The Sunday Sermon: A Funny and Motivational TED Talk by Shia LaBeouf

Though this is a comedic and over-the-top presentation, you may find some motivation and sagely advice just the same.  🙂

Have a great week! As always, thank for reading and sharing. -Luke

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A Not-too-long, Boring, but Encouraging Coffee Shop Story

I often do some writing and editing at several local coffee shops. There is something about the energy I get from being around other people, mostly strangers, that draws words out of me.

Most of my visits to those diner-style coffee shops are uneventful. Some, more eventful. Others, very profound. (Even if only in a subtle way)

Two days ago, I stopped by my favorite local haunt to spend an hour editing the final draft of my new book, read a bit, and get a few cups of java down in me. The place was nearly empty when I arrived. After 30 minutes, I was the only customer there.

As I edited, I heard the shift manager complaining to the cook about the state of some other employees who call in often, are late, or just no-call/no-shows. The two men commiserated a bit as they swept the floor, rolled utensils tightly in paper napkins,  and did other tasks. Also, the manager called some servers on the phone in an attempt to shore-up the schedule for the rest of the week. He was only partially successful it seemed.

Then, a young (maybe 16 or 17 year old) waitress showed up. As she was walking in, the manager met her at the door, motioning with his arms in an “I don’t need you here” fashion. She walked in anyway, asking what the deal was. He explained that she had called in with only minutes notice a few days prior, put the rest of that day’s workers in a bind, and that he was considering firing her. She attempted to smooth the situation over, but wasn’t successful and left. A few minutes later, she came back in with a middle-aged man and  both walked toward the manager. I thought to myself, “This may turn into a blow-out,” and readied my camera phone just in case a video-worthy event took place. I have seen too many things get out of hand over the years and I am a bit edgy when I see people possibly heading toward a serious contention. I figured this guy might be “dad” coming in to straighten the boss out on behalf of his daughter.

The man and the manager started talking about the situation… and I was wonderfully surprised. I am a sucker for civil conversation. I absolutely love engaging in respectful discourse, even if the participants don’t agree on a particular matter. Also, I so rarely observe disagreeing parties in person or on social media who are able to succinctly present their case, hear the other’s, discuss both sides, and then achieve an amicable resolution, respectfully disagree, or agree on something that was previously disagreed on. Beyond that, observing a person change his or her mind on a firmly held position in 2015 is nigh to seeing a unicorn at the park.

Due to my persuasions regarding discourse, I was very happy to observe the manager express his concerns about the server’s performance and reliability in a respectful way and with an even temper. Then, the father-figure apologized for the issues on behalf of the girl. He asked for a second chance for the girl and gave credibility to the manager’s concerns. Also, the girl assured the manager of her commitment to do better and genuinely gave heed to his concerns. After some more conversation and consideration, the manager allowed for a write-up rather than firing. He clearly shared his expectations, which were reasonable, and the consequences present if they were not met. All parties ended the conversation respectfully, amicably, having reached a common position, and asserting a common goal. Not one voice had even been raised through the whole parley. I had to pinch myself.

I know that was a boring, everyday type of story. But, there is a great lesson to be gained. That being, our abilities to deal with other people, have conflicts, argue, discourse, and find common ground (or not) are “everyday” skills. They aren’t just for a college debate class, the board room, marriage counseling, or when some aspect of a relationship breaks down. Those abilities are for the coffee shop, for Facebook threads, for our home, for our friends, and even for our enemies.

Witnessing that interaction between three strangers encouraged me. I personally hope to do as well the next time I have some type of disagreement. Fellow humans, we’ve come a long way. We still have a long way to go. Pass the love on! 🙂

Here is a related TED talk by William Ury that I very much enjoy. If you have a spare 20 minutes, it would be worth your time.

-Luke

The Sunday Sermon: Christopher Hitchens on Life, Death, and Free Will (Video)

Here is one minute and 15 seconds  worth of wisdom for you from the oracle on the street, Christopher Hitches.

Christopher Hitchens (1949-2011) was a prolific author, journalist, political critic, debater, and speaker. For more information, see this link:

http://http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christopher_Hitchens

The Sunday Sermon: “Bertrand Russell’s Message to the Future”

 

I have watched this old video clip many times. I have never read or heard a more condensed, powerful, and comprehensive bit of spoken wisdom. Russell’s message speaks to humans of all religions and no religion. Listen carefully and more than once. Then, share! 🙂

For more information on Bertrand Russell:

Bertrand Russell on Wikipedia

Text of video clip:

“One last question: Suppose, Lord Russell, that this film will be looked at by our descendants, like the Dead Sea scroll, in a thousand years’ time. What would you think it’s worth telling that generation about the life you’ve lived and the lessons you’ve learned from it?

I should like to say two things, one intellectual and one moral. The intellectual thing I should want to say to them is this: When you are studying any matter, or considering any philosophy, ask yourself only what are the facts and what is the truth that the facts bear out. Never let yourself be diverted either by what you wish to believe, or by what you think would have beneficent social effects if it were believed, but look only, and solely, at what are the facts. That is the intellectual thing that I should wish to say.

The moral thing I should wish to say to them is very simple. I should say love is wise; hatred is foolish. In this world, which is getting more closely and closely interconnected, we have to learn to tolerate each other. We have to learn to put up with the fact that some people say things that we don’t like. We can only live together in that way; if we are to live together and not die together, we must learn a kind of charity and a kind of tolerance which is absolutely vital to the continuation of human life on this planet.”

– Interview of Bertrand Russell (1872-1970), British philosopher and mathematician and Nobel laureate, on BBC’s Face to Face (1959)

Here is a version of the video with Spanish subtitles:

On Sadness…

It is the damnedest thing… Sometimes it just hits me, seemingly out of nowhere. Real, palpable sadness.

I have never dealt with true depression in the clinical sense. The kind that you can’t wiggle and twist your way out of no matter what you do. That brand of deep, lasting, and relentless sadness that just clings to your mind like unkind, cold, rain-soaked clothing to your crying skin when you’re stuck outside in a storm, locked out of your own house, banging on the front door to be let in, with no one inside to hear your desperate plea.

I have a few good friends that struggle with that kind of depression. I am very sorry that they do and very thankful that I don’t.

But sadness, we all deal with that to a greater or lesser extent.

I am quite a happy guy in general. Optimistic too, but not to the point of self-delusion.

Yet, even with my normal, sunny disposition, sadness can creep into me at times. It is usually unexpected and visits at its own leisure, no appointment having been made ahead of time.

That was the case late tonight, or rather, this very early morning, only a bit after midnight. Nothing has the ability to stir my deepest parts like music. As I was doing a bit of ebay listing after the kids went to bed, I popped my earbuds in to listen to some tunes without keeping anyone awake. I listened to a bit of this and that on YouTube: Flatbush Zombies, Yelawolf, Kid Astro, etc, etc. I list fastest when banging hip-hop and rap in my ear holes.

Then, as I was finishing up, I randomly clicked over on, “Brick,” by Ben Folds Five. That was all it took. By the time I got to Regina Spektor, not with any intention of bringing on a cathartic experience, the sadness came to visit. It really didn’t have anything to do with the songs specifically. Just a flurry of micro-memories, flickers of past moments, thoughts, anticipations, and the utter and unavoidable gravity of just existing hit me all at once. Not only that, but the fact that it all goes away some day. Much like the arrival of sadness, mortality doesn’t tend to make appointments either.

As I have been editing the second draft of my new book, “Love is the Middle,” about my relationship with my deceased father, memories of him are frequent. Tonight, the reality of my current life, part of which includes the void his death created, came to mind. The overwhelming joy of being a father to my five kids crashed right into my lament over being a fatherless son like dissonant chords. I also considered the fact that one day, my wife and the love of my life, will either leave me behind on this side of death’s veil or I will leave her. (A desirable and tidy Notebook movie ending aside). Altogether, three things hit me at once: sadness over lost people that I love, knowing what I love now will not always be, and as Christopher Hitchens once eloquently said about death,

“It will happen to all of us, that at some point you get tapped on the shoulder and told, not just that the party’s over, but slightly worse: the party’s going on — but you have to leave. And it’s going on without you.”

So, what can we do when those truths about our mortality, our love, our loss, and more losses to come show up front and center? How do we handle the times when our feelings of joy, happiness, and contentment are interrupted and invaded by sadness?

I will give you the best advice I have, right from “behind the lines” of some present sadness in real time… Embrace it. Don’t shuck it off in a premature fashion. Let it burn a while and do its work. Sadness, even the deepest sadness, is a necessary part of life. In a strange, ironic way, it is a good part of life. Not the best part by far, but a good part. Sadness is an honest friend, reminding you and I not to take time, things, and most importantly, people, for granted. Sadness says to us, “Friend- you will not have all of this forever. It is only for a while at best. So, wring your life out for every last drop, bitter or sweet. Many billions have come and gone and do not have the present privilege of treading on the lively side of the green grass on this earth. You do. Don’t waste this moment. Don’t waste this day. Love someone. And, by the way… don’t forget to start with yourself.”

Thank you, sadness, for stopping by. I didn’t expect to see you today, but it has been real.

– Luke

I’ll leave you good people with a song. Before I decided to share all of this with you kind friends and strangers, “How,” hit me right in the feels.

Be Sure to Vote in the Mid-Term Elections Today!

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My “I Voted Today” sticker from the polls today- Luke Austin Daugherty

I made it out to my local polling station with my wife this morning. We intended to miss the heavy traffic there by showing up after early morning voters and before those coming at lunch. Our strategy worked and we were in and out in less than ten minutes 🙂 Not much of a sacrifice to do our civic duty.

I encourage you to make your voice heard today as well! Do your due diligence, inform yourself on your candidates, and vote your conscience. If you don’t like any of the candidates, write one it or vote, “no confidence.” Just vote. It’s not too late to go to your local polling station today. If you don’t know where it is, please click this link to find out:

https://2014.votinginfoproject.org/

If you need more encouragement regarding the importance of voting in this mid-term election, please watch this satirical, yet important segment from Last Week with John Oliver:

Please Vet Your Social Media Shares- Here is an Example of Fear Porn Bullshit

texas militia

Screen shot of the video link below

We all have them… Facebook friends who just lust after “Fear Porn.” You know, spooky stories with only a meme or link to a sketchy website for “evidence” of some new terrorist threat, food that will kill you, something that will cure cancer, or some other ridiculous news story.

Generally, when you examine the social media pages of these types of folks, you find a regularly watered tree of social media bullshit. They see no reason to vet anything. As long as it supports their particular ideology, faith, or political leanings, they post that new link for all to see. There can be a particular relish for Fear Porn with these types. They love to be seen as “in the know” among their social media peers and enjoy getting other people’s blood pressure elevated with their posts.

“What is ‘Fear Porn?” you may ask… My definition would be, “Bullshit stories on the Internet which are originally constructed by intentional liars and then shared like a virus by credulous people with a desire to make life seem more exciting artificially.”

Though, I do enjoy the definition on the Urban Dictionary website for comedic reasons:

“Fear Porn- Conspiracy theorist information used to generate sexual excitement in Red necks, religious extremists and dudes that live in their mom’s basement.”

I found myself considering the issue of Fear Porn sharing when I first logged on to Facebook this morning. A Facebook friend had shared a new “story” from another person’s page. It was a video with the caption, “Yesterday mexican police tipped off the texas melita that iSIS WAS GOING TO CROSS OVER IN TO TEXAS AFTER SUNSET. TEXANS SETUP A WELCOMING PARTY. 25,000 ARMED TEXANS MET THEM last night as they tried to cross. The ones not shot quickly retreated.”

The moment I saw the post, my skeptical antenna picked up the story’s BS qualities: no actual source cited, poorly constructed caption, original poster is some ‘Murican type dude trying to gain a following on social media the easy way. Believe me, he’ll pick the low hanging fruit with no trouble at all.

Here is a link to the original post. Be warned, it may not be up for long if the original poster catches too much flack over it.

Then, I clicked the video. Seconds into it, I thought, “Hey… this is just a video of the Knob Creek Machine Gun Shoot in Kentucky!” I have never been there, but have known some people who have years ago. The event includes a night shoot where a bunch of people blast their machine guns into the hillside using tracer rounds.

For contrast, here is another video of the same night shoot from another person in 2006:

Here is the thing my friends; we live in an age where ANYONE and I mean AAANNNNYYYYYOOOONNNNEEEEE can use a re-edited video, a picture from some war or old news story, a photoshopped image, or create a quote meme to propagate total bullshit on the Interwebs. As a human, alive in the modern age, and on social media, you MUST become good researcher. You MUST employ an appropriate level of skeptical analysis. You MUST do your due diligence before sharing wild news stories and such. When bullshit stories and memes are shared, they contribute to the sum total of wasted time for and the dumbing down of your fellow humans on social media. Are there ever amazing stories, new discoveries, and/or staggering events that happen? Sure. But, thanks to irresponsible sharing on social media, the fewer true stories are made harder to find by the many fake ones.

It helps to have an epistemological foundation based on demonstrable evidence and reasoned logic rather than emotional whim, faith, and confirmation bias. In the digital media age, skepticism is the appropriate mode.

There are some great online tools which make sussing out Fear Porn bullshit easy: Google, Snopes, Google Image Search, and many more. They are free… please use them 🙂

Here are some memes that I created which relate to this issue. Please feel free to use them when confronting Fear Porn and other Interweb bullshit.

For credulous posters of BS who actually believe it…

Gandhi meme by Luke Austin Daugherty

Gandhi meme by Luke Austin Daugherty

For those who quote mine, but particularly quote mine using fake quotes…

Abraham Lincoln meme by Luke Austin Daugherty

Abraham Lincoln meme by Luke Austin Daugherty

For those who do not even bother to Google search before posting…

"Do you even Google" meme by Luke Austin Daugherty

“Do you even Google” meme by Luke Austin Daugherty

and my favorite for general purposes 🙂

Smokey the Bear Bullshit meme by Luke Austin Daugherty

Smokey the Bear Bullshit meme by Luke Austin Daugherty

My Kids Share Their Top Two Life Lessons

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Last week, I gave my four youngest kids a little two-part assignment. I asked them to first consider the two most important life lessons they have acquired during their tenure on planet Earth thus far. Second, to write them down in brief. Each youngster spent some time independently working on their thoughtful answers. I noticed that a couple of reoccurring themes surfaced. They did such a good job that I wanted to share their advice on my blog. The kids all said it would be fine with them. Here are the sagely proverbs they each wrote. Maybe there is something here you can use in your own life, no matter what your age may be 🙂

Nathanael- 14 years old:

 

  1. Don’t waste time on something or someone who is not worth it. Focus on what you are doing.
  2. If you want to do something, then do it.

 

Caleb- 14 years old:

 

  1. When studying anything, look at the facts.
  2. Live in the now.

 

Lydia- 13 years old:

 

  1. Don’t live in the future or the past. Live in the present.
  2. Every yes to one thing is a no to something else. Every no to one thing is a yes to something else.

 

Charity- 10 years old:

  1. Don’t let people talk you in to something you don’t want to do.
  2. Every yes in life is a no to something else. Every no in life is a yes to something else.

A Prank Too Far- When Does a Prank Stop Being Funny?

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An interesting phenomenon has developed over the last several years via the reach of youtube- the rise of independent, “professional” pranksters. These are creative people who started out small, and due to their consistent and well-filmed prank videos, have reached a certain level of internet fame. For some, that fame and the ad revenue it produces even makes for a full time personal income allowing them more time to focus on their art of creating prank videos.

If you are into the prank videos on youtube, you may know some of the primary pranksters well. Many of their videos go so viral that even if you aren’t into watching the pranks, you will see the links posted on various social media sites. Other videos become so popular that they are referenced in major news stories nationally and internationally. A few of the “kings” of youtube prank channels are Jack Vale (the Pooter guy), edbassmaster, Roman Atwood, Vitaly at VitalyzdTV, Tom Mabe at MabeInAmerica, PrankvsPrank, The Scary Snowman, Dennis Roady, MagicofRahat, and others. Some of these pranksters have also learned the trick to being one of the “popular kids” as it were. That is, you team up and tell the populace that the other person is cool too. So, some popular pranksters often team-up to do videos and pranks together. It is brilliant cross marketing and pools their creative resources as well.

These viral pranks range greatly in their nature, style of execution, and subject matter. Some are just goofy “fart” pranks pulled off in public spots, stores, or elevators. See Jack Vale’s video’s for the best examples of these.

Others are also very simplistic in nature, but always have a great payoff, such as the Scary Snowman videos.

Hey, fake farts and people getting startled have always been and will always be funny. Video pranks will vary from those simple and relatively harmless versions all the way to some very potentially dangerous ones. Some pranksters have also made a real effort to use some of their pranks to benefit others or have done social experiments to raise awareness of some important issues. I applaud the noble efforts of such pranksters to use their art form in the service of helping others to whatever degree they can.

But, there are two other categories of prank videos that I would like to address. Actually, the two have some overlap. That is, pranks that can potentially (or likely) cause harm to the public and pranks that waste the resources of emergency or police services. I was inspired to address this issue after seeing several of those types of videos being discussed by people on Facebook in the last few weeks. It seems that there is a one-upmanship battle going on between the royalty of youtube pranksters. The nature of some of these pranks is getting more ridiculous and/or dangerous. Please know, I am not a “fuddy-duddy” that doesn’t get a kick out of a ton of the pranks I see. Yet, in day to day life, I am not a prankster myself. Since I don’t like being messed with personally, I don’t dish it out either. But, due to the rise of the “professional prankster” some of them think that saying, “IT’S JUST A PRANK!” after doing something crazy in public somehow puts them “on base” from any repercussions.

As a disclaimer and qualifier, I do not condone violence against another person merely over words or insult. I do support defending one’s self when you believe that you are in immediate danger, are being actively and physically intimidated, actually attacked, or are defending another person who is in one of those situations. I would assert that some of these pranksters are going too far and becoming reckless in a way that is dangerous to themselves and others with some recent pranks.

Since I have enjoyed watching youtube pranks for years, I have tried to hold back on being too judgmental on some “iffy” pranks that I have seen online. But, the first one I saw from a major prankster, in this case Roman Atwood, that I think definitely crossed the line is the one below:

The “Drive-by Shooting Prank” is just reckless, stupid, and dangerous. If you noticed, one person actually shot back at Atwood’s vehicle toward the end of the video. Atwood is lucky that the shooter was a poor shot and no one else had a car handy to chase his SUV down in to return real fire. Here are my main points of contention about that prank:
1. Going to a potentially high-crime neighborhood where people are already on edge and making random people think they are really being shot at is just negligent, unthinking, and lacks compassion. I would like Atwood or any other prankster who thinks such a prank is funny to consider what it would be like to walk out your front door, your small child in tow, to what you think is a real drive-by shooting pointed in your direction. Would that just be “ha-ha” funny? Would that just be all good after your and your child were terrified? I know there was not a small child apparent in the video, but I appeal to Atwood’s sensibilities (if he sees this blog) knowing his is a father.
2. The prankster his or herself could actually be injured.
3. The people who believe they are being shot at may assume that they know who is shooting at them: a neighboring gang, a person who they have had trouble with before, etc. and take revenge. Or, they may just go looking for a person who was driving the same kind of vehicle as the supposed shooter to get back at them. That is the type of thing that can happen in the real world.
4. Likely, police or emergency services are called because of such a situation. That wastes resources paid for by taxpayers at large for ridiculous reasons. It also can create a potential investigation that could falsely implicate an innocent person.

The recently posted video just below, “Killer Clown Scare Prank,” inspired a lengthy discussion on Facebook last week between quite a few people. (Graphic scenes)

That Killer Clown video is another example of a prank gone too far in my opinion. Many of the comments on Facebook had to do with the assertion that the person commenting would have reacted violently or shot the “clown.” Some of that may have been hyperbole, but I would say the majority of the people commenting were being literal. I myself live in a state, Indiana, which has a substantial amount of people who carry a concealed pistol, myself included. It would be reasonable in my opinion, especially in a city like Indianapolis with a crazy murder rate, to fire at a person who you believe is trying to attack you with a hammer, ax, knife, etc. It is inevitable that one of these pranksters engaging in highly irresponsible pranks will eventually be seriously hurt or killed. With so many real tweakers and violent people out there, as an individual on the street, you can’t just not act in a situation because there is a 1% chance you may be the target of a prank. Several pranksters have even been punched or slammed to the ground after doing a prank when they faked stealing a person’s property or said something highly offensive. Again, I don’t condone a violent reaction to words. But, you can’t expect to say crazy things to random people in public and not get hit eventually. Of course, it makes for great video and lots of “clicks,” so getting hit may be worth it to some pranksters. See the following for an example: (language warning)

Last, I would mention pranks that demean people. Even if done under the label of “helping” these pranks are in poor taste. Sure, people can do whatever they want for the most part and should be able to in making videos. But, I can also share my thoughts. In the following video, helping needy people is done in a way that is demeaning at the same time. If you’re going to give homeless folks money, do it in a way that doesn’t involve apparently blowing money out of your ass guys. Just because the homeless will take the money any way they can get it, does’t mean you should force them to grovel for money from your butt (of course, it isn’t really, but that isn’t the point)

In Atwood’s defense, he has fed the homeless and given money on several occasions in previous videos in much more tasteful ways (see the link below). And, he and his team have made tons of great prank videos as well. He is actually one of the best all-around pranksters online. Though, the push to get more and more sensational has to hit a wall at some point.

It is my hope that responsible pranking will continue. But, I implore youtube pranksters to mix in a bit of common sense and refrain from doing obviously dangerous pranks and/or pranks that waste police and emergency services. To my surprise, Roman Atwood, the prankster from the “Drive by Shooting” prank recently discovered a prank that was too much for even him. But hey, stealing gas when it’s over $4 a gallon could get you killed anywhere…

Thanks for reading and sharing! For a bit of comic relief, enjoy this classic SNL skit that relates to this blog perfectly 🙂

SNL Prankster Skit with Christopher Walken