Sharing History: Wars of the 1990s

Yep, still working away on the updated version of my book Making History: how to remember, record, interpret and share the events of your life, to now include the 1990s. The third of the 8 sections in Making History is War & the International Scene, about what happened outside America in the 90s, and which wars, here or elsewhere, made the news. Here’s a brief sneak preview of this section.

In 1990, Iraq invaded Kuwait. In response, the UN began a global trade embargo against Iraq, and demanded that Iraq withdraw by January 1991. They didn’t. Operation Desert Storm began with US air strikes and Iraq’s response of sending Scud missiles into Israel. In February the Gulf War ended when Iraq withdrew its forces and set fire to the Kuwait oil fields. The Gulf War of 1991 was marked by public interest in the 24-hour news cycle introduced by CNN; the riveting and dangerous accounts of journalists trapped in Baghdad while being bombed made the war real to those at home.

Did you or anyone you knew or loved fight in the first Gulf War? If so, what were your experiences? Were you for or against the war? Do you remember Bernard Shaw reporting from Baghdad with the sounds of bombs in the background? Did you watch television or listen to the radio reports of this short war? Which journalist do you remember best – Peter Arnett, Christiane Amanpour, Bob Simon, Arthur Kent, Wolf Blitzer? Do you think the immediacy of their reporting contributed to the brevity of the Gulf War, in contrast to other wars, such as Vietnam? Do you agree with the journalists that full and open disclosure helped prevent the war from lasting longer, or did you agree with the military that television exposure would jeopardize strategy and increase opposition at home? What do you think the legacy of the first Gulf war is?

If you have a story (or stories) about the first Gulf War, please share them, and if you share them here on this blog, tell me if I can use them in my upcoming new edition of Making History. (I will credit you, of course.)

Ghostwriting for a Dog: Are Humans God?

Goody Beagle here. My human says it rains so much because we live in Seattle and that’s what it does here. But if my human is God, as we dogs are taught, then why does she let it rain so much? Doesn’t she know I hate to get wet? Doesn’t she care? Can’t she tell that rain smells bad?

She doesn’t even make it stop raining when Alex, who also does not like to get wet, pees in the house rather than go outside. All she does is yell at Alex. But if she made it stop raining, as she clearly should know how to do if she was God, Alex would go outside to pee, and then she wouldn’t have to yell.

Maybe she’s not God after all.

Haiku Friday: Bullies

Here’s my haiku for today, on the topic of Bullies:

you know that inside
bullies are scared little kids
who think they’re worthless

It’s Haiku Friday again.  For the past twenty years or so, it has been my practice to write one haiku every day. Every Friday I share a haiku here, about whatever topic I happen to choose.  I invite you to write a haiku on this topic too, and share it with me and the readers of this blog.  Just write it in the Comments below.  The only rules are:  1) your haiku must be about the named topic; 2) you must follow the 5-7-5 syllable format; 3) no obscenities or hate (I will delete those).  That’s it.

Writing Tip: A 5-step writing process

When I teach writing, I share my 5-step writing process, which works with any subject and any kind of project, from blog posts to books:

1. Write everything you know, or think you know; everything you feel, or think you feel; everything you’ve done, or wish you’d done (or wish you hadn’t done)—in short, write everything. Basically this means: do not censor as you write. Editing comes later.

2. Read what you wrote, and look for the recurring themes or threads. I promise they are there. Look until you find them.

3. Identify one major and one complimentary minor theme.

4. Remove everything and anything that does not fit or enhance either the major or minor theme. This is difficult. You may feel that your heart has been ripped from your body by a sadistic monkey and eaten by a pack of cold-eyed wolves. Be ruthless and do it anyway. (This is where a conceptual editor can help—let her be the sadistic monkey.)

5. Organize and expand on whatever is left.

Writing Tip: Read this Book

Here’s a recommendation for a book I did not edit or work on in any way except read it  – although I wish I could say I had. The title is A Short History of the World, by Christopher Lascelles.

A Short History of the World relates the key events that have happened on our planet from the Big Bang to today – in six easy-to-read chapters that show how history “fits together” in time.  What was happening in China when Baghdad was founded? How did Indonesia impact the economics of Europe? What were the Mayans writing about before most other peoples knew how to write?

In short, it covers everything that ever happened on our planet in one fun-to-read book – every human civilization since humans evolved, and even more. It includes many great maps to orient you on the planet, and Lascelles’ website has a fantastic timeline and a blog that discusses many of the details that surround the events he briefly covers in the book.

I’m a history nut because I want to know why we are the way we are and why we do the things we do. Often times the answers to these questions can be found in the past, even the very distant past. Not all the answers, but some.

Because A Short History of the World does not get bogged down in details (otherwise the book would be thousands of pages long), it shows the theme of all human history, making it an important book. You’ve heard the quote by George Santayana, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it”?  As a species, we must not remember much, because as this book clearly shows, our history is the repetition of the same actions, caused by the same motives.

In every culture, in every time, the history of human beings shows us primarily motivated by fear, which is exhibited as greed and lust for power. The fear is a fundamental one: fear of scarcity.  It goes like this:

A leader (or group of leaders) arises and consolidates power through manipulation and/or violence, eventually creating an “empire”. Out of greed to accumulate more power, this empire expands by overrunning or destroying other peoples or empires. Sometimes, after they feel safe enough, these empires relax their grip and become open to new ideas in science, technology, or arts, which begin to flower. But then what happens? They find they have over-extended and cannot manage or defend their huge empire. The empire begins to be eaten from within or attacked from without by other would-be empires. The empire becomes suspicious and shuts down on freedom of their own peoples, in an attempt to protect their power. Eventually either the empire dwindles away, eroded from within, or is replaced by another. And the cycle begins again. Every single time, over and over. We can see this happening now, in our own time. Perhaps we should take our blinders off and stop thinking of ourselves as exceptions.

You’d think we would learn. We haven’t yet. Maybe this book, which by focusing on the recurring themes in world history, could help us learn. It would be nice to think so, wouldn’t it?

Haiku Friday: Sense

Here’s my haiku for today, on the topic of Sense:

life does not make sense
yet we keep searching for sense
is that sensible?

It’s Haiku Friday again. For the past twenty years or so, it has been my practice to write one haiku every day. Every Friday I share a haiku here, about whatever topic I happen to choose. I invite you to write a haiku on this topic too, and share it with me and the readers of this blog. Just write it in the Comments below. The only rules are: 1) your haiku must be about the named topic; 2) you must follow the 5-7-5 syllable format; 3) no obscenities or hate (I will delete those). That’s it.

Sharing History: Social Mores of the 1990s

I’m still working away on the updated version of my book Making History: how to remember, record, interpret and share the events of your life, to now include the 1990s. The second of the 8 sections in Making History is titled The Social Fabric, covering  popular viewpoints on race, the role of women, sexual morality, etc, in the 90s. Here’s a brief sneak preview of this section.

In 1991, the issue of sexual harassment in the workplace became the topic of a national debate, sparked by the Senate confirmation hearings of Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas, in which Professor Anita Hill testified that Thomas had sexually harassed her when he was her supervisor.  The hearings were televised, so the public was able to make up their own minds as to who was telling the truth, as Thomas denied all Hill’s allegations. Thomas was eventually confirmed by the narrowest margin since the 19th century.

Did you watch the hearings on TV, or follow them on the news? Who did you think was telling the truth, Hill or Thomas? Do you remember Thomas’ claim that he was the victim of a high-tech lynching for uppity blacks? Do you think that was true? Do you remember the to-do over the pubic hair on a can of Coke? Were you disgusted by this story? Were you inspired by Anita Hill’s courage, or did you think she had another motive? Finally, were you ever the victim of sexual harassment? If so, what’s the story – what happened to you, and what did you do about it? Suck it up, or fight?

If you have a story (or stories) about social mores during the 1990s, please share them, and if you share them here on this blog, tell me if I can use them in my upcoming new edition of Making History. (I will credit you, of course.)

 

Ghostwriting for a Dog: From the Frontlines of The Cat War

Goody Beagle here. My house brother Alex has learned to hate The Cat, just like I do. I knew he would eventually. Nobody could like The Cat with her weird cat eyes and her mean ways.

I try to leave The Cat alone as much as possible, but Alex is trying to beat her at her own game. The result is War. I am the War Correspondent. Here’s the latest from the battlefield:

We have a dog door into the back yard. (The Cat thinks it is a cat door.) Somehow The Cat knows when Alex starts to think about going outside to pee or dig a hole. (Her weird cat eyes can see inside his brain.) So she has taken to sitting in front of the dog door inside the house when

Alex wants to go outside. She won’t move, no matter how much he dances in front of her. She just stares at him, which reminds him of all the times she has swiped at his nose with her claws. The stand-off continues until the human comes along and makes The Cat move.

Alex figured out a way to get back at The Cat. He can’t see inside her head, but he waits until he sees her get off her bean bag (which is really MY bean bag) and then he races into the kitchen and parks himself in front of the water dish. His body is just the right size and shape to curl around the dish and he won’t move when she comes in to get a drink. She stares at him but somehow he knows that he has the upper hand this time and he just stares back. This stand-off continues until the human comes along and makes Alex move. She says The Cat needs water too. The traitor.

I applaud Alex for his sneakiness in winning a battle, but I know that in the end The Cat will win the war. As I’ve said before, The Cat always wins.

 

Haiku Friday: Education

Here’s my haiku for today, on the topic of Education:

ah, education
if you need to know it all
be prepared to fail

It’s Haiku Friday again.  For the past twenty years or so, it has been my practice to write one haiku every day. Every Friday I share a haiku here, about whatever topic I happen to choose.  I invite you to write a haiku on this topic too, and share it with me and the readers of this blog.  Just write it in the Comments below.  The only rules are:  1) your haiku must be about the named topic; 2) you must follow the 5-7-5 syllable format; 3) no obscenities or hate (I will delete those).  That’s it.

Writing Tip: 7 lines from page 77

Way back on March 15th, I read Helen Ginger’s blog Straight from Hel. (If you like blogs about writing, editing, and publishing, this is a good one to read.) She shared an activity on self-editing, that she got from Liza Carens Salerno’s blog, (Middle Passages) The activity looked like fun, so I thought, why not?

 

It went like this:

1. Go to page 77 of your current manuscript or WIP (work in progress)
2. Go to line 7
3. Copy the next 7 lines – sentences or paragraphs – and post them as they’re written. No cheating.

 

She also recommended that you tag 7 authors and let them know you’ve done so, which I have not done. But I did think it would be interesting to take 7 lines at random and see what I communicated in that short space. So I took a look at one of my current projects, “Wisdom Tales”, went to page 77, and am now posting the 7 lines beginning on line 7 of that page. Here are those lines:

“Scree!” shrieked the bird, with an evil leer, his brilliant eyes intent.  “I am going to peck your eyes out and eat them, eat them, eat them!  Learn to fly blind, my dear.”  The bird pulled its beak back in preparation to strike.

Paralyzed with fear, she watched the sharp point of the beak start its downward descent, right toward her eyes. Just before the beak reached her, she suddenly remembered her shield, and with a swift movement she thrust it in front of her face.  The bird’s beak crashed with an echoing bonnnng into the shield.  The top of the fir tree shook violently from the force of the blow,

So what do you think?  I can already see mistakes (what’s that first comma doing there?) and places where I could tighten (do I really need the phrase “paralyzed with fear”?), smooth, or enhance – and this is only 7 lines! However, I think the mood of terror comes through, so as it’s only a first draft, I’ll probably keep some of it.

 

If you think this looks like fun, you might try it yourself.