Speak Up Storytelling: Christina Fedolfi

On episode #29 of the Speak Up Storytelling podcast, Matthew and Elysha Dicks talk storytelling!

In our followup segment, we talk about an error in a previous podcast, upcoming show and workshop dates (including a workshop in Seattle this summer), a Pulp Fiction secret revealed, and more.  

Next, we talk about finding and collecting stories in your everyday life using "Homework for Life." We talk about the C-A-B-C format for storytelling and how it can be applied to a simple moment with a father and son. 

Next we listen to Christina Fedolfi's story about mishaps and adventures while preparing for a big bike race. 

After listening, we discuss:

  1. The effective use of humor in this story in particular 

  2. The B-A b-C format for storytelling 

  3. Creating a mental schema to assist an audience

  4. The power of setting a scene at all times

  5. Ways to improve and enhance a moment of surprise

Next, we answer questions about storytelling and Homework for Life with children, the gender gap in storytelling, and remembering the details in Homework for Life for the future. 

Finally, we each offer a recommendation.  

LINKS

New York City Public Library appearance registration

What Was Inside the Glowing Briefcase in Pulp Fiction:
https://bit.ly/2V5AZFs

Momento app: momentoapp.com

Homework for Life: https://bit.ly/2f9ZPne

Matthew Dicks's website: http://www.matthewdicks.com

Matthew Dicks's YouTube channel:
https://www.youtube.com/matthewjohndicks 

Subscribe to Matthew Dicks's weekly newsletter: 
http://www.matthewdicks.com/matthewdicks-subscribe

RECOMMEDATIONS

Elysha:

Matt

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Be different

As a reluctant atheist, I’m not an easy sell when it comes to church attendance. At various times in my life, I have been Catholic and two different variations of Protestantism. I’ve also regularly attended Lutheran services and a church for Born Again Christians, as well as many Jewish services.

None of them captured my heart. In fact, the closest I’ve ever felt to faith has been while reading certain potions of the Bible (while recoiling at many others) and experiencing moments of incredible coincidence that have made me wonder if a higher power was not at work.

Not enough to give me the faith I so desire, but much more than any minister, reverend, rabbi, or priest on a Sunday.

Especially the bigoted ones who say that my gay friends are sinners who will burn in hell for loving whomever they want. Those are some of the stupidest and least inspiring leaders on the planet.

That said, had a local church posted this sign on their front lawn, I would at least be intrigued. Maybe even tempted to step inside its doors.

I first saw this sign this summer while teaching at Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health. I quickly showed it to my friend and teaching assistant, who was sitting across from me at the time.

We were in hysterics.

This is the power of daring to be different. Trying something new. Stepping on or even over the line at times to garner attention and make yourself known.

In a world where conformity is prized and people are often advised to “stay in your lane” and “don’t rock the boat,” a church that opts to be funny instead of staid and expected and oftentimes bizarrely threatening will invariable garner attention from people like me.

People craving something new.

The same holds true in life. Those who try to be different, blaze their own trails, and do something original and unexpected are the most courageous people in the world.

It’s easy to do what everyone else is doing. There’s no danger in following the predictable path. No bravery required to live the life that everyone else is living. The life that everyone expects you to live.

It’s remarkable but true: Many, many people follow a lifetime trajectory prescribed by parents and society. Their occupation, religion, political beliefs, style of dress, and even choice of spouse are often dictated not by their hearts and minds but by what others expected of them. Demanded of them.

It’s probably a far easier life to live - requiring a lot less courage and filled with much less kung fu fighting, for sure - but also offering far fewer rewards, too.

Well played, Harrah 1st Assembly of God. I won’t be traveling to Oklahoma to attend services, but I see that you podcast your sermons weekly. I’m tempted to give one a listen.

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A simple suggestion to improve 2018 and beyond

At the end of each year, in addition to reviewing the progress of my 2018 goals and setting my 2019 goals, I’ll be creating a Best of 2018 list. It’s a review of all the things that happened in 2018 that were notable for some reason.

Maybe they represented the first time I ever did something. Or an unforgettable moment. Or a shocking turn of events. A goal achieved. A door unexpectedly opened. A beautiful moment with friends or family.

It’s a great way to look back on the year and feel good about your most recent trip around the sun.

I highly recommend it.

If I’m being honest, I’ve been adding to my Best of 2018 list throughout the year, so perhaps this is something you might want to start doing in 2019, but I still encourage you to take a look back at 2018 and find those moments of meaning. A few ways of recapturing some of those moments include:

  • Go through your calendar to find moments you may have already forgotten.

  • Ask friends and family for ideas on highlights.

  • Scroll through the photos on your phone or computer.

I’ll be sharing my list with you in the coming weeks. I hope you will as well.

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Not a single one of them escaped alive

The Lumière brothers were among the first filmmakers in history. From 1896 to 1900, t and they shot several scenes around Paris. Recently, their footage was remastered. Among other things, it was stabilized, slowed it down to a a natural rate, and sound was added.

It’s amazing. A twenty-first century look at late nineteenth Paris.

Amazing, but also, this is what I think every time I watch it:

All of these people are dead. Every single one of them. All of these happy, joyous, productive people are gone forever. Each one of them, at some point, breathed a final breath and then ceased to exist.

Not a single one of these people is still alive.

Including the Lumière brothers. Abandoning motion pictures about ten years later, they went on to become pioneers in color photography. Both brothers lived through both World War I and World War II, but they are gone today, too.

Not a single person in this film or behind the camera escaped alive.

This is what I think as I watch this film. It’s what I think about again and again as each scene changes.

I’m an absolute joy. Don’t you think?

A beautiful act of revenge. Plus glitter.

Elysha and I had a package stolen off our doorstep recently. It was a Nordstrom order, and when Elysha called the company to inform them of the theft, they immediately shipped the item again, no questions asked.

Elysha has now told about ten million people about this outstanding customer service experience, and she’ll be shopping at Nordstrom even more now.

Well played, Nordstrom.

Package theft is becoming a bigger problem as more and more Americans shop online. We reported our loss to the police, and an officer came to our home to collect information.

But when one man was told by the police that they could do nothing about his stolen package, even though he had a video of the theft, he decided to take action, creating a glitter bomb trap for would-be thieves, complete with a recording mechanism and much more.

It’s glitter revenge on the scumbags who steal boxes off our front stoops, and it glorious.

Well worth the ten minutes to watch.

Roman numerals are stupid

You know what’s really, really stupid?

Roman numerals.

Americans have an alphabet . It consists of 26 letters and is derived from the original Latin alphabet. There are other alphabets in the world today, including Cyrillic, Arabic, Greek, and Braille. but here in the United States, we use just one.

We also have a system of numerals. It’s called the decimal numeral system, though the actual figures that represent the numbers are Hindu-Arabic or western Arabic. These are the numbers that children begin learning at an early age in order to understand and practice mathematics.

One set of letters. One set of numbers. As it should be.

Then, at some point in your life, probably in the fourth or fifth grade, a teacher or parent informed you that we also use a Roman numeral system, too, mostly when people want to make something seem more important or more stately than it really is.

  • Labeling Super Bowls and movie sequels

  • Differentiating Kings and Popes

  • Copyright dates on films, television programs, and videos

  • Clocks designed by jackasses

So in the midst of learning to multiply or balance equations with one set of numbers, you’re suddenly asked to learn a new system of numbering that you’ll never actually use in mathematics but will need to decode about twice a year for the rest of your life for reasons that almost never matter.

You may inquire to the benefits of Roman numerals, rightly expecting that there must be some advantage to learning this new system, but you will quickly be told that there are no benefits to this system at all.

Essentially they just look pretty. So learn them. You will rarely need them, but every now and again, it will be good to know how to decode them.

All of which makes Roman numerals so very, very stupid.

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Let the anger go

Someone was annoyed with me this week because, in her words, "You're always great."

Sadly, she was not implying that I'm a persistently remarkable person.

In fact, I suspect that she thinks I’m not persistently remarkable in any way.

Instead, she was annoyed that I don't allow much to bother me. Petty disagreements, disputes over not-terribly-important issues, and even rude remarks tend to pass by me unnoticed.

When I'm asked how I'm doing, I almost always respond with something positive.

And why not? I’m a healthy, educated American doing several jobs that I love, and I get to come home every day to Elysha Dicks, two healthy, hilarious, intelligent children, and two cats who love me more than anyone else in the house.

I’m too damn lucky to be complaining about nonsense.

But here's the important part:

It turns out that not complaining may actually be contributing to my happiness. Studies show that the notion of anger catharsis is nonsense. The belief that expressing your anger prevents it from building up is simply an urban myth. In fact, expressing anger related to minor, fleeting annoyances just amplifies those bad feelings, while not expressing anger often allows it to dissipate.

Research shows that the more a person ‘vents’ about their struggles, the more they report having had a bad day. Psychologist Brad J. Bushman, for example, concluded that venting increases anger and aggression. After studying the emotional responses of people using punching bags to exorcise their rage, he concluded that “doing nothing at all was more effective.”

Also, and just as important, nobody likes listening to a complainer. Persistent, purposeless complainers are often shunned by the people around them and eventually despised.

So yes, I’m great. Most of the time, in fact. Perhaps in part because I'm constantly telling people who are kind enough to ask how I'm doing that I'm great.

Speak Up Storytelling: Erica Donahue

On episode #28 of the Speak Up Storytelling podcast, Matthew and Elysha Dicks talk storytelling!

In our followup segment, we talk about upcoming Speak Up events, offer insight on Tasmanian Devils, respond to some listener emails about PTSD, and apologize for failing to record a new episode last week.  

Next, we talk about finding and collecting stories in your everyday life using "Homework for Life." We talk about the value of finding "worsts" in your life, then we talk about how to apply perspective to your Homework for Life in an effort to find more stories. 

Next we listen to Erica Donahue's story about attending college in rural Virginia as a fish out of water.

After listening, we discuss:

  1. The effective use of details in a story

  2. The broadening of stakes

  3. The power of contrast

  4. The avoiding of thesis statements

  5. The value of the slow reveal

Next, we answer questions about effective transitions and how and when to tell stories involving trauma. 

Finally, we each offer a recommendation.  

LINKS

New York City Public Library appearance registration

Homework for Life: https://bit.ly/2f9ZPne

Matthew Dicks's website: http://www.matthewdicks.com

Matthew Dicks's YouTube channel:
https://www.youtube.com/matthewjohndicks 

Subscribe to Matthew Dicks's weekly newsletter: 
http://www.matthewdicks.com/matthewdicks-subscribe

Your geographic opposite: 
www.antipodesmap.com

This Is Going to Suck:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N3J4Q5c1C1w

RECOMMEDATIONS

Elysha:

Matt:

Look! Real American heroes! And no capes!

Looking for heroes this holiday season?

Look no further than Judith Jones and Carolyn Kenyon, who raised $12,500 to buy up medical debts from creditors on the rate of a half-cent on the dollar. Then, with the help of the non-profit RIP Medical Debt, they forgave that debt, meaning that roughly 1,284 people in debt because of a medical procedure were discharged of the $1.5 million they owed.

This holiday season, those folks will be receiving a letter in their mailbox telling them that they are free and clear of their medical debt.

Jones, 80, a retired chemist, and Kenyon, 70, a psychoanalyst, are members of the Finger Lakes chapter of the Campaign for New York Health, which supports universal health coverage through passage of the New York Health Act. They said that they wanted to do more to help, so this summer they decided to begin fundraising with the hopes of raising enough money to make a difference.

Since its inception, RIP Medical Debt has forgiven $434 million in medical debt, assisting more than 250,000 people. That remains only a fraction, though, of the more than $750 billion in past-due medical debt that it says Americans owe.

R.I.P. Medical Debt specifically seeks to buy the debts of people who earn less than two times the federal poverty level, those in financial hardship and people facing insolvency. The people, who do not know they have been selected, receive the debt relief as a tax-free gift, and it comes off their credit reports.

Amazing. And in a time when the Republicans are hell-bent on stripping millions of Americans of their health insurance, more important than ever.

This week Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke, who is facing 17 different federal investigations into his attempts to enrich himself though his office, refused to resign from office until he could host his department’s Christmas party, specifically to pose in front of a stuffed polar bear with donors, lobbyists, activists, and the like.

These are the kinds of human beings serving our country right now. Corrupt, self-dealing scumbags who see the federal coffers as their piggy bank.

Judith Jones and Carolyn Kenyon are reminders that regular people, doing good work on behalf of those in need, can really make a difference, especially when the government fails Americans again and again.

Dane Best: Child hero

Dane Best, age 9, ended the ban on snowball fights in his hometown of Severance, Colorado last week. After discovering the 100 year old law during a field trip to town hall, the young activist went to work, lobbying successfully to have a law banning snow balls repealed.

Best told the town board that if he was victorious, his first act would be to lob a snowball at his four year-old brother.

I like this kid.

I also like it when the world gets slightly more dangerous for children.

When I was a kid, we routinely threw snowballs at each other at recess. We brought sleds and saucers to school and raced down hills at dangerous speeds. We played street hockey with wooden sticks and hardened pucks. Played dodgeball against a brick wall with a racquetball. Leapt off enormous snowbanks into piles of snow.

It was wonderful way to grow up.

Not all that long ago, my students and I would carve out chutes in the snowbanks at my school to increase their speed as I flung them down the backside of those hills towards the forest. Grabbing them by the hands, I would catapult them with all my might down those chutes as they screamed in delight.

It was such fun. Joyous, even. Kids slid and tumbled and giggled. Cheeks turned red. Pants got soaked. Snow ended up stuffed in their socks and ears.

Eventually the snowbanks were deemed too dangerous to climb, even though I cannot recall a single serious injury occurring while playing on these snowbanks.

The possibility of injury was more than enough to end the fun.

A few weeks ago, my own children asked me if they could play outside. “Yes!” I shouted. “Go find some trouble!”

The kids ran outside, completely and gloriously unsupervised. A few minutes later, my neighbor knocked on my door. He wanted me to know that he was doing some yard work and would keep an eye on my kids.

“No!” I said. “Don’t watch them. I want them to find some trouble. I want a hungry bear to wander into the yard or truck filled with dangerous chemicals to overturn beside them. I want them to face something hard and scary and fun.”

Thank goodness for kids like Dane Best, who are fighting for the right to be pummeled by snowballs on a crisp, winter day.

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Thank goodness that I'm smart enough to listen to my wife

Photos like these remind me of how stupid I can be.

About eight years ago, Elysha began talking about wanting a second child. While I was agreeable to the prospect of one more kid, I was also perfectly happy with just Clara. She was a happy and healthy little girl who filled my heart with joy.

Did we really need another?

What a stupid question.

I can’t imagine the world without Charlie today. He is such an interesting and lovable human being, but beyond my own love for my son, I can’t imagine my kids without the blessing of each other.

Not only does our boy bring so much happiness to our lives, but Clara and Charlie love each other so much, and I simply can’t imagine them existing without each other.

Listening to my kids talk and play and laugh together is by far my favorite thing in this world.

Thank goodness for Elysha’s infinite wisdom.

Finding a new friend thanks to self expression and some scabies

Back in 2012, Elysha, the kids, and I suffered for months with a rash that could not be identified by doctors. For a while, we suspected bed bugs. Some experts agreed, and others did not, insisting that it must be our laundry detergent or some environmental change in our home. It was a harrowing time, particularly because Charlie had just been born, so to see an infant with red blotches on his body was terrible.

I was impacted the most by the rash. While Elysha and the kids had blotches scattered throughout their body, it was a head-to-toe itching and pain that became crippling at times for me.

Ultimately, we discovered, though a bizarre confluence of events (including a random encounter with our vet) that we were suffering from canine scabies, which our dog, Kaleigh, was transferring to us. This led to repeated applications of a head-to-toe medication, a bizarre trip to the Department of Agriculture, and for me, photographs and research by a dermatologist because unlike Elysha and the kids, who were only being indirectly effected by the scabies, the creatures has burrowed under my skin.

Possibly the first recorded instance of this for a human being.

Because that is the story of my life.

You can read all about it here.

Since I wrote about our scabies adventure, others have found my blog and read about the incident, too. Folks suffering similar rashes of unknown origins scour the Internet for answers, stumbling upon my 2012 post, and reach out to me in desperation.

Yesterday I received an email from one such woman who first saw my photo and name in a medical journal and then found me online, hoping I could provide her with information and advice.

Isn’t that kind of crazy? The photos and case study done on me in 2012 has found its way into a medical journal, and some poor soul managed to find it and then me.

I told Elysha about this last night. “Remember that other poor woman who emailed me a year ago,” I said. “After she found my blog post. She sounded just as desperate as this latest woman.”

“We’re friends now,” Elysha said.

“What?”

“That woman who emailed you last year?” she said. “I was exchanging emails with her about our situation. She didn’t end up having canine scabies. Just regular scabies. But yes, we’re friends now.”

Of course they are. Because that is the story of Elysha’s life.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. When you’re willing to put yourself into the world, either on the page or on the stage, crazy things can happen. Unbelievable connections, remarkable opportunities, miraculous moments, and even friendship.

Come forth from your shells, people, and let the world witness what you think and believe and do. Your life will be richer and far more interesting because of it.

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A bittersweet moment for a storyteller, and a magical night for all of us

Thought I'd share this little moment of beauty with all you:

Last night I competed in a Moth GrandSLAM in Brooklyn. It was an evening filled with fantastic storytellers, a hilarious host, and a world class violinist, but the storyteller who stole the show was not on the stage at all.

After winning a Moth StorySLAM earlier this year and thus gaining entry into the GrandSLAM, one of the storytellers was deported after more than 15 years in this country as a result of changes in immigration policies by the Trump administration.

After living and working for years as a New Yorker, first as a student and then as a legal resident, this Iranian-born former resident of South Africa was forced to leave the country.

He's currently residing back in South Africa.

The Moth decided to allow this storyteller to compete despite his inability to attend the GrandSLAM. Instead of standing on the stage, he told his story via Skype to the theater full of people. Though none of us could see the storyteller, we listened intently to his story, and at the end of the night, the judges declared him the winner.

It was one of those evenings of Moth magic that I was so happy to witness firsthand.

That's the beauty of storytelling. Last night I competed in my 24th Moth GrandSLAM, yet it never, ever gets old. Magic can happen at any moment. A storyteller can touch your heart in ways you never expected. You can find yourself gasping or laughing or crying at the most unexpected moments.

And last night, we had the chance to listen to a storyteller from half a world away tell a story of beauty, pain, and hope.

It was one of those rare nights at The Moth when everyone's favorite story was the same story, and that was a truly beautiful thing.

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Demographics tell the story

If you want to understand the fundamental differences between Democrats and Republicans, look no further than the differences in demographics in the the incoming 116th Congress.

The incoming 116th Congress will include 105 Democratic women and only 19 Republican women.

The percentage of white men as a share of House Democrats is set to decline from 41% to 38%.

Meanwhile, the percentage of white men as a share of House Republicans is on track to rise from 86% to 91%.

All Republican members-elect are white men except for one female member of Congress.

Also, the only Muslim, Native American, and members of the LGBTQ community serving in Congress are Democrats.

One party looks like America. Not enough, for sure, but it’s getting better. A lot, better.

The other one is actually getting worse. It’s getting even more male and more white.

You have to ask yourself why.

You also have to ask yourself if Congress was a club looking for new members, which one would you want to join?

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Speak Up Storytelling #4: Sam Carley [rebroadcast]

The combination of Hanukah and an injury (happily not too serious) to our son's foot has made it impossible to record a new episode for you this week, so please enjoy this rebroadcast of one of our most popular episodes ever.

Elysha and I will be back next week with a brand new episode. 

_____________________________________

On episode #4 of Speak Up Storytelling, Elysha and I talk storytelling!

We talk about about finding excellent stories in your everyday life using my strategy "Homework for Life" and the importance of transformation in storytelling. 

Then we listen to Sam Carley's story about a challenging bus ride through an Indian desert with the possible girl of his dreams, followed by commentary and critique, including:

  1. The ideal arc of a story

  2. Describing human beings in stories

  3. Limiting unnecessary description

  4. Advancing time in a story

Next, we answer listener questions and offer recommendations.  

LINKS

Homework for Life: https://bit.ly/2f9ZPne

Speak Up storytelling: http://speakupstorytelling.com

Matthew Dicks's website: http://www.matthewdicks.com

Matthew Dicks's YouTube channel:
https://www.youtube.com/matthewjohndicks 

RECOMMENDATIONS

Queer Eye for the Straight Guy:
https://www.netflix.com/title/80160037

Evernote:
https://evernote.com

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The magic of film on film

The Showtime series Kidding (which I have not watched) did something quite amazing:

One continuous, panoramic, uncut shot that shows the compressed transformation of a character and a space over the course of a year, portrayed in a little less than two minutes.

The scene itself is amazing, but even better, the producers added an overhead camera to show how the scene was accomplished, including quick outfit changes, body doubles, and a film crew working furiously to move the entire set around just outside the camera’s field of vision.

Also, there’s a dog in the scene. It doesn’t do anything, and I’m sure it’s well trained, but with all the complexity of the scene already, why add an element as potentially random and disruptive as a dog?

Take a moment and watch the scene. It really is remarkable example of teamwork and ingenuity.

The curtain raised on peeing with girls

I was at a Moth StorySLAM in Cambridge last week and I found myself in a gender-neutral restroom, which I have used many, many times.

Men and women peeing in the same room. Stalls and urinals.

It was a little surprising the first time I entered this restroom and encountered women, but two years later, it’s absolutely, positively no big deal.

Except sometimes I get to learn something that I didn’t know.

Last week, I was using a urinal while two women occupied stalls to the right, talking to each other through the partitions. They talked for about a minute, engaged in a lively discussion, before one of the women said, “Okay, we need to stop talking for a second and just pee.”

And they did.

I found this amusing. Does this happen all the time, or was I experiencing a one-off moment?

It’s not unusual for two men to talk while using urinals, but we are presumably peeing while speaking. I’ve never felt the need to pause before speaking. Sometimes I'm even shouting across a crowded restroom in Gillette Stadium, asking my friend to meet me in a certain location once we’re finished.

So maybe this was an unusual and amusing moment, or maybe not. With more men and women occupying the same restroom space, mysteries will be revealed. The curtain will be pulled back.

Either way, it wasn’t a big deal, and it’s still not a big deal to me. Memorable and amusing but nothing more.

I know others disagree. Given that the Vice President doesn’t allow himself to have dinner with a woman unless his wife is present, I suspect that peeing in the same room as a woman might cause him heart failure.

But I also suspect that for Mike Pence and others opposed to these gender neutral restrooms, their historical lens is shortsighted.

Less than a lifetime ago, there were places in this country where the notion that African Americans and whites could sit alongside each other at lunch counters or on public transportation prompted outrage and violence. Not too long ago (and still in some places today), an African American man would be taking his life in his hands if he dared to date a white woman.

The Supreme Court decision allowing for interracial marriage was decided just 50 years ago. This means that the marriage that produced President Obama would have been illegal in many American states at the time of his birth.

What seems ridiculous or impossible or uncomfortable today will be commonplace tomorrow. As human beings, we tend to view the world through the limited lens of the present, and happily, progress often happens faster than we think.

Had you asked me 20 years ago if I would see an African American President, legalized same sex marriage, legalized marijuana, or gender neutral restrooms in my lifetime, I would have said no.

Thankfully I would’ve been wrong.

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Batman is depressed. Also, you are bad or good depending on how you eat your lunch.

One of the great benefits of teaching is the conversations that you have with children.

A child at recess today showed me her “secret hideout” for drawing pictures.

“Only villains have secret hideouts,” I said. “You must be a villain.”

“What about Batman?” the girl countered. “He has a hideout.”

“Yeah,” I said. “But isn’t he a little bit bad, too? Almost a villain?”

A girl who had been listening to this exchange jumped in. “No,” she said. “Batman’s just depressed, which makes sense. He watched his parents die, his only friend is an old British man, and the bad guys are always trying to kill his girlfriend. Also he dressed like a bat, but that might be because he’s depressed.”

Pretty astute, I thought.

A little while later I saw one of my students trying to sneak up behind me, probably with the intent to startle me.

I’m exceptionally easily to startle thanks to decades of PTSD, and some of my students have figured it out.

“Are you being bad?” I asked.

“I’m not bad,” he said, looking a little startled himself. “I eat my sandwich first, and then I eat my dessert.”

He was serious, too. The definition of goodness. Sandwich first. Dessert second.

That, my friends, is the wisdom of youth.

It’s also a very low bar for good vs. evil. A frighteningly low bar.

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The worst part of the Christmas season

Every year it’s the same annoying thing:

Sometime before Halloween or perhaps just after, Christmas decorations begin to appear in the stores. Lights and baubles and candy canes are placed on shelves. Commercials for holiday gift ideas begin to propagate on television and the internet. Even Christmas trees, some already lit and covered in ornaments and tinsel, appear in town squares.

Every year it seems as if Christmas starts earlier than the last, and with it comes the most annoying and persistent of all holiday traditions:

The people who feel the desperate need to make the early arrival of Christmas a topic of conversation.

Far worse than finding Christmas ornaments alongside Halloween candy or wrapping paper alongside Batman costumes is the person who must point this out with a combination of outrage and confusion. It’s as if they think they’re saying something fresh and new instead of something we’ve all heard ad infinitum.

Bits of brilliance like:

“Can’t we just enjoy Halloween before thinking about Christmas?”

“Isn’t it a little early for Christmas sales?”

“Can you believe that they already have Christmas lights and ornaments on the shelves?”

Why yes, I absolutely believe it. They did it last year, and the year before that, and the year before that. Also, you commented on this phenomenon last year, and the year before that, and the year before that.

It’s like an odd version of Groundhog Day played over and over again every year. The script is the same. The sentiment is the same. The outrage is the same.

Nothing ever changes.

I’m not sure how objectively annoying it really is to see Christmas paraphernalia on store shelves in October. Personally, I have this incredible ability to ignore inanimate objects on store shelves and move on with my life, but perhaps not everyone is so gifted.

But what is especially annoying and not nearly as avoidable is the repetition of conversation, the annual outrage over these holiday atrocities, and especially the misbegotten idea that these ideas are somehow new or desired or interesting.

And it’s not over, of course. Immediately after Christmas, the Valentines Day paraphenalia will appear, and once again, these masters of conversational mediocrity will reappear, asking why we need to see these romantic baubles in January and declaring that its seems as if Valentines Day starts earlier every year, which we of course know is true because we’ve been told this one million times before.

These folks get it.

I’m always heartened when I see church signs like this given the fact that about 80 percent of Evangelicals and more than half of Catholics still support the Trump Presidency.

It’s baffling to me.

A serial adulterer who bragged about sexual assault and paid hush money to porn stars still enjoys the support of the religious right.

A man who habitually and publicly insults others based upon their weight and height and who recently referred to a US Congressman with a vulgarity is still beloved by a majority of white, Christian Americans.

A President who placed children in cages and gave a tax cut to corporations and the wealthiest Americans - just about the least “Jesus-like thing” you could do - is still viewed favorably by about half of all Christians today.

I just don’t understand.

Signs like this remind me that despite all the inexplicable support for a racist, sexist, lying, immoral man, there are plenty of good people in this country who are fighting on the side of justice and righteousness.