Category Archives: Perspectives

Land Mines in Baltimore

Once again a casualty of one of Baltimore’s many IEDs, Intentionally Embedded Devices, I’m regarding my swollen left knee as I lay with it elevated and iced, and recall the raised water main cover that got me this time.

Craftily planted near the end of a street with a stop sign, and in the crossing path of pedestrians, it lurks mostly hidden by cars which line up over it as they await their turn to pull out onto W. Mount Royal Ave.

Thus, if you’re unfortunate enough to arrive at the curb when a car is in position, you have no reason to suspect there’s anything there but flat pavement, which you’re going to hustle across because there are lots of impatient drivers who seem willing to run you down.

Toting a couple of grocery bags, I saw my break and strode quickly out, timing it as the car at the stop sign was moving away. Bam! Down on my left knee hard, benighted by Baltimore once again for doing battle with it’s terrain. Abrasions on my palms, groceries in the street.

The last time, the IED was a loose brick on the Bolton Hill side of the street. It was a hot sunny morning and I decided to go for the shade. Boy, was it ever shady. On the quaint old sidewalk a perfect brick lay positioned, level with all the rest. The one just past it had a chunk taken out of it, so you can be sure I wasn’t going to step on that one.

The ball of my left foot planted on the perfect brick, which rocked forward into the open space created by the missing chunk and launched me like a baseball player sliding headfirst into first base.
Torn pants, abraded and bleeding palms, but a survivor.

Thinking back to a Sunday matinée at the BSO, and watching many older people limping in on canes, stumping in on walkers, and rolling in on wheelchairs, I wonder how many of them are just succumbing to old age and how many are victims of Baltimore’s land mines.

Comedy as Remedy for Racism, Other “isms”

Comedy draws its strength from the emotional pain people carry deep inside. Comedians invite us to laugh along with them as they point out how the world is stupid and cruel. We feel better when their perspectives add to our wisdom and ease or at least share our pain.

Unfortunately, what’s still considered humorous in some communities is often racist, misogynistic, or sadistic in its intent. I didn’t feel comfortable with it growing up, and education has enlightened me more. Now I consider this type of comedy a form of humor only in light of its absurdity.

A recent novel I read makes fun of racism. It casts a comedic perspective on absurd racist humor. Yet, the author was criticized by both self-righteous reviewers who didn’t get the sarcasm and felt insulted, and those who also didn’t get the sarcasm but liked the slurs. Sadly, both types appear to be the life of the party everywhere.

The novel, Chinese Cooking for Diamond Thieves, by Dave Lowry, helps to confirm my belief that smart comedy provides part of an ultimate remedy for racism, sexism, and most of the other “isms.” The full cure probably requires non-separatist educational systems and global open-mindedness. Yeah, I know, “In the best of all possible worlds, Candide…” quoted from a good book which is also comedic; exposing absurd “isms”, including perfectionism.

And on the Eighth Day

God2-Sistine_Chapel

I’ve been exploring character development while writing a novel. Modern opinion holds that conflict is key: describe a character, make things go bad for that character, make things go worse, then attain redemption through character growth.

By permission of the creative mind, which allows for “What if?” scenarios,  I’m drawn to a story of biblical proportions – literally. Suppose that after six days of solid creation, God kicks back to relax on the seventh, and perhaps to review what he has done. Up until this point, he saw that it was good. Maybe too good.

What if he gets bored watching bucolic bliss in the Garden of Eden, a repetitive plot where nothing exciting happens? Perhaps he edits things a bit? As the Great Redactor (translation – editor,) author of history itself, he might not come off as benevolent if the story points to him just messing things up for his own diversion.

Those darn plot dilemmas! Great for character development, but tough on the writer in consideration of his fan base. What if he throws the main characters a problem? “Here’s a special tree with delicious fruit. Now, don’t eat of it.” And then they don’t. Boring.  How about creating an antagonist, Satan, to induce them to eat the fruit? It works, but more through good marketing than character flaws in the main characters. Crickets.

How to make this story sizzle, and the ones after it? Androgens! Instead of continuing to come off as heavy handed with external influences via bad guys, natural disasters, impossible commands, etc, why not tuck some chemical activity inside humans to induce desire, fear, envy, rage, and all sorts of internal motivations. Bingo!

Take away the testosterone, eradicate the estrogen, and negate progesterone, and you might as well be…in heaven?

Mind Spam

Autumn Leaves

Writers! Ever feel like your mind is getting spammed during your busy day? Offers, requests, questions, announcements, lots coming at you while you’re trying to get your work done? As a writer, when story ideas are flowing fresh and sharp in my mind they need to be quickly set into notes and tucked into a writing notebook, else risk getting corrupted by this spam. Evernote has a great product online to help you preserve thoughts first, then store other important stuff into designated notebooks. Keeping a small physical notebook or pad and a pen is a smart backup when you’re in an area where you can’t use your smartphone or the internet. You can photograph and upload written notes into Evernote when you establish connection.

Many writers live in remote areas and/or for other reasons don’t have regular access to internet service. They’re not current with technology, relying on hand-writing their stories on paper or typing into a word processing program, with no knowledge of merging files, etc.  I’ve traveled to many remote places, myself, and scribbled on my fair share of napkins, then had to transcribe them and coordinate photos, business cards, and recorded interviews. If you’re into travel writing or other non-fiction and are still doing this, you’re punishing yourself. There are YouTube videos to clearly demonstrate how to make your job so much easier by using this technology.

Fiction writers?  A web clipper browser extension in Evernote lets you capture whole webpages into your notes – photos, links, text, et al.  If you’re imagining a character for your novel, you can find likely candidates’ pages as well as places to consider for the setting, etc, and place them right there in your story outline so you can connect emotionally. I also like Scrivener as a writing tool, but its coordination across platforms is more limited.

Once I’ve got story ideas safely stored, I can relax knowing they’re safe, then I sort out important incoming messages from the outer world and deal with them, sometimes into categorized notebooks. What’s usually left over is mind spam, which is relegated or deleted. The process feels like a nice teeth cleaning while simultaneously receiving a bank deposit. Refreshed and empowered, I’m a better writer and a more efficient person.

If mind spam has been lingering in your mental inbox, realize it can be dangerous to your creativity and productivity. Get help from today’s technology and YouTube videos that can show you how to use it. It’s exciting, fun, and worthwhile to professionalize your process. You can still keep your ratty old notebooks for nostalgia and security’s sake. If you don’t have a device to access the internet, check for a library near you.  Take your light out from under the bushel.