Musings on the Term “Death Wish”

“It’s a good day to die.” If you read that statement or hear those words uttered, what impact does it have on your emotional state? Do you worry for the person who says it? Does this indicate a lack of mental health? Or could it simply mean the person who understands that phrase lives a life without fear of what comes next?

Is it wrong to have a “death wish?”

A glance at the dictionary doesn’t lend a favorable or positive result. You’ll see terms thrown around like “mental illness,” “callous disregard of one’s well being,” “suicidal,” and “depression.” This most likely comes from a fear of death rather than negative associations with someone professing a death wish. This is understandable, since most love life and have no desire to leave the world behind. That’s a good thing. Humans are creatures with an interest in self preservation. Without that I’d question someone’s sanity.

What if a “death wish” signals no fear of death?

Death is inevitable for all humans. Despite our advances in technology and work towards preservation of life we will all one day perish. I don’t state this to sound morbid. I examine this as a way of asking why we worry about or fear something that’s going to happen but hasn’t happened yet. Fear is natural, but it can be controlled.

Psychologist Paul Ekman once characterized fear as an internal response to external stimuli. If, Ekman noted, you drive your car into a guard rail during a rainy night while attempting a turn you might notice yourself tense up and begin to sweat, see your pulse race, and your breathing quicken. That’s fear in a nutshell. Once you recognize this you can be mindful of the situations in which you experience fear and develop new methods of beating these fears.

How would you respond to imminent death?

It’s easy enough to tell yourself or others you don’t fear death. If you face the potential of dying, would you act differently? Would you beg and plead for your life? Would you go through the time tested stages of grief? Or would you shrug, knowing there’s no need to fear an inevitability? If you fear death, why does it scare you?

Are you afraid you didn’t accomplish enough?

This isn’t surprising. Many harbor deep seated beliefs they didn’t do enough or weren’t accomplished in their lives. These are suggestions of a mindset that includes “fail,” “wrong,” and “hurt.” If you believe in yourself and regularly engage in positive self talk this won’t be as much of an issue for you.

Are you afraid of what will happen to your loved ones?

This is also a common fear, and not entirely unfounded. Final expenses are steep, and no preparation or advance planning will definitely cause an impact. If you don’t have a will it’s going to cause problems and potentially start an estate fight. On the other hand, our species is remarkably resilient despite all the dumb stuff you read about in the news daily. Most likely your friends and family will carry on just fine if you pass. There will be grief, and they will be sad, but life will go on.

Are you scared of potential pain from dying?

Have you actually experienced a close call with death? If the answer to that question is “no” then you are expressing a fear of something you don’t even know will happen. Why worry over pain anyway? If you’re reading this and haven’t lived in a bubble all your life you’ve most likely experienced pain and gotten past it. There’s no need to fear pain.

There’s other justifications people use when describing a fear of death. Most all revolve around a lack of information or concern over something in the future. Take time to live in the present day, see the world in a positive light, and you won’t fear death. When your time comes, you’ll reflect on life and say “It’s been a great ride.”

If today you’ve lived life how you wanted and are happy, then today is a good day to die indeed. Don’t fear death, embrace a love of life.

Magic As A Tool For Networking

I love magic.  I used to do magic as a kid for stage shows and private parties.  I then sort of lost interest in magic as I’m not the fan of top hats, capes, and wands these days.  Magic remains a great tool for networking and icebreaker stuff at events, and it’s a reason why I as a conflict resolution professional keep a few dozen routines in my repertoire.  I’m going to outline in this post why you should study magic and use it as a tool for networking.

Magic teaches you relaxed confidence.  

Other areas I’d suggest considering are hypnosis and theatrical pickpocketing as the two will allow you to gain a certain sense of who you are and how you’d approach a situation without worrying about failure.  You can find a couple of great lessons in theatrical pickpocketing and hypnosis for free at the POWA Academy, and if you decide to purchase either course you can know you’ll be getting a great deal as James and Danny continually update both with free content once you shell out your hard-earned dollars.

My personal favorites are card tricks and mentalism.  A great set of materials on card routines can be found at Ellusionist.  I’m a personal fan of Daniel Madison’s work, but two other great creators are Geraint Clarke and Lloyd Barnes.  Kostya Kimlat has some great stuff there that I use regularly too, and one of his downloads is one of two effects I use regularly when I take a deck of cards with me out of the house.  If you’re going to go with something that will teach you confidence, though, I’d recommend looking into Daniel Madison’s stuff the most because he’s a fan of knacky sleight of hand moves.  If one of those goes wrong, you’re going to be in trouble, so you have a great chance with Madison’s effects to drill a reaction until you’re solid.  Then you’ll blow some minds.  A couple I’d recommend are his Angle Z routine, Three Things, and Card to Pocket.  If you get C2P down from the Madison perspective, you’ll know you can do just about anything without fear.

Mentalism is another area that’s great because you get the chance to tell someone “It’s good to have a business professional who knows what you’re thinking” and then launch into something mind-blowing.  A few effects I’ve tried and recommend are Rick Lax’s “Close Call,” Bobby Motta’s “The Informant,” and Thinking Paradox’s “Clear Choice.”  All you can adapt to a given situation, and all of them will make you the center of attention at any given event.

Magic brings out your inner performer. 

Any business professional knows you sell yourself.  What most don’t know is that you’re a performer at heart without even realizing it.  I get this in my profession, because I know there’s an element of showmanship to what I do whenever I’m in public.  If I’m trying a case or persuading someone to look at my point of view, I want to make sure I’m as convincing as possible.  That requires an element of showmanship, so I study everything I can allowing me to bring out the best performance that will benefit my clients or readership.

You’ll eventually learn nothing goes wrong by studying magic. 

One misconception about magic is that you need to either succeed or fail when you attempt a routine.  That’s not the case.  If you prepare enough, you’ll have at least two or three ways to make an alleged “mistake” in a routine go away.  Sometimes, especially with theatrical pickpocketing, you’ll learn how to turn a mistake into a benefit for you and your performance.

This translates well into the courtroom.  If I make a “gaffe” when I’m involved in a motion hearing or trial, I usually prepare about three ways out of any gaffe so I know that I can walk into a hearing without issue.  That gives me an edge most people don’t have, and one I proudly and aggressively assert for my clients.

Building a routine teaches you building structure.  

One of the benefits of learning how to develop a routine in magic is it teaches you how to build a series of events that leads to a climax, something anyone watching your performance won’t forget.  It’s a moment where you start small, plugging in a moment of truth, and then reach a big finish people won’t forget.  If you take that meta-principle, and apply it to your own business, you’ll be able to accomplish incredible, impression results that allow for a lasting impression on a person.

I use a lot of this to structure court cases.  When I start a case, I know the big, lasting impactful statement I want to leave with a trier of fact.  As I work with the nuts and bolts of the case, I work to leave an impression with every piece of evidence, every single statement, and the questions during direct and cross I want answered.  When I hit the big point I want to make, I sit down.  Sometimes that means I have to improvise a bit and deviate from the routine, but I’ve always got backups in case one bit doesn’t work for me in court.

So take some time to study magic, no matter your business. You’ll be glad you did, and it’ll make sure you gain some principles that will help you personally, no matter your profession, as long as you think about why you do what you do.

 

What I Learned From A Local Job Fair

I had some time this afternoon, and as a Professional Opportunist I’m always looking for ways to make money, so I ventured into Oak Ridge for the Anderson County Job Fair.  There’s a lot to be learned from job fairs, and I’m going to share with you a few things I learned, plus some suggestions if you’re trying to find work.  I’m not a big fan of job fairs, but they’re a good way to see what local businesses are hiring, take the pulse of a community, and see if there’s any deception afoot.  In the case of Anderson County, there’s a little bit of all that in play.

First a word about Oak Ridge.  I don’t have an issue with the town, but it gives off a vibe of sadness and despair.  Whether this has something to do with the immense lack of jobs in the region or the presence of a nuclear weapons plant in the town, I’m not entirely sure.  In recent days I’ve become far more mindful of where my mind goes in certain areas with regards to emotion, so I’m able to spot it and shift that mental frame into a more positive one.  Despite this, Oak Ridge just carries a lot of negative energy.  That said, let’s discuss the positive facts I learned.

  1. There’s a big job problem, especially in rural areas.

It’s hard to call Oak Ridge “rural,” but it’s very clear there’s a job problem everywhere.  Anderson County is about as “rural” of a city as you can get, especially so close to Knoxville, and the amount of people at this job fair were staggering.  I got there about 45 minutes before it was scheduled to open and the parking lot was already full of potential job-seekers.  The lobby was packed as well with people hungry and ready for a steady paycheck.  I hung back and observed the general tempo of the crowd, just in an attempt to see what I could learn.

The gamut of dress ran from absolute casual to full-blown business attire.  A few people even had their children with them.  I’m not sure whether this was due to an inability to afford child care for an afternoon or find someone to watch their kids, but it was definitely a sticking point in my head as I walked through the exhibition hall.  Some people carried briefcases or binders.  Many flashed stacks of resumes.

When the job fair opened everyone poured in though a narrow opening, almost like cattle, and began hitting up the various booths.  Some people were talkative.  Others simply grabbed applications and left the table without even saying a word.  One guy I saw do this kept muttering “as long as I keep applying they won’t put me in jail,” which was a rather telling statement as to what sort of legal situation he faced, as well as just how nervous he was in his current environment.

2. Everyone wants to work for the government.

The biggest demand from the job seekers was time in front of the nuke plant officials.  Once the hall opened, nearly every job-seeker made a beeline for the nuke plant table.  It’s understandable, the benefits were great and the job pool larger than just about any other table.  Yet few seemed to realize with that dearth of people coming to the table, very little of the faces would actually be recognized later on in potential job interviews.

3. Education is failing as a job market.

Most of the jobs were for rather specialized skill sets that didn’t require a higher education degree.  In fact, one of the better paying jobs only required a GED or high school diploma as educational experience.  This didn’t stop two colleges from showing up to flaunt their “track record” for job placement and shill how signing up and paying them money for a diploma would grant you keys to the world.

This presents a very interesting question.  Why are colleges hitting up potential students at a job fair?  With sliding enrollment rates, more people realizing trades and marketable skill sets are better than a piece of paper, and the continued spread of academic culture that promotes feelings over facts and perpetuates “trigger warnings” and “safe spaces,” it’s not that hard to pick out.  Yet the schools are that desperate, so much so they’re willing to try and take the money of those who have none at an event ostensibly designed to create jobs and place people with jobs.  It’s a deception, and one I’m dangerously close to exploring in depth.

4. The most sought after skills aren’t taught in higher education.

Driving a fork lift, building houses, welding, and working with the developmentally challenged were some of the most lucrative positions offered at this job fair.  However, most of the people who came to the job fair didn’t have a chance at any of these positions, because they didn’t have the requisite training or skills marketable enough to land these positions.  Most of them aren’t hard to learn; I got a chance to learn my locksmithing skills by asking an expert if I could apprentice under him.  Yet most people won’t take the time to even sort our these skills and simply choose to blame others for their inability to find a job.

Tips for successfully negotiating a job fair.

  1.  If there’s a lot of people flocking to a booth, ignore it and see if you can’t find the point of contact for the person who’s running the department you want to work with.  Standing in line for 30 minutes to an hour not only wastes your time, it practically guarantees you won’t be remembered by a hiring official sent to the job fair unless there’s something about you that sticks out.
  2. Go to the booths that look “different” and talk up the people there, especially if you notice they’re not getting a lot of traffic.  Tell them you want to speak to the “interesting” people, and they’ll fall head over heels for you at that point.  You might even get word of some interesting job opportunities better suited to your liking this way.
  3. Take a look at the flyers presented by the Chamber of Commerce.  You’ll usually be able to pick out what booths you want to visit and those you don’t that way.  Your time is valuable, make the most of it in advance by not visiting the places you don’t want to work.
  4. Leave your kids at home or with a caregiver.  If you can’t do that, ask a relative to watch them.  Finding good child care is hard, but just as it’s not beneficial to you to bring your kids to a job interview it’s not beneficial to take your kids with you to a job fair.  Plus they’ll get bored quickly, and bored kids don’t usually behave well.
  5. Dress at least in business casual.  If you don’t own a suit, buy a dress shirt.  If you don’t have slacks, buy some.  If you don’t have the money to do even that, go check out a local thrift store or ask about job clothing programs.  They usually exist.  And remember, you get a tax deduction for job seeking expenses.
  6. Have something that makes you stand out for a job hunter.  I took Bobby Motta’s “The Informant” with me and performed it for at least three people at job booths.  They get my business card and I leave an impression on them, knowing I can “read minds.”

Give it a shot.  You don’t have to be unemployed if you don’t want it.  Job fairs can produce positive results, you just have to approach them correctly.

 

Candace Owens’ Spiral Into [ableist slur]

Candace Owens, the face of Social Autopsy and now “Founder and CEO” of her blog Degree 180.com, is going through an incredible public meltdown as her quest to end online harassment burns out quickly.  Owens’ newest tactic in her repeated attempts at attention grabbing and virtue signaling is calling journalists who either won’t talk about her or say negative things about her and her projects names in posts at Degree 180.

The first shot fired was at Jesse Singal of New York Magazine, who didn’t exactly treat Ms. Owens or her Social Autopsy project too kindly.  Jesse still gave Candace Owens a voice, and crafted his story from available information and her comments.  Since the piece wasn’t 100% glowing and loving of Owens, she chose to label Singal as a “fraud” and accuse NY Magazine of “scamming” her into an interview.  It’s a bizarre set of allegations, but the crazy train doesn’t end with Owens’ hit job on Singal’s journalistic credentials or New York Magazine’s credibility.  The next stop is the Washington Post and Caitlin Dewey over a story that never ran.

It got really interesting on Owens’ Twitter feed when she began demanding her followers help her contact Dewey over some sort of issue.  I’ve been watching Owens attempt time and time again to get national news to cover her story.  It’s all one big attention grab, most likely for a book deal at some point in the future.  Owens has alluded she’s potentially building towards a film, stating she’s constantly recording everything that’s going on as she attempts to connect Randi Lee Harper and Zoe Quinn to GamerGate.  Then a post aired on Degree 180 accusing Dewey and the Washington Post of not running a story and attempting to smear Owens’ reputation.  By never talking about Candace Owens and Social Autopsy.

This refusal to talk about Owens at all led Candace to call Caitlin Dewey a “smug bitch,” “pompous,” “arrogant,” and saw Owens justify pleading with her Twitter followers to harass Caitlin Dewey as a means of enforcing her personal digital “insurance policy.”  She then goes on to smear the Washington Post, telling her readers they’ve “lost all credibility” at the hands of “a few bad reporters.”  I haven’t even gotten to the libel accusations yet.  That’s the next part of the unhinged rants and delusional fantasies Owens has to manufacture in order to stay relevant or get some kind of attention.  Let’s take a step back and discuss David Malitz, Dewey’s editor and attempted peacemaker.  After defending one of his writers, Owens had no choice but to attack him and say he’s a liar.

Malitz attempted, if Owens can still be believed (I’m having a hard time getting to that point), to contact her and discuss several exchanges between Caitlin Dewey and Candace Owens.  For his efforts Malitz got branded as a “liar,” a “corrupt journalist,” and branded the Post as “absolute shit.”  There’s honestly no level at this point to which Owens won’t sink, and the libel allegations are part of that.

The “open letter” to Caitlin Dewey is made on a site devoted to the “manosphere,” discusses people in glowing terms that Dewey apparently didn’t like, and accuses her of making up lies.  I’m not going to go into detail over the letter and the writer, as they’re not points of relevancy to this story.  What is relevant is Owens took this as a valid libel accusation and ran with it in her latest attempt to create a conspiracy theory out of nothing.  It was an opinion, but it confirmed Owens’ beliefs this entire debacle is a conspiracy theory, so she ran with it.  I wish this were the end of the screed but it’s not.  The next step is to involve Amazon and Jeff Bezos, since Bezos owns The Washington Post.

Owens begins by stating she’s not a conspiracy theorist.  Then she places a signature pattern interrupt by saying “but if I were.”  Remember this: when someone introduces “but” into a conversation it usually means the first part of the conversation isn’t true or a belief structure is invalid.

“But” in a conversation reverses the language structure.  

“But if I were a conspiracy theorist, I’d note (x) (y) and (z)” is the framing structure of Candace Owens’ attempt to link all her arguments together and justify her “expose'” of this massive scandal she calls “#JournalGate.”  She notes Bezos owns the post, and that Simon and Schuster is a company that plans on publishing Zoe Quinn’s upcoming book, and that the Post’s involvement means Amazon is involved with this massive conspiracy, and so many other incomprehensible lines continue in this realm it makes my head hurt.

I will keep an eye open if the saga of Candace Owens continues its lunacy into a new realm, but for now I can’t devote any extra eyes or energy to this matter.  Owens’ continued attempts at framing this narrative as “everyone who disagrees with me” turned into a nutty realm where “everyone who doesn’t talk about me now is a target,” and I don’t want to be a part of her attention grab any further.  As I bow out of this act for the time being, let’s take a look at the spiral and the ways Candace Owens decided to handle herself.

1. Someone launches a Kickstarter to stop online harassment and cyberbullying.

2. An alleged “victim” of cyberbullying reaches out to this person in an attempt to show her lists and name calling didn’t help.

3. The response is for this person to engage in a systematic campaign of cyberbullying and online harassment against her detractor.  When someone else jumps in to aid a friend, that person gets called names too.

4. After the Kickstarter fails, the only response is to declare a “conspiracy” between the individuals who said her project failed and their alleged “harassers.”

5. When people disagree with this person, or refuse to talk about her at all, she engages in more name calling and harassment.

I’ve written on incongruence in message and actions before.  It seems like people actually managed to spot Candace Owens’ incongruency up front and tell her the proposed “help” wasn’t good for anyone.  Her response was to engage further in the incongruency instead of fixing her message and “walk the talk.”  Now the entire venture has revealed Owens is just as much of a bully and harasser as those she decries.

It’s no wonder journalists or investors won’t take Candace Owens seriously when they spot her engaging in the same tactics she decries.

Postmortem: Social Autopsy

PREFATORY NOTE: 

The following post contains references to people and subjects that when mentioned cause extreme emotional reactions in some people.  To make a point very clear: I take no stance on anything related to GamerGate.  I have no desire to discuss anything related to “ethics in gaming journalism” or “harassment” outside a clear examination of what’s made Candace Owens and “Social Autopsy.com” tank within one week and how terrible responses to communication affected this entire debacle.  The entire situation is a dumpster fire, but one we can learn from.

“Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the mouth”–Mike Tyson

I love this quote from Mike Tyson because it examines your response to true adversity.  On a baseline fight level, Tyson knew this maxim meant you could plan for a fight, but the moment you experienced true adversity most people would freeze up and revert to their own personal defense mechanisms.  The same holds true when you’re examining just about every aspect of your life, especially conflict.  If you’ve polished your “fight strategy” going in and know your counterpart’s moves, you’ll do well until you get “punched in the mouth.”  You’ll freeze up and revert back to your old ways of talking to people or dealing with conflict.

Those who experience true adversity, people who’ve been metaphorically “punched in the mouth,” have an easier time dealing with it when adversity comes knocking.  Conflict is painful, but when you’ve dealt with it repeatedly you don’t have an issue with the pain.   You know what your reaction will be to conflict, and you can control it.  The case study for a complete inability to deal with conflict is Candace Owens and “Social Autopsy.com.” One good solid round of adversity in attempting to launch her startup made her resort to the very behavior she wanted to change societally.

Initially, Owens’ project, an “online database” searchable for parties desirous to learn about another’s “bad behavior” seemed like a joke.  Attempting to stop “cyberbullying” by calling someone a “cyberbully” is counterintuitive.  Fortunately, people recognized a Really Bad Idea when they saw it, and several people reached out to Owens in an attempt to warn her of the potential consequences for this new index.  One of those people happened to be Zoe Quinn, the alleged “patient zero” of GamerGate.  During a phone conversation, the two discussed the Social Autopsy project.  The world will most likely never know what occurred during the original exchange between Quinn and Owens.  What we do know is Quinn came away from the conversation convinced Social Autopsy wasn’t the greatest thing since sliced bread, and Owens left thinking Quinn mentally unhinged and that “GamerGate” was the subject of Owens’ woes. In that moment of adversity, Owens reverted to her baseline tactic: call people names.

At best, the conversation I had with [Quinn] was weird. At worst, it was unstable.

Randi Lee Harper, another self-styled “anti harassment activist,” took issue with Owens discussing her telephone exchange with Quinn on Twitter.  She penned “An Open Letter To Social Autopsy,” where she described Owens as “a trainwreck,” “shady as hell,” and more.  Owens’ response, yet again, was to decry Randi Lee Harper as a co-conspirator with Quinn and GamerGate in shutting down her Kickstarter because of one line.

You blamed your Kickstarter getting shut down on trolls. You’re wrong. That was us.

That statement can be interpreted in any number of ways.  “Us” could be Zoe Quinn and Randi Lee Harper.  “Us” could be “anti-harassment activists.”  In a moment of complete and utter cluelessness, and relying on something as superficial as Wikipedia to get information, Owens somehow managed to connect Quinn, Harper, and GamerGate as a united front ready to put Owens through some sort of imagined cyber-bully hell.

I announced on Twitter that I would be releasing all of the e-mails; that I would be going on [a] webcast with my suspicions that Zoe Quinn was behind the cyber attacks. I ranted that I thought she was behind all of the e-mail attacks we had received and that this time, to quote her cohort, “the gloves were off”. I announced that I had e-mails and evidence and that I would be speaking out. I focused purposely on the fact that I had e-mails.

My plan worked: the emails magically stopped. They stopped cold turkey. As I sit wring this today, we have gone an entire weekend without receiving so much as one e-mailed threat.

Still think that’s a coincidence?  A total inundation and then a total sudden stop? No that is the work of Zoe Quinn.

No one, I’ll wager, has explained to Candace Owens correlation doesn’t always equal causation.  That said, no one really explained to Owens her fantastical delusion didn’t constitute “terrorism,” either.  That much is evident from her continued screed against Quinn, Harper, and GamerGate.

Randi Harper and Zoe Quinn had discussed my project with one another. Regarding that, there can be no question.

They thought they could get me to pull the project down by beefing up their respective resumes, and with one phone call from “patient zero” of Gamergate.

When that didn’t work, the two of them launched an effort of cyber-terrorism.

Once Owens ran with her gaffe on Degree 180, she started twitting it to every major news outlet she could imagine.  When she got a “hit” from a blog called “Heat Street,” she gave her side of the story and ran with it.  She was favorable to Jesse Singal of NYMag until Singal twitted a less than favorable response to the Social Autopsy project.  When that happened, Owens’ response was to question Singal’s objectivity as a reporter, intimate Singal lose his job, and stated in the same breath she didn’t care about what journalists said concerning her.

Never you mind that Candace Owens is already attempting to silence yet another journalist before an allegedly less than favorable article goes live on a national platform.  This is her new MO; you silence those who are against you and give a voice to those whose ideas you accept.

Cause of (eventual) Death: Hubris and an inability to understand target audience. 

Current Status: Project on life support due to victim status monetization. 

 

Lessons Learned From Roasting Social Autopsy

Fault Lines has been generous enough to let me take a story and lampoon it or come up with some comic laden angle every Friday.  On the 15th we ran with a story on Social Autopsy where I “roasted” them with insult after insult.  For further giggles, I anchored every paragraph with a hook developed by comedian Carlos Valencia: “It Gets Worse.” What ends up surprising me is over the weekend people started picking up the post and taking it seriously!

One person picked up the post and twitted it as analysis of Social Autopsy’s problems.  Then people started applauding it as a “refreshing take” on the site’s attempt to end cyber bullying by actually cyber bulling people.  Yet another person got in touch with me on Twitter and argued that in our current climate of butthurt it might turn into a viable business model, comparing it to Peeple, another failed attempt at trying to smear character in a thinly-veiled attempt to spread “positivity.”  There’s lessons to be learned from this exercise I think worth sharing.

  1. People don’t care for the online “naming and shaming” or “call out culture” anymore.

We used to take this approach and laud it as a means of “eradicating” certain wrongthink or shun peoples’ ideas we found offensive or hurtful to others.  Now it’s something recognized as a bad idea in a country that values free speech, and people who attempt to use the technique and turn it into a business model are going to see some inevitable blowback if they try to reinvent the “reputation” wheel.

2. There is a blowback against monetizing reputation or attempting to run people out of a job in the name of “inclusivity” and “diversity.”

Justine Sacco lost her job over a tweet.  Pax Dickinson can’t get a job in tech because of a proclivity to be “trolly.” People now don’t accept this as a proper way to handle conflict, and they’re calling out those who justify this sort of idea as a means to promote a narrative of “words hurt and harm.”  It’s the inevitable response to years of using these tactics to cost people their jobs, reputations, and more.

On a recent episode of The Rubin Report, Paul Joseph Watson of Prison Planet and Infowars called the rise of this cultural libertarianism inevitable because “for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.”  I tend to agree with him.  The push against Social Autopsy, and Peeple before it, is now largely reflective of a contrarian approach to the victimhood mentality or the “call out culture” propagated by the regressive movement that tells us “You can’t say that.”

3. The moment towards making free speech cool again is gaining traction.

Companies and conferences that “no platform” speakers or executives are getting outed for their work.  Protesters that try to silence others are getting resistance.  Even the recent trends of “Chalking” areas with messages others find “offensive” or “unsafe” are beginning to see some blowback with people deliberately using “The Chalkening” to promote free speech instead of stifling it.  The reactionary, provocateur approach is slowly building up a wonderful trend of giving others a chance to speak, and real discussion to begin.

4.  Change in thought concerning speech can happen, even if it’s painful.

There are a few people who gave up on the approach that society would ever shift back in the direction of our old “Marketplace of Ideas” mentality towards free speech.  It’s understandable, and the numbing view is a cultural marker in communication.  When the shift to limit speech and shame people into groupthink began the first trend was deliberate self-censorship.  People just bought into the idea and refused to speak on topics of interest, or even just engage in a back and forth to have fun.  They knew this because of the “social consequences” model justifying this manner of behavior.  No one wants to lose a steady source of income over a few words.

As time passed the approach just became numbing to people.  We knew this cultural shift occurred, and became largely indifferent to it.  The naming and shaming life was the New Normal, and we simply analyzed it and called the practice what it was.  We didn’t really do anything about it, because the idea of shifting cultural practices didn’t seem possible.  The movement was just that powerful.

Now we’re seeing a movement begin that’s changing the way we view speech.  It’s the result of people getting sick and tired of being able to discuss real issues and real problems in our country without getting labeled “racist, sexist and homophobic.” Those terms still get thrown around, but they’ve been used so much the new movement of cultural libertarianism’s response is “you’ve used those terms so much to describe people those words lost their meaning. We’re going to continue the discussion.”

It’s a great time to be alive.  The lessons learned from the blowback over Social Autopsy prove that we’re headed in the right direction again.  Eventually we’re going to return to a cultural future where we value open, plain, honest discussion of issues instead of buying into group narratives where people stay silent at the risk of personal and professional loss.

That’s when the real discussions over issues of concern will begin.  That’s when we’ll make real progress.  That’s when we’ll see real racism, sexism, and societal concerns addressed through open and honest discussion.

Get a chance to embrace the “Wrongless Approach.” It’s a great way to live.

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Book Review: “Anthology” by Daniel Madison

Playing Cards are a staple of my repertoire when someone says to “show me something.” The guy I think has the best handle on how to use playing cards is Daniel Madison, and his book “Anthology” will give any reader enough to digest for some time.  If you want to learn sleight of hand from a mad genius, I’d suggest “Anthology” as the first and foremost choice for you.

“Anthology” lays bare countless effects by Daniel Madison, including the genesis of one of my favorite card deceptions, “Angle Z.” The “Identity” and “The Advocate” (one gimmick I never leave the house without) are two more tools contained in this book that you’ll find yourself using quickly.

There’s also sleight of hand moves.  Madison has some of the best hands in the card handler game, and “Anthology” will teach you quite a few of Madison’s better sleights.  The big ones he’s currently using you’ll probably need to purchase one of his DVDs or downloads to really get, but you’ll rock the next networking event you take a deck of cards to when you have “Anthology” and take some time to really look into the full scope of Madison’s effects.

There’s a few of Madison’s effects in this collection you’ll need to prepare gaffes or gimmicks with.  They don’t take that much time to put together, and you’ll come up with some very powerful, visual close up using a deck of playing cards when you do.  All of the gimmicks are explained in creation with a step-by-step approach and well worth your time.

Another cautionary note is when Madison describes a sleight he uses a certain system to point out all the fingers used in executing the move.  “Finger One” and “Finger Two” are the index and middle fingers on a hand, for example.  You will learn this system quickly if you just pay attention to his frame of describing a sleight’s inner workings.

Perhaps the best aspect of “Anthology” is most of the effects can be performed with a borrowed deck of playing cards and a little practice.  You can wow someone when they call you out and say “You’re just able to do that because you have your own deck.”  Anthology will give you the ability to know with confidence that you can knock someone’s socks off when you go out in public to do just about anything.

One tip I’ll give you from “Anthology.” If you want to really build up your confidence, go to a market area or street corner and just perform a few of the effects for various passer by for free.  It’ll wow them if they bite, you can usually leave your business card with the spectator, and it serves as a great marketing tool for you.  In addition, if the sleights go a little out of whack, you’ll be able to come up with some way of getting out of a mess providing you just work with a little alternative or two.

The last point I’ll give you for Daniel Madison’s “Anthology” is learning and working some of these effects will add to your confidence because they’re really advanced.  When you can pull off some of the difficult to most advanced sleights Madison lays bare for you in this collection you’ll really feel like you can conquer just about any problem.  Of the books and effects I’ve seen, this is 5 out of 5 stars.  It’s a must read.

Purchase a copy of “Anthology.”  It’s worth the investment.

Learn about the “Wrongless Approach.”

Review: “The Informant” by Bobby Motta

I love mentalism effects.  Mentalism is one of the strongest ways to make an impression with someone because it means you’re essentially messing with someone’s head.  One of the easiest ways to do this is by “the peek,” and one of the best devices I’ve ever seen for getting a “peek” is Bobby Motta’s “The Informant.”

The Informant is a wallet.  You’ll be able to use it all day, every day, just like a regular wallet.  The difference is The Informant has a special device that allows you to get a peek of any thought the spectator is using.  It can be a card, a name, a number, anything your heart desires.  All you have to carry besides the wallet is a provided Sharpie pen and a few post-it notes.

From there the possibilities are endless and only limited by your imagination.  Here’s a sampling of effects I’ve come up with using “The Informant.”

*Changing a contract from $5 to $500

*Guessing the name of a long dead family member and then conducting “cold reading” to provide a seance with the spectator

*Changing a drawing from one item to another.

*Make a number appear on a blank piece of paper

*Figure out the favorite book of a spectator

*Have the person shuffle and select a card from an “invisible” deck, then you guess it.

That’s just a sampling of what you can do with The Informant.  The effects are only limited by your imagination.  When you receive the wallet you’ll get Bobby’s “Blackmail” device that allows you a whole new series of ideas for effects.  Even when I don’t have The Informant on me, I keep a Blackmail in my wallet because it’s a great way to mess with someone’s head.

The best thing about The Informant, though, is it’s a marketing tool for you.  No matter what your job, the person you perform the effect for is going to end up with your business card in their hands.  That’s a powerful way to spread your brand, because after someone sees you’ve read their mind, they’ll end up with your business card.  Whether you’re a lawyer, doctor, conflict resolution professional, writer, magician, hypnotist, anything you do, the great thing about The Informant is the spectator always leaves with your business card, remembering that you read their mind.

I can’t stress the value of this device for anyone who wants to live a “wrongless approach” with their own personal business.  Carrying The Informant with you and all the extras will help you at networking events because those people outside your personal industry will come back to you for something.  Leaving a person with your business card is one of the best closers you can get, because they just keep it like some sort of personal talisman.  When you get the business because you bought The Informant, you’ll get better at what you’re doing.  More networking opportunities, more business, and more end customers for you.

You can buy The Informant today.  Well worth your dough.  I rate this 5 stars.

Take some time and learn about The Wrongless Approach.

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Postmortem: Peeple

Prefatory Note: The following was written in January.  As of today, reception to the Peeple app has been mixed at best.  It currently sits on the iOS App Store with a 1.5 star average rating.  The overwhelming number of the 187 reviews are 1 star.  The Peeple website still has the app listed as in Beta testing.  Peeple is zombified, but I consider my analysis still sound. 

Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein” is a great horror story.  Underneath that lies a cautionary tale of someone who had an idea that never should have taken flight, and refused to listen to an inner voice that said otherwise.  Julia Cordray and Nicole McCullough, the founders of Peeple, apparently think Doctor Frankenstein’s approach to the creation of their own monster is actually worth pursuing.

“She may have gone underground, but she’s not quitting. The 34-year-old Canada-based recruitment specialist is back with a new, toned down tune. She and her 37-year-old Southern California stay-at-home mom co-founder and best friend have eaten their humble pie, admitting that earlier iterations of Peeple’s policies were “ill conceived.” After taking a lifetime’s worth of burns over the Internet’s most hated app, they ditched the five-star rating system and opted for an opt-out. Peeple isn’t evil, they say, and you’d better be ready because it’s coming soon whether you want it or not.”

The initial Washington Post article on “Peeple,” an app that will allow you to rate people on anything and everything, was enough to turn Cordray and McCullough into the most hated people on the internet within hours of its publication.  People far more experienced than I in pointing out how terrible ideas can get did so on notification of the Peeple monster.

“Given an opportunity, some folks will use Peeple in good faith and some will use it to abuse, harass, and antagonize others. That is the natural and probable consequence of its existence…Bomb always eventually beats bunker; the urge to screw with other people always eventually beats technological innovation. Cell phone confirmation and a review structure stand no chance against a nation chock-full of mood-disordered twitchers will too much free time on their hands.”

Eventually Cordray and McCullough went underground, turning off their websites and social media accounts.  Cordray started damage control after making “Yelp for People” the “quickest way” to wrap “anybody’s head around the concept.”  She did this through posting LinkedIn updates about what happened, what she was doing, and why she was taking these steps as she built the app.

The first step was to shift public perception.  It wasn’t a rating app.  It was a “positivity app.”

“Peeple will not be a tool to tell other humans how horrible they are. Actually, it’s the exact opposite.

Peeple is a POSITIVE ONLY APP. We want to bring positivity and kindness to the world.”

The next step was to fine tune this “positivity app” into what Cordray and McCullough always wanted in the first place, just with a few “tweaks.” This “fine tuning” happened in less than a month after the world told her Peeple was ripe for abuse.

“The first change is that it’s 100 percent opt-in. You have to actually sign up to our platform to be on it and no one can actually add you to the platform. You also have full control over what goes live on your profile. So, if you want to post up positive recommendations only, or you want to do a mix of constructive criticism, or you want to put up some very honest feedback recommendations, which we highly recommend, you can do that. That’s the biggest change — you’re in control over what goes live.

You can now also deactivate your profile. Deactivating will remove any activity that you’ve ever done, as well as any activity that’s ever been written about you. If you decide to reactivate, all of that will go live again, so it’s not like you ever lose the data or the information about you. It just won’t be publicly visible while you’re deactivated.

There’s also something in place of the five star system we had. It’s your recommendation score. It’s a number made up of every recommendation that you receive, regardless of you posting it live on your profile or not. The score is accurate against what people are going to recommend you for. It’s made up five separate elements.

We also have a “Nearby” tab, which allows you to find the highest scored people within a 10-mile radius of your location. So, you could be at a networking event and look people up on the app and you can see who the best of the best are rated professionally. Or, say you’re dating and you’re at a bar, you can look up the best on the dating side.  ”

And how does one “opt in?” Easy peasy lemon squeezy.  All you have to do is double authenticate with a Facebook account and a PIN code texted to your cell phone.

Which still lends the platform to abuse, since there’s nothing verifying whether or not the Facebook profile is the person’s actual account or a fake. I could still get on Peeple, create an account for someone else, have the app verify through said fake account, and get the cell phone PIN texted to me.  Even their “six month activity” time isn’t a guarantee against someone with a grudge.

Peeple is in beta testing right now, which is rather interesting because adamant claim of Cordray against it being used for bullying is “you have to see the app to know it’s not going to be used badly

“I found it ironic that people could bully me and claim I was building a bullying app and I hadn’t done a thing. They did to me what they were scared that my proposed app would do to them, all without ever having seen it.”

The Entrepreneur article linked has a planned release date of December 10, 2015 to the App Store for iOS.  Visiting Peeple’s website still has it in beta testing.

Cordray’s takeaway from her Peeple experience sounds terrifying.

“Sometimes you need to lead down a path that is so innovative and so new that you will cause some fear. That doesn’t make everybody else wrong and you right, it just makes you more convicted in what you are trying to do and prove. Don’t waver on your convictions about what you want as long as it doesn’t harm others. Our app was never going to have the ability to harm anybody.”

Sub out “app” for “monster” in that last sentence and Cordray sounds quite a bit like Dr. Frankenstein.

Take a chance on the “Wrongless approach” here.

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Review: Theory 11 “Union” Playing Cards

I’m a big fan of playing cards, because I have a love of the deceptive arts that centers around using a pack of playing cards to do sleight of hand.  This comes from a time when I almost died and spent a year trying to regain the use of smaller muscles in my hands.  There’s countless varieties of playing cards, and I usually destroy about a deck a week doing certain moves over and over.  It’s a sort of thing where I just do sleights while I think about something.  Today we’re going to look at the “Union” series of playing cards by Theory 11.

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The “Union” design is pretty nifty from the start.  You get an image on the front of the box with the American Flag, a sword, and some sprigs of ivy.  The words “Liberty” and “Bravery” are at the top and bottom of the box.  The back of the box is the back of the playing card, which has two eagles, more U.S. themed imagery, and a “U.”  The box sides announce the deck’s history; produced and distributed by Theory 11 but made by the United States Playing Card Company.  The tuck has a broken chain, ivy sprigs, and the words “Live Free.”

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The individual suit cards are rather minimalist in the pip designs.  Where the art shines is in the court cards.  You’ll see various stages of “American” life in the Jacks, Kings, and Queens in the deck.  The only Ace with some impressive imagery is the Ace of Spades, which has an American Flag theme to the spade and an eagle design.

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Gaffed cards in the deck are rare; the only specialty marking this as a premium level deck is the double backer, which you’ll find in just about any high-end deck of cards.  You’ll also get an ad card for Theory 11 and two Jokers.

Handling the cards from the box is pretty smooth.  They’re going to feel better than any standard deck of Bicycles out of the gate.  With about two days’ intensive handling they’re going to start breaking down on you, which is a problem I have with Theory 11’s card stock.  It seems like this is a universal thing with just about any Theory 11 deck.  As usual, preferences for card handlers will vary.  The edges are good enough to do a solid Faro Shuffle from just about the original state without any major breaking in.  Side steals, bottom deals, just about any of the major moves I have to pull off when working with a deck are a dream when you handle these cards.  That’s a great sign for someone like me who does a large amount of work with playing cards in a routine.

The disclaimer is that the feel of the cards is just too good to keep for a solid length of time.  They don’t feel like they’re very sturdy or well made, and I can’t get past that.  Other decks, like the Kings Series, just tend to work better for me.  I’ll still rate the Union Series a solid 3.5 out of 5 stars for their workability.

You can buy them by clicking through to the link below. Happy Handling!
Collectible Playing Cards