June 29th, 2010

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Cut to the Core

rhfay and I have been discussing what makes good poetry and fiction. I gave this list of questions regarding how to gauge a story's effectiveness.

* Is the story gratifying to write and to read?
* Does it make sense?
* Does the setting support the action and characters?
* Are the characters interesting, believable people worth spending time with? Do they grow, strive, and/or discover things in the story?
* Do important events happen? Does the plot have some good twists so the action isn't too obvious?
* Is the story "about" something? What does the writer have to say about the theme beyond here-it-is?
* Is there anything fresh and surprising in the story?
* Does the language enhance the story and not distract from it?
* Does the story stick in the reader's mind long-term? Does it make the reader think about things?

If the writing advice you receive is not aimed in those directions, then it is probably bad advice. You don't necessarily have to hit all of those in every story, but the more you do, the more compelling your tale is likely to be.
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Moonvoice on Posting

moonvoice muses about posts and comments.  I'll copy the core questions here:

What sort of posts are you most likely to comment on?
And what sort of posts do you find yourself scrolling past?
Do you make the kind of posts that you are most likely to comment on?
Or do you make the kind of posts you are likely to scroll past in another's journal?
How important is the interactive aspect of LJ to you?
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On Market Salvation

This popped up in Facebook feed today, courtesy of Adam-Troy Castro.

Kudos to Mitchell Bard, who wrote, (I paraphrase), "Reagan was wrong. The nine most terrifying words in the english language are, 'I'm a libertarian and the market will save you.'"

It is especially true given the propensity of Libertarians and Republicans to remove what few checks and balances the free market has.
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Marriage in Iceland

I'm delighted to report the marriage of Prime Minister Johanna Sigurdardottir and Jonina Leosdottir.  *fanfare* *confetti* *birdseed*  Congratulations!  Many happy returns!

Icelandic Prime Minister Johanna Sigurdardottir, has married her long-term partner, making her the world’s first national leader with a same-sex spouse.

Ms Sigurdardottir, 67, married writer Jonina Leosdottir on Sunday, the day a new law took effect defining marriage as a union between two consenting adults regardless of sex.


In other news, Iceland has not fallen into the sea, the world has not come to an end, and heterosexual marriage has not suddenly metamorphosed into a cloud of vanishing soap bubbles.

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A request to the Universe...

Please stop breaking things in the heating/cooling system.  Your friendly neighborhood Bard requires refrigeration.

*sigh*

The repair crew has been here since before 9 AM.  They are still working on the machinery.  They are still finding things that don't work.  Positive thoughts and prayers are welcome.

On the bright side, the house is not a vegetable steamer today, as the weather is more reasonable.
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Poetry Fishbowl on Tuesday, July 6

This is an advance announcement for the July 6, 2010 Poetry Fishbowl. This time the theme will be "sociological science fiction."  (Sociological science fiction deals with soft sciences such as anthropology, psychology, and linguistics; and how technology impacts societies.) I'll be soliciting ideas for social scientists, unsocialized characters, aliens from unusual societies, things that make a culture unique, weird bits from historic cultures, things an alien might find bizarre about human culture, devices useful in social sciences, how biology shapes society, plot twists based on social sciences, plot lines where a previous writer went to a certain point but quit just when it was about to get interesting, alien societies, futuristic cultures, and poetic forms in particular. 

If you're interested, mark the date on your calendar, and please hold actual prompts until the "Poetry Fishbowl Open" post next week. Meanwhile, if you want to help with promotion, please feel free to link back here or repost this on your blog.

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Science and Pseudoscience

If you're willing to abuse science, you can make it seem to say almost anything.  Some people did a study substituting organic pesticides for chemical pesticides, and purported this as evidence that organic farming is not very Earth-friendly.  However, they conveniently ignored the fact that organic farming is not based on pesticides, but rather on healthy soil, robust crops, and other factors intended to prevent a pest problem from occurring in the first place.  So the study used a faulty parallel, which invalidates it.

Ironically, their conclusion did contain a good piece of advice.  “Consumers shouldn’t assume that because a product is organic it’s also environmentally friendly.” What they meant by this was that, according to their deliberately misconstructed experiment, you should use chemical pesticides and patronize businesses that do so.  What that line really means is that you should never just trust a word or a label, because organic purveyors might be misleading you too; many companies have taken up "greenwashing" to make their products seem more Earth-friendly than they really are in an attempt to deceive customers into buying their stuff. 

As much as possible, know where your food comes from and how it is actually raised; know where products come from and how they are made; understand the many green terms and labels, including the organizations that back them and their standards.  A label is only as good as the precision and honesty of the standards behind it.  Be suspicious, for the world is full of people who are paid to make you believe what is advantageous to them, not necessarily you.  Also be aware that if things are misused, including organic pesticides, they may not have the intended effect.

So, a flawed study may be invalid for its intended purpose, but may not be 100% useless.  You just might need to disassemble it in order to get the usable bits out.

Some useful labels seen on foods, household goods, & other products:
American Grassfed
Certified Biodegradable
Certified Humane Raised & Handled
Certified Organic (plus label guide)
Dolphin Safe (various)
Ecolabels Center (search various labels and parameters)
Energy Star
Fair Trade Certified
Green Label & Green Label Plus
Green Seal
Green America's Business Seal of Approval
Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED)
Sustainable Forestry Initiative label (for lumber)

Do you have any favorite labels that I missed?