On Being Pompous

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I recently have joined three different internet social sites.  I did this on advice of my agent, Bob, who said that I needed to be ever-increasing my internet platform.  Which, I guess, has something to do with marketing myself as a viable human being, as well as a viable author. (See Amazon Author’s Page)

And so I have joined three sites.  The first is a “professional” social site, which means that those who become members do so not to get dates, but to network with other professionals and, in so doing, increase everyone’s chances of being professionally viable.  This is not only the internet but capitalism at work, and so must be accepted, if not praised.  I have had some very good experiences on this site–I re-connected with an old editor of mine, which re-ignited my interest in continuing to produce new books in my subject area (holistic health) and I have made several new friends via the site as well.  (Which brings up a question–can you call someone with whom you have exchanged many emails, and told a good deal of personal information, the way you would tell someone in a bar who you never expected to see again, a friend?  Or do we need a new term for the invisible people who we get to know, with whom we laugh and cry, but who we never intend to meet?  Are they efriends like books we can download and read, but, somehow, never touch, are called ebooks?

Anyway, nothing in my early experience at the professional site prepared me two lifeforms that lurk in the corners of the site.  Among the millions of ehumans and potential efriends are a number of esharks and eloons.  The esharks are those who friend you because they want to edit your book, format your manuscript, or teach you to make millions by publishing and marketing your book yourself.  The eloons are worse.

These are the rather sorry souls who float about in the vast pond that is the professional social site and who, from time to time, make rather odd comments in the group discussions, usually about things that were being discussed about a week ago.  I have learned the hard way never to make eye contact with the eloon and never to in any way encourage or discourage them in the discussion at hand.  With my first eloon, let us call her Betty, I was contacted by her and asked to “join her network”, which is this site’s way of asking to be friends.  I agreed, as I always agree.  But, unlike most, who send you one or two emails of welcome, she began immediately writing to me and trying to draw me into long conversations about “what you are working on right now”.  Long story short, turns out she is a lawyer and wants to represent me in any contracts that have to be negotiated.  When this finally dawned on me, I contacted her to say that I had a long history of working with my agent on negotiating contracts, but thanks.  She wrote back a terse not saying that it always amazed her how deluded people are about the things that they don’t understand.  And it went on from there, until I finally had to pull the plug on her and remove her from my network.

The next eloon seemed normal enough when she posted to a group site.  Even though her comments were days late in terms of the thread of the conversation, I made the mistake of including a line or two of commentary concerning her posting before moving on with the discussion.  That was more than this eloon, let us call her Phoebe, could bear.  And she unleashed a torrent of a comment directed at me.  She called me “self-involved” .  She called me “pompous”.  She went on and on in the ways that the eloons do, writing sentence after sentence that seemed, on reading them, as if they were composed totally of adverbs and adjectives.  These sentences concluded that I had personally attacked her with my comments and likely done irreparable harm.  I did what there was to do and went to her profile page to find out what I could about her.  And there, to my amusement, was her assessment of her own work: “Highly passionate about the English language and the Plain English Campaign.. I offer a no-fuss, inclusive service, hopefully dispelling the myth that writing is only for the very well educated. Let’s bring writing into the 21st century and let’s enjoy it! It’s for everyone…”  Here was my Ah Ha moment–I had sinned by being apparently well educated and by knowing enough to put a subject at the beginning of a sentence.

And so I am pompous.  I wear it like a red badge of courage.  I am well read.  I begin sentences which a noun and then move on from there.  I do not deny it, I revel in it.

Last I read, Phoebe was still making references to me by telling others how non-pompous they are.  And so it goes.

In my other two groups, I have become a part of an ongoing discussion forum with those who graduated from the same Bible college with me and have joined a group dedicated to making homeopathy the world’s default form of medicine.  In the one, I am considered hopelessly old and out of date, as the rest of the members all graduated in the last few years, not a few decades ago as I did. They want to discuss Kant and atheism, I want to discuss the gold Prayer Tower in the middle of the campus and how I used to work there as a tour guide.  In the other, I am likely considered a cynic, as I think that homeopathy has as much chance of becoming anything other than it is, a niche form of medicine for those of us who love it, as Pluto has of becoming a planet again.  Both have seen better days, and both have been demoted into a smaller slot on the cosmic landscape.  But at least–and let me make this perfectly clear–in neither of these groups have I been called pompous.

 

Toward a New Vocabulary

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I’ve read that the majority of us have a working vocabulary of about 10,000 words.  This seems pitifully small to me, give the many, many more thousands of perfectly good words that could be ours at no charge, were be but to go and harvest them from time to time.  But as that would likely involve opening a dictionary or some other word farm (word a day calendars, etc) it seems unlikely that many of us, save those who were the unlucky recipients of said calendars from Secret Santas at the office holiday party last December, will ever get to 10,001.

So I thought that I could be of help here.  I recently came upon a nice shiny new word on the second page of a mystery novel (I always appreciate when authors of popular fiction go the extra mile in terms of word selection–something that is all too often left to “literary” novelists and the know-it-all poets) written by an internet acquaintance of mine, Steven M. Thomas.  In his new book, Criminal Karma, he writes, “The hills reminded me of an oil painting I’d seen while casing a Santa Barbara museum a couple of weeks before–a plein air vision of SoCal’s vanishing rural past worth $30,000, more than the rolling expanse of portrayed acreage was worth when the painter committed it to canvas in the 1920s.”

My built-in Mac dictionary defines plein-air (and yes, Steven, there should be a hyphen) as “denoting or in the manner of a 19th century style of painting outdoors, or with a strong sense of open air, that became a central feature of French Impressionism.”

Thus, we all have something new to say at the next dinner party we attend, the next new neighbor’s house we visit, “Such a splendid plein-air painting in the solarium.”  Or, “There is such a sense of open air and light in here, that one might venture to call it plein-air!”  After the first sentence, one should punctuate with a slight nod.  After the second a little tinkling “ha ha ha” laugh might be just the thing.

Either was, we are now, indeed, up to 10,001.

 

Christopher Isherwood’s Prayer for Writers

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He’s always been one of my favorite authors and I never enjoyed him more than when I jumped into the deep waters of his journals.  In them, I found this short passage, which he calls his “Prayer for Writers.”

“Oh source of my imagination, teach me to extend toward all living beings that fascinated, unsentimental, loving and all-pardoning interest which I feel for the characters I create. May I become identified with all humanity, as I identify myself with these imaginary persons. May my art become my life, and my life my art. Deliver me from snootiness, and from the Pulitzer Prize. Teach me to practice true anonymity. Help me to forgive my agents and my publishers. Make me attentive to my critics and patient with my fans. For yours is the conception and the execution. Amen”

In his entry for that day, he continues on:  “Stop trying to use the conscious will.  Free the Ego from its attachments with expert gentleness, like a surgeon.  Remember that the strangulated Ego is everything you hate in others–so how can you hate anybody?  You are only hating yourself.  The surgeon doesn’t hate the hernia:  he simply reduces it…  Forgive yourself and then operate.”

This Heat Is Melting All My Verbs

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I awakened this morning to learn from MSNBC that the hottest place in the nation was not Phoenix, as it should be, but was JFK Airport in New York City.  As I am located only a little to the north of that, I reacted with something less than excitement.

This is not the weather in which poor-but-honest artist/writer/poets can carve out a sad little living by having their dog Django dance on his hind legs down by the Piggly Wiggly, or by having their dear little niece, Faith, sell matches by Town Hall.  Django danced for a while, his belled collar making a jolly noise, until it became apparent that we was only dancing because of his bare paws on the sidewalk.  And poor Faith’s tattered little gown caught fire when her matches spontaneously combusted.

Most acts of begging are far better suited for cold weather than for hot.  Hot weather is for guessing the price of the showcases on The Price is Right and for rubbing frozen peas across one’s forehead.  We are not, as a rule, as well prepared for this kind of heat in Connecticut, any more than Tulsa is prepared for the snow and ice that comes as a surprise there every winter.

The point is this:  The old concept of Summertime and the Livin’ Is Easy has been replaced with heat alerts and the sound of window units cranking away as best they can and people hiding inside, sitting next to the units, trying to guess how many appliances they can use–dare they use the microwave to heat that frozen burrito or should they just eat is as a frozen savory treat?–before they blow the fuses.

And so as it all becomes like that Twilight Zone, where the world was heating, heating, and the paint came running down the artist’s canvas, I sign off, in hopes of better days ahead, or, at least  a ride to the beach.