Still Life #107

Still Life #107
taken August 29, 2003

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Intellectual Vandalism

For every intelligently-written blog, for every engaging discussion on politics, religion, gender issues or anything else controversial, there are those who want nothing more than to destroy those platforms for exchanging ideas, whether from contempt, boredom or sheer maliciousness.

These people willfully derail discussions by making comments which are inflammatory and frequently little else. There are those who insist on niggling over grammar and punctuation, as if either of these were more important than the ability to convey an idea. I think it's pretty unreasonable to dismiss or demean someone's ideas simply because they are guilty of transposing characters or substituting one homophone for another.

If someone comes up with a great idea on how to improve the world, it would be short sighted at the very least to dismiss them simply because they weren't a great speller. If we can easily accept doctors who can't write legibly, then perhaps we should be more tolerant of thinkers who cannot spell perfectly, or who suffer from moderate to severe dyslexia.

There are those who latch on to one ill-chosen word and create a firestorm by blowing it out of proportion and turning the discussion of ideas into personal attacks. And there are trolls who hide behind 'anonymous' or behind a multiplicity of pseudonyms in order to stir up ugly sentiments by making (usually crude) accusations about a person's intelligence, heredity, sanity or sexuality. These people frequently wax ineloquent with rhetoric that is deliberately offensive and designed solely to turn the discussion away from anything constructive or meaningful, taking delight in other people's anger or hurt feelings.

What is more troubling is that this appears to be a popular hobby of young, intelligent people who enjoy making a mockery of constructive discussions, perhaps feeling that they are 'lame' or beneath them. In many cases, these people could make significant contributions to the discussion of controversial ideas. But instead, they take the coward's way and expend their mental energy to destroy, malign and offend.

Given the choice of two evils, I would prefer that they did this sort of thing, than to actually go out and create bombs, computer viruses or other physically destructive projects to alleviate their boredom. But there are more than two choices. And one of them is to begin participating in the dialogue as a constructive contributor. Who knows? Out of such collaboration may come the kind of groundbreaking thinking we need to make things better in the coming decades. It certainly can't hurt!

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Chanticleer at Finney Chapel – amazing

If you like or love 'A Cappella' music, especially the amazing range of the male voice, it is difficult to mis-spend money on any performance by Chanticleer.

Last night (Wednesday) at Finney Chapel at Oberlin College, those 12 men took the stage and blew me away – again. Chanticleer put on what was easily one of their best performances and earned a standing ovation which, while I will admit that the Midwest tends to give away far too freely, Chanticleer clearly earned from that musically gifted crowd.

Their performance spanned the gamut, though it was largely an intentional retrospective of their past 30 years, from antiphonal music, G. Mahler, Journey to Recife, Linden Lea (an amazing English folk song) and a gospel medley. This is a fraction of the performance and I would list the tunes, but that would be boring.

If you haven't listened to them, many of their CDs and tracks are on iTunes, which means you can give them a listen for free. When I say that people were holding their breath to hear them sing, I am not joking. After hearing them in person 7 times, I can only say that I would drive a long way and pay a great deal to hear them again. And if you can get them, student tickets are a great way to pay less for a phenomenal experience!

Friday, September 28, 2007

Sometimes, you don't WANT the mail to come.

I got a rejection letter from the literary agency today. Not unexpected. Actually a nice form letter. I take some solace in the fact that most published novelists succeed only after 3 or 4 novels and very rarely on the first submission. I just have to bulldog my way through this and both work on this manuscript and, at the same time also begin working in earnest on some of the others that make me excited. Time to read through my pile of work in progress and see what jumps out and smacks me.

Also time to find the next agency and maybe a publisher to submit the manuscript to. I may actually look into joining a writing group. Oy. Onward!

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Waiting for the mailman

On September 15 I sent out a query letter about a novel to the Donald Maass Literary Agency. What they ask for (and what I actually sent them) was a cover letter, synopsis and the first five pages. They typically respond in 2 - 3 weeks ,so I am anxiously awaiting a response, but the longer it takes, the better the odds for either acceptance or at the very least a decent rejection letter. I'm a bit anxious. It won't be the first rejection letter, but the stack isn't that tall – yet.

In the meantime, I need to get motivated. A close friend of mine that was a nearly-daily presence in my life for the past three years has pretty much disappeared and it's hit me pretty hard. The knotty black funk helps with writing brooding dark poetry, but I have a hard time writing good prose through grief. Maybe that's my next growth step as a writer.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Life in the lowlands

I don't like living life on the cusp of depression, but it seems that's where I spend most of my time. Thinking that way makes it difficult to live in any moment. I have to wonder how many wonderful opportunities I have missed by being so preoccupied.

A friend of mine recently pointed out that I seem to be more frightened of the future than I am unhappy with the present. Or maybe I am so afraid of screwing up that I never really decide and commit to making changes.

I want to be passionate and determined and inspired and I'm struggling to get there. I'd settle for two out of three. I have reasons for being depressed. Who doesn't? I could list them, but in Life and the World, these are universal constants; the loss of a love, the death of family and friends, of seeing dreams become harder and harder to envision and pursue, even the unavoidable effects of getting older.

I want to take my life experiences in stride and become a better person, not let it beat me down. I have no illusions that I will age gracefully; I want to do more – contribute more to this world than simply being a good friend. That's a noble albeit sentimental mission. But it's also another way to avoid failing at doing something bigger or more difficult.

The first thing I need to do is to get back onto my writing schedule. The same schedule I used for NANOWRIMO - 2,000 words per night, 6 nights each week. And the second goal is to spend one hour every night working on either getting the manuscript formatted to send, writing my cover letter or finding editors (appropriate) and agents to submit the manuscript. Wish me luck. It can't hurt.

Saturday, August 4, 2007

And then there was one

Some nights are better than others. Between midnight Friday night and Saturday morning at about 3 AM one of our geriatric rabbits died somewhat unexpectedly. Sweet P was one of three rabbits we adopted in 1998 from a friend of the family. They had spent three years with her before coming to join our family. Rabbits don't ordinarily last that long, even in captivity, but I believe strongly that the fact that they had each other coupled with the fact that they lived in a relatively spacious and cool pen in our basement allowed them to lead longer lives. So, now there is only one lonely old rabbit named Sylvie and her situation seems fairly representative of the fate that many of us will face as we grow old. I think I'll go downstairs and pet Sylvie. If I were her, I'd want some company right now too.


Sylvie, the last of the geriatric rabbits passed on two weekends later, just 30 minutes before her scheduled appointment with the vet. She and her sisters (Sweet Pee and Orie) will be missed.

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Just Registered for World Fantasy 2007

A few years ago I attended a writers conference in Madison Wisconsin, and frankly I was disappointed. While I did make some good contacts, I did not feel that the programming was particularly good. In fact, I walked out of several sessions. Since then I have attended several regional writers conferences in Columbus, OH and Moon, PA. These were much more helpful and I made many more contacts and walked away with a great deal more motivation and a few friendships. Now all I have to do is edit the hell out of the current manuscript and make the first five chapters really crisp. Wish me luck. Then I can send that one out and decide which of the other six or seven manuscripts is next.