For as long as I can remember, I’ve been far better at expressing myself in writing than in words spoken aloud. Something about the slowing down and crafting the words on the page versus simply opening my mouth and letting them fall out as unorganized or partial thoughts, I suppose.
Even though writing is supposed to be my strong suit, it’s all a dry well tonight. I’m lucky to string together a coherent thought about not being able to put more than half a dozen words together without my eyes crossing and my brain going into vapor lock.
I’m going to go mix a very tall gin and tonic, get a night’s sleep, and expect the cotton in my head to be a bit less dense tomorrow and the day after that and the one after that. Before long, I’ll be back to full throated raging against annoyances, wry observations, and occasional bad takes on current events. For now, I’m just going to let coming down from forgoing a lot of sleep and mainlining a single story for the last eleven days take as long as it takes.
I know a lot of people keep saying they wish they weren’t living in such interesting times… but I wouldn’t miss it for the world, even if it does occasionally leave me bleary eyed and nonsensical.
I took a little heat about that Columbus post a few days ago, but overall, the ratio ran more in my favor than not. That’s nice, but my opinions don’t generally tend to be informed by what I think the ratio will be. Being at heart a traditionalist who also happens to have some decidedly non-traditional beliefs will do that to you. If I were worried about what anyone thinks, I’d keep my mouth shut… and I certainly wouldn’t be sending it out to the internet, where ideas go to live forever.
There are, of course, plenty of topic I chose not to talk about here. I don’t think any of them are particularly wild or outlandish, but a few would certainly be controversial, unpopular, or downright offensive depending on your individual point of view. So, for now, it’s in my best interest to leave them unsaid and unwritten.
The day I’m no longer dependent on earning an outside source of income, however, all bets are off. It should be an awfully interesting day around here when all the filters come off. So, really, this post is just a request for patience. Perhaps extreme patience… but maybe some of those extraordinary rants to come will be worth the wait. Check back in 14 years or so and we’ll all know for sure.
I’ve been struggling to come up with a ramble or rant for tonight. The truth is, despite plenty of things going on in the world, I can gin up enthusiasm for just about none of them… and in the case of the ones that are vaguely interesting, I find that I just don’t have that much to say. It’s not a comfortable place to be for someone whose best means of communication has always been putting words on the page. Still, I’ve decided not to force it.
Whatever motivation I can usually scrape together as 6 o’clock comes on just isn’t there this evening, so I’m going to go ahead and hit pause. Maybe just for tonight. Maybe for the rest of the week. Maybe… well, who knows.
I’ll be back when I have something to say and the motivation to say it.
I spent a fair amount of today screwing around with PowerPoint. It’s only worth remarking on because I do it far less often now than I did once upon a time.
There are a chosen few people who can make PowerPoint sing. They turn it into a real dark art form. They’ll add all the bells and whistles and make the thing look like the slickest sales presentation you’ve ever seen. I’ve long known that PowerPoint is a tool of the devil, but I’ve always had just a little bit of admiration for these sorcerers and their unholy works.
On my very best day, my own slide decks could best be described as “wordy.” Some people think in charts an graphs. Others think in numbers. Me? Well, I think in words. A big beautiful block of text gets the point across to me far better than any amount of razzle-dazzle you can jam into a chart.
The written word, when used correctly, is a thing of real beauty. When used in conjunction with a slide deck, even the best words are a bit of a red headed stepchild. Even with that being the case, words are still the very best way I know of conveying meaning and subtlety. In retrospect I’m not sure I managed to do that either… but there were a lot of words on the page so I suppose that counts for something.
If anyone ever wonders why I have a fairly jaundiced view of the narratives offered up by mainline media organizations, here are two headlines from local television news websites from the last 24 hours:
“Baltimore protestors tear down Christopher Columbus statue.” – WJZ Baltimore (CBS affiliate)
“Frederick Douglass statue vandalized in New York park” – WBAL Baltimore (NBC affiliate)
As I’ve pointed out repeatedly, words have meaning. What the words that are used to describe these two events tells me is that the mass media is taking a position on events rather than simply reporting on them. If you damage statue of Columbus, you’ll be described as a protestor (implying that your activities are in some way virtuous), but if you dismount a statue of Douglass, you are a vandal (implying the act is criminal in nature).
Here’s the thing: Both acts are criminal. Those involved in both are vandals committing wanton acts of destruction. None are entitled to a pass for acting like spoiled children intent on throwing a temper tantrum at public expense.
I’d love to say it’s hard to believe I need to say such a thing in the 21st century – worse yet that it will be a controversial sentiment. Yet here we are, twenty years deep into our particularly stupid century.
1. Language. There are times when the English language fails to deliver words of sufficient force to reflect what I’m trying to convey. No matter how shrill, “I told you so” lacks the kind of punch you’re looking for when you’re screaming wildly into the void. There really should be a more succinct and dramatic way of saying “This thing has turned into an enormous flaming shitshow that’s almost certain to collapse under the groaning weight of indecision and apathy.” Yeah. We definitely need a word for that in English.
2. Versioning. I’m now tracking the third or fourth iteration of documents that should have been approved weeks ago. Some have been kicking around for months. One in particular just took on significant enough changes to warrant shifting from v.7.2 to v.8. Good times, that. Sometimes it’s hard to believe that my employer is ever criticized for being the poster child for bloated, bureaucratic inefficiency. This week, however, is not one of those times. This week, the reasons why are perfectly clear and on display for all to see.
3. Delete me. At the grand old age of 41, I’ve had the good fortune to develop friendships with people whose views place them firmly on all parts of the political spectrum. I’ve got friends who are socialists, libertarians, social liberals, economic conservatives, hawks, peaceniks, and run of the mill Republicans and Democrats. It’s only with the rise of social media that I’ve found the attitude of “if you support x, we can’t be friends and you should delete me” has become prevalent. I’ve never picked my friends based on their politics and nothing else. It strikes me as an awfully narrow basis for friendship, but I accept that’s just me. To date, I’ve deleted no one because of political views or affiliation and I don’t intent to start now. If your friendships and world view are so fragile that they can’t withstand a differing opinion, I suppose you’ll have to do what you have to do… but I’ll keep picking mine based on criteria that is a lot more open and inclusive.
I’m a bad speller. I have always been a bad speller. My mother would be happy to regale you with stories from elementary school to illustrate that my spelling was, is, and forever after will always be just miserable. I love words, it’s just that I’m not always so good with putting their bits into exactly the right order. I like to imagine it’s an issue of my brain working faster than my fingers, but that sounds like a pretty dull excuse.
The magic of word processing should, in theory, have helped me with this little spelling issue of mine. It surely couldn’t have exacerbated the problem. Of course, it can and often does.
Take last night for instance, when I thought I was posting the last and final revision here on the blog. What ended up there instead was the un-spellchecked version that is run through with errors that even I should have been able to see unaided by 21st century computing. I didn’t see them though, so there they were, hanging there posted for 24 hours for the world to see… at least they were hanging there until I noticed a glaring error and looked a bit closer.
It’s fixed now. At least I’m pretty sure it’s fixed. Spellcheck is telling me that everything is fine. That should probably make me deeply suspicious, though.
1. Words and their meaning. I’m all for healthy political discourse and debate, but for the love of little baby Jesus I need right wingers who want sound edgy and disdainful to stop saying “Democrat” Party when they mean the Democratic Party. It makes them sound like a particularly asinine flavor of fucking idiot. Organizations have proper names. People have proper names. Unless we’re all going to start calling ourselves members of the “Republic” Party we should go ahead and start using thoughtful discussion rather than schoolroom sophistry to make our points.
2. Extreme selfie-ing. If you jump a fence and try to pose for a selfie with a jaguar and get yourself a little bit mauled, I have no sympathy. In fact, if I were an onlooker at such an event, I would gleefully stand aside and cheer on the jaguar – looking on in joy as the penalty for stupidity was extracted with immediate violence.
3. Being oblivious and preoccupied. I was too occupied at the office to even notice that Facebook had collapsed on Wednesday and taken a large portion of the social media universe with it. I don’t mean that to imply that I wish I had been able to spend all day surfing Facebook on Instagram, though. The real reason that I’m both surprised and annoyed that this kind of major media happening passed unnoticed is that it means dumb work stuff has monopolized every fraction of available brainpower… and that’s clearly no way to spend your life.
I like to think that I’ve got a fairly reasonable sense of proportion when it comes to telling what things are important and what things aren’t. That’s true at least in my day-to-day existence where I’m responsible for things like paying the mortgage and keeping myself and three other living creatures from becoming formerly living creatures. By contrast, when I show up at the office, my sense of where things should be on the sliding scale of relative importance seems to be consistently and remarkably out of touch.
The things we choose to take issue with seem, largely, to be those things that I’d brush off as approaching insignificant – things like who sits where (not whether there are enough seats) or whether the slide background is the right shade of gray (not whether the slide conveys the appropriate information). I hope you can forgive me if I seem to have a permanent eye strain from all the rolling they do. I suppose in some universe things like that are important, but I’m not able to wrap my head around why anyone would give a damn about them. Despite years of being beaten about the head and next with this issue, I’m just not wired that way.
Believe me, I wish I could glamour myself into believing that stupid shit somehow matters. It would make being an alleged professional that much easier. As it is, I’ve just grown weary and annoyed of pretending that it does when it doesn’t. Weary an annoyed is almost always a troublesome combination because it often leaves my mouth free to engage and spew words better left as thoughts… and that rarely ends well for anyone involved.
There are four little words that have caused no end to the amount of grief in my life. Those words: Yes sir. Can do. Four words. Eleven letters. And almost every single pain in the ass soup sandwich starts off with them flying out of my mouth in response to some vague, but ridiculous request for something that has to happen on a vertical timeline.
Maybe the real problem here is making the mistake of showing too much – or any – competence. The minute anyone figures out that you have a knack for turning a big steaming pile into something more palatable, your fate is more or less sealed. You’re going to be a fixer for the rest of your career or until you jump to a different organization where you might win yourself the ability to play dumb for a few months before you accidentally do too much, too fast and out yourself again. Then the whole vicious cycle repeats itself.
If you happen to have a certain personality type, there’s no way to avoid it really. You’re going to be pulled in by the siren’s song of getting shit done and those four little words will jack you all sorts of up.