Tips from a Blogger

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It used to be that you could only write an “opinion piece” if you were a regular contributor to a newspaper and had your own column. Social media now allows anyone to write what they want anywhere, anytime.  Short thoughts can be tweeted.   Daily events and pictures can be shared on Facebook. and more ambitious writers can start a blog.

Hmmmm.

Why would anybody want to write a blog? The comparison I can think of is not a very elegant one. Something is stuck in your mind and it wants out.  So perhaps you end up writing a school essay on a topic of your own choosing. In the act of putting down your thoughts and letting them out, something of your personality will inevitably emerge.

 

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A few tips:

–A blog writer has to be scrupulously honest, because readers will detect any insincerity or posturing.

–And if you hate “The Nutcracker” or “Swan Lake” or something else that everyone loves, just say so!

–At the same time  you are not in the business of writing about yourself and you need to safeguard your privacy, so no nakedness. There are good reasons why clothes were invented. Keep  confessions for your diary.

–You also have to remember that you are not writing a novel. You do have to tell a story to keep your readers wanting to know more.

–There are no restrictions on what you can write about. I was asked once, “Why don’t you write about advice?”  So I wrote a blog about why I don’t give advice.

–Simple, concrete everyday words are more potent than abstract ones or circumlocutions. But if only an esoteric word can adequately describe your thought then use it. Some readers will know the word; others will guess or look it up.

–Avoid empty-calorie words like awesome, amazing or terrific. Their meaning has evaporated from overuse. Shun clichés like: “To make a long story short” or “The tip of the iceberg” or “Putting the cart before the horse” and many, many others.

And, most important, you need to enjoy writing your blog.

(I sure do)

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Editor’s note: The word “blog” is a contraction of “weblog.”

 

Sing Out Birdies! (and the humans will follow)

Cuckoo

Cuckoo

Nightingale

 

From ancient times, birds have figured very prominently in all forms of human music. I think this is because the sounds they make are so much like musical trills, scales, arpeggios and even arias. Doesn’t the turtledove’s mournful cry resemble a musical lament?

Composers have featured birds individually and in whole flocks in their works, sometimes imitating them, other times incorporating actual recorded sounds and blending them in. Melodious calls like those of the nightingale, the cuckoo and the thrush are especially favored. One of Handel’s concerti is called “The Cuckoo and the Nightingale.” In Vaughan Williams’ “The Lark Ascending” a single violin flutters like a bird. And in Messiaen’s “Le Merle Noir” a flute and piano capture the sound of a blackbird. Cuckoo calls have also been used by Daquin and Vivaldi.

More prosaic birds also strut in some compositions: Haydn has a symphony called “The Hen”
in which an oboe does the clucking. And in Elgar’s “Owls” an owl-like sound recurs in the night.

Then there are the whole flocks of various birds appearing together. The 16th century musician Janequin composed “Le Chant des Oiseaux” (Birds’ Songs). Beethoven’s “Pastoral Symphony” features a storm followed by the sound of birds by a brook. But the most famous work about flocks of birds is Otterino Respighi’s “The Birds.” He went about collecting and recording various bird sounds and incorporated them into his composition.

A most subversive idea came to me as I thought about the concept of “birds singing.” Why do we believe that they are singing? A bird’s life is fraught with danger and necessity. At every moment, it needs to think of foraging for food while not becoming someone else’s food. A bird does not have the leisure and luxury of engaging in frivolous singing. For that you need calm, tranquility and serenity.

So here is my translation of their sophisticated language that sounds like song to us. (This is absolutely without evidence.)

Her to Him: Night is falling. The chicks are sleeping.
Come home.

Him to Her: Looking for more worms. Coming soon.

Her to Him: Watch out for the fluffy cat. It has become better at pouncing.

Early morning birds singing in unison: Get ready everybody. We are migrating this morning.

And at sundown. Omigod, the world is coming to an end!

Next time…More animals and classical music…..

 

Editors note: This video is not completely on point, but still a lot of fun.

Here’s a lovely rendition of The Lark Ascending

Comments on the Passing Scene #1

French President Emmanuel Macron

French President Emmanuel Macron

Editor’s note. From time to time, Simone sends us short commentary like the one below. We will publish the most interesting of these. These thoughts came in response to the Macron victory in the French election.

I am glad France has reversed course. I am glad Macron is pro-European. But why? oh why? couldn’t we do it here? Why do we have to put up with these Mafia criminals in the White House? And who will have the guts to sack them?

Our current resident makes Nixon look like a saint and George W like a genius. (and Marine Le Pen like a nuisance)

I guess we can thank our overly long campaign season and our electoral system for our woes.

Macron was a dark horse but perhaps will prove to be a good one.

Better or Worse (Part 2, a year later)

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Editor’s note…This is a guest post from Simone’s daughter, Dina

About a year ago, my mother and I were discussing things that had gotten better or worse in our lifetimes. This developed into a blog post about practical matters like service, medical care, and email. Recently we visited this topic again and looked at things that had gotten better or worse in the larger social and economic plane. Again we realized that in some areas we make progress; in others we lose ground, and in still others, we progress only to slide back.

Worse The issue of income disparity and the erosion of the middle class is an area where things have gotten worse in our lifetimes. Both the blue-collar and white-collar middle class have suffered loss of jobs and loss of job security. The middle-class dream of working hard, buying a house, taking vacations, and sending your kids to college is harder to attain today. Many jobs have been out-sourced overseas; unions have lost much of their power; housing and college have become much more expensive. At the same time, the famous one-percent controls a much larger proportion of the nation’s wealth than ever before. In economic opportunity, we have slid back.

Better We thought about women’s rights. Women have made huge strides. In my mother’s day, the only way to leave your parent’s home was to get married. Women did not simply go out and get an apartment and a job, which is more normal today.

Most women did not go to college and worked very often as secretaries, usually stopping after marriage. Generally their only choice if they did have a college degree was to be a teacher. Today, more women than men go to college. The law, medical and business schools are full of women. While still facing limitations at the highest levels, women have career opportunities that their mothers and grandmothers could not have imagined.

When I was a child if you went to the doctor the doctor was a man and the nurse was a woman. Today, very often, the doctor is a woman and, in a turn that has liberated men as well as women, the nurse is often a man.

The development of the birth control pill in the late 1960’s went far to liberate women and allow them to take control of their own lives. Today women tend to get married and have children later, and are free to use their early adulthood for education and to start their careers if they wish.

Better, then Worse In 1973, women gained the right to a legal and safe abortion. While abortion is a personal matter, the point really is to give women a choice. In this area we have slid back, as individual states have enacted many restrictions on the right to get an abortion. Today it is harder to get an abortion than it was in 1973.

Better Then we thought about gay rights where there has been enormous progress in our lifetimes. For a long time, homosexuality was not a topic that many heterosexuals were comfortable with or even understood. Gay people did not dare let their orientation be known; they risked losing their jobs or being attacked in the street. Same-sex marriage was allowed by certain jurisdictions only in 2004 when Massachusetts became the first state to legalize same-sex marriages and all the rights that come with them.

Gradually at first and then very rapidly, our society’s attitudes changed and opened.

And then, in June 2015, the Supreme Court made gay marriage the law of the land – a huge leap forward.

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Post-Scripts…..

An advance we never thought we would see – Obama

A regression we never thought we would see – Trump

I Object! (second publishing)

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If you are seeing this for the second time, we are sorry. Something went wrong with the first send
and want to be sure everyone got a copy…. -.ed

I object to the picture of a beautiful woman in a red dress seated at a banquet table with a painful smile pasted on her face. I object to her having to listen to the jokes of her husband which she has heard too many times. I object to her being displayed like a valuable diamond or a royal snuffbox. I object to her not being able to get up and say: “Please excuse me, I am tired of this farce.”

I also object to the picture of a Chinese woman equally imprisoned in her seat. She is probably tired and not enjoying her food but at least she does not have to smile endlessly. I object to the two men who dominate this picture.

I object to a hypocritical Republican Senate which has firebombed long standing Senate rules and practices in order to force-feed us their Supreme Court candidate. Judge Gorsuch will inflict severe damage on the American scene long after most of these cynical Senators are gone.

I object to a hypocritical man who bemoans the fate of “beautiful babies” whose parents he will not admit into the United States.

I object to the abominable fact that we were denied an intelligent and competent woman president because a Russian barricade stopped her at the gate.

I object to the very existence of the man in the Oval Office.