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Scheherazade Need Not Apply

Storytelling is an art because it is not simply about going from plot point A to plot point B with a minimum amount of adverbs. It allows room for ideas and ambiguity, takes twists and turns like a magician’s sleight of hand, builds entire universes from the printed word and finds new ways to enthrall us on even familiar terrain. Whether through elegant use of language and syntax, artful structuring or unexpected use of devices to open the reader’s third eye, storytelling is the opposite of the paint-by-numbers industry that takes up so much shelf space at Barnes & Noble. So many people think it takes no particular skill to crank out screenplays, novels, films, or TV episodes, inundating publishers and studios with recycled garbage.

Re-watching last season of Fargo, I found myself examining the structure and how evocative each scene was, how it arced and how it ended as it began. Justice and retribution were balanced by loss and folly and even the improbable alien voyeurism dovetailed with an overall meditation on menace and change.

By contrast, a novel I agreed to review demonstrated so little respect for the art that I declined to publish it. The writer (who had some experience writing factual treatises) like so many non-fiction writers, assumed that plot, characters and rudimentary grammar were all she needed to construct a novel. When I offered her my review, largely a synopsis of Creative Writing 101, her response was “well, it’s not for everyone.” Such dismissiveness considering the amount of effort involved in reading and writing a diplomatic response aside, I must conclude she could not distinguish between a treatment and a compelling narrative. I don’t fancy myself a writer but I do love to study and understand what makes something effective and elegant. I would hope that someone who does would want insight into the magic of storytelling.

The Scourge of Critical Thinking

Whenever you deal with people from various defined groups, it is not unexpected to find similar thought patterns. Some are healthy but many are not. The latest I have noted deals with home schoolers. Now I am no fan of home schoolers. I think it best for children to be exposed to the company of others from different backgrounds, to have a variety of professional educators teaching them and to have an arm’s length relationship to those educators. The fact that our public education system is in a shambles has as much to do with racism (the privatization movement went into high gear after the Supreme Court decision on bussing) as class warfare. While it is expected that parents want the best for their children and I certainly don’t envy their predicament, this commendable attitude is being used against society as a whole.

Notwithstanding the above, which I present largely for the purpose of declaring my own bias in the matter, I now return to the issue: whenever I interact with home schoolers, I am careful to hide my concerns while offering the benefit of my advanced education for pointers. Professionals always respond with interest and are happy to discuss new or additional resources. Home schoolers, on the other hand, invariably state “we are already quite covered on this thankyewverymuch” and shut down further debate. What this seems to indicate is not a healthy educational atmosphere opening vistas to children otherwise denied them by the system, but a closed indoctrination scheme. Some defensiveness is to be expected of non-professionals experimenting on their own children, but one would think someone undertaking such a gargantuan task would welcome (or at least pretend to) kindly offered assistance.

The irony of the interaction which triggered this observation was on the need for the study of critical analysis in school and where one could find useful study guides.

Sucker Punch

When the wound has healed over and left barely a scar, then someone comes along and punches you right in that spot.




You may forget but

Let me tell you
this: someone in
some future time
will think of us

Across the Aisle

As the "I've lost respect for so many people" election grinds to a painful conclusion, I have begun seeing articles about attempting to heal the breach between embittered sides. Sadly, these articles come from a place where the other side is, of course, wrong, and regarded more as a rabid dog than a person with real grievances and a point of view that may not be entirely imaginary, whatever other repugnant baggage comes with (Clinton voters carry as much slime as do Trump supporters in this regard.)

It will take someone from outside both camps, who has been working all this time to maintain a civil discourse to initiate such a healing, to mediate between two parties who are so trapped in their own hysterical fantasies that they cannot truly offer genuine peace, without condescension. Each is responsible for the grievances the other feels, however justifiable and neither side demonstrates the slightest bit of humor. Admitting blame and lowering tensions through humor and self-deprecation go a long way toward healing such breaches but the hallmark of this election has been the utter lack in both these qualities.

Incurable Romantic

I’m an atheist, so it’s not as though I believe in reincarnation or an afterlife with loved ones looking down at you. I do believe in the first law of thermodynamics but don’t put a personal spin on it. So what I do, I do because that’s who I am not because I expect some spectral gratitude. After 8 years, I started to look at his cologne bottles sitting in the bathroom and wondering why I could not bring myself to throw them out. Then synchronicity struck: I saw a notice for a new gallery dedicated to mementos of lost love and did not hesitate to offer them, though I was stunned they immediately accepted. I boxed them up and sent them off the next day. Today they reside in the Museum of Broken Relationships, my way of finally letting go while paying tribute to the man I loved. I hope the exhibit brings a fraction of the comfort and closure to others as this act did for me.


http://www.bustle.com/articles/166052-what-i-learned-at-the-museum-of-broken-relationships

http://www.indiatimes.com/news/world/there-s-a-museum-of-broken-relationships-where-people-donate-artifacts-after-tough-breakups-257249.html

http://www.nytimes.com/2016/07/07/fashion/museum-of-broken-relationships-los-angeles.html?mtrref=t.co&_r=0

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/travel/travel_news/article-3626077/Museum-Broken-Relationships-opens-Los-Angeles.html

http://ww2.kqed.org/news/2016/07/17/l-a-s-museum-of-broken-relationships-finds-closure-on-hollywood-boulevard/

http://observer.com/2016/06/hollywoods-new-museum-of-broken-relationships-is-trying-to-break-your-heart/

Through the Veils of Time

It was one day off the full moon, thirty years ago today, when I met ajrose93 and my life changed forever in a heart beat. Love is rarely without cost, or easy or what you expect, but it is a pilgrimage to a better, wiser self, if you are up to the challenge.

Civil Disobedience

Saw Captain America: Civil War over the weekend and I experienced a serious flashback to my law school days. Having sprung from a time when the law began to be exalted, I had a naive belief in the possibility of justice. Over time, I realized we simply had witnessed the high water mark, that the law was merely an articulation of the powerful v. the powerless. One aspect of this was hammered home again during the movie, prompting me to remember a line voiced by the character of JFK in the film 13 Days: "There is something immoral about abandoning your own judgment." Yet people do it every day, though often at an unconscious level, or so demoralized as to not trust their own, looking to others for validation. It’s easier not to have to be on the front lines weighing truth and justice and being responsible for the outcome, but life, particularly in late stage imperialism, doesn’t give us such imaginary luxuries. Whether you actively choose or not, you are picking a side.

Doctor WTF

Much as I was looking forward to Capaldi’s curmudgeonly Doctor, having loved his bravura performance in The Thick of It, I have to confess the poor quality of the stories has been terribly disheartening. Fans are always quick to scream “hater!” at you if you evidence the slightest distance from doctrinal worship, so I’m forced to work out my ideas in this remote location. Not that there haven’t been nice flourishes every now and then (shades of script doctoring!) but the storytelling has been flabby and uninspired, with some scripts tending toward overt contempt for its audience.

The recent offerings The Girl Who Died and The Woman Who Lived are the latest in a spate of soggy examples of poorly thought-out plots, tissue-thin characters and missed opportunities. Almost a season and a half to pay off the “why did I choose this face?” and all they can come up with is a smack to the head “oh, that’s right: I’m the Doctor and I save people.” Easy thing to forget, that. As is the curse of immortality, apparently. Clara, a character I was never particularly fond of once the Impossible Girl puzzle was solved, has grown so inconsistent as to be unrecognizable from one episode to the next, a failing of which the actress seems painfully aware to the point of telegraphing.

And I’m not even getting to the sonic sunglasses, the afterthought afterlife, the better off dead boyfriend or a moon with no gravitational effect (the ultimate zipless fuck?). I’m not expecting writers to comprehend quantum nonlocality but some working scientific knowledge easily found on the internet, such as a definition of organic matter, can provide clever twists even when vaguely referenced (wibbly, wobbly). While I am looking forward to the return of River Song, it’s beginning to seem more like a Hail Mary pass, attempting to remind us of when the show was actually enjoyable.

Now they are suggesting Capaldi may be leaving after his third season. This is heartbreaking if he doesn’t get anything truly meaty by then, a whole incarnation wasted. Perhaps Moffat is unconsciously looking for an excuse to end it rather than hand it off to another showrunner. Don’t you think he looks tired?

In Dreams Begin Responsibilities

Last night I dreamed I was at a protest and the cops used some sort of tech that ID’d everyone by reading their credit cards and drivers licenses and turned off every parked car in a 2 mile radius. Then for everyone who uses a key card, they shut off the key card of everyone they ID’d to prevent them from getting back in to their apartments. After that, they used a curfew law to arrest everyone who could not get indoors (and people wonder why I’m turning Luddite). Clowns would have been gilding the lily.

It's not merely the surfeit of police brutality videos lately, it's also that landlords are requiring increasing amounts of personal information, demanding guests be "registered," wanting photos of your pets, putting tracking devices in your access cards so they know how often and when you use various facilities. All this with the Orwellian claim that they are leasing "apartment homes" when said hovels begin to resemble Mexican prisons than civilian residences. When does "none of your business" enter into anything anymore? The invasion of privacy goes way beyond any commercial justification but the enforcers are so inured to the system that they consider you paranoid simply because you want to be left alone. Why should this need explanation or justification?

We're all Bashos on this Bus

Where free will ends and our muses begin:

...This something in me took to writing poetry years ago, merely to amuse itself at first, but finally making it its lifelong business. It must be admitted, however, that there were times when it sank into such dejection that it was almost ready to drop its pursuit, or again times when it was so puffed up with pride that it exulted in vain victories over others. Indeed, ever since it began to write poetry, it has never found peace with itself, always wavering between doubts of one kind and another. At one time it wanted to gain security by entering the service of a court, and at another it wished to measure the depth of its ignorance by trying to be a scholar, but it was prevented from either because of its unquenchable love of poetry. The fact is, it knows no other art than the art of poetry, and therefore, it hangs on to it more or less blindly. -- Matsuo Basho 1644-1694