Marchbooks' Blog

October 31, 2009

What Messages Are We Giving Our Youth?

Filed under: Comments from our Authors,Uncategorized — marchbooks @ 4:20 pm
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Kids today are bombarded with all sorts of unsavory messages; drugs are cool, sex is a requisite and violence is exciting. Those are messages that children get from television and are supported by their peers. But there are other messages that are more subtle and insipid. Any child who is paying attention will be forming some strong impressions of our political and economic structures. We are failing in so many ways and our kids see the evidence of it every day. But, will they draw the correct conclusions from it? Will they be willing or able to work to bring about healthy change?

When children see the rampant corporate greed that is so much in evidence today, will they conclude that Capitalism might require some changes of will they decide that what is needed is just new and better ways to beat the system? Could they really be faulted for coming to the wrong conclusion? There is so little structure and guidance in many kids’ lives. Many of them are not finding what they need in any religious structure. They are not finding it in school where they are  likely to be instructed by a teacher that is struggling with their own morality issues. And most tragically, they are not getting the necessary guidance at home. Absentee parents or those that are too preoccupied with keeping a roof over their heads to focus on helping their children negotiate troubled waters, are not physically or emotionally there to provide the needed guidance. It does not bode well for our next generation.

Now we can add to the list the sight of seemingly rational adults attacking each other in the political forum. What message do you think we are sending a child when a Senator brazenly calls the President a liar? What are our kids thinking when their parents are locking horns over whether or not to let them see an address by their country’s leader? And what will a child conclude when they see that the word ‘Americans’ has been banned from their textbooks? How sad is it that we have so grayed the lines between the good and the bad guys, up to and including the leader of our country? How can we expect our children to form their own morality when they have no idea where to look for example? Musicians, actors, teachers, sports figures, parents, etc. are all showing their human frailties in vivid Technicolor. So, where are the children of today to look for role models?

When did it become passe for adults to try to insulate their offspring from the harsher realities of life? When did we stop trying to be living breathing examples for our children to emulate? I think it is a convention that should be reinstituted for the sake of our children and our future as a country.

www.marchbooks.com

May 5, 2009

Thoughts on Twitter – Lizzie March

Filed under: Uncategorized — marchbooks @ 4:03 pm
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I recently began using Twitter. It has become quite the phenomenon. Everyone and their grandmother seems to be tweeting. It is, I believe, the next step in developing our universal consciousness. More than that, it is a fun way to stay connected and a great, low-impact way for businesses to touch the public. Companies and enterpreneurs can put their message out there, in a non-invasive way (after all, how much can you say in 140 characters?) and the recipient can pick and choose what they would like to tune in on.

Obviously, the purpose of Twitter is to network with people. It facilitates that goal very nicely, to a point. I recently discovered a slight glitch (in my opinion) with the system. Twitter users make connections by following other people, who ideally, follow them back. Twitter keeps track of how many followers and followees a user has. At the same time, Twitter wants to discourage those people who just follow large numbers of people when they are not interested in following those people back (Twitter’s version of spam marketing). Although this is a valid concern, the cure can become problematic.

In order to ‘get the ball rolling’, one needs to generate a presence by following people. Fortunately, Twitter has made it relatively easy to pinpoint people on the network who have interests similar to your own. But, I think that few people (with the exception of celebrities or Barack Obama) experience 100% follow back. In my own experience, I have noted about a 50% follow back ratio of people that I did not know before joining Twitter. Do I need to say it? Even if you are not abusing the system, you are likely to eventually become top heavy in the ‘following’ department. When you hit the 2000 mark (ie. you are following 2000) you get blocked from following any more people until your followers catch up.

Here is the dilemma. Now, when someone is kind enough to follow me, I get a message telling me so and asking if I want to follow them. But, thanks to this Twitter policy, I am blocked from doing so.

I think it would be much more equitable if Twitter adjusted their policy a bit. I would suggest lowering the imposed limit from 2000 to 1000. At that point, rather than blocking all attempts to follow, Twitter could allow a user only to return-follow someone who is following them, limiting any self-initiated following until the numbers balance out.

Just my thoughts on Twitter. Tweet on people.

April 29, 2009

Some Early Thoughts on Reviews by M.J. Claire

Filed under: Uncategorized — marchbooks @ 5:22 pm

First of all, I am a newbie to writing in almost every sense of the word, but I am eager and quick to learn. I am not a person who has been writing since I was old enough to wield a pen. I started writing about five years ago. It was an accident. But I have never looked back. Somehow, in that time, my muse has found me and the words are flowing. I have never had children, but to me, the conception and birth of a novel are the closest I will ever come. So I can truly understand the emotional attachment most writers have to their stories. I am no different. I send my book out into the world, like a young mother, sending her child to kindergarten. I want everyone to like my offspring, because, as I well know, it is nothing short of perfection. I want everyone else to see that as well.

For the first year or two, I wrote in a vacuum. In that time, I wrote five children’s’ stories that I thought were quite good. I sent them to agents and publishers. Well, most of you can guess the rest. Rejections flooded back to me, some of them kind, most of them perfunctory. ‘How could this be? How could these people fail to recognize greatness when they saw it?’ Ultimately, I came to the realization that many of you have also probably discovered. A review/critique is nothing more than one man/woman’s opinion. So where did that leave me?

Although I was no Rhodes Scholar, I knew that my stories were well written and had substance. So, what now? As luck would have it, or maybe it was my muse working overtime, I shortly thereafter befriended another writer who was tapped into some local writers’ groups. It was scary. Sitting or standing before a sea of unknown faces, I was going to present the fruit of my labor. I enthusiastically read my first story, which I was very proud of. How could these people fail to recognize the greatness of this work? My reading was generally well received, but the comments did not stop with the accolades.

People actually had suggestions for improving my work. ‘The audacity.‘ How dare they? Couldn’t they see that my stories were perfect already? Once I recovered from the gaping wound in my heart, I was able to listen to what they were saying. Of course some people had what seemed to be nitpicky comments, but when I really allowed myself to listen, I was able to hear some constructive suggestions. I listened more carefully and heard that several people were all in agreement on a couple of things. I decided to focus on those comments.

As we were driving home, my friends, feeling liberated by the open discourse, added their own thoughts. The only problem was, if I made the suggested changes, it would require a lot of work and substantial changes to the story. I reluctantly made the changes. When I was finished, I was delighted with the end product. The story was certainly stronger for the revisions. Since then, I have been ravenous for feedback.

I am not perfect, but I try to accept all comments graciously. I have no personal agenda when I give a review and I don’t expect people that review my writing have any axes to grind against me. But I do understand that you can’t make every suggested change. At the end of the day, a review or critique is just one other person’s opinion – very subjective and one is no better than another. So I use this as my guideline; one suggestion is nothing more than that, one opinion. If I hear the same comment from two people, I will look at the suggestion more carefully, but in the end I will still go with my gut. If three or more people are saying the same thing, then I have a consensus and I have to seriously think about making the suggested changes.

I read for enjoyment, as I expect most readers do. I want readers to enjoy my stories. If they don’t, I want to know why. I ask people to be brutal (not mean, but painfully honest) in their review of my writing. I ask this not because I am a Sadomasochist, but because I want my writing to be the best it can be. I want it to have wide appeal and I want it to be memorable. And because I write for people who are readers, how better to discover if my writing meets those criteria than to really listen to how they experienced my writing?

Kelly and Fagan escape from the Black Institute

Kelly and Fagan escape from the Black Institute

April 23, 2009

Man’s Inhumanity – Janus Kane

Filed under: Uncategorized — marchbooks @ 4:15 am

Yet another appalling example of man’s inhumanity, stupidity and wastefulness.

It was just a few moments of a 60 Minutes documentary, caught accidentally while rushing out the door.

The story was on sharks; the increasing popularity of shark watches, contrasted by the intense fear of shark attacks. They spoke of the unlikelihood of such an attack; a fraction of the chance you run making toast in the morning. (Apparently, large numbers of people are being electrocuted by their toasters)

A psychologist spoke of the visceral paranoia we have about sharks, stemming from our fear of being eaten. Legitimate though it may be, in this day and age it is not a common occurrence.

Now don’t get me wrong. I am not terribly fond of sharks. On my list of favorites, they rank only slightly higher than snakes and creepy crawly things. I am also fond of my anatomy the way it is and would rather not have it altered by some marauding shark looking for a snack.

The issue I have is what comes next. It seems that, predictably so, it is the sharks who have much more to fear from us than we from them.

Apparently, in China I believe it was, people have decided that shark fin soup is a delicacy. Mmmmmm, yummy, you say. Well, be that as it may. Sharks are not the first species we have killed for food, and I am sure they will not be the last. Do I have some basic objection to slaughtering these creatures for food? No more than the cow or chicken. I don’t like it, but it is a sad fact of our reality. What I take issue with is the way it is being done.

It seems that, because these fishermen are only interested in the fins, they drag these magnificent beasts onto the boat, chop off their fins and drop them back into the ocean where they sink like a stone to the bottom and die. Maybe it’s just me, but I find this to be simply horrifying, barbaric and tragically wasteful. When will we stop treating animals as if they are tree stumps? We harpoon them, shoot them and knock them over the head as if they feel and understand nothing.

It is a reality that we feed much of the world’s population with living creatures farmed from the ocean. That is not going to change overnight, but how can we justify dumping 80-90% of a carcass into the ocean to rot when there are so many starving people in the world. Once again, the justification is the almighty buck. Why waste cargo space on shark meat that could feed a multitude of starving families, when you can better use that space to store a larger quantity of pricey fins. We are truly an insane and heartless group, not to mention hypocritical. When one of our own gets attacked by a shark, we immediately mobilize. Vigilante groups are formed and the search begins for the creature that perpetuated the attack.
HOW DARE IT!!! Yet, without a second thought, we continue with a daily slaughter of thousands of animals, not to appease our hunger, but our pocketbooks and our vanity.

One can only hope that the perpetrators of these atrocities will suffer similar fates one day at the hand of their maker.

March 27, 2009

Talk to Your Animals by M.J. Claire

Filed under: Comments from our Authors,Uncategorized — marchbooks @ 5:34 pm
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A cute commercial, I believe the product is Pupperoni, shows an assortment of animals and how we communicate with them: a woman holds up a dress to a great Dane who is holding a sign that says ‘I like the red one’, a dog lies on his back holding a sign that says ‘a little to the left’ as his owner scratches his belly and a Bulldog, sitting by his burly owner, holds a sign that says ‘I’m not going to cry’ as they watch a sad movie. It makes me think about how we communicate with the animals in our lives.

Most of us have come to know when the animals we live with need the essentials: a fresh bowl of water, some moist food or a scratch behind the ear. One of my cats will meow and head butt me until I lift the covers so she can come under and snuggle against me. Another can go for days without any human contact but then she follows me everywhere I go, winding herself around my legs and trying to trip me up, until I give her some much needed attention.

It gets more difficult when these animals that we love so much are not feeling well, especially cats. Felines are so independent that we don’t always notice, especially in a multiple cat household, when they are not eating, drinking or using the litter box. More than once, I have had a cat become ill and I have wondered to myself if I should have seen the signs earlier. In those instances, I can’t help but think how nice it would be if they could hold up a placard saying ‘hey stupid, I’m sick’. For owners with AIDS infected cats, it becomes even more important. Oftentimes, when we finally realize that they are sick, it is already too late for their depressed immune systems.

But not all pet owners are even that mindful. How many households are there where the dog or cats in residence are nothing but an afterthought? In those instances, the animal may be lucky just to be brought inside on a night when temperatures dip below zero. In these homes feeding and watering the animals may or may not get done on a regular basis, shots and regular vetting doesn’t usually occur and the animal is probably not neutered.

These neglectful situations occur because many people do not see the health and well-being of their animals as an important consideration. If they did, our animal shelters would not be overflowing and there would not be astronomical numbers of innocent animals euthanized every year. For these owners, I would say; take a moment and look into the eyes of your animal. They are trying to communicate with you. They can communicate with you, but they cannot do it with a big sign around their neck. You have to look and listen.

On the far extreme of these owners  are the ones who can only communicate with their animals in a violent manner. These are the people who enjoy inflicting abuse on something that is small and defenseless. How can someone actually enjoy looking into an animals eyes and seeing pain and fear? It is incomprehensible to me and yet it happens every day. These people just do not know, or care, that human beings do not have a monopoly on suffering. To these people, I would say, talk to your animals. They are much more than so much fur and bones. Perhaps, if you let them, they can help you find a way to heal the anger that drives you. Because, no matter what abuse you heap on them, the animals in your life will accept you. That is a great gift that should not be squandered.

March 23, 2009

An Economic House of Cards by Janus Kane

Filed under: Uncategorized — marchbooks @ 6:52 pm

I am curious. How many of you out there actually believe that our economy will have any integrity at all when the dust settles? Will the American dollar have any value after this recession has finally leveled out? First the disclaimer – I am by no means an expert. My one undergraduate course in Economics did not go well. I think I recall a C+ for my efforts. But, I have been successfully managing my own finances for over 30 years and I believe I have developed a sense of what works and what doesn’t. I had no love for ‘the Bush administration’. I do like Barak Obama and what he stands for. I think he is the shot-in-the-arm that this country needs. I do realize that ‘doing nothing’, in light of this recession, was not an option.

Having said all of that, I have to add emphatically that I am not in favor of, nor do I understand the current bailout philosophy. This is not the first time we have helped to bail out an industry (several years back it was the Savings and Loan organizations) and it will probably not be the last. But, where is this money coming from and are we placing no restrictions on its use? A wise man once told me; ‘if you are going to give  money – give it with the understanding that you will, in all likelihood, never see it again’. The context here was loaning money to a family member. The banking industry is not a family member, unless we consider it the shiftless uncle that drops in only when he needs some cash, and this money was not a gift. At least I hope it wasn’t.

But, I am not sure. In all of the congressional hearings, I don’t remember any mention of interest rates or repayment terms. How odd that the American people would give money to financial institutions that survive on one thing alone – the interest that they charge us for the use of their money. So now, if I am understanding this correctly, we are giving money to the banks so they can loan it back to us at the going interest rate. ????

I suppose that the original logic was based on the trickle down theory – that these large amounts of money would eventually trickle down and benefit the general populace. Unfortunately, the only trickling seems to be happening within the hierarchy of these major corporations.

But, if we put that questionable plan aside, that still leaves the question of where this money is coming from. How is it that we have suddenly gotten access to over a Trillion dollars that we are free to loan/give to whomever we choose? Is there a little back room at the Treasury where we are printing this special EXTRA money? Is this money backed up by gold bullion? If so, where was it when our government was running a financial deficit of its own?

Again, I acknowledge that math is not my strong suit, but it still does not add up. We had a Trillion dollars sitting around collecting dust while we had elderly who were shivering in the cold, while kids were dying for lack of health insurance and while mothers had to send their children to bed, hungry. I ask again, where did this big influx of cash come from? And while these corporations happily pad their bonuses and use this money unscrupulously, what will it do to the American dollar.

Are we creating a world where our children will have to carry thousand dollar bills around like we carry twenties? Are we edging toward the fifty dollar cup of coffee or the twenty dollar tank of gas? I have to wonder, because that is the one thing I took away from my Economics 101 course – supply and demand. In this instance, have we increased the supply of greenbacks in circulation to the point where they will loose their value? I suppose only time will tell, but one thing seems pretty clear – we are not going to fix our current economic problems by throwing more money at them.

March 19, 2009

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