Tuesday, September 10, 2013

The joys of teaching English as a Second Language.

The joys of trying to teach American literature to ESL students. Asking if anyone can guess the meaning of the title in Washington Irving's "The Headless Horseman," ("headless" and "horseman" both being words they don't know although they know the roots and components of these words) and getting two answered that when combined mean "The Stupid Centaur." Hmmmmm . . . someone else has to write that one, I'm afraid. (FYI, we're reading the Classics Illustrated version.) http://www.kelvi.net/books/comics/index.php?album=classics-illustrated%2FRip+Van+Winkle&image=CI012-03.jpg

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Thoughts on human nature, safety, and the world around us

I've got this thought turning around in my head. It's one of those thoughts that either makes people go "Duh, didn' t you know that?" or "My Garsh! That explains everything!" ideas. Some people view the world is naturally safe and some people view the world as naturally unsafe. In other words, some people see dangerous situations, human caused or otherwise, as a natural piece of our existence. Such people see these situations as something to prepare for in order to minimize the consequences if and when they crop up. Other people see the world as inherently safe. Although such people do acknowledge that some danger exists, their usual response is framed by a conception that such dangers should be easily fixed as they are inherently anomalous. This dichotomy in views affects things in many social realms and makes communication difficult, This is made worse by the way in which people tend to gravitate towards others who share their worldview. When the two groups try to discuss various issues often they disagree on this fundamental viewpoint. Therefore they are often unable to sustain any sort of meaningful dialogue on several issues. Instead they often find themselves engaging in arguments over whether or not the world is inherently safe or inherently dangerous. One side argues that the other engages in "Macho fantasies." The other side argues that their counterparts are "dangerously naive." Now, being as I am an EMT, and, in this role, first watched people die at age 17 or 18, grew up in a dysfunctional home where safety was not only not present but people who acknowledged that it was not present were emotionally abused, and have worked for years in security in various capacities dealing with human problems, as well as having traveled extensively and studied world history and cultures, I think it's fair to say which side of the dichotomy I stand on. On the other hand, it has baffled me for years as to why some of my attempts to interact with some people have gone the way they do. (i.e. People who decide out of the blue that it's important that they tell me that I should travel unarmed instead of armed when I go places. I've always assumed that my friends and are safer if one of us is armed, and never understood why they consider this an issue. In fact, I've been perfectly content to let such people drift away, seeing them as irresponsible by taking this position.) I recently had an on-line discussion with someone, a private-college educated self-proclaimed feminist who threw around the term "rape culture" repeatedly, and they found it confusing that because I generally arm myself I thought it would be a good idea for women to do the same thing, particularly since they tend to be smaller and suffer from different patterns of violent attack. Notice I said "different" --these folks felt any patterns of violent attack were anomalous and could and should be done away with simple education of potential attackers. Some time ago, in an on-line forum, some people were accusing me of being rude for voicing opinions in an outspoken manner. I asked a couple of my friends if they thought the statements were rude or inappropriate. They did not. I realized later that the first two people I had approached both had lived through outbreaks of mass human violence. (One had been present at the Tiananmen Square massacre in June 1989 and the other had been involved in a humanitarian way with the Mohawk Civil War at Akwesasne in 1990, an incident on the New York -Canadian border that lasted several days and involved much use of firearms and other weaponry.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Random Thoughts on Writing


FYI, I've finished my novel. It's done. Finished. Completed.

This is no mean feat. FYI, imagine simply typing over 300 pages of words, and trying to keep them clear and grammatically correct. And to describe coherently multiple sequences of events, in order, in a way that is intended to encourage a reader to find them interesting. Then rereading that same document at least four times (not an easy, short, or simple process in itself) while resisting the urge to let one's eyes glaze over and keep oneself able to catch problems in the document. Hours and hours of work over a period of almost two years done in between the stresses and strains of living a strange life. (I think the work gravitated to three different computers as two died in the process.)

But there's a realization that in many ways it's not very good. There are deep flaws in it. And the next novel I write could be much better. I learned a lot from doing this. I'm reminded of the difference between Andrew Vacchs's books first published book "Flood" which is awesome (if you like that sort of thing) and his first written, widely rejected book "Bomb built in hell" which is deeply flawed and it's easy to see why it was continuously rejected. (It was finally published, basically as a collector's piece for fans, and to fans is interesting and shows deep flaws and much promise for the writer.)

So . . . if I wished I could take the *%$#!!@ things and have it up and available on Create Space probably within a week. And there are advantages and disadvantages to that. (One disadvantage being that if it really sucks then I'd be hurting my own reputation as a writer.) And I should probably start on another one, but there are several other pressures on me and other areas in my life where I'd prefer to focus my energies for a few weeks. Areas where I can focus on making a positive change in my existence. Anyway, . . . I've got thoughts on how to resolve this matter and I don't need to make a decision on it tonight.

Anyway, a friend suggested I contact a mutual acquaintance I hadn't contacted for thirty years saying she had some contacts in the publishing industry. I did as why shouldn't I? Turns out much of her company's income comes from online workshops aimed at people who wish to either be or feel like writers, courses that cost over $400 for ten weeks of online classes and interaction. ( I know of at least two companies like this and discovered both by accident. I'm sure there are others.) My interest in this is zero, I'm afraid. Many reasons, including the belief that at this point the key to writing for me is to write, the knowledge base is sufficient for that, and continuous writing can be best done by focusing on the non-writing related finances of my life, achieving stability, and then fixing these and setting aside steady, scheduled time for writing. (The amazing novel was written on two sides of the world and in three different living quarters and while going through a few different awkward and sometimes very scary career and job transitions along the way.) Also, I'm reaching a point in life where after two master's degrees, much lessons of many kinds (including martial arts and cooking lessons) and still living hand-to-mouth I'd like to see money spent on personal education produce money coming in as opposed to simply being money going out.

So anyway, here's part of what I told her (I tried to keep it polite, what she's doing is not a crime, some people like it and it makes them happy, and I contacted her, not the other way around.) [FYI, she suggested I read the website of someone named Jane Friedman, who claims to be very knowledgable about publishing.)

Publishing has many strange niches. And other niches. As for Jane Friedman, I'll check her out, never heard of her, but doubt very much if there is anyone, anywhere who in the year 2013 is "clued into the future of the publishing and media industry." --so I'm suspicious right off the bat. A lot of people I know are trying to understand what's going on, intelligent people with their hands on and feet in things and their future and livelihoods dependent on understanding these very things and they tell me they haven't figured it out yet. Again, there are those people who write for a living, those people who teach writing for a living while labelling themselves as 'writers" and all those people on the fringes trying to figure out how to get in. Like a lot of things i've been involved in it's the "let me in" people on the outside and the "get me out of here" people on the inside, and the people with dental insurance running the workshops that pretend to allow one to naviagate the boundaries between them.