Words are Confusing – Recycled Sundays

Considering the complexity of the English language, rich with synonyms, homonyms, and metaphors, it is amazing that humans understand each other as well as they do. Still, if we could eliminate misunderstanding most therapists, lawyers, marriage counselors, and peacekeepers would be out of a job.

 

Children play an old game called telephone or gossip which also illustrates how garbled messages can become once they leave the first pair of lips. A single misunderstood word can give the sentence a widely different meaning.

 

It can be very confusing for a child when they have missed understood a word and then hear it in a different context. I remember when my son was first learning to play Monopoly before he could read most of the words. He thought Pacific Avenue was Specific Avenue. He finally asked me to explain this oddity when I use specific in a non-Monopoly context too many times.

 

He also thought Qaddafi was a car. I wondered what brand of oil Gaddafi would use.

 

News broadcasts, often told too quickly, are a great source of misunderstanding. When President Bush made a cultural faux pas and offended the Australians, it was the topic of discussion at our dinner table.

 

“Did you hear?” said our daughter. “The American president gave the V for victory sign wrong when he drove past some Australians in his car and now they’re mad at him.”

 

“That’s not true,”said my son.

 

“It is so,” I said my daughter. “I saw on the news. We even talked about it in school.”

 

“That’s impossible,” continued my son who was an avid student of geography. “How can the president of the United States drive. his car to Australia?”

 

Perhaps in a Gaddafi.

 

After further discussion of the history of the V sign, my son offered his own interpretation. He thought that perhaps politicians use the two fingers up to signal the postal employees to raise the price of stamps two cents.

 

Even simple words used in slightly different ways can be misleading. My husband said they were 2000 applications to attend the faculty of education this year but only 400 seats were available. My son wanted to know if the rest would have to stand. I hoped it wouldn’t have to be in an unemployment line after graduation.

 

I often wonder about the hidden messages in questions. Recently a waitress asked if I wanted something tall and fruity or short and tart. Neither sounded appealing to my tastes.

 

You can often tell a lot about someone by what they don’t say. In a West Coast First Nations burial ground, time is marked by centuries. The headstones say which century a person died in. That certainly speaks of a long-range view. Without ever having met them, you suspect they are the kind of people who would support Spaceguard. Spaceguard is a proposed project that would track asteroids and comets heading toward earth that are capable of killing  one billion people or more.

 

We are living in a time when the information highway is spreading, yet few people can read the road signs. If you’ve ever followed a debate on a computer bulletin board you will have seen communication and miscommunication at its highest level. Unfortunately, those who don’t learn to ride the information highway will be bypassed or perhaps driven right over. Still, it is a message labyrinth even King Minos would find puzzling.

 

Numerous episodes of  In Search Of and Ancient Mysteries are devoted to unraveling messages left by previous cultures. I shutter to think what future cultures may deduce from our leavings, Madonna videos, Beavis & Butthead cartoons, newspaper war coverage, Snow CDs, bathroom graffiti, and income tax guides. If we have trouble understanding it as we live through it, future civilizations will be stunned. Anthropologists and archeologists will probably term it as the Time of Insanity. The general public will ask them to be more specific, especially about the game called Monopoly.

 

Originally published in the Chronicle-Journal/Times News

February 6, 1994

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Who Can Fix It? Written and illustrated by Leslie Ann MacKeen. Book Review.

The premise of the story is very clever. Jeremiah T. Fitz drives his crank up car every Sunday for dinner with his mother. When his car breaks down a series of animals offer suggestions on how to fix it. The ideas are humorous and clever.

The kangaroo suggests he check the jumper cable. The elephant suggests he check for a peanut in the trunk. The camel suggests he check for water. Some are a bit of a stretch such as the gorilla suggesting he hang around until Fitz thinks of an idea or the bear suggesting he scare the problem out of the car.

I really enjoyed the misinterpretations such as skipping rope with the jumper cable and removing his pants belt to fan the car. I think the book would have been better if there were fewer animals and the suggestions were expanded a little more.

The misunderstandings in this picture book remind me of the old Amelia Bedelia books. However, the vocabulary and situational humour suits older children since not many picture book readers would know much about radiators, fan belts, oil tanks and spark plugs. This would be a delight to a child who is informed and interested in cars. Although, I am not sure they would be satisfied with the idea that the spiders web stopped the motor from working.

The illustrations are bright and often humorous. I wonder, though, if it might interest children more to use a contemporary vehicle and driver. At times, the text was a bit of a tongue twister and I think simplifying the names would make it easier for a child to read.

BUY LINK

Recycled Sundays – You’ll Miss It When It’s Gone

Happy Valentine’s Day. Here’s hoping all your friends, lovers, and family members have a warm, cheery day free of colds, accidents and phobias – especially koro.

I first learned about koro from Omni magazine, a highly respected and forward-looking science publication which occasionally runs a small article on unusual phobias. There appeared a couple of paragraphs on the most bizarre phobia I have yet encountered. Psychiatrist Albert Gaw wants the American psychiatric Association to learn about the psychiatric malady koro. “Victims believe that their genitals, particularly the penis, our shrinking and that once retraction is complete, they will die.“ If they didn’t I imagine they would be in constant stress wondering what might shrink next into oblivion. I knew the world was becoming a smaller and smaller place, but I didn’t realize that some people were taking it personally.

Koro tends to occur in epidemics like the one that swept through Hainan Island, China in 1984 and 1985 affecting some 2000 men. Rumours had spread that spirits – obviously not any relation to Cupid – who in the folk belief inhabit or process individuals, were stealing organs from living Man and we’re not talking lungs here. Gaw cites photos of men who you string or clamps (padded I hope) or even their friends, to hold onto their supposedly retracting body parts. I suppose medical personnel could supplement their income is with a blackbird market business in retractors.

hat did the victims of this phobia say to their friends to get help? “Would you hold onto this for me? I need both hands free for a while.“ Would that be a friendship test or what? How many people do you know who would sacrifice their day securing your ordinary valuables for you let alone look after look after your special one? And what’s with the stealing spirits anyway? Are they jealous that the can living to do something that they can’t? Are they peeved off with men for indignities suffered when they were still living? Or are they just odd collectors?

Gaw says that koro is “for the most part unrecognized in the United States, even though Asian refugee, immigrant, and tourist populations are rising and we are seeing a few cases.“

How do the patients get to the psychiatrist office? Public transit? Wouldn’t that attract a lot of attention? Especially if they are using the buddy system? Do they pay the fare for their friend? I hope this doesn’t become too widespread in counter culture. Wild haircuts, pieces of metal through the skin, enormous tattoos, all seem pretty tame compared to a clamp on your shrinking body part. I would certainly hope that no husband or boyfriend asks for one for Valentine’s Day.

Originally published in the Chronicle-Journal/Times-News

February 14, 1993

Recycled Sundays – Movie Magic

Movies, films, moving pictures, flicks, motion pictures, whatever you choose to call them, have had a tremendous impact on this century. When Eadweard Muybridge set up twenty-four cameras to photograph a horse race in 1873, I’m sure he did not anticipate generations of screamers, weepers, groaners, and neckers would follow this new entertainment/artform.

In 1889, Thomas Edison built the kinetoscope. One person could watch the action through a peephole. Much of the allure was probably being allowed to see something no one else could see. I cannot imagine why anyone wanted to watch a man sneezing. Then again, it is not apparent why anyone wants to watch Woody Allen.

The Lumiere brothers showed the first group movies, the best showing a train arriving at a station. It is not known whether the train was on time or how much traffic it had backed up in the intercity area.

In 1990, movies begin to tell a story: Cinderella, a trip to the moon, then the great train robbery. We’ve come along way since then: Walt Disney Cinderella, Star Trek the Undiscovered Country, and Thelma and Louise.

In the 1950s 3-D movies arrived, the best being The Creature from the Black Lagoon. Now there’s 3-D, 4-D, Cineplex, IMAX, rides supplemented by film, rides imitating film, film imitating rides, live shows of filmed shows, and actors impersonating film characters who were originally impersonating someone else in a film.

At Universal Studios I covered my eyes with a new intensity while watching Hitchcock’s The Birds in 3-D. At MGM studios I laughed along with Jim Henson’s Muppets in 4-D. Smoke, bubbles, and exploding walls surrounded me. The mother behind me commented to her child throughout the production. My wish for a stray cannon shot to plug her never came true.

I travelled through a spaceport in MGM studios, star tours, surrounded by robots, droids, and special effects, to reach the actual ride. Strapped into a spaceship, the wild film unfolded. As I zoomed through the death star’s canyon, the entire room swerved and bucked. I thought I’d reach the pinnacle of tension until my son announced he discovered motion sickness.

The Indiana Jones spectacular showed stunt people acting out a movie scene done by stuntman acting as actors acting out a story for the movie. I am reminded of David Sukuki‘s comment that Mickey Mouse is a person acting as a mouse who behaves like a person.

We ate lunch at Mel’s drive-in bracket universal bracket from American graffiti almost witnessing a genuine rumble when the lady in front lost her cool and tried to shred the waiter with her tongue. I think she’d had too much heat and not enough cola. We had supper at MGM’s replica of a 1950s drive-in theatre with black and white film clips, a realistic horizon, drive-in speakers, popcorn, and waitresses on rollerskates. The only thing missing was the mosquitoes. Our children ate in the front of the car while my husband and I were in the back. They loved the role reversal.

We survived King Kong’s attack, the San Francisco, being spit on by camels in Aladdin’s Royal Caravan and a trip to ET‘s planet by bicycle. ETA says goodbye to each visitor by name which inspired us for a return trip, incognito. He did stumble a bit with the fake name “Goober.”

At the Kennedy Space Centre the IMAX theatre was the next best thing to a genuine launch. Unfortunately people had to sit on the theatre floor because of poor organization. They can send a man to the moon but they can’t make sure everyone gets a seat. The bus tour bored my son so much he fell asleep. Sometimes fiction is more interesting than fact. Disney offered American Journeys in 360° of circle vision. While standing, we were surrounded by moving pictures. Once the white water rafting started, I understood the importance of the leaning bars. We also learned about sound effects, horror make up, props, editing, shirts, animation, costuming, and special-effects. I have a new appreciation for the creativity and hard work that goes into filmmaking.

On our way home, we decided to visit Hull, Quebec in an attempt to break away from the movie glitz. We visited the Canadian Museum of civilization. Surprise, they have a Cineplus theater.

Originally publish in the Chronicle-Journal/Times-News

September 12, 1993

Surviving Northern Ontario Winters – Recycled Sundays

Boy, I’m getting tired of winter. Even the snow bunnies seem to have less sparkle in their colored contacts these days.

I miss walking the most. It doesn’t seem to have the same satisfaction combined with the Northern expedition – hands buried deep in pockets, back curved into a semi-fetal position, parka hoods drawn forward (no wonder polar bears can sneak right up on Inuit hunters), feet shuffling as fast as they can trying to grip the icy sidewalk, and head down against the wind.

I’m also going rather stir crazy. The most common pastime I engage in is “warming up the car”. People seem to try unusual things to break the boredom during the long winter months. They start new hobbies. They learn new games. They attempt new sports. They look at things with an overly negative eye.

I suspect it was midwinter blues that triggered the adverse reaction to the camel on Camel cigarettes. What was going through the minds of the public when they decided the cool humpback smoker had a face like… well, like another body part? I suspect it was the same boredom and long, dark days that recently caused an outcry against Nestle. It seems their palm tree symbol is as suggestive as the addicted camel. Upside down that is. What I want to know is this. Did the woman who complain store packages upside down in the cupboard and stumble upon this nutty resemblance when she went to make cocoa? Or, in the stir crazy mind set of a long winter nights, did she try yoga for the first time and gain a new perspective on fruit trees?

At this time of the year, those of us who are not snowbirds often wonder why we live here. I can’t answer that. I’m still trying to figure out why I bought the same kind of vehicle twice when the first one drove me crazy. Surviving a winter like this one, though, does give us a commonality, a shared trauma as such, much like living through an thunder storm that lasts for months. It also encourages us to take stock of things, like emergency flares and whether job security is worth having to climb through the car hatch because all the doors have frozen shut, again.

Friendly readers often comment on my columns, but the quiz on “Are You a Northerner?” seemed to to hit a responsive chord with many. A few women suggested I could dig into the more feminine aspects of being a Northerner since most of the questions pertained to men. There’s nothing like positive feedback to fuel the engine. So, here are a few more you can add to your list. You know you’re a northern Ontarion when…

  • Sixty percent of the labels on your clothing contain the words “warm to 30 below”.
  • You master walking in high heels on carpeting when you’re 11, tile floors when you’re 12, and snow when you’re 13.
  • All your foot wear is two-tone: black and salt, navy and salt, brown and salt, and red and salt.
  • You sign up for midwinter exercise classes to get you out of the house on those long, dark, depressing winter evenings and then missed the first two because it is too cold to go out, go to the third, and then decide you are too far behind everyone else to continue.
  • You have a sign over your kitchen sink that reads, “You catch ’em, you clean ’em.”
  • Half of your friends have more vowels in their names than consonants.
  • You play on a mix baseball team sponsored by a sports store at which you never shop and a mixed curling team sponsored by a tavern at which you are known by your first name.
  • You sign up for a hockey pool at work and at your favorite bar and feel physically ill when you forget to play your numbers in the lottery.
  • You’ve owned at least one vehicle that had holes hidden below the floor mat through which you could watch the highway flash past.
  • You always pronounce “sauna” correctly.
  • You think there is too much stick handling in hockey.
  • You order your garden seeds, all beginning with the words “Quick Grow” three months before planting.
  • You’ve actually eaten, but more probably drank, a food product made from dandelions.
  • You know the difference between a fiddlehead and a conehead.
  • You know how to put chains on winter tires, even when they’re moving.

Chronicle-Journal/Times-News, February 13, 1994

Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

 

Christmasese – Recycled Sundays

The Christmas season is once again upon us. The older I get, the shorter the 11 months in between seem. I could swear I sent my Christmas column off just last month if the calendar didn’t insist differently. The children, though, contend that it has been at least 47 months since the last Christmas.

I need more time to gear myself for writing Christmas cards. Each year I am determined to keep notes for this seasonal greeting and each year I compile a list of special events in our lives, all of which happened in January and February. I’m sure we did something during the next ten months, but for the life of me, I can no longer sort one year from the other. Thank Nikon for cameras. Between photographs and scrapbooks, I am stunned by what I’ve forgotten.

Christmas card notes require a delicate balance. I try to share my gratitude for the year’s joys (without bragging), mention a few learning experiences (without whining), and tell a humorous family anecdote (without alienating my offspring until the next Christmas).

Some friends enjoy creating a long, detailed computer-generated family biography while others prefer the challenge of a handwritten note. I try to write clearly, since I’ve received some eligible notes that threw me for a loop: “Joe had children poo on a lover” or “Joe had Christmas panic odor” turned out to be “Joe had chickenpox all over.”

I try to inquire about the recipient’s family, ever conscious that I must not leave anyone out (including newborns, spoiled pets, and recently acquired significant others), must keep up with the current nicknames and shortened versions, and must wish everyone peace and happiness without drawing attention to unemployment or older children returning to the nest. If the representatives at the United Nations were required to write their familys’ Christmas cards for a decade before being admitted, they would learn true diplomacy.

Another Christmas tradition which requires diplomacy is attending school concerts. It is sometimes difficult to identify when a good belly laugh will be appreciated by the performers and when it will trigger tears. Most children, though, know when to seize the moment.

One unplanned concert gem occurred when the Smurfs were the rage. One class had spent a great deal of imagination and artistic endeavor in preparation. Children stood behind a large, hand-painted mural and stuck sculptured Smurf puppets in the holes. In falsetto, syrupy voices, they sang Chrismurphy songs. Just when the audience was experiencing sweetness overload, the mural fell. It not only expose the puppeteers crouched and crowded in hilarious positions, but ripped the fuzzy blue fellows right off their hands. The audience gasped, unsure whether to laugh or commiserate with the students. Undaunted, the performers kept right on singing, and, several continue to move their hands as though the Smurfs were still there. It was a Smurftastic presentation.

I always love the unexpected, big or small. I remember pumping my littlest child full of antibiotics, vitamins, cough syrup, juice, and TLC so that he could sing in the Christmas concert. For two weeks he had been croaking the words against my admonition to let his throat heal. The special day arrived. Sporting his handsome red tie and dressy clothes, he marched up on the stage, took one look at the audience and seized up. Silently, he mouthed the words, standing as stiff as a candy cane, staring at a man with a video camera.

The cameraman was filming his own daughter in an entirely different role. She wasn’t even mouthing the words. Instead, she concentrated on unraveling the handknit sweater of the child in front of her. This child didn’t notice since he was too busy playing with a partially chewed balloon he had found in his pocket. The only person I could actually hear clearly was the teacher kneeling on the floor in front, performing the actions with exaggerated enthusiasm while the other students stared as though she was speaking an alien language.

Perhaps she was. Christmasese. The language we use at concerts and when writing Christmas cards. The language that gets us through a season of 16 hour days, each with four scheduled events, and the greeting and departure of more people than we encountered during the other 11 months. The language of laughter, tact, and gratitude. The language that, if continued throughout the year, could get us graciously through bouts of chickenpox or Christmas panic odor.

Chronicle-Journal/Times-News December 1993

Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

How to Honor Dead Pets – Recycled Sundays

Dogs and cats have been treated like people for generations. They’ve been fed table scraps, allowed to sleep in their master’s bed, and even worn little caps, shirts, and jackets. Perhaps the next logical step is to make them accountable, much the way we do our children. In return for love, shelter, good nutrition, and support, we now expect them to get good report cards.

Once I was used to the idea of my cats receiving mail from their fact, I should have expected the next step – report cards. These are modern report cards, mind you, with checklists instead of A to E, yet an owner still knows when one’s pet has not measured up. All our cats are all treated the same, fed the same, and kept in the same house, yet their checkmarks translate to A, C, and D (my Virgil). This lends support to the nature over nurture proponents.

The cats can’t read the report card, and since their indoor pets, I can’t ground them until they improve. What could I do to make the lower achiever shape up? Cut back in his tummy rubs? Use an inferior brand of kitty litter? Send him to the pen? Perhaps, I could refuse to honor his memory.

A number of people have had their pets cremated in the past and the ashes returned in an urn for the family meant. I could arrange them in order of achievement. Virgil would be way at the back, behind the matches. Other pet owners purchase a pet burial site. I could give to him the economy headstone, made from compressed tunafish cans. People have had their pets stuffed by taxidermists and tucked in between the fern and the stereo. I suspect this would genuinely traumatize the two remaining cats.

The latest fad in honoring the dearly departed Fidos and Felixes is for clothing. For the human. By saving the hair from the pet brushes, the owners can have a permanent keepsake. The first is spun and then make it into hats or mitts, or in the case of collies, even a sweater. Some people might get off on the idea that they could broke their dogs tummy and their own as well. Dog spinner Alese Schroder of Cave Junction, Oregon commented in a newspaper article that the “doggie” odor of wet fur shouldn’t bother anyone who loved their pet. How romantic. No scent of Old Spice on that man. He’s 100% Brut Canine.

Where do owners store the fur when collecting it? Are there giant fur balls in stacking cartoons in the corner of the closet waiting for Foo-foo to bite the dust? Can they use fur off the couch and from behind the stove?

What I really want to know is, how does wearing a sweater made from dog for affect a man’s life? Do cats hiss when he passes by? Do large dogs become aggressive and fight for their territory? Does he shed? Does he get fleas? Does he get overwhelming urges to scratch the inside of this ear with his bare foot? Does he carry frisbees and balls in his mouth? Would he rather chase a car than drive it? Does the lady of the house pat him on the head when he is good and whack him with the newspaper when he’s annoying? Does he drop to the middle of the floor when he gets a private itch and start nosing for the problem?

How do you care for this kind of clothing? If it’s made from cat’s fur, it would have to be dryclean only. No self-respecting cat allows anyone to wash him in a tub. Then again, perhaps it can only be wiped with a tongue- shaped cloth.

Do you store pet-fur clothing on a padded hanger, folded in a drawer, or rolled into a ball at the foot of the bed? Do you take it to a pet grooming shop when it starts to lose its shape? With three cats, I would probably be able to coordinate an entire feline ensemble.

Actually, this could be Virgil’s only opportunity to get an A in anything. He does have the softest fur under his chin. There’s probably enough to make little slippers. Of course, I’d have to fight the urge to leap on the kitchen counter every morning and lick the milk out of the bottom of the unrinsed cereal bowls, right after I finished shredding the living room furniture.

Chronicle-Journal/Times-News October 3, 1993.

Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

The Reality Blur – Recycled Sundays

Children under the age of seven have always had difficulty differentiating between fantasy and reality. Television has blurred these lines by having stars act in commercials during their shows, or flipping characters from one show to another while maintaining their stage personas.

Adults too, may find it difficult to decide what’s real and what isn’t when viewing television. You can “Chase” down the “Hall” to turn on a “Petty” talk show which will “Shirley” give you your “Phil” of “Whoopee”. You can gorge yourself on husbands who beat their wives, wives who cheat on their husbands, moms who mistreat their kids, and all kinds of lovers of deceit.

You can watch men who wear dresses, or diapers, or devices, or nothing at all. See teens who shoot drugs and folks who shoot thugs. Watch men who were women, women who were men, and people who want to change all over again. There are those who can’t teach, won’t eat, eat everything in sight, or only eat food killed during a full moon night. See tough love and rough love than those without enough love. Boo folks who harass, molest and cheat. Cheer those who have class, protest and compete.

When you’re done feasting on the obsessed and depressed, indiscreet and deadbeat, perverted and psychotic, you might want to watch something a little less revealing – a good mystery. There’s “Mystery!” For those who like literary drama with a gasp. “Ancient Mysteries” are for the more tenacious. “In Search Of…” Is for global mystery buffs and if that’s not enough, there are specials like “Magic Circles.” There are “unsolved Mysteries” featuring missing cult figures wanted for setting their grade 12 science teachers on fire. “Missing Treasures” documents missing children while “Missing Persons” dramatizes them. It’s hard to keep the mysteries straight without a detective guidebook.

If you like suspense without mystery, there’s “Rescue 911” and “On Scene: Emergency Response” and “Emergency Call.” Some are documentary, some are drama, and some are docu-drama. If nothing else, they give the reviewer an appreciation of an ordinary day.

For SF buffs, Start Trek has cloned again. The premier of Deep Space Nine did not show at the scheduled time. I’ve never seen so many bullets scroll across the screen, not even when there’s a tornado warning. Was the network hoping these apologies would stop fans from powering up their modems, breaking into the network computers and messing with their reality? Next season, I’ll be watching for “Descendents of Data” – Men, Machine or Memorex?, “Deanna Troy’s Third Cousins Once Removed” – they can only sense itches and the onset of sneezes, “Klingon Clans in the 28th Century” – will they or won’t they be able to wear hats?, and “My Mother-in-law is a Ferengi” – you call this a bargain?

For a final mishmash of reality and fantasy, we can watch shows that interview these and other stars. We are promised an insight into the real person behind the camera. “John and Leeza from Hollywood,” “Celebrities Offstage,” “Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous,” ” Entertainment Tonight,” “The Late Show,” and “Larry King Live” features television and movie personalities as themselves. Barbara Walters prides herself on digging out the hidden emotions of stars and even did a show on Hollywood party girls, talk about “real” people.

Thanks to the likes of Woody Allen and Mia Farrow, these shows are becoming more like regular talk shows. As we watch these body-sculpted, speech coached, agented, surgically-altered, and hair-implanted stars, they reveal their “inner” selves. I suppose that’s the most difficult to groom. Is it real or is it public relations?

Chronicle-Journal/Times News, October 24, 1993.

Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

Jurassic Dinosaurs – Recyled Sundays

Oh, those “terrible lizards.” They have captured our imaginations and our nightmares since O.C. Marsh and E.D. Cope uncovered 126 new species of dinosaurs. We’ve been awed by them in the Lost World, shuddered at their ferocious battles in One Million B. C. (actually an iguana and a baby alligator), and loved them as orphans in Baby. We’ve mutated them into The Creature from the Black Lagoon (aka another dateless Saturday night), Gorgo (a mother’s love), and Godzilla (Tokyo was too crowded anyway). Dinosaurs have been combined with cowboys, sailors, lost spaceman, and misplaced cave people. Now, we have Jurassic Park. Dinosaurs, scientists, children, and an infallible security system run by a glutton with a chip on his shoulder and 15 empty chip bags at his workstation.

No matter that humans and dinosaurs have never coexisted. We are compelled to examine and re-examine what would happen should these ancient rulers gather us into the meat and alternatives food group. Surely, after all we’ve learned about the fearsome unfathomable monsters, no one would ever want to clone one, much less an island full. As the expert on chaos theory said in response to the park owner’s statement that even Disneyland had difficulties went it first opened, “Yes, but if the Pirates of the Caribbean breakdown, they don’t start eating the tourists.”

We have reached the stage in my family where our children can watch many of the shows we watch. I do provide Parental Guidance when possible. Unfortunately, no one provides guidance for me. Jurassic Park is a good example.

We waited 65 million years for this movie and they still had to make us wait an extra three minutes. It goes to show, even dinosaurs can’t stick to a schedule. I was a little anxious about allowing my son to sit in the front row with his friends. I’ve heard the “frightening scenes” were rather intense. I should’ve been more concerned about sitting in the middle of the theater with a perfect view of the screen. I had nothing to hide behind when T Rex had a coward lawyer for breakfast.

I try not to cover my face during frightening scenes. Considering how much it costs to attend the movie, I want every visual penny’s worth. I did try to mute the impact though. First, I sank a little lower in my seat. The next scene, I pulled my knees up to my chest. Soon my hands were pressed against my temples, not covering my ears her eyes, but close by should I go on frightening scenes over. When a frightening scene was combined with extreme suspense, I sunk to the level of the spread fingers. That’s when I put my hands over my face at the horror of what might possibly happen in the next few seconds, but keep fingers spaced and I can see the screen and don’t miss what actually happens in the next few seconds. My entire body now looked a contortionist’s and should another 12 inch tooth appear, I would more than likely jump higher than the bloody ovi raptors. The “raptors” stole the show from the enshrined villain, good old Tyrannosaurus rex. Although raptor means “egg-stealer”, these clever clawers were out for prime kiddie crunch.

In the 1970s, scientists began to argue that dinosaurs were warm-blooded. Maybe, but the raptors and Rex is in Jurassic Park were definitely cold-blooded hunters. Dinosaurs ruled the earth for 140 million years. Humans have been here only between two and 5 million years. Scientists have argued long and hard over why dinosaurs became extinct – either asteroid collision, collapse of the ecosystem, or climate change. Jurassic Park, among other things, leaves the viewer with the firm impression that if dinosaurs had not disappeared from the earth, we wouldn’t be here.

The collapse of the ecosystem, hmmm. Would that be like the destruction of large natural habitats, deforestation, pollution, overhunting, overfishing…? Climate change, eh? Would that be like depletion of the ozone layer, the greenhouse effect,.. I wonder what powerful, dominant species is waiting next in line for extinction?

First published 1994 Chronical-Journal/Times News

Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

Rejections – Recycled Sundays

A fellow writer was asked which magazine ran her articles and stories.

“Oh, I write mostly for rejections,” she joked.

The inquirer responded seriously, “I don’t think I’ve read that one.”

None of us have. That’s the problem. With the increase of multimedia entertainment, and the spiraling cost of books, publishers are far less likely to gamble with new writers. The buzzword is “marketability.”

To be fair, there seems to be more new writers than ever, many victims of unemployment. A popular or prestigious magazine may only have space to publish one out of hundreds of submissions. The competition for books may be even worse.

Take a look at what’s available in children’s books today. There are still incredible works of art and charm, like Something from Nothing by Phoebe Gilman, but they are competing fiercely against the “market-driven” fluff generated by Saturday, and daily, cartoons. Not only does every superhero, cutesy puppy, and valiant pony cartoon generate lunchboxes, stuffed toys, action figures, and clothing, but books as well. Many of these books have as much art, depth and originality as a cereal box.

Sadly the scene is not much different for adults. The public’s voracious appetite for talk shows has spilled over into writing. By the way, you’ll know they’ve run dry when they feature talk show host’s interviewing talk show hosts. Magazines run more sensational pieces than they used to as in “women who cheat on their husbands… And don’t feel guilty,” followed up by, “husband’s who know their wives cheat… And don’t feel angry.”

Spill your guts novels are rampant as in The Life Story of The Girl Door: Alcoholic, Sexual Compulsive, Self-mutilater and Collector of Hood Ornaments. Many of these are written with the same/and report style as a talk show.

Still there are editors and publishers who’ve managed to keep their standards intact. Swamped by submissions, they do not have time to personally critique a writer’s work. You may find it strange that and “emerging” writer will be happy to receive a private comment on a rejection form. The personal connection can be enough to spur a three-month rewrite. There are those, though, who find it painful because they still don’t know where to head.

For example, Lisa Powell’s fictional biography of Elizabeth Tutor has received the following rejections:

“This is indeed an outstanding historical and lives up to all the fine things you said about it… As I admired it, I didn’t feel we could do the right job with it in the current market.”

And another, “… There’s so much to admire here that it is with great regret that I’m returning the manuscript.”

And again, “this is a beautifully written and exquisitely researched historical on the Virgin Queen… It would probably be a high risk project in today’s market.”

“You should not be at all discouraged by the fact that we will not be making an offer for the book because this is an extremely publishable novel and a more commercial publisher, I’m certain, will positively leap at the chance to publish it.”

Lisa’s waiting for that leap, net in hand. Should any publisher give the smallest hop in her direction, she’s ready.

Some editors try to soften the blow with humour here’s one I received:

“Congratulations! You have been chosen to receive this beautiful hand-lettered rejection slip! We know you will be proud to add this attractive notice to your personal collection. For additional copies send your contributions to:… Note: in the event that your next contributions accepted for publication we cannot send you another card, and you will just have to be satisfied with money… Sorry – the editor.”

Satisfy me, already. I can take it.

Chronicle-Journal/Times-News, May 30, 1993

Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages