Monday, July 27, 2009

Surviving Reality

The other day on my way to work I was listening to the DJs on the radio as they talked about the new action figures of Jon and Kate Gosselin. Jon and Kate are the parents of 8 children and they all star in the reality show “Jon and Kate Plus 8.” Mom and dad of the children have been all over the tabloids in recent weeks. What started out as a show that chronicled a loving family has turned into sad story of lives torn apart as the adult stars are heading toward divorce and are lashing out at each other. The unfortunate victims in this whole thing are the kids who are having the most painful experience of their young lives play out in front of the nation and recorded for posterity in the print and video.

In recent years reality TV has become a mainstay of network and cable schedules. These days you can turn on the tube and see people dancing to lose weight, bachelors/bachelorettes find true love, strangers stranded together on an island, would be apprentices being fired, contestants singing their hearts out to be the next idol, people having babies, drama in emergency rooms, dare-devils eating half grown baby duck eggs and on and on. Virtually anything you ever wanted to see can now be viewed in your very own living room.

I have to admit when the reality show craze began years ago I was not at all interested and was skeptical that it would last. But, somewhere along the way I was suckered in and find myself watching shows like “Survivor,” “Big Brother,” and “The Amazing Race.” I enjoy the challenges the contestants are faced with on these shows. Still, as I watch I am amazed and sometimes appalled at the catty fighting and petty arguments that erupt. There are times when it all gets to be too much for me. I shake my head and laugh at myself for getting so involved, but a part of me wonders why I keep watching week after week. I can’t help but wonder what it is that draws me and the rest the world to these shows.

What is it about this less appealing side of human nature that actually constitutes entertainment? And what does it say about our society that this form of programming has become such a staple for us? I think that reality TV allows us to be exposed to things we might never otherwise get to witness. Through the miracle of electronics we visit exotic islands and observe delicate surgeries. Our loyalties are given to the underdog or the most charismatic person. As the season moves on we forge pseudo-relationships with the participants and they become part of our lives. The drama can fill empty places in our life.

But the drama can be overwhelming sometimes. The shows often devolve into bickering and name calling. It is said that the contestants are chosen for their outrageous personalities; it makes for more excitement. Throw these folks together and pit them against each other and you have a recipe for mayhem. We boo and hiss or cheer and clap depending on favorites. And, we compare ourselves to them. Their flaws are flaunted out there for the entire world to see. We, on the other hand, can hide our faults. We can put on a mask and hide behind it. We look pretty good stacked up next to the hot tempered player or the lying backstabber. After all the drama we turn off the TV and say to ourselves, “At least I would never do that.”

Can we honestly say that, though? I can’t; having never been in that situation I don’t know what I would do. I often wonder how I would react if I were to be on one of these programs. Would I be the same person I am in my day-to-day life? Would I remain true to my alliance or would I turn at the first chance to get rich? I don’t know and I don’t plan on finding out anytime soon.
How about you? Post a comment and let me know how you think you would react. Oops, time’s up…I gotta run, it’s time for “Survivor!”

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Thicker than Blood

One of the great things about attending writer’s conferences is that you get to meet lots of authors and aspiring authors and hear about their up-and-coming projects. Each year the Christian Writer’s Guild along with Tyndale House Publishing sponsor Operation First Novel and the winner is announced at the Writing for the Soul Conference. This contest is an opportunity for an unpublished author to break into the world of publishing. The competition is fierce and the novels submitted are read with eagle eyes by editors and publishers. It takes determination and perseverance, but each year one hardworking person walks into the conference an aspiring author and walks out with a book deal. This is what we writers all work towards and when it happens it is a dream come true.

At the 2009 Writing for the Soul Conference I had the pleasure of watching as a young woman’s dream came true. CJ Darlington began writing the story that became Thicker than Blood when she was in her teens. She first submitted the manuscript to the Operation First Novel Contest in 2004 and came away as one of the twenty semi-finalists. Over the next years she submitted the novel to publishers and continued to edit and revise it. Finally, when she was just about to give up on the book she decided to submit it one more time to Operation First Novel and on February 19, 2009 she walked across a stage and became an author with a book deal.

Thicker than Blood is currently in the editing process and will be published by Tyndale in January 2010. CJ has recently created her web site and posted the first chapter of her book on the site. I read the first chapter and am excited to read the rest of the book. I encourage you to visit the web site of CJ Darlington to read the first chapter and learn more about her quest to become a novelist.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Cottonwood Whispers by Jennifer Erin Valent

In March I blogged about a book written by new author, Jennifer Valent whom I met while at the Writing for the Soul Conference. If you haven’t read my post, you can read it by clicking this link to Fireflies in December. Jennifer’s second book is being published by Tyndale and is due out in September.

Cottonwood Whispers is the second book in the Calloway County Series and continues Jessilyn Lassiter’s story. The year is 1936, summer has just begun and Jessilyn is looking for changes. The first chapter of Cottonwood Whispers was intriguing and I can’t wait to read the book; you can read the chapter at Jennifer's website. The website also offers a link to pre-buy the book since I am sure when you read the first chapter you will be as excited to read the book as I am!

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

What Does Bald Sound Like?

I am sure you have all heard the old adage that you never get a second chance to make a first impression. People tend to put a lot of weight in a first impression. It can make or break you in a job interview. I find it tends to be true when we meet a person in real life also. What we believe of a person during our initial interactions often turns out to be completely different when we get to know them. Still, we tend to put a lot of stock in our first impressions.

First impressions are often quite interesting when our beginning interactions are over the phone or email. Do you find yourself forming an impression of the other party simply based on the sound of their voice or the tone of the writing? Recently I had the opportunity to meet in person several people that I have only worked with over the phone or email in the past. Needless to say I had a vision of what these people would look like and be like based on my interactions with them. Across the board I was surprised by what they looked like in person. Really, I shouldn’t have been, but I was.

I went to meet these people expecting bald, young, or heavyset based on something that was said, how it was said, or the sound of their voice. In each situation the person who sat across from me was not what I pictured in my mind. I had to wonder what they were expecting of me and did I live up to that expectation? I suspect I didn’t.

I have been thinking about the pictures in my mind and why they were formed. I wonder if my own biases cause me to put people in boxes. Thankfully, my boxes don’t confine the people I come in contact with. Often I don’t even tell folks what my initial thoughts were because they sound ridiculous when voiced aloud. I try not to let that first thought color my view of the person I actually meet. If I allowed my biases to put me in a box and I may miss out on an amazing friendship.

Later as I was talking to my boss about my mind pictures of the colleagues I met I had to laugh at myself. What does bald sound like?

Saturday, July 4, 2009

We Hold These Truths to be Self Evident

This morning I did something I hadn’t done, maybe since high school, in a long time. I read the Declaration of Independence. Have you read it recently? Reading it was a vivid reminder of what today is all about.

I find that we often celebrate holidays without remembering the underlying significance. Today is a day of barbeques, fireworks, family, friends, and fun; but it should also be a day of remembrance for us. It should be a day of remembering where we as a nation came from and why we are here. It should be a day of celebrating the freedom that our nation enjoys. It should be a day of remembering our men and women who are out in the world protecting freedoms through their work in the Armed Forces. Today, let us not forget how much we have to be grateful for.

The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America

When in the Course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security. — Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.

He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.

He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.

He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their Public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.

He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.

He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected, whereby the Legislative Powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.

He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.

He has obstructed the Administration of Justice by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary Powers.

He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.

He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harass our people and eat out their substance.

He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.

He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil Power.

He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:

For quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:

For protecting them, by a mock Trial from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:

For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:

For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:

For depriving us in many cases, of the benefit of Trial by Jury:

For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences:

For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies

For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:

For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.

He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.

He has plundered our seas, ravaged our coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.

He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation, and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & Perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.

He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.

He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.

In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms:

Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince, whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our British brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.

We, therefore, the Representatives of the United States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these united Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States, that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. — And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.