Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Freedom For Chinese Dissident Writer

The life Chinese writer Liao Yiwu chose to lead in his native country, reporting on the truths he saw, was not an easy one. His freedoms were restricted and he suffered persecution in the pursuit of his work. Finally, the dissident writer has fled to freedom in the West, giving voice to those he left behind.

After being denied an exit visa 17 times, yanked off planes and trains by the police and threatened with yet more prison time, one of China’s most persecuted writers, Liao Yiwu, slipped across the border into Vietnam last week and then made his way, via Poland, to Germany, where he promptly declared himself an exile.
Liao Yiwu, one of the most persecuted writers in China, fled into self exile in Germany this week. While still in China, his writings on the plight of the country's downtrodden had earned him travel restrictions and threats from the police.
“I’m ecstatic, I’m finally free,” he said in a telephone interview from Berlin on Monday morning before plunging into a day of interviews and photo shoots. “I feel like I’m walking through a dream.”
Click here to read more

Friday, July 8, 2011

It's The Death Of Handwriting In Indiana

Once again proving just how quaint and backwards they can be, Indiana educators will stop teaching cursive handwriting in favor of keyboarding.
The change takes effect this school year with kindergarten students learning on a keyboard and the expectation being they will learn to write two pages of keyboarded text by the 5th grade.

This move comes despite reports from neurobiologists that brain scans have shown writing by hand causes activity in many regions of the brain including creative and analytical, while keyboarding is more a rote exercise.

Of course the elimination of cursive writing in Indiana schools comes right after state educational leaders eliminated funding for art classes, science fairs, band and many other academic studies they felt did not deserve funding.

And yet they wonder why graduating college seniors decide to move out of their state.

There is absolutely no excuse for eliminating handwriting in school. Do we hand write letters to one another? No. It's simply not very common to write and mail a letter any more. That still doesn't mean we should stop teaching it. There is so much to be gained from having good penmanship. Being able to write in cursive is decidedly an art and there is no substitute for having excellent skills in this area.
Anyone who has had to read the grocery list prepared by their significant other knows this quite well.

What about those writers who enjoy writing by hand? Fantasy author Piers Anthony wrote his most famous novels, those which took place in Xanth, on yellow legal pads. Hemingway hand wrote all his stories in a little leather bound notebook.

Technology is great. Clearly this blog is being written on a keyboard. But that does not mean I would give up my ability to write cursive. In fact, I would challenge you to try and remove that skill from my brain. I won't give it up. Learning to master all the hoops and swirls of the art, writing and re-writing letter after letter, page after page until my teacher finally gave me a passing grade. I am proud of mastering that challenge and I am proud that I can write in cursive.Do I do it often? No. But I'm still glad I could if I needed to.

It is a shame that an entire generation of Indiana students will be denied this skill merely to suit the whims of politicians who feel the need to dictate what type of education is worth funding and which is not.

The new Common Core curriculum will allow cursive to be taught as an elective. The transition begins with kindergarten this schoolyear and first grade teachers in the next until all K-12 teachers begin using the standards in 2014.
Reaction to the change has been mixed, with some observers welcoming it as part of the efficiency of a digital age that has relegated handwriting for most people to name-signing. Other pundits, however, either warned of a doomed cursive-less future or were emphatic in showing contempt for an increasingly machine-dependent Twitter generation.
"When is the last time you penned a letter, period?" wrote Monica Bielanko on babble, a blog for parents. "I recently wrote a letter and it was tiring and cumbersome. It felt very quaint, as if I had a feather quill and an ink well."
Bielanko relayed her frustration learning cursive as a child who would inadvertently wipe off her hardwork because, being left-handed, she had to push her hand across the page. She also pointed out that her middle-aged husband "was forced to adapt" and now types quickly using an improvised style.
Learning to write in cursive and using it to learn other subjects can also pose intense challenges for children with learning disabilities, a reason some educators and parents support the use of technology for note-taking and writing.
But the Star Press warned in its editorial, which featured an image of the alphabet in cursive, "One imagines new generations of young people, able to text at the speed of light, but unable to sign their names... unable to hold a pen or pencil propoerly [or] read a handwritten letter, an invitation or a reproduction of the Declaration of Independence."
"Now that first-graders carry laptops to school, everyone should learn typing skills, at least until all computers take dictation or just read our thoughts," Phil Wieland wrote in an op-ed in the Times of Northwest Indiana.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Closing 'News of the World' The Worst Possible News

Rupert Murdoch does not deserve kudos for his decision to close the venerable 'News of the World' in response to the news that reporters there hacked into the cell phone of a missing girl and deleted messages from concerned family members. He deserves to be derided for a rash, self-serving decision that he no doubt hopes will save his ass and a big telecommunications deal he has coming up in the UK.

In my opinion closing the world's largest English language newspaper in response to the actions of a hand full of its employees is the wrong thing to do. But what does Murdoch care? He's never struck me as someone who cared much about doing the right thing unless he could profit from it.

The reporters responsible should be fired. The editors that approved the action, or even if they didn't approve it, were in charge of the reporters at the time, should be fired, and the publisher in charge at the time should be fired. Instead everyone who works there is now unemployed. That includes mail clerks, advertising reps, interns, photographers, reporters (who would never dream of doing such a thing), computer technicians, custodians, paginators, editors, assistant editors, features editors, the sports department; newspaper carriers, pressman and secretaries, and all the people who own shops that make a fairly decent living selling the News of the World, they are out of luck, too.
So are the people who sell them their office supplies, printer ink, equipment, light bulbs, fuel, paper and cleaning supplies.

Shuttering the News of the World is certainly one way to shut everyone up about whether or not tabloid journalists are going overboard. It shuts up the naysayers who claim the company will never change because now the company never can change. It's finished. After 150 years in business News of the World is closing its doors.
And not because Murdoch thinks it's the right thing to do, but because it is a painless way to deal with what had become a publicity nightmare. The News of the World contributes very little to his revenue stream. Most of his money comes from television and other digital media these days so it's hardly a sacrifice on his part.
Seems to me that closing News of the World is a matter of expediency, not honor.

When I heard of the scandal I was shocked and disgusted by the behavior of those involved and those who were in charge at the time. I spent more than a decade of my life working in newsrooms, with some of the finest newspaper people in the business. I know how a newsroom works, and I know no reporter would be paying out of pocket for the professional talents of some cell phone hacker. Someone else knew what was going on and everyone in the chain of command when those incidents happened should be held accountable and severely punished.
Everyone else, all those other people who did nothing but show up for work and do their jobs to the best of their ability, they do not deserve to be punished. And closing the newspaper serves no purpose whatsoever.  This type of scorched earth technique doesn't work in war time and it certainly doesn't work in a newsroom.

Shame on you, Rupert Murdoch and shame on any of you who think closing News of the World is the right thing to do. Because it isn't.

From its formation in 1843 the paper, which initially cost just three pence, made millions of pounds for a succession of owners by offering up a regular diet of sex and celebrity news that helped it capture a significant chunk of the mass market.
And until the paper became infamous for the behavior of its own journalists, News of the World was known for its investigations, exposure of wrongdoing and campaigning. Just months ago it won a journalism industry award for its exclusive story about alleged match fixing by Pakistani international cricketers.
One veteran journalist, the Guardian's assistant editor Michael White, said the paper had a "Jekyll and Hyde" nature. The paper was responsible for "good stuff like the Pakistan cricket corruption story and some awful stuff that we now know about," he told CNN.
He added that journalists at the paper were "spitting blood that (the paper's owner) Rupert Murdoch had not closed (its chief executive and former editor) Rebekah Brooks rather than their beloved newspaper."
"These are difficult times for our industry. It's horrible to think of News of the World closing, even though it sometimes drives me mad."

Click here to read the CNN story on the closing.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Kobo Keeps It Simple

E-Reading, that is. The device that you can read books on. Just read books on. No bells, whistles, no distractions. Lighter and more compact than it's competitors, small may be beautiful, but an uninterrupted good read? Priceless.
Don't misconstrue, but I go both ways — I'm a bi e-reader user.

My e-book reading odyssey began with the Kindle. Then I started using the Kindle app on my iPhone. I then moved to the second generation Kindle, then to the Kindle and iBook apps on the iPad.

I have now returned to a dedicated e-reader, the new Kobo eReader Touch Edition, switching with the Kindle and the iPad Kindle app where I have most of my unread books. As soon as I finish reading my pending Kindle books, I believe I will stay with Kobo.

Click here to read more
Click here to see demo

Move Over Ladies, It's Time For The Broetry

Devoted to dudes,writer Brian McGackin brings us poetry with the modern man in mind. The book titled 'Broetry', is a collection of poems that should appeal to men and maybe give the girls a giggle too.
Listen up, guys, this book’s for you. “Broetry” is the title of a volume of poetry that has been penned by Freehold Borough native Brian McGackin.

The book is packed with verse after verse of comedic snippets of life. As the inside cover states, it is “Poetry for Dudes.”

McGackin will host a book signing at 7 p.m. July 7 at Barnes & Noble, Route 9, Freehold Township. He is expected to read some of his “broems” (rhymes with poems).

click here to read more
Click here to order 'Broetry'

Female Writers Spill The Beans

Almost forty years since Fear Of Flying gave insight into feminine desire, Erica Jong is back with a collection of real women writing about real sex in 'Sugar In My Bowl'. Twenty eight female writers spill the beans on their most intimate moments.
The nasty. Canoodling. Frottage. Bonking. Doing it. There's plenty of ways to describe it, but how do you know you're having great sex? Isadora Wing, heroine of Erica Jong's 1973 Fear of Flying, struggled mightily with this question, and the novel became a feminist classic for its high-brow take on female desire. Talking about sex isn't easy — and not just because half of the terms one might use to situate the conversation are generally not for the delicate-minded.

Click here to read more

Screenwriters Feeling The Pain In 2010

Screenwriters earnings have been on the downward slippery slope since 2007, with studios using cost-cutting measures at every turn. Numbers are in for Hollywood screenwriters earnings for 2010, down ten percent on the previous year.

The fiscal story line was grim for Hollywood's screenwriters in 2010.

Feature writers belonging to the Writers Guild of America, West reported earnings of $393 million last year, down 10 percent from the prior year and 25 percent below 2007, according to a report the guild released Friday.

The decline underscored the fact that there are fewer writers working at a time when studios have scaled back the number of feature films they are releasing.
click here to read more