I’m Doing Something Today

December 12, 2014

I took a walk through the cemetery this morning. Not surprisingly, my thoughts turned to my own mortality. I wondered, how would I feel if I were to die today?

Cheated. That was my first reaction. If I were to die today, I would have to throw the bullshit flag. No way. Not possible. I’ve got too much left to do. I would feel robbed.

Cheated. It was an honest answer, but was it the right answer? I very quickly shifted my thoughts to gratitude for all the blessings I have, including–especially–this day of life.

My father taught me to always treasure each Day of Life. Don’t let anything ruin your Day of Life, he would advise. He died at age 49, six years younger than I am today. I wonder if he felt cheated.

I felt my father’s advice in the cemetery today, and vowed to Do Something today. Bringing  this blog out of its coma is the first thing. I’ll do other things today. Some may be insignificant, some may be monumental, but at least I will have made this blog post. I’m back.

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Six Reasons Why You Should Use Numbered Lists In Your Next Business Article

August 23, 2012

Numbered lists! You just can’t write an effective business article today without ’em. Here’s what you get when you put them work for you!

1. Authority. Using a numbered list makes you the Unequivocal Expert on the topic at hand. If you say there are seven reasons why “Booty Call” is a better movie than “Citizen Kane,” then there seven reasons why “Booty Call” is a better movie than “Citizen Kane,” dammit!

2. Brevity. If a reader knows a premise can be explained in, say, six reasons, he/she can plow right through it. The topic could be just about anything. I mean, six lousy reasons is hardly a major time commitment. You’ve had sneezes that lasted longer than that.

3. Navigational efficiency. Using a numbered list provides a consistent set of mileposts that allow the reader to know exactly what kind of progress he/she is making in your article. For example, you are now halfway through.

4. Effectiveness. For better or worse, people read articles with numbered lists. Right? By the way, you’re two-thirds of the way through this one.

5. Comfort. Since virtually all of today’s business advice articles contain numbered lists, your reader will feel relaxed and comfortable with the format. And remember, it’s a short throw from Comfort to Commerce.

6. Vacuousness. When you write an article with a numbered list, you don’t actually have to say anything. Behold the smoking gun!

2010; The Year In Review

January 2, 2011

Greetings All,

And welcome back to the Stewart News Network (“We report, you repeat”). Later this hour, we’ll show you how to determine if your family cat is a Marxist (hint; most are), but at this moment, we pause to send you to most joyous of Christmas and New Year’s greetings, and welcome this opportunity to bring you up to speed on Stewart-related events.

Our lead story tonight…all is well in the Stewart household. Oh, sure, we have our share of trials, tribulations and unfortunately positioned dog urine, but in the grand scheme of things, we are blessed, and hope the same holds true for you.

In a developing story, Master Jack, now 11, has launched a bold initiative, Take Back The Education Process, by being home schooled for this, his fifth grade. Under the astute instruction of his mother, he is receiving a real American education, free from the mind-washing menace of government lies. Outside of the classroom, Jack continues to follow his passions of baseball, swimming and horseback riding.

Breaking news…Beno, now 21 (!) will be returning for another semester at Towson University in January. Beno is currently a Junior, majoring in mass communications, which means he will be perfectly poised to bring about the downfall of the liberal, east coast media elite. When not challenging the canons of academia, Beno enjoys basketball, fraternity life and the wheels of steel.

Of course, the lead story of 2010 has to be glorious, grassroots uprising of the C-Party (a.k.a. Cindy). This defiant Director of Domestic Operations made headlines this year with her inspirational challenge to the Beltway power elite. Rest assured, however, this newly acquired influence has not gone to her head. Cindy remains steadfastly devoted to her family, her community and, of course, bear hunting.

Meanwhile, the controversy surrounding Hank’s birth certificate rages on. Hank somehow continues to hold on to his Vice Presidency at Green Team, despite his having never produced certified proof of being born. He counters that he has publicly presented both mirth and girth certificates, yet critics maintain those don’t count. Hank continues to fight fires and write about beer, and has joined the zoning board of his local village.

That concludes this edition of the Clan Stewart Annual Letter. We hope the new year will bring you good health, joy and prosperity. Be sure to stay tuned to the Stewart News Network for the latest Stewart news, including an update on the innovative No Child Left Behind At The Mall policy.

Clan Stewart

Rejected By The New Yorker

June 14, 2010

I recently submitted the following short humor piece, “Someone Working On It,” to The New Yorker for its Shouts and Murmurs section. It was rejected, but thanks to the miracle of blogification, you can read it anyway. Hope you enjoy…

“Someone Working On It”

To: HaywardT@bp.com

From: Bobby.K@brandtacular.com

Subject: Spill containment method branding 3.0

Hey Tony,

Really sorry JUNK SHOT and TOP KILL failed to move the needle, results-wise. Those were killer brands that could have put us both on the map, but hey, what are you gonna do? At least you didn’t get stuck with Containment Dome, which, I don’t need to remind you, was developed prior to your bringing Brandtacular on board.

Whatever. I’ve asked the guys in creative to take another shot at branding the next containment method. Yeah, I know, you haven’t figured out what the hell the next containment method is even going to be yet, but we like to be proactive. (I assume you’ve got someone working on that, right?) What can I tell you, we’re American, it’s in our DNA. (It’s also within our current scope of work—ha!)

So without further ado, here’s Leak Plug Branding Round 3 (Round 4 if you count that lame-ass Containment Dome—KIDDING!). Lots of good stuff here. Let me know what works for you:

BITCH SLAP. Sure, it’s a little aggressive, but it got your attention, didn’t it? Imagine your press conference after this solves the problem (you are working on that, right?), “We went down to the bottom of the gulf, and put a BITCH SLAP on that leak. Now everything aight.” Not only is it a nice follow-up to JS and TK, it takes a bit of the zeitgeist bubbling up around the BP brand right now, and turns it around.

BIG MUDDY SMACKDOWN. Obviously, this has great leverage if you go with another one of those mud methods. Also has nice regional appeal, and awesome licensing opportunities. Imagine the T-shirts! “BIG MUDDY SMACKDOWN—WORKS EVERY TIME!” (Alternate: BIG EASY MUDBUG MOJO.)

CHENEY SHOT. Retro throwback to Old Crankypants himself. “We’re gonna take that oil leak, and shoot that sucker in the face!” Halliburton connection makes it even sweeter.

MONEY SHOT. Will play big with 18-25 year old males. And imagine the possibilities if this one actually works (you do have someone working on that, right?)!

CLEANING UP TRANSOCEAN’S MESS SHOT. Okay, it doesn’t exactly sing, but litigation is coming, and it’s never too soon to start planting the blame seed in the old public consciousness garden.

OBAMA BUMMER. Stops the leak, and thus derails the Marxist agenda of permanently ending offshore drilling. Will play big with the birthers and the Tea Party crowd— hey, conspiracy theorists have to fill their Hummers somewhere!

JIMMY JAMJAM. Not exactly sure what this means, but got a great ring to it. Try it in a sentence. “We gave it the JIMMY JAMJAM.” See? Can always retrofit a definition later.

HIGH PRESSURE ULTRA-DEEP SUBSURFACE DIVERSION VALVE. Gotta be honest with you, not one of my favorites, but want to make sure we cover the spectrum for you. Doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue, and will be too dweeby/nerdy/geeky for the average Joe. Could appeal to the flux capacitor niche, but that seems too narrow for the occasion.

THE “XYZ CORPORATION” SOLUTION. Yep, I’m talking about selling naming rights to the operation. Think about the pitch—the once-in-a-lifetime (we hope—ha ha) chance to have your brand name associated with the winning solution to the greatest environmental crisis the Earth has ever seen (you are working on that aspect, right?)…talk about brand value! It would be like having your brand on Superman’s cape. Would have to be a single brand, and it would have to pony up big (Superman ain’t cheap). Also a nice way for you and the shareholders to offset the cost of this catastrophe (oops, poor choice of words—my bad).

There you have it, Tony. I think there are some real winners in there. Just depends on which direction you want to take it.

As I mentioned earlier, all of the above is within our current scope of work, but it also represents the successful completion of this phase of our agreement. I’ve gone ahead and attached an invoice for the remainder of what we’re owed. If you don’t mind, could you go ahead and walk this down to accounting and have them cut us a check toot sweet? Not that we don’t trust you, it’s just that…well…our comptroller is a real nudge for this kind of thing. You understand, right? Great!

Good luck with the leak (you do have someone working on that, right? Sure hope so. We’re good, but we’re not THAT good.).

Besos,

Bobby

PS—Tony, as a friend…get some sleep, you look like hell.

Why Video Games Are Bad For Kids

September 30, 2009

Myriad studies have been conducted regarding the negative effects of video games upon children, but I’ve never encountered a better articulated argument than this photo (from the Wall Street Journal, September 30, 2009).

Res Ipsum Loquitor

Res Ipsum Loquitor

PS–I’m very grateful for Lt. Col. Murdock’s service. I’m glad he made it home safely from Iraq, and hope he and his family will now all get to enjoy lots of time together.

New Yech City

September 17, 2009

I can now add a fresh item to my list of Negative New York City Experiences. It’s a list that already features such gems as having my apartment robbed, my car broken into, being hit by a bicycle messenger, a taxi accident, a blackout, a transit strike, two garbage strikes and a citation for drinking a beer on the subway.

Yesterday I stood at the turnstile of the downtown 28th Street station, fumbling with three Metrocards, trying to determine which still had sufficient funds. Just then, the train arrived in the station, adding a fresh sense of urgency to the matter. At that very moment, it happened…a rat dashed over my right foot.

This was not some cute little Samuel Whiskers/Wind In The Willows rat. This was a big, fat, nasty-ass. city rat. And it was moving fast. A brown, furry streak of lightening.

It scurried over my foot, across the station and squeezed under a closed door, barely giving me the time to get as skeeved out as such a situation would warrant. That, and I had to make a dash for the train.

But at the end of the day, there was no harm done, and I have a new New York story to tell. The moral of the story is; never wear sandals in the city.

Saturday In Nashville

August 3, 2009

 

It’s 6:00 on a Saturday night in Nashville, and I am poolside. It’s a hotel pool, and it is teeming with squealing, splashing children, including one of my own, Jack. As soon as I can get him out of the pool, we’ll figure out dinner, but already it has been a full day.

 

Today was our country day. After something of a late start, we made it to the Old Zion Cemetery in White County, Tennessee just after noon. Today was decoration day at the cemetery, and there were flowers on most the graves. Jack and I brought potted mums for my father, grandfather and grandmother. Their graves were our first stop.

 

 

My grandparents and father are buried in the Old Zion Cemetery.
My grandparents and father are buried in the Old Zion Cemetery.

 

 

 

It had been eight years since I had visited my father’s grave, and honestly, it was the true purpose of our trip. On Monday, I will turn 50 years old. I wanted to do something special to celebrate the occasion, and eventually I decided I would share my milestone birthday with my dad, who never got to celebrate his.

 

Not surprisingly, I got a little choked up when I greeted my dad and his parents. He’s been dead for 27 years, and I think about him every day. I miss him like crazy, and often ask him for advice, which I believe, on some level or another, he provides.

 

Jack and I walked over to the picnic area, where about 60 or 70 people were gathered for lunch. There were two massive picnic tables, each 50 feet long, filled with a home-cooked dishes of every variety. This was southern, country cooking at its absolute purest, and it was wonderful. I tasted pork bar-be-que, chicken and dumplings, country ham, fresh green bean casserole, creamed corn, potato salad and more. Then came dessert. Pecan pie, caramel pie, chess pie, coconut cream pie and fried apple fritters–each one better than the last.

 

 

The picnic shelter at Old Zion Cemetery. Home to some seriously good southern country cooking.
The picnic shelter at Old Zion Cemetery. Home to some seriously good southern country cooking.

 

 

 

Throughout the meal, I kept meeting (more accurately, re-meeting) a panoply of cousins, aunts and uncles. About half the people there were Stewarts. Most of them I had met as a child, and it was good to introduce Jack to everyone, and let him hear some of the old stories about his ancestors.

 

Afterwards, Jack and I visited with a great aunt and uncle, whose failing health kept them from attending the decoration day lunch. They live on the farm my grandfather Stewart grew up on, and their daughter Ginny gave us a nice tour of the still functioning barn my great grandfather built over 100 years ago.

 

 

The barn built by my great grandfather Frances Alexander Warren Stewart is still in use today.
The barn built by my great grandfather Frances Alexander Warren Stewart is still in use today.

 

 

Ginny and Jack.
Ginny and Jack.

 

 

"The Homestead," where my grandfather grew up. Still a working farmhouse, and still in the Stewart family.
“The Homestead,” where my grandfather grew up. Still a working farmhouse, and still in the Stewart family.

 

 

 

 

 

PART 2

 

Jack and I are back at the hotel after a delicious dinner at Jack’s Bar-B-Que in downtown Nashville. My pork shoulder was delicious, but Jack’s ribs were some of the best I’ve ever tasted. The restaurant is simple and was perfect for our needs. Afterwards, we wandered up and down Broadway, and the strip that has now become known as Nash Vegas. I can see why.

 

The joint was jumping! The sidewalks were crowded with people. We passed one jumping country music bar after another, each one packed with rowdy revelers. Most wouldn’t let Jack in, but we found one (Rippy’s), where we were welcome. There was a nice, two-man band playing (Stevie Ray Vaughn’s “Pride And Joy” when we walked in), and a group of high-spirited vacationers at the bar. I drank one beer, Jack watched the X-Games on one of the TV’s, and we called it a night.

Jack Loves Nashville

August 3, 2009

So far, the highlights of Jack’s trip to Nashville have involved internal combustion engines and a gun.

 

On Saturday afternoon, while visiting the old Stewart family farm (and the modest farmhouse known as “the homestead”), cousin Ginny asked Jack if he’d like to drive the Kawasaki Mule, the four-wheeler they keep in the barn. While Jack gave an enthusiastic, “sure!,” I said, “Ginny, you’re on your own with this one.” Ginny started the Mule, backed it out of the barn, and handed the controls to Jack. I watched as they lurched away. About 100 yerds down the gravel path, Jack suddenly hit the brakes, and I watched in terror as Ginny nearly was eject out the front of the vehicle. Only grabbing onto the front post saved her. The rest of their spin was uneventful, and when he finally pulled the Mule back into the barn, Jack had a huge grin on his face.

 

Jack and Ginny get underway.

Jack and Ginny get underway.

 

Steven, a different type of mule.

Steven, a different type of mule.

 

 

 

Jack’s second automotive encounter happened Sunday morning, when I took him for his inaugural run on a Go Kart track. He was in the car ahead of me, and I was amazed when he fired out of the gate, and sped down the course like he’d been doing it for years. Naturally, when we finished our five minute run, he wanted to do it again immediately. I suggested a round of miniature golf as a buffer. Eighteen holes later, we were back on the racetrack. This time, there were a bunch of older guys behind us, who eventually caught up with Jack, and caused him to spin out and slam into one of the rails. No big deal, just good hard racin’. Jack got righted, and we continued the race.

 

Sunday afternoon, we visited with my cousin, Ralph, who is now 78 years old. jack noticed a rifle sitting by Ralph’s kitchen door, and asked about it. Ralph explained it was an unloaded 22 caliper rifle he’s owned for 30 or 40 years. He asked if Jack would like to handle it, and Jack jumped at the chance. Ralph demonstrated how to load, cock and fire the weapon, and Jack spent the next 90 minutes sitting in the living room doing just that, while Ralph and I discussed a variety of things. Jack peppered Ralph with a barrage of firearms questions: what’s the loudest gun you’ve ever shot? How far does the longest bullet from any of your guns go? How big is the biggest bullet from any of your guns?

 

I think Jack may have a future as a NASCAR driver, or Second Amendment attorney. Or both!

Inhospitable

August 3, 2009

 

As Jack and I strolled Music Row (Broadway) in downtown Nashville on Saturday night, I noticed that all the country music bars had virtually identical bouncers working the doors. They were all big, burley, surly white guys with goatees. It was as if they found one alpha big, burley, surly, white guy with a goatee, and cloned him. They dress all the clones in identical black jeans and black T-shirts and set them outside the doors.

 

A sign found outside most Nashville bars.

A sign found outside most Nashville bars.

 

 

I find it somewhat strange that all these establishments would choose to make these uninviting individuals their initial points of contact with potential customers. This is by no means unique to country music bars in Nashville. Nightclubs of all varieties embrace the bouncer-induced, step-in-here-and-I’ll-kill-you school of hospitality. I understand the unspoken, behave-or-else message these bouncers send, and it probably does a lot to keep trouble from ever happening in the first place, but it is a little strange. Imagine of the chorus of “Cheers,” singing, “Sometimes you want to go…where everybody wants to pummel you.”

 

The bouncer at the Wildhorse Saloon defied expectation, and was a nice, warm chap. The fact that he was a fellow Yankee fan didn't hurt, so we went in.

The bouncer at the Wildhorse Saloon defied expectation, and was a nice, warm chap. The fact that he was a fellow Yankee fan didn't hurt, so we went in.

Unpublished

July 29, 2009

Below is a Letter To The Editor I sent to my local newspaper, The Journal News, on July 16. The content of the letter and the reason I wrote it will become apparent when you read it. I was pretty mad when I wrote it, and the next morning, I wished I hadn’t.

In the cold, sober light of day, I realized the publishing of my letter would really serve no purpose. It would not contribute to the public good. It would not spark discussion nor promote debate. It was simply me venting.

I think the Editors showed great wisdom in not publishing my bitter and twisted diatribe. What do you think?

Here’s the letter:

An Open Letter To The Person Who Stole My Shoes From A Monsey Fireground This Evening,

I am a volunteer. That means my brother firefighters and I don’t get paid to put out the maliciously set dumpster fire we were called to tonight. I don’t get paid to be away from my home and apart from my family when the alarm sounds. I don’t get paid to risk my life going into burning buildings to protect life and property in our community.

So how do you express your gratitude for my service? By stealing my shoes. Yes, the shoes that were sitting on the ground, next to the trunk of my car, where I had changed into my protective turnout gear.

The shoes themselves are no big deal, just an old pair of sneakers. No, it’s the thought that counts. And here’s what I was thinking when I drove home tonight in my stocking feet. What if, one day, it’s your home that’s on fire? And what if I was searching for anyone who might still be alive in it? And what if the room was hotter than an oven, and smoke was banking down, turning it so dark you couldn’t see your hand in front of your face?  And what if I found my pair of shoes in your closet? And then I found you, lying unconscious next to them.  Know what I would do? I would save your sorry ass.

If you feel like returning my shoes, just bring them by the firehouse at 16 Grove Street.

HS