THE DARK ARTS – definitely worth the read and the reblog
Having worked a couple of corporate espionage cases myself, from the counter-espionage/defensive side of things, a couple of these articles were useful and fascinating.
THE DARK ARTS – definitely worth the read and the reblog
Having worked a couple of corporate espionage cases myself, from the counter-espionage/defensive side of things, a couple of these articles were useful and fascinating.
A useful article by a friend of mine.
by Edie Melson @EdieMelson
You can look at this digital age we live in as a blessing or a curse—and there are merits to each viewpoint. Since I’m a glass half full type girl, I happen to take the positive approach. I like the connectedness of this time and place. I like connecting in person and online—especially through Facebook and Twitter.
A word of warning here, it’s possible to let these tools (Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, etc.) eat into your writing time. For myself, the way I combat that temptation is to schedule my networking time.
Many of you have asked how I schedule my day so now is as good a time as any to share it with you. Now, please know that I am NOT an organized person, but this loose arrangement of my day helps me to stay sane in the insane world of freelance writing.
My Daily Schedule
Some days the times vary, especially if I have a big deadline, but this is my basic schedule.
Final Tip to Stay on Track: I try not to be subject to emails or even the telephone. Funny thing, I discovered that people are fine about having to leave messages, IF they know I’ll actually call them back. This allows me to accomplish what I need most days and still stay sane.
I’d love to know how you schedule your social media time. Share your tips, and your struggles in the comments section below. Remember, we’re all better together!
Don’t forget to join the conversation!
Being both a writer and a man who homeschooled my own children I found this article fascinating, informative, and useful. Maybe you will too.
When Christopher Paolini was 15 years old, he started writing a novel that eventually was titled “Eragon,” the first in a four-book series that became known as the “Inheritance Cycle.” He spent two years writing and then rewriting the story and a third year traveling around the country promoting the self-published book before an established author, Carl Hiaasen, read it and had it published by Alfred A. Knopf. How did he manage to do all this and get an education too? In the following post, his mother, Talita Paolini, explains. Talita Paolini trained and worked as a Montessori preschool teacher. She and her husband, Kenneth, homeschooled their two children. Many parents asked Talita for advice, so she recorded the Paolini Method in a series of articles and books. You can read about it here. She currently resides with her husband and children in Paradise Valley, Montana. On her website, the 30-year-old Christopher Paaolini is quoted as saying:
“People often ask how I was able to write Eragon at the age of fifteen. Well, the credit has to go to my parents, and specifically my mom, who is a trained teacher. She started to educate my sister and me when we were very young, first with games and other fun projects and later with more formal lessons. Without her system of instruction, none of our professional success would have been possible. I was incredibly fortunate to have been educated with these methods, and I firmly believe that children everywhere can benefit from them.”
By Talita Paolini
When my son, Christopher, was born, I wondered who he was and who he would become. I had no inkling that he would someday be listed in the Guinness World Records as the youngest author of a bestselling book series. At that time, I just marveled at this little human who had joined our family and felt a sense of responsibility at the task before me: to introduce him to the world.
My husband, Kenneth, and I talked to Christopher, read books to him, and sang to him. We carried him in a backpack, so he could watch what we were doing. He expressed great interest in watching me make dinner, peering over my shoulder as I worked, and he loved observing the world on hikes, while perched high on Kenneth’s back. And when he could walk and talk, wow! He explored the world using all his senses and filled our ears with endless questions and commentary. Our daughter Angela was born not quite two years later, and she developed along the same path. She would become a writer as well.
I had been trained as a Montessori preschool teacher. Dr. Montessori’s philosophy emphasizes the cultivation of children’s innate desire to learn using specially prepared materials and freedom of movement, so it was natural for me to offer my children hands-on activities. Not having the resources to buy expensive classroom materials, I looked for ways to teach them using common household items. In addition, I observed my children closely and then found ways to help them learn through art, games, music, and activities of daily life. In town, we counted cars and trees. We talked about the seasons and where we lived on planet Earth. My children enjoyed doing art projects and playing games with the letters of the alphabet, tracing the letters in preparation for writing, and then pointed out those letters around the house and in town. Each week we visited the library and returned with an armful of books.
November is known for turkey, Black Friday sales, not shaving, and—since the year 2000—the month when writers try to (finally) craft the Great American Novel. We’re talking about the fifteenth annual National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo).
What began as a little event in San Francisco in July 1999 (it moved to November the next year) has ballooned into something far more than national—it’s a worldwide phenomenon, backed by a non-profit company created by the founder, Chris Baty, that doubles as a major cheerleader for writers.
It’s free to participate, but your tax-deductable donations are encouraged to keep it afloat. That’s because you don’t really need the NaNoWriMo site to get a book written. But think about the “rule” you’re expected to follow to “win” at NaNoWriMo: You have to write a 50,000-word novel in just 30 days. That’s 1,667 words a day. Stephen King might snap that much off before lunchtime, but the rest of us need encouragement.
Take the first step by announcing your novel at NaNoWriMo.org, and on November 1, start recording your daily word count. You’ll earn badges along the way and get advice via newsletters (some by famous authors) and the forums. You can build a community of fellow WriMos online and locally through events.
In the end, you’ll have a novel. It will probably be crappy. No, it will definitely be crap-tastic. But that’s okay! The only rule of NaNoWriMo is to finish—because that’s the hardest part. Some famous modern novels, such as Wool, The Night Circus, and Water for Elephants all started life as NaNoWriMo novels. We’re not saying you’re that good… but if you work on it after November, maybe you can get it out there. (That’s a whole other story.)
To truly succeed at NaNoWriMo you need things we can’t help you with—like an idea, and a plot, and characters, not to mention the gumption to spend hours each day clacking at the keyboard. But we can point out bsome of the absolute best software and apps you can get to make it all a little easier to write, plan, and count all those precious words. After you win by writing that 50,000-word tome—that’s the same size at The Great Gatsby!—you’ll have all the tools you need on hand to keep writing. Always keep writing…
For my NaNoWriMo friends.
I liked the way in which, and how, she presented most of this advice.
With me it depends greatly upon what I am working on. If it is an invention or I am composing music or writing a song I prefer everything conducted with mathematical precision and to be highly organized and neat. Same if I am designing something, like a game or a set of design schematics. That’s pretty much how I work regarding business projects as well. Computer and hard files both carefully stored and organized. Desk neat.
If it is poetry,or I am writing a book or a novel, or it is artwork I’m very messy. Not disorganized, but messy. (Which are entirely different things.) I keep very careful and well organized computer files but I’ll have hundreds of notes and papers and notebook and research entries scattered about everywhere. I don’t know why that is, just the way I work. My office itself, by the way, is almost always neat and clean. My desk, drafting table, and in-office library shelves can be another matter altogether depending on what I am pursuing.
I’ve tried to be looser regarding scientific and technological and inventive work but that never works well. And I’ve tried to be better organized regarding poetry and art and writing and that doesn’t work well either. I think I either have different sub-conscious expectations in one field or another or that my mind just shifts into different work modes depending on what I’m doing.
All our lives, we’ve been told to “be organized.” Organization has always been pegged as a direct key to success.
Whether at home, school or in your bunk at camp, organization is something that has been instilled in everyone pretty much from birth. On the other hand, being messy has been equally condemned and made to be a quick path to failure. And, honestly, no rebuttal could say otherwise.
I mean, what good can come from being disorganized, right? Perhaps more than you might think. More recent studies, conducted by the University of Minnesota last year, provide us with a new side of the debate. The pro-messy one.
There has always been this sort of “urban legend” that has floated around modern society deeming people with messy desks as having a high affinity for creative reasoning.
Frankly, I initially thought that people with “messy desks” had to be creative, out of necessity, to survive outside the boundaries of organization.
Last week’s take home test, still undone, in one corner. A page from last month’s Playboy ripped out and crumpled next to the bottle of cocoa butter in the other. Empty Arizona cans distributed across the surface, like a battlefield.
Your desk is a mess. Then again, it’s your mess, and thus, it feels very in-control. When you habitually fail to put things in their designated place, you’re bound to get creative figuring out ways to make everything, I don’t know, fit. And fit comfortably.
While it might look completely random to strangers, a lot of times, a person’s mess is very methodical – with respect to himself.
Psychological scientist Kathleen Vohs, from the University of Minnesota, who set out to debunk this urban legend, didn’t confine her study to solely the desk. No, Vohs, clearly a creative mind, chose to think outside the desk. She just sounds messy. The creative kind of messy.
Using a paradigm consisting of one messy room and one tidy room, and a series of trials, Vohs concluded that messy rooms provoke more creative thinking – and provided scientific evidence!
The next question is, what exactly constitutes “creative thinking,” and how will your pig sty of a room help?
Creative thinking, in its purest form, is thinking outside the lines of “conventional” reasoning. When considering this, it should be no huge shock that messy rooms containing possessions misplaced from their “conventional” locations would promote creativity.
I suppose if you prefer to “lay,” and I use that term very loosely, your clean clothes on the floor of your bedroom, when the empty dresser is only a few feet away – you’re certainly thinking outside the lines of conventional reasoning. And that same concept could be applied to more abstract conception.
Consider this from Albert Einstein, “If a cluttered desk is a sign of a cluttered mind, then what are we to think of an empty desk?”
I’ve long suspected. Of course that is true for every other human skill as well…
By Melissa Dahl Follow @melissadahl
Ask seasoned writers to come up with an ending to an unfinished short story, and their brains seem to switch into a sort of automatic story-sculpting mode, which may leave them leftover brainpower to focus on the story’s emotion. That’s one of the findings from a new study published in NeuroImage comparing brain scans of expert and beginner fiction writers.
Researchers gave 20 expert writers (who had at least a decade of experience and wrote about 21 hours a week) and 28 newbies (who wrote less than an hour a week) the first part of a story, and asked them first to brainstorm the ending, and then to spend just two minutes writing the rest of the story. All the while, they were lying in a brain scanner. Here’s a neatly summarized take on what the scans showed, from the British Psychological Society’s Research Digest:
In the frontal cortex, expert brains showed greater activity in areas crucial to language and goal selection, including across the inferior frontal gyri (IFG). Verbal creativity has been associated with left IFG activation many times before, but involvement of the right IFG was unexpected. The area is associated with emotional language processing, such as interpreting expressive gestures, so this may suggest that experts are attending more deeply to the emotional currents of text and their ideas.
Expert writing also involved more activation in the left caudate. This is part of the basal ganglia, long known to be critical to learning and expert performance, and seems to reflect ordinarily cortical cognitive processes becoming automatised and bundled together within the deeper brain.
During the brainstorming phase, the expert writers’ brains became active in the area associated with speech processing, suggesting that, for experienced writers, “ideas bubble within them, already on the road from concept to expression, readily communicable, almost rising into their throats” as Alex Fradera on the Research Digest blog phrased it.
We’ll leave you with a line from one of the expert writers’ completed stories. When asked to finish the tale of a bachelor who killed himself in a laundromat, the writer concluded the piece with the phrase, “Unmade laundry, unloved days.” Not bad, considering this person wrote it in two minutes while lying in a brain scanner…
Very interesting. The history of the Byzantine Empire being a major personal interest of mine, and knowing much about Justinian’s reign…
I recently read a paper linking it to other causes as well. (Of course I have read numerous theories linking it to all kinds of causes over time.) I’d like to examine the bacteriological findings for myself. I have often wondered what the exact vectors and point of origin was for this plague (prior to it’s arrival in Constantinople. and the Empire).
Sometimes secondary bacterial infections will ride upon another pathogen or secondarily infect an already weakened host.
This Bible History Daily article was originally published in May 2013. It has been updated.—Ed.
The reign of Byzantine emperor Justinian I (482–565 C.E.) was marked by both glory and devastation. Justinian reconquered much of the former Roman Empire while establishing lasting legal codes and cultural icons, including Hagia Sophia, the world’s largest cathedral for nearly 1,000 years. However, his reign was scarred by the spread of the Justinian Plague, which claimed the lives of tens of millions of people in the 540s. Justinian himself was a victim of the plague. While he was able to recover, much of the Byzantine population did not, and the spread of the plague shaped world history for centuries to come. When Justinian’s troops had conquered nearly all of Italy and the Mediterranean coast, they were struck by plague and could not continue the conquest through Europe, ultimately losing much of the conquered territory after Justinian’s death. The Justinian Plague halved the European population and weakened the Byzantine Empire, making it vulnerable to the Arab conquests of the seventh century.
At what point does pointless become pointed, or pointed pointless?
His sentences can be awful, his plots are formulaic—yet his novels mesmerize.
Aug 13 2014, 8:09 PM ET
Seasoned fans of Haruki Murakami, having patiently waited three years since the gamma-ray blast of 1Q84, will have a few pressing questions about the master’s newest book, even though they may be able to anticipate the answers: Is the novel’s hero an adrift, feckless man in his mid-30s? (Yep.) Does he have a shrewd girl Friday who doubles as his romantic interest? (Of course; conveniently, she is a travel agent, adept at booking sudden international trips.) Does the story begin with the inexplicable disappearance of a person close to the narrator? (Not one person—four, and they vanish simultaneously.) Is there a metaphysical journey to an alternate plane of reality? (Sort of: the alternate reality is Finland.) Are there gratuitous references to Western novels, films, and popular culture? (Let’s see, Barry Manilow, Arthur Conan Doyle, the Pet Shop Boys, Aldous Huxley, Elvis Presley … affirmative.) Which eastern-European composer provides the soundtrack, and will enjoy skyrocketing CD sales in the months ahead—Bartók, Prokofiev, Smetana? (Liszt.) Are there ominous omens, signifying nothing; dreams that resist interpretation; cryptic mysteries that will never be resolved? (Check, check, and check.) Will this be the novel that finally delivers Murakami the Nobel Prize? (Doubtful, though Ladbrokes currently considers him the odds-on favorite, at 6 to 1.)
No great writer writes as many bad sentences as Murakami does.
Murakami, who learned to speak English by reading American crime novels, begins with an opening paragraph that would make David Goodis proud. Tsukuru Tazaki, recently turned 20, is planning his suicide: “From July of his sophomore year in college until the following January, all Tsukuru Tazaki could think about was dying.” But where Goodis would write something like “All right, he told himself firmly, let’s do it and get it over with,” Murakami is balletic, evoking metaphysical realms and a fine sense of the grotesque. “Crossing that threshold between life and death,” he writes, “would have been easier than swallowing down a slick, raw egg.” It is one of the key aspects of his style, this seamless transition from noirish dread to mystical rumination; the most perfect Murakami title, which really could have been used for any of the 13 novels he has written since 1979, remains Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World. In Murakamiland, death means merely traveling across a “threshold” between reality and some other world. It is not necessarily the end. In fact, as we soon learn, Tsukuru’s obsession with death is only the beginning…
I completely concur. The American University System is completely screwed. And for the most part totally at odds with the Real World.
By the way I am almost always amused by Pinker and very often agree with him.
The Ivy League is broken and only standardized tests can fix it
By Steven Pinker
The most-read article in the history of this magazine is not about war, politics, or great works of art. It’s about the admissions policies of a handful of elite universities, most prominently my employer, Harvard, which is figuratively and literally immolated on the cover.
It’s not surprising that William Deresiewicz’s “Don’t Send Your Kid to the Ivy League” has touched a nerve. Admission to the Ivies is increasingly seen as the bottleneck to a pipeline that feeds a trickle of young adults into the remaining lucrative sectors of our financialized, winner-take-all economy. And their capricious and opaque criteria have set off an arms race of credential mongering that is immiserating the teenagers and parents (in practice, mostly mothers) of the upper middle class.
Deresiewicz writes engagingly about the wacky ways of elite university admissions, and he deserves credit for opening a debate on policies which have been shrouded in Victorian daintiness and bureaucratic obfuscation. Unfortunately, his article is a poor foundation for diagnosing and treating the illness. Long on dogmatic assertion and short on objective analysis, the article is driven by a literarism which exalts bohemian authenticity over worldly success and analytical brainpower. And his grapeshot inflicts a lot of collateral damage while sparing the biggest pachyderms in the parlor.
We can begin with his defamation of the students of elite universities. Like countless graybeards before him, Deresiewicz complains that the kids today are just no good: they are stunted, meek, empty, incurious zombies; faithful drudges; excellent sheep; and, in a flourish he uses twice, “out-of-touch, entitled little shits.” I have spent my career interacting with these students, and do not recognize the targets of this purple invective. Nor does Deresiewicz present any reason to believe that the 18-year-olds of today’s Ivies are more callow or unsure of their lives than the 18-year-olds of yesterday’s Ivies, the non-Ivies, or the country at large…
I thought this was an interesting writing exercise and a short time ago I actually did undergo a somewhat moderately difficult health problem which led to me devising a Cure Plan and revising my normal Cure Protocols. Whereas I am not fully cured (I am only half-way through my Cure Period) I’m pretty darn close.
So this was an interesting writing exercise to me, and some of you readers may very well wish to try it for yourself.
As to the more general point about Death: as far as I am personally concerned Death is an old friend to me and has often been very good for my writings (as well as my other Work). For one thing he reminds me constantly that I am mortal and but a man, and he also reminds me that in this world at least I have far less than an infinite amount of time to accomplish everything I need to achieve before I die.
Death is a good friend to me. And an excellent impetus to Work.
By the way, we all have at best only a few years upon this Earth before we slip our mortal coil. I learned that as a kid and am shocked I have lived this long. But I’m under no illusions I am in any way special. No one is, so don’t fool yourself. Do, or do not, but either way, your time is very limited.
If you delude yourself otherwise then you do so to your immense personal disadvantage.
Last month, through pure serendipity, I stumbled across an intellectual exercise which I’d like to recommend to all my fellow writers. I believe it will be of particular benefit to those of you who a) are overwhelmed with life and yearn for a reset button b) wish to clear away the cobwebs of smugness and complacency, or c) like me, write genre fiction that others might call “quiet” or, in a cruel moment, “escapist schlock”.
The procedure is as follows:
When I was first starting out as a writer, I had no desire to submit to literary journals. I did not really understand what function they served. I also didn’t know how many there were out there; I just thought they were a small niche marketplace.
Being a writer and inventor I am especially sensitive to this phenomenon. Being by nature non-sedentary and hating this aspect of my work I often practice these cures. Again, I’d read the whole article. Very useful.
Do you sit in an office chair or on your couch for more than six hours a day? Then here are some disturbing facts: Your risk of heart disease has increased by up to 64 percent. You’re shaving off seven years of quality life. You’re also more at risk for certain types of cancer. Simply put, sitting is killing you. That’s the bad news. The good news: It’s easy to counteract no matter how lazy you are.
Let’s start with the basics. Since childhood you’ve known being a couch potato is bad. But why? Simply put, our bodies weren’t made to sit all day. Sitting for long periods of time, even with exercise, has a negative effect on our health. What’s worse, many of us sit up to 15 hours a day. That means some of us spend the bulk of our waking moments on the couch, in an office chair, or in a car.P
Sitting all day long isn’t hard to counteract, but you have to keep your eye on two details: your daily activity and the amount of time you sit. Let’s start by taking a look at what sitting all day does to your body…
I’ve never believed in that left brain/right brain non-sense. As a matter of fact I’ve never believed in or seen any real evidence in support of most of that pop psychology crap (and I used to work in the field of psychology) so popular among the general public, but I have often seen such things do a great deal of harm.
Although this is only a blog I’m very familiar with most of the work and neuroscience overturning right brain/left brain pop psychology. (This post points to some of it.) So I’m very glad to see this particular pop psychology idiocy being thoroughly disproven.
August 19, 2013 | 12
The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.
So yea, you know how the left brain is really realistic, analytical, practical, organized, and logical, and the right brain is so darn creative, passionate, sensual, tasteful, colorful, vivid, and poetic?
Thoughtful cognitive neuroscientists such as Anna Abraham, Mark Beeman, Adam Bristol, Kalina Christoff, Andreas Fink, Jeremy Gray, Adam Green, Rex Jung, John Kounios, Hikaru Takeuchi, Oshin Vartanian, Darya Zabelina and others are on the forefront of investigating what actually happens in the brain during the creative process. And their findings are overturning conventional and overly simplistic notions surrounding the neuroscience of creativity.
The latest findings from the real neuroscience of creativity suggest that the right brain/left brain distinction does not offer us the full picture of how creativity is implemented in the brain.* Creativity does not involve a single brain region or single side of the brain.
Instead, the entire creative process– from preparation to incubation to illumination to verification– consists of many interacting cognitive processes (both conscious and unconscious) and emotions. Depending on the stage of the creative process, and what you’re actually attempting to create, different brain regions are recruited to handle the task…
Although I am no fan of the Huffington Post I agree with every general point made in this article. Personally I would add a couple of more but I won’t quibble. I’d read the whole article.
Creativity works in mysterious and often paradoxical ways. Creative thinking is a stable, defining characteristic in some personalities, but it may also change based on situation and context. Inspiration and ideas often arise seemingly out of nowhere and then fail to show up when we most need them, and creative thinking requires complex cognition yet is completely distinct from the thinking process.
Neuroscience paints a complicated picture of creativity. As scientists now understand it, creativity is far more complex than the right-left brain distinction would have us think (the theory being that left brain = rational and analytical, right brain = creative and emotional). In fact, creativity is thought to involve a number of cognitive processes, neural pathways and emotions, and we still don’t have the full picture of how the imaginative mind works.
And psychologically speaking, creative personality types are difficult to pin down, largely because they’re complex, paradoxical and tend to avoid habit or routine. And it’s not just a stereotype of the “tortured artist” — artists really may be more complicated people. Research has suggested that creativity involves the coming together of a multitude of traits, behaviors and social influences in a single person.
“It’s actually hard for creative people to know themselves because the creative self is more complex than the non-creative self,” Scott Barry Kaufman, a psychologist at New York University who has spent years researching creativity, told The Huffington Post. “The things that stand out the most are the paradoxes of the creative self … Imaginative people have messier minds.”
While there’s no “typical” creative type, there are some tell-tale characteristics and behaviors of highly creative people. Here are 18 things they do differently…
I could not agree more with this post on Novel Rocket. The modern definition of what is considered Christian is extremely narrow and restrictive and small. It tends to completely ignore evil in a misguided and juvenile attempt to be always clean, happy, pure, and safe (especially supposedly pure and safe) while completely ignoring the fact that the World is rarely that way.
I call it Cotton Candy Christianity. A pansified, effeminate, wholly emasculated Christianity. A naïve attempt to see the World (and Man) as they wish, not the world (or Man) as it/he actually is. An attempt to make the world a world of talk shows and quaint diplomacy and and polite, watery conversations and wish fulfillment instead of what it really often is, a world of brutality and struggle and barbarism and bloodshed. But you cannot cure bloodshed with spilt ink, or curses with vapid, watery conversations and quotes about how everything will be okay in the end. A real disease requires a real Cure, not just a pretty dialogue. Everyone today wants their “Voice to be heard,” but I’ll be damned if anyone has anything much worth listening to about how damned this world really is. Or what should be done about it as a result.
Christ was a man, and all man at that. He didn’t fear evil, he ran at it. Went for the throat of it. He struggled, he fought, he was unafraid of what he faced and did not seek to shelter himself from it, the people around him, or the realities of the world he lived in. He shed his own blood and faced great physical torment and execution not to produce a feel-good story about how evil and injustice was really just a pleasant pastel-colored little tale of psychosocial misunderstanding, or that human sin and wrongdoing was really just a song of sixpence everyone could afford to sing in the shower.
He showed that evil and sin and wrong-doing and death and injustice must eventually be chased down, engaged, wrestled to the ground, strangled, and buried.
That kind of thing takes a man’s effort, a truly manly effort, regardless of whether you are a man, a woman, or a child. Yet today many people are far, far too accommodating (to all the wrong things) and soft for what is actually required.
They are more offended by harsh and brutally honest talk than they are by bloodshed, murder, rape, terrorism, malignancy, and evil. You can automatically offend a lot of modern Christians with a single profane word (that will stick deep in his craw, and his memory), but let him see countless examples of murder, rape, terrorism, slavery, and tyranny and he is more momentarily “saddened and shocked and distressed” than he is angered or offended or moved to action. (God forbid he should ever be moved to real action…) I don’t know what you call that but I don’t call it anything resembling real manhood, much less any form of spiritual righteousness. Or effectiveness.
Oh yes, the secular society cusses a lot, probably a lot too much, but never at the right things. Only about self-absorbed things. But the modern Christian is so God-damned entirely self-absorbed and soft in the middle that they can’t God Damn anything, especially those things that God just naturally deans. And that’s exactly why the world is so God Damned. The secular man thinks God-damn means nothing (it doesn’t, it means something very specific and real and important), but the Christian, the poor little modern Christian thinks the world means so little it won’t even bother to God Damn it to save it. It’s pathetic and effeminate in both directions, but if you ask me, it’s especially pathetic of the Christians who are at least supposed to have a Real Mission in this world. Most of us sure as hell don’t, of course, but we’re sure as hell supposed to, or sure as hell Hell is certain.
Today’s Christianity, especially the Christianity of the West, is that of a naïve, sheltered, spoiled juvenile who cannot and does not want to understand evil or see the world as it is – yet Christians and others who live in Syria and Iraq and Africa and Pakistan and the Middle East, and Central America, many parts of Asia and Central America, they know an altogether different world.
And an altogether different from of Christianity and manhood.
Words are but wind but here in the West the wind is composed entirely of words rarely worth the speaking. We warm ourselves with entirely ineffective and insubstantial words that comfort ourselves in our moments of petty personal distress, but Real Words we never speak.
Here, because we are sheltered like little children, we live like little children. Here our tales are all of the fables of Fairy Land where no harm comes to call and all dwell forever in an artificial and unreal paradise we make for ourselves. Naturally (or preternaturally – take your pick), as a result, even our literature is anemic, naïve, and unfailingly puny.
We insistently and persistently see an unreal world, we talk endlessly of an unreal world, we greatly desire an unreal world, yet we do nothing to truly change the Real World for the better.
Until all of that changes neither will we.
I guest posted at Speculative Faith a couple years back, and my article Why Fiction is the Wrong Vehicle for Theology garnered some lively, if not predictable, responses. One of my favorite comments was from Melissa Ortega (read it HERE) in which she rattled off “classic novels” that DO contain some heavy theological elements. She writes:
There are few books that sermonize more than Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables or his Hunchback of Notre Dame. Charles Dickens sermonizes a great deal in A Christmas Carol. G.K. Chesterton’s Napolean of Notting Hill is as Free Will vs. Destiny type of story as one can get. And who can forget his Man Who Was Thursday? with its sermon at the end on becoming, ourselves, the Accuser? The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis is an inside-out sermon that preaches on a multitude of sins….from Hell’s point of view, of course. And the Great Divorce steps on very, very specific toes every third paragraph at least…
(Or put another way, modern man has developed a totally different definition, and a much more anemic one in my opinion, of “the Quest” than those definitions used in earlier ages to describe a real Quest.)
On the rim of the Biblical world, in the mountains of Eastern Anatolia to the northwest of Mount Ararat, rises the river Kura. It winds its way into the Kartlian plateau becoming muddy and green, coursing past the ancient stone city of Mtskheta with its eleventh century cathedral, where the mighty river Aragvi increases its volume, then the hilltop monastery of Jvari with its crenelated roof, associated with the introduction of Christianity to the region in the fifth century. The river is framed by dramatically peaked hills covered in the early summer with lavender and wildflowers. It takes several wide bends before coming to the great Caucasus metropolis of Tbilisi with its curious architecture of overhanging upper floor verandas and its great fortress and then it turns to the south east past the city of Rustavi, once charming and rustic, now grim and industrial, before turning to the plain of Shirvan on its final sprint towards the Caspian Sea. It is one of the most hauntingly beautiful places on earth. It cast spells on a generation of Romantic poets—men like Mikhail Lermontov, who was so obsessed with the scenery that he took to painting it in landscapes to escape it. This is the land of Shota Rustaveli—whose name means “lord of Rustavi”—the great medieval poet of the Georgian language. They call him the Georgian national poet. But indeed, there is nothing particularly “national” about Rustaveli. He is more a poet on an endless journey, an inward-bound journey, whose writing points far beyond nations.
The first thing that is bound to strike his reader is that Rustaveli hardly seems constrained by such a narrow view of what constitutes “home.” Rustaveli is a writer of the twelfth century, of the Middle Ages. But his world covers a vast territory—from England to China. It’s hard to understand how a man of this period could have amassed such a prodigious knowledge of the earth, for surely this is not to be found among his contemporaries…
I very much understand what she is saying about the discreet angle of the stories. Even a detective novel is really just a set of tightly fitting “discreet stories,” all of which may overlap and inter-relate, with the Dick in the center of the overlap, but still each “relationship” is a “discreet relationship.” That is to say that John may know Tom and Tom may know Betty, but John may not know Betty even though Betty’s relationship to the larger set of events is a big motivation for Tom’s theft from John. The detective, though, should eventually come to know them all.
It’s kinda like working a real case, and that’s how I approach writing Detective fiction. Like I was working a real case, only with me at the center of the case-board, rather than the perp, suspect, or UNSUB.
I get her points…
J.K. Rowling said that she plans to tell the story of Cormoran Strike, the war-veteran detective who stars in her books The Cuckoo’s Calling and The Silkworm, in more than seven novels, outnumbering her Harry Potter books.
When it comes to books of fiction however much of this is sound advice.
Among the many differences between traditional publishing and self-publishing is the turnaround time from book completion to book publication. A common distinction you hear between the two publishing options is that authors have to “hurry up and wait” in traditional publishing, while they “wait and hurry up” in self-publishing.
In traditional publishing, the hurrying up and waiting stems from authors hurrying to make their deadlines and then waiting the inevitable six months-plus for the long-lead publicity campaign that their publisher is (hopefully) mounting. In self-publishing, the waiting and hurrying up refers to the tendency of self-published authors to have spent forever and a day writing and/or shopping their book to agents and editors, so that by the time they decide to self-publish they’re anxious–hurrying to get their books out ASAP.
Neither of these strategies is ideal, however, as both scenarios tend to make authors anxious, and the “wait and hurry up” strategy of self-publishing can be downright harmful to a book’s success.
Plate from Lives of Distinguished American Naval Officers by J. Fenimore Cooper, 1846.
John Paul Jones
Few names connected with the American marine have so much claim to celebrity as that of the subject of this sketch. His services were of a character so bold and romantic, the means he employed were seemingly so inadequate to the ends he had in view, and his success, on one occasion in particular, was so very brilliant as to have given rise, on the part of his political and personal enemies, to much unmerited and bitter calumny, while his admirers and friends have been induced to lean a little too strongly to the side of eulogy and undiscriminating praise. As the matter of the life and character of this distinguished officer has been frequently the subject of comment in biographies, of more or less merit, within the last few years, and a great mass of evidence has been produced to remove the veil which was so long drawn before his early years, this is perhaps the time when an attempt may best be made to arrive at a just appreciation of the deeds of the officer, and the qualities of the man. In assuming this task, we shall avail ourselves of such of the best authenticated facts that offer, reasoning for ourselves on their results and principles.
There are no longer any doubts thrown over the birth and early life of Paul Jones. His grandfather was a regular gardener, in the neighborhood of Leith, of the name of Paul. His father, John Paul, was apprenticed to the same trade, and at the expiration of his indentures he entered into the service of Mr. Craik, of Arbigland,1 in which situation he passed the remainder of his days. We have the assertion of Jones himself, that there never existed any connection between the Earl of Selkirk and his father, as has been long and generally asserted; and we may add, the present head of that noble family has assured the writer of this article that the Pauls were never in the service of his grandfather…
I suspect the answer to this conundrum will be The New Media Project.
Ebooks v paper
By Julian Baggini
Which do our brains prefer? Research is forcing us to rethink how we respond to the written word
Choosing books to take on holiday has got more difficult in recent years. Now it is a question not just of what to read but how – on paper, tablet, e-reader, or perhaps even a phone – and people have strong opinions on which is best. But is there any more to the decision than cost and convenience? On this question, the answer suggested by numerous studies into the neuroscience and psychology of reading in different formats is an emphatic yes.
There is no shortage of people warning of the risks attendant on the rise of “screen culture”, as the neuroscientist Susan Greenfield calls it. Greenfield has repeatedly expressed concern that, as technology takes us into unknown territory, “the brain may be adapting in unprecedented ways”. Though she tends to stress that these changes might be good or bad, that hasn’t stopped her more negative speculations being picked up in the media and amplified in far more strident terms.
On the other side of the two cultures divide, the novelist and critic Will Self recently argued that the connectivity of the digital world was fatal for the serious novel, which requires all the reader’s attention. Looking ahead 20 years, he posed a question: “If you accept that by then the vast majority of text will be read in digital form on devices linked to the web, do you also believe that those readers will voluntarily choose to disable that connectivity? If your answer to this is no, then the death of the novel is sealed out of your own mouth…”
My friend Edie Melson has a good post today on work avoidance.
We writers tend to be an odd lot. We obsess about learning to write better. We hang out with writers online and in person. We buy books on How to Write, How to Write Better and How to Sell What We Write.
But we do almost anything we can to avoid the actual act of writing. Nothing shuts down a writer quicker than a blank page and/or a blinking cursor.
We comfort our guilt-ridden internal writer with the promise of writing when
That closet is clean.
The kitchen is organized.
The laundry is done.
Facebook is checked one last time.
Dinner is cooked.
Groceries are bought.
You get the idea.
Truthfully, the longer we postpone sitting down and writing, the harder it gets…
Life Jul 9, 2014 – 1:59pm
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Ever finished a book? I mean, truly finished one? Cover to cover. Closed the spine with that slow awakening that comes with reentering consciousness?
You take a breath, deep from the bottom of your lungs and sit there. Book in both hands, your head staring down at the cover, back page or wall in front of you.
You’re grateful, thoughtful, pensive. You feel like a piece of you was just gained and lost. You’ve just experienced something deep, something intimate. (Maybe, erotic?) You just had an intense and somewhat transient metamorphosis.
Like falling in love with a stranger you will never see again, you ache with the yearning and sadness of an ended affair, but at the same time, feel satisfied. Full from the experience, the connection, the richness that comes after digesting another soul. You feel fed, if only for a little while.
This type of reading, according to TIME magazine’s Annie Murphy Paul, is called “deep reading,” a practice that is soon to be extinct now that people are skimming more and reading less. Article continued:
If you ask me Skyfall is the best James Bond film I’ve ever seen. And I’ve seen them all, even the painful Roger Moore films. When I first saw Skyfall and saw the message mentioned in the author’s article that was my immediate conclusion as well. Though I did not consider the message an anagram, but rather a message conveying a personal code that M would instantly understand.
What gave me the most vital clue about the M-Silva relationship was how Silva kept calling her, “Mommy,” and how often M remarked upon the relationship with her agents in a far more than merely professional sense.
What I think the author did in his article however was a superb job of both detective work and of cryptoanalysis (of the clue and plot point) and I agree with his conclusions. Though of course it’s not really cryptoanalysis, even with the missing key, it is more a personal coding (M should understand the personal code immediately because their shared experience is the key – it would be an unknown code to others but a private shared code to her) or as the author states, an anagram encoding. If the editors intentionally downplayed the clue then in my opinion they did so because they didn’t want to diretcly explain or talk down to the audience about the possible implications. I think the film-makers were more than happy to let the audience draw their own conclusions, and rightfully so.
(I had drawn the same conclusion as the author of this piece, though for different reasons – and I think the Daniel Craig Bond is far more sophisticated and tries to be far more like a real field agent than the previous and mostly cartoon incarnations of the Bond intelligence agent – though he is still far too much a “superhero” than a real man or an actual agent. Though the Timothy Dalton Bond was usually a very good Bond as well.)
Anyway, kudos to Mr. Carter. A sharp piece of detective work and plot clue analysis. I recommend his article.
“The key anagram is the cryptic message Silva sends to M shortly before all mayhem breaks loose: “THINK ON YOUR SINS.” The language is so highly stylized that I was certain, from the time the words appeared on the screen of M’s laptop, that there was a message hidden within. In the car on the way home after the film ended, I was already scribbling anagrams on a piece of paper. But I couldn’t solve it, even with the help of the Internet Anagram Server, until I remembered three bizarre aspects of the movie. (Here are the spoilers.) ”
This is a superb little article on writing. I myself have been saying for a very long time that most writing advice, especially most modern writing advice, is absolute bullshit and entirely contradictory to the idea of both writing well and of communicating anything worthwhile at all.
Now whereas I don’t agree that writing is all about, or at least not solely about, the “Observational trick,” it is a far better observation than most modern ones on writing.
At the very best the best any writing advice can do is encapsulate an extremely narrow range of ideas about how it is possible to efficiently communicate in a certain way (it can in no way exhaust the possibilities), therefore no such advice can ever produce genius or even real ability. And the Truth is that both genius and real ability tend to far eclipse any advice that could possibly be given about either.
Hemingway may have said it best…, no on second thought he didn’t, he said it best for Hemingway, but even Hemingway was no Shakespeare now was he? No, he wasn’t. There is a very good reason Shakespeare is the most quoted writer in the history of the English language and it has absolutely nothing to do with Hemingway’s writing advice. As a matter of fact it has a great deal to do with the very opposite of Hemingway’s writing advice. And that is also very likely why there is no modern equivalent of Shakespeare, because modern people are herdish and extremely easy to fool. Just give them all a popular, unchallenged fashionable theory to imitate and by God, come hell or high water, they’ll dig their own grave and happily and uncritically lie down in it to prove the theory.
I’m glad to see the revolt against this narrow minded, small imagined bullshit beginning. It’s long, long, long overdue.
So endeth the trick…
“What’s the secret to writing well? As I’ve said previously here, an awful lot of people seem to think they know, yet their “rules for writers” are almost always (pardon the technical linguistics jargon) bullshit. For example, “Show, don’t tell” is frequently bad advice. In the right context, the passive voice is fine. Elmore Leonard’s most famous rule, “Never use a verb other than ‘said’ to carry dialogue”, is sheer silliness. Even the sainted Orwell’s rules are a bit rubbish: the final one is, “Break any of these rules sooner than say anything outright barbarous”, which means his advice is really just “Don’t write barbarically”. So it doesn’t bode well that the psychologist Steven Pinker is to publish his own advice book, The Sense Of Style, later this year. Judging by a recent interview at edge.org, however, this one might be different. Writing, Pinker points out, is inherently a psychological phenomenon, “a way that one mind can cause ideas to happen in another mind”. So one place to begin is with actual psychology.”
I wonder how many people today would even know the term “Infernal Machine,” or where the term originated, or what it means…
It has, however, always been one of my favorite historical terms.
Very important to know. I have recently changed my writing habits immensely as a result of these types of studies and this type of information.
I fully agree with this premise: the human body was not designed to sit sedentary for long periods of time.
It was actually designed to do the exact opposite.
“A large review recently published in The Journal of the National Cancer Institute confirms what we’ve been hearing for years: Sitting can be fatal.
It’s been linked to cancer, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease. In this latest meta-analysis, Daniela Schmid and Michael F. Leitzmann of the University of Regensburg in Germany analyzed 43 observational studies, amounting to more than 4 million people’s answers to questions about their sitting behavior and cancer incidences. The researchers examined close to 70,000 cancer cases and found that sitting is associated with a 24% increased risk of colon cancer, a 32% increased risk of endometrial cancer, and a 21% increased risk of lung cancer.
The really bad news: You can’t exercise away the habit’s harmful effects. “Adjustment for physical activity did not affect the positive association between sedentary behavior and cancer,” the authors write. Even participants who achieved the daily recommended levels of physical activity were at the same risk as those who spent their day sitting. “[The results] indicate that the increased risk of cancer seen in individuals with prolonged time spent sedentary is not explained by the mere absence of physical activity in those persons,” the researchers say.”
So, you ask, how does anyone do this anymore?
Well, if you ask me, every time good, old fashioned, well-proven technique meets superior, well-designed, new technology it’s at least possible to do it better.
So try this on for size:
“As a journalist, I begin most interviews by holding up my pen and asking, “Have you ever seen one of these?” No one ever has.
It’s not an ordinary pen, of course. It’s a Sky wifi smartpen, a piece of gee-whiz technology from a company called Livescribe. Basically, the smartpen replaces all your standard reporter’s tools. To start with, it’s an old-fashioned pen for old-fashioned paper, so I can still scribble my notes the way I always have. The smartpen is also a high-quality digital recorder, creating an audio file of the interview as we go along. Finally, a tiny camera near the tip of the pen simultaneously takes pictures of my notes as I write…”
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