12 August 2013

Wherefore Art


by Fran Rizer

Curiosity is a characteristic shared by most writers. Toe Hallock’s name intrigued me from the first time I saw it in SleuthSayers Comments. Being my usual shy, retiring self, I didn’t hesitate to investigate.

Toe Hallock
Toe Hallock
I learned that Toe and I have a lot in common. We both graduated from USC, though his USC is the University of Southern California while mine is the University of South Carolina. We are both proud grandparents, though he has a granddaughter while I have a grandson. We’re both teachers who got serious about writing after retirement, but our greatest similarity is an intense love for the written word since childhood.

And, yes, I found out how he came to be called Toe. In X-Ray School Anatomy studies at Fort Sam Houston, his class learned the names of human bones. The word Hallux was brought to their attention. It meant “Big Toe.” From then on, Hallock was called “Big Toe” until it was later shortened to “Toe.” After his military service, Hallock used his legal name professionally, but when he began writing and discovered hundreds of Brad Hallocks out there, he became Toe Hallock again. So far as I know, he’s the only one.

Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome my guest blogger for today— Mr. Toe Hallock!

Wherefore Art

by Toe Hallock

To begin: Thank you, Fran Rizer, for sharing your space. Most certainly, your audience will return when you, the real deal, come back. And fans of Fran, believe me when I say I’ll make every effort not to discourage your faith in SleuthSayers. All the people who contribute to this blog are topnotch, the best at what they do, and an inspiration to the rest of us aspiring writers.

Giuseppe Verdi
Giuseppe Verdi
A fascination with words is what led to my wanting to be a writer. Which began when I first learned to read. Those Dick and Jane page burners opened a whole new world for me. How in the world do they do that, I wondered? You know, create something seemingly out of nothing. What a great challenge. Putting all the elements, words, together in such a way so as to fabricate a Universe of your own creation. Like in the Big Bang theory. I wanted to do that.

It all revolves around words. Savoring their sounds, their subtle meanings. Finding ways to give those words a whole new life. Crafting inspired phrases that produce a burst of revelation in the mind’s eye of the reader. Transforming their thoughts, and exceeding their imaginations.

William Shakespeare
William Shakespeare
Music and lyrics, words and phrases. These are combinations so powerful, that in the hands of the truly creative artist, they can transform one’s experience from the mundane into the sublime. Think Verdi. Think Shakespeare. And many of our contemporary composers and authors. There is a wealth of wonderful examples from the past and the present. As far as the future goes? I doubt we would even recognize it. It will embrace a whole new Galaxy of technological wonders. But, the storytellers… the storytellers will always be revered as those who explain and clarify the trials and tribulations of humankind. It is they who will expose the negative aspects confronting an overcrowded planet. It is they who will reveal thoughtful solutions, offer hope, and provide some sort of escape from life’s daily pressures. Being a writer is a proud heritage connecting past, present, and future. Can’t beat that.

Enough of the philosophy explaining why I’ll never give up. Did I just end with a preposition? Obviously, I still have much to learn. Please stay with me. After a succession of knuckle balls and sliders, it’s time for a change-up. I am going to share just a couple of words and phrases (out of hundreds) that, for whatever reason, intrigue my quirky nature.

Just a couple, I promise. Starting with a comment I made earlier about Dick and Jane stories being ‘page burners.’ Looking back, what an odd thing for me to say. But the thought pushed its way to the front lobe of my consciousness and refused to leave. Turns out there is a term for that. Malaphor. It’s a blend of two metaphors. In my case, ‘page’ turner and barn ‘burner.’ Both of which imply excitement. In fact, the term 'malaphor' itself is a combination of two words: malapropism and metaphor. Online research revealed that the term was coined by Lawrence Harrison in a 1976 Washington Post Op-Ed piece.

The ‘view from thirty-thousand feet.’ This phrase is irksome. The intrigue comes from how often it is used by self-important know-it-alls who have deceived themselves into thinkin they are more informed than their groundling staffs. It’s particularly popular among those who inhabit the executive sphere of the business world. They fly a lot and want everyone to admire their obvious sophistication from accumulating so many travel miles. Frankly, I think it is they who miss the big picture, not those doing the real work and looking after the day-to-day details. Besides, when they talk perspective they really mean bottom line. How it affects their bonuses, stock options, and other perks. Growing profits in an effort to please investors may, of course, result in the downsizing of job positions and personnel. But, despite this great sacrifice, these BTOs will maintain stiff upper lips when they proclaim “the vagaries of life are favorable to some, not so favorable to others.” Don’t you just love these guys?

In closure – I believe I can sense the collective sighs of relief (my own included) – I offer this:
I’ve passed along this strand of beach before
the dawn of life upon its callow shore…

When I was six, a child, I think I remember
my Grandpa held me up to a window that
faced the tiding sea, and told me if I looked
hard enough, I could see the waves.

It was magic then, to a boy so young, to see
an ocean where it shouldn’t be in a pane of
glass against all previous knowing:
This before I learned reflection is an art.
Yours truly, Toe


Buddy said...

Waited several weeks for this and it is even better than I thought it would be. Way to go Sleuthsayers -- Brad Hallock is a winner. Yaya1

Anonymous said...

Even though I don't know some of the vocabularies, but I know that this blog is very well written. You are a great writer Brad(Baboo or BooBoo to Ari). Keep up your great work. I am very proud of you. Toy

Unknown said...

Wry, witty, and smart as a tack...just like the man himself. Keep writing AND sharing it with all of us.

Unknown said...

Dear Buddy, Toy, and Jennifer: Thanks a bunch for your comments. With support like yours how could I possibly not succeed. Yours truly, Toe. (aka Brad, Baboo,and BooBoo to one special little girl.

Anonymous said...

Second attempt to post here...hope this one makes it! Worth the effort to read great work! Still love that quirky style...keeps me wanting just a little bit more! Kudos on another successful piece. cat...meow

Elizabeth Zelvin said...

Well done, Toe, and I love "page burners." Ending with a preposition? Hey, it's the 21st century. Just don't split any infinitives, please! Go boldly if you must, but you're not required to boldly go--into print, to outer space, or anywhere. ;)

Robert Lopresti said...

Nice piece, Toe. I noticed page-burners and thought it was clever. Suggests a book you read so fast you set the pages on fire turning 'em.

John Floyd said...

Excellent piece, Toe. Love the discussion of malaphors.

Well done!!

Anonymous said...

Loved your writing! And your perspective of losing the past writers to the technological writers is intriguing. I laughed as I read about deriving solutions for over-population as I just finished Dan Brown's book Inferno. Good writing these days is hard to find, but I continue to search, so thanks for keeping it alive with your passion. Love, your niece. :)

Eve Fisher said...

Delightful article, and wonderful style. Page burners indeed! Re the BTOs, it goes back a long way: From Harriet Beecher Stowe's "The Minister's Wooing": "Simeon Brown [a thriving slave trader] was one of that class of people who, on a freezing day, will plant themselves directly between you and the fire and there stand and argue to prove that selfishness is the root of all moral evil."

Fran Rizer said...

Toe, thanks for sharing your writing with us. Wish you, Brenda, and that beautiful granddaughter lived on the right side of the USA. We'd start ourselves a writers' group.

Anonymous said...

How good to finally see you in print, Toe! We believe in you.

Leigh Lundin said...

Toe, we enjoy having you look in on us and keeping us honest.

Be sure to visit Toe's blog site:

Leigh Lundin said...

I forgot to mention that while I wasn't fond of Dick, Jane, and Sally in school, I enjoyed seeing the artwork again. The artist certainly put effort into the pictures, more than little kids could appreciate.

R.T. Lawton said...

"Big Toe," welcome to the family. Expect to see you here in print again.
It was quite a stretch from DICK and JANE Readers being forced on us in 1st Grade to me reading TREASURE ISLAND and SCARAMOUCHE under the desk in 5th Grade math class, but I guess they worked. Words, gotta love 'em.

Terence Faherty said...

I enjoyed your column and I've enjoyed your comments over the months I've been a contributor. Keep writing.

Unknown said...

Dear Cat and Niece: More support from immediate family. You guys have all made me realize that I have already reached at least one level of success in my writing. Yours truly, Toe.

Unknown said...

Dear Sleuthsayers: You have all been so gracious, I hardly know what to say. But I'll do my best.

Ms. Zelvin: Thank you much for suggesting I not put too much pressure on myself, but to also enjoy the process.

Mr. Lopresti: Talk about amusing and clever,that's for guys like you and Mr. Floyd.

Mr. Floyd: I 'appreciate your appreciation.' That's from "The Bishop's Wife."

Ms. Fisher: I agree. Selfishness leads to greed, which leads to a lust for money and power, the basis for all evil.

Mr. Lawton: Sneaking a peak in a favorite book during study period must be in our DNA. Teacher never complained. At least we were quiet.

Mr. Faherty: Your positive words will encourage me to follow your advice and keep writing.

Fran: You are in part responsible for all this correspondence today. And I love you for it. By the way, Brenda grew up in Salem, VA.

Leigh: You have been in my corner since the beginning. And were the main force, with Fran, in putting this whole blog together. Now, just sponge off my face, give me a sip of whatever it is you people at SS have, reinsert my mouthpiece, and send me back into the fray refreshed.

Jeff Baker said...

Wonderful! Thanks!

Leigh Lundin said...

You're welcome, Toe. We were glad to have you as our guest.

Dixon Hill said...

Toe, this was a GREAT post! Sorry I was out of the net when you put it up. Looking forward to more from you.