Award-winning Journalist Penny Fletcher, Author, Editor & Blogger

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Positive Perspectives in a Perplexing World

As a 40-year journalist and author, I've gone from interviewing people in multi-million-dollar homes to homeless camps and know our country's divide has grown to proportions not seen since the Civil War. But as a spiritual person who has studied many religions and taught Bible classes, I've learned the human family has numerous paths to God. Neither tribalism nor nationalism will work here because we're a nation of immigrants and that means we're meant to be diverse. We're all in this together and we have to look out for our neighbors to heal the divide before it becomes a class war like it has in so many other great civilizations. Division is deliberately created by the greedy using hot-button words to turn middle class and poorer families; races and religions; and those with differences in culture and behavior; against each other, while they line their pockets behind closed doors. Rome, Greece, the Bolshevick Revolution in Russia; France's turning on Marie Antoinette, all show what eventually happens when the public has had enough. Let's quash unfairness and hatred now.

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There's Still Time to Save Our Language Skills if We Start Now

Posted on October 15, 2018 at 10:35 AM Comments comments (0)

     I didn’t know I was raising a granddaughter from Generation Z until the other day when I happened upon the term in a television broadcast. I thought the younger generation was still called X. That’s how far behind I am. As it turns out, when I looked a little farther into it, Gen Z came after X, starting in 1995 and lasted until 2013, when “Generation Alpha” began; the one we’re in now. I guess that means we’ve run the entire alphabet and are starting over again.

   The only reason I mention this is because somewhere during the period between the typewriter and the text, we’ve lost our language. I know my granddaughter, who is now 20, was in the last class to learn cursive writing in Florida’s elementary schools and I’ve been told it’s that way in other places too. Now they teach “keyboarding” which makes sense, being that we all communicate by computers, tablets and phones, but I wonder who (when Gen Z is gone) will be able to read our Constitution and Declaration of Independence and all those other important documents our Founders created in script?

   Does that matter? I think it does. Not being able to read or duplicate documents as important as these (and many others scripted by hand) can create enormous problems for the country, and world, later.

   Today, when our “kids” are texting, it’s just an inconvenience to those of us who have to figure out that PIR means “parent in room” or “BRB” means be right back. I have to admit, even as an author and editor who loves words, when texting, I use “Lv U 2” and “TTYL” (talk to you later) myself. It saves time, and everybody seems to know what they mean.

   The problem with this is the students brought up on “keyboarding” may never use (or even understand) proper written language. Maybe won’t even want to. So, what happens to all the classics that have been with us for hundreds of years? War & Peace; Crime & Punishment; The Odyssey; the great poets and the works of Shakespeare? Can these be translated somehow into three-letter abbreviations or emojis?

   Abbreviations have been with us a long time: Take “Xmas” for example. The problem is, while they were designed to save time (or writing space) they’ve started to replace the meaning behind what someone is trying to convey. As a long-time writer and editor, I find “meaning” very important. Is there a difference between Xmas and Christmas? Of course, there is. Whether you are a Christian or not, if you speak the English language, you need to know the word “Christmas” is an “abbreviation” of Christ’s Mass, originating from the Old English word “Cristemaesse” meaning the church service dedicated to the birth of Jesus of Nazareth; called by Christians, Jesus the Christ.

   No one doubts that Christmas — and many other annual celebrations — are holidays, but how many are still taught that originally in English, the word “holiday” came from abbreviating the words “Holy Day?”

   I’m wondering how much of our “meaning” we’re losing as we replace real words with abbreviations and symbols.

   Speaking of symbols, I’ve watched as my granddaughter and her peers send some texts completely in emoticons. Somewhere in Japan, early in the 1990s, these cartoon-like figures (spelled differently there of course) were invented to accent words on computers. Emojis arrived in the U.S. shortly after that and are now found on practically all forms of texting devices. I look at the little smiley or angry faces; thumbs up and down symbols, broken hearts and other things that immediately send mind pictures to the receiver and think of cave-dwelling art. It looks like we’re going back to the days where our ancestors scratched pictographs of buffalo and bison on cave walls with a rock.

   As these forms of “abbreviation” become more and more prevalent, I wonder if the grace and power of “real words” and decades of documents, books and other important manuscripts will go the way of the drawings scratched by firelight on the walls of ancient caves?

© penny fletcher 2018


Typewriter Technology on a News Year's Day

Posted on October 9, 2018 at 5:50 PM Comments comments (0)

  Wow, completely redoing my entire website from blank pages has been quite a job. I've been at it for about two weeks now, working around editing and everything else. I had no idea how to even make a video, and see now that you can't change the size of the video frame on my website so I have a big black space behind me. Still, I'm going to publish the site and keep working on it. I left the Blog video up because I like the things I said on it, completely from the heart, no notes, and think that's more important than the fact I couldn't fit it correctly into the frame. Next time I do a video though, I'll figure out how to do it directly on screen from the new YouTube channel I just set up for the some of the video Blogs; something else I just taught myself through much trial and error. (More error than trial!)

   You have to remember even though I've been doing my own site for the last eight or nine years, I only designed it once, with some tech help, and from then on I kept the same theme and just changed content. This site is completely new, emphasizing different things than before, even though I'm still an author and editor, now I want to Blog. I'm not too worried about figuring out this Blogging stuff. I want to do it because I've written editorials and commentaries at newspapers for so many years that it seems like the thing I should do next. Especially now that so much is going on in the world. (And the fact I have two new books coming out in 2019 is a good reason as well.) 

   If I ever figure out Web Store, I promised my editing clients I'd link their books on a rotating basis. Well, I set up the store, had a couple of books linked to "Buy Here," and then realized the payments would come to my site so I threw that idea out the window for now and killed the page. Later, after I get the hang of the new site and channel I'll figure it out.

   It wasn't until I was in my thirties that I saw my first computer; that was in the mid-1980s while I was a Bureau Editor for Sunbelt Newspapers. I remember going straight from a typewriter to something called an Apple 2 GS that had a DOS operating system where you had to migrate through a "shell"  that was an immense black cave that was easy to get lost in. But getting into it was the only way to find anything. Back then each time we changed the size or style of our print, we had to enter a series of codes, and they were always long strings of numbers. Photos were even worse. 

   Then there was the day after the New Year's holiday I went into my office to find my supervisor had promoted my two reporters (Joe Rice and Bob Smith) to editors and I had one newbie straight out of college and a brand new "drop-down-menu-type" computer I had no idea how to operate. But somehow, we made deadline. We always did, even though once the disks melted in the car- yes, we used floppy disks into the '90s- and had to rewrite what we could remember and grab things from other papers in our chain, right in the pressroom. That was back in the day when you cut and pasted stories from paper onto a heavy cardboard-like sheet with glue after cutting them to the right size with an exacto knife. I still have one of those in my "Special Box" in the envelope Janine Peliksa sent me with a note that said, "keep this, someday soon it'll be a real antique." 

    I guess today's Blog is kind of like New Year's Eve for me. Starting something new always brings memories of what's gone before. So welcome to "Perspectives." I hope to see comments and ideas as things progress.

    Meanwhile, I'll see if I know how to get this Blog on line because I can't go any farther, like checking the links or doing the SEO until it's live.