A party by any other name

My wife put Maraschino cherries on the shopping list and for the life of me I couldn’t seem to find the damned things in the store today. Fortunately, I stumbled into the guy who stocks the shelves.

(I’m convinced that other than the cashiers and manager on duty there is never more than one uniformed employee in the store, and often less. Hence “the” guy and not “a” guy.)

“Excuse me. Do you know where they keep the Maraschino cherries?”


“Cherries? Like for ice cream sundaes or for making mixed drinks?”

“Ah, si,” he said, then led me briskly toward the Baking Supplies aisle. He glanced over his shoulder to make sure I was keeping up. “You making drinks or dessert?”

“My wife, actually. She’s rediscovered the lost art of mixing exotic drinks,” I replied.

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On the durability of ephemera

If 30 years ago a merchant had told me “We’re sorry, your shopping cart no longer exists” it would have freaked me out. I don’t have a screen shot of the message I just received because it wasn’t until after blowing past it that I paused to consider how odd it is that we now accept such a statement as routine. It isn’t “I had a shopping cart but now it’s not here. It was taken by another shopper or by an overzealous employee who has returned it to the cart bay but we expect it still exists somewhere.” Now it’s more like “I had a shopping cart but then suddenly it winked out of existence.”

Back in the 80’s or 90’s I could have at least argued that regardless of what you’ve done to the shopping cart, it still exists. You could reduce it to individual atoms or even to energy but Newtonian physics and and Einsteinian relativity demand that, one way or another, it remains in existence. Now when the merchant says “your cart no longer exists” it’s pretty close to the truth.

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Leading by example vs. herding from behind

To me leadership isn’t forcing people to behave the way you want, but making a good enough case to persuade, and leading by example. Our legislature in NC doesn’t feel the same way. To them leadership means forcing people to behave a certain way at the point of a gun, which in turn makes it convenient for them to ignore anyone who doesn’t fit their narrow definitions of the human experience.

Leading by example and persuasion is a tough path to walk. So much easier to force people to behave through guilt, fear, or threat of harm than to make a convincing case and demonstrate the benefits by living it. Christ made his case and then lived it. Our legislature for some reason thinks getting the outcomes (that they believe) He would have wanted is more important than the methods they use to achieve the outcomes, even though they invoke His name to justify their actions.  It’s the last thing He would have wanted.

The whole point of “we are all sinners” is that the methods are more important than the outcomes. We won’t always get the outcomes you want, especially when the goal is to change other people’s behaviors. But we can consistently approach our mission, whatever it is, from a place of love and compassion and that’s what counts.

Sadly, our elected representatives lack the courage to lead by example and persuasion. They are in very visible positions of power. Why can’t they make a compelling case and then demonstrate the benefits of their belief in their daily life?  Is it because they have no confidence that their case is compelling unless it is backed by threat of State violence?  If they don’t have enough faith in their faith to risk letting people make up their own mind, why should we listen to them at all?

Instead they spread fear. They make secret back-room deals with wealthy campaign donors and rush bills through votes without proper review. They impose restrictions at the polls designed to favor their party while allowing the real election fraud to run rampant in the form of ghost voting in the legislature. They torture boundaries of voting districts for political advantage. And when it comes to influencing people’s moral behavior they do so at the point of a gun, approaching us from behind and prodding us toward their chosen goal.

HEY ELECTED PEOPLE: It isn’t leadership if you do it from behind.  What you do is called herding.  We don’t like it.

All of which is why I really like the anthology project being organized by John Hartness of Falstaff Books. Instead of asking people to change what they do and how they behave for the cause, he asks writers to write. He asks people capable of making that good case to make it in print, and he in turn will put it in front of readers. Whether those readers consume it as entertainment or with purpose matters less than exposure to the idea that we are all human beings worthy of the same basic human rights and dignities.

John and the participating authors have the courage to live their example, make their case, and trust us to make up our own mind. The project is just getting started and I have no idea what the finished book will look like, I only know that I’ll find more true leadership in those pages than I’d find if I spent a lifetime reading the accumulated output of our state legislature.

Want to submit a story?  Want to buy or read the book?  Follow along on Facebook or Falstaff Books at the links above.  As of this writing, the call for submissions is as follows:

Call for Submissions – Charity Anthology – We Are Not This – Carolina Writers Against HB2 (subtitle subject to change)

Looking for writers with a strong connection to North Carolina to provide a 5,000 word or less story featuring an LGBTQ character for a fundraising anthology. Reprints accepted. Non-Exclusive print and digital rights requested. All proceeds donated to the NC Human Rights Campaign. Not accepting erotica. No other restrictions on genre.

Send submissions or queries to anthology [at] falstaffbooks.com. Word Doc, 12 Pt. Standard MSS format. No RTF files.

Poetry and non-fiction also accepted.

Deadline – June 1, 2016

Posted in Clue train, Global issues, Rant, Social issues | 3 Comments

Toes by any other name…

So my wife and I were sitting around trying to decide what our porn star names would be. OK, we were sitting around trying to decide what her porn star name would be. Mine would be T-Bone, obviously. Hers is up for grabs.

First we had to decide what qualities her character would have. You can’t do that kind of work and have self-esteem issues so we decided her character would be as over-confident as my wife is under-confident. She’d dress to stand out rather than blend in. She’d be tough rather than tender. She’d be assertive rather than diplomatic. Five minutes into this exercise I realized my wife’s porn star character is a whip-totin’, leather wearin’ dominatrix.

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An ode to mediocrity

Meanwhile over at Dead Penguin Society, DScott writes about The spork, the pressure cooker, and the back burner… and it got me thinking about sporks.  Not quite a spoon and not quite a fork, these are the utensil apparently designed by cunning chopstick manufacturers to disappoint everyone equally.  I say it’s time for the lowly spork to take its rightful place in English-language pop culture by replacing the words “fork” and “spoon” figuratively in much the same way as it attempts to replace the physical utensils for which it is named: poorly and with connotations of low price and low value.  If along the way it replaces any other words that happen to rhyme, that’s fine too.

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Posted in General, Humor | Tagged | 3 Comments

Google Male

Tried Google Voice yet?  I use it as my primary business phone number and it’s an amazing service.  When a call comes in it simultaneously rings my cell phone, my desk phone, and any other phone I point it at.  If a caller leaves a message, Google Voice lets me retrieve it in an app, over the phone, or over the web.  They even make an automatic transcript and send it to your phone and your email.

And that’s where it gets…umm…interesting.  The transcripts are remarkably good considering they are machine generated but they aren’t 100% accurate.  Sometimes they are pure gibberish but other times the substituted words result in a message that is syntactically and grammatically correct but definitely NOT what your caller intended.

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Qualifications for the office of President

There’s an old maxim that journalists are supposed to report the news not become the news.  This was easier when the reporter was just a byline on their stories.  With radio and then television came the need to like certain aspects of the reporter in addition to their reporting.  Our trust and respect for the person had to survive hearing and seeing them deliver the news.  Walter Cronkite would never have become an icon if he’d had Mike Tyson’s voice, no matter how good he was as an investigator, writer or boss.

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Posted in Global issues, Rant, Social issues | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment