Tag Archives: Reading

A Good Reason to Judge

A while back, I made a post (on my spiritual blog) about the insanity of being expected to never judge anything.  Part of the reason I rally against the “no judgment” crowd is that it’s so often used as another way to manipulate people into saying they should have no standards, no discernment and no common sense.  These folks are sometimes doing things they know are morally or legally wrong and don’t want to be called on it, OR just use “don’t judge” as a way to shut down debate, and guilt or bully people into their point of view.  Ironically, the last type is VERY prone to judging people they disagree with.

The thing is, judging situations and people is an important part of life.  It’s doubly so for empaths if we’re to avoid being exploited and manipulated.  Let’s start with the obvious.  Is it wrong to judge:

  1. Pedophiles
  2. Murderers
  3. Rapists

I doubt anybody remotely rational would say it’s wrong.  I’ve met a few crazies that would excuse that kind of behavior though.  I think where some well-meaning people in the middle get tripped up is that they can’t or don’t want to understand that you can judge a behavior and person as wrong while still having some understanding of the circumstances that led a person to do something bad.  You can have sympathy for a drunk driver having  just been dumped, but that doesn’t excuse their killing 3 other people while driving drunk.

So let’s use that as a lead-in to what I saw a day or two ago.  Homeless people and panhandlers are absolutely epidemic in Sacramento.  “Don’t Judge” is a rallying cry here also regarding them.  TO A DEGREE, it’s a valid admonition also.  The problem comes when you have people trying to exploit the situation, such as professional panhandlers.  This woman for example:

IMG_0513 (2)_LI

Now if the red circle here didn’t give it away, the “tell” that this person is not homeless is her sandals.  Those are $100+ Birkenstocks, and in good shape.  I can’t place the brand off the top of my head but I think those are moderately expensive yoga pants also.  There are a couple of other “tells” as well.  Bottom line, there’s every reason to suspect she has a real home, etc… and just finds it easier to panhandle than actually work.  These professional panhandlers are more common than you’d think too.

So, am I saying dump on all homeless people?  Absolutely not.  Some are very legitimately down on their luck, trying to recover, etc…  What I *AM* saying is that it’s appropriate to use observation and common sense in deciding to help somebody, or if an area feels dangerous, or just about any other situation.

We have to be able to make judgments about right and wrong, people and situations to be able to establish reasonable boundaries.  In my opinion, the key lies in the proper translation of that Bible verse: “Judge not unrighteous judgments, lest ye be judged”.  To me, that means you do NOT go for blood over an argument caused by somebody having a bad day.  The reaction has to rationally fit the situation, factoring in if it’s a repeating issue.  Generalizations like “ALL Walmart shoppers” or “ALL black people” or “All any race or group” are bad too.

Another part of that is letting go of hate and anger.  OK, your significant other cheated on you and left (as another example).  It’s fair to say they’re a bad person.  It’s also fair to say you don’t want to see them again.  Beyond that, let it go; don’t be Taylor Swift.  Hanging onto hate only poisons your own soul, blocks your growth as a person and allows no room for better things to take the place of what you lost.  All of that is the start of proper, wise judgment

So there you have it.  It’s perfectly fine to judge, just do so with wisdom and compassion.

The Art of Persuasion Hasn’t Changed?!?

I’m writing this in response to an article I came across on the Harvard Business Review (HBR).  They sometimes have some good stuff, but I think this particular article was a little short sighted

The irony here is that the author is a Harvard professor in communications.  He had a point about the basics not changing since Aristotle.  His list of the five basics are:

  1. (Establishing) Character
  2. Reason
  3. Emotion
  4. Metaphor
  5. Brevity

The only one I could argue with is that I think establishing character is now often replaced with establishing some sort of (often imagined or exaggerated) expertise or credibility.  Morals don’t matter so long as you’re an expert, a victim or better yet both.

Re-reading the article, maybe it’s fairer to say that while I agree those key foundations haven’t changed much, I’ve seen a great deal of change in the nature of persuasion.

Misrepresentation and half truths have always been a tool of the unscrupulous.  Nothing new there.  I’m seeing them used FAR more often nowadays though.  The media and politicians on both sides do this constantly anymore, to the point I don’t believe anything they say without extensive fact checking.  There’s a HUGE difference between “unarmed man shot by police” and “unarmed man high on drugs shot by police while trying to wrestle gun away from officer”.  The former gets far more ratings than the latter though.

Combine that with sarcasm and you’ve got the play book for all the late night talk shows.  A far cry from the days of Carson.

As I mentioned in a reply to another blog, I also see deliberately vague communication being used much more frequently.  Typically with the goal of creating some sort of deniability on the speaker’s part if they’re called out on anything.  I miss the days when  “establishing Character” and speaking plainly yet in a civil manner was considered a virtue.

The biggest change in persuasion specifically that I’ve seen is the use of manipulative language.  Without getting into politics, let’s take another look at the news.  We’ve all heard the term “collusion” tossed about in excess the last few years.  It sounds horrible and it’s used to provoke a strong negative emotional reaction.  Yet, there’s no LEGAL basis for the term.  It was used in place of the proper criminal term of “conspiracy” because then the media and various other people can’t be sued or prosecuted for making false criminal charges.  The Left did it with Trump and the Right did it with Hillary.  That was just an easy and blatant example.  I’m not taking sides at all here either.  I think we all would have been better served by honest discussions about what may have been illegal and what may have been legal but was certainly bad form or outright immoral.  The lesson here remains to be aware of the manipulative use of language.

Persuasion has become far more of a science today also.  People know that if they can get a peer in a group to say something is good or bad, the rest of the group is much more likely to follow suit.  That’s the whole trick to selling Tupperware or Mary Kay.  I could go on for quite a while here, but there are dozens of websites devoted to revealing sales tricks like that, push-pull techniques, take aways and imagined scarcity, etc…

Probably the most insidious form of persuasion is Neuro-Linguistic Programming or NLP.  I’ve mentioned this a few times in previous posts.  NLP was first created in the late 70s with the goal of figuring out how the best in any given field do what they do and making it repeatable.  NLP quickly became focused on communication and persuasion, and borrows heavily from Ericksonian Hypnosis.  It’s used in everything from selling to seduction too.

To over simplify it, NLP persuasion (at it’s most basic levels) relies on subtle “hypnotic” commands and catch phrases to trick people into thinking they want to do or not do something.

For example; “what was it like when you…” will get a person to recall a specific experience.  Anything from sex to the first time they saw and fell in love with their dream car.  Don’t believe me?  Ask yourself about something that way and see if your mind doesn’t begin recalling that experience.

There are dozens of phrases like that also.  “What would it be like if…” for example.  The whole idea being to capture and lead the target’s imagination toward a desired result.  There are other tricks used along with those phrases, such as the human mind’s inability to process a negative.  Phrase anything as a “don’t want to” and the other person’s subconscious will process it as a “want to”.  Which sounds more sincere?  “I don’t want to have sex.” or “I just want to cuddle and relax.”

It’s not necessary for you to immediately realize just how twisted this can get.  If you think about it though, you might find yourself aware of just how great the potential for abuse here is.  😉

Presuppositions are another NLP trick used by nearly everyone today.  A presupposition is something stated as fact and used as a premise for an argument / persuasion attempt.  Let’s avoid politics and the media for this example.  If I said “It’s going to rain today, so you should take your umbrella.”, the presupposition there is that it is indeed going to rain.  That may or may not be true, but by stating it as fact, the debate on if the umbrella is needed is derailed unless the likelihood of rain is challenged.  That challenge is less likely since the rain was stated as a matter of fact.

Again, if you pay attention (an NLP embedded command to do so), you’ll see presuppositions used everywhere.  Anything from you need something being sold, and that it can be a benefit to you, so something that “other” group over did was evil and clearly motivated by malice.

So yes, the very basics of communication may not have changed much, but I think it’s easy to see that the science and morals of how one goes about persuading have changed a great deal.

Retroactive Continuity Fun & Games

I’ve mentioned the concept of Retroactive Continuity a few times in the past.  It’s when something gets changed in a story’s or character’s past.  The usual idea is to make the past fit better with a turn the story has has taken.  It could be as simple as the writer came up with what they think is a better idea also.  Since you can’t go back and change the whole story, particularly if it’s part of a published prequel, you have to get creative.

“RetCons” as they’re called for short, are very common in soap operas and comic books.  Fiction writers of all types can benefit from learning to work with them though.  A RetCon can be as simple as a flashback that includes new information that changes the dynamic of a character’s past, or relationship with another character.  Suddenly, there’s a bit more origin for that heinous antagonist, and they used to be a trusted ally.  That one’s been done so much it’s cliche to be honest.  Easy example though.

Shondra Rhimes uses this gimmick so often in “How to Get Away With Murder” that the show is impossible to watch in my opinion.  If she didn’t have a few previous hit shows, I doubt she would have gotten a pilot episode for this one.  The lesson here is use RetCons and flashbacks sparingly and with forethought.  If you’re constantly changing the story, readers or viewers will just think you don’t know how to plot a story properly.

Then there’s the world’s most famous RetCon; The “Dallas” plot twist to bring Bobby Ewing back from the dead after being gone a season.  It was all just a dream.  The show and network caught a good deal of flack for that one back in the day.  Primarily because it erased an entire season of the show’s continuity, and that just felt too unbelievable there.  “It was just a dream” can work for smaller events though.  Heck, I’ve even used it very tongue in cheek to undo years of a character’s game history in City of Heroes and reduced it to dreams while in a coma for five months.

Nancy’s Trip to Dallas

Just keep in mind, it has to be a bit campy or very clever if you’re doing a Dallas level wipe of events.

On the soap opera side of things, there’s the evil twin, or the spy with plastic surgery to look like a character while said character is otherwise occupied (lost, imprisoned, etc…).

RetCons can be as simple as a character misspoke or outright lied (maybe they were forced to), all the way up to something as fantastic as DC Comics’ “Flashpoint” reset that unleashed the New 52 (titles) continuity on us.  That one has become as infamous as the Dallas event, and even used on CW’s Flash show.  There’s all kinds of possibilities in between also, such as incorrect or altered scientific test or lab results.

Here’s one example I’ve done very recently; readers will recall the drama my Champions character ‘Liberty Gold’ had with her old guild.  I gave the character a fresh start by bringing in a clone of her that’s still at her younger 17 year old age.  That trick works in comic books, sci-fi, and to a lesser extent fantasy if there are powerful enough mages in the world.

My personal rules for RetCons is keep them as plausible as your story’s reality allows, use them sparingly, and think about the long term implications for your story’s character and world.  My biggest gripe with Marvel and DC is that they never think about the long term consequences of their stories anymore.  Thus they paint themselves into a corner of never ending reboots.  More on that and other things we can learn from comics tomorrow.

I’ve made a game out of watching TV and movies, and reading books, and trying to decide how I would have told the story.  I figure out what I would have RetConned to get there also.  So, I’m going to put out a little challenge here.  Fun for me and maybe it’ll help inspire some creativity in readers as well.  Toss me a scenario and what you’d want it changed to, and I’ll see if I can come up with a RetCon path to get you there.  Doesn’t matter the genre, even erotica.

MY Sharp & Edgy Humor…

Gawd, so many bad jokes from using Lilarcor in Baldur’s Gate 2 now coming back to me, LOL…

Anyhoo, I got the honor to guest author a piece for LittleFears on his blog.  Here is the original at his site:

Knife Skills

And here it is reproduced, minus LittleFears’ great video work (give his blog a look for that).

Knife Skills Large

knife Skills story

 

And there you have it…  My cutting edge humor.  😀

Thanks again to LittleFears for letting me guest author.. 🙂

Rutabaga Nonsense

Yes, I know…  ODD subject, LOL.  Inspired by a story in The New Yorker, and there’s an amusing backstory to it on a personal level.

Rutabagas have been a running joke in my household for years.  We were sitting watching ‘Iron Chef America’ one night, and when Mark Decascos (aka ‘the Chairman’) was about to announce the secret ingredient for the cooking challenge, I blurted out “RUTABAGA!”, doing my best imitation of his melodramatic announcement voice.  My other half and I both laughed for a minute or so.  It became a running gag after that with Iron Chef America and on Chopped sometimes also, LOL

Coincidentally, years later they DID announce Rutabaga as the secret ingredient on Iron Chef America.  We both lost it at that point, LOL.

We still joke about it sometimes; What’s for dinner?  Rutabaga!  😛  😀

Tonight, I open up the browser and get a suggestion for an article in ‘The New Yorker’ that’s titled “What Rutabaga Does Better Than Anything Else”.

For those not familiar with them, rutabagas are “large root vegetables” like turnips.  Very mild flavor, so they don’t overpower anything they’re cooked with.  Supposedly a little on the starchy side also.  The article went into some history on Rutabagas, but didn’t cover  any nutrition information.  At the end, the author said she what she discovered from a restaurant in her neighborhood is that it makes a great substitute for some pastas if sliced properly.

New Yorker Article

The payoff on the article was pretty anticlimactic.  Given the article’s title, I expected something along the lines of it being the next superfood or something.  No such luck, but it did bring back a few cute memories.

Habit #7 – Sharpen the Saw

There’s some irony coming here…  See, in quite a few of the blogs I’ve followed, I keep agreeing via comments that they do indeed need to given themselves permission to take a break and recharge their batteries.  I point out that Stephen Covey’s habit #7 of the “Seven Habits of Highly Effective People” is to stop and sharpen the saw.  That way your woodcutting will be easier when you return to it.

Saw and woodcutting are metaphors obviously, and the message applies to any job or task.  I found out tonight (earlier this morning) that I’m NOT immune to that advice.

I’ve been stressed out, no energy or creativity…  Anybody following the blog the last few weeks knows things have been chaotic.  I spent more time trying to get things done and worrying that I wasn’t than I did doing said things.  My writing muse was dead.

Earlier though, I fired up Steam and just played Soul Calibur 6 for a little bit.  I’m amazed at what a difference letting everything go for a few hours made.  I feel completely refreshed mentally and spiritually.  I guess I shouldn’t be surprised.  It’s the first time I’ve given myself any real leisure time and stopped worrying about things for a few months.  My productivity was crap the entire time too.

Bottom line; I’m going to allow myself to sharpen the saw a little more often.  While still keeping my eyes on my writing goals that is.  🙂

Nook Sucks

That headline is exactly why redheads drive people nuts; you never know where you stand with us or what our opinions are, LOL.

Joke aside, I’m beginning to see why Amazon is walking all over Barnes & (ig)Noble.  The Nook reader is a complete disaster.  The tablets are too bloody expensive and do too little.  The phone app is only a reader; you can’t buy any new books, and browsing the store is kind of lacking also.  The PC version of Nook has to be the worst yet.

That loads into the store with an option on the left to go to your library.  Oh and the library can’t be downloaded unless you have a credit card on file with Barnes & Ignoble.  That’s right, you already OWN the ebooks but you can’t access them unless you keep a credit card on file with them.

Now personally, I don’t keep a credit card on file ANYWHERE  There have been too many data breaches and identity thefts resulting from those breaches.

 

I am NO fan of Amazon either.  They’re bigger than the 8 biggest brick and mortar store chains combined, and control roughly 1/3 of all ecommerce.  Just try to get help when they screw something up with your account too.  BUT… I don’t have any problems accessing my books on Kindle for PC.