Monday, May 27, 2013

always glad to help the innocent animals

I showed up fashionably dressed to my friend's party. His wife said I was the cat's meow.

Well, of course I was. Their cat had laryngitis and someone had to be the voice for this pathetic creature.

This is better than being called the cat's pajamas. Since I'm big enough to cloth several sleepy felines, I avoid psychotic cats who frequently rub lotion on you and knead your skin to see how soft you're getting.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

You're making this up, aren't you...

What?! The IRS has been going after groups that chant, "Down with the IRS!"?

Yeah, right. Sure thing.

Next, you'll be telling me that the Department of Justice has been secretly seizing the phone records of reporters.

This is America, in case you've forgotten - where our governmental officials act with the up-most of integrity. At least, until they get caught.

Saturday, May 04, 2013

Look Ma, I'm back in College!

So I'm about to plow into week three of my class through Even though Ohio State University offers their rhetorical writing class for free, they still have it set up as a full course complete with lectures, several assignments, and student-teacher interaction.

What amazed me about this course is that there is over 20,000 people signed up for it, several thousand on the forums, and a few thousand participating in the assignments.

The class's syllabus mentioned there would be about six hours of homework. Maybe it's because I haven't been in college for several years, but this work is taking a lot more than six hours.

One of the first assignments was to simply writing an article that introduced yourself to the "class". Here's what I wrote:

"Know your audience" and "Let them eat cake" are both well-quoted pieces of advice. And, had she listened to her publicist instead of her baker, Marie Antoinette might have lasted into the 1800s.

So, "How do I get to know my audience?" I wondered about this as I nibbled on my tasty dessert. I know you're out there. I can hear you typing - all several thousand of you (based on this course's statistics).

Not only do I have to know all of you, but this assignment is titled "Getting to Know You" as in "you knowing me". This means opening up, exposing myself. I might as well be helping people eat better by strolling by fast food restaurants wearing only a Speedo. As that poster child of unhealthy eating, I can have people spitting up those dollar cheeseburgers in no time.

Sorry. I apologize for that imagery. I hope you are not eating as you read this. However, if you have a sudden loss of appetite, please let me know. I might be on to the next greatest infomercial product for weight loss. No dancing involved. Just a lot jiggling.

Yes, I know. Should people get to know me only if they're armed with a barf bag? That doesn't inspire confidence for any beginning writer, does it. "Say, have you read my latest?" "Excuse me, … bbbbbBaARF." "Sorry, is my grammar that bad?"

So who are you? What would you like to know that will enrich your life? Perhaps, the first time the power of writing revealed itself to me?

In third grade, I wrote a story involving my friends as dirty snowballs. While reading that story to the class during our recess period, one of my friends laughed hard enough to spew milk out of his nose. This was pretty amazing since we weren't drinking milk. (Just kidding. He was breast-feeding at the time. It was a very progressive school.)

I tell this in hopes that you aren't a former classmate. Or my former friend who now has a debilitating nose injury and seeks retribution. Or a lawyer who loves creating legal briefs for dirty snowballs.

I'm just pointing out the power I discovered at an early age. It was like being a superhero who wears a cape made of paper and magical words. I felt I could throw this cape at the worst of fiends, then overpower them while they lay helpless with laughter. (As a youngster, I believed all fiends were readers. Look at comic books. Show me one crook who failed to react to Superman's speech balloon. That's a fiend reader, my friend.)

Almost a decade later, writing revealed its power of empathy. It was during my high school "senior writing assignment of death". You know, that final course grade that means the difference between graduating on to college, or being condemned to a job of repeating "you want fries with that?".

To graduate, I did what every responsible teenager does - I waited until the last few days of the deadline and then threw my adolescent angst into a story. Yes, I got an "A". I later discovered that my woeful tale ended up being circulated throughout the school. Apparently I wasn't the only one suffering turmoil of pimples and unpopularity while trying to laugh about it.

The muses of writing came to my aid in my adult years too. As an engineer and manager, my writing consisted of thrilling - well, almost - technical documents, often-ignored instruction manuals, and diplomatic emails to my bosses.

Diplomatic email? Anyone can point out the asinine ways of their gracious overlords. But a skillfully craft message keeps your job intact, and has your boss readily agreeing with you that he (or she) is an ass.

The next alluring moment of scrivening came during one of those wonderful, life-changing events: a costly divorce. To survive and to care for my family, I set up a blog and began earning money. I learned the fine art of writing meaningless reviews and of creating entries with SEO links. Sure, I put in lots of hours while pocketing less than minimum-wage. But those posts paid bills.

For example, one client assigned me the keywords "wedding reception". So I wrote about the marriage of two TV antennas. They had a terrible wedding, but a wonderful reception afterwards. While my post paid five bucks, it - like most of those assignments - only cost me a tiny bit of my dignity.

Writing such pieces taught me another important lesson. In fact, I want to share it with you ... and you, and you, and you, and you. And especially - you. That lesson being this: Meet your word count by padding your writing with needless filler phrases. (800 words, here I come.)

Know what else I've learned? Being a writer isn't as complicated as we might make it out to be. We simply record our thoughts so others can read them. What others do after they read your inspiring prose is up to their lawyers and your elected officials.

What I'm trying to say is this: We are all writers. Placing your signature and a gratuity on your dinner tab is writing. Granted, you're not going to win any Pulitzer prizes. But, if you aren't a stingy bastard, you made your waitress or waiter a very happy reader.

So, do I know you? Do I challenge your thoughts, or put you to sleep (not a bad thing if you are suffering with insomnia)? Did you enjoy this passing of time, or do you have regrets about the minutes lost reading my drivel?

OK. Here we are, finally at the end. As I stressed over this assignment's goals, I realized something - in 100 years, no one will care. In 1000 years, no one will remember.

Unless, of course, these scribblings becomes an epic work. In that case, I would like my royalties now please. Cash gratefully accepted; banknotes of 50s and 100s always welcome.

If you've made it this far, I know one thing about you. You are a patient group of readers. Thank you. Please enjoy your cake.