Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Social Networking & Anti-Consumerism

    The lady changed the subject, gently.  "My husband tells me that you're a famous philosopher.  Say something witty or wise."

'Bollywood' Azalea - Color Year Round -Sun or Part-Sun    Dr. Wraxtiorre pointed out the window diffidently, muttering, "The Dog is in the yard, peeing on the Azaleas."

    The lady thought for a moment, looking up at the ceiling.  "Nah, I thought you would have said something poignant and inciteful, like something about possession not being the intended consequence of acquisition, and perverting the value of worth.  Or some jibberish like that."

    Dr. Wraxtiorre cupped his hand at his forehead and furrowed his brow.  "I think it was something about 'When the manufacture of products are outsourced from those who sell them, then the worth of a product becomes divorced from its value.'  Some economists have taken that as a death-knell for the community which would follow that path, but I think that people are much more resilient than that."

    The man in the dark suit sneered, "Hogwash!  The American consumer has always considered itself to be the customer of the products it purchases from the marketplace.  When the people realize that they are not the customers anymore, but rather the product, then the market will be in for some turmoil."  He looked around proudly, as though acknowledging accolades for his intelligence in all matters of finance.

   Standing outside the Director of Accounting's office, the CEO turned the doorknob and released his grip on it, allowing the door to creak and whine as it slowly found its way across the floor to the wall.  He stepped in eagerly, purposely, quickly, proudly.  "Hello, everyone.  I'm here now."

    Dr. Jeremy Wraxtiorre, the (un)famous philosopher, backed further into the front office and face-palmed himself.  "Ugh!  Not another ego-centric optimist!"

    The Director's secretary sneered.  "Is that an observation or a request?"  She looked down at her hands again, where she had been pulling stray hairs out of a hairbrush from her purse.

    Dr. Wraxtiorre pointed out the window and abruptly asked, "Look, what's that?"

    The Director's secretary jerked her head towards the window and scanned the horizon, the branches of trees, the fence-line, the rows of parked cars, the hedgerows, and the sidewalks for whatever interesting thing or event that Dr. Wraxtiorre was attempting to show her.  While she searched, he furtively pulled a tube of Super Glue out of his pocket and generously sprinkled it across the bristles of the hairbrush. 

    The CEO held up his hand and announced, "To quote a recently-heralded addition to pop culture:  What a bunch of frickin' morons!  You fools wouldn't know a credit card transaction from a cash withdrawal!  Haven't any of you ever read Lewis Carroll's Symbolic Logic?"

    I stepped back from the Director of Accounting and p-shawed dismissively.  "I see that you still haven't bought a copy of Mangled Doves yet."

    Once the CEO caught sight of the Director of Accounting, he scowled angrily.  The Director of Accounting was still tied to his chair using heavy ropes, and I had duct-taped his mouth shut.  Sweat rolled down his cheeks to his chin, and dripped noisily onto his shirt.  Once his eyes met the CEO's eyes, the  Director of Accounting flinched visibly.

    The CEO waved his hand snobbily.  "I haven't the time to talk about your book, with its silly novella about metafiction!  I am here to teach you about the power of effective economics.  It's a simple logical progression which any child can understand.  Do you remember the axiom that 'The customer is always right?' Well, it still rings true.  Only you have to understand that the consumer and the purchaser of products is not the customer anymore!"

    The secretary grunted angrily as she staggered awkwardly across the room, yanking at a hairbrush that was stuck in her hair.  She hopped wildly with every yank at the hairbrush and yelped in agony as more and more hairs were pulled from her scalp.

    Ignoring her, the CEO continued.  "A company's job is to earn money, so the customer's job is to pay the company so that it can continue to remain in business.  In the old days, that meant providing a product or service, because people would only pay for a product or service if they actually received one.  But, as the insurance industry began to become a successful enterprise, people learned how to pay for a product or service in the hopes of not receiving the product or service.  While customers were still able to enforce the distinction between product-based and service-based mercantilism, and coverage-based mercantilism, the customer's job changed slightly.  They were now expected to pay for what they called 'Brand Loyalty.'  Marketing had taken hold of the market, and customers also began to be expected to pay for products and services in order to pay for the commercials they liked."

    As she struggled blindly with the hairbrush, the Director's secretary leapt fitfully across the room several times, shrieking and whimpering each time she pulled at the hairbrush.  Eventually, she hurled herself onto the Director's desk and rolled over the side as her skirt fell across her face.  As she stood up, she inhaled defiantly and gave one last tug on the hairbrush's handle.  A subdued whimper-scream escaped her lips as the brush tore free from her locks.  Then she inadvertently stepped through the open window.

    The CEO's wife lowered her arms and stepped forward in concern.

    The CEO stretched upward as he leered out the window at the courtyard below.  The Stoic Cat had just scampered away from the lobby to flee the falling body.  The CEO quietly muttered, "The Dog is in the yard, peeing on the Azaleas."  He grabbed his wife's arm roughly and pointed out the window.

     I shrugged.  Dr. Wraxtiorre stepped in, holding his hand out figuratively.  The Director of Accounting wheeled his chair around, pulling at the ropes which tied his arms to the chair's arm.  He leaned forward and tried to shout through the Duct Tape which covered his mouth.  "Mmmmmmmph!   Mmmmmmm-mmmm-mmmph!"

    Dr. Wraxtiorre waved off the Director's complaints as he strolled over to the credenza.  "Nonsense.  You can pee later.  Look at me.  I farted and it was partly solid, but I'm okay!"  He draped his boxer shorts across the credenza, smoothing out the fabric so that they would dry faster.

    The CEO waved his arm dramatically, freezing his swing as his hand was cupped just above his head.  "You children aren't listening to me.  It all comes down to the fact that the company must kow-tow to the customer, and the customer is the person (or persons, if you will) who keeps the company in business.  People who dump venture capital into a company, or provide it with lots of funds in order to manage startup costs, don't become customers because they have ensured the company continues to exist by making sure that it provides other people with products or services.  However, when people buy stock in a company, they are doing the same thing except they are becoming customers in doing so.  They are buying a product or service of the company--the yield that results from an investment--the dividends you earn from the stocks you own.  And so they have the right to tell the company what to do in order to become more successful, or rather what the person with the most stocks thinks will be more successful than what it is now."

    He walked over to the credenza and pushed Dr. Wraxtiorre aside.  Grabbing a highball glass, he clumsily poured a drink in it, spilling Scotch all over Dr. Wraxtiorre's boxers.   "And so, the stockholders dictate the company's actions because they are the biggest customer.  Naturally, when the silly consumers complain about a corporation's actions, they are ignored because they are NOT the CUSTOMER!"

   The CEO stepped bravely up to the Director and quickly jerked the Duct Tape off his face.

    The Director of Accounting screamed horrifically.  "YEEEEEEEOOOOOOOOWWWWWWWWW!  I can't believe that!"

    The CEO smugly shrugged and asked, "What?"

    "You defenstrated my secretary!"

    The CEO took a swallow from his Highball, winced and inhaled with satisfaction.  "Not to worry.  We'll get you another one.  Just call the temp agency." 

    Holding my hands up in defense, I backed away from the Porsche in dismay.  "No, no, we are not going to do the Quantum thing here again.  I finished the article series on De-Constructing Quarks!  We came to talk about Economics, not Physics."

    The CEO shrugged.  "But I have said my piece.  What more is there to say?"

    I looked around, baffled.  "I still don't get the whole 'Consumer is not the Customer' thing.  How can an economy function in a market where the consumer is not the person (or people) providing the company's revenue?"

    The CEO's wife stepped forward, arching her back to display her bosom more prominently.  "Take a look at big government.  You pay your taxes to Uncle Sam, but most of the government's activities are funded by lobbysits and PACS, subisidized by illegal corporate donations to campaign funds."

    The CEO reached over and covered his wife's face and glared at her sternly.  Then he turned to me with a forcibly calmer and more polite face.  "I think that what she's trying to say is that your taxes may pay for the more basic functions of government like paving roads and building schools, but the more progressive government programs are supported by well-funded marketing PACs who have more experience and clout in matters of international propaganda and long-term environmental goals."  He released the airlock grip that he had on his wife's face, and she staggered backwards while gasping for breath.  The CEO cocked his head apologetically, then returned his gaze to me.  "I think that your Facebook is a prime example of the argument here.  There was a big flap about a year ago when Facebook was considering making its membership a paid subscription, but you so-called customers made a big uproar.  So, Mark Zuckerberg made a subtle change in his revenue structure and turned the consumers of his quote-unquote 'social network' into a product that he could sell to the marketing companies who wanted to buy advertising space on his website.  In a very literal way, the marketing companies became the paying customers and the consumers became a product that he was selling to them."

    My jaw dropped in realization that I had been participating in somebody else's marketing scheme.  "So, that's why Facebook is still a free membership website?  Because the revenue comes from somewhere other than the consumers?  Well, what's wrong with that?  If it wasn't free, I wouldn't sign up, so the marketing companies are making money off the fact that they are enabling me to participate with the Social Networking thing.  I don't get why that's a problem."

     The Itinerant Philosopher stepped up, waving his hands defiantly.  "No, no, no, you see, that's precisely where the problem is.  When the power structure of an environment is displaced from the people who populate it, then decisions are made with little or no concern for the needs and desires of the consumers.  People are constantly complaining about the fact that Facebook's security changes always default to the least secure settings and members are usually not notified of these changes until fellow members warn them about the Identity Theft dangers which result from this lack of disclosure.  Facebook keeps these defaults on low security so that their true customers--the marketing companies--can have more access to the products that Facebook is selling to them."

    Dr. Jeremy Wraxtiorre held up a finger and spoke up meekly.  "So, if Facebook's customers were hungry, and Facebook were a fast-food restaurant . . . "

    The CEO answered promptly.  "You would be a slab of ground beef to them.  You are the makings of a cheeseburger that they would wish to eat."


    Dr. Wraxtiorre looked down, scratching his chin in thought.
    The Itinerant Philosopher nodded.  "Yep, take the example of Lee Perkins, the guy who started the Boycott BP movement which attracted over 800,000 followers on Facebook alone at one point.  In a suspiciously coincidental bit of timing, Facebook's automated TOS-tracking software caused the Boycott BP page on Facebook to be shut down and removed from Facebook during the three days that Lee Perkins was appearing in Washington DC for the Boycott BP Rally that he had spear-headed, organized and spoke for.  Facebook later called the deletion a glitch of technical error which they manually undeleted, but the damage to the Boycott BP movement had been done and Facebook walked away safely without even apologizing because they could blame the censoring act as an unforeseeable glitch."

    Dr. Wraxtiorre mumbled something under his breath, still gazing distractedly at the pavement.

    The Director of Accounting's secretary looked over and asked, "Well, if their automated systems deleted the page, then why did it coincide with the Rally?  That page had over 800,00 followers for over three months, so why didn't their automated systems delete it before then?"

    I held my hand up in a halting gesture, and retorted, "But, didn't anybody complain about the logical conclusion that if the Boycott BP page had been active and popular for several months before it got deleted and suddenly it happens to get caught by this automated system which didn't flag it before, and that timing happened to coincide with the Rally in Washington DC, that somebody was hiding some intentionally timed effort, or somebody incompetent should be fired for permitting such a lapse during all the months that it didn't matter quite so much? Don't they make their Terms of Service clear to their customers?  I mean, even I have a definition of TOS in the Glossary of my book, Mangled Doves."

    The Director of Accounting stepped forward, not noticing his secretary sitting up on the roof of his Porsche.  "Ahem," he cleared his throat nervously.  "They did.  Loudly.  But the excuse was made that the glitch which deleted the Boycott BP page wasn't wrong, that the Boycott BP page did in fact violate the rules which the TOS-watching software should be enforcing, and that no problem resulted from the fact that this TOS-watching software didn't flag the Boycott BP page before, but then Facebook put out a memo saying that the deletion was in error--which renders the 'rightful' announcement a political excuse.  But there isn't any formal grievance process for Facebook, is there?"

    Dr. Wraxtiorre mumbled something under his breath again.

    I turned around antagonistically.  "What!?"  I watched expectantly, waiting for him to repeat his mumblings.  He didn't.  I turned back to the Director of Accounting and interjected, "You know, Yahoo!Answers had the same problem when they outsourced their whole 'Conflict Resolution' Department.  The automated software that they adopted for complaints about TOS-violating content simply deleted the contended content and delivered a 'Notice' email to the person's account who had posted the content, and appeals were apparently rejected by default.  The situation became known as 'apparently random bludgeonings'.  It's one of the reasons that I stopped visiting the service."

    Dr. Wraxtiorre mumbled something under his breath again.

    I swatted Dr. Wraxtiorre across the back of the head and shouted, "Speak up!"

    Rubbing the back of his head scornfully, Dr. Wraxtiorre loudly said, "A Cheeseburger is a place where one notices things like mustard and pickles, especially when they are missing."

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Prefatory Comments

   After my wildly dynamic narrative about the development of Quark Chromodynamics based upon a reading of a book by Andrew Pickering which was scornful of that history--and my narrative (De-Constructing Quarks) reflected that scornful tone--I decided to turn my narrative attention to the problem of market economics.  The festering concern in everybody's mind about "How did my world turn this bad, if I wasn't the one who did it?"  Or worse--"Why am I getting blamed for the economic downturn which represents billions of dollars when I barely clear 30K a year?"

    With the sudden wave of layoffs, foreclosures, rising gas prices, and shutdowns, people are being forced into a situation where wisdom dictates that people need to get paid in order to spend money, and people need to be employed in order to continue to get paid--in order to continue having money.  But their bosses continue to decide that such wisdom is somebody else's problem.  I recently told a friend of mine that, "The very same things that companies are doing to become more efficient, competitive, and successful in the market are also the things which make them heartless, inhumane and anti-consumerist."  The description of Facebook's revenue base is a widely scattered phenomenon which we have accepted as an appropriate facet of corporate reality.  But did we have any choice?  The behavioral expectations of our employers and braggart cheering of our Human Resources departments encourage the mob mentality--not of "Us against Them," but faithlessly encourage the spirit of appreciating that "Being one of us is a beautiful thing, because we get to offer charity to those who belong to the class of 'Them'."  Of course, it doesn't seem to bother anyone that more than half of the readers of those announcement are employees who already know that they are soon to be in the class of 'Them.'  Many corporate employers are expending lots of energy boasting about their "social Responsibility" programs, advertising them to short-term employees who will soon be unemployed.  Meanwhile, those who retain their jobs are being asked to confront a continuing string of thoughtless and counter-productive changes to their jobs as Change Management teams try to find new and inventive ways to reduce cost without increasing revenues.

    In a similar display of market coercion and humility-driven market changes, I see the obvious indicators of an "Employer's market," in which hiring power has been advantaged by the prospective employer, not the job-seeker.  Skirts are getting shorter, necklines are plunging, and suits are getting more formal.  I look at the madding crowds in the downtown streets and ask myself, "How is sexploitation a viable aspect of employment?  Why do we waste so much energy primping and preening aspects of our persons which have nothing to do with our jobs?"

    It is precisely such an outlook which led me to portray the Director of Accounting's workplace  in "Dissing Economics" as an environment in which it is acceptable to ask a woman to take her blouse off--precisely because it is an inhuman and sexist environment.  As much as guys would like to exist in such a place, even we will admit that the distracting factor of such behavior is not worth the expensive lawsuits which would result.  Besides that, the number of women who would work in such an environment is very small, and even those who would willingly support such a corporate environment would most likely be unqualified for the jobs they are hired to do.  It provokes a piece of wisdom which I would like to attribute to Dr. Wraxtiorre:  "When the criteria for employment are unrelated to the qualifications required for the job, expect incompetence."  If that sounds too far-fetched, consider this:  When the techniques of advertising a product or service are unrelated to the qualities of that product or service, or unrelated to the consumer's needs for that product or service, then the validity of customer satisfaction becomes random.  The same logic should apply to journalistic reportage, or political dialogue and debates.  When the content of your discussion is unrelated to the message being discussed, then distrust is necessarily involved in your agenda.

     So, if you find the environment portrayed in this narrative offensive and sexist, then please be offended--but not at the author.  However, don't be afraid to wear your offense like a pair of glasses, and observe the world with those glasses.  I once read somewhere that a book which doesn't shake its readers to their very foundations isn't worth reading.  If that is true, then this narrative is worth reading.

________________________________________________________

This article (along with "Dissing Economics" and "De-Constructing Quarks") appears in my new book, Appearing to Study Particle Physics, which is currently available at Lulu.com in hardback and paperback!

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Identity Crisis Poems (Not Fox in Socks)

    Dr. Seuss is perhaps the most memorable of all the authors of Children's books--at least among the First Readers series.  Anybody who has checked out my Facebook profile will realize that alongside such literary giants as Dostoevsky's Crime and Punishment, Milton's Paradise Lost, and Erasmus' Praise of Folly, is an image of Fox in Socks.  But that's not an identity crisis story, it is a series of tongue twisters that have fascinated readers for many years!

    I was in a bookstore today with my children, and my youngest daughter asked me to help her find some books in the Children's section, so we ambled among the shelves to see what we could find.  We found Goodnight Moon, a perennial favorite bedtime story which is almost a lullaby without music (I cannot count the number of times I myself fell asleep while reading her to sleep with it), Minnie's Valentine, which seems a trite little romp on the continuing theme of Mickey Mouse's sheepish and ongoing little romance with Minnie Mouse, and I Wish That I Had Duck Feet, a forgotten favorite from my own childhood.

Goodnight Moon    I sat down with her and read Goodnight Moon in the same slow, methodical voice that had lulled both me and her to sleep on many nights during her infancy and toddler years.  She asked a few questions about the images referenced by the words, a reaction that I had taught her with my habit of pointing out the objects in the pictures as I read their description in the text.

Mickey Mouse Clubhouse: Minnie's Valentine    She read Minnie's Valentine to me, struggling with one or two words which were not in her Sight-words Lists yet, but sounded them out with little effort, thanks to the mixture of phonics in her school's reading program.  I encouraged her interaction with the story, identifying Minnie through her disguise which she wore while helping Mickey decide which gift the apparently absent Minnie might enjoy.  I resisted the urge to mock the simplicity of the relationship between the two mice as she resisted the urge to point out how pink the book is--to provoke my expressive mock-distaste for the color pink.


     We took turns reading pages from I Wish That I Had Duck Feet, and I commented several times that I found it odd that this character Bill Brown kept appearing on each page, despite the differing settings and crowds of classmates.  I suspected that Dr. Seuss may have felt that identity crisis problems would naturally lead to soul-searching--allegorically presented by the animal-parts wishes that the narrating boy daydreams about--and that this soul-searching results from a bullied person's desire not to be like the bully who deems other people inferior, but to be something uniquely superior to the traits claimed by the bully as being evident of his sense of superiority.  The narrator in Dr. Seuss's story repeatedly refers to his desired traits as characteristics that would make Bill Brown unhappy, and consequently indicate that the narrator hopes to treat Bill Brown as he himself had been mistreated by Bill Brown, and presumably others as well.  It is an unfortunate presentation of the helpful ethical advice to "Do unto others as you would have others do unto you."

    Clearly, Dr. Seuss's narrator imagines that Bill Brown will not like to be treated as he had been treating others, and yet paradoxically he wishes to treat Bill Brown with the same belittling attitude that we are given to suspect that Bill Brown has treated the narrator.  It is quite difficult to ask oneself if Dr. Seuss's narrator was wishing to have been treated as he had been treated by Bill Brown, but it is deemed acceptable to believe that Bill Brown is rightfully suffering from a karmic case of "What goes around, comes around."

    I kept silent about all these musings as my daughter read the alternating pages, but I had a frightful surprise towards the end of the book when Dr. Seuss's narrator wishes that he possessed all the traits that he had described individually on previous pages, all at once, and suspected that people would fear him and lock him up in the zoo, referring to him as a "Which-what-who."

Mangled Doves    In Mangled Doves, in the Verses for the Vixen section, there is a poem called "Eyeless Me-ness" which I had occasionally referred to as "Which-What-Who."  I did not use the phrase accidentally in the latter half of the poem--I chose the phrase to express the lack of humanity which results from losing one's sense of identity.  However, I was not aware that I was reflecting a memory of the Dr. Seuss book I had enjoyed in my childhood.  I felt at the time that I wrote it that the phrase succinctly describes the confusion of three particular elements of identity crisis, or perhaps three stages in the soul-searching process which results from an identity crisis.  These elements are as follows:

           1.  Which person am I?  Among a crowd of people, individuals tend to define their personalities by comparing themselves to people around them, describing certain traits of their personality as different or similar to those same traits in other persons--dependent upon their assessment of that other person as pleasant or unpleasant, popular or unpopular, successful or unsuccessful, beautiful or ugly.
          2.  Who am I?  Interpreting one's own personality traits can be difficult for people for different reasons depending on what types of personality traits one possesses, especially while avoiding comparisons to other persons.  One of the most challenging aspects of soul-searching is this effort--for comparing oneself to others results in a sense of identity based on one's assessment of the personality traits of other people, not of oneself.
          3.  What am I?  Soul-searching can often be the most fearful thing one can do during an identity crisis because one of the problems of such a crisis is the suspicion that one does not possess an identity, or perhaps the nature of ownership in identity assessment could be ill-defined, and that perhaps the person who is suffering from an identity crisis could appropriately doubt that he or she is even human.

    One of the most significant memories that I retained from that time was an anonymous moment when I was walking to the University "Satellite" (a semi-underground lounge on the opposite side of the campus from the main cafeteria with a convenience store, mini-cafeteria, a few TV lounges, and a patio lounge with several tables).  I describe the time just before making the acquaintance of the "Vixen" as a troubling year in which I spoke to nobody and no one spoke to me for at least a year.  It now strikes me as strange that I could hold a job, live in a multi-person household, and attend classes while not verbally communicating anything at all.  However, I maintain and defend that such behavior was my reality at that time.  The only verbal communication which I experienced in person was the lectures in my classes, and as any college student will report, "That can be as impersonal as watching television."  And on this particular morning, as I silently strolled past a crowded esplanade filled with students conversing with one another, I walked past a pair of students sitting on a curb reviewing a sociology textbook in preparation for a mid-term exam, and one of them read the following sentence aloud:  "The primary reason that we develop and maintain relationships with other people is to remind ourselves that we are of the same species as those with whom we interact."

     I continued walking absent-mindedly towards the cafe, seeking only to fill my gut with Coffee and a Bear-Claw.  But halfway there, I stopped in my tracks and stared at the sidewalk in a dead stare.  I silently asked myself, "Am I?"  The over-analytical thought processes to which I am prone kicked in and provided the non-answer which presented the most comfort for those painful times.  If the need to remind ourselves that we are human is the root cause of our need to form and maintain relationships with people, then it is therefore possible (and likely) for us as individuals to forget that we are human.  I immediately suspected and became convinced that I had caused myself to suffer exactly such a lapse in self-awareness.  However, each time that I looked at myself in the mirror for the next few days, I repeatedly counter-interrogated my suspicions:  "How can we forget that we are human?  We are the only species on the planet that looks like this!"

    Shortly after that day, I spoke a contradictory question to the Vixen, a classmate in my Ancient/Classical Literature course, and the self-destruction of my relationship with her resulted from my efforts to express the confusion which was caused by my efforts to seek the loss of my own self-identity.  

    Later in the Summer of 1992, as I held myself in isolation in order to enforce my withdrawal from the Vixen's intoxicating presence, I wrote some of the most complex and expressive poetry I could muster in order to remind myself of the necessity of the separation from the woman I adored at that time.  On July 25th, while I was grappling with the scope of the massive poem (A Picture of Her Face) which I was writing over the two-week period which surrounded that day, I sat down and wrote "Eyeless Me-ness" in slightly over half an hour.  While I revised the ending of the non-palindromic verse of the second half of the poem several times, I scribbled out the first half of the poem exactly as it appears in Mangled Doves.  "Eyeless Me-ness" is a simple and basic poem which iconically expresses the silliness of the paradoxes of an identity crisis as it mocks the usage of pronouns commonly used to interact with oneself and others.  However, I think that the communication problems in my relationship with the Vixen can be expressed quite clearly in these verses from the long poem, A Picture of Her Face:

       No lack of wordless communication,
That we could not see.  Our eyes conveyance,
But neither of us could see the message:
Our words carried our meanings, abeyance
Stood between us.  Yet there was no language
There for me to translate my devotion.

Monday, January 31, 2011

The Blurb at BreadnCircles


Mangled Doves
It has been very difficult to figure out how to explain the unifying principle of my compilation, Mangled Doves. I am not sure if that is a valid selling point or a harsh criticism of the book. However, I must answer for this collection of musings from a baffled and often confusing soul. In my story-fragment The Cherubs of Sablewing, an administrative character complains about the bias of my stylistic excesses, asking, "Why don't you focus that rhetoric on the good image? You want people to think you are happy, don't you?" 
As for my writing style, I had a reputation for delightfully "sending my readers running for a Dictionary." I never actually outgrew that habit, but I did realize that it was counter-productive. In an effort to compensate for such childishness, I have included a Glossary at the end of the book, where I can more appropriately flaunt my extensive vocabulary. But, I have been told that including a Glossary is just as pretentious as needing to include one.
I expect that many readers will inquire about my favorite writings, so I will discuss them in advance. I find the greatest curiosity in the transitional poems, such as "Building Blocks," which represents the first indication of an urge for creative expression, or "The Torn Letter," which constitutes my first effort at technically competent versification, or "Twenty-Seven," which signals a full centrality in the Miscellany section, in which I had fully moved on from my failed relationship with Debbie, but had not yet begun to be smitten by The Vixen. The long poem, A Picture of Her Face will always be my proudest moment in poetry, if not for its ruthless brutality in portraying the complexity of the relationship, then for its surprising virtuosity in maintaining a complex rhyming scheme in a subtle and dynamic structure. In prose, I will always delight in the contrast between Int Dat Cute's flashy, formulaic style and the slow, methodical pacing of  Footprints on the Wall. The "Wander-Sea" passages are not really short stories, but captivate with their mysterious meaningfulness nonetheless. But for all the gravity and pain in this collection, the novella This and That flaunts a flagrant disrespect for literary convention with its comic disdain for reader expectations and narrative technique. I cannot forget the "Imagination" texts, which, along with "A Modest Proposal," constitute my first philosophical writings, however tongue-in-cheek they were.
In The Cherubs of Sablewing, my narrator's response to the questions was "I want people to think what is." As for the unifying principle of the book, I will only guide you this far: Don't neglect the "Unfinished Verses and Prose Fragments."