Monthly Archives: August 2009

Kids Reading, revisited

Writer Beware Blogs!: Amazon BookSurge Anti-Trust Lawsuit Can Proceed
Been wondering about this but hadn’t seen much on it.

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I feel this illustrates the difference between Americans and the British:
Father’s outrage over ‘pornographic’ Haribo MAOAM sweet wrappers | Mail Online

Mr Simpkins, of Pontefract, West Yorkshire, said: ‘The lemon and lime are locked in what appears to be a carnal encounter. … The lime, whom I assume to be the gentleman in this coupling, has a particularly lurid expression on his face.’

In the US, the outraged father would probably say something like: “The fruits are doing it on the wrapper. I mean, look at the green guy’s face!”

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Vampire endorsement turns Brontë into bestseller | Books | guardian.co.uk:

“I was really disappointed when reading this book, … I found only five pages out of the whole book about there [sic] love and the rest filled with bitterness and pain and other peoples stories”.

First off, terrible headline. Second, I’ve tried to read Wuthering Heights. I’ve never managed to get through it. It’s…arduous and I’m not sure it’s worth the work. I’ve made due with the Ralph Fiennes movie version. Which is full of pain and bitterness. Because, thirdly, that’s what makes it good. Life and love is often painful and bitter. If one reads fiction that doesn’t reflect that it should be for a sense of escapism, not reality.

The Future of Reading – ‘Reading Workshop’ Approach Lets Students Pick the Books
I’ve never been a literature elitist. I blame my mother who instilled a love of “ghetto” fiction (aka science fiction) in me. I discovered the ghetto of ghetto fiction (horror fiction) all on my own. Popular doesn’t necessarily equal trash. Dickens was a popular writer of his time. This doesn’t mean I haven’t enjoyed classics, but for a young reader some of them can be pretty boring. And I’ve written about this subject often before. Everyone, kids and adults, learns better when they’re enjoying themselves. Yes, what kid is going to pick up Moby Dick on their own? So, maybe laying off the great white whale is okay. I came across a Twilight-based vocabulary book the other day, and you that’s not a bad idea. If student are excited about Twilight, they’ll probably be more inclined to remember what the word “alabaster” means. Is it so bad to get kids to enjoy reading first and then lead them to To Kill a Mockingbird? That’s a great book, but it’s going to be wasted on someone that doesn’t care in the first place. To some extent, while Reading Rainbow was a lovely show, it’s preaching to the choir. At the age group of its demographic, reading in school is still “for fun.” It’s too bad that reading doesn’t often stay that way. Fun can lead to challenging, to reading not-junk, maybe even to enjoying Wuthering Heights! Who knows? And, btw, boys would probably plow through non-fiction books at a rate that would put fiction-reading girls to shame.  Just saying.

Reading Rainbow, Eternity, and Benjamin Button

‘Reading Rainbow’ Reaches Its Final Chapter : NPR:

Grant says that PBS, CPB and the Department of Education put significant funding toward programming that would teach kids how to read — but that’s not what Reading Rainbow was trying to do.

“Reading Rainbow taught kids why to read,” Grant says. “You know, the love of reading — [the show] encouraged kids to pick up a book and to read.”

Linda Simensky, vice president for children’s programming at PBS, says that when Reading Rainbow was developed in the early 1980s, it was an era when the question was: “How do we get kids to read books?”

My first reaction was that it’s sad that we’re moving away from appreciation of books. Wouldn’t it follow that if we engender a curiosity for books, kids would want to learn to read? But, from a results point of view and putting aside nostalgia, did Reading Rainbow keep kids wanting to read? Quoted statistics on the matter are often out-of-date and grimly self-interested.

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Book #15 – The End of Eternity by Isaac Asimov

I read an article the other day about people photoshopping their family pictures. And I know how this goes: you start out removing the red eye, then maybe lighten it up a little, then sharpen the image and make the colors less faded… And what you end up with is something that might look better on its own, but lacks a certain spark that the original had. The premise of this book is like that: if we had the ability to tinker with past events–removing war, famine, social-ills–would the human race become a smoother, yet sparkless version of itself? If you remove all those terrible yet challenging things, is there impetus to improve? Eric and I have discussed this often in regard to writing. If I would have been published ten years ago, would I have worked as hard to become a better writer?

In light of many of Philip K. Dick’s novels becoming movies, I spent most of this book wondering why it hasn’t been made into a movie. The overarching plot (a love story!) is fairly compelling. My question was answered in the last 20 pages: the last 20 pages are a massive info dump. It’s not a dry, uninteresting info dump, but it is two people talking for an extended period of time.

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We’re starting to work our way through last year’s Oscar contenders. First up was The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. Earlier in the month I encountered the first Clint Eastwood movie I didn’t like. Now David Fincher unpleasantly surprises me as well. Alas. My problem is that any emotional involvement was overwhelmed by the scope of the movie. The heart of this movie is Benjamin and Daisy. During the section of the film when they’re together I had the feeling of “THAT is the movie I want to see.” I could say that the problem was with the effects, but a movie like What Dreams May Come will emotionally bowl me over every time I see it. Wondering about the chronology was distracting, mainly because it didn’t seem like they did a rigorous job of keeping track. Really, I think it would have been a better, simpler story from Daisy’s point of view. We don’t need to see everything Benjamin does in his life, and it might have been better to be surprised by the changes in him. (I have not read the source material, but I am now…curious.)

Roughly Done

Finished the rough draft of Divine Fire yesterday.  Today, I’m catching up on my reading.  Or at least that’s the theory.  I still have three magazines, a chapter of LotR, and quite a bit of David Copperfield.  It would probably help if the internet and I parted ways for the night.

A couple interesting science bits:

Dueling Nostrils: Will It Be the Scent of a Rose or a Marker Pen?: Scientific American

Really? – The Claim – Some Foods Can Ease Arthritis Pain – NYTimes.com

Depression’s Evolutionary Roots: Scientific American
Speaking anecdotally, I don’t entirely buy this line of reasoning. Often “depressive rumination” consists of fixating on very trivial things, not problem solving. Becoming utterly focused on trivial things is not helpful.

Sometimes people are reluctant to disclose the reason for their depression because it is embarrassing or sensitive, they find it painful, they believe they must soldier on and ignore them, or they have difficulty putting their complex internal struggles into words.

And sometimes, the “reason” for depression is utterly irrational and baseless. If fact, if depression has an easily defined cause, it’s probably not clinical depression at all. Instead, it probably falls within the the realm of normal feelings. But I could be totally off on that.

How are all y’all doing today?

Eric is back to class today. The majority of his classes are MWF between 8am and 5pm. (The minority being on…Saturday.) So, for half the time this semester I will relive the glory of Eric being gone most of the day. It’s not that I don’t enjoy Eric’s company. Quite the contrary. Take last Friday for instance. We talked about various subjects for four hours straight and then went shopping and had a late lunch. Productivity (or at least my productivity) tends to plummet when we’re around each other. Hence, a slightly staggered sleep/wake schedule is helpful. Just as long as I’m the one who is awake first, because I don’t appreciate anyone’s company after I’ve just woke up.

Still haven’t finished my draft of Divine Fire. I hate fight scenes.

A note about my writing life:

I have been banned for the duration of writing novels from watching movies and television shows based in the southeastern United States. For some strange reason, I have the tendency to take on the style of the South much like milk takes on the flavors of the chicken salad left next to it. If I believed in past lives, I definitely grew up south of the Mason-Dixon. The problem is my writing, which is already overly influenced by late 19th century writers, takes on a baroque quality of higher magnitude than usual. Hardly, nearly and barely creep back into my vocabulary, and my characters start taking the long way ’round and certainly not rushing to get there.  Brevity and I part ways.

I can only hope that watching something like this will rub off and have the opposite effect.  (It probably won’t.  It’s the South and whatever bizarre tie I have to it, having never been there.) I blame being a young child in the era of Jimmy Carter and The Dukes of Hazzard.) (Also, Dara O’Briain is *really* funny and potentially offensive.  Edit: He tends to somewhat embarrass audience members.)

Writer’s Block: Good Days and Bad Days

Honestly, I really like Mondays. On Monday, the whole week is spread out before me with all its potential. I’m relaxed and rejuvenated from the weekend and usually I get quite a bit done on Mondays. Least favorite day? Probably Thursday. On Thursday, I’m already rounding down to the end of the week and I only have a couple of measly days to make good on all the potential I saw on Monday. While even I "leave work" early on Friday, there’s no possibility for that on a Thursday. At least not without feeling guilty about it.

The End is Nye

Robert Weinberg once said (or wrote): “Slippers. That’s why I’m a writer. No doubt about it.”

I have to agree with that and add being bare foot at work, a morning commute that is only lengthened by the option of making coffee, and a to-do list that includes things like “Kill Signor X.”

“Officially,” I have two scenes left to Divine Fire before I can put ~End~ on it. One is taking care of Signor X; the other is a fight scene. Both scenes are analogous to ones I wrote in an earlier novel, circa early 2004. The earlier novel (Trials of Fire) and its prequel (A Soldier’s Dowry) were purer fantasy than the Weordan project. Both have been “boxed” due to ill-conceived world building and sheer verbosity on my part. I worked on Trials and Dowry for around four years. It wasn’t a wasted experience. The characters from those two novels live on and it prompted us to get serious about building a solid world.

So, yeah. ~End~ by end of the week. Only two rather tough scenes left.

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My body has still been very creaky. The best I’ve felt lately was right after Weds disc. Which  probably means that whether I feel up to it or not, I should be getting more exercise. (Interestingly, after I complained about my grip feeling weak, Eric pointed out that it might not be a bad thing. It might give my throws more touch.  Considering that my in-game throws were pretty on,that might be valid.)

The Glamour

Been finishing Divine Fire. Which means that all else sort of takes a back seat. The apartment becomes a mess and emails go unanswered. Even if the word counts aren’t high, I experience a level of distraction. There are a few things niggling at me that I should take care of, but they would take too much energy away from writing. Also I’m not reading, not exercising, and eating poorly.

Today was Eric’s birthday and we celebrated with dinner at Four Peaks with Ann, Jim, Mark, Trish and the girls. Ann made German chocolate cake that rivals her mom’s though it needs to sit in the fridge for a day or two and become more dense. Watched Gran Torino afterward. I found the movie to be disappointing. The dialogue was ham-handed and often un-needed. It’s perhaps the first Clint Eastwood directed movie that I didn’t like because it was poorly done.