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Saturday, September 30, 2017

Traffic Laws Are For Civilians, Not Cops

The fallout from her traffic stop of a speeding police officer is continuing for Florida Highway Patrol officer Donna Jane Watts as she pursues a federal lawsuit claiming she was harassed because of her actions. Watts says in the lawsuit that after stopping the officer in October 2011, her private driver's license information was accessed more than 200 times by at least 88 law enforcement officers from 25 different agencies. She says she received threatening and prank phone calls and other forms of harassment….The Miami Police Department eventually fired the speeding officer, who was clocked at 120 mph.

Curt Anderson, "Florida Trooper Who Stopped Cop Sues After Harassment," Associated Press, February 11, 2014

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Successful Literary Journalism

To produce successful literary journalism or creative nonfiction, the writer must achieve two goals: journalistic credibility and artistic merit.

Mark Masse, Writer's Digest, March 2002 

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Citizen Solves His Own Hit and Run Case

     When a hit and run driver in Smyrna, Georgia struck Jacob Rogers, a 39-year-old riding his bicycle to work, police told the victim it would be difficult to find the suspect. That's when he decided to conduct his own investigation. He had stopped that morning on July 17, 2014 at an entrance to an apartment complex. What happened next caught him by surprise. "I didn't see anything so I proceeded, and that's when I got hit," he said.

     A female driver of a silver Volkswagen pulled out of the apartment complex and ran into Rogers. "So I'm still on my bike," he said, "and she forced her way through me." The Volkswagen pushed him aside and took off.

     Rogers said that although he wasn't hurt seriously, he suffered pain in the foot that was on the bike pedal struck by vehicle. Part of the pedal broke off, and Rogers couldn't find the piece at the hit and run site.

     The next day, Rogers went back to the apartment complex to look for a silver Volkswagen."The first car that I saw was a silver Volkswagen," he said. I took a picture of the rear license plate and checked the front for damage." In front grill he found the missing piece from his left bike pedal lodged in the vehicle.

     A police officer resident of the apartment complex ran the license plate. Shortly thereafter Smyrna police officers arrested the car's owner. They took 20-year-old Pablynne Silva into custody. A local prosecutor charged her with misdemeanor hit and run, an offense punishable by a fine of $1,000 and up to a year in jail.

     Pablynne told officers she had driven off after hitting the man on the bike out of fear of getting into trouble with the law.

Politician Know Thy Self: Sociopathy and the Quest for the Presidency

     Only a sociopath believes that he or she can lead the free world. A normal person knows better. While some presidents and candidates for the office do a pretty good job of disguising their sociopathy, they all give themselves away. It became obvious that Jimmy Carter thought he was Jesus. Richard Nixon turned out to be paranoid and a crook. George W. Bush had conversations with God. Bill Clinton's bold-face lying and reckless behavior exposed his sociopathy. President Obama's favorite word was"I," and Herman Cain repeatedly referred to himself in third person. John Edwards swooned over his refection in the mirror, and let a aide take the fall in his love-child scandal. Newt Gingrich's ruthless treatment of his first wife and his belief that he knew everything qualified him for the presidency. And Hillary Clinton? Where to begin? As for Donald Trump, what normal person believes that he alone can "drain the swamp" and make America great again?

     It would be refreshing for a presidential candidate to step up to the mike and say, "I am a sociopath. I'm smarter than the people whose money and votes I solicit, and I will lie to get your support. And when I get into office, I'll continue to lie and keep on asking for money and votes in order to keep the job all politically oriented sociopaths covet." This, of course, will never happen because it requires telling the truth to people who don't want to hear it anyway.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Charles Bukowski's Fan Mail

I get many of my letters from people in madhouses and jails and some from strange people out of them. What they say, mainly, is that I have given them a reason for going on: "Since you are so screwed-up, Bukowski, and still around, there is a chance for me." But I don't write to save people; I dislike most of them. I feel best when I am totally alone. I've tried to answer most of my letters, especially from people in the madhouses but I found that an answer just brings another letter, a longer one and a stranger one.

Charles Bukowski in Charles Bukowski: Selected Letters 1971-1986, edited by Seamus Cooney, 2004 

Monday, September 18, 2017

When You Sit Down to Write--Write

Here's a short list of what not to do when you sit down to write. Don't answer the phone. Don't look at e-mail. Don't go on the Internet for any reason, including checking the spelling of some obscure word, or for what you might think of as research but is really a fancy form of procrastination…Sit down and stay there…Get used to the discomfort. Make some kind of peace with it.

Dani Shapiro, Still Writing, 2013 

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Stephen King's Daily Word Production

I like to get ten pages a day, which amounts to 2,000 words. That's 180,000 words over a three-month span, a goodish length for a book--something in which the reader can get happily lost, if the tale is done well and stays fresh. On some days those ten pages come easily; I'm up and out and doing errands by eleven-thirty in the morning…More frequently, as I grow older, I find myself eating lunch at my desk and finishing the day's work around one-thirty in the afternoon. Sometimes, when the words come hard, I'm still fiddling around at teatime. Either way is fine with me, but only under dire circumstances do I allow myself to shut down before I get my 2,000 words.

Stephen King, On Writing, 2000

What Pre-Teens Read

Children of both sexes in the 10 to 12 year age group predominantly read fiction, with the most popular genre amongst both boys and girls being adventure stories. Girls choose more romances, horror/ghost stories and poetry books. Boys choose more science fiction, comedy, sports and war/spy books.

Lyn Pritchard, penguin.com, 1999

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Sword-and-Socery Fantasy

Sword-and-socery fiction is to fantasy what the western is to the historical novel, or perhaps more precisely, what the hardboiled private-eye story is to mystery fiction. It is a subgenre based on a prefabricated image, without which it cannot be identified at all: the cowboy in the middle of the dusty street, ready to draw; the private-eye in the trench coat; the brawny scantily-clad swordsman, glaring defiantly at menaces supernatural and otherwise, with an even less-clad shapely wench cowering somewhere in the background.

Darrell Schweitzer in How To Write Tales of Horror, Fantasy & Science Fiction, edited by J.N. Williamson, 1991 

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Writing Class

When Katherine Anne Porter taught creative writing at the University of Virginia, her method was to sit the student writer down and read his story to him aloud. That's all there was to it, or so I've heard tell. I've also heard tell that one student, before his story was half read, broke down and ran out of class. [I would have been right behind him, all the way to the registrar's office to get my tuition back.]

John Casey in The Writing Life, 1995 

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Science Fiction Writers Are Rarely Recognized Outside the Genre

Some writers whose careers have been largely based on science fiction writing have never been categorized that way. Kurt Vonnegut and John Hershey were never within the science fiction ghetto. One surprising result of the ghettoizing of speculative fiction, however, is that writers have enormous freedom within its walls. It's as if, having once been confined within our cage, the keepers of the zoo of literature don't much care what we do as long as we stay behind bars.

Orson Scott Card, How to Write Science Fiction and Fantasy, 1990 

Short Story Foreshadowing

Foreshadowing devices in short stories have the effect of enhancing the inevitability of the action, usually without destroying the suspense or tension--in fact, correctly used, foreshadowing can enhance those effects. What foreshadowing does is prepare in advance for events that will follow later in the story, often in ways that will not be fully understood by the reader until the story is completed. For while devices of foreshadowing may sometimes be very apparent, at other times it is necessary to go back into a story to see what methods were used to make its final effects convincing.

Rust Hill, Writing in General and the Short Story in Particular, Revised Edition, 1987  

Thursday, September 7, 2017

S.J. Perelman on Humor

If people expect me to be funny, they are in for a rude shock. I figure my job ends when I leave the typewriter and get out of the swivel chair. People make a mistake when they confuse a writer with a performer.

S.J. Perelman, in People, Books & Book People, edited by David W. McCullough, 1981 

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Stephen King on the Anatomy of Stories and Novels

     In my view, stories and novels consist of three parts: narration, which moves the story from point A to point B and finally to point Z; description, which creates a sensory reality for the reader; and dialogue, which brings characters to life through their speech.

     You may wonder where plot is in all of this. The answer--my answer, anyway--is nowhere. I won't try to convince you that I've never plotted any more than I'd try to convince you that I've never told a lie, but I do both as infrequently as possible. I distrust plot for two reasons: first, because our lives are largely plotless, even when you add in all our reasonable precautions and careful planning; and second, because I believe plotting and the spontaneity of real creation aren't compatible. It's best that I be as clear about this as I can--I want you to understand that my basic belief about the making of stories is that they pretty much make themselves.

Stephen King, On Writing, 2000

Former Government Cyber Security Director Convicted of Child Pornography

     Former acting director of cyber security for the Department of Health and Human Services, Timothy DeFoggi, was convicted for a myriad of gruesome child pornography charges Tuesday, August 26, 2014. DeFoggi, who had top security clearance in his capacity as cyber security director, first joined the child pornography website PedoBook in March 2012…He was arrested last April when law enforcement officers, when serving a search warrant, found him downloading child pornography in his home.

     In addition to viewing and soliciting child pornography, DeFoggi reportedly asked another member of the PedoBook site if he would share photographs of the other member's son. DeFoggi suggested that he and the other member meet in person to violently rape and murder children together.

     The DeFoggi trial lasted four days. The jury only deliberated two hours to reach its guilty verdict. DeFoggi will be sentenced on November 7, 2014.

     PedoBook's founder, Aaron McGrath, was sentenced to 20 years in prison in 2013. So far seven users of the site, including DeFoggi, have been convicted. Department of Justice attorney Keith Becker explained that the site, prior to being shut down by the FBI in December 2013, had specific forums for discussion of babies, young boys, and young girls. DeFoggi had been active on forums discussing the rape of young children.

     Under federal law, the minimum sentence for engaging in a child pornography enterprise is 20 years in prison.

Tristyn Bloom, "Former HHS Cyber Security Director Convicted for Child Porn," The Daily Caller, August 26, 4014 

Writing Quote: The Art Book

Today, art-book publishing is blooming in a desert. Despite ever-dwindling nourishment from sales, it is a golden age in terms of both the number of titles available and their impressive quality. No single factor explains this paradox, but if we examine the list, we do see trends. The most important may be the uncoupling of art publishing from trade book-selling. As rising exhibition attendance led to increased in-house book sales, museums and galleries came to regard trade partners as superfluous. Relying on university and specialty book distributors, they began to replace trade houses at the center of art publishing. Relatively inexpensive page-makeup software helped turn books into appealing and versatile vehicles for promotion and marketing as well as creative expression by artists and designers. Traditional forms, like artist monographs and broad art-historical surveys, became rare.

Christopher Finch, Bookforum, Dec/Jan, 2015 

The Fantasy Novel

Fantasy celebrates the non-rational. Wrapped in a cloak of magic, it dares a rational reader to object to a frog suddenly being turned into a prince. Where an explanation would be required in science fiction, fantasy says: "Because it did." Though fantasy may offer some cause and effect--the prince probably did something wrong in the first place to cause him to be turned into a warty amphibian--no scientific rationale is required.

Philip Martin in The Writer's Guide to Fantasy and Literature, edited by Philip Martin, 2002 

Monday, September 4, 2017

Using Dialogue in a Memoir

     A fellow memoirist and reviewer writes: "I'm reading a memoir now where the author has written four chapters full of dialogue for events that occurred when she was four years old. Over half the book occurs before she is ten and it's all about what people said and felt. I don't see how much of this could be possibly true."

     My friend's got this right: Nothing makes a reader question memoir more indignantly than the things set aside by quotation marks…

     Unless you walked around your entire life with a tape recorder in your pocket, dialogue will become one of the greatest moral and storytelling conundrums you will face when writing a memoir. You may feel that you need some of it, a smattering at least, to round-out characters, change the pace, dissect the rub between what was thought and what was actually said. You may need dialogue because in life people talk to one another and readers want to know what they said. They want to know the sound of the relationships.

     Dialogue isn't, strictly speaking, absolutely necessary in a memoir…But when it's done right, it feels essential. It seems to bring one closer to the story's heart.

Beth Kephart, Handling the Truth, 2013

Are Americans Losing Touch With Reality?

     The results of a pair studies published in 2012 were quite disturbing. One study concerns the use of illegal drugs worldwide. The other pertains to mental deterioration as one gets older.

     According to researchers in Paris, France, the belief that mental decline doesn't start before age 60 is not correct. In reality, cognitive ability--memory, reasoning, and comprehension--begins to go south at age 45. So, what does this mean for America? In a country where 100 million citizens are over 50, and 35 million are older than 65, this could not be good news. And look at our politicians, a vast majority of them are over 50, and many into their 60s and 70s. In Mississippi they have a congressman who's in his eighties. And there's an eighty-some-year-old representing a congressional district in New York City. People with deteriorating minds are running our country. Perhaps that's one of the reasons the nation is in decline. Young people have good, fresh brains, but they don't know anything. What a mess.

     On the illicit drug front, according to a pair of Australian researchers, between 149 million and 271 million people worldwide took an illegal drug at least once in 2009. Other studies have shown that the heaviest drug users in the world are Americans. In 2009, 22 million Americans (This figure is low because it is based on self-reporting.) used illegal drugs. The narcotic of choice, marijuana was followed by meth, cocaine, ecstasy, and heroin. In addition, 9 million Americans abuse legal drugs and millions more take prescription pills. The latter is particularly true among older Americans who are losing their minds.

     On top of the dementia and the drug taking, the U.S. is home to 12 million alcoholics as well as an additional unknown number of people who drink too much but don't go to the meetings. According to a recent study, 38 million Americans binge drink at least once a month.

     So, what do we have here? We've got at least half of the adults in this country losing their minds, taking drugs and/or drinking too much. (Americans also eat too much, but that's another story.) If we are still the greatest country on earth, what does that say about the rest of the world?

Judge Goes Easy on Rich Political Donor

     Multi-millionaire tech entrepreneur Gurbaksh Chahal was charged with 45 felony counts for a vicious incident where he allegedly punched and kicked his girlfriend 117 times and attempted to smother her. After a judge ruled the video footage taken from Chahal's bedroom inadmissible in court and Chahal's girlfriend withdrew her testimony, he pleaded guilty to two charges--one of domestic violence battery and one of battery.

     His punishment was a mere 25 hours of community service, three years of probation and a 52-hour education course on domestic violence….Chahal is a prominent donor to Democratic causes and has visited the White House on two occasions since 2011 to meet with President Obama….

     The California girlfriend beater has given over $108,000 to Democratic campaigns and causes since 2011….Chahal made his millions through online advertising start-ups and is currently CEO of RadiumOne, a company that reportedly earns $100 million a year. He was once named one of America's "most eligible bachelors," and was interviewed by Oprah Winfrey in 2008….

Scott Greer, "Major Democratic Donor Pleades Guilty to Domestic Abuse, Only Receives Community Service," The Daily Caller, April 24, 2014 

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Woman Arrested for "Feeding the Pigs"

Police in Massachusetts arrested a woman who smeared uncooked bacon and sausage onto a police station dispatch window offering to "feed the pigs." A Framingham Lieutenant told reporters that Lindsay McNamara entered the station Friday morning December 26, 2014 carrying a Dunkin' Donuts box of raw bacon and sausage. She approached an officer with a "great smile on her face" and said she was there to "feed the pigs." The officer said she took the meat from the box and smeared it on the window. She was arrested and charged with malicious destruction of property. The judge ordered a psychiatric examination of the suspect.

"Woman Smeared Bacon on Police Station Window," The Boston Herald, December 28, 2014 

Young Writers Don't Write Biographies

Aspiring writers find biography a less attractive form of creative nonfiction because they like to write about themselves, and unlike memoir, poetry, fiction, and drama, biography offers little chance for self-expression.

Philip Furia in Writing Creative Nonfiction, edited by Carolyn Forche and Philip Gerard, 2001 

Saturday, September 2, 2017

Drunk On Ice

     A Fargo, North Dakota man accused of being drunk while operating a Zamboni ice-grooming machine on January 30, 2015 during a high school hockey game has pleaded not guilty to driving under the influence. [If I were his attorney I'd argue that one "operates" not "drives" a Zamboni "machine."More over, DUI laws pertain to motor vehicles, forms of transportation on public highways. I'd probably lose, but as a lawyer you've got to do something.]

     Steve Anderson allegedly was drunk while preparing the ice for a girl's hockey game. Spectators alerted South Sports Arena officials that Anderson was driving the Zamboni into the boards and appeared impaired. Police say Anderson's blood-alcohol level was 0.30, nearly four times the legal limit for driving. [Let's hope he's not also the driver of the team bus.]

     The 27-year-old could face up to 30 days in jail and a $1,500 fine.

"Man Pleads Not Guilty To Drunk Zamboni Driving," Associated Press, February 20, 2015 

Charles Bukowski On Literary Critics

On punching out critics, no don't do it, unless you do it in play-form. It's all viewpoint, you know. And most viewpoints are pretty damned standard-form. And how does one become a critic? You know somebody in power who gives you the job.

Charles Bukowski in Charles Bukowski: Selected Letters 1987-1994, edited by Seamus Cooney, 2004

Friday, September 1, 2017

The Romantic Plot in Women's Memoirs

All of us live with a life history in our mind, and very few of us subject it to critical analysis. But we are storytelling creatures. So it's very important to examine your own story and make sure that the plot is one you really want. When I give talks as a historian about the dominance of the romantic plot in women's telling of their life histories, I'm amused to see women investment bankers and corporate lawyers giving a wry smile, as if to say, "It's true--that's how I do see my life." As a young person it's important to scrutinize the plot you've internalized and find out whether it accurately represents what you want to be, because we tend to act out those life plots unless we think about them. I'm impatient with the postmodern effort to obfuscate the validity of narrative. We are time-bound creatures. We experience life along a time continuum; things happen sequentially in our lives, and we need to understand the causation. But we never really do understand it until we sit down and try to tell the story.

Jill Ker Conway in Inventing the Truth, edited by William Zinsser, 1998 

Journalistic Blogging

     The debate regarding blogging versus journalism involves the question of whether or not a blogger can be a journalist…Is there a sharp distinction between the two disciplines, or has time blurred that line?…

Blogging is Not Journalism

     When blogging first became a popular method of content distribution, this opinion was likely the most correct view. In the earliest days of blogging, even the best blogs incorporated a good deal of opinion and were relatively light on actual journalism. Indeed, this opinion still holds a fair amount of currency to today's more developed blogosphere…

Blogging is a Training Ground For Journalists

     Other people see blogging as a step along the road to becoming a journalist…Proponents of this opinion say bloggers can gain the tools to operate in a newsroom environment…

It's Not the Source, It's the Quality

     Rather than judging the medium with wide sweeping strokes, blogging should be judged on the basis of content…This view, which notes a distinction between the products of personal blogs and news sites, holds water in light of expert blogs. After all, if you're looking for information, you're likely to be better served by visiting a specialist blog rather than relying on the coverage of a writer less well-versed in that particular field…As bloggers become better and more experienced, they can become some of the best resources in their given field, especially if that field is underserved…In the end, there's little that distinguishes a good blogger and a good journalist, and the line between the two is hazy at best. A blogger may inject a little bit more analysis into a post than a journalist does in a news article, but when a blogger tracks down sources, does investigative reporting, and presents the fact clearly and fairly, that is journalism, plain and simple….

Jacob Friedman, "Blogging Versus Journalism: The Ongoing Debate," thenextweb.com, August 18, 2010