|30 September 2012 ~ Ephemera |
I have saved a great deal of paper by printing drafts of my writing on sheets that have already been used on one side. Fortunately I have a printer that copes well with this recycling; many other models get constant jams. (It's a Kyocera Mita FS1010 bought over ten years ago because it was reported to be designed to last.)
Every so often I trawl through old files looking for more paper. Today I found a number of pages that I will post here under the new Ephemera heading. I have long liked that word, both the way it sounds and the idea of it being adopted by librarians from the study of insects, where ephemera refers to species in which the adult forms have very brief lives.
I have added the first two items, a spoof list of adult education classes and a Form Response Form, with which to critique an official document. More will follow and I will also list some of the items already posted , that would otherwise only be found by trawling through the archives.
25 September 2012 ~ It Pays to Challenge Energy Bill Direct Debit Increases
I posted this today on Money Saving Expert.
An EDF meter reader came last week. A few days later I got an email to say our combined bill for gas and electricity was on line. The bill included an announcement that the direct debit was going up from £41 to £46 per month, a 14% increase despite the account being £48 in credit. I did the maths. Based on last year’s use of energy and current unit prices, the projected total was £409. EDF’s increased direct debits meant an annual total of £564, or just over £612 when the existing credit is added.
I rang and challenged the increased monthly payments and was told immediately they would remain at £41. Why the increase in the first place? Because so many customers let energy companies take them for a ride. If my rise is typical, that means millions of times £200 of cash for the major suppliers to play with.
One other point, the bill covers five A4 pages and still lacks the kind of clarity that would make it easier to see that the increase is rapacious. The bill needed no more than three pages to make quite plain what the position was, had that been the intention of the company.
22 September 2012 ~ Erythrotrichophilia
You won’t have seen erythrotrichophilia before because I just made it up by adding a Greek word for red, erythro, to trichophilia, a recognised term for a hair fetish. I thought the red hair fetish might already have a fancy name, but if so my Googling has not found it.
What prompted the search was the visit yesterday to the Tate to see the Pre-Raphaelite Exhibition. I was already aware that several Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood paintings featured women with red hair. A number of their models including Elizabeth Siddal, Fanny Cornforth and Alexa Wilding had red hair and perhaps others achieved redness with Henna.
What surprised me at the exhibition was to find that three members of the PRB had portrayed Christ as a carrot top – Millais in Christ in the Carpenter’s Shop, Holman Hunt’s Finding of the Saviour in the Temple, and Ford Maddox Brown’s Jesus Washing Peter's Feet.
I am not aware of any tradition for gingering up Jesus or other characters from the New Testament other than Mary Magdalene and Judas. Mary M’s locks represented wantonness and Judas’s red was meant to suggest he was evil.
At least Holman Hunt, who had traveled in the Holy Land, must have been aware that most of the inhabitants had dark hair and were olive skinned if not darker. So what was going on?
It might have been a homo-erotic extension of a fetish for red hair. More likely I think is the desire to make Jesus more British. Some evidence for this comes from a critic at the time the carpenter shop painting was first exhibited. “But this painful display of anatomical knowledge, and studious vulgarity of portraying the youthful Saviour as a red-headed Jew boy...”
While the accuracy of the hair is questionable, why complain about Jesus looking Jewish?
The remark reminds of where I saw my most Aryan depiction of Jesus – pure blond locks and beard and blue eyes. It was thirty-four years ago in a Mississippi diner staffed by and, at least while I was there, patronised only by white people.
18 September 2012 ~ The Innocence of Muslims
A group asking for respect for what it holds dear is more likely to be taken seriously if it shows respect and tolerance for others. A major failing in this respect within the Islamic world is the promotion of libels against Judaism. The claims are preposterous and all too familiar to those who know the history of anti-Semitism. The same history also teaches that the gullible are provoked by such stories to terrible acts of violence.
16 September 2012 ~ Hillsborough Independent Report
The publication last week of the report of the Hillsborough Independent Panel stirs many thoughts and feelings. I begin with homage to the families and their supporters who persevered in their protests at the cover up, and the work of the Independent Panel. What should follow with minimal delay is justice for perjurers and those who otherwise abused public office, accountability that I hope will help bring closure to grieving protracted and barbed by so many lies.
Given the success of the independent inquiry and the degree of corruption exposed, the government must give serious consideration to further investigations led by people trusted by the members of the public most concerned and with briefs to heed the questions raised by those who have lost loved ones. A consultative approach has been one of the strengths of the Hillsborough Independent Panel. Families of those who died at the stadium have spoken about the Panel making them feel that the issues and questions relatives raised were taken seriously for the first time.
Two further independent inquires I would like to see relate to the deaths of Army personnel at Deepcut Barracks and what happened during the investigations that followed the Lockerbie Bombing, including what led to the pinning of the blame on the Libyans and events surrounding the release of Megrahi. Both Deepcut and Lockerbie have been contentious and have the whiff of cover-up about them. There are also grieving families with deep concerns about what has and has not been revealed.
I am not a fad of conspiracy theories and have often wondered about the mental health of some who peddle them. However, history teaches us that powerful people can be mendacious and prone to use scapegoats when it suits their interests. In both of the cases put forward for a public inquiry, families and journalists have expressed concerns over time about the perversion of justice.
The Independent on 13.9.12 has an excellent article by John Cooper QC under the headline The outcry over Hillsborough won't stop this happening again. Among other things, Professor Copper says:
"Governments and politicians, departments of state, army generals and other impressive offices automatically receive respect. Yet each will protect its own, each is capable of whitewashes often performed as an excuse for maintaining public confidence and trust."
13 September 2012 ~ Novellas, Novels and Word Counts
I finished my first novella today, A Life Reviewed. It started out as a short story of 8500 words, which is far too long for most short story competitions. One option that occurred to me was expanding it into a novel. The idea of a novella only arose after finding a competition run by Shakespeare & Company and the De Groot Foundation for novellas. Entries had to have more than 17,000 words and less than 35,000. The entry I posted had over 23,000.
The numbers might not mean much to some so here are some examples of well known shorter "novels" with their word counts.
49,459 – Slaughterhouse-Five
54,243 – The Hours
58,428 – The Wind in the Willows
59,635 – Black Beauty
59,900 – Lord of the Flies
Towards the upper end are:
455,125 – The Lord of the Rings
587,287 – War and Peace
However, Samuel Richardson’s Clarissa is not much short of a million words and there are longer novels.
Having finished the novella, I was curious about what other than word count defined the form. I found there is not lot of agreement even on length, with the range starting as low 10,000 words and going up to 70,000, an upper that would include The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. It’s not much of an over-simplification of the theorizing to say that a novella is longer than a short story and tends to have less detail that a novel. The problem for those who seek to define the novella is that every generalisation has its exceptions. A brief review of modern literary theories concerning the novella can be found in an on line pdf journal article by Elizabeth Langemak.
Joe Fassler claimed the novella “has been the ugly stepchild of the literary world” because “Publishers like short stories, and they love novels. But when a writer submits a mid-length work that falls somewhere between two genres, booksellers balk and editors narrow their eyes.”
I agree in part. Many novellas would be too long for a magazine that is happy to include short stories. But why would a publisher not want to print a smaller book? They already often do this poetry. Many novellas have sold well and not simply because the people buying them thought they were novels. E.g.
Of Mice and Men
The Heart of Darkness
One Day In the Life of Ivan Denisovich
The Call of the Wild
A Clockwork Orange
The Old Man and the Sea
The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde
A Christmas Carol
11 September 2012 ~ Threats vs. Reasoned Argument
Tom Holland’s Islam: The Untold Story was on Channel 4 two weeks ago. I found it an intelligent and sensitive exploration of the largely undocumented period between the death of Mohammed and the emergence of an Arab empire. It raises questions about when Islam arose and at what point Mecca became central to Muslims.
Today comes news of threats against Tom Holland.
I am sure many Muslims responded calmly to the programme. Some, like certain Christian fundamentalists, will let nothing dent their faith. And perhaps more intellectual Muslims understand that scholarship doesn’t turn away its light because some people don’t like the basis of their beliefs to face scrutiny.
What worries me are further threats of violence from rabid Muslims. I did not find their threats against Salman Rushdie acceptable, nor do I find them acceptable in the case of Tom Holland. I value free speech and it is not free if one constantly has to worry about offending religious believers.
Tonight comes news of a near riot in Cairo over a film that offends Islam, except no one seems to know the name of the film. This is even more stupid that protesting against The Satanic Verses without reading it.
Islam: The Untold Story can be viewed at http://www.channel4.com/programmes/islam-the-untold-story/4od
9 September 2012 ~ Short Stories as Cats
Granta published an anthology of Irish short stories in 2010 edited and introduced by Anne Enright, whose novel “The Gathering” is one of the finest I have read. I very much enjoyed her introduction to the anthology. She says thoughtful things about short stories as art, has a number of apt quotes on the topic and something to say about why Ireland punches well above its weight in terms of producing those who excel at the art.
She has a line of her own about short stories that tickled my fancy. “They are the cats of literary form; beautiful, but a little too self-contained for some readers' taste.”
Putting this into Google just now confirmed it is well on its way to becoming a widely used quote.
5 September 2012 ~ Goodbye to Paid Work
The main reason for not writing this month until now is work that I will finish tomorrow. The assignment has been interesting. I have been interviewing people in the NHS, local government and the voluntary sector about what is working and what is needed in a range of services for people with HIV as part of a major regional review.
One impetus for the review is the way HIV treatment and sound self-management by those with the virus means that providers are having to think about the growing numbers of people living with HIV who are and will be elderly.
Despite the topic being interesting and the people interviewed having a level of expertise that is educational, the time the work takes from writing and reading is frustrating. Among other things, I have a stack of short story anthologies to read.
For some time, rather than seeking assignments I have merely accepted ones offered to me with a reasonable rate for intellectual day labour. Today I decided to take the next step, and decline work. I am fortunate to have a pension that most young people these days can only dream of. Which is just as well as I don't expect to make money from my writing.