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Avoid Election Misdirection

In Education, history, Local News, Media, National News, Opinion, Politics, psychology, sociology, State News, Uncategorized on October 19, 2017 at 6:08 am

Deer In Headlines
By Gery L. Deer

With an election coming up, it’s important to keep focused on what’s going on here at home rather than be distracted by the childish circus that has become Washington. Do you know what local governmental seats are up for grabs or the effect the next school levy might have on you if it fails?

Most of the time, we focus our attention on big stories from national news sources and lose sight of the things that really matter. Sometimes, that’s exactly what the politicians, pundits, and issue-pushers want to happen. Politics might seem, on the surface, about an open debate between candidates or issues, but it’s mostly about misdirection.

In the 2016 presidential election, the Trump camp used misdirection and the divided state of the Democratic base to push their message. While people who could greatly alter the outcome of the election were busy with the chaos on the left, Trump’s people had more opportunity to manipulate the right and win over some middle-of-the-road and undecided voters. The same thing happens on a much smaller scale right in your own backyard.

Most local candidates, regardless of whether they are incumbent, hope that simple name recognition will do the trick. Buying a few local newspaper ads and planting hundreds of signs everywhere can give them just that, not so much recognition but a hope that people can’t remember the names of the others.

Think about it. When you step into a voting booth and there’s a seat open for township trustee (and you barely know what a trustee is, much less any of their names), you’re going to pick the name you remember. In the back of your mind, you’ve seen the signs and ads everywhere of the guy who spent the most at the print shop so you touch the screen on his name and that’s that.

Then there’s some human services levy up for a vote and you have no idea what the fine print says, but it’s for the hospital, or children’s services issue right? What kind of person would you be if you say no to that, so what if you have no idea that it’s going to double your property tax for the next five years? This might seem exaggerated but the point is clear – learn about these candidates and issues before that Tuesday in November.

In this year’s election, the state issue that stands out as most confusing to people seems to be Ohio Issue 2, the drug price standards initiative. Both sides have spent a fortune in print, digital, direct mail, and broadcast advertising trying to sway your vote one way or the other, and it’s only going to increase.

We won’t spend any time on the issue here, but suffice to say that it’s controversial because it involves Medicare drug pricing agreements between the state government and pharma companies. Talk about an unholy alliance. Can you think of any two organizations that have proven to care less about the plight of the average citizen? That’s why it’s so confusing to people.

But, you’re going to have to go look up the exact wording, but take your lawyer with you. Actually, that may not help, because the language of these proposals is made overly complicated for a reason – so you can’t understand them. That’s no accident. The more complex the wording, the more confusing it is to the voter. Mission accomplished.

Remember that the local elections mean far more than the national ones in the grand scheme of things. Pay as close attention as possible to these smaller ballots because the outcomes have a far more immediate effect on your day-to-day life.

Most of these candidates have little or no money to spend on advertising so you may not even see their names until you get to your polling place. You’ll have to do some digging. Your county elections board has all the information you need to get started understanding these issues before it comes time to punch a chad, pull a lever, or tap a screen.

Take the time to know for whom and what you’re voting. It’s up to you to make the best choice for yourself and your community.

Gery L. Deer is an independent columnist and business writer. More at deerinheadlines.com

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Caregiving a parent with dignity

In Children and Family, Economy, Education, Health, Opinion, psychology, Senior Lifestyle, sociology, Uncategorized on October 5, 2017 at 3:03 pm

Deer In Headlines
Gery L. Deer

When you’re a caregiver of a senior parent one of the most difficult things is maintaining the dignity of your charge. When we’re kids, our parents wipe our faces free of food, help us in the bathroom, even spoon-feed us. But, decades later, when those roles are reversed, it’s important to keep in mind that the person you’re helping isn’t a child. He or she is an adult with a mature sense of dignity and pride.

It took me a long time to get used to helping care for my parents. To say it was uncomfortable to have to help my mother dress or manually feed her would be a massive understatement. Alzheimer’s had long settled in by the time she broke a hip, but not being able to walk created further challenges. Her mind was like that of a toddler and she didn’t initiate speech or really understand anything going on around her. So, it was different than it is with my father now.

Deer In Headlines author, Gery Deer, with his father, Gary Sr.

My parents were proud people and didn’t like taking help from anyone. Now, the man who was always looking after everyone around him needs more care than he’d probably ever imagined he would in his golden years.

Like many seniors in this situation, Dad is fully cognizant of what is going on around him, but he needs a great deal of physical help in managing his day-to-day activities. One thing it took a while to understand is that his sense of personal privacy and dignity must be preserved, though it seems to outsiders like it wouldn’t matter as much anymore. It does.

Which brings us to the first point of what you can do to maintain self-worth for your senior parent, whether you’re caring for them all the time or just helping out once in a while. First, you can help maintain personal privacy and dignity by closing the door when you help him or her to bathe, dress or change clothes.

You wouldn’t think twice about closing the door when you do those things but put yourself in their place. What makes you feel awkward probably makes them feel that way too.

Don’t make a show of things. Try your best to avoid drawing unwanted attention to your charge whenever possible. Adult children sometimes have a need for outside validation of the caregiving task they’ve undertaking and can be overly dramatic in public. I can assure you it’s unlikely your mom or dad or whomever you’re caring for really wants any of that attention. They want to feel as normal and inconspicuous as possible so help them.

The more prepared you are the better. Keep a care bag packed to travel with, even if just going around town for the day. Load it with spare clothing, tissues, a towel, facial wipes, a bottle of water, specialized eating utensils, whatever your senior may potentially need, both commonly or in an emergency. Remember that their comfort comes first. Be ready for anything.

Sometimes the best way to help is to do nothing. As frustrating as it can be as a caregiver to sit by and watch your charge struggle to do something like button his shirt, there are times when you need to do just that – nothing. Although it can be part of the individual’s therapy to do normal, day-to-day things like getting dressed, it can be challenging.

And, as caregivers, it’s tough not to jump in and just do it for them. But, from the standpoint of respect, you have to let them do their best to tackle it on their own. It’s when their own frustration level peaks you might need to take over.

Naturally, there are things you have to do to care for them that they’re not going to be happy with. He or she may not want to use the cane or walker they’ve been provided. You will probably need to be firm with them on this because sometimes safety must outweigh pride.

Finally, be patient. I struggle with this one daily. Remember that this is hard for them too. Remember you’re not alone. If you need help, go find it.

Gery L. Deer is an independent columnist and business writer. More at deerinheadlines.com.

A Half-Century and Counting

In Education, Entertainment, Health, history, Opinion, psychology, Senior Lifestyle, sociology, Uncategorized on September 28, 2017 at 10:08 am

Deer In Headlines
By Gery L. Deer

At the end of September this year, I will celebrate my 50th birthday. It’s funny how you don’t notice the years flying by until there’s a milestone like this to make you stop and reflect on them. No, turning a half-century old is nothing new, until it happens to you. Then, it’s a big deal.

On my last birthday, I decided to figure out a way to commemorate the passage of the year leading to my 50th. Now, only days away, and I wonder what I’ve accomplished this year which begs the question, what do we do with our time? How does it slip away so easily, so unnoticed in the lightning pace of our modern lives?

Even the simplest moments, often the most important, go right past us without so much as a footnote in the mental journal of our day. I wanted to make sure I remembered at least some of this past year so I made it a point to do something new every day that I wouldn’t have done otherwise. I didn’t exactly manage something every single day, but I did make some major changes in my life that have had much more of an effect than I ever anticipated.

In order to accomplish anything in our lives, we have to set a reasonable and measurable goal. I know, that sounds like something off some high school career lecture, but it’s valid. I’ve never cared much for the word “goal,” but we do need to have something to aim for or we can’t work toward it.

As I mentioned at the beginning of this piece, I wanted to remember the last year in as many ways as I could. One of my goals was to improve my health and that meant a great alteration of my day-to-day lifestyle, which had actually begun a few years ago when I stepped back from things like soda and junk food.

From there, I started an exercise program that culminated in my becoming an endurance cyclist, accomplishing both a 100-kilometer and 100-mile bike ride, respectively, over the summer. In preparing for these events, I improved my stamina, respiratory function, muscle tone and overall health – and I’m still going. From couch potato to athlete in just a few months, and there was nothing easy about it.

At this point in life, if you’re paying attention at all, you probably have a better grasp on just how much drama you will put up with as well. I know I have. I can’t even describe how many people I know close to my age who have yet to shake out all the dead wood from their lives.

I’m referring to those negative people that always seem to have disaster following them, primarily of their own making, and want you to solve their problems for them. You can’t. Nothing you do will change who they are and how they drive their own lives – walk away.

When people straight out of college demand salaries and respect akin to those twice their elder and greater experienced it’s a sad state. At the same time, I’ve met a great many older people for whom I have little respect, for one reason or another.

Contrary to what younger folks might say, at 50, we’re not quite doddering, forgetful seniors, ready for the walker and rocking chair, although that’s what most Millennials probably think. In my case, I’m in the best physical condition of my life, I have a better understanding of who I am than ever before and those around me are benefiting from my achievements.

To me, what matters most is how my life to date has prepared me for all that comes next 50. There’s still a lot to do and I have no intention of sitting by and letting the world fly by, not that I ever did that before.

People say I’m over the hill, maybe they’re right. But, Charles Schultz, the creator of, “Peanuts,” once said, “Just remember, once you’re over the hill you begin to pick up speed.” Couldn’t agree more! I have more to do in the next half-century.

Gery L. Deer is an independent columnist and business writer. More at gerydeer.com.

Dems, get your heads out of your …

In Business, Economy, Education, National News, Opinion, Politics, psychology, Uncategorized on September 27, 2017 at 11:24 am

Deer In Headlines
By Gery L. Deer

Hey, all of you Democrats who are whining and crying about a Trump presidency, listen up (or in this case, keep reading). You’re the reason he’s president, so either get over it or get on the ball, make up your minds. In all my years a writer I have never seen a more bumfuzzled time in American politics. It’s goofy on both sides, but the Democrats really take the prize here.

And, as I have written many times, they handed the White House to Trump on a silver platter, covered in gold and trimmed in platinum. “What? It’s not our fault,” blah, blah, blah. Oh, yes, it is your fault.

The only reason, the only reason, the only reason (yes, that’s meant to be there three times) Trump won the election was because Democrats divided themselves and didn’t get out and vote. Protesting Hillary or Bernie or whoever cost them the election, not some overwhelming love of Trump. Just to beat the dead horse one more time, it happened something like this.

On one side, you had the Bernie Sanders hippies. Yes, I meant to use that word – hippies. The sandal-wearing, left-wingers who hate corporate America, right up until their non-profit needs a check. Moreover, they have absolutely no idea how to pay for any of the grand social overhauls they want to make. Giving everything free to everyone costs somebody money somewhere. Just writing that gives me a headache.

Confused Hillary courtesy of TheGatewayPundit.com

Then you have the Hillary Clinton crowd. For all that the pant-suited, former First Lady commands intelligence, experience, and demeanor, she inspires, well, no one, for any reason. She carries the baggage of a type that’s not easily shed in the social media-driven trenches of popular politics. Instead of falling in behind Hillary after the primaries, white Obama voters went over to Trump – I still don’t get that, but the math doesn’t lie.

Could Hillary and Bernie have taken the White House together? Possibly. But, again, there was just too much anger out there in the real world about Obama’s entitlement programs. Working class people were getting tired of having to break their backs to make ends meet while anyone who didn’t want to do anything could get a check and free healthcare just for being lazy. I know, that’s not the reality, but that’s the perception ignored by the Dems in the media.

If the Democrats are going to try to oust the current administration in 2020, they’d better get a move on. So far, very few they have suggested as a challenge to Trump could even get past the primaries, let alone win the Oval Office. Right now, the list of potential candidates that might have a chance includes Senator Elizabeth Warren, Bernie (again, please no), Michelle Obama, and Joe Biden. Getting Mrs. Obama or former Vice President Biden to run would be a challenge. They both seem to be done with day-to-day Washington, but who knows.

Elizabeth Warren is a bit too far to the left to drag any moderates over to pull the lever for a Democrat. And you need moderates right now. Alienating them is something that Bernie did really well. You can’t be a massive, outspoken socialist, even a democratic one, and pull anyone from the middle, it will just never work.

I mentioned perception a few paragraphs before, and that’s the key word here. It’s a perception problem with the Democrats. They’re seen by the moderate and conservative public as the bleeding-heart, all-or-nothing left-wingers who want only to cater to minorities, let in any Mexican who wants to come north, criminal or not, and punish people for being white and earning a paycheck. Sounds bad when you put it like that, doesn’t it? Well, that’s the perception to be challenged.

In short, the 2020 election will not be about politics, a border wall or Obamacare, but a fight between nationalism and socialism, about smart and ignorant, about bigotry and acceptance. There must be some way to restore some dignity to the White House and I guess it’ll be up to the Democratic National Committee to figure out who can do it. Oh, my, we’re in trouble.

Gery L. Deer is an independent columnist and business writer. Deer In Headlines is distributed by GLD Enterprises Communications, Ltd. More at deerinheadlines.com

Ignoring the reality of climate change

In Economy, Education, Environment, Health, history, National News, News Media, Opinion, Politics, Science, Technology, Uncategorized, World News on September 12, 2017 at 10:27 am

Deer In Headlines
By Gery L. Deer

As another devastating hurricane blasts its way across the southeast sections of the United States, I am still amazed at how many people continue to believe that climate change isn’t a real thing, with real consequences. Yes, logically, there is a reasonable debate as to how much mankind has affected the changes in the Earth’s climate and weather. If you want to argue that point, it is valid. But to dispute the facts of the matter, that’s just sheer ignorance.

Before getting into more of this debate, let me say that climate and weather have been an interest of mine going back to my early days. My background in physics, chemistry, and engineering gives me a more fact-based view of scientific subjects. Facts can be trusted, but the interpretation of those facts is when things get shaky.

Our planet is not some static ball of water and dirt spinning aimlessly through space. It’s a living, breathing, ever-changing construct made up of moving water, moving land masses, and billions of different types of life forms. The measurements we make of the planet’s climate – air quality, water temperatures, polar cap conditions, and so on – are really its “vital signs.”

Screen Shot 2017-09-28 at 10.25.30 AM

Photo courtesy, NASA.gov

You can check on how our world is doing right on the website of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). The direct link is https://climate.nasa.gov. There you can read non-political facts about how climate changes affect our world and our societies around the globe. From the warming oceans, which contribute to the recent volatile hurricane seasons, to increased intense rainfall events – it’s all there, with no political slant, just the facts.

For the moment, we’re going to ignore the stupidity of politically-charged, or religiously-motivated people who pick and choose to accept facts as it pleases them and falls in line with their “beliefs.” Facts don’t choose sides and you don’t have to believe in them – they are real, they are measurable, and they can be verified.

But to that point, there are people who totally deny even the very concept of climate change, alleging that it’s, “fake news,” or whatever the terms are now, so they’d never go look at that data on NASA’s website. And yet, they’re the same people who probably went there to learn about the recent solar eclipse and watch it happen via live stream.

Interpreting the cause is another matter, but to deny that it exists just demonstrates a level of glaring ignorance in American society today. As I mentioned before, scientifically speaking, it’s my contention that after an estimated 4.5 billion years of existence, we really have no idea what is “normal” for our planet, especially since mankind has only been here for a tiny fraction of that time and keeping records for far lesser of a period.

If you’re one of those who simply likes to ignore facts for political reasons, or just because you need to think you’re “right,” then here is a suggestion. Stop looking at the thermometer altogether, any thermometer. Why? Because that’s what this all comes down to, the fact of a changing number on a non-partisan, inanimate piece of scientific equipment. All the scientists did was write it down and show it to us.

And our leaders and the current administration in the White House are going to be no help at all. As the Huffington Post pointed out a while back, “If you’re trying to wrap your head around climate change, don’t ask Donald Trump.” This was in response to the following statements he made on a radio show last September.

Candidate Trump said, “I am not a believer. Unless somebody can prove something to me, I believe there’s weather.” And his blathering on the subject hasn’t got much better since. If anything, it’s worse.

People interpret facts rather than taking them at face value. We evaluate them based on how they fit into and confirm our pre-existing beliefs. That internal bias is a constant issue whenever you’re trying to win someone over with facts and statistics, there’s just not enough emotion involved to help move ideas forward. Until people stop ignoring any fact that doesn’t fit their bias, our country will continue to be ineffective in protecting our environment.

Gery L. Deer is an independent columnist and business writer. More online at deerinheadlines.com

 

Mourning the King of Comedy.

In Entertainment, history, Media, Movies, Opinion, television, Theatre, Uncategorized on August 21, 2017 at 9:05 pm

Deer In Headlines
By Gery L. Deer

The world lost a veritable comic genius this week as we mourn the passing of Jerry Lewis. From his early beginnings as a stage comic, to the magical fundraising power of his telethons to raise money in the search for a cure for Muscular Dystrophy, Lewis was many things to many people.

Lewis had his faults. He was said to be difficult to work with at times, a bit of a control freak, probably from the desperation he felt as an upstart comic in the 1940s. But the fact is he was a writer, director, producer and a technical innovator in film as well. He invented something called the video assist, which allowed a director to instantly watch what they’ve just shot.

Of course, it’s the French who are fabled to have loved Lewis’s movies and considered him a genius. But, like with so many tales of the famous, much of that is exaggerated or taken out of context. According to some reports, if you ask a French person to name a Lewis movie, they usually have a tough time coming up with an answer. Seriously? I mean, who doesn’t know, “The Nutty Professor?” (No, not that terrible Eddie Murphy remake. Don’t get me started.)

Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis were a comedy team for just 10 years.

You can probably find countless tributes and retrospectives on the King of Comedy, so I’m not going to lay out another laundry list here of his successes and failures. But I wanted to share my thoughts as somewhat of a student of his craft and fellow writer and performer.

If you follow my work regularly, or Google my name, know that I’ve led a dual life in the professional and stage worlds for most of my time on this earth. Beginning at the age of 5, as a budding ventriloquist, I have won awards for my talents, written comedy scripts and produced all manner of shows, from the musical stage to Vaudevillian-style variety shows.

Not much in my repertoire could even begin to compare to a giant like Lewis, but comedy was always the foundation for a great deal of my work. I’ve always believed that if you could make people laugh, no matter what you were doing, singing, dancing, writing, juggling, whatever, they would be entertained.

For me, Jerry Lewis was a one-of-a-kind, a true struggling artist, always trying to get people to take him seriously through laughter. You read that correctly. It’s tough to get people to take notice when your entire goal is to make them laugh. It’s even more difficult when your whole self-worth is wrapped up in that laughter and thunderous applause.

Gery Deer and Jim Karns in Whips and Wands …

Lewis’s physical comedy, funny vocalizations and incredible timing is what I enjoyed and what I have always emulated. I’m a one-liner, storytelling kind of comedian on stage. I do a little physical comedy, but it’s generally centered around hand gestures or other smaller movements. Jerry Lewis could leave an audience in stitches with a simple facial expression – that’s talent (and a rubbery face helped too.)

For nearly two decades, my dear friend Jim Karns and I have worked together on stage much like Martin and Lewis in their early years. Our timing and banter is very similar, as was that of Abbot and Costello, Laurel and Hardy (after the silent days), and so many other comedy teams. The dynamic duo of Jerry’s goof to Dean’s straight man, which kicked off in Atlantic City in 1946, became a national phenomenon lasting a mere 10 years, though to many fan it’s unimaginable it was such a short time. Regardless, the pair was unstoppable during their run, and watching anything they did is still a pleasure.

I ignore the public negativity surrounding most celebrities I admire, whether they brought it on themselves or not. After all, they’re only human, good people trying to entertain people in an unforgiving and sadistic industry. I left the big stage behind many years ao in favor of smaller one with kinder audiences.

But no matter how large the stage, Jerry Lewis’s influence will be there, for me and for many generations to come. “Dream as if you’ll live forever. Live as if you’ll die today.” – Jerry Lewis.

Gery L. Deer is a writer, producer and performer with “The Brothers & Co Variety Show.” More at thebrothersvarietyshow.com.

 

Film scores make the movie, enhance the imagery

In Education, Movies, Music, Opinion, Technology, Uncategorized on August 8, 2017 at 1:28 pm

Music gives us a common language. Images give us a common vision. Together we gain understanding … and peace. Who knew that in the 21st Century, film score composers would become rock stars? They fill arenas with people of all ages and ethnicities who come together for a few hours to be one people, one music, one heart and one spirit.

As I tap this out on the tiny screen of my iPhone, I am sitting in the US Bank Arena in Cincinnati, surrounded by thousands of people who have come to listen to a kind of music that penetrates our pop culture. All over the country, Academy Award-winning composer Hans Zimmer not only conducts but performs alongside a group of incredibly talented musicians to bring his film music to life for crowds of thousands.

An incredible concert of pieces from films like Crimson Tide, The Lion King and Batman Begins, plus an amazing tribute to Wonder Woman with all-female lead musicians. The crowd is totally enthralled with this presentation and I cannot help but be moved and the thought of, “Finally, people get it.” What do I mean by that?

If you follow my writings at all, you know that I am a musician. Scratch that, I’m not as much a musician as an entertainer. Musicians spend years of their lives studying and working and perfecting their craft. I literally woke up one morning and could play the piano. Not exaggerating, that’s how it felt. One day I couldn’t, the next I could.

    Film becomes more alive with the right orchestrated score. (Photo Courtesy TheHustle.co)

I mention this because the most influential music in my life was that of film – John Williams (Jaws, Star Wars), Jerry Goldsmith (Star Trek), John Barry (Dances with Wolves, Somewhere In Time), James Horner (Titanic, The Mask of Zorro), and, most importantly to me, Stu Phillips (Battlestar Galactica ’78). These composers shaped the music I would eventually play because theirs was the first to come to life at my piano.

I am an auditory learner, I play by ear, not by sheet music, so the combination of an image to go with the music was particularly powerful. I could see the images from the films in my head as the music came out and the first one was the theme to the 1978 Battlestar Galactica series. An elaborate piece of music that layered two themes on top of one another seems an unlikely choice for a 12-year-old budding pianist, but that’s what fell out.

And as I grew up, film music always kept a hold on my ear far more than any other genre. And my ear was drawn to scores, not soundtracks. The difference being that a soundtrack generally included vocal pop songs and such while the score was the more “classical” sounding background music and themes. In any case, sitting in this concern made me realize that what I’d always thought was cool had finally actually become popular.

Films bring people together. Music brings people together. A huge part of what makes a great movie is the music. Imagine Jaws without the “duh dum … duh dum …” of John Williams’ famous theme? It would just be water… and a mechanical shark.

As a Star Trek fan, I can close my eyes, listen to a score from one of the films and tell you exactly when the Starship Enterprise appears on screen just by the tone and use of various themes. It’s emotional, heart-pounding, drama-inducing sound that carries us along with the characters. Music makes the movie and it is part of what ties us together as fans of those films.

Like the movies themselves, film scores reach across political, social, ethnic and economic boundaries, allowing us to have a common ground in a way that nothing else can. Movies take us on trips to the stars, beneath the sea, into battle, and through the perils of international intrigue. But none of it would happen without the amazing music created by great and incredibly under appreciated (until now) composers like Hans Zimmer and company.

 

Gery L. Deer is an independent columnist and business writer and the producer of The Brothers & Co. music and variety show. More at thebrothersvarietyshow.com

 

 

Life can’t be hacked

In Business, Health, Opinion, psychology, sociology, Uncategorized on July 3, 2017 at 11:48 am

Deer In Headlines
By Gery L. Deer

A friend of mine recently posted on Facebook his annoyance at the term, “hacking,” and how overused it is in society today. No, we’re not talking about Russian infiltration into American elections. No, in this case, the word “hack,” refers to a way around the hard work required to get from point A to point B, a cheat or shortcut, if you will.

As you might be aware, the Internet is loaded with “experts,” self-proclaimed gurus who will tell you the quickest ways to anything as long as you subscribe to their YouTube channel or buy their self-published book. They use content marketing to generate interest by publishing articles, videos and infographics with titles like, “10 Hacks To House Flipping,” or “Hacking The Self Employment Life,” or other such nonsense.

The primary goal here is for the author to set his or herself up as the “expert” by creating tons of content and luring in subscribers. Once they’ve got you in their marketing list, you will be inundated with messages trying to convince you that you can’t function without their dime-store psychobabble or unqualified business advice.

Don’t misunderstand, there are plenty of legitimate content marketers out there who have great and useful information to share. But those who are reputable might offer tips to get you where you want to be, but generally, never offer any sort of shortcut. The only thing that will see you from start to success is hard work, consistency, and persistence.

There is just no such thing as a hack to anything worthwhile. You have to put in the time, make the effort, learn the steps and execute them with intent. That’s the only way you’ll ever achieve your goals.

When these so-called experts or motivational people get up on a stage and start telling everyone how to live their lives it infuriates me. People are smart. They need guidance, not the ravings of someone trying to sell a book or something.

The only skill most of these people have is in getting someone who’s a little lost in life to cough up buckets of cash for junk advice, books, videos or whatever. At this point, someone who reads my work regularly is probably saying, “Wait, don’t you offer advice and tips about things?” Yes, I do, but there is a major difference – credibility.

I only offer advice and tips on subjects with which I have experience and, usually, in a logical and objective way. I also generally explain in those kinds of pieces that I’m giving you an account of my own experience or that of someone I know directly who can speak on it with authority.

I will also never try to get you to buy a book or subscribe to a mailing list or other such tactics. Although I appreciate that you’ve purchased the newspaper you may be reading this in, but it’s not necessary. My columns are freely available online in most areas where I’m published.

If I do want you to respond to some business opportunity, I’ll say exactly that. It won’t be shrouded in some kind of self-help gimmick. I will always contend that people are smarter and more resourceful than they give themselves credit. That goes for personal and professional issues alike.

If you just sit down and analyze whatever situation you’re coping with as objectively as you can, get advice from trusted friends or family, and then act accordingly you’ll do just fine. Things might not always turn out as you hope, but we all do the best that we can.

You will never need a “hack” to do something worthwhile. It will never work even if there is some shortcut available to you. Everything we do of substance requires patience and effort, something many people shy away from in a modern society where instant gratification rules the day.

So the next time you see a self-help post or article with the word, “hack” in it, and it’s not about a computer problem, think twice before following the lead of the author. Is it useful information or just a gateway to a shopping cart?

 

Gery L. Deer is an independent columnist and business writer. Deer In Headlines is distributed by GLD Enterprises Communications, Ltd. More at deerinheadlines.com

 

 

Deer In Headlines: The elusive art of small talk

In Health, Local News, Opinion, psychology, sociology, Uncategorized on June 5, 2017 at 9:03 am

Deer In Headlines
By Gery L. Deer
I recently read a 2016 article in the New Yorker, in which journalist Karan Mahajan wrote about his personal experience as an immigrant trying to comprehend and learn to use American small talk. After a decade in the States, Mahajan, originally from Delhi, finally mastered the art of small talk and discussed its role in American society.

The complexity and difficulty of small talk aren’t lost in the fictional world as well. I recall an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation, in which Lt. Commander Data, the android character on the science fiction show, was fascinated by the concept of small talk and spent a good part of the program trying to mimic the innate skills of another officer.

Although I grew up in the American heartland, I can completely relate to Mahajan and Data’s struggle to comprehend and apply this most useless but unmistakably necessary communication skill. But what is small talk and why do we do it?

According to UrbanDictionary.com, “small talk” is defined as, “Useless and unnecessary conversation attempted to fill the silence in an awkward situation. Usually is initiated by comments regarding the current weather, weather pattern of the past/future few days or major weather disturbances in the recent past.”

In day-to-day conversation, can be characterized in a casual exchange at a checkout counter when someone says, “how’s your day,” or waiting in a long queue for coffee, “they’re really busy today, huh?” I’ve also noticed that the person who initiates the attempted conversation is generally the one who feels most uncomfortable in the situation. Oddly, when I feel that way I tend to get quieter, not more talkative, probably a symptom of my lack of assimilation to this concept.

In his article, Mahajan suggests that American society is one where we all want to believe we like each other and that conversation should be easy among strangers. However, we only want to communicate to the line of privacy that should never be crossed leaving a sort of empty space where the meaningful conversation should be if we allowed it. Small talk is how we fill that void.

Politicians use small talk to placate voters on the campaign trail or at public events. Hairdressers and barbers are master small talkers, as often are restaurant servers, cashiers and others in the retail industry. Don’t misunderstand, that isn’t an insult by any means, quite the opposite.

Phone small talk is another thing at which I’ve never been very good. I really don’t like the phone at all. I don’t understand getting on the phone and talking and talking, largely about nothing. And I see people doing this all of the time. I just don’t get it. If I’m taking the time to call you, it’s important and needs some level of substantial discussion. Otherwise, text me. I can answer when I have the chance and it doesn’t interrupt my day.

I consider myself to have someone of an above average grasp of the English language and still this talent eludes me. It’s a valuable skill in many respects and sometimes people think it’s a “city” thing.

In my opinion, however, the “gift of gab,” as it is sometimes called, is far more common in rural communities than in more urban settings. You may have heard it said of someone that he or she, “never met a stranger.” What that means is that the individual in question has an easy time saying hello and striking up a conversation with pretty much anyone.

Many people in my family tend to be that way. When I was growing up I’d watch my dad go back and forth with a restaurant server or gas station attendant for what seemed to me as hours. I’d sit and wait while he discussed the traffic or the gas mileage of his farm truck or whatever. I never understood it.

I am just not the open communicator that one might need to be in those situations. I’m never rude, but I can be brusque. I just want to get in and get out. That said, there are people in or near my hometown that I know who work in various places and I’ll say hello or talk to them about something more meaningful. I enjoy those interactions, but I don’t want anyone to feel obligated to do so for my sake.

To me small talk is uniquely American and it has an important, albeit innocuous place in our society. I do wish, though, that when we could find more substantial common ground upon which to begin a dialogue with one another. Maybe someday.

Gery L. Deer is an independent columnist and business writer. More at deerinheadlines.com

 

Resisting the scientific ignorance of the GOP

In Education, history, National News, News Media, Opinion, Politics, Technology, Uncategorized on May 15, 2017 at 6:44 am

Deer In Headlines
By Gery L. Deer

I am the product of science. Well, the fact is, we are each a product of biological and chemical chain reactions that create human life. But, in my case, I was far more dependent on science than most people. I was born with myriad congenital defects that, without scientific research, would have otherwise left me, at best, hopelessly disabled, and at worst a lifespan of maybe 2 years.

While I do credit the faith of my doctor and family for their determination to see me through it all, I am far more grateful to the men and women who did the research and applied the science to my situation that saved my life and gave me a hopeful and healthy future.

Science is responsible for most things that we take for granted in modern, 21st Century first-world life. From penicillin and the electric light to computers and advanced cancer treatment, without science fact, our lives would be incomprehensibly different.

It’s for this reason that I cannot seem to grasp why so many Americans today turn a deaf ear to the scientific facts placed before them. Various representatives of the current presidential administration are continually making statements ignorant to known scientific facts, followed blindly by their supporters. None of this makes any sense.

So why do some people today seem to ignore scientific fact? That’s a very good question and one worth exploring. I have a hard time believing that people are just, well, stupid. It’s far more likely that a certain ignorance of scientific fact is a personal choice, based, I believe, on the following.

Trump and other Republican ignorance of science remind us of a child who doesn’t want to hear something a parent is telling them so he covers his ears.

First, I think that the average person just doesn’t understand most of the scientific information to which they are exposed. I’m not suggesting that people are stupid, but that most people simply aren’t trained or educated to understand the scientific jargon.

I wouldn’t expect the average person to have any clear understanding of factual climate change data. And once that data is encapsulated and truncated, even “translated” for use in a news broadcast, some of the information could be lost or distorted in some way.
Scientific data also lends itself to some degree of interpretation by the observer. If someone hasn’t the background to interpret the information being shown to them, it’s unlikely that an educated conclusion will result.

Next, comes politics, and a concept I find completely insane. What I can’t understand here is the staggering number of intelligent, educated people who follow the party line so blindly as to completely ignore facts in favor of rhetoric.

Just going along with what party leaders are doing, whether right or wrong, is certainly one of the main causes most of the trouble in America’s political system. Where are the intelligent, educated, GOP members on the inside who could stand up for scientific fact and be the voice of reason in an otherwise incomprehensibly ignorant administration?

It’s as if they were all whisked off to some bunker to be kept quiet until properly brainwashed to be the robotic mouthpieces of the administration defending whatever destructive policy is next proposed.

Finally, and again this is my own observation of people rather than an official survey, it’s my opinion that science too often conflicts with religious beliefs. Many people choose to what I have come to think of as pick and choose what science they decide to believe in.
Try to keep in mind that all science is the search for fact, not truth. Truth should be left to religious studies and philosophy. Scientific fact is not something you get to “believe in.” It either is or it is not, there’s no middle.

Why would we, the most powerful, supposedly the most technologically and socially advanced country on the planet, completely ignore an area of study that has saved the lives of millions of people throughout history in favor of political ideology?

Makes one wonder, if the White House and Congress can ignore scientific fact on things like climate change and health care, then what other important facts are they ignoring in something like national security?
Yes, the interpretation of scientific data can be inaccurate sometimes because fallible humans are involved. But flat-out ignorance of that information is inconceivable.

 

Gery Deer is an independent columnist and business writer based in Greene Co, Ohio. More at deerinheadlines.com