Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Even More Grab Bag of Thoughts and Musings: September 2011 Edition

Just like the title says, it seems like yesterday just wasn't enough spraying of thoughts and musings for one month.

1. It is looking like the blue terror will continue to sweep across Canadian politics. The Conservatives have gained a lot of momentum the past few years thanks to Rob Ford taking the role of mayor in the biggest city in the country (he isn't officially a Conservative but a major backer of the party) and with Stephen Harper gaining his coveted majority seats in the past federal election. I am fearful that it looks like Tim Hudak is going to make it 3 for 3 for the Conservatives. I don't mind saying that scares me to the point that I may have to change my pants a few times on Election Day. I have not hidden the fact that I do not like Stephen Harper as the leader of this country and I feel he has done a piss poor job of running the country in a democratic way. But I am also well aware that Hudak is not Stephen Harper nor should I assume he'll run the province in a similar way.

He is still a part of the Conservative government, which has showed it is more than happy to play in the hand of major corporations, pander to the moral right, and pull hissy fits whenever they are challenged. Of course, there are all the policies they've tried to push forward that I feel are a direct slap in the face of what is supposed to be a multi-cultural country that honours rights and liberties. But again, I can't just compare the provincial party to the federal party, because they are different entities.

At the same time, Hudak looks to be following the same campaign strategy as Harper. He is making it an economic issue and promising financial relief. Though this country was not hit as hard by the recession, it still was hit. Promises of implementing strategies that allow money to remain in the wallet seem like a very appetizing thing. It is the very thing that I am convinced propelled both Ford and Harper into positions of leadership. It is a sound campaign strategy to go the exact same route, because that is clearly what this province wants to hear (Ontario voted Conservative by a landslide in the last federal election).

The problem is I am not really sure Hudak's promises of mass tax cutting are really helping those that need financial aid the most. I know the tax cuts will be a marvelous wonder akin to roaming the fields of fairies while astride a unicorn for the corporations and the wealthy, because they just love their tax cuts. But I am not really sure that the recession hurt too many of the very well off, because many of their jobs stayed fairly secure (maybe they couldn't buy that cottage up north this year or could only eat out three times a week at the fine dining establishment of their choice). The people hurt by the recession are the young families and the low to middle class. The reality is that tax cuts mean the cutting of programs, and likely the very programs that this hard off demographic is relying on. If there is too much hacking then you're bound to see the negative results in your health, educations, day care, and welfare sectors (among others), BC vehemently rejected the HST and everyone cheered with its demise over there, but now you're looking at the deficit being tripled. This means that province is definitely going to have to trim the budget and you only do that by cutting programs. The government over there has said they'll try to protect health care and education, but in political speak that basically means they'll promise to not completely wipe it off the map. Tax cutting is great for those that can afford to pay for any need they may have (or not need some of the key services), but not so grand for those actually relying on the assistance to improve their life (a single mom holding down two jobs may need help with day care or definitely not able to pay for some benefits out of pocket).

Hudak's other major platform is crime and safety. Apparently, we live in a province full of barbarians and werewolves, and we need his shining sword to saves us. It is essentially the same route that Harper went as well, by making it seem like absolute chaos is filling our streets. This of course ignores that crime is actually down compared to past decades and years, and that I at least feel relatively safe in the place I live. I realize media reports endless murders and evils, but people tend to buy more papers when there is the promise of gore and debauchery. So essentially, Hudak is promising to spend lots of time passing laws that have to do with enforcement, and using the reduced budget to fix a problem that may not be as horrendous as is being reported (while cutting out things that would actually help people).

I have to say that I don't understand the huge Dalton McGuinty hate that is causing people to flock from the Liberals to the Conservatives. The man has made some great strides with this province over the years and pushed forward some really worthwhile policies. We've got great things like improved day care, more doctors in this province, full day kindergarten, and an increase of jobs (though, still many are out of work, but we did have a recession -- one we did okay with all things considered). I know he isn't a hero among the moral right, but I also think a lot of the dislike is due to spin doctoring. I remember how many railed against him for the sex education program he wanted to introduce to elementary schools, and I still think it was a great plan (as long as the teachers were given the proper training and tools).

But I am also not even saying that I am necessarily voting for McGuinty and the Liberals. I really am not a diehard Liberal; they just tend to be the best option most of the time (though I voted NDP in the last federal election). But I am a huge fan of the Liberal MPP, Dave Levac. I feel he has been a great voice for Brant and he has listened to the concerns of the people. He fights for this city, and that is really all you can ask out of a MPP. I've actually had firsthand experience where he addressed some problems I had and he dealt with them in person. The man isn't too busy for his constituents. Plus he genuinely is a good and nice guy, and tries to remain as actively involved in the city and county as possible. If I do vote Liberal, then a lot of it has to do with my huge respect for my MPP, Dave Levac.

2. I came across this article thanks to a link on Facebook, and I think it is a good read to show how piracy actually hurts the artist. Now, I've talked about this before, and so I don't want to repeat myself too badly here. I think, this article is pretty solid evidence against the argument, "I am not really hurting the artist if I don't buy the book, but rather it just takes a few dollars from the big, filthy, rich corporations." Well, here is a novelist saying it isn't true.

I can promise you it is the same thing for the musicians, directors, actors, and video game developers. You're likely not hurting the big corporations because the big corporations have money, but you are hurting the people who actually created the work you're enjoying. If sales are incredibly low (and I not saying views or reads or plays -- because success is judged on the sales not how much it is liked) then you're likely sealing the fate of your beloved artist. If they don't sell to expectations, then the publisher or label won't be eager to ever work with them again.

Someone who toils for year putting their heart and soul into a work deserves compensation. They deserve to get the money for the time they've put into it. If you enjoy watching film or reading books or playing games or listening to music, then you definitely want to make sure these artists continue to put out work. They can't do it if it isn't financially feasible and worth their time. I know some will do it for free, but the reality is, the exceptional work takes a full time job to complete unless you want to wait several years in between each product (even then it just isn't worth it for many people to do that). The money doesn't come from the magical giving tree, but it comes from customers who actually pay the money or legally view the product.

The other day I was invited to a Facebook group that was promoting a new TV show. The director/writer of the show was asking all his friends to tune in and support the show. In the comment section, a friend actually had the gall to mention that they wouldn't watch it on TV (they don't have cable), but they'll download it on Bit Torrents instead. I couldn't believe the absolute cluelessness of the poster. The person wasn't just asking us to watch the show. He was asking to support the show. A show survives by getting sponsors to pay for ads on the show, and sponsors pay money according to how many views the show gets. The sponsors won't pay squat for any views on Bit Torrents or any other illegal site. You're not supporting a show by illegal downloads, because as far as a sponsor is concerned, you aren't watching that show. The person mind as well just said they aren't going to see the show, because it is as helpful as illegally downloading it.

If I ever get a book published, don't ever tell me you read an illegal download. Because that is about as useful to me as jamming a screwdriver up my nose. All you're doing is taking away potential money and increasing the chance I never get to publish another novel. Now, if you illegally download it, and decide the book is crap then maybe I'd let it go. You wanted to see if you liked it and you decided it was trash. But if you read the whole thing and enjoyed the ride you were taken on, then you really owe it to the artist to pay for the damned thing.

3. I was doing a breakdown of the type of writing work I do, and how much I make in each of those sectors. I was also doing some research on the most profitable sectors and talking to some people who are big players in those specific writing industries. I realized that if I focused my entire business on corporate and marketing writing, that I would have strong potential in making a very large sum of cash (not immediately but if I focused all my efforts on that in the next few years). I've got an expanding family, and I do have an innate instinct to provide for my family. I also do enjoy the perks of having extra lump sums of cash to play with. I've heard from several sources that it is very important to specialize and focus (which usually means to even focus on a specific type of market writing -- such as real estate). I really am confident that I can do that and be really successful. But I won't.

I am very confident I can make a ridiculously good living on corporate writing in a few years as I hone my craft. I also know I'd become more and more unpleasant to live with. I enjoy writing sales copy and doing marketing work. It presents a unique challenge and for the most part, I find it stimulates my mind. Plus it pays pretty handsomely. But I know I'd get antsy and bored writing for a specific niche all the time. I really know I would get frustrated and unsatisfied if all my writing revolved around marketing work over the rest of my career. I want to be able to write columns, reviews, books, scripts, and novels. Those types of projects excite me and motivate me. I realize it is much harder to make a living off those things. This is why I know I'll need to continue to build up my sales connections and hone my craft in that area. I don't just want to be that type of writer. I want to write more, even if it means I'll make a little less. In the long run, I think it will make me a happier and better balanced person. That is a better thing for everybody.

I know there are a lot of sites out there talking about focusing on corporate work or zeroing in on a niche. I'd completely recommend that if your main goal in writing is to make lots of money. If you also enjoy the creative side or have bigger writing dreams, then their advice isn't your holy grail. Of course, my needs and preferences are probably entirely different than your own. So, just take this all as one writer's crazy ramblings, and grab whatever value you want from it.

4. I've got a few really interesting emails in the last several months. It has all come from people with fairly similar religious and cultural beliefs, and they've essentially challenged me on not doing a very good job on following those beliefs. Or more to the point, they assumed I couldn't possibly be a follower of those beliefs, because my writing clearly shows I am another specific type of follower. They may be right in my case, but they wouldn't be right when it comes to other people I know (who share some views like mine but have different beliefs than me). I've talked about the dangers of labeling before, and how much I really hate 'titles'.

People tend to get a very specific image of a person when they hear Christian or libertarian or atheist or environmentalist. They attribute specific attributes to that title, and don't seem to allow people to veer away from it. It causes you to not actually take the time to get to know people, but rather put them in tidy little categories -- that they may not belong. It is incredibly irritating that society seems to be happy labeling someone a liberal, and then deciding exactly what that person cares about and how they behave. Because it is outright moronic to actually follow such a strategy, because people are complex organisms that don’t usually just fit into one tidy category. One person may be a Christian but they can also be a Liberal or believe in evolution or like the Yankees (cringe). One person's take on a particular belief and how one should behave under that belief is likely going to be different than your own, and the thing is that is okay. It really is. Trust me.

I'm not pegging this annoying habit on one particular group of people either. I would then just be as guilty. It comes from all sides. It comes from the fact it is just easier to define people by a title, and then assume they completely fit into how you define that specific belief or affiliation. This plan avoids you from actually getting to know people and take the time to understand each other. Sometimes your problem with a person may be more with how you think they are rather than who they actually are.

Now, we'll see what type of emails I get now that I've written this.

5. I think it is crucial that I announce that I've recently had Apple Jacks for several of my breakfasts. This is important because Apple Jacks was one of my favourite breakfast treats as a child. You may remember how I lamented that my matured taste buds have ruined my childhood memories of such delightful junks foods as KFC and Pizza Pops. Neither ended up being the frolicking with pandas in Narnia that I remembered, but rather actually tasted closer to the sock a panda had worn while frolicking. I had feared what other childhood taste treats would now be ruined by my refined taste buds.

Well, it is nice to know that childhood memories can still win. Apple Jacks were just as magical and magnificent as I remembered. I really think it is the taste of jacks that makes the experience so wondrous. Emily thinks it is just my childhood winning out rather than it actually tasting good. I think she was expecting something a bit more apple tasting, rather than the power of jack. Some people just can't appreciate a good spoonful of jacks.

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