Archives for April 2014

Read The Joy of How To Play With Telemarketers

Telemarketers Leave Me Alone!From the archives…

Hi all

As many of you know I sometimes play with telemarketers. I can’t say that there is any rhyme or reason to it. It sort of depends on my mood and the approach of the telemarketer. There are some really good people out there who are just doing their job and then there are those who make dead skunks look intelligent. No matter how hard they try they just aren’t capable of getting it done.

But like I said, sometimes you find a gem and you end up with great blog fodder such as:

Sorry The Owner Is In Lebanon 

More Fun with Telemarketers

Recently I decided to try a new tack with the telemarketers. I try to sell them life insurance, or some other service. Thus far it has been kind of fun. You should hear the surprise in their voice when I answer their sales pitch with one of my own.

And every now and then you find someone who has a little spunk of their own.

Telemarketer: Can I speak with Mr. Steiner please?
Jack: I am not sure if he is available. Is he expecting your call?

Telemarketer: I have some very important news to give him.
Jack: That doesn’t tell me anything. Do you know Mr. Steiner?

Telemarketer: It is very important that I speak with him now.
Jack: It is very important that you tell me who you are.

Telemarketer: Sir, Mr. Steiner is going to be quite cross if you don’t connect us.
Jack: Actually he is more of a Magen David.

Telemarketer: Would you please find him for me?
Jack: He is not lost.

Telemarketer: Son. Your father is going to be quite angry if you play games with me.
Jack: What kind of games do you like to play?

Telemarketer: Please put your father on.
Jack: Hang on. Let me see if he has finished slaughtering my pet cow. Money has been awfully tight around here. We’re going to miss old Bessie.

Telemarketer: Do you live on a farm?
Jack: Yes. It is a fun farm.

Telemarketer: Do you know that funny farm is a nickname for a hospital.
Jack: You’d have to be crazy to say something silly like that. Hang on, I hear my father coming in now.

I put the phone down and yell “Dad!” Then after a brief pause I pick it up and say hello.

Telemarketer: Mr. Steiner I have very good news for you.
Jack: Are you with the lottery?

Telemarketer: No I am not with the lottery.
Jack: How about that Ed McMahon guy, you know Publisher’s Clearinghouse.

Telemarketer: No. I am not with them either.
Jack: Do you carry life insurance?

Telemarketer: I do, but that is not the purpose of my call.
Jack: Hang on a second, no one wants to believe that they are going to die, but believe you me. One day you’re going to be just another ground monkey. What is your family going to do then. How are they going to eat.

Telemarketer: I appreciate that but…
Jack: Appreciate isn’t going to pay the bills. Tell me about yourself. How old are you? Are you married, do you have children, do you rent or own?

Telemarketer: Sir, if I can take a moment of your time…
Jack: Just relax. Everyone gets nervous. Answer the questions slowly. Perhaps it might help if you write them down. I can hold on while you get a pen and paper.

Telemarketer: I have a pen, paper and a computer.
Jack: You don’t need all three. Just use whatever is easiest.

Telemarketer: I think that I am going to have to say goodbye.
Jack: You just said the magic words: “Good Buy.” That is all I offer, “good buys.” Why don’t we discuss a plan that will provide enough cash to cover your mortgage and a couple of bucks for the wife and kids to live on.

Telemarketer: I think that you misunderstood me. I have a service that you might be interested in.
Jack: A service? You mean like customer service?

Telemarketer: Excellent customer service is something that I strive to provide.
Jack: Hey fella, if you are applying for a job I am going to need for you to send over a resume first.

Telemarketer: I already have a job.
Jack: But do you have a career. Why settle for a job when you can have more,.

Telemarketer: I am sorry. I am really going to have to hang up.
Jack: Just give me five more minutes and I am sure I can explain to you why our policies are superior to the other guys.

Click.

People Scream In Cyberspace But Nobody Listens

Workers

Every time I look at the steelworkers above I wish I could step into the picture and talk to them because I have a ton of questions that I need answered and I don’t want to use old Doc Google to get them.

That is because sometimes we want to connect with others. Sometimes we want to look them in the eye and hear them tell you about how they got their job, if they are ever afraid of heights, what happens if they need to use the bathroom and have they ever accidentally dropped their lunch.

I want their voices, their expressions and their words to color in this photo.

Every Communicator Needs a Real Camera

Geoff makes a case for why communicators need a real camera. I find it compelling for multiple reasons both personal and professional.

The primary one is rooted in my desire to expand and improve my skills as a storyteller and communicator. Every time I share a story I try to verbally paint the picture I see in my head and I do the same every time I write one.

I own several simple point and shoot digital cameras and an old Nikon DSLR that I inherited. Sometimes I’ll use my own shots here on the blog but that doesn’t happen real often. It is a combination of I don’t like the quality or I don’t think it is appropriate for the post.

So I tend to use something from Photodropper or Zemanta but my preference would always be to use my own stuff, to have ownership of any and all media that is used here.

It would make it easier to make sure there aren’t any copyright issues ever.

Speaking of copyright issues I have avoided using the now “free” Getty images because I am not comfortable with the way the program works now, but we’ll cover that at a different time.

A Different Time

Those three words are chapping my hide now because they remind me of all that I want to accomplish and how little time I have to get it done. They remind me that my laundry list includes cooking and photography classes, travel and an enormous amount of reading and writing.

Why?

Because all of these things tie into personal and professional goals. If I want to become a better communicator learning how to take better photographs makes perfect sense. If a picture is worth 1,000 words why wouldn’t I want to learn more about it.

If I want to be a better writer than it makes sense to put myself in a position to have more experiences. Experiences are blog fodder. Experiences are the moments that make up a life and though I have had tons I haven’t had nearly enough.

And I especially want to do more and see more with my kids. My children need more time to see more of the world and to benefit from the life experiences that come with those.

“Not All Those Who Wander Are Lost“- J.R.R. Tolkien

Some of you have been a part of the journey for a while now. Remember  The 100 Year Old Penny and how I talked about semi anonymity (yeah, I see you guys in the stats trying to figure out who I am) and how I talked about wandering with purpose?

Well one of the nicest parts of blogging is how it enables us to look back and measure our progress and I am grateful for that. I am grateful for being able to read blog posts about my children when they were little and less little. I am grateful for being able to read posts about my grandparents when they were still around and not just posts about empty tables.

It is truly surreal to me that they are all gone now and my siblings and I have moved up the old generation chart. We are not the kids any more, we are in the place our parents used to occupy and our parents have moved into our parents position.

That 100 year-old penny I found generated many of the same thoughts as the guys in the picture in this post.

If A Penny Could Speak

If a penny could speak what stories would it tell? In whose pocket or sweaty palm did it find itself in? Would they be famous or ordinary people?

Would it tell me that presidents had held it? Would it tell me about hanging out with Einstein and Salk? Would it talk about being with Mantle or DiMaggio?

Or would I hear stories about it hanging out with thieves, murderers and associated sociopaths?

There are stories to be told and even if it had nothing but tales of young children who used it to buy dime store candy I would be interested.

People Scream In Cyberspace But Nobody Listens

Sometimes people email me  to tell me they are sorry but they have to unsubscribe because I publish too much content. Part of me feels badly about this. My fragile male ego wonders why they had to go and part of me says so what, better to have the die hards, better to have the people that really want to be here.

And then comes days like today where I check my stats and see traffic has plummeted and I wonder if Google has penalized me. I suppose I could check Google Webmaster Tools and see if there are any notes. Maybe some spammer got through the filters and tied on some nasty links.

Commenting may not be what it once was but the spam is coming in huge buckets of gunk but I don’t care. I just empty the spam folder and go about my business.

I keep writing first for me and then for you. I keep plugging away doing my best to improve and telling myself that organic growth is always best.

And then I take a quick tour of the blogosphere and I read some posts here and there and my reaction is sometimes People Scream In Cyberspace But Nobody Listens.

They share their deepest secrets and chase the demons from their heads and no one says a word.

If I was going to do that I wonder what picture would I want to take to go with it.

83,168 Mistakes Every Writer Makes

Capture

Some of you have already benefited from 1 Foolproof Way To Become a Better Writer because you read it and immediately followed the exceptional wisdom contained within, or is it because you ignored it all.

When you are an ancient man (just ask my almost 10 year old) you can’t always remember what you have said but you never forget that the point is not mute unless you are like me and you name your dog Point just to prove people wrong.

I am the man who said that he wants to burn every copy of this article on how to become a better writer because it is awful.

Why? Because five seconds into it this is what I thought:

The author of the article could have made her piece stronger by eliminating the first two sentences. Or alternatively she could have eliminated “As” and “famously” which would have retained the Mark Twain quote while more closely following his advice.

Fight The Tyranny of Writing Authorities

It is time to fight the tyranny of writing authorities  who seek to destroy our voices as writers because they don’t understand the difference between editing for style and for content.

It is time stop the injustice of people who don’t know how to help you become a better writer but camouflage their lack of knowledge in the cold embrace of word counts and grammatical rules.

Blog posts and stories should be as long as it takes to tell the story. Ancient men like myself are ready to do battle with the persnickety, frumpy and uptight word tightwads who don’t understand this.

We are ready to go to war to use colorful words because sometimes those words are best suited for the post or story. Yes, I am talking about cursing and no I am not talking about cursing for the sake of cursing.

A good tale is easily understood and shouldn’t be used by the writer to prove their vocabulary is enormous. It is not about how big it is but what you can do with it.

Good Writing Is Subjective

Good writing is subjective. Proof isn’t found on best seller lists or because you won some silly blogging popularity contest either. Nor is it based upon your ability to pound out an error free essay. Some of those error free essays are the finest cures for insomnia you have ever slept through.

Don’t misunderstand my position to suggest that you shouldn’t try to expand your vocabulary because you should. Sometimes colorful language is necessary because it is the spice in the soup you are cooking. Sometimes the best way to make your post sizzle is to write about the truculent poltroons and their vacuous minds.

And sometimes it is best to use the kind of colorful language that you might find on the bathroom wall.

A thousand years ago when I was on my college newspaper several of us went out for drinks and had a long conversation about how to write fiction from the perspective of the opposite gender.

Two of the women almost had a fist fight about whether it was authentic for the female character to tell her boyfriend “I want you to fuck me” or if she should say “I want you to make love to me.”

Why?

The woman who argued for it said she would never sleep with a guy she couldn’t be honest with and the other said she would never sleep with one who thought of her that way.

While I am fearless and unfiltered I chose not to offer an opinion or perspective because that was a fight I didn’t want any part of.

But the point here is that what you love may not be loved by others. Google authors insulting other authors or some variation and you’ll find ample examples of authors belittling the work of other authors.

William Faulkner on Ernest Hemingway:
“He has never been known to use a word that might send a reader to the dictionary.”

Ernest Hemingway on William Faulkner:
“Poor Faulkner. Does he really think big emotions come from big words?”

83,168 Mistakes Every Writer Makes

83,168 Mistakes Every Writer Makes is a goofy headline but if you are reading these words it is because that headline brought you here or you are in love with me. Could be both.

On a serious note, the most consistent feedback I receive about why some people find blogging to be difficult is their fear of writing. That fear is rooted in not producing meaningful and significant content.

My advice is the same for them as it is for my children. Stop worrying about whether it is good and start working. You cannot become a better writer without practicing and that means putting your pen to paper.

And it means learning how to tune out the thousands of know-it-alls who tell you what makes good writing.  Sometimes you just have to write.

What do you think?

Who is Tougher Mr. Spock or Darth Vader?

What is the difference between being weird in a good way and weird in a bad one? I don’t claim to have the correct answer but I am sure it lies in whether people think you are charming or creepy.

Sometimes I think the most significant difference is that creepy people don’t recognize they are creepy and charming people know they aren’t creepy or something like that.


waxon

Forgive me if  this doesn’t make as much sense as it could because it is 1 AM and this stream of consciousness and I am frustrated.

Frustrated because things were harder today than they should have been. Things that should have been a snap required a snap, click and a jump and much of the day felt like I was walking waist deep through mud.

It is Hard To Be Productive

It is hard to be productive when you are walking through mud but if you stay with it you usually find that you still manage to get things done.

My children often hear me say the difference between success and failure isn’t always about who is smartest or luckiest but who is willing to do the work to make things happen. They also hear me talk about working smarter and not harder.

I spent 25 minutes trying to put an excerpt of a poem on Canva today so that I would have a cool graphic people could share but it just didn’t work.

“Tho’ much is taken, much abides; and tho’
We are not now that strength which in old days
Moved earth and heaven, that which we are, we are;
One equal temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.”
Ulysses, Lord Alfred Tennyson

How To Be Memorable

I come up with different headlines because I want my posts to be read and to be memorable. Sometimes I pose questions like Who is Tougher Mr. Spock or Darth Vader because I think people will remember them and because I am interested in thinking about it.

Writers have to think about many different things and we have to be able to be like the Apple people and think differently. Cue thought bubble about the difference between charming and creepy.

Cue second thought bubble about trying to make sure our stuff is read and self promotion. Cue third thought bubble asking how to identify our best material.

I think about this often. When people first stumble onto the blog what do I want them to see? What posts will do the best job of encouraging people to become regular readers? What will be most interesting to them?

Friday I wrote What Makes You A Man?

The social media gurus would frown upon it because it is longer but I am really proud of it. I haven’t decided if it is a new favorite because I think the writing is strong or because I feel like I shared something meaningful.

But I know for certain I want it to be read. It is important to me. It unintentionally touched a nerve and I have been thinking about it ever since.

Would People Notice If I Was Gone?

I rarely think about this, but today I began to wonder what would happen if I stopped blogging. Would people notice? Would they care or would they just move on?

That is not a cry for help or a request for praise. It is more of a moment of self evaluation. It is me thinking out loud and asking if my content makes a difference. Is it helping anyone or am I just indulging my love for writing in a public forum.

And if I am indulging does it matter? I am not holding a gun to anyone’s head.

Speaking of memory there is another poem to share:

“But
if each day,
each hour,
you feel that you are destined for me
with implacable sweetness,
if each day a flower
climbs up to your lips to seek me,
ah my love, ah my own,
in me all that fire is repeated,
in me nothing is extinguished or forgotten,
my love feeds on your love, beloved,
and as long as you live it will be in your arms
without leaving mine”
If You Forget Me by Pablo Neruda

What Kind Of Blogger Are You?

I am a writer who is a father. That means sometimes I write about parenting (dad blogging stuff) and sometimes I write about writing. Writing about writing covers storytelling, marketing and social media. Sometimes it covers blogging too.

That is an incomplete description but the time has come for the vampire to find his coffin and catch some ZZZZZZZZZZZZZ.

I appreciate your taking the time to walk with me.

What kind of blogger are you and what kind of content would you like to see here?

What Makes You A Man?

A man with a handlebar mustache c1913

Been thinking about my uncle, dad’s little brother and how much he has missed. Been thinking about how he died when he was only a few years older than I am now and how bizarre that feels to me now.

Wonder what life would have been like for him now. He was gay and I didn’t care, loved him just the same.+

Miss him sometimes because he is a connection to a past and part of the family that has changed dramatically. He is gone and so is my grandfather and my other uncle. The men on that side have been whittled down to my dad, me and my son.

His being gay is really immaterial, what I wonder about sometimes where the similarities between my grandfather, dad him and of course, me.

What is genetic? What sort of habits are learned?

Sometimes old posts are where I find inspiration for new posts. Fat, Ugly and Stupid Is No Way To Blog caught my eye or more accurately those words in the block quote. More on this later.

Wandering through Costco today I overheard some kid describe me as the fat old guy who wouldn’t get out of his way so he could grab a sample.

Part of me laughed with him because twenty years ago I would have looked at me and described the guy I saw as old.  Funny thing is lately several people have asked me what my secret is, they wanted to know why there are virtually no gray hairs on my head nd relatively few wrinkles.

One of the boys suggested that the only reason people don’t think I am 25 any more is because I have become…chunky.

I almost turned around and asked the kid if he wanted to have a contest to see who could do more push ups because the old guy does 100 a day and is working towards more. Might not look like the circus strong man but that is because I am not dressed in a spandex leotard, rocking the bald head and handlebar mustache.

The Story Doesn’t End There

They don’t know. They don’t understand AIDS is a death sentence. Once you are HIV+ it is just a matter of time before shit gets real and you don’t make jokes about being so sick you want to die because you will.

I was 17 when I found out my uncle was gay and twenty when I found out he was HIV+.

One day I walked into the kitchen at my parent’s house and tried to grab a freshly baked chocolate chip cookie and was told I couldn’t have it.

“Your uncle is having trouble keeping his weight up, so mom made him cookies.”

My dad said it in a normal tone of voice, plain expression on his face but I knew something was weird so I asked. Don’t remember what they said or how they said it, but it took a while to sink in.

It was 1989 and no one beat the disease. I didn’t know much about it. Really had a limited understanding but I understood it was a death sentence.

No one beat the disease. Back then that was all I remember hearing about it.

I loved my uncle and I was concerned for him, but I figured medical science was always coming up with new solutions and if he took care of himself he could see a cure come about. It wasn’t impossible.

What Makes You A Man?

The world I grew up in is very different from the one my children are growing up in. My uncle grew up in a time when same sex marriage was a pipe dream and you hid your sexuality.

From my perspective things didn’t change all that much between my uncle’s childhood and mine. One of the worst insults someone could hurl at you was to suggest you were gay.

And now my children have friends who have two moms or two dads and they think nothing of it but they don’t know I didn’t know whether I should hide my uncle’s sexuality from my friends.

I didn’t know how they would react. I didn’t care that my uncle was gay. I loved him the same but I won’t lie and say it didn’t make me wonder about the world and things, especially when I found out that I had another uncle who was gay.

Part of me was ambivalent about it because what difference did it make, but another part of me wondered how they knew.

I had a conversation with my uncle about it and we talked about having sex with women. He told me it never felt right to him and asked me if I ever felt that way.

He didn’t describe having sex with a man. Didn’t get into any details other than to tell me it felt right and that women never did.

Does Sleeping With a Woman Make You A Man?

I remember calling my girlfriend and telling her about my uncle. She didn’t care that he was gay and when I told I wanted to have a lot of sex she laughed. “I’ll do whatever you want but that doesn’t make you a man.”

She followed through on her promise but what I remember the most isn’t what we did it was her saying none of this makes you a man. It just means you are a guy who is physically capable of putting it in a woman.

I probably rolled my eyes at that but I didn’t quite get it then.

Twenty-five years later I am staring at this screen trying to put myself back there, wondering if I have used too many words or not enough, trying to figure out how to tell this story.

Thinking about how I would explain to my uncle what a blog is and how I didn’t have any idea what I was going to write about until I started writing. Thinking about how I am touching upon something I haven’t thought about much.

Most of the time when I think about him it is in the context of how much he missed and how I would have liked to have learned more from him.

But now I am thinking about how I felt then, trying to pick away at something that is bothering me and I am not quite sure what it is.

Nobody Beats The Disease

It is 1994 and my uncle has come to that place we always feared he would reach. The disease has grabbed a hold of him and it is beating the crap out of him.

My dad and grandfather drive up to San Francisco to go visit. I tell my dad I want to come and he says no. “Grandpa may not get a chance to see him again. This is the last time my family will be together. It is not personal.”

But it is personal to me, how can it not be.

When I think about it now it makes sense to me. I can understand my dad’s decision and see how he was trying to give my uncle and grandfather a chance to say goodbye.

Now it makes sense and part of me aches for my grandfather because as a father I cannot imagine having to say goodbye to my child.

And I know my father. I know how badly it must have hurt him to see his little brother like that. He needed that time to be a son and to be an older brother.

But we were all raised to look out for each other, so how could I not feel like maybe I could have helped.

There Is More To The Story

Twenty years later I understand things differently than I did then. Twenty years later I remember my uncle’s CD collection including music I liked and wondering how a 49 year-old man got into Guns N Roses.

Twenty years later I wonder what sort of conversations we would have now and how different some things would be. There wouldn’t be that memory of telling my grandfather that his son had died and the guilt I felt for making grandpa cry.

I think my uncle would have enjoyed Texas and encouraged me to do so many things.

Twenty years later the conversations about what makes you a man would have been far different. There is much more to this story but the time for telling it has ended…for now.