Tuesday, July 26, 2011

The Baked Ham Joke and The Problem with Legacy Issues

As I continue my blog hiatus, here is the Tuesday Joke -- The Baked Ham Joke:

Once upon a time, a mother was teaching her daughter the family recipe for making a whole baked ham. It was the very best ham anybody had ever had so they always followed that recipe carefully.

They prepared the marinade, scored the skin, put in the cloves, and then came a step the daughter didn't understand.

"Why do we cut off the ends of the ham?" she said. "Doesn't that make it dry out?"

"You know, I don't know," said the mother. "That's just the way grandma taught me. We should call grandma and ask."

So they called grandma and asked, "why do we cut off the ends of the ham? Is it to let the marinade in, or what?"

"No," said Grandma. "To be honest, I cut the ends off because that's how my mother taught me. I added the marinade step later, because I was worried about the ham drying out. Let's call great grandma and ask her."

So they called the assisted living facility where great grandma was living, and the old woman listend to their questions, and then said.

"Oh, for land sakes! I cut off the ends because I didn't have a pan big enough for a whole ham!"


The lesson of the first story is this: Traditional publishing is a small pan. So are the tastes of your first mentor, and what you learned in college. You can do great things that fit inside them, and that may be where you want to be. But if you've moved beyond them, how many things are you still doing, subconsciously, to fit inside a pan you no longer use?

And here's another story in the same vein. This is a true story:

We had a student aide who, like so many of the students in a community college, was a "mature learner." She had done some hard living in her time -- including a period of her life when she'd had to move from apartment to apartment in search of the cheapest rent. It seemed like they were always packing and unpacking. It got so that they just didn't unpack anything they didn't immediately need. One day, when her life had settled down and she was in a house where she stayed for a while, she decided to go through the oldest boxes, and she found one box which had been moved, unopened, from one home to another from the very start.

She opened it, and what was in it?


Not junk. Not stuff she wished she had thrown away a long time ago. It was actual trash which she HAD thrown away a long time ago. Food wrappers and packing material and tissues. She'd put it in a garbage bag and set it aside to throw out as she left that first house... and some helpful soul had kindly packed it in a box for her and stuck it on the truck.

And for a decade she toted that box of trash with her from house to house.


The lesson of the second story is not about external things, but internal ones: Habit and Pride are a pair of helpful friends who will pack up your trash and make you take it with you. You can't really see it, though, until you open the box. And you only open the box when you catch a break and want to clear things out.

For instance, for me, I think this blog has been evolving away from my original purpose. And it's reached the point where I need to do a reboot. Not a radical change in what you see as readers so much as a major change in how I think of this blog. I'll talk about it more later when I start up again in a week.

In the meantime, I am finally able to get back to writing. I'm doing editing and assembly work on the W.I.P. and that involves a lot of effort for only a small amount of word count -- so I'm trying to put in a certain amount of work on that each day, and then devoting the word count to fresh fiction which I can get a little more momentum on.

I've written about half of a new Mick and Casey short story (or novelette -- we'll see how it goes). It was an old idea, but I never could make it work to my satisfaction because Mick and Casey did not really take part in the action. They were brought in as observers/witnesses. But I figured out how they could take a more dynamic part in the story. Also, Harry Lowe is involved, and we may get to meet him in this story, although I don't think he wants any part of the actual action.

I have also figured out how I just might be able to fit the story of how Mick and Casey met -- which is a straight out shoot 'em up Western screenplay, not a mystery and Mick is a secondary character -- into a proper mystery that fits in the series.

AND, I finally got the print version of Have Gun, Will Play up and approved. They have not processed it yet however, and I do not see it on my author page yet. I will announce with much hoopla when it's available.

See you in the funny papers.


Unknown said...

Loved the joke, but the second story, the true story, really packed a punch. I learned something valuable today. Thanks.

The Daring Novelist said...

I think these are universal things: there are dozens of true stories in everybody's life which are just like both the joke and the anecdote.

But that's why those stories are fun: even when they're not true, they're true.