Family Day?

The White House has proclaimed September 26, 2005 Family Day. Everyone in the nation is encouraged to sit down and eat dinner with their family. The idea is that families that eat together and spend time together are more likely to raise healthy, responsible, drug free kids. While that idea is sound, people are unlikely to change their habits and lifestyles after one day.

But that's not what this entry is about. It's more concerned with what TVLand is doing to promote Family Day. On the day in question, TVLand is canceling its regular programming for four hours and instead will display photos of families eating and spending time together. I imagine it will be like watching a slide show of other people's vacations.

Call me cynical, but I keep picturing someone living alone, who, for whatever reason, has no family, growing more and more depressed as they watch photo after photo of other people enjoying time with their loved ones. I hope the suicide hotlines are gearing up for an increase in calls on that day.


Occupational Hazard

Life doesn't seem quite real tonight. Time is standing still. The world is waiting. For what, I don't know.

This feeling of separateness, of not being part of the world, of anticipation, is an occupational hazard, I suppose.

I've spent the day reading. Stepping out of this reality and into worlds created by others. In those other worlds, I exist, but only as an observer. The result is this odd sense of disconnect from reality.

First, it was Oscar Wilde's Salomé, a modern retelling of the death of John the Baptist and the girl who danced and won the reward of the prophet's head on a platter. I was reading it with an eye toward the embedded Greek myths in the text. I found Artemis, the virginal goddess of the moon and the hunt, and Persephone, the queen of the underworld. There were overtones of Hamlet, too.

Then, I read the first three chapters from a member of my writing group's work in progress. It's an otherworldly tale told by an introspective narrator.

Little wonder then, that I'm pacing around a darkened house and occasionally sliding outside, hoping to catch a glimpse of the moon.


The New Alternative Media

At Stones in the Field, MacAllister Stone compares blogs to the letters and journals left from the past. In some ways, this is true. Blogs reveal the inner lives of real individuals, both famous and ordinary, just as letters and journals have taught historians what people's lives were like in centuries and decades past.

But blogs fill another vacant niche in the literary ecology, too. They are taking the place of underground newspapers. Individuals living today may associate an underground press with the student and radical movements of the United States in the 1960's and 1970's. These movements used underground newspapers to share their viewpoints with others. But the history of the underground newspaper extends far before this. Those who are not the dominant power in the government have long used underground newspapers to share information. In the 1940's, Dutch and French resistance movements in Nazi occupied Europe established underground newspapers. POW's also established their own underground newspaper.

One does not have to agree with the voice of the disenfranchised to appreciate the value of an underground newspaper. It is about the ordinary individual having a voice separate and apart from the traditional media.

Think of Latoyia Figueroa. People far from Philadelphia learned her name not from the traditional media, but from bloggers. Blogs transmitted her story throughout the internet until the nation knew her name. So, although her story ended tragically, it also gives hope that the voice of the people has not been lost.


Godspeed, Latoyia

LaToyia Figueroa's remains were found today. The story is here. Her ex-boyfriend has been arrested.


On and Off

The cursor blinks on and off, on and off, on and off.

I've had several ideas for blog entries lately. I've sat down and started to write them. But none of them end up saying quite what I want them to say. They end up rambling. Not making any sense. Going nowhere.

So, I sit here, staring at the bane of all modern writers. The electronic cursor. Blinking. On and off. On and off.


Hamlet, The Dick and Jane version

Some things are just oh, so wrong. But completely hysterical. Case in point: The Dick and Jane Hamlet.

It was originally written in the late 1950's by Larry Siegel. For a group of first graders. Allegedly.



Google's Electronic Library

I'm just hearing about Google's proposed electronic library today. I sent the link to the first article I read to some friends from college who aren't involved in publishing. One, who is often politically active and likes to follow certain legal issues, e-mailed me back after reading the article. He wanted to know my take on the matter because he wasn't certain if they proposed library was acceptable or not. Particularly, he asked me how I felt about them possibly scanning my work. I wrote the following back to him:

Based on the information I have available to me, I'm against it. Google scanning it and distributing it sans payment or contract is no different than if you scanned it in and put it up on your website. It deprives me of my electronic rights without benefit of compensation or contractual agreement.

Am I against eBooks? No. Although currently a small share of the market, they are a valid form of distribution preferred by some readers. I'm also not against audiobooks, paperbacks, or translating the work into different languages for publication in other countries. But, there are established methods for attaining the rights to produce such materials and Google is circumventing those methods. They are ignoring legal precedent by attempting an "opt-out" approach (the copyright holders must find out what we're up to and tell us they're not interested if they don't want us to do this with their works) rather than an "opt-in" approach (they would need to approach the copyright holders to obtain permission prior to proceeding).

It is this "opt-out" approach that is the most galling and concerning to me, not the proposed eBook library. Should it succeed, then it sets precedent for anyone to use copyrighted material without first contacting or alerting the copyright holder. For many reasons, this is a bad, bad thing.

Honestly, I don't think Google will be able to go forward. Although I'm not a lawyer, this case is similar in my mind to Tasini v. New York Times. This, interestingly enough, was argued when I was just starting out as a freelancer and was an employee of Lexis-Nexis, one of the defendants in the case. Despite all the propaganda at the office, my sympathies were with the freelancers in that case and the freelancers did win. The paraphrased/summarized ruling in that case was simply: new technology does not change copyright law or the rights previously sold by the author.

See, my main problem is not with the proposed electronic library itself, but with Google's methods of creating it. The idea of an online library intrigues my inner techno-geek. I do lots of research online as it is. I'm a great fan of Sacred Texts, but those texts are in the public domain. Their copyright expired long, long ago. In many cases, it expired centuries before copyright law even existed.

This is just one more example of Corporate America ignoring the rights of the individual and the little guy for their own economic gain. Google argues that what they are doing is just 'fair use'. I argue good business doesn't have to be about bad ethics.


Night: The Time of Life

There's something about the night that speaks to me. It stirs my soul and reawakens my sense of self. Starry nights. Moonless nights. Overcast nights. Whether I am standing on my porch, padding barefoot through the grass next to my driveway, or slipping out the door to take an illicit walk through the neighborhood, I am more alive at night.

Daytime is fine. The sun, warm on flesh, feeds my biological needs. It makes the grass grow and warms the earth. It brings out the squirrels and rabbits that chase each other through my yard and around the trees. But the daytime belongs to everyone. The energy of civilization trying to catch up with itself is deadening.

By the bright light of day, I know what I have to accomplish. But in the dark, I know who I am.

Or maybe I'm just weird.


Don't forget

The next few days, especially August 12, should be good for star-gazing. The Perseids are just about to peak.

Any excuse to stand outside late at night and stare skyward, filled with wonder. What runs through your head, the instant you see a shooting star?

Edited to add: As of just a few moments ago, the Discovery is safe on the ground. Yay, astronauts! Yay, NASA! Now, if only we could build a shuttle that didn't have shit falling off of it all the way through its journey.


2 + 2

My brother wants to hear our father say, "I'm proud of you, Son." It's a bit of a problem. Logistically, I mean. Dad's been dead for nearly six years.

But I think they may finally be making peace with one another. And of all things, it is math that's bringing them together.

When he was in high school, my brother not only struggled with math, he hated it. Despised it. He tried to avoid taking even the basic classes required for high school graduation. In classic teenage-style, he informed our father that he would never need math when he grew up. This was bad. Dad loved math. He excelled at it. He could do complex problems in his head. And he knew how much he used it every day in his profession, the same profession my brother wanted to pursue.

Last night, my brother called me. He informed me he had two brain cells. This was up from the half of a functioning brain cell he had last Friday. They are multiplying. Last Friday, he completed a two-week long Level II Accident Reconstruction course. It took algebra, geometry, and even some trigonometry. My brother used vectors, the Pythagorean Theorem, and advanced calculations involving three dimensions. He struggled, but he passed.

Dad would've been proud.