Tuesday, August 7, 2018

E Pluribus Unum

Real News doesn't care for you either.

The descent into madness continues.  I’ve never been a big “Freedom of Press” kind of guy. I mean, why fight for something you already have? But since I’ve started defending the press against the attacks of the President—you know, the guy who swears to “preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States”—and especially since he labelled them the “Enemy of the People” its been a bit worrisome.

Let’s be clear.  No one used that phrase before Trump tweeted it, and it followed a meeting with New York Times president A.G. Sulzberger who felt he had to draft an entire statement to better frame his confusion and the conversation with President Trump:

I told him that although the phrase “fake news” is untrue and harmful, I am far more concerned about his labeling journalists “the enemy of the people.” I warned that this inflammatory language is contributing to a rise in threats against journalists and will lead to violence.

I repeatedly stressed that this is particularly true abroad, where the president’s rhetoric is being used by some regimes to justify sweeping crackdowns on journalists. I warned that it was putting lives at risk, that it was undermining the democratic ideals of our nation, and that it was eroding one of our country’s greatest exports: a commitment to free speech and a free press.

A.G. Sulzberger, July 29, 2018

There certainly is an "Enemy of the People" here.
Seeing the hatred Trump has engendered and his incitements to violence is too much. A lot of what Trump has done can be undone. There is hope in that thought. Reviving the diplomatic corps, reversing decisions that will impact the environment, renewing our relationships with our long-standing allies, and rebuilding the bridged Trump has burned will take time but all are manageable.

The fear and hatred of the press will take generations to untangle.

Worse, it allows anyone with an opinion fueled by fear, hatred, racism, and xenophobia to justify their actions. Trump is practically inviting violence. I don’t like to give into hyperbole, but I’m concerned we'll see journalists killed for no better reason than their profession.

Even Fox News’ Shep Smith couldn’t sit by and allow the administration’s attacks on journalism in general to go un-remarked:

Trump isn’t the first Republican, or even the first US president to attack the media—that’s a dance that is older than the country. His demonizing of any journalist who disagrees with him has driven the knife into the back of public discourse over and over again. His supporters have so willingly drunk and bathed in Trump’s language of hate, their belief of a dishonest press, that they can now handwave away any disparaging remarks, no matter how well founded, researched, and supported by evidence.
He didn't even sing it.

This last is the most troubling of all.  When facts, which have no political party, are thrown out because they conflict with the “truth of Trump” and journalists have to legitimately fear for themselves and their families, we’ve gone beyond mere “problem” into a full crisis.

To paraphrase Abraham Lincoln: A house divided against itself, cannot stand. I believe this government cannot endure, permanently, half evidence-based truth and half Trumpian lies. I do not expect the Union to be dissolved — I do not expect the house to fall — but I do expect it will cease to be divided. It will become all one thing or all the other.

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

The Dark Archer by Robert Cano

Dark, but also purple.

My buddy has a book out, and you might like it.  Here’s an excerpt from The Dark Archer:

Bene had lived a life of service to those whom he deemed worthy.  Preju was the most powerful kingdom in Aariad.  West of The Spine, largely unknown, had long been relegated to myth. 

But Bene had been betrayed by the one he had given everything for.  And now he was immortal.  Under his new form, he suffers without feeding off of the living, but he also has no desire to kill.  He soon finds that his powers are mostly beyond his control.

All he wants is the chance to die like any mortal.  He wishes only for an end to his torment.  And his becoming a wraith only makes this desire that much stronger.  His is a story of darkness, but not of evil, but that of sorrow and despair...

About the Author
Handsome devil!
A writer or a storyteller? A poet? An artist who has chosen to paint with words, Robert Cano began a journey some years ago which has finally culminated in him finding himself in a position to see the journey gain momentum. Having spent many years studying the art of the written word, he now seeks to share his worlds and mind with the world.

A magus with a staff in the shape of a pen and a sword of paper, he weaves his magical worlds. The world of Arduil awaits you.

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

It's True, Collusion Isn't A Crime

Well that's what I heard!

This reminder keeps coming up, so I’m saving it here for easier use:

“Collusion is the descriptive word the news media has settled on to cover many potential illegal actions by the Trump campaign, which could range from aiding and abetting (18 USC 2) to conspiracy per se (18 USC 371) to conspiring to violate several potentially applicable laws like: 18 USC 1030—fraud and related activity in connection with computers; 18 USC 1343—wire fraud; or 52 USC 30121—contributions and donations by foreign nationals. Also, 18 USC 2381—for, contrary to a widespread belief that there must be a declared war, the Justice Department as recently as 2006 indicted for “aid and comfort” to our enemies, the form of collusion better known as treason. Collusion is the perfect word to cover such crimes, pejorative and inclusive.”


Tuesday, July 24, 2018

And Then There Was Racism

Yep, that happened.

I was shocked today when an online friend made a blatantly racist statement about black doctors.  I was even more shocked when he claimed I held the same beliefs, and simply wasn’t honest about it.

I know racism exists, and I know that in the Trump Era its been allowed to come out from under the dark stones where it festered and rotted, into the sunlight to openly march.  Whether or not Trump is a racist hardly matters anymore.  His failure to immediately openly decry the associations with White Supremacists, and handwave away their bigotry was all the fertilizer they needed.

I know these things.

But I’ve never faced it so blatantly.  I’m a white male who grew up in a relatively middle-class suburb.  Being an American from the West, I’m also a bit naive about the evils of the world.

So shell-shocked barely begins to describe the sensation when I was told, pointblank, “You think that, too.  I’m just honest enough to say it.”  That’s where, in retrospect, I drew the line.  I couldn’t have consciously made the decision right then. I had the sensation of a poodle who’d been struck with a ball-peen hammer.  I’ve never had such a blatant disregard for basic human rights directed at me.
Yep, that happened too!

Again, na├»ve, but I’m aware of it, and actively work against it.

So, it was with very little fanfare that I cut ties with the following:

I’m sorry [Redacted], I like you, I've enjoyed engaging with you and exploring your point of view but you’re far too intelligent for me to overlook such blatant racism. I'll admit I'mm shocked that someone who holds this country in such high esteem—the Land of the Free—would ever want to take away any kind of freedom based on skin color alone. You might laugh this off, let it feed into your narrative and reinforce your stance—but you really shouldn’t. It’s my hope (small, but still there) that this lost connection serves as a real wake-up call, and it should underline in bold red the fact that I DO NOT hold with your racism. I stand opposed to it so much that I would rather not be your friend. Wrong is wrong, and racism is always wrong. It’s great that you’re a Christian, because that means there’s still a chance for you to follow Jesus’ teachings: “Stop judging by mere appearances, but instead judge correctly.” (John 7:24) You should be the first one in line to accept people for who they are, not how they appear, nor to judge them based on preconceived notions before you ever meet them. The idea that, based on a single physical attribute alone, you can determine the worth of, and discredit someone, without knowing anything else about them is completely antithetical to the Christian ethos. I hope that you eventually come to realize how disturbing this is, and if you ever do, feel free to friend me again.

That is that.  I have little hope that my mini-rant will actually result in any meaningful actions—especially in the Trump Era.  A little hope, but still, it would be nice.  If nothing else, though, I’m a little more awake about the world, and as Maya Angelou said, “Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.”

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Wake Up!

Jeff's problems may have been deeper than simple exhaustion.

The biggest problem with an opening is all the pressure that is on it from the start. You have to introduce the reader to a compelling character (not necessarily the MC, but still compelling), ground the reader in the setting, and entice them to read on. That's a lot to cover in a short period of time.

A waking character may actually be the best way to start things, but keeping in mind the checklist of items we have to cover to create a story that people will want to continue reading, it OFTEN (not always, just mostly) isn't the best way. No one is at their best when they wake up. They may not be at their worst, but usually they're groggily grasping for a reality while trying to figure out how, if not why, a non-existent cat coughed a hairball into their mouth. Waking up also suggests that this is just another day in the life of that character. Unless the world is already well-established, and the character is well-liked, it's unlikely anyone wants to stick around while Rob has his morning Monster energy drink (because he hates coffee) brushes his face, shaved his teeth, and whatnot. If you handwave past that, because it's not important, than why didn't you handwave past the waking up too? If something exciting is happening upon waking, then it's more likely you could have just slipped ahead to that, rather than going through the effort of creating a realistic, albeit boring, wake-up scene.

A "rude awakening" might work, but you have to couch it carefully, otherwise it becomes exactly what it is: an attempt to create tension and conflict when it doesn't actually exit in a world readers don't know with characters that aren't fully-formed yet.

So, yeah, a "wake up" scene isn't necessarily the worst thing that you can write, and if you can write it well and meet all the opening criteria, then go for it. The writing will stand for itself, and any decent editor/agent will see that. You do run the chance the an editor/agent even slightly off their game will read the first few lines and send you your rejection notice.

Monday, June 11, 2018

MoviePass and the Case of the Ticket Stubs

The Force is NOT strong with you!

Dear MoviePass:

Taking pictures of ticket stubs is an unnecessary burden for those of us using the service as intended.  If there are issues with fraudulent behavior, tag those accounts and require THEM to take pictures of ticket stubs.  Cancel or place those accounts on hold.  Contact those account users and try to ascertain what the problem is.

Alternately, just FIX your system. 

What you don't do is place the burden of multiple extra steps which can cause all kinds of failure points on your users.  This is just like when Netflix tried to divide their streaming from their DVD service.  You're placing multiple barriers of entry on users who aren't abusing your system, and just want to go see a movie.  If you truly are interested in making MoviePass "sustainable for the entire community" then definitely don't threaten "irreversible termination of your subscription" of users when no suspicious activity has ever been noted.

Thank you for your kind attention!

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Wedding Cake Confusion

Let them eat cake, just not from Masterpiece Cakeshop!

I keep having to repeat this, so I’m posting this to my blog with all the necessary details for my own benefit.  

This is not an invitation to argue.

Yesterday, June 4, 2018, the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) made a ruling on a case between a baker, Jack Phillips of Masterpiece Cakeshop, and the Colorado Civil Rights Commission.  Phillips refused to bake a wedding cake for David Mullins and Charlie Craig.  His stated reason is that making a cake for a gay couple is a violation of his religious beliefs.

The Colorado Anti-Discrimination Act prohibits businesses open to the public from discriminating against their customers on the basis of race, religion, gender, or sexual orientation.

It seems pretty straight-forward.

However, SCOTUS decided in favor of Phillips.

This makes it seem like business owners can now discriminate against people if something about them goes against their religious convictions.

It does not.

The decision was incredibly narrow, threading the needle between the legality of the Colorado Anti-Discrimination Act and Phillips’ First Amendment right to religion.  The Colorado Commission, when executing its anti-discrimination law, came down so heavily on Phillips that it created an obvious bias.  Legally speaking, they weren’t wrong, but they were so extreme in the application of the law, that according to the majority decision written by Justice Kennedy, “[Phillips] might have his right to the free exercise of his religion limited by generally applicable laws . . . [but] the State’s obligation of religious neutrality” is still required.

That is, the State has to at least make the appearance of being impartial when walking the line between anti-discrimination and Constitutional exercise of religion.  This does not mean that businesses can discriminate, but rather that the State of Colorado erred when showing extreme hostility toward Phillips.  Kennedy’s decision also affirmed that that the protections for same-sex couples remains in place and enforceable under various state laws like those of Colorado.