I know you and I don’t talk much these days but you never say anything. Praying to you feels kinda like ranting into a twitter account. But we really could use your help about now.
In today’s social media-driven world where everyone thinks they are the next Joseph Conrad, John Steinbeck, Kate Chopin or Nate Hawthorne, we could use fewer guardian angels and more copy editors. I’m not sure if I should appeal directly to you or if you have an HR department or something that would be more appropriate, but … well, just let me know.
If you can’t actually send more copy editors, could you at least save the ones down here that all these newspapers and Arianna Huffington are slashing and burning? I don’t need to tell you that once they leave the publishing industries for a job at Waffle House, we’ve pretty much lost them for good. The words — including the apostrophes — can’t take much more of this abuse.
I was going to write a snarky post about this emergency in a couple days, but I couldn’t find the right angel… I mean angle. So, I jotted down this little prayer. The direct route seemed to be the best way.
Ok, gotta go. I’m sure you have more important things to do as well. Just thought I’d ask.
This photo got a fair amount of ribbing on Twitter all last week by the interior design community, architects and some other folks who will remain unnamed. It was a good bit of fun as we poked at how this current recession was driving folks to diversify skills and service offerings from one store front. It also produced a lot of puns that, in hindsight, are probably a bit too embarrassing to recall. You can check my twitter stream for the fun and mayhem if you want. I think the photo was discovered by @concretedetail
By the way, this is a real tailor shop in New York. Their Facebook fan page is here. I suggest you like them for all sorts of reasons that might occur to you after you read this post (you are gonna stick around for that long, right?)
Most people are confused when they get to this blog for the very reasons that it is having problems getting traction. It can’t be defined in the nine-second sound byte requirement. And I’m sure I lose readers because I don’t get to the point fast enough for them to decide to stay. On the other hand, I am convinced I keep readers because they give me some patience and trust that eventually I will be worthwhile reading, like a Steinbeck novel or a Thurber story. (Seriously, guys if you picked up the pace in the first few chapters….)
“So, is it a dog blog? Oh, wait, you talk politics… now you’re talking social issues and education…” thoughts wander off, finger clicks…
“Oh, good you rant about the evils of society just like me and … wait, are you a dog? thoughts wander off, finger clicks…
“Another one of those personal branding…. no, wait, he’s talking marketing? …. design? thoughts wander off, finger clicks…
My publicist rails against me for not being able to focus and write about any one thing for too long. “I don’t know how to package and sell you,” she laments between deep sighs, during which time I’m almost sure she is slinging back the remains of a bottle of Syrah she popped at the beginning of our conversation ten minutes ago. “Media wants experts at SOMETHING.”
I’m giving her some time to think about my “packaging.” She’ll find something eventually because she is the very best at her game. And she will be super-passionate about it because she will have solved this huge puzzle of “What is DogWalkBlog” that has been hanging over me since I started writing this little collection of stuff in 2005. I’m not in a rush because I’m enjoying the journey too much. I’m not sure I’ll like the destination.
I’ve always had this condition. I want to be everything all at once all the time. In college when I absolutely had to declare a major, I picked English because to me that signified a juxtaposition* of the absence of a commitment and the presence of a full-on commitment. “You’ll never get a good job with an English degree,” my narrow-minded idiot of a freshman advisor warned. She was right, but that has not stopped me from having a fantastic experience. And making a ton of money off employed and mentally-jailed people along the way.
Wait a minute.. I thought you were a dog? How can a dog do all that stuff? *Sigh* Move along quickly… you’re gumming up progress.
And because of my condition, I worry that I am entirely unemployable. I look at job sites all the time and get befuddled by the continually narrowing of choices I am required to select. Geography, industry, sector, specific job… forget it, I’ll just stay out here paying my own insurance until that cost becomes too painful. I don’t envy friends between the AARP and Medicare age who are out looking for a job. They have too much life experience to stuff into one job description, yet they must to appease the hot-shot HR folks.
I have the same problem with my corporation. I write a blog post or an article and then look on Businessweek, OPEN, Digg or some other cataloging site and just stare at the categories I’m supposed to smash this multi-faceted gem of knowledge into. I end up not doing anything which probably hurts my SEO and Google ranking and all that crap. Chris Brogan kinda lamented the same thing a few blog post back, only not in such a whiny howl as I’m doing here. (I searched for the post; I couldn’t find it right away so I’m hoping Chris will drop the URL in the comments.)
I worry that I have not taught my son well. During a recent lunch with Saxon Henry, she turned to him and asked, “So, what is it that you do?”
Without drawing a breath, he said, “I cook.”
I was dismayed and proud all at the same moment. He had his elevator speech nailed down which showed that he was paying attention to my rantings about getting a good carnival bark. He got it that the world expected short, direct, decisive answers to direct questions.
On the other hand, I was secretly hoping he would say something like, “I breathe! I live! I create art! I ensure the survival of the human species! I am changing the world and being here with you now, having this conversation, I am changing your perspective on one little thing which you will share with another and they will share with another and eventually that spark of an idea will move a mountain.” Maybe he did it during the course of the conversation and I missed it. Maybe he does this in the company of his close friends. I hope he does.
Maybe the good-natured ribbing of the twitter this past week was an uneasiness with our own insecurities about our life choices or the fact that the skills we all worked so hard to master and hone will be marginalized and eradicated by the job market within weeks during the next recession without apology or remorse. Maybe it is an admission to our inner selves that we have “sold out” our humanity by defining ourselves as just one thing; Joe the Plumber, Bob the Builder, Frank the Blogger. Maybe some of us define ourselves more narrowly on the outside so that we can be more free to be ourselves inside without others imposing expectations on us.
Maybe the world really is mostly made up of one-dimensional people and I’m out here being strange with a few other lost folks.
I’m ok with that.
*That is my street cred. If you can’t work “juxtaposition” into something that runs at least 1,000 words, your English degree ain’t worth a tinker’s damn.
Some time around my junior year in high school, I bought myself a blue and silver pen. It wasn’t anything special — a Parker or Papermate — but it was just the right weight, thickness and flow of ink. I carried that pen everywhere I went, through college and the first few years of my professional life.
I even bought a Mont Blanc pen to go with the suits I was required to wear, but I kept coming back to that pedestrian blue pen. I suspect it embarrassed a few of my colleagues, but that was their issue.
Then one day, I lost it. Or it was taken from me through the careless act of someone borrowing it and walking away with it while I was distracted. And I have spent the past fifteen or so years trying to replace it with no luck at all. The Fisher Space Pen and Moleskin notebook I carry now comes close, but… it’s not the same.
I carry a pen and paper with me, even as I forget my wallet and phone at home. I am never without a pen.
What? That wasn’t the real theme? You were wondering about emotional baggage and all that other stuff? Yeah, well, that’s why I write. What I want to tell you I carry, I do here.
And when I write it down, I am no longer carrying it because I gave it to you to hold for a while. Or cast away.
With my pen.
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 are you carrying? To explore how others handled the theme, check them out below. I will add links as they publish.
This is the town center of North Clayton Village in Clayton, Ohio. It has a nice wide Main Street, store front shops, a coffee shop, a park around the corner and apartments on top of the shops. It has everything you would ever want in a village.
I was passing through the playground at a nearby school in Englewood, Ohio. Sallie had climbed up the stairs that ended in a tube slide and I thought it might be cool if I encouraged her to slide down.
So, I poked my head in on the bottom side so I could see her at the top to talk her down. My eye caught the graffiti on the inside top of the slide.
I took a photo of it and it is posted below.
In case it is hard to read, the words “I [heart] lesbos” is etched into the plastic.
The media of the east and west coasts may have convinced themselves that bigotry and hatred are dead in America — especially with the eager adoption of gay marriage and the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell — but what kids scratch into the inside of playground equipment tells me we have a very, very long way to go.
I was going through an old high school yearbook and came upon this photo above. It reminded me of my typing class a very long time ago.
My dad worked at a heavy equipment dealer that sold bulldozers, backhoes and road-laying equipment. He used to bring home tons of stuff that the company would just throw out anyway (at least that what he said.) Among our valued possessions as kids were typing stands, huge nuts and bolts, big boxes of railroad marking chalk, a large slate chalkboard and lots of manual typewriters the company was getting rid of when electric ones came out.
Lest we forget how things were just a hundred years ago. It appears some in Wisconsin and Ohio have already. March 25, 1911 was not all that long ago.
Those who do not read and understand history are not only bound to repeat the mistakes of the past, but drag an entire generation with them. An informed, educated, literate citizenry is essential for a democracy to sustain itself.
I suppose that is why conservatives are also attacking teachers and have declared war on book nerds.
“Here, let me help you with that,” I heard to my left as I was waiting for some testing at the doctor’s office. I glanced over to an older gentleman who was trying to tie his shoe that has come undone. His wife had jumped in to tie his shoe for him.
Our eyes met briefly before he turned his head, silently resigned to the public indignity of having someone else tie his own shoes for him. And what made it worse was that he had to accept it from someone whom he should be trusting would never inflict that embarrassment on him.
Earlier this year, I found Kara Matuszewski’s (@karamat) blog because she started following me on twitter and read a post she had written about hand-written notes. I clicked into the comment box to send her a note, stopped cold and thought, “Wait a minute, I can do better!”
And I went searching for her mailing address, pieced that together and sent her a hand-written note, thanking her for following me on twitter. (I know, corny but so what)
But then I got to thinking that while I send out thank you notes more often than most people, I probably don’t do it enough. Besides, my penmanship is getting worse and worse because I don’t practice. So, I bought me some Moleskins (I know, a cliché) and started writing my to do list in them to practice.
As I was writing last night, (I had a flashback of John Boy from the Waltons sitting at his desk, writing the events and thoughts of the day in his journal but that’s not the point) I realized that not only was my penmanship going down the tubes, but so was my ability to compose a quick thought on a thank you card or a note. It seems simple, but when I get to a blank card, I struggle for the right words. I used to be able to dash off half a dozen before finishing my first cup of coffee in the morning. Way back, when people sent cards.
So, here is the project: Starting April 1st and through the end of 2011, I want to send one note card a day to someone who follows me on twitter or reads this blog. It will help me get my penmanship and note-writing skills back as well as have something physical that connects me to you.
At the end of the year, I will have sent out 274 cards and connected with as many people in a more real way than just a tweet or a comment.
I will scan each card and share at the end of the year (minus your mailing address, of course.) I am not doing this to build a mailing list or anything so you need not worry about giving me your info. Just a fun little project that will help me gain back some skills and have some fun and human connection along the way. Maybe I’ll even build a Google map to see how far and wide we are all connected.
*I’m starting April 1st because I need to get some cards printed up. I went looking to buy some at the store yesterday and found out the selection of stationery has really gone downhill since the email became fashionable. The first hundred or so will probably not be as skillfully done, but you can call them ‘my early works’ if you’d like.
When I was offered a job with Huffy that moved me from Minneapolis to Dayton, I was a young, ambitious, go-getter. Go, go, go. I supposed that is why they wanted me; lots of energy, lots of ideas, gonna change the world.
There was the courtship, the salary dance, the relocation package, the offer letter and then that period of silence. I was eager to get things decided, locked down, set on a to do list, go, go, go and these people were not returning my calls. What the hell was going on? I needed to know!
And then I get a call from Sandy, an older woman in the Human Resources department whom I knew only vaguely. She would later turn out to be a very good friend.
“Cool your jets,” she said.
I learned all I needed to know about salesmanship from those three little words, only I didn’t know it at the time. I learned that there was a natural ebb and flow to persuasion, that people needed time to process and that the timing and candace of information delivery was just as important as what you told them.
I learned how to be patiently calm in the eye of a storm.
I’m using this technique now with you in this blog post. Did you notice?
Does it affect how you feel about me that I told you?
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’s the best advice you’ve ever received? To explore how others handled the theme, check them out below. I will add links as they publish.
Last year, an acquaintance who has a part-time firefighter job, supplemented by a full-time ambulance driver job with no health benefits had to go to the emergency room with asthma complications. The hospital ended up having to admit him for three days. The total cost of this unplanned vacation was $23,000 and some change.
He had no insurance and he did not have $23,000. He applied for Medicaid, went through some hearings, some denials, appeals and eventually Medicaid paid the bill.
He is a Republican through and through. When asked how he liked his socialist benefits provided by his government, he smiled sheepishly and looked away. He was caught in a lie and he and I both knew it. He is still a Republican. Having his medical bills paid for through no personal merit or responsibility did not change his mind one bit about his political loyalties or the argument for his loyalties.
And that is when it hit me solidly: The GOP is not about fiscal responsibility. They are entirely about social issues.
A little background
My friend was raised in the rural parts of Ohio, right outside my town of Englewood which is ten miles north of Dayton, sixty-five miles north of Cincinnati. So he wasn’t actually raised out on the farm, but enough where there is little if any diversity and no weird artsy-fartsy types with book-leraning and such. The men hunt every fall, fish in the summer, drink beer, watch football and chew tobacco. And the women tend to their men. And everybody goes to church on Sunday and if they don’t, they still believe in Jesus Christ. (Really, these places exist not too far out your front door, wherever in America you are.)
And this is also where they talk openly about “how in the hell we let a g*d**n n****r in the White House” right before they spit chew violently on the ground in disgust.
How we got here
The GOP has gotten its followers to believe and say there is a finite amount of money available and that your ne’er-do-well, slacker neighbors are taking your fair share of your hard-earned money. Only it’s not really true. It’s not what they really mean when they say “money.” Money is just code for “my white Christian culture.”
The Greatest Generation were better storytellers than they were social engineers. When the men went off to war, they brought back stories of valor, courage, bravery, camaraderie and honor. My grandfather never talked much about the War. My dad never talked about the Korean War either. All we had were photos, medals and a few stories of good times with their buddies. They never talked about the horror of seeing their friends die or body parts getting blown off. When they came home, they put the past behind them and created a narrative that was peaceful and prosperous, even though it was not the truth.
Women who went off to work in the factories did much the same thing. It was hard, back-breaking, grueling, greasy, filthy work but when it was over, it was over. They did not tell stories of workplace accidents, the long days and the restless nights. They spun yarns of achievement, honor and patriotism.
And three generations later, that is how we remember the past that never was. Families lived in harmonious, quiet neighborhoods with houses all lined up on clean streets. The dad went off to work, the mom stayed home and kept house. There were regular raises and good benefits at his job. The kids played baseball, went to school and played stickball in the middle of the street. When they grew older, the kids went out on dates, got married and had kids of their own.
Each year, the family would get together and have Thanksgiving dinner, then Christmas and celebrate Easter in the spring. There would be great news of babies and marriages and of course of deaths and funerals. Everyone married a virgin, everyone died at peace. This all played out like some great movie with a well-crafted script. There were things nobody talked about and everybody knew what those things were.
And the children forgot about the struggle the previous generations went through to build this Great Lie. The storytellers of television and the movies gladly filled in the gaps, fueling an even more memorable past that never was.
The Great Lie of our American Dream is even embedded into our future. The following is a video made by Corning. The cues of the Dream are embedded everywhere across generations. Take a look. Can you see them? Do you find yourself wanting to be there? It’s a powerful Dream.
The past is knowable and comfortable. The future is scary. I’m fairly certain in a generation back there were old men who sighed wistfully as a truck blowing smoke passed them by on a farm road. Sure do miss the smell of horse dung, they might be thinking.
Money as a mask
We use price as an excuse for almost every human behavior. If we don’t really want to buy something, we say “that costs too much” or “I don’t have the money right now.” When we really want something, we find a way to get it by charging it, putting it on layaway, leasing it or in the case of a house, commit to mortgage terms that are not in our financial best interest. We rationalize a debt to get the things that we really want.
The GOP understands this about human nature — and particularly the American culture — very well and has masterfully crafted its message around money. “The state is broke,” they rail when a program is funding issues that are contrary to the Great Lie. “Our country is going bankrupt!” “Limited government” and “Take back our country” are all very attractive catch phrases for a population that has been led to believe that the supply of money is finite and being spent irresponsibly by your drunken neighbor. After all, many of these people don’t have much left from their paychecks at the end of the week, so it all makes common sense.
Everything the GOP wants to do is masked as a money issue because they know that American culture understands money. All this other stuff about happiness and rights and liberty is so hard to quantify. But money is easy. You can count money.
The inconsistency is the key
The key to understanding why money and fiscal responsibility is not the real issue is the inconsistency between what a conservative says and what he does. He will take a Medicaid handout to keep from paying a $23,000 hospital bill. He will take a government-supplied paycheck as a firefighter. He will take a home interest deduction on his taxes, a Pell grant from the Federal government, drive on the freeway system without paying a toll, attend a public school and do all these things as if it were his right to do so all the while saying we need less government. Taxes pay for all these things that give him a standard of living yet he perceives to have gotten these things through his own hard work and initiative.
And my favorite inconsistency of all, “Keep your government hands of my Medicare.”
The GOP knows that if they keep the discussion framed as “fiscal responsibility,” they don’t have to address all those other messy issues that go along with promoting the Great American Dream that never was. All they need do is step back in shock about why someone would not want to be fiscally responsible and they win the argument. Only the argument never really was about money. It never will be.
What’s in it for the GOP?
Power, I imagine. I can’t think of any other reason why someone would care more about the state budget being balanced than the health of their own household. Maybe some of these politicians really believe the rhetoric about fiscal responsibility, but I doubt many retain it. I think most of them are angry that not only have they lost their birthright, but it was stolen from them. They see political office as a way to take it back.
The GOP may have been about fiscal responsibility at some point in their distant past, but I think they have always been more about preserving the American Culture. As they become more and more desperate about preserving the Dream, the more they are letting their mask fall away. But judging from my friend above, they may think they can now afford to do it and start being honest about who they really are. Apparently lying about their true intent bears no consequence as at least half the country is one of them.
Of the hundreds of soccer games I have seen my kids play, I remember that soccer game clearly. My daughter was playing U9 for Northmont and we had a game against the Sidney Bees on an unseasonably warm Saturday in April. This was her first full season with select soccer.
The game was pretty tight all the way through. We scored the first goal late in the first half, they scored the second goal early in the second. There were just a few minutes left in the game when their star had a break-away and dribbled the ball all the way to our goalie and took a shot. The goalie deflected, but not cleanly. It bounced to the side of the goal, off the pitch and through the net that was not fastened securely to the ground.
The referee called it a goal.
All the parents saw the ball roll into the side of the net. All the kids saw it. The coaches saw it. But the Sidney parents said nothing, amid the protests of the Northmont parents and coaches. All it would have taken was one brave parent to step forward and say, “We want to win, but not by cheating. We’re not going to accept that goal.”
But nobody did.
All the kids on both teams learned the real rule of soccer that day. The more games you win, the more goals you score, the more your parents will love you. And it doesn’t matter how you get them. And to this day, when I hear about how team sports build character, sportsmanship, etc. Sidney, Ohio pops into my head and I know I am being lied to.
Wisconsin feels an awful lot like Sidney, Ohio on that warm April day.
It is a violation of Federal Law to use anything in this blog in a manner inconsistent with its labeling. Ok, I don't really care what you do with anything here as long as you don't copy it and represent it as your own work, though I'm not sure why anyone would really want to do that. Nothing in this blog should be construed as tax or financial advice. In fact, none of this is advice at all, just a bunch of random words strung together for entertainment purposes only.
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