Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Adventures Down Under

Wonders of the Internet

I just wrote a lengthy email to my brother-in-law who is presently residing in Sydney. I mailed it at 8:30 a.m. EST and checked to see what time it is in Sydney … and it’s 12:30 a.m. tomorrow.

Maybe because I was a child of the mid-twentieth century, I never fail to be amazed with what I can do at this magical computer of mine. First of all, I wrote an email and sent it off to Sydney without having to put it in an envelope, put a stamp on it, go to a mailbox or a post office. And it’s sitting in Jim’s “mailbox” on his computer right now, and will be waiting for him when he wakes up. (Or maybe he’s a night owl and will read it now.)

How incredible is that? In my book Eli’s Heart, Krissy and Eli have to communicate by letters … the kind with paper and envelopes and stamps that have to be physically put into the hands of the USPS (we just called it “the post office” back in the olden days, children), and they have to wait for several days for the letter to reach its destination. And even if they replied immediately, it was another several days before they received the reply. So seven or eight days to exchange “I love yous.”

Oh, they sometimes use the telephone, but they are both college students and they are six hundred-plus miles apart and long distance calls are expensive. So they are sparing of those. Despite these obstacles, which are minor compared to the other obstacles they have to surmount, they manage eventually to get together.

For the book I’m currently writing, I saw a poem somewhere on line that really spoke to me and wanted to use part of it, but I wanted the author’s permission to do so. I found his Facebook page and sent him a message. He’s from Colorado but is now living in New Zealand. We were able to communicate via the Internet. There were a few pauses because of the time difference, but nevertheless, it was only a matter of hours, not days. Or weeks.

One thing that came to light right away was that the poem he wrote and the poem I saw were not the same … someone had altered his poem, and of course we have no way of knowing who. That surprises me, but perhaps it shouldn’t. Having been actively involved in the music publishing industry, I am very sensitive to copyright laws and would never presume to reproduce song lyrics in a book without legal permission. More and more frequently I see YouTube videos which have been removed because of that infringement.

Perhaps the literary copyright watchdogs are not as vigilant; and certainly it’s difficult to police the Internet. Bootlegging protected creative work is as old at least as the ability to reproduce it is. In the late nineteenth century it was rampant. Gilbert and Sullivan fought it as best they could, but their operettas still appeared on stages in the New World without their knowledge or permission.

But I digress. What blew me away about these recent communications was that I was having adventures Down Under while sitting at my computer in my comfortable home in Pennsylvania. Pretty amazing stuff!

Sydney Opera House