Tag Archives: Time Magazine

Lawnmower in My Living Room

I read an interview with Khaled Hosseini in Time Magazine. He’s best known for the haunting ”˜The Kite Runner’ in 2003, but he was discussing his new novel ”˜And The Mountains Echoed.’

One of the things he said really hit home with me. “My first drafts are always rather flat and disappointing. It’s a little bit like when you move into a home. You haul all your stuff and shove it in the house; the things you need are there, but it looks horrible and doesn’t feel like a home at all. The subsequent draft is about saying, OK, this couch belongs here. Let’s get rid of this painting. Let’s put the armoire here.”

I love that analogy and it comes at a good time for me as I’ve just moved a new set of characters into their new home.

There are problems with the analogy, however. For one thing, with your household goods, you see them all at a glance, making it easy to survey your treasures and (re)arrange them. The couch gets too much sun there … try the other wall. Put the torchiere in the corner. Let’s try standing the coffee table on all four legs instead of propped against the wall. Ah, much better.

Second, and more importantly, you knew what belonged in the living room. You didn’t stick a bed in the corner, pile the flatware on a bookcase, and park the lawnmower under the picture window.

This is what my work-in-progress feels like to me right now. A lawnmower in the living room. I know it doesn’t belong there, but I can’t for the life of me figure out what to do with it.

Do I shine it up all sparkly and leave it there? Do I move it to the bedroom? Do I even need a lawnmower? Should I push it into the garage and set it on fire? Should I abandon it on the curb and pray some kind soul hauls it away for me?

Third, when you bought your new house, you knew what you needed. Four bedrooms, two-and-a-half baths, 2-car garage, fenced yard for the kids and dog. Easy peasy.

My characters’ house has eighteen rooms, no bathrooms, three kitchens and a bedazzled heliport. Plus a lawnmower in the living room.

Anyone want to help me move?

Is The Problem Career Politicians?

I thought it was a good idea then and I think it’s an even better idea now!

Weigh in on the idea of Deliberative Democracy.

Fan Fiction – Curse or Genius?

I read this article in Time Magazine about Harry Potter and all the associated fan fiction. (It’s well worth your time to read it, whether you’re a writer or not.)

Pardon me if I’m being too technical with this definition, but fan fiction is fiction written by fans. They take the characters from Harry Potter or Twilight or Star Trek or Bewitched or Glee and put them in scenarios of their own imagining. What if Kirk and Spock were gay? What if Harry Potter went to school at Hollywood High instead of Hogwarts? What if Luke Skywalker went to the Dark Side? What if Quinn kept her baby? What if Larry Tate wasn’t so stupid?

Sometimes there’s sex in the stories. Sometimes they project the characters into the future. Or the past. Sometimes the authors are amateurs, but often they’re other published writers. Regardless, each story they tackle answers that age old question all writers ponder … “what if?”

There are many authors who are very proprietary with their characters, never wanting anyone else to touch them. Other authors are thrilled that fans love the characters so much they want to manipulate them into scenarios of their own.

I’ve never written fan fiction, nor do I have characters that other people want to write about ”” yet. Honestly, I don’t know what I think about this. But I sure would like to see a story with Spock and Larry Tate teaching Luke Skywalker the advertising business at Hogwarts. Of course, their neighbors, Kirk and Quinn, would keep their baby and it would grow up to be Sue Sylvester. They wouldn’t invite the neighborhood vampires to their backyard BBQs, though. It would only lead to heartache. And indigestion.

So which is it? As Lev Grossman asks, “Do characters belong to the person who created them? Or to the fans who love them so passionately that they spend their nights and weekends laboring to extend those characters’ lives, for free?”

Deliberative Democracy

I’m not a deep thinker. Oh, I think and solve problems and understand stuff like most folks, but unless something matters to my here-and-now, it tends to flit away from my consciousness after a bit.

So imagine my surprise that I’m still thinking about a column I read in Time Magazine almost two months ago! Maybe it’s not that surprising, since it came in the middle of the Election Season That Wouldn’t End.

The article was written by Joe Klein and talks about making decisions in a democracy without politicians.

Savor that a minute. Isn’t that a lovely idea?

Well, guess what? There is such a beast.

The ancient Athenians had kleroterion, a system where several hundred free male citizens were picked randomly every day to make major decisions.

In the Chinese town of Zegoa, they use a similar system today to make budget decisions for their town of 120,000 people.

“Each year, 175 people are scientifically selected to reflect the general population. They are polled once on the major decisions they’ll be facing. Then they are given a briefing on those issues, prepared by experts with conflicting views. Then they meet in small groups and come up with questions for the experts ”” issues they want further clarified. Then they meet together in plenary session to listen to the experts’ response and have a more general discussion. The process of small meetings and plenary is repeated once more. A final poll is taken, and the budget priorities of the assembly are made known and adopted by the local government. It takes three days to do this.”

Wouldn’t this be awesome?? To spend a few days doing real work and then actually having something to show for it?

It wouldn’t be like jury duty where you usually have to trudge in and sit in uncomfortable chairs until they tell you to go home because you weren’t picked. No, your voice and your intelligence would not only be required, but actually welcomed!

There’d be no lobbyists, no career politicians, no staff appointees, no party to kowtow to, no biased media screaming at you, nobody pouncing on any sound bites … heck … no sound bites!

We The People would truly become stakeholders in our country. I don’t know about you, but I’ve never felt like my opinion mattered much to anyone in power. And my vote? Pfft. Always seems wasted by a lack of good choices. The people in power are all chosen by their party machines, based not on how smart they are or how they would govern, but by whether they have a chance at winning and/or how good they fundraise and/or whether they go to church every Sunday.

Plus, I really resent how much time politicians spend NOT fixing problems or doing the hard work that needs to be done.

If they weren’t endlessly fundraising to perpetuate this dysfunctional cycle, maybe they could actually read the bills that cross their desks … or have honest debate … or learn how to compromise. But they’re so busy slamming the other guy and digging in their stubborn heels and endlessly fundraising to perpetuate their dysfunctional cycle so they don’t have time to read the bills ”” well, you know.

I’d love to see something like kleroterion in the United States. Would you? How could we eject Big Money from the political process to make this work?

What Is Art?

I read about Kate Gilmore, video artist, in Time Magazine.

I was intrigued so I went to her website and watched some of her videos.

This seems to be her newest one.

Watch it and tell me what you think. It loads quite slowly, so get it started then go do something else for a couple minutes so you can watch it without all the rebuffering.

How do you define art? Is this art?

A Penny Saved

I got an “overpayment notice” in the mail the other day from Time Magazine. I had to read it three times. At first I thought I misread the sender and it was really about our Mad Magazine subscription. They send silly notices sometimes.

Yes. We do read every word of Mad Magazine here in BeckyLand. What of it?

Here’s the notice I received:

Dear Becky,

We appreciate your prompt payment for you [sic] TIME magazine subscription. However, our records indicate that you overpaid and are due a balance of $0.01.

We will extend your subscription for 1 additional issues(s). [??] Or, if you would prefer a refund check for the balance please contact our customer service department at 1-800-843-TIME.

Thank you again for being a subscriber. We look forward to assisting you in the future should you have any questions or concerns about your subscription.

Go ahead. Read it again if you need to. I’ll wait.

So many jokes. So many options.

Let me first say that I loves me my Time Magazine and I read it cover to cover every week. But really?  They’ll cut me a check for a penny? What might that cost them? Do you think if I asked real nice they’d set up a direct deposit account for me? Or hand-deliver it straight into my piggy bank here in BeckyLand? Will I get it right away or will they spread the payment over the course of a few months so as to earn the float from it? Do they choose not to send me the copper for fear I’ll melt it down and buy them out?

After prayful consideration and many eeny-meeny-miny-moes, I decide to take the additional issue instead of the serious coin I had been offered. A lesser woman, however, would take advantage of their largesse. And a greedy woman would try to take advantage of other companies with this same policy.

If I overpaid my property taxes would I get another year of public school?

If I overpaid Water and Sanitation would I get extra flushes for the year?

If I overpaid at the grocery store would I get fat? Hmm. Yes, probably.

If I overpaid my electric bill would a year’s worth of electricity ooze out of my outlets?

If I overpaid at the pet store would my fish live an extra year?

It boggles the mind.

Me? I’m not greedy, so I’ll take Time Magazine’s generous offer in the spirit in which it was intended. But next year, I’m overpaying by 52 cents to get an additional year on my subscription.

If we had a greedy bone in our bodies, what other ways could we take advantage of companies with this same policy?

10,000 Hours

In the November 24, 2008 issue of Time Magazine … which I’m feeling uber-smug for having already finished … there’s an article about Malcolm Gladwell. He’s a brainiac who has written his third book, OUTLIERS, which Time describes as, “a frontal assault on the great American myth of the self-made man.” It’s a book about exceptional people who “operate at the extreme outer edge of what is statistically possible.”

He’s a remarkable man and the book sounds like a good read. But I was stopped short when I read about Gladwell’s 10,000-Hour Rule. He says the key to success in any field takes simple practice, 10,000 hours of it … 20 hours a week for ten years, regardless of talent.

I read that paragraph three times because I’ve heard for many years ”” since I’ve become serious about writing ”” that only those who persevere will have a career as an author. I’ve heard a million stories, give or take 200,000, about authors who took ten years to become ”˜overnight successes’ because that’s the industry average. I know mediocre writers who are quite successful. Why? Because they don’t quit and they learn everything there is to know about the publishing industry. And I know excellent, make-your-heart-leap-into-your-throat writers who will never get published. Why? Because they give up or refuse to learn about the industry.

I also read recently, in the December issue of The Writer magazine, (again, feeling smug to be current in my reading) about William McGonagall (1825-1902), the world’s worst poet, whose “confidence far surpassed his talent.” Chuck Leddy, the author of the article, maintains that “to persist in the face of hurled insults and howling laughter, is a unique sort of genius that remains worthy of celebration.” I wholeheartedly agree. In fact, if I had my Wayback Machine all lubed and oiled, I’d buy Mr. McG a Guinness.

Mr. McGonagall obviously dangled his legs off the cliff of talent, but it’s clear he put in his 10,000 hours. After all, it’s 2008 and he’s still the subject of magazine articles. There are studies documenting Gladwell’s 10,000-Hour Rule … it’s not just anecdotal, trying to make us feel better about trying to be published authors for all these years.

So I started looking at my timeline. I’ve been serious about writing … and let’s define that using Gladwell’s scale by saying it’s conscientious writing 20 hours a week … since about October 1999, to the best of my recollection. I never seem to do any writing on weekends, so twenty hours a week is four hours per day. If we count reading craft books, reading in our genre, critiquing others’ manuscripts, participating in critique groups, attending conferences, workshops and lectures … well, golly! I’m overdo for my breakout novel because I’ve put in more than 10,000 hours. And I really hope that “regardless of talent” piece is true.

But if the ten year thing has to be part of the equation, then I only have another year to strengthen my book signing hand!

Ready when you are, Universe!

Are you close to 10,000 hours of practicing something to fulfill your dream? If you could do anything in the world, what would you want to spend 10,000 hours practicing? (And I know that leaves me absolutely open to all kinds of funny, possibly obscene, answers, but it’s a chance I’m willing to take! Let ”˜em rip ….)