Why You Should, First and Foremost, Write For Yourself

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Like most things in life that last the affair that a writer has with writing starts innocently enough.

It could be the lilt of a classical poem, ora line from a book that you read and knew you would read a dozen times before you your life was through. If you are anywhere near my age, it could have been a song on the radio. One that drew you away from tapping your foot to the melody and into the words, maybe even for the first time.

Once upon a time you dressed so fine
Threw the bums a dime in your prime, didn’t you?
People call say ‘beware doll, you’re bound to fall’
You thought they were all kiddin’ you
You used to laugh about
Everybody that was hanging out
Now you don’t talk so loud
Now you don’t seem so proud
About having to be scrounging your next meal
How does it feel, how does it feel?
To be without a home
Like a complete unknown, like a rolling stone

Bob Dylan

That pretty much did it for me. Because the first time I heard this song on a winter day in 1965, I had a pretty good idea of how my life would go from there on out.

Nothing was carved in stone, but as time went by, my interest in all the things I was interested in took a back seat to learning to write. This also included education which I pretty much bluffed my way through until my second year history professor at Glendon College told me to quit and go find a job where I could become a professional writer.
“I promise you,” he said…”it will beat the hell out of anything else you can do with a liberal arts degree”.

And so it was.

The trip from there to here has been on two roads.

The first road was the compulsive one that allowed me to have a ‘career’ in writing, and have fun doing it, which was in the advertising business.

Working in the agency business in the 70s and 80s was really more like getting up every day and going to a party. Everybody was there to have a good time and do good work. Everybody was fiercely competitive but not against other people.so much as they were against the market, and creating ideas that would actually move people enough to get off their asses and buy stuff.

The second road was the obesessive one. What I did at night and on the weekends. This was the solitary road that I travelled alone. And this is the road where I taught myself, mostly through trial and error of a lot of things that didn’t quite work, how to make things that did.

Blank verse poems that later turned into lyrics. Character sketches and skeleton ideas that later turned into stories and screenplays. Points of view that flushed themselves into essays. All for an audience of one, for the most part, because my wife, who had her own life, tired very quickly of keeping up with all my output.

Most of the writing a I did back then was for myself. But I didn’t care. It’s not that I was shy or protective about it. It was simply that I did not really know where it was all going.

So that’s some advice. If you are a writer, your most important audience is yourself, because in reality there is no guarantee of success beyond that. So write to please yourself.

Back when I started writing, the number of channels were very limited.
The publishing world was a climb over an extremely high wall, and you were not even allowed to try and climb that wall without an agent.

I had a friend back then named Rick Ridding who wrote a very good novel about a traveling executioner. It was written in the classic American style of a Sinclair Lewis or Harper Lee. IMHO it really was a brilliant book right out of the gate.

What followed in his life was three years of virtual slave labour, rewrites, submissions, more re-writes more submissions and at the end of it all the net result was zero.

In today’s world, the ballgame is completely different. There are many more outlets for writers to get exposure and move up the food chain. Especially in the online world.

Of course none of this means a ticket to ride to the any of the literary awards shows, or a contract with an on-line publisher. That’s still a bit of rarified air. All it really means is the you have a much better opportunity to build an audience now than you ever had before.

So it’s a good thing to be writing in this day and age.

But for all the good stuff there’s always going to be the converse.

The converse is that with all this ready accessibility, everybody and their uncle, it seems, is a writer. And what this has created is a massive glut or content, virtually everywhere and most of it crap.

And this glut is making it very hard for those looking for good stuff to read to actually find it.

This situation is exacerbated by a digital marketing industry that encourages the aforementioned everybody and their uncle to buy into the notion that content is king, and flatters them into believing all you have to do is keep at it and your the world will be your oyster.

Now this is something that any dedicated amateur or professional writer does not believe for a minute. In fact, it’s one of the things that causes them the most frustration.

But sadly, the glut of bad writing competing for attention with a relatively small share of good writing is a fact of life that writers have to deal with.

The best you can do is to make sure you are concentrating on building your following among the people who pick you out of the pile. This is done as simply as putting a follow request at the end of everything you post.

The online world is a vast wasteland of propaganda, poor writing, weird thinking and scams, to name a few things.

And that brings me back around to the main point of this post, which is to always write for yourself.

People, in general, have pretty good built-in bullshit detectors. Many can instinctively separate the wheat from the chaff.

All you have to do is make sure you are the wheat. Doing that is not a simple thing. But it is doable if you are a writer. If you aren’t…well you’ll find out soon enough.

jim out

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All content and graphics Copyright 2018 Jim Murray Onwords & Upwords Inc

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Why 2017 Will Be A Year We’d Love To Forget But Shouldn’t

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I’m not, and sometimes to my own chagrin, a nostalgic guy.

I never have been. But I did learn very early on in life that though you can’t do much about what has already happened, what little you can do is learn from it and do everything you can to keep any of the weird shit from happening again.

And let’s face it, a lot of weird shit has happened this year.

Climate Change

2017, I believe, will be remembered as the year we really started to feel the effects of climate change on the planet. Anybody who denies that is protecting outmoded ways of doing things or is just an asshole…or both.

The storms are bigger, harder, longer lasting and more devastating. The winter temperatures are colder and scarier. The wind blows harder and more often. The snowfall amounts are consistently larger. Coastal erosion is increasing. Ocean temperatures and water levels are rising. Polar ice caps are receding. The whole nine yards.

Politics

WEIRD SHITThere is political unrest and human displacement in many more places in the world, mainly due to clueless idiots who have been corrupted by their desire for power, by racial hatred, by tribalism and all the inhumanity that comes with those things.

Part of the world, and definitely the will of the forward thinking people of the world, is trying to move things to the next level. But this effort is encountering huge pockets of resistance from people whose interests are based on ideologies and industries that are no longer valid. These are people who worship the status quo, covet their power and, in their ignorance, fear the future.

Energy

All the renewable energy technologies that have been developed and are being refined are starting to have a real impact on the world.

These ideas and technologies are beginning to show people, in ever increasing numbers, that the earth offers everything we need to survive and thrive as a species, and that we don’t have to constantly be taking from the it and polluting it to meet those needs.

And without even consciously trying, these massive changes in energy technology are starting to re-position old school energy industries as relics of the past.

The existing and future job creation rate in the renewable energy industry is markedly higher that that of the dying old school industries. It’s just a matter of time before the stock market and the consumer market shift begins on a large scale.

So despite the turmoil, political unrest and the last dying gasps of many old school industries and the robber barons who run them, there is a lot to be hopeful about.

Slowly but surely many different countries, led, oddly enough by China and Germany, have started the process of modernizing their industries and their energy grids, to help reduce the effects of climate change.

The United States, which I believe is going though a rather huge mistake right now, will eventually course correct and re-establish itself in a leadership position in this area. It would be suicide not to.

Social Interaction

2017 will also be remembered as the year people started to really feel that their voices could be heard by way of social and other forms of digital media.

Good leaders use it to take the temperature of their nations. Despots use it to plant propaganda, but at the same time fear the backlash of doing just that.

The connectivity and one-worldness that we see in social media, I believe, will continue to grow and increase the amount of progressive thinking in the world.

Puzzle piecesAs this happens and a new generation of connected young people start growing into positions of power, I believe we will see a narrowing of the chasm between progressive and regressive thinking. These people, by and large, see the world as a single human tribe as opposed to a million smaller ones.

And this will be our salvation as a culture and as a species. Because when we are no longer divided by narrow ideological differences, we are free to share and grow ideas that will make the world better for everyone.

That’s the hope at least.

Think Positively. Act Responsibly.

So going into 2018, there is a lot to be cautiously optimistic about. A good deal of our success going forward, however, depends on our ability to break down barriers that have been deliberately constructed to divide us in many ways.

In this regard, despots like Donald Trump are the upcoming generation’s best teachers. Because they show these young people exactly the wrong way to go about the business of moving the world forward.

They illustrate for these people that hatred, divisiveness, bigotry and misogyny do nothing but impoverish the world on many levels.

It’s my hope that these young people will get that, and use the mistakes that despots are making as learning tools to fashion policies that can alter belief systems for the better.

As we have seen very clearly this year, the world is going through a pronounced state of dysfunction. Things need to change, and those changes have already begun.

My hope is that these changes will accelerate and grow this world into a place where everybody has opportunity.

Where everybody stops sweating the minor differences between us.

And where everybody is much more focused on what’s good for the world and not just themselves or their immediate tribe.

Happy New Year and all the best in 2018 and beyond.

jim out

In addition to being a beBee Brand Ambassador, Jim Murray is a blogger, marketer and creative professional.
His partner, Charlene Norman is business strategist, leadership coach and operations tactician. Their collaboration, Bullet Proof Consulting, specializes in Brand Engineering: Helping companies achieve more effective branding, stronger reputation management, greater productivity, higher efficiencies, and ultimately, increased profits.
In short, Bullet Proof helps companies change their thinking for the better.
Find out more at www.bulletproofconsulting.ca

All content Copyright Jim Murray (Onwords & Upwords Inc) 2017. All rights reserved.

A Reflection On The Magic Of Christmas

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What is it about Christmas that makes it such a special time of year for so many people?

I don’t really think there is one definitive answer to that question. But I was over at my sister’s for lunch today and we got to talking about it.

One of the things we agreed on was that it wasn’t so much the actual event of Christmas, because for a lot of people it’s actually a bit anti-climactic.

It’s really more about the anticipation. The whole idea that this is going to be a nice cozy time when you can relax, eat a little too much, drink a little too much, and walk around with a warm fuzzy feeling that you don’t try and rationalize or understand.

It’s a time when you can look outside and see big fat snowflakes falling and not be thinking…aww man, that’s gonna be a lot of shovelling.

It’s a time when a piece of Holiday music will make you cry. Mine is “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas”, the Andy Williams version.

It’s a time when you end up hanging with your family and closest friends with no pressure to be ‘on’ because these are the people who love you the most. They know exactly who you are.

It’s a time when you can marvel at the joy on the faces of your kids or grandkids as they open their gifts, and it always seems to bring you back to a simpler time. Maybe even when you were one of those kids or grandkids, so excited…so full of the wonder of the season.

Jim XmasThere’s not much that’s really magical in the world these days. Not much that genuinely stirs the soul and spirit. But the feeling you get at this time of year is one of those magical things.

For some it carries great joy. For others it carries sadness. For most of us it carries some of both.

I always think of my dad, who checked out around this time 10 years ago. When my kids were young, he and my stepmother Di would come over early in the afternoon on Christmas day. And this would signal the second round of presents for my kids.

My dad would just sit on the big sectional sofa in our family room and never take his eyes off the kids. He would play with them and tell them stories and goof around with them and they just loved it.

My dad was always driven by a bit of guilt which was the result of he and my mother splitting up when we were young. So when my brother and I started our families, he was the world’s best grandfather. He really understood what he had missed out on as were growing up and was determined to make up for lost time and attention.

This was never an issue for us and as we grew we all had a great relationship with my dad. But I always remember with a bit of sadness, one Christmas, after the kids had gone to bed. He’d had a couple glasses of wine and he broke down and told me about all the guilt he had felt over the years about having to leave us when we were so young.

I just told him to look around. All of us were doing just fine. I had a great career in advertising. My sister had married a wonderful doctor and was helping him run his practice. My brother was a true entrepreneur and successfully running about three different businesses.

I don’t know if it made my dad feel any better, because he was from a generation that wasn’t comfortable talking about their feelings. I hope it did.

So for me, Christmas is magical for all the great memories that come flooding back from Christmases past. And I find that the older I get,
the more vivid those memories become.

Everybody has their own take on Christmas, or whatever their belief system calls it. But the one thing this season always brings with it are good memories. And those, my friends, are worth their weight in any precious metal you can name.

I sincerely hope you are enjoying this wonderful season and wish you all the best.

Cheers, Jim

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Jim Murray is a blogger, marketer and creative professional. His partner, Charlene Norman is marketing strategist and operations tactician. Their collaboration, Bullet Proof Consulting, specializes in Brand Engineering: Helping companies achieve more effective branding, stronger reputation management, greater productivity, higher efficiencies, and ultimately, increased profits. In short, Bullet Proof helps companies change their thinking for the better. Find out more at www.bulletproofconsulting.ca

 

The Five Stages Of My Life Long Trumpservation

Friday Files TRUMP BANNER

Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light

Dylan Thomas

 

Since I have been a big TV watcher for most of my life I have had a chance to observe, though the jaundiced eye of the media, the anything but meteoric rise of Donald Trump from celebrity without a clue to the most dangerous person on earth. My only hope is that his demise will be as meteoric as it gets.

The Famous For Being Famous Trump

I started watching Donald Trump more than 40 years ago, when he used to do the rounds on the TV talk show circuit.
He was sort of fascinating because he had a way of saying nothing at all and making it sound like something. He was also one of the first people in America to become famous for being famous. A complete media construct with a very thin veneer.
In all deference, he had an extraordinary amount of swagger, and a powerful personal brand before anyone even knew what the hell that was. Of course this was all powered by that sense of entitlement that a lot of rich white guys in America have.
But if you were reasonably awake at around midnight and he came on the Tonight Show and you listened carefully, you found that he was like a pilot circling the airport of ideas but never quite landing. The only things he could talk in an informed way about were his real estate holdings, which, of course were really his father’s. He just built crappy buildings on them. On every other issue, he would just jump back and forth like the indecisive buffoon we know today.
This sort of anti-intellectualism paved the way for a lot of other people to become famous for no particular reason, mainly because they were just another variable in the insatiable appetite of late night TV talk shows. And, one could logically argue (in hindsight), a rather potent part of the dumbing down of that country, and my one to some extent.

The Art Of The Deal Trump

I never read this book all the way through. I don’t real much non-fiction, although from what I did read, this may very be classed as a real fairy tale.
But he got out there and pushed the hell out of it, using all his celebrity to keep on blowing smoke up America’s ass and that willingness , coupled with his unrepentant chutzpah, propelled that book into one of Trump’s relatively few business successes.
But this time, he was calling himself a billionaire, and working on his second marriage.

The Reality Show Trump

I have to admit that I tried watching The Apprentice, just so I could get enough of a perspective on it to be able to review it.
Like most reality shows it possessed the stench of faked drama, and he projected the persona of the total dick boss, and kind of reveled in it. This was really the first clue that I started to get that this guy had some real issues with his ego.
It was massive, and I really do believe that all the buzz that this show generated turned him into the total attention junkie we see today.
That’s not to say that the Art Of The Deal Trump or the Famous For Being Famous Trump weren’t pre-cursers to that, but they were mild in comparison to what he projected on these shows.

The Deplorable Candidate Trump

In 1999, Trump attempted to run for President as a Reform Party candidate, but was forced to withdraw under pressure from a lot of real reform politicians who thought he was basically a charlatan.
But he never went away. And he leveraged his celebrity a couple more times in bids to run, but never followed through until 2016.
And we all are living with the result of that last kick at the can.

The Epic Fail President Trump

The election of Trump to the US presidency in 2016, will be filed in in the history of American politics under “Be careful what you wish for”.
For a big long list of reasons, America, or at least half of those Americans who vote, had gotten to the point where they were willing to take a chance of someone who had been hanging around for like ever, who originally wanted to run for president on the Reform Party ticket, publicly supported both Bill and Hillary Clinton, had no real understanding of how the American government functions, had no diplomatic skills to speak of, and whose only claim to fame was that he was one of the most despised and greedy real estate developers in the free world.
And in the ‘Be careful what you wish for file’, they ended up with a president who:
• Has not gotten a single piece of important legislation passed after 10 months in office.
• Has split his own (Republican party), which has shifted the balance of power in congress and the senate
• Has pissed off just about every leader in the world who matters
• Has not been able to complete a single campaign promise
• Has assembled the worst cabinet in the history of the country
• Has refused (twice) to publicly denounce Nazis and other hate groups.
• Made one of the country’s leading anarchists (Steve Bannon) his principal policy advisor.
• Has proven time and again that he has no regard or respect for minorities in America
• Has threatened to bomb a small totalitarian nuclear power back to the stone age
• Has told more lies publicly than any president in the history of the country
• Has placed family members in positions of power in his government
• Has been unable to fill hundreds of key government positions because nobody wants to work for him…
I could actually go on for hours, as many of you can yourself.

What I Have Learned From 40 Years of Trumpservation

I think the key thing that we can all take away from this man’s illustrious career are:
a) That it’s possible, in a free society, for anyone who can sound like they know what they are talking about to bullshit their way into anything.
b) That intelligence means much less than TVQ or celebrity.
c) That racism in America has always been bubbling under the surface and that Trump cut it open and now its running rampant.
d)
That while the status quo may not be all that desirable, it is, by comparison, a hell of a lot better than the ‘alternative’ that Trump represents.
e) That the old rich, white male in America is really that country’s most endangered species, but is not going quietly into that good night.
NOTE: Contrary to popular belief,. I do not hate Donald Trump…In point of fact, I have no personal feeling at all toward him. But I do despise what he stands for and what little in the way of agenda he is pushing because it is divisive and hateful and it very much appears to be part of a movement or attempted paradigm shift that is doing more harm than good to the US and our world and has been for quite some time.
Trump’s incompetence as a president will, sooner or later catch up with him. The question of how long it will take to undo the damage is another matter altogether.
Peace Out…jim

Jim Murray is a marketer, communication strategist, writer, art director & blogger. His partner, Charlene Norman is a business systems and operational analyst. Their collaboration is called Bullet Proof Consulting, headquartered in St Catharines, Ontario. Bullet Proof is designed to help companies change their thinking for the better, to become more productive and efficient, well branded and successful and better corporate citizens in today’s highly competitive business world. You can get a very clear impression of how we think at www.bulletproofconsulting.ca

All content and graphics copyright 2017 Onwords & Upwords Inc. All rights reserved.

Why Every Human Being On This Planet Should Be Angry These Days

 

OUT OF MY HEAD

Sunday, we witnessed another horrendous chapter in the systematic and relentless undoing of America. It took me a long time to process how something like this is still being allowed to happen. But this country, like many others these days, which politicizes everything and learns nothing from the world, which is controlled by greed and managed by fools is now nothing more than a shining example of just how fucked up in so many ways a country can be and still carry on. But everything has its breaking point…everything.

I am weary.

I am worn down by my own human desire to be aware of what’s going on.

I have had my brain fractured by stainless steel paradoxes, lie after lie after lie playing out on 50 million watt lit stage until nobody, including me, knows what to believe anymore.

Everywhere I look I see carnage and man’s inhumanity to man riding roughshod over whole races, whole cultures, whole ideologies.

People enslaved by the greedy and the powerful. People turned into reluctant nomads because the winds of change have become uncontrollable and blow literally from all directions.

I am exhausted from trying to keep track of the ever rising body count in my head as a reminder that life is so much cheaper than it used to be.

I worry, perhaps too much, about the future, but only because the present sucks on so many levels.

I puzzle over the fact that so many people who experience far worse consequences than me, yet do nothing, not even get angry. It’s like their emotions have been syphoned off and all they can do is stare that thousand mile stare and wait on the next catastrophe.

That is not living. That is just waiting to expire.

I wonder about things I have never wondered about before, about prophecies and conspiracies and all kinds of other truths. About the fools who have the power to end humanity and seem more than willing to do it, just for spite, just to feed the monsters in their heads.

I see the rise of despots here, there and everywhere and wonder why human race needs to think in terms of destruction when I know there are beautiful ideas bubbling under the surface of this stagnant pool.

Ideas that will bring us together. That will make us peaceful and help us recapture the humanity that is not so much lost but imprisoned by those who would want us to be sad and obedient slaves.

I am nobody’s fucking slave. I am still free. We all are still free. Our captivity is an illusion… a prison built with bricks of lies that have no substance, by bricklayers who have no conscience, no moral compassand no life to speak of outside of the thin veneer of petty tyranny they believe protects them from the rabble.

I am weary. But I am not a fucking slave. I use my words to fight this tyranny. Because someone has to speak for all those who have been muted by the insanity.

This insanity will pass. But only if our collective will is strong. There is more good than evil in this world. Know that is a true thing. Fight for good. Live for others and others will do the same for you.

This is the only rock we have. We have done amazing things with it in the name of humanity. And others have done despicable things in the furtherance of greed.

I do not want my legacy to be anything but “He Went Down Fighting For Humanity.”

I am weary but I’m still here. And so are you, and together we can fix this broken world.

I’m going to keep on shouting. You should try it yourself. Because everything you want in and for this world, everything you believe this world to be in the best iteration, is out there…on the other side of complacency and chaos.

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How Social Media Is Helping Turn The World To Shit

Rant #1
One could quite logically conclude by this headline that I am either good at clickbait or that I am generally pissed off about social media.

The fact is that both are true, But it is the latter that I am really going to expound on.
I should also point out up front that one of the reasons I blog primarily on beBee.com is that I have found beBee to be more the exception than the rule on this issue. This, IMHO has to do with a couple of things. 1. beBee is managed by human beings, as opposed to bots or algorithms and 2. Because of beBee’s size, which is small compared to the behemoths like LI, Facebook, and Instagram, the people there are able to keep closer tabs on things and in many cases prevent a lot of crap from polluting their site.

Now onto the rant.

I believe that something very wrong is happening in the world today and that nowhere is that more obvious than in social media.

Here’s what got me on this topic.

This morning while scrolling through Facebook, looking for something for my anti-Trump (#resist), meme series, I came across a sponsored link for, of all things, a company that sells lock picking technology.

Now think about that for a minute, and forget about any of the other bullshit that may be cluttering up your head. Lock picking! Picking fucking locks. Could be my lock. Could be your lock. Could be my car. Could be yours. Could be my house or my shed where the bikes are stashed. Could be anything at least according to the assholes who paid for this link.

The other assholes, the anonymous ones at Facebook who actually allowed this disgusting shit on the site, and had the temerity to think that I would be interested in this crap…well you can’t get at them can you? I mean who the fuck are they? Just some dipshit millennials working for the big machine who wouldn’t know an obscenity if it pissed on them,

So basically what Facebook, which is really the smiley face of social media, is saying is that it’s OK to buy the equipment you need and learn how to pick locks. This is pretty much an open invitation to the class of people we call ‘criminals”, to order this shit and get better at what they do. Yeah, you really do have to be a life-long learner regardless of your career path.

This, of course, is just the tip of the iceberg, and it’s really not so much about obscene products as it is the effect that social media has had on people in general.
The whole idea that we are so dependent on it, for communication, information and affirmation is kind of sad.

A while ago I wrote a piece on attention junkies. At the times I was focused on younger kids, whose dependence on social media for affirmation was turning them into victims, and even causing them, in the worst instances, to take their own lives.

636268249942475577-2052136067_13-reasons-why-serie-de-tv-soundThere was an outstanding series that I saw on Netflix called 13 Reasons Why, which explored this phenomenon in great depth and with great intelligence.

A lot of people got up in arms about it, because the 13 reasons in question were basically 13 people who were the cause of a teenage girl’s suicide. IMHO, the up-in-arms types really didn’t want to face the truth, not so much about bullying or self-esteem, but about the way so many of us have become dependent on it, and how the weaker-willed among us all can be seriously emotional and or physically damaged by the environments that places like Facebook and Instagram and SnapChat have created.

This is a very serious problem that almost everyone with access to social media has to, at the very least, acknowledge. Otherwise, they can be sucked into the vortex of it and really get fucked up by it.

The Internet, and social media specifically, prides itself on being, among other things, the last bastion of free speech. You hear that descriptor a lot. And if you have a basic understanding of how it works you can avoid a lot of the pitfalls and potential emotional damage. But the reality is that the vast majority of people do not have this understanding and cannot avoid those pitfalls.

Sadly, a great many predators of all stripes from pedophiles to assholes selling lock picking equipment or dipshit anarchists publishing bomb-making instructions, count on that and create new victims on an ongoing basis.
Since this is a rant, I’m really not offering any specific solutions here. Mainly because nothing I say in that regard would be stuff that hasn’t already been said by countless others.

But what I will say is that people really need to get a lot smarter about how they use social media. The amount of scamming, viciousness, ignorance, hate, and anger out there is off the charts, and it used to be that you could actually limit the amount of it you got exposed to.

But with the need to make money hand over fist and the fact that most prominent social media sites are run by algorithms, which means very little in the way of oversight, all the shit you never wanted to have anything to do with will be showing up on your newsfeed with astounding regularity.

And since there are no cybercops to protect you, you have to be your own neighbourhood watch. You have to think twice about everything. I won’t get into how some monumentally asshole-ish politicians are working diligently to con whole countries into thinking that black is white and down is up, but they are out there, and they want you to be their bitch.

Don’t be anybody’s bitch. Wise up. Think carefully before you believe anything you see on social media. Because there is some nasty shit going on out there, and the last thing you want is for some on it to get stuck on your shoe.

Peace out….jim

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Zen & The Art of Pool Maintenance

Mur Friday Files Banner.pngThere are nights, mercifully not every night, when you just can’t shut down your engines. Some nights it’s your mind that’s racing, other nights it’s your body that just won’t get comfortable in a prone position..

For me tonight it’s a a little of both, featuring a cramp in my right foot that just won’t go away until I’m too tired to let it keep bothering me. So I have to walk it into submission. But I can’t get back into bed for a while. It’s almost as if I have to keep doing something so that my foot forgets that it’s being ornery tonight and calms down.

So I wander around the empty house. My wife is on some breakneck tour of terrorist dodging in Europe with her BFF, my sister. They are seasoned travelers those two. They need very little in the way of provocation to organize a road trip. For a day, a weekend or a marathon 19 day excursion to Castles ‘R Us.

I don’t travel much any more. I did more than my share back in the day as a photographer. Now I will only go to places where I can bring a good chunk of my stuff and settle in for a week, and hang out by the pool or the lake.

In point of fact we bought the house we bought here in St Catharines because it reminded us of some of the nicer cottages we have rented.

There’s a strangeness about being alone in your house for what has been a full two weeks now, with three more days to go. One of the things I have done is put everything I use on the counters in the bathroom and the kitchen. This is something that would never happen when both of us are here. And the weirdest thing is that I am all for it at that time. But on my own I’m a bit lazy about shit like reaching into drawers to get stuff out or put stuff back.

Another thing I do is eat at odd times, and when my wife is not around I tend to gravitate to meals that are easy to make like burgers and hot dogs and nachos, or meals that can produce leftovers, like Chinese, pizza and pastas.

The nutritional value of this stuff is pretty abysmal. But I rationalize it by pointing out to myself that I am on a holiday as well. A stay-cation of sorts, with pool maintenance and creative work to do.

The Big Zen

That’s the other thing about living in your dream cottage. Pool maintenance.

The pool pump needs to run for at least 12 hours a day, according to Rob the Pool Guy. Somebody has to turn it on and turn it off.

That same somebody has to make sure that the leaves are skimmed off the surface, otherwise they will decay and sink to the bottom and some of them will stain the pool liner. It’s very unsightly.

Also the filter basket needs to be emptied every day, or else it will over fill and clog, meaning big bucks for repairs.

And of course the pool cover needs to be rolled out every night so the temperature of the water doesn’t get crazy cold, and you don’t have to use a hundred bucks worth of propane to get it back up to a temperature that doesn’t give you frostbite when you get in to do your lengths.

Once you see the algae building up, (And yes, I can see that) you have prepare the shock treatment, dilute it in a bucket, and pour it in so it catches the current of the pool and distributes itself equally.

After 24 hours, you throw in the Pool Shark, this is an amazing little gizmo that’s kind of like a Roomba for pools. The net result is that you get to look into a crystal clear pool and think. Wow, I made that happen.

There aren’t many things in life that have given me the sense of satisfaction that taking care of this pool gives me.

I do some of my very best thinking when I am engaged in the myriad of activities that pool maintenance entails.

I was a little concerned about it when we first moved in. It kind of felt like a bit of an albatross. But my sister hipped me to the zen thing. She doesn’t have a pool, but she’s great friends with her next door neighbours who do, and she says she often goes over and does some maintenance, just for the zen.

I thought that was amusing, until we got the pool set up in the early summer and I had to start learning how to do all this stuff. Then I understood.

The Zen Contagion

A few of the people who know me best have told me that my writing has changed since I have moved here, that it’s not as urgent or cynical. And I can’t disagree.

But sitting here tonight and thinking about it, I can safely conclude that the pool and its care and feeling, definitely has something to do with it.

Wouldn’t it be nice if I could take that same zen-like attitude and apply it everywhere? Maybe that’s what’s happening and I’m just starting to become one with it. Who knows?

Peace out…Mur

Jim w Camera

Jim Murray is a marketer, communication strategist, writer, art director and blogger. His partner, Charlene Norman is a business systems and operational analyst. Their collaboration is called Bullet Proof Consulting, headquartered in St Catharines, Ontario. Bullet Proof is designed to help companies change their thinking for the better, to become more productive, efficient, better branded and successful in today’s highly competitive business world. You can get a very clear impression of how we think by reading our business blogs at http://www.bulletproofconsulting.ca/blog

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