DID YOU MISS ME?

No, you don’t have to answer the title question…It is obvious that while I have been very busy and simply didn’t have the time or energy (more the latter) to pound out a substantive posting since December 21st (egads!), you were likewise.  I have one last posting to complete “The Big Move”series I began last year, but it will take a little more time because I am still spending most of my day unpacking the gazillion boxes sitting in just about every room of our new house. At the end of each day I am in no mood to tackle a session at the computer.  So please hold onto your hat if you still wear one, and I will be back on course shortly.

Meanwhile, I have been getting unusual feedback to a posting on the TV show, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.  Why unusual? Because the posting was last February, almost a year ago.  But the search engines must be active and leading folks to the posting.  So, just for grins while I get back up to speed, here’s the piece on marvelous Mrs. M…

MaiselBombs

Well, here I go again with another dissertation on the F*Bomb.  It’s like I can’t get it out of my system….or maybe it should be that I can’t get it in.

I thought I’d inch my way back into the popular arts this evening.  This is a place that I have pretty much abandoned once I retired, at least when the venue is television.  My temporary re-entry was made up of watching three episodes of an amazon prime series titled, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel. This program has piled up an overflowing mantle of awards, including three Golden Globes, a SAG Award, and six Primetime Emmies.  The writer-director  of the series is Amy Sherman-Palladino who also gave us The Gilmore Girls.  I thought I had done a good job selecting what promised to be an outstanding series.  I thought.

Now comes the troublesome part.  I’ve confessed this before so some will find this posting to be a here-he-goes-again moment.  I have, let’s call it “a sensitivity,” to the F*Bomb. I think this is a result of the culture in which I was raised.  I realize it is merely a word, a collection of letters placed in a specific order to form the word that represents the sound, F*ck.  Stay with me here.

During the 1950s, the word simply was NOT commonly used, at least in public and especially by women. I’ve thought long and hard about this and, NO, the F*Bomb was definitely NOT expressed back then as freely as it is today.  This brings me to the point at which I take issue with all the contemporary entertainment writers who insist on sprinkling the F*bomb throughout their scripts as if it were seasoning liberally applied from a saltshaker.  It is especially annoying when the script represents a time period like the 1950s, as does The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.  I am not stupid.  Today’s crop of writers thinks it is cool and hip (there’s a word from the ‘50’s) to say F*ck in just about every paragraph, so much so that to someone like me it is beyond sounding provocative and simply sounds stupid and irritating.

FBombAmy Sherman-Palladino is such a writer.  She was born in 1966.  She was not around in the 1950s and her perception of how people spoke back then is entirely WRONG. When her peers, and anyone younger, watch The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel they think nothing of the proliferation of F*bombs.  When someone my age is exposed to her writing, it loses all credibility and is actually insulting.  She may just as well place a cell phone in every actor’s hand as they role-play what they think is representative of the time period in which Mrs. Maisel takes place.

Now certainly, it is ballsy (how do you like that word?) of me to criticize Ms. Sherman-Palladino when she is a super successful writer and I remain a starving one.  But I am upset.  I wanted to get involved with a good series—an award-winning series—and have something to look forward to watching over the next several weeks. But, after viewing three full episodes, I left in the midst of an entirely unbelievable stretch of a scene in which a sober Mrs. Maisel auto-programs herself to suddenly do stand-up at a wedding. Her performance rivals any routine by shock comedian Andrew Dice Clay, to the extent that she asks the wedding’s attending priest to declare to everyone that she did not “stoke” him.  It is a scene that is simply unreal, one that is the product of a writer not familiar with the time period, period! And, no one, except a wonky critic like me, would make a fuss about it because it abruptly breaks the rhythm of what was otherwise a compelling performance.

Maybe I am a prude and do not wish to admit it.  But hey, my one book has a naked lady on the cover.  How much of a snoot can I be?  It is just that the F*bomb has become so much a part of our contemporary language that it can be heard anywhere at anytime by anyone.  My children and grandchildren use it freely all the time, whether I’m present or not.  The Atom Bomb Explosionproblem comes to life when a writer decides to overwhelm you with it.  Good writers pull and tug at every word in their scripts, always questioning whether or not a word is the correct one, does it serve a purpose, does it belong? Too often the F-bomb gets an unearned “yes” for each of these questions.

Imagine for a moment if The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel went through its entire season without once dropping the f*bomb.  I bet it would have still won three Golden Globes, a SAG Award and six Primetime Emmies.  Kah-boom!

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A STRANGE CHRISTMAS

upsideTreeStrange. Everything this year seems upside-down.  Yep, that’s what it is, strange.  We’re having a strange Christmas.  Never ever had one like this.  There are no decorations, no tree (that’s last year’s in the picture), no lights on the bushes outside. Nope, nothing, nada, zilch.  Strange…uh-huh.

The house has been sold.  We closed on it yesterday, although the new owners have allowed us to still live here until the 30th. That is very unusual and very kind of  them to let us stay.  Even so, we will still be in a few days’ limbo since we don’t move into our new home until January 3rd.  Do you realize how strange (oh, there’s  that word again) it feels to suddenly be living in the house you have owned for 23 years and you no longer own it?  We’re renters!  Well, at least for the next ten days.

The grandkids–all but two–will be here Christmas Eve.  Traditionally, we always get each one of them a pair of pajamas.  It is the one present they are allowed to open on Christmas Eve. The two elder girls are living in Jacksonville…all grown up and learning what it’s like going to work every day so you can take care of the rent and groceries and maybe have a little left over to buy Christmas decorations.  They’ll get their gifts via USPS. And that’s about it…

Rosemarie and I are going to a good friend’s house on Christmas Day.  On Christmas every year our friend takes in a collection of non-Christmasers for a night of good food and drink.  Some are Jewish, of course, but I suspect there may be a few St. Nick vagabonds whose wayward lifestyle has them mumbling “bah-humbug” this time of year.  However, knowing my friend as I do, I am willing to bet that the Christmas Spirit–regardless of how you may link to it–will prevail by night’s end.

Yessiree, they’ll be swiggin’ bottles of ho-ho-ho by early evening.  Christmas Spirit can do that to you.  It’s non-denominational, non-discriminatory, non-sectarian.  It sort of helps ease the non-normal feel of  this year’s holiday.  Rosemarie and I will be in our house that we do not own anymore.  Most everything has been packed away in boxes that are stacked everywhere.  Nowhere are there any decorations, nor Christmas tree.  And there are no twinkling lights on the bushes outside…strange!

*****

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THE BIG MOVE KEEPS ON MOVIN’

moveupdateWell, gather around everyone, I have an update on The Big Move.  I just know there are at least a gazillion people wanting to hear wazzup with our Florida coast-to-coast transition.  Lots happening since I last discussed this incredible journey of changing home sites after 23 years.   Talk about a rollercoaster ride, this trip has been wild.  Last we met, we had sold our house on the  east coast of Florida and signed a contract for one on the west coast.

Now, if you have ever purchased a home you know that it is recommended that you hire an inspector to go through the entire property, top to bottom, including a check on all systems like plumbing and  electricity.

That will cost you on the average somewhere  between $300-$500, depending on the size of the house and how much  work is  involved.  In a brief moment of insanity, I actually considered forgoing the inspection but  my realtor brought me to my senses…and a good thing he did.  If the inspection turns up anything significant the buyer can negotiate a “fix” with the seller or choose to walk away from the deal.  Our inspector discovered truck2three things, each of which had nightmare potential.  We aborted the mission and began looking for another house.  Two  weeks later we found a newer, better house than the first one.  We signed another  contract, had a successful inspection and we are due to move in right after New Year’s.  Sometimes things are, as they say, just meant to be.  Okay, it’s back to packing…     

*****NewBoss

 

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SAY WHAT?

Writer’s Digest is one of the more influential magazines in the book writing industry.  If you take writing seriously you already have, or should have, a subscription. What I like about Writer’s Digest is that it is one of the few in the industry that recognizes the value and legitimacy of independent (self-published) authors.

DeadLetter7Writer’s Digest sponsors a Self-Published Book Awards competition each year.  I have entered several times, as do hundreds, perhaps thousands, of other independent authors. For some incredibly strange circumstance, I have never won(!)  I came a little close, I think, with my book, DEAD LETTER, which scored perfect 5’s in every category except one: the cover.  I think the judge who reviewed my book took exception to the naked lady on the cover and gave it a 4, probably taking the book out of consideration.

One thing special about Writer’s Digest is that the judges in the various competitions it sponsors are required to provide the  entrants with a review of their submitted work.  It is always good for a writer to get professional feedback, good or bad.  Sometimes I prefer the bad stuff because it gives me something upon which to improve.

AgainAward copy 2My book titled, AGAIN, was my most recent entry in the Writer’s Digest competition.  Earlier, AGAIN took first place honors in the 2019 Independent Book Awards.  Meanwhile, it scored the least amount of points of any of my past entries in the Writer’s Digest contest–all 3’s and 4’s. That was a little discouraging, since this book was my 11th effort and one would think I might be improving by now. But what was most troubling was that I did not understand what the judge was trying to say about the book.  There are one or two sentences in her review that totally baffle me.  I have read them repeatedly and I still cannot figure out what the judge is saying.  I admit, I am a rather plain spoken individual and when the words get too big and the thoughts too complex, my pragmatic brain has a meltdown.  I call upon any of  you to read a portion of the judge’s comments and if you can interpret them for me, I would be most appreciative.  Just leave a comment below.  Here is some of what she said (the challenging parts are highlighted in bold text):

“Before I even started reading AGAIN, the concept of the story had me hooked. There is so much potential in the idea of not time travel or strict reincarnation, but some cross between the two. Kuhn uses emotion to carry both main storylines through without tangling them together to the point that the reader is no longer following. It’s clear that he did his research on the decades he was working with, but he never got so technical that he would lose the casual reader along the way.

What I think could have been improved would be the ways in which Kuhn’s actual syntax and tone played off of one another. At times the dialogue was overly formal, while his exposition borderline simple and opaque. It made for a jarring combination in explanations of day-to-day activities, such as Richard and Patricia moving forward with their lives after Richard comes home from war, and in emotional plot points – Richard coming off the plane and being reunited with his girlfriend, for example.”

Well, so much for clarity.  I sure hope one of you can ‘splain it to me.  I appreciate the judge taking the time to react to my book and puttng forth what I take as constructive criticism.  I will go back and check to see if there is a way of contacting her and politely ask for further explanation.  In the meantime I am stilll working on my acceptance speech for when I win a Pulitzer.  I just hope I am around to deliver it.

*****

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UNBROKEN NEWS FROM THE HOMEFRONT

newsanchorHeadline:  The Move is On!

The  summer/fall saga of our Big Move continues.  Actually it is beginning its final phase and things are just going swimmingly.  In just a few weeks Rosemarie and I will move after 23-years of living in our home on the east coast of South Florida.  A new family is buying  our house.  They have twin boys, age 7, and I am so pleased because this is the perfect house for a  young family.  They are as excited as we are as they look forward to living in their new home.  And that is exactly what Rosemarie and I are excited about too. We closed a deal over the weekend and by the end of the year we will be living in Naples on the west side of South Florida. As the saying goes…don’t you just love it when a plan comes together!

Now comes the hard part: the final packing and purging.  We have some furniture we have to sell and lots of stuff to toss when Rosemarie isn’t looking.  She is the hoarder, I the purger.  It’s an ongoing battle between us when it comes to  reducing our worldly goods!  We are going from over 2100 square feet down to 1350.  So there will be a lot of “stuff” not making the trip.  Trouble is, about 75% of it is already packed so we will have to wait until we unpack to have a purge party.  After 23 years of living in the same house I am sure you can imagine all the things you accumulate.

Headline:  11-Year-Old Embarrasses 74-Year-OldCHILD

She is 11 years old. She lives next door and has for several years.  Her name is…is…is–well, that’s the  problem.  I forget what her name is. I remember asking her father to remind me. He did. It was good for the  moment, but then I forgot it again.  So  the other evening she ran up to me with a copy of one of my books that I had given her a year or two ago.  She asked me to sign it.  Usually when an author signs a book in this situation, he would write “To–whomever.”  Trouble is, my feeble memory could not pull out this particular “whomever,” even if my next bowl of ice cream counted on it.  I simply wrote a short sentence or two and signed it.  That was wrong.  I spent the rest of the day beating myself up over it.  I  should have been honest and  admitted I forgot her name.  So, what to do?   Today, when I  see her, I will tell her to go get her book.  Then I will fess up, ask her for her name and add it above what I wrote.  Oh the guilt an 11 year-old-can meticulously embed in your soul.

Headline:   Feelin’ Good!

I have heard plenty of horror stories about people who SPINEhave had spinal surgery.  That is why I had put up with with so much pain for four years while attempting to find a cure for my achy breaky back. I had nerve blocks, pain pills, people walk on my back, witch doctors rattle beads over it, etc. etc. Nothing helped. I was in agony.  Finally, I gave in and went to a spinal clinic where I met the great Dr. Asghar.  He showed me, me—the real me exposed in x-rays that featured my arthritic spine. It did not run straight up and down like it is supposed to.  Instead, it was one big “S” curve and some of  the vertebrae were rubbing against each other because the cartilage that was once between them was long gone.  So, on June 25th Dr. Asghar sliced a hole in the side of my body and dumped Home Depot into my lower back. Even as soon as I awoke in the recovery room the horrendous pain I had been living with for so long was G O N E !  I’ve had the usual healing sensitivities and other post-surgery annoyances since then, but nothing like before.  And about two weeks ago I came to realize I was feeling “normal.” It’s true, I told myself.  This is how I used to feel.  I am not taking it for granted, believe me.  I realize my arthritis hasn’t stopped its dirty deeds, but for now I feel great and I shall sit up, stand up, and bend over every day and appreciate that I can not only do these movements once more, but that I can do them pain-free.

Well, that’s all the news from my little household here in South Florida.  By the way, NOW is the time to visit here. The weather is spectacular this time of year and will continue so until around April.  And it’s even quieter too since the hum of air conditioners seems to have all but disappeared.  Cool!

*****

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TIME FOR A LITTLE MR. R

Chalk board sketch of scales. Concept of balance between evil an

There is a function on Apple computers, at least it’s on my iMac, that is called “Force Quit.” It is similar to the old combo of “Control-Alt-Delete” found on most PCs.  I really like Force Quit (FQ) because it takes no prisoners. Whatever you instruct FQ to shut down, it immediately terminates the program–Bam!  No questions asked. It is the ultimate “go to time-out” button and if you are the entity on whose behalf FQ was activated, well then, you may as well immediately surrender, grab your stuff and get out. Force Quit…it’s a force to be reckoned with!

Right now, the world is in such chaos I wish I had a huge, earth-wide Force Quit button I could push and everyone and everything would simply shut down.  The political divisiveness in America would pause; the random mass shootings at retail stores and schools across the USA would cease; those guiltless phone calls threatening you with an IRS investigation wouldn’t interrupt your day; teargas and bricks would no longer be the exchange currency in Hong Kong; the energy it takes to initiate all the unfair and unnecessary mistreatment of refugees and immigrants around the world would turn positive and begin building new relationships and locations where all these people could finally call home.  The list goes on. It is sad that it is such a long one. Just as one generation deals with all its dilemmas–few of which ever get resolved–along comes the next set of offspring and their bag of disasters.   This culture has truly become the circle of life on our little planet. It needs one of us to push the Force Quit button and disrupt its orbit.

Human beings are an odd lot. We are capable of performing incredible acts of kindness and generosity; we can instruct a little wheeled cart to land on Mars and send us photographs of its travels; we can build all kinds of useful structures in which to live and work; we can learn ways to alleviate pain and disease.  Fact is, humans can do most anything if they put their minds to it.  What we can’t seem to do is get rid of our ugliness–all those evil, vengeful, selfish, hateful things we do to each other.   It is a puzzlement how we can be so good and so bad at the same time.         hanksRogers

I do not think there is an answer to this riddle.  I think we are who we are and parents, teachers, the clergy and society as a whole do not have the influence on us that we all think they do…or wish they did.  I was just reading about the new Tom Hanks movie about Mr. Rogers.  When I first heard this movie was in the making it wasn’t on my list of things to do, but now that I’ve read a little more about it, it seems the entire world should buy a ticket and go see it.  I doubt Mr. Rogers would ever push the Force Quit button. Days in his neighborhood were always beautiful and I think he had a lot to do with that.

 

*****

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THE GREAT MOVE…HALFWAY THERE

moveupdate

If you have been following Marc’s Blog since mid-summer you may have caught one of my postings on “The Big Move.”  After  23 years in our current house, Rosemarie and I decided to uproot ourselves and become pioneers in the wilderness…well, I suppose South Florida can sometimes be interpreted as the wilderness.  We accepted an offer on our house today which means we are halfway through the process: one house sold, now one to buy.  More on that later.

I refer to us as pioneers because, for the first time in our lives, we do not know where we are going. We’ve always been super organized, acutely aware of our compass heading and never without a plan.  We have none of those things this time.  I look at it as a great adventure.  Rosemarie views it as a disaster that has given her more angst than raising teenagers. She’s not happy right now…too perplexed. She needs a timetable, a GPS heading and knowing she has enough gas to get there.

Actually we have a rough idea of where our next home will be.  It’s just a two-hour drive across “Alligator  Alley” which is the highway that runs east-west between the Fort Lauderdale area of Florida on the east, and Naples on the west.  We have visited several communities in the Naples area, one of which will more than likely be where we find our new home.

So why did we undertake such a monumental mission at our age?  We are both retired and should pretty much have a carefree outlook on the years ahead.  Well, that is exactly what we are doing–looking ahead, but with  our eyes focused and our minds clear on what is important.  Two things influenced our decision. I suspect there are many people going through the same process.  We looked at our expenses and realized if one of us was no longer here, it would be a rough ride for the one remaining.  It made sense to reduce our cost of living to the level where half our current income could keep up. Reason #2 was a lot easier.  It had to do with pain and the increasing amount both Rosemarie and I are experiencing going up and down the stairs in our two-story house.  A one-story house would serve us a lot better.halfsign

Our  house has been on the market for just over eight weeks.  We have had a constant flow of potential buyers, one or two silly offers, but nothing we paid much attention to…until this weekend.  We wound up hosting a bidding war between offers, one local and one from another state.  One was texted to our agent at 2:30 in the morning.  One offer screamed loud and clear, “accept me!”  So we did.  And now we have a budget for the new house and a specific date for leaving this one.  Rosemarie is a little happier.  I’d say we’re halfway there.

*****11OvalB

 

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INTO THE GREAT UNKNOWN, KNOWINGLY

Parting of a road at Haagse Bos, forest in The Hague

This is turning out to be a year of big changes with unknown destinations.  I had no idea back in January that I’d be sitting here in October wondering where I will be living by the end of the year.  Our decision to sell our home of 23 years came in late summer.  It was motivated by economics and health.  We need to be ready for tougher times when social security checks are strained and maybe even reduced and stairs to the second floor get even tougher to climb than they are now.

The house is up for sale with much of its drawers and closets and cabinets empty of their usual contents which now sit in boxes stacked in the garage.  The movers are standing by, as is the realtor on the other side of the state who is waiting for us to arrive, check in hand, to buy a new home in any of two or three communities we have already screened.

Meanwhile, if that is not enough to handle, I have made some major decisions to abandon much of what I have been doing the past ten years in my retirement.  I have written 11 books.  I’ve kept up this blog, having published over 640 postings in seven years. I have created and maintained ten websites.  Physically, I’ve had two knee replacements and a hardware store dumped into my lower spine.

It has been an active, and sometimes daunting, retirement.  But much of this, too, is about to change.  I have shut down all but one of the websites and I have more than likely published my last book.  What will I do with my time now?  Well, like moving our home, I’m not sure.  I might take guitar lessons, walk the dog more or maybe catch up on some movies…or something entirely unknown to me right now.

For one who has always been compulsive and overly organized with a fine-tuned compass, all this change without knowing in what direction I’m going is a radical transition in personality.  But that is what I have learned about retirement.  It is an entirely different state of mind.  The race is over, other than to keep up with my health and just keep on keepin’ on.  There is no career move to ponder; no more formal education or training sessions; no more chasing down salary increases (those are missed!) and basically no more material lures to lust after except maybe a winning lottery ticket.

So it has become easy to give things up, replace them with other things or even remain thingless.  I don’t think I will do the latter.  If one thing is certain, I must be doing something to keep my mind active.  I am not one to sit still, so I am, indeed, curious as to where all this will lead.  Cue Dylan…How does it feel to be on your own, With no direction home, A complete unknown, Like a rolling stone?  It feels okay.

*****

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THE GREAT MOVE…WAITING FOR THE SALE

To update you on the Great Move (sometimes I have referred to it as the “Big Move”…I haven’t decided which I like better so I am using both)….anyway the house has been on the market for three weeks.  Our realtor says all the feedback from our visitors has been positive.  Not a negative response from anyone and, so far, not an offer from anyone either.  Patience, patience.

Rosemarie and I do not like this phase of the transition.  The house has to be ready to show on a moment’s notice.  All our “clutter” has been stowed away in drawers and closets.  These are the things you use all the time and want at arm’s reach.  But when it comes to showing your house for sale, they represent clutter that needs to be “gone” when someone comes to inspect your goods.

The driver and passenger in the car backThis “inspection” part is a pain too. We have to leave, including Bill the Dog.  Sometimes we run an errand.  Sometimes we go to the park up the street and watch the grass grow.  Sometimes we park at the end of our street and just observe.  There we sit like two detectives on stakeout.  Some people go in and out of our house in five minutes or less.  Others may take up to a half-hour inside, then yak with the realtor outside for another half-hour.  There is something unnerving about sitting down the street from your house while complete strangers are busy going through it.  I will be happy when we finally have a deal.

“Unnerving”–there’s an emotion that doesn’t come around often, thank goodness.  As I sat in the car the other night I got thinking about emotions. Humans are not the only animal that show emotion.  Dogs do it all the time.  I’m not sure, however, if you can tell if a snake is happy or sad.  It may depend on how fast his home sells.

To kill some more time I started listing all the emotions we humans are capable of exhibiting.  I am sure I missed some.  Many are the same, others supplemental, still others totally opposite.  Happy or sad; hysterical or calm; hyper or sedate; eager or suppressed; positive or depressed; in love or out; high or low; proud or ashamed; bragging or embarrassed; angry or joyful; secure or threatened; shy or outgoing; and so it goes.  You can add more.  But these are states of mind we experience at one time or another and they all exhibit an emotion that few of us can hide.  True, there are times when we discover those people we think are the happiest, are really among the most troubled…Robin Williams comes to mind.

3D Illustration Emotionen als Freisteller

There is one emotion I was feeling the other night while Rosemarie and I sat in the car waiting for a couple to complete their tour of our house.  It was the emotion of disappointment.  I felt disappointed that we hadn’t lucked out and sold the house right away.  After all, we are about 75% packed up and ready to move and there are one or two places available right now that we would buy.  But beyond the house, I think disappointment is the most impacting emotion, especially when it is disappointment you may have in other people…people who let you down, people who steal and cheat or those desperate people who work for robo-call companies.  Anger you can usually get over. Happiness can be fleeting or elusive altogether.  There is a necessary balance one needs to achieve when it comes to handling the full range of emotions, at least handling them well and not letting any singular one drive you batty.  But disappointment, I find, is a lasting and challenging emotion.  It’s chopped full of ingredients like guilt, misgivings, regrets, self-doubts, second guessing, sometimes a little anger and a bunch of should’ve/could’ve/would’ve’s.

Now, I am not manic about my collection of emotions.  I keep them neatly stacked in orderly fashion on a shelf in the back room of my mind. I know where they are and I can easily lay my hands on any of them at any given moment.  They lie dormant most of the time, but if a situation or conversation sets off a spark, well, I will usually conjure up a past experience and relive it for a moment more.  It’s hard not to.  That’s why I think emotions are the king of human personality…they carry so much weight and never say die.  It’s all that baggage they say everyone lugs around with them as they go through life.  Most of it doesn’t fit in the overhead.

Funny, isn’t it? …the mountains of thoughts you ponder while waiting down the street…waiting for your house to sell.

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THE NEW ORWELLIAN AGE

 

If you attended high school in the USA there is a very good chance you had to read a book called “1984” by George Orwell.  It’s always been pretty much a basic read for high GlassMan3 schoolers.  I don’t know if it still is, but my guess would be it may not have the same impact it had when I read it in the late 1960s.  In the book, individual freedom and privacy are disrupted by “Big Brother.”  He has a presence everywhere in the form of cameras and other recording devices that monitor and control the populace.  Big Brother is always watching everyone.

When  I  was in high school, 1984 was still a ways off in the future. When it finally  arrived it was a relief that nothing in the book had come to fruition.  There were no cameras on every street corner, let alone ones scattered throughout your household.  But wait, maybe I’ve got this wrong…and Orwell didn’t. It may be his timing was just a little off.  Stay with me here, Big Brother may, indeed, be watching.

When I got a new iMac desktop computer four years ago I thought it was pretty cool that there was a camera built into the  monitor screen. Yep, you can see it if you look closely enough.  I though it was a lot better than the separate clunky camera that drooped over the top edge of my PC monitor–the  one I had to keep adjusting so the shot was framed correctly and the camera didn’t come crashing down onto the desk.  It wasn’t long, however, that a rumor started making the rounds warning everyone that crafty hackers had found a way to actually turn your camera on without  your knowing.  Imagine the number of voyeurs who couldn’t wait to check that out.  Well, this rumor made me paranoid enough to consider putting some opaque tape over the apple camera while I had already dismounted the PC camera and left it facing a blank wall when it wasn’t in use.

Next came a Christmas gift two years ago.  It was a new-fangled gadget called the “Echo Dot.”  This is a small black instrument that looks exactly like a hockey puck.  Inside is a little person named Alexa who is almost like a genie in a bottle.  Call out her name and she will answer just about any question you may ask, from wanting to know the weather, the score from last night’s game, how many calories in a bowl of oatmeal and what time will your amazon package arrive.  If Alexa hears music playing in the room she will even take a moment to tell you who’s singing.  Alexa is obviously listening to what’s going on in her environment.  I told a friend about my new Echo Dot and she immediately went into outrage mode.  “Don’t you know she monitors every word you say and everything you do on your iMac or iPhone and somebody somewhere is collecting all that data and it’ll eventually be used to sell you, harass you or otherwise invade your life?”

Next, I had to buy a new printer.  I’ve had reasonably good luck with Hp printers so that’s what I got.  Now, as  you know, printers are like razors.  The razor itself, or the printer, are not terribly expensive…but the blades and ink will keep you in lifetime debt.  But, aha!  Hp supposedly has felt its customers’ pain.  Now it has a new “instant ink” program that you can sign up for.  Hp says it will save you money.  The instant ink cartridges have more ink in them than the Hp high-yield cartridges and they will mail them to you postage-free on a frequency based on your page usage. They say you won’t have to run to the store for ink ever again and you will save money to boot.  So I signed up and within one week I got a supply of instant ink cartridges which look exactly like the extra set I bought with the printer.  Then, over the weekend, my printer began putting out pictures with weird, horizontal zebra stripes.  I checked my ink supply and determined that two cartridges were low, but not quite ready to be replaced.  I replaced them anyway because I suspected that was the problem.  I used the cartridges I  bought with the printer–the  official Hp cartridges you normally  would buy at Office Depot.  Guess what?  I got an e-mail from Hp telling me that I did not use the instant ink cartridges they has sent me and therefore, they could not keep track of my page count and ink usage.  In other words, my printer is talking to Hp!  How else would they have known I used the store ink and not the instant ink?

Where will all this end? How many things in our household will be eavesdropping on our conversations and activities and delivering that information to outsiders.  It could go from the sophisticated to the downright ridiculous.  Imagine…you buy and have installed a new toilet.  A week or so later you get your pre-ordered “instant” supply of toilet paper delivered on your doorstep.  Meanwhile, on your laptop, there’s an e-mail from the Kohler company, the manufacturer of your new toilet.  It reads:  “Hello! We’ve noticed you have not flushed at the usual rate the past several days.  This could result in your not receiving the correct count of rolls on your next toilet paper delivery.  May we send you a free supply of laxatives to help you resume your normal rate?”

Big Brother may be knocking at the door any day now!

*****

PopeAd2nd

Posted in communication, computers, consumerism, lifestyle, media, privacy | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment
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