Be a Smarty!

This Gentleman Lives in the Atlanta Zoo
This Gentleman Lives in the Atlanta Zoo

It seems to me that we, as a society, expect way too little of each other. A good illustration of this fact is the way that our media, and anyone communicating publicly, tend(s) to simplify things so that the audience can understand. We assume that the audience, even if they are literate (you know, people who read books?,) won’t understand anything that is overly complex. Consider the first Harry Potter book. The title is Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. Except in the United States. Here it is the Sorcerer’s Stone instead. Why? Well, the publisher (Scholastic, no less) decided that American kids wouldn’t know what the philosopher’s stone was, so they’d better change it to something obvious that stupid American children could understand. That is, unfortunately, true.

And it pisses me off greatly!

American kids, like all kids, are capable of learning. Heck, I knew, when I was a child, what the philosopher’s stone was. (If you think I’m going to tell you, you’re not paying attention!) In fact, there never was, prior to Scholastic, anything at all known as a “Sorcerer’s Stone.” What the heck would it be? There is absolutely no reason to confuse our own children with what is, after all, a lame excuse for a brilliant title. Scholastic should be ashamed!

By not assuming that kids are smart enough to learn from context, or look something up (and they do have the Internet, you know) we are condemning them to staying just a tad more ignorant, and ultimately stupid, than they would have been had we assumed that they had some brains. Maybe it is an Anglo conspiracy to keep minorities down, as I’ve read, but that doesn’t explain why every single copy of that book has the wrong title on it. American copy, I mean. This is an insult to the intelligence of our children, and a great wrong to society. If we expect our kids to be stupid, we get what we expect. How about, instead of expecting good grades, we simply expect them to be intelligent enough to figure out a basic problem (like the definition of a word) and proceed from there? What if that started us on the path to being a smarter nation? Hey, it could happen!

And, for the record, it’s not too late for Scholastic to change that title back to what it is supposed to be for future printings. You listening, Scholastic?

Yeah. I figured.

For Shipping Department, Dial Saten Ext. 666

Once upon a time, long ago and in a land far away, Andrew and I were celebrating Christmas at home and preparing a number of items send back to Sonrisa.   We had a straightforward plan.  We would get everything delivered to an international shipper.  The shipper would package everything onto

Source: For Shipping Department, Dial Saten Ext. 666

Got A Message?

Well, Sure! Mile Marker 115, Arizona Route 66.
Well, Sure! Mile Marker 115, Arizona Route 66.

According to the famous Science Fiction Editor Ben Bova, then you should call Western Union. Except that they don’t deliver messages any more. The telegraph took steroids and became the Internet, so what’s a writer to do? My advice, worry about your writing and your message will shine through.

I coordinate a Meetup in Las Vegas: The Las Vegas Writers’ Group. There was a member who, in our most recent meeting, felt insulted by something someone said to him after the meeting, and began a series of posts about it on the meeting comment page. Others became upset at the tone of the posts, and I finally had to intervene by publishing a set of rules* for posting, including (in essence) don’t do anything to piss other members off. Which that member did, forthwith. So I banned him. He’s not happy, but peace is restored.

The member in question has a plan that will benefit the entire world, especially veterans and military people. Good for him. His book is about that topic, and again, good for him. I have not read it, but for the sake of this post I’ll say it’s a good one. Cool, and good for him. But, his talk was all about his plan, he brooks no criticism of his plan, and he managed to irritate normally sedate writers to the point where one of them told him off. Now he has to promote his book somewhere else.

My point being that, if his book is good, as I am assuming, then his point shines clear through it. When Twain set out to write a book about racism, he set that as his theme, but then he concentrated, for years actually, on making sure that the book was a damn good story. He is famous for saying (this is not an exact quote) that the difference between the almost right word and the right word is the same as the difference between the lightening bug and the lightening. Big difference. In the end, Twain produced a book that is entertaining, clear, exciting, and fiercely anti-racist, all without ever uttering a screed about racism, or irritating anyone, much less fellow writers, with his ideas.

If you produce a good book, your philosophy and world view will shine right through it. How could they not? In the book, you are producing a world that you want! So, please folks, if you’ve got a message, concentrate on writing a damn good book, and your message will shine through in the end!



*The rules, if you’re interested

Recent incidents in the comments section of a meeting have prompted me to promulgate this set of rules for posting comments about meetings, or in any other forum connected with The Las Vegas Writers’ Group.

First, THIS IS NOT FACEBOOK! If you want to have online arguments where you repeatedly drill your point home to those who seem not to fully appreciate the genius of your position, join Facebook and do so there.

THIS IS A GROUP OF WRITERS SUPPORTING WRITERS! We are not here to espouse any political agenda, plan for bettering society, or, well, anything other than getting better and better at writing. To quote the famous Sci-Fi editor Ben Bova, “If you have a message, use Western Union.” Or, as I said, Facebook.

So, all comments must acknowledge these facts, and follow some simple rules, to wit:

1. Comments should be about the meeting, the speaker, the topic, or the venue. Specifically NOT about fellow attendees. If you have an argument, take it somewhere else.

2. Criticism must be constructive. Don’t say something like, “That speaker sucked!” Say something like, “I wish he’d have included more examples of turning water into dihydrogen monoxide.”

3. Be kind. Always. No exceptions.

If this seems unreasonable, and you are sure that you are being mistreated by your fellows, you have some options.

1. You can complain to the coordinator (me at the moment.)

2. You can block the person in question from communicating with you via the Meetup messaging system.

3. You can stop getting any notices from this group at all (in your privacy settings.)

4. You can remember that the way the world generally treats you is the way you are generally treating the world. (Rule #1 of human interactions.)

If we judge each other, it will be in terms of constructive criticism of our writing. NOT on any political or social basis. Violators will be banned from the group, starting now.


Savusavu Too

Having achieved our A+ in exploring Viani Bay and its nearby island of Tevanui, we consulted the weather to see where we were to go next.  Consulting the weather is like consulting an oracle:  we waive our magic wands over a crystal ball until it swirls with clouds or sun, rain or wind.  Tod

Source: Savusavu Too

Ye Gods, Karaoke! Give me strength!