Monday, December 31, 2012

Etiquette and Protocol in the 21st Century

William Hanson is the self-avowed etiquette and protocol expert from the U.K. Hanson insists that etiquette and protocol are very necessary in our digital age, because "people are persistently being rude, inconsiderate and generally ghastly." He believes that "good manners and etiquette, which are based on common sense, should be universal." Hanson was contributed to the commentary of the Royal Wedding of Prince William and Catherine Middletonand The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee for the BBC, CNN, and America's Discovery TLC Channel.

Let's take a look at a few entries from his very popular blog.

Hanson has this advice on avoiding Christmas Card faux pas:

1. Do pick charity Christmas cards.
2. Make sure your envelope flaps are triangular, rather than straight.
3. Do not print signatures onto the cards. It's rude. Handwrite them.
4. Ditto, choosing not to address the card to the recipient.
5. eCards are not the same as a proper Christmas card.
And lastly,
6. If you feel you need to write to your address book with a chirpy Christmas newsletter, which will often boast of the family triumphs over the past 12 months, then it’s probably time you had a review of your contacts.

His post on "How to be a Downton Gentleman" has been well received. Nuggets of advice, include a gentleman never wears a hat indoors; when the ladies repair into the drawing room after dinner, gentlemen are to rise from their seats until they have left the room; the hallmark of a true gentleman is that he knows how to tie a bow tie; when wearing a waistcoat, a gentleman always has the bottom button unfastened; et cetera.

He offers this pithy advice on how to make your napkins the envy of your neighbors: "I love a good stiff napkin. I'd never dream of offering a guest anything but." He further says, "White is the best colour for napkins, although multicoloured ones are fine for out-door affairs. Gingham works nicely for barbecues and picnics." Napkins come in different sizes but are always square: dinner 22–26 inches, lunch 18–24 inches, tea 12 and cocktail 9. Hanson further gives instruction on how to perfectly starch a napkin.

What beauty products men should use is covered in: "Men can moisturise too" where he defiantly admits: "I love a beauty product." His favorite products are: Alpecin C1 Caffeine Shampoo, Bed Head Sugar Dust, Clinique Even Better Eyes, L’Oreal Nude Magique BB Cream, and Laura Mercier Flawless Skin Face Polish among others.

One of his freelance jobs include instructing others on how to be a butler: "I taught her how [I] clean silver, serve afternoon tea, set the table, answer the door, as well as [provide] butler service at table."

One final salvo that caught my eye is on setting up a guest bedroom to perfection involves fan folding the top couple sheets of a new toilet roll, a flourish on top of the tissue box, and ironed bedsheets and duvets.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Picture Day Friday: Canute

Canute was one of the great Anglo-Saxon kings of the early 11th century, who famously tried to command the tides. He could not control the sea, but stemmed the tide of Viking invasions on England's shores. Ironically, he was a Viking warrior, who went on to become the ruler of an empire which, at its height, included England, Denmark, Norway, and part of Sweden.

[Image copyrighted by the Daily Mail.]

Monday, December 10, 2012

Careful or You’ll End Up in My Next Novel

A T-shirt with a message of "Careful or You’ll End Up in My Next Novel" is a common sight at writers' conferences.

However, in the case of Angela Hargreaves, her own neighbors in Eccleshall, Staffordshire, are accusing her of skewering them in her erotic e-novel Rotten Row.

On Amazon, the book is described thusly: "[The story contains] tales of love, death, nostalgic regret, sexual encounters, romance, marriage, divorce and desperate times but ultimately how quickly our fortunes can and do change. [It] is about the petty spitefulness and complexity of living in close proximity to some neighbours."

The Daily Mail writes, "Authors often base their novels on their own experiences, over-heard conversations or eccentric characters they may have met throughout their lives." But as author Anne R. Allen writes, "I've tried to skewer a few real people in my fiction, but it never works. The character always takes over and makes herself sympathetic, and/or entirely different from the person on whom I tried to perpetrate my literary revenge." Even John Steinbeck admitted the impossibility, "I have tried to keep diaries, but they didn’t work out because of the necessity to be honest" to the character.

However, Hargreaves' neighbors see themselves in the steamy scenes and saucy characters. One person said, "...the book had caused 'major problems' and that there have been 'a lot of tears shed'. How would you like to live next to somebody who was writing things that were talked about in private into black and white? It is unreal."

Hargreaves is quoted by The Daily Mail saying, "The characters in Rotten Row are fictional and many of the things that happen in the book didn't happen at all."

As a counterpoint to this is this blog by Tamara Hunter on February 28, 2012. At the Perth Writers Festival this year, author Michael Sala said, "You have this terrible, terrible power as an author. You can literally take revenge on everyone if you want to. They’re all subject to how you design the story. You have got to be a little scared of that, I think." Sala's debut novel is The Last Thread, a fictionalized version of his own turbulent and secrecy-filled childhood.

Writer Rachel Robertson said that in her book Reaching One Thousand she "saw it as a mark of respect in a way to change the names. By using different names and being honest about them I am reminding the reader: ‘This is my take on this. This isn’t what really happened or the whole truth. This is my understanding’." Then again there's screenwriter, blogger and broadcaster Marieke Hardy, whose acerbic, voyeuristic, and entertaining memoir, You’ll Be Sorry When I’m Dead includes revealing stories about ex-lovers, passionate friendships, and a swingers’ party, said that "in her case, the decision to use real names felt more honest and honorable."

What ethics do you think should form the moral map for a writer?

[An interesting historical side note: Rotten Row was the area on the south side of Hyde Park in London where the fashionable young of the nobility rode decorously every morning in the Georgian and Regency period. It was also a fashionable place for upper-class Londoners to see and be seen during the afternoon promenade time.]

Friday, December 7, 2012

Picture Day Friday: Thari Women

Thari women from Pakistan's Sindh district that's part of the vast Thar desert. Culturally, they're related to India's Rajasthani desert nomads. Religiously, they're very much in the minority with their belief in Hinduism. Dhatki is the main language spoken in the Tharparkar region of Sindh where many of the Thari live.

In complete contrast to the monochromatic desert landscape they live in, the Thari have created a culture that is vibrant, colorful, and full of life. They are the world's premier environmentalists, in that, preservation and conservation are bred in them from birth.

Their livelihood is entirely dependent upon the rains during the monsoon season and deep wells the rest of the year. Thus water has informed their food consumption, culture, lifestyle, entertainment, dress, as well as their personal attitudes and values.

Commercially, the Thari are involved in handcrafting pottery, puppets, leather items, wood items, carpets, metal decorations, block prints, embroidered shoes, embroidery beading and mirror work on clothes and tapestries, painting, colorful and intricate jewelry, among other works of art and craft. The handicrafts are distinguished by their bright, cheerful colors.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Writing Advice by the Famous

A couple years ago, UK's The Guardian ran a list of dos and don'ts of writing fiction by well-known writers. Here are some highlights:

"Increase your word power. Words are the raw material of our craft. The greater your vocabulary the more ­effective your writing. We who write in English are fortunate to have the richest and most versatile language in the world. Respect it." —P.D. James, British mystery author

"Beware of clichés. Not just the ­clichés that Martin Amis is at war with. There are clichés of response as well as expression. There are clichés of observation and of thought—even of conception. Many novels, even quite a few adequately written ones, are ­clichés of form which conform to clichés of expectation." —Geoff Dyer, British journalist

"Style is the art of getting yourself out of the way, not putting yourself in it." —David Hare, British playwright and theatre and film director

Never complain of being misunderstood. You can choose to be understood, or you can choose not to." —David Hare

"A story needs rhythm. Read it aloud to yourself. If it doesn't spin a bit of magic, it's missing something." —Esther Freud, British novelist and actress

"Trust your reader. Not everything needs to be explained. If you really know something, and breathe life into it, they'll know it too." —Esther Freud

"The reader is a friend, not an adversary, nor a spectator." —Jonathan Franzen

"Don't read your reviews. Don't write reviews. (Your judgment's always tainted.)" —Richard Ford, American novelist

"Don't drink and write at the same time." —Richard Ford

And perhaps the most obvious and the most important:

"Write. Put one word after another. Find the right word, put it down. Finish what you're writing. Whatever you have to do to finish it, finish it." —Neil Gaiman, British author