How to Watch Bad Movies with Funny People

How to Watch Bad Movies with Funny People

Mystery Science Theater 3000 has been written about before on this site quite a bit. But the Coronavirus has lots of people shut in with not much to do, perceivably. (It’s an excellent opportunity to do many things like learning a new skill, organize, read, exercise, and other activities that Americans often resist) Playing board games with the family can only take you so far.

But one solution, especially if you’re self-isolating, is to watch MST3K. A lot of people don’t get it. I understand that. But for the people that do get it, it seems to have become a coping mechanism during these days of staying in, solitude, and possible loneliness.

I’m a big fan of the show, which I’ve covered here. I haven’t and never will cross the line with taking to the extremes some fans do, which is building their robots, cosplay, and paying vast sums of money to sit in the front row at live events. I just watch the shows.

But the concept of the shows offers something to people who yearn for socializing. It’s like watching movies with your friends, and they are funny, wry, and consistent, which provides comfort to lonely people. You hear other people’s voices speaking up as if they’re right beside you, while you all enjoy some awful, campy, Ed Wood, Roger Corman, 80’s cheese-fest movies.

To enjoy them, you need to possess an extensive repertoire of references. Otherwise, you won’t get the jokes. That’s why some people don’t like it, which is understandable. They aren’t as obscure as Dennis Miller’s references at all, who I also love, but he prides himself on infusing the most cryptic references he can muster. He’s like a Crypto-comedian. Bring along your Thesaurus and plan on doing a lot of Googling. It’s like listening to Socrates doing standup at times. I watched his most recent show, which was good, but I couldn’t help but notice he’s older than I am and his hair is not grey. He’s dying it obviously.

You can binge-watch MST3K in several ways. Twitch has a channel that plays not only MST3K 24/7 but RiffTrax as well. RiffTrax is the spawn of MST3K and is the next best thing as far as a continuance of the original show there is. Joel Hodgson, the creator of the whole thing, tried to launch a revival of the show with Netflix, which bombed, in my opinion. It’s what happens when you mix creatives with executives and inject loads of money. You get something that resembles a product designed by a committee, which is almost always a flop.

Mike Nelson was the head writer for many of the episodes, and like it or not. He’s the mainsail. If the producers of the revival of the show wanted to do it right, they would have kept him around as a head writer. When I watched the credits of one of the new episodes, I counted approximately 30 writers. 30. Too many cooks in the kitchen.

So if you’re sitting around your house wondering what to do during this awkward time and want some company and to laugh, Mystery Science Theater 3000 may be your solution. I feel like I just wrote a book report.

Strange Days are These

Strange Days are These

With the Coronavirus keeping people shut in their houses and social distancing, quarantining themselves and self-isolating, it provides a lot of time that would otherwise be spent on productive activities elsewhere, and with people that we may not be able to spend time with. I can check both of those boxes, and on top of that, I’m making other transitions that fall right in the middle of this panic.

For one thing, I’m in the process of moving out of a house I’ve been in for around three years. The neighborhood is terrific, but the house is too much in size and cost. It doesn’t make any sense for just me and my daughter half of the time. I have a finished basement with a kitchenette, fireplace, and someone could live down there comfortably. I never even go down there except with Cecelia, who uses it like a gymnasium. I have a basketball goal, tee-pee, slide, and all sorts of forts and places to run amok down there, which she loves to do to get her energy out. She runs laps and shows me how fast she is, just like I used to do when I was a child, and my mother made me run laps around our house to get my energy levels in check. And the upstairs is Pee-Wee’s playhouse times ten.

And the upstairs is more like a clubhouse for a gentleman that’s been overtaken by a four-year-old.  It’s a brackish environment of toys and elegant interior decor. This house has been a blessing and a curse. But it’s served as a comfortable, cozy home for Cecelia and me during this tumultuous time. There’s a creek across the street we go down to and play in, and it’s tranquil and safe around here, with only one neighbor. We have deer, possums, hawks, chipmunks, raccoons, snakes, and all sorts of animals that live and visit the property.  The thing about houses is that eventually, you grow and outfit them to suit you. I have about 100 framed wall-hangings that are going to be a trick to use when I downsize to a smaller place.

And although I have a job offer on the table, I’m still looking for a more fulfilling job that suits my qualifications, goals, and desires. I’m in talks with people that can make that happen, but since everyone’s working from home, they can’t interview me, so that’s to be placed on hold until we return to “normal.” I’m very eager to get that show on the road. But it’s another transitional issue that’s currently occurring. Moving and getting a job in the middle of a pandemic. Fun.

This situation is also keeping me from seeing my daughter, who is at her mother’s house this whole time. Our house here is mostly boxed up at this point, and I sent all her toys to her mom’s until we get moved into the new place. So it’s been two weeks already since I’ve seen her, which is one of the most extended stretches we’ve ever been apart. I miss her terribly. I can’t get her and take her to a playground or library because everything is closed or in a public area where others might be. Louisville isn’t a hot spot for the virus, and it seems to leave the young and immunodepressed alone and hurt the elderly mostly, but there’s no reason to chance it.

So that’s giving me more free time than I’m used to. I’d like to learn a new skill, but what? Anything I’m interested in I’m already into. I’ve been writing, but there’s only so long you can do that before your mind says “enough.” I’m writing here because this site needs an updated post. I haven’t been posting anything but recipes lately, it seems, which might reflect the recent lameness of my life. I’m sure of that, in fact. When I lived in SC, I always had more than I knew what to do with my time, but in Louisville, there’s nothing that interests me. I don’t drink, so bourbon is out. I don’t like basketball anymore, which is the only sport this area cares about. The notion that horse racing is big around here is a result of hyped-up marketing by Churchill Downs for the Louisville Derby. Lexington is the horsey city. The Ohio River is polluted and nasty.  The hiking around here is boring. And so on. I’ve lived here for seven years and explored everything I can.

So I’ve still been keeping my marketing chops sharp and reading business articles. I’m working on a book I want to give my daughter that details my life and our family with stories I remember about everyone. I’m the last one to know a lot about some of those things, so if and when something happens to me, it might be helpful to have those chronicles archived for posterity’s sake. And Cecelia’s. I’ve noticed that as my relatives get older, their versions of stories all change. I don’t know if that’s due to poor memory or to suit some type of desire to have things remembered in a more aristocratic and palatable way than what happened. In some cases, my relatives refuse even to believe some of the things I know happened even did. So living in denial is also a factor that dilutes these memories.

The grocery stores are something out of a dystopian movie with all the shelves cleared out. That makes eating hard for someone that typically shops for a few days at a time. I don’t stock up on foo like I did when I had a family to feed because it goes bad and expires, and I hate wasting food. So my diet hasn’t been the best during this time, which I don’t care for either. I have been able to catch up on a lot of Mystery Science Theater, which has been playing 24/7 here on Twitch.

This virus has been disruptive, to say the least. The tax filing deadline has been postponed, and the NCAA basketball tournament has been canceled (no spectators, at least), businesses have shuttered, public services all closed, schools all closed. It’s Polio all over again, with a few, but notable differences. Politically, technologically, culturally, and economically, we see what’s expected. Technology is trying to step up to the plate, politics bogging everything down, the economy taking a hit at the small business level and in the markets, and cultural divisiveness, as people have too much free time on their hands and a controversial topic being lit on fire by the media.

As far as my opinion at this moment in time on the virus, I don’t think the vast majority of Americans have anything to worry about. The people that do are the elderly and non-Americans in this country. The virus is concentrating on sanctuary cities in high-density environments. That’s the perfect place for an infection to spread, so that’s what’s happening. Children don’t seem overly prone to it, and neither do the healthy. And even though most Americans aren’t “healthy,” their immune systems seem to be ok at least. Taking precautions isn’t a stupid idea, but overreacting isn’t a solution for anything.

 

 

Cottage Pie

Cottage Pie

Cottage Pie

I’ve realized I’ve been cooking for over 4 decades now in some capacity. I began cooking with my mother making biscuits and cookies when I was a young kid and bumbled my way along through my mid-twenties when I began to try and learn how to cook properly and what cooking and food were all about. That is the age that I probably started taking dating more seriously and saw that cooking was a skill that helped in that pursuit as well.

Plus I had a job so I could afford ingredients beyond mac and cheese and frozen pizza. I already had a formidable library of recipes and cookbooks from my grandmothers and mother that was expansive. I still have a massive cookbook library but use the internet and apps and technology more than relying on them anymore. Just as I put my trials and recipes and thoughts and attempts her on my website than refer and make notes in my cookbooks anymore.

I’ve learned how to cook. Meaning what methods work best and why for different foods and what foods are comprised of, in starch and sugar content and fibrous vegetables and the differences between apples and potatoes and a vast compendium of knowledge amassed from cooking from so long. I wish I could say the same for my guitar playing, but that doesn’t keep me and my dependents through the years alive and healthy like cooking does. There’s also a very big economic benefit in learning to cook for yourself. Whether you’re cooking for four or one and 1/2, you become adept at managing scale as well. And learning measurements and all sorts of scientific skills.

When I had a larger family to cook for, the best investment I had was a deep freezer. I could buy and cook at scale. Now that I’m cooking just for myself and my young daughter, a vacuum-bag sealer is a great thing to have. I can save portions and don’t waste food. A lot of quality Tupperware containers are helpful as well.

I always have to be mindful of what everyone’s tastes are as well. Who doesn’t like mushrooms or onions or spicy foods or whatever. When cooking for me and my daughter I have to be careful of not over spicing foods or making things too hearty or savory or visually unappealing. I need to know what she likes and what she’ll try and eat. I’m lucky in that she’ll try everything and trusts me to not trick her into giving her something she may not like. I love having a deep level of trust with her like that. She knows I won’t try to gove her something I don’t think she’ll like, and I can cook all sorts of things that are comprised of ingredients that I know she likes. Eggs are very versatile so I can make omelets, quiches, and she likes spinach and cheese so those are great ingredients that I can use in a lot of ways. Wraps, and salads.

Something I try to make the best use of is one-dish meals, where I can use the slow cooker and cook a lot of vegetables into something that’s pretty easy, cheap and will last a long time and fill us up and we both like.

We don’t eat a lot of meat, and when we do, it’s lean like fish, shrimp, chicken or lean beef. I feed us roast beef instead of ham or turkey because it’s a low-fat high protein, low sodium and I feel healthier than most hams and turkey products that are sold out there. I use low-sodium white albacore tuna instead of chunk tuna fish which reminds me of cat food. It’s just better. I don’t use American cheese, I use whole traditional cheeses that are mild like provolone of buffalo whole milk mozzarella. I use sharp or extra sharp cheddar when a kick is needed.

I use the freshest seafood I can find and if fresh isn’t available I use flash-frozen whole cod, dolphin, grouper or actual fish, not tilapia or scrod. Same with vegetables. If I can’t find fresh I use flash-frozen. Living where I live now it’s different than when I lived in the South and along the coast where everything was farmed or caught fresh. Things have to be flown or trucked into Lousiville so I have to adapt. Or pay premiums, which lately hasn’t been possible.

So all this is a long prelude to what I’m cooking tonight. Cecelia loves mashed potatoes and carrots and peas and green beans, and It’s late January and 34 degrees out. So a nice hearty stewy type of dish would be nice.

Beef stew and Pot roast are too manly and meaty for a four-year-old girl.  But something along that track. Shepherd’s Pie is great but is made from lamb, and I see no need to kill a lamb to feed my little family. But Shepherd’s Pie with beef is called Cottage Pie, and I can make something along those lines.

So I put on my mad scientist’s hat and here’s what I came up with, which I think should turn out nicely. The results for any project rest in the preparation, which is where most people make short cuts. That’s where the integrity of the meal lies and is the same in life, It’s what’s done when no one is looking. And it makes most of the difference in the output.

So here are the ingredients I used:

  • 1 2-2 1/2 lb chuck roast. I bought it whole and cubed it myself. You could use low-fat ground beef but I wanted to take advantage of the low and slow method of cooking.
  • 1 Whole yellow onion, diced
  • 1 package of baby carrots, 16 oz. Using peeled chopped is fine too.
  • 1pkg ranch dressing, powdered
  • 1 pkg Italian dressing, powdered
  • 1 pkg savory pot roast seasoning mix, powdered
  • 1 can cut green beans, no sodium. A package of frozen green is fine.
  • 1 pkg frozen sweet peas 16 oz. A big package of frozen mixed vegetables would work here too, including corn and lima beans. Even better. Use what you have or what’s on sale.
  • a mixture of AP flour, garlic powder, kosher salt, fresh ground pepper to coat cubed meat in
  • 4-5 minced cloves of garlic
  • around 1 cup low-sodium beef broth
  • canola oil
  • 8.2 oz package Idahoan Roasted Garlic & Parmesan Baby Reds Mashed Potatoes

I cubed the beef, coated it in the flour/garlic powder/s&p mixture and browned it in a little canola oil in a pot. I set it aside and drained the fat.

I made a bed of baby carrots and onions in the slow cooker and layered the meat on top of that. I mixed and sprinkled the 3 packages of seasonings on top of the meat evenly. This type of seasoning is something I shy away from usually, but I know from experience, heavy seasoning is needed in this type of dish and I was curious what mixing the 3 types of most used store-bought seasoning mixes would yield. I poured the low sodium beef broth over that and gave it a gentle stir. See below for the results.

I go easy on the sodium for a number of reasons. Health being #1. Salt being over-used in place of flavor is another. Seasonings should bring out the flavor of the food, not replace it. Salt is inserted where there’s a lack of quality, like in salted butter and a lot of fast foods. It’s not healthy, and most people use table, or iodized salt, which is unnecessary. We’re not in jeopardy of getting scurvy anymore, and Kosher or sea salt is preferable. It has a cleaner taste and it doesn’t bounce off the food as table salt does. It’s flaky and should be sprinkled on at the right time. There’s a quick lesson on salt.

I put that on low for 8 hours.

With about 4 hours left I put in the green beans and frozen peas and stirred. Normally I would be tempted to put sliced mushrooms and chopped celery in but I had no celery and my daughter doesn’t like mushrooms, yet.

It turned out pretty good, but I’d probably leave out the ranch dressing mixture and rely more on aromatics like onion, garlic, carrots, celery, and gentle seasoning. I don’t like packaged seasonings, but for some reason, I went all-in on this one. I regret it and would rely on my own sense of taste and use fresh seasonings instead. Always better. I know it, and this was proof.

For my daughter and what I think would be better overall, next time I’ll cube the beef into smaller bite-size pieces. It was good this way for me, a fully grown adult male, but I can imagine it being too much for a young girl. It would also make it more tender, which wouldn’t be a bad thing.

 

 

 

Rollergirl

Rollergirl

This is Cecelia’s first time rollerskating. She attended her friend Adelle’s 8th birthday party at a roller-rink. Cecelia is 4 years old but it didn’t stop her from joining in the fun. She was determined to do it herself and didn’t care if she went against the flow of traffic to strut her stuff. She did very well and had a great time. It was very loud and hectic there with all the bigger people whizzing by, but she was focused.

 

Cecelia’s First Rollerskate from Musgrove on Vimeo.

Vegetable Soup

Vegetable Soup

VEGETABLE SOUP

Vegetable soup has many variants as anyone who has ever eaten soup knows. I grew up on vegetable soup my mother made, which had ground beef in it, making less vegetably, plus okra and lots of butterbeans, which are what we called lima beans, and other ingredients which ended up being very good. But more of a concoction resembling something between Brunswick stew(My mother was born in Brunswick, GA.), which is fantastic stuff but not for the novice cook with little time on their hands, and a beef stew/vegetable soup/gumbo. I have all her recipes, and I haven’t seen one for it, so it likely was something she learned to make from trial and error or her mother or my other grandmother Virginia, who was the best cook in the entire family, taught her. That was back when every kitchen, in the South at least, had a big vat of Crisco handy for frying your chicken, okra, fish, hushpuppies, fritters, green tomatoes, crabs, oysters, and pretty much everything when you grew up in South Carolina near the ocean.

Point being, there are as many ways to make vegetable soup as there are vegetables. But I’ve zeroed in on a way to make it that’s pretty easy, and a big hit with my daughter makes a lot and is cheap. It’s hearty, too and perfect for when the weather starts dipping. I use my crock-pot which makes it a no-brainer. Those criteria are what I base a lot of my cooking on these days. That hasn’t always been the case whatsoever, so I’ve learned how to cook a lot of stuff, which makes cooking easier and easier. It’s learning science and how to combine tastes, over many years, is all. I’ve made everything from stuffed whole squid, cut into rings, tentacles fried as an appetizer, to chateaubriand, and everything in between. Learning to cook is an invaluable skill, and it keeps you healthy because it makes you think and know exactly what you’re putting into your body. It makes you shy away from fast food garbage and processed and refined foods that aren’t natural. I’m not a health-food nut like some trendy Californian that only eats grain-fed organic blah-de-blah. But I know how to read labels and understand what is good and what to avoid. And the cooking method is essential as well. The less damage you do to the cells of your ingredients, the better. Boiling is violent, for example. Frying isn’t that bad for you appropriately done. Most people don’t keep their frying medium at a constant temperature as necessary, which is where things go wrong. I don’t fry much because to do it right involves a lot of dishes that have to be washed and stations and is an operation that’s out of scale for just myself, or me and my daughter. And I don’t want her to think frying everything is the right path, because it certainly isn’t. But one of my favorite foods is fried chicken. I rarely eat it, though. I probably eat more lobster than fried chicken.

I didn’t mean for this post to turn into a cooking lesson or an introduction to my personal diet, but if you’re making vegetable soup, it’s good to use whole, fresh vegetables if possible. Flash-frozen is also fine. Canned is starting to get into the oversalted and nutrition-loss territory. And then you need to have some excellent knife skills to prep your vegetables. It all comes with time and practice, I guess. I’ve been doing it for a long time now. And I plan on teaching my daughter everything I know, and she seems eager to learn, which is terrific, I think. That will make her healthy, independent, and of higher worth as a wife and family member for sure. As long as your family cares about staying healthy, and eating well, which I’ve learned the hard way, not everyone cares about. They’ll say they do, but then buy frozen-quick-fix one-pot meals or head to White Castle and behave much differently from what they say. I witness it. I choose not to do that, which I’m positive will be meaningful in how our bodies age and maintain health and cells. Diet was the reason my sweet dog Annie lived so long and healthily. I made sure I fed her well and not Alpo, which is what most Americans eat, and why most Americans are morbidly obese and out of shape. And probably why we’re now starting to not live as long despite medical breakthroughs occurring all the time and technology are allowing us to live longer if we choose. You can’t feed yourself a diet of garbage between 20 years old and 80 years old and expect your body to be running like it was back at 20, though. The fuel we use is essential.

I’ll get off my soapbox and back to the kitchen now. There are no real hard lines with this type of recipe. It’s adding more of what you like, less of what you don’t, but remember everything here has a purpose beyond taste. Here’s what I use as a basis for my vegetable soup:

Combine it all in a slow-cooker and cook on low for 5-6 hours. Don’t overcook it, or it’ll be mushy, which is gross.

Beyond that, I add whatever I have around. My daughter said she loved tomato juice one day, so I bought some for her. She took one sip and decided she hated it(go figure). So I’ll add a can of tomato juice when/if the soup gets too thick. I’ll also add chicken broth if tomato juice isn’t available, which it usually isn’t. Can of peas? Toss them in. A bag of frozen corn, okra, or butterbeans? Go for it. Note that Okra tends to act as a thickening agent, so you’ll want to loosen up your soup some with the above-stated juice or broth or below-stated stock. Cabbage is good too but I tend to leave out Fall vegetables like squashes. Chopped cauliflower, yes. Chopped broccoli? You choose.

Another variation is I’ll add shredded chicken to it. I’ll either buy a cooked bird from the grocery store and pick it apart to put on there, or cook one myself in the crockpot or bake it, which is cheaper, avoids some additives, and you can buy a good quality bird, versus who knows what the grocery store used. They usually don’t tell you. You also can boil a chicken for about an hour with herbs, but that presents a tossup. You render out a lot of fat, but you also boil out a lot of flavor and juices and are left with pretty dry “boiled meat.” So I tend to avoid boiling chickens if I can. Baking them and cooking them in a crockpot is easy and not too messy if you know what you’re doing, and it yields some stock you can later use. It allows you to use some vegetables past their prime or the parts you usually toss out as aromatics. I try not to waste anything at all, and do a pretty good job, which is another reason learning to cook pays off. It’s thrifty.

If you want to add beans, like black beans, it’s perfect, too. But I rinse my canned beans, because the juice, which contains most of the sugars the beans leach off, is what’s responsible for the gassy aftereffects associated with eating beans. You can avoid that issue by rinsing the sugars off your beans well. If you use dried beans, good for you, but messing with dried beans and legumes is another worthwhile post. They’re healthy things that humans should embrace more of. We’ve lost the time and desire it seems when Facebook and TikTok and Fortnite awaits.

I let it cool to a temperature that’s above the danger zone for bacteria and put it in reheatable containers that are good portions for myself and my little girl, so all I have to do is reheat it in the microwave, put it in a bowl and serve. It goes very fast, so I never even have to freeze it.

 

 

 

 

Twitter is a Toilet That Filters the Wrong Things

Twitter is a Toilet That Filters the Wrong Things

I have a bunch of Twitter accounts, dating back over 10 years. And I’ve watched Twitter morph and ebb and progress and regress all over that time. It’s gone from resolutely allowing 140 characters, to one day allowing 280 for no particular reason. Twitter was a toy for a long time but has finally found a purpose with the President using it for real-time transparent communication with the world. Other than that, it’s still a toilet for people to vomit their poorly-conceived thoughts into and others to react in the vilest ways imaginable.

During the early years, Twitter, being Jack Dorsey, couldn’t figure out what it was even for. It was just a platform to blurt out whatever was on your mind. It had no real purpose, which is the main characteristic of Silicon Valley products. Products rarely have a marketing plan or business plan. There’s no way the creators of most of the apps and SaaS and creations that come out of Silicon Valley could go before a traditional banker and get a loan. That’s why they rely on pitching themselves and abstract ideas and faux numbers more than any bankable, workable idea or product.

As the product gains users (MAUM) only then can another round of financing be begged for. Most of these companies go years and years without a profit. Some never operate profitably. They just operate as-is, with the funders taking big salaries until they’re bought out and then they really walk away with giant sums of money. It’s ridiculous to think about. But that’s how Silicon Valley has been working. It remains to be seen if that business model will stand the test of time. I can’t believe it’s proceeded as long as it has. It shows what a bubble that part of the world operates in.

So Twitter’s been plugging along all these years, and currently serves as a real-time news source for the White House, which is great. For the President of the US to speak his mind in real-time, versus what we’ve had in the past which is carefully prepared statements that come to mean nothing and are dispursed to the outlets the administration wants them to be at a time the administration sees fit is an incredible, unique, and unappreciated degree of transparency.

So Twitter now sees itself as the holder of the power of free speech. A big, 1st amendment power. For, you see, not everyone is allowed to use Twitter. Twitter censors, suspends and cancells users and accounts as “they” see fit. “They” being actual individuals making decisions as to who and what can be presented. These individuals haven’t ever been identified as far as I know. They stand behind a wall of Twitter’s “operating procedures.” With only vague, abstract reasons for doing so, and no appeal available. North Korea should only wish to be so dictatorial.

Something that Twitter has also become over the years is a toilet. The worst, foulest meanest, primal things I’ve ever read have been on Twitter. People using nearly anonymous accounts to unleash their poorly-worded misspelled garbage upon the world. The hatred and bile spewed around are seriously concerning, knowing there are real people behind such thoughts, walking among us. And it used to be they were free to throw up their filthy putrescence all over Twitter. That was pre-2016 or so.

Now that there’s a republican in office, which Jack Dorsey isn’t down with, and that GOP member happens to be Donald Trump, which makes matter a code red to Silicon Valley leftists, there is a scramble to arrange who can post what, when and to whom.

This is a prologue to something that has happened to my account which I can’t figure out. I have never posted mean-spirited tweets. I may have posted some sarcastic or sharp-witted tweets that others without the same knack for literary twists can appreciate, but nothing that I would call “mean,” much less anything close to some of the undeniable garbage I’ve read and seen on Twitter. I also must point out, that nearly all of the filth has been posted by those on the left of the political spectrum. I’m not saying they shouldn’t be allowed to post that crap, but it needs to be taken into account.

So, for the past few months, I’ve noticed something with my account. I have around 1,000 followers and I’m following around 1,500. And lately(for the past 2 years or so), for no particular reason I’ve been active on the platform. And others have been responsive to my tweets, and I’ve engaged in conversations, debates, and other back-and-forths that the platform was designed for. That has been a wonderful use for it, I’ve found for me personally. The best thing I’ve ever found Twitter to be useful for is that it’s allowed me to communicate with people I’d never have the ability to otherwise. Musicians, businessmen, a few global politicians, and people that I consider on another level of humanity because of what they’ve done or are doing that would be so far out of my reach otherwise that when I find myself tweeting and communicating with them, it’s beyond incredible. I won’t say who these people are, but imagine you coming into intimate contact with those you think are simply incredible people for whatever reason. And suddenly you find yourself communicating with them one on one. That’s what Twitter’s allowed me to do, which has been it’s greatest value to me.

musgrove twitter profile

But suddenly, about 3 months ago, my account went silent. I was still tweeting, as usual, engaging others in a discussion(or trying to) and posting and retweeting things with my commentary. And there has been no life derived from my activity. So lately I’ve intentionally been posting what I consider provocative and challenging statements and commentary to see what would happen. And guess what? Nothing! Not a single comment back from all of Twitter, even when I hashtag and @ all over the place. How does one explain that? The only explanation I can come up with is that “Twitter” has somehow silenced me. It otherwise makes no sense.

I searched through my emails to see if I received a notice of suspension or something from admin@twitter.com to explain it. Nothing there. I looked within my account to see if I missed a DM or something to explain it. Nothing.

So, what’s the deal? It’s as if I’ve been muted. My tweets still exist on my Twitter page: http://twitter.com/mbmusgrove however, it’s as if there’s a mechanism in place to prevent my tweets form being sent out and from anyone seeing them.

 

MST3K and Netflix Part Ways

MST3K and Netflix Part Ways

mystery science theater 3000This area of my life is where a lot of nerdom resides. At least I recognize it as such, which is the first step in getting help if I ever want it. I like Mystery Science Theater 3000 and the offspring like RiffTrax and Cinematic Titanic. The lead writer, Mike Nelson, and I share a lot of similarities, in our appreciation of English, music, and sarcasm.

The lead guy who was the brainchild behind it, Joel Hodgson, is the defacto captain of the ship, and as creative and wry as a mind he has, it doesn’t always shake hands with reality. When they began the series, it was a skeleton crew, with Trace Beulieieu as an art director, writer, on-camera personae, and more. He had a significant influence on the show, and he is one of the reasons I like it so much. He’s a prodigy and a comedic powerhouse.

The concept and show have always been eccentric and malformed for pure numbers-driven type entertainment as we have today. There are a lot of variables that have to add up to make a good episode. And they managed to do it a lot. Not always, but many times. And Netflix was willing to hand them a big budget and see what they could do.

They blew it, which I thought they would. The casting was poor. The idea was weak and overwrought with skeleton/motorcycle-helmeted musicians and a poor attempt at trying to keep the campiness there when it wasn’t. The credits at the end went from a handful of the same overworked people to Hollywood sized roles that made no sense. I mean, how many people do you need to rag on bad movies? A few competent writers and puppeteers and not much else, as it was shown. It wasn’t the big corporate giant hiring actors to make fun of the amateur or bad movie makers, it was the feebler everyday type guy ragging on some obviously campy and funny bad movies that made the jokes stand up.

The new guys that riffed on the shows had voices that you couldn’t tell apart when in the theatre. And the comments weren’t edgy. They were too safe. It’s like the PC crowd got their hands on it. And having a giant budget should have allowed them to obtain rights to some riff-worthy classics, not jazzing up the set or costumes or animation or all the rest of the superficial stuff that is secondary to the reason the show was great originally.

They joked tongue in cheek that they were going to blow up the brand and sell it to Disney for a Billion dollars. But that came across to me as more than a wink-wink type joke. Like when American Dad asked within an episode to be syndicated. It was really what their plan seemed to be, and so they set off on what they thought would take them there. And missed the target.

Patton Oswalt isn’t funny by himself. He’s funny when someone else points out what a loser he is. In front of the camera and real life. He’s a jerk. And trying to have a PC cast with a young female as the antagonist is weak. Instead of using quirky references from times and films long ago that appeal to the intellectual fanbase, they tried to appeal to the mainstream and employ rap songs in their skits, “as the young kids like,” and the original series would have made fun of.

I’m writing about this here, safely away from the Facebook groups and fan sites that collect the hardcore fans that believe the people working on MST3K are infallible. I’m a member of a lot of those sites as a sideline observer, and if you dare pose an opinion that casts doubt upon any of the producers and cast and caterers over at craft services at any of the shows, you’ll be swarmed on like flies at a ribroast. Banished! Exiled! Hate speech! Which is what the direction of MST3K is taking. The California inclusivity mindset, where comedy no longer relies on humor to be funny. What matters is how everyone feels afterward, and that should be safe and secure in every possible way.

The concept of what MST3K has is great. But they’re trying to alter it to fit target markets when they’re getting their marketing backward. They need to realize which demographics appreciate and will sustain it financially and market to them, instead of trying to make the product appeal to the target market they want. That doesn’t work, as we’re seeing. That’s why Netflix told them thanks, but no thanks, even though it’s a powerful concept they have in their hands. They could turn it into a billion-dollar product just like they want, but they’re going about it the wrong way. It’s an example of creative types being unable to look at projects from a quantitative and realistic side. I’m able to do both, but it’s a rare competency. To remain successful both ways in tandem, creatively and financially, requires both sides to agree to take and be able to manage risks which is a complex juggling act. Disney does it well.

yes it does

Take The First Step

I was reminding someone today that although we may look back at our past and we recall it being a certain way, that we keep memorabilia and photos/videos to remind ourselves with evidence what life was truly like.

I’ve always been a sentimentalist, and perhaps for that reason, the job of historian/archiver has been delegated to me. I keep stuff from long ago. I’m not a packrat by any means and I don’t relish the responsibility. It’s been an onerous job lugging all the family’s memorabilia around the country as much as I’ve moved. As a result, cherished things have been broken, I never polish the silver, and the story behind the items that have been bestowed upon me was never told. I have dainty tea sets, Lemoge china, odd artifacts from a civilization that ended in the last millennium. They’ve been more of an albatross around my neck than anything, but I dutifully have them wrapped and safely stored. I have a bajillion wine glasses, and I don’t drink. But somebody somewhere thought it was wise to hand them to me for safekeeping long ago. So I lug them around with me like a comb collects lint.

But I’ve always taken lots of photos. And when we went digital, I was taking pictures of everything. So I have all sorts of SD cards, CDs, and other memory chips lying around. Fortunately, stuff started going to the cloud and to SSDs and other hard drives.

But as time went on and I found myself in Louisville, I started taking a lot more photos. I was married then and was the dorky dad taking everyone’s pictures. I took a lot of them. So my recent past has been well documented. I have quite an archive, and they tell a tragic story.

So I was going through some of them tonight and came across this video of Cecelia, my precious daughter, taking her first steps. And I’m so grateful that I had the opportunity to be there when she did it. I consider it a big deal, as I’m sure she does. When I watch it, my eyes well up with pride. I just can’t imagine what more she has in store for us.

 

Do Yourself a Solid

Do Yourself a Solid

“Doing a solid” was a national catchphrase that went, thankfully, as quickly as it came. Middle America likes to adopt specific phrases and gestures and latch onto them as if they make the walking cliche’ using the fad in public unique in some way, or suddenly “cool” even though it’s been used already millions of times and wasn’t all that smart in the first place. I’m glad to see fist-bumping has been on the decline since 2016. Unfortunately, saying “I know, right?” as some insightful response is sticking in some females’ brains interminably. And even a few sad males. These types of cultural failures would be an exciting study, fer sure. That was the pinnacle of cool in the early 1980s for a few months — California Valley Girl lingo, which still contributes now and then. Black Americans seem to hold the licenses for most of what white middle America appropriates as “cool” in an almost satirical, mocking manner, but then cements it in place through popular (read: lame, brainless) media, mostly coming out of Southern California, where the black population is somewhat under-represented in many ways. Still, their equality is diligently defended with much talk. As long as they stay far away or assimilate exactly to white protestant culture, it seems. It’s the same way here in Louisville, a very blue city, also, coincidentally. Just some observations as I’ve moved around this great country.

fist-high-five-fail

But “doing a solid” means “doing a favor for,” and in this case, I mean, to do a solid for your future self. As much as you can.

I only really began noticing I was doing this over the past few years, which could be for a few reasons. As we get older, we gain experience and can use history to know what we’ll need in the future. It’s like linear regression modeling but just using your head instead of plotting points on an x and y-axis. Wisdom, in other words, which comes with age and experience. I was in my 40’s when I had an epiphany that I had turned a corner and could see more clearly the world around me because of the accumulated experiences behind me. I could more easily connect dots through time and see how events led to one another, versus what had been told to me or some connections had been left unattached. I could see the whole picture. And I think that comes with age and having lived life like I’ve had to, via much trial and error. And then beyond that, into the future to see where they will lead to some extent. That’s the power of knowing regression modeling and statistics. You can tell the future to a scarily accurate degree. My statistics professor in grad school was seriously a wizard and should have been a billionaire the way he could predict the outcome of future events by manipulating numbers. It was excellent and for the very brainy. I don’t think there a whole lot of people that can do that.

I’m digressing. But the way to do yourself a favor is to go the extra mile when you’re doing a job for yourself. Delight yourself. When you do a job, give it 100%. And then give it a little more. And that little bit is often found in a reward waiting for you in the future.

 

But seriously, if you do a lot of work in a workshop, there are lots of opportunities to go the extra mile today that you’ll thank yourself for in the future. Many have to do with safety. But mostly convenience of having something right at hand when you need it — or keeping things charged. Keep the air in your spare tire filled, for instance. Most people don’t ever think to check the pressure in their spare tires, but it slowly leaks out over time, and a flat spare is no better than any other flat tire.

There are tons of little and big ways to do this. Put some cash in your suit jacket so that in church, when you don’t have some money for the offering in your wallet since most people don’t carry cash anymore, you’ll have it on you. Keep a spare set of gloves or pack of crackers or bottle of water in your car. Stupid, natural things, but things you’ll be grateful for when the time comes. Bring in some dry firewood for when you know it’s going to snow or rain. Or put a tarp over the wood. Front-load the work, and you won’t have to worry about it when you’re weary and tired later. These are just easy examples. You have to learn what yours will be.

There are more significant ways to pay it forward. Savings is one way. People don’t set aside savings first, but spend first and save what they have, if anything, afterward. I did this for a long time because I was never taught better. But all it shows you is how to be broke. And I’ve been there. There are good ways to buffer against that scenario as well I’ve learned.

When times are good, stock up on the items you know you’ll need and buy them at great prices. Don’t ever pay retail for anything. There’s no reason to anymore with the internet. And if you’re sharp, you’ll learn how to save hundreds, if not thousands of dollars on items each year by being a savvy shopper. But that’s another post.

When I was flush with cash and had a high income, I bought things I knew I’d need in quantities that assured I wouldn’t run out or even need to worry about going and getting the as frequently as some people do. Toilet paper and paper towels are prominent examples. The kind of shampoo I use is expensive, so I buy it in bulk, and it’s enough to last me years. I use the same type of soap, so I get it by the caseload. Same with garbage bags. And Toothpaste. And deodorant. And detergents and other sundries. And I have storage for all this out of the way, of course, so it’s not stockpiled in my living room or anything. One good thing about Kentucky is most houses have basements. Even boxes I save for the next time I have to move, so I don’t have to go box-hunting. I order a ton from Amazon and Boxed, and keep the boxes, which have come in handy. All the time. For moving or making a rocket ship or house for my four-year-old daughter. I think there’s a parable about this like the ant and the grasshopper.

But something most people wouldn’t think about is clothing. I buy well-made, durable clothing and shoes (I mostly wear men’s boots) that, if taken care of properly, will last a long time. I still wear leather Wellington boots that I bought in high school, for example. I’m no fashion plate and don’t try to be. I dress conservatively in things that don’t go in and out of fashion. Women may say they can’t do that as easily, but that’s nonsense. When most women try to dress with the latest trends, it goes horribly wrong anyway. Women’s fashions have gotten far worse if anything, which is saying a lot as someone who started noticing the horrors of the 1970s. And then the neon bubblegum 80’s and then the poseur 90’s. And then some hipster scene junk that turned into mall trash tattooed/pierced colored hair insanity that lingers, which brings us to the slovenly yoga pants/pajama bottoms and shoulderless rags and outdoor housecoats of today. Most women seem to try and dress like the other women they know, instead of what they look and feel good in. Bad mistake, all around. So far, I’ve been mightily impressed with what clothes my daughter chooses to dress in and how she puts her outfits together. She has a good eye, I believe. She loves to wear her fanciest dresses.

snake dress

Anyway, I get my shoes and boots, resoled and clothes repaired if and when necessary. I have a lot of functional boots for various activities and spent a lot of time researching which were best and why and who uses them for what. I have waterproof steel-toes for hazardous areas I find myself in all the way to dress boots that I can wear with a sports coat. I luckily live in a city big enough to have some high-quality cobblers and tailors/seamstresses. My clothes cost more than most people’s, but they’re nicer than most people’s, and therefore they last longer than most people’s. I have lots of clothes and will never lack for decent clothing, which is a nice thing to be able to say. And I take care of them probably better than most people because they do cost more and are worth the extra attention.

Same as if you owned a Ferrari; you’d take excellent care of it, right? And the companies I buy them from stand behind them 100% so if something is wrong, they’ll always make it right, no questions asked and with a great apology. I’m very brand-loyal when I find one that’s solid. So even if I am broke, I can still dress nicely and not look or feel quite as broke, which is essential for self-esteem while getting back on my well-shoed feet, I’ve found. So that’s another way to pay yourself forward. Take care of your nice things, and they’ll be there for you in good shape when you need them — oil your boots and leather goods. I’ve bought shorts or pants/shirts/sweaters offseason on clearance, knowing I won’t be able to wear them until the next year when it gets warm or cold. And it’s cool finding a brand new pair of awesome shorts or pullover waiting for you in your closet you forgot about when Spring or Autumn comes around. I realize all this clothing talk is unrelated, but this is a life lesson, and there are things to pay attention to here with clothing.

Buy durable clothing that stands the test of time, like Pendleton, Orvis, Barbour, Filson, etc…But don’t necessarily buy brands without knowing why. Brands change over time, and usually not for the better. Burberry used to be a high-quality brand, as did Brooks Brothers and Polo/Ralph Lauren. But money is what drives those companies, and eventually, they all succumbed to clothing the masses instead of the elite. This is to say they commoditized themselves, started selling lower quality clothing in “outlet” malls, and started cutting corners, and instead of working for high margin, well-made clothing, they opted for lower-margin but sold en masse cheaply made clothing.  Sure, they still offer high-priced goods with premium margins attached, but they aren’t the same quality as they used to be. They’ll market them as “purple label” or something distinctive, to match the distinctive price.

What’s the difference, you may ask? With clothing, look at the stitching. Inspect the quality of the fabric and how it was cut. Check out the hardware, like zippers, pulls, rivets, toggles, and buttons. Is it double-stitched or single stitched? Does the material feel durable? Are the fibers woven tightly and is it heavier than it looks? Where there are ends, does it look “carefully finished” or just like “one and done?” Is the hardware genuine brass or flimsy, never meant to last plastic?

Learning to discriminate between high quality and junk is doing yourself a solid. You won’t end up wasting your time and money, frustrated with an inferior tool, garment, shoe, piece of furniture, or anything else that commands a high price. Learn to inspect the joinery and materials of furniture. There are big differences in quality and price and very often a high price doesn’t equal high quality there, either. As far as tools go, look at what the pros rely on for their livelihood. DeWalt is always a good bet. But there are others. Bosch, Milwaukee Tool, Snap-on, and even Sears makes some decent wrenches. We have so much to choose from in America, you need to be knowledgable or else marketers will decide for you, which is what you want to avoid.

geezer

Think of it like hiding an Easter egg for yourself. And when you start getting good, you begin forgetting all about them and surprising yourself when you find them, and you want to pat yourself on the back.  As I read this, it sounds like old-geezer-talk, so maybe it is something that comes with age, but I don’t see any reason not to try it sooner than later, knowing the benefits it brings.

wisdom

This is cleverly accurate

 

 

 

 

 

Learn When to Take Advice

Learn When to Take Advice

Life Lesson…what number are we on?

Another valuable life lesson I’ve learned the hard way is when to take guidance from someone. And just as relevant, if not more so, is WHOM to take advice from.

In light of this post being about when to take advice and from whom, I thought a post-script prologue was due since I’m giving advice myself. Who am I to give someone advice? I dance around that question in the body of the article but I don’t address it head-on, which I think I should so I’m providing some enlightenment on that now, after originally publishing.

What are my credentials, and who have I taken advice from, and ignored? What were the results? What patterns and linear trendlines can be seen over time? I have 50+ years of life to base my advice on now. What education, people and experiences do I know and possess from which to draw upon? Talk is cheap, as I’m often reminded by others. So what substantiates my words? What evidence is there to prove what advice I give is trustworthy and not a load of puffery and utter crap? Glad you asked.

First, I wouldn’t give advice that I don’t have experience personally. I’ve put money where my mouth is in other words. Literally, and metaphorically, in terms of time(my life), which is not replenishable as is cash, and great emotion. Via blood, sweat, and tears, basically. I’m drawing my advice from roads I’ve chosen to travel down through life and retelling the results of those adventures. All journeys have some good and bad, but some are far more regrettable or fruitful than others. Some have ended in a bloody dead end. Some have opened up new paths that wouldn’t have been available by traveling any other road. It’s those that I try to impress as the ones that most valuable so that they can most easily be recreated by others. Especially my young daughter as she grows. She has the whole world ahead of her, and I write these words to her as my audience. I want her to be able to lead the most fulfilling, fruitful, happy life possible, and avoid the many regrettable, and avoidable, wastes of time, slums and heartbreaking dead-ends that I have. Either by having to forge my own path or being told to go down them by someone else who I shouldn’t have listened to. So a lot of this advice has been gained through hindsight. which is 20/20, and if you don’t know optometry, it means perfectly clear. I’d call that trustworthy.

A lot of the advice I have has been gleaned through the battle of life, which I have the scars to prove I’ve engaged in fiercely. Both physical and emotional. In the first part of my life, I was allowed to explore the world rather freely when that was a lot safer than today. I’ve always been curious, and loved nature and figuring out how things work, so I have always been turning over logs, looking under rocks, pilfering through books and closets, digging through boxes, inspecting animals and natural science as closely as I possibly could(which was scarily close), finding out the inner workings of everything, and never sitting still. A trait my daughter shares.

As a result, I’ve been to both the emergency room and to therapists more times than any average human will. The emergency room visits were to fix broken parts and stitch up wounds, and therapists to do the same emotionally, when my heart and mind were attacked out of nowhere by mental grizzly bears. Those visits were the result of my ex-wife’s personal pursuits and a hereditary issue that I’ve learned to cope with better than the vast majority that shares it. That came at a great financial cost as well some others but was worth every penny and more. So I’ve spent lots of money and time on one-on-one consultations learning when and how to take advice from others, and what to do with it. That gives me lots of psychological armor and a treasure chest to draw from when giving advice, which few people have.

I’ve had the immense and rare fortune to have been surrounded, befriended by and have as close friends people that are either exceptional themselves and, usually, are the products of exceptional parents, who give their time to me. That’s part of what makes them exceptional.

My mother’s father was the most exceptional man in my family and I’m grateful to have been able to spend as much time as I did growing up, even though at the time it was the last thing a young boy wanted to do. The lessons I learned from him were valuable and steered me through life in a positive direction when the odds were against me. His daughter/my mother died when I had just become a teenager, and he died when I was in my early 20’s. I never had a chance to fully appreciate him. And for all he did for me, my father never developed a relationship with him. On the contrary, he kept him as far away as possible as he does with anyone that doesn’t fully enable his want to be inert.

I went to a boy’s boarding school in Virginia where I met and became close friends with many young men who were taught as I was what honor meant and how to become a young man of character. That meant not lying, cheating or stealing, valuing scholarship, treating women and elders with respect, valuing comradery and teamwork, how to be a leader, how to be humble and a lot of other characteristics that aren’t taught much anymore by fathers, single mothers, or anyone at all. Most women aren’t taught these traits at all, which turns them into some rather unpleasant people, I’ve learned also the hard way. They may tell you they have them, but as I’ve said, talk is cheap. Reading a book doesn’t give you these traits, unfortunately, any more than just saying you have them does. Actions show what you’re made of. As does inaction.

I was able to spend a lot of time with the fathers of these exceptional boys I made as friends. My own father came to campus once while I went to school there, which was to my graduation, with my grandfather. The only other time to drop me and my things off the very first day I went there to begin attending and quickly left. So on weekends, I was able to leave campus I went to friends’ houses and saw how these exceptional boys were raised. And what their dads were made of, which was often some impressive stock. Leaders of their towns and cities, self-made men who remained humble, titans of industry, people who influenced this entire country in some way, or owned a great portion of its land, lots of military officers when young men themselves who fought in actual wars, and men who earned and deserved great respect. Many had families with 5, 6, and 8 children they helped raise. Just incredible weights they managed successfully. And of course, they had strong marriages with strong wives at their sides. All of them had endured tragedies. The loss of a child, or sibling at an early age or an event that strengthened them it seemed. Yet they persisted, never stopped fighting, kept their eyes on prizes and led lives that made you say “wow.” These were guys that I took a lot of cues from and tried to hang around with my mouth open at their achievements. But of course, they had their own families and lives to lead. But their advice was and remains solid.

I took their advice, which led me to places a lot of people wouldn’t be able to go. And I also took advice from people that didn’t have any credibility. I was too young and inexperienced to know it at the time, so that’s where I spent a lot of time learning by trying and failing and having to teach myself through wasted time and hard knocks. It feels a lot like a rat trying to complete a maze. There’s no plan. And you always need a plan. That part wasn’t mentioned by anyone.

I’ll provide some examples of receiving poor advice, or even no advice when some were needed that resulted in a lot of lost time and money and emotional strife which was all unnecessary. I was allowed to choose whatever college I wanted to go to. I chose the most expensive, farthest away from home and one that assured I would have no one to help guide me. A terrible mistake that should have been avoided. I then had to put myself back on the right track and go to a school I was accepted to before, cost all four years what 1 year at the private school I originally chose cost, and had people that could help guide me better. I needed guidance and advice. And I got advice but it was all bad advice steering me in the worst directions.

Upon graduation, I didn’t know what to do. My friends all were going to grad school, which was never really something mentioned to me. I took the LSAT, but that was from my own curiosity, not anyone helping guide me. Those that didn’t go back to extend their education went to work for their dads or had jobs lined up by their families. So I turned to family for guidance as well.

That consisted of 4 people. 2 who had been given jobs by family or a friend and had since dropped out of the workforce never to really return. So their advice was to find someone that would give me a job, rather than find a way to earn a job by getting the skills needed to convert them into a situation where I could be paid for my skills and education and experience, which I had quite a bit of by my own effort. I worked at a law firm for 4 years through school and had a degree in hand and was no slacker. On the contrary, I was hungry and ready to get the ball rolling full-pace.

The other two were an uncle and more of a friend of the family, than an actual family member, but a very close friend of my family’s, and remains so. My uncle, who I always admired for his assertiveness, style, and a quick brain, was an angry man who couldn’t offer much to me. No hard feelings. For some reason, I always got where he was coming from, and I certainly can understand it now, better than ever and anyone was ever able to explain it. I don’t believe he’s still alive, but he was a memorable character in my life, the few times he was present. That probably can be said about him in any room he ever graced. He had an intensity and passion that was enviable. He would have made a wonderful actor.

The other person was a man who was given a political position as a favor and parlayed it into a lifelong career and income stream. The president he worked for is still alive, at age 95. He also got my aunt her most memorable job in the 1970s, which is how long ago I’m reaching for help for professional advice. I realize I was asking them the wrong question, which was “how do I get a job?” What I meant to ask is “how do I EARN a job?” not “how do I go about someone giving me a job, as you did?” Because the advice I was always given had to do with finding people to GIVE me jobs, not how to go earn one with my skills, education, and experience, which is what it really takes to remain employed. I have gotten lots of advice about employment from people that A) have no job and B) have never earned a job and C) managed to keep a job. That has led to years of floundering around. I took the wrong advice from the wrong people. And to this day, there are people always willing to give advice about that who have no business doing so. It’s more harmful than helpful, in fact, although their intentions are good. Good intentions often pave the pathway to Hell. (END: prologue)

As an only child, I didn’t have older siblings to watch and learn from. And from my early teen years on I didn’t have a mother to provide advice. And the father I had only offered advice to do as he said, and not as he did, which was advice that was half-right, but hardly anything anyone who knows him couldn’t figure out on their own. I did have a grandfather who was successful by a number of measures, depending on whose measures you used, and he probably gave me the most consistently good advice. Which normally was contrary to the advice I received from everyone else willing to provide it. Turns out he was right far more than anyone else has been. I’ve had to figure out life for myself while watching my friends be ushered along by men and family who knew what they were talking about. I state that from an envious but realistic podium. I am far happier to have the opportunity to know such people and they not be among my counselors than not know that such wonderful people even exist.

When you learn my grandfather’s life story, that shouldn’t come as a surprise because he didn’t have an easy time growing up and had to learn lessons the hard way. (Which a lot of people think they do, and even though they may have had a hard time, the part that matters is learning from the lesson and acting upon what you learned in a positive way. Don’t repeat your mistakes is a lesson a lot of people may learn, but they refuse to act upon it, for example.)

My mother’s father was the son of middle-eastern immigrants who moved to the American South and was born in North Carolina, I think, in 1919 with plenty of brothers and sisters, whom I never even met and he never talked about. Not an easy time for that ethnicity in the rural South, or the US for that matter. He settled in southern Georgia. A lot of turmoil and big changes for our country awaited culturally, economically, politically and technologically. And in medicine. Polio was a real thing. Life spans were relatively short. Life was a lot harder then versus today where we have anything we want, usually immediately within arms reach and if not, within a day, as promised by Amazon on our smartphone, which is always within arms’ reach. If you wanted something then, you usually had to go out and make it or make the hard-earned money to get it for yourself, no matter what age you were. People grew up having little, and houses and living situations would make Americans plead absolute destitution by today’s standards.

buy liberty bonds

Come On! This poster was put out by the US Government the year before my grandfather was born, enticing people to buy “liberty” Bonds to help fund the war. It shows you in no subtle terms what you’re funding, in gory detail.

I have a school photo with my young grandmother and her schoolmates and most of the kids didn’t even have shoes. And the girls all used the same chili bowl for their haircuts. Clothes were handmade and handed down. Radio was the entertainment, for those who had the time and money for such a luxury. Illiteracy was rampant. Women had few opportunities in life, and forget it if you were black. Christianity provided much-needed hope and salvation to most of America. That’s been replaced by the government’s lifelong politicians’ empty promises and celebrity entertainers fighting for the lowest common denominator to make a buck today it seems. We’ve exchanged many forms of actual poverty for cultural poverty, and many people, although having many material possessions, still live paycheck to paycheck and carry huge loans for years and years for everything they “have.” No one admits it though. If you ask around, everyone pays their fair share in taxes and “works hard” for what they have. Both being completely relative, of course. Half of America doesn’t pay any income taxes, and many receive “credits” in fact.

Roberta High School 1927-28 4th grade

Roberta, GA School 1927-28 Grandmama (Virginia Moulton) in 4th grade

But everyone has their own story to tell. And the topic of this post is a study in what stories to listen to, and give credence to, and how those stories relate to instruction that those same people may want to give.

I’ve chosen to live my life to a large extent differently from a lot of society, in that it’s been a true roller coaster ride. I believe I inherited that “desire” to embrace risk more than most and that trait has lead to some very tall highs and very low lows and twists and turns with no idea what lies around the corner, from day to day in some cases. It’s not a life many people are built for or want, which is normal. It isn’t anything to take pride in or shame. It’s what makes life what it is.

unconventional life

What’s largely contributed to this style of living has been looking to people for life guidance that I probably shouldn’t have, and took it when I shouldn’t have. But that’s easy to determine in retrospect and paints those people in a dim light, which I don’t mean to. Their hearts have always been in the right place. They just have given consistently poor advice based on their own life experiences. And I was too young and immature to realize it, and looking for answers for, what was at the time, the present. I’ve had to live my life by trial and error, which is a method I don’t recommend. It’s an expensive way to live in terms of resources. Especially time, which unlike money is a resource that cannot be replenished. It’s the exact reason why I write these lessons down. And many of my lessons have come with great hurt, which still lingers. I have several family members that have tried to help guide me based on their own life paths, which was appreciated but led nowhere. That’s because everyone has their own goals and path to travel. And when you’re young you can’t see how people arrived at the places they did in life, which is often a different story than what they would have you believe, I’ve learned.

One of the finest bits of advice I’ve been given is to not judge a man before walking a mile in his shoes. It’s something we hear enough, but I’m not sure people really take it to heart because I’m judged all the time by those who couldn’t possibly walk a mile in my shoes and even if they could, it’s clear they haven’t before forming their judgment of me or others. I don’t mind being judged at all, because as I often state, I live my life as an open book for people to judge. It keeps me honest and able to work on critical areas of weakness. No one’s perfect, and certainly not me. Some people can’t even admit that, and they’re the ones who judge others the most it seems, and usually wrongly because they tend to reflect their own imperfections onto me. Known liars want to call me a liar, for example, which is something I definitely avoid doing. And Christians will tell you the Bible states not to judge others while at that very moment they’re making (often false, or at least uninformed) judgments about you. And so it goes.

Judging others is something we do as humans, and it’s hard not to do. And I’d argue it’s necessary to a degree for self-preservation and safety. We learn to recognize danger signs when in a situation or around strangers that may present a danger. That’s exercising “good judgment.” And the same goes for being able to recognize when other may endanger us in more subtle ways, like with toxic personalities or a tendency to suck the life out of people for their own purposes, or maybe they’re just narcissists and selfish people, that will end up hurting you badly and not think a thing of it. It’s said to not cross an ocean for people that wouldn’t cross a puddle for you. Idealistically, that wouldn’t be true. In reality, it’s probably better advice than you know. I’ve crossed oceans for people that wouldn’t cross a puddle for me, and I was left out of breath, life and vulnerable, while they sat dry and safe on a high perch looking the other way.

So, who and what advice should we listen to? In the heat of the moment, it’s not always clear. Do we turn to religion? Family members? Therapists? Our dogs? Our significant others? It’s not who we have learned to trust. Although that sounds counter-intuitive, it isn’t. We want factual, unbiased advice, and family or boy/girlfriend aren’t unbiased. Religious figures such as our reverends and priests aren’t unbiased either because their advice will naturally have religious undertones of their denomination and religion, and in many cases provides more false hop and places serious situations in the context of prayers and thoughts, which may be comforting, but hope and thoughts of others don’t pay bills or help make crucial life choices.

The lesson to be learned here is to take everyone’s advice and weigh the impact that it’s likely to have individually and/or in conjunction with other advice and your own life experiences. Play out a least likely scenario, a most-likely scenario, and a best-case scenario. Writing them all down isn’t a bad idea to look at them across the board and next to each other. If able, sleep on it. Your mind does magical things when you allow it to do it’s thing while you’re asleep and coming to a problem with a fresh perspective works. Even walking away from a problem for a while is better than nothing.

These days we have the “advantage” of going online for explanations. While tempting, that’s a method that could lead to even bigger, or at least more, complications. No one cares more or knows more about your dilemma than you do, and assuredly not anyone on the internet. Except for the sole exception, which is this post.