The Drone Wars vs. Hot Beans!

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Okay, so I am going to try to make this not some old guy rant about, ‘In My Day…” but since The Eighth Day has achieved #1 bestseller status, many more people have been reading it and resonating with the Bronx, New York side of the story. Which elicits E-mails from fans of both the book and the Bronx. “Belly Flopping” a street game being central to the character development of FBI Special Agent, Joey Palumbo, has started a stream of E-mail consciousness that lead to HOT BEANS!

For those of you NOT blessed to have grown up on the gritty streets of the Bronx, I will endeavor to explain this particularly unique “childhood” game.

Start with a Garrison Belt, which is a serious looking strap of leather that’s around two inches wide with a mean-ass metal buckle on the end. Just like in Hide and Go Seek, one person is designated as “It.” The rest of the kids hide at “home base” around the corner. Now the guy that’s “it” hides the belt anywhere on the street. When he’s got the belt where is sure no one will find, he yell’s, “REEEEEAAADDYYY!”

Everyone comes around the corner to find the belt. The one who finds it, gets to yell, “HOT BEANS” and then gets to whip the crap out of everyone who is caught between the home base (around the corner) and him. At this point it would help to remember we are talking a heavy thick belt with a heavy buckle that can draw blood.

Believe me you don’t know what terror, fear, trepidation, caution, strategy and courage is until you play this game. Why? Because unlike other games, where the only skin in the game is playing for a win, bragging rights or the most points, in Hot Beans, your skin is actually at risk in this game.

Today, kids hardly go out into the street anymore. Their games are on a computer. The optimists and sociologists say it’s a good thing, that they are developing skills for our techno-future.

However, I wonder about those men and women who operate the drones and other High Tech, Stand Off, Remote controlled weaponry that we are embracing as national policy. I am referring to those who joystick their way through a war, one that’s been made impersonal and game-like on LCD screens. A process that transforms the deadliest endeavor of mankind to be remarkably like, Call Of Duty or Battlefield 3.

What happens if somebody pulls the plug on their console, will they, who have been raised in this kind of Sanitized War, be able to become warriors? The bigger question is, are Americans, who never played HOT BEANS and have no skin in the game but a vote once a year, citizens who in general have become war weary, will they have the grit to turn to our war fighting soldiers who have tested their mettle? Combat ready troops who are the ultimate weapon, and last resort, in defending a nation’s way of life and thus all we hold dear? Or will our techno-war complacent population cower at “home base” when some big, ugly brute from a foreign land wields an actual big belt with malicious intent?

P.S. Millions of people play war-based video games. All of these games are sold with graphics depicting “Shit Wired Tight” soldiers who are shown as stoic, deadly and dressed to kill. These are homage’s to the true warrior. Yet, millions of players, who assume these roles, never show up to a Veteran’s Day parade or write their congressperson to take better care of the actual “prototypes” of these fake computer icon warriors, when they return from the real life battle.

Those images and the exploiting of heroism has amassed many billions of dollars in box office for games and almost equal amount for movies. Unlike these computer generated figures, our soldiers have actually faced danger, unspeakable horror and have risked everything. Yet, far too many are homeless.

Here’s a thought for all you gamers out there, donate 1% to 10% of your highest war game score to Veterans Matter or text VETS to 41444.

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Smile… You’re Busted!

In the Hammer of God, a critical clue in the murder of a leading scientist is provided by a close examination of a street camera video.  Even two years ago the editorial discussion was, “Is that two convenient?” I mean a video camera just happened to catch the moment? Is anyone going to believe that?

Well welcome to “It’s Only Fiction ‘Til It Happens!” Love it or hate it, today, there are more cameras everywhere than ever before.  Miniaturization, Wi-fi and Blue Tooth pretty much brings available retail technology into the realm of ‘Mission Impossible’ and ‘James Bond’.  You can literally just place a camera with a sticky back anywhere and remotely view, record or analyze it, over the Internet!  Radio Shack availability of what, 30 years ago, was top-secret spy craft; devices that would have entirely changed the Cold War.  This week the Israelis were accused of using camera-toting Vultures to spy on Syria!

There was an execution style killing in broad daylight on Broadway in New York.  A very similar “broad daylight” circumstance to the murder in Hammer of God.  And here again, the police have multiple videos to help them solve the case.

So in this case “Big Brother” watching is a good thing.  The question is, how much, how far, how invasive could it, should it go?  That is a question for society and ethicist to wrangle with.

For a writer, it’s a godsend.  Imagine the possibilities.  Surveillance cameras, ATM camera’s, red light cams, bus cams, train station cams, street cams, border drones, traffic drones, police drones, every smart phone, and tourist camera.  All to be used as foils, blinds, misdirection or proof in modern storylines.

Or maybe not so modern, in one of my screenplays, Smile… You’re Dead!, during an autopsy a New York coroner quotes from an British novel published in the 1800’s,

“The click of the camera-shutter would lead to the snap of the hangman’s trap – was how I believe it was stated in the novel Jack the Ripper.”

Lets hope that in the case of yesterday’s cold, deliberate, lunchtime execution “the flicker of the video camera leads to the snap of the electric chair’s switch!”

BS (BlogScript): It won’t because in New York State it could only lead to life without the possibility of parole. But I think it’s a snappier quote with the ‘electric chair’ –