Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Tired of the BULL$HIT? U.F.O. Sightings Are Real, But Made Unreal.

Before I write a post like this, I'm usually feeling a little anger at the government.  That would be my government--the U.S. government.

Not others, necessarily.

For example, I just watched this special from the History Channel about U.F.O. reports for the second time, and I wasn't watching for the pictures or accounts--this time, I was watching for the culture.  My question to myself was this: what is the culture in a given area that a U.F.O. reporter must walk into in order to share his experience?  The resulting answer, for many places but especially in the U.S., was a culture of pure hostility, ridicule, and dismissal.

Why?  What is it going to take?  If you're one of the people who believes in intelligent life outside of our atmosphere, you must hold at least some excitement over the prospect of coming into contact with them.  If you refuse to believe there is intelligent life out there, or that it hasn't visited Earth, nobody is going to convince you it's real and happening now.

If you watch the above referenced show on the History Channel, how do you come away with any feeling other than the U.S. is incredibly harsh toward those reporting U.F.O. sightings/encounters?  It's not made any easier by technology, either; with my moderate knowledge of programs like Photoshop and Cinema4D, I could create both pictures and videos of U.F.O.s that are incredibly realistic.  There is something that I hate about that, and I guarantee you that there is something the U.S. government loves about it.

It's now easier than ever to dismiss sightings, in the form of pictures/video, as having been tampered with.  And oral accounts are almost given no credence.  Now, the flood of hoaxes will blur and diminish the believeability of U.F.O. reporters.  Set aside for the hope that maybe some beyond-the-shadow-of-a-doubt polygraph can be designed (and it may come), we are pretty much left to decide whether or not we believe in intelligent life elsewhere.

I heard the argument, which is a good one, about God--you'll put 100% faith into an invisible being you've never seen, heard, or sensed in any provable way, yet you'll fully dismiss photo and video evidence that has been fully tested and researched by experts who claim it has not been doctored.  You'll believe it when a president tells you that a country has something to do with the terrorists who attacked your country and that, therefore, we must invade that country, without a second thought (until much later).  You'll believe in ghosts, having never seen or sensed one in a provable way (audio, video, photo, other technological means that would have shown the encounter), if at all.  But as soon as the possibility of E.T. life visiting Earth comes up, you're pointing and laughing, saying that the reporter is either crazy or looking for a paycheck.  You'll believe what you're told--humans have done that since our beginning.

And what you're told, now, usually, is that U.F.O.s can all be explained, and they are not craft from some advanced civilization (or possibly, as I've theorized before, they are our own craft from the future, visiting key history sites/moments).

What a shame.  But nothing will change unless you and I do something to change the culture, will it?

What it will take is you and I and everybody we know telling their friends and family and their governments that what people see, especially pilots in the sky (due to their training, proximity to many spotted craft, and ability to distinguish natural or other phenomena from alien or enemy craft), must be taken seriously.  It MUST be.

Make the FAA take out of their guidelines that no mentions of U.F.O.s are allowed, even as pilots and air controllers and airport personnel are reporting them.  It's getting RIDICULOUS.  In every branch of science and learning, we encourage those with honest reports, especially when accompanined with evidence/proof, to step forward and help us better understand what is happening in our world (or elsewhere) and yet, regarding U.F.O.s, we wave them off and immediately discount their story.  WHY?

Don't you want to do something about this?  Regardless of whether or not the U.F.O.s are guided by intelligent forces outside of our planet/solar system, enemy countries, or some other phenomena, don't you want the persecution of people who are telling the truth to STOP!?  I do.  I hope you'll help.

Monday, June 18, 2012

The New Definition of Author

Said it before and I'll say it again; anybody can write a book.

What follows when I say/write this somewhere is something like, "No, I couldn't," or, "Maybe, but not just anybody can write a good book."  Fair enough, but if you can put together a few thousand words, you can call it a book, put it up on Amazon.com and others as a legitimate publication, and sell it.

Because of that, we have to re-define author.

Authors, to many of us (I'm guessing, as I often do), are or were a group of people who had incredible writing skills.  They were unique, and considered very creative, artistic, and intelligent.  If they had a recognizable name, they were easily made into living (or dead) legends as soon as we learned about them.  Maybe it had something to do with our English teachers and their constant references and teachings of the great names.  Maybe it was an academic crush we had after reading one author or another.  Somehow, the term "author" had a very regal air about it.  It sounded like its own lottery victory--something like a knight or a Samurai.  Author.

Now, we new-age "authors" have to be honest about who we are.  If anybody can get a book out there, put before millions of people if they have the connections, advertising money, or just luck (anything other than a fantastic gift in their craft), we can't let the new term stain the old term.

The new author can be anybody.  Literally.  Anybody CAN write a book.  You don't see bands and musicians that perform local gigs being dangled in front of hungry listeners in fifty different countries unless they market it as such.  A sculptor, painter, or artist of any type typically has to break through some huge barriers to get any significant sales.  But not an author.  An author can put together something, get it before millions, and start making some money with no advertising dollars, no agent, no editor, no lawyer, no label, no imprint--nothing.  An author needs nothing but the will to write and publish his own work in order to be an author.

Of the other authors I talk to, with the exception of a couple, very few are having any illusions about the new definition of author.  They know that it doesn't take what it used to take.  Sure, some of the greatest writers of all-time have been self-published because no formal house would take them, and thanks be to the Gods of Words that they did.  And of these new authors, stars will emerge.  But never before has the entry cost been so low, and the potential payoff so high for a writer.  Never before has enough time in a day existed for somebody to risk the long, tedious process of putting down words at novel-length, (especially considering the initial investments before typewriters of type-setting them, presenting them to a publisher or agent, and then waiting sometimes months or years to hear if you had anything worth publishing) because they had more free time--didn't have to work on the farm sixteen hours a day, or the railroad, or the lumber mill.  Now, even full-time employees find time during their days to write and send it to themselves through e-mail, or jot it down somewhere on a break, then they have evenings and weekends.  Never before has it been so easy to call one's self an author.

The good news is that most of us know this.

Most of us, I think, are very respectful of what our more traditional heroes did to get their stories into print.  We are not them.  We are the new authors.

What does that mean to you as a reader?  Nothing, really.  Means you are going to have a LOT more to choose from, but you'll have to develop an eye for quality work or at least work that you enjoy (formatting problems and typos are on the rise, for some reason, even among big names).  You'll have to learn to have that discriminative eye to save yourself time from investing your precious reading time into a book you won't enjoy.  For writers, that means that you should have no illusions about how important you are just because you put a bunch of words on paper.  For one thing, no matter how good you write, you're nothing without readers.  Secondly, most of us do not write for fame or money and wouldn't mind being nothing--most of us would write if we were the last human on Earth and had no audience.  It's just a necessity.  Most of us, articulate or not, do not know why.  We just need to write.

To my reader friends, this writer is asking for your patience.  Yes, we're flooding you with new choices in reading now, and most of us cannot afford to vet our stories to the degree some household name in writing could--with the many levels of edits and re-working and teams of beta-readers and professional critiques.  We just want to tell our stories.  That means that, yes, we're going to put out some sub-standard work as a group.  The bar has been set high--it is now being lowered by volume of works produced and the trade-off of relaxed restrictions for more variety.  We want to keep the bar high but we are really nothing more, when compared to the traditional author, than a fruit-stand on the side of the road compared to a major grocer.  Our stuff might be great, and less filtered and more pure than the stuff you get through the grocer, but who is running our quality control?  Who is making sure we comply with FDA standards?  From which seller are you more confident buying from?

That's the struggle for us, while having to think (and discriminate) more is the burden for the reader.

In any case, I encourage readers and authors to share in that public discourse that defines what an author is in 2012 and beyond.  All that has happened is that the entire show has changed to open-mic night.  I think it's important that new authors aren't believing in something that isn't true and that readers aren't believing that the word "author" means what it used to.

In summary, I guess I could say that the new author cannot carry by default what his traditional counterparts carried in status and esteem.  That still must be earned, in any field.  What we can offer is a fruit stand, and we can tell you how pure our fruit is, and we can talk about how we grew it and how enjoyable it will be, and we can sell it for less than the grocer.  Everything involved, to a reader and author, is still a risk, but it's not an incredibly important risk.  Try something new, hone your skills for separating bad writing from good writing in the early going, and let's move some fruit!

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Update: We Are Still Losing the Battle Against the Creepy Smile

As much as I hate to report it, the creepy smile has not only survived our initial attack but gained momentum.

Just recently, a new season of my favorite show, "Through the Wormhole," started.  On the first episode, and several after that, I saw the dreaded "creepy smile."

If you missed my initial post about it, it refers to when somebody is smiling (usually a big smile) while they talk about nothing that could even be remotely linked to humor, funny, or even be seen as sneaky/cute/flirtation.  You dig?  See, when I smile while talking--when any normal human smiles while talking--it's because you are either about to deliver a punch-line, you are telling a funny story, or you're remembering a pleasant time and talking about that.  Also, you may smile while talking when the words aren't funny, but you're essentially flirting with somebody.

But not these people.  No, sirs and ma'ams.  These creepy fokkers are driving me insane.  Here's the real reason: it's not that they are usually physicists or science types, or very smart types you may see as a guest on a news program--the problem is what it means.  I have used every neuron I could fire up and my experience with psychology and sociology to determine that there are TWO primary reasons why they are doing this:

1.  They would like to show you that they are so smart that they can smile while telling you difficult formulas or news that only the elite might be privy to--difficult formulas or news that most people would make strained faces while delivering.  They smile in the same way a drunk dude would smile while trying to show he felt no pain as a cigarette was mashed into his arm (except there are no signs of faking it).  It is a huge sign of over-confidence.

2.  They have become "salesmen," of sorts, or in some way followed that old Socratic methodology of getting people to duplicate their behavior.  Why?  Well, the old Socratic method really focused on saying things that people would HAVE to agree with because they were commonly known facts or solid reasoning, and after getting them into a "yes mood," hitting them with the questionable material, such as why they should buy something.  In this case, the smile is to try to make YOU smile, and that tells them two things: first, you aren't real smart because you are smiling over nothing.  Two, it's hard to dislike somebody OR what somebody is saying as you smile at them.

My dear and great friends, all I'm asking you to do is insist, whenever you see the creepy smile, that the smiler then stop if he/she is talking and explain why they are smiling.  I can imagine some of the answers, like, "Well, I don't know, actually," or "Oh, I just love talking about this," or "Well, I was thinking about having sex with you, whenever possible."  The truth is that their motives rest with items numbered 1 or 2 above this paragraph.

What's more dreadful?  They learned this not by reading about it.  Not be being told.  They learned about it by seeing it on TV or elsewhere.  Silently, almost subconsciously, they adopted it.  In their minds, there was probably only this thought at the time; "I see.  People that smile while talking look really confident, and I want to look like that."  It's the dumbest gd bullshit I have ever seen and I plan to stand up forever against the creepy smile.

The creepy smile, my friends, is a direct attack on the special nature of a genuine smile!  We can't let them cheapen the human smile!  When they do, make them state why they are smiling, tell them why you think they are smiling, and then they'll stop!!  We don't want people to stop smiling; we want them to not use one of the greatest physical human behaviors ever for other-than-noble reasons