Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Words of Widsom from Orson Scott Card

I haven't had anything really worth blogging about recently. I did come across some notes from a great seminar that Orson Scott Card gave at BYU in commemoration of the 30th anniversary of the publication of "Ender's Game". The notes are a bit disjointed and incomplete, but I was writing as fast as I could. There's some great stuff, some great ideas. So I thought I'd share...

13 Sept 07

“I just make this stuff up”
How seriously should a SF author take his work?

Orson Scott Card

You never know what might matter. The surprise is that it matters to anyone at all. After all I just make this stuff up.

The thing about lies is that so many people give them away. It’s amazing that people will pay for them.

The invention of the telephone caused a huge drop in the # of letters, and thus the amount of historical artifacts about people.

The part of the biographies that is most important and often least available is the childhood…what made them who they are. As an adult we are already formed characters.

Every single person [in the grocery store] is the hero of their own story (the mentality of a novelist)

You need to have an interest in non-literary people. Books about writers are boring.

“Everything of value, every thing that makes me happy comes from the non-literary part of my life.” ~OSC~

Every one of us will have moments of tragedy and triumph that are worth knowing about.

Don’t lightly throw away the scraps of paper that chronicle the details of you life.

Fiction takes us into places that we have never been.

Whenever we are not forced to do something else, we tell stories.

There are different kind of stories.
-Stories about other people
-based on things you know or don’t know
-based on nuance & innuendo you know parts of the stories
-we have a set of assumptions we work off of

Science is also a storytelling field
-they are bout telling why things happen.
-at some time when someone has access to move information, the story can change

At some point all science is (tran-something-ent) all history, etc…

Except Fiction. We know going into it that it isn’t true. No one can supersede the facts the author. Even the works of fiction have facts that can’t be contradicted. Even by the author. To a degree, all fiction is culture talking to itself.

***Look up Alexander McCall Smith – Botswana series. White guy writing about Africans***

Authors already know
-What we already know
-What we expect
-What we needed
-The cultural norms and background

Most of the time this is unconscious on the authors part.

When you read a novel it tells you a lot about the culture surrounding.

Every story is the project of a unique mind.

Everyone is unknowable to us.

A novelist puts down not only parts of the culture, but unknown parts of themselves.

People can know themselves better by reading what they write.

Every work of fiction is accidental autobiography.

The value of fiction is that ~~ When you read someone’s novel (movie, etc) you are the joint collaborator because everything else is playing out in your mind. You allow the author to dictate what the operatives of the world is.

You allow the author to take part of their world and make it part of your own. You allow a little change.

In fiction you get final answers.

Any fiction writer that finds an audience that cares about and value their work has succeeded.
You see an authors world through their eyes, but also through your eyes.

Q – Where do you get inspiration for your characters?
A – God has better things to do than tell fiction writers what lies to tell.
Inspiration is not just things you have strong feelings about. (What people in the church sometimes call inspiration)

“All my characters come from me. I’m the only person that I know.”

When we try to base something on someone else, we are basing that view, we are putting our view, our fictional opinion of what makes

When we say “I know” we really mean I am as sure of this as I am of anything else. My experience has led me to this point, and nothing yet has contradicted it.

Even inspiration directly from God is constrained to the limits of our ability to understand at the time we received the revelation.

There is nothing you know that cannot be contradicted.

Everything has gone through the filters of your own understanding. We understand it up to a certain point.
You cannot raise children w/out bias. We are biased people.

Which beliefs are we going to have enough faith in to live our lives as if they were true?

In Mormon culture we are very easily smug that we have the answer.

Its easy to feel you have an answer when everyone around you agrees with you.

You can’t have answers if you haven’t asked a question. And if you haven’t asked the question, you are just an echo.

Your characters don’t and shouldn’t be your own voice. They should be their own voices.

“It’s your responsibility to sort out what you believe. It’s my responsibility to present my characters as accurately and honestly as I can.” ~OSC~
You need to have a meal ticket. Have a day job. Something that will make you money. No art is worth devoting your entire life to. Your life shouldn’t be just art.

To be a writer of fiction (a good writer):
-Keep your roots in the real word – keep in contact with non-literary people (words are great for this) Have as few literary friends as possible
-Educate yourself about anything and everything. Even if its something that you didn’t think you like. Get to know all about it.

If you want to be a fiction writer, don’t major in English. There will be too many games that you will need to unlearn.
I don’t intentionally leave loose ends. In real life, life is going to go on. Real life is messy.

Q – What is the most important idea to keep in mind?
A – Faith, hope, & clarity, the greatest being clarity.
It doesn’t matter what your story, is, if people can’t understand what’s going on.
They only know what you tell them.

The purpose of fiction:

Fiction is not there to be decoded.

The best reaction to fiction is the excitement, the caring, & loving the characters.

The experience you should have while reading a book is open-mouthed, loving the characters, excitement about the world.

Any analysis, or work that happens after that is extra, but not what fiction is for.

If a book has influenced you, you ask…

If this is true in the real world, how dies this make us change in our lives?
Q – Do you regret not reading a book or an author that you’ve heard of?
A – Not a one. There isn’t a book I’ve heard of that I wanted to read that I haven’t read. “I have a lot of money, I can buy any book I want. 1000s of books come into my house each year, and I read the ones I like.

***”The 13th tale” by Diane Settersfield. A book you might not have come across.
To Mormons, Samwise Gamgee is the true hero of LOTR. He’s the one that gets his hands dirty.

He’s the only one that really willingly gave up the ring. He refers to Frodo as the ring bearer à

He was the Frodo bearer. He was the one that was ready to come home and get on with life and have babies.

***Dave Gimmel’s “Rigante” books***

Q – (Something having to do with children reading about death and tragedy)
A – It’s great for a child to read something and ball for days because a character dies. It’s good for them to have these kinds of tragedies so when it really happens they know how to deal with it.
-Let’s rehearse all our tragedies in fiction first.

***Google Dave Wolverton for the history of Ficiton***

Fantasy is the last place in fiction where you can find greatness in characters.

Useful literature teaches you how to live a life worth living, and what’s worth dying for.

The fiction we choose to absorb not only reflects who we are, but defines who we are.

The culture of 1955 is not the ones prized by the elite.

If you are writing traditional fiction today you are the rebel.

The perceived wisdom of today is against what I believe (OSC)

You’re only given credit for being edgy and dangerous when you conform to it perfectly.

Be a rebel by conforming to the values of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.

Friday, May 16, 2008

You can call me Graceful…

So these last few days have been fun. Wednesday I went country dancing with a group of people. I grew up doing 4-H (showing sheep and the like) and there was a fair bit of country dancing involved in that. So I really like country dancing, but I haven’t really gone in quite some time. So I tagged along with a group that went, and we got there in time to learn some new country swing moves. We stayed there for a few hours and I got to dance with quite a few different people, some who were pretty new to the whole dancing thing, and some of whom were much better than me. There was one guy who was an absolute tank. That is to say, he was big and very muscley. He was a good dancer, but had a strong, almost forceful lead. Now, I’m not what you would call petite. I’m tallish, and not the stick I was when I was younger. I only bring this up because I’m not normally the kind of girl that gets to do lifts and the like. The fun thing about dancing with Tank was that even though I don’t have much experience with how to do the girls part of the lifts, he still threw me around a bit. He was fully capable of just bodily picking me up and flipping me over his arm and throwing me around. I’m actually not sure I had a whole lot of choice in the matter. You just had to go with the flow and just trust that if he was capable of just picking me up, he was able to set me back down in one piece. It was fun. I got to two step with a guy that I could tell had some ballroom experience and he complimented me on my pivot turns. So all in all, I'd say I had a pretty good night. Felt maybe even a little bit graceful. Then Thursday happened...

The next day I got to babysit my nephew for a few hours. It was fun to be able to see how simple things can make a two year old so happy. He was so dang cute! This part is not particularly relevant to me being graceful or not. Just a fun side note.

I also went to see the midnight showing of the new Narnia movie. There was a small group of us that went a few hours early and played cards and such until they let us into the theatre. It’s always fun to go to the first showing of movies like this… it brings out the hard-core fans. There were quite a few that were all dressed up in their medieval garb and who had been there for much longer than any of us. Some of them even had dates!

So they let us into the theatre at about 11:00. By the time our part of the line reached the theatre, there was limited seating for the six or so we had in our group. The entire back row was pretty much empty, so we started to hustle up the stairs. I was about ten stairs in when I totally biffed it and totally face planted. Well, I didn’t actually hit my face, but it must have been pretty funny to watch, because I heard quite a few sniggers coming from the theatre. I got up and tried to do a ‘ta-daa’ kind of a thing, but when I went to go up the stairs again, I just fell right back down again. This time there was outright laughter. And I’ll admit, it was probably pretty dang funny to watch from the other side of the theatre. People running up the stairs, and one just disappears below the seats, and then right after she pops back up, she’s gone again. Anyways, I decided to take it pretty easy after that, seeing as walking was something I suddenly forgot. I pretty much slid back down to the extremely un-graceful side of the scale. Well, I made it to my seat with only superficial wounds, some of which should be pretty colors in a few days. I hit the ground hard. I really go all the way with these kinds of things. People falling down once is funny. People falling down twice, even funnier. Falling down twice and having a bruised up shin to show for it?... Well, it made me laugh. A few minutes after sitting down, I discovered that my camera had somehow fallen out of my purse. I went and looked around a bit, but it was kind of dark and I couldn’t find it. *sigh* There went my pictures with the wannabe Narnians…

I have just learned to accept that things tend to go wrong with me, or end up taking more time than they should, or whatever, and so have just learned to accept that there are some things that I can’t change. For example, I went to have a picture framed. Pretty straightforward thing for most people. I took it into the framing shop, and picked out the mat, and frame and such. They said that it would be two weeks or so. So I went back into the shop, asking for my picture but the people there had not a clue what I was talking about. I reassured them that I had dropped a job off, so they went rooting around, looking for it. They did find the picture and the order after awhile, but seeing as they had lost it, they hadn’t actually ordered the stuff, so I had to wait another few weeks. When I went back this time, they had ordered the wrong stuff, so I had to wait again. I did eventually get it, and they did a really good job, but what should have taken two weeks, ended up taking closer to two months.

This experience, and many others like it, have taught me to just expect many things to go wrong, and for things to take at least double the time normally expected. And that I shouldn’t stress over it. So as far as my newly lost camera was concerned, I decided to relax. I had looked for it, and I figured that it would either turn up, or it wouldn’t. And that nothing I could do right then would change that fact. So I just relaxed and enjoyed the movie, and sure enough… after the movie one of my buddies found it in a shadow by the stairs where I had biffed it. To make a long story just a little bit longer, everything worked out for the best, just like it always seems to.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Weekend Update

So I had a great weekend. I spent a lot of time doing lots of things that make me happy, and I'd like to share some of what I did with all of you.

I had some friends that got married last weekend, and when I found out that they didn't have anyone to make their wedding cake, I volunteered to help them out. They wanted to cover it in fondant, which doesn't taste as good as buttercream frosting, but is very pretty, and is easier in many ways to handle than buttercream frosting. I baked the cakes on Wednesday and frosted and fondant-ed the cakes on Thursday and then went to the reception in Fruit Heights on Friday. I got to wish the happy couple the best and talk with friends and eat some of the cake and have an overall decent time there. Seeing as I was already up north, I decided to stop in and visit the Callahan's. Let me tell you how I know the Callahan family. A few years ago I met a girl named Jan Callahan. She and I just clicked. You know those people that you meet, and after minutes of talking you feel like you have known them for years? This was Jan and I. We were only neighbors for a few great weeks before she moved back home to Farmington to finish a degree and work up there. We still kept in contact, and I began to travel up to Farmington every month to have dinner with her family and other friends. Her family is great too, and I really enjoyed getting to know them as well. Well, Jan got a job in Hawaii, and had numerous goodbye parties since many of us knew that the odds of making it to Hawaii were pretty slim, and that we wouldn't be seeing her for several years. She flew to Hawaii and went out swimming with a big group of her new coworkers, life guards and very athletic people and such, and the current of the river pulled her under. It was really rough for everyone, especially for her family, but I was very grateful that I had had the chance to say goodbye. I thought it would be for years, I just hadn't known it would be for the rest of my life. After a few months, her family decided to keep having their monthly family dinners. One month they pulled out a box filled with random stuffed animals and little things that people tend to accumulate over a lifetime. These were things of Jans that her family didn't know what to do with. I took a small stuffed animal, named him Maurice (the dash pig) and have since kept him in my car so the spirit of Jan Callahan can accompany me on all of my adventures.

So, I still go up to Farmington every now and then to visit with the Callahan family. In many ways they feel like they are my own family. I stay and talk with them until almost midnight, and hear many funny and entertaining stories from them. And at the end of the conversation, when I was beginning to feel that I needed to go, they asked me if I wanted a snare drum. They were big into helping out local drama departments, and had bought a snare drum at DI (big thrift store) to use as a prop for a production of The Music Man. They bring out this cool old Slingerland drum that has a really cool shell. Black with gold confetti all over it and bits of what looks like mother of pearl. The heads are shot, and it looks like there might be a little bit of water damage, but I'm going to have a buddy help me fix it up, and it should be a fun thing. So I had a good time on Friday.

First thing Saturday I went out to American Fork where I practice with my British Brass Band. Sometimes I wake up annoyed to be getting up early on a Saturday, and sometimes it takes me a while to get out of it, but there are some really beautiful songs that the band plays, and some of these songs don't have any parts for percussion, so I just sit in the back on the stage, close my eyes, and let the music just wash over me. Quite the experience. And I feel very lucky to have the opportunity to be a part of this great ensemble. Beautiful harmony, and so many great people!

Well, after that I stopped by the honda dealership to get some motorcycle oil and an oil filter for my motorcycle. I stopped and got some food for me and Mikey, my buddy that is helping me to fix my bike. I take it to his house and have a good chat with him while we eat, and then he had to go change a timing belt for some other friend of his. Oh, and he informed me that the Honda people had given me the wrong type of oil filter. *Sigh* So I got back on the freeway and headed back to Orem to the Honda dealership. Beautiful spring day, my arm out the open window of my car, I felt so relaxed and happy. George Strait's new song "I saw God today" came on the radio and I took the time to look around and notice how beautiful Utah is this time of year. I've taken to carrying my camera around these days, so I whipped it out and took a few pictures so I could share with all of you what I saw. With majestic snow-capped mountains on one side, and a lake on the other. Cool older buildings on center street in Provo, and some flags that were put up for the olympics. Funny how the olympics come right to my back door the one year I spend in Argentina. Oh well! That's just my life I guess. It's all good. So even though I had to go back and forth more than I would have normally liked, I actually enjoyed the extra time I spent in my car by myself. It was just a good day.

So after I delivered the correct oil filter to Mikey, I go to the city recycling place, where they turn yard waste into compost, to try and get some "black gold" for my garden. Most people take trucks there, and a guy in a front-loader will take a big scoop of compost from the huge pile and just dump it in the bed of whatever truck or trailer is next in line. This is the cheap way to go. They usually have 5olb-ish bags of compost for those of us that don't have trucks. This is the slightly pricier option, but more convenient because it allows for neat transport of the limited quantities that we novice gardeners require. Unfortunately, the Provo compost place was out of the bags, but told me that the Spanish Fork compost place still had some. I had really been looking forward to gardening and the weather was great, so I decided that driving the ten or so miles down to SF would be a worth while undertaking. I go down there, and find the place, but the guy there (He looked like a 'Hank' to me, so that's what I'm going to call him) cheerily informs me that the Provo compost people are liars, and that their bagger machine was down and wouldn't be fixed until sometime the following week. Seeing as the SF compost place was right behind a K-mart, I figured I'd go there and find some kind of containers to put some compost in. I had a 5-gallon bucket already, and wandering around the store seeing how expensive any substantial container was, I decided to buy some normal 13-gallon kitchen trash bags and fill them up with my bucket. Knowing that compost can be a bit heavy, I decided to spring for good trash bags, and bought some force-flex, figuring that they would do a good job. I returned to the SF compost place and Hank tells me to load up whatever I need and then he'll take a gander at it and tell me how much I owe for it. I start scooping compost into the trash bags with my buckets and decide that I either need more hands, or need to think up a better system for doing this. It was hard to hold the bag open while trying to maneuver a bucket full of compost. I finished loading that bag about half full, and when I tied it up and started to move it into my trunk. Turns out, force-flex bags are crap for transporting compost. Holes started almost as soon as I picked it up. I had the brilliant idea that I could line my bucket with a trash bag and then scoop up enough compost to fill the bucket and then tie off and load it into my car. It would be less pressure on my crap-tastic bags, and I had plenty of them to use up, and so I went with this. There was this hickish family (mom, dad, son in his late teens or early twenties) sitting in an old white truck waiting for their bed to be filled with compost that were just watching me. It was a little uncomfortable, and I felt that I had to explain that I needed compost, but that I had to bag it myself since the place had run out of bags. 'Dad' slowly nodded at me and just said "Way-hl, at leest yah got yerself a systahm" (by the way, I reserve the right to make subtle exaggerations in my posts to enhance any given story)

So I load myself up ten bags full of black-gold, loaded carefully into my trunk and drive over to Hank's "office" and he comes over and takes a good long look into my trunk and says, "How's about we just let you take it?" I shoot a meaningful glance at the remaining huge pile of compost and ask him "Well, won't the compost inventory guy get upset?" He said, "Well, I reckon that's me, so nah." I tell him thanks and ask him if he'd like some baby tomato plants, seeing as I had extra, but he said "Wuhl, thurs nawt much more I lahk than a gud tomater, but seein as I live me in an apartment I don't see as I have enuff space to be growin much." So Hank and I parted ways, and I went to my garden to put the compost to good use.

Now, my garden is in a rather shady part of town. Over behind the mall, in an empty lot right next to the train tracks. And I mean RIGHT next to the train tracks. I spread my compost over my garden and then took my seeds and my baby tomatoes and had a great time getting all dirty planting them. After a good watering I left them to do their thing. I really hope some what I planted actually sprouts and/or grows. It will be fun to watch and wait and see!

Then I went home and showered and got dressed and saw a planetarium show and went to a dance in the Pendulum court. All in all it made for a pretty great day.

Oh, and for those of you that have expressed skepticism as to the actual reality of my motocycle, so I'm posting a few pics of him in all his dissasembled glory!

Monday, May 12, 2008

Young Entrepreneurs

Funny story...

So I took few days off to move a few weeks ago. The whole moving thing was more than just a little annoying to me. For one thing, I have a lot of stuff. A lot of kitchen stuff, a lot of cake stuff, and a lot of stuff for my other hobbies. And a lot of books. And books are really annoying to move. You have to pack them away in fairly small boxes, and so it takes more boxes, and then you have to move them. Since they have books in them, they're still fairly heavy for their size, so you can't carry more than one at a time, and so it takes more trips. Because I stored most of my stuff in the basement, moving meant hauling all of those boxes up the stairs. And then moving them. And I was moving less than a block away. It was seriously almost close enough that carrying the boxes across the street and down the block would have been easier. Almost. Instead, I hauled boxes up the stairs, packed them into my car, drove a couple of hundred feet, and then unpacked them and took them back down a flight of stairs into the basement of my new place.

So I had been doin this for most of Monday, and was really getting sick of carrying boxes up stairs. So around 4:30 these two boys, who looked around middle school age, came up to me as I'm loading yet another load of boxes into my car, and ask me if that was my car. One was pretty smooth-talking, good-looking and dressed pretty nicely in a button-up shirt. He did most of the talking. The other one was chubbier, and not as quick as the other one. Seemed to be the brain and the brawn of whatever operation they were running. For brevity's sake, I'm going to call them "skinny" and "chubby" for the remainder of this particular post. Chubby was in charge of wheeling around the little black suitcase while skinny seemed to be in charge of schmoozing people.

So the skinny one saunters up to me and says "is that your car?" I felt like saying something fairly sarcastic at this point, but I'm not sure this would have registered on their pre-pubescent brains, so I just said, "Yeah, this is my car." Skinny says, "ten bucks and we could wash it for you!" I explain that I'm kind of in the middle of moving, and really didn't have time to have my car washed. This didn't faze skinny one bit. He countered with offering to get the scratches out of my car. "Really, just pop the hood and I'll show you something amazing!" The kid was good. He kept talking whilst chubby pulled some paper towels out of the suitcase. He actually talked me into popping my hood before I caught myself. "No really, It's amazing! Ten bucks and I'll get scragches out of your car. It's amazing! Really!!" I came back to reality quick enough. One: This is a 12 yr old kid. Not to be trused with anything. Two: we're talking about my car here. I've included a picture for those of you not familiar with my car. Dents, scratches, they all blend in. And If I'm being honest, I kind of prefer it that way.

So I close my hood and try to assure them that there's nothing they could do for my car that I'd be interested in paying them for. Their offers to me were interspersed with various conversations between skinny and chubby conducted in some language the sound of whick I'm not familiar with. This rules out French, Spanish, Itailian, German, Russian, Canadian, and any asian language. They were a little darker skinned, so best I can figure, they were of some kind of middle eastern descent. So skinny pulls these puppy-dog eyes that he's almost too old for. Starts in on this story about how its his mom's birthday and he and his cousin have been working since 7:30 and they had only made $15 and if there was something they could do for only $10, well, then they would have $25 and then they could go to the mall and get something really, really nice for her. And please, please was there anything they could do. Chubby says, "like, maybe we could help you move or something."

The only part of their story that I actually believed was that they were cousins, but all those stairs, and all of those boxes came to mind. I said, "OK. I'll give you ten bucks and all you have to do is move some boxes from the basement up into the living room." They agreed, so I took them inside and showed them where the boxes were and where I wanted to move them. They must have realized that they had just volunteered to do some real work, because skinny tried to get more money out of me at this point. "How about ten bucks each?" On to their game, I stuck to my guns and told them ten bucks total or nothing. They reluctantly agreed and started moving boxes. There were two of them, so it only took 15 or 20 minutes or so.

I'm all for giving credit where credit is due, and once they actually started, they worked steadily and without complaint until they were done. I was making cupcakes and when they got done, chubby asked about "those muffin things" and if he could have one. They did smell good, and I gave each of them one. I didn't need that many cupcakes lying around anyways. It would have been me eating all of them for various breakfasts, and I would have been OK with that, but giving a few of them away assured that I would probably eat all of the remaining ones before I began to be tired of eating cupcakes. Not a point I want to reach any time soon. So chubby most likely did me a favor here.

Maybe it was poor planning on my part, but I hadn't really planned on having to pay anyone ten bucks that day, so I only had a 20. I worried that they might not have change, but they had said that they had made $15 already that day, so If they didn't have change, I guess I could call them out on their story-telling, and figure something out. As it was, when they were done, I said that I would give them a twenty and they could give me ten back. Chubby readily agreed and whips a wad of cash from his pocket. He must have had at least $70 in there, but I gave him twenty, he gave me ten, and everyone was happy. They were happy with the cupcakes and having made an extra buck, and I was happy that $10 was all it cost me to not have to carry that many boxes up those blasted stairs!

There were a few kinks in their story, like when chubby saw a little TV in the basement and wanted to buy it off of me because "he really needed one in his room" or when he pulled out 4x the cash he had claimed to have, but give these kids a few years, and they will be able to charm the pants off of a snake. Or however that saying goes. Quite the ambitious little kids. I think the best I did as a 12 yr old is a lemonade stand that didn't make any money. Seeing as they were actually willing to break a sweat, I say kudos to them!

I am now happily moved (and not so happily un-packing), and I'd like to thank all of those people (paid and unpaid) who assisted me in this undertaking.