Do We Need To Be Enemies?

The last few weeks have proven to be difficult for Indie authors on Amazon due to a number of policy changes, not the least of which has to do with book reviews.  Two months ago, many reviews were deemed invalid and were removed from the Amazon site which caused an uproar among a segment of Indie authors.

Some reviews removed were “paid for” reviews while others were “review for review swap” reviews.  Some were “doxing” reviews (in other words, the sole intent was to sink the author’s book before got a toehold in the market) and some were “toxic” reviews (in other words, the sole intent was to use the review format to personally attack the author).

But then there came to light another kind of review removal and that was the removal of reviews by those Amazon considered to be a friend of the author regardless of whether the review left by the alleged friend was legitimate.  What’s worse, Amazon refused to explain how they determined who was or was not a friend of the author.

Authors like Jas T. Ward and Imy Santiago were stung by Amazon’s new policy that removed reviews on the basis that the reviewer and the author in question were “friends” without providing additional details as to how that determination was made by Amazon.

Whether you’re an Indie author or an Indie recording artist or an Indie name-your-artistic-domain creator, when you’re an entrepreneur you rely on social media to get your message out to the marketplace.  With Facebook (pages and groups), Twitter, YouTube, WordPress or Blogger, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Tumblr, Instagram, Flickr, Vine, Tagged, and countless other social media platforms, Indie creators are connected to thousands of people at a time … and sometimes people to whom they are connected actually interact with them online.

And every site runs cookies whether you’re aware of this or not, which means every time you visit a website, someone is getting some amount of information about you and your visit (even if it’s minimal, it’s still information mining).

The problem with Amazon’s use of cookies and whatever other data they have access to with which to determine who is and isn’t an Indie author’s friend is that it doesn’t consider how the new policy allows trolls to game the system against Indie authors trolls don’t like.  As luck would have it, trolls are rarely “fans” or “followers” of the Indie authors they harm.  By definition, they are most certainly NOT going to be considered “friends” by any stretch of the imagination.

But those who *do* like what an Indie author is doing is going not only follow or fan that Indie author, they may actually *gasp* go as far as to interact with them (no matter how minimally) on one or more social media platforms.  The act of communication between an Indie author and a fan or follower, however, does not automatically made them “friends.”

Social media — especially Facebook — has diluted the meaning of the word “friend” to a sliver of its former sense.  However, even if Facebook has succeeded in diluting the meaning of the word “friend” that doesn’t mean that the word “friend” doesn’t mean what it means.  It also doesn’t mean that “acquaintance” or “stranger” aren’t appropriate descriptors to use when speaking about the majority of people who follow Indie authors on social media platforms.

Friend_Merriam Webster Dictionary

Acquaintance_Merriam Webster Dictionary

Stranger_Merriam Webster Dictionary
And just because someone trolls an Indie author doesn’t mean the trolls are the Indie author’s enemies (although some trolls may feel they are the Indie author’s sworn enemy).

Enemy_Merriam Webster Dictionary
Trolls
are generally miserable people with nothing better to do with their time than visiting their misery upon those whom they dislike — usually for reasons that are only known to the trolls  in question.

So what would be a more efficient and more Indie author supportive way for Amazon to address the issue of friends and family posting positive reviews to an Indie author’s page on Amazon?

Add two more pieces to the Amazon review form.  Include two more lines of text and two boxes to go with those two lines of text.

After one box place this statement:  I am a personal friend or family member of the author.

After the second box place this statement:  I am not a personal friend or family member of the author.

For a review to be uploaded to Amazon, the reviewer must check either the first box or the second box.  Where a negative review is called into question by the author on the basis that the reviewer is not a personal friend or family member, the reviewer would then have to provide proof of the relationship (an easy enough thing to do if a relationship does exist).

So there you have it, Amazon — a simple solution to all the brouhaha your recently changed policies on reviews and reviewers have caused Indie authors and their fans and followers.

No need to thank me for the common sense solution, Amazon.  Just don’t start telling people we’re friends because I suggested a workable solution to Jeff Bezos and associates.

Elyse Bruce

SUGGESTED READING

Amazon: About Customer Reviews
http://www.amazon.com/gp/help/customer/display.html?ie=UTF8&nodeId=201077870&pop-up=1

Amazon: Customer Review Creation Guidelines
http://www.amazon.com/gp/help/customer/display.html?nodeId=201602680

Amazon’s Policies Rile Self-Published Authors
http://mediashift.org/2015/08/amazons-policy-changes-rile-self-published-authors/

Top 15 Most Popular Social Networking Sites
http://www.ebizmba.com/articles/social-networking-websites

The Top 15 Social Networking Sites You Should Be Using
http://webtrends.about.com/od/socialnetworkingreviews/tp/Social-Networking-Sites.htm

The World’s 21 Most Important Social Media Sites And Apps In 2015
http://www.socialmediatoday.com/social-networks/2015-04-13/worlds-21-most-important-social-media-sites-and-apps-2015

Grammer Police

Andy Grammer is an American singer-songwriter signed to S-Curve Records.  His dad is children’s singer-songwriter Red Grammer, and back in Andy’s early years, his dad was a member of The Limeliters (he replaced folk singer and lead vocalist for the group, Glenn Yarborough).  In other words, Andy has been around the industry since before he was born.

He’s in his early thirties and his debut CD was released in 2011, and his follow-up CD was released just last year.  And the guy writes some pretty catchy tunes, not the least of which is “Honey, I’m Good.”

You’ve got to admit that even the video is fun to watch, and it doesn’t take much before viewers find themselves drawn into the world of the video couples.  How much fun is that?

Well, when you have a song as catchy as “Honey, I’m Good” it doesn’t take long before other recording acts decide to get in on the recording fun.  Panicland (a boy band hailing from Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada) decided to record a version, and their video rolls time back to 1955!

I don’t know if they do the video fits the vision, but the guys certainly jump feet first into the fun aspect of the song.

Then there’s singer-songwriter Tanner Patrick from originally from Dallas (TX) and living in Colleyville (TX) — a relative newcomer (compared to newcomer Andy Grammer) to the music scene.  Only eight years younger than Andy, he finds a way to make Andy Grammer’s song his own without straying too far from the original arrangement. And his version is a lot of fun as well.

And rounding out the group of recording artists of note who have covered this song is the band Home Free.

Covering a song isn’t always about finding a nostalgia nugget and updating the sound.  Sometimes covering a song is as simple as finding one that’s just a whole lot of fun with a great message and letting your hair down.

Elyse Bruce

Fun Home: Pornography or Literature?

Recently in the news it was reported that freshmen students enrolled at Duke University were refusing to “Fun Home” as part of their English course material on the basis that it offended their Christian beliefs.  In some news stories, the focus was on triggers, while in other news stories, the focus was on the themes in the novel.

So as not to offend any readers or visitors to my blog, I’d like to post a warning (call it a trigger warning or a religious viewpoint warning or a whatever warning.  Call it whatever you feel is an appropriate label warning.  The bottom line is this is a warning).

WARNING 1:  Fun Home” by author Alison Bechdel is a graphic novel that addresses themes such as sexual orientation (including alternate lifestyles) and dysfunctional family life among other uncomfortable subjects.

Furthermore, a graphic novel is a book that consists of artwork and text much like a comic book is, however, it’s not a periodical, and is usually more substantial than a comic book in terms of content and page count.  And yes, the artwork is in keeping with what we expect from comic book art.  The BISAC subject headings ties comics and graphic novels together as a category (in other words, they are not separate categories according to the Book Industry).

Moving on:  The graphic novel enjoyed two weeks on the New York Times Best Seller list and has been translated into French.  It’s done well for itself and its author.

WARNING 2:  What follows is not a judgment on any person, group, belief, behavior, activity, et al as it pertains to the novel and/or to the reactions to said novel.

The media reported that Alison Bechdel’s graphic novel was being viewed by some Christian students attending Duke University as a pornographic lesbian graphic novel which was in conflict with their Christian beliefs.  Specifically, it would seem that it was the medium in which the controversial content was delivered that was of a greater problem than the controversial content itself.

According to many Christian students, reading the graphic novel — given the nature of the medium in which it was presented — would be a tacit approval (on the Christian students’ part) of pornography, regardless of whether it was heterosexual or homosexual sexuality being represented in the novel.

The novel “Fun Home” features drawings that not only imply but that graphically show sexual activity between people (including, according to what is reported by the media, oral sex).  But is it pornography?

The dictionary definition of pornography is as follows.

Pornography (defined by dictionary)
The legal definition of pornography states that the representation in books, magazines, photographs, films, and other media that relate scenes of sexual behavior that are erotic or lewd must be designed to arouse sexual interest in its audience.  In fact, in 1957, the Supreme Court determined that while obscenity is not protected by the First Amendment, the  test for obscenity is “whether to the average person, applying contemporary community standards, the dominant theme of the material taken as a whole appeals to a prurient [lewd or lustful] interest.”

The question then becomes this:  Is “Fun Home” pornography, or is it literature that some segments of society find objectionable?

Books such as D. H. Lawrence’s 1928 novel, “Lady Chatterly’s Lover” are racy novels that have been included in University and college level English classes as part of the curriculum.  Are such novels pornographic?  In comparison to “Fun Home” where do such books rank?

WARNING 3:  Lady Chatterly’s Lover is a novel about a woman who was introduced to sexual liaisons as a teenager.  She marries at age 23 in 1917, and a month after being wed, her husband goes off to war.  He returns from the war paralyzed from the waist down and unable to perform his conjugal duties.  The wife finds solace in the bed of her husband’s gamekeeper, and winds up pregnant.  As late as 1960, British courts were determining if the D.H. Lawrence’s novel had literary merit or was merely smut between covers.

Perhaps the more overlooked question should be this:  What role  does — or should — university or college play in a student’s life?

If what a university or college education is meant to offer today’s students is a guarantee of employment upon earning a degree, that isn’t the same as the more traditional role of providing students with a broad education to satisfy intellectual curiosity.

At the end of the day, however, universities and colleges are supposed to be places of higher learning where difficult topics are discussed and where as many aspects of a topic as can be imagined are considered.

One cannot expect to leave university or college with a science degree or a medical degree or an art degree or any other kind of degree without being exposed to something along the way that may not jive with a student’s specific religious views.  The options students have when matters of conscience crop up are these:  Accept that one’s education will benefit from completing the course work one may find offensive OR accept that in refusing to do the course work on may find offensive that one may receive an F for not completing that part of the course.

In life, we all have to make decisions that will have long-reaching impact on our lives and the lives of others.  What matters is what we decide to do when adversity, challenges, and conflicts of conscience show up on our doorstoops, and how well we shoulder the responsibility of our personal decisions.

Should “Fun Home” be part of the Duke University English class curriculum for freshmen students?  I can’t speak for Duke University and I can’t speak for the freshmen students.  That’s a decision that’s already been made by Duke University, and a decision that each and every freshman student taking the English course where “Fun Home” is part of the curriculum have to make for themselves.

Next Friday, I’ll take a look at trigger warnings and their impact on university and college educations and campuses.

Elyse Bruce

SUGGESTED READING

Classical Mythology Too Triggering For Columbia Students
http://reason.com/blog/2015/05/12/trigger-warning-mythology

The Coddling Of The American Mind
http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2015/09/the-coddling-of-the-american-mind/399356/

Disturbing The Peace
http://freelancechristianity.com/disturbing-the-peace/

Duke Freshmen Refuse To Read “Fun Home” An LGBT Graphic Novel
http://www.inquisitr.com/2362791/duke-freshmen-refuse-to-read-fun-home-an-lgbt-graphic-novel/

A Guide To Using Graphic Novels With Children And Teens
http://www.scholastic.com/teachers/lesson-plan/guide-using-graphic-novels-children-and-teens

I’m A Duke Freshman: Here’s Why I Refused To Read “Fun Home”
https://www.washingtonpost.com/posteverything/wp/2015/08/25/im-a-duke-freshman-heres-why-i-refused-to-read-fun-home/

Duke University Freshmen Refuse To Read “Fun Home” For Moral Reasons
http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation-now/2015/08/24/incoming-freshman-duke-university-fun-home-alison-bechdel/32290321/

Life Doesn’t Come With Triggers Warnings.
http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/may/18/life-doesnt-come-with-trigger-warnings-why-should-books

On Trigger Warnings
http://www.aaup.org/report/trigger-warnings

Our Identities Matter In Core Classrooms
http://columbiaspectator.com/opinion/2015/04/30/our-identities-matter-core-classrooms

The Truth About Graphic Novels: A Format, Not A Genre
https://scholar.lib.vt.edu/ejournals/ALAN/v32n2/fletcherspear.pdf

Using Graphic Novels To Attract Reluctant Readers
https://www.ecu.edu/cs-lib/trc/upload/LMC_Feb04_Crawford.pdf

Dancing In The Moonlight

It was autumn of 1972 and it would be seventeen weeks before the song peaked at Number 13 (for two weeks) on Billboard’s Hot Top 100 Chart.  It was one of those songs that was instantly likeable with a groove that made everyone want to dance … even those who described themselves as move challenged.

Seven years after they had a hit with this song, King Harvest re-recorded the song with a slicker production, more harmony vocals, and a Fender Rhodes piano added.  This became known as the Olcott version, and although it didn’t have a second go on the Billboard charts, the song retained its positive feel and danceability.

Sherman Kelly composed the song and before it was a hit for King Harvest, Boffalongo (the group he belonged to) recorded a version of it.  One of the members of the band, Larry Hoppen, went on to form the group “Orleans.”  This version of the song was recorded live in 2006.

English alternative rock band Toploader formed in 1997.  Three years later in 2000, the band had a hit with this song in the UK where it reached #7 after it was featured in a television commercial for a Sainsbury supermarket.  Their version was used in movies such as “A Walk To Remember” and “Four Lions.”

Three years later, it was all over for Toploader and the group members blamed it all on the supermarket for turning their version of the song into a “monster” as the put it.  Guitarist Julian Deane was quoted as saying he couldn’t bear to listen to the song anymore and voiced his displeasure over the fact that the song had been licensed for the commercial to the tune of $10,000 GBP (or about $16,000 USD).

The split can best be described as caustic and bitter, and it’s hard to believe that it was brought on solely by the use of one song in a supermarket spot.

When American actress, dancer, choreographer, and singer, Alyson Stoner took it on in 2009, she made it her own.  Better known for her role as Max in the Disney series, “The Suite Life of Zack And Cody” she charmed the younger set with her rendition in 2009.

But one of the best remakes that captures the fun of the song is by the duo Plastic Plastic hailing from Bangkok (Thailand).  The rendition by Pokpong Jitdee and Tongta Jitdee is close to the original, but it carries its own unique touches such as a flute and a xylophone among other interesting instrument choices.

In the end, this is an endearing and enduring song.  Regardless of which version(s) you prefer, any version will tug at your heartstrings to coax your inner child out to let loose with some dancing in the moonlight.

Elyse Bruce

Wage Increase Destroys Business

Yes, the headline for this article is audacious, but then again, sometimes fact really is stranger than fiction. A very vocal segment of society is demanding that minimum wage be raised to $15 per hour without considering the impact this will have on not only the economy but on businesses specifically.

The best way to understand what the impact of such an increase can be seen by what is happening at one business in Seattle (WA): That business is merchant service business, Gravity Payments.

Nearly four months ago, to great fanfare, a Seattle CEO announced he was slashing his own paycheck to $70,000 USD per year and raising the pay for everyone in the company he ran to $70,000 USD per year … to address the wealth gap and in support of the $15 per hour minimum wage movement.

This isn’t, however, a feel-good story of how small business David slew corporate Goliath and everyone lived happily ever after. No, this is actually a cautionary tale that all business owners, entrepreneurs, employees, and consumers should hear and take to heart.

Life Is Hard At $70,000 per year

In an interview with the New York Times just two weeks ago, the CEO admitted that he’s struggling with his own personal finances and living on a salary of $70,000 per year that he’s been forced into the uncomfortable position of having to rent his house out to make ends meet.

On the other end of the scale, those who had previously qualified for government subsidized housing now found themselves on the receiving end of termination notices. At $70,000 USD per year, they were expected to shoulder the full cost of housing.

But those raises filled a few with apprehension … not because they didn’t believe they deserved a raise, but because they sensed that their increased good fortune was unsustainable, and that they might need to add their families back to the bottom of the long wait list for government subsidized housing when the dream ride came to a sudden and unexpected end.

The Saga Of The Shorted Shareholder

A series of events over the years between the CEO and a minority shareholder (who also happens to be his brother) has resulted in a lawsuit where Lucas Price alleges that Dan Price breached contracts as well as his duties by violating the rights of minority shareholders.

What used to be a going concern is now in shambles with all of the previous year’s profits ($2.2 million USD) re-allocated to pay for the salary increases Dan Price promised the 120 people the company employed, and no money to pay legal bills or make long-term capital improvements in the company.

Gravity’s Not So Distant Past

Back in 2004, Dan and Lucas Price created a merchant services company called Price & Price. Two years later, Dan Price because the company’s CEO. And according to lawsuit documents recently filed by Lucas Price, in 2008 the company was restructured due to numerous disagreements between the two brothers, and was rebranded Gravity Payments. Lucas retained 30 percent ownership of the company with protected minority shareholder rights agreed to in legal and binding contracts between the Price brothers.

Reward Offered For Slackers

Some of the company’s valued employees submitted their resignations because large raises were given to employees with “the least skills” and who were “least equipped to do the job.”

Still others felt that by rewarding less motivated and unmotivated employees with $70,000 per year ate away at the self-esteem and motivation of highly motivated, skilled employees. To make matters worse, those unmotivated and unskilled workers continued to kick back and let their motivated, more skilled team members do the bulk of the work since they knew everyone would be getting the same paycheck at the end of the pay period.

While some employees saw their paychecks double in size with no added responsibilities, others saw no pay raise or negligible pay raise for shouldering the majority of the work per their job descriptions. How was this fair to those nearer to the top of the pay scale?

Radio talk show hosts took to the airwaves and pointed out that overpaying Gravity Payments’ employees would encourage laziness and lead to resentment among colleagues. By making everyone equal in pay but not equal in output, the imbalance would be keenly felt by all.

The Heartache Of The Undeserving

Some people who were interviewed in the New York Times article said that they were under a great deal of pressure. They were earning $70,000 per year and felt they didn’t deserve to be earning $70,000 per year for the job they were doing.

Others worried that the money would make it easy for them to go with the flow and become complacent as their drive to compete for better pay was replaced with the knowledge that they could count on that $70,000 USD per year regardless.

Marketing and business professors across America were quoted, saying this was a bad business move on the CEO’s part. Patrick R. Rogers of the School of Business and Economics at North Carolina A&T State University has written that while happiness in the short-term would increase, it would not improve productivity and that it would negatively impact on the long-term viability of Gravity Payments as a business. His insight proved correct to that end.

Expectations And Planned Resentments

Those who worked at Gravity Payments experienced a new kind of discrimination outside of work. Other service industry workers expected to share in Gravity Payment’s largess to their employees.

Instead of enjoying those raises, many were pressured into injecting much of their new-found financial win-fall into the economy. Not doing so saw them on the receiving end of prejudice and allegations of having joined the cheap and miserly dreaded “rich” people with money to burn.

Business began to expect that those higher wage earners from Gravity Payments would help bridge the gap between mandated minimum wages and what productivity could actually afford as a minimum wage. Soon business and employees alike began to resent rigged prices, subsidized prices, and the promise of trickle down economics Gravity Payments style.

It wasn’t long before some began to feel that they were no longer the masters of their own ship.

When Your Customers Don’t Trust You Anymore

If customers couldn’t trust the CEO to set proper wages for himself as the chief executive as well for his employees, it led them to call into question the company as an entity and as a business partner. They questioned whether the CEO understand basic economics.

It’s not that the average salary at Gravity was below the poverty level. It wasn’t. The average salary for an employee at Gravity was $48,000 USD per year.

But many business owners and entrepreneurs were able to grasp what Gravity Payments’ CEO seemed unable to grasp, and that the unsustainability of paying 120 employees $70,000 USD per year regardless of output. At some point, despite assurances from the CEO that there would be no fee increases, there would have to be fee increases or the business would fail completely.

On a secondary level, business owner and entrepreneurs heard rumblings from their own employees who felt that if Gravity Payments could afford to bump everyone’s paycheck up to $70,000 per year, that all business owners and entrepreneurs could afford to do likewise. This was a bad business decision for people who weren’t even doing business with Gravity Payments!

Final Note

It would seem that the dream of making $70,000 USD per year was meant to be short-lived for 120 employees and one CEO.

I’m not against paying a good day’s wages for a good day’s work. I’m not even against paying out a bonus for work that’s exceptional.  I believe that people should be paid well and encouraged to excel at what they do best.

But when all is said and done, I’m also not for pulling incentives out from under people’s feet. When you remove the reason to push one’s self to get ahead in life, life just isn’t as rewarding as it could be.

Elyse Bruce

SUGGESTED READING

CEO Cuts Pay To Give Higher Salary To Workers
http://www.msnbc.com/morning-joe/watch/ceo-cuts-pay-to-give-higer-salary-to-workers-428365379728

A Company Copes With Backlash Against The Raise That Roared
http://www.nytimes.com/2015/08/02/business/a-company-copes-with-backlash-against-the-raise-that-roared.html

Giant Minimum Wage
http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/2015/07/21/us/ap-us-giant-minimum-wage.html

Gravity Payments CEO Sued By Brother
http://www.seattletimes.com/business/gravity-payments-ceo-sued-by-brother/

Millennials Will Be Worse Off Thanks To New York’s $15 Per Hour Minimum Wage Hike
http://www.forbes.com/sites/realspin/2015/07/28/millennials-will-be-worse-off-thanks-to-new-yorks-15-minimum-wage-hike/

Owner Of Gravity Payments Is Setting A New Minimum Wage
http://www.nytimes.com/2015/04/14/business/owner-of-gravity-payments-a-credit-card-processor-is-setting-a-new-minimum-wage-70000-a-year.html

Praise And Skepticism As One Executive Sets Minimum Wage To $70,000 A Year
http://www.nytimes.com/2015/04/20/business/praise-and-skepticism-as-one-executive-sets-minimum-wage-to-70000-a-year.html

Seattle CEO Who Set Firm Minimum Wage To 70G Rents House To Make Ends Meet
http://www.foxnews.com/us/2015/08/01/seattle-ceo-who-set-firm-minimum-wage-to-70g-rents-house-to-make-ends-meet/

Seattle Mayor Details Plan For $15 Per Hour Minimum Wage
http://www.nytimes.com/2014/05/02/us/seattle-mayor-details-plan-for-15-minimum-wage.html

Seattle’s $15 Per Hour Minimum Wage Law Just Came Back To Bite Them In A Totally Unexpected Way
http://www.westernjournalism.com/seattles-15-minimum-wage-law-just-came-back-to-bite-them-in-a-totally-unexpected-way/

Why The Minimum Wage Fight For $15 Per Hour May Be The Wrong Battle
http://www.cbc.ca/news/business/why-the-minimum-wage-fight-for-15-may-be-the-wrong-battle-1.3168793

Workers In Seattle Have Their Precious $15 Per Hour Minimum Wage But Now They Want Fewer Hours
http://chicksontheright.com/blog/item/30040-workers-in-seattle-have-their-precious-15-minimum-wage-but-now-they-want-fewer-hours

I Was Trapped In A Cave For Hours

James Hemlock is what you would call an unexpected hero driven to right a handful of wrongs that others visit upon society. A determined, sharp-witted detective, when he realizes that a worldwide cult is insinuating itself in places you wouldn’t expect, he’s left with only one option: Unravel the mystery before it’s too late.

When author Thomas D. Taylor approached me to create the foley for the book trailer for “Hemlock: The Collected Mysteries, Volume I” there was nothing to say but, “Absolutely!”

It’s not just the creativity that drives projects like these, but the joy of doing what few people ever have a chance to do: Record audio and re-arrange to paint a vivid visual for the audience.

I dug through my audio snippets of awesome thunderstorms I’ve recorded over the past three years and heavy rainfalls on the roof (from inside and outside) and on the front porch and on the back porch and under leafy trees and in the basement and countless other places. I rustled through audio snippets of breezes and high winds. I kicked back and listened to gunshots and breaking glass and exploding beakers. In other words, over the years, I compiled a large audio library of disjointed sound bites with the help of my trusty now ancient (and no longer available for purchase) M-Audio Microtrack II, and this book trailer was gifting me with a chance to use them to create foley that was both unobtrusive as well as effective.

But what good is foley if there isn’t foreboding music to go along with it, and so this book trailer became one of the projects I like best to do: It was a challenge I was up to accepting.

What made this project all the more interesting was the fact that Thomas Taylor had set ideas about what he wanted this book trailer to sound like, and he provided me with a short description (from foley suggestions to special effects) for each segment.

Now some of you may think that creating the soundscape for a book trailer is pretty easy. Just slap a few sounds together and voila! you have foley. Wrong. Foley is more than just randomly chosen sounds shoved underneath the video.

When someone says “cave” to you, what sounds come to mind? For many people, that question stops them short because a cave is a cave, and at best, they’ll say that it probably sounds “echo-y.”

Each cave has its own unique sound because no two caves are made the same. There are limestone caves and lava caves, sea caves and ice caves, sandstone caves and mud caves, boulder caves and sinkholes, corrasional caves and erosional caves, fracture caves and solutional caves. And because there are so many different kinds of caves, it’s important to know what kind of cave is central to the foley.

If the action takes place in a solutional cave (formed by natural acids in groundwater dissolving soluble rock such as limestone, dolomite, gypsum, marble, or chalk), you have to consider the water element in those caves.

Created at or just below water level, you’re going to hear water dripping and not just in one spot in that cave. It’s going to be all around you. There will be flowstone forms (where water flows over walls and floors) and stalagmites thrusting upwards (formed by water dripping down on them from the ceiling) and stalactites (hanging from the cave ceiling and formed by layers of calcite deposited there by dripping water). And within the definition of stalactites are sub-forms: drapery stalactites (where calcite is deposited in thin sheets like a curtain) and soda straws (tiny, hollow stalactites) and helectites (formed as air moved within a humid cave leaving calcite to form at angles).

What about wildlife? What about bats and fish and salamanders and insects and spiders and troglobites? Some have voices while others don’t but rest assured they all make noises of one kind or another.

And for a few short hours, I was responsible for re-creating a world by way of foley … and I loved every minute of it.

Of course, there was dialogue and while there are all manner of special effects that can be used to approximate people talking in different locations, I’m still a great believer of the more natural approach. It’s amazing how recording in a small bathroom with no shower curtain or towels can make two people sound like they’re talking — even shouting — in a cave. It’s an analogue sound that can’t be honestly replicated by a digital effect.

Once Thomas had married the audio to the visual, the two-minute book trailer was ready for uploading to the Internet.

So for those of you who are thinking of tackling the creation of a book trailer on your own, keep in mind that unless you can consider most (if not all) of the sounds that are required for each segment, it’s best to have a professional work with you on creating that book trailer.

And for those of you who want to watch the book trailer for Thomas D. Taylor’s book, “Hemlock: The Collected Mysteries, Volume I” here it is.

Now doesn’t that make you want to pick up a copy of “Hemlock: The Collected Mysteries, Volume I” to add to your private or digital library?

You can purchase a paperback edition on Amazon by clicking HERE or on CreateSpace by clicking HERE.

You can purchase the eBook edition on Amazon by clicking HERE.

And that, people, is how James Hemlock got me into a (virtual) cave where I was trapped for a few hours (as well as other locations), and scared the living daylights out of me.

Elyse Bruce

Those Racist Band-Aids!

The latest allegation of racism comes from Sweden where a blogger has declared that band-aids are racist.

First off, let’s define racism. Racism is when a person, object, or activity purports that one race is superior to another race which is promoted as being inferior.

The latest tempest in a teapot is that band-aids — or actually bandages, since Band-Aid is trademarked — by virtue of the shade of the strips, are promoting the concept that people with light skin tones (in other words, Caucasians) are superior to those with darker skin tones.

Here’s the problem with that argument. Although the default shade for bandages — not just band-aids — happens to be beige (not white), this doesn’t mean that there haven’t been other options around for nearly sixty years. According to the Johnson & Johnson website, clear strips have been available since 1957!

Clear Strips Invented In 1957Obviously if there have been clear strips available on the market since 1957, no consumer is forced to endure a bandage with a shade that doesn’t match their own skin tone. After all, a clear strip would address that issue very nicely, don’t you agree?

Clear Strips
Bandages have come with all sorts of options since 1956 when Band-Aids were marketed under another option: Stars and Strips (American patriotism). Now, I don’t know about any of you, but when’s the last time you saw someone who had naturally red, white, and blue skin that closely approximated the American flag?

I have an “Ultra Care” box of bandages with “options” that include flexible fabric bandages (which is a much darker brown than the plastic band-aids), clear strips, waterproof strong strips, and neon strips (in yellow, pink, and green because that’s how I roll). My skin isn’t neon yellow or neon pink or even neon green, but I wear those colors just the same because sometimes I like to color coordinate my boo-boo and owie coverage with my outfit when I’m out and about in the community.

Multi-Colored Strips
But while we’re talking about the shade of bandages available on the market, let’s consider something else about the allegedly offensive and racist “flesh” toned bandages. They hardly ever blend in with “white” skin either. From an artist’s perspective, the specific color on allegedly “flesh” toned bandage is achieved by blending raw umber (a shade of brown) with warm gray and adding a touch of permanent mauve (a shade of purple). Not every caucasian has skin tone that’s comprised of those colors.

Still, bandages aren’t only available in Caucasian tones or clear strips.

You can get bandages in three specific darker skin tones from manufacturers like Urban Armour and Tru-Colour, provided that your darker skin tone falls under one of three categories: Light, medium, or dark. And yet, the copy that goes with these sorts of bandages state that with these three tones, consumers will be able to find “just the right one to blend with every skin tone.”

Tru-Colour Bandages
Wrong. There are a myriad of darker skin tones that fall between the three options that are alleged to be “just right” to blend in with darker skin tones. So are those bandages racist against the in-between tones?  And what about those with skin tones most associated with First Nations peoples and those from Asian countries where those three darker tones just don’t match up to their skin tones?

You can have bandages printed on any colored background with any logo or artwork! Does this mean that bandages that don’t have creative artwork on them are racist against people with tattoos or who doodle on their skin with felt-tip markers? Oh, the shame of it all!

The blogger in question who started off this latest furor over bandages being the wrong color claimed that in Sweden she was unable to find other than the racist band-aids she spoke of. Let’s go with that premise for a moment.

In 2010, 89.4% of Sweden was European or White, and it’s projected that by 2010, that figure will drop to 74.0% — meaning that the majority of people in Sweden will have Caucasian toned skin.

Translated into business currency, businesses carry merchandise that appeals to the largest cross-section of the population to maximize profits. If customers make the businesses they patronize aware that they need to diversify what is offered for specific merchandise, most businesses will special order in those items with no added cost to the customer.

If that doesn’t work for the customer, there are always online shopping options from any number of online and brick-and-mortar stores. In other words, it’s not all that difficult — even in Sweden — to find what you’re looking for if the item you’re looking for isn’t stocked on your local store’s shelves.

What’s next? Are pole dancers going to protest because band-aids mentioned in the article that resulted in this blog article being written are being referred to commercially as strips? One would certainly hope not!

Elyse Bruce

SUGGESTED READING

Are Band-Aids Racist Because Their Color Better Matches Caucasian Skin Tones?
http://www.quora.com/Are-band-aids-racist-because-their-color-better-matches-caucasian-skin-tones

Camouflaging A Bandage
http://www.yankodesign.com/2012/06/12/camouflaging-a-bandage/

A History of Band-Aid Brand Innovation
http://www.band-aid.com/brand-heritage/history-info

Innovative Bandages Change To Match Your Skin
http://www.bitrebels.com/technology/innovative-bandages-change-to-match-your-skin-color/

The Story of the Black Band-Aid
http://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2013/06/the-story-of-the-black-band-aid/276542/

Svenska plåster är för ljusa – anklagas för rasism i Sveriges Radio
http://www.friatider.se/svenska-plaster-ar-for-ljusa-anklagas-for-rasism

Sweden Scrambles to Produce Black Band Aids After a Blogger Complains About White Privilege
http://www.breitbart.com/london/2015/08/12/in-europe-the-whole-band-aids-are-racist-thing-is-taking-off-again/

Where Are The Brown Band-Aids
http://www.therhouse.com/where-are-the-brown-band-aids/

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 3,091 other followers

%d bloggers like this: