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Breaking News

“I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, and every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight.” Martin Luther King, August 28, 1963
I was awakened by milling on my street at 2 am, brewed up some tea, and made the mistake of turning on my iPad.

More unbearable breaking news: cops shot in Dallas during a demonstration against police brutality. Before the gunfire, protestors and police were posing for photographs—peacefully. This lovefest does not answer the endemic racism, but it may be a watershed moment. Unless we become inured to killing, it will stop. We are not Boko Haram training drugged children to kill by slaughtering chickens or their own parents. We are Americans. We’ve had our civil war, our revolution, our Bill of Rights. We can fix this.

For what remained of the night, even as I attempted to rest my brain, I was writing this blog post and thinking of all my African-American friends who have been stopped by the police. My husband’s screenwriting partner, Gerard Brown III, author of “Juice,” a cult classic, has many stories to tell. He has a gentle, loving nature so when the cops stopped him, frisked him and searched his backpack one afternoon in the neighborhood where he lives, he was able to stay calm and civil. The humiliation and disrespect stayed with him.

And that is just one story among too many stories. An ex of my daughter’s carried a police badge in his wallet. His dad was a court officer and got it for him. But what if he had reached for it one day in the car when he was stopped, my daughter riding “shotgun.” What an image that is!! When I asked him one day—as a mom—if he was being careful, he pulled out the badge. I had never known he was carrying it until then.

For weeks now, many of my FB friends have been writing the most heart-rending posts about the latest killings. It’s so hard for all of us to know how to respond. FB is helpful because it enables us to have a conversation and, therefore, some solace. Articles are posted. Petitions. This morning I signed a petition to Loretta Lynch. Thousands upon thousands of people signed it.

What a world we live in. What, if anything, has changed? Have we made progress? Is it possible to maintain an historical perspective? Where can we find sanctuary and wisdom? Read More 
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Facebook; An Update

The internet superhighway as predicted by Vice President Al Gore (1993-2001). Facebook was launched in 2009.
Once again, it’s time for a Facebook assessment. I remember my reluctance to enter this virtual world, and my surrender. I’ve written about finding a college friend, the pleasure we’ve found in our posts, the constancy of our responses, the shared news about our creative lives. I enjoy the photographs my niece posts of her children and her husband posts of his new encaustic paintings. Yes, he’s painting again! We are separated by a continent but can eavesdrop on one another’s activities. This makes it easier to feel connected and to reconnect when we do see each other.

I post my website blog—this blog post that I am writing today—as a “note,” and the Facebook note feeds into Twitter which enhances my online profile and keeps my classes (mostly) filled. My prospective students check me out before signing up. Who can blame them? They are spending hard-earned money—a lot of it—and want to make sure it will not be wasted. I even use their Facebook posts and photographs as writing prompts in the workshop. Who would have ever thunk it? In fact, I encourage my students to write their hearts out on Facebook and in emails, not just sound bytes but long narratives: captions for every photograph, commentary in answer to every commentary. Facebook: yet another tool to keep the writing muscle supple.

But Facebook is more than a publicity or writing tool. It’s also a bulletin board, a graffiti wall, a communal well, a listening post. I find it particularly comforting when something awful is going on in the world which, alas, is all too frequent these days. People in the US and overseas post words of comfort or insight, and all at once the isolation, despair or frustration we feel is eased; we are a community. And, maybe just maybe, a shared link or two might suggest a way out of a conundrum: the refugee migration crisis, England’s imminent EU referendum, the US election. Or, more personally, a private woe expressed fleetingly on one particular day: “Dear FB Friends,” it might say, “I am not feeling so great today.” Incoming: lots of supportive messages and suggestions. And, for me, the impulse to pick up the phone and talk.

A dear friend, someone I see in the flesh in the city, once said to me that an old high school mate, now a FB friend, is ranting on his site. For some reason he won’t “unfollow,” him though this is easy enough to do now—a new, welcome function—without the finality of “unfriending.” Don’t we pick and choose our friends in the real world? So why not insist on civility on Facebook if that is our preference? The digital culture has evolved and so have we.

I can’t imagine my life these days without Facebook and I wonder, at times, whether friends and family who “don’t do Facebook” are missing out on this inclusive, global conversation. I intuit that they are and wish they’d consider joining.  Read More 
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Facebook Stories

When I was in graduate school studying media—before the days of social media—one of my professors always reminded us that whatever technology we chose to use and master, it was important to remember that technologies are tools, nothing more or less. And some of them are powerful, as we have experienced since the advent of the internet and smart phone. And so I am puzzled when someone says, “I don’t want to get into FB, it will consume me.” Unless one develops an addiction, this is patently not true. And most people are responsible. Those that aren’t can easily be un-followed or un-friended. I don't believe in robots taking over the world; the use or the abuse of any technology is in our control

That all said, I do remember my first skeptical reactions to FB, which I wrote about here. The skepticism didn’t last long. Like everyone else I know, I have enhanced my personal and business connections, kept in touch with friends and family very far away, found people I had not been in touch with in a very long time (a college friend, a friend who had moved to Asia) and enjoy posting photographs with captions (one technology inside another). I’m a writer and I write long captions, notes and stories. Why not? I even use the edit option to change them occasionally and/or correct a mistake. Thank you, FB, for this feature.

As for privacy issues, surveillance and all the rest. I try to ignore them. We all know that surveillance is pervasive and will be for the forseeable future. But this is my thinking: we live in a free society, albeit constricted in some ways. And in this democratic free society, it is our mandate to speak with loud, bold voices without fear. Whomsoever wants to drop in on my blog posts and FB posts, please do so. If you have an issue with what I have said, answer it in words. I am listening.

I am thinking about all this today because an ex of my daughter’s, who I have always thought of as a son, is in the hospital. He’s able to use his phone and is on FB all the time. Friends and family are at his bedside, others are on FB sharing stories, joking with him and encouraging his recovery. What a wonderful healing technology, one to celebrate as we enter a new year.  Read More 
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People You May Know

Photo by Carol Bergman
We got stuck in the Air Train at San Francisco Airport for more than a half-hour. Fortunately, we had landed at Terminal 1 and the doors had opened—fresh air. The train was crowded, travelers leaving, travelers departing, many with so many bags they could have filled a hangar at the airport. There were children, old people, middle-aged people, a pilot. The pilot debarked and started barking into his phone. I couldn’t hear what he was saying but he was not happy. There were no trains coming the other way. The trains run on a loop—one breakdown and that is it. Who designed this brilliant system that is run by a computer terminal without any human in sight?

People were quiet at first, then they/we started to talk. Where was the staff, the personnel? (Note the word person embedded in the word personnel.) An electronic voice informed us, every five minutes or so, that we would be moving within ten minutes. And then it thanked us for our patience. How did he/she/it know we were being patient? I had to pee, my husband had to pee, other passengers had to pee, I was thirsty. Should we get off, go to pee in Terminal 1, return to the platform in the hope the trains would be moving and we’d make our flight? Was there any other way to get to Terminal 3? Was there anyone to ask?

We decided to wait it out. We were already weary from a traffic jam over the Bay Bridge, the return of the rental car, and a big bill for gas. No gas station we could see ten miles out—those were the instructions from the rental car company, either a scam or weird instructions. And we had timed our arrival perfectly to buy some food before boarding. No such thing as a decent meal on a plane anymore or a flight attendant to smile and chat and be human when we need something such as a pillow. A pillow? Forget that.

So what are flight attendants these days? Are they persons? Anything more than servers and emergency personnel? How difficult is it to hand out plastic cups of water, for example? I imagine a day will come when there will be totally automated flights—no flight attendants, no pilots. Not far off, I imagine. And with this fantasy I would like to tip my summer straw hat to George Orwell and his novel, 1984. He imagined the unimaginable. Now we are there. Or here.

So I suppose this blog is about the dehumanization of our lives and our selves. All of which is to be resisted and defied by everyone and, particularly, by artists who cannot function without deep connection. When a FB feed tells me that I might know some people and then displays the faces of these people on my screen, I get skittish. There is no way they can know the people I know unless they scan my email. So of course there are surveillance and privacy issues, at the very least. Why would I want to be a FB friend with my mother’s lawyer? How does FB know that I have communicated with my mother’s lawyer? But there is her face on the “people you may know” thread. Is this a thread?

I spoke to our pilot as we exited the plane. He was at the cockpit door waiting for the passengers to squeeze their way down the too-narrow aisle, all PR smiles in his crisp white shirt, slightly disheveled blond hair and beer belly. He hoped we enjoyed our flight. He hoped we would fly the friendly skies again. I interrupted his script when I asked if he was the pilot I’d seen on the stuck Air Train. He said no, he wasn’t, he’d flown up from San Diego in his own plane. And he didn’t seem to know or care about our little ordeal on the Air Train. He avoided eye contact. He had no empathy. He was a robot.  Read More 
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Facebook Redux

One of my students has more than 1,000 friends on FB. How does she find time to write? “If they don’t hear from me, they’ll think I’m dead,” she said. The class riffed a bit on that. Much laughter and also some practical suggestions. Why not post a status that says: not dead, just writing? Would that work?

The discussion got me to thinking about my own use of FB which has increased since I first joined in 2007. The questions that I raised for myself in earlier blogs have not been answered to my satisfaction: Is this virtual platform good for writers? Is it good for our relationships? Is a FB friend a real friend? Is FB just fun? Entertainment? Free advertising? Or more? How are we using or abusing this technology? Is it enhancing or interfering with our creative life?

And so I woke thinking about FB again this morning and posted this on my personal page:

Dear FB Friends,

Except for my Carol Bergman: Writer page, which I use for professional reasons –links to Twitter and my website blog—I am taking a vacation/hiatus from Facebook. If you wish to contact me, discuss, comment, send me a hug, wish me anything at all, or get together in the flesh, and feel one another’s flesh, please send me a private message on FB and I will send you my regular email address and my cell phone # if you don’t already have it. I look forward to talking with you, wishing you a happy birthday, and/or seeing all of you very soon in a non-virtual venue where we can linger and connect. The voice and the body are wonderful instruments.

xo Carol  Read More 
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