Positive Motivations

July 18, 2011 § 3 Comments

My previous high school reunion post was perceived by many as negative.  It wasn’t —  although it did employ numerous rhetorical devices that the cult of the positive find offensive.  You see, it is possible to be positive by being negative.   Warning Nostalgia Alert: Mrs. Beattie’s opening quote from her humanities class from that gloom and doomer, Socrates: “The unexamined life is not worth living.”

I had no need to post something to those who find solace and comfort in Facebook banalities.   For those from high school who really know me or have spent any time with me in the last thirty years, you would know that I’m a relatively well-adjusted, happy person.

I know for a fact that several of the people who commented negatively on the reunion page have undergone personal tragedy and quite possibly the reunion and the re-connection is something that is assuaging the pain.  My comments were not for them.  If the reunion is decreasing your pain in the rush of re-connection, congratulations, milk it for all you can.  For some, it does not.

My post was about what we forget in our rush to nostalgia.  Humans crave connection, including me.  I’m certain that some of those tracked down by the reunion committee are thrilled to be found and that someone cared enough to at least try and find their address.   In saying that maybe some don’t want to be found, that was a two edged positive comment:  first, don’t stress if you can’t find everyone (if someone want’s to be found and has the most rudimentary computer skills, they will find you) and second, if someone isn’t found, try and have compassion for why they might not want light shown on their current life.

Facebook gives a semblance of connection, but depth comes from examining, not observing  lives.   I got more out of the reunion page from my post than anything else, because I actually felt some connection with a few of you.

The gist of the comments were:  “Don’t be such a downer.  I thought you were a happy person.”

I am happy and extremely content.  I wasn’t particularly brave by posting an alternate viewpoint — I did it because I knew that the anticipated and realized negative responses wouldn’t have any impact on my life, while I might be able to say something to the few who would like to say something,  can’t.  I make my living helping people who are struggling financially –Robin Hooding  is a satisfying career.  I also have a beautiful wife, who writes amazing books, five children and a beautiful grandchild.  Yes, we’ve had our familial tragedies, but I’ve weathered them without anyone from my high school class.

So those are my motivations in posting my anger over the nostalgia — not that I’m not as guilty as anyone else of being nostalgic or craving to play the hierarchical “how do I compare” game at the reunion or curiosity to see what 30 years did to my former classmates — but as a warning to myself and those who will listen to not forget the human suffering and do what little we might be able to do to assuage it.  To me, that is the most positive of motivations.


Reflections on My 30 Year High School Reunion

July 17, 2011 § 4 Comments

Unlike some of you, I remember damn little from high school, which maybe isn’t surprising given how long it has been. If our lives are broken down into what we can remember, the years up through high school represent only the first third of our remembered existence — that first third in which our roots warped and determined our future growth.

Out of the life plants growing out of the same teenage educational soil, an entire ecosystem has evolved. Maybe that is the compulsion I feel to visit the Class of ‘81’s FaceBook page — to see what has grown, what remains stunted, what has died. Our lives now range from the resplendent to the barren, from the ornate to the impoverished in ways that could not have been imagined 30 years ago.

Which doesn’t quite explain why most of what I see and read on the FaceBook page makes me so angry. Maybe my roots from high school twisted me into a bitter 48 year old, but I don’t think so. The anger I feel is against the nostalgia, against the yearning for past connections that have withered into the mulch that fertilized our current incarnations.

Nostalgia —  a convenient denial mechanism of the present.

And what is more teenage than feelings of isolation, fear and outsider-ness? Every time I see the push to “find” everyone, I wonder — what if they don’t want to be found? What if they want absolutely nothing to do with the people that treated them like shit in high school? And oh yes, look at that puffy, stupid hair styles we all had.

Statistics are bastards, because the Class of 81 is not immune to them. We can recognize  the 12 deaths, but what about the deaths of children and spouses? What about the mental illness, adultery, divorce, imprisonment, alcohol and drug addiction, unemployment (quite possibly at least 10% of our class right now, probably more)? In other words, no special treatment for our minions. And oh yes, didn’t the D-ettes look hot in those boots.

The trivialities of high school pale in the face of killing and war. I’ve had the great honor to talk to former inhabitants of the halls that teemed with our teenage hierarchy about their experiences killing. Killing someone changes a person. I found my pacifist self struggling against the knowledge that killing can be a simple, necessary act coming from a simple choice — kill or be killed. I listened and if I had found myself in the same situation — I would have killed too. And oh yes, isn’t it funny guys wore short shorts playing sports in the early 80s.

Maybe my rage against nostalgia is simply a rage against those who seem to find solace in an escape to the past, a solace that feels as inaccessible to me as a high school clique. I find no comfort in the naive, arrogant, self-righteous 18 year old that was me.

The Digital Tipping Point — Why 12% is More Like 80%

July 6, 2011 § Leave a comment

Statistics can be such a misleading thing — take the latest: 12% of the United States has eReaders.   Not very many is it — only 12%.  Yet, something nags at my mathematical brain — a stat I remembered hearing.  I found a lot of reference to it, but could never verify it, yet it has that ring of truth — namely, 80% of American households didn’t buy a book in the last year (could never find the original source, so it may be apocryphal, but it smacks of relevance when 30% don’t know who the US declared independence from in 1776) . Now, that 80% chunk of the population is not going to buy an eReader and even assuming the other 20% buy an equal number of books, eReaders have tipped and most books are now bought in digital format. Amazon’s public announcements also mirror this.

Bottom line — the relevant stat is not what percentage own an eReader, but what percentage of book buyers buy digital books — and I know that is much higher than 12% .  If you want to sell a book these days, you better get it in digital format.

Digital Genres

July 2, 2011 § Leave a comment

What are the new digital genres? New lingo is springing up — “cross-platform” or in the phrase that shows up no where in Google, so that must mean I coined it (not saying I did, just that Google can’t find it — “re-sourcing digital content”, by resourcing digital content, I mean that when an artist or author creates digital content, how do you use that resource.   Each digital publisher needs a Digital Resource Department that operates like a Human Resource Department — assigning the digital content out to its numerous potential incarnations.  Digital genres aren’t so much new genres as new genres that have the potential to be monetized.

Some Potential Digital Generes:

Interactive fiction: A merging of the gaming genre with the literary world.  Many forms of game have long contained a form of interactive story telling — for my generation, Dungeons and Dragons.

Non-linear fiction: Using hyperlinks to create a non-linear narrative. This genre could easily split into multiple genres — romance, mystery, erotic, literary.   Traditional publishing has gone down the non-linear rabbit hole.   A memorable non-linear text for me was The House of Leaves.  James Joyce at least feels non-linear to me and almost anything by David Foster Wallace proves that footnotes are the print version of hyperlinks.  Poetry is replete with non-linear type images and narratives (thus the success of T.S. Eliot “The Wasteland” App on iTunes) .

Multi-media Fiction:  This seems to be the genre that gets the most attention, but also the one that I think in a way is a little overblown.  Is the 2011 Pulitzer Prize winning novel, A Visit From the Goon Squad, multi-media fiction because it contains a chapter that is a PowerPoint presentation?  What about DVD extras that include text?  Audio books?  The written or spoken word changed into digital form moves seamlessly across media, that isn’t genre, that is flexibility.

The difference between the artist and the publisher is the publisher’s concern over how to monetize a new digital genre.   The digital world only seems to exacerbate the century old conflict of cash and artistic purity.  Yet, the potential for profitably monetizing artistic efforts in the digital realm that expands your potential market into the millions and billions, you only need a micro-percentage, a relatively small tribe of followers to patronize the artist to artistic freedom.

The palate of digital expression is larger than any artists or writers  have had at their disposal in the history of the earth. The critical question is how do you sell what you do digitally. Where is your audience going to read it — a phone app, on their iPad, Kindle, Nook or computer screen? How are you going to get them to pay for it? I want exciting digital genres, but like any artist, you need to pay attention to your canvas and the gallery where you can sell your wares.

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