Go to Hell—But Only if You Want To…

Screen Shot 2016-03-30 at 4.22.25 PM.png

Image from Tasso Art

“WHAT? It’s MY choice?”

“Correct. Your choice. 100%.”

“But you guys always made it sound like it wasn’t our choice at all.”

“That wasn’t us, it was you. Media began a long ass time before TV and radio came along.

“From stone tablets, to papyrus scrolls, you guys have a history of spinning some really unbelievable stories.”

“I’m confused. I get to choose to whether I want to be reincarnated or to go to Heaven or to go to Hell?”

“Correct.”

“So the whole ‘good people go to Heaven, bad people go to Hell’ thing isn’t real?”

“People aren’t good or bad. People are simply people.”

“I’m sorry. This isn’t making any sense to me.”

“He created you, and put in you all those qualities that drive you guys to make dumb-ass decisions. So, He’s not that shocked when you guys follow through on your dumb-ass decisions.”

“Good and bad don’t exist then?”

“I didn’t say that. I said there are no good and bad people. There are, however, good and bad intentions.

“And, almost every soul ever created, has at least ONE good intention that is so awesome, it cancels out any other bad intentions they’ve acted on.”

“Huh?”

“You, like almost everybody, have one ‘greatest good’, which determines your final judgment.”

“But that would mean we all end up going to heaven.”

“Only those who choose to go to Heaven.”

“It would also mean that no one really goes to hell.”

“Not unless they want to.”

“Who WANTS to go to hell?”

“I’ll explain that later. But first, let’s focus on the ‘greatest good’ thing.”

Dying, apparently, is a pretty exhaustive process. With all that was left of me, I tried to remember what my ‘greatest good’ was, but to no avail.

“And… there it is.”

“There what is?”

“You trying to figure out your ‘greatest good’. As soon as anyone finds out the ‘greatest good’ thing, they always… ALWAYS… ALWAYS wonder what theirs is and then—”

“Oh, oh! Hold on! But of course!

“The summer I participated in Habitat for Humanity! Who would have thought that little decision would go such a long way, right?”

“Uh, yeah. But no.”

“Wait! Wait! Oh! It was that donation I made to Save the Children! I mean, it was a pretty generous donation—so that’s gotta be it.”

“Nope. The size of your donation doesn’t determine the size of its goodness.”

“Summer of ’92! Joining the Boys & Girls Club as a Big Sister! HA!”

“You still don’t get it—I said ‘greatest good’ intended.

“If you remember, the Habitat for Humanity gig was a choice you made with pretty selfish intentions. You were crushing on a guy, and decided to go once you found out he was going.

“The Save the Children donation you made was really intended as a tax deduction.

“And, you were a Big Sister so you’d have a community activity to include on your college application.”

“I give up.”

The Angel started to snicker.

“Death ends you humans being able to eat, drink and breath—but it still doesn’t totally kill your Egos, does it?

“In stead of assuming to know the answer, ever think about asking me what you ‘greatest good’ was???”

“Angels are way more sarcastic than they’re portrayed on earth.”

“Part of humanity’s story spinning, my friend, part of the spinning.”

“God Damn it! Just tell me!”

Crap. This is probably a really bad time to use the Lord’s name in vain.

“Relax. He always cuts the newbies some slack. I think He even finds it a bit amusing.”

Collecting what I can only assume are my atoms, I recomposed myself and calmly asked again. “Please, do tell, what is my ‘greatest good’?”

The Angel pulled out a glass orb. Within seconds, it was emanating a glowing light so glorious, it lit up the entire sky.

I drew closer to the orb, concentrating on its yellow-pink incandescence.

“What are you doing?”

“I’m waiting for you to show me my ‘greatest good’.”

The Angel snorted with laughter.

“You think I’m going to replay your ‘greatest good’ in this is crystal ball?

“Hate to disappoint, but it’s just a lamp… ya know, being that it’s getting darker and almost nighttime now.”

“WOW. Angels are really not that nice at all.”

“Com’on, learn to laugh at yourself a little! Death is so much more laid back. Enjoy it!”

“Can we please get back to my ‘greatest good’?

“Right! So, one day, you were running late to an important meeting. You were stuck in one of the worst traffic jams evah. I mean it was lock down, bumper-to-bumper-to-bumper CRAY CRAY traffic!

“As soon as it started to loosen up, you had a clear left you could have taken, which would have given you access to a less congested route.

“Just before you were about to turn left, you saw a poor woman in the street, exhausted, walking with her child. The little girl, who was very thirsty, kept trying to suck out the last few drops of water from a bottle she was holding.

“I don’t know why, or exactly what it was, but in seeing this woman and child, a sincere, deep and genuine sense of compassion overcame you.

“So you parked your car on the side of the road—and although the meeting you were going to was super important, you didn’t give it a second thought.

“You ran to a kiosk, grabbed a few sandwiches and bottles of water, crossed the street, and gave them to the woman and the child.

“You then pulled out 100 LE, handing it to the woman. As you gave her the money, you also intended in your heart for it to be a charitable donation in the memory of your deceased father.”

Myth number two: Besides the whole ‘good people go to Heaven’ bullshit, it also isn’t true that when you die, your entire life ‘flashes before of you’.

I remember certain people, certain events, a few milestone moments, but in no way could I remember the incident of which the Angel just spoke.

“I’m sorry. But I don’t even recall that.”

The Angel laughed, but this time, with great kindness.

“That’s because you guys remember what you think is important and meaningful. But you guys never give a thought to what is actually important and meaningful.

“And compassion—that emotion of selflessness, that sentiment which enables you to step outside of yourself and connect with the world, with others and by default with Him—well, its one of the two most meaningful intentions a person can act on.”

“And that’s my ‘greatest good’? Really?”

“Of course, you’re disappointed. You humans, you just love your Hollywood endings—those stoic, heroic acts of sainthood.

“Well, my friend, there’s not a person in history whose ‘greatest good’ was on that grand a scale.”

“Uh, he-llo? Ghandi?? Passive resistance movement? Dying for his cause?”

“I’m not usually allowed to share the details of other cases—it kinda goes against the whole Angel-dead person confidentiality thing.

“But, I can tell you this: throughout Ghandi’s quest, in his heart, he was a wee bit too proud of himself.”

“Ghandi? REALLY?”

“Look, I’ve already said too much. The point is, until today, no one, and I mean literally no one has ever achieved his or her ‘greatest good’ in a big way.”

“Jesus? Moses? Buddah?”

“Not gonna lie—closest ones to it. But, still… a tinge of glory-seeking there.”

“Mother Teresa? Dedicating her life to the poor?”

“Yeah, her intentions are messed up on so many levels, I can’t even begin.”

“So, because I stopped for this woman, fed her and her kid, gave them some money, everything bad I ever did in my ENTIRE LIFE, is—whoosh! Completely voided?”

“Yes.”

“What about the, like, 50 times I shoplifted as a teenager?”

“Voided.”

“The gazillion times I’ve lied to people I love?”

“Voided.”

Cheating on my husband with my boss?”

“Stupid. Really stupid. But, yes, voided.”

The five times after my boss that I cheated on my husband?!!”

“Nasty. Low. SHAMEFUL. Horrible. Incredibly dishonest.”

“Voided?”

“Hey, I don’t make the rules, I just implement them.”

“I’ve stolen, lied and cheated. I’ve screwed up my marriage, back-stabbed friends, and just in case you don’t remember, hurt my family and friends so much, that NO ONE showed up at my funeral.”

“I didn’t say you were a wonderful person. But remember, it’s not a numbers game.”

“What about others who have done some really, really, really bad things, like KILLING INNOCENT PEOPLE? This makes NO SENSE AT ALL!”

“Relax. Chill out.

“If you remember, I said that almost everyone has a ‘greatest good’, which voids anything bad they’ve done.

“I also said that compassion was one of the two most meaningful intentions a person can act on. The other one being, forgiveness.”

“I’m sorry, but who forgives Hitler? Idi Amin? That Pharaoh who killed ALL THE BABIES?”

“Yeah, you mortals are actually pretty impressive when it comes to compassion—forgiveness, not so much. The funny thing is, when you guys die, you are SUPER forgiving.

“I don’t why, I just know that, everyone who’s died, up until today, has, independently, decided to forgive anyone who’s wronged him or her.”

“You’re telling me that allllllllll those killers, rapists, terrorists, tyrants, dictators, child molesters, MONSTERS, are…”

“Forgiven. Yes. Everyone.

“When you guys forgive these people, He does too. But only if you have—and like I said, every single victim wants to forgive these criminals when they get here.”

This is utterly ridiculous! Where the fuck am I? Is this a joke?

“I’ve lived my life, if not feeling guilty for the bad things I’ve done, at least knowing I SHOULD feel guilt for them!

“Now you’re telling me, ‘hey, doesn’t matter what you do—forget the Ten Commandments! Forget the whole ‘right to life, liberty and happiness’!

“Anyone and everyone GETS AWAY WITH ANYTHING!”

The Angel started laughing again. For what seemed like eons, the Angel continued to cackle. If I knew where to storm off to, I would have run out on the Angel.

“THEY REALLY SPUN THAT STORY GOOD! You guys fell for it hook, line and sinker! Let go… let GO of everything you were brainwashed to believe.

“The real question you need to ask is this:

What is the point of it all?”

I had spent my entire life asking myself that question—frustrated, angry and resentful, I kept asking it, knowing I could never get the real answer.

Yet, in a place and at a time where someone who knew the answer could give it to me, I didn’t once think about asking it.

“Well, what is the point?”

“The first point—as corny and cheesy as it may seem—is love.

“You guys never got that as mortals, because you really hadn’t experienced love in its purest form.

“When you’re alive, your ability to love is tainted. Even the kindest, most generous and selfless of you cannot experience love in its purest form.

“Because even when you are kind, generous and selfless, you inevitably feel good about… well… yourself. In essence, every selfless act in life is a selfish endeavor.

“Your kindness, generosity and selflessness, ultimately, are always tainted by a selfish pride and the pleasure of ‘being a good person’.

“Like splatters of ink on a white dress, these stains of vanity might be small, but still… the dress ends up being ruined.

“Once in a lifetime though, for a split Nano of a Nano of a Nano second, you guys experience a glimpse of unabated compassion or forgiveness. And that moment always becomes your ‘greatest good’.

“When you die, you are disencumbered by the stories you’ve spun, and begin to feel love in its purest form. So you willing exercise complete compassion and unconditional forgiveness.

“Bringing us to the second point of it all—freewill.

“From the beginning, you guys had the will to create and be what you aspired to. Even when it came to Him—He is who you wanted Him to be.

“Some of you turned Him into a human and put Him on a cross. Others didn’t believe He was human, but might as well have, since they ended up personifying Him as angry, jealous, vengeful and punishing.

“Truth is, He never punished anyone—He only defended the rights of people who willed to believe He would defend their rights.

“I promise you—if ONE victim of the BILLIONS that were wronged at the hands of ANY criminal, didn’t will to forgive those criminals, then He wouldn’t forgive them either.

“But, out of love in its purist form and your own free will, you guys end up forgiving. All of you—every single one of you people.”

“What about those who lost children, got illnesses like cancer, people who SUFFERED?”

“Let me ask you this: what did I tell you your ‘greatest good’ was?

“Stopping for the poor woman and her child.”

“No—I said it was the compassion you had for them, which then triggered you to stop for them.”

“I don’t get it.”

“There’s no doubt He could have created a world sans suffering.

“If life was all peaches and plums, you guys would experience non-stop happiness—but, not much else. In such a perfect world, compassion and forgiveness wouldn’t need to be experienced.

“Suffering and the witnessing of suffering are the only reason you guys feel compassion and forgiveness. And compassion and forgiveness are the only means for you to connect to one another and to Him.

“Happiness is a selfish pleasure—sure, it can foster gratitude, but inevitably, you guys take that happiness for granted and stop being grateful.”

It was such an inane explanation, that it made total sense.

“But if it’s this simple, why the hell was it made to be so complicated on earth?”

“Ah—that brings us back to your earlier question. Remember when you asked me, ‘who wants to go to hell’?”

“Oh, yes! Forgot about that question!”

“The simplest and most meaningful intentions known to man—compassion and forgiveness—are ALWAYS complicated by guilt and shame.

“So rather than overcome these two, you guys spin stories around them—and they are some fucked up stories with some serious complications. The deeper the guilt and shame get, the crazier your stories become.

“What’s interesting is that—even after death, you guys find it hard to let go of the guilt and shame that you feel. Mostly because, you don’t want to.

“That’s why you opt to be reincarnated or you opt to go to Hell. And He sends you where you want to go—no questions asked, it’s all up to you, honey bunny.”

“Listen, I get that you’re an Angel and everything, and that you have all the answers—but I think you need to Google the facts of your story again. It’s not gellin’ together.”

“Okay—on earth, don’t some people decide to see the ‘up side’ of life, while others seem to always assume the worst?”

“Sure.”

“Following that logic, wouldn’t that mean that some decide to create their own Heaven, and some decide to create their own Hell?”

“Uh… I suppose.

“And why do you think some will a Heaven for themselves, while others will a Hell?”

“Uh… because… because…”

“Guilt and shame.

“Those who have freed themselves of guilt and shame are able to will a Heaven. Those who haven’t freed themselves, will a Hell.

“Or, if they don’t will a Hell, they will a new identity for themselves—seeking to be someone other than who they are.”

“Holy shit! HOLY SHIT! This is EPIC!”

“And, because you guys don’t want to let go of your guilt and shame, you spin stories about how He’ll relieve you of that guilt and shame once you die.

“Your idiotic stories even boast about Him rewarding you for your guilt and shame!

“Yet, even when you get here and find out what the point of it all is, rather than bask in the beauty of it, rather than feel joy and happiness, rather than sing and dance, you guys feel even more guilt and shame.

“Some, so much so, that they choose to go to Hell.

“Some, a little less so—and those ones ask for a ‘redo’. Hence, they are reincarnated.”

“And the ones who let go of the guilt and shame, they choose to go to Heaven?”

“Sadly, my friend, to date, no one who’s come here has let go of their guilt and shame.”

“Wait—that would mean no one’s ever gone to Heaven.”

“Correction—no one has ever chosen to go to Heaven.”

“Jesus? Buddah? Moses?”

“Moses was a bit hard on himself— it took a while to persuade him to at least choose reincarnation.”

This left me in quite a pickle. If people like Moses didn’t even think they were worthy of Heaven, who was I to choose to go there?

I don’t want to go to Hell, but then again, I sort of feel it’s where I belong.

Damn, the Angel is right, shaking off the guilt and shame ain’t easy.

“And… there it is.”

“There what is?”

“You trying to decide where you want to go—stop comparing yourself to other ‘good people’. I told you, there are no good or bad people—which means that no one can really be better than anyone else.”

“But—”

“But nothing! Listen, my job isn’t to decide for you where you should go. My job is to tell you all the facts, so you can make an informed decision. For ONCE, one of you guys, PLEASE, just accept the facts as they are!”

“Can I at least think about it?”

“What’s there to think about?! You don’t need to think! You need to let go of the guilt and shame!”

“I can’t! I can’t!”

“You CAN! You just don’t WANT TO!”

“Stop yelling at me!”

The Angel brought his tone down to a frustrated whisper. “I’m not yelling, I am pleading with you—there’s no need for your guilt and shame. So, please just decide to let go of them.”

“If you tell me how, I will.”

“Okay. Step one: let them go. Step Two: let them go. Step three—”

“I know, let them go!”

“No—step three is: make a decision!”

Pausing, I concentrated as I had never concentrated before. In the stillness of all that what was—an existence, a consciousness, HIM—I tried to let go.

I attempted to release my guilt and shame… to relinquish myself of their weight…

I really, really tried.

“And… there it is.”

The Angel let out a melodious sigh, “Well then, Ready?”

“Yes. Really ready.”

“Then, my friend, let’s go.”

 

 

Karma Chameleon

Advertisements

The Limit of Sugar Mountain

Oh ye, good Bloggarians… my sentiments shalt sting… my logic, yea, shalt shatter your emotional consonance… but, alas…

I just gots ta tell y’all the truth.

From Conkrite to Rathers, Walters to Donaldson, Friedman to Chomsky, ‘Media’ was the unbiased, uni-directional communication of news and information.

The ‘Social’ aspect introduced the possibility of ‘evolving’ Media communication into a multi-directional exchange between two or more homo (and/or hetero) sapiens.

In the ‘real’ world, only 7% of social interactions is based on verbal exchanges, with 93% constituting para-linguistic cues, such as facial expressions and intonation, as well as body language.

Enter, Mark Zuckerberg (etymology, ‘Mark’, West Saxon origin of ‘mearc’, or ‘limit’; etymology of Zuckerberg, Germanic origin, ‘sugar mountain’).

‘Social Media’ wasn’t simply accepted, it was embraced… applauded… lauded…

So much so, that the collective human ego was willing to turn a blind eye to the global lexicide instigated by it.

An already tiny minority of communication, Social Media is massacring that meager 7% into extinction.

Yet, as Social Media slays away at language, humanity stands by, echoing it’s shorthand laugh…

LOL… L.O.L.

For we have foregone all grammatical morality…

Prostituting parentheses and colons as emojis; pimping numbers 4 cheap prepositions; disemboweling words of their vowels; trafficking subjects and predicates illegally…

Woe is the truth! But the truth it still is!

None other than a Sugar Mountain of Limits!

Stunting  what otherwise could have been the birth of a new generation of Shakespears, Joyces & Hemmingways…

Replacing such literary possibility with a sea of Millennial authors, whose given Christian names have been traded in for ludicrous and vulgar eponyms…

KensDoll, Hot4U…Gr8Sexpectations.

All the meanwhile, Sugar Mountain mocks us ‘Users’… ADDICTS, itching to be Liked, Followed, Friended, and Shared. Tagged, no less we are… DIGITAL VOODOO DOLLS!

Damnation, I tell you! The demise of humanity beyond Biblical proportions! For at least Babel built a language!

What will it take to wake mankind from its Sugar Mountain coma? Our grandchildren receiving, literally, an abbreviated and misspelled version of history?

We z ppl of z US, n Ordr 2 form a > perfect Union, estblsh Justis, n shur domestic Tranqulty, provide 4 z common defense, promote z gnral Wlfare & scure z Blssings of Librty 2 ourselves & our Posterity, do ordain & establsh this Consttution 4 z US of A.

We should loath no one but ourselves for what is to come… for we crawl like ants to the Sugar Mountain, feasting on its socially carcinogenic saccharine. Rewarded by empty caloric comments, our Timeline gets fatter and fatter… until we find ourselves unable to escape our mobile, tablet and laptop screens.

I leave you with this: it is nary too late. For there are some who can be saved, who can see the proverbial light. In those people, I have hope. I see a future. They are the warriors empowering a Social that will never surrender to Media.

And once I find them, I swear by the letters with which I write…

I’m gonna add them as Friends on Facebook.

 

On the Island of Bunga Bunga: All Apples, but None to Be Eaten

Starbucks-birthday-club-freebiesAnd when I opened my eyes, I gasped.

Spitting out a bit of sand, seaweed and pieces of plastic Pacific refuse, I looked around.

By some miracle, I survived. The boat capsized.

But I somehow survived.

OH GOD. FUCK!

A large man in a straw sheath was standing above me.

His stillness and silence are hard to interpret. I could only assume one of three things:

  1. He doesn’t speak English
  2. He’s debating how edible I am
  3. He’s contemplating how digestible I am

Without warning, he sprang at me.

SHITE!!! It’s number two or three! Two or three!

Extending his hands under my backside, he lifted me up. Being as weak as I was, I couldn’t fight back. I couldn’t even resist.

Like a dead goldfish, I accepted my fate.

And passed out.

My eyes opened. Above me, bushels of green. The sky was much darker. The sound of children screaming wasn’t far off.

THEY’RE COOKING THE KIDS!! Those poor children are probably SIDE DISHES!!

Trying to break free from the rope by which I was tied down, I gave up the struggle within seconds.

Because, as it turns out, I wasn’t tied up.

I was in a hammock underneath some palm trees.

They know I can’t get far. I’m still very weak.

Technically, no no need to cage me up or tied me down.

I looked around the black sanded beach. The large man who brought me here was heading towards me.

With a coconut in his hands.

OH MY GOD, he’s going to strike me unconscious with the coconut AND THEN barbecue me.

Within minutes, I found him standing above me.

OH MY GOD! OH MY GOD! THIS IS IT!!!

I shut my eyes and folded into myself.

Nothing happened.

No head-cracking pain.

No coconut-hitting-the-head thud.

I felt my hands on what I assume was still my face.

Turns out death doesn’t hurt.

In fact, you feel pretty much like you do when you’re alive.

I opened my eyes.

Looking around, I saw the screaming kids.

They were playing tag on the beach.

Hmmm… okay, so I’m not dead. And the kids aren’t side dishes.

I looked back at the man. He held the coconut in front of me, inviting me to take it.

And he really doesn’t seem that interested to baste me.

I clasped the prickly furred orb, and drew it towards me.

It was filled with water. I drank it as quickly as I could.

The prospect of my eminent death, it seems, had made me very, very, very thirsty.

And hungry.

Let’s see… universal sign language for food… OH!

‘Hand with fingers cupped together, pecking at mouth’… I’ll try that. Maybe, just maybe, he’ll understand me.

The man looked at me, fabulously dumbfounded.

Continuing my gastronomical charade, I then tried ‘hand rubbing stomach’.

Still, dumbfounded.

‘Lady, you want food?’, he asked.

‘You speak English!’ I sang with relief, ‘Yes! I’m So hungry!’

‘Well, you only have one choice.’

‘One choice?’

‘Look, Lady, Bunga Bunga is a poor island nation. We survive on IMF loans. We can’t afford luxuries like wheat, meat & rice.

‘And because we can’t keep up with the compounded interest on the loans, the IMF has taken all of Bunga Bunga’s staple foods as collateral, exporting it for profit.

‘So we use the IMF money to only buy necessities– Venti cappuccinos, iPhones & iPads.

‘Is this a joke? Tell ya what– let’s head to Starbucks then, for a Caramel Latte…’

‘Caramel ran out. Hazelnut is ok?’

‘Are you kidding me?’

‘No. We grow a lot of coffee. The IMF  owns that too.

‘So it exports the coffee back to the US, who in turn sells it to the Starbucks corporation, which opened stores in Bunga Bunga. The Bunganese government collects all the rent from the store locations and puts the money in the Bunganese central bank, which then loans it out to the Bunganese people, so we can afford to eat at Starbucks, since that’s the only place we can get food on the island.’

‘You guys wear straw sheaths, live in straw huts, and I bet, probably have no running water or electricity, but you have Starbucks?!’

‘Look, lady, how else are we going to connect our iPads to the Internet?’

‘You don’t need Starbucks for Internet access! You need an INTERNET CONNECTION!’

‘Yeah, but what’s the point of surfing the Net without enjoying a cappuccino or a nice cold Frappucino.’

‘Give me your iPhone! I want a call a travel agent for a plane ticket OUTTA HERE!’

‘We don’t have planes, lady. We don’t even have an airport.’

‘You have iPhones. You have iPads. You have Starbucks, BUT YOU DON’T HAVE A AIRPORT?!’

‘You don’t need an airport to connect to the Internet.’

‘Look, do you have an American Embassy here?’

‘Yeah, if you go right at the next coconut tree, and past the Starbucks.’

‘Great, so after that Starbucks over there-‘

‘No, the next Starbucks.’

‘That one?’

‘No. Not that one. The one after the one after the one after that one.’

‘Give me your iPhone!’

‘Who you going to call?’

‘The EMBASSY! What’s the number?’

‘You mean the smoke signals?’

‘What?’

‘There’s a smoke signal app we use. See? Right there.’

‘Have Angry Birds too?’

‘Yeah. But they only get mean when the islanders approach them.’

‘JUST SMOKE SIGNAL THE EMBASSY!’

‘Okay, it’s smoking… hold on… it’s still smoking but no one’s picking up. Oh wait! Here you go.’

‘Hello? Is this the American Embassy?’

‘Yes, how may we help you?’

‘I’m an American citizen. My boat capsized and I washed ashore on Bunga Bunga. I need you guys to get me back to the US.’

‘No problem, ma’am. We can arrange to transport you by boat tonight. That will be $5000.’

‘Excuse me? I don’t think you heard me. I am an American. I PAY TAXES. TECHNICALLY, THIS IS A RESCUE MISSION… DO MY TAXES NOT COVER THAT?’

‘No ma’am, afraid not.’

‘Then what the hell to do I pay taxes for?’

‘US taxes cover the enforcement of democracy around the world, so America stays safe.’

‘There’s no money to take me back to the US, but there’s money to give to the Bunganese to spend on iPhones and cappuccinos at Starbucks?’

‘Yes ma’am. That’s part of enforcing democracy.’

‘How so?!’

‘The best way to democratize a people is globalization and unlimited access to online porn.’

‘Are you kidding me?!’

‘No ma’am. The US government developed that strategy after seeing how successful it was with Americans.’

‘BULLSHIT! Have you not heard of a movement called ‘Occupy’?’

‘Did you participate in Occupy, ma’am?’

‘No.’

‘Did anyone you know participate?’

‘No.’

‘See, ma’am. Effective. If you’re dissatisfied ma’am, I’m more than happy to send an email to your local Congressman. Just give me his name.’

‘His name is Congressman KISS MY ASS! I’m calling CNN! The press will hear about this!?’

‘Lady, how you going to call CNN?’

‘You have Internet, you have an iPad, so you have Skype! Take me to Starbucks!’

Five minutes later, we reached Starbucks.

‘Okay, signed into Skype… an old classmate works at CNN and I think, I think, I still have him as a contact on Skype… let’s see… let’s see…searching… searching… AHA! Here we go!!’

Bloop bloop bloop bloop… BLOOP. Ring, ring. Ring, ring. Bloop!

‘Larry! Jesus! Thank God you answered! Have I got a story for you!’

‘Shoot!’

‘So, I’m stranded on this island called Bunga Bunga and get this– I call the US Embassy to help me get home, and they won’t get me off the island unless I pay $5000!’

‘Is Brittany Spears there?’

‘Ah…NO.’

‘Did you see Justin Beiber with his pants down?’

‘Huh?’

‘Brangelina? George Clooney? Menage-a-trois?’

‘Larry! For Christ’s sake!’

‘Listen, there’s no story if there’s no superstar.’

‘What are you talking about? CNN is supposed to cover stories about Constitutional Rights!’

‘Ratings, my friend. Ratings… stars get ratings.’

‘My rights as a US citizen are being violated! Isn’t that a story people should want to hear?!’

‘What about sexual violation?? And what if it was Tom Cruise who violated you?’
‘Alright. Tom Cruise violated me.’

‘Woah! Any Scientologists with him?’

‘Yeah, ALL OF THEM.’

‘Can I quote you?’

‘Yeah, Larry. Quote me!! BYE, LARRY!!!.’

Bloop. Conversation ended.

‘What will happen now, lady? CNN will eventually find out Tom Cruise isn’t here.’

‘I need press now. Truth, obviously, isn’t a criteria. Log onto CNN.’

‘WOW, lady! It’s already breaking news! Uh-oh… Tom Cruise’s publicist has already responded.’

‘What did he say?’

‘Hmmm… let’s see… let’s see…Well, basically, lady, he’s calling you a stalker. Wait… there’s a video interview with someone who says he’s your neighbor back home. I’ll play it.’

‘She’s always been really quiet, didn’t talk much to anyone. I always felt something was wrong with her. Not surprised she’s stalking Tom Cruise really. She’s probably an Islamic Fundamentalist.’

‘Lady, I don’t think your plan is working.’

‘But I’m not even Muslim!’

‘Hey, look! There’s another video of you, lady! Right there on CNN! Wearing a Mexican hat, jumping around and screaming ‘Ole, Ole’! The caption underneath says: ‘Tom Cruise Terrorist Stalker Yelling ‘Allah, Allah’ in Spanish’.

‘That was a bloody farewell party for a colleague! It was a Mexican theme! Five pitchers of margaritas into the party, everyone was screaming!’

‘Oh shit, lady. Now there’s news that Obama is holding a live press conference about you… look! look! There he is!’

‘My fellow Americans, it has come to my attention that a US citizen affiliated with ISIS, has destabilized the ally nation of Bunga Bunga. In order to protect Bunganese democracy, we will be deploying troops there within the hour.’

‘Lady! You are going to get us into a war! You gotta get out of here!’

‘This is inane! The media’s spinning this into a whole other story!’

‘Lady, you got to go to the Embassy!’

Leaving Starbucks, we trekked two minutes and found ourselves at the embassy, a small straw hut behind iron gates.

‘Good luck, lady!’

‘You’re not coming with me?!’

‘Lady, I won’t see the light of day again if I come in with you! Technically, I’m considered an accomplice.’

‘But you’re my only witness!’

‘Sorry, lady!’

And just like that, he took off.

Stopped by a marine who recognized my face from the news, he immediately handcuffed me and rammed me through the gates. Moments later, I found myself in front of the very man who had answered my phone call not even an hour ago.

‘Listen, I’m not a terrorist! I tried to call you almost an hour ago, asking to be rescued! You wanted to charge me $5000, and so I called CNN, but they weren’t interested in the story if it didn’t have a star attached to it! SO SUE me! I made it up! But AT LEAST it got your attention!’

He remained silent.

‘So what happens now?’

‘Well, the troops are on their way.’

‘So the government is willing to spend TRILLIONS of tax dollars to bring however many thousands of troops into Bunga Bunga, but won’t foot $5000 to take me back to the US?’

‘Protocol, ma’am.’

‘Don’t you want to avert A WAR?’

‘The President hasn’t declared war, ma’am.’

‘It’ll turn to one, because there’s no way in hell the Bunganese are going to accept this!’

‘Until congress approves it, it’s not a war ma’am.’

‘So, basically, we just sit here and wait for the troops.’

‘No ma’am. The American Embassy is being evacuated as we speak. We won’t be here.’

‘Including me?’

‘Yes, ma’am. Helicopters from a US carrier in the South Pacific are on their way.’

‘We’re being airlifted out of here? An hour ago, I couldn’t get a boat ride back home, but you’re airlifting to the US???’

‘An hour ago, it wasn’t an evacuation, ma’am.’

‘Why not send back the troops, avoid a possible war with Bunga Bunga and just take me home?’

‘If the troops are sent back, technically, there would be no need to evacuate ma’am.’

‘BUT THIS IS A CATASTROPHE! YOU HAVE TO STOP THIS!!’

‘Should have thought about the consequences yourself, ma’am, before destabilizing the island.’

‘I CAN’T BELIEVE I VOTED FOR OBAMA! AND TO THINK BUSH WAS BAD!’

‘Obama is better, ma’am.’

‘AND HOW’S THAT!!??’

‘He the first president to bring democracy to Bunga Bunga.’

The Mug, The Tampon and a Pigeon

Untitled

Being late really ruined my morning today. Now all I’d think about was the unwashed coffee mug sitting in my sink. I should have just quickly cleaned it before leaving for work. It would have taken a minute… I could have forgone the 53 seconds it takes to put on my silver bracelets and knuckle ring… I could have gargled my mouthwash 42 seconds less than usual… 95 seconds would have been more than ample to soap up and rinse a little white ceramic coffee mug…

Hey– I can do it when I get home, right? In 8 hours and 95 seconds, it’ll be squeaky clean. In the meantime, I will let it ride… focus on what counts… we’ve got a huge agency pitch… channel the anxiety, channel it into creativity… the ideas… I can SO do this. I’m already on Jim’s bad side, and this is my chance to redeem myself. If Jim, the Creative Director is on my side, I’m golden… I’ve got a future. The mug… the instant coffee grind stained mug isn’t an issue… the WHITE mug with dark, oak brown beaded stains that are seeping deep beneath the surface enamel coating of the WHITE mug… it doesn’t bother me.

‘Good morning, team! Alright, let’s get started. The brief for the pitch. A feminine product– Tamplus. Any ideas? People?… Steve! Lay it on me!’

‘Uh… well… this is all about a woman’s menstruation… her period… a period is also a double entendre on the ‘full stop’ punctuation mark…’

Mark… Mark Twain… white suit… the WHITE mug…

‘So, I’m thinking: ‘Tamplus…A Period No More, It’s a Full Stop.’

‘I’m sorry, I didn’t hear anything after the ‘double entendre’ trope,’ Jim sardonically started. ‘Just to clarify, do you feel the clothes you wear are not making enough of a metrosexual statement? Cause I can tell ya, message received loud and clear without you having to say ‘double entendre’!’

Entendre… rhymes with James Bond… Goldfinger… Nescafe Gold… COFFEE-STAINED WHITE MUG!

‘Malcolm, batter up!’

‘Well, tampons, from what I understand, go inside a woman, and expand as they absorb… women also gossip between themselves about the size of a man’s… you know…’

‘PENIS. You do have one, right?’ Jim wasn’t being rhetorical.

Penis… willy… rhymes with Billy… Bill Gates… Windows 95… 95 SECONDS MORE AND I COULD HAVE WASHED THE WHITE MUG!

Malcolm failing to pick up on the lack of rhetoric didn’t help his situation. ‘Yes, Jim, I do have a penis. Here’s what I’m thinking: ‘Tamplus… The Tampon that Makes Men Jealous’.’

‘Great! Now that we’ve established Malcolm has a PENIS but clearly doesn’t doesn’t have a dick, anymore ideas?’

OH MY GOD… I HAVE TO GET OUT OF HERE! I know! I’ll say I have an emergency! No, no… Jim will ask what it is and I’ll totally not know how to lie and he’ll hate me more… I’ll create one! Like on a FEMA scale… mass emergency so we all have to clear out! Then I can go home and wash the WHITE coffee mug! FEMA would probably arrest me and take me into that rendition thingy, but I would have at least cleaned the mug and been thrown into that rendition thingy knowing my sink was mug-free and my WHITE mug was WHITE!

‘Carry? Hello? Creative Director to Carry! Slogan ideas, Tamplus?!’

Oh shit, slogan! Think, Carry! Think! ‘Ah, well, Jim,’ and then, the following words came tumbling out of my mouth with a force that was too heavy for me to stop.

‘Well, Tamplus is something women use to avoid leakage, which is a super crisis. At the same time, FEMA, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, is associated with crises.’

I spewed it all out at the speed of light, slowing down for the finale, which culminated into an artistic beatnik whisper, ‘Tamplus… Take the FEMA out of Female’.

Everyone around the table froze. Jim’s eyes stabbed me, and from the looks of it, his psychotic rampage would end up in fatal multiple verbal wounds.

‘FUCK ME! Brilliant! I actually think it’s SO HUGE, it should FUCK ME!’

I hadn’t seen Jim this excited before. I had never heard the word ‘brilliant’ from Jim’s mouth, while directed at my face. Granted, the ‘fuck me’, wasn’t a new, either as a metaphorical exclamation or as a blatant, unabated sexual request.

‘People! THIS IS WHAT SELLS! THIS IS CREATIVITY! THIS IS AWARD WINNING’

Jim continued on.

‘I mean, don’t all the men in the room want to be women just to have a period?! Steve! Malcolm! You’re already half way there, but doesn’t it make you wanna go the full distance to becoming a woman?!’

‘I’m growing tits as we speak, Jim…’ Malcolm conceded.

‘Already have a vagina, Jim.’ Steve confirmed.

‘Carry, Carry, Carry! GREAT JOB! Alrighty! Well, grab a coffee, cause you and I are going to get this rolled out by tomorrow, which means pulling an all-nighter!’

My heart’s racing… I am going to have a heart attack… skipping beats will soon evolve into no beats… an all-nighter? ALL-NIGHTER?! The WHITE mug? What do I do about the WHITE mug? WAIT! I have a client meeting at noon, near my apartment! I’ll go a bit early, wash the WHITE mug and then run to the meeting! YES!

‘Listen, Carry– we have to board ideas by 2pm, that’s the only time the illustrator is free. So, send Sandy instead to the noon meeting with Richter & Co. Lunch on me, my office, 12pm.’

I’LL JUST QUIT. Yes, QUIT. I’ll find another job. Someone will hire me, and in any case, I only really need enough money to make rent. I’ll quit now, go home and wash the WHITE mug!

GET A GRIP! DO YOU HEAR YOURSELF?! You’re going to quit over a dirty, stained, coffee-grind infected WHITE mug?! Screw the mug! Get another one! Throw it out if it can’t be washed back to its original WHITE!

That. Is. My. New. Plan. THROW IT OUT.

‘Carry, come check this out! I think a great TVC can come from this!’ Jim summoned me.

Walking into his office, I was ecstatic. I had a new plan. Throw it out. Now, all my energy could go to the pitch. ‘Sure, Jim, shoot!’

‘We open with a woman on the run, a woman who appears to be running from the law, a woman who went from tabula rasa innocence to a blown-out, full-fledged dirty, rotten scondrel…’

Tabula rasa… Latin… ‘blank slate’…’blank’…’blanco’… Spanish for ‘white’… WHITE MUG!

‘Wait! I’ll go get a sketch pad from the AD’s room, it really comes through in the sketch!’

As Jim bounced out the door, I kept thinking about the WHITE mug while gazing out the window… window… window… what if I sneak out the window??? Climb down the piping, rush back home, wash the WHITE mug, and sneak back in?

Jim always gets tangled up in a minutia of corridor conversations. It will be an hour before he makes it back here– by that time, I would have returned, sitting right where he left me.

I don’t know how I did it, but in 47 seconds, the time it would take me to wash two WHITE mugs, I was on the ledge.

There, I got to know a little bit more about myself.

For instance, that I’m frantically afraid of heights.

A paralysis unlike anything I’ve experienced kicked in. My vocal cords suffocated as my larynx contracted. My legs rooted themselves into the half-foot wide cement ledge, while my fingernails broke one by one, failing to dig themselves into the exterior gray brick facade.

I’m no mathematician, but I was sure between me and the pavement, the perfect quadrature came to form. It would take one itch, one gust of wind, one sneeze to ruin it.

More detrimentally, to ruin ME.

‘Carry?! Carry?!’ Jim’s ‘Let’s Make a Deal’  voice echoed onto the ledge, growing louder and louder as he came closer and closer to the window.

‘Carry? What the hell? What are… what are… what are you doing on the ledge?!’

Before I could answer, before I could negotiate with my parasympathetic ganglia to release my larynx, Jim already made his version of the story, THE version of the story, screaming it out to the entire agency. ‘Quick! Call 9-1-1! Carry’s on the ledge! She going to kill herself!’

Five seconds later, 15 floating heads were bobbing out the window to my right.

‘Don’t do it, Carry!’

‘I know your life sucks! But it’ll get better!’

‘You’ll find a man! You won’t always be the one getting dumped!’

‘Shit! My Car! Jump diagonally! But don’t hit my car!’

The comments slid quickly between a spectrum of extreme worry and biting pity. There I was, listening, hearing it all, when to top it off, a pigeon landed and fastened its talons onto my head.

Everyone gasped.

Slowly, the pigeon released one talon, fastening it further right, followed by its second talon. Juxtaposing itself at a three-fourths angle, tail pointed towards the window, the pigeon froze.

Ten seconds later, an infinitely inadequate amount of time to wash one WHITE mug, it shat straight onto my shoulder.

Everyone gasped louder.

My heart started racing. I broke out into a cold sweat, my hands lost hold of the brick. My trachea contracted, and suddenly I couldn’t breathe.

My WHITE shirt… look what just happened… to my WHITE shirt.

What’s ‘Likes’ Got to Do, Got to Do with It?

You just moved into a new neighborhood, and really want to get to know your neighbors. Suddenly, you get a brilliant idea! Sprinting downstairs, to the entrance of your building, you tack a sign on the community bulletin board, “Party in 3D, Saturday at 8pm”.

Come Saturday, people start pouring in at 8pm– by 10pm, 200 people are jam-packed into your sardine box of an abode, overflowing out the balcony. They’re talking, drinking, dancing– really, really enjoying themselves. It couldn’t be going any better. As you wind through the crowd, making sure everyone’s cup runneth over, random guests cheer you on,

“Great party!”

“Really happening!”

“Wicked music!”

Come Sunday, your apartment looks like Katrina ran into King Kong throwing a hissy fit. But, hey, you don’t care, cause you just threw the party of the century. Mission accomplished…

YOUR NEIGHBORS KNOW YOU… and LIKE YOU.

Monday morning, as you sing to yourself in the most un-Mercury voice possible, “We Are the Champions”, you set off to work. As the elevator doors slide open, you meet a few of the party goers, who begin raving about your shindig.

“That was epic, Mike!”

“It was totally insane, John!”

“DUUUUUDE, it was fierce!”

By now, you should be stoked– and you would be, if…

Your name was Mike or John, or it wasn’t so obvious that ‘DUUUUUDE’ was an eponym for ‘I don’t know your name’.

See, the problem is, though it was a kick ass party, and everyone who was anyone was there…

No one knows you. They ‘liked’ your party, but who doesn’t like a party?

If you really wanted them to know you, remember you and actually interact with you again, you’d probably have fared better throwing a small dinner party for a few people in 3C and 3E. The week after, you’d invite Mrs. O’Mally and the Browns, whom you met at the mail boxes s a few days ago, over for tea.

Replace yourself with a brand, and the party guest with social media followers. Social media is more social than it is media– you can have 1,000,000 people love your page, but that doesn’t mean those 1,000,000 people really know you or care about you.

News flash: People are humans, and humans form relationships through one-on-one interactions. Those interactions are predominantly based on you getting to know them too– ie, seeking their presence in your life necessitates you giving a damn about theirs.

Brands today deal with social media as if it was a billboard space. They think its enough to boost a post, and get more ‘likes’. But in the end, those ‘likes’ are a faceless number of clicks. And as much as ‘numbers’ are the mantra of marketeers, quantity is the LAST thing social media is about.

Because social media’s greatest advantage, is it allows brands to get up close and personal. It takes brands from talking TO a consumer, to conversing WITH a person– having 100 people you know and speak with is infinitely more valuable than having a whole sea of followers who, you aren’t even sure, are really people with whom you want to engage.

The biggest culprit of this massive catastrophe, ironically, is the inventor of social media; to be social, a brand MUST be on Facebook, but…

The way Facebook taught brands to be social, has them acting more like immature frat brothers, than grown-up adult holding a mature conversation. Which, shouldn’t be a shocking surprise, given its founder just graduated a few years ago, and, like his other 20-something Silicon Valley compadres, deals with social and the business of it, as such.

But, for you marketeers out there who still love your numbers, let’s talk fact: on average, less than 1% of your followers are ‘talking about’ you. Worse, if you scroll through people who ‘like’ posts you’ve boosted, you’ll find more than a couple of Juanitas from Guatamala and Marias from Mexico– which would be so bloody brilliant if you weren’t a hunting store selling fishing lines in Cardiff.

The problem is compounded by brands rambling on with posts that offer no significant value to social media followers– in the pre-digital era of media, we called that ‘filling dead air’. Brands think by keeping up these posts, they are being socially ‘active’ and ‘engaging’ their followers.

But engagement is a two-way activity… and it’s the brand’s job to listen more than speak. The incentive to keep your followers in that engagement is recognizing and sharing the content and insights they provide you.

Because a successfully social brand doesn’t have an audience of millions; it has a front row seat in the audience of 100 people— and it is listens to each one of those 100 everytime they speak. Further, a brand that really capitalizes on social media uses its own pages to post content from each of those one hundred.

The payoff being quite self-evident: if a brand recognizes each of those 100, and they each have at least 500 friends in their social networks, that means genuine brand exposure to and engagement with 50,000 others…think about it, when a brand shares a follower’s content on its own page, that follower will share his or her recognized content with their own networks.

To cut a long and very twisted story short… having the most ‘likes’ might make brands feel secure about their social status in the digital world. But that insecurity should have probably waned their in sophomore year at the University of Grow Up. Punning the words of that ever-so-famous cereal rabbit, “Eh, ‘likes’ are for kids.”

Living with Death? An Oxy(this)Moron Needs to Understand

Living with Death? An Oxy(this)Moron Needs to Understand.

Mourning? What the fuck is that? According to Google, the be all, end all of info, data and facts, mourning is, ‘the expression of sorrow for someone’s death.”

“Expression“… what a lame ass cop out. Within that sorry word of a word, if there ever was one, is where my dilemma lies:

For I cannot express that which I cannot understand.

It’s Social, It’s Media, But What’s It Selling and Who’s Buying It?

Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Snapchat, and the list goes on and on.

They’re social. They’re media. But what the LOL are they really selling? At valuations that exceed the GDP of most developing countries, what is so valuable about them?

Let’s step back to the stone ages– the 1990s. Remember phone bills? They were wrapped up in an envelop, delivered by someone called the ‘postman’. Millenials, if you watch Seinfeld, you can see footage of one of these highly endangered creatures.

Phone companies had a business because people needed to communicate. Now imagine, if in the middle of your call, an ad message interrupted your conversation– literally just put both parties on hold so they could listen to an ad. Yeah, that would have been the death of them.

Advertisers would have jumped at the idea of course, given that they’d brand my grandma’s oxygen mask or anything else that had at least a centimeter of space to brand. Phone companies didn’t do that because, back then, a business model was built on the business you’re in, not the air you can sell.

Okay, so let’s come back to the future, 2015. Phone conversations are replaced by social media chats, phone cords by WiFi and dialing pads by keyboards. Same business– connecting people… save that the social media companies are under the impression they can sell the air.

Chalk it up to the fact that most of their founders were or are in their 20s, and have been called the Tech ‘Gurus’– their experience in business, let alone life, is about as savvy as ours was at 20, so ‘Guru’ might be an overstretch (and of course a brilliant term only an advertising or PR exec could coin).

Throw in the fact that the old-school financial or investment experts are in a mid-life fret about not really understanding the technology, the age of digital and all the new apps in between– instead of offering their expertise to guide these creative tech geniuses through building a solid business, they’re slipping into their Silicon Valley Crocs and voyeuristically enjoying the ‘Billionaires Under 30″ ride.

Then again, these seasoned venture capitalists are no different than their Neanderthal Wall Street ancestors, who parlayed everyone into the 2008 shits and giggles meltdown.

Let’s step back a bit, shall we? Businesses sell something– something that is tangible, such as a product or service. Ergo, they have a ‘core business’.

Second, the business model is built on that tangible product or service.

Lastly, advertising (marketing) is used to sell THAT product or service.

So, when we use the simplified– oh-so-ever oversimplified, but key checklist– let us look at the social media business:

  • Product/Service: Communication. Call it sharing, posting, status update, poking– in business terms, its communications, people.
  • Business Model: Advertising. Call it ‘Pages You Might Like’, ‘Brand Influencers’, or ‘Brand Advocates’. If it looks like an ad, sounds like an ad and talks like an ad, it’s advertising.
  • Marketing Strategy: PR 20-something ‘Gurus’ in jeans and sneakers, sporting a ‘Geek is Chic’, ‘Techy is Sexy’, image. Big Bang Theory meets (or rather bumps into) GQ.

Will everyone who graduated from Wharton please stand up? What’s wrong with the above picture?

Anyone? Anyone? Bueller?….Bueller?

Well, then, let’s begin.

Social media is no different than telecom, broadcasting or publishing– they are all media venues that make advertising more possible and place-able. Having said that, the latter 3 create have core businesses, with business models built on their core products/services, and they use marketing to sell them.

Telecom sells phone lines.

Broadcasters sell programing.

Publishing sells information.

Advertising supports these businesses, but these businesses have something to sell– things that they produce or service– things that answer people’s needs and wants.

Social media sells people. Really, that’s about it. It sells people to advertisers.

They know that’s all they have to sell– because it is the easiest way to sell.  They know it so well, that they’ve compromised our personal info and content in hopes that they can close the gap between their ACTUAL profitability and their pie-in-the-sky valuations that they need to keep up in order to get more investors.

The joke is, the big punchline we haven’t seen coming yet– the last time history had businesses selling people was the slave trade; it’s irony at its best, my friends… social media as the altruistic hero carrying us all into the age ‘democratization’.

What we haven’t learned for some reason, though history is sick and tired of teaching us, is that people will only buy air for so long before they realize the air can’t be bought. It happened with the dot.coms, it happened with real estate, its happening with Quantitative Easing.

Valuations in the double-digit billions should make us think it won’t happen with social media businesses– simply put, they don’t have a business.

The question is, who’s going to wake up before all the 20-something Gurus and the financial suits-gone-surfers grow up?

If history is always right, unfortunately, we all will… 10 seconds after the social media bubble bursts, and we find ourselves covered in Guru goo.