A Nice Guy?

Far more than once, people have referred to me as “a nice guy.” And I suppose I know what they mean. But there are specific reasons why I don’t consider it true.

What people consider nice, I consider normal. If I say please, thank you, and excuse me, if I donate time or money to charities, if I help people when asked or offer when someone is in need, I am not being nice. There’s no above and beyond here. It’s basic decency, and I’m not going beyond what used to be the norm. This is what normal people do. That people consider this some sort of virtue is more of the reflection of societal rudeness and apathy. The bar has become so low that when you act like a human, you jump that bar.

In other words, I’m not a nice guy, you’ve just been surrounded by assholes.

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I specifically dislike the word “nice.” When I was in 4th grade, my teacher would circle the word “nice” in red pen on our papers. The reason she did this was because “nice” is a bland word that describes nothing. Don’t use “nice,” use “pleasant,” or “kind,” or “enjoyable.”

Nice is the oatmeal of adjectives: bland and flavorless, but acceptable and non-offensive. When you say that someone or something is “nice,” you are saying that it of they are a tan lump of inoffensiveness. Be specific or be silent.

Nice people finish last because there is nothing to them. People don’t mind oatmeal, but few crave it.

nice-one-sarcasmDon’t forget “bland and meaningless”

I decided to look up “nice” in the Online Etymology Dictionary, and it reinforced what I believed. Nice covers or covered a wide range of meanings, from foolish and stupid to precise and careful (which you still hear in terms like “nice and easy” or “nice shot” to dainty and delicate to it’s current meaning of vague agreeableness. Even it’s definition has nothing concrete to it. The OED uses this quote from Northanger Abbey:

“I am sure,” cried Catherine, “I did not mean to say anything wrong; but it is a nice book, and why should I not call it so?”
“Very true,” said Henry, “and this is a very nice day, and we are taking a very nice walk; and you are two very nice young ladies. Oh! It is a very nice word indeed! It does for everything.” [Jane Austen, “Northanger Abbey,” 1803]

Not to say that these varied definitions are all wrong. At different times, I fit them all. I am foolish and stupid at least once a day. I am usually agreeable in a vague way, though as I said above, it’s just common decency. I am careful, my OCD takes care of that, but I am not precise, dainty, or delicate. I am ragged and dirty and completely insane. I am not a straight line. I am a pencil in a trembling hand (this is not a metaphor, my hands shake thanks to years of Lithium). My head is a toy box filled with mud, blood, and glitter.

So call me foolish. Call me stupid. Call me vaguely agreeable. Just don’t call me nice.

If you’ve made it this far, you probably like my writing. Check out my two fantasy novels Song of Simon, and The Watchmage of Old New York, or recommend them to friends. You can also check out this super secret “romance” project, “Welcome to Elmwood Park.” Writers don’t live by the “Like” button alone 😉
Cheesy ads are below…

watchmage-black-newSoS Practice Ad 1

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If Virtue Equals Success…

I have a few Facebook friends that work out and love to post inspiring stuff about working out. Yesterday, one said “Everything I learned I learned in the gym. Hard work and commitment are all you need in life to achieve your goals.”

Sounds great, doesn’t it? But it feeds into something I’ve been thinking about in society for a while now. I’ve seen it repeat in my history studies as well, and I think it bears acknowledgment.

What my friend (actually, he’s a bit of a dick) said the above is the echo of the American Dream. Success comes from virtue, being a good person, working hard, honesty, etc. You are rewarded for your Goodness. You can call it God’s Blessings, or Instant Karma, or whatever. They mean that if you are “good” you will have success.

But if that is true, then it would follow that if you don’t have success, you are a bad person. You’re not smart enough, or lazy, or violent, or drunk, etc. You have some flaw that is keeping you from millions of dollars and a yacht filled with women in bikinis and/or men in g strings.

Obviously that isn’t true. Bad things happen to good people, and good things to bad ones. But we cling to that belief like it’s a rope over a pit of lava. It influences the way we see and act toward other people, and not in a good way.

John Lennon was wrong. Instant Karma doesn’t get you. Dumb luck does.

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Wealth is Your Reward. Poverty is Your Punishment

“See that family in the trailer park? They must be drunks or meth addicts. That’s why they live there.”

“Don’t give that homeless guy change. He’ll probably just spend it on booze.”

“Those people on the welfare line?” They’re lazy. Get a job and quit sponging off my taxes!”

And on and on. We assume that they are bad, because they have bad circumstances. We use the scant examples of virtue leading to success as proof that it’s all we need. Success is 1% virtue and 99% luck (not data-based stats. It’s probably much less).

To blame someone else for your troubles is cowardice. Bravery is accepting your lot and trying to make it better.

We look down upon the poor, because part of us believes that they deserve it. They are bad people.  We also look up to the rich, because they must’ve earned it. They’re so smart, hard-working, dedicated, etc. We should be like them. It doesn’t matter if their parents were millionaires, sent them to the best schools, found them a great job through their connections, etc.

We worship the rich because we believe that they are worth worshiping, even if they’re only rich from inheritance or a sex tape (or both). But they are no better or worse than us, just like the poor. We all have virtues and vices, and they are separate from fame and fortune.

The Blame Game

“So why aren’t I rich? I’m a good person. Someone’s keeping me down. It’s not my fault, it’s their’s. They took our jobs. They rape and murder. They blah blah blah it’s not me.”

Sound familiar? It’s because you hear it every day, thrown at every “other.” It’s the immigrants. It’s the Muslims or Jews or Hindus or Buddhists or Pagans. It’s the feminists. It’s the government. They’re the reason my life sucks, not me. I’m infallible.

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People need to find a reason, no matter how absurd it is. To blame luck is to accept the random futility of life. You are not suffering because of anyone else. You are not suffering because of yourself. You are suffering because people suffer without cause and effect. The sooner you accept this and stop blaming others, the better off you will be.

Remember, you can play the game perfectly and still lose.

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Praying to the Dollar

There’s a quote usually attributed to John Steinbeck, but I’m not so sure about that. It goes “Socialism never took root in America because the poor see themselves not as an exploited proletariat but as temporarily embarrassed millionaires.”

I don’t think that it’s true, and I don’t think it has to do with Socialism (and I really don’t give a damn about Socialism) so much as how we see the rich and poor. It’s because according to the American Dream, the rich are virtuous and the poor are laden with vice. You reap what you sow. You get what’s comin’ to you, etc.

It’s bullshit. Stop worshiping the rich. Stop crapping on the poor. Start treating people like they’re people instead of a tax bracket.  Stop blaming others for our lack of joy. We’re all in the goddamn fights of our lives, and we’re all going to lose at the end.

Joy doesn’t come from winning, but from playing the game.

Stop complaining. Keep fighting.

cosmic-cat tripping balls redux

Guilt or the Void: Facing a Lover’s Death

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On Tuesday it was four years since Valerie died. I admit, it’s getting easier to accept, though I still had a good cry on the way home from the grave. Certain songs still trigger tears, and I dream about those days around her death several times a week. I live them over and over: a twisted Groundhog’s Day with no conceivable end. There is no end to Love when it’s snatched away.

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Chanukah

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This menorah has been in my family since before I was born. It was the one my father and mother lit, and now I keep that tradition alive.

I remember staring into the tiny flames, my head barely above the kitchen counter. I’m staring at them again, but from above.

And I wonder: who will light them when I am gone? Who will keep the tradition alive? Or does it end with me?

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On Love, Or, Love On

I had a conversation with a friend of mine the other day. She is in a new relationship and madly in love with this guy. While talking about him, she said “I thought that I knew what love was with ____, but now I really know what it is with ____.”

I didn’t say anything at the time, and it wasn’t until later that I realized that something didn’t click with me. It’s about love.

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Guest Post: Giftapalooza

The following is a guest post from my dear friend, Romance Author T.E. Ridener. Several years ago, she created a holiday charity called: Giftapalooza. I think that it’s a fantastic idea, and I have contributed to it from the start. I’ve donated copies of  of my novels (The Watchmage of Old New York, and Song of Simon), and also copies of Valerie’s Anthology, because I know that this is a charity that she’d love.

Not only does it help families in need, but the connection to authors gives added incentive for my fellow writers to contribute. In short: people give presents to the charity for children in need. Authors then donate books to those contributors. It gives some exposure to the author, and reward to the contributor for their good need. Most of all, it makes sure that these children have a happy holiday.

Take it away, T.E.

Though Christmas is still a while away, I wanted to ask for a moment of your time to talk to you about a cause that’s near and dear to my heart: Giftapalooza.

Giftapalooza is an online charity event I started in 2013. The only goal I had at that time was to help families in need provide a decent Christmas for their kids. Most, if not all of you reading this post, have been in that situation before. You know, the one where bills are piling up and you can’t seem to stretch your paycheck as far as you need to. I, too, have known the hardships of poverty, sickness, emergencies in the family, and unexpected financial changes.

When I created Giftapalooza, the only thing I wanted was to make a difference for families in need. I was thinking about the single mothers and fathers working two jobs just to put food on the table; the family who unexpectedly lost someone important in their lives and now scramble to pay for the funeral; the dad who just lost his job because the company couldn’t afford to keep him on. No matter the circumstances behind the reason for needing help, this is exactly why Giftapalooza exists.

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I am aware there are tons of charities out there with this specific goal in mind, but what makes Giftapalooza unique is the fact it is for indie families in need, and the Santas are also from the indie community. Authors, bloggers, and readers come together during the months of November and December to make some serious Christmas magic happen.

In 2015, we gave $4,203 worth of gifts to 43 families. It is my sincere hope we can double that number this year, but we can’t do it without your help. Even if you only purchase one gift for a child in need, you’ve already made a world of difference. For more information on how you can donate a thank-you gift, join the event, or get assistance, you can visit our website. We are so excited to get this year started and to help as many families as we can. Hope to see you there!

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