Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Bringing Grandpa Back to Life

Ha-ha, not really, of course. I mean, I'm good, but there are limits. I think.

Some weeks ago I came upon an old (circa 1954) snapshot of my paternal grandfather, Paul B. Reynolds. Since it was in an envelope with a letter he had sent to my dad stationed in Japan just after the Korean conflict, and since said letter reposed with scores of others in a box beneath Dad's workbench, where it probably had resided for the past 40 or 50 years, I was surprised at how faded and yellowed the snapshot was:

Clear enough for me to make out that it's the old gent, gone now nearly 23 years, and I know that it was taken at the gas station he owned on Saddle Creek Road in Omaha, Nebraska (Paul's "66" Service, which he subsequently sold, opening a small-engine shop on Center Street in the early 1960s), but not a very satisfying family relic. It may be that Dad had had it on display in a sunny location at Camp Eta Jima before putting it back in its envelope. Or it may just be that the chemicals are breaking down after half a century, without any help from the sun. In any event, I wished it could be better, and I wanted to share it with my brother. So I scanned it and slung it into Photoshop, and after a little bit of digital jiggery-poke here's what I walked away with:

A bit improved, I think, and far less likely to disintegrate before my eyes. Not a lot of detail, especially in the face, but despite what you see on the various crime and spy shows on TV, you really can't conjure up details that aren't in the original.

In my memory, my grandfather is always wearing either dark-green tweed work clothes like those he wears in this photo, or similar beige work duds. But never a cap like the one he's holding. Just the beat up old pith helmet he used to wear when he was working in his yard, but that's another story for another day.

I Write Like...

Well, this was eye-opening.

In a roundabout fashion (from Twitter to the LA Times and then to the site in question) I came upon the website I Write Like, which invites one to enter a few paragraphs of writing, which then are analyzed and from which a proclamation is made.

I pasted in the first three paragraphs of my sixth novel, Drive-By, and was rewarded with this:

I write like
Stephen King
I Write Like by Mémoires, Mac journal software. Analyze your writing!

Interesting, since I've read very little of King's work. I don't dislike him, I've just never gotten into him much. I picked up The Shining ages ago when it was all the rage, and never finished it. It just didn't grab me.

Hope that doesn't mean I'm not interested in my own work...

Just for kicks, I copied four paragraphs from the beginning of a later chapter in Drive-By (chapter 31, if you must know), ran them through I Write Like, and got this bit of information:

I write like
Dan Brown
I Write Like by Mémoires, Mac journal software. Analyze your writing!

Also very intriguing, since I have read less of Brown's stuff than I have of King's! Evidently I write like writers I've never really read, which should defuse any potential plagiarism suits.

Just for kicks (as if the exercise had any other point) I grabbed another selection from the midpoint of the same book (chapter 22) and ran it through the grinder. Dan Brown again.

I might have to start reading this guy.

Maybe I can figure out why his stuff sells in the bazillions while mine sells in the thousands.