Another Halloween. Jen and Jessie loved it because I closed the office at lunch. There was something about this particular Halloween that didn’t sit right with me. The sun didn’t shine as bright, the air held an otherworldly chill that cut to my bones, and I didn’t want to be anywhere other than home, secure behind the consecration.
Wednesday, October 29, 2014
The line to “kill your darlings” really applies to words and sentences (except in the case of George R.R. Martin). So I don’t go on a killing spree in my books, but I have become vindictive and started torturing some of them.
I’ve always adopted a noir attitude with regards to my endings. There are no true happy endings, more like surviving to try again tomorrow. Oh yeah, and there’s an extra weight around your neck, making it that much harder to keep your head above water.
My torture also isn’t physical. I’m messing with my characters’ heads, pondering ethical dilemmas, blurring lines of right and wrong, giving them choices doing the right thing and doing a different right thing as well as dropping other changes that seem innocuous at the time, but will germinate (or maybe fester) as time goes on.
It’s a wonder my characters don’t hate me. They might prefer Martin to what I’m doing.
Monday, October 27, 2014
I watched “The Saint” recently. the Val Kilmer film, not the Roger Moore series. Get over it. And there’s a scene where a Russian scientist is trying to make a formula for cold fusion work, but can’t, and he says something to the effect that “the formula appears revolutionary at first blush.” This is exactly how new curriculum is. We come up with an idea, develop it for the whole semester, and then implement it.
From the moment we conceive it and throughout the semester, we’re hopeful. We can even experience great successes during the semester, but the first blush impression is not the whole story. Only when the semester has ended can we determine if the curriculum was a success.
We’ve all been burned by the final projects of the semester where the students simply give up. I can’t blame them (at least not entirely) because I remember my days as an undergrad and the need to simply finish a course. But when the numbers are stacked against us that the majority of students didn’t get it, it’s back to the drawing board.
Friday, October 24, 2014
Wednesday, October 22, 2014
Before the semester began, I helped a friend develop her curriculum for a composition class. After throwing out several ideas because of the massive work involved and the unlikelihood of getting a positive student response, we finally hit upon an idea of personal exploration. It revolves around three questions, each one to become the heart of an essay: Who are you? Why are you here? Where are you going?
We’re hopeful that this will elicit the correct response and critical inquiry from the students, but, like any curriculum, it’s a gamble, one we won’t know if it worked until after it’s all over, when those final essays and grades are tallied.
Oh, and I realize now that I kind of cribbed the personal exploration theme from Crusade, hence the video.
Monday, October 20, 2014
I see a growing trend with the sites where I go for news. More and more the articles are replaced by links to videos, or the news itself is relegated to video form. While I am certainly guilty of whiling away a good deal of time on Youtube watching videos, I find I prefer the written articles. I can read an article far faster than a video can present the information to me. Time is already precious, so I don’t need to sit and wait for a video to load up and then go at a glacial pace to get to the specific information I wanted.
I can’t change this trend, I know, but I find myself clicking on fewer news stories that interest me because they rely solely on video.
Friday, October 17, 2014
Wednesday, October 15, 2014
I really like the show “Burn Notice.” I was a fan from the pilot episode, and thought the concept was interesting. But recently I’ve begun to notice things, and when I pair those with ideas from the classic Goffman essay “On Cooling the Mark Out” http://www.tau.ac.il/~algazi/mat/Goffman--Cooling.htm, I come up with some disturbing conclusions. I think more and more employers are going this route. There are no explanations, no discussions, merely a preemptive termination of employment.
I think it’s not even that formal, especially with regards to adjunct faculty. They aren’t terminated, they’re simply not hired back. And I think it’s a tactic that more employers would like to use.
A friend recently had this happen to her. She was anticipating returning to teach, and willing to make a long commute, but the department chair at the school simply refused to hire her back. No explanation, no conversation, not even the courtesy of informing her in any way. All communications went unheeded, as if they had become lost in a digital sea.
This passive form of firing may cut down on confrontations. It may be more efficient, but it’s still a lousy move.
And what now? With such passive termination, doesn’t it also carry with it a radioactivity. After all, Michael Westen couldn’t walk up to the FBI or NSA and apply for a job.
Monday, October 13, 2014
Change is hard. It’s outside the comfortable. It’s different. It’s unknown. That isn’t to discount its good qualities. Change is also exciting, brings opportunity, and allows for discovery. But it’s still hard. Change is hard enough when it’s thrust upon us, but at least then can fall into reflexive action, do what is necessary to ride out the new circumstances.
It’s harder to consciously make a change, especially when the stakes are high. It’s romantic to think about chucking everything and taking the plunge. Self-preservation instincts scream not to do it because of all the unknowns.
And no matter how many times we take and embrace little change, taking and embracing big change is hard. It takes the conscious override of instincts and place yourself at risk.
I think that’s why Cortez set fire to his ships. When there’s no choice but to embrace change, you will find the way forward.
I really don’t want to set fire to my ship, but maybe I should.
Friday, October 10, 2014
Wednesday, October 8, 2014
Like I said before, I love to brainstorm. In fact, there’s not much about the creative process I don’t like. After brainstorming to get that initial idea, it’s time to process and distill that idea down. Strip away the impurities. Shape it. Temper it. Polish it until it shines. When that’s done, it’s ready to grow.
The best part? I don’t know what it will grow into. I have an impression, but I don’t know for sure. I get to discover that along with everyone else.
Monday, October 6, 2014
I love brainstorming. That doesn’t quite paint the picture it needs to. When I brainstorm, my mind bubbles, swells, and tingle; I ride a wave of euphoria that to go into further detail would become pornographic. This is mostly because when I brainstorm, I come through the storm with an idea. Often not fully realized, but the birth of one. And all it needs is a little TLC to grow and become something great.
All of the books and stories I’ve written have started off with a simple, single idea. Nurturing that idea became something more, something great, but it always, always starts with an initial burst of inspiration.
And how cool is it that we have a process for stimulating inspiration. Everyone should take a little time every day to brainstorm.
Friday, October 3, 2014
Thursday, October 2, 2014
It was May, the end of the spring semester, and I blinked, and now it’s October. I remember everything that happened in between, but it still seems as if it went unbelievably fast. Mostly due to how much I’ve been keeping on my plate. Still, I better find time to heed Ferris Bueller’s advice.
Wednesday, October 1, 2014
It’s not my usual thing on my blog, but I had the opportunity to review a mystery anthology, and I jumped at it, and I’m glad I did. Deadly Debut is a mystery anthology put out by the New York/Tri State Chapter of Sisters in Crime with all of the stories taking place in that area.
The real strength of this anthology lies in its eclectic nature. There are stories for lovers of every kind of mystery from amateur sleuth to professional to the bystander who is trying to understand the reasons for a dead body in the closet and the beat cop investigating a shakedown.
I immersed myself in these stories so much they took my mind off the pain and discomfort of a root canal (Seriously! Any break in the drilling and I took to reading these stories). I won’t go over all the stories, but here are some (spoiler-free) thoughts about some of my favorites.
“Death Will Clean Your Closet” is a cautionary tale about partying to the point of memory loss. Explaining the dead body in the closet (which subsequently disappears) is difficult when you can’t remember the night before. This is a fun story with shades of the movie The Hangover but with more realistic overtones and concerns.
“Murder in the Aladdin’s Cave.” First, full confession, I am crazy for Turkish and Middle Eastern cuisine. Throw in live music and belly dancing and I’m a truly happy camper. So when I began to read a story in a restaurant with belly dancing, I got a little giddy (FYI, I was wrong about a kebab skewer as the murder weapon). Best of all, I could tell how authentic the experience was. The writer had either really done her research or had done some belly dancing herself to capture the full flavor of the experience. She also highlights what crazy places restaurants can be with their constant bustle, where people barely know what’s going on and can only keep track of their current task, so it’s quite understandable that no one was truly able to know what happened when one of the dancers winds up dead.
“The Lie.” Ah, childhood sins. It’s the little ones, you know, breaking curfew, sneaking out while grounded, going where you’re not supposed to be, and even the little white lie to an adult to keep yourself out of trouble. In a sitcom the little sin would turn out to be something funny and work as a great teaching moment before everyone goes out for ice cream. But this is a mystery story. There are real—long term—consequences to even the childhood sins.
“NYPD Daughter” A beat cop and a shakedown. It might sound like the beginning of a joke, but it’s a recipe for a well-done story that deals with the ramifications of generational police legacy. I would certainly be scared witless at the thought of my daughter joining the police.
Deadly Debut is a great anthology with sharp prose, weighty characters, and a story for all flavors of mystery lovers. Start off with one of the easy-going fun stories or jump into the deep-end with brooding, deadly ramifications, and a hard-boiled world.
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