Wednesday, September 28, 2011

We All Live in a Litigious Nation

I have this defiant thing that I say when ever I cross, as a pedestrian, the street and I feel challenged by an ongoing car.  I say (with an Elvis-esque snarl “run over me and I’ll sue you”.

The United States is a litigious country. 

  The State of Massachusetts, for example, has more attorneys then any state in the country.  The reason for that is the presence of Ivy League colleges and lots and lots (said in my finest snooty voice) of litigiously prestigious training camps…er…schools for those who have a yen to chase an ambulance.

(By the way Harvard dudes—you think you are so gosh darn smarter then the rest us and that Ivy League puts you in a class by yourself. Ivy means you and your institution are covered in weeds which is a truly good analogy as to how you have been running…dare I say bleeding… this country)

How do you do? My name is “Sue”.

Yes, we are a litigious country.

…which brings me to my point:

Many of you remember that a few weeks ago a man was trapped under a car and could not get up---he could have literally died. 

Suddenly, out of nowhere and I mean NOWHERE comes this crowd of people descending on this scene like ants on a pile of pure Haitian cane sugar and they don’t descend as “gawkers” which is normal for people in this country.

Instead, with a mighty roar and the sound of angelic goodness beating in their collective hearts, these singular peewees get together and combine their strength and in one Herculean effort lift the car while a couple of construction workers drag the man away from the car just as it burst into flames.

THEN (and I have to shout in amazement using my all caps key)

They vanish…

As if they had never, ever existed…ever.  My wife claims they were angels.  I have a much darker explanation.

First, let me say that I belief in the inherent goodness of most people and I believe that most people try, really try, to put their best efforts forward. Sure, we see a lot of negativity on the news but the news is about garnering tv ratings which is about garnering advertisement money which is about garnering sales which is about garnering money and then recycling all that garnering into recycling the whole thing all over again.

That’s a lot of garnering, don’t you think?

..and now for my much darker explanation:

We are a litigious nation.

Lawyers…so many lawyers….so much to do….so much money to make off the misery of others.    They are always circling over our heads waiting for the right moment to sue something and, in this case, this automobile accident would be a big wallet expander waiting to happen.

I honestly believe those kind people just vamoosed so that they could not get sued for being “good Samaritans”. 

I am thankful that a man was not killed and lived to tell his story and the story of these anonymous heroes to others…we should all be this lucky.

But if this country is to not only survive but also move forward, we need more heroes and fewer lawyers.

I’m just sayin’…

Friday, September 23, 2011

In The Year 1984

Ah the good ol days.

I remember Oliver Wendell Jones, in trying to help his father (see the story in Bloom County), erasing said dad’s social security number and in doing so, erasing his father from the very face of existence.

I remember my very first grocery store bar code.  How fascinating!

I remember the 8 hours it took me to download America Online on my Mac SE (which I had painted to look like a block of granite) and the time it took me to explore AOL since I was sure, because I was so net ignorant, that this WAS the internet and that AOL had all there was to see.

Then I stumbled into a new sunlight and discovered other aspects of the internet--the whole shopping thing was iffy in those days and there were forums, always forums of hundreds of people, not a vegan among them because they always had some sort of BEEF about something.

Remember HTML Goodies!  Ol’ Joe had a website that was SO popular he made a kazillion dollars selling it to a bigger, better competitor (this has got to be some sort of foreshadowing)  and goes back to teaching in Goat Lick Arkansas or wherever it was he came from--he was a friendly sort too and you kind of felt you knew him.

That's the way it was in the good ol' days.  Back then it was da bomb--feel the love!

But alas, the internet is a distant and cold place full of unspeakable or should I say "unmentionable" things that would curl the hair off the head of old Lovecraft himself. 

It’s all there and still is--except for one thing and I would like to add this point to you for consideration:

I'm a guy who fixates on a subject, learns it the tip top of his Peter Principle, then moves on--people have referred to me as sort of a knowledge sponge and it was for this reason that I learned and did not master HTML (well the current version then) as I am sure almost all of you did at the time.

And I was helping people with websites...well because I could and they couldn't and they could pay me which brings me to a point:

THE NEW 1984

Ease of Use---no one has to program, write html code, understand client server issues OR deal with those Gods of the Ether-sky--IT Technicians.

Welcome to Pleasure Island, Pinocchio

While I miss some of the elements of days gone by--the new stuff is really nice--I don't have to think, I don’t have be technical and I can just write and write and write and we all write for the good of the Social Network.

Now if ONLY Google or any of these big boys could just put together a program that would allow them to peer at us from the other side--watching us live our lives and record and report it where necessary.

I’m just sayin…

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

John Talks "Grammarcialism"

 Let it be known:

I'm the king of the typographical errors, I must confess, and proofreading is a must for me especially since my spell checker cannot spell!

I stand in awe at the notion of an English teacher in some remote and rural High School in Wytheville, VA struggling to get the idea of correct grammar across to a net savvy student because, after all, if its on the internet, it must be true--bad grammar that is. 

Funny, they used to say the same thing about print.

Writers, in particular, must be very diligent in shouldering a particular burden of responsibility: the modern pen dragon must  convey thoughts which move, seduce or force thought to mind.  

Writers can be said to be the molders of our thoughts, ideas and general fodder for the local water cooler conversationalists.

While the idea of passing on our thoughts to our eager readers is admirable, the grammar and structure are the package in which those nuggets of thought are presented.  Form is equal in substance if not more in importance then the idea.

You see, dear reader--anyone can lay down the word, be it on pen or through electronificationism (I like to coin words just to trip up the spell checker).
Anyone can write but like a missile, the word is pretty useless without a decent delivery system

And I have Faith, Dear Reader

I have faith that readers want the good form and structure, that they dont want to sift and that they want it as good on the internet as the books give it--"it"  being the idea and the passing on of that idea by the diligent and well meaning writer. 
As I write this micro-tome, please forgive any spelling errors as I have a demented spell checker--ah but that is what proof reading is for!

I’m just sayin…

Monday, September 19, 2011

Tom Swift & His eBook

Have any of you heard of Project Gutenberg? Have any of you heard of Tom Swift? I remember as an awkward boy pouring religiously though the Hardy Boys and the Mystery of this and that and the other and their father Fenton Hardy the big time detective who was always leaving on important trips to solve his own mysteries.  It always bothered me that he was never around and the boys were left to their own devices but they were good boys and in that day no hanky panky would ensue—there were mysteries to solve after all.
I was very big on Doc Savage and his dream team of super geniuses who could solve any problem anywhere anytime because they were...well... geniuses and did I mention that Doc Savage...was the man of bronze--he invented the George Hamilton tan. 
And Then Came Tom
Tom Swift, Jr. who had an invention for every occasion including spaceships, space stations and satellites, jet packs and the list just goes on and on and like the Hardy Boys--there was always some sort of mystery to solve with Tom’s laser like mind.
So imagine my surprise when I found out that Tom Swift, Jr had a father who was as inventive as his son.
The original Tom Swift stories are in the early 1900's (the one I was reading is from 1901) and of course Tom Swift is a kid inventor (not surprising since this was the age of Edison and Bell)—and did you know that the kid had a bicycle with a motor attached to it? He invented an airship too!
 Of course, there was always the mysteries to be solved--usually involving a local bank being robbed or some kind of typical “skull duggery” involving nefarious James Cagney gangster types and Tom Swift would solve it all usually with his sound logical mind and keen observation and of course his cool inventions.  Mysteries were solved and wrapped up all in the turn of the page and these stories all happened at the turn of the century!
Some things just never change. Of course I knew about Tom, Jr’s daddy through the books that I read as a child but for some reason the thought never occurred to me that there would be an entire series of books on this father because back in the day—Tom Senior was out of print--- out of print!

Tom Swift, Sr. was definitely one of the original Steam Punkers and I was appalled that his story was so swiftly forgotten as was the stories of his brilliant son.  Now to Project Gutenberg:  If PG were an English Bog--I would gladly have myself strangled and thrown headfirst into that Bog--becoming a Bog Man.  That is how much I LOVE PG.  Project Gutenberg is just that--its chock full of Guten but is Gluten free--books to read, thoughts to entertain, places and ideas to explore, moments to remember and savor--all in this sometime forgotten or overlooked internet vault of literature--ebooks laying around everywhere the fingers can see--just there for the taking.Their mission since the 1970’s has been to rescue the old tomes and keep them safe until someone wants them again. Did I mention it’s all FREE?  Now, thanks to Project Gutenberg, I am rediscovering the Swift books--ePublishing is very hot right now--it’s the new old thing that you download and stick into that fancy new gadget you just purchased.
And get this:  you can justify to your significant other why that Ipad is so all fired important-- you can say--and quote me here when I say “that soft and loud words both spoken and heard with eyes will never just become a vague memory or a moment of chuckle as that memory sometimes emerges as an afterthought or materializes as a question from a game show.” Your significant other will stand there dazed and confused and then wonder aimlessly away stunned into silence with your phaser-like words.    Which Brings me to a point--my point and I say this pointedly:  Lending one's fingers to seek out and find these old charmers will breathe renewed life into what was once a dusty but good old memory. Ray Bradbury writes stories of the old authors, Shakespeare and Poe, for example, who live on Mars and are allowed to stay there and alive as long as we on earth remember them. 
Pretty Heavy Stuff
Ray Bradbury also writes of a day when Firemen are not the heroes who save us from towering infernos or rescue our cats from trees but are the incinerators of obsolete thought--the burners of books--the killers of Shakespeare and Edgar Allen Poe--watch them disappear from Mars as their thoughts go up in flames. I think that eBooks may keep the flames from uprooting important thoughts and ideas. Let's hope for the eternity of electronic processing. And on a Final Note  I'm not an on-the-go business person rushing about with my head stuck up my business ass--I like to savor moments and take a bit of time to experience the thoughts of fellow writers so whether its an eBook or a paperback or hardcover--it really makes no matter mind to me if the truth be told.  I will leave you with ONE last thought:    William Castle tried to realize reality with his over the top horror classics (such as “The 13 Ghosts”) and failed and I wonder how the ebook crowds will pull this off:  you can't smell an ebook--and the smell of a book old or new is all part of the tasty dish. You can't feel its heft, its weight; you can't enjoy the audio aroma of the turn of a page.
Content yourself with the idea itself--the naked idea without the ruffles, without the ridges and without the snap, crackle and pop of the real deal...  I'm just sayin...

Monday, September 12, 2011

September 12th: The Day After or I'm Just Sayin'

 I decided to hold off a day to blog about what is now simply being called “9/11” and I decided to put this tome on hold because I am very riled up about something that I strongly feel is Mighty Magpie important.

September 11th is going to be counted in as one of the most frightening of any of America’s night terrors.   It ranks right up there with Pearl Harbor and in one way, its exactly like Pearl Harbor.

The Japanese did not have enough resources to bomb Pearl Harbor much less sustain a war in the Pacific so they did the most pragmatic thing possible and simply became a major buyer of of our scrap metal which they processed and turned into planes and bombs and tanks and (badly made) guns and bullets and…well you get the picture.  They dropped our waste right back on top of us.  Guess what the terrorist did on that day in case you forgot in your constant race to pile up the traffic to your virtual malls and collect that mighty money.  Those were our planes flown by terrorists into OUR towers, our pentagon and of course god knows where in Pennsylvania if it had not been for those heroes who thwarted the attack—God love them for what they gave up for us.

The fathers and mothers and the sons and daughters who died that day fighting like patriots: what it must have been worth.

You see, we are a greedy lot—we are capitalist and in the Star Trek Universe we would be the Ferengi. That is American Business.  It’s natural in a sick way and make NO mistake business is a sick business.

So I am at the forums in Inworldz and I am reading a thread about this horrific day and pondering its meaning and silently offering my prayers because the thread itself was well meaning and the responses were oh so beautiful. 

Then I stopped.   Dead in my tracks.

I have memorial poseballs for free over at……… know, you could have just sent them for free as attachments or better yet placed them at IDI but no—you wanted that traffic to your mall.

Shame on you.

Well I decided to ignore it—I see this all the time—no one can have a normal conversation without someone putting in a plug for their product—hell I have done it myself and I am sure you, dear reader, have also done the same.

Well, with this in mind—I decided to ignore the post although it really was rubbing salt into my eyes to do such a thing. 

This morning someone told me about the commenrative 9/11 Neko outfit.

Jean Claude Van Itallie was absolutely right when he writes in “War” and I am paraphrasing:  “We are always selling selling selling selling!!!”

You know, sticking your kid in a car commercial to hawk vehicles is a lot nobler then hawking products in memory of 3500 dead.

I’m just sayin’…..

Friday, September 2, 2011

Andy & Me

I have had two blogs in my short life as a writer and both of them have been, in many ways, SORT of a failure--actually, those micro literary  moments were a failures as failures go because the six or seven people who actually read them loudly applauded and reacted accordingly to my posted thoughts.

I should have moved forward in my newly found blogging career but as luck would have it, i was employed in a dead end job hawking paternity testing in an over saturated market for a company who felt that blogging was for train modeling and recipes.

To say that I actually understood the true power of a blog or that i could actually understand its potential would be like saying that I understood the internal workings of a soft furry puppy.

Puppies I love but have never analyzed.

So one day I stumbled in my kitchen, hit my head, crashed into the open dishwasher, bounced off of this stainless steel monster and landed both unceremoniously and unconsciously onto the linoleum floor surrounded by bits of mortally shattered ceramics and pieces of Davy Jones' silverware--dead and on the floor.

I awoke and with head aching and bleeding from being cut up by my wife's china rolled over to the side, hoisted my self up and steadied---well you would have thought i would have cleaned up the mess, surveyed the damage to the dishwasher and maybe applied a band aid or two but i bee lined straight to my computer, to my blog, "The Mighty Magpie" and i made it as positive and as upbeat as I possibly could and like I always do, i made my post in the form of a story--kind of like the way that Andy Griffith would tell one of his corn-poned stories of North Carolina life or his takes on literature.

The point of what i am writing?

The POWER of the blog--i got a lot of response from friends who thought i needed to be heading to the hospital--they were not interested in the writing so much as they were in the aftermath of what i had written so dear friends---watch what you write because others watch what you write.

From my take on this class, blogging is sort of a Socratic dialect that goes on between the writer and the potential of the rest of the world.

The difference is that, unlike the times of the ancient Greeks where great minds came together to discuss and argue great ideas of the day, a blogger can expect an in-pouring of great and little minds to weigh in on the same subjects:  a true democracy.

With blogs and this is my take on them after reading the class material is that they represent the mind and experience of the reader and the consequence of world wide response--'cause, everyone has at least two cents worth of comment.

I poured over the assignments and writing and style aside, my biggest beef with blogging is the ability to navigate the set ups of a blog.

In real life, i am a meat and potatoes sort of guy ( I literally love meat and potatoes) and I guess i am the same in the blogsphere--i want simple navigation and clean and easy editing tools--to me, blogs still have a lot to work to do on in that arena BUT

to summarize my feelings toward blogs:

I write, I exist and therefore I am.