This morning I hopped into my little car and zoomed to a memoir class I teach Thursday mornings. As always, I had the radio on, and tuned to 1150, which at this hour still broadcasts progressive shows. The host was talking with a caller about the first grey whale found dead in the Gulf. I became increasingly sickened as I listened -- the greys feed at the bottom of the sea, on squid. The squids have been contaminated with the dispersant being used on the oil. They in turn have become poisonous.
This is only the beginning of course. A friend active in the green movement, Carolyn Allen, http://californiagreensolutions.com, ventured a guesstimate about the large number of sea animals bound to die in the Gulf, and we discussed the fact that the spill is moving around the tip of Florida and will hit the Caribbean and Atlantic, claiming even more aquatic life. Carolyn informed me that there is already a dead zone in the Gulf from all the effluent coming from the Mississippi, etc. A fact that did not surprise me; I had just not come across it before.
More than 30 years ago Jacques Cousteau said that 50% of the Pacific was dead, and of course there's the huge garbage island floating around in that body of water. Then the Navy got its sonar going, which has been demonstrated to kill whales. I went to a meeting where people were arguing against this unconscionable practice. The Navy reps said, among other things, "the whales can swim underneath the sonar." Sure...perhaps they'll read the billboards. This stuff travels throughout an entire ocean once released, its waves disorienting whales who then can't find feeding grounds, and if they are too close to the source of the sonar, it bursts their air sacs and they die an agonizing death.
But the Navy insists the program is critical. Why? To track submarines, which no one is using anymore. Once upon a time there were subs stalking the U.S. and some way to track them made sense. But now, this is a program that has cost billions. To stop it would be to admit the perpetrators have been wasting money. So they continue to dump more in, and fight every time reason tries to prevail.
It's not just the whales we are killing with all the shocking behavior. It's other sea dwellers. And what those backing all this insane stuff say is people count more, as do their sources of income.
Don't these simpletons see that as we kill off the animals that live in the sea, we kill ourselves?
After hearing about the first whale death this morning, I was on email and found a note about a Republican in Congress, Barton, who said to the CEO of BP, whom everyone expected to apologize, "[The 20 billion dollar reparations set forth by Obama] is a tragedy in the first proportion." Further, the note went on, "The Republican Study Committee, with its 114 members in the House, called it a 'shakedown.'" This tragedy should not be a political football. BP has done irreparable harm to living beings, not to mention to the livelihoods of many, many people, whom their CEO keeps referring to as "the little people." How damned condescending can you get?
One ray of hope, Jean-Michel Cousteau has gathered resources and established programs to preserve a "clean area" in the Pacific, and he is also working with island peoples to create living styles that will preserve, not destroy the environment. You can find out more at this link:
The link below is to the blog of Larry Ray, retired journalist who has lived much of his life on the Gulf, and who writes compellingly of what is going on there. Also with a note of hope.
Last night I attended a show at Universal City with friend Michael Goldberg. Not having been to Universal's City Walk in years, I was somewhat taken aback by the blazing neon and high decibel music, but it was certainly an L.A. experience just walking up to the box office. We arrived a few minutes into the film "Robin Hood," chosen by accident. We'd aimed at a flick that was listed in the paper but not playing when we got there. Of course who knew what paper it was. I haven't been reading them daily for a while now, the way I used to, as the violence to our environment, animals and each other ruins my day. I do my part with online reading and petition signing and donations, and my Pawprints program. So, while I plucked the Times from the top of the pile by the door, it could have been a week or two old. Anyway, I really love Russell Crowe so it was OK by me to see "Robin Hood," and Michael felt the same way. I am really glad to have seen it. A fun film well shot and directed, with a good cast, including William Hurt, Cate Blanchette and her wonderful bone structure.
I do think it should have been titled, "Robin Hood, The Prequel," as the story establishes the life of the man in tights before he became an outlaw, showing what led up to that fabled time. Blood and guts? Yes, of course. Mainly caused by things like arrows well aimed through people's throats. Plus, fires burning folks up, the occasional spear or sword reaming a soldier or civilian.
None of this bothered me, though. Ridley Scott did a superb job at making all the fighting whiz by almost in a blur, and we didn't have to view limbs being severed, testicles being electrocuted or eyes being gouged out. So, as violence goes, I'd give this film a 3 on a scale of 1 to 10. These days. When I was growing up a few millennia ago, it might have rated a 10.
The only violence that did bother me in the movie was when a horse got downed. Looked very real and I couldn't imagine that being staged without injury to the horse. However, people in film know how to do lots of action shots without causing actual harm to the performer, and for all I know it was done by CGI.
Now we move to the most violent part of the evening. Not having made a pit stop before the film, I thought it would be a good idea to tinkle, as my former husband used to say, before heading home. So I innocently went into the ladies. First thing that greeted me were blazing red walls, and a sinister looking grey floor. Not to mention a few ladies with shockingly high hair and platform stilettos. I found a stall that didn't have too much pee on the seat to wipe up, another thing I find very different from years ago when ladies seemed more often to be ladies. I was not initially surprised when I stood back up to hear the toilet begin an auto flush. But in about one second I was scared to death – felt I was going to be sucked right in. Loudest flush I've ever heard! More like a jet plane's engine.
A little shaken, I moved to the sink to wash my hands. All quiet on the water front at least. Then it was, where do I dry my hands? Ah, a new (to me) vertical electric hand dryer. You put your hands into the gadget, I see. OK. Roar!!!!!
If you ask me, it's entirely true. There's too much violence in the movies.
When I was growing up, the "Made in America" labels and commercials always struck me as corny. In those days, a thousand years ago, I believed that items from outside the country were more unusual and appealing.
However, a funny thing happened to me two summers ago. I had students from China staying with me. They understandably wanted to take home souvenirs ,,,
products made in America. We scoured every kind of store we could think of, but kept finding labels saying even foodstuffs were from elsewhere, most often, China.
Then I talked to one of the other hosts in this program, who happened to be Chinese. He told me the only store where his visitors were finding products made in America were from….a store in L.A.'s Chinatown.
Since that time, I have found that I cannot any longer buy nozzles for my garden hose that were made in America, if I shop at my usual haunt, Orchard Supply. The only ones they stock now are either from mainland China or Taiwan, and each and every one of them carries a "Cancer Warning" on the label. Alarming, to say the least. Then, get this. Sears, my old and lovable client, yet, now produces at least some of their famous Craftsman tools outside the U.S. And, while consumers still rate them high – second, according to a Wikipedia article -- it looks as if the lifetime warranty has been lifted on some of these tools for a few years now.
Then today this piece below came through my e-mail inbox from a friend. It not only talks about finding items that actually are made in America, it shows that they might even cost substantially less than products made outside the U.S.
I was thrilled to read this. Now, not that I am against foreign nations' successes, with the awful decline in our economy, I feel it's important to support as many people with jobs as possible in the United States. Not only that, we have been on course to make almost no actual product in the U.S. for some time now. OK, so evolution moved us to an information society. Not a bad thing – the ability to be ahead of the curve was a U.S. strength for years, and technology is exploding. But now, we're followers in this field often. With investment in R&D difficult to obtain, and science in the toilet, along with education, throughout the Bush years, we have a true crisis on our hands. Uneducated young people, who have been trained not to think, but to take tests. Who will find going to college not only a challenge mentally, but also financially. And costs go up as states' budgets are not helped by the Fed, so badly strapped as well. The move to become a country that makes its money by shifting money has been at least as alarming as these trends, and destructive.
Can we the people do anything? This article points to small steps that can help us become more self-reliant. Of course there's much more to do. But it's overwhelming. This seems to be a doable beginning. Me? I'm going over to Ace Hardware later today.
Here's the article....by Renee' Dezember
A physics teacher in high school, once told the students that while one grasshopper on the railroad tracks wouldn't slow a train very much, a billion of them would. With that thought in mind, read the following, obviously written by an American ..
Good idea .. . . one light bulb at a time . . . .
Check this out. I can verify this because I was in Lowe's the other day for some reason and just for the heck of it I was looking at the hose attachments. They were all made in China . The next day I was in Ace Hardware and just for the heck of it I checked the hose attachments there. They were made in USA . Start looking .. In our current economic situation, every little thing we buy or do affects someone else - even their job. So, after reading this email, let's do it!
My friends like Hershey's candy. I noticed, though, that it is marked made in Mexico now. I do not buy it any more.
Toothpaste- Colgate is made in Mexico ... Crest, USA. You have to read the labels on everything ..
This past weekend I was at Kroger. I needed 60 W light bulbs and Bounce dryer sheets. I was in the light bulb aisle, and right next to the GE brand I normally buy was an off-brand labeled, "Everyday Value." I picked up both types of bulbs and compared the stats - they were the same except for the price.. The GE bulbs were more money than the Everyday Value brand but the thing that surprised me the most was the fact that GE was made in MEXICO and the Everyday Value brand was made in - get ready for this - the USA in a company in Cleveland, Ohio.
So throw out the myth that you cannot find products you use every day that are made right here.. So on to another aisle - Bounce Dryer Sheets....yep, you guessed it, Bounce cost more money and is made in Canada. The Everyday Value brand was less money and MADE IN THE USA! I did laundry yesterday and the dryer sheets performed just like the Bounce Free I have been using for years and at almost half the price!
My challenge to you is to start reading the labels when you shop for everyday things and see what you can find that is made in the USA - the job you save may be your own or your neighbors!
If you accept the challenge, pass this on to others in your address book so we can all start buying American, one light bulb at a time! Stop buying from overseas companies!
We should have awakened a decade ago) Let's get with the program.....help our fellow Americans keep their jobs and create more jobs here in the USA
I passed this on ........ what are you going to do???????
One Light Bulb at a Time
In the first article in this series, we visited tools to help you get started, and move out of a block. There are many more coming in my next book, "How to Write Your Memoirs...The Toolbox Edition." In this article, we'll focus on ideas to kick your writing style up a notch.
TIPS ON GOOD WRITING
1. Start with a bang, but don’t worry if the gong doesn’t ring right away
The first line of any form you choose to write — novel, short story, memoir, poem — has an important role to play: it’s got to hook your reader. But don’t let this hang you up. Sometimes a great first line just comes to us, and in fact gets us going. But sometimes a good one comes later, after the writing has gone a short or even longer way. Suddenly just the right phrase or line will pop up, emerging from the story. You’ll know it when it surfaces.
Way to go: Holding onto the strap over her head, Hilda fell right out of the funicular car.
What, you ask? How could that happen? Well, perhaps the strap was on its last legs and ripped. Or….you think of another possibility.
Less Interesting: Hilda went on a trip.
2. Don’t repeat the same special word or descriptor in a sentence or paragraph.
Certainly words such as “the” may demand to be used more than once. That’s not boring unless they show up as every other word; they’re not eye-catchers. But if you have used a descriptive, colorful or unique term, for example you’ve described someone as “fascinating,” be sure you don’t use the word, in any of its versions, later in the same sentence or paragraph. You will soon disengage your reader.
Less Interesting: Old Weird Harold was the most fascinating kid on the block. For one thing, what kid would have a name that fascinated people like that?
Way to go: Old Weird Harold was the most fascinating kid on the block. For one thing, what kid would have a name that captures attention so immediately? (adapted, with gratitude, from a phrase by Footprints author, Kay Roberts)
Less interesting: Old Weird Harold always wore a brown hat on his head. Every time he took his brown hat off, the young man bowed.
Way to go: Old Weird Harold always wore a brown hat on his head. Every time he removed his signature head gear, the young man bowed.
3. Keep your tenses straight.
This is one of the hardest concepts for many, even experienced writers. Well, I include myself as experienced here. Maybe other experienced writers never have this problem. Anyway, the issue is sticking to either past or present tense, or using the conditional if warranted. To be specific:
Wrong-o: Jason went into the forest. He hears a whooshing sound.
Right: Jason went into the forest. He heard a whooshing sound.
I know, it’s tempting to want to jump into the present tense to make the story more tense. Examine what you mean to say. Maybe you should be writing the whole section in the present tense:
Jason enters the forest. He hears a whooshing sound.
Just be sure your story hangs together in a timeline. You can certainly move in and out of the past and present, and propel characters into the future in one project. But keep the story line logical by making sure that whichever episode you are describing is clearly in whatever time zone you mean it to be.
Next article: Make your story come alive!
*The above is excerpted from the upcoming book by Hillebrandt, "How to Write Your Memoirs...The Toolbox Edition" (c) 2012 Ina S. Hillebrandt. All rights reserved. Except for review purposes, not to be reprinted in part or in whole, in any media, without permission from Pawpress. For inquiries Contact Ina
I just noticed how long it's been since I've written in here. And I blame it all on the new arrivals, Samantha and Fiona Cat, now about 8 months old, here since they were about 4 months of age. Well, there has been a lot to do on our video project (more soon about that), and an upcoming book. But the cats have also taken their toll.
Every day since they arrived it's been like this:
7:00 am: Wake up, have coffee. I don't care what else is going on, without 17 cups, well, OK, 4, my eyes won't focus.
7:05: Clean the litter box(es).
7:10: Sip coffee while feeding the furred ones. This means keeping Samantha, a born vulture, at her own plate so Grazer Pix won't get hers cleaned prematurely by the Little Interloper, or her sister Fiona. See, once they finish their own food, Sam and Fiona crouch nearby and stare at Pix, menacingly. Pix is cowed by this behavior, and abandons her food.
Unless I intervene, Sam especially gets fat and Pix is left to nibble dry food.
So I have got wily. I now put Pix's plate in my office, lure her in with me and then leave her to munch while I go back to tidy up the kitchen, and yes, clean the litter box in the bathroom, again. Once Pix is done in the office, I go back to let her out, and to clean that litter box. For little creatures they sure poop a lot. And yes, I now have a litter box in my office.
You cat owners out there, did you ever notice that as soon as you clean the litter box one or another of your little furred friends has to make his or her mark in the sand?
8:00 You know the drill. Sigh.
The rest of the day is interwoven with cleanouts, referring fights and playing fetch with Samantha. Used to be Pix's game. Now, to get Pix to resume her role, I have to close us both up in the office for playtime, too. Otherwise, Sam takes over the toys.
In Facebook, I mentioned that I brought Fiona home to keep Pix company.
Next time remind me to tell you about the trauma we faced when I brought Sam home to keep Fiona company.
Back to Writing Tips!
And even to jot down some more memoir writing tips. Here are some of Ina's Weird Prompts (TM) to get ya started. These are more for flexing and lubricating writing muscles than specifically for memoir-writing. But I have found often that people in my classes find links in their minds to treasured memories from these little lines. Have fun with them!
Break through those blocks! Get un-stuck. Pry open those mental doors!
It’s one of those days. Or maybe it’s been one of those years. You look at the paper, or computer screen. Nothing. You may be on deadline. You may just want desperately to write something for yourself. Doesn’t matter – nothing is coming up. Maddening, isn’t it?
Not the first time, right? And you just know there’s no way out.
Well, maybe that’s not true, even though all the tricks you’ve tried before aren’t working today.
You’re looking at this book because maybe, just maybe, there are some ideas that could blast you through that godforsaken wall.
I hope these will help. They’re block busters that have worked for me, and for people in the classes I conduct. What we like about them is they don’t take a lot of hard thinking, nor do they require you be in tip-top creative genius form. The expectancy that brilliant genius mode is the only place you should be when you write is probably high on the list of what’s keeping you stuck to begin with, no?
So, willing to give it a try? OK, the first trick is to let go. Not just by willing yourself to. You can actually take steps, easy steps, to unwind and move out of the box.
Tip #1: Breathing
First, sit with both feet on the floor, legs uncrossed. Take a deep breath, in through your nose. Hold it for ten seconds. Release the breath through your mouth. Look at the paper or computer. Write whatever comes to mind. If you’re trying to move ahead on a project and that isn’t what comes up, it’s OK. Do not force yourself to make it about your project. Just write whatever comes to mind. See if it leads you into the project after all. Or if it leads you to a totally new writing path — See Trick #2.
Tip #2: Journaling, a way to cleanse the brain and ease into your project
Start your day with getting the things that are on your mind out on paper. By simply writing down your first feelings of the day, you will clear your mind of underlying issues, and free your creative self to leap out. As you’re doing this simple exercise, good ideas can spring to life at any time.
Another way to think of journaling as a springboard to writing — just do it! Sit down with paper and pencil/pen, or computer, and start writing about what’s going on in your life today. Write for as long as you feel you need, or give yourself a reasonable amount of time, like 10 or 15 minutes. At some point, you may find you’re switching gears and starting or resuming your project. If not, that’s perfectly OK. Just get those often confusing, negative first thoughts of the day out of your head. You’ll find you can tackle your project with a lot more energy.
Tip #3: Set a time of day to sit down and write. And stick to it!
Get regimented. Make an appointment with yourself, and don’t let anything interfere. If someone wants to meet for coffee, tell them you have an appointment until the hour you have pre-set to stop, and make your coffee date for sometime after your writing date. Now here’s the tricky part: sit in front of the computer or paper for the whole time you’ve set aside. Even if nothing comes, it’s important to keep to the commitment. This is a trick some of the most successful writers have used. It’s the commitment to yourself to write that’s the motivator.
Tip #3A Alternate to #3: Set a goal of a certain number of pages, or words, for the day
Some writers use this trick instead of choosing a specific time of day. Also, some writers use both time of day and specific number of pages or words. I say, whatever works!
Tip #3B Make sure you keep to your stopping point!!! That’s as important as the starting point in keeping you motivated.
And remember what Dorothy Parker is supposed to have said, “The art of writing is the art of applying the ass firmly to the seat of the chair.”
Tip #4 If you're having a hard time getting started, think back to your very earliest memory.
Get as specific as you can. Think of where you are, who you are with, what is going on. What smells are in the air? What colors do you see? Any sounds? How are you feeling? Capture this on paper (or on the computer screen), and see where this line of thinking back takes you.
Tip #5 Don't worry yet about structure, unless you already have an outline in mind.
Just let the memories flow. A structure will emerge. If it doesn't, try taking a look at some ideas for structure in my first book on the topic, "How to Write Your Memoirs...Fun Prompts to Make Writing...and Reading...Your Life Stories a Pleasure!" Yes, shameless plug, but you will find a number of suggestions to help you organize your memories.
Tip #6 Use photos to jog your memory.
You see the one at the top of the page? It's my own grandparents, done up a la the Great American Gothic. If it were in color, you would see a special addition my father put on a copy of the original ... red paint on teh tips of the pitchfork. But only the outer two tines. For me, the photo is as much about my dad as my grandparents, and calls up memories of how his quirky and delightful sense of humor kept me laughing even through countless cross country drives. And of course the picture brings up memories of my grandparents, too. How they came to the U.S. at 15, with nothing, found each other here, and fell in love. I always considered them very brave, and unusual. There's a lot more; this is the tip of the old iceberg.
Try a picture of one of your parents and see what comes up for you.
Tip #7 The Music Break
Get up from where you’re sitting — no remotes — and turn on some music. Any kind of music. If you feel like dancing to it a bit, so much the better. My own favorite is Brazilian.
Look for more in blogs to come, and meantime, keep writing!
NOTE: This blog was originally published in my Footprints Blog. I'm consolidating here, and hope you find this easier!
The above is excerpted from the upcoming book by Hillebrandt, "How to Write Your Memoirs...The Toolbox Edition" (c) 2010 Ina S. Hillebrandt. All rights reserved. Except for review purposes, not to be reprinted in part or in whole, in any media, without permission from Pawpress. For inquiries Contact us.
What is it with nicknames, I mean, why do some people resent them? In my family, we all had them, the more the merrier. Nicknames were a normal part of our lives, and when we were called by them, we felt fuzzy and warm.
My dad was dubbed Moose, and called Moosie at times, by his four brothers and sisters when they were growing up in Bryn Mawr, PA. He was tall and broad, not fat, just substantial. As a grownup he not only created his own furniture wearing his interior designer hat, but could carry even a sofa by himself. I wish I knew everyone else's names from that generation, but sadly they're all gone now and I can't ask. I think one of my uncles, Kal, might have been nicknamed Cream Cheese for his Cream Cheese Theory of Politics.
I called my brother Conrad by a lot of different nicknames, Cornrad one of the earliest. At one point, because he got a little chunky around the midsection and loved French fries, I alternately called him Cornfat and Crinkle Cut. For some reason, my brother didn't like either of these. Which of course made me use them all the more often, especially in front of his friends.
My own nicknames, coming straight from my dad, were always a marvel to me. He'd referred to me as a little minx, but the way it came out when I said it was "Binx." So, first came The Binx. Then, Binxley, and when he was being formal, Binxleigh. Earlier I'd been called Ina Wee, my middle name being Lee, which I also couldn't pronounce. In due time, my official nickname became Ina Wee the Binx Bunnicle. Bunnicle came from Bunny of course, and the bunny was because I only had two front teeth for a while. Plus I loved carrots. Still do, but no one calls me the Bunnicle nowadays.
My former husband's name was Charles Barry, and in good southern tradition (he hailed from Lake Charles, Louisiana), his best friend always referred to him by the initial of his first name. So to JB, Barry was always, "C."
When my daughter Nicole came along, tradition naturally took over. She laughed a lot when she was on the changing table, but was also fussy, colicky for a while. So she became, "Fussy Fuss Pot," when she wasn't being referred to as "Rooster" for the early morning wakeup calls.
One day a southern friend of Barry's came to visit. He asked, "Where's the tot?" Next time he visited, it was, "Where is T. Tot?" Soon it was just "Where's T?" Then, I began calling her by the Dad-type amalgam: T. Pot. I used to try to get Nicole to use the French nickname, Coco, which I think is elegant and fun, and of course reminds me of Chanel. But, no dice. So I still call her T, and when I'm being formal, T. Pot. This is a name known to a few family members only, so please don't spread it around.
The reason I'm thinking about all this is that recently I referred to a new friend I'm working with, whose name is Todd, as Toddlette. He shot back, "That's Toddwyn." Seeing that's far more elegant, I immediately switched over.
Then another person we're working with, Nicole, asked how Toddwyn came about. Todd's reply, "I don't want to be called anything that sounds even remotely like a toilet." Fair enough.
Now, I'm working on a nickname for the new Nicole. She's already known as Nikki, and I am of course calling her Nik, pronounced "Nick." But something better will emerge…maybe Nik the Twoth.
NOTE: This post, along several others you will find here, was originally on the Footprints blog. I have moved it here to connect with my new website.
Hi, and glad to see you! My new blog features memoir and fiction writing tips for you out there aiming to create enchanting memoirs and flights of fancy of your own; new "Pawprints," those close encounters of the furry kind, by moi; and topical comments as they bang on my head to be written. Plus: videos featuring talented authors I'm privileged to work with, reading live, Coming...your life stories, here. Got one you want to share? Use our form to be considered.