Category Archives: Soapbox

Anything that gets my heart pounding and passions soaring.

Social Media Stage Fright

I don’t get stage fright. Not usually. If I’m standing in front of a group of strangers to give some information about a service they could use or learn from (an occasional side function of my job in education), I typically turn off the part of my brain that cares what they think about me and just deliver them the info I came to deliver. Unless I’m coughing up a storm while my zipper is down, two things I tend to get under control prior to arrival at my speaking destination, usually, I don’t worry about how I’m received. The audience either cares or it doesn’t. Doesn’t affect me either way.

Yet, the reverse seems to be true about my online presence. It’s usually more appropriate to answer questions in an unbuttoned pair of jeans (especially after a big lunch or dinner) online than it is in front of a live crowd, depending on the topic, I suppose, but the words I deliver online last much, much longer than what I deliver in person, and that can be scary when the words or information matters. In front of real people in real time, most of my audience will remember less than 10% of what I say, and if they remember me at all, they’ll likely remember me as “some guy who came to my classroom to tell me about grammar or something.” I’m not threatened by that. But, when I send a message on Facebook or a tweet on Twitter, suddenly my words are permanent and have scrutiny appeal.

Frightening!

It’s a strange paradox to be sure. We all talk about how social media can mask our identities when necessary, giving room for transparency in our thoughts, especially if our name is “Anonymous” or “Some Dude,” and suddenly we’re titanium. We see it as license to spout off all sorts of nonsense because who’s going to associate it with our faces if they can’t see them? In fact, I find it especially paradoxical in the dating world (something I gave up on a long time ago), where approaching strangers for the intention of getting a date is somehow easier through a comment on a profile page and a follow-up wink (or maybe it’s vice versa—I’ve never been great at the dating thing) than it is in real life where the person of interest has to watch me stumble out the words she may never take seriously face-to-face. It’s strange how these same vehicles of delivery can suddenly flip the perception I have of people and vice-versa, depending on the topic. But masking identity isn’t always useful. In person, my audience gets to see my face. In personal relationships, that should be a perk. Hopefully. But online, what I look like doesn’t matter. What I say does, and now they have the option to not only hear my words, but to remember them. In person, I have the freedom to flub my statements. Online, I better get it right, and I better get it right the first time because they can go back and check, check, and check again, and they can fault me if they see the mistakes or inconsistencies in thought, or whatever. As a writer, it’s embarrassing if I mess that up, especially if what I say is in of itself embarrassing (or simply unimportant). Online, I have plenty of places and opportunities in which that embarrassing thing can surface.

So, social media suddenly becomes a scary thing because that Facebook post about what I had for dinner isn’t just a Facebook post anymore. It’s an admission of guilt (even though I might see it as an attempt to engage an audience). Sure, I had a salad tonight. But I also had baked fish and mashed potatoes. And a sweet roll! To anyone who thinks I should be on a diet, I may have just incriminated myself. Sweet rolls have melted sugar on top, and that’s not healthy! How dare you promote bad health? And what of Twitter and its hashtags (also not healthy)? Is it possible for anyone to use Twitter without stirring up a string of controversies? Even with 27 followers and most of them being marketing robots, the risks of shooting myself in the foot are present if not inevitable. If I confess I had a sweet roll to a live crowd, they can at least watch me wink in jest as I deliver the truth. “Yeah, I had a sweet roll last night, and how sweet it was,” I say, as I pat my belly and gesture at how much of it is now sugar. (Note: What I eat for dinner isn’t actually anyone’s business.) Online, they may not even read that far.

As a writer, I’m told I need to master social media if I want to get followers. Okay. It’s also suggested that I post regularly to Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, LinkedIn, Google+, MySpace, Hotmail, AOL, AOL Instant Messenger, Reddit, AltaVista, Match.com, Yahoo, Wazoo, Kazoo, and other things I’m probably just making up now, oh, and my blog!, and it’s too much to keep up with, yet posting builds an audience of readers, and I want to be read, right??? And everything I say must be timely, yet accurate, and interesting, yet short, and if I mess it up, I’ll lose the people, but don’t worry about that because even with ten different ways to shoot myself in the head, I only have to do it once to lose them, so don’t worry about it and just enjoy the process, as even players of Russian Roulette can be successful at times!

I’m tired, and that’s just from writing the names of these platforms.

As I read about new platforms I can use to expand my readership, something I’m desperate for, as getting readers is the hardest part of the writing process, and I’d probably have an easier time running for public office based on the experience I’ve had doing this (getting a date is still tougher for some reason, though I have no idea why, as I’m smart, handsome, idea-driven, rich—no, the opposite of that, sorry—funny…okay, this post isn’t about that), I suddenly feel intimidated all over again because here’s one more service I should sign up for to give my readers even more options for staying connected with me, even though they have enough information overload from everybody else who wants their attention, and the only way any of this matters is if they really, really want to hear from me. If the students I speak to are of any barometer, I’d think even those who need to hear from me probably don’t want to hear from me. They’re probably too busy thinking about their Facebook posts, and Instagram photos, and whether anyone will like them to worry about liking me.

So, what can I say to convince them to listen? I suppose the keyword is “free money.” But, I don’t know. Social media already seems to fit that bill. If everything is free, then nothing is valuable. Including time. I value my time. And, I value my words.

To be clear, I don’t actually mind social media. I see it as a great way to find out where people I used to hang out with ten years ago are vacationing. I’m not there with them, but I can feel like I’m there with them. It’s almost as good, right? At some point, though, I want new things to talk about, and I can’t vacation every weekend or devote hours of every day sending out social media alerts to the few people who might see it to feel some kind of connection to them. At some point, it’s time to meet face to face again. Real relationships are frightening, too, but they’re real, and they feel real. That adds to their value.

The fact is, I read all the time about how important value is to people, and it’s almost scary how much that’s true. I’m not sure how valuable social media really is. My words are permanent, but are they being read? Here’s a picture of a moose you can look at while you contemplate the answer to that question.

bull-386742_1280.jpg

If you’ve read this far and want to keep reading this far, please remember to hit the “follow” button down there at the bottom of this page. And, don’t forget to leave a comment if you’d be so kind. It’ll stay online forever!

Cover image: Pixabay

Advertisements

On Tragedies

In Matthew 22:36-40, when Jesus reiterates that the greatest commandments are to “love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind,” and to “love thy neighbor as thyself,” I’m beginning to think his words are less of a lesson for the good way in which to live and more of a warning about how to protect ourselves from evil, present and future, and ultimately to prevent evil from metastasizing in man in the first place.

Let me explain.

On Sunday morning, when I woke up, I decided to take advantage of the “fall back” rollback of the clock and sleep in an extra few hours. I finally got up about 11:30, made breakfast, showered, and, seeing as how it was too late to go to church, watched half a video on YouTube, then played a computer game I bought years ago but only just now installed called Railroad Tycoon 2, and did so until about 3:30 when I realized my train stations were costing me more to operate than they were paying me, and my company was basically going bankrupt, and to continue the same game was ludicrous. Once I felt like I’d had a sufficient day of rest and turned off the game, I went into the living room, checked out what was on television, and then my heart sank.

Another mass shooting. This time in Texas. This time in a church. This time with a casualty and injury rate at near 100%.

I just stood there thinking, “I can’t take this anymore.”

Never mind that this tragedy hits close to home for many, many churchgoing people, including myself (when I go), or that once again we’re talking about a soft target, or a group of Christians, or what-have-you that’s cause for us to collectively shake our heads and cry. Sunday’s tragedy speaks to a scary reality we face today, in that nothing is sacred anymore.

My mom was telling me earlier that when she was a kid, my grandmother would go into the church and pray at any hour of the day or night because the church was always open because there was no reason to ever lock it, and if someone wanted to go in and pray in the middle of the night, they could. Now we have a lady in the Sutherland Springs, Texas area explaining that until Sunday morning, November 5, 2017, her community was just as safe, so much so that she could leave her keys in the car without worry of someone taking it, except now they’re dealing with the reality that evil can strike anywhere in any way, and that no one is truly safe anymore, and that keeping one’s keys in a car without worry doesn’t mean that he or she is exempt from the horrors that seem to bleed in through all cracks in our modern society, which include mass murder that can physically destroy 8% of a town’s population and emotionally destroy the rest of it.

As of this writing, I don’t know why the gunman did this sick thing, nor do I know just how far this story will go from here. We still have Las Vegas fresh in our minds, as well as the attack on pedestrians in New York (where the assailant rented a Home Depot truck and used it to run people over). My guess is that we’ll have Big Media and Congress running through their usual talking points about gun violence, gun laws, and all of those other dead end channels that seem to always saturate the discussion without coming up with a solution that would actually work, and that a week from now, no one who has a say in what comes next will do anything that will actually prevent this problematic weed from sprouting up elsewhere. That’s how it’s been since Columbine, and here we are, yet again: same talking points, same lack of stopping it from happening again, same collective breath held for a change, and the hope that this is the last one.

I’m sad, not just about the tragedy, but about the fact that no one seems to get it anymore that the problem isn’t guns, rented trucks, or even rhetoric. I’m not even sure if the problem is entirely based on mental illness or flawed ideology. I think much of the problem today is with evil itself, and evil exists where love is absent. Tell me I’m wrong.

Actually, I think there are two sources of evil—well, one source, but because we live in an “intellectual,” “civilized” or “free-thinking” society, I’ll refrain from pointing the blame squarely at the devil, even though that’s the only true source of evil, and the one that we’re foolish to ignore time and again, but there are two subsources we can actively combat, and by proxy combat the original source that most people today don’t want to acknowledge for whatever reason, even though that source is real and scheming against humankind—and they are selfishness and lies. Both fail to show love for other human beings, and both leave us wide open to carry out destructive tendencies when given permission to fester.

I don’t know the story yet about this new shooter, nor do I know the story about the shooter in Las Vegas. I don’t know what drove them to want to commit mass murder, but I’m willing to guess that they were either lied to by someone they trusted and they let that lie grow, or they lived a life without knowing real love, and filled that empty space with hate because if love is absent, then hate has more room to grow in its place.

When Jesus told us to love our neighbors as we do ourselves, I think He was warning us how to prevent violence from overtaking our world. Perhaps not ironically, it was hate and jealousy that put Him on the cross, so it’s not just a product of our time, but a product of our human nature to move to violence if we don’t have love in our hearts or understand the good things that we want to destroy.

Likewise, if we love our God with all of our hearts, and with all of our souls, and with all of our minds, then we’ll unlikely want to break His other laws, including the one that says, “Thou shall not commit murder.”

That’s my thought today. This should all sound obvious, but the fact that we’re still poisoning the world with hate and with actions taken in hate is proof that we still don’t get it, and we need to start figuring out how to better implement methods of exercising love for one another, even if we don’t always like one another. Is that easy? No. Is it necessary? Of course.

So, before we turn this conversation back to gun violence, can we at least address the problem of the absence of love for each other first? Not trying to be a hippie here. I just think among these other issues we’ve let our isolation from each other (thanks, cellphone!) bring out the worst in us far too often these days, and we need to address that.

I have more to say about this topic from the perspective of a writer, but I wanted to address the core issue first, which is that we, as a people, need God’s help again, not political intellect or talking points, and that we’d be foolish not to seek it.

Love your God. Love your neighbor. Love yourself. If we all do these three things, we’ll see a change in our world for the better. That’s what I often think about each time somebody does the opposite of these things, opposite like what one person did on Sunday morning in Sutherland Springs, Texas to more than 20 churchgoers, including babies.

Cover image by Pixabay

Photobucket Apocalypse: What I Learned about Taking Things for Granted

Writing is my core creative outlet, but it’s not my only creative outlet. Even though I don’t advertise it much on this blog, I also have a side hobby in making computer games. In particular, I have a business adventure I’ve been working on (read: picking at) since May 2009, called Entrepreneur: The Beginning, about a recent high school graduate who must defend his honor against the preppy jock who stole his girlfriend by engaging in a cutthroat game of business. The year is 1985, time travelers from the future have recently entered the town of Hybrid City, and our teenage protagonist, Buck Star, must leverage their need for coffee (and other products eventually) to launch an empire and earn enough money in 60 days to win his bet against Chet Armstrong, and maybe get the girl back? Or, maybe just find himself a new girlfriend? It’s up to the player really.

Here’s a recent screenshot:

coffee10192

Well, I keep a blog about this game over on Slime Salad, a forum for indie game-making, in a thread called “Entrepreneur Central,” and in this blog I post news about progress, screenshots, and videos of new mechanics I want to show off. It’s pretty high-tech. (Not really.) For years I’ve been updating this blog, and for years I’ve been using a nifty little website called Photobucket to host my screenshots, as Slime Salad, for years, had no self-hosting of images, and only recently began allowing for a terribly formatted version of self-hosted images.

Basically, I liked that Photobucket could cast true-to-size images in context to the text about the features each image portrays, and do so with the simple copying and pasting of an image link. It’s quite beautiful.

I’ve been using Photobucket in this way for years, showing off numerous promotional type screenshots of Entrepreneur: The Beginning, a few of my other games-in-progress, my book covers, and on rare occasions, images of something that went wrong in the game (or engine it’s built on) to troubleshoot the problem. I’ve got maybe a couple hundred of images posted on these forums, all in forums I’ve since forgotten about, but are still easily accessible by anyone looking for information.

Because I’ve been using this free service for years to keep my “fans” in the know without issue, you can imagine my surprise when in early July I got an email from Photobucket stating that I’m in violation of their third-party hosting terms.

I thought, what?

I didn’t explore it any deeper. I figured it was a mistake, and I went on about my day. I got no further notice from Photobucket.

Fast-forward to late July, when I return to “Entrepreneur Central” to play catchup on announcements I’ve made in the last year, and discover that all of my beautiful screenshots advertising the game and its newest features have been converted to this:

photobucket apocalypse

I thought, what? So, I signed on to Photobucket to see what in the world they’re on about, and discovered that their free hosting service is still free (with the usual upgrade packages for unnecessary inflation of storage space that I’ll never need), but their third-party hosting rules have changed so that you not only have to pay for it now, but you have to buy their most expensive package to use it.

I shook my head. They now want me to pay $40 a month or $400 a year to display the images I’ve already posted in various forums around the web. These places get little traffic, and “Entrepreneur Central” gets hardly anything, and bandwidth problems are not a factor with my photos. Yet, I’m now supposed to pay money I don’t have to keep my photos on display, something I’ve done for free without any problems for years.

Screw that. I’ll sign on with Imgur, or just use the forum’s crappy image self-hosting feature instead. I’m just irritated that I now have to figure out which images I’ve used for those screenshots (I can’t see them anymore, after all), which threads and forums I’ve posted images to, locate them on my hard drive, and reupload them to a new hosting site and relink them in those same threads I’ve posted tens or hundreds of photos to.

It’s a time-sink, and I’m demotivated by it, and I’m tempted just to scrap the whole idea and leave those shell images in place.

I write this story to prove a point. In my travels through marketing lessons, I’ve learned one core message above all others: Don’t put all of your trust into a single corporation to handle your advertising or marketing needs (or, for that matter, your social needs). Amazon and Facebook might handle the brunt of your sales traffic or existing clientele, and their advertising services may work beautifully in automation today. But all the experts say not to trust any of these companies to feed you forever, and you should always have a backup system in place in case the algorithms, plans, or procedures change and your financial (or social) well dries up.

I think the Photobucket Apocalypse is proof of that.

We can put our faith in God in all things, but for everything and everyone else, they have limited reach and unpredictable behavior. It’s best to have side roads in place on your path to success if you’re trying to make a name or presence for yourself.

I think it’s safe to say this applies to all elements of life. You know that job you have that you love? If someone else is in charge of it, you probably don’t want to get too attached to it. If you want to continue to sell things to people, have a backup mailing list that you control. How’s your love life? Have you taken it for granted yet? These things should be obvious, but all the heartbreak in the world proves we’re still trusting in too many things, people, and corporations that don’t deserve our trust.

Don’t take anything you have for granted. Treat it all like it’s a gift. You don’t know when you’ll lose it. Even if that sounds like a cliché, remember that clichés are born from perpetual truth. You can’t make a cliché out of something that has low relevance. Don’t take anything you have for granted. Even Photobucket might turn on you eventually and screw up your entire system without warning you first that it’s about to hold your images for ransom.

Please be sure to subscribe to Drinking Café Latte at 1pm to receive alerts when new posts go live. The handy blue subscription button is located at the bottom of this page.

Friday Update #6: The Branding Betrayal and Other Briefs

I haven’t posted to the Friday Updates in a couple of weeks, mainly because I haven’t had much to say since my last post, but also because I’ve had other commitments and time got away from me. More on that later.

In Support of Branding

I wanted to kick off this post with a slight nitpick. As some of you may know (if you know me personally), I’m a fan of movies. I enjoy a good movie as much if not more than a good book. I enjoy them for the stories, sure, but I especially enjoy them for the experience they provide. And I’m especially a fan of movie franchises, as I can continue to reenter the worlds of my favorite characters and experience something new while hanging on the edge of my seat to the exploits of people old (but not necessarily those of old people, except for maybe Clint Eastwood, and only if he does another Dirty Harry, which I guess would be hard to watch nowadays given that he’s the same age as my grandmother, who just recently passed away—more on that later).

However, one of the things I depend on in my movie experiences is continuity, and that’s especially true of those that actually continue into sequels and more sequels. Franchises like James Bond can get away with actor changes because there are so many of them that eventually the actors will get too old to play the part, like Sean Connery, who’s the same age as my grandmother, who just recently passed away—still, more on that later). The only thing we really must have in a James Bond movie consistently is the tracking gun barrel sequence at the start of each movie, and the opening credits sequence with the dramatic song and the nearly naked women superimposing the movie’s weapon of choice. There are story points that must be addressed, too, but those are related more to the genre than to the franchise itself. At any rate, James Bond has a specific brand we expect each film to adopt, and those are the things we expect—oh, and of course the James Bond theme song by Monty Norman. Other movie franchises like Mission: Impossible also have an expected brand, with the lit fuse marching toward an explosion and the classic theme by Lalo Schifrin (I almost mixed the two composers up—I’ve watched these franchises so many times that they sometimes run together on details like that). It’s also well-known for its anti-brand of style by changing directors and storylines so much that each movie barely resembles the one before it, and really only has Tom Cruise and the opening fuse to bind all five together. Weirdly, this works out great for that series.

If you’re paying attention, then you’ve noticed that I’ve addressed two of the top three blockbuster spy movie franchises currently running. The third franchise, the Bourne series, also has a brand, with each film taking the exact title from the book that corresponds with its entry number (The Bourne Identity is the name of the first book and movie, The Bourne Supremacy the second, and so on through The Bourne Legacy, which changes the lead character but stays firmly in the established cinematic universe), and this keeps them all in the same family.

Or, at least this is true of the first four films.

Now, I just saw the latest Bourne film, Jason Bourne, on Wednesday, and even though I enjoyed it, there are a few things about it that annoyed me. And it all has to do with its branding.

Movies like this remind me why branding in a series is so important. On the outside, novels in a series establish brands by having similar covers and similar fonts from one installment to the next. Their internal content can also establish brands, with recurring themes and recurring popular characters populating them. But they also form brands by the titles they use. Novels do this. Movies do this. Even the names of television episodes (something many audiences will never even see) do this. The show Scrubs, for example, would title each episode as “My [Something].” That puts every episode into a family. My favorite show, Community, would title each episode after a fake and ridiculous course title (“Advanced Complaining,” for example, was never a Community title, but it could’ve been because each episode was titled something like that). I think branding among titles is a good idea, but keeping a continuity among titles to establish that brand is vital if the series has three or more installments and the first two are of the same style.

Before I saw Jason Bourne, I watched the Honest Trailer for the original Bourne film trilogy, and I think it does a fine job highlighting many of the trilogy’s repeat items, enough for me to recognize them when I see them in new installments. I must also say that plenty of elements within the newest movie match those of the older films (the use of the word asset, for example) quite faithfully. And I was pleased to see that the end title song, “Extreme Ways” by Moby, makes its fifth appearance in the series, over the usual hi-tech background graphic where the credits flash, with its expected differences in style from its previous incarnations. And, of course, the story is basically the same as it is in the first four movies. Even though it brings nothing new, it’s still most everything I expect from a Bourne film. Well, almost everything.

Going back to the title, there are two expectations that people like me will have whenever a new entry into the series is released: 1. The title will be The Bourne [Something]. This is how it’s lain out in the previous four films. It’s how the fifth movie should’ve been presented. It’s what we expect when we set up our DVDs and Blu-rays beside each other on the franchises shelf. 2. The title should coincide with the book that matches its installment number. In this case, the fifth book is called The Bourne Betrayal, so the movie should’ve been called The Bourne Betrayal. Even its IMDB entry mentions this inconsistency in the trivia section. What’s worse is that the movie’s plot actually supports this title.

So why change the name? I don’t know. I suspect that the studio dipped its hand where it shouldn’t have, as it often does, and decided that it would make more money or be more appealing to feature the main character’s name instead of what audiences actually expect. I mean, it worked for Jack Reacher, right?

Here’s the thing. The movie is the same regardless of what title it’s given. My complaint is about as OCD and nit-picky as OCD and nit-picky get. But I also think this inconsistency is as annoying as snot. Just give it the expected title. As long as it has the name Bourne in the title, we’ll know it belongs to that franchise. The title change has single-handedly taken a franchise I love and made it into something I love a little less. It just feels like a detached entry now. Being that it takes place 12 years after the previous three just isolates it even more.

Now, if the next Bourne movie is called Jason Bourne 6, and not The Bourne Sanction (the sixth book’s title, and the sixth title to maintain consistency), then I’ll have to stop caring what decisions the studio makes for this franchise. Seeing as how they aren’t changing the formula a lick from movie to movie, either, I’m guessing the series has had its heyday and is ready to take another long nap. I don’t know. Makes me sad, though. This really was one of my favorites for the longest time.

For those of you who write series books or make series movies, please stick to your established brands. Changing them by even the slightest angles derails the momentum you’ve created. Don’t do it. Change the stories instead. That’s what we care about being new.

Other Non-Writing Things

So, I missed last week’s post because I was distracted. We had my grandmother’s memorial the following day, and I was mentally checked out from doing anything creative or informative in the hours leading up to it. I was also exhausted from two straight days of walking several miles on the soggy beach during the hottest time of the day, so I ended up sleeping through most of it. So, sorry if you were expecting news. But I really didn’t have any.

The week before, I was supporting a friend at a cocktail party on the 29th floor of a beachfront condo about an hour from where I live. I was tired when I got home. Plus, I didn’t have any news. I did have fun though. I don’t get invited to cocktail parties like that too often.

Smashwords Sale

For those of you who might’ve been interested in buying my e-books during the Smashwords sale, the sale is over, and everything is back to full price. But, you can still find coupons for discounts and freebies in the Promotions sections in the header, so don’t worry about it. Thanks to those of you who bought something, or will buy something.

(I just noticed that most of the existing coupons are expired or soon to expire. I’ll generate a new batch at some point soon. Keep checking back.)

And that’s it for this week. I’ve spent the last few days working on my computer game, Entrepreneur: The Beginning, and I’ve been reading a lot on the Story Grid website, catching up my knowledge on how to edit, so I haven’t been writing much lately. I will soon, though. Don’t worry. I did write a poem called “My Fading Silence” a couple of nights ago, however. You can read it in my previous post. I don’t write poetry often, so it’s a rare treat.

Oh, and I’ve officially cancelled my preorders for Teenage American Dream, Sweat of the Nomad, and Zipwood Studios until further notice. I will be reinstating them at some point, but not before I get an email list together or something substantial toward their development. I also need to figure out if I want to release their original short story versions under their existing titles and their novel versions under new titles. Check back here often for new information.

SMH = Shake My Head

September 11, 2014:

A couple of weeks ago I was visiting a college campus building devoted to business classes, when I noticed a flier on the wall that featured a still of Leonardo DiCaprio as Jordan Belfort from the movie, The Wolf of Wall Street, staring back at me. In the photo DiCaprio was holding a note of tender in his hand (I forget the denomination, but I doubt it was a George Washington) and a big smile on his face. Under the image was a quote from the movie about how there are hundreds of millions of dollars out there ready for the taking and only a few who are willing to go out and take it. Under the quote was an invitation to join the sponsor’s business group or seminar to learn how to become successful in business. It was clear that only “serious business-minded people should apply.” It followed with contact information and the frills that photocopied fliers made from movie screen-captures and a quick text-plaster on Microsoft Word would usually offer the casual life-improvement seeker who happens to discover it.

I don’t know if I even need to go through the trouble of explaining how stupid this is, but I will anyway:

1. Promoting your business through a movie reference says nothing about what you’re actually trying to accomplish. If anything, it will portray the exact message you don’t want to convey.

The story of Belfort’s rise to riches was cluttered with shady deals, pressure on potential investors to invest in various stocks, and a general disregard for federal laws involving securities fraud. According to a synopsis on his biography (posted at http://www.biography.com), he pressured companies into buying stocks to inflate the market, which he could turn around and profit from. He also urged his employees, who trained to be sharks, not to release potential investors from a phone call until they made an investment (making him rich, of course), regardless how it helped or harmed them. And like many people who gain obscene amounts of money way too quickly, he turned around and invested his money into various personal addictions that didn’t really help anyone (except maybe sports car salesmen, helicopter salesmen, and drug dealers). Yes, these practices earned him a lot of money, toys, and illegal substances. But they also, eventually, earned him a hefty, hefty fine and a prison sentence. His activities had gotten the attention of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, which did its part to reverse his fortunes in less than a decade. He’s since had to change his business model to earn his fortunes in more legitimate ways.

2. If you’re going to show your ignorance, at least do it far away from a college campus. The last thing a college needs that is focused on promoting critical thinking skills is to have a bunch of fliers posted around campus that proves just how much farther it needs to go to fulfill its mission.

Even without doing the research, it’s clear to see how Belfort’s practices are unconventional to the way most businesses might work. It’s like comparing yellow bananas to brown ones. Not hard to see which one is the better one to eat. And, it’s easy to criticize the institutions that raise children to become free-thinking adults when these free-thinking adults fail to make such a simple correlation between pop culture and reality. But, there’s a point when institutions have to stop taking responsibility for an individual’s failure to grasp simple concepts. At some point, the individual, whether taking business classes or not, whether starting an entrepreneurial endeavor or not, needs to read between the lines and say, “Hey, I probably don’t want to lure people into my new business model by comparing myself to a guy who made his fortunes cheating people and was later arrested for securities fraud.” But I guess that part comes later, after he’s lived out his opening line, “Hey, Leonardo DiCaprio made a movie about getting filthy rich, so I’m gonna take and share his character’s advice with anyone willing to show up and listen!” I kinda wished I had called the number just to see how much the guy would charge me to attend his seminar.

3. Most people are smart enough to learn business through experts who have taken their knocks, developed their skills in the field, and have later become paid consultants or instructors whose job now is to teach the next generation how to continue to spin the world around.

Sure, there are mavericks like Jordan Belfort who enter the wide world of oceanic moneymaking where the income washes in much harder and faster than any one institution can handle, and following his example can make you rich. There’s no denying that. But, to embrace a cliché, at what cost? Capitalism works, whether it’s obtained legally or illegally. But do we really want to obtain it illegally? More importantly, do we want to give potential clients the idea that we make our money illegally? Even if capitalism works—it is, after all, just the disbursement and intake of money with the intention of encouraging wealth—not all businesses work it properly. Belfort’s first business, Stratton Oakmont, lost its credibility and eventually its status as a solid company—it was liquidated to cover the price of Belfort’s “business-savvy” ways—in spite of its early ability to make capitalism work. In case the correlation between pop culture and reality has not yet come to light, and the ability to see the dirt under all those dollar signs is still a bit weak, let me remind you how Belfort’s old business is doing today: It’s not really making anyone money nowadays. Be smart: if you want to teach people how to become successful in business, market yourself; don’t market a character that Leonardo DiCaprio played in a three-hour movie about sex, drugs, greed, fraud, and enough F-bombs to send Hollywood back to a wasteland. What do you really expect to prove otherwise?

In the words of those who communicate only through text messaging, SMH.

*The information on Belfort’s background referenced in this journal can be found here: http://www.biography.com/people/jordan-belfort-21329985#synopsis

So Where’s the Liberty?

Originally posted to Blogspot on:

August 20, 2009:

Just found out that the American Civil Liberties Union is trying to prosecute a high school principal and athletic director and a luncheon organizer for “blessing a meal” at an afterhours school event…for adults.

If convicted, they could face a $5000 and six months of jail time.

For saying a prayer before they ate.

Seriously?

Are we that paranoid over civil rights that we’ll punish those who try to practice their freedom of speech and right to organize just because they don’t line up with your comfort zone? Who but the people praying were hurt in this exchange? Certainly not the ACLU.

Really, if you’re gonna attach the word “Liberty” in your name, at least understand what that word means.

Cat and the Hat

Originally posted to Facebook on:

March 5, 2009:

A few hours ago I was in the midst of trying to fix my printer when I made a break for the kitchen. A few feet away, expressing not a care in the world, my cat sat by her food bowl giving herself a bath.

At first, rationale escaped me. I thought, “Why are you so lazy, cat? Why don’t you help me fix my printer?” And then the voice of reason took over.

“Cats aren’t made to fix printers, Jeremy. They’re made to sit around and lick themselves.”

I thought, “Fine, I’ll work on it myself.”

Now, I think the moral of the story is that I’m not made to fix printers, either, but here in lies my issue.

It seems we (and when I say “we,” I mean “people”) are constantly thrown into situations we aren’t made for. A year and a half ago I was hired to be a photographer, but now it seems my job has transformed into “telemarketing.” And I can tell you that telephones and I do not get along. Just last week someone had called back the studio and yelled at the manager because they couldn’t understand a word the caller had said. My response: “You shouldn’t have put me on the frickin’ telephone.”

Everywhere I look, I see this lopsided demand for business and ten thousand artists trying to fit in because no one in America wants to create an “art” job anymore. And it’s funny because these artists are miserable and these businesses are failing and they wonder why things are falling apart when they’re trying to stick a tiny hat onto a big head. Some people aren’t made for “business.” And it shouldn’t be a surprise that corporate America is falling apart when forty percent of its workers don’t know what the heck they’re doing (‘cause they’re artists) and the other fifty percent are too busy sticking their heads up their butts digging for gold to see that the other forty percent is trying to cram the wrong size hat onto their heads and killing customer service in the process.

I don’t know—I think I still yearn for a society that allows everyone to do what he was made to do and stop expecting unfitting people to do bring up the slack. When I scan Careerbuilder and similar sites to see an endless run of “fast-track marketing” jobs (which are all the same pyramid scheme with different names), or the multitudes of Catch-22 positions that don’t believe in “first chances,” it makes me wonder if such a dream is possible.

Would be nice to wake up one day and not dread the arrival of morning. It really would.

I think my cat is asleep right now, by the way. Curled up, purring, and staying far away from my broken printer.

AOL Strikes Again

Originally posted to MySpace on:

May 15, 2008:

Well, I’ve been spending a lot of time writing chapters for my third novel (my first needs to be rebuilt, thanks to an error in judgment, and the second is on hiatus, since I don’t want it to be my “first”), so I’ve slacked considerably on every other form of writing I’m known for. Journals, or blogs as they’re called on MySpace, are the chief among the neglected areas, and I owe part of that to common distraction—the Playstation 2 is a strong proponent of temptation. But I also have to owe part of it to the Internet, as AOL hates me.

I’d imagine AOL hates a lot of people, actually, so I think anyone reading this might sympathize with my situation. But for those who can’t sympathize or for those who don’t use AOL (pure geniuses) here’s my story:

The thing is, when I sign on, AOL plays nice for about five minutes. First, it coddles me, making me think everything’s gonna be all right when the news page loads up (AOL tends to give a choice of five lists to read from, starting with world news, then moving toward entertainment, then medicine, then real estate, then finally to the random nonsense page). Then, when I decide I’m not interested in the news, I’ll hit the “X” to vanish the main page; though, the AOL options menu and instant messenger refuse to die. When all the stuff I don’t care about is gone, I start checking messages. So, I log onto Hotmail to see five or six different organizations trying to get me to use their services. From there I ignore them, search for something relevant, nod my head as nothing fits the bill, and “X” out of Hotmail on another washed mission. It’s about then that AOL starts cashing in on its tease.

Lately I’ve gone straight to the messaging boards that I’ve frequented for about eight years after signing out of Hotmail. For a season, however, I followed Hotmail with MySpace. In either case, AOL uses the second site, the one that comes after I’ve been online for five minutes, to assault my nerves. Everything starts out okay, usually, loading the first page with as much speed as dial-up allows. But then it pulls the plug. Everything stalls. I can be in the middle of scrolling through someone’s message, hanging in suspense as I wait to read the final words, when all of a sudden the system locks up for at least two minutes, with no reason as it’s not loading anything, and then resumes as if ignoring the fact that it just got caught in a two-minute hiccup. What’s worse, it stalls my whole computer with it. Microsoft Word, usually friendly to me, also gives up life two minutes at a time. The calculator? Twenty times ten equals…equals…wait for it…

There are several reasons why I don’t visit MySpace much anymore. A big part has to do with the fact that nothing ever happens here. I probably don’t need to go into details, as I’m sure many witness the same lack of activity. But it feels like a waste of time. Blogs are written; no one responds. Friendships are requested, but not from real people. Plus, the whole convention is superficial. But AOL is the element that kills the experience.

Having said that, I officially deleted AOL yesterday in an effort to regain functionality out of my computer again. Yes, I will reinstall it, as DSL does not service my area and a cable hookup might cause more cracks in my bedroom wall than I already have and one false drill might bring the whole house down, so I’m short on options. But as of now, I’m writing everything blog-related out in Word (which works great when I’m not online), and will transfer it to MySpace when the time is right for the rest of the world to read it.

Which I suppose has already happened if you’re reading this.

So, what’s the moral of this story? Find a new information source, as the Internet demands too much performance out of simple machines.