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

DIVIDED WE FALL – Rich Paschall

Then join hand in hand, brave Americans all, 
By uniting we stand, by dividing we fall; 
In so righteous a cause let us hope to succeed, 
For heaven approves of each generous deed.

-John Dickinson, The Liberty Song, 1768

Photo: Garry Armstrong

Throughout the history of this country, the concept that we stand together has been expressed in song, in writing, and at the podium in speech.  It was the rallying cry of the Revolution and the days following 9/11.  It was spoken during the Civil War and the armed conflicts since.  It was the thought of trade unions fighting for better working conditions.  We may never have all stood together, but we were never divided at critical times in history.  Until now, that is.

From the opening of his campaign until the present day, the leader of our country has worked hard to divide Americans with an “Us versus them” attitude.  He speaks it, he tweets it, he lies about it.

In the opening salvo, he started by trying to assert that many of our neighbors who came from other countries were the enemy.  Of Mexico he stated: “They are not our friend, believe me. But they’re killing us economically. The U.S. has become a dumping ground for everybody else’s problems.”  You likely know the most egregious things he said about Mexico.  Let’s consider another statement.

Dividing us from other friends, 45 went on to say: “It’s coming from more than Mexico. It’s coming from all over South and Latin America, and it’s coming probably— probably— from the Middle East. But we don’t know. Because we have no protection and we have no competence, we don’t know what’s happening.”  This was stated despite a strict immigration policy under President Obama.  Ask anyone who entered (or was deported) at that time.

Also at the time of his announcement, China and Japan were particularly criticised, along with the leaders of our own country.  It is not unusual to criticize the other party during a campaign, but consider carefully the deals the country made during the Obama presidency and the comments made by Trump, the candidate.  There is campaign rhetoric, and then there are falsehoods and divisions.  The announcement of candidacy is filled with quotes that are not attributed to specific people and many statistics that raise questions of accuracy.  Did he portray us correctly?

After a campaign of insults and hateful comments, 45 has spent a great deal of time on his twitter account blasting out hateful and divisive comments among people here and abroad.  How do we feel about this?  Early in the year the Quinnipiac University National Poll found that the Tweeter in Chief is dividing the nation.  While polls results show that the majority of Republicans do not feel this way, Americans by 64 to 31 per cent feel that 45 is actually doing more to divide the country.

Worse yet, many are unsure if the man is actually stable. “President Donald Trump can’t seem to improve his approval rating, perhaps because of the troubling fact that half of the voters we spoke to think he is mentally unstable,” said Tim Malloy, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Poll.  But apparently, some of those voters are willing to stand by him anyway.

He tried to change the narrative on the NFL anthem controversy, perhaps because he could not get an NFL franchise years ago.  The NFL commissioner and the NFL Players Association fired back. “Divisive comments like these demonstrate an unfortunate lack of respect for the NFL, our great game and all of our players,” commissioner, Roger Goodell, said.  NFLPA executive director, DeMaurice Smith, indicated that they would not back down.

NFL QB Tom Brady, believed to be a Republican, responded “I believe in bringing people together and respect and love and trust. I just want to support my teammates.”

Last year in September, the New York Times’ Peter Baker provided this news analysis, “Never in modern times has an occupant of the Oval Office seemed to reject so thoroughly the nostrum that a president’s duty is to bring the country together.”  Isn’t it troubling that our leader has so many negative things to say?

Baker also noted, “In his brief career as president and a candidate for president, Mr. Trump has attacked virtually every major institution in American life: Congress, the courts, Democrats, Republicans, the news media, the Justice Department, Hollywood, the military, NATO, the intelligence agencies, the cast of “Hamilton,” the cast of “Saturday Night Live,” the pope and now professional sports. ”  Is this presidential?

While the tweeter is in a rage, outside forces are also trying to undermine American life.  Fake social media accounts have reportedly planted fake stories and memes meant to drive a wedge between parts of our society.  Apparently it has been working.  If you have been a regular user of facebook or twitter you know exactly what the problem is.  As these fake stories pop up, unwitting supporters retweet, reblog and share these items on their news feed.  Do you think foreign influences are behind this?

isys6621.com

Social media believes we are under cyber attack. Google, the parent of YouTube and other media platforms, deleted Iranian accounts.  Facebook and others have removed Russian accounts.  These accounts were there to influence opinion and perhaps even divide Americans through fake stories.  Was there collusion by 45 and/or his minions to help spread lies posted by Russians?  Time will reveal the answer.

With full-blown propaganda wars in play, some started by and perpetuated by our leader, our enemies must be rejoicing.  They see the unraveling of the American fabric, aided by our own leader, allowing them to advance to a stronger position in the world.  If they can divide us and turn American against American, with Trump’s help, then our foes will watch as we stumble and fall in the eyes of the world.

Sources: “The Liberty Song,”  en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Liberty_Song
“History of the Motto,” Smithsonian Museum of American History 
Here’s Donald Trump’s Presidential Announcement Speech,” Time, June 16, 2015
Quinnipiac University National Poll, January 17, 2018
“Roger Goodell, NFLPA angrily denounce Trump’s ‘divisive comments’,” NBCSPORTS.COM, September, 23, 2017
“Tom Brady: I Disagree With Trump’s ‘Divisive’ Comments,” thedailybeast.com
“A Divider, Not a Uniter, Trump Widens the Breach,” The New York Times, September 24, 2017
“Not just Russians: Google follows Facebook to remove
Iranian accounts,” Financial Times, http://www.ft.com
“President Trump has made 4,229 false or misleading claims in 558 days,” The Washington Post, August 1, 2018

Click on the source links above for further information on the above statements.

CONTACT FROM TWITTER – Marilyn Armstrong

RDP #70 – CONTACT


You might want to read this.

No, the prez didn’t put me on his list. Not the contact list or the “kill her before she writes something else” list. I’m not sure there really IS such a list, but I wouldn’t be surprised.

Instead, I got this note from Twitter. So now, if you want your stuff to show up on Facebook, it’s going to be entirely cut and paste. Mind you, that’s not all that difficult or time-consuming. It’s the way I did it for at least four years of blogging. It’s just one more thing to bug me.

It has been a very buggy sort of week and keeping my mind right has not been easy. I feel like the world — the entire corporate entity we call the world — is out to get me on some level or other.

Maybe I should reconsider Instagram.


Twitter
Posting Tweets to Facebook
A recent update to the Facebook Platform Policies ended the ability to automatically post Tweets to your Facebook profile or page, so your Tweets will no longer show up there. For more details, take a look at our Help Center.

Thanks,
Twitter


So there you have it.

I’m not really sure what the point of all of this is unless it’s yet another outcome of how much the various social media outlets dislike each other and don’t give a fig about us.

These corporations are always telling us how much we matter, but I’ve never seen anything which proves that they care about us at all, one way or the other. All they want is money. More and more of it. And, apparently, it doesn’t matter how much because there’s no limit to how much they will try and squeeze out of us.

If I could think of any other way to publicize the blog, I’d do it. Unfortunately, I can’t.

Twitter made contact.

Golly, what a pleasure to hear from them!

DON’T RELATE TO HATE: TWITTER SUSPENDS BRITISH HATE GROUP

Was it Twitter’s “job” to suspend the “Britain First” hate group? Read the account here in Britain’s Daily Mail.


It’s okay to not relate to hate groups.

You don’t need to try to find the soul of every evil person and group on the planet. It’s perfectly fine to recognize evil when you see it and walk away. This is the point when I begin to get edgy, worried, and frankly irritable.

If it isn’t Twitter’s place to suspend a hate group operating on their system, who else should do it? Would you prefer the government stop it?

Hitler could have been stopped. There was more than enough time to put an end to him, but no one did it. No one stopped him. Everyone was worried about protecting Hitler’s freedom of expression. You wouldn’t want to impinge on the man who hates everyone’s civil rights, would you?

I’m sure these same people who hate all the rest of us — and if in power, would probably kill us — will now take legal action because their “civil rights” are supposed to protect them from … what? Spreading the evil they spew? But of course, they entirely object to us — “those people” — having civil rights at all. Dig into the irony. It’s a deep, profound irony.

There has to be a stopping point. There must be a “no more” point.

I get civil rights better than most people, but I also understand that failing to have a “stop, this has to end” point has had catastrophic results not only in England, but everywhere.

Someone has to say “No more. It’s over.” I’m glad it’s Twitter because it is their company and they do have the right to shut them down. If there’s one plus to private industry, the right to not serve parties who do not observe company policy has got to be a big one. If a cake maker can refuse to bake for a gay couple, I’m pretty sure Twitter can stop propagating a hate group.

You want my opinion? I think any group which objects to others having civil rights and First Amendment protections should be relieved of their own. After all, they don’t need them anyway. They said so.

DOONESBURY NAILED IT 41 YEARS AGO – BY BRAINWRAP (AND ME)

Doonesbury nailed it 41 years ago. — By Brainwrap 


 I remember this specific strip too. I was an ardent follower of Doonesbury back in those days. How ironic and sad that his material is relevant 41 years after publication. 

COVFEFE FROM THE DEPTHS

There has been much speculation as to the originally intended word. “Coverage’ has come up a lot.

My personal opinion is COVFEFE was supposed to mean “kerfuffle” but he had no idea how to spell it. It means “a commotion or fuss, especially one caused by conflicting views.” Kind of where the nation is at, don’t you think? You try writing “kerfuffle.” Watch auto-correct go wacko.

 

It has been obvious for a while that this is not a man who ever won a spelling bee. Personally, I am still opting for good old-fashioned senile dementia. He was always a really nasty, racist asshole, but he wasn’t always quite this stupid. I think the senility was creeping in for a while and the pressure of the presidency just kicked it up 250%.

There are those convinced that he was trying to call up an evil so great no country can defeat it.

As for me, I’m going with senile dementia, poor spelling, and auto-correct.

SEND IN THE FEDS – RICH PASCHALL

The Streets of Chicago, Rich Paschall, Sunday Night Blog


When I was in Medellin, Colombia, someone had brought up the name of Pablo Escobar when we were out for food and drinks.  Escobar was an infamous drug lord who had lived in the Andes mountains near Medellin.  My friend commented unhappily that they have to keep telling people that Escobar was killed in the 1990s, meaning he does not live there anymore.  I told him I understand. We have to keep telling people that Al Capone no longer lives in Chicago.  The crime boss died at his home in Florida in 1947.  Sometimes the truth does not help you to shake your reputation.

1931 Photo Credit: cta Historical Photo Collection

1931    Photo Credit: cta Historical Photo Collection

At the present time you may hear that Chicago is the murder capital of the country, just like in the Capone days.  The leader of our nation has said that crime here is “totally out of control.”  He even tweeted recently that they might send in the feds if we do not solve the problem.  While we are all dismayed at the uptick in violence in our city, one thing we know.  We are not in the top ten in murders per capita on anyone’s list.  We are not in the top twenty either.  Depending on who is doing the measuring and what size cities they go by, we may even miss the top 30.  I know it is hard to believe.  Google it!  You will find many news stories about Chicago, but you will also find plenty of articles about cities complaining they have a higher rate.  You will find many web sites with rankings and wonder where we are.  We’ll wait right here.  Then come back and let’s talk about this.

The murder rate was up in 2016. We have not seen such rates since the 1990s.  It was a big increase over 2015, but when you look at this on a per capita basis for large USA cities, you may ask, “What about Detroit, New Orleans, St. Louis?  What about Baltimore and Dayton?  What about Milwaukee?  Can we send the Feds there, too?  Can we send them to Atlanta and Houston and Camden?”  In fact there are many cities with increases, so why does Chicago get so much more coverage than the others?

Perhaps it is because we are the third largest city in the country.  In comparison to New York and Los Angeles, the crime numbers are much higher.  It is easy to look at the three together, as many newspaper articles are fond of doing.  From that vantage point, we look very bad.

Lake Shore Drive

Lake Shore Drive

Perhaps it is because we are the center of the country.  We have the busiest airports.  We are at the crossroads of the nation.  Highways, railways and even ocean carriers move through here, making this their hub and their home.  As a center of commerce, there is no overstating Chicago’s significance.

Perhaps it is because the 44th President of the United States hails from here and the current leader — number 45 — would like to embarrass him.  Perhaps it is because Chicago voted overwhelmingly for his opponent and he is trying to make an example of us.  Or not.  This is likely a minor issue as we were already getting plenty of coverage.  But why don’t we read tweets about any of the cities in the Top 10 of murder rate per capita?

No matter where we rank, the problem has grown and something needs to be done, but send in the Feds?  Absolutely.  No big city mayor is going to turn down help fighting crime.  But there is a slight problem with the leader’s promise.  “What does it even mean?” 9th Ward Ald. Anthony Beale asked. “It is so vague.”  What kind of help is he sending?

Representative from Chicago, Luis Gutierrez, (my Congressman, by the way) is not impressed with our leader “beating up” Chicago.  “Chicago’s murder epidemic is more serious than a late night twitter threat from the new Tweeter-in-Chief,” he said.  Other Chicago leaders from local aldermen to the Cardinal are unhappy with the treatment.

Instead of vague tweets, where is the partnership with the Justice Department, the FBI, DEA?  If there are resources to send, our mayor is all for it.  We are a big city with big city problems.  There are certain types of help that would be meaningful and possibly effective.  “Chicago, like other cities right now that are dealing with gun violence, wants the partnership with federal law enforcement entities in a more significant way than we’re having today,” Mayor Emanuel said.

In a breaking story this weekend, 20 more ATF (Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms) agents are being assigned to their office here.  A request for this help is long-standing and the Mayor mentioned it to then president-elect 45 in a December 7th meeting (apparently fearless leader forgot about it).  Federal gun prosecutions in this District fall way behind other big cities and resources were needed.  If more agents have any effect at all, we know who will take credit.

Chicago lakefront

Chicago lakefront

It is tough to be in the spotlight, especially when the light is made brighter by a guy with a Twitter account.  We are a world-class city with world-class attractions.  We have fine airports and railroad stations.  We have a lakefront that runs the length of the city with land that is open and free for all.

We have one of the largest fresh water lakes that supplies our drinking water and our summer playground.  When I stand at the Planetarium out on the lake, I see what I think, in my biased viewpoint, is the greatest skyline in the country.  If someone wants to send help, we are glad to have you.  If someone wants to wage a Twitter war, can he pick on St. Louis and the Cardinals instead?

Sources:

Murders Up in U.S. Cities–But Crime Rate Still Near Record Lows,” Time, December 20, 2016
Highest Murder Rate Cities,” Neighborhood Scout, Location, Inc.
Most Dangerous Cities in the United States,” World Atlas
FBI’s Violent Crime Statistics For Every City In America,” CBS local, October 22, 2015
Emanuel to Trump: Chicago Would Welcome Federal Partnership to Quell Violence,” nbcchicago.com, January 25, 2017
Rahm To Trump: ‘Straight Up,’ No Troops In Chicago,” dnainfo.com, January 25, 2017
20 More ATF Agents On Their Way To Chicago,” Chicago Sun-Times, February 3, 2017

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, Obama Care, and campaign finance laws.  There are Pipelines and Trade Agreements.  There is religious freedom and freedom of speech.  It is that Freedom of Speech thing that lets the haters and misinformers 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.

It seems 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, it seems 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?

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.

Tech Republic has a list of the Top Ten websites dedicated to debunking internet rumors and hoaxes.  Snopes leads the list but you will find other reliable websites that can help you quickly deal with stories on Facebook that seem too convenient in proving a biased point of view.

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. They then 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.

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 confederate flag debate was raging following the murder of nine black church-goers in South Carolina.  Haters from both sides condemned the “opposition” for their point of view.  While one side says the flag represents slavery and racism, the other claims the flag is a historical battle flag, part of their heritage. The name calling continued for quite a while.

Bringing out more internet lies than you can count was the historic Supreme Court decision on gay marriage.  We previously looked at the legal aspects of the case in It Is So Ordered.”  But not many respondents on social media were interested in the facts.

Celebrants quickly hailed the decision as if their social pressure brought about change, rather than coming as a result of well argued points of law.  Detractors saw this as the downfall of society and many Republicans vowed to have such a decision overturned by some undetermined method.  Apparently they are unaware that the Supreme Court has the final word on Constitutional law.  That is probably why we call them the “Supreme Court.”

With homophobic commentary out in abundance, never was so much hate poured out in the name of God.  I had reposted some Facebook comments by Fr. James Martin, SJ on my facebook.  I had noted he had linked to some thoughtful articles on same-sex marriage.  He asked people to respond to the court’s decision with love. You know, “love thy neighbor.” 

He did not come out in favor of the decision, he just asked us to love one another.  What did he get for his trouble?  The haters let him have it full force.  They advised him “you’ll be spending your eternity in hell.”  I guess there are bad consequences to preaching love.  The next day, in response to another posting calling for love and understanding, the good Father had to add to his facebook post “NB: No ad hominem. No uncharitable comments. No homophobic comments. One to two posts per person.”  Nope, that did not work for him. 

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.

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

OSCAR ISN’T SACRED BUT WE WATCH ANYHOW

72-oscar-statue

Daily Prompt: Time After Time

We don’t have a lot of traditions. We have a lot of intentions, but they don’t always pan out. But we have one that’s sacred. Okay, not exactly sacred, but we do it every year.

Garry and I watch the Oscars.

We watch them when they are boring. We watch them when we are tired and would like to go to bed. We watched them one year in the pilot’s lounge at the top of a cruise ship on the biggest screen television I’ve ever seen.

Last year, we watched them in Connecticut with friends. For my money, Seth McFarland was the absolutely funniest-ever host.

Ellen DeGeneres was good this year. Pleasant. A kinder, gentler host. But McFarland made me laugh more and laughter always wins the day with me. Her selfie with the stars crashed Twitter and broke all retweet records with more than 2 million retweets.

Garry and I have been together 25 years — officially. Longer unofficially. Much longer entirely off the books. And we always watch the Oscars.

I suppose I should say something about why. I mean, mostly, the show is pretty dull. Insipid speeches thanking everyone the awardee has ever known since birth or even before birth in a previous life. Ho hum productions of the songs of the year. They used to have really bad dance numbers, but eliminated them this year. Drat. That was always good for a groan.

Ellen at oscars

Lacking the bad production numbers, we could gawk at the hideous examples of “one plastic surgery over the line.” Kim Novak was terrible to see. A lovely woman who fixed what didn’t need fixing. We barely recognized her. Then there were all the rest of them, so full of Botox that their faces were all zombified. Rigid. Men and women alike, terrified to be seen getting old.

Garry and I looked at each other and whatever problems we have, we look a lot better than they do. Without plastic surgery, thank you.

And one more thing. How come, since they have the financial wherewithal to buy whatever they want, are so many of them so badly dressed? Can’t buy good taste, eh?

So that’s why we watch the show. To see the new stars, the old stars, the gorgeous dresses from fabulous designers worn by aging stars who should know better. The awful dresses worn by beautiful young starlets who should look in the mirror rather than take the advice of designers.

Ugly tuxedos, terrible hair, bad makeup and some stomach-wrenching plastic surgery. And at least one or two wins for the actors, directors and others who’ve done an amazing job and deserve a victory lap.

The good, the bad and the ugly — it’s all part of the magic of the Oscar night.

Lupita-Nyongo-Oscars-2014

It gives us a chance to yell “Ew!!” yet we are ever-ready to praise those who come through the Oscar experience nicely dressed, not surgically remodeled, with some grace and dignity remaining.

We can hardly wait until next year.

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  11. As traditions go, this one isn’t bad. Bit costly though… | thoughtsofrkh
  12. DAILY PROMPT: Ritual | cockatooscreeching
  13. Family. Rituals. War. | daggyshog tales
  14. Ritual « Shrine of Hecate – Ramblings of a New Age Witch
  15. You know Gail Baker down the road? | The verbal hedge
  16. A twisted family tradition | A picture is worth 1000 words
  17. Daily Prompt: Time After Time | My Other Blog
  18. The More Things Change… | My Author-itis
  19. Daily Prompt – Time After Time. |
  20. It’s spelled ‘Crucian’. | Asta’s Space
  21. Minutely Infinite | Traditionally Speaking
  22. The beauty of a fitness routine versus having a joint-eater to be thin « psychologistmimi
  23. Family Vocabulary: Traditions! | ALIEN AURA’S BlOG: IT’LL BLOW YOUR MIND!
  24. Corn, Onions and Christianity | meanderedwanderings
  25. Daily Prompt: Time After Time « Mama Bear Musings
  26. Daily Prompt: Time After Time | Chronicles of an Anglo Swiss
  27. S. Thomas Summers: Writing with Some Ink and a Hammer | On Our Fears its Soul Shall Feast

999 BEFORE THE CRASH – STATS AND STATS

Stats OverallShortly before our ISP crashed and burned last night, I took a look at my statistics. Just before midnight, I had 999 followers. WordPress followers. Not including comment followers, Tumbler, Twitter, Facebook or anything else. On my most active day in November — a good month statistically and quality-wise — I got 300 hits from 162 people.

Where are the other 838 followers? I know I’m not the only one to ask this question. I have no doubt more than half of them are spammers, hoping to find a way to hook me for some nefarious purpose. Some are impulse follows. They liked a picture or a post and clicked follow, but have no enduring interest and never visit again.

Let’s say that accounts for 75% of what today’s statistics show as 1004 followers.

Despite the rolling peaks and valleys of hit counts, the number of people who visit Serendipity is relatively stable. Typically, it runs between 75 and 150 individuals, averaging around 100 on a “regular” day, almost all of which come in during the late afternoon and evening.

What changes more is how many articles they read, how many pictures they click on. Sometimes, the number of visitors is quite low, but the hit count is very high, meaning that each visitor hit 3 or more posts per visit. I feel very successful when I see that. Raw numbers are one thing, but seeing what people really read gives me an idea what you appreciate. If it’s something I’m especially proud of, I’m doubly pleased.

Who is everyone else? Are you real? Do you look at the email but never come to the site? Are you following through the Reader from which statistics do not count? And why don’t Reader hits count? Does anyone know? I love using the Reader. It’s a great tool that lets me identify stuff I want to spend more time exploring, but also gives me a chance to “say hello” to others bloggers without eating my entire day. But, great tool or not, I’m hesitant to use it — saving it for when I’m most pressed for time — because I know it doesn’t register statistically.

We may deny we track our stats … but we all track our stats, one way or the other. It’s the only way to get a grip on how well we are doing.

Big Stats

No answers. Still, I’d like to know who you are and what you liked that made you follow … and why you don’t participate more actively?  I’ve never been Freshly Pressed either (are you embarrassed to visit an unrecognized site?). I think am close to a world record for non-recognition.

Whatever brought you to me — spammers, you may leave the room — thank you. To all who come and visit, to everyone who reads the emails or checks me out in the reader. Whatever your reason or method, you are welcome and I hope you find what you are looking for.

Spammers, please ignore this message.

Amateurs have all the fun

It has come up a few times lately … how to define a professional. So, are you a professional? I’ve seen questionnaires for writers that apparently feel the sign of a professional is how much you sacrifice for your art. I’m quite sure sacrifice has nothing to do with whether or not you are a professional.

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There is only one question you need to answer. Do you get paid for doing it, whatever ‘it’ is? If you don’t get paid, you are not a professional. If you do get paid, you are. This doesn’t address the issue of whether or not you are talented or especially skilled. You may be a brilliant amateur and someone else may be a lackluster professional, but that’s not the question.

Professional is a job classification and addresses your status with the IRS. When I was working as a writer, it never crossed my mind to wonder if I was a professional. I had a job. Writing. I had deadlines. I got paid. The odds are if you are wondering whether or not you are a professional? You aren’t.

Ghost Photog in the Sky

Professional doesn’t mean talented and amateur is not a comment on quality of your work. I flirted with professional photography, only to discover it wasn’t fun. To make my living as a photographer, I had to do what clients wanted and that was … well … work.

Then, this past May, along came Marissa Mayer from Yahoo to explain why they were eliminating Flickr Pro.
MarissaMayerQuote

Wow. When did access to tools become equivalent to professionalism? Completely ignoring the actual definition of professional, she manages to ignore any other sensible guideline and define professional as “owning the tools.” Using this reasoning, everyone who owns woodworking tools is a professional carpenter. Owning a few rolls of electrical tape and a couple of gauges could make you an electrician. Is a plumber anyone who owns wrenches?

Is everyone who owns a computer and a printer, who has a blog or posts on Facebook a professional writer? If I buy some paints and an easel, I’m a painter, right? Everyone who has a digital camera can also make movies, so are we all professional filmmakers?

If ignorance is bliss, Marissa Mayer is very happy.

The single thing that divides a professional from an amateur — excluding any legal requirements such as training, licensing and so on — is a paycheck. If you get paid to write, you’re a professional writer. If you sell your photographs or services as a photographer, you are a professional photographer. How much of your income needs to come from writing or photography? At least some. None is too little.

If you have never sold anything you’ve written, you are an aspiring writer, an amateur, a hopeful. You don’t get professional status until you get the check. This is true for photographers, painters, and all other artists. It’s true for every profession, artistic or otherwise.

CamerasIf you don’t believe me, look it up. That’s the line in the sand. If you don’t earn money doing it — whatever “it” is — you are not a professional. It isn’t about your talent, enthusiasm or dedication to your art. It is a statement about your status. Maybe you will become a professional in the future. Perhaps you were a professional in the past.

I’m retired. I used to earn my living writing. This makes me a former professional writer. My husband was a reporter. He is now a former reporter. We collect social security and pensions, so we are no longer professionals. I was never a professional photographer even though I sold a few pictures and did a few gigs for which I got paid. I am and was a dedicated, serious amateur photographer. And there’s nothing wrong with that.

I think we should stop worrying about it. In most things, amateurs have more fun anyhow.

85,000. What it means. What it doesn’t.

To put this into perspective, my “about” page and five top posts account for around 35,000 hits. “The Me Page” alone has gotten more than 12,000 hits.

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Still, the cumulative effect is that a lot of people have visited this little blog of mine, for whatever reason and it’s a bit humbling to realize that’s the number of people in a pretty big town, more than a packed crowd in Yankee Stadium. I know there are people out there whose statistics put them into the hundreds of thousands. What’s weird is I see if I don’t quit, I’ll get there too. Not tomorrow, unless something I write goes viral (unlikely) … but I’ll get there. Because every day, I get around 200 hits, unless the première show for the 2012-2013 season of Criminal Minds is playing — in which case I get closer to 1000 hits (that’s how I know the show is airing).

I am writing this before I quite hit the 85,000 mark. At this moment in time, I’m at 84,958, so I’ll cross that bridge tomorrow. I don’t have the exact numbers, but it ought to be more than 85,000. I’m probably jinxing myself.

Number of posts? Closer to 1500, but I deleted several hundred and I’ll probably have to do it again to keep the website from collapsing under the weight of too many posts. I’ve been a busy writer. Meanwhile, I’m beginning to rerun posts because — hey — I think they’re pretty good and worth running again.

The ups and down of statistics can produce a lot of anxiety, so … you gotta have faith. I don’t just look at raw numbers because they are only a part of the puzzle. I don’t have more visitors or even as many as I did — the total number of visitors is down considerably from the peak last fall. It was the election and the Internet was a wild and crazy place. Yet the overall hit count has remained reasonably steady because guests spend more time on my site, read more posts, look at more pictures. The average number of posts hit per visit is greater than 2, sometimes a lot more. That tells me I’m doing something right.

It tells me I’m writing more interesting stories, posting better pictures. This matters to me far more than raw numbers. To know you come and stick around, enjoy my work enough to read more than a one post makes me feel pretty good.

The numbers of followers I’ve got has topped 400 from WordPress. I’ve got a bunch more from Twitter and Tumblr, maybe a couple of dozen from Facebook (not quite as many as WordPress counts them). A year ago I couldn’t even imagine so many followers.

Followers get  emails. Many people read posts in email and don’t bother to visit the website. It’s a peril of email notification. If you can read it in email, there’s no incentive to go to the main site since the emails contains 90% (or more) of the post. It’s a trade-off. Followers are good to have, even if they only read the email. Honestly, I don’t care if they read my posts on a telephone pole. Where isn’t important.

Sudden drops in hits are alarming and baffling, especially when numbers pop back up the next day. What was that all about? You will never know. One of the great mysteries of blogging. Numbers by themselves don’t mean everything, but they don’t mean nothing, either. A lot of hits indicates interest at the very least. Hit counts on individual posts tell me a lot too.

There are two kinds of posts in the blogging world. There are posts that are highly topical and burn really hot for a short time. Most of these involve breaking stories, current events, scandals, stuff like that. And there are slow burners. Timeless material, fiction, reviews.

Reviews can have a very long shelf life. People keep coming to read them over and over. Many of these are informational in nature, reviews of technology, books, movies. Oddly, reviews of extremely obscure movies do quite well, maybe because it’s difficult to find reviews of them anywhere. Camera reviews seem to have an eternal life. Book reviews of popular authors continue to be accessed months after original publication.

The posts with a long shelf lives gather a lot of hits over the months. One of my top three posts has more than 5000 hits, but it took more than 9 months. As long as the material remains relevant, people will find it. Good placement on Google helps too, but over all, I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the longevity of reviews in general, technology in particular.

So for all that WordPress doesn’t think much of my work, a lot of other people apparently feel otherwise and in the end, that matters. It matters a lot. My followers, my readers have become a kind of family. We share each others’ lives, pains, joys. We celebrate and mourn together. We’ve never met, but we aren’t strangers.

I still save every “like” and every notification of a new follower. I would follow all my followers, but I’m out of time. I can’t keep up with that many blogs. I can barely keep up with the books I’m supposed to be reading and reviewing.

I can’t imagine how people do this when they have full-time jobs and young children. I’ve never been more impressed than I am with homemakers and career men and women who manage to handle their family obligations, jobs and blogs. All honor to you. You are the real rock stars.

Weekly Writing Challenge: Facebook – An Itchy Elephant

The first time I accessed Facebook was early 2011, a year before the 2012 Presidential election went into a full-tilt boogie. I had never been on a social media site though I’d heard of MySpace. My impression was it was where 12-year-olds went to pretend they were 16. (I was right.)

I was pleasantly surprised with Facebook. It was easy. I could connect with anyone. Everyone. Anywhere on Planet Earth.

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That warm fuzzy feeling evaporated faster than morning mist. Facebook was the angriest place on earth. Everyone had a strong opinion — mostly based on their own or someone else’s opinion. Facts? We don’t need no stinking facts! This is Facebook! MY opinion is as good as anyone else’s (no, it isn’t actually). It seemed as if the whole world was posting angry diatribes. From the left, right, middle and far ends of the universe, everyone had something to shout about. Whoa, I thought to myself. This could get ugly (I was right … it did).

Then I discovered games. I connected with kids (now grandparents) with whom I went to grade school or college. People I wanted to reconnect with. Then, with people I had hoped never to hear anything from again. The good, the bad and the wholly unattractive, all in one basket. Whoopee.

communication-world-global

I began backing away as fast as I could. The games were cool, or some of them anyhow. But the percentage of enraged people, illiterates, the mentally unbalanced, the lunatic fringe — all posting whatever was on their minds (perhaps “minds” is too strong a word, but it’s the only one I’ve got) was too much for me. The temperature was in the red zone.

I continued to play games, which is why 95% of my “friends” (what a misnomer!) on Facebook are those with whom I connected because we were playing the same games. The remaining 5% are family and real live people I know. Some seem, for whatever reason, to prefer communicating via Facebook rather than email, telephone or in person. To each his/her/their own. Who am I to judge? (Okay, I think it’s weird, but I try not to judge.) (I don’t succeed.)

In the beginning, I got upset when Facebook made blatantly exploitive changes to their site. Then I remembered: I don’t have to go there. I don’t have to post. If Facebook vanished tomorrow, my world would not crumble.

By then, I’d found WordPress and begun blogging. The more into blogging I got, the less reason I had to visit Facebook … unless I was in the mood for a game. And of course, there is the convenience of using Facebook to publicize my blog. I may not like it, but lots of others do. I get quite a few click-throughs from Facebook.

WordPress Logo

The thing is, you can’t avoid Facebook. It’s there, the elephant in the room, the itch you can’t quite scratch. Pretend otherwise, but you can smell the peanuts and no matter how much you twist, you never get that itch.

A surprising (to me) number of authors and artists choose Facebook pages in preference to having their own website. Is it because Facebook offers wide open access and effortless connectivity?

It certainly is less demanding to maintain a Facebook page than manage a website. Maybe that’s it.

For me, the open access of Facebook is a negative, a reason to avoid it. I want control over who does what on my site. Obviously others feel differently. Everything has a place and a purpose. Or as Mom used to say: “For everyone, there’s someone.”

Or something. Facebook is the something many choose. Never my choice, but that’s irrelevant. Freedom isn’t just a word. It’s one of my core values. Do your thing. I’m not bound by your choices. You’re not bound by mine.

It’s the American way. And my way.

A Place of Peace

Despite all the blogs and bloggers who have posted articles on the etiquette of commenting, too many people still don’t get it. Maybe they just don’t want to understand, because it isn’t so complicated.

I got a really nasty note yesterday from an individual who took issue with something I wrote. I think she didn’t even understand how rude she was. Another — even nastier comment — expressed displeasure with my failure to address his comment — 3 months ago. The original comment was insulting (which is why I didn’t respond). Today’s follow-up was much worse.

In both cases, the result was identical. Bye bye. You’re out of here. Don’t come back.

This is not a forum, public or otherwise. This is my personal blog, my website. My little piece of peace in a nutty, wacko cyber world. In this place, we discuss, but we don’t fight. If I don’t like your comment — for whatever reason — I can choose to not publish it, delete it, edit it … or call it spam and make it so you trouble me no more.

It doesn’t mean you aren’t free to disagree. You are welcome to disagree. Politely. Reasonably. Friendly. But if you feel like sniping, insulting me, calling names, think this is an opportunity to show how smart you are at my (or anyone else’s) expense? Bye bye.

If you do not appreciate what I have to say or how I say it, no one is forcing you to read it. You don’t have to look at my pictures, read my opinions, like me or follow me. Cyber space is infinite and you are welcome to be virtually elsewhere.

I do not have to take crap from you. Not here. In the rest of my life, I deal with all the stuff I don’t like. In this place, this tiny corner of the huge universe, I hold fast to an illusion of control. I don’t think it’s too much to ask.

In this place, this space, we dwell in peace and harmony, even when we differ.