Category Archives: Reading

Stealing Labor

Someone shared the article below on a Facebook group I follow, and I commented thusly:

“The article was infuriating enough, but some of the comments . . . I would charge any of those people who think an author can’t be harmed by electronic piracy to try writing and publishing a book (some authors can only afford to publish ebooks). Then they will understand just how much it costs, both in time and in money.”

I’m also reminded of when I purchased a student-version of CAD (Computer Aided Drafting) software for $250. When it arrived at the school, at least five people descended upon me asking for a copy.

“Absolutely,” I said. “For $250.” Their expressions were priceless. I then told them, “I didn’t pay $250 just so you could get it for free.” The same thing happened after we built our garage. Several people came to us asking to store their boat, motorcycle, you name it. I said, “Absolutely. For $30,000.”

My parents taught both my sister and me that we should always value the work we do, and to never allow people to expect us to give away our labor for free. In fact, I had to purchase my mom’s prints at full price, but when she needed me to draw a few things for her, she paid me a per/hour rate to do them.

So, yeah, I get a little upset when people expect others to give away their labor at no cost to them. I guarantee if someone told them they needed also to work for free, they, too, would get a bit upset.

https://www.theguardian.com/books/2018/aug/08/elitist-angry-book-pirates-ocean-of-pdf-author-campaign-website

You Don’t Own Them

You Don’t Own Them

I just read a Facebook post by Mike Rowe ( https://www.facebook.com/TheRealMikeRowe/posts/1794612627215539 ).

A thought occurred to me when I read some of the comments:

“Mike, if you really want to stay out of politics, you might reconsider appearing with a squinty-eyed, race-baiting dipshit like Carlson.”

“Mike I respect your support for the trades as I am a high school trades teacher myself. Are you sure Tucker and Fox is the most credible source for you to voice your opinions? Tucker’s track record of his behavior and demeanor towards guests he does not agree with is disgusting. I have lost a little respect for you.”

I responded to the first comment thusly: “So what if he is? He has an audience that Mike wants to reach. I won’t complain if he appeared on a show I dislike, because Mike wants to reach that particular audience as well.

“Because Mike’s overall desire is to reach everyone, regardless of their political leanings.”

I’ve seen similar complaints when Mike appeared on shows considered more left-leaning as well.

He isn’t alone in taking that kind of criticism. Rush Limbaugh was once excoriated in the 1990s for doing an interview for “Playboy” magazine.

I constantly see tweets, Facebook posts, blogs, and articles of people complaining how a reporter, singer, actor, author, athlete, etc. broke some unwritten rule that violated their chosen political worldview.

Since when do we own famous people (or anyone else for that matter)?

It seems like an odd question, but when I read such comments, it has to come from a certain mentality. The only correlation I can think of is that between master and slave.

While people don’t literally own anyone (at least here in the States and other countries), if those posting overly-critical comments didn’t believe they held some kind of “ownership” over that celebrity, why give said celebrity a figurative public beating for breaking their “rules?”

Forlorn

That’s me.

First I saw this on Twitter:

Then I saw this:

I’ve also been watching “Runaways” on Netflix, and in episode 9, the Karolina character out of nowhere expressed her physical attraction to Nico by kissing her. I say out of nowhere because I saw nothing to indicate Karolina was attracted to anyone, let alone Nico.

It’s almost as if the writers sat down after episode seven and decided, “We need gay characters. Who should we pick?”

It seems we can’t watch a single movie or television show that doesn’t at least suggest one or more characters are gay, especially in the speculative genres. Even animated films geared to young children aren’t free of it (such as “How to Train Your Dragon 2”).

As a writer who wants to see my stories in print, I can’t help but wonder if I have wasted decades improving my craft. I don’t avoid writing gay characters; it’s that most of my characters aren’t gay. Nor will I make them gay simply because some want gay characters, even if it makes no sense, and doesn’t move the story forward. It’s an unnecessary distraction.

I’m also tired of agenda and politics-driven storylines, whether they’re pushing homosexuality or so-called climate change. I just want to read and write good stories with interesting characters.

Some might accuse me at this point of being a climate-change-denying homophobe.

To the first. Climate changes. That’s its nature. As for whether or not it’s all caused by Man, sorry. I haven’t seen enough evidence to convince me.

As for the homophobe accusation, the short answer is “no.” Truth is I couldn’t care less a person’s sexual preferences. I’ll say it again: I don’t care. No one will never make me care, and I wish they’d quit throwing it in my face. How do you think they would feel if someone walked up to them and said, “I’m heterosexual. I really like to kiss and have sex with the opposite sex. Now love and accept me, because if you don’t, you must be a heterophobe!”

But I digress. As a writer, what am I to do? Are there still enough people who don’t need or want to read about at least one gay character in every story whether it’s organic to the story or not? Or am I a social dinosaur where everything I write deserves to be tossed on the trash heap of the unenlightened and set on fire? Should I therefore give up, and take nature pictures instead? After all, no one can accuse me of being a name-your-phobia-du-jour for posting pictures of clouds.

A Pixelated View

Have you ever zoomed into a digital photo so close all you see is a bunch of fuzzy, colored squares? If someone were to walk by the computer screen, they’d never guess what the photo actually shows, or that it’s even a photograph.

Only after zooming out does the picture become clear.

I think politics does the same thing, especially if we spend so much time delving into it, and from a single point of view. For instance, I mention President Donald Trump, and some people will react with a visceral loathing while others will want to cheer “MAGA!”

Polar opposite reactions over the same human being.

For the last few months, I’ve grown tired of politics. Anyone with a phone or computer uses their electronic soapbox to opine, and usually with either a progressive or conservative point of view. It’s tiresome and predictable.

As one also armed with multiple electronic devices, I am tempted to follow only those who fall in the same political spectrum as me. After all, why follow those I disagree with when all they do is cause anger and frustration?

Still, I refuse to give in to the temptation, and the answer is simple: I don’t like pixelated photographs. They look choppy, out of focus, little to no contrast to make the subject pop, too few colors, and the details are non-existent. Uninteresting. Boring.

Another word people use to describe looking at things from a single point of view is “myopic.” It means “lacking imagination, foresight, or intellectual insight.” Isn’t that a great word? And so accurate!

Since I never want to be accused of having no intellectual insight, I’ve decided to zoom out, and attempt to see the world as a whole in all its shadows, 16 million-plus colors, contrast, depth and richness.

I resolve to push my political biases behind me, and when I see a post or article I’ll likely disagree with, I still read it, gritted teeth and involuntary shakes of the head notwithstanding.

In doing so, I’ve stumbled on a few gems of wisdom. Did I agree with everything I read? Not at all. Sometimes as a little as ten percent. But still, one piece of new knowledge or wisdom out of ten is one more than I had before.

The impetus of this entry comes from comments made on a political website about commentator, Ben Shapiro. The comments were particularly viscous for the simple reason he was critical of Donald Trump during the primaries — a so-called “Never Trumper.” I often listen to his podcast, and while he’s still critical of Trump, he also gives him credit when it’s due. The funny part is, the commenters refuse to give Shapiro credit when it’s due. Since I know their political leanings, they would find more in common with Shapiro than not. Based on their responses when I tried to defend him, however, they are suffering from their own myopathy. Or to stick with my original analogy, they prefer to stare at pixelated photographs.

It’s a shame, really, because we are so much more than our labels, and opinions. Yet too many of us aren’t willing to step back from staring at a smattering of pixels to get a larger and deeper understanding of the entire photograph.

Is There An Echo in Here?

The easiest temptation on social media is to follow people, blogs, websites, etc. who reinforce what we already believe.

More difficult is to follow those who have near the opposite point of view. The exceptions of when we do, it’s usually to laugh, scoff, or get offended by. We don’t do it to learn, and listen but to argue, sometimes in the hopes of convincing the opposition the rightness of our cause.

Too often, though, the opposition has no more desire to listen and learn than we do. In the end we give up, and return to our little echo chambers filled with people of like mind.

I don’t often read so-called news sites such as Vox, Slate or Salon. I find their news rife with too much bias for my taste.

Sometimes, however, I run into a headline that so intrigues me (and not in a good way), that I have to read it.

This is one such headline:

When I debate or discuss, I make sure I have truth and facts to back me up, otherwise, not only will I fail to convince, but I waste my time and that of my opposition. I don’t argue with emotions, because emotions are not rational or logical. Too often they are baseless, and fleeting. Too often they are based on misunderstanding of a smattering of facts, and can do more harm than good when trying to debate a specific point.

As Ben Shapiro likes to say, “Facts don’t care about your feelings.”

You can understand then, why I found this headline befuddling to say the least. Why would anyone give up facts in favor of emotion to win people to their side? It’s idiocy. And temporary.

Out of morbid curiosity, I decided to read the piece. Too many news websites love to write provocative headlines in order to get people to read it (such as me). Click-bait as it’s called. Often, however, the headlines can also be misleading to the point that the article ends up making the exact opposite point.

As a writer, I found a lot of the opinion piece objectionable such as using emotions as a weapon. It implies that the author doesn’t want to convince, but to manipulate. It read less like a professional article and more like a personal journal entry (kind of like this lovely blog entry). The author isn’t trying to make a specific point so much, but exploring his/her thoughts in order to discover that point.

Still, after weeding through the verbosity, I surmised the author’s overall point was not to give up on facts, per se, but to appeal to a person’s emotions with facts instead of presenting facts alone. It’s a valid point, because in this day and age, regardless of what side people take on an issue, they are so emotionally entrenched in their point of view, facts proving their contentions false won’t deter them.

The entire article can be found here.

It’s worth thinking about, and for me will be one heck of a challenge. I don’t argue emotionally. Only facts matter to me, because they’re immutable. Still, I have to see the other person’s emotional point of view, and try to understand it before I can debate a specific issue.

I have to learn how to speak their emotional language, otherwise communication will be near impossible.

If I hadn’t stepped out of my own self-imposed echo chamber, I wouldn’t have discovered, let alone considered the idea.

Expanding Empathetic Horizons

I tried to find a synonym to "horizons" that started with an "e", because a little alliteration for a title is always kinda neat methinks. Alas, I found none.

Aristotle theorized that people who read fiction in particular are better able to understand and experience life, and empathize more with their peers.

Several studies have shown his theory has credence: The Neuroscience of Your Brain on Fiction

What I found most interesting in the article was how the mere mention of a word such as cinnamon or other smells lights up the part of the brain dedicated to smells as if that person actually smelled it. The same goes for how fiction describes characters, their thoughts and how they interact with other characters and their surroundings. Our brain activity when reading reacts as if we're engaging with actual people.

So if we want a more empathetic society, we need to read, and encourage others (children especially) to read more. It doesn't have to be fiction only, because some non-fiction is written in the same way as fiction such as describing the world around them, and interactions with others.

God's genius is obvious here, because he not only designed our brains to learn language at an early age, but the desire to share our lives and experiences through that language, whether written or spoken. He did so, because of our inherent need to understand the world around us, ourselves, and each other.

Now if you'll excuse me, I have some reading to do.

"We are a species that needs and wants to understand who we are. Sheep lice do not seem to share this longing, which is one reason why they write so little." —Anne Lamott

Saying It Right

Everyone needs a method of expression. Some express through painting, dancing, singing, music, mathematics or simply through speaking to others.

I am good at math, and liked to draw and paint when I was younger. I even liked to dance and sing, but I never tried to be good enough to do it in front of others.

Speaking, now there's a talent that I never had. I always say that God didn't connect my mouth to my brain. Growing up, when I had a thought, I could never express it how it formed in my mind. If anything it came out the opposite of how I intended.

For instance, my grandmother gave me a silver and turquoise ring when I was about eight or nine. Maybe ten. I noticed the price in black marker on the inside said "$10." For a turquoise ring. I thought, "Wow, I expected it to be worth more than that, because it's so beautiful. Grandma got a real good deal on it."

What came out of my mouth: "Wow, this ring was cheap."

Grandma was not impressed, and in fact felt (rightly) insulted. She said, "Well if you think it's cheap, you can give it back."

I was shocked that she got angry, and couldn't understand how I hurt her feelings. After she calmed down, we talked about it, and I was able to explain better what I meant. I also realized how my words hurt her feelings.

There are countless other instances, and even today I find myself eating my feet.

Another instance was in 1st or 2nd grade. All the students took turns reading part of a book out loud. When it came to my turn, I stumbled over the words to the point a boy sitting next to me said, "Don't you know how to read?"

Apparently the teacher noticed as well. She recorded me and called my mom to replay it. She was concerned enough that she believed I needed to be placed in a class for the learning disabled.

My mom put the kibosh on that by saying, "Can my daughter read, and comprehend what she's reading?"

"Yes," the teacher said.

"So she can't read out loud. That's not a learning disability."

My mom didn't tell me any of that until years later, and for a long time, I wondered if something was wrong with me when it came to reading out loud. After a while, I realized it was because my brain was reading faster than my mouth could keep up with. Hence the stumbling. Even today I have to concentrate on making sure my eyes and brain read at the same speed as my mouth. I don't always succeed, and I admit it's frustrating.

I hope no one asks me to do a reading of one of my books if ever I get published.

Writing, on the other hand, for some reason that came easy, even at an early age. Now as I look back, I'm grateful God didn't give me the ability to speak well. It forced me to find another way to express myself, and writing became (and still is) my outlet. Most everything I write, especially when writing from my heart and soul, comes out on paper how my brain envisioned it. That's not to say it doesn't need editing for spelling, grammar, and concision (I tend to ramble), but the meat and bones are there. The best part is I'm rarely misunderstood. Not as often as when I talk anyway.

"The role of the writer is not to say what we can all say, but what we are unable to say." –Anais Nin