The Young and Stupid Clause


“Everything I did before the age of twenty-five should be wiped off my personal record.” I say this now, not to void a criminal record, because I didn’t have one. When I say this, I’m not taking about legal constructs. I’m talking about the social contracts we all have with one another. The state will expunge our criminal record, depending on the charges, after we turn 19. My proposition is that as we go about forming impressions of one another we should have a young and stupid clause that states, “Anything and everything we do before the age of 26 is officially off the record. We will not think any less of you, based on what you did before that age, because you were young and stupid at the time.”

We can laugh at one another. We can picture their mini-mes making character-defining decisions, and we can “I just can’t picture you doing that!” one another with some judgment. When the laughter dies, however, I propose that we forget it all under the “but you were young and stupid” umbrella. We were all young and stupid once, and most of us became old and wise as a result.

We naturally excuse any actions that occur before 18, because that’s when most of us were truly young and truly stupid, but neurologists say, “brain development likely persists until at least the mid-20s – possibly until the 30s.” Based on that news, I say we personally extend that agreed upon consideration we have for one another to all actions that occur before age 26.

I still cringe when I think about how incredibly stupid I was. I’m no award winning intellect now, but I’ve come a long, long way since my 25th birthday. I managed to disprove the state’s idea that a 16-year-old is responsible enough to be behind the wheel, and every weekend thereafter, I proved that a 21-year-old is not old enough, or mature enough to handle alcohol. Thanks to the statements neurologists make on this subject, I cringe a lot less now, and I feel less shame for the things I did before 26, under the umbrella that my brain was far less developed and mature than I thought it was.

Age is a relative concept, as females generally mature quicker than males, and some males mature quicker than others do. When I look back now, I tend to think I’m looking back at another person, and in many ways I am. I am almost completely different than I was then. If 180 degrees is completely different, I might be 170 degrees different.  

When the Mental Health Daily (MHD) website cites the statement from a group of neurologists, it lists a number inhibitors that might further delay to brain development until “possibly the 30s” including alcohol abuse, chronic stress, poor diet, relationship troubles, social isolation, and sleep problems. The 25-30 me might raise my hand to all of those, as I don’t think I explored the advantages of maturity until I approached my 29th birthday. One other inhibitor they don’t add, but I do, is parental stress. Some of us had parents who mercilessly pounded maturity, responsibility, and overall development into our heads, and we naturally spent our teens and twenties spent rebelling against those edicts.

I still don’t know what I was rebelling against when my dad wasn’t around, but my beacon revolved around the line, “What are you rebelling against?” “Whaddya got?” from the movie The Wild One and the George Costanza line, “You wanna get nuts? Let’s get nuts.”

“The prefrontal cortex doesn’t have nearly the functional capacity at age 18 as it does at 25,” the MHD website adds, and the writer of the article includes, “Adults over the age of 25 tend to feel less sensitive to the influence of peer pressure and have a much easier time handling it.”

I try to convince myself that I wasn’t as susceptible to peer pressure as I was. My thoughts go to a form of confirmation bias in that I focus on those moments in my youth when I faced down peer pressure, and I conveniently forget those moments when pleasing my peers motivated me to do some pretty stupid things. I also infuse my current ideas on peer pressure with those of my youth. “There’s no way I did that,” I tell myself, when I know I did. I know I was young and stupid.

Those of us who are lucky enough to achieve a certain age, who have achieved a certain level of reflective, introspection go through some of the stages of disbelief. These stages are relative, of course, as we all go through these stages in different ways and different times. We were young and stupid, then we spent some years in denial. This stage might be vital to the ego, the self-esteem, and what have you, but if we’re lucky enough to live long enough and brave enough to admit our failures, we should eventually acknowledge that we were as stupid, and as vulnerable to suggestion as everyone else. 

Another clause we should all add to any story we hear from responsible and mature adults telling stories about their youth is a “What doesn’t kill you can only make you stronger” clause. You’re here telling this story, you should be grateful. If you’re religious, you should thank God. If not, think about the circumstances you survived, and think about how easily they could’ve gone the other way. When we hear about young kids doing stupid things that cost them their lives, we shouldn’t dismiss them solely on the basis that they were stupid. Dismissing someone as stupid allows the purveyor of that proclamation a pass on everything they did in their youth, without accounting for all the incredibly stupid things they did, and they just happened to survive. We should consider ourselves lucky that we didn’t suffer a similar fate.  

I know this is going to be an unpopular statement, but a part of what kept me from ruining my faculties to an exclamation point were the state and local laws. I was not scared of police, but I was scared of what they might do to me if I did something to deserve it. If a judge asked me if I had a problem with alcohol, I would’ve said no, and I would’ve believed it. If the judge asked me if my family had a history with alcohol. I would’ve said no. Both would’ve been lies, but I would’ve said them out of fear. Why would I lie, under oath, to a judge? Look at me, do you think I’d do well in jail, and I’ve probably added forty pounds in the last twenty-five years.

“Hey, you’ve put on some weight,” a former co-worker once said, after about a decade of separation.

“In the pantheon of greetings,” I joked, “that might’ve been one of the worst I ever heard.”

“No seriously, you look like a man now,” he said. “You used to be so skinny that you looked like a little boy.”

Can you imagine a 21-year-old, 40-lb skinnier me walking past a yard of hooting and hollering inmates? I know, child molesters receive a penalty worse than death in jail, but can you imagine if a grown, legal-aged man with child-like, waifish features walked into cellblock among convicts wrestling to control their daily urges to violate purity? The fear of what could happen if I violated those state and local laws, combined with the fictional depictions of life in prison, kept me in close proximity to the straight and narrow.

I was still so out of control and stupid with non-jailable offenses that I can’t believe I’m writing to you now with something in close proximity to a sound mind. We’ve all witnessed those whose weight is so out of control that the flap that covers their zipper has been pushed back to expose their zipper. That was me, except  it wasn’t fat for me. It was testosterone. I had testosterone all but pushing out my pores, and I never sought a proper channel for it. How many young men, 20-25 years-old, have the good sense to channel their energy and testosterone properly? Now, our voting public, and our state and federal representatives are dissolving and diminishing a number of laws that arguably prevent young 20-25 year-olds from ruining whatever remains of their relatively immature brains. The fear of an ultimate authority figure declaring them unfit to walk around with the law-abiding is receding, and they feel freer to pursue whatever they want.

Ultimately, I was the good kid and the good young man in my group who didn’t want to harm anyone but himself. Even in my small cadre of friends, I was the exception. Punching other people who deserved it, and teaching them whatever lesson they could dream up was part of the party for my friends.   

Having said all that, I think law enforcement officials will tell you that chasing minor offenses around is a waste of their precious time, but I no longer think there’s some nefarious plot to criminalize certain behaviors to prevent young people from having a good time. I consider most of state and local laws equivalent to a governor on an accelerator to prevent young people from crashing into the walls they erect for themselves. The argument some make is that some laws make no sense anymore, but I would argue that they’re making such a declaration as a fully developed, mature adult, who is no longer as interested in skimming across the tentative line of lawbreaking. Some argue that one law is just as bad as the other, and in some cases they’re worse, so let’s do away with a number of them, or redefine them. That argument is equivalent to suggesting that we should start our grills with white gas, because it has a flashpoint of 25 degrees, and to really get the flame going, we should add some diesel fuel, because it has a flashpoint of 126 degrees.

Some advocates of such laws worry about the children, but that’s an argument for another day. I worry about the 21-25 year-old youngsters who pursue the idea of doing whatever they want, now that they’re old enough.

This article isn’t about one law, because there are now so many of them with which I now have some concerns. This isn’t about a series of laws devoted to one topic, for it were the advocates of the behavior might pop out of the woodwork to to focus on the topic. They would probably declare me a hypocrite for indulging in the very topic for which I now oppose. I’ll say it for them, I am now a full-fledged hypocrite, and I feel fine. I still feel the pull of my anti-law youth all the time, but I know that certain laws help us define borders. If the themes of the parties I attended in my youth continue to this day, there is a lot of talk of laws. There is a lot of talk about the vague language of such laws, and how they can be exploited. We talked a lot about local, state, and federal laws, so we could know how far to push it. We wanted to live just under that line. We also knew that there was a range of violation that most law enforcement officials weren’t going to waste their time processing. Increase the range, and we increased the level of violation.  

***

As a product of permissive parenting, I could do pretty much whatever I wanted from about 15 on, but when my friends reached the age where they could do whatever they wanted, I went into overdrive.

“Are you going to the bar tonight?”

“Does the pope attend religious services?”

Our definition of being a man involved going out to the bar with the buddies and getting hammered. We didn’t invent this rite of passage. When we were young, we learned of the correlation between being drunk and being manly, don’t spread the word. We were expected to test tolerance levels every week, and we didn’t concern ourselves about failing too much, because we knew there would be a make-up test next weekend, and every weekend thereafter. Our part-time job, if we chose to accept it, and everyone we knew did, was to increase our tolerance level to the point that we might one day be like Sam Nigro in the corner over there.

“Sam can drink a gallon of beer and show no effects,” we whispered to one another, as if he was the warrior Achilles. “I saw him do it over at Pete’s house about a month ago. He drinks MD 20/20 like it’s Kool-Aid.” Sam was our Jabba the Hut. He could just sit on his proverbial pedestal with an aura of invincibility that no one could define, but no one dared challenge. He was also invulnerable to our drunken powers of suggestion, because no matter how many juicy frog drinks he downed, he never had so much as a buzz.    

No one got so hammered that a fight broke out at one of my parties. There was no sex that weekend, and no DUIs. We were all very disappointed. The next time I tried to plan a party I received polite non-committals. There was just something about the atmosphere of my apartment, the climate, or something that just didn’t invite a level of insanity to which we grew accustomed.    

The older, more responsible citizens of various states see no problem with updating and modernizing archaic laws, because they’ve grown out of various stages. They can live their lives responsibly no matter how many temptations they update, modernize, and legalize, but as a byproduct of that they help pass laws that now allow the 21-25 year-old maniacs with testosterone dripping out of their pores, all the freedom they seek. They do make an exception for driving an automobile while intoxicated. Those are the only laws much stricter than they were when I was young. So, we’re now allowing our 21-25 male demo to indulge beyond their wildest dreams, and when I say dreams I’m talking literally staying up at night imagining at the ceiling that one day (like Jiminy Cricket sang) all of our dreams can come true. We’re talking about a 22 year-olds indulging beyond capacity and having the good sense not to drive home.

Now that I’m boring, old, and unflinchingly hypocritical, I recognize how stupid I was when I was younger, and I hope that you’ll join me in helping me ease the decades long cringe I’ve had regarding all of the incredibly stupid things I did to tarnish my good name. Having said that, I don’t think we should help the 20-25 demographic do dumber things by diminishing and dissolving the laws that might inhibit them. We tell our old people to update and modernize our thinking, and they do, but do these updated laws and modern representatives we’re voting for make the country, our state, and our locale better? Other, older people, who have sowed their wild oats, fear being called old fogies and hypocrites, but I ask them what they would do if these new laws were passed when they were young, destructive, and self-destructive? It’s tough to remember the mindset, but if any sort of anatomical, or financial, destruction entered my mind, it wasn’t even a tertiary concern. I always thought I knew what I was doing, but now that I’m old and un-apologetically hypocritical, I now know I didn’t. I’ve now gone full circle in acknowledging that I was young and stupid.

It Wouldn’t be Easy Being Lime Green, but I Would’ve Enjoyed the Ride


I wish I had the guts to paint my apartment lime green back when I was single and living in apartments. I know that sounds odd, but some of us wish we had the guts to commit suicide. “I really wish I could commit suicide, but we Stanleys have never had the guts to follow through.” I never really wanted to live in a lime green world, but I wanted to do something to cause a reaction. I loved reactions back then. The paint didn’t have to be lime green, but it had to be a color so shocking that my peers would talk about it when they returned to the office on Monday.   

“What happened?” they would ask, looking around my apartment with wide eyes.

“What do you mean, I chose this color. I told the apartment complex’s office that I would be painting, but,” and here I would speak in hushed tones, as if this was our little secret now. “I didn’t tell them what color.”

What would they think of me? Would I have trouble in the dating world? Would decades-old friends begin questioning what they thought they knew about me? Would I still be single, if my future wife saw my lime green world?

“I’m sorry,” she would say as I knelt before her. “You seem like a nice guy, and all that, but I just can’t get past the lime green apartment. And before you say it, I know you can just change the color, but it worries me that you chose that color in the first place.”

Would decades-old friends begin questioning what they thought they knew about me? “We’ve been friends for a long time now, but this…” they would say, looking around. “I wasn’t expecting this.”

“So, the friendship is over?”

“No, I’m not saying that, but if you’re going to party here, and you want me to invite my friends, you’re going to have to repaint.”

My apartment could’ve been my own little, personal psychological testing lab, a petri dish that I could use to compile a delicious list of reactions now that I could report to you now.

“There goes Stanley, seems like a nice guy and all, but I hear he has a lime green apartment.”

Some psychologists state that lime green might be a mood booster, as it recalls nature and budding love, and it might not have narrowed my world as much as I think.

They also suggest that lime green helps us relax, and it’s useful for people with depression. Most of their conclusions are guesses, of course, as color affects us in wildly divergent ways, and if there is any effect it is subconscious. My best guess is that if color has any effect, it’s negligible. Perhaps the only effect would occur within the four-walled world of the office where people talk. A single man with lime green walls would become the topic of the many conversations otherwise bored people have trying to establish their bona fides through comparative analysis. “I know he seems nice, but did you know that he painted all of his walls lime green? I’m thinking he spends too much time alone, thinking strange thoughts. Kind of creepy, right?” That’s probably the reason none of us have the guts to paint our walls in such colors.

“Hey, you’re Stanley Roper right?” someone says stopping me in the hall. “Is it true you have a lime green apartment?”

“Yeah, the complex told me they were going to paint,” I’d lie, “but I had no idea they were going to go with lime green.”

“Why don’t you move?”

“I still have eight months on my lease.”

Over time, the peer pressure would probably grow so intense that my resolve would wilt. I’m impulsive, but I’m not immune to wanting people to like me. I’m sure some dagger, like “he probably spends too much time alone, and thinks too much” would lead me to believe that following my irrational but impassioned impulses were a mistake.  

I do love, and I mean love spotting a bright orange truck roll down the highway. That feller’s got a pair on him, I think. He doesn’t care what anyone thinks. I so wish I could be that guy. I think about how liberating it would be to drive down a primary thoroughfare in a bright orange truck with black highlights. Six months to a year in, however, I know how that glory rubs off. I did it in grade school. I wore a shocking pair of bright, baby blue tennis shoes, and I loved the instant reactions it caused. I was a fella who shocked his world in a pair of bright blue tennis shoes, but I went from being a guy with to the guy who wore a shockingly bright blue pair of tennis shoes, and I didn’t enjoy that characterization over the long haul. I tried other things. I tried a shocking, new hairdo. I received all the reactions I wanted and then some. I found that there were days when I wanted to shock my world and others when I didn’t, but once you start shocking the world it doesn’t matter what you want tomorrow. You don’t have the light switch control you think you do. Their impressions become locked in. 

***

Most of the websites that discuss the psychological elements of color devote most of their space to the positive, pleasing reactions to them. Their reads on the effects of color remind me of descriptions of personality types under the zodiac: mostly positive with a few nuggets of negative information thrown in to make it interesting without offending anyone. Awful people are out there too, and I think we would all give astrologists and psychologists a lot more credence if they allowed for that. “All astrological signs are uniquely wonderful in their own unique ways, except for the Taurus. We’re not going to say all Taurus are awful, as we’re sure a few of them do some wonderful things, some of the times, but an overwhelming majority of them enjoy watching other people watching people get hurt, and they are prone to lie, cheat and steal if they think that will give them an advantage. Most Taurus are pieces of dung.” If a reputable and respected astrological publication put out such a reading, its audience would probably bombard them with letters calling for a retraction. “My aunt Mary Louise is a Taurus, and she is the nicest, sweetest human being on the planet. How dare you suggest that she’s a piece of dung.”

“First of all, sir,” I would reply, “that’s our reading, and our reading is gospel. Your aunt is probably a piece of dung, and either you’re not willing to admit it, or you don’t know it yet. She’s probably old and done with life now, but when she dies, you’ll probably hear all the piece of dung things she did in her prime. You should also know that there’s no evidence behind anything we write. We just make dung up as we go along, and your suggestion that we change our reading suggests that you know that. We’re just writing dung for dung consumers who believe in this dung. It has no bearing on personalities. If you believe us when we write that you, as an Aries, are a trailblazer with boundless energy then you’re dumber than you look. Furthermore, if our Taurus reading actually offended you, sir, you’re probably not ready for primetime. Thank you for your letter.”

If we’re going to analyze a group of people in anyway, I would suspect that we would arrive at some negatives. Thus, if we are going to create a relatively specious way of analyzing human nature through astrology, their favorite color, or their favorite football team, we should have to create some negatives just to counter-balance all of the positives. Doing so might provide some credibility to the reading, and establish some level of science to it. It might seem an impossible chore, but I think we would all appreciate the effort.

Some websites do provide some negative attributes, but they’re usually in the bullet points beneath the primary paragraph, and they usually attribute negatives to extremes. There’s nothing wrong with the color orange, for example, but be careful to avoid intense colors of orange, as they can lead to aggression.

“What is going on? Every time I invite someone into my home, they try strangle me. Last week, the meter reader starts pointing his meter-reading gun at me, making gun sounds, like a little kid. I thought he was joking, but he had this menacing expression on his face while he did it. I forced him into my mauve kitchen, and got him a glass of water. He finally calms and says, “I don’t know what came over me.””  

“Wow, I thought the color orange reflected emotion and warmth.”

“Well, I didn’t go with a soft, friendly and comfortable tone. I went with an intense color.”

“What’s wrong with you? Didn’t you know that intense colors of orange can lead to acts of aggression?”

If I had the guts to paint my apartment an intense orange or a lime green, thus creating my own little petri dish of an apartment, I might see how profound the affect color can be. I might not see acts of aggression, but how would such colors affect the otherwise mundane conversations I’m having with them in the foyer? Would their emotions alter in any way based on their surroundings? I’ve witnessed the effect music can have, as I switched from one extreme to another with the volume level at the exact same level. There were at least two occasions where the switch was so extreme, it was almost comical. What would be the long-term effect? Would they dismiss me from even casual conversation if they learned about my lime green world? What would my peers say about me at work, if they found out that I decorated my home with nothing but periwinkle home furnishings? Would they eat the food I served them if it came from a maroon kitchen, and the kitchenware on which it was served was a uniform canary yellow? I would love to see, hear, and know that aftermath.

“You’re not talking to Stanley anymore, because he served you veal cutlets on a canary yellow plate?”

“You don’t understand, the silverware was canary yellow too,” they would reply. “You didn’t see his feldgrau cabinets, or his cerulean coffee table. Who paints a coffee table cerulean? You weren’t there. You don’t know unsettling it all was. You weren’t there.”

I know it sounds odd, and a weird way to waste money, but I would’ve loved to do all this and hire an independent body to interview my apartment guest before and after their brief stay in my apartment. I would love to have intricate and intimate details of how their perceptions of me changed. The final, and perhaps most interesting, interview might be the one of me.

“Did you achieve everything you wanted to by painting your apartment lime green and purchasing an intensely orange truck?”

“I did,” I would say. “Some people won’t talk to me and others can’t stop talking about me. Now that it’s all over, though, I must admit I regret it, because now I have to live in a lime green house and drive an intense orange car to work. I wanted to be that guy, but I now realize I didn’t want to become that guy, not long term, if that makes sense.”

I might be alone when I write this, but I think some of us find weird intoxicating. We would love to enter a room wearing a clown nose just to get some sort just to get a reaction. Every other element of our entrance in that room would be normal and deadpan, except for the clown nose, and we would provide no explanation for it. What would people do, what would they say, how would that affect our relationships with them going forward? Am I so uncomfortable in a normal world that I need to do, say, or be something different to shake up their world to prove their normal world is not so stable anymore? Or, do I relish my ability to take that clown nose off and prove to the world that I am normal and thus worthy of entrance into their world? If we were sentenced to a life of weird, we would do everything we could to convince everyone in our world that we were normal. We know normal, and it bores us so much that we wish we had the guts to test the boundaries of what’s acceptable, so someone, somewhere might call us weird, until they find out how normal we are. That’s a reaction, and it’s interesting, hilarious, and all that, but we don’t want to test those boundaries, because we want to have friends, girlfriends, a wife, and a normal life. After we achieve that, we appreciate it for what it us, but we still would’ve loved just a little taste of what we could’ve achieved with some lime green walls, if we had the guts to follow through with it.  

The Tarantino Effect


Quentin Tarantino is arguably the most successful director of violent movies in the last 30 years. Men, in particular, love his brand of violence. Why were/are Tarantino movies so successful? My best guess is that, with Pulp Fiction in particular, he made violence fun and funny. Beyond the influential dialogue, the style, the great music, and the evocative colors, Pulp Fiction was a more modern combination of the most violent Scorsese movie ever made and the humorous exchanges of Abbot and Costello. Another element we love about Pulp Fiction, and the other Tarantino movies to a lesser degree, is the introduction of all of these alternative codes his characters develop to assuage the guilt they might otherwise feel by engaging in such a lifestyle.

No characters refer to this code explicitly, of course, but the philosophical conversations the Samuel Jackson and John Travolta characters have, combined with the manner in which they conduct business suggests it’s not personal. It’s just business. There’s also a hint of the other mafia movie standbys, “Everyone knows what they’re getting into when they enter into this business,” and the, “Kill or be killed” motif.

In a slight twist on the conversation of codes, the Uma Thurman character mocks the extent of this code saying, “You think Marcellus Wallace would throw another person out of a window over a foot massage?” The import of this joke is that we all think, thanks to Travolta’s misunderstanding, that a foot massage is such a sensual act that it warrants violent retribution. The Uma Thurman chunk of dialogue admonishes us all for thinking that the characters are savages who seek to maim and kill people for whatever reason they can think up. She alludes to the fact that a foot massage might warrant a behind the scenes scolding, but what Travolta’s suggesting is crazy. She helps the audience understand that while their world does not involve the codes the rest of us live by, they’re not that outrageously violent.

In another scene, the John Travolta character develops his own code by suggesting that while he respects the hierarchy and the codes in general, he would prefer that those who ask him to do things do so in a more courteous manner. “A please would be nice.” In another scene, pertinent to this topic, Travolta defines his personal code in a conversation about someone keying his car. He says he wishes he would’ve caught them doing it, “It’d been worth him doing it, just so I could’ve caught him.” The Travolta character and the Eric Stoltz character agree that keying a car is an egregious violation of their shared code. Murdering a man is just business, but keying a car is a “They should be killed. No trial, no jury, straight to execution” violation of the code. We all speak in such ways, in jest, and perhaps that’s all the Stolz character was doing, but we suspect that Travolta is not joking in the same manner. The whole movie, Pulp Fiction, is all about codes. The characters don’t follow the codes the rest of us live by, but they have an insular code, a code among thieves, that they all live by to establish some sort of order within their otherwise immoral, soul-less, and piece-of-junk universe.

Tarantino did not develop this brand of comedy, and he didn’t invent the idea of an alternative code that criminals develop to assuage their guilt over murdering and robbing people, but he did it in a different, and some say better, way than most screenwriters and directors.

Most men dream of living by such codes, and we think we would might compete pretty well. If everyone agreed that we should settle zoning laws on lawn area disputes with a large pistol, we think everyone would behave a little better. We would love to pull a hand cannon out on someone, repeat some cool biblical verse, and blow someone away without flinching. We also think, on some level, that we could do it without much guilt, as long as the participants all knew what they were getting into when they entered our world. Would we have any guilt if we ran into our victim’s mother, father, or kids? No, because they all knew the life he led, and if they didn’t, that’s kind of on him for not informing them better.  

“It’s not personal, it’s business,” we tell our wives in the movie theater after they question us for laughing at such violent scenes. That line makes sense to us in those 90 minutes. “That guy wouldn’t pay. The guy had something they wanted, and he wouldn’t give it up willingly. They had to kill the guy. They had to send a message. You understand that right?”

We’ve all accepted this “It’s not personal, it’s business” rationale for so long, dating back to The Godfather, that it now makes sense to us. I don’t care if you’re running a drug cartel, a prostitution ring, or whatever, is killing members of the competition the best way to run a business? Yet, few would attend a movie that contained a line from the leader of the business saying, “We really need to talk to Chris in accounting to see if we can improve on our distribution costs in the Northeast, and if you could drop a line to Steve in the Midwest. I really think he can improve his team’s Quality Assurance scores by laying off the bottom 10%.” That’s business. That’s boring. Have the managers in charge of Apple Music ever considered “taking out” some of the most talented minds at Spotify? We’ve seen that business plan work a million times, in the movies, and we know it works. No one goes to jail, and no one feels the least bit bad about it either. “The programmers at Spotify knew what they were getting into when they signed on for this. It’s just business.”

“It’s all fiction,” we tell our girlfriends who put a hand over their face when three guys stab another guy in a trunk after that guy disrespected one of the Goodfellas in a bar. The scene made perfect sense to us in the 90 minute, alternative code mentality, and we knew that guy was in trouble when he wouldn’t shut up. The Joe Pesci character gave this man several opportunities to shut up, and he wouldn’t. If he had any sense, he would’ve known better than to disrespect Joe Pesci in front of his friends. The guy should’ve known he would suffer some kind of grizzly death. I’m not sure how that trunk stabbing applied to their business in anyway, but it was funny when Pesci cracked at joke about it at his mother’s house.   

Our girlfriend laughed at that joke too, and we now know she gets it. She’s along for the ride. She’s adapted her moral code to the alternative code of the movie. We can’t understand why it took her so long to understand this is just fantasy and fiction. It’s not her idea of fantasy, but she’ll put that aside long enough to try to enjoy the movie.

***

I have a dream scene for Tarantino. A bank robbery occurs, off screen, as it did in Reservoir Dogs. After this robbery is complete, the main guy divvies up the proceeds of that robbery in private to one particular recipient. Once the recipient receives his share, a twist happens. The main guy turns on the recipient of those proceeds.

“What are you doing?” the recipient pleads with his hands up.

“I’m robbing you,” the gun-toting main guy says. The audience might consider this a violation of the code, until the main guy adds, “I paid you your fair share, and now I’m robbing you.”

This particular scene might involve a philosophical Abbot and Costello-style exchange that elucidates the alternative moral code of both characters. The unspoken lynchpin of the scene is if we’re going to consider the main guy turning on the recipient a violation of the code, then we must consider robbery a violation of code, and the only reason the two of them have money to divide is a robbery.

Prior to this dream scene, the director offers ample evidence of the moral ambiguity of both characters involved, and we’ve accepted the codes they’ve established. Prior to this scene, the director also strategically portrays them as equally sympathetic to the point that we’re cheering on both characters when this scene occurs. They’re both living by the code to a point that we don’t know who to cheer on in this scene. They’re both bad guys, and in their own way good guys.

What the main guy is doing is wrong in a purely philosophical manner. It is also a violation of the social contract between the two men, but in the context of the arbitrary, fictional movie of alternative moral codes, is it still a violation of any sort? The main guy fulfilled his obligation as boss by paying the recipient, and once the money touched the recipient’s hand, he technically fulfilled their social contract, so he’s not a welcher. Once that was complete, he robbed the recipient, and if we’re going to consider robbery immoral, it undercuts the premise of the movie that robbery, violence, and murder are just the way some men choose to make a living.

“Yeah, but the recipient earned his cut.”

Even those of us who enjoy setting our own moral codes aside for 90 minutes aren’t going to go so far out that we think the recipient earned the money he received. He stuck a gun in a teller’s face, and he stole the money others earned. We think about all the miserable hours of labor those who deposited their money in that bank endured to have a little nest egg in that bank. The reply to this is, “They robbed a bank, and most banks are federally insured, and everyone who earned the money they gave to the bank to hold for them was federally insured too.” Okay, but neither the recipient nor the main guy earned that money. Both men endured equal levels of risking their freedom to attain it, but they didn’t earn it.

As this scene plays out, the audience learns, through the recipient, that life is not fair, and the life he has chosen is even less fair. The business he chose also involves players who never learned how to share. The internal codes of conduct are in place to self-regulate, but what does the recipient do if a boss arguably violates one of them? The recipient cannot go to law enforcement, and their line of work doesn’t have an arbitration board to air grievances. He should also admit that such a robbery is just business conducted by a guy who wants more money. The main guy, in our scenario, is the leader of the mission, so the recipient has no recourse. In the end, the audience realizes that the moral quandary the director is asking us to sympathize with the ambiguous idea that a robber is getting robbed?

The recipient has three choices. He can give the money willingly, as he sees no other option. Doing so, could lead others to perceive him as weak. If he chooses that route, he might as well get out of the business, because everyone who hears about this will rob him after the fact, going forward. He can attempt to talk his way out of it, but we all know that doesn’t work in such settings. His only recourse is to refuse to give the main guy the money and pull his own gun. The main guy shoots the recipient before he can get that gun out. This tweaks our moral code slightly, until the main guy says, “Sorry buddy, it’s just business” to the dying man. That line puts him back in the moral code, for it is entirely consistent with the code they’ve established throughout the movie.

Anyone who reads this might suspect that the author is subject to flights of moral relativism. I can assure you, without stepping onto a soapbox, that that is not the case. I suspend whatever I think of such alternative universes in the same manner I will while listening to music or watching cartoons. When I attend a movie theater or click play on a movie, I suspend reality in the same manner I do when I watch horror movies. I don’t believe in any of the supernatural beings that torment our main characters, but if you aren’t willing to put your rational mind for long enough to enjoy a movie that violates everything you believe in don’t click play. If the moral fiber of our personal constitution is strong enough, we should be able to weather minimal assaults we experience in cartoons, horror movies, music, what have you. There are serious venues that challenge your modes of thought, and I think everyone should read them for the cerebral, philosophical challenges they present, but anyone who has their beliefs system seriously challenged by these otherwise unserious, artistic vehicles should probably spend more time reading.  

Smashing Pumpkins’ Cyr Will not be Mellon Collie


“It’s not Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness,” will be the theme of the critical reaction to the new Smashing Pumpkins new album Cyr. The songs we’ve heard from this upcoming album thus far aren’t too bad, but they’re not Mellon Collie. At this date, some 25 years since its release (!), Billy Corgan probably has a love/hate relationship with the album called Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness. We can guess that he loves the fact that he created what many call a masterpiece, for not many artists do, but he probably hates that everything he created lives in its shadow.

We all have varying tastes, of course, and some might say they prefer one of the other Smashing Pumpkins’ albums, but even they would admit Mellon Collie and Siamese Dream had special, timeless, and transcendental qualities about them that are difficult to recapture. Some of us call them masterpieces in their own right, and others say they are the products of Billy Corgan’s creative peak.

What is a creative peak? It is as difficult for artists to create, as it is to maintain. It is equally as difficult for the rest of us to explain. We can say that our reaction to it was a time and place phenomenon, and we could say that Billy Corgan’s creation of it had something to do with this phenomenon too. The finished products, coupled with the worldwide reaction to them might have satisfied Corgan’s need to prove himself, and he’s never been able to duplicate that inner drive. Those of us who have never accomplished such feats don’t know how hard it must be to recapture the elements that drove Corgan to create these albums. I don’t intend that to be a commentary on Billy Corgan’s work that followed, for I think most of his work post-Mellon Collie has been better than the vast majority of his peers, but he set such a high bar for himself with Siamese Dream and Mellon Collie. Every artist goes through peaks and valleys, and most of them cannot explain them. We can’t explain them either, as I wrote, we couldn’t explain why we prefer some art to others, but we know it when we see/hear it, especially in hindsight.

When creative peaks prove as fruitful as Corgan’s was, most of us laymen just assume that they will last forever, and when they don’t, we express our disappointment by saying, “It’s a good album, but it’s not as good as their masterpiece. It’s almost like they’re not trying anymore.” Everyone assumes that Kurt Cobain would’ve just gone on, had he lived, writing top-notch albums, but as Cobain wrote, “Teenage angst has paid off well. Now I’m bored and old.” It was almost as if he was preparing us for what was going to follow, if he lived of course.

If we lump Siamese Dream in with Mellon Collie, and we add Aeroplane Flies High and Pisces Iscariot into the mix, I think we can say that Billy Corgan had an enviable five-year run. Some of the songs on those latter two productions were definitely B-sides, but if we removed some of the top-notch songs on Aeroplane, we might be able to put together two high quality albums. We diehard fans have done so on blank cassette tapes and MP3 playlists. It just seems unfair to compare everything he’s done since, and everything he will do in the future to that creative peak, but such is the nature of art.

Billy Corgan and Co. were a songwriting machine from roughly 1993 to 1996. It was an incredibly creative period for Billy Corgan, Jimmy Chamberlain, and James Iha. (I’m sure Chamberlain, Iha, and D’arcy had more creative input than reports suggest, but from what I’ve read Corgan was the maestro/dictator in the studio.) Personally, I loved the album Gish, and I devoured that album before Siamese Dream’s release, but I wouldn’t put on the same shelf as Mellon Collie and Siamese Dream. I realize that some of the material on the boxset likely predates Siamese Dream, so let’s be generous in our estimate and say this creative period stretched out over a five year, incredibly prolific creative peak. How many musicians would give whatever remains of their otherwise damaged livers for 1/5th of the creative output the Smashing Pumpkins had in those five years? Personally, I think it was one of the most prolific periods of music for one artist in rock history, but I think it’s fair to say that the high bar Corgan set during this period ended twenty-five years ago.

I remember when the Smashing Pumpkins released the single Ava Adore. Oh boy,we thought, here we go again. The leap wasn’t as great as the one between Siamese Dream and Mellon Collie for some of us, but we all fantasized that the single was a sign that this peak would last far longer than we thought it would after the Pumpkins released a double album of material followed by a boxset. Siamese Dream was, after all, the opposite of a sophomore jinx. Once Siamese Dream hit out tape deck, Gish was obsolete, and any flirtation we had with the idea that there might be a junior jinx ended the moment we heard the single Bullet with Butterfly Wings. So, when the single Ava Adore came out, it seemed feasible that Corgan was simply a hard rock/pop prodigy who would blow us out of the water every two to three years until the end of his life.    

How could one man, and his band, release so much material in such a small amount of time, and come up with yet another great album? The answer was he couldn’t. The peak was over. I still think that if Corgan saved about eight of the best songs on Aeroplane Flies High, and combined them with the six best songs on Ava Adore, I think he could’ve satisfied critics and fans so much that they would’ve listed Ava Adore as his third best album and part of the creative peak. What motivated Corgan to release the boxset, I suspect, was that he wanted to put Mellon Collie, and everything attached to it, behind him. I think he wanted to defeat the idea of a creative peak in his own mind and challenge himself with a restart.   

***

When critics savaged R.E.M.’s first effort without Bill Berry, 1998’s Up, Michael Stipe complained that he thought Up was a great album. He said that critics unfairly compared Up to their previous five albums, i.e. their creative peak. He said something along the lines of, “If an up and coming band created Up, you critics would be salivating all over it, but because it wasn’t Automatic for the People, Monster, or New Adventures in Hi-Fi, you think the album stinks.” Perhaps Stipe and Co. were frustrated that the high bar they set for themselves that couldn’t be maintained forever, or that they felt like the critics helped cut that peak short prematurely. It’s also possible that the departure of Bill Berry was more profound than anyone imagined. Whatever the case was for them, the critics were right, as Up proved the creative peak was over for R.E.M. They would release four more albums and except for a few singles here and there, those albums only provided further evidence that peaks end for every creative artist.

Stipe’s greater question is worthy of exploration however. How would we regard albums like Ava Adore or Machina, if they came out before Mellon Collie or Siamese Dream? It’s impossible to answer of course, but it’s an interesting question.

Artists can artificially attempt to realign the stars back to the configuration they experienced during their peak. They can bring back ex-members, hire the producer who helped finesse their masterpiece, and they can go back to the basics, after expunging their need to experiment. They can eat nothing but bacon and drink nothing but the flavor of Snapple they drank when they created their masterpiece, but something will forever elude them.

Our immediate reaction to a new Smashing Pumpkins album now is, they just lost it, whatever it is. They can write some great singles here and there, but as far as writing awe-inspiring magic that drove them to create deep cuts and B-sides that are better than most bands’ hit singles, those days are over. The greater question I would ask is, “Did they ever have it?” The answer to that question, to my mind, is an undeniable, “YES! Yes, they did. For five years, Billy Corgan and Co. created some of the most beautiful, most aggressive, and most pleasing music some of us have ever heard.” For all of the comparatively greater praise devoted to bands such as Guns N’ Roses, Metallica and Nirvana, they only had two influential, transcedental albums. As great as Mr. Bungle and Soundgarden were, they only came out with two fantastic albums. How many great bands came out with songs that blew our minds, but they failed to follow those great songs up with enough deep cuts to make a great album? It’s debatable, but I would suggest that great singles blind most people to the fact that most of the albums they were on weren’t as great as we thought they were.

In some ways, legends like The Beatles, Queen, David Bowie, and Led Zeppelin spoiled us by setting such an unreasonable standard for the rest of the bands in music by having more than two great albums. For those who are lucky enough to have more than one great album, they should go on to make the best music they can, but they should know that they will probably never be able to recapture that ‘time and place’ magic that usually only happens once in a lifetime. If it happens twice, live it and love it for as long as it lasts, for it will probably never happen again. This note also goes out to all critics, fans, and everyone in between who judge decent to good albums on the basis that they’re not as great as the albums these artists produced during their peak. How many of our favorite artists never made one great album, top to bottom?

As one reviewer on Allmusic.com wrote, “You can’t blame Billy [Corgan], he already did his best.” This reviewer reminds me of other non-creative types who have never created one piece of art.  suggest that once a creative peak ends the artist should just quit. They should just ride off into the sunset, collect their royalty checks and consider their life well lived. They do the same with athletes. They suggest that after a professional athlete wins a championship that he should just retire. They proved that they did the best they could with their talent, and we all know that it’s downhill from here, so we want him to quit so we can live with this particular memory of him. The one thing we forget is accomplishing incredible feats, in athletic and artistic venues, is so hard that it involves amounts of passion that no critic would understand. The passion and love that drove them to achieve such peaks doesn’t just end after that peak ends, and with Billy Corgan it’s obvious in the beautiful music he’s created since.   

Guy no Logical Gibberish


My dad didn’t pronounce words correctly. It embarrassed me so much, when I was younger, that I matured into something of a wordsmith. A wordsmith, in my personal definition of the term, is not necessarily more intelligent than anyone else is. We do not have a better hold on pronunciations than anyone else does, and we don’t have a gift for spelling or proper word usage. A wordsmith is someone who focuses (see obsesses) daily on such matters. A wordsmith is also so embarrassed by past mistakes that we don’t think we’ll ever live them down. Such matters didn’t embarrass my dad at all. He didn’t care about any of it. 

Even though I put more effort into pronouncing words correctly, spelling them correctly, and using them in a proper manner, I still make errors all the time. I mispronounced a famous person’s name one day, and it was so embarrassing to me that I don’t think I’ll ever live it down. I’m sure if I asked the people hear me do it, they wouldn’t remember it, but it haunts me. I used a word that that we don’t recognize as a word in my formative years, and I used a tense of an adjective that is not considered one of the tenses for that word. I also used the word (“had”) too often, as in “if he had lived to see the day”.

People I knew and loved mocked my lexicon so often, in my youth, that I made it my life’s mission to eradicate errors. (I’ll let you know if I ever accomplish that feat.) I could handle most of the mean-spirited mockery directed at my other, numerous errors, because they meant nothing to me. The mockery directed at my lexicon concerned me, because I knew my dad’s casual disregard for the conventional rules of language, and it embarrassed me as a teenager.

They say that if we spend enough time in another part of the country, we might carry accents, and/or peculiar pronunciations for words that are otherwise indigenous to that area of the country. My dad said the word wash for most of his life, until he traveled to Tennessee. He spent one week there, and for the remaining decades of his life he said, “warsh.” Correcting that proved an insurmountable hurdle for him, as did “eckspecially”. He made up contractions, such as ‘kout’ for lookout and (‘Q’) or “kyou” for thank you. He also made various plural-sounding names singular and vice versa. McDonald’s was McDonald and Burger King was Burger Kinks. Don’t ask me how he arrived at that second (‘K’). He also said intentendo, instead of Nintendo. We could fault his hearing for some of it, but after numerous corrections, the man stubbornly maintained his fault-ridden lexicon. He subconsciously picked up on errors in usage, but he never picked up on my numerous corrections. 

Speaking of word choices, how did we arrive at the word anus to describe an organ? We have to imagine that those in charge of the language used in medical periodicals and biology textbooks continue to use the word for the expressed purpose of being unfunny. Tradition probably guides current choices, tradition and the need for consistency, but there had to be a first. When the subject of origin of a word arrives, as we will discuss later, it can be difficult to impossible to source a word. The best question we can come up with is why do we continue to use this unusual and somewhat cute name for such a repugnant organ?   

How extensive was their search for the ideal, unfunny sounding word? How many voices did they hear, pro and con, before they eliminated all others and landed on anus? “The search is over, we’ve found the ideal word to describe the organ that sounds professional and doesn’t lead to uncomfortable smirks and giggles. Going forward, we shall all refer to the organ as the anus in doctors’ offices, biology text books, and other professional settings.” No one can blame us, for etymologists say the term predates English. The word anus derives from the Latin word anus, meaning “ring”. The Latin derivative annulus means “Little ring”.

In the search for the ideal term, the first thing they had to do was rule out the other, less professional alternatives. Imagine if your doctor said, “You’re fifty years old now, it’s time to see what’s going on inside your smelly freckle.” If my doctor used such a term, in such a sensitive situation, I wouldn’t care that they were trying to add some levity to an otherwise uncomfortable situation. I would seek another doctor.

The term they decided upon sounds so unusual and cute that all humans, no matter their age, gender, or background, giggle when they hear the word. If we could remove all of the connotations the word has with otherwise repugnant biological functions, we might picture a cute, little bug if we heard the word for the first time. If the word had no connotations to our little ring, imagine if comic book writers used the word to name one of their bad guys. “Join Spider-Man, in next week’s issue, as he takes on the Anus!” There’s something so unusual and cute about the word that I don’t think it would strike fear in the reader, until we learned what her powers were.    

We giggle, because it makes us feel uncomfortable in a way we can’t explain. One explanation might involve the idea that they chose such an unusual, cute term to describe such a repugnant orifice. What better punchline is there than, “… and I ended getting it stuck in my anus.”?

There was never a board of lords assembled to determine what term we should use to refer to the inferior opening of the alimentary canal a term. As stated, the word has roots in Latin, and Old French, but the Indo-European language family that dates back to 4500 BC to 2500 BC influenced those languages. As with other words and terms, we can arrive at the first recorded use of a word, and Wikipedia states that the first recorded use of the word anus dates back to 1650-1660, but there was probably never an official decree that suggested all professionals should start using the word anus in professional settings. Anytime we try to source a word, we encounter its complicated roots through a maze of variations of language based on migrations, and subsequent regional dialects that affect different shifts in pronunciation, morphology, and vocabulary. We then encounter various efforts at reconstruction of the Proto-Indo-European roots of the word to arrive at the conclusion that it’s almost impossible to source the origin of some words and terms. The one thing we can agree upon is that the modes of communication were so archaic in 1650-1660 on back that most words achieved staying power places via word of mouth, and that it just sort of caught on after that. Even with that, with some prehistoric person with some biological knowledge passing the agreed upon unusual, cute term to another, we have to ask how the word anus passed the smell test.  

The continued use of this term probably has more to do with hundreds to thousands of years of tradition and a level of consistency, as I wrote, but these professionals have a choice anytime they produce a new textbook or periodical of any sort. The question is what’s the best viable alternative? The answer is there probably aren’t any now, the term is too ingrained, but we have to wonder how many alternatives the linguists and lexicographers of yesteryear passed on, before they agreed the word anus should be the preferred choice for those in professional and scientific circles. If they hoped that their final decision might end all of the snickers, giggles, and uncomfortable smiles when the subject comes up, then I think we can all agree that they failed.

“Don’t text me during the game,” I text. “I’m taping it. I don’t want to know if it’s a good game or a bad game. I won’t even check my phone during the game, so save your, “You’re going to love this,” “Don’t bother watching,” or “Get out of your house, there’s a small Cessna heading toward your house.” I don’t know why it bothers me so much when someone texts me about a game I’m taping, but I think it has something to do with a compact I have with the game I’m watching. It seems pointless, to me, to watch an otherwise exciting 7-yard out route, on third and six, when I know the outcome. Thus, when someone texts me some hint about the outcome of the game, it frustrates me so much that I want to coat my naked body and run through the city streets, just to teach humanity a lesson. I know that I couldn’t live with that memory though, so I just avoid my phone during games.

Big Things vs. Little Things. We dream of big things, but we cannot accomplish big things without tending to all the little things that make big things possible. Before writing the Great American Novel, for example, the author has to write. That first page can be tough, but it’s not near as tough as page two. Page one is often the flurry of inspiration that led us to sit down and write. That inspiration probably struck at a relatively boring moment in our life. Page one often ends up gibberish, however, that doesn’t make it past Chekov’s Razor. Page one often ends up being deleted or tossed into the waste paper basket. Page two is often where the book begins. Starting is important, but it’s not as important as continuing.  

An important note I heard recently that contradicts that paragraph is, we don’t have to accomplish great things to be great. By taking care of the little things in life, we can still be great. We can be a great father, mother, businessman, and student. I knew a man who accomplished great things in life, but he turned out to be something of a failure as a father. I call it the Larry Bird Complex. There’s an old saying that “those who can’t do it teach” but the flipside proves to be true too. Those who can do it, often cannot teach others how to do it. Larry Bird was a man many consider one of the greatest to play the game, but he wasn’t a very good coach. The man I knew had a personal resume loaded with so many prestigious accolades that we might have to break his life down to chapters. When they buried him, however, he found out he couldn’t take his accolades with him. Those who sat closest to his casket were his legacy, and they were confused adults who lived a life of chaos. Was that their father’s fault? It’s debatable, but he didn’t do anything to relieve them of their pain, and they were/are how the rest of us measure him. A man of accomplishment enjoys telling people about his great accomplishments, but if he failed to tend to his own yard, people will remember that more.

So, You Want to go Into Business. “My employees think I’m Daddy Warbucks,” an owner/operator of a local franchise said with a laugh. “They don’t understand how thin profit margins are.”

“Most people don’t,” I said. “I don’t for the most part. I’ve never owned my own business. Most of us think that anyone who does is in the money, especially if that business is a franchise. Most of us have no idea of the expenses involved in running a business.”

Most of us know-nothings loosely define profit as the difference between the wholesale and retail prices. We don’t consider the idea that an owner/operator uses that profit to pay employees’ wages, rent, utilities, various forms of marketing, the franchise fee, insurance, repairs, remodeling, various forms of security, and all of the other unforeseen costs associated with owning a business. Once the small business owner factors these numerous costs in, they still have to pay all of the federal, state, and local taxes and any fees associated with registering and owning a business. Some of us even begrudge the business owners who, when paying taxes, write off some of these expenses. If we deprive them of the ability to do that, then they would have little to no profit at all. After paying off all of these expenses, the middle class owner/operators still have to pay off the loan the bank gave them to open the business.

Another element of the equation that should’ve been obvious but wasn’t until I attended a “welcome to [the franchise]” meeting for potential owners of a nationwide franchise is that the individual franchisee has to purchase everything from the vowels on the sandwich board, to the floor, to the franchise chairs and napkins from the corporation. If the owner/operator’s franchise runs out of napkins, for instance, the owner/operator cannot simply run to the supermarket to purchase napkins, they have to fill their napkin holders with napkins that have the corporate logo on them. Failure to do so could result in franchise infringements penalties. To ensure individual franchises are adhering to the level of uniformity the franchise, and their customers, expect throughout the chain, the corporation hires what some call secret shoppers. The primary goal of these insects is to prove the value of their employment, so they grade the owner/operator’s franchise on everything from the significant to the seemingly irrelevant. They find things to write in their report, because they fear if they gave the corporation an (‘A+’), “no infringements found” the corporation might not hire them again. The infringements they find could lead to more penalties and other unforeseen costs for the franchisee. The corporation will also send out trainers who train the owner/operator and the incoming staff on how to do things “the corporate way”, and the franchisee then “helps” pay their salaries.

The corporate advisers, who provided us this “welcome to [the franchise]” presentation, did not provide an itemized list of the total costs of purchasing and running a franchise. I had to do my own research to find some of them. One look at this list and every potential franchisee should wonder how anyone makes any money in this business. When I emailed some leading questions regarding my findings, to the advisers, they said, “[This corporation] will help you with any costs and expenses,” they wrote using the specific name of the company. “[This corporation] wants to help you open a location in your city, and they will do whatever they have to to help you make it happen.” This was a blanket statement the corporate advisers made throughout their presentation, and it was the theme of most of their answers throughout the “welcome to [the franchise] presentation”, but they avoided providing specifics. 

“Profits in food service are so thin that I would seriously advise you consider another business,” a former owner of a mom and pop restaurant advised me. “We obviously didn’t have to pay all the franchise costs you list, and we barely made it month to month. You probably won’t make money for years, and even then you’ll probably want to consider opening two or three different locations if you want to make any real money and each of those franchises will each take their own time to turn a decent profit.”

A franchise owner/operator then wants to pay the person most responsible for opening the location. They want money for their time and headaches. “Expect to work at least 60 hours a week,” the mom and pop owner told me. “At least 60 hours. You’re the one responsible for the hiring and firing, and after a number of incidents, you’ll probably develop a greater tolerance for misbehavior and poor performance than you predict. You will put up with whatever you have to from your employees, to avoid going through the headaches involved in firing an employee, hiring a new one, and training them. Other than all of the headaches and time involved, you’ll eventually view it as an unnecessary expense. Then, you’ll have to fill in for those who call in sick, and when you finally pay yourself for all the hard work you’ve done, before taxes, you should expect to make less, per hour, than you’re making now. Most business owners, like your friend think it’s cute and funny when their employees consider them Daddy Warbucks in the beginning, but when we hear it four or five times, you can’t help but rant about how wrong they are.”

Some of us celebrate when we see a “big business” in our neighborhood close down. Some of us see that big name as a blight on our community. Some of those franchises are corporate owned, but a number of them are not. We might see it as sticking it to the man, but that man might be a man or woman who is seeking a way to feed a family of four.    

Why do flies, moths, and other insects want into our home so badly, and they want out just as badly and just as quickly? If it were nothing more than a mistake, why do they bump against the glass trying to get in? Are they just dumb? No, they’re not dumb, some argue. Okay, then why do they immediately fly to the nearest glass trying to get out shortly after getting in?

Light guides most insects at night, and the only light at night that guides them is the moon. Their internal guidance systems lead them to fly according to the light of moon, and our artificial light messes with their internal guidance system. Do they then recognize their faux pas soon after making it? If the moon explains the nighttime insects wanting in our home, how do we explain daylight flies trying to get in? Do they smell our food? When do they recognize their faux pas? Some of them might be attracted by the smell of our trash, but they rarely visit the trashcan. They usually bump to get in and turn around and bump to get out. Do they recognize their error to get in, or are they just dumb beings driven by instinct?

My Favorite Teacher of all time performed a miracle. He led me to believe the subject of Economics might be interesting. He made the subject so interesting that when I left high school, I became an Economics major. In college, I discovered how boring Economics could be in different hands. On the flipside, I considered Shakespeare so boring in high school that I found it difficult to hide my disdain for the material. In college, I found a passionate teacher who made Shakespeare sound like a genius. My takeaway, every subject is one good teacher away from being interesting.