Paris – Solidarité

Paris – Solidarité
By Ben W. | BlueCatShip

I woke up and went online and have just seen the news. Terrible.

Why Paris, or France? Good question.

As a broad generalization, French people tend to react passionately towards social justice issues, philosophical issues, and so on, on a somewhat different level or manner than do Americans. Are they any more or less passionate or idealistic or realistic? Well, probably not, but there are differences in national character in how French people express themselves.

This is my impression as a French-speaking American. If I were to live in a natively French-speaking area, I’d have to learn a lot of vocabulary and review some things, but my French is still pretty fluent, thanks to several semesters in college.

Paris is a large international city and a center of commerce as well as the national capital. It’s older and more historic than, say, New York City. This makes it a target for people who want to cause disorder and terror.

France also has a long history, both as a colonial power, but also as an exploratory and trading nation, and a long history of contact with northern Africa and the Middle East. So there’s a long history of both friendly and unfriendly feelings going on between those nations and France. France and French-speaking areas tend to have tolerant relations with these areas, but that isn’t to say that there isn’t also prejudice and tension between French-speaking and north African / Middle Eastern peoples.

So while France has a minority population of people from the area, Muslims and others, Arabic-speaking people and others, there are still tensions, despite tolerance. And that leads some to want to put a wedge in and use those sore spots and prejudices on both sides as a way to drive people further apart or to get what a given person or group wants, disorder, terror, as a way to grab power, wealth, beliefs, and so on, while people are looking the other way. By giving both sides more reasons to dislike (or hate or fear) each other, the people behind such attacks want to gain for themselves and their beliefs.

So never mind an overall history of relations between France and north African / Middle-Eastern nations, any tendencies towards tolerance and peaceful relations, trade, and so on. Never mind that there’s a minority population throughout France. Instead, people bent on causing hate and fear as tools would rather cause hate and fear and try to make people believe what their group wants, to grab what they want to get, make some political or religious statement, further divide and stir people up, and so on.


One of my professors when I went back for my associate’s degree was an immigrant, a Syrian and Muslim, fluent in English, working toward citizenship for himself and his wife, with a child born here in the US. When someone had asked him, during an informal class session, about the ongoing conflicts in the Middle East, about perception of Muslims, and so on, he gave an interesting answer.

He said that it’s one thing to be over here and hear about the conflict going on. But it’s another to be over there and have one group fighting another group, back and forth, this group, that group, another group, both within one’s own religion or nationality and outside it from neighboring countries or from minority or majority groups within one’s own country. That is, if someone attacks your neighborhood, your friends, your relatives, assaults a woman you know, kills or maims kids, etc., attacks buildings, monuments and historical sites, sacred areas (mosques, temples, churches, synagogues), then of course people get angry and retaliate. They take things into their own hands to protect themselves. Or they get angry and fight back and cause more violence against whoever they think hurt them. That goes back and forth, on and on. It causes animosity and hate and division, over generations, even if people want to be moderate or peaceful. People can only take so much, and then they react, whether it’s wise or justified or not. And the cycle continues on and on, over and over — because no on stops it and keeps it stopped. No one says enough’s enough, I won’t do that anymore.

He said also that you could either stay in all that and live as best you could and do what you can, as a moderate person, peaceful, religious or secular — Or you could decide enough was enough, and take yourself and your family and move somewhere else, where there was more opportunity and a peaceful life and some more degree of tolerance for differences of religion, ethnicity, and so on.

He chose to move to the US, study here, live here, become an American citizen, and to marry a young woman from his country who had come here, where she was working toward citizenship too, and where they married here and had their first child, who was therefore an American. His English was good, he was mostly moderate both in religious views and in secular views. He was a professor, so an academic, and education and intelligence were important to him.

Be it noted, I didn’t always agree with him or how he did things. Heh. But he was an OK guy, a reasonable person, I thought, and someone you could deal with. He sincerely wanted that American life and ideal for himself and his family. — I can also say he had the worst handwriting I think i’ve ever seen. I can’t vouch for how his Syrian and Arabic writing were, but his English handwriting? Awful. LOL. I relied on taking notes from his speaking, not from what he was putting on the board, which I could hardly read, even knowing what it was. Heh.

But I took his points, his experience and perspective, as key in understanding what it’s like to live in an area where so many very different groups are often in armed conflict and competing for beliefs and ideas, for worldly goods and land to live on, for their perceived ways of life. — And his demonstrated choice, to move out of that and seek a new life elsewhere, even while keeping his own beliefs and his family contacts (of course), that spoke to what he thought, believed, how he viewed things, and his ultimate goals.


Around the same time, my mom and I also often ate at a local restaurant that served mostly “Italian” dishes. We were regulars and got to know the owners a little. When we asked where they were from, the answer, carefully, was that they were Persian. (Note that. Not stated as Farsi, not stated as Iranian.) My mom and I both knew “Persian” is “iranian, Farsi.” They said that they put it that way because of so much prejudice against Middle Easterners, especially Iranians, and Muslims. (They were Christians.) They stayed in business a few years before closing the restaurant. But this shows how people’s perceptions and ignorance and prejudices can operate. Tell someone they were Persian, and most people would think that was wonderful. Tell the same someone they were Iranian, and the perception would’ve changed, for most people, because of preconceived notions of what Iranians (and Muslims) are like, versus the romantic notion of what “Persian” is. As someone who knew a little (very little) about history and language, like myself or like my mom, it was as frustrating for us, as mainstream, majority Americans, to run into that from people who only wanted to build a new life in America, assimilate, and leave that old life behind. They had left their home country to escape the bad situation over there.

Later that same semester, I learned from another professor (white American) that a fellow professor in her department was Farsi / Persian / Iranian and having real trouble, because she and her family had had to leave Iran to be safe, and yet she (and family) was (were) facing prejudice over here, due to prejudices about race, nationality, and religion. (Whether the other prof was Muslim or Christian wasn’t stated, but she may have been Christian instead of Muslim.)

So — The problem is ongoing from both (or multiple) sides.

Where does it stop? When do enough people stop and say they’ve had enough of the endless cycle of violence and intolerance, and they don’t want to fight with their neighbors anymore?

When and why does it become acceptable to hate so much over religious beliefs or some other ideology that you and your group think that hurting and killing people who live nearby, neighbors, is justifiable, or even a good thing?

How can anyone believe in any god and claim to want tolerance, peace, love, forgiveness — and yet actively hate and exclude and hurt other people, just because they are different, or believe or act differently?

Note: I don’t exempt my own country or my own religious background from those questions. I am just as offended by that as any “foreign” actions.

The level of ignorance, of prejudice without thought, of outright hatred and greed and intolerance, instead of a willingness to live and let live … offends me greatly. But I don’t therefore want to go out and hurt or kill or drive out or shun anyone because of it. You go your way, I’ll go my way. If we interact, then be decent and civil. Treat the other person like you’d want to be treated. Don’t be awful to someone, just because they are different or believe differently. Why treat someone badly for that? And how is that going to influence them to listen to your ideas, to think about them, and maybe to change their minds to agree with you? It won’t. It only drives people apart. I want a better world than that.

“We must all hang together, or most assuredly, we shall all hang separately.”
— Benjamin Franklin

“I may not agree with you, sir, but I shall defend to the death your right to disagree.”
— Voltaire (very) paraphrased

“They that can give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.”
— Benjamin Franklin, 1755, to the Pennsylvania State Legislature


Prelude to the Wookiee Problem

I am thinking up an article / essay on “the Wookiee problem,” or alien speech and the related problem of including mute characters.

I am not sure when this will show up as a finished post, but when it is, I’ll have it posted on my site and blog and will link to it from a few forums and blogs I visit.

This also relates to the portrayal or inclusion of mute people in fiction, though I’m not sure yet how I intend to address that.

I don’t know yet if I want to go even broader, to portrayal of things like handicaps or ageism. I don’t yet know if it’ll be more than one post.

But I want to write something, because the problem of how to write a character for an audio or video play, or for a novel, without having the character be a sidekick, and with taking into account the realistic things a character has to deal with, when he or she can’t avoid or magically cure the condition: a realistic, strongly portrayed character.


Audio and Voice Work – Part 2

See Also:

This past weekend, I did a table read for an upcoming audio drama. This was great fun to do, and the voice actors are terrific in their parts.

Star Trek: Shadows of Tyranny is by Melting Clock Productions. I’m cast as a regular, Ensign Pavel Chekov.

I had a great time before the audition earlier this year, reviewing real Russian accents to get my accent right. I’ve already had some praise for how it’s turning out.

Now I have two episodes for which to record lines, with more forthcoming. Current plans are for six parts to the series, with two or three releases. The regular cast and guest parts are played by a mix of professional and amateur voice actors. It’s going to be good stuff.

Meanwhile, I’m awaiting production to finish for the release of Starship Excelsior, Episode 4.02, “Guards, Get Them!” in which I play an alien with a sizable part. I expect the release of 4.02 and 4.03 will be this year, but I’m not sure when yet.

I turned in lines for a future production, a restart of a popular Star Trek fan/indie series, in which I play a Caitian for one episode. That is further down the line, possibly this year, for release. The production team are still working out details.

I’m awaiting word on another audition, and hope for the best. I like the two series currently in production by the folks at Giant Gnome Productions and would like playing a part.

I’ve had a couple of leads on possible upcoming projects that sure sound exciting, but I can’t give away any details yet. One may include professional actors as well as amateurs getting into more work.

So far, all this has been amateur volunteer work. I am getting brave enough that I’ll be researching what’s available in my city, to see if I can get into this on a paid basis too.

My prior experience has included various voice and audio work going back to 2009 for audio dramas, and back to 2006 for other audio work, mostly readings of stories and poetry at that time.

Past singing experience has also included amateur church choir, group and solos, from childhood, adolescence, and adulthood until a few years ago.

Past acting experience, besides voice work, included a little very amateur live theater, plays and skits, but did not include any professional venues. I now think I would’ve loved taking theater classes in high school.

I’d say my voice audio work online has been at a higher level. I still feel like I’m a beginner, but I have several credits under my belt now and I’m getting better parts, more challenging and fun work.

But heck, voice acting and audio work online began as both fun and volunteer efforts, because it might be fun to do and because there was a need.

That grew into, “Hey, this is really a lot of fun, I like it, even when it’s just a few lines. It’s great being someone else, some other character. It’s also cathartic. And well, it also answers that creative, artistic side of me that loves a good story or poem. In short, it’s a blast to get to do this stuff, voice acting and audio work, for fun, for the experience, to hear more good storytelling out there. Uh, paid work is also very good! I’m having so much fun doing this, though, that it’s so worth it all.

I am always interested in auditioning for new indie and fan productions. Any genre is fine. Most of my work so far has been in science fiction and fantasy and thrillers. However, I’d have great fun in historical pieces or almost anything. Heck, if it’s a good story, whether it’s a bit part or a big deal, I’ll give it a go.

I am familiar with the good and the not so good in life, with handicaps, especially vision-impairment (low-vision or legally blind), long-term caregiving, and with issues affecting LGBT gay folks. I’ve seen enough of life to know there are highs and lows, and this informs any good storytelling. I’d consider poetry, music, and visual arts to be ways of telling stories too.

My professional background has included writing and editing, design and graphics, and web design. My educational background includes some computer science, but primarily English literature, and French and Spanish language coursework, up through a French literature survey course in French. This means stories and poetry and non-fiction, as well as arts and music and theater, have always been a part of my life. My mother was a professional fine artist, a painter, as well as a businesswoman, and my father was the kind of mechanical engineer who’s born with a talent for fixing things, then for designing them. So I grew up with painterly smells from earliest childhood. It was probably inevitable that I’d get into voice acting and audio work.

I’m looking forward to hearing more in the future…or the past or the present.

I’ll have more news on upcoming releases as I learn of them.


Writing – Stories, Poems, Non-Fiction

On my site (see the link to the Site above) you’ll find a few short-short stories, first installments of long-form stories, a collection of many freeform poems, and several non-fiction essays or articles.

These cover whatever subjects might interest me.

The non-fiction has some geeky technical pieces as well as human interest or general topics.

The poetry can cover darn near anything, and is more poetry by ideas or connections, mood and style, than by rhyme and meter. So far, I haven’t done much that could work as song lyrics or traditional poetry. But for me, at least, they work as something akin to poems.

The fictional stories I have publicly available are short-short stories and a few intended as novels or anthologies or serials, but so far, those have only one or two installments each.

That brings up a major point. I have a folder full of story ideas, anything from brief notes, bits and pieces, to several chapters and larger world-building. One in particular is a story-universe intended for many stories. That one started in college, and has gone through some important morphing of the ideas and world-building recently. My goal is to get more stories completed, so there’s more out there for readers to enjoy.

Though many of my stories are present-day, here-and-now, and though I like several genres, I have always had a love for science fiction.  I want to get those stories written, besides the world-building, the background of the story-universes those play in.

I always seem to have several ideas running in my head, and new ones can pop up at any time. This has, in recent years, made it hard to pay attention to one story and bring it to completion, when the background, the story-universe it lives in, has been changing, growing.

I still feel like an amateur fiction writer. Though I’ve had ideas going since college, it’s only recently that I’ve been writing things seriously, towards being a full-time writer. I have other projects I do (audio, font design, artwork, web/print design) that I’m trying to get done too, and to teach myself new, needed skills, especially in the changing web and ebook and print publishing fields. So I’m distracted with a number of things going, and I don’t yet have the progress, the completed output, I want to see.

It’s a major goal to get things written, both in what I already have started, and in ideas and stories still in progress, in their various stages in my writing folders.

From time to time, I expect to begin releasing new stories, poems, and non-fiction again. I will keep readers posted on the process and on pieces, novels, or collections, as they become available.

If you enjoy a story, poem, or non-fiction piece, or if you have comments or suggestions, I would love to get feedback from you. In fact, I’d be surprised. I value positive feedback and value negative feedback when it makes me think more and learn from it.

Future plans include bringing my fiction and poetry into ebook formats (for very reasonable prices), rather than web pages. I expect my non-fiction articles to remain available online as web pages, with the addition of ebook formats. These should happen as I can get to them. I am learning EPUB3 and need to learn PHP too.

Stay tuned for more!