Main Stream Media, CliffsNotes and Moby Dick


 Back in the early 80’s I was knee deep in High School activities.  It was during this same time of year that I would have had a term paper due before Christmas break (Yes, it was called Christmas break then) and I would have been up all night finishing it because procrastination was my middle name.

 Junior year was a litany of excitement for me.  I had a vast array of events happening all at once and none of them had to do with writing a term paper.  

11th grade English consisted of our teacher assigning term papers by tier level.  A certain selection of books would qualify as an A, other books B and so on.  If she felt you had chosen a book that was beneath your skill set she reassigned a novel for you.  My original choice went unnoticed partly because I had picked my book based on the number of pages the literary work contained.  Apparently my skill set was far higher then a 162 page novella and I was reassigned Moby Dick.  

Thus I was doomed to read of Captain Ahab’s obsession.  Once finished, turned in and received back with a grade, I dumped the work of doom on the kitchen table and readied myself for district finals in volleyball.  

Dashing through the kitchen to grab an apple, car keys and my volleyball shoes, I was to meet with a pair of stern looking hazel eyes that were not jumping with glee, and I was desperately trying to avoid looking in his direction.  I glanced over long enough to notice in my father’s hand was the work of doom.  In large red ink that glowed as easily as a traffic light in the dark, was the grade on the paper I had received,  The B- was basically a failing grade given that I was to have written a term paper from the highest level of books with the hardest requirements to complete. 

“Elizabeth?”  Dad said very calmly.  “We’ll talk when you get home.” 

One thought ran through my head. GREEEAATTT! And looking at him, I flashed a smile then took off. 

After my return to the homestead I slipped upstairs, grabbed a shower and headed down to the laundry room.  My plan was to dart across the kitchen unnoticed and towards the stairs.  This would not be the case.  

Once again I heard my name and it wasn’t the angelic sounds of a choir.  More like the low rumble of a car that needed a muffler. 

“Care to explain your points on your paper?”  Dad said raising an eyebrow and pushing a chair out from the table for me to sit in. 

“A B- isn’t a bad grade, Dad.”  As soon as the words left my mouth and the rankled look peaked on Dad’s face, I knew I had struck a nerve.  Not to mention, a minor little fact, I was about to enter a one-sided debate with a man who happens to have a masters in education.  

I began to explain the teacher had noted my opening and conclusion on the paper was ‘A’ worthy. However, it was the body of work that appeared to be questionable and lacked original thought.  

Hence my father began: 

“Explain to me how Ishmael described Ahab’s obsession and how it began?”  I couldn’t. 

“Tell me about Ishmael?  Was he the protagonist?”  I couldn’t and had no clue. 

“Tell me how much the CliffsNotes cost that you used?”  Busted! 

I had made the decision early on that Moby Dick was never going to be a book of dire interest to me nor would it fit my jammed packed schedule.  CliffsNotes provided an easy out.  

CliffsNotes have a purpose, but have never been a replacement for actually doing the work.  The booklet was designed as a guide to encourage reading and understanding of the literary works in which it represented. In my world as with many other students it was a quick way to write a term paper or study for a test without putting in all the time an effort.  AKA- a short cut. 

Short cuts have been a downfall in society for a long time. The major reason is short cuts in the end never work and appear to be a band-aid on a severed limb. 

My reasoning behind this is to ask– How many people come home after work and flip on the news to catch up on the day’s events?  What exactly are they hearing?  How much information is possibly given in 30 minutes? 

Main Stream Media (MSM) is not designed to give the whole story.  Those of us who follow news regularly and research topics are completely aware that MSM outlets are the CliffsNotes of current events.  

While there are thousands of resources available through out the internet, the average American will not be going through the trouble of researching the topic and will solely depend on MSM to provide updates and new information.  Decisions will be based on what they hear in sound bites and see in video from on-site correspondents.  

These 30 minutes of cleverly designed rating snatches will not only give an incomplete view, it will determine the outcome of major events that rely on public opinion.  By paying closer attention most MSM’s mention, “For more on this story please go to our website.” 

Is this fact checking?  Not really.  Will people go on to the website and read the whole story. Doubtful.  Will anyone make time to pursue it further? Hmmmmm I know some that do and some that won’t.  Kim Kardashian’s wedding and divorce trends better.  

With Moby Dick I basically robbed myself of Melville’s master piece and the rise of obsession through Ishmael’s witness of Ahab.  It was my responsibility to engage in the adventure of a literary classic. 

My English teacher knew I possessed the ability to do the work for my paper.  I chose not to. 

I see America with much higher capabilities than using CliffsNotes to problem-solve.  To only use MSM or any other short cuts to decide who should or shouldn’t be running for public office is absurd.  

By using MSM and not looking deeper into the issues that impact Americans on a daily, weekly, monthly and yearly basis will lessen the value of the dollar, create misconceptions, and prove to be destructive in the long run.  As goes the old adage.  “A little bit of knowledge is a dangerous thing.” 

In the past I have written about the steps we take in making decisions. This is merely another example of taking the steps that protect individual rights as they pertain to the basic ideologies of the pursuit of unalienable rights.  

It is within these natural rights (unalienable) that we have a responsibility to ask the basic questions that we learned in 7th grade English.  Who, What, Where, When, Why, and How?  If these questions can not meet the litmus test in viewing MSM then the logical choice would be to pursue the questions that have not been answered.   

CliffsNotes didn’t solve my problem of writing a term paper I still had to do it and I had made a poor choice for myself by not doing the actual work that was required.  I will not CliffsNote my way through another election based on what I hear in 30 minutes.  I value the right to explore and search for the answers that will provide in the long run for my family, friends and the future generations, now knowing who my choices will affect. 

Main Stream Media has a purpose to provide news and information.  It shouldn’t be their version of what side of the fence I stand on.     

Moby Dick was the obsession that led to the demise of Ahab. Ishmael was the reporter.  I was the reader who grasped information from a 30 minute read via CliffsNotes and retold the story in a paper.  I went up against far more intelligent people who found my findings beneath my abilities.  And thus questioned my integrity.  

The challenge is to question the integrity of those who present information and gaining the knowledge by asking deeper questions to provide the whole story and not just the CliffsNotes.  Who is up to such a task?  If not I have a very old and  used copy of Moby Dick CliffsNotes available.

The Steps We Take

Confucius once said (quoting Chinese Philosopher Lao-Tse) a journey of thousand miles begins with a single step. As innocuous as it seems, it really can hurt far more than given credit for. It’s not the physical steps that hurt but the emotional effects of making the decisions to carry out the ideas.

I tend to believe most people only see the big picture and are completely unaware of the many steps it may take to accomplish the tasks, journeys or events that are in mind. It is within these meager steps that can insure success. Miss a step and then start the count of how fast the house of cards crumble.

No one comes in to this world running, walking, standing or even sitting up. We learn it. It is those first steps that create the memories that endure and times we wish to forget.

What happened in the steps taken by some this week. Let’s see:

Rick Perry said he stepped in it.

Joe Paterno was forced to step down.

Herman Cain had to step through it again.

Newt Gingrich stepped it up.

Each one of the aforementioned had to make adjustments to circumstances and be held responsible for their decisions. I know there is more to it than what  appears above in those short blurted out sentences.

Rick Perry had a moment that most people would rather forget. I am not going to make excuses for his drawing a blank; however, this is a man who since having back surgery hasn’t missed an event. How many people can take any steps, let alone walk up to a podium after having back surgery?  Then have a mishap and be able to poke fun at himself? I must ask how much physical pain has he been in? What complaints can be heard from him about it? None, instead he turned that moment into a quiet powerful message.

Appearing on The Late Show with David Lettermen he handled the Top Ten List with confidence. He achieved something I think people may have missed. By understanding that his misstep would become a joke, he took the first jab. He was able to redirect and get back on point showing leaders make mistakes. Humbling as it seems, how many would have given excuses or try to come up with a good reason? Will he ever be a great debater? Probably not. Can he lead? Ask my good friends in Texas and they would give him a hell yea!

Herman Cain has been stepping through allegation of sexual harassment and the list is growing.

Bear with me here; along time ago my best friend from high school and I were discussing something that happened at school. My mother within ear shot of the discussion told us this:

“If one person says it, might have merit but would need proof. If two people say it then yes it has some truth to it. However, I caution you girls if there are more than three it has become everybody’s business and there isn’t any truth to it any more. It is just a popular topic to make people look more important. It has become nothing more than idle gossip which will bite those who spread it in the behind. Mark my words.”

This is what I see is happening to Herman Cain. It has become a supercilious rant by some tossing around allegations and waiting 15 years to step forward seems outrageous and a flat out embarrassment to those women who have truly suffered from sexual harassment. The painfulness of the subject is hard enough to come forward with and prove, but to have those take away from the severity with an attempt to discredit one person in an attempt to gain by it, is inexcusable.

In stark contrast to this is Joe Paterno’s firing from Penn State. Simply put he had all the opportunities in the world to remove Jerry Sandusky from his coaching staff.

This wasn’t questions of false allegations this is going to trial. Placing football before everything else may have put him in the record books. The truth is he will never coach again, and Penn State will for a very long time feel the effects of trying to cover up the horrific acts of one.

It can be said that JoePa reported it but how far did he follow through with it? Are there truly that many rules in HR manuals that caused this to be buried under a rock for so long, or was it a case of winning brings in too much money for those innocent boys to be protected? Hmmmmm.

No one likes when an icon falls but it is his own steps that he is responsible for. No one wins, game over Coach.

Then there is Newt. Every debate he picks up more and more support. He possesses the brilliance to handle moderators and peers easily in debates. Without sounding rehearsed he is confident almost in a cocky sense. He will not back down from his point and has yet to raise his voice. The victor of more debates than the other candidates, he is still deemed unworthy of being viable as the GOP presidential choice.

Newt’s steps are perfect right now. Why? He didn’t make a big splash in the polls when he first announced his bid for the top office, more of a steady climb. Using patience and perservrance, Newt is avoiding the rolling coaster climb that leads to the crashing and burning in the polls.

Once the joke of the GOP Presidential Candidates, he now has people taking a closer look and he is receiving better placement on the debate floor. Newt is making the small and right steps to accomplish the desired outcome. There is still room for missteps. Once the onset starts of garnering attention from the MSM (Main Stream Media), they will swarm like locust and thus begins the taring down of Newt. How will this be handled? Or is it more of his old-time beltway experience working in his favor that will allow him to maneuver past the MSM and directly hold the attentions of the voters? I am not so sure. I prefer to wait and see.

These four men have been facing steps, in, down, through and up, which are direct results of the decisions they have made whether on purpose or by happenstance. I envy none of them.

Why? I had to choose to take a step to write about it. Need I say more?

Taking steps can be deliberate decisions that should not be taken lightly. Confucius wasn’t kidding when he said the journey of a thousand miles…It is first steps that can allow the individual to pursue with either reckless abandon or be diverted from the path that needs to be taken.

From first steps of infancy to reaching the end of the journey the final destination is the same for all, plugged in the middle of it are choices. Choose wisely and reap the benefits, choose foolishly and the outcome could be dire.

Hey, I can’t sugarcoat it. Wouldn’t even try to.

Next time I think I will use the word rankle…sounds irritating, but that’s what may make it fun to use.

Be well and once again I remind you of something I posted a while back. Nothing that starts out peaceful stays that way. I was right. Think about it.


My Coffee is Racist?

I have a confession to make.  Brace yourself it was a little shocking for even me to find out that……………..

…………………………I am a racist coffee drinker.

There I said it.  I don’t know how it happened but my choice of coffee didn’t sit well with people I work with. 

Racist, was a powerful word that implied one who supports racism as in actual race. It had once been so horrifying that it triggered hateful reactions and changed the course of many lives, now it has been reduced to nothing more than a mere way of saying favoritism, partiality or dislike.

How this enlightenment came to me?  Oddly by the coffee I choose to drink.

I was making a cup of Joe, when I was offered a chance to try the chicory flavored coffee. My response to the offer was “no thank you, I do not care for chicory coffee”.

The young woman at work who offered me the thickly heavy brew said “Well that’s just racist”   

Floored I asked her what she meant.  “You do not like my coffee, that’s racist.” As she giggled at me. 

“The coffee has feelings?  I offended the java in your cup?”  As I waited for Juan Valdez to show up with his donkey to take my coffee cup from me.  I looked at her and added “Or is the chicory upset over the fact I don’t like the taste?” I was truly puzzled at how the coffee was disturbed that I didn’t care for the flavor.

“No, silly it means you want everybody to like what you like?”  She said laughing.

“It does?  I just don’t like the taste. I don’t expect everybody to like how I drink coffee, isn’t that up to individual preference?” She was full blown laughing now.

“Oh you are putting way to much thought into this. Just drink YOUR coffee.  You are too funny.”  Her chuckling back to her desk starting a thought process I couldn’t let go of.

Truthfully, I was starting to feel the chicory coffee was out to get me.  Or was I just mortified over the casual use of racist? When did I lose sight of the whole change of meaning? 

It had created such a loss for me, that I googled racist. Strange as it seems, something popped up that I didn’t expect to see. There is actually a YouTube video called Racist Coffee (click here).

My thought is this; when words lose their meaning it can have an impact on those of us who didn’t get the memo.  Simply put, bad isn’t always bad and good doesn’t always mean good.  If something is really cool or if a great moment happens it can be called bad.

Sitting in my office with my boss and he mentions that my team did a good job tends to mean we could have done better.  Good isn’t always good enough.  Are you with me so far?

Where am I going with this?  Good question.  I can not help but think that the frequent overuse of words that once had a severe impact and could literally cause families to fight at the table, companies to fold and governments to go to war could be reduced to such casual usage. By not refraining from some words tends to dim the impact and these certain words once held the power to destroy a reputation and banish a person from their homeland.

Same holds true with words that could elevate someone to a higher position or status, that may or may not be deserving.  Still it is worth pondering isn’t it?

Alas, over time these words drifted in to a cesspool of misinterpretation, overuse and perhaps comical soliloquies that much like the economy have been downgraded, on the list of words that should not be said.  Sounds like Harry Potter, huh?  How about words such whore, pimp, liberal, conservative, communist, progressive, and finally rights, what do these words actually say anymore that people take seriously as a whole?

Al Gore in an interview told the young interviewer and I am paraphrasing here that “racist doesn’t mean to you what it once meant in my time.”

For that matter Global Warming (pay attention Al) was upgraded.  When I was a kid it meant quit using aerosol hairspray.

The pen is mightier than the sword, only if the impact is imminent and the word is designed to have effect.  How will it continue if words that should not be said (or taken for granted) are tossed around and misused because no one today understands the severity in which they are speaking, it soon becomes a joke and ranted fodder until someone takes it to another level, perhaps even the original level and many are hurt by their own ignorance.

That said take the word liberty.  While looking up this 14th century Middle English noun, I found liberty to mean  freedom to be an individual.  This individualism allows independent thought;  The right to think and speak – according to choice – without interference. 

It is the power to do the right thing without causing harm.  Freedom to speak without repression while not harming others and the freedom to fail and learn by it. I did not see where it stated anything about entitlements or guarantees because those are not free.  As some may think they are. 

Those who lessen the value of people and words are usually the ones most afraid of those people and words. For now, I guess I’m just another racist coffee drinker.  Perhaps there are more confessions to come…….

Sorry it has been awhile since my last post.  Life gets crazy and I had no room to take any liberty from work. 

I may just try next time to squeeze in the word innocuous it couldn’t hurt.

Be well and pick your battles wisely,