WEATHER’S COMING!

I live in the Blackstone Valley where no one tells you nothing. When weather people stand in the studio and do their predicting, they position themselves so you can see the entire Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Except where we live because that’s where they stand.

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I asked our friend, the trustworthy meteorologist (there is one and he is it) about this. He said, “Well, we have to stand somewhere.” But on his next broadcast, he moved aside for a few seconds so that I could see the map. Thanks!

When anyone mentions the valley at all, it’s Worcester. The rest of our towns don’t exist. I have learned to read weather maps because I’m not going to get information any other way. Dinosaurs could be roaming the Valley, and no one would notice unless one of them ate a tourist.

t-rex

Now that we’re turning the corner to warm weather, I can take a deep breath and relax. It’s a quiet weather period, usually.

The past couple of months gave us a big dose of weather frenzy. Most of it was on the money, unlike previous winters when the frenzy exceeded reality by 100%, give or take a few points. I was numb from the hyperbole of previous years, so I ignored the warnings. When the first, huge blizzard hit at the end of January, we were unprepared. I hadn’t even bought extra groceries.

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The frenzy isn’t harmless.

Weather sells. It pulls in viewers. When hurricanes or blizzards threaten, people who normally don’t watch the news tune in. Higher ratings, lots of teasers.

“Seven feet of snow on the way!! Will you be buried tomorrow? Story at 11!” It’s money in the bank. Doom is a perennial best-seller.

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TV stations like to whip everyone into a frenzy. It’s good business. Weather predictions don’t carry issues of journalistic responsibility. No one can call you to task for being wrong because, after all, it’s the weather.

The frenzy is not harmless. Every weather event is presented as if it’s the end of the world. It’s impossible to figure out if this next thing is serious or more of the same.

Should we lay in supplies? Ignore it? Plan to evacuate? Fill all the water containers? Cancel travel plans? Make travel plans? Head for public shelters?

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Hysteria is exhausting and worse, it’s numbing. Some of us worry about the possibility of weeks without electricity. Telling us our world is ending is upsetting if you believe it. It is even more dangerous if it’s serious, and we don’t believe it.

They shouldn’t say that stuff unless it’s true. Or might be true. At the least, it’s rude to scare us to death, and then say “Sorry folks.”

You can’t unring the bell. When the real deal occurs — as it did this winter — we don’t listen. Weather forecasting may not be legally subject to standards or accuracy, but maintaining credibility might be worthwhile. I’m just saying, you know?

TELEVISION STUDIO IN LIVING BLACK AND WHITE

Cee’s Black & White Photo Challenge: Any kind of Camera or Photos of Photographers

This week’s topic is Any kind of Camera or Photos of Photographers. Any camera from a SLR, DSLR, iPhone, vintage camera, lenses, obvious camera equipment. Also allowed in this challenge is people taking photos.

This was an actual TV show in progress. The pictures were almost sepia because of the color cast of the studio lighting. In a couple, I used some antique effects. I really love the way TV cameras look, the big, unblinking eye.

HE SAID YES

In late 1979, I walked away from my first marriage. It was a friendship which should have stayed a friendship. Regardless, it had yielded a son and in years to come would produce a lovely granddaughter. Clearly, it was meant to be, even if it were not meant to last.

Off to Israel I went with my son where I remained for 9 years. While I was away, Garry wrote me. Every week, 2 or 3 letters arrived in my mail box. Fan mail. As that second marriage fell apart, I lived from letter to letter, carrying the most recent one with me until the paper on which it was written fell apart.

I wrote letters to Garry too and when I got back to the States, I found he had saved them. He had a drawer full of my letters. I don’t think either Garry or I has written a letter to anyone else since.

August 1987.

I’m back. I landed at JFK Airport on August 11, 1987. Just a couple of days later, I headed north to see Garry. He would be on the Vineyard where he shared a place with work colleagues. I would join him there.

It was a magical week.

me martha's vineyard stairs

There had always been something between us. That special something had been there before and during my first marriage. While I was overseas, that something had grown stronger. Apparently absence really can make the heart grow fonder. It did for us.

Last night, Garry and I were watching a new episode of NCIS. Garry is a devotee of the show and was enthusiastically looking forward to a brand new show on which Gibbs was rumored to reconnect with another of his former wives.

Gibbs is often described by Tony (in the show) as “a functional mute.” A man who can give a monosyllabic response to even the most complex question. Garry greatly admires this quality and last night, I had a revelation. Garry really IS Leroy Jethro Gibbs. Even though they do not look like twins, they are twins of the heart, manly men who believe apologizing is a sign of weakness.

We were on our way back from a magical week on Martha’s Vineyard where we had reconnected. Reaffirmed our attraction whatever that thing was — dare I call it love? — we had between us. Both of us had survived a horrible decade. Bad choices, bad relationships. Problems at work. The years had taken a heavy toll on us.

Garry Clean Harbors-SMALLAnd here was Life giving us a rare opportunity to “pick up each others’ option.” It had always been possible, but for one reason or another reason, including a whole host of hard to explain stuff, we had never done it. If ever an opportunity had “last chance” written on it, this one did.

On the ferry ride back from the Vineyard, we talked. Or, more accurately, I talked. He listened and occasionally commented.

I pointed out we had tried pretty much everything. Our relationships had failed. Some quite spectacularly. Remarkably, we had continued to find pleasure and comfort with each other. Despite the crap we’d gone through and having been separated for nearly a decade.

“We’ve tried everything else,” I said. “Maybe this time, we should try each other?”

Garry looked at me. “Yes,” he said.

One word. Gibbs would have been proud. Any woman worth her salt would have needed a full afternoon to respond to that question. I might have required a whole weekend. But he said “yes” and he meant “yes” and about a year later, we were married and have been ever since.

So I ask you — was that not worthy of Leroy Jethro Gibbs? I think it was. Give that man his own television show!

WHAT COULD POSSIBLY GO WRONG WITH THAT?

When I lived in Israel, there was a story in the news about a family who sold their house and used the proceeds to buy lottery tickets. They figured they had to win. Win big. After which they would buy a new house. It didn’t work out as planned. They ended up with a giant pile of worthless lottery tickets and no house. A perfect example of “what could possibly go wrong?”

Watching television gives one many opportunities to ponder “what could possibly go wrong?” Last night, on CSI, a show whose time has come and probably also gone, what’s-his-name played by Ted Danson is using his lovely daughter as bait for a serial killer. Really.

What could possibly go wrong with that?

It took all the creativity of a team of writers to come up with an unbelievable happy ending. Unbelievable in the sense that I didn’t believe it. Garry didn’t believe it. I bet even the guys who wrote it didn’t believe it.

I try not to take this sort of thing personally. It can’t be that the people who write scripts for television shows think we are that stupid, do they? When I worked at Doubleday, many long years go, we wrote about books because, you know, Doubleday is a publisher. There were very few rules about how we were to write. We were allowed a great deal of creative freedom, one of the many pluses of the job.

The one warning we got was to never, ever, write down to our readers. Because you never know who is reading that book. As the editor in charge of the Doubleday Romance Library, I got to read the surveys on who actually reads romance novels, an oft-maligned genre of literature.

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These light, fluffy stories — all pretty much the same plot — always sold extremely well. It seemed that fans of the genre could not get enough of them. Yet survey after survey showed that the readers of romance novels were, of all of our reader groups, the best educated.

How could that be? Well, it turns out that many people in high-pressure professions don’t want to read serious books. They want to be gently entertained. They like books with no ugly deaths, no tortured souls. They appreciate knowing there will be a happy ending and if they forget to finish the book, it doesn’t matter.

Whoever is in charge of the story lines and scripts for many current television series, seem to have forgotten about not talking down to us. They obviously think we are stupid. The result? I stop watching their shows. When the stories get ridiculous, when the “what could possibly go wrong with that?” factor outweighs its entertainment value, we move on.

For me to accept a story, to suspend my disbelief, you need to give me a hook. Something that lets me accept whatever is happening as “possible.” Like, there you are on planet Alphabetazoid in the far away galaxy of ZYX900042 and everyone speaks colloquial 21st century American English. You want me to believe it? Tell me they are using their “Universal Translator.” Or have babel fish in their ears. I want to believe, but you need to offer me a little help.

Of course, that’s useless when confronted by the vast sea of true-life human stupidity. People who really do sell their homes to buy lottery tickets and other “What could possibly go wrong with that” scenarios. I will need to continue to deal with the depth and breadth of human stupidity as best I can.

At least on television and in the movies, though, give me a break. Help me believe. Because I am not stupid. Really. I’m not. I just like stupid television shows.

NO ONE WILL NOTICE

No one will notice.

Our cat, Big Guy, was a very smart feline. Beautiful, sweet, funny. We lived in Boston back then and he was not allowed outside. Between the traffic, disease, and stray dogs, it was not a world to which I would expose our gentle boy. Of course Big Guy wanted out. I could not blame him, but there was no way he was setting paws onto those mean streets.

Big Guy

Big Guy

Yet, every once in a while, we would have the door open, bringing in packages, or coming, or going. Big Guy, tail at full mast, would walk out the door towards the street. No running. Measured steps.

No one will notice,” he must have thought. “I’ll just casually stroll out and inspect the neighborhood.” Of course we noticed. When his attention was called, he looked at us as if to say, “What? Don’t I do this every day?”

Then there are the dogs. Bishop, the size of a small, but extremely furry pony, calmly walking out the back door. Like it’s an everyday occurrence.

Or Bonnie, with her long black claws clacking down the hallway, in her ongoing attempt to get into the laundry basket,  or Nan, trying to steal the mouse from my computer. They are sure no one will notice.

Last night we were watching Castle. The bad guys were trying to kill them. The last of the good guys had been shot and was in the hospital. Castle and Beckett decide to interview the guy — secretly, in his hospital room. Except … you mean … no one will notice this famous author and his cop partner going into the room of a heavily guarded near-victim?

Beckett and Castle were working under the same fundamental belief as Big Guy. No one will notice. We’ll just casually stroll into the hospital room, no problem.

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Sure enough. When the scriptwriter is on your side, anything is possible. Of course, it got the guy killed, but he was merely a guest star, so it didn’t matter.

In real life, everyone notices. I have never successfully snuck anyplace without someone hailing me, asking for my identification, or deciding they need to chat about something. Maybe it’s me. I do not seem to have a stealthy bone in my body.

Sad, but true. Despite the premise in so many television shows and the belief of my dogs that no one will notice whatever they do … not even that big furry butt skulking towards the forbidden exit … I never get away with anything. Ever.

Probably it’s time for me to give up my plans of becoming the next great international spy. You think?

HOW TO WRITE VERY POPULAR ARTICLES FOR YOUR BLOG

From WordPress, today’s Daily Prompt:  Hindsight — Now that you’ve got some blogging experience under your belt, re-write your very first post.


Oh come now. Really? I don’t even have my first post. I deleted it years ago. Does WordPress believe all its followers are baby bloggers who have written 10 posts and started blogging the day before yesterday?

Not exactly me. But, in the name of playing into the irrationality of the moment, I’m going to post my most popular ever post. I’ve rewritten it several times. It has gotten more than 11,500 hits in two versions and a couple of thousand more in other rewrites. Most of the views accumulated during the first 24 hours after I published it … more than half during the first hour or two.

Despite it being no great shakes as posts go, it went sort of viral. Go figure, right? This is a perfect example of why it’s so hard to figure out what kind of post is going to “sell.” How much research, writing craft, thought, and soul you can put into it a piece … and no one is interested. Research is irrelevant. What matters is that it catches popular fancy.

The only way you can almost guarantee popularity is to figure out what is the “latest thing” buzzing around the Internet, then write about it. Preferably with pictures. It doesn’t have to be well-written. It doesn’t have to be factual, accurate, fair, or in any way important. It absolutely doesn’t have to be original and will probably sell better if it isn’t.

If that is what you want as a blogger, good luck to you. The Internet welcomes you. Bring on your rumors, gossip, slanderous out-of-context quotes. Be sure to use, as sources, those who don’t know the difference between opinion and fact and don’t care.

Find some salacious photographs. Publish them. Don’t worry about copyright infringement because no one else seems worried about it. I won’t read you, but lots of other people will.

And now…


 THE FBI CAN’T DO A SIMPLE GOOGLE SEARCH? – REDUX, REDUX, REDUX

On Criminal Minds in the première episode for the 2012-2013 season, the “perp” sews a victims mouth shut but in his mouth leaves the message “Gazing through to the other side.” The BAU FBI team cannot find any reference to this quote. So I typed it into Google and hit Enter. Guess what?

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It’s part of a song, the lyrics to which essentially are the plot of the episode in which the first four victims are women, thrown into ditches, with their mouths sewn shut.

If I can find this in one hit on Google, is the FBI less capable than I? Unable to do the most basic Google search? There isn’t anything more basic than typing in what you want to know about then hitting Enter, is there? My granddaughter could do this kind of search before she was in first grade.

If anyone thinks I believe the FBI is actually producing the show, anyone who can chew gum and walk at the same time knows this is a network television show that employs a staff of writers to write scripts supposed to make us believe these are hyper-competent profiler/agents. And they can’t run a Google search any grade school child can run. Wow! Bad writing and plagiarism? What a terrific combination for a show about the FBI!

There could be an innocent explanation, like the real authors of the material were paid, but never credited. I’d like to hear that. It could restore a bit of my rapidly diminishing faith in humankind. Because it couldn’t be plagiarism. CBS wouldn’t allow that, right? Because networks, TV execs, writers, etc. are all so honest such a thing could never happen. And the tooth fairy left you a buck under your pillow.

The song is by a group named Blitzen Trapper, lead singer/lyricist, Eric Earley.

Thank you to Pat at CHRONICLES OF AN ANGLO SWISS for the link to the YouTube video.

The lyrics follow.

“Black River Killer”

It was just a little while past the sunset strip
They found the girl’s body in an open pit
Her mouth was sewn shut, but her eyes were still wide
Gazing through the fog to the other side
They booked me on a whim and threw me deep in jail
With no bail, sitting silent on a rusty pail
Just gazing at the marks on the opposite wall
Remembering the music of my lover’s call

So you make no mistake
I know just what it takes
To pull a man’s soul back from heaven’s gates
I’ve been wandering in the dark about as long as sin
But they say it’s never too late to start again

Oh when, oh when
Will the spirit come a calling for my soul to sin
Oh when, oh when
Will the keys to the kingdom be mine again?

It was dark as the grave, it was just about three
When the warden with his key came to set me free
They gave me five dollars and a secondhand suit
A pistol and a hat and a worn out flute

So I took a bus down to the Rio Grande
And I shot a man down on the edge of town
Then I stole me a horse and I rode it around
Til the sheriff pulled me in and sat me down

He said, you make no mistake
I know just what it takes
To pull a man’s soul back from heaven’s gates
I’ve been wandering in the dark about as long as sin
But they say it’s never too late to start again

Oh when, oh when
Will the spirit come a calling for my soul to sin
Oh when, oh when
Will the keys to the kingdom be mine again?

Well the sheriff let me go with a knife and a song
So I took the first train up to Oregon
And I killed the first man that I came upon
Because the devil works quick, you know it don’t take long

Then I went to the river ford to take a swim
You know that black river water is as black as sin
And I washed myself clean as a newborn babe
And then I picked up a rock for to sharpen my blade

Oh when, oh when
Will the spirit come a calling for my soul to sin
Oh when, oh when
Will the keys to the kingdom be mine again?
Oh when, oh when
Will that black river water wash me clean again
Oh when, oh when
Will the keys to the kingdom be mine again

It took me fewer than 10 seconds to find this. What’s going on guys? Television has become boringly derivative, but this is not merely derivative, it’s theft. I wouldn’t mind hearing from someone about this. I would like to hear an explanation.


NOTES:

1) According to one of the show’s producers, the show is based on the Blitzen Trapper song. The group was compensated for its use. It isn’t plagiarism, merely bad writing.

2) If the writers don’t want us to assume the same rules apply in the TV show as apply in the real world, they should not pretend the show is about FBI agents who are part of the élite unit of an actual law enforcement agency. If you don’t want to play by the rules of the real world, create a fake world where you can have stuff fall up because gravity does not exist. You cannot have it both ways, at least not if you want anyone to believe you.

3) I wrote this post September 2012 as a quick comment on what I thought was poor script writing — and un-credited use of someone else’s material. If you wish to continue arguing anyway, please feel free to argue amongst yourselves. I’d appreciate being left out of it.

4) I’ve written a follow-up post to this about morals and Hollywood. You can find it here, if you’re curious. It’s called “Gazing Through to the Other Side: Hollywood and Moral Character.” It alone has gotten more than 1200 views and it’s a better piece that the original … but that’s just my opinion and as the author, clearly I don’t know anything.

HEROES ON HORSES, MASKED (AND NOT)

I grew up with the Lone Ranger and Tonto racing around my bedroom. Until I got the wallpaper, I was sure he was the Long Ranger … as in “he rode a lot and covered great distances.”

The original Lone Ranger and Tonto — Jay Silverheels and Clayton Moore

Other girls had Disney Princesses, but I had “Hi Yo Silver, the Lone Ranger Rides Again!” Although my walls did not play music, I could hum well enough and I had many a long chat with Lone and Tonto, Silver and Scout as I lay abed in the evening pondering the meaning of life and how I could convince my mother to let me have a horse.

Eventually, as I rounded the corner into adolescence, the Lone Ranger and his trusty Indian Companion (who had led the fight for law and order in the early west) returned to those thrilling days of yesteryear whence they had come. They were replaced by plain, off-white paint. I would have preferred to keep Lone and Tonto, but the paper was old and tattered. It was time for me to move on.

This did not end my allegiance to this great first love of my young life. I don’t know what it is about masked men on horses, but Zorro and Lone made me woozy with unrequited love. As the years rolled on, I became very attached to Tonto — not as Tonto the character, but as Jay Silverheels, the actor– whose career I followed long after the Lone Ranger had ridden into the sunset.

NOTE: Tonto isn’t a Mexican and didn’t speak Spanish. Tonto, according to Native American sources, was a Potawatomi word meaning “wild one.” Although it is also Spanish for “fool”, that was not the intention.

The Lone Ranger and Tonto fought the good fight. They never asked for thanks and would ride away rather than deal with gratitude. They were the best of the good guys. Whenever I’m not sure what choice to make in a morally ambiguous situation, I can always ask myself “What would the Lone Ranger do?” I know the answer could only be right.

THE DAILY PROMPT – MY HERO