Here you go, Facebook, my reaction

Being a blind computer user, there are hassles. Unless they’re significant, though, I don’t usually call attention to them. I just live with it, find workarounds, etc. So, when Facebook rolled out their new Reaction buttons, I didn’t much care. Meant nothing to me. Why? Well, because I’m not so lazy that my attention span needs to be limited to 6 goofy icons.

Facebook's Reaction Buttons: Like, Love, HaHa, Wow, Sad, Angry

Last night, I commented on my feed about this, and in short order, my sister-in-law replied with an emoji. Sure enough, the programmers at Facebook hadn’t coded in any sort of descriptive tags. Meaning, it shows I have a new message. But when I click the Comments button, all that’s there under my sister-in-law’s name is a field of utter silence. Nice, huh? Way to go, Facebook! Why not just create a bird-flipper emoji for all your blind & visually impaired users?

The other thing that gets me about this whole ‘Reaction button’ thing is: has social media really made us this lazy? Is the effort required to type out “Wow” so onerous? If it is, boy, society really is going straight down the toilet.

I’ve made people angry with my posts before. In fact, I’ve outright pissed off some folks. Know what, though? No one, ever, has posted “Angry” over something I’ve written. Now, though, regardless of a position I put forward, which might include several different points, I can expect to occasionally get “Angry” as a response, sans context?

I want the ability to turn this function off on my timeline. If people want to use it, great, good for them. But I want the ability to make sure I don’t throw away my time when it shows I have comments only to find out that unless I call in my wife, I can’t tell what anyone’s ‘reaction’ to my post is. I don’t spend much time on Facebook as it is, but I’ll be spending even less if I start seeing nothing on my TL but spots where someone posted something–but I’m prevented from knowing what it is. I mean, it’s called “Comments” for a reason, right?

 

***
Currently listening to: “Who Was In My Room Last Night” by the Butthole
Surfers

Taking Another Step

Photo of Stepper with tension cords and twisterYeah, I know, cheap lead-in to this one, but I’ve been working a lot and didn’t have the time (or energy) to put any more effort into the title. Sue me.

Pictured, is the newest addition to my office. A stepper, with some nifty bells & whistles. I was looking for one before Christmas because when Pam is watching TV in the living room, I don’t do my walking in there. And, since we’re still reworking things in the garage until we get the new treadmill, my old one is currently unreachable. So, for the past month or two, I’ve been using the phone dock in the living room and walking to cool ’80s and ’90s tracks. A lot of new wave, goth, alternative, and, just added, WLIR, a station I grew up listening to up in New York.

Still, Pam likes watching How I Met Your Mother on Netflix when she’s cooking or taking a break, and since sometimes my exercise and her break schedules overlap.

Back to the beginning. I’d been looking for a stepper. Found a bunch for around $50, and understandably, most of ’em had so-so reviews, a lot of user complaints, etc. So I went back to Craigslist, and sure enough, if you wait a little bit, you’re gonna find what you’re looking for. I grabbed this thing brand new from someone here in town who couldn’t use it, the thing works great, and, best of all, it fits right there in the corner, so I can take my own breaks when I need to give the fingers a rest or hit a wall and need to.uh.take a step back. (Ouch. I know.) I don’t even have to fold it out to use the stepper part. Sweet. And, paid less than a third of what it costs brand new. Yee-ha.

Work, exercise, cool tunes. All right in my office. No complaints about how 2016 is startin’ out, let me tell you.

 

***********
Currently listening to: “Poison Heart” by The Ramones

Not ‘Top Anything’, just favorites

David BowieI’ve seen plenty of people memorializing David Bowie. People bidding the man a fond adieu with their thoughts on his best songs, his top hits, things like that. Plenty of remembrances going on, which is cool, because the man touched so many artists’ lives (not just musicians), and left behind countless memories associated with his songs and such, that every one I’ve seen thus far seems remarkably heartfelt.

I mentioned in a piece on Rawckus.com, sharing an anecdote about writing a particularly important short story during senior year in high school, that David Bowie isn’t responsible for me being a pro writer. He isn’t the reason I got into college. He isn’t the reason I hit one out of the park with that tale, largely written to a backdrop of some of his best tunes. That said, the influence he’s been on me as a writer and creator is profound, and so, here you go. My list. Not a Top 10. Not a Best of. or anything close. Just some faves. Songs that, to this day, still get me going when I’m at the keyboard, pecking out a story or screenplay or novel. I hope to give a listen to his final album, Blackstar, in the next couple of days. Who knows? Maybe there are songs in there, new songs, that will have the same effect on me these have for so many years.

1. Heroes
Still my favorite Bowie song. I fall in and out of love with a lot of other tracks, but this one stands out just as much today as it did the first time I caught it-and stopped everything I was doing to listen to it finish.

2. Putting Out Fire (With Gasoline)
Theme song to the film Cat People, and, hot as Nastassja Kinski was at the time, still the best part of the movie-even to the 14-year-old kid who couldn’t believe how much skin they were showing. For a horror guy, the line “Those who feel me near, pull the blinds and change their minds” is still one that gets me revved up.

3. Ziggy Stardust
I play a little guitar. While I know about 50 songs I could play on stage if the opportunity presented itself again (the way it did when I played a set live at BackStreets for my Mom’s birthday a while back), I’m an intermediate player at best. This song? I can’t play it. But I love it so much, I keep going back, keep scratching away, keep getting a little bit further. Eventually, I’ll play it, and I won’t regret a single second of the hours it took to get there.

4. Modern Love
One of the tracks that played on loop on my mid-’80s-era cassette “walkman” while writing the aforementioned horror story. (A knockoff, no less). Too many memories associated with this song to count, and when I’m working out or writing and it comes on? I’ll stop and turn up the volume, just like I did back then.and have been doing ever since.

5. Starman
Two kids listening to underground radio late at night and hearing an alien? Sounds like the pitch for an early Spielberg film. When I first heard it, though, that film hadn’t yet been made, but the impact of it still resonates today. That youthful excitement about confronting the unknown without reservation. Just awesome.

6. The Man Who Sold the World
How much imagination can you put into a song? I’m not sure there’s a limit. And I think David Bowie never worried about the question in the first place, which is why songs like my 5 & 6 picks have been faves of mine for so long.
7. Rebel Rebel
I was a teenager, smack in the middle of growing up, when I first heard this one. If you were fortunate enough to be around before the internet and multiplex theatres with 24 screens or 500 cable channels/streaming movies at your fingertips, and spent your weekends at friends’ houses with a boom box and a lot of homemade mix tapes, you’ll understand. If not? Sorry, you missed out.

8. Rock ‘n Roll Suicide
The only down side to this song is how short it is. Things you learn to live with when an artist releases so much good stuff in a lengthy career, even if you’re still feeling cheated that it’s come to an end.

9. Diamond Dogs
For someone who’s never used drugs (no lie), you might not imagine this song placing so high. But it rocks, and growing up and beyond, that was my main
criteria for songs chosen to spend long nights working to. I’d say, so far, it’s paid off.

10. Moonage Daydream/Sound and Vision
I can declare a tie. And why not? I could have listed 50 Bowie tunes and still would have had to make some tough choices down the stretch. But while plenty of songs deserve honorable mention (Young Americans, Absolute Beginners, Changes, Ashes to Ashes), these make my list because of how they make me feel when I’m in the cockpit, behind my desk, banging away on new fiction.

There you have it. Songs with vast crossover influence in and on my life. Listening to WLIR, (a station from my youth that still lives, online), with them playing Bowie tunes all day, I’ve been reminded why these are the ones I’ve settled on. Farewell, David, thanks from one of the many millions who were strangers to you, but who you influenced and made countless memories for.

There’s a star-man waiting in the sky
He’d like to come and meet us
But he thinks he’d blow our minds.

I think we did meet him. And indeed, he blew our minds.

The Cure? Take one tablet and, whoa – what?

The blind guy has a tablet. Strange? I’ll say, mainly because I despise the app-driven world, and don’t deny it one bit-I need a tablet like Amber Rose needs breast implants.

Or so I thought.

Here’s the thing. Work has been tough lately. My laptops have aged out. So has a Netbook I got for Pam back in 2010. Meaning, I can’t navigate sites to play internet radio. Working in silence sucks, and while I’ve managed for a couple of months, well, that wasn’t gonna cut it in 2016. So I started looking on Craigslist for someone ditching a laptop. Found a couple, but nothing worthwhile. Heck, I could’ve taken one with a screen crack (after all, I don’t need to look at it), and if I needed Pam to check something out, I could use a splitter to plug in my desktop monitor. Problem solved.

Not quite. I needed something that had an operating system that I could update. And, that was pricey. I didn’t want to go for a brand new laptop, because even  a cheap one that had enough RAM to run my screen reader was a $400 investment, and that was cutting corners.

Tablets, though.  I called up a place that sold Android, got some answers. Pam called on a relative who’s developed for Droid to double check. Could it work with a keyboard? Was there an app that worked like Jaws, that’d let me bring up a browser and click Favorites?

Joe working at his desk. Over the shoulder shot showing laptop, tablet, speakers and keyboard.

Well, that’s what I’m finding out this week. Pam nabbed me one for a song, brand new, that came with a case and Bluetooth keyboard. And so, either I have access to all the tunes I want, and my tablet becomes my glorified office stereo, or perhaps it’s back to the drawing board. I’ll let’cha know how it goes.

Hopefully to some goth and New Wave.

**********

Currently listening to: “Girls & Boys” by Blur

Finally Settled

Leading up to New Year’s, I started narrowing down project possibilities for 2016. Eventually, it came down to whether I wanted to keep cranking out short stories and release another anthology in October with all new material, or tackle something bigger. And different. I’ve got several screenplays in the e-drawer right now, and submit when I find a worthwhile outlet to pitch. So I’m pretty satisfied there. I’d considered a comic project, but I’ve gone back and forth in comics enough for a while. And, while I wouldn’t turn down the opportunity to work with some locals on another indie film, that requires putting together a rather large team of extraordinarily reliable people. So, I’m not saying there won’t be any moviemaking for me in 2016, but it wasn’t where I decided to go.

Movie Script on my desk

I want to write something entirely different from anything I’ve tackled before. I mean, I’ve got tons of horror stories. A couple of fantasy stories. Some straight-up, mainstream drama tales. A couple of novellas. Even a crime novel – which I know took a lot of my fans by surprise. But another kind of novel…

So, I think that’s where I’m going. I’ve got an idea I’ve toyed with before, made notes on, but just never got around to writing. Sort of like the story that evolved into The Bunker, which then became a screenplay and my first feature film. Sometimes, things work out that way. So, not making any promises, but figured I’d let you in on what I’m focusing my attention on. Doesn’t mean if I get invited to write a story for someone’s anthology that I’d say No, since I do get asked from time to time. Or to get involved with a friend’s project, especially if it’s for charity. Nothing is off the table. But I think, just from the way I feel deep down in my bones, this is where I want to spend the lion’s share of my time in 2016. If it starts looking like it’s going somewhere, like Torn to Pieces, and I get close enough to the end to know I’m gonna finish? I’ll share some chapters for you to check out. Whatever, I plan on posting updates as progress is made. I just hope there’s enough to merit some!

Thanks for your support over the years, on my writing and other projects. Hopefully by year’s end there’ll be something else that’ll bring a faster beat to your heart. That’s the goal.
**********

Currently listening to: “Bang Bang” by David Bowie

It’s getting a little Rawckus

Rawckus Home PageOk, pulled the curtain back on the documentary project I was approached to appear in the other day and promised more announcements, so here’s another bit o’ news. I mentioned during the summer that I’d gotten a gig doing some web work. Well, the fruits of my labor, along with a lot of other talented people, can now be seen by clicking the link below:

http://www.rawckus.com

Cool, huh? That’s the new entertainment site I’ve been working on as Managing Editor. Been having a lot of fun, meeting interesting people, some really good writers, and makin’ some coin. If you like the arts, Rawckus.com covers it all. Music, dance, theatre, performance art – if it’s art? We’re on it. And, if not? Drop us a line. We’ll get someone on it.

Let Terry (the head honcho) know what’cha think, and feel free to copy any comments to my blog here, I’d love to hear ’em however you wanna get ’em to us.  Content’ll be updated regularly, so add us to your Bookmarks or Favorites or whatever they’re called these days. A Luddite like me can’t be expected to keep up.
************
Currently listening to: “I Go Crazy by Flesh” for Lulu

Kicking off the new year…

Image of Joe on screen interview… with some cool news. Hinted at it a while back, but no need to be secretive any longer. A few months ago, an indie filmmaker from Europe contacted me about being in a documentary he was working on. He had a mishap which nearly cost him his sight and hearing, which got him thinking about what he would have done had things gone differently for him. Here’s the first clip, (Pam says it came out looking sharp). Not sure how much I’ll figure into the finished project, but felt great to be featured like this for my work. Take a look and let me know what you think. Plus, I’m not about to stop you from sharing the link on Facebook or posting it on Twitter if you so desire. Enjoy, and hope you had a great New Year with a fantastic 2016 stretching out before you!:

My nephews used, like government mules. Kinda.

CREED PosterMy Mom loves movies. She’s got Netflix – both streaming and the DVD-in-the-mail service. My sis adds flicks to her list every week in bulk. Big fan and watcher.

I’ve been trying to get her to come to the movies with Pam and I since my Dad passed away in 2012. No go. Always an excuse. Always something coming up. Even when we tried to get her to see SPY with us, with Jason Statham – one of her favorite actors? Nope, wasn’t happening. Back in October, my nephews mentioned to me when she wasn’t in the room: “We should really get Nanny to go to the movies with us. She’d have a good time.” And so, a plot began to hatch. I told the kids, “Start looking up what’s coming out. Find something you can both see, with lots of stuff exploding and bad guys getting their asses kicked.” My Mom loves action flicks. Things like Taken and such. So, the kids started digging.

Fast forward. 2 weeks before Thanksgiving. Since my Mom isn’t a Star Wars fan, that didn’t leave a whole lot. But the kids did have an idea. CREED. They had seen some of the Rocky movies (the good ones, let’s put it that way) and knew the story. The first trailers looked pretty good. And so it was decided. We’d wait until a week after opening, lie to my Mom to get her out of the house with us all, and we’d go.

Almost immediately, on Sundays when the CREED commercial came on during football, I’d rip it. I told my Mom it was gonna be worse than Rocky 5. That the trailer sounded like crap. She disagreed. She said it looked pretty good. The story sounded all right, etc. She admitted, with the boys present, that she’d watch it when it came on Netflix.

Hook. Line. Sinker.

This past Saturday, we told my Mom the nephews needed to go shopping. I’d already primed the pump by inviting my Mom to come shopping with Pam and I, as Christmas is fast approaching, and the idea that the boys would come and buy stuff for my sister in secret got her jazzed. One of the ‘gifts’ we were going for? A Regal gift card. So we hauled up to Bell Towers, got her into the theatre, Pam snuck off to go get me the audio description headphones, CJ and I went to the concession counter, and James dragged my Mom down the hallway – clueless.

That’s my nephews, for you. Takin’ one for the team. I was actually worried Mom would refuse to see it even though we were already there, but she saw it was too late to back out then, and so we settled in. My spoiler-free review? If you like the franchise, see this one. It’s fun. It’s a lot like the first two. It’s worth paying for. I’m glad my nephews didn’t mind getting used like government mules to get Mom into the theater. My only concern is.

How do we pull this off next time?

 

***

Currently listening to: Nathaniel Rateliff and the Night Sweats, S.O.B.

“Merciless”? Yup, I can unite behind that.

On Twitter & FB, I’ve avoided labeling the Paris attackers thus far, b/c I’m willing to let the French investigate and get some hard intel. But I’ll use this for now:

<<witnesses described militants shouting “God is great” in Arabic before opening fire.>>

That’s the N.Y. Times, nine hours ago, feeling confident enough to run that, knowing what it would suggest. As well, we have confirmation from French authorities that 7 of 8 dead “extremists” involved were ‘suicide bombers’. And…we kinda know where that tactic points. Or, was pointing, prior to Francois  Hollande’s statement saying ISIS is to blame, and ISIS themselves (or ISIL, or IS, whatever they’re calling themselves this week) taking responsibility.

For me, here’s what it comes down to. If it pans out that these were muslim extremists, can we all, finally, admit we are at war with at least part of Islam? I know, it’s not every muslim. I’m w/everyone who keeps bringing that up. I used to have really cool muslim neighbors. They stood w/us in the street, crying after 9/11. I think Muhammad Ali is a pretty good guy. And so on. So how about this. Let’s draw a distinction between people like Muhammad Ali and “radical extremist muslims/groups” and go to war with them? Isn’t that fair? If people are really going to “unite” as French President Hollande has called for, how about uniting behind policies that make simple designations, such as: Muslim? Cool. All good. Muslim who calls for Jihad or participates in beheadings? Instant extermination.

I could get behind that, couldn’t you?

My fear, of course, is that handwringer politicians who are driven by polls and maintaining their status in the approval-rating popularity contest, don’t want to be labeled as “religious bigots” or “anti-muslim” or anything that won’t look good when seen on the news.

Are current officeholders in any nation (especially the U.S)., currently strong enough to start ignoring rhetoric and engage this war with part of Islam in order to stop the bad guys from not just overtaking our countries, but overtaking the muslim good guys as well? Me? I’m not holdin’ my breath.

Folks, if civilization is a well-constructed home, with many rooms for many different people, with thousands of interlocking parts that fit together, even if some are misaligned in places? These radicals/extremists/fundamentalists are the termites bent on tearing it all down. And, taking the group hug, “all we need to do is understand them…” approach will never work. You can’t coexist with people who don’t want to coexist, but rather, want to convert or kill you. Clearly, they don’t care about death. They don’t care about themselves. They don’t care, even, about fellow muslims, because if you were at that concert hall? You weren’t muslim enough. If you were walking down the street to a French restaurant? You weren’t muslim enough. If you went to go see a soccer game? You aren’t muslim enough. Because we know that France has plenty of peaceful muslims. Undoubtedly, a few were either killed or injured just so this group of scumbags could send their message.

In all of history, can you think of a time when it was ever, “all of them”? I mean, with WWII, it wasn’t all Germans, it was the Nazis. So yeah, I get it. It isn’t all muslims. But…I’m tired of hearing that. It’s definitely part of Islam, and that part is growing, spreading, and these sorts of things continue to happen. Since we know that to be the truth, my desire is to see politicians—I don’t care what party they belong to—grow some (figurative) balls, and start fighting that war. We didn’t have to kill every German in order to defeat the Nazis. But we had to fight those Nazis hard, for a long time, and viciously, to beat them. And, they killed millions. They were bent on exterminating an entire religion, plus those they considered ‘undesirable’. ISIS/these religious extremists? Not so different. I hate making comparisons where tragedy is concerned, but yesterday, “only” 153 died. A jumbo jet crash usually kills more.  Someone on FB or Twitter—can’t remember at the moment, things were happening so fast—who claimed to be from France said: This is our 9/11!

Is it? Perhaps. But part of me is reluctant to believe the French, or Europe in general, will see it that way. I think that for it to be treated like 9/11, the Eiffel Tower would need to be reduced to rubble. I believe that as mind-boggling as the death toll is for the French right now, twenty times the number dead and ten times the damage would be required. And, that isn’t just so that the numbers would more closely match, please don’t think that. I have this feeling, however,  that it would take something to make this type of attack seem like the attack on Charlie Hebdo to actually jolt Europe into actively, determinedly, engaging in a war with (part of) Islam. And that’s sad. It shouldn’t. The attack on Charlie Hebdo alone should have been enough. That outrage should have triggered the words Hollande delivered yesterday, about retribution being “merciless”.

So, knowing action won’t be immediat, I’ll give him some time. Rushing never results in the best results. But I’ll expect serious action in the new year, that’s for damn sure. I’ll expect French troops being deployed to go after ISIS, wherever they may be. That’s merciless. That’s determined. That’s the kind of action it’s going to take in order to keep civilization—and peaceful muslims—from being overrun, consumed, and destroyed. Sure hope whoever’s in charge in France next is up for that. And in Britain. And Germany. And especially here.

But again…not holdin’ my breath.