Tag: 2018 October Group Writing

The American Zeal for Punching Up


Red-blooded, real Americans are sick of America’s elites punching down on them. Authentic American politics, like authentic American comedy, roots for the underdog and punches up, not down. The problem with today’s elites is their down is up and their up is down: Our elites believe they’re signaling their superior virtue by “punching up” when they ridicule heartland America, but of course what they’re really doing is using their privileged social status to punch down on heartland America instead. Or that’s how it seems to many of us. For those unfamiliar with this punchy lingo, comedian Ben Schwartz explains,

“Punching up” and “punching down” are relatively new pop-political terms, often found not far from words like “mansplaining,” “problematic,” and “trolling.”

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We were so zealous about October’s theme of Zeal that we had to add an extra day onto the month. Oddly enough, in the comments of our last entry, someone mentions when a character added an extra day to a month once. Totally unrelated, I’m sure. At any rate, here they all are: Preview Open

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A Zeal for Glory


Tom was young when the war broke out, too young to legally enlist. He lied about his age and enlisted as a private soldier anyway. He spent the first years of the war as a private, and then mustered out after three years as a corporal. By that time, Tom was old enough to join the army legally.

His eldest brother had gone to the United States Military Academy at West Point and managed to graduate just as the war was heating up and get a commission as an officer. The eldest brother had done fairly well for himself, well enough and with enough promotions that he could have an aide-de-camp. Tom was commissioned a second lieutenant and became one of his brother’s aides. By this time, it was 1864. Lincoln had finally gotten a general who fights, and some of the hardest fighting of the war was still before them.

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Robert Mueller is a zealot. Like all such he is energetic, single minded, and transgresses in repellent or dangerous ways. Outsized personalities in positions of power can do great good or great harm. Robert Mueller’s dedication to his masters’ agenda has earned him scope to exercise his true calling – bring them down! His masters […]

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I fairly sizzle with zeal and enthusiasm and spring forth to do that which should be done by me.—Charles Fillmore Poppa Charley was ninety-three years young when he wrote out this affirmation for himself. Affirmations are a way to help reprogram our thoughts, so it may have been that some of his thoughts were not […]

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Hypnotism and Zealotry


In the first weeks of my freshman year, my college hosted a hypnotist who gave a large demonstration. He invited volunteers to come up on stage and be hypnotized. I was curious enough that I volunteered, but when I joined the other folks on stage and the hypnotist began his work, I did not fall under his spell and I was sent back into the audience to watch. As the show unfolded, I was glad that I did not succumb, as I laughed at my classmates acting like chickens and showing us their amazing dance moves. I don’t know for certain but I strongly suspect that the fellow in this video is the same hypnotist, because his show is very similar (although instead of dance moves he’s got them showing off their kung fu prowess):

A Zeal for Writing


I am obsessed with writing. Seriously—I am. I wasn’t always that way, but it’s impossible to deny it at this stage of my life.

I’ve always written pretty well, but I didn’t give it a lot of thought. I had good teachers, a simple writing style, and even though I was accused by some teachers on a number of occasions of veering slightly (or greatly) off topic, they forgave me because what I wrote was usually articulate and interesting. (Of course, I couldn’t get away with that more than once with any particular teacher.)

Zeal Gap?


The gallery for --> Democrats Vs Republicans MapIs there a zeal gap in American politics? This question plays off the infamous “missile gap,” a campaign fiction deployed by JFK to defeat Nixon in 1960, when Nixon was the Vice President to the General of the Armies who defeated Nazi Germany. Conventional wisdom says liberals/Democrats are zealous in politics, like sports fans, where conservatives/Republicans tend to only engage episodically. Is this advantage real, and is it still there?

Years ago, a self-identified liberal cheerfully wrote, for a major publication, that she and her fellow liberals view politics like other Americans view sports. It is fun to fire off a quick letter to a politician or corporation and make a few calls to friend and foe offices. Daily. Yes. Daily. Whereas, conservatives, and the rest of the population, only rarely rouse themselves to a single episode of political expression. This is anecdotal, but we all have anecdotes to affirm this claim.

How many times has Rush Limbaugh, excused this, providing conservative audiences with the sneer “we’re too busy working?” Yet, Rush is a football fanatic. He loves to regale his audience with his sports and consumer technology enthusiasms. Rush is zealous in promoting and defending his brand, the basis of his wealth. Assume that he is also sincere, not just a showman, in his politics. Perhaps, then, Rush is carefully not pressing the “political zeal” button any harder than his audience will tolerate.

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A beautiful imagining of the Kingdom of Zeal (The original was 16-bit graphics) Let us turn the clock back a few decades. A much younger OmegaPaladin turns on his Super Nintendo with the cartridge labeled Chrono Trigger inserted, to immerse himself in a story of heroic deeds across time. After a challenging boss battle, he […]

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Make Me a Man After Your Own Heart


Pere Isaac Jogues came to the New World in 1636. He came to Quebec, by ship across the Atlantic, then by boat down the St. Lawrence to the small trading village, but his mission was to the Huron Indians far to the west, in what is today known as Georgian Bay on Lake Huron. He was a Jesuit priest who asked Jesus to make him a man after His own heart, and Jesus answered his prayer abundantly.

The Huron people were people of the longhouse. The women grew maize in their villages in the fertile land they controlled, and the men hunted and trapped. They traded furs with the French, and when a group of them arrived at Quebec for that purpose, they agreed to take Pere Isaac back with them to their villages. Travel to the land of the Huron was not easy for the Frenchman. He was unused to crouching in a birchbark canoe for hours and had no skill with the paddle. He found it difficult to make himself useful when they camped each night, but he was able to cut wood for the fire with his hatchet.

Zealots of Masada


In 66 AD, a group of 960 Jewish Zealots decided they would prefer to commit suicide rather than yield to Roman conquest at Masada:

Masada (‘Metsada’ in Hebrew) is the name of the mountain on which the Masada fortress was built. It is more like a plateau or a table mountain, and quite isolated from its surroundings, as there is only one narrow, winding pathway leading up, fittingly called “the Snake.” According to Josephus Flavius, an ancient historian and the only one to record what happened on Masada, Masada was first built by the Hasmoneans, a Jewish dynasty who ruled Judaea in the years between 140-37 BC. Then, between 37-31 BC, King Herod the Great built two palaces there and further fortified the place as a refuge for himself in case of a revolt. However, it proved to be a refuge for Jewish rebels about 90 years later.

A group of Jewish extremists went to Masada after the destruction of the Second Temple. In response, the Roman governor of Judea conducted a siege there and the Jews tried to hold them off, but finally realized that they would lose. Technically, what they committed was not suicide, which is forbidden by Jewish law; instead, the people drew lots, taking turns in killing each other, so that only one person actually killed himself.

Carpe Diem!


I was very lucky for my first 54 years to find myself in the orbit of a man who lived life with more zeal than anyone I’ve ever known. Those of you who’ve read some of my posts will probably guess I’m speaking of my Dad, and you’re right! Please bear with me while I recount, in short form, some stories, a few of which I’ve told here before, that explain what I mean:

He was born on March 6, 1919, the fifth of six boisterous and energetic children, in Birmingham, England. Although not considered “intellectually gifted,” he was very bright and threw himself into his studies (the ones that interested him, at least) with gusto. One of his interests was play-acting, and he memorized yards and yards of Shakespeare, as he appeared at first in bit-roles, and then as major characters in school productions. But his pièce de résistance was his role as the Pirate King in Gilbert and Sullivan’s Pirates of Penzance. At some point during his “I am a Pirate King” song, he flung his cloak open with great abandon, knocking all the footlights into the orchestra pit, injuring several musicians, and bringing down the curtain for the performance.

Then there was the time he and a couple of Army buddies found themselves in St. Peter’s Basilica, having marched into Rome with Mark Clark and his army in June of 1944. I suppose Dad’s ‘command presence,’ which he took with him everywhere he went for his entire life, must have been recognized by the Swiss Guard in their fancy dress, and the the three of them, as soon as they were spotted, were immediately whisked up a flight of stairs and into an unscheduled private audience with the Holy Father, who gave them each a rosary and engaged with them in a charming visit.

Engineering Zeal


Voted the second Greatest Briton of all time (after Winston Churchill), Isambard Kingdom Brunel (1806-1859) was one of the 19th century’s engineering giants. He was the son of French civil engineer Marc Isambard Brunel and an English mother. His father taught him drawing and he learned Euclidean geometry by eight. At 14 years old, his father sent him to school in France for a technical education that was unavailable in Britain. His school report showed that he was a precociously talented child. At 16, he returned to England as an engineer on the first tunnel under the Thames River. In 1828, the tunnel flooded and injured Isambard. While recuperating, he made drawings for a suspension bridge over the Avon Gorge in Bristol, which became the Clifton Suspension Bridge. With the “short man syndrome” like Napoleon, at five feet tall he wore his trademark eight-inch stovepipe hat to look more imposing. A workaholic, regularly putting in 20-hour days, he smoked more than 40 cigars a day. He epitomized Engineering Zeal.

In addition to the tunnel and various bridges, Brunel designed the world’s largest ships upon launching. The Great Western (1837) was the first steamship with regular transatlantic service. The Great Britain (1843) was the first large ship driven by a screw propeller. The Great Eastern (1859) with sails, paddle wheels, and a screw propeller, was the largest ship for 40 years and laid the first successful transatlantic cable. As transportation devices, his steamships are no longer in service, but his greatest success is still in use today.

Before the Thames Tunnel was complete, Brunel became chief engineer of the Great Western Railway, connecting London to Bristol. The Bristol merchants wanted their city to prosper with the American trade. With a Liverpool to London rail line under construction in the 1830s, Bristol’s status was threatened. With the co-operation of London interests, the company was founded at Bristol in 1833 and was incorporated by Act of Parliament in 1835. Brunel chose a very wide gauge of seven feet which would give smoother running at high speeds. In addition, he selected a route west of Reading that had no significant towns but offered potential connections to Oxford and Gloucester. The tracks make a broad sweep to the north, as shown below:

A Zeal for Diplomacy


Dear Mister President:

It has come to my attention that you now have an opening in your administration for a new Ambassador to the United Nations (UN). If I may be so bold, I should like to put forward my own name for the position. My previous diplomatic experiences include: making collections and repossessing cars for a finance company on the east side of Joliet, IL, back in the 1980s; cajoling and directing incompetent computer operators to properly run jobs and fix problems from a remote location when they were too far away to choke and/or beat to death as Darwin would have approved of; and as a consultant, firing clients with extreme prejudice.

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I love words. You might say that I am “zealous” about words. All sorts of words, it matters not how long or short, or from whence they come. Nor how exalted or rude their origins. I’m as fond of the monosyllabic, four-letter words for body parts, bodily functions, and natural activities, that came into English […]

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Entrepreneurial Zeal


Some people are born entrepreneurs like my Father. After selling Group Insurance to various small companies in the Midwest, he branched into Pension and Profit Sharing plans, which were the precursors to modern 401K-type Retirement Plans. Many of his clients were accountants doing the books of restaurants, which were being hit by McDonald’s, Burger King, and other franchises in the 1960s. He talked to Colonel Sanders at Kentucky Fried Chicken and built the first KFC in Battle Creek, MI. He purchased an auto brake shoe remanufacturing plant, where I worked during the summer. Later, he had a small outdoor sign business.

There are many articles on serial entrepreneurs, both positive and negative. After selling their company, many entrepreneurs get bored with “retirement” and look to start another business. Sam Farber (the nephew of Farberware founder Simon Farber) started Copco in 1960 as a producer of enamel-coated cast iron cookware. Retiring in 1982, Sam came up with a toy based around crates with accessories such as wheels, making the crates into cars, bookcases, toy boxes, etc. He patented it and developed prototypes. He then tried to sell it to various retail store chains. The furniture buyers said it wasn’t furniture, it’s a construction toy. The toy buyers said it’s not a toy, its juvenile furniture. So his first business after retirement was stillborn. Later on, he saw a new way to package houseware products, which he knew well. And you probably need his products in your house!

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In Group Writing, Ricochet members claim one day of the coming month to write on a proposed theme. This is an easy way to expose your writing to a general audience, with a bit of accountability and topical guidance to encourage writing for its own sake. Haven’t participated in Group Writing yet? We’d love for […]

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