Category Archives: Writing

Our Right to Believe – Their Right to Criticize

“Who says we can’t challenge or joke about religion? You have the right to believe what you want; I have the right to believe it’s ridiculous.” -Ricky Gervais

This quote is true. And you have the right to think my belief is ridiculous.

One thing people don’t like to acknowledge is that we don’t like being ridiculed for beliefs. We also don’t like being called out when we do it to others – even when they deserve it.

It’s more difficult to get by with criticizing if you are criticizing something mainstream, such as Catholics. But if you walk into a room of Catholics listening to a story about Mormons or Scientology, you will hear derision and laughter. But if you point out to the Catholics that much of their ideas are just as crazy to you as the Mormon’s beliefs are to them, you have basically just punched them in the face.

Common courtesy dictates that you don’t go out of your way to ridicule or undermine someone’s beliefs.

But if you are expressing your beliefs in public please don’t expect to be given a free pass. People do have the right to express their opposing beliefs. And we can do it without calling everyone else names.

Maybe.

Steve Pavlina

http://www.stevepavlina.com/

This “blog” goes back several years. Off and on, I have went back and re-read many of his posts. While I don’t agree with a lot of it, the truth is that Steve is smarter than me and a  better writer. In case I forget to mention it, he believes a lot of things that I disagree with and that I know aren’t defensible.

I would say that much of his content is the vague ‘personal development’ genre. In light of that comment, I will admit that I once was an avid Wayne Dyer reader. One of my remote family members had a copy of Your Erroneous Zones in English. I read it. Being incapable of understanding most of it, it wasn’t until years later that I realized how blindingly obvious it was – and surprising. Not only did I go on to read all of his books, but I read most of them the first time in Spanish. I reread it until I could cite much of it verbatim.

Especially with some of his earlier writing, I liked the brash style. His comments on religion echoed a lot of what was swirling around in my mind. Paradoxically, his blog also contributed to my interest in returning to church to investigate the fuss before I got too old and close-minded.

The point of this note is to point people toward Steve Pavlina. Agree or disagree, he is one of the best at what he does.

He will piss you off if you are reading closely. Much of his later stuff dealing with his personal choices makes me itch – it really is that far off base.

But many good writers can have great things to say – even when they sometimes sound like madmen dancing in shards of glass.

Spider Salad, The N.R.A., World Cup FIFA, Pinterest and the NFL on Thanksgiving

Spider Salad, The N.R.A., World Cup FIFA, Pinterest and the NFL on Thanksgiving

Warning: this post is just plain weird… I apologize for the weird title, but it will likely drive in random traffic. Anyone coming to this blog post by accident needs a good surprise. Sometimes I like to unwind by writing creatively and coming up with purportedly clever things to say and then randomly call people and whisper the pithy quotes to them. Or put them on the internet, where time and human dignity intertwine to create something both interesting and horrifying simultaneously.

My new book, “Spider Salad” will be published soon, possibly the first ever to be printed in invisible ink on pre-recycled paper. (Is that joke too layered?) A lot people don’t know that I make a living writing. A terrible living, perhaps, but one not aspiring to glamor or box seats at some ignominious sporting event. True, I punch a clock daily to buy my daily bread; believe me, the clock deserves a good punch or two on a routine basis – and I owe it no loyalty for having conspired to steal my creative life in lumps of 8 hours at a time, year after year.

If I were going to write a book, I mean. The Braille edition might come out first. The plan is to pull a prank on those needing it and use small, sharp tacks instead of exclamation marks. As they read, their fingers tracing the bumps and indentations, they will involuntarily provide the “!” when the sharp points hit them. This might cause a problem in libraries, as random shouts of exclamation are generally met with disfavor there.

“Spider Salad” has all the suspense and vague implications that a great book should possess, minus all the words, plot and nonsense to get in the way. It could be a cookbook, a societal diatribe or even a murder-mystery.

This title has something for everyone, unless you are a nihilist, in which case it literally has nothing that will interest you.

It could be a book about self-reflection. I could put a small mirror on page 98 so that it could literally be self-reflective.

I could glue 4 or 5 coins to the inside cover, so it could literally bring change to your life.

“Spider Salad: A Recipe for Disaster”  (A FEMA manual.)
“Spider Salad: Oops, Sorry I Shot You Twice” (An NRA pamphlet.)
“Spider Salad: Why Teaching Isn’t a Real Job” (A Workaholic’s Daily Motivational.)
“Spider Salad:  Why Do I Bother With Rhetorical Questions?” (A Debate Guide.)
“Ensalada de Araña:Y Tú No Me Compras?” (A Marketing Book for Hispanics.)

This book is going to have everything – except a plot, words, or content. (The Republicans among you are already familiar with this glaring lack of substance and content. If you are Republican, please mentally go back and insert the word “Democrat” in lieu of “Republican.” If that’s too many steps, you probably are either a sports fan or management of some sort. We know who you are – you lips are moving as your read this. If you are a Tea Partier, then you are still staring at the first few words of this post, wondering where all the pictures might be.)

“Be known what you are for, not what you are against.”


“Be known what you are for, not what you are against.”

Reading the title of this post, I’d like to go on record as saying that this makes sense to me. It doesn’t make me happy, however, as I’m failing at meeting the goal it states.
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I’m quick to point out that most of my environment is equally guilty of not meeting it, either. That probably doesn’t mitigate my guilt, though, does it?
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There’s one person in my life in particular who is almost consumed by his insistence of categorizing the world in 2 columns: For / Against. I laugh when I hear him talk, sometimes. He would be furious at me if he knew that I was privately not only noting this tendency but laughing about it. He probably doesn’t realize that he does this so pervasively. I’m sure, too, that he doesn’t see that people often delegate him to the “crackpot” status due to the vehemence of his opinion.
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Having said that, I wonder how often I’m guilty of the same and don’t notice that people are placing me in the same “negative” group?  Hmmm… (But blogging or anything worthwhile is almost impossible to do well without sounding like you oppose everything.)

Soapbox Part II, Sort Of…

Another post quite a while ago, I reminded people why I don’t usually have comments turned on for immediate publication on this blog.

Having suffered with the idiocy of the internet, my opinion hasn’t changed. Anytime you put out an opinion, even an honest, reasoned one, many people simply can’t overcome the need to snark and snarl at it. People reading casually don’t tend to think deeply about the content and they then latch on to the most irrelevant details of your thoughts, twist it, and then retort back with the weirdest, least helpful things they can say. That’s the internet. I can’t change it, nor do I want to.

The more honest and personal the content, the greater the propensity for needlessly harsh commentary. Just as your Aunt Kathy will fill every status update on facebook with crazy religious nonsense (even posts about raising money for kittens), you will find yourself spending way too much time trying to get into people’s heads about what they write. (Remember one of my favorite quotes: “Never attribute to malice that which can be adequately explained by stupidity.”) Give them the benefit of the doubt and just assume that they are bored.

In an ideal world, I would love to leave commenting active for the blog. Many people have some great criticism or helpful advice. Other readers will see this and learn more from the comments at times than the even the writer can convey. The reality is, though, that much of the commentary on blogs is either edited praise or a crazy mashup of hatred and snipe, usually involving politics or religion. I’ve found that people with really great commentary or ideas find a way to get that idea to you in another form. The snipers tend to have a “drive-by” lazy mentality about their ideas. If they can’t lob an easy verbal bomb, they leave more quickly.

Many will criticize but few will take the time to rebut or argue in either a fun or meaningful way.

As always, I recommend that you get your own forum for your ideas if mine at too liberal, weird, or uninteresting for you. X

“Pure Drivel” – Steve Martin

“Talking about music is like dancing about architecture.” – Steve Martin

“You’re on your way to becoming the next Shakespeare’s brother.”

On writing dialogue: “Simply lower your IQ by 50 and start typing.”

I had lofty ambitions about these 2 quotes but everything I wrote and tried seemed stupid.

I know what you are thinking – that nothing has stopped me from writing stupidity before! Which fits nicely with much of what Steve Martin was writing about in “Pure Drivel.”

I don’t mind writing just drivel, but what a joyous thing to write pure drivel. It might not be glamorous to write average prose, but as dumb and boring as it might be, it is no less wonderful that that feeling that you get when you are eating and burp, creating the illusion of yet more space for even more food to be eaten.

Selective Wall

Another great term I recently learned is that of the “selective wall.” I’ve seen other descriptions for the same thing – but they don’t have the same concise clarity as this phrase.

The Selective Wall is mainly used toward belief systems and religious ideas. It means that a religious group might feel that they should receive special consideration and that this would only be fair to them – while the same treatment for others is a insult to their right to believe the way they wish.

The example I read and remember is one involving information being passed out at schools. Religious crazies demanded the ability to hand out literature – and received it. Then, other groups, both religious and atheist, began to take advantage of the same privilege. The religious crazies then started screaming that it was unfair for others to be able to do it it, as it was unfair to them.

Great reasoning, isn’t it?

Courtier’s Reply

Somewhere recently on one of the sites I love to read I learned about the Courtier’s Reply. As much as I read, I don’t remember this from anywhere. It was one of those “a-ha!” moments, as it is an effective way to draw attention to someone trying to make a bad argument.

Basically, the Courtier’s Reply is a “silencing argument,” especially when used in religious discussions.  It attempts to state that you aren’t allowed to comment or criticize an idea or religion unless you have studied it down to the most trivial level.

The article I read pointed out that in cases of religion, the Courtier’s Reply is all the more relevant once you point out that members of a particular religions are NOT required or even expected to have a requisite level of knowledge, much less exposure, to the same information that you are expected to have.

It’s great shorthand to remind myself when I hear this type of reasoning in arguments.

11052013 #Hashtag – Just Another Evolution in Language

 Fallon and Timberlake’s Infamous Hashtag Skit
The link above is for the viral take on hashtag usage invading spoken language. 

It is the way of the world for new things to be despised. New words and ways of communicating are often the most hated. It’s always been that way and probably likely will continue to annoy people. Most of the changes are driven by younger people, regardless of how older people or entrenched concerns react to them.

As for the ” # ” or hashtag symbol, it is a very useful communication tool when used properly. The hipsters and octogenarians of our world would have us believe that any usage of the hashtag is dumb and that it doesn’t add any meaningful content to our language.

And they are quite wrong. Like any meme or idea tool, the hashtag is only as good as the people using it. It would be a better tool if people would stop parroting the same tired “it’s stupid” mantra before learning how it is supposed to work. If you are on the “I hate hashtag” bandwagon, you are going to be seriously tested – as the hashtag is a part of our culture now and likely will not disappear from usage, at least for a long time.

As someone getting older, these new means of writing and communicating can be confusing and hard to adjust to. I can either choose to attempt the transition or be left behind. As an amateur linguist, it is my obligation to stop trying to keep language static and uninteresting.

Hashtag Wikipedia Page

I don’t expect the haters to google the usage and etiquette of hastags – but they should. You can’t creatively criticize something if you don’t understand it. I know that we often do – but we look foolish when we do. 

Before being crucified, I’d like to mention that I don’t appreciate people who are misusing the hashtag symbol. It’s just another way to communicate poorly when over-used or used improperly.

Like everything about our inefficient language, though, the # is an evolution of content and context. Our language in every sense has been nothing short of a long revolution and evolution of usage.

Orthography, Simplicity ~


Orthography is a fancy word to indicate things that deal with the written language, usually regarding spelling.

 

Most people aren’t good spellers and will eat fire to avoid showing they can’t spell well.

 

Bad spelling is NOT a problem of intelligence for most people. Correct spelling just doesn’t improve their lives much once they are out of school or have jobs that don’t require exacting detail with language. In my opinion, the ability to identify words in their correct forms is a testament of education, but not necessarily intelligence. But it’s not really a practically important thing to stress about.

 

Since all great ideas start small, I’d like to throw one out there in order to be able to claim in 30 years that I started it. 🙂

Many people fail to use a lot of interesting words in written form that they might say frequently. Mostly, it’s due to the fear that it isn’t being used properly or that it’s spelled like a madman on meth.

 

I’ve always advocated that people just “try” to give it a shot and let the asshats pick on them about it if they so wish. We’re all wormfood anyway, so I can’t see how obsessing over spelling makes us better people. Better essayists and writers, maybe, but not better writers with better ideas. I know a lot of creative, funny people who would be fantastic writers but who wouldn’t dream of using words like “chaotic” or “imaginative.”

 

If you look on the top left key of your keyboard, you will see a “~” (tilde) key there. It originally meant that a word was being abbreviated. In math, the “~” mark means “equivalent to.” It’s also already being used to indicate the idea of “approximately.” If you’re a linux OS fan, you see it a lot, too.

 

Anywho, my point is this:

we should begin to use the “~” mark somewhere in a word where we think we’ve botched the spelling. Thus, “neandurthal~” is the same as “neanderthal.” You could also put it at the beginning or middle of a word. By using it, you are deliberately pointing out that you think the word is not spelled correctly. If you did actually err, you still are getting the word across. Example: “Jim, why don’t you ~sawnter over to the store and buy us some lacksatives~?”

 

Even the word “misspell” is one of the most-misspelled words in the language.