Saturday, April 29, 2023

Non-Tweets of the month


For the record, none of these "tweets" ever appeared on Twitter. I'm fed up with Musk. Tired of the repeated password exchange. Done with reading news about blue checks, etc. Still, these are best described as tweet-like, so ...

• SnapChat, Instagram, TikTok — 10 years ago none of us had ever heard of these. Now, they’re taking over the world. It’s a Planet of the Aps.

• A military history buff, I enjoy seeing film of great generals discussing how they made key decisions that led to victory/defeat and upon which nations rise or fall. Kind of reminds me of my wife and I  explaining how our daily Wordle went from 3 guesses to 6

• Yes, I'm aware that Sing Sing is a maximum security prison that incarcerates many of New York's most vicious cutthroats, but every time I hear Sing Sing I convince myself that Sing Sing is a maximum hilarity prison populated entirely by wrongly convicted Muppets.

• Just so she’ll never need reminding that at one time this great nation could confront head-on the really big issues, if we ever have another daughter I’m going argue we should name her, “She/Her/Hers.”

• I’m becoming convinced this 2-pound device is the most excessively engineered piece of equipment in the world. It weighs nearly 2 pounds and all it does is bend a malleable thread of wire that weighs slightly more than a sheaf of butterfly eyelashes. I don’t hold it against the stapler. I blame the staple. The man/woman who invents a simple, safe and effective “pinch” staple will make a fortune. I’m workin’ on it!

• French Gen. Jean-Baptist Kleber was in 1800 assassinated by a Egyptian nationalist. To dissuade future attacks, an 8-foot pike was inserted into the assailant's rectum clear to his still-beating heart. So if things start getting dull and you hear me say, "I have an idea! Let's go find a French general, insult him, and see what happens next," promise you'll distract me with card tricks or a pickleball match until the urge passes.

• I’m grateful for all of you who’ve told me you’re rooting —praying, even — for something good to happen to me. Well, last night driving home from class (it had gone great so I was in a good mood) it happened. I decided I’d stop at Sheetz for a small Blue Raspberry Slushie. Kid at the register said it was his treat. A $1.48 freebie! I asked why. He said I looked like a guy who needed a free Slushie. I thanked him and immediately began trying to look like a guy who needed a fast $50,000.

• I wonder if even considerate stink bugs give up on things like washing their hands after going to the bathroom or if they figure, "What's the point? Either way, everyone's still going to say, 'Hold your nose, here comes the stink bug.’’'

• Some men wake up terrified of illicit behavior being exposed. Some fear responsibility. Me? I wake up with the dreadful realization that with each passing day the teachers we grade-schoolers used to viciously mock as being mean old witches are becoming young enough to be my granddaughters.

• I found peace in the trans controversy after concluding that, not only is there evidence of LGBTQ behavior throughout the animal kingdom, there is at least one breed that appears to be in an endless trans cycle. Behold the Poodle! I've never seen a single poodle that looked like it was comfortable with his/her gender. Every poodle looks like it's in a perpetual state of transitioning. Yes, in some complicated matters, many turn to the Bible; others to science. Me? I look to the poodle!

• Dreams are like kites. It’s rare to achieve liftoff without there being at least one string attached. 

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  • How come it took the firing of Tucker Swanson McNear Carlson to learn that Tucker Swanson McNear Carlson's full name is Tucker Swanson McNear Carlson. Maybe I'm sensitive because I have no middle name. But this much I know: If I'd have grown up with either of his middle names the mean kids would have stolen my lunch money mcnearly every single day.

• I remain perhaps foolishly optimist that someday soon great fortune and recognition will at last be mine. Yet I now worry that within hours of the windfall some killjoy doctor will inform me I’ve got 48 hours to live. Don’t let that depress you. We can have a lot of fun in 48 hours

• My attempts to philosophize through the Happy Hour tanked when morons pulled out their phones and forced me to look at pictures of their kids/cars/home improvements/etc. The Art of Conversation has descended into the Graffiti of Digital Blathering.

•A hypochondriac is a person who is abnormally concerned about his or her health. A person who is abnormally concerned about error-free messages, stories or posts is a typochondriac.

• I’d have liked to have been in the classroom to have felt the palpable rage, the visceral contempt, when the high school calculus teacher said, "You'd better pay attention, mister, because this is something you're going to need every day for the rest of your life," and see the student she was lecturing was Bob Dylan.

• I tend to keep a wallet for 2 or 3 years or until I can sense it'll  never be cash prolific. For that I blame the wallet. I sense it's lazy, that it repels cash. I figure if it can't be flush after 2 coddling years, it never will. In the last 35 years Ii've probably had 17 wallets. Same work ethic.

Wednesday, April 12, 2023

Admiring student says he wants to become interesting -- like me!


(754 words)

An admiring student of mine flattered me by saying he wants to become interesting “just like me.”

At least I think he was admiring. He could have just been very adept at brown nosing, a tactic I’ll fall for every single time. Bona fide flatterer or skillful butt smoocher, it all has the same effect: A kid who was borderline failing has now vaulted to the top of the class.

It’s so effective I think I’ll describe the technique on the first page of next semester’s syllabus.

Here’s a portion of what he wrote: 

“I remember after the first week of the semester a coworker asked me to use one word to describe each of my professors. I used the word "Intimidating" (IN A GOOD WAY) for you. Listening to other people tell stories and ramble has always been interesting to me. So meeting someone as good at the 'storytelling' craft as you was like meeting the 'FINAL BOSS' of observers. Very rare to meet somebody that talks smart but doesn't talk boring, and that is exactly what you do. My question: How do you do it?”

It’s really a very good question, right up there with, for God’s sake, how come I can’t convert this admirable characteristic into actual income?

I understand his yearning. Understand it perfectly. Being a good storyteller was what I wanted to become when I was his age.  I remember being mesmerized by men and women telling stories of their triumphs, their failures. It’s always been there but in my case, it became acute in the Music City taverns and honky tonks.

It was there in Nashville I began to understand that whether it was good or bad, every single thing that happened in my life could become a story worth telling — as long as it was told with bedrock honesty. 

I made it my life’s mission to become a compelling storyteller, a raconteur.

Raconteur is a 19th Century French word meaning “to tell.” So any moron with a mouth can be a raconteur.

But a good one will first spend many, many years engaged in the act of — another French word warning! — auditicie.

That word means “to listen.”

I didn’t become a true storyteller until I had a treasure chest of great stories I’d heard from other people. Unless you’re an astronaut or maybe a pilot who’s landed a commercial jetliner on the Hudson River, your stories about yourself are unlikely to hold anyone’s attention. They inevitably come across as boastful.

It’s like I always say about becoming interesting (it’s one of my favorite lines): “Those who want to appear more colorful get tattoos. Those who want to become more colorful get library cards.”

So you need to find out where the colorful people — good and bad — hang out.

I find many of them in divey bars. They have sketchy backgrounds, angry dispositions, an outstanding warrant or two.

I have many good friends from church who confess to being sinners and are ashamed of it. And I’m friends with guys in bars who confess to being sinners and they brag about it.

Which is the more compelling character?

And then there’s this to consider: there are two types of listeners. Actual listeners and those who give the impression they’re actually listening.

Being the latter is far preferable

An actual listener smiles and nods sympathetically, all the while preparing to offer salient advice that’s never sought. Most people simply want to talk to anyone who simply smiles and nods. They don’t want your lousy advice and may, in fact, respond with hostility once it’s offered.

The reaction leads the actual listener to feelings of uselessness and burnout and inevitably they end up back in the bar hoping to sit next to someone who’ll merely smile and nod, smile and nod.

At his or her heart every really good raconteur enjoys being human and enjoys human beings.

Struggle with those essentials?

Befriend an elderly neighbor, volunteer at a local animal shelter or join a church choir. Or you could do what I did.

Read Mark Twain.

I recommend starting with the broadly delightful travelogues, “Following The Equator,” “Life on the Mississippi” and “Innocents Abroad.”

These books exude humanity in all its glory and are told by America’s greatest storyteller. 

I could go on and on. The topic is that dear to me. But I sense some of you are beginning to smile and nod, smile and nod. So that’s plenty. 

As always, thanks for listening.

Or at least appearing to. 

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