Thursday, December 31, 2009


A lot of my posts have been about politics, and I've decided I'd rather talk about something more fun- story.

I've been thinking about endings. It's very easy to talk about and analyze beginnings, but for endings you have to read the whole book first to really get them, so you'll end up with a lot of articles and discussion on opening sentences, the endings are a wee bit neglected. With exceptions, of course.

It just occured to me that this question is very fitting for the end of the calendar year. That wasn't why I was thinking about it, though.

So what is the purpose of an ending? Are you trying to satisfy readers or keep them wanting more? Tie up all the loose ends or introduce a surprise twist? There are many ways of writing a good ending, but what makes an ending good? And what should an ending be trying to accomplish?

When I used to write short stories in high school my teacher would ask me to fix the endings- she invariably would think that my ending was too abrupt and I left the reader hanging. I'd argue, but this is what the story needs! I wanted to leave some things ambiguous, let the reader be able to imagine variable endings. It's a fact that only established authors can get away with this, as in a tenth grader it looks like you just couldn't decide on the ending instead of an artistic choice, but I came to realize that a lot of times she was right and my ending did need something more, and there was usually a way to fill it out a bit without compromising my artistic deliberate ambiguity.

With novels it's harder, and the truth is, with all the novels I'm always trying to write, I have yet to reach an ending. I don't know what I will do when I get there- I have to think about what an ending is and what it should accomplish. It might depend on the book, true, but surely there's something all endings share. Does it vary so much between short stories and novels, do you think?

Now I just have to keep working long enough to write the middle...

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Obama's Nobel Speech- Some Thoughts on War and Peace and Society

I wanted to do a full analysis of Obama's speech, the transcript of which I just finished reading. But I haven't the time to do it justice at the moment. So a just a few thoughts and impressions here.

I will say that I was impressed. By his opening, by who he chose to quote and acknowledge (not who you'd necessarily expect), and by the issues he brought up and discussed. I like how he acknowledges the need to struggle against evil even though we cannot win in our lifetimes, and I like the fact that he uses his brain when he talks and his ideas are well thought out and presented- on both moral/ethical and intellectual grounds.

I think there were some issues that he did not bring up, and could have, maybe should have. But he chose to stick with the obvious topics pretty much throughout- although it was bold to give specific examples of countries that fell short. Not so PC but nothing too offensive to anyone either.

I'd need to do a lot of thinking before I figured out myself exactly where I think he's right and where I disagree. As he's obviously put a lot more thought into the subject of war and peace than I have. (Maybe that's as it should be, maybe not.)

Not everyone will agree with everything he says. But I do think that there should be people in the society who think differently from the leader of the society when it comes to issues like this. Let the leaders take the stance that's best for the whole world overall, if someone must. In general, it should be the job of individuals, not a leader, to be wholly anti-war and stand up for the individual lives that are destroyed in fighting. Only if you have those voices raised up, and heard, can you have a leader who argues, like Obama is doing, that some wars do need to be fought as a matter of conscience (and he said it very well).

I think sometimes you need people around who remind you of all sides, the collective and the individual rights and welfare, who can help society find the right balance for each situation. Every country's job is to set up a system in which the right things in that balance can happen; where no one person's plan of action blocks consideration of any other option.

I do like how he cites people from JFK to Nixon to a pope. It's kind of fascinating, how he works-it's like how he made a staff out of his electionary opponents (Biden, Clinton) and admires Reagan as a president despite how different they all are.

Here's a sampling of which words he used most frequently- can be telling sometimes. I saw elsewhere on the internet that he used the word war double the number of times he used peace- but I don't think it was quite that drastic, he used peace a lot too, and one cannot entirely forget context (not taking into account if he said something like, no more war, for example). But for what it's worth, and because wordles are lots of fun, take a look.

Wordle: Obama Nobel Acceptance Speech

Monday, December 14, 2009

Erasing Memory

At this appalling wee hour of the morning I came across the following on boingboing, which I haven't visited in quite some time and only stumbled across now after following the randomest of trails, true to the subtitle of this blog, but I will not enumerate the entire list of links explored now. Sometime I should track one of these trails of mine, though. What caught my attention was this:

Being able to rewrite the fear from a painful, emotional experience- selectively erasing bad memories. It might sound good to some- but to me, even if it works, without some terrible kind of side effect (and I imagine a side effect could be pretty bad) but still, I think it's a terrible idea, for all its shiny intriguiness. (new word there!) You're supposed to learn from bad experiences- to face your fears and overcome them! To grow as a person! The bad things were not meaningless, nothing in life is. Everything that happens to you is an oppurtunity to be used. Part of being human is facing experiences that scare you and push you out of your comfort zone.

If you can just erase all that by taking a pill or whatever then what was the point? What's the point of experiencing anything if you can just choose to erase it all afterwards? Will we start erasing all the bad decisions we make from our memories, so we literally have no regrets?

To me, this seems wrong. I wish they would think things through before trying ideas like this out on people. Progress for the sake of progress should not be the goal, and even when some advantages can be gained from it (helping people with severe PTSD from really horrible events no person should have to think about, I guess?) first you have to think about all the consequences, their implications, and the eventualities that stem from them. If not, humanity will suffer all the more.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

The Smile Domino Effect

I walk down the main walk on my college's campus, and people look up, smile, wave if they know me. My aunt went to this college many years ago- and when I tried to tell her how people are so friendly here, she snorted in disbelief. "NO way. Not the same college as I went to." How did it change? Is it just the particular students in my year?

What gives a group its character? Who is the first person to smile at someone else, who then smiles at someone else, so on and so forth until everyone is actually nice to each other? If I had scowled at someone the first day, and that put them in a bad mood and they scowled at someone else...could that have broken the chain and now I would be living in a scowly, unfriendly enviroment? One of my own (unconcious) making?

How responsible are we for the enviroment we live in? And how much of it is out of our power?