Tag Archives: Facebook

The fun of a ‘free’ day

Thanks to the cyber nonsense like Facebook and Google calendars and whatnot, birthdays have become the annual equivalent of haircuts, something you do that can even be kinda of fun, but then everybody feels the need to comment afterward. I’m not a fan of obligatory commentary.

Because of the simple fact that my birthday falls on or around Thanksgiving every year, I keep it relatively under the radar. And because I’m not very cyber-aware, the “masses” usually don’t notice my birthday (or if they do, I don’t notice their tweets and posts. I’m not sure which is which, but it’s fine with me either way). In short, I endure little birthday “commentary” from afar.

Sometimes this neurotic behavior backfires. About a month before my birthday this year I took it off. I carved out an absolutely “free” day. Then I didn’t tell anyone about it. The day before my free day, I discovered everyone I knew had plans. I had no idea what to do with my day and nobody to do it with. Nice planning, I thought.

So I tweaked my thinking. A free day, is a good thing, even if doing it alone. I asked a couple people at work what they’d do with a free day (not revealing it was my birthday). We all agreed finding a new author in a used book store sounded like a start. One of my coworkers said it was about time she read George Elliot. I said I didn’t know him. She said, “he’s a she.” Fascinating. Finding this female George Elliot became the first item on my free day agenda.

Next I got an email from a budding friend who is accomplished, brilliant, cultured, creative, a bit bawdy and fucking interesting. He invited me to dinner or lunch or coffee, by sheer coincidence. He didn’t know it would fall on my birthday. I chose lunch. He chose a hole-in-the-wall Chinese place clear on the other side of town. Perfect. A quest on my birthday followed by lively conversation. Check.

My free day started as it always does, an early morning walk with my dogs, a cup of coffee, the San Francisco Chronicle (in print, thank you very much. I despise digital newspaper as much as I despise haircut commentary). The first texts started to pop up, reminding me people like me. That’s a cheery way to start any day.

The Youngest One woke up and barrelled into my room with loud birthday cheer. Anyone else being loud might have annoyed me, but I’m a fan when any of our kids, no matter how old they get, show exuberance. We are all still pretty much that way on Christmas morning, which is why I’m glad we still spend it together every year. Anyway, she made me the best card ever. The Bride then gave me a great gift. It was barely 7 a.m. and the free day was off to a fine start.

The night before I got a hankering to have a record player. I wanted this for my birthday two years before but forgot to tell anyone and didn’t get it. I decided this year I’d correct that oversight. So after reading the paper, I checked out Amazon Prime. It assured me I’d get my new record player by 8 p.m. that night, so I bought it. I added “buy a record” to my to-do list for the day. Cyber isn’t all bad, I decided.

As the house emptied, I thought, “what now?” I noticed half of a loaf of bread. We had just made peanut butter. Three bananas sat on the counter. I decided to make lunch. I made a few of them. Peanut butter and banana sandwiches, some crackers, a protein bar and fruit. I put the lunches in my backpack and went to Starbucks. I ordered some small coffees. Then I wandered outside for some lunch meetings. I hadn’t gotten very far when a man in a trench coat, rain hat and long flowing gray hair said, “Coffee! How nice.”

I handed him one.

“Huh?” he said. “Seriously, I can have this?”

“Yeah. You want lunch, too?” I said, reaching into my backpack.

We sat and talked awhile. He said he was known as Captain Democracy for all the shit he stirs up. His other name was Robert. I chose to call him Captain. I like shit stirrers. He lived in a SRO in North Beach but said it was “Fucking madness. Nobody has brain in their head, man. I need conversation.”

We didn’t make plans to meet again, but both said we’d run into each other again.

“Let’s grab more coffee next time,” I said.

“Yeah, and some stimulating conversation. It’s madness over there where I live,” he said again as I left.

I’ll keep an eye out for him to make sure I keep my promise for another conversation, I decided. I noted it on my Keep list so I don’t forget because well-intentioned I may be, I forget everything.

Next, The Youngest One texted me to meet her at the coffee shop. She’s buying, she said. “Effin Awesome,” I said. We met. I knew she had places to be yet she took the time to share my free day, which kept getting better and better. We had one of those great conversations that Captain Democracy’s been lacking in his life.

I caught a crosstown bus I’ve never taken before to meet my friend for lunch. It exceeded expectations both regarding food and conversations. Being something of a sapiosexual I could have almost fucked him right there, but lacking any homosexuality, I didn’t. It was a great time all the same. I told him I’m learning Italian so I can someday go to my first opera and understand it. He rose to the challenge, setting next summer as the final exam. He offered to turn me from a classical music Luddite into a student with grace.

Fluent in Italian and the opera, he said, “I will take on your training. You will thrive.”

He sent me away with homework to find a certain record and start listening to it. The quest began.

In all, I hit three bookstores. I then thumbed through a small dent in the more than 50,000 records stuffed into a North Beach shop basement that looked like something out of a Quentin Tarantino movie.  I had in my possession a book by George Elliot, a book for my daughter, a list of three books I want to find used copies of and four records. On impulse, I broke my eating plan and bought a slice, which I woofed down walking amid hurried commuters trying to get the hell out of the city. I felt thrilled I wasn’t one of them.

On the way into our building, I stopped to chat with Andre the doorman, to try to convince him he could come to Thanksgiving dinner without feeling awkward. Eventually, we agreed that I’d bring him down a plate of dinner and let him eat it in peace. I could relate. I wouldn’t want to meet a bunch of strangers either.  I then told him about my day. It had shaped up into a fine, fine day.

I asked him how Amazon would get in once he left. I worried that my record player wouldn’t arrive, which was my only worry of the day so far. I shouldn’t have. Upstairs and getting ready for dinner out alone with The Bride, the doorbell rang, which never happens. Andre held a box from Amazon and sang Happy Birthday. The whole thing. It was not corny or awkward like it usually is. I wanted to hug him but instead told him thanks.

As I set up my record player, I got a call from a guy I know from rehab. “Should I sing Happy Birthday to you!” he said.

“How did you find out it’s my birthday,” I demanded. He finally copped to a reminder from Google. Those bastards don’t miss anything. They should have called themselves Big Brother. I told my friend I’d hang up on him if he sang. Andre had covered that.

Digression: To properly acknowledge a birthday, send something that was planned at least 48 hours in advance (and make sure it gets there on time) Late really doesn’t count. The event is over, and the satisfaction quotient drops by at least 50 percent. Make it a card. A present. A donation to a cause. A ten spot with a note scrawled on it that says, “blow me today!” Something noncyber. This is the one way to show you had known the person’s birthday before Facebook told you. I received several cards, a couple of books, and a phone call from my father the day before my birthday, of which told him “it’s not my birthday, try again,” and promptly hung up on him. He got it right the next day and won quite a few points for trying, even if he missed by a day.

For me, I am aware of fewer than 10 birthdays, and I often forget half of them. So believe me, I’m not keeping score. Just offering a bit of 20th Century advice for a soulless 21st-cyber century. Rant over.

The Bride and I ate dinner in a small restaurant in yet a different part of town and finished it with a berry shortcake. We didn’t have candles or waiters sing, thank goodness. After talking the dog for a late walk, The Bride kissed me and said, “Happy, Happy Birthday.”

“It was,” I said.



Facebook redefines ‘family’ in unexpected ways

If a guy named Matt Smith meets a guy named Steve Smith it may, at best, raise a nod of acknowledgement. It means nothing.

But somehow, especially for my father, if two guys with a weird name like Bolsinger meet, it’s a family reunion.

My father is the keeper of all things Bolsinger. For more than a decade he kept a blog called The House of Bolsinger documenting Bolsingers from the past and connected them to each other in the present.

Thanks to Facebook, these associations are far easier than ever. Pop has “met” a gang of Bolsingers from all across the country, including the mother of a Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher named Mike Bolsinger, who my dad calls “my cousin.”

When Pop heard Mike would be pitching in AT&T Park in my beloved San Francisco, he suggested (that’s putting it mildly) that I go do a story on “your cousin Mike.”

Fair enough. I try to please him when I can. I nabbed a press pass and headed down to the yard.

It sounded silly, especially trying to pitch this to various magazines with a straight face (and explain it to the media people of both the Dodgers and the Giants), but as Ole’ Cousin Mike took the mound on a gorgeous sunny afternoon, I sat in the press box and felt this odd sense of pride for a stranger I’d never met.

I had first heard of Mike back in 2007 when he pitched for the Arkansas Razorbacks.  I was covering the Oakland A’s at the time and doing a lot of writing about the minor leagues and the draft. That strange name connection stuck and I’ve “followed” his career arc, very loosely ever since. When he first started in the big leagues, last year for the Arizona Diamondbacks, my brother noticed and sent me a text.

I went on and saw Mike struggling to get out of the fifth, if I recall. I texted the update to my brother.

“Well he’s a Bolsinger like us. Probably has a weanie arm,” he joked.

We are nothing but self-effacing. But still, both of us love baseball.  We were both just a touch pleased to see our odd name on the back of a baseball jersey.

As I sat in the press box, flipping through the press packet, I noticed Mike Bolsinger on the big screen of my favorite ballpark in the entire world. I snapped a photo and smiled. Cool, I thought, knowing full well it had absolutely nothing to do with me as a stranger with the same name took the mound.

I made the most of this day, like catching up to Mike’s manager Don Mattingly who said, “I thought he did really good. Got his breaking ball over and changed up with it. He did everything we asked him to do.”

I kept score the entire game, something I don’t do much anymore, but loved to do as a kid:

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Later I ran over to the Giants locker room and interviewed second baseman Joe Panik. He looked a bit confused when I asked him only one question.

“What did you think of Bolsinger today?”

Panik gave the customary quote of he did well, he made us battle, etc.

“Cool, thanks,” I said and walked away to his surprise.

Despite myself, I felt that familiar sense in my gut of pulling for him to do well, against my favorite team no less, a team whose World Series Championship last year made me so happy, I made it a point to go see the trophy they won.

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After the game I watched as a the gaggle of reporters surrounded Mike in the locker room asking him questions about his start. Mike’s on the fringes of the big leagues. He has had about dozen starts in his career. This experience was still pretty new to him and it showed. Not in an awkward big-headed way, but in the coolest way: He was digging it. And no, I didn’t know him, but I was…happy… for him as I watched.

2015-04-23 16.30.15

After the rest of the reporters left in search of other quotes, I was introduced to Mike and asked him questions no other reporter likely ever will.

“So what were the worst nicknames you were called growing up?”

His eyes rolled knowingly.

We swapped stories about the butchering of our name. He used the exact same words I’ve muttered so many times when he said, “I don’t get it. It’s said like it sounds. I tell people all the time, ‘there are no As, the L is before the S…”

“I know right,” I said. “Look, there’s no balls, no slinging.”

We both laughed and grimaced.

I shared some of my nicknames: Slinker, Bowlbutt, Ballsucker.

He’d heard similar. He said he’d raise a fist for emphasis until the nicknames cooled.

“I got lucky I guess, being a pitcher. I was called Bullseye.”

“Shit,” I said. “That’s awesome.”

I was genuinely jealous.


So there we stood in the middle of the Dodgers locker room after one of life’s truly big moments for Mike “Bullseye” Bolsinger and the only thing that brought us together is our strange last name and my father’s affinity for Facebook.

Somehow in this era of Facebook, the definition of “family” means something entirely different from I think ever intended. Most of the time I hate it, which is why I don’t go on it. These posts are placed remotely. I don’t “socialize” through Facebook. I don’t know what’s happening on Facebook. I avoid the ever-present reality show that we make of our lives on Facebook that may have something to do with the rampant narcissism that author David Brooks chronicles in his latest book, The Road to Character.

I can’t tell you how many family spats, dustups, hurt feelings and broken relationships started with the words “friend” or “post” or “like” or “didn’t like” related to Facebook. I’ve blissfully unaware of such nonsense. I’ve made my protest of this version of “social life” known with a T-shirt I wear often:

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My family and friends are the people I touch, the people I take pictures with, the ones who speak to me in person, not this loose cabal of stalkers who relate only via likes and posts.

You get the point right? I’m not a Facebook fan.



But this day in the sun that only came about because of Facebook and my father and my father’s affinity for other Bolsingers, I had to confess, it was pretty EFFin cool. Facebook “family” for a day? Sure. I’ll take it.

Mike made it easier. In all of the five minutes I’ve known him (yes, he’s my new BFF, but he doesn’t know it yet… maybe I’ll send him a “friend request!”) he showed the ability to laugh at himself, showed genuine humility and showed class.

As I listened to the gaggle of reporters asking him about his start, he admitted he was gacked (my word, not his) to face Buster Posey in a crucial situation in the 6th.

“That was fun,” he said.

I’ve interviewed several pro athletes. Few let reporters in on the joy of the game.

It wasn’t BS either. During his next start he gave up a monster home run to the Marlins’ Giancarlo Stanton that actually left Chavez Ravine… left the whole stadium not just the ball park. His reaction?

“I looked back and thought, ‘that was awesome,’ and then got on with the game,” he said.

A game he went on to win, no less, earning himself another start this Sunday, with Vin Scully, my all-time favorite of favorites announcing the name “Bolsinger.”

“Did he pronounce it right?” Mike asked me.

We both agreed he probably did and the legendary Vin Scully saying our name is right up there with pretty great days.

What’s not to like? His Twitter account highlights on my favorite Bible verses, Joshua 1:9:  Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” It also has a photo of quote from my own hero, Martin Luther King Jr, taken at his D.C. memorial. I’m surprised a bit by our common interests.

If five minutes shows anything, it showed me Mike’s mother and father did a hell of a job.

“So congratulations on being the most famous Bolsinger now,” I told him. “Make us proud!”

He laughed. “I’ll do my best,” he said.

Even though I despise all things associated with the team of my youth (except Vin Scully and pitcher Mike Bolsinger) I find myself thinking ahead to Sunday and watching the game and listening to Vin say Bolsinger on the mound and knowing I will want him to win. How’s that for Facebook “family?”

It’s weird man, really weird. But in this day and age when Facebook dominates so much of our culture in so many tragic, disconnect, silly, ways, it’s nice to know that it does some good too, by connecting dots no matter how loosely in this great karmic world we call home that would likely have never been connected any other way.

My spiritual doppelgänger is (sigh) evangelical

I’m not a resident of Facebook, which means I miss out on 93.72 percent (I did a study and the math… well, no I didn’t. That’s a lie) of everything that is going on with my family and friends. Happily I might add. Note my T-shirt:


From afar I hear so much drama, strife and angst of Facebook insult and intrigue I remain blissfully unaware of all but 6.28 percent.

But one degree of separation — in that 6.28 percent — I saw an article that I can’t help but think might have been just a little teensy bit intended for me. My brother, a true champ of a brother and genuine friend, couldn’t help but sense the connection when he posted this story about his colleague on Facebook. (Well, in actuality it may have just been because in his job as a Veep at Fuller Seminary he posts everything in the magazine and he never gave me a thought, but I like to believe big brother was thinking of me. I’ll stick with that.)

The point? Is there one now 172 words into this blog? Simply this: I never knew it but my spiritual doppelgänger is an evangelical. She’s also a woman, and she’s also pretty cool in my brief reading of her story, and she’s also a whole lot of other things that frankly remind me of … me (yes, I am one of the cool kids, at least in my own mind). Aside from apparently missing out on my scandals, alcoholism, rehab and general bottoming out, Erin DuFault-Hunter is, like me, a liberal-Catholic-turned Anabapist. She even had an older brother who helped her see the life-changing nature of a relationship with Christ.

We are truly both Generation Xers it seems.

“Given my strong inclination to independence and perhaps even idolatrous desire to be ‘unique’ and authentic, I am not naturally a joiner. After all, I was born in the 60s and now I live in the age of selfies,” she writes.

I can relate to Dufault-Hunter’s admission of her cringing association with some aspects of evangelicalism. I think my evangelical friends believe this is why I am no longer counted among them. It is in part. The brand is so tarnished I see it doing more harm than good.

But like Dufault-Hunter, I can readily admit less noble reasons for my shirking the evangelical label.

“I also hoped I could be hip—rather than merely another religious moralistic freak. At bottom, I often still crave affirmation and belonging more than I want an abundant life that costs me, even if that cost is merely embarrassment,” she writes.

She gets it. I haven’t met my spiritual doppelgänger, but I connect with her story. In some ways I could have been her had I better learned the staying power of discipline doused with a tad more morality. I was accepted to go to Fuller’s doctoral program in 1989, after all.

But as much as I think folks want to think the cringe factor is the obstacle between me and my past evangelicalism, all I can say is I wish it were. My neurotic fixation on feeling misunderstood flares here most. If my objections were just lifestyle things I wouldn’t have them, I’m certain. I had those same objections for years. While an evangelical I felt wholly outside the sweet spot of orthodoxy. I never put good wood on the ball.

Only later, much later, when the fall was so great and the destructive ruin of my life so apparent did I realize that I did not fail despite of my evangelicalism but in part because of it.

Evangelicalism, with all its certitude, fostered a hubris within me that left me unprepared for life’s realities. It’s like the photo on this blog, all neatly headed in one direction, with guide rails to keep you on the “narrow” road, but in the end are we so sure it doesn’t just fall off into an ocean with us all casting about?

Evangelicals don’t think so, at least not how I was taught. It helped set a false standard and helped establish a belief system of morality that proved insufficient when challenged. I don’t blame evangelicalism. Like many schools of thought, it offered a framework.The blame is all mine.

The flaw is not the belief system, but the certitude in which it is expressed. It requires loyalty in the method that I can not adhere to myself, much less pass on to others. That is the rub: to be an evangelical is to in some sense accept the need to evangelize. No thank you.

Here’s the greater rub I think: Can I both cling to a lifesaving exchange with T
he Christ of cross and then not expect everyone else to experience God in the same way?

That guided prayer changed my life because I met a living God who would love me enough to follow me into the gutters of my coming failures. What followed, my introduction into the dogma of evangelicalism is when things slowly ventured down an errant road.

My reading of Scriptures calls us to serve, not sell. When I serve, I find my best me. When I serve, I know God better and see Her interact with others in a way I couldn’t conjure up no matter who hard I’d try.

When Jesus says the wages of sin are death, he means right here, right now. Just look all around you. So my focus is on the here now– on Earth, as it is in Heaven. God seems to have heaven wired. My help is not needed there. I’ll stick to Earth.

We are called to enter into a loving relationship  with the divine. How we do this, I suspect, we will spend this lifetime — a relatively brief glimpse of the life ahead — figuring it out to the best of our humble abilities. I can’t be an evangelical because I can’t offer anything other than love. But I am confident the more I do just that, the more God will fill in the gaps.

Which is why I’m completely OK that my spiritual doppelgänger is an evangelical (albeit a reluctant one, who like it or not is one of us cool kids, I suspect). In fact, I like it. Because in the end we both may be right. Wouldn’t that be great?

Cheering other writers toward their own Ah-ha moment

A couple of weeks ago I went over to a neighborhood park where a handful of homeless folks hang out. As I’ve gotten to know them, I’ve recognized many come and go, but some are neighbors in the truest sense of the word. Many have ambitions and plans and even hope for whatever comes next.

One woman’s personality burst through the normal routine with enthusiasm. Soon she was grilling me about why I spent my lunch with them, who were my family and eventually what I did for a living.

“I’m a writer,” I said.

“Me too!” she said. “Well, I want to be anyway.”

“That’s what it takes, the desire,” I said, seeing she had plenty of that.

“I’ve started  my memoir,” she said.

She even had a name picked out, Cry Baby, Cry. It’s a good name, I thought.

“Wanna help me out,” she asked? “I’m on Facebook and all that.”

“You have email?” I asked.

She had to have been a regular down at the library. I love libraries for exactly this and a hundred other reasons.

“Of course, man,” she said.

I handed her my card.

“Email me the first few pages,” I said, an offer I’ve made to countless people in countless difference situations.

Writers, I have found, are everywhere. Writers wanting help, any help, are everywhere too. Whenever I offer to read their words — their art — it is almost magical. Some feel energized, others bashful, some worried, and a host of other things. I’ve always felt it an honor to share their words on a page.

“Alright then,” she said. “Fuck it. Let’s make a million dollars. It’s a good book.”

“A million dollars sounds good,” I said.

Why not, I thought on my way home, with just a mild sense of trepidation that my volunteering could open up a whole host of complications I’m not sure I wanted.

Turns out I haven’t heard from her yet. Like many, many budding authors I run into, desire and enthusiasm are often high, but the follow-through can be quicksand.

I’m reminded of another guy who asked me to read some chapters when I was in rehab. I said sure. He told me his plan for his novel. He had big plans. He asked me to offer advice to help him accomplish those plans.

A few days later he brought me more than 100 pages. I sighed. I didn’t have time to read 100 first draft pages, much less give serious editing and coaching tips. But I had said I would. I was learning service had a lot to do with sobriety. I dug in.

It wasn’t terrible. I could tell he’d read a lot of John Grisham and wanted to write like him. My first advice on the page was crucial: Find your voice, I wrote.

I had only planned on reading about ten pages. Soon I had read it all, complete with red line ideas and a laundry list of things to do. It wasn’t that the book was so compelling. Rather it was selfish. The work for me was compelling. I had missed it.

I treated him like the pro he aspired to be, telling him in clear instructions the work he had to put in.  I recall one of them distinctly: “Take Chapter two and tear it up,” I wrote. “You lost your focus entirely and your writing shows it. Jump to Chapter 3 and then refocus the organization.”

The bad news was chapter two was bad. The good news was chapter three showed promise. He had a bunch of stuff to go on. The work could progress. I gave it all back to him and even offered to spend some time over a cup of coffee explaining any of my comments.

I learned later he lost interest in the project. I retraced my steps. Was I too harsh? As an editor in a newsroom I didn’t learn manners. And I know I can be a bit of a diva when I’m working. The last thing I wanted to do was crush a writer’s spirits.

But after a time of critical self-evaluation I realized this man was like so many writers: Full of desire to “be a writer,” but short on the trudging work necessary to become one.

I’ve never stopped helping writers try to discover their art. Recently a book proposal I helped an author finish snagged the first agent he approached. I am not sure if I was more thrilled than he was when a short while later his book sold to a publisher. His agent wants to help him craft a plan for his next books. He’s on his way. I played a very, very small role, but I wouldn’t have missed his “I’m an EFFin Artist, man!” moment for the world.

Yes, I’m a writer. It’s all I’ve ever wanted to be and I’m blessed to be one of those people who make their living banging words onto a page. But I’ve realized that I am also a coach, and even more so a cheerleader. I love to spur on others to find their voice and tell their story in whatever fashion it may be.

That’s really what EffinArtist is all about anyway.

Crotchety Post: Courtesy extinction costs us our humanity

Ok, Ok, I’ll admit it. Young people… whoever they may be… no longer consider me one of their own. In fact, ask a twenty-something to describe me they’d likely not get very far before flippantly kicking out the adjective “old,” and in so doing, crushing my heart into barkdust.

I don’t know when it happened, but at some point in the recent past I passed out of any pretense of youth. I reluctantly can accept that I’m no longer young, but I refuse to trade it in on the “old” label. Which leaves me what? Middle Aged? Ugh. I think its more like age purgatory. I’m nowhere. I’m not young, not old, just… here.

But… BUT… since so many young folks likely view me as an old guy, I insist on taking an additional label that can only be applied to an old guy: crotchety. If I can’t be young, I’m going to be devoutly crotchety.

And since I’ve been in a bit of spiritual slump lately with its symptomatic irritability that creeps in when my life is out of balance and my internal frustration is high, I figured now is a good time to unviel my new crotchety blog posts!

crotchety blog post number 1: Young people are rude. They are mannerless ingrates who are so damn busy tending to their narcissism and their cell phones they don’t have time for manners, kindness, patience or general consideration for others.

How’s that for old and crotchety?!

But here’s the bummer: Young people may be rude, but as I look around I notice that they are not alone. Other pergutory-ites like me are rude. You know what else, old people are pretty damn rude too.


What stuns me the most is how a general lack of civility and priority towards others cuts across the board, irrespective of age, status, race or creed. I think one of the most glaring indictments on people of faith is how little difference in their general regard for others and willingness to give of themselves can be found as compared to people without faith.

Civility is missing in so many areas it is nearly extinct.


  • Why doesn’t anybody send thank-you notes anymore?
  • Why is Facebook stalking more important than small talk, or how you treat Facebook friends more important that how you treat real friends?
  • When did it become unfashionable to say “excuse me,” or worse, to ignore it when someone says it to you? Having earbuds blasting is no excuse for being in a pain the ass to everyone around you.
  • Why is listening so difficult? And by the way, if you say you are listening while you are texting, you are not listening.
  • Since when did doing someone a favor become such a difficult demand on “my time,” the most precious of all things in this egoistic world we call home?
  • When did “it’s out of my way,” become a reasonable excuse for blowing off a friend or family member?
  • When did it become reasonable for grandparents to hold grudges against busy grandchildren? Whatever happened to grandparents who simply revelled in treating their grandkids like they hung the moon? In a world filled with judgement is it so bad to know you have a couple of old-timers in your corner?
  • When did texting become the prefered means of communicating when the conversation may be difficult?
  • When did it become common place for drivers to view a blinker as a signal to speed up and cut the person off? Or to simply ignore vulnerable bikers and veer into their lanes despite the fact that doing so could cost them their lives? Is your hurry worth that?
  • When did ignoring an email become an acceptable way to say no? Whatever happened to the “courtesy of a reply?”
  • Whatever happened to “spending time” together, without a deadline or an agenda or a hint of obligation?

I could go on and on. What’s sad is you could too if you thought about it. I’ve asked people about this lately, and nobody really disputes the point. Nobody really thinks I’m wrong, just that I’m hopelessly out of touch for caring about it, which quite frankly is the saddest point of all.

Consider one small counter argument. Researchers have proven that a “half-smile” — a conscious effort to curve your lips ever so slightly upward — has a dramatic impact on our general mood. They postulate that the act of smiling not only makes us feel better, but generates more positive response from others.

Courtesy makes our lives better. Consideration is contagious. Kindness boosts kindness and improves our lives collectively. You can’t get that from a cell phone.

Why do I think we need to rediscover courtesy? Because it makes us better people. But in the bigger picture, I think this lack of courtesy dehumanizes us, which historically has led to the worst of atrocities. I think it’s that big a deal. I fear we’ve collectively dumbed down the basic courtesies that help people value other people to such an extent that core principles of humanism are rendered nearly as extinct as my lost youth. The loss of my youth doesn’t matter much in the great scheme of things, but the loss of courtesy couldn’t matter more.

News from the Test Kitchen: Caramel

With the waist line being a growing cause for concern, the Effin Artistry focused has moved toward restoration projects of late, BUT do not be alarmed as the test kitchen remains in action nonetheless. We are, after all, addicts, and well, the recent chocolate addiction now rivals the caffeine so we will continue creating — with the hope of some balance of consuming.

Before I get to the ingredient of the week, it bears noting that the one week I didn’t offer a weekly winner (last week’s leftovers focus) this forum was like the classroom in the 80s movie Real Genius where indifferent students leave recorders in the classroom instead of attending to listen to a lecture left by a professor on a recorder in his absence. Only you all didn’t even put up a recorder! Duly noted. Everyone starts this week having to make up ground if they expect to be rewarded. Participation is a responsibility not a luxury here… As my bride tells me, I am indeed a sensitive sort despite the rugged exterior.
SO guess what this week is??? By popular demand… the ingredient is…
2013-12-12 12.16.33
Thank you, thank you… take your seats… thank you… you are too kind…
Let the begging begin now. I don’t mind saying I have high hopes for the package going out this week, not only to be delicious, but to actually be artistic (and safely arrive in said condition despite a staggering hostility from our so-called tireless postal working community).
New exciting restoration projects are also underway, but will likely be kept under the cloak of an Apple Jobsians secrecy until after Christmas.
The work begins… now. Check back for photos and updates…
Some of the comments (err.. sucking up) so far… Effin Artist is nothing without the peanut gallery:
– I would like to point out, that I check both blogs daily and commented both in phone call text and on Facebook. I was in class!
– I think I speak for all of us when I mutter under my breath so that the teacher will not hear: “Suck up.”
– For food. Every day. No shame
– Yes….might I add (in the beautiful words said by SNL cast members): “Suck it Trebek. Suck it long. Suck it hard.”.  🙂
– Dear Most High Effin Artist of the Universe (let the sucking up commence), I wholeheartedly celebrate the topic of caramel for the Artist Kitchen.  Although chocolate has many virtues, I have always had deepest affection for the sugar, cream and butter confection.  I think it’s nectar from the gods, and in the hands of such a virtuoso as yourself, it will be nothing short of a masterpiece.  If I were to be humbly allowed to partake of such a finely crafted sweet, I would be moved to the depth of my soul.
May you hear the angels sing around you as you create!
(EFFin Artist likes this comment)…
–  wait,wait wait, my email wasn’t working and I just realized I missed the whole topic of caramel yesterday. I also see people taking credit for suggesting this caramel extravaganza but I happen to remember sending several emails before anyone else about the need for caramel. I also sent sample pictures for the effin artist to be inspired by. Clearly I am this weeks effin winner…
– Yes, you may have suggested the caramel extravaganza, however the excuse of a down computer is a bit weak, don’t you think?  I think this train has already left the station, sweetheart.
And so it goes in Effin Artist land. You have to come strong if you want the surprise prize at week’s end.
Finally, as always, to unsubscribe to these emails I’d suggest naming a star after EffinArtist and wish upon it.