This is topic Do the research... in forum Open Discussions About Writing at Hatrack River Writers Workshop.

To visit this topic, use this URL:;f=1;t=006336

Posted by Gan (Member # 8405) on :
Parrots. How do they relate to writing?

No one seems to do research on them, beyond what you might see in cartoons or kids books! Now, I know this is not a parrot forum, and if you feel this space is wasted, feel free to delete the post. But given that parrots are a fairly modern pet (At least, for the general population), I feel perhaps this information might be useful to some. Furthermore, I wanted to start a post where people could share their commonly found badly-researched topics.

I have read many different stories, particularly from newer writers, where parrots are funny, easy, and never seem to make a mess. If any of you have ever thought about using a parrot in a story, or getting one yourself for that matter, here is some information.

I myself own a blue-fronted amazon, and don't get me wrong, I love her. That being said, parrots are NOT easy work, and they require a LOT of attention. They make more of a mess than most dogs (They love to throw seeds all over the place, looking for the particular type that interests them). And they require at least a good couple hours of attention. The more the better.

Interesting fact: A cockatoo (The white parrots, often with 'mohawks'), can screech at nearly the same decibel a 747 jet engine produces.

There's a reason so many of them are ill-behaved: Imagine putting a five year old in a cage, and giving it ten minutes of attention per day -- It's easy to say he'd develop psychological problems, too.

Most parrots will choose a single person to bond with, and when they DO bond, they tend to become extremely attached. Parrots are not like dogs or cats. They do NOT 'forgive and forget' nearly as easily. And remember, a parrot that develops psychological problems from abuse will carry those memories with it forever. Have you ever seen the insurance commercial with the cockatoo? 55+ years for a parrot is not uncommon. Some species have been recorded living over 100.

Oh, and most of them (At least, the commonly kept ones) are not sexually identifiable through visual means; it takes a blood test to confirm.

What are some of your commonly seen ill-researched subjects? And do any of you share my dislike for false information?


[This message has been edited by Gan (edited July 29, 2010).]

Posted by babooher (Member # 8617) on :

Anyone who thinks having asthma is like breathing through a straw doesn't have asthma.

How many freakin' actors depress the inhaler a few times without ever INHALING?

It drives me nuts. Asthma is more about being able to get the breath out than in. A real good asthma attack leaves you gasping more than wheezing. Sometimes the rescue inhaler (normally some kind of albuterol) doesn't work. The over the counter kinds burn and can irritate the roof of your mouth. The EPA wants to ban them because of the propellent.

Being a wimpy, skinny, nerd into D&D and Star Wars/Lord of the Rings is not a symptom or precursor to asthma.

Darth Vader was not asthmatic.

Posted by BenM (Member # 8329) on :

Accents and mannerisms seem always over-exaggerated in fiction. Part of this is that the public (and probably, more specifically, American public) perception of Australians has been shaped by some comedians who were themselves exaggerating/parodying Australia (Paul Hogan) or were very individuals with very unique personalities (Steve Irwin). And then there's the country itself - I live in a country that is extremely urbanised and film that represents the stereotypical Australian as living in the outback always elicits a groan.

To digress slightly... I was in Budapest a few years ago when I came across a pet shop full of caged parrots - cockatoos, budgies, rosellas, galahs and other types - that are all native birds living free in my local park. Kind of gave me some food for thought, that.

Posted by babooher (Member # 8617) on :
BenM, I was watching Top Gear on the BBC. It's a great show about cars. They compared an Australian car, to a British car, to an American car. I won't say I agree with the comparisons (seems like they chose the wrong kind of American car for the comparison) but they made a bunch of the same sterotypical jokes about Australians that I'm accustomed to as an American.


Posted by Lyrajean (Member # 7664) on :
Clothing... My own personal pet peeve as I've got a degree in historic costume and textiles. It applies more often to visual media (TV movies) than books.

The movie Gladiator irks me for this very reason. Yes, Roman clothes are boring, but the sister's clothes are more Oscar de la Renta than period. I was watching an admittedly very mediocre historical documentary 'The Story of Us' and they had a couple escaped slave hunters barge into this black tailor' shop to take him away. Well the tailor was clearly making an 1870s type gown when this happened -wrong!

Even a well researched PBS documentary on Empires showed a second or third century sculpture of a woman's extravagant hairdo when talking about the excesses of Rome in the 1st century. It was pretty out there -so I understand the temptation, but...

Anybody writing a medieval bodice ripper who descibes the characters buttoning or unbuttoning their clothes is wrong when the book is set before the 14th century, and probably wrong for peasants ever after than. Buttons didn't exist! I was very please while reading Eiffelheim the other day to notice the author bothered to mention the lovers trying to hurriedly lace their garments back on. He even did research into period English and German terms for garments. Did you know the word corset didn't exist much before the late 18th century. It was 'stays' or a 'pair of bodies'?

Posted by AndrewR (Member # 1563) on :

In the movie "Total Recall," Arnie is subjected to a near vacuum when he attempts to provide a breathable atmosphere to Mars. The lack of pressure causes his eyes to blow up like balloons.

In the movie "Sphere," Dustin Hoffman makes an off-hand remark that, if the pressure dropped suddenly, they would blow up like balloons and die.

Nope. Both of these scenarios are wrong. For the most part, we are like water balloons, not helium balloons.

When atmospheric pressure suddenly drops, only the air cavities in us expand. If you hold your breath, your lungs will expand like a balloon. If the sinus cavity to your ears is blocked, the air in them could burst your eardrum. And pity the poor person with a cold and has air pockets in the rest of his sinuses...

But other than that, you would see no visible difference in a person.

The same thing would happen if the atmospheric pressure suddenly increased. Lungs would collapse if the air could not escape; so would air pockets in our sinuses. But other than that, the pressure gets transferred through our bodies like a hydraulic system in a forklift. The water in our bodies becomes a bit more compressed, but not enough to see anything.

So you could be on Venus (with something like 100 atmospheres pressure) or floating out in space and look exactly like you do now.

You'd be dead as a doorknob, of course, but that's another story.

Posted by rich (Member # 8140) on :
Isn't this what Google is for?
Posted by Gan (Member # 8405) on :
Yeah Rich, haha. My point though, is that many things that seem correct, and even irrelevant to you, might not be. For instance, I had no idea that's how asthma worked; my only reference of asthma has been the media. Of course, if I were to have a major character with Asthma I would research it. But, on the other hand, if I had a very minor character with Asthma I probably wouldn't bother doing the research.

Posted by philocinemas (Member # 8108) on :
So you could be on Venus (with something like 100 atmospheres pressure) or floating out in space and look exactly like you do now.

Since Venus has a surface temperature of over 700 degrees, you would look like an extra crispy version of yourself.


Posted by skadder (Member # 6757) on :
What about the gases in your blood? Wouldn't you get a hyped-version of the bends in vacuum? I'm sure I saw a science documentary which said the gases dissolved in your bloodstream would expand, rupturing out along veins and arteries, causing your flesh to slough off your skeleton in bloody clumps.

No? Perhaps it was a movie...

[This message has been edited by skadder (edited July 31, 2010).]

Posted by JSchuler (Member # 8970) on :
On vacuum exposure:

It is rather funny that one of the more realistic depictions of vacuum exposure is in Farscape...

Posted by KayTi (Member # 5137) on :
Pregnancy/childbirth/breastfeeding and almost anything child-rearing related. All pop culture depictions of these are just wrong wrong wrong. And these are all natural states for women's bodies to go through, not disease states (don't get me started about what the world of medicine puts women through in the course of treating her like she's got a disease, rather than being in a phase of womanhood that is normal and expected.) All those hollywood starlets who look like they were never pregnant 3 mos after the baby, etc.

Most computer-related things as explained in fiction (visual or otherwise, but it mostly bothers me when I have to SEE someone being ridiculous. I swear if I see one more "copying" bar on a computer screen on some action/adventure show I might chuck the remote right through the screen.

I'm guilty of a fair amount of dumbing-down of tech talk in one of my stories, but honestly it's because it's really BORING to talk about computer programming in detail. I don't want to bore my readers to death! Plus I want them to all understand things at the same level so I'm very much over-simplifying, but hey - I write YA, I have an excuse for keeping it simple.

Posted by TamesonYip (Member # 9072) on :
I think pregnancy is difficult because everyone has a different pregnancy and different feelings towards it. Some people puke every day for the entire 40 weeks. Some people spend it on bedrest and have potentially lethal complications. Some people have very mild problem and continue their life as normal. Some view it as a natural state, some as a state that in the 1800s, when things were "natural" led to up to 40% of women dying in some places. I also know women who have been in the hospital doing the labor things for 2 days and I have a cousin who really does have to rush to the hospital once labor starts cause she goes fast (doctor missed birth number 6 cause he was too slow). With so much variation and contention on the issue (natural vs med is a great way to start up mommy wars on motherhood forums), it is very hard to have a character be pregnant and not offend someone. If I included a pregnant character who had identical symptoms, feeling about pregnancy as I do, I am pretty sure someone would complain that a natural pregnancy isn't that miserable and the character whines more than a pregnant woman should. If I did it based on one of my close friends, people would complain that pregnancy is too idealistic and uncomplicated (no, pain, no puking, nothing really, fast recovery, all that- yes, it is hard not to hate her ). I think most pregnancies are shown inaccurately, but I do have to admit, while statistically unlikely, it is entirely possible it is real.
Posted by Robert Nowall (Member # 2764) on :
Almost anything to do with urination and defecation. A few brave stories do bring something out about it, but most boldly ignore it.

Menstruation---the same.

How proud writers are to deal with one important bodily function (sex), but neglect others...


Speaking as a postal insider, hardly anything gets what goes on inside the post office right, or how it goes on, for that matter. For one example, the postman on "Cheers" would be fired for going into a bar in his postal uniform. I saw part of a movie where a guy got sentenced to community service at the post office---impossible.

Perhaps it's just too techincal a subject to explore.

(I'm not concerned with the idea that hardly anybody says anything kind about the postal service---I have little in the way of kind things to say about it myself, and I work there.)

Posted by genevive42 (Member # 8714) on :


Posted by philocinemas (Member # 8108) on :
It is rather funny that one of the more realistic depictions of vacuum exposure is in Farscape...

It is so interesting you say that - one time I looked up how long someone could survive in open space and read the referenced or a similar article, and I had the exact same thought regarding Farscape.

Not to derail this thread, but if someone doesn't hold their breath in space, I wonder what, if anything, goes into his/her lungs.

Posted by Robert Nowall (Member # 2764) on :
On the subject of the effect of a vacuum on the human body...has anybody got any hard data on it? Far as I know, nobody's been shot into space and exposed by accident...I'd assume NASA and / or the Russian space agency would have wanted to know something about the effect...I've seen a lot of messy supposition in SF stories (Arthur C. Clarke even worked it into "2001,") but some of it may actually be based in research...and, so, where is it?
Posted by JSchuler (Member # 8970) on :
There have been incidences with animals being exposed to vacuum (apparently, monkeys are more resilient than dogs in this respect). Also, from the link:
At NASA's Manned Spacecraft Center (now renamed Johnson Space Center) we had a test subject accidentally exposed to a near vacuum (less than 1 psi) in an incident involving a leaking space suit in a vacuum chamber back in '65. He remained conscious for about 14 seconds, which is about the time it takes for O2 deprived blood to go from the lungs to the brain. The suit probably did not reach a hard vacuum, and we began repressurizing the chamber within 15 seconds. The subject regained consciousness at around 15,000 feet equivalent altitude. The subject later reported that he could feel and hear the air leaking out, and his last conscious memory was of the water on his tongue beginning to boil.

Posted by Kathleen Dalton Woodbury (Member # 59) on :
There was an episode of CSI: MIAMI in which the victim had experienced hard space. They went into quite a bit of detail on what happened to the body.

Copyright © 2008 Hatrack River Enterprises Inc. All rights reserved.
Reproduction in whole or in part without permission is prohibited.

Powered by Infopop Corporation
UBB.classic™ 6.7.2