Monday, September 27, 2010

Trumpet-blowing Time!

A high point for every writer is getting published. Maybe nobody's buying the novel, and the short stories languish between magazine submissions - but if you read periodicals, you have perpetual opportunities to see your name in print.

Previously I've scored with the Washington Post:
A letter (co-written with Fred) about the renaming of National Airport to honor Ronald Reagan.

One about the real value of a machine that chews up tumbleweeds - the article's tone was derisive, compelling me to observe that a flaming tumbleweed is the fastest way for a prairie fire to spread.

Another in response to DC Police incarcerating a woman whose blood alcohol level was well below the legal threshold. Arresting her, they cited "zero tolerance" for alcohol. Apply this principle to other situations: should we arrest drivers for going 20 in a 25 mph zone?

This February I scored a coup: two letters in the Washington Post in the same week:
One was on the editorial page, regarding the discomfort suffered on airplanes by oversized passengers and their seatmates. I suggested that airlines replace three-seat configurations with two-seaters, and charge whatever premium they find appropriate.

In the Health section my letter described the technique that helped me stop biting my fingernails.

I moved to Denver this spring, and subscribed to the Denver Post.

My letter in that paper about Christo's "Over the River" proposed project pointed out that I'd seen fabric samples at an exhibit in Washington DC. Far from being opaque, the translucent material on display invited the eye to see beyond its shimmering surface.

Then this Sunday Sept. 26th, I scored! Twice! --

1. My letter published in the Denver Post, "Making a difference with a bicycle | eLetters" was in response to Nicholas Kristof's column on World Bicycle Relief. I mentioned several similar organizations which have been operating for years in different parts of the US. These groups collect and ship bicycles to Third World countries, turning those extra bikes gathering dust, into much-needed low-cost durable transportation.

2. My letter showed up at the top of the column of letters in the Sunday New York Times' Week in Review section: Letters: A Drug Trial, and a Wrenching Choice I suggested revamping drug trials in situations where the control group's treatment has been well established as painful and ineffective: Use data from previous trials for the control group, and give all participants the new treatment.

So when you think you can't stand another rejection letter, try another venue:
If you know something an article writer didn't, your information may be welcome.
If your perspective is original, share it.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Christo's "Over the River" Project

It's been more than a decade since Christo and Jeanne-Claude (who passed this summer) first selected a stretch of the Arkansas River Canyon in central Colorado for their project. The plan?
To suspend sections of translucent silvery fabric over portions of the river within a thirty-mile section.
The obstacles? Chiefly the Bureau of Land Management, which has demanded study after study of the installation and its impacts. It was easier to get permission to wrap the Reichstag!

As we see anytime someone wants to step beyond usual expectations, there's been a lot of uninformed opposition -

Oh, the traffic will be terrible! (maybe traffic will be slowed down, so people will take a look at something they've never seen)

Oh, it will be like putting a lid on the river! (the translucent fabric invites the eye through its shimmer, to the canyon walls, clouds and sky)

Oh, it will be ugly! (the proposed material is beautiful)

Oh, it will be destructive! (Christo has placed his art in the midst of nature for decades - his creations and the natural world enhance one another)

Oh, it's a gimmick to make him rich! (all his projects are self-supporting)

These objections all add up to: Oh, it won't be like anything we've ever seen - yikes! (true, except the fear part)

There's also been support, from artists, and from people who agree that works of art open our beings in ways we cannot calculate ahead of time. In an era when much of what we do has predictable outcomes, we need these surprises.
Christo's not proposing a re-hash of something he already did, or that anyone else ever has done.

The essence of art is that it gives us a new look at something we think we know, and by seeing it in a changed way, understanding it differently.

I hope Over the River wins approval, and if/when it does, I plan to be one of the many volunteers who put the structures in place.