Sunday, November 23, 2014

consumerism/ crazy ATM blast video

Nov. 14: I was going to start writing some things in my “parking lot” email draft.  I clicked on it, and it was blank.  So it doesn’t work.  I then sent it to an email that doesn’t work and it always gets bounced back to me.  And it doesn’t bounce back.  I’m kind of mad about it.  However, I have another “parking lot” email in another account so I’ll write about that instead.

Consumerism: My sister checked out this book from the library called Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion by Elizabeth L. Cline.  This is a good time to put this on my email/ blog post because of the holiday shopping season.  Here’s the summary on Amazon:

“Until recently, Elizabeth Cline was a typical American consumer. She’d grown accustomed to shopping at outlet malls, discount stores like T.J. Maxx, and cheap but trendy retailers like Forever 21, Target, and H&M. She was buying a new item of clothing almost every week (the national average is sixty-four per year) but all she had to show for it was a closet and countless storage bins packed full of low-quality fads she barely wore—including the same sailor-stripe tops and fleece hoodies as a million other shoppers. When she found herself lugging home seven pairs of identical canvas flats from Kmart (a steal at $7 per pair, marked down from $15!), she realized that something was deeply wrong.

Cheap fashion has fundamentally changed the way most Americans dress. Stores ranging from discounters like Target to traditional chains like JCPenney now offer the newest trends at unprecedentedly low prices. Retailers are pro­ducing clothes at enormous volumes in order to drive prices down and profits up, and they’ve turned clothing into a disposable good. After all, we have little reason to keep wearing and repairing the clothes we already own when styles change so fast and it’s cheaper to just buy more.

But what are we doing with all these cheap clothes? And more important, what are they doing to us, our society, our environment, and our economic well-being?

In Overdressed, Cline sets out to uncover the true nature of the cheap fashion juggernaut, tracing the rise of budget clothing chains, the death of middle-market and independent retail­ers, and the roots of our obsession with deals and steals. She travels to cheap-chic factories in China, follows the fashion industry as it chases even lower costs into Bangladesh, and looks at the impact (both here and abroad) of America’s drastic increase in imports. She even explores how cheap fashion harms the charity thrift shops and textile recyclers where our masses of cloth­ing castoffs end up.

Sewing, once a life skill for American women and a pathway from poverty to the middle class for workers, is now a dead-end sweatshop job. The pressures of cheap have forced retailers to drastically reduce detail and craftsmanship, making the clothes we wear more and more uniform, basic, and low quality. Creative inde­pendent designers struggle to produce good and sustainable clothes at affordable prices.

Cline shows how consumers can break the buy-and-toss cycle by supporting innovative and stylish sustainable designers and retailers, refash­ioning clothes throughout their lifetimes, and mending and even making clothes themselves.”

will inspire you to vote with your dollars and find a path back to being well dressed and feeling good about what you wear.

The Shopping Diet: Spend Less and Get More: It’s a book by Phillip Bloch.  This is more about how to stretch your dollar further.

My opinion: I hope all of you guys become more conscious consumers after reading the above.

Crazy ATM blast video: On Oct. 1, 2014 I found this on Yahoo news "Caring thief saves homeless man from ATM blast": “A thief in Sao Paulo who was preparing to blow up an ATM showed his
humanitarian side when he pulled a homeless man to safety after he unknowingly walked into the blast zone.”

Dean: When you are committing a crime the furthest thing from your mind is the consequences. You are in an extended "fight or flight" state and you only focus on the task at hand aka "the plan". You can't and don't stop and think "hmm if that guy gets killed then I could be charged with murder" Especially in the short time they had. It was purely out of concern for a human life. Not the act of a person trying to avoid a murder

Canadianmade: Honour among thieves

Maureen: He was not a humanitarian!!!!!..... He was saving his own skin and his
criminal  actions.. He did not want to add "murderer" to his list of crimes.

My opinion: I have to agree with Dean.  I thought that too.

Cascades and the environment: The company Cascades created a sustainable products.  Here’s the website: 

Robin Thicke: This was way back in Jul. 2014.  (I did say it was in my “parking lot” email).  Here’s an excerpt:

Paula Patton has not yet forgiven Robin Thicke -- and neither has anyone else, apparently. While promoting his new album "Paula," which addresses the breakup of Thicke's marriage, the "Get Her Back" singer got slammed over the weekend by Nick Cannon and Chris Rock, as well as by the public.

But that was nothing compared to what happened on Tuesday (Happy Canada Day!) when Thicke took part in Twitter Q&A under the hashtag #AskThicke. Predictably, instead of asking him celebrity-friendly questions about his work, Twitter users addressed Thicke's controversial music as well as rumours that he cheated on Patton.

My opinion: When you put yourself and your work out there, there are going to be fans and critics. 

James Franco: Same goes for this actor.  Here’s an excerpt:

A scathing message posted to the actor's Twitter account Thursday blasted the Times' theater critic Ben Brantley for his pan of the new "Of Mice and Men" Broadway revival.

Franco and "Bridesmaids" star Chris O'Dowd performed in the play's opening night Wednesday. Based on George Steinbeck's classic 1939 novella, the "This Is The End" actor is portraying migrant worker George while O'Dowd has stepped into the role of the mentally incompetent Lennie.

After the New York Times released a less-than-flattering review of the play, Franco went on a rant on Instagram, calling Brantley a "little b****" and declaring that "the theater community hates him."

The Instagram post was quickly deleted, but not before Vanity Fair's Richard Lawson obtained a screenshot.

My opinion: Once again, not everybody’s going to like you and your work.

Stacey Dash: She is the actress who plays Cher’s friend Dionne on the TV show and movie Clueless.  I clicked on the link and it doesn’t work.  It’s where Dash talks about being African- American and supporting Mitt Romney instead of Barack Obama.

Aggressive Bull Interrupts Wedding Photos: I found this on Yahoo:

“Brian and Rebecca Pepper were taking their wedding photos in a paddock in Tamworth, Australia when a bull approached the loving couple. At first, everything was fine, but when the bull got aggressive, so did the groom.  Luckily, their photographer Rachel Deane snapped some very memorable pictures of the unusual animal disturbance.”

I want to add that the “parking lot” email bounced back to me after all.  It just took longer than usual.  Lol. 

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Tell Congress to support the fight to stop Ebola

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Tell Congress to 
Support the 
Fight to stop Ebola
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Since the first cases of the current Ebola outbreak in West Africa were reported in March of this year, more than 4,500 people have died, with 13,700 cases of the disease being reported across the world.

3,700 children have been either orphaned or have lost at least one parent to the disease.

The United States has been a critical actor in the struggle to contain the outbreak, which has already had a devastating impact on Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. However, much more needs to be done if the disease is to be effectively contained and the impacted communities are to rebuild their communities and their lives.

Congress must work with the Obama administration to robustly fund the US response to the Ebola outbreak in West Africa.
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Dear Tracy,

In countries affected by the Ebola outbreak, survival is becoming a challenge even for those not carrying the disease.

The streets of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone are not crowded like they once were. Schools are closed, forcing children to stay inside every day. Food is difficult to obtain, with prices skyrocketing, shops closing, and aid not coming in from abroad. Flights have been canceled.

The general feeling is one of fear.

Tell Congress to fund President Obama's Ebola outbreak response plan.

Since the first cases of the current outbreak were reported in March of this year, nearly every morning brings terrifying news updates of more deaths as a result of the virus.

The World Health Organization most recently confirmed more than 4,500 deaths, with 13,700 cases of the disease reported across the world. 3,700 children have been either orphaned or have lost at least one parent to the disease.

People are desperately trying, and in many cases failing, to get medical help that would make the difference between life and death. Doctors and nurses are at a breaking point, with their countries' already-weakened health systems collapsing under the weight of responding to the crisis.

Entire communities are quarantined, lacking access to sufficient food and water, and even those who survive the disease are often stigmatized and shunned from their communities.

Tell Congress to respond swiftly to this crisis.

The United States has been at the forefront of efforts by the international community to fight the Ebola outbreak in West Africa.

However, much more needs to be done.

More medical supplies and equipment are needed; more medical professionals need to be deployed to the impacted countries, and more healthcare workers in those countries and in the region need to be trained. Humanitarian assistance needs to be delivered to ensure food for communities whose livelihoods have been disrupted by the crisis. And the health systems in West Africa must be rebuilt to prevent such crises in the future.

We cannot allow the U.S. and the international community to falter in their response.

This is a global crisis that demands a global response.

There's no time to waste.

In solidarity,

Adotei Akwei
Managing Director
Amnesty International USA

Enough is enough: Demand Ghoncheh's release

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Enough is enough: 
Ghoncheh's release
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Ghoncheh Ghavami
Ghoncheh Ghavami was arrested in June when she went to Tehran's Azadi Stadium to protest the ban on women being allowed into sport stadiums.

Amnesty recently heard reports that Ghoncheh was sentenced to a year in prison on charges of "spreading propaganda against the system". However, neither Ghoncheh nor her lawyer have received the verdict in writing and without it her lawyer cannot appeal the sentence.

Demand Ghoncheh's release.
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Dear Tracy,

Amnesty recently learned that Ghoncheh Ghavami -- who was wrongfully jailed last June in Iran -- was reportedly sentenced to a year in prison.

Her crime? Protesting the ban on women being present in sport stadiums.

Since 1979, Iran has imposed a ban on women watching football games in stadiums. In 2012, this ban was extended to volleyball matches. It's just one more example of the Iranian government exercising control over the daily lives of its citizens. Police used excessive force, including beatings, to disperse protesters at the stadium. Many, including Ghoncheh, were arrested.

Demand Ghoncheh's release.

The judge overseeing Ghoncheh's case has not yet formally communicated the verdict to Ghoncheh and her lawyer, leaving Ghoncheh in limbo -- without a confirmed verdict, her lawyer cannot appeal her sentence.

Ghoncheh has gone on a hunger strike to protest. She needs you to amplify her voice using your own.

Tell the Iranian government to release Ghoncheh immediately and unconditionally.

Ghoncheh has faced long periods of solitary confinement and has been denied access to her lawyer. Now, is left to struggle with an uncertain fate.

Tell the Iranian authorities once more that enough is enough.

In solidarity,

Jasmine Heiss
Senior Campaigner
Amnesty International USA

Prepare yourself to save a life on December 10th

December 10, International Human Rights Day, marks a global day of action

Join us this year to help change a life! 

Prepare yourself to save a life on December 10th! 

Dear friends,

It's an awe-inspiring thought that you and I can really save someone's life.

What makes this possible is that the few minutes, or maybe a full hour or more, of your time on December 10th, International Human Rights Day, contributes one small part to a massive, life-saving effort as Amnesty International mobilizes its world-wide network to take action on some of the most high-profile cases in human rights.

It's worth your time because your involvement can lead to these kind of results:
  • "Your letters kept hope alive at the darkest hours of need.”
  • “I am alive today because the international community has heard about our work."
  • "Amnesty International members are living proof that this world can be a better place."

Don't miss being a part of this powerful event.

It's easy to participate, it's free, it's empowering: you can choose to write one or several letters, sign one or all of our featured online petitions, share your support on social media, or organize a Write for Rights event with your friends, family or colleagues.

There are already 130 events registered across Canada and we expect tens of thousands of individual Canadians to be taking action on their own or as part of a larger Write for Rights event on International Human Rights Day.

Last year Amnesty International supporters in over 140 countries sent more than 2.3 million letters and petitions on International Human Rights Day!  

We know that the influence of letters or a widely-circulated petition can tip the balance and persuade a government leader to do the right thing. We know that our efforts get results. Read successes stories.

Will it be YOUR action that tips the balance and saves a life? 

Sometimes we can work for years to secure someone's freedom or to bring justice to someone who is suffering from human rights abuse. For that reason, each letter-writing case featured in Write for Rights also offers you a chance to write a letter directly to someone who needs hope and support.

You can be a part of this powerful, meaningful day by choosing one of these two options:
Sign-up to participate on your own

Sign-up to organize a letter-writing event with friends, at your school, at your office.Thank you for your commitment to taking action on this important day! Sincerely,   

Alex Neve, Secretary General, Amnesty International Canada 

P.S.  If you have any questions, or need help planning your participation, please contact or call us directly via 1-800-AMNESTY (1-800-266-3789).

Take a stand against gun violence

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Call for the passage 
of the Youth 
Act today
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Hadiya Pendleton
At just 15 years old, Hadiya Pendleton was shot and killed in Chicago in January 2013.

The men responsible claimed they had mistaken her friends for members of a rival gang.

Together, we can help ensure that young people like Hadiya will make it home from school safely.

Call for the passage of the Youth P.R.O.M.I.S.E. Act today.
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Dear Tracy,

In January 2013, 15-year-old Hadiya Pendleton was just finishing her final exams. Together with a group of her friends, she went to a local park in Chicago after completing her tests.

Hadiya didn't make it home from the park that day.

Instead, the teenager was shot and killed after an assailant opened fire on her group. The men responsible claimed they had mistaken her group for members of a rival gang.

Tell President Obama to take action.

Hadiya is one of 11,000 victims of gun violence in the United States every year.

By addressing the root causes of gun violence, we can help ensure that young people like Hadiya will make it home from school safely - and that they can safely live out the promise of their dreams.

Together, we can call for the passage of the Youth P.R.O.M.I.S.E. Act (Prison Reduction through Opportunities, Mentoring, Intervention, Support and Education Act), which will fund, implement and evaluate evidence-based youth and gang violence prevention and intervention programs.

Call for the passage of the Youth P.R.O.M.I.S.E. Act in Hadiya's name.

In 2015, Amnesty International will launch a campaign aimed at ending gun violence in the United States.

Together, we can put pressure on the U.S. government to take further steps to address gun violence across the country.

We can push for support of legislation that implements universal background checks and funds research on gun violence prevention and firearm safety.

We can raise our voices for Hadiya and so many others like her.

Thank you for your commitment,

Jasmine Heiss
Senior Campaigner, Individuals at Risk
Amnesty International USA
Take Action! Donate Now!

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

self- publishing by Mark Medley

Oct. 13 Self- publishing: I cut out this Edmonton Journal article “The book on DIY” by Mark Medley on Jul. 4, 2010.  This is a long article, so I won’t be sending any more emails for the rest of the week.

It’s a really informative and interesting article about self-publishing.  It talks to a lot of people’s experiences about it.  What stood out the most was this part towards the end of the article:

“Steve Almond says. ‘Your job as a writer isn't to figure out how your book's going to get in the world, it's to figure out how to write well enough that your book deserves to get into the world.’"

Here’s the whole article:

With better technology and more risk-averse publishers, the idea of putting your own book out there looks less like vanity and more like common sense

When Terry Fallis sits down at his desk, he's reminded of how far he's come. Four of his book covers are tacked to a nearby bulletin board. In the top right is the mock-up cover for his novel The Best Laid Plans, which never saw the light of day. To its left is the cover of his self-published version, which Fallis released in September 2007. Below it is the paperback edition published by McClelland & Stewart after the book won the Stephen Leacock Medal for Humour. And to its right is the cover of his forthcoming novel, The High Road, which will hit stores this fall.

"It's kind of like you're playing in the minor leagues," he says, "and you get called up to the Stanley Cup finals."

In 2006, Fallis began his search for a publisher the traditional way, sending sample chapters to agents and publishers across Canada. He was "greeted with a deafening silence."

"It was a pretty easy decision -- although a last resort -- to move down to self-publishing," he says.

After researching his options, he signed on with iUniverse, where a publishing package currently costs between $599 and $4,200. He spent $3,500, which paid for cover-design advice, an editorial review of the manuscript, a publishing assistant whom he worked with by phone and e-mail, copy editing, proofreading, 10 paperback copies and one hardcover -- as well as a listing with online book retailers. Because it was an iUniverse Publisher's Choice, hard copies were placed in one Indigo store for eight weeks.

"It was a positive experience for me," he says, though he later adds, "I still consider it to be a spasm of self-indulgence to publish your own novel."

For writers who can't find publishers, going it alone has long been a last resort. Hundreds of thousands of authors self-publish each year (the Association of Canadian Publishers doesn't keep track). But what was once called "vanity" publishing is seeing a pronounced uptick these days that is threatening publishing's long-standing business model. And why not: An author can now go from manuscript to book in a matter of minutes -- easily and more lucratively than has hitherto been possible.

Steve Almond describes himself as a cult writer. He's the author of six books, the most recent of which, Rock and Roll Will Save Your Life, was just published by Random House, the world's biggest publisher. This is all well and good, but for Almond there are drawbacks. He gives one example: In 2002, he wanted to call his first short-story collection The Body in Extremis, the title of the final story; his publisher, Grove Atlantic, insisted on My Life in Heavy Metal, the title of the first story. Grove won.

"Any time that you enter into an agreement that you're not in control of," he says on the phone from outside Boston, "you have to make certain compromises. And that can be kind of tough."
Not long ago, he had an idea for a new book: a collection of very short stories paired with brief essays about writing, published in a flip book with two covers, but he couldn't generate any interest among editors ( "I don't blame them for one second," he concedes).

Around the same time, he did a couple of readings with other authors who were on a rather unstructured book tour and found himself embracing the DIY mentality. He got a friend to design a book cover, then availed himself of the Espresso Book Machine at the bookstore at Harvard University.

"I'm used to waiting 18 months," he says, but after feeding a PDF into Espresso he watched his book "pop" out of the machine -- "literally fall like a gumball down the chute. And I picked it up: It's wet, its warm. I wanted to swaddle it; it was like a newborn."

Almond struck an agreement with the bookstore to print copies of This Won't Take But a Minute, Honey for about $5 apiece, which he sells at readings for $10. It isn't in bookstores: "I don't want this book everywhere. I want it at readings that I do where it becomes an artifact that I hand to the person who I know is going to read it, not some commodity that's renting shelf space in a Barnes & Noble."

Since then, he's gone back and added new covers, updated some stories, experimented with size, added lists of recommended books and music. Thus, each edition is unlike the one before. He's so pleased with the result that he self-published a second book, Letters From People Who Hate Me. And he's placed his next short-story collection with a small press with whom he'll split production costs and revenue 50/50.

"Traditional publishers will continue to exist," he says, "but increasingly they are going for books that have a pre-made audience. Celebrity memoirs, celebrity dog memoirs, political books, books that pretty much have a built-in platform. And the world of traditional literary work is going to have to find new and innovative ways to make its way into the world.

"And that's something that can be a cause for despair, but it's also a cause for celebration. We're at the beginning of a new era."

Bob Young is a busy man. He is the owner of the Hamilton Tiger-Cats. He is vice-chairman of the Canadian Football League.

And he is the founder and CEO of Lulu. com, whose raison d'etre is to "turn authors into publishers."
In 1999, Young wrote Under the Radar and published it the traditional way. It sold more than 20,000 copies at $25 each, for sales of around $500,000.

He got the princely sum of $2,311 -- what was left over after the costs of production, marketing, returns and all the costs his contract deducted before calculating his royalties. His take-away: "What I understood as a business guy is that publishing is a really hard business."

When he set up Lulu 2002, his focus was on the 19 out of 20 writers who can't get their books published, rather than competing for the one out of 20 authors whose books will go on to be successful. When he began, he recalls, "The general reaction back then was one of indifference." But today, Lulu. com, based in Raleigh, N.C., is just one in a crowded electronic-publishing marketplace that includes iUniverse, Smashwords, Amazon's Digital Text Platform and Scribd. Last year, Lulu. com published more than 400,000 books. Until now, Canadian orders have been filled in the United States, but Young lets it slip that, in August, Lulu will partner with a Mississauga printing company to establish a Canadian footprint.

"That's hot-off-the-press news," he says. "We literally signed the contracts yesterday."

At the 2008 Book Expo Canada, Key Porter publisher Jordan Fenn was approached by a middle-aged woman who gave him a copy of her self-published childhood memoir, which she claimed had sold 15,000 copies. He found it "a charming book," but didn't bite.

"I think they didn't believe my numbers," Mary-Ann Kirkby says today.

But she wasn't surprised. During the seven years she spent writing I Am Hutterite, she submitted it to and was rejected by "every major publisher, sometimes twice." Most of those who responded said it was a fascinating read, but there was no market for such a book (though Canada has the highest concentration of Hutterites on Earth, with 35,000 people).

Kirkby persisted. And after bookseller Paul McNally, of Winnipeg-based McNally Robinson, said he'd launch the book, she borrowed $30,000 from the bank and self-published it on her own Polka Dot Press in June 2007, with an initial print run of 3,000 copies. It became a chain-wide bestseller, and, within weeks, Chapters was calling to see if they could stock the book, too.

The book has now sold more than 75,000 copies, and Kirkby recently signed a distribution deal with Key Porter, which is handling the book's marketing, publicity, warehousing, selling and shipping. She's also snagged an American publisher, Thomas Nelson.

Key Porter's Fenn acknowledges Kirkby could make more doing it herself, but points out the upside: "She no longer has to worry about selling the book. She doesn't have to worry about warehousing the book and arranging shipments of her book. She can just focus solely on promoting her book and writing new books."

And that's the rub. Self-publishing isn't just about paying someone to print your book. If you want to find a readership, you have to hustle: market the book, get it into bookstores, sell the book, get it reviewed. You end up spending as much energy getting people to read it as you did writing it.
"It takes a certain kind of person to self-publish well," says Nancy Wise, president of Kelowna, B.C.'s Sandhill Book Marketing, and co-author of How to Self Publish and Make Money. Founded in 1984, Sandhill is now one of the largest distributors of independently published books in Canada, with 450 titles. "It's not for the faint of heart or the light of wallet. It takes time and it takes money."

Perhaps the biggest strike against self-publishing isn't the cost or the time or the effort, but the sense that if a book is self-published, it can't be very good.

"It was never far from my mind that I had self-published the novel, that it was not what I had wanted," Fallis admits. "Had I known then what a stigma surrounds self-publishing, I may never have done it."
The stigma spreads across the entire industry: The Writers Union of Canada's website warns against vanity publishers: "The Union does not advise or encourage a writer to pay any fee to a publisher to produce his or her book." With the exception of the Leacock Medal and the Trillium Book Awards, self-published books are usually ineligible for major prizes. ( "I'm not sure what a literary award can catch that a publisher's slush pile misses," says James Davies, the Writers' Trust of Canada's senior program manager). And magazines and newspapers -- including this one -- rarely if ever review them.

"Even here in Saskatchewan, I had to sell a phenomenal amount of books before somebody like the (Saskatoon) StarPhoenix would pay me attention," Kirkby says.

"It's not that I have a philosophical objection to self-published books, but the reality is that most of them don't cleave to the same editorial or production standards as books that come from reputable publishing houses," says Steven Beattie, Quill & Quire's review editor. "If I get a self-published book that looks interesting to me, I'll definitely have it reviewed. I've been in this job for two years now, however, and that has yet to happen."

"Self-publishing has allowed people to put lots of books into the world, but it doesn't mean that it's good art," Steve Almond says. "Your job as a writer isn't to figure out how your book's going to get in the world, it's to figure out how to write well enough that your book deserves to get into the world."

Let's give the last word to Terry Fallis, who sold about 1,500 copies of The Best Laid Plans before M&S took him on as one of its authors. Two days after the book was republished, Fallis found himself onstage at an Authors at Harbourfront event in Toronto with Fred Stenson ( The Great Karoo) and Andrew Davidson ( The Gargoyle), and soon went from reading by himself to reading with Joseph Boyden ( Through Black Spruce) and Paul Quarrington ( The Ravine). His book was recently chosen by Waterloo for their One Book, One Community initiative, following in the footsteps of Lawrence Hill's The Book of Negroes. His new novel, The High Road, is prominently featured in M&S's fall 2010 catalogue, with promises of a multi-city author tour, national media and national print advertising, among other perks.

"In all humility, I think I'm probably the exception to the rule in self-publishing," he says. "I consider it to be a lightning strike."

Sunday, November 16, 2014

The Twilight Zone/ always try and work hard

Oct. 12 The Twilight Zone: I cut out this Edmonton Journal article called “Cross over into the Twilight Zone- and find today’s movie plots” by Maureen Dowd on Jul. 10, 2011.  I wrote about this article before way back in 2011:

Dowd writes for the New York Times.  Now I found the full-length article and it’s really good.  Here's the whole article:

I knew I should have been out eating charred meat or watching a bad Michael Bay movie.

But I couldn’t help myself. Every July Fourth weekend, I get sucked into the spooky little dimension of “The Twilight Zone.” As the annual Syfy marathon proves, Rod Serling’s hypnotic show is as relevant as ever. 

If Anthony Weiner had watched it, he might have been more aware of how swiftly, and chillingly, our technology can turn on us. Prosecutors and reporters, dumbfounded by dramatic reversals in the cases of tabloid villains D.S.K. and Casey Anthony, might do well to keep in mind Serling’s postmodern mantra: Nothing is what it seems. 

Agnes Moorehead may seem to be a lonely farmwoman under attack by scary little robots, but after she kills them and takes an ax to their spaceship, it turns out that she’s the scary Amazon alien and the little men were U.S. astronauts from Earth. 

(Tracy’s opinion: I saw that episode.)

Ensorcelled once more by that inimitable, smoke-filled Serling voice, which is reassuring and unnerving at once, I wondered how the ingenious TV writer would have used social media and search engines in his plots. Given the way Serling treated time travel, space odysseys, robots and aliens, the 21st-century technology giants would probably have been ominous in one narrative and benign in another. (Just like in life.)
No doubt some characters would have been saved and others destroyed by Twitter, Facebook and Google. 

“When you look at ‘Twilight Zone’ episodes, everything is ambivalent,” said Serling’s friend Doug Brode, who, along with Serling’s widow, Carol, wrote “Rod Serling and ‘The Twilight Zone:’ The 50th Anniversary Tribute,” published in 2009. “Rod had an open mind to the good, the bad and the in-between of technology. He was a guarded optimist until the Kennedy assassination. After that, his work reflected his sense of hopelessness.” 

He said that Serling’s father, a middle-class grocer, lost his business in the Depression, so Rod had an early lesson in reversals. Serling also had a devastating experience while serving in World War II. During a lull at the Battle of Leyte Gulf in the Pacific, he was standing with his arm around a good friend and they were having their picture taken. At that moment, an Air Force plane dropped a box of extra ammunition that landed on Serling’s friend and flattened him so fatally that he couldn’t even be seen under the box. 

“Many ‘Zone’ episodes are about that split-second of fate where somebody arbitrarily gets spared or, absurdly, does not,” Brode said.

Serling himself lived a reversal, going from a trailer park after the war and 40 rejection slips in a row to having a big Hollywood house and a pool. But he grew disdainful of Babylon’s corrupting materialism and moved back to a cottage on Cayuga Lake in upstate New York. Serling fought furiously against censorship and ads, asking how you could write meaningful drama when it was interrupted every 15 minutes by “12 dancing rabbits with toilet paper?”

In one “Twilight Zone,” an inept screenwriter conjures up Shakespeare to help him. The Bard produces a dazzling screenplay but then storms out when the sponsor demands a lot of revisions.
Did Serling, who had a searing sense of social and racial justice, believe in God?

“Not Charlton Heston sitting on a cloud with the Ten Commandments, but absolutely, as a force in the universe, he did,” Brode said. “Nearly 35 years ago, George Lucas told me that the whole concept of the Force comes from Rod Serling.”

It’s impossible not to watch a stretch of the endlessly inventive Serling and not notice how many of his plots have been ripped off for movies, and how ahead of his time he was. In a popular new Samsung ad, a young woman jumps up from the lunch table and begins screaming because the tarantula screensaver on her colleague’s 4G phone is so lifelike; another guy at the table takes off his shoe and smashes it.

There’s a “Twilight Zone” episode where a Western gunfighter time travels forward and goes into a bar, where he sees a TV with a cowboy coming toward him. Thinking it’s real, he pulls out his pistol and shoots the screen.

Looking at this summer’s lame crop of movies and previews you can appreciate Serling’s upbraiding of the entertainment industry for “our mediocrity, our imitativeness, our commercialism and, all too frequently, our deadening and deadly lack of creativity and courage.” 

“The Twilight Zone” was never gangbusters in the ratings, and Serling — who smoked on screen — died at 50 from the ravages of six packs a day. He felt like a sellout and failure. He had sold syndication rights for his show to CBS for a few million, thinking he had not written anything of lasting value.

Sadly, he gave himself a trick ending. He died never realizing how influential he would be.

“Everything today is Rod Serling,” said Brode. “Everything.”

My opinion: Reading this article about a TV writer really inspired me.  I don’t know about you guys, but I’m sure a lot of you experience reversal of situations at one time or another.

Always try and work hard: I will give you one of my own examples: When I was in gr.9, school was hard.  Then I got to gr. 10 and it was really easy.  That was because I was in mostly low classes like English 13, Social Studies 13, Science 10 and Applied Math 10.  I hardly ever had to study, work hard, or pay attention in class.  

Then in gr. 11, school was hard.  English and Social were fine.  What I learned in Applied Math 10, was gr. 8 and 9 math.  Applied Math 20 was really hard.  My skills and work ethic really atrophy in gr.10.  I didn’t have a work ethic anymore because I was so used to not working much.  

I had to study, work hard, pay attention in class so I can barely pass.  I had to endure my sister tutoring me in math nearly everyday so I can pass.

After that, I never let my skills or work ethic atrophy.  When I passed math and science, I learned that hard work does pay off.  I can work hard and pass.  I rather work hard and try and fail, then not try at all.  If I didn’t try, then I will always wonder “What if?”  

That’s why I always try and work hard.

Oct. 13 The Lovers: I cut out this Edmonton Journal article “Away she goes again” by Lauren Groff.  She reviews the book The Lovers by Vendela Vida on Jul. 4, 2010.  Here’s an expert:

Ambitious works usually proclaim their ambition stylistically, panoramically or on the level of the line, and it is easy for a reader to feel frustration when it appears that a writer isn't pushing herself to do something new.

It was only in light of Duras' lifelong project - to refine her story by retelling it - that I understood that Vida's project over her three novels is quite ambitious, even if her methods are quiet. In the end, by pushing deeper into her refrains of grief and travel, Vida's work becomes clearer and more sophisticated with every book she writes; and "The Lovers" is her best and most disturbing novel yet.

My opinion: The part of “pushing yourself to do something new” stood out to me.  It’s not just about writing, but it could apply to life.

Adam Lewis Schroeder: Also in the Edmonton Journal on Jul. 4, 2010 was “Exotic land blossoms in winning tale.”  Robert J. Wiersema reviews In the Fabled East by Adam Lewis Schroeder.  Here’s an excerpt:

I assumed he was fast on his way to becoming a household name. Empress of Asia had everything -- great writing, a great story -- and Schroeder, who now lives in Penticton, was the sort of author who made good copy: photogenic, with a backstory of travels in Asia.

My opinion: I looked at his picture and studied it.  He looked like he could be an actor.  Here is the picture that was in the newspaper:

He kind of reminded me of the actor Desmond Harrington.  They’re both handsome with dark hair.