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Rated: E | N/A (Review only item.)
Rating and Reviewing Philosophy
by LightinMind (181)
Rated: E · Review · Reviewing · #2259390

How do I assess people's work when reviewing?
Intro Rated: E
Size: 16.32 KB
Created: October 2nd, 2021 at 2:36am
Modified: November 18th, 2022 at 10:36am


This was written after receiving a particularly low mark in a WDC Contest. I reviewed the reviewer's own rating philosophy agreeing with him that rating inflation was a problem on this site and that I needed to lower my ratings. I also wanted to review what people looked at when reviewing my own work. In the interest of fairness and consistency, it seemed important to write down a coherent strategy and system for reviews which I will try and keep to as of October 2021.


(LCW) I have responded to a few items on the subject of reviewing and continually find it fascinating albeit somewhat confusing. I am here to write and to share my work, and while feedback is integral to the experience, I find that you can easily get lost in the minutiae of what they say as opposed to what you wanted to say, what they interpreted from your words, the degree of their own experience, the open-mindedness of the reviewer, and especially the value that you can or will place on their observations when you know relatively nothing about them.

I listen to reviews with that proverbial ‘grain of salt’. I have had reviews with scathing criticisms followed by someone that was brought to tears. Same subject matter even the same passage. Both place a compulsion and imperative on me to disassociate myself from my own work and to investigate what they meant by their criticism and their interpretation of what I said. People pre-judge others all the time. At time people see what they want to see, perhaps not what you wanted them to see. The problem may be my fault, and I need to present the information in some other format, some other perspective. Perhaps a complete rewrite or I may come to the conclusion that the critique, was misplaced or misunderstood, no matter how well-intentioned.

The process is never-ending and complicated. The value we receive from feedback can be instrumental in the growth and understanding of our own intentions and expectations, and can easily become an insurmountable obstacle to being able to write at all.

I am rather protective of the ratings I give, not to stifle the enthusiasm but to give them objectives for the future. Everyone may no agree but I find very few 5-star works of art. There are some very, very good or interesting stories and articles, and I want to acknowledge them, but many have voiced not wanting to cause the writers any discomfort. Discomfort comes with the territory.

An aspiring writer need not look for expansive praise but look for reasoned, well-meaning and insightful critiques of what as to improve and develop existing capabilities and talents.

I hope you are ready for an in-depth foray into your positions. I rarely give anything else. I write reviews for myself as well as you. It helps develop my own thoughts and positions. I find my work improves because of it, at least from my own perspective, and if truth be told, that is of more importance than the reviews themselves.





WHY REVIEW AT ALL?


1) Reviewing should help others. So if you give a poor mark, say why and make it helpful.


(LCW) Absolutely agree. I am not sure there can actually be a ‘poor’ mark, but I understand the reference. Marks tell us what needs attention, but only from our own perspective, which may be ignorant of your intent. Every writer has the opportunity and obligation to reject or accept an observation. Those decisions exist as they write their pieces, with everything written or read.

The issue of helping others is obvious. If it is spelling or grammar or punctuation, there are defined and accepted norms, although many of us ‘choose’ to ignore or push the boundaries. Many authors do so and we do not criticize those that do, at least when they become established and successful.

The things that separate and establish us as different from the mainstream are our style and our delivery, form, and ‘voice’. They are unique and individual. They cannot be ‘taught’ or even adopted or learned, they need to be created and developed. Only time and experience, and awareness of other writers that have existed or exist around us is going to be able to do that. I may be wrong, and you may disagree, but I think my position a reasonable and legitimate one.



2) Reviewing helps us grow also. We can learn from other people's stories and the mistakes they make. Reviewing helps us to see our own writing flaws more clearly also.


(LCW) An irrefutable position. The process is arduous and it takes time and effort. We must resolve to take every comment seriously, determine if it makes sense or holds value for us, and come to conclusions. When we dismiss a point of view, I have found that weeks, months, or even years later, they find their way back into my thoughts and eventually my words and my work. Nothing is ever really dismissed.



3) To promote the good, beautiful, pure, noble, and the true.


(LCW) The real question is what those concepts actually mean, and they can be quite different between individuals of different backgrounds, experiences, and philosophies. Since the essence of this piece is the reviewing of philosophy, it must be noted that the critique will inevitably be philosophical as well.



STRUCTURE OF MY REVIEW (Marking)


1) Why am I reviewing your piece, where did I find it?


(LCW) I should offer this kind of information but I must admit that I often do not. The fact I take the time and make an effort to do a review is indicative that something caught my eye and piqued my interest. I personally appreciate specifics on my work so I would appreciate knowing that myself. I will attempt to keep that in mind in the future.



2) My summary of what I think you are saying.


(LCW) This is a bit confusing for me since this article is about philosophy. A novel or story can be quite difficult to summarize. What I think you are saying would be summarized in almost all of my feedback. It does give an indication to the writer if they are presenting the content properly for the reader to comprehend intention and expectation.



3) Commentary on the content and characters of your piece. An assessment of the truth
and quality of what you said.
My personal reactions to this content. ( )


(LCW) No argument. I would simply try to understand whatever you cared to offer and progress from there. I would not try to assess truth and quality of content but look for verifiable instances of a mistake or misrepresentation. These things, truth and quality, are almost exclusively subjective in nature and my intent would never be to create conflict as to definition although asking for one would not be out of the question.

I would consider personal reactions as one of the most important aspects of the critique. You mentioned at the beginning of the piece that when 'giving' a poor mark, or any mark for that matter, there needs to be some kind of explanation or insight to give credibility and legitimacy to your own comments. I may come across to some as critical at times but that is because I make an effort to say something to benefit the writer in some way, either specifically or philosophically to help in their writing.

Personally, I relish the negative comments even more than the positive ones. I appreciate the support, but brutal honesty, even if possibly unfair, gives me an opportunity to improve my work and understand those that are not interpreting my intent. It is not that my feelings cannot be hurt, but I accept and embrace those that can articulate my shortcomingsfind fault with whatever I am trying to convey in my work. If it doesn’t work, I attempt something different, from another perspective perhaps if I even agree that something needs to be done.

I am not writing for acceptance, although most may do that. I am writing to improve my words, my thoughts, my content, and my own interpretation of all of these things. While I wish and hope people enjoy and experience something from my work, it is not my focus. That remains my own perspective on my own work. I passionately believe that all writers should consider a similar objective. Only my opinion, nothing more.



4) Mechanics ( )


So a perfectly written piece with drivel for content will get a three. Edifying, realistic, and high-quality content but with too many mistakes will get two stars.


(LCW) I am not sure I understand. Drivel gets you no stars, no matter how perfectly written it may have been. High-quality content gets high stars no matter how many mistakes. Mistakes can be rectified, while high-quality content is rare, as is a ‘perfectly’ written piece.




5 stars are for perfectly written classics. I should expect to find one of these once a month if at all, not every day I review. A five-star review should probably also gain an automatic award icon because it is that good.



4-4.5 stars is very good work, perfectly written, realistic, and with some kind of stirring message.


3-3.5 is above average and well written. This is a good mark for a solid piece of work that could still be improved.



2-2.5 Is average or below and requires a lot of work to improve it. If I give you this rating it should be accompanied by an explanation of why with the aim of helping you write better.


The lowest mark is for unreal poor content and it is full of errors. Mainly I will simply not mark a piece where a 1-star rating is required.


(LCW) While this is a review I am not sure that I can competently judge your star system. There are too many variables and they are so subjective as to be inconsequential. I can’t say that I disagree with your perspective, but it begins to be too antiseptic in practice. I don’t say this to be argumentative or judgmental, only that I personally cannot come to these conclusions with the information available.

Perhaps I am not being empathetic enough to the trials and tribulations of the writers on this site, but I have yet to experience something that I could call a ‘perfectly written classic’. Maybe they exist but I haven’t seen one. I don’t think that I am being harsh. I have seen some well-written pieces but 5 stars represent perfection and that leaves no room for improvement.

A reasonable member knows his ability and level of talent. They are here to learn and to develop whatever capabilities they possess. Those that need to do neither are accomplished writers and exist on another level. I certainly do not demand that you agree, but if I seem to overstep my bounds, please understand that I want nothing but to help other writers here on the site, but I do expect them to be reasonable and realistic. I have seen hundreds of writers that came here to become professional and successful writers that quit after one of two honest reviews. The life of a writer is one of disappointment and challenge. How many established writers had to go through hundreds of rejections before receiving any recognition? Nobody ever said life was going to be fair, and that goes especially for those who wish to be recognized as legitimate writers.



i) CONTENT AND CHARACTERS


Some pieces are content-focused and others character-focused. These are two different styles that require two different approaches. To see how I view characters follow the link below:

Characters: Overview (E)
How I regard and interact with characters in my stories
#2273348 by LightinMind (181)



How do I assess content? I have three main criteria. Is it realistic? Is it high quality? Does it elicit a personal reaction in me?


(LCW) This is something where we fundamentally agree. While I appreciate science fiction and fantasy, there needs to be something that makes sense and makes me believe that the possibility exists for it to actually work. On that, we are in agreement. High quality is again subjective, but experience and a talent for drawing one into the narrative deliver high quality even if there are flaws and questions.

And the last aspect, that elicitation of a personal reaction, that is, or should be the focus of any writing, to get the reader to lose themselves in the thought process initiated by the words is the goal of all writers, it certainly is for me. If I can get someone to think, I am content. If they hear my words, and their own thoughts eventually find something within their own past that resonates and inspires memories, then I feel that I have accomplished what I set out to achieve. I want them to become an integral part of whatever narrative I have offered.

I realize that this is not what all writers want, and also acknowledge that this is not what you may be talking about, but it is what I attempt to do, and my only response to what you present is how I perceive what you think is valid and legitimate. I readily admit that it is only my opinion, and yet it is my primary objective.



A) Truth

I have four main methods for assessing the authenticity of a piece:


(LCW) I accept that this is what you believe. As for truth, I am not sure that it is quantifiable or credible. Truth, like art and beauty and religion, is in the eye of the beholder and is a completely subjective journey. All of these things are individual, unique, and personal. They are all a matter of experience and something some call ‘faith’, and none of them are verifiable or measurable. The individual is the sole arbiter in the matter of these things.



1) Christian theological. I take a broad view of Christianity that affirms scripture and most of the decisions of the first four church councils with the resulting credal declarations. I also accept that people of other religions, no religion, and indeed Christian heretics often have an overlap with the truth in regard to spiritual and moral matters. I have read the Quran three times and Hindu and Buddhist works also and taught the six major religions for a season but regard the focus of truth to be in the Christian faith positions.


(LCW) I haven’t read the Qur’an in any depth but from what I have read, there is nothing there not contained in other texts. I have read the Bible, and am unimpressed. There exist many inconsistencies and contradictions that cause me to be skeptical. I find no fault with others that embrace and adopt many of the teachings that exist within, but again, find nothing of significance for me that would change my life. Having said that, if it brings you peace and makes you a better person because of it, then I applaud and support the belief.

Full disclosure demands that I note that I was raised a Catholic, I have researched a number of Christian and non-Christian beliefs in my investigations on god and religion, and was disillusioned almost from the beginning in the ‘authenticity’ of the ideologies. My uncle was a Catholic priest as was my older brother. I was even an altar boy at one point, but my questions about the religion fell on deaf ears. And yet I know people that I can only describe as devout and legitimate believers, my brother being a perfect example. A good man of character and integrity, and nothing that I can say against him or the life he led. There is no reason to vilify someone who does not agree with my life view, or I with theirs. I embrace the ‘diversity’ of our species, as long as they are demonstrably ‘good’ people that have no objective besides being the best person that they can be.



2) Historical - primary sources, the credibility of historical testimony.


(LCW) I have nothing against historical testimony but make the attempt to temper that with the reality that many of these historians follow an ideology and a personal perspective that is reflected in their work. They make educated guesses, but invariably do not possess irrefutable information or evidence to verify those same conclusions. Again, not to be argumentative, just to make my position clear. I am nothing if not a skeptic. There is too much information that is questionable and is presented as fact. It is more a matter of ‘faith’ than legitimate evidence.

My opinion only. We cannot verify what politicians said a week ago and yet we seem to accept an interpretation of what was said by those that lived a thousand years ago? With no possible avenue to confirm empirically and irrefutably, we tend to believe that no one in such a position could possibly have a reason to misinterpret or misdirect. Every political ideology has lied throughout history, and every religion has been disingenuous at times in the management of its own belief system, from Christianity to Buddhism. The nature of mankind to this point is undeniable.



3) Scientific - Can it be established by the scientific method, is there a scientific rationale behind it that could possibly justify the storyline? Fact-checking is important in most stories.


(LCW) For the most part we can agree with scientific method, but it is the inherent political ideologies that call much of what is truth and fact into question. There are a dozen controversial issues that have not been validated by science but only by those who claim to speak for science. I find this to be inarguable. Fact-checking has become an intellectual joke. When making these judgments, I think it would be more reliable and credible to simply provide a personal perspective with a reasoned argument and dispense with the attempt to create legitimacy through the words and positions of questionable ‘experts’. Once again, just my opinion.



4) Experiential - I am not a kid, have lived, read, and traveled widely. The experiential is when a story passes the first three tests but still feels false. It might lack a human connection for instance.


(LCW) I find this perspective highly legitimate and influential. The fact does exist though that living, reading, and traveling, while highly relevant, can be insulated and isolated depending on circumstance and lose whatever value we are assuming is possessed simply by the act of doing these things. If one exists in a cultural vacuum, and everything they experience is within a controlled environment, there exists the possibility for what you might call a false positive or an indoctrination.

I do think the human connection to be of intrinsic and substantive value. Again, it is the personal opinion, with a reasoned argument or explanation that gives authenticity to your observations and point of view. The believability of your perspective is what persuades the reader to consider the value of your thoughts and your words. Credibility comes with verification but also with an intellectual and philosophical agreement.



On occasions, metaphors can be used to describe complex truths. This is different from pure fantasy which has no metaphorical resonance, expansion on, or connection with literal-historical truth. I appreciated C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkiens attempts to build parallel universes in which Christian truths were embedded and articulated in other-worldly realities. However, on reflection I consider them to have been monumental diversions into fantastical cul de sacs that left too many people stranded from the truth. They helped spawn an unmoored and implausible genre of literature that is in effect pure foolishness. So generally I try to avoid reviewing the Fantasy genre unless it echoes or gives insight into the real world.


(LCW) I am so sorry that you feel that way. The fact that it does not validate your own personal worldview does not negate the inspiration and insight that it may provide another individual whether it dovetails with your particular mindset or religious perspective. We all come to conclusions through different paths and from my experience, it is not the individual ‘preacher’ that determines these things, but only God and the individual. It seems that vanity and ego can sometimes override the actual teachings of the religious ideology. Please don’t misinterpret my position. I am not judging your perspective but only suggesting that you re-evaluate the coercive environment that seems to reject such exceptional writers as Tolkien and Lewis. I find the comments as to foolishness et al to be grossly inappropriate and un-Christian. In any case, I support your right to hold those positions.



B) Quality


The definition of quality is regarded by many as purely subjective and a matter of personal preference. However, there are objective ways we could assess a piece.


1) Impact - Its impact on others. How many read it, and how many have rated it highly?


(LCW) I really want to agree with you, I do. The problem is that we never really know the actual impact. The review needs to be your interpretation of the writing and not how many ‘others’ like it. I would think that the complete failure of Facebook with its likes and dislikes would have convinced us by now that mindless community agreement that comes through intimidation and insecurities is less than relevant.

We already talked about those that are unwilling to give other writers anything less than a five so they don’t hurt their feelings, so does this not call the legitimacy of ratings into question? Impact can only be the individual reaction to the piece, and nothing more. It is up to the individual writer to come to any other conclusions.

I am confused as to the real impact that we are trying to ascertain. Is it a true and ‘scientific’ impact, or a personal or ‘perceived’ impact that normally cannot be validated?



2) Connectivity - Does it bring out the key issues of our age or personal experience? Does it provoke questions? Is it memorable to the point that we think about it long after we stopped reading? Does it reach into our souls and make us listen to what it has to say?


(LCW) This may be the most fundamental aspect that you have brought up to this point. All of these things are integral to the likeability and viability of the work offered up for review. All of these things are personal, individual, and unique. Nothing communal. What does it mean to you alone so the writer can understand the value of what they wrote? Yes, it is only a single individual, but it is real and honest and deeply felt. That is the crux of what the writer searches for. If anything can be considered truth this would be it. Nothing else even really matters. If someone tells me it touches their soul, then I need nothing else whatsoever. I am content and there is a certain degree of peace.



3) A Masterwork - Is this perfectly written - which connects to the mechanic's section below but is not entirely dependent on it. I have read stories that had no grammar errors and obeyed all the rules which sounded flat and robotic. The difference between a poet and an AI is clear but hard to define.


(LCW) I have already commented on a piece perfectly written. Your comments on grammar and obeying all the rules are valid but the fact remains that the result may come across as flat and robotic which illustrates that these things (grammar, rules, et al) simply are not the essence of importance. They give structure and they should be understood and always at the back of our minds, but there are things much more important, like the style, the flow, and the voice of the writer. While there are those that have an innate talent towards perfection, the reality is that they are a rare breed. It takes experience and millions of written words to even begin to grasp what they are capable of and what it is that they are trying to convey to the reader. So read, and think, and write, and then write some more. Edit and read and write even more. Rinse and repeat. Repeatedly. It may take a lifetime, and you may never achieve that which you desire, but the writer does not write for success, but because they have no choice, because they are writers. Don’t fight it, write it.

Hemmingway said it best: “All you have to do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed”. Truer words were never spoken.



C) Emotional Reaction


At the end of the day, there is a personal preference. Some you like and some you do not. Some make you feel and some leave you dead and detached.


(LCW) Once again I heartily agree. This is what makes a writer legitimate. He makes people feel. As a reviewer, you need to be brutally honest and relate what you feel, and if it made you furious or made you cry, then, as you have said, tell them why. You cannot make them understand and you cannot teach them how to write, you can only share your perspective. The rest is up to them. If you wish to teach children then by all means do so. If you wish to help a writer grow and develop then tell them whatever truth you interpret.



ii) MECHANICS Click to expand ▼


By the time I wrote this, I had received 122 (now 279+) reviews of items in my portfolio and lots of criticisms. The following is a rough collated list of this and subsequent commentary which I hope to apply in my own reviews. It is continually updated as I learn new things. Sometimes I have directly quoted my reviewer. Where that is a problem let me know and I will change it into my own words.


Passive Voice

Try to eliminate passive voice; using weak adverbs and too many was, had, can slow the story down. Here's a link you might find useful.

https://plainlanguage.gov/resources/articles/dash-...

Change sentences to [subject][verb][action] where possible. Make the subject the master of the sentence rather than mastered by the themes of the sentence.


(LCW) You may be right but I find it too antiseptic once again. I am ambivalent when it comes to this historical structure within literature that, admittedly important to understand and acknowledge, can be a challenge to writers, especially new ones who are fragile and easily intimidated and dissuaded from continuing to write. I believe that they need to write as much as possible and get feedback that is focused and honest even if somewhat harsh and unrewarding. When they understand the value of that honesty, they can begin to define their voice and style and focus on what they are trying to say and not so much on how it is received.

I know many may disagree with me, but I am not trying to confront or contradict, only to share my own experience and perspective after a decade within the evolution of my own writing. I guess my point is that we all need to develop our own unique talents and personality. People like Elliot and especially someone like the postmodernist Wallace go against the grain but have made a place for themselves with their writing.

I was consistently called out for my rambling sentences when I began to write, questioning the length of my sentences and paragraphs, one person saying they were too long, and another that they were too short. One inserting commas everywhere and the next questioning the need. It created more confusion than anything else. Then I read Wallace and many of his sentences were over 100 words (I counted them of course). I then decided to write what sounded clear and appropriate to me. I did stop hundred-plus-word sentences but was able to come to my own conclusions. The issue comes down to what the writer feels comfortable with, and who has to be willing to accept the consequences of his decisions, but listening to what other writers have to say, knowing full well that only some actually know what they are talking about. Once again, only the opinion of a single individual. I make no claims to having an expertise in any of this, only my personal experience.



Physical Context

Where is this scene occurring? Give the reader a visual context to place the narrative.


(LCW) In the context of a novel or story I would agree wholeheartedly, but I was attracted to your piece because it mentioned philosophical writing and review. I would suggest that it is a different animal but even in the philosophical context, it is important to give detail to the concepts that are being discussed. I have never thought of a visual context in conjunction with philosophy but then again, I have never given it much thought. I will have to reserve judgment until I have.



Complementary actions

Use actions to complement dialog and flesh out its meaning and emotional impact.


(LCW) This would seem appropriate in whatever type of writing is being attempted. I find these things to be integral to any circumstance, especially the focus on emotional impact.



Title and Description

Fits the story, is compelling, does not give away the conclusion. Promises something worth reading.


First-Line
Does it set the scene and hook the reader in?


(LCW) So many speak of titles and the initial hook and of course it is an imperative, but perhaps not so easy to implement. The entire work draws the reader into whatever world is being created. The title is just another way of getting them to pick up the book and consider reading it while making it appealing when in competition with so many other alternatives.

While not wanting to give away any conclusions, it is the journey through your words that cannot be interpreted in a single title. It will be necessary to at least begin to read to determine if there is substance. I think you continually need to add additional ‘hooks’ to keep them intrigued and perhaps a bit off-balance not knowing what comes next.

Of course, you don’t want to be so predictable that this interest and intrigue are completely missing from the piece. If so, there is much work to be done and changes to be made.



Last-Line
This will be remembered and should not ruin the story.


(LCW) The close may be the most important aspect of the narrative. It may be a final conclusion or it may leave them wanting even more. It may be a point of confusion, by accident or by design, and it’s possible that it can ruin the whole experience. Especially when dealing with philosophical concepts, it should (my opinion only) initiate further contemplation and have them repeatedly pulled back to the ideas created by your words. For me, that is the objective.



The Big Idea

Unique and interesting, cannot have too many big ideas in too short a space of text, must not be impossible.


(LCW) Always a challenge to have a reasonable focus that can be controlled and managed. Experience helps but I find myself floundering at times with simply having more information that I want to include than I can handle. There is much to discuss and because of the wealth of information and possibilities the writer cannot adequately, in a short space, do it justice or bring clarity or value. I am often guilty of such an action and incessantly work on the shortcoming.



Story
Do you contradict yourself, is the story credible given its premises? Are there major omissions given the major premise e.g. ship at sea in high winds would also experience big waves. Do not assume your readers are morons by explaining everything and repeating yourself. Whose agenda does your story serve? Darkness or Light? Why should the reader care about what you write here? Use of surprise, use all the senses, do not overwhelm the reader with unimportant details. Don't info dump but feed it into the narrative piece by piece, the reader needs to want to have a reason to find stuff out. Fit the style to the genre, Sci-fi needs to be scientific, How does it read aloud? Slow down. Add some more details. Flesh out the characters and the scenery.


(LCW) All fundamental and valuable points. There is a fine line between information and condescension. Repetition, on the other hand, is something I often think about, especially within the philosophical paradigm. We teach our children through repetition because you cannot expect them to understand concepts with a single definition or explanation. It needs to be reiterated and clarified from multiple perspectives to find one that is acceptable and comprehensible to the individual and we don’t always know what that might be. Every reader is an extremely unique individual and needs to be treated as such by the writer. This does not mean that they are considered incapable of understanding, only that it is the writer’s responsibility to find a way to do so. Ignorance is often just a lack of information or context.

Senses are always of great value. In a visual story, it can be the difference between a good story and a great one. Within philosophy, it may be a challenge but it still exists, perhaps with a different focus and less taste and smell than insight and understanding.

Info dumps are indeed an obstacle to a good narrative, whatever the context. A continuous feed, as you suggest, is more palatable. And yet, those rigid literary teachers and experts talk about saying in four words what you have said in ten, when to introduce the information necessary, especially within philosophical terms, you may need hundreds or thousands of words. I would think the key is to keep the narrative interesting, dynamic, and riveting so as to lose track of time as well as the number of words being read. I find many books and essays to be quite long and boring, and yet I have found long ones that only leave me wanting more. It is probably more the ability of the writer to entertain and capture the reader than the length of the opus.

Overall, great suggestions and something that every writer should already be attempting.



Point of View (POV)

Be consistent about the perspective taken in each section and limit what you say to what they could actually know or observe. Establish the POV in the first sentence of each section.


(LCW) Another contentious issue. While it is an excellent rule of thumb I find myself at times floating back and forth between POV’s. It is sometimes discordant and of course must be rectified, but at times it is an interesting juxtaposition between the views. If it sounds good, and it makes sense, I leave it alone, only to find that someone does not agree. Do we make changes on the suggestion of a single individual, or is it necessary to have a wave of criticism to do so? what if there are also those who agree? These are difficult decisions the writer needs to make at times. It can change the substance of the work, even your voice or style. It is more than a little bit frustrating as well. It is the joy of writing.



Worldbuilding
Is this world realistic after theological, historical, scientific, literary, and personal tests have been applied? Does that matter? - e.g. in the case of a dream or madness or stress-induced experiences.


(LCW) This is a fascinating issue. Worldbuilding by definition is not real, and yet it needs to come across as realistic. My introduction to philosophy was through the venue of science fiction. Most of it was rather pedestrian and primitive and immature, but much was significantly thought-provoking and intriguing. What would I do coming in contact with an alien culture? What technological wonders will exist in the future?

The great ones were something else, challenging our most cherished beliefs and illuminating our deepest fears. Heinlein’s perspective of humans being raised as an alien on another planet in ‘Stranger In A Strange Land’ not to mention the whole concept of ‘grok’, or Asimov with the integrity of his laws of robotics or his Foundation series. Then there was Clark, with a degree in mathematics and President of the British Interplanetary Society, who worked developing radar during WWII. His Childhoods End and 2001: Space Odyssey were riveting. No weekend writing warrior here, with most of them well-researched and written. Not all by any means, but is that the only measure of a good writer?

You also mentioned Lewis and Tolkien, and not in a compassionate or even reasonable or ‘Christian’ way. These individuals accomplished something that few have rivaled, the ability to make people think and dream and lose themselves in a reality just as real as the one that religion, philosophy, and politics attempt to paint. Something to believe in, perhaps better than what exists all around us. Literature is nothing if not about the great ‘what-ifs’ of life. You greatly underestimate their value and legitimacy.

Dreams, especially madness and ‘stress-induced’ experiences are real and we need to understand them, and some writers have an insight that we may never have, and they share that perspective with us which serves as a direct conduit to comprehension and empathy with those realities. Important from an entertainment level but also as a means to understand ourselves and those around us, even our species. Their value and legitimacy are inestimable, even if we do not personally derive any direct benefit.



Dialogue
Stilted, Info dumping, real in the circumstances described or abstracted from them, unbroken and uninterrupted monologues, do interjections help create the required mood e.g. fear or excitement, are they talking to each other or the audience (married couples do not need to be told the profession of their spouse), does it sound natural and realistic, does the dialog sound robotic, put dialog in quotes. Dialog needs to be personal and to connect to human beings rather than abstract and vague, Make it specific not general. Are you waffling? A person would not talk about my mum and dad but rather Mum or Dad. If a favorite line is lovely and clever but doesn't quite fit, drop it. The name must be set off with a comma in the dialog.

Dialogue and dialogue tag should not mean the same thing - and so he asked Moses to continue, “Please proceed.”


(LCW) Monologues can indeed be interminable and yet others are illuminating and instructive and can give an insight that may be difficult to insert into the narrative easily. It is the degree of interest and the quality not only of the words and writing but the content and context in relation to the story that is important. I find many talking about sentences, paragraphs, chapters, books, and yes, even monologues being incessantly long, but the whole objective of reading (and writing) is to lose yourself in a different reality. Entertainment and education. Introspection and ‘revelation’ as it were. Good things are rarely too long and often not long enough. Bad writing, and poor substance, are never short enough.

I fail to understand the issues with abstractions and generalities. If they are valid and presented well, they can be instrumental and highly enjoyable. It is a matter of degree and expectation and interpretation of the writer. Refrain from doing so if you wish, but we need writers that do not create from a template or from rules and regulations that are not and never will be absolutes. Let the writer create and let them experience the ramifications of their experiments with the word and the mind.



Characters
Character development, they learn something or grow in some way, conflicts bring out the characters, do the low stakes or high stakes of the characters match the high stakes or low stakes of the storyline. Mannerisms and idiosyncrasies. Why should the reader connect with them?

What life-changing thing does your character want or need?

Were the characters believable and do they elicit an emotional response? Does the character have flaws, how does he deal with these? Character backstory. Who is the protagonist and who is the antagonist here, what conflict is being resolved in your story?


(LCW) I know it is your own perspective, but a bit dogmatic in essence. I only want new writers to experiment as opposed to following a script, and to create as opposed to clone or mimic. I want them to make mistakes, hundreds of them, because that is the way we learn, grow, and evolve. I am sorry if I come across as overpowering. I think of it more as passion, with just a little bit of that hubris that I infer.

Having said that, I think your comments on characters are essential concepts. The development and evolution of a character (or a concept in philosophical issues) are the essence of the narrative. The problem is that answering all of your imperatives takes time and inevitably a lot of words. Well-structured and relevant words. I find brevity to be something of an obstacle, especially when you understand that you are speaking to, literally, an infinite number of individuals that are trying to interpret your presentation.



Technical
Is the use of keywords appropriate, spelling, grammar, repeated or overused words e.g. and or but in my case. Break up large sentences. A minimalist approach to commas but use them when they are needed. Quotes outside full stops and commas, avoid putting two adverbs back to back e.g. actually quite, View that use of the adverb "very" weakens a sentence. Be consistent about time e.g. 8:00 pm or 20:00. Choose one. Choose a language e.g. American or British English (believe me they are very different). Close quotes.
Commas!!! Breakup overly long sentences


(LCW) It’s difficult to dismiss technical aspects. Perhaps dismiss is not the right word. Maybe more of a need for extended consideration and interpretation. They need to be known before they can be considered, embraced, adopted, or rejected or put on hold. It's possible to put too much time into technical aspects which reduces the time spent on creating the written story. After assimilating the rules and historical precedents and expectations, it's time to put words on paper. The technical aspects should complement the work, not dictate it. Once again, only a suggestion, a single opinion among many.



Capitalize God and He when referring to Him.


(LCW) I get a lot of observations about my lack of doing exactly this. Not trying to be irreverent although that is a small part of my position. The capitalization is a sign of respect for the belief system of another, but there are over four thousand religious belief systems and I am not sure that they all deserve the notoriety. When we speak of god and religion in a generic sense it is just a word and there is no need for a formal recognition. The same would hold true if what we consider gods are some kind of alien. I think that if ‘your’ God is relevant, you treat him accordingly. If someone else does not see the need, it does not denote any disrespect, that is a personal interpretation. I thought it was acceptable that everyone had the right to their own opinion and speech. Does that not hold true here as well? When all is said and done, we are talking about something that is a matter of faith and not of fact, even though the evidence of some controlling power may be significant. I find it interesting that having the right to believe what one wishes is not the fundamental focus.



Numbers under a hundred should be spelled out in words.



(LCW) I would tend to agree even though at times it just doesn’t sound or look right.



Use Grammarly but do not be a slave to it and especially when reviewing dialog which has more license to break the rules.


(LCW) Grammarly, like any other tool, is more a suggestion even though it is right more often than it is wrong. It does not understand context and certainly does not understand imagination and creativity. Do what makes sense, and be prepared for those critiques that disagree.



Presentation
Is the text well structured and easy to read, not bunched up, spacing, indented paragraphs, etc? Increase the size of the font so that less well-sighted readers can also read it. Use a picture. Use emoticons to create interesting and relevant section separators. Be consistent with lists e.g. use bullets or numbers but not both


(LCW) I find no fault with your first suggestions. I strongly support the use of an increase in the size of the font, at least minimally, for clarity, and I don’t say that simply because my sight isn’t what it used to be.

I am not sure we are talking about the same literary expectations if you suggest emoticons. I can’t think of a single thing I have ever read where they were appropriate or desired. Anyone over the age of six or eight should use words. It took thousands of years to rise above the use of hieroglyphics and primitive art, and I see no reason to devolve back to them. The English language has over a million words and it is not enough. Emoticons give no clarity since they are implicitly subjective and vague even when you think they are not.



Rating and Genre

Make sure it fits the story. Fantasy is not sci-fi if it has no science in it.


(LCW) It is the reader and the writer that determine if something is fantasy or science-fiction, or reality for that matter, no matter what an individual, editor, or review board may consider it to be. You may need to toe the line to get published, but thankfully not to write. Write what you want and how you want, to achieve satisfaction and a sense of accomplishment, just be prepared for how others may interpret your work. Success may be determined by sales or ratings, but talent is not.



Word Choice

Did you use the best word for this?


(LCW) Always an issue to be resolved. There may always be another word that might be better, or be received by the reader easier, or more understandable, but then the next reader requires something else. The final arbiter is the writer and it is their challenge to search and find an appropriate candidate. One of the more challenging goals of the writer, and while one word may be acceptable, how much time are you prepared to invest in finding the ‘perfect’ word? I just don’t know. Half of my words always seem to be replaceable, and just short of acceptable. It is a perpetual game we play with ourselves.



Structure
"A genre story (like fantasy) needs to follow the 3-act structure. For a short story Act 1 - the first couple of paragraphs - should introduce the protagonist and show them already or just about to be engaged in their struggle to attain their goal. Act 2 - the bulk of the story - should show the struggle or conflict deepening and the action should rise to a make-or-break climax. Act three - the last few paragraphs - should then resolve the conflict one way or another and then wrap up the story."


(LCW) Coulda, woulda, shoulda. Completely understandable to hear the suggestion, and yet none of this is etched in stone. Totally logical and legitimate to think in these terms but it is the energy and the presentation that over-rides these fundamentals. They are meant to be an extremely loose set of parameters for anyone except the beginner. Not arguing the intent, but perhaps the process.



Must admit I am still digesting/interpreting this piece of advice I received.


MAJOR CONTROVERSIES ABOUT REVIEWING


1) Should a story mean something?

Should it hint at, affirm or demonstrate values? Not all moments captured in literature can readily be integrated into some kind of overarching meta-narrative, nor should they be. But when something is clearly designed as an attack on truth then it is a different beast.


(LCW) The concept of truth has been contemplated and debated since the dawn of mankind. It exists without validation or legitimacy in many cases. It is for the individual to decide. As is something that is 'clearly designed'. We react and respond to those things we interpret as an ‘untruth’ or a fallacy, and rightly so. That is why we wish to communicate, to debate and argue (we hope in a reasonable fashion), and why we write, the focus being to define and present our own opinions and positions to others for investigation and discussion. Not to oppress or dictate or coerce, but to persuade, explain and convince others. If not, we need some degree of self-introspection and re-evaluation and then we need to explore, discuss and write some more.



2) Tell versus show.

As a preacher, I have a message to tell and work at making that compelling for actual real-live congregations. Sometimes the show versus tell brigade sounds like they have nothing clear to say and are suggesting that the Omniscient Narrator does not exist. This kind of moral relativism must be rejected. That said even good preaching requires anecdotes to connect to people and to show them the meaning of what is being said. The God I believe in generally explained Himself to mankind by demonstrating what he meant in history. The abstract interpretation of what He did came later. A novel that preaches could sound more like a textbook or be a little boring and you need to hook your reader in by pulling them into the narrative where they can do their own thinking and where the actions of your characters speak louder than words. In practice therefore a balance between the two is required with more show than tell in longer works especially. As with real life, actions reveal the real character of a person more effectively than their words do.


(LCW) Your bias is showing, which impacts the whole concept of truth. Truth for whom and from whom? Are we talking of objective truth or subjective truth? We can talk of ‘God’ and religion forever, but truth has no place in the conversation, only opinion, faith, and belief.

Is a good preacher someone who changes the mind of an unwilling, malleable or vulnerable individual or someone who helps them to think and contemplate and come to their own conclusions, even if different than the one expected? Are they seekers, the same as the rest of us, or are they propagandists and indoctrinators pushing a specific perspective? Is it possible that the teacher is the one who needs to learn and grow and be more open-minded in their comprehension of the world around them?

It is ironic since I believe much of what you say but question the conclusions that you seem to infer with terms like 'rejection' and 'requires'. These are coercive concepts. Your belief is obvious. I accept and support that. You are absolutely correct that actions speak louder than words and inarguably reveal the character of the individual.

You speak of allowing the reader to do their own thinking, but that infers total freedom of thought and information, without exception or restriction. I have mentioned my background in the Catholic religion, with my brother and uncle being priests, preachers, and representatives of their established belief system. Both of them good men, devout in their beliefs, intelligent, passionate, and articulate, and still with a closed-mindedness as to the possibility of their own fallibility. Hubristic in essence, as we all are to some degree, but as an intermediary between their faith and those who seek answers, they hold a huge responsibility to give all information, from all directions, and embrace a conversation that may result in other conclusions. This they often did not do and I question the legitimacy of such a paradigm. One cannot espouse and claim truth when the evidence is inconclusive. Again, a single perspective from a single individual.



3) Personal preference and Objectivity.

This was partly covered in the Content section above. For those who have no religious moorings the question of theological truth is an open one. I have been dismayed to find even some Christians are free-floating on many theological issues where definite answers have already been agreed on by the church. But historical and scientific argumentation can lead to more definite conclusions for all readers and somebody who has lived or heavily researched something is generally better equipped to talk about that.


(LCW) Agreed upon by the church but what about the individuals themselves? Is their opinion of any value in the discussion? Does not ‘free-floating’ translate into open-mindedness? I simply cannot rid myself of the feeling that a coercive component exists in the determination to convince people of a single perspective without the presence of persuasion instead of coercion.

It's true that someone who has ‘lived’ or heavily researched something is ‘generally’ better equipped to talk about a subject. Normally true, but within religion and other disciplines, they tend to make assumptions and investigate things from a pre-existing point of view which can certainly negate and diminish the legitimacy and credibility of what they are try to present.

I profess to no expertise in theological thought, but what experience I have has shown me that many of the great religious philosophers from Aquinas and Augustine to many of their more modern peers began with their own religious assumptions and went on to prove the existence and legitimacy of ‘God’ with reverse argumentation. This does nothing to convince me of the validity of the concept. I neither reject nor condemn any religion whatsoever. I judge individuals by their actions and to some degree their words. Those that are legitimately moral and ethical people with character and integrity are those who I deem credible and substantive and I will listen to anything they have to offer, and welcome the opportunity to have a reasoned argument on any subject they wish to discuss.

I admire America for being a place where religious freedom exists and support that freedom without reservation. But I am a skeptical individual, searching for what constitutes the meaning of life and god for my entire life. I have written some small essays on the subject and feel comfortable with my perspective. I find it hard to believe that whatever god may exist could have an issue with my thoughts, my words, or my actions. I do refute any individual that claims to speak for Him or Her(God). I am available whenever they (god) may wish to contact me, which they have been reluctant to do. So be it. In lieu of evidence, I will continue with my intellectual and philosophical endeavors and continue along my path of exploration and discovery.



4) The balance between technical skill in writing and content of what is being said
So for example, if someone writes a beautiful piece glorifying pedophilia do you publish it? If someone writes a piece glorifying demons or Satan is that worthwhile literature?


(LCW) I would say probably not, and yet it could give insight and information that could be invaluable to the understanding of the issues. How does one make decisions and come to conclusions without investigating what is said or what is written? It is a very narrow perspective that rejects and condemns without even making an attempt to comprehend.



5) "I am not a Christian, so why do you apply a Christian perspective to my writings?"
We all argue from definite positions even if sometimes these are entirely confused. The difference here is that I am being very clear on what my perspective is. Since much of modern literature stresses the importance of POV this should hardly be an issue. There is an 'objective' spiritual and moral perspective. It is just saying that rubs against the grain of the moral relativism of the modern Western world. People in the West forget that most of the world has much more certainty on the big questions than many of them and Westerners often think that to argue from a definite position is non-inclusive and antagonistic. In response, I would suggest that this is how the world is and that it is not Christians that are creating conflicts by suggesting definite convictions but rather those that disagree with them. Mutual respect without relativism is more honest than suggesting nothing is ultimately true and we are all just stabbing in the dark. I believe that ultimate accountability is to the Christian God. Showing that I have misunderstood the Christian perspective is another thing and critiques of that sort are of course entirely welcome.


(LCW) I appreciate clear and precise ‘perspectives’. I admire someone that can articulate what they believe, but I cannot accept or embrace something that cannot be validated in some empirical or credible way. I realize that is a challenge for the concepts of god and religion. I do not reject the concepts outright, simply withhold judgment until something legitimate is produced. Individuals can continue to discuss and debate, and I can continue to listen and come to conclusions. Is this not the essence of freedom and choice? Does this freedom not guarantee that those who ‘do’ believe in a higher power will not have to defend themselves from physical harm or intimidation? I see no conflict and see no need to give either side an oppressive advantage.

Ironically, being an ‘objectivist’ I find myself downplaying the concept of the 'objective'. There is an empirical objectivism, such as the physical attributes of a rock, a tree, or a flower. Colours, hot and cold, a vast array of things with attributes that present themselves as inarguable. When something offers a consensus of close to 100% it can be considered fact or truth or ‘objective’ even if a very minute segment of society cannot or will not accept it. We have to acknowledge those people and that consensus is not an absolute. There are very few absolutes.

In all other cases the concept of ‘objective’ is highly debatable and therefore highly suspect, except for those that refuse to allow for disagreement. Christians believe in their own God, and yet out of a world population fast approaching 8 billion, only 2 billion of them label themselves Christian, and half of them are weekend warriors and only give lip-service. Not an absolute, not even a consensus. 12% is significant, but all religions are not objective, or they would become absolutes, but are more subjective, allowing individuals to believe what they will, for whatever reasons, with the opportunity and ability to live by those beliefs in any way they wish, with my complete and passionate support unless they impact others around them or hurt them in any way. I fail to see any conflict with my position.

Mutual respect without relativism needs more explanation in much more detail. You dismiss the ‘Eastern’ world, and you demean and diminish those that ‘disagree’ with your own beliefs. I have not lived in the Easter religious paradigm but I have encountered many ‘other’ and even ‘fringe’ religions that do not intimidate, coerce or proselytize their beliefs to the degree that some Christians that I have seen. The Latter Day Saints and Reborn Christians whom I have worked with, are good examples of an aggressive stance. For me, it is not a problem, since I actually enjoy the repartee that comes with the territory, but I do feel concerned for those that do not have the strength or confidence to resist the onslaught.

I hope that you have been able to receive this perspective in the manner that it was intended even if I was distracted and digressed on a number of issues. I applaud your resolve and ability to articulate what you believe. I think I agree with more than I disagree, although I may be more outspoken for those things that are in disagreement. Such is the nature of conversation and debate. I realize that this is not a venue for any back-and-forth but I enjoyed putting my thoughts together and presenting them to you. By all means, if there are any concepts you wish to pursue, feel free to let me know.

I find it important that all writers think about and define what it is that they are trying to accomplish and how they are attempting to do so. Hearing what other writers think on the issues is integral to understanding the challenges and obstacles that they may be experiencing. Writing is no easy task, at least not for many and particularly for me. Putting down words on paper not so much, but making them palatable and articulate, specific and entertaining, and delivering a message or bringing understanding to a reader has always been my objective. More than anything else I simply want my reader to think about something that was unknown or overlooked in the past. To re-evaluate their lives, not just their writing, and to come to decisions and conclusions that will make their lives, perhaps, just a little bit better than it was yesterday.

We need to live together in peace and harmony. I like to think that this is possible even though it doesn’t look possible at times. It will take time and effort. We have been ‘civilized’ for ten thousand years. I would have thought we would be doing better by now. It is for us alone to do so. We need to think and act, appropriately and with compassion and empathy. We need philosophy, and for many, religion is that philosophy. We need to use whatever we can to accomplish that, and above all we need to communicate, which means we need to have a deep and substantive conversation, and obviously, we need to write with honesty and clarity.



*Gold* My review has been submitted for consideration in "Good Deeds Get CASH!.
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Rated: E | (3.5)
The Sound Of Music (chapter 1)

by Izzy’s Writing (85)


Rated: E · Novel · Animal · #2278862 Created: August 18th, 2022 at 4:18pm




(Lone Cypress Workshop) I am never completely comfortable when starting a review of someone else’s work. There is usually no knowledge or understanding of what the writer is attempting to accomplish, and their focus is also an unknown. If there are certain aspects that they wish to examine or explore, I can only plead ignorance.

If this was a random choice of mine, it would be significantly different. I don’t receive a lot of requests for reviews so this is a different set of imperatives. Unfortunately, I have little choice but to treat your piece as I would that random choice.

I profess no particular knowledge, and certainly no expertise in language and the art of writing. The diversity of what I see from other writers suggests to me that there may be no real structure as to what is proper and appropriate. If it touches the reader on some level, then from my perspective, it is indeed legitimate writing.

I normally don’t concern myself with the mundane aspect of PS&G. I see many that are willing to give their opinions on what is correct, and more than willing to offer suggestions as to how to improve your product. While it may appear to be true for me as well, it is neither my intent nor expectation to be an integral part of your story, but only to perhaps be a small part of the thought process that goes into your vision.

When involved in a review, I make the attempt to simply be a reader, to experience what you place before me, and to interpret the best I can, from an admittedly subjective perspective to understand your attempt. I offer simple observations as I read and react to your narrative. These are not suggestions as to how better write your story, but only to invite you to see my perspective, and then do as you wish with my comments. I don’t particularly like people who are sure of what I should do to improve my work, since they do not comprehend what it is that I am trying to do, and therefore can only advise me from their own viewpoint, often limited by their own personal and subjective interpretations of what literature is or should be. I only wish to help and understand that may often not be the reality.

In any case, enough about me. I am here to sample your work, and I will attempt to do so with respect and humility. I hope in some small way I can offer you something of value as you move forward.



Kacey Wilkins pulled her last riding boot on over her foot and zipped it up from the back. 6am was not at all a fun time for her to wake up, but knowing she had horses to take care of made it a little easier for her to do so. She could just barely make out the sun poking up over the horizon, but the weather today promised to be in the mid-70s, so maybe she’d be able to take a trail ride with her special horse.

She unlocked the front door and stepped out in the morning air. The breeze brushed against her cheeks as she turned left towards the barn. She could hear a few of her horses pawing at their stall floors and snorting loudly. All horses loved routine, so that was her signal to hurry up and get them fed. She smiled to herself as she unlocked the stable door and flipped on the light.



First impressions are always somewhat unpredictable. I see a capable use of words and an adequate description of someone that is preparing to see to the needs of their horses. I like the focus on the boot, and the sun poking over the horizon, and the breeze brushing against her cheek, they are all nicely done and I think absolutely necessary to add a colloquial and personal touch to the work.

Most of the information is rather mundane and while it is possibly an appropriate backstory to what is to come, I find myself questioning if this is going to lead somewhere more relevant to the story. After finishing the piece, I was still at a loss and I didn’t see any connection.

I am not particularly wedded to the idea of a quick ‘hook’ although it seems to be an expectation for many readers. Not a prerequisite by any means, but if not used it needs to be replaced by something else.

I only make the comment here because I have read the story and my curiosity was never fulfilled. You can introduce all of your elements whenever you feel it necessary, but it ‘is’’ important to engage with the reader and to draw them into your narrative, and then continue to feed them more information to keep them informed and anticipatory.



The horse closest to the barn door was Kacey’s five-year-old Tennessee Walker, Buttercup. Buttercup had what was called Tobiano markings, which meant a large spot of white covering her left shoulder and ended right above her stomach. All four of her legs were white and the rest of her was a beautiful chestnut color. Buttercup was the calmest of all of Kacey’s horses and she was used by Kacey for kid riders and beginners. She was one of the most affectionate of the horses in Kacey’s barn and loved a head scratch or two.



Since this initial engagement between reader and writer was not initiated, and while the description of the horse is legitimate and detailed, it gives the reader little to get excited about. There is no hint of intrigue or of what is to come next. Nothing is piquing my interest at this point, and I love horses. My neighbor has a Morgan and a couple of donkeys, all personable, and we come in contact with them on a daily basis. I realize that it is early to say such a thing, but it turns out that what follows does little to change my mind. The listing of the horses and their attributes is more clinical than anything else, and while there is some intimacy, which was appreciated, it did little to develop the story or even to intimate what the story is or will be.



“Good morning, Buttercup,” Kacey cooed, giggling as Buttercup nudged her head against her chest. She wrapped her arms around Buttercup’s neck and petted her hands through her long mane.

“We’ve got to trim your mane there, babe. It’s getting long,” she mumbled, causing a snort to come from Buttercup’s nose. The one thing Buttercup didn’t like was having her mane trimmed. She tolerated it, of course, but she always gave Kacey the side eye whenever it was trimmed. Kacey swore Buttercup was prideful about her mane. Not that Kacey really blamed her. Buttercup did have a gorgeous mane.

She gave Buttercup one last pat on the neck before heading to the next stall.



I appreciate the intimacy with Buttercup. It certainly shows the affection for the animal and the relationship that they have, but no information on what the story is all about.



The next horse in line belonged to her sister, Amanda. Amanda owed an absolutely stunning Appaloosa named Rhett. Rhett was seven years old and his coat was the darkest black Kacey had ever seen. Among all the black were white spots that covered every inch of his body. Amanda called them “Rhett’s night sky” while Kacey called them little snowflakes. Rhett was another calm horse that Kacey—with Amanda’s permission—used for kid riders. Kacey rode him too, but Amanda didn’t want him used for lessons.



Again, an admirable description, and yet a virtual replica of the first animal.



“Hello there, Rhett,” Kacey whispered, reaching up a hand to scratch behind Rhett’s wiggling ears. The one thing Rhett loved more than anything else in the world was being pet behind his ears. Kacey and Amanda always believed this was because of the flies, but that was between them. No one else knew of their theory.

Rhett snorted loud enough that his head shook and tried to nip at Kacey’s hand. To Rhett, anything and everything that came close to his mouth was food.

“My fingers are not for eating, boy. How am I supposed to feed you if I don’t have fingers,” she questioned, all the while stroking Rhett’s nose.

Rhett’s only reply was to back away from her gentle hands and give her a disapproving look. Why on earth was she messing about when he needed to be fed?

“Alright, alright. I’ve got to say hello to everyone else and then you will eat.”



The dialogue is endearing and the construction seems to be competent. The story is expanding as well as interesting but we know nothing about what to expect. Not a bad thing if fully expanded and developed.


The next horse Kacey visited was the newest member of the pack. She’d bought the three-year-old Thoroughbred, whose name was Rusty, from an older horse trainer about six months ago. Rusty was what most horse people called a spitfire. Kacey just called it being young and still in training. He hated having a bridal on but he loved to run. Even Kacey, as experienced as she was, sometimes had a difficult time keeping him under control. His coat, including his mane, tail, and legs, were pure white. Amanda had often requested Kacey change his name to Snowflake, but Kacey refused, quite liking the irony of the name compared to his color.

As usual, Kacey found Rusty pawing away at the stall floor, his nostrils flaring and his snorts loud, as if making sure he was heard. Rusty’s two favorite times of day were feeding time and running time. No horse Kacey had owned loved food as much as Rusty.

“Well, good morning to you too, Rusty. I see you are hungry. Don’t worry, you’ll be fed soon.”

Rusty wasn’t the most affectionate horse, but he allowed Kacey a few seconds of peace by allowing her to scratch underneath his forelock. It didn’t last long, however, as he soon returned to pawing and snorting.

Kacey chuckled and rolled her eyes as she moved on to the next horse, who was poking her head out of her stall and looking at Kacey with complete interest.



I am asking myself where this is going, and if each horse is going to play a prominent part in the evolving narrative. I know nothing about where this is taking place, or exactly what Kacey’s position and responsibility are in relation to these animals. If truly a horse person, then waking up at 6am is not a burden but a joy, and an absolute necessity for the care of such animals.



This next horse was the most special horse in the stable. She’d belonged to Kacey’s mother about fifteen years back and she’d been mainly used as a dressage horse. Kacey’s mother was the best dressage rider and her horse, a Morgan named Chloe, was the best show horse. In dressage, timing means everything, and Chloe timed every step perfectly. She was so daintily on her hooves and held her head up high when she was walked past other horses, as if to say “try and compete with that!”



I always enjoy when an attempt is made to anthropomorphize animals to make the relationship more intimate and meaningful. Many are highly critical of the practice, but I am not one of them. I find it fascinating to theorize what the animal may be thinking and if they can communicate by means other than simple language.

There is weakness in talking about things that the reader may not have personal knowledge of, such things as ‘dressage’. The intent may be to force them to research as they are reading, and I have done this myself many times, and have received criticism in return. It can end up a distraction and the reader can lose interest unless the narrative is riveting and the reader is engrossed in the story. If there is no intent to share and explain to the reader it may have been better for the reader to hear that she is involved within a highly disciplined competition and leave it at that. An opportunity to ‘teach’ the reader is always an opportunity to increase the interest level of said reader. Too much and you can lose them, but a sprinkling of education can be illuminating and a mini-version of a ‘hook’.

While the image is pleasant and comfortable it is lacking a reason. What does all of this information mean? It may well be that this will be forthcoming in the subsequent chapters, but the reader is waiting for something more, at least I am.



The arthritis in Chloe’s back legs and the blindness in one eye stopped her from being ridden, but Kacey had taken her in after her mother’s death. Chloe had the prettiest yellow-gold coat, also known as the Palomino color. Her mane and tail colored silver and they were the waviest mane and tail Kacey had ever known on a horse.

She snorted softly as Kacey hugged her and gently nudged Kacey’s shoulder with her nose. Although she missed her original owner quite terribly, Kacey and Chloe got along quite nicely. Chloe was the most affectionate horse in the entire barn.

“Good morning, Chloe,” Kacey whispered, kissing Chloe’s cheek as her hands gently massaged her neck. She smiled as Chloe stretched out her neck and whinnied. Yes, Chloe was the biggest fan of neck massages. Although Kacey hadn’t known any horse who didn’t like neck massages, Chloe was the most into them.

“I know you miss mamma, Chloe,” Kacey continued as she moved her hands from Chloe’s neck to her shoulders, “but you know I’m doing my best to take care of you.”

Chloe’s ears stood straight up on her head and she looked at Kacey with her one good eye. Kacey’s mother often told her that you could tell a lot about a horse by their eyes. Morgans were known for their gentle temperaments and in Chloe’s case, this was a known fact. When she was younger there were times Chloe got a little crazy, but then again, that’s the life of any young horse. Chloe was the horse Kacey used the most when teaching kids how to groom a horse. Chloe loved being groomed. It was almost a sure thing that she’d fall asleep when someone brushed her.

Kacey knew she had to leave Chloe to say hello to the next horse in line. She patted Chloe gently on her neck before turning away from her stall to look at the horse sticking his head through the stall gate.

This next horse, an Arabian named Eclipse, was the horse of one of her riders. Eclipse was six years old and one of the smartest horses Kacey had ever known. His coat was a gray color and three of his legs had white stockings. His owner was always willing to let other riders use him, although it had taken the efforts of both the owner and Kacey to get Eclipse used to others. He loved learning new courses and was the best jumping horse Kacey had. She always admired his dignified face and those eyes of fire. He didn’t have as many tantrums anymore, but Kacey only used him for more advanced riders.

The way Eclipse pranced in his stall let Kacey know he was in a very good mood. He was either eager to get out in the fields and run or do a new course when his owner finally arrived. He’d be getting a chance to do both today and Kacey smiled as she rested her hands on the stall gate.

“Hi there, handsome! Looks like someone feels good today.”

Eclipse neighed and jerked his head up and down a few times, doing his best to reassure Kacey that he was, indeed, in fine form this morning.

Kacey patted along Eclipse’s neck and rolled her eyes when she noticed some dirt spots along his cheek.

“You’ll be getting a good face brushing today, pretty boy. We simply cannot let you go to a lesson looking like that!”

Eclipse let out one small snort and turned around in his stall. He was the most dramatic horse in the barn, but Kacey loved him all the same.

“Got one last horse to greet and then y’all will be getting your breakfast,” she called out softly to the other horses. Rusty impatiently pawed at his stall door as Kacey turned her attention to the last horse in the barn.

Shadow softly whinnied as Kacey made her way over. An American Quarter Horse who was about eight years of age, Shadow was another boarder horse. Her rider was a worker at the stable, helping Kacey out with lessons, but since her owner was on vacation, Kacey took over watching her.

Shadow’s color was a light tan, almost golden, but her tail and mane were black. In the horse world, this color combination was known as buckskin. The only other person allowed to ride Shadow was Kacey, but Shadow hadn’t been ridden in almost a week because of an injury to her hoof. The vet had made a visit the day before and told Kacey that Shadow was only a few days away from being able to be ridden again. Shadow was a very gentle horse, but at the moment she wasn’t too happy with Kacey. She adored being ridden. She was very similar to Eclipse in that learning new courses was one of her favorite activities.

“I know, girlie. I’ll be able to ride you in a few days,” Kacey whispered, scratching behind Shadow’s ear. Shadow instantly leaned into Kacey’s touch, her head starting to tilt sideways as her eyes fluttered.

All too soon, Kacey was being pulled away from Shadow by the sound of angry horse snorts. These horses were hungry and had waited long enough to be fed.

Kacey pulled away from Shadow and trotted towards the end of the barn. Ah, the life of a stable owner.



What was presented was enjoyable and well written. Each segment had a good description and some relevant information. A bit of intimacy and some legitimate dialogue. The perspective of the narrator was believable and natural. All in all a good presentation.

If I had any issues with what was offered it was within what I would suggest as seeing the big picture. While the individual presentations were valid and credible, six basically redundant bio’s of each horse was a bit much, especially since that was the totality of the entire first chapter. There was virtually nothing else. Little about Kacey, nothing about location or about the reasons why she is taking care of these horses. I am presuming that it is because her mother died, but is she happy about that, or somewhat caught up in circumstances that she has little control over at the moment? Intimate thoughts and emotions are always valuable and bring legitimacy to the narrative. I saw no ‘setting’ up the next chapter or subsequent scenes. I was a little disappointed.

I also found some word repetition to be somewhat distracting. The words ‘her’ and ‘she’ were used over a hundred times, with ‘Kacey’ and ‘horse’ almost as much, so these four words constituted almost 20% of the total word count of your piece. I know how hard it can be at times with certain pieces to come up with alternatives but they exist, they are available, and they make the product more readable and inevitably stronger with a more consistent flow. My free version of Grammarly also found over 10 issues that were a problem. If you don't already have it you should look into it.

I don’t know if you read your work aloud to yourself or someone else but I find it often calls attention to these faults and allows you to rectify this issue as well as some others before you release it. When one reads to themselves, they hear what they expect and already know, and the piece is indelible in their minds, but when you actually have to articulate the words, you find phrases, words, and context may sound incongruous, contradictory, and discordant.

As a reader, I wanted to know what the ‘Sound of Music’ actually means in relation to the horses and Kacey. Even if only in the last sentence, I needed some hint as to what the story is going to be about.

As mentioned, I am uncomfortable ‘suggesting’ how to develop your own story, so take this all with a grain of salt. The first chapter could have set the scene, including the stables and an overview of Kacey, perhaps her mother (if relevant to the story and not just an anecdote). Instead of focusing so quickly on the individual horses, present a backstory that puts everything in perspective. As for the stables, go into detail and paint a vivid and dynamic scene of the environment.

Even in the descriptions already offered, there is a certain lack of depth. You make no mention of the evocative smells of fresh hay and horse manure and the realities of a horse barn, which also encompasses the sounds that comprise the stables beside the little already mentioned. You can almost taste many things when in close proximity to animals, and I think the opportunity to draw the reader into this environment was missed completely. There is no visualization of the surroundings, except for the horses. It is all one-dimensional whereas it could be dynamic and engaging and fascinating.

An allusion to what the story is about, or in detail, even just a teaser would have been completely appropriate at this time. As a writer, I understand the need to seduce the reader into visiting your fabricated reality, no matter how fictional it is or how much it is based on memories and expectations.

This is not even addressing the touch and textures involved with working with animals. The roughness of hooves, the coarseness of their tails, the lustre and softness of their fur. The worn leather tackle, the burnished metal pieces.

Once all of this is in the mind of the reader, it will translate very well as tangible and legitimate when you introduce your equine characters in subsequent chapters. I would think that each of them deserves to have their own little narrative, fleshed out and giving them depth and more of a personality than you were able to achieve in your limited presentations.

Introducing them all at one time was a bit overpowering, and the substance was somewhat lost and diminished in the repetitious format. Take the time to focus on a single horse, then a bit of what the story will eventually be, and then add another.
I have no idea if this is to be simply a feel-good story about a girl and her horses, or some kind of mystery or tragic event. Whatever it is, the need to persuade the reader to stay and listen and experience the story with you will always be an imperative.

I went back to look at your genres, and I see that you chose family and romance and love. I have to admit that these are not my strong points, at least from the perspective of a ‘novel’ or short story. I am fascinated with emotion and the intimate relationships people have with themselves as well as others, and I can only say that the intimacy I mentioned, as well as vulnerability to your most treasured secrets, is something that people will always be interested in.

You can tempt them, and you can play with them a bit, but you have to respect them and what they are looking for. I am certainly no expert when it comes to audience. My fans are few and far between, but I am always trying to keep their attention, to make them think and contemplate whatever I am trying to offer, and making the attempt to create some entertainment as well.

I can only hope that you find something of value or substance as you read these words. I recognize that they may seem critical, but nothing could be further from the truth. They are an honest and considered response to what I read, and I am nothing if not honest.

I hope this helps. Thank you for writing and sharing.

I wish you nothing but peace.


John

Lone Cypress Workshop


*Gold* My review has been submitted for consideration in "Good Deeds Get CASH!.
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Rated: E | (4.0)
'Racistentialism' by Christopher Eastman-Nagle (71)



Debunking identity politics in the context of a multicultural society





I am going to go out on a limb and say that this will not be a review in the traditional sense of the term. I normally put some time and effort into my perspective, and usually end up with something twice as long as the original. I think in this case that would be something of an overkill although first impressions tell me that there could be much to discuss.

This is also probably not going to entail much on grammar and the literary niceties. I see passion and some focus, at least in the parts that I can comprehend. There are many that I simply lose my way with the abundance of terminology and words that at times seem to be made up, at least in the context presented. This is not a criticism, since I may well lack the ability to understand. I would tend to think it is something else entirely.

In any case, I will pick and choose where I feel compelled to lend my perspective. Your presentation is forceful and intimidating at times. I can only respect someone who can go into such depth, who cares enough to put 15k words to the page in the quest to find some sense of reality and some expectation of resolution. I hope that I do not overstep my bounds.

NOTE: After reading and commenting I realized that this may not have been primarily about the Australian ‘people’ even though it comprises the major bulk of the narrative. It seems that it was about debunking identity politics. I am not going to go back and re-contextualize my comments because of time restraints, and the fact that I am not sure identity politics actually ‘can’ be debunked. I know of very few who can define or explain what the concept denotes except from an extremely personal and subjective perspective.

I will stick with the narrative as presented and as interpreted initially.




For my American audiences the subject of our aboriginal 'first people' may seem arcane, but there are resonances here. Columbus Day is being attacked for much the same reasons as Australia Day is, which celebrates the arrival of the 'First Fleet' convict settlers and their minders. And we are seeing the same kinds of iconoclastic attacks on historical legacy memorials that are no longer regarded as morally 'acceptable' and ideologically 'appropriate'.




I am not sure of your presumption of what you call ‘American audiences’ but you may be surprised. I am a single American individual and I can assure you that whatever ‘neat’ package that you may place Americans in, I would have to think that I would fit into very few of them, if any at all. Perhaps all of them, to be honest, but minimally at best. I may be a part of the great American ‘melting pot’ but I have my own spice to contribute. Above all else I am a passionate individualist, with a unique perspective and interpretation of the events both historically and contemporarily, that I have experienced or studied.

I have minimal knowledge of the aboriginal ‘first people’ but from the very first introduction to them, I have had nothing but respect and admiration of their history and the tribulations of outsiders towards them and their often mistaken interpretations of the culture and their abilities. History has shown this to be the case in a hundred different scenarios. There should be no surprise at yet another example.

We would have to determine exactly why it is that Columbus and his day are under attack. I would tend to believe that the reasons are many, and the realities are ignorantly mistaken more often than not. Columbus was by no means a hero, but he was an adventurer and an explorer, and to be these things, especially at that time, you would have to be intelligent, perceptive, ruthless, and more than a little bit insane.

I think the historical legacy memorials, which were created and understood under a completely different paradigm, tried to pay homage to some degree to those that had to endure a different existence which in time led to present day individuals and society.
Much the same as Columbus and all of our ancestors, whatever variety we wish to discuss. The attacks we see today are through ideology, ignorance and hatred. I am not sure we can even hope to truly understand the lack of information and integrity that exist to create an environment where such depraved behaviour is allowed to exist.




The rise of Trumpism and the rebellion of the old white working class against the Woke Ascendency marks not merely a 'reactionary' rear guard defense so much as full on counter-attack on the democratic post-colonial consensus that emerged after the last World War. It parallels similar political movements emerging across the old Western World, as well as the rise of an increasingly global, confident and aggressive anti secular and anti-liberal religious fundamentalism.




The superficiality of ‘Trumpism’ is a just another digression and an ideological diversion from the fundamental attack on the very essence of what America was intended to be. Trump will soon be a footnote, but as long as those that wish the dissolution of America are able to control the narrative, they will continue to use him, since he is so much more use to them as the face of conservatism and capitalism and as an example of Americanism, which they intend to destroy.

I see no ‘woke’ paradigm, just ignorant and hypocritical ideologues that presume to be interested in diversity, tolerance, justice and equality when every word uttered epitomizes the exact opposite. For me, I can only dream of a woke existence, where people build their philosophies and moralities based on reason and intelligence, deeply considered insights and open-minded conversations and debates. What I see are what they absorb with their every breath. They are the walking dead, emotionally, physically, psychologically and philosophically. With their repulsive and relentless chants of “what do we want . . . . whatever . . . . when do we want it . . . . now!” like little children, unfortunately it is not just the ‘twos’ we are talking about, but an eternal downward slide into oblivion.

You may be correct that there is some form of ‘post-colonial consensus since the end of the last World War. I would passionately disagree, but I could certainly be wrong. That war ended over eighty years ago, and the political movement that you reference has yet to show a concerted majority on almost any issue that you wish to discuss.
Americans are far too comfortable and ignorant of their own country, its economic and political systems, it laws and the founding principles that drive these systems, and yet they instinctively want Americanism, as exemplified by the millions that risk life and limb to make illegal entry into the U.S.

We are the most welcoming and hospitable country in the world, bar none, and those that think otherwise come from countries with populations of 25 million, or less, and have no comprehension what it means to grant freedom to hundreds of religions, cultures, ideologies and philosophical perspectives within a country of over 330 million individuals.

This paradigm does not exist in Russia, obviously, but neither does it exist in China or India where they have vast populations, but not with the true diversity that exists in the U.S. We must remember that diversity has nothing to do with similarities, but only the irrefutable differences between people and cultures. It would be wonderful to be able to balance the differences and live in peace, but that takes time and effort, resolve and focus, and that does not seem to exist anywhere in the world today.

While there are social democracies that people like to point to in northern Europe, the differences far outweigh the logistics that America has foisted upon itself, not to mention being the policeman of the planet. Many call it imperialism and colonialism, but if not for America, who would have, or could have, stepped in during any of the last dozen world confrontations? Ask yourself what language you might be speaking if not for that ‘unwanted’ influence. They sure wanted it at the time. The U.S. has little if any power and influence where they have become involved, and I see no aspects of colonialism within any of the countries it has supported and virtually saved from domination by another ideology.



As we brace ourselves for increasingly heavy collisions over historical legacy, current policy and visions of the future, the aboriginal question and the notion of 'Racistentialism' are timely reminders that we are in need of new analysis, terminology and debate that has some chance of not degenerating into polemical crib, fudge and bluff, marked entirely by ideological cliches, stereotypes, slogans, aphorisms, euphemisms and dysphemisms (opposite of euphemisms).




There is no question that all of these things you mention are desired nor prerequisites for any solution of the issues at hand, in Australia as well as around the world. Who is articulating any alternatives or adjustments that do not include a complete overthrow of the status quo? Why are we not standing up for what we know is broken and corrupted? Does the majority of the citizens of the world even understand that a change in paradigm is essential to bring about any change at all? I am not so sure it does. What then? If they do not even recognize the problems how in the world can they envision the solutions? Revolution? There are many that salivate at the thought. It will not be the birth of a new day, but the close of arguably the most beneficial time that our species has ever experienced.

The degeneration that you speak of is real and demonstrative. The problem is that no one seems to comprehend the extent of the cancer that exists.



We are now in foreseeable danger of moving into a shouting match that will almost inevitably end in warfare as everyone hits axiomatic and nonnegotiable bottom lines for which they will fight.




No argument. They are not engaging to change minds, but to control and manipulate. There can be no middle ground. It has been happening for decades. We have allowed it to happen. We have no plan to counter it. The end result seems inevitable.




My agenda here is to establish a critique of Wokeism that parallels that of the market libertarians; that it is no more benign than its fellow pillar of indulgence capitalism; and that it no longer deserves to be in the ideological ascendancy. In short, if its apparatchiks don't get down off it, debate will cease and they will be eventually pulled down, along with their equally unsustainable regime partners.




I am confused if you even know that this point has already been passed, there is no discussion, no debate, only rhetoric and coercion. The ascension, and more importantly, the acceptance of the tenets of systemic racism and cancel culture and CRT (critical race theory) has infested every level of societal interaction without a single reasoned argument. Why argue when you can intimidate? Why convince when you can simply negate the existence of your opposition?

I have no idea of the extent of what you suggest is happening within Australia, but I am confident that it will become much worse. What is the answer when those that hate the past and are in fear of the future get control of the very source of power and control of every citizen in the country, any country, with no process or freedoms to express their own perspectives? It looks like we are going to soon find out.



The legitimacy of what has become of post-liberal Wokeism, particularly in the decades since the 1960s and '70s, is now in question....


I was recently watching a news segment on a young Australian ‘aboriginal’ figure skater, Harley Windsor and his Russian partner, who recently together won a junior Grand Prix championship in Tallinn, Estonia; very nice. Such news items about aboriginal success firsts always gives me a nice warm fuzzy …...until I noticed Harley’s face, which was entirely European and as Russian looking as his partner’s.

If someone hadn’t let it out of the bag that he was ‘aboriginal’, neither I nor anyone else would even suspect his racial/ethnic/cultural roots. My irritation was aroused because this kind of fudging is so commonplace and routinely accepted by the ideological cognoscenti, it rarely gets questioned in ‘polite’ company. I mean who wants to be a ‘bigoted racist’…. anybody?

‘Bigotry’ is a favorite because it is such a nasty smear...even though it is a word that came into use during The Reformation to describe some of the more radical religious intolerance and puritanical extremism of the time, not unrelated to the fanatically destructive wars of toleration that blighted it. Now it just means anybody who has the temerity to stand up for any beliefs at all, ‘that we don’t like’.



It has come to mean anyone that does not agree with you, and reason and legitimacy of fact and validity of evidence means less than nothing. How does one argue and confront such a paradigm?



And the word ‘racist’ does rather get bandied about, even though there is more ideologically juicy crib ’n fudge, slip ’n slide and weave ’n duck around this conveniently obfuscatory term than just about any other in the language of political discourse.




And yet every political dissident is a racist, preferring their own ideology, their own religion, their own culture, to that of any other. This is not an outlier, it is a fundamental. There is nothing wrong with embracing and admiring ones ancestors and culture, it is when you condemn and vilify those of a contrary existence to the point of hatred and violence that you step over the line and commit what we call racism and bigotry. Very definable and easily demonstrable. And yet nothing is done. Abject fear and intimidation. Hard to argue.



‘Race’ and ‘racism’ are classic hollowed out clichés that are so overlaid and overburdened with historical, political and emotional baggage, they are now etymological (relating to the origin and historical development of words and their meanings) mush. This makes them prime candidates for vague, opaque and conflated meaning, ideological mystification, heresy stereotyping and powerful delegitimizing in the courts of public opinion.




Words and meanings and ideologies have been totally perverted and corrupted with the misuse and premeditated hi-jacking of words, terms and language. If no one can interpret or understand what is being said, then half the battle has been ceded to them. It creates an unwinnable argument. For you, not them.

Your summary is spot on. An intrinsic vagueness and in essence a negation of communication and the ability to argue, persuade or convince another of virtually anything at all. Everything and anything is only what ‘they’ want it to be, and to argue makes you a bigot and a racist. That is what I see today. No contest.



When the ‘racist’ epithet is thrown at someone, it makes a lot of mess which is hard to get off, is politically toxic and requires no particular intellectual ability from the thrower. When it is used to support or bolster a ‘poor thing’ significant nonwhite, almost nonwhite and white nonwhite ‘other’, there is more blame shifting, excuse making and denialist rationalization than a Heartland Institute (free market neoconservative think tank) climate seminar. Anyone who has some aboriginal genetic material in their gene pool in the last two hundred years is ‘aboriginal’, even if 95% genetically something else. And if we believe the courts, we can all be ‘aboriginals’ if we want to, as long as the aboriginal 'community' include us inside their colossally forgiving and opaque category-without-boundaries.




It immediately puts one on the defensive, and the accusation is so vague how does not refute it? They cannot. Like proving a negative, it sounds immediately like whining and rationalization and you have lost the argument without ever being given the opportunity to offer verification or legitimate evidence of their own.

You make some excellent and, from my perspective, completely valid points, but you offer nothing to validate your own positions. I am uncomfortable even mentioning it, but I agree with your view, and yet see immediately a conflict of legitimacy from those that need no legitimacy of their own.

Offer almost anyone a benefit by being a part of any particular group, ask for no verification, and you have a new member. Instant support and vindication.



Phenotype (sets of observable characteristics of individuals resulting from the interaction of their genotype with the environment) notions of ‘race’ have progressively been overwhelmed by originally complementary meanings deriving from ‘ethnicity’ and ‘culture’, which are equally slippery characters that can mean almost anything one feels like. And these already well-greased numbers are made even more elusive and remote from any plausible notion of ‘race’, by claims of self-identification and community acceptance. This makes the race/identity suite really easy to deliver into an argument to further bamboozle anyone silly enough to question the core meaning of ‘racism’. And naturally, these terms are thrown about like confetti, because the bare mention of them is enough to cut off argument and potentially tricky questions about authenticity, meaning, context, history and analysis.




Anyone not immediately intimidated and skeptical of the validity of the conversation from these initial accusations are doomed to failure. If in a forum initiated and populated by the aggressive ‘anti-racists’ the ability to prosecute a reasoned argument is hopelessly lost even before a word is spoken, what is the point in having a conversation? So much for the concept of having an open-minded and relevant ‘dialogue’ about any particular subject. If you get bogged down in the definition of words and concepts you have already lost. Curiously, they never have to do so with their own presentation. I have seen this a thousand times. Reprehensible.




What was once mainly a categorization by primarily phenotype/breeding/skin color coding to define civilizational pecking orders during the European colonial period, gradually fudged into any categorization at all that is even more arbitrary than the equally dodgy claims of any other hegemonic group trying to turn their writ into a mystificatory sacred site.

This race/ethnicity/culture suite is slow baked inside a ‘racistentialist’ (a race based existential pseudo philosophy) identity politic which is a completely self-generating closed loop, by saying, ‘I am whatever I construct myself to be’, regardless of potentially contradictory externalities, or any other benchmark that might provide some objective basis for differentiation between realistic assessment (objective quantification/genealogy), ideological and economic opportunism (political/institutional leveraging and government funding) and solipsistic (a belief that only the self exists) fantasizing about something that towards its margins becomes little more than a social club, sporting rituals and dress ups that would do the Masons proud.




The epitome of today’s trans-gender paradigm. I am whatever I wish to be, irrespective of what I am physically or psychologically or culturally. I am he/she/it/we/them if I simply wish it to be so. Nothing empirical, nothing reality based, nothing based on societal consensus. Whatever they want, and whenever they want it.




And finally, this spurious identity brew is further elaborated with the sort of ideological exceptionalism (a form of special pleading that claims a uniqueness that is not subject to the ‘prejudicial’ rules and standards of ordinary critical judgement) beloved by adolescents, turn of the century dot com ‘entrepreneurs’ and banksters circa 2008. You know, one cannot ‘understand’ or critically evaluate unless one is personally involved empathetically inside 'the lived experience' of ‘being there’ and ‘on the front line’, because the claimed reality paradigm is so shifted and ‘unique’, it is beyond mere ordinary judgement and ‘outsider’ analysis, which makes any attempt to do so ‘judgmental’ (critical), ‘prejudiced (applying legitimate beliefs), ‘insensitive’ (baloney resistant), ‘oppressive’ (firm) and naturally, ‘racist’ (???), leading to ‘unwarranted’ (without the subject’s permission) and ‘unqualified’ (see ‘being there’) ‘stereotyping’ (legitimate group political modelling) and ‘meddling’ (unwelcome ‘interference’).




Therefore there can be no definitive judgment, nothing reasoned or credibly argued. Is this not the essence of nihilism? Nothing really matters anymore because anyone at any time can refute and reject. No standards, nothing to compare against, no evidence presented and none needed. The epitome of self-absorption and irrational selfishness.




In all its many and varied contexts and terminological vaguenesses, racistentialist identity politics and ideological exceptionalism are pure unadulterated obfuscatory (confuse, muddy and bewilder) bollocks used to bog down and fob off scrutiny and accountability, that might hold anyone to critical analytical benchmarks and some sort of standard in their attitude, conduct and ideological claims.




Accountability is much too onerous. Unfair to those that have nothing to say, cannot defend their positions and are really upset that you even ask them to.




But above all, these terms and the ideological and political buttressing around them provide the narrative shell to legitimize and empower a criticism proof style of self-justifying declamatory (to speak pompously or bombastically) oracular (as in mystificatory oraclespeak) orthodox (authorized doctrine or practice), dogma (a principle or set of principles laid down by an authority as incontrovertibly true), moral status and platform for infallibly authoritative condemnation, once solely reserved for church clerics.




Yet another example of a double standard, where they reject any responsibility, obligation or culpability for their words and actions while demanding an inconceivable amount of legitimate evidence from the target of their attacks. Like taking a Q-tip to a gun fight. Not going to end well.



And the whole aboriginal ‘industry’ is a past master at populating this game like an ideological theme park, with the tunnel of horrors on one side and the roller coaster of light on the other; or perhaps within an older ideological context of divine providence vs the works of the devil.


In the context of recent multicultural migration, questions of identity are fairly simple in the sense that say someone who has recently stepped off a plane from China will be bringing with them a fully intact suite of racial appearance, language, customs, religious/ideological beliefs and lifestyle preferences that reflect some blend of traditional and modern, depending on the region they come from, whether they are urban or rural, rich or poor, educated or not. There can be no question about their ‘Chineseness’.




Which ironically is the epitome of bigotry. They don’t even seem to realize that with their perspective, they have negated their own existence and legitimacy to argue their positions.




But what if one were talking about someone with a Chinese ancestor who came to Australia as a gold miner and married a white woman whose progeny all married into other ethnic cultural groups, but who still, five or six generations later, has a ‘Chinese’ passion for doing brilliantly at school and university in the sciences, studies mandarin (with an eye to future opportunity) at school, has a keen interest in his/her genealogical roots (that say include an Afghan cameleer), and loves eating sweet and sour pork? Would he or she be ‘Chinese’ in any meaningful racial, ethnic or cultural sense? Would we say, as he or she collects his or her Nobel science prize for work done in collaboration with researchers from Peking University, “Ah, there goes a ‘Chinese’ Australian!”

I don’t think so.

And even if this person acknowledged remote Chinese roots, why would he or she draw particular attention to them, when the Afghan cameleer might seem so much more interesting and romantic…. unless of course the Chinese government were offering attractive incentives to the more remotely connected elements of its diaspora (the dispersion or spread of any people from their original homeland), to become more engaged with ‘The Motherland’.

Even the Nazis, who were the very fussiest people you could possibly ever meet when it came to matters racial, would, under the 1935 Nuremberg race laws, still accept one as an ‘Aryan’ German, if one’s single Jewish great grandparent had converted to Christianity, married a Christian Aryan and his/her children were baptized in a church. The religious conversion/baptism stuff was not so much evidence of an exercise in Jewishness cultural ‘decontamination’, so much as a cultural crib to cover the awkwardly unexpected extent that Jews had intermarried (and Christian converted) into the German population over the previous 200 years.




Perhaps this is the only path to some sense of equality, this mongrelization of the human race? It certainly creates a wide swath of indecisive judgments. But then one must choose which aspect of their DNA they wish to associate with, and the intimidation and coercion works its historical and ideological influence once again gain control and domination over the masses. It really never changes, does it?




The fact was, the Nazi racial purists were prepared to place and justify a ‘forget-about-it’ line under the Jewish racial/genetic demographic in the Aryan population, for an antecedent single entry in the fourth generation back; i.e., one eighth part Jewish.

In Germany today, mixed Jewish/non-Jewish people will acknowledge their Jewish heritage and their long massacre prone history, but unless they are religious Jews, they are not necessarily going to be making a big deal about their ‘Jewishness’, any more than my own cousins (whose father was a secular Jew of orthodox parents) would see themselves as ‘Jewish’ Australians, even though to look at them, they have unmistakable Jewish genetic heritage. Their Jewish ethnicity and culture is largely tangential and incidental to them, unlike the intense feeling, discipline and sense of religious community, tradition and observance that one would find amongst the orthodox, who are the ones who actually maintain ‘the culture’.

And this is where ‘cultural’ analysis needs to be a bit more careful, specific and structured than just open-ended categories and talking vaguely about ‘my culture’....as if the damned stuff filled the room with campfire smoke, rhythm ‘n didge and a mournful choir of thousands.




If heritage is simply a ‘choice’ that I make personally in relation to any particular subject, then what is really the significance or value of culture to begin with? It is very much like joining a religion and then wanting to change the rules. The rules? They are the word of the god that you have just embraced. You have the hubris to improve on his positions? If I can pick and choose what I wish, then culture ceases to be relevant or of any real importance except when it is my best interests. Self-absorbed irrational selfishness once again.




Jewish ‘culture’ is most clearly articulated by its religious orthodoxy. It is a strict, demanding and resilient tribalism, and a great survivor in often very hostile environments. It is a culture that is as dynamic, true to its roots and as all encompassing for its devotees now as it was three millennia ago.

When orthodox Jews talk about their ‘culture’, it is a very specific, disciplined, intensive and extensive commitment that keeps their onerously (burdensomely) elaborate traditions alive and in good health, regardless of how difficult circumstances can get, or how long they would have to wait for divine providence to rebuild their tribal fortunes. And that sits alongside their dynamic secular, entrepreneurial, science and arts culture, armed with commitment to focused hard work in all areas of endeavor. Jews are heavily overrepresented in the notable achievement stakes, wherever they have gone.




But this is their ‘claim to fame’, their reason d’etre. Without the legitimacy that comes from that historical fundamentalism what else do they have? It then refers to the abilities and the achievements of the individual and the whole structure of culture falls by the wayside. Individuals are determined to be of value, if at all, by the results of their own personal motivations and successes. There is no shared value in culture. You can be proud of one of your own being successful, but the focus is on you and what you have achieved. I am not saying that there can be no shared success, but at some point you have to do something for yourself. Every culture has its heroes and its genius. It is a small segment of the whole. Your stature is not enhanced by the words or actions of someone with your historical background. It’s about time that we reject the concept.



If one wants to talk glibly about the virtues of ‘culture’ and ‘ethnicity’, the Jewish version would be a gold standard reference point for how our aboriginal brothers and sisters are travelling at the moment and ought to introduce a measure of conservative hesitancy and humility when splashing the terms around, unless of course vague and opaque self-categorization were a deliberate ploy to avoid real scrutiny….The mere mention of aboriginal ‘culture’ is meant to induce a Pavlovian trained reverential acceptance that heads off awkward ‘racist’ (critical) questions.

One needs to be able to differentiate between what was and what has become. No one can live on past glories forever, no matter how long they have lasted, which is what I think aboriginals are doing and what their ideological sponsors are promoting. The Jews have never done that. Yahweh made them a land promise, and if they kept their part of their covenant with Him in all things, at all times, indefinitely, He in His infinite wisdom and mercy would eventually honor it. And that overwhelming belief and dynamic tradition got them over the line nineteen centuries after the Romans expelled them from ‘their’ land. That expulsion taught them that they could never take their deity for granted. That trauma signaled to them that they had to make even more effort to regain the divine favor.

The fact that the land claim and their relationship to ‘their’ God was a bogus tribal conceit invented by creatively literate priests to justify their original invasion of ‘the Holy Land’ and whose deistic historicism (the belief that the deity directly intervenes in human affairs) was so powerful it overwhelmed the older religious models, is beside the point. Making their own tribal version of it stick over three millennia by strictly keeping religious and lifestyle observances in pristine condition, is the point.

Even in defeat and under constant pressure, they did everything to keep hope alive; never relaxed, never gave in and kept the laws of the Tora, to the letter. They have been constantly preparing for the ultimate return of ‘their’ land. But they also committed themselves to the same standards in their secular enterprises, often in the teeth of intense surrounding hostility. They were constantly suffering from economic exclusion and had to be very adaptable. Education was very important. If one were a Jew, one needed, if possible, both a profession and a trade, so that if one were thrown out of one, one could resort to the other. Education couldn’t be confiscated. Wealth needed to be portable (like cash, gold, furs and diamonds), because having to flee was always a possibility.




Their reasoning may have been suspect, but the intent was completely legitimate. How can one argue with an expectation of continued success through education and ability? This should be the goal of each and every culture. Reliance on the largesse of others or the ability to care for oneself? One does not negate the other. They can exist in sympathy with one another. They are compatible.




They had and have access to a tradition that was and still is both very creative and adaptable in its working environment, as well as deeply entrenched in its customs and beliefs. They were and are no less rooted in the present than they are and have been in their past.




I would consider that a highly successful and beneficial ideology.




And when they did get ‘their’ land back, they put in place a modern state with the 11th most powerful military force on the face of the planet, with a Jewish Israeli population of just under six and half million.



An admirable achievement under the harsh circumstances. I would note that they did not take their land back by force, but by a consensus, no matter how reluctantly, to do so by their hostile neighbors. The demand by certain segments of that contingent to give back much of what was agreed upon is unprecedented and inappropriate.




People have to be really on top of their game on all fronts to pull off something as totally unlikely as the establishment of Israel in 1948 and the even less likely prospect that it would still be there nearly seventy years later, in the teeth of some really formidable enemies. And that is why, for 99.9999% of the time, with anyone else but The Jews, adaption to the often traumatically disruptive historical waves of history and a preparedness to let go of much of the past, is really the only practical way forward.




I strongly agree with many of your points but fail to see a direct connection to the issue of the indigenous peoples within Australia. Would seem to be apples and oranges. Anecdotally of interest but how does that impact or support them? I am not sure I understand the point being made here.




The take home here is that if a group cannot maintain such an enormous protracted commitment at a very high inter-generational standard, the project will fall to bits, and eventually, so will the community and the individuals within it, as their existential structures crumble alongside the customs, institutions and traditions that once held them up.




It is not a given that it will destroy the community but it will certainly create substantial changes to their paradigm which could create an environment drastically different from what they have been experiencing.




That is why the Jewish orthodox are not that fond of their more secular brothers and sisters, regard them as cultural underminers and freeloaders, and are hesitant to even regard them as Jews. And to have that attitude, it is necessary to be able to offer something demonstrably viable, that ticks all the really tough boxes, maintains the focus and discipline, and has a proven and reliable track record of being bulletproof, literally and metaphorically, for nearly a couple of millennia of living in the diaspora.




I am again somewhat confused. All of the players in that region of the world are totalitarian in the way they wage government and culture. Are you saying that the Israelis should be more open to change and cooperation than those around them, those that demand they make these compromises to promote peace and harmony? In that part of the world it would demonstrably be a sign of weakness and lack of motivation.




So, the question has to be asked, what is the big deal about ‘aboriginality’? Why has it become such a cloying and exaggerated artefact, that if even the slightest whiff (or none) of its genetic material is detectable anywhere in one’s genome in the last two hundred plus years, one is (or can be) ‘aboriginal’? Why are those roots more important than all the other ones that aren’t? And in particular, why would one identify with a group that hasn’t ever been exactly full of economic, social and intellectual top feeding role models that one could boast about at parties, unless one were directly related to that rather lonely, missionary educated, religiously devout, and ethnically unrepresentative genius, David Unaipon (a prolific inventor known popularly as ‘the black Leonardo’), who has a well-deserved pride of place on our fifty dollar note?




I think it important to make the point that these issues would be more relatable with the Black experience in the U.S. much more so than the issue of Columbus Day festivities and the person and achievements that are represented by the celebration. For decades the positions have changed but this playing with DNA percentages is something where comprehension has always eluded me. For the longest time, the determination of race was that if you were born to a black mother, you were black, which conflicts with one of our last presidents who was born to a white mother and yet is never identified, or wants to even acknowledge the fact of his ‘whiteness’. As you present, it has now come to the point where any percentage of African genetic material is enough to make your case, although your skin tone certainly plays into whatever claims are made. In this way, Europeans have been negated, or ‘cancelled’ by the term in use today, although the connotation of this concept that all of those involved have seemed to distance themselves from the word due to bad promotion and an inherently and surprising understanding by the vast majority of people as to the reality of what happens when implemented.

It is very much the same with our own indigenous peoples, with a deliberative process to determine exactly how many ‘eighths’ or ‘sixteenths’ of Indian ancestry you possess to get a piece of the resources and casinos that they now control. This has nothing to do with the horrible treatment they had to endure at times. There is nothing about this country that embarrasses me more than the lack of integrity and character our leadership and political representation displayed in the conflict with the Indian nations. Reprehensible and despicable. There is a greater relation between the indigenous peoples of both our countries than first offered with the example of Columbus but I see the similarities with both.




Yes, they were here for sixty thousand years, but all our ancestors have been somewhere or other for sixty thousand years. Aboriginals were able to maintain their long and continuous continental occupation and stone age culture here for as long as they did by no particular virtue of their own. It was their entirely fortuitous, but inevitably temporary isolation at the far end of the planet from where all the action was happening, that was always going to make them the last frontier for the peoples who were convulsing, disrupting, uprooting and transforming the rest of the world.

The very moment the rest of that world started to move away from stone age hunting and gathering and began to develop agricultural surpluses, the doom of any society and culture that did not follow that developmental track was sealed. It was just a matter of time and accessibility.




I am not sure it is quite that simple, and yet I tend to agree with what you have set forth. Outside the culture there is a radically different set of imperatives. As they say, time waits for no man, and reality dictates that change is inevitable. But as you show with the Jewish condition, the culture can change and they can enter the modern world, but it takes a huge amount of motivation and confidence in their own beliefs. It would be nice if cultures could be left to their own devices, but that is not particularly practical or desirable, but it should be the individuals that make up the culture that make such a decision.




And yes anthropologists couldn’t believe their luck that they could actually meet the very same sort of people whose only traces elsewhere were to be found in cave paintings, like the ones in France at Lascaux. However, what they found, while a scientifically fascinating insight into an ancient demographic, wasn’t a mystical revelation. It filled gaps in understanding of Mesolithic stone age society and satisfied academic curiosity, but it would hardly add much to a modern society, any more than it would have done for neolithic and bronze age village based cultures, whose own new consciousness, astronomical knowledge base and related megaliths, more abstract cosmological beliefs and developing hierarchical and territorial institutions would have pushed aside the ‘the old ways and beliefs’, and rendered them obsolete, starting five to ten thousand years ago.




And yet human beings not only survived but flourished in the distant past. To what degree is indeterminate, but some of the structures, maps, calendars, mythology and spirituality gives me great pause at times. Modern thought has little if anything to do with morality, with character or with the knowledge of self. The information and technology we have amassed is prodigious and impressive, to the point of incomprehensibility, and yet we kill and rape, we use violence to achieve selfish ends, and we dominate and coerce those around us at a level at least what was experienced ten and twenty thousand years ago, and the argument could be made that it is much worse, for the simple reason that we should know better, but we know nothing of the sort.




Animism didn’t suddenly disappear so much as residualized into increasingly minor roles in the cosmological (creation and end-of-the-world myths) pantheon (all the gods and spirits of a people), eventually becoming children's fairy tales.




Like religion, animism is provocative and compelling in its simplicity and the desire to discover answers to the questions that philosophy has been asking at least as long as civilization has existed, perhaps longer. Even without the presence of some godlike entity, there is still the possibility of things we do not understand, and ironically, may have been understood in greater detail by the peoples in cultures that no longer exist in any real respect. While I am highly skeptical in many of the alternatives and possibilities, both the philosopher and scientist in me have to acknowledge that I do not know the answers, and will let time determine a final resolution. Like God, it can neither be proven nor disproven, and may well remain so for a very long time to come.

As a small digression among many, I really like fantasy. It is this ability to think and speculate about possibilities that I believe to be the fundamental strength of mankind. Everything we have comes directly from that ability to question and create a myriad of alternatives. Even those that are deemed impractical may lead to momentous insights and discoveries in the future. The critical thinker who is open-minded to that which was considered impossible are the handful of individuals that have changed our world. It is those possessed by some evil essence that are the only ones who wish to destroy it.




As a child, I was read a ‘fairy story’ about a beautiful princess and a young prince who wanted to marry her. Her father didn’t want to approve his suit for her hand, because if he ‘struck’ her with iron three times. she would die. The prince assured him that he would remove all iron implements from their life and persuaded the father to accept him as a son-in-law. He eventually relents. Of course, the inevitable ‘accidents’ happened despite all the prince’s best intentions, and she did die, with her grieving and now helpless husband looking on at her bedside.

This is an iron age myth of the interaction between iron age and stone age peoples, which is a lot more benign than what actually happened, but it draws attention to the terrible fragility of stone age society in the face of the new technology.

And let us be clear as to what that means. The death of the princess is symbolic of a larger ‘death’ within a given historical timeline. History’s losers ‘die’ because they can no longer carry the ‘zeitgeist’ (the defining spirit or mood of a particular period of history as shown by the ideas and beliefs of the time) that animated, legitimized and empowered their span upon the stage of history. The fundamental truth of history (if there is to be ‘truth’ found anywhere) is that every new regime is built over the literal and metaphoric corpses of its predecessors; every last one of them.




But it is the deliberative conclusions made by the individuals that survive that determine whether that new ‘regime’ is to be one of freedom and benefit, or the pain and suffering of coercion and tyranny. Choices perpetually exist that are overlooked or dismissed due to fear or ignorance. We have much more ignorance than we need.




In my culture, such moments were encapsulated in the Roman, Viking, Saxon and eventually Norman invasions of Britain. The Norman King William crushed Saxon insurrection when in 1069-70 his troops massacred/starved perhaps up to (but probably rather less than) 100,000 people. The regicide of Charles 1 after a long and bloody civil war was another.

When part of the regime starts to have regrets, it is sure sign its own ‘time’ is coming, because the wear and tear of history has worn down its legitimacy, revealing its own weakness, self-doubt, shortcomings, decadence and inability to coherently and confidently focus on why it still has a right to be there. It is vulnerable to anything floating by, like any old entity waiting to die, usually first symbolically and then later concretely, as a fact of history.




Is it truly the ‘wear and tear of history’ or is it the degenerative environment created by the incompetent, the ruthless, the horrendously and irrationally selfish, or is it some kind of natural progression? In every instance I have ever seen, it is the quality and integrity of the religious and political ideologies that deteriorate over time and creates a dystopian paradigm with an inevitable conclusion. No regime has ever gone out a winner, or on a winning streak. They all wither and die from the inside. The epitome of a cancerous growth.




Pathological identification with history’s losers is a bit like an inverse Stockholm Syndrome, whereby the winners fall for their victims by clutching redeeming latter day defeat out of the jaws of discredited old victory.




But even many Empires had beneficial and positive aspects and concepts. The fact that they could not sustain them is founded in other attributes and vices that brought the systems down. Even today in the U.S. it seems that it is in decline, but not because of the system as originally created and developed, but by the intrusion of corruption, nepotism, drastically ideological and hidden agendas, irrational self-interested and incompetent players with no concern for anything past the time of their own existence, even in relation to their own families and legacy. It is the existence of these horrible individuals that are allowed to remain in power by the very people they have sworn to protect that dilutes whatever positives that the system may have made evident to begin with.

Without individuals of moral philosophies, those of character and integrity and with the ability to think critically, there is nothing that can replace what already exists without those same inappropriate players taking over within the new paradigm. Without fundamentally and consistently good people, it is simply the attempt to do the same things over and over again, and expecting to achieve a vastly different result. As we all know this is commonly known as insanity.



And yes our aboriginal brothers and sisters have been very easy for urban ‘intellectuals’ to romanticize into Rousseauian ‘Noble Savages’ blessed with an ideal lifestyle ‘at one with nature’ and ‘the spirits of the land’. But the truth is that this might only be very nice for everyone if the population of this over seven and half million square kilometer island continent were still between three and seven hundred and fifty thousand (or whatever the latest Woke 'historian' has fluffed it up to), which was what is speculated to have been here before the outside world crashed in. That micro-population, which was divided into small bands spread across the continent, was likely the maximum sustainable for an ultra-low productivity ‘walkabout’ economy with a Mesolithic stone age standard of living.




The challenge is to recognize whatever beneficial aspects we can take away from an investigation into the culture, to continue to respect and understand the existence that they had to endure, to put all the information into a reasonable historical context, and to conclude what could be an advantage or a benefit to us all in the future. It is the same with every culture that has ever existed, whether it be the Australian aboriginals, the American Indians or the African tribes. A cornucopia of failures and successes. It is our objective to determine what may help us as we walk into the future.




All up, this insignificantly small and scattered continental population was around 150,000 (or more) fewer than the city of London in 1800 and the lower end of that estimate was the same as the accumulated British army losses for the Napoleonic wars, which were about par for the course for major territorial conflicts of the time. To have pretended that the population of a small European principality could legitimately claim some kind of continental 'nation' sovereignty would have been regarded as laughable. For those still in possession of their rational faculties, it still is.




The concept of ‘property’ is well beyond the understanding of most of our demonstrative protestors on the street. It would do them well to comprehend that which they condemn. I find it amusing that while they will tell me I cannot own the resources below my feet, or should not, it is perfectly logical to them that a handful of individuals, even if the first to set foot on some parcel of land, up to and including a continent, can claim sovereignty simply because they existed. Not an easy conversation by any means, but without focus and context, there can be no discussion, no definition of problem and absolutely no considerations of resolutions.




Yes they did stone age really well, considering how much practice they’d had, but who wants to live a stone age way of life now, even if it were remotely possible, except perhaps as a tourist who might, as a transient observer, appreciate an ancient narrative of place, of tall tales and true from the legendary past….? It might even work as part of a Duke of Edinburgh style living-off-the-land challenge for young bourgeois urban softies in need of a bit of bush ‘hardening up’. But it there is no way of bringing the stone age back from the dead, because even in really remote Afghan villages in the foothills of the Himalayas, the local gunsmith can make you a moderately reliable and serviceable AK47, for a very reasonable price, from scratch.

But who actually believes in land spirit worship anymore? Are we getting all indulgently dewy eyed about aboriginal ‘culture’ because our own is bankrupt and we can no longer bring ourselves to believe our own creation myths any more? Anyone for Genesis? …. I don’t think so. So what is the river serpent telling us that Adam and Eve don’t?




I have no issues with individuals believing in land spirit worship, but it is the idea that they somehow can arbitrarily proclaim themselves as caretaker without the need to converse, discuss, debate, consider and determine exactly what it is that needs to be done.

We should all respect and venerate the planet we live on, but there will always be practical considerations unless the intent is to create a genocide of historical proportions to bring the population numbers into a more manageable number. No one is promoting that . . . . yet. It’s in the works.

It can only be education, and philosophy is a part of that, that can ever hope to bring about a resolution through true cooperation and understanding. I see no intent or even acknowledgment that this might just be the answer. I hear nothing else in the cacophony of the demands of the ignorant. But then again, that would suggest that their positions are of little or no value whatsoever.




Why is it in some circles really fashionable to make fun of the Biblical Genesis and then go into reverential overdrive about equally unlikely stories of ‘the spirits of the land’? What sort of ideological gobbledygook is that? And is it really a good idea to be blithely encouraging the more atavistic (relating to or characterized by reversion to something ancient or ancestral) and reactionary (diehard opposition to ‘progress’ or reform)) elements within aboriginal society when so many of them haven’t really got their heads around the modern realities?




There seems to be an intense dislike of religious belief systems for any number of reasons. One is that the morality of many religions often clash with the ideology of those we may call secular. The contradictions lie in the fact that they both paint their criticisms with the same broad brush of generalizations, when they should be determining similarities to set standards, and argue differences with all of those ‘attributes’ that they both profess, tolerance, open-mindedness, empathy, etc. I find that I disagree with both of them most of the time, and ironically, for the same reasons.

While religion and God are quite mystical, the natural mysticism is easier to embrace and there is no real dogma or hierarchy within the parameters of this spirit worship. This reduces the effort needed to confiscate the legitimacy that others feel for the movement.




Sure, modern societies are making a mess of the Garden of Eden, and they’ll have to do something about it if they do not want to end up themselves on the rubbish dump of history. But it won’t be ‘the spirits of the land’ that wake us from our modern dreaming so much as scientists, or failing that, disaster. And we won’t be going back to hunting and gathering, even if the worst happens; Mad Max perhaps...Aboriginals have nothing to tell us about that because they haven’t the first idea how we are going to support twenty-two million people in an environmentally disturbed, chaotic and violent world, or even themselves if the government welfare money stops turning up every fortnight. The old bush skills aren’t what they used to be in most places these days….




Things are rarely and obviously black and white in practice. I am not so sure that investigation and contemplation of the ‘spirits of the land’ could not be instrumental in making an attempt to get back to some natural basics such as respect, empathy, compassion and cooperation. Perhaps not in the context of the ‘stone age’ as you put it, but with the addition of our modern knowledge base as well as technological and scientific findings. A blend of both might give us the opportunity to discover more about ourselves as well as those around us, and give us a more substantial and legitimate chance to make some of the changes that are so desperately needed.

Instead of allowing us to be pulled backwards into that Stone Age, maybe we can pull the best of what they may have understood within nature into our own paradigm to create change.




Sure, some elements of aboriginal communities still have an extensive knowledge of their environment, and it has become increasingly obvious that the rest of us have plenty to learn about their traditional fire management practices, bush tucker and pharmacopoeia.




There you go. There are valid and rational reasons to look at what is known as the big picture, and refrain from throwing out the baby with the bathwater.




Had aboriginal communities been more engaged with their modern neighbors, and got enough modern education to be able to adapt their very considerable knowledge to modern forest management, horticultural and agricultural production methods, and marketed them properly, these practices and products would have impacted fire management, taken up significant space in our food and drug manufacturing and distribution chains, and gone into export overdrive, long ago. And in the process, some of our aboriginal brothers and sisters would have made some serious contributions to fire management science, made some money out of native species horticulture and showed the way out from being fortnight to fortnight welfare pensioners to being professionally paid forest managers and environmental scientists, to being enterprising creators of wealth.




The question being who is it that gets to make such a decision? They need to want to do this, and it is irrelevant what the rest of us think is an appropriate response to the relentless march of time and technology. This is not to say that I don’t agree with you to a large degree, but only that the issue of coercion is what perverts and corrupts our own modern systems to begin with. We need a more rational and human-based perspective to accomplish such an objective.




Right now, the main players in the indigenous foods industry are, as one might expect, non aboriginal. Ditto for bush pharma products. And the sellers of indigenous food are presently screaming for more supply because their local and global customers are realizing these products are very novel, tasty and nutritious eating.




How does one attempt to control such an environment without coercion, more laws, and that simply complicates the whole corruption and power struggle thing among the parasites and opportunists that feed off of any society at any time throughout history? This is a fundamental question. I support the right of people to take opportunities and turn it into something positive and beneficial. How do we rationally control the time and effort a fully legitimate individual puts into a creative and innovative outlet? I am not sure that mankind is mature enough to even consider this question. We have failed miserably to this point in the attempt to address these kinds of issues.


*Gold* My review has been submitted for consideration in "Good Deeds Get CASH!.
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Review of The Enigma  
Rated: E | (4.5)
It seems that I promised you a review back in January, which I did, but neglected to send it. At least I can't find a record of it. If sent, please accept my apologies for resending it. If not sent, please accept my apologies for the oversight. In any case, here it is.

I enjoyed 'Enigma'. There were many of your words that resonated with me. I appreciate those things that make me think, to re-examine what already exists as truth, and investigate those things that I have yet to discover. You've done that, and I thank you.

I could say that it would be nice to have a deeper insight into the things you mention, but it is not my decision. While it is intriguing and compelling, it is unfinished and yet still inviting. I guess I do much the same with my own writing. People always want to know more about me, when I really desire that they learn more about themselves. No matter how much I relate my own experiences to others, they can never really comprehend because of the overwhelming expanse of their own experience and perspective.

It sounds like a capitulation and a farewell, and yet it talks of the future. I was a little bit confused. I also feel the wear of many years, but am unwilling to give up what little time is left me to despair and the unknown. I persevere and continue my path, enjoying the journey, reluctantly accepting there may well never be a destination.

Life is a bitch, and yet I sit here knowing that I am who I am only because of that bitch. I wish to be no one else, and find contentment in knowing that I played an integral part in that evolution.

Ah, alone. I long ago realized that we walk that path alone, no matter how many may share it with us. Was it real? It was the only 'real' I know. I think I may have been able to direct it better at times, but I embrace the fact that it was the creation of 'I'.

I have no solace in the memories that I have left behind. Very few ever really knew me. I barely knew myself. If my words or actions touched someone else, then I am somewhat content. We do what we think is right, and nothing else is within our control. That is my focus.

Existence is a highly personal experience.

I enjoyed your final quote. Is it one of your own? I play with poetry myself at times. I found it insightful and intriguing. Thoughtful. I have a bit of an obsession with 'self' so it resonates.
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Review of Lazarus  
Rated: E | (3.0)
I've been meaning to take a look at your suggestion for a while. I am sorry it took so long.

I always find it somewhat difficult to assimilate the written word, especially when it is based on a religious principle, that relates to what someone says, or what is written in a book, and not so much the reaction and interpretation of the individual because of some real-life event. As I read it seems more of an explanation or a translation than something that was actually experienced. I don't want to call your belief system into question, because I understand at least some of what you are trying to do. I related to you that both my brother and uncle were priests and that I have been exposed to the belief system on an intimate level.

When I began my search for answers about life and truth and god, one of the first things I researched was the Bible. I read virtually the whole book, trying to find something that would resonate with my limited experience at that time, to try and make sense of a world that did not hold a lot of answers. While there was much of value in parts of what was presented, there was much contradiction and things that just made little or no sense to me, it didn't bring me any deeper understanding of myself or those around me. I found it wanting. This is not to say that it cannot be something of value and substance to someone else. If it assists someone in becoming a better person, then I make an attempt to appreciate what that individual was able to find in the teachings and stories about life. I accept it as a piece of the puzzle, with valuable lessons and a hint of direction and suggestions for thought and actions. I embraced those things that could help me with my quest but had to reject those things that were thought to be less than complimentary to my already developing a personal philosophy. It is just the way that I process things, and I have done so with a number of other religions and disciplines, some traditional and others much less so, from Catholicism and Christianity, as already stated, as well as Muslim and Judaism, through Buddhism and Confucianism and Daoism, even Shintoism and Paganism, not to mention American Indian cultures. They all have something important to say about what is needed to find god. They all have given me direction and aspects of thought and action that I have accepted as instrumental in finding that which I am looking for, which is peace and harmony, and I find it hard to believe that any god would hold my expectations against me.

Our thoughts on what god, if he exists, are quite disparate. I find benefit and satisfaction in discovering what is right, and doing whatever I can to integrate that into my everyday actions. You believe that your god gives direction and imperatives. I believe that God, if he exists, wants us to experience understanding without coercion or direction. I am more than willing to face him, again, if he exists, and to make my case to him, and no one else. He has never spoken to me, and I await the event. If it never happens, then I will determine my own destiny. I don't believe anyone else can do that for me, including you, my brother, or any sage or representative of a divinity. I try not to judge your own decisions and actions, and I hope that you are willing to do the same for me.

You talk of gods' will, and I respect that, but I am sorry that I cannot accept that. I have talked with many that say God has a plan. If so, it may well be that this is his plan for me, and I intend to live a life of integrity doing just that. Can you tell me that he does not have a plan for me? Can you tell me that what I am relating to you is not that plan? How can you possibly say that?

My interpretation is that you have a strong belief in what you are saying. Belief and passion are wonderful things. I have that as well. Is it not my right to come to these conclusions by my own volition? I acknowledge your desire to help in some way, but when does that wish to help become coercive?

You say that I cannot see 'further than these things' but I will be able to with Jesus. This may well be so, but I seem to be making a credible attempt as we speak. All of these trials and tribulations of marriage that you present are real enough, but my wife and I just celebrated our 46th anniversary just last week. It seems undeniable that we are doing something right. While many of those things he taught in the Bible are a part of our lives, he is not a part of our lives, nor his father, or any other god from any other belief. Perhaps we live in some degree of denial, and yet we live in harmony with each other, and bring no harm to others. What is it that we are doing wrong? I am comfortable with our efforts.

Your narrative tends to lean towards preaching at times, and that, at least in my case, does nothing to convince me of the righteousness of your positions. You are relating nothing from personal experience, but simply relating what is said in a book. Without the existence of this tome, there is nothing to provide legitimacy for your words. I find this troubling which leaves me unsatisfied. If you wish to have me reconsider a lifetime of thought and contemplation, you are going to have to do much better than that. I mean no disrespect. It is a simple reality.

I accept that evil exists in this world, but find it difficult to acknowledge an actual satan. Can I be mistaken? Most assuredly, it is possible. I have been wrong about so much in my life, it could fill volumes. The whole concept of truth is somewhat humourous. If I am able to recognize good and evil and work towards defeating the existence of evil in our lives, does it really matter what motivates me? Is it not of more importance whether I really have a legitimate comprehension of what evil is? At some point, I need to know, with some surety, or I will fail in my quest. God may be able to help, but the revelation cannot come through you, it must come directly from God himself. It will simply be next to impossible for me to accept anything else.

I am very uncomfortable when I start hearing about obedience and an arbitrary judgment of my 'ability' to 'learn' faith. This is normally understood to be a determination to be made, but not by me, and that invariably makes me resist and reject. Be careful when you begin to speak in these terms, they are dangerous on so many levels.

The narrative continues to relate to us, albeit with some colloquial re-phrasing of the storyline, but it remains a regurgitation of Bible passages and consistently in a preachable format. Speaking of format, another aspect of being taken seriously is to put the time and effort into your own submission. To have the reader respect your work, you have to respect it yourself. Spelling, grammar, formatting, using text-ese. These things reflect on the whole piece. This is not to say that mistakes are not made, things overlooked or simply not recognized as wrong. It is an imperative for the writer to try and remove as many of these distractions as possible, or the reader can get lost in the story and eventually lose interest, not something that you want to happen. Proofreading is an integral part of the writing itself. It is so difficult to entice someone to read a work, even harder still to engage with them and keep them interested, it is self-destructive to be sloppy or lazy in your presentation.

As mentioned, there is a certain strength and passion in your writing. The writing is capable, but the flow can be improved by reducing mistakes and some tweaks to delivery and presentation. I don't know if you reread your postings before submission, but reading it aloud will help you find those areas that sound forced and discordant. I can't help but reiterate that the preaching is a real turnoff for me. I have been accused of it repeatedly. Passion will make you do that with any subject and seem to be preaching even when there was no intent to do so. With religious-related items it is almost impossible. I don't normally subscribe to the absolutism demanded by many to show, don't tell, but in this case, it would seem that it would be much more palatable if there was a more intimate revelation that involved you as opposed to quoting or paraphrasing from the scripture. This is all the opinion of a single individual. It is simply my observation after reading your work. We look at this life from different perspectives, but at no time do I say that you are wrong, only that if you wish to create a larger impact, in my humble opinion, you need to make some adjustments. But in the end, it will be your decision. I sincerely wish you well. What you are attempting to do is extremely difficult, as I have found out. I have a few essays on god and religion, and try very hard to refrain from alienating people with limited success. If that is what you wish to do, you will have to accept, re-evaluate and adjust accordingly continuously. I can only wish you good luck in your efforts.

I think that the piece would be so much more compelling if it was more a narrative about your own personal thoughts, no matter how much they are influenced by your faith. It is admirable in many respects to hold strong beliefs, but the level of preaching is going to turn many people off. I guess it depends on what type of audience that you are trying to reach. If you are looking to start a movement or develop your own community, it may be more valid. If you are trying to simply engage with believers and non-believers alike, then you need to approach this with a totally different perspective. Those that have similar beliefs will not give much push-back, but those that are already skeptical, or uninformed as to your beliefs, are going to be concerned with the tone and direction of the narrative. This is just my opinion, of course, but I think it a valid one. My own position is a well-established and developed system of beliefs, and I have heard nothing that I have not heard before, in many guises. It would be necessary to make me question some of my own comfortable positions before it would be even possible to actually make an effort to re-investigate what I consider bedrock tenets that my philosophy is built upon. You have not done that. You are not saying anything new, and you need something I have never heard of or thought about to impress me.

I truly wish you well. I hope you are able to find your way through the 'mind-field' of conflict and resolution. Maybe you can write some reasoned arguments about specific concepts within the religion that are open-minded and welcoming to those that may disagree with your position. Your kind of writing can be very intimidating and interpreted as aggressive. You have to find a way to get around that or I fear that you will be frustrated with the results. I am all the time. I hope that you can accept these observations in the manner in which they were intended, as information that may be of some use to you. If not, it can be rejected and discarded. It was meant to help, and not to hurt. I hope that you understand that.

Enjoy your day. Keep writing. I wish you nothing but peace.


John

Lone Cypress Workshop

lonecypressworkshop@gmail.com
lonecypressworkshop.com  
6
6
Rated: E | (3.5)
I appreciated your somewhat nebulous interest in my attempt at starting a group on the subject of essays. I hope that you will decide that you would like to sample what my 'group of one' may have to offer. I read this piece at your suggestion and found it relevant to what I am hoping to do with the group, that being to understand and develop the usage of the essay in our writings. I found your essay a perfect example of what an essay is, and what it may be.

As a reviewer, I tend to shy away from telling a writer what to do, and what to say, and how to say it. It is my position that it is for the author to ultimately decide his direction and style. Having said that, there are some comments and observations that I would like to share for your consideration. Just something to think about if you are going to develop the piece, or for possible use within something else in the future. It may give you some insight into the kind of conversations that we may have within the group.

My first reaction to your introduction was that conventional wisdom would suggest that you make it more a narrative than a 'list' of things that you would like to accomplish. In either case, you do have to accomplish the same things, but a list can be rather dry to the reader, and while you may 'hook' them with your comments, since most readers are not going to be enthralled by the subject of mathematics, it may alienate even more of your audience.

Myself, I am a student of mathematics and have always had an interest. I recognize the importance of usage in everyday life and enjoy hearing anecdotal stories about the subject. The problem with an essay is that it is not normally a story, but a rigid presentation. The formal essay does this by design, and to some degree, it sometimes works but lacks a certain 'entertainment' value. This is one of the reasons that I tend to favor the 'informal' and do not believe that it cannot be enjoyable at the same time.

I am somewhat ambivalent about your intro. At first, it seemed a bit clinical, but upon reflection, it is, in essence, a direct and personal invitation to the reader, and I appreciate that. I could see some others possibly criticizing that it is not structured and formal enough, but I like the informality of the presentation.

Your first points, while technically valid, are not particularly cohesive. While they are legitimate statements they don't seem to have a relation to one another and takes me out of the narrative to some degree. They need to be tied into one another, as well as the concept of 'lying' that we are expecting. Perhaps with more explanation it might make more sense. Each point could be the nexus of a sub-narrative, building upon the intro and setting up what is to come. While it creates some anticipation for where the piece is going, it also disconnects the attention.

I am not sure that there is evidence that mathematics is suspect at this point, but you suggest that your next argument may rectify that. You introduce contradiction between different proofs, but at some point, in pretty much all of the 'sciences', we have to rely on previous conclusions to make progress. Most science is not built upon factual evidence, although there is much that does exist, but upon consensus and acceptance. Theoretical science is taking over all the disciplines, and the existence of truth gets more tenuous with each passing day. Don't get me wrong, I actually agree with much of what you say. It is just that it comes across as more confusing than convincing, especially for those that are not scientific in temperament. I believe that you are presenting too many aspects too quickly, and not giving the reader more information to understand where you are going with the narrative. I, of course, do not really know the audience that you are attempting to reach, which has many implications for delivery and intent.

The reference to the Milky Way, while illustrative of a three-dimensional example, does not prove your point. Even two-dimensional representations, using multiple perspectives, could define and present three-dimensional objects. I am not sure what you are trying to prove here. We have to represent things that exist to the best of our abilities, with mathematics no exception. It seems more of a limitation that we continually try to improve upon, than a misrepresentation.

As for the creation of a 'new' mathematics, that is an intimidating challenge. All the sciences seem to evolve in a way that is very difficult to restrict and direct. It is like they have a mind of their own, and this inevitably creates errors on many levels. It is like saying that our politics or our laws should be more fair or consistent. I certainly would not argue the fact, but the challenge is in making the changes necessary. How do we accomplish that? I have no idea. I don't get to make the decisions, and no one seems to care about my opinion.

In many ways, Physics is not even really mathematics, although they are intimately related. You seem to be losing the reader with your foray into changing one of our most sacred beliefs, that E=MC2 to E=M. I think even some scientists are scratching their heads at this point. The following points are difficult to follow for most, including myself. I think that you are presenting a daunting amount of information into a demonstrably inadequate-sized narrative. It does not draw the reader into the conversation but removes them from the narrative, and that is probably not what you are looking for.

But. . . . I completely agree that these 'theoretical' disciplines have gotten so complex and intricate that they are allowing themselves to be forced into not proving in any compelling way that their conclusions are real, but they are forcing the proverbial square peg into the round hole, making it work by adding even more theoretical numbers and terms into the formulas to get a satisfactory result. Not what science was supposed to be about. I guess you can understand the frustration, but science is not made to respond to the impatient, but to the focused and rational on a long-term investigation.

The concept that mathematicians lie is finally introduced but a bit forced into the narrative ending, almost as an afterthought. It could have been referenced with some of the points brought up previously to set up the ending. It seems that the effort was over-ambitious for a conventional reader. Many of your points demanded much more information and clarity, and some of them might require quite a bit more background. If you assume that the reader understands much of what you presented, the audience is inarguably restricted. For the normal reader, it would have to be more instructional so they could follow the storyline. I have found that adding that instructional component makes it that much more complicated to make an essay an engaging submission. We have to understand and accept the makeup of the audience here on writing.com, with most not particularly informed with your subject matter.

I hope that this does not come across as highly critical, because it was not meant to be. It is exactly what I hope to attempt to do with the essay group, to talk about how to make the 'beast' palatable to the normal reader. To instruct and entertain is difficult enough, but to engage and hold the reader, especially with subjects and concepts that may not be their 'bread and butter' so to speak, is never going to be easy. To get them to want to continue to read something that they would normally not be interested in is almost impossible. It begins with the beginning and that 'hook' that everyone talks about. To get their attention and to 'help' them to think about something in more detail than they might want. I think that you did that, but the need to keep them engaged during the whole process of the entire essay is just that much more difficult.

As I said, I enjoy mathematics and have enough background that I know what you are talking about, and was still having difficulty staying focused on what was presented. I could see the eyes possibly glazing over with many readers. It was not that it did not have substance, and there is nothing wrong with your ability to write, but the reader needed it to be offered in a manner that it would remain both interesting and enjoyable. With mathematics, that is a difficult challenge. Personally, I think it is something that could be done, but it might take a couple of thousand words to do so, or perhaps make it a series of mini-essays, with a limited amount of specific items at a time that could be covered sufficiently, and allow the reader to finish and contemplate what was said, and hopefully return for an encore.

Thanks for the opportunity to read it. Keep writing.

John


*Gold* My review has been submitted for consideration in "Good Deeds Get CASH!.
7
7
Review of The Sun Also Sets  
Rated: 13+ | N/A (Review only item.)
I am so glad that I took the time to sample your submission.

I found it to be refreshing and creative. Well structured and with a consistent, and surprisingly believable quality to it.

A good point of view and perspective. I have some experience with the bovine community and Hooves is well above average in his intelligence and philosophy. His ability to find clarity was evident, although he did end up in Spain, but he basically foretold his own demise, so he was prophetic as well.

I guess we won't go into the logistics of a traveling bull, not to mention his admittance into a bistro. The allusion to 'Midnight in Paris' gave a good backstory to the narrative, provided of course you saw the movie. Which I have.

An insightful and contemplative bull, and that's no S#@t!

It was nice that they were 'simpatico' although Hemingway was the only one that lived to write another day. I had a fondness for Hooves and it was sad to see him go. It seems it was somehow inevitable.

He truly is a legend.

In this time of turmoil, this was a welcome and entertaining distraction. Well written and consistent. Good dialogue. Smooth transitions and not much to critique in PS&G.

Well done. Thanks for writing. Thanks for sharing.





*Gold* My review has been submitted for consideration in "Good Deeds Get CASH!.
8
8
Rated: E | (3.0)
It is difficult indeed for me to give much criticism since it is a belief that I hold deep within. It is nice to see it articulated in a poem. Which is too short I might add. A simple poem, and yet one of strength and reeking of truth. I am not sure that one cannot live a rich and full life without the love of another, A life of solitude can be a thing of beauty, but very few are capable of withstanding the perpetual burden of self. I think the real misery comes from a life that does not know love at all, and never finds the path to love of oneself. That is truly a crushing pressure to endure.

The sentiment is strong, and difficult to dismiss or to argue. Love is not a trinket or a piece of candy. It has value, and it can be precious if you understand what it means, and you so aptly voice what many have uttered over centuries, but few have been able to understand fully. It cannot be bought or sold, and it cannot be given in a mindless manner. To know love, one must know self. And for that to happen, there are obligations and responsibilities that must be contemplated and experienced.

I am only a single individual, but I find it difficult, if not impossible, to love someone that I do not respect, deeply, and therein lies the crux. If you do not know and respect 'self' and understand the concepts, there can be no love. Love is the most selfish, as well as the most selfless thing that anyone can do, and to understand the difference is not easy.

I always appreciate when someone touches on a fundamental to happiness and peace. Your piece did that. I would have liked for you to expand and contemplate the concept in more depth. If interested, I have given the concept some thought as well. You can find my perspective in my portfolio in 'Crazy Little Thing Called Love' and 'What's Love Got To Do With It'.

Thank you for sharing, and never stop writing.


*Gold* My review has been submitted for consideration in "Good Deeds Get CASH!.
9
9
Review of Salt  
Rated: E | (3.0)
When I look at someone else's work, it is an attempt, for me at least, to try and interpret what I read, primarily as a reader, and not as a writer. It is difficult not to recognize that it is also seen as a work in progress, because nothing is ever really finished, depending on what the writer is trying to accomplish. PS&G is not my strong suit. I disagree with much of what 'traditional' or 'conventional' sources believe is the 'proper' way to produce literature. My views are rarely mainstream. There is no intention to promote those positions. These observations of mine should be taken with a 'grain of salt' as the saying goes. No attempt is made to rewrite the piece, although many suggestions and alternatives may be offered. These are made only to give the writer the ability to look at some other perspectives. Everything I do, from reviews to essays, is offered as an opportunity to entertain other possibilities. My own situation is similar in the respect that I truly listen to what someone else offers by way of observation and opinion, but I find that I receive as many points of view from those that have an opposite and just as credible view, and I am invariably left pretty much where I started, and the result ends up being adjustments or changes from a personal decision anyway. But they give me much to think about, and it all goes into the process. I do listen, just not as much as others would like. The assumption, for me, is that you will go through much the same progression. If there is something that interests you, that is gratifying. If not, there is no regret for my words or my opinion. I understand the frustrations of being a writer. I respect what they are trying to do. There is no intent to be harsh or to hurt feelings, although being honest almost ensures that it can be a possibility. It will always be given as a single individuals' opinion, nothing more. At that point, it is up to the writer to find value in my thoughts. Feel free to keep them and think about them, or to disregard them at your leisure.

I find that there is often a need to define a word or concept that I wish to cover in my work. So many words in our language have been 'hijacked' by special interests and they have perverted or simply promote an explanation that was never intended. Difficult to stop that, so the writer has to present exactly what their interpretation of that concept is. Normally, I would go through at least ten sites to get the varied information from origins and usage and possibly use it in context to attempt to make the word more interesting. What you have done, while there is nothing wrong with it, comes across a little bit dry. More like something from academia. I realize that the title tells us this will deal with salt, but we don't know in what way. It could be any of the four you include. It could even be all of them, but the piece would have to be longer, possibly much longer. That is something that I would suggest in any case.

My problem is that it does not 'hook' the reader, so some kind of narrative that contains the information would probably have been easier on the reader, and you could have introduced something specific that could be the reason that they, the reader, continue to follow the story. It might also be better to drop the secondary meanings that you will not use in your work, although I think they all could have been incorporated into the piece if you wanted to. If you had touched on the flavor of life, with all of the trial and tribulations, the common-sense conclusions that you came to after your deployment, the skepticism that has overtaken you with the changes in society, the need for steadfast individuals to fix things, and especially the 'old salt' sailor, since you ARE a sailor, and a writer, and that, in essence, is what an old salt is. All of these things could have given so much depth and interest in conjunction with what you actually put down to paper.

The writing is competent and consistent. It flows naturally and the thoughts are consistent throughout. There were some good phrases like behemoths of steel and stabbed the darkness falling over the sky. Nice stuff, but most of the time the narrative was in simple and matter-of-fact form. While everything related well, and I liked the story, it was missing something that I can only describe as 'introspection'. It was not personalized enough. There is a 'relaying' of what you did, but little depth as to why you did it, and especially what you were really thinking during the 'doing'. Some of what you are thinking comes through, but it is distant and superficial. The deployment is life-changing. I want to know exactly how. The fact that you talked to the MMC is not particularly interesting, although the fact that he came to you instead of going to him could be. But you didn't say why. This comes across more as something of a memoir, and, of course, it is since it is just about you and your experience during this event, but I never really get the sense of your fears and anxiety, both before leaving and then the turn of events that change the paradigm. It is obvious that you had no premonition of the pandemic but you didn't really relate how that affected you.

There is some good information and the story is interesting, but a bit superficial. Now, I am prejudiced, I like introspection. I always want to know the things that people say, but I really want to hear the things that they do not want to talk about. The things that they are afraid to share, that makes them vulnerable and open to criticism. I think many feel the same way. That is how you get the reader invested in the story and the character. Readers like to feel that they are just like the people you write about, or they want to know how they deal with many of the same things that they do, or they want to feel that they are doing better than them and get some satisfaction that the decisions they make are working for them. But the bottom line is that they want to know more. Always more. The development of you, as the main character, and being vulnerable and open, is what will 'catch' them. That 'hook' everyone talks about? It doesn't have to be right at the beginning, It can come at any time when the reader decides that they want to read it all and find out what happens next. The problem is that if it is not sooner rather than later, there may be no reader left to get 'caught'.

Another personal preference is that, with all of this depth I suggest, it means the length increases. Many critters will tell you to say with four words what you have done in ten. I say, maybe it will take a hundred. There is no rush to get to the end of the story, and fewer words mean less information, not that you can accomplish more with less at times. But not often. As a personal example I will give you a quick peek into my thinking. One of my favourite books of all time is Ayn Rands' 'Atlas Shrugged'. I know a lot of people don't like her work, but I think it is more an issue of her politics and philosophy. But the book is well done from a literary point of view. Second best-selling book of all time behind the Bible. The book is long, over a thousand pages. Most say way too long. Me? I wish it was twice as long. Length is not intimidating. Boring is. If there is value, and I found value on almost every page of one kind or another, length ceases to exist. Reading is a journey into a timeless place where you lose yourself in thought and fantasy. That is what you get with introspection and well-developed thoughts and dialogue.

Speaking of dialogue, this episode with the girl was just begging for some dialogue. Not to mention some dialogue with yourself with all of these issues. Dialogue is not my strong suit either, but it gives a different dimension and flow to the overall piece and a buffer between all the narrative parts. Back and forth between them gives a nice continuity.

Every paragraph there is something mentioned but not developed further. Those great behemoths of steel? You never mentioned what you felt about them. No mention even of exactly what your position was, and it seems like after your two months you are leaving and never coming back? How do you feel about being on these monsters? How does it feel as you progress through the ranks? What are your goals? What are your dreams? What do you hope to accomplish? We never found out what you did while on board the ship, just that you worked half of every day. A good amount of information. The potential was endless. There were questions flying around like fireworks in my head throughout the whole piece. To me, this means opportunities lost.

Most people that join the military (merchant marine? / Coast Guard?) have an interest in history, at least of their particular branch. You took the time to mention that it was 'never important to me'. Why not? It is to me, why is it not to you? Is this certification germane to the rest of the story? It doesn't seem so. Who is this guy that you wear on your chest? I can't find anything. Hamilton, Jones, Barry? I can find nothing that points to anything on the uniform of any branch of the military. These are distractions that can affect a reader. If you mention something there needs to be context, and if you can add some introspection, all the better.

The pandemic is something I am pretty ambivalent about. But you bring it up and again just go over the peripherals. Another opportunity to go into some detail, both surface and deeply. It must have been difficult to get basically imprisoned on a ship while this goes on, and you never let us know just how long that imprisonment was. You continue to relate a story but it continues to be under-developed. Don't get me wrong, I think the piece continues to be consistent and with a good degree of information and interest, it's only that it is so limited in scope and depth.

You move into the concept of salt now, and this again is interesting. These ships are made of nothing but metal and open to the weather and the worst nature can throw at it, and always in a salt-laden environment. It is a never-ending challenge to keep up with the work necessary to keep it sea-worthy. Again, while interesting, it comes across as a relating of information. And then you make the analogy with the 'scars after the hurt remains'. It kind of drove me crazy. What an absolute perfect segue into some deep insights into the human condition, integrated with the salt and the military and the hurts that we experience every day, with what you had to go through, and everyone everywhere, whether just staying alive, or dealing with the coronavirus. Another piece of fruit on the vine. You didn't go after it.

And that could have transitioned right into the fact that there was no one to care if you even ever returned to port. But you offer no explanations of why. No thoughts of what was lost or never existed. I think many readers at this point are dying to find out more about our MC. There are expectations. You have my attention, most assuredly. You then start some reflection of sorts, and you go into some good fertile ground. "The ocean blinds you of distractions and your (you're) left to whatever horrors you've locked in the depths of your mind". I love it! This is what I want to see all the time. This is more poetic that introspection, but both if you read it slowly. This is good stuff.

Not sure why you called her an 'acquaintance'. Wasn't she just another 'shipmate'? Good place for that dialogue here when you 'cast her off' twice. You cried and she comforted, and you came to realizations that you are never really alone, and there is always a soul in reach. There is no doubt in my mind that you could have made the narrative so much more inviting. Even here, you are giving us a view from a distance of what happened, when we should have been right there with you.

"We pushed our birds out of the nest to fly in a storm". Another good line and another good opportunity to lose yourself in a reverie about whatever was in your mind. You told me to not hold back when doing this review. My strongest impression is that you should stop holding back when you are putting pen to paper. But you say you only give the sea a glance one last time as you say goodbye. Where are you going? Are you never coming back? I am not sure I have ever read something with so much mystery and unanswered questions.

Again, I have to say this was a real opportunity to put something together that was as real as it can be, and would have reached people on a number of levels, all of them good. Those other definitions I mentioned that maybe were not all that important to start? They all could have been brought in. Especially the sailor part, the 'old salt' teller of tales. The common sense as we confront and address our problems with society and self. The singular nature of human beings and the interaction we have with them, from our own conversations with ourselves in our own mind to our relationship with pandemics and strangers that bring us solace and comfort when we least expect it.

This is a good story. Unfortunately it needs work, but I see nothing that would tell me you can not do it. It needs to be more poetic, and you showed in many instances that this is not a problem. It is something that you have the ability to do. I keep asking myself why you didn't. Don't overdo it but do it more. It needs to really leave your mark as to who you are, and that may be the biggest problem. It means letting all those readers see you naked on the page. I think it will be worth it, but who am I to say? I know nothing about you except what I read on these pages. You really did everything right. You need to put more of yourself into it. It could be something that is really good. I would think that all depends on what you are willing to do to get there.

I think that I have already given more 'suggestions' than I am normally wont to do. The problem is sometimes I just can't help myself. I did some quick research while doing all of this and I found some references into what historically is known as an 'old salt'. It jumped out at me as an interesting and inviting title for the piece itself. Old salt is the saltwater after the moisture evaporates and leaves that crust of salt on everything, and I am assuming that much of what you did on board was involved with that. The old sailor is the analogy of the person who spends their life on board various ships, with adventures innumerable, continuously coated with salt, and they end up a crusty caricature of their original selves, full of stories and anecdotes, with a wit and a perspective few people will ever experience, which of course is why it is so interesting to listen to their tales, even if they are stretched or even fabricated. The connection to any writer is an eerie comparison. I might envision myself as that old salt, and the story my reminiscence one from years in the future, instead of last week or last month, with all the same events, and all the same feelings. A flood of memories of my youth. And that would leave the door open to remember and recall almost anything else from your life that you wanted to add to the story to make it poignant to the point of profound. Once again, just another suggestion. I am confident this could work. I would like to see it happen.

All the fundamentals exist, it would only be the actual presentation that needs attention. A bit of focus on the prose itself. Let yourself get lost in the memories more. I have no idea what processes you go through, but one that I have found invaluable, and many others do as well, and that is reading your work to yourself, out loud. There is nothing that I write, from essays to reviews, that I do not read to myself, out loud, to work out the timing and the simple cadence of the sentences and delivery. I find that it is invaluable. And not just once. With every rewrite, there is another reading. I find many flaws by doing so, and it is surprising how many times mistakes are overlooked by the writer themselves.

I've given you some observations. I then ask if you have your own list of misgivings, and did I touch on any of them? Don't you want to share more with the reader than you did? If so, then you need to think about it more. If not, then you need to think about it even more. There were some spelling and grammar questions, but I leave them for you to discover, or someone else that may review with the need and ability to do so. I hope that you continue to work on this. I think it will be worth the effort, and it sounds like a story that deserves to be told.

Good luck with the writing. Thank you for sharing your words and your thoughts. I hope there is something contained in all of this that can be of some assistance. Nothing would make me happier.


*Gold* My review has been submitted for consideration in "Good Deeds Get CASH!.
10
10
Review of Enrichment  
Rated: E | (4.0)
Well played. I liked it quite a bit. You almost lost me in the beginning. If you had led with the 'lemonade' you may have. But the 'marshmallow' was enough to get me to continue. Rather simple to start but it built well to some pretty complicated concepts. The progression was natural, if not unusual. Just the interaction with this character was refreshing since many would not wish to encourage conversation with what I tend to call an 'other', those that are vastly different from us on the outside, and yet surprising on the inside, not so different at all, at least in some respects.

It is a chance to take, to interact with these 'others' but while potentially dangerous, it can be rewarding as well. If for no other reason than to remind us that things are often not what they seem.

You took it a step further with his ability to exhibit knowledge superior to those around him, which no one would ever know without taking the chance of engagement. Many questions beg to be asked. How did he get to this point? Was he a scientist, or just a curiosity? Does he even really know what he talks of? Is he here by choice or by way of tragedy, either from the outside or from within? The mind scrambles to put some perspective. Is there another reality than my own? I enjoy the challenge of the unexpected. I appreciate the impulse to think of things not so 'mundane'.

And it does not stop there, even if it could have and still be enjoyable. You introduce one of the fundamental philosophical questions of all time. The proverbial 'which came first, the chicken or the egg?' One of my all-time favorite quotes from Descartes, "I think, therefore I am" can really only be considered in relation to Jean-Paul Sartres' "I am, therefore I think". Which is more credible? Which is true? I fear we will never know. Do I exist because I think, or do I think because of that same existence? You assume that he misquoted (and you are the author so I feel obliged to defer) but perhaps he was not the 'Essentialist' that you thought, but instead, an 'Existentialist' in disguise? But you are right of course. The order of the words may be insignificant. And yet?

I applaud your acknowledgment that you are a richer man for the meeting with a not-so-simple vagabond. We are all enriched with every event that helps in our growth and understanding of self, and our enlightenment of the reality around us, which again, is often not what it seems. With every thought we take, there is the potential to be the better for it.

I am the 'better' for reading your piece. I thank you for sharing and for thinking outside the box. It gets stuffy in that box, doesn't it? I really enjoy surprises, and you presented me with more than one. Good luck with any future endeavors. I hope to read something else in the future. Well done.


*Gold* My review has been submitted for consideration in "Good Deeds Get CASH!.
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Review of The State of Play  
Rated: E | (1.5)
I try to refrain from commenting directly on political issues. For one thing, it tends to be a personal issue, normally highly ideological, and not objective, as is necessary for a society to be able to govern appropriately. For another, it is normally highly inflammable to simply disagree, without context, and does little to further the discussion. Lastly, it is usually so faulty from an intellectual and reasonable perspective as to have little or no value in the actual issue at hand. Let us take your 'editorial' as an example. I have no intention of going into great detail. Not because I cannot, but more because, at least on the surface, it would seem to be an exercise in futility.

An editorial, at least in essence if not in actuality, is simply an opinion piece, as yours most certainly is. But ... it is also 'supposed' to be based on some semblance of information that is based on fact, and not 'just' emotion. I had so many questions as I read your words. You wish to be specific as to the date, and I applaud that, but we will return to that in a minute. You mention it is bad form to criticize a sitting President, as you proceed to do so. Bad form? Indeed. It has also been bad form for an ex-president to do so, and yet that 'rule' has changed as well. Also bad form indeed. Is it just as bad form for a sitting President to do so for an ex-president? In that, you would be right. But I guess that means you believe in the 'two wrongs' DO make a 'right' or some such. I do not.

It is true that the president of 'any' country has the obligation to 'protect' the lives of its citizens. But you say he is receiving 'failing' grades? From whom, exactly? While the political opponents and the 'unbiased' media may agree with your assumption, who else does? The polls, and I have to admit I am not a big advocate of the way polls are conducted, seem to say otherwise, even the polls from these same media outlets that do not agree with the President. A slim majority, but a majority nonetheless, support his efforts to date and have done so consistently. What exactly do you believe that he has done wrong? Specifically? He shut down flights in from China before everyone else and paid a political price. Every other country followed suit. This inarguably saved lives. What was 'your' suggestion? If it were not so tragic, it would be amusing the way these politicians and talking heads climb all over one another to try and place the last nail in his coffin, which they may ultimately do to the glee of many. But they all, almost without exception, have been consistently wrong with their own suggestions. Who among them would like to have the responsibility for the welfare of 325 million souls? They fail miserably trying to manage their own cities, states, and 'constituencies'. Every one of them begging the Federal government for help with things that 'they' have neglected forever in the aftermath of their social engineering. And the government, and this cannot be disassociated from the President, did more than a credible job of finding, and supplying the necessary equipment to them, irrespective that the obligation to take care of the states resides with the elected officials from that state. That is the way the system works, That is the autonomy of the states themselves. Don't get me wrong, I acknowledge that mistakes have been made, it's just that I passionately believe that there is no one, and I mean 'NO' one, that could have done a more credible job than what has happened. Every mayor and governor has offered praise for the efforts, while immediately going on-camera and spitting on the hand that fed them. Despicable.

But that is not what I wanted to talk about today. It has to do with the specificity of dates, and the factual content of mindless comments to promote an ignorant position based on nothing but emotion, and that primary component of political ideology, the freedom and ability to hate. First of all, as a side note, the election year is 2020 and not 2021. The beginning of the term is in the year following the election. Another problem with our system, we do not teach civics in our schools anymore. We haven't for decades now. But you made a comment that "I was shocked at what unfolded in a re-election rally for 2021 and the words said to the audience by the sitting President. The words used were to the effect of: "I don't care if you're on your death bed, stay alive till November and make sure you vote for me." I realize that this will make little or no difference to many, but that was not said at a rally in 2020 but back in 2016, years before the issue of a corona pandemic even existed. Does fact have any meaning when slandering a person? Does context mean anything at all? It was a joke, and he said so at the time, but that is not really important, is it? Not if you want a particular narrative out there. It doesn't say much for the ability to research and understand what one is talking about. It also doesn't say much for 'Rita' since she did not correct your remark, either afraid of confronting a zealot, or not caring in any case.

I don't really expect to change your mind on any particular issue. I just find it so disappointing when people look silly when they argue from a position of ignorance. Disagree if you must, but try to do so from a position of fact and not fiction. With each discrepancy, you damage your own credibility. At some point, it is difficult to take the comments seriously. I would imagine that one would wish people to listen to their arguments and even consider them reasonable and possibly even change their minds to some degree, or just to gain respect as an individual. Why else does one promote ideas if not to be a credible source for future discussion? Why talk at all? It is the way we grow, It is the way we develop our own personal philosophies. It is the way we evolve into better human beings. I do not follow an ideology. I follow reason. I follow the truth. I do not follow the beliefs of another, but my own hard-fought philosophy. And I do not lead, nor expect others to follow me. They can discuss, and suggest. I hope that they are open-minded and willing to listen. I try very hard to do so. I search for answers. A convoluted quote I have seen on the net jumps to mind. 'I am not who you think I am, you are who you think I am' or something similar. Words to ponder. It's better to think and know than to guess and judge.

His comment was poignant, and profound, whether this was his intent or not. He asked everyone who was reaching the end of their life to think about making one last statement. and vote for what they believe to be right, before they do not have the chance anymore. Do the right thing before you leave us, for your children, and those that follow, even if you will not be here to savor the benefit of that vote. Vote for America, and not the socialist and communistic America that is attempting to emerge from the ashes of discontent and division, but the America envisioned by our forefathers and those that truly believe in freedom and equality. Do not allow unbridled hatred and prejudices to allow the American Dream to dissolve before our eyes. This country has many flaws and challenges before them, but they are capable of being resolved. Nothing will solve them except the actions of good people who deal in fact and can discuss issues, and even agree, when things do not go their own selfish way. We are probably well past the point of agreement anymore, and for that, I feel discouraged and forlorn. And yet. And yet I have to believe that it is still a possibility, to work together to achieve something greater than its parts. The parts are disturbing and disappointing. They hurt my heart. We can still do it but only with people of character and integrity, people who care about facts and truth, and people who are determined not to allow the hatred of ignorance to win the day.

I also wish that God will Bless America. But I fear that we are not on the same page. We do not want the same America, and we do not envision the same God. He needs to come down and put one of us back onto the right track. Maybe both. We will never resolve these issues if we are not capable of conversation and debate. We need to listen as well as speak. It is so easy to talk, and so much more difficult to listen, to really listen. I welcome the opportunity. The question I have is if you do as well? We all need to think about it. What do you search for? Complete victory at any price, or a rational resolution where we can all live together at peace with one another. It truly is up to 'us', and not 'government'. Time will tell. The sands of time are running out.


*Gold* My review has been submitted for consideration in "Good Deeds Get CASH!.
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Rated: E | (4.5)
I came across your piece by accident, which I guess you can say about most things I end up reading. I have seen many people make an attempt to talk about the subject with different degrees of success. I found this particular item to be one of the best. Many writers do not put the time and effort into thinking about these kinds of things. They are focused on their expectations and immediate goals and fail to understand the most advantageous ways to get 'there' from 'here'. I thought your narrative was insightful and can only be beneficial to anyone and everyone that ever dreams of being a successful writer.

You'll notice that I did not say a published or acclaimed writer. That is something that is peripheral to our quest of being good at what we say we are trying to accomplish. To be a writer. I do not write to make friends. Oh, I've picked up a few here and there along the way. If you are just looking for friends, seek them out on Facebook or some such social media outlet. But the deeper meaning of friend is what we really need to become better at our craft, and it is indeed a craft, and not a hobby, at least for most of us. A craft means hard work, focus, and invariably those people who can help us reach the level that most of us, unfortunately, will only dream about.

Whether in life or in writing, a friend is someone who cares about our best interests. Friends give encouragement and comfort, of course, but they give something else that is so much more valuable than a pat on the back. They give us that thing that is elusive and so fundamentally important to our evolution as a writer. They give us their honest opinion of our work. They give us a perspective into our own work that is unique and ultimately necessary. The best ones do so with a willingness to help, with compassion and understanding. They are friends, but they are human. They make mistakes and offer insights that we may not have seen ourselves, and what they offer may, at times, not be what we need nor want, but it should be considered and weighed as we make our journey through whatever reality we are trying to develop.

A friend without honesty is like no friend at all. If one wishes to be a writer, they have to take whatever they can find as feedback, ofttimes unwanted, if they truly want to improve and control their words, make them say what they envision, and bring interest and pleasure to those that see those words. The life of a writer is not an easy adventure. We need to embrace our own vision, and look for those that can help us find the answers necessary to achieve that dream.

And that is the conclusion to my rambling rant. Probably not. But I wanted to make some comments in direct response to your own.

I think people put way too much into these star ratings. Not that they do not have a certain importance. They give an indication that the reader found enjoyment, or issues with your piece, not that it is good or bad. They may have a point, or not. It is always your decision to give their rating value. I think it more important to weigh and consider the comments themselves. Do you see the truth in their words, their observations? Or not? The 'critter' is but a tool we use to investigate our own inclinations and expectations as we try and go through an evolution from idea to reality. We pick and choose what to embrace and what to reject. We are responsible for the final product, not the reviewer. They can help, but they cannot write it for us. If they do, then we are not the 'writer', they are. The ratings are simply an indicator and one that we should contemplate without malice or dread. I myself find the negative reviews usually of more value than those pats on the back. I know when I write something that is 'good'. but I often need some assistance to make it better, or dare I say, very good.

The best way to encourage a writer is to give them an insightful and well-balanced perspective through the review. If there are both good and bad in the piece, which is normally the case, then make sure that you touch on them all, no matter how small. It is tough to dismiss someone who criticizes an area of your work when they also call attention to those things that are done well. I had a writer that I gave a pretty harsh review one time. There was much that I thought was enjoyable. It was a pleasant read, but I thought I saw the opportunity to make it so much better. It seemed that they were a bit lazy with many aspects of the piece, and I said so. I told them that I thought, with some time and effort that it could be much better than all-right or good, it could be something to be proud of. I spend a LOT of time crafting my comments when I review. I thought I had been considerate and respectful. They responded by saying that they were 'sorry' that I didn't like it and asked me to not review further pieces. It is a shame that more writers don't understand the importance of that 'constructive criticism' that I personally crave so passionately. I daresay that this person may well never become that writer of which they dream. They think that everything they write is gold. I understand the feeling when you finish a piece of work. I have also come to understand that the writing of a first draft, of anything, is only the beginning of the journey, not the end.

The writer needs to understand that if reviewers do not really enjoy their work, they will often pass on it for something else. When we receive comments it is because someone saw something that caught their eye, from something as simple as the title to the concepts presented or the writing itself. They need to make an attempt to discover exactly what it was that worked, as well as what didn't. And then fix it, to the best of their ability, and then do it again. And again. It's a process, and very few can do without it.

There are distinct differences between 'reader' and 'reviewer'. A reader reacts to a story with a perspective of enjoyment and presentation. The reviewer delves a bit deeper, and points out things that may be known to the writer, who may have included them for their own reasons, or may have eluded the writer and they may need to consider them. And, of course, they see discrepancies and obvious mistakes, or perceived issues, as well. In the end, it is for the writer to decide. Important decisions. to investigate or to reject. I tend to be more of a reader, and react to the story and relate my feelings as the story unfolds, but certainly point to whatever discrepancies come to my attention. We all have our own strengths and weaknesses as a writer, a reader, and a reviewer. It is important to contemplate all of these things for our abilities to evolve. I have found that reviewing can be every bit as important to our overall ability to write, and in many cases, indispensable.

Reviewers can get overly invested in the rating system, and it turns into a distraction. Like 'counting' your 'likes'. It is like the difference between 'telling' and 'showing'. The stars are like the telling whereas, through your words, and explanation, is the showing of what you mean exactly. A star to me is vastly different from whatever the recipient may interpret. The reviewer is a writer, so they should write (the review) which is just another exercise in the development of your own style and voice. Take every opportunity to do so. It's all a part of the journey.

All of these questions the reviewer asks as to what is expected is misplaced. Be honest, and be respectful. 'Tell' them what you are doing, and why. Who could ask for anything more? Why would anyone want you to skew your impressions and conclusions? That would be living a lie, and will never result in the growth and understanding we are all searching for. Give what you would like to get, and think about what that means. Do you want undeserved praise or 'destructive' and 'unfair' comments? Of course you don't. Who would? Honesty is the greatest gift you can offer to another writer, even if they do not realize it immediately. I search for brutal honesty. I want to be the best writer that I can be. I accept anything and everything one wishes to share. I am perfectly capable of separating the wheat from the chaff, as it were, even if it brings a tear to my eye at times. It is the price we pay to achieve our goals. We should all try to be considerate and empathetic as we try to offer truth and assistance as we all take that next step towards our destiny. How many writers simply give up when they are not as good as the ratings they receive? When publishers reject them continuously, even though they have talent, because they never put in the thought and effort required to develop that talent and were discouraged?

A reviewer should never question what the writer is expecting, as far as a review is concerned, unless it be specifics from them as to grammar, dialogue, arc, etc. Everyone wants good ratings. The whole point is that they be credible and reflect only the reviewers' interpretation of the work. The writer is left with the challenge to develop the work to improve the results. What could be more encouraging and satisfying than getting an improved rating from someone that has bee 'critical' in the past? That shows growth and development. That reeks of success.

Reviews are not given with the intent to be 'appreciated'. It is meant to be a sharing moment. Sharing your feelings with another writer with your observations of their work, irrespective of the level of ability of either player. It is meant to be a teaching and learning moment, to both of them, as they investigate the words before them. A time to grow and comprehend one another. A time to be an invaluable asset to the other. To be a friend, in whatever way we can. To help a kindred spirit, another writer, be the best damn writer that they can be. Why else are we doing all of this?
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Rated: E | (3.5)
I liked the poem. I find many of the sentiments floating around in my thoughts repeatedly. I wasn't so sure about the repetition at first but I think it works. While I agree with most of your words, I can't help but question some things in my own mind. They seem to want out so here they are.

I agree that we cannot really ever 'fix' someone else. We need to fix 'self' first and support others in their quest to resolve their own issues. We can help others to understand their challenges through our own experiences and possibly some empathy but in the end, only they can find an answer. Only they can make the decisions necessary to move forward. But I don't think that we should never try to be a part of the solution for them. Always do what you can.

Our essence is ours alone. We are unique. It is what makes us interesting. The world would be so much less exciting if we were the same. Acceptance is integral to being happy and to sharing with others. The goal is to like being oneself but do you believe most people are? I wish they were. I think we would ultimately all get along if we could do that. In the end, we are who we decide to be, or are forever unhappy.

Growing and learning together is instrumental to those ends. But we are all broken to some degree, some much worse than others. I am not sure that they cannot be repaired. But it takes much time and effort, and recognition by all that they need some assistance to do so. If we are not willing to participate, then they may well never be able to 'fix' themselves. We, both them and us, need to search for alternatives, possibilities.

We are indeed all flawed, and perfection is something of a fantasy, and yet the striving, the path to perfection, is the development, the evolution, of who and what we are. The destination, the 'perfection' loses significance as we investigate the many ways we can improve ourselves along the way. Perfection may not be a 'reality', and yet giving up on the concept would tend to suggest a certain acquiescence to mediocrity. We should reach for the stars, even if we can never grasp them. I would tend to disagree that perfection is lifeless, mindless, and unfeeling. I see it more as the epitome of those things, and noble goals, even if they are little more than an impossible dream.

You are certainly spot on to suggest fixing self before ever trying to help someone else. Our 'imperfections' should make us leary about trying to fix another. We can hinder as easily as help. The more we fix 'self', the more we can help others, if only with encouragement. And whatever we do should never be an imposition. We give what we can, an offer, a gift. For the other to accept or decline. I am not sure there can be any other way.

Everything I write is with one specific objective in mind, and that is to get the reader to think. You have done that with this piece. It makes me take a closer look at myself, as well as those around us. It makes me question their limitations and the challenges they face. We need to cut them some slack, and if we cannot help, let us at least not be an obstacle to their ability to make the changes that are necessary for them to find resolution. Thank you for putting your words to paper. Thank you for making me think. You have given me much to contemplate. Thank you for sharing.


*Gold* My review has been submitted for consideration in "Good Deeds Get CASH!.
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Rated: E | (4.0)
I found the poem to be heartfelt and poignant. The sentiment is real and tragic. I find myself thinking similar thoughts every day. I often say that I am trying to understand why people do the things that they do, why they hurt so much inside that they hurt others as well. You would think that they would know better than anyone what it means to be damaged. I guess many of them don't realize it. Probably because they are damaged in the first place. I don't condone the things that they do, and in many cases it is unforgivable, but we should at least try to understand. People talk of empathy, and I have attempted to experience it, but from my perspective, I am not sure it is something that is even possible. We all have those experiences that hurt us more deeply than anyone could even imagine. How could someone else understand? We just have to acknowledge that these bad things happen and try to put life into perspective.

Your words illustrate very well some of the challenges that we all face when we look around us as we travel through life. So much just doesn't make sense. My experience with god and religion has invariably brought me to question if god exists. I haven't particularly given up on him, but I have seen many question his existence because of all the pain and suffering he allows (?) to exist in this world. They point to war and hunger, and the unthinkable conditions that people, and specifically children, have to endure every single day on this planet. Not tens or hundreds, but millions. It is incomprehensible, it verges on the edge of madness. People blame this entity, which for the most part we created ourselves, to put this right, to fix everything. They don't want to do it themselves, but I have asked myself many times, maybe, again assuming he does indeed exist, just maybe, he wants us to take the lead and fix it without him. It is just a thought, a musing of mine, but it's there all the time. What are WE doing to fix these things?

People die every day. Counting abortions, over a hundred million souls cease to be every year. So death is not something we can hide from, but I have to question those that could have been prevented, should have been prevented. Old age and disease are inevitable, although as our current situation forces us to address intent, the fact is that it is normally a completely normal course of events. But when someone sixteen, or younger, and especially the unborn, have to endure the end of existence when they have not had the opportunity yet to live their own lives under their own terms, it seems like such a waste, such a shame. I think you clearly showed that with your words.

I am not sure that humanity ever really shows that it is 'back on its feet'. I like to think that there is progress, but it is so difficult to objectively profess any real progress in our 5000 years of a so-called 'civilization'. It is extremely frustrating and eternally disheartening. We live in a potential Eden. I don't understand why more people do not understand that and work towards that goal. I recognize that some do, but however many there are, it seems that we need so much more. Or is it nothing more than a dream?

Love is such a vague word, and sentiment. We seem to say we love everything and everyone. Or they say we should. I get a lot of negative feedback for such a position, but I think love can only flower and have value and substance through the power of our minds, our intellect. Philosophy is the culmination of that. Perhaps then we can turn our intentions and expectations into something more tangible.

I like your passion and your sensitivity. I think it was well done. I would have liked something a bit more flowery and poetic. It would have made it more memorable than it already is. I love words, and that is one of the reasons that I am here. No matter what we do, it can always be improved. It is insightful and heartwarming to know that people think of these things, and wish that our reality could be different. We can only hope, and yet do what we can. No one can ask for more than that.

I have some other comments that I will follow up on in another thread. Thanks for sharing. I enjoyed it. I hope we talk again soon. I wrote a piece on empathy that happens to be available in my portfolio; "Is That All Ya Got?". It deals primarily with empathy among other things. I invite you to take a look. I strongly insist that you take a look at it on the website (link in the piece) if for no other reason than the featured image that goes along with it. I always have an accompanying image with all my items on the website. I believe it is easier to read it there as well. If you by chance do read it I would love to hear your comments, in as much detail as you are willing to offer, on anything that catches your eye. I thank you again.

I wish you nothing but peace.

John

Lone Cypress Workshop

lonecypressworkshop@gmail.com
lonecypressworkshop.com


*Gold* My review has been submitted for consideration in "Good Deeds Get CASH!.
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Rated: E | (3.5)
I enjoyed your narrative. I appreciate the fact that you are not looking at the issue from a specific viewpoint. Not many people seem to be capable to do so anymore. They all seem to have all the answers. But it ends up they don't.

From a writing standpoint, I see no issues. Decent structure. Consistent. Well written. Flows well between concepts. I am not much of a PS&G guy but nothing jumps out at me. Comfortable style and easy to follow your train of thought. I am a bit unsure about the relevancy of the Hitchhikers reference and the third sentence is a bit confusing. Also dates you a bit. Does anybody read that anymore? Possibly. I enjoyed it many years ago.

I consider myself a philosopher. Maybe I am just fooling myself but I think anyone who makes an effort to think has potential. Your first example gave me pause, and I always like that. When we ask ourselves (or others) questions we tend to learn or to teach. For me, that is the ultimate goal of philosophy. Were they both telling the truth? I honestly don't know. You say it is an obvious yes. I am not so sure. The boy may or may not be delusional, and the 'demon' may have left just before the mother opened the closet, or even may not see or hear what the boy does. We experience truth from both an objective as well as a subjective position. Truth at any level can be quite elusive. Absolute truth seems to exist only in science-fiction.

Your universe scenario always intrigues me. I see no reason that they do not co-exist simultaneously. If gods do exist, and I am highly skeptical, is it not possible that they started the process and it has been allowed to evolve from there? Is that such a stretch? After a few million years, the missing link could be explained by a small 'tweak' to their work. I just don't understand why it is so important to so many that it be one or the other. A lot of time arguing peripherals instead of working on being a better individual. That's what we need more of, good people. The fact is that it is all mereMore science-fiction. Neither side has any absolute truths or even a good facsimile.

I think that I might question whether there is deception from the camps. Politics is an obsession, a compulsion, and make no mistake, this is mostly politics. Not government maybe, but politics just the same. Ideology. Agendas. Being right. Hypocrisy. Both sides "know' that they do not have all of the answers, and many are possibly contained in the opposing views. Why not collaborate and search together? I know it is virtually impossible for them to do so, but wouldn't it be nice if they did?

You attempt to relate this back to the story of the boy. You say his belief is based on assumption and imagination. But previously you said he was telling the truth, and he 'definitely' heard the scratching noises. And you equate this with the concept of religion. Not particularly unreasonable, and yet until you can demonstrate that absolute truth that a god does not exist, there can be no resolution. 'Logic' dictates that the possibility exists, no matter how small, that there may be 'truth' in such a belief. The mother represents 'science'? There is no preponderance of evidence, nor even circumstantial. She was disinterested, apathetic, inconvenienced. Science is based on demonstrable and repeatable results from experience. You (rhetorically) can present that as science but it is something else entirely and overly prevalent in our society. If you can't prove me wrong than I am right, but do not try that if from a religious perspective. Don't get me wrong, I do not validate the religious, I attempt to invalidate the quasi-science.

The existence of god is always a fascinating exercise in futility, but I enjoy it immensely. He has no obligation to prove anything. Who says he cares? We consistently think he will act as we do. That is a dangerous assumption. That would mean a vile god of retribution and coercion and not one of love. In either case, it is beyond our control, except to contemplate, and again, to attempt to be the best individual in our own power. I played with the concept a bit in one of my own essays: God Is Irrelevant, People!

I think I already addressed your conclusions previously. God is a theory, but a persistent one, based more on some kind of need than actual truth. Science is more dangerous because we give it more credibility even though it has been consistently wrong over time. And science has evolved (devolved?) into nothing but theories as well, impossible to even understand except for a very small handful of individuals, who we are forced to 'believe' in. It is there that half of humanity places their 'faith' The other half? They tend to stay with the old standard.

I don't have any of the answers either. But I really enjoy looking for them. It is the responsibility for each individual to find their own absolute truths, and then to have the integrity to live them every day of their lives. If we don't do that, then I am at a loss as to what existence is all about.

I am so glad that I came across your piece. I have so little time to read and review. This is it for the week I think. Thanks for sharing. We should all take the time to think of these things more often. I like to consider the concept of gods but find little time to worry about his existence. It's mankind that needs attention, and god, if he exists, is not taking an active role. We are going to have to fix ourselves and that perpetually worries me.

Thanks again.

John
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Review of Live Geology  
Rated: E | (3.0)
I liked the analogy. A bit rough at times but some good visualizations. Perhaps a bit rushed but I enjoyed it.

Yes, I am because I think. I would exist in any case but would be less interesting. Just look around you for examples. Without me, there exists nothing, at least for me. And finally, my reality is always objective, except when it isn't. All interesting questions that can only be answered by a single individual. That would be 'I'.
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Rated: 13+ | (3.0)
RE: TAGS & KEYWORDS: I would like to know the proper way to insert tags/keywords when I am setting up a static item. I have no idea if this is set up and working. Do you just need a space between words, or is it necessary to have a comma or a slash. Any help would be appreciated.
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18
Rated: 13+ | (3.0)
TAGS & KEYWORDS: I would like to know the proper way to insert tags/keywords when I am setting up a static item. I have no idea if this is set up and working. Do you just need a space between words, or is it necessary to have a comma or a slash. Any help would be appreciated.
19
19
Review of The Bamboo Cutter  
Rated: ASR | (4.0)
Nice story. Well written. I enjoyed it.
What is the name of the original folktale? I would like to see that as well.
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20
Rated: 13+ | (1.0)
I am having problems understanding the 'community' we have here. I read a piece named 'scars' (#2191134) and wrote a review. I cannot find it now at all. Is this normal. I take the time to write a review and I can never see it again? I found the article and it asked me to write another but should I not be able to see at least my own review, and why not any and all reviews by others? It is a disincentive for the future. I wanted to relate my comments to my wife, and except through memory, I cannot find the words That I wrote.

I would appreciate knowing what I am doing wrong, how I can alleviate this in the future, or an explanation of why this is necessary. I just don't understand what is happening. Your interface is extremely complicated and not intuitive, but if you could explain it would be greatly appreciated.

Thanks.
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