Reading emotions

The quandary of emotional intelligence…

Write about what?

fear06 047bImagine that you are sitting down to holiday dinner at which a number of friends and family have gathered. The host, Micaela is young, a bit nervous, rushing about trying to please the guests. Timidly she offers a plate of brown patties, with a fine grain in plate of broth. When asked “What is it?” she responds smiling, “Pate foie gras… goose liver paste.” Sandy, sitting across the table momentarily curls up the side of her mouth in an sign of contempt.

Thoughts go rushing through your head. Did Micaela not see Sandy’s expression? Is she insulted by that look of disgust? Perhaps you should comment about what delicacy pate foie gras is to show your empathy for Micaela. But then, maybe Sandy finds force feeding geese a type of animal cruelty, and the expression of disgust was an automatic gut response. Perhaps you should encourage Sandy to speak up…

View original post 398 more words

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Solving the problem of being finite

Is emotional intelligence what you actually think it is?

Write about what?

DSCN0406cWhenever I see “problem solving” listed as a component of emotional intelligence, I tend to regard the rest of what the author says on that subject with skepticism. Typically problem solving is a combination of creativity and logic to generate an innovative idea and put it to practical use. Creativity hardly seems related to emotional intelligence, judging by the character of creative people. In fact researchers have found that one recurring trait of this creative group is a lack of regard for social skills. They tend to be less considerate, more likely to find fault, less agreeable and more rebellious than the average person.[1][2]

However, articles keep popping up claiming a connection between emotional intelligence and problem solving.  One study dealt with problem solving by teams and correlated the ability to complete problem solving tasks higher totals on tests of emotional intelligence. [3] It makes sense that team members…

View original post 469 more words

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

What is important?

So the real question of who is smart comes down to what is worth knowing…

Write about what?

Mesa_Verde_National_Park_MEVE6012In high school speech class, when required to give an informative speech, I  described the  accomplishments of the Anasazi.  My teacher, whose pre-Columbian knowledge included a vague recollection of the Aztecs asked “What’s the point of your speech?  Why are these Anasa…. whatever, people important?”

I had been to Mesa Verdi and was impressed by their ability to build adobe apartment complexes and a road system over a thousand years ago. I did not mention my admiration of the Anasazi (it was not a persuasive speech) but detailed the advancements of this now defunct civilization. Essentially the teacher was asking a version of students’ perennial query “Why do I need to know this?” Even though it was an informative speech I should have voiced my opinion, but this probably would not have made any difference to my teacher.

I discovered that “importance” is really subjective – based on individual views. Instructors who despair…

View original post 371 more words

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Panning for e-gold

The internet is not free…

Write about what?

MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERASometimes finding information of real value on the Internet resembles the search for gold. A shiny nugget in the stream catches the eye of a lucky person and news spreads like wildfire. Soon crowds spend long hours filtering the water for the tiniest specks of gold dust. However, usually only a few find enough gold to make a living. It is the people who supply the food and equipment for the prospectors that strike it rich.

E-gold should be easier to uncover than attempting to find the real thing as depicted by the TV show Gold Rush. However, new ideas for using the Internet are quickly imitated or sometimes deceitfully lifted by claim-jumpers to make someone else rich. (Ever hear of the lawsuit filled life of Steve Zuckerberg? [1]) Search engines and social networks multiply because those companies that take on the mammoth task of helping us navigate and communicate…

View original post 381 more words

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

To tell the truth

With more information, the truth is getting harder to find.

Write about what?

DSCN9574 c1When Adobe inadvertently made free downloads of Creative Suite 2 available, a student mentioned seeing it on Tumblr, but discounted it as one of those rumors so easily spread on the Internet. However, my own child was eager to have some version of graphic software that would work with a pen tablet received as a gift. So, I did my own research.

Unable to find information on Adobe.com. I checked Google. Forbes said the free download was not available. I sorted through recent posts on IT newsletters (some of my more reliable sources to deal with technology rumors) and armed with two links I was able to locate the actual page on Adobe.com. It explained that although this download might have trouble running on Windows 7, the software was available at no cost. So the gift of an out-of-date version of Adobe, was now available.

Often, I hear teachers bemoan students lack…

View original post 479 more words

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Unnerving new genres

NY toll road (1) _a copy

Slipstream refer to airwaves around an object that is moving ahead you. Move into slipstream–if you have enough nerve to follow another vehicle that closely–and your travel will become faster and easier. Slipstream is also a writing style. It is gaining acceptance as a technique or genre (depending on who you ask). As a genre it is a story that depicts unnatural events found in fiction that are not already categorized and codified in another genre of speculative fiction, such as the fluid movement within time from past to present to future or in any other order without distinction. Supernatural events in slipstream often occur naturally, unaided by machine, technology or even psychic power.

The best example of this that I could offered happened recently. Driving out of my neighborhood in Oklahoma City, I almost immediately passed a sign signaling, Roads closed ahead. Grumbling I ask, “How am I going to get around this as my destination was only a few blocks away. So I continued doggedly on and found that the road was not closed, not even partially blocked. “The sign lied.” I snarled.

“No,” my daughter replied. “At some time in the past, this road has been closed and at some time in the future, it will be close. It is simply not closed right now.

I suppose that with roads in Oklahoma City frequently subject to such temporal closing, I should be grateful for slipping into a time in which the road was open to traffic. In slipstream a person may be traveling in his mind to the past or in the future and back in, often in a way that connects seamlessly to the present: the same season, same place, same family.

When reading walking the clouds an anthology of indigenous science fiction edited by Grace L Dillon. I noted how slipstream differs from time travel in European and American canon. Slipstream travel does not require going through a worm-hole, a hole in the time space continuum, sophisticated technology described by HG Wells, or even the sinister merry-go-round of Ray Bradbury. In his classic “Something Wicked This Way Comes” the ability to manipulate time by moving backward and forward in age results in a painful experience and even death for one individual. In the literature of Native Americans and other indigenous authors, this movement in time is considered a natural movement between the curves of the spiral history.

So, if you want to try a new genre that defies categorization, experiments with the other science fiction genres and ignores theirs conventions, try writing in slipstream.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Easily deceived

Can you tell who is telling the truth?

Write about what?

Hendrick_ter_Brugghen_blame 4Our eyes may deceive us. Two witnesses of the same event rarely, relate tell the same story. On a smaller scale, we often misread words. If two words have a similar spelling, we may read the one that we think should go into a sentence rather than the one that is actually there. Our ears may deceive us. Research has shown that when people listen to a recording in which an occasional syllable is replaced by white noise, they think that they have heard the word they expected to hear. Most people do not even recall that part of the word was replaced with non-phonemic sound. [1]

However, most troubling if that other people deceive us and often we do not catch on to their lies. Despite believing that we can discern when people are lying, most people are not very accurate at this. The typical signs that we look…

View original post 483 more words

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Please make me think

Bioshock character

Science fiction in films was once an outlet to comment on society, often with a critical view, such as Fahrenheit 451 and Silent Running. As recently as ten years ago I was intrigued by the British Science Fiction film, Moon, which ending in a startling critique of business ethics. But, very few Americans even know about that film.

However, when I watch science fiction produced by Hollywood now, I feel I am viewing a slick version of an early Hitchcock short. It was shot at night with existing light, and watching it was like trying to find the bath room in the middle of the night in a strange house. Because of the low lighting, I had to watch and listen intently in order to absorb what was happening. But even that is not true of current films.

The invention of CG special effects has made creating the illusion of mystery easier. There are not only shadows, but bird’s eye views of of gleaming sky space ships and whirling galaxies, accompanied by the dance of flickering lights, and punctuated by the occasional flare of a engine. The camera zooms in and out, leaving me both spooked and dizzy.

These scenes are jam-packed with mood, but the special effects make it difficult to attend to what is actually happening. And, I noted a habit that I’ve developed when a scene like this starts in modern movies. My attention wanders because frequently not a lot is happening beside special effects. When action does occur, the close-up might slam it right into my face.

So, I’ve also learned not to worry about missing any clues as to what is occurring. The dialog in the next scene will be an info dump that tells me everything I missed. As I view these films, the question asked in an article by David Sterritt almost twenty years ago still echoes in my head, “Are we witnessing what some critics call the dumbing down of American cinema?[1]

Actor Simon Pegg also notes the dumbing down of movies in the U.S. “Obviously I’m very much a self-confessed fan of science fiction and genre cinema but part of me looks at society as it is now and just thinks we’ve been infantilised by our own taste.”[2]

So, I continue to watch not caring if I miss anything important in the movies, because there doesn’t seem much important in them. And, I bemoan that movie producers seem ignorant of what I really miss–movies that have real characters with moral struggles, in which the ending isn’t obvious, and the dialog is subtle enough that I actually have to pay attention.

[1] Are Hollywood movies being dumbed down? Christian Science Monitor, June 15, 2001

[2] Simon Pegg criticises ‘dumbing down’ of cinema, The Guardian, 19 May 2015

Posted in Story structure, Writer's resource | Leave a comment

After the fall

burbn time horizontalIt is difficult to have a novel without a problem. The same in true for post-apocalyptic books. If everybody’s life is wonderful after the fall of civilization, the novel will be a bit boring. So there real are no post-apocalyptic books in which the world is better. Most are about turning society around to heading in the right direction. Some novels blame the problems on “partial” people such as zombies, or mutants, but they are just forms of humans we feel okay hating. These books simply become a war, in which the survivors who maintain their humanity battle the ones who do not. I prefer post-apocalyptic books that deal with humans as they are.

The Postman by David Brin may seem like a dystopia, but it is a society pushed back to a primitive time by plague. Oddly enough, many of the people the postman encounters are willing to help him. And there are some genetically enhanced people on both sides of the conflict. In fact, this hopefulness at rebuilding society seems is the theme of the book. However, I actually prefer to movie to the book. There are large differences in the plots, such as the movie lacks super computers or genetically enhanced people.

The Last Book in the Universe by Rodman Philbrick is a YA book that deals with preserving literature is a gang run society that somehow survived an unspecified environmental catastrophe outside the protective bubble. But it becomes evident that the gangs are evolving into a kind of useful government. Those inside the bubble ate giving those outside a new technological entertainment that feeds directly to the brain. This addictive way to escape their troubles is the real problem. So, the actions of some residents of the prefect society in the bubble are the major problem. This book doesn’t really blame either side as much as it deals with the first steps in reuniting the two separated groups of humans.

It is true that humans are bent on achieving the power that allows them to destroy the earth in A Canticle for Leibowitz, Walter M. Miller Jrbut there is always a small group or remnant that remains. The concept of the monastery preserving knowledge and dignity of mankind in the same way that many did medieval times is very interesting. As is the fact that the action in this book spans millennia. This is probably my favorite post-apocalyptic book that ends on an optimistic note (although a very bittersweet one).

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Dilettante rules

 

According to modern conventions, Shakespeare made many grammatical errors, and his spelling was inconsistent at best. So people who categorize writers as amateurs if they make any type of spelling or grammar error would certainly have a thumbs down for Shakespeare’s work.

Language changes over time, so what is considered correct grammar and usage is fluid.  Despite the prohibitions repeated many times in my youth, it is okay to end sentences with prepositions and to split infinitives. If we try to keep these fake “rules,” some sentences will end up sounding awkward and not like real English.

Others, with good intentions, espouse the spare type of writing. They advise the new author to cut out certain words ruthlessly (Did you see that? I just used “ruthlessly,” an unnecessary adverb. I could have just said “to ax certain words.”)  But economy doesn’t always work. Overuse of a single technique, such as describing all actions with adverbs can become monotonous, but so can eliminating them completely. Interesting writing requires understanding balance.

Some critics  advise novice writers to reduce all compound verbs down to a single word. I don’t know how many times I have a sentence with a past progressive, such as “He was rolling down the hill,” circled in red by a well intentioned editor type stating I should get rid of the passive verb. They do not realize the passive form would be “The hill was being rolled down.”  (Did you see that? I used a passive verb and ended the sentence with a preposition.) However, passive and past progressive verbs exist to add an extra dimension to our language.

Editing can reduce the problems with weak style and unacceptable grammar. However, editing won’t fix the problems with content. The ability to develop complex characters with real motivations and an interesting but plausible plot are the true marks of a writer whose skill is beyond that of an amateur.

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment