Writers write writery things. Many of us, especially journalists, are taught to be concise but descriptive, to choose words carefully. Simple is better.
For many, this means removing many adjectives and adverbs. That’s a lesson both writers and non-writers could use in certain contexts, too.
Wouldn’t it be nice if the following adjective ceased to be important?
I’m not sure how educated you are about sports, but I’d be willing to bet my family jewels who Michael Sam loves has no effect on how many tackles he makes come fall. My confidence is equally as bold to say that not a single gold, silver or bronze medal will be determined based on the gender of the person the medalist finds attractive.
Several years ago while having a conversation with a friend who was raised in the deep south, he told me a story of a guy, but then paused to look around, then whisper, “he was a black guy.” I stopped him and said, “Think about what you just said. Does that qualifier have anything to do with the story?” He said, “No, not really.” So I said, “Then get rid of the adjective.”
No, it’s not the adjective that is wrong. It’s the prejudice behind it. But if you find yourself using these adjectives when you speak or write, do the world a favor and get rid of them. It’ll help cover the fact that you’re wrong.
February 10, 2014 Leave a comment
Today is my 41st birthday. Before you go all, “Happy Birthday,” in the comments, please know that I have reached an age and disposition where I hate my birthday. Call me cranky, call me a spoil sport, call me cynical but whatever you do, don’t call to wish me a happy birthday.
This means that Jan. 18 has now become the one day a year I really don’t like Facebook. While I realize the intent is good and am genuinely humbled that so many people take a moment to post a birthday message on my wall, I’m smart enough to call bullshit on them . If it weren’t for the fact that Facebook beats them about the head and face, telling them it’s my birthday as soon as they login in the morning and several times more throughout the day, not a single Facebook friend would know it is my birthday.
This doesn’t mean these friends are disingenuous in their wishes. But what kind of pat on the back are you willing to give someone who just blindly follows instructions?
Nobody ever buys you a gift. Which is fine. You don’t deserve a prize because it happens to be the same day on the calendar your mother’s gynecologist induced labor. But a bunch of people will write on your wall. It’s quick, easy and, let’s be honest, enough. More than 90 percent of the friends we have on Facebook are just people we know well enough to want to know how they’re doing and what they’re up to, but not well enough to want to ever actually talk to them.
Facebook has made high school class reunions obsolete. Now, we can get a snapshot of everyone’s life without the burden of having to show them how much weight we’ve gained or hair we’ve lost. My 48 X 48 avatar will have to do, dammit. They don’t need to see the effects of early onset liver disease.
Unfortunately, it’s also making birthday wishes annoying. God forbid you have text or app notifications turned on for Facebook on your birthday! Not only will you not be able to sleep in, your phone will go off every 32 seconds to alert you someone else has posted on your wall. The best you can hope for is front pocket, on vibrate and a sustained string of them all in a row.
The wall post is Meh. You want to do something for my birthday that I’ll really appreciate? Send over a stripper. Want me to never forget that it was you? Have her write your name on her ass. I promise I’ll never forget you remembered my birthday.
January 18, 2014 7 Comments
I have this thing about lights. I don’t yet know if it’s part of a topic-based OCD or just the happenstance of the two dominant women in my life screwing with lights when I’m around.
Hey?! This is my blog and my neuroses. If you don’t like them, go watch another fucking cat video!
First example: Several times over the last few years, I’ve been in a room doing something — most likely in the kitchen washing the dishes — and my lovely wife will walk out of the room and turn the lights off. Mind you, I realize she doesn’t want me to be there — that’s a given — but I actually am there, and under the circumstances in need of vision considering the task I’m performing. Drives me fucking nuts.
Second example: This week, my mother has been visiting. My mother fucks with my lights. In each room, I have adjustable lighting. In the kitchen/pantry, I have a panel of three adjustable lights. Now, I didn’t install adjustable lighting. It came with the place. I like my lights on or off. On a rare occasion, I’ll set a mood with a middle setting, but for the most part, all the sliders are pushed all the way up and only the on-off switch is used to light the place.
Mom apparently doesn’t know that an on-off switch turns the lights on and off. She seems to have grabbed every slider on every switch in the joint and played rap deejay with it. I went to replace three different bulbs today only to find they weren’t burned out. Mom just had the adjustable slider all the way down. Drives me fucking nuts.
For the record, if you ever come over, it’s ON or OFF. If, when you turn the lights ON they’re on the middle setting, that’s your sign things are gonna get freaky.
Or that mom’s been over.
January 17, 2014 1 Comment
If there is a god, He spoke to me today. I’m as certain of this communication as I am anything.
No, I didn’t hear a chorus of angels or harps. No, the clouds didn’t part and rays of sunshine accompanied this revelation. But I heard it, loud and clear.
This morning, I paid a visit to a life-long friend who is hospitalized for yet another setback in a long battle with breast cancer. Not only is she as strong and beautiful as ever, but I was in that room for two minutes and knew right away that cancer doesn’t stand a chance. She’s going to kick it’s ass, again.
She was talking about how happy she was that the latest surgery will allow the doctors to correct reinforcements in her spine. She told her husband to plan a spring trip. She looked at her doctor and inferred she needed to get this over with because, “I’ve got things to do.”
She used words like “wonderful” and “happy” and “amazing” over and over again talking about everything from her kids to her situation.
I got on the elevator to leave and thought for a moment about all the things I find stressful and painful and negative about my life — and I’ve been focused on a lot of those more than not lately — and then it happened. In as clear a voice as I’ve ever heard anywhere, God said, “Shut your pie hole, you puss.”
January 12, 2014 3 Comments
Most of my time is spent in one of four worlds. Home, work, “the show” and my head. Home and work are obvious. “The show,” is kind of what I use to refer to the public speaking circuit I’ve been a part of the last six years. My head is a combination of dark, inner arena where my demon battles happen, and a twisted target range where I tack subjects against the wall and shoot darts of humor at them, ever seeking a bigger laugh.
It’s not too often the first three worlds collide with the fourth. Sure, my family is aware of my efforts in humor and battles with what I’m certain will one day be some degree of mental illness. Everyone related to me has, at some point or another, read me the riot act for something I’ve written on the Internet. If I had a dollar for every time my mother yelled at me about something I’ve written online, I could afford to have a mute button installed on her forehead.
Work mates think I’m odd and sarcastic, but seldom read The Rocker and certainly never read the real Rocker material (long since removed from the Interwebz). The only people in “the show” who know how demented I can be are the ones I’ve chosen to show.
Then along came Facebook.
While standing on the sidelines of my son’s basketball game Saturday, a fellow player’s mother mentioned how funny my little tome about Katie and her boyfriends was. For about a minute, I smiled, satisfied that someone thought I was funny. Then I realized what really happened.
The Catholic School moms are onto me.
This means one of two things. Either I’m soon to be the underground sensation nobody will admit to reading or I’ll be excommunicated.
Either works. Heh.
January 11, 2014 Leave a comment
I fancy myself a writer of things. The creative process is baked into just about everything I do. While I’ve not yet had quite the success publishing my fiction or humor to match the marketing and business writing I’ve done, there’s still an artistic bend to my approach. There is with any good writer.
Yet when it comes to consuming art of any kind, I have a bit of a problem: I don’t see what the fuss is about.
To be certain, I appreciate art. Paintings and sculptures certainly do make me feel one way or another. A good musical composition can elicit emotions or even physical reactions as well (dancing, not convulsions), and I don’t limit myself to rock or pop. I enjoy a good classical piece and while I’m not a big fan, I can follow and understand the emotional storyline of opera as well. Good literature always gets me and I’m not ashamed to admit that I’ve cried watching more movies than most men would care to admit.
But when I talk to others about their reaction to art, in general, I feel like I’m missing something. That, or they’re completely full of shit.
“The passion that stirs in me when I see this painting is remarkable,” was something an art aficionado once said to me. I did a double-take at the piece and thought, “Well, there’s a lot of red in it.”
“The Catcher in The Rye is the greatest novel ever written,” was a quote I came across recently. I re-read it over the holidays to make sure I didn’t miss something and it was as I remembered in high school: A spastic stream-of-conscious narrative from a spoiled kid who hates the fact he’s a spoiled kid. The novel only worked because of the universal appeal: You either hate spoiled kids or you are one and unknowingly hate your own qualities in other people.
“Stanley Kubrick’s movies need to be viewed dozens of times to uncover the subtexts he inserted about the holocaust,” is another opinion I’ve heard. I can think of 150,000 things more important than re-watching a movie looking for hidden meaning, including subjecting myself to a scrotum waxing.
Quick: What was the hidden meaning in that reference?
Don’t get me wrong: I enjoyed viewing the painting in question. I like The Catcher in the Rye and appreciate the royal “fuck you” it gave to uppity, private school jaggoffs back in the day. There are few directors I like more than Stanley Kubrick.
But art, in my opinion, is there to distract and entertain. Beyond that use and you’ve entered a sub-reality you’ve created because you likely fear facing the fact the rest of your life is dull.
Of course, far be it from me to prevent anyone from polishing their dull with imaginary import placed on someone else’s creativity. I certainly hope someday my writing can spawn a wild sub-breed of overzealous aficionados. Or at least enough enthusiasts to support my financial needs so I can write all the time.
But sadly, I’m not likely to be one of them. I enjoy reading stories I wrote long ago. But analyzing them? Discussing the finer points? Searching for greater meaning?
I’d rather go write something else for you to figure out later.
January 7, 2014 5 Comments
In the midst of one of my daughter’s never-ending monologues of jibber-jabber the other day, she got overly dramatic and said she had a problem. “Daddy,” she said, sheepishly. “I don’t know what to do. I have a boyfriend, but I like my old boyfriend. I want him to be my boyfriend again.”
My daughter is five.
I’m sure most parents would shrug it off or laugh and move on or even say, “you’re not allowed to have any boyfriends,” and be done with it. I chose a middle ground between acknowledging her angst and my natural inclination.
First, I insisted that she was five and could not be in love or have a boyfriend. That was a rule set forth by Big Bird in the second season of Sesame Street. However, in a situation where you have one boyfriend but want another you need to think of three things:
- Your current boyfriend has feelings. I realize he’s a boy and that statement is kind of laughable, but if you were to break up with him, he’d probably be mad for about nine seconds until your best friend asked him to be her boyfriend. So, you must think about that. Do you want to be responsible for nine seconds of torment and hell? You could scar him for recess.
- The other boy may not want to be your boyfriend. He’s already broken up with you once and if we know anything about boys, it’s that they do the same dumb stuff over and over again expecting a different outcome. He is an “ex,” Katie. And therefore, you must treat him as exes should be treated: Call and hang up on him incessantly and tell all his friends he has chlamydia. Don’t worry, they won’t need to know what it is, either.
- Your current boyfriend may not take you back. And as I’ve told you before, this one in particular is a relationship worth tending to. He’s cute, sweet and, most importantly, his father played in the NFL. I think you know what to do.
After talking my daughter down off her boy problems, I sat satisfied. I’m sure it won’t last. This thing is going to play itself out over and over again until one day I have two 17-year-old punks beating the shit out of each other in my front yard over my daughter.
If only we could reach these boys earlier in life and explain to them that girls like Katie never stop talking. Ever.
January 3, 2014 1 Comment
I wrote Tuesday about finding your fulcrum. Writing is mine and so I’ve promised myself I’ll write a little everyday. Not all of it will make it to these pages, but much of it will. While writing is an intensely personal thing for many people, I’m one of those types that long for reaction, attention, acclaim — not necessarily in an obnoxious or needy way — so I publish far more than I probably should. Nonetheless, FOTR will become far more active. Hopefully, you’ll find it useful. Or at least amusing.
Finding your fulcrum is certainly step one in intellectual and emotional health. You need that outlet. But finding it alone is not enough. Like anything else worth doing, you must also commit yourself to actually, physically doing it. Whether it’s dieting, exercising, writing, stitching, cooking or praying, nonchalant approaches never stick. We must commit ourselves to doing the work which is what actually produces the outcome we so want.
Finding focus in today’s world is nearly impossible. We don’t suffer from attention deficit disorder, we create it. The single-most devastating activity that has ever hit civilization is multitasking. It means we think we’re so talented and skilled at so many things that we can hold down the burden of doing more than one or two at a time. Ever been talking or texting on your phone and tripped or run into something? Gotten lost getting to where you’re going? We all have.
One thing at a time.
The benefit of one thing at a time is that we get really good at the one thing. Or at least complete that task in its entirety so it is done right.
Ever picked a plate out of the cupboard and felt a little stomach turn at the dried sauce or piece of noodle stuck to it? Half-assing a job means the job isn’t done. It can also be gross.
My friend Scott Stratten once shared his approach to productivity on the computer, explaining that you should only use one window at at time. By putting multiple options in front of you, you focus on none of them. Juggling more than three balls at once takes exceptional talent. But if you really think about it, most people can’t juggle more than one ball at a time. The same is true in the metaphorical sense, too.
But it’s not just in-the-moment focus. It’s also having energy and passion to focus on the task at hand, over and over again. I’ve had the good fortune to write and publish two books in my time. Neither completion would have been possible had I not committed myself to a certain number of hours per day focusing on the project.
For my writing, I intend to spend 30-minutes a day writing something for me. I also intend to block out 2-3 hour chunks of time to write for me, for work, for someone else … whatever the need is that day … but, for those 2-3 hours, to do only that. No checking of Facebook or Twitter. No looking at email. No having a ballgame on in the background. No answering the phone. No procrastinating or opting to go to dinner with friends instead.
Having that overall focus, combined with the in-the-moment focus is a recipe for GSD — Getting Shit Done.
- Step one: Find your fulcrum
- Step two: Create your focus
May your focus lead to outstanding things.
January 2, 2014 Leave a comment
Last week, a lovely post was passed around the interwebs that gave many an uplifting message. Unfortunately, the inspiring love letter from Brad Pitt to Angelina Jolie turned out to be a hoax. There were thousands duped into thinking America’s leading man was even more ideal than he looks.
Also unfortunately, many men were sent the post or tagged in Facebook links pointing to the story as sort of a hint-hint on how they should behave in relation to their wives. The message was powerful and certainly the world would be a better place if all men treated their wives as such.
But the lost message in this is that the inspiration shouldn’t be for husbands in dealing with their wives. It should be for anyone dealing with the person they love. The construct of the letter implied that the wife (Jolie) was depressed to the state of being ill, not motivated to work, listless and hopeless. The husband (Pitt) focused all of his energy on uplifting her, which magically pulled her out of her lowly state.
Surely, I’m not here to say that men don’t need to heed this message and look out for their women this way. But no one ever seemed to consider that women may want to look out for their men this way, too.
It’s not husband or wife specific. It’s depressed people. When your spouse or partner is listless, lethargic, lost … uplift them. When they’re drowning in negativity, shower them with positivity.
The message, though not as inspiring now that we know it was a lie, is still appropriate and powerful and should be applied to our lives.
But let’s not fall into the trap of assuming that the uplift is a one-way street.
January 1, 2014 Leave a comment
I have a confession to make. 2013 was a disaster. Certainly, in many ways it was quite good, but from personal to professional and everywhere in between, I find little in the last 12 months to be happy about. Yes, there are highlights. No, it wasn’t all bad. But I lost my way in 2013. I’m ready for it to be gone.
Largely because of personal issues with health of mind and body, I’ve spent a great deal of the last few months in intense introspection. My 40th year brought on a midlife crisis and I’ve reached a crossroads. Like comedian Billy Gardell, here I am in life’s great halftime and I played a sloppy first half. The time has come for me to decide what the second half will be.
In health and wellness, you are advised to strengthen your core. The abdominal, spinal and upper body musculature is critical to overall health as it supports and anchors the rest of the body’s movements. But we also have core muscles in intellect and emotion as well. For some, the core is their spirituality. For others, it is the mindful release of tensions through craft, reading or even cooking. Exercise and it’s psychological benefits are also known to be good core strengthening activities for the mind.
I like to refer to this intangible core as your fulcrum. It is the pivot point on which your mind and spirt move. If it is weak, your mind wanders without direction. If it falters, you are imbalanced. A strong fulcrum allows the various levers of your mind to move fluidly, without interruption or stray.
Writing is my fulcrum. When I write, I am able to process complex emotions and put them into words. I am able to recount and process the ideas of the day and organize them into some sort of cohesive whole. I am able to produce something of a certain quality that makes me feel accomplished, successful, at peace. I am able to go to sleep restfully, rather than restlessly.
Writing is my core.
It’s no surprise then that, in light of my report of 2013, the one thing I have not been doing is, indeed, writing. Sure, I still squeeze out a blog post for Social Media Explorer weekly. Yes, I have to write things for work. But I’ve gotten away from writing for me. Whether it’s journaling a bit here with funny prose to entertain all six of you, exploring ideas in marketing and business that interest me or even working on my silly first novel, I need to write. It heals me.
Once asked what he would do during an upcoming sabbatical, author David Foster Wallace said something along the lines of, “If the past is any indication, I’ll spend an hour a day writing and nine hours a day worrying about not writing.” My 2013 was spent worrying about writing for 10-12 hours a day but writing very little. It’s high time for me to buckle down and commit to at least that hour a day, if not more, so I can correct the wanderings and inconsistencies of my mind. So I can regain some level of control over what occupies my thinking. So that I can process and organize and be at peace.
My 2013 was bad because I lost sight of my fulcrum. Now I have that sight back. Hopefully, the stability with my core will help strengthen everything else. Because if 2014 is anything like 2013, I’m going to need all the strength I can get.
Here’s to a Happy New Year for you. May you find and fuel your fulcrum.
December 31, 2013 8 Comments