Who writes the music?

Who wrote the music

Watch the video below. It is a commercial for a bank, y’know, one of those “money is everything, must make profit to define success” places. The particulars are here and here.

The next time some bean counter wants to strip away the thing that makes your product, program or anything you are working on beautiful, show him/her this video and ask:

“Who wrote the music?” and “Why is the older left-brained hand still playing?”

I think I made my point.

I apologize, Governor Kasich

Northmont Kindergarten Sign

Dear Hon. John Kasich, Governor of Ohio;

I apologize for my sight-sightedness with respect to my opposition to your state education budget cuts and SB5, which sought to limit bargaining rights for teachers. Clearly these were bills designed to give smart-ass bloggers like me an endless supply of content for free.

Please forgive my lack of vision. I look forward to the endless bounty of your labors.

I remain your loyal subject,

Rufus Dogg

Northmont Kindergarten Sign

Crowdsourcing bridges

In the past week, I’ve stumbled onto two major brands that launched crowdsourcing design projects they probably should not have. The first is the Barack Obama Reelection Campaign (MY poster submission is posted to the right) and the other is Moleskine. For obvious conflicting reasons, Obama should be giving young designers paying gigs instead of trying to steal ideas from the most vulnerably unemployable during this recession, but more unforgivable is Moleskine for poking their core audience in the eye with a disrespectful rusty finger. (You figure out the euphemism.. you’re all smart people)

….

You were carried

Sacajawea dollar

A popular legend about Sacagawea was that she carried a baby throughout her stint with Lewis and Clark as they mapped the Western regions of the United States. That baby grew up, thinking he had discovered America. In truth, he was carried the whole way.

I’m pretty sure this is a stretch, but the point is not lost.

Walmart did not get big because Sam Walton was a retailing genius. Walmart got big because the Interstate highway system enabled him to move massive amounts of freight cheaply within a just-in-time system. While Walmart pays road taxes, those taxes are minuscule compared to the investment the previous generations put into the road system. Sam Walton took advantage of the Interstate system in ways it was never intended.

Walmart was carried.

The 53percent here think they have achieved everything through their own hard work. They did not. They were able to serve in an Army because a previous generation created it. They were able to attend college because previous generations thought it important enough to create, foster and preserve education. They were able to save enough money to buy a house because a previous generation fought for fair wages and working conditions.

The 53percent are being carried.

One of the oddest things I’ve seen recently is Herman Cain talk about his successes as if they were commonplace in a country that does not divide itself by race. In truth, he was able to have those successes only by the sacrifices and courage of those who came before him.

Herman Cain was carried.

You were carried. We were all carried. And as we grow into adulthood, part of our obligation as a member of the human race is to carry the next generation.

Yes it is.

Looking for that crack nobody else saw

I have a love/hate relationship with literature.

I graduated (or more correctly, was stamped and processed out) with a bachelor’s degree in English from the University of Minnesota. In short, that meant — in America — I was unemployable and bound to be a pain in the butt for anyone whose grammar was not up to snuff. Having an English degree is like being a priest in bar except people don’t watch what they say, but how they say it. This usually ends up in an embarrassing exchange resulting in the misuse of the word “whom.”*

….

You ain’t no Steve Jobs

One of the things I keep hearing from media and some of my friends is how Steve Jobs thought different, did things differently and failed a lot.

College dropout

Got fired

Unsuccessful businessman

LSD user

“Look, dad! Steve Jobs was a failure and look what he did. I’m dropping out of college and going to change the world.”

*deep sigh*

I’m going to be a contrarian here. It is a bit scary that we have created an entire generation that has been rewarded for every mistake, every failure, every effort as an accomplishment. We gave trophies for just showing up. And the only thing we have produced is a bunch of folks who feel lost without getting an affirmation that their pooping is good.

I am getting very tired of having to acknowledge effort with the same weight as accomplishment. I don’t want to clap at your guitar tuning; I want to save that for your performance. Of course every success is lined with failure, but quit redefining the failures as successes. Yes, I know that makes me an intolerant geezer, but it really is for your own good.

Suck it up, become an adult and move on. Adults know when a failure is a failure or the next step to becoming a success. That is what makes us adults. And adults do not need constant affirmations that they done good by going poop.

Steve Jobs knew the rules of his craft and knew what he needed to break. He took an insane amount of crap for his vision. He probably suffered a lot in silence whereas you blog every angst. He did not camp out in his parents’ basement. He got off his butt and persevered. And nobody — except maybe Woz — ever, ever told him he was on the right track.

You remind me of students who aspire to be writers, justifying their lack of discipline to the craft by saying “e.e. cummings didn’t capitalize things.”

Like I tell these students, “You ain’t no e.e. cummings.”

And you ain’t no Steve Jobs, but you can prove me wrong.

When you do, come by, kick me in the ribs and say “I told you so.”

A middle-aged, middle America impression of OccupyWallStreet

I’m a middle-aged mutt in this wasteland between the two coasts commonly known as Middle America. Most of the United States lives here, but we rarely — ok never — get asked about important things like politics and the economy. We are the gun-toting, Bible-banging, slack-jawed, under-educated, corn-fed, polyester-wearing yahoos that the liberal media like to make fun of and Wall Street dismisses.

That is a little harsh. Ok, fair enough. I’ve seen my neighbors in their natural habitat (Kroger during wine and cheese hour) so I get where you’re all coming from. But just because we are out here in your idea of Wastelands doesn’t mean we are any less important and informed as you are.

Try to keep up.

What I know by getting to middle-age
There never was a Middle Class in America. We only ever had two classes; the Rich and Those Who Expected to be Rich (ETBR). It is the American Carrot, that thing that gets dangled in front of us to keep all of us reaching for more. The Middle Class was always a nebulous scale of the lower Rich and the upper ETBR which ebbed and flowed depending on the economy at the time. The indicator of where you were was how much wealth you had relative to what others had.

Equity (or wealth if you want) is a very cold, harsh ledger. There are only two ways you can grow it; invest Liquidity or Time.

For example, if you buy a house, you can add equity only one of two ways: put more cash into the place to quickly reduce the amount of mortgage debt OR accept more mortgage debt and increase equity over time, holding your breath the entire time, hoping the equity will eventually exceed the amount of money you have put in. When the equity teeter-tots over to the asset column, you now have wealth. (Unless others around you get foreclosed on, but we’ll get to that.)

The same thing with those who financed a college degree. They expected that even though the degree cost more than most peoples’ houses, they would get a job and over time, not only pay off the loans but make more than the average salary. (They should have bought a calculator first)

It’s just not that complicated. Most people in the ETBR class have a whole lot more time than liquidity. They trade their time all day long for liquidity with wages, mortgages, three easy monthly payments, etc. The Rich class can choose liquidity or time, depending on the rate of return. A slow rate of return means they can use time. A fast rate of return, they use liquidity. The ETBR class does not really have that choice (or more accurately, the degree of choice is scaled depending on the ratio of liquidity to time one has.)

The lack of choice is mostly what pisses the ETBR off most. This generation thought they had time. They were wrong.

This “law of economics” is about as rock solid as the law of gravity. You can ignore it or deny it, but it is still going to affect you.

People without liquidity tried to accelerate time. People with some liquidity but — not enough — tried to expand the value of each liquid unit too fast. Eventually, the ETBR ran out out time before they had a firm grasp on equity and lost it all. When you are clinging to a rock face on a mountain by your fingertips, when you fall, you don’t just slip; you fall all the way down. It does not matter if you are ten feet up the mountain or ten feet from the summit. (Did you catch that? I equated laws of economics to gravity. Genius. I should be ruling the world by now. Roll your eyes if you got ’em.)

How this all ties into #OccupyWallStreet
I do not support Anonymous or Adbusters. I am not a big fan of the fist-pumping, kill Wall Street bankers rhetoric and other hippy crap like stuffing dollar bills in your mouth and marching like zombies. Sanctimonious hipsters with no life experience annoy me, too. It is unsettling to us out here that the OccupyWallStreet “non-leadership” has connections with these groups if only that they decide unilaterallty who is good and who is bad. I like steak, but the fifth “fact” in their Declaration gives me pause that reads, “PeTA is invited to join us.” All of a sudden, now my support for OccupyWallStreet means I support PeTA? Hell no!

Just because I lean to what this country defines as “left” does not mean I hang with the crazy-left. For the record, people claiming the right of human dignity is not a left-leaning principle. Groups that use terror tactics for good scare the hell out of me just as much as those who use them for evil. In the end game, “there is no good or evil; there is only power.

And she is very, very seductive.

To the middle-class middle America, if a group like Anonymous can target a big bad corporation, what is stopping them from concluding — unilaterally — a mom-and-pop business is supporting a big bad corporation (like Visa) for taking credit cards as payment? I understand how the affiliation is feeding Visa, but the rain nourishes the grass and weeds alike. It is incumbent upon groups like Anonymous to make sure the rain falls on the grass and not the weeds if they choose to pee all over my garden without my consent.

I believe the 1% are and have been exploiting their advantage of liquidity to enhance their fortunes. I also believe the 99% have been exploiting their victimization caused by their unwillingness to learn and adapt to the law of economics stated above.

Money finds the path of least resistance. It is what keeps corporations from innovating, what keeps individuals from having to make changes and politicians from reforming their cheating ways. As we used to say when I worked for The Man; cash hides a lot of sins. The only people entirely unaffected are those who are so rich they could not run out of money if they tried and those so poor they don’t have a hope of becoming a member of the ETBR ever in their lives. The rest are gaming the system in almost every way they know how.

I didn’t buy more house than I could afford nor did I refinance on the house equity I had to finance a non-asset like a college education or vacation. I did not take out or encourage my kids to take out huge student loans so they could attend a swanky out-of-state university. The social contract I had with you, the 99%, was that you would not purchase more than you could afford so that your house would not be foreclosed on or your kids would not be recklessly in debt. We were supposed to be in this together. Without your participation, colleges would not have been able to raise the tuition rates. Banks would not be offering 0% loans if nobody took them.

You broke that social contract by always needing more. I kept my end of the bargain.

I expect the 1% will work tirelessly to extract wealth from me until my last breath. But this much I know also about the 99%: They will not be there to help me guard the gate from the Barbarians. They will be busy guarding their own gates.

What I want
What I want most is my own space that is warm and free from the prying grasp of government tax departments, the whims of landlords, the perils of curable illness and disease or the selfish and short-sighted lust of those in power. Owning my own home is none of these things. Even if I were to get to pay the last payment of my mortgage to the bank, I could still lose my home if I could no longer pay the property tax the county continues to demand. Or lose my freedom due to the ever-increasing criminalization of poverty. Or suffer health problems that deplete the wealth I used a life-time of time to build.

The Barbarians will always be at the gate. This season’s Barbarians are the Wall Street bankers and politicians on the take. Next season, it could be drought and famine. The next could be the City of Englewood deciding that my house sits on a patch of land they want to turn into a park. Or Anthem Blue Cross/Blue Shield increasing my premiums 38% or denying a treatment they pre-approved. The list of Barbarians are endless.

As I move through middle-age and into old-age, I know that my ability and desire to fend off the Barbarians will become less and less while my desire and need for security and warmth will become more and more. I can already feel the fear and rage creep into my bones when some punk-kid behind me in traffic does that dodge-and-weave thing, trying to pass me as I am not speeding fast enough for him. I feel it in the deep sighs of a younger generation who mistake patience for inaction. I know it in my heart when young women no longer look at me with anything less than pity.

What fears me the most, though, is knowing I will not have enough time to build the wealth needed to construct a gate strong enough to keep the Barbarians at bay. I fear they will destroy me before it is my time to go.

*I don’t think the percentages are split 1%-99% but that is a heck of an effective way to market the movement. My use of the numbers are just a short-hand convenience; no more, no less.

You may find this interesting.
And this.
And this from @Karoli who started me thinking down this path, culminating in this here blog post. Blame her 🙂

Niggardly

CatDog

Yeah, that’s right. I said niggardly*. Did you gasp?

How about niggling**? Does that also make you squirm?

If you are not gasping, squirming and looking about you nervously, congratulations! Your education has paid off.

If you have no idea these words mean anything other than what they sound like, crack a book.

Recently, Pete Williams used the term Obamacare on air. He was not the first, but he is the first non-FOX News journalist who caught my attention doing it. After years of the right-wing of America hammering that term as a derogatory slam on the president, it is starting to take hold in mainstream media. Eventually they will all give up and start saying it.

The right-wing has warped good words into things that sound bad. Like “compromise.” They use the term compromise as in “we will not give in.”

No!

Any third-grader learns that a democracy only works when both sides compromise — as in working together with mutual respect. If the right really wants to compare government spending to a family budget, it is impossible to do so without compromising.

How about “entitlements” as in “he thinks he is sooooo entitled that he just jumps to the head of the line and takes.” Sounds like someone is getting something for nothing that he doesn’t deserve. The only problem with “entitlements” like Social Security, Medicare and Unemployment Insurance is that we have paid for them. We really are entitled to those benefits! The Left should maybe start calling them Citizen-Funded Benefits (CFBs)

What really makes me scratch my head is when groups redefine terms that are mutually exclusive, like “Obama is a Hitler-loving socialist.” That’s like calling me a cat-dog. Physically impossible, linguistically silly.

Some words lend a degree of specificity to language that allows us to communicate a feeling or connotation that their synonyms don’t. I mourn the loss of my ability to use words like niggardly in public simply because it communicates a deeper level of cheap than “cheap.” It has a more visceral feel. It causes me to say the word and clench my fists, further punctuating its meaning (I’m half French.. we talk with our paws.)

I suppose the most effective way to warp the meanings of common words is to keep the masses stupid. Maybe we can do that by vilifying teachers and cutting education budgets. Just a thought. I look forward to the comments I’ll most assuredly will be getting from members of the uneducated masses.

Now quit masticating your breakfast, get off your homo sapien butt and learn some new words. Don’t put off tomorrow what you can castrate today.

In the meantime, Oswald Bates for president, y’all. Or Rick Perry. Same thing.

*niggardly: cheap, mean, miserly, parsimonious, close-fisted, penny-pinching, cheeseparing, grasping, ungenerous, illiberal; informal stingy, tight, tightfisted.

**niggling: a trifling complaint, dispute, or criticism.