It’s the Internet, people

I am forty-four years old and I consider myself a member of the “Transition Generation.” I remember life before computers. The first home computer I had was a TI-994A, which plugged into a television for a monitor. You could insert cartridges to play games (anyone remember Parsec? Hunt the Wumpus?), and you could practice BASIC programming. If you wanted to save your programs, you needed to hook up a cassette recorder and use that.

That was 1982-83, when I was about thirteen, and I know there are people out there today under a certain age who probably don’t know what BASIC is, or a cassette tape. They don’t know about the days of using a modem to dial up (via your landline, kids) to a BBS, and monochrome monitors and all that good stuff.

What do kids know today? They know cable modems, fiber optics, FIOS, wireless routers in the house, smart phones and all that good stuff. They know instant connection and instant communication. They are growing up in a different world, technologically.

This isn’t good or bad, either. It just is. We all grow up with technology that the preceding generations did not grow up with. Some of it puzzles them, just as some of what my kids have or will have will likely puzzle me. But for the most part, it’s neither good nor bad, it just is.

The World Wide Web is twenty-five years old this year, I’ve seen, and it’s brought social changes faster than probably about any time in history. It’s been easier or faster to connect with people, and you don’t even have to know them. Fads go in and out of mind in a matter of days, sometimes. But they don’t go away forever.

Because that is one thing that computers, the Internet, the Web, whatever, have changed — everything on the web is stored. You can’t delete a tweet before it’s cached somewhere and hence available to those who will make the effort. And the fact that people don’t seem to realize this baffles me.

One of my first thoughts, and even my mom’s, when Chris Christie’s  Bridgegate scandal broke in New Jersey was: Did these people not realize email is stored? That just because it is out of your program’s trash been does not mean that it is gone forever?

Every time someone tweets something, or emails it, or posts a picture and then wonders how it spun out of control, I have to think — did you not see this possibility?

Now, of course, most of us don’t. Most of us probably — and rightly — think that we are simply too small to really garner that kind of attention, and I think that’s true. Even so, I have even checked myself when about to make Facebook posts or similar things and thought, “Will this get noticed? Will it offend someone?” And if I can’t decide, I don’t post. I’m sure I’m not the only one.

So when I see some celebrity, even a lower-wattage one, make a stupid tweet/post/picture, and then be surprised at the reaction, I can’t figure it out. When Christie’s people sent emails back and forth, I thought, did they not realize someone else would see this? How could they not realize that emails sent to and from computers and servers at their place of employment would not eventually be seen?

I think it’s a mindset we haven’t yet adopted. When the only, or primary, way of contacting people far away was a letter, you could be fairly sure it remained private. Sure, it passed through various hands, but I doubt most of those hands had the opportunity or even time to open individual letters on the off-chance there was something juicy inside. Our current technology makes that easier and faster.

Kids growing up today probably won’t give this privacy issue much thought unless others point it out. When you grow up with something, you tend not to question it unless someone else does. We of the older — or shall we say, previous — generation might have something to contribute here, that privacy is valuable, and you shouldn’t give it away without a blink.

So you need to be careful what you tweet and what you post and realize that once it’s out there, you have lost control of it. If you don’t want to lose control, then keep it off the internet.

Privacy is important, but you have to proactively take steps to maintain it.

 

It’s February already

I think I may be one of the world’s worst bloggers. I keep hoping that will change, but it never seems to. I must have awful time management skills. Well, that, and two kids.

No new story news to report, I’m sorry to say. One thing writing takes, besides time, is focus, and I haven’t had a whole lot of that (or time, either). As always, there are ideas that are just waiting for me to focus on them. And I hope once I do, a little momentum builds.

Current events are whizzing by so fast these days it’s hard to get a grip on them. In my part of the US, we’re reeling under what may be the most severe winter I can recall in my lifetime. I haven’t seen my front lawn in over two weeks from all the snow, and after our last snowfall, I had to go buy two more snow shovels. Kids are having partial or full snow days right and left – which they love now, but will regret come June, even if they don’t realize it yet. And according to some weather predictions, more snow may come next week.

The Olympics are here and I’m almost scared to watch. I studied the USSR/Russia in college and grad school. I think like so many places, there are good people, but their history at the moment works against them. I fear for the LGBT athletes and spectators from all countries, in terms of Russia’s horrid anti-gay laws and national sentiment. That said, I fear for pretty much everyone there, because an terrorist attack from some front seems likely. We can only hope not.

The Dylan Farrow/Woody Allen ongoing accusations are also pretty horrible. I’m disturbed by the allegations, and disturbed by reactions to both Farrow and Allen. We shouldn’t dismiss her claims simply because she was young when it initially happened, or because he’s a famous movie director. On the other hand, we can’t assume he’s innocent, either. Charges were not brought in 1992, when the allegations were first made, but that doesn’t mean he didn’t do it. But perhaps he didn’t.

This brings us back to what I think is often a dilemma — do you separate the artist from the art, or not? And if so, how?

I’m fairly neutral in the case of Allen. I haven’t seen many of his movies, and recall paying to see only one, Mighty Aphrodite, about which I remember nothing except Mira Sorvino was in it. So I will not join those who now say they won’t watch any more of his movies, because it’s not like I did anyway. If people want to do that, no problem. We all need to draw our lines and act accordingly. Nor will I dismiss it all, and say I’ll watch his movies in some sort of anti-anti-protest, because that makes no difference.

It may also be the case that one can be a total asshole, male or female, and still create good, lasting art. Or sport. Pete Rose gambled on baseball, but that didn’t make him any less of a great player. Ty Cobb (according to Wikipedia) got in a lot of fights, and was racist in his views before he retired, but that doesn’t make him any less of a great player, either.

The list goes on with actors, musicians, and plenty of other professions. Horrid and/or illegal behavior is hardly relegated to one group.

The one name that of course is always brought up in conjunction with Allen is Roman Polanski, another famous movie director. The situation there is different; Polanski (you probably already know) was found guilty of having sex with a 13-year-old girl, and then fled the US. Accounts differ as to exactly why he did that. One reason I’ve seen is that some kind of plea deal had been worked out, and Polanski was going to accept it, but the judge revoked it at the last minute and so Polanski escaped to Europe.

The difference there is that Polanski was charged and found guilty of a crime, then ran away. This leads to a lot of other questions, like whether rich and/or famous people are treated differently in the justice system, etc., but where Polanski was found guilty, Allen was never charged. Is that better or worse? Did the system work back then? Probably to the best of its ability.

Many people say, and I think with justification, that celebrities get off in cases like this because no one wants to fight their popularity or influence or deal with the bad PR. However, I think it’s almost equal that people love to see a celebrity taken down. If there had been solid evidence to charge Allen in 1992, I think it would have happened. This is not to say he would have been found guilty, because a charge and then a verdict are two different things. And perhaps today they would have had that evidence, because such incidents are investigated differently.

In both cases, however, two men — and you can’t ignore the fact that they are famous, straight, white males in an industry still dominated to a large extent by straight, white men — with huge clouds over them still make movies. And make them with A-list stars. Or make them with actors who then climb on up to the A-list. Adrian Brody starred in Polanski’s The Pianist (the only, or one of the only, Polanski movies I’ve seen), and won an Oscar. Never heard of him before that.

What does that mean, exactly? You’d probably have to ask everyone who’s been in one of those movies. It would be interesting to ask someone, and I’m sure it’s been done, how they could work with Roman Polanski, who not only had sex with a 13yo girl, which is statutory rape by about any definition, but was found guilty of it and fled the punishment. (I know, btw, that Polanski’s victim was long since forgiven him and wishes the whole thing would just be dropped. I’m pleased for her, but to me, he broke an altogether different rule by fleeing the US, and so that must be dealt with separately.)

No doubt there would be a ton of different answers from anyone who’s been in an Allen or Polanski film. I admit that I have a more instant and visceral reaction to seeing Polanski’s films; mostly, I don’t want to. I don’t like the idea that I’d be lending some support, however minimal, to a criminal. And many people feel that way about Woody Allen, and I don’t fault them.

Sorry, I’m rambling. I think that’s what happens when you’re in the middle. You look at things and try to get somewhere but end up circling back a bit.

Hopefully this year I will circle back to some writing. :)

Keep warm and safe, everyone.

It’s just a story

I sometimes edit for other people, and sometimes it’s a bit of work. I’m sure some of those writers think I’m too serious about it. I don’t mean to be too serious, but yeah, I admit I am more serious than others. I have always been the kind of person who wants my work to be the best it can be, because it’s mine. I generally don’t like it if I have to finish something and feel it’s not what it should be.

This goes for my stories. I know a lot of people don’t care overly much how good or proper their stories are, and I certainly don’t stay up nights worried about the odd typo. What I do worry about is: does my story make sense? Did I contradict myself somewhere? Did I establish a rule for my story and break it? Did I follow my rules?

So when I edit, as I go along, I ask myself: does this make sense? And when I ask that, I mean, does this make sense in the author’s world?

I think just about any premise will work for a story, provided the author sets it up. I have written stories about people who turn into animals, about witches and vampires. I have read stories about dragons, and stories about secret Nazi groups attempting to assert control over the world, and many things in between. I do not demand “realistic realism,” to coin a phrase, from people I edit for.

So to a point, “It’s just a story” is a fine excuse. But I think it only gets you so far. If you want to write about werewolves, then great. It’s just a story. You want to write about a secret group of conspirators who want to take over the government, no problem. It’s just a story. And so on, for stories ranging from Stephen King’s It to Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games.

After that, though, the onus is on the author to set out the rules for their world, and more importantly, to stick with them. And not just the new rules about the werewolves or aliens or whatever. You also have to keep the rules for whatever parts of the story are “normal.”

If you have spies dealing with aliens, in a contemporary world, the those spies need to act plausibly like spies. They can’t just start acting like this happens all the time. They need to adjust, to figure it out, to figure out how they apply what they know to this new situation. In a story like The Hunger Games, Katniss Everdeen can’t be a frivolous teenager; such a thing might kill her. So she’s not like that. Collins has made her heroine plausible for the world she inhabits, and that makes the story as a whole believable to the reader.

So yes, I will encourage a writer to make things believable and consistent, both for themselves and the reader.

Who should do what

On Oct 15, 2013, Emily Yoffe over at Slate.com published this article. The headline, which I’m guessing Yoffe did not write herself, changed a couple of times but the gist was: We should tell female college students to stop getting stone drunk to reduce the chance of rape.

This led to one of those internet mini-storms, with writers from Jezebel.com, Salon.com, Huffington Post, even one of Yoffe’s colleagues at Slate.com rebutting her claims in tones ranging from calm to pissed off. Focus on the rapists and their behavior, many said, and that is a valid claim. Yoffe herself posted a rebuttal to the critics, which drew its own replies– here’s one at Salon.  Quite frankly I got tired of reading about it all.

Let me state here that I’ve been really lucky. I haven’t encountered much in the way of sexual discrimination during my schooling or my work. I’ve never had a boyfriend who tried to force me to do anything I didn’t want to when it came to a physical relationship. I realize for many women — and men, let’s be real here — this is not the case.

I am also not and never have been a big drinker. There are lots of reasons here, but none of the moral variety, I don’t think. My dad stopped drinking beer after one too many close calls driving, and although he drank wine from time to time after that, he doesn’t now. My mom also stopped drinking when she felt it was getting out of hand. Drinking too much seems to run on both sides of my family, but no one ever took me aside and said, “Don’t drink! Drinking is bad!”

For me, personally, I didn’t and don’t like the way most alcohol tastes. I know that when people drink to get drunk, taste isn’t always the issue, but again, I’ve been lucky that I’ve never felt that kind of pressure to escape. It took me a long time to figure out wine, let alone like any. I figured it was made from grapes, hence should be sweet, and when it wasn’t, I didn’t like it (I have a sweet tooth). I read up, learned some stuff, and now enjoy some wine from time to time. I’ve also learned it doesn’t take a whole lot of alcohol to put me a little off. I don’t like that feeling and so I don’t drink past it. Going from that, I have never wanted to be that much out of control in front of people, and so I have not.

But if someone else wants to drink,  I have no problem with that. I don’t even care if you get drunk, really, so long as you’re smart enough to take some precautions, like designating a driver and all of that.

So, back to the kerfuffle — is it really so awful to advise women (and men, for that matter) to not drink themselves into oblivion? Is it that much different from advising people not to walk in dangerous neighborhoods?

It is no doubt true that women bear the brunt of self-security measures in a ton of situations. We’ve all been told, I’m sure: don’t walk alone at night; keep your keys between your fingers as a potential weapon; park near a streetlight; be aware of your surroundings; etc. Much of the advice comes down to this: Don’t put yourself in a vulnerable position. While all of this is applicable to men as well, women are more likely to be attacked, so women tend to think about it more.

I remember when I split an apartment with a friend of mine, a gay man I’d gone to college with. He was just getting comfortable with coming out and being gay, and we lived near a city, which gave him a whole different outlet than the area where we’d gone to college. He was pretty self-involved and self-centered at the time. Once, he was going out to a club and I asked, are you going to come home tonight?

He had a bit of a fit, but he was putting on a bit of a show. I didn’t care whether he came home, or who he went home with, or anything like that. I only wanted to know if he was going to so that I knew whether to put on the door’s chain lock. He didn’t want to be responsible for someone else’s, well, anything (he admitted as much some time later), and so he took it out on me.

The point is, had I been going to a club, I’m sure whether or not to put the chain lock on wouldn’t have crossed his mind. But he was a guy and he had different self-security concerns, I’m sure. I think women think about this a lot more because statistically it’s women who need to be concerned about it.

It’s not fair. Totally unfair. But a lot of things aren’t fair and you deal with them.

So what to do about things like sexual assault? Well, let’s be honest, a lot of it is an uphill battle, because what needs to change is attitudes, on a lot of issues. For all the advances in various rights and such, there is still double standard that a man who sleeps around is a cool stud, and a woman who does is a slut. That’s stupid and wrong, but how many people caution their sons about ruining their reputation in that way? There’s one we need to work on, as I’m sure the episodes in Steubenville, OH, and Maryville, IL, have shown.

We need to work on the perpetrators, too. They are mostly men, but not always. People need to learn at the most basic level that no means no. That getting someone drunk with the intention of having sex with them is wrong.

Sex can be great, let’s not pretend otherwise. It feels good, it can be fun, and funny, and it can bring people closer together. To me it should always be a mutually-desired encounter, whether we’re talking BDSM or something more mainstream.

However, sex can have consequences, like STIs or pregnancy, and there can be emotional consequences a well. So we prepare people for that, don’t we? Use a Pill, use a condom, whatever. If we are willing to tell our sons and daughters to alter their behavior in those ways to protect themselves, why aren’t we more willing to tell them (both) not to get falling-down drunk in bad situations?

That won’t stop rape, of course. Yoffe’s column was addressing a specific subset of the crime — the rape that occurs when women are so drunk they can’t think or make decisions coherently and are often encouraged to do that by predators. If women take responsibility and don’t get drunk in these situations, that will hopefully reduce (but won’t stop entirely, let’s be real) the incidence of assault and rape in those situations.

But nothing will end rape until people face harsh consequences for raping; until victims are not blamed and the perpetrators are, so that victims will bring charges against those who attacked them; until there is a consistent effort across all layers of society to say that this is wrong, and that it’s not “worse” if a rich, white woman is attacked as opposed to a poor minority one.

That’s a whole lot to change, and it will take work, but I hope I can be optimistic.

Oops

It seems I forgot to blog in September. My bad. I can blame this on many things, but I suppose it comes down to two main issues, which are that a) I forgot and b) I must not have had much to say about anything.

Not that I don’t have anything to say. There is plenty going on that I have opinions about, but it often seems useless to voice said opinions. I’ve no wish to get into political bickering with anyone — a debate is one thing, but debates are sorely lacking these days — and although some people get some relief by shouting into the world, regardless of whether anyone hears them, I am not one of those people. If you are going to take the time to read this, I hope I give you something interesting to pass the time.

I did do another interview, and I should have posted the link earlier. Blak Rayne was kind enough to ask questions and post my answers on this blog.

What have I been doing, aside from that? Well. This September, both of my children started school. So now I have some time in the mornings, which I hope to use to write. So far, however, my muse (if I have one) is conspiring against me, as every time I turn around, there seems to be something to do and it needs to be done in the morning. It is  nice, however, to have some kid-free time. I love my kids, but a few hours without “Mommy, can I have/do/see….” is a nice change.

I have not been watching any TV news. I get enough news from the internet and it’s depressing. I don’t need Wolf Blitzer to add to it. And honestly, watching Mr. Blitzer is rather depressing in itself. The only time I had the TV on for news recently was during the shootings at the Washington Navy Yard in Washington, D.C. I used to live there, and still have friends there, so I was concerned. Believe it or not, I miss getting news from television, but it seems to me anymore that there is less news than there are shows with opinions about the news. I’m liberal, but equal opportunity about it — I don’t watch any of the channels.

I have been watching some series television and movies. I love movies. :) For TV, my husband and I watched Broadchurch (careful, there may be spoilers here), from the UK, and which I highly recommend. For us, it was on BBC America. David Tennant was in no way Dr Who, and I mean that in the best way. The rest of it was excellent as well. Then Boardwalk Empire started, and I’m enjoying the season so far. For the fluffier side of things, we have Sleepy Hollow, which I think is suffering from first-year awkwardness but could easily improve, and S.H.I.E.L.D. Since Joss Whedon is involved in the latter, I have faith it will only go up.

For those of you who like little, indie movies, I recommend El Mariachi Gringo, which I stumbled upon last weekend while scanning the HBO On Demand listings. Warning; mariachi music featured heavily. Shawn Ashmore (Iceman from X-Men) plays a directionless young man in Kansas, who finds himself drawn to a mariachi musician and his family, and off to Guadalajara he goes. It’s a sweet, unpredictable movie devoid of explosions, smart-ass dialogue and cliché situations. What a nice change. And the scenery, both in Kansas and Mexico, is lovely.

Books… I have actually read some. Wish I could remember which, and I have more lined up. Never enough time for reading or writing, is there? I’ve just started Capote by Gerald Clarke, upon which the movie of the same name is based. I also watched that recently and again give it a full recommendation. Philip Seymour Hoffman is amazing as Truman Capote.

However, now that it is autumn, and school’s been in session for a month, I intend to blog on a more regular basis, and also to write more. It just remains how to manage that time, and isn’t time management easier said than done?

So thanks for reading, and I aim to give you more to read.

Story revealed

Ah, well, no one took me up on my PDF offer for the anonymous story, but here is the story that I put in a friendly anonymous writing challenge (FAWC) on Literotica.

The biggest problem here, I think, is that I was on a scheduled, so a few things about the story feel rushed. I intend to take it down and re-work it but if anyone out there would read it, I wouldn’t mind some feedback on the raw data, so to speak.

You can see from the explanation that precedes the story that as part of the challenge, we all had to incorporate certain “ingredients” into our story. So far, some feedback I got was that the weakest element, in some ways, was “intellect.” Let me know what you think, or what you might have done, or how you think it would be worked in better.

An Extra Ticket

Infidelity

One of the first stories I posted online is a short one called “Guilt.” I’m not sure where the idea came from, but it was a short romance (with no sex) about a guy who had cheated on his girlfriend and regretted it. The feedback on it has always been interesting. People are torn about it; they want to like it, or they do, but they are really pissed at the guy in the story, Kevin, for his cheating.

Overall, it seems that infidelity is the one topic that gets a huge reaction out of people. Incest might be second, or non-consent. I generally don’t read in those areas, but a few times I have, and I have seen comments wishing all kinds of awful things on the authors, as though these stories are advocating the behavior in the story, as opposed to just writing about it. No one thinks Bret Easton Ellis is advocating serial murder when they read American Psycho, do they? (Maybe I don’t want the answer to that.)

I recently received a comment on “Guilt,” which is what brought this to mind. The comment said:

Would I give someone a second chance in a relationship that was not declared open?
Curious if this character learned his lesson about knowing how to treat people you love.
Thanks for a story that made me ponder.

Personally, I do not care for stories about infidelity when the infidelity is the point of the story; that is to say, I do not enjoy reading about wives who cheat on their husbands or husbands who cheat on their wives. Some people may enjoy the illicit or somewhat taboo aspect of such a thing, but I don’t. To me, if you married someone, you made promises; if you can’t keep those promises, then be honest and get out.

I also dislike the humiliation aspect that accompanies most of those stories, such as the woman cheating on her husband (this is how it usually happens in a story; if a man is with a woman in front of his wife, it generally seems to be a threesome, with the wife willing if in fact not the instigator).

That said, I admit I would accept “cheating” in certain circumstances; well, two situations I can think of. One, if an abused spouse escapes a relationship and falls in love with someone else before the marriage is dissolved. To me, the abuse means that Spouse A has abrogated the marriage contract, and Spouse B is entitled to find happiness even if the marriage has not been officially ended. Second, if a marriage is in fact over but for the formalities, and the parties have moved on.

But stories about women who humiliate their husbands, or vice versa, have absolutely no appeal to me.

(I suppose I should also say that I personally have never been involved in a relationship that involved infidelity on either side. So whatever’s in my story is, like most stories, my conjecture of what certain people might do.)

I guess I hit a chord with my story, perhaps because it is not about the infidelity itself but the aftermath of it. In the story, the cheating is over before the story opened. Kevin (I never got around to last names in that one) cheated on his girlfriend (not wife, which might be important to some people), for reasons I imagine some people might. He sorely regretted it. The girlfriend, Lana,  wonders if she drove him to it.

That felt right to me, that there would be questions, that infidelity would not be this cut-and-dried issue that makes or breaks a relationship. A lot of people probably say it would be, and many of them may be right. On the whole, though, I suspect it doesn’t work that way.

When you have built a life with someone — marriage, living together, etc. — it is not so easy to throw it away. You have invested yourself in both the person and the life you’ve made and just ditching it isn’t always an option. When you are sharing a house, and live hours from family (let’s say), where do you go if you leave? Add children in, and the matter is complicated even more. So for everyone that says, “Oh, I’d be out of there like a shot,” I have a feeling the reality would be different.

Another reaction from the story is this:

Cheaters deserve no second chances.

You’re writing is beautiful, but I hate him. He doesn’t deserve her or the happiness she offers. She is weak for taking him back.

One suspects a comment like this is borne of someone experiencing infidelity either first-hand (such as by a spouse) or second-hand (perhaps someone whose parent cheated and that broke up the family). Even if not, they are certainly entitled to their opinion.

When I wrote it, though, I was sympathetic to both characters. Surely people are fallible and even with egregious errors such as cheating, can feel remorse and genuinely regret what they’ve done and want to right things. I felt it was important in my story that Kevin realize that he could apologize, but he couldn’t force Lana to take him back, and that’s how he acted.

It was also important for Lana to realize that it was not her fault that Kevin cheated — he could always have said no, obviously — and for her to see that one mistake could be forgiven. The commenter above says that she is “weak” for forgiving him, but she lays down terms: if he does it again, she could forgive him again, but the relationship is over. He agrees.

What more can you do? There are only two basic options I see in cases like this: either you forgive, but not forget, and both agree to move forward; or, you end it. There isn’t much middle ground. But I do think it’s a gray area when it comes to arriving at those decisions, and that none of us should judge the decisions someone else arrives at, even if they aren’t the ones we (think we) would make or that we think are good for the person in question.

Admittedly, I like happy endings, and so my story worked out to one. That was also because so many don’t and I wanted something different. Because sometimes there is a happy, or at least not so sad, ending.

*****

I just wanted to reiterate that there is an unofficial contest going on over at Literotica, in which I participated. Everyone was given four “ingredients” for a story. The stories are in various categories, and you won’t know which until you start reading. I hope you stop by and check out a few. As I said before, if you can guess which one is mine, I’ll send you a PDF file of a story that is currently not available online.

 

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