A recent story from Derek Alan Wilkerson demonstrates the peril of writing from a child’s perspective. The narrator attempts to convey thoughts from just before his fourth birthday, but instead of that kid’s voice, we hear the opinions of a cynical and not terribly insightful adult. A third-person narrative might have worked better.
Month: August 2018
Friday Fictioneers: Dividendings
The top of the coffee table was clear on the the day I retired, and the detritus it’s collected represent the dividend of my new freedom. But the scotch is almost empty, my friends and their cigarettes have worn out their welcome, and the sight of candy now makes me nauseous. I’ve enjoyed these past couple of months, but I’m ready to get busy end, and say goodbye to the dividends of my retirement.
I don’t always participate in Friday Fictioneers, but I always enjoy the experience.
Don’t be a fool
The following post should be entirely unnecessary, as its message is obvious, the equivalent of statements such as Look both ways before crossing a street, or Diversify your retirement portfolio, or Twitter sucks.
But a friend of mine, whose intellect I respect, today went on Facebook (which also sucks) and posted a quote that can be proven, with less than five minutes of Internet research, to be false.
I guess even the most basic lessons need reiteration.
Let’s start with a different quote, one that I have to refute about twice a year. I’m no fan of The Fraud, and I’m more than a little disgusted with the GOP’s response to his regime, but I’ll never be satisfied with the tease of dishonesty, no matter how much it may flatter. This quote needs to go away, forever, although I’m pretty certain it will continue showing up in my Facebook feed from time to time, like a recurring outbreak of a dormant virus.
Time to move on to today’s subject, a less egregious distortion but still a deliberate lie. For those who don’t know her, Brooke Baldwin is a journalist for the American news network CNN. In 2015, during a live interview on the subject of police training, she made the following statement:
A lot of young people — and I love our nation’s veterans, but some of them are coming back from war, they don’t know the communities, and they’re ready to do battle.
Baldwin was criticized for this remark about veterans, and the following day she apologized, on air as well as online. To summarize: she made an error, acknowledged her mistake, and issued an apology. Sorry folks — nothing more to see here.
But then, three years later… “Don’t hire veterans!” And five minutes of my life lost to research, and another hour writing this post.
It’s not that I’m against paraphrasing, but enclosing a misleading paraphrase in quotes is inexcusable. Let me walk through an example, using a famous aphorism that’s entirely appropriate for today’s subject:
“You can fool all the people some of the time, and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time.”
Let’s paraphrase the quote as follows:
Abraham Lincoln believed Americans were gullible.
You could argue this strays from Lincoln’s intended meaning (for one thing, he doesn’t specifically address his countrymen), but there’s still a close enough connection to his original words to justify the paraphrase. And by not using quotation marks, the paraphraser acknowledges going beyond Lincoln’s words to make a related, but not identical, comment.
Now let’s take it to the extreme that’s become the norm these days, and the place my friend went today by forwarding the Brooke Baldwin fake quote — distort the original words beyond recognition, and give the fabrication an unwarranted air of authenticity by using quotation marks:
“Americans are a bunch of fucking idiots.”
I didn’t enjoy calling out my friend today, but I also believed I wouldn’t be doing her any favor by letting her foolish mistake (five minutes of research! really!) go unchallenged. Truth matters, and by playing loose with accuracy for the sake of bolstering our arguments — and by forwarding quotes that can be easily proven to be fake — we only serve to embarrass ourselves.
Review: Cleveland Neighborhood Guidebook
This collection of essays from Belt Publishing travels the diverse range of communities within and adjacent to Cleveland, a city with a legacy that elicits both pride and remorse. Its septuagenarian residents can recall a time when Cleveland was considered one of America’s top ten cities, and the city’s broad thoroughfares retain evidence of a municipality designed to accommodate over a million people. But like many cities in the Great Lakes region, Cleveland relied on industries that began cratering fifty years ago; civic unrest in the 1960s hit the city particularly hard, and when interstate highways opened the doors to the suburbs, the city’s population fell to levels not seen since 1900.
To their credit, the editors of Cleveland Neighborhood Guidebook decided not to overlook the devastation caused by the city’s depopulation. The anthology includes a frightening account of one young couple’s disastrous attempt to settle in a crime-stricken neighborhood, and there are a few odes to industrial sections that are little more than ghost towns. Mixed in with these sobering tales are a few too many panegyrics to areas where urban pioneers have established thriving communities; written in a voice resembling an over-enthusiastic Chamber of Commerce spokesperson. Given the typically distorted view of Cleveland in the media, such ebullience is understandable, even if if makes for poor writing, but fortunately there’s more than enough quality work in the anthology to overcome its occasional flaws.
If you’re not a current or former resident of northeast Ohio, this book probably isn’t for you — the essays rely on a civic memory that a reader from outside the area simply won’t have. But if you’re looking to gain more knowledge of the city of Cleveland, this book will be insightful.
This review is a milestone of sorts. Last December, I attended a holiday party for a Cleveland literary group and was fortunate enough to win a raffle for six books from local authors. I vowed that evening to review each of those works, and over the past several months I’ve blogged about a bildungsroman, an autobiography about a harrowing crime, a detective novel, a collection of plays and monologues, another novel that deserved to be better than it turned it — and with today’s review, I’ve completed my obligation. Fortunately, I attended a book swap last week for the same group, and was able to exchange most of those books for a new collection, which will be the source for future reviews.
Time to Change, conclusion
[With the final installment of the story begun here, I also finally have a title]
“Tell me, Agent Marcel, why have no time jumps into the future been attempted?”
The tall, broad-shouldered woman swallowed. “The technology — ”
” — is the same technology used to jump into the past! We’ve known this for years!” Thorson’s voice reverberated with the strength of a man several decades younger. “What are they telling you cadets during training, that old line about not being able to stabilize the frequency?” She nodded. “But they didn’t tell you a stabilization protocol has already been established, and thoroughly tested.”
Agent Marcel stepped up to the mahogany desk, placed her fingertips on its surface, and leaned towards Thorson. “Someone’s been able to jump into the future?”
The elderly man smirked, shaking his head. “The protocol wasn’t established until after time jumping was banned. The Agency has censored its discovery, even to you chrononauts, because they’ve lost their appetite for further chaos in the time stream. Leaping towards the future, when the Agency is just growing comfortable again with stepping back into the past, is asking too much of that bureaucracy.”
She pointed to the red notebook, which Thorson now held close to his chest. “But by finding this object from the past, and bringing it with me to the present — ” her face registered recognition — “without triggering any of the quantum sensors — ”
“Demonstrates we can place objects into the future, Agent Marcel!” Thorson stood, and in that moment Agent Marcel saw the energy he had seen in him forty-six years ago. “With the success of your mission, we can finally accomplish my real objective — to change the future, not the past. People may look back at history with regret, but when they look ahead, they respond with fear. Think of what can be done, when that fear is eliminated. Instead of storing abundant crops for future use, we can actually push them forward to a time when they can be used; diseases that can’t currently be cured — ”
“This is madness!” Agent Marcel began backing out of the room. “You’re asking for a return to the same chaos that took us years to overcome! The Agency will never approve of your plan.”
“I expect they wouldn’t.” Now that Agent Marcel was a safe distance away, Thorson laid the notebook back on the desk, and sat, folding his hands across this stomach. “Which is why I’m having these pages carbon dated, and why I’ll be broadcasting my discovery to the public. Go ahead and report me to the Agency — once people understand the brilliance of my plan, your superiors will be unable to stop me. You’re only able to control the past, Agency Marcel — the future, is mine to command.”
Without a word, Agent Marcel turned on her heel, and when the protobot hovered over to her she swatted it with the back of her palm. A moment later she was back in her vehicle, driving away from Thorson’s estate and mentally preparing her report to the Commander. She had reached into the past, and brought what she had assumed was a present into today; she would now have to ensure her act did not destroy the safety of the future.
[This concludes “Time to Change.” I’ve always been fascinated by time-travel stories, and this represents an experiment in this genre. What will come of this, only the future knows.]