Nov 18, 2010

The Secret of The Dancing Ducks

Psst... want to know a secret?

In my library there's a small blue book which I keep on the shelf reserved for books on novel wrtiting. The book is called 'How To Write A Damn Good novel". It's written by James N. Frey and is a fine book, so much so that I've read it at least seventeen times. On page 67 of Frey's book - a particularly dog eared and well worn page - is a sentence that I find intriguing.

That sentence states that, if at the beginning of a novel (or short story), a shotgun is hanging over the mantle of the hero's house, then, by the end of the novel, that shotgun ought to have been fired.

In other words, we as writers have a silent contract with our readers. That unspoken contract states, that, if you stick with me to the end, then I, in turn, promise to deliver the goods.

That's where "The Secret of the Dancing Ducks" title comes in. The title of the post is my promise to you that, if you read this post, then eventually you too will know The Secret of the Dancing Ducks.

But before I get to the Dancing Ducks and their arcanum, I'd like to touch (talk, converse, gossip, chitchat, shoot the breeze, jaw, chinwag, natter) on some important elements about secrets in general. That's if you let me.

Firstly, have you ever noticed that, as soon as someone mentions that they have secret, then everybody wants to know what that secret is? 

Humans appear to have am inbuilt want-to-know-mechanism that makes us stick our metaphorical noses into places that our feet don't (or won't) fit. To spy on our neighbours we stick our noses between the gaps in paling fences, to see what's going on down the street we poke our noses through windows, and in to see into adjacent rooms our noses sniff out keyholes and the cracks at the edges of half opened doors- all in the name of furthering our knowledge. That's partly why we have done so well as a species. Our inquisitiveness has helped us spread around the earth. Our noses have sprayed our DNA in every dark corner, our curiousity has marked our territories like dogs - and our propensity for being busy bodies has turned the Earth into our own backyard.

(Speaking of dogs, did you know that they have two hundred million nasal olfactory receptors? - sorry, not that I care - I just had a burning desire to tell you that).

Of course, many secrets are meaningless to anyone but the secret's keeper.
But not always. 

If, for example, you watch enough television, read enough books, or see enough movies then you will know that plots are often driven by secrets. In movies and in real life, secrets can sometimes provoke a life or death situation, can sometimes cause a marriage or divorce, and sometimes give us massive headaches.

Oddly enough secrets are like objects. They have old owners - and they can have new owners. It's a given that a secret has less value if its present owner is inclined to blurt it out across the universe. If everyone knows a secret then it becomes an 'unsecret' - so to speak.  The corollary being that, to be really really really valuable, a secret must be known by only the annoited few. And in the case of the best secrets, those annointed few must have coaxed it from its original owner. 

And hence to these illustrations. For they too have their secret - and trust me, these illustrations and their secrets are ultimately related to The Secret of The Dancing Ducks.

 According to the tennets of 'secretness' outlined above, the very fact  that I have announced that these images have a 'secret' should theoretically be enough to stir your interest. And according to the shotgun contract I made with you at the beginning of this post, that secret should be worthwhile learning. And lastly, according to the second tennent of secretness, I must not tell you that secret straight away.

In fact I must make you wait.
But how do I keep my secret from you as long as possible?

So far I have used misdirection (you pretend to look in the other direction while I slip the rabbit from the hat), delaying tactics, blind paths, subplots, thrown metaphorical hand grenades across your path, said "Hey look at that naked person" while pointing you back the way you came - all in the name of making you wait. 
And in this way I can make the secret seem more valuable.

Or can I?

To be honest, at this moment, I have an overriding and burning urge to reveal to you my confidential, covert, cryptic, discreet, disguised, dissembled, dissimulated, furtive, hush-hush, incognito piece of information that makes these illustrations special.

But before I do....
Did you ever read Foucault's Pendulum?
It's by Umberto Eco - that chap who wrote "Name of the Rose".
The essential themes of Foucault's Pendulum involve The Knights Templar,The Rosicrucians, The Gnostics, The Freemasons,The Bavarian Illuminati,The Elders of Zion,The Assassins of Alamut,The Cabalists,The Bogomils,The Cathars and , lastly but not leastly, The Jesuits.

In the beginning of his book Eco promises the answers to the secrets of all these things. Yet in the end we are given nothing but a demonstration of Eco's amazing ability to make us think he is intelligent.  Consequently Foucault's Pendulum was the last book of Eco's that I will ever read. 

A strong statement I know.......

These images?
They were made for Illustration Friday's 'Burning.'
Their original genesis was/were the Witches of Salem.
And that, believe me didn't work. (See album cover at the bottom)
Their second genesis was 'Nero fiddling while Rome burned'.
But Nero fiddling didn't seem quite right.
And after checking my facts it seemed that Nero did nothing of the sort.
And so I put the two together....
Feel free to click for big.
Thanks again for looking.
The final image is just below.


  1. Hi Andrew, I'm happy to see this your works, I saw in this a little somthings about The potatos eaters... I'm really happy about because it meaning that always is an evolution and without the past can be no future...

  2. A truly hellish image Andrew... wondeful work as always.. :)

  3. Why do not you tell us who beat on the door? I want to know!
    Is it a secret maybe?
    I do not want to know about the little blue book, or Eco or Foucault! I just want to know who was on the other side of the door!
    Now, do not tell you what I think of your artwork, it is my secret.
    (I look the other way as a Hopper's character)

  4. Did I hear a shot? I think not, you master of sleight of verse!

    Great illustration for the Friday theme. One of these days, I'll be ready to jump into the fray and submit another piece, until then, I'm going to tell my secrets to dancing ducks...

  5. Dancing ducks, huh? Well, I have no patience whatsoever for Umberto Eco, but I read your blog entries because they're entertaining and have lots of cool pictures to look at. I have a student who wrote a story about a kid who, when he went to confront the monsters in his closet, took a handgun from his dad's bedside table, but then never used it. All sorts of other things happened, and the gun sortof just fell by the wayside, and I had to say that that was WRONG.

    The pictures are great--powerfully disturbing, with the suggestion of witchcraft, true devilry and the devilry in people's hearts. Fabulous burning colors.

  6. When I was a kid, my dad told me "Curiosity killed the cat". I said we didn't have a cat, and he replied "Exactly". I was left pondering if we had ever had a cat, and if we did, what happened to it? It took me a while to figure out Dad had made a death threat to me for asking too many questions, but then I had to ask questions about why he would do such a thing. One thing's for sure, I don't want to go to your hell! Lots of cool things go on there, but I think I'll stick to reading your amusing ramblings and looking at your fascinating illustrations :)

  7. Amazing pictures, they have something hellish indeed.

    As for the text, you are a cheater hehe... but a great one, so no hard feelings!

    Take care, Andrew!

  8. oh yes, another group of INCREDIBLE illustrations. how do you do this? xxoo

  9. Very good of you to keep us on edge, turning us to all sorts of directions and leaving us astray with naked men, dogs' nasal olfactory and pendulums. And still, no sign of a dancing duck at the end... (I did wonder and looked if the duck was roasting in the fire, but no such luck there).

    But I thoroughly enjoyed your 'burning' images, especially that last one. Makes me want to head-bang until my head falls off. Heheh.

    Well, have a good day, my friend. Be sure to watch for the tides before you jump in. :))

  10. Well, you never disappoint my friend. Demons, witchcraft, hell fires and secrets! You are always entertaining. Love the album cover too.

  11. Fascinating as usual Andrew! Where in your psyche do these tortured souls come from?

    The illustrations are quite beautiful. Love the flames!

    As far as the mysterious dancing ducks go, well let's just say you 'quack' me up! :)

  12. Eres genial!
    Por estos lares a aquellas ancianas mujeres que buscan secretos o invetan secretos de otros las llaman "viejas copuchentas" y las que propagan y vocean secretos son las "viejas peladoras"

    Cariñosos saludos

  13. This week's IF challenge and your illustrations are a match made in, uh, heaven? Either way, you are in your element, here! Fascinating images, as always! :o)

  14. Ello Mate! I was just going to look at your artwork and come back later because I have rice cooking on the stove, but I saw the word secret and I had to find out the secret of the dancing duck. You took my down many different roads and I smelled my rice burning, but I couldn’t tear myself away! I kept reading and getting more and more drawn in. The rice burnt away and the pot caught fire.... I had to know what the secret was though. I could smell the kitchen as the flames engulfed the north wall, but I kept on reading. I finally reached the end... I had to know the secret.... but where are the dancing ducks? What is the secret? You did such wonderful artwork for the theme ( burning) this week.... and now my kitchen is (burning) too! Always a lot of fun to stop by my friend. Thanks for keeping me on my toes! Now could you hand me that fire extinguisher?

  15. Hi Andrew,
    Lorsque mes enfants étaient petits et qu'ils jouaient un peu bruyamment, il suffisait que je dise j'ai un secret... et hop le silence complet...
    Mot MAGIQUE... tout comme votre art qui est époustouflant... Bises

  16. There´s a lot of strong emotion here! I really like all the energy, all the rage. It suits the burning-theme just as well as the flames, and makes the whole even better. And of course I am a fan of the use of symbols, like the five-tagged star. Although yours is pointing up, and is therefore referring to God, and not the devil as you would assume from the rest of the image. But you knew that. Cunning ;-)
    Really excellent how you made the picture just a little blurry some places, as if the air is disturbed by the heat.

  17. Hello! First I decided to quit and then blog again and then take a break from visiting and when I come back, I have 57 posts to read from among my favorite bloggers. However, I want you to know that I thought about all the posts I was missing from you and not only do you have dancing ducks here, you have deep fried turkey, pecan pie, pumpkin pie and chocolate cake. Oh and mashed potatoes too, and a wide screen tv showing the Burning of The Witches. You did not disappoint. I was hoping I would find out about your secret but I remember, I can't even get started with my Wacom Bamboo. After a week of figuring out how to use it, I shoved it somewhere, I think it's with some drawings behind the stereo. Wonderful, Mr. Finnie, oh I wrote Mt. Finnie. That's right too. You are a mountain of talent! Good morning. It's Friday here and well, it's going to be the weekend soon.

  18. I knew I'd find you here at the back of the bar. Ah, I see you are with your good friend Eco. Yes, I could hear you two giggling from out on the sidewalk. Nicely done, Mr. Finnie, very smooth.

    Actually, if you don't mind, I think I'm going t hide here with you two chaps. Because quite frankly, those witches scare the bejeezus outta me! They are a frightful bunch. I don't care if they CAN hit those high notes and put on a bangin' show with pyrotechnics. They look like they've been burned by a bad chemical peel. And Nero! I sure hope his sleeve is coated in a good fire retardant. I do rather fancy that hollow in his cheek, though. Kinda sexy, no?

    Yet another hot, wicked good image. You are on fire! Good thing I brought my marshmallows and weenies.

    And by the way, you killed me with your comment. The next time you make Chernobyl chicken, I'll bring a side of burned cardboard. Don't forget to wear your irepr. The aftereffects can be quite hellish, but well worth it.

    p.s. I have a secret. ssshhhhhh

  19. What are you - a skilful cheat "où bien" an eloquent storyteller, Andrew? You let me wait to the very last moment to learn the truth about those ducks. But maybe the Big Secret is that there's not any secret, because there're no dancing ducks. At least not in your illustrations or stories...Still the suspicion that such a secret exists will disturb me...:0)
    I laughed a lot while reading your description of people's curiosity, taking for a symbol the noses, squeezing everywhere there's a hole or a crack!
    While studying theatre art, we talked about "the gun that must shoot till the end of the performance", otherwise its presence on the stage is meaningless. To put it more clearly - if it didn't take part in the action, then its being there was worthless and wrong. Unless it's the goal or the special message of the show...
    Eugène Ionesco is one of the playwrights, connected with the Theatre of the Absurd. His first play "The Bald Soprano" ("La Cantatrice Chauve")was written in 1948. Some years ago my husband had the luck to act in it. I won't forget how strange I was feeling - the performance was going to its end, but no Soprano was appearing on the stage!:) And what a surprise - the last two cues (sentences)were: "What about the bald soprano?" - "Oh, her hairdo is still the same.":))))))))
    To be honest, the "devil" theme does not attract or interest me, but I can't deny that your illustrations are impressive and mighty. And oh, those flames... I hope I won't dream Hell. Good night!:O

  20. Ducks! Ducks!!

    You know how, when you say a common word over and over, sometimes it seems really odd to you? I have to repeat Ducks! Ducks!! for that reason. Mostly because I seem to be too silly to know where the ducks are.

    You are so right about Eco. I don't quite know why some writers (Delillo? Delany?) seem to think we want to think them clever rather than wanting to hear a good tale and learn an interesting secret? Humans LOVE stories, and even if they aren't true, we clasp them to our bosoms.

    Bosoms! Bosoms! Bosoms!

    These are evocative, longitudinal, loquatious, evanescent, and really really good. You have great style. But you don't need me to tell you that.

    (The silence of the ducks...)


  21. You know, by the time I finished reading this I'd forgotten all about dancing ducks and what their secrets may be! And then I realised that I still didn't discover their secrets, haha. Though I did enjoy reading about the way that humans are so desperate to know of secrets... somehow it makes you think really.

  22. Andrew,
    this illustration promises turn into an epic,
    I think there will be someone less cruel in this story that "erases" this fire!
    and you managed to capture us from the beginning,
    with this secret ... dance of the ducks? ..
    Foucault ... ;))))

    greetings without secrets!

  23. Hello Andrew i got burned.
    i think i have undergone massive transformations.
    When i saw this i felt i was dealing with another person, thought as totally distinct from the original Mita, and as having a name whether human or demonic.
    Wanted to tell you something that has nothing to do with the demonic thing, you are right about the want-to-know-mechanism.
    I have never sworn in the blogs before, but now i do.

  24. wow Andrew....wonderful work!!! as always!!!

  25. viele Grüße, lieber Andrew, wer hat dieses schöne Schaffen gelenkt? es ist bis in den kleinsten Punkt ein schöpferisches Paradies, man kann in jedem Winkel des Bildes Neues entdecken,ich wünsche ein langes Weiterleben dieser Kunst, herzlichst Jasmin

  26. Hola Andrew, yo he visto que una señora escribe sus comentarios en español. por lo tanto yo también dejaré mi comentario en español. Español, es un idioma, tú sabes, el idioma de el país de la bandera roja y amarilla, (bien el idioma de un montón de paises que no tienen la bandera roja y amarilla). El que tiene una letra llamada: "Eñe" (ñ), es una letra simpática, se pronuncia eñe, algo así como "enie" pero diferente.
    Ah... yo he visto a Norman Lindsay!!!!! Me gustó mucho. Me encantan esas gordas desnudas. Creo que pintaré algo así. me gustó mucho. Gracias por el dato.
    (los patos golpean la puerta?) Lo siento no entendí, pero creeré en eso, es una buena imagen para tener en mente hoy que está lloviendo.
    yo supongo que a esta hora tú estás durmiendo. bien, buenos sueños!!!!

  27. haha this is so right, we all want to know the secret when someone mention there is one (Particularly if it involves a dancing duck...if there's more than one then we "must" know).
    But a secret is much more interesting before we know it right? As in horror films is much more interesting and scary what we don't see...that's when our imagination takes control and its answers are always greater than reality.
    I enjoyed the images. I believe these women KNOW the secret...I'm not sure if they ever tell...

  28. Where the heck are you? I thought I was the one who quit!

  29. Oh, Andrew! You left us torment about those missing dancing ducks and their secret and vanished!:) Are you looking for them? Did you get lost? Do you need help?...


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