Monday, March 14, 2016

Saint Patrick's Music

Looking forward to doing some picking and singing on March 17th.  Will be playing for our community along with friend Herb on banjo.

Planned some toasts and fun games for the celebration.  Have to explain "craic" to my neighbors


Monday, February 29, 2016

Rights? Whose?

What are 'rights' anyway?  Webster takes a crack at an answer with; "Conforming with or conformable to law, justice, or morality.  Being in accord with fact, reason or truth."  So one might assume that those who purport to be Christians might have some sense of morality, justice and truth.  History suggests otherwise.

My major work in progress, a historical novel set in the late 17th century in Ireland, the Caribbean, and America, revisits the denial of rights to the native born people of those lands. From the endless schism between Catholic and Protestant in England and Ireland, to the impact of European invaders to the western hemisphere, denial of rights to the indigenous has been rampant. 

From even before Strongbow and the Norman invasion, through Oliver Cromwell and his new model army to continuing strife in modern Ulster, Irish Catholics have been denied rights.  Early laws set by invaders denied Irish ownership of land that was already theirs for generations, or even the right to sell a horse for a fair price. They could neither govern nor vote for or against those who did govern. The planting of Scottish protestants in Ulster started rebellions, civil wars and diaspora of Irish Catholic population.  'Adventurers', as they were called, financed many of the wars of the English Kings, (and 'Lord Protectors if you include Cromwell), were repaid with grants of Irish land and dwellings.  Rightful owners were evicted.  Resistors were imprisoned.

Cromwell demanded the eviction of all Irish Catholics to the rocky land west of the Shannon River.  Refusal led to enslavement.  The Irish had no rights in their own land.

Concurrently across the sea in the Americas, similar tyranny was happening.  Land generously given to white settlers was never enough.  Indigenous people were ultimately driven from their lands.  some times by force and sometimes with empty promises disguised in treaties that were usually broken. Native people lost control of their own existence as more white invaders flooded into America to escape tyranny in Europe.  And true to form, Andrew Jackson followed Cromwell's lead, ignored all previous treaty promises and banished Southeastern woodland tribes to west of the Mississippi.

Again, indigenous people had no control of their futures.  And the inequities continue even today.  Some tribal people are to this day struggling to gain even the basic rights that we who call ourselves 'Americans' take as a given.  Native people were not even considered citizen of the country until well into the 20th century.   The rights granted by treaties have been violated again and again.  Poverty stricken Reservation communities still campaign for donations to keep their families fed.     Basic human rights should not be denied to anyone, but particularly the people we invaded, stole land from, and lied to over and over.

America should be ashamed.

Monday, February 1, 2016

Sick of the Polls

The so called 'news' on TV these days, with all the debates and poll results are so tiresome.  No one talks about the statistical validity of their polls.  The average person who makes political decisions based on what they see on TV likely would neither listen nor comprehend how polls are conducted.  What is the universe of the data?  What demographic was polled?  How large was the sample?  What is the margin of error?  Is the result cumulative, the mean, the mode, or the median?

To get current worldly news, you must go to an alternative source like the BBC, or other international sources

I realize that this appears to be erudite ranting, but I don't have the confidence that people who go to the election polls really understand the process.  A couple of points to keep in mind when you go to vote:

  • In the primaries, you might think you are voting for the candidate, when in reality you are voting for the delegate that will vote for the candidate at the parties convention.
  • At the convention, many delegates are committed to their candidate only on the first ballot, or for a limited number of ballots.  Then they can change their vote to support someone who you might have opposed in the primaries. Or the delegates can place the name of a 'favorite son' from their state who didn't even participate in the primaries. The party conventions are a Political carnival.  And understand that not only the Democrats and Republican are convening, so are the Green party, The Libertarians, and other obscure political interests.  And their names might well be on the ballot come November
  • Even after the party's nominee is chosen at the convention and runs in the general election in November, the ultimate choice of a President is in the hands of the Electoral College.  So it is possible for a candidate to get a majority of the popular vote and still lose the election.
I'm no expert.  Your neighborhood Political Science professor can explain the process much better than I am able.  All I am saying is, 'Do your homework, Americans'  Understand and participate in the process.  Go to the polls and vote according to your values and not based on what you hear in the media.   You can make a difference. 

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Random Notes on Human Commitment

Trying to establish some sense of order to my messy (yet creative) work space, some old notes  on commitment surfaced.
Commitment is another of those weird words in our weird language.  It can mean anything from being bound emotionally or intellectually to an ideal, passion, or course of action, to being sent to prison or a mental institution. Be cautious to establish a core context before plopping 'commitment' into your writing.  Use of the word can make a subjective piece even more subjective.

Commitment to what is right or what is necessary?  Commitment to what is expected or what is acceptable?   Commitment to strong held, internalized personal standards might well label you as a radical.  And an opportunist's commitment to what you can get away with in a competitive society might label you as a success.

So it becomes quite difficult to establish a sense of strong human commitment in today's world when:

  • Wealth is achieved by finding the loopholes in tax laws.
  • Corporations spend more on ads and P.R. than on employee benefits
  • We choose presidents in the farcical world of polls, primaries and the carnival of political conventions where the votes of the people are given to delegates to cast (or barter). And then the 'Electoral College' does the final picking.
  • More money is spent on cosmetics and pet food than on eliminating poverty, pollution and disease.
  • Where Athletes earn more than scientists, comedians more than teachers, and rockers and rappers more than social workers.
  • Morality is preached and the exploitation of immorality is profitable.
  • The government pays farmers not to farm and workers not to work, but ostracizes pacifists who won't fight, or free thinkers who won't conform..
  • Kids spend more time with tablets and phones than with parents.
  • Synthetic has replaced aesthetic and function has replaced beauty.
So, commitment is tough, but not impossible.  Don't stop believing.

Monday, January 11, 2016

Anachronism vis a vis Misappropriation

Some chatter lately on the Historical Fiction Face Book page about concerns of 'avoiding anachronisms'.  Should writers avoid anachronisms?  Having spent a great deal of my career in organizational consulting, I would respond in a typical consultant response:  "It all depends."

What are you writing, and who are you writing for?  Are you writing a screen play for 'Back to the Future", or are you Mark Twain writing about a 'Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court'?  Then by all means go for the anachronism, it is the crux of the story.

If you are writing a well researched historical novel, and you want to be respectful to the period and the culture of the story, a misplaced object or phrase of dialog that is inappropriate to the time, will likely lose the readership of a serious reader of historical fiction.  And if the anachronism is foisted on an actual historical figure, then the 'insult' is doubled as a misappropriated piece of information.  Many historical fiction writers stay true to the history they have researched by introducing fiction about  characters that lived and wee impacted during the time of the story.  Even then, for the benefit of the reader, the story is told in modern terms with perhaps an occasional dialog phrase in the idiom of the period.

This has been a particular challenge in my current WIP book at several levels.  First, it deals with historical events that have not been broadly documented. (Irish slaves in the Caribbean in the 17th century, and the political turmoil during the English Civil War and the rise of the Roundheads, and how that spilled over to Barbados)  Second, the clash of culture and language during the European colonialism in the Americas. (Irish, English, Spanish, Dutch, French Huguenots, African, and Choctaw, Creek and Seminole).  Then there is the evolving technology, politics and economics of the times. (The very meaning of the word 'plantation' before it came to mean a 'place'.  In the 1600's it was a political and economic strategy  where investors in the war effort were rewarded with confiscated land and that land was 'planted' with foreigners to do the labor of making it profitable to the 'adventurer' [a term for the investor].  Also, the changing money crops in the Caribbean:  from indigo to cotton to sugar, all involving slaves.)  Also, I had written of mules pulling the wagons on the plantations, but learning through drilling into research that mules were not introduced until the next century.  So all my mules were replaced with Dutch draft horses.

So, if you are a serious writer of historical fiction and want to avoid anachronism and misappropriation, love your topic, do your homework, don't insult the culture, and (Avoid periods of European Colonialism!)