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Dumb Stuff with Tommy McGee – 4

Dumb-Stuff

Hi. Welcome to Dumb Stuff.

I’m Tommy and this is what I think about stuff that’s mostly dumb.

Today…all the rage over comedy.

Go ahead. Pour yourself a fresh one, grab a bowl of pretzels and get settled in. This nut takes a hot minute to crack, but I’ll try to get at it as simply as possible.

Lately, there seems to a lot of uproar over the things we hear from comedians and their related comedy.

Over the course of human history, leagues of comedians have been labeled offensive. Lenny Bruce, George Carlin, Eddie Murphy, Richard Pryor, Sam Kinison, Sarah Silverman, Joan Rivers, Ricky Gervais and more have all been labeled offensive or worse at one time or another. As some would have you believe, they are dangerous to all that is good and holy in our delicate society. While that is some serious bullshit, the ultimate point is that offensive comedy is nothing new. Technically speaking, neither is our love/hate relationship with offensive material. While a lot of it seems like bravado, we seem very easy to offend. But, come on…really? I can think of about a hundred things that upset me way more than the comedy stylings of the offensive.

Now, I want to be extra careful about saying what is offensive, because ultimately, the definition of offensive is subjective.

I don’t know a good definition of comedy off the top of my head. I can’t tell you, from a textbook point of view, what the value of comedy is to our society, but I’m pretty sure we need it.

Comedy is a reflection of who we are in our moment in time, presented to us in often disruptive, outrageous, inflated and absurd ways. It needs to cut through our common sense defenses to get to our more primal selves in order to elicit a response. The desired primary response is laughter and levity. The secondary desired response is some level of awareness, a chance to reflect on who we are or what the message is and why certain things are funny to us.

While we may think the times we live in are the very darkest and most troubling, so did our fathers and our father’s fathers and so on. Everyone lives through the worst of times depending on how they see it. Through all that struggle, there is a human need and desire to laugh, if for no other reason than to forget for a moment about how freakin’ miserable things are and the need to just blow some steam.

As times change, our sensitivities change. What we laughed at years ago, may be unacceptable material today and that is OK. There is plenty out there to make fun of. It’s a live and learn thing. The challenge we face now is that virtually everyone in the world has access to everyone else in the world and we all have the ability to label something we experience as “offensive” – based on our own biases – and can propagate that belief, incite rage and all kinds of things – globally – in an instant.

So what’s offensive? I laugh at a lot of stuff because funny is funny and I’m not that easily offended by comedy because I believe I understand the intent.

My friend Jeggs says everything – e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g – is funny, all the time…until it isn’t. I think I understand that, but it’s probably more complex than I imagine.

What we sometimes get caught up on, is the difference between the comedic message and the messenger. That, and this herd-level, bandwagon mentality where we demand instant “justice” for things that upset us without really doing the work to define intent.

Like I said, comedy is supposed to make us see how ridiculous we can be. Our common understanding of how silly we are as a species is what makes comedy work. So the message of comedy – the content – is the social commentary, the mirror we hold before ourselves so that we may better understand our shortcomings and learn not to take ourselves so seriously as we try to work through them.

Comedians, and their associated vehicles, like TV sitcoms or a live performances, are the delivery systems for that social commentary.

Let me be clear that I’m not advocating or approving hateful, inflammatory material that has the intent of shredding the moral fiber of our existence, intentionally causing pain or intentionally causing damage. That is not comedy. And there are plenty of tone-deaf jokes which can be found offensive, or at the least insensitive, and miss the mark on delivery. But while the intent may be to shock, it is rarely to do harm. Comedians feed off laughter. There’s no value in your ire.

Like an actor, or a singer or whatever, there should be a clear delineation between what a person does as a person and what that person does in a profession. I mean, we don’t consider an actor to be a Nazi, or hold them accountable for Nazi beliefs or hate crimes, just because he is cast somewhere in the role of Hitler. It is a representation of information with the intent of getting some kind of awareness into the social consciousness.

We need that. We need different ways to learn about what we do as we trip through our daily lives. We need to know when we are doing something stupid, dangerous, insensitive and needs to be changed and we need to be able to celebrate when we discover we might be doing something right. That is the beauty of art in all its forms, whether it pokes at your delicate sensibilities or not.

Now, if that actor who played Hitler goes home after work and in his own time and space, and in the skin of being regular old John B. Actor, hits the couch to start spewing his personal beliefs which are racist, hateful, divisive, threatening, harmful and more on social media or wherever, there is a problem.

That person can’t hide under the loose protections that comes with being a social commentator because instead of making a point through content, it is a reflection of that being’s personal belief system which they need to be responsible for. They still have the right to say whatever stupid, vile garbage they want. That is the right we get for living here. But they can’t expect that others will not want to respond in some way or that there could not be repercussions, like being called out on it or being fired from the company or group that they may represent or be associated with.

It is definitely a very fine line and the shades of gray that shift between dark and light can turn on an instant depending on who seems to be defining what is offensive in that moment. Generally, if you give it a moment, it will change.

Correction is good. We make course corrections in our lives every day, probably subconsciously, to make sure we continue going in what we perceive to be the right direction. But waging an all out assault on the notion that making fun or providing social insights through comedy with a coating of laughter to soothe the delivery are dangerous waters to tread.

Ultimately, comedy is like music. Some of it is offensive. To you. Or me. I have my preferences and you have yours. Who is to say which is correct? If you don’t like it, turn it off. Don’t listen to it. But you can’t make that judgement for everyone. Nor should you.

These are delicate times for everybody. Personally, I want to laugh as much as possible because it gives me hope that we aren’t as far gone as I fear. The moment we start taking ourselves too seriously, we are truly doomed. I hope we figure that out.

Till then, it’s just gonna more of the same old, same old – more dumb stuff.

*Editor’s note:
To read other “Dumb Stuff” entries, search for Dumb Stuff at the top of the page.

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On any given day… 1

Any-given-day

“She could be a professional smiler, ” Barton thought. “If there was such a thing.”

He stood at his register mindlessly passing the goods from Mrs. Fromeyer’s cart, one at a time, across the scanner. He waved each item back and forth over the single, red-flashing laser eyeball of the machine that logged the purchases until it noted success with a short, innocuous beep.

April, who stood at lane number 7, just two registers away, did the same work, but with more…

Words flashed across his mind as he sought out just the right one. Style? Flair? Zest?

Panache.

Yes, panache was it to a T. It felt like an old word. Like something his grandmother might say, but it fit April and what she was doing in this moment perfectly. While he scanned by rote, April talked to people. She was genuine. She cared. She gave little tidbits of information about the products the people were buying and asked them about their day.

Even though she had a scrunchy at the ready on her wrist, she kept her hair down most of the time. It constantly fell across her face, which required that she constantly pull it back and tuck it behind her ear. An exercise in futility for the hair, but for him each pull back revealed that amazing smile. It hit him like a kid watching a magician pulling his cape back to reveal the end of an amazing illusion.

Barton looked around the store. Most people don’t smile. Mrs. Fromeyer wasn’t smiling. He wasn’t smiling. They were all capable of smiling, sure, but everyone seemed to dole them out as if they were a precious and limited resource best used exclusively for special occasions.

Not April though. If smiling was a precious and limited commodity that should be tightly managed, nobody told her. She had smiles for everyone. She had smiles for no one. She looked as though she could have been born with a smile on her face. She could have been the hardest birth known to humanity and Barton could only imagine the new infant April lying in a small hospital crib and struggling to “make it” – all while smiling.

It was a sweet smile, natural and full. It fit her face perfectly. It never faded. If it ever went away, and he was pressed to think of a time when that happened, you could rest assured that a new fresh smile was coming up to take its place any second.

When some people smile, it looks forced, fake, off-putting in some cases and foreign in others, as if gracing the face it sat on was a mistake. It’s not that these people are unhappy, but more that they are not properly gifted with adequate smile features.

April’s face was made for smiling. Whatever bone structure and musculature nature set up for her provided the optimum conditions for maximum smile efficiency. She had more than a mouth smile. Her whole head was symmetrical and balanced. The trigger of the smile caused her eyes to widen just so to add that extra gleam to them and a subtle, soft blush would grace her cheeks with just the right amount of color. It was art. She was smile incarnate.

He could imagine her face on magazines, billboards, giant animated screens and on TV, not hawking cars and overpriced, sludge-creating, high-speed juicing machines, no. That did not suit her. Instead, she would represent ideals, assurances and lofty aspirations, inspiring  those seeking help or who search for a pathway to a better existence to take those steps needed to be who they want to be in this life. Quit smoking. Read books. Meditate. Recycle. Save puppies. Feed the homeless. Use energy efficient LED light bulbs. Retire at Shady Oaks. Consider Tyler Funeral Home the best option for your loved ones as they head to the great unknown. And more.

He knew he was staring. He tried not to, but still he found himself looking without looking, gauging her movements to make sure that if she were to look up, he could effectively shift his gaze off to some other direction without getting caught with his eyes on her like some distant, creepy, stalker.

He was not proud, but it could not be helped. In his 19 and three-quarter years of life, he had never encountered such a force. It knocked him off balance. Yet, in 19 and three-quarters years of life, he still he knew well the notions of fate and impermanence. His best friend “for life” David Berkingham moved away that fateful day in June the year they both turned eight and look how that turned out. It was like David never existed. Nothing lasts forever. So if the universe saw fit to align his path with that of April Timmons and the smile that could generate universal peace and harmony, who was he to argue?

*Editor’s note:
To read other story entries, just search for On any given day at the top of the page.

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Dumb Stuff with Tommy McGee – 3

Dumb-Stuff

Hi. Welcome to Dumb Stuff.

I’m Tommy, and this is what I think about stuff that’s mostly dumb.

Today…political zealots.

Let’s get at it.

My friend Louis says there are basically two things that guide him along his path and they have never let him down. They are common sense and beer.

If something doesn’t make sense to him, he works on it until it does. If it’s something doesn’t make sense and it’s beyond his control, he finds the best way in his mind to cope with it. It’s sort of a zen-like “let it go” philosophy because basically, it doesn’t make sense to him to waste energy grinding on it, especially if he can’t do anything about it.

He sees common sense as anything that can be figured out in a hot minute and that under the same circumstances, and with the same set of considerations, anyone else (in their right mind, as he puts it) would come to the same logical conclusion.

If you take a bite off a slice of pizza that just came out of the oven you are bound to torch the roof of your mouth. Anyone knows that. It’s common sense. If you know that and you do it anyway, Louis would say you are probably not right in your mind, because again, it’s common sense.

What stumps Louis these days, and me, and several of the others I speak to or hear from regularly is what seems to be a large step away from common sense. It’s evident in a  lot of things but most clearly illustrated by the latest wave of political vitriol generated from hardcore, short-sighted, mean-spirited, uninformed, under-informed, pig-headed, irrational, party loyalists who spew venom and ignorance as if it were their right, ordained to do so by God.

Now, we crawled around on that for a bit, because we all believe people have the right, at least as outlined by the constitution, to speak their piece, no matter how ignorant others may deem them to be. Intelligence, perceived or otherwise, is apparently not a condition for gaining the right to speak freely.

However, Louis will tell you that an ignorant man’s desire to speak his truth is like having the desire to dress a rhino in a tuxedo. While you may have the right and the notion to do it, it makes no sense and no good comes from it – for him, for the tuxedo or for the rhino. Louis is a Class A bar stool philosopher for sure.

Of course, all this comes at the risk of judging others. Which we know we should try to avoid. Then again, somebody has to say something.

I don’t really care much about what people have to say. As crazy as it gets, most of the time if you let them say it, they get it out of their system and go away. I don’t have to agree with them and if they say things that are offensive to me or to my people, I have the choice to go away myself, or handle it in a way that diffuses my frustrations.

What I care about is when actions overpower conversations. My granddad will tell you that a bad conversation is better than no conversation at all, because at least you are talking. And if you’re talking, and listening, there is a pretty good chance that the conversation will turn into something positive. Eventually.

What we are seeing in our politics today is actions overpowering conversations. Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of words being said, but few actual conversations are taking place. The intent of the words are less about achieving anything and more about spewing anger, ignorance, self-righteous ideology and negativity. That all spoils the ground for fertile conversation.

Everyone is dug in and polarized. These hard-charging nubs seem so embedded and invested in their political rhetoric, and I mean dug in deep, that the opportunity for consideration, cooperation and rational, productive discussion is being extinguished like a lit match trapped under an inverted bar glass.

There is a clear “us versus them” mentality coming from both sides. Louis calls them Demi-don’ts and Republi-can’ts because they each blame the other for all the bad going on, promise the stars and moon in the spirit of change and accomplish absolutely zero. It makes no sense and it’s just dumb.

I liken this widespread, communally ignorant behavior to that of the Zax in the story by Dr. Seuss. Look it up. Two creatures intent on going to their destinations and getting their way in doing it without giving a single thought about the other. They end up blocking each other’s path. They are stubborn, unwilling to learn or change or even make a small adjustment to their mindset or process because of the entitlement they feel to self-actualize. It’s just blind, dumb ignorance for the purpose of principle.

And this is where the problem is. We can’t seem to suss it out. Common sense dictates this is an unhealthy and ultimately, self-destructive behavior. It’s behavior we would admonish our children for and yet these folks see no problems with it, or are at the very least, aggressively comfortable with settling into their ignorance and sharing it broadly.

Common sense dictates that someone along the line is gonna have to blink. They will have to set pride aside and suggest there may be a better way to achieve resolution beyond demanding everything go a certain way – because that’s the way they want it –  and undermining everything that may crimp the pure crazy.

America was built on compromise and cooperation. There are good people here who work hard to get through the day to day they best they can and would rather not have to deal with the philosophical zealotry that ultimately makes their jobs harder and provides fewer rewards. It’s frustrating and it’s soul-crushing to know that there are people out there, people with power and influence that would rather serve an ideology than to put the energy into honestly working for the common good. If everyone could see that and maybe try blinking, just a little bit, and take a little step back toward common sense, we might be able to see the bigger picture and paint it properly.

Till then, it’s just gonna more of the same old same old. More dumb stuff.

*Editor’s note:
To read other “Dumb Stuff” entries, search for Dumb Stuff at the top of the page.

Copyright © 2018 – The JEFFWORKS

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Something to Ponder – 11

banaba 1a

Sage advice from an elderly gentleman perched atop a lonely mountain.

Hello friends! Today our question comes from Donnie Mershon of Beaufort, South Carolina.

“Dear Banaba,” Donnie writes. “I don’t think people like me. In fact, I think some people may hate me.”

To my new friend Donnie, I say simply, “After the overwhelming mountain of questions, I’m not sure I like you either!”

But that is me having a delicate joke at your expense. Apologies. Clearly, you asked no question at all, but I think I know what you may be looking for just the same.

Consider first that the human species is a complex and emotional animal. The simple determining factors of like and dislike are the root logic we use for virtually every decision we make.

Now consider that every person on the planet is wired with a unique mindset, a unique moral code, a unique capacity for understanding, learning, forgiveness, anger, mistrust and so on. And while clusters of us may have thoughts and feelings that are similar to other’s, what we bring to that commonality is less about how much we may be the same and more about what we need in our lives and what we are willing to do to get it so that we may better self-actualize. In other words, it is a reflection of how willing we are to reach out, tolerate, empathize, understand, forgive, give and more, according to what we need, to make our relationships work.

Clearly, not all of us are destined to get along, but not feeling liked, or feeling hated is a different dynamic than not getting along. Basically, humans have two emotional pathways that help guide our decisions and ultimately, our lives.

Our passive emotional pathway allows us to make effective like/dislike decisions with great efficiency and with little residual refection or consideration. Some refer to these as “no-brainers”. I dislike the cold, so I wear a coat. I like ice cream so I will eat it. I dislike dark alleyways because I feel they may be unsafe so I will avoid them. It is quite efficient until something disrupts our pathway and presents us with new factors to consider.

That is when our active emotional pathway kicks in. This allows us to further consider the circumstances we find ourselves in so that we might try and respond effectively, in our time and space at that moment, to resolve the conflict. It is an aggressive and reactive pathway which often creates new actions and counteractions that we must respond to that often fall well beyond the initial issue and often with assumed facts or notions of what we may believe to be true. I dislike the cold, so I wear a coat. But, my coat is not warm enough, so I need to buy a warmer coat. Even more so, I’m sick the cold and I should move to a warmer place. San Diego is warmer I bet. I should just move to San Diego. I’ll be happier there. And so on.

Despite our individuality and each person’s unique perspective. I like to think that we are all generally predisposed to liking something, in this case, people, over disliking it – or them. At a minimum, we should be able to ignore others without the least bit of disruption to our lives. We do this every day. If you do not know anyone in Billings, Montana, you are not likely to care much about them, even though they exist. I feel it is doubtful that you would hate them.

But, to not like, or to hate is an active, aggressive and emotional decision we make based on some level of bias that falls outside our level of tolerance or willingness to make the needed adjustments to turn the dislike into something more positive.

It takes energy, and there is a cost to our emotional currency to hate. And while it is frequently abused or at a minimum, misplaced, it is still a useful and sometimes necessary emotion because it defines for us the farthest boundary of our willingness to bend. I like ice cream, but I hate pistachio ice cream, therefore I will eat many, many ice cream flavors before I even consider eating pistachio.

Finally, know that hate comes with the weight of what it is. When someone hates, they carry the burden of that emotion with them. Even if they feel they deserve to hate. Perhaps they feel they have been wronged in some way or something dear has been taken from them. They feed it regularly. Small things can churn into rage which only serves to reinforce the hate. They cannot move beyond it, or resolve it so it festers as hate is prone to do.

So, what comes from this all analysis you ask? Well, people may dislike you. They may even hate you. It is also entirely possible that people don’t hate you but, they experience a level of frustration while interacting with you that they find upsetting enough for them to react the way they do to you, which you may define as hate. We are bad communicators to begin with. We are worse when feelings like hate are involved.

Your job is to understand what role you play in this particular circumstance. Ask the hard questions, but be willing to answer honestly. Are you kind? Are you rude? Are you understanding? Are you hateful yourself? Do you strive to hurt others? And so on.

Nobody is perfect. We all deserve the benefit of the doubt from others if we can honestly say that our general objective is to be the best people we can be. I’m certain the people whom you say may hate you, would want the same considerations should the tables be turned.

Lastly, you must understand that whatever hate another carries, even if directed at you, is not your responsibility to resolve. If you have taken responsibility for your own actions to the extent of your awareness, then you have done your part. The hate of another is something he or she will have to resolve on their own. It may be that they will find no way to resolve it besides extinguishing any association they have with you. That may not be ideal, but it may also be the reality. It is sad. You will likely wonder what you could have done that was so offensive to them that they chose to cut you away like that, but that is their choice. And if they hate you for no reason at all beyond the mere fact that you exist then they have many larger problems and you are better off for the distance.

Either way, in a way, such a choice is freeing in that it allows you to focus more on the things in your life that deserve your positive energy and proper attention. Should the day come that a resolution is possible, you must decide if you are open to re-establishing that relationship. If so, you must also be willing, and able, to set the past aside and move forward fresh and new.

By the way, I like you just fine.

Peace to you  – Banaba

*Editor’s note:
To read other “Something to Ponder” entries, search for Banaba at the top of the page.

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Something to Ponder – 10

banaba 1a

Sage advice from an elderly gentleman perched atop a lonely mountain.

Hello friends! Today our question comes from Jacques Monphree of Ely, Minnesota.

“Dear Banaba,” Jacques writes. “Why is everyone always telling me how to live my life? Am I wrong just because I don’t do what they would do, when they would do it, or how they would do it?”

To my new friend Jacques, I say simply, “You figure it out!”

But of course, that is me making very light of your question, of which I mean no harm or disrespect.

Your question is asked easily enough, but the answer can be very complex. I’m going to guess first that your saying “everyone” is an exaggeration. Of course, not everyone would be telling you how to live. You don’t know everyone and most everyone could probably care less about how you live as long as you are not hurting yourself or others…or annoying them…at a minimum.

From there I can guess that the people who feel more free about commenting on the path of your existence are those whom you have a fairly common association with, primarily friends and family and perhaps to a lesser extent, friends of friends, as they say on the Internet.

With the commentators identified, we can begin to explore the motivations behind why they do what they do. I imagine there are about three overall personalities that motivate another to make a conscious decision to address the state of your existence. There are likely others, I’m sure, but we can probably roll most things up into these three.

  1. As Teacher
    As a person travels along their path, they build a collection of life experiences which can ultimately lead to a place of wisdom, knowledge and enlightenment…if they do it right. Many of us seek out these people out to try and reap the benefit of their experiences so that our own path becomes easier. They are perceived as having wisdom and are usually open to sharing. However, the good teacher is not going to tell you what you should do or how you are doing things wrong.Because they are aware that life experience and knowledge is unique to the individual and the life they lead, the good teacher provides you with the knowledge and guidance you need to learn your life lessons for yourself, as they apply to your own existence, or you would learn nothing. It would be silly for them to tell you what they did in their lives with the belief that such information will resolve issues for you.
  2. As Protector
    An extension of one who acts like a teacher is one who plays the role of protector. These people may also be reacting to your situation based on the biases and understanding of their own life experience, though less to the point of having you learn and more to the point of directly pointing out the pitfalls they experienced – or are aware of – so that you might avoid them.Because they care for you, or believe they care for you, they are willing to share with you the cautions you should heed to live a safe, healthy and productive life. Yes, some of these are obvious. If the weather is treacherous and it is clear that you should wear the right clothes outside and you must travel with extra caution, you can expect a reminder from a protector who feels they have your best interests at heart.
  3. As Meddler
    The act of being a teacher or protector in someone else’s life is a lofty and positive thing. It can create a sense of pride and accomplishment to know one can help another and generally, you want those people in your life.However, despite best intentions, some people lack the necessary qualities to fill the shoes of the more lofty roles and instead, play the part of the meddler. They will say their intent is to teach or protect, and they may often believe that to be fact. But, the way they comment, the things they say and how they say them reflect a different reality. There is a universal theory that people of today seem to have forgotten and that is, some things are better left unsaid. The meddler says them anyway. The meddler response is less about you or helping you and more about the motivations of the meddler him or herself. It could be that your actions upset them, or the things you do and say are dramatically disconnected from what they feel to be correct and true. They could try to understand, but instead, they are compelled to comment to bring things back into alignment for them.

Remember though, traits are traits, not people. You may find a good teacher or a solid protector in your life just as easily as you could find someone who is all teacher, protector and meddler wrapped in one.

When the people in our lives feel compelled to comment on what we do, we hope that they would do so from a place of understanding, empathy, grace, discretion and support. We hope that they might ask questions about what we are doing and how we are feeling over making a quick emotional, judgement about what they see and boldly preparing a response to initiate action. To nurture rather than needle. To respond in such a way is endlessly shortsighted, counterproductive and prone to creating valleys over building bridges.

And when you receive this “help”, how you respond, if you respond, should be just as conscious a decision. When someone reaches out to you for whatever reason, you can react quickly and emotionally based on what you see and feel in the moment, you could easily toss it aside, or you could consider the spirit in which you believe the help was delivered.

If you are an adult, you are in charge of your own world. Many people will have comments about the things you do, but comments are not directives or laws, they are merely something to consider. Once considered, you make your choices and boldly step forward knowing that for you, in your pool of circumstances, you are doing the right things and living the life you want to live. If you feel bad about that, then you are worrying less about what’s right for you and more about how those who comment will further react to your decisions.

The long and the short of that is, it is none of their business.

Peace to you  – Banaba

*Editor’s note:
To read other “Something to Ponder” entries, search for Banaba at the top of the page.

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Emory Crisp’s Tales From an Expanded Universe

Emory-Crisp-Title

EC – Personal Log – 0120053118 – The Flaxtor Carrier Pigeons of Death – Part 1

Medi-tech once again performed a miracle of modern science by getting my thumb back where it belongs with one hundred percent of the nerves connected, restoring full feeling and range of motion.

Good thing too. I’ve had a lot of good times with this thumb and I’d hate for that to end just because I didn’t pull it back fast enough in the clutch. And, being the fourth time I’ve nearly lost that thumb…completely, it’s fair to believe that it might reject me strictly on the basis of neglect. Nobody wants their thumb turning on them. I don’t.

And as I sit here, pumping my reborn digit up and down like I’m cracking the detonator of an X-13 Plastisplode Peacekeeper, I have nobody to thank for the return of my thumb – and the Nexit Commodore turbo-drive I was sent to retrieve – than Turp, supreme Flaxtor Carrier Death Pigeon.

Breaking it down, calling this creature a pigeon is just wrong. It’s an obvious joke of whomever’s job it was to name things that we humans started to encounter once hole-jumping became a thing. A standard CDP looked more like a large bat with leathery skin, stubby, metallic looking feathers, and near reptilian facial features instead of your standard issue pigeon beak…or bat face. They’re substantially larger than even the largest pigeon could dream of being and they are fast, tactical fliers, nimble and agile, with the ability to get in and out of the tightest of places with ease and turn on a dime with great finesse.

The carrier part was spot on. Their large feet and strong talons, combined with a healthy extended, wingspan made them perfect for carrying notes and small packages over long distances. The spooky part is that these things have the ability to absorb suggestion and process information in a way that allows them to understand what you want them to do quickly and where you want them to take something all while figuring the fastest possible route. They say it’s part chemical reaction, part telepathy and brain synapsis something or other. Who knows? All I know is that they can cut through the mental clutter to get directly to the bit, the thing you want them to know, and make that bit their mission.

The death part is right too. Despite their mostly calm demeanor and being bred to serve, this is not a “pigeon” you want to piss off. Aside from the talons, which are formidable weapons in and of themselves, the CDP also has lengthy retractable fangs that carry a lethal venom, at least lethal to humans. Whether they bite you or spit on you, if you come into contact with that venom…you’re done, good night.

On paper, my assignment was supposed to be a standard, by the book pick-up and delivery. After the incident on Bahtch, which I maintain was a total misunderstanding, my income stream was reduced to odd jobs and hole-jumps others found too menial to do. Hm…reduced to being little more than a CDP myself really. Well, except for the wings and the venom spitting fangs and…

But I digress. The job was a simple hole-jump to Neb 15 with a tap-in spot set in the heart of the Vax complex which was nestled serenely in the third quadrant of Simmaer, Flaxtor’s biggest city. There, I would meet up with Strom Gorman, “purveyor of fine goods”, as he put it, pick up the disc, head to the tap-out and hole-jump home.

Easy, right? Should have been, but somewhere along the line, the whole plan went scrap.

Getting in was rage – smooth and easy. The tap-in was pretty close to where it was supposed to be, about 100 feet away from Strom’s place. Which was lucky. Lately, a string of miscalculations from the senders put the taps off by miles. In one case, hundreds of miles; just another thing eroding the once fevered interest in jumping.

As I  got my bearings and headed down the street, Strom stepped out of the door of his storefront. He was a large, beast of a Flaxtorian male, but with many years behind him. He walked forward slowly while dramatically arching his back as if it were stiff. He breathed in a full helping of the cool night air, holding it for a moment before letting it escape with a loud sigh as if the day had certainly taken a toll. For someone who acted like he was looking for nothing, the awfulness of it all made it obvious he was looking out for someone…me.

“Strom,” I said, raising my hand up to identify who was calling out. Dumb move now that I think of how barren the street was at the moment. Who else would be yelling at him at this point?

“Mr. Crisp?” The sound sort of warbled from him as he spoke. The Flaxtorians found English a bit more challenging than some of the other languages they encountered in this sector, but it was clear enough for me. I got it.

“E.C., please.” I stepped up to him and suppressed the reflex to shake hands. His race found it to be a disgusting ritual. “I guess you have something for me?”

“Right to the businesses,” he warbled. “I like that.”

Strom looked both ways up and down the street with a serious and stern expression before reaching into the pocket of his robe-like coat.

“Here,” he said pulling his chunky, three-fingered hand out and palming the small silver data bank. “Be careful dis, yes? Hot. Hot. Hot.”

He laughed a little, as far as I could tell, then he shoved the disk hard into my front coat pocket. Funny that they don’t shake hands, but they seem to have few qualms with aggressively violating one’s personal space.

“Wha…,?” I said. “Oh yeah. Right. Hot.” He patted my pocket down for safety. “Hot data. I get it.”

He gave me what I think was a wink, but it was so slow, it looked like he might be starting to nod off. I guess Strom liked the sense of drama that came with delivering a data disk to little more than a courrier on a dark street…at night, artificial as it may be.

“OK,” I said, rocking back on my heals a bit while trying to avoid any longer a good-bye than what already transpired. “Gotta jump.”

I took a few short steps back, giving a small, polite wave and a nod Strom, you know, as people do, then turned and walked with more intent back to the tap-out.

It was about step number three when the section of street were on lit up like daylight forgot something. My eyes clenched as I recoiled and turned as if slapped on the back by an invisible hand.

“NO MOVES!”

A voice rang out from, well, from everywhere.

“NO MOVES!”

The voice boomed and warbled.

“NO MOVES! YOUR TAP TERMINATES! YOU GIVE ANSWERS!”

There it was. The blinding light and the booming voice, whether it’s Brooklyn direct or  or a Flaxtorian warble, the unmistakeable tone proved the authorities had arrived. Still squinting too hard too see, I slowly raised my hands in surrender. It was the Shags – the Flaxtorian police.

*Editor’s note:
To read other fantastic tales, search for Emory Crisp at the top of the page.

Copyright © 2018 – The JEFFWORKS

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Something to Ponder – 9

banaba 1a

Sage advice from an elderly gentleman perched atop a lonely mountain.

Hello friends! Today our question comes from Rex Carson of Brattleboro, Vermont.

“Dear Banaba,” Rex writes. “Why aren’t people more charitable?”

To my new friend Rex, I ask, “Rex, what do you need now?”

But again, that is me being playful. As I see it, the more serious response to the question has three parts. People may be seen as being less than charitable because:

  1. Charity is inconvenient
  2. Charity requires that we give something of ourselves
  3. We have a tendency to judge one’s need to see if they are worthy of our effort

Many people are charitable at heart, but people are busy, and even with the best of intentions, moving the notion of being charitable into action takes purposeful intent. Charitable groups or people in need of charity can be quite good about asking for help and letting you know that they exist as an entity, and the need for your help is real, but if you are not in the place, either in your mind or in your personal situation, where it is easy to give – also called a “no brainer” – one is not likely to do so.

Also, most people believe they work hard to support the lives they have. If they are inspired to help others, they do so because they can, and they want to feel good about themselves for doing it. So, while the act of charity helps those in need, it also gives those who help an emotional boost. People need something in return for their work, even if it is just a good feeling, otherwise they would not do it.

There are many forms of charity, financial, physical, emotional and no matter the form, the act of charity requires a willingness and a capability on the part of the giver to provide support to others. Only the giver can define those thresholds. They will give what is comfortable for them.

It is easy to donate clothes that you do not wear, tools that you do not use, or similar items because you are already detached from them and the cost to you is low.

The donation of time in the service of others is more difficult because we are already time strapped. How much time can one spare? Is it enough time to do any good? Will it end up being more time than we expected to the point where it infringes on other things? Plus, the donation of time means a more integrated involvement, personally and emotionally, with the issue you are working on or the affected people, animals or whatever. So, time is a more personal investment.

Then there is money. Sometimes it is easiest to give money because the ultimate cost to you is lower than other options. You can give without being directly involved. You are not really connected to the issue beyond your financial support. You won’t get your hands dirty because your donation combined with others allows other people to do the work. On the other hand, money may be very difficult for you to give because of your personal situation even though sometimes money is what is needed most.

Since the act of charity is seen as a basic human trait, it is very difficult when people with a charitable heart cannot give, cannot do for the people and groups they wish to help. It is a struggle. It can also be disheartening when we give and believe that we are doing good, only to find we have been duped and our time, energy and resources have gone to places less worthy than our intentions. It happens often enough and on a grand enough scale that some will take great caution before considering charity.

Because we have been burned, or we know someone who has been burned in the past, we like to make sure that if we go out of our way to be charitable, the efforts are earned and deserved.

We all tend to compare others to ourselves especially when it comes to charity. We are human. We judge. We shouldn’t and I believe we often try not to, but it is a hard-wired into our brains and difficult to escape. Does that person really need that money? If I’m working, why aren’t they working? I will give only so much because they should be able to do the rest on their own. They are being lazy. They already have help from other people, how much more do they need? And on and on and on.

The problem with being so judgmental is that it can skew one’s perspective. While I encourage care and consideration, I caution against becoming so critical that it paralyzes one’s sense of humanity to the point where cynicism trumps charity, or at least the honest consideration of charity. We should be better than that. Sometimes, we are not.

There is no shortage of charitable requests that come our way. They come in our mail, they come to us electronically in email and chats and notes, we are approached as we come and go from our local Super Marts, or on street corners. Whether from strangers or from friends and family, it seems someone always wants or needs something. It can be exhausting.

When the planets align and we have determined that the time for giving is now, that we have the resources to spare and that our resources will go where needed to serve the intended purpose, we are more likely to be charitable.

So when Rex asks, why aren’t people more charitable, one might say that if we take all things into consideration, people are as charitable as we allow them to be.

Peace to you  – Banaba

*Editor’s note:
To read other “Something to Ponder” entries, search for Banaba at the top of the page.

Copyright © 2018 – The JEFFWORKS

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