Archive for April, 2010

STORY — The killing of a cat

Friday, April 30th, 2010


The cat was a stranger to us; a fully-grown calico I discovered on the street in front of this house where I was living back then. Corner of a semi-busy street. I was stretching, gazing out the window to see whether there was any interesting life out there, how the traffic was doing, and noticed something twitch in the gutter.
I opened the door, went outside, stood by the curb where a cat lay. It had been run over by a car, and its spine was hopelessly twisted. It jerked spasmodically. I examined it without touching. Bent closer to see.
One of its eyes was blinking and darting in horror and panic, while the other remained open, fully dilated and blank, not responding to light, not moving, much like a doll’s eye.
It had obviously suffered severe brain damage, yet parts of it continued to function.
I stood up from the animal, watching it pant.
A six-year old child of the woman I lived with at that time became a concerned though ineffective nurse. She brought the animal in off the street, found a box for it, lay the cat in there. She proceeded to sit over it in the living room and stare, respectfully, mournfully, waiting for it to die. It didn’t. She became bored with the beast in the box and left to find something more interesting to do.
The damaged cat became active. It managed to flop about, even climb out of the box and stumble a few paces. There was no semblance of a cat’s finesse remaining. It turned tortuously, the rear of its body bending to the left. It never meowed, or shrieked, whether from pulverized vocal chords or brain damage I had no idea. It tripped and struggled in aimless determination, falling on its snout or plopping on its hind quarters, then laying inert, panting, worn-out, unable to orientate itself.

First discovered in the morning, it was still alive by mid-afternoon.
The decision, adult and reasoned, was to destroy it.
In those days, there was very little extra money to take this stranger’s cat to a vet and pay for its humane extinction.
So the few other solutions remaining were considered. None of them good. I recalled having favorite pets taken from me in childhood by reasoning parents and gassed to death somewhere where I could not see it.
I followed in these traumatic footsteps.
I took the cat by the scruff of its neck from its tortured place on the floor, carried it to the kitchen and stuffed it into the oven. I closed the oven door, switched on the gas and left the room.
Returning later, I stood in the kitchen doorway, head cocked. I heard it within the gas stove: nothing, then a thrashing about. Reluctantly opening the oven door, it immediately flopped halfway out, mouth ajar, unmoving tongue stuck out, breathing, laying there. The undead.
Discouraged, dismayed, half of me impressed, even pleased, with its determined clinging to life; the other half of me impatient at its rude desire to keep panting on in spite of my faulty expedient of gassing it out of its misery.
So the next, last, foolproof alternative was taken: drown the panting bastard.

In the patio, after filling a large, yellow bucket with water, I wrapped an old dish towel round its head. Taking a big breath myself, I stuck the beast’s body deep within, head first.
At first, there was absolutely no reaction. Thank God it was going to go peacefully, quietly, quickly.
Then the first tremor of protest, followed by a panicked jerk. The body began quivering mightily and struggling, but with a lack of coordination or strength.
Upside down in the bucket, with a single hind leg that still functioned, the leg jerked upward with its claws out, kicking the air. It sought a hold to latch onto, to hoist itself clear. It sought survival still. I observed the wet hind leg continue to jerk in the air, seeking, trying. To this day, I still see vividly that single hind-leg kicking hopelessly in the air.
I kept its head pushed down toward the bottom of the bucket.

It quivered; I quivered—in a rush I reached into the bucket and snatched the towel away from its head to insure that all the water possible filled it lungs…. My hands were still plunged into the water, holding it down. There was horror, there was desperation.
Finally, it ceased to move; no bubbles rose from its mouth to pop on the surface. Its heart continued to quake under my hand in what I took to be spasms.
I stood back, letting it lay upside down in the water, all unmoving, its one now motionless rear leg still sticking out of the water. Still no bubbles, nothing stirred.
I lifted it out by its tail, laid it down, and then, saw under its fur the movement of its heart. I yelped and backed away. “Look!” I pointed, “Spasms–” and again – “They have to be spasms…”
I wrapped it in rags, dug a hole in the backyard, tossed it in, and covered it with dirt. I never dared check again whether its unobliging heart still beat on.

The cherry tree in my backyard bloomed, briefly: a video

Wednesday, April 28th, 2010

Cherry Tree video by Vincent Eaton
Title says it all. I got this cherry tree in my backyard. It bloomed, briefly. Strolled out, took some video, put this together. One minute’s worth.

Each Wednesday I try to put out a video. This week, it’s relax and coast time.

Click here to see the video.

Thanks for visiting. Vincent E.

Reflections on the International London Book Fair, 2010

Tuesday, April 27th, 2010

I attended the International London Book Fair last week (and due to the Icelandic ash cloud, it was slightly less international than usual). Here’s some of what I did, saw, and got in my brain.

As an author who has launched a currently small independent publishing concern but with ten plus in-house years of experience in international publishing (and a lifetime of writing), and in attending the fair (which I had done a number of times previously) my interest this time around was in the electronic side of things. I am a PoD publisher, with eBooks and audio not only part of the package, but I believe eventually the bulk of the package.

I attended a number of seminars. The first seminar I wanted to hit was titled “Children’s Bookfutures: Children’s Literature & Digital Imagination”. As this was one of the first seminars on the first day, I was given crap directions by someone at the info desk who pointed my in the wrong direction with far too many stairs. I was three minutes late, and met a guy blocking the door: “There is no more room”.

I was not late to the next seminar (see below, title and panel names).
Winner losers in dig jungle slide names
They spoke of the importance of METADATA (this came up a lot), and that one should put an ebook in every possible channel, and APPS (again, many mentions) were the ruling prize while perhaps the 300 pages book had been a 20th century concept as the perfect sized book for commercial publishing but was meeting its death. Novellas may very well be the new ebook rule.

My next seminar, the opening slide of the speakers for this ILBF seminar. Guess what?
Vook no show slide of names

Vook no show seats
No one showed up — not a one. All ash damaged. And the rather sparse audience was only informed at the moment the show was supposed to roll, rather than informing us as we arrived. We sat there stupidly we hope in our hearts.

I had actually arranged to have a meeting with Brad Inman, the CEO of Vook, who was still in California. Vooks, for you all, is: “You can read your book, watch videos that enhance the story and connect with authors and your friends through social media all on one screen, without switching between platforms.”

Because I use words, images and performance for many of my stories, initially I was hugely interested in the “enhanced” multimedia e-books. Wowie-zowie, I can combine all of what I do. However, the more I researched it, the more I thought, One, I don’t really see a reader demand and yearning for it, and Two, an enhanced ebook already exists, and even available through mobile devices; it’s called a Web Site. So I have a big Hold On with this perhaps wishful development.

The whole point of fiction is the individual voice of the author speaking directly to the single imagination of the reader. The reader imagines through the author’s words the world of the novel or story. Add images, videos and voices and it may be more of an invasion than an enhancement, distorting, and in a way, narrowing what the individual mind can conjure. (Novels into films are the obvious metaphor: how many times has a viewer who was a fan of a book said, after seeing the movie adaptation: “I didn’t see it like that at all.”

In short, the author’s best tool is the individual reader’s imagination, and the choosing of the right words to spark the imagination. The rest can be clutter. I remain intrigued, and see possibilities, but perhaps not for most fiction.

Anyway, I had a sudden empty part schedule so visited the floor. Not a lot of action, but I did locate my PoD publisher, Lighting Source, owned by Ingram’s. Eleven years ago, when I already researching this independent publishing idea, I had attended the fair (and to see my now ex-literary agent) and their booth at that time had been tiny, one Vice President manned minor place tucked away in a maze of tiny, ghetto booths.

Amazing what a decade and a revolution can do. Here’s the booth this year:
Ingram booth 1
Ingram booth 2
Ingram booth 3

And surrounding this booth were these guys:
Little brown booth
HarperCollins booth
Penguin booth

And these were circling Ingram’s. PoD was no longer tucked away, but, symbolically, interestingly, it was at the center, surrounded by the others, the traditional industry.

A repeated phrase, from authors to publishers themselves, when it came to the changes overtaking the industry was: “Publishers don’t know anything.” It was judged that traditional publishers have neither the skills nor staff to make the sudden changes necessary to turn around toward digitalization and the ebook.

I turned up at another, less pertinent seminar for me on graphic novels and the digital world (but since I’d been locked out of the children’s seminar, I’d try this one). Here’s the panel:
Graphic novels to digital - panel names slide 3
Graphic novels to digital - panel 1
Graphic novels to digital - panel 2

This was a lively one. I was most familiar with Ian Rankin from television culture shows (he was one of those who said, Publishers don’t no nothing, like Hollywood execs”) but not his books.

iPad and Kindle were the reoccurring companions in the e-babble, but they may very well be a short term book-focused e-readers. They have, what, 10 million sold to date? The real action, the future-perfect, are handheld mobile devices: your phone. There are 2.7 plus billion sold. Currently Nokia, Samsung, etc., are all developing combined phones-ebook readers-game/playing-waffle-makers (joke) etc. with launch dates in 6-12 months time. Literary agents may end up have auctions on rights not with Random House and HarperCollins but Nokia et al for, say, the exclusive 3-month launch of the next Stephen King kind of novel on their mobile device before distribution goes wide.

Of course, versions 1 and 2 of e-anything are only development and not definitive, so it’ll be a couple a versions on, in 2-3 years, before it shakes out…

I also spotted at this seminar a “Facebook friend” and “Twitter” follower, Nick Harkaway, who wrote this book:
The Gone-Away World by Nick Harkaway - book cover

And here’s his signature:
Nick Harkaway signiture of "The Gone-Away World"
I almost went up to him to say, Hi, we’re fellow Twitter-followers and Facebook friends and I sent you a message two weeks ago wondering whether you were going to speak this year as you did last year on Social Media, but you aren’t, and you replied you were waiting for the invite and…” and my imagined confab went nowhere, except into stilted awkwardness, so I didn’t approach. Virtual nodding acquaintance is it.

The best seminar for me was this one:
Audio publishing for books read by authors
Ebook info slide - audible
Audible is still the best for getting your/my audio out there and into the ears of happy (willing) listeners. The seminar wasn’t greatly attended, but greatly appreciated by me.

After all this, I needed a massage. They have this row of young ladies ready to give a neck and shoulder rub for 7 minutes and you “give what you want”:
Massage 2
Massage 3
And here’s the one who relaxed me tensed muscles for a bit:
Massage 1

On the last day, I visited this seminar:
The Future of ebooks - ILBF 2010
The Future of ebooks - panel shot at London Book Fair 2010

Someone said 10,000 word stories will sell great in the future in ebooks. Another said the “Sunday Digital Conference had an average age attendance of 55: no one who knew what was going on was there.” Which is why I avoided it. Again, “Traditional Publishers know nothing,” the biggest cry.

Lastly, this one:
Want to be published? The rise of self-publishing.
Of little use to me, as I knew as much and more than the panel…which happened quite a bit throughout the fair, and its various seminars. I’m up to speed on a lot, following the correct industry blog, and seem to know my business fairly thoroughly. However, I would like to link Siobham Curham who has had four books conventionally published, but has turned down a two-book deal to go it on her own. She was proof of what some at this fair called “a movement for the future”, but it was happening already, and many are in major catch-up mode. That was the main rub. Many speakers were saying, “This could be happening in the near future,” while was already happening for a while, right at the show…

And here’s some general purpose shots:
ILBF - stands 1
ILBF - stands 2
ILBF - stands 3
ILBF - stands 4

Yep. A trade fair is a trade fair is a trade fair. They all look pretty much the same

And this is why, on this site, I like to just tell my stories. I don’t have a swell talent for journalism, travel writing, the exhibition visit. Where’s the story. Only facts and pointing out. I’m pointed out here.

Audio clip from novel SELF-PORTRAIT OF SOMEONE ELSE: Part Three, Alisa’s Statement

Monday, April 26th, 2010

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This Monday’s audio clip continues the weekly serialization of my novel, “Self-Portrait of Someone Else”.

This is a rather short extract, with a much longer one to be posted next week (as they are every Monday). If both were combined this week, it would make the extract way too long.

Self-Portrait of Someone Else – PART THREE – Alisa’s Statement

Thanks for visiting. Vincent

STORY – The Gym and the Morgue

Friday, April 23rd, 2010

Morgue Picture

When I go to the local three story super-über-alles gym near me, I walk the short, ten minute distance–the idea being that I get exercise from the very moment I step out the door to the last moment I step back in for tea and pastry to try and neutralize my exercise and whatever benefits I’d managed to gather. Get them back down to zero and make sure the universe, my universe, stays in balance.

And it is a balancing act, this good-for-me exercise versus good-for-me sloth. Get too much exercise and I feel as though I have to sit around doing nothing in a major way just so my body understands I’m not going to go all macho fitness fanatic on it. My body responds nicely by neither gaining nor loosing weight. We are in agreement. My body yings and yangs along, comprehending my balancing act.

Anyway, when I walk to the gym, I usually take a short cut through what seems a rather under-used hospital and its parking lot. Detached from the main building, I pass a rather unadorned one-story squat pile of gray and dull red bricks. There’re tiny windows stuck high up near the roof so I can’t peek in. A modest plaque posted near the door states that this structure is the hospital’s morgue. This building’s primary job is to motivate me once I’m in the gym.

But once in gym-land, I only ever do one of two things. I swim, or I sauna. Everything else is too much like plain old ugly exercise. I don’t like to run in one place or lift things, or strain my heart muscle, or turn red in the face. So a lot of the gym’s three-story building is mostly a modernized Dark Ages Torture chamber for people who pay good money and require a certain level of self-gratifying pain and strain. The sauna is my speed: just lie there and self-clean. Without moving a muscle. But it’s also a favorite gathering spot for chunky, thick-jawed, one eyebrow Eastern Europeans or Albanians or something really foreign and threatening. They have facial stubble, wide shoulders and look like hit men who enjoy their work, at least in my movie. They come in packs of threes and grunt and mumble and make me want to cover my genitals and tell them I don’t owe anyone any money.

The best thing about the sauna is lying there naked and free and sweating in a meditative quiet, in a sweat bliss of silence. But when the ex-Soviet Block hit squad isn’t there and mumbling, two or more local guys come in and treat the place like a café down the corner. For me, a sauna is a bit like a dark, quiet church. For these others, it’s time to talk office politics or brag about bargains they got in IT equipment. They’re not atuned to social niceties like, shut the fuck up, idiots, which is always on the tip of my cowardly tongue. It’s hard, really hard, to listen to crap when you sweat. There I am trying to clean my pores, and there they are dumping aural junk in my ear holes.

Then I think of the morgue outside, waiting for my return walk-by, and I stick it out a bit longer, cleansing something that may be dirty, diseased, or just weird accumulated gunk I knew nothing about. Enduring foreign words of vague threat or unmitigated triviality, enduring beyond the morgue outside, enduring for the moment.

Video – Max Dix, Zero to Six, “The War in the Living room”, excerpt from the staged play

Thursday, April 22nd, 2010

Another short segment from my play, “Max Dix, Zero to Six”. It can only give a taste of the use of video work with actors. This concerns two brothers (as children) listening to their parents fight in the next room. Then the father leaves….

Here’s the link to the video.

Here’s another segment: The Soap Opera Scene.

Here’s some stills extracted from the video:

War in livingroom-1

War in livingroom-2

War in livingroom-3

War in livingroom-4

War in livingroom-5

Hope you enjoy. Thanks for visiting.

Audio clip from “Self-Portrait of Someone Else” — Part Three, 1

Sunday, April 18th, 2010

Podcast image

Next part, following from last Monday. Intense. Enjoy!

SELF-PORTRAIT OF SOMEONE ELSE: PART THREE – Chap 1.1 and because this is a thirty minute plus chapter to listen to, here’s part 2 of this chapter Self-Portrait of Someone Else – PART THREE – Chapter 1.2

Or download and listen to them later. Thanks for visiting. Vincent

Story – Crosswalk

Friday, April 16th, 2010


Judy used to like driving her car. A little power in her hands, moving along. A sense of getting somewhere she was headed toward.

Then the animals took over the streets and lately driving had become an urban mano-à-mano experience.

Pleasure had been replaced by other people. Other people in other cars who induced in her a feeling of rational paranoia: she knew they were out to get her.

A for instance. No one any longer knew how to use their blinkers. Cars right in front of her turned abruptly left or unexpectedly right without any warning as though part of Judy’s job experience as a car driver was now mind reading.

Then there were those other numerous idiots who fantasized they were race car drivers and just could not resist racing her, even though the traffic light just ahead was red. Many major bozos functioning solely with their primitive brain pan whizzed past her driver’s window, cutting right in front of her at the last moment. As though receiving extra bonus points or able to go to another level on some game Judy had no idea about. Then would come their rear lights, reddening up as they stomped on their brakes to sit at the red light waiting for the green to turn up.

And Judy sat in her car, now behind them, thinking spit and knives, one-on-one terrorist acts festering in her glove compartment, roaring images of not stopping her car, of continuing driving right up their car’s backside, rolling on top, squashing down on them, ridding the world of one more urban idiot with a valid driver’s license.

She also wanted to flash her lights, honk her horn, scream and scream. She also wanted to get out of her car and go knock on their window and wag a finger in their face, and give them what for.

But she behaved herself with only her hands making damp squeaky sounds as the flesh of her palm ground around the steering wheel, working out the tension.

And she saw that it was always, inevitably, a guy, some young male with no doubt a low sperm count and big inarticulate needs with dirt underneath his fingernails whose dreams consisted of successfully waking up in the morning, all ambitions of his narrow life already met.

Judy had her moments. In her imagination. Other scenes. Full of illegal urges. Beyond running into them to teach them a lesson. Or at least ruin their day. Get them off the road. For a while. The impulse passed. Barely. Yet returned often. Often.

It was just no fun to drive her car in city traffic any longer. All the aggression, rudeness, all the effort of controlling her anger.

In minor revenge, people on pedestrian crossings became target practice. Here she would be the boss and make people jump back on the curb when she drove up. Glowering, tense, alive with some sense of power.

When there was no rush to get somewhere she thought she had to get to quickly, she would sometimes stop and obey the law, letting people without cars cross the crosswalk.

Judy’d rev her engine a little just to see them pick their pace up a bit.

Last week she had come upon a young black guy who looked half-asleep, slouching at the curb, waiting.

She was going to go straight across the crosswalk, without even slowing. This was one guy who could wait.

But getting closer, she could see he was holding something close. Judy thought it looked as though it was a baby wrapped up in different colorful small blankets his chest. He was hardly glancing at the traffic, a little to the left, little to the right, without much hope or real interest. He was laying-back.

As Judy approached, he placed his right shoe tip onto the first white line of the crosswalk. As though testing the water before going in. He stayed this way, looking neither left nor right.

These days someone starting to cross the street was no reason for Judy to stop; more a reason to speed up.

Magnanimously, Judy slowed. Stopped.

The man still did not look up. Not at Judy, not at her car, as he put his other foot onto the crosswalk. She watched his slow, sleepy movements, the bundle of cloth containing a baby he held. Then as he passed the front of her car, she saw an unfolding of his hand that faced her. Fingers appeared. She watched as he made a casual, hip-high peace sign in her direction. He held it as he crossed, keeping his eyes on the white lines ahead of him and his hands supporting the baby. Then the fingers curled back to hold the child tighter as he reached the other side and stepped up and left the crosswalk.

She sat there, feeling strange, until someone honked from behind.

For the next days, Judy stopped fairly regularly at crossings, seeking more peace signs.

Matches – The Crab Cooker

Wednesday, April 14th, 2010

The Crab Cooker, Vincent Eaton, story, memory

In my continuing series, MATCHES, which consists of me reaching into a plastic bag filled with matches I’ve collected over the years, then pulling one out, and making a short video on what I immediately recall about them.

Click this line to go to THE CRAB COOKER video…

Hope you enjoy (leave a comment here or on YouTube … if you are so inspired). Thanks for visiting.

The last MATCHES video can be found here: UNION OYSTER HOUSE.

The first MATCHES video can be found here: TAGAWA.

Audio clip from “Self-Portrait of Someone Else” — Part Three, “From the Bedford Clinic”

Monday, April 12th, 2010

Podcast image

Very short installment this week. Very long one next week. Audio editing a great time suck. To get it right. As one wants to, for you. And you. And you.