Ennio Morricone, you’re a jerk, but Plato would be proud

I went to see American Sniper last weekend. I’d heard it was good, and I really wanted to see it, even though I knew it would make me cry. Also, I nixed going to Lone Survivor, and we’ve moved so I can’t advise my husband to “go with your pals”. So I went to see American Sniper.

Now, I’m not going to venture the slog into the political ramifications. There’s more than enough to say, I’m sure, and I’m certain I have opinions, but I think some people are missing the point. The point is. *sniffle* the point. the point is that I was a very big girl and kept from *really* weeping until the credits rolled. And that is when the trumpet started to play. Now, taps, by itself, is enough to turn on the face faucets. But it’s not just taps. Oh no. No, it isn’t. That darned Ennio Morricone and his compositions.

If you are feeling brave, or don’t mind a sudden cry, here’s a link. There’s something noble about the eighth notes. Is that it? Because once I say that…I sound like a nerd, and a slightly deranged one, too. Why do a series of notes played at certain times by a specifically timbred instrument evoke nobility and high heartedness?

The solo was not composed for this movie. It was used, brilliantly, but American Sniper was not the original film.

Wading into guesswork in the youtube comments, I noticed that the Italians were getting anxious when the song was attributed to Morricone and his work for The Return of Ringo.…they seem to be saying that Morricone arranged the song from from an Italian movie, Il Silenzio. One person linked that, and I offer it here. Three movies, one song.

Maybe when I successfully wipe my face off with the world’s biggest hanky, I’ll have some conclusions on music, storytelling, and aesthetics. In the mean time, I only meant to bring to your attention the wide ranging power of certain sounds to evoke certain emotions. Plato would be so proud.

Authors: Write with Deliberation.

For several years, Terpsichore and I have been coaching semi-finalists in Athanatos Christian Ministries’s novel competition. We spend 3 months or so working with authors on revisions, polishing and working on the art of story  telling. We work one on one with each author to provide specific criticism and advice. At the end of the revision period, authors re-submit their revised work and some hard working chap wins and has their book published by Athanatos. Pretty sweet, eh?
Well, every year I write a wrap up email with advice for how to keep working to be the best author possible, and every year the general advice is the same. Terpsichore has also found some patterns, so we thought we’d share the more universal advice. Here’s mine. Pursue your writing with deliberation and purpose. How?
Read books about writing. Style guides like Strunk and White go a long way, but a book like John R. Erickson’s Story Craft make a big difference to seeing how to apply the ideas. I’ve also heard that Stephen King’s On Writing is insightful.
Write every day. Pout. This stinks. Finding time, being disciplined, focusing on something! For pete’s sake, we’re not medieval monks! But, there is good news here.
You don’t have to write for hours, or entire chapters. Set manageable goals for yourself. Got 15 minutes? Write for 15 minutes. Can you reliably write 250 words before dinner? Do that.
Also, you don’t have to write NEW words every day. Nor must you sit down and write the very next 250 words in your current project. Re-write yesterday’s words. Plan a different plot that’s been niggling you. Write about how you’re going go berserk if your upstairs neighbor slams the door and wakes the baby one. more. time. Just remember to file everything carefully, and never, never delete anything. You never know when you’ll need those loose words.
(oh, and, this isn’t a salvific matter. you ain’t going to hell if you miss a day or 9, so just pick it back up.)
Be a picky reader, in order to train discernment. Pay close attention to what you’re reading, and if it’s not very good, stop reading it. Is the plot flimsy, or only carried along by sensational occurrences? Are the characters boring or implausible? Is the prose itself varied, interesting, and stylish? If the answer is no, the book is not worth your time. You must give yourself the very best examples so that your “ear”, and “eye” for what is valuable and good is trained to judge between good and bad. When you can trust your well trained instincts, you will find the whole process easier.
And read Egotist’s Club! We’ll turn you towards those good books and share our thoughts on writing.

Open Post-It Note to Nosy Strangers

Dear _____________, 

I am from the Midwest. Not the UK. My “accent” is a result of clear enunciation. 

Please stop staring. 




(There, now I’ve said it to the internet, everyone will know, right? I won’t have to give people at the mall/ in cabs/ at the checkout line any more funny looks. I won’t have to try to find a polite way to say I’ve lived in Wisconsin for 20 years, just like they have? Please, internet, make the awkward go away.)

No One Minds the Cold

Did everyone see this list of cities allowed to complain about the cold? Ok, good. Geographically, I live just off the highway between #1 and #3. Right, that’s just for perspective on what we’re used to.

Yes, the Polar Vortex was quite cold. Folks brought their car batteries in at night, and re-installed them in the -18 degree dawn. Others…didn’t leave their houses, but report feeling quite warm. Then they admit to the long johns, down blanket, in-front-of-a-fireplace style existence and realize perhaps their scale is skewed (me…). But the Polar Vortex isn’t what people are talking about.

This week, we are getting snow. I’ve shoveled about 6 inches in the last 24 hours, in two installments. More is expected Thursday, Saturday, and Tuesday, and Friday. (My cat is stalking my grapes by loving up my elbow. This is hard to write) The snow is what we’re talking about. It’s warm, a healthy 2-20 degrees. But the snow, it keeps on coming.

I was just talking to the lady across the street, while we shoveled out or mailboxes. Our conclusion to the problem of Winter was Shoe Cleats. People fall while they shovel, it’s just not right. Shoe Cleats. Because you might be ok this time, but you. will. fall.

All of this seemed quite sensible to me, until I realized that what I’d really like to do this afternoon is go down to the town pond and see how the ice is. If it’s at all smooth, I’d like to skate!

Skating… by strapping thin blades of metal to my feet and deliberately standing on ice. Then, gliding on ice, and knowing that friction melts the tiniest bit of water in the track of the blade I have strapped to my feet while sliding on the ice. Genius.

I conclude (because the cat is really very much in the way of my post shoveling grape eating revelry). The people who live where it is cold, do not mind the cold. They mind falling unexpectedly.

Cabin Fever: Broken Down Car Edition

I speak for myself, and I think likely for Terpsichore as well. Winter car trouble stinks.

In the Spring, the Summer and the Fall, if your car fritzes, you putter around with it and think philosophical thoughts about how life is strange like that, and that everything’s probably ok, because the birdies are still singing.

Birdies. I scoff at you. There are no birdies. And you are now sitting in an unheated car. Wondering why you looked at the frostbite chart this morning. How many minutes was that? Less than 5?

Well, unless your car just won’t start in the driveway. You put in the key, and the car gives one scoffing huff at your misguided optimism and whirs itself back to sleep. Were you going somewhere? Ha. Walk, human. You’ve got legs. In fact, put me in neutral and walk ME into the nice garage.

In the Upper Midwest, some people prevent freezing cars by having some kind of electric plug installed. I don’t know what it goes to in the engine, but it plugs into an extension cord for several hours or overnight. I googled it. Most people who ask about it live in Alaska, but around here, plugs hang out the front of trucks all year round. I want one.


Or else, I’ll drink tea and possess my soul in silence. Of which there is plenty. Silence, that is. Tea is limited.

Lies and Humility

I came across one of the funniest little videos today. A reporter with unusual clarity of mind managed to poke no small deal of fun at the group of people known as Hipsters. Lest you misunderstand, I love hipsters. I would be a hipster, except I disqualified by not owning any flannel. They aren’t afraid to break the mold, they have an interesting culture, and they tend to be just retro enough to talk to each other and make music or jokes or silly songs when they have a party. Many also have interesting hobbies that they pursue passionately. I like the hipsters who choose baking…

But they have a weakness for the undiscovered and obscure. If you know about something first, you are way cooler than anyone else. Which leads to scenarios like this:


Silly, silly people. Do you like the way the smiling children look sage about band names that are clearly invented from whatever was close to the line of sight of the reporter? The Obesity Crisis. Regis and the Philbins. I keep making a popping noise. I think it’s laughter. Would it work for me?

The Angel Follies
The Seashell Creche
Teddybear’s Metronome
Felt Nativity
Etudes-Caprice Melted Out Candle Wax Cups of China Sugar

Surely that last one wouldn’t pass muster. Or would it?

Because the trouble here isn’t the proclivity to sucker onto the newest, weirdest thing. The trouble is the natural human desire to be cool. To be inside. (of course, re: Mark Studdock) and worst of all, the rooted trouble of humanity, Pride.
These …children… are not wise enough to say “I don’t know.”
Which produces the delightful paradox that makes us laugh. They are so busy trying to look smart that they look dumb. If they had admitted ignorance, they would have appeared so very smart.
I recently met a person of whom I had heard many things, whom I knew to be overwhelmingly intelligent. In the course of an hour, I heard him say “I don’t know.” “I’d have to look it up.” “I don’t remember.” “Let’s check that.” “Maybe.” He may have said some of these twice, but even if he didn’t, every 12 minutes, he admitted ignorance.
On the other hand, I know a person of equivalent intellectual prowess who cannot admit this; and makes the most embarrassing blunders.

Yesterday in church, our pericope dictated that we read of Solomon’s ascension to the throne of his father David. We heard the prayer of Solomon for wisdom. As a confirmed, avowed and unabashed Egotist, I certainly want to be right all the time. But even more, I want to be wise. To be accounted not just fact-clever but insightful. I hear Solomon’s prayer and think “Yeah, yeah. That. yeah.” (I know, so clever.) And, as the question asks, it is answered?
Where do you start?
“The fear of the LORD is the beginning of Wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.”

The root of Wisdom is humility. The spiritual side of this is not my current argument, and as a layman, I am unqualified to comment. However, in a strictly worldly sense, the beginning of wisdom is in knowing your limits and saying “I don’t know.”

So, what do you think of The Ceramic Snows?

Caramel Popcorn

Dear Friends,

We really can’t do without our holidays, can we? All year round, there are lovely times to get together and make good food. Without turning this into a cooking blog, I intend to share some of my favorite things to eat this season.

This fall, having as I do, spare time, I have learned to be confident in caramel making. It really isn’t very hard. Follow this recipe for CARAMEL POPCORN!

Use enough salt; sea salt, if you have it. Salted caramel is the BEST.

I halved this recipe, and my mom, in her rather silly mood, didn’t make enough popcorn. Oh NO! It is extremely caramel. MWAHAHAHA!

Now, I write, and my mom is taking an anatomy test. “What is depicted by letter C? Triceps! Everyone knows that.” When the caramel popcorn is done I’ll stick some in her mouth and that will gum up the whole process. Or, perhaps, provide inspiration. Just bear that in mind if you’re heading toward finals. I’m not sure what the intellectual outcome of this will be.