Sunday, February 28, 2016

"Star Trek: The Original Series" episode review: "Patterns of Force"

Pros: Interesting, if slightly flawed concept.  Good script.  Nice acting.
Cons: Tends to perpetuate the myth of Nazi efficiency.  Otherwise, none.
Patterns of Force: Parallel Worlds, TV Production Politics and Star Trek Explained 
Considering the socio-cultural and financial success of Paramount’s Star Trek franchise – a multi-media colossus rivaled perhaps only by J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter and George Lucas’ Star Wars empires – over the past 46 years, it’s hard to remember the reality that Gene Roddenberry’s Original Series was not given too much support from NBC,  the network on which it originally aired.

Of course, to those fans who saw Star Trek during its broadcast network run (1966-1969) and those who latched on to Trekker status in the decade that followed its cancellation and eventual rebirth in syndication, the show’s struggles to survive on the air is part of the Star Trek legend.  

Star Trek
 was, after all, the first show in history to be saved from the programmers’ axe by a fan-organized letter-writing campaign, and it was the first “failed” show to launch not just 11 feature films but four TV spin-offs (five, if you count Filmation’s Star Trek: The Animated Series, which Paramount clearly does not).

Even if most TV viewers are not aware of the Byzantine machinations that go on in the TV industry – especially in the relationship between networks and series creators/showrunners – it sometimes is very easy to tell which shows or genres are heartily supported by their parent studios and/or host networks. 

If, for instance, you see a nighttime soap (such as Dallas) or police procedural drama – the CSI triumvirate, say – you know that the network executives support them because they are heavily promoted and adequately budgeted. 

Even in the 21st Century, with broadcast networks relying more on cheaper-to-produce reality shows and talent competitions and ceding the TV-movie and miniseries business to the big cable networks, network execs invest heavily in shows which promise good ratings and a steady flow of advertising revenue.

Because no one at NBC had a crystal ball to help foresee Star Trek’s future or had done demographic studies to show the network that the show did have an audience among the 18-35 young adult crowd, NBC’s budget allowances to Gene Roddenberry and his line producers were almost penurious. 

It’s quite likely that Star Trek’s production crew would have liked to give viewers a better-looking Starship Enterprise and more exotic alien worlds and races, but the lack of funding forced Roddenberry (and later, Fred Freiberger) to use whatever resources the show could tap into within its limited means.

One creative trick Roddenberry resorted to was the “Parallel Worlds” concept.  The producer came up with the rationale that posits since there are billions of stars in our galaxy, even if only a small percentage have planetary systems, then there must be millions of Earth-like planets capable of sustaining human like life.

Roddenberry argued further that given a set of certain circumstances – say, like interference on a human-dominated civilization by Earth explorers or sheer coincidence – some of the planets visited by starships such as Enterprise would have developed societies and cultures which mirrored our own.

As intriguing as Roddenberry’s stated Parallel World’s concept may be to the die-hard fan, there is a simple reason why episodes such as Bread and Circuses – which depicted a Roman Empire which had survived well into the 20th Century and had cars, TV and machine guns – and Patterns of Force were produced:  Star Trek could use existing sets, costumes and props owned by Paramount, even if those had been created for Westerns, sword-and-sandal epics or World War II movies.

Patterns of Force
No Stardate Given, but c. Earth Calendar Year 2268
Original Air Date: February 18, 1968
Written by John Meredyth Lucas
Directed by Vincent McEveety
On an unspecified stardate during the fourth year of the Starship Enterprise’s five-year mission of exploration under the command of Capt. James T. Kirk (William Shatner), she is en route to the planet Ekos.  Her assignment: to look into the apparent disappearance of John Gill (David Brian), a respected cultural observer and one of Capt. Kirk’s instructors at Starfleet Academy.  Gill is a proponent of the thesis that history is best understood in terms of cause-and-effect rather than as a dry collection of dates and events.

Located in the M43 Alpha Star System, Ekos and its sibling world, Zeon, are M-class (Earth-like) planets which support human (or very human-like) inhabitants with technology very similar to late 20thCentury Terran standard.

Shockingly, the Enterprise finds herself targeted by what appears to be an old-fashioned ICBM armed with a thermonuclear warhead, a primitive weapon by the standards of the 23rd Century but far too advanced for the previously reported tech levels existing on Ekos upon Gill’s arrival some time before.

Although the starship fends off the attack easily, nevertheless Kirk and First Officer Spock (Leonard Nimoy) are alarmed by this unexpected turn of events; such a technological leap forward by the Ekosians indicates that Gill has, for unknown reasons, violated the Federation’s Prime Directive and deliberately interfered in the planet’s socio-cultural development.  Determined to find out why, the two Enterprise officers beam down in search of Gill.

"Unbelievable... do you recognize those uniforms?"
"Mid twentieth century Earth. The nation state called Nazi Germany."
Kirk and Spock

To their horror, Kirk and Spock find that Ekos is a near-perfect carbon copy of Germany during the period of Adolf Hitler’s Third Reich (1933-1945), albeit a version with technology levels slightly higher than those of 1960s Earth.  (Imagine, for instance, a Nazi Germany with nukes and spacecraft capable of interplanetary travel and you have Ekos.)

Because it’s highly unlikely that a “parallel world” scenario could have replicated one of the most odious regimes in Earth history, it’s obvious to Kirk and Spock that this Ekosian Reich, which uses the same uniforms, insignia, salutes, terminology and even racial policies as Nazi Germany, is proof that Gill has carried out an ill-conceived cultural experiment – and it has gone disastrously wrong.

Worse still, Kirk’s former history professor has not only introduced Hitler’s Fuhrerprinzip (leadership principle) to Ekos, but he has become the Fuhrer of Ekos – another serious violation of the Prime Directive.

Determined to find out why Gill has done this, Kirk and Spock steal some Nazi uniforms and begin looking for this “rogue academician” who has seriously disrupted the Ekosians’ normal cultural evolution.

"Lieutenant? Better see a doctor, you don't look well... your color!"
"Yes, I shall tend to it, Major."
"Lieutenant! Your helmet... remove it!"
"We have urgent business with the Fuhrer!"
"Lieutenant! Remove your helmet!!"
Kirk and Spock discovered by an SS-Major

But before too long, Kirk and Spock are captured, interrogated and tortured, then taken before Chairman Eneg (Patrick Horgan).  Spock’s disguise is removed during this process, revealing his Vulcan features to the racially-prejudiced Nazis.

Still suffering from their ill-treatment by the Ekosian SS, Capt. Kirk and
Spock are locked in a dungeon along with a Zeon resistance fighter named Isak (Richard Evans), who tells them how the Ekosians morphed into the present Nazi system not long after Gill arrived on the planet.

"How would you classify this one?"
"Very difficult. Note the sinister eyes and the malformed ears. Definitely an inferior race."
Daras and Melakon, on Spock

Incarcerated  on a world patterned after one of history’s most ruthless regimes, Kirk and Spock must somehow find a way to escape, return to the Enterprise and eventually find Fuhrer John Gill before Ekos and Deputy Fuhrer Melakon (Skip Homeier) launch a space fleet on an invasion of the planet Zeon to implement a 23rd Century Final Solution against its inhabitants.  The question is: will they?

My Take:  
Though Gene Roddenberry and the production staff often took great pains to come up with answers to such questions as Why do aliens in Star Trek always speak English and Why do certain humanoid-dominated planets look remarkably like Earth of the 1960s, the reasons were, and still are, extremely simple.  For instance, the aliens – which tended to look like humans but garbed with exotic costumes designed by William Ware Theiss – had to be portrayed by English-speaking actors since Central Casting couldn’t hire actual ETs.

Star Trek also could not very well send camera crews out into deep space to find actual Class-M planets and shoot on location, a fact that is still true in the 2010s as it was back in 1968.  Creating those strange new worlds on studio sets and a few locations not far from Los Angeles was possible, but to really make uniquely alien locations was expensive. 

Given the skimpy funding which Desilu/Paramount and NBC doled out, the only way that Roddenberry and his crew could depict worlds beyond Earth was to use whatever resources they had available and write stories about “parallel worlds.”

Patterns of Force is a perfect example of how Star Trek compensated for its low production budgets through creative storytelling and get away with it somewhat successfully.

The episode was penned by second season producer John Meredyth Lucas, who got his start in Hollywood when director Michael Curtiz, his stepfather, got him his first job.  Because he was heavily involved in the production end of the show, Lucas might have gotten the idea to blend Nazi-era stock footage and Paramount Pictures’ large collection of World War II movie uniforms along with a plausible Star Trek scenario of cultural engineering gone wrong.

Though I think it’s not one of the best “parallel worlds” episodes (A Piece of the Action is much better), Patterns of Force works reasonably well once the viewer suspends disbelief and accepts the premise of an idealistic academician who mistakenly duplicates Nazi Germany’s “efficient” society without leaving out its ruthless and evil philosophies.

What I think Lucas was aiming for in Patterns of Force was to illustrate George Santayana’s famous maxim “Those who do not remember history are condemned to repeat it.” For the most part, the episode reflects this theme very clearly; at one point, Gill himself says, "Even historians fail to learn from history. They repeat the same mistakes."

Of course, World War II buffs who have read books written by Ian Kershaw, Max Hastings and other contemporary military historians will probably have a field day picking Lucas’ story apart.  After all, if Gill is such an eminent historian and cultural expert in the 23rd Century, wouldn’t he know that the Third Reich was not as efficient as popular myth portrays it?

The image of Hitler’s well-oiled and ruthlessly efficient “People’s Society” was a creation of Nazi propaganda between 1933 and 1945, and even Allied counter-propaganda campaigns somehow helped keep this myth alive in some fashion for several decades after the end of World War II.

However, the real Third Reich was never an efficient monolith where industry, government, the military, the secret police and the Nazi Party coordinated their efforts to further Germany’s national goals.  On the contrary, Nazi Germany was a collection of fiefdoms controlled by a plethora of competing Nazi chieftains, ruled somewhat erratically by a megalomaniac Fuhrer with delusions of invincibility.

Obviously, Lucas was not writing a treatise on Nazi Germany nor was he aiming for total historical accuracy; Star Trek was, and still is, a TV action-adventure series with a science fiction backdrop which allowed writers to sneak in social commentary about issues such as war, peace, the role of technology in modern society, sex, gender roles and racial equality. 

However, Lucas apparently bought into the then-prevalent mythology of Nazi hyper-efficiency, which was still widely-believed by most Americans in the 1960s.

Patterns of Force 
features some nice acting  by both the regular cast and the guest actors.  The series’ trio of leading actors – Shatner, Nimoy and DeForest Kelley (Dr. McCoy) — turn in really watchable performances, while Homeier, Horgan, Evans and Valora Norland as Daras acquit themselves well in their roles as either Nazi Ekosians or their Zeon counterparts.

This episode has been given a few digital makeovers as part of CBS-Paramount’s 40th anniversary remastered DVD project of 2006, which means that some of the special effects shots from the 1960s edition have been altered or replaced altogether.

Patterns of Force actually only required a handful of visual changes.  The most obvious are shots of the Starship Enterprise in spaceflight and firing phasers at the Ekosian nuclear missile, and Ekos itself now looks more like a realistic Earth-like world as seen from space.

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Musings for Saturday, February 27, 2016: That which doesn't kill me only makes me stronger

Hi there, Constant Reader. It’s 2:45 p.m. EST in Miami, and the current temperature is 70 degrees Fahrenheit under sunny skies. With humidity at 30% and the wind blowing at 9 mph from the northwest, the feels-like temperature is 74 degrees Fahrenheit. All in all, it’s a beautiful late winter day in South Florida.

I am to a slow start today with my writing. To be honest, I don’t really feel like writing much; I have not thought about any topics for an Examiner article, not even a movie or book review. And yet, I know in my heart that I must write something. It doesn’t have to be anything spectacular, mind you. It can be something sublime, profane, or even mundane. The writing gods are not as picky as your garden-variety English composition teacher. The literary deities are as content with a well-written article as they are with a relatively insignificant blog entry.  They don’t care what I write about. It could be my shopping list for Winn Dixie – as long as I write.

As I sit here on this cool and sunny late February afternoon, I’m reminded of the 88 autumn days that I spent in Seville, Spain back in 1988. 28 years ago, from late September to a week before Christmas, I participated in the College Consortium for International Studies’ Semester in Spain program. I signed up for 15 credits’ worth of classes – History of Spain, Government of Spain, and nine credits’ worth of Spanish language coursework. In addition, I volunteered to send articles back to Miami-Dade Community College’s South (now Kendall) Campus’ student newspaper as its first official foreign correspondent.

I am remembering this period in my life not just because the skies are a nice shade of cerulean blue and the temperatures are as cool and crisp as they were in Spain during my stay there. Yes, the weather serves as a trigger for my memories, of course. But my 88-day study-abroad trip was also the first time that I was away from home and family for a long period of time, and even though my Seville experience was the best that I had while I was in college, it was also a somewhat stressful time for me.

This was partly because I was, after all, 3,000 miles away from home and in a country where I had no relatives. Prior to 1988, the only times I had been more than 500 miles away from home were the two times that I went to New York City to attend the Eighth and Ninth College Press Conventions as a journalism student. But even on those trips I went with my journalism adviser and several staff members of the campus student paper. In Seville, I was totally on my own, too far away from Miami (and my mother) to receive any assistance from home except for a wire transfer of funds from my U.S. bank account to my Banco Exterior de Espaῆa one in Seville.

So, yes. Even though I was 25 years old and a good college student (I was on the dean’s list regularly for almost my entire stay at Miami-Dade), I was apprehensive at times. I had never been in a situation where I had to pay for rent, balance free time and a college student’s academic responsibilities, and turn in copy as a foreign correspondent – all at the same time. This may have been old hat to my fellow students who were in out-of-state colleges and universities, but not for me. I lived at home and commuted to South Campus on Metrobus five days a week.

And yet, in spite of my (mostly) unwarranted fears, I learned that I’m made of sterner stuff than I (and others) thought. I discovered that I could overcome adversity if I adopted a positive attitude whenever possible. I found out then something that I’m having to relearn now: if I fall down (metaphorically as well as literally), I have to find the inner strength to pick myself up off the ground and get moving.  That mindset not only helped me cope with bouts of homesickness and a cold that bugged me on an on-and -off basis during my last weeks in Seville, but to pass all of my five courses with As and Bs.  I had my fair share of emotional stumbles, true. But as I said earlier, my study abroad experience was one of the best I’ve had in my life.

I don’t like feel-good clichés or sayings popularized on the Internet, but there is one slogan I have adopted as my personal motto: That which does not kill me only makes me stronger.
© 2016 Alex Diaz-Granados. All rights reserved. 


Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Musings for Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Hi, there, Constant Reader. It's now 3:29 p.m. EST in Miami, Florida. The current temperature is a summery 86 degrees Fahrenheit under cloudy skies. With humidity at 54% and a south-southwesterly breeze blowing at 10 mph (with gusts of up to 30 mph), the feels-like temperature is 85 degrees Fahrenheit. Even though I don't particularly want to, I have the air conditioner on, It's that hot.

Worse still, a cold front is on its way to South Florida. It passed through Tampa earlier today and caused heavy rains and high winds, and we can expect at least some showers and stiff breezes here tonight. Hopefully that's all we'll get; last night WPLG, the local ABC affiliate, posted a weather forecast on Facebook that included the possibility of strong thunderstorms and even tornadoes. Luckily, the front is still dozens of miles away from here and my computer's AccuWeather app says no precipitation is expected within the next two hours.
Late yesterday evening I went for a walk around the complex. I don't often do this; my attitude about exercising has always been lackadaisical, and I tend to voluntarily go for constitutionals only when I'm restless or upset. I suspect that yesterday it was a combination of both.  I tend to spend too much time sitting in front of a computer writing or hanging out on Facebook, and yesterday I was told that my estranged half-sister has befriended one of my neighbors in order to spy on me and see what I'm doing to my house.

If you're a regular reader of this blog, you probably remember that Vicky and I don't get along well. No...that's sugar-coating things too much. The fact is that we don't get along at all. I'm not going to get into the whys and wherefores right now; I'd probably break the Internet with my rather vitriolic musings about sibling rivalry and dysfunctional family issues, Suffice it to say, however, that I have not seen Vicky since she came by with her cousin Andres to take Mom's Limoge china set as part of her inheritance. I also have not talked to her on the phone or texted her since early October of 2015. I'm content with this status quo; I'm less stressed and much happier, thank you very much.

But yesterday afternoon I got a courtesy visit from Pedro, one of the condo's security guards. He asked me if I was okay and if I needed anything.

"I'm fine, thanks," I replied.

"Oh, okay," Pedro said. "I just wanted to make sure because I know your sister is not supposed to come to your house but I have to let her inside the complex because she's been invited by Mrs. So-and-So."

"Really?" I asked calmly. (In my head, though, I saw unsettling visions of  Mrs, So-and-So and Vicky peeking over my fence or trying to find unlocked doors or windows in order to get inside the house.)

"Yes," Pedro said. "I thought you should be aware of this for your own safety."

"Thanks, Pedro," I said, and as he left on his security guard's golf cart to continue his rounds, I shut the door and locked it. Crap,  I thought. Another problem to worry about. 

Mom, Vicky, and me in happier days
As you can imagine, I was nervous and angry about Mrs. So-and-So and Vicky's new alliance. I've always been on good terms with the neighbor, but the few times that we've talked since Mom died in July of 2015 I've gotten the impression that she would side with my half sister if our cold war ever got hot. Accordingly, I don't visit her at her house even though she told me I'm welcome to go if I need to talk to someone.

I mean...with friends like that, who needs enemies, right?

In other news....

I didn't sleep too well last night, but this morning my mood was brightened by the news that one of my Examiner articles has earned over 2,300 likes (and thousands of page views.)

Last Sunday I wrote Blu-ray news: Disney to release 'The Force Awakens' in 3-disc sets in April, a news article about the possible release date of Star Wars: The Force Awakens on the Blu-ray home video format. I didn't expect it to get many hits, but after I shared it in several Star Wars fan groups on Facebook, it went viral.

Not only has the article received tons of likes (which is quite a nice ego boost for me), but it helped me rise to the top spot of Miami Examiners based on page views. I'm also ranked in fifth place among the Movies Examiners.

I'm sure that my stay at the top will be brief, but it's nice to be Top Dog for once!
The Force, or at least my seldom-used reporter's instinct, is still with me.

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Musings for Saturday, February 20, 2016

Hi there, Constant Reader. It’s 11:03 a.m. EST on a cool Saturday morning in Miami. The current temperature is 76 degrees Fahrenheit under cloudy skies. With an east-northeasterly wind blowing at 15 mph (gusts of up to 21 mph) and humidity levels at 51%, the feels-like temperature is 76 degrees Fahrenheit. So it’s not too chilly here, but not warm enough to turn on the air conditioner.

I have been reading a lot over the past few days. Partly because I have been a voracious reader since I was a child, partly because I am a book reviewer for Examiner, but mostly because I need to read a lot in order to be a good writer. Right now my main focus is non-fiction, with an emphasis on U.S. military and political history. I’m also half-heartedly reading some fiction, especially Stephen King’s 11/22/63 and his epic Dark Tower series.

I used to post my “current reading lists” at the now-defunct Bubblews and the soon-to-be defunct Persona Paper every so often, especially in “blog doldrums days” when my blogging Muse was on sabbatical or when I was excited about what I was reading. In this case, it’s a bit of both. So without further ado, here’s what’s on my reading list for February 2016.

  • ·        Pacific Crucible: The War at Sea in the Pacific, 1941-1942 by Ian W. Toll
  • ·        Guests of the Ayatollah: The Iran Hostage Crisis: The First Battle in America’s War with Militant Islam, by Mark Bowden
  • ·        The Conquering Tide: War in the Pacific Islands, 1942-1944, by Ian W. Toll
  • ·        Six Frigates: The Epic History of the Founding of the U.S. Navy, by Ian W. Toll
  • ·        11/22/63: A Novel, by Stephen King

I won’t list any of the Dark Tower novels because I am not properly reading them. I am leafing through some volumes, yes, but not sitting down to immerse myself in King’s popular fantasy series.

That’s it for today, I guess. I might work on my Big Fiction Project later, or I’ll do a review for Examiner. I don’t know what my Muse wants me to do this weekend. I’m sure I’ll be busy at the keyboard either way.

Till next time….

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Valentine’s Weekend: Musings for Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Hi, Constant Reader. It’s 4:23 p.m. EST here in Miami, Florida. It’s a nice, warm (but not hot), sunny afternoon; the temperature is 81 degrees Fahrenheit. In contrast to the stormy morning we had, this afternoon has been pleasantly spring-like. In fact, it was so nice outside that Loreley and I enjoyed our last “errands run” before she goes back home to Tampa tomorrow.

The past few days have been absolutely wonderful. Loreley arrived here on Thursday afternoon. We went out to dinner at a Colombian restaurant that night after I gave her half of her Valentine’s Day gift (a 1928 Jewelry bracelet) a few days in advance of V-Day itself. As I’d hoped, Loreley loved the bracelet.  

We went out to dinner again on the 13th; this time we had a Valentine’s Day special at Outback Steakhouse (a Bloomin’ Onion, soup, steaks, baked potatoes, and cheesecake with raspberry sauce. On that occasion, I gave her the second half of her present: a 1928 Jewelry necklace. I was worried that she wouldn’t like it, but she does! She wore the necklace to dinner that night and took a selfie that features it.

On Sunday the 14th, Loreley invited me to Wings over Miami, an aviation museum located next to Miami Executive Airport (the old Tamiami Airport). We had wanted to go for the longest time, but with all the work that we need to do around here, we never seemed to be able to go. Wings Over Miami is smaller than I imagined it, but it is so cool!  I’ll write about it in my next entry.

As I mentioned earlier, we had some errands to run today. We went to the bank to deposit a check, then to the UPS Store to send some of Mom’s things to my estranged half-sister Vicky. After that, Lore bought us ice cream cones at Carvel. Mine was a sugar cone with a big scoop of Chocolate Volcano! Yummy.

We then drove a few blocks up Flagler Street to Walmart, where we got a flat extension cord for my study and a few grocery items. Then we returned home and resumed our usual routine – she works on “fixing the pad,” while I do some writing.

All in all, it was a memorable and happy Valentine’s weekend!

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Musings for Thursday, February 11, 2016

Greetings, Constant Reader. It's 11:49 a.m. EST here on a somewhat cool South Florida morning. It's 56 degrees Fahrenheit under sunny skies, and it looks like the weather will be nice (if rather chilly) for Valentine's Day. Since it is the dry season in Miami, it doesn't look like we'll see any rain this weekend. I haven't made any concrete plans for this weekend with Loreley (besides giving her a nice Valentine's Day gift), but if she wants to go out and do something, the weather should be perfect for it.

I don't think I'll be writing much today beyond this blog entry; Loreley is on her way down from Tampa to spend the weekend with me. I woke up just a while ago and I have lots to do before she gets here around 1 p.m. The drive from Tampa to Miami is a long one - four hours if the traffic is not heavy - so Loreley is bound to be tired and will want to relax. As for me, I haven't seen her in over a week, so it is rather unlikely that I will want to be here at my desk when I could be spending time with a beautiful woman.

As to what I got her for Valentine's Day...

That's a 1928 Jewelry bracelet that I bought from Amazon last week. I'm hoping that she'll like it, as well as the other item that I ordered to complement it.

My final Persona Paper "musing"

So long, Persona Paper: Musings for Tuesday, February 9, 2015

Good afternoon, Dear Reader and fellow Persona Paper writers. It's 1:41 p.m. EST here in Miami, Florida and the current temperature is 64 degrees Fahrenheit under sunny skies. The humidity level is tolerable; it's only at 49%, so it feels cool and dry outside. I'm not a big fan of humid heat, so this is my favorite time of year weather-wise. The forecast looks good as well; no rain is expected in our area in the near future. (It is the dry season in South Florida, don't you know?)
I'm sorry to say that unless I have something terribly earthshaking to share before the lights go out here, this is my last "musing" at Persona Paper. Not by choice, natch. The site is closing down soon due to, as they say in hoary military-themed novels, "the fortunes of war" (or, rather, the weird economics of the Digital Age). The owners, unlike the craven idiots that ran Bubblews so ineptly and unethically, tried hard to create a good site where we could write about anything (within reason, mind you) and get paid for our efforts. Everyone who read the "sorry, we're closing down" post a few weeks ago knows the sad narrative of how Google Adsense's misgivings about the validity of hits when many ex-Bubblers arrived here had a negative effect on the site's bottom line (and ours). elitecodex and his lovely wife tried hard to find alternative advertising revenue to keep PP up and running. Through no fault of their own, this did not work out and so, here we are.
I wish I had been able to contribute 10 or more posts a day like some members did; as it is, I only scraped up 271 posts (including this sad little valedictory) since September 30, 2014. Maybe I should have stopped posting at Bubblews when I joined PP; I probably would have had over 500 posts by now (and maybe even cashed out once; I have only 5077 coins and $7.62 in my Bank). But I foolishly attempted to soldier on in Arvind's Cloud Cuckoo Land in a vain effort to earn one last $50 cash out. So, no. I didn't even post once a day every day like so many of you did. If my lack of consistency hurt the site even in a small way, I take full responsibility for that.
Another factor in my rather anemic performance was that I also have other literary dragons to slay. Some, like Examiner and client-based gigs, are more stable and pay better than Bubblews and PP could. Even when I don't write too many reviews at Examiner, I get paid at least a PIDDLING amount without having to wait until I have $X.00 in my account. And clients usually pay well if you find the right ones. Yesterday, for instance, I earned $22.40 for a 560-word blog entry about coping with a minor health issue as a disabled person. (That's 4 cents a word, ladies and gentlemen.) I've written longer posts here and with more frequency, and I still only have $7.62 in my PP Bank.)
You might, of course, also factor in that I am now writing my first Big Work of Fiction and dealing with the complexities of a long-distance relationship with Loreley. Both of these endeavors are important, and they require time, energy, and effort so they can flourish. Since these resources are finite, I have to parcel them out wisely. Something has to fall by the wayside; in this case, posting at a lovely (but low-paying) writing site was the "low man on the totem pole," so to speak.
Then, of course, there was always the "who reads these posts - besides us - anyway?" cloud hanging over my head. I love blogging (which is, let's face it, what most of us do, and I have my own, badly neglected Blogger effort (A Certain Point of View, I call it.) And blogs CAN make money for their creators if they reach an audience. But I have always had this nagging thought (first at the B-site, then here) that goes like this: "Who in his or her right mind cares about what we had for breakfast? Or about our cute puppy or kitten's latest cute tricks?" When I wrote reviews for Epinions, I knew I was writing something useful (if rather subjective and opinion-based). These musings, though. Who reads them? And why would advertisers pay money for such humdrum content?
So, yes. There was that skepticism about Persona Paper and other blog-for-pay sites. It's hard to get fired up and productive when you're not sure if anyone is going to read your stuff. And it's even less attractive for a writer-type like me when the pay is so low and the exposure is so limited.
Still. I liked Persona Paper a lot. It gave me a place where I could write "sweet little nothings" and share bits about my life with others. I have friends here. And I like the owners. They're not shady characters out to make a buck without thinking about their contributors. I appreciate their honesty and their attempts to make Persona Paper a viable online writing community. If those attempts failed, it wasn't their fault.
Well, I think that's all I have to say on the topic of Persona Paper's closure. I will probably focus on my Fiction Project and Examiner. MyLot was and is not my cup of tea, and I don't think I'll be looking for any more write-for-pay sites either. They're either run by Arvind Dixit-like scam artists or want content that I am not interested in providing. So if you want to stay in touch with me, you might want to friend me on Facebook, read my Examiner stories, or look for my A Certain Point of View blog. Just Google "Alex Diaz-Granados." I'm sure you'll find me easily.

Image Credit » by OpenClipartVectors

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Breaking the long silence

Good evening, Constant (and new) Readers. It's 8 p.m. EST on Wednesday, February 10, 2016, and here in Miami the temperature is 59 degrees Fahrenheit under clear skies. It has been rather cool here over the past few days; I've even turned on the central heating on Monday and Tuesday to keep warm. I turned it off last night because this is more expensive than running the air conditioner during the hot days of late spring and throughout the wet season. Although temperatures in the 60s are not as thrilling as they are chilling, I can stand them well enough. In fact, this afternoon I went out to our condo's "small pool" with my copy of Ian W. Toll's Pacific Crucible: War at Sea in the Pacific, 1941-1942. I have been feeling a bit...claustrophobic lately, so I decided to go bask in the sun on a patio chair and read for a while. I was only out there for about 45 minutes and I didn't even finish Toll's chapter about the Battle of Midway. Still, it felt really good to be out of the house and relaxing in sunshine and fresh air.

Well, it's been almost a year since my last post here. I apologize for that, but it couldn't be helped. When I last wrote an entry here, Mom's health was steadily deteriorating and I was still struggling to find a balance between caring for an ailing parent, writing at Bubblews, Persona Paper and Examiner, and coping with the financial pressures of running the household.

A lot has happened since then, Dear Reader. So much, in fact, that I'm going to have to give you a quick-and-dirty summary:

  • Mom died on July 19, 2015. 
  • I fell in love and began a relationship
    with Loreley, a classmate from South Miami Senior High
  • I became estranged from my older half-sister Vicky
  • I had several news stories and reviews featured on Examiner
  • I asked for - and got - two additional beats at Examiner: Miami Star Wars Examiner and Miami Books Examiner
  • Began, with Loreley's assistance, the process of renovating my house
  • I participated in the South Miami High Class of 1983's big karaoke event in October
  • I started  writing my first novel
As you can see, my life has changed. Mostly, for the better, even though I'm not thrilled that my half-sister and I have such a dysfunctional relationship...and I do miss my mom a lot.

I'll write more about these changes in the near future.