Monthly Archives: January 2011

Writing: The Green-Eyed Monster

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In writing, as I’m sure in other professions as well as life, the green-eyed monster can raise its hoary head. This is not one created (usually) for a story but the one that manifests at the successes of an individual. Yes, the green-eyed monster Jealousy, with its diminutive cousin Envy.

There is professional jealousy when one writer thinks another writer is unworthy of having a piece published or winning an award. Sometimes this is justified and if truly judged by informed peers, it would not win. Some awards are indeed popularity awards. One type of award is that you’re popular because you have fans or readers. The second is that you just need to get enough votes and anyone, including friends, colleagues and family, can vote you in because they know you, not on the merit of your work. This happens all the time

But in the realm of jealousy, a writer feels that: how could that person win/succeed when I’m so much better? My work deserves recognition. Why isn’t it being recognized?  Etc. This came up in a writers group today, where a friend of one of the writers and likewise a writer continues to cut down the more successful person, praising one moment, being scathing the next. Often jealousy is a sign of a person’s own insecurities and I’m sure many of us in writing have felt that we’re doing all that we can, we think we’re good, what’s wrong, why aren’t people buying my stuff. I know I think it at times but I wouldn’t say I’m jealous of someone else for succeeding. To me the sum of the parts strengthen the whole. I wonder how writer couples ever manage to make it work, though, if they aren’t both successful. In fact, I know that such a state has been damaging enough to the ego to have broken up a few couples.

Jealousy of course happens in all walks of life and did happen to me, but not so much in writing. A very important aspect of SFC (SF Canada; the professional speculative writers’ organization) is that we are supportive. Members can get advice, information, be silly, commiserate and congratulate. I’m sure some may be jealous but thankfully they never post such to our e-list.

I actually believe very seriously in supporting whenever I can the arts  and friends who are artists in any medium. This might be as small as saying congratulations and as big as cheering in the front row or buying someone’s work. If I had buckets of cash I would support the arts more. Without art in all its myriad forms the world would be a very drab place indeed.

Why do I feel I must support artists? For many reasons but I KNOW as an artist how difficult it is to create and create well. And then on top off that, to take that creation and make it into something to be viewed, read, watched, heard or otherwise appreciated. It takes a lot to complete something, putting blood, sweat and tears into it and then no one knows about it at all. And then to get any monetary acknowledgment for that accomplishment is very difficult, especially enough to live on. Being an artist is not simple and certainly isn’t the easy road, no matter what Prime Minister Stephen Harper thinks about artists attending high-end galas (that they probably paid to get to or put in a lot of work beforehand).

On our list I try to congratulate everyone who has an accomplishment/sale. It’s good to give and show support and really doesn’t hurt at all. Sometimes people even reciprocate. We might not all be Picassos and Hemingways. We may never make a living at our art and we might not even be that good at it. But we are all, indeed, worthy of recognition. Whether the accomplishment is small or grand, it’s enough to be cheered on. Jealousy has never, anywhere or any walk, served anyone well. It’s as destructive as hate. Next time you feel the green-eyed monster riding your back, try to be generous with a complement. I bet you’ll get farther and feel better.

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Filed under art, Culture, people, Publishing, relationships, Writing

Bizarre Entertainment: Peeing for Pleasure?

Seriously, we cannot make up stuff as strange as what is already being done. I thought it was crazed enough that there are people out there bleaching their anuses (unless you’re a porn star, who cares?) but it seems a new craze(?) is urination games. This is not to be mixed up with kinky sex, for which I will not go into here. This is in fact a small field in which companies are designing games for urinals to keep men entertained while…peeing? Do we really need games in the bathroom too? There are probably many people (especially women) who text while on the can but I guess this is keeping men’s minds from wandering during their bathroom visits.

When mentioning this bizarreness last night to some friends one person said he’d had a friend in Japan who went into the men’s washroom (note: we Canadians say washroom though some of you might use water closet or bathroom) and there was a clown head with a gaping mouth in which to pee. As the guy started peeing the lights came on and started flashing. Already creeped out, this guy was even more disturbed when the head started to move left and right.

Fun house craziness? I suppose but it wasn’t at the circus. Sega, that video game designer has made some inroads into what is called”interactive urinals.”


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They aren’t the only ones and shaping urinals into interesting designs has been going on awhile. While some are tacky like the giant mouths and others etheric like flower shaped urinals, China opened a giant bathroom facility (1,000 stalls) in Chongqing where some of the designs feature the Virgin Mary. Yes, China’s human rights record isnt’ very good but this seems a fairly blatant statement toward pissing on religion.

While it’s nice to have good  art and overall architectural beauty, it’s another thing to go into the bizarro world of games for which you piss to win or achieve some result. One designer, Marcel Neundorfe, said that it changed urination from “more than just a necessary nuisance….” into something fun. Wow, has our world become so freaked out about alone time that we can’t even pee in peace and relative quiet. These games are aimed more at men but supposedly they have considered women who can use a cone to direct the urine stream.

Creative Commons: Sega Wee vs the Wii?

What do these games do? Well one has a person peeing all over virtual graffiti until its wiped away, while another compares strength of the stream and accuracy to the person who was there before, giving points. Mannekin Pls. awards you points on hard and how much you can urinate. (See image on the left http://gadgetynews.com/sega-wee-to-take-on-nintendo-wii-in-the-smallest-room/) I can see it now.

Scene: Local bar, guys watching hockey game, chatting and drinking beer.

TOM: Oh! Damn. The Canucks should have had that.

MIKHAIL: They were doing good until they lost Luongo. (notices women looking at them from the next table and smiles) Hey, where’s Fritz?

TOM: (eyes still on screen) What? In the can I think.

MIKHAIL: Again? That’s the third time tonight. Game’s almost over. Maybe we should chat up those gals at the next table. (Tom tears his gaze from the screen. Fritz staggers in and falls into his chair. He guzzles back another beer and drunkenly waves to the waitress.)

TOM: Hey, man, maybe you should slow down. We were going to see if we could score with the chicks after the game. (nods towards the women)

FRITZ: Duuuude, you kidding. (burps loudly and grabs the next glass) I’m on a roll. About to win, jes need a bit more power. Urp!

MIKHAIL: For what?

FRITZ: The urinal game. I’m so stoked.

TOM: You’re so drunk. What do you win?

FRITZ: (eyes whirling) A good piss. (passes out on the floor. Tom goes back to watching the game. Mikhail shrugs and walks over to the women.)

Sigh, I’m just not so sure these games are the best idea even if urinating is a nuisance. A nuisance? It’s part of life, like eating, sleeping, washing, having sex. Oh wait, there are sex toys so why not uh…urination toys? Another game lets the urinator be the wind and try to blow up a woman’s skirt by the strength of the stream. Riiight. Next thing we know there will be a Pavlovian response and guys will pee every time they see a woman in a skirt.

But maybe it’s a good thing, having men aim for something while peeing. After all, with regular toilets, I’ve always asked how do men get women pregnant if they can’t accurately hit the larger porcelain hole? A woman using a men’s or unisex bathroom can find it a frightening experience. Of course the answer there is guidance systems. I’d love to say this wacky trend won’t catch on but humanity has done some pretty cuckoo stuff so I’m not so sure. Still, I imagine peeing into a chortling clown’s mouth is enough to give a few people nightmares.

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Big Brother Watches You Sweat

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Last year, the local community gym, Britannia Centre in Vancouver, decided to go big brother on our sweaty asses. Suddenly, there were cameras cameras everywhere with these cute little signs saying something similar to “This area is monitored for your safety.” Maybe it was part of the whole Olympic movement, a way for Big Brother to surreptitiously move in and monitor everything and never leave, or maybe the gym was experiencing some great surge of violence or thievery.

However, as happens when one works out sometimes body parts need adjusting. Guys need to shift genitalia, women need to shift breasts in bras. One can turn away or go into the cooldown room and quickly make an adjustment without anyone seeing. Not so now. It’s recorded on cameras. But perhaps I was just being paranoid as I sweated away, so I wrote the name located on those cute little signs.

Dear ,

I have several questions about the spyeye cameras at the Britannia gym.

  • Was there an incident or incidents that caused the need for cameras? If so, what was it? Should I be on the lookout for suspicious and dangerous characters?
  • If someone were to attack me in the mat room, or elsewhere, would these cameras save me, as in, is someone actively watching them and will run to my aid, or will they just have evidence when they pick up my pieces?
  • Who is authorized to watch these videos from the camera?
  • Are they watched as they run or reviewed at a later time?
  • How often are they reviewed?
  • Where are they stored and how?
  • How long are the videos kept?
  • Are they a deterrent for public mischief or for personal harm?

I have never had or seen any altercations in the gym in all my years there. How should I feel more protected now?

Thank you,

Colleen Anderson

Having once worked for a hi-tech company I knew what some of the answers should be so I was curious to see if this person was a buffer to what was already set in stone or if they were willing to hear other sides. Here is the first response (I’ve only corrected the typos):

Hi Colleen,

Thanks for taking the time to communicate with me regarding your perspective on video cameras.  We have had cameras in the fitness centre since the late 1990’s.  Recently we upgraded the system.  The research is inconclusive as to the efficacy of cameras as a deterrent, that said we do need balance the needs of our community.

Staff requested the video cameras because of a number of instances where they felt unsafe with patrons who were aggressive and potentially dangerous, they were also dealing with increased number of complaints of theft inside and outside the fitness centre – bikes.  We have excellent staff who work hard to de-escalate conflict situations, this is just one tool that works alongside other strategies to assist in their work to create a comfortable space for all.  We have an obligation to support staff to the best of our abilities, this includes training, adequate staffing levels and communication tools.

They are just cameras and will not ‘save’ you.  The deterrent is in the collection of evidence for prosecution in the event of a crime – property or personal.  They are not used for surveillance, no one monitors or reviews recordings, images are relayed in real time to a monitor at the pool counter, but their role is not to monitor.

Footage is recorded and kept for 30 days unless there is a Britannia incident report or a police criminal report, in that case the Executive Director, who is the only person authorized to access the recordings, may request that recordings over a particular period be saved.  These recordings must be appropriate labeled, viewing logs set up and they may be saved for up to one year.  Only the Executive Director has the authority to release or view the recordings under specific conditions such as a written request from authorized law enforcement.  The recordings are labeled and stored in an area that is secured.

We follow the guidelines provided by the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner of BC.

It is great to know that you have never experienced any altercations in the gym, we most certainly hope to keep it that way.  If you have any other question please do not hesitate to contact me.

Sincerely,

I should point out that the gym has a large space with all the weights and other machines. Off of that is a small room with windows overlooking the stairs up to the gym, that has mats and is for stretching/cool down. There is no way to exit that room without going through the gym. Yet they decided to put a camera in this room. Stealing a mat or a dumbbell would mean carrying those rather large and bulky objects through the rest of the gym. Someone would probably notice. However, next to the mat room is a balcony on which people can work out or walk outside for a breath of air. It’s not large but there are no cameras on it, only pointing inside. It’s much easier to take a mat or a medicine ball and toss it over the ledge to someone below. So I responded:

Dear ,

I do understand the need of some cameras at the gym, outside the building and perhaps at prime entries, but I think there is an overkill going on.

There is a camera in the cooldown room. There is no way in or out of this except through a door that enters into the gym proper. Anyone stealing anything would have to tuck it (mostly mats and medicine balls and weights) under their clothes to get it out through the gym. There isn’t even room in there for people to bring a pack. If in fact something went missing and the staff said, someone stole a weight, would these videos even be looked at for something like that? If I’m being mugged in that room I’m sure someone would hear it in the gym.

So if they won’t “save” me and their efficacy as a deterrent is nebulous, why are they in there? A camera at the gym doors, and maybe where people put their packs makes sense but I feel there is absolutely no good reason to have them in every corner or in the cooldown room. You also say they are not used for surveillance yet images are relayed to the counter which means in fact that people can monitor them or watch.

So anyone working there or standing at the counter can see what’s going on, at least in part. This is not a secure monitoring.

I still cannot see how this measure protects staff, clients or deters thefts and vandalism. Why not have one in the locker rooms then too to make sure people don’t break into lockers? I would support some cameras but not the one in the cooldown room and perhaps there are others but I use the gym and not the pool areas.

Thank you,

Hi Colleen,

Thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts on cameras in the fitness centre, the fitness centre has a number of blind spots which is why so many cameras, as you so eloquently stated – overkill, are required. Staff, in reference to security, requested that cameras, which have been in operation in the facility since the 1990’s be upgraded and increased as they often are working alone in the space. The fitness centre facility was originally built in 1976 and was actually a quarter of the existing space, over the years we have eliminated the pool lounge and spectator areas to make way for more fitness gear, consequently the space is extremely cut up. In order to maintain a consistent presence we required a number of cameras. You are completely correct in saying that the efficacy of cameras have not been proven OR disproven, however as an employer it is incumbent on us to address staff safety concerns. It is in poor form for Management to insinuate that we know better than the individuals involved and determine what makes them safe or feel safer.

We conducted a survey with staff and provided opportunities for patrons to comment on the use of cameras – you are the third person responding.

That said we depend on a number of tools to ensure good customer and staff experience in our facilities, this includes better conflict management training, site signage and lighting. If you are being mugged in the fitness centre – we have already failed our responsibility. The key for us is to prevent/deter any conflicts and create a positive environment.

You have not been specific about what you would like as an outcome.  I hope my comments have been helpful, if you have other concerns please do not hesitate to contact me.

Sincerely,

I guess I wasn’t specific when I said it was overkill. Of course I need to send another letter pointing out that the cameras rarely deter the thieves because they probably know the images are rarely perused. The camera certainly didn’t make me feel better when I walked into the mat room one day to find this weirdo in his tighty whities laying on a map and humping it from what I could tell. By the time I could even find an attendant the pervert had wandered off. Had he been a different style of pervert and fondled me the cameras would have done nothing in stopping that. As I’d pointed out in my first letter, the cameras wouldn’t save me, they didn’t deter a pervert and should there have been pieces of me then the videos would be surveyed but only then. This person never addressed my comments about the non-secure monitor at the front desk after she told me that only the director could view them. So let’s see:

  1. no proof that it deters thieves
  2. will not keep people safe, will not endanger them
  3. no one can view but the executive director
  4. everyone at the counter can view the cameras in present time
  5. cameras are in spots where they do no good
  6. cameras aren’t in spots where things could actually be stolen
  7. Nebulous…the staff would be safer
  8. didn’t stop a pervert
  9. management doesn’t know what would make staff feel safer (her words)

In the end it seems a knee-jerk reaction in this world of everything under surveillance, and as she said I was only the third person to comment it tells me that we’re complacent to the infringement of our rights. The biggest pervert is the constant stare of those cameras and while management pretends they’re making their staff safer (as opposed to having to people on at a time) they are ignoring the fact that they’re infringing on their patrons’ privacy. When the tanks start rolling down the streets I imagine it will be much the same. Big Brother took a little longer to get here than 1984 but be assured he’s here.

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Writing: How to Make a Canadian a Star

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Okay, this might really be a small star but in Canada there are a few awards that recognize speculative writing. There is the juried Sunburst Award http://www.sunburstaward.org/, the Endeavour Award http://www.osfci.org/endeavour/index.php, which recognizes a book from the Pacific Northwest, either US or Canada (which is also juried), and the Prix Aurora Awards http://www.prix-aurora-awards.ca/wordpress/, which is voted on by readers and fans. The Auroras recognize professional and fan achievement and anyone who is a Canadian can nominate anyone who is a Canadian (even if living abroad) or a landed immigrant for the awards.

A book or magazine published in the US or any other country cannot be nominated for an Aurora but a Canadian who has a piece in it or has written the book can be. Canadian publishers can be nominated. And you, if you’re Canadian can nominate anyone who is eligible. There  is a list thought it may not be a complete list of eligible works by Canadians listed here: http://canadiansf.com/node/122.

I have four works that are eligible in two categories this year and the Aurora nominations are open until April 30th. Anyone can recommend a piece and the more recommendations, then the better the chance of ending up on the final ballot. To vote on the final ballot you do have to pay a nominal fee I believe and all the info can be found at the Aurora site.

My eligible works are:

Short Stories:

  • “An Ember Amongst the Fallen,” Evolve: Vampire Stories of the New Undead, Edited by Nancy Kilpatrick, EDGE Science Fiction and Fantasy Publishing, March 2010.
  • “A Taste For Treasure,” Alison’s Wonderland, Edited by Alison Tyler, Harlequin Spice, July 2010.
  • “Exegesis of the Insecta Apocrypha,” Horror Library Vol. 4, Edited by R.J. Cavender, Cutting Block Press, October 2010.

So far, I know that “An Ember” has received very good reviews and was called a “visionary masterpiece” by the Barnes & Noble reviewer, and  “Exegesis” has received several recommendations for a Stoker. It may not go farther than that but that’s a good start. The Horror Library anthology has also been nominated for a Black Quill award.

Poem:

  • “Of the Corn: Kore’s Innocence” Witches & Pagans #21, Edited by Anne Newkirk-Niven, BBI Media, Summer 2010.

The Evolve anthology would also be eligible under Best Related Work, or Best Novel. The categories are somewhat unclear still. But presumably the Aurora committee will sort that out. Of course anyone can nominate any of the works. I’ll be sending in recommendations in the next month, once I’ve had a chance to read some of the pieces. Below is the information from the Aurora site and the site can be accessed by the URL listed above.

THE CANADIAN SCIENCE FICTION AND FANTASY ASSOCIATION IS PROUD TO ANNOUNCE:

The 2011 Prix Aurora Award Nominations will open Jan. 8th, 2011
Final nominations must be received no later than Midnight PST on Sunday, April 30th, 2011

[The French-language Auroras have been combined with the Prix Boréal with the new name – Prix Aurora Boréal and will be administered on behalf of CSFFA by SFSF Boréal through the Congres Boréal]

THREE STEPS TO NOMINATE :

  1. Register for membership [One-time, free, CSFFA registration on the Aurora site will enable nomination and voting for the Auroras for this and future years.]
  2. Verify your registration
  3. Use your new membership id# to Nominate

You may nominate via our easy to use online system or by manually filling in our downloadable nomination form and mailing it in to us.

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Crazy or Batsh*t Crazy

There has been a fair amount of media attention about the mentally ill of late. CBC’s Current (in Canada) was actually highlighting depression two week’s ago with Steven Page hosting, formerly of Barenaked Ladies. And then the guy in Arizona shot and killed people and when arrested it’s reported that he’d been suffering from mental health problems.

Canada and the US are both suffering from the same disease and that is cutbacks in the field of health. What happens then is that the mentally ill are released from hospitals or other health institutions and end up living on the streets or in jail, becoming drug addicts, injuring themselves or injuring others. It’s important to stress that the number of mentally ill people who injure others is a very small number indeed. And mentally ill does not include personality types like sociopaths. By saving money in the health field governments actually put up costs of such things as administering the fight against crime, prisons becoming overfull, latent mental health costs, other crimes and injuries that fill up the system. I’m sure a cost analysis would show that this is not an economical way to deal with the severely mentally ill.

But in that gray area of gray matter, there are those who are not the dangerous. They can fit into society and are not devoid of regular sociability or being able to function in the day-to-day. These people fall into the other categories of the depressed and the phobic. Severe phobias limit people’s ability to do different things, and severe depression can lead to a decrease in being social, integrating with others, working as well as leading to death.

It’s a sad state and many people do not understand even the basics of depression. Steven Page talked about his own battle with it and it affects many many people. There is still that social stigma that should you mention you’ve been depressed or heaven forbid have a permanent condition schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, etc. that you’re then branded as crazy. We’ve all used the term to describe people who might be clinically crazy or just too weird for normal society. We sometimes shy from them, are afraid of them and rarely do we understand.

I speak from experience, and will speak again and again about this because the only way to make this understandable is to talk about it and educate people. Depression often runs in families, some weird genetic fault. I don’t know the mechanism but I know it runs in my family. I’ve been depressed and I’ve been clinically depressed, the second being when you meet most of the markers by which they judge such things. There are different depths of depression and it affects people different ways. I have found that I have even been affected differently each time depression has hit me.

Some of my markers are sleeping too long, aching joints, boredom, flatlining on emotions, becoming overemotional, alienation, not eating, eating too much. Sometimes it’s depended on deeply I was sinking. I’ll overeat but in the darkest depths I’ll stop eating. It could be different for other people and of course suicidal thoughts and attempts are a big part of full-blown depression. Luckily, that’s one aspect I don’t really get though I came close a few years back and was probably scared out of it by the fact that someone I’d known for twenty years hung himself through a combo of a head injury, depression and the inability to pay for his meds. Anti-depressants are expensive and a depressed person finds every stress to be a very large stress.

The biggest part of depression that people don’t understand is that the illness isolates in many ways. Coping becomes difficult so that even answering the phone is too hard. Making informed and balanced decisions goes out the window. Hiding becomes the way to exist and a depressed person feels alone and unloved, isolated by their brain and the world around them.

It’s hard for us to know what to do if a person is depressed. After all, who wants to be around a sad sack who brings them down. Our society frowns upon weakness so even asking for help is hard to do. A coupe of times I would say to friends, “I’ve been depressed.” This was a close as I got to admitting or asking for help. What I was really saying was, “I”m depressed. I need you to do things with me. I need you to care. I need you to call me or pull me out of myself.” But how can anyone else know this? The language of the depressed person is circumvented by the illness itself. They may act like they don’t want/can’t handle company but they need to stop dwelling constantly on the whirlwind of darkness. This I do know but it is hard. It’s not just a case of “suck it up, buttercup,” it’s a matter of altered brain chemistry. This is why severe depression requires  (though sometimes there is an overmedication of people just feeling sad). They aren’t just feel good, happy pills. They have to fix the chemicals churning in the brain. Eating properly and exercising are also a big part of keep that brain floating on the pond instead of sinking.

Being depressed isn’t so much looking through a glass darkly as it is being in the bottom of a steep dark glass. The depressed person cannot see her/his way out and needs help and support. If you know someone like this, try to get your friends and family to help reach out, to show you care and perhaps you can just throw a lifeline to someone who will be able to climb out into the light.

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Writing and Cultural Appropriation

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From time to time an author is accused of cultural appropriation, where they write in or about a culture other than the one they are most familiar with, their own. Cultural appropriation can take on many nuances, from intimations of racism and bigotry to naiveté and misconceptions of history.

An example of cultural appropriation could be a white person with Maori tattoos, a person from India eating smoked salmon, the women of the Middle Ages wearing turban-style headdresses (from the Middle East). In this sense one culture adopts aspects of another culture. Throughout history, this has always happened as one group migrated or conquered another group. Blending languages, religions, styles and eating traditions were just some of the ways in which culture was appropriated.

In the world today, especially in Western culture, relaying and exchange of information as well as goods is swift and nearly universal. This means that after a certain amount of appropriation the culture assimilates or becomes a melting pot. This is neither a bad nor a good thing but it is just the way humanity adapts. We are always attracted to or repulsed by something new, until we get used to it.

In writing, cultural appropriation has usually had negative connotations. In other aspects of politics and life, when it’s mentioned in the media, it usually has a criticism attached. Sometimes the criticism is justified, say with a white writer whose story is about blacks who are only all ghetto, given to gang activity and play basketball on the street. That story may be playing off of stereotypes and only show the people in a negative light. It is usually when a writer of another culture, and most often a white author writing about another culture, that the term of cultural appropriation comes out. W.P. Kinsella is well known for writing stories involving Native/First Nations people and he’s white. I don’t believe he’s ever been blamed for cultural appropriation because he doesn’t stereotype everyone and he makes them real and three-dimensional. The criticism usually happens if someone writes of another culture but does so with cliché characters or stereotypes.

Often as not the accusation will grow to ridiculous proportions, such as; you cannot write about blacks because you aren’t black. You can’t write about women because you’re a man. I was once told by another writer that I couldn’t write about old people because I wasn’t old. Now I might not have written something well or in the correct viewpoint but in fact if we started pointing the finger and saying we could not write about gender, race, culture, religion or lifestyle other than our own, then we would all be writing about ourselves. The stories would be autobiographical and all characters would have to be us. I often roll my eyes when I hear the term. While I believe in honoring and respecting all people, and trying to avoid saying “you’re wrong because you’re not doing it my way,” I also do not believe that I cannot write about or include another culture than my own in the stories I write.

It has become the politically correct thing to say the moment a white person (usually) writes about anything other than their own people. And interestingly enough, it’s usually tossed about by other white people. Definitely when we write we are responsible for not perpetuating stereotypes and racism. However, if I’m writing a period piece and the character is thinking or talking within his time and it serves a purpose to move the story forward, then I must write that character accurately with attitude and vernacular, no matter how offensive it is to our modern sensibilities. And in fact, I’m most likely making a point, or indicating some horror of the past by including such a viewpoint. It is important that before we start painting everything with the cultural appropriation paintbrush that we understand the context and the message. It is one way we can understanding of events, cultures or people different from us, by writing about them, and putting ourselves in their place.

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The Good, the Bad & the Ugly of Editing Manuscripts

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What do you get if you pay an editor to copy edit your manuscript? Several things, but it depends what you pay for, how much you pay and who you pay. Under editing there are many types, but the three most often used and confused are copy editing, substantive/structural editing and stylistic editing. New writer often say they want their manuscript proofread when what they mean is copy editing. Here are brief definitions of the three types mentioned above:

  • Substantive/structural editing: this is reorganizing a manuscript and clarifying its intent/plot. The editor might make the changes or direct the author on what has to be changed. Substantive editing looks at the continuity of the plot. This stage will often happen once a manuscript is bought by the publisher but individuals can hire editors to do this as well.
  • Stylistic editing: this is editing for a consistent style, which includes language, jargon, reading levels, themes within the manuscript. Sometimes this is combined with copy editing but it is often charged separately.
  • Copy editing: this is really the first step for any writer and looks at grammar, spelling, punctuation, mechanics of style, internal consistency of style and facts (there are other aspects not mentioned here but these are the basics). It can be done by the publisher but authors might go through a copy editor on their own if they’re not sure of the writing skills or the overall plot. If someone has written their first novel but hasn’t spent much time honing their craft through courses, workshops and critiques the it’s highly recommended to have the manuscript copy edited before sending it out to publishers.

Competition is quite fierce these days and some publishers will toss a manuscript if there are too many grammatical and spelling errors. If you haven’t spent years working on writing and taking constructive criticism, it’s possible you may not get far. Also, many people decided to publish on their own in one format or another and this is where it’s essential to have a good editor go through the manuscript.

An editor can’t guarantee you’ll sell your manuscript or that a publisher will like it. There are many factors in editing. Of the many manuscripts I’ve looked at over the years, both for publishers and for individuals, the skill of the writer has varied considerably. If a publisher buys the manuscript then the head editor negotiates changes with the author, even those done by other editors. If an individual hires a copy editor, then it is up to them to incorporate the changes into their final manuscripts. I have worked in hard copy and digital; digital allows incorporation of corrections at a faster pace for the writer but can actually take longer for the editor.

A writer may decide not to accept all edits, may not take the suggestions, might not do a suggested rewrite, and might decide to change things after the editing has been done, thus introducing errors to the manuscript. I have had clients do this and more, which means that should they submit the manuscript to a publisher it might not look like it was edited. Some have wanted to credit me or list me as the editor for which it’s been an embarrassment and could be detrimental to my career. I have always told clients, You’re not paying me to tell you your story is great. You’re paying me to make it better.

On the other hand, there are bad editors as well. A writer is not necessarily an editor and a nonfiction writer is likely to not be a very good fiction editor. Likewise, if you write mysteries, a romance editor may not help. This is for substantive and stylistic editing. For copy editing there are the basics of grammar, spelling and punctuation that any editor can handle, but there can be a subtle nuance to genre writing and if you’re looking for a stylistic editor or even substantive you want someone who knows that genre. As a copy editor I have done books on the gold rush, Canadian film, IT handbook, cookbooks, thrillers, SF, romance, autobiographical, poetry (which is its own special niche) and others. An editor needs a good foundation of information and be wiling to question some things. Fact checking is separate from editing but it’s good to query the author if it says “he parachuted from the hang glider” and you ask “Can one actually parachute from a hang glider? It’s then up to the writer to fix it or not.

One of my clients had first taken his books to an editing company that charged him $10,000. When I received the manuscripts it was hard to tell exactly what they had done. They had charged more than me, had not put the manuscripts into a proper word document format, had not checked headers or number, had not fixed all spelling or punctuation or grammar issues. There were major problems with the plot and the structure that my client chose not to fix, after I warned him that it would be unlikely anyone would publish it. I did fix formatting and the basic copy edit, as well as giving copious notes on the characters, dialogue, language, plot and settings.

It’s hard to know what to get when you’re shopping for an editor but it’s fine to ask questions, get an estimate (I always give one) ask for a sample edit (and pay for it–editors will not work for free) and compare. Like everything else, you should know what you’re buying. Editors cannot get your story published but they can make it better.

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Being Cursed With Luck

Wiki Commons--cuneiform script

I think that ever since people discovered writing and started pressing cuneiform shapes in clay, and chipping symbols into stone that there have been chain letters. Okay, perhaps not that long ago when writing and reading was something for an elite class, but by the time of the Renaissance and the Industrial Revolution I’m sure chain letters started to make their rounds. People would write letters to each other, perhaps adding an anecdote or recipe for good luck, riches, health. And then it became a game: if you want good luck you must send this on, you must send it to so many people to receive this much luck. Oh and there is the pyramid chain letter: if you sell this to two people, they will sell to four people, etc. and you get a cut of all of these and you’ll be RICH!

It’s interesting in all those years of chain letters that we’ve never heard any substantiated claims of amazing luck coming on the heels of such a missive. And of course the internet perpetuated the chain letter to a higher and more aggravating degree. They come in all forms; sometimes with jokes, a homily, pictures, a touching story, recipes, supposed messages to/from some rich guy, philosophies or other heartwarming messages. Gah! Seriously, folks, how gullible are people?

I started to get severely annoyed at this because it’s not just saying “good luck” to someone. What you’re saying when you’re passing these chain letters on is that “I wish you bad luck unless you follow my command.” If you do not do this stupid thing you will be cursed and if you do do this stupid thing, you will be given good luck, great cookies, a laptop, amazing karma or bags of money, which never ever ever materialize. Some letters threaten that if people don’t forward the letter they will suffer death, injury, loss of soul, paranoia, halitosis, you name it.

Sometimes the jokes/story/get rich/free stuff letter is good or funny. I’ll chop off the luck curse and send on the email. I don’t intend to guilt trip or badger people into more stupid antics or scare them into gullibility. Planes have not fallen on me, my limbs haven’t rotted and I have not died because of ignoring chain letters. The only true aspect of the chain letter is that it’s a chain, an albatross and big bag of BS. Otherwise, oh my, what would I do if my email crashed before I read the chain letter and could forward it. OMG! Cursed, cursed I tell you, with seven years, a life time of bad luck or no sex, or corns on my feet. Below is an example of a chain letter that was forwarded to me today, with my comments in italics. Notice there are several steps in the typical chain: denial of gullibility, validation of authenticity, credibility of threat.


Early 18th century chain letter--Wiki Commons

Not superstitious, but no need to start the new year on a bad note…… Happy New Year! Often the person sending doesn’t want to be seen as gullible so there’s that bit of denial. Not superstitious. Ah but you are. And in fact, let’s wish everyone happiness before we wish them bad luck.

a) Chris Angel showed how this worked on one of his shows, but it was still kind of surprising. Once you have opened this e-mail, there is no turning back. Below are true descriptions of zodiac signs. Read your sign and then forward it on, with your zodiac sign on the subject line. b) This is the real deal, try ignoring or changing it and the first thing you’ll notice is having a horrible day, starting tomorrow morning – and it only gets worse from there. What’s wrong with this paragraph? Oh so much. This is the validation a). Chris Angel is a famous goth looking magician or illusionist. How does he prove a chain letter? There is no evidence for this and it’s a vague attempt at making the chain letter look real as opposed to all those other fake chain letters. Oh, and let’s not forget this is the true descriptions of the zodiac signs. Wrong. It is one description of a horoscope or the personality attributes to a sign. True? By whose definition?

Then comes the credibility of the threat–b). It’s the real thing. Honestly. Not like those other fakes. And beware! If you don’t do this, you WILL SUFFER!

AQUARIUS   – The Sweetheart (Jan 20 – Feb 18) Optimistic and honest. Sweet personality…. Very independent. Inventive and intelligent. Friendly and loyal. Can seem unemotional… Can be a bit rebellious.. Very stubborn, but original and unique. Attractive on the inside and out… Eccentric personality. 11 years of luck if you forward. Hmm, neither good nor bad luck for the first one.
PISCES – The Dreamer (Feb 19 – Mar 20) Generous, kind, and thoughtful. Very creative and   imaginative.   May become secretive and vague. Sensitive. Don ‘t like details. Dreamy and unrealistic. Sympathetic and loving. Kind Unselfish. Good kisser. Beautiful. 8 years of good luck if you forward.
ARIES – The Daredevil (Mar 21 – April 19) Energetic. Adventurous and spontaneous.. Confident and enthusiastic. Fun. Loves a challenge. EXTREMELY impatient.Sometimes selfish.   Short fuse. (Easily angered…) Lively, passionate, and sharp wit. Outgoing. Lose interest quickly – easily bored. Egotistical. Courageous and assertive. Tends to be physical and athletic. 16 years of good luck if you forward.
TAURUS – The Enduring One (April 20 – May 20) Charming but aggressive.. Can come off as boring, but they are not. Hard workers. Warm-hearted. Strong, has endurance. Solid beings that are stable and secure in their ways. Not looking for shortcuts. Take pride in their beauty. Patient and reliable. Make great friends and give good advice. Loving and kind. Loves hard – passionate. Express themselves emotionally.. Prone to ferocious temper-tantrums. Determined. Indulge themselves often. Very generous. 12 years of good Luck if you forward
GEMINI – The Chatterbox (May 21 – June 20) Smart and witty. Outgoing, very chatty. Lively, energetic. Adaptable but needs to express them s elves. Argumentative and outspoken. Like change. Versatile. Busy, sometimes nervous and tense. May seem superficial or inconsistent. Beautiful physically and mentally. 5 years of bad luck if you do not forward. Notice that the emphasis towards bad luck changes here.
CANCER – The Protector (June 21 – July 22) Moody, emotional. May be shy. Very loving and caring. Pretty/handsome. Excellent partners for life. Protective. Inventive and imaginative. Cautious. Touchy-feely kind of person. Needs love from others. Easily hurt, but sympathetic. 16 years of bad luck if you do not forward.
LEO – The Boss (July 23 – Aug 22) Very organized. Need order in their lives – like being in control.. Like boundaries. Tend to take over everything. Bossy. Like to help Others.. Social and outgoing. Extroverted.. Generous, warm-hearted. Sensitive. Creative energy… Full of themselves. Loving. Doing the right thing is important to Leos.. Attractive. 13 years of bad luck if you do not forward…..
VIRGO – The Perfectionist (Aug 23 – Sept 22) Dominant In relationships. Conservative. Always wants the last word.. Argumentative. Worries. Very smart. Dislikes noise and chaos. Eager. Hardworking. Loyal. Beautiful. Easy to talk to. Hard to please. Harsh. Practical and very fussy.. Often shy. Pessimistic.. 7 years of bad luck if you do not forward.
LIBRA – The Harmonizer (Sept 23 – O ct 22) Nice to everyone they meet. Can’t make up their mind . Have own unique appeal. Creative, energetic, and very social. Hates to be alone. Peaceful, generous. Very loving and beautiful.. Flirtatious Give in too easily. Procrastinators… Very gullible. 9 years of bad luck if you do not forward. Interesting that it was a Libra who forwarded it to me.
SCORPIO – The Intense One (Oct 23 – Nov 21) Very energetic. Intelligent. Can be jealous and/or possessive. Hardworking. Great kisser.. Can become obsessive or secretive. Holds grudges. Attractive. Determined. Loves being in long Relationships. Talkative… Romantic. Can be self-centered at times. Passionate and Emotional. 4 years of bad luck if you do not forward. Scorpio, you must have been especially bad. Only four years of luck and an emphasis on bad for you.
SAGITTARIUS – The Happy-Go-Lucky One (Nov 22 – Dec 21) Good-natured optimist…   Doesn’t want to grow up (Peter Pan Syndrome).   Indulges self . Boastful. Likes luxuries and gambling. Social and outgoing.. Doesn’t like responsibilities. Often fantasizes. Impatient…. Fun to be around. Having lots of friends. Flirtatious. Doesn’t like rules… Sometimes hypocritical.. Dislikes being confined – tight spaces or even tight clothes. Doesn’t like being doubted. Beautiful inside and out Oh my, poor Sagittarius. No luck for you either good or bad. What’s that about? You better complain to the powers that be. Whether that’s God, a genie, a fairy or an internet demon; well that’s up to you to find out.
CAPRICORN   – The Go-Getter (Dec 22 – Jan 19) Patient and wise. Practical and rigid… Ambitious. Tends to be Good-looking. Humorous and funny. Can be a bit shy and reserved. Often pessimistic. Capricorns tend to act before they think and can be Unfriendly at times. Hold grudges. Like competition. Get what they want. 20 years of good luck if you forward. Oh, can I change my sign? Twenty years of luck! I should be a multi-millionaire far before then. But wait there’s more. Perhaps even this was a blend of two chain letters. Not only do you get a number of years of good luck but if you send it to the numbers of people below you can increase your luck by a minute up to an hour. Wha–?

Send away!!~ Ready, set, go!
1-3 people= 1 minute of luck
4-7 people= 1 hour of luck
8-12 people = 1 day of luck
13-17 People = 1 week of luck
18-22 people = 1 month of luck
23-27 people = 3 Months of luck
28-32 people = 7 months of luck
33-37 people = 1 year of luck

So there you go. Luck, good luck, bad luck and multiples of luck. And it’s all bogus luck. Good luck with the new year. 😀

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Roommates From Hell

It’s the new year and what better way to start a blog than reflecting on the past and how it’s so much better now. Of course, this is distant past but it came up over the holidays, talking about those endearing and wacky roommates we used to have. They were memorable, their antics irritating or unusual and in the end we escaped or moved on.

When I think back I had a few rather unique individuals as roomies. Thank god there never was a mold to make another one. When I first moved to Vancouver, I moved in with a friend. She and her guy went to Greece for the summer and the landlord decided to evict us while she was away. I fought it but eventually we moved, and then she moved in with her boyfriend and I inherited a mutual friend. The friend was okay mostly but had a few issues. One day when I found she had recorded over a tape I had of a band I took back my tape and then came home a week later to find the tape pulled out of the cassette. She claimed it had got stuck but I think a tamper tantrum had caused the true unraveling. Mostly she was okay.

Along the way, she moved into her own apartment and I took the one next door when I couldn’t afford the other place on my own. This was fine until this friend decided to move out of Vancouver and because she was going to do that midmonth she wanted to stay at my place for the two weeks once she gave up her place. Well, two weeks became three became four, became three months. I was far too nice in those days and didn’t say anything, just became more passively aggressive. She began to know that she had overstayed her welcome and eventually left giving me a very nice jewelery box as an apology.

 

Creative Commons

 

At one point I moved into a house that had four male friends. They were moving out and other friends were moving in. I moved in a month before everyone else so in fact should have had more say you’d think, or maybe even equal say. A couple moved in and another guy. We were all friends but the single guy was always out looking for a mother/sex kitten girlfriend or playing war games with his armies made of lead. Most of us were unemployed at the same time. The couple had three cats. We also had next to no counter space in the kitchen. They wouldn’t wash their dishes, even putting them on the floor, and the clothes usually clean mounded in their bedroom to the ceiling. I lost clothes while living there because I think they got eaten by that cloth leviathan.

But that wasn’t the worst. The no cleaning thing, in a humid and warm city like Vancouver, with three cats meant that there were fleas. Guess who’s allergic to flea bites? I would scratch my legs so bad at night while sleeping that they would bleed. I had to get something from my doctor to stop the itching while I slept. You’d think that might have been the worst of it, but it wasn’t.

The male of the couple started screwing the thermostat shut so it couldn’t be adjusted. No discussion, no communal decision, just the master on high making his decry. I’d have to sneak upstairs, take out the screw and turn up the heat in the winter. One day I was looking for my electric beaters to bake something. When asking the wife she said, ask D, he was doing something with some of the dishes. When I asked D for them, he had packed a bunch of dishes away and put them in the attic. “Are you sure they’re yours?” Yes I’m sure. He gave me a suspicious sidelong look but returned my utensils. D liked to keep every plastic bag. Now I do too but I use mine. These just accrued like Scrooge McDuck’s gold hoard.

The piece de resistance was the cat litter. Thankfully they did change the litter box, bagging up the stinky, used litter and piling it by the back door or on the back porch. When garbage day came along, I went to take the bags to the garbage. “No,” said D, “I’m saving them.” Bewildered, I asked what for? “Oh to reuse, to fill holes in the back yard.” Well, I just blinked and thought WTF? He didn’t garden, didn’t do anything in the yard, and any supposed holes would have stayed toxic waste zones where nothing ever grew. I had to sneak the offending kitty piles out in the dark of night.

He was the weirdest hoarder. All these lovely things built till I wanted to kill D, and I think he wanted to kill me too. So I finally moved, out…on my own…blissfully on my own. I did have a few roommates after that, but mostly I chose to live with my own idiosyncrasies and not anyone else’s.

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