Wednesday, July 9, 2008

The Writing Show podcast review

In the Getting Published series of The Writing Show Podcast we have returned for the eighth time to writer Jean Tennant. Her novel Karaoke Nights at the Twilight Lounge is still waiting to be picked up by a publisher, or even an agent. It has been so long since Jean started, she is beginning to give up on her hopes of getting published the old-fashioned way. In spite of her misgivings about self-publishing, she is beginning to consider it.

Apart from the fact that self-publishing becomes easier, more widely accepted and respected, she also takes into consideration the regional character of her novel. Should she have to take up the publicizing on her own, she still has the advantage of living close to her market. Host Paula B. adds that regional sells well these days, as far as she has been told.

One self-publishing experience Tennant has acquired with the children book she has put out. It was a tough learning experience, but the result is there. Olivia's Birthday Puppy.

More Writing Show on this blog:
Getting Published with Janice Ballenger,
Getting Published with Mark Leslie,
Psychological Aspects of Writing,
Getting published with Jean Tennant,

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Intuitive understanding - Zander gives music to all on TED

All my life, in a way, I have been wondering about the understanding of great truths and great values. How can we acquire understanding of, for example, the ethical, or the arts, or proper logic, rationality and reasoning? Is that an elite quality? Does it take great intellect, arduous study and plenty experience in order to reach that understanding? If so, we are in a way lost. Great qualities are basically hidden from us and only once reach the proper level, these will be revealed to us. Until then, we either do not know, do not care or worse even, are under the impression there is nothing worthy to aspire. Understanding in this case is not true understanding but rather mystic, revealed, initiated; an object of grace not of virtue.

If on the other hand, it doesn't take elite qualities, what makes great qualities great as opposed to whatever else we are impressed by if we do not put in effort? Applied to for example classical music, this means that either classical music is for an exceptional elite to discern and the rest of us just do not care or even listen in derision. Either that, or we basically have no way of deciding Johann Sebastian Bach is a great composer and Benny Andersson and Bjorn Ulvaeus (of ABBA) are not so, since both their music is appreciated by millions. Understanding in this case is rather plain, non-discriminatory, pragmatic; an object of establishment and not of virtue either.

My way around this problem is to introduce levels of understanding, or a gradual continuum of understanding. In that approach there is complete understanding, which is elitist, but there is a lower level of understanding, which I call intuitive, which is something we all have and is fine tuned and activated by learning, but when not developed, still passively is there. Intuitive understanding allows us to recognize quality when we see it. It allows us to feel Bach is more than ABBA, even if we can't actively explain why. It allows us to identify the ethical, even if we can not actively explain why it is better than plain selfishness. It also allows us to seek, to persevere in study towards the qualities, because we recognized something and carry with us an unfulfilled promise. This makes understanding a virtue.

In the following TED video, conductor Benjamin Zander undertakes an elegant and effective test with the audience, the discerning of classical music and the various sorts of unacquired alike and shows how they are all touched by great classical music. Here we see understanding as a virtue, both at the acquired as well as on the lower levels.

More TED
Jill Bolte Taylor,
Karen Armstrong,
Ben Dunlap. (highly recommended)

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The interpretation of anomaly - Missing Link podcast review

The missing link podcast has a new episode with the compelling title Curiouser and curiouser. The issue greatly lives up to the title even if it must go with a disclaimer of explicit language. The explicit language comes from quoting late Renaissance material written by Ambroise Paré. The subject is our fascination with freaks of nature or any other exceptional occurrence or anomaly. Not only in current times, throughout the ages, people were interested.

The point of the show is that the way this interest is worked out and how oddities are explained is fundamentally different. Since the Enlightenment, nature is taken to be stable, uniform and its laws unchanging and everything must be explained within that framework. In earlier times, explanations were sought in the supernatural and hence, on the surface, people from there and then seem hopelessly infatuated with 'monsters'. Host Elizabeth Green Musselman points out, that in all times, people wanted to explain and in all times, the true challenge lies in explaining the exceptional.

There is an additional point that I think I picked up, but is kept slightly implicit. In the days before the Renaissance, or before the Late Middle Ages, the obsession with monsters and such was less, because of a more spiritual image of the world. I felt as if this means Platonic image of the world. Matter is chaotic and what is truly interesting is theory, the mind's construction. It is with the uncovering of Aristotle and possibly also with world shaking events such as the discovery of the New World, may be also the fall of Constantinople, may be also the disruption caused by the plague, that observing the world was necessary and all the puzzling excesses became relevant.

One could even make connections with the disruption of the Reformation and Witch Hunts (I am letting my mind loose here) to see this almost violent obsession with excess. Only after this disruption and the philosophical inclination towards order (such as with Hobbes), the stricter style of interpreting anomalies can evolve.

More about The Missing Link on this blog:
Domestic Science,
Missing Link with monotheists,
Missing Link with Popper,
An evolved controversy,
Time's Arrow.

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