Monday, September 24, 2012

American Sins


What is our American Sin?

Citizens United Supreme Court ruling. The 99%. Taxes. Donations to Presidential candidates.

There are some very bad things going on in America.

We have a lot of talk about the 99% of the country, or obversely the 1%. Then there are the 47% who Mitt Romney says are slackers and who expect handouts.

But what is important? That the rich only pay 15% on their taxes or that the poor pay 35%? But aren't we missing something? Like, the people?

There is an attorney who has been pushing up through the courts to the US Supreme Court, an attempt to see candidate donations be deregulated under the so far successful guise that donating money is free speech. But aren't we missing something? Like, the people? Like all Americans? Inclusively?

Okay, now here comes a mouthful....

If poor people pay a third of their money in taxes, what does that mean to them? Isn't that basically food out of their mouths. Isn't that any kind of a vacation or the ability to go out to a nice dinner and a movie, ever? Has anyone considered that a third of your pay is a lot to a poor person, but paying 90% in taxes to a rich person, doesn't have to make a dent in their subsistence levels or their entertainment expenditures? What matters isn't so much what percent we pay in taxes but how much that affects the person paying those taxes. The rich, and they are if you ask me, anyone making over $100k/yr, don't seem to care that someone making $60k/yr is paying more than $20k/yr, more actually than a third of what they make and it may cost them $40k/yr just to live without a vacation or going to dinner once in a while. While those making millions, to go to the extreme, can pay $9 million/yr and still have $1 million to live on. Are they suffering? No. If they are living beyond their subsistence levels, then yes they may be; but those making very little aren't making a choice to live beyond their means, they are just trying to live on what little means they can make.

Do I think people should give up $9 million for every $10 million they make? No, not really. But you know, it used to be that way years ago. But I'm not asking for that from the rich. I'm asking for the poor to be able to live, to experience some of the American dream, too. We can't all make $1 million or more a year, or even a $100,000 a year.

Is money free speech when given to candidates? Perhaps, in a way, it is. But if it is, then it is a much louder voice than someone who is giving $10 to a candidate, or who cannot even afford to donate to their favorite candidate. So, should someone with a great deal of expendable funds be allowed to speak so much louder than someone who has little or no money to be able to have their voice, their free speech heard? If money is free speech to say Donald Trump, then by comparison he is speaking with a loud speaker and I am speaking with a pillow over my face.

These are some of our American Sins. These are the things we are doing in America that are immoral, unethical, that aren't even acknowledged by those in the GOP, by many of those in charge, by those who are wealthy. they don't want to allow them to have a greater amount of say in what goes on, or to allow them to achieve greater advantages than those who can speak oh so loudly, who take from those people with little or no say in things. If the rich were getting richer and they were helping the poor to get richer too, then I wouldn't mind so much. But what I'm seeing is the rich getting richer at the expense of the poor who are getting poorer.

And it's not just that.

Does America have a great infrastructure? Are our roads and highways in pristene conditions? Does everyone have free internet? Our freeways are free, shouldn't our digital infrastructure be free too? Don't we want roads to be free so people go and buy products? Don't we want people to get on the internet for free so they can go and buy products there too?

Is private owneship of things like the internet (CenturyLink, AT&T, etc.) reasonable and rational? I just had my internet go out at 9AM last week. I work from home and it wasn't until 9PM that night that I got it back, and then they found another problem and it wasn't until late the next day that I got internet back. I had to spend my time at a coffee shop who supplied their customers with free Internet so that I could get my work done. My Internet DSL provider, CenturyLink took forever to get us back online and that was for many people all across Washington state from what they said on their support line. They offered no reason why they were down. But why were they down, how did they go down?

Wasn't the "web" designed originally not to go down even during a nuclear attack? Wasn't that the concept behind the web structure? When one part goes down it automatically reroutes so that the connection is always, connected? Then why is it when there is not even a storm going on, no disaster whatsoever, yet there isn't enough redundancy to maintain keeping the internet is up? I've  heard all the technical reasons but really what it boils down to is redundancy, cost and privatization. Should I really have to even know about an outage? Shouldn't another system have been engaged so that traffic was seamlessly rerouted so that the customer never even notices? Shouldn't there be an agreement so that if CenturyLink goes down, they switch to AT&T or someone else, for the time being? Couldn't they create an interactive system of interdependence so that they watch each other's backs and thus, suffer the customer no discomfort?

Why is the American citizen suffering when these great private companies and the free market system who are running things for us should be running things for the better all because of it? If privatization and the free market are so great, why do we keep having outages on our internet, our cable TV, our cell phones, our power grids?

Things are not running how they should and I can only think that it is because of those who are saying that we need lower taxes for corporations (and especially for the rich even though recent research shows their theory on this is fallacious bordering on lies) because our lives will be better; who say that the rich, those who have, should have unfettered access to giving all the money they want to the candidates of their choice so they can continue to be heard over those of others who are suffering; who say that private companies can run our infrastructures be they digital or otherwise all to the betterment of all. When all they are doing is mismanaging and reaping the monetary benefits while disregarding the quality of service they are supplying the nation.

These are just a few of our modern day American Sins.

Someone needs to start doing penance for them. Someone needs to make them stop. Stop trying to limit American voters from voting. Stop keeping down or destroying the American middle class. Start having some social conscience. Start being Americans again, start being Heroes. Start working hard not just to make yourself a buck but to raise the standard of living for every American citizen. Because the only way to find peace in our world is to do that, to raise our standard of living and not ravage it, and thereby to also raise the standard of living, the quality of services for every single human being on the planet.

Be a Hero. Be, an American.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Should anyone publish a book?

Everyone likes a good, "snarky" argument. It sells. It's an underbelly of journalism. But in some cases, it's just juvenile. I offer you a case in point....

Recently there was a very heated debate on LinkedIn.com about book publishing. There was one side coming from a woman author whose name begins with a "C" (no comment), who has a questionably high level of self-importance and notably low level of self-esteem that she masks with snarkiness. About all she was going to allow was her opinion, everyone else was stupid. There was her opinion, or the highway it seemed. But I don't want to make this all about her; I do want to explain some about why this ended up on here.

During our brief discussion, because of her lack of cohesive thought and my desire to see some logic in the commentary, I decided to consider here, as I can discuss it without her venomous and useless monologue. All I did was to disagree with her and she immediately attacked me personally calling me a "Horror Hack", a title I wear proudly and ascribe a "hack" as someone who is usually getting paid for their work, though perhaps not turning out a high quality product, which was probably what she was trying to say without having read any of my work. At least I try to turn out quality work and I would like to make a living at it. She then picked on my book covers which I had an artist do. I think the "Death of Heaven" cover art is amazing, by the way. She was assuming I was someone I am not, comparing me to some shallow, opinionated "slob in a sports bar", which is so not me.

She was rightfully denouncing elitism in publishing. Then she turned around by becoming elitist about anyone who disagreed with her view, or who had another view, or a more sophisticated consideration of the question. A curious way to argue against something which you are arguing against. Eventually her comments evoked a sexist response from me that I later regretted. But she was pushing for that, I'm quite sure. I suspect that is one of her tactics in her toolbox, perhaps that she isn't even fully aware of, is to push someone till they say something stupid. I have always found that a lame tactic used by people who cannot argue logically and knowledgably on their own.

Yes, I'm arguing having been somewhat set up; but inadvertently on her part as I don't think she possesses the acumen or mind to have consciously set it up. Unconsciously, I wouldn't be surprised by what she might accomplish. Those are always the most dangerous types. Not just for others around them, but for themselves.

By her own words she has "done some really rotten things in my life, including criminal acts, spoiled selfishness, brutality, theft, and whoring." Well, it seems she hasn't completely stopped all of her negativity.

But, "Brutality"?

The original question by the way, as proposed by the LinkedIn thread creator, was:

"Do too many people think they can write books?"

Subtitle was:

"I mean, GOOD books, not cheap stories that say nothing and are written with the most basic of language skills."

The advent of independent publishing is something I think well of and have blogged about before as a trend that may very may increase the overall quality of what is published; but, there has also been a good deal of tripe published. Now, anyone can publish and among them, many who would not have otherwise been published and yet are quite good authors. Happily for us, they can now be seen by the general public. The stranglehold by the publishing houses has been released. But along with that, some degree of quality control. Alas, we also now have a slew of people publishing who have very rudimentary writing skills, or even less. That may be fine if you have a good concept, something to say, etc. But please, get some help with your writings, if you need it. If you can't put two words toget to make sense, or two sentences, please, have pity on your reader.

And that, was MY point in this entire discussion. My only point. A point I was never able to get across to Ms. Self-Importance Herself.

It's been said that even Hemingway was saved by his editor, Max Perkins. As the thread creator finally pointed out in the discussion at one point, when "C" was getting too over the top in her rantings and he wanted to pull some control into the discussion, refocus back on the actual topic and to smack her down a bit:

"Hey, "C" ... take it down a notch, will ya? If you think anyone & everyone can write just because they know their big letters from their small, that's great. However, editors at all publishing houses make qualified judgments every day on who can and who cannot write – "

The issue I was trying hard to get across wasn't that anyone shouldn't publish, but that some people shouldn't.

Can YOU see that difference? She simply couldn't. Something that made me question her veracity and acumen.

Now that I have some breathing room without her trying to stop the discussion, ignore the logic, maintain a train of thought to its completion....

I have tried several times in my life to help new writers. I really don't have much time for this now a days, but when I had more time in the past, I did what I could. I never got much help in my life from others who could have helped me, so I have tried not to be that way when it was possible. At some point, if I ever make it to the level I would like to get to, I would like to be able to find the time to do some helping out again. Especially for family, or those friends who have been close, something I haven't had much help on from my own family or friends.

But the few I have tried to help in the past turned out to be something I hadn't expected. After putting in a lot of time and energy trying to help them, I came to realize something. There are two types of new writers. The writer who wants to be one and will make it happen, and the "writer" who simply wants to be, and simply won't make it happen. This latter type is in love with the romantic notion of being a writer, with the benefits, but not the loneliness or the hard work and the rejection.

There is really nothing romantic about being a writer. It is work, it is solitary for the most part. It is many hours every day, day after day, year after year, honing your art, writing, learning, reading. And READING is very important. It has to do with taking in new information, digesting it, and utilizing it.

But those whom I have tried to help seemed only to want me to read their works, LOVE them, and then to see them get published. Or, to read them, rewrite them so that they were publishable, so they wouldn't have to put the thought and effort into it, so they have something to publish; so they could send it off themselves (or in some cases for me to get it published) and so, finally see themselves in print.

However, like the person you give a fish to for food when they are starving, that is really kind of a waste of time. Maybe to help them have the strength to then do their own work but that can be a trap. Unless you teach them how to fish, they will not succeed. They need to want to learn how to fish. Or, in this case to write. But many of these people don't want to learn to write, they just want to be a "Writer". Eventually, I got to the point where if they didn't want to learn, to do it themself, if then won't put in the time and energy to become a writer, I simply do not and will not, have the time of day for them. And rightfully so, I think. That's how my professors at the University treated me and it's what needs to be done.

I remember when I was a kid, learning in the Air Force to be a parachute rigger. I was having a horrible time with a new parachute I was learning to pack. These chutes are too much material to be fit in too little space. It is like an exercise in isometrics as you struggle and struggle and it never seems to get packed. So the Sergeant comes by, sees my problem, packs the chute for me to show me what I'm doing wrong and I'm ecstatic. I'm relieved. And then, he pops the chute and says, "Okay, now, pack it." I almost had a nervous breakdown. I had been nearly in tears from the struggle and couldn't believe I hadn't just gotten away with having to pack that damn chute. I wasn't the only one. I saw every one of us in that class go through the same frustration and emotional expenditures. But it was the only way to learn, because once we graduated we were on our own and people's lives depended upon our knowing and doing our job well. Writing is much like that. You have to suffer through the learning so that when you are out there in the world, you know what to do and do it well. Someone getting you published does you no good whatsoever.

Those are the writers I was talking about, those were the ones I was trying to point out to great "writer" the great "C" herself. But she only wanted to hear her own voice. She is, in some ways, so much like those writers I have worked with in the past. They waste your time, they are offensive in their expectations. And they should probably never publish.

Why? Because they dilute the writings that are out there. They make it harder on the writers who do care, who slave over their writings. That is not to say, as "C" kept uselessly pointing out, that they are elitist writers, but they are the writers at all levels who deserve our respect.

Not respecting them for being such brilliant authors, but for being hard working individuals who have respect for themselves, writing in general and most importantly, for their reader.

Now in the spirit of full disclosure, I made one faux pas in the thread, that I alluded to before and that was so irritating "C" word lady. I stated my opinion, and then she immediately came back at me attacking myself, my writings, even my book covers, sounding rather... elitist (by my observation and actually a few others). She ended up many times becoming that type of individual that she was actually arguing against. Odd, that. But, that's who she is as an individual.

Anyway, I asked why women have to come back right away with a personal attack in a discussion such as we were having. That was wrong of me. Men do that too, after all. It was wrong because I was responding to a single woman who was serving up a personal attack in what I mistakenly thought to be a intellectual discussion. I had no idea it was simply a base, emotional rant in a debate absconded by one individual who has been trying to jump on the bandwagon of being a "Public Bitch" (her words), which has so been perfected by the attractive, smart and very funny, Chelsea Handler.

But being a funny and professional "Bitch" comedienne is not simply acting like a Bitch. It requires humor, intellect and a quick wit. Perhaps this "C" woman is just young or new at this concept of intellectual humor and merely requires a few more years to perfect it. I would suggest watching Chelsea on her show, "Chelsea Lately"; maybe reading Chelsea's books. Otherwise, one needs to remain quietly at home, writing (offline please) and rewriting and rewriting. Writing IS rewriting after all, something "C" doesn't apparently understand either for herself or for the poor writers I was referring to all this time. I have to wonder if she spends most of her profits on editors, or "Ghost writers" since I don't see the cleverness in her books, in his online debates.

So the point is this....yes, we have a lot of people publishing now who shouldn't. But let me point out, again something "C" couldn't get: I never said I thought anyone shouldn't be allowed to publish, I said that I thought that they shouldn't publish. But by their own decision. The trouble there is that they can't (won't) see it. Much like "C" word lady ("Lady", no, no, no, woman, surely but I'm sure she would say herself, not a lady...actually, I think she did say that in an interview somewhere), who can't see what I was trying to say in fairly clear English. Other erudite individuals on the thread seemed to easily understand it. But I suspect she was just "blowing" her own horn, much as she had been paid to do for others, in her previous career (and yes, those others being, men, perhaps explaining some of her causticness).

Well, I think I've gone on long enough about this. Far longer than I should have, for sure. But it is quite frustrating talking to someone when they are undoubtedly off their meds and you can't get them to see the most simple of concepts.

Certainly, I wish her well, as I do all writers who are trying to get somewhere. It's a tough business after all. One of the toughest. Considering herself other side, the self-proclaimed "Southern Belle" side, I just wish she could play up a little less of the unfunny "Bitch" motif and a little more Classy Southern Belle.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

My thought on 9/11

If I had died at the World Trade Center and my loved ones (and they know this is true) kept coming back to remember me on this date every year (rather than concentrating on how badly our government let us down and how we can avoid it happening again...without war) and they weren't all partying their asses off on 9/11, smiling (even if with a tear in their eye but damn you don't let it drop) and thinking happy thoughts about me, I'd seriously come back and haunt every damn one of them.

I'm just sayin'....

Monday, September 10, 2012

Why doesn't Mohammad have a sense of humor?

Recently I received an email about a book available on Amazon:

"Did you know that Mohammad was a drunken, child molesting,cowardly pimp? The Ayatollahs and Terrorists do not want you to know the truthabout Islam and promise to harm you if you tell anyone. Fight back and readthis well written, totally funny, parody on the founding of the so-calledreligion."
Noor Barack is an American Citizen
"The good non-biased reviews on Amazon.com "How FatimaStarted Islam" are very accurate in describing this both laugh and insultper page well written novel featuring the always drunk proprietor of Mohammad'sSaloon & Brothel. Still, available from Amazon.com and 234 truly funnypages at only $9.99. You will not be sorry, but do not import this book to the MiddleEast. The Terrorists DO NOT want you or anybody to read, publicize, promote,orpurchase this book, they HATE the fact that this book exists and is beingread. Buying this parody is not only sticking up for American freedom itis sending a big message to Islam."

Use this link to go toAmazon.com: How Fatima Started Islam

There was also this Note in the email:

"There is aconcerted and subtle effort to manipulate Americans from buying or reading theparody. A foreign based group, I'll call them 'the friends of Islam'are pressuring Amazon.com to cease selling the book and also to floodAmazon.com with bogus 'reviews' to dissuade Americans from purchasingit. In a two week period 40 'reviews' rushed in, mostly withnon-Arab names, telling people how horrible, petty, stupid, poorlywritten etc. the book was and not to buy it. All 40 unanimously gaveit the absolute lowest rating. It was obvious that each of the'reviewers' had not bought or read the book, many proclaimed that they wouldnot under any circumstances read an anti-Islam tome. From George III toAdolf Hitler many foreigners have tried to limit what Americans should beallowed to read. Protect the First Amendment and do not be dictated bythe Ayatollahs of Damascus , Bagdad, and Tehran."

Okay, that is all from the email I recieved.
Needless to say, when I first read it, considering all the things I've heard about how Muslim's react to things like publishing a drawing of a cartoon of Mohammad; and then there was the call to kill Salmon Rushdi, author of "The Satanic Verses", a book it would seem that did not have in it what they thought was so offensive and inflamatory; and the many who turned out to picket at the theaters when "The Last Temptation of Christ" was relased and most of those people hadn't even seen the show.
Well, we've all had knee jerk reactions against things that disturbed us before we actually investigated them, I suppose.
I just never threatened or killed anyone over it.
I have the same kind of thing in my own book, Death of Heaven, also on Amazon.com.
What is it about this kind of thing that makes God so angry? Or is He actually laughing about it, HimSelf? Is it just the lovely (lowly?) human beings, the Worshippers who are so angry?
If humor is a higher brain process;
and if sarcasm is an even higher level of humor;
and I would argue that it is, since it takes little thought and brain power to tell a rather base fart joke, but a good biting brand of sarcasm takes a much smarter person to conjure up;
and if God is a higher level of being from Human;
then doesn't it follow that God is probably cracking up about many of the jokes about him?
Especially, when they are funny?
I don't profess such cleverness or humor in my own book, though there is some in it. But I do believe we need to have a sense of humor about things we hold dear, especially when dealt out by outsiders, who possibly, simply, do not understand.
And when they aren't outsiders, and they do understand, perhaps what they are saying really is of value, and we are just making fools of OUR selves?
It's something to consider. What if, every time anyone reacted to something with hate, anger, fear, or retribution, they simply held back, examined the situation more closely, and responded accordingly? Maybe, if the book really offends you THAT much, read it. THEN complain, because THEN, you have some ground to stand on and can argue (debate) with knowledge and information.

Well we might as well end up with this....
Identity of filmmaker behind anti-Mohammed movie revealed
And a link to a trailer for the movie

Monday, September 3, 2012

The Bionic Olympian

I was recently watching "The Next Step" with Dr. Sanjay Gupta on CNNHD cable channel.

Recently, we had the Summer Olympics in London, England. In this Olympics, the runner known at the "Blade Runner" was allowed to compete. I said it then and I'll say it again that I do not believe that should be allowed.
 
"Oscar Leonard Carl Pistorius (born 22 November 1986) is the South African sprint runner known as the "Blade Runner" and "the fastest man on no legs". Pistorius, who has a double below-knee amputation, is the world record holder for T44 in the 100, 200 and 400 metres events and runs with the aid of Cheetah Flex-Foot carbon fibre transtibial artificial limbs by Ă–ssur. He competes in T44 (single below knee amputees) events though he is actually classified in T43 (double below knee amputee)." - Wikipedia

"In the end, At the 2012 Summer Olympics on 4 August 2012, Pistorius became the first amputee runner to compete at an Olympic Games. In the 400 meters race, he took second place in the first heat of five runners, finishing with a time of 45.44 seconds (his best time of the season so far) to advance to the semi-finals on 5 August. He ran in the second semi-final, where he finished eighth and last with a time of 46.54 seconds." - Wikipedia

After I first heard the official consideration and reasoning, I backed off on my contention that to allow him to run was unfair to the full bodied runners. They decided that there as no advantage to his running with his prosthetics, and in fact they were a slight disadvantage. If someone wants to run with a disadvantage, that is their decision (within reason) and makes their achievements all the more rewarding and laudatory. Right?

As long as competitors have 100% of their normal function, but not as a "special" Olympian so that they should or could, be in the "Para Olympics". That is, Olympians should not be using drugs, hormones, prosthetics, or bionic devices.

When I watched the episode of "The Next Step" about Dr. Hugh Herr, a double amputee himself, from MIT's Bioelectronics Group, I found it a fascinating report about an interesting researcher and a very important series of inventions and discoveries through their very dedicated, hard works.

The decision of the Olympics seems to disregard certain considerations of elements of the body under duress, its repair and damage. It is physically impossible for Pistorius to ever have a torn ligament in his foot as he has no foot. He will never damage his Achilles tendon, or have to try and heal it before a match, or to run with it damaged to some degree. And if a runner were running with such damage, what about running against someone like Pistorius who does not have that same risk factors?

Pistorius will never pull a muscle in a race in a body part that he no longer has. How is that at all fair to the other runners who are taking that risk, who do have a chance of turning their ankle and falling in a race, to be running against someone for whom that risk factor has been completely eliminated?

I fear that in the attempt of the Olympic Committee to not seem unfair to one individual, and in  opening the door for others like him in the future, they are being unfair to all the athletes who are competing and all those who will never make it into the Olympics, who have tried so hard for so long, but will never make it.

It was mentioned in the Dr. Gupta show about how we use machines like bicycles and now there are competitions on bicycles. We may one day have competitions with bionic individuals. But the main reason for the Olympics is to take a fully complete, unextraordinarily enhanced, human being with all their natural functioning and then to compete against another similar human being, to let nature as much as possible take its course and in the end, to see one individual as victorious over another.

I truly believe we need to have individuals who are using all their natural being as compared equally to the other contestants, and that means they need to have all their body parts. There are other competitions they can compete in if they do not have their original and natural parts. But we need to keep the Olympics as basic and as natural as possible. There simply should be no question about the competitors.

I have always been forward looking and accepting in using new technologies and in most areas, I would be all for bionics. I am all for people finding their full potential and superseding that potential whenever possible. But in an organization such as the Olympics, we should not be allowing individuals who need prosthetics.

I would even argue possibly, against those who have to have new cell tissue replacement (though I believe that may be a small enough issue as to not be a concern), muscle tissue, ligaments, etc., as these would be young elements, newly defined within the body; while the others competing have had to work with what they have had since birth, and that is after all, part and parcel of the competitive experience. I would argue even against allowing competitors with bone replacements, if they put in a different material than they were born with. I've heard that bone replacement materials actually do have a different type of flexibility and density factor and that would be wrong. I don't think body element replacements should either enhance or detract from a potential competitor.

It isn't impossible to be born and grow through hard work to become an Olympic competitor. Although certainly we cannot all make it. That could be considered as sad for most of the people of the world who would want to compete, but really it's not. Rather it is celebratory for those who can achieve it, who can make it to that level and who can actually be accepted to compete. But those who are allowed to compete have to be as basically normal as possible.

That being said, I also do not think that we need to turn it into some kind of religion, or purist consideration; but to some degree, yes, we do. If someone needed a ligament replaced, that may even be  just fine. But if it has a different flexibility, tensile strength, etc., we really do need to consider how fair that is to those we know may damage their own ligament through the trials and tribulations of competition.