Monthly Archives: March 2012

Going On The Account: Hatches Battened Down

Rich Benjamin’s piece in today’s New York Times gives a new perspective to the Treyvon Martin case that deserves attention.  Yes, there is an unavoidable racial component, but the equally important bunker mentality held by George Zimmerman cannot be dismissed.

 

The last time communities gave up on trusting their neighbors and having faith in society’s institutions, Europe was dotted with castles.  And do I really need to draw parallels between the run up to the Dark Ages and the current project?

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Going On The Account: RED JENNY Fifty Six

Part Fifty Six of RED JENNY AND THE PIRATES OF BUFFALO in now up, and may be read here.

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Going On The Account: More Heartless Than Blackbeard?

So word comes in today from two different articles on the Gawker sites regarding Dara Lynn-Weiss, a socialite who wrote an article in  Vogue about how she put her seven-year-old daughter on a diet in the worst possible way:

* Berating her daughter for her choice of foods, in public before her friends

* Keeping her from social activities based around food

* Screaming at her kid for accepting snacks and treats offered by other kids’ parents

* Belittling and berating her at every turn

 

Nope, no potential  long term psychological scarring here;, no negative body issue reinforcement coming out of this, no sir…

And after a year of doing this to her child, she not only gets an article in Vogue but a book deal at Ballantine.

A book deal, for being a complete out-and-out so-n-so.  What the fu…?

Sure, there are plenty of heartless folks who get the chance to write books, but usually for showing  depraved indifference in a position that affects whole populations.  In order to understand why such leaders showed depraved indifference at the helm, and in the hope of preventing this from happening again, we give these folks a chance to speak (what passes for) their mind to learn from that.  So it makes perfect sense that we’d give, say, Dick Cheney a book deal to understand how that all went down.

Giving him a new heart, on the other hand, not so much sense.  Some folks might ask when they read the news, “He had a heart to replace?”  but well…

An abusive parent, however, I can’t see rewarding with a book deal.  Did she get her daughter to lose weight?  Sure she did.  So too did Carlotta Brett-Pierce, who starved her four-year-old daughter Marchella in 2010 to death.  She’s facing a murder charge for the death of her daughter, though I doubt that if Marchella had lived that her mother would be getting a book deal.  Likewise, if Bea Lynn-Weiss had not survived her mother Dara’s bullying, it would be hoped that Vogue and Ballantine would not have been that quick to offer her ink and paper.  We can thank David Berkowitz for something, all said…

Still, how is it all right to laud  some truly horrible behavior like this?  What parent would give complexes to such young children, and how do we keep such bad parenting from being rewarded with a book advance?  If she met our expectations and did things the way they have always been done, then Dara Lynn-Weiss could not be given a forum unless she’d starved every child in Darfur (which is sadly no joke); the fact that she can now get published for only abusing her own kid is a development I’m not sure we really want to see in our bookstores.

Excuse me for a moment while I make sure my son’s OK…

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Going On The Account: Dropping Anchor Downtown

I’m pleased to announce that I’m going to be doing a personal appearance at Bar 82 this coming Monday, April 2nd at 8:15 PM (give or take) as part of the We Three Productions reading series.

For this live event, I’ll read the opening of Red Jenny and the Pirates of Buffalo, and be available afterwards to discuss the work, other writings, anything in general you want to talk about.

Again, that’s this Monday, April 2nd at 8:15 PM (give or take) at the following:

Bar 82
136 2nd Avenue
New York, NY, 10003

 

Hope to see you there!

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Going On The Account: Coming To Take Me Away, Take Me Today…

Well, if you ever wanted to hear me discuss the craft and some of my past work, now’s the chance.  Especially as that Borders signing I dreamed about holding ain’t gonna happen…

This Saturday, March 24th,  I will be a guest on a panel at the Fest for Beatles Fans, in Seacaucus, NJ, to discuss some of my past work for the  webzine Rooftop Sessions.  I’ll be on according to the program at 9:15 PM in the Crystal Ballroom.  If there’s time and the panel indulges, I might be able to discuss some of my other work, though the first topic will be why I got an invitation to make a reservation, which I discussed earlier on here.

 

Mind you, there’s plenty else going on all weekend otherwise, so if listening to me ain’t at the top of the agenda, there’s enough good reasons to come to the event at

NJ Crowne Plaza

Meadowlands Hilton

2 Harmon Plaza

Secaucus, NJ   07094

 

If you do come, hope to see you there.

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Going On The Account: RED JENNY Fifty Five

Part Fifty Five of RED JENNY AND THE PIRATES OF BUFFALO in now up, and may be read here.

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Going On The Account: Hear Ye Anything About Pirates?

It’s been a little time since I’ve focused on pirates here:

*  Apparently you can make as much going after ships with the Somalis as you can teaching at a New York public school.   Yeah, the piece is a little flippant, and some of the data is interpreted in a frivolous manner, but the fact that they have enough data to build a piece like this around it says something.

 

*  Apparently, Somali pirates pulled in $60 million more last year over 2010.  Which could well be exceeded this year considering how corrupt Somalia’s Transitional Federal Government has become, making them more a part of the problem than of the solution (if not the biggest problem).

*  There’s a series on Somali piracy the folks at GlobalPost are hosting, which covers most of the main points discussed elsewhere and brings a few things up to date.

 
In short:  It still sucks over there, no one’s doing a damn thing ashore to fix the issue, the pain continues.  A story about pirates without a lot of heart-swelling moving passages, in other words…

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Going On The Account: I Read the News Today…

A few brief bits as I read the paper this afternoon, from the NEW YORK TIMES*:

* The piece about how reading fiction is good for youhe brain.  You’re welcome…

* The piece about Daron Acemoglu and James Robinson’s new book, Why Nations Fail, which gives a new way to look at what makes a country rich.  It’s helpful to refer to this as part of the justification for the current work going online, as well as how it affects a new side project I’ve been working on…

…and no, I’m not going to go into the new work here.   I have a thing about that; the last few times I discussed projects in their embryonic stages, every possible disaster that could have befallen them knocked them offline.  Years ago, I did a panel at what would eventually become known as The Fest for Beatles Fans, where I was encouraged to read the opening of a work in progress that had John Lennon growing up in a Liverpool that had seen Operation Sea Lion.  Soon after the preview, every potential distraction hit me and my ability to commit to the work like taking a shotgun to the face from seven feet away; not a pretty sight, to put a point on it, and the work ended up needing to be abandoned.

So for now, all I have to offer is tantalizing hints until the new piece gets ready to roll out.  And if you see me at The Fest this upcoming weekend, no matter how many times you make me sit through your rendition of “You Know My Name (Look Up The Number),” I will say nothing about the new works.

You want to talk about the stuff that did get published, though, just ask…

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*Yes, I read the TIMES, without apology.  I read some of the others on occasion, when necessary, but a whole combination of upbringing/tradition and expectations keeps me a reader here.  In different times, I might have migrated over to the WALL STREET JOURNAL as I got older, but have you seen them lately?  There’s a few unpleasant  utterances you can make at the prospect of becoming a reader of that record now…

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Going On The Account: And The Award Goes To…

I got something in the mail recently; not quite like this…

More like this…

Thankfully, I have a few words handy for such occasions:

I want to thank the Academy for the recognition.  I want to thank the studio for believing in the project; our director for overseeing the shoot; the wonderful cast for bringing these characters to life so fully; the folks at the agency for getting everyone into the room in the first place; my wife Susan and son James; my parents; my f-

Aw crap, wait- that’s my Oscar acceptance speech; wrong file, gimme a sec…

Ah, going to have to build one from scratch, then:

The Versatile Blogger Award set a few rules for its nominees:

1. Thank the award-givers and link back to them in your post.

-OK, first off, my thanks to Amanda Young at Storyteller in the Digital Age for putting me forward for this.  Wishing her the best as she gets geared up to play the writing game…

2. Share 7 things about yourself.

-Well, they require it, so…

a.  I have a major interest in history.  It started in part because of my dad, who got his PhD in the field and is passionate about it; while other kids got the Three Little Pigs for bedtime tales, the sibs and I got the Song of Roland, which looking back was probably a better deal than we realized then…

b.  I have a particular passion for alternative history, aka allohistory or AltHis.  It was probably inevitable; as a kid handling a lot of history at a young age, the inevitable question at the end of the narrative tends to be, “So how come this didn’t happen?”  So when I finally get exposed to The Man In The High Castle and  Bring the Jubilee of course I was going to devour those.

c.  Yes, I am a major Beatles fan.  In addition to all the history I had as a kid, I nearly destroyed my parents’ copies of Magical Mystery Tour and  Abbey Road playing those LPs to death.  Which ultimately comes together years later with the AltHis pursuit when I wrote for the webzine Rooftop Sessions such tales as “Act Naturally,” “Magneto and Titanium Man,” “Out of Gear” and my presonal favorite, “One Bright, Shining Moment.”

d. Speaking of alternate history, I came close to a radically different personal path when I seriously considered not going to college and enlisting in the United States Navy.  I’m not sure the shape I was in at the time they’d have taken me, but for a few weeks there I did say “Screw the SATs!” and looked into how to report for enlistment.  This of course would have broken my parents’ heart; in addition to everything else involved  in such a decision, there was the consideration that most of the family that served went into the Army, which would have made my choice doubly embarrassing.  (Had I done so, I could see myself at family reunions wearing a shirt with the line from Duck Soup emblazoned on it:  JOIN THE ARMY AND SEE THE NAVY…)

e. One of my first semi-serious writing gigs in college was a film reviewer, where I learned how to write to deadline as I wrote about movies.  This gave me a love of film and an appreciation of the form.  This said, no, I’m not going to start writing film reviews; the last thing I need is Tom Brazelton and Gordon McAlpin to come after me for trying to cut in on their action.  Worse, Joe Dunn is local and knows me on sight, so he could probably find where I live easily…

f. I’ve actually gotten up to sing a few times and gotten some good notices for it.  I have to admit the folks I sang along with a few of those times with were far, far better than me, so maybe I did have some cover; the solos I undertook didn’t get me stoned, though, so maybe I do have something there…

g. I have always been into comic books and comic strips since way too long ago.  In fact, when I discovered webcomics, I thought about how I could try and get in on this movement; however, as the only thing I draw well are stares when I say something stupid, I had to reconsider that, and instead settled on emulating the webcomic business model as a means of getting my work out there, so…

3. Pass this award along 15 or 20.

-Hoo-boy, that could be an issue; I follow a few blogs, some of whom have gotten this duty, and I’m not sure what etiquette is involved if they get dinged a second time.  Also, some of the folks I follow  are technically webcomics, not blogs, so there’s a whole taxonomic quandary involved  herein…

Nonetheless, in no order that suggests any favoritism whatsoever…

Brave and the Bold/Super-Team Family: The Lost Issues

A Newbie’s Guide to Publishing

May Pang’s Asian Media Internet News

She Writes

Space 1970

Seduction of the Indifferent

Law and the Multiverse

RollingDownRodeo

Robotic Rhetoric

Five Bucks to Friday

Spacetrawler

Sailor Twain, or The Mermaid In The Hudson

The Bowery Boys: New York City History

The Dreamer

1977 the Comic

 

4. Contact your chosen bloggers to let them know about the award.

-Being done soon upon posting of this.

 

And if I forgot  to mention someone that needed a word or said something out of turn, hit me up for a pint.
That line, by the way, is how I’d end the Oscar speech too…

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Going On The Account: RED JENNY Fifty Four

Part Fifty Four of RED JENNY AND THE PIRATES OF BUFFALO in now up, and may be read here.

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Going On The Account: We Don’t Need No Education…?

I had someone take me aside after I posted a chapter in Red Jenny and the Pirates of Buffalo where I point out that one of the factors involved in the collapse of civilization as we knew it was eliminating state funding for higher education.  That person told me that I was being unrealistic, that no one in charge of government would ever go to that extreme in the future.

Today, there’s a piece on Gawker that cites an article from the Los Angeles Times where they discuss new tuition rates at Santa Monica College, part of the community college system in California.  Normally, I don’t block quote, but this just has to be read to be believed:

Faced with deep funding cuts and strong student demand, Santa Monica College is pursuing a plan to offer a selection of higher-cost classes to students who need them, provoking protests from some who question the fairness of such a two-tiered education system.

 

Under the plan, approved by the governing board and believed to be the first of its kind in the nation, the two-year college would create a nonprofit foundation to offer such in-demand classes as English and math at a cost of about $200 per unit. Currently, fees are $36 per unit, set by the Legislature for California community college students. That fee will rise to $46 this summer.

 

So let’s consider this:  The essentials are going to be tier priced at a rate about six times higher than a class in…  Geeze, what the hell can you get at that rate?  What would fall into the “not in-demand” category?  Do we want to know…?

 

Sadly, I didn’t have anything riding on my contention, because that person would now owe me a drink.  And after reading this news, boy could I use one…

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Going On The Account: Losing the Rutter

Just got word that Encyclopedia Britannica is ending the run of its physical editions with the 2010 issue.

According to the article, they still have 4,000 copies of the last run available for sale, a third of the total print run, for $1,395.  According to their sales page, this offer is limited only to individuals and will not be made available to institutions, so if you’re a school or library, you’re SOL.

So where to begin on ending a long run on such a sour note…?

Yes, what they say in the death notices for the EB, what anyone who does research in any field today will say if asked, is indeed true:  Print is dead.   As a reference source, in a rapidly evolving world that changes on a dime, in a universe that has a “24-hour news cycle,” a reference work that is published once a year can be a liability if you need an answer for something important, say to interpret a news article properly or deliberate on a policy proposal.  Or hey, for something trivial as well, like whether where you’re going on vacation next month has something interesting to see.

(Mind you, if you’re planning on vacationing in Kandahar, you could be doing both…)

The writing was on the smartboard for physical encyclopedias,  though, as far back as 2005, when Nature did benchmark tests of Britannica versus Wikipedia, and found that both came out as accurate in terms of the information presented to readers.  Whatever authority Britannica had, and by extension the physical volumes they printed, was blown away by that, and the only justification they had for the old model versus the crowd-sourced upstarts was no longer there to keep them around.

The old, “But think of the children!” argument, where we see something we grew up with not being there for the next generation to experience, doesn’t really work here.  It’s well proven that kids are adapting to a digital environment just fine without books; having an iPad declared a cool children’s toy a few years ago is proof positive that the encyclopedia we all knew when we were younger…

…OK, that some of us knew when we were younger (happy?), has indeed ended up relegated to only one function out of the many it used to hold, as a great collector of the various bits if dust your bookshelf comes into contact with.  And there’s probably a good plug in for your smart phone that will collect the dust faster and give it a spectroscopic analysis that the encyclopedia never could…

So, one less resource to turn to, going beneath the horizon with little notice like a ship sailing from port bound out of our sight and minds.  Can’t say I have a lot of sighs for it, considering this leaves us with plenty around to take its place.  A little wistful remembrance perhaps for the 20+ books on the shelf on my part, but like sail giving way to steam, not much to say after so long.

Does anyone else feel this way, or not…?

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