Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Making Memories (Another speech)

                    Paint the pictures of green meadows on summer days
When dewdrops cascade across the land
Paint a picture of far away places and things unseen
When you can’t have them close at hand

Paint the pictures of everything you hold so dear
When all you feel inside are empty memories
Paint a picture of all you ever loved and learned
When colors blend together in perfect artistry

I wrote that verse about three years ago.  It belongs with a complete song entitled Paint A Picture, but I felt it could stand alone from its whole text.  You might have thought it flows very well, or you actually painted a picture in your mind, or else, you thought I was experiencing a momentary lapse of reason behind the lectern.  The song actually talks about not giving up on your dreams and striving until the end, but felt that that small portion would help me to open your minds to the things I am about to tell you.  Come with me, now, on my journey through my writing process.
Whether I am writing a new lyric, or even a speech, I like to think about it for a small amount of time, whether it is an hour, or a few days, before writing my first words.  There has to be a natural progression, like a musician searching for the right notes and chords, I first must find a beginning, middle and end – sometimes I must find a bridge to fuse many thoughts together to appear as one.  Sometimes a chorus will come before a verse, or visa versa.
One of the first things I do before I write down my first words is shut off my stereo or TV.  I don’t like to hear words in the background because it’s very distracting.  All I need is a lawsuit against me for plagiarizing someone else’s work.  If I choose not to sit in total silence, I like to listen to any one of many instrumental works from the artist, Mike Oldfield – so I know there won’t be any words to bother me in the background.
Once all distractions are gone, I like to sit down in front of my computer and think how I should open my song or speech.  There has to be something there to catch the listener’s ear, and if there isn’t, I’ve completely lost my audience.
As a writer and speaker, I tend to get hindered by the use of too many common words.  So, I make use of the many tools available to me.
One of the tools I use, almost daily, is my dictionary.  If I’m not sure of the correct meaning of a word, I look it up.  I want to be sure it fits in with the body of what I’m using the word for.  A good word can make a good speech.
If I’m dissatisfied, unhappy, unfulfilled, or disappointed with the words I am using, I frequently use a thesaurus.  It will not only give me a better edge in the writing process, but also expand my mind to new words that mean the same as the one I want to change.  Challenging myself to learn new words helps expand my vocabulary, which in turn helps me in my writing.
            One last tool I use is my Random House Guide to Grammar, Usage, And Punctuation.  When going through it, I thought I had gone back to high school English.  It helps me with problems as when to use such words as affect (A–F–F–E–C–T) and effect (E–F–F–E–C–T), or correct sentence structure, breakdown of proper comma usage, and how to use correct sentence ending such as periods, exclamation points, etc.
I feel if I’m using interesting words, my listeners are going to remember them, and hopefully use them.  By expanding my own mind, I, in turn, give my listeners an opportunity to learn along with me.
When I’m finished with the writing process, and I’ve edited and rehearsed it and feel it flows in the direction I want it to head, I’m ready for the performance of my life.  Now, this is where I make my point – everything I’ve thought – everything I’ve written – and everything I’ve rehearsed – has to be strong and vivid.
Be it my IceBreaker, or my Be In Earnest, or Vocal Variety, Tall Tale, etc. – my goal is to not only give the speech with feeling, but give it with sincerity.  I don’t want to just recite for another’s enjoyment; I want to rehearse for a role of a lifetime.  I want to give my speech in a way where my audience members are experience what I’m talking about, not just hear it.
In other words – I’m showing you what I’m talking about – not telling you what I’m talking about.  I give vivid descriptions and articulate my speech – letting the audience experience what I’m talking about.  It’s my job to paint the picture for the audience – if I don’t – they may not understand what my speech – I don’t want to lose them – I want to capture them and their imaginations.
Lyricist, Neil Peart writes a good example I can use, from the song "Losing It". Instead of him saying a writer has writer’s block in his old age, he puts pictures in your mind by saying:

The writer stare with glassy eyes —
Defies the empty page,
His beard is white, his face is lined
And streaked with tears of rage

Thirty years ago, how the words would flow
With passion and precision,
But now his mind is dark and dulled
By sickness and indecision

And he stares out the kitchen door
Where the sun will rise no more…

I give my lyrics and speeches lives of their own.  I write with conviction.  Using metaphors to get my point across if I have to.  The more of me that I put into it, the more I’ll appreciate it, and the more my audience will appreciate it.  Also, by giving it a life of its own, it has to be able to stand alone on paper.  Before I read it to my mentor, I find a non-Toastmaster or good friend to read my speech for input on the writing.  If he or she likes it, my mentor will like it when I read it to her for the first time.
Just remember fellow Toastmasters – think about what you want to write about.  Choose your words carefully.  Fine-tune it to work out all of the bugs.  Make it flow with conviction and pride.  Rehearse.  And most of all – make sure it’s written in a way that your audience is transported into your speech and not just floating on the surface.  You want them to feel everything you’ve said.  If they feel it, they’ll remember it.  So remember – you’re not behind the lectern giving a speech – you’re behind the lectern making memories

Witch Hunt (Speech I had given in 1997)

I stand before you – a man against the masses.  A symbol of hope for the common man – a flame to burn the embers of truth – a voice crying out in the wilderness trying to find an ear to listen.

            Although it doesn't show in my attitude or how I act, but when an issue such as the one I will be discussing tonight surfaces, you can bet that you will see those flames burning and you will hear my voice loud and proud, and the First Amendment of the Constitution guarantees that to me.  It guarantees to all of us that, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or the press, or the right of people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for redress of grievances.”

            I’m proud to say – “Yes, I've read Huckleberry Finn,” or – “Yes, I've enjoyed the music of Prince or Judas Priest,” or better yet – “I’m a Howard Stern fan.”  But what do these issues  have in common?  I’ll tell you.  The book, the artists, and the man have been the targets of people with closed minds and one-sided views.  Being a supporter of First Amendment issues, you can bet that I’ll follow it until the Supreme Court makes a judgment on the case.

            There is some history behind my taking up this very controversial issue.  It started in 1985 when our, now, Vice-president’s wife, “Tipper,” formed the Parents Music Resource Center (PMRC), to fight “Dirty Records.”  When Frank Zappa, Dee Snider, and John Denver, and countless other musicians went to Capitol Hill to let their voices be heard, I was with them in spirit, because, in my heart, I knew the PMRC was going a little too far – dissecting lyrics for the sake of finding dirt.  Granted, there are artists that can go a bit too far, but to label them as bad influences is a crime.  I was (and still am) listening to these artists, enjoying their music and going to their concerts.  I followed the Congressional hearings until the very end.  This is the reason I feel so strong about the First Amendment.

            In high school, you’re taught right from wrong, how to play fairly, and coexist with others in social settings.  I felt I was being wronged by my government back then, and sometimes it comes back to haunt me in magazine articles, television shows, or other mediums.  They were coming into my home and judging what was good for me and what was bad for me.  About a year after graduation, a songwriter from Canada named Arnold Lanni wrote titled Should I See.  When I heard the words, I was (if you’ll excuse the use of a colloquial phrase) blown away.  The first verse goes, and I quote:

Cover my eyes and ears
‘Til it all disappears
How can you judge for me
What I should hear and see

You take away freedom of choice
Take away my right to voice
My beliefs and all my views
You take away my right to choose

After hearing that, I felt that it wasn't a sin against society to have a copy of a Heavy Metal album in my home.
            How would you feel if someone were to invade your thought, and tell you what you should be reading, or listening to?  You probably wouldn't like it very much.  Suppose someone told you that you couldn't read:

Huckleberry Finn, or
Catcher In The Rye, or
Of Mice And Men, or
Little House On The Prairie.

These books were on the list of questionable books in schools, tracked by the People For The American Way (a national anti-censorship organization).  They tracked a total of 375 for the 1993-94 school year.

            Those books I mentioned are classics in all sense of the word classic.  They portrayed the times in which they were written, and most have a moral at the end.  But now, with everyone being so Politically Correct, there are words in the context of the books, now deemed derogatory, are questionable.  Or they portrayed something we deem as different from the norm, and we want to shelter it from whoever wishes to read them.

            At a library in Weslaco, Texas, a librarian was fired for stocking Howard Stern’s book, Private Parts.  After ordering and receiving the book, the library received a complaint, and the book was placed in the reserved section.  After the same person complained about the book, the librarian was asked to remove the book from the library.  She told the library commission that the book had been removed, and ultimately, she was fired.  Her personal belongings had been vandalized, her life had been threatened.  But, luckily Howard heard of this and came to her rescue.  They appeared on the Donahue Show with members of the library commission, and they made it look like it was all her fault.  End result – Miss Librarian is in seclusion, the book is back in the reserve section, and Howard is still Howard.

            The FCC has levied millions of dollars in fines against Howard Stern for being obscene on the air.  When and where, I would like to know?  This is what I think is weird.  We have a bunch of people appointed to high ranking positions in our government in charge of free speech.  If they go after the likes of Howard, they should go after:  Phil, Oprah, Montel, Jenny, Days of Our Lives, and dare I say Rush Limbaugh at every direction.

            Recently we witnessed the murder of Tejano music star Selena.  The killing was unjust, and a life was taken before it was time.  Mr. Howard Stern reported the death in his own fashion, but not mocking the recently departed.  Of all the strange things Howard has said, or the malicious things Howard has said, he say something from his own standpoint and gets a lot of heat.  Howard said that Hispanics had bad taste in music.  What has happened since – a justice of the peace in Texas has issued a Disorderly Conduct Warrant against Howard Stern;  he is to be arrested if he enters the state of Texas.  All this for being a critic.  If that were the case – Siskel and Ebert, and the rest would be locked up for life.

            When and where does it end – I don’t know.  There are as many questions as there are answers.  You may not agree with everything I've said, but think of this…  When someone tells you that you can’t listen to someone, or read something, how would you feel?  There is time for a Witch Hunt – but let’s concentrate on the child molesters, the murderers, and the drug dealers.  Leave my books, music, and Howard Stern alone.