Negative Tone Tone Down?

I’ve received some criticism. A reader says that, while she enjoys my stuff, she believes most of what I write about administrators is “negative in tone.”

Negative Tone Tone Down?
If administrators were to eat as foolishly as they write

She writes, “It’s funny when you take pot-shots, but you should also offer positive suggestions. After all, administrators fill needs. If they didn’t, they would not exist.”

To that last part I say: Prove it. What needs exactly do administrators fill? And if they exist, do they really need to be full?

As for the first part, I’d like everything I write about administrators to be negative. Alas, charity sometimes gets the better of me.

To my knowledge, no administrator has ever read anything I’ve written. But this does not matter, as I do not write for the benefit of administrators.

I write for the benefit of a person: for myself, for yourself, for any person who is capable of sound logic and clear language. If you and I are to live meaningful lives, it will be because we are capable of producing those things within ourselves.

I do concede the following. I would acquit myself differently if administrators were in the same condition as twelve-year-olds.

If you tell a twelve-year-old to avoid the phrase “actual decline” since something is either in decline or not in decline, he/she will take the point and apply it the rest of his/her life. If you tell the same thing to an administrator, he/she will grunt, walk away, and the next day produce a document containing the phrase “real problem.”

Twelve-year-olds, you see, are merely ignorant, and ignorance can be corrected. Administrators are not ignorant. They’re fools, and there is no hope for fools.

Dear reader: I make no attempt at reform where reform is impossible. My intent is to call fools fools. I cannot go (no one can) beyond that. You may, of course, continue to object. But, as you are clearly one who can write, which is to say think, I hope you do not.

I hope you approve of my honest, blunt reply, though I am prepared to accept your dissent. In either event, you surely must appreciate that an answer, or any sort of consideration, that is intended to win approval, is far worse than no answer at all. I do what I can. And I can, and do, maintain that administrators are fools.

Negative Tone Tone Down?
A Manna Nosh message by Matt Manna

Manna Nosh • Longer than a Tweet, shorter than an article.

Copyright © 2018 Matthew C. Manna
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Facebook Friends

I admit it. I hate Facebook friending: The attempt to leverage acquaintances for whatever value their association can bring to oneself. That behavior is pathological and nauseating.

Facebook Friends

Also, I’m indifferent to the musings of your dog or cat. I don’t care that you bought a new car. And I’d rather be stuck on a desert island with nothing other than Jane Austen novels to read than hear about your dining experience.

That being said, it’s big-time good when folks who genuinely like one another connect. Also, folks who enjoy each other usually enjoy making introductions to similar others. That’s plenty zippy!

So please send a friend request my way if you know me. Better yet, let’s chit-chat old school via Email, Who knows, we may make each other laugh.

But if you’re a plasticky grin-meister who happens to know someone, who happens to know someone, who once ran into my second cousin, don’t bother. I’ve got nothing to offer, and I’m quite sure you don’t either.

[Authors note: I have a presence on Facebook, but I don’t spend any time there.]

Facebook Friends
A Manna Nosh message by Matt Manna

Manna Nosh • Longer than a Tweet, shorter than an article.

Copyright © 2018 Matthew C. Manna
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A Lesson For Joe

Today is the second anniversary of my last day as your tutor. We did a lot of algebra work on that day and you asked, as you had many times before: “Why do I need algebra if I’m going to be a mechanic?”

A Lesson For Joe

It’s a fair question, albeit one you would not have thought to ask if your teachers had asked it of themselves. Had they done that, they would have been teaching in a way that led you out of darkness and into light — the goal of education.

There’s a terrible belief sloshing around inside of schools Joe. It’s the belief that a person who can solve problems is an educated person. The way you have been taught is based upon this belief, and this belief is expressed every time a teacher points out that algebra allows one to compute unit prices in a grocery store, or gas mileage, or calorie consumption, or some other such nonsense. All of this is bunk. It assumes no other possible power of the mind than solving problems.

Read this paragraph carefully Joe, it’s important. Problem solving is to education as getting wet is to swimming. You must do the one before you can hope for the other, but you don’t achieve the other simply because you do the one. Yes, educated people solve gas mileage problems. Big deal. Uneducated people solve gas mileage problems too. The world is (and always has been) full of problem solvers, just as the world is (and always has been) full of problems. Crime, war, drug addiction, famine, broken families, etc., are realities, and problem solvers are unable to transform reality.

The reason you should study algebra (and language, and history, and science) is because doing so can give you the ability to know, and the ability to know can instill in you the ability, in your own mind, to unravel, tinker, and perhaps transform reality.

You see Joe, an education does not exist in the sense ordinarily conveyed by that word. You will not find it anywhere in the world. It is not in the air or under the hood of a car. Education exists only in a mind. And even then, it exists only in a mind that chooses it. A teacher can show you some maneuvers, but you must do the work.

If you do, you will have it in your mind that you can know something, not just believe in it, or be informed of it, but actually know it. And when you come to know something you will quite likely come to know something else, and again something else. It’s fun to wonder where such a cascade will lead.

You should learn algebra because it will show you the way, in your own mind, and made by you alone, to know. This is swimming — the confidence that comes from knowing that no matter what the problem solvers of the world tell you, you have a shot at changing it. Problem solvers require tranquil water, but swimmers—the educated—are comfortable in the often stormy sea of reality.

Solve the problems your teachers create for you Joe. Then recognize that you have it within yourself, if you strive for it, an eduction — the ability to know, tinker, and perhaps transform whatever reality comes your way.

No prudent teacher will ever tell you these things, and I’m not sure that you are ready for them. It takes experience and quiet consideration to embrace education. But time marches on, and you will be “finished” with school in less time than has passed since we last studied together. That’s why I published this most important lesson. I hope you read it, often.

A Lesson For Joe
Written by Matt Manna

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Copyright © 2018 Matthew C. Manna
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On Words Part Two: Writing

A friend sent me a note. It’s about my writing and asks a common question: Are the stories published at true? My usual answer is, “No, but they’re real.” That’s a chintzy answer of course, but the question isn’t so good either, and I long ago stopped caring if I answered it well.

On Words Part Two: Writing

This time is different. I know and like this person, and he/she (I’m not giving anything away) deserves better, even if the question is a bit of a smeller.

Are the stories true? No, but they’re real — real accounts, about real people, behaving as they really behaved. That’s different from true.

“True” is a meticulously specific word that demands an accordance with both reality and fact. Most of my stories do not do that. For instance…

The Associate Vice-President of Office Supplies character in Talking About the Weather is real, although the person I had in mind when I wrote the story did not oversee office supplies. He oversaw office furniture. He really was an Associate Vice-President, but that’s different than being a real Associate Vice-President. The former exists, the later is probably impossible. Also, I never had an outdoor conversation with this fellow as snow fell on our heads. It was rain. And we both had umbrellas.

The Fickle Finger of Free is the real account of real van chairs that really did spend three days and nights on the curb in front of the building where I worked, until a man named Burt gave me $50 to take them away. I offered the chairs to Burt for free, but he insisted on paying. That’s what happened, but there’s nothing truthful about accepting $50 for stuff you couldn’t give away.

Everything I’ve written about my niece and nephew is real.

Slugger Joe still enjoys popsicles, but his truth no longer lies on a baseball diamond. It’s moved under the hood of his car.

Madeline’s mind really did motivate her to unplug an arcade video game in order to get even with some older kids who had pushed her to the back of the line. And she really did refuse to wear gloves after volunteering to play goalie. If you ask her today, she will deny that either event took place. I guess that’s the difference between the truth of early childhood and the self-conscious reality of one’s teenage years. By the way Madeline, I have pictures.

(Digression: Goalies are real. But they’re habitually disconnected from the truth, particularly when a ball gets by them. At such time a goalie will blame his/her teammates for the error, including those teammates who are on the bench. That really is how goalies behave.)

Occasionally a note comes along that criticizes something I’ve written (if that’s the right word for it) on Twitter. If ever there was an example of the difference between real and true, Twitter is it.

The notes typically go like this, “You just don’t like rap music, that’s what’s wrong with you.” I suppose I’m meant to feel rebuffed, but I never do. I feel fully buffed, and not just because I really don’t like rap.

As far as I’m concerned nothing on Twitter is real, ergo criticizing what someone has written (there’s that word again) on Twitter is a very poor use of time — even if you’re a goalie.

Many folks have attacked my views on talent. Their common opinion, separated from all the goo and drivel, is: Anything is achievable so long as one works at it enough. There’s not an ounce of reality in that opinion.

“Working at it enough” produces experience, and experience cannot generate talent. It is true that experience can develop talent. But it’s equally true that talent must exist before development can occur. Any philosophy that treats talent as a product, instead of a prerequisite, is wrong.

There is an all too common idea about writing that sticks in our head and causes a good deal of trouble. It’s the idea that writing’s purpose is to label items that exist in the world in which we live. To tolerate such an idea requires fuzziness of mind; to champion it, lunacy.

The world in which we live is very brief. It is so brief that, in a very real sense, we can’t do anything in it. We can only be in it. To understand this world, we must make propositions about it, and those propositions are made out of words and grammar. That’s writing.

Writing is the bridge that runs from the evanescent world of immediate experience to all the possible worlds which are not the evanescent world of immediate experience. These are the worlds that came before, or might come next, or should come next, or, importantly, should not come next.

And the bridge runs both ways. If our talent for writing is poor, our understanding is poor, and our future is poor.

You may want to object and claim that our future is hardly dependent on our talent for writing. If so, you’re not thinking. Writing is the only discipline we have that exists outside of the evanescent world of immediate experience. Without writing we bump along from moment to moment, with writing we freeze time and “look around,” analyze, hypothesize, manipulate and form a view of the world.

Are the stories published at true? No, they’re my view of the world presented to others. They’re real.

The world out there is made of truth stuff; but the real world — the world we can examine, understand and present to others — is made of words and grammar, the stuff we call writing. If we do not (or cannot) write, we tell no stories. And without stories there is no reality.

Writers live or die by the reality of the stories they tell; we all do.

On Words Part Two: Writing
Written by Matt Manna
Nov 16, 2017 • 98839544(R01)
Copyright © 2017 By Matthew Manna
Photo © TungCheung •

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Talking About The Weather

Why do we devote so much talk to the weather? Weather talk is innocuous of course, but that realization only leads to another question. Why do we devote so much talk to an innocuous subject?


When I meet the Associate Vice-President of Office Supplies on the sidewalk in February, I am given to assert, if it is true, that it’s snowing. That’s a strange thing for me to do. Stranger still, my counterpart will likely confirm my observation. Together, we have agreed on something that needs no agreement. To point the snow out to each other is as useful as pointing out that we both have lungs. (Mine are pink and serve me well. His are the lungs of an administrator; black, crusty, and providing of a wheeze that can be heard well ahead of his arrival. That last bit is useful at times.)

I don’t talk to a friend this way. When I address a friend it’s because I want to know what he/she has to say. My friend has a long history of offering up language enriched with the special powers of logic, order and coherence. The appearance of those things is comforting, and I am well aware that I must do the same if our friendship is to continue.

The Associate Vice-President of Office Supplies is not a friend. He is an administrator. And something ancient stirs inside when I encounter him. My head aches and I become annoyed by the realization that I must come up with a way to acknowledge this fellow without getting chummy. Weather talk does that. It’s a cheap trick, but it’s better than the alternative.

To push the point further, let’s suppose, just for fun, that I skip the weather talk and engage the Associate Vice-President of Office Supplies in a conversation about something he is interested in — paperclips perhaps. He will likely tell me what he knows, and in so doing, his world, the world of an administrator, will be at hand. This is a world I’d rather not explore just now, and not just because we are both standing outside in the cold with snow melting on our heads.

I’m leery of this fellow, and I don’t want to offer language that hints of a possible long term comradeship. This winds-up being a good move, because in a few days time I will hold in my hands a printed, multi-page report, written by this very person. The report begins, “It has been brought to the attention of this office that the monthly consumption of staples has increased by…”

This report (which is held together by staples) sets me to wondering. What good is this person? How does he differ, if at all, from the stuff that oozes from leaky radiators? How can he rise to the level of Associate Vice-President of Office Supplies and write such a monstrosity of an opening? And exactly how can an office have attention?

Perhaps I should write this person (or office) a reply: “Dear Sir (or office), I am surprised and troubled by the ineptitude of the first ten words of your most recent report. We shared a nice few moments in the snow a few days ago and I had thought it possible that we might graduate from “weather talk” to something more substantive. But now my hopes are dashed. Perhaps you’re going through a rough patch. Everyone deserves a second chance. Why don’t you try again and write something else? You might want to start with an apology. Regardless of what you do next, it is vital that you soon improve your writing skills.”

We like to imagine that we normal folks are somehow, deep down, where it really counts, superior to the pointy-headed nincompoops that write reports about staple usage. And we are! Nevertheless, these people need to be dealt with from time to time, and weather talk does that. It allows us to acknowledge their existence, which is courteous, without getting too close, which, when it comes to administrators with titles like Associate Vice-President of Office Supplies, might be fatal.

Talking About The Weather
Written by Matt Manna
Oct 25, 2017 • 87F77B5E(R02)
Copyright © 2017 By Matthew Manna
Photo © tapichar •

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