Internet Killed The Literary Stars (Or Did It?)

There’s a lot of grumpiness these days about books, book selling, book publishing, the “proper” format of books, Amazon’s assault on books by publishing and selling lots and lots of books, and how nobody reads books no more.

Did you know that if you’re reading my blog on a screen of some type, it’s not literature (and you’re probably a subliterate ignoramus who DOES. NOT. LOVE. BOOKS.), but if I print it out on paper it is suddenly transformed and worthwhile? Apparently that’s the case.

Yep. Lots going on. I’ve written about it a bit before (like when I posted about the “Ebook Apocalypse“), and I’m active on the battlefield as an author who used to be with one of the Big 6 publishers but has now gone entirely independent (see my “Astonishing Adventures of Doc Wilde” Kickstarter project, live until April 28th, 2012, please take a look and help a strugglin’ wordsmith out).

Are things really all that bad? Or are they just different? Could they even be better?

I saw some reports recently that indicate that the doom and gloom may be uncalled for. Continue reading

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Malaprop 2: The Reckoning

NO! NO! PLEASE...PLEASE WRITE CORRECTLY!!!

Go to  Malaprop 1.

Last week, I shared some of my collection of malaprops, little bits of communications gone awry. I’ve been gathering this material for a while and am sharing it in doses so as not to fry too many of your brain cells all at once.

Time for some more.

One note: I had someone call me out on the tone of the first post, and upon reflection I overplayed the whole “idiot” thing. Some of these errors are from idiots, I’m sure, but many of them are not. They’re just mistakes in language perfectly intelligent folks have picked up without realizing. My rhetoric was meant in fun more than it was meant to antagonize or belittle.

Except when it comes to the real idiots. Screw them.

Now on with the show… Continue reading

Malaprop

I enjoy idiots, up to a point. Watching something like Fox & Friends can be as humorous as watching an old Three Stooges short, if less intellectually stimulating. But only up to a point.

(Hilariously, as I started writing this, Green Day’s song “American Idiot” started up on the random playlist I’m listening to).

But I wish the idiots weren’t so prevalent, particularly at the voting booth, but also on the Internet. As a writer, a reader, a person who values clear thought and knowledge, and an educated guy, I’m often appalled at what I see passing for communication among my fellow citizens.

A while back, I started collecting bits of idiocy I came across online. Now, I’m not talking about net-speak or texting shortcuts, or even persistent spelling stupidities like using “villian” instead of “villain.” I’m talking about people using words and phrases that don’t work the way they think they do.

I haven’t bothered sourcing these. My intent isn’t to embarrass anyone specifically. But my sources range from comments left on blog posts here and there all the way up to the Gray Lady herself, The New York Times.

I haven’t bothered with anything from the brain of George W. Bush, as the only torture he practiced that was more egregious than that he practiced on human beings was that he practiced on language. He’s in a class all by himself.

I’m going to break my collection up into serialized posts. I’m posting this stuff for two reasons: one, to laugh at the gaffes of those who can’t be bothered to make sure they’re saying what they think they’re saying, and two, to encourage anyone reading to please bother to make sure. Especially if you’re presenting your work as even semi-professional, much less professional, writing.

Now, onward to the flubs and gaffes. Can you identify them all? Continue reading

Putting Twitter & Facebook In Their Proper Places

I wrote a while back about the way social media is bringing us closer together (The New Telepathy of Social Networking), but of late I’ve been also pondering the ways that technology is boxing us in. And I’m not even talking about how World of Warcraft has reduced the actual world of thousands of people to an area about the size of their butt, with an orbiting satellite the size of the fridge.

When I went to see Bruce Springsteen a few months ago, people in the crowd were standing there texting while the sheer experience was roaring around them. Type type type…”At Bruce Springsteen show. Great stuff. Photos to follow…” Then they look up only to look at Springsteen through the device. The gadget is now a lens they need to even look at the world.

I always had that problem even with a camera, well before the advent of all these cool toys. I lived in Europe for three years, bought a pretty good SLR 35mm camera, took three or four rolls of film worth of pictures the whole time I was there. I just don’t like having a camera with me, urging me to use it, making me look for good shots rather than just seeing the world all around me.

Now, my cell phone is a great little camera, and if I use it twice in a year, call Guinness Book. But at least I’ll have it with me if I see Bigfoot.

And check out this poor soul:

These people just trekked for five days to reach the summit of Mount Toubkal in Morocco, the highest mountain in North Africa. Three of them are exhilarated, taking in the splendor. The other is playing her Nintendo DS. Maybe this’ll count as a high score.

Since getting into social media like Facebook and Twitter, I’ve had surges of activity broken up by periods I just didn’t want to bother to get online, and felt like I was failing to get to something I needed to do. Not in an addictive sense, but in the sense that I was letting folks down by not being “there” for them, wherever “there” is. And that I was losing ground in the professional sense because those inactive days I wasn’t working to increase my web presence and thus, hopefully, make more people aware of my book.

No more. I’m going to ease up on myself. I may not be one of the pithy geniuses who stitch their whole day together with witty tweets that are very engaging to read, but I’m not one of the folks who tells you I need a good shampooing and am eating a Nilla Wafer, either.

I’ll tweet when I have something to say. Which, really, is what everyone should do. I won’t go through my day looking for things to tweet about, or trying to figure out how to condense everything I do into 140 character summaries.

I’ll continue to blog as I’m inspired to do so, which has been my actual approach anyway, in spite of vague plans to blog on some kind of regular schedule.

And Facebook will be a place I check in a couple of times a day to see what my friends are up to, not a place I hang out in to make sure to catch the occasional status update that may tell me something useful or make me laugh.

I have books to write. Vistas to see. A splinter of a social life, a real social life, I desperately need to nurture back into something vital and whole. The social networking can help me with these things, but I have to make sure it doesn’t replace those things.

The New Telepathy of Social Networking

telepathy

In his excellent book On Writing, Stephen King sets out to define “What Writing Is.” His answer?

Telepathy.

It’s a mode of transmitting thoughts from one brain to another, through space, through time. As King writes in Maine in 1997:

We’ll have to perform our mentalist routine not just over distance but over time as well, yet that presents no real problem; if we can still read Dickens, Shakespeare, and (with the help of a footnote or two) Herodotus, I think we can manage the gap between 1997 and 2000.

As well as the gap between Georgia and Maine, as I read those words now, and 1997 and 2009. And whatever spacetime gap there is between him, there in 1997, me here in 2009, and you where and when you’re reading this now. We’ve got a telepathic chain goin’ on. That’s pretty wonderful.

I’ve been thinking about this lately as I’ve tried to grok the whole social networking thing. I was one of the cynics, originally, proud and determined not to get caught up in MySpace or Facebook or Twitter, not to hoard countless “friends” I didn’t know like I might collect marbles, not to sublimate my social life (such as it is) to the virtual gulfs of skinless cyberspace. Continue reading

The Shadow Over Comcast Town

aka  A Tale of Too Shitty.

This is a great commercial:

Sure, it’s sort of creepy in an Invasion of the Body Snatchers kind of way. But it’s catchy and clever, and it works.

Unlike, say, Comcast.

I’ve been a resident of Comcast Town since last May, when I moved to my current apartment, where the management won’t allow anything but Comcast. And Comcast Town is nothing like the place in that commercial.

No, Comcast Town is a dark place. Its infrastructure is old and out-of-date, prone to breakdown, and its workers are slow to respond and incompetent when they do. The power flickers in and out, the windows of its HD are bleary and indistinct, and the city managers are known to filter opposing political ideas (even in people’s personal email)and punish those who speak out.

As I’ve written before, I’ve been planning to phase out Comcast’s cable TV in favor of other options, like Netflix’s streaming and rental of TV series DVDs, watching new episodes of shows on Hulu and network sites, or in a pinch using P2P to find something. But I hadn’t gotten around to actually canceling the service, as I’ve been embroiled in divorce BS and trying to write a new book and promote the one coming out, and other things.

Today, though, the picture went out. Full screen of fluorescent green. Still had sound, could still change the channel, could still access menus and play recorded stuff…but I couldn’t see any of it. Rebooted all the electronics several times, waited an hour, rebooted everything again…still no picture. Called Comcast, and they tried to confirm the signal to my DVR, but couldn’t find it (even though it was still receiving, because I could hear it).

I also heard another sound, that of a camel’s back breaking. This was it, this was the sign from the gods that the day was here, and here I was on the phone with a Comcast representative, so I bit the bullet and canceled. This cuts my monthly Comcast bill pretty much in half, which is a jubilating thing. I’m still stuck with their Internet service (which has been getting spotty again the past few weeks), but I feel I’ve scored a victory here.

It’s like I put up burglar bars and got my house painted, here in scary ol’ Comcast Town.