Friday, October 13, 2017

This 'n' That

Thought for the day:  Compassion is language the deaf can hear and the blind can see. [Mark Twain]

[image courtesy of morguefile]
Yes, I agree with Mr. Twain, because compassion is communicated heart-to-heart. I'm all in favor of compassion and understanding, and I wholeheartedly applaud the laws which were (finally) enacted to level the playing field a bit for people with certain disabilities. A caring society should do no less than to provide equal access to all citizens whenever possible.

And yet... there's THIS...

I honestly don't know what to think about a newspaper article I read earlier this week, so I'm gonna throw it out to you guys, and see what you think.

Movie enthusiast Paul McGann asked a Cinemark theater in Pittsburgh to provide a tactile interpreter so he could see the movie Gone Girl. [FYI: Tactile interpretation involves placing one's hands over the hands of an interpreter, who then uses sign language to describe the movie's actions, etc.] The movie theater denied Mr. McGann's request, and the gentleman took them to court. As of now, an appeals court has ruled that according to federal disability law, theaters are required to provide specialized interpreters for blind and deaf patrons. This case will likely go through more appeals before a final decision is made, but what do YOU think?

[image courtesy of morguefile]

Is it reasonable, or even possible, for every movie theater to hire interpreters? How would they even do that? Have a number of them on call and summon one to the movie when needed, or would they have to pay a flat rate to keep interpreters available, whether or not a patron ever requests their services?  Mr. McCann uses American Sign Language, but would it be sufficient for theaters to hire ASL interpreters? How about the patrons who use a different sign language...? How cost-prohibitive would this all be? Could this signal the end of movie theaters altogether?

Seriously, I'd love to know what you think about this matter.

And now... on to THAT...

[Dot and Dash]
It's no secret that Smarticus and I have two very spoiled and most-loving-in-the-whole-world cats. Lots of you guys have much-loved kitties... and dogs... too, and I know you're every bit as attached to your critters as we are.

Another newspaper article highlighted a different sort of furry companion that's expected to hit the markets next summer. An invention of Japanese company Yukai Engineering, Qoobo has fur, a twitchy tail, and even vibrates like a purring kitty, but it doesn't eat, or ralph up hairballs all over the house, or gnaw on your plants, or need a litter box... because it, um, has no head. It's essentially a round 2-pound pillow with a tail.

Some outraged pet owners say it's ridiculous to think anyone could ever love one of these things, and it's insulting to think it could ever replace sweet little Fluffy or Fido.

And YET... I believe this gizmo will find a niche. Not for those of us who are able to love and care for our pets, but how about for certain nursing home patients (or others) who may not be of sound mind or body? Wouldn't it maybe provide them some of the valuable serenity and calmness ordinarily found by holding and petting a real living, breathing purring kitty? What do YOU think?

Now that I've covered THIS and THAT, it's time for me to scat. (ahem) Dot and Dash are seeking my services...

                                       Until next time, take care of yourselves. And each other.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Writing with Sense

Thought for the day:  You can't blame a writer for what the characters say. [Truman Capote]

Mr. Capote was right. I would NEVER use some of the language (tsk!tsk!) my characters use... but some of the people I know might...

Hi-ya. It's that time again, folks. Time for our monthly IWSG posts. As always, thanks to our fearless leader, Alex Cavanaugh, for founding this fine group, and thanks to all the other nurturing guys and gals who've helped turn it into the thriving community it is today. To join this super supportive group of writers and to see links to other participating blogs, please go HERE

Okay, before I answer this month's question, let's take a minute to consider how we can incorporate sensory perceptions into our writing, shall we?

Studies indicate that the male brain, not to mention certain other sundry body parts, responds more enthusiastically to visual stimuli than the female brain. That is, the sight of bare flesh has the tendency to rev up a man's juices faster than it will a woman's. That doesn't mean men are more responsive to non-sexual visual stimuli, however. Smarticus considers traipsing around behind me in an art museum to be a scant step above having a root canal. Nor does it mean women are immune to the visual appeal of certain male physiques, either. I've heard some women say the only reason they watch football is for the sheer pleasure of ogling all those tight bottoms clad in tight breeches. (Not that I've ever noticed, mind you. I watch it purely for the game.)

An excellent athlete, I'm sure.

To varying degrees, we all react to visual images. Females respond viscerally to the sight of babies, both human and animal. Men are more apt to notice an anomaly in their surroundings. Or in a movie. This, however, may be due to the fact that while a teary-eyed woman is absorbed in the story, her man may be bored out of his gourd and is therefore itching to poke holes in the movie for his own perverse entertainment. (I mean, really, who CARES if a Roman gladiator is wearing Reeboks, right?)


The point is, yes, men react, women react, we all react to what we see. But why do some writers work so hard to reproduce a specific visual image in the minds of their readers while completely ignoring the value of our other senses?

Like hearing. It would be totally cool if life were accompanied by a soundtrack, wouldn't it? If music could warn us when danger's coming, or if maybe a goofy-sounding ditty could've let my son-in-law's Uncle Mike know I was just joking when I told him we'd already met our quota for Mikes at the wedding, so he'd have to leave. (Thankfully, after a brief awkward moment, he DID laugh ...)

If your entrance were marked with music, what do you think it would be?

I'd like to think mine would be some really cool, sexy down and dirty sloooow sax music with a nice bass backbeat, but unfortunately, I'm more of a bouncy Mancini's Baby Elephant Walk kinda person. (sigh)

Some writers listen to music when they write. It helps them tap into the proper mood they're attempting to recreate with their words. Kinda like adding a soundtrack to their writing. Do you think it's possible for a writer to provide some semblance of auditory stimulation for his readers, as well?

Yeah, I think it is. Can't provide a full-blown soundtrack, of course, but word choice makes all the difference. Take the statement: The dog barked. Sure, it provides us with the basic information, and we understand what the words are saying, but how about this statement: The chihuahua yapped like a pit bull on helium. It provides the same information but in a manner such that we can almost hear the little mutt.

Certain sounds leave indelible marks on our psyches, like fingernails scraping across a blackboard, a bugler playing the haunting notes of Taps, coyotes howling, and bombs exploding. When a writer successfully taps into the sounds existing in our collective psyches, he may indeed make it possible for a reader to clearly hear the action in his mind. (And let's not forget the potential power of POW-BOOM-SPLAT onomatopoeia, either.)

Incorporating taste and touch into our writings is also possible if we take advantage of common sensory experiences. Most of us are familiar with the taste of blood, salt, and vinegar, and the feel of silk, satin, and sand paper.

But I'm more interested in the sense of smell.

Smells have the uncanny ability to evoke very strong deep-rooted reactions and emotions. Don't believe me? Have you ever experienced the phenomenon of catching a whiff of baking bread, a dank musty cellar, a certain brand of perfume or aftershave, or even the scent of sulfur, and been immediately gut-punched by an unexpected memory?

Does the smell of sulfur elicit any memories for you?

Psychologists say our brains are hardwired to associate smells with memories. It's only natural that whenever I smell a dank dusty smell, I am immediately transported to my maternal grandmother's scary cellar. There's a certain expensive brand of make-up ... I don't know what it IS, because I'm ... er ... thrifty ... but whenever I catch a faint whiff of it, I'm cuddled up next to my paternal grandmother again. Old Spice? Can't smell the stuff without thinking of my father.

So, the wise writer will make an effort to incorporate smells into his work. Take advantage of your capacity to stimulate associative memories with your smelly words. Because the bottom line is, evoking a reader's reaction to the smells you describe in your writing will also evoke a strong reaction to your writing itself.

Ya know? Kinda makes me wonder if when I'm long gone, my children and grandchildren will associate any particular scent with me. 

                                         Hmmmm, maybe I'd better lay off the baked beans...

Question of the Month: Have you ever slipped any of your personal information into your characters, either by accident or on purpose? 

Hey, I'm no Hemingway, but I think he was right. To create realistic characters, I think it's only natural for writers to draw from some of the real people they know in real life. Kinda like making a witch's brew: a little bit from this one, a little bit from that one... such that characteristics we admire in certain people we know will logically find their way into characters we want readers to like, and traits we dislike may influence the portrayal of our villains. 

One could say that certain traits of my husband may have found their way into the portrayal of my character George in Hot Flashes and Cold Lemonade... but in no way was the character an accurate portrayal of my hubby as a whole. When Smarticus read the book, evidently he must have related to the character... so much so that he said, "Hey! I never said (or did) that!" 

Ditto, actual events from our lives may find their way into our books. For example, many years ago, one of my cousins really did toss her entire dinner out the door when her hubby came home from work acting like a jerk, and my memory of that led me to include a similar scene in my book. I mean, really, that's too priceless not to include. So, yeah, bottom line, I've done these things on purpose

However, I think the characters in my current book originated entirely within my imagination. (I am kinda accident-prone, though...)

Until next time, take care of yourselves. And each other.

Friday, September 29, 2017

Odds 'n' Ends

Thought for the day: If you have a junk drawer for holding various odds and ends and there's only one item left in the drawer... what do you call it?

This is gonna be an odds and ends kinda post. No deep thinking or brainstorms required, but you may possibly get a chuckle or two out of it. That's the plan, anyway. I pulled the following two items out of a folder on my computer comprised of stuff I might use on my blog someday. Might as well pick today. First, we're going to tackle that age-old question as to why the chicken crossed the road. To get to the other side, right? Or maybe the reason is much more nefarious...

                                        Why DID That Darned Chicken Cross The Road?

SARAH PALIN:  The chicken crossed the road because, gosh-darn it, he's a maverick!

BARACK OBAMA: Let me be perfectly clear, if the chickens like their eggs they can keep their eggs.  No chicken will be required to cross the road to surrender her eggs.  Period.

JOHN McCAIN:  My friends, the chicken crossed the road because he recognized the need to engage in cooperation and dialogue with all the chickens on the other side of the road.

HILLARY CLINTON:  What difference at this point does it make why the chicken crossed the road.

GEORGE W. BUSH:  We don't really care why the chicken crossed the road.  We just want to know if the chicken is on our side of the road or not.  The chicken is either with us or against us.  There is no middle ground here.

DICK CHENEY:  Where's my gun?

COLIN POWELL:  Now to the left of the screen, you can clearly see the satellite image of the chicken crossing the road.

BILL CLINTON:  I did not cross the road with that chicken.

AL GORE:  I invented the chicken.

JOHN KERRY:  Although I voted to let the chicken cross the road, I am now against it!  It was the wrong road to cross, and I was misled about the chicken's intentions.  I am not for it now, and will remain against it.

AL SHARPTON:  Why are all the chickens white?

DR. PHIL:  The problem we have here is that this chicken won't realize that he must first deal with the problem on this side of the road before it goes after the problem on the other side of the road.  What we need to do is help him realize how stupid he is acting by not taking on his current problems before adding any new problems.

OPRAH:  Well, I understand that the chicken is having problems, which is why he wants to cross the road so badly.  So instead of having the chicken learn from his mistakes and take falls, which is a part of life, I'm going to give this chicken a NEW CAR so that he can just drive across the road and not live his life like the rest of the chickens.

ANDERSON COOPER:  We have reason to believe there is a chicken, but we have not yet been allowed to have access to the other side of the road.

NANCY GRACE:  That chicken crossed the road because he's guilty!  You can see it in his eyes and the way he walks.

PAT BUCHANAN:  To steal the job of a decent, hardworking American.

MARTHA STEWART:  No one called me to warn me which way the chicken was going.  I had a standing order at the Farmer's Market to sell my eggs when the price dropped to a certain level.  No little bird gave me any insider information.

DR SEUSS:  Did the chicken cross the road?  Did he cross it with a toad?  Yes, the chicken crossed the road, but why it crossed I've not been told.

ERNEST HEMINGWAY:  To die in the rain, alone.

JERRY FALWELL:  Because the chicken was gay!  Can't you people see the plain truth?  That's why they call it the 'other side.'  Yes, my friends, that chicken was gay.  If you eat that chicken, you will become gay too.  I say we boycott all chickens until we sort out this abomination that the Liberal media whitewashes with seemingly harmless phrases like 'the other side.'  That chicken should not be crossing the road.  It's as plain and as simple as that.

GRANDPA:  In my day we didn't ask why the chicken crossed the road.  Somebody told us the chicken crossed the road, and that was good enough for us.

BARBARA WALTERS:  Isn't that interesting?  In a few moments, we will be listening to the chicken tell, for the first time, the heart warming story of how it experienced a serious case of molting, and went on to accomplish it's lifelong dream of crossing the road.

ARISTOTLE:  It is the nature of chickens to cross the road.

JOHN LENNON:  Imagine all the chickens in the world crossing roads together, in peace.

BILL GATES:  I have just released eChicken2017, which will not only cross roads, but will lay eggs, file your important documents and balance your checkbook.  Internet Explorer is an integral part of eChicken2017.  This new platform is much more stable and will never reboot.

ALBERT EINSTEIN:  Did the chicken really cross the road, or did the road move beneath the chicken?

COLONEL SANDERS:  Did I miss one?


So how many people did I offend? Oh, wait! You in back... sorry I left you out. Let's try again with this one... about two doctor pals with great senses of humor.

[image courtesy of morguefile]

Two fellas, great friends since childhood, graduated from med school at the same time and decided to open a practice together so they could share office space and personnel. Problem was, their specialties didn't exactly go hand and glove... one was a psychiatrist; and the other, a proctologist. So they put their heads together to brainstorm an appropriate sign to advertise their new practice.

Their first sign read... Dr. Smith and Dr. Jones-- Hysterias and Posteriors

The town council considered the sign unacceptable and made them change it.

Okeydoke. So they went with...  Schizoids and Hemorrhoids.

Nope. Still not acceptable.

Then... Catatonics and High Colonics

'Fraid not.

Next they tried Manic Depressives and Anal Retentives.


Minds and Behinds

No way.

Lost Souls and Butt Holes

Definitely not!

Nuts and Butts


Freaks and Cheeks

No go.

Loons and Moons

Thumbs down again.

Their brainstorms in serious danger of running dry, they finally came up with a sign that passed muster with the council...  Dr. Smith and Dr. Jones --- Specializing in Odds and Ends.


                              Until next time, take care of yourselves. And each other.