Buddy’s Big Adventures by Buddy

I told my mom I needed to write in the blog this week because I have had BIG adventures. TWO of them.

I was at a bike race and it was about ninety degrees, so my mom asked someone to take me in the shade while she worked in the pit at the bike race. But I did not want to be in the shade with someone. I wanted to be in the pit with my mom. So I escaped. People were diving for me, but they missed. I crossed under some yellow tape and all of a sudden a bike ran right into me! I went flying and some poop came out (well you try not pooping when something big runs into you) ( I wasn’t scared) (well okay maybe a little.) So there I was, lying on the ground, but then I got up and ran toward the pit again. I ran under some more yellow tape and I heard people screaming. Then I was next to my mom. She looked surprised and she scooped me right up, poop and all. She took me into the shade. I was tired. I lay down and rested. After that I felt fine. Even though everyone thought I should be hurt.

Here is the second adventure. I had a sore. No big deal. I licked it. It got bigger. Mom put stuff on it. I licked it. This went on for many days. Then the sore got a hole in it–like a volcano. Mom called the vet. I hate the vet. We went to the vet. When we got there I started doing the shaking-panting thing (because it smells funny in there) (I wasn’t scared) (well okay maybe a little.) They took me into a little room and stuck a needle in me. I did not make any whimpery noises. Then the vet made a slice on the sore and she took some tweezers and pulled out—-a bug-thing! It had been living in there! In me! It was like I had my own pet! They called it “Cuterebra.”  I would have named it something different. Maybe “Lucy.” The vet people were impressed because they said it was one of the biggest ones they’d seen. Who’s special, huh?

(Me, that’s who.)

Buddy, Adventure Maltese

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What if it’s True?

Every generation thinks the generation coming up is teetering on dissipation. It’s pretty much a checkmark for middle age when you find yourself thinking that “kids these days” aren’t nearly as 1] responsible 2] engaged 3] committed 4] educated as you were. But what if they aren’t? I own a schoolbook, Sheldon’s Modern School Third Reader, published in the late 1800’s. Here’s one of the writing exercises for the eight-year-olds to copy and learn: “Little children, love each other, never give another pain; if your brother speak in anger, answer not in wrath again.” The book unabashedly teaches the values of its society: be kind, be helpful, be strong, and keep trying.

In a house I once lived in, I found a newspaper wedged into a gap in the wall. It was dated January 1861. Most of the front page was a literal transcription of a debate in the Senate about whether to continue postal service, among other concerns, to those southern states that had just seceded from the United States. No sound bites, no catchy illustrations–this  newspaper assumed its readership didn’t need to be entertained, just informed; and being informed, could reach its own conclusions.

Is entertainment becoming more and more of a priority with each succeeding generation? A recent TED talk made the proposition that the millennials—the tag given to those born, approximately, between 1981 and 2001—could be the next “greatest generation.” The TED argument mostly ran along the lines of the millennials hyper-connectivity and their openness to change. Certainly, millennials are hyper-connected and an openness to change is always a good thing. But are millennials orchestrating the change themselves—building a society of values like Sheldon’s Modern School Third Reader—or are they simply ingesting what is fed to them?

Because technological connectedness is a form of consumerism.

By eschewing critical thinking for app-and info-tainment, millennials are allowing those who create the apps and programs to think for them, sort of like children do. Add to that, the fact that many millennials still live with their parents (and get along with them!) and you come up with the rather depressing conclusion that adulthood for this generation has been abnormally delayed.

A key component of adulthood is individuation. It is a time to test boundaries, stretch the brain, question authority—in short, a time to figure out who you are by questioning and comparing. (That’s why it’s almost necessary to not get along with your parents while individuating.)

So is anything really wrong with being a child in your twenties and thirties? Why not just be entertained? Because inevitably someone’s going to take charge of your life, and it would be better if it were you, not the conglomerations that deliver your entertainment. My advice to millennials: Become indignant. Become discerning. Become more of a creator and less of a consumer.

What if each successive generation is a little more willing to be entertained than to entertain the hard questions? What if it’s true?

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A New York Postcard

Richie and I drove to New York yesterday to attend the House Industries/AIGA event at Rapha Cycling club in the Meatpacking district, where Richie was a part of the panel discussion. House redesigned Richie’s bikes a few years ago and this event was the unveiling of their new typeface, Velo.

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There was a crush of people, mostly designers, it seemed, judging by the innovative eye-ware.The event was standing-room only and I met the children’s book writer and illustrator, John Segal. We had a great chat.

Buddy, the Adventure Maltese, was in peak form–he likes New York– and much adored, especially by the staff at our hotel, The Gansevoort.

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At the Gansevoort, we were, to our delight, upgraded to a suite and the manager came out to greet us personally. Hmmm. I don’t know any of those people in the wall decoration.

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Then he sent up a bottle of wine and some chocolates. Yum!

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Right now I am chillin’ in my suite and looking out the window to NYC, idly planning the morning. Breakfast somewhere, then maybe a bit of wandering in the West Village, then maybe a trip to Uniqlo to get a serviceable cashmere sweater.

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Yes, that is a swimming pool on the roof.

 

 

 

 

 

And here’s the Hudson River, from the balcony of the suite.

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All in all, pretty sweet.

No Problem

I’ve been thinking about thank you, or rather its response. The traditional response when someone says “thank you” is “you’re welcome.” But you rarely hear that anymore. When I listen to an interview and the interviewer says “thank you for coming on the show” the interviewee usually doesn’t say “you’re welcome.” More often they say something like “thank you” or “it’s been a pleasure”, or “I’ve enjoyed it” or “thank you for having me,” and on and on.

I’ve noticed that with twenty-somethings, “you’re welcome” has been replaced by “no problem.” How this started is a mystery to me. It partially speaks of a consciousness of we are all in this together, which is nice, but it also speaks of a self-absorbed world. This is highlighted when I’m at a restaurant and my server, say, fills up my water glass. When I say ”thank you” and he says “no problem” and what I really want to say back is “I didn’t think it would be since it is your job” but I don’t because they wouldn’t get it and would just think how they’re not going to become a crotchety middle-aged person like me.

Responding “you’re welcome” speaks of knowledge of the self and the role it has played in the particular interaction for which you are being thanked. “No problem” speaks of a sense of blissful arrogance—“I am doing this for you, but I’m going to graciously assure you that it is not a problem for me, in case you were worried.”

Or, perhaps “no problem” is not so self-absorbed but is instead a resigned dismissiveness to the baby-boomer generation—a generation that has squandered their responsibility to pass along a viable planet. Perhaps they are really telling us, “it’s no problem for me to do this for you, unlike the huge problems you have passed on to me. Thanks for nothing.”

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Various Iterations of No

I’ve been sending around my YA novel to agents in the hopes of representation. While no one has yet expressed interest, I have received a handful of rejections. They all express the same sentiments: they are regretful, the book world is so subjective, I deserve an agent who is as passionate about my work as I am, I should continue.

I am delighted to know about this world of polite “no’s.” I’m not unperceptive and I know these are more or less form letters, but I enjoy their courteous encouragement. And for people as busy as agents—in this world of instant electronic submissions—just receiving a reply can be interpreted as a form of success. But having run the gamut of iterations of “no” for a while, I now want to know why. To that end I have an idea: How about a form rejection letter that would have suggestions or comments built in that the agent would underscore or make bold or put an X next to. It could look something like this.

Dear Deb,

Thank you for giving me the opportunity to review your work. However, I am not going to offer you representation based on this manuscript because:

X Your writing needs to be tightened up

   Your characters are flat/tropey

    Your plot lacks sufficient development

X This subject is not selling right now

Best regards, Agent

Does that seem too harsh? I think it would be helpful and I don’t think it would take up any more of the agent’s time than cutting and pasting a form letter. I know brusque is not everyone’s cup of tea, but I prefer it to bland vagaries. (Well, I like to think I do.) I belong to a writing group that gets straight to the point. I review books professionally and I’m a member of the National Book Critics Circle. Yes, I sometimes get that “ouch” feeling when I get critiqued, but I always, eventually, appreciate it because it always makes my work better.

Stephen King wrote that it was a game changer for him when an editor scrawled a note on his rejected manuscript that it was too puffy and that the second draft equals the first draft minus ten percent. He took that advice to heart, pared down his stories and started getting acceptances.

Agents want to get good books out to the marketplace, and what better way to help that process than to give serious writers a teeny signpost, included in a form letter, that reflects the agent’s perspective?

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