Dumbing down

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     The term dumbing down describes a ‘deliberate diminution of the intellectual level of education, literature, cinema, news, and culture’.


The term dumbing down originated in 1933 as slang used by motion picture screenplay writers to mean:  ‘revise so as to appeal to those of little education or intelligence’.

I have also heard the phrase that information should be designed for ‘the lowest common denominator’ of intelligence.

The nature of dumbing down varies according to the subject matter and the reason for the dumbing down, but it usually involves the over-simplification of critical thought to the degree of undermining the intellectual standards of language and of learning; thus tending to trivialise cultural, artistic, and academic standards, as in the case of popular culture.

Here is simple example, television advertising no longer use the word ‘Twice’ as in ‘Twice as many’ or ‘Twice as fast’, preferring to use the term ‘two times faster’!

Researchers at the Institute for Studies have warned that it will soon be impossible to dumb down news and entertainment media any further.

Professor Henry Brubaker said: “Most television is about cooking, the paranormal or poor people having arguments. The news is just opinions and conjecture punctuated with pictures of ‘extreme weather’.

‘The only books being published are ghost-written celebrity biographies or thrillers about serial killers called things like ‘The Face Collector’. Apart from that people just read lists of ’10 facts about muscle growth’ off websites.

‘The problem is that if the mass media continue to further dumb down information human intelligence will continue on its downward trajectory. (thedailymash.co.uk)

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In the latest instance, a research team from universities in Sweden, Holland and Ireland found “a pronounced decline in IQ since the Victorian era, three times bigger than previous theoretical estimates would have us believe.”

Yes, those repressed prudes – notoriously obsessed with keeping table legs covered up in case they gave men sexy thoughts about finely-turned ankles – were actually substantially smarter than the free-wheeling techno-nerds of today. The scientists compared reaction times – regarded as a key indicator of general intelligence, productivity and creativity – from the late-19th century to the present and discovered that our brains are definitely slowing down. The Victorians were positively whizzy: the average man in 1889 had a reaction time of 183 milliseconds, while the present-day Mr Dopey can only manage a sluggish 253 milliseconds.

I’m not surprised. We don’t need studies and statistics to tell us this stuff, the evidence is staring us in the face every day.

Last year, I made a radio programme about the Belfast writer and poet Helen Waddell, who became one of the biggest literary stars of the 1920s and 1930s.

Her historical novel, Peter Abelard, was a runaway success, praised by everyone from Queen Mary to factory workers and prisoners. It was the must-read novel of 1933, reprinted an incredible nine times in the first year of its publication.

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    But Waddell’s breakthrough novel would never, ever make the bestseller lists today. Why? Because the writing, while beautiful and resonant, is simply far too challenging. Reading it takes a certain effort of concentration, not to mention a passing knowledge of medieval theology. With Fifty Shades of Grey, today’s popular publishing miracle, all you need is some basic literacy and a sick, prurient interest in getting lashed with a whip for pleasure.

In culture, in politics, in everyday life, superficial froth and twaddle regularly triumphs over substantial, thought-through ideas. Attention spans attenuated by the 140 character demands of Twitter, we often behave more like bored toddlers than sentient adults, expecting to be continually indulged and entertained.  (Fionola Meridith)

Sadly, our country has been hijacked by a compulsion to homogenise society, to control individualism and turn us all into one classless soup.

In Bog-Standard Britain, defenders of crisply enunciated English are told they are ‘toffs’. This class neurosis lowers standards. It spreads mediocrity. It permits pre-Victorian levels of coarseness to pollute our streets.

Intervene? No, that would be an act of class prejudice. Opprobrium has been driven from our public life. Shame and propriety and judgments of right and wrong are replaced by whispered orthodoxies about what is ‘appropriate’, codes which can be understood only by sociology graduates.

Manners have disappeared, to be replaced by strict ‘ guidelines’ about sexism and racism. Classy people once knew instinctively how to behave. Now manners have to be taught in rehabilitation classes. They have lost their humanity and become ‘codes of conduct’.

Commissions, working parties, think tanks, steering committees, conferences, charities, consultancies: egalitarianism has become an industry for the self-righteous.

From university admissions to unisex hospital wards, tokenistic equality runs like bindweed, strangling common sense. Officialdom towers over us, wagging its disapproving finger, instructing us to observe equality codes or face the withdrawal of public funds.

Despite all this, equality has not achieved its aims. Social mobility is dropping. The wealth divide broadens.  ‘Equality practitioners’, as they call themselves, have simply become brahmins amid the beggars, sixth-form monitors of thought who draw their salaries from the pockets of the very poor they profess to help.

Clearly, as with most topics that affect mass populations, there are those who believe in conspiracy. The following paragraph is an extract taken from the vigilantcitizen.com

Is a dumber population something that is desired by the elite? Hitler once said “How fortunate for the leaders that men do not think.” An educated population knows its rights, understands the issues and takes action when it does not approve of what is going on. Judging by the incredible amount of data available on the subject, it seems that the elite want the exact opposite: an unhealthy, frightened, confused and sedated population. We will look at the effects of medication, pesticides, fluoride and aspartame on the human body and how those products are being pushed by people from inside the power structure.

To end this post I have included the following, which is supposed to be a rant against Dumbing Down, but actually is an extremely good example of dumb media in action.

This, as you will see, also supports the Goebbels view on propagandaDr__Joseph_Goebbels_by_tree27

‘From the minute you get up its trashy soap and Celebrity and Hollywood gossip and programming aimed at bored housewives. Dumbed down breakfast TVs followed by This Morning which is obsessed with soap and reality TV chit-chat and z list guests, sex change couples and fashion tips like what’s the latest handbag or which nail file should I buy and general couch potato crap aimed at people who read National Enquirer and Heat magazine. Nothing of any actual intellect at all.

Then its Jeremy Kyle interspersed with ads for online bingo and debt management and quick cash adverts. Afternoons are dominated by more gobshatting by Loose Women or other such drivel. Dumbed down quiz shows for thickies, dumbed down news for the less intelligent, and soaps’.

Thank you for reading, your comments and feedback welcome as always.

Please follow this blog, as I have many more Ramblings I should like to share with you,

You may also like to read Further Ramblings http://wp.me/5njAU

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10 Tips (& Tools) for Writing Success in 2015

Thought I would share this insightful post. Although many of us do have good routines and self-work ethics it is, as we all know, so easy to let them slip. This post from DeAnna Ross should give us a gentle reminder to keep control of our routines.

DeAnna Ross

Photo by nerdynotdirty – http://nerdynotdirty.deviantart.com/

Originally posted by ME at Writing Wenches:  As the end of 2014 fast approaches many Authors (and aspiring authors such as myself) are setting resolutions for the New Year in the hopes of being more productive and reaching our writing goals.  However, we all know how New Year’s resolutions usually go: a few weeks of dedicated struggle to adhere to your new regimen only to find yourself shrugging off your failure in spring.

Well folks, I don’t want to be that person this year so… here’s my plan, maybe it can help you too.

Let’s do this!

READ THE LIST – CLICK HERE

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Down by the Dockside

  I am not usually taken to reviewing books, or recommending those from well-established mainstream authors, instead I like to support and promote the hard working, inspiring and enthusiastic Indie Author.

However, I am often asked which books I read, what novels inspire me personally, which Authors I like and lots of stuff like that. So I have broken my usual reserve and for once shall reveal a book which had a profound effect on me as a writer, albeit the young, and not very good writer, I was at the time!

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Down by the Dockside by ‘Criena Rohan’

A review by Paul White.

Sometimes and for some unknown reason a book resonates within your soul, this is one such book that did, and still does resonate within me.

Down by the Dockside is a too long unrecognised Australian urban classic. Compassionate and sympathetic to the working class in post war Australia.

I first read this years ago, (circa 1975). It is about a plucky, literate girl who grows up in poverty in Port Melbourne during the Depression, marries a sailor during the war and loses him in a fight at Christmas in 1946, teaches dance and consorts with the criminals her childhood pals have become, it’s a lively and endearing tale of Australia in the 1930s and 1940s.

You may encounter problems when searching for biography on Criena Rohan, because this was her Irish pseudonym. Her real name was Deirdre Cash (1924-1963), novelist, was born on 16 July 1924 at Albert Park, Melbourne.

Criena’s first book was The Delinquents (1962). A compassionate tale, set in the 1950s, of defiant, street-wise, ‘bodgie-5767203widgie’ teenagers oppressed by their elders and the welfare state, it was dubbed ‘a back-street Tristan and Isolde’ by London’s Daily Mail. The Times Literary Supplement called the characterization of the heroine Lola ‘a triumph’. In 1989 The Delinquents became a teenage cult film with Kylie Minogue as Lola.

As poignant and harsh as the life and stories of her characters, so was Deirdre’s own life.

Deirdre was pregnant when, on 4 February 1948, she married a law student Michael Damien Blackall at St Augustine’s Church, Melbourne, but she was also lunging at a gentility she could not sustain. Leaving her husband and son, she earned a living as a torch-singer and ballroom-dancing teacher, occasionally on the fringe of the demi-monde. Although the autobiographical glow of her novels suggests otherwise, she was teetotal, earthy but not indecent in speech, and never in trouble with the police. Similarly, her fictional, family-based portraits are sometimes romanticized, sometimes cruel. In 1954 she met her true inamorato, a coastal seaman Otto Ole Distler Olsen, whom she followed to various ports. Her divorce having been granted on 18 October 1956, she married him eleven days later in the office of the government statist, Melbourne.

Cash was dying from a now correctly diagnosed colonic carcinoma when she finalized her second novel, Down by the Dockside (London, 1963), which attempted a more complex characterization of alienated, working-class people in wartime Melbourne. While her often sentimental and melodramatic social realism lacks literary polish and form, this weakness is offset by Dickensian humour, sharp dialogue, throwaway gibes and a gutsy narrative style. She allegedly wrote a third novel, ‘The House with the Golden Door’, but, if so, the manuscript mysteriously disappeared. Survived by her husband and their daughter, and by the son of her first marriage, Cash died on 11 March 1963 at the Alfred Hospital, Melbourne, and was buried in Fawkner cemetery.

This is not a literary masterpiece in the common sense, even being rejected by several Australian publishers whom she subsequently scorned as jingoistic. But it is haunting and touching and should be on every ones ‘Must Read’ list.

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Thank you for taking your time to read this. Should you ever get yourself a copy I would love to know your thoughts on it.

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Down-Dockside-Criena-Rohan/dp/1863401032/ref=sr_1_8?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1419354395&sr=1-8&keywords=Down+by+the+Dockside

Dun Writin’—Now Whut? A series by Susan Uttendorfsky – Owner of Adirondack Editing – (38 Writing Your Synopsis and Back Cover Blurbs)

Chris The Story Reading Ape's Blog

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Writing Your Synopsis and Back Cover Blurbs

Congratulations on finally finishing your book! But wait a minute…you didn’t think you were done, did you? Naw! You still have to write your synopsis and the blurb for your back cover!

A synopsis is a brief summary of your book for an acquisitions editor or an agent, the key word being “brief.” If you’re a plotter, and have outlined your book before or while writing it, you have an advantage at this point over the pantser, who just let his book happen. You can use your outline and notes to help you condense your book down into a synopsis. A synopsis should be written in third person present tense, which is generally different than the book (instead of “Brian defeated his nemesis,” try “Brian defeats his nemesis”).

How long should it be? I’ve seen one page for every twenty-five pages of manuscript…

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I wish these were my words

(Compiled & Reproduced) by Paul White

There are many great quotations and notations floating out there in the fast lane of the internet highway, below are just a few of those which connect with me. You will note they have all been written by great writers. I hope you enjoy them as much as I.

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Books are the quietest and most constant of friends; they are the most accessible and wisest of counsellors, and the most patient of teachers.

Charles W. Elio

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Andre Maurios
André Maurois

The art of reading is in great part that of acquiring a better understanding of life from one’s encounter with it in a book.

André Maurois    

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In the twenty-first century, everyone writes, to some degree.  The ability to sequence words on a page is a requirement for success in a data-based world. Writing is communication, identity, power, profit.  It’s the means by which we conduct all kinds of transactions, whether we’re bringing a lawsuit or flirting via text message.  Writing is social, commercial and cerebral flow.

Karina Wilson

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I have made it appear as though my motives in writing were wholly public-spirited. I don’t want to leave that as the final impression. All writers are vain, selfish, and lazy, and at the very bottom of their motives there lies a mystery. Writing a book is a horrible, exhausting struggle, like a long bout of some painful illness. One would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven on by some demon whom one can neither resist nor understand.

George Orwell

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Even in literature and art, no man who bothers about originality will ever be original: whereas if you simply try to tell the truth (without caring twopence how often it has been told before) you will, nine times out of ten, become original without ever having noticed it.

C.S. Lewis

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Edith Wharton

A classic is classic not because it conforms to certain structural rules, or fits certain definitions (of which its author had quite probably never heard). It is classic because of a certain eternal and irrepressible freshness.

Edith Wharton

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The skill of writing is to create a context in which other people can think.

Edwin Schlossberg

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Isaac Asimov

You must keep sending work out; you must never let a manuscript do nothing but eat its head off in a drawer. You send that work out again and again, while you’re working on another one. If you have talent, you will receive some measure of success – but only if you persist.

Isaac Asimov

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I was working on the proof of one of my poems all the morning, and took out a comma. In the afternoon I put it back again.

Oscar Wilde

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The most difficult part of writing a book is not devising a plot which will captivate the reader. It’s not developing characters the reader will have strong feelings for or against. It is not finding a setting which will take the reader to a place he or she as never been. It is not the research, whether in fiction or non-fiction. The most difficult task facing a writer is to find the voice in which to tell the story.

Randy Pausch

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I shall leave you now with this last quote, just as you are ready to submit your work !

    Your manuscript is both good and original, but the part that is good is not original and the part that is original is not good.

Samuel Johnson

Thank you for reading. I hope you have enjoyed these quotes as much as I, Paul.

A bit on Literary Techniques

Generally my Ramblings are rather….well general!

I do not tend to write in a scholarly constructive fashion, because I do not consider myself a teacher or an authority of literary genius.

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    I prefer to allow indefinite abstract descriptions to suggest and evoke the readers own perceptions and introspection to convey the message of each Rambling.

There are however certain aspects of writing I find myself trying to explain, to those who ask, on a frequent basis.

It can be rather difficult to clarify the particular methods and the reasons I utilise certain styles and narrative form when writing for an assortment of diverse projects and various fictional works.

So, unlike many of my previous Ramblings this one addresses the topic with a little more directness.

I say a little more, because in my heart of hearts I believe that the soul of the writer, the artist that lays within, is the greatest asset of all. No one can learn to write unwillingly; the writer must have love and passion above teaching and education. The writer must want to write above all else.

As mentioned above this Rambling touches on the subjective matter of literary techniques, in particular, style and narration. So firstly I think I should try and define these two separate, but closely related subjects.

I will not, in this Rambling, do more than skim the surface of this issue as I do not want to become too bogged down in technicalities.

Ok then, Narrative. Sometimes this is referred to as ‘the writer’s voice’. I do not like this term as it can be very misleading.

Narrative is the voice that the reader ‘hears’ in their mind when reading. This is NOT the writers voice, (which is why I dislike that term), yet it is created by the writer. To explain it better, it is like an actor speaking the words of the scriptwriter in a film or play rather than the writer speaking his words directly.

The effect in a drama is that the actor(ress) uses their skills of timing and intonation to convey the words in a meaningful and powerful way. This is pretty much what happens in the readers own mind when they read your written word. The reader will ‘hear’ the various voices of the characters and the general narrative as if being spoken by a third party.

A good writer can have many of these voices, according to the type of story or article being written, or the writer can keep one consistent form of narration to establish his/her own unique and recognisable narrative voice.

Narrative techniques are employed to provide deeper meaning, it helps the reader to use imagination and to visualise events and situations.

The literary elements in narrative include settings, plots, theme, and characters and so on. The literary techniques used in the application are best understood as being metaphors, personifications, imagery, backstory, flash-forwards, similes, foreshadowing, perspective, and hyperbole; Basically  figurative language.

Got that?

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Now a little about Style.

Style has a broader sweep than narrative. Some writers have a comprehensive style, one which is ornate, long, and complex. These are packed with metaphors and imagery. Others have a more direct, straightforward style, they tend to be constructed of simple sentences and spares prose.

A good exercise to clarify this is to read two newspapers or high quality magazines. These usually have a determined style, a house style if you like. Yet throughout, each article and report will be written by a different author whose own narration is evident to that particular piece. This way the newspaper or magazine’s continuity stays together.

I will not, at this time delve any deeper into this subject, but leave you to consider the above. For those of you who are hardened and experienced hacks I apologise for this Rambling as it is less of a Ramble that is my usual want. (You will no doubt have noticed that the above narrations is far from my norm)!

However not all who read this are trained, tutored or as experienced as you may be.

I love writing, it is my hobby as well as my work and I am happy to share whatever knowledge I have; which is really very little.

I shall end this not very Rambling Ramble with an apology once again for being quite direct and not wandering off track and into the back alleys of randomness. I promise that the next Rambling will be back to my normal irrational narrative style.

Note….’Narrative style’….now does that confuse you?

Catch you next time, Paul.

OH…..one finale bit. If you have a published book please take a look at Sneak Peek. This is a new platform to introduce your work to potential readers.

If you are a reader, then go to Sneak Peek and, as the name suggests, you can take a Sneak Peek (read an excerpt) of all the books on the site before you decide which to buy.

Sneak peek is just this one click away http://wp.me/5sgTb

© Paul White 2014

http://paulznewpostbox.wix.com/paul-white-writer

In the Darkness of Illusion

 

 In the Darkness of Illusion

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It is two thirty in the morning.writers-block

I should be sleeping.

But like many writers it is in these ‘wee hours’ that our minds race, that our thoughts begin to gel into some recognisable form of understanding. Thoughts that we must ‘get down on paper’ NOW.

Not later. Later is no good.

By later the concepts, the feelings, the ideas will have shrivelled like the skin of a rotting fruit. No longer will these ideas have the shiny skin of freshness. No longer will each sentence be sweet with the flowing fructose of conception. So now is the time to allow our words to freely spill onto those blank pages, pages of lingering anticipation.

By sunrise sleep has yet again passed us by. Another coffee and a cool shower invigorates, just enough to face the daylight hours which queue before us, clambering for our attention, calling us to deal with the mundane tasks of reality, the chores of daily living.

Distracted our thoughts, our fantasies and whimsies sink into the subconscious. Some hide in the darker shadows, others play truant, while many are lost forever. Those dark hours, the late nights and early mornings are the vampiric lair of the writer.

Sunrise brings only loss of procession, a stilling of conscious reasoning, a slowing of creativity. Staggering along throughout the day we long for the sun to set, look towards the dusk with wistful eyes, longing for the darkness to envelop once us once more, to fold us in its soft cloak of imagination.

Because here in the quiet, in the still of the night is where the bats of illusion flit freely in the caverns of our minds. All that is witnessed, touched, seen, tasted and heard during the day is fired in the cauldron if concept and fantastical prophecy. This is the time when mystical worlds are created from a scattering of magical runes and symbols we call letters.

Twenty Six7f3f9ede89ac78685ce79af4fbeffb18 tiny marks which have the power to enter the mind and take control of whomever is reading, whisking reality away and replacing it with netherworld where all is possible and perception an illusion.

Yet it takes a mighty wizard of the quill to cast such formidable spells from so few tiny symbols. The craft of wordsmithing is often a lonely and long journey through the forests of despair and foreboding.

Yet when the daylight of publication looms bright, the rewards of satisfaction bring the cost of toiling through those darkest of late nights, the journey of self-doubt and inner loathing, well worth the pain and agony’s suffered.

The price can be high, but the rewards glorious.

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Thank you for walking with me tonight, Paul.

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© Paul White 2014

http://paulznewpostbox.wix.com/paul-white-writer

Masterpiece

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  I find myself sitting here with the compulsion to write an amazing Rambling for you today.

You see, I am in the mood to write. I do not mean I just fancy a writing session; I mean I have an urge, a compulsion to splatter letters and characters across the page in some deeply meaningful and creative form.

I want to write something that will draw you in and amaze you with its relevance and connection to your own life.

Yet there is where it stops.

I have the will and the desire, a deep craving, the lustful wanting for the feel of words dripping from my pen onto this page.

But that yearning is, as yet, unrequited.

I shall stand, literarily unclothed, bare my all to you in saying that I am flummoxed as what to actually say.

Please do not get me wrong. I am not suffering from that mythical condition referred to as writers block, far from it in fact.

Yet I cannot gather my flock of random thoughts and round them into a single heard of consistency. Today my mind is like the wilderness of a Welsh hillside scattered with evasive lambs, bleating at me with distain.

So I shall write as this day affects me, and as the title of this blog suggests…..Randomly!

I know that many of you, the artistic and creative folk, the writers and poets, painters and singers, will at some point have struggled with a situation similar to this; where your heart and soul are committed, but your mind is playing truant, playing football in the park or still snuggling into the soft down of your pillow.

Today, (so far), that is where I am.

I have projects to complete, or at least progress. Poems & short stories I wish to write, and this Rambling, this classic tome of astute wisdom and intelligent acumen…..I think not.

But I do think that what my mind is telling me, is that it needs to rest. That it needs time to itself to mull over all that I have perceived and observed recently.

My concentration has been to keenly focused for too long on one basic set of tasks. Like any athlete we all must make rest and relaxation part of our training regime.

We must also understand the need for ‘recovery time’ as do sportsmen, say after running, or in my case, writing a great amount. While we writers may not always be physically regarded as god like bronzed Adonis’s, or indeed lithe and sensual Venuses, our minds are often far more agile and supple than many others might be.

Therefor we too can overwork and strain ourselves, so take time to ‘chill-out’, meditate, or simplynothing do something as energetic as you can which will make you concentrate purely on that activity, thereby giving your brain a rest from the exertion of consistent creativeness.

You shall then return refreshed and renewed, with the vigour and clarity to create a masterpiece; the like of which has escaped from me today!

I do hope you enjoyed this latest ‘Rambling’ of mine. To read more irreverent irrelevance take a look at my blog, Further Ramblings  http://wp.me/5njAU 

Thank you, Paul.

Today I watched the sun rise.

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As the sun rose and the darkness faded the sky took on a burnished amber hue.

Birds started to welcome the dawn with the melody of their chorus.

I breathed in the sharp crispness of the morning air and looked up, a few wispy clouds hung motionless in the stratosphere.

It was such a fresh, bright morning that I predictably recalled the hymn ‘Morning has broken’; in this instance my mind heard it being sung by Cat Stevens. I half consciously found myself humming along, out of tune of course!

This was soon followed by the voice of Bob Marley and ‘Three little birds’. I smiled inwardly as realised that both of these

hqdefaultvoices were inside my head; and wondered why on earth we become so full of angst when someone admits to hearing voices in their own minds, or indeed fearful if they inhabit our own?

This morning as the sun rose higher, and the amber tones dissipated to reveal a azure blue sky, I found that I was comforted by the voices I heard singing to me.

Regardless of the scientific, cognitive or physiological explanations, of which I do not give one iota of care for at this time, I was quite amused by my own insight of this experience; which is as a writer I constantly think, in the words of ‘Arthur’ (Dudley Moore), ‘Funny things that make me laugh’!

This was one of those times when even lateral thinking was unable to keep up with the speed of the random leaping of my thoughts. I have coined a personal term for this, I refer to it as ‘Geometric Surging’.

I love it, because this is where all the odd ball, wild, whacky and seemingly unconnected notions, concepts, opinions and theories somehow find common ground, which allows them to become authentic and viable concepts. This is one state of mind where many of my inspirational stimuli collected from far and wide, over periods of time meld into solid ideas. All that is needed is a moment of ambiance, of atmosphere which can induce the right frame of mind.

Today it was watching the sun rise.

Thank you for reading.

I have a ‘Showcase’ page on my website, please feel free to visit.

© Paul White 2014

http://paulznewpostbox.wix.com/paul-white-writer

Guest Blog – Shawn Jones

Shawn Jones

Today I hand my Rambling’s blog over to Shawn Jones, He may like his dog better than he likes you or I but I can forgive him for that, so long as he continues to write superb sci-fi like The Warrior Chronicles, a science fiction series available exclusively from Amazon .(http://www.amazon.com/Shawn-Jones/e/B00I3JJFYW/ref=ntt_athr_dp_pel_pop_1)

I read a poem by Jessika O’Sullivan recently.

The day you no longer remember your childhood dreams.

How the world blurs when you are on a swing.

The smell of your classroom.

Your best friend’s eyes.

Your teenage confusion.

How your first love made you feel.

The hours in the dark, listening to music.

The taste of beer and snow in someone’s breath.

When you no longer remember.

You might blame adulthood.

But the truth is you lost something.

Jessika’s word are the difference between everyone else and a fiction writer. Those memories… the smells… the tastes… fiction writers never forget them. The rest of world grows up and moves on, but not us. We never forget the bump on our bicycle handlebar grip that was the trigger stud for a laser that protected the girl we had a crush on, hoping to be rewarded with a kiss. We remember climbing into our treehouse and ‘targeting’ the top of the round apartment building down by the river, because in our minds, it’s not a building. It’s a rocket. A starship filled with aliens about to overtake the Earth. We were, no I was, on a simple wooden platform in an old fruitless mulberry tree, the only thing standing between those aliens and the end of humanity.

The vinegar I smelled when I walked into the house when Mom was canning pickles… No, it wasn’t vinegar. It was toxic gas, and I had just seconds to make it to my bedroom before I would be overcome by them and breathe my last breath, never knowing the feel of Debbie Koffman’s kiss on my cheek.

We had an old wood pile in our back yard behind the garage. When we were having a cookout, Dad would build the fire and leave me to monitor it while he did whatever dads do while the fire died down to a nice bed of coals. I would see ants start to pour out of an old log, which was my cue to get to work. I’d run behind the garage and grab some branches from that old mulberry tree and hurry back to the fire, where I’d carefully place the fresh limbs to give the ants a way to escape. Then I’d use another branch to gently guide some of the ants to the escape route. Once they were moving across the sticks and away from certain doom, I would rest on my laurels knowing I’d saved lives. Because that’s what heroes did.

People who don’t write do have memories like mine. But I remember the texture of the handlebar grip. The curl in Debbie’s coarse, black hair. The shape of that apartment building’s roof. The smell of the fire coming from our old, square fire pit. Dad made it with concrete and flint rock, so the first few years it would get really hot once in a while and a rock would shatter, sending shards of flint at one of us unsuspecting boys. There was a cool aspect to it as well. If you hit one of those flint rocks with a hammer just right, you didn’t need a match to light the fire.

Writers never grow up. Even when we write about adult things like crime and physics and politics, we are still kids. In every other aspect of our lives, we are told that we are immature and have overactive imaginations. But when you put a real (or digital) piece of paper in front of us, we become gods. It’s not because we are smarter, or even more imaginative. It’s because we never stopped being kids.

My wife rolls her eyes at me when I come up with some new idea for an alien. One of my brothers thinks I have something loose in my head. My sister is amazed at my memories of our childhood. They aren’t always a blessing, though.

I remember the eyes of Lady, my first dog, just before she died. I remember a bitter, evil woman’s hatred of me because I was adopted. I remember the sting of getting swats in elementary school. I remember the smell of Mom’s cigarette-laced breath as she gave me mouth-to-mouth because of my asthma. I also remember the smell of her hospital room as she slipped away from this realm.

And Debbie Koffman? I remember getting her a necklace at the state fair. She loved it. For a week anyway. Then it broke, and she thought it was a sign that we weren’t supposed to be sweethearts anymore. I never got that kiss.

Think about this moment. This one right now, as you read these words. Look around you. As surely as you can see the things in front of your face, a writer can see the past. We can see the future. We can see into the mind of a killer, or the soul of a dog.

You live your life in this moment. Writers live theirs in every moment. Every single one. Past, present, and future, they are as vivid to us as the screen you are reading this on. Speaking of the future, I have a universe to build. I’ll see you there.

Footnote. Why not check out Shawn’s Sci fi blog at http://shawnjonesscifi.blogspot.co.uk/