Praise me neutrally or inanimately … nah. Give it to me real!

Perhaps it is the Caribbean in me or more precisely the Barbados in me, but when someone publicly hails me up as beautiful, I smile a ‘thank you”. Here, in my region, we don’t seek a thigh gap to be beautiful; our role models of beauty are not yet prescribed by a man-made industry but are varied. The determination of beauty is very much in the eyes of the beholder.

So why should I be offended by such a comment focusing on physical beauty?  It seems that in the United States, this is a source of annoyance. Yet that is a country where the fashion and movie industries push beauty in a sea of reckless materialism. Are their comments the manifestation of an effort to pull back one side by unwittingly decimating it? An all out tug-a-war of two sides, is it?

On two recent occasions, United States President Barack Obama was ridiculed for referring to feminine beauty, both times, intelligence and beauty were part of his comment,  directly or implied. When the President said California Attorney General Kamala Harris happed to be the best-looking AG ever, an avalanche of verbal spears flew in the same way they did when he said his daughter had grown into” strong, smart, beautiful young women.”

I asked myself: was the outcry encouraged by those who cannot subtly or directly stomach black beauty and black intelligence. Is it a fear thing? No, they say it is a feminist thing. Then why are these women wearing make-up and why are they not merely going to the store and taking an outfit based only on size and price?

How can calling a woman beautiful subtract from her intelligence? Aren’t the two mutually exclusive? Why should a black woman’s beauty be muffled or muzzled?

I imagine their perfect world, where (even in bed ) the only compliments will be ‘you have a sharp brain’ . Ouch, that would be degrading, a touch too close to the physical. You’d have to give her /him a side look. Nah, that would parallel flirting and be condemned as sexual harassment.

I suspect that only acceptable comments would be: ‘that project or paper or garden bed etc. was well done.” Let’s get on with the inanimate praising.

Why concern myself about the US behaviour, I’ve asked myself.  I do so because in this era where digital communications facilitates cultural penetration at a higher speed than previously, this template of neutralism would soon be transmitted into Caribbean Community cultural.

I love that we can say: “he is so sexy and so bright” (if we believe it) and men can say “you go it” whether they mean beauty, brains, a winning personality or whatever appeals to their fancy. But in the US, keep your mouth close, don’t look, walk with eyes in the air and if in bed, do only a body jump.

I am stumped here, so I’m asking just to be politically correct with my US friends, can I say to a parent, your baby is cute? Or is the correct compliment in this genre: “he’s talking, that brain is developing”?

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Plot loses its self

Diana couldn’t raise herself from the floor, she was too light-headed. George didn’t turn to help. He stared into the distance, his fingers, as if attached to someone else, stabbing the piano keys.

She slipped back into mental darkness where all her dreams; those joyful adventures cruising the world; proudly watching their daughter become a doctor, wife, mother- transformed into a toxic dose of disappointment, poisoning her system.

She saw her husband facing her, yet not looking at her; both erect and tensed neither reaching to touch the other or utter a word; both falling slowly, emotionless into an abyss.

(P.S. Remember I said I wanted to see if I have a creative writing cell within me. To do so, I am answering a challenge to write a 100 -word piece that  based on picture and adding it to my earlier piece of “self-Plotted2”.

Please tell me what you think of this!  Should I have omitted paragraph 2?)

Cutting the Best Thing out the Sliced Bread Cliché

In today’s Daily Prompt Michelle said: Most of us have heard the saying, “That’s the best thing since sliced bread! What do you think is actually the best thing since sliced bread?’

To me, there’s only one answer. This post which you are now reading called: 

Cutting the Best Thing out the Sliced Bread Cliché

English: cadifus

Whoever inventing the saying ‘best thing since sliced bread’   may be sadly watching for the slow descent of their phrase. He or she shouldn’t be sad for where else can the phrase go after rising to the peak status of cliché. Plateauing is the next stage or descent.

I believe the sliced bread saying is on the plateau, held back from a descent mainly by pre-college writers and a few other people. In secondary school days, my friends and I liked clichés, we thought they were cool. We felt like blooming literary giants using them.

Once all 25 of my fifth-form classmates wrote the words, greatest thing since sliced bread – in an essay called ‘A day in the life of a washing machine”. Our English teacher upbraided us  but now I think she should’ve been ashamed for setting us that cliché-type assignment.

Since then, I have read or heard many college professors, experts and writers bash clichés. On the internet, many articles discouraging cliché use. Here is a sampling.

They are “dull and unimaginative for the reader or listener.”

 “Clichés are dishonest. Clichés rob the reader of a true reading experience. It’s a Big Mac instead of filet mignon. It’s all gristle, no meat.”

“What was once a clever or interesting way of saying something has been used so much that it no longer has any force. It is a lazy way to speak and to write. Please, please take pity on those who read your text or listen to you speak, and do not use clichés,” http://englishmistakeswelcome.com/cliches.htm screams at us.

So we try to avoid the ‘best thing since sliced bread’ and his friends.  But as Review Review explains, “Sometimes it’s hard to spot a cliché. How about, “She burst into tears.” Is this a cliché? That’s a tough call.”

Like chameleons, these sneaky fellows slip into our writing, especially when we are being descriptive. Now, hunters are on the attack. Websites like University of Richmond’s Writing Center enter the picture armed with tools for cliché DNA testing and expulsion.

“When writing, question any comparison or image you are about to use,” advises the University of Richmond.  “Is the phrase you’re about to use one that you’ve heard frequently in casual conversation, newscasts, and advertising? If so, it is probably a cliché or on its way there.”

Some experienced in writing have made the cliché hunt easier by providing lists.

Cliche

Cliche (Photo credit: Tom Newby Photography)

A few people are still on the cliché-side, though. The Review Review sees a place for them. “Normal people talk in clichés. Your characters probably talk in clichés. That’s, well, normal,’ it said.

“Clichés in internal monologue are okay too, but don’t overdo it.

Writer Dell Smith says: “I use “clichés as placeholders when I write a first or second draft. While tapping the emotion of the moment I may not know the perfect words to use. Later, I’ll come back with more objective eyes and manhandle these words down to their core meaning.”

A reprieve for my slice bread friend?

Maybe not, it has another problem. It contains bread. Nutritionists have people considering whether factory bread slicing can fall under the ‘best thing’ category. Slicing white bread? If this bread is not the best thing for healthy living then factory slicing which increases its convenience may not be good. Oh dear! My slice bread friend is between a rock and a hard place (gotcha).

Not all bread types are health risks, among those favoured are 100 per cent whole grain, rye, pumpernickel and cassava bread. In addition, eating a uniform portion, such as a factory-cut slice, is better than having to hand slice resulting in a large chunk on your plate. Factory slicing may therefore be helpful and with healthy bread, better, so we have preserved some of the value of the sliced bread and keep that cliché on the plateau. If fact, we may be able to say without causing raised eyebrows that this article is the ‘best thing since sliced bread’ that the writer was ‘thinking outside the box”. Ha ha!!

What do you think?

Related articles:

Let us now praise… the cliché (boston.com)

Why me… why so much pain?

One look into his bulging eyes and my heart burst under the weight of sudden excruciating pain. I open the door  with a “good-evening’ that conveys my faked cheerfulness.  He replies faintly audible in a voice strained by the residue of conflict.

I know he’s always unsettled by his demons who never release him from their grip though at times they slacken the pressure. Today, somehow, somewhere they’d run amok.

I want to know what happened yet I don’t want to know. He feigned normalcy, perhaps wanting to extend this rare patch of peace we’ve been experiencing recently but his manner betrays him. Every few minutes his chest rises aggressively, his nostrils flares and he fights hard to concentrate on eating his dinner, which today is his favourite boiled fish and vegetables.

Little calm exist in this stormy existence which I call motherhood that is my life. Depression is a regular companion so today I ball myself into a tight foetal wad and welcome it into my bosom as I lie in bed. What gave him these inner raging demons; why does he resort to settling his arguments with threats and fists? Where did I go wrong? Was it the long hours at work in his formative years? Other single mothers did that too but with good results, why not me?

Was it because a woman can’t father a son? Was it my choosing of the wrong sex partner turned absentee father but never caring dad? As usual my brain is too swamped to process and analyse any information. I know the past can’t help me; it can’t be erased so I skip the introspection and strain my brain to thinking about sources of help.

The Bible … for God alone knows, through pray He can help … the internet for 24/7 spiritual guidance. My browsing brings me to an article, When our children go astray. It tells of parents with similar troubles but life differs from fairy tales and the guarantee of a good outcome; the dreamed turnaround of a love one isn’t on that page.

Disillusioned, I am barely able to read it completely or objectively. Fear of the unknown grips me; flooding my whole body, turning my feet to liquid. No tears come to my eyes, though I’d welcome their release but my bladder is full.

The dreaded official knock comes. Bang, bang on the door. I know that knock no matter whose knuckles are doing the pounding; I know who’s there, no matter who’s wearing the uniform. Panic completely invades me and as I open the door my bladder empties itself of all my grief.

Tribute to Doverock: another Moses in the ultimate Promised Land.

Today Daily Prompt says: write your own eulogy. Here is mine.

Eulogy to Doverock

Good morning mourners, I am getting more ‘Goodbyes’ today than I’ve ever had”hellos”. That speaks volumes to the networks of my friends whom, I  believe, most of you are here to support.

My non-cyber space friends were few, three to be exact. I hid behind my computer, an anti-social blogger, writing posts hoping to cheer up the world, to make the world think and to make the world act. At times, I sought to educate or integrate; other times, I aimed to entertain or simply agitate.

My soul mate Caribbeanmarvel, often described me as an enigma; someone antisocial yet pro-social and expansive. But I did not see myself in descriptive terms. I was not an adjective rather I was a Caribbean woman on a mission, a modern day Moses leading thousands of followers  along the virtual timeless, borderless communication route towards the promised global village but unlike the Biblical Moses, my followers were not of one race or from one place.

English: Moses Sees the Promised Land from Afa...

English: Moses Sees the Promised Land from Afar, as in Numbers 27:12, by James Tissot (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I attracted and sought after people from all classes, nationalities, cultures, races, creed and sexual orientation. With my blog as my staff, this modern day Moses shared perspectives among my diverse group of followers, parting the sea of ignorance, freeing those enslaved by discrimination and ridding the world of pockets of bigotry.

I was not always liked or respected. Some people sampled my offerings and left without a comment not even to briefly acknowledge that they’d liked  or dislike what I had provided. Caribbeanmarvel, the describer, was always calling me a tenacious character; and would remark on my ability not to be thrown off by a man or woman’s fickle behaviour or disagreements over my ideas and methods.

Let me give you an example. Once I took a break, to read and research, so I could be better at my task but some people found a replacement. They said they had another hero. They went on to like someone else, in fact to worship someone who was freshly pressed, she was gold minted. But I forgave them and welcomed them back.

A friend said to me, “You are a sucker for punishment; and to think you are not paid for this job. All bloggers are egomaniacs, though and you are the chief among them.”

So mourners, this journey of blogging to a better tomorrow is a hard one with no thanks. I believed that by getting to know each other through blogs and other social media, we will lead others to the promised land of a globalised world, where mankind equitably share all the earth’s fruits.

I have gone to another place, but I hope you will draw from my experiences. To help you, I’ve summarised ten simple rules that helped me. Store them on your iPad, or any tablet of your choice.

Image representing iPad as depicted in CrunchBase

Image via CrunchBase

  1. Remember that as a blogger you are both a follower and a leader. No other positions are more important than these.
  2. Do not believe that your opinions are supreme. No one has all the answers, no one is always right.
  3. Do not misuse anyone’s intellectual property.
  4. Take time off from your blog- to read, research and explore.
  5. Honour fellow-bloggers and visitors to your site. Reply to their comments and say ‘thank you’. By doing so, others will respect you and your days as a blogger will be rewarded.
  6. Be honest in your criticisms though sensitive enough not to kill another blogger’s spirit.
  7. Be faithful to those who you follow and your followers. Visit their blogs, comment on their posts. Don’t ignore them for months while you enjoy yourself with other bloggers. Provide good quality, well edited posts for your followers.
  8. Do not steal other people’s posts; re-blog, if permitted.
  9. Do not purposely misquote numbers, facts, and figures.
  10. Do not covet your fellow blogger’s freshly pressed award; his or her trifecta winner’s logo or any other blog challenge trophy ; his or her sense of humour or turn of phrase.

Your beloved departed is resting in peace and will rise in glory, Amen!

P.S. written for Daily Prompt: Dearly Departed.

All hail electronic friendships … down with traditional friendship

English: happy friendship day

Are you in the right group? Are you compatible with the others within your circle?

You may think the answer is ‘yes’ but suddenly you have an awakening that straightens you out. You ask yourself: financially, emotionally and intellectually, am I properly matched.

Examining yourself within that framework can be revealing. In fact, I’ve learnt that such an examination should be guided by what others think since this shapes their attitude towards you. You may consider yourself an equal but they may see you as the group’s football not purposely but because you sit on a low rung of the financial, emotional or intellectual ladder.

That is why I believe that traditional friendships that thrive on physical contact are overrated and are losing importance. An ‘electronic friendship’ is focused on the common areas between persons and the matters that are likely to cause division are downgraded in these modern ‘distant’ relationship.

Social media widens your circle of contacts, expanding areas of interests, places and races from which you can draw friends. Differences in time zones instead of reducing opportunities for relationships are now broadening them. Whether your sleep pattern classifies you as an early bird or an owl, you can tap into the computer and find someone anytime for a chat.

On a recent television programme a group of mental health experts promoted the view that social media and other digital technology tools were causing people to be more distant with each other and was therefore breeding loneliness and leading to an increase in cases of depression.

I strongly disagree.

During my recent awakening I’ve realise that my electronic friends are not interesting in things external to our common areas; and having a variety means all areas of my life are fulfilled. They encourage me and seldom put me down. Traditional friends on the other hand disappeared with negative changes in my fortunes; loss of my job, declining finances and so on.

So off, I go nurturing my electronic friends.

Self-plotted path

Daddy brushed his new suit, his heart swelling with pride.

“Get the phone and stop worshipping that ‘idol’,” his wife, Diana, chided him. Immersed in his thoughts, George didn’t hear her.

“Dana, I love you! Whatever it is, tell me.” Diana said into the phone.

“Calling from Africa?

“An epiphany?  Epiphany’s about church, something good … not this!

“Three semesters ago?”

“No degree!”

“You said you’d do WHAT?”

Painful screams pierced through George’s musing. He spun around. Diana was lying in a clumsy heap on the floor andBlack phone handset hanging on cord from the hanging telephone receiver he heard desperate, distant shouts of ‘Mum’.

(P.S.  Remember I said I wanted to see if I have a creative writing cell within me. To do so,  I am answering a challenge to write a 100 -word piece that contains, “You said you’d do WHAT?” Tell me how you think I am doing. Criticise me, laugh at or with me but please tell me your reaction. I am listening! Thanks!)