Wednesday, December 31, 2014

The Old Fashioned Way

John Dillinger's Mug Shot
 This would have to be called a "RAVE", I suppose, since I conceive it as a piece read aloud to a crowd with rhythmic incantation with a certain destination.  It's dedicated to my fellow artist, Lin Ross.

Al Capone's Mug Shot



Jesse James robbed whole trains
but you knew with whom you were dealing.
They yelled "Hands up!" but not any more
you reach for a card when the stealing starts.
Health insurance goes to Dillinger.
Capone does Smog Reduction.
Charge to Baby Face Nelson
or your house goes down in the suction
the price for prescriptions is beyond description
an invoice so swollen it looks like a golem
your meds need a doctor
infections getting hotter
there must be something wrong
when a drug sounds like a song
help me doctor help me diagnose this bill,
tell me why I must take this pill
I've been using as prescribed
but I think I'm gonna die
from confusion
frustration
aggravation
disturbance of the psyche
imposed by society
I'm just praying someone cares
while I'm tearing out my hair
but instead of compassion I get legal action 
the overdue bill eats my whole estate
I pay I pay but they say I'm late
the penalties the penalties
the Hospice has looted me
My accounts were done by Stalin and Trotsky
The money's gone and now I'm a slave
Why am I left shirtless
my tin coins
are worthless
you  got rich off me
when I was defenseless!  I had no choice, had to pay the interest
or get shut down, no IPhone no TV no internet
no juice until the banks get paid
so make it rain make it rain
let everyone get wet
it isn't so bad to know I've been had
but I prefer the old fashioned way.



Baby Face Nelson

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Predators In The Crowd-funding World




            Two weeks ago I launched my second crowd-funding campaign on Indiegogo.  I've been taken by surprise by the number of new businesses that have sprung up in the wake of the crowd-funding phenomena.  Most of these are Public Relations firms who promise to manage my campaign, disseminate press releases, boost my Facebook "Likes" and bring my project such great success that I'll double and triple my fundraising goals.  My first campaign went through Fundly.  It was pretty successful.  I got my e-book published on Smashwords.  The funds paid for formatting a long book.  All the hyperlinks are in place, the Table Of Contents can be clicked to beam the reader to the chapter of choice.  The Fundly campaign and subsequent e-publishing with Smashwords was a great experience.
            Yesterday I got the first of several offers that carry an obvious stink.  It was said by Barnum that a sucker is born every minute.  He left out the corollary.  Also born every minute is an opportunist or a predator who will wring that sucker dry of his last dime.  This is what I was offered: "Pay me five dollars," said the emailer, "and I will donate one dollar to your campaign and mention you on a Facebook page and leave a link to your fundraiser."
            I read it two or three times.  Oh.  How clever.  I followed the link back to the website.  It was hosted by Fiverr.com.  If you don't know, Fiverr is an internet marketplace specializing in Five Dollar "gigs", as they're called.  Services or performances are offered, such as "For five dollars I will make a video for your child's birthday featuring my puppet, 'Adam Baumtester'. On-time delivery guaranteed." I have no problem with funny puppets or any kind of low-cost service. There's something mildly sleazoid about exploiting a struggling artist, taking five dollars and charging me four of those dollars to get my name onto a Facebook page whose address I don't know.  Since yesterday I've gotten yet more offers.  The next one wanted two dollars for mention of my fundraiser on his unspecified Facebook and Twitter accounts.  How fast do I have to bail my boat to keep it from sinking?  How much water is leaking into the boat in proportion to how much water I've dumped over the side with my little old tablespoon?



            I've been solicited by companies with higher profiles and higher fees.  Crowdzilla.com has several "packages" that run from two to five hundred dollars and offer comprehensive PR deals that involve mainstream press releases, targeted Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr and other Social Media.  I have marveled for twenty years at the way new jobs have been created by technology, jobs whose descriptions would have been incomprehensible in the sixties of seventies.  When i wonder what kind of work my grandchildren may be doing when they grow up I accept that the job descriptions may not yet exist and will emerge in time.
            When we were young hippies and yuppies, did we have a clue?  Did we expect to become webmasters, software developers, internet marketers?  When my seven year old grandson comes of age, he may be going to a school that lies yet unborn in some East Bay park,  a place doomed to a bulldozer mauling and the crush of concrete as it becomes The Saul Stoofner School of Nano-Cellular Osmosis.
            It's possible.  Everything is possible in  this fairyland of a planet gripped by climate change and overpopulated to the extent that a mass die-off of homo sapiens may become a necessity if we are to survive at all.
            I am convinced that we will survive.  The species of man is evolving, quickly.  The young ones are different, their bodies are more flexible, their brains more accessible to nature's innovations.  Human life will continue.  After the darkness comes the change.  I just wish nature had a mechanism for culling the assholes among us and sparing those with kind hearts and willing minds.

            

Friday, December 12, 2014

When Your Own Writing Comes Back To You

I was emailing an acquaintance today and she attached this image, that was made up by her daughter.
"Have you read this quote?" She asked.

As it turns out, the quote is from my own unpublished S/F/Fantasy novel, THE GODS OF THE GIFT. It's from the page after the title page, where I have set quotes by two fictional writers. Of course I told her of this quote's provenance.  It's weird and ironic, though, to find that something of my writing worked its way via osmosis into the outside world.  No one has ever read this book in its entirety.  Only my partner knows the gist of it.


Friday, December 5, 2014

Comet Hale-Bopp


Until recently astrophotography demanded the use of film. Today's DSLRs have sufficient control of high ISO noise so it's possible to take a shot like this and have it work  When Comet Hale-Bopp (named after two discoverers who spotted the comet independently) reached perihelion in 1997 I reached for my trusty Nikon F2 and loaded it with Fujifilm 400 print film.  The stars are not blurred through this five minute exposure because I mounted the camera atop an aligned telescope drive. Astronomers call the practice Piggyback photography. On this one night in late spring of '97 I was able to get to a dark-sky site in Oriental, CA.  I got half dozen useful exposures of this body that was called The Great Comet of 97.  It remains in my memory as the brightest comet of my life.  It stayed visible for much of 97 before it rounded the sun and vanished into the southern skies. I used this image for the cover of my music CD, OUT OF THIS WORLD Art's CD on Youtube

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

The Great Con




or
internet and corporate liars, tricksters and thieves




            How could I be so stupid?
            It's a question I ask myself with regularity. 
            Today, the question had its origin in making a rookie mistake while shopping online for car insurance.  I was filling out a questionnaire.  I knew I was letting myself in for trouble.  I hesitated...but I put aside my intuition and answered the questions: what kind of car do I have, what make and model, what year?  How many miles do I drive in a month?  Name, date of birth, etc etc.
            We're with Triple A, and we're not getting mugged.  I guess I crumbled under the accumulating pressure of all those commercials, you know, the ones that tell you how much money you can save in less than fifteen seconds?
            How could I be so stupid?  I wasn't even finished filling out the form when my new smartphone played its cheerful marimba melody.  It was a caller from my own area code, so I answered.
            It was an insurance sales-person.  I had just pressed "SUBMIT" on the internet form, no more than half a second had passed.  The calls began.  In five minutes I had five calls.  The computer server that acts as Uber- flypaper for naive shoppers had relayed the fact that I was price-comparing automobile insurance via the internet.
            Listen to me...we live in a world of slick cons, tricky subterfuges, hidden fees and marketing mendacity.  The Internet has enabled an army of predatory sales-drones to gather in one mighty fortress.  Their armies sally forth to lay siege to our fragile world of shrinking incomes.  These lies, exaggerations and slick tricks are aimed and ready.  They rain down upon us like a hail of arrows. The only shield we have is common sense, vigilance and experience. 
            I just had an experience.  Henceforth I will treat internet information forms like Ebola bacilli.  They're not here to make us wiser, wealthier or healthier.  They're here to strip us to our last dime..
            I've noticed that the button on my new smartphone, the "REJECT CALL" button, is harder to activate than the green button that accepts the incoming projectile. I swipe in five directions, I tap it once, twice, three times.  I tap-and-swipe and the ring-tone continues its maddening marimba until finally I locate, purely by accident, that "move" that rejects an incoming missile qua sales-call.
            Excuse me for just a second, my smartphone is burbling again with its default ring-tone.  I've had the thing a week.  I've figured out a fraction of its capabilities.  I turned off the Data icon. I don't need a phone to hook me up to the internet.  I don't need my email on my phone. I've got it right here in a high speed Broad Band-equipped desktop computer. My email is 99 percent junk, anyway.
            I got this phone to save money.  I've been getting robbed blind by AT&T.  I use my phone two or three times a week.  I don't text.  So I purchased a Tracfone, a prepaid
deal at a fixed price.  Phone minutes, text minutes and data minutes, all at a fixed price.  I am not APP-CRAZY.  I installed one APP, a gizmo that reports and analyzes my minutes, text and data.  Guess what?  My data was getting used up faster than its brothers and sisters.  So I must research a fundamental question: what IS data?
It's inernet stuff.  It's email, videos, chat, it's....it's Google!  Omygod, Google is in control of my smartphone!  Google is an empire, it's like the oncoming Janissaries of the Ottoman juggernaut but it's today! and it's in control of everything.  It beams Data through my App, whether or not I want it!
            I don't fucking trust my phone.  What kind of world are we living in?  Everywhere I go, people are umbilically attached to these plastic rectangles.  They're either looking down at it adoringly, or they have it pressed to their ear as if it's a lover bestowing a kiss.  This is crazy shit, amigos!
            I don't trust my phone.  And neither should you.