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The Pecman

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  1. That was good. I've been watching that for several days. Excellent graphics, too.
  2. BTW, for those following along, these pictures are of Matthew Burdette, the kid who killed himself: And here's a story on the UK Mirror, basically repeating what we already know: http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/world-news/teenager-took-life-after-being-3864947
  3. If you know how integral Twitter and text messages are to average teenagers, you might see that taking away a cell phone would almost be as bad as disconnecting somebody from the net these days. Forbidding cell phones won't stop things like this from happening. Have you seen the size of GoPro cameras? Last I checked, those were not forbidden in any school in the world. It's very, very hard to legislate against bad behavior. There's always going to be assholes who screw things up and infringe on our freedoms. Look at the police who knock heads together the moment they're making an arrest and somebody tries to shoot them with a video camera. From my perspective, that should be allowed, simply because it's freedom of expression. If the cop is doing nothing illegal, he or she should have no fear of having everything they do get recorded. But in some areas, they can arrest you for interfering with the law. Are they right? Seriously, do we need a school rule that says, "do not record images or sounds of naked people at school?" It all goes back to people having terrible judgement and not understanding the repercussions of bad behavior. I would really love to get hold of the kid with the camera and ask him, "what the F were you thinking?" I'd really like to know their thought process and what they thought the outcome would be. Look at it this way: if he did this in a bus bathroom downtown, or a locker room at the Y, and was recording naked people, what would happen to him? If the phone had stayed in his pocket, a boy would still be alive, nobody's rights would've been violated, and the world would be a less-horrible place than it is at the moment.
  4. This is also very true. No less than the former Chief Technical Officer for Sony Pictures once told me they were convinced that random events, phases of the moon, power failures, all kinds of crap can happen with their computer pipeline, all without warning. All you can do is hunker down and prepare for them as best you can. I've seen simultaneous failures in different parts of the building, sometimes with different pieces of software, different operating systems, even different kinds of connections, and it brings the whole party to its knees. Never fun when that happens.
  5. Go read his science fiction novel 11/22/63, which came out just a couple of years ago. I think it's one of the best things he ever did, and it's very well-researched, very thought-provoking, and goes into some very unexpected directions. It's the opposite of awful if you check out the critics. I wasn't as impressed with the new novel, Mr. Mercedes, but even that has some good moments. There's a section about 2/3 of the way in, where we find out all the secrets on the serial killer's background, that had me appalled, very sad, and actually empathetic towards the villain... at least for a moment. It's not bad, though also not great.
  6. I'm 100% for that, but the issue is, schools can't (in general) take away cell phones from students, and many, many cell phones these days have some kind of primitive video cameras in them. The local schools in my part of LA forbid students from using phones in class, but do permit them on breaks, at lunch, and in hallways. My local gym has big signs in the locker room forbidding the use of cell phones -- for obvious reasons -- but you still see idiots jabbering away, having idiotic conversations and bothering people. Me, I'd never do it. There's nothing going on with me where I can't take a 60- or 90-minute break and just call the person back when I'm inside my car. And I wouldn't even think of using the cell phone camera anywhere inside the gym, because -- to me -- it's an invasion of privacy. I don't have the right to take pictures of other people in a place like this, clothed or unclothed. I'm reminded of the new technical controversy on Google Glass, the wearable camera/monitor/computer that lets you record everything you see, and also lets you instantly look things up on the net (assuming you have a wireless connection). The problem is, if you wear these into -- say -- a bar, you're going to encounter people who don't want to be recorded. What if they're playing hooky from work? What if a guy is sitting with somebody who is not their spouse? What if it's an ex-alcoholic who shouldn't be in a bar? There are reports from San Francisco that several "Glassholes" (as they're called) have been beaten up and thrown out of bars, because the customers do not like being recorded. I agree with them, and I could see laws in place that say, "no recording devices are permitted in this establishment," period. But how could you enforce this in a school? Gather up all the cellphones in first period, then give them back to the kids at the end of the day? What if they have an emergency? Taking their phones away infringes on their freedoms, too. The problem is that we're expecting kids to act reasonably and sensibly, and they're often too stupid for that. Hell, there's more than enough adults who use cell phones and other cameras irresponsibly. I have a close friend who I've known for 30 years, and I've always chided him for bringing along a video camera to parties and other casual get-togethers because it's just so damned intrusive. My take is, "just shut up and enjoy the experience." I don't mind a couple of still pictures at the end of the gathering, but taking video crosses a line for me where I think it's rude. In the case of using a camera in a restroom, the person should clearly be beaten and shot. (Metaphorically speaking.) I think we had many levels of bad behavior: the kid made a bad choice jerking off in a restroom; the camera kid made a bad choice shooting the video; whoever posted the video made a horrible choice in ruining the life of the first kid; the first kid made a bad choice not telling his parents and the school authorities what had happened (and I understand why); and it's possible the school authorities made a very bad choice not realizing the seriousness of the situation. It's doubly sad when you consider this was clearly a bright kid who was almost an Eagle scout, on the water polo team, and on the wrestling team. I totally get why he would want to end it all. Somebody in this position clearly has no options. I wish to god he could've called somebody so they could figure something out -- move to Alaska and go to boarding school or something -- but we'll never know whether that might have helped. I'm also absolutely appalled that none of the kid's friends or teammates stepped up to try to help him. That to me might be the single worst aspect of the story -- that these kids knew their friend was in agony, and did nothing to help him.
  7. Gee, I thought this would be a comment on Stephen King's excellent book On Writing, which I pull out and read every so often for inspiration. I agree that Verducci's essay is right, but I think anybody who's had the terror of staring at a blank screen, waiting for the words to come, already knows what that feeling is like.
  8. Yeah, I had heard about aphasia and had a character in one of my novels get into a car wreck, and he wound up having some mild brain damage, leading to aphasia. Very tragic condition. One of my closest friends had what we thought was a minor heart attack awhile back. He recovered fine from the heart problem, but unfortunately his brain lost oxygen for about 6-7 minutes, and now about 90% of his memories are gone. He's basically now childlike and out of it and requires constant care. It's awful -- basically as if he's dead, and some alien took over his body. It's terrible when something like this happens, especially to people who are in the prime of life and seem perfectly healthy.
  9. Wow, Nigel, let me say I'm glad you made it to the other side and are still here with us. That's a helluva story. You really should turn that into a novel, if you haven't already; some of the most gripping fiction comes out of real life, and I think your situation is more than dramatic enough to serve as the basis of a good novel or short story. I also have great compassion for Addym, since I was just about the exact same age and also went through some bullying during those same years of the late 1960s and early '70s. In my case, I eventually hooked up with a gang of total misfits, and we pretty much protected each other -- strength in numbers, you know -- and like the Beach Boys song goes, "the bad guys know us and they leave us alone." I think this is a complex story for which we don't know all the facts. I read a couple of different accounts: http://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-ln-bathroom-video-bullying-suicide-20140714-story.html http://www.utsandiego.com/news/2014/jul/14/teen-suicide-prompts-claim-video-school/ This story was by far the most complete: http://jezebel.com/bullied-teen-commits-suicide-after-masturbation-video-g-1605760110 While I'm still not in agreement that the school should pay the family money for not realizing the kid was being bullied, the additional details that the video went viral and that even other schools were watching it is extremely disturbing. The level of cyberbullying available today is beyond belief. I had never even heard of cyberbullying until I was doing research on my novel Jagged Angel in 2003, and almost as an afterthought, I had one kid use a hidden camera to videotape our lead character, then post the photos to a private website, which he then used as blackmail. Never in my life did I consider that people would start to do this all the time. My partner (the guy with the law degree) points out: if a guy puts a tiny camera on his shoe and uses it to shoot videos of women's underwear up their skits while at shopping malls, can the women sue the mall? Who's ultimately responsible here? Me, I say sue the guy with the camera. I'm hoping against hope that the state of California will enact cyberbullying charges against the camera kid, and put him away for at least six months. This is a hideous, vile, disgusting act for which he should be punished. And I hope the kid makes a sincere apology and understands the horrific nature of what he did. The problem that I see for many kids is that they can't see far enough into the future to grasp the terrible repercussions for pranks they pull. I went through this in the 1960s and 1970s, and there are things I did back then where I now say, "good god! What the hell was I thinking?" But posting a video of a naked kid to the net... that goes way, way over the line. I hope the parents get good attorneys and go after him, big-time. Note that the charges against the school have already been thrown out of court, so I'm curious to see if they can find a way to make that stick. I'm skeptical they can, but they'd have a better case if the kid who committed suicide had tried to get help first. Once that's on the books, the school can't deny the bullying was taking place.
  10. And the link is here: http://www.awesomedude.com/cole-parker/a-summer-romance/index.htm I agree, an excellent start.
  11. My partner the attorney says no: this was in a public place (or at least, a building paid for with public taxpayer money), so it's not considered a private place, like a residence or a car or apartment or something like that. I agree, it's splitting hairs, but I'd guarantee there are laws against wanking in a public restroom -- even though it happens all the time. I think we have several bad situations going on here: the wanking kid, the kid with the camera, the person who shared the videos, the kids who taunted the first kid, and school authorities who failed to realize the severity of the bullying. Who do you deal with first? I'd say the kid shooting the video was the worst perpetrator, but if the original kid hadn't played with himself, there wouldn't be much to shoot in the stall. The perpretrator, the kid who shot the video, is responsible for what he did. Don't presume that because he was 16 years old that he gets a free pass on this. He decided to take the video. Then he showed it to other kids. Then he posted it online. At that point he knew exactly what he was doing. I'd have to know more about the case to understand why the kid with the camera did it, if he understood the damage he wrought, and if he has any sorrow at all for his actions. None of the published stories have any details about the kid with the camera. Again, look at the story on Tyler Clementi, which is a similar situation. The difference there is that he was in private, he was on his own computer trying to have a conversation in his dorm room, and a nasty roommate shot a video of him talking about a gay affair. That's a real invasion of privacy... and yet the perpetrator there got a slap on the wrist. In this case, I think Clementi is absolutely innocent and had no responsibility because he shouldn't have to worry about losing his privacy once his dorm door is shut. (A dorm room he's paying for, BTW.) But in a public restroom... you gotta behave. I'm very sorry that this happened to the original kid, and I can only imagine the anguish he went through in the two weeks before he decided to kill himself. This kind of thing happened not long ago to that ESPN reporter, Erin Andrews, when a nutball hid a camera in the vent of her hotel room, captured nude images of her, then posted those to the internet, which were highly embarrassing. Again, the point there was: this was a private hotel room she paid for. All she did was take her clothes off and take a shower. It's a horrific invasion of privacy. I wish there were greater laws against this kind of thing, which is becoming more rampant as cameras get smaller & cheaper, and users get stupider and have very low morale standards. And I hope the parents of the dead kid can go after the parents of the kid with the camera for a wrongful death lawsuit, which I think could make a valid legal argument. But suing the school sounds specious to me. If even the kid's own parents didn't notice anything was wrong with him in the 2 weeks prior to his death, how could the school authorities? I've seen some pretty awful things happen to people at schools in my time, and in some cases, the teachers did little or nothing to stop it, and in some cases, the teachers were part of it. Nobody died, nobody committed suicide, but bullying happens on many levels, and not all of it can be stopped with litigation. We need people to have more compassion and a better sense of judgement, and that's very, very hard to force people to have.
  12. Thanks for that, Camy. I've been to three or four WorldCons in my time, and always enjoyed going. (Missed the last one that was in Anaheim, and I really should've gone.) Better people than me have said, when it comes to science-fiction (never "sci-fi"!), "fandom is a way of life" -- FIAWOL -- and I understand that philosophy very well. I'll check out The Wheel of Time when I get a chance.
  13. I had a $3 million computer system fail on me at Kodak's Cinesite division in September of 2003. The computer was neither poor nor defenseless; a RAID controller card blew out, taking 10TB of storage with it. The LTO3 restore took us 48 hours and almost got us sued for a million dollars by Disney because it delayed a major feature film. Tell me: was this the data op's fault? The operating system's fault? The IT manager's fault? IBM's fault (for making the hardware)? My fault? No. Crap happens. Hardware fails. Operating systems have bugs. I accept it as part of life. But I also accept that wild jungle animals have the appearance of evil. One can argue that they have no concept of good and evil as morality, but from a practical point of view, they are evil in terms of what they'll do to you if they catch you. Consider that there may be more that you don't know in the world than what you do know. I have literally been using computers since before you were born, and I know their limits, their highs, their lows, and their vast power. I've had to use six different operating systems in my life: Apple DOS, CP/M, MS-DOS, various flavors of Windows, Mac OS, and iOS. I'm not a programmer, but I've had to write scripts and do batch routines in my time. They're very useful devices capable of miracles on good days. I couldn't do my job without them. But I keep them at arm's length and I do not trust them. I think this is a very safe philosophy for all writers to adopt, simply as self-preservation. Know up front that the computer will eventually fail, and all you can do is protect yourself as much as possible with backups and reasonable behavior. And I never, ever take "no" for an answer from a computer. I will get them to work; there'll be blood on the floor and turned-over furniture in the room by the time I finish, but I will get the job done. I'm that kinda guy. As to the Cloud: I could tell you a painful story about how Apple's iCloud almost completely screwed us in recent months, but I'll save that for another day. Apple is just another kind of madness, with some major, major limitations. I've often said that as time goes on, Mac OSX and Windows are kind of merging together, each taking aspects of the other; the bad news is that Mac OSX is getting worse. I blame Steve Jobs for dying. Many things at Apple have gone downhill in the last 2-3 years. It works to a point, but there are "whip and a chair" aspects to Macs as well.
  14. That's horrible, especially when you consider this poor kid endured two weeks of utter hell going to school every day. I was just telling a friend of mine the other day I was always too embarrassed to tell my parents about how badly I was bullied in school back in the 1960s, but it was nothing like this. I'd get slammed into a locker or books knocked out of my hands... nothing more serious than that. Two or three bloody noses, but we're talking over a 5-6 year period. In general, I avoided trouble or just was able to talk my way out of it. I think what I thought then was, "there's nothing my parents can do to help, I just have to suck it up and work it out on my own, and eventually this problem will go away." In the case of the San Diego kid, I think he was just so horribly embarrassed that if he admitted to his parents what the video was about, that would be almost as horrible as enduring the hoots and ridicule at school. That's really awful. I think along with the Zero Tolerance Bullying policy they have to establish at schools, they have to encourage kids to seek out help, confide in their parents, or at least find an interested third party like a school counselor. Even something as embarrassing as this, they gotta get some help. On the other hand: two of my novels have featured young teenagers who got into significant trouble and stoically refused to tell anybody about it, which is the way I saw the characters. One of the stories took place in 1968-1969 (and concerned a secret gay affair and an attempted rape); the other took place around 2004 (and had a blackmail case over sexual identity). If I were to write about today, I think I'd take a different tactic. But I understand why kids feel so lost and unable to find any help.
  15. I wrote a novel 10 years ago about homophobia in high school sports, and it's interesting to note that for most American sports, there are very, very few publicly "out" players on any teams. Usually, they wait until they're retired to talk about their private lives. Even at the collegiate level, it's rare. I think it's getting better nowadays, but we have a long, long way to go before there's real equality and tolerance. I'm glad that a handful of Olympic athletes and a few others (like the gay pro basketball player that came out this year) took this step. As far as I know, there are still zero gay pro baseball, football, or hockey players in America. But we get a little bit closer every year.
  16. Auto-Save can be your friend! At the worst, you'll only lose the last few minutes of what you wrote. If this ever happens again, do a print screen, save a picture of the screen, or just sit there and write down on a pad what's on screen. At least that'll get you something back. Some of my main "day job" work is in the area of video editing, and I've had some catastrophic situations where computers crashed or circuits failed. Never did I lose more than about 15 minutes work (except in a major case of a software upgrade, which is another story). But I totally commiserate. We've all been there when our machines failed us and terrible things happened. I have backups, I have standby battery power, I print up what I write every day (on days that I write)... but it's never enough. I'll still lose a nugget here and there, but it's not nearly as bad today as it was then. We had a close screenwriting friend in the 1980s who sought our advice in buying a new PC. We set it all up for him, then had weekly phone conversations guiding him through the process. One day he called us in a panic because he had called a brand-new script "Big Show" (or whatever it was called). Unfortunately, he had also named his first script "Big Show." The program -- this was early DOS -- dutifully overwrote the original file and kept going. When he explained what he had done, he said, "I don't understand. Where did my first script go?" I sighed and explained it had gone into the ether. He was borderline hysterical at the thought that about 100 hours of work (which would've paid him about $20K) had vanished. And no, he had never thought to print it out or save a duplicate. That was a sad story, but there are worse. Actress Margot Kidder was working on her autobiography in the early 1990s, and her computer crashed... and lost everything. She was so freaked about it, she had a nervous breakdown and had to be institutionalized for a few days. She finally recovered and said, "well, I guess this was god telling me I didn't need to publish my autobiography." Computers are evil, nasty machines. Don't trust them for a minute. Pure evil. And use many backups and save often.
  17. Blame was not the word I used; the word I did use was responsibility. Nobody deserves to be bullied and humiliated, but the kid started it himself by behaving badly in a bathroom. Once you start the ball rolling (so to speak), you have to accept the consequences, no matter how awful they are. I would have a completely different opinion if the kid had been at home and a peeping Tom spied on him from a window, or tapped into a web camera, or something like that. Totally different thing, and that would be a serious invasion of privacy. But playing with yourself at school is gonna be risky no matter what. This was a very, very stupid lapse in judgement. How would you have the school solve the problem? Make an announcement over the intercom that says, "we will not allow students to laugh at other students who they've seen in videos pleasuring themselves on the internet." No matter what you do, people are gonna be snickering at you for the rest of your life, because it was a terrible, terrible mistake. I say, change your name and move. Or just be home-schooled for the next year or so. By the time you're 18, nobody will care and you can go to college out of state. (Unless, of course, somebody follows you to Facebook and posts the video there, which is always the possibility.) If anything, I think the parents used very bad judgement in sending the poor kid back to school to face the taunts and humiliation of the other students. I think it's one thing if you're older and have a sleazy lifestyle -- I'm thinking of the Khardassians or Lindsay Lohan or any number of celebrities who've had naked sex videos posted to the internet -- you can survive an incident like this if you're famous and have a lot of money. Heck, sleazy pseudo-celebrities like this seem to enhance their reputations by scandals like this. (Who can forget the Rob Lowe nude sex video from the 1980s, which I think was the first one to surface?) But it's disastrous for a young kid. This is a very, very sad story. I'm reminded of the Tyler Clementi story, where the Rutgers freshman was embarrassed by his roommate, who posted webcam videos of the boy having sexy conversations with boyfriends on the net. Clementi was so mortified (particularly by being publicly outted), he jumped off a bridge. The family sued the jerk responsible for posting the videos, and the very wealthy kid's family fought it. The jerk was found guilty but only got a 30-day jail sentence, a $10,000 fine, and several hundred hours of probation. I would've given him at least 6 months and a $50,000 fine, but that's me. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Suicide_of_Tyler_Clementi I think there are similar elements here, where a cruel thug decided to hurt somebody else for their private sexual life. They're responsible for making somebody miserable. On the other hand, masturbating in a public school restroom kind of crosses the line, though it doesn't forgive the invasion of privacy. My partner the lawyer says the family is suing the school because of Deep Pockets: go after whoever has the most money. But I don't think the school is responsible in this case, and I also don't think the family can win the case. If I had Lotto money, I'd post a $100,000 reward for the a-hole who posted that video, then throw him in Guantanamo or something until he learned his lesson. Kids are so cruel and vicious nowadays, not giving a thought to how much they can ruin somebody's lofe with one click of the mouse.
  18. I think the lawsuit is misplaced. The parents should have realized the seriousness of the problem and just moved him to another school. Some things, your life isn't going to recover from, and an intimate video like that is one of them. Here's another photo of the kid and another story: Boy Scout Caught On Embarrassing Video At School Commits Suicide July 14, 2014 THECOUNT.COM A 14-year-old Boy Scout from San Diego committed suicide after a video of him pleasuring himself in a school bathroom surfaced and went viral. The teen’s parents, Timothy and Barbara Burdette, filed a $1 million claim against the San Diego Unified School District after they say a teacher kicked the boy out of class for eating sunflower seeds, causing the displaced teen to seek refuge in a campus bathroom. The school district rejected the Burdettes’ claim, giving the family six months to file a lawsuit, according to U-T San Diego and the Los Angeles Times. “From the moment the video was posted, Matthew was mercilessly bullied, harassed and teased by students who had seen the video. This continued for the next two weeks,” the claim said. The parents said officials with the San Diego Unified School District were aware of the video and the bullying. Two weeks after the video went public, on Nov. 29, Matthew committed suicide. His family said he left a note saying he could not “handle school” and had “no friends.” “Matthew took his life as a result of the embarrassment and humiliation caused by bullying related to the video and its distribution,” the claim said. http://thecount.com/2014/07/14/matthew-burdette-suicide-2/#more-166798 -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- I'm very sad that this happened, but from my point of view the kid started this in the first place. There's no way to tell people not to watch the video once it's been posted, and unfortunately, you can't unsee it once it's in your head. The kid's life at that school was ruined. I think the parents should've home-schooled him for the rest of the term, then moved at some point and started over in another city, or just sent the kid to private school. But pushing him back into that hell-hole was not the right idea. The problem with the lawsuit is that the kid was ultimately responsible for starting this. This is not a case of a kid getting beaten up every day; this was an athletic, popular kid who made a terrible mistake in judgement. I would have no problem with his parents filing a wrongful death and harassment lawsuit against the parents of the kid who actually posted the video, but I'm not sure how the school can get involved. It's a terrible, terrible story and a sad waste of a human life, but the kid's family has to accept their responsibility for his lapse in judgement. Let's flip the situation around: if any of us this did this kind of behavior at a workplace bathroom, and somebody posted it to YouTube, who's fault is it? Could you sue the business? Maybe, but I don't think you could win.
  19. Just read it again and enjoyed it all over again. And I hate hockey! But I always love a good story.
  20. Feel better, James! Hang in there.
  21. My partner Roddy and I passed 30 years not too long ago, and I'm amazed we haven't killed each other yet.
  22. There are parts of Texas where I can't understand what they're saying. An old pal of mine lived in England for most of his life before moving over here, growing up in London, and he told me that if he drove 200 miles straight north, he'd have a helluva time trying to get directions from the residents. He told me that England had at least a dozen different dialects, some of which are as radically different as a Louisiana Patois from a NY Brooklyn accent.
  23. There was a terrific story started sometime back -- not sure where I read it -- about a gay American high school student who, through circumstance, winds up at a British boarding school and has trouble fitting in. Not sure if it was ever finished. I thought one of the problems with the story is that he figured out British slang a little too quickly, and not too many people kidded him about being American. I think the "fish out of water" aspect could have been played up a lot more.
  24. Hang in there, Paco! I know people who have been through similar experiences who have managed to recover, though the therapy takes some time. Sending good thoughts your way!
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