white clay (now exhausted) that was the hallmark of Bat Trang ceramics. Bat Trang is geographically well suited near the Hong River (Red River) and within a short distance of Ha Noi, the capital of Vietnam. Throughout the 16th and 17th centuries, Bat Trang’s ceramics were of the highest quality, and vigorously sought after. Many of these pieces included the date and signature of the potter. This zest to own a piece of Bat Trang only lasted until the early 18th century when China re-established its export market overshadowing Bat Trang.

Today, Bat Trang is once again a blooming market. The narrow dirt roads buzz with activity; every nook and cranny overflows with wares for sale; every mode of transportation is laden with baskets filled with ceramics of every kind destined for Ha Noi. The dike road to the village is busy with motorbikes, bicycles, trucks and pedestrians. The drive to the village from Ha Noi is a mere 12km, but it takes a solid 30 minutes of weaving through traffic and pedestrians.

Once in the village signs of the ancient traditions of manufacturing are immediate with brick walls filled with drying fuel patties. Nearly 80 percent of the 1200 kilns that fire ceramics still use the same fuel patties that have been in use since the founding of the village. These black patties are a mixture of coal powder, wood, and water. Crafters form it into a round ball and press it onto a brick wall to dry. Hand printed fuel discs fill walls with a tapestry of design and beauty.

Although a machine mixes the clay itself, the molds are hand poured. Heat is added to the larger pieces in order for them to set in the high humidity. Craftsmen will drop a fire pot down into these larger vessels to promote quick setting. Once set, the pieces are carefully removed from the mold and the final touches begin. All the seams that appear from the mold are smoothed with the touch of a hand. When small details are added (such as a tail of a snake or the head of a dragon) they are attached carefully with slip.

Each piece is painted with quick flowing strokes of blues, greens, and reds, which are the trademark of Bat Trang. Design motifs include turtles, fish, dragons, floral scrolls, and landscapes, which bring a mundane bowl to the level of art. The artist holds the brush with a delicate hand allowing the paint to flow into the clay. The workspace is spotless reflecting the care put into the painting of each piece whether it is a simple rice bowl or an ornate incense burner. Once finished the pieces are set aside to dry before firing. After drying, ceramic boxes are filled to capacity then stacked high. Fuel patties line the sides of the boxes, plus the entire stack of ceramics as well. It can take up to three days to prepare for a firing. Once ready, the patties are set ablaze and the fires begin their 3-day burn. Because the temperatures cannot be exact, each firing produces a slight variation in color and quality from the last.

After the oven cools, each piece is carefully removed from its encasement and inspected for flaws or damage. If an item is less than ideal, but there is no obvious damage, it will go to the general marketplace for sale. If a high quality product comes from an especially successful firing, it will be set aside for the higher market.

There are a few businesses that have made the costly switch from coal to gas fired kilns. Gas kilns are not only cleaner to burn, but they also reduce firing time to less than 15 hours. The high temperatures combined with consistent heat produce only high quality pieces. These are available only for export or at exclusive shops in Ha Noi or Ho Chi Minh City.

The beauty and artistry of each piece is in the eyes of the creator, and it is no wonder that Bat Trang families have been dedicated to the art of ceramics for generations. Artists throughout the centuries have toiled over the clay until it is perfect, and couples have professed their love for one another over Bat Trang bricks. This dedication and love for the craft will continue to keep Bat Trang as an important part of Vietnamese history and art.

Published on 9/5/01 – “Things Asian”