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- This won’t be cute forever
- My first library book: Desperately seeking the title
- Put yourself out there
- Pole vaulting, mailbox baseball and going to the prom are just a few of my ideas.
- 5 amazing fantastic things that I stupidly misjudged or prejudged initially
- Where do you get your ideas?
- How I found my literary agent
- 5 questions about the third line of James Taylor “Fire and Rain,” which will likely plague me until the end of days. (5)
- I won’t be reading my novel to my children. For a damn good reason. (2)
- Author Out Loud
- Caught in the Middle
- CHICKEN SHACK
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- Gratitude Journal
- Guest post
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- MEMOIRS OF AN IMAGINARY FRIEND
- New Year's Resolutions
- Productivity Tip
- Reader Question
- Recommended Reading/Viewing
- Rock Opera
- SOMETHING MISSING
- Spamming Scumbag
- Speak Up
- Stuff I Don't Know
- The Perfect Comeback of Caroline Jacobs
- The Writing Process
- To-do lists
- Unacceptable platitudes
- UNEXPECTEDLY, MILO
- Unfair assumptions
- Useless Skills
- Verbal Sparring
- Writers Abroad
And so I starting thinking:
Do I really believe that? Are the bigots who deny or wish to deny homosexuals the same rights as heterosexuals inherently evil?
I think they might be.
Racists are evil. Right?
Denying children of color the same educational opportunities as whites simply because of the color of their skin is evil.
Imposing the death penalty on a person of color while imposing a prison sentence on white defendant who is guilty of the same crime is evil.
Refusing to hire a person for a job because of the color of their skin or paying them less than a white applicant of equal ability is evil.
Slavery was evil. Apartheid was evil. Jim Crow was evil. Denying any basic human right or equal access to privileges afforded to the majority based upon the color of a person’s skin is evil.
I think the same probably applies to discrimination based upon sexual preference.
Denying a person the ability to adopt a child or receive medical treatment or marry or worship in a public place or benefit from legal protections afforded to heterosexuals simply because of their sexual preference is not only ignorant and cruel, but I think it’s probably evil, too.
No, I’m sure it’s evil.
There are people – including the evil scumbag doctor who refused to treat the infant – who will cite religious reasons for their discriminatory beliefs, but I have read the Bible cover to cover three times and know that these people – or at least the Christians – are simply cherry-picking the parts of Scripture most convenient to their belief system. The New Testament alone is enough to contradict the Biblical admonitions against homophobia. But even if you ignore Jesus’s command to “Love thy neighbor” or his warning to “Let him without sin cast the first stone,” the hypocrisy required to discriminate against homosexuals while still allowing adulterers and anyone who works on Sunday to continue to live negates any excuse for discrimination based upon Biblical doctrine.
The Biblical excuse for homophobia and discrimination is nonsense.
No, I think discrimination of any kind against homosexuals is evil, and anyone engaging in this behavior or supporting those who engage in or defend in this form of discrimination are evil, too.
Does their evilness rise to Hitler-like levels? Of course not.
This is not to say that these people are not wonderful parents and beloved colleagues and gentle souls who bring warmth and light to the world in many respects, but their desire to deny people basic human rights based upon their sexual preference is evil.
It’s time we start calling it what it is. If logic and reason and common decency isn’t enough to convince these bigots to change their minds and afford equal rights to all people, maybe shame will do the job.
Maybe the label “evil scumbag” will do some good.
Just when you think that the boy is being dragged around by the girl, he asks the question that breaks my heart.
Stephen Fry explains what he would say if he was “confronted by God” and nearly knocks the interviewer out of his seat.
Regardless of how you feel about Steven Fry and his position on the Catholic Church and faith in general, you have to admire this answer on purely rhetorical grounds. It’s structured beautifully.
But my favorite part is the look in interviewer Gay Bryne’s face at two or three points during this two minute video.
Appalled is probably the best way to describe it, but even that doesn’t seem to do it justice. He seems to almost knock Bryne right out of his chair by his words.
My wife sent me this photo of my son from a recent visit to a children’s museum.
Yes, my family gets to go to children’s museums during the week while I slave away in the mines.
When I saw the image, I couldn’t help but wonder how Charlie understood how to use this device. It’s so unlike any telephone that he has ever seen in his life. The rotary dial, the cord, the immobile base, and even the separate, oversized, oddly shaped handset are all foreign to him.
Yet there he is, holding it to his ear, pretending to make a phone call.
Then again, I’ve also seen my son pretend to make phone calls using bananas and shoes, so perhaps imagination has a lot to do with it.
Yet somehow bananas and shoes more closely resemble the phones that Charlie has seen than this thing. Think about it:
- Bananas and shoes are the same shape as our cordless phone.
- Bananas and shoes are portable, like every phone Charlie has ever seen.
- Bananas and shoes have no cords dangling from them.
- Bananas and shows have no finger wheels affixed to them.
- Bananas and shoes have no numbers on their surfaces, which our iPhones don’t have, either. To Charlie, most of the phones that he’s ever seen have clear, black surfaces. He’s probably never even seen an the number pad on any iPhone.
I have to assume one of two things:
- Somehow the ancient, rotary phone has insinuated itself into human genetic code.
- My son is a genius.
It’s easy to criticize what people do. It’s often what people don’t do that matters more, yet these inactions are often ignored. So leave me alone, you inactive, moronic toadstools.
I was recently sitting at my desk in my classroom, drinking a Diet Coke while correcting papers. A colleague walked in, and as we wrapped up our conversation, she commented on the soda that I was drinking.
“You know, Diet Coke really isn’t good for you. You drink way too much. You should think about switching to something healthier.”
“Thanks,” I said. “I’ve actually cut back on soda quite a bit since the beginning of the year.”
My tone was warm. My response was benign. But beneath my calm exterior, I was annoyed. Completely and thoroughly annoyed. Here’s why:
People find it exceedingly easy to criticize a person for action taken but rarely consider the reverse.
Yes, I drink Diet Coke. And yes, despite the Food and Drug Administration’s approval of this product and its 33 year history of consumer consumption without any apparent links to leprosy or tuberculosis, carbonated beverages – and Diet Coke in particular – is poison in the minds of many people.
I understand that water is probably better for me than Diet Coke, but that doesn’t mean that Diet Coke is going to kill me. Just like the coffee and alcohol that most people consume on a daily basis (and I do not) probably isn’t going to kill them, either.
Nevertheless, I’m also able to see that too much of almost anything can be bad. Recognizing the excessive quantity of soda that I was drinking in a given day, I chose to cut back. As part of my New Year’s resolutions, I have almost completely stopped drinking Diet Coke in my home. As a result, I’ve cut my soda consumption by more than half, and other than the nights when we are eating pizza or pasta for dinner, I rarely miss it.
But here’s the thing:
I happen to know for a fact that the woman who commented on my soda consumption does not exercise. She doesn’t jog or play a sport or belong to a gym. Other than the occasionally stress-filled work situation, she may never elevate her heart rate beyond a resting position.
Yet how often does someone criticize or even express concern for her lack of physical activity? Almost never is my guess because it’s almost impossible to comment on something that can’t be seen. Unless you followed this person for a week, peering into windows of her home at all hours of the day, you would never know that she lives a relatively sedentary lifestyle.
But my Diet Coke consumption? That’s obvious. The soda is in my hand. On my desk. Stuffed in my refrigerator. It’s easy to comment on my soda consumption because you see it. It’s a positive action.
So people comment on it and criticize it all the time.
But who is living a healthier lifestyle?
The person who exercises on a treadmill or elliptical machine for 45 minutes at least four times a week, does push ups and sit ups every day, practices yoga (poorly) and meditates every morning, and plays golf and basketball and runs in the non-winter months. And drinks Diet Coke…
… or the person who restricts herself to water and all natural juices but does not exercise in any way?
If you don’t think that my lifestyle is probably healthier (and you should), can we at least agree that it’s too close to call?
I’m often criticized for my eating and drinking habits. The lack of vegetables in my diet. My somewhat limited palate. My choice of soda over every other beverage.
But I also know that I’m being criticized by people who never exercise. Who watch 30 hours of television each week. Who haven’t read a book in ten years. Who can’t name the three branches of government. Who spend hours on hair and nails and makeup but not a single minute maintaining a healthy heart. Who can name every member of the Kardahian family but don’t know the name of even one of their state’s Senators or a single member of the Supreme Court.
It’s so easy to criticize the overt, public actions of a person, because it’s what we can see. We can point and frown and criticize.
But it’s often the things that people don’t do – their inaction and underlying stupidity – that ultimately mean more but go unnoticed because they are not conveniently wrapped in a plastic bottle or red label.
I walked into the living room and this is what I saw.
The thoughts that instantly ran through my mind:
- Who the hell does he think he is?
- This dude is a little too relaxed.
- Is this the way a two year-old is supposed to be watching Little Einsteins?
- Who the hell does he think he is?
- My son might already be cooler than me.
- There’s no way in hell that my son is going to ever be cooler to me.
- Who taught him to sit like that?
- Is this what “chillin’ like a villain” looks like?
- Did he arrange that pillow like that or find it that way?
- Who the hell does he think he is?
- Honestly, I could not look as cool as he does sitting like that.
- How did this happen?
- Who the hell does he think he is?
My daughter wished me luck before my most recent Moth GrandSLAM performance then promptly retracted it.
I received this incredibly sweet but slightly parroted message from my kids just before I took the stage in Brooklyn to compete in my tenth Moth GrandSLAM last week.
When I saw my daughter the next day, she asked how I did.
“Again?” she asked. In ten GrandSLAMs, I’ve only won once and finished in second place seven times. Apparently my six year-old daughter is aware of this. She shook her head in disgust.
“I don’t know why I wish you good luck.”
There is a phrase that has become popular in teaching:
Praise in public. Punish (or criticize) in private.
I think this depends upon a lot of factors, and especially the climate and culture of the classroom. If a teacher is adept at bringing the class together as one big family, or a particular class has come together on their own, then much more can be said in the open.
If there is trust and love in a classroom, then most things can be said out in the open.
It’s also important to remember that private rarely remains private. The notion if private is oftentimes a farce.
One of the biggest mistakes that teachers make is not allowing a student who they are reprimanding to maintain his or her dignity. Criticizing in public is often perfectly fine if the student does not feel isolation or shame in the process. Creativity, flexibility, and a willingness to subjugate one’s ego are often required in order to reprimand a student without losing that student’s trust and respect.
Consequences are important. Self esteem is, too.
Novelist Jose Saramago quit writing in 1953. Part of me wants to reach back in time and hug him. The other part wants to smack him.
Nobel Prize winning novelist José Saramago submitted the manuscript of Skylight – his first – to a Lisbon publisher in 1953. Receiving no response, Saramago gave up fiction altogether. His wife says that her husband fell into a “into a painful, indelible silence that lasted decades.”
Saramago returned to fiction in 1977 and would eventually write more than 20 novels before his death.
In 1989, having published three novels, he was at work on a fourth when the publisher to which he had sent Skylight wrote to say that they had rediscovered the manuscript and it would be an honor to print it. Saramago never re-read it and said only that “it would not be published in his lifetime.”
His wife published the book in 2014 after his death in 2010.
When I first heard this story, I felt great sympathy for Saramago. A publisher ignores his manuscript, not even bothering to decline the work, and an author loses 25 years that could have been spent writing. By all accounts, his first manuscript was excellent, and the book has received rave reviews, so it’s not as if Saramago needed the 25 years for his talent to germinate. He was already brilliant in 1953.
He simply lost a quarter century of work.
That sympathy for Saramago lasted for about ten seconds, then I was reminded of all the authors I know whose first, second, third, fourth, and even fifth manuscripts were turned down by literary agents and publishing houses. Yes, as far as I know, all of these people at least received some kind of response from the entities that received their work, but still, I know authors who struggled for decades with rejections before finally breaking through.
Saramago was ignored once and decided to quit. He took his toys and went home.
My second reaction was decidedly less sympathetic.
I’ve read four of Saramago’s books, including Blindness, which won the Nobel Prize in Literature and caused my wife to weep for a week while reading it. I’m not much of a fan of his work. I think he was an exceptionally talented writer, and I have enjoyed his stories a great deal, but Saramago forgoes the use of chapters and paragraphs almost completely in his books. His sentences can run on for more than a page. He goes pages and pages without the use of a period, preferring instead to use commas. He doesn’t use quotations marks to delineate dialogue. In Blindness, he stopped using proper nouns completely. I can’t stand any of it. I think it demonstrates a complete disregard for the reader and an unnecessary barrier to his stories.
Still, a small part of my wishes I could reach through time and tell him to strengthen his resolve and try again rather than waiting for 25 years before writing again. I want to hug him and tell him that it will be alright.
Another part of my wants to smack him for acting like such a fool and not having the courage to stand up and demand acknowledgement.
Ironically, my friend, who has read Skylight, reports that Saramago was not using long sentences when he wrote it in 1953. Perhaps if he had found success with the book, he would’ve continued to write more conventionally and found a wider audience.