Wednesday, March 22, 2017

"3 Spring Zens"

“Dinosaur Zen” 
(Previously published as Television Zen July 10, 2015. Edited since.)

I was watching TV last night.
It was a movie about prehistoric times.
Although, it being prehistoric, 
How would they know?

A young woman with big breasts 
In a little costume 
Was fighting a dinosaur.

She had plenty of zen!
Her zen was in her bravery
As she fought the dinosaur.

And in her costume,
Which struggled to contain her.

Just in the nick of time a handsome muscleman 
In another tiny costume came along.
He quickly assessed the situation

And knew just what to do.
His zen was mighty!
His zen was the zen of valor!

He fought and slew the dinosaur.

Then he was kissed by the movie cavewoman 
With the big you-know-whats.
The camera made sure I saw

Them crushing against his manly chest,
Straining to break free from the tiny costume,
While the dinosaur 

In the background writhed and bled.
For him the straining was over.
Then as the music swelled 

Up came the words,
The End.

I wonder where 
That dinosaur is now?

He had the most zen of all.

“Zen in Outer Space”
(Previously published Aug 28, 2015. Edited since.)

Is there zen in outer space?
Or is it just the sound 
Of no hands clapping?

It appears empty.
Yet it is fuller than we know.
It is even filled with things we cannot see,

But can only, 
For the time being,
Guess at.

Yes, outer space is 
Beautiful and mysterious.
Like zen is.

And patiently awaits 
Our further discovery.
Like zen does.

But, and here’s the difference,
Unlike outer space,
Zen is everywhere!

There is an endless supply of zen 
In the universe!

But only so much space.

“Zen in a Canna Leaf”

I saw some zen this morning, 
In sunlight 
Beaming through a canna leaf.

I try to be observant.

Especially in my garden,
Because you never know 
What you might see.

The sunlight is strong around here in the morning.
Strong enough 
To pass through a canna leaf anyway.

To pass through and nourish,
Leaving a trace 
Of beauty behind.

A miracle for my brain 
To ponder,
And my heart to delight in!

Thank you, creator!

For eyes and heart 
That see beauty 
All around me.

Beauty in the simplest things…
The normally unnoticed things…
The unchancy things…

Thank you for that beauty, too!
And for the understanding 

That flows from Zen.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

More Monday Zen

“Zen Can Do Anything”

My zen and I 
Had a couple of drinks last night.

You didn’t think that zen could drink?
That it was against zen’s religion or something?

Ha Ha! 
Don’t make me laugh.
Zen can do anything!

Anyway, as I was saying,
We had a couple last night,
My zen and I.

Now that I think about it,
Nothing was achieved.

I missed my dinner.
I spent my wages.
I stepped on the cat’s tail when I arrived home.

And now my head hurts.

“My Camera Helps Me Find My Zen”

My camera helps me find my zen.

I think it’s the way it makes me see the world.
To look upon things without distraction
And allow my eye to fall in love.

That’s the zen of it!

My camera helps me find beauty, too.
To see it right in front of my face
When it was there all the time.

That’s zen at work.

Beauty and zen share many traits.
You could probably name a dozen easily,
So I won’t bother, except to remind you…

That one cannot exist without the other.

“The Zen of Crows”
(Previously published July 20, 2015)

A murder of crows landed in the large oak tree 
That overhangs my home.
That’s what you call a gathering of these large, black birds.
A murder.

Who thought up that name, I wonder?
It is very zen!

Anyway, from beneath the tree 
I watched and listened,
While I drank some tea.

The crows were very noisy and active.
I might even call it confused or chaotic.
They seemed to be without zen.

I put down my tea,
And clapped my hands loudly 
As I rose from my seat.

“Where’s your zen?” I shouted.

The crows took flight
And circled overhead. 
Then as if by mutual consent 

They flew away to the north
Making a beautiful pattern 
Against the clear blue sky.

“Aha,” I said to myself.
“There’s the zen.”

“Keep Your Shiny Side Up!”

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance.
That is the name of a famous book
I once read a million years ago.

But I didn’t understand it too well.

Maybe it’s my fault 
That I didn’t understand it.
Maybe it’s the author’s.

Who can say?
Understanding doesn’t come easily
To anybody.

But I don’t blame my zen for that.

Who but an imbecile 
Would be stupid enough 
To find fault with their zen?

Not me.
I understand that much.

I like motorcycles.
I have since I was a boy.
I especially like riding them.

It is a very zen-like experience.
The freedom.
The speed.

The chance to empty my mind 
Of all but the road ahead.
The strangely relaxed tension

Of body, mind, and machine.
United as one,
Working in harmony 

To execute a perfect corner,
Or avoid being crushed 
By that eighteen-wheeler!

Yes! It’s quite a thrill
To ride a motorcycle!

And live to tell about it.

I guess, after reading that book, 
That I understand the zen of riding… 
Better than I do the zen of fixing.

But that’s okay.
So long as I don’t 
Confuse the two.

And remember to 
Keep my shiny side up.

“The Odds of Zen”

“I don’t have time for zen today.”

You may think that statement is true.

But it’s not.

There’s always time for zen.
It only takes a minute.
Sometimes even less.

But it can last you all day.
Maybe even a lifetime.
How do you like those odds?

And it’s free too.
I’m offering it to you now.
You simply have to reach out and take it.

I’m no mathematician 
Or economist.
But I know this much;

Zen offers a great return 
For your investment. 

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Critics Are Raving About Hold the Beetroot!

Critics Are Raving 
Hold The Beetroot!

Yes, the reviews are in! 
Destined to be a children’s classic, a colossal bestseller, blockbuster motion picture and pirated download… 

Rusty Pliers 

Here are just a few of the ravings from the minds of friends, family and lawyers about HOLD THE BEETROOT;

“It’s my son’s finest work,” said the author’s father. 
“It’s also his first, and am I proud!”

“I almost laughed out loud!” mimed Marcel Marceau.
“Really, I’m asking,” said his father again. “Am I supposed to be proud of this stuff? Half of it never even happened! What a liar! He doesn’t get it from my side of the family!”

“Reminiscent and imitative of Groucho Marx, only grouchier and not as funny!” claimed the lawyers of Groucho Marx’s estate. 

“We thought the same thing!” agreed the Samuel Clemens estate lawyers. “Only nowhere near as funny!

“We also thought the same thing!” said the Harpo Marx lawyers. “But we didn’t want to say anything.”

“We also also thought-a the same thing!” said the lawyers of Chico Marx’s estate.

“It’s almost funny in places, sometimes,” counterclaimed the author’s overworked lawyer. “I dare you to stay awake through it long enough to locate the plagiarisms! And that’s good enough, under the law!”

“Yeah? Under the law, eh? We wish he were under something… like the wheels of a truck!” counter-counterclaimed the lawyers from every Marx Brother’s estate.

“We won’t dignify this crap with the courtesy of a response!” said the heirs of Robert Benchley. “You’ll hear from our lawyers!”

“How come you didn’t plagiarize me?” wondered David Sedaris. “I’m every bit as funny as any Marx brother you can name. Except maybe Zippo! And I’m still alive!”

“You have to say this for HOLD THE BEETROOT, there’s nothing else like it in the marketplace today!” promised the author’s publisher. “And it’s strong on subtle, effective product placement!”

“Reading it made my eyes hurt,” effused the author’s ophthalmologist.

“It made me wish I were dead,” sighed Doctor Kevorkian. “Or Mr Pliers was!”

“It’s long, isn’t it?” queried the author’s brother, when asked to read it.

“It’s a daring concept for a humorist! Over 350 pages long, and only fourteen of them are funny!” said the author’s best friend, who declined to be named.

“I thought it was the funniest book I’ve ever read,” claimed the author’s wife. “At least the few pages I read were! Of course, I’m not much of a reader. I prefer yoga.”

“Tell us more about this Yoga fellow,” demanded Groucho’s lawyers. “Or did Mr Pliers shoot him in his pajamas, too?”

“I love HOLD THE BEETROOT! It couldn’t be better!” gushed the author’s sister. “A true masterpiece! Now, where’s my fifty bucks?”

“I couldn’t put it down,” raved Miss Sherman, the author’s former sixth grade teacher. “It stuck to my fingers like wet shit to a blanket!”

“He passed the sixth grade?” wondered the author’s third wife. “I thought he was illiterate!”

“That’s not true!!” objected his father. “I was married to his mother!”

“I never said he passed the sixth grade!” corrected Miss Sherman.

“A thousand monkeys on a thousand computers couldn’t come up with stuff this good,” said the author’s editor. “We’re gonna need more monkeys.”

“Its only weakness is the beginning, the middle and the end,” uttered Joseph Conrad via the crystal ball of a Gypsy fortuneteller. “And you will meet a tall, dark stranger… or soon take a long sea voyage, one of those.”

   I could go on, but why bother? 
All the reviews are as good as these.

Thank you.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Animator! Carpe Diem! (Part 3)

Carpe Diem! 
(Part 3)

Sachi showed me into a small office and gestured vaguely towards the work piled upon an animation desk. 
“Take a look at the scene,” she said. “See if you can figure out what it needs. Nobody’s touched it since the animator left this morning. We’ve got to finish it by 10am tomorrow and get it to camera. Okay?”
“Okay,” I answered, sitting down at the desk.
“I’ll be back in a minute,” said Sachi. “Want a coffee?”
“Yes, please.” 
Show business, there really is no business like it. 
That morning I’d been at the right place at the right time and showed up with my demo reel, looking for a job. Now here I sat, at another man’s desk to finish his scene. 
A scene urgently needed in a timely manner.
Aha! It’s always better to be lucky than good! 
I rolled through the scene. It was an action scene of a big, burly guy throwing a body into the trunk of a car. I rolled through it repeatedly, trying to visualize it, get familiar with it, seeking its essence. It was quality work. The drawings were solid… the animation smooth and fluid. 
I breathed a sigh of relief. It was a good scene to show what I could do. The animator had used a system I could understand and the drawings were interesting without being too difficult. 
By the time Sachi returned with the coffee I was feeling confident I could finish the scene before the deadline, provided I could work all night.
“Well, what do you think?” asked Sachi.
I sipped my coffee. “Yeah,” I said. “I think I can handle it. It’s a fun scene, and it’s mostly done. All I have to do is not mess it up.”
“Good,” said Sachi. “Anything you need?”
I mentioned working all night and asked if that would be okay. Sachi nodded, saying, “Sure, a few of us will be.”
“Mind if I use the telephone?” I asked. “I’d like to call my wife and let her know what’s up.”
“Help yourself.”
Sachi left me to it, and after telephoning I began working on the scene. It was interesting in that the drawings were done straight onto frosted cels with colored pencils. Not graphite on paper, as I was used to. One had to be precise and clean with the drawing, rather than my usual scratch and search technique. I had never seen a frosted cel before and I quickly learned I had to be careful, as any erasing would leave smudges, destroying the drawing and meaning time lost in making another. Also, when handling the cels, soft cotton gloves had to be worn to avoid fingerprints, but I had used gloves before and was used to that.
I got down to work. After a while, I fell into a rhythm and began enjoying myself. I love animating. More than that I love making movies. And if you love doing something, it’s hardly work, is it? When I first started my working life, back at the Ministry of Works in New Zealand, we worked in muddy ditches at the ends of picks and shovels with our muscles and our backs and the sweat of our brows. Physical work! Dangerous and manly, with plenty of cursing! I wondered what the ghosts from my past would think of me now, sitting here in New York drawing little drawings in a Broadway film studio built to resemble a child’s playroom. For sure I knew, wherever they were, my ghostly workmates wouldn’t think that sitting on your ass drawing little pictures with colored pencils was anything remotely like working. 
Rest in peace, brothers. Your work is through.
I stopped for a late lunch, ducking out for a slice of pizza, a bottle of Rolling Rock and a cigarette. The beer was a most appreciated luxury, but I was working now and could afford it. A further luxury was a second cigarette, sitting on a bench in the sunshine, resting my sore leg and watching people go by. 
Funny how much friendlier New Yorkers looked after I’d had a meal, with a full belly and a job to go back to. 
Back at the desk working, I had an idea. The action by the burly guy when preparing to throw the heavy body into the trunk of the car (in animation, this preparing type of action is called anticipation) could be exaggerated more, or ‘pushed’ as we call it, to good effect. The body that was supposed to be heavy would have a much better chance of looking heavy this way, and the viewer would have slightly more time to appreciate what was happening. It would mean making the scene longer to accommodate the extra time that the action would take (a few tenths of a second), something that wasn’t always possible in a tightly edited film, so I would have to check with Sachi about it.
“Okay,” she agreed. “Let’s try it and see what it looks like. But, for now, don’t throw out any drawings and don’t change the original X-sheet. We can shoot it both ways and see which we like best. We’ll change the sheet later if it works out.”
I got down to work again and the hours flew by. I couldn’t see the day ending and the night beginning from the windowless office, but the tempo and noise of the busy studio during the day was gradually replaced by an eerie quiet. 
Around five in the morning, that dreadful hour after working all night when everything is gray and uncertain, including the animator, I struck a drawing I couldn’t get right. It should have been a simple drawing, too, making it all the more frustrating. I tried over and over, wasting cel upon cel, but still it wouldn’t come. I was tired. I decided to take a break. It would do me good to get up and stretch my legs for a bit, to focus my eyes on something further away than the end of my arm, maybe have a cigarette and another cup of ... 
“Coffee! Hey, Rusty, wake up! Fresh coffee.”
I had fallen asleep at the desk. 
“Huh? Who?” I lifted my head from my crossed arms on the desk, blinking in the strong light of the Luxo lamp, which I had neglected to turn off. “I wasn’t asleep,” I lied, and I heard Sachi laugh. My mouth tasted of pencil shavings and pink erasers. The side of my face was hot where it had been exposed to the drawing lamp.
“Coffee?” repeated Sachi.
“Oh, yeah. Thanks.” I accepted the hot coffee with gratitude. “It’s been a while since I’ve pulled an all-nighter,” I said. “Working, that is.”
Sachi smiled and asked how it was going. She looked fresh and awake.
“What time is it now?” I asked.
“Two more hours, no more,” I promised.
“Perfect!” she said. 

To be continued…