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Sacred Band of Thebes: An All-Gay Army Battalion in Ancient Greece

Thebes Hegemony in Ancient Greece: 

Ancient Greece: the Peloponnesian War between Athens and Sparta (Greece’s 2 major fighting forces) waged from 431 to 405 BC.

map
Athens is next to Thebes in Blue. Source Click HERE 

 

You’ve probably heard of Sparta. Most Likely for their show of bravery and Valor during the Persian War at the battle of Thermopylae, which occurred in 480 BC (years before the Peloponnesian War).

Even before this historic battle, Sparta had a reputation for being an army that was invincible

Sparta is categorized as this all-out military state. They prided themselves on hardcore army strength and had one of the best land armies in Greece. They were seen as more of a conservative society focused on their military and fought with brute strength.

Athens is categorized as a strategic society that prided itself on being progressive with art and writing. They had more money and focused their military might on their Navy.

Sparta wanted to push back Athens’s expanse of Democracy in Greece to establish oligarchs throughout the region.

Oligarchs are governments where a small group of people are in control of the masses

A more modern example of the Peloponnesian war between two political ideologies would be the cold war, where Western Democracy (backed by the USA) had allies all around the globe fighting against Eastern Communism (Backed by the Soviet Union).

One can draw a lot of parallels between the Cold War and the Peloponnesian war.

Both Sparta and Athens got a lot of allies to back their respective causes. Almost every city state was involved in this epic war.

Among Sparta’s allies was Greek City State of Thebes

By: 405 BC, the Peloponnesian War ends

Sparta comes out on top and begins their hegemony (rule) as the head honcho in Ancient Greece

Sparta, known for their skull cracking military prowess, kept other Greek City States in line with fear

Some of the other City States, even ones that were allies with Sparta during the war, started to not like Sparta’s iron fist rule and were now rebelling

Among them was Thebes

Thebes had started to create an alliance in their region known as the Boeotian Confederacy. The Boeotians (lead by Thebes) were quickly becoming a 3rd major force to be reckoned with in the Greek Peninsula alongside Athens and Sparta. The Boeotians and Thebes are used interchangeably here.

boeotian league
Source Click HERE

Sparta was beginning to Worry about the Boeotians, especially because Athens seemed to be on Thebes/Boeotians side

But Thebes attacked Plataea, an Athens backed City, So Athens was like “You’re on your own Thebes, or Boeotians, or whatever you’re calling yourselves these days”

athens
Source Click HERE

And the Boeotians were like “fine, be that way, we don’t need you anymore, we’re becoming our own major power in the Region!”

War started to break out all over the place in Greece, Athens was at war with Sparta again, Sparta got in some altercations with Thebes, so Sparta called a Peace Conference to cool things down a bit.

At this conference was Sparta, Athens, Thebes, Macedonia, and Persian King Artaxerxes

Everyone ended up voting for Peace. It all looked good, but then the very next day, Theban Delegation Leader Epaminondas wanted to sign the Peace Treaty for all the Boeotian League.

Spartan King Agesilaus, refused because this would basically confirm that Thebes is the head of the entire Boeotian force (which it practically was) but Sparta wasn’t going to give a thumbs up to their biggest threat so far

Epaminondas came back at him by saying “well if all the city states in Boeotian territory should get to sign independently, then all the city states in your Peloponnesian territory should get to sign for themselves too. If Thebes can’t represent all of Boeotia, then Sparta can’t represent all of Peloponnesian!”

The dispute caused Spartan King Agesilaus to kick Epaminondas and all of Thebes from the peace conference. Epaminondas rushed home to Thebes to prepare for WAR!

After a few small altercations between Thebes (Boeotians) and Sparta, the Spartan King Cleombrotus marched a large-scale army to squash Thebes and their insolent Boeotian forces

As I said before, Sparta had the reputation for being the biggest and baddest army in Greece and had this reputation for a very long time, even before the Battle of Thermopylae in 480 BC

However, in 375 BC, before King Cleombrotus marched on Leuctra, the Spartan War Party had suffered their first loss to Theban General Pelopidas in the battle of Tegyra

Although it was a small battle, it placed a crack in Sparta’s reputation of invincibility… a crack that was about to exploited at the Battle of Leuctra

Battle of Leuctra 371 BC (just 10 miles outside of the City of Thebes) Theban Leaders were reluctant to confront Cleombrotus’ s Spartan forces on the battlefield.

Sparta had a lot of soldiers (10,000 infantry and 1,000 Calvary according to Plutarch) whereas Thebes only had about 6,000 infantry and 1,500 Calvary. So, Sparta’s numbers 11K and Thebes numbers 7.5K.

leuctra
Source Click HERE

Greek infantry in this battle were mainly Hoplites:

hoplite
Source Click HERE

It was Commander Epaminondas the general who was kicked out of the Spartan Peace Conference and Pelopidas (the first General to beat the Spartans at Tegyra) who swayed their fellow Theban leaders to be brave face Sparta on the battle field

Early July 6th, 371 BC, Thebes Marched on King Cleombrotus’ s Spartan camp near Leuctra

Confident in their numbers and military prowess, The Spartans formed a simple formation of an even-lined Phalanx of infantry… armed with large Shields, swords, and spears.

As customary, the right side of the Phalanx was comprised of the Spartans most battle-hardened elite soldiers known as Spartiate’s

The only move the Spartans used other than their even line of Warriors, was their inexperienced cavalry was placed out in front alone

The Spartans expected their enemies the Thebans to mirror their simple lined formation (with Thebe’s best warriors on their own right side) and hope for the best, but General Epaminondas had a plan

The Boeotian forces chose not to form a simple line, instead they put a huge force of their most seasoned warriors (including the Sacred Band of Thebes) lead by Pelopidas on their own left flank.

good form
Source Click HERE

So, Thebes had a huge force with about 50 ranks deep, on their left facing the Spartans top soldiers and Generals. This was to add pushing power against the Spartans. This was a Risky formation, because the rest of the Boeotian line was very thin, just a few ranks deep. The Thebes also put their Cavalry out front

formations
Source Click HERE

Now, before I get in to how the battle played out, a little side note: The Sacred Band of Thebes is important to touch on here: In 378 BC, Theban General Gorgidas created this branch of the Theban army. It was comprised of 300 of the Thebes best and brightest warriors. They were 150 pairs of gay lovers. The thought was that their love for each other would push them to fight with wild bravery.

Plato wrote “No man is such a craven that love cannot inspire him with a courage that makes him equal to the bravest born.”

A Quote from HistoryDaily.Org: “Admission into the Sacred Band of Thebes was not open to just anyone. Gorgidas personally selectedthe 300 members based on their athletic ability and military experience. Each couple fit the model of Greece homosexual relations at the time: an older, dominant gentleman and his younger, passive playmate. The couples chosen to join the division were, according to Polyaenus, “devoted to each other by mutual obligations of love.” In fact, the use of the word “sacred” in the company’s name is thought to derive from the sacred vow taken between the lover (the older, active lover) and his beloved (the younger, passive lover) before the Shrine of Iolaus in Thebes. (Iolaus was the nephew and beloved of Hercules.)”

In times of Peace, the Sacred Band kept in shape by holding Wrestling tournaments, and dance competitions engaging in various arts to make them more rounded individuals

The Sacred Band was Led by Pelopidas and Epaminondas (some speculate these two were lovers themselves)

The Sacred Band were a crucial part in defeating Sparta at the Battle of Tegyra being led by Pelopidas.

Now back to these 300 gay warriors facing off against the most elite soldiers of the most fearsome military force in Ancient Greece, the Spartiates.

Before the infantry of the two sides went at it, Their Cavalry forces out front went into battle. The Boeotian Cavalry was larger in number and more experienced than Spartan cavalry. the Theban cavalry was victorious. The Spartan cavalry retreated to their infantry, causing temporary disarray.

Meanwhile, the Theban’s large left flank (lead by Pelopidas and the Sacred Band) were advancing toward the Spartan’s most elite soldiers.

cleom
Source Click HERE

Spartan King Cleombrotus now noticed the Theban’s odd formation and tried to shout orders to change formation, but it was too late. The Boeotian force’s huge left Flank had already started slamming in to Cleombrotus’ s elite right flank. The Spartan’s Kings orders could not be heard over the deafening sound of battle between two of the greatest fighting forces the Greek Peninsula had ever seen

Both the Spartans and the Theban Boeotian Forces were losing men, but the Boeotian forces had stacked their left flank so deep it was pushing through the Spartans with Ease

Pelopidas saw an opening where King Cleombrotus was vulnerable. He led the Sacred Band forward and was able to fatally wound the Spartan king. The Spartan soldiers were caught off guard and were bound by duty to retrieve their King’s body.

The Spartans were successful in reclaiming Cleombrotus’ s body, but in doing so caused even more chaos among their ranks. On top of this, Pelopidas and the Sacred Band had slain many of the Spartan’s most senior officers of their elite forces.

The loss of their King, senior officers, and the sight of their best warriors retreating with the King’s body cause the rest of the Spartan forces to retreat

General Epaminondas and Pelopidas had won the Battle of Leuctra

Over 1,000 Spartans died (400 were the elite Spartiates)

King Cleombrotus was the first Spartan King to die in Battle since King Leonidas who led the 300 Spartans at Thermopylae. This was the said to be the Only time a Spartan Army lost to a numerically inferior force

The Spartan reputation of invincibility that was cracked at the small Battle of Tegyra, was now completely obliterated and with it, the Spartan hegemony that had been in place since the Peloponnesian war, was also destroyed. The Thebes were the new big kids on the Greek Block. However, GREAT things were brewing just North of Greece.

King Phillip II of Macedonia (who had been held hostage in Thebes in his younger years learning of Theban War practices and strategies) now had a HUGE army of Macedonians and was bent on subjugating all of Greece under his Macedonian Banner.

Since the Great Power Houses of Greece (Sparta, Athens, and Thebes) had been warring among themselves for so long, they were left weakened

In 338 BC, at the Battle of Chaeronea, King Phillip II (accompanied by his 18-year-old son Alexander [later to be known as Alexander the Great]) defeated the Thebes and their Sacred Band.

It is said that young Alexander the Great was the first to defeat the Sacred Band and he witnessed their members go into furies of rage once each of their lovers fell.

King Phillip would be assassinated 2 years later in 336 BC, but his son Alexander would go on to Conquer most of the known world leading troops all the way to India (but that is a different story)

The Mighty Macedonians conquered and subjugated all of Greece for nearly 200 years until the Romans came to power in 146 BC

King Phillip gave the Sacred Band a chance to surrender, but they fought until the last man. Sources say King Phillip II wept at the sight of their slain bodies, because he was so moved by their bravery. The Sacred Band, first warriors to defeat the Spartans of greater number of their own were wiped off the face of the earth. never again would Greece have a military branch quite like it.

 

Sources:

  1. The Battle fo Leuctra 371 BC
    1. by Baz Battles
    2. I got a lot of the still shots above from this source. Their video is amazing
    3. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nw37TLTjg2A
  2. Battle of Leuctra
    1. by Mark Cartwright at Ancient History Encyclopedia
    2. https://www.ancient.eu/Battle_of_Leuctra/
  3. The Sacred Band of Thebes: and Army of 300 Gay Lovers
    1. by Karren Harris at HistoryDaily.org
    2. https://historydaily.org/the-sacred-band-of-thebes-an-army-of-300-gay-lovers
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Jim Thorpe: Greatest Athlete in the World

Born 1887 in the Prague Indian Territory – Oklahoma (some sources say 1888)

Born and raised in a 1 room cabin in Indian Territory by his Father Hiram Thorpe and Mother Charlotte along with his Twin Brother Charlie

Hiram was 6 foot 4 and a terror to the town (according to his grandson Jack Thorpe)

Thorpe’s birth and Native American name was Wa-Tho-Huk, meaning “Bright Path,” but he was later christened Jacobus Franciscus Thorpe.

At the age of Two, the Native American territory was sold off as part of the Oklahoma Land rush. Jim Thorpe Grew up in the midst of Two Very different cultures clashing

At the Age of 6 Hiram sent his twin sons to the Sac and Fox Boarding School

By the age of 8 Jim had run away from boarding school many times, just to have his father bring him back to the school 23 miles away. One time he found his twin brother Charlie had passed away from a pandemic.

After Charlie’s death, Hiram sent Jim to the Haskell Indian Institute. this was much farther away

But when Jim heard his father had fallen deathly ill, he walked the 280 miles home in just 2 weeks.

When Jim returned he found his father had recovered, but shortly after his mother Charlotte died from giving birth to her 11th child.

Jim then went to Texas where  he made a living breaking horses

He was proud of his ability to break any wild horse he was pitted against

1904 Hiram sends Jim away again to the Indian Industrial school in Carlisle PA at the age of 17

Hiram’s last words to his son “You are an Indian. I want you to show other races what an Indian can do.” then Hiram died 2 months later.

The Carlisle school was social experiment that took Native American children and tried to transform them into Modern Americans.

Once enrolled these kids were not allowed to leave for 5 years.

Hundreds died of disease, and thousands ran away. Out of the 10,000 that were enrolled, only 761 graduated

Jim was known for being rebellious and was punished many times by being locked out in the guard house

Through the schools Outing system, Jim was sent to live and work on a White Family’s farm so he could learn how to live as a white man.

He was paid half that of a white farm hand and was treated as an outsider by the family

He promptly ran away, but with no family to turn to, Jim returned in 1907 at the age of 20

At this time, Glen “Pop” Warner, the athletic Director at Carlisle notice Jim’s athletic ability at track practice. Where other students struggled to high jump over the 5’8″ bar, Jim Thorpe leaped over the pole with inches to spare.

Discus Thrower

He quickly stood out as a track star. but Jim was known for being almost too good of a sport. His son Jack Thorpe explained that the many times his father would be far out ahead of his competitors he would stop short of the finish line as to not embarrass his opponent. He only wanted to win, not humiliate them.

Jim decided track wasn’t enough and found American Football more his speed. (keep in mind this was before pads or even leather skull caps)

Jim became accustomed to the perks of being a Jock at the Carlisle Indian School. He and his teammates got a separate kitchen with ample meat and potatoes, a billiard table, and their coach Glen Warner was known to break the rules by paying his players cash for each successful play.

1908 football season started with Jim scoring 5 touchdowns in the first game. His team went on to beat every college team in the east, except for Harvard who they lost to 17 to 0.

That summer Jim decided to play baseball for the rag tag North Carolina League. He did this to make some extra money, but playing for any amount of Money got you banned from playing in any college team.

jim color

It is important to note the NC League was hardly professional. Rules were bent or flat out broken by tampering with equipment to gain advantages, players frequently switched sides to get more money, and by the end of that season, 3 different teams claimed they were the champs. The league president quit stating it was a laughing stock.

Jim Played baseball for 2 seasons. During those years of 1909 and 1910, Jim didn’t return to Carlisle as he knew he wouldn’t be accepted since he played for $

However, Glen Warner’s team was suffering massive losses without their star player and promised Jim he would turn a blind eye to his baseball days if he would return

In 1911 Football season started off with blow out after blowout. Jim Thorpe was back in Carlisle and made sure the Eastern Division knew about it. The Pittsburgh Dispatch wrote how Thorpe would punt the ball down the field then run fast enough to pick up the ball himself. They wrote he was a “Host in himself. He appeared to be impervious to injury.”

When it came time for the Harvard game, this time Carlisle won 18 to 15. Jim, as the half back and kicker scored every point. 1 touch down and rest by field goal

June 1912, Jim and a fellow teammate qualified for the US Olympics in Stockholm, Sweden

jim 3

This time in Olympics, only Amateurs could compete.

The London Amateur Athletic Club defined an Amateur as a Gentleman forbidden to work as a mechanic, artisan, or laborer since the average workman has no idea of sport for its own sake. Their idea of the only people allowed in the Olympics were white men who did not need to work for a living.

However, the USA did not share the same definition. They defined Amateur as anyone who did not receive pay for playing. USA included an African American to run track, Hawaiian Pacific Islander on the swim team, and a working NYC Cop =throwing shot put. Not to mention our boy Jim Thorpe and his fellow native American Teammate Tewanima

Jim entered in to the Pentathlon, based on the ancient Greek Event. It  consisted of 5 different events with the winner being determined by an overall score

  1. Running Broad Jump: Jim Thorpe 1st with 23 feet 2.7 inches’
  2.  Javelin Throw:  Jim Thorpe 3rd place 153 feet, 2.9 inches.
  3. Note: Jim had not competed in Javelin until right before the Olympics
  4. Discus Throw: Jim Thorpe 1st Place, 116 feet, 8.4 inches
  5. 200 Meter Dash: Jim Thorpe 1st Place
  6. 1500 Meter Run: Jim Thorpe 1st place 4 minutes, 48.8 seconds

Jim also entered in the Decathlon which included all the events of the Pentathlon, plus 5 more:

  1. 100 Meter Sprint
  2. Hurdles
  3. 400 Meter Run
  4. high Jump
  5. Pole Vault

Out of the first 9 events, Jim came first in only 2. But he still had a shot at Gold if he won the final event… the 1500 meter run

Drunk History: 

Comedy Central’s show Drunk History shined a light on the legendary story of Jim Thorpe at the 1912 Olympics.

Another member of the American Team that year by the name Avery Brundage was pegged to be USA’s big winner.

After the first day of the Decathlon (5 of the 10 total events), it was clear Brundage was being overshadowed by Thorpe

The next day in the locker room Thorpe’s professional grade track shoes had gone missing. (many blaimed Brundage).

But Thorpe didn’t seem to mind. He picked two random leather shoes out of the trash.

One of the shoes was too big for Thorpe so he simply put on a 2nd sock to even things out… How did Thorpe do that day, especially in the final even the 1500 meter run?

Beating his own time and the world record by 4 seconds, Jim came in 1st with 4 minutes 40.1 seconds

jim shoes

Jim Thorpe did what no athlete had ever done before when he won the Pentathlon and Decathlon

When presenting the awards, Sweden’s King Gustaf said “Sir, you are the greatest athlete in the world.” In reply Jim said “thanks King.”

Jim’s return to the USA consisted a ticker tape parade in NYC and scientists taking 46 measurements of his body in an attempt to catalog the perfect human form.

Despite all the professional sport opportunities, Jim went back to Carlisle to play 1 more year at Glen Warner’s request.

That year, 1912, the Carlisle was pitted against the US Military’s football team at West Point. These were the sons and grandsons of the men who fought the Native Americans.

One of the Cadets was Dwight D Eisenhower, future Supreme Allied commander in WW2 and President of the USA

The Carlisle Indians beat West Point 27 to 6

The New York Times wrote “West Point’s much talked of defense was like tissue paper before the Indians. Thorpe simply ran wild. It was like trying to catch a shadow.”

1913 a newspaper revealed Jim Thorpe had played Baseball for money in NC. This disqualified him from his Olympic medals.

Despite his loyalty to Glen “Pop” Warner and the Carlisle Indian Institute, Jim was coerced in to signing a pre-written confession so Jim could take the fall all on his own.

However, having his amateur title taken away, there was nothing keeping Thorpe from playing in Professional Sports.

He promptly signed a 3 year long $6,000 a year contract with the NY Giants

jim 2

Despite his athletic ability, Jim Thorpe, as a Native American, was treated as second class citizen and teammate.

When the Giant’s manager called Thorpe a “Dumb Indian” for missing a signal, Jim snapped. He picked the manager up and shook him like a rag doll. That was the end of Thorpe’s career with the Giants.

Jim married, bought a house, and had his first son. Despite his father being known as the town jerk, Jim was known as gentle and loving father/ family man.

jim kids

Sadly in 1918 Jim Thorpe Jr became one of the first victims of the influenza outbreak

It caused Jim to hit the bottle hard and after 9 years of marriage, his wife Iva asked for divorce. Jim went on to marry 2 more times in his life and father 8 children in total.

By now Jim was 36 years old playing Pro Baseball in Spring and Summer, then Football in the Fall

He was the first president of the American Professional Football Association (later known as the NFL)

Jim also played as star player of the Canton Bulldogs out of Ohio.

In 1929 at the age of 41, Jim Thorpe played his last Pro Football game and in October of the same year, the Great Depression hit

Like Millions of his fellow American’s Jim had trouble finding work, he was spotted refereeing for a dance in NYC

Thorpe then went to Hollywood where he found some work as a Native American actor. He fought for equal pay for his fellow Native American Actors

He received awards and gave speeches all across America. One speech showed his respect for his roots: ” I have never forgotten I am an Indian. No Indian can forget it. We settled this country long before long before the white people ever came to these shores. But red men are wards of the Government. The indian should be permitted to shed his inferiority complex and live like a normal American Citizen.”

in 2005 evidence showed Jim even played professional Basketball

Jim died in 1953 at the age of 66 from a heart attack.

In 1982 the international Olympic committee restored his gold medals.

1999 – Joint Resolution of Congress decided the greatest American Athlete of the 20th Century was Jim Thorpe

Some regard him as “Jim Thorpe, World’s Greatest Athlete”… the name of his biography.

jim kids 2

Credit:

  1. 1 hour biography on Thorpe I found on Youtube:
    1. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iJIIHgap2xI
  2. Comedy Central’s Drunk History:
    1. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pCG-iozFx8k
Categories
Fiction

Trash Bandits

TB Title

Trash Bandits

by Zeb Carbaugh

November 30th, 2019

A Christmas present for my Nen

Part 1 – The Old Ways

Full moons are a blessing and a curse. On one paw, a full moon night makes for some appealing scenery, but on the other paw it leaves you wide open to predators. Gathering food is always a rush job on a night like this. In the past I’ve watched the gatherers do it plenty of times before, but every time I see them in action it gets my heart racing. This time it’s different. Tonight, we don’t just watch from the safety of the tree. Tonight, my buddy Brox and I join the ranks of the others to gather food by the creek. Tonight, my heart isn’t just racing, it’s practically bursting out of my chest with excitement!

Brox and I peek our heads out of the tree hole. Crawling out into the moonlight we leave our worried moms and the younglings behind. My lungs fill with the cool mountain air and I hear a familiar voice.

“To the ground,” it says in hushed way. The command comes from the raggedy old coon with a long scar running down his skull named Snikt. No rock will be over turned, and no grub harvested tonight without Snikt’s say-so. That is how things go for just about everything our clan does. Snikt is the head honcho and I think he likes it that way a little too much.

The second Snikt’s words pass his fangs we all scurry down the trees wetting our paws in the dewy grass below. “To the river,” Snikt whispers to the rest of the gatherers. He turns back towards Brox and me. “You two young cubs stay close behind me.”

Brox and I follow his orders. Our role is that of spectators more than gatherers. This being our first night on the job it makes sense he would try and baby us. I am stone cold bored out of my mind. I feel the urge to join in on the action, but Snikt keeps a close eye on Brox and me.

“Stay behind me boys and watch how it’s done,” Snikt lectures us as he wets his paws in the creek. I am no stranger to how the gatherers procure food from the creek but watching it up close is a different experience from watching from the trees.

Another raccoon close to us lifts a rock to search for crayfish causing the familiar slurping sound of the river mud and sediment detaching from the bottom of the rock. I watch as he reaches underneath the rock to pull out whatever tasty morsel is lurking there. All the sudden a twig snaps in the trees to our left, a different direction from the rest of our clan. All the raccoons gathering food stop what they are doing to listen for any other signs of danger coming from the woods.

We hear another twig snapping that’s followed by a large branch breaking. A few raccoons start to fidget as tensions grow amongst the clan of gatherers. Snikt opens his jaws to give another hushed command, but before the words escape his mouth the trees start to shake violently as a bear comes crashing out of the woods.

The bear makes a lumbering sprint towards our clan of raccoons gathering food by the creek. He is a young bear and he has a temper. He bellows as he runs “Scram you little pests! This is my territory now!”

The entire clan turns away from the creek and starts to scurry towards the tree line. There is no other option when facing an angry bear. Snikt leads Brox and me on the safest route away from the bear’s fury, but some of the other raccoons come much too close to his swinging paws. A coon to our right catches just the edge of the bear’s swing. He cries out in agony, but still manages to escape with his life.

Satisfied that he’s gotten his message across, the bear slows his pursuit. “Do not return here coons or you will be my next meal!” he gives as a final warning.

Us gatherers reach the tree home and meet up with the rest of the clan. Another seasoned food gatherer is carrying the wounded coon not too far behind us. The mothers of the clan come out from their tree holes to tend to his wounds. The clan is shaken up by this latest bear attack. Some of the mothers are scolding Snikt for allowing such a run-in with a young bear.

One of the mothers starts to lay into our clan’s cautious leader. “How could this happen Snikt? You take precaution after precaution, yet it seems every night you’re scampering back home with another wounded coon at your heels!”

Another mother shares her concerns, “This life style is dwindling our numbers and weakening our clan.” She offers a solution, “We didn’t have nearly as many injuries or attacks when we scavenged food from the humans. We should go back to taking the food they leave at the edge of their dens.”

Snikt does not like her proposition. He turns his head towards her, showing his badly scarred face to the entire clan in the full moonlight. Pointing his paw to the scar he says, “This is what happens when we get near humans!”

I am too young to remember the days of our clan gathering food from the humans, but I’m told from the other coons that they were the good days. The humans left out more than enough food at the edge of their dens frequently. They tell me the only reason our clan went back to the forest, back to the old ways, is because of Snikt.

Brox told me what his mother told him one night. “I’m telling you Rocco, my mom says Snikt didn’t always have a stick up his butt. She says before Snikt was the leader, before he got that nasty scar up the left side of his face and ear, he was really friendly. He loved to watch the humans.”

Brox continued telling his rumored story. “One-night Snikt convinced a bunch of the other gatherers to follow him to where the humans like to play loud music and drink out of bottles. He wanted to scavenge a dumpster full of food. Some of the humans saw Snikt climb into the dumpster and started to attack him. A couple of the other humans started to throw the bottles at every raccoon they could find. Snikt got hit on the face, and that is how he got his scar. He’s hated humans ever since.”

Snikt continues to voice his fears about the humans to the clan. His voice is filled with fright, “The humans will draw you in with their peculiar way of life. They are the most interesting creatures to observe, but it is not worth quenching your curiosity. They are a vile and hateful lot. They sew destruction with every step.”

One of the respected clan mothers offers Snikt a response, “We are not going to observe them! We are going to live by them. Their perpetual offering of food in their bins is a resource too valuable to ignore. This life is too dangerous for us coons. We must return to the humans.”

Snikt fails to inspire the clan to stay away from the humans. Using the wounded gatherer from that night as evidence to why the clan needs to change, the mothers get Snikt to compromise on scavenging the humans for food.

They decide the clan can go back to the humans for food, but they will start with just gathering food from one human clan. I’m pretty bummed about it. I was hoping I’d get to explore more than just one human den.

They settle on a large human den made of logs on the outskirts of town. It’s relatively large for a human den and this human clan tends to put food out very frequently. I can’t wait to see my first human up close!

TB woodcritters.PNG
The Clan in the Wild

Part 2 – The Fresh Food Heist

The very next night after the bear attack our clan packs up and moves to the woods behind our designated human den. The gatherers of the clan scope things out to make sure the area is safe. The mothers start fixing up the tree holes. They are very preoccupied.

While the older adults keep busy, I decide I can’t wait any longer. After hearing so much about them, I must see what humans are like. Despite Snikt’s orders to stay within the tree line and to stay off the humans’ short grass, I venture onward to start exploring.

Brox comes along with me. I don’t think he’s nearly as curious as I am, and he is definitely not as brave, but he is a good friend. He is probably telling himself he is keeping me out of trouble by tagging along. No matter why he decided to come with me, I’m glad my pudgy friend did come along. Despite his tepidness, Brox is a great wingman for any kind of adventure.

In the early hours of the night Brox and I make our way to the edge of the forest where the trees meet the humans’ short grass. There is light coming from their den and you can see clearly inside, but we are still too far away to see what they are doing. Brox tries to convince me to stop here, saying we’ve broken enough rules for one night just by going to the edge of the forest. I ignore him and make a break for the bushes right outside the human den.

Reaching the bushes outside I feel mesmerized by the light illuminating from inside. Brox scurries in behind me as I peer up even closer to the light. As I lean closer and closer something touches my nose. I look to see what I’ve bumped in to, but nothing is there. It seems to be invisible. Backing away, I am startled at first, but then lean in again to investigate. It is like a clear sheet of ice shielding the human den from the outside but isn’t nearly as cold as ice. We can’t seem to get past the sheet of ice, but at least Brox and I are able to look through it. We sit outside the human den for the first half of the night watching them from the other side of the different sheets of warm ice around their den.

We count 4 humans and one short haired wolf living inside. Why anyone would want to live with a funny looking wolf is beyond me! Two of the humans are big adults, one mother and one father. Another human is tiny and either sleeps or cries all night. The other human’s size is in between the adults and the new born crying human. She’s a female and my favorite human to watch. The other humans call her Tilly. Watching these humans is just about the most exciting thing to ever happen to me. Brox surely notices me smiling from whisker to whisker.

Brox keeps whining about getting in to trouble with the rest of the clan so I cave, and we go back to our tree dens. It’s not long until daylight comes. The whole clan nestles into bed and no one suspects that Brox and I have already made first contact with the humans. I slept the next day dreaming of the humans and their bizarre way of life.

The next night comes and the clan is already running low on food. Snikt, the coon with by far the most experience with humans, gets all the food gatherers together. After telling Brox and I to stay behind for the first human raid, Snikt debriefs the adult gatherers. He tells them to “be extra cautious around humans, go for the trash cans, and to flee at the first scent or sound of anything suspicious.” Meanwhile Brox and I are making a break for the tree line. We are well aware of the rules of engagement already.

I convince Brox that even though Snikt says to go for the trash cans we are going to hit the big metal box in their middle of the den. The night before we saw the adult male open the metal box in the middle of the night and eat right from inside. When opened, it lights up and shows all of the fresh food the humans eat. While the adult gatherers are busy with the left-over scraps, Brox and I will be making the big score.

Last night I saw the human’s short haired wolf come and go through a small opening at the back of the den. Every time he went through, a sheet of plastic closed the opening behind him. That is how Brox and I will gain entry.

When we get to the tree line, I tell Brox our plan with the small plastic door. He’s hesitant about it but agrees it’s the best option. We both venture onward with the hope of scoring some tasty food, but unlike Brox, I’m also looking forward to getting a look inside the human den.

Brox and I sprint across the short grass surrounding the human den. We reach the small plastic door at the back entrance. I know humans sleep at night so it’s no surprise everything seems quiet. Last night Brox noticed the human’s short haired wolf sleeps on the adult humans’ bed with the door closed, so we should be safe from him.

Peeking my head inside through the plastic door slowly, the smell of human hits my nostrils all at once. Their stench is bizarre and unlike anything I’ve ever smelled in the woods. I cautiously place one paw on the warm stone-like floor. That didn’t seem to rouse any danger, so I proceed to bring in each paw one-by-one until I’m fully standing inside the human den. Nothing but the tip of my striped tail remains outside. Even though I’m terrified by being in this extraordinary place I feel more alive than ever. This is the adventure I was seeking!

After checking to make sure the coast is clear, I turn back to the plastic door to see if Brox has entered yet. As expected, my apprehensive friend is still cowering outside. I try my best to coax him in, “Brox, what are you doing bud? Get in here, I can’t do this without you.”

“I don’t know Rocco, this seems a bit too far. Watching from outside last night was one thing but going INSIDE the human’s den?!” he responds.

Brox is my best friend, but he sure knows how to pick the perfect time to get on my nerves. Tensions are mounting as I argue with Brox at our entry point, “Get your furry butt in here, we’re taking too much time arguing!”

Brox tries to convince me to turn back, “If you think about it, Snikt would never approve of us going inside the human den for any reason. We shouldn’t be here.”

“You have to pick now to voice those concerns?!” I bark back at Brox.

Brox defends his timing by saying “Well you are always so compelling. You make it so hard to say ‘no’ to your ideas. I didn’t realize how stupid this ‘Fresh Food Heist’ of yours was until we got to the door.”

“This is not the time Brox!” I tell him again.

All our arguing must have made quite a racket. I’m known for having a loud voice for a raccoon my age, and in a situation like the one I’m in currently, my voice tends to carry. The thought of grabbing Brox by the paw and dragging him in through the plastic door is coming into my mind when I hear a gasp behind me.

The noise makes my eyes go wide, my hair stands up on my neck, and my butthole clench in anticipating fear. I turn around and see the young female the other humans refer to as Tilly staring at me. She has an astonished look on her face that quickly turns into an excited smile.

For just a moment, all three of us are frozen in our tracks. Tilly is standing now in front of me, grinning and motionless. Brox is behind me, still outside the plastic door and he’s probably shaking with fear. I myself am caught between the two emotions of fear and excitement with the former quickly overtaking the latter. The moment of motionless ends when I hear Brox start to panic.

“Run!” Brox says to me as he makes a break for the tree line. Panic of my own has fully set in and I try to follow my fleeing friend. I’m unable to get any traction on the stone-like floor inside the human’s den and my attempt to escape is futile. My claws are skittering and scattering about in a frantic display.

To my surprise, Tilly reaches down and picks me up. Yet she doesn’t hurt me right away. Instead, she opens the entire back entrance door, walks outside, and carefully places me on the short grass.

“There, there little fella. I’m not going to hurt you,” she whispers to me.

I immediately start looking for Brox. He must have run faster than those pudgy little legs have ever run before, because I spot him looking back at me from the tree line. He looks terrified for both me and himself.

I feel the short blades of grass run through my paws and I follow my initial instinct to run. But something in the back of my mind compels me to stop just a few paces away the human that has just freed me. I turn around to face her. Something in the tone of her voice gives off the feeling that she doesn’t mean me any harm. She even sounds compassionate.

At the sight of me turning around Tilly’s face lights up with joy. She crouches down and holds out her hand toward me. In her outstretched hand is a cookie that smells like peanut butter. Now, I have heard many rumors about human food from my friends in our clan. Cookies are things of pure legend and peanut butter! Peanut butter is thee most coveted form of sustenance. I’m don’t know if this human named Tilly is aware of how valuable this cookie is that she is offering me, but I’m not passing it up.

“Go on little buddy, try my cookie. I made it myself,” she said to me.

One bite into that peanut butter cookie and I am in love. All the fears I am holding towards Tilly just melt away. There is no possible way someone who can make something like a peanut butter cookie, something so filled with love could harbor any ill will towards me.

I am literally eating out of the palm of Tilly’s hand now. I finish her delicious cookie and when I’m done, she does this peculiar gesture of petting me on the head. Here I am thinking the peanut butter cookie was the most loving thing she could do, and then she goes and pets me! Yeah, I’m definitely in love.

Tilly scoops me up into her arms and carries me back in to her den. Then she takes me into her own room of the den and lays down on her bed. We drift off to sleep with me resting in her arms.

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The Human Den

Part 3 – Tilly

Animals are my passion and every day I try to make decisions that reflect that passion, but I never saw myself adopting a raccoon as a pet. Yet I acted impulsively and brought one in to my bed and snuggled with him last night. I just couldn’t help myself. The little guy was so cute and seemed to understand my intentions.

When I saw him huddled up against the doggy door it took us both by surprise. He seemed to be having trouble getting back out the door, so I gave him a hand and took him back outside. While carrying him he didn’t resist or scratch me. Instead, he just relaxed and let me put him down on our yard. I expected him to run back to the forest, and he had started to do so, but then he turned back. I gave him a cookie I snagged from the pantry and he became an instant friend.

Now I’m laying here in bed with him and he’s sleeping in my arms as cute as ever. I can’t even imagine what my parents would say if they found out. As soon as that thought crosses my mind, our dog (a black Labrador named Frigo) comes rushing in to my room. He’s sniffing my bed like crazy. He must be smelling my raccoon friend.

Frigo was surely going to find the little raccoon in my bed given enough time. Fortunately, my dad Frank comes in to tell me he made pancakes and bacon for breakfast. Dad sees Frigo, assumes he is just being nosey, and pulls him away from my bed. Then dad and Frigo leave my room. That was a close call. I’ll be sure to lock my room from now on.

My attention goes back to the small young raccoon in my bed and now he is wide awake. He looks a bit startled from the dog, but I soothe him by petting him. It does the trick. He seems more chipper now.

Looking down at this woodland critter, I ask myself “What am I doing? I brought a dirty, stinky raccoon in to my bed! I must be nuts.” I see the little raccoon react to my words and I wonder if he can understand anything I’m saying. “Yeah, I’m definitely losing my marbles.”

The little raccoon pulls on my pajama shirt sleeve. I ask him “What is it little guy?” Then he gets into a crouching position using only his hind legs and holds out his right paw. I just wait there for a second trying to figure out what he’s doing and then it hits me.

I realize the little bugger was mimicking me from the night before when I gave him a cookie. “You want a cookie?” I ask him.

He responds by jumping up and down and firmly shaking his outstretched paw as if to say “Yes, give me a cookie.”

“Ok buddy, I’ll go get you a cookie from the pantry,” I tell him. Walking out to the pantry I’m thinking to myself, “Did I just have a conversation with a raccoon? Did that raccoon just recognize the word cookie?” This has been the weirdest and most interesting 12 hours in all my 11 years.

“Tilly come have breakfast sweetie. You shouldn’t just have cookies for breakfast,” my mom says as I peek out from behind the pantry door.

“Aww, can’t I? just this one-time mom, please?” I plead to her. “I promise I’ll come back out and have breakfast in just a minute. I just want to have this one cookie in bed before I start the day.”

“Oh, alright honey, you can just this one time, but only because it is Christmas time,” my mother concedes.

“Thanks mom,” I say with a smile. “I’ll be out in a bit.”

Back in my room the little raccoon is bundled up in the blankets on my bed. The sound of me opening the door prompts him to peek his little whiskers out from his makeshift blanket cocoon. Sitting on the bed, I offer him the cookie. He excitedly jumps out from the blankets and carefully takes the cookie from my hand.

The next few days I have off for Christmas vacation. I spend them playing and talking to my little raccoon that I’ve named Rocco after my favorite pizza shop in town. He seems to like the name, and I think it suits him. In these short few days we become quite the pair. Rocco and I play together in my bedroom and out in the woods. There is something beautiful about a young raccoon playing in the woods, in his element.

Things haven’t gone completely bonkers where I’m having full vocal conversations with a small wild animal, but we do communicate with each other. Rocco has learned to recognize a few words like “cookie, Rocco, Tilly, woods, home, pet, play,” and a few more. He can even communicate yes or no with his body language. It amazes me how intelligent he is, and he keeps surprising me.

I know raccoons are nocturnal creatures. I like sleeping at night, and Rocco likes sleeping during the day, but since it is Christmas break, I don’t mind staying up late. Rocco and I are taking naps here and there. We split our time up, mostly by being awake during the day with a nap. Then he wakes me up at night for a few hours.

My parents still haven’t found out about him luckily, but I think Frigo has. Frigo is a good dog, but he doesn’t like having Rocco in the house. He growls at him if he sees him. I think the only reason he hasn’t hurt Rocco is because he senses that I care for him.

Whenever my parents aren’t home or asleep, I let Rocco come and go as he pleases through the doggy door. My parents are usually too busy watching TV to notice a small silent raccoon running around the house.

There are a few times Rocco has visitors come by. A chubby little raccoon that looks about the same age as Rocco will come down and visit him. I watch him from the windows. The chubby one keeps his distance from me. He is a skittish little guy.

Rocco meets his chubby friend and they seem to be happy to see each other. However, they also seem to be in some sort of a heated debate. I try and approach the two raccoons as if I’m a mom keeping her child from a scrap with the neighborhood kids. At the first sight of me, Rocco’s chubby friends flees to the tree line.

After his friend runs away, I stop behind Rocco. I’m afraid I may have upset the two of them. Rocco turns back at me and he’s acting a bit frantic. “I’m sorry Rocco. I didn’t mean to scare your friend away,” I try and comfort him as I pet his head. That does the trick as Rocco is now starting to purr in my arms.

That night while tucking Rocco in to bed, something out the corner of my eye catches my attention. It is a quick movement from outside my bedroom window. I lift the window and peer out to see if anything is there. I only catch the fleeting sight of a striped tail disappear behind the bushes about 10 feet away. I quickly shut the window to keep the cold December air out of my cozy bedroom.

“What did I just see?” I asked myself. “Was that a raccoon at my window?” I wonder silently. I decide it is too late to worry about passing shadows and crawl in to bed next to Rocco.

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Tilly and Rocco

– Part 4 – Midnight Spies

Living with Tilly is a dream come true. I love being fed the best foods humans have to offer, sleeping in the comfiest nest in the world, and being shown so much love from my human companion. I don’t worry about bears or the cold. Brox is my best coon friend, but Tilly is definitely my best human friend.

Tilly and I get along great. We both wash our paws before we eat, love to eat peanut butter cookies, and enjoy playing. I show her the proper way to play in the woods and the snow. She shows me how humans wash their mouths with brushes every night with a very tasty blue ooze. Tilly and I also have fun in the bathtub with all the bubbles.

No matter how hard I try, I can’t seem to teach Tilly how to speak coon. No surprise, humans are TERRIBLE at learning any kind of Woodspeak. I’ve learned quite a bit of what she is talking about in human, but she doesn’t understand a single word that comes out of my fangs. So instead I get my point across by shaking my butt when I want to go outside or pointing to things if they catch my interest. It’s not perfect, but it is the best I can do when I’m working with a human.

Days pass with it being just Tilly and I. I almost forget about my raccoon clan in the woods until Brox shows up outside Tilly’s window one night. Of course, Tilly didn’t notice him because her senses are so dull. I can’t blame her, she is a human after all. But I shake my butt and she takes me outside so I can catch up with my old pal.

“Rocco you’re alive! I’m so glad to see you,” Brox says as he rushes in for a big hug. “I don’t know how you were able to escape, but I’m glad you made it out,” Brox says as he grabs my paw and tries to haul me off to the woods.

I yank my paw away from him, “Stop Brox. I didn’t escape. I like it here. I don’t want to go back to the clan.”

My words make Brox turn and face me. He’s got a suspicious look on his face. “Did they brainwash you? My mom told me about this one time. Humans brain wash coons with a big plastic box they have in the middle of their den. They even brainwash themselves by sitting in front of it all day long. It’s a real thing Rocco.”

“What are you talking about Brox, your mom is full of bear droppings. Humans don’t brainwash coons. That box is just what the adult humans do for fun when they come home. The human named Tilly is my friend. She feeds me peanut butter and everything,” I tell Brox.

“That’s exactly what a brainwashed coon would say. Peanut Butter!? It doesn’t exist Rocco. You’ve become a brain slave to the Man. Let’s go back to the clan. I’m sure Snikt will be able to fix your brain.”

Now Brox is getting on my nerves. “Snikt!? You think Snikt can ‘fix’ me? That old coot is so scared of humans he kept us in the woods far longer than he should have while our gatherers were injured almost every night. I already told you Brox, I’m not coming back to the clan.”

Brox heard how serious my tone was, “Well at least let me come by and check on you every once and awhile to make sure you aren’t brainwashed.”

I told Brox he could check on me as long as he didn’t catch the attention of the adult humans or their short haired wolf, they call Frigo. He may be a bit crazy, but Brox is my best friend. I’m not about to push him away.

Brox and I went back to catching up. I told him about all the fun things Tilly shows me each day. Brox starts to tell me about all the things going on with the clan when his jaw drops open. He let out a gasp and took off for the woods. My instincts kick in and I turn to see what scares my friend half to death, but I fail to notice at all. It was Tilly.

I wonder if she’ll get upset knowing I met another coon. That’s when she scoops me up and pets me. As expected, there is nothing to worry about. Tilly has no problem with me meeting with other coons. Life is good. A few more days go by. Tilly and I are still enjoying each other’s company and now I get to keep up with Brox. I’ve got the best of both worlds.

Tilly and I spend the entire day outside playing in the snow and sliding on the ice. When we come back in for the day, she takes me to the bathtub to get me all warm and scrub me clean. Then she takes me back to her room, wraps me up in her soft blankets, and we doze off for the night. I’m not the biggest fan of sleeping at night, but a coon can get used to just about anything with the right amount of peanut butter and snuggles.

Before getting in to bed that night Tilly spots something out the window. She opens it to see what is lurking outside. I catch a whiff of coon scent coming in to the bedroom with the cold air. It smells like Brox, but he’s with someone else. Tilly gives up trying to find out what is outside and shuts the window, but I’m convinced I’m going to confront them the second she drifts off to sleep.

A few minutes later Tilly is snoring in to her pillow fast asleep. Luckily when she opened the window earlier, she forgot to lock it shut. I carefully crawl out of bed making sure I don’t wake her. Slinking over to the window I pry it open just enough for me to squeeze outside. I leave it open just a crack so I can easily slip back in to Tilly’s bedroom after a few minutes.

“Brox I know you’re out here. I can smell you,” I call out to the howling wind. The night feels very cold on my whiskers. The moonlight is completely drowned out by the large flakes of snow falling from the sky. “Who is with you and why are you sneaking around. You know Tilly won’t hurt you.” A few seconds after I call out for him, Brox comes scampering out from behind a nearby bush. Behind him is another young coon we grew up with named Klaps.

“Hey Rocco, how you doing tonight? You remember Klaps right?” Brox asks me.

Brox is acting strange. Normally he would be asking me if I’ve been brainwashed by the humans’ big glowing box, they call TV. “Yeah, I remember Klaps. His dad and older brother are some of the clan’s best food gatherers,” I respond.

The cold air is getting to me already and the snow is falling so fast it is starting to muffle the sounds of our voices. I move in closer to the two other coons standing in front of me. As Brox and I are talking, Klaps is standing in the snow not saying a word, and he’s looking at me suspiciously. I decide to confront him, “What brings you here Klaps? What’s your deal?”

Klaps raises his paw and points his finger at me. “Me? What are YOU doing HERE?! Living amongst the humans like you are one of them, you have gone crazy Rocco!”

“Keep it down Klaps, the humans have a short haired wolf living with them. He’s not the friendliest towards strange coons,” I warn him.

Klaps ignores my warning, “Brox told me what you are doing here. The clan thought you had gone missing or that you were run over by one of the humans’ fast rolling machines,” Klaps continued to shout at me. “This is worse Rocco. I had to see it for my own eyes before I told Snikt and the rest of the clan that you have been living here with the humans we are supposed to be…”

Klaps is cut off midsentence by a loud barking coming from behind him. An instant later Frigo, the humans’ black short haired wolf, comes crashing through the bush behind where Brox and Klaps are standing. All three of us coons try to evade him as he sprints toward us with his jaws wide open. Me being the farthest away makes a clean get away. Brox also escapes Frigo’s fury. Then I hear a muffled crunching noise and Klaps cry out in pain.

When I turn my head back around, I see Brox running head first past me. He’s too afraid for his own life to turn and see what is happening to Klaps. Past Brox I see Frigo with his head down, fir and blood hanging out of his mouth. He’s snarling at Klaps just a few feet in front of him. Klaps is still moving, thank goodness.

I waste no time in trying to get Klaps away from Frigo’s wrath. Sprinting to get between the two of them I feel an immense amount of fear. The only reason I’m not running away with Brox is because that fear is overpowered by a need to save Klaps from his impending doom.

I reach Klaps and put my tiny body in front of him laying down in the snow bleeding from his fresh wound. Up until this point Frigo had kept his distance from me. He made it clear he didn’t want me in his den, but he never snapped at me. Tonight, was different. Tonight, Frigo had the taste of blood in his mouth and he wasn’t backing down. As I’m standing in between Frigo and his prey with my arms stretched out wide I heard Frigo lunge toward me. I think I’m going to end up in his jaws.

“Down Frigo! Down!” I hear Tilly yell as she jumps in front of me. She’s barefoot in the snow wearing her pajamas and holding Frigo by his collar. She must have heard all the commotion and leapt out of her bed room window just in time to save me.

I look up at her with my mouth wide open in amazement. She is standing there towering above me with the lights from her den illuminating all the huge flakes of snow falling around her. She is a force to be reckoned with tonight. “Tilly, my hero” I think to myself, “you saved me!”

Tilly swings her head around at me and gives me a look of distress. Tilly may be much bigger than me, but she’s struggling to keep Frigo under control as he barks in anger. I run towards Klaps to try and bring him to safety, but Tilly stops me, “leave him. Run inside Rocco. Go!” she commands me. I’m not a fan of leaving Klaps there in the cold bleeding, but I trust Tilly.

I jump inside her bedroom window that is still open, putting distance from myself and the furious canine. More than my first night of gathering food in the woods, my heart is practically pounding out of my chest. I contemplate getting up on Tilly’s bed for a better view of the what’s going on outside when all the sudden the bedroom door comes swinging open.

“Tilly what’s going on!? Are you ok?” It is Tilly’s father, the one they call Frank. He is one of two humans that are never supposed to see me in this house.

“Sweetie, is everything alright in here?” And that is Ruthanne, Tilly’s mother. She is the other human that is never supposed to see me in this house.

Both of Tilly’s parents are standing in her bedroom doorway staring at me laying on Tilly’s bedroom floor. The bedroom window is wide open. The snow that was at my feet outside had followed me in to the bedroom and is laying all around me. Her dad reacts almost immediately.

Frank grabs a blanket from Tilly’s bed and uses it as a makeshift net by throwing it over top of me. I panic by flailing around inside the dark blanket, but it is no use. Frank is too strong. He picks me up and carries me away without hesitation. I am unable to see anything, but I do recognize the sounds surrounding me. I know Frank is taking me out of Tilly’s bedroom, through the living room, and out to a colder part of the house. This colder part of the house is where Tilly’s family stores their fast rolling machines. I think they call them cars.

Frank takes me to a corner of this cold car storage room. He picks something up and it makes a metallic racket. Next thing I know I’m being shoved inside. “Stay in here until we can figure out what to do with you little guy,” Frank says to me. He sounds like Tilly, but with a little less compassion in his voice.

Once I hear Frank leave the room, I struggle to make my way out of the blanket. It takes a few minutes, but eventually I poke my head out to find I’m in a metal cage. Frank has imprisoned me with nothing more than a blanket to keep warm.

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Rocco in the Box Trap

– Part 5 – The Jig is Up

Sound asleep in my cozy bed, just a few days before Christmas, I’m dreaming of introducing my family to my little raccoon friend. They accept him in to our home as a real pet. It is a pleasant dream. Then I hear barking coming from outside my window. Wait, that isn’t part of my dream.

Snapping to attention and out of my dream, I quickly pull back the covers of my bed. The barking continues outside. I have to go see what Frigo is barking, so I set both my bare feet on the hardwood floor. No need to check on Rocco or if he is still asleep in my bed, something tells me he might have something to do with all this racket.

I see my bedroom window is already cracked open, that explains the cool breeze I felt. Looking out the window I see Frigo biting into a small racoon laying in the snow. My heart drops. Frigo our dog has bitten little Rocco on the leg! But then I see another racoon running towards the wounded coon in the snow. I recognize him, the one running towards Frigo is Rocco.

I push open my window and jump out in to the snow. If Rocco is trying to help his little friend from being torn apart from Frigo he’s going to need my help. Acting fast, I grab Frigo by the collar and hold him back.

I see Rocco running towards the injured coon. “Leave him. Run inside Rocco. Go!” I tell Rocco for his own safety. I watch Rocco jump back inside through my bedroom window. Now I only need to worry about the injured raccoon in front of me.

Frigo is normally a good dog. It’s only when he thinks our family is in danger, he gets riled up like he is tonight. He must have heard all these little raccoons snooping around the house and come outside through his doggy door.

The snow is cold on my bare feet, but I kneel down next to Frigo to give him a hug and calm him down. It works. He doesn’t take his eye off the injured raccoon, but he stops barking and I feel his muscles relax a bit. I let go of Frigo’s collar to attend to the injured coon.

This little fragile coon about the same size as Rocco is lying in the snow out cold. I kneel down to him to see if he is still alive. I see the fur on his chest is heaving back and forth so he must be berating. Keeping Frigo back, I carefully scoop up the injured raccoon. The best way I could think to carry him was a bit odd. Using my shirt, I grabbed the bottom front of it and pulled up towards my face, making a large makeshift pocket in front of my abdomen. I placed the injured coon in there so I wouldn’t accidentally drop him.

Heading inside through my bedroom window and through to the living room, I see my mother standing in the doorway to the garage. Dad comes up the garage steps with a puzzled look on his face. I waste no time and beg them to take me to the Veterinarian Hospital in town.

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Klaps at the Veterinarian’s Office

Normally Dad and Mom aren’t ones to spend money on wild animals’ veterinarian bills. However, my pleading got through to them and we take a car ride to the vet. My guess is they feel extra caring, because it was so close to the Christmas time, and they know how much I care for all animals.

The veterinarian takes the little injured raccoon in and stitches him up. He says the coon must stay there overnight and we should be able to pick him up in the morning. I’m glad the little raccoon is going to be alright.

Our family always seems to have our best conversations in the car, so on the car ride home from the vet Dad asks me why he found a different raccoon laying on my bedroom floor. It is clear the jig is up, and I decide to come clean to mom and dad. I tell them about the night I met Rocco and how he has been living in my room for the past couple of days.

“Honey, I know you care about animals, but you can’t just bring a wild creature in to our house, much less in to your bed,” dad lectures me.

“Now your sheets need to be cleaned for sure,” mom complains.

“He’s not filthy mom. I washed Rocco in the bathtub plenty of times,” I told her. But that seemed to just gross her out even more. “And dad, I know keeping him from you both was wrong, but technically I didn’t bring him in to the house. I found Rocco inside. I’m pretty sure he used the doggy door.”

“You know what I mean Tilly,” dad said. “I love that you care about animals, but we have to set some boundaries. No more wild animals in the house. Also, I don’t care what injured creature you find next, I’m not forking over my money for another vet bill unless it is for our own pets. I can’t believe I paid for this bill as it is.” Dad can get fired up over paying bills pretty easily.

Dad continues, “Tonight your little friend Rocco is staying in the garage. I put a blanket in there for him to stay warm. He will survive.”

When we all got home from the vet I just go to bed without another word. I think about going out to the garage. Sleeping with Rocco would be nice again, but I feel I have already disappointed mom and dad enough for one night.

The next morning, I am awoken by dad knocking on my bedroom door. “Tilly, your mom and I went and picked up your hurt raccoon from the vet. I didn’t know if you wanted to say goodbye to him and the one in our garage. We are letting them go soon.”

I walk outside with my parents to let the two raccoons go. Rocco looks at me with anticipation. I don’t think he knows what is going on, but I gesture to the woods as if to say, “go back.” My gesture and the fact that my parents are standing behind me seem to give Rocco the idea to go back with the other coons.

“Has anyone seen Frigo this morning?” my mom asks, and no one had.

“Last I saw him was last night right after he bit the little raccoon,” I said.

“Frigo! Come here boy. Where are you?” my dad calls out.

I notice all the noise catches the attention of Rocco and his little friend. I’m pretty sure Rocco can recognize the name Frigo. He might even know that we are looking for him. That’s when Rocco temporarily leaves his friend’s side to come and hug my ankle. It feels like a goodbye. Then Rocco runs back to help the limping raccoon. Now, instead of slowly making their way back to the woods, Rocco is at it with a hurried pace.

TB snikt
Snikt

Part 6 – Whiskers Held High

It is cold in here, it smells like oil, and this cage is too cramped. I’m glad Tilly’s father left me this blanket. It is so cold in here that without it I might freeze to death. There is one upside to my situation, being trapped in a cage all night really gives a coon time to think and reflect.

I know I like Tilly but being away from all my friends in the woods, not to mention my own mother, has gotten to me. I miss them all. In just a few short days living with Tilly has caused all this strife among both our families. Poor Klaps is injured, Tilly’s parents have imprisoned me, and I’m sure Tilly is in some sort of trouble.

Maybe it is time for me to go back to the woods. Maybe this life of soft nests, warm cuddles, and endless peanut butter cookies is too good to be true. I doubt such a misbehaved coon like me even deserves such a life of luxury. When… no, IF I ever get out of this cage, I should probably just go back to the woods and pretend none of this ever happened. Hopefully Brox doesn’t blame me for Klaps’ injury and maybe by some miracle Snikt will accept me back into the clan. Who am I to try and live a different life? I will just go back to scavenging for food like the rest of the gatherers.

All of the sudden, I hear human voices again. Those deep baritone sounds only come from Tilly’s dad. Next the garage door swings open and I feel the air pressure in this cold concrete room change. The lights appear over my head, they are blinding after all this time in the dark.

“Time to go home little fella, back to where you belong,” I hear Tilly’s father say. He lifts my cage up and carries me outside to the short grass. “Now stay still buddy while I open the box trap.”

The edge of my cage makes a terrible creaking noise and an opening appears for me to escape through. I quickly make it past the edges of the cage. No chance I’m going back inside that awful contraption he calls a “box trap.” Then I see Tilly standing nearby. She’s holding Klaps. He’s alive!

Last I saw Klaps we were getting in an argument but seeing him now I am filled with joy to see he is alright.

“Has anyone seen Frigo this morning?” Tilly’s mom asks out of the blue.

“Last I saw him was last night right after he bit the little raccoon,” Tilly responded.

“Frigo! Come here boy. Where are you?” Tilly’s father bellows.

Frigo, the humans’ short haired wolf must be missing. If he chased after Brox last night, there is a chance he found the clan! There’s no time to waste. I must get back to the clan before Frigo does any damage.

There is no telling what calamity awaits me back in the woods. My inevitable doom may even come today, but I am no coward. Tilly’s act of bravery last night, saving me from Frigo’s jaws, has shown me what makes a true hero. I will face today with my whiskers held high, but first I must say goodbye.

“I’ll return in just a moment Klaps,” I tell my injured friend. I leave his side just for a moment so I can embrace Tilly’s leg. Tears form in my eyes. I don’t know how long that embrace lasted, but it feels like one of the most meaningful gestures of my entire life. “Goodbye Tilly,” I think to myself. Then I make my way for the woods.

– –

Klaps is exhausted and I’m not much better off. We reach the outskirts of our clan’s home and I hear a commotion coming from over the hill. Breathing hard, my chest heaving from our haste, I take Klaps arm off my shoulders so I can get a better look.

“Wait here Klaps. I’m going to scout things out,” I assure him.

My paws fall silently on the moss-covered boulder so I can observe the situation without being discovered. I pop my head over and see Brox cowering by his mother among the crowd of our raccoon clan. They are all facing Snikt. He’s standing on top of an old tree trunk as if he’s about to give a speech. A few yards behind Snikt I see a large patch of wet mud. It appears something is moving inside, something big. I reposition myself to get a closer look. It’s Frigo! Just then, Snikt begins to speak.

“Fear not my fellow coons. The danger is over,” Snikt bellows to the rest of the clan. “The intruder has been subdued. With the help of the brave gatherers I was able to trap the short haired wolf in the sludge of the natural spring behind me.”

The pit is from the spring water and somehow Snikt had trapped Frigo inside.

“I have decided the vicious intruder should be put to death,” Snikt declares. “For if he should be left alive and set free, he would draw more short haired wolves and their humans to our clan.”

I hear gasps coming from the rest of the clan. It seems most of them aren’t totally on board with Snikt’s decision, and neither am I. Knowing full well that no one else will stand up to Snikt, I charge down the small hill I’ve been hiding behind.

“We can’t kill Frigo!” I yell to the clan. “He may be intimidating, but he’s merely protecting his own clan. ” My words startle the crowd below.

Among the other coons, my mother turns toward me. Her face is slightly confused, but mostly she looks relieved to see I’m alright. I see Brox in the crowd, and he looks just as relieved as my mother. The only face in the crowd not happy to see me is it’s patriarch, Snikt.

“Who are you to make declarations?” Snikt questions. “We thought you were dead but come to find you’ve abandoned our clan for half a fortnight to live amongst the humans. How are we to trust your judgement? How are we to know you haven’t been put under one of their spells?”

“You can question my character all you want Snikt,” I reply, “but I will not do the same in return. I propose only that we do not murder the helpless creature you have imprisoned.” I point my paw over to the shivering scared canine behind Snikt. “You suggest we commit cold blooded murder, but our clan is more than that. We are better than that!”

The crowd gives sounds of approval. Among them is Brox, “Mercy!” He screams. His display of courage brings a brief smile to my face.

“I have befriended a young human named Tilly,” I continue. Just last night she protected me from the very same short haired wolf that is behind you now. His name is Frigo, and he was only going to attack because Klaps was spying on the humans and myself. Frigo only acts out of protection.”

“We heard of this vicious attack,” Snikt barks in anger. “Brox told us how he killed poor Klaps!”

No sooner did Snikt speak of his demise when Klaps himself came limping over the hill behind me. Klaps’ mother and the rest of his family cried with delight at the sight of their son.

I speak again to the crowd, “No one was killed last night. Frigo’s bite was not deadly, but that of a warning. Although his human clan is to be respected, they are not bloodthirsty. Mercy is what we should show our prisoner. Peace is what we should make with the human clan.” The combination of my words and the sight of Klaps ignited the crowd in cheers of approval.

“ENOUGH!” Snikt roared as he leapt from his tree stump stage. “The humans and their short haired wolf are not to be trusted! I will kill the beast and be done with this!” His face is filled with his familiar look of pain and fear.

Snikt runs for the mud patch where Frigo is imprisoned. He’s caring a wooden spear in his right paw. The crowd begins to gasp in disbelief. I move as quickly as I can toward Snikt. I try and draw upon the bravery I’ve been displaying ever since I left Tilly’s hug early this morning. I’ll need it if I am going to stop the largest and most seasoned gatherer in our clan. By all rational understanding, I am no match for Snikt.

I race down the hill I’ve been standing on for the encounter so far. My paws are running as fast as they can possibly go. I speed through the crowd toward Snikt, but he is very fast. I fear there is no way I can catch him in time. That is when I notice I am not the only coon in pursuit of Snikt.

It isn’t Snikt’s loyal gatherers chasing after him. No, it is the clan mothers. All of them are running past me, quickly catching up to Snikt. The looks on their faces are fierce and determined. Their speed is frightening. At the head of the clan mothers is Klaps mother, Brox mother, and my own mom.

Snikt is still out ahead of the mothers chasing him. He stops running on all fours and stands up on his hind legs. Snikt reaches Frigo who is still shivering and whining in pain and fear. He pulls back his right paw with his wooden spear in hand, intending on ending the helpless canine’s life.

All three of our mothers reach Snikt just before he plunges his wooden spear into Frigo’s flesh. They tackle our fearful leader down in to the snow on the ground. It is an amazing act of heroism to see.

My mother has a hold of Snikt’s left hind leg, Brox’s mother has hold of his right hind leg, and Klaps’ mom has Snikt pinned in a full mount position. All of our moms look angry, but Klaps’ mom is practically breathing fire at this point. She pins Snikt’s arms to the ground and snaps his wooden spear in half.

“Let go of me right now!” Snikt screams in protest as he struggles in the snow. But the mothers aren’t letting up. They are strong and no longer listen to his fear fueled words. Instead, the mothers start freeing Frigo from the cold mud he is trapped in currently.

I look at my mom with so much pride. I had no idea she could be so heroic!

Part 7 – Goodbye for Now

 

Snikt’s reign as leader of our clan is officially over. The clan mothers made it happen and now they as a collective are stepping up to make decisions for our future. Instead of one coon making all the decisions, they decide what is best for all of us. It seems to be a change for the better. The Council of Mothers’ first decision was to be merciful to Snikt. Instead of voting to exile him from the clan, they let him stay with us.

I take it upon myself to escort Frigo back to the human clan. He’s shaken up, but there are no serious injuries from his time in the mud pit. I know Tilly and her parents will be able to warm him up and have him back good as new in no time.

While Frigo and I walk back to the human’s log den, I don’t feel the same resentment from him that I did before. Maybe he is too cold and tired, but I like to think he’s softened up to me for another reason. I like to think he’s found a deeper respect for me and for all raccoons.

Frigo and I make it to the tree line and continue on to the short grass surrounding the humans’ den. This is as close to the humans as I plan to go, at least for today. Frigo saunters on past me. He’s eager to see his beloved humans.

The short haired wolf stops for just a brief moment and turns his head back towards me. “Thank you for saving me Rocco,” he mutters in common Woodspeak. Then he continues his trek to the humans’ den.

My jaw dropped open just slightly in disbelief. All this time Frigo hadn’t said a word to me. I just assumed he had been too domesticated to speak with us wild folk. “No problem,” I offer in reply as I watch him make his way back through his small plastic flap opening the humans call a doggy door.

It doesn’t take long after Frigo enters the human den for the sounds of exaltation and relief to be heard from within. It still puzzles me why these humans love that short haired wolf so much. Another moment passes and I see Tilly peer outside from the window. She spots me.

Tilly makes her way outside and to the tree line where I’m waiting. “Hey Rocco! I’m so glad you are ok,” she says to me. “I don’t know what all happened but thank you for bringing Frigo home to us. Tomorrow’s Christmas and it wouldn’t be the same without our Frigo.”

I have no idea what Christmas is, but in reply I climb up her pants leg and in to her arms. We exchange a hug. Tilly pets me and makes me feel loved again. “I’m going to miss this,” I think to myself. Then Tilly pulls out a peanut butter cookie from her pocket. I gobble it up with excitement. I’m also going to miss those cookies!

“Enjoy that cookie. Dad says I’m not allowed to give any more of them to woodland critters,” she says. “I’ll miss you Rocco.”

Both Tilly and I shed a few tears. We both know this is goodbye… for now.


A special thanks to my girlfriend Shannon for coloring all of my illustrations for this story.

Categories
Amolika

Amolika: Chapter 1

The Adventures of Amolika Mangal

started 6/12/2019

by Zeb Carbaugh

Chapter 1

The first page was written in different handwriting from Amolikas. In beautiful cursive handwriting and a much finer pen stroke it read:

“To my beloved granddaughter Amolika. No matter what your life brings, learn from it and write it down. Love, Poppa”

The next page showed Amolikas chicken scratch, ball point pen handwriting.

My time in Cannes, France inspired me, possibly too much. On the flight home I found myself more confident and motivated than ever before. Six weeks of eating some of the best food in the world, drinking with friends on the beach, and swimming in the Mediterranean Sea had shown me who I wanted to be.

It would be foolish of me to write off medical school as something not worth my time. I have nothing but the utmost respect for the field, but it isn’t me. Healing others is a noble pursuit, but I’m convinced my calling is archeology.

When I think of the lost secrets this planet holds I feel compelled in the extreme. I’m no fool. I know heading down this path won’t lead me to Indiana Jones type adventures of punching Nazis and discovering the holy grail. But I refuse to believe all the mystery of this world has long dried up and is now kept on book shelves. There is still so much for me to uncover. There must be.

The non-stop flight from Nice France to Rome Italy took only an hour. Usually when I arrive home after traveling I am looking forward to staying somewhere familiar even if it is just for a short time before heading off somewhere else. My parents liked to send me all over the world. They say they want me to keep a global view. But this time, I dreaded coming home. It was sad when the plane touched down in Rome. No part of my conscious mind wanted my time in France to end. But alas, duty calls and something deeper than my conscious mind drove me to press on.

The warm air hit my face as I got off the plane. Familiar smells of street vendors frying suppli filled my nostrils and invigorated me with confidence. Something about being in in a familiar place, being on my home turf, always makes me hold my head higher. A taxi took me to my parents’ home in the nice part of town. As I approached the front door I encountered something else that struck a familiar tune. This time is was the sound of my mother and father arguing.

My mother became so upset she started speaking in her native Hindi tongue when I decided to walk in the front door. I stepped inside with a forced smile as if I hadn’t heard anything. The two of them heard me enter and immediately stopped their bickering. They too felt it necessary to put on this act as if we were the perfect family, as if such a thing exists. My family loved each other dearly, but our opinions on many things differed.

Switching back to English my mother said, “Amolika you’re home from your vacation in France! We are so glad to see you.” I remember my mother speaking for my father as usual.

“I went for schooling mother. I went to learn French. It wasn’t a vacation,” I replied.

My mother was the most stubborn person in Europe. In her eyes, anything other than the pursuit of putting the letters “MD” behind my name was considered a vacation. She had spent her life working for the betterment of her family. Growing up I never saw her do anything for herself and she expected the same family-based altruism from my siblings and myself.

Avoiding the use of the word “vacation” again, my mother turned her sights to medical school within 30 seconds of me being home. “Well your finally done with your fun. The University of Milan is still accepting applications for medical school enrollment. You should get a good night’s sleep. There are plenty of admission essays for you to write tomorrow.”

Mother always liked to press medical school. She was always reminding me of that goal I was meant to accomplish. But France was the last stop on a very long period of travel. Before that I was in Oxford where I first discovered my love for archeology. She only agreed to let me go because of my grandfather, my father’s father. He seemed to be the only person who could convince her of anything.

According to my father, my Poppa had been preaching to my parents about me learning from around the world since the day I was born. He convinced them, or more importantly had convinced my mother that even Doctors benefitted from being well cultured. However, after a 6-year liberal arts degree from over 5 different universities my mother’s patience had seemingly run thin.

She wasn’t happy to see my pictures on social media of late nights out. It was as if  seeing me smiling in those photos, seeing me happy rubbed her the wrong way.

I remember that night vividly. The memory of that conversation I had with my parents is magnified in my mind. My mother pressed me one last time as I was walking up the stairs to unpack my things from France. We will see you bright and early in the morning. I will prepare breakfast for you and then you can get started on that application to the University of Milan,” she said.

Hearing my mother slide in that last remark, hearing her ignore my feelings of disgust for medical school that time pushed me over the edge. Walking up the stairs to my childhood room I froze. Standing half way up the staircase with my mother’s words still floating in the air around me, I was in a state of rage.

Looking back I don’t regret my decision that night, but I have no pride in my conduct. My entire childhood I had heard my parents argue with each other with fiery passion. But yet again, my mother spoke to me as a child. She spoke to my father as an adult by voicing her opinion and responding to his. Yet with me she just calmly told me what she wanted me to do and completely ignored my wants and needs.

After my stay in France I had felt fully myself. The warm Mediterranean sea had invigorated me, and I could no longer allow myself to be bullied by my mother’s passive aggressive tactics. I stood up for myself. I left.

Instead of climbing the rest of the staircase to my childhood room, unpacking my belongings, and facing the next day as a live-in member of my family, I turned around and descended the stairs. I chose to walk right out of the house without another word. It was doubtful they would hear me if had spoken. I hadn’t even let my suitcase out of my grip.

“Amolika?” My father asked with concern in his voice. The bewildered words alerted my mother. She had already started in the kitchen to prepare for tomorrow’s breakfast no doubt.

In a shrill tone of panic and disbelief my mother called out to me as I started down the front door steps of my childhood home. “Amolika, where are you going?!”

With the force of my emotion fueled exit, the front door swung fast back towards the house and the handle made a clattering sound as it struck the exterior wall of the house. Rebellious rage inspired adrenaline to race down my neck into my back and down to my finger tips. Hearing my mother protest my departure only to have her voice drowned out by the loud bang of the front door’s metallic handle fueled my adrenaline even further. At the time it felt amazing. However, in hindsight I wish I would have said something along the lines of “I still love you.”

There is no need to dwell on the past. Hindsight is 20/20 and without that adrenaline I might not have chosen the same path for myself in the days that followed. The shell that covered me for my childhood had molted away. Leaving that night was the first stretch of a journey that would make me the person I am today.

That night I found lodging in a hostel on the edge of the Rome. I slept on the bottom bunk under a complete stranger who’s feet smelled as if he had just finished the MOAB 240 endurance run and didn’t bother washing up afterwards. But I did not care about the stench. I didn’t just sleep that first night out from under my mother’s thumb, I slumbered. There was probably a smile laying across my face the entire night.

As cheesy as it may sound, I felt as if the next day was going to be the first day of the rest of my life. I felt I had truly left childhood behind me and was ready to find what kind of person I would be on my own.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Categories
Uncategorized

Reply All Emails Gone Wrong

This is based on a real email chain sent on a Friday morning. It started with a manager in IT sending an email to 3206 Employee’s from a large corporation about an issue that affected a small fraction of them

Original Sender (Manager in IT/bald white dude): Original message sent Friday 10:06AM ~summarizing~ “We will be updating two systems that you all have access to this weekend. System A and System B will not be operational. During this time please use the downtime procedure. The updated system should be up and running by the end of the week. Below is the downtime procedure as a refresher.”

Responder 1 (Manager claims payable lady) sent 11:23AM: “Hi [Original Sender], Will this affect any of [my employees]? Can we expect to have System A available for my Team, come Monday Morning? THANKS!

Original Sender (Manager in IT/bald white dude) sent 11:32AM: “Like in the past weekend updates, system A will be offline. It will be up and running by Sunday morning. Speaking to System B, those jobs will be offline on Saturday and need to be rescheduled and can be run on Sunday after the update and before the monthly backup starts at 9PM. The Saturday update normally runs in less than 2 hours. I would suggest we kick it off to run at 5PM before the other jobs are scheduled to be released. Please advise – Original Sender”

Responder 2 (system support/IT lady) sent 12:16PM: “The job should wait until Operations give the final go/no-go on Sunday.”

Responder 3 (Manager claims lady) sent 12:37PM: “[Responder 2], Can you please tell me if you are saying that my team should wait to run until Operations give the final go/no go on Sunday? Thanks”

Responder 4 (lower level member services Associate guy) sent 12:40PM: “Hi! I don’t think I should be getting these emails. Thanks! – [Responder 4]”

Responder 5 (baby boomer social worker-type lady) sent 12:45PM: “Can all of you replying quit replaying to “all”? I am not involved with this and don’t know why I am getting ANY of these emails. Thank you. Please reply to the original sender.”

Responder 2 (system support/IT lady) sent 12:46PM: “No – I’m saying the claims submissions should wait for the final OK”

Responder 6 (claims specialist lady) sent 12:48PM: “I was somehow added to this email chain in error. Can the originator please remove me, it is very distracting. I believe someone added the incorrect [responder 6] claims specialist”

Responder 7 (Educator lady) sent 12:50PM: “Likewise for myself…I should not be on the list of recipients. Please remove me. Thank you very much.”

Responder 8 (complaints department lady) sent 12:52PM: “I think that is for myself as well. If you can please remove me if I am not supposed to be on this ongoing email. Thank you [Responder 8]”

Responder 9 (young intake lady) sent 12:53PM: “Same here, please remove me. Thank you”

Responder 10 (Training Leader guy) sent 12:53PM: “Can everyone please stop responding to all………….Thank you”

Responder 11 (client enrollment guy) sent 12:53PM: “This is sent to a large list of people. If you are not interested you can ignore the thread within outlook. Right click on the original email and click ignore and you will stop seeing updates. Thanks”

Responder 12 (senior systems analyst girl) sent 12:54PM: “Everyone, If you are a user of [the systems], you are a part of this distribution list. If you are not an MC400 user, please refer to your manager to see how you can be removed from the [the systems] user distribution list. Unfortunately, the original sender of this email does not control the distribution list. Thank you,”

Responder 13 (coordination servicer girl) sent 12:54PM: “Hi [Responder 9]!”

Responder 14 (Concierge Expert man) sent 12:54PM: “All, If you use [these systems], you will receive emails to this distribution list. If you do not wish to read the emails, you can use the Ignore function in Outlook by right clicking the original email and clicking on Ignore. Replying all saying to stop replying all does not solve your problem.

malchan image 1

Thank you”

Responder 15 (Claims Examiner lady) sent 12:54PM: “Ok enough. All you have to do it hit DELETE!!!!!

Responder 16 (advocate lady) sent 12:56PM: “Hi [name of a person who hasn’t even responded]!”

Responder 17 (Tech person) sent 12:56PM: “Please remove me as well [own email address]”

Responder 18 (bid bearded ginger guy from Complaints department) sent 12:57PM: “Press ignore if you no longer want an email through this. malchan-image-2.png

Responder 19 (middle-aged Senior Manager dude) sent 12:58PM: “Really??? The entire email distribution gets to see “Hi”???? You guys are killing ME!!!!!!  STOP THIS MADNESS.  (This one doesn’t count).”

Responder 2 (Manager Claims Payable Lady) sent 12:59PM: “To all on this distribution list.  This list is compiled of ALL [system] Users.  It is used to provide updates when there are system issues or scheduled downtimes.     If you do not have any access to [system] at all, DO NOT use [system] for ANY reason,  please email me separately and I will remove you from the list.   Thank you for your time and patience.”

Responder 20 (customer service person) sent 1:17PM: “Please   remove    me     from     this     group     mailing.”

Responder 21 (senior claims examiner woman) sent 1:19PM: “Please remove me as well”

Responder 22 (claims payable analyst dude) sent 1:19PM: *sent specifically to responder 19* “Thoughts and prayers”

Responder 23 (Concierge girl) sent 1:20PM: “malchan image 3.png

Responder 24 (Provider Advocate) sent 1:21PM: “Me too please .”

Responder 25 (Professional Temp) sent 1:31PM: “This on the evening of the area 51 meme is amazing, hello all, goodbye!”

Responder 26 (Operations Analyst Associate woman) sent 1:33PM: “Seriously, you guys tried skyping, or Microsoft teams please remove me”

Responder 26 (Operations Analyst Associate woman) sent 1:33PM: ***just a blank message***

Responder 27 (Claims payable analyst associate woman) sent 1:50PM: “Some these responses on here are very disrespectful. It takes absolutely nothing to just simply ignore the thread from the distributions list of people that this email is intended for. It is unnecessary for someone to add to the chain by saying take me off these email, this wasn’t intended for me. Where are the managers of these employee’s.

We treat all individuals with dignity and respect.

DIGNITY & RESPECT

Thank You”

 

Now I’m sure there are worse Reply All email threads out there. So I urge you all to share them with the world community of the internet. Because this one made me laugh quite a bit.

Categories
*Researched

Video Game Update

My senior year in graduate school at Shippensburg I took a course that had each student update a chapter in our text book. I chose to update the video game chapter.

Video Game Update

Zeb Carbaugh, Shippensburg University

COM 526: Emerging Mass Media Technology

June 18, 2017

Current Status

The gaming world is evolving and a lot has changed since last year. Sony’s PS4 Pro was released in November of 2016 and in response Microsoft just premiered their Xbox One X at the 2017 Electronic Entertainment Expo (better known as E3). Gaming consoles and PC gaming have been out shined by mobile gaming in terms of revenue for 2016. On March 3rd, 2017 Nintendo released their seventh console to the world, the Nintendo Switch. There is enough going on in the gaming world to keep players entertained for quite sometime.

To catch you up to speed here are a few interesting gaming statistics and events as of early 2017: The top game revenue country is China at about $24.3 billion which is almost $1 billion over the US gaming revenue (Lofgren, 2017). The world average gamer is male (59 male to 41 female), 35 years of age (with an average 13 years of gaming experience), and playing on a PC (56% PC, 53% dedicated console, 36% smartphone, 31% wireless device, and 17% handheld system) with friends (54% of most frequent players play with others) (Lofgren, 2017). In 2016 almost 30 and a half billion dollars in revenue was generated by the United States computer and video game industry, which is an increase from $30.2 billion the previous year (Entertainment Software Association, 2017). The quickly evaporating trend of Pokemon Go became a cultural phenomenon virtually overnight with the help of mobile technology and helped springboard Pokemon Sun and Pokemon Moon on portable gaming devices to the “highest launch month consumer spend in the history of the franchise” (Entertainment Software Association, 2017). And at the start of 2017, virtual reality (VR) gaming hadn’t yet reached its projected potential in performance nor commercial success (Lofgren, 2017).

In 2016 the gaming console giant Sony released the 2.0 version of their 2013 success, the PlayStation 4 and it is called the PlayStation 4 Pro. To be clear, there was another version of the PS4 released in 2016 and it is called the PS4 slim. The PS4 slim has almost the same performance as the launched version of the PS4, but with a smaller and sleeker look. However, the PS4 Pro is much different than the PS4 in terms of performance. The PS4 Pro has over double the GPU (graphics processor) power and operates with 4.2 teraflops compared to the standard PS4’s 1.84 teraflops (Vandervell, 2017). The pro also allows gamers to enjoy 4K resolution (3,840 by 2,160 lines pixels) and HDR (high dynamic range) which allow visuals to appear brighter and with more vibrant colors (Vandervell, 2017). With the PS4 Pro’s 4K capabilities, it is strongly recommended that it is operated on a 4K compatible television. The PS4 Pro will operate on a non-4K television, but it won’t be used to its potential.

standard PS4 last of us

Figure 1: Standard PS4 (Vandervell, 2017)

ps4 pro hdr last of us

Figure 2: PS4 Pro’s HDR adding texture to the shot (Vandervell, 2017)

ps4 table

Table 1: Launched PS4, PS4 Slim, and PS4 Pro (Vandervell, 2017)

In response to Sony’s PS4 Pro, Microsoft recently showcased their XBOX One X at 2017’s Electronic Entertainment Expo. Project Scorpio was the One X’s secret name before being revealed to the public. It, like the PS4 Pro, has 4K HDR capabilities to allow for superior graphics in games and video. The One X has 1.17 GHz 6 Teraflop GPU compared to the Pro’s 4.2 Teraflop GPU. Not many reviews have come out since the One X isn’t meant to be released to the public until November 2017, but it is clear that Microsoft is still playing their part in the PlayStation and XBOX rivalry.

table xbox

Table 2: XBOX One, XBOX One S, and XBOX One X (Naudus, 2017)

While consoles like the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One created 6.6 billion dollars in revenue in 2016, PC gaming generated 34 billion dollars for the same year. But neither console nor PC could top the mobile gaming industry which in 2015 made up 85 percent of all mobile app revenue with 34.8 billion dollars (Takahashi, 2016). Not to mention, the mobile games created 41 billion dollars in revenue for the 2016 year (Om, 2017). Freemium games such as SuperCell’s Clash of Clans (released in 2012) and Clash Royale (released March 2016) are free to play, but make the vast majority of their income on in-app purchases and advertising. These freemium games allow the player to download the game for free from the Apple App Store or Android’s Google Play, but in order to progress through the game without waiting for months in real time, the player can use real world money to advance their experience. SuperCell saw a flat sales growth of 2.3 billion dollars in 2016 and had 10 billion dollars worth of shares bought by the Chinese company Tencent Holdings (Takahashi, 2017).

Other mobile games such as the international sensation Pokemon Go have created huge bursts of initial buzz, but then fade out of relevancy rather quickly. Because the freemium style app is popular, mobile gamers can download many apps at a time with little to no cost to themselves. This means that most mobile gamers will download a game onto their phone whether they plan to engage with the game app on a regular basis or not. On top of that, there is an abundance of gaming apps available to users. If a player doesn’t like a certain popular mobile game, there are dozens of very similar knockoff versions to choose from. Once Clash of Clans started to receive a lot of attention (enough attention to buy a 9 million dollar commercial during Super Bowl 49 starring Liam Neeson) there were dozens of poorly developed knockoffs that showed up in the App Store and Google Play. Another reason why mobile games don’t tend to last long is because unlimited mobile data plans have become common place in the developed world. So not only are the apps themselves free, but the data necessary to download and play the apps isn’t costing the user any more than if he or she didn’t download and play the game (Herman, 2017). Mobile games seem to have a quantity over quality reputation compared to console and PC games. Most are free-to-play games, there are millions of them, and they typically don’t stay relevant as long as other video games, but that doesn’t mean mobile games should be regarded with any less respect.

The Electronic Entertainment Expo failed to give the 40 billion dollar mobile gaming industry its well-deserved spotlight once again in 2017, but why? Vlad Savov from TheVerge.com writes “I recall an old Malcolm Gladwell talk where he recounted some unintuitive statistical findings by researchers. If you ask people what type of coffee they favor, he pointed out, and they all say something along the lines of a dark, rich, hearty roast. When you look at what they actually buy and prefer, however, it turns out the answer is a weak and milky coffee. Without wishing to offend mobile game makers, that’s where we are today: with mobile games being the mild and milky coffee we actually consume but don’t feel exceedingly proud to admit to liking. E3 still thinks all we’re after is the glitz and violence of AAA console titles, and the real world is instead tapping away in Clash of Clans” (Savov, 2017). So maybe it isn’t cool to like mobile games just yet, and maybe mobile games don’t get the respect they deserve at expo’s, but one corporation seems to have gotten the 40 billion dollar memo to switch to mobile gaming.

Looking to get ahead of the success in mobile gaming, Nintendo released the Nintendo Switch in March of 2017. The Switch allows gamers to “switch” from console to mobile in seconds. The Switch is a home console, hand-held gaming device, and a touch screen tablet all in one device. It is basically the Swiss Army knife of gaming. The Switch has a 6.2-inch 720p LCD tablet that they call the console (Ingenito, 2017). The console can be equipped with the left and right Joy-Cons to be turned into a handheld gaming device, or it can be placed in the Nintendo Switch Dock to be played on a larger screen, preferably a TV. When the console is being played on a TV, the Joy-Cons can be placed into the Joy-Con Grip piece to function more like a home console controller.

nintendo switch

Figure 3: Nintendo Switch Contents (Burke, 2017)

As for problems with the Switch, reviews have come in saying that it isn’t everything they were hoping it would be. Apparently the left Joy-Con has signal issues where the player’s hand blocks the signal to the console causing in-game problems (Ingenito, 2017). Also, in trying to be a handheld and console, the Switch lacks certain qualities that its competitors have thrived on. The Switch runs on a customized Nvidia Tegra X1 chipset (Ingenito, 2017). This means that the horsepower behind the switch is miles ahead of most mobile games, but isn’t up to par with the PS4 and XBOX One consoles. Compared to Nintendo’s last console, the Wii U, the Switch has double the RAM at 4GB, but has a very similar GPU and CPU (Ingenito, 2017). Which basically means the Switch has a better ability to function in real time compared to the Wii U, but its graphics (or visuals) don’t appear to be any more spectacular than the Wii U. None the less, old-school Nintendo fans are enjoying The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild which was made for the Wii U and the Switch at the same time. All in all, the Switch is absolutely amazing by most handheld gaming standards, but it isn’t up to snuff when it is used a console.

Mobile games have made quite a splash into the gaming pool, although most people and expos don’t want to admit it. Nintendo has created a bumpy bridge between home consoles and handheld gaming devices. And the PlayStation 4 Pro has spurred enough buzz to get Microsoft make a roided version of their latest console. But what will be the next big craze in gaming? What will the gaming industry come up with next to keep players hooked?

Factors to Watch

Virtual reality gaming seems to be the future, and one console released a working VR system already, the PlayStation VR is here. What will be Microsoft’s answer to the PlayStation 4 VR? Some think the future of gaming IS in virtual reality, but NOT in your living room. There are a lot of good ideas and competition coming out of this new virtual reality technology, but it seems clear that there is no single application of VR that shines above the rest.

PlayStation released their VR headset in October of 2016, and some think it is ahead of its time. The PlayStation VR has a price tag of $399, but that is just for the basic VR package. In order to get the full use of the VR you need a full package including the PlayStation camera and the Move controllers. Buying all the necessary bells and whistles will cost around $499. Without the camera your VR is pretty much useless, but the Move controllers can be substituted for a more clumsy experience with just your standard PS4 controller (Stapleton, 2016). The light on the PS4 controller can be picked up by the camera and used to track your movements (Stapleton, 2016). Once you get past the price tag, the first thing you see is the hardware, which looks pretty cool. The cushions in the headset makes it super comfortable and the look of the headset has been compared to most science fiction movie helmets. Setting up everything to get the VR working is a bit of pain. If you are a stickler for good wire maintenance on you home entertainment center than you have a bit of a nightmare on your hands with the PlayStation VR. The picture doesn’t have as high of resolution as the Oculus Rift or HTC Vive, but it isn’t bad enough to take away from the game play (Stapleton, 2016). Another thing that may bother gamers is the limited viewing angle. Because the VR depends on the camera to track the light on controllers, the player cannot look behind themselves, so they are limited to a 180 degree view (Stapleton, 2016). A basic review of the PlayStation VR is that it is somewhere in between the superior Oculus Rift type VR sets and the more modest smartphone based VR sets. That being said, early technology adopters have been baffled by the PlayStation VR’s performance and it is the first VR compatible console available, at least until Microsoft’s XBOX One X is released.

Microsoft’s XBOX One X (to be released in Fall 2017) has a lot of buzz going around it. At 2017 Electronic Entertainment Expo Microsoft didn’t say a whole lot about VR in connection with the One X. However, Microsoft’s Alex Kipman did say “We’re also excited to share that Windows Mixed Reality experiences will light up on other devices over time, beyond desktop and Microsoft HoloLens. Our plan is to bring mixed reality content to the Xbox One family of devices, including Project Scorpio, in 2018” (Lamkin, 2017). That didn’t reveal a whole lot. Project Scorpio was the code name for the One X when it was still in development. Since the One X is supposed to be released in Fall of 2017, Kipman may have meant that VR will be added to the One X sometime after it has been released to the public. This may be a smart move. Virtual reality, which is gathering a lot of hype in the tech world, still has a lot of kinks to work out before it can be totally integrated to complex gaming. Sony released the PlayStation VR to get a head of the game, but Microsoft may be able to develop a superior model a bit further down the road.

Down the road under may be where you have to go to experience the newest trend in virtual reality experience. One of the main problems with VR gaming is the confining environment that is your living room. While regular console gaming can be performed in any place with a TV and a wall outlet, VR gaming needs a spatially feasible area. Zero Latency is looking to solve your spatial problems. The company is based out of Melbourne Australia and they are a virtual reality gaming company that has 2,000- to 4,000-square-foot warehouse arenas for the public to play their VR games in. “As far as business models go, this one is pretty simple. All that’s needed by Zero Latency (the origin of which dates back to the founders’ fascination with the idea of using a custom tracking system to play VR games in a big, empty warehouse-like space) is a room with basically nothing in it (other than the dozens of cameras tracking players’ movements, but you get the idea). The company already has rigs for players to use, which include an Alienware gaming computer and a custom backpack, and gaming content that Zero Latency has developed in-house” (Meek, 2017). Zero Latency charges 88 Australian dollars for an approximate 40 minute experience. Six players can play at a time, and they can choose from just a few of Zero Latency’s own games, one of which is a first-person-shooter zombie game titled Outbreak. Zero Latency hopes to take away the isolated reputation of gaming and VR and turn them into a social event like going to the movies or miniature golf. It is a concept that is exciting gamers, but according to Andy Meek from BGR.com Zero Latency gets a mixed and “not a purely gamer crowd” (Meek, 2017).

References

Burke, R. (2017, February 14). Your Nintendo Switch launch day guide. Retrieved June 20, 2017, from http://gamingtrend.com/feature/your-nintendo-switch-launch-day-guide/

Entertainment Software Association. (2017, January 19). U.S. Video Game Industry Generates $30.4 Billion in Revenue for 2016 [Press release]. Retrieved June 18, 2017, from http://www.theesa.com/article/u-s-video-game-industry-generates-30-4-billion-revenue-2016/

Herman, D. (2017, February 13). Mobile games lose their luster faster than ever. Retrieved June 18, 2017, from https://venturebeat.com/2017/02/11/mobile-games-lose-their-luster-faster-than-ever/

Ingenito, V. (2017, March 07). Nintendo Switch Review. Retrieved June 18, 2017, from http://www.ign.com/articles/2017/03/08/nintendo-switch-review\

Lamkin, P. (2017, March 03). Microsoft Confirms: Xbox One VR Headset Incoming. Retrieved June 18, 2017, from https://www.forbes.com/sites/paullamkin/2017/03/02/microsoft-confirms-xbox-one-vr-headset-incoming/#4197b5362ea6

Lofgren, K. (2017, April 5). 2017 Video Game Trends and Statistics – Who’s Playing What and Why? | Big Fish Blog. Retrieved June 18, 2017, from http://www.bigfishgames.com/blog/2017-video-game-trends-and-statistics-whos-playing-what-and-why/

Meek, A. (2017, May 29). This is what the future of gaming looks like. Retrieved June 20, 2017, from http://bgr.com/2017/05/29/esports-arena-vr-zero-latency-interview/

Naudus, K. (2017, June 12). The Xbox One X vs. the original Xbox One: What’s changed? Retrieved June 18, 2017, from https://www.engadget.com/2017/06/12/xbox-one-x-vs-original-xbox-one/

Om, D. (2017, February 20). Mobile Games Brought in More Revenue in 2016 Than PCs and Console Games. Retrieved June 18, 2017, from https://www.iphonelife.com/content/mobile-games-brought-more-revenue-2016-pcs-and-console-games

Savov, V. (2017, June 14). Will E3 ever be a mobile games show? Retrieved June 18, 2017, from https://www.theverge.com/2017/6/14/15798996/e3-2017-mobile-games

Stapleton, D. (2016, October 05). PlayStation VR Review. Retrieved June 20, 2017, from http://www.ign.com/articles/2016/10/05/playstation-vr-review

Takahashi, D. (2016, February 10). Mobile games hit $34.8B in 2015, taking 85% of all app revenues. Retrieved June 18, 2017, from https://venturebeat.com/2016/02/10/mobile-games-hit-34-8b-in-2015-taking-85-of-all-app-revenues/

Takahashi, D. (2017, February 15). Clash Royale, Clash of Clans push Supercell to $2.3 billion in 2016 revenue. Retrieved June 18, 2017, from https://venturebeat.com/2017/02/15/clash-royale-clash-of-clans-push-supercell-to-2-3-billion-in-2016-revenue/

Vandervell, A. (2017, April 12). PS4 Pro vs PS4: What’s the difference and is it worth the upgrade. Retrieved June 18, 2017, from http://www.trustedreviews.com/news/ps4-pro-vs-ps4

Categories
Poetry

Je t’aime

Veins filled with honey

To touch is warm and slow

Stuck to you

Like Floating fuzz caught by a sweater

Safe and Excited

Unsure but brave

Like sunshine gushing up my arm and into my face

As I smile

Balancing on one foot with eyes closed

Dizzy but not frightened

Inhabited again where once was vacant

The abandoned lots of my being

You are hundreds of small river waves

Come alive by the sun

Breath taken by your dancing rays

My obligations come undone

 

Categories
*Researched

University Students’ News Literacy on Social Media

*This is the research article I wrote with my partner for grad school. It wasn’t easy, but it wasn’t as hard as I thought it would be. We collaborated on the whole paper, but she did the Literature Review while I did the statistics and results. This was presented to multiple review boards and presented at the Shippensburg University Research Fair in 2017*

University Students’ News Literacy on Social Media

Barbara Schindo & Zeb Carbaugh, Shippensburg University

COM 520: Applied Mass Communication Research

May 7, 2017

Abstract

This research study evaluated the popularity of social media sites and their contribution to the spread of fake news. Participants were asked how they got their news and how often they shared news articles on social media. They were shown various social media articles and then asked to rate each articles’ credibility. Real news articles were used in the survey. Then those same articles were altered to suggest that they came from fake news sources. The participants (N = 110) did give the real articles a higher rating of credibility and trust. There was no significant relationship between the credibility of an article and the participants’ likelihood to share the article. On average, participants also rated Facebook as their most frequently used news source.

 

University Students’ News Literacy on Social Media

The term “fake news” has been making headlines in real news and all over social media. Fake news is the deliberate publication of false information and purporting it to be real news. Social media is a new way for consumers to get news in a time when public trust in traditional media has seen a strong decline (Turcotte, York, Irving, Scholl, & Pingree, 2015). A Pew Research Center survey (2016) shows that 62% of U.S. adults get their news on social media, but how much of the news on social media is authentic and factual? Out of the 62% of adults who get their news on social media, the majority of them get it from only one site, and they are not actively seeking it (Pew, 2016).

Social media, aside from being a source of news, has changed and continues to change the landscape of journalism. Citizen journalism, or the collection, sharing, and analysis of news by the general public on the Internet, is emerging as a competitor for mainstream media sources. In this changing landscape, anyone with access to the Internet has the potential to write and share information. Media consumers need to be aware that not every news item they see on social media is correct or is coming from a credible source. It is important for consumers to be vigilant and media literate before they like and share articles on Facebook.

This research addresses news consumption on social media, specifically, Facebook. As the use of social media as a news source increases, it is important to study users’ habits. If university students are more apt to share news articles that are not credible, that is significant and could mean a bleak future for social media as a news source.

This purpose of this study is to evaluate if the popularity of social media sites contributes to fake and incorrect news stories going viral. This study also aims to determine how well university students understand media literacy, and if they are able to tell the difference between credible and not credible news source.

Literature Review

            A number of studies address how participants view media credibility and believability. Many found that consumers are more likely to find the news not trustworthy or biased (Golan & Baker, 2012; Turcotte, York, Irving, Scholl, & Pinegree, 2015; Zuniga & Hinsley, 2013). Overwhelmingly, Mormon college students viewed the media as not credible, not trustworthy, immoral, and incorrect (Golan and Baker, 2012). Fisher, Magee, and Mohammed-Baksh (2015), and Zuniga and Hinsley (2013) concluded that people working within the news industry see their work as more trustworthy and believable than the public did. One thing particularly alarming about Fisher, Magee, and Mohammed-Baksh’s (2015) conclusion is that the media consumers do not care if the information seems credible or not.

Turcotte, York, Irving, Scholl, and Pingree (2015) say there is a strong decline in the public’s trust in traditional media outlets, but social media is emerging as a new avenue for consumers to find information. As social media emerges as a news source, it also has created a new form of newsgathering: Citizen Journalism. The general public now has the ability to gather, write, post, share and analyze current events. Tweets, Facebook posts, and online messages have become news sources (Fisher, Magee & Mohammed-Baksh, 2015). More than half of adults surveyed said they get news from social media, which is up from 49 percent in 2012 (Pew, 2016). Chung, Nam, and Stefanone (2012) said younger people are the largest consumers of online news, and news consumption habits begin during the college age years. With the increase in use of social media as a news source, and the ability of social media to make almost anyone a content creator, there is concern that users are apt to believe and share information that is false or incorrect.

Studies show an increase of social media use as a news source over the last two decades. Jo (2005) said that the news source type and content had significant effects on how the consumer viewed credibility. Consumers were more likely to believe a newspaper article over an online press release. Golan and Baker (2012) and Jo (2005) found that consumers gave newspapers the highest ratings in credibility. Online news consumption opens the door for more sources of news; in addition to citizen journalism, users have access to mainstream media sources, independent news sources, and also index-type news sources, such as news.google.com and yahoo.news.com. Users like index-type news sources for their interactivity, but continue to rate mainstream sources as the most credible. Independent news sources like The Drudge Report and Axis of Logic were rated the least credible (Chung, Nam, & Stefanone, 2012).

Chung, Nam and Stefanone (2012) said young adults like online news, particularly index-type news sources. Users liked that places like Google allowed them to find a lot of information in one place, and that the index sources had interactivity and hypertextuality, meaning that one article would have hyper links to several other articles or sources of information. Users like online news for the convenience.

Some of how users see credibility of news articles shared on social media has to do with which outlet or friend is sharing the information. Users were more likely to find an article more trustworthy if it was shared by one of their friends on Facebook, rather that if it was shared by the news outlet itself (Turcotte, York, Irving, Scholl, & Pingree, 2015). Turcotte, York, Ivring, Scholl, and Pingree (2015) found that if a friend a person viewed as an “opinion leader” shared a news article on Facebook, the user was likely to trust that article and also seek out news articles form the source the article was shared from. If a friend who was not viewed as an “opinion leader” shared an article, users were more likely to see that article and news source as not trustworthy.

What’s interesting is users seem to care more about news, and find it more believable, if the news itself is about social media (Fisher, Magee, & Muhammed-Baksh, 2015). Fisher, Magee, and Muhammed-Baksh (2015) found that college students thought news stories about social media technology were more credible than news stories about economics. Other than stories about social media, students cared little about whether the information was credible or not. Survey participants had no difference in attitude about if the information came from a journalistic source or an external source.

News consumption seems to be at an interesting juxtaposition where the majority of users are getting their information from online sources or social media, but they think broadcast media and print media are more trustworthy. (Chung, Nam and Stefanone, 2012; Golan & Baker, 2013; Pew, 2016). What does this mean for the future landscape of news consumption and news sharing? In a time period where news outlets already have low credibility ratings with users, spreading fake news through social media will be even more damaging to credible outlets’ reputations.

H1: University students are as likely to share non-credible news articles as they are to share credible news articles.

H2: University students are more likely to get news from social media than from other sources.

RQ1: Do university students trust non-credible news sources on Facebook as much as credible news sources?

RQ2: Do university students rate fake Facebook articles with higher overall credibility than real Facebook articles?

Method

To retrieve data from as many students as possible, a survey was conducted by sending a Survey Monkey link to over 50 Shippensburg University professors. These professors then gave the link to the students of at least one of their courses, producing 110 participants. This is a form of snowball sampling, a non-probability type of sampling. Although this study used non-probability sampling, students were recruited from multiple departments around campus. Participants did not just consist of communication journalism majors or any other single major. Each participant indicated that they were 18 years of age or older, and that they were a current student of Shippensburg University of Pennsylvania.

When they first opened the questionnaire, participants were first asked to consent to the informed consent form. The next two questions asked participants, through multiple choice questions, to provide their current academic year (freshman, sophomore, etc.) and whether they had a Facebook account or not. The next question (question number 4) was also multiple choice, and asked how frequently each participant used seven different news sources. Participants were asked to indicate how frequently they used each news source. Question 4 asked the participants to choose their frequency of use by selecting “Never, Monthly, Weekly, or Daily” for each news source. Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram were combined, but their Cronbach’s Alpha value was 0.686.

The remaining questions referred to the three real and three altered news articles. For each article the participant was to rate on a Likert scale (strongly disagree, disagree, neutral, agree, or strongly agree) how believable, trustworthy, and biased they thought the article was. For each article the participant was also asked to rate how likely they would be to share the article. This was also measured on a Likert scale (very unlikely, unlikely, neutral, likely, or very likely).

Three separate articles were used in this survey. After creating an altered version of each article, they were labeled Real1, Fake1, Real2, Fake2, Real3, and Fake3. So, Real1 and Fake1 were the same article with only minor differences in the article’s source. For example, Real1 was an article about a naked man who drove a stolen cab through Rittenhouse Square from 6ABC.com, and Fake1 was the same article from TBSDaily.com. The news source TBS Daily was a source fabricated by the researchers in this study. Real2 was an article about the Ford Motor Company recalling 36,000 vehicles for an air bag defect from ABC27.com, while Fake2 was the same article from NewNowDaily.com. Real3 was an article about the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission’s report on raising hearing aid prices from ABC.net.au, while Fake3 was the same article from AboveAverage.com. Articles Fake2 and Fake3 were given fabricated news source logos as well as the fabricated new source web address.

Asking the participant to rate how believable, trustworthy, and biased each article was, was used to calculate the overall perceived credibility each participant had for each article. The responses for each article’s believability, trustworthiness, and biased ratings were combined through factor analysis to create a single credibility rating for each article. The combined credibility ratings for the articles were labeled Real1Cred, Fake1Cred, Real2Cred, Fake2Cred, Real3Cred, and Fake3Cred. The factor analysis for Real1Cred yielded 0.640 for a Cronbach’s Alpha value. Fake1Cred yielded a 0.664 Cronbach’s Alpha value. Real2Cred had a 0.815 Cronbach’s Alpha value. Fake2Cred’s value was 0.837. Real3Cred’s value was 0.830, and Fake3Cred had a Cronbach’s Alpha value of 0.853. The Cronbach’s Alpha value threshold needed to have a reliable factor analysis is 0.7. Any value under 0.7 is not considered reliable by most standards. This means that Real1 and Fake1, the articles about a naked man driving a stolen cab through a town square, had less than reliable Cronbach’s Alpha values. This could affect statistical data and should be noted when analyzing the results that included Real1Cred and Fake1Cred.

Results

Question number 2 of the survey asked the participants to indicate their current academic year. Out of the 108 participants who indicated their academic year, 31.5% indicated that they were freshmen, 23.1% indicated they were sophomores, 24.1% indicated they were juniors, 15.7% indicated they were seniors, 5.6% indicated they were graduate students, and no respondents indicated that they were not a student of Shippensburg University of Pennsylvania (see Table 1). There were 110 respondents to question number 3, which asked participants to indicate whether they had a Facebook account or not, and 104 indicated that they did have an account.

RQ1 asked if students trust real articles as much as fake articles. To answer this question, a paired sample t-test was done. The trust levels for each article were labeled TrustR1, TrustF1, TrustR2, TrustF2, TrustR3, and TrustF3 to match each corresponding real and fake articles. TrustR1 and TrustF1 were paired (t=6.460, df=109, p<0.01) (see Table 3). TrustR1 had a mean of 3.41 on a 1 to 5 scale, and a standard deviation of 0.980. TrustF1 had a mean of 2.75 on a 1 to 5 scale, and a standard deviation of 0.999. TrustR2 and TrustF2 were paired (t=8.202, df=109, p<0.01) (see Table 4). TrustR2 had a mean of 3.86 on a 1 to 5 scale, and a standard deviation of 0.872. TrustF2 had a mean of 2.87 on a 1 to 5 scale, and a standard deviation of 1.093. TrustR3 and TrustF3 were paired (t=9.767, df=108, p<0.01) (see Table 5). TrustR3 had a mean of 3.57 on a 1 to 5 scale, and a standard deviation of 0.886. TrustF3 had a mean of 2.48 on a 1 to 5 scale, and a standard deviation of 0.939. These results show that on average, participants gave a higher trust rating for real articles than fake articles. The answer to RQ1 is that participants rated fake articles with significantly lower trust than real articles.

RQ2 asked if students rated fake articles with the same credibility rating as real articles. To answer the question, a paired sample t-test was done. Combining the participants’ ratings of each article’s trustworthiness, believability, and level of bias created the overall credibility levels. The credibility levels for each article were labeled Real1Cred, Fake1Cred, Real2Cred, Fake2Cred, Real3Cred, and Fake3Cred to match each corresponding real and fake articles. Real1Cred and Fake1Cred were paired (t=6.382, df=109, p<0.01) (see Table 6). Real1Cred had a mean of 10.48 on a 1 to 15 scale, and a standard deviation of 2.208. Fake1Cred had a mean of 9.14 on a 1 to 15 scale, and a standard deviation of 2.406. Real2Cred and Fake2Cred were paired (t=6.912, df=109, p<0.01) (see Table 7). Real2Cred had a mean of 11.54 on a 1 to 15 scale, and a standard deviation of 2.208. Fake2Cred had a mean of 9.64 on a 1 to 15 scale, and a standard deviation of 2.920. Real3Cred and Fake3Cred were paired (t=9.195, df=107, p<0.01) (see Table 8). Real3Cred had a mean of 10.29 on a 1 to 15 scale, and a standard deviation of 2.453. Fake3Cred had a mean of 7.85 on a 1 to 15 scale, and a standard deviation of 2.699. These results show that on average, participants gave a higher credibility rating for real articles than fake articles. The answer to RQ2 is that participants rated fake articles with significantly lower credibility than real articles.

H1 predicted that students would share articles regardless of their credibility rating. To test this, a correlation test was done. The values of participants’ likeliness to share each article was labeled Real1Share, Fake1Share, Real2Share, Fake2Share, Real3Share, and Fake3Share to match each corresponding real and fake articles. Real1Cred and Real1Share were compared (r=0.146, df=106, p=ns) (see Table 9). Real1Cred had a mean of 10.48 on a scale of 1 to 15, and a standard deviation of 2.208. Real1Share had a mean of 1.39 on a scale of 1 to 5, and a standard deviation of 0.783. Fake1Cred and Fake1Share were compared (r=0.118, df=108, p=ns) (see Table 10). Fake1Cred had a mean of 9.14 on a scale of 1 to 15, and a standard deviation of 2.406. Fake1Share had a mean of 1.36 on a scale of 1 to 5, and a standard deviation of 0.763. Real2Cred and Real2Share were compared (r=0.220, df=108, p<0.05) (see Table 11). Real2Cred had a mean of 11.54 on a scale of 1 to 15, and a standard deviation of 2.208. Real2Share had a mean of 1.87 on a 1 to 5 scale, and a standard deviation of 1.220. Fake2Cred and Fake2Share were compared (r=0.348, df=107, p<0.01) (see Table 12). Fake2Cred had a mean of 9.64 on a scale of 1 to 15, and a standard deviation of 2.920. Fake2Share had a mean of 1.61 on a scale of 1 to 5, and a standard deviation of 1.018. Real3Cred and Real3Share were compared (r=0.186, df=106, p=ns) (see Table 13). Real3Cred had a mean of 10.25 on a scale of 1 to 15, and a standard deviation of 2.451. Real3Share had a mean of 1.62 on a scale of 1 to 5, and a standard deviation of 0.904. Fake3Cred and Fake3Share were compared (r=0.322, df=105, p<0.01) (see Table 14). Fake3Cred had a mean of 7.85 on a scale of 1 to 15, and a standard deviation of 0.749. Fake3Share had a mean of 1.42 on a scale of 1 to 5, and a standard deviation of 0.749. The correlation test values for each comparison are either negligible or very weak. These low correlation test values and the fact that half the tests are inconclusive due to their significance values makes H1 difficult to support or refute. The few tests that were significant and had weak correlation values do suggest a slight overall positive relationship between an articles perceived credibility and likelihood to share.

H2 predicted that most participants would get their news from social media. To test this, simple descriptive statistics were analyzed (see Table 2). It should be noted that a chi-square test was completed, but no tests came back significant. The first news source, television, had a mean of 2.62 on a scale of 1 to 4, and a standard deviation of 1.040. Newspaper had a mean of 1.46 on a scale of 1 to 4, and a standard deviation of 0.700. Radio had a mean of 2.36 on a scale of 1 to 4, and a standard deviation of 1.148. News websites had a mean of 2.78 on a scale of 1 to 4, and a standard deviation of 1.053. Facebook had a mean of 2.90 on a scale of 1 to 4, and a standard deviation of 1.194. Twitter had a mean of 2.31 on a scale of 1 to 4, and a standard deviation of 1.400. Instagram had a mean of 2.60 on a scale of 1 to 4, and a standard deviation of 1.415. Although Facebook had the highest mean value, Twitter and Instagram had mean values below some of the non-social media news sources. As a whole, participants did not rate social media higher than all other news sources.

Discussion

Facebook was the highest rated news source, overall there was a weak or no significant correlation between the articles’ credibility and likelihood to share, and participants gave higher levels of trust and credibility ratings to real articles than they did to fake articles. The Shippensburg University students who participated in this study were more literate on social media than predicted. This is good news for the future of social media as a place where users find news. If students are able to determine articles that others post and share are not credible, that will be helpful in stopping the spread of fake news on social media. It is a positive implication.

This study used a non-probability snowball sample. Non-probability sampling does not allow a study to generalize their findings to a larger population. Even if a probability sample was taken, limited resources such as time and financial means only allowed this study to recruit participants from Shippensburg University.

Other than sampling issues, this study’s questions could have caused confounding variables. For example, the topics of the articles used were about a naked man crashing a car, a Ford Motor Company recall, and a hearing aid scandal. If a participant had a personal experience involving someone crashing a car they might have given those articles a lower likelihood-to-share rating. The other two articles (Ford recall and hearing aid articles) were meant to have a more neutral topic, but these articles may come off as dull. Some participants may have given these articles a low likelihood-to-share rating, because they wouldn’t want a dull or boring article on their social media accounts.

There were time constraints on this study; the survey was active for only about a week and half. Given more time and an opportunity for a larger sample, the research may have been able to get a more accurate picture of social media use as a news source and whether more students would share fake news. The time constraints and sampling limitations also limited how the researchers conducted the study. Being able to show the participants full articles, rather than just Facebook posts, or having the ability to tell if the participants would actually click on and read full articles before posting or sharing them would be useful. There also could have been a more comprehensive result if researchers had asked participants general questions about how they view the media. This study did not ask what attitude the participants had toward the media, or whether they generally find the media trustworthy, credible, or biased. It also did not ask if the participants generated any citizen journalism themselves, or if that was something university students are interested in. A follow up study could be done on those subjects.

This study focused only on Facebook. A future study expanding to other social media outlets would be useful, as research shows that Reddit and Twitter are two of the biggest news sources for adults in the U.S. (Pew, 2016). Studies could be done on those sites individually, or they could be grouped together in a larger study. There are also some things learned during the literature review that would be good ideas for future studies expanding on this topic. Turcotte, York, Irving, Scholl, and Pingree (2015) found that people were more likely to find news articles shared by friends more trustworthy than when they were shared directly by the media outlet that reported them. This survey did not touch on how influential friends and family postings on social media are on university students’ credibility ratings.

The Pew study (2016) also shows that users who find news on social media are not actively seeking it; it is more of something that just pops up in their timelines as they are scrolling. Studies could be done about why social media users don’t seem to care to seek out news. Do they not think current events are important? What would get younger media consumers interested in news?

There was another limitation with the sampling. As college students, there is a big possibility that participants are more in tune with media credibility on social media. While presenting survey results, the conductors learned that at least one professor taught students about how to spot fake news articles. Another study could be done that only uses incoming freshman as a sample, and survey them before and after they learn about fake news and how to be sure of a news source’s credibility. That could be useful in researching if and how teachers address media literacy with students.

It would be useful to expand this study outside of Shippensburg University. A study involving participants outside of an academic setting could be vastly different. A general study of adults would be interesting.

For future studies, a survey format is not recommended. An experiment method may have produced more controlled results. Instead of asking all participants to rate both real and fake articles, maybe have the experimental group rate fake articles’ credibility and likelihood to share and have a control group rate real articles. As discussed, there are several opportunities to expand on or follow this study.

In conclusion, the results of this survey, though not what the researchers predicted, are positive. Media literacy will continue to be important as the future of the news industry is gravitating to online and social media sources; it is good news that younger generations understand it.

 

 

References

Chung, C. J., Nam, Y., & Stefanone, M. A. (2012). Exploring online news credibility: The relative influence of traditional and technological factors. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, 17(2), 171-186.

Fisher, H. D., Magee, S., & Mohammed-Baksh, S. (2015). Do they care? An experiment exploring millennials’ perception of source credibility in radio broadcast news. Journal of Radio & Audio Media, 22(2), 304-324.

Golan, G. J., & Baker, S. (2012). Perceptions of media trust and credibility among mormon college students. Journal of Media and Religion, 11(1), 31-43.

Jo, S. (2005). The effect of online media credibility on trust relationships. Journal of Website Promotion, 1(2), 57-78.

Pew Research Center. (2016). News use across social media platforms. Retrieved from: http://www.journalism.org/2016/05/26/news-use-across-social-media-platforms-2016/

Turcotte, J., York, C., Irving, J., Scholl, R. M., & Pingree, R. J. (2015). News recommendations from social media opinion leaders: Effects on media trust and information seeking. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, 20(5), 520-535.

Zúñiga, H. G., & Hinsley, A. (2013). The press versus the public. Journalism Studies, 14(6), 926-942.

Table 1

 

Descriptive Statistics for Participants’ Academic Standing (Question 2)

 

Academic Standing     n %
     Freshman 34 31.5%
     Sophomore 25 23.1%
     Junior 26 24.1%
     Senior 17 15.7%
     Graduate student 6 5.6%

 

Table 2

Means and Standard Deviations for News Sources (H2)

M SD N
Television a 2.62 1.040 110
Newspaper a 1.46 0.700 110
Radio a 2.36 1.148 108
News Websites a 2.78 1.053 110
Facebook a 2.90 1.194 109
Twitter a 2.31 1.400 110
Instagram a 2.60 1.415 109

 

a Measured on a scale from 1 (Never) to 4 (Daily).

 

Table 3

Paired-Samples t-test for Differences Between TrustR1 and TrustF1 (RQ1)

M SD t
TrustR1 a 3.41 0.980
TrustF1a 2.75 0.999 6.460**

 

a Measured on a scale from 1 (Strongly Disagree) to 5 (Strongly Agree).

**p < .01

 

 

Table 4

Paired-Samples t-test for Differences Between TrustR2 and TrustF2 (RQ1)

M SD t
TrustR2 a 3.86 0.872
TrustF2 a 2.87 1.093 8.202**

 

a Measured on a scale from 1 (Strongly Disagree) to 5 (Strongly Agree).

**p < .01

 

 

Table 5

Paired-Samples t-test for Differences Bes tween TrustR3 and TrustF3 (RQ1)

M SD t
TrustR3 a 3.57 0.886
TrustF3 a 2.48 0.939 9.767**

 

a Measured on a scale from 1 (Strongly Disagree) to 5 (Strongly Agree).

**p < .01

 

Table 6

Paired-Samples t-test for Differences Between Real1Cred and Fake1Cred (RQ2)

M SD t
Real1Cred a 10.48 2.208
Fake1Cred a 9.14 2.406 6.382**

 

a Measured on a scale from 1 to 15.

**p < .01

 

Table 7

Paired-Samples t-test for Differences Between Real2Cred and Fake2Cred (RQ2)

M SD t
Real2Cred a 11.54 2.208
Fake2Cred a 9.64 2.920 6.912**

 

a Measured on a scale from 1 to 15.

**p < .01

 

Table 8

Paired-Samples t-test for Differences Between Real3Cred and Fake3Cred (RQ2)

M SD t
Real3Cred a 10.29 2.453
Fake3Cred a 7.85 2.699 9.195**

 

a Measured on a scale from 1 to 15.

**p < .01

 

Table 9

 

Correlations Between Real1Cred and Real1Share (H1)

 

Real1Cred Real1Share
Real1Cred a r= 1 0.146
p= 0.133
Real1Share b r= 0.146 1
p= 0.133

 

a Measured on a scale from 1 to 15.

 

b Measured on a scale from 1 (Very Unlikely) to 5 (Very Likely). Include if needed. Otherwise, delete.

 

p =ns

 

Table 10

 

Correlations Between Fake1Cred and Fake1Share (H1)

 

Fake1Cred Fake1Share
Fake1Cred a r= 1 0.118
p= 0.221
Fake1Share b r= 0.118 1
p= 0.221

 

a Measured on a scale from 1 to 15.

 

b Measured on a scale from 1 (Very Unlikely) to 5 (Very Likely). Include if needed. Otherwise, delete.

 

p =ns

 

Table 11

 

Correlations Between Real2Cred and Real2Share (H1)

 

Real2Cred Real2Share
Real2Cred a r= 1 0.220
p= 0.021*
Real2Share b r= 0.220 1
p= 0.021*

 

a Measured on a scale from 1 to 15.

 

b Measured on a scale from 1 (Very Unlikely) to 5 (Very Likely). Include if needed. Otherwise, delete.

 

*p <0.05

 

Table 12

 

Correlations Between Fake2Cred and Fake2Share (H1)

 

Fake2Cred Fake2Share
Fake2Cred a r= 1 0.348
p= 0.000**
Fake2Share b r= 0.348 1
p= 0.000**

 

a Measured on a scale from 1 to 15.

 

b Measured on a scale from 1 (Very Unlikely) to 5 (Very Likely). Include if needed. Otherwise, delete.

 

**p <0.01

 

Table 13

 

Correlations Between Real3Cred and Real3Share (H1)

 

Real3Cred Real3Share
Real3Cred a r= 1 0.186
p= 0.054
Real3Share b r= 0.186 1
p= 0.054

 

a Measured on a scale from 1 to 15.

 

b Measured on a scale from 1 (Very Unlikely) to 5 (Very Likely). Include if needed. Otherwise, delete.

 

p =ns

 

Table 14

 

Correlations Between Fake3Cred and Fake3Share(H1)

 

Fake3Cred Fake3Share
Fake3Cred a r= 1 0.322
p= 0.001**
Fake3Share b r= 0.322 1
p= 0.001**

 

a Measured on a scale from 1 to 15.

 

b Measured on a scale from 1 (Very Unlikely) to 5 (Very Likely). Include if needed. Otherwise, delete.

 

**p<0.01

 

Categories
*Researched

The Life of a Comic Book Store

*One of the coolest courses I took in Grad School was Magazine Design. By the end of the semester we created an entire magazine and this was my Lead Feature story for my Magazine.*

Zeb Carbaugh

Magazine Design, Lead Feature

November 17, 2016

The Life of a Comic Book Store

Like the ancient Greeks with their stories of powerful gods, our society has created countless universes filled with great heroic tales in our comic books. And like the ancient Greek gods, the stories of valor and bravery that comic books have bestowed upon our culture for almost a century have shaped us as a people. The minds of our society’s children have been molded by these issues of mere ink and paper. Grown adults relive the magic of reading comics every day and there is a place we all anchor these character-defining tales. A comic book store is a place of wonder. Fans practically salivate at the very thought of going to the comic book store and flipping through those wondrous pages. But what really goes on in this magical place when you aren’t there? What kind of people go into this business? And what does it take to make a run of the mill shop into an amazing comic book store?

Captain Sweatpants

captain sweatpants

Most comic book stores can be found amongst the Panda Express, Auntie Anne’s, and Spencer’s Gift stores in malls. But that doesn’t mean you’ll find your typical mall patron inside the comic book store. Usually, they are filled with sweatpants wearing fanboys. Those fanboys might be there for a particular comic issue, to start up a nerdy conversation with the store owner, or even to play a board game that most people have never seen before. For everyone who has never gone into a comic book store but have peaked inside with bewilderment, keep in mind that most comic book store goers won’t bite. Head on in and start a conversation with someone. If that conversation is about some old cartoon show, a comic book you’ve heard of, or a board game your kid in college has played then you will be surprised at how talkative some of them can be. It is true, most comic book store goers love talking nerd with whoever will listen. They’ve spent a good portion of their lives understanding the complexities of different comic universes and are most likely willing to share their opinion on the matter. They also project an open and accepting atmosphere. Sure, having the 1985 series Thundercats playing on a loop and showcasing dozens of action figures around the store helps start that atmosphere, but it is the shameless comic book store goers that put the icing on the cake. It is hard not to get the totally laid back sense of the place with the Captain Sweatpants look-a-like in the corner reading a Japanese manga that has a scantily clad Asian teenager on the cover. It is important to keep in mind that not everyone in a comic store is a societal pariah. That is just the standard. Regardless, if you aren’t already a comic book store regular, head on down to that comic book store in your local mall, and when it comes to the people inside, remember that they are more afraid of you than you are of them.

The Dungeon Master

dungeon master

Not every person behind the counter of a comic book store looks the same. Just like potheads, comic book store workers are surprisingly from all walks of life. Some appear as if they dread life itself, but most are willing to lend a word of their expert advice. Matt Malkus is the co-owner of Comix Universe in Hanover PA and he is not your typical store owner. Matt fell into the business 10 years ago with experience in business management but little knowledge of comic books. At first, he didn’t particularly enjoy the job but it eventually grew on him. “There is a lot more inside these comics than more people realize,” Matt says. “One day I just decided to open up an issue and I realized that there was an entire universe behind it all.” Matt realized something later in life that most comic fans have known since childhood. Then Bob Brown, a Comix Universe regular, added, “I think being a fan as an adult is more special than when being a fan as a child. As a kid, you are attracted to the action but as an adult, you can understand and grasp concepts and themes they sneak in.”

 

The Fortress of Solid Dudes

Beyond the customers and the owner, there are not just four walls and a cash register. A comic book store, in order to be successful, has to have the right atmosphere. The meticulous placement of posters, enticing videos, collectibles and the comic book issues themselves is very important to creating that welcoming environment that comic book fans yearn for on a regular basis. The other side of a comic book store’s atmosphere comes from the players of Magic the Gathering and many other card and board games. These players flock to comic book stores all across the nation to enjoy a game they enjoy in a place they love. Most people that do not go to comic book stores probably do not even realize what is going on behind the scenes of the stores, but there are people plundering miniature military compounds, fending off demons, and battling other players in the hopes of card/board game victory! Next time you are in a comic book store, take a peek behind the counter for another room. Chances are it is filled with fold out tables, chairs and a couple people going nuts over whatever their game of choice might be.

The comic book store has been a safe haven for the nerds of the world since the comic book has been in existence. The people, the employees, and the atmosphere all come together to create a place that chronicles our society’s myths and legends. Such a large portion of our society’s values started with a kid making a trip to the comic book store. Maybe you should make a trip of your own.

Categories
*Researched

The Cultural Relevance of Pirate Radio Stations

*This is my final term paper for the History of Broadcasting course I took at Slippery Rock University. I think I got an A, but maybe it was B+*

Zeb Carbaugh

History of Broadcasting

April 23, 2015

The Cultural Relevance of Pirate Radio Stations

            The United Kingdom’s pirate radio of the 1960’s helped spread not only rock and roll but commercial radio. They inspired approximately 20 million British, nearly half the population and helped push the format for radio that is now predominately used in today’s radio (Barker).

In the late 1950’s the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) had a well-established monopoly over the UK’s airwaves and had very little competition. This monopoly kept the popular songs out of reach to the public that craved them so much due to the thought that rock and roll was evil and would taint the fragile minds of the youth of the United Kingdom. The people were not happy.

The British Broadcasting Corporation had only been playing popular music hits for about two hours a week. Even though the BBC had a very tight grasp on all of the airwaves and didn’t have to listen to what the people wanted, they still had limited competition. According to the Modesto Radio Museum, “Pop music on BBC radio was limited to short presentations of the music on weekends only and with straight laced announcers (no DJs). Most of the British listeners turned to Radio Luxembourg, (*2) the only cross border broadcaster able to get back on the air after the war. Radio Luxembourg could only be heard at night in Britain. Despite the inconvenience the long signal fading periods, Radio Luxembourg was extremely popular” (Radio). Radio Luxembourg also helped inspire the pirate radio stations to tap into the market of playing what the people actually wanted. Stations like these helped keep rock and roll alive.

America’s rock and roll genre of music was growing like wildfire. The people of the United Kingdoms wanted rock and roll but they had no access to it. “While Elvis, Chuck Berry and Little Richard were electrifying the U.S. with this new form of youth music, Britain remained doggedly resistant to it. Rock ‘n’ roll wasn’t on the radio, and it wasn’t generally in the record stores either. ‘Teenagers didn’t have any outlet but their own clubs,’ said Lodge. ‘It was American sailors who brought into London and Liverpool Chuck Berry and B.B. King and other records’” (Baine). Illegally smuggled records were the only source of the much sought after rock and roll records. There was a passionate need for a product and a very scarce resource for this product. So eventually someone smart was bound to take advantage of the situation and find a way to make money out of it.

Ronan O’Rahilly was a man who saw the opportunity to make money for himself. O’Rahilly was a manager for musicians who weren’t allowed to have airtime due to the UK’s current government regulations. He decided to broadcast his clients’ music over the airwaves from a vessel just three miles off the coast of London in international waters. “O’Rahilly then set out to fund the project. While in the Dallas, Texas to buy transmitters he was reading an article in Life magazine and was captivated by a photograph showing president John F. Kennedy’s daughter Caroline playing in the Oval Office of the White House and disrupting the serious business of government. This was exactly the image he wanted for his station. The name had to be Radio Caroline” (Radio). Radio Caroline was the name of the most influential station from the Pirate Radio era.

The ship itself was found and converted by Ronan O’Rahilly himself into the broadcasting vessel he needed. He did this over in Ireland. He found the ship that would carry on the ideas proposed by the Danish business men who founded Radio Mercur. “The original transmitter power of the Caroline was almost 20,000 watts, which was achieved by linking two 10-kW Continental broadcast transmitters together. Broadcasting hours were initially limited from 6 am to 6 pm daily under the slogan ‘Your all-day music station’, because Radio Luxembourg came on the air in the English language at 6 pm and direct competition was avoided. With finance in place, Ronan purchased an old ferry boat named ‘Fredericia’ which he promptly renamed ‘MV Caroline’ and took it to the east coast port of Greenore, Ireland for conversion” (Radio).They started Easter morning of 1964 off the coast of Essex which is southeastern England.

The disc jockeys that operated the rebellious stations were viewed as pop sensations themselves. They played mostly rock and roll tracks selected from the America’s top 40 stations which ironically played British rock bands (Barker). They played the music that was being enjoyed by the rest of the world for the folks at home in the United Kingdom much to the dismay of conservative British Broadcast Corporation.

Radio Caroline had only been broadcasting for a few days and the British government started to make plans to make it officially illegal. The broadcasting became so influential and so serious that Britain had to implement a law to stop them. “In 1966 the British Postmaster General, Anthony Wedgwood Benn, introduced a law that proclaimed the so called ‘pirate’ stations illegal. The law, called the ‘Marine Offences Act’, became effective on August 14, 1967 but the two Radio Caroline ships continued to broadcast from international waters” (Radio). So there were over three years of pure rock and roll glory throughout the United Kingdom where it was still legal. But Radio Caroline wasn’t the first pirate radio in Europe.

Radio Mercur was the first ship to broadcast in international water around Europe. Mercur was anchored outside of Copenhagen, Denmark and was operated by Danish business men. Mercur helped inspire other radio stations to set sail into international waters because of its success. “On 11th July 1958, a small German fishing boat, ‘Cheeta I’, was fitted out for broadcasting at sea and left port to anchor south-east of Copenhagen, where it started transmissions on 93.12 MHz FM with an ERP of around 20 kW. The station used a directional aerial, kept pointing in the right direction from the control room on board” (Bishop). Radio Mercur found a loop hole in Danish law. The law only kept people from broadcasting from land. Radio Mercur people decided to have on land offices that recorded certain shows and then send the show’s content out to international waters to be broadcasted from the sea. Mercur being one of the pioneers of pirate radio had some difficulties. The ship even lost the anchor and sail and ran ashore once.

One of Radio Caroline’s on deck technicians Ove Sjöström was asked to be a part of Radio Caroline by Mr. O’Rahilly himself. Ronan O’Rahilly went to Sweden to research and to get an idea of how pirate radios worked. He was visiting Radio Nord and the men there told him about Mr. Sjöström and his talents as a technician. Sjöström was in Liberia when O’Rahilly visited. Mr. O’Rahilly also learned that Sjöström had given professional advice to Radio Atlanta but was not paid for his advice. This made Mr. Sjöström quite bitter towards Radio Atlanta. Radio Atlanta was Caroline’s competition. So O’Rahilly saw another good opportunity to get his radio up and running. Sjöström says “’One thing I never told anybody, when Atlanta came to about a kilometre away me and some other Swedes took out a lifeboat to Atlanta and told the crew there that we had been working on that ship. ‘They said to come aboard. What I did, because I was quite sore at Crawford and Atlanta, I went down to the transmitter room and cut off a couple of things so they would blow up the tubes. That’s why they didn’t come on the air and that’s why Radio Caroline didn’t have to bother about the competition. That was my revenge’” (Cawley). Sjöström stayed with Caroline for two years until his wife became pregnant. He also was the person to flip the switch that started Radio Caroline for the first time on March 29th 1964 Easter Morning.

During their heyday, the Pirate Radio stations off the coast of Britain collectively had about 25 million listeners. They became extremely popular because their competition was the bland boring monopolized stations on land. They also became so popular because they introduced a style to Europe that they weren’t used to, an American style. “The common ingredient of most pirate stations was American Top 40 music, which was otherwise unobtainable over national public-service radio systems in Europe. The fastest way for a pirate to achieve success with both audiences and advertisers was to develop (or import) American-style disc jockeys and their fast-paced music-and-talk formats” (Skretvedt). Playing the top 40 songs of American charts is still to this day widely accepted by most other countries today. Most other countries’ top 40 are almost a mirror image of ours with the exception of a few local songs and some countries have slightly older songs of ours. There was one experienced British DJ that really enjoyed America’s top 40 tracks.

“Johnnie Walker made his name in the 60’s with the pirate ship Radio Caroline. His night-time show was essential listening for 86% of the night-time audience, which increased to over 20 million Europe-wide on the night of 14 August 1967, as Walker and ‘Caroline’ continued in defiance of Government legislation which silenced all the others” (Radio). Johnnie Walker’s quick paced and quirky style made him stick out from the rest of pirate radio’s DJ’s. He was sort of a leader for the rest of the DJ’s and he was a symbol for the entire revolution. When it became illegal for the pirate radios to broadcast Radio Caroline kept going as long as they could and Walker was one of the reasons why. He was a major advocate for the free radio and he had a specific enemy back on land. Mathew Bell from the UK’s Independent writes “For almost 50 years, Johnnie Walker and Tony Benn have represented two sides of a battle that defined British radio. One was a maverick DJ, playing records out of a rusting ship to circumvent a ban on broadcasting pop. The other was the Labour MP and then Postmaster-General, determined to close the loophole that allowed Radio Caroline to thrive” (Bell). This rivalry, as one may call it, lasted so long due to the fact that Johnnie Walker was so passionate about what he was doing and Tony Benn felt he did what he did to protect his country.

The British government and the British Broadcasting Corporation had been working together on trying to ban the pirate radio stations. The government had also been telling BBC what to broadcast in order to boost morale and get the people to like the government, because they had cut off the ships’ support. The British government basically blockaded the pirates making a law that cut off food, water, music, and advertising to the ships in 1967 after they made their broadcasting illegal as well. Once the blockade law was in place BBC started to broadcast a pop station of their own a month later. The blockade turned out to be too much for some pirates to handle. Many ships called it quits and went ashore. Except for a few ships, among them was Radio Caroline, defiant to the end. Ironically, after the pirates had given up, many DJ’s were granted employment for BBC. It took an entire six years after the fall of the pirates for the UK to allow commercial radio broadcasts within their borders.

The government and BBC opposed the pirate radio station’s commercial style. No radio airwave advertisement was to be had for the legitimate stations in Europe. “Despite (or perhaps because of) their high-quality programming, Europe’s monopolized public-service radio systems provided little popular music and no opportunity for broadcast advertisers” (Skretvedt). Today’s number one set up for most radio stations is commercial. Commercial radio is the majority and it wouldn’t be as widely accepted in Europe today if it weren’t for these pirates. One may argue that the entire ordeal was more about the commercial side of the controversy. Especially from a financial stand point the development of commercial radio was much more important than the rock and roll revolution. Without the promise of vast amounts money Mr. O’Rahilly most likely would not have started the project and the same goes for the rest of the pirates. The film “Pirate Radio” glamorizes the fight for the right to rock and roll but this wasn’t the main reason for the pirate radio stations. “In fact, the prime motivating force behind the pirates wasn’t some kind of rock ‘n’ roll evangelism; it was good old-fashioned profit: American and Irish entrepreneurs ran the two biggest stations, trying to sidestep Britain’s refusal to grant radio licenses to commercial broadcasters” (Barker). And in reference to the era’s historical significance, one might even argue that basically forcing BBC to accept the commercial format was more ground breaking than allowing America’s top 40 and other British rock and roll bands to be broadcast more frequently.

These pirates, who were just in it to make some good money, operated a radio show in a different way ushered in something great. Their country and entire continent had been subject to listening to stations that were too educational and lacking in desired forms of entertainment since the technology was invented. “Into the void steamed pirate radio, bringing with it not only more choice, but also sponsored shows and slick advertisements. Pirate radio proved that markets were neither being served nor exploited by the BBC, a bad-for-business reality that even buttoned-up Britain had to acknowledge. Although the government succeeded in killing off the pirates with the Marine Broadcasting Offenses Act in 1967—a buzz kill not dramatized in the film—the commercial revolution had already begun. The BBC soon expanded its offerings and added new stations, and in 1973 commercial radio was legalized. Henceforth, English radio stations were free to play whatever style of music they wanted” (Hynes).

In the film “Pirate Radio” the life aboard one of these ships is glamorized to be a sex drug crazed party but that was not the case. The real DJ’s were swash buckling men trying to make a buck while fighting the good fight in the name of rock and roll and the right to sell advertisements. “At sea it was another matter. The acoustics on the steel ships were subpar, the onboard regimen was monastic — no women allowed — and the weather could wreak havoc. During winter storms, the DJs might be stranded onboard for a month or more. Keith Skues, who hosted one Radio Caroline show, said one of the main challenges was the turbulence. ‘The fact that you’re being kicked out of your chair across the studio didn’t seem to matter, as long as the records didn’t jump,’ says Skues. ‘And of course they did’” (Barker). There was no sex and drug crazed parties and most of the captains ran a tight ship so things stayed legitimate. The ships did received visitors though. If a special guest such as an artist or an entire band was going to be on one of the shows that DJ could get them to come aboard, only with the special permission from the captain of course.

These rebellious pirates gave the masses what they wanted and they also implemented the new form of creating revenue when broadcasting over the radio. Ian MacRae worked on Radio Caroline during 1966 and 1967 and after watching the film he had a few words about its inaccuracies but he also was thankful for somethings. “It’s great that a whole generation of British kids will now be aware that it was us broadcasters who were directly responsible for forcing later Governments to legalise land-based commercial radio in the UK” (Deitz). Commercial radio opened the door to the new age of broadcasting, and these pirates had the key. They changed the world of broadcasting in Europe by giving it both commercial styles and the power of rock.

 

 

 

 

Works Cited

Baine, Wallace. “Tom Lode Lived Real ‘Pirate Radio’ Story.” Heraldextra.com. Santa Cruz Sentinel, 18 Nov. 2009. Web. 23 Apr. 2015.

Barker, Vicki. “The Real Story Behind Britain’s Rock ‘N’ Roll Pirates.” NPR. NPR, 13 Nov. 2009. Web. 2 Mar. 2015.

Bell, Mathew. “Johnnie Walker Confronts Tony Benn over Rocking the Boat: How DJ and Former Postmaster General Faced off over Pirate Radio, 50 Years on.” The Independent. Independent Digital News and Media, 13 Aug. 2013. Web. 27 Apr. 2015.

Bishop, Gerry. “Radio Mercur, 50th Anniversary of Europe’s First Offshore Radio Station.” National World. British DX Club, 2008. Web. 26 Apr. 2015.

Cawley, Laurence. “Radio Caroline 50 Years On: The Man Who Pressed the ‘on’ Button – BBC News.” BBC News. British Broadcasting Corporation, 28 Mar. 2014. Web. 26 Apr. 2015.

Deitz, Corey. “Ian MacRae: Original Radio Caroline DJ Takes Issue with Movie’s Portrayal of Pirate Radio.” About Tech. Web. 27 Apr. 2015.

Hynes, Eric. “The True, Considerably Less Rocking Story Behind “Pirate Radio”” Browbeat. 13 Nov. 2009. Web. 27 Apr. 2015.

Leopold, Todd. “When the Pirates Took Over Radio.” CNN. Cable News Network, 12 Nov. 2009. Web. 2 Mar. 2015.

Pidgeon, John. “Pirate Radio.” Encyclopedia Britannica Online. Encyclopedia Britannica, 2015. Web. 26 Apr. 2015.

“Radio Caroline & The British “Pirates”” Modesto Radio Museum. Web. 23 Apr. 2015.

The Rave UK, Dave. “OFFSHORE RADIO IN 60’S UK.” YouTube. YouTube, 14 Oct. 2006. Web. 2 Mar. 2015.

Skretvedt, Randy. “Pirates and Public-service Radio.” Encyclopedia Britannica Online. Encyclopedia Britannica. Web. 26 Apr. 2015.