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She liked to say she was happy with no phone of her own
A passive aggressive badge of honor
Kept safe under the doormat where
Her children dropped their backpacks.

“That’s X amount of dollars a month into the college fund,”
She’d say overbrightly, ladling food and
Wiping unmanicured hands on secondhand pants,
Thinking of who she might call if she could.

Humming forcible as she cleared the table
For eat and run sons oblivious to the sink’s location or function
She wished for a ring from a friend almost as much as
She pined for the unworn band she had pawned.

Enter title here (or why i can’t write titles)

There’s an aspect of writing I’m bad at.

Not just bad. Awful.

Suck stinky raw eggs awful.

Can you guess what it is? Of course you can, because the title tells you! But that’s not always the case ’round here.

Enter Section Title Here

How many times have I labeled a poem “A poem”?

How many mind-numbing, uninspiring, nondescript blog post titles have I heaved into cyberspace?

B.J. Novak is good at titles.

I’ve barely read any of the stories in his book yet, but just looking at the table of contents, I’m immediately struck: His titles kick butt (and some of them even take names).

Confucius at Home
Wikipedia Brown and the Case of the Missing Bicycle
No One Goes to Heaven to See Dan Fogelberg

They’re intriguing. They’re fun. They inspire me to read on. They make me wonder if Confucius kept a neat and tidy home or left his dirty underwear face up on the bedroom floor for his wife to pick up.

In short, they sell the stories.

Punk says I write for myself. When speaking, I’m cognizant of my audience. When writing, it’s as if I think no one will read it. Fair enough.

Two questions.

  1. Is it wrong to write for myself? Writing is how I think, learn, process, grow. You’re welcome to look over my shoulder.

  2. If I were writing titles for myself, why wouldn’t I name them so I knew what they were? Even I don’t know what “A poem” is about unless I click on it, and I wrote it less than a week ago.

Some songs have obscure titles. Punk’s band plays a song called Oceans that has nothing to do with the sea. But maybe it’s a personal title for the dude who wrote the song. Maybe he wrote it at the beach, or while flying over that place in Alaska where two oceans meet.

My other problem is an excessive fondness for brevity. I especially love one word titles. My son would say I’m “fabulated” by them. I hear angel choirs proclaiming the birth of perfect, spunky, kick-to-the-groin titles, born to save us from the glut of wordiness plaguing the world today.

Check out these beauties from Amazon’s Best Books of the Year:

Revival

Euphoria

Updike

HECK YES. I want to read these books. But titles can be wordier and still retain their catchiness. These broaden my horizons a bit:

Savage Harvest

We Were Liars

Everything I Never Told You

They don’t knock the wind out of me, but they do blow my hair back a bit.

So I sifted through the archives. When I came to a title and didn’t know what the post was about, I renamed it.  Hopefully choosing titles that:

  • describe
  • sell
  • or at least mean something to me.

That poem that was set after a dinner party? Now titled After the dinner party.

Confucius say BAM.

>Enter witty encapsulating end paragraph here.

Interstellar

We used to look up and wonder about our place in the stars;
Now all we do is look down and worry about our place in the dirt.

 

We saw Interstellar today.

It was as visually stunning as we hoped it would be, maybe not as science-y as we expected, and far more spiritual than any reviewers so far had let on.

Punk is an avid reader of all things pertaining to outer space. He says the effects were realistic, in keeping with what he’s read pertaining to worm holes and time warps. And my stomach actually dropped at one point, just like on a roller coaster! Kind of awesome to know a movie can achieve that.

Cooper (Matthew McConaughey) is a farmer, but not by choice. He’s a former NASA pilot, “a pioneer and an explorer,” living in a bleak post-space-race semi-apocalypse in which crops are not only failing but becoming extinct. It’s only a matter of time before humankind will be wiped out.

Cooper’s daughter, Murphy, is a smart kid with a “ghost” in her room. Synopsis/mini-spoiler: she leads him to decipher a message that takes him on a mission to save the human race.

It’s interesting that the script speaks often of other beings, benevolent ones. Why are they helping us?

And the ghost. I thought more than once of the Holy Ghost of religious lore. No one ever mentions God or gods, but my mind was constantly going there. Even the dialogue regarding the topic of love was reminiscent of sermons I’ve heard about how “God is love.”

Names are also significant in the movie. Murphy is named after Murphy’s Law: what can happen will happen.

There are other overt references to things being named after people, too. My favorite was one of the explorers sent out ahead of Cooper called Mann. Mann is touted as brilliant and brave, “the reason we’re going out there.” What eventually becomes of him is an interesting commentary.

I can’t tell! Don’t want to ruin it!

Let’s just say Christopher Nolan has some hopeful ideas about the resilience of mankind and the possibilities of going beyond being mere caretakers of the earth.

I can’t watch a movie anymore without thinking of Save the Cat! Some parts of Interstellar don’t fully conform to Blake Snyder’s model. It’s long. The Pope in the pool comes late. It’s intense. The “Fun and Games” portion is little more than a deep breath before we get right back into the action. The final image isn’t a mirror image of the opening. It doesn’t matter. Other parts are spot on, particularly the “All is Lost” moments and the way the B story reflects and eventually meshes with the A story. It’s truly well done, so let’s just think of Interstellar as an exception that proves the rule.

I thoroughly enjoyed this entertaining, emotional, intelligent film. Watch it in IMAX for the full visual effect, and plan to go out for stellar conversation (or maybe a bit of stargazing) afterwards.

from zero to author in 40 years flat

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