Saturday, September 24, 2011

Fashion statements then and now

My husband is not a fan of the droopy pants look. I'm talking about the guys who wear the waistband of their pants somewhere below their buttocks, exposing their underwear. So far his response is reserved to muttering under his breath and grinding his molars.

For some reason this "fashion" reminds me of another men's style popular beginning in the 14th century, when tunic hemlines became shorter to make men's legs look longer, exposing their "naughty bits" when sitting. The Church declared the Black Plague was a divine punishment for this sinful flaunting of private parts.

Then the working men began to take off their tunics and waistcoats in deference to th hot summer sun and worked in their shirts and breeches. The young men of the aristocracy gleefully adopted this "look" to the bewilderment of their parents. Unfortunately, removing the outer garments made the gap between the shirt and breeches (leggings that were laced to the shirt) even more noticable.

Necessity is the mother of invention, and so the codpiece appeared to cover the gap. Over time, this practical answer to propriety was decorated, padded and eventually shaped to represent a permanent erection.

After some 200 years of popularity, breeches grew wider (think of the Dutch) and the codpiece disappeared except for rock stars and comic book heroes.

I hope this currrent trend of exposing the buttocks, although decently covered by plaid, polka-dotted and striped drawers, won't last as long or I'm afraid my husband will grind his teeth down to nubs.

Yes, I can be tolerant when I put this look into historical perspective. But can someone tell me why so many young girls and boys are wearing their flannel pajamas to McDonald's and Wal-Mart?

Friday, September 9, 2011

My take on the future of print

People keep asking me when I am going to get an e-reader. I tell them I will probably break down and get one in the not-too-distant future because while I enjoy downloading books (we are 60 miles from a bookstore), I don't enjoy reading them on my computer monitor quite so much. If I'm reading for pleasure, I'd rather be in my comfy chair in the den.

But when people tell me that e-readers will make paper books obsolete in the near future, I beg to disagree.

According to IDC market research, 12 million e-readers were sold in 2010.That's a lot, right? But there are 312,175,400 people in the United States alone, leaving roughly 300 million people lacking this device. Further, the figures reflect world-wide sales, including China. The world's population is 6,960,965,142. Hmmm.

I bet these people aren't buying Kindles and Nooks and iPods for the same reason I'm not. They are expensive and fragile. I've heard people say textbooks will be downloaded into reading devices in all the schools in another generation. Please. I'd trust a first grader with my precious cloisonne vase before I'd give him a Kindle.

In this economy people are shelling out for mortgage payments and groceries, not electronic gadgets. They aren't giving up reading, though. I see people at the library checking out armloads of books. I see them rifling through the sale tables at discount stores and grocery stores. They visit used books stores and flea markets and estate sales and come away with precious books in their hands. If printed books disappear, what will these avid readers do?

Another argument is that printed books are a waste of natural resources My rebuttal is that trees are a renewable resource just like corn and wheat. Trees take a little longer to harvest, but they are a cash crop just the same. As for the price of paper going up, have you looked at the price of corn and wheat lately? Everything's going up.

We've had stories ever since the cavemen sang, danced and related their exploits in hunting or warfare. When printed books came along, did singing and dancing and storytelling fade away?

Drama has existed since the Greeks and was kept alive during the Middle Ages with the church's morality plays. Theater gave us Shakespeare. The traveling Chatauqua brought drama to the hinterlands of the United States and Broadway has entertained us for over two hundred years. Did live theater curl up and die when motion pictures came along? Did movies slink out of sight with the advent of TV?

I think printed books will be around until e-readers are cheap enough for anyone to buy and not worry about them breaking and having to be replaced. And I think that day will be a long time coming.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Wrongs and Rights of Getting Published

I was leafing through the October issue of Writers Digest (that appeared in my mailbox the end of August) when a headline caught my eye: "The gamble of posting your fiction online..."

What? I read the articles and discovered that "Many agents and editors are also leery of attaching themselves to writing that's already been published online--because once you post it online, it is considered published, albeit digitally."

I can't say I wasn't warned. I just didn't believe it. But now that I have been convinced, I am pulling "A Question of Boundaries" from my website. Alas, with but 3 chapters to go. Die-hard fans (are there any?) can request the final chapters and I will honor them with the title of Beta Reader.

Whew. Next time I will listen to my betters. Like the writers who get contracts after entering a contest. I have been leery of contests: they take a lot of preparation and there is postage, lots of paper and ink for printing out copies, and a fee.

The upside is that agents and publishers read the winning entries, which is better odds than getting them to read something in the slushpile.

So -- maybe I will reconsider. It's like winning the lottery -- first, you gotta buy a ticket, right?

So I'm going to enter. Not "Boundaries." because it does need a lot of polishing and editing, but one of my other finished manuscripts that has been looking for a home for far too long.

Yep, gonna buy a ticket.