I Am Not A Monster

While I admit to being a senior citizen, model maker, and studio photographer – serious charges in themselves – I must deny the assertion that I am a monster of cruelty. I do not mock the afflicted nor harass the indigent. I am kind to animals, with the exception of mosquitos and cockroaches. I obey traffic signs and harsh words from the wife.

Thus, when I receive evidence that a friend has fallen for some sad internet hoax, I do not point the finger of scorn. I take pity upon them and remain silent. This is not the silence of collusion – it is commiseration. I, too, know what it is to be fooled by plausible tricksters…and I’ve lost money to them. The last thing I should want when I finally detect  fraud is to have to bear scorn as well as loss.

Friends – there are any number of trolling, fyshing, scamming productions that can come through your social media or through general searching on the net. Whenever you see something that is either too good or too bad to be true, it is just that. You do not need to fear, nor to react, to any of it. But if it helps to relieve a little of the tension, by all means open up the Snopes website and see if the thing that is troubling you has been debunked there. In most cases you will find that this is so.

Even with the most innocent of enquiries, answers can be harvested that will do you or someone else harm. The best thing to do is not give any answers on the net. Anything that you need to ask or answer can be dealt with between you and your physician, dentist, lawyer, religious adviser, or 6th grade home room school teacher. If it is really heavy-duty stuff you can call in a policeman or a magistrate. These are the individuals who have real power for good in your world. Depend upon them.

The internet has been a blessing for a lot of us – I mean, who wants to go out into the street looking for a cat on a rainy night when you can get a picture of one on Facebook? But it is a cursèd blessing, and the curse is the easy way it makes nonsense sound like truth.

Remember that if you forward this to ten of your friends, nine of them will wind the toilet paper the wrong way on the roll and the tenth will use bunched up newspaper…

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” It Was Just A Prank, Officer…”

‘ Prank ‘ seems to be defined as a practical joke or mischievous act – both suggesting some form of lightheartedness. ‘ jape ‘, ‘ trick ‘, ‘ antic ‘, ‘stunt ‘, ‘ caper ‘, all are mentioned  – merry times, eh?

Gets a little darker when you get to the next line; ‘ fraud ‘, ‘ hoax ‘, ‘ escapade ‘…Go just that little further and you can get into ‘ assault ‘ and ‘ attack ‘ , and the magistrate starts to become involved…

With the rise of the smart-aleck radio and television teams who make program copy out of embarrassing and harassing people and the easy anonymity of the internet social forums, active meanness like this becomes all too possible. The commercial networks may be a little less inclined to indulge their sophomore announcers and actors as they are answerable to sponsors with lawyers. Governmental stations can do it more – they pretend such a respect for free speech ( as long as it supports their politics ) that they get away with sadder and meaner productions.

The saddest and meanest thing about it is the fact that they please an audience – who are always ready to excuse them. The actors have to fire extremely low – the viewers are not only riding Shetlands, they are riding them in trenches…

I don’t mind a good practical joke if it is actually funny. No-one must be hurt, and embarrassment caused should be private. Above all, the joke must be gentle enough that the victim can see the fun of it as well – otherwise it is just a bullying assault.

None of the above applies to that thing we did with the vat of glue and the lawnmower. The guy had it coming.

How To Increase Your Blog’s Traffic/Likes/Money/Power/Bloodlust

I have been receiving likes recently from a number of different sources:

a. People who wish to read what I write.

b. People who wish that I would like what they write.

c. People who wish I would send them money to read about how to get money from other people.

d. People who have impossible names but dwell in a place called outlook.com.

I am pleased and flattered to receive communications from the first group. Their praise, even if it is only a click on the computer keyboard, is a kindly act and I thank them for it. Their joy is one of the reasons I write these columns daily.

The second group is also welcome – because many of them write about interesting things and some of them write well. The ones who combine those two features are on my little reading list. I’m afraid I do not do all that well with poetry and certainly don’t pursue political blogs very far, but I do give everyone a read at least once to see if I will enjoy going back.

The third group really flag themselves as soon as you see their summaries on the ‘ like ‘ email. If the answer to getting more money was to ask people to send you more money…well I could do that unbidden. I don’t do so for a number of reasons – some of them practical and some of them moral.

It may help this group to know that I write for the pleasure of exercising memory and developing thought. A well-crafted essay launched is instant reward, whether or not it is subsequently praised by others.

The fourth set of people are not people as such – they are probably a robotic scam program that is manipulating statistics for some purpose. I delete them from the emails and dismiss them from my mind. Presumably the WordPress people will get on top of this flood of nonsense eventually and it will dry up.

I should welcome more people reading my essays. I refuse to do circus tricks to try to produce this result. Though I wouldn’t mind a pair of clown shoes or a some spangled tights…

Mary O’Nette

I am deriving a great deal of pleasure and interest through my use of social media – but then you have to remember that I also used to have a good time shooting gophers on my Uncle Jude’s farm in Montana.

In my defence then, I was young and uncaring – in my defence now, I have grown older…

My current savage amusement is watching people jerk, bounce, and twist to the impact of memes – the preferred ammunition of the smarmy and righteous. The spectacle is made all the more enjoyable by the realisation that the victims are people of intelligence -and that in most cases they are willing targets. They stand up on the psychological parapet and try to attract the snipers.

Do you want someone to think the way you do? Meme them.

Want them to condemn something for your benefit?  Hand them a loaded meme and slip the safety off.

Want to look smarter, cooler, prettier, or finer than you really are? Meme your way to it. No-one will dare question you if they are looking down the barrel of a meme.

And the best part is you can make the victims think that they are all unique – and all in exactly the same way. One meme will fit all.

Isn’t the internet wonderful? Share this on Facebook and Twitter.

Blindsided In The Big Bed

Some Sunday afternoons are dull times…particularly when the weather has closed in and there’s nothing new to see. You sort of languish. So you can understand why I was delighted with an invitation from one of Perth’s belly dance sorority to call at her studio and take some pictures of her class teachers – she said they were to be casual ones for studio records. No need for me to bring the entire lighting suite…

Well, you can’t be too casual. I worked out a good travelling two-light setup with the new camera and packed it into the car. I noted that there were a few cars out on the parking area at her place but whose they were didn’t register. I walked to the front door and rang the bell that didn’t seem to ring. Just as well someone was going by the hall at time and saw me waiting patiently on the doormat.

Well, I was ushered in gracefully by Belyssa and directed to go set my camera and lights down. She’s got a big, purpose-built, studio space in her home that has an exotic theme – it looked like there were plenty of spaces for a decent posed group once the others arrived. I asked, in a professional manner, how many were to be expected.

And that was the signal – Belyssa gave the high sign and they all flooded out of the kitchen. And I was gleefully informed that it wasn’t a professional call-out, but a party given in my honour. And that it was I that was to be photographed…

I take these things well – rarely falling to the floor unconscious. I also take well to a glass of red wine and a plate of snacks and the cheerful conversation of people who I had photographed in the dance business for many years. And there were a number of war stories about theatrical performances and costume embarrassments.

Then they dressed up, and dressed me up, and packed into the spare bedroom set and sat me up at the top of the bed and that’s the last thing I remember. I’m told I had a good time, and I’m prepared to believe it.

I shall never look at Sunday the same ever again.

If You Don’t Have…

I’ve just seen one of those cooking sites that specifies extra virgin water grown on the slopes of the Gobi desert and kept under magical moonbeams for one of their ” signature ” dishes. I’m left with a number of questions…at least one of them pertinent:

a. What is a ” signature ” dish?

Is it a dish that has been signed? By whom? In what? Ketchup?

Would the bank accept a plate of ravioli at the bottom of a cheque?

Are there people who forge cutlets?

b. I get virgin. Not as often as I might like, but I do understand the concept. Something that has been previously untouched by human hands or any of the other parts. It’s a one-off thing.

But what is extra-virgin? Virgin on steroids? Virgin with attitude? The sort of virgin that marches in protests and yells at the police?

c. Water. It isn’t virgin now and hasn’t been for aeons. Every molecule going has been through something before: an animal gut, a pore, a plant tubule. Some molecules have been through every single Tom Cruise movie…but then you have to sort of admire that.

But all water is experienced. It knows its way around. It might appear in lite beer but not willingly.

It does appear in bullshit…and some cooking sites.

d. I’ve seen pictures of the Gobi desert. It looks like the Simpson desert or the Mojave. Without the taco stands. If you want water in the Gobi you need to order it waaaaay in advance. Like the Pleistocene era.

e. Magical moonbeams. Well thank God we’ve returned to sanity. I was starting to suspect a scam for a while there. No-one who has ever read J. K. Rowlings’ books …or for that matter her bank statement…could ever doubt the power of magic.

For my part, I prefer the recipes that allow some wiggle room in the pan. When they specify shrimp they will equally accept chicken or rat. I do draw a line at the medical advice columns that deal in substitutes, though. The one that said you could substitute wasabi for Murine wised me up.

On Ne Passe Pas

I just read several new posts on Facebook telling of incredible incidents…and I realised that I have been a Facebook criminal for many years.

The posts were from someone repeating posts from a third person, and were so vague as to be untraceable. That didn’t stop them from being sensational reading, mind – they spoke of stirring world events and social mores and the call to virtue and vice. All the good stuff.

The trouble was, they were very likely apocryphal. Legendary. Those are intellectual words for lies. Good lies, entertaining lies, educational lies – lies repeated by a person who is a very good person in other respects…but lies nevertheless. I’ve been seeing these lies for years – as long as I have subscribed to the main Facebook feed – and I’ve been complicit all that time.

Complicit? Why? Because I have just let them pass – pass along to the next person. Pass along to someone who might believe them and then pass them further. Some of the lies won’t do much harm or much good, but the constant stream of them must wear away any support for truth on the internet and eventually for truth in general society.

I repent of my crime. I shall reform. I will adopt the motto of Robert Nivelle. In the future the lies shall not pass.

Heading Image: A fine painted model French Poilu from the 2017 plastic model exhibition.