Tuesday, August 14, 2012

The Gift of Life

My dad had lung cancer for 16 years. I never asked whether or not he needed any blood products during that time. Today at work we learned that cancer patients use 10 to 20 units of platelets during chemotherapy. That means it takes 10 to 20 heroes to keep one cancer patient healthy during each round of chemotherapy. Somewhere out there, a minimum of 20 people helped my dad stay healthy during his lifetime. Thank you.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Marketing Yourself With Interesting Facts

Whether it's for an author profile, query letter or interview, the dreaded "Tell Me About Yourself" question can stop the conversation dead in its tracks. In an interview, a long pause before you answer paints an arrow straight out the door. The wrong author blurb takes your reader straight to the next book on the shelf or the next tab in the browser window after making a split-second judgment that your lifeless profile means that your story will be equally lacking.

List Unique Accomplishments

Listing unique accomplishments helps potential employers remember you, according to organizational consultant Ronnie Ann, the founder of Work Coach Cafe. Things like taking live-action photos at rodeos or creating and marketing one-of-a-kind crocheted fashions tell potential employers that you make things happen instead of waiting for someone else to get things moving. Running a charity to teach needlework skills to girls in Africa or living in a tree house in Ohio in late November as research for outdoor living articles also make great icebreakers during an interview.

Provide Relevant Details

When you list your accomplishments, tell potential employers how the experience and knowledge you gained and the skills you used will make you effective in the open position. For example, running a nonprofit corporation requires researching community resources, creating strategic alliances and meeting or exceeding performance and service benchmarks. People with these skills make excellent candidates for executive positions.

Be specific. State that you reduced the wait time between referral for service and actual service delivery from two years to two months, for example, if you directed a planned respite service. If you served as a member of the county board of trustees in your community, state that you ensured that a long-awaited sewer project went through on schedule and within budget.

Tell the Truth

Whatever facts you provide, resist the temptation to exaggerate your role or fabricate an experience. Provide photos, press clippings, letters of commendation and any other relevant documents that back your statements. Create backup files for online portfolios and make copies of everything in your physical collection.

Practice Your Delivery

Pausing too long or fumbling for words after an interviewer asks you to tell him about yourself shows a lack of self-confidence, according to Scott Ginsberg, author of "The Power of Approachability." Practice your exciting facts speech in front of friends and relatives. Record or videotape yourself so that you can examine and correct your posture, eye contact, and voice.


Work Coach Cafe: 10 Things I Look for When I Screen Resumes and Cover Letters

The Ladders: 10 Good Ways to "Tell Me About Yourself"

Monday, May 21, 2012

By Hook or By Crook: Skullduggery and Disenfranchisement in Arizona

Dear Arizona Secretary of State Ken Bennett:

It is my understanding that you intend to allow 1200 people to disenfranchise all the other voters in the state of Arizona by refusing to place President Barack Obama's name on the ballot. As a registered voter in Arizona, I am outraged and appalled at the complete effrontery of:

A. Disrespecting the office of the President of the United States of America by refusing to allow a sitting president to run on Arizona's ballot.

B. Disrespecting the voters of the state of Arizona by refusing them the opportunity to vote for the candidate of their choice.

C. Patronizing the voters of the state of Arizona by implying, through your refusal to allow a sitting president to run for office, that they do not have enough sense to know who they should trust with the most important office in the United States.

I feel sorry for someone so craven that they cannot go toe to toe with their foes in a legitimate and fair election, but instead must stoop to every dirty trick they can envision in order to advance their own personal agenda. Shame on you!

My vote counts just as much as any other person's vote in this state, and I want Barack Obama's name on the ballot. If he is not allowed to run, whoever wins the election will always know that his victory is hollow, based on lies and half-truths. Such a presidency is doomed to failure. Whoever runs for President of the United States in Arizona needs to win in a true, fair and honest election, not through trickery and skullduggery, and definitely not through placing a higher value on the opinions of 1200 voters than on all others.


Jane M. Smith,
registered voter in the state of Arizona.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Annular Solar Eclispe May 20 2012

I took these photos at 6:15 PM Arizona time, while wearing a pair of 99-percent UV-reduction welder's glasses and a hat to block the sun from my eyes. I love the effect of the rays over the back wall of the yard. The palm tree in the background is about a full block away and stands about three stories tall. I'll take more photos around 6:30 PM. The apparent change in the sun's position from north of the palm to south of it was me taking photos from multiple angles, not any genuine movement of the sun itself. I think that pink-orange arc might be an optical illusion.

Sunset, 6:15 PM AZT May 20, 2012 by Jack V. Sage

Sunset B, 6:15 PM AZT May 20, 2012 by Jack V. Sage

Sunset C, 6:15 PM AZT May 20, 2012 by Jack V. Sage

Sunset D, 6:15 PM AZT May 20, 2012 by Jack V. Sage

Sunset E, 6:15 PM AZT May 20, 2012 by Jack V. Sage

Sunset F, 6:15 PM AZT May 20, 2012 by Jack V. Sage

Sunset G, 6:15 PM AZT May 20, 2012 by Jack V. Sage

Sunset H, 6:15 PM AZT May 20, 2012 by Jack V. Sage
I took this next batch of photos at 6:30 PM AZ time, two houses over for the first two, and about half a block north of the house for the other six. I had to move because the sun dropped too far below the horizon to see it over the roof of the houses behind ours. It makes a beautiful scene over the neighbor's Cereus peruvianus.

Sunset A, 6:30 PM AZT May 20, 2012 by Jack V. Sage

Sunset B, 6:30 PM AZT May 20, 2012 by Jack V. Sage

Sunset C, 6:30 PM AZT May 20, 2012 by Jack V. Sage

Sunset D, 6:30 PM AZT May 20, 2012 by Jack V. Sage

Sunset E, 6:30 PM AZT May 20, 2012 by Jack V. Sage

Sunset F, 6:30 PM AZT May 20, 2012 by Jack V. Sage

Sunset G, 6:30 PM AZT May 20, 2012 by Jack V. Sage

Sunset H, 6:30 PM AZT May 20, 2012 by Jack V. Sage

I took this last set of photos between 6:50PM and 7:15PM AZ time. The sun kept dropping below the horizon faster than I could walk to keep up with it, so I never did get a shot of the eclipse itself. There was a bite out of the upper left arc of the sun by 7:15, and the sunset was a bright neon orange to bright neon pink.

Sunset A, 6:50 PM AZT May 20, 2012 by Jack V. Sage
Sunset B, 6:50 PM AZT May 20, 2012 by Jack V. Sage

Sunset C, 7:15 PM AZT May 20, 2012 by Jack V. Sage

Sunset D, 7:15 PM AZT May 20, 2012 by Jack V. Sage

Monday, May 7, 2012

Artists and Writers: Create Your Space

Artists and writers both need a workspace that inspires creativity. I share a workspace that faces a big picture window, so it has plenty of natural light during the day. I use a shop light at night, since our floor lamp has seen better days.The laptop sits on a Lifetime folding show table made of molded plastic, and I have a big red core ball for a chair. I have a one-drawer side table at the left end of my shop table, and a corner-style computer desk holds most of our art supplies. The floor lamp sits at the right end of the corner desk, and we have a two-drawer, single-shelf night stand to the right of the floor lamp, holding our acrylic paints, paper and assorted boxes that we pull apart, fold and store until we need them.

A metal display shelf turned on its short side leans against the east wall of the house, providing a place to hang spare eyeglasses, a Valentine's Day rose, tweezers, nail clippers and a few jewelry tools. All the paintbrushes, sponge brushes and clay tools sit in bottles, jars and cocoa containers, waiting for the next project. To the left of the shelf you see an "ideas in progress" area, with notes about ideas that spring up in the middle of other projects. To the left of the picture window you see a mini gallery of finished paintings and a second motivational/idea area.

Clutter piles up over time, which blocks creative flow. Dust makes things feel stale, and balls of paper, cardboard and other assorted bits and pieces build negativity. Once all that trash gets bagged and hauled out, the room has a fresh, vibrant feeling.

View from my work station. Photo 1 by Jack V. Sage, May 2012

View from my work station. Photo 2 by Jack V. Sage, May 2012

"On the Hunt" Acrylic Wash by Jack V. Sage, Photo 1, May 6, 2012

"On the Hunt" Acrylic Wash by Jack V. Sage, Photo 2, May 6, 2012

Friday, April 20, 2012

C is for Character: Unless You're Gay

With Phoenix Pride Weekend beginning this morning, with the parade at 11 AM Arizona time, I have to take a moment to address an issue that had me speechless when I learned of it. One of the writers featured on this blog, Walter Thomas Beck III of Indiana, has been fired from his current job as a summer camp counselor with the Boys Scouts of America for stating the following on Facebook:

“Alright, in the interest of public service, I am about to release the real homosexual agenda. I hope all you out there are taking notes, here it is:

We, the GLBTQ Citizens of the United States of America, want the same rights and promises of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, we want to be able to defend our country, have families and provide for them, we want our children to be well-educated and treated with respect, we want our lives to quit being used as political fodder by the Religious Right, we are human beings and we are American Citizens, we are entitled to the same rights, promises and protections as outlined in the United States Constitution.

There you are, the real homosexual agenda. Are there any questions?”
Anyone who can read that and find anything offensive in it needs to examine their values, so here goes. According to the Boy Scouts of America, on their very own website, their 12 Core Values are as follows:

Cub Scouting's 12 Core Values

  1. Citizenship: Contributing service and showing responsibility to local, state, and national communities.
  2. Compassion: Being kind and considerate, and showing concern for the well-being of others.
  3. Cooperation: Being helpful and working together with others toward a common goal
  4. Courage: Being brave and doing what is right regardless of our fears, the difficulties, or the consequences.
  5. Faith: Having inner strength and confidence based on our trust in God.
  6. Health and Fitness: Being personally committed to keeping our minds and bodies clean and fit.
  1. Honesty: Telling the truth and being worthy of trust.
  2. Perseverance: Sticking with something and not giving up, even if it is difficult.
  3. Positive Attitude: Being cheerful and setting our minds to look for and find the best in all situations.
  4. Resourcefulness: Using human and other resources to their fullest.
  5. Respect: Showing regard for the worth of something or someone.
  6. Responsibility: Fulfilling our duty to God, country, other people, and ourselves.
In its very first core value, Citizenship, The Boy Scouts of America state that every scout, including Eagle Scout and 9-year camp counselor Walter Thomas Beck III, is supposed to serve the entire local, state and national community.

In its second core value, Compassion, the Boy Scouts of America states that every scout is supposed to care what happens to other people.

Their third core value, Cooperation, means working toward common goals that benefit everyone in the community.

It is Core Value Number Four, however, where Walter Thomas Beck III excels, and where the Boy Scouts of America have chosen to teach him a lesson by rendering him both unemployed and unemployable in the future anywhere else: Courage. It takes courage to choose between a job you love and the community that you know needs your voice. It takes courage to stand up for what is right when it will cost you your future ability to earn a living in your chosen field. Above all, it takes courage to speak out, not just for your own community members and yourself, but for those in even more marginalized groups: gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, intersex and non-gender-conforming people.

Beck definitely exercises his Faith, listed as Core Value Number Five by the Boy Scouts of America. He is an ordained minister, spending his time providing spiritual reassurance to those who have been ostracized and fighting against those who spend their time spewing venom at people who are already at the end of their ropes.

His willingness to be Honest in the face of all of the disciplinary power waged against him, standing up for the right of future scouts and their family members to participate in all aspects of Scouting is inspiring. His Perseverance, demonstrated by nine years of service and by his having achieved the status of Eagle Scout are also unquestionable.

Walter Thomas Beck III expresses a Positive Attitude, maintaining the hope that somehow this current struggle will help other gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender or queer scouts and their family members. His Resourcefulness in turning to social media as a platform to advance the rights of all people to serve and participate in Scouting earns him the Rainbow Arrow, an award that was created specifically to honor that struggle and its accompanying sacrifice. The Rainbow Arrow is a Human Being award, and if anyone deserves it, Beck certainly does.

Respect includes self-respect. Self-respect requires an ability to stand in the face of attempts to marginalize and silence you, which Beck certainly has done. Self-respect also includes having the gumption to believe that all of the benefits of society are just as much yours by right of existence as anyone else, and yes, even if you are gay, or lesbian, or bisexual, or transgender or queer. Human rights do not depend on whether or not we conform to the gender binary, who we sleep with or which bathroom we use. Human rights belong to all. Even if you're gay, bisexual, lesbian, transgender or queer.

Finally, Beck epitomizes boy Scouts of America's Core Value Number Twelve: Responsibility. He has placed his life, fortune and sacred honor on the line to stand up for the right of everyone, everywhere, to be treated with dignity and respect and to serve in the community in all capacities. Beck dared to publish "The Real Homosexual Agenda" on his Facebook page, and dared to publicly kiss a man during a counter-protest against Westboro Baptist Chuch.

Today, Tempe Tempest of Arizona honors that sacrifice by presenting Walter Thomas Beck III with the very first Rainbow Arrow Award. Designed by Jordan Ethan Michael of Mississippi, the rainbow represents the entire community, while the arrow represents the determination and courage Beck displayed when he sacrificed his employability rather than lie about what he believes is important in life.

Patch design by Jordan Ethan Michael of Mississippi, 2012


Sunday, April 8, 2012

A is for Action in Aceh: Save the Orangutans

My friend and fellow writer Judith Wilson reminded me that the fight to preserve orangutan habitat in Sumatra's Tripa peat forest is far from over. As of today, 25,668 people have taken a stand and signed the petition at Care2Petitionsite.com in hopes of preserving the habitat that supports these beautiful creatures. The Sumatran orangutan population has dropped to approximately 6000 individuals, of which 3000 were living in Tripa, where PT Kallista Alam has burned over 1500 hectares of habitat, killing nearly 2800 orangutans and leaving the remaining 200 at risk of starvation, according to the Sumatran Orangutan Society. Please sign the petition and educate yourself about the mindless destruction taking place so that PT Kallista Alam can produce palm kernel oil.

Sign this petition at Rainforest Action Network as well.

Call or write to PT Kallista Alam to demand that they cease destroying orangutan habitat.

For more information about the orangutan, and a place to find orangutan wallpaper for your desktop, visit National Geographic.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Poet's Spotlight: Life Through Broken Pens

Where do unrepentant poets go for rehab
When words insist on flowing through their brains like spiced rum,
Lost in smoke, scrawling mad meanderings while trawling for attention?

~Jack V. Sage

Terre Haute hardcore poet Walter Thomas Beck III provides a must-have antidote to the apathy bred from a life hooked into the Internet, the 21st century's version of the idiot box. In his 30-page chapbook, "Life Through Broken Pens" Beck expresses a desire to have poetry scribbled in public bathroom stalls, carved into the sides of park benches and spray-painted on alley walls. He wants to see poetry performed live, "with the zeal and lust of hellfire preachers."

Beck grabs the reader by the throat from the very first word of the very first poem in the chapbook, forcing a confrontation with the status quo. Beck's poem, "Revolution Summer" leads the pride parade, extolling the virtues of fifth-column activism on behalf of freaks and misfits. Beck weaves the daily frustrations of trying to "conform or be cast out" into battle hymns, using poetry as both sword and shield.

In "To Live as an American" he urges the reader to "challenge and question all authority, even if you agree with it" as an expression of ultimate patriotism, and includes Hunter S. Thompson, Allen Ginsberg and Robert Mapplethorpe in his list of patriots, making them coequal with Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson.

Beck's scathing condemnation of "the joys of ignorance" and the "patriotic and biblical duty of absolute obedience" in his poem "Family Education" will sail past many people's heads, but if just one reader finds the inspiration to question "the hard reality of corruption and brutality" and joins the social radicals and outlaws, he will be thrilled at the success.

As if having his poetry published just in time for his birthday was not thrilling enough, Beck opted to use a portion of the proceeds from each sale to support HOPE House in Phoenix, Arizona. HOPE House supports the transgender community by providing housing and other services to people in transition. Run by Michael Eric Brown and his wife, Lillian, HOPE House provides the stability and safety that make successful transition possible.

Order "Life Through Broken Pens" today!

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Who's Watching You?

You never know when a potential employer might be watching you, as I learned this past Friday. Fortunately, I had been doing my job with verve and gusto since day one, getting as fully-involved and pulling as much enjoyment out of sign-waving as I possibly could.

Many people make the mistake of thinking that the job they are doing does not matter if it doesn't pay much, doesn't require any education, or requires wearing a uniform or costume. These are the people who think of their jobs as dead ends. They show up late for work, leave early, do as little as they can to get by and collect their paycheck. They don't concern themselves with the health of the company. They treat the job like a chain around their ankle instead of using it as a platform to showcase their potential.

Waving a sign while wearing a costume is not a job that many would even consider doing. Driving traffic into a business is the first step to its ability to thrive, however. Done well, sign-waving causes potential customers to associate your business with having fun, getting things done without a hassle, and being treated with dignity and respect. A waver who smiles, dances and greets everyone, either by making eye contact with drivers and passengers or by speaking with everyone who passes by on foot establishes rapport before your customer ever decides whether to use your services.

A business owner came up to me this week, gave me his card and told me he had been watching me work over the past three months. He complimented my enthusiasm, commitment, attendance and the way I treated people and said that he wanted me to consider working for him. I was both floored and relieved, since the waving job is due to end on April 17 and I had not yet nailed down my next job. So on Monday, I have an interview to decide what my duties in that new position will entail, and to figure out how to fit the new schedule around my current one.

So don't be afraid to give a so-called "dead-end" job your all. You never know who's watching and where it might lead.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

No, You Don't Get Free Samples

For some reason, people with supposedly normal intelligence expect writers to produce custom-made sample articles for free. Craigslist and other freelance writing gig sites overflow with these requests. Many of the requests come from content mills, but mainstream magazines and newspapers are equally guilty of expecting freebies.

The most recent request I received came from Ink'd Writers. I had already sent them a cross-section of live links to my published articles at Hidden Valley, the Houston Chronicle, Livestrong and this blog. They replied with "What an impressive portfolio you have!" Then they asked for two 300-word sample introductions so they could "determine how familiar" I am with "writing for an online audience."

I've been "writing for an online audience" for five years now, guys. No one expects any other professional to work for free. What makes you think any writer worthy of a single column inch would give away work?

Somehow, the argument that I need to give you  "a more direct feel for how you write in comparison to others" just doesn't hold any water. You're looking for free articles, plain and simple. What you are doing is dishonest, whether you intend to stitch everyone's samples together or coax the remainder of each article from the "lucky" writer you finally select.  No, you do not get my work for free. If you want me to write for you, pay for it.

If you are a new writer, don't fall for flattery of this type, and don't take the bait when someone asks for a free, custom-written sample of your work. Your time, your research and your word choices all have value.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Product Lines

Kim Adams Francis posted in her blog, The Classic Quill, that many freelancers and entrepreneurs fail to identify and define their actual product. For freelance writers, says Francis, this means defining whether you are selling articles, an e-book or yourself. My experiences as a jewelry, metalwork and spray paint art vendor taught me the importance of multiple product lines, but applying that knowledge to the writing world has been hit-or-miss.

For example, when I started this blog, I intended to showcase fellow artists, poets, musicians and writers, along with businesses in Tempe and Phoenix, Arizona; Asheville, North Carolina; Portland and Lewiston, Maine; Atlanta and Athens, Georgia; and all over Ohio, Indiana and Kentucky. I stuck to my intentions for the first month, but my focus has strayed this month in the effort to participate in the Ultimate Blog Challenge. That has to stop soon, because the focus on a given quantity of posts reduces quality. Instead, my remaining posts for the month will focus on writing effective press releases, because the market is wide open right now.

1. Effective press releases must answer as many questions as possible about the event, whether it is a product launch, grand opening or performance. Include the sponsor and any performers, the location where the event will take place, the time and duration of the event, and why attendance matters.

2. Include the name of the event and the date, time and location in the introduction, and the name of the organizer or contact person in the second paragraph.

3. Quote the headliner and anyone who has attended similar prior events if you have enough time before your deadline. Use quotes that you know will provoke a response without going overboard, but do not censor yourself so much that your copy lacks a voice.

4. Repeat the date, time and location in the final paragraph, along with a strong call to action. Avoid such phrases as "Be there or be square." Instead, tell your readers what they will be missing, whether it's gritty street poetry, new art media or the opportunity to be the first to visit a new night spot.

5. Read the comments readers leave, both before and after the event. Respond to any questions you receive prior to the event as soon as you see them, to ensure that readers have all the information they need. Modify your press release to include any information prompted by reader questions. Forward the comments your receive after the event to the organizer and headliner, so that they can incorporate that feedback into their next event.

Friday, January 20, 2012


If you have ever caught yourself feeling slightly angry and dismissive about things you don't have, you might be suffering from invidia. No, that is not a misspelling of a brand name for popular computer components. The term describes a specific form of envy, although it encompasses far more than the English word does. Invidia comes mixed with anger, and with a belief that others somehow lied, stole or cheated their way to success.

Any time you lack basic necessities, invidia may rear its ugly head, which makes it especially difficult to combat. That anger and resentment manifest in your voice and demeanor. Rather than helping you get your basic needs met, that resentment causes others to rear back and blame you for your lack of resources. As difficult as it may be to be happy for others when they receive an award, earn a position, snag available work hours or find a bargain that you desperately needed, the only way to combat invidia is to congratulate that person on his good fortune.

For those who have the basics and a little more, however, there is a flip side to invidia that should never be ignored. While it does not have its own term, this reverse form of invidia motivates people to trumpet their success to someone they know lacks basic needs. The successful one knows the other person lacks key resources, but just can't resist twisting the knife. This need to dog the other person in order to enjoy one's own success baffles me.

I enjoy hearing about the things that go right for others. I am on my own path, which will eventually lead to the things I want from life. Right now, a few of those things are lacking, but that is temporary. So until my own goals come to fruition, I am very happy to hear that things are working out for others. It keeps me motivated when I am tempted to give up.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Ultimate Blog Challenge Post 13: Visit from a Grackle

 Today's post is the transcript from my YouTube video, "Ultimate Blog Challenge Day Twelve: Totem Animals" Enjoy!

Hi! Jack V. Sage here. This is post 12 of the Ultimate Blog Challenge, and yes, once again I have skipped some posts. I will eventually go back, maybe, and fill those in.

I wanted to talk today about totem animals. Those of you who have been following me know that I have taken a job as a waver for Liberty Tax. That means putting on a turquoise velour toga and cavorting around and waving at people. Basically, I have a great big red foam hand and I just sit there all day going "Hoo, hoo hoo, la, la, la" and getting everyone's attention. The idea, of course, is to point toward Liberty Tax so that they'll go in there and get their taxes done, and so that they'll associate getting their taxes done with fun and enjoyment rather than with pulling teeth and things like that.

Anyway, yesterday while I was busy waving, this great-tailed grackle - Quiscalus mexicanus - which is one of the birds of the Sonoran desert - it's in the raven family, the Ictidae? Icteridae? I can't remember. I'll have to look that up. But anyway, it's in the oriole/raven category of birds. The males are black with purple heads, and the females are a kind of dark brown with a cream underbelly. Well, it's not really cream, it's more of a light tan underbelly. Anyway, the females are usually really, really easily scared. They are the last to land and the first to take off, when you see a group of grackles. So yesterday, when this female grackle did everything it could to get my attention and was only a foot away from me most of the time and dancing circles around me, I realized that this was a visitation from a totem animal.

My usual totem is the swallowtail - the zebra swallowtail butterfly - which is a beautiful yellow and black butterfly that is very common in Ohio and North Carolina. I have some really awesome photos of a group of thirty or forty swallowtails that had landed on the ground when we were camping in Asheville, North Carolina. They had landed in a little group to sip water and it was really, really fun to watch them.

I looked up the meaning of a visitation from a grackle. Grackles refer to repressed or suppressed emotion, clogging your energy channel with too many different emotions: too much conflict, too much anxiety, too much fear. And I discovered that you need to think about what's going on and figure out what exactly it is that you need to do to change things.

One of the changes that I made is that I no longer write for content mills unless I really, really like the topic. I also plan to get another job. Right now I have the Liberty waving job and I have a job doing phone surveys. I also plan to get my food service handler's card, because I want to be doing jobs where I am making that personal connection with people in the real world.

I think we become really detached. We form really wonderful friendships online, and yet our day to day, face to face friendships tend to suffer as a result.

I want to make sure that what I'm doing brings people joy. And that's why I love my Liberty waving job. Because I love that moment when people's faces go from "Oh my God, I'm traveling along, I have to get to work." to "Ha! Oh my God, that's so funny!" I like that moment, I really like that moment, that connection. I mean, today, these guys in a moving van - there were six or seven of them - were beeping and waving and doing as much to get my attention as I was doing to get theirs. And it was just fun, being part of that moment of "Yes, you exist, I exist, we know each other." That's a great moment.

I want to do things in the real world. I don't want to just have friends online, and that's nothing against my online friends. I have marvelous online friends: Jordan in Mississippi, Trystan in Maine, Michael, and Aubrey and Jordan in Phoenix, and Chrissy, who I haven't seen since June or July. I did see her face to face at the coffee shop, but it's been awhile. Hunter, thank goodness. Hunter and Andrew came to Christmas dinner. That was really awesome. But I want to do more of that. I want more face to face, more direct contact, more time spent with people in the real world.

Think things over. My question for you today - and I hope that you'll comment below - is, "What emotions are you stuffing? What things do you need to do to make a change in your life?" And I'm not just talking about the kind of change where "Oh my God, my life sucks! and blah, blah, blah blah, blah." I'm talking about when you have a life that's fairly good, but it could be better. It could be better. So I want people to think about what you need to do today, and what real-world thing can you do right now - right after you turn off this video - that will make a change in your life.

Post your comments below. Make video responses - because that's really fun. I'd love to watch them. Join the Ultimate Blog Challenge, and come visit my blog - that's TempeTempest.Blogspot.com - and also look up my stuff on Triond.com - that's under MegSmith. It's an old identity. And have a look at some of my articles, particularly the article "What's Your Totem Animal?" Google "What's Your Totem Animal?" You'll find it on Socyberty. Let me know what you think of it. And if you have a totem, tell me what your totem animal is and why. Post a photo if you can, and make a video response.

And have a great day! "Ha, ha, ha, ha." That's the Liberty wave by the way. OK. Bye-bye!

Get Personal

The past four days at my new job as a waver for Liberty Tax, I noticed that people crave attention and personal connections. When I wave, I make an effort to look each driver and each passenger in the eye, then make sure that they see that I see them. I use exaggerated movements, waving my hands in the air Kermit-style, opening my eyes extra-wide and grinning, pointing with both hands while flapping my wrists downward like I'm a rap star in a concert, anything to let the people going by know that I am connecting with each one of them and that I want each of them to have as much fun as I am having.

The response is immediate. People go from scowling, looking bored or looking sad to grinning and waving back. Some even honk when my back is turned to their part of the traffic while I wave at traffic going the other way, just to make sure that I wave at them.

Finding that personal connection is a lot harder online. Many writers fear offending someone, so they remove anything that could be misconstrued or that might reflect badly with people from a particular mindset, but I think that is a huge mistake. When I read someone's stuff, I want to see that person, not a marshmallow version designed to avoid offense.

That does not mean that I want to see someone doing nothing but cussing, complaining and slinging their latest arrows into whatever target their righteous indignation has created today, though. One-trick ponies, demagogues and complainers suck the beauty out of life. We each have ups and downs, but posting every single down without ever acknowledging how wonderful it is to be alive gets old really fast.

Let me see you when I read your blog, your Facebook posts, Twitter feeds, Stumbles and Diggs, and I will let you see me.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Ultimate Blog Challenge Day Nine: It's Time to Be a Jester

Today's post is the transcript from my YouTube video, "It's Time to Be a Jester."


Hi! Jack Sage here. This is the ninth post of the Ultimate Blog Challenge, and yes, I am aware that if you are following me here on Tempe Tempest.Blogspot.com you will notice that the last post here is actually post five and today's post there on YouTube is post nine, which means I'm missing six, seven and eight. So those will be coming soon. I have not yet chosen topics for those posts, but the one that I'm doing right now is based on Chris Hughes' challenge at the beginning of the year to help yourself find your core identity. That was passed on to me by fellow Hardcore Freelancer Lee Rowley.

In the list of questions that Chris provided, one of them was "What will you do for fulfillment?" What I am going to be doing, starting tomorrow, is I get to get paid to cavort around in a green toga and make people laugh, and hopefully make them stop and get their taxes done at Liberty Tax, but the point of it all is, I get paid to cavort around in a green toga.

Now some people might think, "Oh, wow, that's really lame." But what's bad about making people laugh? Okay? What's bad about being that person, that as everybody is intently driving to work and worried about getting there on time, and they're cussing at the people next to them because they won't let them get over, what's bad about being the person that makes them laugh, okay? Nothing. Absolutely nothing. And that is what I consider fulfillment right now.

Also, my partner and I have discussed this at length and we both are intending to get food service handling cards. Here in Arizona you have to have a food service handling card, whether it's for restaurant work or it's for hostessing. Even for something as simple as being a hotel desk clerk, anything where you might handle food, you have to have a food handler's card. And that even includes nonprofit jobs -- which is one of the things that I'm going after -- where you might have to, at any moment, either accept donations and handle them, or you might be called upon to suddenly take over and run the kitchen for the day. So I've decided that's one of the things I'm going to do.

And again, there's a lot of people that might look down on those ideas as "Okay, that's fine and dandy, but I'm an educated person." Well, I'm an educated person, too. I have a degree. However, when it comes down to it, I have never been afraid to jump in and take jobs that other people wouldn't even consider. But as I said, one of the things right now that's motivating me is, life is too short to take that seriously, and this year Jack is going to indulge the jester side, and I am going to do things that are fun, that are funny, that make people laugh, that make people's day.

And I'm going to be part of the magic. That includes when we finally manage to get back on a show lot and we're there first thing in the morning before the crowd gets there, and we're pouring funnel cakes as fast as we can so that when people come in, they have that magical, mystical piece of fry-bread covered with powdered sugar that you wouldn't pay for even if you wanted to at home, but suddenly it becomes ambrosial wonderfulness when you're at the festival or flea market. So when it comes to fulfillment, that's where my head's at this year. It's time to be a jester. It's time to have some fun. It's time to make other people laugh, and it's time to make sure that people don't take themselves so god-damned seriously. So that's the message of the day. Goodbye!

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Ultimate Blog Challenge Day Five: National Bird Day

In honor of National Bird Day, I pointed my webcam out the picture window I look through while I write. The mesquite screening the window provides cover to cactus wrens, broad-billed hummingbirds, white-winged doves, thrashers and Gila woodpeckers, along with grackles and the occasional overfed suburban pigeon. In front of the mesquite you can see the Cereus peruvianus that the hummingbirds love so much, and off to the left and right of the cactus stand the date palms that keep the white-winged doves and the thrashers as round as tennis balls. 

The birds stayed out of camera range the first time, but I'll keep trying. I did not stage the way the branches cross. The star you see is how those branches grew naturally. If you don't have a picture window, you can create one by installing three to four standard, double-hung windows side-by-side for about the same cost as an exotic bird, its supplies, and a cage or aviary. By watching the birds native to your area instead of buying a parrot, lovebird or finch, you can help prevent the extirpation - which means regional extinction - of native birds.

The Arizona Bird Committee lists four bird species as extirpated - or regionally extinct - that used to breed in this state: the Northern masked bobwhite quail, the California condor, the Aplomado falcon and the thick-billed parrot. Watching native birds provides far more entertainment than any caged bird ever could, so help fight regional extirpation by setting up your own observation station. Plant native shrubs, small trees and a variety of flowers, then sit back and enjoy the view.

Ultimate Blog Challenge Day 4: January Special Days

For those who love quirky holidays and quaint community celebrations, January is ripe with promise. So far, those who weren't celebrating "Oh My God, I Can't Believe I Drank That Many (Insert Alcoholic Beverage Name Here)" Day on January 2nd, celebrated Run It up the Flagpole and See if It Salutes Day instead.

Everyone who was too busy celebrating Festival of Sleep Day on January 3rd missed Fruitcake Toss Day and Humiliation Day. On January 4th, the US Census Bureau estimated that 7,004,110,246 people may have celebrated Trivia Day worldwide.

If you keep or sell caged birds, today's celebration is aimed directly at you. Bird activists created National Bird Day to draw attention to the plight of all birds in captivity. While they have not yet succeeded in convincing Congress to declare the holiday, which is a requirement for genuine "National" status, National Bird Day has a great plenty of credibility in the birding world. Of the world's 9,800 bird species, 1,176 face extinction in this century, including 110 species of parrot, according to Born Free USA. While suburban creep destroyed habitat and toxic spills created untold damage to delicate coastal ecosystems, the caged bird market devastated breeding populations of popular birds, such as the green avadavat, or Amandava formosa, a finch native to India. Amandava formosa's habitat lies in southern Rajasthan to central Uttar Pradesh, southern Bihar and West Bengal (historically), south to southern Maharashtra and northern Andhra Pradesh, according to BirdLife International.

Instead of keeping caged birds, set up an observation station in a picture window or outside a patio door. Plant native shrubs, grasses and trees to create a natural blind, then sit back and enjoy the show your feathered friends provide. In my next post, for Ultimate Blog Challenge Day 5, I'll post video footage of my station, hidden by a screen of mesquite shrubs and facing a 16-foot tall, nearly 20-foot wide Cereus peruvianus, also known as the Peruvian apple cactus.

Cereus pervianus in bloom, September 29, 2011 by Jack V. Sage

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Ultimate Blog Challenge Day Three

Sunrise over Smiley's Flea Market, August 2010, photo by Jack V. Sage
On the perfect average day, I'd wake up at 4:30 in the morning, while the air still hold's last night's chill, and the morning dew still hovers, coating every flat surface with its frosty breath. I'd slip out of our vardo as quietly as I could, despite the fact that the flashlight men are already making their rounds.

"Got any gold," they chant in their whiskey and cigarette voices, "got any fishing lures? Got any guns?" I answer no, like always. I don't deal in antiques, breakables or anything I can't afford to ditch to the thunder and rain gods, or sacrifice to the breakdown gnomes.

I flip my tarps if it's dry enough, or place just enough cheap plastic household crap I bought yesterday for $5 a box on the table to satisfy the flea market owner that I really do intend to do business. As the sun rises and dries away the dew, I add old tools and scrap metal to one table and any of our jewelry that is not made from black steel to the other.

Hand-hammered black-steel scimitar kilt pin, FaerieWynd 2010
I jump back into the vardo to get warm, while we share coffee and watch the sun rise. We don't do business this early. Women don't feel pretty till after 10 AM, and men are still too tired from last night's work to buy knives or large hand tools. This early, they just want to look, or they want to shoot the breeze about the things they wish they had time to do, or used to do but can't any more for one reason or another.

The plastic household crap goes under the table, tossed into the mystical $5 box that people can't resist picking through, even when they have to bend down and block traffic to do it. Things I could never sell on top of the table at any price become treasures, garnering anywhere from a quarter to $5. I've bought boxes of crap off fellow vendors for as little as $5 and sold as much as $80 worth of stuff or more from them by the end of the day, with just a little TLC and a few batteries as my cost of doing business.

Late Afternoon, Smiley's Flea Market, August 2010 Photo by Jack V Sage
But the plastic crap is just what we use to get people to stop: dinosaurs, toy cars, stuff you can buy your kids for fifty cents. Then Momma spies the $2 and $5 earring boxes. Next thing you know, we have the day's $25 table fees in hand for the price of a pack of head pins and two strings of Chinese turquoise cabochons.

I lied about the breakables, though. I will put them on the table if I got them in a package deal, but I get them right back off the table ASAP unless they are special enough to use as display pieces. Like the maneki neko "luck cat" we hauled through 7 states, whose place of honor was at the center of the show table, surrounded by rose bodice daggers and Kingman Mine turquoise stud earrings, or the hand-painted wooden serving trays I used to display our $5 earrings through six shows in five different states.

Kingman Mine turquoise stud earrings, FaerieWynd 2010

A pair of orc scimitars forged from leaf springs graced the show table for three weeks running, kept shiny by daily rubbings with a green kitchen scrubbie and olive oil and wiped clean with paper towels from the flea market's ladies' rest room. We had an assortment of throwing daggers and some hand-woven chokers with glass seed beads, filigree-wrapped stopper bottle pendants and mini-scimitar annular brooches.

Filigree Memory Bottles, FaerieWynd 2010
The spray paint art is the last thing I add to the table, once the dew has completely disappeared. I anchor it all with rose daggers, throwing knives and large pendants to keep the Carolina winds from whisking it away. Our crowd, the "dangerous, dirty, tattooed, uncivilized kind of people" meander into the flea market and we start selling.

"Emerald City" in progress, July 2010

Once the sun is up, it's on. I greet people in three languages, and nod and smile at the ones whose languages I don't know. Everyone gets a hello, Buenos Dias or Bonjour. One of these days I'll learn to say it in Farsi, Mandarin, Vietnamese and Korean as well. Why? Because it makes people smile, and people who are smiling buy things from the people who make them smile. They come back and buy more things the next time they see you, especially if you make them feel remembered. It costs nothing but a second, and the willingness to think like the person on the other side of the show table.

Sometime around two or three in the afternoon, if it hasn't rained, the crowd thins and vendors on each side start packing. The antique dealers leave first, followed by the housewives selling off their children's outgrown clothes. Then the baseball card and comic book men pack it in, followed by the packaged goods vendors and the truck garden folks. Only the diehards like us, selling tools, better-quality jewelry, new work clothes or car parts stay for the last few hours of the day. Finally, only the indoor marketers are still around, and the afternoon wind whips our Goretex off the table and flips our stock on the ground, even with clamps and blocks holding things in place. We pack it in and spend the rest of the day making new stock for tomorrow.

Monday, January 2, 2012

2012 Ultimate Blog Challenge Day Two

As I explained in the previous post, I accepted both the 2012 Ultimate Blog Challenge and the "My Perfect Average Day" challenge. Question 1 from the "My Perfect Average Day" challenge is "Where Would I Live?"

In the past three years, I've lived in a treehouse, two different vardos, an efficiency apartment over a metal artist's shop and our current place, a house in Tempe, Arizona that we share with a photographer/bouncer/blacksmith and an artist/hotel desk clerk. Each had its benefits and drawbacks, but of them all, I'd prefer to have wheels under my house again.

Van camping is not for everyone. Everything from how to organize everything to how to keep the van and yourself clean requires planning. You have to strip down to the essentials if you don't want 90 percent of your fuel used to haul stuff you didn't know that you don't need, and many people just can't let go of that pile of stuff they think they have to have.

After running two different vans back and forth between Pittsburgh, PA, the AEP campgrounds in Monroe County, Ohio, flea markets in Rogers, Ohio, Asheville, North Carolina and Athens, Georgia, we learned that the fewer things we carried besides show stock, the better. Rebar tie makes fine curtain rods, saddle blankets make great curtains and those two-burner propane camp stoves will heat the average van for $2 worth of propane just fine. A standard $5 tarp, 6 feet square, provides more insulation from the cold than any blanket or sleeping bag we could find, and it really is a good idea to insulate your van walls and put up some paneling.

For the next van, I definitely want a box truck if I can find one. If it's already modified into a camper, so much the better. If not, I want the sleeping platform right behind the driver's and passenger seats and the camp kitchen in the rear. I want a swing-down prep table on each back door, with rear power jacks and an inverter. A coffee pot is a must-have, because I've been to one too many shows where some idjit didn't realize that coffee should be on sale by 4AM, not after 9AM.

We'll have built-in shelves with 4-inch rails, no more than 6 inches wide, so that things don't slide when you come to a stop. I'll paint the interior in shades of purple from dark plum to lilac, and lay the carpet, if any, in pieces small enough to pull out and wash when needed rather than in a single piece.

The basic floor plan, depending on the type of van we find, will look a lot like this, except I'll put the toilet and vanity on the driver's side wall, not the passenger's side:

Graphic Copyright 2009 by Gypsy Wilburn