Tuesday, December 30, 2008

December 30 Meanderings

Reunion.com and Classmates.com are a real crock. I’m convinced they’re nothing but thinly veiled dating sites. “Brian Briscoe, see who was searching for you!”

Why? Why would I care? I’m not going to claim to be so introverted that there aren’t folks I’d like to hear from, but seriously, there are easier (and FREE) ways to find me online. I’m all over the bloody internet. One little Google search and I pop right up.


I was there as the internet bubble burst. I got hired by Yahoo! in 2000. They actively recruited me away from the job I had working for a PBS station. Yahoo was good while it lasted. No dress code, great benefits, decent pay, purple furniture…

I can still recall the HR person telling us in orientation: “See all those Porsche Boxters in the parking lot? That will be you soon enough.”

I’m still waiting.


I’ve been at Krav a couple times in the last week. Last night was pretty rough and tumble. Even my bruises have bruises.


BB’s current therapy: Death is this Communion by High on Fire.


Guitar lust has a grip on Toland and me. I’m still socking away some cash to replace the p’ups in my Les Paul.

Funny, I had to take a step back and look objectively at my study over the weekend. I have five guitars, and I have enough wall hangers to display four of them. But you know, I decided it might not be wise to have them all there in one place, easily visible through the windows. It’d be very easy for some prowler to get hold of them.

So I’ve got two in there at any given time. The others are in closets.


The kids are going to Corsicana for a few days. I figure this will give me more chances to nap over the NY holiday.

But come January 1, it’s me and 3 Lord of the Rings DVDs.


My guitars:
My #1 is the Jimmie Vaughan Tex Mex Stratocaster I bought a few years back. I love the pure tone, and the action is great. This instrument has taught me a lot about my preferences. I’m a little disappointed at the cheap one-ply pickguard, but otherwise this instrument is really “me.”

(A red one like mine, ganked from the Elderly Instruments site)


A Guild dreadnought. It’s slightly unusual looking I’d say, but the mahogany, including the solid top, makes for a very smooth, full tone.

I lowered the action a few days ago. I have to learn not to beat the bejeebers out of it now, because I can make it buzz. I’m really pleased with this one. For less than $500 I feel like I got a legacy-quality instrument.


My Epiphone Les Paul. I’ve mentioned it plenty lately. I love the color and the playability, but the stock pickups leave plenty to be desired. It’ll do big, round tones, and that’s about it. I simply must have more versatility in an instrument than this. I’ll put in the new pickups as soon as I can.


An ESP bass with a J/P-bass pickup configuration. It’s technically MOBB’s, but I mess with it more than she does. It’s a decent, workman-like instrument. The neck’s got more bow than I’d like at the moment, so I need to get in there and tweak the truss rod. Maybe a good holiday project for me.


A white off-brand acoustic. Larry sold it to MOBB back when I was working for him. The action is high, but I don’t mind that, as I use it for more experimental stuff, like open tunings and slide. It’s got a good, trashy tone. One day I’d like to “Nashville” string it and learn to play the Replacements’ “Skyway.”


My beloved Krav Maga school is closing at the end of January, darn it. They really made a go of that place. My hat is off to David Wilson, Jack Bolowskie, Kevin Link, Micah Tapp, and all the other instructors and students with whom I trained over the years.

I’m motivated to train again though, and a plan is in motion for that very thing. I will update with details as I get them.


BB’s current therapy: “I Hope There’s Someone” by Antony and the Johnsons.


Have a great holiday, y’all.

Saturday, December 27, 2008


In the summer of 2004, I was an at-home Dad for my infant daughter, who'd been born in February.

Over the course of six weeks I took photos of her on the changing table. I tried to set the camera the same way every day, but sometimes I was a little off.

I skipped some days and doubled up on others.

I ended up with the 25 photos in this album. I hope you enjoy them.

Friday, December 26, 2008

The Morning After

This cold is a real pain in the nalgas. I SHOULD be asleep, but no, the tickle in my throat woke me up at about 6:45.


Christmas was good. THEGIRL got her kitchen set, and Wolfboy got his Gamecube. He played one (1) game for about 10 hours straight. I'm not kidding.

I received some nice gifts. I watched the Iron Man DVD last night, and that's appropriate since Wolfboy and I received matching "arc reactor" t-shirts yesterday. I was like a little kid, wanting to wear it, but he was into this new baseball shirt of his and said no. Maybe today.

I also got some fine Kona coffee from my aunt, some great music from Toland (do get yourself some Guy Clark, folks), and of course, my new Krav Maga pants.


Guy Clark and Emmylou Harris doing "I Don't Love You Much Do I?" with Los Lobos.


We went to the Baums' place for dinner, and ate like royalty.


Today I need to go to Fort Worth for a bit. I'm going to stop into Barnes and Noble, as I have a gift card, and I read that they're having a big sale.


I'm cleaning out the study, trying to make it more useful and create more space.


Mark Teixeira signed with the Yankees. I was thinking about the Yankees yesterday. Bruiser hates the Cubs like I hate the Yankees. I don't get it. I mean, have they played spoiler for the Astros a few too many times? They are wholly different organizations.

From the Newberg Report:

Peter Gammons points out that the Yankees now “have the highest-paid first baseman, the highest-paid third baseman, the highest-paid shortstop, the highest-paid catcher, the highest-paid starting pitcher and the highest-paid reliever in the history of the game.” The praise they’ll get for being World Series champions should pale in intensity to the embarrassment of being anything else.

Exactly. Whatever free agent they want, they can pretty much get, because they'll throw (almost literally) the biggest pile of money at him. Heck, they even got Randy Johnson, who had so famously mowed down the Bombers in the '01 World Series.

Curt Schilling, however, declined.


And some schmo just rang my @#$% doorbell at 8:21am the day after Christmas, wanting to clean up our leaves.

Uh, no.


Time to wrap it up. Coming soon: Quite Possibly the Cutest Post in the History of the Universe.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Happy Holidays

[Suegra, aka Nell Thomerson, aka the mother-in-law]
Here's hoping that you too receive the perfect gift this Christmas.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

I am

a little bit croaky. I may be catching something.


going to have some ice cream very soon.


narrating the Christmas cantata at church tomorrow.


wishing my little girl would stop jacking with the cat, especially when it involves putting the little bugger on ME or MOBB.


glad I watched Meet Dave with Wolfboy last night. It's no masterpiece, but it's a fine movie to watch with a guffawing eight-year-old.

Lo and behold, it was co-written by the one and only Bill Corbett, who spent years as a writer for one of my favorite shows ever, Mystery Science Theater 3000.


finding it an odd coincidence that I have played two MST3K episodes this weekend, in fact: Santa Claus and Santa Claus Conquers the Martians.

The former gave me nightmares when I was five. Hey, it's kinda messed up to make a movie in which Santa is battling SATAN, okay? And the latter is so bad that even kids said so.


glad to report that I have done well over 1000 pushups this week.


waiting for the kids to go to bed so MOBB and I can watch The Dark Knight.

The movie itself is a bit overrated if you ask me. Heath Ledger's performance, however, is not.


thinking of putting a pair of Lace Alumitone pickups in the Les Paul.


the proud owner of some mighty cool new Krav Maga training pants. I'm like a little kid; I just want to wear them all the time.


very pleased with how my new brochures came out.


happy to be getting new clients.


off for most of next week.


going to spend all of one of those days having a personal Lord of the Rings Wing Ding. That is, I'ma sit down on this couch with a blanket, a remote control, and about a week's worth of snack food while I watch all three DVDs from the series.


looking forward to the gun seminar at the Krav Maga school on the 27th.


not happy to chew on the kids, but doggone it, their mother and I are sitting here in total silence by choice. Still they keep bopping out of their rooms to lean all over us, tell us things repeatedly, have random requests for us to get up and do things...


going to get that ice cream now. Y'all take care.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Tales of William

Whit has begun a blog dedicated to his father. I recommend you take a look. I love this idea.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Too Much Coffee, Man!

MOBB used to work with Shannon Wheeler, the creator of the indie comic Too Much Coffee Man.

This was back in Austin, when she worked for the Statesman. I never met him, but she said he was a nice guy. I ended up with some TMCM stuff, including a couple mugs (which are different from the two shown on the site) and one autographed and doodle-upon-by-Shannon comic.

I certainly found the comic to be funny, but I didn't become a rabid TMCM enthusiast by any stretch.

Still, on evenings when Wolfboy is desperate for bedtime material, occasionally TMCM will end up in his hands. He particularly loves the panels about the death of TMCM.

(Posted without permission, admittedly. But I do heartily encourage you to buy some of Wheeler's fine work).


In 2003 we'd been gone from Austin for several years. I was no longer working for PBS TV stations, and in fact had made the move to commercial TV via the very Belly of the Beast, aka Belo Corporation.

My carefree Austin days were long behind me. Yes, there is a fine local music scene in DFW, and there are certainly any number of free spirits and artists and writers and the like. But the presence of these souls in no way creates an atmosphere like being in Austin.

I started blogging while working for Belo, as some of you probably know. It was miserable. Watching The Office was very much like being at work.

I had my TMCM mug with me, though. I liked having my little slice of individuality right there, my... reminder of Austin I suppose.


Our room at BACS (Belo Advertising Customer Services, a little division of the Belo brand, which is housed almost in the shadow of the Death Star, which is what they REALLY did call the corporate office tower) had 30-odd cubes, a few glass offices for management, and no windows.

Oh, you could go down the hall and look out the window, but this being Belo and all, that could prove to be a risky venture. On a snow day a bunch of folks went to check it out for a couple minutes. I'm no fan of snow, so I stayed where I was. I was stunned that by the time my coworkers returned about 120 seconds later, an email from upper management was awaiting them, telling them they had better things to do than look out the window at snow.



On the other end of the room was a little TV studio. It wasn't used for everyday broadcasts, but for "breaking news" sort of stuff. I can't recall specifically, but I suppose it was WFAA folks coming over to use it when they had "live from Dallas" stuff to broadcast nationwide.

I was in the men's room once, and between broadcasts their news guy rushed in and shoved open my stall door. I was not pleased to see him there, and I told him so.

In a place like Belo, a little time in the men's room could be the highlight of one's day.


Some big news came out of Waco in '03. A basketball player was missing. They had a suspect, who was also a basketball player, but no body or anything. Just a lot of suspicious circumstances.

Our little studio was being used rather frequently. News isn't nearly so impressive when it's being broadcast around you every day.


My dang TMCM disappeared one morning, and I was not happy about it. Yeah, any number of "World's Greatest Mom" mugs were there in the kitchen for my coffee, okay, but the idea that someone would run off with my mug just sort of added insult to injury.

I poured my coffee into one of those other mugs and stood there in a daze, just sort of cursing my fate in general.

Soon my eyes wandered up to the TV monitor, which showed the broadcast currently originating from our little studio.

They were interviewing a young woman whom the graphics identified as the girlfriend of the murder suspect.

I was only halfway watching when something caught my eye.

There, on national TV, the suspect's girlfriend was drinking out of my missing Too Much Coffee Man mug.


I was not amused.


The little set was sort of off limits to us, of course, but as soon as they were off the air I marched in without a word, grabbed my mug, and vowed never to just leave it lying around again.

It's currently on my desk at my current job.


The moral: Don't leave your favorite mug in the office kitchen.


Have a good weekend, y'all.

Thursday, December 11, 2008


Alone in the Wilderness, a documentary about the decades a man named Dick Proenneke spent living in Alaska. I saw some of this on PBS the other night, and it was really engrossing.


The Briscoe Theory of Counseling. My counseling supervisor is aware of the tenets of theories I find useful, like Solution-Focused Brief Therapy and Narrative Therapy.

She has challenged me to take those tenets and put together my own meta-theory.

Is it too late for me to pursue a career in ditch digging?


The Fender VG Stratocaster, a modeling electric guitar developed in a Fender/Roland partnership. It has modeling capabilities for a Strat, Tele, a humbucker-loaded guitar, a 12-string, and more. Oh, and you can change "tunings" with a knob.

Skip the cute stuff and just hear the sounds starting at about the four minute mark.

This is the kind of thing that may be a year or two from being truly great, though, as the reports I've read about its voracious battery consumption are a real deterrent for me. Oh, that and the $1700 price tag.


Being in a promotional video that Texas Wesleyan is putting together to promote its counseling department. Far as I know, I'm the only alumnus. It'll be online at some point. I will certainly holler.


The fact that my counseling service is going to be listed with 2-1-1 soon. If you're not familiar with 2-1-1, it's an information service provided by the United Way. It's what you can dial if you need social service agency assistance and the like. By being listed there, I will get referrals from UW. This could be terrific.


The fact that the Rangers are talking to Randy Johnson and Ben Sheets.

Johnson is 45, and not the pitcher he once was. I'm not saying it would be a dreadful mistake, but anyone thinking we'd be getting the same guy who helped Curt Schilling send the Yankees packing in '01 is mistaken.

Sheets is a long shot at best, and that's too bad, as he has much more upside at this point. He's injury-prone, sure. He's also an innings-eater with good stuff.


Being halfway through the baseball off-season.


And now the bed is calling me. Good night.

Friday, December 05, 2008

Updates from the Padded Room

I dreamed I was standing beside the late Layne Staley in some suburban house. He was looking in the bathroom mirror, and I said to him, "I struggle with this thing too."


Houses are designed incorrectly. At least the ones that child-rearin' families live in. There's a LIVING room, sure. Currently, that's where all the craziness ensues. The kids ride each other like livestock, fight, make noise, make smells, and generally go bananas.

Why is there just one room? The parents need a smaller, private (and possibly padded) room elsewhere in the house, accessible by the kids only if they are on fire or bleeding out of the eyeballs.


I am officially counseling now. I need to get more clients, of course, but it feels great, absolutely great.


Anyone want to buy my Epiphone Les Paul Studio? It's beautiful.


I sold my gun this week.


Wolfboy and THEGIRL are for sale too, by the way. 50 cents a pound and they're all yours.


They make me so doggone mad sometimes. Is there some larger, evolutionary thing at work here? Some urge to kill each other? If they were baby birds, would they be trying to push each other out of the nest? I mean, from a biological standpoint, is there some advantage to trying to murder one's sibling?

They make me nuts.


Anyone know a good, reasonably-priced printer for my brochures?


I've agreed to be in a video promoting the counseling program at Texas Wesleyan. I'm glad to do it.


I have this bad habit of parking where I'm not supposed to. I dodge speeding tickets all the time, but I'm not usually so lucky with parking tickets. Today I parked illegally in Ft. Worth, but the cop who left that ugly orange sticker on my window was good enough to not ticket me.

The sticker was a real bear to get off though.


Stopped into a funky record shop on the TCU campus today. There was a lot of cool, collectible stuff, including boatloads of Texas music. I'd noticed a lot of Stephen Bruton's stuff.

Got to talking with the owner about a Jimmie Dale Gilmore album. Turns out the owner is Stephen's brother, Sumter. Oooooooh. Cool.


I'm rambling on and on about nothing. Y'all take care. Stay warm, and have a good weekend.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

The Fightin' Side of Me

I'm not a fighter. I'm not a tough guy. Many days I see other guys and think, Man I wouldn't want to tangle with the likes of HIM.

But back in '05, I started training to fight.

For those of you who have read my blogs and known me a while, this will be old news.

I still never know how to answer the questions though. I make no secret of the fact that I train, but I feel positively embarrassed to admit it sometimes. After a confrontation with an unbalanced man a while back, a coworker said, "You know you could have taken him down." This person was serious. At that point, I usually joke about how I'm qualified to shriek and run, or how I can defend myself with a JUDO CHOP!

(That's Whit's phrase, and if you know anything about Judo it's awfully funny).


It started with Judo, in fact. Starting in January of 2005, I took a few weeks of Judo at the local rec center. It's run by a fifth degree black belt, it's cheap, it's close... and it didn't work out. All the breakfall drills and tumbling gave me bad equilibrium problems. And honestly, the class was often run by scowling black belts who had no interest in or use for the newbies, except for the purposes of throwing us around. I lasted all of five weeks. I retain no useful skills from it.


In March of 2006 I started training in Krav Maga.

This was a much better fit for me.

Krav Maga is a fighting system that originated in the Israeli military. It was created by Imi Lichtenfeld.

It is primarily a standup fighting style. If I had to use one word to describe it, I'd just call it kickboxing.

That's really a terrible oversimplification though, as it includes gun, knife, and blunt weapon disarms, escapes from holds (chokes, joint locks, etc), and a fistful of ground work. The addition of ground work is a necessary evolution of the style, as the popularity of MMA (mixed martial arts) means lots of people--good and bad--now have some idea how to fight on the ground. Still, the aim of KM is to get back UP, as there is often more than one attacker, and the ground is a poor vantage point from which to defend.

And there's more. KM teaches eye gouges, head butts, scratching and more. It's dirty.

I think that's fine. I've been the victim of enough random violence in my day to know that there's no honor code at work when someone is trying to injure you. If I am attacked by someone with no weapon, the chances of me standing there and trying to trade punches are pretty slim. I'm not the biggest, strongest guy out there, and though I punch and kick just fine, my training philosophy dictates that the shorter the fight is, the better. I will do something nasty in a hurry and be done. Some bad guy might get to think about me with every limping step he takes for the rest of his life (and I'm not joking).

I'm a guy. We talk like that sometimes.


Thing is, that's not really who I am. I have a couple years of good, hard training in a useful self defense system. This means I can take a hit, I can defend myself, I can counter, and I can do so without panicking. I'm not awfully versatile, but I've got some really good techniques. I also have a bit of Muay Thai training. KM basically nicks its standup from MT, though I like the mechanics of the MT kicks better. KM nicks techniques from lots of styles, in fact, including Judo. While training in my garage some months back, I slipped in some grease. I caught myself in a perfect KM/Judo front breakfall without thought or injury. Heck, I wish I'd done the technique that well on belt tests. So some of this stuff certainly does get hardwired into us.

(Nothing takes the place of training though. Period.)


I struggle to talk about this when asked though. Like today, when my coworker asked if I'm a black belt. I can usually mutter some bad joke and hope it goes away. I mean... look at me. I don't look tough. I don't FEEL tough. I think if I were of a mind to take a deep breath and speak like I'm the baddest thing since the "Thriller" video everyone would laugh. Heck, I would too. It's simply not my character to do that. I'm not a tough guy.

But I'm glad to have some tools. For whatever reason, sometimes the dust settles and I end up being the man to have to confront some random aggressor. That's fine. People who pick on innocents really @#$% me off. I've been the victim plenty. Now I'm glad to be able to be the guy to stand up, and to back it up. I just can't make myself talk about it.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Lee Van Arsdale vs. Buck Chambers

These are photos of my great grandfather, Lee Van Arsdale, taken before an exhibition fight with a man believed to be named Buck Chambers. My father gave me these photos. He believes these were taken in Freeport, Texas sometime in the 1920s. We don't know much about them. They were found among my great grandmother's belongings after she passed.

My great grandfather, Lee Van Arsdale.


Buck Chambers





Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Thanksgiving Jumble

Been a while since I had one of these jumbled up posts I suppose.


I think that MOBB has finally figured out that I want to be cremated instead of buried. I guess it's all the times I told her, "I wanna be cremated instead of buried!"

She asked me if there's someplace I want my ashes spread. I tried to think.

"What's your favorite place?" she asked.

SO, I'm going to have my ashes spread on the internet.


We leave tomorrow morning for Willis, Texas. It's somewhere in the Huntsville/Conroe area.

We'll be having Thanksgiving dinner with my Aunt Shirley, whom I haven't seen since I was 15.

I'm really looking forward to it.


I've found a buyer for my gun. I think we're both getting a fair deal out of this.


I'm going to sell my Les Paul too. I'm going to take whatever cash I can get from it and apply it towards a Carvin Bolt-T kit.

Turns out I'm not much of a humbucker guy. I'll get the humbucker bridge option from Carvin, but it'll come with a coil splitter. In my limited experience with such a rig, I do like the sound of a split humbucker, and when I want to turbo-thrust my sound, I can use both coils. My only real complaint about a Strat is that it's hard to get a really beefy sound without lots of 60-cycle hum.


We watched Hellboy II this week. I actually like it a little better than the first one, though MOBB and Toland prefer the first one. I just love them both, but II's anachronistic gizmos and stunning sets really make that one for me. I'll watch me a whole bunch of Hellboy movies. Ron Perlman's great, though he's no spring chicken, so I don't know how long he can keep reprising his role.


I'm seeing clients now. I need to make a promotional push to get the word out, but I have now oh-fish-ully been paid for my counseling work.


So last night THEGIRL and I had some time alone while MOBB dropped Wolfboy off at a sleepover.

We shared some noodles and watched Qubo.

She asked for a snack, and came back with a cheese stick. Soon she presented me with a tiny little plastic plate with little cheese pieces on it.

I ate a few, and thanked her.

But I pointed out that the cheese was in tiny pieces, and asked her how she cut them.

"With my teeth!" she said.

Oh... well... thanks!


And THEGIRL just broke a lamp. Wolfboy broke one when he was her age as well.

Kids are so hard on the little things. I swear, THEGIRL is going to give Ringo PTSD.


I'll sign off now. Y'all have a great holiday. Be safe, be careful, and ... Hook 'em!

Monday, November 24, 2008

November 24, 2008

One of my favorite authors, Larry Brown, died four years ago today. He was 53.

His writing amazed me, because the words on the page were like the words in my mind. He wrote the way I think. It was uncanny.

I have not often insisted that my friends read books I like. Brown was an exception.

(Thank God for Sherman Alexie, who continues to live and write, and occasionally get foisted upon my friends).

This is the prologue to Billy Ray's Farm. I heartily recommend that if you enjoy Southern literature at all, you buy some Larry Brown.



A long time ago when I was a boy, there was one slab of concrete that stretched from Oxford to Toccopola, a distance of about sixteen miles, and that was the road everybody used to get to town. It was kind of like half of a road, with one side concrete, the other side dirt and gravel. If you were heading to town, you could stay on the concrete all the way and never have to get off on the gravel side. And if you were coming from town, you could get on the concrete part and drive on the wrong side of the road until you met somebody, and then you had to jump back onto the gravel.

That road has been gone for a long time, but I still remember the swaying of the car as my father went from one side of the road to the other. Everybody did it and nobody ever thought anything about it.

A trip to town on Saturday was a big event. The Square in Oxford has changed some, true, but by and large it still retains the image I have of it from thirty years ago. It is still lined with stores and parked cars, and the big oaks still stand on the courthouse lawn, and the Confederate soldier is still standing there high above everything so that you can see him first when you come up the long drive of South Lamar. What has changed is the nature of the town. A long time ago you could find people selling vegetables from the backs of their trucks, and you could go in Winter's Cafe and get a hamburger and a short-bottled Coke for sixty-five cents. You can't even buy an Egg McMuffin on University Avenue for that.

Faulkner would probably be flabbergasted to know that there are several bars on the Square now, and that blues music can often be heard wailing out of the open doors on hot summer nights, floating around the air on the Square, lifting up to the balconies of the apartments that line the south side, where people are having drinks and conversing. It's not like it was when he was around. Life was hard for some. Blacks were oppressed. The drinking fountains on the Square were labeled Colored and White. That world doesn't exist anymore.

What does exist is the memory of it, a faded remnant of the way things were. Write about what you know, yes, even if it doesn't exist anymore.

When I wrote my novel Father and Son, people wondered why I set it back in the sixties. The answer to that is very simple. When I wrote the first scene, where Glen Davis and his brother Puppy are driving back into town, I didn't see the Square I see now, with Square Books on the left side of South Lamar and Proud Larrys' on the right. I saw that old Oxford, the one where Grace Crockett's shoe store stood in the place now occupied by a restaurant and bar called City Grocery, and I saw the old trucks with wooden roofs built over the back ends to shield the watermelons and roasting ears and purple hull peas from the heat of the sun, and I saw a battered old dusty car that my two characters were riding in, and I knew that it had a shift on the column, and an AM radio with push buttons, and musty upholstery that had once been velvet. I saw all that and I knew that they had driven in one hot Saturday afternoon back during my childhood, and I remember the way things were.

What is it about Oxford that produces writers? I get asked that question a lot, and so does Barry Hannah, and so does John Grisham, and I have to confess that I'm just as bewildered by that question as the people who continue to ask it. Maybe even more so. They always want to ask about Faulkner and what it all means, being a writer in Oxford, and where all the stories come from, and why that environment seems to nurture writers. No matter where I go, I always get hit with that question or a variation of it.

I don't know what the answer is for anybody else, and I don't know what caused Faulkner to write. Most times, for any writer, I think it springs from some sort of yearning in the breast to let things out, to say something about the human condition, maybe just to simply tell a story. When pressed really hard, I say something generic like, "Well, for me the land sort of creates the characters, you know? I mean I look at the people around me and wonder what their stories are, or I think of some character and put him in a situation and then follow him around for a while, see what happens next."

It's hard sometimes while being pressed into a corner of the wallpaper to come up with a satisfying answer about your own land and the influences it has on you. Most of this stuff is private. You could say that you like the way the sky looks just before a big thunderstorm moves across a river bottom, or that you like to see the thousands of tiny frogs that emerge on the roads on a balmy spring night just after a good shower. You could ruminate expansively about the beauty of a hardwood forest on a cold morning, or the way the distant trees stand shimmering against the horizon on a blistering summer day. But none of that would satisfy the question. What is it they really want to know? Probably nothing more than that old and tired favorite: Where do you get your ideas?

I believe that writers have to write what they know about. I don't think there's much choice in that. The world Faulkner wrote about was vastly different from the one that exists now. If Faulkner were alive today, he would see that. The mansion down the street has been replaced by a BP gas station now, and the hardwood forest the dogs once yammered through has been clear-cut and turned into a pine plantation. Black folks don't say "yassuh" any more, and at this moment I would have no idea where in all of Lafayette County I could find a good mule. I think the past influenced Faulkner a lot. It must have, since so many of his stories and novels are about segments of history that had already passed when he wrote of them. All he was doing was what every other writer does, and that is drawing upon the well of memory and experience and imagination that every writer pulls his or her material from. The things you know, the things you have seen or heard of, the things you can imagine. A writer rolls all that stuff together kind of like a taco and comes up with fiction. And I think whatever you write about, you have to know it. Concretely. Absolutely. Realistically.

Oxford produces writers for the same reason that New York does, or Knoxville, or Milledgeville, or Bangor. You can't pick where you're born or raised. You take what you're given, whether it's the cornfields of the Midwest or the coal mines of West Virginia, and you make your fiction out of it. It's all you have. And somehow, wherever you are, it always seems to be enough.

Copyright © 2001 by Larry Brown

Sunday, November 23, 2008

THEGIRL Makes the Cake

I don't post many photos of my kids. I worry just a wee bit too much about exposing them online.

But since this is a private site and only friends of mine are allowed to log in, I'm going to post this series of photos from October 13. They're just too great to keep to myself.

Some are from my cellphone. The ones in which she has the greatest expressions were taken by the one and only Ken Baum.