NATIONAL ASSHOLE AWARENESS DAY – JULY 17, 2016

Who doesn’t know an asshole or three? You can’t avoid them. They live in our homes and on the internet. They are prominent in politics, law, and … well … sometimes they are staring back at us in the mirror.

Often ignored and disrespected, this day is dedicated to them all. To the assholes we love, to those we meet in queues in every mall and airport.

72-asshole-awareness-day-awardTo the assholes who give us false information on customer service hotlines and the virtual assholes who troll online. Most especially, a special salute to the assholes for whom and with whom we have worked through the years.

This is the second year I have honored this special day. Considering what’s going on in the world? I think now, more than ever, we need to be aware — and beware — of assholes. Next time we look, they’ll be running the world. Maybe they already are.

CYBER IS FOREVER

A PIECE OF ADVICE | THE WORD PRESS DISCOVER CHALLENGE


For quite a few years, it’s been au courant among America’s youth — and sometimes, not so youth — to spill ones guts on the internet. I share my life, but I’m careful what I say and how I say it. I pick and choose my words and I only publish it if I don’t care who sees it. Hey, I’m retired. I’ll never go job hunting again, apply to a college, or need a government security clearance. I have the only husband I’ll ever need or want.

But you? You’ve got a life to live. Worlds to conquer. The drama you publish on the internet today can — with the click of a mouse — bite you on the ass tomorrow.

google is watching you

Nothing vanishes once it’s “out there” in cyberspace. Everything you write, every comment you make is going to show up on someone’s Google search. In its most harmless form, this stuff gives your friends something to laugh about. No big deal, right? The problem is that this same material is also stuff those who don’t like you can use against you. Easy ways for people to hurt you.

If you are past the age where you give a rat’s ass what anyone thinks about you, behave accordingly. But.

If you are still in the job market, pursuing a career or building a business. If you are a teacher or other public servant. Doctor or nurse. Firefighter or cop. If you are looking for work in financial services or require a security clearance. If you are trying to get into graduate school, are in the middle of a divorce (or think you might be in the future). If anyone out there hates you for any reason, think carefully before you vent your feelings online.

do you know who is watching you

Nothing you put on the internet is private, no matter what anyone tells you. I can find posts I wrote twenty years ago which were supposedly private. Newspaper articles in which I am mentioned that were published in The Jerusalem Post more than 30 years ago.

I don’t care because I don’t have to care. But maybe you do.

Here are some of the people who might be Googling you:

  • College admissions officers
  • The police
  • This or some other government
  • The military
  • Potential employers and employees
  • Your former wife or husband … and his or her lawyers
  • Your boss and your boss’s boss
  • Your parole officer
  • Your vindictive neighbor
  • Your meddling in-laws
  • Your children and their teachers
  • Your grandmother
  • Your daughter’s boyfriend
  • Your son’s fiancé
  • Anyone with an ax to grind
  • The manager of the bank from which you are trying to get a mortgage or other financing
  • Your customers
  • A stalker.

If your stuff ever appeared on any social media outlet? It’s only a matter of time before someone who is looking will find it.

So. Be crazy. Be free. Be true to yourself. Rage at the dying of the light. Just don’t publish it.

Unpublished, it’s just a rumor.

Published? You’re busted.

IF THERE’S SMOKE …

“A lie can run round the world before the truth has got its boots on.”
Terry Pratchett, The Truth

“When you are rich and powerful, no one will challenge you to your face or give you a chance to explain yourself. All the whispers are behind your back. You are left with no means of clearing your own name. And after a while you realize there is no point in even attempting to do so. No one wants the truth. All anyone wants is the chance to add more fuel to the fires of gossip. The whispers become so loud that sometimes you think you will drown in them.”
Amanda Quick, Ravished

“Don’t forget this, too: Rumors aren’t interested in the unsensational story; rumors don’t care what’s true.”
John Irving, In One Person

“Always remember… Rumors are carried by haters, spread by fools, and accepted by idiots.”
Ziad K. Abdelnour, Economic Warfare: Secrets of Wealth Creation in the Age of Welfare Politics


Among the many things we say when we don’t have something witty of our own to offer, there are a few genuinely evil ones.

Where there’s smoke, there’s fire.

This has become everyone’s justification for deciding guilt based on rumor, hearsay, and malice. I’ve heard people say this so many times, in a wide variety of situations, but it always means the same thing:

“I haven’t a shred of evidence, but I’ve heard stuff about you-know-who. He/she/they must be guilty of something, right? Because where there’s smoke, there’s fire.”

Being unpopular — or accused of wrongdoing — is not proof . Neither is attending a different church, or no church. Or dressing funny, having a bad attitude, failing to mow the lawn, keeping to ones self, being anti-social, holding unpopular opinions, or having bad manners. It is legal to be different.

Shadow of the gallows

Shadow of the gallows

And hey, how about gossip, eh? People say all kinds of shit. It can ruin reputations and careers. Destroy families. All because a guy said something to someone who repeated it to someone else.

Then a couple of other guys in a bar repeated what they thought they’d heard, plus a few embellishments. Their girlfriends passed it to their best friends who tweeted it. Rumor morphed into fact … because where there’s smoke, there’s fire. Everyone knows that.

96-FirepitHP-011

Now, you’ve got everything you need for a quick conviction. Without benefit of judge, jury, or trial. The next thing you know, a lynch mob is forming.

If ever you hear yourself saying “Where there’s smoke, there’s fire,” or words to that effect, stop. Think.

Who gave you the right to judge?

AN EXPERT ON GUILTY PLEASURES

GUILTY PLEASURE – EXPERTISE

I think most of the things we enjoy would be counted as guilty pleasures by someone else. You might say we’ve become guilty pleasure experts.

The other night, Garry and I watched “Paris When It Sizzles” on Netflix. Universally panned, it is generally regarded as awful. Except among movie buffs — like us — for whom it is an officially designated guilty pleasure.

a-summer-place-movie-poster-1959-1020460974

We laughed all the way through it, although it isn’t supposed to be funny. It got us talking about other movies we’ve seen that were panned, but which we liked.

The one that came immediately to my mind was “Flypaper,” starring Ashley Judd and Patrick (“McDreamy”) Dempsey. It opened and closed without a single good review and made less money in its American release than I made on my last freelance job. But it cost $4,000,000 to produce.

Flypaper2011Poster

On February 27, 2013, I reviewed it on Serendipity — FLYPAPER (2011): A PLEASANT SURPRISE. It’s been getting a slow but steady stream of hits ever since. When I looked in my stats, I saw I’d gotten a hit on that review, the source for which was Wikipedia.

Wikipedia? How could that be? I clicked. There was my review, referenced by Wikipedia. Flypaper (2011 film) has two numbered references in the reference section. Number 1 is my review. What are they referencing? The grosses.

That Flypaper made a pathetic $1100 and opened on just two screens in one theater during a single weekend. Serendipity is their source for this data.

facts expert

Where did I get my information? I looked it up on IMDB (International Movie Database). Not the professional version. Just the free area anyone can access.

IMDB is, to the best of my knowledge, an accurate source. But it’s not a primary source. Clearly the financial data had to have come from somewhere else. Maybe the distributor? IMDB got the info from elsewhere, I got it from them, then Wikipedia got it from me. The beat goes on.

forever_knight_2009

How in the world did I become a source? If you have ever wondered how bad information gets disseminated, this is the answer. I don’t think this information is wrong. If it is, it’s harmless.

But a lot of other stuff proffered as “fact” is gathered the same way. Supposed news outlets get information from the Internet. They access secondary, tertiary and even more unreliable sources. They assume it’s true. By proliferation, misinformation takes on a life of its own and becomes “established” fact.

ncis-need-to-know

Scholars, journalists, historians and others for whom truth is important should feel obliged to dig out information from primary — original — sources. A blogger, like me, who gets information from who-knows-where shouldn’t be anyone’s source for “facts” unless you’ve confirmed the information and know it’s correct.

For me to be a source for Wikipedia is hilarious, but a bit troubling. How much of what we know to be true … isn’t?

CRAZY OR HAPPY

Back from a brief foray over to Facebook, the social media site I love to hate, I was whacked with this witty bit of philosophical twaddle.

crazy but happy

I looked at it and realized I’ve seen a lot of similar “memes” lately. All of them seem to be saying that your choice is to be nuts, off the rails, mad as a hatter … or miserable, bitter. Living a life of quiet (or not-so-quiet) desperation.

Apparently the latest popular “wisdom” — surely promoted by the same geniuses who want Donald Trump or Ben Carson as president — is it’s impossible to be sane while happy.

In other words … if you are in your right mind, you’re miserable? You haven’t had a single laugh in your entire life?

I’ve been through a lot. Sick, poor, bankrupt, and homeless — I’ve been there. But I’ve also been happy, joyous, hopeful, determined, and successful. Sane and simultaneously content. I’ve lost. I’ve won. In and out of love and marriages. Life isn’t always happy, nor is it only pain and agony. It’s not only anything.

Even when I was homeless, life wasn’t a vale of tears. I figured I was temporarily un-housed, between residences and after a while, it got resolved. Life went on — up, down, and sideways.

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Life isn’t this or that. Happy or sad. Bitter or crazy. Life just is. You get the good times, the bad times, and plenty of in-between times. It’s a package deal. Money or lack thereof is not the key that unlocks happiness, though it can provide a very comfortable version of misery. Happiness is what you provide. You own the key.

Some of the most bitter rants I’ve heard come from young people. At the advanced age of 19 or 20, they have concluded that life has cheated them. They didn’t get “the good stuff” they deserved.

At 19 or 20, if you have yet to achieve The Good Life, it’s because you’re still on the starting line. You have not been cheated. If you decide it’s over, it means you’ve given up without a fight. Haven’t entered the fray. At the risk of sounding like a cliché, no one said it was going to be easy.

72-V1-Painted-Flowers_07

Most of us need a few years to figure out what comprises a good life, then a few decades to achieve it. Get an education. Work at this and that until we find where we belong, until we discover the satisfaction of a job well done. Figure out what “well done” means. For me, for you.

Work isn’t punishment. Properly done, it’s a reward. Challenges and difficulties are not necessarily punishment either. Sometimes (not always), they’re part of growing up, of discovering who you are and what you were born to do. Sometimes, they turn out to be the best of times.

STICKS AND STONES

I really shouldn’t spend any time on Facebook. All it does is piss me off.

hate speech is not free

THE ORIGINATING COMMENT: Why political correctness is necessary: Spics, Micks, Gooks, Geeks, Freaks, Nips, Hebes, Kikes, Towel Heads, Camel Jockeys, Zipperheads, Chinks, Negroes, Darkies, Niggers, Crackers, Honkies, Spooks, Degos, Wops, Frogs, Canucks, Ice Farmers, Hockey Pucks, Queers, Fags, Homos.

Without it these and many other epithets would still be part of our jargon. Is this what you really want? 

Note: Author was well-intentioned.

FIRST COMMENT: Those are all just words. Being offended by them only gives them unnecessary meaning. Political correctness won’t stop…it will grow and compound until everything will offend someone. Anyone of us can pick and choose what we are offended by and legislate all others to conform. Stop being offended by everything and you take the power away from offender.

ME: Bullshit. Do you seriously believe that not being offended would make the slightest difference to these assholes?

NEXT COMMENT: People use words to make them feel better about themselves. They can call me anything they want, but it doesn’t make them a better person. But when they find I will not respond, they have to face the fact that I am the better person.

My thought balloon: No they don’t. They will harass you until you run, turn to fight, or they escalate and do you harm.

ANOTHER COMMENT: People who use those words aren’t worth listening to. That’s why when so many of a certain group use them then we know the opposition and know that to use those words ourselves is to degrade not others but ourselves. Individuals of xenophobic and bigoted mindsets always have a way of outing themselves, sometimes even in their political platform. Dog whistles galore.

ME:  Are you people serious? Have any of you actually ever been called nigger or kike or any of those other names? When somebody meant it? We can’t make people stop hating, but we can at least keep their behavior from being acceptable or worse, fashionable.

This attitude has allowed cyber-bullying to reach the point where teens are driven to suicide. It’s exactly the same as telling a kid who is being bullied that “sticks and stones will break your bones, but names can never hurt you.”

Names hurt. Bullying hurts. Hate hurts. Words have power.


So now, words are no big deal? Words are powerless if you want them to be?

How many suicides of teenagers are the direct result of name-calling? Bullying? Cyber-bullying? How many lives are ruined by cruel words, verbal abuse? Rumors? Lies? Ignore them and they won’t matter? Since when was that true?

Calling it “political correctness” makes it sound so inoffensive. But this isn’t a mere matter of correctness. It’s a matter of common decency and basic fairness. We are all entitled to live in a world without being jeered at, without being taunted, called names. Without being tormented by rumors and whispering campaigns. You call it “political correctness.” I call it justice.

People who talk about how all you have to do is “ignore them” have never been the butt of verbal abuse. Or faced down bullies and wondered if they were going to come out of it in one piece.

NO BOUQUET OIL JUNE

If you were bullied as a kid, how did the “not paying attention to them” work for you? How many problems of bigotry and unfair treatment have been solved by ignoring them and “being the better person?”

If they are calling you — or anyone — hateful names, they want you to feel bad. That’s the point. That’s why they are doing it.

Taking the high road is not going to make it go away or make it hurt less. We can’t cure hate, but we can make the haters shut up. I’m in favor of making them shut up. How about you?

IT WASN’T ABOUT SLAVERY? YOU SURE ABOUT THAT?

I have been a-wandering in a strange, alternative universe called Facebook. It’s a place where anyone’s opinion is as good as anyone else’s.

At some point yesterday evening I stumbled into a heated interchange that started with the potential candidacy of idiot doctor Ben Carson and roamed far afield.

Flag on the harbor

confederate flag

At some point, someone averred: “In this country majority rules, so if most of the people in a state want to fly the Confederate flag, they can. It’s IN THE CONSTITUTION.”  Along the way, someone else suggested the losers of a war don’t get to fly their flag. The south lost the war (a point often overlooked in such discussions) and they should get over it. 

I asked if the majority in a state favored slavery, would that be okay too? Most of the combatants in this discussion said yes, which proved my fundamental point. That I was interfacing with morons.

No, it isn’t in the Constitution. There’s nothing at all about flags in the Constitution. Not a word. Nothing guaranteeing rights pertaining to flags. As far as the other stuff goes, the Constitution is not designed to protect the rights of the majority. Quite the opposite. Its intent is to protect the rights of minorities because otherwise, you have tyranny.

Sorry. I digressed.

This brought a flurry of rebuttals and name-calling, brought to a head when someone offered a golden nugget.

“The Confederate flag was a battle flag and had nothing to do with slavery. In fact, the Civil War had nothing to do with slavery. It was about taxes.”

Although I know arguing with idiots is a waste of perfectly good time I could productively use playing mindless games, I had to say something. There is so much historical evidence proving that the Civil War was about slavery and nothing but slavery.

United States Slave Trade

United States Slave Trade

The Civil War was predestined and the framers of the Constitution knew it. Our founding fathers made a deal with the devil to allow slavery. If they had not, there would never have been a United States. The Constitution would not have passed, might very well never have been written.

Slavery was the burning issue during the constitutional convention in 1788 and it tore the country apart a mere two generations later. They knew it would. The guys who wrote the Constitution may have wimped out, but they knew it wasn’t a real solution, just a band-aid. They also knew the issue would come to war and blood and death. It was that kind of issue.

To declare otherwise is plain ignorant. There are lots of aspects of history that are disputable, but this isn’t one of them. There is too much evidence in the form of diaries and writings — not to mention correspondence between famous guys like Jefferson, Adams, and Washington.

Sometimes, I think Americans must be the happiest people on earth, because we are surely the most ignorant. (And we know ignorance is bliss, right?)

constitution_1_of_4_630

My statement was quickly swallowed by passionate southerners declaring I was an out-of-control left-wing lying Yankee liberal socialist commie. I retreated to a stupid pop-the-bubble game and the battle went on without me.

Why do I bother?