LONG DISTANCE LIFE – BY ELLIN CURLEY

I used to have a vibrant and full social life with lots of lunch dates with women and dinners with couples. There were trips to museums and shows with friends, dinner parties at people’s homes, meetings with fellow volunteers and ‘play dates’ with our children.

This sounds normal, but it assumes that your friends actually live near you. That was the case when I was younger – not so much anymore. Now I’m removed from most of my friends – separated by geography. My closest friend moved from the next town to Virginia many years ago. Another close friend moved to Florida. Two other couples moved to LA and Portland, Oregon, respectively.

Several good friends live in New York City which is driveable, but very inconvenient. We often spend over two hours in the car one way and have to pay $30 or more to park our car when we get there. Two other friends live in Massachusetts, a two and a half hour drive, which is not taken often.

Other nearby friends have drifted away over the years, like the parents of my kids’ friends who were apparently only convenience or proximity friends. Add to this the fact that my wonderful daughter has lived in LA for almost ten years!

The upshot of all this is that my connection with the people I love is more electronic these days than face to face. I have had to adjust to a life of texts and emails and the occasional phone call. I actually make ‘dates’ with one friend to have a long phone conversation every few weeks to stay caught up and to just chat.

My daughter and I have long phone conversations about everything but she hates the phone so this doesn’t happen as often as I would like. I love talking on the phone so staying in touch by phone satisfies my desire for connection.

It seems that my everyday contact is more and more through texts and emails, which are good for some things but not for others. It’s great to be able to share a cute photo of my dogs or show off the new lamp, or dress I just bought. My daughter has sent me selfies from the dressing room of a store to help her pick which outfit to buy. That is great. So is sending quick news flashes about insignificant happenings.

It falls short, however, when complex things are going on in your life or when there’s an emotional issue that requires more than a few lines to explain. Sometimes you just need a reassuring voice in your ear. On the other hand, sometimes a few lines of moral support from a distant friend can be very meaningful and helpful. Not quite a hug, but not all that bad.

My intimate conversations are mostly done by phone now. I have a few close friends nearby but they are not retired yet and have very busy lives. So finding time to sit and talk isn’t always easy, even when we live down the road.

I’ve gotten used to this situation and can feel satisfied after a good phone talk in lieu of an in-person interaction. I don’t love Face time or Skype. I don’t feel seeing a small, usually distorted photo of my friend on a small screen, really adds anything to the conversation.

My son has also moved one and a half hours away so we talk on the phone every day and text a lot – mostly jokes and memes and quick updates. I still feel very close to him, which may be easier because I get to see him every few weeks.

These in-person visits add to the relationship because they give us time to just hang out together. I’ve realized how important that is. I’m closer to my boat friends because we spend lots of time sitting on each other’s boats, talking laughing, drinking or just reading together. It’s this unstructured time I miss most when I have to rely on my cell phone for personal contact.

My future holds more texts, emails and ‘phone dates’ and less in-person contact as more friends retire and move away. I’ve coped so far, so I guess I’ll just get to love my phone more as my main contact with the outside world.

DON’T BITE! – Rich Paschall

If you are a fisherman, and perhaps even if you are not, you can understand the frustration that comes with the sport. That is, you go out knowing fish are swimming all around you. Maybe a lot of them and you are ready to reel them in.  You bait the hook and drop it in amongst all those lovely fish and you wait … and wait.

Nothing happens.

It is as if Charlie Tuna or some holy mackerel was there, warning the other fish to avoid your bait.

“This is good bait,” you may think.  “It is big and tempting and the sea creatures should flock to it,” but they just smirk and swim off to visit other old timers to see if their little fishes are off in schools somewhere else.

Avoid the bait

This is how we should be too.  We should stop taking the bait, but sometimes we do it anyway because we can’t help it.

I am talking about social media and consequent conversation.  The rants and bitterness that follow. There’s always someone tossing bait in the water.

We have to keep swimming because no good comes from getting hooked.

It would appear that many throw out bait on Facebook or Twitter, though it could be any media and there are many more. They aren’t trying to have a conversation. They are trying to start a fight by luring in friends and acquaintances.

In this politically charged “us versus them” environment fostered and encouraged by 45 and his ilk — not to mention the social media companies and the Russians, Chinese and who knows who else — there are always enough snapping jaws waiting for someone to snap up the bait.

No matter what political arguments fill their entries, none are worthy of our time. Trolls do this for sport. They think it’s fun. Most of us don’t think it’s fun at all.

It is like taking your boat out on Lake Michigan hoping to land a big one.  You are likely to end up with carp or alewives, of course. Because that’s what lives there.

Photo: Garry Armstrong

Whether you are posting something in favor of POTUS or against, there is someone ready to take the bait and tug on the line.  While an astounding number of people are not in favor of the current pretender to the throne, he still has rabid supporters willing to dangle the bait– or take it themselves. The battle is on.

These battles of back and forth with fish can get rowdy and ugly.

Soon after the terrible display of hate in Charlottesville, I posted a brief piece I saw about how the USA helped defeat the Nazis in World War 2.  I thought it was important to remember (or to learn) what that was all about.  I know exactly what my parents would have thought of recent events.

My father fought in World War II.  It is terrible, in my opinion, that people would carry the Nazi flags on our streets but maybe some forgot.  I had no idea I was dangling bait for the alt-right.

What followed my post was a long series of comments by a few people who conducted a mean-spirited, name-calling “debate.”  I could not keep up with it or monitor the frequent comments, which apparently turned threatening.  After someone complained, Facebook stepped in and removed the most egregious comments.  At my first opportunity, I removed the post completely.

History really is not debatable or worth threatening someone, but that’s the road we’ve gone down.

Due to my stance on some topics, or my willingness to take the bait on a few occasions, I guess I’ve lost a few friends.  I can’t say it bothers me. If you are that bigoted, whether your opinion is based on some misinterpretation of history, the Bible, or some other religion, it’s best I swim on and miss the fight. I’m too old to have this level of stress.

Be careful. You never know when a big fish might pull you into the water.

Until recently, I used to get together a few times a month with someone I have known since childhood. He’s a bit right of center politically, but we had mostly avoided political arguments. That changed in the current social climate.

He has taken the dangling bait.  I was playing along for a while, but I now see the futility of it.

It will start with my friend saying something about 45 or other right-wing topics.  I might respond, “As a former military man, how do you feel about 45 making comments about North Korea which also seem to give up military secrets?”  It is a reasonable question, I think … but it only proves I’ve taken the bait.

“What about Obama?” he might reply.  “You never said anything about Obama when he was in office.”

“Yes, I did,” I usually point out.

“I never heard it.”

“You never listen to me.”

“And what about Rahm (Emanuel, Mayor of Chicago)? What about that?” He will say in a voice somewhat louder.

“What does this have to do with 45 and North Korea?” I inquire to try to steer the conversation back around, but it’s too late.  I am already hooked.

DEFINITELY YOUR FAULT – Marilyn Armstrong

Brought to you by the heartland of the Internet: Facebook

So much of Facebook is made up of irresponsible bullshit written or “sponsored” by people who figure they have the right to shoot off their mouths, write drivel on public forums, and yet bear no responsibility for the results of their actions. These are the same people who would probably think that shouting “fire” in a theater was funny. If people were panicked, injured or killed? It’s not their fault.

So whose fault is it?

Here’s what I think. You are responsible for what you say and for making sure you are understood. You are responsible for what you write and how you write it.

William Strunk Jr. was a professor of English at Cornell University and, together with E.B. White, author of The Elements of Style (1918).

You are morally required to make a good faith effort to speak and write the truth in such a way that others can understand it. You need to be sure what you say makes sense. If you aren’t responsible, who is? If you write a pack of lies, or half-truths, or rumors — exactly who is responsible but you for whatever misunderstanding will inevitably result?

Everyone is responsible. You may not be able to 100% control how others understand, but you can make your best effort, to be honest, to double-check facts, and explain what you mean as clearly as possible.

The casual, widespread attitude that it’s okay to say or do anything and if other people don’t like it or “get it,” too bad for them. This is the definition of how we got where we are. It didn’t happen from nothing and nowhere. We did not act irresponsibly. We refused to admit mistakes. We blamed everyone else for the problems we caused, then wondered why we can’t trust anyone.

If all of us refuse to accept responsibility for our own actions and statements, why should anyone be more trustworthy than we are?  If “it’s not my fault” — or worse yet, “it’s your fault” — is going to be our national motto, when you hear a loud flapping noise, it’s your chickens coming home to roost. The result will be that we will live in a world where nothing anyone says or does can be trusted because honesty has been replaced by bullshit.

It really is the writer or speaker’s responsibility to communicate. It is not the responsibility of your listener to decipher your poorly written and badly expressed language.

It’s not a heartwarming thought.

DON’T TAKE THE BAIT – RICH PASCHALL

KEEP RIGHT ON GOING, By Rich Paschall
Sunday Night Blog


If you are a fisherman, and perhaps even if you are not, you can understand the frustration that comes with the sport. That is, you go out knowing fish are swimming all around you. Maybe a lot of them and you are ready to reel them in.  You bait the hook and drop it in amongst all those lovely fish and you wait … and wait. Nothing happens.  It is as if Charlie Tuna or some holy mackerel was there, warning off all the others to avoid your bait.

“This is good bait,” you may think.  “It is big and tempting and the sea creatures should flock to it,” but they just smirk and swim off to visit other old timers to see if their little fishes are off in schools somewhere else.

Avoid the bait

This is how we should be too.  We should stop taking the bait, but sometimes we do anyway. The consternation begins.  I am talking about social media and social conversation.  There is always someone lobbing bait in the water. It’s up to us to keep swimming.  No good comes from getting hooked.

It would appear that many throw out bait on Facebook or Twitter — or whatever platform they prefer — knowing they will start an argument amongst friends and acquaintances.

In this politically charged “us versus them” environment fostered and encouraged by 45 and his ilk — not to mention the social media companies themselves and the Russians, Chinese and who knows who else — there are always those waiting for someone to take the bait. Their posts can be filled with political arguments.

None are worthy of the time, but some play it like a sport.  It is almost like taking your boat out on Lake Michigan hoping to land a big one.  You are likely to end up with carp or alewives, of course.

Photo: Garry Armstrong

Whether you are posting something in favor of POTUS or against, there is someone ready to take the bait and tug on the line.  While an astounding number of people are not in favor of the current pretender to the throne, he still has some rabid supporters who are willing to dangle the bait or take it themselves and the battle is on.  These battles of back and forth with the fish can get rather rowdy and sometimes Facebook or whoever has to step in and stop the battle from going on.

Soon after the terrible display of hate in Charlottesville, I posted a brief piece I saw about how the USA helped defeat the Nazis in World War 2.  I thought it was important to remember (or to learn) what that was all about.  I know exactly what my parents would have thought of recent events.  My father fought in World War II.  It is terrible, in my opinion, that people would carry the Nazi flags on our streets after the 1940’s but perhaps some forgot.  I had no idea I was dangling bait for the alt-right.

What followed my post was a long series of comments by a few people who conducted a mean-spirited, name-calling “debate.”  I could not keep up with it or monitor the frequent comments, which apparently turned threatening.  After someone complained, Facebook stepped in and removed the most egregious comments.  At my first opportunity, I removed the post completely.  History really is not debatable nor is it worth threatening someone, but that’s the road we’ve gone down.

Due to my stance on some topics, or my willingness to take the bait on a few occasions, I guess I have lost a few friends.  I can’t say it really bothers me.  If you are that bigoted, whether your opinion is based on some misinterpretation of history or the Bible or some other religion, I guess it’s best I swim on by. I’m too old to have this stress in my life.  Be careful. You never know when some fish might pull you into the water.

Until recently, I used to get together a few times a month with someone I have known since childhood. He’s a bit right of center politically, but we had mostly avoided political arguments. That changed in the current social climate.

He has taken the dangling bait.  I was playing along for a while, but I now see the futility of this endeavor.

It will start with my friend saying something about 45 or other right-wing topics.  I might respond, “As a former military man, how do you feel about 45 making comments about North Korea which also seem to give up military secrets?”  It is a reasonable question, I think … but it only proves I’ve taken the bait.

“What about Obama?” he might reply.  “You never said anything about Obama when he was in office.”

“Yes, I did,” I usually point out.

“I never heard it.”

“You never listen to my side.”

“And what about Rahm (Emanuel, Mayor of Chicago)? What about that?” He will say in a voice somewhat louder.

“What does this have to do with 45 and North Korea?” I may inquire to try to steer the conversation back around, but it’s too late.  I am already on the line.

HATE, ANGER AND SOCIAL MEDIA

A Firestorm of Misinformation, Rich Paschall

There are always items in the news that bring out the social media commentators. There’s the economy, some collusion, and Supreme Court appointments. There are Trade tariffs and Trade Agreements. There is religious freedom and freedom of speech. It is that Freedom of Speech thing that lets the haters and misinformed run rampant on the internet.

© 2007 Nuno Pinheiro & David Vignoni & David Miller & Johann Ollivier Lapeyre & Kenneth Wimer & Riccardo Iaconelli / KDE / LGPL 3 with permission.
© 2007 Nuno Pinheiro & David Vignoni & David Miller & Johann Ollivier Lapeyre & Kenneth Wimer & Riccardo Iaconelli / KDE / LGPL 3 with permission.

In the social media world, it looks like a lot of people have time to create graphics with so-called information and historical quotes (internet memes). Some are very artistically created with nice pictures of a president or other important historical person in the background. If you are on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter enough, you may think some of these historical figures are speaking out of both sides of their mouths. One of my favorite internet memes states “The problem with quotes found on the internet is that they are often not true. – Abraham Lincoln.”

Many of the quotes are easily disputed. I like to type the first phrase of an internet quote or meme into Google search to see what I get. Sometimes I immediately get proof the quote is false. Sometimes I find the quote is true, but it was said by someone else. It seems popular to attribute interesting political and social quotes to George Carlin, even if someone else said it. Do we think a quote is more believable if a more famous person said it? The George Carlin website actually has a section devoted to “Bogus Carlin Quotes.

I have often seen a quote attributed to former President Jimmy Carter. It says “If you don’t want your tax dollars to help the poor, then stop saying you want a country based on Christian Values, because you don’t.” While it seems like something Carter may have said post-presidency, he did not say it. Yet, it is frequently re-quoted all across the internet. Many sites will use it to drive home their point by indicating what this thoughtful and highly regarded human being has to say.

It was actually said by comedian John Fugelsang (Snopes.com here).  I guess if the quote comes from a comedian rather than a former president, it is harder to beat people over the head with it.

In addition to a simple Google search for the quote or alleged fact, you can go to websites dedicated to debunking internet stories.

The most popular is Snopes.com. It calls itself “the definitive Internet reference source for urban legends, folklore, myths, rumors, and misinformation.” It has to work extra hard to keep up with the mountains of internet crap published daily. Still, I usually find out whether some really convenient quote to prove a point is actually true or false. Usually they are false.

AARP.org has published a helpful list to identify fake news. Seniors are often the victims of internet scams. Just about everyone can use the links they provide to verify whether a story is true or not.

Fake news?

Despite easy access to the truth, haters choose to believe whatever is posted on the internet if it can be twisted to support their position. Then they can take the misinformation and share it with their friends, who in turn do the same. I like to post an article or link into a comment under these false memes, but it does not seem to matter. Comments continue to be made after mine in support of the lie, as if posting the true story meant nothing. It is infuriating, to say the least. Wanting to believe the lie seems to be a sign of the times

The anger and hate behind the false stories and memes was out in full force recently due to some “hot button” topics in the news. The Kavanaugh hearings brought us bad conduct by the nominee and various senators, which in turn brought out bad memes and fake stories about people on all sides. Dr. Ford was brave enough to step forward despite the media mayhem, but got hammered in the never important social media realm. The occupant of the White House helped the lies along with some outrageous lies of his own.

The tit for tat trade war with China involving tariffs by 45 has been hard on business. As a result corporations, China, the White House and even farmers are being blasted by one concern or another. International business is complicated and can not be clarified by some internet meme or someone’s right or left-wing blog post.

Vice President Pence brought out haters on both sides of the aisle when he chose to speak to an anti-LGBT group recently. His boss spoke there the previous year.

Any criticism of 45 or his minions will likely earn you a response concerning President Obama, the Clintons, illegal aliens or “the gays.” It does not seem to matter if the hateful response has anything to do with the original comment. We considered this “what about Obama?” type response recently in “Extra topical.”

Connected to social media

The bad part of social media is the ease in which hate, anger and lies are spread. Impressionable people can find support for their misguided thoughts, and feel they have backing for whatever hate or heinous acts they perpetrate. While we all support the idea of Freedom of Speech, it is safe to say our founding fathers had no idea how quickly lies could become accepted as truth, especially lies by the President of the United States.

And all of this happens in an era where the truth is so easy to find. If you are interested in truth.

See also: “George Didn’t Say That!” GeorgeCarlin.net/bogus.html
“Pence is first VP to speak at anti-gay group’s Values Voter Summit,” nbcnews.com
“Fake News Alert,” aarp.org
“Trump’s lying, mocking, despicable verbal mugging of Christine Blasey Ford,” E. J. Dionne, Jr., The Washington Post, October 3, 2018
“Extra Topical,” “What About Obama? Huh?” SERENDIPITY, July 15, 2018

SOCIAL MEDIA MARKETING 101- ELLIN CURLEY

I think I’ve mentioned that I’m not very tech savvy. I’m finally on Facebook. Which now may be becoming old school. Passé and/or politically incorrect. But I’m still proud of myself. Even though I’m still not sure how to upload posts onto Facebook.

Anyway, our audio theater group, Voicescapes Audio Theater, just took the plunge into the 21st century. We hired a social media marketing firm to promote us on Facebook and Instagram. Today, you don’t exist as a business if you don’t have a social media presence.

We thought we could do this on our own. So we’ve been posting things on Facebook for over a year. With little effect. We have learned that that’s because there is an art to using social media effectively. And we haven’t mastered it. We don’t even know what it is.

Our media people carefully craft a very short message to go with a carefully chosen photo. The message is not geared to imparting specific information (unless we’re promoting an upcoming live show). It’s primarily to pique people’s interest in our group. The goal is to get people to check out our next post, and our next. Then maybe they’ll go to our website. Maybe even listen to a few of our pieces.

That would begin to give us name recognition. That means people will be more likely to go to one of our live shows in their area. Or tell friends about us. That’s the name of the game.

What strikes me is the very specific skill it takes to craft an eye-catching, mind engaging post of just a sentence or two. I don’t have that skill yet. I’m used to writing in a longer format where you get to present ideas, develop them and reach conclusions. Or take your time describing something in living color and vivid detail.

Now I have to train my brain to miniaturize. To compact everything into one image or idea. Or just to pick one thought and highlight it. So far, I can recognize a good post when our marketer presents it to me. But I can’t quite come up with them on my own. What image will catch the imagination of Facebook or Instagram followers?

I shouldn’t feel bad about not being able to master this new skill right away. In fact, our marketers are each very specialized. One person only handles emails. One person only handles Facebook and Instagram. And the email person won’t go near Facebook or Instagram. And she’s a professional marketer!

I’m still not sure what the real world benefits are of ‘a social media presence’. I guess I’ll find out. In the meantime, the education process is fascinating!

To see some more of our new professional marketing posts, go to the Voicescapes Audio Theater link on this site, or our Facebook page and maybe then to our Instagram account.

THROWBACK THURSDAY – Rich Paschall

Keeping Old Memories Alive, Rich Paschall

Let’s face it, there are a lot of annoying things about social media.  Even worse than the fake news and memes being spread, making us dumber by the day, is the proliferation of new games, rituals, groups, pages, chats, instasomethings, broadcast thyself and say nothing.

You Tube channels (I have 2), Google +, Twitter and twitpic and tweetchat, YouNow, Ustream and the list for You is growing.  You can write it, sing it, chat it, pin it, post it, paste it, repost and reblog it.  The glut of personal pages and activities is beyond gluttonous.

Among the millions of pages and posts lies some golden moments if only you can find them.  Sometimes it is like finding a needle in a haystack, but sometimes a needle is found.  Perhaps you put the golden needle there yourself, hoping others will find it.  If you look hard enough, you may find gold too.

I have used Facebook, WordPress and YouTube to uncover new (or not so new) and interesting talent. In some ways, it has replaced some of my television watching, although I have uncovered more crap online than can ever make it through to broadcast television.

If you have been following along on Sundays, you will notice that I have pointed out some of the good young talent online.  There are some young people doing good as I pointed out when I asked if it was A Screwed Up World? I also mentioned up and coming talent here and on Sunday Night Blog. Recently, I profiled Tom Law in Laying Down The Musical Law, Steve Grand in All-American Boy and my You Tube favorites in Singers on Demand  So you can tell I am not completely down on the social media world.

One practice that has grown up on several social sites in recent years did not interest me at first.  In fact, I thought it a rather self-indulgent way of posting your old photos for people who really did not care on a medium that is so overburden with posts few would notice anyway. This now common activity is called Throwback Thursday.  Have you taken part?

The idea behind Throwback Thursday is that you post an old photo, video, or article from the past, and tag it with #tbt. Thus you will have made some sort of contribution to remembering something important or historical. It’s an interesting idea that has, of course, produced a lot of junk. Seriously, I do not need to see your video of you and your precious cat from 2003. It may bring tears to your eyes, but that doesn’t make it an historic document.

After this practice had gone by for a few years, I began to see the worth hidden in hashtag TBT. Items of merit were coming to light of social, historical and even personal value.  Now I gladly participate.

I still love cake

My personal photos of my charming self at a young age may be of no value in the social media world, but I have many friends and relatives on Facebook. I don’t see them often, so they may be of interest to those who knew me at nine.

We are sharing old memories through weekly postings. I’ve been amazed by the relics some folks have uncovered. Perhaps you’ve been lucky enough to see old photos and videos that bring a smile to your face.

The Pajama Game is the game we’re in!

A few years ago I started a Facebook group for former students of Mrs. Laurette Kittler. She is a retired high school drama teacher whose instruction and guidance touched the lives of generations of students. I was proud to include myself in those who could celebrate this teacher’s work. I thought maybe, over time, I would find 100 students.

The group has close to 340 members, some of whom have been posting pictures and bringing smiles to everyone.  While many members of the group haven’t seen each other for decades, they’ve been putting up pictures others may have not seen since the 60’s, 70’s or 80’s.  Maybe they never saw them at all.  Now there are thousands of pictures.

When the formation of this group led to a “dinner and drinks” outing, I casually mentioned that among the many pictures I have and I have seen, I have no pictures from my Senior Class play.  I could have purchased them from the high school at the time, but I let it pass. It was my big regret.

During the week that followed, pictures showed up on Facebook, including one of me front and just left of center in a picture I do not think I ever saw.

South Pacific

Throwback Thursday has become a favorite activity. Sometimes I post a picture then look for items from others which will remind me of my high school days, my family and my youth. Nothing brings the past to life like seeing it. This is the value of #tbt.

My departed mother took a camera to many events in her life. In the 70’s and 80’s there is no telling how many rolls of 110 and 126 film she went through. Some months after she was gone, I sent many hundreds of pictures to my brother. I have thousands remaining.

Nowadays, I have a use for these photographs, on #tbt.