Monday, October 12, 2015

Sleep Ware Is For Sleeping

A little history behind this post. I originally wrote a version of this for a college newspaper and I ran across it a few days ago. I decided to rewrite it and present it here because I think it's still and important thing to write about.
Ohh la la
It has recently come to my attention, while scrolling through Facebook, that there is new scientific
research that ascribes better sleep patterns, healthier bodies and minds to sleeping in the nude. Now, I for one am not here to poo-poo these articles; instead, to help fight a now decades old fashion faux-pas: pajamas in public.

Once upon a time, being seen in public in your pajamas was an absolute nightmare. Commonly viewed the same as undergarments,
pajamas were seen as something that the public ought not to be aware what a person’s pajamas looked like. However, sometime in the late 90s someone decided it was a-ok to parade their plaid flannel pajamas where everyone can see them. Thus introducing an ugly, smelly, disheveled trend upon the unwitting masses.

Not you too Andy Cohen

It is bad enough when high schoolers and college students partake of this trend, but it is absolutely unacceptable for you to wear you pajamas in public when you have left school. There are very few reasons to ever wear your pajamas in public further than the end of your drive way. It takes a matter of seconds to throw on real pants or even a skirt or a dress. If you are dropping the kids at the bus stop and not leaving your car, fine, wear you pajamas. Just don’t go straight from there to the store. 
Pretty fab for this look.
For clarity sake let me say now that this is not just a tirade about being fashion conscience. No, this also a tirade about cleanliness. If you have not felt pajama pants in awhile, they are often quite thin thus reducing the amount of fabric between your body and other people. Moreover and more importantly, they smell. You slept in them, people sweat when they sleep, pajamas absorb sweat and dirt and dead skin from you when you are sleeping. This absorption leads to odor not just your body odor, but the odor of sweaty dirty fabric. 

Let me also add that there is a direct correlation between getting dressed and how you feel about yourself. When a person puts on a really nice outfit it can change their entire it can make them feel more confident. Think about what you like to wear on a date or to a job interview. It isn't pajamas, it's something that you feel comfortable in but gives you that little bit of an extra boost that says "hey, I look pretty good." Moreover, this confidence derived from your personal appearance is often then conveyed to the people around you that you are a capable adult able to dress yourself in the morning. 
There are still critics of my disdain of pajamas in public, saying things like “pajamas are more comfortable than jeans or khakis.” True, they are, unless you buy jeans and khakis that fit right. Choosing softer denims in looser fits can be as comfortable as wearing pajamas.

Doesn't this look super comfy?
Women’s pants often present a wider variety of fabrics to choose from as more brands introduce stylish looking cottons, satins, and silks into their pant collections. Furthermore, there are wonderful cuts like palazzo, sailor pants, and gauchos, even culottes have made a recent come back, along with rompers, playsuits, and jumpsuits that are very comfortable. Even men’s pants have had the marvelous advent of the jogger which many brands are making into the go to casual pant.

 A few important things to remember though when choosing your pants is fit. Choosing relaxed and loose fits are a great choice for casual jeans since they don’t hug as close to the body and often come in softer, lighter weight denims. Straight cut and trouser cut denims in dark washes are great as a more relaxed look for business casual looks. However, khakis, chinos, wool pants, and other trouser cut pants are still the go to office clothing.
I could wear these joggers
Again look for slightly looser cuts that skim across the hip. Straight, loose, and some brands have a cut they term a classic cut are excellent options as they tend to either go straight from the hip down to the ankle thus creating a looser leg opening.
A perfectly comfortable chic look
When sizing your pants, be sure that you can slip your hand between the waistband of your pant and your waist with little or no effort. Another great test is to squat down with your back to the mirror and look over your shoulder: if you can see more than and inch of your posterior, you need to pick a pant with a higher waist or at least a slightly looser fit. 
Last complaint about pants before closing. Sagging, just no. Stop it now. No one should be forced to see more than approximately two inches of your underwear at max. If you are not sure how much two inches is, buy a ruler. For the record I would also like to add that sagging skinny jeans defeats the whole point of skinny jeans, so please pull them up. 

Purple leopard print sagging skinny jeans!!!

In life we have many decisions to make, many of those decisions about clothing. Please make the smart decision and keep your pajama pants at home.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Why Audrey Hepburn?

First off let me be absolutely blunt about one thing, I do not dislike Audrey Hepburn. That being said, I don't understand why people are so in awe of her. Yes she was beautiful, she had poise, grace, charm, and a designer who built amazing outfits for her. She had a very limited range and very few of her performances were exceedingly brilliant. Her films are enjoyable with only a few being very brilliant. She only had two films that were brilliant The Nun's Story and The Children's Hour. However, these are not the films that she is best known for. She is of course known for My Fair Lady, Sabrina, Breakfast at Tiffany's, and Roman Holiday, which, coincidentally, is the only film she won an Oscar for. She of course did other films but her list of screen credits os very small. In fact her most notable credentials, her charity work later in life, have mostly gone unnoticed by her fans today. She is best known for being pretty and stylish and rocking Givenchy, which really anybody in the '50s and early '60s could have done. my point is this, she is a cultural icon solely because of her looks and clothes.

Before I move on, here are reasons to like Audrey Hepburn, she was a holocaust survivor. She and her family escaped Belgium during WWII to England, but only after hiding in attics and safe houses. Because of their hiding their family was forced to go hungry. Because of Audrey's young age, this stunted her metabolism and gave her, her now iconic, waif looks. Later in her life she dedicated herself to humanitarian work in Africa, in fact she was a Unicef Ambassador. These are the main reasons that Audrey is awesome, yet most people don't know this information, they just know her as the pretty skinny lady with the big hat and sunglasses from Breakfast at Tiffany's. This lack of knowledge is insulting to her legacy.

Audrey and her iconic style have contributed a lot to the film industry and to woman around the world. However, there are many women who have done as much if not more to contribute to the film industry and have done as much humanitarian work as Audrey. Here is a list of just a few woman who are her contemporaries that are equally laudable.

Ida Lupino: She is first on my list because she was the first actress to turn professional director. Because of her notoriety as an actress, when she transitioned to working behind the camera as well, she was received very well and most actors that worked her as a director loved working with her. She was the only woman to direct in the American film genre Film Noir, and she continued to act while she was directing even directing films she starred in. As her directing took off, she even starting writing her own screenplays. Beautiful in her own right, she was not the standard beauty girl of '40s and '50s Hollywood. She did very few comedies and became known for playing gritty, hard characters.

Edith Head: She is considered one of the greatest costume designers in movie history. She designed the costumes for many major films including Double Indemnity, The Great Gastby (1949), Sunset Boulevard, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, and Roman Holiday. Yes, before Givenchy, Edith Head dressed Audrey Hepburn. She is probably best known for her work with Alfred Hitchcock, since she worked on many of his major films. According to IMDB she worked on 444 films in her lifetime. She became a costume designer when costume designing was still a male dominated industry. She was one of the female pioneers of costume designing along with Irene, who is also very famous and just as deserving of respect.

Hedy Lamarr: There is no doubting her beauty. There is no doubting her seductive sensuality on the screen. She is simply one of the most beautiful and seductive actresses of all time. Her sultry accented voice charmed millions and gave her the money she needed to set up her own laboratory so she could continue to do her scientific research. That's right she was a brilliant scientist along with being a good actress. Her greatest invention, as detailed by the website dedicated to her, was the patented "Secret Communication System," which she created with composer George Antheil, was used in military communication and is the bases for cell phones. Thank you Hedy for cell phones.

Hedy Lamarr also left us with this great quote: "Any girl can be glamorous. All you have to do is stand still and look stupid."

Katherine Hepburn: She is potentially the greatest actress of all time. Her acting career spanned from the '30s to the early '90s. With 52 film credits, and most all of them iconic films that have shaped the portrayal of women in films for all time. Moreover, she shared the screen with some of the finest actors of all time and even help shape Sir Anthony Hopkins acting style. Her non-traditional beauty saved her from always having to play the same part twice though even during her time as an ingenue she was able to play a wide array of ingenue's. She convinced Howard Hughes to buy the rights to the The Philadelphia Story so that she could play the part of Tracy Samantha Lord, one of her most iconic roles. She worked in screwball comedies and had a comedic sense of timing that was impeccable and hard to beat. She almost always portrayed strong confident women and was an early pioneer in the feminist movement in Hollywood. She played several feminist characters and helped show woman that they didn't have to be subservient to men. Four of these films are Adams Rib, Woman of the Year, Pat and Mike, and Desk Set. All four of these films starred Hepburn with her long time lover Spencer Tracy. These films showed that woman didn't have to be superior to men but had to be treated equally, and Hepburn portrayed each character beautifully with charm and grace. Also her Jo March in Little Woman is one of the best though Winona Rider also did a hell of a job. Katherine Hepburn also did something amazing for woman in film. She was one of the largest purveyors of woman's trousers in films and one of the first major Hollywood stars to wear them in films. Katherine Hepburn is just plain awesome and her movies are to die for, especially the version of Suddenly Last Summer with Montgomery Clift and Elizabeth Taylor, which is just heaven in a film.

Ava Gardner: One of the most striking beauties to ever grace the silver screen Ava Gardner is just gorgeous and amazing and super super talented. If you've never seen anything with her in it your Snows of Kilimanjaro, Mogambo, Showboat, Bhowani Junction, The Sun Also Rises, The Little Hut, and The Night of the Iguana. Ava Gardner made this list for two reasons: she is an incredible actress who was a spitfire on the screen and she played several mixed raced characters during her career. She was a strong confident leading woman who was unabashed about her sensuality, but never let her body outweigh her acting ability and her characters were always at least clever and street smart. Plus, Technicolor was her best friend.
required watching is,

Gloria Swanson: She is amazing. Gloria Swanson is best known for her role in Sunset Boulevard, one of the most iconic films ever made. She was not the first choice to play Norma Desmond because no one remembered her. Gloria Swanson got her start in silent movies and was a huge success. After the advent of talking pictures, she had gone back to the stage and mostly pursued her theater career. She was asked to the part and she accepted the part. Beyond her ability to act supremely creepy and crazy, she is a hugely talented person who spent a lot of her time sculpting and being all kinds of crazy cool artsy person. She was a stunning beauty her entire life and had a seriously awesome sense of style. Gloria Swanson is kind of who I want to be when I grow up. She was unburdened by the silliness of life and allowed herself to be herself. If she didn't get a movie part, she went and found another or went and found a play. She never let her glory days be her defining time. Even when doing small parts she threw herself into the role and loved it.

Elizabeth Taylor: Very few actresses have ever been as instantly recognizable and as public as Elizabeth Taylor. Her messy marriage with Sir Richard Burton supplied the fuel for many of their on screen partnerships. Her acting ability was amazing. She was one of the few stars who was able to transition fairly smoothly from adorable child star to breathtaking leading woman. Her role choices were always risky and she was unafraid of taking on difficult or messy roles. Her very public extra-marital affairs and multiple marriages and divorces gained her a reputation, which she didn't fight. She knew that fighting it would only make her look worse, so she accepted that as public opinion and carried on with her life. Her most notable affair was of course with Eddie Fisher who was married, at the time to Debbie Reynolds. Reynolds and Fisher divorced and Taylor married Fisher shortly after. Carrie Fisher talks about this whole ordeal in her autobiography Shockaholic, which is an excellent read.

Beyond her beauty and acting talent there was also her musical ability. Many times in her younger years she sang in films showing off a very high soprano voice very similar to that of Amanda Seyfried's in Les Miserables (2012). However, my favorite musical performance of her's is in the 1977 film adaption of Stephen Sondheims A Little Night Music. Her portrayal of the waining star of stage Desiree Armfeldt is amazing and her version of "Send in the Clowns" is beautiful. Plus, Diana Rigg is also in this production and I love her.

Along side of her acting career, Elizabeth Taylor was one of the first celebrities to stand with the victims of HIV/AIDS helping raise funds for research and supporting the victims. She was also good friends with many closeted gay actors in Hollywood and helped them keep their secrets including, Montgomery Clift, Rock Hudson, and even help keep the bisexual rumors about James Dean quiet. She did a lot for the LGBT community and was a very vocal ally. She was also involved with numerous other charities.

Doris Day: What can one say about the incredibly talented beautiful and generous Doris Day? Best Friend to animals and gay men everywhere, Doris Day has been a champion for animal rights and even runs a shelter for animals on her ranch in California. Her long time screen partnership and friendship with Rock Hudson is the stuff of Hollywood legend and she was one of several people who helped keep his homosexuality secret. Her voice is legendary and she made her least favorite song in the world famous "Que Serai, Serai." Her acting ability is showcased in her ability to easily transfer from musical comedy, comedy roles, and dramatic roles. She left Hollywood after working in the industry for around 20 years. She has lived her life from then on out of the public eye and focusing her time and money on helping animals in Southern California.

Lucille "Lucy" Ball: One of the funniest women of all time, Lucille Ball brightened up black and white television and managed to shape sitcom history with her perennial classic show I Love Lucy. Having made a major success in radio and a minor success in film, Lucille Ball brought her humor to the small screen and changed the face of sitcoms forever. She was one of a very small group of woman to be trained in the classic style of film comedy by Buster Keaton. She was a distant cousin of Ginger Rogers, which is pretty neat in and of itself. She was a bit player in many films and worked with the Three Stooges and the Marx Brothers. She co-created I Love Lucy as a vehicle for her then husband Desi Arnaz and helped found Desilu studies, which she later ran in the late '60s through the '70s. She gave Gene Rodenberry's show Star Trek it's break. She continued to start in television and movies into the '80s. She shared the screen with many great actors including, Van Johnson, Henry Fondah, Red Skelton, and Bob Hope; and, she always held her own. Lucy is also one of the major inspirations to Carol Burnett.

This list is very small. Again, This list is not to diminish Audrey's fame, nor is it to diminish her career. Admittedly, Audrey Hepburn is beautiful and she survived a very hard life and had many iconic roles that have helped shape actresses and films to this day. I still enjoy watching her films and I love many of them; however, she is not the greatest actress of all time nor is she the most influential. Each of these women have contributed exponentially to film and the world, and are as deserving of respect. This list is simply to put some context around Audrey and her career and shine a light on other woman in Hollywood who have helped shape the film industry.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

"1000 Forms of Fear" The Review and the Reason Sia is the New Voice of Pop

Seventeen years ago, Sia Furler released her first album in Australia. I must admit I know little or nothing about her Australian career other than it was good enough that in 2008 she released her first album on the American market, Some People Have Real Problems. This album was of course my first experience with Sia and it was featured on iTunes with them giving away the video for the song "Soon We'll Be Found." Her unusual voice is reminiscent of the old crooning type rock/folk female singers of the '60s and '70s. Her newer music is more influenced by a blend of folk and electronic. Some People Have Real Problems reached number 26 in the US charts.

 With the success of Sia's first US album, Christina Aguilera asked her to write and produce a total of 4 tracks off her 2010 album Bionic, which was released 10 days before Sia's second US album We Are Born. Despite Sia's work on Christina's album, the four tracks were buried in the album and only one track made it to single "You Lost Me."

Collaborating with Aguilera opened more doors for collaborations including:

  •  writing "She Wolf" and "Titanium" and performing them with David Guetta
  •   sang "Wild Ones" with Flo-Rida
  •  wrote "Let Me Love You (Until You Love Yourself" for Ne-Yo
  •   wrote "Diamonds" for Rihanna
  • she worked with Kesha on Warrior 
  • wrote "Blank Page" for Lotus by Christina Aguilera
  •  co-wrote "Radioactive" for Rita Ora
  •  "Brathe" and "Unite" for Jessie J's album Alive
  • co-wrote, with Britney Spears,  "Perfume," "Passenger," and "Brightest Morning Star" on Britney Jean
  • is featured on "Battle Cry" by Angel Haze on their album Dirty Gold
  • co-wrote "Loved Me Back to Life" for Celine Dion 
  • co-wrote "Double Rainbow" for Katy Perry's album Prism 
  • wrote "Pretty Hurts" for Beyoncé
  • co- executive produced Kylie Minogue's album Kiss Me Once, and wrote the songs "Kiss Me Once" and "Sexercize" 
  • co-wrote "Chasing Shadows" for Shakira 
This is very small list of her collaborations. She has worked with other artist and has offered many different levels of musical support.

Sia has now officially shaped pop music more than many other artist ever do. Though she has yet to have a number one hit from one of her own albums, she has generated number one hits for other artists. So why is Sia still relatively unknown? I have no idea. Her songs such as "Clap Your Hands" and "Breath Me" have been featured on tv and in trailers, she wrote a song for both the Hunger Games: Catching Fire soundtrack and The Great Gatsby soundtrack.

Luckily 1000 Forms of Fear debuted at #1 on the iTunes chart. Sia has been gaining more and more coverage with this new album, with more people wondering why she is only really starting to gain popularity at this point. I think part of it might be that her sound is very unusual with hints of her her acid-jazz and trip hop roots fused with some sounds from modern Regae and influences from electronic and folk roots. Sia is very hard to classify musically because she is innovating. She is setting the standards for the pop industry.

"Chandelier," the lead single of 1000 Forms of Fear shows the power of Sia's voice and her lack of fear for her voice to sound flawless: her voice cracks and breaks at multiple points in the track, but it creates the feel of how much of a mess the speaker of the song is. That is a quality that Sia has that most other singers don't, she brings a level of performance to each track. Each song has it's own emotional appeal that Sia shows through her voice.

1000 Forms of Fear, features about fearlessness. The album is an excellent collection of songs working on the same theme. Each track has similar beats which unite the real of the album beyond the lyric connection of the album's central theme of conquering fears by growing from pain. Sia knows pain, which sounds like the most ridiculous statement to say about a musician, yet it is what makes her music strong. Her songs are not emo pity parties but celebrations of hurting so that a person can become stronger. Sia's vocalization of each track is in parallel to the lyrics and adds an additional level to the songs that most artist who sing her songs lack. Sia a rarity in pop music: she writes intelligent pop music, and 1000 Forms of Fear delivers intelligence and beauty through a voice that is indescribable and sound that is uniquely Sia's.

Friday, July 4, 2014

The Deadly Sins of Writing

As a writer, I am working on honing my craft. Even when I'm not actively writing, I'm studying whatever I'm reading and whatever I'm watching looking at how it was written and what I like about it. This constant studying is good for writers cause it helps us when we go back to writing our own works or editing our own pieces or just trying to get started.

In my editing experience, writing classes, and just being friends with outer writers, the "sins" of writing have been shown to me multiple times. In fact, I have even committed many of them.  However, often these sins are labeled and persecuted without explanation. In an effort to help writers grow, I will detail a list of the most common sins of writing and explain why each is "bad" and some tricks on how to avoid them and correct them.

Cliché: Image by Cedric Villiain
Cliché is probably the sin that is most rabbited on about. According to the Oxford American English Dictionary Cliché means: "a phrase or opinion that is overused and betrays a lack of original thought. a very predictable or unoriginal thing or person"  Clichés exist for a reason and do serve a purpose, so do mosquitoes. That is to say that though the exist and serve a purpose, they are annoying. When using a cliché the writer tells the reader "I'm lazy and don't care about my writing" thus the sin. Clichés are over used phrases (colloquialisms), over used character types (stereotypes), and over used places (commonplace). Now when handled properly, clichés can be very effective, except stereotypes, those are often just plain rude. My quick tips for how to properly use colloquialisms is only let characters use them in character speech or in first person narration. By doing so, the writer is then turning them over to the character to use; however, use them sparingly: overuse creates a barrier between the reader and the text and often the reader tunes out because the language isn't engaging. Commonplace is great if the writer does not want to go into great detail about the location or item because it then requires the reader to fill in the blanks: main problem with commonplace is knowing when something is commonplace and when something isn't. In general, clichés are tough because they require a tight cultural understanding and do not allow for diversity of knowledge and culture. 

Clichés often pop up in genre fiction narratives because of the heavy dependency on tropes in those types of fiction. Easy ways to avoid them are to subvert the tropes (which is almost becoming cliche at this point), and to create a new trope. Creating new tropes are difficult, but are an excellent challenge to a writer. The easiest way to avoid cliché is to be true. Clichés are amalgamations of truths that are often unrealistic, imitate life to have truer writing. To imitate life though, a writer has to shun the cliché of agoraphobic and anti-social writers and at least be willing to observe people. Friends help a lot with this in the way that they are little test subjects that we as writers can observe their reactions to environmental stimuli. 

Here are a few other blogs that outline clichés:

Cliche What? specifically outlines cliché narrative types in romance.

Purple Prose:

Learn from this bear. The story of this purple bear is purple prose. Admittedly it is quite blatantly purple prose. Purple prose is two things, being excessively writerly and having thesaurus syndrome. As the image illustrates, purple prose takes a bear from sitting, and watching fish jump in a stream to being that monstrosity of a sentence. Purple prose is a sin for one reason: its freaking annoying as hell. Purple prose causes the reader to skim the wordiness of expounding the qualities of a thesaurus ridden paragraph and often to stop reading because the writer didn't know when to stop. However, it isn't always as blatant as this purple bear would like you to believe. This blog entry is a perfect example of subtle purple prose: The writer of this post admits to being plagued by purple prose, and smartly makes fun of it, but it shines through in other areas. Purple prose is being indirect, it is a writer choosing to play with words instead of being 100% honest with the reader. It is pretty but annoying. Ways to avoid it, be succinct, write it like it was being said aloud. Don't dodge the subject just plop it on the page and let it sit there. Worry about grace of writing in the edits.

 Misuse of Punctuation:

Punctuation is probably the most problematic issue for young writers. with deteriorating grammar programs and the internet, punctuation has in general fallen victim to abuse. I'm going to start a ribbon campaign for punctuation. Anyway, why be careful about punctuation? Well as the image shows, punctuation helps with the clarity of prose. Moreover, abusing certain types will cause readers to drift away. Now this section is not to detail rule by rule how to use punctuation correctly because, honestly, even I still have trouble with certain types. However, there are types that are in general abused and create bad writing. For example, the ellipses aka ... these three little dots, and their cousin the string of dots, mean two things in writing: when used in a quote (as in articles and academic essays) it means that something has been removed, when used in creative writing (prose and poetry) it means that the speaker has trailed off. When used minimally and carefully they can create a very dramatic effect. When over used they look like half the piece is written in morse code. They become ugly spotty sections in the piece and can distract and distance the reader. And to be quite clear, the narrator is never, never, to use them: narrators never drift off, they are always engaged with the reader.

Dashes should burn unless they are being used to show that a speaker has been cut off. I realize that they are a different form of comma, but unlike a comma, a dash (–) is very obvious and stands out to much in the text. The dash is a stylistic mark that is mostly based on personal esthetic; however, it is also to be used minimally otherwise it also creates the effect of morse code on the writing.

Exclamation points: one is enough! Using more than one is excessively unnecessary and only acceptable in bad fan-fiction and green text stories. And this !?!!!?!?!?!?!?!!?, don't ever use it: it literally means nothing. Exclamation points are also to be used minimally otherwise they decrease the effect of the story and the reader is given the wrong signals about what is actually exclamatory.

There are other punctuation marks that are misused all the time, such as colons (:) and semicolons (;), and parentheses (()). Colons are used to start lists or expound upon the meaning or idea that is being stated in the sentence. Semicolons are used with coordinating conjunctions and used to show that two sentences have been joined together to create one idea: semicolons are very tricky, so study them hard before using them. Parentheses, well, they shouldn't be used in fiction writing, but in general they are used to separate material such as commentary and examples, from the main text, or to show that the material they contain are unnecessary.

Here are some links about punctuation:

Top 10 Most Annoying Misuses of Punctuation details many of the points I made and shows others

Commonly Used and Misused Punctuation Marks This is an excellent source for understanding punctuation

Trying Too Hard To Be Edgy:

 This sin is one that mostly young writers attempt to seem mysterious or majorly countercultural. By trying to hard to upset people or to just be weird, it causes a distancing no only between the writer and their peers and their authority figures, but also between the reader and the work. This distancing isn't one where the reader becomes separated from the work objectively, but is often forced out of the story by being ostracized and lost in the ham-fisted attempts of the writer to seem cool and edgy. As a whole, this purpose/message behind writing is severely flawed in that it makes the writing ludicrous. This sin is also a subject of cliché because all young writers try it, but unlike the other types of clichés it is the least acceptable. It is the writer intentionally drawing attention to themselves instead of to their work. It is also attached to hyperbole because it is a severe dramatization, usually, of events that have either happened to the writer or they have read about. The topics most commonly associated with this are BDSM, drug culture, gang culture, occult themes, goth themes, sever violence, mental illness, severe apathy of the main caricature, sexual victimization, and incest. As a whole, these themes are not inherently bad; however, when the soul purpose of using them is to create shock and abhorrence in the reader, it is a severely juvenile attempt of trying to separate oneself from the collective whole. These themes have been used to great effect to create a discourse about these subjects have been used to great effect in many texts: Flowers in the Attic by V.C. Andrews (incest and child abuse), Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin (pretty much the whole list I made and then some) , Someday This Pain Will be Useful to You by Peter Cameron (extremely apathetic main character), and many more. However, in these books the themes are not used to shock and distance the reader, but to compel them and create different character types and tell stories we don't always hear. To do this well, the writer must experiment and learn how to fines these themes and how to compel the reader to stay involved with the story.

Ideological Fiction:

This sin is probably the most dangerous for a writer : it situates the writer firmly in their era and heavily winnows an audience. Such writers as Ayn Rand and many of the other modernists fall into this group. Why is this a sin? Simple, it dates your work. Though it might be necessary to write fiction that is temporal, it is easy for such a piece to be heralded as a classic or immensely necessary or majorly important, but as soon as that era is over, it becomes a relic. Many of Ayn Rand's texts have gone out of date do to the philosophies she put forth in her writing. Though those ideas may have appealed to her readership in the 1930s and 1940s they fell out of fashion by the middle of the 20th century and have only come back as countercultural favorites due to the academic shunning of them. That is what happens to many idealogical writers is that they get swept up in their ideology and they again ostracize many readers. Note, I am not pushing the ideology that a writer must appeal to all readers; however, it helps when first starting out to play it a little safer with the ideology. Moreover, ideologically heavy texts read more as academic fiction rather than general fiction. If that is the aim of the writer go for it, but be aware that this type of writing has a very small audience.

Artistic Pride/Integrity):

Artistic pride/integrity is the sin that all writers are guilty of. We swear that we will never sell out and will always stay true to our work. This stance is not the sin, the sin is this, "I wrote it, I'm not changing it; it's my story and I like and I'm not changing it." Words that have echoed off of creative
writing classroom walls more than any of us care to think. Artistic pride/integrity is in and of it's self not wholly bad; however, if it stops the writer from advancing their work then it is terrible. The belief that one is always right and that they make no flaws is a major flaw. Critiques and edits of writing is an essential part of growing as a writer. When going through critiques and edits really analyze the comments on sections that you love and hate to cut, if the scene needs more work to express to the reader its purpose, then do it. Writers should stay true to their work, thus they should take critiques, even ones they don't like, and should use them to develop their story to convey its meaning.

The Myth of Showing vs Telling:

Nether one is better than the other. Writing teachers and editors love to push this myth the hardest. It is a sin to condemn either one. A good story has the proper balance of each. Moreover, it is a very occidental perspective to favor showing over telling. Most novels and stories form the Middle East and Asia are done through telling. It is part of the tradition of their literary genre. Furthermore, most tales and folklore are done through telling. Each piece of work needs to be particularly scrutinized whether or not showing is necessary or telling is necessary. Telling is exponentially easier to do in writing, which I think is part of the reason that it is frowned upon so much by modern western writers.
Passive Voice: 

This sin is purely grammatical. It is the sin that is harped on by tutors and editors the most, and it is the hardest to work on. I went to an outside source to be able to fully understand this. According to Hamilton Universities list of The Seven Deadly Sins of Writing "The First Deadly Sin: Passive Voice" "Passive Voice produces a sentence in which the subject receives an action. In contrast, active voice produces a sentence in which the subject performs an action. Passive voice produces unclear wordy sentences, whereas active voice produces generally clearer, more concise sentences." An excellent explanation but to really see it in action they included a sentence in passive and active voice:

In this example, we see the switch from the non-specific "arms were seized" to the specific, "British soldiers seized arms." It makes the writing more interesting and the reader is less likely to feel passive while reading: it makes writing more engaging.

Hamilton University's suggestions for fixing passive voice: "In most instances, put the verb in the active voice rather than in the passive voice. ... To change a sentence from the passive to the active voice, determine who or what performs the action, and use that person or thing as the subject of the sentence."

I hope my list of sins helps in writing, I knows it has helped me shape my view on writing. Again a few of my sins are my own personal style choices and not to be taken as carved in stone. Some are actually carved in stone somewhere, and if committed gnomes will haunt the authors dreams for all eternity until the end of time, maybe. Writing is a growing process and all these sins are committed at different time by every writer, even super famous super good writers commit these sins, they just have a good editing staff.

Here are some extra resources for writers.

A good resource for writers is it is a website solely dedicated to making writers better and helping them get published. They run tons of contests and have classes and all sorts of neat stuff including a page dedicated to tips and tricks.

Hamilton University's list of The Seven Deadly Sins of Writing is very good and very specific.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

"All About That Bass" the Pros and the Cons

If you haven't seen the video yet, Meghan Trainor released a video on June 11 for her song "All About That Bass." The video is a lovely slightly kitschy homage to the '50s and '60 filled with soft pastel hues and adorably preppy clothes. It is, in general, a lovely video that is well laid out and shot wonderfully. It is a lot of fun, and the song is super catchy and fun, and Meghan has a lovely voice, sure to garner her a few award nominations and hit singles. Moreover, Meghan has taken a stance in this video that is popular at this moment and sure to help her gain a fan base and will be a great example for little girls. However, like most stances in the world, there are a few troubles with the video to accompany the positivity. To help see where the problems undermine her motives of positive body image and undermine the movement to appreciate your body as it is, I'll examine the main "Cons" and the major "Pros" of this video.

Pro #1: she has dancers in her video that have the body types that many dancers and "average" woman have and of course there is the heavy set man who is super fierce in the video. Meghan is making the point that to be pretty and dance well and have great moves, one needs to be thin. This is an excellent point to make since dancers are often under a large amount of pressure to be very thin.

Con #1: The skinny model is painted as being unacceptable. Though most people agree that the demands put on models to be super thin is wrong and unacceptable, I hear it all the time from people who are overweight or larger (even I've said it and yes I'm fat) that skinny people "need to eat a burger." We never take into account that some people are built very thin and don't starve themselves to thinness and that some people are leaner. This point in her video is very subtle, though the model is seen later as dancing around and enjoying herself, she is almost always alone in the video and when she is accompanied by someone she is often not engaged but is forced to engage or sexually objectify another person. And the use of skinny bitch, even with just kidding or just fooling or just playing thrown after it, is skinny shaming and acting like a mean girl. 

Pro #2: The fashion of the video. Everyone looks great in this video. All of the clothes are super flattering and not super objectifying, even though the song is about her body. Usually bigger people are made to look unhealthy, unattractive, and unstylish; however, the stylist for this video went about making sure to dress everyone in a stylish way and make them all look great.

Con #2: The insinuation that a girl is "supposed" to "shake it." Perk of having a big booty is, well, tweaking looks like it is supposed to. However, girls aren't "supposed" to "shake it." If you want to shake it, shake it, but that is not the sole purpose of having a big booty. Though it is a major perk.

Pro #3: "You are perfect from the bottom to the top" This is a wonderful reinforcement of body positivity: it tells people to be happy in your skin, love what your body looks like. 

Con #3: Though it is a trope that she is playing on from '50s and '60s pop music, informing the world that your "mama" says that "boys like a little more booty to hold at night." Though this point may be true (I must admit I like a man who's got some junk in his trunk), valuing your booty for the male appreciation you'll receive is, to be frank, misogynistic. It is saying that your body is only good if a man appreciates it. That is not body positivity, it's objectification. Though seemingly harmless, it is insisting that self worth is based only on outside appreciation. And the argument that it is only motherly advice and a mother trying to help her daughter appreciate herself, is reinforcing cultural misogyny, which isn't really helpful. 

Pro #4: A catchy pop video with a healthy looking confident pretty girl who is built like the average girl on the street, is wonderful and shows girls and people that the music industry is moving forward and away from a very tight idea of beauty.

Overall this is a cute fun video with a well intentioned catchy song. This post is in no way to diminish  what Meghan is trying to do. It is simply to show that to feel good about yourself or teach people to love themselves, you don't need to tear down someone else to feel better about yourself. On a note of how to do this type of message 100% right lets listen to Mindy Kalling on being body positive: