Sunday, March 30, 2014

Interview With Frederick Ceely

I sat for this interview, and let me tell you, the interviewer and I were so simpatico that it was almost like talking to myself.   

Q:  Not much was known about you before the incident, so forgive me if some of my questions seem naïve or impolite. 
A:  Regarding the incident, let me just say that no charges were ever filed and there are no civil cases pending.

Q:  Fair enough.  Let’s start with your blog, much of your footprint in the world is taken up with your blog. 
A:  And Facebook, I’m quite an avid user of Facebook. 

Q:  Yes, but you, and almost everybody, prefer to keep things light and airy on Facebook, while your blog, Spin Easy Time, can be quite dark.
A:  Thank you, yes, the “other Fred” comes out periodically on Spin Easy Time.

Q:  So, why blog?
A:  Well, it wasn’t my idea initially.  My son suggested it, because I was living in Thailand and presumably interesting things were happening.  So, rather than blow him off, you know, I started the thing.  I think he even set it up for me.  So I started the blog essentially because I am an agreeable man who only wants to make other people happy.

Q:  Ah!  The famous Fred sarcasm!
A:  Touché.

Q:  Seriously, why blog?
A:  For one thing, I enjoy the process of writing.  It imposes a reduced pace on thinking and greater clarity on the mind.  Also, you don’t really understand anything unless you can write it down in such a way that others can read and understand it. 

Q:  Are you suggesting that you write the blog for your own benefit?  Do you even care if anyone else reads it?
A:  Oh, I care.  These days I’m getting between fifty and one hundred visits per day, and I’m thrilled about that.  I’m thrilled that people are reading what I write.

Q:  Have you considered other forms of writing?
A:  More than considered it.  I’ve always been a motivated reader and a frequent letter writer.  I’ve written a couple of hundred poems, and there are some that I think are good.  Nothing published.  Six short stories, four or five thousand words apiece, there are two that I like, two or three.  None published.   Half a novel, about forty-five thousand words, it would need a lot of work to finish it and get it ready to be read. 

Q:  Are you pursuing those efforts? 
A:  No.  Why bother?  No one reads poetry, it only makes people angry.  Publishing anything is a nightmare, at least a nightmare of rejection.  If you’re lucky it’s a nightmare of editors.  The writers that make it are usually better at marketing than at writing.  Terrible!  My life is hard enough already. 

Q:  Well, the blog then. 
A:  Fire away!

Q:  Who are your readers?
A:  My most popular post by far is called “The Fifteen Greatest Roman Generals.”  It first went up in mid-2008.  Every month since then it has been in the top five by hit count, every month.  So maybe my readers are people around the world who are interested in Roman military history. 

Q:  There’s that sarcasm again. 
A:  Sorry, I can’t help it.  Really I think my readers are a hard core of a couple of dozen regulars and the rest are random Googlers. 

Q:  Do you get a lot of comments?
A:  Not any more.  For the first few years there were a lot of comments, and I knew almost everybody.  I think only my friends were reading at that point.  By now, most of my friends have become sick of the blog and I’m better at generating Google hits, you know, thinking about labels and key words, little things like that. So now comments are rare, and almost always from strangers.  I do get a couple of good ones every month though, and most are sympathetic and encouraging.  Most.

Q:  One thing about Spin Easy Time, there doesn’t seem to be any real unifying principle to it, is that intentional?
A:  No.  I just try to put up a variety of posts to keep the entertainment factor going.  Photos of Thailand, music videos from YouTube, fun stuff.  I do always try to include a personal comment or observation with every one of them.  I think that a blog should always be personal. 

Q:  But then, in between the lighthearted stuff, you like to include a periodic punch in the stomach.
A:  Just when they least expect it!  Yes, I do that.  I inhabit a dark universe, but no one else should be exposed to a steady diet of that.

Q:  I see.  Much of that darkness seems to involve politics.
A:  Dark business, that. 

Q:  Politics and American society in general.  Are you really as pessimistic as you can sound sometimes? 
A:  Yes, but with reason, I think.

Q:  You seem to be particularly hard on wealthy people, and Republicans.  Some might suggest that you were envious of the rich, or that you hate them.
A:  Envious, never.  No.  The rich will always be with us, to paraphrase.  Some people are very talented, they work very hard, they have great ideas, they take chances, big risks.  They should be rich; they deserve to be rich.  Good for them.  Myself, all I ever wanted was to be somewhat financially secure and have time to myself, time for my family and myself.

The rich, generally, are not necessarily happier or healthier than anybody else.  They may fly first class and eat in more expensive restaurants, but most of them don’t even really appreciate the things that the money buys them. 

Take cars.  Some rich people buy Lambos and Ferraris, but almost all of them are just showing off.  Only an F1 driver could drive those things as fast as they can go.  I doubt if anyone ever had more fun in a Ferrari than I had driving my 1978 VW Rabbit.  That car was a blast!  Seventy one horsepower and it weighed as much as three sheets of loose-leaf.  It handled like a toy, and it had a gear box and a clutch made by Porsche.  That car was fun. 

Q:  So you don’t really grudge the rich anything?  You don’t hate them?  Some of your readers might find that hard to believe. 
A:  The grudging, no, except maybe the legacies, the generations of lucky beneficiaries who do nothing but live off the money that grand-dad earned.  Hate?  Maybe some, but by no means all. 

I certainly don’t hate sports stars.  The modern mass media market brings in hundreds of millions of dollars, and of course the players deserve their share.  I hope that they get enough!  I don’t hate most entertainers who become rich, same reasons.  I do hate some of them though, the ones with no talent and tens of millions of dollars. 

Entrepreneurs I alluded to a moment ago.  Take Mark Zuckerberg, for instance.  He saw the potential in something and brought it to the market in a form that the whole world seems to love.  He gives it away and just sells the eyes to advertisers.  God bless him, he should be rich. 

Corporate culture and big business I do have problems with.  They spend too much on executives and perks and not enough on workers.  The banking and financial industries rake off huge amounts and do little to justify it.  So those things are worth hating, and I suppose I do.

Really, I just hate that too many people are paid too little and that too many people are paid too much, if that makes sense.

Q:  Even if you’re right, what can be done about it, besides writing about it I mean.
A:  Yeah, writing about it, like “bitching at the air and the trees.”  Nobody really listens.

I’d like very much for America to adopt modern social democratic ideas like those followed by many European countries.  Fair wages and taxes, universalism, the welfare state, that kind of things.  But that’s not going to happen. 

Q:   So there’s politics.  Do you really hate the Republicans? 
A:   I suppose so.  They’ve been on the wrong side of every social issue for the last hundred years or more.  And it’s only getting worse, since Reagan, whom I definitely hate.  Before Reagan the Republicans made trouble and were a bunch of reactionaries, but at least they did it from the center, the right-center.  

Compromise solutions were still possible.  For instance, they were a bunch of racist foot-draggers, but at least they grudgingly came on board with the integration of the armed forces and civil rights legislation.
 
Now . . . what a bunch of pirates!  Hypocrites!  And oh, the corruption!  And still with the racism, let’s face it.  Poor Obama, I don’t know how he puts up with it. 

Q:  What about the Democrats?  Are they really any better? 
A:  That’s turning into a fair question, and I’d rather say nothing at all than get into it.

Q:  What do you think about the Tea Party?
A:  I am under strict doctor’s orders never to think about the Tea Party.

Q:  Okay.  Let’s change the subject.  Do you write under any other names? 
A:  Not now, but I do have a couple of pen-names in mind, although I haven’t used any of them yet.

Q:  What are they?
A:  Well, I like the sound of my name, Germanized.  “Friedrich Seele.”  Seele means soul in German, which keeps it close to the original meaning of Ceely. 

I like the sound of “Frederick Sorry.”  That would suit me because I’m always apologizing.

I like “Claude Selavey,” but I’m pretty sure that the Selavey part has been used already.

Q:  What’s your middle name?
A:  I don’t have one.  When I was born my parents gave me my father’s first name and then ran stone out of creativity.

Q:  How about nicknames?
A:  Now, none, unless you count “Lung Farang,” which roughly translated means “uncle white man.”

In my teens I had a couple.  My friends called me “the Planner,” because I always poured through the print media looking for free things to do that were fun, free movies, concerts, plays, museum shows.  We lived in New York City, so there was always a ton of stuff to do, but searching for the good, free stuff was a chore.  Friends would call me up and say, “what are we doing Saturday?”  And for a couple of years they called me “Captain Raps,” or just “Raps,” because I almost never shut up.
 
Q:  My editor gave me a few suggestions.  How about, what’s your idea of a perfect day?
A:  Any one that includes a couple of hours at the church, you know, the alter of my primary devotion.  Know what I mean?

Q:  I think so.  What is your proudest achievement?
A:  Not abusing painkillers.

Q:  If you weren’t a lawyer, a teacher and a writer, what would you be?
A:  Same as always.  A tattooed fuck-up from Queens. 

1 comment:

Chris Schutzius said...

Enjoyed it Fred-Chris

I thought the interviewer was a bit snarky at times, but you really put him in his place.