When we fail as readers, we fail as writers

4 Comments

I read this article in the NY TImes this week about e-books adding music to the “experience.” Champions of this technology justify it by saying it adds to the experience, enhances imagination, meets readers where they are, blah, blah, blah.

I have not yet worked out all the feelings I have about this, but I am down to one thing: Parents and teachers need to teach young readers how to hear the sounds that words on the page produce through the ear of their own imagination. Readers need to be able to create the characters and the settings in their minds through imagination. They need to learn how the cadence, rhythm and rhyme of the words produces the “soundtrack” that propels the reader through the book.

….

Send to Kindle
Comment | 4 Comments
Posted in American Culture, Creatives, Just thinking out loud, Pop Culture, Random Stuff, Serious Stuff, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

The creative spark

6 Comments

morning-star

This weekend’s ear worm is Karen Carpenter’s version of Rainbow Connection, specifically this verse:

Who said that wishes would be heard and answered when wished on the morning star?
Somebody thought of that and someone believed it, and look what it’s done so far.

Someone was first with the idea that if he wished on a star and believed, that his wish would come true. He created this idea from two disparate objects — a wish and a star — out of nothing other than his imagination. At some point, he shared his fragile idea with someone else. And that someone else had a choice to either embrace it as a fantastic idea and fan it… or belittle it, ridicule it and kill it.

In that ever brief moment, the spark of a creative idea took hold. It was fanned with nothing more than a human belief that could not be verified. No ROI was produced, no matrices were created to measure against; just a spark of human thought against the wonder of the world that surrounded the thinker.

While frantically running errands on Thursday afternoon before our industrialized world decided that it would shut down at 5:00pm, I caught the middle of a discussion on NPR where a guest was talking about how music and arts are being systematically removed from school curriculum in favor of more STEM classes to comply with No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top. (I can’t find the program; npr.org stinks as a curation site.) What we are doing is creating generations of human beings who do not value art or music.

What we are losing is the ability to create, recognize and fan the spark of creativity.

I’m going out right now and wish really hard on a star. Join me.

Enjoy the video.


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PYuE2roIkH0

Send to Kindle
Comment | 6 Comments
Posted in American Culture, Creatives, Just thinking out loud, Pop Culture, Storytelling | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

It will soon be September

3 Comments

It is mid August and it will soon be September.

I always get a bit nostalgic when September rolls around. It marks the end of summer but it also makes that calendar crease when the new year we were just celebrating tips into the bucket of another year gone by.

I get a bit lonely, but cheer up thinking about the smell of fall, the crackle of leaves, the feel of crisp morning air drawing inside my nostrils, the smell and feel of my favorite leather jacket that is about twenty years old and the holidays which are now right around the corner.

….

Send to Kindle
Comment | 3 Comments
Posted in BlogOff, Just thinking out loud, Puppyhood, Random Stuff, Stupid stuff | Tagged , , , , , | 3 Comments

A walk is not a walk when you are walking all alone

2 Comments

Video find of the day.

Jamie O’Neal is the artist.

Send to Kindle
Comment | 2 Comments
Posted in 9-11, Cute Puppy Videos, Serious Stuff | 2 Comments

Are you sure about that?

3 Comments

Years ago, I was hired in from a field management job to a corporate training job. My job — or so I was told when they transferred me — was to take the training I had developed that produced rapid and reproducible results in the field and apply it across the country. What happened in reality was the training director who was currently doing train the trainer, sales and executive training was ready to move up and he wanted someone to replace him.

And do exactly what he was doing. Exactly how he was doing it.

I spent that first year learning how to be like him, how to deliver the training exactly as he was doing it. His method was very pedagogical. He would seat field trainers (who were used to working with their hands all day, assembling and repairing bicycles) in a classroom for 8-10 hours and “teach” them what he was certain of. For two solid days. And then send them back and expect great results.

….

Send to Kindle
Comment | 3 Comments
Posted in American Culture, Business, Journalism, Political thoughts, Pop Culture, Random Stuff | Tagged , , | 3 Comments

The stock market spiral. It may not be what you are being told

4 Comments

Stock market downturn august 2011

The broadcast media loves a good, tight narrative. Here is the narrative for the stock market downturn for the recent events happening on Wall Street.

Congress squabbles over debt ceiling, Tea Party was obstinate about debt and deficit, we came close to default, S&P drops rating, stock market reacts. Package that up with some pundits, repeat over and over and it becomes fact. Next story.

Only part of this is true.

Here is what I think is happening with the stock market. It is about as simple as the narrative, but admits that human behavior is behind all the numbers so that is always scary territory for economists. But we’ll give it a go anyway.

In 2008, the economy came to a grinding halt. Millions of people lost their jobs, many were on their way to losing their homes and since poor people don’t spend money, millions of businesses quit stocking inventories.

Corporations shed jobs and cut expenses and immediately became more productive and profitable just in the way we measure these things. When the economy started growing slowly, they did not re-hire people; they replaced them with technology that shows up every day, do not need a medical plan and will never saddle the corporation with a pension plan. Investors like that so they buy more of that company’s stock. And they bought a lot in the past two years, pushing stock prices higher. Investors were getting richer.

But you can not cut your way to long-term profitability. The life span of a “cost-cutting to profitability” plan is about 18-24 months. After that, if you are not growing revenues, your profitability will start to decline. Business knows that but they also know that the average “dip” between recessions is about 18-24 months. After that, people get tired of austerity, they start spending, jobs get created and the economy kick-starts itself into gear.

Investors also know this, but they never know exactly when they should be selling the stock. But the smart ones know they will sell the stock eventually because companies will start hiring based on product/service demand and their stocks will take a hit before going back up. Investors hate when companies hire; it means lower short-term profitability and long-term obligations. They like to sell before that “hit” happens.

The underlying reason businesses are not hiring is because they have no need to hire. There are few customers on the horizon. Regardless of what the GOP spins about tax cuts and regulations, the number one — and only reason — businesses are not hiring is because they do not see any customers. Period.

Taxes and regulations are things to either comply with or figure out how to get around when you really, really want to get to the dollars on the other side. To date, I have not met a businessperson who does not believe that in his/her heart. Have you?

We are at about the 24 month mark when the economy should be swinging upward. Only it isn’t and the only organization with the will and means to spend money to get things kick-started — the US Federal Government — is now in a Tea Party-forced cost-cutting frenzy. Even if the President were to introduce a jobs bill, he could never get it funded. What the market heard during the debt ceiling debate and Mitch McConnell’s comments afterwards is the government is going to keep cutting way past the 18-24 month window. Way, way, way past.

“Holy crap!” think investors who are looking at history and know they are at or near the end of the “cost-cutting to profitability” plan of most corporations. “I’m not going to lose my butt in the private sector. I’m going to buy the most secure stuff that exists; US Treasuries.”

Standard & Poor’s did the only thing they knew how to do; lowered the rating for the US Government. Not entirely the best strategy, but they could do little else. S&P also gave a narrative as to why they did something, anything. But neither side heard the rationale. I’m not a fan of S&P as they have been wrong more often than right, but this time, I think they got it right, even if their math was off.

The problem does not lie in the math; it lies in the human assumptions behind the math.

And that is exactly what is going on, regardless of what rating Standard & Poor’s gives the US Government.

Now, all we need to do is package that in a nine-second sound byte.

*Sigh*

Send to Kindle
Comment | 4 Comments
Posted in American Culture, Just thinking out loud, Local politics, Political thoughts, Pop Culture | Tagged , , , , | 4 Comments

The debt ceiling discussion as a household family meeting

1 Comment

Friday, Standard & Poor’s downgraded the rating on the United States of America from AAA to AA+. Regardless of how you spin this or what you believe in the reputation of S&P’s ratings in light of their performance during the housing bubble with their ratings on the derivatives, the fact is that the markets depend on the ratings for investment decisions and it will matter. Let’s not dance around that fact.

But that is all for the media and politicians to argue about. We’re going to examine this in a slightly more pedestrian way.

It seems like the GOP loves to talk about the US economy in terms of a household. To keep in step with that metaphor, let’s peek in on the secret tapes of a family meeting that just adjourned at one of my neighbors down the street.

Dad: Ok, is everyone here? Mom, kids? The mortgage loan officer and credit card card companies? ….. do you want more tea?

Mom: Can we just get on with this meeting? I have a blog to write….

Dad: Ok, ok. As you know, 42% of our budget is dedicated to the mortgage. Since we’re cutting spending, we’re going to quit paying that. We might just send in the interest payment but we’re gonna have to crunch those numbers. And we’re going to further devalue the collateral value of our house by not repairing that gaping hole in the roof or patch the driveway. We’re probably not going to pay the credit cards, though.

And we’re spending far too much in food, so we’re cutting way back on everything….

Kids: But daaaaaaddddddd….

Dad: Hey, we have to cut the spending. The malnutrition that will set in may affect your ability to learn in school and I may get weak and fall down on the assembly line, but we have to cut that spending.

We’re also cutting off our medical insurance so if anyone catches anything, you’re just gonna have to ride out the symptoms. If it kills you, well, you just should have had stronger genes. Cable and telephone is going, to…

Mom: But what about emergencies? We’ll have no way to know if a tornado is coming or have 911 to call…

Dad: That is all in God’s hand now. If God wants us to survive a natural disaster, His hand will move us out of harm’s way.

…….

And the mortgage officer goes back to the bank and immediately draws up papers to call in the mortgage and the credit card companies cut the credit limit and raises the interest rate on the existing balances and any future spending.

Are we surprised that Standard & Poor’s lowered our credit rating in light of the people who claim to be the most responsible members of Congress were publicly debating whether or not the United States should pay its bills? That the GOP front-runner for the presidency publicly claimed to support default as a viable action? That the president who has been widely regarded as being able to win re-election in 2012 is now being reported by the media as having a plummeting approval rating and this challenger could win?

If you were a creditor of the United States, would you sit by and wait to see what happens?

Yeah, me neither.

Send to Kindle
Comment | 1 Comment
Posted in American Culture, Just thinking out loud, Political thoughts, Pop Culture | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

Henry Wood Detective Agency uncovered. A podcast with author Brian D. Meeks

5 Comments

Henry Wood is suffering greatly from a festive night of saying goodbye to 1954. His world is one of black and white, right and wrong, but his life is about to change and there will forever be shades of grey. An average detective, with a passion for the Brooklyn Dodgers, Henry is about to be hired by a beautiful woman, to find her father and his journal.

Any novel is more than just the story and Rufus walks and talks with the author Brian Meeks. Here he is in his own words.

Henry Wood Detective Agency is available for Kindle on Amazon.com and Nook at BN.com.

MP3 File

Send to Kindle
Comment | 5 Comments
Posted in American Culture, Podcast, Pop Culture, Storytelling | Tagged , , , | 5 Comments

Google, hire an English major

1 Comment

Watch this video resume. Then visit his web page.

And here is a comment I sent to Matthew Epstein this morning.

Cool resume, but the correct use of “bad” is the adverbial form.

“I want to join your product marketing team, badly.”

If you are writing copy, you can take some liberties, but should punctuate it differently as such.

“I want to join your product marketing team. Bad.”

My English Major oath would not let me let this slide. Sorry if you are feeling those usual, “who the hell does he think he is” thoughts most people feel when we point out a typo. Really, it’s for your own good. Learn from this. You want the advantage over others who won’t care so much about the details of craftsmanship. As Joseph Conrad writes in The Secret Sharer, “exactitude in some small matters is the very soul of discipline.” Google is an exacting company and will only hire those who subscribe to this life philosophy. Embrace it. (and read the book; it’s only 50 pages.)

And how is it that you have not gotten the “Cease and desist” letter yet from the Google Legal Team for registering a domain with “Google” in it?

Anyhow, I hope Mr. Epstein gets a job with Google and I hope they never regret hiring him because all of his copy is clean, tight and well-crafted.

You’re welcome.

Send to Kindle
Comment | 1 Comment
Posted in American Culture, Business, Dayton Ohio, Just thinking out loud, Pop Culture, Random Stuff, Thinking out loud | 1 Comment

Baying at the moon

9 Comments

I grew up in that period of awesome where kids thought walking on the moon was the best things anyone could ever hope to achieve. I was probably not ever going to get to the moon, but I wanted to see it.

I wanted a telescope. I wanted a telescope with enough power to see the flag Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin planted on the surface.

That didn’t happen and hasn’t yet. Maybe someday.

….

Send to Kindle
Comment | 9 Comments
Posted in American Culture, BlogOff, Puppyhood | Tagged , , | 9 Comments

The Shawshank moment for America

2 Comments

Red parole scene from The Shawshank Redemption

There is a scene in The Shawshank Redemption where Red is up for parole after serving forty years of a life sentence. A video clip is here (sorry, it wouldn’t embed.)

It occurred to me that this is the American People. We are tired, beaten back and “institutionalized.” No matter how passionately we care, how many hours we engage ourselves in politics to be a responsible citizen, how much we strive to play by the rules or play the game, we end up demoralized and tired.

So, Washington, go ahead and stamp your bills and play politics with our lives and livelihood. There ain’t a damn thing we can do about it anyway out here. All we are doing is wasting energy getting all tired out and all you need to do is keep up frustrating us until we give up.

You win, Washington. We just don’t give a damn any more.

But don’t forget how the movie finally ends. Red and Andy eventually win out as they found a way to live out their lives without any of the institutions that tried to control them.

I think I’ll start checking out as well. Keep stamping your forms and railing against those who “don’t love America” and quit wasting my time. I’m over here, busy marginalizing you.

Send to Kindle
Comment | 2 Comments
Posted in Pop Culture | 2 Comments

President Obama was a bad man on the twitter yesterday

Comments Off

Barack Obama tweets GOP twitter accounts

Shortly after his speech yesterday morning, President Obama started tweeting out the twitter accounts of the Republican members of the Senate and House of Representatives on his twitter stream. All in all, he sent out about a hundred tweets throughout the day.

And some people got so enraged they unfollowed him. Mashable reported that he lost about 36,000+ followers.

Seriously. A handful of ideological lawmakers are holding the faith and credit of the United States of America hostage and you are complaining about an extra hundred tweets in your twitter stream? And the “bad twitter behavior” pisses you off more than what is going on in the House of Representatives right now?

You self-absorbed bag of bones.

Look around you. Being in the United States of America is what makes something like twitter even possible. Your being incensed that the president would dare send multiple tweets to sully the purity of your twitter stream are the threads that will undo what has been built by men and women who have endured far more than the annoyance of a few extra tweets.

Seriously, have a little perspective.

I’m beginning to think that social media is bit like giving a loaded gun to a monkey.

Send to Kindle
Comment | Comments Off
Posted in American Culture, Just thinking out loud, Local politics, Ohio, Political thoughts, Pop Culture, Social Media | Tagged , , | Comments Off

The US Post Office mangled their good news again

Comments Off

Owney the Dog USPS

Yesterday, The Rachel Maddow Show (with guest host Melissa Harris Perry) ran a story segment about Owney the Post Office dog. In short, a new stamp will be issued today with Owney’s image.

I’m not sure how easy it is for everyone else to get The Rachel Maddow Show to run a story about them, but they seem to be able to ignore any request from us at the Dog Walk Blog rather deftly. It might be the restraining orders, could be that we have not published any cool dog cocktail recipes or maybe they just don’t want annoying little English major sh*ts in the bullpen, correcting them at every turn..

I’m sure they have their reasons. Maybe you have to know someone, like Melissa’s dog Pebbles (does Pebbles have a twitter account?)

We got all excited and dashed off to USPS.com to buy a doghouse full of Owney stamps.

Nothing.

No promo, no front page links to the unveiling, nowhere to place advance orders. They received a ton of free media promoting a really cool story and they did nothing with it. Dogs have been maligned as tormenting carriers for decades and when they finally have a chance to make it right with the entire canine community, they blow it.

Eventually I found the Owney stamps in their store and placed an order, but I had to click around for a while. If anyone wants a personal note with an Owney attached, just DM me on twitter with a mailing address. When they come in, we’ll send them out.

No wonder the USPS finds itself closing offices, laying off workers and losing money. It is not competition from FedEx, UPS and email. It’s just not paying attention to the details.

BTW, here is the segment. And the 45322 post office has a sign that says “No dogs allowed.” Really.

Send to Kindle
Comment | Comments Off
Posted in American Culture, Branding Thoughts, Business, Just thinking out loud, Pop Culture, Thinking out loud | Tagged , , , , , , | Comments Off

A rebuttal to the debt ceiling speeches

Comments Off

Sean Francis expressed the mood of the country in a 138 character tweet

I was fidgeting around on what my response was to the speeches last night by the president and the speaker when this tweet by @SeanDFrancis popped into my stream. In 138 characters, Mr. Francis summed up the mood of the country and my response in one collective sigh.

Mr. John Boehner, President Barack Obama and the Tea Party; are you listening? This is your America. This IS the American People you continue to cite. We’re willing, we’re ready to do great things but we are all also so very, very tired. Like spinning our wheels in a pit of mud.

All we ask is that you quit pouring water in the dirt and build us a bridge so we can climb out. Did you understand that “balanced approach” metaphor?

Is this thing on?

P.S. And just in case you are thinking about emailing, calling or writing to Boehner’s office, don’t bother. He counts every contact as support for his cause.

.

Send to Kindle
Comment | Comments Off
Posted in American Culture, Dayton Ohio, Just thinking out loud, Kasich Kuts, Political thoughts, Pop Culture, Serious Stuff | Tagged , , , , | Comments Off

Turning scars into art – A podcast with Jane Devin

Comments Off

Jane Devin, author of Elephant Girl

UPDATE: Jane’s book is now available for Kindle at Amazon.com. Other formats to follow, so please follow her on Facebook or Twitter.

I was following the babble of Neil Kramer one afternoon and one of his tweets led to me to Jane Devin. She was just another blogger who published articles on Huffington Post but anyone who could wrangle a byline on HuffPost was probably someone worth reading. I read her post there and click over to her blog.

I should have read in the reverse order.

I think I lost a few hours poring over the shards of her soul pieced together in the essays on her blog.

I learned that Jane recently took a nine-month road trip across America and wrote a blog about the experience. Following the road trip, she wrote a book, Elephant Girl, from the cab of a borrowed truck in a coffee shop parking lot. But if I say any more, it would ruin the story.

So, in her own words, Jane Devin talks to me about Elephant Girl. I hope you enjoy listening to her as much as I did interviewing her.

When Elephant Girl is published later this year, we will have information on how you can pick up a copy. It is an intense memoir of “a challenged life lived with imagination.” It is worth every minute your heart and soul will lose within its pages.

Editor’s note:
Jane has established a Facebook page for her book. Please like it.

MP3 File

Send to Kindle
Comment | Comments Off
Posted in American Culture, Podcast, Pop Culture, Writing | Tagged , , , | Comments Off