A thousand words in a million keystrokes

This morning, I pulled the dust cover off the old manual typewriter, rolled a sheet of paper into the carriage and typed something. I wanted to see what it felt like again to be a “real writer.”

In truth, it felt like getting on an old bike after having not ridden for years; slow going at first… a lot of fits and starts but eventually that rhythm… aw, who am I kidding. It was painful as heck. It felt more like learning how to walk and talk again after someone hit you upside the noggin with a hammer and broke both your legs with a Louisville slugger.

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Fact v truth – a #letsblogoff

karl marx

I once heard someone say that “The truth belongs to he who tells the story first and best.” I think there is some truth to that.

As I was writing this, I was listening to a speech by yet another social media expert who asserted, “The world has changed…” and I thought that was the most absurd thing I had ever heard. That is not a truth. That is not even a fact. The fact is this moment has changed from the last moment and the moment before that. “The world is ALWAYS changing…” is more the truth. The truth is most people either did not notice the changes or lied to themselves about them happening.

The truth is they admit that the world has changed because they can no longer reconcile the facts with their truth.

I grew up Catholic and for most of my life, I have heard the truth that things are “God’s Will.” God wants us to suffer to prepare for the afterlife. It is God’s will that he took Uncle Conrad home to him so young. It is God’s will that your dog Rusty got hit by that car.

The truth is God does not will anything. God — if he exists — does not care. People are the Universe. We make our own “luck” by the relationships we form, forge and maintain with others. We create our own “truths” by what we are willing to admit as fact to ourselves.

Facts are that rain and snow fell, that waters rose, that wind patterns blew, that the Earth buckled under strain. Fact is that people are attracted to the coast, the ocean, the river banks and choose to build there. Fact is that these elements destroy things we build. Fact is nature is more powerful than our puny stuff. The fact is that most people who are affected by bad luck failed to or were unable to plan for the rain.

I used to think there was one Universal Truth, that the Aristotelian A is A was something that we could achieve if we all pulled in the same direction and thought hard enough about the facts. If we could use the right words to define something so narrowly that there would be no ambiguity, we could get to “the truth” about a thing. I remember taking a Marxism class in college and the only things that stuck with me were* a) the professor was very strange and had a bad habit of snorting inappropriately and b) the cornerstone of Marx’s philosophy of physics was A is in the process of becoming A. As I get older, I’m thinking that maybe Marx had it right all along.**

The only problem with Marx’s truth is he admits uncertainty as fact. That loss of control makes lots of people uncomfortable. The truth is this post was going to go an entirely different direction, but I found the words I had originally taken out and arranged to be entirely inappropriate for the task at hand. If it seems like this post wanders around and has no point, then my work here is done. It is a blog post in the process of becoming a blog post.

I believe that all events are neutral, that the Universe is impartial and indifferent. Events are given meaning by people within their understanding of the Universe. The truth is many people don’t strive to understand the Universe because it is depressing and fatalistic. In the end, the only fact is that truth hardly really matters.

*b was probably the more important point, but that snorting is now an indelible part of the story. I’m telling it here, ok?
**I think this theory was disproved or fell out of favor or some other thing, but so what, don’t care.

This blog post is part of a blog-off series with a group of bloggers from different professions and world views, each exploring a theme from his/her world view. This was about answering the question, What is the difference between fact and truth? To explore how others handled the theme, check them out below. I will add links as they publish.

Photo source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Karl_Marx

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Make it work; why newspaper artists make the best designers

tim gunn and lisa grimm

“Just set your resolution high on your monitor, scale it up, take a screenshot and slap it in there,” I said to the panicked marketing artist who was stressing over the jpg of a 1X3 benevolent ad she was given without the high-res artwork or fonts. The client was not returning her phone calls and her submission deadline was twenty minutes out.

“Trust me.”

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The killing of Osama bin Laden

As the media launches it’s way into the play-by-play analysis of the Osama bin Laden raid, I’m left here struggling to figure out how I feel about the whole thing. I have come to the conclusion that I feel the same about bin Laden’s death as I do about the towers coming down on 9/11.

Brace yourself; it’s not anything an American living in a Red State will ever admit in public.

I do not feel fear. I do not feel joy. I do not feel any great swell of Americanism that compels me to rush out into the street shouting “U-S-A, U-S-A!” at the top of my voice or run to WalMart to buy the largest flag I can find and fly it from the highest flagpole.

I do not feel like anything life-altering has happened.

I do feel a bit ashamed that we are celebrating the death of someone, even if that someone chose to live his life committing evil and fostering evil and hatred. I do not feel happy or sad that Osama bin Laden is dead but I do feel sad that we are celebrating it with the same sort of cheering one reserves for the Super Bowl.

I feel dismayed that we have created an entire generation that has grown up in fear of terrorism and suspicious of each other instead of steeped in optimism and hope. Osama bin Laden did not do that to us; we did that to ourselves to win elections and to grab the reins of power.

I feel a massive tug of manipulation as the media work desperately to shape the “national mood” to fit a narrative instead of reporting it. I feel this event — like the 9/11 event — is being treated by the media like a book tour, a movie premiere or a CD drop complete with PR spin. They raise questions and then answer them, then treat the answers as if that was the news. Then, they report on what they heard based on what they said.

I feel like we’re being told how to feel by the warm-up guy in preparation for an upcoming election show. If we play our part, we’ll be rewarded with attention. If not, we’ll be ignored as fringe. Problem is, there is a lot of “fringe” out here.

I wish media would have stuck to a headline “Osama bin Laden Dead” instead of “Killed.” “Dead” states a face whereas “killed” injects opinion, conjecture and value judgments.

On Sept 11, 2011, the rest of the world was besieged by earthquakes, landslides and massive flooding. I know this because I had access to the AP Newswire all day at the Dayton Daily News. I had to ignore those stories and search instead for some angle, some news on the 9/11 story. These other stories went almost unreported for nearly a week as media crafted new narratives each day around the 9/11 story. And when that failed, CNN ran taped loops of the towers coming down and reconstructed timelines, much as they are doing now with the raid plans.

On May 1, 2011, tens of thousands of citizens in the South are still homeless as a result of horrific tornados. Fires rage in Texas. Oil still washes up from the Gulf. Gas prices are out of control at $4.19/gallon locally. Health care cost continue to rise at twice the rate of inflation. Housing prices continue to fall. Wages are stagnant. Unemployment is still high.

I think we need to start not only thinking for ourselves, but feeling for ourselves as well. I think we need to start embracing real feelings about things that matter more deeply rather that co-opting boogie-man feelings media report we should have.

Photo source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Osama_bin_Laden_portrait.jpg

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Your mind is on the weekend

It’s already Thursday and your mind has wandered out onto your deck and settled itself on the grill. You can smell the succulent steaks sizzling on the top rack, while your friends laugh and chatter in the background, their wine glasses click as they offer each other a toast.

What? Your grill is a run-down mess and ruining your picture-perfect weekend? Then you need to pay attention and fix that picture.

Modenus, in cooperation with Capital Cooking is announcing a giveaway that has us all hot and bothered (in the best way) because it exemplifies the best of everything we hold dear: long warm nights spent with friends, breezes that gently cradle the aroma of summers bounty, both book-ended by endless plates of food that have been grilled to perfection. Did we just say grill? Yes Virginia, yes we did.

Entries will be accepted through May 17 2011, 5pm EST and the winner will be drawn by 7pm EST on May 17 and notified via email. You may enter once a day for the duration of the give-away. The event is of course void where prohibited and there is no cash value. Shipping is included within the continental US. Shipping cost to other countries or territories will have to be carried by the winner. No purchase required.

Register to win here!

Disclaimer: No dog is getting paid for this post nor are we entering to win the grill. This is just a cool thing we are doing for the good folks at Modenus. So click on over and win a grill.

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Ideas through fear – a #letsblogoff thingie

I’d like to wax romantically about how I get my ideas strolling along on dog walks, but that would be a lie. I spend most of my time watching out for speeding cars, white reverse lights and kids on bicycles who think dogs know to move over to the right.. or left.. as they weave in and out along the sidewalk. Walks are for the vigilant. I spend most of my brain power strategizing on how to carry 200 pounds of dog should anything unfortunate happen.

So, dog walks are not really fertile idea grounds. Neither is the time spent mowing the lawn, shopping for groceries, strolling the mall, walking in the park, standing in the shower — all of those stereotypical settings people go on about. Sure, I get ideas in those places from time to time, but mostly not.

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My political leanings

Someone asked me yesterday what my politics were. I sent out a series of tweets explaining them. New readers to my blog might quickly jump to the conclusion that I am a left-wing, bleeding heart liberal nutbag, but they would be wrong.

They are living in a zero-sum world that a two-party system produces. Real life exists in multiple shades of gray.

Here is what I believe. If you want to stuff these beliefs into one of two pigeon holes and tag me left or right, that is your failing, not mine.

  • I believe we are all connected to each other and my politics extend from that. What affects you, affects me.
  • No man achieves anything on his own. He is helped by the previous generation and those before them and those before him.
  • We should work to expand rights, not take them away.
  • Economic clout does not define the worth of a human being.
  • Job training is not education. A devaluation in education devalues our culture and society as a whole.
  • We should reward for individual achievement, but not at the expense of those who help along the way. No goal is ever made without the rest of the team guarding the scorekeeper or advancing the ball.
  • Government needs to be a COUNTERWEIGHT to business, not an enabler. Business is driven singularly by profit; government should be fiercely committed to protecting citizens from their overlap on personal rights.
  • The only commitment government has to business is to provide a secure and safe environment to conduct business, i.e., safe roads, railways, intellectual property defense, border control, courts.
  • Minority rights are to be protected, not squashed. Majority can take care of itself through the Law of Tonnage.

That damn political party does NOT exist. The parties that do only thirst for power for themselves, not the people they purport to serve.

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Creativity on a level playing field

There are only seven musical notes, three colors (four if you include black) and twenty-six letters in the English language. There are only twenty-four hours in a day, seven days in a week and 365 days in every year.

Everyone has equal access to all of these elements. No amount of money will ever be able to buy you any more of any of these things.

Ever.

How you combine these few elements is what creativity is.

Everything else is an excuse.

Editor note: Seth Godin posted this about tools and the level playing field.

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She’s back! Karina Stenquist

Karina is one of the reasons why I think the future of journalism is in pretty good hands.

Short story long, I became a fan of Karina’s when she was hosting an Internet vlog called MobuzzTV. She had that combination of quirky, combined with a lot of brains. She was much more than a “talking head” on camera. She really knew her stuff and talked fluently about it. Her blog — which she does not update as much as she should — is here. She is “all grown up” in this video but her Mobuzz segments were irreverent, a bit snarky and engaging. It was a “must-see” for me every day.

Anyway, Karina went to Berkeley, moved to Spain, lived there illegally for six years, moved back (ok, got kicked out) and is now attending American University in DC pursuing a journalism degree. In the middle there she had a short stint with CNN and did whatever Americans with superior language skills abroad do.

Anyway, she is going to be really big someday. I just wanted you to see how she started out.

Now if she could only quit smirking when the camera starts rolling… (but I secretly hope she never does…)

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Words matter

If we’re not learning how to write, how will we ever hope to change the world? Don’t limit your education to job training.

Words matter.

Warning: Have tissues ready 🙂

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Is this thing on?

Flag primping before a press conference

Flag primping before a press conference

In a word, yes. This thing is always on.

The photo to the right was tweeted out by Jim Long who is a “veteran, Washington, DC based, network news cameraman currently working for one of the original three broadcasters” (@newmediajim) He frequently sends out photos of the stuff that happens behind the scenes while waiting for news conferences, set ups, stuff like that. Anyone who has ever worked behind the camera knows that those blocks of time are tedious beyond tolerance.

I appreciate the glimpses. And the Foursquare checkins with bagels and coffee, but that is an entirely different addiction. He assures me he is seeking professional help.

What was striking about the photo is the flags that will be seen by the television viewing public all puffed up and patriotic behind whomever is speaking in the next hour or so were unceremoniously carried into the room in a bucket, like something one would shlep to a beer party on the beach. To the people setting up the room, the bucket ‘o flags was secondary to the actual staged set.

Only it wasn’t because this thing was on.

And now every time I see flags puffed up behind a Washington DC news conference, I will see the bucket ‘o flags. Chances are, you will too.

The “behind the scenes” has become part of the show. FootnoteTV wrote this post about creativity and how seeing the puppet master destroys the puppet show (my paraphrasing.) I do this all the time with literature and unsuspecting writers like Saxon Henry (@saxonhenry) by digging into why a story ticks and then trying unsuccessfully to stuff all the pieces back together. It gets rebuilt, but like taking apart a finely crafted clock to see how it ticks and then putting it back together, the chimes never quite sound as rich.

I guess my point is — if I have to admit to one — is the set up of the stage is now also part of the show. For the flag set up, the staff should construct a special box where the flags are carried in with ceremony, and assembled and puffed up* as part of the production. And then when the press conference is over, the same ceremony gets performed again in reverse. Everything that happens on this side of the door should be assumed to be on camera.

This thing is on. Always.

*Ok, gonna spoil it even more. The flags are fluffed and filled out by forming and placing wire hangers in the flags. Sorry, I couldn’t resist.

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A day at Sallie’s Park

There is an abandoned housing project just down the road from Northmont High School that we’ve kinda taken over as an off-leash dog park and renamed Sallie’s Park. Sallie gets all excited when we turn in, so that is why we named it.

Anyway, today she went in back by the tractor and came out with this huge bone that became the game of the afternoon. I have no idea what creature this bone came from and it’s probably best I don’t ask. We left it at the park.

Here are some photos:

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Stopping my world

At first I thought I would use the day to catch up on everything I can never find enough time in the day to do. But then I thought, “What are you thinking? That crap will be there when the world-stop-day ends.”

Part of my assumption on a day the world stops is it stops for ME, not other people. So everyone would be suspended at midnight and reanimate the next midnight. Time would not pass. I would truly gain a day where nobody would have any expectations of me, need nothing from me and where I would enjoy the time all to myself.

Kinda like Groundhog Day.

Except I would not use the time to learn to play the piano, make snow angels, save people from dying, wreck a car on a train track or any of that.

I would do nothing.

And not feel at all guilty about it. The other stuff only has meaning in the context of other people. That probably makes me incredibly selfish, but just thinking that it does probably means I give away far too much of my time away anyway.

I would do nothing.

This blog post is part of a blog-off series with a group of bloggers from different professions and world views, each exploring a theme from his/her world view. This was about answering the question, If you could stop the world for one day… To explore how others handled the theme, check them out below. I will add links as they publish.

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