Sunday, September 26, 2010

Fifty Years After Emily Post

Fifty years ago this week, etiquette expert Emily Post died. In a recent Vanity Fair poll of 18 – 44 year-olds, forty percent of those queried had no idea who Emily Post was or why she was famous.

Society has changed quite a bit in the fifty years since her death. So, how relevant are Emily Post's etiquette rules to modern life in today's fast paced society of five second sound bites, social media, and instant global communication?

Some of the topics she covered in her 1922 book, Etiquette in Society, in Business, in Politics, and at Home, seem totally irrelevant today. Subjects such as one of my favorites—how to keep your fan, gloves, and napkin on your lap at fancy dinner parties. That skill has always been a stumbling block for me at the many fancy dinner parties I routinely attend. :) Some of her other advice, however, is still relevant today.

Fashion: For men she recommended suits for everywhere and all occasions except what she referred to as "the country." When on a country outing, breeches and polished leather riding boots were acceptable. Her thoughts on female style are more relevant. She said most women were fashion sheep, that they should take trends and personalize them.

Conversational Skills: After you dismiss all the complicated stuff about when to doff a hat or curtsy, a lot of her advice is still common sense today. Things such as—will what you have to say be interesting to those around you, don't repeat yourself, let other people talk, and don't pretend to know more than you do.

At a Live Performance: Her book has lots of advice about things like how to dress and whether it's acceptable for a woman to attend with a man who is not her husband. Bear in mind that she was referring to the theater, opera, or the symphony. Her two biggest rules are one hundred percent relevant today—shut up and be on time!

Introductions: She apparently loved all the formalities of meeting new people, presenting calling cards, and how to properly address each other. In today's society it's very common for people to know each other even without having been properly introduced face-to-face. We're friends on Facebook, I saw your video on YouTube, I read your tweet. I imagine that would have thrown Emily into quite a tizzy. :)

Mustn't: Emily Post had lots of mustn'ts. Here are a couple of examples. "A lady mustn't carry a bundle of anything on the streets, but if she has to, a man must carry it for her." "If a man doesn't enjoy the conversation a lady has offered, a woman mustn't be offended, but rather keep fishing for topics he might find agreeable." This sort of reminds me of that magazine article from the mid 1950s about how to be a good wife. Definitely advice to make today's woman cringe. :)

Houses: Her advice in this area seems the most outdated and indicates that her advice was apparently a luxury for the wealthy. She advised that a house must have servants on hand to collect a visitor's things when they visit.

It's easy to make fun of etiquette rules published eighty-eight years ago, but Emily Post's most basic rule is as necessary today as it was back then. "Never do anything that is unpleasant to others."

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Weird and Wacky Laws

My mother is now at a rehab hospital for her broken hip. I'm still spending a lot of time running between my house, my mother' house, and the rehab facility.  So, as I did last week, I'm reposting one of my blogs from about a year ago.  My life should be back into a "normal" mode by next Sunday so that I can post a new blog.  But until then, here's another trip down memory lane.  :)
There is no question that many weird and wacky laws exist out there. You can only scratch your head and wonder what the various state legislatures were thinking about when they actually took the time to pass these strange ideas into law. And to take it a step farther, you can only wonder how some of these antiquated laws could possibly be enforced...and why they weren't repealed a long time ago. It would be interesting to know what the penalty would be if convicted of breaking some of these laws.

Here are ten such laws that caught my attention (and tickled my funny bone).

In TEXAS, an anti-crime law requires criminals to give their victims notice—oral or written—twenty-four hours in advance of the crime they're planning to commit and the nature of that crime.

In WAYNESBORO, VIRGINIA, it was once illegal for a woman to drive a car up Main Street unless her husband walked in front of the car waving a red flag.

In the state of WASHINGTON, it is mandatory for a motorist with criminal intentions to stop at the city limits and telephone the local chief of police before entering the town.

In IOWA, one-armed piano players who perform must do it for free.

In ALABAMA, it's illegal to wear a funny fake mustache to church.

In NEW HAMPSHIRE, you may not tap your feet, nod your head or in any way keep time with the music played in a tavern, restaurant or café.

In CHICAGO, ILLINOIS, it is forbidden to fish while sitting on a giraffe's neck.

In FARGO, NORTH DAKOTA, a person can be jailed for wearing a hat while dancing or wearing a hat to an event where dancing is taking place.

In MINNESOTA, no one is allowed to cross the line into the state with a duck on his/her head.

In DENVER, COLORADO, next door neighbors may not lend each other vacuum cleaners.

And here's a bonus offering that truly boggles the mind:

In MICHIGAN, beavers can be fined up to $10,000 per day for building unlicensed dams, according to a letter the state once sent certain beavers in Grand Rapids. This actually happened! After complaints about flooding on neighboring property, the state sent a letter to the land owner ordering him to remove unauthorized wood debris dams. The reply sent by the landowner was widely circulated around the internet as he pointed out that the "wood debris dams" belonged to beavers and he was not responsible for it. Eventually the matter was dropped and it seems unlikely that this would actually happen again. :)

Do any of you have weird laws in your state or country that have long ago outlived their original purpose but are still on the books?

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Secondary Characters And How To Use Them

I've had a hectic week.  On Labor Day (Monday, September 6), my mother fell and broke her hip.  At that time she was preparing for knee replacement surgery.  Left hip and right knee, which compounded her recovery.  I feel as if I've been spending all my time either at the hospital or in my car going to and from.  They moved her to a rehab facility yesterday, but no prognosis on how long she'll be there.  So, to make a long story short [I know, I'm too late on that count :) ], this week's blog is one I originally posted a little over a year and a half ago as a guest blogger elsewhere.  For those who may recognize it, I hope you enjoy it a second time.  For those who don't recognize it, I hope you enjoy it for the first time. :)

Here's the repost of my blog about secondary characters:

While trying to decide on a topic for today's blog, I was torn between a writing type topic or something of a more general nature. The decision came to me while watching a couple of movies last night. One of them was Murder On The Orient Express with its all star cast where almost everyone in the movie was a major character. It occurred to me that there were very few characters other than the many primary ones. So I started thinking about secondary characters and how they can be used to prod, shove and push the main characters into and along the necessary path for the story line.

So, let's talk a bit about secondary characters.

When I say secondary characters, I'm not referring to the minor characters that decorate a scene and maybe have a couple of lines of dialogue. I'm talking about the characters who have a prominent place in your story but are not your main characters. These are the characters you can use to maneuver your main characters into and along the path toward achieving the story goal. They are a key factor in moving your story along and determining what direction it takes.

In developing these characters you need to decide what you want them to accomplish and how you want them to relate to and interact with your main characters in addition to each other in order to move your story line along to its conclusion. Let's take a look at how a set of secondary characters can be used to move a story line in a specific direction. Remember, it's not who they are, it's what they do and how they relate to the main characters and how the main characters respond to them.

Example: You have a story about a teenager who is the leader of a gang. He has been stealing cars for some mobsters. You have two ways you can go with your main character of the teenage gang leader, in other words, two directions your story line can take and you must choose one of them.

1) He wants to leave the gang and make something of his life

2) He runs his gang with a iron hand and threatens anyone who wants out.

With the first scenario, your choice of secondary characters who will influence the story line can be his girl friend, his little brother, and one of his teachers. That tells you who they are, but doesn't tell you how they move the story. His girl friend fears for his safety and finally gives him the ultimatum of leave the gang or she's leaving him. His little brother idolizes him and wants to be just like him, but he doesn't want his little brother to make the same mistakes he did. His teacher is mentoring him by helping him with his studies and finding him an after school job.

With the second scenario, your choice of secondary characters can be his girl friend, a rival gang leader, and his contact with the mobsters who pay him for the stolen cars. Again, that tells you who they are but not what they do to move the story in a specific direction. His girl friend demands more and more in the way of material things so he needs the money from stealing cars to keep her happy. The rival gang leader is trying to take over his stolen car business so he needs to watch his back to protect his own interests. The mobster gives him access to the easy money he needs to keep his girl friend happy and the promise of being able to move into their organization and advance in the criminal world.

Each scenario has the same secondary character of the girl friend, but her function is different in the two scenarios so that the character helps move the two story lines in different directions.

One of the great things about secondary characters is that you can make them as outrageous, unconventional and over-the-top as you want. You don't have the same parameters and cautions with secondary characters as you do with your main characters. The primary thing you need to be careful with is not making them more interesting than your main characters so that they don't steal the show and shove your main characters into the background.

So, I'd like to hear from you. Any comments about developing and using secondary characters in your writing? Or any television shows, movies, or books where the secondary characters stood out in your mind with the way they were able to guide the story line?

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Those Lusty Gods Of Mythology And Their Sexy Pursuits

Whether Deity or Demon, the supernatural entities of the ancient world had one thing in common. More often than not, they used their magical skills for the pursuit of sex…lots of it.

In today's world, someone with the powers attributed to the gods and monsters of ancient mythology might use those abilities to banish ignorance, intolerance, and hate to make the world a better place for everyone. But in the ancient world, the rulers of mythology used their special powers for a far more down-to-earth human type pursuit—that of participating in hot sex as often as possible.

Here are six such immortals from the ancient world who seem to be in a perpetual state of heat, always chasing after the pleasures derived from seducing mortals.

6) Zeus: The ancient Greeks didn't have reality television, but they did have the exploits of Zeus, king of the gods, to keep them entertained. Zeus wasn't at all picky. He engaged in sex with goddesses, nymphs and mortals and did whatever it took to get what he wanted. Kinky, freaky, voracious. It all described his sexual appetite. On one occasion he even took on the physical appearance of the husband of a human woman named Alcmene and they had a son named Heracles (Hercules in Roman mythology). But even the king of the gods ended up in trouble on the home front. High up on Mt. Olympus, his wife, Hera, was a woman of earth-shattering powers and didn't hesitate to use them.

5) The Incubus/Succubus: Today wet dreams are easily explained. In medieval times, however, they were believed to be the result of demonic forces. Folklore from centuries ago says there was a demonic creature whose sole purpose was to have sex with people during their sleep. The incubus put a spell on a woman to make her compliant then proceeded to have his way with her. The succubus was the female version of this demon who seduced men in their sleep. Sex with an incubus or succubus was considered dangerous for the mortal, but not always lethal. A one time only encounter said the mortal would most likely survive. But continued encounters with the same mortal were definitely bad for the mortal's health.

4) Odin: King of the Norse gods, Odin only had one eye. He traded the other one for infinite wisdom. And what knowledge did this infinite wisdom impart to him? That hot sex was a lot of fun. One time he found himself really turned on by a female giant named Jord. He refused to allow the fact that his non-giant manhood was dwarfed by her giant body to stand in his way. He figured out a physical means for them to have sex. Nine months later Thor was born.

3) Krishna: The Hindu god Krishna wasn't only about hot sex and good times. When his good-for-nothing uncle, Kamsa, crossed that hypothetical line in the sand one too many times, Krishna put him six feet under the sand without giving it a second thought. Krishna loved to get freaky with the ladies. He had a flute and when he played it women would flock to him.

2) Pan: The Greek god, Pan, had a goat-like appearance. He would have fit in perfectly with one of today's college frat houses—he was all about partying. He liked to drink and was cursed (or blessed, depending on how you look at it) with an intense sex drive. He often ran around with his bare erection visible for all to see. Like Krishna, he used his magic flute to draw in the ladies. He seduced Selene, the moon goddess, and convinced her that having sex with him was a great idea.

1) The Meek-Moos-Ak: The Native American tribe known as the Abenaki believed in these short twin creatures called the Meek-moos-ak. They ran around drunk, killing hunters and having sex with women. Their legend said that once a woman had sex with them, she was cursed to never desire marriage.

So, the moral of this story is that should you find yourself covered in a strange substance and it gives you the power to shape-shift or play a mean flute, use it for sex. Everyone else did.