Thursday, September 27, 2012

To be a critic or not to be a critic

It is always amusing to read that a critic believes the internet will ruin the world of literary criticism.

Don't get me wrong, I enjoy reading what literary critics write about the books they read. I do find it hard to ignore what they say about a book, good or bad. It is hard to ignore the voice of the critic, especially when they write a good arguement for or a against a book. A persuasive arguement is always hard to ignore, but when it comes to reading a book, for some odd reason, I feel a reader should wait until they read the book before they read what a critic has to say.

I had a college professor that told the class to read the end of a book because you can tell more about a book by the ending than you can from the beginning of a book.

I won't lie, I read the ending of a book before I read the whole story. If you think about it, you do that when you read a newspaper, but in the world of journalism they call it the "inverted pyramid." I know a good writer can hook you with a good beginning, but the ending doesn't match the beginning, what is the point of reading the whole book?.

But, the point I am trying to make is that reading criticism of a book before you read it  is a bad idea. You should read the book and then read what a critic has to say about the book.  You need to have your own opinion of the book before you read it.

When The Da Vinci Code was so popular, and everyone was talking about the book. I refused to read it, because I thought that everyone talking about the book would influence the way I appreciated the book. I do this a lot when it comes to popular authors, and I refuse to read the book until people stop talking about it. It is neurotic, but it helps me enjoy the book.

I won't say that I don't take recommendations from friends and family when it comes to books to read, but I don't let them tell me their thoughts on the books they recommend.I don't consider myself an elitist, however, I do know from past experience that waiting until I read a book and than listening to their thoughts is lot better--I blame it on my desire to argue.

It is just my belief that a reader needs to wait until they are done reading a book before they listen to outside voices that might prevent them from reading the book in the first place.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Satire

I enjoy satire. I just wanted to share this Brett Favre picture with you. I used Gimp 2.6 to alter the image by combining a Brett Favre crying with the image of a man protesting in New York.

I don't know what it is about Brett Favre, but the more he stays in the news, the more I find him to be a classical villain. I say he is a villain because he went to a rival team with the goal of getting back at his old boss. He felt he deserved a chance to get his old job back at the Packers, after he said he retired, but the Packers didn't want him. I am sure it hurt him, but the Packers made the right choice, and they traded him to the Jets. He played with the Jets for one season and retired again. He soon came out of retirement and went to the Vikings.He found success with the Vikings, and he beat the Packers twice as the Vikings made a run for the Super Bowl, but the Packers got the last laugh and beat Favre twice last year on their way to winning the Super Bowl.

Favre could have retired a hero, but in the end he looked like his age and he wasn't the media darling he once was because he looked like a dirty old man that didn't respect his wife. People will never view Favre the same way they viewed him 2007 when he cried on the national stage about how hard it was to retire.

He had a chance to be the good guy in the story, but in the end his ego lead him to be a good villain. 

Thursday, November 3, 2011

National Novel Writing Month

Can you write a novel in a month?

Writing a novel in a month seems like an absurd thing to do, and an impossible task, but for some reason I took the challenge.

Right now, I am doing great on the word count, but it is only the beginning, so the adreniline of a new project is still pushing me.

I did the challenge back in 2009, when I was under the classification of a stay-at-home dad. I didn't have the distractions of a regular job to get in the way of my writing. I won't say that being a stay-at-home dad didn't have distractions, but young children tend to nap, so I had extra time to write--quiet time.

What are the benefits of writing a novel in a month?.

1. You set a goal. This goal is important, like any self-help book will tell you. The NANOWRIMO.org website isn't going to come to your house and yell at you if you don't write everyday, but they do send out e-mails that include little pep talks.

2. You learn to write on the days you don't feel that motivated. There is something to be said about writing everyday, and not because it is something a writing teacher might tell you, but it has more do with the fact you learn more by doing and not by wishing you could write. The amount of writing that needs to be done everyday by a writer is specific to the writer, but during the challenge it probably a good idea to write 1,667 words a day.  

3. You can find other writers in your are to talk to about writing. The NANOWRIMO website is setup in a way that you can find people in your area that are taking the same challenge you are, and these same people tend to get together during the month. This sense of community is good for that extra motivation a writer needs during the weeks of November. It isn't easy to work by yourself, and getting together with other writers is good for the writers psyche.

4. You learn why writers also have substance abuse problems. Just kidding, not all writers have a substance abuse problem. 

5.You actually write a novel. The finished product might not be worthy of publishing, but with a little work or a lot of work it will lead to something you can brag about. You might only brag to your family, or if you have a blog or facebook page, maybe you can brag there too.

There is a lot a writer can learn by trying to write as fast as they can, without listening to the censor while working. The censor in the head can kill a really creative day, and knowing that you need to get 50,000 words by the end of November should allow the writer to allow the story to go in directions they probably wouldn't of thought of it there wasn't a tight deadline. The writer will find plenty of time to revise after November.



Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Does Writing Improve with Age?

How do you distance yourself from your writing when you write about issues you feel passionate about? I read a few different opinions from published writers on what makes a good piece of writing, and for the most part they left me wonder how a good writer ever really distances himself from what they write.

Does it make you a bad writer if you become one with the subject?  Hunter Thompson was great at becoming part of the story he was reporting.

E.B. White was able to write about the things he saw, he was part of the stories he told in his essays.

As we age, will we see the world differently, or will we be wearing the same foggy glasses that we wore in our youth, but will those foggy glasses have new and improved frames?

I know as I age, and it is a slow process for me, because my body is aging, but my mind tends to be still in search of things I chased in my youth. Not, that I am that old, my parents aren't even collecting Social Security, yet. That is the bench mark I set for myself when it comes to feeling old.

But what does age have to do with writing?

I know that when I received my high school diploma in high school, and it was over ten years ago, I thought it would be the last time I would have to sit through such a ceremony, but that changed when I realized I didn't know as much as I thought I did and went to college.

I won't say college was easy, but I learned a lot about writing. Then I graduated. It was like I was looking at my high school self, and  after some time, I soon realized that I needed to learn more about writing. I spent a small fortune on books I thought were important to help me improve as a writer, but then I discovered something about myself. These books I thought important couldn't help me improve my confidence in my voice. I wasn't very confident in my voice, my writing voice.

My voice may crack from time to time, just because it is going through a form of puberty, and in the end it will sound differently than it did yesterday, thanks to my advancing age. My writing won't be the same naive know-it-all that I once knew, but it will be the honest voice of a man now wondering what he will leave behind and not what he can take from this life.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Life, No Cable, and Reading

As an English Major, I tried an experiment. I was this great experiment of living without a television in my apartment. I didn't have a television in my apartment for two months and I managed to do less than I planned. I would say that is because I listened to talk radio to fill the void left from world without a television. 

I really thought I would do more writing, but I didn't; even though, I had these vivid day dreams of myself sitting faithful at my desk and writing until I was so tired I couldn't lift my fingers to type another word. What a beautiful dream that was, but that like dreams, you wake up and find that reality requires putting in the extra effort.

Not having a television meant not being able to watch movies on a bigger screen. I love movies. I also love watching them on a screen bigger than small computer screen of my laptop. Sure, I didn't own that many movies, but I owned the movies I liked and didn't mind watching over and over, so I didn't watch as many movies as I did once I got a television and DVD player in my apartment.  

Not having a television meant I didn't fall asleep falling asleep on the couch and waking up with a stiff neck. I don't know how many times in my life, enough times to know that when I feel tired I should go to bed. 

Not having a television meant not complaining about there being nothing to watch. I think I am not the only person that feels this way.

Not having a television meant not complaining about having to pay a cable bill. I can't get over how people will pay for commercial television.

Not having a television meant that my radio became my favorite thing in my apartment.

In the end, I learned that it wasn't the objects in my life that prevented me from writing, it was me. I was preventing myself from writing by not sticking to my goals. I fixed that problem, and I didn't fix it by getting rid of my television, again, but I did it by just putting the computer in my lap and writing.

Up-to-date Media

If you have a question, you should ask it?

Why do we care so much about polls when more important things are happening right now?

Mr. Cain is leading Romney in one poll and is second to Romney in another poll. I say, so what. I want real news. I want to know what is happening in America. I want to know more about Occupy Wall Street, and why it took so long for the mainstream media to make it a news story. Is it because mainstream media is controlled by corporations, like Justice Roberts pointed out in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission?

I don't think corporations owning newspapers and television stations had anything to do with Occupy Wall Street getting little press coverage. I just think that journalist made a choice not to make it a news story, until they realized that these people weren't going away.

Like the Tea Party, the media didn't know how to take the Occupy Wall Street movement. Some media outlets mocked the protestors for doing something that can't be quantified by a simple thirty second news bite, so they just mocked the protestors by calling them dirty and stupid, just listen to Rush Limbaugh talk about the protestors.

These pundits and faux journalist, in a way, make news for themselves by being so foolish, look at how I mentioned Rush Limbaugh, these news makers see themselves as the true judges of free speech. You could call them puppets for the corporate interest, or you could call them biased, but for the most part they can't argue a point without mocking the person they are trying to argue with.

Occupy Wall Street is spreading, but so is the angst against it rising. The angst against free speech is interesting, considering the press is suppose to tell the story not tell just their side of the story.

Friday, October 7, 2011

The Feel Good Major

As an American you should pick a major that will keep you gainfully employed or even get you a job. I would personally like to know if there is a major that offers this. Sure, healthcare seems to the hot pick right now. But that is assuming that people will be able to afford to healthcare in the future. That seems cynical to say, but really, if healthcare cost keep rising faster than the rate of inflation something is going to bust.

So, what looks hot right now, might mean those people with smart degrees looking for a job when the next bubble hits.

Megan McArdle has a piece in the Atlantic about the Occupy Wall Street protest, and she mentions the people graduating with a "fun degree" are now taking part in these protest. She discovered this by spending a lot of her own time looking at the Occupy Wall Street website.

Yes, some people with fun degrees do graduate with a lot of debt and no real job prospects. Ms. McArdle graduated with a "fun degree," but she also went on to get her MBA, and her allegences are strongly tied to business, so her arguement always takes a pro-business bias. But in her piece she also fails to mention that a lot of college students are graduating with a lot of debt because college keeps getting more expensive.

Maybe people shouldn't be allowed to get degrees if they can't afford them, because in a free country free people might pick majors they like or feel are the right fit for them. Maybe those degrees the business class think won't yield a job should be minors, instead of majors, but who is to say that those fun degrees might lead to those fun degree holders doing well in a MBA program or law school program. .

The important thing is to remember is this recession is unlike any other recession, because we know what caused it, but yet nothing concrete was done to fix it so it doesn't happen again. The Dodd-Frank bill isn't strong enough to fix the problem. So, voters should be mad. Nothing is being done to fix the problem, or so they feel and they making their voices heard.

What is really discouraging about the Occupy Wall Street protest is that their doesn't seem to be an honest debate on how to fix what ails our country.  The media seems confused that Americans would be made about being unemployed for so long, and both political parties seem willing to wait for the next election to do anything to help. A side can cry "class warfare," but people are waking and discovering "trickle down economics" really means the rich get richer.