Dual Loyalty

As writers and bloggers are so fond of saying; you couldn't make it up. You don't cross the Iron Curtain and come out without scars ...
· Jozef Imrich, Survivor of the Iron Curtain Crossing

Friday, March 30, 2007

BLOGGING: Leaving a Mark on Space
Recently I became even more curious than ever so I tracked down a Google hit and smiled when I found what search term had led them to Media Dragon, and this has been about the third time I've noticed this:
Who said I will breakfast from the Cold River where uneaten dreams are kept?
In this category as a blogger I have nothing left to say ;-)
As of 8 September 1980 AD I consider myself to be the DownUnder Guy and as of 8 September 1997 I consider myself a kind of antipodean-bohemian blogger who understands the strange phenomenon which comes with blogging The Boomerang Effect... Martin Luther, Thomas Paine, George Orwell were all way ahead of us ... All writers great and small like me know well that without the Boomerang Effect of 20th and 21st Century stories like Cold River would never feature at Forbes Book Club or even dare to appear in every corner of this smallest planet in the universe ;-)

Legend has it that Ernest Hemingway was once challenged to write a story in six words. The result was "For sale: baby shoes, never used." The secret of good writing is to say an old thing in a new way I'm writing a book. I've got the page numbers done

Literature is language charged with meaning to the highest possible degree Knowing another language is like gaining another soul
Even the opening line needs to be a hooker. People do not deserve to have good writing, they are so pleased with bad.
To summarize: it's badly paid, the hours are weird, the office environment can be claustrophobic, you can't get the staff, you're selling your wares to big corporations who can roll over in their sleep and crush you if you don't make nice, nobody's going to give you a champagne reception, a stretch limo or a signing tour, there's lots of business admin stuff to deal with, and you still have to cram in a normal social life or you'll go mad.

If all writing were forbidden, the stories written in secret would be the ones we needed to read. It's not writing that should be encouraged but reading, widely and voraciously, reading the classics, reading the modern masters. That, if my university lecturers are right, is what will bring out the real writers among us. Magazine editors, publishers and writing competitions are groaning under the output of all those writing courses and I want to say stop. Stop if you can. And if you can't stop, write.
I sought the river flowing homeward, the sea washed down with ice that froze my blood. I seek the offer of the cleansing waters, the rinsing off of journeyed sands of sin. The oceans were untameable, their innocence now slap and sting with surf. Once long ago familiar, now changed by bathing of the boats. Home again and yet I'm not; the river laughs along the new-cut banks. Roots rise up, unwatered, dry and brittle. The song the river sings is of a different pitch, and I do not know the words.
No matter how serious you may take blogging, it’s still something that you do for yourself, with little to no editorial review, in as quick a manner as possible. [...] I guess I’m trying to say that even though I take even the quickest of blog entries seriously, it’s still not as rigorous as other writing.
Childishness (an apparent lack of mental focus and serious life purpose, a fondness for daydreaming and telling pointless lies, a lack of proper respect, mischievousness, an unseemly propensity for crying over nothing)
Some writers argue the act of writing is the creative engine for plot and character. Others point out that writing without a concrete (or somewhat flexible) idea of where things are headed guarantees, at best, a lot of rewriting and, at worst, a substandard product. If you write what you believe in, what you are truly passionate about, the words will flow - well, most of the time. There are enough writers out there murdering their work with little regard. A really fine piece of writing dies naturally once it is completed. It stops breathing, and its heart stops beating.

• Everything I've Learned About Life I've Learned in My Father’s Workshop Writing is turning one's worst moments into money; [If there is any “secret” to writing, it is rewriting I don't mind a reasonable amount of trouble ; A national initiative to open a dialogue about the importance of open government and freedom of information Sunshine Week ]
• · Think of it as "The Conversation" behind the Iron Curtain - Look at all these millions of Germans who behaved like monsters and you choose the one good German, Schindler, to make the film about. The Lives of Others: Stasi was shot in the back of the head at short range in 1981; one of the last documented cases of a disloyal Stasi agent being assassinated.
• · · 8153.0 - Internet Activity, Australia, Sep 2006 Wireless sparks more Internet connections: ABS ; Google beats the locals to secure top spot in digital media - Google has overtaken Sensis as Australia's biggest digital media company. Australian revenues in 2006 soared 108 per cent to $A206m. IT Builds a Better Idea Just remember, mate, even the pretty girls get hurt in the bus crash
• · · · By Tim Knapton 01/03/2007 AFR Smart Investor, Page 76-77: In 2007, online radio is due to overtake radio to become the third-biggest advertising medium in Australia. In the September 2006 quarter, spending on online ads surged by 58 per cent to $A263 million. Emitch, Photon Group and STW Communications have all been achieving solid organic growth as well as making acquisitions. Both Photon and STW have fairly high earnings multiples, but their business models appear capable of generating strong earnings growth. Emitch has advertising deals with Seven Network, News Limited, Fairfax Media and Publishing & Broadcasting Second life for online ads ; Australian media asset owner Eva Presser is best known for her publicity-shyness. Reclusive mogul to end long broadcasting love affair
• · · · · In Packer’s Lunch Neil Chenoweth explores the dark channels of money and power that flow beneath the surface of Australian society. Take a rollicking ride through crooked corporate Sydney. ; Underworld figure; On Figures in Lives of Others ...

Saturday, March 24, 2007

You cannot hurt my feelings by disagreeing with me as I was married for 20 years to a rather disagreeable character … We all have the capacity to inspire and empower others. Look on the light side. Failure may be the best teacher, but sometimes the lessons sure do hurt. That’s where a little levity can come in handy. Good sales managers are adept at this. For example, if their team misses a quota, they might say something like, “We fell a bit short this month. If we fall any shorter, we won’t have anywhere to look but up.” Quips like that don’t dismiss the issue; they are salves for bruised egos. And they have a dual effect: One, they raise the shortcoming; two, they allow people to move forward without dwelling too much on the past. Relief pitchers in baseball are of the same mindset; a pitch given up for a homerun might be described as a pitch that didn’t quite go where I wanted it to go. Case closed. As the novelist John Barth once wrote, "The story of your life is not your life. It is your story?' In other words, it is your personal narrative that matters, not the mere facts of your life. Your life narrative is like a permanent recording playing in your head. Over and over, you replay the events and personal interactions that are important to your life, attempting to make sense of them to find your place in the world. Let’s move on. My pioneering Australian Exposures
Our world might be getting smaller, thanks to technology, but virtual worlds and games are booming. Millions of people venture daily into these new and constantly evolving landscapes where they can conquer mythical armies, slay dragons and embark on other fantastical quests.

ABC managing director Mark Scott told a business forum that the ABC had bought an island on Second Life - an internet based virtual world. The ABC will become the first Australian media organisation to have a live presence in Second Life. "We're approaching this as an R&D concept, assessing the potential of Second Life and other 3D worlds," strategic innovation and development head Abigail Thomas said. Second Life is an internet-based virtual world, where users are able to interact with each other through their avatars, or constructed characters. Although this "world" has a number of competitors, including Active Worlds and There, Second Life has captured most media and commercial attention as a forum for social networking and trade: the ABC bought its "digital space", an island, for a non-profit rate.

ABC Buys Island in an Online Media Dragon World ; [Trevor Cook World; A university student's exploration of the "blog" and it's role in empowering and politicizing popular culture In critiquing the blog, I aim to critique both the media itself … ]
• · Mayne had finished awarding the best business news report to the Australian Financial Review's Morgan Mellish when Milne rushed up onto the stage and ... Morgan Mellish, The Australian Financial Review, for “The Robert Gerard Tax Scandal”. An investigation into South Australian businessman and Liberal Party ... The Walkley Awards for Excellence in Journalism - Business Finalists ; Kevin Roberts GREETINGS, I AM NOW BLOGGING
• · If you’ve ever been “dooced,” then you know. your blog made someone in the executive suite. uncomfortable. Blogging Shines New Light. on Corporate Culture ... Blogging Shines New Light on Corporate Culture ; Why software business models of the future probably won’t come in a box
• · · A shared online community modelled after Wikipedia, the free and highly popular user-created, web-based encyclopedia? Make room Wikipedia: internet-based collaboration could change the way we do business ; Journalists with the "Big Ego disease" often point at bloggers and other people without press passes and accuse them of not being "real journalists." But bloggers who provide analysis about newsworthy events are journalists. Who's a Journalist These Days? ;
• · · · Thank you to all the individuals in antipodean waters, and around the world, who read this site's ironic musings and links, and to those who have supported my labour of love with their thoughtful and expert suggestions, and insightful links and sources. Most of all thanks for the St Jozef on 19 March, and stay in touch ... The Blog - Another Tool in Your Arsenal: 100 most useful sites ; Study Focuses on Understanding the Political Influence of Blogs Understanding the Political Influence of Blogs: A Study of the Growing Importance of the Blogosphere in the U.S. Congress; Bloggers Abroad Face Government Retaliation Jozef Imrich®
• · · · · Our lives are becoming increasingly digitized—from the ways we communicate, to our entertainment media, to our e-commerce transactions, to our online research. As storage becomes cheaper and data pipes become faster, we are doing more and more online—and in the process, saving a record of our digital lives, whether we like it or not Envisioning the Whole Digital Person; T he US government is developing a massive computer system that can collect huge amounts of data and, by linking far-flung information from blogs and e-mail to government records and intelligence reports, search for patterns of terrorist activity. Little-known data-collection system could troll news, blogs, even e-mails. Will it go too far?

Monday, March 19, 2007

A film about a secret policeman in the former East Germany has taken top prize at the European Film Awards in Warsaw. The Lives of Others - or Das Leben Der Anderen - beat Spanish production Volver by Pedro Almodovar, although this still came top in five categories. The Lives of Others is a drama about how East Germany's secret police, the Stasi, destroyed the lives of ordinary people. Ulrich Muehe won the best actor trophy for his portrayal of a policeman who becomes engrossed in a playwright and his girlfriend, both of whom he is spying on. The Less Secret Life of Others – Watchers Be Aware German director Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck has said that Western audiences (those from West Berlin, he means, but it's all the more true for those of us points farther West) tend to regard his debut feature, The Lives of Others, as a thriller, while East Berliners experience it as a kind of therapy. Desperate Bureaucrats: The Lives of Others is the best surveillance movie since The Conversation. ; My greatest cinematic weakness is the movie conversation. A great action scene or shocker can pull me in like anyone else, but it's the words that mesmerize. A good movie conversation tugs at those appealing strings of voyeurism. You watch the intimacy of words, but they, and the scene, are not directed at you. It's amazing how much can really be done with words. With the right dialogue, you don't need a gimmick for the audience. You can vicariously have fun with another's conversation, or you can watch a story play out within the span of hello to goodbye.Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck: Among The Lives of Others

Mixing Arts with Business and Politics The Year of Magical Thinking on Bondi
It has been a busy year in the fortune-hunting business. Strong equity markets combined with rising real estate values and commodity prices pushed up fortunes from Mumbai to Madrid. In My Imrich Image

My mates at Forbes pinned down 946 billionaires, including 178 newcomers and 17 people who climbed back into the ranks after being absent for a year or more. Two-thirds of last year's billionaires are richer. Only 17% are poorer, including 32 who fell below the billion-dollar mark. The billionaires' combined net worth climbed by $900 billion to $3.5 trillion. That equates to $3.6 billion apiece.
Eligible Billionaires I Love Imrich Keychain Ach Laugh and the ironic world laughs with you …

The World's Richest Billionaires - Forbes ; [Publishers try to stave off Google, Amazon with book search; Off The Beaten Path Is Right on Track Cold River distribution ]
• · Mike Wilkins’ Insurance empire group Promina was criticised by the corporate regulator yesterday for disclosure shortcomings during its recent merger negotiations with Suncorp-Metway. Promina cops a $100,000 fine for tardy disclosure ; If we are to understand tax evasion and avoidance, then we need to understand why ordinary people as well as the wealthy continue in this societally unacceptable manner. Tax evasion is an illegal act and we therefore believe that the inclination of an individual to evade taxes is strengthened the more widespread tax evasion is in the population. Tax evasion - it’s acceptable (and how to fix it) Increased transparency in all limited liability companies
• · ANOTHER politician bites the dust after yet another scandal. It makes the front page but does anyone really care? Our politicians are so woeful, we're surprised only when they do something right. HECKLER: Self-serving politicians are dunces in the clever country ; Arts and Novels Made Good Junk
• · · The report of the film tax offset review and the Government’s broader film review Report on review of film tax support measures released ; Wishful Review of Cold River
• · · · Morgan Mellish has a timely piece in the Fin Review today (redeems the Fin for a day; Mellish by the way was the man who put the boot into Rodney Adler). ... Alert and Alarmed: The infrastructure plot thickens ; Though Florida Republican Congressman Mark Foley's solicitation of sex with underage boys working as Congressional pages is making front-page news, it is, regrettably, not unprecedented. Most Congressional sex scandals have involved adults, but four have included minors - at least two of whom were Congressional pages. I've taken a look at the historical record of such Congressional indiscretions, and in this column, I'll ask what, if anything, we can we learn from them - particularly, from those relating to Congressional pages? The Foley Follies: What Can Be Learned From The History of Congressional Sex Scandals, And How Can the Page Program Be Reformed?
• · · · · Moody teens: the excuse is chemistry
THEY answer back, throw tantrums and argue the point, but teenagers may now have an excuse for their moody behaviour. A hormone produced by the body to calm itself down during periods of stress seems to act in the opposite way in teenagers, making them more anxious, according to research published in the journal Nature Neuroscience. Moody Imrichs ; A Cup of Creativi-tea: Inspire Me! ; Creative Clusters
• · · · · · RSStalker.com provides RSS feeds to track price changes of Amazon.com products

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Work spares us from three great evils: boredom, vice and need.

Some writers feel that blogging drains too much creativity and hinders their “real” writing. Others feel that blogging can absorb so much time that they devote hours to posts about their cat instead of revising that novel.
Truer words were never spoken. Blogging, like journaling, is addictive. It’s also esoteric. Many diaries develop a private language all their own, and invariably that bleeds over into other writing as well. In the case of blogging though there is the additional sense of urgency because people are waiting for that next post… Well, at least in theory there are people waiting. Sometimes I wonder if I am just writing for the Googlebot, and then I wonder if it enjoys what it finds

The drama of our time is the coming of all into one fate A Tribe is Forming - One Touch Handshake
Best Advice:

It's better to be hated for who you are than loved for who you are not.
It's better to fail at something you love, than to succeed at something you don't.
Everyone is always offering advice on everything. What's the best piece of advice you've ever received? What's the worst (and why)? You can post your response (500 words or fewer) here:
A journal is the perfect place to learn the ways in which language communicates authenticity as opposed to the way language is a tool used by political, advertising and marketing coalitions to make us purchase something, to make us hate this group or that one, and to make us look through blurry eyes at the daily transgressions against freedom and humanity. Learning the authenticity of your own voice makes it harder and harder to write in an inauthentic voice or listen to one; it makes it harder to believe what others want you to believe against your will."
The best advice I have ever been given was not to give unsolicited advice because it falls on deaf ears an makes people defensive. The worse advice I ever got was unsolicited advice, it made me really defensive.

All Colours ...
• · Your journal is your private place … no more ;-)
Via Email from writers of note:
1. Synesthesia, according to M.H. Abrams in A Glossary of Literary Terms, is a description of “one kind of sensation in terms of another; color is attributed to sounds, odor to colors, sound to odors, and so on.” Here is an example of synesthesia from Bruno Schulz’s Street of the Crocodiles: “Adela would plunge the rooms into semidarkness by drawing down the linen blinds. All colors immediately fell an octave lower [my italics]; the room filled with shadows, as if it had sunk to the bottom of the sea and the light was reflected in mirrors of green water.” Schulz describes a change in color by means of a musical term. Writers consciously and unconsciously employ this peculiar method to convey the irreducible complexity of life onto the page. Diane Ackerman (in A Natural History of the Senses) feels we are born with this wonderful “intermingling” of senses: “A creamy blur of succulent blue sounds smells like week-old strawberries dropped into a tin sieve as mother approaches in a halo of color, chatter, and perfume like thick golden butterscotch. Newborns ride on intermingling waves of sight, sound, touch, taste, and, especially, smell.” Use synesthesia in a short scene—surreptitiously, without drawing too much attention to it—to convey to your reader an important understanding of some ineffable sensory experience. Use “sight, sound, touch, taste, and, especially, smell.” 600 words.
2. Déjà Vu. Write a 500-word sketch of a scene in which a character has an experience that causes her to recall a startlingly similar past experience. Juxtapose the two scenes, the present one and the past one, on top of each other, writing, for instance, two or three sentences of the present moment, then alternating back and forth between present and past that way. Show the reader the remembered scene by use of Italics. Why would a character be haunted like this? Think of a convincing reason for the déjà vu experience. Or don’t worry too much about convincing reasons—just let some strange set of events impinge on the present moment of your character. Be playful with the relationship. Simple advice to beginners: don’t be heavy-handed. It’s easier said than done, I know, but you can train yourself to relax and honor your readers with difficult and unusual human patterns of behavior. Always flatter your readers by proposing a complex and unexpected reality.
3. The Reluctant “I.” Write a 600-word first-person story in which you use the first person pronoun (“I” or “me” or “my”) only two times—but keep the “I” somehow important to the narrative you’re constructing. The point of this exercise is to imagine a narrator who is less interested in himself or herself than in what he or she is observing. You can make your narrator someone who sees a very interesting event in which she is not necessarily a participant. Or you can make him self-effacing yet a major participant in the events related. The people we tend to like most are those who are much more interested in other people than in themselves, selfless and caring, whose conversation is not a stream of self-involved remarks (like the guy who, after speaking about himself to a woman at a party for half an hour, says, “Enough about me, what do you think of me?”). Another lesson you might learn from this exercise is how important it is to let things and events speak for themselves, beyond the ego of the narration. It is very important in this exercise to make sure your reader is not surprised, forty or fifty words into the piece, to realize that this is a first person narration. Show us quickly who is observing the scene.
4. Body English. Write a “conversation” in which no words are said. This exercise is meant to challenge you to work with gesture, body language (or, as a baseball announcer I heard once misspeak it, body English), all the things we convey to each other without words. We often learn more about characters in stories from the things characters do with their hands than from what they say. It might be best to have some stranger observe this conversation, rather than showing us the thoughts of one of the people involved in the conversation, because the temptation to tell us what the conversation is about is so great from inside the conversation. “I was doing the opposite of Freud,” Desmond Morris says, of his famous book The Naked Ape that first studied the ways humans speak with their bodies. “He listened to people and didn’t watch; I watched people and didn’t listen.” Because of Morris, according to Cassandra Jardine, “when politicians scratch their noses they are now assumed to be lying—and the sight of the Queen [Elizabeth] crossing her legs at the ankles is known to be a signal that her status is too high for her to need to show sexual interest by crossing them further up.” Autistic children cannot understand human conversation even when they understand individual words because they cannot read facial expressions, which is clear evidence of how important other forms of language are. 600 words.
5. The First Lie. Tape-record a conversation. It’s a tried and true method of understanding how people talk, but still surprisingly effective. Obtain permission of the people you are taping. Instruct your group each to tell one small lie during the session, only one lie. Tell them, if they get curious, that some philosophers think that deception was a crucial learned behavior in the emergence of modern consciousness several thousand years ago. You can participate in the conversation yourself, but don’t become an interviewer. Let the machine run for a good long while, allowing your friends to become comfortable and less aware of the tape recorder. Listen to the tape a day or two later. Play it several times. Choose some small part of the conversation to transcribe (the lies may be interesting, if you can spot them, but more interesting should be all the other stuff they say). Transcribe as faithfully as you can. Do not transcribe more than one page of talk. After that, fill out the conversation with information about the people who are speaking, giving us only details about them that we need to know. The final product should be no longer than two pages long, double-spaced.
6. Phone Tag. Write a fairly long, complicated phone conversation overheard by someone in the room. All three people—the listener in the room, the caller, and the person on the other end of the line—are involved with each other in some way (not necessarily romantically). Let us hear the other end of the conversation, without actually hearing it. This means you will be giving us only one side of a conversation, so you will have to work to make the side we’re hearing intriguing and capable of carrying a story. The listener in the room can guess what the person on the other end of the line is saying, but try to keep this guessing to a minimum, and make sure this guesswork is done with integrity—well after the unheard speaker has spoken. 600 words.
7. Underground History. Reread your own older fiction—one story or as many as you want to. Find the ten most common words from this fiction (excluding small and uninteresting words). Use these words as hidden titles for ten paragraphs of prose. By hidden, I mean that you should operate as in the above exercise, but after several rough drafts, eliminate the titles. Choosing these ten words is obviously going to be somewhat subjective, unless you have a program that allows you to do some of the work for you (for instance, you could pick a word that seems to occur commonly, then do a MS Word global search—the find icon under edit). This exercise may help you uncover the trends and unexpected subject matter of your fiction.
8. Backwards. Write a story backwards. Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s Chronicle of a Death Foretold works this way, more or less. Murder mysteries are told backwards, in a sense. Most stories we tell orally we tell from the middle forward until someone tells us we’ve left out important details, then we double back. You might try taking one of your own short pieces—or someone else’s—and simply reversing the sentences. What then? Unless you’re very lucky, you’ll have to do a good deal to make this reversed piece of prose make sense. Make sure this does not become simply a device. The structure should be inherently useful to the material, which is good advice for any fiction. 500 words.
9. Jointly Held Story. Speak the beginning of a story with someone else. Choose someone you know well, who also writes, but that’s not a necessity. Choose a good storyteller. Do this in a relatively private place, where you won’t be interrupted. One person starts the story and continues for a few sentences. The next person continues for another few sentences, and so on for a while. You don’t need to start up right away after the other person has finished his or her bit. End when you feel things getting exciting. Both speakers should go away from the experience and write down what they remember of the story, but don’t write the tale down right away. Let it sit in your memories for a day or so. Don’t play games of one-upmanship with your partner. Be faithful to the growing story and the characters created on the spur of the moment. Listen to the other person’s quirks of storytelling. Let someone else’s manner of creating a story guide you and influence your own story-telling style. The two stories that result from this exercise ought to be quite different from one another. 1,000 words.
10. Home. “Some women marry houses,” says the poet Anne Sexton, meaning presumably that these women marry not men but the ideal of house and home. The different etymologies of these two words are instructive. Home originally referred to village or hometown. House has in its earlier meanings the notion of hiding, of enclosing oneself. Now house indicates any house, and home is the place that is central to our notions of ourselves. Use a home in a story fragment (500 words). Think about the power of rooms (kitchens, basements, unfinished attics, walk-in closets) on psychology and conversation. In this fragment, make the house a unique participant (though a passive one) in the unfolding events. The room need not be in a typical house. Think about all the other rooms we become familiar with—classrooms, office cubicles, public toilets. What are their personalities? How do the more public spaces we inhabit affect our behaviors? You might consider keeping several characters permanently stuck in different rooms in a house, communicating by shouts, cell phones, intercoms, Dixie cups, or telepathy.
11. In the Belly of the Beast. Describe an unusual interior space, one with lots of interesting appurtenances and gadgets sticking out: a submarine, a small plane, a subway tunnel away from the platform, a boiler room in the sub-basement of a high rise building. Again, do not yield to the easy use of this scene. The boiler room, for instance, we all expect to hide a creepy axe murderer-type. Put two innocent children in it instead, romping and playing among the glow and roar of the fire and steam vents as if this were a sunny playground (their father is the superintendent of the building, and he prefers to keep the kids where he can see them). 500 words.
12. Absent. Construct a character who is not present. You have many options here: people may talk about this character before meeting him, or after meeting her; you might choose to examine what this character owns, how he or she lives, under what conditions; you might use indirect approaches, like letters or documents that attest to the existence but not presence of the person. How do we know of people? Examine the ways we build characters in our minds and in our social environments before and after we meet them.
13. Ways of Seeing. Imagine a person with an idiosyncratic way of seeing the world (for instance, an occasional drug dealer, who, because of his amateur status, is more than usually prone to seeing danger where there is none; an entomologist who tends to categorize the world dryly, as if seen through a microscope; a world-class athlete whose clarity of vision is almost hallucinogenic). Have this character witness a traumatic event that does not directly involve him or her. Narrate the event from a first-person point of view, making sure that the perspective is carefully built around the idiosyncrasies of this personality. Also, as a hidden aspect of this character, imagine him or her as some kind of unusual animal. 600 words.
14. Loveless. Create a character around this sentence: Nobody has ever loved me as much I have loved them. Do not use this sentence in the fragment of fiction you write. The sentence comes from Guy Davenport’s aunt, Mary Elizabeth Davenport Morrow, via his essay “On Reading” in The Hunter Gracchus. Resist the temptation this exercise offers for a completely self-indulgent character. Of course, some self-indulgence will be fun with this character. But don’t write from inside your own wounded sense of the world. 500 words.
15. Loving. Write about a person you love. This apparently simple instruction may be more difficult than you think. What makes us love people? How do we avoid being sentimental when describing the attributes that make someone loveable? You will immediately be faced with the decision of writing about someone you love or loved romantically or as a friend. Or perhaps you’ll choose a family member. Your greatest challenge will be to make your reader love this person, too. 600 words.
16. Improvisation. Put two characters in a situation that demands improvisation, on both parts, which also demands that the two characters interact and compromise with each other in the improvisation. We should be able to observe the surprise, pleasure, and frustration that result from this improvisation. Remember that most of life involves one form of improvisation or another. Beginning writers tend to control their characters too much, so in this exercise you should work hard to let the characters surprise themselves as well as you. 500 words.
17. True Feeling. Using language that is simple and straightforward, describe intensely and exhaustively a moment of true feeling between two characters. Meryl Streep says that when she’s researching a character she’s going to portray, she always gives the character some simple secret that no one on the set, none of the other actors, and none of the other characters knows about. Give the character you’re showing us this moment of true feeling through a secret, but don’t reveal the secret either to us or to the other character.
18. Teacher. In a 500-word scene, have one character teach another character something that changes the teacher. But this exercise asks you to go another step beyond the first layer of reality. It should teach you how to play with more than one level in your fiction. The teacher learning something from her student is surprising, though not so unusual as you may think. The audience is moved by Rose’s tragic learning curve in the movie Titanic. Imagine how much more interesting the film might have been had Jack learned something from what he taught Rose, rather than simply dying handsomely.
19. The Bunny Planet. Rosemary Wells has written a trilogy of children’s books collectively called Voyage to the Bunny Planet. The basic problem she sets for each book is that a child (in the form of a young bunny) has a bad day (in prose). Halfway through each little book, an unseen narrator intervenes and says that the child in question “needs a visit to the Bunny Planet.” Everything alters in this other world, first of all by changing to rhyming poetry. The world is better after we hear the words, “Far beyond the moon and stars/Twenty light years south of Mars,/Spins the gentle Bunny Planet/And the Bunny Queen is Janet.” Wells encourages children, in these wonderful books, to rethink their world, to take an emotional timeout and find a better world than the one children frequently find themselves stuck in—chaos, messes, tantrums, sickness, loneliness. What I want you to do in this exercise is only very tangentially linked to this trilogy. Use this hinge device that Wells employs so deftly. For the first part of your 500-word piece, tinge the world in darker hues, show us a narrative style that reflects frustration, sadness, alienation, whatever. Then, with a phrase a little like this central phrase of Wells’s, change everything—especially the narrative method. Wells goes from a very dense and quite beautiful prose (almost prose poetry, as the best children’s literature is) to this light rhyming style (although she does not stick to one method of rhyme—she uses couplets, quatrains, etc.).
20. The Argument. Two people are arguing—a man and a woman. They don’t have to be a couple. Each is convinced he or she is right. You, as the writer, do not know—and do not want to know—who is right, but you will have exquisite sympathy for both points of view, both sides of the argument. How do men and women argue differently? Couples tend to disagree over relatively minor issues, which often stand for larger issues. Give us enough background and history, but try to stay in the moment as much as possible. Narrative PoV is going to matter here a great deal: writing from one or the other’s PoV is likely to make it very difficult to show both sides fairly. An omniscient narration may seem to be the answer, but I don’t like omniscient narration—I don’t think it’s really possible in fiction about contemporary life. Choose an accidental arbitrator—a third party narrator, either first or third person narration. This narrator knows and likes both these people well, but doesn’t and can’t favor one over the other. 600 words.
21. Standup. The usual method of the standup comedian monologue is apparently casual connections. For instance, Elvira Kurt once started a monologue with the simple idea of bad hair. “As a five-year old, you never had bad hair days. You woke up with hair straight up, and you said, ‘I look great! I slept in my swimsuit and I feel wonderful!’ Mother made clothes for me—horrible outfits. She probably laughed herself to death. I got back at her. When I told her I was gay I said it was because of those clothes.” Note the deliberate movement from plain detail to plain detail, with great leaps between the details—the mother making clothes to the coming-out declaration. We are not expecting this transition (nor for that matter the simpler transition from bad hair to mother making clothes). But the transitions are funny, and they affect us, shock us even in this day and age. Write a 600-word standup comedy monologue, fitting it into a story situation you’ve already begun working on. Don’t make it obvious to your reader that you are doing a stand-up routine—just tell a story as if you were doing a monologue in front of a smoky, irritable audience, with a Late Show talent scout scribbling notes at the bar in the back.
22. The Joke. End a 600-word fragment of a story with a joke you like or loathe. Use the joke as a way of coloring the whole passage, but don’t just lead up to the joke. The joke should be relatively short, and it might be better if the joke is somewhat odd. A guy walks into a bar. He says to the bartender, “I’ll have one g-g-gin and t-tonic, p-p-please.” The bartender says, “One g-gin and t-tonic c-c-coming up.” The customer glares suspiciously at the bartender, who smiles innocently. Another patron walks into the bar and says, “Scotch on the rocks, barkeep.” The bartender says, “One Scotch rocks, coming right up.” A moment later he brings the gin and tonic to the first customer, who says, “You were m-m-mimick-k-king m-m-me.” The bartender, with a truly pained look on his face, says, “N-n-no. I was m-m-mimicking that other g-guy.”
23. Outrunning the Critic. Write 100 short sentences about a character you are working on in a piece of fiction. The sentences should not connect and should not follow one another in any logical way. The idea of this exercise is to force you to outrun your own thoughts and intelligence and critical mind. Be careful not to be monotonous, using the name of your character or a pronoun to start each sentence. A better exercise would be to write 200 or 500 sentences about this character, but 100 sentences is still enough of a stretch to make this useful. The idea for this exercise comes from a collaboration the poet John Yau did with a painter, which was to match 1,000 small watercolors with sentences by Yau. John Yau is the author of Edificio Sayonara, Forbidden Entries, and Hawaiian Cowboys, among other books.
24. Rehearsal. Imitate the method of actors rehearsing a scene, repeating lines and whole sections of a speech, going over mistakes, etc., with several familiar characters of yours. Use this social trial and error to find new, submerged material for your story. You should think of this exercise as artificial and behind-the- scenes work, but it may also trigger strangely realistic conversation. Human beings constantly rehearse and re-rehearse their lines. The anarchic rhythm of conversation is more akin to a social science experiment than to the polish of theatrical dialogue.
25. Surprise. Write a short scene about a character you’ve become familiar with over time—either your own fictional creation or a character based on someone you know. Start the scene by letting the character do what you expect this character to do. But at some point in the sequence of events, allow the character to do something completely out of character. Let the character surprise you. This exercise demands that you consider what is expected and unexpected in a character. You may want to make a list, behind the writing of this scene, of the kinds of things this character usually does; and another list of the sorts of things this character would never do.

Friday, March 02, 2007

Websites around the world are getting a new computerized visitor among the Googlebots and Yahoo web spiders: The taxman. A five-nation tax enforcement cartel has been quietly cracking down on suspected internet tax cheats, using a sophisticated web crawling program to monitor transactions on auction sites, and track operators of online shops, poker and porn sites. Strom said now that the cat is out of the bag ... Tax Takers Send in the Spiders

Thursday, March 01, 2007

It is about time Dragon paid some attention to the NSW election to be held in 23 days on 24 March 2007. My prediction is hung Parliament, or widhful thinking dated 1991 when John Hatton and his charter 92 independents brought sunlight to the sunny Harbour City ... State Election 24 March 2007 especially what the Herald has to say Parties vie for biggest loser title

NSW Election 2007 - James Bond 007 Idle speculation: March edition: Morris Iemma v Peter Debnam
Skepticism about Labor’s figures has spilled over from Crikey, Tim Dunlop and this site and into the news pages of the Sydney Morning Herald, which reports suggestions from a "senior Liberal source" that ALP state secretary Mark Arbib was "making it up". The surveys reportedly had samples of 150 (which the Telegraph has thus far neglected to reveal), so the margin for error wouldn’t have been much different if he had been. Nonetheless, the Liberals went to some effort to debunk the alleged Labor findings, providing the Herald with a progress report of their own.

For those as keen on a punt as Mackerras, books on the election are being run by SportingBet, Centrebet, Sportsbet and Sports Acumen. They are currently offering short odds on Morris Iemma remaining Premier: $1.16 compared with $4.50 for Peter Debnam for each agency except Sports Acumen, which is offering $1.17 and $4.40. SportingBet is also taking bets on 14 individual seats, with the odds currently on offer converting into the following percentages. Note that this indicates the likelihood of winning the seat, rather than predicted vote share.

• The blog that matters in NSW Herald of Sydney - Czech out the Green punter at ABC - Spin cycle; [Larva to Butterfly; Wizard of Oz Politics ]
• · The Premier, Bob Carr, is poised to use his historic win of a third four-year term to conduct a definitive shake-out of his cabinet - including the creation of super ministries - and embark on a wave of far-reaching reforms 2003 of past years; I make my debut in the NSW Election Campaign
• · Exclusives by Kelvin Bissett: ; Poll Bludger 1
• · · Master Poll Bludger; Iemma and Debnam are blogging on the Daily Telegraph site I will never forget Macquarie Fields’, Peter Debnam