Saturday, March 31, 2012

Credit Where Credit is Due

The Internet is great.

You can meet up with people you never would have heard of. You can look up anything you can think of. You can read books and stories and articles that would  not come to your hometown on their own.

The Internet is kind of like the Wild West, though. There are laws, sure, and there are things like the FBI cybercrimes unit that tries to protect people from scamming, and phishing, and other frauds. There are vigilantes who use the Internet as their playground, and sometimes do what could be considered good, and other times do what could be considered illegal and bad.

On the Internet, you can be whoever you want. You can say whatever you want. Some people use that to bully, or to be one of the above mentioned fraudsters. Some people use it to plagiarize and pirate. Because of this, it can be hard to find out where something came from.

Years ago, I found a picture I liked, loved really. I have no idea who the artist is, when it was created, the origin, the medium, nothing. It's on wallpaper web sites, and people use it for avatars on message boards (guilty of that in at least one location, sorry). Today, I found out about TinEye, which is an image search site that allows one to find instances of an image across the Internet.

I'll put it here now. If you know who the artist is, or where it came from, I'd appreciate you sharing that with me!

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Do you have a community?

So, I finally joined an online writing forum, at Absolute Write.  There are a lot of people on there!

Some have been writing for a very long time. Some have been writing for a few weeks. Everybody has an opinion, but isn't that the way that goes?

In a way, the forum itself is a bit like Doberman Talk, but for writing. There are questions and criteria that the seasoned members have for whether an agent or publisher is legitimate, and the kinds of things we as writers should be looking at in contracts. There are discussions about grammar, and plot, and a suggestion to post your work or your queries for critiques. There are writing prompts and "off topic" forums (though is anything off topic, when you're a writer?)

Other than a few college classes, and two workshops since, I've never really been a part of a writer's community. I don't have people that I regularly share and swap work with. I have friends that will happily read my stories, but nobody that I get down to brass tacks with in quite the same way. I can get pretty thorny over critiques, but if you knew the critiques I had to deal with in college, I think you would have felt the same way. Nobody wants to read their story and have one of the only comments be "What does this word mean?" Everybody has a different vocabulary, I get that, but writers? I hold them to a higher standard. Especially if you're supposed to be offering criticism. I have a story somewhere (begging for rewrite) involving a mermaid and a fisherman's son, and the deals made. The comment I got? "This made me think of The Little Mermaid." Meaning, the Disney film. I could have cheerfully killed that peer reviewer with bare hands, especially because her story was about her first car, which was not bad idea in and of itself. But it was bad.

So, I've got hopes for this. They have a minimum post limit before you can share your work, which I agree with. They foster community, give and take. We'll see how it goes.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Think You're a Judge of Character?

People make assumptions.

Whether we want to or not, when we see a person, we make decisions about them immediately. These are based on our own experiences, and things that we hear and read. A complete stranger might remind us of somebody who plagued us in high school, and we react with visceral dislike. A different stranger might remind us of a beloved grandparent, and we receive them warmly.

Sometimes, our suspicions might protect us from harm. Sometimes our sympathies are what harm us. I found this quiz online, which I think is both funny, to a degree, and pertinent. It shows how much, or how little, we can tell by just looking at a person: Programming Language Inventor or Serial Killer?

We can play on these assumptions while writing. When we establish a character, there are things that writers might do in order to sway the reader one way or another when thinking about them. If Mrs. Danvers was plump and had red hair (as opposed to skeletal and yellowing), would we have regarded her with as much dread?  If Atticus Finch was a foul mouthed drinker, would we have trusted and respected him? Every author, when writing, has a way he or she feels a character should be read.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Make a Wish

Superstitions are an interesting thing to me.

Perhaps because I'm American, most of them no longer seem to have ties to their original culture. The number thirteen, black cats, green cars, ringing ears...where did all of it come from?  A lot of it is luck based: picking up a coin that's heads up, rabbits feet, four leaf clovers. Luck itself is an interesting concept, especially in that both good luck and bad luck are a consideration. And the notion that things come in threes. Unlucky things: stepping on a crack, seeing a bride on her wedding day, breaking a mirror.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Weird Things

Sometimes I see weird things that I don't take pictures of. I still think about them, though.

Like that stray scrap of rope on the asphalt in the Wal Mart parking lot. I know it was probably for the cinderblock that held down the cart corral. But was it?

Like the park bench that somebody wrote "Bleeding Sassafras" on in Sharpie. Did they bemoan the fact that a tree was cut down to build the bench, and thus bled? Band name? Sexual position (oh God I hope not)?

I won't even detail the things that we sometimes find in library books, and left on the shelves. Some things are best unsaid (and unseen).

I was once driving down the highway and saw a minivan pulled up just after an exit. Two Hasidim were standing there, seemingly a father and son, side curls blowing in the highway breeze, white shirts bright. The son had a suitcase at his feet. His father was talking to him seriously.

Another highway one: a metal chair between two bushes on a slight hill, overlooking the Eastbound lanes.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

More Library Insanity

Another snapshot of my day at the library:

Soon after opening on Saturday morning, the phone rang. When we answer the phone, we say the name of the library. The patron on the other end launched into her story without preamble: "I have a wooden end table that we keep a humidifier on and after awhile we moved the humidifier and I guess it leaked at some point because now there are white rings on the table that are the size of the humidifier. What do I do about that?"

I took a moment. "You do know you called the library, right?"

"Yes. I called the bus station first and he gave me the number."

Right. Of course. So I put the patron on hold and consulted the Google, because really, what else was I going to do? I mean, I'm sure there's a Reader's Digest "How to clean anything" style of volume that we have, but sometimes, you look for the fast answer, which will theoretically the most up to date.

Apparently, you can take a hot iron, and a clean t-shirt, and iron for a few seconds at a time to get rid of the white rings. See. You learned something. I did too. The bus station doesn't know how to fix your end table; the library does.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Happy Birthday, Dad. I miss you.

Sailing to Byzantium
William Butler Yeats

That is no country for old men. The young
In one another's arms, birds in the trees
-Those dying generations-at their gong,
The salmon-falls, the mackeral-crowded seas,
Fish, flesh, or fowl, commend all summer long
Whatever is begotten, born, and dies.
Caught in that sensual music all neglect
Monuments of unageing intellect.

An aged man is but a paltry thing,
A tattered coat upon a stick, unless
Soul clap its hands and sing, and louder sing
For ever tatter in its mortal dress,
Nor is there singing school but studying
Monuments of its own magnificense;
And therefore I have sailed the seas and come
To the holy city of Byzantium.

O sages standing on God's holy fire
As in the gold mosaic of a wall,
Come from the holy fire, perne in a gyre,
And be the singing-masters of my soul.
Consume my heart away; sick with desire
And fastened to a dying animal
It knows not what it is; and gather me
Into the artifice of eternity.

Once out of nature I shall never take
My bodily form from any natural thing,
But such a form as Grecian goldsmiths make
Of hammered gold and gold enamelling
To keep a drowsy Emperor awake;
Or set upon a golden bough to sing
To lords and ladies of Byzantium
Of what is past, or passing, or to come.