Category Archives: Diuturnal

A Little Neighborhood Justice

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As the man lifted the lid of the trash can, he absentmindedly tossed in a bag of trash. It seemed to fall for several seconds, ending with a cacophonous thud in the bottom of the plastic receptacle.

He looked down the street, noticing which houses were alit with the signs of life, which houses had cars parked in the concrete driveways, and which seemed absent any movement. He knew from experience that often the quietest places contained the most activity, concealed behind doors and curtains. The deepening twilight resonated with an eerie sheen across vaguely reflective surfaces. Nothing stirred and it seemed as if the nothingness and quiet might have lengthened into an eternity of twilight.

He noted the absence of filtered whimpers and screams. The quiet was disconcerting and unnatural. It occurred to him that so many things seemed to be more fully defined by noticing those things which seemed to be missing. It would take some time for him to remember what a normal neighborhood was supposed to sound like.

So many nights he had passively noted the shouts, the cries, and the fractured silences from next door. Sealing his doors and windows only diminished their volume, yet somehow amplified their significance. It was an effort to distract himself from the evidence of violence – until this morning when an unseen valve mitigating his own violent thoughts opened completely.

Quiet now seemed like a musical cadence missing a beat of syncopation. It made him uneasy, like when he entered a dark and unfamiliar room, his hand vainly seeking the contour of a wall switch. He was unsure as to the velocity with which slumber might greet him in these circumstances.

After a few moments, he heard a door creak open. As he turned to the right, he saw a narrow beam of light cast its gaze upon the suburban sidewalk leading to the neighbor’s front door. A second later, a subdued housewife ambled out, shutting the door behind her. The man could hear the woman grunt with her efforts, undoubtedly a residual effect from so many nights of abuse from her husband. The man now knew that in time the housewife would regain much of her agility and zeal for life. An ember signifying a lit cigarette danced lazily in the air as she moved. She walked across the expanse of her driveway, lifting the lid of her trash receptacle. As she lifted the black bag to drop it inside, a pale arm fell across the outer rim, fingers pointed toward the ground in mock accusation.

She casually lifted the arm, dropping it without much consideration back into the trash, placing her new bag on top of whatever the lifeless arm might be attached to.

The man smiled in the dark, knowing the housewife did the same, a shared intimate secret born inside a few bloody seconds two hours ago.

After so many nights of questioning and endless tears and abrasions, they both had reached the same mortal conclusion, one punctuated by a single shot reverberating inside a cramped living room. Good neighbors help one another and do what must be done.

As the abuser fell to the floor, eyes wide in dead surprise, both participants locked eyes and deeply sighed, both relieved to be past the moment of action. They silently and mutually agreed that the abuser’s fate was predestined and unworthy of comment.

While the body lay cooling on the living room floor, they attentively listened with heads tilted for a minute, and then without conversation lifted the dead husband and carried him outside, unceremoniously tossing him inside the trash container. Just as no one had come to help during the preceding weeks, months, or years of fists and screams, no one had come to investigate the exclamatory ring of a solitary gunshot.

Now, two hours later, the ticks and clicks of a typical night were all that greeted them as they both went back inside their respective houses.

Sleep would come easily to them both.

The neighborhood settled back into its nocturnal routine of normalcy, ignoring the momentary lapse of its civilized veneer.

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YesOrNo.com

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Note: this is an older post. Seeing Netflix and a few other sites adopt an idea I’ve had forever makes me smile – as I recommended exactly this course of action several years ago in this blog post.

I’m going to start a website called “YesOrNo.” It will cover websites, restaurants, vehicles, tourists spots, movies, music and anything under the sun. It will be a testament to minimalism and focus in a world of too many options. If you are neutral to the website, movie, or restaurant, you don’t vote. No fence-sitting is allowed.

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Instead of being weighed down by too many details, there are only going to be 2 options: “yes” or “no.” No comments. No categories to obfuscate the response. No Yelp-like lawsuits alleging vote-fixing or reviews. Studies have shown that too many options reduces our happiness and satisfaction.

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Users will need to learn to be discerning with their votes. There will be neutral option. Either you vote or you don’t – but you’re going to need to decide between “yes” or “no.”

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There will be technical issues to address governing how to identify participants and/or lessen abuse of voting. That’s true of any website or business idea. Clever, motivated people combined with technology should eliminate all the major hurdles.

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With a social element, users can choose to add “trusted voters” to their logins so that they can refine their trusted opinions over time. This will allow you to ask the website to recommend a new place or experience to you, based on input from you and others who are similarly minded. In my scenario, however, the data will be limited to tallying without superfluous detail.

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Unlike Angie’s List, users won’t be expected to pay – as such services exclude much of the population. It does tend to cause an uptick in the “crazies” noticing your website, but again, technology can overcome most of the stupidity that will ensue.

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It’s so strange to see Tinder doing well. I’ve joked about yesorno.com for a long time, especially after an old-school website called “checkthegrid” died. On my old blog I had this idea designed, with screenshots and graphs. Like most people, though, my enthusiasm usually sputters at the implementation of an idea.

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At it’s heart, the website would be simple categories, with “green” indicating “yes,” and “red” equating to “no.”

 

A Funny Burial Anecdote

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This is a truish story and names have been changed to confuse the guilty.

A famous writer, an author of at least 20 books, died in Springdale a few days ago. He was well-known for his sense of humor and dry wit. At my recommendation, his family went to a funeral home of which I speak highly. Although he usually doesn’t do so, the funeral director Scott offered to view potential cemetery plots with the family, even though he hadn’t yet met them and didn’t know the recently deceased. His dedication to customer service is quite legendary. I doubt he would have helped me had he not owed me a huge favor – but that’s a story for another day.

The family chose to visit Bluff Cemetery in Springdale. The place is known for its beauty and proximity to the creek running through downtown. Scott pulled in behind the new Cadillac the family of the deceased arrived in. The Springdale Parks worker had already arrived in a white pickup, his camera and clipboard in hand.

After the family exited the car and straightened their respective ties and dresses, Scott accompanied them to the periphery of the cemetery, situated below the overhanging trees. It was certainly a beautiful spot.

To make small talk, Scott nervously asked the family about the deceased. “What did your loved one do for a living?” he asked.

The youngest son answered, “Our dad was a famous writer. You’ve never heard of him?” He seemed surprised. “In fact, all of us are writers.”

“No, I’m so sorry, I didn’t know him or know of him. I read a lot, though.” Scott wasn’t sure what else to say.

The parks employee pointed out the available spots and mentioned that the price was adjusted, based on the reduced size of the plots. “We can dig with much more accuracy than we once could,” he added.

After a moment of silence, the youngest daughter looked along the edge of the cemetery where there were remaining spots available, seemingly measuring their size by her careful steps. She immediately started shaking her head.

“This simply won’t do. Not at all. Dad was too important of a writer to tolerate this kind of mistake.” She seemed agitated.

“How so?” Scott immediately asked.

“The plot’s too thin!” The daughter said, and then laughed loudly.

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PS Writers always get the last laugh.

The Gift of “Rectify”

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“It’s the beauty that hurts the most, not the ugly.” – Daniel

As a reader and lover of language, I sit in satisfied wonder after watching “Rectify.” It’s been said by many that it was the best show that no one was watching. Rarely do characters come so vivaciously to life, murmuring and whispering with such glib eloquence. Listening to the people in this show move through complicated lives in this show is the closest I’ve ever come to experiencing visuals as if they were a novel. Several times in the past, I’ve read of the love and admiration of this show and renewed my self-promise to immerse myself. Not until the show was finishing its run, however, did I stop gazing at it on my to-do list and start down the intricate road it travels. I regret not having been a part of it since it first aired but I will make amends by recommending it to anyone with a discerning taste for depth.

If you have the opportunity, please visit Netflix and give this treasure of a show an open door in your life. You won’t regret it, even if the pace seems to be too languid for you at the beginning. Oddly, if you describe yourself as an avid reader, I’m convinced that this show will be an immediate friend to your life.

The intelligence of this show astounds me. The people inhabiting the world it paints for us trip and fall, even as they see the obstacles in front of them. Countless times I watched the inevitable pain surprise them, only to see a parallel to my own life. The mirror it smashes into my face catches all the sublime idiocy of the steps we all take, regardless of the severity of circumstance.

From the show’s beginning, Daniel emerges from prison and instead of railing against the injustice, he perplexes everyone with a deeply insightful commentary on the world. I’ve had trouble explaining to people exactly what about the show was so captivating. “It’s about a man who is released from prison after almost 2 decades.” If that’s the case, “Sling Blade” is just a movie about an eccentric older man being let out of psychiatric care in the South. The particulars aren’t what brings forth the revelations: it’s the humanity inherent in so many scenes of this show.

It’s difficult for me to pull back from my enthusiasm for this show; it’s likely I’ve over-sold it people. Something about it forcefully reminds me of the wild emotion I felt the first time I finished “The Prince of Tides” and heard the words, “Lowenstein, Lowenstein, Lowenstein” reverberate in my mind.

If you need a gift for yourself, I recommend that you find a quiet moment to step away from your real life, sit down, and give “Rectify” the chance it deserves to unfold the way television should be revealed. It avoids the mega-dose of plot twists that doom so many potentially great tv shows or movies. Don’t let the initial premise of a condemned man’s unexpected release from prison trick you into thinking you understand what this show is about. The story is about us, individually and collectively, careening around the backdrop of what it means to be human.

The show itself is a crescendo of discovery as the seasons reveal themselves. By the end of season 4, you will find yourself under the gossamer veil of nostalgia, for a world you would love to live in. As the show ends, you will find yourself feeling restless for unknown highways and side roads, all hopefully leading to places where people like Daniel Holden might feel at home. (And allow us a moment to sit in their presence.)

If you are lucky, it will reveal glimpses of your own self that you’ve kept hidden slightly around the corner.

“Finding peace in the not knowing seems strangely more righteous than the peace that comes from knowing.” – Daniel

 

 

Ponder: The Lesson of Karl

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I think we should adopt the word “Karl” as a code word to indicate that we love someone deeply, even as we live flawed lives. Whether we like to admit it or not, even when we are comfortable with people, ‘love’ is a catch in our throats, often reluctant to escape.

“Sling Blade” is an iconic movie. Each time I watch it, I see it from a different point of view, and not only because I am not quite the same person as the last time I watched it. As tragic as it is, it is evocative of a life of connections that I would cherish.


After Doyle kicks Karl out of the house, Linda drives up as Karl is shuffling away. “You light him up in his eyes, I’ve seen it. He wouldn’t know what to do without ye….” Karl tells Linda, referring to her son Frank. Linda calls out, “Karl?” as he leaves.

When Karl leaves Frank his books, the sum total of everything he holds to be valuable in life; inside is a bookmark with the words “You will be happy” written on it. As Karl walks away, Frank turns to the trees and shouts, “Karl?”

Karl knocks on Vaughan’s door and hands him all the money he has in the world when the door opens. He tells Vaughan that he would be a good daddy to Frank and that he won’t be judged for who he is. “That boy lives inside of his own heart. It’s an awful big place….” Karl says and ambles away. Vaughan calls out, “Karl?”

Of course, Doyle looks up off-screen at Karl as he raises the sharpened lawnmower blade to kill him: “Karl?” Doyle asks, after talking calmly with Karl about being killed by him.

The last spoken word in the movie by Doyle, Vaughan, Frank, and Linda is the same: “Karl…?”

As broken as Karl’s life was, he managed to touch each of those people’s souls by his words and presence. In response, each one was powerless to respond at the same level with Karl.

I think we should agree to use “Karl?” as a code word in our daily lives. Using it would be a signal that conveys our deep understanding of who and what the person with whom we are speaking means to us.

Some words are like knives passing our lips, even when coated with the warmest regard and sincerity.

Honesty is a sharp weapon and truth is a hard master. Even in love.

“Karl,” I whisper to you all.