Archive for the Uncategorized Category

The Angel in the Alley

Posted in Reflections, Uncategorized with tags , , , on December 9, 2013 by Justin S. Smith

This idea came from a brief text exchange with my brother after the Elf on the Shelf post. If you came here searching for an inspirational story of supernatural protection, you have made a grave error. Keep reading though, you may yet be inspired. – J.S.S.

I think I was clear about my opinions of the Elf on the Shelf. What if you agree with me but still want the fun of moving an inanimate object about your property convincing your children that it only moves when they’re not watching? Sure you could go full Toy Story on them, but isn’t that just another version of playing with dolls  like the Elf on the Shelf? Hasn’t the Doctor already given us the answer?

I offer you the Elf on the Shelf Whovian alternative: The Angel in the Alley (for those non-Whovians get some information here or here.)

Imagine, you send one of your children to take out the trash the day after Thanksgiving and when they open the back gate, an angel statue is standing in the alley. The next day they look out the window and see the angel in the yard blocking the gate. You can move it around a few times outside, maybe have a hand on the window to a child’s bedroom with the fanged mouth open and exposed.

Then you bring it in the house and place it in frightening locations for discovery: behind the shower curtain, right outside of a bedroom door, in the bedroom closet. Christmas morning the child awakes to find an angel by their bed reaching for them to toss them back in time. If you’re a real over achiever, maybe the angel is by the child’s bed on the morning of the 24th and they wake on Christmas to find the house altered to simulate that they have been sent back to a different era. Go as far as you want with it. The important things are to make sure they notice the changes and adjust to their emotional stability.

So, if instead of magic and whimsy you want to teach your children vigilance and fear of blinking; if you’d rather clean up the destruction made by an 8 year old trying to escape a statue than a mess you made yourself mimicking a mischievous elf;  if you want the fun of manipulating your children’s emotions but want to make sure that the fun is one sided (really, they’re already getting Christmas gifts, do they need a month of fun build up or do they need to really earn it?) I recommend the Angel in the Alley.

Any help lining up manufacturing, building a prototype or contacting BBC for permissions will be rewarded with a free set of angels (one per child) and/or equity in the business. – J.S.S.

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Writing about Writing

Posted in Reflections, Uncategorized with tags , , , , on December 5, 2013 by Justin S. Smith

A friend of mine has a site where he primarily writes about writing. For some reason, likely because he’d never read my blog before, he asked me if I’d like to fill a gap in his guest post schedule for today. He gave me a timetable on when he would like to see a first draft and said to just write something (around 500 words) about story telling.

It’s a little strange working with an editor; I’ve not been a fan in the past. I usually have gotten comments like “write it like this…” or “you should say this.” Essentially what I get is “I’m not going to put the effort into writing this, but I think it would be better said in my voice instead of yours so I’m going to tell you how to say it like I would.” Rarely among the amateur elite do you find someone who just gives you suggestions on improving without trying to mold you into a version of themselves.

I understand; it’s a tightrope. Having just taken over the duty of teaching writing to my 11 year old, I already know the effort it takes point someone towards better writing and telling them what to write.

My first draft was returned with 23  notes. Most quite useful (the guy really hates semi-colons for some reason,) some a simple request for rewording for clarity, and one referencing Dr. Who. All in all a good experience. We bounced drafts back and forth a couple of times, and he was overall pleased with the third version. I never felt like my voice was being trampled or that I had to fight against unnecessary changes (I even managed to retain a couple semi-colons in the final draft.)

Anyway, If you’re interested in reading my post Lying: a Folk Art, head over to In Brief look around while your there and tell Nathan you’d like to see more from me. If you got here from the link on my bio on that post, here’s a sample of the Historical Fiction I was talking about: 2800 miles/ 4 days (first of four parts) and here’s some prose I’m particularly fond of: A Song For Actors (first of three songs.) Feel free to look around and comment. Thanks for stopping by.

Birthdays

Posted in Uncategorized on June 6, 2012 by Justin S. Smith

I remember on my twentieth birthday, my friend Ken called and I answered the phone (land line, no caller ID, I knew it was him by the voice and what he said.) “Happy half way to 40.” <click> Now I’m halfway to 70.

The mark of time passing, annual celebration of survival, congratulations you’re not dead yet. With few exceptions, the more birthdays you have, the less they mean. Once you become conscious of your own existence, birthdays are pretty awesome, for a while. There’s some crap early on (my daughter Chloe put out the candle on her first birthday cake by grabbing it, that really sucked for her, but she won’t remember it) but pretty much from 2 or 3 until 10 you have that one day where you are a virtual monarch, if only in your head.

Then what? 11 and 12 are still good, but you’ve crossed into “double digits” already and so nothing really spectacular. 13, you’re a teenager now. 16, you can drive. 18, you can vote, join the military, and be an independent adult. 21, you can legally drink in the USA in misery while thinking about how the “great” things you could do at 18 are really not so great. 25, you can rent a car.

30 was weird for me. One of my friends turns 30 today and may soon understand. It took until 32 before I stopped answering “how old are you?” with “twenty…uh, thirty <whatever>.” Somehow in my head I was still a youth; a young man in his twenties ready to go. 30 seemed older than me.

So we celebrate our kids’ birthdays much more than our own. We see their 7 candles and think of our 7 candles so long ago. We mourn their growing up: “oh my goodness, my baby is 10 years old.” but I think we really are just freaking out because the cadence of the drums that we have trying to ignore by treating our own birthdays like just another day becomes amplified by the celebrations of our children growing up and the loud slow beating of the march toward death can not be ignored.

But you didn’t come here for a pep talk. No, I’m not twenty-something anymore. Today I cross the line of being closer to 40 than to 30 though, time being unrepentantly linear, this has been true since I crossed that threshold. I like to think that at 35 I am happier and more content with my life than when I was 30 or 25. I’m not a rock star, but I walk through my front door to wild screams and the excitement of several little people who are thrilled to see me. More celebrity than most people could handle.

So, thanks for stopping by to read this meandering nonsense. A new post after so long doesn’t mean I’m back, or maybe it does, I haven’t decided yet. And thanks for all the birthday wishes. That’s another thing I had a lot less of in my twenties, but then, we didn’t have Facebook to keep our calendars for us then either. Regardless, thanks.

J. S. Smith 

Censorship, Chinese Food, & Pants

Posted in Politics, Religion, and Society, Uncategorized with tags , , , , on January 21, 2011 by Justin S. Smith

“Censorship is telling a man he can’t have a steak just because a baby can’t chew it.” Mark Twain

I was done with discussion of censorship for a while and looking for other quotes for a different post when I came across this one by Twain. He is talking about censorship where adults are concerned, but it raises questions concerning those who cannot “chew.”

When a child is born, they start life on a liquid diet, they slowly start eating mush, then soft food and eventually regular food, first broken up into small pieces moving towards table independence. Even after they learn to feed themselves, there are utensils to learn and cutting. Parents may be cutting meat up for children for a long time. Hopefully a child can be taught to cut for themselves without cutting themselves, and this is another process. This is part of why the Asians are so much more efficient than westerners; all of their food is already cut to appropriate sizes; if you want a day off from cutting food for your children, get Chinese food, but don’t be fooled, this great equalizer of the table comes from Communist thought. At least we chopstick users can still have a sense of elitism.

Like food, thoughts must be “cut up” for easy digestion for the young ones. We don’t start our children reading Tolstoy. We start by reading to them what they can handle. However, with words and thought, we can give them much more than they can digest reading above their comprehension and let them pull out of it what they can. They won’t choke unless you choke them, which brings me to the necessary part of this method: patience. Some children will just listen to the rhythmic pattern of the words and be content with spoken song, as it were, but with age, they will get to the questioning.

“What does that word mean?”

“Why is he doing that?

These are the little brains starting to see that there is more than what they thought in the story. This is the child saying they want something they can chew on a little more. This is a great thing, if you are patient. This is also your last warning about parental censorship, if you have not been careful with what you are presenting, you could be answering some difficult questions. Be prepared. See, I am not opposed to parental censorship; most rational people recognize that there is such a thing as age appropriateness, like with food. You start with editing what you give them, mostly things unpalatable for adults (like children’s entertainment) moving to a semi-digested form of mush, then small pieces. Chinese food = family entertainment that is Pixar is carryout from the Great Wall. In the books Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland or Huckleberry Finn or the The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, there is some really great stuff that they won’t get like they may not appreciate the stir-fried shitake mushroom in all of its glory, they may ask “what is that?” and this is how they learn. 

That’s why we homeschool. If my child grows teeth before yours, I will give them something to chew; I won’t wait until the experts say they are old enough. If they get their teeth slower, they will eat mush longer. Every child develops differently. We can teach school like we “teach” eating, the public schools, on the other hand, take their cues from clothing manufacturers.

Let me explain.

I don’t know if anyone else has this issue, but kids clothing sizes seem like one of the worst thought out things I’ve seen. If I go buy myself pants, I find the waist and leg measurements for me and that’s pretty much it. There is some play in measurement between manufacturers, so I try them on, but pretty much I get the right numbers and they fit. Kid’s clothing is sized based on age. Someone decided that a 3 year-old is a certain shape and that’s the shape they make clothes for. Strangely, children, being little people, like big people don’t all fit into the same mold. So if a child is of average height but not weight, his pants fall off. You could always go down a size, but then you have high-water pants.

I have worked on solutions to this but duct tape leads to accidents and my wife says the staple gun is out of the question. So we look for belts. Do you know how hard it can be to find a good belt for a 6 year-old? I do, the options are few and usually ineffectual. Now, if kid’s pants were sized like men’s there would be no problem. (Note: I am not discussing women’s sizes as they are a complete mystery to me)

The point is one size does not fit all. It usually doesn’t even fit most, but that is how kid’s clothes and public education works, or doesn’t work. I’m not saying that all of you supporters of public schools are wrong. I hope your kids are getting an education outside of school from you though so that when important topics are censored, shied away from or mishandled, you are there to fill in the blanks and correct the flaws. In my opinion, the time needed for correcting would justify homeschooling, but not everyone is cut out for it.

I’m not an expert on early child development or education. I know this was a bit rambling and I’m making some weird connections. Look, I’m not telling you how to raise your kids, but if you are trusting the government to do it, check up on them daily, they have a bad record of mishandling things and making stupid reactionary decisions. To sum up: Pixar = Chinese Food, Osh Kosh B’gosh = Public Education, and nobody knows your children better or cares about their education and wellbeing more than you.

Like many things I have started, this was almost not published for its ramble and possible lack of clarity, if you find it is missing a couple of connections, sorry. It is what it is.-JSS

Forgot the Fun

Posted in Uncategorized on January 3, 2011 by Justin S. Smith

I started this blog a little over a year ago with lofty ideas of brilliant expression of ideas, humor and storytelling at its greatest. I slowly dwindled in my writing and came to a grinding halt. Why?

Because I have nothing else to say? No; I am full of ideas for blog posts.

Because I don’t have the time? No; time management is a constant issue for me, but even with work and family I have an excess of superfluous nonsensical time-wasters that can be eliminated for the sake of writing.

The simple answer is it stopped being fun. I write for primarily the hedonistic purpose of my own enjoyment. I may have secondary motives, giving someone a good chuckle, prodding discussion of politics, religion, or any of those other nasty things polite people don’t discuss in mixed company. It is mainly about using mystical incantations to transfer the voices out of my head, through the keyboard and out onto the world wide web where they can infect others and leave me in peace.

That last bit was a joke; I don’t really hear voices. Quiet! gollum, gollum.

As it turns out, between my rough exterior and sarcastic demeanor, I actually care what people think about me. When comments went a way I didn’t like, or worse, there were no comments at all, interest in pressing on waned. That is to say, I desire validation. This leaves me in a bit of a sticky point though since, by definition, Thoughts from the Fringe should not be popular thoughts. That’s not a self-stroking, ego boost defining myself as the John Wayne rugged individualist/revolutionary. I am not. My thinking is a blending of the thoughts of others that I have consumed, digested, and intestinally bound together as a steaming pile I label as “brilliance.” Or, if you prefer a less repulsive view, my voice is simply the echo of the choir of voices that I have listened to condensed to a ranting aria of nonsense.  

So what do I do? Hang it up, keep my thoughts to myself and disappoint both of my readers? I’m not ready to hang it up yet. Ignore my critics and say whatever I want? Probably to a degree, but I also need to get better at responding to the criticism. I can’t blame the critics for wrongly disagreeing with me.

I’m starting the New Year with a renewed dedication to TFTF. I still will be ranting nonsense, and I still will be trying to get down some thoughts on some bigger issues. I really want to finish the Christian Nation series and I have some other ideas pecking on the inside of my skull like a chick trying to hatch.

I only ask one thing from my readers, occasionally make a comment, it doesn’t have to be big, and “LOL” on a funny piece just to remind me there is people out there. Argue with me, I’ll try to be nicer in responding and try to actually respond to what you’re saying. That’s not a promise to reply to every comment. I will also welcome post ideas if you think of something that might be fun to tackle (no promises on it actually happening) and reading suggestions as good reading is always helpful for writing.

So I’m back, hoping 2011 is a good year for Thoughts From The Fringe.

Happy New Year (it’s not too late to say it; we’re still in the first percent of the year.) 

-JSS

A Quick note from the Fringe

Posted in Uncategorized on December 10, 2009 by Justin S. Smith

Recently, some of you may have read comments where I have vehomently defended the positions I take. I will continue to do this; but I do in fact welcome opposing views. I am in favor of intelligent debate; I enjoy intelligent debate.

Here’s the problem: if you want to argue with what I write, argue with what I write. I stated in my post A Christian Nation-Part II that the god (“Nature’s God” and “Creator”) mentioned in the first two paragraphs of the Declaration of Independence was not the Christian God because the rights it is said he bestowed upon man are not biblical. I did not say he was unspecified and therefore we must look at the make up of the audience. I never asserted in any way that the Continental Congress or the colonials in general were not mostly Christians. I did assert that some of them, particularly Jefferson and Franklin, were not Christians and that a non-Christian influence is evident in the document. So, to argue with this point, one would have to attribute to the Christian God that which I said could not be attributed. Religious make up of Congress was not part of my argument.

I hope this explains why I may have seemed quite frustrated in my debating. I felt as if it were I said “that dog has long hair” and was argued against by being told “the dog is black.” I never said the dog wasn’t black. Regardless, if I seemed to be bullying, it was not my intent and I do apologize.

I write what I write for me; I hope readers may also enjoy what I write. If someone is inspired to thought or to do additional research on a topic I cover, great, I am happy I have contributed, but my purpose in writing is primarily selfish; I enjoy writing. So to protect my main purpose, I have made some rules. I’m not going to engage in black vs. long arguments anymore. I feel that if someone wants to argue with points I haven’t made, they did not spend enough time reading what is written, and so I do not owe them the time it takes to entertain them. I will henceforth respond to these arguments by saying “The dog is black.”

I recognize that more than a few of my thoughts may be off center,( that is why I named it “Thoughts From the Fringe”) and therefore will be disagreed with. If you want to argue with those thoughts, fine. If you want to insult me or any of my other readers, you will be blocked permenantly. I might take a shot once from you; I might give you a warning and a chance to recant/apologize, but don’t count on it. Do count on not being given a second chance if you insult one of my other readers.

If you feel as if I am being unfair, take a look at your browser’s address bar. Do you see the “justinssmith” in the address? That means you are on my turf. I am Justin S. Smith. This is my house, if you want to come in for a cup of coffee, you need to show some respect.

Now then, back to the nonsense at hand….

Please enjoy the rest of your day here at the Fringe. 

Hello from the fringe

Posted in Uncategorized on November 3, 2009 by Justin S. Smith

Inspired by so many of my blogging friends, I decided to try my hand at it.

I will fill this with nonsense, humor, sarcasm, and occasionally some insight I have in various areas.

I hope you enjoy.