People Watching

7 Sep

I am a people watcher.  I notice a lot of things about people, and some of them are very subtle cues about their psyche given away by their body language.  When I worked in fields such as corrections and law enforcement, it was very useful.  When I was younger and lacked knowledge about the frequency of people having less than honorable intentions, it was what saved my silly butt when my brain failed to use what is called “common sense”.  People watching is a lifelong habit.

As time as moved forward, the internet was not only born, but grew up and out, swallowing our world.  It has given us access to the thoughts and comments from people from all over the world.  In many cases, it has removed the economic barriers that had previously isolated certain sectors of society from each other.

So what does that mean?

It means that I have the ability to regularly observe the public behavior and comments of those people born into a life of privilege.  You know the sort–their vacations cost more than my house’s total purchase price.  They have never experienced actual hunger, been homeless, or been worried about whether their utilities were going to be shut off before they could scrape together the money to pay the bill.  They have no idea what robbing Peter to pay Paul even means in terms of daily life.  They can have personal trainers, multiple cars, multiple vacations each year, etc.  They also have the ability to go “find” themselves and put their principles ahead of survival.  

When they were graduating (or their children) from high school, their biggest worry was not trying to find a way to pay for college, but rather whether they would be accepted into their first choice college.

But that’s okay.  It is nice that some people can enjoy a life of privilege, and if they inherited it from their grandparents or great-grandparents, well, lucky for them.  It’s hard to not envy that financial state when you are struggling, but I really don’t bear them animosity.  What does torque my psyche is that these people with  a life of privilege feel that they not only have the right, but the obligation, to pass judgement on the rest of the world.

People usually do not choose to be poor or financially struggling.  No one enjoys being hungry, homeless, sick, etc.  Our natures encourage us to try to avoid those states.  They, which in this case, includes me, may have made some poor choices or been the recipient of an unfortunate series of events that lead them to that state.  From there, circumstances can snowball to other issues, with a wide range of observable results.  These things can happen to people who are intelligent, moral, hard-working, and considerate of others.  They may even have a very good education to go with it.

It’s sad but true, money talks in this country.  Without money, if you are sick, you will die, the same as anyone who is poor and sick in a third world country.  Some areas have better indigent health care than others.  In Mississippi, if you do not have children at home, you are unlikely to receive any assistance with any medical needs, from medication to hospitalizations. The state does not consider keeping their population healthy to be financially feasible or a good investment, apparently. It means lower costs for the elderly too–Mississippians tend to die younger than most Americans, reducing the number of years that the elderly receive Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, SSI, SNAP, etc.  Sounds great on paper, if you are one of the privileged category that can afford good housing, good nutrition,  lifelong insurance and private elderly care.  Poor people tend to believe that they are “lucky” to have minimal health care for their children.  The new national health care plan is painted to be the tool of the devil himself, an affront to the very fabric of American society.

Why do these people of privilege believe that they are responsible for passing judgement on every overweight person they see, everyone who is struggling to make a life for themselves, everyone who asks for help, and everyone else that they may observe in the course of a day?  Who gave them that right?

Somewhere along the way, the capitalism that we all treasure became a corporate based economy that has little to do with the concept of “free enterprise” and a whole lot to do with monopoly and control.  It’s not really capitalism anymore, more like corporatism.  Now we are told that corporations even enjoy many of the rights of a person.

Wonderful, right?

Not until a corporation dies on the battlefield or in a hospital bed of a curable disease.

In most cases, those with a life of privilege have acquired it via the corporatism society we live in today, not due to extraordinary efforts or great inventions. The sad thing is that with the rise of corporatism, we’ve lost compassion.  We illustrated it with the reality show industry featuring Donald Trump pointing his finger and stating “You are fired!”

There is no compassion from corporations.  It’s nothing more than the cogs of a wheel that bring the downsizing from the board of directors to the employee being laid off, all pre-planned like a paint by number painting and never seasoned by compassion, to give the dreaded pink slip to someone who is going home to his or her family with the worst news imaginable.

Even the safety net of the extended family is gone, also courtesy of corporatism and its demise rushed by the corporatism that fuels Hollywood’s representation of society in films and television.  We are now like a nation of three year olds grabbing everything they can reach and shouting “MINE!” at the top of their lungs.

Corporatism has convinced us that we need those “toys” and that he who dies with the most toys wins.  Too many people are working too many hours to buy toys so that they look as though they are living the life of privilege, when instead they could be enjoying the luxury of a real life with enough.  It’s made us a nation of people who trample over other people just to grab one more toy too.

Did you think Hunger Games was a depressing book?  It’s not that much different than the corporate career many face.  Most “die” early on, doomed to a life in the mail room, secretarial pool, or being fired.  A few climb to the next level, if they are greedy enough and willing to stomp on enough other people to do so.  At each level, more die and fewer rise to the next level.  Then, finally, there is a handful of “winners” who get the prize.

I think we need a whole lot more compassion, respect, and consideration for others and to stop entertaining those in positions of privilege with our envy and efforts to rise to their positions.  We need to learn what enough really means.  We need to remove the concept of false shortages and monopoly from our economy and create an air of plenty and competence.  We need to reward excellence and despise greed.

I can dream, right?

Sometimes, I wonder how Gene Roddenberry’s world came into being, what kinds of growing pains it experienced before money went away.  What measure did they use to bargain with others then?

Writing to the White House, Representatives, or Senators

27 Aug

Do you need some highly delayed aggravation in your life?

I’ve discovered one in the  past year.  On two separate occasions, I wrote to the White House.  Months later, I believe about six of the them, I would receive a response.  Once I wrote to the President, and once to the First Lady.

Now I’m not naive enough to think that either one of them read either letter.  I know that they were read by a junior staff member who probably despises the chore.  It certainly takes long enough to get around to the task of responding.

The length of time makes you feel as though what you had to say fell on deaf ears and was essentially a wasted effort.  I can vent in a blog with more satisfaction and probably with equal ability of creating awareness with those who represent us in our government.  I’ll certainly feel as though I’ve done something.

Unlike the letter to the White House, or the ones I’ve written to our representative or Senators.  The senators never responded.  The representative responded slightly quicker than the White House, but committed the same grave error.

None of them apparently actually read & comprehended the letters.  A computer algorithm could have come up with a better response than the semi-human operated bot did.  It was as though the response looked for a few key words and then spat out a form letter that was supposed to address what you had said.

Wrong.

This morning, I received a letter from the First Lady (or rather her automated staff/email response team).  It went on about the Let’s Move campaign and childhood obesity.  Was that what I wrote about?

No.

I had written to her asking her to support gardening as a way to fight obesity, and specifically urban gardening’s need for her support.

I merely got a form letter thanking me for supporting Let’s Move and the usual propaganda about how wonderful it is.

I’m disgusted.  I wasted my time, and then…I wasted more time with reading the response. The White House also wasted time sending it.  I got the same sort of nonsense from my representative and senator, the same nonsense from the President.

I guess my complaint is that it is worse than a waste of time, it’s insulting.

Solution is advertising!

23 Aug

I’ve made some posts lately about the struggles of keeping an internet radio program up and running, as well as free for listeners by pleading for donations.  I really hate doing that, and while I greatly appreciate the handful of people that have responded, we felt we needed a better solution, especially since we’ve had some equipment failures lately too.

So what did we come up with?

Advertising.  But, it’s still advertising with a difference, as well as with a look back to old time (pre-television) radio programs.  Remember how the old time hosts would say something about their sponsor’s products during the program?  It’s the same concept.

We’ve just modernized it.  It’s low cost, we’re debuting the concept at just $20 per “mention”, making it affordable for everyone from new independent authors that want to get the word out about a book launch to someone sponsoring a program segment in lieu of a traditional (and somewhat mundane) birthday card.  It’s also a bargain, considering that the Dawn of Shades has over 250,000 logged in listeners each week, with the numbers steadily increasing.

This way, instead of just getting a thank  you for donating, it becomes a totally different beast as an actual purchase of advertising.  For businesses, it then becomes an actual business expense too.

It’s just a short piece that will be read by the host (almost always me!) on the air, and there are only four slots per program available, so once they are gone…they are gone.  There is also only one discount available, and to receive that, you would have to be a member of the group on Facebook.  (It’s a closed group, but all legitimate appearing accounts are granted membership.)  The group is found here, if you are interested.

The same program is available for Greg’s show, the Voice of the People, on Saturdays too.

There are a few rules.  We won’t lie and say we use/endorse something if we really don’t have a clue.  We can’t advertise illegal items. We also cannot advertise porn websites or shady commercial ventures with offshore businesses.  You can only advertise a website if you own the domain too, except for a few exceptions such as Amazon & other familiar retailers selling books, audio recordings, videos, etc.  (Indie authors & artists, as well as more traditional writers/musicians, all use these sellers.)  You can promote a cause, but we also will not accept one that advocates illegal actions, such as overthrow of the government, etc.

We will only accept payment via PayPal.  It’s easy and secure for both parties, as well as a minimally difficult process for everyone.  There are deadlines too–we can’t arrange for an ad during the last hour before we go on the air!  We have to agree on the message, vet the website, etc. before the advertisement is accepted.  A particular slot is never guaranteed before payment is received either.

Want more information or to buy a slot for yourself?  It’s easy–just email me at giascott at exogenynetwork.com!

Spittin’ in the wind

12 Aug

Well, the cable company was even less patient than I’d hoped.  They hit us this morning with a cut off.

Thankfully, courtesy of the donations we’d received, we were able to pay the minimum payment to keep it on for now.  So…even though we were $75 short of paying the whole bill, we have internet for a while longer.

We didn’t get much response, compared to the number of listeners we have.  I guess I would have been inspired by more response, even if the response came without a donation, but…that’s the way it is.  We haven’t even gotten any response on the poll we posted on a previous post on this blog.

I really need a bit of encouragement.  So does Greg.  

In the middle of all of this, our little feist was failing fast after another stroke, and she passed away early Saturday morning.  Granted, she was very good at annoying people, and not very nice to most of them, but we loved the little dog anyhow.  The show Saturday evening was tough for Greg on the heels of digging his little buddy’s grave.  She was a “daddy’s girl” dog, and they were especially close.  Despite having other dogs, we are still depressed over losing her.  Our dogs are like our four legged children, I guess.

But…with all of that aside, I’m done begging for donations.  It was a very difficult thing for me to do anyhow, and I didn’t like it.  Beggars also have a tendency to suddenly become invisible, and that’s the last thing I wanted.  We’re going to have to consider alternatives to the donation method of funding, that’s obvious.  We’re exploring those avenues now, and it will likely result in advertising, sponsors or pay-per-listen for the podcasts.   Maybe something will come up, but I’m leaving that to the Universe.  If we’re meant to stay on the air, we’ll find funding somewhere.  If not, well…we won’t be.

It’s kind of like spitting into the wind, you never know what will happen for sure.  You might get a face full, and then again…maybe you won’t.

In the meantime, the next month’s worth of shows are coming to you courtesy of Steven and Elaine, our benefactors.  I’m very grateful that they donated.

Does anyone hear?

8 Aug

Yesterday, I swallowed my pride and admitted we are at the end of the rope.  We have a short time to figure out how to pay the internet connection bill before it is cut off.

I haven’t heard from anyone indicating that they even care that the shows are looking at possibly coming to an end.

Out of over half a million listeners, surely someone cares whether or not we continue doing the programs?

I had scheduled a series featuring Native American writers and I am genuinely excited about the series, but I’m also genuinely afraid we won’t get to do all 9 programs we had planned.

We still need a miracle, but it isn’t a huge miracle.  It shouldn’t be impossible to have it happen either.

All we need is a very small number of fans who care enough to contribute about what it costs to go buy one fast food meal to make an equivalent donation via Paypal.

That means if just a dozen people, less than is usually standing in line at lunch time to buy that burger and fries, to donate $10 each…and we’ve bought more time to stay on the air.

Just twelve.

Twelve seems like an awful lot right now, with the deadline breathing down my neck.  Twelve seems impossible when you don’t even have a single donation yet.  Twelve seems like a vast number when it seems as though no one seems to really care whether we’re on by the end of the month or not.

Do you honestly enjoy independent talk shows like we do?  Do you look forward to the programs?  Do you ever download one to listen on your mp3 player while you are doing something else?  How many hours of entertainment have the programs given you?  Has it broadened your horizons?  Introduced new & interesting ideas?  Made you laugh?

Isn’t that worth something?

At this point, even a comment or email indicating you appreciate what we do is better than nothing.  At least we’d know we’d not wasted our time entirely.  Instead, so far we have had nothing more than stony silence.

Help make a difference.  Be the first to donate.  You don’t have to drop us an email, we’ll appreciate you anyhow.

If you want to be that first donor, use Paypal and just send it to giascott (at) exogenynetwork.com

I’ll even thank you on the air (unless  you prefer to remain anonymous).

A cry for help

7 Aug

Sad stories are a dime a dozen these days.  It seems that everyone is telling one.  That’s part of why I hate to start on ours.

But, it is necessary, there is a lot at stake.

For years, Greg & I have paid for the expenses of the radio programs we host.  We have had some very much appreciated donations along the way, but the truth is…they are few and far between.  Years of donations, if lumped together, would cover a single month of expenses.  We don’t spend a lot of time soliciting donations though, and we certainly don’t hire someone to do it for us, unlike major charities.

The truth of the matter is, despite having a new series of shows featuring Native American writers scheduled to start on August 13th, we’re looking at it all coming to an end in less than two weeks.

We are looking at a shut off notice for non-payment for internet access if we don’t come up with $120 by then.  We couldn’t pay the bill last month.

To us, it looks like a vast number.  We’ve had our fair share of “bad luck” lately.  Greg had a major heart attack in the spring, resulting in a long hospital stay, as well as expensive medication, weekly blood tests, and regular doctor visits—all of which are financially challenging.  We couldn’t afford his medicine last month.  We couldn’t afford mine either, but I did have a month’s worth of one medication on hand.

We’ve also had mechanical break downs.  Our primary vehicle is broke down and its tags are now expired, rendering it undrivable on two fronts.  Our lawn mower sputtered out.  We’re having electrical problems with the house.  The mini-van we’re driving is worn out, the a/c doesn’t work, and the suspension system soon has me in agony.  Our badly needed all-in-one scanner/printer/fax machine died this week.

Everything has drained our resources.  There is no light at the end of the tunnel, and we’re treading water as fast as we can.  But there is no choice, we have to have donations or we’re facing going off the air.  We just can’t cover this bill.

Here are some numbers, just to show how many people do listen.

Last week, on the Dawn of Shades, we had over 260,000 listeners log in to listen to the program.  It was another record setting audience, but that’s just about every week.  We seem to have more and more listeners each week, and that tells me that I must be doing something right.

Greg has about 400,000 listeners log in each Saturday to listen to the Voice of the People.  He must be doing something right too.

That means that roughly 660,000 people are listening to us each week.  Free.  More people listen by downloading or streaming the archived show, and others listen when the shows are re-run on the network.  It’s all free, too.

We have no sponsors, no advertising revenue, and we’re not paid by the station either.  We not only don’t make a living doing it, we don’t even make a starving doing it—we receive no funding from anyone to support what we do.  Because of the station’s rules, we are not even able to ask for donations on the air.  We can only do so through our blogs and websites.

We pay for the radio programs.  We do occasionally ask for donations, but we have never counted on them before.  Right now, it’s critical that we get those necessary donations though.  Even though we’re crippled by being restricted from asking on the air, we are asking all of our most loyal listeners to “show us some love” by helping us stay on the air.

We aren’t asking for a lot.  We know that a lot of our listeners can’t afford to donate and are struggling to just stay afloat too.  All we’re asking is for you to give up the equivalent of ONE fast food meal, just $5 or $10, and show us some support for what we do as an independent media outlet.  If you can afford it, donate more to make up for all of those listeners who are living on fixed incomes or can’t afford even a trip to a fast food joint.  Even a movie usually costs more.  Besides, your waist will not mind exchanging that cheap burger for a couple of hours of fun, interesting, and upbeat programming each week.

It’s easy to make a donation through Paypal.  Just go to www.Paypal.com and click on “send money.”  Then put in the amount, and my email address, giascott at exogenynetwork.com (just replace the at with an @ and eliminate the spaces—spammers are everywhere!  Please don’t wait until the last minute—it takes about a week to move the money through Paypal and then into the bank to pay the bill.

Independent media outlets are important.  Programs you like and enjoy are also important.  Please support Exogeny Network’s programs today.

Where are our passenger trains?

16 Jul
Crescent train arrives in Laurel, MS

Crescent train arrives in Laurel, MS

Europe has a wonderful train system for passengers and freight.  It was also nearly completely destroyed during World War II.

The United States had a fledgling system that was built up until the highways took over in the 1940s, at which point it began declining.  Passenger train service for most communities ended sometime before I was born in the early 1960s.  I don’t remember seeing livestock transported via train since the mid 1960s.  In the 1970s, train tracks were being abandoned and ripped up, leaving vacant corridors through farms and towns across the nation.  Some of the routes have been taken over by Rails to Trails, providing hiking and biking paths.  Many lay overgrown and forgotten, locations remembered only when the blackberries that have swallowed the rail bed are ripe.

Today, our sole option for train travel in most areas is Amtrak, and that is IF service exists.  You can’t always get from here to there via train, and it certainly won’t be easy or convenient to get there.  Here in Mississippi, our major cities are Gulfport-Biloxi, Greater Pascagoula, Hattiesburg, Jackson and the Northwestern corner as a portion of the Greater Memphis area.  Most residents would also add Meridian, Columbus, and Tupelo to those “metropolitan” areas, as they are the largest cities in their regions.  That makes a short list of just eight areas in the state that are anything resembling “urban”.

Using Mississippi as an example, just try to get from one city to another via a train.  Most don’t have passenger service at all, including the Gulf Coast, which is also the big tourist destination of the state.  You can get to Jackson from Meridian or Hattiesburg…if you don’t mind a multiple day trip with a layover in New Orleans.

There are two trains in Mississippi, both of which are either departing New Orleans or terminating there.  One is the Crescent, which runs from New Orleans to New York.  It makes multiple stops in Mississippi: Picayune, Hattiesburg, Laurel, and Meridian.  The other one is the City of New Orleans, which runs from New Orleans to Chicago, stopping in McComb, Brookhaven, Hazlehurst, Jackson, Yazoo City, Greenwood and Memphis, TN.  That’s eleven stops, and includes four areas that we’ve identified as “urban”.

So let’s do some comparisons here.  England alone has just over 130,000 square miles.  Mississippi has just over 48,000 square miles.  We’ll be generous here, and we’ll triple the size of Mississippi’s train service to a total of 6 trains making 33 stops at 33 different stations which may or may not be “attended.”

Compare that to England, with 11 terminal stops.  I couldn’t count all of the stops or trains on the map.  It was a lot more than just 6 trains that passed by a station once a day, going one direction or the other.  The USA hasn’t had such poor train service since the days of the Wild West.

Okay, I’ll admit that Mississippi isn’t exactly a prosperous state.  We don’t have a lot of industry or tourism going on here, and most people can’t afford to travel much even if there was a good service to get somewhere they wanted to go.  So, we’ll turn to our southern neighbor, Mexico.

Mexico has roughly 738,000 square miles of territory.  It includes deserts, mountains, and rain forests as well as farms and ranches and urban areas.  They have three tourist trains and one commuter train for their passenger service.

Wow, we have train service better than Mexico?

I’m not sure we should get excited.  We also don’t need soldiers armed with machine guns on our trains in the USA to prevent robbing by bandits.  In fact, train robberies are not something that has occurred in recent history in the USA, and if it did occur, there would be ample press coverage of the event.  Americans don’t like seeing soldiers armed with machine guns in tourist areas.  It just makes us nervous.  We’re funny that way, considering our attachment to the right to own a gun.

We talk a lot about mass transit, about reducing our carbon footprint, and about energy efficiency.  We talk about reducing our dependency on oil.  I’m all for it.  But we need safe, efficient, economical, accessible alternatives.  Our country is vast, the distances often are equally long.  We have a stagnating economy and shrinking industrial and manufacturing base too.  But our government is not addressing these transportation issues.

Think about it.  We need jobs, not more welfare lines.  Mississippi may be the poorest state in the union, but all states are having trouble with their economy.  Imagine the jobs that would be created when rail lines are repaired and upgraded, when train stations are put in place, when cheap and efficient transportation is readily available for cargo and commuters alike, whether within the same state or to a distant port.  Imagine the gates being opened, allowing travelers to experience more of America, to visit the towns where their grandparents or great grandparents lived.  Imagine businessmen and women having the ability to easily visit small manufacturing facilities in rural communities without chartered planes or hours of driving.

And it’s not going to put trucking companies out of business either.  There will still be the same need for trucks as ever, especially since the bulk of their business is bulk customers, not the small company that needs to ship out one or two pallets of goods to each coast each week.  It’s not going to end the days of the road trip either–there are times and places where roads and cars are essential transportation.

It is going to create jobs of feeding workers and travelers near rail stations.  It’s going to create a need for taxis and buses to get them from the train to their destination.  It’s going to create a need for small trucks and couriers to transport goods to and from the rail station.  Manufacturing will have an increased need to supply parts and supplies for trains and rails, stations and offices, ticket sales and on-board meals too.  Mom and Pop businesses, whether selling local memorabilia or fast food from a cart will explode near the stations, further enriching local economies.  Accommodations, from cheap motels to fancy restaurants, will also have a central place to attract customers from.  Don’t think that corporations won’t look at the possibilities too, but in rural areas with a few trains a day, it will be the Mom & Pop businesses that can fill a niche and pay taxes.

Oh, and you too.  You’ll be able to get to Jackson for that special event or doctor’s appointment without having to drive  your car.  If we’re smart about it and push for it, we’ll even have all passenger trains allowing passengers to board their bicycles too, further reducing carbon footprints for those avid cyclists who also spend money on everything from more bicycle stuff to cold drinks on a hot day.  European travelers, accustomed to train travel, will find that spending their Euros in America to be even more attractive, as they enjoy a familiar mode of travel, renting their bicycles at the train station for their jaunts around small towns and cities, through the countryside or to a special attraction.

We can do it.  We should know how–we spent a great deal on repairing the European train system after World War II.  We can draw on European and Japanese expertise as we devise an All-American solution that is better, faster, cheaper, and greener than anything ever conceived before.  If we can be the first to the moon, surely we can manage to make a train trip simple and cheap on the USA.

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