Tag Archives: Discretion

Sunday, February 2nd, 2014

Oh, the people that you will meet.

Tonight is Super Bowl Sunday, but that was not why I was at a sports bar. That was for dinner, as it was close and I didn’t want to cook. I’d have to do some grocery shopping as well. Over the din of fans and children, I found a spot on the patio. Truth be told it was to smoke a cigarette. It’s a touchy subject, but I cannot lie about it.

Depending on a person’s point of view, I either had the fortune or misfortune of being either entertained or held hostage by a sir of some 50 years of age. He started with commenting on the football game. No one around here appreciates the “handegg” label I’ve applied to it. I thought the suggestion was rather convincing myself. Regardless, he spoke highly of Seattle’s coordination and ability. I merely wanted to smoke my cigarette and wonder if Sancho Panza truly believed he was going to get a parcel of land out of Don Quixote, or if he was playing along for the ride.

Then the conversation took a turn. That is to say, he went straight into politics with little warning. Now, I’m not a huge fan in talking about something I don’t have much control over to start. It’s often the same love or hatred for one politician or another, or the intricacies of a bill/law. He wasn’t talking about that though. No, he was talking about hardcore conspiracy theory. The gentleman was of the impression the entire globe was priming up for the next world war.

What the Devil do you do with that? It’s like being dressed for a cookout and taken to a black-tie event. You instantly don’t want to be there. How do you unroll, with no time for consideration of thought or delivery (ESPECIALLY delivery), while it’s possible conspiracy theorists can be right they can also be very wrong. Conspiracy theorists are convinced no matter what. It’s not even a discussion; it’s being talked at.

I’ve tried to think of several ways to get people of this nature through the whole ordeal without too much fuss, and then I can go about my interests. It’s currently to let them talk at me, and have them go back to their business. That never seems to be enough though. They want agreement. They want validation. That is thought bullying, and I don’t care for it.

He started off with his version of an “intelligence test,” which I don’t think I passed but that’s inconsequential. The disputed quote from Albert Einstein is, “everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.” It has some validity. No human can know it all, although many often think otherwise.

After letting him ramble for about 10 minutes, I finally excused myself for dinner. Otherwise, it would have been much longer than that. He wouldn’t finish. It was verbal diarrhea at its best. I’m not going into details, but he’s convinced it will start with the bombing of Israel and roll into global destruction. Again, what is there to discuss? The world has had a history of war and destruction as far as people have kept records. Maybe it will, maybe it won’t, which is the way it has been in the past. Am I to quake every night about it? Do I have control over the powers that be to bring about the Age of Aquarius?! No, of course not.

It’s times like this that I think of Kurt Vonnegut, and his use of the Serenity Prayer. It also brings me to the question: when does one believe people like Nietzche’s madman and when does one throw him out of the church for running amok?

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Should I Stay, or Should I Go?

I love The Clash’s popular stuff. Sometimes I get the notion to dig into their catalog for the rest of the story, but then I get distracted.

Aside from my muscles screaming in four different languages on Monday, I had mental block about what to post. I spent the weekend doing all sorts of physical labor, including helping my sister paint her house. Apparently, mortgage underwriters are sending out shady inspectors to be capricious with their repair recommendations. The paint was peeling too much for Bubba’s liking and he wouldn’t give the green light to the underwriter until it was repainted. Super.

Of course, she was carrying on about it, because she had to fork over another $450 and wasn’t used to getting in and doing the job. It would have chewed up her whole weekend. She’s a public employee. Those people don’t work unless they really need to do so, you know. I keed! I keed, public employees! Not really. I’ve had to work with several Federal, state, and local departments for 14 years. I’ve had more help from a chocolate chip cookie.

What it brings me to is a post that I’ve been meaning to write over the past five and a half months. That’s about as much time as I’ve been on WordPress. I’ve read a lot of other poster’s material, and can say I’ve seen some great stories from some great people. On the other hand, I’ve seen some rather childish posts too. It’s a grab bag of the good and the bad, which I somewhat expect from a world-wide website.

Simply stated, I’m a white, American male with a masculine set of traits. That, apparently, makes me the Devil around certain parts and I didn’t even have work for it. That’s a little disheartening, as I earn my reputation. Someone has denied me the opportunity of burning down a village in Bangladesh or stealing candy from kids in the projects. Mmm… tastes like the sorrow of impoverished children. Does anyone really think that’s a viable point of view, or are they screaming to feel justified? I’m going with the latter, because the former is too hypocritical to even be discussed.

Getting to the point, if I sense a lack of discretion in you, then I will be less motivated to interact with you. Many of these posters on WordPress don’t seem to be willing to write with this understanding. It is also why I don’t follow anyone screaming blanket rage over men. I’m with everyone else that rape’s vile act, but not every man’s a rapist. I’m not sitting on the chocolate suede, my beloved couch of 10 years, reading fiery feminist posts thinking “wow, you’re right. I’ll have to cancel those rapes I was planning for the weekend.” Why? Because I wasn’t planning anything of the sort.

This is where “knowing your audience” helps. The people that are going to commit criminal acts will not be reading your WordPress blog. In other words, you’re insulting a section of your readership big time. They don’t have to put up with your crap. You’re a dime a dozen, and they have plenty of options.

Does this mean you’re to wrap yourself up in heteronormative stereotypes? Not even in the slightest, but you’ll go farther by being a friend. That’s why I don’t follow blogs that scream or act like a little brat on every single post. We all have our moments of anger, and I get that you’re frustrated in your position, but the lack of cooperation gets you nowhere. You do realize I don’t have to bother with your opinions, right? After society pretty much said I was on my own, it’s not difficult for me to go it alone. It’s a blessing and a curse, but one that’s not going to benefit your single-sided view on life. I’ll be off to help the people willing to work together. Sorry, Charlie.

I like you for who you are, as long as you’re comfortable in being who you are.

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We’re Not Gonna Take It Anymore

Ah, the 80s in all of its absurd pageantry. What a laugh riot that was. This isn’t to diminish the acoustic contributions of Twisted Sister, rather laugh at our zeal in exploration. There comes a point in discovery when you are so eager to do everything that you may blush about it years later. I never thought Zubaz were a great idea. Ever.

The theme is quite old, a rebellion of new desires versus the established norms. Every generation wants a voice. Everyone wants to be noticed. This isn’t new at all. America was established because a handful of people said, “we’re not going to take it anymore.” Peter Finch in Network gave us the unforgettable line, “I’m as mad as hell, and I’m not going to take this anymore!” There has, and always will be, a breaking point in the tolerance of others and other beliefs.

This leads me to think about all of my past relationships. I’m not an old timer here, but old enough to consider myself a veteran of the arena. I’ve met all sorts of people in many situations. Sometimes people would frustrate me to the point of misanthropy, but these days I think I’ve been able to adopt a philosophy of de todo ha de haber en el mundo, or “there must be all types in the world.”

Norman Douglas once said, “to find a friend one must close one eye — to keep him, two.” I find this statement horribly misleading and the gateway to being a doormat. If there was ever a situation where I had to look the other way, it better be something small like picking one’s nose in public or breaking wind on the ride home.

There’s definitely a line between accepting people for their faults and overlooking toxic behavior. If people want to benefit from my company, which is indeed a perk (I’ll explain later), then they’re not going to use me for their own gain. That’s where I draw the line, even if it is merely saying an insult to elevate your self-worth. That’s it; you’re done.

As previously mentioned, there are perks to having good relations with me. I’m one of the few that move my friends. I’ve moved roughly 15 friends on 20 different occasions in my lifetime, and it probably won’t stop there. I’ve been known to jump start dead car batteries, pick up dinner tabs, donate goods, taxi friends to and fro, and other things people need an extra hand with. This isn’t behavior to be taken for granted. Unfortunately, there are some people who do and others that will go beyond that.

I can say in my experience that I have never, not even once, regretted walking away from a bad friendship or relationship. There are plenty of toxic people just waiting to steal your time and use your good nature. There is absolutely no need to be a doormat to them. As a friend of mine once said, “people are either flowers or weeds, and you should only water the flowers.”

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Selling the Absurdity: Why Some Writers Suck at Being Satirical

I enjoy satire quite a bit. That’s not to say I’m the supreme authority on it, but I know good satire when I see it. I’ve read Jonathan Swift, Miguel de Cervantes, Kurt Vonnegut, and Voltaire all with genuine, audible laughter. They all have an ability to use the written word as an épée to foil their critics. When written appropriately, it can be quite disarming.

There are plenty of writers, especially bloggers, who think they’re up to the challenge of acquiring biting, satirical wit. That, in and of itself, is quite admirable. There’s nothing wrong with setting goals and working toward them. Satire is a higher form of comedy. Everybody loves a clown. So, why don’t you?

(I love spooking the anti-clown crowd. Say “anti-clown crowd” five times fast.)

The problem with writing good satire is not remotely believing what you’re writing. It is paramount the article be absurd to a reasonably intelligent human being. We’re not looking for MENSA candidates here, just people who can read well and be rational enough to conceptualize the argument. That way the reader can easily understand what’s being argued and think “there’s no possible way on Earth you mean that!” For example, A Modest Proposal by Jonathan Swift promotes cannibalism as a way to control population. This is what we call a red flag.

I love absurdity. Its abstraction turns logic on its head and draws a mustache on it for looking stuffy. It’s the rainbow bridging a tortoise and a tea cup. It’s the creative side that spilled the beans and then ate the mailbox. It’s that color I look for in any good satire.

What I find with the novice satirist is they’re not absurd enough, which leads me to suspect they believe what they are writing on some level. That’s just insulting, because then the writer becomes the essayist version of an Internet troll. Anyone who wants to make it in writing will want to avoid that perception at all costs.

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What to read? What to read?

I’d like to grapple with the idea of being “well read” in a typical sense. When we discuss being well read, the assumption is being knowledgeable about books. There is no definitive set of books, as being well read is based on personal judgment. Be warned, there will be plenty of other people who’d love to tell you differently. They misunderstand the rules of conduct, which is similar to a doctor’s visit: you know yourself better than anyone.

While the staff at NPR would like to defecate their britches over the statistical impossibility of being well read, I find persistence a little more useful. Are we to cry into our thimble full of knowledge because the ocean is vast? No, we should take pride in the fact we picked up a thimble and drank from that water. That means we wanted fulfillment beyond basic human sustenance.

As NPR is wont to do, it assumes people naturally want continuous scholastic achievement. This is how out of touch with the ordinary person they are. The typical American doesn’t give a flying fig about reading, and to a lesser extent being well-versed in any genre of music. That concept of erudition is limited to a lesser number of people.

The good folks at NPR reek of guilt, which always gets my dander up. Why? Because it’s often based on the notion you should feel guilty, too.  For example, the author of the NPR piece is lamenting through the whole story statistics will surely make us all feel sad we can’t “see it all.”  I’ve got news for you. The people who punch the cookie on the east side of Hooterville are only interested in Here Comes Honey Boo BooPawn Star, and/or Real Housewives of [insert location]. They’re not going to shed one tear that they didn’t see Pagliacci or read Infinite Jest. They are comfortable in being simple, and find their minds more preoccupied with monetary matters than scholastic.

How could anyone, then, gain a feeling of being well-read or otherwise accomplished? Know thyself. With the proliferation of books and other media, all of us can customize a more meaningful list of reading material. I’m fairly certain my material is in classical literature. Ergo, that’s my emphasis. This will not be the same set of books for anyone else.

Well… well… well… how can we tell if someone is well-read when we have no standards to compare them with, Nate? I mean come on! We all need standards, right? To that point of view, I say I think we’re beyond harnessing any sort of discernible standard. Funny how humans think they can control everything. The upshot of this is people have less of a reason to be judgmental. Great googly-moogly, Nate! How will the literary elite survive without their ability to look down their nose at the Twilight readers?! The short answer is they still will, but for more subjective reasons. I think that more honest than hiding behind the veil of academics.

This idea could be very beneficial to the American educational system. The concept of identifying meaningful literature should be the goal, not telling you what literature is meaningful. It would move them away from their manufacturing mentality, and embrace something a little more elastic. I come from the position it’s more important to exercise discretion than regurgitation.

But… but… but… OMG STANDARDS, NATE! STANDAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAARRRRRRRRRRRRRDS! AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAARRRRRRRRRRRRGGGGGGGGGGGGHHHHHHHHHHHH… what a world… what a world… what a world…

(If you couldn’t tell, they just melted into a controlled puddle of goo. )

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The Writer’s Toolbox

When I was younger, I was volunteered to help with home improvement. This ranged from framing to decking to landscaping, et cetera. I was the cheap labor, and am under the impression this was true for many middle-class Americans who didn’t quite have the cash to hire it done. It’s expensive.

The weekend festivities usually took place about 9:00 AM with intermittent breaks throughout the day. Breaks all depended on how quickly my father tired out. We’d grab our tool belt and head toward the direction of the problem, be it inside or out. Saturday mornings often had an unusual crispness in the summer months. The grass had a few hours of not being burnt and it was too early for the heat and haze of the day to distort anything. It was a rather pleasant experience.

An electric screwgun used by drywall mechanics...

Pew! Pew! Pew! (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As time progressed, we’d often find ourselves going back to the garage for a tool we forgot. Sometimes we didn’t have what was needed, and that resulted in a trip (or two… or three…) to the hardware store. Whether we were creating concrete forms or hanging drywall, there were always tools to make the job easier. That is to say easier than through alternative methods. For example, there is a screwdriver specifically made for hanging drywall. This is much more effective than using a regular screwdriver.

There is an expression to identify when an object is associated with a particular profession. When one is presented with an item related to a specific industry, we often hear the phrase “the tools of the trade.” After living so many years of my life, I’ve noticed this similarity with all professions. Trades will have uniquely identifiable sets of accoutrements. They even get nicknames by people who use them the most (i.e. “dikes” for diagonal pliers).

After a few months of semi-serious work in literature, it has occurred to me the writer is no different. Aside from the pens, pencils, paper and word processors, there are writing techniques that serve as tools of the profession. Need to create a pause? Understand the different types of punctuation. Need to be specific in a description? Use commas, or occasionally, the hyphenated chain of words. All of this is neatly (or not so neatly) stored in a writer’s toolbox.

The tricky part is knowing when you have a tool. It’s not like running to Lowe’s and dropping money on a brad nailer or bastard file. Identification is settled at that point, and you understand its function and value. With writing, a tool is intangible and initially undefined. A novice writer may not know what tools they have at their disposal to convey a point.

English: A profession shot of the Maestro Will...

Maestro Williams knows when a colleague is blowing smoke out their ass. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I separate this idea of “tools” from “techniques,” as techniques are more about style. Techniques are what distinguish writers from each other. Basic sentence structure, grammar, and word choice all have a more constructive feel to them. It’s like making a stud wall. The hammer and nails form the frame, the drywall and mud make the surface, but the paint and paper give it style.

When properly identified, that tool becomes an indelible part of your writing toolbox. It may never be employed in your writing, but you’ll be aware of its existence. Other professionals will suggest the removal or replacement of certain tools. This happens in any profession. I can remember the difference in opinion on using 10-keys (adding machines) or the calculator provided by Microsoft Windows. In that regard, I’m not here to tell you what should be done with your tools. Every writer has the right to use the tools they have at their disposal. What I am suggesting though is to keep an eye out for anything that looks like a literary tool. Unlike the ones in your garage, these won’t take up any space at all. The more tools you have at your disposal, the better the chances of creating better pieces. After all, it takes more than a chisel and hammer to sculpt marble.

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