Monday, August 18, 2014

On Creating Great Story Titles

Properly titling a story is extremely important to me. In thinking about creating titles for stories, I thought I would share what my process can be.

I believe that a good title can contain half of a story's meaning, in theory. It's something to shoot for anyway. By changing a title it can alter the entire meaning of the story. It can twist a story's meaning in unforeseen and  interesting ways.

Sometimes I write a story, from a short story to a novel, based upon a title I came up with first as inspiration. Sometimes that title lasts all the way through to publish. At times once I finish the story, another title becomes apparent.

Sometimes the title comes last once I discover what the story is through discovery as I write it. When that happens, I try really hard to come up with the right title. I try to find the title in the story. I'm not always successful to the degree I want, but it's usually worth the effort.

A good title can make a world of difference in reader perception as well as story meaning. One of my best titles came out of this story:



Nikolas Hayes as "Simon" on the cover of one of my free ebooks
Simon's Beautiful Thought
Having a story where the title pulls things all together at the end, can be very pleasurable. It's good to be careful however about taking a string of words from within a story as the title, as it can come off as cliche or in the worst case, simply annoying.

For our purposes here, I'll just use a story of someone I know, Nikolas Hayes. This is from his first published short-short story on Wattpad.  It's a cool little horror sci fi tale, a dystopic that worked on his first draft. It's a good title. Not quite the kind that alters a story outside of its obvious meaning or intent, but a good title nonetheless.

Wattpad, if you don't already know, is a site where you can find a lot of interesting and free writings. In some cases, authors are writing entire books online there that you can follow along with as they are written, chapter by chapter. You can comment on them, sometimes affecting how the book develops. Many of these stories are first drafts, written on Wattpad and published without a second draft attempt. Many find that interesting. 

I heard a well known writer once say that you CAN make a living as a short story writer, you just have to be able to write a first draft, send it off and have it bought by a publisher, every single day. Not a lot of people can produce a finished, polished purchasable story in one draft. 

Some people have even gotten book deals in publishing like this on Wattpad.

Here is one of my latest stories on my Wattpad, titled: "To End All War". It's about a scientist who misuses an experiment he and his coworker are working on, in order to affect the entire world to his agenda. He's finally had it and felt that he had to do something; something, to stop the madness. Hopefully in the end, it will work out for everyone for the better. 

Or perhaps, he's just sadly deluded as so many seem to be now a days. Yet, I wonder....

One last thing before I get to the point of today's blog....


Death of Heaven by JZ Murdock
A few years ago before I published my currently re-released epic book, Death of Heaven (you know, I don't use "epic" lightly either, the book IS epic in scope, there's simply no debating that...read it, you'll see what I mean), it still had no title as I approached the final edit prior to publishing.

Years before, Nik had produced a music CD of his original music on keyboards and there was one song titled, "The Death of Heaven" ( the link is to the video book trailer for the book using Nik's song so you can actually hear it). 

You can also see the web page for my book here, Death of Heaven.

In my search for a title for a book I scan a lot of art and music for ideas, to tweak to my own purposes. So at some point, I ended up looking over his song titles. I was starting to worry that I wouldn't find a title worthy of this book.

I loved that title when I saw it again. Perhaps I subconsciously directed myself to look at those songs again, songs I had 
previously listened to more than once. Although it wasn't quite how I was thinking of titling my book, over that next week, the more I thought about it, I just couldn't get it out of my head.

It started to make total sense to me. It fit the book the more I thought about it. So, I asked him and he allowed me to use that title. I dropped the leading "The" in the original title, as that isn't a great idea to use in book titles, but over all, the title was his.

In supplying Nik now with the title to his first short story published online, I've finally been able to pay him back in some small way for using one of his titles. I'm not saying that title doesn't exist elsewhere in the world, just that he came up with it independently on HIS own. 

Anyway, back to Nik's story and my method for devising a title, that would go something like this....

In his story there is mention of air, breathing, freshness and stars. These seem to be primary elements of the story, so good to focus on. 

Immediately I think:
star air
or 
air star

But that’s boring, right? 

It has the gist but not the cadence or pizzazz needed, especially in a short-short story. So I go and look things up in an online thesaurus. 

Maybe I’d keep "star", as it’s so immediate and recognizable. 

That leaves, "air".

So I enter into my browser URL field:
air syn

for 
air synonym

I pick a good site from the search results. This time it’s one on top:
thesaurus.com/browse/air

From there I get:
breath breeze wind blast draft heavens ozone puff sky stratosphere troposphere ventilation waft whiff zephyr

So 
zephyr 
seems cool to me. I like that word. 

Star Zephyr?

Except, now "star" seems boring and doesn't really match up well.

So maybe not "zephyr" after all.

Maybe:
star breeze?

Waft and whiff are both wrong; more silly than useful and this is in no way a comedy.

star wind?
That isn't too bad, but they don’t fit the story very well in my mind. 

So maybe "star" just won’t work.
star breath?

I like that, but it feels backward to me somehow. Maybe not "star" but "starlight"?
breathing starlight?

That just might work!

But not quite. It's too obvious, too straightforward, and I need something less obvious, with a twist somehow, something minor.

So if not breathing? Another sense? Feeling? Smelling? Tasting? Or maybe, drinking?

Drinking Starlight!

Drinking indicates thirst and that is a strong feeling. So is breathing but drinking twists things on its head and that's usually good.

So that’s it then. 

And that is pretty much how I go about creating my titles. Usually, anyway. 

I mean, that and other ways.

So check out Nik's cool little dystopian sci fi tale, Drinking Starlight, published just last week on Wattpad. I hope to see many more from him over the years as he has a unique vision on our world, our human condition and for that matter, our universe.

Drinking Starlight by Nikolas Hayes on Wattpad
Enjoy the free stories and as always... 

Cheers!

Monday, August 11, 2014

Making of a Writer

Writer's, when I was a kid, were Gods. 

I would never have presumed. To be a writer? What an amazing thing that would be. To create, people, scenes, stories, universes.

Hey, while you're here and just for fun, here's a new and free short story of mine that's quite relative to the madnes and war going on all around us in the world: To End All War, I called it, on Wattpad. It's quite short, If you like that, here is another by another very new writer, Nikolas Hayes, titled, Drinking Starlight. Both quite powerful little pieces. Now, moving right along....

I wanted to read very young. I always had to wait for adults to finish reading the newspaper comics to me every Sunday. It got old after a while, all that waiting; always coming second, bored to death lying there on the floor watching everyone reading their newspaper, except me. So I pushed for them to teach me and my Grandmother took on the task. Reading came fairly easy to me and I could quickly, relatively speaking, read above my level. 

My Grandmother told me back then that she always read a hard book between every book she read for pleasure. She said every other book should be one that was difficult to understand and not to worry if you don't understand even half of it. Eventually, she said, you will if you kept it up. She also said to always pick a new word (or concept) out of the hard book each day and look it up. Assuming that is, that you read daily. The point being, out of each reading sessions, find something new to learn about.

So, I spent a lot of years back in the beginning of my lifelong reading career, scratching my head when reading every other book. It was frustrating at times wondering why I was reading what I didn't understand, but it was the reading version of doing push-ups to increase your physical strength.

It was a suggestion that paid off in spades. Eventually, writing came easy to me, too.

I wrote my first sci fi story when I was fifteen, then nothing until my twenties, just bits and pieces. My HS English teacher tried to get me to join the school newspaper staff, but I was afraid to. My loss, that. Then in college my first English Composition teacher begged me to become a writer. I'm not kidding. He said I had to, it was just overflowing out of me, all the ideas and sparks of things. I owe him a lot. he was the one to tell me to stop worrying about mechanics and perfectionism and just, Write!

So, I started to think it might be possible. Some, day. 

Then in my Senior year I took fiction 101 toward a creative writing minor. The other students seemed to be in awe of my stories. They really liked them. But to be fair, there was a lot of romance writing going on in there and I figured I simply had to be a refreshing change from that, right?. But then we also had the Editor and the Asst. Editor of our University magazine, Jeopardy, in that class and both of them were quite taken with my writings. The Asst Editor told me during one of his critiques of one of my stories that he knew he shouldn't like my stories, as they weren't his cup of tea, but he couldn't help himself. Besides his best attempt, he couldn't help but like my stories. High praise, indeed!

I tried for years after graduating to get something going, to sel my writings, but it was hard to get anywhere with it, and it's a frustrating endeavor to begin with, for anyone. I still had much to learn. Finally, I did sell a story. But again, it was years to get anywhere further. Still, I kept writing, putting them away, wishing I could get something going. 

Then the 1990s, I became a tech writer. Then a senior tech writer. Years later I realized I had actually once been a professional writer, merely by definition. That was nice. But it wasn't fiction writing. It was however, a good launching ground for learning various important elements of writing good fiction. Endurance, finishing what you start, accuracy, attention to detail, turning out a quality product that pleased and on time. And many times, to a harsh judge of what writing they were paying for. And I got paid for my written words. 

It was really in the advent of the internet becoming what it has, for me to finally get a real hold on something of substance. I finally started connecting with the right people. Fun, cool, interesting people Then I really started working hard at it and now, I'm feeling much better about it. Still, it is a long, hard road. My life to date has seemingly been a nearly never ending series of rejections, frustratingly close calls and finally, though in comparison to the whole of my efforts, an ever growing number of scant few, positive responses.

There is always hope, as long as there is hope kept alive by action.

The making of a writer comes about many ways. In the end the actuality of being a writer is in being one who writes, who gets people to read their writings, and one who gets positive feedback. 

So I keep working hard at it. Maybe one of these days I'll get to a situation where I feel like I actually have made it somewhere. Or maybe one always feels there is another hill to crest.

In the meantime, I'm just trying my best to enjoy the ride.

Monday, August 4, 2014

'Merka (that's America) and Its Followers

My love of America was questioned the other day because of my attitude and comments in general. So this is a comment to all those who see (or would see) me that way.

This is a comment to the political nut cases out there and all their supporters like Fox News and the Republican party for the most part. Also, the ones who aren't nuts but rich, who abuse us all and their positions in America, or for the purposes of this argument, 'Merka, using the back hills slang version that has so come to symbolize all of those types.

Look, I'm pro America. Pro, "real" America, not the modern, saccharine version pushed on us by questionable types of late.

I spent my time in the military, did my Service with its generous awards, ending in a Good Conduct Medal. I got my official Government Certificate for serving during the Cold War. I got a degree in Psychology from a University. I've had cross-cultural college classes, had those classes with people from the Middle East, Qatar, Iran, Iraq, and elsewhere.

I've met interesting people from around the world and, I did not kill them, going against the American way of late.

Yet, I hesitate to say I'm a patriot anymore because that has come to have an odd meaning, one that leaves a strange taste in one's mouth. If, you're a traditional patriot, that is. Of late, Patriot has come to mean racism, hate, idiocy, dunderheadedness, right wing nutcase-aphilia, fat beer belly hick with a gun theisms... and things like that.

I'm not any of those things so where does that leave me. In the Chinese Communist Revolution, I would have been dragged from my home and shot as an intellectual. I'm proud of that, actually. Because I have a brain and I use well, the mind contained therein. I use logic. Real logic, not the political kind of crap that is so rampant now a days and not just in America. Because we have infected the world. We infected the world with a good infection and now along with that, we have infected it with a kind of moronic sensibility, emboldened with our making friends with low characters, supporting the wrong people for economic gains and for corporate greediness.

I love the concept behind America, what we are supposed to be, supposed to stand for, not what some are pushing now a days as, 'Merka, which has come to mean I really don't know what, other than selfishness, greed, isolationism, uncharitability, uncompassionate, right winginess, conservativism (to the point of banal idiocy), superficiality, hyper confused Christianity, and so on and on.

I've always said that I'd fight and die for your right to free speech, even for you to say stupid crap like how you hate people; to say stupid shite like we hear online ad nauseam in the news, on a more than daily basis and instantly, in many cases.

Sure, in this country, it's your right to speak your mind. But why? Why have such a tiny mind from which to pull such banalities? Having a right doesn't mean you have to use it to say such nonsense.

That being said, from a psychological POV we do to vent, to get it all out, to allow those with disparate point of views to point out to us, who they are, what their beliefs are, and basically, as we've seen over and over, just who the crazies are.

It's healthy, it's the human condition.

Maybe if we just vent enough we will blow out our frustrations and fears because that's what all this is.: Fear and Frustration. The realization that you are not and never will be one of the Nouveau riche. That ideal has failed, the American dream of becoming rich like the rich, has died; mostly because the not rich have voted to give power to those who abuse their position; the legislators who have been bought by the corporations who take from us and then convince the have nots, to call themselves, "the Takers", rather than the backbone of this nation who are mostly, the middleclass; a class of people the rich have abused for far too long for their own selfish benefits. And the worm may be turning on their cadaverous bodies.

The more you talk, the more we know you are there, know who you are, what you think and how you work. You are insidious, the new American cancer that we can't cut out and have to instead take a long time to rehabilitate. You'll only be happy when you are rich. Right? But guess what, that ain't gonna happen. Interesting conundrum, right? You, are our bruised loop of insanity.

See, it would help everyone if you would just stop, read a damn book (one that makes some sense), and join us in being Americans. The traditional American, the one the original dream was all about, the one people around the world appreciate and wish to achieve. See the dream only was ever that you can better your position, not to become rich. That was an idea that was sold to us but those who were rich and wanted to blind us from cutting their taxes, giving more of ourselves, receiving less money so they could have more and more, and more.

But then one day? All your venting of your bitching and abuse, your hate and misdirected anger, will actually do us more good than you; once it's properly directed at the right people, and that ain't us, those who you are misguidedly directing it at now.

So think about it. We know you. You are limited in your spotlight now because as we've been notified long ago (and do you even know by whom? Do you? You don''t, do you? By Marshall McLuhan.), that one day everyone will get their fifteen minutes of fame. Now is your time. Soon it will be ours again and that will last much longer than the embarrassing, short term insanity that you have been exhibiting. Catharsis isn't that useful when it is used to a childish degree.

It's useful when it's used to be productive and directed consciously to things that are right and true. To shine a light on what has been hidden for so long, but really isn't a secret anymore. But those deceivers hidden in the shadows for so long have now turned the light back upon those who shined the light on them, blinding the wronged people now from seeing the right people and their insidious actions.

You have marked yourselves, in public, on camera, online, and in permanency. The more you vent, the more powerful you become, but only in the short term; because in the long term, the more powerless you will become. The pendulum will swing back to us again, to sanity, and then you will evaporate and turn into good people out of necessity, except for those few who will scurry into the dark like the cockroaches you are.

And so again and in closing, thanks. Thanks so much for pointing out you and yours to us. Because it won't be long now that I will no longer be embarrassed to call myself a Patriot once again. After you shut up. After you join us in reclamation of our new, "Old" Patriotic American ideals.

Oh and, thank you for your service....

Monday, July 28, 2014

TUNN - The Useful News Network - News That Gets Things Done

This is an adjunct blog to today's earlier blog (USCNN).

Our news networks have been sucking, long and hard for some time now. Worst offender in the realm of Journalism? Fox News. Others? MSNBC. Worst News Network overall? Probably, CNN. Which is so sad considering what they initially achieved in their birth and creation of the twenty-four hour news cycle.

Sadder still, currently one of the best journalistic networks in the classical sense, is a foreign held news network (based in Qatar), Al Jezeera. What does that say about our home grown, bloated, biased news networks?

Some of the issues?

Instant media. The need to fill a twenty-four hour news cycle, even when there is nothing really going on in that period. Also, the belief by networks that people are only attracted to certain types of news, and the whore-mongering race to present those news pieces, regardless of what America needs to be hearing about. Advertisers. Advertisers who might pull their support if the wrong news is presented. Also, an overwhelming deluge by some networks of their corporate opinion. OpEds, over editorializing. Companies pushing agendas to make a buck at all costs with considerations of journalism taking a back seat, especially with politically partisan ones.

We need useful news.

We need a news network that isn't beholding to anyone. Who can do pure journalism. We need news that gives us what we need and not what they want, what their owners want, what a political party wants, what religious organizations want, what extremist conservatives or, liberals want.

We the American people are being held hostage by these groups, and it needs to stop. We need to start using our minds, to be intelligent, and to be a knowledgeable, even if in many cases not an educated citizenry. We need to be educated, even if only by our news networks.

This new network could be one where, between "hard news" segments, they could have alternative shows like the Jon Stewarts and The Daily Show type shows. Humor is a great way to get people to absorb news that is hard to hear, or accept. Stewart is an obvious liberal in his orientation. Perhaps a humorous liberal show followed up by a conservative show; but I'd suggest going another way.

Still, these types of shows show us the foibles in our ways, much in the way that the original Star Trek TV show, exhibited to us through science fiction, through aliens ("Those stupid aliens, who are nothing like us!"). They showed us things we needed to look at but couldn't, unless we saw it through the filter of it being others, outside of who we are.

We still need to see this kind of news, to deal with it, to ruminate on it with enough information so as to make useful, informed decisions. And we can't currently do that with the type of news we are receiving. The American people need news. Real news. News presented in a way that is useful. And news that we need to hear and not just want to hear.

In short, we need a news network that is giving us what we need to hear, and yes what we find interesting, but most of all not just editorialized and opinionated but real information with possible solutions; or at least a path to finding those solutions; ways to think about how to achieve solutions. Those are the key elements.

We need to know what to do about some of these intense issues so that when we talk to others about them, debate them, even argue about them, we have some meat, some fuel to use in order to achieve some kind of consensus.

We need news media that helps us to find the right answers and not just the answers for us, or for our group, our preferred political system. We need to put down the crazies, the extremists, the right wing fools, the left wing absurdities.

We need a news Network with programs that reports the news, even news we don't care about, until it is reported properly, and that offers the best case for fixing those issues; solutions as supported by the educated, the knowledgeable, even the public; and then updated over time in revisiting that news as better solutions and information make themselves known. Canvassing discussion groups, listening to the public, combing available information and actual journalistic endeavors.

The American people need to be informed. We need to be informed properly so that we support what our government does, so that they do what is needed, so that the American voice to our government not only supports what is done, or to be done, but can even offer solutions upward to our head of State and not only and always, downward from our head of State. It would need checks and balances but that can be figured out.

We need a new kind of news: a New News Network, a new kind of, "Triple N" that covers our nation's needs. Remember what John F Kennedy said: "Ask not what your country can do for you. Ask what you can do for your country."

Many people take that to mean, leave your homes, go out and volunteer, join the military, enter public service. But no, not only. It can be as simple as knowing what is happening all around you. Knowing the correct information, having an informed decision, speaking out what is true and necessary and others having if not the same understanding, at least an educated, intelligent understanding of the issues. Because in that, we can have productive debates. And in a productive debate, you can arrive at what is the best answer.

You have to have accurate information for a good debate and you have to have information on the things most important at that time in the world, as well as future considerations and their possible repercussions.

As I mentioned at the beginning, I just wrote a blog on this today titled, USCNN, that talks about this kind of thing, in part.

We need this new network to serve up to us the major and important news pieces. We need them to offer up to us perhaps the top three best solutions to the situation as it stands using (and over the next days and weeks), using all available resources, government, foreign governments, Vox Populi (the Voice of the People) via the internet and other news networks, using everything to continue to offer us the best solutions, possible solutions and not just that network's opinions, biases and hidden agendas.

Much as in the ancient Roman belief that a nation state should be run by the people, it takes an educated citizenry to properly support that best case type of a Republic.

In theory, we are a great nation.

To truly be a great nation and to continue being one will require us to pay more attention to what is going on; but first, we need to be sure that we are being supported in order for us to support our people, our government and thus, our position in the world and their perception of just what and who we really are.

USCNN

MSNBC, CNN, Fox News - what do these have in common? Capitalism, big money, kowtowing to advertisers and billionaire owners, perhaps? Even when they aren't told to alter the news to support the corporate desires, they can be slighted.

I'm sick to death of how biased the news is. When I was a kid I remember the news gave us the news. They would have editorials in the final segment where a trusted news journalist would  give us their insight on what we were dealing with on a major, important news topic and we could make up our own minds. It was a questionable thing. I thought (as a kid) that it was a great thing. Just tell us how to think, you're the one who is in the know, who does this for a living. My parents however weren't always so happy about it and sometimes disagreed.

It was heading down a slippery road they said, not just presenting the raw news and letting us decide what it meant for ourselves. But those journalists like Edward R. Murrow, Walter Cronkite, and their like, strove for accurate reporting.

I remember when "Uncle Walt" gave us an editorial, trying to accurately give us an explanation of what the news meant. My parents thought it was a path that could go wrong if not careful; but, look around, it has. Now we have editorials, not news, and we need to get back to news.

News and information is as important as the military. Information is power and we need information, accurate information, in order to make decisions in our lives. An accurate news network is as important as our military, possibly even more.

But now it's like they took the Editorial and made THAT the news hour.

So how about this? We do things different than some other nations (like Russia, like Iran). We can do things that in some other countries would be horrendous (USSR, North Korea, China).

Perhaps what we need is to buy CNN and make it our own national news agency. Or we could create our own.

Hang on, give me a second here....

It would have to be set up as an independent department of the government and I do mean, INDEPENDENT. They would need a charter that guaranteed them the money they need to do a good job going into the future. So there is no way the government can dabble by any kind of direct action or even nuance, to affect their reporting.

Accurate news is a national necessity and private corporate interests are failing us.

It could be a network to offer news other agencies can't to give appropriate validity and veracity to. It could have commercials, it could have advertisers but... it would have to be set up in a way that should advertisers not like what is being reported on, they could walk off in a huff with only a good riddance from the network, so that it wouldn't be a problem; so that it couldn't affect their reporting.

It would have to be an independent agency so that even the government is somewhat afraid of them. Because we need a government who IS a little afraid of it's people, not our current government where the people are somewhat afraid of their government.

Advertisers could get to a point where they vie for a slot for advertising on USCNN (#USCNN) as the best news agency in the world. A network the entire world could trust to give unbiased, accurate information, even using CIA resources; which is after all, what they are there for. We just currently don't make as good of use of them as possible.

Why does it have to be Al Jazeera? We can do better than them!

This new agency would let the other news agencies do their whoring to their audience. They could continue to masturbate their public all they want. They could continue to spew the nonsense they are now to support the ridiculous beliefs of a ridiculous portion of our nation.

Because then if they came out with some nonsense, everyone would know that they could turn to USCNN for "Just the facts, Mam."

Eventually, it would clean up the other news agencies just by it existing. The prostituted news networks, the billionaires who buy and support this nonsense, would dry up. It would take away the reasons for big money to buy these news networks and support their rape of the American people.

Wouldn't that be nice? Accuracy in reporting? Science back in the media?

Just as we need a secular government to support people's religious beliefs so they can worship the deity of their choice, so we need a secular government to support our people's beliefs in accurate information; in order to make good choices in their daily lives, their voting lives, and even their religious lives.

Yes, this all sounds like a very scary thing. Sure we've all ready 1984, Brave New World, and so on but we are in many cases, already there. Yes, it could all go awry. But then again, yes, it can be done, and yes, it could change our nation, putting us back on a good path to the future again, and it could even, change the entire world.

Who are we to run away from a challenge? Especially when the outcome has so much potential to change so much, for so many, for the better?

See the follow on blog:
TUNN - The Useful News Network - News That Gets Things Done

Monday, July 21, 2014

Voting for all? Should we limit who votes? Maybe?

Did you know that originally only Land Owners were allowed to vote in America? I've known this for a while but here's a reference for those who need verification.

According to InfoPlease.com:

"When the Constitution was written, only white male property owners (about 10 to 16 percent of the nation's population) had the vote. Over the past two centuries, though, the term "government by the people" has become a reality. During the early 1800s, states gradually dropped property requirements for voting. Later, groups that had been excluded previously gained the right to vote. Other reforms made the process fairer and easier."

That has bugged me for a while now. Why? Well, why do you think that was how it was originally set up? There MUST have been a reason, right? Elitism? Just, elitism? The Founding Fathers were smart guys. Right? I mean, what they had set up has been doing pretty well overall and has been a shining light for equality the world over for a very long time now.

Why then, would they found a country where many were not allowed to vote? I think I have the answer and finally, closure to what has been bugging me more and more over these recent turbulent times. Obviously their justification for not allowing slaves and women to vote, and in many cases, non-land owners, made sense (to them) at the time.

Slaves either didn't understand (lack of education), would do what their owners wanted, or would challenge the concept of slavery in many ways (reasonable assumption and action on the slaves' part). Women would tend to vote their husband's vote (reasonable fear). Non land owners tended to be uneducated and without "stake" in what they would frequently be voting for. All seemed reasonable back then.

I would also argue that had they allowed voting, in time that would all have changed and voters would have become more savvy and interested over time. Especially back then.

Have you heard the nonsense that has been going on in America lately? Voters have been made to have a hard time voting, on purpose. Groups have made it difficult, mostly for certain types of voters, to vote more easily. Something I see as contrary to how it should be. Voting should be getting easier and easier, not harder and harder. Right? But then workers days and hours should also be getting lesser and lesser and they're not.

So what's up?

Have you heard some of the nonsense being touted in the media and our government, mostly from the extreme elements in politics? Why is that, you think?

It is because they want what they want and damn the constituents, what the citizens want, or what is good for the country. Because what is important is only these fringe group's desires and ideals. Mostly issues contrary to public freedoms and based upon religious purposes and agendas.

Not infrequently, ideas have been twisted and raised in such a way as to have people voting against their own best interests and desires. At times elections have been lost, when really they had been won. Gerrymandering has skewed states to one side or the other when really that state was the opposite majority for party. The whole gerrymandering thing has been going on for a very long time and it is, in some situations a good thing, but not when it is abused which it has been and we've been fighting against its misuse from the beginning.

The issue I'm seeing has to do with people realizing they can achieve their own selfish aims if they only push for things that benefit them. This is a format that has always proved to fail in the long term, even for those who push for it. Dictators usually find it doesn't work out so well for them in the end, and we're seeing more and more of that today with instant media (Twitter, Facebook, etc.) because it empowers the people.

On the other hand corporate instant media (like Fox News for instance, even MSNBC in some cases and CNN has turned into a mess), has been working against the people.

Now aside from that, we are seeing more and more people having a voice in the media who should never be talking to anyone outside of their own home. There is a level of ignorance and foolishness in our population that is staggering. Do we really want people like that voting? But it's a Right, you say. How come prisoners can't vote then? Corporations are people and have a right to what, a vote? One vote? How many? Where is THAT headed?

Why aren't people making level headed decisions, casting votes for people and laws who work for them and not against them? Why would women vote for a party that only seems to have their worst interests at heart?

Why are stupid people doing stupid things so much today?

Here, let me give you an example of what I'm talking about. Take a look at this article:

"This Is What Doctors Have To Deal With."

Okay now, do we really need those people voting? Hang on, hang on. Yeah, I know it's a right and all. (Again, can prisoners vote? Why not, if it's a right?)

My point here is things are really screwed up and there's a reason for it. We HAVE to ask ourselves, why? And we have to do something about it. But what?

When you have a group making decisions, and that group fails, what do you do? Change the group, get them better information, acquire subject matter experts.

Do we do that for this? No. Why? Because voting is a "Right" (in quotes because again, prisoners can't vote as well as some others; and well, there's pros and cons to it).

"In 2008 over 5.3 million people in the United States were denied the right to vote because of felony disfranchisement." - Wikipedia

So if they want to vote to make horrible conditions better, they can't. Sounds fair, right?

"Felony disfranchisement was a topic of debate during the 2012 Republican presidential primaryRick Santorum argued for the restoration of voting rights for ex-offenders." - Wikipedia

So even after you're not a prisoner you may not be allowed to vote. Quite a "Right", right?

So we already restrict people from voting. The question is, do we give them back the vote (yes) or do we eliminate others from voting (probably not, though it runs counter to my argument here, but hey, I'm not stupid). 

My point to sum up as quickly as possible is this... There are too many people who don't know what the hell they are doing who are voting for the wrong things. People are working hard to limit people voting who now have a right to vote.

I have a university degree and sometimes I can't figure out what it is I"m trying to vote for in elections because of how things are worded. Essentially, worded on purpose to make people think that voting one way for something is in reality voting the opposite of what they think they are voting. Nuts, right?

So what do I do? I read, do very little necessary research and just figure it out. 

But we obviously have some very serious problems here. 

People are voting for things and don't know what the hell they are voting for. They are being mislead. They are voting against they own best interests. They do not have a vested interest in some things they are voting for (which is why only land owners used to be allowed to vote). 

Look, I'm not asking for us to start cutting voters. But I am asking for something. Real commissions to look into things like gerrymandering and vetting that one party isn't being set up to win, with due and appropriate considerations of surrounding issues to give the nation and not just the party a fair shake. 

We need to give prisoners they vote back.If it's a right, everyone votes, right? Why is that any kind of question?

We need to make it easy for EVERYONE to vote. I haven't been to a voting booth in more years than I can remember but I vote in every election. 

We need to give serious thought to allowing people to vote who have no clue what they are voting for and we need to be sure they can even understand what voting is about and what they are doing. 

Maybe we need some kind of vetting process so that you are allowed to vote, if you at least have the fundamentals of what the hell you are doing and if not, you don't vote that year. I think it would be burdensome to test for each election. 

Testing isn't ridiculous. They test us for driver's licenses (but not for a concealed weapons permit, don't get me started on that one, but hey, it's a "Right", right?). Tell me that voting isn't as dangerous as driving a car. The danger in driving a car is just more immediate and only affects the number of people you can plow down. But voting affects every citizen and even citizens yet to be form; for the long term and sometimes it kills; sometimes, a lot of people (consider ending abortions, gun laws, etc.). 

We have a lot of stupid politics going on, polarizing politics that has frozen Washington DC politics. A republican party that is useless. A democratic party that always seems to be unsure what to do or afraid to do anything serious. Are they gun shy, or what?

These are serious issues that we need to deal with. Because the longer we put of making some hard changes, it's only going to get worse.

Vote. If you can. But know what you are really voting for. Vote those who are bad for America out of office and KNOW what is bad for America. Because that seems to be a thing too hard for many to comprehend now a days. 

To quote a Time magazine article by Reynolds Holding: 

"We should be finding ways to get more voters to the polls, not looking for excuses to keep them away. So instead of prohibiting felons from voting, let's require them to do it. That way, they will continue to repay their debt to society, long after they walk out of prison."
So, what do I really think? What could we do to fix these things?

Everyone should be allowed to vote, if they have at least at a minimum level of understanding, restricted not for who they are but what they can understand; going to jail shouldn't take away your right to vote; nor should being poor, or uneducated; everyone should be REQUIRED to vote who is allowed to vote.

Finally, it should be painlessly easy for all voters to vote.

People need to understand what the hell it means to vote. They need to understand what it means each time in casting that vote. It needs to be made clear to them, what they are voting for, not obfuscating what they are voting for. This trick of trying to confuse voting, so that vote one way is really voting against your wishes, needs to be made illegal. They should, if they have the ability to understand what they are doing, be required to vote, if they are to be an American citizen.

We need as many people as possible, voting. We need to make it cool, a mandatory thing, so that our country is governed by those who know what they are asking for, and will get what they vote for. We need those who vote, to understand what they are voting for. We need to make voting as easy as possible so they don't find it a burden to vote.

We don't need people voting who have no clue what they are doing, either because they are incapable, have no perceived, vested interest, or no resources to make clear to them what they are voting on. Sound expensive? Sound difficult? Isn't what we are seeing today difficult, and costing us massive amounts of money because of big money taking and not giving back; because of our political leaders entrenched in money problems to maintain their positions, in the back pocket of big money; because of the little guys being stepped on, feeling disenfranchised, jailed within their own lifestyles, while others globetrot on the heads of the bulk of what  and who America is?

Is it the American way to run away from a challenge? A conflict? A danger? How about when the conflict is internal, danger is at home, is our own people, our own ignorant masses? What about reasonableness, rationality, honesty, fairness, honor, clarity, education and intelligence? We need to adjust our priorities and be sure that the most sane, most comprehending, are the ones making the decisions and pushing forward our best foot for the most people and not just the privileged few who hedge their bets on the pain of the People.

We need our most educated but not if they only push agendas only for them. We need our least educated but not if they have no clue what they are doing and are acting against their own best interests, much like the poor who vote the rich elite's agendas. We can fix this.

How about we fix this? 

Monday, July 14, 2014

Seeing, what is really there

This blog came up because of my trying to fathom the minds of extreme conservatives, Republicans of late, the Tea Party, Fox News, and well, that whole entire mess. In talking to conservative acquaintances, many things have come up. Not a few of which have left us both feeling in the end, frustrated.

I can't convince them to see my point of view, they can't convince me to see theirs. But, I have a few things on my side that tend to validate my views and opinions, more than theirs. That is to say, their mindset has a few downsides.

For one they watch Fox News, a notoriously questionable network due to their ridiculous concern of market share over news facts. They also don't try to verify facts very well, if at all. Instead they have a mindset that tries to verify their mindset. Not a bad thing per se, with the correct checks and balances, but they usually don't have those.

For myself, I'm not that attached to my view points. I'm attached to whatever verifiable reality actually is. Actuality over reality. I approach achieving my beliefs in a completely different manner, from what I can gather, than how they do. But enough of them and their intellectual down sides.

On my side I do have a few things going for me. Allow me to try and clarify....

When I was younger, I was very interested in the Cold War as I was on a path back then to a job within that insanity. I have now a certificate on my wall, signed by a government agency, thanking me for my efforts during that mostly behind the scenes, war of the wills, that from time to time left cold bodies along dark road sides. Sometimes bullet ridden, blown up in cars, or even as in one extreme example, poisoned by a signature plutonium micro-pellet riddled with microscopic holes delivered by the end of an umbrella device carried by a Soviet agent.

Even before that, my youth was a path straight into the field of espionage.

I had studied Martial Arts beginning in grade school. This was my primary orientation for the first part of my life. I was the one new kids got stuck with because I was a good trainer with novices and a good leader. I had to see what was, what they had, what they could handle, interpret that back to the ignorant, in a way that would move them quickly along. That laid a foundation for me throughout my life where I was a good team leader, accurate and effective. Bruce Lee, in this video (at 5:35) says that Martial Arts are a way to "express oneself honestly. Not lying to oneself...that my friend, is what you do." This was the foundation for who I was then and who I still am now.

In Junior High I was a Flight Commander in Civil Air Patrol (Wikipedia article) where we studied aerospace history as well as physically performing search and rescue missions finding downed aircraft in the Cascade mountains. I got my RadioTelegraph Operator's license, instructed cadets in my Flight in military march and drill and served (believe it or not), as a role model. I flew in small planes and landed my first plane in eighth grade at Tacoma Industrial Airport by Gig Harbor, Washington. I also took pilot ground school through our squadron. We were taught how to rely on what actually is, not what we believed in, but what we knew to be true in order to save and protect lives.

I was also on a private youth rifle team in junior high sanctioned by our local police department. I got my High School sports letter from three years on the Rifle Team. I was an illegal street racer. I got my SCUBA diving license (NAUI) in 10th grade. I took my first sky diving jump at seventeen, the only one to land on the LZ (landing zone) that day.

At eighteen I spent my first time with someone for a week, armed, acting as her bodyguard until she could leave town to avoid local organized crime related to a murder at the time and which I'm currently working on a screenplay about.

I spent the first part of my life studying, reading, watching, and talking to people about espionage, the Soviet KGB, our own CIA, and so on. Those studies included world wars, spy craft, history in general, and the rest that would entail.

At eighteen, I took Criminal Evidence for Police from a veteran cop at Tacoma Community College. For many years, that teacher had been the partner of famous retired LAPD officer turned novelist, Joeseph Wambaugh of The Blue Knight novel fame (and others), which lead to the seminal TV show. That class was the beginning of giving me a way to order up my thoughts that meshed well with how I naturally thought since I first began reading the classics, like Aristotle, in fifth grade.

None of that is bragging. I merely mention it as foundation for what I am about to say next.

I used to read only non-fiction espionage books by ex-spies and defectors, ex-spy leaders and ex-government officials from our government and others, both friend and foe. I refused to read spy books back then out of fear of it contaminating my catalog of information. A catalog that one day could save my life. I applied to the Tacoma Police Department at nineteen but they gave the available jobs to only minorities that year due to a new law that had just come into effect.

I went into the Air Force at twenty the next year as a Law Enforcement Specialist. Before I got out four years later, I applied to join the USAF Office of Special Investigations. When the OSI CO at that base asked me why I wanted to join them, I said that it was just a step in a path I was on and that all through my life, it was almost as if someone were directing me into this field (which is why I mentioned all that previously above). In the end, that Commanding Officer said that I had the highest score he had ever seen on an OSI entrance exam. Before and after the testing, I had many "interviews" with him until finally, I was accepted and given my papers.

In picking a base to be stationed to, when he asked what I wanted out of that career, I said I was hoping at some point to get into being a courier, or some other job like that which I might not at that time even know about. I said that while I am in the OSI I wanted to learn all I could about the job. So he suggested for me request being assigned to the base (now closed) in the Philippines called, Clark AFB.

That surprised me as I'd expected (hoped for) Europe or Asia, thereby closer to our primary foe, the KGB. I asked him why. He said that I if really wanted to learn all about the job, that was the place to go, because that base had the highest amount of theft of any of our air bases in the world. That was the place, he said, where I would have to fill out a lot of forms and in fact would learn all the forms in the catalog there. I just frowned.

I told him that although I appreciated that, it wasn't what I had meant. When he asked for me to clarify, I explained that I was more interested in field work than paperwork. I explained a little more and his eyes lit up with understanding.

"In that case," he said, "you'll want to go to Berlin." He said that in fact there was currently a job available there that no one seemed to want to fill, as the job has been open for a while.

I asked why. He said that the agent who had vacated the position, had been leaving work at the end of a work day, had gotten into his car, and it exploded, killing him. When I asked who did that, he just gave me an odd look. I shook my head not understanding but started to get the clue. He nodded as in, "you know". So I said, "KGB?" He tilted his head slightly, then nodded, which I took to mean that there was no knowing for sure, but that was the reasonable, accepted conclusion. So, no one wanted that job as no one wanted to get blown up.

Then he said, "If you want to learn how to deal with other agencies like that, then Berlin [in 1979], would be the number one place to go." Immediately, I said, "Sign me up." He said okay, and to come back the next day. I returned the next day and got my paperwork which I still have.

My life took a turn that winter and as it turned out, I got out instead, got divorced, and ended up going to college. Eventually, I got a degree from Western Washington University in Psychology in their Awareness and Reasoning division, and Phenomenology, with a minor in Creative Writing and script and screenwriting.

Now at this point, let me point something out.

I just said that I was initially vetted over a few months and accepted into the USAFOSI. But before that, I never did get to be a Law Enforcement Specialist. I was cut from that in Basic Training due to issues around my having flat feet.

The reason I am telling you this now is that disinformation, and misinformation, the manipulation of information without being fully untrue, is running rampant in our media and news media, our party platforms and political organizations, today. I could have told you when I mentioned my situation with USAF Law Enforcement, but in not doing so, I set that into your mind, to give myself more authority, even though I later took it back. This may sound like hogwash, but it does work when dealing with masses of people, in statistical relevance. We are being bombarded with this kind of thing, being manipulated like this, constantly.

Even though I never was a cop, an OSI agent, or a spy, up until the time (and after) that I got out of the Air Force and decided not to go into that career area, I had focused, studied and oriented my life toward that lifestyle.

Spies are scenario builders. They have to be, their lives depends on it. Even in the back of one's mind in that field, one has to consider all possible scenarios and play them out ahead of time, so that when whatever might happen, happens, you have hopefully previously considered it and have a plan of action set in mind. Sometimes what makes someone seem like a genius, is simply pre-planning or at very least, pre-consideration. That leaves you more time in not being surprised by unexpected elements and with more options available in a smaller amount of time, in a possibly deadly situation.

It was damaging for me to change my life course midway as I had. It made my life difficult for years after, but I still retained that format of analyzing information with the thought that my life may depend on my having the most accurate information at hand. I've been in many situations where I had to make a snap decision to save myself or others and well, I'm still here. And so are they.

The one thing that has been a guiding light to me in all my life has been in search and support of the Truth. My attitude generally speaking, has been mercenary. When I'm paid by someone or some group, when I decide to accept a position, I fulfill that position to the best of my ability. Who within that group I am focused on serving, is a sliding rule, because the mission and the truth, are what matter. But I don't want to explain all the ins and outs of that here and now.

In Psychology we were taught how to read and write Psychology journal articles for peer reviewed magazines. These are difficult to read (and write) and have statistics in them, which you also have to understand, as it's very easy to skew stats to one's whims. I had to take a year of Psychology Statistics for that and it was very hard and quite miserable to suffer through.

What is important to me in life, is not that I prove my case so much as to prove the right case, honing that case to what is the greatest truth that is possible to discover. I have never had a problem telling someone at work that a mistake was made and it was my fault. Other people after all, matter; I'm not all important, even if it costs me.

In the beginning when I was younger, I had no problem with doing the government's bidding; even if that meant fulfilling my orders in being directed to kill someone. I would assume there was good reason behind it. This is not an unusual mindset for any young military type.

As I got older and with all my reading and learning, I started to see that life is not like in the old film Westerns. Life is grey, many and varied shades of grey. I've grown up a lot and learned the hard way that what you think is true, may have merely been set up for you to think that way; so that it may seem like one thing, but really be another.

I also dove into and swam through the conspiracy theory thing back in my late teens. Once I first ran into that, realized it was a theory (or syndrome), I studied what it was all about, the theory behind a conspiracy theory, and the people who tend to fall for them. One needs to understand about conspiracy theories before getting involved in any one conspiracy theory. To understand that, you have to have a handle on information theory, crowd theory, a whole plethora of theories. When you understand that, you can pick apart much of the bad information we hear in the media today and more easily separate out all the better, the good information. When you understand that you can all the better also disseminate your own precisely flawed, targeted information.

That is something that the Soviets, the Russian people, were expert in. We learned much from British MI6 and their knowledgebase, which they shared with us and even more so at the end of WWII when the Germans ceased to be the problem and the Soviets rapidly became one. The Brits knew about a lot about that through the centuries as they were at odds with the Russians and various other European countries throughout history. We learned a lot from the Brits about all that, and they from the Soviets and the Russians before them.

The KGB invented disinformation. Something that our national news media and politics have been picking up on of late, esp., Fox News and the Republican and Tea Parties. Others too are picking up on it.

It's been my experience however that the shadier types usually learn this first and then the other sides pick up on it sheerly out of self-defense and eventually learn to turn it into an offense. At times our own CIA has even used it inadvertently against the American people when publishing to foreign press, but then newer news media naively filtered it back home. So it has been a hard row to hoe for the CIA over the years as they are accountable to us, even though it may not seem that way at times.

It is in having gone through all these things that I have mentioned here, as to why I have a good background for what I see and hear going on all around me in the world; and why I believe I have a good orientation and background for fathoming and sussing out what the truth is much of the time; even through our own sad news media.

However, I get it wrong at times too. One's insight is only as good as whatever information can be accessed. I try to access as much accurate and disparate info as possible, in the best journalist sense by attempting to find the greatest truths and any associated "truths".

In the 1990s I was a Senior Technical Writer. That required, especially on the high level IT teams I was assigned to, a fairly high degree of accuracy and effectiveness. Otherwise, you were out the door pretty quickly.

When I finally decided to seriously go into fiction writing I realized that all that wasted and now useless information I had assimilated on the KGB and the Cold War, wasn't actually that useless. Though the Soviet KGB is no more, it is replaced now by the Russian FSB. Maybe the data I had wasn't so useful anymore, but that style of thinking, of analysis, the scenario building, the vetting of sometimes dubious or misleading information, all port over quite well into writing fiction.

This article wasn't supposed to be about me. I'm pretty much beside the point.

I just thought I could use my outlook and background to point out how it can be different than what one might consider to be the norm. My point in talking about all this was simply to show how I see things, differently. But then I've been told that I see things differently, going back as young as I can remember. Most importantly, I just wanted to try to point out a way to look at all this. To try and explain it in another way, in the hope that it may open some people up to vet their opinions differently, to re-evaluate their assumptions; to be more careful and circumspect on their beliefs. Even their deepest held and most cherished ones.

So I put it to you that all in all, through all my education, orientation and experiences, going up against conservatives who watch Fox News, I think at least in general, I have typically have a somewhat better sense of what I'm talking about. I do try and I do frequently have a more accurate view of things than they seem to have. That's not to say they are always wrong; but not infrequently they just haven't vetted their outlook very well.

In the words of Robert Reich, "...test your assumptions, shake your assumptions."

One more little tidbit....