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.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Gridlock helps no one

Justice Scalia told the Senate Judiciary Committee that Americans we should "learn to love the separation of powers, which means learning to learning to love gridlock, which the framers believed would be the main protection of  minorities." We should love gridlock because it helps what kind of person? Did he actually say minorities?

The definition of minorities is a tricky one when it comes to defining the unemployed in America, because right now there are 14 million unemployed Americans.So the number of unemployed represents a minority of working Americans who aren't being protected by Washington's gridlock. They weren't protected by a government so happy to deregulate business. They weren't protected by a Congress that wants to see the president fail. They aren't protected from courts that rule in favor corporations, like the Supreme Court making it harder for women to sue Walmart. They weren't protected from the 1% of the population that destroyed the economy because politicians need wealthy donors.. Maybe Justice Scalia definition of minority is the rich in the United States. They just can't seem to catch a break when it comes to the government helping them.

Justice Scalia believes in the "original intent" of founding framers when he writes an opinion. But that is really no different than people that believe the Constitution is a "living document," because both sides are deciding laws on their own views of the Constitution.

How would Jefferson want a Constitution interpreted today? No one really knows, and can say without a doubt that he would still view the Constitution the same way he did when it was created. It is hard to argue that he would be proud of how real debates are replaced by PR produced candidates that can only regurgitate talking points, or proud of the elitist that don't know the difference between right and wrong.

Justice Scalia wants to say that he doesn't use his own opinion when it comes to the Constitution, but he should read  his own opinion in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, because it is clear that he is using his own view of free speech when it comes to corporations. Justice Scalia said: "The Amendment is written in terms of "speech," not speakers." Because what found framer said something like that when it came to protecting corporations speech?

A branch of a government, a branch of government that is in charge of coming up with laws that protect citizens of this country, decided to write a law that sought to limit the powers of corporations in elections. The Congress believed that true free speech was being limited by corporations that were able to monopolies the kind of 'free speech" available to the public. 

Corporations should be allowed to speak, but they shouldn't  have a branch of government making new laws to protect their speech--a branch of government that has ex-corporate lawyers deciding in their favor. 

Justice Scalia might think he knows best when it comes to the Constitution, but when the results of his decisions hurt the minorities he claims to be protecting, well, he is greatly mistaken. He and his colleagues have done enough damage in this country by protecting the people the Constitution wasn't meant to protect.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Brett Speaks

Brett Favre knew Aaron Rodger was going to be good, or so he claimed on a radio show on Tuesday.

Packers fans are mad at Favre for his comments. But why are they mad?

Brett Favre was exciting to watch, because you never knew what team he was going to throw the ball to on any given play.

At times, mostly regular season games, he looked like Superman, and in the big games he still looked like Superman, but in the big games he treated the football like it was kryptonite and he needed to just get rid of it before it zapped his powers to text young women pictures of himself.

Brett Favre, if he could be any fictional character, would probably would be Iago. He would be a great villain, because at times he seemed like a likeable guy and he was on your side, but in the end, his motivations weren't pure and he paid for it dearly with his career ending the way it did. He stabbed his head coach in the back with his play, and in the end he had to watch his old team win the Super Bowl. Plus, he will never get to hold another Super Bowl trophy, at least, not as a player.

Packer fans can get upset with Favre for his comments, but in the end his comments are just comments, and they don't mean anything when it comes to the current success of the Green Bay Packers. His comments won't cause Aaron Rodgers to suddenly become depressed and maybe think about retiring every spring for the next ten years, and they won't cause Aaron Rodgers to start throwing the ball to the other team. His comments in the end, like 336 of his passes landed in the hands of someone else, the media this time, and in their world they ran back for a touchdown.I believe they are still doing their touchdown dance.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

English Major = critical thinking skills

Never start a piece of writing with a questions, so that is why I mentioned that fact.

What about critical thinking?

English majors are great at critical thinking, maybe. I can remember a final paper I wrote in college that my professor told me lacked writing and critical thinking skills. He didn't give me a very high grade for the paper, and somehow I still passed the class. The class was my capstone class in Humanistic Studies, and the professor loved to talk and his discussions led to great debates in the class. I can't say anything bad about his class.

I don't even remember what I wrote about in the paper, and his critism did sting. I did a little bit of soul searching on my way home from class that day, and soon realized that this wouldn't be the only time someone would question my writing ability. Not everyone is going to like what I write, and not every argument I make will stand up to the bright minds of the critics out there in the world. The important thing to remember is how to learn from what just happened and it apply it to what I write in the future.

A lot is said about the importance of critical thinking skills and their applications in the real world, but at some point critical thinking skills seem to lose to the impulses of human nature. The impulses of human nature are the cryponite of critical thinking, and at times have lapses in critical thinking, but not all lapses are counted in your final grade.

Obama still tough on terrorist

President Obama did the right thing when he allowed the CIA to kill U.S. born Anwar al-Awlaki.

It is hard to argue that Anwar al-Awlaki was protected by the fifth amendment because he was a danger to the public. Just because he was hiding in Yemen, doesn't mean that the government wasn't within it rights to eliminate his threat.

Al Qaeda is a terrorist organization, and by joining al Qaeda Anwar al-Awlaki joined the enemy. I am not trying to sound like George W. Bush, but al Qaeda is an enemy of the state and set on committing acts of terrorism against the U.S. by any means necessary, and Anwar al-Awlaki had a record of inciting hate against the U.S. and linked to some recent terrorist attacks.

Some groups will argue that Anwar al-Awlaki was protected by the fifth amendment because of his citizenship, but at what point do you given up your citizenship rights when you become a terrorist?

Monday, October 3, 2011

English Major?

What happens to an English major in today's economy and what  can an English major expect, they picked English as their major.

Who were his parents that let him pick English as a major, never mind the fact he was an adult when he did it.

Why didn't he pick a useful major like accounting, maybe something dealing with healthcare, and even business? At least you would be using your degree.

How do we define "using" when it comes to a college degree? Because doesn't a college degree give a student an broad education in the workings of the world?

Am I using my degree in my job? I will say no and yes.

No, I am not being paid to be a writer in my current job, but I made $2.02 on Digital Journal, and need to make an additional $7.98 to actually get paid for my writing.

I self-published a short story, and am working on a novel. I know that sounds like a cliche, doesn't it? Yes, and using cliches in writing is one of those commandments you shouldn't break. 

Yes, I am using my degree, because my degree is just about English, it is about the liberal arts education that I receieved from the honorable University of Wisconsin system. That means that in order for me to get a degree in English, I, poor English Major, had to take general education classes, and those classes taught me more than just how to read and write. I learned, be it simplified, business ideas about supply and demand. I learned about improving production by streamlining processes. I also learned basic sociology, psychology, math, and science. I also don't want to recount my 12 credits in history. Did I mention my minor was Humanistic studies? 

I do remember learning that ethics was covered with a lot of passion in college, but what I learned in college about ethics in business never matched the one seen in the real world.

Yes, I have an English degree, but it is more than just that, because it is a college degree that proves a commitment and willingness to do the work required to get the job done.

I might not get rich from my possession of an English degree, but there is more to life than just money, I think.

Another great book by Kurt Vonnegut

I would love to make an argument that "Mother Night" is Kurt Vonnegut's best novel. I know in school "Slaughter House Five" was required reading. I read it a couple times in college, because I had, by my standards, good professors that knew what they were talking about when they talked about Vonnegut. But, I really wish they would have made us read "Mother Night" too.

"Mother Night" is a great novel for younger people to discuss, because it deals with how we judge people. Do we judge them by how they appear on the outside, or do we judge them by what is on the inside? Questions like this are important to discuss when going through our early adult life.

When you read about Vonnegut's life; especially, how he survived the bombing of Dresden. A reader of his novels can't help but see why his books make such great points when it comes to the mental state of people that survive wars.

You don't have to fight in a war to know that wars change people, and Vonnegut, excelled at find his voice when it came to writing about how World War II changed him. Yes, his work is fiction, but it is the fiction from a mind that survived  the war and didn't know what to think afterwards.

It is hard to say why it took him so long to write about the war, but maybe his war books wouldn't have been as good if he tried to write them right after war. 

"Mother Night" captures the schizophrenic mind of  Howard Campbell Jr who is an American spy in Germany. In Hitler's Germany,  Mr. Campbell is a propagandist for the Nazi state.

I don't want to give too much of the plot away, and I won't, but I will say that it raises some good points about character, what a person believes, and what we really know about the people.It also raises questions about how we need punish a few people for horrendous acts perpetrated on society, when it is obvious that more than a few people are guilty.

Maybe my argument wasn't strong enough for "Mother Night," but read the book and see why Vonnegut was a great writer.