Showing posts with label facebook. Show all posts
Showing posts with label facebook. Show all posts

21 February 2018

There Was A Wicked Messenger


by Robert Lopresti

I have lots of friends on FaceBook, some of them I have known since childhood and some I wouldn't know if they bit me.  That's the nature of FB.

Not long ago one of that latter group contacted me on the FaceBook app called Messenger.  It became pretty clear that something shifty was going on and, checking out that friend's FB page I found a note saying "Ignore any messages from him.  His account has been hacked."  Well, by then I was too interested to ignore them.




Alas, I didn't spot the typos here. (I was in a restaurant wating for lunch to arrive.) I meant to say "I enjoyed their singing but frankly their dancework..."



??? indeed.

At that point I gave up.  But if I had sent one more message it would have gone something like this:

I contacted the sponsors and they said they left the names of some winners on the list at the request of the FBI.  You see, it turns out some real scumbags are trying to rip off the winners. I hate people like that, don't you?  How do they spend all day trying to rob people who never did them any harm and then use those same hands to caress their lovers or comfort their children?  How do they talk to their mothers knowing how ashamed those mothers would be if they knew the truth about them?  Please be careful, my friend. There is a lot of evil out there.

By the way, a few days after this happened to me the same thing happened to Neil Steinberg, one of my favorite columnists.  You can read about what he did here.

03 August 2017

Learning Experiences 101


Image result for alternatives to violence projectI spent last weekend at the pen, doing another Alternatives to Violence Project (AVP) workshop.  This time we were training inside facilitators, which we do every two years or so.  These are inmates who have done basic and advanced workshops, and have shown themselves to be really good at walking the walk as well as talking the talk.  These are guys who have gone a long time without being written up or put in the SHU, who know how to and do defuse situations on the ground, and want to be a part of spreading the word to others.  Without them, we couldn't do AVP.  (NOTE:  Check us out on Facebook!)  We outside facilitators need their help in all sorts of ways, and I can't say enough good stuff about them or give enough thanks for their help.

Meanwhile, I'm so glad I'm not in prison.  It's one of the things for which I am truly thankful.  And I don't take it for granted.  There's a long, long, long list of things which will send you to prison and I know very few people who have done none of them.  And it can happen so fast...  I've seen guys in the pen who are absolutely shell-shocked because suddenly they are there, and they almost don't know what's happened.  (Some, who are mentally disabled, really don't know what's happened.)


Image result for prison v. nursing homeMeanwhile, this meme - the one on the right - has been going around the internet for a long, long time, comparing prison (favorably) to nursing homes.  And I've refuted it every time I see it, and will continue to do so.  One version of it starts "Let's put Grandma in prison", to which I always respond, you must really hate your Grandma.  And then I explain why this meme is absolutely, one hundred percent false.  Not to mention pretty damn hateful...

So, let's compare apples to oranges, prisons to nursing homes:

Yes, prisoners get a shower every day - it's to prevent lice, mites, and scabies.  It's a health measure, not for their pleasure.  Believe me, a lot of prisoners would just as soon not take showers, because they don't want to be in a large group of naked men, some of whom are hostile, and - what with steam, slippery tile, soap, etc. - it's a place where rape and other assaults can happen.  Is this really the way you want Grandma to live?
(NOTE:  In a nursing home, they do get a bath or shower every day, but in private.)

Image result for prison cell usa toilet in front
Prison cell
Yes, there is 24/7 video surveillance.  That's for security.  Yes, the lights don't go off at 7 PM in the pen - they don't go off at all.  That's for security.  The average prison cell is 6 x 8 feet, and (except for lifers) it's shared by two inmates, and the toilet is open, right in the front, by the door, so that literally everyone can see them doing their business.  That's for security, too.  Is this really the way you want Grandma to live?
(NOTE:  The average nursing home room is at least six times that size, and the toilet is in a private bathroom with a door.  And no, the lights are NOT turned off in a nursing home at 7:00 PM.)

Yes, there are three meals a day.  They're awful.  I know, I've eaten a lot of them.  (We don't go out for meals during a weekend workshop.)  They get no fresh fruit, vegetables, fish, or red meat.  (The exceptions:  once a day they get canned corn or canned green beans or lettuce or raw carrots.)  There are a lot of carbs, which is why, even if you don't have diabetes before you go into the pen, there's a good chance you'll develop it before you go.  (Nationally, 21% of inmates have diabetes.)  Is this really the way you want Grandma to live?
(NOTE:  I've eaten many a meal in assisted living centers, while visiting my parents, God rest their souls, and they weren't cold, except the salads, and they were pretty good.)

Yes, prisoners are allowed to have a TV - if they can afford it.  (No, they're not free.)  This is also a security measure, believe it or not.  Unless they have a job (and as many as half the prisoners don't), they're locked down, in their 6x8 cell 23/24.  Lately, they're also being given tablets (provided for free by private corporations, and not on the taxpayers' dime), which allow them to make telephone calls from their cells (using earbuds), listen to music, and access the digital law library.
(NOTE:  The digital law library has caused some prisons to quit having a paralegal on staff to explain the law to the inmates, which is sort of like providing a medical library and firing the doctors.)  Working or not, inmates are only allowed 1 hour for recreation (rec).  Depending on staffing levels, or climate, even rec is cancelled.  Inside rec is in the gym, which does come equipped with basketball hoops and weight equipment.  (Personally, I want them to burn off their energy somewhere....)

Prison tiers, SDSP
When the weather is nice and staffing levels are good, rec is outside, where inmates can play baseball and walk / jog around the track.  But, as soon as the temperature goes below 50, all rec is indoors, because the inmates - for security reasons - aren't given coats unless they have a specific job outside.  So, here in South Dakota, that generally means that for six months out of the year, inmates don't get to go outside, at all.  And because of the configuration of cell blocks, most cells don't have windows; and where there are windows, they're covered with iron mesh, which means that inmates don't even get to see the sun for six months out of the year.  Is this really the way you want Grandma to live?

Now let's talk about medication.  Most prisoners are now given Vitamin B and D supplements, because of the lack of sunlight, the food, and the constant fluorescent lighting.  Yes, there's generally a paramedic and a nurse on duty 24/7 at a prison.  Yes, there is free prescription medication, and if you really want people with bi-polar, schizophrenia, and other mental illnesses to go without medication in an over-crowded environment of people who are stuck there for years for criminal behavior, well...  that one's beyond me...

But notice I said prescribed medication.  You have to get that prescription, and getting it can take a while.  First you have to get an appointment to see the doctor, which takes a while.  Diagnosis takes a while.  And the medications are given out on the prison time schedule, not the prisoners.  Diabetics don't get to check their blood sugar and medicate accordingly.  They get their insulin at the scheduled time.  Period.  Inmates on chemo get to ride out the side effects in their 6x8 cell, without any special diet or help.  Is this really the way you want Grandma to live?

Image result for elderly in prisonA lot of prisoners are elderly.  You get 20, 30, 40, 50 years or life, you're going to grow old in prison.  Eventually, elderly and disabled prisoners are allowed knee braces, walkers, and eventually even wheelchairs.  Those who are in wheelchairs are often assigned a pusher, which in this case is an inmate who will push them to where they want to go.  But they're not given any special help in and out of bed, on and off the toilet, up and down the stairs, to and from the chow hall, the medication line, etc., until they're actually at the hospice stage.  Is this really the way you want Grandma to live?

All I can say, is that if your elderly loved ones are in a nursing home that does what the meme says, you have put them in the wrong nursing home.  (That or you really do hate them.)  Get them out.  Immediately.  Here are the official Nursing Home Care Standards:  find some place that follows them!

Meanwhile, I hope that reading this has made us all truly thankful for the things we have:  a home, with a private bathroom, a soft bed with comforters and pillows, weather-appropriate clothing, the ability to go outside whenever we want, do what we want, eat whatever we want.  The simple fact that I can actually turn the lights on and off is wonderful.  The fact that I can have a Thanksgiving Dinner with friends, loaded with good food...  it's fantastic.  I am truly, truly, truly, thankful.






18 August 2016

Cyberspace, Cyberpunks, Cyberwar


Leigh Lundin has, for some time now, been scaring the pants off of us with regard to all the hazards of cyberspace, like RansomWare - (Thanks, big guy!  And tell Velda to pour me another drink...)  And God knows that cybercriminals and hackers are out there, doing all kinds of nasty things.  (Go, right now, and change all your passwords to something elaborate and unbreakable, preferably in Mongolian.)
NOTE:  A big shout-out to our local university, Dakota State University (http://dsu.edu/), which trains people in "ethical hacking", cybersecurity, cyber operations, etc.  Training the good guys (I hope) to tackle future cybercriminals around the world!
But there's another problem with cyberspace, and that is that it's an open platform for anyone at any time.

Look, we are having our hearts broken, over and over again, by terrorist acts.  Bastille Day saw the terrorist act in Nice, France, a beautiful city that I remember with especial fondness because it was the highlight of my last European trip.

Nice, France - Michaelphillipr, Wikimedia
Anyway, a true rat bastard got into a rented refrigerator truck, plowed into a crowd on Bastille Day, killing 84 people and injuring at least 50 others.  He died in a gunfight with the police.  While he had a history of petty theft, "he is completely unknown by intelligence services, both at the national and local levels,” Paris Prosecutor Molins said. “He has never been in any database or been flagged for radicalization.”  Now here's the nub of it:  "Although neither the Islamic State or Al Qaeda asserted any role, online accounts associated with the groups welcomed the massacre."  Source:  (NYT)


Vladimir Putin,
the day after the attack
I'll bet they did.  Why not?  Made them feel important, like they'd nabbed another one for their cause, whether they did or not, and it helped add to the general sense of terror and frustration.  And every time ISIS or Al Qaeda claim credit for something, politicians worldwide scream for action, action, action, NOW!

But what kind of action?  Do something violent to take out ISIS and the threat of radical Islamic terrorism - like pave Syria?  Ban all Muslims from here or there or anywhere?  Patrol Muslim neighborhoods at home and abroad?  Etc.  Now we could do all these things.  And more.  But it won't stop the problem.

Because the real problem is that jihad (like every other kind of extremism) is now on the internet. From Facebook to Twitter to the Dark Web, there are all sorts of slick, persuasive sites proselytizing (among other things) jihad.  And these sites are telling people - mostly young men - all across the globe that they can make a difference, that they can save the world, that they can make everyone honor and respect them and kiss their feet and fannies.  And they can have revenge upon a world that has never given them the respect or money or women or lifestyle they think they deserve.  All they need is a gun, a truck, a car, a bomb, a lot of guns, some cohorts, any combination - just go out there and kill a lot of people for the cause.  And, if they die in the process, they go to heaven and the 72 virgins while, back on earth, their deeds and their names will be splashed all across the international news media, and everyone will be terrified and horror struck and wounded by what they did, because they are so powerful and important.  At last.

That's what we're really up against.  Not some 40,000 "fighters" trying to hang on to their caliphate of bloody sand in Syria.  If that was all there was to it, the solution would be relatively simple.  But we're up against an idea, metastasizing across the internet, and gobbling up people's minds and lives in cyberspace.  And what do you do about that?

NOTE:  The average person now spends 8 hours and 41 minutes per day online.  (See here.) 

Visualization of Internet routing paths
Visualization of Internet Routing Paths
by the Opte Project, Wikipedia
Let's face facts, the internet is the current Tower of Babel - we have created a virtual world that allows constant extremist views to be spread and taught worldwide, without any central supervision, rules, or policing.  From jihad to neo-Nazis and everything in between and beyond, there are sites for it, multiple sites, that are all free of charge and available 24/7 to any lonely person who doesn't have anything better to do.  Nobody's in charge of the internet.  Nobody's policing the internet - or not enough.  There are no rules on the internet. You can say anything on the internet and get away with it.  (Everyone who's been flamed, raise your hand!  Don't worry, they can't see you - which is the exact logic of the flamer...) You can show anything on the internet and get away with it.  You can promote anything - from suicide to to bullying to treason to beheading - on the internet and get away with it.  And everyone is so locked away in their own virtual world of sites, friends and likes that they don't have any idea that there are all these other sites, spreading and spewing all these other views, and people are just as dedicated to "theirs" as "we" are to "ours."

NOTE:  The average person now spends 8 hours and 41 minutes per day online.  (See here.) 

The most harmless one
I could find for an example
- by Dimboukas, Wikipedia
Consider the sites you use.  The ones you go to because what they say "makes sense", or "they tell the truth".  Who's writing them?  Who's making all the memes that we are all trading around on-line?  Do you have any idea?  Is there any way to find out?  Do you care, as long as they're telling you what you want to hear?  Not to mention the implication that, by sharing their meme, YOU'RE an American Thinker, a FreeThinker, a TruthTeller, an Everlasting GOP Stopper, an American Voice of Reason, etc.  Except, when all we do is share the content someone else provides, we're just copycats, not thinking at all.  Clicking like, endlessly.  Agreeing, endlessly...

So what are we to do with all the sites - and the people behind them - who are using the internet to brainwash the world?  Ourselves included?  Who are fomenting hatred and bigotry, jihad and racism, murder and violence, death and war, war, war, all in the name of truth, whether religious or political? How do we stop this?  how do we change this? Because the war is in cyberspace, not on the ground. We want to stop "soft" terrorism?  Lone wolves, brothers, friends - influenced, radicalized, persuaded, perhaps even instructed in the privacy of their own bedrooms?

We're going to have to tackle cyberspace. BECAUSE THAT'S WHERE THE TERRORISTS (of all kinds) ARE BEING CREATED.
NOTE:  Don't even start about how parents need to keep an eye on what their kids are doing.  Remember your own childhood, even if it was cyber-free.  Parents have always been trying to keep an eye on their kids and failing miserably, because teenagers will not be led, driven, watched, or followed, and will do anything under the sun to keep their parents having any idea of what is going on in their locked world.  
(Re the Nice perpetrator, he is apparently no longer a "lone wolf", according to prosecutor Molins, who recently arrested 2 men for giving the perpetrator "logistical support", and said that the perpetrator had plotted the attack for months with "support and accomplices".  BUT, so far, all that support was done on line - via cell phones, computers, etc.)

The cyberworld is addictive and consuming enough even when it's harmless.  People can't get their eyes off their smartphone, even while "supervising" their children at the playground.  They fall off cliffs playing Pokemon Go.  They stay on Facebook even in their sleep.  They sleep with their smartphones.  And, in the process, they create their own cyberworlds.  And if you live in a cyberworld of hate and fear and menace, it really doesn't matter what the real life around you is.  You believe.  What's before your screen-stuck eyes.  And you act accordingly.

NOTE:  The average person now spends 8 hours and 41 minutes per day online.  (See here.) 

02 February 2016

Some Friendships: A Mile Wide and an Inch Deep


There’s a saying about friends, “We have three types of friends in life: Friends for a reason, friends for a season, and friends for a lifetime.”

And as writers in the 21st century we’re supposed to work social media. And it is work, but it’s also fun. You meet people you never would have met otherwise. Sometimes you’ll even meet them in real life, at a conference or convention or even meet up just go out to lunch if you’re in the same town. On occasion it goes the other way, you meet someone in person and then friend them online. Some of these people turn into good friends.

And how does this relate to SleuthSayers? Because this is a crime and writers/writing blog and it deals with the writing side—an aspect of the social media side of being a writer.

Occasionally I notice that I’ve lost a friend or two on Facebook or Twitter. I guess that’s to be expected. People drop off for a variety of reasons. There are programs or apps that will allow you to see who’s dropped you. So far I haven’t installed any of them. Maybe I don’t want to know...

But something interesting happened to me recently. I lost a friend I thought I was pretty good friends with. I knew I lost her and I knew who it was. I also knew why. Here’s what happened:

Generally speaking, I post nothing overtly political or religious on FB. Remember what your mom said about not talking politics or religion in polite company. So I pretty much follow that dictum. I post a lot of articles and pix of La La Land (Los Angeles) and film noir and Raymond Chandler and his ilk. Some animal pix. Some are of my animals, some not. Some funny animal things and some serious ones about abused animals. But that’s about as political as I get, at least in my mind.

But a short time ago I posted a song/video that I thought was funny. It was a satirical song about the holidays and Christmas and such. And it offended someone greatly. She told me so and I apologized in public in a comment on the post. But I didn’t remove the video. We had a little back and forth in the comments and also in private e-mail and it was civil on both sides, though I believe she wanted me to remove the video which I wouldn’t do. Overall I apologized three times, but apparently it wasn’t enough. She defriended me and basically said “farewell” in a private e-mail.

She was upset not so much by the video per se, but that I’d posted it around the holidays. Any other time of year and she wouldn’t have been offended, she said. My whole reason for posting the video around the holidays was that it was a satirical view of the holidays that I thought was funny, related to and that I thought other people would too. And for the most part, it was about the secular/non-religious aspect of the holidays (obnoxious relatives, silly family traditions, etc.) although there may have been a very small reference to religion. To top things off, in a comment, someone else commented on the video and posted another video which was a little offensive by some standards and not something I would have posted and I think I also got blamed for that, which was beyond my control.

I try not to post things that I think will be offensive to others, but there is a point where you have to say enough—I have to be me. I can’t worry about everything I say or do offending someone or I would basically never post anything, including this blog which I’m sure will offend someone, somewhere, at some time. In fact if I was constantly worrying about offending someone I would probably not be a writer, because as writers we are always taking a chance that we will offend someone. In my noir-thriller White Heat, which deals with a lot of racial issues and uses some tough language, I worried about using the ‘N’ word. So much so that I put a disclaimer at the beginning of the book warning people to consider the harsh language in the context of the time and place where the novel takes place. So, I do try to consider people’s feelings and be respectful.

But I guess I committed an unforgiveable offense by posting the video and have now been banished from the island. But I find it rather ironic since this person has asked me on several occasions to write up bios, respond to questionnaires, and other things about myself so she could publish an article and/or interview about me. This has gone on for several years yet no article or interview ever appeared. Yet I spent a lot of time working on this stuff. I wasn’t thrilled that I had spent all this time for nothing but I never said a word. We were friends so I let it slide. But I committed the offensive act and that was the end of a friendship that I now realize was a mile wide but an inch deep.

It’s not the end of the world. And I know she was upset by the video. Personally I don’t see the
problem but I did apologize as I said. I often see things I don’t agree with, political or otherwise, from people I’m friends with but I let them slide. Agree to disagree. I don’t comment. I just move on. I asked her to do that with me, but she wouldn’t or couldn’t. But I guess it’s easy to be friends with someone you agree with 100% and more of a challenge to be friends with someone you don’t agree with on everything.  And as writers I think we need to challenge rather than agree on everything. I’ve been friends in the real world for 30 years, sometimes even longer, with people that I disagree vehemently with and they with me. But we agree to disagree and we’re still good friends. And that’s the way I like it.
5 Ways NOT to Handle a  Nasty Facebook Breakup. Click on link not photo to view video: https://www.facebook.com/YourTango/videos/10152523198102261/?pnref=story

***

I’m going to be interviewed by Pam Stack on Authors on the Air, Wednesday, February 3rd at 6pm Pacific Time. Hope you’ll join us there: http://www.blogtalkradio.com/authorsontheair/2016/02/04/paul-d-marks-talks-about-writing-and-more-on-authors-on-the-air-live




And I’m also guest blogging on author Sue Ann Jaffarian’s Fan Club page on Facebook this week if you want to stop by and check it out: https://www.facebook.com/groups/sueannjaffarian/ 

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09 June 2015

Building the Brand


by Janice Law 

I went to a mystery writers’ convention this past weekend. A nice event, well run, full of mystery fans and valiant souls willing to present their heart’s blood – i.e. manuscripts and query letters – to the scrutiny of big city agents and editors. Everyone was pleasant, but, sad to say, the event marked a passage in my life. Sitting listening to people busy with Instagram, Smashwords, Kindle, and Pinterest, all in the interests of building their brand, I felt myself slipping from being a woman of a certain age to a certified old fart.

There is no doubt over the years I’ve been a writer that the publishing business has changed for better and for worse simultaneously. Feeling grumpy, I wondered when some of these so very with-it literary entrepreneurs actually have time to write – or as much to the point, think of something new.

But then I considered that branding and self-promotion have always been part of the literary game, at least for some writers. Certain of our predecessors would have been naturals for Twitter. Think of Papa Hemingway at the Seville bull ring with iPhone in hand. He was made for the tech.

And consider the Fitzgerald’s, the gayest of the gay celebs of the roaring twenties. Selfies, anyone? If F. Scott would maybe have reservations (he wanted to keep everything for his readers, including Zelda’s diaries), I think she would have enjoyed snapping those bathtubs full of gin and folks kicking up their heels doing the Charleston.

Across the water, we have Colette and wouldn’t she have enjoyed posting her cats’ pix on Pinterest? Not to mention a shot or two of the lover of the moment. George Sand, one of the great galley slaves of nineteenth century prose, would surely have had enough energy for blogging, as would that master of the serial novel, Charles Dickens, who reveled in responses from his many fans.

Earlier times had their own blatant forms of self-promotion. Whitman wrote positive reviews of Leaves of Grass when sufficient praise wasn’t forthcoming, and the eighteenth century Scot, James Boswell, was also known to ghost a glowing review when his prose required one.

Boswell, indeed, should probably be enshrined for his extraordinary literary selfies: the wonderful early London Journal and his monumental biography of Dr. Samuel Johnston. But though tolerant of his assiduous biographer, the creator of the English dictionary would not, I think, have indulged in blogging or tweeting, declaring famously that “none but a blockhead ever wrote except for money.”
Shakespeare, the greatest poet of all, might have had a different tack. Although raised to literary divinity in the centuries since he strode the boards and scribbled up the greatest plays in our language, Shakespeare was very much the entrepreneur and hard-headed businessman. If a blog would bring more patrons to the Globe, I suspect he would have churned out the copy and posted it everywhere.

But do these brand-conscious eminences reconcile me to the new world of catering to reader curiosity and sharing my inner thoughts with my Facebook “friends”? Not really. I must confess I prefer to think of those whose “brand,” if we have to use the term, grew naturally. I find it hard to imagine what the withdrawn and eccentric Emily Bronte would have tweeted. Walked on the moor with Keeper? (her mastiff)? Storm brewing over the hills? Great idea for an irresistible anti-hero? Not very likely.

Jane Austen, though a sociable person, devoted to family and friends, would be even less likely to share her thoughts with the world or to update strangers with accounts of local whist parties, carriage rides, and balls. Ladies simply did not wish to be known in such a way, although the Divine Jane was as fond of literary advances and royalty payments as any other writer.

And what about our own American recluse, Emily Dickinson? Though her short poems are certainly tweet length, and she claimed that they were “her letter to the world,” I don’t think we could expect any great revelations from the Belle of Amherst, who also wrote that “my wars are laid away in books.” Passion, regrets, losses, sorrows, angers she had in plenty, and tweet-able phrases, too, but she did not spend her emotions so easily or carelessly. Rather she distilled them into the poems that still perplex and fascinate today.

So although money is good and a recognizable brand can be profitable, I’m not convinced that the assiduous tending of an image is a wholly good thing. It is all too easy to be type-cast in this world, and I suspect that it is also easy to diffuse one’s ideas and energy into catering to fans and indulging in a writerly form of busyness instead of focusing on the hard work of writing.

06 September 2014

Everybody's E-Talkin'


A song that I liked the first time I heard it, back in college, accompanying the opening credits of Midnight Cowboy, started out with "Everybody's talkin' at me, I don't hear a word they're sayin' . . ." Those lyrics are as appropriate now as they were then; only the circumstances are different. These days we seem to do most of our talking via e-mails, smartphones, Facebook notes, Instant Messaging, etc., and although I take part in all that as much as anyone else, I'm not sure it's always a good thing. Sometimes, like Harry Nilsson, I'm not sure I hear a word they're sayin'.

There is, of course, a reason for all those news reports about people wandering in front of cars or falling into manholes while looking down at their phones. And it's not just because folks who do that are as dumb as the trees and walls they're running into. They are simply addicted to being in nonstop touch with other people, or to being constantly entertained by some online program or service. God forbid they should be forced to nod a greeting to those they pass on the street, or to think about something on their own.

Hold the phone

How often have you been in meetings, or at lunch, or even at family gatherings, and realized that some of the people around you have never once made eye contact wth you or anybody else there? Instead they're texting or surfing or staring in slack-jawed catatonia at their phones or tablets. Madonna could climb onto the table wearing nothing but cowboy boots and an Easter bonnet and play "Over the Rainbow" on a ukulele, and they'd never notice.


Even worse--and I realize this is nothing new--is when strangers in crowded restaurants or stores or waiting roooms carry on loud phone converstions as if others aren't within an arm's length and hearing every word. I truly hate that. I was in Kroger last week and watched the lady ahead of me check out a couple hundred bucks' worth of groceries, pay the cashier, and leave the store without once pausing her full-volume conversation or taking her phone from her ear or even looking at anyone. When I moved up to get my own items checked out, the cashier just gave me a tired look and tipped her head in the direction of the departing woman and rolled her eyes. I nodded my agreement. I'm convinced that the main reason cell phones don't have cords is so bystanders can't use them to strangle the callers.

Once again, I am not guiltless here. I try not to be rude, but I do love my gadgets, and I admit that no matter where I am, I can't resist occasionally pulling out my iPhone to check e-mail or the weather radar or the Dow Jones. I do, however, try to maintain at least some level of dignity in my life: I don't pump my arms back and forth like an idiot when I speed-walk in the neighborhood, I don't wear too-short neckties, I don't confuse "it's" with "its," and I don't use my cell phone to discuss my sore back or my crabgrass problem or my cousin's gambling debts while I'm in a crowd of people.

E-friends and neighbors

I confess I have strayed a bit from the topic. Phone calls, unless you're FaceTiming or Skyping or video-conferencing, are not e-talking. But e-mail and Facebook and texting are, and I'm not sure I could live without them. As for Facebook, I don't post a lot there, and I generally ignore others' posts about what they had for breakfast today or what TV show they watched last night (I don't care about that any more than they would care about hearing that from me), but I do use Facebook to announce upcoming classes or booksignings, and I like using it to stay aware of what other writers are doing and to keep in touch with otherwise inaccessible friends and classmates. And e-mail? I love it. As a writer, I think e-submissions and e-correspondence with editors/publishers makes life less difficult in a multitude of ways. I also use e-mail and text messages to stay in touch with our three children, and I fell in love with Skype and FaceTime long ago, for the same reason.

As for e-friends, I have quite a few I've never even met in real life, and some of them I feel I know pretty
well. Many include some of my colleagues at SleuthSayers and at the now-retired Criminal Brief mystery blog. When I have had a chance to eventually meet and visit with people I'd been in e-touch with--Leigh Lundin, Herschel Cozine, Liz Zelvin, Linda Landrigan, Steve Steinbock, Melodie Johnson-Howe, Barb Goffman, James Lincoln Warren, Bill Crider, Andrew Gulli, BJ Bourg, Janet Hutchings, Angela Zeman, Jim Doherty, Jeff Baker, and others--I'm usually surprised (and relieved) to find that in person they are exactly what I had expected. And I'm always amazed at how generous e-friends can be, with advice, critiques, blurbs, recommendations, etc.

OMG--Who R U?

One thing that does bother me (more than it probably should) is that statistics confirm that the average person now has far more e-friends than "actual" friends, and spends far more of his/her time in e-contact than in face-to-face relationships. The problem there is that I find myself wondering whether younger people are learning the interpersonal social skills that they'll need later in life. (Observe the teenagers at your next family reunion; I predict that they'll spend most of that time alone and fiddling with their phones.) But, hell, what do I know? Maybe what they'll do later in life won't require interpersonal social skills.

One thing that doesn't bother me a lot (and it probably should) is the security risk of e-friendships. Unless your new e-acquaintance is Tiffani from Bora Bora and she says it's like totally awesome to meet such an amazing guy, I think you can safely assume that most e-friends are legitimate and are who they say they are. Yes, there's always the chance that 25-year-old schoolteacher Mary Jane Tucker might turn out to be 55-year-old Darth Voldemort, currently serving eight to ten for grand larceny--but the truth is, if you're openly looking for relationships, there'll always be some risks anyway, even if the encounters are face-to-face.

E-questions

What are your thoughts, about all this? Are any of you fellow e-mail devotees? (If you're writers, I suspect that you are, almost by necessity.) Do your e-friends outnumber your real-life friends? How much time do you figure you spend on your smartphone? How much would be too much? Do you share my concerns about the lessening of face-to-face social interaction? Do you check Facebook daily and use it for messaging? Do you use Twitter? (I've not yet taken that plunge.) Have you ever blundered into a tree or a lamppost while you were texting? (I've come close, but no cigar.) And my final question:

Do you always, no matter what, read the SleuthSayers blog?

This e-friend is hoping you do.

19 July 2014

I Am Not a "sexy porn gerl" and other Twitter Mishaps


Okay, I admit it.  I'm a literary slut.
My mentor, the late novelist Michael Crawley, called me that because I write in several genres (mystery, time travel, fantasy.)  Sometimes all at once in the same book.  This girl gets around.

But these days - like everyone else - my publishers are turning me into a social media whore. (Whoops, did I say that on prime time? <blush>)

"Frolic on Facebook!" they say.  "Tattle on Twitter!" they insist.  "Get out there!"

I'm out there, all right.  I'm so far out there, I may need mouth to mouth and a slug of scotch to crawl my way back.  (Yes, what follows is the absolute truth.)

The Inciting Incident:

It started with the Berlin Brothel.  Lord knows why a brothel in Berlin decided to follow me on Twitter.  I don’t live in Berlin.  I’ve never worked in a brothel.  Don’t think I’ve even typed the word ‘brothel’ before now.  I certainly haven’t said it out loud.

Then some wag from Crime Writers of Canada said: “Maybe they’ve read your first book Rowena Through the Wall.  That’s it!  You have a following in Germany. The girls who work there have to do something in their downtime.”

Let me do a cyberspace blush here.  Okay, my first book is a little hot.  “Hot and hilarious” as one industry reviewer put it.  But it’s not x-rated.  It’s not even R, according to my daughter.  (Husband has yet to read it. We’ve hidden it well.)

Then friend Alison said: “It’s a brothel!  Maybe your latest crime comedy, The Goddaughter’s Revenge, is required reading by the owners.”

But back to Berlin. I didn’t follow them back. Somehow, that didn’t matter. The word was out.

‘Amateurvids’ announced they were following me.  Good, I thought.  I like nature films.  Take it from me, this outfit doesn’t film bunnies in the wild.  Well, maybe a certain type of wild bunny.

I didn’t follow them back.

Then ‘Dick Amateur’ showed up, wanting to connect. Author friend Gloria read a few of his posts and said: “You at least deserve a Pro.”

So I didn’t follow him back.

Next, I got “Swingersconnect” following me.  Swingers?  I get sick on a tire hanging from a tree.

I didn’t follow them back.

‘Thepornfiles’ were next in line.  I didn’t peek.

Then two days ago, an outfit specializing in ‘male penis enhancement’ turned up. Now, I ask you.  Do I look like a male in my profile photo?  Is Melodie a male name?  And not to be pedantic, but isn’t ‘male’ in front of the p-word a bit redundant?  Is there any other kind?

Which brings me to the tweet in my twitter-box today:  “Hey sexy porn gerl!” (Yes, that’s girl with an e.)  Let me state categorically that I am not now and have never been a “sexy porn gerl” (with an ‘e’ or any other vowel.)

You wouldn’t want me to be.  No one would.  For one thing, I can’t see two feet in front of me without glasses.  Things that used to be perky now swing south. And my back hurts if I bend over to pick up a grape. 

So I’m not following them back.

Melodie Campbell is an infant Sleuthsayer and this is her second column.  She writes comedies, including The Goddaughter mob caper series and the notorious Rowena Through the Wall S&S series.  (That was Sword and Sorcery, not S&M.  For the record.)

04 November 2012

faceless



facebook button
facebook— People have a love-hate relationship with facebook. I have a hate-hate thing going. It doesn't like me and I don't like it.

Although I maintain a professional profile on LinkedIn and CrimeSpace, some of us aren't particularly geared toward social media. The phrase "my life is an open book" isn't my cup of tea; I value privacy too much.

But authors must reach out to fans, right? 'Yes' is the obvious answer and John Floyd advised me to give facebook a try. That… didn't… work out so well.

I signed up. It asked for my address book and I refused– I always refuse to allow programs access to my address book– too many ways trust can be misused and facebook is notorious for abusing trust. It has one of the worst reputations when it comes to privacy and security of information. It frowned at that.

Next thing it wanted me to join 'apps', things like the Birthday Book and Farmville. I carefully read the fine print which gave them and the 'app makers' rights to do pretty much what they want with my personal information. Not cool; I refused. The face of facebook glared at me.
block

I started looking for people– family members, friends, Criminal Briefers, SleuthSayers… I found a few. facebook looked at those people and offered me 'friends' of friends. So sure, I knew Margery Flax, James Lincoln Warren, Lee Goldberg, and I sort of knew J.A. Konrath.

face to faceless

So I picked out dozens of authors I'd met at through MWA and Bouchercon and blithely clicked them as they popped up. Then I clicked on Rhys Bowen. It asked "Are you sure you know this person?"

Well, yes. I hadn't danced with her or been there during childbirth, but I sat next to her at a conference and we chatted. I'd made her acquaintance, hadn't I?

I clicked 'yes'. Moments later facebook sent a message it was banishing me for claiming friends I don't know.
shattered

Uh-oh. They offered her as a suggestion, and now they took her away?  Maybe it had been a trick question. Did I know she was English but lived in California? Did I know her real name is Janet Quin-Harkin? Did I know about the mole above her third rib? But they didn't ask me.

Not for a moment do I think Rhys Bowen hovered over her keyboard waiting to pounce when I clicked her name: "There's that damn Leigh stalking me again, first at conferences and now facebook. I'll show him, ha ha!" *poof*

faceless Bureaucracy

I'd heard stories of facebook booting people off for little or no reason. The problem of such one-size-fits-all software is it has no 'heuristics', no sense of judgment, no way to fit square pegs into round holes. I don't take well to being told what to do and a peremptory decision by a software program galled me. It felt like a parental smack by an arbitrarily awful parent.

thumbs down
But okay, I'd try one more time with a different eMail address. I set up again but it must have picked up cookies from my previous attempt. It asked me if I knew my own niece. I clicked yes, and this time found myself terminated.

My niece! A facebook page said I could appeal but they don't have to give a reason for their decision, and they didn't. At least I didn't have crops spoiling in Farmville. Do people pay for that game? Does anyone pay for things they can't access when barred, banned, or terminated?

Well, fu2

Months went by and someone suggested I try facebook again. I tried to log in and there was that page saying I could appeal, but I'd already appealed and arrived nowhere.

But Velma could join! And so she did. She experimented and learned about using facebook. She's flip-lip, funnier and more gregarious than I am and she built a solid circle of friends. A few times a week new people clasp her to their bosom in digital friendship.

Naked Animosity

Vicariously, I followed Velma's exploits. Because anyone could say anything, odd conversations took place. For example, a woman berated an art page blathering on how offensive it was and that children were present. She complained about a mix of monochrome art prints, pin-ups, and romantic pics with less skin than Vero Beach.
art erotica

A couple of things struck me. When she first 'Liked' the page, what did she expect? It reminded me of the woman who said, "But officers, if you climb on the chair and peer over the hedge with binoculars, you can see he's stark naked!"

Frankly, hysteria more than nudity will damage kids, but I grew up in a family where art was understood and appreciated. If children were present, why wasn't the woman supervising them? Initially she claimed she'd lined up 600 people to complain to facebook then later said she'd formed a petition with 389 names to ban the page.

Okay, facebook was started for college students, but sometimes adults like to have adult discussions. For reasons beyond me, that woman didn't agree. I would come to remember that incident…
'F's

face-2-face

These days, facebook boils with election tirades. My eMail inbox overflows with political rants that when scratched, turn out to be falsehoods, dozens upon dozens. I hate lies but some people buy into them.

I find it equally offensive when people claim either candidate is a liar. While their facts might be a bit wobbly, a difference of opinion doesn't make a candidate a liar. If we wrongly over-use a word, the word become meaningless.

Upon rare occasions, a message crops up where Velma can't keep her mouth shut. Most are good things: How can you not applaud Margery Flax volunteering to help others in need? How can you not appreciate the Hair Plus Day Spa in Hillsborough, New Jersey offering free shampoos and showers? How can you not like a Republican governor and a Democrat president working together?

In Your face

But not everyone likes the positive. From crime writing, I developed a nose sensitive to bullshit. Thus it came to pass, a picture popped up that offended sensibilities. The photo from an account called 'Tax Payer' purported to show Muslims rioting in Michigan with comments ranting about freedom versus satanism and the usual tripe that the liberal or libertarian press is covering up this important story. A familiar alarm went off: another lie, photographic hate speech.
Dearborn fake

It took only a few minutes to discover the photograph was not taken in Dearborn, Michigan but from news agency file footage shot three to eight years earlier in Afghanistan. In fact, there's a recent Radio Free Europe Afghanistan story using that same file photo.

Velma posted a single comment, one and only one: "This is hokum. The photo is real, but taken more than 3 years go in Afghanistan, not the USA. Check your photo source, you may be in copyright violation."

Before they deleted that comment, one guy actually wrote back: "It may not be accurate but it represents truth."

What? How can compounded lies reveal truth?

thumbs down
Velma's comment was quickly eradicated as I suspect were others inconsistent with the lie, deleted and barred from further commenting.

And then a funny thing happened. A facebook message popped up saying due to complaints about spamming, Velma was barred from sending messages and contacting people she didn't know.

Okaaay. That punishment thing again, for what? Daily messages about colleagues surely didn't imply spam. One single message to 'Tax Payer' didn't constitute spam, did it?

face-off

But I remembered an article about author Deborah MacGillivray and her coven who manipulated Amazon with 'clickies', negative reports of abuse they used to ban critics. facebook has a similar 'click abuse' button. I recalled the woman who claimed she'd gathered 389 people to take down the art page. Had 'Tax Payer' and his sycophantic cronies ganged up and clicked the abuse button to silence the truth?

Due to facebook's lack of transparency I'll never know for sure, but the site certainly doesn't treat people like adults, especially those who act adult. It's ironic that the teens facebook was created for are fleeing to other social networking sites where they can converse out of the shadow of parents while we're stuck on a site with rules for children.
facebook

face down

I sometimes see messages like "I'm back from my most recent 30 day ban." This raises at least three questions: Why were they banned? Why did they return? Why do I suspect they're going to be quickly banned again?

SleuthSayers readers are fine, upstanding citizens but have you faced facebook problems? What is your experience? Tell us face-to-face.