The Danger of Hyperbole & Trump’s Criminality

So yesterday, Donald Trump used the word “lynching” to describe the completely legal procedure of impeachment that is now taking place in the House of Representatives. As is the norm with Trump, the use of hyperbole has been a constant since he announced his run for the White House. Everything is at the extreme when it comes to his word choices (that is, those words that aren’t some bizarre aberration of English like “hamberder” and “covefe”) Hyperbole, in Trump’s case, has largely been attributed to his personality. As a real estate “developer,” he was known for using extreme verbiage to describe his projects and ventures and ratings and pretty much every aspect of his life, usually without having anything near factual to back it up.

But is the use of hyperbole simply the mechanics of a narcissist? Or is there something more to the habit than is recognizable through a superficial examination only?

Hyperbole as defined is a statement that uses extreme exaggeration to make a point or show emphasis. Claims like “I only hire the best and the brightest,” “I’m a very stable genius,” and negative statements about his foes along the lines of “everything is a disaster,” or “shithole countries,” or “crime-infested cities,” are just a few of the many times that Trump uses this tactic. The frequent use of hyperbole is an interesting way to phrase things because it projects certain assumptions on the part of the target audience. “I’m a very stable genius,” for example, presupposes that anyone else – or in this case a political opponent – is not that smart at all. A “crime-infested city” represented by a Democrat presupposes that a city represented by a Republican is the opposite. In other words, even when the fact do not support the hyperbole, the presupposition of the comment sneaks into the subconscious minds of those who are susceptible to it in the first place, and acts as a reinforcement for exactly what Trump wants to instill there.

Worse, there is yet another aspect to hyperbole that makes it even more nefarious: when everything is hyperbole, nothing is. In other words, when Trump chooses to use the word “lynching” to describe the impeachment process – that is, taking an extremely horrific act and placing it on the same level as a legal proceeding – he is effectively reducing the criminality of his actions in the minds of his supporters. How? By equating impeachment with lynching, Trump pairs an extreme with a non-extreme, to the point that everything becomes an extreme, which then nullifies that extremity itself. When everything is awful or terrible or horrific then everything becomes that. So obstruction of justice becomes collusion become quid-pro-quo becomes witch hunt becomes treason becomes whistle blower becomes porn star payoffs becomes…

When everything is on the same level, there is no longer anything egregious; there is no longer any sort of extreme. In the minds of those this tactic works on, there’s no breaking point, no red line that shouldn’t be crossed. If all of his crimes aren’t even seen as crimes but as simply acts of a president, then where is the criminality? Where is the outrage? There is none because Trump has effectively leveled all of his criminal acts such that no ONE act stands out as particularly awful. No ONE act stands out as the straw that breaks the proverbial camel’s back. He has effectively reduced his crimes to the point that everything looks like “just another part of this witch hunt.” And his supporters will insist he did nothing wrong, that this is all a scheme cooked up by the Deep State or the Democrats or the Clintons.

Trump uses hyperbole often in grandiose terms, but his overall strategy may be far more insidious than simple narcissistic projection. He is effectively reducing the impact of each and every new revelation that comes out about his criminality to the point that, in the minds of his supporters, those acts simply no longer register. And if they do, they aren’t worth prosecuting because no ONE act is worse than the other. The appearance is that they are all the acts of a president engaged in the business of the Oval Office while being pursued by Democrats who haven’t gotten over the fact that Hillary lost in 2016.

So as egregious and nauseating as Trump’s use of “lynching” was yesterday, the act wasn’t merely that of a deranged narcissist playing the victim card; there is more to what he does than meets the eye. Watch when he uses hyperbole in the future as a way of framing things, because there’s usually a point to it. Even if it’s not immediately identifiable.

 

Cartoon by Jerry Holbert all rights reserved

The Bakeneko: A Lawson Vampire Short Story by Jon F. Merz – Part Six

The Bakeneko: A Lawson Vampire Short Story
By Jon F. Merz

Part Six

I choked it down and then put the container back inside.  You can’t go leaving used vials of blood around a hotel without expecting the maids to freak out.  Doesn’t matter if you’re in a city or a small inn in the country.  Stuff like that is gonna make people curious. 

The jolt of life force energy smacked into me and made me gasp like I’d touched a live wire.  It passed quickly as it was absorbed into my body, fueling me up.  I rose from where I’d been sitting on the tatami mats and padded over to the verandah outside of my room.  The shoji screens slid back without making any noise and I stepped out on to the polished wooden deck exterior.

The humidity was gone, replaced by a stiff, icy breeze.  I shivered once and took a long look out at the woods and mountains that surrounded this ryokan.  In the distance, I could see the mountains mists still floating above treetops while thick, dark clouds blotted out the moon. 

I wondered if it would rain.  But as I was considering this, I heard a solitary cry echo from somewhere deep in the forest.  I frowned.  It didn’t sound like a wolf or a coyote.  Or even a werewolf for that matter.

Not that I expected to attribute these deaths to the Lycans.  They had their own service for dealing with the members of their race that violated their laws.  If this was a rogue Lycan then I’d simply leave it to whomever they sent to deal with it.

The cry sent a shiver running up my spine.  It sounded plaintive.  Like some screech of despair.

I wasn’t familiar with all of the animal life in Japan, but I figured there would be a good explanation for it.  Given the darkness and the weather, my imagination had simply conjured up something spooky instead of logical.

I smirked in spite of myself.  I’d always been a sucker for a good scary story.  Even if I ended up scaring the shit out of myself as a result.

Back inside the room, I settled down under the covers of the futon and made myself comfortable.  I tried watching another game show and switched it over to an old Kurosawa flick instead.  I’ve always enjoyed Rashomon and watched until my eyelids felt heavier than I could manage.  I switched off the television, turned over and promptly fell asleep.

Click here to go to Part Seven!

©2019 All rights reserved

The Company You Keep: How The Wrong Community Can Hinder Your Success

“If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”

We’ve all seen this one before, right? It’s a popular meme that makes the rounds on the Internet from time to time, usually in the company of another popular term “community.” Community is a constantly touted ideal that promises to help you reach success or feel a sense of companionship or simply feel some level of support for whatever it is you’re going through. Whether it’s fitness: “I do Maxfit and I just love the community of other people who do the workouts with me,” or hobbies, “Did you know that the People Who Write Sumerian Love Sonnets Community now boasts a global membership of 7?” or even our health, “I’m a member of the Ruptured Toe Nail Survivors,” saying we’re a part of a community not only makes us feel better, but also validates us in some powerful ways. When we do things that others do, it reinforces this notion that we’re on the right track. If others are doing it, then there’s approval built in – we find strength in numbers, camaraderie in shared experience, and positive feedback from those within the community we’re a part of.  Community – if the hype is to be believed – is the surest path to all the success and happiness we could ever hope to achieve.

Except it’s not.

I’ve been part of a number of communities over the years. And I’ve seen the difference between “real” communities and the ones that claim to be, but in fact are not. Let’s look at the reason why and then examine why community is often just another marketing ploy.

The biggest difference has to do with how you become a member of a particular community.

In the military, for example, elite special operations units are not open to everyone. There is an intense selection process that candidates must go through where they endure harsh training, serious adversity, and more as they attempt to prove their competency and ability to be part of the special operations community. Selection is a lengthy process where lesser candidates, for one reason or another, are weeded out until only the most suitable are left and selected to join whichever unit they aspire to be part of. Along the way, they have shed gallons of sweat, tears, and often blood to prove their worth. And when they join their particular unit, they are in the company of others who have gone through an almost identical baptismal process. In other words, the company they keep has undergone exactly what they went through. There’s an inherent understanding and bond created in Selection that all members of that particular community share.

I saw this same process when I was aspiring to earn my place in the advanced class at the Ninjutsu dojo I attend. The Friday night advanced training was only open to practitioners of a certain rank and in order to gain entrance, you had to undergo a severe test of endurance, mental fortitude, and physical techniques. In many ways, it was a virtual gauntlet. When you earned your place in the advanced class, you were in the company of others who had been tested in the same crucible. And there is nothing like shared misery to create a true bond.

Contrast this with how most people gain acceptance into a community these days. Let’s take the fitness world as a model. A current popular high intensity interval training (HIIT) fitness craze touts its “community” as one of the most appealing features. The marketing behind it espouses working out with likeminded individuals who help cheer you on to reach your goals and success. Well, I was part of that craze and saw firsthand why their notion of community is mostly a fallacy. The primary reason is that anyone can join it if you have the money to do so.

Buying your way into a community immediately discounts its efficacy at generating success. Primarily because if anyone can join the community, then you are not going to be surrounded by people who operate at the same level you do – they may not “want it” as badly as you do. Worse, your aspirations may cause some other members to resent you.

When I joined the new gym in town, it was wonderful…for a certain period of time. Then, when the novelty wore off and a certain caliber of people started attending, the standards fell into the realm of mediocrity. Workouts became less grueling because people complained that they were too hard (despite the fact that anyone could scale the workouts to suit their individual fitness levels). Exercise standards were revised to accommodate whiny members who couldn’t do basic movements. And a whole new group of toxic personalities started infecting the place. Gradually, anyone who aspired to be better was generally seen as a threat by the growing majority of people who were content with “good enough,” and cheating their way through a workout.

If you are intent on being successful (as opposed to just seeking support, fun, and/or some companionship), joining a community where anyone can be a member is not where you want to be. In fact, being part of such a place can work directly against your stated goals. There will undoubtedly be people there who are intimidated by your drive, or who subtly try to sabotage your success with side-eye comments like, “why would you do that? You’re crazy.” These are usually the people who complain about silly stuff and say dumb things like, “well this is as good as it’s going to get.”

Success is hard enough to achieve without being hated for your aspirations and individuality, envied for your successes to-date, or sabotaged by those who revel in watching your downfall. The notion of community is a dangerous one if you aren’t on your guard for the mediocre masses who inhabit communities that do not have gate keepers built into their model. While it’s a wonderful thing to be all-inclusive, that same model runs counter to being able to achieve all the success you aspire to.

The term “community” has also become a marketing tool (at least in certain fields) used to drive new recruits into the fold. And communities reinforce this notion of people needing a support system because it’s in their own best interests to do so; it furthers that community’s very existence. In effect, they need you more than you need them. As an established member or someone advanced within their ranks, the community can point to you as proof of its own efficacy at producing success.

Another inherent danger of community is rampant group-think. Any community will have a set of standards – vocalized, implied, written down, or not – that members are expected to follow. You may not have given it much thought, you may not even have noticed it much, but they are there. You’ll start to notice if you do anything that runs counter to the majority group-think. In this way, communities have the potential to become excessively cult-like, complete with idol worship, gossip, and a whole series of toxic aspects that can seriously damage your quest for greatness. Of course, members of the community will deny such things until they’re red in the face, but that’s only because they’re too close to see the truth.

And the truth is that a community without gate keepers can produce some measure of success. But it will eventually hinder your progress – especially if it’s populated by people who actually do not want the best for you but are instead wishing for your failure because that is a reinforcement of their own self-imposed limitations. “See? I told you it was crazy to do that.”  In that case, a community that seemed so wonderful, ends up being a virtual prison. Worse, the toxicity will harm your body, mind, and spirit resulting in a failure to achieve your goals and a tendency to question yourself and your motivation – exactly the antithesis of success.

Unless your community has exacting standards and all members are of a similar mindset, your quest for success and excellence will falter. You’ll be better off on your own than you would be in the company of lesser individuals not as focused as yourself. Beware of “communities” that boast they’re the backbone of a movement or location. Outside of the military (and some others with exacting standards imposed prior to admission), the chances of you finding a true success-oriented community of like-minded alphas all on the same trajectory toward greatness are slim. More likely, you may find a few members of that caliber, but they will be greatly outnumbered by those members who have adopted mediocrity, rather than excellence, as the acceptable outcome of their endeavors.

And you are, most definitely, better off without them in your life.

The Blog Relaunches!

Well, it’s been a couple of years since I posted out here in my blog, but I’m bringing it back. Given how restrictive Facebook and its algorithms have become in what they show to people who happen to like my page, or interact with me, the importance of this website has skyrocketed. From now on, lengthy posts will be published here and then shared elsewhere on social media.

What’s new? Take a look at everything happening right now…

1. DEAD DROP PODCAST: I started this podcast two weeks ago and I’m loving it. It’s a weekly update show, so to speak, about everything and anything that is happening in my professional life. I talk primarily about my acting, writing, and producing (see below) and share anecdotes and stories that I hope will help those who may be curious about any of those three topics. You can listen to the podcast on 7 platforms right now including Spotify and Google. Check out the homepage for the podcast here: http://anchor.fm and if you like it, become a supporter so I can make more episodes!

2. PATREON PAGE: I held out actually doing this but then Patreon decided to change rates and their processing so I had a deadline and launched it. It’s a cool way for me to share things that don’t normally get shared with people who want to support me, offer rewards, and more. If you’re a fan of my writing and my other work, swing by and think about becoming a supporter.

3. PAPERBACKS! Yes, I am finally getting Lawson into paperback! It’s been a long time coming but the new paperbacks are pretty gorgeous. I’m working to get them all available for sale, but the first ten adventures currently are, so grab them. Also, I will begin selling autographed versions through this website very soon (like, probably this week.)

4. POUNDCAKE: This is the new production company I’ve launched with my friends Branden James Maxham and Christopher Grace. They’re both incredibly talented individuals and I’m thrilled to be working with them. If you haven’t seen the official website then check it out here: http://poundcakeyum.com and be sure to follow us on Instagram as well @poundcakeyum There are a ton of cool projects being developed as we speak!

5. PINTEREST: Still figuring this platform out, but there ya go. I’m over there, so if you are, too, come by and give us a follow.

6. MERZENARIES: The forum here on this website is going to be a lot more active, so if you’ve ever bought anything here on the site, you’re automatically registered, just log in normally and you’re all set. And if you haven’t yet bought anything, register for the forum and you’ll be able to shop later when I open up the new autographed paperback section.

7. MOI: This is the name of the new non-fiction book I’m working hard to finish in time for the Fall. It’s filled with a whole lot of…well, let’s just say “unorthodox” information that a lot of folks might really dig being exposed to. Keep an eye out for updates. And I’m releasing some of it over on my Patreon page exclusively for supporters.

Remember: to get the latest news, get the DEAD DROP podcast!

2016 Body Reset for Success

2016Each year, I usually embark on a cleansing/detox program to set myself up for success in the New Year. The fact is, between Thanksgiving and New Year’s, I let myself indulge a whole lot. Increased intakes of alcohol, takeout meals, rich foods, and partying tend to wear on me and by the time January 2nd rolls around, I’m craving a return to a healthier lifestyle. I can feel my body becoming more sluggish and slower as the junk piles up. This year, I wrote down my techniques for cleaning myself up and I’m sharing them here for anyone who wants to come along with me.

1. Workout 2x a day 5x a week

If you’re like me, your schedule is crazy. We’re all insanely busy, so this is just an idea. But if you can make it work, it yields some great benefits. The goal is to stoke the furnace that is your metabolism more than once each day in order to keep it constantly burning calories. 2 workouts each day keep that metabolism churning instead of slowing down after your main workout. If you can get to the gym for your regular workout and then do something else at another point in the day, you keep your metabolism cranking at a more constant rate. For example: if you workout in the morning and then again in the late afternoon. Your non-gym workout doesn’t have to be much, just enough to elevate the heart rate for a few minutes. 7 minute AMRAPs of burpees or a similar exercise is a great one. Tabata-style workouts also work wonders.

This program also includes two rest days each week. These are vital to recovery, especially if you are lifting weights. Your workout schedule might look like M-W on, rest Thursday, F-S on, rest Sunday or some combination thereof.

2. Increase Water Intake

Because we will be attempting to flush toxins and due to increased working out, it will be vital to make sure that we keep water intake up. Don’t drink so much that you get sick from it, but make sure you always have a water bottle with you. If it’s in front of you, it’s easier to increase your intake without much thought. How do you know when you’re drinking enough? Check out your urine. If it’s clear, you’re well hydrated. If it’s yellow or darker and starts to smell, you’re not getting nearly enough water.

3. Meal Prep

This can be a real pain-in-the-ass, but it’s incredibly valuable. Set aside a day each week to plan for the meals ahead. I usually only prep my lunches and do it on Sunday. I actually have two lunches each day so I usually make about ten servings of whatever meal I choose for the week. It doesn’t have to get complicated, although you can certainly make it so. I usually pick a dish I like and go with that. Then I portion the amounts into take out containers and stack them in the fridge. Each meal has a good balance of proteins and carbs and some fat. One of my go-to meals is a ground pork stir fry over rice with chopped red peppers, garlic, and ginger. It’s pretty awesome, although I do use some sauces that the Nutrition Nazis might not like. I can put some of the recipes together if anyone is interested in trying them. Cooking time is usually under 30 minutes.

Breakfast for me is pretty much the same thing every day: 3 eggs and some type of starch (Joyce makes a loaf of banana bread and I usually have that with a couple pats of butter for fat).

Dinners we plan out ahead of time, but we try to keep them really simple. Since we usually get home late from the box, they need to be easy and fast and healthy.

4. Reduce Sugar

This is tough for me because I have an enormous sweet tooth. But one thing I did a few years back was to stop drinking soda and replace it with seltzer. I used to hate seltzer, but now it’s my go-to drink. I still enjoy soda occasionally (or, like every damned day over the holidays lol) and there’s nothing like an ice cold soda fountain Coke every now and again. But if you can cut it out and replace it with seltzer, you’ll be so much better off.

I also used to dump tons of sugar into my tea. I stopped that cold turkey, and while I frankly miss it every time I drink tea, it’s been good for me.

Basically, if you can reduce or eliminate adding sugar to anything, you’ll definitely feel the difference. Like I said, this is always difficult for me, so don’t worry if you find it hard. Sugar actually triggers the same neurological pathways as opiates, so it’s not easy. This is just one reason why immediately ceasing sugar intake at all is so insanely hard.

5. Boozing It Up

I’m coming off another two-week bender. Seriously. Joyce has been on vacation and we’ve done some serious damage at the local liquor store. As delightful as it is, I’m cutting way back on the booze fest. No more than 1-2 nights each week while I detox. Again, it’s not necessary to eliminate it altogether (and why the hell would you want to?) but if you can reduce the volume, it’s probably a good thing. Don’t go nuts; if you enjoy a glass of wine with dinner, there’s probably no harm to it.

6. Take Out / Eating Out

I’m cutting way back on this as well. 1-2 times each week. I’ve been so bad lately, but this needs to dwindle because of all the processing that goes into the food you order.

7. Post-WOD Smoothies

The best time to get your body the stuff it needs to heal and replenish its stores is within a small window of about 45 minutes after you workout. This is especially true if you’re lifting heavy weights. My usual post-WOD smoothie is about six ounces of orange juice, one banana, about a cup of frozen strawberries, and a scoop of protein powder and a scoop of creatine. It really helps me feel better after a WOD. There are tons of recipes out there, but I like to keep it simple and since I can’t stand most vegetables, this is the recipe that works for me. I highly recommend adding a smoothie after your workout if you don’t do it already. The carbs in the juice and fruit help make your cells more accommodating to the protein you’re ingesting.

8. Sleep

I try to get 7-8 hours each night. Usually, I’m in bed by 10:30pm and I’m up by 5:30am. Some nights I’ll be in bed earlier and occasionally, I’m up later, but by and large I try to stick to a pretty set schedule. There are always those nights when I can’t get to sleep, however, so I’ll use a variety of techniques to help me fall asleep. Here are a few of them.

  • Lie on your back, close your eyes, and roll your eyes back into your head. This is an old technique that Soviet commandos used to use to fall asleep quickly. I’ve used it to some success over the years, but it’s not a guarantee.
  • Four-count breathing: Again, lie on your back with your hands on your stomach. Inhale deeply through your nose for 4 seconds. Now hold your breath for 4 seconds. Then exhale as much as possible (try to completely empty your lungs) for 4 seconds. Hold your breath for 4 seconds. Repeat. This works a lot of the time for me and I’m usually out within about six cycles of this.
  • Breath Counting: basic meditation technique of counting your inhales starting with 1 and going up to 9 before returning to 1 again. Repeat as necessary. Most of the time, I’ll fall asleep from boredom lol.

9. Calorie Tracking & Scales

I think scales are mostly worthless. Mostly. Obviously, if you have a goal to lose weight or gain weight then they certainly have their place, but I think they do more harm than good. I think a more important indicator of your success is how you *feel* rather than what a machine says. That said, a scale will give you an idea of where you’re starting from. If I was using one, I would step one once, make a note of it, and then tuck the scale away for a good couple of months. Body weight fluctuates all the time and stepping on to a scale every day is self-sabotaging.

Calorie tracking, on the other hand, is valuable. I’m not talking about getting the pocket calculator out and adding every single portion, but you should have an idea of how much food you’re taking in each day and make sure it’s consistent with your goals. I tend to treat food like fuel and adjust accordingly. Supposedly if you’re trying to lose weight, you shouldn’t be taking in much more than 1000-1500 calories each day. And if you’re trying to add muscle, then you need more than that. Personally, I think those numbers are kinda BS. They don’t really take in your activity level and CrossFit, etc. That said, the old rule is pretty simple: if you’re trying to lose, you need to be burning more calories than you take in. If you’re trying to gain, you need a lot more calories than what you’re burning through. In the past, when I’ve been tracking this stuff, I would log things for about a week and that gave me a general idea of what I was bringing in. Again, you can drive yourself nuts over this, so take it in stride.

10. Work On A Goat

Pick something you suck at – a totally awful movement you hate and might not be good at – and start working on it every time you go into the gym. Every time. For about 5-10 minutes before or after class. Double-unders, push-ups, pull-ups, snatch, whatever. The goal here is to work on it until it’s not a goat any longer. This doesn’t mean you will be guaranteed success, but it does mean that it will become *less* of a goat. And that’s important because you’re programming yourself for measurable success. The idea being that you turn a weakness into a strength. Every time you do it, you’re getting better and that translates to every other aspect of your life. I’m tackling muscle-ups and kipping handstand push-ups (the kipping movement upside down terrifies me)

11. Have Some Water Immediately Upon Waking

This is a quirky thing, but it’s great. As soon as I wake up, I have a couple sips of water from my bottle that I keep next to the bed. It actually gets things churning again after being dormant over the night. It doesn’t have to replace coffee or anything, but just taking a few sips first thing in the morning is good for you. I forget where I read about it, but I swear it helps me.

12. Ginger Tea & Neti Pots

I hate shots. I hate needles. I blame the military for this: since I had to be “worldwide qualified” and able to be deployed anywhere, they pretty much shot me up with every damned antidote for every damned disease imaginable. Ask me about high-pressure air gun needles that they would stick on my shoulder and go full-auto with. On second thought, don’t. I still have PTSD from those things lol.

Anyway, the point is I don’t much like getting shots or taking pills if I can avoid it. So my frontline defense against getting sick is ginger tea and a neti pot. The ginger tea I drink is by a brand called Pukka and it’s a lot more palatable than most other brands. Ginger tea is awesome and works on head colds, flu, and ginger is also amazing for stomach issues. It’s brilliant stuff.

The neti pot is an old yogi technique for cleaning out your sinus passages, which is typically where a lot of the bad junk likes to set up shop. Basically, you get a small teapot, add a spoonful of salt and then warm water, stir it up until the salt dissolves, and then bend over a sink, tilt your head to one side and stick the spout up your schnoz until the salt water flows up one side and out the other, taking a lot of junk out. The salt stays behind, making your warm nasal passages very inhospitable to germs and crap. I’d never used one until I got a bad sinus infection about six years back. Two courses of antibiotics didn’t help and then my brother-in-law’s mother (a lifelong smoker of all things) told me about it. Cured my infection within days. Using a neti pot takes some getting used to, but it works really well – especially at this time of year. Who do you know if you need to use it? Blow your nose. If the yield is colored, you’ve got some junk that needs flushing. Mucus, like urine, should be clear and normally is if you’re healthy.

13. Warrior Playlist

This is pretty straightforward: make a playlist of songs that get you fired up and feeling like you can break down walls. Think of it as what you would play if you were going into battle – songs that make you feel invincible. Play this whenever you want to get fired up. Play it before a workout. Play it if you’re having a crappy day. Play it if you feel like you need some support.

14. Do Something New

Finally, do something new. Try something you haven’t done before. The idea here is to challenge yourself, keep learning and exploring, and mentally keep your mind curious. You don’t necessarily have to stick with it, nor does it have to be something that takes up a lot of time. But by seeking out something you haven’t done before, you may discover whole new aspects of yourself. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing at all.

That’s it – this is what I’ll be doing in earnest starting Sunday. Let me know what works for you and any successes you have – it’s always awesome sharing in success!

Happy New Year everyone!