Tag Archives: musings

Agree to Disagree

Please don’t agree with me – at least not right off the bat. I want to be argued with a little first. It’s really the only way I can be certain that someone is really listening to what I am trying to say. Complete agreement is the death of good conversation. I want you to explain to me why you hated the movie that I loved. I want to know if you actually think Donald Trump is an honest man. I want the chance to relate to you just what it is that excites me about a certain painting you find boring. The world is a wonderful place and I definitely have opinions and ideas about it (Vincent says I like to pontificate), but I value and get just as excited by hearing someone else’s thoughts as I do in spouting off mine.

Frank discussions, debate, and even arguing keep our minds agile, keep our relationships from getting stagnated, keep us from bottling up resentments, make us thoughtful citizens, and even help us to have peace of mind. I think if you can’t have a good knock down drag out fight with a friend, and get right over it, then that person probably was not that great of a friend to begin with. I don’t expect everyone to agree with my politics or my religion (I don’t like to talk about money because I simply find it a boring subject) so I am not going to take it personally if we don’t see eye to eye.

I had a woman unfriend me on Facebook the other day because I disagreed with her on the physical practicality of building a 2000 mile wall between the U.S. and Mexico. She thought that I had insulted her when really all I did was disagree with her. People… that is not the same thing.

So go ahead, challenge my ideas – maybe you are right and I will learn something. Or just maybe by we can both grow into better people.

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I was the youngest kid on the street where I grew up. Because of that, I often didn’t get to have a lot of say in the games we played or the general shenanigans we got up to. This changed as I got a little older, but when I was actually physically smaller than the other children, I often could not compete or keep up with the older kids.

It was at this time that I discovered “magic.” Let me give you an example of what I mean: if all the other kids beat me in a race I simply informed them that I had actually won because I was magic and had made it to the finish line first. They just didn’t see it because again – I was magic. I guess I became sort of a pain in the ass at that time because if anything didn’t go my way, I tried to change the outcome or the rules in general with my claim that I was magic.

Oddly enough this little coping mechanism actually helped me for a while. It helped me feel like I didn’t always come in last, that I could throw the ball just as far as the others, or that I was able to climb just as high in the tree. Of course these victories were all in my head, but even so they somehow mattered.

I have never forgotten my magic. I think that it gave me a love of reading and imagination and being creative. And on some level I have never grown out of it. In my forties I stood in lines at midnight to get the latest Harry Potter books. I have read Lord of the Rings more than 20 times (how many more I refuse to admit). I watch any movie with a dragon in it or where swords and sandals feature heavily. My nerdy love for these magical books and movies is compounded by the true magic – the creativity and imagination of the folks that produced them. My awe of their ability to create and transport us to other worlds only grows as the years pass.

I guess all that magic is how I ended up an artist.

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People are so touchy.

At a recent social event, I was chatting with a youngish woman whom I had just met. We were engaged in a pleasant little conversation, laughing, and having a generally good time when the subject came around to her work schedule, about which she began to complain, saying it often caused her to have to work very late hours. When I asked her what her job was, she replied only that she “worked in hotels.” Well that set up was too good to pass up. So I simply responded… “prostitute?”

And can you believe it? She got really offended. I tried to laugh it off as the obvious joke I meant it to be. But she was clearly not amused and stormed off. Well, I guess it was bad judgment on my part. I forget that I do have a twisted sense of humor. I am also not easily offended to the point that I forget that other folks quite often can be.

I regularly say things that cause folks to give me funny looks. I just can’t help it. If it comes into my head – it generally comes out of my mouth, especially if I think it’s funny. Mind you, I don’t really care if whoever might be listening thinks it’s funny. I am one of those awful clods who laughs at his own jokes.

Later that evening, at the same event, a rather elderly gentleman was receiving an award. The old gentleman gave a beautiful acceptance speech that had the entire crowd in tears. It was, however, a rather lengthy speech, and at the end of it I turned to the lady next to me and said (again completely as a joke) “I thought he would never shut up.” The woman gave me a funny smile, so I took it farther and added that “it was a good thing the gentleman ended his speech as it was beginning to cut into what time he had left on earth.” The slight smile disappeared and she made her excuses and walked away – I offended another one. Of course, I think as it turned out she might have been his daughter. But still?…. Come on?…No?…

Oh well, I thought it was funny.

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Unyielding Good Taste

good-tasteEveryone thinks they have it. Most do not.

As an artist I try to be opened minded about the aesthetics of other people. I try to understand the look they are going for when someone paints their front door metallic gold, has a round bed, or places a life size reproduction of the Venus de Milo next to the BBQ grill in their backyard. Unfortunately, having an open mind can only go so far.

Yes, bad taste is out there in full force. In fact we are almost constantly being assaulted with it. We have an all-you-can-eat, gold lame, fake boob, strip mall, cubic zirconia, acid-washed kinda world pushed in our face most of the time.

However, to me, the only thing worse than bad taste is actually good taste – just in the wrong hands. It’s wonderful when someone can recognize the beauty of an eighteenth century French chateau. But trying to make your brand new house look exactly like one is just wrong. Isn’t there something slightly ridiculous about having a monogram on your rubber boots? Do antique Italian olive jars (no matter how beautiful they are) really belong on the porch of your Arts and Crafts style bungalow?

I find that often people who have no taste use the elements of what is accepted as “good taste” as a sort of mask to hide behind. Their outfits and homes always perfectly put together in the most utterly conventional way because they have no style of their own. To me this is the ultimate in boring. Am I the only one who thinks that a home that is merely pretty is almost ugly? Having a pretty home is easy. Buying a pretty dress is no problem. Finding a haircut that suits you and sticking with it for 5 or 10 years is not all that complicated. But I salute those folks who take chances and paint rooms the wrong color. The ladies and gentlemen who are not afraid to make a mistake with their wardrobe make me smile. And Bravo to you if every once in awhile your friends have to ask you “What in the hell did you do to your hair?”

For me a little bit of good taste goes a long way. Overdo it and you risk banality.

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There is an old adage that many doctors are taught in med school. It goes something like this: If you hear the sound of hooves clattering on the pavement in central park, chances are that it is a horse and not a zebra. The implication being that most things are what they appear to be. For med students this means don’t try to turn a simple cold into radiation poisoning.

But let’s forget medical school. I think that everyone needs a good dose of this lesson. In fact, given the ridiculous things I hear people say on a daily basis, I think we should have T-shirts made.

I heard a man say that if we allow gay marriage, the next thing would be that we had to allow people to marry Chimpanzees. Chimpanzees? Really? That is the next step? Are there a lot of human/chimp couples out there that I just haven’t met yet? “Have you met my girlfriend Cheetah?”

Someone else remarked that mass shootings were the result of mental illness. Which I partially agreed with until the lady informed me that mental illness was usually the result of government mind control drugs… because of course that is the only possible conclusion.

Another time it was the weather. One guy said there was no way that the weather could ever be affected by things like pollution, that more than likely Obama was controlling the weather in order to control the world. Because that seemed so much more reasonable than any old greenhouse gas theory. It is scary that I am not making this up.

I saw a lady pounding down a Big Mac and a gigantic soda. She was also extremely overweight, as was the other lady who was with her. “I probably should have gotten a milkshake” she said to the other. “I don’t think this Coke is good for my teeth, I been having toothaches. And I hear that diet soda is actually what makes you fat.” ….. There is so much wrong in this scenario, I don’t even know where to start. And yes, she was being serious.

I think the temptation to complicate things comes from the fact that it is often hard to face the simple truths about ourselves. “I couldn’t be fat because I eat too much and don’t exercise. It must be something else.” “The boss yells at me because he doesn’t like me. It can’t be just because I’m always late.” “I don’t want minorities to take over our country but I’m not a racist.”

It is an idiotic way to avoid things we don’t want (or are too afraid) to deal with ourselves. Let’s face it, is so much easier NOT to take any action – especially if you fool yourself into believing that the solution to a problem is far more complicated than it really is. Thank God I never do it.

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