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Showing posts from April, 2021

Getting the Cattle to Abilene as a Conceptual Skeleton - on Writing and Diversity

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Harry Youtt teaches a writing device he calls Getting the Cattle to Abilene. It means you can spend half a page on minutiae  –  the kettle falls into the fire, or Jim Bill shoots himself in the foot  –  but if you don't get the cattle to Abilene, your story has no raison d'etre , just a bunch of beef out among the tumbleweeds. Social rules and cues exist to herd us along the road to Abilene, in this case meaning where Society wants to go, the  marketplace where cattle will be deemed of some value. Cattle that never get to Abilene have no assigned value. Our protestations stand mute and don’t defend us in situations where we don’t want to be defensive:  We want so much, just this once, to fit in. So instead of jumping into the conversation, we run an eternal slideshow against the back wall, looking for a similar scenario with a positive outcome so we’ll have a template upon which to act. But if I’ve done my job right, there isn’t a similar scenario. I’ve tried to throw mysel

Emotional Diplomacy, and Where it Falters vs. Folk Music

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Our diplomacy suffers while it tries to defend patriarchal underpinnings. Maybe not explicitly excluding fat chunks of American society, but protecting the stability of a system built by and for elite white males who wanted to set up in the New World what they couldn’t have in the old . Those old white guys thought they were the oppressed; maybe they thought they were being fair. They literally didn’t see as peers all the people who didn’t look like them. There’s evolutionary precedent for that ( evolutionary sociologists will tell you all about it ) but there’s also empirical evidence that we’ve evolved the ability to get over ourselves. We don't need to serve that mindset. I'm attending  Folk Unlocked  online, an annual event which usually overruns a hotel with troubadours somewhere in North America. As a former hotel worker, I shudder but also want to join in. One of the panels I attended -  Anti-Racism: Setting a New time in Folk Culture  - included the voices of @joe_seamo