Keep On Keeping On Like a Bird That Flew…

Keep On Keeping On Like a Bird That Flew…

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via GIPHY

What is the essence of Rock & Roll?

Fame? Money? Noise? Pissing off your parents? A violent soundtrack to subvert and bring down the current establishment?

To a geezer like me who’s old enough to remember when MTV actually had music on their… ya know… music channel, it could be any number of those things. I say this as someone who spent his early teens consuming mass quantities of Hair Metal, whose main messages are all about fame, money and the rest.

And, I suppose it is what it is. Those embarrassing years from when KISS went disco, to the moment Axl Rose threw a temper tantrum at the beginning of a concert breaking up the band in the process, it was the next, inevitable, logical step that Rock music had to get to in order to survive. Yes, it was abrasive and deafening, and some of it sounded like it was written by a fifteen year old who found the liquor cabinet. Yes, more emphasis was placed on theatricality rather than musicianship. At that particular point in time, in the dark days before Nirvana, that’s what Rock was; obnoxious, easily consumable, and increasingly ridiculous¹.

Sure, it was pretty to look at like a Michael Bay explosion, and loud as fuck, and oh boy, is his guitar AWESOME, and wow Tommy Lee is a full blown maniac. But aside from that, could we draw a direct line from Little Richard to Kurt Cobain? Are we doing a service to the trail blazers by acknowledging their contemporaries?

The answer is no. Of course not, dummy. More Neil Young, less Cinderella if you want to pay respect. Rock music is never about straight lines or following rules, or repeating what came before. The essence of Rock & Roll is finding that one thing that inspires you, picking it up, making it your own, and leaving it in a different state than when you found it. The origin of the term can be bandied about ad nauseam, but this is the essence of what Rock & Roll means. It means putting your stamp on something, and in doing so, altering the shape and sound of it to inspire others. Like a large object rolling down a hill and causing other things to roll along with it.

Something… like …a rolling stone, perhaps?

Robert Zimmerman knew this more than most. He was influenced by Little Richard when he was younger, but somewhere along the way, he knew that there was something else to it  He knew rock music wasn’t just three chords and a couple of dance steps. It wasn’t too long before he discovered the works of Dylan Thomas, and found a new music hero in Woody Guthrie, whom he would adopt as his mentor. Leaving his middle class life behind in Duluth, Minnesota, he dropped out of college after one year, hitchhiked to New York City to meet his hero, who by this time was gravely ill. He settled into the Folk Scene in Greenwich Village that was beginning to blossom. He would have plenty of gigs. He started making a name for himself until he was discovered by John Hammond who would sign him with Columbia Records in 1962. At this point, he could have started his career under his own name, but instead he chose to pay homage to the person who influenced him to go on this journey to begin with, and changed his name to Bob Dylan.

You find that one thing that inspires you. You pick it up, make it your own, and leave it different than you found it. For his first three albums, Dylan was the torchbearer for Mr. Guthrie and used his words and passion to fight against war and corruption. He became quite adept at phrasing, at lyrics and poetic imagery. It wasn’t too long that the myth that was created would slowly take over the man. He was no longer this middle class kid from Minnesota, he was instead created from the pages of a Steinbeck novel. He came from the dust of a sharecropper’s field; a downtrodden troubadour who was born on the open road. The very definition of American Romanticism.  Success caught up to him quickly.

By 1965, Bob Dylan had become restless with who he was. He was never one to stay in one place, or be satisfied with with where he is. He released ‘Bringing It All Back Home.’ This was significant in that he was starting to step away from the protest material and dip into the personal and abstract, and in doing so, finding his own authentic voice.

…Oh, it also marked the beginning of him ‘going electric’.

‘Highway 61 Revisited’ came soon after. It was considered a critical darling. A rare specimen that stands the test of time with songs like ‘Desolation Row’ and ‘Like A Rolling Stone’. His knack for wordplay and imagery, now instantly recognizable, were miles, years ahead of its time.  A pop star was supposed to sing about love and relationships in ways that would be easily digestible for mass consumption, and here comes this guy, seemingly out of nowhere, writing lyrics about the human condition and loss and yearning. He heralded the beginning of the Singer/Songwriter movement.  There were a few people who dismissed this album as a complete head-scratcher, because no one had heard anything like this before. But those same voices in the same breath lauded it for elevating the artform from its current state.

Whether it was on purpose or not, the awesome trilogy of groundbreaking albums came to its brilliant conclusion the following year with ‘Blonde on Blonde’. Considered an instant masterpiece and one of the most important albums of all time, it had completely changed the landscape of what songwriting was, into what it could be. It was also the first double album released ever… not much to say about that, just wanted to point that out.

In the months that followed, there was nothing. He had all but vanished from the public eye. Some say it had to do with a motorcycle accident he was involved in near his home in Woodstock, New York. Some say it may have had something to do with the press, and how they kept diving deeper into the myth and poking their nose into things he’d rather not let them see (related: ‘Ballad of a Thin Man’). An increasing drug dependency, marital issues. Perhaps a salad bar sampling of all of the above. He would still release albums, but he would tour less, and give fewer interviews. In any case, it felt like we were losing his voice.

On October 13th of this year, The Nobel Academy had given their prize in literature to Bob Dylan. The reason given was “for having created new poetic expressions within the great American song tradition”. I suppose it was gracious of them to give him this award while he was still alive. But my biggest question is, why now? The source that they were sighting was ‘Blonde on Blonde’, something that was released over 50 years ago?

Why did they wait so long to award this particular poet? There were strong enough contenders who have released works this year? Why not them?

His name had been tossed around for years, but never put into serious contention. He had already won a special citation from the Pulitzer Prize committee in 2008 for “his profound impact on popular music and American culture, marked by lyrical compositions of extraordinary poetic power.” In 2012, it was the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Maybe the time was right for another literary award? Maybe the time was right to pay proper homage to a man who has influenced generations of poets and songwriters?

The short of it was that Alfred Nobel was a little vague when it came to exact criteria to award writers for literature in his will. Double irony points because the committee notes that it was a poorly written will, and so the requirements are left open to interpretation. Maybe now was a good time to recognize the juggernaut that is the Bob Dylan library.

Not so you’d notice from those critical of the Nobel committee. Citing Karl Ritter from the Associated Press:

Others lamented a lost moment for books.

“An ill-conceived nostalgia award wrenched from the rancid prostates of senile, gibbering hippies,” wrote “Trainspotting” novelist Irvine Welsh. “I totally get the Nobel committee,” tweeted author Gary Shteyngart. “Reading books is hard.” The Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano said it was too bad that a “real” writer didn’t get the award.

The sting and the wailing and gnashing of teeth from purists and critics the moment Bob Dylan had the gall of picking up an electric guitar are still present today. It’s less the notion of ‘You can’t please everyone all the time’, and more like they awarded a fraud.

Personally, I’m happy that he won. Upon hearing the news, the first words out of my mouth were, “It’s about damn time”.

Who gives a rat’s ass if he ‘went electric’? Who cares if he isn’t the character you thought he was? A “real” writer? Apparently he’s never heard ‘Hurricane’ and not have his blood truly boil. Apparently he’s never dared to unpack the cryptic bombast of ‘Subterranean Homesick Blues’. Apparently, he’s never found solace in the cold comfort of ‘Shelter From the Storm.’

A “real” writer? Does a “real” writer to you have to be dead in order to be real in your opinion? A chi ha scritto questo articolo, credo che non si sa quello che uno scrittore “vero” è stato, se lui si avvicinò e si schiaffeggiato in faccia unta. So, go take your hipster ass somewhere else, because nobody gives a shit what you think a “real” writer is.

Pfft…critics….

Yes, Rock is usually not known for its poet laureates. But then again, there aren’t many Rock musicians who knew there was more to this music than verse/chorus/verse/chorus/bridge/verse/chorus. There aren’t that many Rock musicians (left) who knew that there’s more to this than how many albums you sold or how many appearances you made on television. There aren’t that many Rock musicians that know what the essence of Rock is.

Congratulations, Bob Dylan. It’s about damn time that they recognized your contributions to the world. Thank you for your words and your passion.

Thank you for inspiring me.

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Keep on Keepin’ on…

¹Possible exceptions are too many to list here…

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It’s Been A Pleasure…

It’s Been A Pleasure…
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Last rays of sunshine for a while over the Halifax River.

The last post was meant to be a throw away. A doodle. Something to post to let people know that I’m still tending the light over here and that things were going normally.

It took me three weeks to churn out over 3000 words. Three weeks for something that was essentially a warm-up piece. I have several other WIPs in progress, and the idea that every single one of them will get easier the more I do, and I want to get to them. Life and other distractions notwithstanding, I plan to keep going. Hopefully, the next one will be two weeks, then the next will be one. Things will always get in the way.

I want to keep going.

…Except… I might be experiencing a bit of a setback this week.

For the past few days, a strong and potentially deadly hurricane has been forming just south of Cuba. As of this post, it has chewed up the Bahamas, and is making a bee line to the Space Coast. By the time he arrives, he will be a Category 4 hurricane. By the time he arrives, he will be landing somewhere in Daytona Beach. Just down the street from me. The last time I experienced this, was in 2004 when Florida probably forgot to pay some karmic debt from a millenia ago, and Fate set Charley, Frances, Ivan and Jeanne loose with a couple of aluminium bats  to collect.

It felt like they were coming after me. They almost completely destroyed the town I was living in. It took over a year to fully recover. I moved further north since then. It still feels like they’re coming after me.

For a frame of reference as to how bad a Category 4 is, Hurricane Katrina was a Category 3 when she touched down.

Although everything else would be a cakewalk compared to 2004, I would be lying if I didn’t say I was more than a little nervous.

Matthew is a Category 4. Maximum sustained winds averaging 130 miles an hour. Rain flying at you at about the same speed as a bullet. Power lines supported by poles that haven’t been replaced or modified in years will eventually buckle and break through the winds that a strong enough to push a car down the street against its will. Power outages will be widespread, water and other resources will be scarce. Houses that come with a set of wheels are going to be the most at risk. Dead oak branches from ancient trees will take their revenge on any structure near them. Mayhem will ensue. Services will be slow to respond.

Matthew is a Category 4. Category Fours do not fuck around.

I am a little nervous.

But, we’re Floridians, right? With a capital ‘F’. This isn’t our first go-around. 2004 had an army of storms. This time, it’s only one. Just one. A couple of days of horrible and possibly deadly weather, and that’s it. Just strap in, pack up everything that isn’t nailed down, hunker down and wait.

…and if it suits you, pray.

It’ll be over soon.

So, just a note in case things go south around here. I just want to say thank you for all the follows and likes and comments. Thank you for the encouragement. Thank you for allowing me to open a new chapter in my life and run with it.

The skies have darkened, and tree branches of every shape and size that surround my house have started dancing. This is how it starts. The orchestra warming up.

I want to keep going. I want to keep writing. I want to keep doodling until I get it right. I just wanted to let you know that if this might be the last post I make…

…it’s been a pleasure.

 

Spare Me Your Thoughts & Prayers

Spare Me Your Thoughts & Prayers

Author’s Note:

Baton Rouge
Falcon Heights
Dallas
Too many places to count
Too many places to mourn.

I wrote this last year on my other blog. Then as now, I am tired of seeing innocents getting shot because of the color of their skin. I am tired of the injustice, and the wheels that grind so slowly and accomplish nothing. 

Yesterday, a black man was shot point blank by a cop for selling CDs from his car. Today, a black man is shot dead for following an officer’s order to show ID. Tonight, Dallas is on edge as a shooter takes out his prey from the shadows. 

This will not end. I fear that this will never end. I cannot sit by and watch this happen. I need to say something. The only thing I can do, the only thing that is in my power is to scream as loud and as often as I can in the form of a poem, framed in a blog post. 

How many more times do I have to keep posting this?

I’m tired. I need to go to bed so I can get up in the morning and write my little insignificant story. Hopefully, nobody kills each other tomorrow.

Thanks for reading…

 

There was a period of time back in the early 90s where the albums, “No More Cocoons”and

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Photo: Danielle Burma via Flickr

“Fear of a Black Planet” were in heavy rotation on my CD player. Both Jello Biafra and Chuck D were (are) prime examples of what first came to mind whenever I think of “Slam Poetry”.

At the time, it was new to me. The anarchic spitting of some of its finer authors who felt the constraints of society through verses that could barely contain their rage, let alone a classic structure, spoke to me that there was more to poetry than couplets and iambic pentameter. It signaled to me that poetry wasn’t just empty drivel in a greeting card. Poetry could love, be passionate, and rage in more ways than I thought possible.

Although I am a fan, I’m not a practitioner. What I would sweat for hours over a notebook page for was done so much better, and more effortlessly by my heroes.

Recently though, I’ve been feeling it.

I have committed to myself to write on a more regular basis these days. If I’m going to be an author, I need to practice every day. And even though I’d like to sequester myself from society so that I may accomplish my lofty, literary goals, it doesn’t seem feasible when there is a toddler that needs your attention.

So, I write when I can.

Sometimes, it’s real life that gets in the way. Sometimes, it’s my own fear and doubt. Other times, it’s what’s happening in the world, and the feeling of helplessness when you feel you can’t do anything about it.

For the record: Politically speaking, I lean to the left, although I am in closer alignment to the Green Party. What does that have to do with anything? Nothing.

These past few months have been building up to a personal crescendo for me when I see which way the wind is blowing in terms of social and fiscal accountability from our elected officials, our reasoning when it comes to choosing new elected officials and who is getting more exposure for the wrong reasons, and of course our endless obsession with violence.

I should watch more Netflix and less cable news. I should spend more time on Cheezburger than Twitter. I should focus more on making my kids happy.

Instead, I get sucked into it.

With apologies to Jello, Chuck, and everyone else who spits, slings, screams their own voice of revolution, here’s my release. And by release, I mean “release me from thinking about this so I can move on to other things…”

 

You seem confused when it comes
To protecting the ones
Who elected you to do so.
The streets are filled
With raised fists
And raised voices
Screaming and waiting for protection
And for you to follow through, so
You vilify and separate.
Intellectuals are Enemy of the State.
Brown skinned people on TV feed your hate.
Anything to justify using the gun you bought.
Everybody else’s Freedom is an afterthought.
Hundreds dead from the fear you wrought.
I can’t feel sorry about your sinking yacht,
When all you do is rearrange the chairs.
The bodies pile up, and all you give are thoughts and prayers.

Hey!
Who’ll clean up the oil spills?
“More guns!”
How ‘bout our health care?
“More guns!”
What about our homeless and hungry and disabled veterans?
“More guns!”
Not every issue can be solved
With guns blazing.
You forget that we’re all responsible
For the children that we’re raising.
Or, does it not matter anymore
Now that it’s not in the womb?
Children are a statistic
That are groomed to consume
All the crap that they see on TV
And then, BOOM!
Twenty dead kids are presented as fictional ruse?
Twenty dead kids is not a lie.
TWENTY DEAD KIDS IS NOT A LIE!
Unless the one who pulled the trigger was an “alien”,
All you get are lifeless stares.
Unless the kids that got shot
Are related to a Senator or a celebrity, no one cares.
We’ll tear down your school,
And put up a prison
That’s built on thoughts and prayers.

Okay,
Stop me if you heard this one.
A man walks into a church,
Kills everyone inside.
A man walks into a theater,
Kills everyone inside.
A man walks onto a campus,
Kills everyone in sight.
That’s alright
Cuz their white.
They get taken in alive.
Meanwhile a black kid gets gunned down for
Crossing the street.
The poor, the sick, the huddled masses,
Get turned out on their ear
Because they don’t meet
The Christian Criteria for our homegrown terror.
They are ones who should be feared.
Not us, we’re the good guys, remember?
They walk down stairs, alone and in pairs
and slaughter in the name of their god…

DAMN!

You won’t even acknowledge the blood on your hands
Because that’s not what your so-called holy leader demands
He commands you to make sure his empire
Expands and expands
Along with his profits and shares
At the expense of the lives of innocent kids
I could give a shit about your thoughts and prayers.
You say you see the problem
You say you know the solution
Arm the babies
Arm the teachers
Turn every neighborhood to a “Guns and Ammo” Theme Park
Because the problem isn’t us.
It’s never been us.
The problem is not that we’re poorly educated
Easily influenced, easily intimidated, easily manipulated
Overprivileged, trigger happy, flag waving, Bible thumping, diabetes prone,
Armchair Jeebus Freaks.
The problem is just over our border,
Over our heads
The danger of the unknown
The terror of the other.
It’s those brown people, black people, yellow people,
People who worship different gods, eat different foods,
Sing different songs.
You say you see the problem
You say you know the solution
And so its shut down our borders,
Lock up anyone who doesn’t look like you.
Sell more guns, spread your hate,
Shoot anyone who doesn’t worship your god
And deport the rest
Because, fuck ‘em, right? They’re never going to learn English anyway.
We don’t want to listen,
And we don’t want to learn.
It’s our fault that we can’t help ourselves, as far as you’re concerned.
It’s hard to have empathy
When your head’s up the ass of billionaires.
We need to protect us from ourselves.
Please.
Spare me your thoughts and prayers.

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©2015 The Writers Bloc/AA Payson

Pardon Our Dust…

Pardon Our Dust…

Okay, that’s it.

Time for a little house cleaning.01cbd-dsc00180

It’s been well over a year since I first set out to market myself a Freelancer. Having absolutely no idea how to go about doing that, I thought the best thing to do at the time was to cast the widest net possible and worry about the details later.

Before I set out on this entrepreneurial adventure, I was barely scraping by as an office drone. That is until one day, the entire department I was working for got liquidated. For those of you have never experienced getting laid off from a job while in your forties while being fully aware that your resumé looks less like a typical employment history moving in one direction, and more like Authur Murray guide for tap dancing in minefields (ancient reference, kids. Go ask your parents), in a nutshell, it kinda sucks. Blah blah blah, too old to start over again, blah blah blah, I’m so bored with revisiting this, moving on…

I had one blog already established over on Blogger. I made a companion site which is what you’re reading now. Then came three more blogs, a YouTube page and a t-shirt business.

It wasn’t until recently where I finally admitted to myself that I might have spread my endeavors a little too thin; A little too over ambitious in trying to prove to the world that I can do things on my own. Which I can. But, when things that were put in motion tend to suffer because they haven’t been attended to, it sends the wrong message, and looks bad.

Before the end of the year, the net that I have cast will become smaller. That’s a good thing. I’ll explain…

sum-up

My intention with making two blogs with the same title with the same content was to see if A) I could get more views, and B) which platform would be more visible. Turns out, it didn’t really work. The views I got here weren’t that great, but I chalked it up with being new to WordPress, and not because the quality of the content wasn’t engaging. So, there’s Issue One.

Issue Two has been addressed earlier this year in deleting a blog that, honestly, was going nowhere. In order to sell myself as a freelancer, I needed to build up a portfolio of published works. When all I have is a personal blog, and nothing professional, the most logical step would be to start a professional blog. It was also in my best interest, as someone starting out, to write about something that I’m an expert in. Well, since I’m not an “expert” in anything, I decided to start a blog that was about graphic novels; news, reviews, recommendations…it went nowhere, so, in the recycle bin it went.

6d38c-forestlogoforbloggerpageIssue Three has to do with my T-shirt business. I made Forest City Design Co. as a legitimate business venture. Both to show off my ability with online graphics programs, and also as way to generate income with as little capital as possible. The store itself is up and running online. It could use a little help as far as brand awareness, so a complementary blog was made to direct people to the store. Now, like the previous issue, this one is in contention to go bye-bye as well, but not permanently. This blog would do better as an actual virtual store, which would require me to put my big boy pants on, buy a domain name and construct a website with a shopping cart and stuff. This is going to be a bigger project, and will take a little while to focus on. I’ll leave it simmering on the back burner for now.

Issue Four isn’t that much of an issue at all. My YouTube channel and accompanying blog is what it is. Sure, it can be improved, but it’s fine for now.

So, there it is. I’ve hung out several shingles in several places, but the shelves are practically empty in most of them, and that needs to change. My need to sell myself as a freelance writer and content creator has been established, although a little more focus would have done me well. I intend, as I always have, to keep what I have running, and to provide the best content I can produce.

So, three out of four of my issues are easily dealt with, this leaves the issue with the sister blogs. What to do, what to do?

Now, it seems like such a shame to get all surgical up in this piece, and get rid of one. Not when there’s potential to be had at both. However, posting the same thing twice isn’t really doing me any favors. So, what then?

This is The Writers Bloc. When I started this blog years ago, my intention was to write and post interesting things, and invite other writers of interesting things to drop by and do what they do. It was a vision. It was also unrealistic. In the years that followed, the mission statement has changed occasionally, but the need to write never went away. Still though, trying to please everyone by presenting myself as versatile, hasn’t really worked. Writing well was never really an issue. Being consistent with a message was.

Earlier this year, I got the urge to write myself to published. Short Fiction, Long Fiction, Flash Fiction, I have a lot of ideas that need to be put into book form. Right now, I am tackling the first few chapters of my first book. It’s challenging, but it’s worth it. I would like a platform where I can stretch my legs. Somewhere where I can offer previews of chapters for current projects, as well as using it as a repository for Flash Fiction.

But, I also need a place where I can engage in other ways like, dispense advice (such as it is), answer questions, crank out a top 10 list. You know, freelancing stuff.

So instead of doing everything on one platform, and publishing on another, I have come up with another way. As of this post, my WordPress site will be where I put all my fiction, and my Blogger site is where I’ll publish everything else.

This makes the most sense to me. I like it when things are tidied up and orderly.

Still though, there is an issue of a name change. I can’t realistically keep two blogs with the same title. It’s just too confusing.

I really don’t want to have this conversation in the future: “Did you check out my latest story? I posted it on my blog. No, not that one, the other one…”

So, a new name is needed. Not sure what it will be.

Something to ponder over the weekend.

Thank you for your support.

Swinging From The Left or What I Did Over The Weekend (WARNING! Contains Mini-Rant)

Swinging From The Left or What I Did Over The Weekend (WARNING! Contains Mini-Rant)

To every expert and pundit who said that no one would show up.

To every television talking head spinning a web of apathy.

To every 1% Puppet thinking that they can just buy their way into power.

To every person who anchors themselves to their couch thinking that they won’t matter.

To Big Oil

To Big Pharm

To Big Agro

To GMO, HGH, and to everyone convinced that ACA won’t work.

To every corporation who claims that a raise in wages will kill their business, while at the same time, making sure their workers stay below the poverty line.

To all the suits who think that a pipeline bisecting our country is still a good idea, while changing the subject when asked how this will benefit us.

“Jobs!” they say.

“What jobs?” we reply.

To the Powers That Be who can’t find it within their budget to fund a public school, yet find enough scratch for more prisons.

To every Congressman who couldn’t get off their ass and get some work done.

…guess what I did this weekend?

Motivation Monday: The Dog Ate My Homework Edition

I’m up! I’mupI’mupI’mup…I’m awake…
Where is everyone…?

Where am I…?

Crap…missed it again…

Okay, the last thing I remember, it was Monday and I thought it would be a really cool idea to make a nice graphic in honor of National Coffee Day.

“National Coffee Day? What madness is this?” I ask to myself as I wake up and turn on my computer and listen to the news. It was the lead story on every news outlet. It was almost as if there was nothing else happening in the world. No war, just coffee, and the day attached to it. No political unrest in Hong Kong, no shake up at the Secret Service. Just…coffee. Coffee as far as the eye can see.

I started my day as usual, with a bowl of cereal and a pot of coffee. A few hours later, I decided to celebrate some more by making another pot, because this design wasn’t going to make itself. I sat down at the computer with my fifth cup of the day.

And then all went black soon after…

I awoke several hours later. The general early 70s ambiance of my house was so rotten, so incredibly foul. What had happened? There was evidence in this room of excessive consumption of almost every
type of drug known to civilized man since 1544 AD. What kind of addict
would need all these coconut husks and crushed honeydew rinds? And why was my son duct taped to the ceiling? Too savage…too agressive…

Jesus…did I just say that?

I finally came down the next day with no project, no idea where to start, and a huge goddamned electric bill…

Sorry, just riffing.

My days are all mixed up and I’m not sure if I can stick to a regular schedule. But we must prevail.

Moving on…

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Image:

 

Whatever I Want Wednesdays: Where Is Fancy Bred? (Caution: Rant in Progress)

Okay, to be honest… I thought it was “bread”. I always thought that Benvolio was looking for a specific baker that made this particular loaf of Pumpernickel. Which was rather odd because he was gambling for his life at the moment. Maybe picking the right casket made him…hungry…what was I talking about?

Anyway, this quote:

“…Where is fancy bred? In the heart, or in the head?”

-William Shakespeare (Merchant of Venice)
Forget for a moment that this quote is more noted for being in a certain movie, this question basically asks: “How should we love? Passionately, or wisely?” Implying, of course, that never the twain shall meet. As with many things attributed to the bard, this quote could easily be applied as a life lesson for many things other than amorous crushes. Would it be too far removed to ask, “How should we live?”

I never gave too much credence to any so-called “Self-Help Gurus”, or “Life Coaches”. Perhaps it was the jaded nature of my generation that casts a wary eye to these individuals. Our childhood dominated by experiencing the Vietnam War on a nightly basis, the ripple effect left by Watergate, and the seeds of the Cold War being planted and cultivated may have also formed our mindset. I remember being herded into our high school gymnasium on a yearly basis to be screamed at wowed by these “Motivational Speakers”with their big hair, loud Cosby Sweaters and go-get ’em attitude telling us to be MOTIVATED!!….apparently for the sake of being….MOTIVATED because your typical high school teacher had no idea how teach it themselves and had to get someone else to do it. Someone else that was hired by…I don’t know…let’s say Texas school text book publishers. Someone who thought that getting some dude in his forties would be the perfect candidate to communicate with the kids, because they’re cool and rad too! THEY know how to reach the kids! THEY know what they want…because we tell them to like what they want…Look! He’s singing along with a Foreigner song! He MUST be one of us! He’s so relatable! I mean, forget that its a band made up of old dudes and the only people listening to them are your crazy uncle who blares it from his 8-track in his customized van, forget that a kids in the 80s (the cooler kids) are more inclined to listen to Van Halen than to a band that came out 10 years before we got old enough to appreciate it!….I wish MTV would hurry up and get here…but YEAH! He’s rockin’ out and telling us to be good little subservients! And he’s got concert lighting and smoke machines! I wish he were MY friend.

If the iPad was invented thirty years earlier, I guarantee you every face would be pointed towards the floor as every student Tweeted about how much of a poser this guy was. We didn’t have that back then. All we could do was give him the blank stare and fidget in our seat and wait for the lunch bell. For some, the result of having to sit through this painful ordeal had a positive effect and made (somewhat) of an impact that lasted a day or so. For the rest of us, we regarded it is bullshit window dressing designed to waste time before some of us went to vocational school. The people in the office buildings would say that their efforts paid off. The kids that it was directed it had a different opinion.

The 80s kids never listened to this, because we failed to see the point in it. We failed to see the point in it, because we felt we were being talked down to, and dressing it up in loud clothing and putting a cocaine induced smile on its face wasn’t making it any better. For all our trappings and our ambivalence, we failed to see the point in it, because your message still wasn’t reaching us, and we’re not that stupid.

But, no matter. We leapfrogged from the days of Leo Buscaglia and Deepak Chopra, and graduated to Tony

Robbins and motivational posters when we entered adulthood. Soon, the backlash happened. We figured out that we could buy our own platitudes for encouragement. We figured if we were at the point of needing help, and were motivated enough to go to the bookstore to by motivational poster or a self-help book by some New York Times Bestseller…then we are pretty much motivated to do…well…anything.

Soon, the Motivational Speaker craze gave way to a different animal. Soon, the Cosby Sweaters were replaced by slick, 80s throwbacks with their supposedly expensive suits, sitting on their Lamborghini that’s parked outside of their palatial mansion and telling the late night television viewing audience that they have the secret to success as bikini-clad models drape over their arms. These men have claimed to make it big in real estate and flipping houses, or knowing the right algorithms of the stock market, or some other far-fetched scheme, and they could give their knowledge to you…that’s right…YOU! All you have to do is sacrifice your entire weekend, write out a check for $1500 while you let this guy scream at you to buy his book while you fidget in your seat at the convention center while you check the clock and patiently wait for the time when you can go to the bathroom.

Where is fancy bred?

We are not that stupid. We failed to see the point of it because what you were selling has fallen on deaf ears and empty wallets…

 

Can you personally build a better business system than McDonald’s?

No, Mr. Kiyosaki, I can’t. But, I suppose you could distill the essence of attaining an MBA into one weekend retreat? Oh…also, thanks a bunch  for trying to make me regret not getting accepted into Harvard where I may have had a chance to build a better business system were my proclivities drawn to such a direction. Not all of us are so lucky. Not all of us are successful. Not all of us can afford to buy and sell real estate to flip for a profit. If we could afford it, then we wouldn’t plunk down hard earned cash to listen to you drone on for days.

I don’t mean to pick on the guy, but I don’t get the people who try to hammer his point home either. As if I needed any help in understanding a principle.

Well, that’s just it. Isn’t it? We have to redefine what “quality” means. When it comes to McDonald’s churning out a quality product, McDonald’s is way down on that list. Consumer Reports had them practically at the bottom. But since the individual experience doesn’t matter, and we’re talking a macro level model, then yes, you’ve got me that McDonald’s metrics on cranking out the same “quality” food on a consistent basis. I mean, they employ such winning tactics as that whole “Pink Slurry” thing as well as exploiting their workers to maximize profits, I think the question should not be “can I build a better system”, but rather should be, “can I build a better system that I can in good conscious live with myself after implementing?”

But, just for a moment, consider that all the consistency in the world isn’t going to do you much good where you’re churning out crap. Saying that, “McDonald’s customers aren’t really expecting that much” is saying something to the effect of: “…where the common customer had a choice from the dollar menu or consuming a shovel full of dirt with cheese on it, the customer will almost always pick the dollar menu…” It’s like they considered the shovel full of dirt. Does anyone else see this? Implying that McDonald’s is the only kid on the block is also pretty ludicrous. Sure, the field is a little smaller as of late as Burger King flies the coop to Canada, but they’re on the same level of crap slinging as its rival is. If an American institution pulling up stakes to head north to avoid paying taxes like a draft dodger trying to avoid the Vietnam War isn’t enough to get you to stop patronizing these places, maybe waking up one day and realizing that much closer to diabetes every time you eat there will? Maybe? No? Oh…okay….Oh LOOK! The McRib is back!!!

“Take a number? Yeah, sure. No problem.”

The Big Two of McDonald’s and Burger King aren’t the only kids on the block. Quality may not enter in the equation now. You may not see it now. But what about the long term? If these guys are placing at the bottom of the list as far as customer satisfaction goes, pretty soon that little nugget of infomation will catch up to them. 5 Guys, In-and-Out, Fatburger, White Castle, all consistently crank out an infinitely better product, and their business isn’t hurting either. Are they using the same model as McDonald’s? Their product is more expensive, and yet there’s a line out the door at my local 5 Guys and nobody seems to mind, myself included. The lines are quick at any one of the dozens of Mickey-D’s in my town, and I see red every time I order a burger that has been obviously been microwaved. Is that a better business system? Is that something I should try and emulate?

I guess what’s really getting to me is that people still confuse quality over quantity. Success isn’t necessarily a numbers game. Yes, there is about 10 McDonald’s and Burger “Great White North” Kings to every one 5Guys, but that doesn’t mean that those restaurants are any better. It just means that people don’t know any better. And don’t give me that whole, “well, it’s cheaper” argument. That’s another discussion for another time. Cheaper doesn’t mean better either, it just means people can’t afford to take a chance on anything else, and we suffer for it.

Personally, I could care less. I can’t stomach fast food anymore, but that’s not the point. What’s really getting to me is that most people will always go for the dollar menu and not be bothered to take a chance on anything of sustenance, like cooking something for themselves that doesn’t involve a microwave, or reading a blog that doesn’t have a list on it.

Where is fancy bred?

It will always be the heart. But I’m trying really hard to feel it from the head.