Lens-Artists Photo Challenge this week has the topic Checks or Stripes.
“Blogging is a medium of words,” says Fandango to introduce this week’s Provocative Question. “All of us who blog are wordsmiths. We use words almost exclusively to express ourselves, to tell our stories, to weave our tales, to write our poems, to help others to understand and possibly even appreciate our perspectives.
In the real world, words can take on different meanings depending on context, inflection, facial expressions, body language, and other countless factors. But in blogging, such visual cues are, for the most part, absent. Thus, the challenge of conveying your intended tone and the underlying meaning of what you write can be daunting. It gets down to the age old writer’s dilemma. Is the content what matters, or how the content is portrayed or presented?
So, as we are all writers who use words to paint pictures, my provocative question is simply this:
In the context of blogging and writing, what do you think is more important: what you say or how you say it?”
First I want to say that I straddle two blogging worlds: writing and photography. Writing and photography (art in general) are two consuming interests of mine, so I do some of both on my blog. I always intersperse written posts with pictures (even if they’re not my own*), which I explain below.
I didn’t think this question was particularly controversial until I started formulating a response. To me, writing is a lot easier than speaking, because (even though I do talk a lot, I admit) when speaking, I tend to blurt out what I want to say without thinking about it too much first. I know that is correctable by thinking carefully before I speak, but then whatever my thoughts were, I’ve forgotten parts of them and I don’t end up sounding as brilliant when I voice them as they sounded in my mind! My husband says writing doesn’t allow for nuance (such as tone and inflection) but I think it does. My husband is not a writer, although he reads a lot.
I think WHAT one says is ultimately the most important thing, but if it is not conveyed properly in words, its proper meaning may be lost on some readers. And there is something to be said for beautifully written pieces. Fine literature certainly is enhanced by the author’s style and some readers will gravitate toward certain writers for that reason. On the other hand, a poorly written book will turn me off to that writer even if I enjoy the story. Lots of times that means using very standard phraseology and clichés, making the story sound simplistic. The worst thing to me is bad grammar. I have read books in which it appears no editing was done. There are lots of misplaced apostrophes, one of my pet peeves, or commonly misspelled words are misspelled. Or things like “I got used of it” is wrong – it should be used TO it, but this is a common mistake. I accept such things if the author is writing the dialogue of a character that speaks that way, but not in the general narrative. Bad grammar and wording can so detract from the text that one can lose track of what the author is trying to say.
However, the meaning IS most important. I don’t want to read the elegantly written screed of a right-wing fanatic. If I don’t like the message of a particular writer, I will ultimately stop reading his/her work. People inject their writing with all kinds of hidden messages and subtext. Good writers do this. But in daily life, the words one uses matter. Then there is the general written message of most people out there – the stuff we read on signs and instructions in our every day life.
Someone made a serious blunder when coining the phrase “Defund the police.” I don’t think that is what they really meant. Yes, it’s concise and fits well on a protester’s sign, but its message is a real turn-off. Because my political beliefs are slanted to the left, I have heard the entire dialogue of the meaning behind this phrase. It should be “Reform.” It is the idea of taking some of the money that is poured into police departments with the expectation that the police can and should respond to, and appropriately handle, every conflict that might arise, born out of any number of society’s ills. The idea is really about how to use state and local funds to alleviate poverty, homelessness, drug use, etc.
Other written slogans are imbued with a particular subtext that the slogan’s originators want us to believe. “Pro-life,” for example, is used by people who oppose legal abortion. They are more accurately called “anti-choice.” I say this with no political agenda – I respect and understand their position, but anti-choice is more accurate. What they want is for women who get pregnant not to have the choice to abort the unwanted fetus, or at least for no public funding to be used for abortion. If they are truly pro-life, do they care about what happens to unwanted children after they are born, who may suffer poverty, neglect or abuse? I am not convinced that they do, because their sole focus seems to be on abortion. Many of them are right wing politically, who want smaller government, which usual means fewer public social services. Would pro-life people support transferring a good chunk of the defense budget to public education? That would save lives on both sides of the equation. Does that pro-life protester support the death penalty? If so, how can (s)he claim to be pro-life?
I know that I have deviated from the topic and injected even more controversy into it, but though I am using public slogans as an example to talk about meaning and subtext in writing, inaccuracies – deliberate or accidental – in writing are important. If one is writing a persuasive essay, it is necessary to provide reasons with as little bias as possible, if the writer is to convince readers of their point.
Sometimes the topic is good but the author rambles and repeats. No one is going to want to read past the first few paragraphs. I took a writing class once that was about writing for an online audience. The instructor advised us to break up our essays with photos because otherwise we will lose an audience that is used to a quick read, especially online. I myself am guilty of that, but if the writing is absorbing enough, I will continue reading. And to do that, the writer must draw me in and keep me interested – so although meaning is important, how one writes about it is important also because if you lose your readers, you will never convey your meaning.
So, bloggers (note to self)…
Write what you mean.
Mean what you write.
Use visual images.
Show off your writing skills.
Remember, writing is a balance between WHAT and HOW.
*All images in this post were downloaded from Google.
**I plead guilty!!
It’s Truthful Tuesday time again and the question this week is as follows:
When it comes to navigation in unfamiliar territory, do you shun technology, relying on traditional maps and written directions, or do you leave the atlas behind letting GPS and Google Maps guide the way?
We always have a road atlas on hand when we go on road trips to get an overall idea of the route, mileage, etc. When I plan trips (I do the planning, Dale does the driving!), I use a road map so I can map out where to go and how to get there. That way, we can wend our way through a state and see a number of things without having to backtrack. I use the Internet as well as guide books to plan where to go.
However, we use the car’s GPS system (in my car; in his car, we use Google maps on his phone) when we are on the road to make sure we don’t get lost.
This is good because Dale and I have had arguments in the past when we used paper maps – I would tell him to turn right but for whatever reason he turned left because he didn’t believe me. I WAS LOOKING AT THE DARN MAP!! And I was a good navigator too. But when walking, I tend to get mixed up using the GPS on my phone and am better off with a small paper map of the area. I’m thinking of the times we tried to find restaurants in Sao Paulo which were close to where we were staying but somehow the GPS disoriented us and we ended up going somewhere else we happened to find when we were lost getting to the place we were looking for. In Tel Aviv, we stood on a street corner with the phone GPS in hand, arguing about which way we were supposed to go to get back to our hotel after exploring a shopping mall.
I don’t have that problem with road maps or most of the time with the GPS in my car. However, we have gotten lost when the GPS didn’t know the way! Once we were going from Highland Park to Highwood, two north suburbs in the Chicago metro area very close to each other, but the GPS led us way out of the way and after driving for about 20 miles, I said, “I don’t think this is right.” My sister had said the restaurant where we were meeting was five minutes from the place we were coming from. It wasn’t a brand new street address, either, so I don’t know what “Jeanie” (which is what we named the GPS voice on my car) was thinking. The only other problem with GPS systems is that we may enter an address, the official address of the place, but we end up on a busy street with a wall next to us, and we know the place we are going is behind that wall, but where is the entrance?? The entrance is not always the same as the address.
Therefore, I recommend having a paper map if possible as well as the GPS. Locally, the GPS usually gets us where we need to go, even if sometimes Dale takes what he thinks is a shorter way (and turns out usually to be wrong). And imagine if something happens to the phone or the car and technology isn’t available? This can happen in remote areas when there is spotty Wifi service, and then the GPS may not work at all.
My favorite GPS system is Waze.
It’s a free app for your phone and works best when there are two people in the car – one to drive and the other to look at Waze. People can input problems they encounter on a road – police in vicinity, car on side of the road, traffic jams, etc. It also identifies red light cameras so you can follow the speed limit when you are near one! I recommend it for anyone who does a lot of city driving. You can earn points and eventually choose your own Waze avatar!
It’s much less nerve-wracking to have a GPS in the car one is driving than depending on a map and nowadays we can usually count on any rental car we get having one. The GPS in our rental in France was great, once we figured out how to use it – it was very counterintuitive and each time we got it right, we couldn’t remember what we did the next time we got into the car! That GPS voice was British and announced everything in meters and kilometers, of course, but I loved her – we dubbed her “Eleanor.”
From my archives at the Chicago Botanic Gardens
M is for Monday and also for Melanie, who has a new set of questions for Share Your World!
Is it necessary to trust someone you like? (friends, acquaintances or co-workers with whom you have no familial ties)
I don’t know if I could like someone really untrustworthy. On the other hand, there are people who are likeable and friendly, but they can’t keep a secret. Everyone has flaws, and some people just can’t keep their mouths shut! If I had a friend or acquaintance like that, I wouldn’t confide in them about anything important. Especially at and about work – office gossip can cause serious trouble! At work, there were a lot of people that I liked – that is, I had no problem with them and they were fun to talk to in the lunch room or whatever – but not enough to really be friends with, to share confidences with.
Do you hold grudges? What do you do when someone really irritates you?
I don’t like to hold grudges but in fact I do, and it’s so stupid because I will probably never see any of those people again. The two people I have the strongest grudge against stabbed me in the back, and for no good reason. Other people I knew had similar complaints about these particular two individuals – they were not popular, but they were people I depended on for good reviews going forward in my career. I should stop being resentful toward them; after all, most other people didn’t like them anyway! The only other person I have a “grudge” against is a girl in high school who didn’t give me the recognition I thought she should have. This is silly really. No one remembers or cares anymore, but it hurt me that after the work I did for her, she didn’t even acknowledge it.
I don’t like to get really angry or irritated, because I tend to lose my temper and say or do something I later regret. After this happening several times when I was younger, I learned to wait before acting, so that I could calm down. I tend to back off nowadays when an argument gets really heated. Let’s keep the peace!! It’s hard though, when someone I am around a lot irritates me. I try to put that into perspective: I really care about this person, so I shouldn’t blow up at him or her. I wonder how people who live in the same household are getting along during this pandemic, having to be around family members they love, but are not used to spending most of their time with. There are things, though, that I can’t tolerate – rudeness or lack of consideration for others are the things that really get me angry.
What’s the most sensible thing you’ve heard someone say?
I hate this kind of question because I have a poor memory and can’t think of that most sensible thing! But I guess it’s what my husband always says, “Don’t let the little things get to you.” (I cleaned this up, using the word ‘things’ instead of the word he actually uses! 😉 )
Cliché, maybe, but it’s good advice.
Is crying a sign of weakness or strength in adults?
I don’t think crying is a sign of weakness in anyone. I never have, and have never judged men, for example, for crying. Because they’ve been taught that’s not what manly men do, many men are ashamed to cry. But I think crying shows someone’s sensitivity – whether it be at the end of a movie with a poignant ending, when the person feels regret, or cries tears of happiness, or just feels homesickness. I like sensitive people. I am one, so I understand others who are sensitive.
People used to laugh at John Boehner (former Speaker of the House) because he would cry sometimes. I was no fan of Boehner, but I thought those judgmental people were mean. If you want to criticize someone, find a better reason than that!
GRATITUDE SECTION (Always Optional)
What small things were you grateful for this week?
We were told last week that we will be getting our Covid vaccinations in February – first dose on Feb. 5, the second in late February. I am grateful for that!
This is the Word of the Day prompt, whose host defines this term thus:
GABBLE-RATCHET. As well as being an old English dialect word for a noisy child, a gabble-ratchet is any nocturnal bird (particularly geese) that makes a lot of noise at night, once considered to be an ill omen.
I was attracted to this prompt today due to this unusual word!! The definition I found for gabble-ratchet is a bit different, from New Miriam-Webster Dictionary online:
Definition of gabriel ratchet
Miriam-Webster says the term derives from gabriel-ratchet, whose definition is:
dialectal: the cries of migrating wild geese flying by night which are often popularly explained as the baying of a supernatural pack of hounds and to which various superstitious significances (as forebodings of evil) are attributed.
I like the first definition better, but I am very familiar with the sound – a lot of Canada geese hang around our community’s campus when the weather is warm enough, and when they fly, they gabble-ratchet! So I am incorporating this unique word, with two other prompts from Fandango’s FOWC and The Daily Spur into my poem about
Canada geese everywhere
In pond and grass, and in the air
They leave their poop all over the place
When I walk, I look down, just in case
At the path where they have wandered
Poop here, poop there and over yonder
A gun is fired to scare them away
But they don’t care, they come back anyway
The swans in the ponds only chase after them
When their cygnets are young, but mostly ignore ’em
In the fall, those darned geese fly overhead
In V formation, full speed ahead
Their gabble-ratchet is music to my ears
They’re finally gone…until next year!
I wish I could say they really go away
But mild winters invite them to stay!
Call grounds crew to complain or snitch
But Canada geese have found their niche
I guess living with geese is just the price
We have to pay for a campus so nice!
Another week, another installment of Melanie’s Share Your World!
Do you think a person’s name influences the person they become?
“What’s in a name? A rose by any other name would smell as sweet,” so Shakespeare wrote in his most famous play Romeo and Juliet.
Depends on the name. Some people have really strange names that their parents have tortured them with. When I lived in Brazil, there was a comedy duo that had a contest for the most interesting or bizarre name which viewers were invited to participate in. And my husband told me one of his students was named “Lufthansa” – her mother went into labor on a flight home from Germany!
Even unusual names probably have a minimal effect on a person, except as conversation starters! My son’s name is long and rather unique, and he has told me it’s often an opener for conversation – a good thing, since he doesn’t always do well in starting conversations.
But some names do affect a person because their parents were trying to be cute or funny – but not so funny for the kid! I heard of a man who went by his initials W.B. followed by his surname. No one questioned it until he went into the army, where they insisted he reveal his full name! In embarrassment, he said his initials stood for “Welcome Baby” because his parents had finally had a child after a prolonged period of not being able to produce one! The army, after hearing this story, allowed him to use his initials thereafter! (Note: This may be an “urban legend” but it’s an interesting anecdote of how a name can affect a person’s life.)
Why do we dream?
It is our brain’s way of relaxing. Everything gets jumbled…the brain doesn’t have to think to put it together in an organized way. Bits of past experience make their appearance in dreams. Sometimes dreams are really creative – when I took a writing course once, every night I had incredible, fantastic dreams that I remembered. At least one I turned into a short story, somewhat surreal, but that’s what dreams are like. Nowadays I almost always dream either about teaching or traveling or both, and usually I make some major mistake. I think my anxiety about being good at teaching is coming out in my dreams, even though I have been retired for five and a half years!
Does hardship make a person stronger? (example: What doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger)
I think it does to a certain extent. Certainly learning to deal with adversity does make a person more capable of handling various situations or knowing how to act in an emergency. It may make them more confident if they have been successful in enduring the hardships. People who have never suffered adversity or never learned to overcome it go through life, I think, feeling insecure and afraid to accept risks or challenges. They tend to resist change. People who are poor are more likely to be generous with what they do have than rich people, because the poor know how to live in society with very little money. Rich people are constantly worried about losing their money, and would have no idea how to survive without much income.
On the other hand, hardship can cause insecurity, anxiety and conditions such as PTSD, especially if the person has not learned how to deal with such challenges on his or her own. A child who has been abused, for example, must learn to overcome the trauma it caused in order to face the problems life throws at them. Some never really learn to cope. People who have been in war zones come home oftentimes with PTSD and may show a dramatic change in their behavior, including anxiety, paranoia, intolerance of loud noises, etc.
So it depends, perhaps, on what sort of hardship the person endures and probably when that occurs, as well as inherent personality traits a person has to be able to cope with life’s challenges.
Why do we judge ourselves by our intentions, but judge others by their actions?
Self-preservation? Lack of empathy? We tend to think our intentions are good, but since we can’t read other people’s minds, we judge them based on what their outward motivations seem to be.
For example, the attack on the Capitol a week ago: on the news media, the people who were incited by Trump to storm the Capitol are called “terrorists” yet they don’t think of themselves as terrorists. At least some of them believed they had good intentions: Trump had convinced them that the election was stolen by the Democrats, that it was rigged. So they saw themselves as a self-styled militia bent on righting a wrong. I know that for many of them who are hard-core white supremacists, the chance to be a militia and wreak havoc through violence was the aim. But there were many others who thought of it as a kind of “revolution” – they were doing what had to be done to get our country back on the right path.
I use the attack on Congress as an example of intentions vs. actions and I am not condoning what they did in any way. From their actions, to outsiders they appeared to be just a brainwashed horde, even ready to hang Pence and kill Pelosi. But they THEMSELVES didn’t see it that way – at least many of them didn’t. They were brainwashed, yes; they were gullible, yes; still, Trump bears the ultimate responsibility for unleashing their worst instincts. They themselves thought they were being the ultimate patriots, that cheating had gone too far and they had to take matters into their own hands. They may have compared themselves to the insurrectionists of the French Revolution, or some other modern-day revolution in which the citizenry felt it necessary to do more than merely protest. There have been many arrests, but there were a lot of people there that didn’t do any damage or even get into the building.. They were, like sheep, following their leaders (both Trump and the leaders of the insurrection) instead of questioning whether it was the right thing to do.
GRATITUDE SECTION (Always Optional)
Feel free to share some gratitude in the form of images, photos or writing. Thanks!
I am grateful that some people still write letters. Isn’t it nice to receive a note or a holiday card from a friend instead of just bills and junk mail? The cousins on my dad’s side of the family started a custom many years ago, called “Round Robin.” They each write a letter with news and opinions about their lives, and mail it, along with the latest ones received from their sisters, to the next person, who then takes out her last letter and writes a new one. When my siblings and I found out about it, we wanted to join too, so we have been engaging in this Round Robin custom along with our cousins. I always look forward to receiving the latest batch – and yesterday I received it!
Posted for Cee’s Flower of the Day 1/19/21.
The Tuesday Photo Challenge is hosted by Dutch Goes the Photo, and this week the topic is TWIST.
And now a related musical golden oldie – enjoy!