*About Bobbing Around
*From me to you
*What my friends want you to know
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If you have more wealth than you could spend in your expected lifespan, what’s the point of accumulating more? Is this not insane?
If so, humanity is ruled by the insane.
Bill Sutcliffe, addressing the United Nations on climate change.
From me to you
Why I rejected Google Trader
I was sent an invitation to participate in the launch of Google Trader. They claimed I was part of a very small and select group. Being curious, I had a look. There was plenty of hype, no information. In my course on moving the opinions of climate change deniers, I use the work of Petty & Cacioppo (1986) on the “Elaboration Likelihood Model.” Look it up. In brief, there are two ways of getting people to do something. The central route uses reason, argument, logic. The peripheral route uses all sorts of tricks like group identification, sex, social pressure… all the tricks of the advertising industry.
The info on Google Trader was all the second kind. No information at all. The only way I could find out anything was to register, so I did.
This is a sort of a share trading thing. Google’s automatic algorithm monitors movements in commodity and share prices, and buys and sells in your name so that you gain on each deal. Reasonably, they take 2.5% of your net profit.
Sounds good? Something for nothing? Invest as little or as much as you like, and watch it grow.
I immediately cancelled my registration. Ever since then, I’ve been bombarded by follow-up emails, and even three phone calls. These were obviously from very busy, large call centres.
This immediately shows up at least one lie. I must have been part of a very large, unselected group: anyone they could find to approach. This is a scheme to use the capital of millions of people to gamble with. Google Trade is guaranteed to make billions, so of course they are pushing it.
Why do I want to have nothing to do with it? I could invest a few dollars, and bootstrap them up to thousands. I am sure that part works, because it’s in their interest to make it work.
Because this scheme is immoral. Trading is a zero-sum (win-lose) situation. If I make a buck on a deal, the other party has lost a buck. It’s fishing with hand grenades.
Because it is the same kind of thing as a pyramid scheme. It works as long as a small proportion of traders use it. If it becomes widespread enough, soon Google Trader clients compete against each other, and the profit stops.
Because it is non-constructive. The great Depression of 1930 was caused by inflated share trading that produced nothing. This is the same kind of frenzied money-making with no benefit to society.
Because it is greed. Making money for providing an honest service is fine. We all need it to live in today’s society. But making money for the sake of making money is self-damaging. Money is addictive, and focusing on wealth distracts us from the important things in life. Listen to Pope Francis. Would he approve of this scheme?
Random acts of kindness
Rhobin Courtright’s round robin has the theme of acts of kindness the writer has given or received. I’ve chosen to remember one of the many angels in my life, my high school principal. He has been a role model for me all my life.
Please read my post and leave a comment, and visit the other participants in the round robin.
The most damaging mining project on the planet
I received the following email:
The Queensland Government is moving to forcibly extinguish our Native Title so Adani can build it’s coal mine on our land.
They are ready to walk all over our internationally sanctioned rights. They want to tear the heart out of our country for profit and greed.
We will fight this. We always do. But in a moment like this, we need all the help we can get.
Can you please email Queensland Premier Palaszczuk and the Mines Minister Anthony Lynham right now? Just copy these email addresses into a new email and tell them to throw out the proposal from the Coordinator General to extinguish Wangan and Jaglingou’s native title rights for Adani’s benefit.
This proposal would drag back Aboriginal rights in Queensland 30 years. We need them to change their mind before they extinguish our rights forever.
This proposal won’t stand. Not here. Not now. Not this time.
Adrian Burragubba, for the Wangan and Jagalingou Traditional Owners Family Representitive Council
Here is my response, to the Premier of Queensland:
I am writing in support of the traditional owners of the land where the proposed Adani mine is supposed to go.
That mine will never make money, even if it goes full steam ahead. It will cost the State of Queensland dearly in both environmental and commercial terms. You will allow the raping of the land, of the Reef, of the water, for no benefit.
Climate change is an overriding consideration. Even if the project were to end up benefiting its investors, even if it was a bonanza for Queensland, that money won’t do any good to anyone in an uninhabitable world. Survival needs to come before profit.
Creative writing as therapy
I’ve posted a blog with this title. Please let me know what you think of it.
My view on the reason for the attack on Paris
I don’t need to state it. Nader Atassi already has.
Attacks like the ones tonight in Paris are committed to purposely trigger an Islamophobic backlash. That backlash is not an unintended consequence of such attacks, it is part of their logic. ISIS types want an Islamophobic backlash because it lends credence to their narrative that there is a war between the West and Islam. By strengthening and emboldening the xenophobic right-wing in Europe, they strengthen their own worldview as well. And the most tragic irony is that that backlash may target refugees who themselves had been fleeing ISIS’ reign of terror.
Thoughts with everyone in Paris. May the forces who wish to beget an apocalyptic “war of civilizations” be defeated.
Terrorist vs. Muslim
Prince Charles identifies a root cause of terrorism
He says it is climate change. He is right.
In Australia, there is a strange custom of poking fun at the Prince, but I personally find him admirable. He is intelligent, well informed, and has the courage of his convictions. Following the evidence, he has been campaigning for action on climate change for decades.
Here is what he says about a major cause for the Syrian conflict: years of drought.
Hawaii’s coral reefs at risk
Water temperatures around Hawaii have been measured at an incredible 29 degrees C (84 degrees F), when el Nino hadn’t got into full swing yet. This, combined with three identified human activities that damage coral (including overfishing), may mean the destruction of this beautiful ecosystem.
And, for the same reason (rising sea temperature), the cod population in the Gulf of Maine has collapsed. The cod have migrated north to get away from waters too warm for themselves.
It amazes me that there are still climate change deniers.
Round up the Great Barrier Reef
Coral is a symbiosis of a plant and an animal. The plant part, being a plant, is susceptible to roundup. A new study shows that when Roundup ends up in the sea, it stays around for a while before decomposing. And all that time, it is killing marine plants.
Huge quantities of Roundup end up in the sea.
You don’t need to be a genius to deduce that Roundup is a danger to coral reefs, and to phytoplankton, which is the source of about 50% of atmospheric oxygen.
Scott Ludlam on nuclear power
This is one of the best statements I’ve ever read on what’s wrong with nuclear power. It sets out most of the evidence.
The only think I’d like to add to Senator Ludlam’s essay is lead times. It takes a minimum of ten years to build a nuclear power station. In ten years’ time, we won’t need to worry about preventing or reducing climate change, but, if we’re lucky, trying to survive it.
Win $10,000 if you can disprove climate change
Environmental scientist and author Chris Keating is not at any risk of losing $10,000. He has offered this to anyone who can scientifically demonstrate that we are not causing major climate change.
You can download a free copy of submissions and his responses.
Chile goes renewable
In an auction with a level field among bidders, solar, wind and thermal solar swept the field for new energy supply projects. That’s right, 100% of new power projects will be renewables, simply because they are now cheaper.
Philippines will hold climate changers accountable
The Philippines Human Rights Commission is to investigate the culpability of Exxon and 49 other companies for the regular typhoon damage to their battered country.
I hope the Commission’s findings will put the blame where it belongs.
Portland plugs carbon export
Portland, Oregon is a major export terminal. A unanimous vote of its city council has banned the construction of infrastructure for nasty substances such as coal, tar sands oil, Bakken crude and fracked gas overseas. This of course protects the community from the dangers of rail and pipeline transport as well.
Their motivation is to look after the health of the Columbia river — and the health and safety of their people.
Deadly cancer inspires this boy to greatness
Please watch this 18 year old New Zealand boy’s speech. He’d planned to give it — then found himself in hospital, desperately fighting for his life. He gave the speech anyway. His message is spot on.
They’re getting younger
In the tourist destination of Cancun, Mexico, a large development was threatening the mangroves that are the heart of the local ecology. A group of kids, as young as 4 and 5, have WON a class action to stop the project.
The right response to hate
This man’s beloved wife was killed by terrorists in the Paris attacks. He now needs to raise his 17 month old son without a mother. He is devastated by grief — and his revenge is to refuse to hate in turn, and to be determined to give the little boy a life of happiness and love.
There is also a beautiful, strong and reasoned essay by Deborah Orr on the proper response to the would-be Islamic State.
A little boy cancels a hate act
Hate-filled racists in a Texas town vandalised an Islamic centre. Seven year old Jack Swanson reacted by donating the entire contents of his piggy bank to the victims.
As one of the centre’s board members said, that $20 is worth 20 million.
He was rewarded by another generous person.
A man called Ardalan Iftikhar represented the American Muslim community by making Jack’s wish come true. He’d been saving for an iPad — and Ardalan sent him one.
Seaweed farmer wins Bucky award
He has set up a multi-component 3D farm that grows several commercially valuable species, while at the same time providing a home for many species under pressure, and improves the quality of the sea.
GMO to organic = profit
An Iowan farming group has got rid of GMO crops, with their soil destruction, chemical attacks on the ecosystem, and high costs of seed, fertiliser and pesticides, and has switched to organic.
They tripled their net income.
Here is the family who have done the deed.
Cook with your compost
Check out this device now on the market. It generates 3 hours of hot cooking from 15 litres (6 qt) food waste a day, and gives you heaps of organic fertiliser.
What do you do if a journalist lies?
The journalist in question is Andrew Bolt, who is to Australia what Rush Limbaugh is to America.
Australia’s major research organisation, the CSIRO, has been conducting an annual survey on “Australian attitudes to climate change” since 2010. Very recently, they published a combined report for the years 2010-2014 [PDF document].
The first of its major conclusions is: “A large majority of people think climate change is happening, and are more likely to attribute climate change to humans than to natural fluctuations in Earth’s temperature.”
Andrew Bolt, the flagship spokesperson for climate change denial in Murdoch media, referred to a 2015 CSIRO report on Australians’ attitudes to climate change. This is the only report he could have meant. He jubilantly announced, in an article that took up a page of a major circulation newspaper, that this research showed that attitudes have moved from “warmist” idiocy to sensible knowledge that climate change is not happening, or if it is, it’s not due to human action.
Either the man is too stupid to understand the plain English of the report, or he is lying, in the expectation that no one will bother to check on his claims.
So, here is why I put this issue here: how do you handle the ethical issue when you know a public figure, a professional journalist, has deliberately misled the public?
My friend in Sydney, John Byrnes, has reported the matter to the Australian Press Council, the body responsible to uphold ethics in the Australian media.
We’ll see if this is a paper tiger, or if it will suitably unbolt Andrew.
Well done, John.
Was Jesus a hippie?
Read this wonderful essay by Dr Bill Cummings.
I think he is greatly in agreement with my young friend Bill Sutcliffe.
In the fine print
Greed in action: an increasing number of large companies hide a little clause in their deliberately long and confusing contracts that enable them to get away with stealing from you, discriminating against you or disobeying the law in other ways. This is by having you sign away your right to a trial in a court of law, or to participate in a class action together with other victims of the company’s misbehaviour.
For your own protection, read the article in the New York Times.
The right kind of patriotism
Someone agrees with my friend Jarnie Barnett, one of the major characters in the Doom Healer.
I’ve become a monster
Since I was 7 nothing has gone right. My mother left me with my abusive father (He abused me for years until I was about 14 or 15). He made me leave my home town at 8 to go to an unknown place away from all my friends and family just to leave me in the truck while he did drugs and I was almost kidnapped. I have dealt with depression since a young age (yes children can have depression). I was raped at 14 and forever traumatized. My Grandmother, basically my mother, passed away when I was 16. My mother almost died in a car wreck and is forever disabled. And now I live with a burden I’m going to leave unnamed. Today at 20 I am still depressed even though I’ve been happily married to the man of my dreams for a few years now. My demons still linger around me very closely.
Since I was a child I have thought about killing people. Not the people I love or enjoy but random people that I’ve never met before or people that deserve it (rapist, child molesters, etc). The first person I ever wanted to kill was my father for always abusing me but deep down I still loved him. The second person was my Mother because she left me at a young age then all of a sudden wanted to have something to do with me. But yet again I still loved her.
It went from them to the person that raped me. I did horrible things to him after he did that. Since I was scared to tell anyone what happened I took it into my own hands to do something about it. I watched him closely for a few months then I found fishing line and wrapped it around trees, his swing set, and other places around his house where I knew he always went. He ran through some of it and sliced him face open and went to the hospital for it. I did not feel bad and wanted to do more to him. But eventually left him alone.
Next, it was everyone. I hated everyone who did not like me or didn’t see eye to eye with me. I would hurt older children and even children my age. I lived near the woods where I spent a lot of time. Watching. Waiting. Preparing. I would dig holes in the ground and cover them with leaves, I would also use the fishing line I found and tie it around trees just waiting for the older children to come by on their bikes. I hurt a lot of children when I myself was a child and I found it fun every time…
Then, It moved to random people I would see on the street. Someone who just looked at me wrong. I would also enjoy the thoughts of being covered in blood and hurting people. Now, I would never hurt a child or elderly person. Just people between 20 and 39. If I even ever hurt anyone at all. I’ve never killed an animal and have no intentions of doing so. Animals (mainly Wolves) are a safe haven for me. They bring me Joy that not even my husband can fill.
I just want to kinda understand why I feel this way. And why I’ve felt this way since I was 7.
You have suffered a great deal in only 20 years. When you were that 7 year old child who felt her mother had abandoned her… when you suffered because of your father’s lifestyle choices… when you were 14 and raped… your natural reaction was a wish for revenge, to strike back.
You’re clearly intelligent and creative, and found ways of doing so. You were successful, and got revenge against your rapist.
But revenge is a hot coal. You pick it up to throw at someone else, to find that it’s your own hand that’s burned. When you cut up that man’s face with fishing line, you did more than repay hurt with hurt. You also became addicted to hurting others. There is a feeling of power for the powerless in imposing suffering. At first, it’s easy to excuse it as justice. Then, it’s easy to invent reasons to make it seem all right. After awhile, the excuses are no longer needed. The once-victim, now perpetrator, gets a high from it, and that’s enough to continue.
Look up “stimulus generalization” on the internet. That’s the psychological process that happened to you.
It is time, once more, to fight back. Now, the enemy is not someone else you can have revenge on, but the long-established habit of getting a high from imposing pain and suffering on others. If you’d had a more fortunate childhood, your true nature of a kind, decent person would have ruled. (This is shown by your attitude to animals, the old and the young). You can return to your true nature, by applying your intelligence and creativity to defeating this habit. You can, but it will take effort, dedication and time. It’s worth is: the rewards are enormous.
Look up my habit change page. It is a brief guide to how to change habits. The main requirement is a burning wish to succeed.
If you’d had a loving childhood and youth, you’d be just an ordinary young woman. But suffering gives us a choice. It can make us worse, through resentment, self-pity, the desire to strike back — or it can make us better, by making us feel empathy for others who are suffering, by ennobling our spirit. That’s the choice point you saw when you wrote your cry for help. Now, this moment, is the start of your real life. Now, you can grow into a person far above normal and ordinary, to a wise, mature, magnificent person who can lead others to spiritual growth — precisely because you have suffered.
I have two more brief points.
First, yes, kids can be depressed. I was severely depressed at least from the age of 5, until about 23. I’ve overcome it, and so can you. If you can afford it (or find a free source), do therapy with a good psychologist. But I never did, and got rid of the problem.
Second, you need to do something about your multiple traumas. They can be resolved. If you work with a good psychologist, that person will teach you evidence-based techniques for doing so. Otherwise, find a practitioner of “Traumatic Incident Reduction.” One session for each of your major traumas is likely to be all that’s needed. Look them up at http://www.tir.org.
And now, you have a resource in me. Welcome to my global group of grandchildren. Do let me know how you go.
I want to be normal
First and foremost, I am not suicidal. My question is simple, how can I be normal? I know it’s odd but I’ll explain.
I feel like I’ve been suffering from something similar to depression for more years than I would like to admit. I’m 23 years old now, but I believe it started when I was 9. My brother and I were molested by my uncle (I was the first one to be molested), several times over the course of my late child to early teen years. Because he was my uncle (despite him being only 5 years older than me), I felt that I was obligated as a child to listen to what he said. Because of this, I assumed that it was normal for me to do this with other family members, which included touching my cousins in their sleep and being sexually aroused by family members in my thoughts (I quickly grew out of this and realized what was right and wrong).
While this was happening, my biological father showed up in to my life on my 11th birthday. While I thought I would be happy to meet my other family, it was all a fairy tale as he disowned me as a son (at the age of 22, however he left my life at 17 before my high school graduation) and his side of the family refuses to speak to me because of my sexuality.
Meanwhile, in school I was a sociable loner. I pretended to be every person’s friend, but in reality I didn’t have friends. I never opened up to anybody about my feelings (from elementary school through graduation), and I’ve become “emotionally numb” in that I honestly do not know how to respond in highly sensitive and emotional situations. On top of that, it’s extremely difficult to express my feelings properly without fumbling over my words or stopping mid sentence to correct myself.
My sophomore year in college was when I really was sad and lonely. I had transferred away from home to my dream school, with a full-ride, and although I seemed happy, I quickly became the opposite. My roommates constantly berated me with racial slurs, and I had no friends to really communicate with. It got to a point where I was suicidal and almost went through with my plan of overdosing on pills. Because I never opened up to people, nobody noticed me suffering, which made me feel worse because I really felt that nobody cared about me.
I came back home after the semester was over, quit school for a semester to “get my mind right” so I could go back, and began to visit my with my now ex. He was the first person I ever opened up to about my sexual abuse (we were friends for 4 years and dated his last year of school), and he helped me to tell my mother. However, while he did help me tell my mom, he also was a physical and highly mental abuser. He would often belittle me and try to get me angry, which he also knew wouldn’t work. It even got to a point where I ended up arrested because of him.
Needless to say, we broke it off, although it was horrible because it was on my birthday and we actually fought each other. After the break up, I ended up quitting school the spring semester after. I had tried 3 semesters in a row to finish at a least one course, yet by mid term I had stopped showing up to all of them, no matter how dedicated I was in the beginning.
I’ve also lost trust in all people that ever come in contact with me. It’s to the point now that I can’t get past the initial meeting with someone I’m interested in without assuming that they are here for reasons other than dating. I’ve only dated 2 guys, and the ex that mentally abused me was my last relationship, almost 2 years ago.
Now, I’m constantly sad about my life despite me getting a job I like and getting a car. I now day dream a lot about the after life and people dying in horrible scenarios. I also dream of sexual torture, although I’m not sure if this is healthy or not. I’ve never been to a psychologist, psychiatrist or any of that nature.
Yours is an unusual message, in that you’ve described very well what’s wrong, and all the negatives, but have said nothing about what you would like instead. So, my homework for you is, design the good life you’d like to move into. If you don’t have a destination, you’re unlikely to get there. Have a dream, and specify it so well that someone could show it as a movie. It needs to be something achievable: a GOOD life for you, in your current circumstances.
Your previous partner has traumatized you with his abuse. This is why you find yourself unable to get close to other people. If you can afford it, or have access to student counseling, have a few sessions with a psychologist and work on this trauma, and also the one when your uncle sexually abused you. It’s more than likely there is also a collection of smaller traumatic events because of people’s negative reactions to your sexual orientation.
Please look at my first aid page. It describes 7 things you can do to make yourself strong inside. That doesn’t solve any problems, but gives you the strength to address them.
You do have the power to transform your life. To do so, you need two things: the realization that it’s possible, and the determination to strike out on a new path.
Electronic messing around is getting between us
Me and my boyfriend have been together for 2 years this coming February and we got into a fight. This guy has been snapchatting me and I’ve been snapchatting back. Last night he sent me one I guess with his shirt off, calling me babe. I don’t know where it came from because we usually never talk like that.. anyways my boyfriend considered it cheating and is mad at me and won’t talk to me. He says he wants the relationship to be over but I’m having a hard time just letting go and he isn’t necessarily walking away either. When we were together for about 8 months (and I couple more occasions) he was messing girls online, talking to them about doing sexual things with them. I decided I still loved him and wanted to make things work. It’s been really really hard to overcome but I have. Now that I’ve been snapchatting this guy he thinks that I want a relationship with him. I don’t know how to fix this problem, I need help but no one seems to know the answers. I’ve deleted my snapchat, blocked the guys I was talking to on facebook, I don’t have his phone number to get a hold of him. I’ve cut off all communication with him. I just want my relationship to work out, I don’t know what I’ll do if it doesn’t.
Your boyfriend’s job in the relationship is to do everything possible to influence you to want to stay with him.
Your job is to do everything possible to influence him to want to stay with you.
So, whether on the internet, phone or in person, any activity that will make the other unhappy is bad. It’s bad even if the other person never finds out about it. Suppose he knows that him messing with other girls online makes you unhappy. Then, he should choose not to do so, whether you find out about it or not. Same for you.
If you consider some guy to be a friend, without anything sexual to it, then you should talk it over with your boyfriend. This is NOT asking for his permission. You don’t need that. It is to sound him out, to see if it would be hurtful to him. If it is, you might be able to convince him to change his reaction, but as long as he feels threatened, however unjustified that may be, you should avoid the activity.
If you both are motivated to make life together great for both of you, it will be. It’s fine to have disagreements, even arguments, but it should all be with respect, consideration and love.
Have a good life,
I’m easily irritated and I don’t know why
I’m 18 and at school. I been having these weird emotional problems lately and I really don’t know what to do or to make it help.
Yesterday at school, everything was normal and around my 3rd period I started to feel very irradiated for no reason, even though I wasn’t being rude to any of my class mates or friends I just felt irradiated and I was just in a bad mood. So then probably a half an hour later I started to feel very desperate and I wanted to cry, I tried to hold it but I just couldn’t so I went to the bathrooms and started to cry for no reason at all.
This isn’t the first time it happens to me, but it just felt way much more stronger yesterday than the other times. I’m just very confused and don’t know what to do.
Any recommendations would be very helpful.
Without a lot more information, I can’t even begin to guess why you’ve become irritated for no obvious reason. However, you may be able to track it down, using a tool called an “ABC diary.” There are many ways of doing this. One is described in my book “Anger and Anxiety: Be in charge of your emotions and control phobias.” An ebook version is available for a few dollars at Twilight Times Books.
The idea is to watch for the appearance of the mood change. As soon as you notice it coming on, note what triggered it, and what thought was associated with it. This will give you information to track down the cause.
If there is a school counselor, a few sessions with that person, or a psychologist, will be of enormous help to you.
But also, there is a high chance that your emotional reactions are due to a physical cause. You say your age is 18, but I suspect you are younger. Your body could be undergoing the hormonal changes of puberty, and these often lead to exactly these kinds of mood swings. In that case, you’ll soon grow out of the problem. There could also be hormone problems with your thyroid, adrenal glands, or other bits and bobs of anatomy.
So, get an appointment with your family doctor, and have your hormones checked out.
In the meantime, look on this problem as an opportunity to learn how to run the rest of your life better.
“For some reason, I feel like crying, and am terribly irritable.” This is distressing ONLY IF YOU WANT IT TO GO AWAY. If you react to it with acceptance, it won’t bother you. “So what, this is how I feel now. All things change, this will too.” Then, the situation is still there, but it doesn’t bother you.
Reacting in this way is perfectly possible, to any source of annoyance, anger or other kind of distress.
If on a particular occasion you can’t manage it, then deal with not being able to accept as the thing to accept. “For now, I am annoyed by being irritable and teary. So what, I’m allowed to not-want to be like this. It’s OK. All things pass.”
So, when you’ve grown out of puberty, or if the doctor gives you medicines to balance your thyroid hormones or whatever, you will have developed a tool for being contented in ANY situation, whatever the world throws at you, for the rest of your life.
Practice this for awhile, then please let me know how you go.
The point of fiction writing is to create a reality, and to induce the reader to move into it. The need for reality-creation is true even for contemporary fiction. I may be writing about your neighbourhood, but certain aspects will be different — at the minimum, the people — or it isn’t fiction.
This means, there is a need to convey information. I have to tell you, somehow, what this reality is. There are a number of tools for doing this:
In a word, DON’T.
The author telling the reader stuff is fine in a magazine article or other journalistic writing. All journalism is always from the point of view (POV) of the writer. The journalist reports on personal experiences, on interviews and background research, and gives personal opinion. There may well be quotes from respondents, but the main prose is always from the writer.
Biography, history, popular science, how-to books are all nonfiction. (Well, we hope that the biography is nonfiction!) Again, this is the writer telling the reader about something, and this is appropriate.
But fiction is different. This is probably best brought out by looking at a fictional autobiography. There is a character, say an old woman, who is recording her life. I created that character, and then wrote her story, from her POV. SHE is the one who is giving you information. If I ever get in there and start telling you things, then it’s glaringly obvious that this is not true, not real. By informing you from the writer’s POV, I am destroying the illusion I’ve worked very hard to create, that this woman is, for the moment, more real than the world you decided to take a holiday from by reading my book.
The only conventional exception is in a prologue or afterword. Before you start the story, you are allowed to say things about it, and the same when it is over.
Identification is far more important than information. All the same, often it is necessary to describe people and objects, the weather, whatever is relevant to the storyline. However, such description must be within POV, not an author lecture or info dump. That means, what is described should clearly be what a character perceives. Here is a description from early on in The Doom Healer, obviously from Bill’s POV:
The circle of bullies dissolved. The big boy handed the glasses to Bill. He was six feet tall, with broad shoulders and bulging muscles. Blond stubble covered the top of his head, giving him a tough look, but his blue eyes looked at Bill with warm concern. Apart from a thick scattering of pimples on his face, he was handsome, with a chiselled, clean-cut look.
The most important thing about this description is that it’s BRIEF. Go on for a couple more paragraphs, and many readers will start skipping over it (rightly). That means, you may have written it, but they haven’t taken it in. So, might as well avoid writing it.
A couple of examples from the book I am currently working on, You Can’t Escape Destiny:
The assassin, an overweight, middle-aged man, wore a conservative suit and tie, with a light blue shirt. He glared at Bill.
Note that the one-sentence description is immediately followed by action.
That’s when he noticed, they weren’t in the room they’d started in, but in a bedroom — a very feminine bedroom with a pink motif, and frills and lacy things. There was a businesslike desk with a computer, two crammed bookshelves, and a glass-fronted cabinet with elaborately dressed dolls. One corner held weights, a discus, and a javelin leaning against the wall.
I’ve included this one because it uses a trick: “That’s when he noticed” subtly emphasises that we are in his POV. It is a good idea to constantly include little reminders of whose POV we are in.
The red light came on. John flicked his switch. “Good afternoon, Victoria, this is Drive on 3AW, the station you can trust for decency and accuracy. John Lerouche at your service, and for the second time, it’s my privilege to host Bill Sutcliffe. No introduction needed, right? Bill’s special joy is to relieve pain and suffering, and he transformed my life by healing my inoperable back injury. Bill, say why you’re here.”
Isn’t this far more natural than
The first time John Lerouche had met Bill, the youngster had cured his inoperable back injury. Every since, John had done anything possible to be of assistance to Bill. Now, John was interviewing Bill on radio, for the second time.
Dialogue beats info dumps every time, even when the info dump is from within POV. Here is another example:
Mike, said, “Don’t they have food in New York?”
“Life’s too busy to waste on eating, is all.”
“You need to look after yourself better.” They walked through a door, along a corridor to a large open place.
Matt sighed. “Claire used to…”
“That was five years ago. It’s time to build a new life for yourself. By the way, you still visit her murderer?”
“Poor bastard has no one else.”
They entered an elevator. “That’s why you’re on this team, bro. You do realize, 99.99% of people wouldn’t understand?”
“Of course. But hating him wouldn’t bring her back, and I’ve turned his life around.”
The few words the brothers say to each other are worth a couple of pages of description and back story. But note, the dialogue is not word ping-pong (people talking to each other with no context, setting or action). What they say is plaited with action. The action is necessary, but low-key, so forms a background to the conversation.
Action describes what happens, and it’s the most interesting part of writing. However, too much action leaves the reader breathless. We need to punctuate with slower passages, so there is a rhythm to the writing. Besides, it’s necessary to allow the reader to “see” it happen. This needs context: a place, background actions and reactions by others, a history, a future. Some of this comes from preceding passages, but, as with anything else, a too-long sequence of actions leads to glazed eyes.
Justice Helen Guidot looked considerably older than Justice Culbertson, but alert and intelligent. As Bill sat after the clerk of the court had required everyone to stand for her, he thought the wig and red gown were ridiculous, as were the wigs of the two barristers, but what’s wrong with a bit of medieval leftover?
- Announcements, but note that publication date is neither fixed nor guaranteed;
- Brags of achievements that may be of general interest, for example publication of your book;
- Poems or very short stories and essays that fit the philosophy and style of Bobbing Around;
- Above all, responses to items in past issues. I will not reject or censor such comments, even if I disagree with them.
Isn’t it a lot better than a flat description? It told you what the judge was wearing, didn’t it?
All the same, musing has dangers. Reporting a person’s thoughts like this is fine — for a while — but if it goes on too long, the tension lessens. I once started to read a book in which the entire first chapter was someone’s thoughts. I didn’t finish the book. This leads me on to the reason for my title: this is true for all the elements I’ve described. Too much of anything is too much.
How to do description
Here is an excellent blog from Jerry Jenkins on what’s wrong with description.
“Readers Skim Over Your Description. Yes, even well-written passages. Yet novice writers, and even many old pros, go on laboring over page after page of it and wonder why their stuff doesn’t sell.
“Here’s an example — and I’ll tell you upfront, there’s nothing fundamentally wrong with the writing itself. The passage is evocative and even has a bit of music to it. You wouldn’t be wrong to like it and wonder what’s wrong with it.
“The cottage sat on a bluff overlooking the ocean, where waves pounded the shore and the wind whipped the bare-limbed trees…”
He then goes on to show how you can make this description gripping.
What my friends want you to know
Avaaz: answer hate with unity
To all those extremists who would divide us, and to our fellow citizens and leaders who must choose how to respond:
We citizens of the world have grown wiser. We see the game to drive us apart. To use horror to make us turn away from each other in fear, and turn on each other in a spiral of brutality.
And we resolve, today, that every act of hate and cynical manipulation will only bring us closer together. We, Muslims and Non-Muslims from every nation of the world, resolve to love each other more fiercely than ever before, to listen more deeply to each other than ever before, and to let the pain of each fresh atrocity committed in the names of our faiths or nations or cultures be the birth pangs of the more united, more loving world we are determined to create.
We will build that world, because the truth is on our side. The truth that we are all one people, one tribe. Our fates are bound together, and together we will rise, undivided.
Guardian for refugees
Each winter, the Guardian and Observer support a worthy cause with our annual charity appeal. This year’s cause seemed obvious. In 2015, millions of refugees fled persecution and war. Their struggles have been documented widely by the media, their stories told every day. These people need and deserve our help – it’s time to stand together.
Please spread a little humanity this winter and donate to the six fantastic charities we are supporting to continue vital work on refugee relief and support.
Tim Flannery: Climate Council
In 2009, 190 countries met in Copenhagen to discuss a global agreement on climate change. And while the conference was widely dismissed as a failure, it actually triggered a significant shift in global energy use and production away from fossil fuels — giving rise to the renewables revolution.
And now, six years later, as I head off to Paris for the climate talks, I’m hopeful. Because conferences like these don’t make change — they mark it. These talks will give yet another boost to the momentum we’re already seeing behind this renewable energy revolution. The commitments made by countries as part of the Paris talks will alone almost quadruple renewables capacity by 2030! And it’s this ‘revolution’ that we explore in our latest report launched this week, A Whole New World: Tracking the renewables boom from Copenhagen to Paris.
In it we talk about the 4,700,000 new jobs that have been created worldwide in renewable energy since the previous UN talks in Copenhagen. And how at the same time, the price of solar PV modules has dived 75%, wind power has fallen a dramatic 30% and the number of countries with renewable energy targets has almost doubled.
This is an important and exciting report, one that demonstrates just how much momentum is behind the transition to renewable energy. Please share it with your networks so we can propel that momentum even further!
The Climate Council’s CEO, Amanda McKenzie, fellow Climate Councillor, Prof. Lesley Hughes and I will be in Paris for the climate talks. We’ll be speaking to media both in Australia and internationally about what’s really going on at the conference, keeping the public informed of the facts about what the world is doing — and how Australia is tracking.
We’ll also be sharing our insights and reflections on the innovation, progress and scale of solutions that are being implemented throughout the world. Make sure you check our website and social media channels regularly for our latest updates. And please continue to keep sharing our work with your family, friends and colleagues – it truly does make an impact.
We’ll update you from Paris — but until then I’m signing off with hope, and leaving you with a short video the team at the Council have put together to explain the Paris climate talks in under two minutes. Keep an eye out for Lesley’s and my appearance about halfway through!
Books by Karl Kofoed
BP out of the Bight
BP’s risky plans to drill for oil in the pristine waters of the Great Australian Bight have been rejected (for now)!
The government regulator, NOPSEMA, has heard the 30,000 of you who wrote in (thank you!) and they clearly share your concerns in finding BP’s environment management plan to be unsatisfactory.
Thanks to your support, we’ve clearly won the first round of this battle, but the truth is BP won’t go away that easily.
BP will now be provided with additional time to resubmit its application for approval to NOPSEMA — and BP has already indicated that it will resubmit. But that means we now have a critical window of opportunity to ramp up our work to empower coastal communities across all of southern Australia to demonstrate their opposition to this project.
That’s why we need your continued support. With your help, we’ll be ready to fight BP’s plans again.
No matter how many submissions BP write, we know we can’t trust BP. The fact remains that drilling for oil in the Great Australian Bight is simply too risky.
It’s bad for our communities, it’s bad for our coastlines, it’s bad for our marine life and it’s bad for our climate.
Yours for nature,
This is not just an Australian concern. We know what BP did to the USA. The best way to fight the oil industry is to minimize your use of their products, as far as you can.
Carolyn’s poetry book is a finalist in USA Best Book Awards
Proceeds from sale of this book will go to Amnesty International
Jeffrey Keen, President and CEO of USA Book News, said this year’s contest yielded over 2,000 entries from mainstream and independent publishers.
Imperfect Echoes, a finalist, was inspired by Nobel Prize winner Czeslaw Milosz’s poem “Incantation,” which lauds the power of human reason over the recurring and seemingly insane political realities. Howard-Johnson holds out hope but is not persuaded by trends that seem worse now than they were in Milosz’s time. A student of Suzanne Lummis, UCLA poetry instructor and the Fresno School of Poetry fronted by US poet laureate Philip Levine, she touches on the isms of the world — racism, ageism, even what might be termed “wallism” but was once referred to as xenophobia. In her poem “Crying Walls,” she sounds a low warning reminiscent of Robert Frost: “Chains linked. Wire barbed,/ Krylon smeared. Feeble,/ useless, unholy billboards,/ anything but mending walls.”
Readers will find some humor in this book and much that was informed by Howard-Johnson’s travels totaling some 85 countries including a sestina that she wrote when she was studying writing in St. Petersburg, Russia. Several were drawn from her poems that were published elsewhere including Penwomanship, Copperfield Review, and Cyclamen and Swords.
Richard Conway Jackson, who is serving twenty-five years to life in California for receiving stolen property, lent his artwork, which can be seen in other poetry books including those by Jendi Reiter, for the cover and interior illustrations.
Sleeper, Awake, reviewed by Web Weber
Suppose you had an incurable and deadly disease. And suppose that technology had advanced so that your body & life force could be preserved until a far future where a cure may have been found. Then suppose you were awakened to a world centuries later only to find that your incurable disease no longer existed and no cure had been developed because there was no longer any need.
What would that future life become for you? What relation would you have to those future generations?
Dr. Bob Rich provides some intriguing answers to these story questions and creates an interesting future world with its own set of problems. In that world, technology had advanced beyond imagining, but the consequences of environmental misuse remain. The positive and the negative aspects of human relations also remain much the same.
Dr. Rich has written a clear and readable novel. There are some action sequences that seem to go on a bit too long and some of the characters could have been more memorable. Despite these minor considerations, ‘Sleeper, Awake’ remains an enjoyable read.
Wedged: How you became a tool of the partisan political establishment, and how to start thinking for yourself again, by Erik Fogg and Nathaniel Greene
From time to time, I have run a workshop on how to change opinions. Wedged could be a set text for such a course. Nominally, this excellent book only addresses American politics, and indeed many of the processes discussed are shaped by idiosyncrasies of the American electoral system, such as Primaries. However, the economical, psychological and behavioral tendencies described will apply in any country, and in many other fields of interest in addition to politics.
The definition of issues, the major thesis of the book, only takes about 40 pages. Most of the rest is detailed examination of several prominent examples. This is an excellent didactic tool, and also gives the reader two things: an understanding of what happens in American politics and why; and a way of resolving each intractable issue. If the techniques of Wedged were applied, there would be no intractable issues, and most people’s welfare would be hugely improved.
The basis of analysis is to look at the actual opinions of Americans, as assessed by careful questions that examine issues rather than the one-sentence slogans of those with extreme views. This does not say anything about the accuracy of these opinions. For example, most Americans, as most people everywhere, think of economic growth as a good thing. I don’t, but acknowledge that a book like this is not a pointer to a different culture but of a way of running this one without all the shouting and irrational emotion.
Deserving more prominence is a single example of a wedge issue that dissolved itself, and largely became non-contentious. This is the question of gay marriage. Gay advocates did not attack their opponents with emotional labels, but used a “charm offensive.” Instead of attempting to change laws, they used the legal system to have certain decisions ruled unconstitutional. This worked, because judges and lawyers don’t need to constantly face the pressures of reelection, so have little motivation to demonize those who disagree with them, and to rely on oversimplified, emotional slogans.
I am in admiration of the original thinking, and enormous amount of research done, in writing this book. It is an interesting read, in plain, easy-to-follow language, and best of all, will make you think.
If I’d written this book, climate change would have been one of my examples, because it is a major wedge issue, and because, if one side is right, it endangers the very existence of humanity, and indeed of all complex life on earth. I was surprised to see no mention of this topic. However, this is my only critical comment.
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