Sunday, March 31, 2013

Pretty in pink

Here's something cheerful for your Easter Sunday -
pink tabebuia trees in blossom.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Demanding an apology makes you look like an…

Photo credit: Monica Weas (stock.xchng)

(Get it?)

When reporters from CNN were, according to some circles, insufficiently condemning of the two young men convicted of rape in Steubenville, Ohio, not one but two petitions demanding an apology appeared on

Leaving aside the question of why the average CNN viewer – and not, say, the actual rape victim – warrants an apology from the network, this drama got me thinking about apologies in general…and why you shouldn’t demand them even if you truly deserve them.

First of all, the true bad actors among us really aren’t sorry. They can’t be; if they were, they wouldn’t be bad actors. The bad actor will capitulate to a public apology in order to look good and/or to get you to shut up. Do not be surprised when the bad actor makes the same error again. And again.

Secondly, people with good hearts who make errors out of ignorance become defensive when others make angry demands. If I said something which was inadvertently offensive, a gently worded statement as to how my words were offensive would, most likely, bring out an apology from me. A shrill demand would not. That is human nature at work – no one likes the sound of “gimme!”

When someone does wrong to us, it is natural to get angry. It is natural to want life to be made right again, preferably by the person who did wrong to you in the first place.

We should not let our anger turn us into whiners, however. We should present a face of calm and let the offender apologize in his or her own time – sincerely. If that sincere apology does not come, we should rise above it and move on. Insist on reparations if justified but apology is a moral, not legal, matter. As such, let’s take the high ground and not become 

 Photo credit: IMJ Studios (stock.xchng)

(I’ll bet you get it now.)

Monday, March 25, 2013

Putting the (virtual) cart before the horse

Photo credit: chahad (stock.xchng)

It was a fitful weekend, and this Mouse was overdue for a good meander. After dinner plans with a friend got postponed, I decided to take a walk in one of my favorite places, the Floral Park neighborhood in Santa Ana.

It was a great time to walk – in the latter part of the afternoon, when the heat and sunshine that can interfere with a good walk were on their way out.

When I have nothing to do but put one foot in front of the other, it energizes my mind. I thought about which home tours I went on between 2009 and now. I thought about all of the spiders I discovered spinning giant webs between the trees. (If I were a spider, I’d choose Floral Park, too!) And, as oft happens, I thought about my career in writing and graphic arts and what I would do to improve it.

I remembered an article in Writer’s Digest about what today’s writers need to do in order to succeed. The top three suggestions were, I believe:

1. Sell yourself on Facebook.

2. Sell yourself on Twitter.

3. Sell yourself at every frigging opportunity you can think of.

With all of this selling, when will you find time to – ahem – write?

The people and companies that I follow on Facebook and Twitter give me real value. They are (mostly) people I liked before I found them on Facebook and Twitter – people I liked before Facebook and Twitter even existed.

Which gets me to the story of the cart and the horse.

The horse is your core message – who you are, what you have to offer the world, whatever it is that makes you a creature unlike any other.

The cart is your marketing program, whether it be social media or more old-fashioned types of advertisement.

If your horse is weak, it’s not going to pull your cart very far.

If you put so much effort into building your cart that you neglect your horse, you’re going nowhere.

If your message resonates, it will keep your social media cart rolling. You will have many followers because you will have earned them.

People who send out tons of boring, useless Tweets are the first to get unfollowed. People whose Tweets are always informative, entertaining, and/or helpful – whether or not they have anything to do with the business – will hold on to their current followers and add many more.

It’s the content of your content that matters.

In short:

1. You should spend no more than half an hour – if that – on your Twitter and (professional) Facebook accounts per day.

2. Before you post, ask:

     a. Is this relevant to my current and would-be followers?
     b. Would this post make me want to follow myself?
     c. Does this post make my business shine?

3. Feed your horse first, and your cart will go, go, go!

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Beware of what you “know”

Photo credit: pepo (stock.xchng)

The older I get, the more I know that I don’t know what I think I know.

Take for example these words: There are more black men in prison than in college.

You’ve heard or read these words, or a sentence similar to them. Presidential candidates and rappers and nearly everyone in between has said this.

Howard University professor Ivory A. Toldson, PhD reveals that in fact, there are 600,000 more black men in college than in jail. Furthermore, the “more black men in prison than college” myth not only is not true now, it never has been true.

Why does this myth persist?

It’s easy. It’s shorthand for saying that “racism is still a problem, people.”

It could be that too many black men are in jail for trivial reasons, and we should not only be talking about that, but moving to fix that. Passing on a “fact” that is not a fact, however, is the furthest thing from helpful.

You have also read/heard this: Half of all marriages end in divorce.

Again, what is the reason for this statement? It’s shorthand for “people don’t care about tradition as much as they used to.”

What I care about is: Is it true?

Not exactly. What happened is that in 1981, there were 2.4 million marriages and 1.2 million divorces – in other words, half as many divorces as there were marriages. So, half of all marriages end in divorce, right?

Wrong. It’s not that simple – as if half of the people married that year decided to divorce. The reasons for divorce are so idiosyncratic that it is difficult to predict an accurate divorce rate. People get married with such hope and resolve – but no one knows what will change in the future.

What else do people “know” that they don’t?

How about government workers are lazy? Anyone who has worked in a private office, or who has spent enough time in any service establishment, knows that laziness can be found all over. And so can industriousness. No matter what John and Ken or The Simpsons say, I have never had a real problem with the DMV. When I go, alone or with Two Dogs, to the DMV, I admire the people who do their best in a service-intensive job.

And, say, men don’t ask for directions? Half the people who have ever asked me for directions were men.

What about the toilet seat being up or down is a big deal? Really? If I go into the bathroom and see the toilet seat up, I put it down. When Two Dogs goes into the bathroom and sees the toilet seat down, he lifts it up. That’s the way it goes in most households. It’s not that hard.

Who should you believe…what “they say,” or facts researched and tabulated? Or, for that matter, what you have observed in your own experience?

In other words, science?

Represent, Mr. Spock.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

I just dont get BDSM. Sorry.

Photo credit: kk+ (Flickr)

A few days ago, I visited, one of my “everyday” websites, and found this article by William Saletan about BDSM. Saletan, who writes in the Health and Science section, has written what I have been secretly thinking for years.

BDSM – Bondage, Discipline, Sadism, and Masochism to the sheltered – lives outside the boundary of normal sexuality. I will go as far to say I don’t consider it sex at all.

To me, sex involves the direct stimulation of the genitalia for the purpose of pleasure. It can occur with just one person present, two, or a whole group of people – male, female, and/or in-between. Sex is joyful and fun.

If I see a BDSM scene, I see neither joy nor fun. I see physical and verbal abuse. I see people trapped by ropes. I see bare bottoms reddened by the strap. I see tender flesh trapped beneath leather and latex. I see the simultaneous psychological degradation of the roles of villain and victim. I could not imagine doing such things to someone I loved, nor allowing anyone to do such things to me.

The fact that it is consensual (in the best circumstances) does not stop the shudder in my spine.

Saletan writes: 
[G]iven the underlying dynamics—one person who wants to dominate, another who wants to be dominated—consent often blurs. BDSM attracts masochists whose boundaries can be pushed. It attracts sadists who like to push those boundaries.
To live on the edge, of course, means risking falling off altogether.

I also have to wonder what BDSM is doing to our psychic environment. Saletan tells us:
While reformers in India battle a culture of rape, Indian BDSM advocates extol the bliss of female masochism. While human rights activists denounce caning and waterboarding, BDSM lecturers teach the joys of caning and waterboarding. Abduction, slavery, humiliation, torture—everything we condemn outside the world of kink is celebrated within it.
Does the world needs more caning and waterboarding, or abduction, slavery, humiliation, and torture, no matter what the context? I think not.

I know, I know – I should be a good liberal and be completely okay with whatever consenting adults do with each other.

In my head, this is what I believe. I do not want to outlaw BDSM, neither in art nor in real life. (As if such laws would stop anything.)

In my gut, however, I can’t help but think: If you get off on abusing people, being abused, or watching either happen, there must be something profoundly wrong with you.