Scat Mask Replica II (20)


1) What does it say that I still manage to work The Theme of The Love Boat into everyday situations in life? If our brain is nothing more than the most sophisticated hard drive ever invented, how much knowledge have I lost by keeping the lyrics of that song in my head?

2) What emboldens those of us who publicly state that our beliefs system is superior? We all have our insecurities, and we join groups to align ourselves with an idea we consider superior, so we can mock and denigrate others that belong to other groups. Some of us need a proverbial podium to mock and denigrate other groups, so that our group might view us as superior. Some view their presentation as bold, but I can’t help but wonder about the raging insecurities that drive a person to do this.

3) At the breakfast table, a five-year-old son speaks about the death of his father. The mother informed the son that he should hope that the father lives long enough to teach him how to be a man. The son looks at the father, “Well tell me.”

4) Analysts on financial/business networks often drop the term financial purgatory. Their context suggests that the term describes one stuck between joy and misery, coupled with a level confusion that can only lead to misery. Those more familiar with Catholic Catechism know that purgatory is a place between heaven and hell, a stasis reserved for those awaiting further judgment from the powers that be. A better description of financial purgatory might involve a child of the lower middle class upbringing, finding a way to live among those kids whose parents make true money, and all of the judgment that follows. Kids don’t care about money, for the most part, but as kids begin to age, how much their parents make becomes a topic of conversation. It can lead them to recognize that while his family is not poor they cannot afford to buy their way into this money conversation either. Some might dismiss this as a first world problem, and that children adapt well, but any child that seeks entrée into the in-crowd knows that it feels like Armageddon in the moment. Depending on the kids around them, it can lead a kid to feel he doesn’t belong in a financial heaven or hell, and the subsequent, general idea that they don’t belong can last well into adulthood.

5) The horoscope for the new sign Ophiuchus: This will be another meaningless week in your otherwise meaningless life. If someone informs you that they have something meaningful to say about your life this week, walk away. Don’t check in with yourself this week, just go through the week on autopilot for all events and information you receive will be meaningless. Your lucky weather element is wind.

6) A writer arguing about the rules of usage is not only tedious it’s an exercise in futility. Some writers pine for the linguistic purity of Geoffrey Chaucer, others argue that a writer should strive to remain casual for greater readability among the masses. On the latter, I know that I might be banging my spoon on a high chair, but when I read the numerous ways professional writers, overuse the word “had” a layer of glaze coats my eyes. I know that writing, “I had biked over trails” is past perfect tense and “I biked over trails” is present perfect tense, but I find one drips glaze and the other flows so well that the reader doesn’t pause. There is an ample middle ground for writers to explore between strict grammatical rules and readability, and most of them know it without knowing it, but a reading of Chaucer reminds one of the strict grammatical rules that have long since fallen out of favor in modern writing. On that note, I find “I had done” a most egregious violation of readability, as in “I had done my research before writing this paragraph.” It appears redundant and awkward to me, and when I read, professional writers write in such a manner, I wonder if they don’t pay their editors enough or if they overwork them.

7) Joe Theismann admitted that while a student/athlete at Notre Dame he allowed the university’s public relations department to change the pronunciation of his name from THEES-man to THIGHS-man. The pitch the PR department personnel made was that Theismann’s chances at winning college football’s most prestigious prize, the Heisman trophy, might increase if he changed the pronunciation of his name so that it rhymes with the name of the trophy. The former football star is now a celebrity spokesman for a company that purports to aid aging men with prostrate problems that cause them to urinate so often that it disrupts their lives. An ambitious member of marketing arm of this company –that knows about Theismann’s willingness to change the pronunciation of his name– should ask him to change the pronunciation of that name again so that it rhymes with HE PEES-man.

8) What would you say if a grown man approached your table at an outdoor café and said, “Pardon the intrusion, but I have to say that I enjoy watching the way you eat a tortilla chip.”

9) By modern cultural standards, Joseph Hupfel is a creepy man. He is dirty, unshaven and generally unattractive. He eats a very clean blt. Mayo. Toasted. Buttered lightly, immediately upon exiting the toaster. Sedimentary layers. How much of a man lies on the surface? We know creepy when we see it, until we learn more about the man. How much will we never know about him? Modern man believes he has a decent feel for the history of mankind, but how many fact-finding missions uncover something revolutionary that puts everything we thought we knew in the rear-view mirror? Some have speculated that there are miles upon miles of undiscovered artifacts lying under homeowner’s homes in Rome that could further explain the history of mankind, but the homeowners won’t let excavators unearth them.

10) In the 1890 essay, A Majestic Literary Fossil, author Mark Twain provides a hilarious condemnation of two thousand years of scientific theory from esteemed intellectuals in the field of medical science. Twain focuses the theme of this essay on the repudiation of the science behind the accepted medical practice of bloodletting. This practice relied on the accepted theory that blood doesn’t circulate in the body, it stagnates, and to achieve proper health the patient needs to have old blood taken out on a regular basis to send a signal to the body that it’s time to regenerate new, healthier blood. The scientific community regarded blood as one of many humours in the body, and they believed that all humours required regular regulation. As such, they believed that a healthy patient would allow their doctor to bleed them on a regular basis, as a preventative measure. The import of Twain’s essay is not necessarily a condemnation of science, in my humble opinion, but the idea that anyone should put stock in the consensus of science. For anyone that wants to argue that science is susceptible to occasional flights of human error, remember that the belief in the virtues of bloodletting wasn’t a blip in human history, the consensus of the scientific community considered the science behind bloodletting so sound that medical practitioners relied on it for most of human history. The import of this essay also asks us to examine what we believe today, based on a consensus of scientific theory. If we were able to go back to Abraham Lincoln’s day, and we witnessed the archaic act of bloodletting, what would we say? What would be the reaction to our reaction? “You don’t believe in science?” is a question they might ask us. To which we would tell them that we do believe in science, but we also know that some science, their science in particular, is wrong. “You realize that you’re arguing against 2,000 years of science. Why should we take your word for it even if, as you say, you’re from the future?” If a person were to travel back in time to our day, what would they ridicule us for believing? Would they be aghast at our archaic rituals and procedures, and would they end up laughing at us in the same manner we laugh at the scientists of Twain’s day? Our natural inclination will be to laugh with them, for we know all too well the foolish beliefs others in our era have, but will we stop laughing when they touch upon that which we believe, or will we continue to laugh with them under the soft lie that we were never that gullible?

11) I heard a cop once say that the rule of thumb for being a cop on the beat is to believe half of what you see and none of what you hear. Those that watch network television shows and major Hollywood movies should apply the same principle to their viewing habits.

12) Listening to one party’s version of a romantic breakup is always dicey. The listener knows they’re only hearing one side of the story, and they know where to get the other side if they’re feeling especially adventurous, curious, and nosey. They suspect that they will hear an equally partisan take on the situation from the other side, and they suspect that that both accounts might uncover some key discrepancies in both accounts, and that they might be able to help both parties discover a truth that lies somewhere in the foggy middle. Before enlightening these two parties, however, the listener needs to consider the idea that their truth is just as subjective as the two parties concerned, and the crucial point is that what the listener might believe is true is not necessarily the truth. Just because a listener is a third party, uninterested listener does not mean that they are objective.

13) If someone were to ask me for dating advice, based on my experiences, I would say the key to attracting a person is to try and be as genuine, and as normal, as possible on a date, unless those two characteristics conflict. The best dating experience of my life involved a woman that convinced me she was relatively normal. She went through some stuff in her previous life, but she managed to extricate herself from those situations relatively normal. Everyone says that they managed to escape prior relationships unaffected, but when we’re honest with ourselves, we recognize that this is not true. One of her key selling points of this fact was convincing me that she did not attempt to influence those affected parties with intimate details of her ex’s past transgressions. Most people I know adopt the time-honored tradition of slash and burn politics to assure all parties concerned of their nobility, but thoughtful people know that nobility is a long-term value that will reveal itself. She claimed that my greatest attribute was authenticity. I went through some stuff in my previous life, but I maintained whatever it was she sought in a man. If the person I knew was dating someone they feared were not normal, I would warn them that putting a best foot forward and creating a façade of normalcy is easy in short spurts. I would tell them to watch that person around their family and friends and pay special attention to the way they interact with the people they’re most comfortable. Most people don’t want their friends and family to think that a boyfriend, or girlfriend, can change them. If that doesn’t work, take a long trip with that person. That prolonged involvement should reveal the characteristics of the other party and allow one to make a more informed decision on them.

14) “What do you believe in?” I’ve asked those that ridicule me for believing in a person, place, or thing that turns out to be wrong. These people inform me that I should’ve been more skeptical, and while that is true, my question to them is, “Have you ever believed in something, only to find out you’re, to one degree or another, wrong?” The answer for some of them, has often been no, because they’ve wrapped themselves in a cocoon of fail-safe contrarian thinking to avoid ridicule.

After the facts roll out, it’s easy for a cynic to say that they never believed in it in the first place, but there is a point shortly after one learns of a novel idea, or a new approach to solving humanity’s problems, when the new information appears exciting to the reader. This point, just before the reader can personally research the subject, defines them as a hopeful person that wants to believe in people, places and things. For the purpose of discussion, let’s say that we’ve just finished an intoxicating nonfiction book that espouses radical, new secular and apolitical ideas to solving one of the world’s many problems. Let’s also say that this book in about a subject matter is covering a matter the reader knows little to nothing about, by an author they’ve never heard of before. How does one react to the information in that book, before doing personal research on it?

Some of us are more inclined to believe in something if the presenter builds a solid case for it, cynics are more inclined to seek out refutation for any person, place, or thing before the facts roll out, and then there are those cynics that ridicule everyone that believes in anything before the facts roll out. They prefer to call it skepticism, but I call it cynicism. It’s in my nature to believe in people, places, and things, until the facts prove otherwise. I believe, for example, that for just about every tragic situation mankind faces there is an ingenious problem solver that will eventually solve it. In the court of public opinion, this mindset often places me in a vulnerable position for ridicule.

When I first read John Douglas’ Mindhunter decades ago, I was a believer. I believed that Douglas laid out a solid case for how, why, and where criminal profiling could provide useful tools to assist law enforcement in their efforts to locate a criminal. It was a temporary setback for me to discover how often profilers erred. The naysayers used those instances to claim that criminal profiling is essentially a form of confirmation bias that involves throwing out a bunch of commonalities that most serial killers have, for example, to form a standard profile for the next serial killer they profile. The naysayers further this repudiation saying that after law enforcement captures the perpetrator, and the perpetrator confesses, the profiler then aligns the perpetrator’s characteristics with elements of the conclusions they made in their profile. The question these naysayers have for those that believed Douglas was, “How often was John Douglas wrong, and did he list those instances in his book?” It might have something to do with the idea that I was ready to canonize Douglas after reading his book, but the factual refutations of his work, by the naysayers, were eye opening to me. Once I recovered from the setback, I discovered that while flawed, criminal profiling might be on par with all that informs a doctor’s profile on a patient, before they reach a diagnosis on that patient’s ailments. In the back and forth on this issue, I began to question the effectiveness of criminal profiling more and more, but I also began to question the motives of the cynical naysayers. What drives an absolute cynic to tear down everything they read, hear and see? Dissecting any idea to locate truth is not only necessary it’s admirable, but how they approach their research is fundamental to their being.

Believers might approach personal research of such matters in a cynical vein, but they only do so in a scientific method to disprove. Absolute cynicism is so foreign to my thought process that it’s difficult for me to portray without bias, but I think it’s a fail-safe, contrarian approach that some use to ward off ever being incorrect and enduring subsequent ridicule for their personal track record. When I learn of an interesting new concept, or problem solving measure, it excites me until I learn that it is not as effective as the author believed, or presented it to be. I view this belief as food for the mind, and that a person that doesn’t believe in anything might have a more difficult time achieving fulfillment, and again I’m reserving this space for secular, apolitical ideas and philosophies. It seems to me that those empty spaces in the mind of cynical contrarians cry out for sustenance in a manner equivalent to an empty belly crying out for food, and that those vacuous holes do get filled by the belief in something. That something, I’ve often found, are alternative modes of thought that they consider almost impossible to refute.

15) Anytime I think I might be smart, I dip into a discussion involving the creations of our universe. One such discussion involved the time-space framework, another involved the idea that our universe is flat with a slight bend due to cosmic background radiation, and a third informed us of the idea that there are efforts now looking through the Microwave Background Radiation for evidence that some other universe at one time collided with ours. I don’t know what these people are talking about, and I dare say most don’t. Most of us, even most scientists, prefer to argue about the knowable.

16) For most of my life, I’ve managed to avoid caring what happens to celebrities. I used to strive to know what was going on in their worlds if only to understand the cultural references comedians drop better. I’m to the point now that I don’t understand three-fourths of them. I did manage, however, to land on a decade old story involving the messy divorce between singer Shania Twain and the producer Mutt Lange. It appears that Mutt Lange had an affair with Twain’s best friend, and he eventually married that best friend. In a noteworthy turn of events, Twain ended up marrying her best friend’s husband. The Hollywood writers love to give cute names to marrying couples like, Tomkat, Bennifer, and Brangelina. I suggest we call the Twain/Lange eventual arrangements, getting Shlanged.

17) Every time I watch a professional athlete make a mistake, I empathize. I arrive at this empathy from a much smaller vantage point, as I didn’t engage in organized sports past junior high. I played intramural games and pickup games constantly throughout my youth, however, and I made errors ESPN might have added to their Not Top 10. I have to think those laughing the hardest at the foibles of professional athletes never played sports in their life, or they’re seeking to diminish whatever laughable errors they made by laughing harder at other’s errors. What follows such laughter is some incarnation of the line, “I made some errors, sure, but I never would’ve done anything like that.” If I didn’t commit an error similar to that one, I think of all the egregious errors I made that were as embarrassing if not more so, and I follow that with the thought that at most, I had maybe twenty people witness my error. These professional athletes commit errors in front of millions, and sometimes hundreds of millions of people depending on how many times ESPN replays their errors for the enjoyment of those without empathy.

18) We’ve all mistakes large and small. Some of us have made life-altering mistakes, and some of us have made mistakes that affect others’ lives in a manner we have to live with, but few have made mistakes that change the course of history in the manner mapmaker Martin Waldseemuller did. Due to the popular observations of an Italian writer/explorer Americus Vespucci, the mapmaker named an entire continent after him. The general practice of naming continents involved leaders of expeditions, but Vespucci was more of an observer that wrote about the expeditions that he took part in. Christopher Columbus led the expedition to find a new path to the East Indies. When he arrived back in his home country, Spain, that’s what he reported as his findings. In the course of the confusion over what Columbus actually discovered, Vespucci wrote about his many expeditions to foreign lands, and conflicting accounts suggest Vespucci might have participated in Columbus’ expedition. Regardless if he participated in that particular expedition or not, Vespucci took part in expeditions following Columbus’, and he reported the discovery a new continent. Amid the sensation of that report, Waldseemuller mistakenly labeled the new continent Amerigo’s land. The standard practice of the day also suggested that continents have feminine versions, such as Asia, Africa, and Europa, so Waldseemuller took the feminine version of Americus’ name and called the land America. Some suggest that Waldseemuller attempted to correct this mistake by removing Amerigo Vespucci’s name from later editions of his maps, but it was too late to change it in the popular culture of the day. Columbus’ home country, Spain, refused to accept the name America for 200 years, saying their explorer should get credit for his accomplishment, not an Italian writer, but they couldn’t defeat the consensus on the topic. Thus, some suggest that Americans should call their homeland Columbia, the United States of Columbia, or the United States of Columbisia. From this, we can say that not only did America become a land of vagabonds, creeps, and cast offs, but we were mistakenly named after a writer that achieved some decent sales, and that popular opinion derived from those sales defeated all attempts to correct the record.

19) Those that enjoy reading biographies as much as I do know how little the childhood chapter has to do with the overall narrative of the subject’s life. The childhood chapter deals with the subject’s childhood, the child’s genealogy, and some elements of their upbringing. Other than familiarizing the reader to the subject, the only reason to include the childhood chapter is to reveal the research the author has performed on the subject. Chekov’s Razor applies to writers of fiction, but it does not apply, unfortunately, to writers of biographies. I’ve decided to skip the passages that inform us that the subject played hopscotch, their relationships with peers and siblings, and if their parents encouraged them or not. I now start a biography at the subject’s first major accomplishment, and I find that I don’t miss anything I consider substantive.

20) Reading through the various portrayals of George Orwell, the reader finds most authors claiming the Orwell loathed the idea that right-wingers adopted many of political theories. He was, to his dying day, a libertarian socialist these authors repeat at the end of every description. Some of his works, including Animal Farm and 1984, appear to denounce Stalin and the U.S.S.R., but Orwell didn’t limit his fears of totalitarian principles to locales or leaders. He feared the idea that too many citizens of the world were willing to give up their freedom for comfort, and he feared the susceptibilities were just as inherent in people of Britain and The United States. I understand that when people we consider political opponents adopt our theories, we might blanch at the notion, but when you’re right you’re right. If a political opponent adopted one of my theories to explain their beliefs, we might find that we disagree on an end game, but if we continued to find some agreement on a principle regarding fundamental elements of human nature, I would find that a compliment regardless of their political viewpoint.

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Rilalities X


Are you offended? Have you ever met someone that was easily offended? Have you ever told them that that gives the other side ammunition? Their response centers on the idea that it’s not them. They’re not easily offended. The just find the other party offensive. A younger talk show host, named Dennis Prager, took questions from the audience after a speech. A woman asked Mr. Prager a question. In the course of that question, she informed him that his views on the subject of her question offended her. When she finished her question, Dennis Prager answered it. He then went back to the idea that he offended her. “You said you were offended,” he said. “Why were you offended?” The two went back and forth for a bit before it became clear that her basis for declaring Dennis Prager offensive was that Dennis Prager had a different view on the subject. An older, wiser Dennis Prager looked back on that Q&A and suggested that the sole reason the woman was offended was that she disagreed with his opinion on the matter. “This,” Dennis Prager said, “Is what is going on in our culture today. Too many people confuse having a different opinion with being offended.”

We all believe that we have special insight on a given subject that leads us to know more than others. The others could be wrong, and they could be ill informed, but those that are offended believe that it’s more likely that they have a nefarious motivation for believing the way they do. Some of us do have a motive, and some of those motives are nefarious. We cannot discount that. We can say, however, that not everyone that disagrees with another has a nefarious reason for doing so. This is what we call painting with a broad brush. When a loved one disagrees with us, we know that we can’t paint them with this broad brush, so we find, or fabricate, a motive for them disagreeing with our impassioned pursuit of the truth. It seems impossible that educated people that have put some thought into their opinions can disagree with ours, so the only answer can be that they’ve arrived at their notion by nefarious means, and that offends us. Claiming offense seems like a shortcut to persuading another of their views. It’s a way of saying that I hold passionate beliefs based upon my special insight into the human condition, and you are not only wrong and lacking by virtue of your limited insight, but you are irredeemable.

Here’s how to do it, for the uninformed. If the member of an audience hears a comment from someone that audience member shares a worldview, or they like on a personal level, it doesn’t matter what that comment is, the audience members finds a way to support, excuse, or forgive that provocateur’s comment. The general thesis of their reply is, “I know what’s in his heart.” If a provocative point comes from an individual that has an opposing worldview, it doesn’t matter what’s in that person’s heart. In an attempt to portray themselves as well informed, the offended will react to the provocateur’s point. In the face of what they deem to be an offensive statement, they react. They don’t argue against the merits of the case the provocateur presents, and they don’t offer a substantive counter argument. They react, and that reaction is to claim offense. Being offended permits them, and some would say obligates them, to be offensive in return.

Bowie: The difference between rock stars and musicians/artists is a wide chasm. The groups AC/DC, Eagles, and ZZ Top developed a formula that consumers enjoyed, and they enjoyed the formula. The bond between the two was such that the rock stars didn’t venture outside the formula. If their fans would argue that point, they would have to concede the groups put less effort into making their albums as different as the albums in David Bowie’s catalog. The consumer never knew what to expect from David Bowie. Most of us now know the history of David Bowie, and we now assume that long-term success was a forgone conclusion, but a broader look at his career suggests that Bowie could’ve rested on his laurels after delivering Hunky Dory and Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars. How many artists would’ve sold their souls for half of the longevity of these two albums? How many artists would’ve done whatever it took to carve out the niche Bowie did in the rock world with these two albums? How many artists would’ve then released various incarnations of the formula found with those two albums, at such a young age? How many of those same artists would’ve been so grateful for the financial support that the record industry offered them to achieve such success that they would’ve been susceptible to their advice? Bowie could’ve had a successful career based almost entirely on the Ziggy Stardust character. What David Bowie decided to do was retire the Ziggy character soon after he achieved a peak with it. Three years later, he delivered an entirely different sound in Young Americans, and five years after Ziggy Stardust, he delivered three albums (in the space of two years) that demolished everything he built to that point and rebuilt a new sound for himself that some call his Berlin trilogy.

The thing with invention, and reinvention, is that an artist is bound to disappoint those that expect a more regular, consistent product. The thing with experimentation, on par with some of David Bowie’s discography, is that not all of it will work. No one that listened to Ziggy Stardust for the first time would expect that artist to produce the Low and Scary Monsters albums. Those albums are a stark departure from that which preceded them, as are Hours, Heathen, and Blackstar. I’ve listed but a few albums here, but most of the albums in Bowie’s catalogue had an individual beauty that any music lover should explore. Not everything Bowie touched turned to gold, of course, but I would say that he, more than just about any artist in his rarified air, believed that the essential ingredient of the artist was to take a risk and pursue avenues their audience might not, and often times did not, find entertaining. It is for this reason that I list David Bowie at, or near, the top of the list of rock stars that also happen to be musicians and artists.

These Dreams: Every person has dreams, hopes, and aspirations. Our individual dreams describe us as well as anything else does. I knew a person that believed that he discovered a ticket to ride. He spent a number of years compiling a VHS tape of nude scenes from movies and television shows. Before anyone begins assigning modern techniques to this pursuit, they should know that my friend make this tape in the basement of a home, in the Midwest, in the 80’s. My friend had no technical equipment. He had a pen, a notepad, and a VCR. My friend had no idea how many hours he logged compiling this tape, but he had to watch a movie, document the minute mark at which the actress removed her top, wait for the scene to arrive in the second viewing, and hit record at the perfect moment. For those that don’t remember, the cable channels of that era assisted my friend by replaying the same movie repeatedly. My friend spent years collecting these scenes, and he swears he had a three-hour tape almost full of, on average, four to five second scenes, when his sister found the tape and recorded over it. She recorded the movie Vamp for those interested in history.

Much later on in our friendship, I found a book that documented these scenes for him, so he no longer had to do it. I gave it to him for his birthday. He considered that book a bittersweet present. I was confused. I didn’t see how he could be anything less than overjoyed at the prospect that he was onto something with that tape. I told him the book had become a best seller.

“I should’ve written that book,” he said. “That book led me to the realization that I wasted years of my life making a tape that wouldn’t have seen the light of day. I was a dumb kid,” he furthered. “I didn’t know anything about licensing and attaining a person’s rights to using their image. That book had those scenes documented down to the minute, and the description of those scenes, just as I had. You joked about those little notepads, but I filled with the descriptions of the scenes in which Hollywood’s brightest stars showed their hoo hoos. It also had the exact minutes and seconds into the movie in which those top stars removed their tops. I didn’t think of rating those scenes, like that author did, but if I had spent some time writing a book on it, I probably would have come up with that. I could’ve made some real money off a book like that.”

Objectivity versus obliviousness: A friend of mine, we’ll call her Fawn, opened a story from her life with the qualifier, “This is not a story that you will view from objectively.” She said, “I don’t want you playing devil’s advocate with me. I just want you to listen.” When she finished, I went silent, as a form of rebellion to her direct order. “Well, what do you think?” she asked. I told her that she did not permit me to answer. She said I was. She just said that it had to be within the parameters that she drew up.

Everyone wants their listener to side with them in a story from their life, some just want the listener to listen with a comment the sides with them. Most are not this blatant. I thought it was a hilarious comment on the idea that I rarely take her side.

Another friend, a woman named Maddie, informed me that her friend Patricia invited Maddie to lunch at a restaurant. Maddie informed me that she reluctantly agreed to meet Patricia in this restaurant. After agreeing to go, Maddie decided that she wouldn’t be going. Maddie informed me that she had no other plans. She just didn’t want to go. Maddie also admitted that she never attempted to call Patricia beforehand to inform Patricia that she had changed her mind. Maddie then informed me that by not going, she would be leaving Patricia alone at that table in the restaurant. As the morning hours crept toward to noon, Maddie decided that she was not going to go. Rather than go through the painstaking process of developing an excuse “I just blew her off,” Maddie told me.

After the questions and answers established the particulars of this situation, I said, “How would you like that if she did that to you?” I considered this a time-honored question that my dad asked me so many times that it’s an ingrained response. I dare say that most people have a version of this question ingrained in their brain. I didn’t consider this question a brilliant display of my skills, and I didn’t consider it confrontational. I consider it a question that my dad would’ve asked of me, if I relayed such a story to him. It’s a question we ask of one another, when we think the other side doesn’t see the error of their ways.

Maddie had apparently never had a parent put them through the character-building exercise of viewing matters such as these, objectively. She informed me that Patricia wouldn’t do that to her. “You’re missing the point,” I said. In the course of this email, I set off a firestorm by saying, “I have to tell you that I think what you did was wrong. It would be one thing, if you had conflicting plans, or if you called Patricia to cancel your lunch, but leaving her at the restaurant alone was wrong.” This was the gist of my reply. It might have been a little longer, but I can report with confidence that I did not disparage Maddie’s character in any way. I did write that email, I must confess, but I deleted it. I wrote a second email that omitted my personal feelings on the matter. I wanted Maddie to continue to be my friend, but I thought someone needed to tell her what she did to Patricia was wrong.

This set Maddie off, I would later learn. She couldn’t understand why I would do this. She spoke to her brother, my best friend, to try to understand why I would say such a thing to her. They both knew that I had no allegiances to Patricia, so they couldn’t understand how I could condemn Maddie’s character in such a way.

“What’s wrong with your friend?” Maddie asked her brother. “He’s freaking out. Accusing me of stuff. He’s hysterical.” My friend, her brother, asked her for the details of the story. Maddie told him. He believed that it was all about him. He had a history of telling me that he would show up to a restaurant, and he wouldn’t show. He did this to me more than ten times. He believed I was harboring ill will towards him. I could see how he would think that, I could even see that he might have viewed me as empathetic to Patricia in that regard, based on our history, but I can tell you that I didn’t consciously call upon those moments in my defense of Patricia. I am the type that will judge people for their actions, as often as I expect them to hold me accountable for my actions, but that had no bearing on my exchange with Maddie. In the email exchange I had with her, she provided me a scenario, and I reacted. If there were never any prior occasions to match that one, and I would’ve provided that qualification in my answer.

As for the hysterical charge, our conversation occurred via email, so there was no way she could’ve determined if I was hysterical. I wasn’t hysterical. I just thought it was wrong, and I think 99% of the population would agree with me. Maddie is a princess though. Maddie lived a life where she could do no wrong, and she never had people call her out like that. Therefore, even though she couldn’t say I was wrong, she found an interesting way to make me the bad guy.

I think the two parties concerned should applaud me for my objectivity in this matter. It’s true I have no allegiances to Patricia, but Maddie was my friend until this argument. I could have viewed this episode from her perspective, but I didn’t. I made an effort to be objective. I tried to give Maddie every out possible. I asked her if Patricia had ever done this to her in the past, I asked if Patricia had ever done anything that warranted such as action on Maddie’s part, as a form of revenge, and Maddie assured me that Patricia hadn’t. I don’t think she knew what I was getting at.

No matter how many times I experience a situation similar to this, it amazes me how oblivious some people can be. My dad raised me to ask that “How would you like that if they did that to you” question. He raised me to abide by the “Treat others the way you want to be treated” credo that we all know, and we all shake our heads in agreement to it. The years I’ve spent interacting with people have taught me that most people don’t abide by tenants they shake their head to, but the obliviousness to confronting it in a given situation often shocks me.

I can see how an outsider, that doesn’t know Maddie, might think some form of guilt guided her into projecting me into the role of the bad guy, but I know Maddie. I know that guilt is not on her wheel of emotions. I believe her attempts to understand my simple reaction to her real-life scenario was genuine. When she couldn’t find my motivation for condemning her, because it made no sense to her that I should consider her actions wrong, she deemed me hysterical. When that didn’t make sense to her, she approached her brother. He came up with an answer, a plausible answer that I didn’t consider, and the two of them were satisfied with that answer. The idea that telling someone you will have lunch with them, only to blow them off and leave them at that restaurant alone, is the wrong thing to do didn’t even enter their conversation. It may sound like there’s more to story on the part of Maddie and her brother, but I can assure you there isn’t. They simply didn’t see it as wrong.

Prescription Drugs: “I think that we should take away the control doctors have over prescriptions.” How many problems in our country are drug-related? How many people have progressed from using illicit drugs to prescription drugs? How many more problems would result from the population having unfettered access to prescription drugs? At this point in a theoretical situation such as this one, the libertarian would suggest that we don’t give people enough credit. One could suppose that suspecting widespread chaos is unilaterally cynical. Yet, my counter proposal is that it’s not cynical to state that good and honest people, experiencing chronic pain, can accidentally develop a habit for taking painkillers as a means of soothing chronic pain. It’s also possible that these good and honest people can either ignore the harm these drugs can do in their quest to seek relief, or they might not have a thorough understanding of the harm some of these drugs can do. A possible overdose could occur, if informed third parties do not govern usage. Some of these informed third parties rely on test studies, and outside research to understand the benefits and harm of these drugs. They might better inform the chronic pain sufferer of the damage they may do, they might advise curtailing, and they might suggest a less addictive, alternative.

I attempt to be as libertarian as anyone else and I try to maintain an openness for suggestions regarding how America can become more libertarian, but I would suspect that one of the most libertarian politicians in Washington, ophthalmology physician Rand Paul, would agree that keeping restrictions on access to prescription drugs limited is a good thing. The answer my friend had was to take away all controls, so that we might thin the herd. You’ll have to trust me on the characterization of my friend, when I say that he was not joking.

Death: We will exit our celestial plane on a waterslide. A centrifugal force greater than gravity will pull us to the portal. The force will be such that it takes our breath away. It will dawn on us, before we hit the portal that we are dead. We will consider all we’ve left undone before we hit the slide that will take us to our next existence. Those thoughts will consume us to the point that not only will we not enjoy the ride. We won’t remember it. At the end of our ride, we will enter our local bar. The bar will be so close to our home that we will see our house on the hill. The lights will be out. Our family members will still be sleeping. We will wonder about the effect our departure will have on their lives. We will sit with many people in this bar, some of the associates we knew in life, some of the friends, and some of our loved ones that have passed on. They will tell us that this bar is our way station, our purgatory if you will, to ease us into the transition of our afterlife. They will tell us that the mystery of life is beyond most mortals, and that the only thing we do understand is that it moves on. This will soothe us and depress us. We were never as vital to their existence as we once thought. We will eventually run into an individual whose existence mirrors ours. They will tell us, “Life goes on. My son even laughed at my funeral. He wasn’t disrespectful. He wasn’t laughing at me. Somebody told a well-placed joke, that had nothing to do with anything, and he laughed. He laughed hard. I find it a depressing exclamation point on the idea that life goes on.”

Rilalities XI


Electoral College: We can provide an answer to the debate over whether the Electoral College is an outmoded way of electing presidents in two simple sentences. America is a Representative Republic. It is not, as some have suggested in a variety of ways, a democracy. The distinction, as it pertains to the Electoral College and presidential elections, is that the American voter is not voting for a presidential candidate when they cast a ballot, but for a representative that votes on their behalf in the Electoral College meeting that occurs a month after the election to determine the official winner of the election.

Those of us that are not scholars cannot claim to know all of the ideas that went into the formation of America’s federal government, but one of their goals was to create a system that made change difficult. They made it difficult to pass legislation, they made the Amendment process even more difficult, and they instituted numerous checks and balances on the powers of the branches. The Founders also instituted federalism to give the states more power, and thus provide an even greater check on federal power. By doing so, we can make the educated guess that for all the consternation that the system the Founders created has caused legislators, and their constituency, their goal was directed more towards stability than it was the equal representation that a democracy can provide.

In that vein, the Founders created the Electoral College. The Electoral College was, in effect, a check on the majority to provide some balance to the minority. The Founders knew that the majority would rule regardless of their efforts, but they did not want the majority (i.e. the passions of the mob) to hold a tyrannical rule over the interests of those in the minority. The Representative Republic form of government was their answer to allow minority interests, such as those in modern day Nebraska and Kansas, to have some say in the manner in which the federal government conducted affairs. The Founders believed that Rome’s version of a Republic was a superior form of government, because it allowed its representatives to make tradeoffs, or compromises, to form legislation for the common good. The Founders also believed that the people would hold these representatives accountable for their tasked role of providing representation. If America were a pure democracy, the interests of the larger states in our union would hold a tyrannical rule on the minds of national politicians.  

Some state that due to the fact that such a large percentage of the nation’s population now live in urban areas of California and New York, the votes of individuals living in Wyoming, Kansas, and Nebraska are given more prominence, in the Electoral College system. They state that this violates the principle of voter equality, and they declare that this is a violation of our democracy, and might be if the United States of America were a true democracy.

Those that pose the democracy argument rarely encounter an effective counter argument, for it is tough to argue against the idea that our system of representation should be population based to provide greater voter equality, and that a vote from a citizen in Kansas is disproportionately more important than a vote from a citizen from California. One of the many counter arguments is that the Founders based three-fourths of our government branches on this idea of equal representation, as opposed to providing population-based representation. The only branch of our government that provides population-based representation is The House of Representatives.

A proponent of the equal representation principle, provided by the Electoral College, might be willing to cede to the idea that the system we have in place regarding presidential elections is inherently flawed. They might also be amenable to changing it, if the opponents of the Electoral College were willing to cede that the other two branches of our government also provide population-based representation. If the proponent began his argument with the notion that we change the Senate to a population-based representation, most opponents of the Electoral College might be willing to compromise on that, as that would give the larger states even more power in the Senate. Would these same opponents be amenable to changing the Supreme Court into a more representative body? The proponent could argue that the unelected nine jurists on the Supreme Court do not represent the population as well as the judicial branch could if fifty-one jurists sat on the highest court in the land. (This proposition suggests that Washington D.C. be included, and we would deem it necessary to have an odd number of jurists, I suspect). Not only would that provide more representation for a wider variety of interests on the Supreme Court, it would provide some dilution of the vast power the nine jurists currently wield. In this scenario, we could have Governors, or even State Legislatures, nominate jurists to make sure that the jurists represented their state well. The proponent could also argue that one president doesn’t represent the population well and that we might want to consider having fifty-one presidents, 435, or however many it takes to provide better representation.

Those that seek to “guarantee the presidency to the candidate who receives the most popular votes in all fifty states and the District of Columbia” have made strides to basically end the original intent of the Electoral College. The first and last question these reform-minded citizens should ask themselves, is if we are going to make changes to the federal government, the Electoral College, and the manner in which the government represents the people how far do we take it?

The idea that these reformers only want to change that which furthers their agenda is obvious, but there are other agendas. That question asks the question, ‘Can a reform movement make all of the people happy all of the time?’ Of course not, and they are not driven by that goal. Their goal is to satisfy a personal, partisan agenda. Most reforms begin as personal, partisan agendas, however, and if this action makes America a better place then we should all be for it. That’s the question. Would this National Popular Vote bill make the country a better place? It would provide greater voter equality of course, but the goal of the Founders was to provide the nation what they believed would result in long-term stability. Those efforts have resulted in the fact that America is still on her first Republic since 1776, and France is now on her fifth since 1792, so one could say that if that was their goal they succeeded. If that stability is a direct result of all of the checks and balances on government power, including the check that the Electoral College places on what they believed would result in a tyranny of the majority, what would be the unforeseen and unintended consequences of the alternative.

Diet: “Pay attention to what you eat?” nutritionists say. We ignore some of the nuggets of information nutritionists provide, because some of them can go a little overboard. They suggest that we follow a plan that we don’t want to follow, from food we don’t want to eat, to smaller portions, to massive intakes of various vitamins and supplements. Most of us do not want to spend our free time reading ingredients, creating detailed charts of protein intake versus carbohydrate, and fiber. That could be overwhelming, and it could leave us eating nothing but grain and tofu. We may do this short term, but we don’t want to deprive ourselves of the goodies that make life enjoyable. Yet, from every philosophy comes a nugget of useable information.

“If you are what you eat, why would I want to mimic the diet of a person from the Paleolithic Era (AKA the Paleo Diet), if that person had a life expectancy of thirty-five point four years if they were a man, and thirty if they were a woman? Why would I want to mimic anything from an era whose highlights consisted of some use of tools, art that was limited to cave paintings, and whose controlled use of fire came so late in their existence?”

The answer to these questions, say some, is anatomical. The answer lies in various places along what Rob Dunn of the Scientific American calls “the most important and least lovely waterway on Earth”, and what he calls “a masterwork, evolutionarily speaking”. What Mr. Dunn is describing is the human body’s alimentary canal, or our digestive  tract. Rob Dunn also states that while “most canals take the shortest course between two points, the one inside you takes the longest.” The theory behind the Paleo Diet, put simple, is that we only eat food that which the human alimentary canal recognizes before enhancements and we added preservatives to the foods in various agricultural cultivations.

What’s better for the human body margarine or butter? The competitor to butter lists the tale of the tape. The makers of margarine state that it is a vegetable oil based product, as opposed to butter’s saturated fats. They state that butter contains milk, and milk is a dairy product, and anyone that knows anything about losing weight knows to eliminate dairy from their diet. Butter contains contain 100 calories per tablespoon, a typical serving size. One serving has 11 grams of fat, and 7 grams of it is artery-clogging saturated fat –about one-third of your recommended daily value! It also contains 30 milligrams of dietary cholesterol (10% of your daily value). Butter also contains vitamins A, E, K2, and it “contains a type of fat called butyric acid, which helps maintain colon health. It’s also rich in conjugated linoleic acid, a type of fat that may actually help protect against weight gain.”

Margarine is a plant-based alternative, but some margarine contains some trans-fats. Some margarine products suggest that they contain no calories, but most of the products have fewer calories than butter, so margarine is the winner right?

The question that Rob Dunn, and most enthusiasts of the paleo diet ask, and that which might be a usable nugget of information in the debate between butter and margarine is, what does your digestive tract consume in a quicker and more efficient manner? 

The human digestive tract does not process the imitation egg, for example, as well as it does a natural egg that is prepared in the most natural manner possible. The theory holds that weight can be lost, as a result of the digestive tract recognizing how to metabolize that egg in the most efficient, quickest, and most natural manner possible. The theory also holds that the more familiar our digestive tract is with the egg, butter, meats, fish, vegetables, fruits, and nuts that could be found in the Paleolithic Era, the more it knows what to do with the food that has been introduced to it, the greater the health benefits.

I may be wrong in my assertions here, regarding the import of the Paleo diet philosophy, but I do not believe it calls for an exact mimicry of the diet of the Paleolithic man. Rather, it suggests that based on the current evolutionary design of the human body, we should study the diet of the Paleolithic man. We should take some nuggets of information that we believe made the Paleolithic man healthier, in lieu of the more processed foods that have additives and preservatives that can inhibit processing food in the digestive system, and make choices on our dietary habits based on that information. The paleo diet does not call for a complete overhaul of our diet, in other words, it just provides details that allow humans to make choices. Mimicry is a stretch, in other words, but imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.

Rilalities IX


Literature: I’m always surprised when I find a collection of a fictional author’s book of letters essays, memoirs, and other pieces of non-fiction, and I find that so few of them pieces have merit.  The authors I’m speaking of are the titans of the fiction world that have written masterpieces.  I acknowledge that these authors may have saved their best material for their fiction, but my inclination is that their brain droppings (sorry George Carlin) might have some juicy nuggets in it. Brain droppings, as I define it, are those casual asides that the author couldn’t find a place for in their masterpieces, or any of the other works of fiction that I had a voracious appetite for at one point in my life.  I have not purchased any of these collections with the idea that they would be as brilliant, front to back, as the masterpieces, but I’m often surprised at how worthless they turn out to be.

fiction-and-nonfictionPolitics: There is some debate as to whether Hillary Clinton is a socialist.  Those that strain to be objective on the matter, state that she cannot be a socialist: She’s rich. As one that is fond of poignant humor, I thought this was a creative method of declaring that if she is a hypocrite.  It became obvious that this assertion had nothing to do with creativity, when this on-air personality defended his position by stating that she worked the Capitalist system for what it was to her own benefit, and that she had to have some appreciation of it as a result. Whether or not Hillary is a socialist is not important to this discussion, or at least it pales in comparison to the idea that an individual can do everything they can to amass personal wealth while condemning others for doing the same.  If she wins in November, she could also do everything she can to prevent and inhibit wealth production for others while continuing to do whatever she can to amass her own, and if someone asked her if such actions could prove hypocritical, she could say no, and she wouldn’t be lying by her own definition.

Sports: When I hear sport’s analysts breakdown the comments made by an athlete, I often wonder how much of their analysis is an actual breakdown of the athlete’s comments, and how much of it involves the author’s personal interpretation?

Entertainment: If you see a high-profile, entertainment talk show host being interviewed, you can count on a political issue coming up.  When it does, the talk show host says, “I receive audience complaints for what I do, from both conservatives and liberals.”  Some of them add, “Which basically means I’m doing my job.”  The more savvy ones allow the interviewer to add the latter.  The interviewer and talk show host then move on other subjects, and this leaves the impression that the complaints the host receives are around 50/50.  I realize that such interviews are inconsequential in the grand scheme of things, but if I were the interviewer I would consider it my duty to point out that most of these talk show hosts are divisive in some manner.  Or if I was feeling hospitable, I would say that the American public has become so divided that even silly, entertainment talk show hosts can cause an audience to view them in a subjective manner. Regardless how I phrased it, I would force them to admit that an overwhelming majority of the complaints they receive come from one side.  For if you receive 10,000 complaints from one side, regardless what side it is, you shouldn’t be able to make a blanket, and unchallenged, assessment of those complaints, if you only receive 100 from the other.  I’m not saying that the host should be required to report exact figures, but something along the lines of: “Well, obviously, the brunt of complaints is from one side, I mean (laughter) we all know who I am, and what I believe, but I do receive complaints from my side too that suggest that I’m not partisan enough for them.”

Social:  “Just because you’re predisposed, you can’t be objective most of the time.” There’s no way we’re wrong.  The third party players say that we are.  They say that we make the mistake of assigning our motives and attributes to those around us. We’re forced to concede that this is true, but we don’t think it applies to us.  Have you ever considered the possibility that it might?  Of course, we say, we view ourselves as the personification of objectivity.  We rarely make a decision, until we’ve approached it from every possible angle imaginable.  Honest people, offering honest assessments, tell us we’re wrong.  It’s preposterous.  It’s absolutely preposterous, and it’s something that we often fail to  consider completely.  It’s indescribable when it happens to us, and we wonder how often those that know so much more than we do, realize that they have a lot to learn?

Rilalities VIII


People People

Have you ever met a people person?  Have you ever met one that knew what that meant?  “I don’t know, I just like people,” the may say when you ask them.  “I like being around people most of the time.  I also like to laugh and take long walks around the lake, and I like to do that with the special people in my life.”  I used to think this whole line of thought was so unusual.  I couldn’t believe that it caught on as an accepted description healthy men, and women, used to describe themselves.  Until, that is, I began hanging out at my friend’s liquor store, and worked in restaurants, and hotels.  I realized that there was this whole cadre of people out there that walk into liquor stores to buy liquor with the hope that someone will speak to them.  These people would “stick around” for a chat that could last hours.  My first thought was that these conversations sprang up in a more organic manner, until my friend said:

“Nope!  Stops in here, about every other day, and talks my ear off about the most inane stuff.”

lonely manSome men would frequent the restaurant where I worked, just to speak to one of the many pleasant, cute, young girls on staff.  Some men memorized when the young women that didn’t mind harmless flirting worked.

“Why do you stop and speak to these creepy guys,” I asked one of the waitresses.

“You can tell he doesn’t have anyone,” she said.  “And he’s harmless … trust me,” she said.  “Plus, he adds a couple bucks to the tip when you take the time to chat with him.”

I thought these girls were wrong.  I thought they underestimated these men.  I didn’t want anything to happen to them.  They were my friends.  I was wrong.  I over-estimated these guys.  They were, in fact, harmless, at least insofar as there were never any incidents that occurred in my time there. These men weren’t just alone in life, they had holes in their soul.  Some of them were old, but most of them were men in their prime that would get dressed up, perhaps sprinkle a little cologne on, and get regular, fashionable haircuts for the purpose of fostering their belief that they might have a chance to spend some quality time, between the breakfast crowd and the lunch crowd, speaking to young, attractive girls.

If the traveling businessmen that frequented our hotel were lucky enough to time their entrance into our hotel, so that one of the cute, young women on staff checked them in, they would remain at the front desk long after their check in was completed.

“So how you doing?” they would ask with the urgency removed from their voice.  They, too, were harmless individuals that just wanted someone to speak with them.  Most of them didn’t want to date any of these girls, or see them in varying stages of undress.  They just wanted to chat.  They wanted these girls to think they were just people people.  They were so alone that they just wanted a couple of minutes of that girl’s time to break up the quiet, tedious monotony of their lives, and have just to have one attractive, young female on God’s green earth say:

“Hank, how you doing?  How’s that God forsaken Cutlass Supreme holding up for you?”

When those conversations ended, be it through business needs or through the natural course of a conversation’s completion, I would watch that beaming smile on their face collapse, in a gradual manner, back into the expression of fatigue, sadness, and loneliness that the muscles in their face were used to supporting

The men at the hotels and restaurants appeared to be normal men, with normal and pleasant dispositions, and it seemed impossible to me that they couldn’t get some woman to pay consistent enough attention to fill that gap they needed filling.  It taught me how fortunate I was in life to have people that wanted to be around me on a consistent basis.  I’ve been alone in life, I think we all have, but I’ve been fortunate enough in life that I never felt the need to walk into an establishment just to get someone to speak with me for five minutes.  Who are these people, and what do they do in life to gain some separation, some events in life, and someone to notice them long enough to have some sort of companionship?  My experience has taught me that they are a lot more common than most people think.

Qualified Opinions

“You’re afraid of your own opinion,” I told a friend of mine.

His ever present, sanctimonious smile would assure me that he was smarter than I am.

“Just because someone disagrees with you … ” he would say.

“It’s not that,” I said.  “It’s the way you frame your statements.  It’s your qualifiers.  I never heard anyone qualify everything they say before, until I met you.  It’s like your running for office.  Do you qualify notifications that you’ll be using the facilities, in fear of someone, somewhere finding offense?”

Most people qualify provocative thoughts, because they know that most people like qualifiers, and most people want most people to like them.  I’m not going to say that I am immune to this, but I prefer the thought-provoking ideas I hear to standalone.  I prefer that thought-provoking, somewhat productive idea that hits people in the jugular and divides them.  Most people cannot do this, but the people that lie on the opposite side of spectrum drive me insane.

“I have nothing against food gatherers, but … ” one has to imagine that one caveman said to other caveman to introduce his provocative thoughts regarding males that decided to gather rather than hunt.  The point is that the need to qualify, to keep friends, is endemic to human nature, but in this age of Human Resources and PC language, most of us are afraid to speak, or to give voice to a thought that may be deemed offensive by someone.  The human need to be liked is too overwhelming and too ingrained.

My friend’s whole life appeared to be an effort to prove Abraham Lincoln’s quote wrong in that he thought he could please all of the people all of the time.  I will admit that when this guy spent thirty seconds qualifying everything but his trips to the restroom, it lent his opinions greater importance, but by the time he concluded a thought, I couldn’t help but think he never said anything of import.  Everything he said was milquetoast dressed up in a carnival barker’s set of qualifiers.

And he could say nothing for long stretches of time.  The few breaks in monotony this man provided his listeners were the qualifiers.  He would qualify at the beginning of his oration, he would qualify throughout, and he would then find a way to wrap a bow on his thought with a qualifying wrap up.  It was tedious.

Somewhere along the line, I’m guessing, this man was rewarded for his speaking skills.  Whether he attended a broadcasting class, where he was asked to stretch it out, or a speech class where there were points given for bringing a speech to eight minutes.  Whatever the case, the man developed an ability to cover for his inability to say something profound by clouding it in qualifiers that suggested there was something profound nestled in all those qualifiers, and if you couldn’t find it that was on you.  Implicit in his tedious orations was an invitation for you to fear that you weren’t smart enough to understand it.  My friend never said this, but it was more than implied.

Conglomeration Correct

I tried to find the perfect description for what I thought was one of the most unusual and successful pairings in music history: Ben Folds and William Shatner.  When it comes to music, Ben Folds is one of my guys, but I know he’s not for everyone.  I’d never found much in the way of Shatner, as far as music was concerned, and I had never been a huge fan of his acting.  When the two of them teamed up on a project called Has Been, it reminded me of one of my favorite concoctions: mixing granola and yogurt.  I am quite sure that banana flavored yogurt alone would be too sweet, and while cranberry granola product is tasty, I doubt that I would purchase it as a standalone.  If heaven has a taste, one suspects that the perfect combination of the two might be the sensation one feels if they were to lean over and taste the floor.  You don’t always get that perfect combination, as there are times when you have too much yogurt, and others when you have too much granola, and you may one perfect spoonful in one setting, two if your focus is more acute, but those rare occasions make the trip to the store, and all of the effort put into trying to get the perfect spoonful worth it.  I realized how hard this idea would be to translate when I was at the zoo.  At the zoo, I witnessed one gorilla remove dung from the anus of another gorilla and eat it.  When that gorilla closed his eyes –a reaction I deemed to be that gorilla savoring that dung for just a moment before he moved on to another dispensing– I realized that taste and choice are so relative that it’s impossible to define musical tastes through flavor.

Humor Means Never Having to Say You’re Sorry 

We all think we have a pretty good sense of humor.  Yet, most of the laughter we receive, from adults, is conditional and polite.  It’s a quid pro quo type of agreement we enter into that calls for polite giggles at another’s flavorless jokes, if you want them to return the favor with polite giggle at your flavorless jokes.  Infants, and other young people, are not a part of this agreement.  Try your sense of humor out on a baby the next time you’re in line at a Wal-Mart behind one.  Test your best “baby laugh” material out on them to see how far you get.  The baby will turn away at some point, but if you are funny, or unusual in a manner foreign to their world, you’ll get a second glance.  If you don’t get that second look, and nothing exciting happens in front of this baby, you can go ahead and guess that you are not as funny, or as unusual, as you thought you were.

Strange Officefellows


“You can’t choose your family,” they say. We can choose our friends. We can even choose those that we decide to be around on a regular basis, even if they are not our friends. We can’t choose our family members, however, and we can’t choose co-workers. Those that have been a part of a large, multi-national corporation, on a long-term basis, have found that the lines between family and co-workers often become blurred. “There are times when we may find ourselves closer to our co-workers than our family, and the simple reason for this is that we’re around them more often,” a boss of mine once said. In the course of our tenure, we will sit next to a wide variety of office workers that reveal their eccentricities to us over time. We will find that the office contains just as many black sheep as our family does, if not more. When a person works in the service industry, on the overnight shift, they will encounter a Star Wars Cantina of black sheep on a nightly basis, and the attempts to overlook eccentricities will become a part-time job. My advice is to attempt to tightrope the line between being as inclusive as possible while maintaining a sense of exclusivity. Hedge too far into your ideas of your own exclusivity, and the hours spent at the company will be excruciating, as you will have no one to talk to, and you may not have any friends.  Become too sympathetic to their plight, to the point that you begin to believe that they’re all a victim a circumstance, may lead you to becoming one of them. The difficulty of maintaining objectivity is made all the more difficult by the players involved, and their apparent desire to top the most extreme eccentricity the normal person believes they’ve ever heard. If the person manages to escape this exercise untainted, they will walk away from the experience mumbling you can’t choose your co-workers.

The Office Party

A Case of Mistaken Identity

Rhonda told my girlfriend, at the time, that she saw me at a bar that was well-known in our city for being a low-rent meat market. When my girlfriend confronted me with this, I informed her that I had never been to that particular bar. The next day, my girlfriend informed me that Rhonda stated that it wasn’t just that saw me there, she stated that the two of us had engaged in an extended conversation. I reiterated the fact that I’d never been to that particular bar. When Rhonda later found out that there was another person working at our company that had the same name as me, she conceded that it may have been a case of mistaken identity. I accepted this at face value, at first, until I chewed on it for a second.

“Didn’t she say she had something of an extended conversation with me that night?” I asked. “How can one have an extended conversation with another and believe it’s someone else, based on their name?” 

It’s important to note, here, that my relationship with Rhonda went beyond a name basis. The two of us spent three months working across the aisle from one another in the company. And … and those three months were her first three months with the company, and she had tons of questions, and I was the senior agent on that team whose primary duty it was to answer those questions. In these two respective roles, the two of us had over 100 exchanges in those three months.

“It’s not a case of mistaken identity,” I said. “She’s out to get me. She wants to break us up, or something.”

“She doesn’t think that way,” my girlfriend at the time stated. “It’s just Rhonda. She’s kind of a ditz. I’m embarrassed that I ever believed her over you. Forgive me?”

Of course I forgave her. How could I hold her responsible for another person’s fables? I didn’t forgive Rhonda however. I knew Rhonda was a bit of a ditz, but I wasn’t buying the “It’s just Rhonda,” line regarding the accusation she leveled against me, and I thought less of my girlfriend for believing her. I thought Rhonda was out to get me, and I carried that particular grudge against her for months, until I ran into Dan.

“It is just Rhonda,” Dan said to confirm my girlfriend’s characterization. “I can tell you all you need to know about Rhonda in one brief, little story. Rhonda found out that $600.00 was missing from her checking account, and that she could not explain that missing money. She knew that she didn’t do it, and her daughter said that she didn’t withdraw the money either. Rhonda was so convinced that something nefarious was going on that she took her complaint up the corporate chain to the bank’s vice-president (VP). Once in that seat of power, Rhonda proceeded to berate this woman for her bank’s apparent lack of security. ‘You just let anyone walk into your bank and withdraw money from other people’s accounts?’ Rhonda stated that she told the VP. Rhonda then stated that she informed the VP that the bank would be pulling all of the bank’s security tapes, and that it had become her mission in life to get her $600.00 back if it killed her, because she knew knew that she didn’t do it. She stated that she would’ve remembered withdrawing $600.00, because $600.00 was all she had in that account, and her $500.00 rent was coming due, and she wouldn’t just withdraw her rent money for reasons she couldn’t remember. She informed the bank VP that she had nothing to show for that $600.00 withdrawal, and if she had been the one to withdraw the money she “sure as hell” would have had something to show for it.

“Well, the bank VP, being a good VP, responded to Rhonda’s complaints, and she called Rhonda in a couple days later to watch the tape and show her that it was, indeed, Rhonda withdrawing those funds. Now,” Dan continued. “I’m sure that that bank VP accused Rhonda of all the same ulterior motives that you just did two minutes ago, but the one thing neither of you account for is her stupidity, an inexplicable, almost unprecedented, embarrassing amount of utter stupidity that is just Rhonda.”

A Reaction

I strolled into work one day to find Bill and Jim playing on a scooter in the back office of the front desk of a hotel. This scooter was motorized and very similar to that which can now be found at a neighborhood Wal-Mart. Jim rode around on this motorized scooter, like a little kid with a new toy: laughing, beeping the little horn, and hooting, and hollering, and waving his pretend hat around like a cowboy in a rodeo.

“That’s hilarious,” I said watching Jim go crazy.

“Yeah,” Bill said. “Too bad there’s a limit to the fun … It’s an old lady’s cart, and it’s limited in how fast it can go.”

“Whaddya mean?” I asked Bill, as Jim began his dismount. “These things are universal. There isn’t an old lady’s model.” 

I then proceeded to mount the motorized scooter and turn the accelerator switch from turtle to rabbit. Just before I went on my first ride, I saw Bill and Jim’s imagination light up. I took one run through the back office to gain a little comfort with the scooter, and its new speed, and in my second run, I began yelling, “How do you stop this thing?  I’m out of control.” I then crashed into one of the telephone operators that had been sitting in her chair.

The telephone operator’s initial alarm could not be faked, but as she read my face, her alarm softened. “Jack ass!” she said with the remnants of a smile lifting the corner of her mouth.

Bill and Jim were out of control with laughter. I thought of making a couple more runs. It was, indeed, a blast. The performer in me couldn’t see how I could top that first run, however, so I dismounted.

Bill replicated my run by screaming the exact same words, and he ended up crashing into the exact same operator’s chair in the exact same manner.

“Look,” someone that just entered the back office area said when Bill was in the midst of his run. “Bill figured out how to make the scooter go faster.” The person that said this just happened to be the most attractive female in the hotel, and I had spent weeks trying to impress her. When Bill crashed into the very same operator’s chair as I had, she laughed hard and said, “Bill, you are hilarious!”

“I did that,” I told Bill in a manner that I hoped would affect this girl’s impression of me. Bill stopped right in front of me, looked up and grinned. “I figured out that switch,” I said. “I made it go faster. I — you even ran into ran into the same operator’s chair in the exact same manner I did.” Bill just sat there and grinned at me. I knew that declaring propriety of a joke was a fool’s errand, and as a result I didn’t do it often. This impressed girl was so good looking, and she laughed so hard that I couldn’t help but ask Bill for my proprietary interest back. He just sat there and smiled at me.

I got credit from the schlubs at the front desk, but when the best looking girl at the hotel stepped in the back office, she only saw Bill doing it. “You know I did that first,” I said like a five-year-old trying to reclaim a good boy deed. I hoped that this girl would hear this and know that I was the funny one here, and that Bill had just copied a run that led her to laughter. I wanted that laughter.

Bill’s smile increased, until he was beaming at me. At one point, his beam increased to the point that he was starting to turn red. My competitive urges began to grow, until I began disliking this man, this Bill. I didn’t enjoy his company him before, but this display was just beyond the pale. He was the beneficiary of excellent timing though, and he knew it. When he continued to smile at me, and beam, and go red with glory, I considered the fact that I had underestimated how loathsome a creature I had on my hands, soaking up more than his share of glory. I was getting fired up, trying my hardest to look away. I was fighting the urge to call him a dirty name, at this point, and I was imagining that this altercation might progress into the physical, when a third party stepped in to interrupt us:

“Okay Bill, settle down.” The third party then said in a very soothing voice, “You know you need to refrain from getting too excited.”

“What?” I asked the third party person. “What’s going on?”

“He’s having a seizure.”

The Mess

“Jenny I think it’s poop,” Jack said leaning down to look at a small particle on the floor that was at the bottom of the ballroom announcement board.

“It’s not poop Jack,” Jenny replied. “Just clean it up.”

Minutes later, the front desk housekeeper began bending down to make quick dabs and wipes with a washcloth on the floor in front of the front desk area, and she proceeded to do this down the hall. “What are you doing?” I asked her.

“Someone spilled coffee on their way down the hall,” she said cleaning a trail of brown dots. “Happens all the time.”

Minutes later, a gift shop employee approached me saying, “I need you to accompany me out to a car.” What?  “Just come on!” she said. “I’ll tell you out there.” At the car, she informed me that a guest had knocked on the stall of the bathroom, asking the gift shop employee if she worked for the hotel.  When the gift shop employee told her that she did, the guest informed her that she had had an accident. The guest asked the gift shop employee to go to her car and retrieve a coat for her. Fearing a lawsuit, or that this was some kind of ruse, the gift shop employee asked me to witness her going into the guest’s car for the guest’s coat.

Once the guest had her London Fog, knee-length coat on, sans underwear and pants, the gift shop employee informed me, the guest decided to stop, en route to the exit, and shop in the gift shop for fifteen minutes, “Like nothing happened,” the gift shop employee informed me. She was wearing a London Fog length coat that stretched to her knees, but she had nothing else on below the waist, due to the mess she was purported to have made in her undergarments and on her pants.

“She must be used to it,” the gift shop employee surmised.

The Obnoxious Email

One of my fellow email employees quit the job that required her to answer emails from customers, because she couldn’t handle the swearing she encountered via the confrontational emails that she received.

“It’s an email,” I told her on numerous occasions. “Prior to this job,” I informed her, “I’ve experienced face to face confrontations with angry, swearing customers, and I’ve even had some of them throw things at me.” I informed her of some of the abusive phone calls I’ve taken over the years in which I’ve had my life threatened. “And these are just emails.” I told her that some customers will do everything they can to get under your skin and rattle you. “It’s the nature of the customer service industry,” I said. “Compared to a person trying to dress you down, face-to-face, and an irate customer that won’t let you get a word in with their less personal phone calls, an abusive emailer is nothing. It’s impersonal, and they know it. The anonymity allows them to think they can write anything, and it has no reflection on them. Just ignore it, and don’t take it personal.” I said the latter in a dismissive manner that suggested that once you get over this hump, you’ll be looking back on all of this with laughter.

“I can’t ignore it,” she said. “And to be quite honest, I don’t know how you all can?”

“Just laugh at their feeble attempts to prove that they’re mad,” I said the latter in a mocking tone that mocked their attempts to appear emotional via email. In my attempts to lead her into dismissing these silly people that get emotional in emails, I was informed that I was acting in a manner that she considered dismissive of her complaint. “It’s a mindset that you have to have in the customer service industry. Always remember that they don’t know who you are. They’re angry people that want to have something to be mad about. You’re just the unlucky person that happens to be on the other end of their rage. You’re an anonymous worker for the company. Their grievances aren’t with you, or even company. Their complaints are with the life fate has dealt them. In the end, be happy that you don’t have to live with them, or in them, and that it’s just an email. Most of us have experienced a lot worse.”

“I couldn’t do it,” she said greeting me months later, after numerous counseling sessions. She was quitting the company. “I couldn’t ignore it,” she added. I couldn’t help but think less of her, as she told me how much my efforts to console her meant to her, and she said all that with tears in her eyes. To say that I was shocked does not do it justice.

From that point forward I took what I considered inconsequential complaints from fellow employees more serious, and I realized that we’re all different, and we all have different thresholds, and some of us define Darwin’s theories on natural selection and survival of the fittest better than others.

The Identifiable Characteristics inherent in the Penis

Working in the intangible world, employees are often required to require that some customers send the company a form of identification to prove their identity if they hope to continue to do business with the company. In one of the replies to such a requirement, a customer sent an image of his penis. Next to the picture were the words, “This is me!” and an arrow pointing to the image. I’m not sure if this customer was sending a rebellious statement in regards to our company’s policies and procedures, or if he believed that this would fulfill our company’s requirement for identification.

Putting Down the Dog

Sitting next to a person for forty hours a week, can lead one to think that they know their co-worker. Some are tempted to believe that they know that person better than their family and friends do, but most of us know that this is a silly conceit, as it is impossible to know a person in such limited constraints. In the day-to-day interactions we have with them, however, we hear intimate details we believe they will not share with family and friends, and this lead us to the temptation that we think we know them.

The friend that led me to know the limits of my powers of observation, informed me that she had to put the family dog put down over the course of the prior weekend. In the midst of my sympathetic response, she said:

“It’s a dog. You men get so attached to dogs. You’re all so ridiculous.” 

I agreed, and I made a joke about the inherent loyalty men have for a dog versus what they may have for a spouse. Unbeknownst to me, at the time, this otherwise meaningless joke changed the dynamics of our conversation. I only gained the full breadth of this change in hindsight, after her full confession was out.  She laughed a little at that joke. She presumably considered that joke a statement of solidarity she and I shared on the issue. She opened up after the little joke. 

“My husband’s so upset,” she said. “He thinks I did it, because the dog was messing all over the place.” 

“Well,” I said. “That’s grief. Maybe that’s how he’s dealing with it, by blaming you.” 

“No, he’s right,” she said, “but it wasn’t just one mess here and there. The dog was going all over the place. Every time I came home and opened my door, I smelled urine. Our whole house smelled like dog urine, and I couldn’t handle it anymore.” The look on my face affected hers. “I told him and told him to take care of it. I told him to train the dog better,” she expounded. “I told him that maybe he should race home, during his lunch hour, to let the dog out one more time, but he didn’t do it.”

A lengthy answer of this type requires repetition. Even if the listener heard everything the speaker said, they need the speaker to pull quote the answer. 

“Wait a second,” I said. “You said he was right. What was he right about?”

“I did put the dog down,” she said. She then put a hand up to caution me against proceeding before she could answer in full. “But it was not an impulsive decision. This dog had been having trouble with its urinary tract for months. I told my husband to take care of it. He said he would, but he either wouldn’t or he didn’t, so I did.”

“Who are you?” I asked. When I asked this question, it was framed in the comedic rhythm that many sitcoms use to condemn another in a soft fashion and allows the target of the accusation an easy exit. She flinched in a manner that informed me that she might have never heard the joke delivered that way before. “What did you say to your husband’s accusations?” I asked her. 

“I told him that the vet said the dog suffered from some debilitating disease,” she said. “I can’t even remember what I said that disease was. I made something up.” She then laughed. 

Again, I heard everything she said, but in order to process this information my processing center required repetition. “What did the vet say the disease was?”

“There was no disease,” she said. “The dog wasn’t suffering from any disease, and it did not have infections in the urinary tract. It was just old, and it couldn’t control its bladder anymore.”

Some writer’s discretion was involved here, as I did not include the blank stares I offered this woman, as she detailed her weekend activities, and I characterize her action as she did. I considered her act so heartless that I couldn’t comprehend it, but I didn’t want to bore the reader with the innumerable blank stares I offered. The next question I’m sure a reader might ask is why didn’t I call her out or condemn her action further. All I can say is that I thought I was the product of the ‘awful to the extreme’ joke. I am quite sure that everyone has fallen for this joke. I know I have, and it has happened so many times that my guard was up here. I’ve condemned people for actions so completely that when they say, ‘I didn’t really put my dog down. I was joking. I cannot believe you would think that I would do something that awful … You can be so naïve some of the times’ I felt like a fool for overreacting in such a manner. 

That response, nor any response based on that theme, would arrive. I would bring this issue up again, several times in the future to confirm the details, and it would affect our relationship, because I “Couldn’t get past the whole dog issue.”

Rilalities VII


Effective Perhaps, Brilliant No— “She’s brilliant,” a social commentator, from the Vanity Fair magazine, said when asked to provide some commentary on the social impact Courtney Love had on the 90’s. “I’ve never seen anyone manipulate the media in the manner she does.” If this social commentator knew what he was talking about –and he must working for Vanity Fair— he would know that Love’s method of manipulating the media involves persistent, high volume, and presumably vulgar calls to the offending member of the media that eventuate into threats of physical violence to those that still refuse to portraying her in a positive light. Effective perhaps, brilliant no.

vicksburgIf this strategy of manipulating the media is brilliant, it’s brilliant in the way Ulysses S. Grant’s strategy in The Civil War was brilliant. His strategy has been called brilliant by some historians, and he has been called a “military genius” by others, but he has also been called a “butcher” for his utter disregard for the lives of his own, Union soldiers in battle. His strategy was based on the fact that the Confederate Army had a tougher time replenishing its forces, so he threw his soldiers at them in what some critics have called a “meat grinder” strategy to eliminate as many Confederates as possible without regard for casualty numbers. The eventual result was so horrendous that President Abraham Lincoln’s wife Mary called Grant “a butcher”, but Grant achieved results. He won strategic battles against the South, where other Union generals presumably worried about the casualty numbers suffered defeat, and history has looked kindly on Grant as a general. After reading through the stats, coupled with the results, it’s difficult to call these tactics, and this strategy, brilliant. Effective perhaps, brilliant no.

This term brilliant is thrown around so loosely, in the modern era, that it’s becoming as common in the American lexicon as it is in the British one. Is it brilliant when a young Miley Cyrus flaunts herself on stage? People talk about what she does, and that talk results in album sales, and in some minds that fact plus the other fact equals brilliance. What is she doing different, how is she expressing herself in an ingenious manner that exponentially exceeds anything I can do?

Can I call someone up and verbally abuse them into thinking I’m a pretty good guy? Probably. Can I threaten them in such a fashion that they’ll eventually see things my way? Probably. Could I have sat down at a Civil War planning board to devise Grant’s “meat grinder” strategy? Who couldn’t have? I do not mean to diminish the career of Ulysses S. Grant, because he did what was necessary to win the war, and it could be argued that if he hadn’t executed the “meat grinder” strategy, it is plausible to suggest that the Civil War would have lasted longer and eventuated in an equal number of casualties. It’s also plausible, and some historians would suggest likely, that if the “butcher” had not executed such a brutal that the proud South may never have been intimidated into surrendering.

That having been said, I think it would have been difficult for me to live with the unintended consequences of the “meat grinder” strategy, but that may have been what set Grant apart. My question is, was this an ingenious strategy that required a special kind of mind? Is it possible for me to twerk on stage in front of millions? I’m guessing that fewer people would want to watch me do it, but I do not think it requires a special kind of mind to do it. Ms. Cyrus may have been provided some unique assets that she’s not afraid to let people watch her jiggle, but is it brilliant? Effective perhaps, brilliant no.

Points for the Pointless— “Happiness finds you when you least expect it.” I used to pass by these oven mitt and bumper sticker-type sayings on calendars, and in desk cubicles, without lifting an eyebrow, until someone informed me that they’re points for the pointless. They’re for people that are doing nothing in life, have little-to-nothing to look forward to, and need some hope. Do they hope that owning these oven mitts and bumper stickers will make all of their dreams come true? Most of them don’t, but I do think that they’re comforted by the idea that being able to look up at pointless sayings makes their journeys around the Sun feel a little less pointless.

Provocative Statements— “You never know what’s going to come out of his mouth next,” someone once said of me. I lived with that assessment for years, and I spent other years trying to live up to it. Short-term, comfy statements that lead other people to being more comfortable, and happy, have always bothered me. I’m still not entirely over this. I still feel the need to challenge, mock, and expose comfortable thinking for the short-term, uselessness that it is. I’m still tempted, oh so tempted, to add to my already lengthy list of provocative statements, but I’ve realized –with the wisdom that comes from trial and error, and age– that some of the times, it’s better to keep some provocative statements to myself.

Political Hypocrisy— “If the government doesn’t help you, who will?” Some of the most fervent “government solution” types I’ve encountered are often some of the most fervently anti-law enforcement types. They don’t say that they’re anti-law enforcement, few of them do anyway, but they suggest that law enforcement officials “can” get out of hand, and that they “can” take the law into their own hands. Of course some law enforcement officials “can”, and “do” get out of hand, just as I’m sure that there are some shoe cobblers whose actions give their profession a bad name, but to castigate the whole of law enforcement based on the anecdotal evidence of a few is ludicrous. It’s like saying that singers can’t sing based on a performance by Britney Spears. The “government solution” types then extend their complaint to the manner in which law enforcement officials encroach upon our freedom. The funny thing is that these same anti-law enforcement types don’t draw parallels between the enforcement of some dangerous laws that law enforcement officials are forced to enforce and the government officials that pass those laws. Some of them actually turn around and vote for those politicians that complain about the manner in which law enforcement officials conduct themselves on the scene, when the only reason these law enforcers took it to the next level was that the victim failed to comply with the government official’s law. Their solution, I assume based on their premise, is for government officials to pass a law against the law enforcement officials enforcing the laws that the government officials pass.

I used to work in a PC, HR, and “California way of doing business” company. I had an encounter with a supervisor that acted –in a closed door, one on one session– in a very un-PC, anti-HR manner that would’ve left those that think that the “California way of doing business” should be exported, breathless. These people would’ve had their hands over their mouths if I told them even half of what this man said to me –in a closed door, one on one session. If I were as PC as this company informed me I should be, I could’ve made this supervisor’s life very difficult. It’s possible that I could’ve had him fired for the things he said, and the way he acted. It was obvious, from the things said –in this closed door, one on one session— that this was not business, it was personal.

I should’ve spotted this for what it was in the moment. I should’ve called this supervisor out at the time, regardless if I deserved it or not. I should’ve informed him that we live in a new world now, and that this company has adopted the “California way of doing business”, and that those old world, right-to-work Nebraska tactics don’t work in this company anymore. That’s not the way I was raised however, and I don’t write that to establish my bona fides as a tough, no nonsense guy, but to say that I do not think in terms of PC or HR. Regardless what I did to deserve this, just about every employee in the PC, HR department would’ve found in my favor.

The point is that while some of these PC, HR “California way of doing business” measures may help an employee, most of them are very damaging to the way business is done in America today. Most of these measures prevent the company in question from being sued, but there are always unintended consequences to the routine ways of doing business. Good employees are fired, poor employees remain based on the situations in question, but it’s all worth it, apparently, to prevent a probable lawsuit.