Discover more from Compass Star Wordsmith
We Got the Message. Maybe it IS the Messenger?
Enjoying the benefits of distraction through the illusions of effort
And now, your musical interlude. Creating a playlist was a bit of a whim here, in that I just wanted to play music that made me feel something when I read the post attached to it.
But Music is the second of my five elements that create culture. When I look back at the first playlists, they are all my feel-good music. But I soon discovered so many great Substackers posting killer playlists.
I am a huge proponent of cultural appropriation. If not for that, we really would not have modern society. Just think of the Norman victory over Charlamagne in the 1066 Battle of Hastings.
It changed the world order (sounds familiar), deposed a crown held by the English for over 500 years, introduced over 20,000 French words into an English vocabulary of roughly the same word count.
The last Russian Czar, Nicholas II, crashed a dynasty that had existed for over 300 years. That revolt ushed in the very heroes the world’s current Die Hard villain idolizes.
Last week’s playlist had two songs about WWII from Al Stewart. The Roads to Moscow and the Palace of Versailles. America is less than 250 years old. Younger than two historical empires that came crashing down. Do we have another 250?
Welcome Friends to The Compass Star Wordsmith. The fact that you are reading these words causes a distinct feeling of humility to wash over me. My brain knows that I am typing them for consumption. My rational thought rightly assumes that you’re reading it because you like the feeling it brings.
That is what makes me feel the emotion of humility. That is called Vulnerability. I used to deny feeling feelings. Even the good ones. Consider this: How well do you handle apologies? What is your first reaction when someone tells you “I’m sorry”?
If you’re like me, you handle it the same way you deal with compliments. By brushing them off. Both the apology and the compliment. Someone felt that they offended you badly enough that they seek forgiveness. Or they like something about you so much it is worth mentioning.
It happened to me last night. A good friend was apologizing to me for not giving me his full attention and concern. He felt ashamed and expressed it to me in an apology. My first reaction was to brush it off and say “No sorry’s needed".
He stopped me and said “I am sorry.” I accepted his apology.
I do the same when complimented. My first reaction is to say, “Oh, it’s nothing.” As if whatever I’m being admired for is not the result of my own actions. As if my feelings weren’t hurt. How many of you do that? How many of us sell ourselves short? Why do we not value a compliment or an apology?
I stopped doing that last night. I am sincere when I compliment or apologize. I accept either of those as sincere expressions of your feelings at that moment. I extend and accept both with grace. Thank you for thinking about my feelings. That is special to me.
I teased some exciting news in my last post. My life continues to unfold in an unending Origami mystery. I actually like it this way. It’s a beautiful form of freedom.
Bullet List (deployed for word brevity)
Compass Star Wordsmith Speaks - Podcast on the way. Starting with converting all of my posts to podcast episodes(French word) by month. I will post randomly as past posts are curated into spoken word collections. Then, I will . . .
Food - my neighbors are loving me. I have been cooking enough to feed an army(French word). I’m creating something between a recipe-picture bore-fest and a Food is Stupid free-for-all. I just don’t know what that is right now.
You are reading the words of a newly-hired Feature Writer for an online music/tech/entertainment/gaming magazine with a large subscribed readership. Talking thousands of eyeballs. Interviewing major label artists. Writing 2-3 full-length articles per month.
You have made this possible. I have a core readership of about 200-250 readers that open and click multiple times. This is crucial for my metrics. My open rate hovers around 20-23% of emails sent. I have 17 paid subscribers. That is down from 25 due to renewals not being renewed.
A few are expired credit cards on auto-billing. I have gained two new paid subscribers in the past two months.
Here is my financial graph showing my subscriptions all-time. Transparency is of utmost importance to me. I believe it is important to show my readers what is behind the curtain. The other graph illustrates the up and down nature of a small(ish) email list and weekly posts.
My annualized income from this endeavor is about $1000. I can live with that. For now. The writing job I landed is an unpaid internship. The intangibles are priceless. That many eyeballs. A byline, bio, and links to all of my platforms. (All one of them). Getting to write in a professional realm.
Here is where I appeal to you directly. All writers on Substack go through this effort of message conveyance to our audience. The title of this post relates to message and messenger.
On Substack, the messenger is the message. What you read is what about me. I’m on the menu. I believe my words, thoughts and ideas have value. I express them in good faith. If I criticize, it is from a place of concern and care. I want to know what I don’t know.
I will be reaching out to all of my readers in the form of a personal email. This will take a few days or so. In the interim, I am asking my readers to contribute to this effort. Obviously, subscribing to this with your financial support is paramount.
But there are other ways to support me. Send me an email. Comment on a post. Share a post. Give a gift subscription. Write a guest post. Send me a photo-story. Let me know what you think about my playlists. Collaborate. Show me your food.
In other words, interact with me in this space. It’s yours as much as it’s mine.
Efforting to Circle Back
We're not going to allow the briefing room to be a platform for propaganda.
You can't build a great building on a weak foundation. You must have a solid foundation if you're going to have a strong superstructure.
To be one, to be united is a great thing. But to respect the right to be different is maybe even greater.
My experience in prison was unique. As is all of our lived history. Many reasons for that: my crime and background, my race, my support system. But the fact remains that I lived in a gender-separated, race-segregated exiled-by-society environment controlled by fear, respect, authority, and violence.
I chose the actions that sent me to prison. I was embarrassed and ashamed for many years about this. But just as I am responsible for sending me there, I am equally responsible for holding myself accountable and never going back.
Three of those conditions relate to domination. Only one relates to submission. And that one is the most important aspect of prison life. Maybe all life. Respect. I’m not an expert on prison riots, but I can imagine almost every single one of them has cracked off because of a perceived slight.
At Lancaster State Prison, there was a white dude that had Tourette’s Syndrome. He was on hot-meds and was kept in check most of the time. When he went off his meds, though, he only could blurt out one word: yeah, that one! Starts with N and ends with R.
Ok to scream that in a padded cell. Not okay on the yard. When the Whites pissed off the cops, they let the N-Bomber loose. Needless to say, the message and messenger became one and the same. Associative guilt and collective punishment work to change behavior. Ask any coach or drill sergeant.
What happens on the outside is reflected on the inside. Too bad the Respect shown inside is not shown outside. In Desert Hot Springs this past weekend, where I enjoyed the sun, the mineral hot pools, and the company, I met a dude I recognized instantly. I never met him before.
He was fully tatted. I deciphered them to my companion. SSG - South San Gabriel. Southerner. A bunch of others, but I will keep his anonymity out of Respect. When I returned with fresh drinks, my friend was in full conversation with his wife.
She couldn’t believe I was in prison. Where were my tats? After a few minutes, they were convinced. But the most interesting aspect of our meeting was discovering our roots. We exchanged numbers. Not phone numbers. ID numbers.
He asked me what my number was, and to be honest, that was the first time that question was asked of me since the day of my release. But what really surprised me was the ease, familiarity and rapidity with which it rolled off my tongue. It tasted horrible.
My great grandparents, the Waelbrock’s, emigrated from Canada in 1923. They first settled in El Sereno and then San Gabriel. John was a carpenter and Eugenie ran a chicken ranch during the depression. They were incredible salt-of-the-earth folks. Read about them in this post The Value of a Penny.
Grandpa John built a house on Earle St way back in the 1930s. So let’s call the dude I met Jay after his number. Both being from The SGV, we started talking about it. Jay showed me a tattoo on his leg: Earle St. More common than different we human beings are. No doubt.
I like going to the White House website. When I do talk Politix, I like to do so from a solid footing. I read the other web-sites, because I like confrontation, disputation and argumentation on the way to resolution. It’s a quirk. Or maybe an undiagnosed Napoleon Complex. Read my post Can We Argue?
Substack offers literally every stop on the spectrum. Hate the Bad Orange? Read The Real Threat to American Democracy. Got this for you: Letters from an American. Here’s another America, America. I actually pay for the last one. Not sure why.
I link to those platforms not because I agree with them. But because I disagree with them and enjoy learning about my disagreeableness. On rare occasions, I change my mind 180 degrees. My prerogative, right?
Other times, though, an argument goads my subconscious into body-slamming my well-worn biases. With my bias on the mat, I discover that another person has a slightly different view from the street corner they stand on.
Maybe they invite me over to take a look. Maybe I wander over in wonderment. Maybe we cross diagonally, like in Westwood or Pasadena or Hollywood, and we meet in the middle. Maybe it’s a good thing to just drop our pretensions for once. Let’s meet where we are to get where we’re going.
it's a messaging issue for the dems is what I duck-duck-go’d and the results were almost hilarious. Nothing at all about the problem. Whatever the problem is, it’s not about the problem.
In other words, it’s not me. It’s you! You’re too dumb to understand how great we are for you. And all the great things we are doing for you. And not only that, but all of the great things we are efforting to think about planning on evaluating to set up a task force to study it. Let’s circle back.
The message, that is. Not the problem. That’s your problem. My problem is the message. I wish there was a way for me to find out things about you. Without actually having to talk to you or otherwise deal with you in any way.
It’s hard to pick a winner, but this one sticks out
The first paragraph doesn’t disappoint
At a messaging retreat this week, House Democratic members were coached on how to better connect with voters.
A sitcom showrunner and a best-selling fiction writer encouraged them to tell stories rather than give voters the usual laundry list of reasons Democrats should remain in the majority. Three marketing executives, including one from Pepsi, urged them to craft their messages like sharp advertisements. And leaders echoed a new slogan unveiled by the national party: They can deliver.
“Oftentimes when you’re making sausage, it starts out pretty rough. But you have to have people who will go in and work with their membership, but I want to dispel that it affected our conference today,” Rep. Joyce Beatty (D-Ohio) said. “Did things happen that if we could do it over it would probably happen the same way? Yes. But the resolve is what matters.”
The “renewal of resolve” became the slogan that leaders incidentally decided would define the retreat. Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.) noted Friday that Democrats’ resolve was strengthened after hearing Maloney detail their hefty fundraising war chest and project that redistricting won’t hurt the party’s chances in as many states as they had worried. But success in the midterms, many Democrats said, would require reflection on how best to talk with voters.
But what actual things have you done?
But with Democrats in control, members have noted that Republicans still have the upper hand in their attacks, especially since voters see and feel the effects of rising costs at the gas pump and elsewhere. Maloney noted that skyrocketing oil prices have become “a real problem” that Democrats would address “with solutions,” though he did not elaborate on specifics.
So the way to connect to voters is to note “...skyrocketing oil prices have become “a real problem”.
Thanks Captain Obvious. That incisive divisive indecisiveness is why we voted for you and trust the hell out of you. Oddly, I bet if he were to “elaborate on specifics”, a connection just might happen. Hmmm . . .
I love how they chose the slogan that “...would define the retreat.” Incidentally (defined as a chance occurrence). So “The Renewal of Resolve” is the message that will connect to alienated voters across this troubled land.
And this viable valuable vacuous vituperative that the party in control of all three branches of the Federal Government was decided upon by happenstance. Good thinking. Was that the sit-com dude or the fiction-writer? What the hell, flip the coin or roll the dice. It’s just the fucking public after all. Who cares?
The best news of all? What cheered up the disaffected and detached delegation desperate to detect a way, any way, to catenate with Jane and Joe Public.
Democrats’ resolve was strengthened after hearing Maloney detail their hefty fundraising war chest and project that redistricting won’t hurt the party’s chance
As long as I got my cash and my fiefdom. Of course, it’s still all about me. Do you get the message yet? Sounds like Fuck You.
Compass Star Wordsmith is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.
Don’t bullshit a bullshitter
I’m sure you have worked with Jen Psaki before. Not her, like the person. Her like the worker. The one that is always telling you how hard they work. And all the stuff they’re doing. And gonna do. But they’re not. In my experience in the food biz, it’s quite prevalent.
The server who is always bragging about working so hard. As he wipes down the same table for the 10th time, bullshitting with the cute hostess. Or the drive-thru person telling you she’s moving as fast as she can. Slow-walking all the shit she forgot to the wait-for-it spot. Or the line cook pretending to peel the same potato because he’s hungover.
That’s the Jen Psaki we all know and love. The one that actually uses words like “efforting” and “circle back.”
I excerpted a few paragraphs of her recent Daily Briefings to get a flavor of the word salad she tosses. War is Hell, and Ukraine is being bombed to Hell right now. And Europe finally appears to realize they are first in the crosshairs. But the slow fester of America’s problems keeps boiling, whether the MSM even notices.
One-thousand-forty-three. I copied and pasted exactly that many of Ms. Psaki’s words here. Mostly random. I linked to the full context. I fully read both briefings. I am not posting to pull a Gotcha. Just to read her answers to questions. And so you can too.
I write words a lot. My goal is to have most of them make sense to the reader. I think most writers share that goal. Maybe some poets have a different approach. I seriously doubt Jen is finger-snapping Haiku here.
I don’t care about party or person. I care about persuasion. You have so little respect for me and my intellectual curiosity that you choose not to engage in honest forthright discussions. Instead, you fill your remarks with tired idioms, awkward inappropriate laughter, verbal crutches, vocal fry’s, indignant rhetorical counter-interrogatories, worn aphorisms, and a well-spring of Orwellian double-speak. It all means nothing to normal people.
You then host conferences with the words how to connect with voters in the title. Roll eyes. Shake head. Actually, it does mean something.
Q And I just had one more question on another subject. The administration has been criticized for putting sanctions on one dictator and then going, hat in hand, to other dictators like Venezuela. How do you explain that?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I think our engagement with Maduro — who we don’t recognize, as you know, as the leader of Venezuela but who is detaining American citizens — was to bring American citizens home. That was our first priority in those engagements.
There is not — so as you’re all assessing —
Q It had nothing to do with energy?
MS. PSAKI: There are a range of topics that we discussed. Largely, the conversation was about our approach to the Western Hemisphere. Certainly, Venezuela, as you all know, is the largest producer of oil in the world. But as you’re — or one of them — one of them in the world, sorry. Thank you. Ed gave me a funny look there. I appreciate that. “One of them” in the world.
But part of our conversation — our conversation was focused about a range of issues, including encouraging them, of course, to be engaging in steps toward peace. As you may have seen, Maduro has announced his intention to be a part of the talks with the opposition in Mexico.
But as you are assessing how to spend your energies in this time of a lot of news in the world, I would not focus a lot of them on conversations about the future of the United States importing oil at this point in time — go ahead — from Venezuela.
Q A question on the economy. The inflation numbers that we received today show consumers paying almost 8 percent more than a year ago, and this was before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. So how much higher does the administration expect prices to climb?
MS. PSAKI: Well, as you know, a large driver of these inflationary numbers from the last — these monthly numbers were from energy prices. And we have seen the ener- — the increase, you know, happen as a result of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
So, while we’re looking at year over year — and there were year-over-year numbers that came out about a month ago as well — there are still predictions and projections from the Federal Reserve and outside economists about inflation moderating towards the end of the year.
Obviously, they make those assessments on a regular basis. But in terms of prices going up, we do anticipate that gas prices and energy prices will go up. That is something that the President has conveyed very clearly to the American public. We also believe it will be temporary and not long lasting.
And what our focus is on now is doing everything we can to mitigate and reduce those prices and ensure there isn’t a longer-term impact.
So I can’t make additi- — new projections for you from here, other than to convey that, yes, it is accurate that the invasion by President Putin into Ukraine has impacted global inflation, inflation in the United States because of the impact it’s had on energy prices. And that is a significant contributor to inflation — the inflationary numbers we saw come out today.
Q You said this is “temporary,” and you’ve noted before that inflation is going to wane or is expected to wane by the end of the year. Is that still your belief?
MS. PSAKI: These — that continues to be the projection of the Federal Reserve, of outside economists, and we really rely on them for their projections. But there is also no question that inflation may be higher for the next few months than it would have been without the Russia — without President Putin and Russia’s further invasion into Ukraine, particularly due to higher energy prices.
And obviously, they will watch that and we are watching that, but that is definitely having an impact.
Q And just one more on this topic. You know, the President said earlier this week that American companies — you know, he sort of urged them not to price gouge. Are you aware of any price gouging in gasoline that’s going on right now?
MS. PSAKI: That’s something we’ve asked the FTC to look at. They are the appropriate body. They’re an independent body. So I’d point you to them for any assessment of that.
But that’s something we have to continue to monitor. Right? You know, we’ve been monitoring it. We’ve asked them to monitor it. But obviously, at this point in time, when Americans are paying higher prices at the pump, this is one of the areas where we need to watch closely.
Q And one just on a —
MS. PSAKI: Sure.
Q — different topic. How high is the administration expecting gas prices to go? And how much — is there a limit — not a red line but a limit at what you think — (laughter) — the U.S. public can bear?
MS. PSAKI: Just flows off the tongue. (Laughs.) It’s okay.
So it’s a good question. We don’t have — I don’t have a prediction from here, in terms of what it could look like. There are outside predictors, of course. And, obviously, what we’re trying to do is mitigate the impact. You know, and you’ve seen, of course, you know, the price of oil go down a little bit. And the President will continue to look at a range of steps that he can take, whether it is engaging through his team, or through even himself personally, with big global producers, or it is looking at a range of domestic options.
But we’ve seen it go up. I mean, we look at a lot of the same data you look at — AAA and other data — that shows us how much it has gone up since the period of time when Russian troops lined up on the border.
But in terms of how far — you know, we still believe it will continue to go up, but we’re trying to take steps we can take to mitigate that and reduce it.
Go ahead, Mara.
Q Thank you. I understand you don’t want to lay out what the severe consequences would be if Russia used chemical weapons,
Here are a couple of bonus links on some topical interests.
I was in the jacuzzi the other day with the neighbors. They had their 2-year-old toddler with them. She is adorable. She had her sippy cup with water. I had my travel cup with hop-water. I would take a drink. She would take a drink.
It dawned on me: we never really grow up. We just change the liquid in our sippy cups.
Keep sipping my friends,