Monday, December 31, 2007

The obligatory year-end wrap-up post

Uploaded on March 17, 2007
by darkmatter
I felt it was expected - a post that makes a mention of the year-end in one way or another. And because I felt it was almost "obligatory," the post I had originally written (but never published) was rather nasty. In it I listed everything that's going wrong with the world (well, I couldn't possibly list them all) in general terms. You know, I mentioned the things that worry me like global warming, wars, hunger, poverty, diseases, epidemics, space exploration (or lack thereof), cultural dilution etc.

I could never understand how those artificial divisions of time (year, month, et.) are so meaningful. So the earth rotated around the sun again. Big deal. Time is continuous and so is the earth's movement and because it completed a rotation we're suddenly joyful? It doesn't stop or anything, the earth doesn't know it's been a year. The bad things don't miraculously disappear for the night...

Maybe you understand now why I decided to just save the post and not publish it, but went to take a nap instead given that I hardly slept last night and I'm planning on having fun tonight!

I woke up, and with a puffy face I had much less cynicism in me than a few hours earlier. Not that anything had changed. I guess that what mainly changed was within me and I didn't want to be in a bad mood or ruin anyone else's. Didn't I just say that I wanted to have fun tonight too?

So let's do just that tonight and meet again to solve the world's problem in two days, hows that?

Happy New Year everybody :)

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Saturday, December 29, 2007

Writing is ... Arrogant ?

"Writing is arrogant." I don't remember where I've heard this before. Perhaps it was Ryan, The Grumpy Owl, who mentioned it to me first, and at the time I don't believe I gave it much thought, if at all. But I find myself thinking about these words every so often; they've landed somewhere in my brain and wouldn't leave. I was wondering what others are thinking about it -- is writing arrogant?

Well, on the one hand, writers assume that their word is important enough to be read. They assume they have something to say to the world that is of value (added). They assume they can teach / influence / affect people. They want their words to do that.

Then again, so does any other art form, no? Show me an artist who doesn't want his work to affect the person experiencing his art, and I'll call him on it. So does that means that art in itself is arrogant?

This concept pains me. I don't know why but it does.

Take even non-fiction writing, say articles. They have to sound authoritative to pass even the first acceptance level. Say blogs, this post. I make very strong statements and I make them in a way that sounds as if I believe I'm right (which I am, of course... :).

See why the concept pains me? Or is it me?

Take a fictional work, say a novel. You want your readers to be at the very least moved enough so they would turn the page. But you want more, no? What you really want is for them to cry and laugh, bite their nails and sigh in relief. You want them to think your words are important / interesting enough to be read. You want them to experience them same thing you do when you read a good book.

Is that such an arrogant thing to want to be able to affect people? Or is it something else?

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Tuesday, December 25, 2007

To L, I Think of You Every Christmas

There is one person I think about every Christmas. This is why:

An X number of years ago, when I was still a student, my world came apart. I had just separated from my ex a few months before, my roommates left for the holidays and most of my (good) friends also left to be with their families during the holidays. I was all alone, with my own family an ocean and a continent away. Granted, I don't celebrate Christmas, certainly not in the religious sense, but everybody else around me was and combined with new single status, I've never felt so alone in my life.

A few days before Christmas, I went out with some less close friends from university who were native to the city. We had a really good time. We we were young and stupid and broke many laws that night. Surprisingly enough, drunk driving wasn't one of them. We did, however, break into a ski resort and tobogganed at 2 a.m. down the slopes - did I mention is was fun?

But my post isn't about that. I can't remember how the conversation evolved, but somehow L found out I was doing nothing Christmas Day. "No way," he said. "You're coming with me to my sister." I voiced my (very weak) objection about not wanting to intrude on a family Christmas, but L wouldn't hear of it and said he would call me the next day with directions.

I was sure he would forget. We were, after all, quite drunk. But L didn't forget. He called me the next day, gave me instructions and made me promise I'd show up. I did.

I remember being so nervous driving there my hands were shaking on the wheel. I stopped twice on the way there to calm myself. Not only was I truly embarrassed for what I felt would be an intrusion, but the whole thing itself, being with a family other than my own, the kindness of L, etc., made me very emotional.

L's sister and her husband were amazing, though, as was he. They made me feel very welcome and at ease. We had dinner -- homemade sushi -- and then retired to the music room where L's sister and husband played and sang. It was truly the best Christmas Dinner I've ever had.

L -- better known as Liberty (I hope if he ever reads this he wouldn't mind me disclosing his name) -- had just been recently separated from his wife too, something we had in common among our very young university-going crowd. We were never romantically involved, nor did we want to (I think), but he was truly one of the kindest souls I've ever met.

Wherever you are today, Liberty, thank you for breaking my loneliness that Christmas. I think of you every year during Christmas, wishing you the best.


Saturday, December 22, 2007

You Are a Genius!

Really, I'm not kidding. If you are reading this blog -- and obviously you are -- then you are a genius!

Don't believe me? No need. A very respectable test -- found over at Georganna's blog -- proves this:

The Blog Readability Test - What level of education is required to understand All Kinds of Writing?

And you can see, as promised, you couldn't read this blog if you weren't a genius. Voila:

Just curious though. If you are a genius, what does that make me? Uber genius?

Gotta love all these tests!

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Friday, December 21, 2007

Winter Solstice -- Watch Ancient Solstice Clock Live

By cosmicsmudge
If you're into this stuff -- and I know many are -- and even if you're not, it's really really cool.

There's this ancient, pre-Celtic solstice clock in Newgrange, Ireland. It's really old -- 3,200 BC, meaning it's pre Stonehenge and dates even before the Giza pyramids:
For five days around the December 21 winter solstice -- the shortest day of the year -- the sun shines deep into a tomb in County Meath, north of Dublin, flooding with light a chamber where the remains of the dead were once laid.
And now you can share the experience. They're going to have a live internet feed, a web-cam so we can all see, not just the lucky 50 people who were approved to be there. (I don't think it works of FF, btw, only IE).

Should be interesting, and who knows, maybe inspire a story or two.

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Thursday, December 20, 2007

No Cultural Elite - Who Knew?

This is going to come as a blow to some people. Especially those who deem themselves as belonging to the cultural elite, those who aspire for high culture, while snubbing pop culture.

To be honest -- well, those who know me already know it -- I am a bit of a snob when it comes to my cultural preferences. I never ever ever, though, thought my (superior ;) taste stems from anything other than myself and my upbringing; it certainly has nothing to do with money since I grew up poor.

Seems I was right. A research now came out of the University of Oxford, determining that "a cultural-elite, linked to social class, does not exist in society." In fact, "it’s education and social status, not social class that predict cultural consumption..."

More than that, Doctor Tak Wing Chan, who conducted the research with his colleague Doctor John Goldthorpe said:
There’s little evidence for the existence of a cultural elite who would consume 'high' culture while shunning more 'popular' cultural forms. [...] Furthermore, at least a substantial minority of members of the most advantaged social groups are univores (people who have an interest in popular culture only) or inactives (people who access nothing at all).
Unfortunately for us writers -- and readers -- the research concentrated only on visual arts, music and theatre, dance and cinema.

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Monday, December 17, 2007

Procrastination? No, not again

I don't know a writer's blog that hasn't, at some point, tackled the subject of procrastination. Surely many other people have too.

Sunday, with the storm, was a perfect example. I knew I was going to have the whole day at home doing nothing - hubby said he'd cook, so I had planned to do some dreaded laundry, some filing, unpack the second suitcase and start a (secret) new blog. Why did I have to plan any of these? Cause these were chores in my eyes. Guess what? None got done.

Instead, I jovially went out and shoveled our whole front, including the entrance to the basement (which we never use), I shoveled the sidewalk and the neighbour's sidewalk for good measure. I constantly washed the dishes and cleaned after the vigorously cooking hubby. I surfed, I read, I wrote, I even blogged for the first time in two months. All to avoid my chores. I was procrastinating glamorously.

Procrastinating (surfing) brought me to this article in NewScientist, Procrastination: The thief of time. At last, some scientific truth to shed light on this problem, I thought. Understanding leads to solution, no? I was already half way there in solving my problem. Alas, I couldn't read the article because it's behind a subscription wall, but I could read its beginning. Who do you think the article uses as an example??? Douglas Adams. That's right, a writer. We're doomed, I tell ya. It's probably in our genes!

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Sunday, December 16, 2007

Winter made me do it (blog, that is)

So, with the storm we're having, everybody's been posting pictures of winter. Me too then!

You have to understand that less than two weeks ago I was in Israel. While winter was in its midst there, I could still go to the beach for a walk on occasion.

And today ... there was this:

When the snow calmed a bit, I went out to shovel:

And for the regular seasonal photo:

And just two more cute ones:

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