There is a story going around Facebook and Twitter like wildfire, an 8-paragraph anonymous letter under a picture of the late 1980’s hip hop group NWA (posted at the end of the article). The writer of the letter, claiming to be a former record executive, reveals the intimate details of a secret meeting in 1991 that changed the face of hip hop.
The short version is that this meeting consisted of about 30 of the most powerful record execs at the time, and then some unidentified serious dudes in suits. Everyone was made to sign Confidentiality Agreements, and then told that the big hitters in the room recently invested in the private-sector prison industry, and had a vested interest in filling those prisons. To ensure that business was good, they revealed a master plan to promote gangster rap, which would create gun violence, drug epidemics, and generally the breakdown of society among the African American population, and lead to unprecedented numbers of arrests and, therefore, filled prison cells. And profit.
It’s a neat, convenient, horrific story, and we are ravenous over internet-based conspiracy theories these days, but I don’t believe it.
Don’t get me wrong – I’m not saying those mysterious, serious men in suits (I assume who were CIA or FBI), and those embedded in the nexus of power and ultra wealth in this country aren’t capable of such things, or have done worse. But this story has a lot of holes. Let’s take a look at it from a musical, and then a social perspective.
First off, the letter that this anonymous music exec wrote; he talks about the guilt he’s felt over the last twenty years for taking part in such a meeting, for steering rap towards the gangsta genre. But he was scared to talk about this meeting at the time because of the Confidentiality Agreement he signed, and even more so the repercussions he might face from the CIA or FBI (men in suits), who pulled guns at one point at the meeting. Now he’s decided to come forward, so he wrote this letter, excluded his name, and emailed this letter to a journalist.
He's left a lot of breadcrumbs for someone who wanted to remain anonymous. How hidden is his identity if he’s told is that he was one of 30 major decision makers in the music industry working for one of the big firms in 1991, who came over from Europe in the 1980’s, and quit in 1993? Ummm…that’s about as anonymous as a fat guy hiding behind a skinny tree. I’m sure anyone in the music business at that time could label this guy (if he exists) or any teenager with 15 minutes and Google could compile a short list.
And to speak to the fact that he was European. Europeans learn English in elementary and secondary school, where they are drilled in British English. Old habits die hard, which come out in their writing in subtle ways, like using ou instead of o in words like cataloug instead of catalog. I don’t see any signs that the person who wrote this letter was schooled in British English.
Granted, that might be a reach, and I’m just enjoying playing junior detective. We’re talking about a secret agenda to promote violence among the black community and fill prisons for profit (unfortunately, that part is very believable), so would they really trust a couple dozen outsiders to sit on this information with only a Confidentiality Agreement? A mere piece of paper? According to his account, a gun was drawn at the meeting, but there hasn’t been one single documented conversation, slip-up, or leak to the media about this in the ensuing 20+ years? Shaky, at best.
The story was supposedly emailed to someone named “Ivan” at the website Hip Hop is Read in 2012. I don’t know this person or this site and I’m sure they do a great job, but if you were a high-power music exec with a shaking confession that you’ve been holding on to for 20 years would you first go to….Hip Hop is Read.com? No offense to them, but I tend to believe an email to Rolling Stone, The Source, The LA Times, etc. would come to mind first. In fact, if you were in the industry that long you’d know just about every major music writer, and could disseminate this information with a lot more credibility, in a much less clumsy fashion, by picking up the phone and calling an old friend, off the record.
But let’s say that the Suits and the shady civilians who orchestrated the meetings wanted to promote gangster rap. All they needed to do was influence record company CEO’s in private, who then would create legitimate mandates within their own companies. They wouldn’t need to disclose their malfeasance to a room full of strangers, and take on exorbitant liability. The bad guys are sneakier than that.
Their logic fails in other regards. Supposedly they were going to promote gangsta rap in the music industry, which would grow like wildfire and create horrific societal problems and increased crime rates in the black community, and therefore fill their prisons. The only problem is that both of those conditions already existed in 1991, gansta rap and horrific societal problems in the inner cities and black communities.
This is where scrutiny of the music industry comes in:
I've been a hip hop head since 1986, and for those of us old schoolers, we know that the expression of political strife and inner city conditions was present in rap all the way back to KRS One with By All Means Necessary (RIP, Scott LaRock) in 1987, mirroring Malcolm X’s black power mantra.
Too Short was already firmly on the scene, and even if his music wasn’t political it definitely spouted the misogyny and anti-societal messages that later came to define the Gangsta Rap movement.
Ice-T was singing about killing cops, not playing one on NYPD Blue. His 1986 song “6 In The Morning” is often regarded as the first gangsta rap song, and it would be hard to argue.
Philadelphia’s Schooly D was rapping about shooting people and drug use four-albums deep by 1991, (I still love his song Saturday Night). I seem to remember Paris and Just-Ice and the Ghetto Boys as pretty damn hard.
Who can forget Public Enemy, perhaps my favorite hip hop group of all time, the first group to bring psychological warfare to your radio. They disseminated edu-tainment to the masses with scores of militant, pro-black songs like Fight the Power, Black Steel and the Hour of Chaos, Can’t Truss It and Who Stole the Soul on their albums It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold us Back, and Fear of a Black Planet. They were smart, angry, and talented, producing bass-shattering music that was a decade ahead of its time.
These pro-black, politically charged albums were more an outreach of the Black Panthers and Malcom X in the 1960’s and 70’s than they were the birth of gangsta rap. They expressed the ethos of revolution, musical speeches over beats that had everything to do with fists in the air at the 1968 Olympics and the teachings of Huey and Martin, not a gangsta lifestyle of alcohol and drugs, senseless violence, and turf wars.
So when did the Gangsta movement start? Someone who doesn’t know much about hip hop might say right around 1991, the time of this clandestine meeting. But all the way back in ’87 or ’88 NWA had taken hold as the first West Coast group that resonated on the east coast, (at least for me). But Niggaz Wit Attitudes was banned from most mainstream American radio stations, which goes against the theory that the music execs promoted them to fulfill their agenda.
Soon, NWA splintered as Doctor Dre and the DOC (who can forget “I am not illiterate no not even a little bit!” in It’s Funky Enough) left for Death Row Records, and an epic beef with Easy E ensued.
Let’s look at the charts back in those days to see what kind of rap groups were popping up, and if/when there is evidence of gangsta rap first taking hold in popular culture, to the outcome of creating societal problems and increasing incarcerations.
The anonymous internet story states, “As the months passed, rap music had definitely changed direction…gangster rap started dominating the airwaves. Only a few months had passed since the meeting but I suspect that the ideas presented that day had been successfully implemented.”
To test this, I did a search for top 100 Billboard singles for each year from 1989-1995, to track the mainstream rise of gangsta’ rap:
Ice Cube’s songs were definitely the hardest of that bunch so far, but I would argue that he was recounting the perils and pleasures of every day life in South Central LA, not going out of his way to promote his own personae as a violent gang-banger. The other songs were smoothed-out party ballads, even if they did intimately document inner city, West Side life.
Perhaps the G Funk era hit the charts before Gangsta Rap? This was two years after the alleged meeting in 1991, so surely record execs with that much influence could have already steered popular music in that direction. They were making money, for sure, but even those groups were considered incredibly risqué for the era. But I fail to see the rash of people joining the Crips and the Bloods and selling drugs and shooting each other because they listened to Nothing But a G Thang. Let’s keep looking at the charts:
The years and decades to follow brought us a lot of “studio gangstas,” but also a legitimization of gangsta rap thanks in part to Suge Knight at Death Row Records. But he definitely wasn’t part of the music establishment, and the only “investment” he had in prisons was money in his own commissary.
(Sorry Suge…I mean, Mr. Knight, I couldn’t resist. Please don’t fuck me up.)
I see no musical evidence of a shift toward mainstream gangsta rap in 1991 and 1992 spearheaded by the establishment.
So let’s look at this internet story through a societal lens.
For this account to have credibility, there would need to be a significant rise in incarceration rates, particularly among young African Americans, in the years following 1991.
Anyone who can follow a red line can see that the tsunami of increased incarcerations started 10 years earlier, and the 1990’s only followed the established (although disturbingly meteoric) trend of throwing our own citizens in prison.
In fact, from 1980 to 2008, the number of people incarcerated in America quadrupled-from roughly 500,000 to 2.3 million people (today the US has only 5% of the world’s population but 25% of it’s prisoners). However, there is no evidence of a shifting cultural morality causing that, especially post 1991.
I think we can all agree that if radical rap music was going to influence anyone it would have been black (in those days) teenaged males. But a look at the percentage of black male high school dropouts per year actually shows a significant decrease in the years 1990-1996, when this gangsta-rap-to-prison plan was supposedly in place:
Percentage of Black Male High School Dropouts.
(Note: Holy shit, dropout rates in the 20 %’s in the 1970’s and early 80’s?!)
Again, there is no credence to the myth of this secret meeting that changed rap and filled our prisons. We can write a whole volume of books on the sociological conditions of African Americans, the conscious construction of the permanent underclass in America, and our astronomical incarcerations rates. But those will be filled with statistics about profiling, police corruption, poverty, and the shift in criminal codes and sentencing that red-lined blacks into cells, not secret gatherings.
Remember that the 1980’s and early 90’s were some desperate times for inner-city minorities in Los Angeles, the epicenter of both the music industry and gangsta rap. Neighborhoods were plagued with blight and hopelessness that one would expect to see in Third World countries. Crack cocaine was infesting the city, and gangs spilled blood over almost every street corner in the ‘hood with a new vengeance.
Arguably, the most dangerous gang wearing blue wasn’t the Crips, but the LAPD. Instead of protecting and serving, they terrorized the city with a well-document reign of corruption, lawlessness, vigilantism, embezzling, and orchestrated violence toward civilians.
The tyranny of the LAPD and nightmarish conditions in the hood came to national consciousness on March 3, 1991, when the police were serreptitously videotaped beating Rodney King to a pulp after a car chase.
The city held its collective breath as the LAPD police officers went to trial, and then on April, 29, 1992 the verdict came down: the officers were acquitted of the charges.
The people couldn’t take it anymore. The city went crazy. And it burned.
By the time the US Army, Marines, and National Guard restored order 5 days later, the death toll was up to 53 people and more than 2,383 were injured, most of them civilians. A large portion of south central LA was in ashes, with more than 7,000 fires, damage to 3,100 businesses, and nearly $1 billion in financial losses.
If you want to read an insane account of the gangbanging conditions in LA and the riots, from someone who was there, check out Slipping into Darkness by M. Rutledge McCall.
But does this have anything to do with music? No.
Did songs create these conditions? Hell, no.
I find this kind of internet story extremely dangerous to the African American cause, which, by osmosis, is also the cause of human rights and the colored experience in America.
It lays blame to the fact that we have the highest incarceration rates of any country in the history of the world on a musical form, gangsta rap, and by proxy the subset of young, black, males who embraced that music. So you’re telling me that if these record execs met and decided to promote Country Western music, instead, our jails would only be half-filled and these societal issues in the hood would be less enflamed? That’s ridiculous, and insulting to the plight of real people who struggle against the throat-lock of disenfranchisement every day.
What this internet account has achieved, yet again, is to divide and conquer our attention from the root causes: endemic generational poverty, institutionalized racism, a rotten-to-the-core system of policing and incarcerations, our violent predilections in this country, and a culture of crime and violence that needs to be reprioritized toward education, family, and a new code of morality.
Instead, we’re revisiting the chicken-and-the-egg controversy: does society morph its norms to the messages portrayed in media and entertainment? Does music create behavior?
Again, that is another issue for another article, but to put that notion in proper perspective, this is your homework:
Go into the hood in any city and ask the first person you see hanging out on the corner wearing a red bandana if they are living that lifestyle because of the songs they hear on the radio. Judging by the look on their face, you’ll quickly realize how ridiculous that postulate is. And then run.
As I was writing this, contemplating the themes of depravity and violence in media and its relationship with art, I recalled Pablo Picasso’s Guernica. It’s an ultra-violent depiction of the bombing of the village of Guernica, in Basque Spain, that he produced in 1937. Yet, I’m fairly certain that no one ever accused Picasso of creating a cultural shift toward violence and lawlessness with this mural. Why not?
Is it because our culture has become so intellectually lazy that we can’t even manufacture racist stories correctly anymore?
Perhaps, music execs made far more money selling music than they did filling prisons. Perhaps, Gangsta Rap, with its violent, desperate, and impoverished musical predilections, was a reflection of what these young artists saw on the streets everyday, and that America has far bigger problems than censoring the musical account of that reality.
Is it possible that things were fucked up to begin with, and then art imitated life?
The original internet story:
If you want to read more by Norm Schriever:
John Hughes and Judd Apatow are the funniest movie makers of the last two generations, and both inspirations to me as a humor writer. Please vote for your favorite below, and I'll write a more in-depth article about that person, their work, and their style of comedy. Thank you!
I lived in Tamarindo, Costa Rica for about a year, and kept hearing about these three great Costa Rica lies. Every Tico (Costa Rican) knew them, but no one came right out and told me what they were. But over time, as I became more local and blended in with the Costa Rican culture, I pieced them together.
If you are going to Costa Rica on vacation, to live as an expat, or just on a surfing trip, it’s fun to know the three great lies. Recite them to a Tico and you’re guaranteed to get a laugh and some “local” respect. But just make sure you don’t fall for them!
1) El zarpe.
Just one last drink, before we call it a night.
I learned this one early on, that one last drink turns into two and three and next thing you know its 4 a.m. El zarpe basically means you’re not allowed to leave when you’re out having a good time with your friends!
2) Te pago mañana.
I’ll pay you the money I owe you tomorrow.
In fact, if someone owes you money, you’re never going to see a cent (which was consistent with what I’d seen in the States, too.) This is the Costa Rica equivalent of “I’ll gladly pay you Tuesday for a hamburger today!”
3) Solemente la puntita.
We won’t have sex—I’ll just put the tip in.
Ummm...no explanation needed, but if you fall for this one, ladies, then I think you fell for it on purpose! Lol.
Enjoy your time in the beautiful country of Costa Rica now that you know the three great lies! And if you want more, check out 30 Fun Facts About Costa Rica and be sure to read the best-selling book, South of Normal.
1. Prostitution is legal but possession of pornography is illegal. They even have unions, membership cards, health benefits, and police protection.
2. In most areas people cannot flush toilet paper because the pipes are old and only 1” wide, so toilet paper goes in the trash basket.
3. Pedestrians have very few rights in Costa Rica. They joke that Ticos love to use their horns but hate to use their brakes! It’s so bad that the Tico word for “speedbumps” is “Son muertos,” or, “The dead people.”
4. When raising your glass or beer to say “cheers” to Ticos you are supposed to look them directly in the eye, or else you’re cursed with seven years of a bad sex life. (apparently I haven’t been making very good eye contact, then).
5. Costa Ricans have no addresses and very few street signs. When mailing something or giving directions, they just point out proximity to nearby landmarks. So when I lived in San Pedro, a suburb of the main city, San Jose, my address was “50 meters south and 100 west of the church of San Pedro.”
6. Earthquakes are common in Costa Rica. They may get 2-40 per month depending on the movement of techtonic plates. Almost all of them are small, though they got a 7.6 last time I was living there.
7. Costa Ricans are not good at soccer compared to their Central and South American neighbors!
8. Ticos put coffee in their babies bottles along with milk, and also give it to young children.
9. The most popular national beer is Imperial. They drink it over ice with lime and salt, called a “michelada.”
10. "Guaro" is the national liquor, sort of like a fire-water sugarcane tequila. There is no denying it's strong, but I find it kind of nasty.
11. Fast food restaurants like McDonalds, Burger King, and Kentucky Fried chicken do home deliveries.
12. The meter in a taxicab is know as the “Maria,” which is a loose reference to the Virgin Mary and her honesty and virtue.
13. Cheap brand cigarettes are only about $1.65 per pack.
14. You aren’t allowed to wear sunglasses or hats inside of the banks (due to so many robberies)
15. The slang is much different than proper Spanish. Slang is called “pachuco.”
16. One slang word is to call someone “Mopri.” This is supposed to mean “primo,” or cousin, backwards. In the 90’s Costa Rican teen culture went through a phase where they were saying words backwards. Maybe around the time of Kriss Kross here in the US?
17. A lot of popular bands play the main stadium in San Jose, most recently the Red Hot Chili Peppers and then Lady Gaga.
18. Scientist actually named a species of Costa Rican fern after Lady Gaga after she played there. I’m not making that up!
19. They have bullfights in CR but instead of the bull being harmed, it runs free around the ring and tries to harm the brave teens and men who jump in there for sport. Almost every little town has a festival with bullfights during the holidays.
20. CR is one of the biggest cocaine transit nations in the world, as 90% of the cocaine that ends up in the US comes from Columbia to Costa Rica, and then up through Central America into Mexico and across the border.
21. There are roughly the same criminal penalties for marijuana as there are for cocaine and all drugs
22. Robert August brought the surf scene to Costa Rica with his 1968 documentary, Endless Summer, and then Endless Summer II.
23. If you get pulled over in Costa Rica the police can probably be paid off for around $40.
24. You are not allowed to wear shorts in a government or public office in Costa Rica - they see it as disrespectful and may turn you away.
25. They say there are Three Great Costa Rica Lies. It took me a year of living in Tamarindo, Costa Rica, to find them all out. They are a bit secretive but I do reveal them in my new book, South of Normal.
If you liked these, check out 30 Fun and Wild Facts about Costa Rica.
Talent is overrated. There, I said it. As a writer, it’s healthy to lose that image of yourself as a special prodigy who can summon other-worldly prose from the ether. Instead, think of yourself a blacksmith. You grab those words hot out of the fire and pin them to your work station, hammering mercilessly with all of the sweat and muscle you can muster, so you might just forge them into something useful.
How important is rewriting? Neil Simon, maybe the most prolific American playwright and screenwriter, penned over 60 successful works in his career, winning him more Tony and Oscar nominations than any other writer. In 1998 he released a memoir of his life and career. What do you think he called it? Rewrites.
To be a good writer, you’ll have to edit with ruthless abandon. Put your words into the coliseum and let them fight it out to see who is victorious. They are the gladiators and the lions - let them wrestle in the dust for survival. You’ve done so much already by giving them a life on the page, but that’s your only responsibility; from there they need to exist on their own merit.
Here are 5 more tips to rewrite well:
11. The 10% Rule.
I learned from Stephen King, in his awesome book, On Writing, (a must read) that my goal is to clip 10% of my content every time I go through it. Wait, does that mean if I went through 10 times there would be nothing left? Obviously I’m a writer, not a math major.
12. Reread with an agenda in mind.
Every time I proofread I have an agenda in mind. One time it’s to focus on dialogue, the next time on characters, then action, etc. Of course you catch other things along the way, but it’s a little overwhelming trying to polish the whole manuscript at once without a specific focus.
13. No humor is better than mediocre humor.
86% of the population thinks they are funny, but only 127 people actually are. There’s really no such thing as “mediocre humor” – it’s an oxymoron. It’s either funny, or it’s not. Likewise, if you are funny, you can study and work your ass off to create funny writing, but if you are not funny, none of that will help. Reading badly written humor leaves a taste in your mouth like chewing on a towel at a public pool, so understand your strengths and weaknesses.
14. Pay attention to the passive vs. the active voice.
Strong writing is written in the active voice, no matter what tense you are using. You’ll slip with a lot of these, but catch them as you proofread.
I was going to the store to meet her. (passive)
I went to the store to meet her. (active)
15. Show, don’t tell.
This is the Holy Grail of writing advice, which you’ll hear so many times from ‘experienced’ writers, as they look down their long, aquiline noses at you and apply hand sanitizer liberally after shaking. I’ve had plenty of people tell me to “show, don’t tell,” but almost no one ever told me HOW to do that, because, of course, they don’t know either.
It’s simple – follow this checklist when you have something you want to convey to the reader, in order of effectiveness.
First: Can I reveal it in Dialogue?
Second: Can I reveal it by showing the character doing something? With Action, that would show well in a movie?
Last Resort: I, the writer, tell the reader in my Narrative voice.
So… if I’m trying to say that a female character is sad because her boyfriend broke up with her, I can do it these three ways:
Narrative: She was sad that he broke up with her. (sucks)
Action: She saw a couple walking into the movie theater holding hands, and looked down at the ground. (not bad!)
Dialogue: “Sundays mornings are always the hardest,” she said. (sniff sniff, I’m reaching for Kleenex)
Does that help? I hope so. What other rewriting advice do I have for you?
Have fun. Knowing that you’ll polish everything later frees you up to let go and write from your subconscious, not your rigid, outcome-obsessed brain. Let it fly. Get in the zone. Write through the crap, because it takes sorting through a lot of coal to get to a diamond.
And take notes. Keep a Word document open as a “slush file” while you write. Use it like a clipboard to store new ideas, a style sheet for names, sayings, dialogue quirks, what you’ve covered, outlines. Also clip and paste everything that you take out, so you might be able to use it somewhere else later on. You’ll be amazed what comes out of that slush file – including ideas for later projects, like maybe a book about rewriting? Hmmmm….
You won’t feel so bad about putting your words in the arena to get slaughtered if you know they might live to fight another day.
Drop me a line some time to share your writing tips and experiences with the pen and the page: hi@NormSchriever.com
Read Part 1 of this blog.
I am a firm believer that you write a book, but you rewrite your way to a good book. Ernest Hemingway rewrote the last page of Farewell to Arms 39 times. When asked by a reporter what technical issue he was struggling with, he replied “Getting the words right.” Well said, Big Papa.
Personally, filling up the pages is not a problem - I can bang out about 5,000 words a day…but the problem is that only a few of those lines are actually readable! So to craft my writing into clear, effective communication geared toward other human beings it takes me a tremendous amount of proofreading and editing.
I used to hate rewriting, but as I kept doing it I learned the tricks of the trade, noticed patterns, and practice led to proficiency. And guess what?
I still hate it.
But I do see its glowing effect on my finished manuscript. I actually think that rewriting is more important than the first round of writing, and I dedicate about 75% of my time invested into a book into that process. I’m coming to realize that this tedious hard work is the barrier to entry that truly separates the indie amateur from the professional wordsmith. If you want to earn your place within that pantheon, put in that time.
When I was inexperienced and naïve and didn’t know my ass from my elbow about writing (which was Wednesday) I studied books on theme, plot, conflict, dialogue, developing characters, suspense, emotion, etc. ad infinitum, but I couldn’t find a good book about editing and rewriting for a layperson like me, who slept through most of high school English class.
A search for writing on Amazon (my new favorite thing to do is research target markets and competition on Amazon), 542,802 results come up. However when I add those two important letters and search REwriting, only 1,973 results come up - in the whole civilized English-speaking world! Including some parts of New Jersey!
That’s the secret. THAT’S what professional writers understand that novices don’t. When you are green and intimidated by writing a book you think developing enough content is the real mountain to climb, and therefore you spend three pages describing what the waitress at the diner looks like. Who cares? Certainly not the reader. Just tell them that Flo came over and poured black mud into your cup and they’ll fill in the gaps with their own imagination.
You can write one page a day and have a sizable manuscript by New Year’s Eve, so content is the easy part. (Note: if you only can write one page a day you’re either using a blunt crayon or you’re holding on way too tight and you need to drink some wine, crank up the music, and let it go.) But I assure you that no one has EVER started out with a polished draft.
I’ve kept copious notes as I chug along with my red pen, struggling and failing fantastically, and here are the first 10 tips on rewriting to get you started. (I’ll give you the other 5, including the Holy Grail of rewriting, in part 2).
1. Never use two words when you could use one. Chose the BEST word.
It was a hot, humid night. (If your story starts with those lines, burn in.)
It was a balmy night. (Still sucks, but there’s less of it to suck)
2. For strong sentences place your subject and verb at beginning of the sentence.
As the sunlight faded, we walked down the street.
We walked down the street as the sunlight faded. (much better, right?)
3. Trust your words, and don’t over-explain.
A good example of that? Look at the sentence I just wrote. I should have written, “Trust your words.” That would have been far more effective. Beginning writers try to bury you in an avalanche instead of letting one snowflake drift down and land on your nose.
4. Adhere to the rhythm of three.
In writing, three is the magic number. A list of three is always stronger than a list of two or even four! There is a rhythm to three items. It’s a fundamental tool of humor writers, who use the first two items to set and reinforce a pattern, and then deviate from that expected pattern in the third item to create humor.
5. Adverbs suck.
Do a Word search for words that end with -ly and erase your adverbs. They are useless for the most part, don’t read well, and are a symptom of lazy writing.
She walked across the room, silently and carefully.
She tiptoed across the room.
6. Avoid “filler” words.
Really, very, big, small, quickly, slowly, basically, actually, about, just, truly, some, all of, then, that, some, literally, both, other, for, I think, started, I believe, strongly, etc.
I could write a whole blog just on filler words (and maybe I will!). But until then, feel free to email me hi@NormSchriever.com if you want the list I've compiled.
7. Cancel out redundancy and duplication.
See what I did there? You only need to say something once when you’ve said it correctly.
8. Think ‘build up and pay off.’
This is the conscious tool of writing humor, drama, suspense, or emotion – blow up a balloon with conflict and then pop it with the resolution
9. EVERY line has to either advance story or build characters.
Anything else should be removed with extreme prejudice. Your sentences may sound cool or be written well, but if they don’t reveal the character or jolt the story along, they have no use to you, or the reader.
10. “Murder your darlings.”
Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch, wrote in On the Art of Writing, that you need to “murder your darlings,” meaning that you’ll have to cut out lines and scenes and even whole chapters that you love. Kill them. It doesn’t matter what YOU love, the only thing that matters is getting the reader from the starting line to the finish line. If you’re rewriting correctly you’ll have a lot of funerals for dead content, and then move on with a better story.
Read Part 2 of this series, where I reveal the final 5 ways to rewrite a great book, including advice that is Holy Grail of writing!
The morning of March 21 I was watching the Today Show and heard something a correspondent said about Dj Jazzy Jeff that bothered me.
That night at 10 p.m. I wrote a blog calling out the Today Show, in defense of DJ Jazzy Jeff.
On March 22 I posted it on Facebook and Twitter, and shared it with a few DJ and music lover friends of mine, who shared and retweeted.
Envy McKee, a media personality in Philadelphia, shared it on Facebook and Twitter.
It later reached DJ Jazzy Jeff, himself, and his wife, and he retweeted it out to his138,180 followers, and personally thanked me for defending him.
By 10p.m. on March 22 I had over 1,000 hits to my blog.
March 22 it was retweeted between Jeff's followers, fans, and peers.
I checked in late in the day and saw that the link to my blog was being posted around, and I followed a few of those people.
One of them was someone named @Questlove. I saw he had a link on his site with the title "Shame on you @Today Show." Someone else must have written an article about it, or it hit national media. I clicked on the link and was amazed that it came back to my blog page.
@Quest Love is the drummer for the Roots, a hip hop icon, and the lead band member on the Jimmy Kimmel show. He had retweeted my article to all 2,518,472 followers.
By 10 p.m. I had over 10,000 hits to my blog and climbing.
Did I sell a million books instantly? No. Can I leverage that into a lot of new followers, people subscribing to my blog, credibility with an email list who will read my next article, reach out for national media, and use it to engage so many conversations that my arms are going to fall off from typing today? Hell yeah.
Was it fun? Hell yeah.
But the best part of all came around 10 p.m. March 23, when the blog had “calmed down” to “only” 3,000 hits. I got a tweet directly from Dj Jazzy Jeff, thanking me.
No, Jazzy Jeff, thank YOU!
If you’d like some advice how to create a great article from the heart that goes viral, hit me up!
Can I be honest with you? I was really worried about dating in Costa Rica for another reason. When I finally did get the chance to meet a lovely nice young lady and we courted and went on seventeen dates and I met her family and got her father’s permission and we got matching tattoos and Googled each other and were finally ready for a special, intimate night together, there was one possibility that could scare Little Norm right back into my drawers: Jungle Bush. You’ve heard of 70s Bush, right? Well Jungle Bush was (in my mind) the tropical equivalent of 70s Bush. I won’t go into too much detail, but for my readers who weren’t born until Puff Daddy started rapping, here’s a snapshot: In the continental United States in the 1970s there was a whole generation of young people who were…how can I say this with the utmost sensitivity…they were all DIRTY. It was hip to wear filthy bellbottoms and man-blouses and everyone went barefoot and slept with each other because, of course, STDs weren’t invented until the second term of the Reagan administration. They listened to horrible music with finger cymbals and three-hour sitar solos and did a lot of drugs. Somehow that was all supposed to stick it to THE MAN and bring the troops home from Vietnam. In my opinion, they should have made THE MAN listen to the music and they would have signed a peace treaty the next day. Anyway, a horrible byproduct of their lax hygienic life choices was that they didn’t have time to focus on personal grooming south of their equators, if you know what I mean. So everyone walked around with 70s Bush, and when they took off their undergarments they all looked eerily similar to Kareem Abdul Jabbar when he fought Bruce Lee in “Enter the Dragon.” Somehow they found this attractive and kept copulating with reckless abandon—it must have been the drugs.
Yes, it was thirty-something years later, but I was in Costa Rica, a Third World country of rainforest where their main economic exports were bananas and sugarcane. Where were battery-powered personal shavers on that list, I wondered? It was called a Brazilian Wax and not a Costa Rican Wax for a reason. They couldn’t even pave their own roads, for Christ’s sake. Pornography wasn’t legal and I had to smuggle in vibrators for the local women! I was terrified that when I finally get intimate with a nice Tica, she’d suffer from a case of Jungle Bush and I’d have to excuse myself from the festivities by faking a groin pull and climb out of the bathroom window naked and run away and possibly move out of town.
Yup, times we're tough on the dating front in Costa Rica. Tamarindo, Costa Rica, surf, ski, snowboard, diving, pura vida, Central America, Nicaragua, San Juan del Sur, Amazon best seller, travel, adventure, backpack, hiking, sharks, Endless Summer, Robert August, memoir, fitness journey, globetrotting, perfect beach, paradise, spring break, expat, live abroad, work abroad, summer reading, around the world, great read, humor, laugh out loud, South of Normal, Pushups in the Prayer Room
That day has arrived, the highly anticipated moment that only comes twice a year and completely rocks your world. No, I’m not talking about the two times a year you have sex, I’m talking about Daylight Savings Time.
I’m not a big fan. The morning of the time change we run around the house furiously, trying to set every clock back as if a giant comet will slam into the earth and wipe out humankind if we don’t get it all done by 8 a.m. Just when we think we’ve adjusted every clock, watch, radio, and appliance timer in the house, we’re reminded that there’s the matter of the dashboard clock in the car to attend to. That in itself takes 45 minutes, trying to cram the end of a paperclip into a microscopic opening while simultaneously pushing the correct buttons with the other hand, crossing us up and eliciting curses that aren’t appropriate for a Sunday morning.
I highly recommend leaving the clocks alone and just waiting six months until they move back one hour again, but that doesn’t seem to be a popular opinion.
Instead, everyone complains about the hour of sleep they’re going to lose, so much so that they lose 2.3 hours just talking about it. I have to admit, when someone cheerily tells me “Don’t forget to spring forward eight Sundays from now!” I want to slap them. And if I hear another bad joke about how we lost an hour, I’m going to kick someone in their balls. We did not lose an hour. You can’t just “lose” an hour (other than by watching Burn Notice.) And we don’t ever “get” an extra couple hours of daylight. They’re all out there anyway, no matter if we set our clocks backward or forward or stand on our heads and speak in tongues.
I understand it used to be a “sunlight thing,” but why didn’t people just wake up one hour earlier? Wouldn’t that have been easier than all of this nonsense? Imagine if aliens came down and examined our society from an objective, clinical viewpoint. There would only be one conclusion they could come up with about the bizarre concept of Daylight Savings Time, before they got in their spaceship and went back to the planet Zerthion Phobius 9.2 and sent another flaming comet down to blow us up: whoever invented Daylight Savings Time was really, really high.
You have to smoke something pretty strong to come up with: “Dude let’s just pretend that it’s an hour earlier, and we’ll tell everyone to change their clocks at exactly the same time, all over the world. Yeah, that will work. Now light that incense and roll up another one.”
A little internet digging reveals that a nice fella named George Vernon Hudson from New Zealand invented Daylight Savings time in 1895. I’m telling you, Georgie was smoking the good shit. He's #1 on our list. DST was used on and off in Europe during times of war, but didn’t even become universal in the United States until the 1970’s, to help cut electricity usage during the energy crisis. The 1970’s? People talk about DST like it was some biblical mandate.
This all led me to thinking, as it often does, who else throughout history probably smoked marijuana.
Some of them seem obvious…
2. Whoever came up with the spelling for “Wednesday” was definitely hitting the pipe. (I recommend we officially change it to “Humpday.”)
3. The astrologists who all of a sudden decided Pluto wasn’t a planet anymore were baked. How are you a planet one day and then you’re just a 5,000 mile round ball of rocks the next day? That’s like saying one day, “Sorry New Jersey, you’re not a state anymore.” Well, bad example – that would actually make sense. But you know what I mean.
4. Who else? Albert Einstein? What do you think? Have you seen his hair? He shagged Marilyn Monroe. That dude could party.
5. Mother Theresa probably hit the bong every once and a while – she was WAY too nice.
6. Ben Franklin was as high as a kite.
7. Michael Jackson was an alien.
8. Whoever built the pyramids had to be smoking reefer. In fact, the Egyptian Pharaohs did use marijuana for its health and transcendental benefits.
9. Christopher Columbus carried cannabis sativa seeds on board his ships, and thus takes credit for introducing marijuana to the Americas. No wonder why he sailed hecka slow and kept getting lost.
10. Queen Victoria’s private physician prescribed marijuana when she had bad menstrual cramps.
11. Joan of Arc led the French army to victory over the British in the 15th century when she was only 19 years old, but then was accused of using “witch drugs” (including cannabis) and burned at the stake. She probably fucked up the rotation. Puff, puff, pass, Joan.
12. They’ve found residue of cannabis on clay pipes unearthed from William Shakespeare’s garden in England, though he would claim “Doth thinketh it belongs to yee landscaper.”
13. Jesus was a hippie, walking around the dessert with Birkenstocks and stinking of patchouli oil, never having any money or bringing enough food, but somehow still making do. I saw him selling hash brownies at a Dave Matthews show in Colorado once – true story.
14. Buddha? He sat around naked except for a loincloth with half-closed eyes as people brought him incense and snacks as offerings. Yeah, that’s an easy one.
15. Michelangelo had to be stoned when he painted the ceiling of the Sixteen Chapels. That’s a lot of manual labor.
16. Thomas Jefferson grew marijuana.
17. So did George Washington.
18. Michael Phelps, who won more Olympic medals than anyone else in history, had the munchies so bad that Subway signed him as a spokesperson.
19. Clinton tried it but couldn’t figure out the inhale thing correctly,
20. Where Barrack Obama got it right.
21. Not only did George Bush smoke weed, but Mr. “War on Drugs, God talks directly to me,” was a sloppy drunk and a big cokehead when he went to Yale.
22. Al Gore invented marijuana.
23. The ancient Greeks gave marijuana to teenage boys to try and calm their sexual urges enough to sleep through the night
Who else are some documented marijuana smokers throughout history?
24. Winston Churchill,
25. Walt Disney,
26. The Chinese emperors,
27. John F. Kennedy,
28-30. Mega-wealthy entrepreneurs Bill Gates, Ted Turner, and Sir Richard Branson.
That’s pretty good company. Me, personally? I can care less about smoking or not smoking these days, but I’m glad to see the U.S. is starting to get its head out of its ass and loosening up on a plant that’s been on earth as long as we human beings have.
But either way, please, I’m begging you, someone get stoned enough to come up with a better idea than the Daylight Savings Time thing.
Wait…what’s that? What did you say? Someone just reminded me cheerily to “remember to spring forward today, buddy, because we lost an hour.” Please excuse me for a second – I have to go kick someone in the balls.
To read more semi-funny writing by Norm I would recommend picking up his new book, South of Normal. Click on the book cover to see more.
Tamarindo, Costa Rica, surf, ski, snowboard, diving, pura vida, Central America, Nicaragua, San Juan del Sur, Amazon best seller, travel, adventure, backpack, hiking, sharks, Endless Summer, Robert August, memoir, fitness journey, globetrotting, perfect beach, paradise, spring break, expat, live abroad, work abroad, summer reading, around the world, great read, humor, laugh out loud, South of Normal, Pushups in the Prayer Room
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The Queens of Dragon Town!
Norm Schriever is a best-selling author, expat, cultural mad scientist, and enemy of the comfort zone. He travels the globe, telling the stories of the people he finds, and hopes to make the world a little bit better place with his words.