TV Review: Who Is America?

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Who Is America? (Image curtesy of Google)

 

Genre: Political Satire

Starring: Sacha Baron Cohen

Release Date: 15th July 2018 (UK)

Created By: Sacha Baron Cohen

Network: Showtime
Premise:

Baron Cohen portrays a variety of characters who interview/interrogate, train and discuss pertinent issues with real persons from across the political and cultural spectrum of America. His creations include – Dr. Nira Cain-N’Degeocello, far-left lecturer on gender studies and activist who wishes to “heal the divide” in America between conservatives and liberals, Rick Sherman, an ex-convict artist, recently released after about 21 years, and Erran Morad, an Israeli anti-terrorism expert and former agent of Mossad. Both characters have their own Twitter accounts!

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 Erran Morad interviews US Vice President Dick Cheney.

I have been a fan of Baron Cohen’s work since his arrival on British TV in 2002, in the guise of Ali G, a drum n bass enthusiast with a poor education who’s childish questions and inability to grasp the fundamentals of politics, allowed him to reveal the flaws in those he ‘interviewed’.

And this is the basic premise of all Baron Cohen’s characters – they are either dull-witted, or extreme in their own views, or foreigners in an English speaking country, allowing him to behave and ask inappropriate questions, thus hi-lighting the hypocrisy of various individuals who represent the mind-set of certain groups.

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          Someone didn’t read the small print                   (image from tooFab)

 

In Who Is America? Baron Cohen in the guise of Dr. Nira Cain-N’Degeocello, dines with a South Carolina Republican and her husband, and not only pushes their buttons with his questions but tests their white, middle-class sensibilities to the hilt by talking about his daughter’s menstruation and how he won’t allow her to use sanitary products.

As Gio Monaldo, an Italian billionaire playboy and fashion photographer from Italy, he gets minor celebrities to endorse things like child soldiers, or to pose in a sexy manner for a supposed advert to help aid workers in Africa fighting Ebola.

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      Nira attempts to ‘heal the divide’!

Occasionally, an interviewee will refuse to continue with the interview – and this is to their credit. Baron Cohen pushes and pushes with more ludicrous or offensive questioning thus exposing an individuals biases, prejudices and idiocy. What sort of politician would agree to drop his pants in order to fend off terrorists? Or take up-skirt photos under a ladies burqa? Or repeatedly shout the ‘n’ word? Jason Spencer apparently! (Spencer has apparently resigned since filming.)

Who Is America? May be more of the same from Baron Cohen, but it is still hilarious, we Brits love seeing people knocked off their high horses or taken down a peg or two. But the fact that Baron Cohen is still able to produce such a programme says a lot about American (and British) society. We don’t listen, we don’t read the small print, we don’t pay attention, most of us – and especially those in high-profile positions – fail to question our own opinions and attitudes to those who are ‘not like us’. We can be so small-minded and bigoted and obsessed with how we appear that we are not listening to what is really going on.

 

Baron Cohen strikes me as one of those frighteningly intelligent people we so often see in comedy – think Peter Cook, Jonathan Miller and Chris Morris (all British) – who hold a mirror up to society and we either don’t ‘get it’, or laugh ourselves silly because we do, but with the added poignancy of feeling impotent to do anything about the issues highlighted. We need humour like this, we need people like Baron Cohen to show us what ludicrous monkeys we can sometimes be.

I give Who Is America?

5 Stars

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Build-A-Blog (For Absolute Beginners)

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Build a blog at any age.
(Image curtesy of Wikipedia)

The blogosphere is an exciting space online for people to build communities and express yourself. You might be a manager of a corporation, a student with a passion for communication, or a hobbyist. Building a blog is relatively easy.

The first thing to know is – what kind of blogger are you?

You may not have the technical skills necessary to start a blog, or you may think you do not have the skills to start a blog – there are plenty of free, open-source systems that guide you through the process, allowing you to design your site how you wish, including WordPress, Wix and Blogger.

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It can be a community. (Image curtesy of art.co.uk)

If you can use e-mail, you can blog!

Each system has it’s strengths and weaknesses, reading other people’s blogs and playing around with one or two will quickly show which you feel most comfortable with – by the way – don’t be put off when you see some ‘amazing’ layouts and designs that others have produced, you do not have to have all ‘bells and whistles’ for your site – it’s the content that will keep you and potential readers interested.

I assume that you are reading this on some sort of computer, which means you already have some of the skills necessary.

Don’t assume that because a person’s blog has amazing graphic content, it will be an amazing read, similarly, do not assume that the more simple layouts are dull – remember, it is content that matters most.

Who is your blog for?

In the media industry, they call this your ‘Target Audience‘. It maybe that you are writing a blog as an alternative to keeping a diary, in which case, what you write and how you write and display it only matters to you.

You also do not need to base your blog on the job/career you have. If you are a chef, you may want to post recipes or amusing anecdotes about your experiences in the industry. However, you may not want to write about the industry you work in, but release a hidden passion onto the blogosphere – you may whittle small celebrity figures from pine wood, you might be a huge sports fan and provide commentaries on the latest games with an alternative angle to broadcasters, you might have a penchant for designing wacky alternatives to the morning alarm clock – whatever your thang, make it interesting and fun for you, first and foremost – otherwise, what’s the point?!

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And you don’t need huge machinery to do it.

Take your time.

You don’t have to go charging ahead with layout design, business links, marketing, social media link-ups, images, audio, video – heck, you might never want to do some of those things. If you are after a reader following, this will take time too – be patient.

If you get yourself into a pickle, press the back-button, delete, undo – it’s not the end of the world. The thing that got me when I first started blogging, was when I changed the style (WordPress calls it Theme), of my page. Suddenly everything was in a different place, some stuff wasn’t there anymore; as far as I could tell (it was, just under different headings!).

You might yell “Aw shiiiit!” if things don’t go as you expected – but you can’t break anything – unless you throw your laptop out the window – remember to use your Delete button, or just go back using the tab arrows on your internet page.

Set up your blog. Write your first post. Log out. View it as a reader. What does it look like? I know, mine did too!!!!

It may have been noticed by one or two of you, that I myself only have a very loose theme to my posts – hence the blog name – Flailing Through Life – this is how my brain works. I am interested in too many things for me to whittle it down, plus, I enjoy having a broad brush to paint with – and that’s the first and last reason to blog –

– enjoy it.

And here’s a little bit of Bowie to set you on your path….

Writing Interruptus

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Walter Matthau as Max Goldman – in reality, I might have strangled him!

So, the schools and colleges and universities of England have broken up for the summer holidays – no, not vacation, we don’t say vacation in England, unless you are going away from home on an actual vacation! (The English language huh?!)

You’d think I would have time to settle into a decent writing routine, wouldn’t you?

Previously I had been posting for this blog on a bi-weekly basis, then I cut down to one as, working and fiction writing demanded more time.

Upon the arrival of end of June, I was raring to go. I had plans to edit a series of stupid stories and self-publish them. I have a complete manuscript that I am ploughing through for the umpteenth time, plus the short story I am currently working on, and the handful of submissions for short story/anthology open competitions/submissions.

First week off, the phone rings – my mother is in hospital

My folks are old, like octogenarian old. My father now shuffles – literally- at a pace that boggles the mind, he’s losing his eyesight, and his hearing, his appetite, his balance. Yet he remains as obtuse, argumentative, opinionated and bloody annoying as ever!

My brother and I can’t imagine why our mother ever stayed with him.

So now, instead of spending happy hours immersed in words, I am driving two or three times a week, on a 2 hour round trip to collect my old dad, through roadworks, hold-ups, congestion, to visit my mother in hospital and take him home again.

She had a half-hip replacement, so is learning to walk again. She’s doing well, considering. I wonder she doesn’t just pretend she can’t do it so she can have a longer break from my dad!

You might wonder that I don’t go more often – but we have one car and hubby needs it to get to work. You imagine living in suburbs that the bus service would be great – it isn’t. Anywhere outside of London has appalling public transport systems.

And so I drive the car whilst my dad points out every bus that passes and tells me it’s route, and exclaims at empty buildings and tells me his ideas for, well practically everything- “These people don’t think!” he rants in his now high-pitched voice – because he knows best. And points his hand across my face as I try to peer over and navigate the road, because he wants me to look at where the British Legion used to be, or where an ex-neighbour from twenty years ago, whom I do not remember, moved to. And we get into arguments because I cannot let him get away with saying things like, “Why do you drive this way? Why don’t you go along the Northbound? You people just can’t think in a different way.” And I rise to the occasion,( I have become in his mind You People, and it irks) reminding him that he had an hour long moan when I washed his tea-pot after doing the dishes.

“Why does it matter?” I had said.

“Because that’s the way we always do it.” He said.

“But it’s all done, see? The dishes are washed and put away, I’ve done the tea-pot, and wiped up, so why does it matter what order it gets done in?”

He pointed at the counter, “There’s water there.”

I stood and faced him and made him tell me why it made a difference. He, of course had no logical answer.

And so back in the car this Friday, I couldn’t resist bringing up the tea-pot argument when he criticised my route.

“Why do you wash the tea-pot before the dishes?”

“Habit.” He said.

“Well, there you go.”

He still harrumphed, so a sent a parting shot – “Pot, kettle, black. Sound familiar dad?”

This morning,as I was reading ‘Dress Your Family In Corduroy and Denim‘, my husband said I should use my writing as a catharsis and write, like David Sedaris, about my family. I’m afraid I don’t have the wit of Sedaris, or the unusual and interesting family, or events to satisfy anyone, just a stubborn set of parents and brother who all seem stuck, like flies in aspic, in a 1950s England, who enjoy complaining as much as the next Brit.

And I fear I might be the same!

Cultural Appropriation – Am I Guilty?

Cultural appropriation – I’ll admit it, I’m confused.

This year, yes 2018, was the first time I came across these two words – cultural appropriation. I may have had my head buried in the sand, I may have not been reading the ‘right’ journals, or watching the ‘right’ shows, I may simply be an ignoramus.

But in the last few months, I seem to have found myself on a roller-coaster of confusion and bafflement as I watch Dear White People (Netflix), read The Root (online magazine), and try to get answers from people on social media who are black or POC (people of colour).

Lets say this right now – I am a white woman. I am a middle-aged, white working-class woman. (MAWW) I may, to some, have led a dull life, a mediocre life, a life of ‘white privilege’. I can’t argue with that. But I’m curious, I want to learn, I want to expand my horizons and discover the whys and wherefores of other people’s lives. I do not want to offend anyone due to my ignorance.

BUT

Am I doing more harm than good when I ask questions about the clothes I wear, the make-up I use, the words I say, and the songs I sing? I have an Indian salwar kameez (though the salwar don’t fit anymore) that I have not worn in years. I used to paint Egyptian style eye-liner on my lids when I went out in the evening, I call my girlfriends ‘bitch!’ and I listen to and sing Blues and Mo-Town – but only in my home. I love the minimalism and simplicity of Japanese design; interior and clothing.

BUT

Am I appropriating those cultures?

I attempted to learn Japanese some years ago, I have been interested in the history and culture of that country for a number of years, I watch animé and read manga. I once learnt calligraphy. I have taken an online course called Japanese Culture Through Rare Books. I have been interested in Egyptian history since a little girl. I have visited Egypt and stood looking in awe upon the art and architecture.

When did I, if I did, cross the line from appropriation to appreciation? Or vice-versa?

We may think imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, but not to the person whom we think we are flattering – or so I have learnt. I think I first saw the term ‘cultural appropriation’ was on Twitter; I watched an awful slanging match that snowballed, the way these things do, into a ‘them and us’ scenario.

AND SO

I did some further reading. I recently read Kit de Waal’s piece in The Irish Times: Don’t dip your pen in someone else’s blood: writers and ‘the other’, in which she hi-lighted this conundrum. When is it okay to write in a voice that is not your own?

Similarly, When is it okay to wear something that does not come from your culture? When am I appropriating another person’s culture? From de Waal’s text I took this extract: The dictionary definition is this: “Cultural appropriation is the adoption of elements of a minority culture by members of the dominant culture. It is distinguished from equal cultural exchange due to the presence of a colonial element and imbalance of power.”

Then I saw something in de Waal’s piece that I hadn’t seen in any other article – There is no one person that can speak for the whole of Ireland. Nobody can give the definitive answer to how a culture behaves or what they believe or why.

THE IRELAND, WALES & SCOTLAND QUESTION

Every article, and I mean every article I have read, talks about cultural appropriation as a thing done by white people to non-white people. But here I was reading something I have, as a child of an Irish immigrant, felt for years to be lopsided. I am white and had felt ‘done to’. Don’t we all appropriate from other cultures? The Irish, Welsh and Scots have been suppressed and oppressed by the English for decades, and yet today English people can be heard boasting their Gaelic/Celtic heritage/ancestry.

Irish cultureThe combination of Corn Laws, the first Land Act, trade agreements and a succession of famines resulted in over a million people dying, another million leaving the homeland. Upon arriving in England and the USA, Irish people were often classified as peasants, thieves, feckless, smooth-tongued blaggers, the ‘drunken paddy‘.

In the 60’s and 70’s England, the Irish were the butt of every joke. TV was flooded with stand-up comedians who openly told anti-Irish jokes, daily, because the Irish were ‘thick’, and ironically at the same time mistrusted as con-men who would jam a foot in your door to get a job cleaning windows. If you were the child of Irish parent(s), then you had to be prepared to be teased, bullied, have things thrown at you and labelled the thick one in class.

No Irish

And yet – On St. Patrick’s Day, thousands of non- Irish use it as an excuse for a piss-up. Thousands claim Irish ancestry because they a)had a great-great-great-grandparent who came from Ireland during a potato famine, b)have an ‘Irish’ surname. (Citizens Information says: Unless at least one parent or an Irish-born grandparent was an Irish citizen at the time of your birth, you cannot claim Irish citizenship on the basis of extended previous ancestry (that is, ancestors other than your parents or grandparents)).” Lots of white English/British claim Irishness from some sort of romanticised idea of what it’s like to be Irish-born. Irishness has been commodified, in particular, by Hollywood, perpetuating stereotypes of Irishness in films– Finian’s Rainbow, The Quiet Man, Darby O’Gill and the Little People.

Suddenly, it’s ‘cool’ to proclaim your Irish heritage, send in the Leprechaun hats, ‘based on’ Celtic jewellery and ‘Celtic’ tattoos.

JAPAN-IRELAND-FESTIVAL

Scottish CultureScotland according to some commentators, was ethnically cleansed by the English. The Highland Clearances had Gaelic peoples moved from their ancestral land to make way for – sheep. Scots were banned from wearing their traditional tartan. The English effectively eliminated a whole way of life from The Highlands.

Map of British Isles - Scotland

They were later subjected to anti-Scots jokes, labelling them as dour, penny-pinching, alcoholics who were always ready for a brawl. The weather map of the UK has, until very recently, portrayed our island on a tilt, thus ensuring that England looked bigger than Scotland – for English viewers it did not strike them as odd. The Union Flag/Jack has the Scottish white saltire in the background with St. George’s (English) red cross over the top. Golf, hurling and shinty originated in Scotland. Halloween comes from Gaelic Scotland (as well as Ireland and Wales). Bagpipes were deemed tools of war’, yet were adopted into the British Army later on. The Scottish accent a point of confusion and derision amongst the English.

Chinese man in Scottish tartan

And yetTartan in many forms, not just kilts, became utilised initially by English Royalty, filtering through history until becoming something for the masses; like Burberry attire, worn mainly by those with some dosh to spare. Paul McCartney, an Englishman, has utilised the sound of bagpipes in his music: Mull of Kintyre.

Black Guy in Kilt

Welsh Culture – The Welsh are the ‘original’ British, pushed to the margins of Britain both geographically and politically. Military, political, economic and cultural power was exercised by the much more populous English over the Welsh for many centuries. Many elements of the Welsh economy and society since then have been shaped by demands from England. They had their language suppressed. They had a whole village evacuated then flooded; to provide water for Liverpool. Portrayals of Welsh on TV in the 70s amounted to little more than hideous stereotypes with buck teeth, extreme accents and a clear message to the English that this was ‘the other’. Even today, the Welsh have to listen to insults such as their country being called a “little shit place” – Eddie Jones, Rugby Union coach. A.N.Wilson, newspaper columnist and writer, said: “The Welsh have never made a contribution to any branch of knowledge, culture or entertainment. They have no architecture, no gastronomic tradition, no literature worthy of the name.

Really? How about Dylan Thomas, R.S. Thomas, Roald Dahl, Sarah Waters, TE Lawrence? Or Doctor Who and spin-off Torchwood (both filmed in Wales with some Welsh actors)?

And yet The English, and the world at large, have the Welsh language to thank for words such as: Bard, Corgi, Crag, Flannel, Druid and Penguin(possibly). ‘Lush’ and ‘Cwtch’ (means cuddle) are recent additions from the TV comedy, Gavin and Stacey. I hear English people at work using ‘lush’ all the time.

I have never heard a Scottish, a Welsh or Irish person complain that their culture has been appropriated. I have never read an article in which a Dane, a Norwegian or Swede complained about the way others wear Viking horned helmets, thus perpetuating the myth of Viking attire.

Image result for welsh rugby supporters daffodil hat Related image

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Sports fans don’t seem to mind who wears what

 

 

It seems to me that it isn’t purely a black/white issue. The world is a huge place that we, the human race, cover and move like a tide; ebbing and flowing within a time-frame way too large for an individual to perceive, cultures, communities, empires rise and fall (what would the ancients think of the modern taste for ‘Roman sandals’?) It seems we all could do with a little more education and tolerance regarding this issue, that or we all just throw up our hands and have a free for all on everything.

Am I being insensitive? Am I missing something? 

Or maybe I have had my head in the sand?

Phew Wot a Scorcher!

Due to current ‘heat-wave’ blogger offers shortest post.

Newspapers present information and ideas about topics – and must constantly battle with each other to gain customers – headings need to be attention-grabbing.

Of course, layout, headings, subheadings and pictures play a part in this, but as writers, we could learn something from journalistic lingo.

What types of papers? (UK)
Tabloids are papers such as The Sun, The Mirror and The Express. They are smaller in size containing, usually, light-weight stories or articles written in simpler style. Often have a lot of celebrity gossip and very local articles.

Broadsheets are papers such as The Times, The Guardian and The Independent. These are the larger papers containing more serious stories in depth articles. The broadsheets will also contain news from other countries.

Short Words
Headlines often use very short words to make an impact, this applies to broadsheets and tabloids alike, although the tabloids are more likely to employ eye-dialect – we’ll cover that in a mo’. The shorter headline has more impact – as does the shorter sentence in your novel/short-story writing. For example, Hitler Dead. Everyone knew who was being written about so no need for a full name. The sentence written fully could read, Adolf Hitler is Dead or German Chancellor Has Taken His Own Life, but it doesn’t have the same impact as two words.

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Hitler Dead. Newspaper April 1945

Newspapers have the advantage (or disadvantage in some instances!) of having a photograph accompany their text. As a writer, you don’t. So to pack more punch into an action scene. You might. Just might. Want to use shorter words. And shorter sentences.

Eye-Dialect

This is the use of non-standard spelling and pronunciation. What some refer to as ‘not speaking properly’. It’s not RP (Received Pronunciation). You will all be familiar with eye-dialect, and may even use it, without knowing what it is called. Innit?

(See what I did there?!) It is used to add impact to a headline, or add definition to your characters. Let’s imagine a conversation between two:

English Middle class friends –

Bill- Hello, Ben, How are you?

Ben – Hi, I’m pretty good, thanks for asking. How are things with the wife and kiddies?

Working class friends

Bill – Y’all right mate?

Ben – Sound, how’s the missus and sprogs?

As an opening conversation, this immediately allows the reader to know something about Bill and Ben, without telling. It also adds some realism to your characters.

Examples of eye-dialect you will have seen in newspapers include – Gov’t, Grab ’em, Libs, Wot, Cor, and so on.

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He always was between a rock and a hard place.

Word Play
You find this is a big part of the language of many newspapers. Words with two different meanings in English can be used in an amusing and entertaining way. This is called a pun. The English language is littered with puns, innuendo and double entendres. TV shows and films like the Carry On series were built around this peculiarity (I’m not too sure about other countries/languages) For example, Be Leave in Britain. This headline, from The Sun, plays with the word believe. The Sun is renown for it’s patriotism; some would say nationalism, and urging it’s readers to believe in their country – however, they deliberately misspelt and divided the word (much like has happened to the UK and Europe ironically!), and now they ask their readers to believe in leaving the EU.

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Juxtaposition of text and image. 10/10!

Alliteration

Poets amongst you may be more familiar with this, (though all serious writers should be too). Alliteration is mostly used for humorous effect as well as grabbing the readers attention. It’s essential for the newspapers to stand out from it’s competitors, so you will see a variety of styles depending on the paper and it’s target audience.

Alliteration is the repeated use of the same letter or sound in a series of words. Tongue-twisters are alliterative. e.g. She sells sea shells on the sea shore. The poem of Beowulf has, Hot-hearted Beowulf was bent upon battle. In the second instance, we can almost feel the breathy quality as we say hot-hearted, we pant the words as Beowulf himself might have, then the hard ‘b’s add another quality, harder, punchy.

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Alliteration Excitation

Similarly the headlines might say – Pasties, Petrol and the Politics of Panic, or, Cannibal Cop Finds Killer’s Kit. I would say you couldn’t make this stuff up, but you can, they do! 

 

Okay, the laptop is pretty hot now. The temperature is 26º (that’s 78.8 Fahrenheit for old people and Americans). My brain is overheating. I’m done.

Blogger Bows Out as Heatwave Hits Head

Overwhelmed? Think Things Through…

 

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The patented Cat organiser!

Division of Labour

If you’re a writer, whether that be fiction, non-fiction, blogging, or similar, then you probably have a ‘real’ job too. By ‘real’ job, I mean one that you do on a day to day basis (or nightly if it’s shift work), the one that pays your bills, that (just about) keeps the wolf from the door, the boring one, the one you don’t want to do but are forced to.

So how do you find time to write (other creative/art forms are available)? When you have laboured at your regular employment, you need a break, you WANT a break, you have to shift gears mentally and often emotionally before you begin to scribble.

There is really only one answer –

Get Organised.

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Captain Eddie Rickenbacker

Edward Rickenbacker was an American Fighter Pilot in WWI. After surviving the war, he started an auto company, became involved in the aviation industry and wrote a comic strip (Ace Drummond), amongst other things. He is also known for this quote – “I can give you a six-word formula for success: Think things through – then follow through.”

Often, these sound-bites are nothing more than that, snippets of chat to gain attention, look at how newspapers, and blogs, title pages, it’s intentional, to draw the reader in. But Rickenbacker’s is more than that, it is practical: Think things through – then follow through.

It’s another way of saying – Get organised.

But if you’re anything like me, getting organised is harder than we all think. I understand we all have other things to do, the problem, I have found, is other people. Colleagues probably think that, like them, when the weekend comes, or when you finish work for the day, or have a day off, that it is just that – a day off. Hah! Creative types rarely, if ever, get a day off. Once the paying job ends, that’s when the real work begins for us.

So how do we get organised?

By thinking things through -then following through.

Does your week go something like this?

Regular job – housework – research – family – shopping – writing – regular job – social media – laundry – planning – fix printer – regular job – family – writingmaintaining writers profileregular job – stressing – editingpaid writing job search – regular job – correspondence – job search – regular work – visitors – exercise – elderly parents…

Can you see that there are only 2 slots when actual writing is being done? There is so much more that you could add to this, depending on your personal life, family size, days you work in paid job, other hobbies you try to maintain.

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“I bet Mister Rickenbacker didn’t have all this ironing to fit in.”

So when do you write? And don’t forget, writing is not just the act of setting down words – just like painting is not just the act of laying down colours. For me, a huge amount of the work is done in my head; thinking of ideas, plots, characters, events, moral issues, inventions, possibilities, to misquote Jarvis Cocker, It may look to the untrained eye like I’m sitting on my arse all day.”

Get organised.

  • Get a piece of paper and pen – coloured pens if that’s your thang.

I recommend handwriting this for two reasons – 1.It’s easier to think without feeling rushed when you hand-write, and 2.You probably spend enough time on a computer as it is.

  • Sketch a table of your week; Monday to Sunday. And write in the hours you ‘go to work’ – that’s your paid work in the ‘grown-ups’ world, not your writing.
  • Now look for the empty spaces. You may only have Saturday and Sunday free, and even then you have to spend some of that with the kids. Into these empty spaces jot down what you want and or need to be doing in regards to your creativity.
  • Arrange your empty spaces so you have a balance of work and play, as much as possible given the time you have remaining. Remember, you need time to sleep and play and do nothing – unless you’re really a robot, in which case, meh.
  • After days/hours/minutes have been allocated as you want, break these down into smaller sections. For example, if you’re a blogger it might say, Monday 4pm to 6pm – writing/Friday 1pm to 4pm writing.
  • Break this down to, Monday 4pm to 6pm – research/planning/generating ideas. Friday 1pm to 4pm – write blog post.
  • Try it for a while and stick with it if it works, otherwise, re-jiggle your week. If you have trouble organising yourself, then don’t just read this – do it! Otherwise, you’re wasting time.

 

Think things through – then follow through.

Before you even do the organising activity, Think things through – do you want to carry on the way you have been? If you like your way of working, then who am I to tell you otherwise?! Are you lucky enough to be financially independent so as to not have to go to work? Or, like me, are you stuck in low-paid work with no option of advancement? Does it suit you, does it give you time to write/paint/sculpt/blog?

Then follow through – If you don’t like your working week try a change. If you hate your job, can you move, or find a different one? No-one is going to make the changes for you.

Bloggers

Whip it up in a couple of hours (or so some clients believe!) and hey presto, there’s a witty post. We wish. Bloggers must allocate time for generating ideas – researching – learning about new stuff (that may be technical or other) – deciding what you are going to write in advance. There is tons of advice on the internet to help Bloggers, you might want to spend a little on one of the numerous pre-made Blog Planners out there to help you get organised. Bloggers work to deadlines – whether their own or someone else’s.

Fiction Writers

Just float through life collecting ideas by some sort of osmosis which then transfers itself to the page by another kind of osmosis – Right? – Wrong! Writing the story, whether short, novella, trilogy, is the easy and fun bit. Don’t forget, you need to edit, and this can take as long as writing the bloody thing in the first place! If you are submitting work for an open competition, then you’re working to a deadline. If you’re submitting a MS to a publishing company, you’re working to their guidelines. Do read all the rules. Do make time for your Author Bio and Plot Summary.

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Dear Diary, today I fired my teacher as she gave us too much homework. Time for tea and cake.

Non-Fiction Writers

Probably the most organised of the creative bunch. This lot typically arrive here from an academic background and so are used to working to deadlines and briefs. But if you’re a free-lancer who also hold down a day job, you will need to arrange times that suit you as well as enough time to complete the brief. A diary, actual or E will be your friend.

Think things through – then follow through.

On each of my days off, I go through a similar process.

Write a To-Do list, this will include writing, research, mail, laundry, check for potential submissions, blog, editing.

Work through this list – in any order – do laundry first as it’s like eating your greens before your meat.

Take a break in-between each activity – especially between writing and everything else: this allows my brain to shift gears into the realms of fantasy.

It looks on the To-Do list like I do the same thing over and over, but because I write, then it doesn’t feel like that at all. I write my blog, I write stories; variety of genres, and I am NEVER, ever bored.

Now my monkeys, “Fly, fly!”

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I’m cogitating

Book Review: Secrets From The Lost Bible by Kenneth Hanson

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Secrets From The Lost Bible

Secrets From The Lost Bible by Kenneth Hanson, PH.D.

Genre: Non-Fiction
Pub Date: 2004
Publisher: Council Oak Books
Length: 221 pages
Paperback : Local Library (£7.39)

‘Hidden away for centuries, these rediscovered ancient texts reveal vital knowledge to empower humankind.’ Back cover blurb.

 

Wow, a pretty bold claim – ‘knowledge to empower humankind’.

Dr. Kenneth Hanson presents us with a number of texts; some which may be partially familiar – Adam and Eve and the Tree of Knowledge, and the less familiar (to myself) Bel and the Dragon, along with previously unknown stories about familiar Biblical figures. I say partially because, as Hanson reveals, even the Biblical texts we may be familiar with have sections missing.

The Dead Sea Scrolls, for those who have never heard of them are, briefly, scrolls – or fragments of scrolls, that have been discovered/uncovered in caves near The Dead Sea. Some date back to the 8th century BCE (Before Common Era), and are written in Hebrew, Aramaic and some in Greek; the initial discovery being made in 1947 by a Bedouin shepherd. Since then around 8oo plus scrolls have been found; mostly fragmented. They are divided into Biblical and non-Biblical, with for example, 25 copies of Deuteronomy, texts on law, psalms and more.

Now, I have to make a confession here – I have not yet completed reading Secrets From The Lost Bible – It is, to be honest, taking me forever, but I do only read a bit at a time, plus, I keep re-reading sections (I also have a habit of having two or three books on the go at once). This is one of those books that you read a little at a time and absorb before progressing. It is to be sipped, not gulped – mulled over, not galloped through.

The Dead Sea Scrolls are essentially suppressed writings. Historically, Religious leaders, and possibly political leaders, have excluded them from Judeo-Christian teachings, as they do not conform to what they want society to conform to, namely, their own leadership. The texts have been called heretical by some, revelatory to others. They fit into the bracket – if one must be used – of mystical writings. Take this extract for example, sub-titled Eden’s Children,

‘This book of The Lost Bible (which I present here in paraphrase) teaches that the soul, far from being corrupt, is pure, eternal, and birthed in Paradise:

Happy is the one who came into being…In Paradise there are five trees which no one disturbs year round; and their leaves never fall. If you come to know them, you will never know spiritual death.’

Essentially, the Gospel of Thomas is telling us that we, each individual, is not only born innocent (as opposed to the church’s teaching on Original Sin), but that we can each find Knowledge ourselves – without the need of a Religious Leader. That alone is enough to set many conservative/mainstream Christian’s/Jewish teeth on edge, goodness knows what the Creationists make of it.The Gospel of Thomas was declared Gnostic heresy, and promptly filtered from their system –  Gnosticism and the Kabbalah have been criticised by those wishing to keep their sheep on the straight and narrow – as they perceive it.

Hanson guides us through selected texts with explanations, he examines what lessons may have been lost when those who decided which books to include in the Bible and Torah made their decision to exclude these. He is non-judgemental, he does not lay blame, he simply offers us the works and a way to understand them, and why they may have been excluded. Hanson offers everyone, not just people who follow a religion, a way of understanding the hidden way to find harmony with…. well, if you do not believe in a god, it would be yourself and the universe.

I am finding the book a very interesting read. Hanson provides insights and fills in holes found in the traditional Bible. If you are a theology scholar, I recommend you add this to your reading list. His writing style is very easy and he provides us with short anecdotes of his own personal moments of realisation, and he is joyous in his writing, which can be a rarity in academic circles, certainly not stuffy.

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Section of Dead Sea scroll 

Just because you are a ‘good’ Christian/Jew/Methodist/ETC, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t question what’s in the bible, it has flaws, why does it have flaws? Because it was written by men, and moreover, men who have decided to withhold information from us.

Kenneth Hanson, Ph. D. is an associate professor in the University of Central Florida Judaic studies program and scholar of Hebrew language and literature. He is the author of Blood Kin of Jesus, Dead Sea Scrolls: The Untold Story and Kabbalah: Three Thousand Years of Mystic Tradition.

 

I’m giving Secrets From The Lost Bible, 5 stars

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