Author: Benjamin Brede

I am a storyteller who is interested in telling tales from my own experiences and the experiences of others.

Nectar of the Gods

Here’s a post from 2012. Happy #TBT, friends!
Coffee-Cup-Bowl-With-Grains-Images
Dana and I went to visit a friend in San Diego a couple years ago. It’s a 40 hour drive from Minneapolis to San Diego, so we stopped in Iowa to pick up our friend’s dad. Val is a great traveling companion.

We took the drive in two days. We slept for a couple hours in Texas, and drove another 20 hours the next day. It was awful. I will never look at another Nutrigrain bar without feeling a bit nauseous.

We stayed almost a week with Laura in her SoCal house with her SoCal friends and her SoCal beach. It was pretty great. The last full day we spent with Laura, we went to Balboa Park.

Lets start at the beginning of that day, though. Laura worked early that morning, so Dana had to prepare the picnic. I probably should have helped, but I didn’t wake up early enough to go to the store with her. Then, when I got out of the shower, Val and I started talking about the trip. Dana was making sandwiches and salads.

I went into the kitchen and said good morning. I gave her a kiss and asked if the coffee was ready.

Bad idea.

No, actually, the coffee is not ready because there is no coffee to get ready. And then I saw a side of Dana that I had not yet met. The side of her that probably instigated the nickname Dana-saur. The side that shouldn’t be asked if the coffee is ready when there is no more coffee left.

We walked to the tram silently. Val is a morning person. He loves to chat and tease and enjoy the morning. I was trying to keep up with his chatter, but I also was feeling the effects of operating heavy machinery without coffee. Dana was scowling. I shouldn’t have left her to get Val and me ready like little boys needing to be sent off to school, but I didn’t want to chop the peppers! I wanted to play outside with my friend!

We met Laura at Balboa Park. We were a little late, despite Dana’s efforts to get us out the door on time. Laura had just finished her shift at the coffee shop and was feeling just as chipper as her dad.

Dana and I tried to enjoy the park. It was built when the World Fair was hosted by San Diego, so there were a lot of interesting nooks to it. People were allowed to set up little shops inside to sell food, artwork or whatever other craft to which they set their hands. It was pretty cool.

Yet Dana couldn’t smile. She was interested, but she didn’t join in the conversation or pictures. She just looked royally pissed.

Val asked, “Dana, can I buy you a cup of coffee?”

“Oh, it’s ok. I don’t need coffee, I’ll be fine. I can buy my own, too, you don’t need to…”

“Here. And one for you, too, Benj,” Val said as he handed us our paper cups.

It was still too hot for Dana to take a sip, but she took the lid off and smelled the brew.

Then it happened. Something sparked. I was watching her very closely, because I thought I saw something flash in her eyes. Yes! There it goes again! Something was definitely taking place. Her brow was less furrowed. Her chin seemed a bit more relaxed. And wait… Dear Lord! I think it is!

She smiled! She laughed! She started bantering with Val and talking with Laura! She held my hand! It truly looked like she had come out of Lazarus’ tomb to join the land of the living once again. It was like watching the pilot light come on again after a cold winter night; the hum of the furnace of wakefulness roaring to life.

The rest of the day was amazing. Arguably the best day we spent with Laura that week. Never underestimate the power of a cuppa.

Multiverse

Model Universe

I don’t know if the model is supposed to be taken literally or if it’s an artist’s interpretation, but I understand it like this:

In the middle of each galaxy is a bright center, which is a condensed star cluster. Galaxies are typically held together by a black hole in the middle, keeping all of the stars within its gravitational pull. The arms of the galaxies are filled with sun-like stars which you can see in the Sombrero Galaxy or Milky Way.

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Here’s what’s fascinating to me: the bright center of the universe (according to the model) is like the star cluster of a galaxy, and galaxies are like the stars in the arms of the universe. The universe is like a gigantic galaxy, and there are probably billions of universes out there, creating a mind-bogglingly huge multiverse. Does that make sense, or am I just crazy?

All this to say: Where are our alien friends?

Photo Credit: BBC

Photo Credit: Gizmodo

Expert

The following is a piece I wrote for a trivia challenge that will soon be aired on a podcast. Dana and I wrote the trivia questions based on our favorite subject material.

Enjoy

Harry Potter

Experts. What constitutes an expert? In my expert opinion, one becomes an expert in the same manner one becomes anything. One must become an expert in one’s mind, first.

Well, that expert opinion is a load of squash, because an expert is obviously an expert in his or her mind. Where else would he or she be an expert? In a toe?

My wife and I are Harry Potter experts. The reason for this is because no one else in the world likes the Harry Potter story more than we do. It’s true, J.K., not even you. We have all the books in hardcover and ebook format, and all of the movies. And we use them all on a regular basis. We even got the Deathly Hallows tattoo. It’s not uncommon for one of us to wake the other from a dead sleep to discuss what happens when a witch or wizard is exposed to a horcrux for extended periods of time, or whether or not Uncle Vernon was a boggart in disguise.

I’m proud to say that the thing I’m most excited for when I get to heaven, when I finally reach those pearly gates, is that glorious day when St. Peter gives me my fully functioning magic wand. Accio Harp. Accio Halo. Wingardium that robe. Hey! Did Jesus just expelliarmus my harp?! Psh.

Until that day, I will satisfy my magical yearnings by discussing important social events in light of Dumbledore’s wisdom, dream of cutting my commute to work via apparition and writing ridiculous trivia questions for podcast hosts who think they are bigger fans than Dana and me.

Birthdays

Today is my favorite day of the year. It’s my birthday.

I hear people gripe about their birthdays because they don’t like getting old. I’m the same. I’m not going to offer words of wisdom about how getting older is a gift and a privilege. Getting old kind of sucks. My body is falling apart and I’m only 27.

But! This is the one day of the year that my incurable narcissism is socially acceptable and all my friends feed into it. I love it. Sunners

 

Thank you to everyone for your kind words, cards, Facebook messages and texts. I appreciate you all very much.

Love, Uncle Benjamin

Fortnight Brewery Brothers – Surly Brewery

Because #localbreweries, am I right?

A guy invited all of his brothers, a brother-in-law and some random blogger to join him at breweries every other week in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area. It sounds like the start of a bad joke, but don’t worry, it’s just the set up for many psuedo-funny stories to come.

The first brewery we visited was probably the third most famous brewery to ferment out of Minnesota, assuming Grain Belt and Summit are more famous than Surly.

The Surly brewery has recently opened in the Prospect Park neighborhood of Minneapolis.IMG_1824

It has no fewer than 4 bars from which to order your beverages and I saw at least one other still under construction. The grounds are new, fresh. One can smell sawdust that still lingers in the air which speaks to the inner lumbersexual in all the hipsters that converged last Saturday evening. Myself included.

Outside there are stone/glass firepits fueled by gas. It took two brewers and three lighters to get the fire going. Then my friends and I proceeded to kick at the glass to see if we could kill the flame. We were successful. IMG_1825

 

The brewery offers food for hungry drinkers. I did not participate in much of menu. It is meat, meat, meat or fries. I had the fries and they were delicious. Mike also had my fries. He said they were delicious dipped in meat juice. IMG_1830IMG_1827

And, of course, the beer. Surly has a wide variety of brews ranging from hops to darks. Much of what I had tested from them in the past has been *hesitant* good? Beers I could drink a pint of, then need something else. Not an all-night beer.

And then I was introduced to the Cacao Bender. Imagine-me-this: a chocolate bar of 70% cacao soaking in a delicious stout. This beer gave me hope in the Surly enterprise. I knew there were probably really good beers coming out of the brewhouse, but I hadn’t encountered them until this night. If recommendations come on a scale of one to ten, I give it a yes. Try it.

Then go home and watch a beer bottle smoke a cigar. IMG_1834

Don’t be Careful

I listened to a webinar given by author Donald Miller last night. It was a talk for first time writers. He gave a lot of tips that I found very useful. Things like believe in your work, develop a work ethic, treat your writing as a business/job.

Donald Miller

One major tip I walked away with was, “Don’t be careful.”

Writing a book, writing a blog, writing an email, whatever it is that I’m working on, I find myself being very careful. In an email, it’s probably ok for me to be careful, but in creative writing I shouldn’t be. Neither should you.

Being careful means (in extreme cases) dishonest writing.  It means the writer isn’t conveying his or her conviction – the drive that makes him/her write. If a writer is too busy keeping everyone happy, s/he is going to forget to write his/her message. The writing will flop and the writer will slip into oblivion. No one will have time to read his/her nothing work.

It reminds me of an Anne Lamott quote I read recently:

own-your-stories

“You own everything that happened to you. Tell our stories. If people wanted you to write warmly about them, they should’ve behaved better.”

This ties into the original statement of “don’t being careful.” I don’t need to carefully please the people who don’t deserve to be pleased. I’m really good at trying to please people. It doesn’t work well in life and it doesn’t work at all in writing. Mr. Miller even said in his talk that people pleasers make terrible writers.

A writer needs to balance empathy and the guts to offend the status quo. Empathy to give voice to the hurting people of the world, and guts to upset the oppressors. Too much empathy and the writer becomes soft to mean people. Too much offence and the writer becomes calloused to the hurting people.

Writers need to stir up some controversy if they are going to have any sort of impact on their society.

What are your thoughts? Do you disagree? If so, sorry.

 

Image Credit: Laura Dart

Image Credit: Karen Salmansohn

Formulary Friendships

Something I’ve struggled with in writing is creating a believable friendship between my characters. There’s the meet-cute, the struggle, the development and the love. Yes, I’m talking about friendship here, not a love story. It has the same elements as a romance story without the sexual tension.
So. What have I come up with? A formula! Because no good writing come from freeverse, right? Well here we go:
How to build a fictional friendship:
– At first meeting, one character doesn’t like the other. He’s fiercly independent, “I don’t need a friend,” etc.
– Soon thereafter or in the same meeting, the one who knows the environment will save the skin of the one who does not know what’s going on. One depends on the other for understanding of the situation. Maybe there’s a bully in a new school or a self importent centaur in the middle of a magical forest. You get the idea. Typically works best if the independent character from step one is the one needing to be saved. Give your character a piece of humble pie. No one’s an island.
– Once the skin has avoided a skinning, there should be a joke the two can laugh about. This can be a funny conversation that crops up throughout the book or a practical joke they play on a less favorable character (the unsuspecting centaur?).
– The conversation drifts to common ground on which to build the relationship.
– The characters have had their own experiences in life leading up to their meeting. Now they need to have some life experiences together. Queue adventures.
– Conflict will make the friendship believable and show the audience that it’s a relationship worth fighting for. I’m not good at writing conflict. Find your own formula for this.
– Boom. Friendship.
I’m open to suggestion on this. What are your thoughts and experiences creating relationships?
Image credit: Made Man

The Aurelian Archives

The first installment of The Auralian Archives trilogy is Palatine First. I finished reading this exciting sci-fi novel last night and I cannot wait to dive into the next book.

Palatine First

Palatine First is the debut novel by Courtney Grace Powers. It follows the adventures of friends Hayden, Gideon and Reece. Reece is thrust into being next in line to inherit dukeship of the planet Honora in the Epimetheus Galaxy when his older brother, Liem, is abducted. The three young men are chased through the grounds of their school and surrounding country by a genetically modified police force while trying to keep track of Liem’s mute fiance.

Nivy, the mute fiance, is running from the law to protect a centuries-old secret from falling into the wrong hands. Those hands belong to the headmaster of The Owl, the school the boys attend.

This fast paced adventure come from three main points of view with a genius combination of wit and wonder. Powers grips the reader’s attention and commands it until the last page. This exciting first installment is best described as a rollercoaster ride with daring loops heart stopping free falls that leave the reader breathless.

 

See more and get your own copy by clicking here. You can also see a movie-like trailer for the books.

Puppy classes

Dana and I got a puppy last summer. He’s a three year old terrier that doesn’t like other dogs. He was picked up as a stray in Arizona then shipped to Minnesota because Minnesotans like to adopt pets. It worked out for Milo, because now he’s home.

Milo

We thought with enough love and support he would get over his distaste for other four-legged fur babies, but after nearly 6 months we’ve made little progress. So we buckled and started going to doggy socialization classes.

Last week was the first class. We went into a room with seven other frightened pups from varying sizes and breeds. The largest was a Great Dane two stalls away. The loudest was a terrier in my posession.

Milo’s story is of course a mystery and always will be. We have no idea what horrors he went through in his short life before he found his way home. All we can do is figure out a way to rewrite the next chapter in his life to find some semblence of security and safety for him. The first step is to take him to class, build trust in his humans and hope he can one day play well with others.

When I step back I realize that the unfortunate pup isn’t the only one with socialization baggage. How many times have I thought and rethought and overthought a situation that happened six months ago trying to figure out if so-and-so thinks I’m an ungrateful jerk? How many times have I felt like a kicked dog and cowered in the corner because someone said something mean to me twenty years ago and I’m still dealing with insecurities?

Being a writer forces these questions on me every day. Is my writing good enough? Do I really have what it takes to be a successful writer? What does “successful writer” even mean? Maybe I should just give up. Find a quiet hobby where I don’t have to invite the criticism of smarter people and better writers. But that doesn’t really work. Life isn’t about keeping myself safe. If so, I’ll just end up barking and growling at anyone within a 20 foot radius of me.

Tonight is day 2 of the six-week course. I’ll give you an update in a month and let you know if my terrier is any less terrified. Hopefully my dog learns something, too.