Monthly Archives: February 2014

Going On The Account: Pressing Your Luck

A more detailed account appeared today about the death of two security providers for the MV Maersk Alabama.

 

Yes, that ship, the same one whose encounter off Somalia made Americans aware of modern pirates and spawned a film up for an Academy Award this Sunday.  Like all vessels not sunk by pirates, she was gone over after the encounter, made seaworthy again, and sent on her way, hoping never to see anything like this again.

 

At least she had before two ex-SEALs hired to defend her were found dead in their cabins.

 

They make mention of it in passing in the piece and try to quash it there, so let’s be clear here:  There is no Maersk Alabama curse.  Five years between two incidents with tangential connection does not constitute a Jonah ship.  If such things like this had any weight, Carnival Cruises would have been scuttled and NBC would have long ago cancelled Saturday Night Live to fight its curse, both of which some folks out there might still want to see…

 

The sad fact is, claims of curses are not warranted.  Bad luck, maybe, if you can believe in luck as being bad.

 

I think I can say without fear that there is luck in the world, a certain amount of chance that affects everything.  It allows for some groups of people to find favorable conditions that encourages them, and for some to have the odds become ever so much longer.  It allowed for some of the winners of the past a chance to thrive, and proved too much of an impediment to some who might have been better able to make a go otherwise.

 

There was no pre-ordained factor planned out to make Cortes’ invasion of Mexico an automatic success; he had some luck go his way in terms of who he met and what happened to the Nahua before he got there.  There were plenty of factors by design to allow for sea dogs of the Golden Age of Piracy to be a success, but any one of them who denied the role of luck in their ventures was a damned fool.  My getting you to read this piece, despite all the marketing tricks I can afford without selling my soul, ultimately relies on an act of chance that you got this far.

 

But while there is luck in the world, I’m not convinced of it being “good” or “bad.”  Luck is like other primal elements, in that it exists for good or ill, and that it’s how we make the most of it that determines its character.  Like fire and rain, it exists, and how we work with it and react determines how we move ahead.

 

What happened to Jeffrey Reynolds and Mark Kennedy is a sad tragedy that hopefully will be explained soon, with appropriate closure to come.  But to call it a “curse” at any time would be a disservice to them or the ship they were upon.

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Going On The Account: Where the Rims Meet the Potholes in the Road

Now I know how some other writers feel when their speculations get the crap beaten out of them by reality.

 

There are lots of writers who’ve written about civilizations on Mars, war with the Soviet Union, and other things that you look back on later and wonder what you would say to justify that after the fact.  Lines like, “Wow, I had a lot to drink/snort/shoot in those days,” come up with some of them, as does, “But the data seemed so solid,” as well as “It was metaphorical, yeah, that’s it,” or “Oh c’mon, you thought A Flock of Seagulls was a good band back then too, and you know it!”

 

All right, maybe it’s only me that uses that last one…

 

But there’s no denying that you finish the work, you have it there for everyone to see, and something happens later that makes you realize that you might have missed something.

 

In my case, it was conveying the right aspects of the digital divide in Red Jenny.

 

I think it was the idea that connectivity was so ubiquitous and rolling out so far so fast, that just about everyone would have some level of connectivity, which is a safe assumption.  If anything, the idea of non-connectivity, of being totally separated out from the wider world, was just not given as strong a look compared to shifting climate making enemies of neighbors.

 

Which made “Life on the Other Side of the Digital Divide” by D. Watkins on Motherboard a big whack-to-the-head moment.  The depictions of the effects in this day and age of the divide between those with connectivity and those without went far beyond where I was with the novel.

 

Even accounting for the concept of connectivity transitioning from a service to a utility taking place and Moore’s Law producing a corollary that the computing power you need becomes affordable given time, the scene where Shaun produces a tablet mapping Lake Erie comes off a bit too “first world” after reading Watkins’ piece today.

 

I’d like to hope that next time aspects like these won’t get lost.  I ultimately don’t have a real good defense of this blind spot, other than being so engaged with all that metaphor while pouring over all that solid data over as I drank all those rum drinks.

 

And listening to so much A Flock of Seagulls…

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Going On The Account: A Tale to Tell; Had You Heard About…?

Sometimes, you see something as a writer that makes you check your sanity.

And makes you wonder about the state of humanity as well…

 

So what happens when the audience just glazes over in the face of a story?  When there’s a compelling tale to tell that just does not get any traction whatsoever, no matter how compelling the story, no matter how important it is, it just does not register with anyone?

 

I wish I could say this is a complaint about my numbers; I wish this post was just some whiny self-important moping about my audience.

 

But this is about Venezuela.

 

I don’t know if you’d heard about what’s going on down there, how Hugo Chavez’s successor is resorting to repression to deny the costs of the inherent mistakes made by the last regime.  And it’s bad; the official death toll as I write this is between six and eight, but with press expulsions, diplomats forced to leave and the shutting down of the Internet in country, that could actually be a lot higher.  Without more information, we have to entertain the devastating thought that this story may be drenched in a lot more blood than we know.

Or care about, because this revolution is almost invisible here in the United States.

 

Is lack of interest due to scale?  No, these deaths are not Kiev-like numbers, but that’s a horrid unit of measure we’ll consider later.

They say if you want to jazz up a story, give the reader something to latch on to.  And if you’re in a crunch, the old adage, “Sex sells,” comes to mind.  Which brings up…

Via Twitter, as cited in second article linked below

Her name was Genesis Carmona, 22.  It’s okay to discuss her looks, as she was a beauty pageant winner, which makes her a success in a major Venezuelan industry.

She was also part of the protests against the government in Valencia on Tuesday the 18th, where security forces shot her point blank in the face, killing her.

This drew some press finally, in the New York Daily News.  Which gave a lot more attention to this crisis by Wednesday than The New York Times had at that point.

If the Times is being out-reported on an international crisis by the Daily News, then there are way to many ways to count how screwed we are…

And that’s the part that’s scary, the whole “lack of attention” to the crisis.  We can’t blame President Maduro’s campaign to shut the country entirely for this; sure, he probably learned his lesson well from Egypt and Syria’s efforts to black out their unrest and keep people isolated, but news still got out from there.  And while Ukraine seems very cavalier about information leaving the country, evidenced by Espresso TV’s operations there, it’s not exactly a case of the government putting up press junkets for reporters to come on in.

For Venezuela to just disappear, there needs to be a collaborator, and in this case it’s the media.

 

Why?  Are those shrinking news budgets finally catching up to the point where media companies can only cover one revolutionary movement at a time, and that you come too late you lose?  Are the resources to place people in Sochi for the Winter Olympics straining the attention of all news directors?  Is there something about Venezuela that’s making these folks think it’s poison to discuss during “sweeps month”?

So how did this happen?  Venezuela has been on the minds of folks overseas since it was a major stop for the “plate fleet,” and some outlets here couldn’t get enough of Hugo Chavez when he was alive (mostly to report on what a buffoon he was).

And that’s the part that’s keeping me awake.  It’s one thing to talk about how to reach out to people, as writers constantly worry about, when it comes to making sure their work finds readers.  It’s not enough to publish or perish; what you publish has to find readers.  And if your work disappears in the din and buzz, that’s not a crisis, that’s a marketing puzzle.

But if an entire f’n’ revolution just blanks out of the minds of everyone, what does that  mean?  What can we draw from that, that such an event of import in a prodigiously producing member state in OPEC at a time when oil is still important, can just not be there in anyone’s mind?

Is it safe to write when even stories this big are just not registering…?

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Going On The Account: Pulling Into Port

And sometimes, the ship you’re looking for comes in to where you are…

Over the weekend, I referred someone to a post where I linked to my first appearance on Hour of the Wolf.  I was proud of that stand, especially as it was the first time I shared with a wide audience my reading of “Act Naturally,” a story that with the 50th anniversary of both DOCTOR WHO and Beatlemania upon us seemed especially resonant these days.

To my embarrassment, however, WBAI purged the archives of the piece.  Which is their right, especially in these days where bandwidth is so precious and the ability to provide online traffic becoming as valuable as an air pocket in a sinking boat, so I get that.

Well, I did get that, after a string of blue curses, apologies to the person I was trying to refer the piece to, and a few jiggers of rum to try and treat my depression.  Rum’s good for a lot of things, but it tends to lack in the treating of depression induced by first world problems…

Still, better I was collected come the end of the weekend, when I wrote Jim Freund, host of Hour of the Wolf to see what consolation he could offer.  Least he could do, I figured, was explain the station’s policy and keep me from feeling like this was personal.

Yeah, I’m a bit of a prima dona that way…

And to my surprise, he forwarded me the download of the show, making it resident right here for all time*:

*Offer not valid in the event of FCC losing net neutrality battle, EMP-pulse (man-made or natural) frying the World Wide Web, any major act of force majeure, or general hosting issues arising between me and WordPress

My thanks to Jim for forwarding the file and allowing me to host it here.

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