Saturday, May 9, 2015

The Golden Parachute Chapter 1: The Same River Twice

Willum Mortimus Granger is still dead. How then is he standing, larger than life, at the entrance to my office? “Knock knock” he proffers

Knock knock? When I last saw Granger he was definitely splitsville, cut in half by A his amoral yet strangely overzealous clone lab director

You say “Cut in half? That’s ridiculous! No one would believe that!” CSI-Miami disagrees. Watch “Die By the Sword”

Granger had had a series of organ replacements at his cloning lab “Body Parts R Us”. The generally accepted theory was he sought immortality

As his surgeon, A slipped Granger fast absorbing sutures during his last procedure and then switched his cell ringtone to “Call to Post”.

Befuddled by toxic honey from his exwife’s beeviary, Granger answered his phone and split in two as his bottom half took off down the track

I know, sounds like a crazy and overcomplicated way to knock someone off, but no more so than a high speed bike ride with a Japanese sword.

A asserted killing Granger saved mankind from some kind of bondage. Or from Little Caesar’s pizzas. I wasn’t completely clear on that point.

It was something about haute Shakespearean princes and bas cuisine. Not your typical motive for murder, but definitely above my pay grade.

Maybe A was a few Twitter followers shy of a flock. He wasn’t the only one of his 26 single lettered siblings I encountered on that case.

I exchanged harsh words, or at least hard consonants, with his brother B, partner to Granger’s failed enterprise, Lavender Blue Dilly Dilly.

Thanks to a verbal tussle with B I haven’t fully recovered my voiced bilabial fricative. And I haven’t yet figured out the mysterious Mr. X.

Any of the twenty six siblings had motive to knock Granger off but only A had the tapioca to do it. His sole mistake was to follow my tweets

Following my every move on Twitter, A stayed a step ahead of me as I was bee stung, scent drenched, de-catheterized, and nearly freeze died.

Yes, I survived a series of painful misadventures to bring A to justice. The generally accepted theory is I seek to avoid that again.

Who am I? My name is Arkaby. You don’t know about me unless you have read a book by the name of Executive Severance; but that doesn’t matter

That book was made by Robert K. Blechman and he told the truth, mainly. There was things which he stretched, but mainly he told the truth.

Until the Willum Granger murder my cases were all routine. Murder victims were found with various grievous injuries, but seldom cut in twain

It appears that Granger is now not dead and somehow reassembled himself. He has returned from the grave and I have his undivided attention.

That also seldom happens. He isn’t a cat, so I assume he couldn’t be both dead and not dead. There are only two possible explanations.

One, Granger is actually dead and this isn’t him. As he stands before me playing “knock knock” games, this alternative has a disadvantage.

Two, Granger isn’t dead. This IS him. How can that be? I had found his severed body and had shared freezer time with his better halves.

If it isn’t him, who or what is it? Could the lab rats at “Body Parts R Us” have assembled a clone Willum Granger out of spare body parts?

If it is him, how has he cheated death? Is he just not-dead or actually un-dead? Is his appearance here precursor to a zombie apocalypse?

Or did my senses deceive me? A slight disorder of the stomach makes them cheats. Could he be an undigested bit of beef, a crumb of cheese?

Is there more of gravy than of grave about him? The dickens if I know. All I know for sure is he doesn’t go away when I rub my eyes.

My stomach rumbles. Extended deliberation always makes me hungry. I realize the way to resolve this puzzle is a savage two-fisted rejoinder.

“Who’s there?” I reply. By seeming to play along I’ll get him to reveal his true identity. That’s how I keep my cards close to my chest.

“Not who you think I am” he says. I wasn’t expecting that. He’s obviously well versed in ‘knock knock’ strategy. I’m forced to get serious.

“Not who you think I am, who?” I counter. “Hunh?” He seems confused. So am I. I was expecting a punchline. “Ask me who I was” he replies.

“Who you was, were - when?” “What?” “When were you who you were?” “What do you mean?” “To ask who you were, I need to know when you were.”

“Why do you need to know when?” “You are different people at different times. Willum Granger (2009) is clearly not Willum Granger (2013).”

“One tiny difference: Granger ‘09 was alive. Granger ‘13 has been four years dead. To understand who you were I need to know when you were.”

“And where. Granger wholly in the afterlife clearly is not Granger partially here on earth.” The doppelgänger clutches his head and moans.

“Look, there’s an essential question you haven’t asked.” “Yes. Do zombies get splitting headaches? That would be ironic.” He moans again.

“Wrong question. The cause and the cure for a zombie headache are the same. Use your brain. You’ve missed signs of a different apocalypse.”

“A better question is Why did Body Parts R Us perform all of Granger’s augmented clone surgery? Why were they trying to create a superman?”

“Didn’t those cloned augmentations go awry? I was told that during a brain transplant they switched Granger’s right and left hemispheres.”

“It’s a mistake anyone could make.” I look at him doubtfully. “How could A make Granger a superman if he wasn’t in his right right mind?”

“It’s not how it’s why.” “OK. Why?” “Instead of outering human abilities as our tools, superheroes internalize our tools as super powers.”

“Granger wanted super powers to prepare for when there might be no tools. Too bad A stopped him.” “What in the world are you talking about?”

“Ask yourself, why would anyone want the ability to leap a tall building, outpower a locomotive or run faster than a speeding bullet?”

“To stop bad guys.” He looks at me. “You are reputed to be a hard case. Is this true?” “Yes. I don’t have super powers but I’m hard enough.”

“Hard enough to deal with the end of the world as we know it?” “Depends” “Depends? On what?” “Are you speaking literally or figuratively?”

“There are plans afoot to alter the very structure of reality.” “Uh hunh. You’re starting to sound like an undigested bit of beef again.”

Granger’s doppelgänger lets out a great moan. “Unn! You are so difficult to talk to! Man of the worldly mind! Do you believe in me or not?’’

“Look pal, you waltz into my office masquerading as a dead man, chatter about altering reality and I’m the one who’s difficult to talk to?”

“Masquerading? Dead man? Who do you think I am?” “I’d bet my last shilling you’re an actor sent to pwn me.” “Did you just say ‘shilling’?”

“No I said ‘dime’ as in ‘I’d bet my last DIME.’” “You said shilling.” “I’m sure I didn’t.” “You really said SHILLING.” “NO, I said DIME.”


“HOW ABOUT I BEAT YOU WITH THE BLUNT OBJECT APP ON MY CELL PHONE?” He looks at me, then takes his phone, taps the screen and shows it to me.

On his Twitter account I see my words “I’d bet my last shilling…” Like a swift gut punch I realize the truth. “You follow me on Twitter?”

“Yes. You didn’t learn a lesson when A tagged your tweets last time.” A had spied on my Twitter feed during the Granger murder inquiry.

His Twitter awareness gave him an advantage in evading me. It also came to so preoccupy his attention that he ultimately gave himself away.

“OK. I said shilling. So what?” “You said shilling but remember dime.” “But what does it mean?” “I fear it may be earlier than I thought.”

“Earlier than you thought? Don’t you mean later?” “Later than what?” “Later than you thought.” “No, it’s earlier.” “How can it be earlier?

“While you engaged A in your half-twitted combat, gears turned and actions were taken.” “I disagree. Our confrontation was fully twitted.”

“When technologies clash there are winners and losers. In this case I won, A lost. Why did you say earlier?” “We may be ahead of ourselves.”

“The shilling has been gone since 1991, yet you referred to it as still in circulation. In addition, you’re not even British.” “Not lately.”

“A slip of my tongue is the result of time travel?” “One unanticipated consequence of a reality shift can be a phasing in and out of time.”

“If my tendency to tongue slip is a passing phase, this tale will be much shorter.” “One can only hope.” His words give me a lot to ponder.

I am onto something. I need to quickly get off. I’d best keep my tongue to myself. He paces back and forth. “This is really bad.” he says.

“If I grant your time-warped hypothesis,” I say “what has it got to do with me?” “You are the only regularly tweeting member of the police.”

“I just reality-checked you with your own Tweet. That’s what’s needed as our reality is attacked.” “What I saw is a cheap parlor trick.”

“There isn’t a shilling’s worth of proof in your argument and I use ‘shilling’ on purpose.” “You haven’t noticed the unexplained shortages?”

“And sudden unexpected outages?” “Why does that have anything to do with it?” “Item: The Chinese corner the market on rare earth minerals.”

“Item: Droughts, exports and ethanol create a corn shortage which produces a shortage in pork, beef and Doritos.” “I have one question.”

“What?” “Are we talking football stadium level power outages?” “Bigger than that. Think New York City in 2012. That was part of the plan.”

I was caught uptown with my pants down when the lights went out and the tide came in. “Not the hurricane? How about the 2003 NYC blackout?”

“NYC 2003 was just run-of-the-mill incompetence. But include the Fukushima meltdown, the Eyjafjallajökull volcano and the Twilight Saga.”

This is all hard to swallow much less pronounce. “You believe that every bad thing that happened in the past decade is part of some plot?”

“Except 9/11, of course.” “Which wasn’t part of the grand plot?” “No, which happened more than a decade ago.” “I find you hard to believe.”

“So, Detective, you can find something, sometime. I was beginning to think you stole Arkaby’s identity.” Nobody likes the smart aleck dead.

He sits in my guest chair. “Which part of my warning gives you trouble?” “All of it. Next you’ll be saying we’ve never been to the moon.”

“If only. I’m not that kind of lunatic.” “What kind are you?” He stares balefully at me. “You must visit three places” he says. “No thanks.”

“‘No thanks’?” “Last time I mixed it up with you people my mind left my body, I ran naked through a hospital and I was locked in a freezer.”

“I was hit on the head, stung by bees, plunged facefirst into a bowl of tapioca and nearly recited poetry.” “Sounds like a good time to me.”

“I owe the hospital over $30,000. I’m on semi-permanent police suspension and I wasn’t showcased at last year’s #TwitterFiction Festival.”

“There’s nothing you can say to make me get involved again.” “What if I told you that Regi was already deep into this and in great danger?”

Damn! Regi is Regna RG Granger. Her name is the same backwards or forwards and her initials don’t stand for anything. “I’m in.” I say.

Her father, the late Willum Granger, who may not be as late as expected and who may be standing before me, had an obsession for palindromes.

“Willum” is almost a palindrome, flipped at the end rather than reversed. How hard it must have been to live with a twisted palindrome name.

If Granger’s parents named him “Williw” instead of “Willum” would he have given Regi a more unidirectional appellation? Probably not.

But that, like a palindrome, is neither here nor there, or perhaps both here AND there. Granger is no doubt dead. Regi is very much alive.

Regi was ready to try anything twice if she liked it. Once if she didn’t. I couldn’t imagine a chance she wouldn’t hazard. Or a vice versa.

We first met at “Body Parts R Us”. I had been multitasking while driving, my mind left my body and I was prepped for cosmetic surgery.

When I first saw Regi, I felt something “click” in my solar plexus. When she yanked out my catheter I felt something “click” a bit lower.

“I won’t be able to use this for a month!” I cried. “I can wait.” she replied. Regi was a tall, cool drink I wanted to swallow in one gulp.

Anyone could see she needed no body part swapped. She had infiltrated Body Parts R Us under false pretenses to look into her father’s death.

“Your mind and body separated.” she noted, “Why are you prepped for cosmetic surgery?” “A beautiful mind is a terrible thing to waste.”

After Regi freed me from my medical tethers, we stumbled upon the horrors of the BP R U Genetics Museum where they had rhyme, but no reason.

Granger’s doctors had tailored his genes, cutting DNA corners, purging vestigial nucleotide sequences, swapping in augmented body parts.

Not content to surmount mortality through the miracle of cloning, Granger unnaturally selected a climb further up the evolutionary ladder.

So he thought. With some surgical malpractice, a compelling racetrack tune and a dollop of tapioca, A severed Granger’s higher aspirations.

Contemplating your own Executive Severance? You can download the fatal racetrack ringtone “Call To Post”:

But you didn’t hear it from me. Ignoring all my calls since our near fatal tryst in the Morgue freezer, Regi has given me the cold shoulder!

We both came out of the freezer with cold shoulders in the course of our aborted frozen entree, but I really thought we made a connection.

I’ve tried Facetiming her. I’ve tried Sametiming her. I’ve even tried two-timing her, just to get her attention. That didn’t work out well.

And now what happened to Regi? I turn back to the Granger doppelgänger, but he has disappeared! Leaping from my seat, I run for the door.

And collide with my implausible visitor. “Where did you go?” “You were lost in thought for so long I stepped out for a drink of water.”

“Every time I mention Regna you zone out. You must care for her.” “Baloney. She’s tall blond and easy to look at, NOT my kind of dame.”

“Uh huh. If you’re fading off somewhere again, I’m going out for a sandwich.” Since when does a ghost need to eat? “What happened to Regi?”

“She disappeared in the Bermuda Triangle.” No wonder she hasn’t returned my calls! “Why do you think that?” “She hasn’t returned my calls.”

“What was she doing down there?” “What I’ve tried to tell you. She enrolled as a student at a Caribbean medical school to gather facts.”

“Regna was always attracted to medicine. She grew up surrounded by the bleeding-edge medics at Body Parts R Us working with her father.”

“Posing as a medical student, she was trying to find out who is behind all the shortages and outages.” “At a Caribbean medical school?”

“It IS warmer there during the school year not to mention the scuba diving. Anyway, she didn’t have the MCAT scores for a stateside school.”

“So you’re saying any old Caribbean medical school would do. How did she end up lost in the Bermuda Triangle?” “You need to find out.”

It was a moment of decision. Do I stay safe, in debt and out of work, or do I risk my life, my fortune, my sacred honor to pursue a fantasy?

Do I go off on some harebrained quest with no support, no chance of success and little hope of survival? My gut knew I had only one choice.

“I can’t do it. Your very existence is doubtful. Therefore, anything you say is in doubt. You want me to risk everything on nothing,”

“There’s $50,000 in it for you. I’ll have cash in an escrow account by morning.” What did my gut know anyway? It was a moment of decision.

“I’ll do it. Here’s my plan: First, Find Regi.” “Fantastic!” “Second, look into the reality-altering scheme you’re worried about.” “Great!”

“Third, I’ll get the British to reinstate the shilling.” “I think you miss my point.” Fourth, I’ll learn how to pronounce Eyjafjallajökull.”

“That’s EYE-a-fyat-la-jo-kutl.” “If you say so. I have one question.” “What more do you need to know?” “Not who you think I am WHO?” “Hunh?”

“You’re not a ghost?” “No.” “Are you a figment of my imagination caused by a fragment of beef?” “No.” “Willum Granger, resurrected?” “No.”

“Returned from the beyond to warn me?” “NO.” “His zombie?’ “NO!” “So you must be his clone.” “In a manner of speaking.” “What do you mean?”

He backs toward the door which opens a little wider with every step until it is fully open. “Stressed spelled backwards is desserts” he says.

I’m not stressed but I want dessert so I go to the door. He has vanished! Whether he faded into mist, or mist enshrouded him, I can’t tell.

Faster than you’d say “doppelgänger” he is gone. Then from behind the door he says “My time grows short. Methinks I scent the morning air.”

“Yeeeah! Don’t do that!” He had been there all the time. “You must” “I know visit three places.” “I was going to say ‘get your door fixed’.”

“It swings opens by itself.” “I’ve been meaning to get it fixed.” “Kind of creepy, when it opens like that.” ‘Well, you should know creepy.”

“I’d argue that anything creepy has been in your own mind.” “Bah, Humbug!” “Check it out yourself. Just get started before it’s too early.”

“Do you have any suggestions about where to begin looking for Regi?” “The University has administrative offices stateside. I’d start there.”

“Don’t let them know I sent you” “I won’t” “Or why you’re probing.” I wouldn’t “Or tell them my name.” “I can’t. I don’t know who you are.”

“Be careful. The for-profit education business is brutal.” “And their stateside office is where I’ll find Regi?” “No. It’s a cheaper trip.”

“Wait. Before you vanish again, what do I call you?” “Don’t call me, I’ll call you.” With that he walks out and disappears down the hallway.

Friday, January 9, 2015

A NOVEL APPROACH: Queens NY Times Ledger Salute to Executive Severance!

Mystery novel told in 140-character chapters

By Terry Scileppi

January 9, 2015

In fact, when his body was found, the top half was right next to the bottom.

So begins author Bob Blechman's live-tweeted comic mystery tale, "Executive Severance," the first novel completely composed on Twitter.

The longtime Forest Hills resident has taken crime writing and the art of storytelling to a whole new level.

You can call it tweeting with a twist. He calls it "Twitstery."

"New media of communications are often met initially with fear and trepidation," said Blechman. "I wondered if Twitter didn't offer other possibilities."

With that, he began live tweeting twice a day, every day for the next 15 months to complete his murder mystery.

His tantalizing whodunit, originally told in 140 character, 800-plus real-time Twitter blasts, currently has about 800 curious followers who can't seem to get enough of those edge-of-your seat snippets proof that an alternative use of this medium may become a trend, since it's a sure fire way to get people to quickly read and enjoy entire novels as they go about their day.

"The 140-character limit of Twitter required intensive wordsmithing, creative editing, the omission of punctuation in some cases and a lot of counting," he said. "Right off the bat, you're faced with a critical decision: Does each tweet have to be interesting on its own?"

As Blechman composed each thread, he captured bits and pieces of the novel's humorous plot in which old school detective work meets modern day CSI-like forensics.

According to the author, with a tweeting detective as its narrator and protagonist, his novel sends up the murder mystery genre, social media conventions and cell phone behavior.

The investigating detective soon realizes that the victim was on Twitter when he was slain. Were his Twitter posts the key to solving his murder?

"Because I was creating a Twitter send-up of the murder mystery genre, I selected as my crime the most ridiculous, most unlikely method of murder I could think of, something that no one could ever take seriously," he said. "My victim was discovered literally cut in half."

Further along in the investigation, the detective is asked for his ID and flashes his cell phone:

"What are you showing me?"

"This is my badge."

"On your cell phone? What are you, a phony detective?"

"No. A true detective who tweets."

"To whom do you tweet?"

"To whoever follows me on Twitter."

His edgy style makes for a great read, even on traditional paper. Every tweet now appears on the pages of his recently published, "Executive Severance" book.

Even the publishing deal came via Twitter after he received a tweet asking if he was planning on turning the tweets into a book.

"I thought it was a joke. The idea of producing a book had never occurred to me," Blechman said. "I wrote back: Books are obsolete. Nobody reads books anymore."

That tweet, however, came from someone at NeoPoiesis Press, who assured Blechman that some people still read books and they would be interested in publishing his if he planned on finishing the story.

"I quickly replied, 'I am now,"' Blechman said.

As an adjunct professor at Fordham University, Blechman teaches social media, communication and technology, as well as other communications and media-relat- ed courses.

In order to fit his daily "Twitstering" into a busy schedule, there have been times when he has fired out tweets by cell phone from moving trains, coffee shops and restaurants, or while walking down the street.

Even a former technology executive can become a highly skilled wordsmith, and Blechman's bite-sized nuggets of pithy literature keep his readers coming back for more. For the past two years the folks at Twitter have sponsored an international "Twitter Fiction Festival," and he has actively participated in these online and live events.

Blechman continues to tweet at @RKBs_Twitstery and is hard at work on "The Golden Parachute," the follow-up Twitter novel to "Executive Severance," at his Twitter account @Twitstery.
Readers can find weekly compilations of the tweets with additional material at Whalefire (

The author's favorite writer, James Joyce, would have been proud of Blechman's talent because, as the author puts it, Joyce's writing is always challenging and suggests that rules are made to be broken.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

A Compendium of Executive Severance Reviews and Notices

Here at last in one post are all the great reviews, awards and notices for Executive Severance!

First there Andrey Miroshnichenko's review "Twitterature – Enjoying Literature in Bits"
which originally appeared in the Russian language netzine Colta.

"The writing technique became a legend of its own, making the novel a hit. In fact, Blechman invented a whole new genre: Twitstery.
Blechman’s Twitstery has its own metamessage, too: Wow, this novel is made up of tweets! But that’s not all. There is also a good story.
Executive Severance should occupy a place in world literature as the detective novel with the most direct or indirect McLuhan quotes.
Despite the prevailing new media signals, this is a classic well-written detective story. Critics were right to note author’s wit and humor."

Then there is On Twitter Literature, my guest blog on the Indies Unlimited blog site ("Celebrating Independent Authors").

"I believe there is hope for Twitter as a creative forum. To challenge the negative responses to Twitter I conceived a literary experiment: I would attempt to write a mystery story one Tweet at a time. I coined a new term Twitstery for the Twitter mystery genre and created a Twitter account '@RKBs_Twitstery' as a container for my detective tale. Starting on May 6, 2009 I posted a new tweet twice a day, every day, for 15 months, never missing a deadline."

Then there is Jerry Seeger's insightful review,"A Novel Written in Tweets" where he notes:

"There were occasional tweets that I sat back and admired just for their economy. Wee tiny poems. One thing for sure, doing a story in this medium requires skill (and the willingness to drop the occasional punctuation mark).

It is a thought-provoking story, not so much for what it says, but for what it is. Which is something the story itself tells us."

Leslie Wright's wonderful book review in Blogcritics and the Seattle PI:

"Writing a novel using twitter seems such a daunting task, and yet Blechman persevered and did it with certain panache."

My Books and Politics web interview is still available. Starts at about 50:00

Glynis Smy's fantastic indie book promoting page where she celebrates authors and their books and many thanks to everyone over at Indies Unlimited for their support!

Robert Barry Francos' terrific take on the Twitter novel genre:

"The book is a fast read, short and sweet, but it is worth the experience. If the reader is not laughing or wincing at the pun, or noting a particular reference, you are certainly enjoying the easy flow of the novel.

Throughout the book, there are a number of illustrations that are perfectly suited for the theme, done by crack cartoonist David Arshawsky."

Insight from Jeff Tone of The Liberal Curmudgeon

"Tweets are integral to both the form and plot of the novel. Along with this device are more traditional elements: a romantic interest, an evil character and a suspenseful ending. Blechman has succeeded in giving the genre a uniquely contemporary twist in this innovative, humorous and entertaining “twistery.”

Kirsten Ehrlich Davies asks "Could You Write Twitter Fiction?"

Praise from Mysterious Revews

"...Executive Severance is probably best enjoyed for what it is, a series of loosely connected comic tweets."

Plus the following outstanding comments:
  • My Web interview with John H. Byk on the Art of Twitter Storytelling.

  • A shout out from Kirsten Ehrlich Davies on her blog Wisprings co.

Finally, thanks again to Paul Levinson, Marleen S. Barr, Marvin Kitman and Michelle Anderson for reading advance copies of Executive Severance and providing wonderful jacket blurbs:

"A delightful 'twitstery' - a mystery written in real time Tweets - that is compelling, entertaining, and shows off what can be done in the 140-character form with style and mastery. Blechman's delight in the language shows in every tweet - that is to say, every thread of the story. His plot is tight, tingling, and diverting. Poe would have been proud of the new form Blechman has given to the mystery story."
-Paul Levinson, author New New Media (now in its 2nd Edition) and The Plot to Save Socrates

"Executive Severance, a laugh out loud comic mystery novel, epitomizes our current cultural moment in that it is born from the juxtaposition of authorial invention and technological communication innovation. Merging creative text with new electronic context, Robert K. Blechman's novel, which originally appeared as Twitter entries, can be read on a cell phone. His tweets which merge to form an entertaining novel can't be beat. Hold the phone; exalt in the mystery--engage with Blechman's story which signals the inception of a new literary art form.”
- Marleen S. Barr, author of Envisioning the Future: Science Fiction and the Next Millennium

"A He Dunit. Sometimes a little verbose, but OMG this is the best twitstery I ever read. It's got everything: narrative drive, mystery, comedy, thrills, tension, laughs. Blechman is on to something, a genre as important to literature as the invention of haiku in rhyme. ..."
- Marvin Kitman, author, The Man Who Wouldn't Shut Up: The Rise of Bill O’Reilly

“Embracing the challenges found in publishing via the medium Twitter, Bob Blechman’s super silly story Executive Severance is stuffed with punny dialogue, clever character conditions, and a total lack of adherence to the old “rules” of storytelling. It’s a meaty tale told in deliciously rare, bite-sized chunks that I'd recommend for consumption to anyone hungering for fiction that satisfies. Well-done, Bob!”
- Michelle Anderson, mediaChick, author of The Miracle in July - a digital love story

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Fox Anti-News

The problem with critiques of Fox News and most other right-wing media outlets is that they assume that Fox was originally set up as a legitimate news operation meant to compete with the so-called left-wing bias of the existing media outlets. This assumption is as much true of Media Matters for America as it is for the Columbia Journalism Review or The Daily Show. They criticize Fox News for supposedly doing a bad job of bringing us the news. Bringing us the news was never the intention of Roger Ailes, Rupert Murdoch and the rest. Their primary intention was to delegitimize news in general and weaken the effectiveness of the Fourth Estate as a check on government and corporate overreach.

Facts don't matter. Consistency doesn't matter. Fair and balanced doesn't matter. All that matters is to get out that day's talking points, to muddy the waters and generally to call into question the value of news in our society.

It doesn't matter how stupid or wrong-headed or reactionary they appear. By being ridiculous they demean all news operations. If, by trivializing the news, by giving the public what it wants rather than what it needs, or by hyping scandal and paranoia, they achieve ratings success (as entertainment rather than information), it's a win-win for them. Especially if other media agencies imitate their tactics in search of higher rating and economic rewards.
Fox News is not news. It is anti-news.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Probe Concerning MOOCs

Interesting discussions about MOOCs at yesterday's CUNY IT  Conference. Unfortunately, the panelists were not asking the right questions  about MOOCs. They should be analyzing MOOCs as a MEDIATED learning experience,  not as an equivalent to in-person learning. The MOOCs I've audited were all  one-way, video and reading assignment based with assessments consisting of  multiple choice questions and special projects  each week, of which only a few were discussed. Interactions happened between  participants in chat rooms or meet-ups, with little or no direct interaction  with the instructor. A MOOC learning experience is more like reading a textbook  than attending a lecture or symposium.

Another way to look at it is, What  would Socrates have said about MOOCs?

Socrates: You know Phaedrus, that's  the strange thing about a MOOC, which makes it truly analogous to painting. The  painter's products stand before us as though they were alive, but if you  question them, they maintain a most majestic silence. It is the same with a  MOOC; they seem to talk to you as though they were intelligent, but if you ask  them anything about what they say, for a desire to be instructed, they go on  telling you just the same thing forever. And once a thing is put into a MOOC,  the presentation, whatever it may be, drifts all over the place, getting into  the hands not only of those who understand it, but equally of those who have no  business with it; it doesn't know how to address the right people, and not  address the wrong.
-Adapted from Plato. The Collected Dialogues of Plato:  Phaedrus. (New
Jersey, Princeton University Press, 1961), p.  521.

In  fact, what MOOCs are is a rear-view mirror attempt by educators to create the  mass audience for education on the web that emulates the structures of the old  electronic media. Finally, educators are figuring out how to use the media  ecology of television to deliver academic content to numbers of viewers rivaling  television or radio in their prime. Can advertiser support for MOOCs be far  behind?

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Lightning Strikes Twice! Winner 2nd Week in a Row of Indies Unlimited Flash Fiction Contest!

Greener Pastures
by Robert K. Blechman

Emma Moocow, handsome, clever, and creamy rich, with a comfortable pasture and placid disposition, seemed to unite some of the best blessings of existence; and had lived in the world with very little to distress or vex her.

She was the youngest of the two calves of a most affectionate, indulgent bull; and had been herdtress of his pasture from a very early period. Her moother had died too long ago for her to have more than an indistinct remembrance of her cowresses; and her place had been supplied by an excellent woman as milkmaid.

Sixteen years had Miss Milker been in Mr. Moocow’s family, less as a milkmaid than a friend, very fond of both calves, but particularly Emma. They had lived together as milker and milkee very mutually attached, and Emma doing just what she liked; highly esteeming Miss Milker’s judgment, but directed chiefly by her own.

Sorrow came—a gentle sorrow—but not at all in the shape of any disagreeable consciousness.—Miss Milker was replaced by a mechanical device. It was Miss Milker’s loss which first brought grief. It was on that milking-day that Emma first stood in mournful thought of any continuance. The milking over, and the dairy-people gone, her father and herself were left to chew the cud together, with no prospect of a third to cheer a long evening. Her father composed himself to sleep after dinner, as usual, and she had then only to sit and think of what she had lost.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

"Undeadwood" - Winner of Indies Unlimited Flash Fiction Contest!

by Robert K. Blechman
 Another timberland-style killing. Five more skewered victims had been discovered. It looked like the undead trees were branching out.
 When felled timber refuses to log off, it’s a job for me: Paul Bunyan, Zombie Tree Killer. Time to sharpen my axe.
 With my blue ox, Babe, at my side, we headed into the deep woods. After many difficult miles through virgin forest we came to a copse of unrooted tree-corpses. All the most notorious zombie foliage was there: “The Widowmaker”. “Pine Barrens.” “Captain Acorn.” “The Mighty Oak.” “Weeping Willow.” “Treebeard.” “Stumpy.”
 I felt a sliver go up my spine and turned to find “Dutch Elm” with a twig against my back.

 “You’re really barking up the wrong tree this time, Bunyan” said Dutch.

 “Hello shrubs” I said. “If a tree falls in the forest and no one’s there, does it make a sound?”

 Dutch lowered his twig. “Gee” he said. “You got me stumped!”

 “Not yet.” I replied. Before you could shout “Timber!” I wielded my mighty axe. Soon no zombie tree was left standing. I surveyed the kindling all around me. Placing my arm around Babe, I said, “Our job here is done. Time to leaf.” Babe just groaned, as she always does.

Sunday, January 20, 2013