SPAM! – Marilyn Armstrong

For a long time, I got two spam messages for every real hit on my site. I was getting almost a thousand spam messages on heavy days. WordPress finally fixed the bug, but it was overwhelming for a while. Was this a record?

I have many questions about spam. The big one is simple. How did a slimy, over-salted canned meat come to be synonymous with electronic junk mail?

Even more puzzling is that people some people still actually eat Spam. You may take that any way you like. In case you didn’t know, it now comes in a variety of flavors. Yum!

Most of my spam comes from a Spanish list server (lista de emails … anything you get from this address is spam) or outlook.com — and 80% of these were porn. The rest are bots and scams. Legitimate companies do not send thousands of illiterate, nonsensical messages to random blogs.

Then, there are those who ask for advice. They use some version of this message as a comment to a randomly selected post.


“These are in fact fantastic ideas in concerning blogging. You have touched some good things here. Any way keep up wrinting.


Huh? What? It gets better. For completely incoherent, this is one of my favorites. I receive several dozen of these every day:


“Fine way of explaining, and fastidious paragraph to take information concerning my presentation focus, which i am going to convey in academy. Watch Elementary Season 1 Episode 5 Online”


I couldn’t have said it better myself.

A few of my best friends and followers always get mixed in with the spam, so I can’t delete it without looking at it. I have to read through it. Sometimes there are 10 to 15 pages or more, but since there are usually a few real comments mixed in, I have to at least look through all the pages.

Every once in a while, something looks like it might be the real deal … a true comment, but I can’t always tell. When in doubt, I spam it.

If you’ve been trying to comment and aren’t showing up, probably you’re getting dumped into the spam and because I don’t recognize you, you’re getting deleted. If you are a real person, please say something that identifies you as a human and not a machine generated message.

I apologize in advance if I have over-zealously deleted you.

I know that I am by no means alone in getting tons of this garbage. And with all the “spam bots” all over the world, it’s only going to get worse.

So, what do these spammers hope to accomplish by sending me this stuff? The messages never have anything to do with my posts. All are repetitive and obviously generated on a computer programmed by someone whose native language is not English. Most of it is gibberish.

Then again so are many posts on Facebook, so maybe that’s not a good example.

There are the spams that warn me my blog doesn’t display properly on the sender’s computer in Internet Explorer. Why would I care?

There’s are three or four versions assuring me I am brilliant, they love my post about (insert post title) and promise they will tell everyone how useful the information is on my web blog. They always call it a web blog like they just learned the term.

The thing is, while there are many ways you could describe my site, no one could honestly say (not even me) that it’s full of useful information. My stuff may be interesting, thought-provoking, occasionally funny, off-beat and apocryphal, but useful?

I don’t consider it useful and I write it.

There are those that request I exchange links with them and those that would love an invitation to write for my blog, those who suggest I come to their site to see huge penises, hot lesbian sex, hot gay sex, hot sexy sex, huge breasts, gigantic butts, and attractive ladies doing disgusting things with inanimate objects. If not, they would like to sell me some Viagra.

Does anyone actually believe this will generate business?

Make money?

If they believe this, why do they believe it? Does anyone ever respond to these “messages”?

So many questions, so few answers. If anyone has an answer, let me know. I’m baffled. It’s not the only thing about which I’m baffled, mind you, but most of the others are more serious.

Meanwhile, feel free to visit the Spam website. You’ll be glad to know that Spam comes in a wide variety of flavors, including a low sodium version that dodges the question of all that fat but it does lower the salt level. The site includes recipes, a Spam Museum and an online shop where you can buy Spam gear, such as caps, tee shirts, and other strange and wonderful things.

So maybe I do include useful information. I guess it depends on how you feel about Spam.

FROM D-DAY TO V-E DAY: TRUE GLORY FROM THE IMPERIAL WAR MUSEUM – Marilyn Armstrong

Cover of "The True Glory - From D-Day to ...

From the Imperial War Museum Official Collection

The True Glory: From D-Day to V-E Day (1945)

The movie’s title is taken from a letter of Sir Francis Drake “There must be a beginning of any great matter, but the continuing unto the end until it be thoroughly finished yields the True Glory.”

Question: Which President won an Oscar?

Answer: No, not Ronald Reagan. The 1945 Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature went to its uncredited producer, General Dwight D. Eisenhower. Eisenhower didn’t merely produce the movie. He also directed the Allied forces of Word War II, a feat which deserved its own Oscar. So we gave him the presidency. It was the best America had to offer.


A co-production of the US Office of War Information and the British Ministry of Information, The True Glory documents the victory on the Western Front, from the invasion at Normandy to the collapse of the Third Reich.

The officially credited director was Garson Kanin. British director Carol Reed was not officially credited, but is listed as director on IMDB and other sources. Paddy Chayefsky is the officially listed writer.

Other writers not officially credited are Harry Brown, Frank Harvey, Gerald Kersh, Saul Levitt, Arthur Macrae, Eric Maschwitz, Jenny Nicholson, Guy Trosper and Peter Ustinov. So many people were involved in this remarkable documentary — which received the Oscar for best documentary in 1945 — it’s impossible to list them all.

General Eisenhower speaks with members of the ...
General Eisenhower speaks with members of the 101st Airborne Division on the evening of 5 June 1944 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The film was brilliantly edited down from more than 10 million feet of film taken by hundreds of war photographers, none of whom are credited.

The editing involved is extraordinary. During one long segment of film, there must have been thousands of cuts, each less than 2 seconds in length, most no more than one second long. That is a lot of splicing. It’s beautifully done, professional all the way.

You have likely seen many propaganda films from World War II. This isn’t one of them.

I’ve seen a lot of war movies. This is a real war, not a Hollywood redo.

English: Senior American military officials of...
Senior American military officials World War II.

The effects were not done with a computer. The bodies of the dead are human bodies. Soldiers, not actors.

The guns are firing ammunition. No special effects were used. The ships are on the seas and the aircraft, pilots, bombardiers are the real deal.

The battles are life and death. In real-time. It gave me the shivers.

As the movie progresses, there are maps so you can follow the progress of the various armies. It’s the first time I actually understood where the Battle of the Bulge took place and why it was called “the bulge.” It was like time travel for me, listening to Dwight D. Eisenhower. I grew up when Eisenhower was President. I remember his voice as the voice of the president of my childhood.

Perhaps it’s a good moment to ponder whether or not Eisenhower displayed his Oscar in the White House. My guess is, he didn’t. After you’ve been commander-in-chief of the Allied forces for a world war, the Oscar isn’t as big a deal as it might be for someone else.

English: Gen. of the Army Dwight D. Eisenhower...

If you have not seen this movie and you have an interest in World War II, you should see it. It’s remarkable.

It is available on a 2-disc DVD. The set includes the European war, the Italian campaign, and the battles in the Pacific.

There are many good movies about the war, but this set of documentaries has the most remarkable footage I’ve ever seen.

Seeing it without any Hollywood manufactured footage is seeing the war for the first time. This is not a movie about the war.

This movie is the war.

I WILL WORK FOR FOOD BUT NOT PIZZA – Marilyn Armstrong

I’ve had enough pizza. I like it, mind you, but I’ve had an awful lot of it. Especially since we discovered frozen pizza we can throw in the counter oven. DiGiorno’s sausage made with marinara sauce is my favorite. It tastes pretty good. The dogs appreciate the crusts, too.

There is a rumor, perpetuated by television shows, that bloggers earn a living. Someone in Hollywood thinks people like me make money doing this. I am depressed to admit it, but not one cent have I ever made from this site — not counting the occasional free book for review.

I don’t advertise on this site. In fact, I pay WordPress to not put their advertisements here. My dream is not to monetize my site, but be such an incredible writer that the world will shower me with money — just because I’m me. I won’t have to ask, and I will owe nothing to anybody. And I could pay the bills! Yes!

Money for nothing. It brings tears to my eyes.

Somewhere, some blogger must be making money on his or her site, but I don’t know them. I’ve been around the world, blog-wise. I have yet to see a single blogger bringing in the big bucks. A few people have tried to at least keep even by putting advertisements on their sites, but the amount of money this earns them wouldn’t add up to a good meal in a mediocre restaurant. Moreover, advertising annoys readers. Sites with spammy ads and weird pop-ups make me want to go somewhere else.

Since the Internet remains one of the last, free places on earth, that’s what I do. I go elsewhere.

I don’t do this for money. I don’t even do it in the hopes that someday it might make money.

I don’t run advertisements, have no connections to any organization who will pay me for anything. I get offers for free applications for an “honest review,” but between the lines I read “positive, glowing review.”

I turn them down. “Money for nothing” is a delightful dream and that is all it is.

If for some obscure reason, you want to buy me off? You’ll have to do a lot better than any offer I’ve yet gotten. I’m sure everyone has a price, so I probably have one too, but no one has come close to meeting it.

Please, feel free to keep trying!

Meanwhile, there will be no big money coming from this blog. Not without a humongous payoff. That life of luxury? Waiting in the wings.

WORDS ARE WEAPONS – Marilyn Armstrong

 


“Sticks and stones can break my bones,
but names can never hurt me.”


It’s an old childhood chant, a miserably inadequate defense against bullies and bigots when one is small and powerless. It was oft-repeated, not only by us, the little victims but by parents, teachers and other wise counselors. It was supposed to comfort us.

It didn’t because we all knew it was untrue.

Names can and do hurt. The hurt caused by a cruel name goes deeper than any mere cut or bruise to the body. Psyches heal, but slowly. Sometimes they never heal.

Horrible words. Can you still tell me — with a straight face — that names can’t hurt? Will you give me all your arguments that “political correctness” is stupid? That anything which makes it illegal or socially unacceptable to spew hate is too restrictive of free speech? Really? Your free speech? It’s not my free speech. I don’t talk that way and I don’t hang around anyone who does.

Do you actually believe it? Or did you read it as part of some rant on Facebook?

Of course, names hurt. They’re intended to hurt. Such words, hateful words have no other purpose but to cause pain. These words carry with them the ugliness of generations of haters.

It has been argued by otherwise respected bloggers that if a member of a minority (in your opinion) does you wrong, you have every right to strike back any way you can.

I disagree. Racial and ethnic name-calling epithets are never justified. By anything. Is it the word or its intent that hurts so much? I think both. Words have power.


“The pen is mightier than the sword.”


But wait a minute. I thought words could never hurt me? It’s a lie. Yes, words can hurt you, hurt me, hurt any of us.

Words bring with them the weight of history. A hated word carries the ugliness of everyone who has spoken it. Each time these words fly into the air, their potency is renewed and reinforced.

It’s time to stop forgiving bigots. We have to stop letting them off the hook. Those hate-filled monologues by drugged and drunken celebrities were not slips of the tongue. They were not the result of drugs or drink.

In vino veritas! Also written as in “uino ueritas,” is a Latin phrase that means “in wine lies the truth.” It suggests a person under the influence of alcohol (and in modern terms, also drugs) is more likely to speak his or her hidden thoughts and desires. (West German, Talmudic comment)

You could fill me with all the drugs and booze in the world and you’d never hear that from me. Because it’s not in me to say it. I don’t have a hidden pocket of hate waiting for drugs or booze to unlock it. But many do. And now, they seem to have been given permission to shout it to the world.



We are currently watching a Netflix production called “Five Came Back” about five internationally famous directors who went into World War II and created an amazing set of films. John Ford, William Wyler, John Capra, John Huston, and George Stevens created the war. Not a Hollywood war. The real war.

I look at it and I see tens of thousands of Germans shouting “Heil Hitler.” Trump may have his adherents, but they haven’t grown in number. They are not taking over our world. There are no brown shirts beating up minorities. They may want to, but most Americans draw that line. Whatever they believe, they do not believe it’s okay to form groups of bullies and beat down the rest of the population. It’s an important distinction.

People who talk hatred never do it by accident. It isn’t because of their environment, upbringing, or environment. It’s a choice they made. They know exactly what they are saying and why they are saying it.

It isn’t a joke. It isn’t funny. And most importantly, it isn’t okay.

Excuses are not enough. Phony repentance is not enough

Don’t give bigots and haters another chance.

GOT YOU IN THE CROSSHAIRS — Marilyn Armstrong

FOWC with Fandango — Crosshairs

I know what crosshairs means today, but I got to wondering where the term came from. So I looked it up.

So it turns out it was originally a scientific term that came to be associated with gunnery.

I’ve never owned a gun with crosshairs, probably because the only two weapons I’ve ever owned was a 22mm-target rifle that belonged to my first husband and which only took one bullet and was used for competitive target shooting…

And — a Red Ryder BB rifle. They still make them and they look exactly like the one in “A Christmas Story.” They have a nice heft to them, though shooting them is an exercise in artillery. They don’t have enough power to shoot straight unless you are standing two feet away from your target, so you have to calculate the arc of the pellet. It’s really an exercise in calculus or is it geometry? Trigonometry?

We used that to slaughter paper plates with it in our backyard. I think Owen swiped it. Which was only fair since I just liked looking at it, but he enjoyed trying to actually aim it and hit something.

These days, the word is used rather casually to mean “I’m watching you carefully,” as in “I’ve got you in my crosshairs.” Not something I’m likely to say.

I don’t know that I’ve ever used the term myself, though I’ve heard it used in a thousand or two television shows. There are a bunch of shows on these days that could probably use “Crosshairs” as their title, especially “SWAT.”

Do the leveling things on a camera count as crosshairs? They aren’t hairs. They are software. Sort of crosshairs — in a virtual way.

FORTHRIGHT – MALE VS. FEMALE – Marilyn Armstrong

FOWC with Fandango — Forthright

When a man is forthright, he is energetic and ambitious. He gets a lot of slaps on the back and with a tidbit of luck, he winds up running the place. Or a piece of it, anyhow. Because if you are a man, forthright and a bit of a go-getter, you are the right kind of guy. You say what you mean and others automatically follow you.

Old Doubleday and Company

On the other hand, if you are a woman and you are forthright, you are probably a slut or at the very least, a ball-buster. If you say what you want, you not a “real” woman. If you are ambitious, you are ruthless. If you are a go-getter, you are probably sleeping with the boss (of either sex, these days).

Regardless, you get paid at least 25% less than men who did the same work and quite possibly, even less.

Recently I’ve read about how “we (women) used to handle ‘this stuff’ back in the good old days.” Like, say, the 1960s.

Those days weren’t quite as good and they definitely weren’t great, at least not for working women. We were just beginning to find our feet out of the secretarial pool. How many of us had to learn to avoid the hands and the tentacles (some men had really long arms) of the men who surrounded us? You didn’t have to look “hot” or wear sexy clothing, either. Just being female was enough. “Hitting on women” has nothing to do with sex or attraction and everything to do with power and dominance.

A lot of the worst of these guys had wives at home better looking than the women they were bugging at work.

Despite rumors to the contrary, it wasn’t necessarily “easy” to get around these guys. Easy if they were an equal or lower level colleague, but if it was your boss? When it was the guy who owned the joint?

You were screwed.

You could quit your job quickly before the boss had time to make up an evil reference about you. That is what I did because not only was he really making it very clear how long our evenings after everyone else left would be. On top of that, he was a handsome guy. That was not going to make the situation easier.

I could give in a bit, enough to shut him up while I bought time to send out resumes. Or I could give in and live with the shame. Because even if no one else knew, I knew. I have a conscience. It is often inconvenient.

All these situations were unique. We were not the same people. Our responses varied. Where we lived made a difference, too.

Every office is different and has its own social milieu. Every “boss” has his own playbook. Moreover, it depended on your position and who was badgering you.

Not your equal? Easy peasy.

Your equal? More complicated.

The 1970s Doubleday I remember

Your boss or worse, THE boss? Big problem.

Working at Doubleday was fantastic except for the pay inequalities. No one bothered anyone except by asking them to help them produce extra work. Which no one minded because otherwise, they treated us very well.

You never made the same money as men whose work wasn’t as good as yours. I remember when I worked there, having secured a pretty good job I managed to get a job for a friend (male) who had no experience at all but had talent. They hired him for several thousand dollars more per year than I was getting, yet I knew the work and had experience. He knew nothing and had to learn it from scratch.

I didn’t see the point in making a fuss. It was pointless. Men always earned more than me, even when they were inexperienced or not very good.

So much for forthright.

THE END OF REPUBLICAN ROME – Marilyn Armstrong

Cover of "Imperium"

Imperium, by Robert Harris
Random House
Sep 7, 2010
Fiction – 496 pages

It’s déjà vu all over again as we travel back with author Robert Harris to Republican Rome just before it became Imperial Rome.

In America, we complain of corruption. Lying politicians. Fearing the end of our Democracy. We wonder about conspiracies. We brood darkly on the failure of the government to address issues of inequality.

We deplore the bribery of officials. The world, we say, is going to Hell or, depending on our point of view, has already gone to Hell.

Except that the government went to Hell a long time ago and you could easily argue that government — all government — was always hellish. Compared to Rome, our government is a clean machine, as clean as a fresh snowfall. It’s a matter of perspective.

English: Bust of Cicero, Musei Capitolini, Rom...
Cicero, Musei Capitolini, Roma Italiano: Bust of Cicero, Musei Capitolini, Rome (Photo: Wikipedia)

Reading history puts the world in which I live into perspective. Whatever problems we face, we — the human family — have faced them before. We survived. It’s important to remember our ability to survive is greater (for the most part) than our ability to screw up.

Imperium, by Robert Harris, is about a guy named Cicero. You’ve undoubtedly heard of him. Famed as a lawyer, more famous as an orator, Cicero rose to power during a critical cusp in history as Rome was about to change from Republican to Imperial. Julius Caesar had just stepped onto the stage of history.

It was the beginning of the greatest imperial power the earth had ever seen … and the end of the greatest republic the world would ever know.

Perspective.

Marcus Cicero started his journey to power as an outsider from the provinces. His first significant legal case put him head-to-head with the dangerous, cruel and utterly corrupt Gaius Verres, governor of provincial Sicily. Using his stunning oratorical abilities and displaying a dogged determination and persistence in the face of impossible odds, Cicero beats Verres in court. He then goes on to triumph over many powerful opponents, making friends — but more enemies — along the way.

Cicero seeks ultimate power — imperium. His allegiance is to the Republic. Cicero’s secretary and slave, Tiro, is the inventor of shorthand and has become the author of this biography of his master. Tiro was at Cicero’s right hand throughout his career, by his side, through triumph and catastrophe. Through his voice, the world of ancient Rome is brought to life.

It’s a fascinating story. Pompey and Julius Caesar stride across the stage of this deeply corrupt, depraved, dangerous and strangely familiar society.

imperium audibleRobert Harris is a brilliant story-teller and author of historical fiction. He lures us into a violent, treacherous world of Roman politics simultaneously exotically different from and startlingly similar to ours.

This is part one of a duology.  The second volume in the American printing is titled Conspirata. In Great Britain, the same book is titled Lustrum.

Both books are available on Kindle, paperback, and Audible.com.