Your Own Private Concord

•September 16, 2017 • Leave a Comment

“Course-correction imminent” may yet again be the watchwords for autumn 2017. Good things brewing. All-new CITD post next Friday! Cheers, MM

Completely in the Dark

[Dear readers: It’s nearly the 20th anniversary of this, my freelance writing business manifesto (terms of service, mission statement, liturgy, or what-you-will), so thought it a good time to remind myself how far off track I’ve gotten. Which means course-correction imminent. It’s the sleeve of a cassette recording I gave out to everyone who attended my business launch party in December 1992. The cassette contained songs played at the party, but the sleeve was purely for entertainment/reading pleasure. I also wrote my obituary that year. Enjoy!]

Manifesto by Michael Maupin

WHERE’VE YOU BEEN LATELY?

This is about the guy who “goes off to find himself.” Wish him luck. Send him a card. Buy his last lunch. Reminisce. Laugh. Sneer. Chide. Whatever you do, remember one thing:

Someday you may be in his shoes.

Christians have a heady concept. Their Big Guy once said that to enter the Kingdom of…

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Question Everything

•September 7, 2017 • Leave a Comment

Oh, man, please do QUESTION EVERYTHING. If you don’t, stop complaining. If you do, come sit by me. Working on new stuff, but here’s where to go till then. Be well.

Completely in the Dark

There’s this 12-year-old kid who’s got his own bedroom and he’s lying awake on a mid-winter night. It’s probably, oh, around 1971 and he’s got a clock-radio on a bedside desk, and oversized Sony headphones are cupping his young head.

“What’s he listening to?” you might be wondering.

Well, I can answer that.

It’s late night FM radio and the DJ is playing The Moody Blues’ song “Question” (the long version). It’s jazzing the beejeebers out of this kid, like having the top of his head popped off.

So much coming at him. So much thinking going out.

It’s driven by those insistent, thrumming guitars backed by soaring voices, a roving bassline and the lyrics: “Why do we never get an answer, when we’re knockin’ at the door?”

Immediately, images fly past: a burning world of persecution, yeah, just like the Vietnam War on the TV news every night

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Worlds In Turmoil

•September 1, 2017 • Leave a Comment

“…1959 was a very strange time, a bad year for Labour and a good year for wine.”
—Al Stewart, “Post World War Two Blues”

Although I was born in late ’59, I consider myself a child of the 1960s.

So it follows that I was a wooly teenager of the 1970s and newly minted adult in the 1980s.

The ’80s, in retrospect, was a cakewalk. I was employed for most of it (1981–1984 at the print shop, not far from my late parents’ hobby farm; 1985–1992 at a direct mail marketing corporation in Hopkins, Minn., where I then lived in my first apartment).

Although, as you’ll see shortly, by the end of it I’d declared the entire decade “horrible.”

As I’ve mentioned lately, the late ’80s was a creative watershed for me. Once I was independent, I discovered my own way of doing things: using gainful employment as a resource to my creative life and not the other way around. Had I done exactly what I wanted to do, I’m not sure I would’ve had the necessary tension I believe every artist needs to find ideas and do their best work.

All life is negotiation. It never stops being that. I see that now.

But I rebelled when I was 20, as I did when a teenager. I drank and took drugs. I was willfully disobedient and, perhaps worse, cynical. Things got ugly up until 1988.

I can now see that what saved me—the thing I loved the most and clung to in my early years—was Story. Storytelling as well as story-listening. Reading and learning. I was (and still am) a Story Sponge. I can never get enough. So, everyone was certain I’d become a journalist, maybe even major in “Broadcast Journalism,” as it was known back in the day.

In 1986, goaded by Dad to get a college degree, I embarked on a Media Studies major only to give up after a couple of courses. It just didn’t have enough story for me.

So, out went Media Studies, in went English and American Literature.

By 1989, while writing my first screenplay (that lovely, lovely story that would not leave me alone), I took classes toward a bachelor’s degree at Metropolitan State University. The ’rents were ecstatic. And I was happy to be learning new things again.

Rereading the 1989 journal, I discovered a gem of an entry from that summer, when I was deep into Act II of the screenplay draft and working night shift. What stopped me up was how much of it echoes what’s happening in the world right now.

A more complete excerpt of the entry follows, but let me first say this: I’m gobsmacked it took someone like the current holder of the office of President of the United States (he doesn’t deserve mention by name) to talk about “fake news.” Facts can be incorrect, news items can be inaccurately reported, yet marketing lies at the heart of broadcast news…

The Media Needs Your Attention. (Duh.)

So it had my attention on Monday, June 5, 1989, when I wrote this entry about that previous Sunday:

“The horrible Eighties are drawing to a close—not without a shudder—America tries to be blissfully unaware of the changes taking place in the world, and strangely I see changes taking place in my own life. Yesterday it was a beautiful sunny day—but in the news—over 1,000 young people [were] killed in Beijing, China, 800 killed in a railway explosion in the Soviet Union, where the first People’s Congress has been also meeting. The past week—the great evil symbol of the Eighties, the Ayatollah Khomeini is dead at 87 (?)—there was the first free election in over 40 years in Poland yesterday—ABC News had a special last night on all the world events which they pompously titled “WORLDS IN TURMOIL” as if (by indication of the plural) it was something which did not affect us (Americans) directly (otherwise it would have read: OUR WORLD IN TURMOIL—and made us part of it). America’s uncanny Beach Blanket Bingo Isolationism continues. My feeling is that one day soon it will all catch up with us and I’m not sure I want to be here when it does.”

Well, it has.

And I’m still not sure.

“Oh, every time I look at you
I feel so low I don’t know what to do
Well, every day just seems to bring bad news
Leaves me here with the Post World War Two Blues.”
—Al Stewart

The Boxes

•August 25, 2017 • Leave a Comment

I think the ugly buggers are trying to kill me.

It’s like mud-wrestling with your past. Except the mud just piles up, toweringly stupid and spectacular in its sheer mud-ness, always intimidating, sassing back: “You’ll never take me down!”

So I’ve been fighting back. Because now I have the time and resources to torch the Piles of Sorrow accumulating over the past eight years, so I can move on to better things.

And I’ve had two other thoughts on my mind lately: Why March 1989 might’ve been a before-unrecognized personal breakthrough, and how the current death of conversation affects us all.

So, conversation. It’s dead. Now you can text, Snapchat, Instagram, Facebook, tweet—and that’s all bullshit. I’ll go to social media to catch up, maybe, but rarely converse.

It doesn’t help that small talk exhausts me—making it and hearing it. I want to go for substance every. Single. Time.

But that preference, I discovered, exhausts people. They fear the consequences of “a deep discussion.” They feel boxed in. Can you blame them? It’s the conversational equivalent of saying, “Hey, can you come over tonight and help move some heavy furniture out of my apartment?”

So maybe we need to find a way to reinvent the art of conversation.

Because some of the most delightful moments of my life were spent there.

***

March 1, 1989.

The journal states, “…this is a critical month. I’m likely to be annoyed if I’m pestered by anyone—family or friends [as] I’ve made some headway on pages of my script, but I realize that the process can bog down at any point—I can drop whatever I’m doing in the middle of a sentence—the smallest distraction pulls me away. It’s ONLY by a sheer, square-jawed force of will that I COMPLETE anything! I’m a willing victim of daydream or reverie—I know it’s important, but I realize how lost it all is if I don’t take vision from head to hand.”

I was feeling alone, writing that goddamn draft of a movie project I had no idea would make any difference to anyone but me. I confessed to the journal:

“I don’t know if my solitude is a curse or a gift—most of the married, child-rearing couples I know would kill to have my freedom and solitude—but what they don’t realize is what I make up for in ‘quality time for myself,’ I lose in ‘social skills’ with others. …it’s where your priorities lie.”

So, even then I had boxes unopened, un … inspected.

***

Now, now, now.

You can live in the past. Or even the future. But I’m convinced the past has answers to the now. I’ve just gotta slow down and listen to what it has to say. That might be an important step toward reinventing conversation.

And some of that past could be buried in a box.

If you’re curious, you might think, “What is this? What does it really mean?”

That’s a great place to start: curiosity. When it gets jucy, it fans out. It connects instantaneously with all the other parts of your life.

[I have no idea where this is going. Guess I’ll just keep going.]

So, I got curious again. Particularly about Thursday, March 2, 1989. I picked up the journal for that year and highlighted this passage:

“There are two worlds—still. One, the physical realities—work, car, snow, rent, telephone, etc.—all operating quite well enough on their own—but not necessarily in sync with the other world—the one that always has been and forever will be—in my head. That world is varied and vast, the world of the ‘Moon’ script (as well as other scripts—why do I do that? I’m supposed to be working on one thing at a time—Moon now—but I’m always jumping ahead in my mind toward some other scene or story idea). …I wish I would defer thinking about it for now and return to the project at hand: Moon!

Here’s the deal: The Muse Is Fickle.

And the Muse is super-jealous. If you’re “occupied” with another creative idea, she drunk-dials you in the middle of the night, chockful of crazy new ideas. It’s just how she rolls.

As a creative person, I used to let her run roughshod over me. And she (including the rest of the fucking world, I suppose) does her best to keep me distracted.

On March 8, 1989, of course it had to snow. Nearly a foot of it fell in Hopkins, Minn., where I was then living. Still, I was hopeful I’d finish the screenplay and be spending my 30th birthday that November in Britain. It was early enough in the year to feel hopeful.

Now, in late August 2017, that kind of hope would make me feel downright giddy.

Here, the boxes hulk in corners, closets, filled up with musty papers and photos of people I no longer recognize. I want all of it gone. But I don’t want to fall into despair about it either.

So I’m cheered by what I wrote back on March 12, 1989.

It was a Sunday. I declared to the journal that I hated them. Now Sundays are my refuge. That Sunday I went to see a film adaptation of Charles Dickens’ Little Dorrit and wondered if my movie would ever be made. That day I visited high school buddy Theron Hollingsworth after he’d finished his DJ shift at radio station WLKX in Forest Lake.

We had a conversation.

You know, in person. Like humans used to do.

Then, later, I wrote in the journal:

“…the despair I’d felt all through 1987 and recognized in a different key in 1988 hasn’t held me in ’89 so far—there’s too many wonderful things to do—I feel I’m earning my wings and I want to be worthy of some future ‘inheritance.’ I don’t really know what I’m saying—I suppose in a sense I’m tired of taking ‘No’ for an answer to anything in life … it’s all too short for that.”

Amen, my young friend.

You just keep on digging out of those goddamn boxes.

To Boldly Go Where No Boy Has Gone Before

•August 18, 2017 • Leave a Comment

All-new post into editing mode and will publish next Friday. For now, this reminder that independence has its price. Cheers, Mike

Completely in the Dark

MySide_1“I’m in the middle, without any plans,” Alice Cooper sings, “I’m a boy and I’m a man.”

In the late summer of 1978, I was 18, still living at home with the Family Project and working nights at Tonka Toys.

And I didn’t know what I wanted.

Well, sorta.

You see, I wouldn’t have gotten there without the help of one Samuel Gribley and James T. Kirk—the former a 1960s Canadian preteen, the latter captain of a Federation starship in the 23rd century.

When and where I first saw My Side of the Mountain (produced in 1969), it’s hard to say. It could’ve been in Maryland, shown in class at Farquhar Middle School, or broadcast on network TV.

Sam Gribley, all of 12, lives in Toronto with his mother, father and two younger sisters. In the film’s opening scene, Sam peers through a fence at zoo animals…

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Total Eclipse of the Heart

•August 11, 2017 • Leave a Comment

New post in the draft hopper, not ready for publishing. So, in light of our forthcoming total solar eclipse, here’s this chestnut about the last time it happened, back in 1979. Enjoy!

Completely in the Dark

So where were you when the sun went out?Eclipse2

In North America, the last total solar eclipse of the 20th century occurred on Monday, Feb. 26, 1979.

Apparently it was a big deal.

The journal picks up the story: “Eclipse. …All that you buy, beg, borrow or steal. There is supposed to be a total eclipse of the sun today at 9:35 in the morning, lasting until a little before 11:00. I’ll notice the change when I walk out of History.”

PARTIAL BEGINS

Things weren’t going very well at the U. I was struggling to make it through winter quarter, and night work at Augsburg was draining. “School is really a problem,” the journal states. “I’ve got to register for next quarter today. Sunday I put my ACT loan application in the mail at Ridgedale. I absolutely can’t wait until next school year.”

You see…

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This Nobody Is Still Doing Everything With Nothing

•August 3, 2017 • Leave a Comment

I promise you: a new post in August. But here’s where joy meets work in my world, so worth a revisit.

Completely in the Dark

“…if it’s natural, something glowing from inside, shiningviciousfreizelogo all around you, its potential has arrived.”

“What Is the Light?”
The Flaming Lips

I nearly threw away this entire blog just based on what I thought some people were thinking.

Gonna let that soak in for a minute.

The thing is, I stopped writing altogether. I looked back over my shoulder. Then I started comparing myself to other writers and artists, became self-conscious, and sunk deeper into despair.

Stupid, I know.

But this—this old journal entry—kick-started it for me, even though it’s four years after the story I want to tell all began. So let’s crank up the mojo and begin there.

An Oct. 2, 1991, journal entry reads:

“Last night I had a dream about Fingerhut [the company I worked at in the late ’80s, early ’90s]. There were mongrel dogs bothering me in a meeting. I…

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