Monday, August 22, 2011


Why I Don't Enter Writing Contests

I have entered a few writing contests--with mixed results--but a while ago I vowed to never enter another one. I could offer a lengthy and elaborate explanation but I think that a few representative quotes taken from the 2011 Chess Journalists of America Awards Committee Final Report vividly illustrate some of the problems associated with such contests; here are the stylings of Ramon A. Hernandez, Awards Committee Chairman and Chief Judge of the CJA Annual Journalism Awards:

Once again the competition bought in several new members and return a few others who had been out the membership for a while. The entire membership should not expect the awards competition to serve as the principal method for recruiting new members nor as the sole means of revenue. To believe so on any case is setting the organization as a whole for complete financial failure.


I ended last year stating, I can with comfort note this year's competition was at minimum well done and a reward of a testament of having conducted it. My core goal of being and keeping the awards competition impartial, ethical and transparent were met and at times excelled. I, I can sleep well, to my fellow awards judges a giant thank you to each and to our president thank you for your communication and outstanding leadership.


I know with a shadow of doubt that the committee and I have done an excellent job and I continue to sleep well. Any negative comment anyone can concoct is in the minority when compared to the enormous amount of praise this committee has received.

What exactly do such awards signify if the Committee Chairman struggles to write coherently? Hernandez' prose is littered with grammatical errors, poor word choices and awkward sentence construction; I am not interested in having my work judged by someone who desperately needs some instruction regarding the most basic writing techniques.

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Tuesday, August 16, 2011


A Heartbreaking Quote From a Staggering Genius

I have never read A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius; the title seems very pretentious, though perhaps the author was being intentionally ironic (or perhaps the publisher chose the title for him). However, I recently read a Vincent van Gogh quote that is best described as a heartbreaking quote from a staggering genius:

"I can't change the fact that my paintings don't sell. But the time will come when people will recognize that they are worth more than the value of the paints used in the picture."

readers may recall that George Ohr expressed similar sentiments about his work. A genius knows full well that he is a genius, even if it takes the rest of the world a few decades to figure it out.

It is a terrible indictment of our world that van Gogh died in poverty after scarcely selling a canvas but now other people--people who have but a fraction of the talent he possessed--make fortunes buying and selling the works he suffered so greatly to create. Art historian Ingo Walther says of Van Gogh, "He sought consolation in his art from the world and life which he loved, but whose love was not returned. He suffered in this world and was destroyed by it. With his art he created his own new world, which was full of color and movement and contained everything he knew about existence." Camille Pissarro, van Gogh's contemporary (and fellow genius), declared about van Gogh, "This man will either go insane or leave us all far behind." Van Gogh ultimately fulfilled both aspects of Pissarro's prediction: he produced more than 2000 works of art in a little over a decade (plus hundreds of letters that detailed the workings of a brilliant but quite troubled mind) before killing himself at the age of 37. Van Gogh's brother Theo said that Vincent's last words were, "The sadness will last forever."


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