Football And Life

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Quote for the Week

Football can dominate the Thanksgiving holidays to the extent that dinner is built around half time in a lot of homes. I know we usually have the Dallas game as soundtrack to the festivities. There are pro games and college games, and, here in Texas, high school playoff games that color our lives.

Then, there are movies about football and football players like The Blind Side starring Sandra Bullock which we saw yesterday. I've thought a lot about that movie, but I'll talk about it more in a bit. For now, here's the quote for the week which is inspired, of course, by football.

Joe Namath said: "Football Is an honest game. It's true to life. It's a game about sharing. Football is a team game. So is life."

What Broadway Joe said is what the movie is all about: life being a team game. The movie is great entertainment and touching because it's a true story. It also emphasizes the point that we all need a team in life to help us through the dark times. The amazing thing about the story of Michael Oher is that this amazing young man doesn't seem to have any bitterness in his heart for the events of his early life.
Says Oher: "I don't dwell on anything. I'm not going to feel sorry for myself because I didn't have a place to stay a lot of time.

Mr. Oher said: "It is what it is. We've got to go through some things in life. Take it and run with it." That doesn't mean he's forgotten all that he endured. It means he won't allow it to define himself as a person.

The other fascinating thing about the story of him and the Tuohy family is that timing played such an important role in what happened. If he hadn't gone to the school with the family friend who was trying to get his own son into the school. If he hadn't been forced onto the streets. If he hadn't been at that bus stop that snowy evening. If the Tuohy family hadn't been driving by. If he'd worn a coat rather than a tee shirt and shorts.

If, if, if. So many things had to align for Leigh Anne and Sean Tuohy to see this kid who needed a coat. The Tuohy family stopped and brought him inside their warm car and out of the weather. How many saw him and didn't stop?

Today, Michael Oher has a bright and prosperous future. No one gave him that. He created it with help from a family that just couldn't stand to see a kid on the street without a coat on a cold, wet night. I'm always reminded of what some wise person said: "Coincidence is God's way of remaining anonymous."

Michael Oher knows that life requires team effort. He says he can't pass a homeless person on the street without digging into his pocket and offering money because: "I know how hard it is."

Be sure and see this movie. It'll make you cry, not because of cheap sentimentality, but because of the truth it hammers home about the struggles so many are faced with. You'll cry for what Michael endured and cry again for his triumph of the human spirit.

Takeaway Truth

We should all strive to be MVP on the team game of life. Who knows what differences we could make and what we could contribute if we just remember to protect and support the team?

Thankfulness

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On this day of Thanksgiving, I'd like to quote William Shakespeare:

O Lord that lends me life,
Lend me a heart replete with thankfulness.

I'm thankful for all of you who read this blog. I hope I occasionally reach the lofty goals I have set for SlingWords: to entertain, educate, and enlighten.

Takeaway Truth

May you enjoy the opportunity to reflect on a life that is, I hope, blessed in many ways.

National Book Awards

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Since 1950, the National Book Awards Ceremony and Dinner have been held each year. They are this country's highest literary prizes. Awards are given to recognize achievements in four genres: Fiction, Nonfiction, Poetry, and Young People's Literature. Winners are selected by a five-member, independent judging panel for each genre. A cash prize of $10,000 and a crystal sculpture are presented to the winners.

This year, the winners of the 60th Annual National Book Awards were announced Thursday. A round of applause to the winners.

Fiction

Let The Great World Spin by Colum McCann

Nonfiction

The First Tycoon (Biography of Cornelius Vanderbilt) by T. J. Stiles

Young People's Literature

Claudette Colvin by Phillip Hoose

Poetry

Transcendental Studies: A Trilogy by Keith Waldrop

Takeaway Truth

I can always tell how stressed, time-pressed, and tiring my year was by counting how many award-winning books I read. This year, the tally is zero.

Give It Up For Romance

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Romance writers have to be feeling pretty smug about now. During this recession, sales of just about every genre of fiction and nonfiction suffered except for romance.

The NYT reported several weeks past that "sales of romance novels are outstripping most other categories of books...." Further, they said that Harlequin Enterprises reported 4th quarter earnings that were up 32% over the same time period last year.

We romance writers and readers have always known that romance fiction is the best entertainment at a price point that's affordable regardless of the economy. Today's romance fiction is well-written with good characterization, good plotting, and features the kind of committed relationships most of the civilized world wants.

Oldest, Shortest Formula For Novel

A lot of critics of romance fiction (who usually have never read an actual romance novel) say that romance writing is formulaic. I guess they're correct in that the oldest formula in the world for a novel, any novel, is: an appealing character struggles against great odds to achieve a worthy goal. Romance writers hit that "formula" the way the Babe, Hammerin' Hank, or Barry Bonds applied wood to a fast ball.

Takeaway Truth

Popular fiction may be denigrated by the few, but, fortunately, it's appreciated by the millions. I write it. I read it. I adore it.

Don't Compare

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Quote for the Week

I'm trying to go through mountains of printed material in an effort to clean up my office. I jot things down and print things out and lay them aside to use in the future. Consequently, I end up with bits and pieces of stuff floating around.

Today's quote is one such example. I don't know from where the quote came, but it's lying here. I've read it several times and had saved it because I thought it was full of wisdom.

Richard Bausch offered this wisdom.

"Don't compare yourself to anyone, and learn to keep from building expectations. People develop at different rates, with different results, and luck is also involved. Your only worry for yourself should be did I work today? Be happy for the success of your friends, because good fortune for one of us is good fortune for all of us.... You will never write anything worth keeping if you allow yourself to give in to petty worries over whether you are treated as you think you deserve, or your rewards are commensurate to the work you've done. That will almost never be the case, and the artist who expects great rewards and complete understanding is a fool."

Takeaway Truth

Heed this good advice, and you'll be saner, more successful, and much happier.

At Ft. Hood, Day Is Done

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(Click here to listen to TAPS.)

Yesterday, the memorial service honoring the fallen at Fort Hood concluded with the playing of Taps. The bugle notes of this melancholy tune always touch me. Today is Veteran's Day, and I found myself thinking about the ceremony yesterday and about Taps. Who wrote that melody? Who penned the lyrics?

Butterfield's Lullaby

Officially known as Butterfield's Lullaby, Taps is also called Day Is Done because of the lyrics of its second verse. It's always played by the U.S. military during flag ceremonies and funerals, usually on a trumpet or bugle.

Rest Of The Story

Though Taps was once thought to have been composed entirely by Union Army Brigadier General Daniel Butterfield, commander of the 3rd Brigade of the 1st Division in the V Army Corps of the Army of the Potomac, that theory was laid to rest in 1977 by Russell H. Booth in his magazine article Butterfield and Taps.

In the article, Booth wrote that an earlier form of the Taps melody, which Booth called Scott Tattoo to differentiate it from several other nineteenth century bugle calls known as Tattoos, was published in musical notation in an American military manual, published in 1835 by Major General Winfield Scott. The Scott Tattoo itself was probably derived from other earlier military bugle calls whose origins have been lost in time.

Butterfield's Contribution

In any event, General Butterfield, in July 1862 at Harrison's Landing, Virginia, in the midst of the Civil War, wanted a new bugle call. According to Booth's article, he knew General Scott's manual, and he knew how to sound bugle calls so he probably knew what is now being called the Scott Tattoo. History shows that he requested help from a bugler in adjusting the pitch and timing of notes for a new call.

The new song replaced the traditional French bugle call that signaled lights out. Oliver W. Norton, of Erie, Pennsylvania, was Butterfield's bugler and the first to sound the new call. Within months, Taps was used by both the Union and Confederate armies.

Lyrics

Originally, Taps was instrumental only. Over the years, several people have written lyrics to the melody. Of those, I think the first lyrics, written by Horace Lorenzo Trim, fits best. The first line of the second verse gave rise to the other familiar name for Taps, Day Is Done.

Fading light dims the sight
And a star gems the sky, gleaming bright
From afar drawing nigh,
Falls the night.

Day is done, gone the sun
From the lakes, from the hills, from the run
All is well, safely rest;
God is nigh.

Then goodnight, peaceful night;
Till the light of the dawn shineth bright.
God is near, do not fear,
Friend, goodnight.


My heart is heavy with sorrow for those lost at Fort Hood last week and for those lost in wars far from home. I knew some of you. I thank all of you for your sacrifice.

Takeaway Truth

For veterans and for those on active duty, may God bless and keep you and your loved ones. Day is done.

A Lifetime In A Day

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Quote for the Week

"Life is short. The day is long." That's what Harl Delos, one of my frequent readers and commenters said in a recent post on his blog Canthook.

This thought held resonance for me as I read the newspaper accounts of the tragedy at Fort Hood this week. Life truly is short, and we never know when the end may come.

Yet, the day is long and offers us a chance, every minute of every hour, to offer friendship, to live with joy, to help others, to mend fences, to celebrate life, to work toward a worthy goal, to grant or request forgiveness. Each day, take the opportunity to make your own personal universe better.

Takeaway Truth

At the end of a day or a lifetime, can you take comfort and be at peace, knowing that you did what you could to leave the world a better place?

Hold Tight by Harlan Coben

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I picked up the paperback edition of Hold Tight by Harlan Coben last week. I've been reading nothing but nonfiction lately so I needed a fiction fix. Unfortunately, I made the mistake of starting it when I was riding home from the high school art competition on Saturday. Big mistake.

As a result, the family had leftovers Saturday night because I didn't want to put the book down. Even worse, I stayed up all night to finish it because once I was on that accelerating train, I couldn't put it down even though the subject matter, parental fear about the many things that can destroy a teen's life, isn't one of my favorite things to read. There's just too much crap in real life that can entrap a teen and destroy lives so it's not my idea of a fun entertainment.

Pushed My Buttons

I'll confess the book pushed my buttons beginning with the back cover quote from the New York Times: "A thriller for the Google era." Yep. That did it. Ring up the sale. I like technological thrillers and mind-expanding ideas, and I usually learn something from them.

The interesting thing is that the book is a slow build. Sure, it begins with a hook that's just plain good writing. That leads to a horrific scene that let's you know real fast what you're in for yet it's nowhere near as graphic as any of the TV shows dealing with forensic evidence and crime scenes.

Then the story unfolds with increasing tension as a normal man copes with situations beyond his experience. A novel is characterized by rising motion, and this certainly can be described that way. You get locked into this man's emotional agony, and you root for him to save his kid.

My Only Quibble

I'm not a big fan of coincidence which figures prominently in the book. I know the author was reaching for the subtlety of "6 degrees of separation" rather than coincidence. The average reader probably saw it as "6 degrees." We writers are just a more critical bunch, a fact which I wish wasn't true since it takes away some of the pleasure of reading.

You'll like the normal relationships expressed by the husband and wife who "star" in the book, and you'll be glad it's them going through the parental trial by fire, not you.

Takeaway Truth

Nothing beats a good book for engrossing entertainment, and Hold Tight is certainly that.

Enid Bagnold & National Velvet

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The book National Velvet by Enid Bagnold was probably responsible for more girls wanting to ride horses than any other book that comes to mind. The late Ms. Bagnold in her autobiography titled simply Enid Bagnold's Autobiography had something great to say about writing as a career.

Who wants to become a writer? And why? Because it's the answer to everything. To "Why am I here?" To uselessness. It's the streaming reason for living. To note, to pin down, to build up, to create, to be astonished at nothing, to cherish the oddities, to let nothing go down the drain, to make something, to make a great flower out of life, even if it's a cactus.

Takeaway Truth

That's pretty much it in a nutshell.

Keeping Writing Contemporary

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I'm fascinated by some of the things you can do with technology. In writing. I think we need to stay up on the latest technologies so we don't make dumb mistakes in our plotting. There are all kinds of communication devices as well as ways of hiding information in today's world.

Steganography

Steganography is the art/science of creating hidden messages so that only the sender and the recipient can read the message. A recent episode of the TV series Bones featured steganography as a plot device.

Actually, this isn't a modern day invention. The word is from the Greek meaning concealed writing, and the first recorded use of the word was by Johannes Trithemius in his Steganographia in 1499. His work was a treatise on cryptography and steganography and was disguised as a book on magic.

The way it works is that the secret messages appear to be something else entirely, i.e., pictures, articles, or some other mundane text. Old school ways were to use invisible ink between the visible lines of a private letter. If you were a kid into reading kid mysteries, you know you dip a pen in lemon juice and writ on paper. You can't see the writing until you apply heat to the page. That was similar to the principle used in the movie National Treasure where a treasure map was on the back of the Declaration of Independence.

If that gets your imagination working and you want to learn more about steganography, watch the lecture. It's fascinating.

Takeaway Truth

A writer must write for the culture in which he/she lives. Even the world we inhabited 10 years ago is far different from today.

Titles With Panache

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I enjoy reading through my different writers' publications and seeing who is publishing what. Here or a few titles that are so intriguing or weird that they make me want to read the book.

The Pleasures And Sorrows Of Work by Alain de Botton is kind of an adult version of Richard Scarry's kid classic What Do People Do All Day. The author said that he wanted to explore a subject that most novels overlook. people who go to work. Most novels deal with people who are in emotional upheaval.

The Guernsey Literary And Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows would be on the short list for an award for the longest and oddest title should such an award be given.

The winner of the British Prize for the Oddest Book Title of the year would have to be The 2009-2014 World Outlook for 60-Milligram Containers of Fromage Frais by Philip M. Parker. That certainly sounds like exciting reading, doesn't it?

Last but not least is Yoga For People Who Can't Be Bothered To Do It by Geoff Dyer. Of course, I already have a couple of books on yoga that I can't be bothered to read as well as 2 or 3 DVDs on the subject that I can't be bothered to watch.

Takeaway Truth

Titles matter. Great titles cause readers to take note, and that leads to book sales.

Here's A Trick That's A Treat

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If you've been at a big box store Customer Service Returns counter lately, you've probably seen big signs that say "No Returns On Any Halloween-related Items." Even if it's not opened, most of these stores won't let you return a costume. Even costume exchanges aren't allowed I presume.

Different stores have different policies on what they will or won't accept back. If you're like me, and most other shoppers, you never read that Return Policy sign until you're standing in line at the Refund counter. A lot of unpleasant surprises happen while in that line. Is there anything more upsetting that realizing you can't even get an in-store credit for some expensive item you bought and then had to return because it didn't fit or didn't match or you just changed your mind?

Costume-Returns

Make it easy on yourself. Visit Costume-Returns.com. They have lists posted of what can be returned to the store and what can't. Actually, the website is a resource with some good advice about costume purchases. Read it before you buy for a costume party or Halloween event. They can help you get the costume that's right for you, and it can be one that's timeless. Some costumes can be worn over the years because they never really go out of style.

Takeaway Truth

The Internet can help you make the most of your spending dollar in even when it comes to buying fancy dress costumes.

Digital Rights Management

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A few days ago on my other blog, I reviewed a new Internet product that writers might find useful. One of my readers commented and recommended My DRM (Digital Rights Management)Space.com, leaving a link to a video on YouTube.

I think this may be something a lot of writers, artists, and musicians would be interested in. Of course, in the end it's practically impossible to protect your work completely, but I guess it makes us feel better to try.

MyDRMSpace

This is an Internet site where you can sign your multimedia with invisible and inaudible ID in order to claim ownership of it. You can also add hidden comments into the signed multimedia files.

Digital Rights Management

In case you don't know very much about DRM, here's the gist of the subject. DRM is a generic term for access control technologies that can be used by hardware manufacturers, publishers, copyright holders and individuals in an effort to place limitations on the way digital content and devices are used.

Generally, DRM describes any technology which inhibits uses (legitimate or otherwise) of digital content that previously had not been envisioned by the content provider. It usually doesn't refer to other forms of copy protection which can be circumvented without having to modify the file or the device, i.e., serial numbers or keyfiles. It also can refer to restrictions associated with specific instances of digital works or devices. Music production companies like Sony, Apple, etc. us DRM.

As with anything designed to limit use, DRM has its plaintiffs as well as its defendants. Those in favor of it say it's needed to protect copyright holders from unauthorized duplication of their work else the term starving artist will be a self-fulfilling prophecy.

In This Corner

Those opposed to it, for one example, the Free Software Foundation, say the word "rights" shouldn't be used because it's misleading. They want you to use the term "digital restrictions management." They think copyright holders restrict use of copyrighted material in ways not covered by existing laws, nor should such restrictions be covered by future laws.

Climbing On My Soapbox

Of course, all of us who create from our imaginations and depend on the resulting work to provide a living for us think those people don't know what the heck they're talking about. What they're really saying is just work your butt off for X number of years in writing books, music, etc. then just give it away to whoever wants to copy it for free, post it for free, turn around and make income off it some way that cuts the artist out completely.

I guess our only recourse would be to go on welfare if we can't make a living doing this or to just quit doing it and go get some other job since we can't earn a living from our words, art, or music.

Analog Hole

All of the popular DRM systems are eventually defeated some way or other because of the inevitable analog hole aka analog loophole. That's a term made popular by some of the members of the Motion Picture Association of America during legislative advocacy hearings in 2002.

The term created its own controversy after those in the industry started abbreviating it to "a. hole." you can probably understand the allusion without my explaining it. Now they call it analog reconversion problem or issue which doesn't roll off the tongue nearly as easily.

What Is It?

The analog hole is a fundamental vulnerability in copy protection for non-interactive works in digital formats. Those works eventually must be converted to a human-perceptible form, that's analog. Once in analog form, it's easy to then digitally recapture the work.

Back To The Soapbox

Would you go to your local Walmart and shoplift a book or a CD or DVD? Of course not. That's stealing.

If you go to a website and download a book or album that's posted there without the content creator's permission, then that's stealing too. You're taking food from the mouth of some hard working artist somewhere. Recognize that and teach it to your children.

Takeaway Truth

To earn from artistic efforts, the general population needs to respect the time and hard work spent in creating products from nothing but their imaginations and the energy in their brains. Recognize that copying without permission is stealing.

November

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Quote for the Week

English poet and humorist Thomas Hood wrote:

No shade, no shine, no butterflies, no bees,
No fruits, no flowers, no leaves, no birds, - November!

Though that may describe much of this country in November, Texas is an exception to that bleak commentary.

On most days, the sun shines brightly in a sky the color of a robin's egg. I saw a couple of monarch butterflies flitting around the blooming lantana this past week, and most of the trees still possess their leaves. Of course, the pesky hackberry by the driveway is doing its best to carpet the stretch of concrete beneath it, but, then, it molts something or other the year round.

Fat doves that escaped hunting season cheerfully peck around my patio. The family of bluejays is still in residence, and millions of blackbirds land in the trees lining the block at least once a day. Those I could do without. Their raucous noise disturbs my writing enough that sometimes I have to go outside and clap my hands to get them to move on down the street to another clump of trees.

Takeaway Truth

Ideally, we'd all winter in Hawaii, but I've never been able to afford to do that so I'll take Texas in autumn and winter over any other state you can name.