The very strange, strange new world of alternative facts

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Photo by Letiha. Thanks for the photo Pixabay.

In the early 90s I read an article in Time Magazine about the first story to break on the internet. The breaking story was about a death on Mt Everest. The expedition had a website between base camp and headquarters and to get the tragic news to the right people in a timely way it was posted on the site. The media picked it up and ran the story. But, within 24 hours of the story breaking the amount of false news about the tragic accident far outweighed fact.

The Time article said while the internet will play a role, we just don’t know what that looks like now.

That story has stayed with me because I’m constantly being reminded that we are navigating strange and unchartered waters and perhaps while some would argue we’re not yet getting the best from the internet, right now, I’m not sure what we are getting is of any real value at all.

While this post is not about America, it’s President or the office of the White House, it’s because of them we are now hearing about fake news, alternative facts and dishonest media.

We are being told the media is hiding something or simply lying to us. But remember after the US Election someone claimed they were responsible for Trump winning because of the fake news they had posted about Clinton. Facebook has since stated it is going to crack down on fake news. As a society we have generally looked upon fake anything with disdain, take A Million Little Pieces by James Frey.

The media has rules it has to follow that includes verifying information. Which means any statement being released by anyone is going to be checked and that does not sit well with people, particularly President Trump and his White House.

Let’s not forget media’s first priority is to be the first to get a story. Having the exclusive is the goal. Beating everyone else is nirvana. So, it just doesn’t make sense that all media would be uniting to act as one, let alone conspiring to feed us false information.

What the media will do is check statements and if they don’t bear scrutiny the story is dropped. Not because they don’t want to tell the story, not because there’s a hidden agenda. Usually because it’s not newsworthy, or because it doesn’t stand up to scrutiny. Which brings me back to fake news and alternate facts.

We are being told the media are getting it wrong because they aren’t covering what the White House wants covered. We’ve been told Twitter, a social media site that’s modus operandi is to attract followers, is a more reliable source.

Is that how you want your information from our politicians, government offices and even big business? Unchecked, unquestioned and with no accountability?

That is the question we should have started asking at least a decade ago. It seems now it’s overdue.

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It could be a productive year but right now – it’s just too darn hot!

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Image by Ryan McGuire from Gratisography. I know it has nothing to do with heat but it’s such a heavenly idea right now.

The temperature is predicted to be over 30 for the next week at least. That usually means a lot hotter with the evil  ‘feel like’ figure. That figure is usually four or five degrees hotter and is why a mild 29 degrees at 7am feels like 32! Yes I’m becoming obsessed with the ‘feel like’ or ‘heat index’ figure.

But there is something going on in the atmosphere and it’s definitely about getting hotter;

This is the third year in a row that record temperatures have been broken in Australia.

There was a story of snow in a desert around Christmas time.

The South Island of New Zealand has had unseasonably cold weather this summer. An island known for its heat waves, wild fires and droughts at this time of year.

Yesterday there was a news report of turtle hatchlings dying in the sand because the ground temperature is 75 degrees!

If this isn’t proof that global warming is real then I don’t know what more is needed. For the non believers in climate change you have to wonder if they are the frog in the pot of water that slowly heats boiling the frog alive, only the frog has no idea it’s being cooked.

We are using the air conditioner more now than ever before. But, still hanging on to the idea that fresh air is better than anything else, last night we turned the air con off and turned the ceiling fans on full speed opened every window in the house and a few doors and slept to the loud threatening hum of blades wiping through the air at a speed that suggested they were about to fly off in the night decapitating us.

I’ve heard stories of best sellers being written at times like this. The author melting at the kitchen table in his underwear while he wrote about an ice-cold alternate universe. Hence the picture above. But I can’t quite bring myself to turn the computer on. If I do it’s only for a few moments. I can feel the heat radiating from the little machine and it only adds to the already prickly discomfort I’m in.

But I can’t keep writing about the heat, or the two-week long winter I’m dreaming of. I also can’t keep writing about how remiss I’ve been or claiming I’m finally back.

So, I’ll take my morning coffee and hop in the pool and plan a more structured, effective, efficient and driven year of writing. Yes, that’s the only way I can have my morning coffee. Up to my neck in cold water! Now some would argue this is the definition of an addiction to coffee. I’m going to argue it’s the new world order.

A relationship with a stranger

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I am having a relationship with a fellow Ian Rankin fan, I think? They probably don’t know I exist and I am assuming it’s the same person.

Three years ago as we landed in this new land I had just been put on to Ian Rankin. The suggestion was, as someone very new to the crime genre and someone who had never really read crime, I should read him. I had started with one of his first books, Black Book, but I still wasn’t a convert.

It was only a week after our arrival in Brisbane that it all changed. We went to the local school fair where I picked up The Naming of the Dead and Exit Music. They looked brand new. I wondered if a publisher or book seller had donated them. If they had been read it was only once. I can’t remember the price but it was cheap, maybe $2. I devoured them and realised this is Rankin. Now, after many re reads, both books look a lot more worse for wear.

So, I went back the following year with the hope of finding more but there were none!

This year I saw Dogs in the Wild and a rare early story called The Watchman, this hardcover came with a new introduction by the author.  Now I don’t know if it’s that the story is about spys and watching people or the idea of a fellow Rankin reader out there somewhere that I’m sharing stories with. But I’ve been thinking a lot about who this person might be. They are probably local, definitely a once only reader. The books are in near mint condition. Maybe they aren’t reading them at all, maybe someone thinks they are a Rankin fan and keeps buying the books for my poor reader who isn’t reading them at all, instead saving them up for the next school fair.

Not sure where I’d start but I do feel like there could be a great mystery to unravel here.

 

 

 

 

Festival fever, Morris Gleitzman and the secret to a good story

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Literature Festival fever has taken hold of a leafy suburb in Brisbane. The purple fever has a grip on authors, young readers, writers and thinkers alike.

Day one ended with Morris Gleitzman who spoke to a packed auditorium about writing and that very secret, secret behind writing book after book.

“In our imagination there are no rules. It’s an exciting proposition,” Morris Gleitzman.

But what happens when you sit down with a great story in your head and brilliant characters bursting to share their stories. You sit down, open the computer or find a clean page in your notebook and, nothing. That blank screen or page stares back at you in an awkward silence that forces your gaze out a window, or at the pile of dishes you keep putting off. Instead you’re left wondering just how the successful authors, like Mr Gleitzman, do it.

Well, turns out, these people are just like us. Mr Gleitzman had a similar experience after the arrival of his first book. With that first title in hand he believed his life would be perfect as great ideas and stories flowed. But it wasn’t quite that simple. That first line was proving a bothersome beast to hold down.

It was a quest that took him to public libraries where he studied first line and great story upon first line and great story. He cracked it.

The question I have is what is the secret to the next line and the ones that follow that?

But, for this audience of future writers and readers. It was all about that first line and the secret to getting it right. The buzz of creativity that rose above the crowd and filled the large auditorium proved he really has nailed it.

I could share it with you but I think I might end on a quote from him instead. A quote that may prove more useful than the secret.

“The things in life I have never forgotten are the things I discovered myself,” Morris Gleitzman.

I’ve been remiss

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Yes, I’ve let things slide. I haven’t been on this blog for some time.

So, inspired by my fellow writer/blogger-in-crime Say Anything Sare  I opened the blog to find three drafts of posts I had started but never finished. Over the next few weeks I do intend to finish them and post them.

But, in the meantime I’ve also updated the The Reading Pile and  The Work in Progress pages.

Yes, after much consideration and inspired by a recent post by Raven Books and some very tight reviews. I’ve decided to plunge into the world of sharing my thoughts about things I’ve read. It’s currently not an extensive list but with the Brisbane Writer’s Festival just around the corner I’m sure it’s going to grow again soon.

I’ll try to stay on top of things this time.

It’s good to be back.

 

A quiet finale

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Earlier this month myself and fellow blogger/writer-in-crime, Sarah Todman, took part in a global collaborative project called The Finale Project.

There was a script, we didn’t follow it very well. But the idea of conversations and how they work intrigued us from the get go so we ran with the idea of conversation and how easily it can become white noise.

We set up camp in a local cafe and talked a lot and drank coffees and wrote.

My results …..

It is opaque, translucent but not, like a spiders web, possibly with the tensile strength of a golden orb spider’s web. If you stop and look down, really stare hard, you can see it below your feet. You think you can see through it to what’s below. You can’t.

This is white noise, the every day, the stories you’ve heard and know so well. But below are the missed things. The words and hints from an expression that with hindsight you will come to wish you heard then. The innuendo, the glimpse of more behind the words. But, at the time you didn’t know you had missed.

Until the miners decide it’s time to dig.

Generally a person won’t give much thought to the missed. But there will be moments when someone will turn, look up from a screen or down at the ground and find it before them, the missed. There is pause for thought while a person may reflect on this new information. There may be regret. An action may take place. Generally it doesn’t.

The miners are smaller than the human eye. Little people in black suits with bowler hats and umbrellas hooked over their left arm. Some have pipes. It’s not clear why they choose a person and their missed.

And this is as it was on Tuesday the 16th. Mr Bartholomew Simpkin was filing his 1D4B68’s into grey folders.

At 2.58 the miners started to dig.

By 3.15 they were done.

They rose silent, industriously through the white noise placing the missed amongst files and sheets of paper on Mr Simpkins desk.

It wasn’t until 3.45 when Mr Simpkins saw what he had missed and it should have been sooner, they were right there in front of him. But when he did he was so shocked he knocked his tea cup causing a small wave to lap over the rim and slide into the saucer. That made him sit up. A bubble of tea escaped from between his lips at the surprise of the knocked cup, or maybe at what had just been found.

Mr Simpkins now had to decide if he should ignore the misheards and miss reads again or listen.

He didn’t know what to do

 

 

 

We’re done – thank you

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A touch sunburnt and the crunch of sand now wedged in our back teeth we made the final sprint across the boarder to Queensland.

Not much more to add really.

We planned on seeing a lot more of the country and we did. But at times it felt like we were just passing through, observing but not really a part of anything and at times not sure which way to turn to become a part of the life in front of us.

But the more road we covered, the more familiar we became with the idea of the road and it almost became life as usual. It is almost a rhythm from driving. Different from the day to day you take for granted and it seems you need time to adjust, we did. It was almost as if we were still looking for that same routine we had left without realising. But that didn’t last. We fell into a new rhythm, the one that matched the road and made it easier to take detours when the muse took hold of us. The road from Canberra north along the coast right back to Brisbane is truly beautiful.

And, the final wildlife report. The beautiful Yamba delivered. On our last night we took a stroll down to the beach to say goodbye and a pod of dolphins swam in close to the shore and slowly moved across the bay, it felt like the perfect farewell from Yamba.

p.s: This was written nearly a month ago, but that day to day has well and truly kicked in. So a delayed farewell to the road.