> Essays > Lyrical > Parable | Sermon | Lullaby | Moonlight on the Ocean

The Lyrical Muse

The writings prompted by this muse are those in which I indulge -- perhaps, some might say, over-indulge -- my love of words and word-smithing. Very different circumstances engendered each of the pieces here; their stories are given below.

  • The Parable of the Sky Islands (should be crosslisted under Exasperated)

    In the weeks of late December 2002 and early January 2003, I had one too many conversations with confused European intellectuals attempting to understand why Americans -- as a nation -- seemed so clueless about their relationship to the rest of the world, the rest of the world's attitudes towards war, and similar concerns stemming from President Bush's one-man cavalry charge. I found myself quite often having to explain how wealth insulates -- an explanation which was double-edged, because while material wealth insulates and distances, so does intellectual wealth.

  • Sermon and Prayer (no, really).

    As I was preparing to teach summer session 2001 at the University of Houston -- Clear Lake, my good friend (and notable UHCL Futures alumna) Terry Grim asked if I might consider offering a service on "the future of God" at the local Unitarian church, of which she had just been elected president. During the summers, they feature guest ministers and speakers while their own minister is on vacation. She and I chose music and appropriate readings from the Unitarian hymnal, and I offered these thoughts. Just prior to the sermon, it is their habit to engage in a five-minute meditation; as they were currently re-thinking their goals as a community, I designed the meditation as a guided visualization of a preferred future for their church and its congregatation fifteen years in the future. And then followed it with this.

  • A filk (if you don't know what a filk is, you need to brush up on your popular media culture): Straczynski's Lullaby.

    Okay, this one is a bit fringy for the mundanes. First, a cardinal rule of spotting emerging change as a futurist is to keep your ear to the ground on the frontiers -- social, technological, artistic, political, environmental. Another is to hang out with interesting folks on the fringe and converse. This is made vastly easier by cyberspace interest groups. Soooo, back before the web and blogs (yes, my children, in the dark ages of text-only communication among the savage hordes of the usenet newsgroups, where the light of civilization was represented by the WELL and the Science Fiction Writers' Roundtable on Compuserve), I belonged to a number of usenet newsgroups. One of which was a private discussion group that began as commentary on "Babylon-5," the USA television show penned by J. Michael Straczynski. What fascinated me about the show was Straczynski's commitment to the on-line community: he initially discussed his proposal for the show on the SF Writers' Roundtable, and kept posting his progress reports to that group, and -- more astoundingly -- soliciting suggestions and responding to them. Once the pilot actually sold, Straczynski made a commitment to continue his on-line dialogue with fans, via the B5 newsgroup. It was the only television show I knew that you could watch and then email a query to the producer/writer about some aspect of the plot or production, and get an answer within 24 hours. The smaller B5 discussion group of which I became a member featured truly staggering professional, intellectual, and artistic diversity among its members. We were trading potential verses for parody songs at one point, riffing off of Gilbert and Sullivan's "Modern Major General," when I voiced the complaint that fan parodies/filk lyrics so rarely scanned properly. That is, the metre of the lyrics often misses the metre of the music, or is crammed uncomfortably into it. Naturally, I was challenged. This was my response (also, I had found myself humming "Celestial Soda Pop" a lot after I first acquired the CD, and wanted some words to sing anyway).

  • "Moonlight on the Ocean," the draft intro for the Hawaii Ocean Resources Management Plan which was "too beautiful for government work." Go figure. [still trying to find the original file for this -- obviously I sorely need a good archivist!]

    Look on my resume: you will see that at one point in my tenure at the Hawai'i Research Centre for Futures Studies, I collaborated with some colleagues in drafting the State of Hawai'i Ocean Resources Management Plan (and will the person who lifted my copy out of my office please give it back!). As we were finishing, Professor Kem Lowry -- chair of the Urban and Regional Planning Department at the University of Hawai'i, and a notable coastal zone planner -- commented that the last tedious duty to fulfill was drafting "the moonlight on the ocean" section. The rest of us looked a little puzzled, and he explained that the introduction to planning documents was traditionally bland prose on the beauty of the region in question, along with various bits of background information and historical and cultural color. I volunteered to write it. I had fun. The clients thought it very pretty, and re-wrote it into the traditional bland prose on the beauty and history of the region. [.sigh.]

> Essays > Lyrical > Parable | Sermon | Lullaby | Moonlight on the Ocean

15 February 2003. Email IF.
Copyright © 2003, Wendy L. Schultz
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