Monday, February 20, 2017

Art Palm Springs – Opening Night

Opening night at Art Palm Springs with one of our favorites, Vladimir Cora. Everything I liked was over $28,000, so luckily there’s no room left on our walls. I also saw a magnificent modern painting by Joan Mitchell. She could easily become my new “favorite artist”.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Book Review: Stories of Your Life and Others by Ted Chiang

This collection of short stories first became known to me after seeing—and loving—the movie Arrival. I was so impressed with the movie, I sought out the book, not knowing it was in a collection of short works.

This is one of the few times I’ve enjoyed the movie more than the written work.

Chiang takes an introspective, and what can be a complex, scientific journey in storytelling. One is a take on the Tower of Babel, from the perspective of one building the tower. Another considers what it would be like if there was a mind-enhancing drug that could exponentially increase one's intelligence. Another explores the intellectual and how that challenge of communication with an alien race, and discovering the fluid dimension of time. One takes on an old Jewish idea is that a name (word) has power, and using names to give intellegence to animate objects (e.g. a golem).

I found them all interesting and thought provoking, but probably not to everyone's taste. His prose can be complex, needing a scientific-based mind to fully appreciate/understand all the nuances. This can make following the prose challenging, and often intriguing.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Writing Tip: Sound

Prose creates sound. Accomplished writers not only tell a story or paint a picture with words, they pay attention to the sound of language, to its rhythms, breaks, alliterations, rhymes and echoes. Good writing translates into immaculate prose, beautiful to hear and beautiful to read.

Musical notes reverberate in tiny waves, always growing louder or softer. The same is true for prose. And sound can be one of the harder problems to diagnose and correct. You want it to flow. The last thing you want is a jarring sound that pulls the reader out of the dream.

The most common dilemma with sound results from poor sentence construction. The root problem is caused by awkward sentence division – misuse of commas, periods, colons, semicolons, dashes and parentheses. 

In some cases sentences are simply too short or too long.

Another problem is echoes, using a character’s name or some other word too often. Many authors use “he” and “she” too often. Also, using an unusual word that stands out too often. I have a habit of using “he” or “she” to start several sentences in a row, as in “He said this. He did that. He heard something. He turned around.” It quickly gets monotonous.

Yet another issue is Alliteration, where the repetition of the first letter of a word and the first letter of a following word is the same – for instance, the “large lock” or “walking down the wide street.”

The best way to catch sound issues is by reading the text aloud. On my Mac, I can highlight the text and have the computer read it aloud. I can’t tell you how many problems I’ve caught doing this.

Once you identify an issue, an effective way to deal with it is to cut and/or simplify. Many writers equate complexity of thought with complexity of sentence structure. I believe that is a huge mistake. To present ideas simply and clearly is next to Godliness.

Bottom line is to pay close attention to the sound of your prose.

Monday, February 13, 2017

My Impression of the POTUS

I wrote the following over a year ago when I began my current work-in-progress. At the time I didn’t actually know of anyone who fit this description, but after watching Trump over the last several months, I believe this describes the kind of man I see in him.

Throughout recorded history, many humans were labeled monsters. Some were born physically misshapen, no legs or arms, enormous heads and spindly bodies, crooked backs, joined twins, no sexual organs or both sexual organs. The list is endless.  These corporeal abnormalities were once considered God’s retribution for the sins of the parents, but now they are thought of as nature’s accidents, an unlucky roll of the dice, no one’s fault.
There is, however, a different breed of monster, where the deformity is hidden from the eye. The face and body may be faultless, yet a twisted gene or benevolent drug with devilish side effects taken during pregnancy results in a malformed psyche.
 Monsters are deviations from the traditional norms. As one child is born without legs, another can be born lacking empathy and a conscience. The child born without legs eventually learns he is handicapped, and struggles to overcome his physical abnormality. But the child born with no compassion goes through life unaware of his defect, because he has nothing visible to compare with others. He wrongly assumes everyone is like him, coldblooded, calculating, unfeeling, self-absorbed. To this kind of fiend, a soul-stricken man seems weak, even comical, in the same way that to a criminal, honesty seems pathetically ludicrous.

This means, of course, that to an inner fiend, integrity and simple human kindness seems abnormal, dishonest, and perhaps even monstrous. They will, therefore, do everything possible to expose the monster in everyone around them, and they will interpret that as an act of righteousness.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

My Favorite Thing About Visiting India: The Food.

One of the great things about traveling is eating. Luckily for us, Indian food happens to be one of our favorites. It's different here of course and so much better than what we can get back home and one of the things we will miss when we leave. There is no vindaloo here and samosas, which is street food, is not served in restaurants.

Fresh seafood with an Indian twist in Mumbai.

 Tandoori fish. Tandorri is served as an appetizer here. Not as part of your main course.

 Butter Chicken, Palak Paneer, and Chicken Biryani.

 Uttapam. Rice pancake with chili, onions and other spices. Served with sambal.

Lamb seekh kabab perfectly spiced.

 Alan likes all kinds of curries.

 Nan with every meal.

 Great seafood in Mumbai.

 Masala Dosa for breakfast, almost every morning.

 Colabra curry prawns. The best I've ever had.

 Saffron rice pudding.

 Typical meal, rich in sauces.

 Anise seed and sweetener. A perfect way to finish any Indian meal.

 Service is impeccable.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

On The Streets of Mumbai

This is our first trip to Mumbai in five previous trips to India. It's the most populated city in the country as well as the business capital. The standard of living seems higher overall but there is still poverty everywhere you turn.

Many people tell us they have no interest in visiting India because they're not sure they can handle the poverty. True, it's not like being on a riverboat cruise down the Rhone River in France but there's so much more to a place like India than poverty.

Kulfi (ice cream) salesman on the street.

 On a shopping street.

 Women working on repaving the streets.

 Sandwiches on the street.

 Buying grass to feed the cows on the street. A typical Hindu offering to the animals.

 Strawberries and grapes at the Crawford Market. 

 Sugar cane juice or roasted nuts on the street.

Victoria Station in Mumbai. The rail scenes in Slumdog Millionaire were filmed here. They handle four million passengers per day.

 Human shopping cart at the Crawford Market. He'll follow you around as you shop and fill his basket with your purchases.

 Souvenir salesgirl.

 Outside the Crawford Market.

 Dhobi Ghat, the famous Mumbai Laundromat. The 140 year old laundry facility with flogging stones and open air drying. Hospitals and some Hotels still send their laundry here. They handle several million garments per day.