Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Holiday Withdrawals

That's one good thing about the holidays: They give you a chance to withdraw from life, if only for a brief time, and forget the normal things and think of and do different things.

This Christmas we left home on the 23rd and drove to Meade, Kansas. A little more than 7 hour drive, north to Joplin then across southern Kansas to the beginning of the high plains. The route is beautiful, through quaint little towns like Baxter Springs (on old Route 66), Chepota, Wellington, Medicine Lodge, and Coldwater. The landforms are varied, with the vegetation gradually thinning the farther west you get, along with the houses, and grain elevators becoming the dominant man made feature, other than the asphalt our tires hum on. Ranch land and farmland alternate. The winter wheat looks good this year. We saw lots of evidence of harvested cotton, which is a crop changes from years past.

Once in Meade, our Internet service was rather short lived, due to a computer failure of the wireless Internet service we used. So even brief checks of Facebook and e-mail became impossible. I had to delay my blog post, wasn't able to track my page views and income on Suite101 (which, as it turned out, didn't matter due to massive computer failures there that left the writers unable to access statistics for several days and which still isn't fully rectified). So I just partook in family activities. Ate too much. Played lots of Rummycube. Attended church services. Talked with relatives. Drove past places of my wife's childhood. Visited the museum. Ate even more. Talked even more. Alas, saw no football this last weekend, since neither the cousin or her mom had a sports package with their Direct TV.

Through all of this, I didn't think too much about writing, except when Lynda's brother kept asking me about the next version of my biography of their great-grandfather. We toured his ranch on Monday, first time I've been there in 35 years. We visited with the woman who now owns the spread, and she wanted to buy a copy of the book, Seth Boynton Cheney: Mystery Man of the West. Actually, she wants two (one delivered, and one to be printed). This is my first "book", self-published on company copiers with relatively simple graphics, plastic comb binding, and lots of genealogy tables and information. But it was nice to have someone express some interest in the book. I've given away about 20 copies to relatives, maybe even 30 copies, and before this the only ones to express any interest in it are Lynda's brother, one cousin in California, one cousin in England, and the local museum curator. Everyone else I've given it to has said absolutely nothing. Not one word of feedback.

Of course, that's what I've come to expect from relatives and my writing. Almost no one is interested. One of Lynda's cousins asks, every time I see her, if I'm still writing poetry, but never asks to see any. It seems to be more of a courtesy thing than real interest. And no relative, knowing I write novels, has ever expressed an interest in reading them. That is, until this trip. Two in-laws of that same cousin said they'd like to read Doctor Luke's Assistant. So I'll print and send them the latest version, and see what happens.

Well, I don't want to exaggerate. My cousin Sue read Doctor Luke's Assistant serially as I was writing it. She is a writer too (and a regular reader of this blog, I believe), and she expressed interest. Although, I've never bought a copy of her book and read it. So maybe I shouldn't be too hard on relatives.

But it was nice to leave the pressure of office, writing, stock market, and all things regular for a few days. Here I am now, in Oklahoma City at my daughter and son-in-law's house, where computer access is easy, checking Suite 101 and e-mail and firing off blog posts. I'm still ignoring most of my normal life, though a little football would be nice. We'll head home more likely Saturday. Thus we'll be on our normal Sunday schedule. I'll be back to writing. I'll be able to watch all the football I can stand.

But I'll think fondly of our week away from the routine, and hope for something similar next year.

Thoughts of Christmas Present - The Death of the Christmas Card

I'm currently in Oklahoma City, at my daughter and son-in-law's house, getting a good dose of playing with Ephraim, and reconnecting with the Internet. From Dec 22 to 27 we were in Meade, Kansas, staying at Lynda's cousin's house. She has only a direct connect modem. Her mom, who lives next door, has a wireless network, and we could connect to that. I was planning on making a post on Christmas day, but her computer decided to go on a permanent vacation that day. Apparently a cable modem and wireless router are not enough, and we lost Internet service. I suppose I could have gone to the truck stop the next day, or to a hotel parking lot, but we were too busy playing Rummycube and Scrabble and visiting an old ranch and other such things. So here I am, a couple of days late, taking advantage of Ephraim taking his nap to fire this off.

This year we sent out 76 Christmas cards, not including one to each other. I think five were distributed personally, not mailed. Another two could have been as well. Two cards we sent last year were not necessary this year, due to deaths in the family. We dropped a couple of others due to many years of not hearing back. That total is down from about 125 cards a decade ago. Glad to save the postage, but it started me wondering.

What really set me wondering, however, is the lack of cards received. Granted we hadn't received mail since Dec 22, but I think we had received a total of 16 cards up till then. That includes the one from my company and two from fund raising organizations to which we contribute. I'd like to see what the final count is, and when it's in I'll post a comment to this. I suspect it will be around 25 incoming, maybe as many as 30.

Is the Christmas card dead? Or almost so? Sometimes I wonder if Lynda and I are the only ones who still bother with this old tradition. I remember my parents getting cards in the 1960s. Dad stretched red ribbon up and down the secretary in the dining room and clipped the cards to it. When he ran out of room there, he put them on string stretched in the wide archway between the living and dining room. When he ran out of room there, he put them somewhere, or maybe just in piles on a table. Of course, back then postage was 5 cents, and cards probably 15 cents or less.

So what's happened? We now have many more ways to keep in touch. Telephone is cheap. It used to be a long distance call cost so much that you saved them for holidays only. Now we can talk to a loved one every day and never feel the cost. We have twitter and facebook and skype and e-mail. We are more connected than ever before. We don't need to wait for an annual Christmas card with a quickly penned note, "We are all well. Uncle Theo passed away in October." Now we know about Uncle Theo within moments of his passing.

I guess I don't regret the loss of the Christmas card. Getting 76 done is a whole lot easier than 125. It's been 27 years since we left Saudi Arabia, and I guess it was inevitable that we'd lose track of all those people sooner or later. Lives seem to be busier, though lots of it is self-generated busyness. We couldfind time for Christmas cards if we wanted to, but don't.

I think next year I may chop the number down to about 65 cards, pocket the change, and put it towards a new laptop.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

A View of Christmas Past – the Christmas Tree

Last night we saw most of A Christmas Carol on TV, one of the recent renditions, the one where Patrick Stewart played Scrooge. Can’t say that I liked it all that much compared to various other ones, but it was good to see it, the only time so far this year that we've seen the Dickens story that became the first of his many Christmas classics.

That got me thinking about Christmases past. Long past? No, my past. Specifically the Christmas tree. I’m thinking of those years when I was between 8 and 10 years old, maybe up to 12. About two or three weeks before Christmas, on a Saturday afternoon or evening, Dad would say to us three kids, "Let’s go get the Christmas tree." Each of the five of us in the family—three kids and two parents—would bring forth 20 cents from our allowance, and Dad and the kids would set off on foot, leaving Mom behind to do whatever she was doing. We walked south on Reservoir Avenue, just three or four blocks. There we found three Christmas tree lots. Normally empty lots during the year, at Christmastime they were transformed. Now, of course, the land is too valuable to let them sit idle eleven months a year, and they all have a building. But wait, this is about Christmases Past.

We went immediately to the back of the lot, where the trees of lesser quality were, trees that could be had for a dollar. Dad always picked one that was too tall for our house, and would have to be cut at the bottom and maybe even the top. It was never a great tree. The branches would be far apart and thin. But we bought it, paid our ten dimes, and carried it home. Normally we had to cross Reservoir Avenue with the tree. It was only four lanes back then, with lots less traffic. North a few blocks we walked, then on to Cottage Street, four houses down the left side, and put the tree in the garage.

The garage, you ask? Yes, for in proper British tradition (well, I think it was British; for all I know it could have just been us) the tree was not installed and decorated until Christmas Eve. So it stayed in the garage, in a bucket of water, for a week. We kids used to go out there almost every day to check it, why I don’t know. About a week before Christmas Dad moved it to the basement.

The basement, you ask? Yes. Dad felt that the tree should have a week to "get used to" the warmer temperature of the house. Plus at this time he did whatever trimming needed to be done. So we kids made our daily visit to the basement to check the tree, make sure it had plenty of water, and that nothing had gone wrong with it.

Finally on Christmas Eve, Dad brought the tree upstairs. We all helped rearrange furniture in the living room. Once on its stand, with iron weights on the legs, Dad first put the lights on. Not the miniature lights that we use today, nor all the same. No, we used a mixture of lights, probably six or eight different shapes and almost as many colors, probably acquired over many years. The bubbly lights we our favorite. Dad took lots of time to get the lights just right, clipping each one to a branch, making sure all parts of the tree were equally lit, both those parts close to the end of the branches as well as in the interior.

Then we kids did the ornaments. Following Dad's instructions, we made sure to spread then out, keeping like ornaments scattered and hanging them near the outside as well as inside of the tree. Then came the icicles. No, not the tinsel. We had what we called icicles, a solid, shiny metal piece twisted into a spiral, with a thread on one end. We hung these on the branches about two inches from the end. They were heavy enough that they would cause the branch to droop if hung too close to the end. Then came the tinsel, always the stuff left over from years of being on prior trees and salvaged at the end of a dozen previous Christmases Past. I still remember the white box it came out of on December 24 and went back into on either January 2 or 7. At the bottom of the tree, a cloth skirt of some kind, I think red, and then a lighted snowman and Santa. On the top, not a star or a bow but a spire, made like a glass ornament but designed to fit over the upward-reaching top branch.

The tree stayed up until New Years Day or, if Dad thought it was not getting too dry, until the end of the twelve days of Christmas on Epiphany. As the years went on we could no longer get a tree for a dollar, and we each had to chip in a quarter to get a tree. I think we could still get a marginal one for that price the year Mom died. Traditions didn't change too much after that, though the price of the tree kept climbing. The tree still was bought three weeks before Christmas and decorated on Christmas Eve and taken down on Epiphany. The same strings of lights went on with the same care. The same ornaments—less the one or two that broke every year—were carefully dispersed. The tinsel came out of and went back into the same white box year after year, a little bit more mashed and clumped.

The trees of those years had no theme. Their theme was that this is Christmas and we should have a tree. It should have lights—pretty lights, and pretty decorations. It should be festive rather than beautiful. It probably wasn't beautiful, but now, with fifty or so Christmases Past gone by, those trees remain beautiful in my eyes.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Hate the Villain

Since some readers of my blog might not click on the comments, they might miss out on the discussion I've had with my friend Gary concerning villains. This has to do with posts I've made previously about what I've learned in writing classes (at conferences) about heroes and villains. The conventional wisdom is that fictional heroes must have faults that they overcome, and fictional villains must have some amount of virtue lest they become cardboard characters, someone who is not believable. I began this discussion because of my observations of Lord Voldemort in the Harry Potter series, a villain who seems to have no virtues, and thus successfully defies the conventional wisdom.

I have concluded that the experts are wrong. The hero does not have to have any virtues. The villain must simply be someone the reader dislikes, even hates. As Gary said in a comment to an earlier post, let his/her evil traits be very evil, exaggerated even, so that we can see our own negative traits in contrast to his/her. "Yes, I have my faults, but Voldemort is much more evil than I would ever be."

So now, what do I do with my villains? In In Front of Fifty Thousand Screaming People I have two villains: Tony Mancini, a New York Mafia Don, and Colt Washburn, a Chicago Mafia Don. Both have their eyes and hooks into the protagonist, Chicago Cubs pitcher Robo Ronny Thompson, a naive farm boy who breaks into the Big Leagues. I have Mancini as being too nice to be a Mafia Don. He grew up with some refinement and a distaste for violence. He dislikes having to resort to killing as a business solution. Yet Thompson's success could mean his downfall, and so he sets in motion things that are evil, while hating doing it.

Right now I don't really have anything in Colt Washburn's character that would mitigate his evil. But Thompson's success would mean his success. He would win his eight figure be with Mancini, bringing about his downfall and possibly take over his turf. So Washburn, who was a Chicago street thug who worked his way up to be the head of the Chicago rackets, employs the evil powers he has to try to guarantee Thompson's success. The twist is that the nicer Don is doing all he can to bring about an evil result, and the more evil Don is doing all he can to bring about a good result. Well, if you consider the Cubs beating the Yankees in the World Series a good result, which most of America would.

So what to do? I'm only 15,000 words in to a planned 80,000 word novel. I could easily change either Mancini or Washburn. I could find a virtue for Washburn, or I could make Mancini more evil than he is. I guess I'll think about it some over the holidays, and maybe get back to work on the novel in the New Year.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Fighting the Bah-Humbug Attitude

I can't remember if I've written this on this blog before, but for the last 20 or so years I've had a somewhat bah-humbug attitude towards Christmas. The main problem is the busyness that comes with the season. First there's decorating the house indoors and outdoors, a chore of carrying boxes up from the basement, finding the right stuff in them, and getting it the right places. A lot of work. Given that Lynda likes a thematic Christmas tree, and I don't (I prefer mixed light colors and styles, mixed ornaments), and I've given up fighting her on it, I don't really enjoy the tree, with its one color and style of lights and its coordinated colors and styles of ornaments. Yuck.

Then there's the round of Christmas parties that start the first weekend of December and seem to go non-stop until a week before Christmas. The office, the department within the office, the church, the Sunday school class within the church, the support group within the church, the ladies' group within the church, the writers guild, the civic club, etc. The last several years it's been better. We blow off some of these parties. With the kids grown we don't have rehearsals for children's Christmas program. And since we don't participate in organized choir any more, that's dropped from the schedule.

Then there's the Christmas cards and letter. I normally draft the letter from scratch, and Lynda improves it. She sends it to the kids to make sure we get their info correct. Then comes the printing, two sides of a sheet, with misfeeds, smudging, wrong number of copies, folding, stuffing, etc. Signing the cards, labeling the envelops, finding the stamps we made a special trip to buy, getting them to the post office in batches, remembering to hold out those to weigh for overseas postage (not many of those any more). This isn't hard work, just one more cog in the wheel.

Then there's preparing for the trip to Meade Kansas. We'll be there four days, I think, and will swing by OKC on the return trip. Oh, did I mention the usual sudden tasks that crop up at work in the days immediately preceding your vacation days? Oh, and I haven't even mentioned shopping. Of course, we don't have much of that any more, and I can usually duck it and let Lynda have charge of something she loves to do. Although, since everything about Christmas seems designed to drain the checkbook and savings account, there's still stress and worry attached.

Normally by the time Christmas comes I have mellowed out. The main activities are behind me, and I can enjoy the day with whatever family we have around. I have time to reflect on the reason for the season, to read the story as many times as I want, and to recall the work of Jesus in my life.

This year, it hasn't been so bad. We went to a couple of parties we skipped last year. I served a group of 112 women at church on Monday night. We're going to the company's management party tomorrow night. The Christmas letter (my part of it) will be finished tonight, and probably ready for printing this weekend. The cards, at least most of them, will go out before the 25th. Our schedule for the Meade trip is set, even some extra visits I'm planning to make with Lynda's brother. Yet, with the activities, the stress of the season hasn't seemed as bad this year. Maybe I have somewhat learned how to deal with this and not let it get me down.

So as we near the day, I'm in a good equilibrium. I'm not worried about producing much writing. If I find the time, I'll get an article or two done, or maybe a thousand words in a novel, or maybe a couple of passage notes or appendix paragraphs in the Harmony of the Gospels. I might even get to read Dicken's Cricket on the Hearth this year, which is the next one of his Christmas stories I'm scheduled to read. At least this year I'm not sick with pneumonia. My rheumatoid arthritis isn't acting up and I'm not on steroids. 'Tis the season to be jolly. Well, I may not quite be jolly this year, but at least I'm not stressed and depressed.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Still Thinking About Literary Villains

In response to my post about literary villains, my friend Gary left some comments. The gist of what he wrote was the people like to dislike the villain. If you give them some virtue, the reaction will be that they feel sorry for the villain. Then they won't hate him enough. Then their enjoyment of the literary experience will be reduced, because they will not be able to hate the villain enough. At least, I think that's an accurate summary. Gary, feel free to comment if I didn't get that right.

Part of this all must be the role the villain plays. In fact, perhaps the word villain is part of the problem. Take Scrooge for instance. He certainly starts out as a villain, but goes through a character arc that has him come out the hero. He is the protagonist who goes through a transformation. Darth Vader is the same. He is the antagonist who goes through a transformation from bad to good—or actually from good to bad to good when all six movies are considered. He is certainly villainous, but ends up good.

Voldemort fulfills a different function. He is a villain who stays a villain throughout the seven books, and in fact seems to get more villainous as the story progresses. In the back story, it's clear he wasn't always a bad guy (again, I'm basing this on the movies only, since I haven't read the books). I understand he doesn't go through a bad to good transformation, so remains a villain to the end. We hate Voldemort in the end. We love Scrooge in the end. We sort of love Darth Vader in the end, though he has less time to make amends than Scrooge did.

This all brings me back to my beginning point: Is the conventional wisdom, as taught in the writing classes I've attended, correct? Must we give our villains antagonists a virtue or two, to flesh them out and not be cardboard characters? I'm still working through that. Maybe I can leave Colt Washburn, Chicago Mafia Don in In Front of Fifty Thousand Screaming People, as a bad dude and not worry about giving him any redeeming qualities.

Friday, December 10, 2010

The Plagiarism Posse

The writers at have become more active lately at fighting plagiarism and copyright infringement of their articles. Of course, that's happened to me twice (that I know of): once at a site called, and one recently at a site called Market Mentalist. I've seen a number of my articles listed at news aggregation sites. These are sites that simply provide a link to an article found elsewhere, and maybe display the first 50 words or so. These are harmless, and the links may actually help a little to give your article "Google Juice".

After my last event, which was more or less simultaneous to similar circumstances of other writers, we formed the Plagiarism Enforcement Posse. I lobbied for a name change, since we are fighting not only plagiarism but also copyright infringement (the two overlap but are not identical), but lost that argument. About 25 writers have signed on. The goal is to band together whenever someone on the site posts to the forums saying their articles have been swiped. We hope that with quick and overwhelming action the site owner will take the articles down, or the host will disable the site, or Google will de-index the site, removing their source of income.

Today another writer found a site that's stealing articles, Once he posted, the Posse was alerted. We began making comments to the stolen articles, saying they were stolen. Someone found the site owner's e-mail address, in a country with abbreviation MD (not Maryland), and some of the posse e-mailed him DMCA violation notices. As of about 3:00 PM today, the four articles listed by Posse members as stolen were all removed.

Then the original writer, who just joined the Posse when this happened, just posted to say articles of seven other Suite writers are posted at this site. The theft is a curious thing. The articles are all posted saying the author is Danielle Nelson, but then at the bottom of the articles the name of the copyright holder is given—the original Suite101 author. And the site has no ads. Normally the site of an article thief is covered with ads. That's the whole point: steal articles, keep the site with fresh content, hope to score well in search engines, and hope those who come to the site click on an ad. Or possibly they have ads that pay "per impression" rather than "per click". If that's the case readers don't need to click on the ad for the thief to make money. But this site has no ads. What's the point of stealing articles and plagiarizing them if you aren't trying to get ad revenue?

So it looks as if the Posse is being successful this time, though much more work lies ahead with this one site. I wonder, though, if we are on a losing effort. The criminals are like the cockroaches we used to be plagued with in Kuwait. Every morning we went on roach patrol, killing those who came up through the drain the in the night into the sink and couldn't get out. No matter how many we killed there were as many more the next morning. Same with copyright thieves. We'll stamp out one today and find three more tomorrow and five the day after that. That's the bad news.

But the good news is that these sites have a very low ranking with Google and the other search engines. The don't score very well on search engine results pages. So maybe they aren't taking much revenue away from us. Still, having your work stolen is disheartening at first, maddening second, and angering third. I hope the Posse rides on, into the night, through the day, finding the thieving cockroaches, capturing them, and herding them to the gallows. Cyber capital punishment is fitting, I think.

Don't worry Neil, Damien, Joseph, Jim, Nick, Victoria, Asa, Brenda, Jennifer, and anyone else at Suite101 whose articles this site has stolen. We've got your back. Ride/write on.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Literary Villains: Is the Conventional Wisdom Right?

Attend any class on writing fiction and before long you will hear this mantra: Your heroes must have some faults and your villains must have some good traits. You can't make your heroes so ooey-gooey nice and perfect that they are unbelievable. And you can't make your villains so absolutely awful that there is nothing redeemable in them. Well, you can, but your novel will be the worse for your doing so.

This was news to me when I first heard this in a fiction writing class at a writers conference, but it kind of makes sense. Fictional characters ought to reflect real life to some extent. Few people in real life are totally good or totally bad. Actually, I don't think it's an exaggeration to say no one is totally good or totally bad. Even if a novel is fantasy, and doesn't include humans at all, we human readers judge the novel by our human experience, and the non-human characters must be believable and real based on our human experiences.

But in literature, is this true? Do successful writers always give their heroes faults and their villains virtues? For heroes, I think this is probably true. A big part of any heroes' quest is to overcome obstacles, both those that the world throws at them and those that are within them. But for villains, is this so?

I'm thinking of the Harry Potter series, and of Harry and Voldemort. Now, I must preface this by saying I've not read the books! I intend to, and will be doing so within a year, I think. I'm basing this on the movies. I've seen all seven, and those who have both read the books and seen the movies indicate the movies are fairly faithful to the books. Harry has his faults. We easily see this in his movie portrayal. But does Voldemort have any virtues?

I looked hard for Voldemort virtues in the movies, and haven't found any. I suppose you might say he has a virtue of making an accurate assessment of his chances in a fight against Harry. He says he could not overcome Harry's wand and that Harry has a type of wizardry, provided by Lily Potter, that he, Voldemort, needs something more to overcome. He doesn't pump himself up by ascribing his failure to kill Harry to bad luck. But that's a pretty small virtue, I think.

We might be able to have some sympathy for Voldemort based on the circumstances of his birth and parentage. But sympathy and virtue are not the same.

So, as I write my fiction and flesh out characters, I wonder just how much virtue I should add to the antagonists, the villains. What good characteristics should I give to Tony Mancuso, the Mafia Don who wants to prevent the success of phenom pitcher Ronny Thompson, the hero of my In Front of Fifty Thousand Screaming People? Should I add a couple of good characteristics to Claudius Aurelius, the corrupt government official who want to stop Luke from writing a biography of Jesus in Doctor Luke's Assistant? I've worked hard to give these villains some redeeming qualities, but I'm wondering if it's a waste of time. Perhaps readers like their villains to be really, really bad—to hate them thoroughly, not to feel a smidgen of sympathy for them. Certainly, if Voldemort's abject villainy contributes to the success of the Harry Potter books, one would think that is the case.

What say you, my few readers? Do you want the villains in the novels you read to have a virtue or two? Do you want to feel some sympathy for the antagonist, and think, "Oh, if only his parents had treated him better he wouldn't have turned out so bad."? Or do you just want to hate the villain and love the hero?

An inquiring novelist wants to know.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Writing Stops, but the Ideas Never Do

As I mentioned a few posts back, I'm not worrying about writing stuff for a while. My works-in-progress are on the shelf (or actually the desk, work table, or end table) until after the holidays. Oh, in the next couple of weeks if an unexpected free hour comes my way, I might work on something, but I'm not planning on it.

So the only writing I plan on doing before the end of the year is the two articles I have under contract for Buildipedia, and my share of the family collaborative Christmas letter that goes in our Christmas card every year. I'll keep up with this blog too, hopefully at a three posts per week pace.

How can I, you ask, call myself a writer if I don't write? How can I turn it off, leave pen on table, hands off keyboard, and do other things? Wouldn't I burst from the inward pressure to write? Or if I don't burst, can I really call myself a writer? Or think that I have a "call" to write.

We'll find out. It helps that the other things I must do are important, so that I know I'm pushing writing aside, not for the urgent, but for the important. I know, too, that this time of alternative busyness will pass. This is not a tunnel without light, but with a clearly defined end. And as I said above, this is not a writing "fast" such that I must not write, but rather a well set table in life that includes many other entrees right now. I can still sample the writing if I want to, as I did yesterday. I wrote a quick sonnet to post on the Suite101 writers forums, and I began a new article for Suite101, something that came up unexpectedly but which I think I can knock out with minimal effort. And, I'm still doing research reading for the next Bible study I will write.

So in general I'm not writing. But I find that I can shut down writing, but the ideas then seems to flow faster than ever. Until this week I had four ideas rolling around in my head about on-line writing things I could try, things significantly different than what I'm writing now, things I plan to mull over a long time before really trying. Wednesday as I was driving home from church, a fifth idea of a similar nature came to mind. I began mulling that, and recalled the other four for comparison. No, wait, I could only remember three of the four! What had happened to that other one? I wracked my brain, search for sheets of paper with apt scribbles, looked through other things I'd written for a clue. Nothing. The idea was gone. I had only four when I should have had five.

But wait, last night I went back to mulling again, and the missing idea was back. I have five ideas to mull, ideas about new ventures and a new way to publish on-line. The mulling will continue for some months before I go beyond mulling.

But other ideas have come to mind. Articles for Buildipedia, that the editor has expressed interest in but which I've asked to be delayed till the new year. Ideas for articles for Suite101, maybe twenty of them. Ideas for scenes and dialogue for In Front of Fifty Thousand Screaming People. Ideas for putting my Bible studies into publishable form.

No, the ideas never stop. Which is one of the reasons I think of myself as a writer. I will never have a shortage of ideas in the few decades I have left to produce works of imagination, as Macaulay used to call them.

After this brief hiatus, I shall write on.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

"The Namesake" is a good movie

One of the CDs our son brought with him from Chicago for possible viewing during our Thanksgiving family time was The Namesake. This is some years old, not quite sure how much, but I'd never hear of it, nor the book on which it was based. It's the story of Bengali Indian immigrants to the USA.

Having spent those years overseas, interacted socially and in business with many Indian people, this type of movie was right up my alley. A Bengali man immigrates to the USA, Boston area, I suppose for study and work, goes back to India and takes a Bengali Indian wife, and they live in the USA. They have two children who are thoroughly American.

The story is the trials of both the immigrant couple and their children. The couple has their difficulties with American life, and never fully give up their Indian ways. Trips to India are rare. The children have no real connection to India, except through their parents. The few trips to India don't seem to have a positive effect on them (except seeing the Taj Mahal). They struggle having parents who are so different from those of their friends.

The title comes from the naming of the eldest child, a son. The couple has written to India to ask the boy's grandmother to send them a name (obviously a few decades ago, when international communications were mainly by letter). When the hospital says they have to name the boy, they say they won't have a name for six weeks. But they ask what's the big deal, for in India the child may not be given a "good name" for a few years, relying on an in-family nickname. But they must name the boy in the American system, and temporarily name him Gogol after the father's favorite author, the Russian Nickolai Gogol. I'd never heard of this author until seeing this movie. Much of the story revolves around Gogol and his name, which becomes permanent.

I liked the movie. It includes a few subtitles for the Bengali dialog, which obviously makes the movie harder to watch, but most of it is in English. The immigrant couple have strong Bengali accents, which also ads to the difficulty. But overall it's not that hard. The interpersonal relationships are good. Of course, I'm partial to stories involving the world as a whole, not just America, so as I said this was my kind of movie.

You can't see it in a theatre. Wikipedia tells me the movie was released in 2006. I didn't see it them (we seldom go to movies), but I'm glad I saw it now. If you haven't seen it, and have a chance to rent it, do so. I believe you will be entertained.