ABOUT ATLANTIS NEWS-JOURNAL
Why This Masthead? or: Back To My Roots
WELCOME TO MY NONFICTION. Hi, I am John T. Cullen and I've been a news reporter and informal essayist for over fifty years. With three college degrees and a lifetime of professional writing/editing experience, I feel qualified to offer readers objective writing of grippping interest that avoids all the fringes (and there are *many* in today's chaotic world). My first professional working experience, starting age 17, was as a summer intern newspaper reporter on a New England metro daily. By age 20, I moved on to other things, but once you are a news person, it never gets out of your blood. That includes the various disciplines, like editing standards, objectivity, consistency, and more. Finally now, after half a century, I'm back to work at the news desk in the City Room... not on my old newspaper, but on a new imaginary one I've launched with a humorous nod to Plato.
Atlantis News-Journal. Newly on a whim, I have decided to publish my nonfiction in a news format. Specifically, that means what we call Soft News. By contrast, Hard News (I'm using caps for emphasis here) tends to have a strong time element. Hard News is the news of this morning's urgent, desperate headlines. I can think back to my days in the City Room, amid a sound now largely lost: the loud and insistent clattering of Teletype machines delivering the latest hot news from the leading wire services. My recent visits to news rooms leave me with a somewhat bemused, almost dazed realization that those sounds have gone cyber and silent. I did not want to use the masthead or title of any newspaper living or past. I did not even want my nonfiction vehicle to be confused with any existing publication (from Atlanta, for example). So I picked a real-sounding but unmistakeably tongue-in-cheek title, Atlantis News-Journal.
Aristotle With Mustard and Ketchup. The ancient Hellenic philosopher tells his Fourth Century BCE audience that the two primary purposes of creating works (poiesis) should be to (a) inform and (b) entertain. I'm paraphrase a bit, adding:
and to (c) have fun. While keeping an academic and journalistic stiff upper lip, let's make that lip quiver with incipient laughter and joy. Let's have fun. How hard is that? Truth is more entertaining (and often stranger) than fiction. My role as reporter (essayist when I inject some clearly stated opinion) is to bring the story to the reader.
Soft News. Soft News is that which does not go stale by evening. It's the bigger picture, that exists as the horizon-to-horizon background against which Hard News utters its brief shout before becoming tomorrow's History. When I decided to frame my nonfiction (more on that later) in a newsy context. I remember some hotshot types in the City Room arguing against Soft News entirely, to their loss (in my opinion). Soft News is a bridge between today's 'bigger story' and the academic world of nonfiction with its footnotes, end notes, and supporting bibliographies.
MASTHEAD: ATLANTIS. As I will explain on this page, I am a dedicated and trained, professional journalist. For personal reasons, I have not gone down the academic track as a teacher, though in recent years I have come to reconsider a few things. Among them, I might have gone for a Ph.D. in History, which has always been my greatest passion in nonfiction reading and study. I had the good fortune, despite some dark days, to spend my childhood climbing around castles and other ruins in Europe. I spent my childhood living (who knew?) on a major post road heading eastward to the ancient Roman capital of Augusta Treverorum (long story, to be told another day). I learned English as my fourth language, and by age seven or so was already linguistically astraddle of the Western Germanic and the Romance language families, which has spurred a strong interest in etymology and comparative linguistics aside from my passions for Literature and History.
Plato Not Conspiracy Nut. It deserves our special notice that the originator of the Atlantis story (Plato, in his Timaios dialogue) was not a conspiracy nut but a landmark philosopher of astounding achievement. Before you assume that Atlantis refers to fringe suppositions, stop to consider that the world's second largest body of water is named for Atlas and, less directly perhaps, for the mythological island city about which Plato offers some philosophical teachings. Amid a jumble of allusions also lie the Atlas Mountains of Morocco
so a mythological newspaper (The Atlantis News-Journal) is not beyond the range of credulity. I point this out to underscore that I am not involved with any fringe ideations. In my analysis of the ancient Sator Square, for example, I base my conclusions on a sound study of language and of history.
OBJECTIVE NEWS, SOFT NEWS, INFORMAL ESSAY. As a teenager, while studying for my B.A. in Liberal Arts at the University of Connecticut, I also worked three glorious summers as a student interne newspaper reporter for a now extinct metro newspaper (The New Haven Journal-Courier) whose venerable lifespan extended from the early 1800s to the late 1900s. At the same time, I won several Connecticut regional awards not so much for my poetry (I wrote over 400 as a teenager) or my fiction (I completed by teenage novel at 19 while a sophomore at UConn), but in the category of Informal Essay. That should have clued me to the fact that my future lay in what journalists call Soft News. I learned from professionals at the newspaper, avidly soaked up their guidance and professionalism as a working reporter, and internalized lessons I have never forgotten.
Marshall Plan. Here's a quick little fact too: as a child living with my grandparents and attending a Luxembourg grammar school (born as a U.S. citizen, with State Department papers along with my baby U.S. passport to prove it), I was actually a recipient of Marshall Plan largesse. At our grammar school for a year or two, we each daily received a small glass bottle of warm milk; once a week, my favorite, it was hot chocolate milk. We also received vitamin pills courtesy President Eisenhower and U.S. tax payers (like my father, a U.S. Army NCO variously stationed in France and West Germany in those years).
QUICK BIO. My teenage professional writing years alone should have clued me to the fact that my future lay in what journalists call Soft News. But no, I had to become a starving artist around New Haven for several years, hitch-hike all over the United States with twenty dollars in my pocket and a home-made backpack, settle in California. In my twenties, I enlisted in the U.S. Army (six years). I was stationed for five years at a major logistics command in West Germany, and was honorably discharged with GCM and Army Commendation Medal for Service at age 31. Returning to my new home in Southern California, I began a thirty year stint as a technical writer/editor, mostly with major aerospace and computer systems development firms. I retired to devote myself (as I still do) to online publishing. Throughout all that, I was never interested in the sort of claptrap spread by the likes of Erich von Däniken, to name just one of his ilk.
I was a voracious reader all my life, both of fiction (thrillers, science fiction) and of nonfiction (History above all). I had written over 400 poems by the time I was 18 (a few published, all available today through Clocktower Books, my small press imprint in San Diego). I had completed my teenage SF novel by age 19, also available as Summer Planets (a melancholy, poetic novel of stellar empire influenced by Cordwainer Smith, Isaac Asimov, Robert Heinlein, Arthur C. Clarke, all the great names of that age; not to mention Ray Bradbury, Andre Norton, and many others. In fact, I had nice, constructive fan mail conversations with both Ray Bradbury (who loved my dark holiday fantasy The Christmas Clock) and Andre Norton (who accepted my SF novel Pioneers for her High Hallack collection. Aside from my libraries of reading as an English major, I devoured the works of John Dos Passos, William Shirer, Barbara Tuchman, and many others. But nary a true conspiracy theorist among them
and that's based on sampling Pauwels and Bergier, von Däniken, and a few others of that stripe.
Independent Researcher. As I will relate in a moment, I was young and adventuresome, rebellious and daring, and an intellectual. I was not ready for canned, predetermined career paths, be it in academia, journalism, or teaching. My attitude was strongly predisposed by a chaotic, nonstandard personal background (U.S. Army brat born in West Germany, spent my early years in Luxembourg, lived in various European countries as a child, lived through my parents' divorce and other dark fugues not of my own making, came to Connecticut age 10 speaking several languages but having to learn English, and so forth). Not sure where I would ever really fit in, I took off on my own at 21 after graduation with a B.A. in English to discover the world for myself, outside of any categories or accepted norms. Later in life, I began to realize that I really have an affinity for essay writing. I take an academically rigorous approach to all that I write, while still having fun. I have plenty of great company in this area, including Barbara Tuchman, Barry Lopez, Jon Krakauer, and other informal esayists, also known asas I have been called by several almost envious sounding academics)'independent researchers.' I'll wear that hat proudly and gladly.
MAJOR POSITIONS. I am not a conspiracy nut, creationist, or other fringe supposer (I won't use the word 'thinker' in such regards). I am totally devoted to the same standards of rigorous logic, honest thinking, and courageous inquiry as any bona fide news reporter. I see myself as positioned on the opposite end of the spectrum from so many of today's partisan hacks in the extreme media, be they far right ('wrong') or far left. A few positions have to be made glaringly clear, so that readers have no confusion about where I stand, so here are some of my views:
Religion. I consider myself to be what I call (and will soon describe in an essay) a Trans-Christian. I was raised in a strongly Roman-Catholic environment, including a selective prep school where they taught us how to think, not just believe, and I cherish all that was wonderful about my Catholic background. At the same time, I long ago arrived at a position that is neutral on most religious 'beliefs' that are enforced through fear, anger, and bullying. I am a Christian in the sense that I cherish Matthew 7:12 and Leviticus 19:18 (Golden Rule) and accept the statement that "that is the Law and the Prophets." I support what is good in all religions (Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Buddhist, Hindu, Shinto, and more) while feeling intolerant only against intolerance.
Politics. I have been a registered Democrat most of my life (except for a twelve-year phase as a Reaganist Corporate-Republican, making me in the words of commentator Nicolle Wallace a 'recovering republican'). I strongly support and advocate women's rights, Black Lives Matter, Gay Lives Matter and LGBTO in general. The letter O is my own creation, meaning 'other' to reflect all the many expressions of gender that are real, and for which too many good humans are made to suffer. I refer you back to Matthew 7:12 and Leviticus 19:18. I am a strong advocate of total Universal Healthcare, which is a fundamental human right, and yes, we can afford it, as opposed to all the corporate lies and brainwashing to the contrary in the U.S.A.