Rendered Fat Content


Falling Cow
We live in an ever-changing world, but we live within a nominal (noun-centric) language. We take snapshots of our experiences, turning motion into statuettes, verbs into nouns, then respond in kind; rather woodenly. Our representations bushwhack us a lot. We might live more securely within our language—within our objectified representations of this world—than we ever do out there where nothing ever stays the same.

I sometimes suffer from a form of noun poisoning. I’ve bestowed a name, a good meme-y one, then strut around as if I’ve conquered it, though it wasn’t an ‘it’ until I objectified my sensory experience into that handy pocket size. I doubt that anyone could ever muster a completely proper characterization. I deal in impressionistic portraits, hardly photographic quality. You probably do, too. Slip over here for more ...



StepTooFar stands prominent on the list of common unknowables. Sure, I can know in retrospect that I took a fateful step, but until then, I’m probably just hypnotizing myself again. I mention StepTooFar here because it well represents The Common Unknowables, pseudo-information everyone seems familiar with ... when observed in someone else, and generally clueless about whenever we’re doing it to ourselves. We do these to ourselves.

These are delicate subjects. Only the most dedicated masochist enjoys awakening from this dream, even though the dream seems to be dooming him to an unwanted fate. It seems way too late for anybody to do anything about much of anything. Fate seems to have already won. What now? Slip over here for more ...



“At some point during this engagement, you’ll very likely feel overwhelmingly justified concluding that you’ve contracted with the most inept consultant in the universe,” The BriefConsultant cautions his prospective client. “What we do then will determine the success of this effort.”

There, I’ve done it again. I’ve tried to chase off another client. Some won’t be so easily dissuaded, but others will. You see, I’ve deliberately committed a taboo, and one of the more powerful ones, too. Ineptitude, or, more properly stated, the appearance of ineptitude, might outrank malfeasance on the Must Be Avoided List. A stumble quite easily amplifies far beyond mere accident to tarnish even the most otherwise innocent reputation. Generosity doesn’t seem very high on anyone’s to-do list. Slip over here for more ...



Not everyone can pronounce my surname. I suppose it has too many consonants for some. For them, the sch comes out as ess and the ltz sounds like an unadorned s. Schmaltz becomes smalls. It’s okay with me. It reminds me to focus upon the small rather than the huge.

“Let me paint you a broad brush overview, Mr. Smalls.” Every client tries to first show me a big picture of their difficulty, but I’m listening for small things.

BriefConsulting doesn’t scale, but it doesn’t need to scale. How would The BriefConsultant influence an enterprise-wide initiative? Certainly not by focusing upon the enterprise, whatever that is. Size serves as a distraction, a distancing abstraction when scaled beyond small. Slip over here for more ...



Have you noticed how we structure our stories? They seem to start with good intentions before startling themselves with some surprise disappointment, then finish with either a redeeming flourish or a catastrophic crash; saved or doomed. Maybe no experience qualifies as a story without satisfying this rough plot outline. The most believable stories seem to be the most redemptive ones. Life doesn’t play out very much like this, but our stories about life certainly do.

The distinction between story and reality seems difficult to maintain. Stories too easily sneak across that unguarded boundary to inhabit the place real life lessons used to live. These invasions tangle up expectations, leaving even the most mindful anticipating salvation or doom, and little else. Clients call the BriefConsultant when anticipating doom, seeking some kind of salvation. Slip over here for more ...



Management closely trails leadership as the presumed one-size-fits-all prescription for danged near everything. When a project fails to satisfy expectations, we immediately commence to blaming the absence of either 1) leadership, or 2) management, then set about securing more of these apparently indispensable elements.

The BriefConsultant might receive a panicked telephone call about this time, when the earlier projected lifecycle threatens to become an absolutely unanticipated death spiral. Being a skeptic by nature, I almost half-listen as the prospective client recounts the many surprising L and M shortcomings so recently and shockingly uncovered. I’ve heard the story so many times before, only the reported color of Goldilock’s shoes varies from prior tellings. Slip over here for more ...



Software developers have created an encyclopedia of reusable routines they call patterns, under the notion that many systems perform similar functions and so should probably use the same processes to accomplish them. They repurposed this idea from the field of architecture, where Alexander proposed what he called A Pattern Language to describe otherwise indescribable common design aspirations. Both ideas seem founded in the modern notion that reinventing wheels constitutes wasted effort. Might as well leverage others’ work.

The BriefConsultant doesn’t think like this. While it might seem perfectly possible to classify any observed activity into a pre-existing grammar of actions, I find little leverage in this pigeonholing. BriefConsulting seems deliberately inefficient because it isn’t interested in pattern matching, but pattern pulling; patterning. Slip over here for more ...



BriefConsulting doesn’t deal in universals; BriefConsultants like me were never persuaded that we could be privy to any of the secrets behind even one of the multitudes of One Best Ways. I remain skeptical when encountering anything labeled Best Practice, curious about who licked that label before sticking it on, and why. Neither advocate nor adversary, not over-bearing or objective, I start with a BlankPage. I must seem curious in every possible sense of the word.

I can’t rightfully say that I know much, but I do hope to be learning. I try to acknowledge the here and now as here and now rather than then and there in disguise, and recognize that this moment fully qualifies as virgin territory. Nobody’s ever been exactly right here before. This fact disqualifies my experience but might more fully qualify my senses—my presence, should I somehow find the ability to sense the here and now; right here and now. Slip over here for more ...



I might be a little late arriving at this recognition; not that I haven’t been bombarded with clues since before you-know-who outgrew his diapers. I was always related, but couldn’t relate. I competed instead, seeking superiority. Who would settle for parity when the possibility of dominion begins batting those long eyelashes?

I tell a passable, but unconvincing story. Everyone says we’re all about community, but we have yet to develop a convincing dialect to support that assertion. Most often, community serves as code for .community, abbreviated to .com, which means I want to sell you something. If you buy, you belong. If you buy again, you belong more. If you buy early and often, you’re a best customer, qualified to receive special attention. Slip over here for more ...



Most controversies seem to demand the taking of sides. Even though most every controversy has fewer or many more than two sides, the invitation always comes addressed to either or to or. This narrowing of perspective might be characterized as the root cause of the controversy, though no one engaged in resolving it would ever suspect that the cause was meta to the maelstrom. This paragraph explains the human condition.

No day ever goes by but what I’m invited to stand up for this or its logical counterpart, that. I’m challenged to show my true colors, as if they could not possibly include a rather fuzzy grey. My clients insist that I see their world through their eyes, and I surprise myself when I find I’m almost able to, but without the conviction they bring to the experience. I might be able to appreciate the sides they see without actually seeing or ever really believing in them. Slip over here for more ...



I’ve grown to understand that every client holds the sacred responsibility to at least try to thwart my every attempt to help them. Most seem fully capable of fulfilling this obligation without anyone reminding them to do anything. Even those who innocently mistake me for a helpmate eventually understand that I would not help them, if only because I couldn’t. No matter how diligent, knowledgeable, insistent, or clever they or I might think I am, they’ll still have to untie their own Gordian knot. I need to be diligent anyway, to deflect their insidious pleas for help, and knowledgeable enough to recognize that line I should not wander beyond, and insistent in my belief that my client is fully capable of untying their own knot, and clever enough to successfully engage in this dance.

The BriefConsultant might be mistaken for help, or even for a helper, but he cannot be either. The role, properly deployed, might involve more shoving back out onto the ice than rescuing the apparently inept skater. The client is usually the source of his own difficulty. He might as well be the source of the resolution of that difficulty, too. Slip over here for more ...



The Muse was reading out loud juicy bits from an Inspector General report about a project she’d been watching augur into ever deeper ‘yogurt’ for months, and I heard myself responding, as distracted husbands often will, “Amateurs! Amateurs!” Most of us have seen what happens when someone with great expertise in one area finds them self assigned to an area they have no experience with. The new context easily gets mistaken for some familiar one, and with little more than the raw power of authority driving, auguring ensues. Experienced contributors might get savaged for resisting change when they mention complications only visible to someone, unlike the designated leader, with practical experience.

These adventures almost never turn out well. Often, it seems, the clueless decision maker will amplify his own cluelessness by engaging his expertise. Some manage to transcend this downward trend, though this seems to demand an almost inhuman ability: the unlikely ability to demonstrate expertise in NOT being an expert. Slip over here for more ...



Most folks dispatch their leaves in the autumn. I hold onto to mine over winter. Sure, I shove them off the lawn and into the beds, but there they stay until the snow stops threatening. Along about the second week of April, I have a lot of leafing to do. Even then, I intend to hold onto those babies for a year or two, setting them in black plastic to cook down into something the soil might appreciate.

Beneath that blanket, Spring’s about two weeks more advanced than it otherwise might have been. The soil seems moist but not saturated like the unprotected areas ended up. No moss grew under there, either. Some tender herbs even survived. Slip over here for more ...



This morning finds me almost back home from our excursion, our toodle, into the DeepSouth. I left with no more than beliefs about what I might find there and I return with some of those beliefs intact, but with many of them thrown into uneasy question. The world doesn’t seem to much care what I believe about it and my perceptions of the world might twist whatever I think I’m seeing. I am confident as I return that I did not see The Deep South, but I might have caught fresh glimpses of me perceiving there. To look at something different, even something I expect to be different, qualifies as an act of discovery; not so much discovery of that object, but of my own act of perceiving.

Back home, my anticipation and perception mostly seamlessly integrate, so there’s little gradient for me to experience perception, or, indeed, for me to really see whatever I’m looking at. The world convincingly appears just as I expect it to appear. This can be a dreary state, a numbing where the vitality characteristic of discovering seems absent. Leave that familiarity, and more than the landscape changes. I might become more alive. Slip over here for more ...



Nobody talks much about the genuinely awful aspects of creating. It seems at root a form of compulsion, sometimes obsession. It might be most satisfying when completed, but by then, of course, it’s no longer there, but past. It’s mostly lonely work, done under the most isolating imaginable conditions. Anticipating a new project can quite understandably seize up even the most previously productive creator.

When my friend Franklin first mentioned his brilliant distinction between talents and gifts, I quite naturally believed that it might be useful, perhaps necessary, to enumerate exactly what my gifts might be, to nail down the source of my talent. He pointed out that talents are merely the mediums within which gifts manifest themselves, rather like the canvas a painter might gift with paint or a cello gifted with a player’s inspiration. So I began decomposing toward a toward a presumed essence, believing that if I could name that tune, I’d be better able to play it. Slip over here for more ...



N-Awl’ns wakes with a thud muffled by a sweet, persistent haze. Nights stretch into next days here; reveling lasts until it flames out, regaining only a cinder of consciousness at first light. The early streets are empty save for the dedicated joggers and the service and construction workers. Everyone else seems to sleep in, or to have just not regained consciousness yet.

I’m out early continuing a quest to find one order of hash brown potatoes, which seem to have slipped out of the American morning into myth or legend. I find a small deli whose menu promises reward, but delivers the modern compromise I call SmashBrowns: outsized Tater Tots® smashed flat. These represent compromise because nobody seems to win anything in the transaction. The customer loses texture, taste, and satisfaction while the proprietor loses another could-have-been satisfied customer. Contrivance (or connivance) takes another hand. Slip over here for more ...



I never had a bucket list. I went to Paris and avoided long lines of tourists by not visiting the Louve. In London, I succeeded in somehow utterly avoiding the queen. When I visit anywhere, I’m more interested in experiencing what living there might feel like, so I go find a laundromat or a grocery store and see. I ride the bus rather than hail that cab, or I walk. No better way to get to know anywhere than by hoof. I despise wax museums, salt water taffy factories, cute crap shops, and every imaginable kind of guided tour. I am not a tourist.

Tourists, in my humble opinion, give visiting a bad reputation. Towns and cities around the world encourage tourists, though, building intricate traps to lure them in, and managing to attract people who seem perfectly satisfied forking over sixty bucks to clop along in a carriage behind a weary dray horse to look at throngs of less fortunate tourists on foot. Slip over here for more ...



Legend claims that Robert Leroy Johnson sold his soul to the devil at a Mississippi crossroads to become a legendary bluesman. The Muse insisted as only The Muse can insist that as long as we’d gone to all the trouble of driving to Mississippi, we should cross it on third tier backroads so that we might actually see the country we were passing through. I was in no disposition to argue, since her insistence exactly mirrored my intention. We stuck to the slow roads all the way to the Pontchartrain causeway.

Wisteria was blooming in the woodlands we passed, and azaleas and dogwoods, too; April all dressed up like the middle of May. I expected blistering poverty, and the typical shotgun house might look like a shack anywhere else, but they’re common here; an old tradition, a familiar adaptation to the climate and the land. It all looked alluring on this Spring afternoon. Slip over here for more ...



When I entered first grade, I was assigned to a special class for people who didn’t speak right. I might have inherited my Missouri drawl from my great grandparents, who, being the children of Oregon pioneers, spoke funny. Nobody in the DeepSouth could have unnerstood ‘em either.

That special class apparently broke me of my infirmity because I now quite convincingly pass as a TV Newscaster American, which means I affect little regional accent at all. The Muse complains that nobody here understands anything she says and she has to ask a couple of times for a repeat before even a crude understanding emerges. Me, too. Slip over here for more ...


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