Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Redefinition

Beware of redefinition.

"Freedom of speech means I should be free from being upset."

Wait. Hold up. Either you do not get the concept or you are twisting the meaning to further your aims. Neither of which are good.

I don't know where this, "freedom from being upset" right came from. When you think of it, it is good to get upset every once and a while. Suppose you learn your drinking water is toxic because your local government made this sweet deal with a lead refinery or something silly like that.

Now that "corporations are people too," the corporation is going to say, "we have a right from you upsetting us," and shut your concerns down. You are upsetting them, and upsetting all of the employees who work at the refinery, after all. The government may say "you are upsetting us by getting in the way of the tax money this refinery makes" and declare you don't have the right to say anything.

If you told your neighbors their water was toxic too, you would be upsetting them after all.

And you don't have the right to "upset anyone" anymore.

Even if it is for their own good.

After all, weren't you the one arguing for the right for yourself to never be "upset" by speech you did not agree with? Or was that only when you didn't agree with what someone else said and you just wanted to silence them? You never really thought this whole "freedom from being upset" thing would come back to bite you in the behind, did you?

History has proven these sorts of things never end well. It is ultimately a short-sighted cause to make you feel good in the moment, and then everyone forgets about this "new rule" and someone later comes along and exploits the hell out of things.

Being upset is the foundation for change. It is also the foundation of satire and comedy, so if you don't want anyone to be upset you are making the world a less joyous place to be in. Somebody or some thing has to be the butt of the joke, after all, fairly or unfairly. And anyone can redefine racism or sexism to include anything, so don't go there. If someone says something stupid, guess what? They are an intolerant, stupid person and leave it at that. Before this era we kinda knew there were crackpots and idiots in the world, and we did a pretty good job at ignoring them.

By trying to  silence them you are drawing people to them, and I feel many of these people support them just out of spite.

Ultimately I feel this is all about the feelings of losing control. We can't control the flow of free ideas, or even the expression of them, so we have to start shutting down everything we don't agree with, Faux outrage. Flash mobs. Angry tirades. Cause de jours. We seek to control the uncontrollable flow of free information by mob rule.

When the flow of free information is a good thing. It is a democratizing force. The truth holds an absolute power all its own. Free information frees us from oppression and ignorance, and yes, this even applies to the information we may not necessarily agree with.

Sometimes the truth is hard to accept. Here is one for you:

People can and will pass away.

Did that upset you? It does me. It is a normal thing, and yes, people are free to say it. I accept that. But you know, maybe, I don't have that right. Maybe I did a horrible thing there by upsetting you.

We should ban any mention of anyone dying in the media.

I can see it now, today, a famous person "left" the planet and as a result all performances were cancelled. We do not expect him or her to comment further. It is not know if or when this celebrity shall return. Not much more is known, please stay tuned. The artist's label and management is attacking online trolls spreading viscous rumors of what this chronic "removed from reality" condition means, because, well, you know, they don't want to be upset by the facts. Or lose profits.

We don't want to be upset at the certainty of our own mortality, after all. It's for the better. Less people are upset, and that is a good thing.

And then soon after, there would be mobs on both sides of this issue beating each other up over who has the right to silence who. I just feel there is this inverse rule out that that states:

"The more you try to please people, the less happy they are."

Monday, April 24, 2017

Ereaderotica Update

I have this feeling the e-read site is unrecoverable except for the SQL backup I have of all the posts. I have been working all weekend on this, first trying small fixes, and then working my way up to the most drastic of changes. I even tried a complete wipe and reinstall. Nothing has worked.

I can pull the content from the posts, so this means I can still put out compilations of the Workshops as I get that data out. I started that book series as a way to preserve the workshops for future generations, but I never knew it would take on this level of importance now. Now, things are different.

It is sad, but I can't support a platform that I can't support or maintain, or one that breaks and I don't have the ability to repair. I am working on some other way of bringing the site back up, in some fashion, so we shall see.

I remember the days when a website meant one HTML file somewhere. This is tens of thousands of times more complex, to support a blog in an era where blogs are a dying method of communication. There are also commodity blog systems that get the job done without all the support and chance for unrecoverable breakage.

Things have changed. Websites need secure certificates to show the HTTPS "trusted" status, and that costs money. Blacklisting of mature content is rampant, and it kills your search rankings and ability to share what you create. Even if you write a review of something you love, sharing it and having that propagate on a social media network feels next to impossible because the root site is filtered as 'adult content' - even to those interested.

The open and free Internet started as this extra, strange thing you got on from services like AOL or Compuserve, and I feel we have sadly returned to those days. Today, you aren't anything if you can't be shared on Google or Facebook. I fear we have went back to the old days of the "portal service" controlling what people see, how ad dollars are doled out, and if you are visible to the world at large.

You can create and review all you want, but if you can't be found you are that tree in the forest no one sees or hears falling.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

World Book Day

http://www.worldbookday.com/about/

Celebrate. Read a book. Make reading a part of your life.

You may already be doing this, so you probably already know what joy this brings. If you don't read regularly, take some time out of your day and start. It is never too late to begin.

A couple books in, you will begin to understand the joys of your imagination. You will understand the difference between the instant gratification of video and television, and the slow, mind-expanding wonder of turning printed words into vivid thoughts.

Open a book and open up new worlds inside your mind.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Google and Facebook are 85% of Everything

http://theweek.com/articles/693488/google-monopoly--crushing-internet

Yes, I know where I am, this is Blogger and therefore Google. The headline of this article is a bit bombastic and attention grabbing, but there is a truth to it. Most all of the Internet ad-dollars these days go through Google and Facebook.

That is, the ad-dollars that aren't blocked because of malware being delivered in drive-by attacks from banner ads. I block them all nowadays because I can't count the amount of times my anti-virus has screamed at me because I white-listed a site and turned them on because I wanted to "support" a site with my eyeballs and see a couple ads.

But when I started my e-read site, the blog ad model was viable. Ad-blocking was not as prevalent. There was still a viable "off Facebook and Google" model for delivering content. And now this:

http://digiday.com/media/publishers-seeing-another-big-decline-reach-facebook/

Now it seems even the mainstream news sites that link to Facebook are seeing significant drops from in traffic. Algorithm changes. Fake news filters hitting mainstream and reputable journalistic sources. Nothing has changed but the code, supposedly. Even the Chicago Tribune has reported a huge drop in views - from Facebook.

Somehow I fear we have reached that day where there is no more free Internet. Free, as in freely shared and freely accessible and freely found. Now yes, you can make a blog and do what you want out here, but the big reason why has went the way of the ad dollars - directly to Facebook and Google, along with all the other eyeballs and clicks. It is like millions of sites have suddenly been demonetized, and out here it really isn't worth putting your time into a site and doing all that hard work in being an independent voice.

For a niche site like mine, that is a killer. Granted, I never had many ads at all on e-read, but there was a thought of building the site and eventually taking ads. Now? That model is very difficult to justify. The eyes and clicks just are not out here in the wild anymore. Even the sources of eyes we rely on these days, Facebook and Google, seem to be severely cutting back on outside sources.

I think that is the most scary part. In this rush to filter "fake news" we are killing independent sources of information. We are also killing traditional journalistic sources as well.

The computers have decided no one wants to see you today.

Good luck.

If we can't even rely on Facebook or Google to deliver viewers, we are stuck with that last little, shrinking, 15% of the pie. And if your site is flagged as adult content, good luck being included in Google searches or even shared on Facebook.

This blog? Not adult content. Not flagged because I don't share anything here except my mostly work-safe thoughts. It is also on Google. It also does a lot better than an indie site because it is visible to that 85% of the world (at least the Google part). If I remain as a voice on the Internet it shall be here, because this is where I can be seen and heard.

And also, if I want to be seen and heard, I shall probably spend my time writing books. Those have a lot longer staying power and better reach than a blog, considering they can stick around for hundreds of years in a variety of digital and print formats.

What am I to think? Indie sites have failed. Blogs outside of Facebook or Google have failed. There is no money in them anymore, and the ad-supported model has collapsed. Linking from social media sites is collapsing, so that traffic is going away. Even indie blogs report the ad companies they are dealing with scare off readers because the ads themselves are so intrusiv and annoying.

With a shrinking pie, the last few non-85% ad companies have to milk every click even harder, which I feel drives more people away. Or more people to block ads entirely.

We have reached a point where people DVR the Internet and fast-forward through the commercials.

Moreso, because of the strict filtering and dungeon-ing of adult content, what we can say has been severely limited and cut back. Our reach to those looking for discussion of mature concepts has been severely restricted.

If you want more eyes, stay the hell out of the adult marketplace.

I hate saying those words but I feel the awful truth to them. I can't promote a tweet for a erotic fiction book on social media because my account has been marked as 'adult products and services' - even to those who may show an interest. Even though more porn is shared on these services than I can count.

We want you here, but we don't want anyone to see you.

Good luck.

This really isn't Google or Facebook's fault though. It is ours because we choose to make these places our digital homes. Where we search. Where we share. We created this problem. The policies of these places make it worse and also limit speech, so that is another issue. But it is tied into the bigger problem.

Our choices limit what we see.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Back when Free Thought was Cool

We work our way through life, step by step, pain by pain, worry by worry to a certain place. A destination. The somewhere we want to be. I like to think of this as working my way towards a truth.

Who I am. What I want to be. Where I want to be.

And all along the way things fight us. We have setbacks and tragedies. We endure loss. We deal with 'new normals' which unsettle us and rub the emotional sunburn on our skin raw.

One thing I have learned in life is the things in which you are told will change your life rarely do, and the things which do change your life are the things which are never told to you.

I believe there exists an entire industry out there which has the intention to piss you off and control the resulting rage. Yes, I am talking about the news here, but there are so many other examples of this tactic where the model follows something like this:
  1. Produce a source of outrage, like a video or image.
  2. Carefully seed the framing of the event with weasel words and triggers.
  3. Link the event with something totally unrelated.
  4. Push the narrative the unrelated cause is the answer for #1.
Rinse and repeat. This is life. This is what we are told on the Internet. This is our social media news feed. This is probably 90% of the posts complaining about something or trying to link event X to cause Y.

It comes from marketing. If your life is dull, drink a soda. This car will make your humdrum commute like a movie star's. Problem X, meet answer Y. You can use this to sell books too, so there is that, and I don't really have a problem with that since marketing is as old as the hills.

But marketing some sort of social engineering bugs me, because it runs afoul of free speech.

Back in the day, liberals and progressives were these really cool people to hang out with. The sexual revolution was something to be happy about. We could drink, smoke, grope, make nasty jokes, and support people's rights to do and say whatever they wanted (within reason, of course). But they were cool. They read Playboy and Penthouse. They did this whole subversive book and writer thing. We celebrated the counterculture. We let people speak their minds.

If something upset somebody, we celebrated that.

Free thought, you know?

Today it feels like the left-leaning point of view is the home of the new Puritan group-think. Don't say this. Don't trigger that. That is sexist. Don't let that person speak their mind. Shut her down. Silence him. Free speech is only the speech which does not upset me. Some points of view are more valid than others.

Otherwise, shut it down. Get your Internet flash mob together, use steps one through four of the marketing plan, and attack ruthlessly. Ban this person, demonetize that video. The terms of service for the site only protect the speech we want to see.

What happened to us?

What happened to being cool?

I am pretty much old-school when it comes to free thought. Many of my books feature gender-crossed heroines. I support people's right to write most anything they want, non-con, shifters, furries, cuckolding, monsters, close-relations, escorts, whatever - I reviewed them all. Early on I had some qualms after the multiple porn-pocolypses hit various booksellers, but I got over those as I found my voice and supported all sorts of writers with critical reviews.

Being cool about something is important to me. The fact I can be cool about a genre I may not personally appreciate as much as others - but I can find value and meaning within - is important to me. I am not triggered when I see a non-con book and scream the "R" word and try to shut the author down as sexist and a source of misogyny.

It's not that way.

This is fiction. This for some is an emotional release. It can apply to both sides. There is a reason for everything. I am stronger than that. I don't have an agenda to prove or a cause to push which requires me to tear other people down. People have a right to write.

Whatever they please.

I am cool with that.

I value being "cool" and open-minded.

We used to see the stuck-up people who got upset at every little cuss word in music or any reference to sex in a movie as a closed-minded puritan tightwad and "unfun" person. You knew the types, the people who wanted to ban certain forms of music and shame people from seeing certain movies because they had sex in them?

How far we have fallen?

I can't remember the last time I went to a movie theater and saw a sex scene, heard an off-color remark, or saw anything which could upset a carefully-chosen cross section of marketing test subjects.

I swear this is what happens when people's lives generally suck. This is what happens when a society is breaking down. This is what happens when people do not have opportunities, when life turns into stuffing as many rats into the maze as it can handle, and we are all fighting each other for the few scraps which our masters let us have. Being a good citizen or member of social media is defined by the level of compliance with the rules. Power is gained by stepping on others, and we get into these fake "triggering" wars over things people in the old days would let slide as "someone's opinion."

We turn on each other over every little thing.

Nobody is "cool" with anything anymore.

Here is my litmus test, and this applies to any generation - anywhere and at any time:
If you want to silence people, ban things, take away opportunity, or shut down points of view - you are a square and a part of the authority.

If you value open-mindedness and freedom and support people's right to say and do whatever they want (within reason) - you are cool and a part of the counterculture.
Why is this important? I sit here and wonder why I have to explain this, but here it goes.

If you foster a culture of repression and censorship against points of view you don't like...someday when who is in charge changes, this will all be used against you. Why? Because the other side will say "just desserts" and use those same tools or repression against your views. You know it will because you have been doing it to them, like forever. Hate breeds hate. Disrespect breeds disrespect.

It is better to be universally for freedom of thought and expression than it is to be right and force your point of view down everyone's throats.

Stay on the side of the "cool" people and be cool yourself with dissenting points of view.

Because it ultimately protects you.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

In the Moment of Passed Places

Sometimes life throws at us its worst, and we respond with our best.

I am rebuilding, refocusing, and working hard. I am entering that next phase. I am keeping trying to salvage the best of the past, while moving towards the future.

There are times all that we can do is the best we can do, and we must accept that.

But doing is the key here. Not doing is where you do not want to be. Not doing means letting another day go by without moving forward, trying something new, or learning.

There is this thought which haunts me.

Sex is something you write when you cannot write anything better.

It is a terrible thought, and one I fought against my entire writing career. It is a predisposed statement, loaded, and entirely wrong. It denies the human condition. It denies who we are. It heaps shame on the subject, and pushes it into the back room.

Yes this is a thought which keeps coming back to me in my moments of weakness.

If I did not have this thought, I would have never fought against it, and I would not be who I am today. Sometimes, without our darkest thoughts, we are not ourselves. Without a weakness to fight against, there is no fight. There is no wrong to battle, there is no dragon to slay. So I keep having this thought, and it speaks to me from the darkness with its siren's song.

"Quit."

"Go mainstream."

"Writing sex demeans you."

"You are better than this."

I am sure you hear voices similar. Doubts. That inner voice telling you, "you can't." Trying and failing. Being unsure of yourself. Thinking the grass is greener. Being someone who you are not. Quitting. Not trying. Giving up through ignorance and inaction.

But fighting those voices makes us who we are. With every act of defiance we grow stronger. With every step forward we deny the step backward. We also deny the force of inaction, which I feel is the most dangerous place to be.

You are who you are.

Do not try to be someone else.

And there are times when who you are...is not who you really are. Because you have been living a lie all your life. Or parts of your life embody that lie so much you cannot see it for what it really is.

Life is an expressway. You must move with it or you are placing yourself in a place you don't want to be. Even standing still puts you at risk. You must be in motion, fluid, and always going forward. There is no alternative.

There is no standing still. Not in this life.

There cannot be.

Those voices will always be behind you. They will call to you, to turn around, to go back the way you came, and to tell you it is better where you have been than where you could be.

But that is all those voices are.

Memories of the things of which you have seen.

Places passed on the road of life.

You enjoy them in the moment in which you had them, but living in them gets you nowhere.

Nostalgia is an opiate. A lie. Comfortable ropes which tie and bind. Denying our future and denying our potential. Nostalgia has a selective memory. Nostalgia is influenced by the darker voices within.

There can be nothing better than what came before. The way things were will always be the way they are. This idea was the best. We might as well give up trying to do anything new and settle back in the stale and familiar.

There is no better us, nothing better shall come, and therefore there is no better you.

Again, another voice which tells me, "you can't."

And I shake my head, keep driving, and know there is another monster out there in the darkness which I must fight. More worthless words from the voices within.

But valuable in that fighting them makes me who I am.

Friday, April 14, 2017

Seeing the War through Soda Pop Eyes

One of the reasons war scares me is because of how small and insignificant it makes me feel. It sounds like a petty feeling and a horrible thing to say, because with war there are so many more things wrong with the whole concept: the failure of diplomacy, the devolving of how people in the world treat each other, the greater ideal of peace, the death caused, destruction, the generational hatred seeded, and the admission that we aren't any better than those who came before.

I feel we are not any better than our parents, or theirs.

We still live in that same world where people kill each other for their differences.

And those with the biggest bombs win. Then again, I can see the logic in that, because once you show you are afraid to use the biggest bombs, trouble breeds and spreads.

I feel it always has. And I fear it always will.

Oh, I like to think we are different, but really, I feel we are not. With all of our self-important Facebook and social media "power" we are told we have every day by those wishing to hand over our personal information and time, we can't really seem to change the course of world events. And I don't believe for a moment if "the other side" would have won an election here or there that we would really be anywhere different right now - the seeds of where were are at this moment were planted a long time ago. It is like a cancer diagnosis, you still have it even if you choose to ignore it for a while.

I am not naive, even though the ambrosia of naivete is sold to us every day as an answer for everything. I am tired of your good thoughts and best wishes, world. Just because we can 'come together' and sing a song, share a smile, and say nice things to each other as "one people" doesn't mean everything is all right.

I don't see it. Not today.

I feel it is marketing, plain and simple, this idea of a better world. About as real as the world created in a commercial selling us soft drinks. You know those places, where everyone has a smile on their face, the neighborhood is clean, people go about their business with a pep in their step, and where everyone gets along. There is probably a song playing in the background by some sell-out pop-star, and things like drugs, violence, crime, and poverty don't exist. A soda solves every problem.

Those happy and beautiful people in the soda commercial don't have to step over homeless people on the way to their concert for social justice and equality.

I am sorry about that last comment, but then again, I am not. I am not because that is the world we live in and choose to ignore. Even I am guilty and I feel the shame. I have been reading essays on the homeless lately, books written by people who have slept in storm drains as the unwanted and forgotten about and come back from the edge of Hell, and I am in a sour mood.

And there are thousands and thousands of homeless out there today, on those streets we want to see through soda pop eyes. Many of them will just die out there, and I feel nobody cares. Nobody has the time to. And yes, I am guilty here as well. I feel the words 'raising awareness' should be right next to the thesaurus with the term 'lip service.'

And this talk of war gets me in a darker mood.

At times I feel we are angry because we know we are being sold a lie, this concept of a better world pushed through commercials from everything from online services, cell phones, food, clothes, and everything else in our world. It is like this window into a alternate dimension "fake world" where everyone is happy, connected, diverse, honest, beautiful, and gets along like old friends. You know, that world in the soda commercial where the ambiguous-issue "protest" march never ends in a riot with bones broken, lives lost, and the long-smouldering fires of hatred started. A world where terror attacks never happen. A world where missiles aren't pointed at each other and the clock is stuck at four minutes from midnight.

A rose-colored world sold to us every day, and we can only get there is we buy the right things.

Imagine a war fought in this other world. Smoke would float over an ambiguous battlefield. The diverse and similar-looking soldiers from each side would stop firing, walk up to each other, and share a cold bottle of refreshment and understanding. Some pop music from a sellout artist would play, beautiful people would run onscreen and cheer, and the world would be a great and positive place again.

End the war! Buy a soda!

We are constantly sold that world but all we end up with are empty calories, weight related health issues, and more heartbreak. Where we live in this quasi-religious world of brand idolatry, where our "moment of awakening" was that "I want to buy the world..." ad in the 1970's, probably regarded as the best commercial of all time, but I see this as the starting point for where we are at now. The false idea a brand purchase can change the world, and then giving up changing it ourselves.

I know "it is up to us" but co-opting the message feels, to me, like a falsehood. I bought your soda, why aren't things better? Where is that world in the commercial? You know, the one we see, no matter what the product, where "if we buy" things will get better.

And we wonder why people are angry all the time.

I would be too if someone sold me the idea of a better world and they never delivered on it. I know "it is up to us" but really, advertisers, I feel if you co-opt the "better world" message you are now a little responsible for helping bring about this state of commercial perfection and world peace. Not a Xanadu, but your Nirvana. And yes, I am no saint nor profess I am better than anyone else; but I don't know how many lifestyle products I bought, how many sodas I drank, and how socially conscious my brand choices were...we are still here.

On the other side of the screen from those happy, positive, soda pop people.

In a dark house full of the things which we bought to take us there.