Story reveal

So, the FAWC (Friendly Anonymous Writing Challenge) is over for now, and my story was called Empires of the Stars.

This is a different story than I’ve written before, and likely not what you’re expecting. So all I ask is that you read with an open mind, and I hope you enjoy it. Please leave a comment here or on the story page. Thanks!


Guess that story again

Over at Literotica, we’ve done another FAWC, a Friendly Anonymous Writing Competition. This time, we all had to begin with the same sentence:

Upon the table lay three times: a handkerchief, a book and a knife.

From there, we could go anywhere, and judging by the entries, that’s a good description. If you get a chance, stop by the submissions page, read some stories, and leave some comments.

And try to guess which one is mine. ūüôā

I am a woman, but …

I’m sure most of you are familiar with the #yesallwomen hashtag over at Twitter, and some of the good, bad, and sad things that have been tweeted on it. I’ve looked myself and as I often do with such things, I find I have mixed feelings about it.

I think it’s clear that for some reason, Elliot Rodgers, the man who stabbed and shot six people and then killed himself, was not right in the head. It is also clear, from Rodgers’ own¬†written and video manifestos, that he blamed all of his anger on women. (I’m not linking to these because you’ve probably seen them, the links are easily found elsewhere, and quite frankly, I don’t want to see or read them myself. Reading¬†about it is bad enough.)

Rodgers said, in no uncertain terms, that he felt women owed him love, sex, and adoration, and he’d had it up to here that they weren’t fulfilling their end of his self-perceived bargain. And it wasn’t just women, because he was clearly just as pissed as the men who were getting the girls that Rodgers thought he should be getting. Hence, he killed men, too.

It’s good that this is generating discussion, although I’m of the pessimistic thought that the discussion will pretty much just circle around and not get anywhere.

Anyway, one of the things about #yesallwomen that makes me feel odd is that, well, so many of the things other women have said have not happened to me. Don’t get me wrong, I am not looking for trouble — I am exceedingly¬†glad I have not had to deal with the shit they have, and I am sorry that they have. The funny thing is, though, that when you see all these things coupled with “#yesallwomen,” there’s a feeling akin to guilt when¬†I think, “Well, not this woman.”

Like I said, I’ve been very lucky. I’ve experienced very little outright sexual/gender discrimination that I know of. The¬†only thing that really stands out is that when I was in high school and wanted to join the A/V club, I was told by the vice principal that girls couldn’t do that. I didn’t¬†question it at the time; I went to a Catholic school and the VP was a priest. Like baseball players do not argue with the ump, I did not argue with him. Thinking about it now, I would guess the reasoning was¬†that the A/V club was all-male, and having a¬†girl there could lead to potential problems.

Now, why they wouldn’t, say, have a teacher or two there to make sure everything was okay, I don’t know. It was stupid at the time, but I had¬†other things to do, and so I dismissed it and went on to those other things. I wasn’t going to sue over it or anything like that. I would also guess that now that is not the case, but it was in the mid/late 1980s.

But¬†when I read #yesallwomen, I see the statements of reporting sexual harassment, or assault, and not being believed. Of carrying keys through your fingers as a makeshift weapon when walking alone (I’ve done this). Of having to tell a strange guy you have a boyfriend, even if you don’t, because it’s the best way to make him go away. Or worse, of being assaulted by friends or family, and not believed by same.

That has not happened to me (again, thankfully). I saw a tweet that said, roughly, ask any woman you know if she’s been sexually assaulted/molested/harassed and she’ll say yes. The first reply was¬†from a guy who said he’d¬†asked his mom and sister, who had both replied in the negative.

And perhaps that’s the problem. I will agree that women are aware and conscious of personal security in a way that most men are not — because they don’t have to be. I had a roommate for a couple of years, a guy who had just come out as gay not long before moving down my way. This was a big thing for him, coming from a smaller, conservative town. One night he was going out and I asked what I thought was a fairly innocuous question, was he intending on coming back that night. He got mad.

To be fair,¬†he wasn’t belittling my concerns. What he was mad about was¬†that he essentially had to consider someone else’s POV, and he was in a phase of basically not wanting to be answerable to anyone for what he was doing. I pointed out that I didn’t¬†care if he came back that night, aside from wanting him to be safe, I just wanted to know if I could put the chain lock on. If I’d been a guy, I doubt I would have thought about it. But I’m not a guy, and I did.

So it’s weird when I read the tweets, because although I sympathize and empathize and agree as best I can, it’s not my experience. Some of it is because, for example, I don’t and didn’t to places like bars, which seems like a place where a lot of unwanted advances happen. To a great extent,¬†I’ve probably taken myself of risky situations, but not to avoid the risk. I’m just not a bar person, but the result is the same.

And again, let me be clear — a woman should be able to go to a bar, or a restaurant, alone or with a friend, and be left alone. No means “no,” not “make an offer” or “I’ll change my mind if you keep talking.” People, men and women, need to learn to respect a person’s “No.”

I do think attitudes need to change, and that will be hard. I’d like to see an end to things like “You throw like a girl” and other¬†statements where a man is insulted by calling him a woman. It’d be nice if groups of men — teams, etc. — would stop saying things like, “Okay, ladies, let’s…” They aren’t ladies and there’s an implied disrespect thee. So stop it.

I’d like to see people of both genders stop saying (as I read on all #yesallwomen) “Why didn’t she leave?” when finding out about an abusive relationship and start asking, “Why didn’t he stop hitting her?” and “What made him think he had the right?”¬†People need to help and protect themselves, but that’s often easier said than done, and blame and responsibility need to be placed on the person perpetrating the violence and not the one who was victimized.

And that should happen when it’s #allmen, too.


New story

Now that the challenge is over, I can tell you I have a new story up. ūüôā It’s called¬†Keeping Secrets and was part of an unofficial challenge over at Literotica. The challenge this time was to select a song and write a story inspired by said song. My choice was¬†“Written in Rock,” by Rick Springfield.


¬†The day dragged on, interrupted by a quick lunch and some afternoon meetings. He checked his phone after the last meeting and was surprised to see a text from Sylvia. Meeting with some coworkers, won’t be too late. Leftovers in the fridge. Love you.

He frowned at the words on the screen, debating his reply. At a loss, he just responded with a quick thanks and love you, too.

It ate at him on the way home. Did this have to do with her phone conversation? Was she meeting someone and, God forbid, hiding it from him?

“Jesus, man. Paranoid much?” He got out of the car, annoyed with himself. He had no reason to think anything like that. If Sylvia had any secrets, it probably involved cheating on a test in high school, or maybe spilling a drink on her prom dress.

In the apartment, he changed and dug out the leftovers. He flipped on the TV as they warmed in the microwave, then ate as he watched sports highlights and waited for Sylvia.

I hope¬†you enjoy it, and here’s the direct link.

Guess the story

Over at Literotica, some of us have embarked on another FAWC — a Friendly Anonymous Writing Challenge. This time we had a choice of songs to inspire our stories.

The trick is, you’ll have to guess which one¬†is mine. ūüôā

Here’s the link:¬†

I’ve been reading — I know who the participants are but not what they wrote — and there are some excellent¬†stories, so I hope you get the chance to read at least a few (many are two screen pages or less) and leave some feedback. Enjoy!

Belated Movie Review: Robot & Frank

I will have a writing related post soon, but since I watch a lot of movies and like to muse on them, I thought I might start with “Belated Movie Reviews.” I rarely see movies when they open in theaters,¬†so¬†I hope that by reviewing older movies, I might turn you on to something you missed.

Last night I saw Robot & Frank, a sort of sweet little movie (85 mins) starring Frank Langella, James Marsden (aka Cyclops or Corny Collins), Liv Tyler (she still acts, it seems) and Susan Sarandon (yay!).

Langella’s Frank Weld is an older man, living alone, whose memory is starting to fade, or fragment.¬†Not entirely, and not necessarily on important issues, but he’s obviously declining. At first, the viewer doesn’t realize how much, as what he forgets seems relatively harmless, such as that his favorite diner in town has gone out of business. ¬†Frank also used to be a thief, a “cat burglar” as he himself puts it.

Frank fills his time by walking into town, visiting the library and flirting a bit with the librarian (Susan Sarandon). He is disappointed to learn that the library will essentially be going all-digital, a project funded by a neighbor, a young millionaire named Jake.

Frank has two children, Hunter (Marsden) and Madison (Tyler), and I have a feeling people will recognize these different relationships. Hunter drives five hours each way every weekend to check on Frank, who lives alone in a rural area. He sacrifices time with his family because he feels his dad needs him. Madison is off in Turkmenistan, communicating via erratic Skype calls, and not as familiar with Frank’s condition, but only because she is far away, not because she doesn’t care.

Hunter shows up one weekend with the Robot, because he is reaching the end of his rope in dealing with Frank — answering the same questions,¬†having the same arguments, going over the¬†same things. Hunter need something to change, both for himself and for Frank, and so brings in the Robot (voiced by Peter Sarsgaard). The Robot will care for Frank, cooking meals, cleaning the house, and perhaps most importantly, putting him on a routine in order to help his cognitive functioning.

This is something Frank obviously needs, but Hunter cannot provide (he has his own family) and Frank will not accept from another person, nor will go to the “brain center,” he informs Hunter.

Frank naturally resists at first, telling both Hunter and Madison he does not want¬†the Robot. However, Frank discovers some perks about the Robot, not the least of which is that he can teach the Robot to pick locks. This gives Frank an idea, which benefits him mentally because now he has a goal — something the Robot has said is important for Frank. (There’s a wonderful moment towards the end, when the Robot follows a previous order from Frank but in a different situation than it was issued. Who says Robots can’t have senses of humor?)

Madison suddenly shows up on Frank’s doorstep to save him from the Robot. By now Frank is not just accustomed to his companion, but needs him for a plan. However, Madison is a force to¬†be reckoned with and shuts the Robot down, much to Frank’s dismay.

There are various relationships going around here, and it’s hard to¬†say which one takes precedence, and perhaps no single one does. Frank and the Robot are at the center of it, but Frank’s relationships with Hunter and Madison and how they handle his mental decline are important as well. Madison is not ignoring it, but does not seem to see the entirety of it. Hunter is doing the best he can, but has other obligations.¬†In a moment with the Robot, Frank has to confront the kind of legacy he has left to his children, and it’s a watershed¬†moment for him, played well by Langella.

I liked the movie over all, but it felt lacking in places, mostly with Madison. It’s not clear why she is so upset about the Robot.¬†It’s at least implied that she feels it is cold for a Robot to be caring for her father, and she comes dashing home from Turkmenistan to work on a grant application and care for him, but it’s a bigger job than she realized. But why is it so awful for the Robot to do this, especially if Frank will not accept live-in care, but needs it? Is she coming home because she really wants to, or because she feels guilty? Does she think the Robot is usurping a person’s job? Why didn’t she come before — it’s clear that she and Hunter have discussed their father’s condition, so¬†she doesn’t seem in denial.

Frank’s relationships with both children are also a bit thin. We find out that he’s divorced, and that he’s spent time in jail, but¬†nothing of the impact of that is discussed aside from one line from Hunter. Yet somehow Hunter feels compelled to care for him. Did Frank make up for his mistakes?

The ending is satisfying, I think, or at least pleasing, and it doesn’t feel out of place or forced.

I’d recommend the movie with¬†the reservation that one might feel it is incomplete. But it’s worth a viewing.


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 bin¬†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.


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