Monday, September 20, 2010

Name this quote

"Freedom isn't the position that the world supports. You have to wear a suit of armor to defend it."

Thursday, August 19, 2010

The Importance of Tone

Tone of voice is important in both written and spoken word.

I am currently enrolled in a class on Wimba (a voice over internet protocol that enhances online learning). As one of my projects, I decided to record a podcast on the topic of tone in Flannery O'Connor's short story, A Good Man is Hard to Find.

To learn more and to listen, just enter a screen name below (you don't have to pre-register and you can use any name that suits you.

Friday, August 13, 2010

"Eat" of Eat, Pray, Love

So at age 32, Elizabeth Gilbert had what every writer dreams about; a successful career as a writer. Paperback copies of her latest success, Eat, Pray, Love, are available for as little as $2.29 (plus shipping) on the internet. Which raises the question that vexes most writers (and musicians, photographers, etc.); how are we to make a living when our creations are so readily consumed and made available for free or near to it?

Printed matter mounds on the mortician's table and music has been pirated without remorse for over a decade (unless you count those mix tapes that are featured in Eat, Pray, Love invoking a nostalgia for simpler times. All the writers of my acquaintance testify to their devotion to the printed book; the lure of the printed page. the scent of pages enclosed between leather or cloth book ends. Well, few of us recall the scent of the mimeograph but it had an allure also and, yet, is long expired. Like them, my collection of printed matter is extensive, and much of it is housed in boxes in my basement for lack of shelf space in my busy life. And unless they hiding their collection in the attic, I might guess the same is true of them. Not that their affection and devotion to printed books is any the less. And is it only the musicians who long to collect vinyl? I am not certain of either group of artists but I do know that I can purchase Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon for $11.88 and my guess is that it would have cost me a bit more than that to buy it when it was first released. The value of art and artistic expression does not exist in the product. Yet, Elizabeth Gilbert was supporting herself, her husband (for the most part) and entertaining a lover at age 32 when she ditched it all equally. Or perhaps not so equally.

Certainly, the husband was gone forever, and the lover as well. But writing a memoir of a trip to three provocative locations and selling the movie rights and then having Julia Roberts as your doppelganger goes a long way toward thinking that perhaps she was walking away from a successful career as a writer. Rather that taking the writing career with her was the one thing she never abandoned.

I tend to agree with Maureen Callahan's review in the New York Post that the spiritual aspects of the book are superficial in the face of "the worst in Western fetishization of Eastern thought and culture, assured in its answers to existential dilemmas that have confounded intellects greater than hers." However, the movie provoked a bit richer response. In the book, the reader gets the sense that the author is skirting and skirting in memoir is a breach of contract. Movie audiences expect a bit of subterfuge from film; viewers are accustomed to reading the actors' actions and expressions, to filling in the blanks with their own experiences to a greater degree than with memoir. I did not approach the movie with an expectation that motivations and outcomes would be explained and found myself, in a few scenes, revealed.

However, few writers' work end up on the big screen. Most of us work in solitaire, without much hope of publication, with little hope of film adaptation, and while asking if you'd "like fries with that" or nursing, teaching, soldiering, etc.

So how will any poet, writer, musician put food on the table, shoes on their children, rhinestone collars on their dogs? I'm not sure. I do know that I am perfectly willing to make travel arrangements for executives, take minutes, file, walk dogs, edit, design a logo, or detail your car if it will support my writing habit.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Gypsy Serving Wench Served Amazing Grace

And now for my next trick . . .

So, I was invited to take a spin at being a server and bartender's assistant last weekend. A bit apprehensive as to my abilities to gather guests' glasses and plates and offer them cocktails, I discovered that several decades of participating in and hosting parties had prepared me quite well.

The hostess' home (located in Arlington, VA - yes, the gypsy will travel for work) is magically decorated with some touches of southwestern natural beauty and the in-ground pool was ringed with tiki torches under a ceiling of soaring trees and a star-filled sky. She was even prepared with a mint bush so we were able to prepare an unlimited supply of mojitos for Susan, the birthday girl and the other guests.

At the beginning of the party, I limited myself to only preparing sodas and pouring beer or wine. However, with the direction and encouragement of the expert bartender, I eventually found myself mashing mint leaves in a collins glass with a muddler and adding the other refreshing elements. Soon I was whipping up margaritas and cosmopolitans like I'd been doing it for - - - well, for a few hours anyway.

As the evening was winding down and I stood elbow deep in dishes at the hostess' sink, five of the guests began to sing Amazing Grace a capella. Their voices blended in sweet and tender harmonies, and I thought what a grace it can be to be of service in any capacity. The hostess thanked us repeatedly, remarking that this was the first time in six years of hosting parties at her home that she'd been able to "be at the party."

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Smart Companies Hire the Overqualified .

The work place has changed dramatically since our parents (mostly our fathers) started in the mail room, worked their way into middle management positions or vice president positions, and retired with a pension, a gold watch, and health benefits. Some employers do still invest in new employees by offering benefits, training, leave time, and opportunities to advance. However, some employers expect 10-12 hour days, no leave in the first year, minimal benefit offerings, and new hires to be fully experienced and capable in every aspect of their businesses. The hiring spectrum includes everything in between.

Then two years ago, employers experienced the worst downturn in business since the 1970s. They laid off workers, they closed divisions, flattened management (eliminating much of the middle management), cut benefits, and discovered free software tutorials on the internet for training. The result is that many middle-aged professionals could not find positions at their level; they were under-qualified for the next level up; they were over-qualified for the support positions. Highly capable and unemployed, scrounging for work so they can keep their homes, their health, keep the lights on.

Since when did companies not want to get more for less money? Hiring over-qualified candidates is the smart decision. Companies get employees who are grateful to be working, grateful to be useful, mature and independent but dedicated and reliable and with skills exceeding the minimum required for the position. It is true that that employee may someday leave for a higher level position if one doesn't exist within the company -- but hasn't that been the case for a long time now. Hire the overqualified candidate; they will keep their house, pay taxes, buy a new car, send their child to college, and probably be so grateful they will give more than they get.