RETROSPECTIVE: AFTERTHOUGHT AND FOND FAREWELL – Marilyn Armstrong

RETROSPECTIVE: afterthought & farewell


Do you remember when we competed to get the “Freshly Pressed” award? When there was a weekly prompt that they actually read and supposedly “judged” for quality and uniqueness?

Remember when one day, it vanished? We didn’t even get a marketing letter about that one. It vanished and never returned and Freshly Pressed went with it.

Can you recall when we got little prizes and bonuses for however many views we got … or the number of “likes” or “follows”? That was when blogging was what the platform was about. Almost every author I followed had an active blog on Word Press.

Gradually, all of that has dribbled away. With dissolving the last of it including the Daily Prompt which has got to be the most effortless prompt in creation (and is probably done by a generating app in someone’s laptop), they’ve taken a platform famed for its connectivity and unique friendliness and dropped to see if they can make two billion next year on top of the billion they got this year.

The Years of Serendipity

I know everyone says that “WordPress is free,” but how many of you do NOT pay a fee to upgrade your site? Most of us pay. It’s not the $49.99 a month they want for their business site, but most of us don’t have that kind of money and what’s more, we aren’t businesses. Authors, artists. Thoughtful people with ideas to share. Painters with art. Musicians.

Religious people and atheists share a platform and manage to communicate with each other in a world where this kind of communication is almost unheard of.

I would like to think that somehow, WordPress will still be the same place it used to be, but I doubt it. In every other blogging site where they have wrenched the soul out of it in the name of somehow making a lot more money, the results have been catastrophic. Most of those sites are gone — entirely. The rest have become something so different no one recognizes them. Remember when Reddit was the “hot spot” to get your work recognized? They changed it and now, it’s no kind of hot spot. No one cares if their material is there. It doesn’t matter.

Now, it’s all about monetizing your site. Monetizing? I am retired. I don’t sell anything. When I was selling things, I had a commercial site on a commercial marketing platform. I paid my way along with all the other business sites. In 2008, when our economy crashed, I ended that business. It was not a good business for those financial times.

I missed the extra money, but I was done with business. Meanwhile, I had been blogging a little here and there. GeoCities (remember when Yahoo did something?) and Storyline (I think that was the name — they sold themselves to Facebook which promptly dissolved them; they are gone). There some others until I hooked onto WordPress and found a home.

The blogging platform that is snatching defeat from the jaws of victory

There were good years — 2012 through 2014 — and then they started urging us to make money. They would help us. Which was interesting because before that, it was illegal to try to make money on your site. We were bloggers, not businesses. Our goal was to talk about art and books and ideas. To be thoughtful, intelligent, creative.

Now … what will it be? If we aren’t bloggers – thoughtful and creative – then this is another Ruby Lane where businesses line up on a platform and everyone sells whatever they’ve got. I’m not a business. I’m not going to be a business. If I wrote another book, I could publicize it, but that’s not a “business” and anyway, writers don’t have a lot of spare change.

So this is a retrospective to what this platform was and I wish would remain. It is a sad farewell to something which is about to start its long slide to nothing special.

Should WordPress — against all odds — create a business audience out of 12-million bloggers (something no other organization has yet done), it won’t be “our” WordPress, just be another business platform.

Worse, it’s doomed to failure because this isn’t that audience. I keep saying it. The first and possibly ONLY rule of marketing is “KNOW YOUR AUDIENCE.”

WordPress doesn’t get that.

And then, there is WordPress

I am linked to many of you as followers and vice versa. If you get my emails indicating I’ve posted, we will stay in touch. There are a lot of people trying to figure out a more direct way to keep in touch. I’m on top of that.

In the meantime it turns out money is what matters, forever and through all eternity. Ah-men.

SEND IN THE CLOWNS? DON’T BOTHER, THEY’RE HERE – Garry Armstrong

“Send In The Clowns”, on its own merit, is a beautiful song from the show, “A Little Night Music.” Judy Collins’ cover has made it a popular favorite for decades. A Frank Sinatra version is especially poignant.

Jimmy Stewart (clown) and Charlton Heston in “The Greatest Show On Earth”

In the early 70’s, a seemingly more innocent period, I used “Send In The Clowns” as a musical wrap around a political TV piece. I was covering local Boston politics. A primary campaign. Those were the days of political and community icons like “Dapper,” “Fast Freddie,” Trixie, “Kevin From Heaven,” “Wacko,” and “Raybo.”

Those were influential folks, beloved by their constituents and bearers of much political clout. I was on “friendly”terms with most of these folks. There was less Sturm und drang between the media and politicians in those days. There was respect.

My piece was shot with silent black and white film.  We were still in the pre-video tape and digital days. I chose silent film over sound because I wanted the music to have more presence, less competition from people talking.

We used a montage of candidates faces, posters and campaign slogans. The lyrics of “Send In The Clowns” soared as the video zoomed in on campaign slogans and candidates kissing babies and pressing the flesh.

I anticipated a flurry of angry calls from campaign directors.  Nothing. Nada. One candidate, over happy hour drinks, praised the cleverness of my piece but said he would’ve preferred the Sinatra version of “Clowns”.

So much for being glib in those days.

Imagine using “Send In The Clowns” today.  For the coming mid-terms.  The  ’20 Presidential race. How would the “Clowns” lyrics fare over the screaming POTUS?  The ranting Rudy? The shouting Sean Hannity?

Should we intercut snippets of circus clowns with “breaking news” video and clips of all the President’s minions?  Don’t forget those shots of the President’s supporters, the “People,” with their “Jail Her” signs and the racist banners flying over political bonfires.

Send in the clowns?  Don’t bother. They’re already here.

 

NATIONAL SPEAK IN COMPLETE SENTENCES DAY – Marilyn Armstrong

There is a day for everything, but I could not let this one slip passed unnoticed.


May 31 is NATIONAL SPEAK IN COMPLETE SENTENCES DAY.


No really. It is. I’m not sure most people actually know what a complete sentence should look like. What parts it should contain. Most of the people with whom I interact — not on WordPress where we have a shockingly high level of people who understand grammar and punctuation — but the rest of the world where no one knows what an adverb is or why they should avoid their overuse.

How could they know what an adverb is when they don’t know what a verb is either? For that matter, they don’t know what are an object, subject, clause … or the difference between a semi-colon and a comma (okay, that’s a tough one, so I’ll let that one slide).

Imagine if, for one day, everyone used complete sentences! I would like to add that imagine if they also used proper punctuation and ran the spell-checker before publishing anything.

And beyond that, imagine if we all turned off auto-correct and most of the things we wrote were really what we meant to say and not what the computer likes?

Okay, let’s not get carried away.

A LOT MORE PAIN TO COME – Marilyn Armstrong

From: ELECTION OF DONALD TRUMP by Steven Brill

“Donald Trump’s victory and this current political crisis were decades in the making. This moment is a reflection of serious institutional and structural problems in American society. How do you make sense of it all?

During the 1960s I was part of a generation that benefited from the expansion of American meritocracy. I was one of the first group of students to be admitted to Yale when it was opened up to Jews, admissions was made need-blind, people started getting financial aid and Yale transformed from being just the old boys’ network to something a bit more meritocratic and open. The beneficiaries of that in the 1970s, 1980s and 1990’s would become the  lawyers who created and engineered corporate takeovers and ways to fight unions in the South, as well as how to lobby so that regulations would not be passed. That generation also became the bankers who created casino capitalism.”


This was the piece on Alternet I would have liked to reblog. Instead, I thought I’d give the story and a link so you can read the original yourself. It’s long and worth the effort.

The closing lines got me. They dug right into my soul and reminded me why I find myself so troubled by today’s world. It isn’t ONLY that Trump won the election.


What are you worried about in this moment regarding the United States? And what are you happy or more positive about?

Well, if you see the people who are really in the trenches fighting back to improve society you’ll be optimistic. But the truth is we’re going to go through a lot more pain before we start to turn things around.”


I have understood for a long time that this thing we are living through didn’t start with the most recent presidential election in the U.S. We are seeing similar patterns in any number of European countries, including Great Britain, France, Holland and many more. For that matter, we see similar patterns in Muslim and Hindu nations. Hate is big.

Rolling the world back from this horror show will not be a matter of one or two elections. It is going to require a serious rethinking by many of us — including me — of what we want our world to be. Of who we, as human beings, need to be.

Right now, humankind is standing in front of a distorted fun house mirror. In it, we see evil. We see people without conscience targeting everyone. Whether they are bankers, politicians, hackers, or that nasty bastard down the street … they share a complete absence of concern for those who have less and need help.

These are not people who “help.” They are the destroyers, whether they are rich or poor. They have no moral center.

There are a lot of them. Many more than we imagined might exist in our world. Some of them are “friends” or “family.” Forgiving them because they are familiar to us is how most people deal with them, but it’s not an answer. It merely perpetuates the ugliness.

It says: “Your racism is okay because you are my uncle, cousin, or old friend from school. I will forgive you because you are part of my pack.”

But their racism is NOT okay, even if it is your twin sibling. It’s not okay under any circumstances. It is wrong, absolutely and completely. Sometimes, wrong is wrong. That’s the beginning and end of it. It isn’t okay because “Oh, well, he doesn’t really mean it.”

Yes, he means it. He always meant it. When it was politically incorrect, he shut up about it but now, it’s okay. After all, when the President says it, it must be alright. But you still think he’s okay, right? Family and all that.

You give him support and continue to support him or her. And you are as wrong as he or she is.


“Trump won every single category of white voters. It wasn’t some cartoon caricature of the “white working class” that the mainstream  media likes to paint about the rubes out there in the hinterlands. That narrative about white “economic anxiety” is easier to report on and write about than it is to dig into the real systemic and structural problems in American society.”


No matter how we want to play with the statistics — after all, Hillary Clinton won the general vote, right? — that statement should scare the wits out of you. It stands white America as one group facing the rest of America with the potential of being the biggest, ugliest, deadliest race war ever to hit this planet. It not only stands white Americans against all other Americans. It stands our white American politics against the rest of the world, most of which is not white.

Most of the world is Asian or brown or black or some mixture of these. Most of the world is not white. Our political descent from white Europeans has skewed us to think that somehow we are better, stronger, fitter than “those other people.”

That might have been true — at least in terms of resources — 75 years ago. It most certainly is NOT true now.

If nip comes to tuck, the result is likely to be a world in which none of us can live. Not here, or there, or anywhere. And science fiction notwithstanding, there’s no other world waiting for our survivors. This is it. We screw it up, it stays screwed up for us. Forever.


Note: I’m not saying that everyone is evil or racist or in any way bad. But there are an awful lot more of them than I imagined this world could support. I don’t know why I didn’t realize it. With all the wars — civil and uncivil — obviously there is a lot of room for bad people. But I’ve lived in a world where my friends are good people. My family are good people. I have not lived with hatred and racism. I know of it and had some skirmishes, but the number of really bad people out there is way outside anything I imagined possible.

BROKEN? ALSO, DISCONNECTED – Marilyn Armstrong

Broken

I got up this morning in a pretty good mood. Bright sun, not humid. Looks like a nice day as spring heads into summer. Put up the coffee, gave the dogs treats. My son came over to install the new router and that’s when things started to go downhill.

The new one is exactly the same but bigger.

I hate new routers. It means everything which connects to WiFi is going to need a new password and a full restart. The phone started ringing … and that was when I realized we still have one, single hard-wired WiFi item in the house — my husband’s caption phone. I couldn’t get it to hook up and it turned out that this was because I had not yet fully installed the router itself.

To make this just a little more difficult, Garry’s phone is at the back of the house in his office. The router is in the middle room which used to be my office. And my computer is in the living room where I mostly live. I needed my computer. I needed information off the bottom of the previous router and I needed the serial number from the new router. It’s easily a dozen numbers long and probably 6-point type. Does anyone try to read those numbers?

I unplugged my computer and kept moving me and it from room to room.

Of course, this is the week that I had to reinstall everything on my computer and that meant I have new passwords and I don’t remember any of them. Although I used to have a NetGear account, I’ve apparently changed email addresses since then, so I had to register as if it were the first time.

I did that. Then I had to reinstall Garry’s caption phone and of course, it had a whole set of new software on it (we don’t reinstall it often, so inevitably when we do this, there’s always new software). Yet, I got all this done and somewhere in here, I vacuumed the floors, too.

I still hadn’t gotten a cup of coffee — was cruel and unusual punishment. I needed coffee!

The doctor’s scheduler called and lucky for me, that was exactly when Garry emerged from the bathroom. I set up his dates for pre-op and the surgery. Plus the first follow-up post surgery — and realized, I also had to arrange for him to get a meningitis shot. Which, it turned out, I have to get at the pharmacy, but not our usual pharmacy because the vaccine for people over 55 is different than the one for everyone else and requires a nurse practitioner. Which means CVS. Which I couldn’t speak to because they only have recorded messages. No humans.

I tried to call the hospital, but kept getting disconnected. By now, I’m breathing slowly and deeply because this is stuff I simply must get done, no matter how aggravating. It’s important. In the case of the vaccine, also expensive!

For reasons best known to our government, vaccinations (except flu) are NOT covered by medical insurance. Don’t ask. I don’t have an answer. A lot of our medical care is senseless and this is one of the more irksome items.

Garry wants a list of grocery to get and I feel brainless. I can’t give him an answer because my head is swimming with vaccinations and appointments and computers and I really, really need coffee.

It’s two in the afternoon. I still haven’t cleaned Bonnie’s eyes and I have no idea where I’m getting $150 for Garry’s vaccination. Some credit card, I assume. Lord knows how I’ll pay for it. I also have to change the post surgical checkup because it’s on the only day Owen can’t drive us there.

If I drink some coffee, I’m sure this will all work out. I’m sure of it. No, really. I’m sure.

It’s all about the coffee.

THE FAVORITE … ALL TIME? MAYBE, BUT THE FUTURE LIES AHEAD … Marilyn Armstrong

Favorite and Final – Morning in Peacham, Vermont

Two pictures, both taken on the same morning in Peacham, Vermont.

The mist is heavy in the valley early in the day
More mountains appear as the mist begins to lift with the arrival of the sun