Remember it’s ‘WE THE PEOPLE’

By Ande Jacobson

As I sit huddled at home as many of us have for almost eight months now, I see the world outside my windows, and I interact virtually with friends and family via phone, via text, and via Zoom (and boy do I look forward to those Zoom sessions). I never thought I would be living through a worldwide pandemic, and yet here we all are. In the US as I write this, we are also only a few days from the end of being able to cast our ballots in the most important election in almost a century. In response to this election, rather than sitting back and waiting, I am heavily engaged in some necessary volunteer work for the Biden campaign as I mentioned in my recent essay, Taking Action! As I read reports of daily happenings, these words are looming large:

WE THE PEOPLE of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America

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Taking Action!

By Ande Jacobson

Stories. We all relate through stories. We use them from the time we’re small to help us learn language and other skills we need to function as members of society. We use them in our families to ensure that we don’t forget those who came before us. We use them in school as students and teachers to illustrate new concepts and explore the vast world around us. We use them at work to convey information. We use them for entertainment to draw out emotions. We use them throughout society to help understand where we are, and how we got here. We use them in politics to persuade and move people to take action. Continue reading

Trouble – when the story matters more than reality

By Ande Jacobson

In theater or in literature, an author’s vivid imagination can be a wondrous thing. A writer can spin a captivating tale limited only by the bounds of their imagination and their ability to capture their vision in words. If told well, such a story can be divorced from reality yet still provide compelling entertainment for its audience. In this context it’s not only acceptable, it’s desirable, and viewers or readers can find escape through immersion in such a story. It can be enjoyable to suspend disbelief enough to imagine what might be, and it can even inspire people to positive action to improve a situation in reality. Science fiction has long posited potential advances, both good and bad, that are sometimes achieved at a later time. The communicators used in Star Trek in the 1960s were intriguing. They allowed people to communicate over long distances from wherever they were with a tiny device seemingly by magic. Decades later, they came to life in the real world as flip phones as a phase in the evolution of mobile technology. Granted, there were significant differences in range, clarity, and required infrastructure, but the similarities were striking given various designs inspired by the fictional story. Since then, mobile technology has advanced in the form of smart phones and devices, delighting consumers and titillating the minds of creative engineers to continue to push even further. Continue reading

Eclipsing Reality

By Ande Jacobson

Years ago, although I lived and worked on the west coast, I spent a good deal of time near Washington, D.C. on some temporary work assignments. On these extended trips with my technical team, I had some time to explore the various museums and monuments on the weekends after some very long work weeks. Little did I know that one such outing would blossom into a vivid lesson on how easily people can be swayed by exaggeration or even completely false information presented as fact, eclipsing reality in dramatic fashion. Continue reading

The magic of the written word

By Ande Jacobson

Writing can be a powerful tool. Written words have the power to induce strong emotions. They give us a way to record history, events, and ideas. They can entertain and inspire. In telling a story, a writer is often trying to elicit a strong response in their readers. As a reader, it can be quite enjoyable to lose one’s self in a well-told story that runs us through a variety of emotional responses.

With the ubiquity of text messaging, the internet, email, and social media, many of us are thrust into the role of writer as well as reader on a daily basis. We share ideas and concerns as we connect with friends and foes, often making new friends along the way. We debate, we cajole, we support, and we entertain through our written exchanges. And sadly, we can sometimes push people we care about away. Continue reading

How the South Won the Civil War unmasks the American paradox

By Ande Jacobson

Professor Heather Cox Richardson, a prominent professor of American history at Boston College, has gained notoriety in the last several months as the author of a popular series entitled “Letters from an American” which appear on her website as well as on her professional Facebook page on a nightly basis. She began writing these letters in early November 2019 in response to numerous questions she received trying to make sense of the political events of the day. In these letters she provides a nightly roundup of the day’s political news, and along the way, she provides lessons delving the depths of American history to show where many of these ideas and tactics originated. On April 1, 2020 (after she was well into her nightly series), her latest book, How the South Won the Civil War: Oligarchy, Democracy, and the Continuing Fight for the Soul of America, was released. In this book, she describes what she refers to as the American paradox. This paradox is based on the principle that throughout American history, equality depended on inequality. She shows how this paradox started before the founding of the country and ripples throughout our nation’s history driving much of the division we see in American society today. Continue reading

My magical, musical journey: Part 4 – my return to organized music

By Ande Jacobson

As I mentioned at the end of Part 3, something was sorely missing during the dark years when I wasn’t involved in any organized ensembles. I still played my instruments at home and whenever I would drop by my mother’s house to visit. At some point during every visit, I would play a little ragtime or Chopin on her piano. She really didn’t want me to get my own piano because she was afraid that I would visit less often if I could play comfortably at home. Also, she really enjoyed it when I would bring my clarinet with me and play along with her for a bit. Still, between my own personal practice, the occasional simple duet with mom, and attending professional productions from time to time, I still had a pretty big hole in my life. Work was going well, and I eventually married a very dear friend. The marriage didn’t last, but it would turn out to be a very pivotal point in my life, especially musically. Continue reading

Clive Fleury’s ‘Kill Code’ is a compelling read

By Ande Jacobson

In December 2018, TCK Publishing released a new science fiction novel, Kill Code, by Clive Fleury. This gripping dystopian story is packed with action, intrigue, and a hero who might just have bitten off more than he bargained for as he tries to right the wrongs he’s seen all too often. In a not-too-distant future look at the little blue marble in space, the planet is ravaged by climate changes. The planet, and especially the Los Angeles area, has heated beyond all imagination, and there are really only a few hours of daylight that are even partially tolerable. The oceans have risen so quickly that weekly measurements show massive encroachment on waterfront areas, and humans have been pushed further and further inland. Over the top of it all, corruption is rampant, normal citizens have lost almost everything, and Hogan Duran wants to do something about it.

Duran is a former soldier and disgraced cop living in squalor with his former police partner, Max Creeling. Creeling is now wheelchair bound after a shooting that ultimately got them both removed from the police force. Instead of just squeaking by, Duran wants to make a difference. After years of scrambling to get what work he could, an opportunity finally presents itself that Duran just can’t ignore. The prestigious National Security Council (NSC for short) beckons to him to join. Well to be fair, Duran had applied and been rejected several times, but finally he’s invited to take the entrance exam. There’s just one small problem. The test can be deadly. If that weren’t bad enough, Duran comes to realize, beyond the challenges of getting in, there are some terrible secrets that are even more dangerous.

The book is short, only 149 pages, and it moves very quickly, much like the pilot of an action-packed television series. This is not surprising given Fleury has produced, directed, or written several projects for television and film, so he knows those mediums well.

The story is told in first person from Duran’s point of view, so the reader can only know what he knows. The reader learns Duran’s and Creeling’s backstories early on, and when Duran makes his way to the gleaming NSC headquarters to try to win entrance into the elite NSC forces, several other characters are introduced, each with secrets in their past that unfold to Duran slowly throughout story. As such, some of the supporting characters are a little underdeveloped or single dimensional because Duran can be fooled, and by extension, so can the reader. Although portions of Kill Code read a bit like a script, Fleury adds plenty of descriptive material to allow the reader to easily visualize the settings as Duran experiences them.

There are a few minor editorial issues such as using the subject form “Max and I” when it should be “Max and me” as an object, but they can generally be forgiven as the reader digs into this fast-moving, near-future world.

In addition to being Fleury’s first novel, Kill Code is the first book in a series under development. While the series may well take the reader in numerous, unexpected directions, this particular story doesn’t so much resolve as setup the next installment of the story. As such, the last chapter ends abruptly, leaving the reader hanging. Still, overall the book is an enjoyable read, and even though the world is dystopian, it provides a nice escape from the current world’s reality.

Kill Code is available in both paperback and digital formats.


References:
Kill Code: A Dystopian Science Fiction Novel
TCK Publishing
Clive Fleury’s other projects
Clive Fleury’s Author website


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My magical, musical journey: Part 3 – the college years

By Ande Jacobson

This piece of the journey picks up where part 2 left off. When I started college, I was torn. I loved music with every fiber of my being, but I also very much loved science and math. I wanted to become a doctor, but I still considered majoring in music for a very brief moment. I knew that to get into medical school, one only had to fulfill the required coursework and take the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT), but they could major in anything they liked. Still, I loved math and science, so I decided that I would major in the sciences, but still pursue my music somehow. Long story short, I never got into medical school. In fact I never even applied. Along the way, I switched from majoring in biochemistry to electrical engineering (still heavily in the math / science realm), and I pursued my music as well, just not as a major or even a minor. I also made one very firm decision before I got to the campus to start my first term. I never wanted to march again. Continue reading

The performing arts during a pandemic

By Ande Jacobson

With the country in the throes of an ever expanding pandemic, all non-essential group activities have been suspended. This is of course a necessary measure to help slow the spread of a serious health threat. Numerous businesses are affected, and many won’t recover with such a sustained stoppage of commerce. Not unlike sporting events, this is also a particularly devastating blow to the live performing arts where audiences normally gather to enjoy the efforts of artists presenting theatre, music, and dance right in front of them. Audiences cannot gather in person at this point, and realistically with social distancing, performers can’t perform in their normal fashion either since that would put them in close proximity to one another. In an attempt to keep the arts alive, even in these difficult times, this situation has sparked a widespread and creative use of technology. Continue reading