Left Coast Voices

"I would hurl words into the darkness and wait for an echo. If an echo sounded, no matter how faintly, I would send other words to tell, to march, to fight." Richard Wright, American Hunger

Archive for the tag “Newsweek”

Possessed By The Muse

After last week’s Eat, Pray, Love, Write post, I realized I had written something similar a while ago. It does suggest a (pathological) pattern, but the first step to healing is to recognize the problem and share with a few hundred on-line friends. No, don’t worry, I’m not subconsciously crying out for an intervention – I have too many stories to write!. Here is the earlier post: 

The scene might be the same in any house mid-week, early evening.

Your partner is rushing to make dinner, still in his/her office clothes. Ten- year-old son is irritable, primarily because he prefers to play wall ball than eat his lunch at um … lunch break…and is now grumpy and starving. He has even pointed out that the First Lady wants him to exercise more (you just lost my vote in 2020 Ms. Obama! Tell him to eat that sandwich we made him). Older son is drowning in homework and needs help. Unfortunately it is not math where he ends up explaining it to a perplexed calculator-wielding father – it is English and father is the fastest typist in the house.

imagesFrom deep within this maelstrom, hassled wife turns around from steaming cooking pots and sees an unset, messy dinner table, a swivel chair, and a writer’s desk. The writer, sitting in said chair, is distinctly facing the wrong direction, pounding his keyboard with a vengeance that clearly indicates he is not helping older son with homework.

Suddenly, she can’t help herself. Forgetting the wooden spoon in her hand (writers notice these details especially when the spoon is being flailed in said writer’s direction), she towers over the writer, hands on hips:

“You’re writing? Now? Man, you’re just possessed!”

When my extremely patient and understanding wife flips out with something like this, it does makes one ponder the extremity of the situation.

The problem is that after a stressful few months, I had a week off over the Christmas break, and kind angels put up our family in beautiful, snowbound Tahoe, 10,000 feet high in the Sierra Nevada mountain range. Already on crutches from a knee operation, I was never going to cut the crisp, fresh snow on virgin slopes (I don’t even when not on crutches – at best I tumble down a 100 feet nursery slope, make sure there are photos, and then slink off for laced hot chocolate).

images-1But here, if only for a few days, I couldn’t help myself. The laptop comes on and a few snow-bound scenes of a new book somehow appear.

Possessed? Moi? Five months and 103.000 words later, despite an intense period at work and many other obligations, I type the final period, click the save command, and stare at the epilogue. Rough first draft of Wycaan Master Book 4 is completed.

Written mainly between 7.00-8.45 am and after the boys go to bed on weekdays, and a couple of hours on the weekend, or random pieces written during odd times. Waiting at the dentist, on the mass-transit BART commuting home, in San Francisco, Washington DC, Ventura, St. Louis, San Diego, and at too many airports.

images-3Possessed? Nah. Possessed would be finishing Book 4 and starting to write scenes of Book 5. Possessed. Out-of-control. Crazy.

I just wrote a few pages, mainly plot threads that I want to develop, characters that need to grow and confront their pasts. There is a bit of world-building with oceans and…

Starting Book Five might just be considered grounds for divorce, need to involve Family and Children Services, or a good psychologist (preferably one who is as much a fan of Tolkien as of Freud). 

Starting Book Five? “Now? Man, you’re just possessed!”

Fair point.

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Alon Shalev is the author of the 2013 Eric Hoffer YA Book Award winner, At The Walls of Galbrieth, Wycaan Master Book 1 and The First Decree, both released by Tourmaline Books. Ashbar – Book 3 – is due for release in October 2013. Shalev is also the author of three social justice-themed novels including Unwanted Heroes. He swears there is a connection. More at http://www.alonshalev.com and on Twitter (@elfwriter).

Does George Will have Glen Beck Envy?

George Will must think he’s losing readership share to Glen Beck. He has evidently decided that he needs to go deeper into conspiracy-theory-land to try to win his readers back. In his column in the March 7, 2011 issue of Newsweek titled, “High Speed to Insolvency: Why Liberals Love Trains”, George says, “…progressivism’s aim is the modification of other people’s behavior.” and “the real reason for progressives’ passion for trains is their goal of diminishing Americans’ individualism in order to make them more amenable to collectivism.” Wow.

Part of me wants to say, “Oh my gosh! George Will has found us out! We progressives will have to look up from our evil plans and think of a way to go deeper undercover while pretending to care about the future of the human race as a cover up!” But of course, sarcasm lands like a belly flop on the ears of a man who uses “word-of-the-day” toilet paper.

So, George (aka Pokey), let me see if I can help you out with a couple of things while keeping this on a level that you and your pal Gumby can understand. There are two types of individualism in America – real and fake. Progressives want real freedom and real individualism, while laissez-faire capitalists want fake. Real individualism is in thought, expression, love, and other highfalutin’ concepts like these. Fake individualism is whether you drive a Chevy or a Volkswagen, whether you like the Steelers or the Packers, or whether you watch Friends or Desperate Housewives on T.V. These are individual choices, it’s true, but they represent individuality only at the most superficial level.

The freedom your kind wants is the freedom to dominate: the freedom to take full advantage of the fact that your great-grandfather bought stock in Standard Oil way back when or maybe the Union Pacific Railroad, whereas my grandfather came over from Italy, just before World War I, without a dollar in his pocket.

Progressives want the next generation and those that follow to have the luxury of individualism as well – not to be chained to a desk for sixty hours a week nor to be afraid to go outside because the air could kill a person. You see, George, individualism is closely related to freedom, and real freedom can be curtailed by fake freedom. Your freedom to make selfish, childish decisions like driving a giant SUV to the video store that’s 1/8 of a mile away on a sunny but pleasantly cool day interferes with your own grandchildren’s freedom to breathe outside without coughing.

All that being said, I actually don’t like the high-speed rail plan either – but for sensible reasons – no conspiracies necessary. High-speed rail is not an urgent need in our society as it does not solve any current problems. What’s needed is a lot more and a lot better LOCAL public transportation. And, contrary to George Will’s Beckish rantings, this will mean MORE choices open to individuals, not less. George, like-minded pseudo-intellectuals, and overgrown children in general will still be free to pay 4, 5, or maybe even 10 dollars per gallon for gasoline, but those who would choose otherwise and would choose to try to provide a livable (and enjoyable) world for their grandkids will be able to do so.

Every day, individuals make choices between short-term and long-term preferences. Those of us who are blessed with common sense (most of America, I hope) make sacrifices today so that we may live longer, provide for our children, have some hope of future financial security. For example, most fathers might really like to buy a brand new Corvette but realize that, if they do so, their kids may not get to go to college or might not even have shoes to wear next month. As a society, we would do well to follow a similar program. Invest in things like public transportation now – suffer less from high gas prices, deteriorating roads, productivity-killing traffic, and the effects of pollution later. Trains get MORE efficient the more people use them. Can the same be said of cars? So maybe George is right. Progressives do want to change other people’s behavior – we want them to act like responsible adults who can see further ahead than their next purchase at the department store.

You see, George, it’s like this: Your freedom to spit on someone is in direct conflict with that person’s freedom and right not to be spat upon. I conclude from this that freedoms should be prioritized. For example, I fully support, without hesitation, your freedom to write ridiculous nonsense and to publish it as you are able. As is often said, in America, you have the right to be wrong. I believe this because I realize that my individual preference not to hear the blather of a mentally and morally deficient snob pales in comparison to my preference to live in a society that values and protects free speech. Likewise, I prefer to live in a world where my tiny nieces and nephews have a good chance at a healthy, secure future over a world where my own generation indulges consumptive gluttony.

Tom Rossi

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Tom Rossi is a commentator on politics and social issues. He is a Ph.D. student in International Sustainable Development, concentrating in natural resource and economic policy. Tom greatly enjoys a hearty debate, especially over a hearty pint of Guinness.

Tom also posts on thrustblog.blogspot.com


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