Saturday, September 29, 2012

Are You Multi-Talented? Knock It Off.

When I'm writing and feeling like a fool who can't write (not a recipe for success) in order to get out of that mindset and write something half decent sometimes I'll imagine I'm a good writer. Then, having assumed this persona, I set forth to place words where they should go. It's a trick I use, that works to a certain extent, but I don't imagine myself to be a good writer deep down. I do one or two other things kind of well but I never think of myself as an All-Star: someone with many talents – an expert in many fields.

Do you do more than one thing consistently well? Nasty person. Don't you know never to be good at more than one thing? Because there are pigeonholes, you know. And people like 'em.

Pigeonholes make life nice and tidy. And there's nothing worse than a pigeon to whom you assign a hole who thinks they should have more than one. It's greedy and defeats the whole purpose of world order and clarity.

Besides, with the unemployment rate as high as it is, by doing many things aren't you hogging the work? Why would you want to do that, eh? Don't you think you should be letting other people practice at being good at what they do?

Oh sure, you may think you're a polymath, a true Renaissance person – a great thinker like Leonardo (da Vinci, not DiCaprio). Just who was this Leon Battista Alberti guy, who said A man can do all things if he will? No one talks about him anymore, nor is he on anyone's cocktail party list that I know of.

So you folks out there who may be a multi-talented All-Star, dumb it down for the rest of us will you?


Tuesday, September 25, 2012

The Reign Of Our Creations

Oh, us human beans may think we're pretty cool, having conquered the world and all that. Truth is, there are others (that ironically we, ourselves, invented) who have quietly taken over. And it's been going on for many years. They just let us go on thinking it is us controlling them. Yes, we're talking about tools and hardware. Forget about the high tech zingies, look around; check your toolbox or kitchen drawer. They're in there. And they rule us.

We have become so used to having these things within our reach we often give them no thought except to bitch when we can't find them. We take them for granted. We think of ourselves as their masters. But it's really the other way around. Try to pound a nail without a hammer or grate cheese without a grater. Or even close a door without a catch.

Silently, and without warning, tools and assorted hardware have nefariously exerted control over us simply by making themselves handy. We simply have to use them and when we do, they become our alpha rulers. Just having one gives us the power to do things we otherwise wouldn't have. In effect, we are giving control of the act over to it. We're not grating the cheese. We are not closing doors. They are. We are just supplying the muscle.

We are mere eunuchs to their supreme reign over the world.

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Do not be alarmed: this is just a dramatization. We can't give life to inanimate objects, of course, except by recognizing their usefulness and putting them to work. Doing so is either just being plain weird or having an overactive imagination. Perhaps it was my lack of imaginary friends when young. Perhaps not...

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Self-Flagellation Is Often Unnecessary

This is going to be a weird one because I forgot what I was going to write about. I swear I knew what this was going to be about before I sat down but then, hands hit the keyboard and "poof" it was gone.

That also happens during the process sometimes. I'll be writing and then I find what I am saying sounds suspiciously like I am off on a tangent. That my engine isn't pulling a full train of thought anymore. I retrace. And when I do remember what it was originally all about and confirm that I am indeed not talking about that anymore, sometimes the new direction is better than the original. 

But this isn't the case today, of course, because I lost it before a word had been placed on paper.

When you lose track of something that hadn't existed yet you do things like walk away from the computer and forget about it for a while hoping that by not thinking about it it will come back to you: resurfacing in the lake of life like a dead body will after a while when the gases bloat the corpse (learned that one from CSI, cool, eh?)

I believe a casual "do it just to do it" exercise and all attempts at doing stuff off the cuff (not by reason of proving to others that you're better, or smarter or that you have something terribly important to impart to the world) are important because you're keeping the gears turning. Your life may not be a life that affects millions, thousands or even fewer than you can count on both hands. But it's uniquely yours and uniquely fitted with shortcomings that are crucial to a full human life experience.

If we can't do something one day, like remember what we were doing, it really shouldn't be any big deal. If we want to do it enough we may be able to do it tomorrow, or on another day. Or we may just not be able to do it at all. Or we may just forget all about it altogether and find something better to do. It doesn't matter. 

Screw the self remorse. Ain't nothing to go all self-flagellating about.

There should be no rule about stuff that says we're not allowed to do stuff that proves us only human and no penalty when we confirm it. Some jerks made up most of the other rules we live by for their convenience or our detriment, or both, (or because some other jerk did something stupid and someone yelled "There should be a rule about that!") and we can't do much about those. But self remorse, like sticking your finger in your eye, is one we can do something about. We control its imposition. We are our own small 'g' god of remorse.

Blades of grass do not lament their rate of growth compared to standards. Ground varmints keep digging new tunnels not to win a prize, but to give themselves options, or to make room for relatives.

We write, we create, we learn, we try, we forget, we remember or we don't and we try again. The answer for humans doesn't lie in the remembering that we're all just blades of grass or rodents digging tunnels (because that's just stupid), but it lies in the fact that you won't find very many other creatures on this planet beating themselves up just for being themselves. Fallible.

So about today's post... I'll get back to you on that. :o)

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Tips For Effective Misunderstandings

Understanding may not be all it's tooted to be. Trying to instill a level of comprehension is time consuming, often boring and frequently fruitless.

Besides, ain't nothing better than a good old fashioned misunderstanding to get the blood boiling and set the ants-a-dancing. (Sorry, I don't know where that one came from).

Many people stumble into misunderstandings and consider them errors of communication but some know the value of the intentional creation of confusion for fun and games. And those who may be interested are often not confident enough in the phenomena to generate them at will. So, I offer the above graphic. I didn't mean to learn this, it was there – insinuated into my tiny little brain bit-by-bit over the years.

The art of generating misunderstandings is a life skill that includes the following:
1) Freedom of speech is on your side. Generating confusion is not necessarily the time for honesty, unless it benefits you. Fairness, truth and morality can be easily skewed to your perspective and favor, and doing so streamlines the process. Be frank with your discourse. Or if your name is not Frank, make one up. Like Frank
2) Keep it dramatic. Try shouting, "Please be vigilant, there is a possible danger of Carcharodon carcharias in the area" at a packed beach and then try shouting "Shark!" The choice is yours. Remember, passion and determination will carry you further, faster. Crying at appropriate times will keep eyes from glazing over
3) Remember, we were all brought up on fiction. It began when we were young with the logic behind things like a) the Easter Bunny and the eggs, and b) a jolly fat Santa and a narrow chimney. You owe it to mankind to keep the magic going
4) Keep the vitriol upbeat. Develop a hearty guffaw as a response to logic. Alternatively, readily frown comically, slap your head at anything sounding like the truth and use phrases like "Are you kidding me?"
5) Use the old, "Oh I thought you said..." trick. Misinterpreting what others say will provide you with an escape hatch at the end of the day. There is no great personal stake involved. You're just there to make things more interesting.

Have fun with misunderstandings everyone and if, in the end, you get called out for inaccuracies, untruths or diabolical statements, you can just shrug your shoulders and say, "Hey, it was all just one big misunderstanding."

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Aficionados Of Light

It is dimension and opportunity. There is no shadow without its fire. Glowing from windows at night and glinting in the eye of those who are aware, adept, patient and observant.

The magic travels 95 million miles at 186,000 miles per second in 8 minutes and 17 seconds to bounce off their targets: objects that conjure memories and things we've not seen before.

Giving taste to sight, it lends each entity a unique signature of tint and shape: presenting both variety and beauty, revealing texture, shape and form.

Attendant to its brightness is an invitation to walk through, stand in, admire... or simply take in and pass by. But by noticing and taking part, we show our minds the gift of a world of depth and dimension and open up an inner illumination of our own.

We are aficionados of light.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

I Washed My Hands Before Posting This

The World Health Organization says you should wash your hands for as long as it takes you to sing the Happy Birthday song twice. That accounts for the guy in the men's room at East Side Mario's yesterday. (I quickly decided to avoid eye contact.) His hands may have been pristine but his voice was sadly out of tune. Oobadaboobadabing.

I'm not opposed to washing up before I eat and after I go to the washroom or if I've been messing around in nasty stuff but you have to understand I grew up with the saying "gotta eat a little dirt before you die," and I don't get all hyper about accepting the fact that we have to cohabit this world with germs and bacteria (hereafter called germteria) because:
1) I know what to do to minimize their threat, i.e. if you see green stuff waving at you when you open the fridge door you should chuck it
2) Part of what we do should be building up a tolerance to nasty things, i.e. telemarketers, door-to-door evangelists and especially little tiny things we can't see
3) We can't ever eradicate all the bad guys and trying to do so gets our germteria enemy's backs up, causing them to raise funds to become resistant our weapons, and 
4) I'm afraid if I start pumping the hand antiseptic at every turn I may end up doing a Lady Macbeth and not be able to stop. I have things to do. Like taking pictures of my cat and writing silly blogposts.

But really, this hand washing thing has almost become a cult. Everyone is telling you how many germterias are on everyday things like doorknobs and your keyboard and how they compare with things you'd expect to be riddled with germteria, like toilet seats. Everywhere you turn there are hand sanitizing stations and signs ordering you to make use of them. On every desk is a bottle of antiseptic. If you shake hands with an associate your eyebrows don't rise anymore when they immediately turn and pump a fistful of foam into their hands. What's next? Daily germteria reports? "If you're thinking about going downtown today, better bring along your CDC approved envirosuit because we have a germ front moving in off the coast."

I get all the stuff about reducing the passing on of disease and illnesses through contact and of the seriousness of the consequences of improper cleaning of surfaces and the benefits of personal hygiene. Many lives have not been lost due to an awareness of hand washing. But just a little bit, when someone feels the need to sanitize their hands immediately after a friendly handshake, don't you want to shake hands with him again just to put that plague back where you intended it to be? 

The good thing is, I believe I've stumbled across a great excuse for having a bottle of vodka on my desk.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Awards Day

No rants or reflections on the vicisitudes of life today. Instead, I'd like to share a small moment of time...

This morning I got up to look for a hiding cat, bumped my face on the corner of the television while looking behind it, jerked up to hit my head on the wall-mounted speaker, stubbed my toe on the fireplace, hopped back to land my other foot on a plastic cat toy ball with a cute little bell inside, reached out to steady myself on the coffee table and spilled my orange juice, which lent a nice sheen to my cell phone. I careened into the kitchen to get some paper towels and the paper towel rack fell off the wall, which startled me and made me step back and stumble over the cat, who had been under my feet but was now stuck to my leg with thousands of tiny, embedded claws. Which, of course, caused me to end up in the kitty litter (that I had yet to clean today).

I offer this to let you know you're not the only person in the world that sometimes ends up victim to this cause and effect thing and does stupidhead stuff.

These made me feel better. (various sources)

Couple Caught Having Hot, Naked Sex Behind Hot Dog Stand

Calif. ex-teachers plead guilty to sex with teen student for MONTHS and only face PROBATION

Ben & Jerry's sues over porn copycats

Facebook pix spat sparks Philadelphia plane bomb hoax

Be safe out there... and clean the kitty litter. You may need it one day.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Passion As An Additive

They talk about passion like they speak about other desirables like love, fame, happiness, youth and romantic appeal – like it can be infused into anything as a plus, as something you can buy and sell.... all you have to add to your life is a quick spray or a sip or a taste and the world will become one fairly large orgasmic experience. The world of fashion has doused itself liberally in the word since the silk road toward the west was opened by the Chinese in the 2nd century CE*. Somehow we are both soothed and excited by the idea that the addition of passion in the form of products or services is assured and even possible. A quick hit of passion, like all impossible things, would be an enticing purchase.

Others write of the word as an attribute and include it in descriptions on web sites, résumés and online profiles like it is something that was learned and can be hung with pride on their wall like a certification. The very words "We're passionate about what we do" supposedly acts as a condemnation of competitors as apathetic, sadly lacking, or barren. Better yet, void of. Incapable of drumming up even a trickle. Dull even. Worse, flaccid.

These people, bless them, would like us to seek passion. To embrace it. To buy it. To give it to us. To speak to it. But imagine if passion were something you could speak to, it would be a very intense but one-dimensional conversation. There are only so many responses to Ohhhhhhhh! or Ahhhhhh!

Truth is, we all know passion is a very personal moment in time. We almost happen across it. We open ourselves to it. We can only predispose ourselves to it and hope it will happen. One can't buy it or sell it or hope to be passionate at will. It happens naturally, rarely and sometimes not at all. Even if one could drum up constant passion you'd think it would probably become painful after a while. It would be like a prolonged energy peak that trips circuit breakers, an over-boiled kettle that burns the bottom out of the pot and would probably involve some nasty messes.

Let us leave these promises to the promise makers.

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*Not long after the conquest of Egypt in 30 BCE the Roman Senate tried in vain to prohibit the wearing of silk, for economic reasons as well as moral ones. Silk clothing was perceived as a sign of decadence and immorality.

I can see clothes of silk, if materials that do not hide the body, nor even one's decency, can be called clothes. ... Wretched flocks of maids labour so that the adulteress may be visible through her thin dress, so that her husband has no more acquaintance than any outsider or foreigner with his wife's body.
—Seneca the Younger, Declamations Vol. I.



Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Write Like You're Writing To Your Mom

Don't worry, this is not going to be a grammar lesson because you know what nouns, verbs and adjectives are. Look closely and they may just represent the kinds of words that you use. Put enough of these words together in the right order and put a period at the end and you have a sentence. We all know words put together into sentences are the building blocks of communication, but really, they're just the start. Once you've got the knack of them, they almost become irrelevant.

So, even though it took me like an hour and a half to come up with it, you can pretty well print out the above graphic, crumple it up and chuck it in the recycle bin along with your Beetle Bailey comic books.

Here's what I really wanted to show you...

When I was young(er) and thought I knew most everything but wanted to know more I asked a wonderful writer what he thought the most important thing to consider when writing and he said "Write like you're talking to your mother." I smiled and walked away shaking my head. Ask a stupid question...

Years later it dawned on me. I think I've finally figured out what he meant. Maybe. Here goes:

When we write, we write to other human beings simply because it's sort of stupid to write to inanimate objects or animals. Like anything else done well in this world, writing to communicate effectively is an art.

It's just like when you used to talk to your mother. Really. Because I don't know about your mother but you couldn't tell my mother anything. The trick was you had to sort of talk about the subject in a way that she'd listen and take it in and then wait until she figured she had come up with the idea. And then you went, "That was a good idea you came up with, Mom."

Maybe I'm turning into my mother as I get older because I like to be approached in exactly the same manner. Don't try to tell me anything. Don't attempt to impress me with your expertise, don't try to be a guru (because, really, no one is) and don't be patronizing. Be real and who you are. If you're fake or if you lie I'll know; regardless of what you say. Don't be afraid to take me into your confidence. If you need my help, ask. If I can help, I will. And if you ask for my advice do so because you're not just sucking up and listen to what I have to say even if you might not fully understand what I say until years later. Above all, I'm a human just like you. Talk to me like an intelligent human being; don't talk down to me and don't make speeches. Don't whine but be upbeat and humble. And if you make a mistake and hurt someone, even without meaning to, say loudly, "I take responsibility and I'm so fucking sorry." And mean it. And over time, whether you're a person or a brand I'll figure out whether we mesh or not. If you do all that, chances are we will. And we'll both be richer for the experience.

So when I'm writing these days I may use nouns, verbs and adjectives, but if I want to communicate I'm really putting them together for my mom.

Miss you, mom. You taught me a lot.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Dial M For The Bad Guys

Meet Margot Mary Wendice, who is just about to kill a bad guy. She doesn't know it yet because she's a bit busy being choked by C.A. Swan (the guy she's about to murder). Being choked is sort of occupying her attention at the moment. Oh, I can joke about it now because little did the villain (played by Anthony Dawson) know at the time, but Margot (played by Grace Kelly) had a little trick up her sleeve... actually on the table in front of her. A pair of scissors that fit nicely into Swan's back. To make matters worse for the Swanmeister, he then proceeds to fall backwards, burying the scissors deeper and thus sealing his fate. Dead like a rat. Justice done. Gotta love it.

In the early fifties the image of a villain was well formed by Hollywood et al. It was simple. You could pick them out of a crowd with ease. Their eyes were beady, set close together and shifty. They always had dark hair that was slicked back and wore the ugliest of pencil thin mustaches over a mouth pursed like they just ate cat scat. Good guys never had mustaches (well, except for Valentino) and when they were cowboys they always wore the white hat. In those days cops had a much easier time of it. They could just walk into a room, round up anyone who looked like a bad guy and pop them in the clink. Tidy, tidy, tidy.

These days it's all totally screwed up. Some guys who look like they could rip people apart without blinking may turn out to actually be someone who has the biggest heart and would be the first to come to your help if you were in trouble. And some of those who you'd normally think you could trust with your mother's life can be the most screwed up psychopaths you could imagine. They're not all like that of course, there are good people who look like good guys and bad guys who look like bad guys and they are.

All of which to say it all does a number on my brain.

Maybe life has become so complicated now that we have more technology, we've invented more ways to be bad, but I don't think so. Maybe we're just getting better and more sophisticated at defining and routing out the bad seeds and that's probably a good thing. Still, I can't help but think it all seemed pretty obvious when I was a kid because I was taught that how a person looked could tell you whether they were someone you could trust or someone to avoid... or ridicule, or even hate.

Used to be, you could judge people by how they looked. Now, it appears, you can't.

I propose a dress code.


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Hitchcock's masterpiece of suspense, Dial M for Murder, was written by English playwright Frederick Knott who was well known for his plots that involved women who innocently become the potential victims of sinister plots.