A New Beginning (Post #87)

timeIt’s time.

Time to take that next step and address some of the stagnation that I believe has crept into my writing, seek out new modes of expression.  

First of all, that means upgrading the technology I’ve been working with.  My old Mac no longer made the nut; it was slow and lacked sufficient memory.  Obsolete.  It had to go.  It was an emotional parting.  For months Sherron has been pestering me to look into purchasing another computer but the price tag always made me balk.  I’m a Mac guy but, let’s face it, there are PCs out there that could perform adequately for, literally, half the price of a new Mac.  But…they weren’t Macs and I had a very bad experience with an IBM computer when I first made the leap to the digital age 20 years ago and I’ve never forgotten it.  

We pondered on “settling” for a Mac mini but after consulting folks like our pal Rob (who knows more about computers than I ever will), we went for the pricier iMac.  More room to grow and expand, better suited for some of the projects and tasks I had in mind.

A couple of Sundays ago, I bowed to the inevitable and we made the purchase on-line.  

Then came the hard part:  saving the files from my old computer and starting the shutdown process.  

That ancient Mac served me well and I don’t know how many millions of words I tapped into it.  Never any big glitches and nothing mechanically went wrong in the twelve years I used it to foist my weird visions on the world.  Replaced a couple of keyboards that I battered to death, that’s about it.  

My mourning period ended abruptly, however, when my new iMac arrived.  


Within fifteen minutes of accepting the box from the delivery dude I was up and runnng.  That’s hookup, internet, everything.  And I am, as previously mentioned, a complete mechanical moron.  That’s why I love Macs.  Steve Jobs, I could kiss you!

I’ve spent the last couple of days getting acquainted.  This machine has everything I could ask for, including the capability to make and edit movies, compose music, record readings and podcasts, desktop publish…cripes, I could put a man on Mars with it if I had the know-how and a trillion bucks.  

I’ve promised myself I will be patient, recognizing that there’s a learning curve for a technophobe like me when dealing with a machine of this complexity. Fortunately, Sherron and both my sons are very adept using iMovie and Garageband and many of the other features this Mac offers so I’m hardly on my own, learning by trial and terror.  Although that will be part of it too:  doing something stupid and learning from my mistakes.  So be it.  

I.  Am.  In.  Love.   Utterly smitten with the promise this machine represents.  A fresh start and an opportunity to explore other disciplines that have long held a fascination to me.  And you’re invited along for the ride.  My first efforts will be crude, unsophisticated, amateurish but I’ll get better, I promise.  And I will share the results of my experiments with you, show you my successes and not shy away from relating my disasters.  Bear with me, tell me about your own experiences, offer advice…I’m a slow learner but a stubborn one too.  I won’t give up until I discover for myself the limits of this machine (if there are any), fusing it with my fertile, perverse imagination to create some original and daring work.  That’s my second promise.

And as long as we’re on the subject of new beginnings, here’s my third vow:  to interact more directly with people who find and comment on this site.  Previously, I’ve maintained the policy of letting my essays speak for themselves and not responding publicly to those who have left comments, positive or negative, on Beautiful Desolation.  I felt I’d said my piece in my essays and commentaries and to rebut a reply from a reader would be, to some extent, unfair.  If I thought a certain question had to be addressed or a troll warned off, I did so through private communications with those individuals.  Not any more.  You wanna talk to me, offer praise or brickbats, I’m here. 

reznorI hereby declare from this post (#87) onward, I’ll do my best to answer your questions and debate and engage with readers directly and honestly.  These discussions will be as well-mannered, fruitful and polite as I can make them…but I will continue to leave the “moderation” function on to weed out the nutbars and those who believe they can hide behind the anonymity of the internet to say scurrilous, despicable things with absolute impunity.  The kind of slime Trent Reznor refers to in a recent post on some of the bizarro on-line communities that exist out there.  My thanks to Mike Cane for sending me a link.  Have a look, it’ll make your skin crawl.

The vast majority of people who pop by here are nothing like the douchebags Reznor describes–they’re curious, seeking alternative sources of fiction, perhaps drawn by my reputation for being, ah, outspoken, something of a maverick, an outsider who seems perfectly content with that status.  My work, my life has nothing to do with perpetuating the status quo or offering warm, fuzzy words of reassurance.  I’m here to upset your equilibrium, destroy carefully held preconceptions, rip you out of that comfort zone you’re happily immersed in. 

I won’t dummy down my writing, compromise my talent or thrust my fists into soft, velvet gloves.  That wouldn’t be doing me, you or anybody else any favours.  I’ll present what I know, what I’ve experienced, what I’m thinking “with the bark on”, as FDR liked to say.  The truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. 

So help me God.

Today, a new page has been turned.  Welcome to Beautiful Desolation, Phase II. 

Let me hear from you and tell me what you think.



  1. Eve

    Congratulations on your new iMac! By strange coincidence, I was just ogling them at apple.com about 15 minutes ago. I went from Apples to PCs years ago and never went back, but ever since buying an iPhone I can’t help but grow misty-eyed every time I enter the Apple store.

    If the Mac is responsible for your chapter II here on the blog, then it is indeed a most powerful machine!

  2. Cliff Burns

    Thanks for the comment–this new iMac still intimidates though, gradually, I’m finding my way around. We’ve had trouble transferring files from my old machine but that merely shows MY shortcomings as a non-geek and is certainly no reflection on the technology involved. Switched to PC, eh? Well, it would be hard to make the jump back. And as long as what you have is working for you, write on…

  3. Mike Cane

    I am sooooo jealous. That big screen alone is to die for!!

    Now you’ll be able to play frikkin flawless video (99% of video on this crap PC skips or is simply unwatchable) — and create podcasts easier!! You *must* get back to continuing the last one you did.

    Yes, you can do a hell of a lot — but I’m sure you know the most important part is your *words*.

  4. Mike Cane

    Oh, and Cliff! Run over to Adobe and download Adobe Digital Editions so you can see firsthand what *ePub eBooks* are like. You have the killer horsepower for that now.

  5. Cliff Burns

    Michael, it is ALWAYS a pleasure to hear from you. Folks, this guy has FORGOTTEN more about tech stuff than I’ll ever know, if I live to be a hundred. Yup, the 20″ screen is stunning and I’m merely scratching at the surface of the iMac’s capabilities. But I’m going to do a lot of exploring and experimenting in the coming months and that will, no doubt, have some influence on the type of writing I do as well as other extracurricular activities, like music and film-making. Exciting times here at Casa Burns and I’ll be relying on people like Mike Cane to help get me over hurdles and push the limits. Cheerio!

  6. Jessica Brown

    Congrats on the new Mac. I made the switch from PC back in 2006 with a Macbook and it’s the best investment I’ve ever made. I had to replace a few things here and there (my hands are apparently murder on a top case and I wore out my first DVD drive) but it’s such a sweet machine and so very, very worth it.

  7. Cliff Burns

    Jessica, each day introduces some new element that I’ve never encountered before in a computer. This beast is insanely fast with enough memory to store every book in the Library of Congress with room left over. Literally a “dream machine”–and I intend to employ every bit of software, all of its capabilities to transcribe some of those aforementioned dreams into stories, songs and movies. So far I’m only scratching the surface…but every day my confidence grows…

  8. driftlessareareview

    Cliff, you’re just jealous that [Flavor of the Week] is selling more books than you. If you read my Ayn Rand-Buffy the Vampire Slayer fanfiction, you’d understand. I only read fiction for pleasure, I don’t like being intimidated by big words, foreign-sounding names, and italics. Science done gone took my Bibles away!

    How’s that float your boat, Cliff? I look forward to Phase II.

  9. Cliff Burns

    You clever devil–there’s a whiff of brimstone in the air, which means a satirist is about. I’ve taken my fair share of abuse from fan-boys and wannabes in the past while, haven’t I? Ah, well, the poor beggars have such thin skin; makes them much more vulnerable (and touchy). They’re the kinda people who think Michael Bay an under-appreciated genius and JJ Abrams the next fuckin’ Orson Welles. The Gameboy generation have grown up and taken over the entertainment world. God help serious cinephiles…and folks who think with both halves of their brain.

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