Slaying the Dragon.

Admittedly, this article is largely an effort in both self-help and proselytizing. Sharing what I have learned, and learning what I haven’t learned about. Not so much “This is a map, I should know every part of it” but in terms of what “maps” exist that I haven’t even heard of, much less learned.

One thing I am slowly realizing, despite my best efforts otherwise is that confidence is one of my main weaknesses. The main problem with that? Without confidence, it is difficult to accomplish anything. At all.

Just imagine a painter, for instance, who is extremely timid. You’ve got someone who can get out his canvas, get out his paints, his brushes, his palette…and he stands there. Like a pimple on an elephant’s ass, he stands there. Depending on how extreme his timidity is, he might end up with either a very bland painting, like sky blue from top to bottom and very little else, or he might simply end up with a blank canvas.

Watch Bob Ross sometime. The guy will paint a gorgeous scene, prettier than real life, so quaint and serene, so beautiful. Then he’ll load up a fan brush with paint the color of tar, getting every bit of paint into the brush that it can hold, and blop it into the canvas. Right on top of the scene, he’ll scrawl an inch wide black line across it with what can only be called reckless abandon to create a couple trees. Ruthless. Reckless. Fearless. Confident.

As if he’s saying “I could think about it for hours and still not give a shit if I ruin this painting. If it is spoiled, screw it, I never liked it anyway, I can do better work, and tomorrow I will. I will. I…Will. This painting? One pre-stretched canvas worth twenty bucks, five bucks worth of paint, one hour worth of time. This very evening someone will go to a fancy restaurant and they’ll spend more money and more time feeding their face. Well, sparky, I aint hungry right now and I got pop tarts at home, so let’s do this.”

There is an element of confidence that is a crucial necessity. If you’re timid and holding back, trying to play it safe, it’s really tough to even end up with a decent painting, much less to risk ruining it all by scrawling a tree across it.

The bad part? It’s not just a dragon to slay in painting. I’ve noticed it a lot in music. For the longest time my strumming on guitar was weak and didn’t sound good. It was also really tough to imagine how some players can just go at it at a fever pitch. Impossible…except I’d seen it done and knew it was possible. Then I made a startling realization…

I watched a musician play and…I knew for a fact he didn’t have 100% control over that strum. He did four that I really watched closely and he didn’t have full control over any of them. Maybe 60% control, approaching 70%, but certainly not full and complete control on all four….and it didn’t matter at all.

Seriously. Listening closely, not listening closely, watching closely, not watching closely, it didn’t matter. At all. If he accidentally tapped that bottom E on the way by, it’s irrelevant because I didn’t hear it on any of his strums.

And what difference would it make if it had rung loudly? With the drums, the bass, the keyboards, the crowd, his own vocals, the lead guitarist, who would hear or care if he accidentally hit a bad note? Think of the sheer volume of entire CDs that suck and contrast that against four bad notes in one song during one concert. Microscopic scratch on a Maserati. One bad brush stroke on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. A completely naked supermodel with a small pimple on her instep. It’s sincerely such a small blemish that it really doesn’t really warrant mention. Four bad notes is nothing.

My own playing was basically stifled because I was worrying about accidentally hitting a missed note from time to time. Trying to hold such fine and precise control that…I managed to keep the aircraft perfectly aligned in straight and level flight, but only at speeds too slow for the wings to generate lift. I was afraid to strum fluidly because I was afraid of making a “bad” noise. Then I had a realization;

If I picked up my guitar, grabbed a chord, and butchered it in the worst possible way, having screwed it up better than anybody ever had before…with the highest quality guitar capable of sustaining the notes for the longest time…the “evidence” of my blunder would be around for maybe 30 seconds. Considering that the universe is more then four and a half BILLION years old…dammit, I can screw up thirty seconds and survive it. Should I make a bad noise for 30 seconds and some mob find it so offensive that they wish to come and assault me, this sounds like an ideal reason to offer other “bad noises” that are much louder, but last less time. All men are created almost equally; Louisville sluggers and Samuel Colt puts them all on a level playing field.

The “risk” of making a mistake was greatly outweighed by the possible gains of succeeding. And, in full truth, the “risk” was all self-imposed. I had convinced myself that a bad noise was a lot worse than it really was. In all truth, once I became willing to fly…I stopped falling out of the sky so much. Yeah, I’ll admit, early on I made a hellacious racket but that didn’t last long. Once I got comfortable making full power strums I discovered something interesting: the sound of the good notes usually overpowered and “drowned out” the bad ones. Yeah, you could still hear them, but they didn’t stand up on top of the chord and scream “Hey, I don’t belong here but I’m here because this idiot sucks!” They were there, and you could hear them, but they were soon forgotten. Nothing bad happened when there were unexpected and unwanted sounds. In time, thousands and thousands of strums later, the “right” notes started outnumbering the “wrong” ones. Without the confidence not to care if I made a bad noise, I’d never have gained the experience to learn not to care.

Now that I’ve moved on to composing my own pieces…same basic reset. I’ve let my inexperience breed pugnacious timidity. Though I have made it a personal goal to write at minimum ten measures of 4/4 per day, I still find the dragon in the corner is there, and he still needs a good smack every now and then so he never forgets who’s really in charge ’round here in the musical composition department.

Falling back on the “standard” rule of thumb works: if it sounds right, it is right. If it sounds wrong, it is wrong. 50% of trust goes to good judgment, 50% of trust goes to knowledge of theory. The rest is a matter of time and experience.

I suppose in all creative endeavors, that’s basically the rule to follow. Looks good/is good. Sounds good/is good. Feels good/is good. There will be bumps in the road, but really that’s the whole point of creative journeys; to find and smooth the bumps. To find and slay that Timidity Dragon that sits in the corner and whispers doubts and derision in your ear when you are vulnerable.

I find it more fun to keep him around. In a way, things might go smoother to just hack off his head and be done with him…but it’s more fun to stumble upon a really awesome riff by luck and dogged determination, play through it a few times to make sure I have it down pat, then turn the volume knob all the way up on the amp or keyboard and play it right in his face.

Small wars breed small victories, and I’ll take ’em where I can get ’em.

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The stifling of Modernity.

Here’s a life tip for you. If someone contacts you via EMAIL, that should be taken as a hint about how they’d like to communicate with you. If someone contacts you via PHONE, this too can be taken as a hint too! If someone contacts you via US MAIL, this is also a hint!

This gross tolerance of cross-platform communication is ignorant and only serves to infuriate people who have to deal with you! If it’s a service they would like to partake in on a paying basis, then you should be willing to bend a bit. Especially if you tout email, webchat, phone, or us mail as a method of contact.

This tendency to bait with one medium and switch to another could be termed and Bait & Switch or B&S but since the ampersand is allllll the way up at the number 7 key, I’m just gonna omit that little character and call it BS.

Seriously, this is relatively deep into the 21 century, 2017, well more than 1/8th (11/64th is actually closest by my math) into the 21st century. Your “representative” needling me for my phone number…kinda feels like I’m stuck in 1917. If I purchase your product, will it be delivered by Pony Express? Or a good ol’ steam train? Or perhaps Mark Twain will bring it on a paddlewheel steamer?

People, this is 2017. Phone calls, they’re handy when you’re too drunk to type but still want booty, or when you need immediate emergency services. That’s a time-sensitive need. Talking to me about a service, it’s not really that time sensitive unless it’s diarrhea medicine. A phone number request, it’s implying you want me to make myself available on your terms…this is not appealing as a business trait.

I do see the validity of phones for phone calls, but let’s be honest; the one thing that made phones tolerable was caller ID. The ability to know if the person who is bugging you is worth the time they’re asking you to waste on them.

Damn near every business I can think of has a computer with internet capability these days. Let’s stop relying on person to person calls as reasonable formats of communication. Yes, I probably value you quite highly, but…the beauty of email is that it allows me to get my fecal matter concentrated in a neat pile before responding so YOU don’t have to endure the dead airspace of me attempting to concentrate those piles neatly in real time. If you force me to do a P2P call, guess what cowhand, you just lost the right to ever get mad at me if my fecal matter is in its pre-concentrated format and don’t you freakin’ **DARE** put me on hold. If I have to scramble to get all my shit in neat and orderly piles for your precious call, guess what buddy, you’re on a shot clock.

If you’re going to say on your site that you will work with certain forms of communication, then dammit work with them! If it’s all going to be funneled to your cubicle farm in some third world country, say so up front so I know to just call and pretend I’m all keyed up and excited about the newfangled ray-dee-ohh they done went and installed in the house fer us, little box lets us listen to the sawed off midgets that lives inside it, an’ that Orson Welles, what a little scamp!

People, it’s just a cosmic blink from being 2018. I can send a picture of my fancy parts to outer space and have ’em come down in the hand held device of the lady of my preference. Are we seriously going to rely on a dial-tone system? We don’t even use that for internet anymore! You’re in the modern era but you act like you’re stuck in pre-dialup. If you bought new, you probably drive a **Car** that can send an email or text…why can’t you?

Get it together folks. Booty calls or your house is on fire, anything but those two, let’s climb aboard the bullet train and join the modern era of indoor plumbing, please. I totally get it for visual impairment and all that…but just to start off right from the first minute dictating how I’m going to interact with you…not flattering at all, nor is it endearing.

For the record, I’m getting as damn private about my phone number as I am with my social security number. Why? Because there are still assclowns out there who will call, and call, and call, and call, until all I wanna do is pick up a barbecue fork, heat it red hot over hickory coals, and cram it in my ear so I can’t hear them calling, or hear myself telling them that I don’t want their home security system. On that front, I don’t NEED a home security system. I’m flatass broke all the time, haven’t bought anything worth buying in years, and if anybody broke in here, I’d just shoot ’em with the last thing I did buy! I’m so broke that if anybody broke in here and didn’t immediately say “dude, it’ll be okay, we’ll find a way to get you some better stuff”…I wouldn’t feel bad about putting a hollowpoint in them because they are truly heartless. I don’t even spring for name brand light bulbs.

Once a company gets your number, it never freakin’ ends. I strongly suspect there is a cottage industry just in selling and trading lists of dumbasses like me who are stupid enough to give out their phone number when it becomes plainly obvious that no other form of modern communication is acceptable.

The good news? I have to give my number out, but I know every single company that has it. If, after adding a new company to that list, I discover I’m inundated with calls of an irrelevant nature…payback is a glitch. BTW, don’t tell me about the no-call list. Oddly, I find when I added my cell to that list, I got **more** calls rather than less.

Here’s an idea, just occurred to me. If you only want prospective customers to use the phone, don’t offer anything but the number. I know I’m gonna end up sitting on hold for a freakin’ hour anyways, so why tease me with purported flexibility you know damn well you won’t offer? Just be honest: We still heat the storefront with cow dung off the prairie, we still go down to the mercantile to put our Liberty Head Nicks in the Kinetoscope every Saturday afternoon, perhaps have us a sarsaparilla ‘fore the long ride home in the buggy.

Which, I wonder, is worse? To admit one is a phony who only uses the promise of modern convenience as a hook, or to admit that the zipper was just invented and you don’t quite understand it yet?

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I am puzzled.

I am considerably puzzled.

A lot of the media is advocating a holistic and total ban on all guns because we don’t need them. If we have a problem, like someone breaking in, we should just call the police. People with training and vetting who can be trusted with such dangerous things as guns.

Are those, by chance, the same police that, for the last few years, the same media has done nothing but portray as murdering swine who are out to kill innocent people without so much as a reason?

Truth; I have guns.

Fact: no human has **ever** shed blood due to **any** gun I own. The most significant injury any of them has inflicted was in pinching my thumb badly enough to raise a blood blister the size of a pencil eraser. (Damn break-action shotgun…)

Fact: No police officer has ever drawn his gun and pointed it at me or anyone I know in any instance I am aware of, mostly because nobody I know would willingly give any police officer justification to do so.

Turns out, cops and guns have a lot in common. A gun will kill somebody if you put it in a position where it has no other option. A cop is exactly the same. You point a gun and pull the trigger, a gun will fire. You corner a cop and try to beat him up, that cop will fire.

Here’s an idea. Let’s suggest the media get back to reporting news rather than just trying to tell people what to believe. I’ve got enough intelligence to decide for myself what I do and do not believe.

And…if you have to turn on a modern media source to figure out what you believe…I think you should immediately be stripped of every single right you have and put in a home somewhere because you’re too stupid to be trusted to move around in this world unattended. Seriously, if you need CBS or FOX to tell you what to believe, you need a handler and a helmet.

Yeah, Paddock in Vegas killed a bunch of people because he was a nutjob. Instead of taking a “long hard look” at gun laws, why not take a long hard look at how dismally difficult it is to get help for any mental health difficulty in this country. Take a look at the stigma somebody is forced to carry for even looking. Take a look at how genuinely batshit crazy you have to be in this damn country to even **get** mental health help in this country.

Don’t blame guns, don’t blame cops. Blame those lazy bastards that have been sitting on their overpaid asses for decades in high office putting frivolous crap ahead of legitimately beneficial programs that could make help available to people easily **before** they get to their breaking point. Consider the benefits of saying “Hey, you want a check from the Federal Government for $20? Great! Then come on down to the local health department and let us give you a complete physical!” Not only would it allow medical professionals a chance to get ahead of the epidemics and treat people before the epidemics get out of control, but with fewer than twenty routine questions you could identify anybody who’s a little too close to “hazardous to public safety” before they actually present a legitimate risk. The expense of the cheap incentive would be saved in the long run by the lack of having to call out the National Guard every two weeks to take care of a preventable crisis.

Here’s the facts, kids. Yes, there was a shooting in Las Vegas. And yes, there was a party totally responsible. It wasn’t a gun, it wasn’t a bullet, it wasn’t a gadget. It was a fat cat on Capitol Hill who’s been writing bills to secure another bailout for his banking buddies instead of writing provisions for things that can actually help people.

Now, let’s stop and look at something else… April 19, 1995. 168 people dead, not a single shot fired. August 12, 2017. Only one fatality, but had a different vehicle been used, it would have been higher than the events of April 19, 1995. No shots fired. September 11, 2001. 2,996 people dead and more dying every day. Not a single shot fired.

You don’t need a damn gun to kill people! You never have! If someone is intending to kill people, the method is secondary. If somebody is insane, method no longer matters. You ban guns, you’ll see IEDs in cars regularly, people crashing cars into crowds of people, people hijacking airplanes and flying them into buildings. When a mental problem is the cake, the icing is irrelevant.

In 200 years when people look back on this time, they won’t care that guns were available, because we’ll have hopefully learned by then that until we start putting things in motion to actually do something for people who are struggling mentally, banning objects won’t make a difference.

Let’s be blunt. Last year, I had a rough time. And do you know what help I got? Absolutely none. Luckily for the world, I was in a mental hole shallow enough to dig out of on my own. What might have happened if I hadn’t been able to crawl out on my own? Maybe I’d have done away with myself. But, lets put this scenario in a different setting, like some guy who just bet big and lost big, delivered a sad story to the casino pit boss, and got told “ya win some, ya lose some”. Decides he’s going to kill himself, but he’s not going by himself. He’s going to make sure nobody wants to come within a mile of that casino ever again.

You end up with some guy in Las Vegas, banging away at people. He used guns. He could have used a truck, or an airplane, or a chemical in the HVAC. The problem isn’t guns, it is a sickening preference to fund unnecessary things over critical things. Let’s make sure that some park in the middle of nowhere has enough federal money to keep all three hundred miles of fence freshly painted, and to hell with that guy struggling with his mental issues. He’ll live or he won’t, who cares, so long as this park nobody goes to looks nice. Let’s make sure they can afford a fireworks extravaganza for the fourth of July, but to hell with this guy over here who’s at his lowest point, thinking thoughts he really should talk to somebody about.

Simply put, sane people don’t kill strangers. Sane people don’t hijack planes or build truck bombs, and they damn sure don’t drag hundreds of pounds of armament to the 32nd floor of a hotel. You can ban all the inanimate object you want, but until you give people a way to access help and to find sick people before they snap, all you’re doing is wasting time. How many people have to die before we stop worrying about banning objects and start trying to eradicate untreated mental health struggles?

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Boycott…the world!

Quick question; off the top of your head, how many “boycott” requests have you seen in the last five years? I’m guessing the number is quite large because it’s the #1 knee-jerk reaction. If I stop doing ____, they’ll have to notice and change their evil and incorrect methods! They must! They shall! And they will if I just “vote with my feet”.

And when you did “vote with your feet”, seven hermits in Thailand synchronized their timepieces, returned to their huts, and at 11:23PM the following day, they farted in the solitude…if it had even that much impact.

Seriously folks, boycott is powerful, but only in certain circumstances. If you’re talking about the only grocer in a town of 28 people, and the head of one household with three kids boycotts, then the grocer has lost five consumers. 17.85 % of the customer base. He’ll sell 17.85 % less bread, 17.85 % less Froot Loops, and 17.85 % less Mac’n’cheez. This means at the end of the week, his books will come up 17.85 % short of the performance seen last week.

Take money out of it, let’s simplify it. Think…ping pong balls. Every person who goes to his store this week puts a ping pong ball in a box. End of week, the balls are returned to their rightful owner and the process begins again. In this scenario, you might actually notice that there’s not as many ping pong balls in the box as there was last week. The absence of 5 ping pong balls, it’s a lot. This is the effect of boycott in a specific circumstance. With a town of 28 people, 5 people not using his store might be noticed…provided there is no pass-thru traffic.

Now, let’s look at…Starbucks, for example. Almost 25,000 locations, 19 Billion revenue in 2015, quarter million employees, and no real sign it’s going to go bad instantly for them. In short, they’re in good position. So…let’s say they make a rule against…baseball caps. It upsets many, so let’s drop that b-bomb on ’em and boycott ’em.

Let’s say that in their locations, the overall average is…150 customers a day. It’s lowball, but let’s roll with it. We’ll counter this lowball by rounding up the locations to an even 25,000. The result is a 3,750,000 average daily customer figure total. For a seven day week, we have a result of 26,250,000. Per week, that’s how many customers go to Starbucks in our scenario; twenty-six and one quarter million people liked them some fancy java that week.

But no! No! No! No! Because of their Nazi Fascist Baseball cap rule, I’m gonna tell….um….TEN THOUSAND PEOPLE! And they’ll all boycott ’cause I’m the bees knees and people shiv a git about what I say! And That dastardly Commie place Starbucks, they’re gonna lose ten thousand customers!

And one of the hermits farted a quarter-second longer than all the other hermits, but with slightly less volume due to the additional duration.

Let’s pong this. You’ve got 26,250,000 ping pong balls in one place. Yeah, just try to imagine 26 (and another quarter) million ping pong balls in one place. Now, because of some hat rule protest, take away 10,000. Now there are 26,240,000 ping pong balls. Would you notice? Hell, would Rainman have noticed?

I…really doubt it. And I really doubt Starbucks would either. If you just took the money that the chain made in that week, piled it up, and subtracted the amount they’d lose from those ten thousand customers, they still wouldn’t notice. The sheer volume greatly outshines any small deduction to the point where your protest is lost in the noise.

Here’s the deal. Boycotts work…on a small scale. If you can tell enough people to boycott something, you might make the powers in charge take notice. If you’re a single voice in the mass, even without your voice the mass still exists. If your voice is small, you may not be heard at all over the mass, and whether it is there or not matters little. If you’re trying to make a huge entity change, a boycott is kind of like peeing on yourself in wintertime; you notice, and it feels nice and warm, but nobody else is aware of the warmth and even if you tell them they’re unlikely to believe you about the beneficial warmth.

And…let’s be honest. If you’re throwing a party at your house and I don’t like you or your party, the best thing I could possibly do for you is not come! I’m a simple man but if I’m throwin’ a party, I don’t want no naysayers there. I don’t want no wet blankets. I want everybody there to be in the mood to party hard at my party! You don’t approve? Then please, boycott me, ’cause I don’t need your noise in the midst of my rockin’ party! You being home while I’m getting’ my party on, that’s fine because I am throwin’ a party and I only want party-goers to go to my parties!

How better to disrupt my party? Don’t boycott. Show up, but don’t participate. Be in my space, but ignore my proceedings. Be there, but don’t be part of my party. Do your thing. Wear a t-shirt that’s neon electric green, and all your fellow protesters wear it. Chant things that have nothing to do with my party. Get all your fellow protesters to sing a wholly irrelevant song for the entire duration of my party. Loudly and proudly singin’ “Jimmy Crack Corn and I Don’t Care” at the top of your lungs. Smuggle in vuvuzela and blow ’em until your lungs bleed!

Right now, there’s a big fuff about the NFL and people are calling for boycott and all that, unknowingly asking protesters to make the NFL stronger with their absence. Making the stadiums perhaps weaker in number, but stronger in allegiance, fewer people, but more room for those loyal to the brand. Seems silly to me, really. They’re not going to notice a few dollars missing, I’d imagine employees scam as much if not more than a boycott would cost, but they’d sure notice a thousand people blowing those stupid-loud horns for the entire duration of every game. No microphone being able to pick up anything without picking up those horns blowing and at some point people figuring out that those horns are there for a simple reason; protest. Better still commentators having to acknowledge to the viewing audience why it sounds like a South Africa soccer game in the good ol’ US of A.

Sometimes, boycotting works. Sometimes though, you’re just helping the entity gain strength by condensing the loyalty and leaving them more room to do whatever they do. How better to improve a party than to figure out how to make all the people stay home if they don’t support you or your party? Boycott works on paper, but on paper is one of very few places it does work.

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Football and Sensible Risk.

In many ways, I’m like Forrest Gump. I am not a smart man, but I know what risk is. I know if a jobsite requires you to wear steel-toe boots, there’s probably a likelihood of things falling on your feet. If a jobsite requires you to bring gloves, there’s probably a likelihood of things being rough on your hands.

Why then, can a football player be handed shoulder pads, a helmet, and a mouthpiece, and be surprised and befuddled by getting injured? Today, a player (JJ Russell-Memphis) got laid out for a few minutes on the football field and within minutes everyone was in favor of furthering all possible safety rules and even suggesting ejection for the guy who hit him.

I saw the hit…Sorry to say it, but I’ve seen people get stacked up harder on Black Friday and both of those people were ladies in their late 50s. Shoulder to chest, kid’s head whipped. Yes, it could not have happened if the rules were adjusted to a two-hand-touch configuration. It also could not have happened had Mr. Russell done just about any of two hundred common exercises to strengthen the neck. Those are exercises I’d recommend for any football player.

Here’s the deal-don’t ask me how I know, but an average human head weighs between 8 and 12 pounds. Typical football helmet with bars weighs between 4 and 8 pounds. This means you’ll have between 12 and 20 pounds extended at the end of 7 bones that aren’t even connected mechanically with each other or to the skull! If those neck muscles are not strong, the added weight of the football helmet, it can be bad. “Bad” like…”helmeted player tackled at the ten yard line, helmeted head rolled to the thirty yard line” bad. The…bad kind of bad.

Yes, the concussion injury situation in the NFL is bad. Yes, Junior Seau shot himself. Yes, people with histories of concussions have done some horribly bad things. Chris Benoit, totally did horrible things…Just like Bundy, who as far as I know was never concussed repeatedly. Just like Gacy, who as far as I know was never concussed repeatedly. Just like Dahmer, who as far as I know was never concussed repeatedly. If you look through history at people and body counts…the number one constant is people killing people. All other elements do not compute.

I’m not the guy who claims to be a scientist or an expert, but people do lousy miserable things to each other every day. This is because there are a lot of people who are lousy miserable individuals. It doesn’t mean they’ve been hit on the head too frequently. It doesn’t mean they took too many risks in their leisure time. It doesn’t mean they took too many risks at work.

Newsflash, people have killed others, killed themselves, and killed others and then themselves for a long, long time. Probably did long before Gridiron Football was invented in the late 19th Century. Don’t quote me on that, but Wikipedia’s list of serial killers before 1900, it’s got a lot listed.

Rule #1; People Suck.

Rule #2; Football is a game.

Rule #3; Despite whether a person has ever played football, they still probably suck.

Rule #4; If you ever wonder what could possess someone to do something bad…refer to Rule #1.

Rule #5; If you have to wear a helmet for the game you want to play, maybe find out how strong your neck is.

Rule #6; When in doubt, if you want to play a game and it requires pads and a helmet, maybe you should analyze your tolerance for impact and general durability. Jack Youngblood played the entire playoffs and a Super Bowl, and the Pro Bowl, all with a broken left fibula. You got a mediocre hit and slept for a while. May I suggest…Photography club? Glee club? Band? Alcoholism?

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The Circularity of Social Media.

This will come as a surprise to very few, but it is of interest on a few levels. The first point of view which is surprise to absolutely no one is that we humans are a simple group to figure out. We intensely like one thing above all else: the unquestionable pleasure of being entirely and totally agreed with.

It really doesn’t really matter about what, if someone says something, and the dumbest bastard to ever live, the one person that the speaker could not stand and despised to his very core…if the dumb bastard said “I totally agree”…the speaker’s opinion of the dumb gentleman would brighten, at least momentarily. This is human nature. We like to be agreed with and we especially enjoy it when multiple points of our opinions are agreed with at one time.

Social Media is a classical example of this, but it’s hardly the only place. Thing is, back before “social media” in the days of the internet message boards, still it became a love fest and those who agreed with the right people (genuinely or just as a facade) had a better time than the outliers. In my own tenure as a forum owner and administrator, I found myself gravitating toward people who, shock of all shocks, agreed with me more oft than they disagreed. The guys I was bumping skulls with on a regular basis, they could “get away” with far less, they could stray much less outside the rules, they could wander much less off-topic, and had to toe a much finer line.

This does not mean I was a “bad” admin, it just means that I was in the same trap many have been in: I like it when people agree and like many forum admins I liked members of the forum who agreed with me most of all. If you look at most forums that are still alive today, every one of them will have two distinct groups: the kiss-asses and the renegades. Yeah, a third group exists, the group of people who occupy the middleground, but this group is usually occupied by a rotating group of members. Once they are courted and wooed by one of the other groups, they decide whether they pucker up or stir the pot.

Facebook, Twitter, those places are no different. I am a reader of several groups, and my friends are readers in many groups. The funny part is, every single group tends to be is own circular forum. A circular cavern where a shout thrown always is repeated by the echoes. Egos stroked with vigor, and very few dissenting voices.

The dissenting voices-I confess, they’re the best part. I like displays of intelligence, always have, and nothing lets you peek into the intellect of the individuals like someone who really digs into them and makes them have to think about what they like, believe, think, and agree with. Not the blanket-type of disagree, but the well thought out but intelligently delivered dissent. Not the “I hate old cars, they kill our planet!” tripe, but the “I had a ’68 Chevelle from ’69-’80, fastest most exhilarating machine I ever drove, but man, that thing liked the fuel. I don’t go as fast in my Mazda, but I go farther.”

That kind of dissent…it’s tricky. It’s badmouthing the old iron, but it’s not as…outwardly unpalatable. The speaker portrays themselves as a fellow muscle machine owner, but then comes in with all this BS Mazda praise. It’s…the thinkin’ man’s dissent. It requires a response more well-thought and clever than “You suck!” or “Cubic Inches for Quarter Miles!”

Despite the temporary annoyance of the dissenting view, it really does make the group stronger. It helps everybody to really consider why they think they way they think, to consider other elements of the argument, and to really hash out their opinions. Usually this is done person by person, internally.

Perhaps one guy has a problem with…new cars. Well, the dissenting voice did not state the year model of his Mazda, and the company was founded in 1920. His Mazda could be as old as any “muscle beast”. One guy has a problem with slow cars? Some Mazda’s can clear a 0-60 in 6.5 seconds like child’s play. Maybe they have an issue with “Foreign” muscle? Well, new Charger’s are manufactured in Canada, but the new “Hellcat” has tongues wagging and drooling. And, of course, if the guy used to have a ’68 Chevelle for 11 years, he knows cars…but now he’s rockin’ a Mazda. Maybe that Mazda’s got some merit besides just 40MPG? Maybe it’s got a little sparkle there that others have missed due to their prejudice?

Maybe, the circularity of social media is actually a benefit? Beyond all the kiss-ass pandering and preaching to the choir, maybe down deep, there’s an actual benefit to the group as a whole? Besides just dealing with individuals of similar opinions, maybe in a way these groups and little cliques are actually beneficial beyond the superficial?

Perhaps. But as I have clearly demonstrated, only with the addition of intelligent dissent. A lone, sophisticated voice in the shadows that helps the group think and analyze, grow, and learn.

I’m a simple man. If I can teach one fool a lesson that makes him less foolish…if I can speak from the shadows and make others think before they shout me down…if I can offer a fool a reason to open his mind…then my dissent has not been in vain.

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A solution for the oft-encountered problem.

I’ve basically figured out the secret: if you’re speaking of or in reference to someone of a different race, 99% of the time it doesn’t matter what you’re saying, it’s going to be called a racist statement by someone. Even if your statement is true, (which is obviously the worst kind of statement) it’s still “racist” because…well, I dunno why, it’s just racist because…it’s racist. And, if you don’t think so, apparently you’re racist because you don’t think it’s racist.

I love how this society works. After all these years of enlightenment and discovery, still some people lack the basic intelligence to form a competent argument. It’s far easier to revert back to a few buzzwords that are sure to generate the appropriate response. Why bother thinking of a legitimate reason to discredit someone when you can easily just smear your opponent using basic knee-jerk tactics?

Here’s the story, Sparky. I’m me. If you don’t like me, either you do not know me and do not have the proper perspective to make a judgment one way or the other, or you know me well enough to dislike me based on legitimate and genuine reasons far, far deeper than opinions on pigment. Nobody I know dislikes me because of racism. Either they hate me based on a genuine reason, or they don’t know me well enough to know why they would hate me but they just do because, presumably, they have some sort of developmental issue that made them grow up to be a dumbass.

Race has no part in it. Yes, I have met black people who aren’t worth the effort it would take to smack ’em. Yes, I’ve met white people who aren’t worth the effort to smack them too! This is the nature of humans: Most of ’em suck and they don’t even know it. Race has so little to do with it that it really is a weak accusation. People are like cheap guitars in that they may look nice but when it comes down to it and you need ’em to perform, when you turn the volume up and put ’em to the test they disappoint on multiple levels. I can think of a few white people I know of who, in my estimation, fall greatly short of an acceptable level of usefulness. I know some white people whose very existence is an annoyance to me on multiple levels. You want to know the neat thing? I know fewer black people who I feel the same way about! Of all the people on this planet who get me riled on a regular basis…all of ’em are white folks, and I’m white too!

I grow weary of the racism accusation because about 95% of the time it’s used, it’s misused. News flash, disagreeing with someone doesn’t mean they are racist, it means you dislike their opinion. Opinions are pretty much translucent, neither black nor white. People are, opinions aren’t. Sorry to say it, but just because you disagree with someone, that doesn’t always mean they’re wrong either. It’s possible, very possible actually, that both you and the person you disagree with are wrong. There could be some wildcat third party who actually knows what they’re talking about, and you’re just talk, talk, talking about something that you’re holding by the wrong end. A cow and a goat can be talking about a dog, but neither will have the depth of understanding that a dog would about the dog’s situation. If you’re the goat talking about the dog, that could make you a jackass and that’s not even biologically possible!

I propose the following;

  1. Just because you disagree with a statement, this does not make the statement or the person racist. It can make them wrong, but it doesn’t automatically make them racist.

  2. If the sole basis of your argument is based on the idea that a statement you disagree with has been delivered by a racist…you are hereby deemed to have no valid argument without genuine and legitimate proof to support your allegation of racism. As is the norm, proof of guilt must be provided beyond the shadow of a doubt by the accuser.

  3. If you are proven not to have provided sufficient proof of legitimate racism, then by your failure to prove it satisfactorily, your very accusation of racism can be used as direct evidence of your own racism by default. Sorry folks, but when you rassle with a pig, sometimes you get a little muddy. If you’re going to accuse any and everyone of racism, then the underlying sentiment must stand that YOU are racist because that was the first thought you had and most people tend to think first about what interests them most. If I show an environmentalist a picture of a fallen tree, they will think first of the sorrow of the oxygen the planet won’t get. A furniture maker shown the very same fallen tree will think first of the lumber the log would yield.

  4. If you’re a suspected racist due to you alleging racism in someone else, you will be placed in a Salem Style trial. Your neck will be trapped in a guillotine, and the blade dropped. If you are a racist, then the power of your racism will protect you and the blade will bounce off your neck, leaving you unharmed. You will then be wrapped with three hundredweight of chains and thrown in the river. If you are not racist then you must be a race-baiter and the blade of the guillotine will simply slice your head cleanly off.

In the words of Pharaoh Ramses II (played by Yul Brynner in the 1956 Cecil B. DeMille classic “The Ten Commandments”) “So let it be written. So let it be done.”

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