Saturday, March 24, 2012

Three Little Words

The most dangerous phrase in the English language, it strikes terror in the hearts of brave men, delight in the eyes of women and sends children running form the room.
Never has more suffering, grief and pain been brought about by any other collection of words.

Why, why do we put ourselves through it? We could just admit that we don’t want to do it and walk away, but no, generation after generation has knowingly walked into the trap and sent their kids off to do the same.

Why must we be plagued with this cross?
Why is Read the Directions so hard for men to come to grips with? Now women in all fairness, do it too, but they do it by handing the new vacuum off to the spouse and walking away. Later when there is weeping and a pile of parts strewn about the living room floor she can come back and say, “Anyone else would have had it working by now and if you had to be so inept you could at least clean up after yourself.”

And with that harsh judgment men slink off to the cave to drown their sorrows in some nasty beverage or two while plotting murder.

It doesn’t really matter what the instructions are for, not reading them is the traditional method. I’m not sure if this is passed on from father to son in a secret bonding ceremony conducted at the dark of the moon with drums and chanting and the sacrifice of live stock and grain, probably where all those barbeques came from.

Whatever the cause it is pervasive.

Half of the trouble people have with filing their taxes is because they don’t read the instructions. True, they are written in Governmenteese, the most difficult and peculiar language known to man. Part of this is by intent so that our elected officials can pass things into law which have no business being there without the fear of their constituents finding out and banding together like those villagers in the old Frankenstein movies and hunting them down with burning torches and pitchforks. Part is just plain puffery. They think that if they say something which takes half an hour to read and twenty minutes more to decipher people will think it was written by someone with special skills which is of course nonsense cause any fool can be elected to Congress if he is willing to ignore common sense and community values.

But then it goes to a government agency to be edited and printed and the IRS has to add its own stamp and by the time it gets to you you have to know the basis which may or may not have been effected by your employers ESPP which buys lots of shares in fractional units and splits them among all of the participants giving the individual incremental stock dividends. Now aren’t you thrilled?

Ever try to program a TIVO? You need a Masters in Computer Science, and that’s before you read the manual, which will come in two booklets, the end user set up guide and the owner’s manual, which if you don’t put it away the minuet you get the machine set up it will be long gone by the time the power goes out and you have to know how to re-set the clock.

Want one of those i’s the Apple folks are so hot on? Getting music on an iPod is like getting the next shuttle launched except you don’t have to worry about the double secret launch codes.

Everything has instructions and most of them were originally written in Japanese. So my friends by the time you get your hands on it it has been translated no less than twice, from Japanese into English, unless the company is a big-time international company in which case you will have to sort through the French, Spanish, German and Latvian translations before you get to the English neatly folded so that when you try to go from page to page you wind up getting one page of English and the next in Portuguese.

Still you absolutely have to do it. The best training you can have is to work for the police or a tax preparation firm for a season or two. The only way to survive is to read the instructions. If you don’t you’ll wind up being on the IRS’s naughty list or getting a nice policeman in deep trouble and you wouldn’t want that.

So, Read the Directions.

You’re an artist, you had to at one time listen to someone who knew more about art than you do, they told you all of the secret moves and hidden techniques to make your work come alive. I’ll bet half of you are taking classes right now and you are following directions if you are in a class or the instructor would have thrown you out by now, so why aren’t you doing it when you aren’t in class?

Creating art is just one part of an artist’s life, presenting, selling, promoting and networking are some of the other parts and you simply have to know how to make all of them work together. If you are at home trying to make that new easel stand up and you’ve tossed the directions on the table where the head of the house has just come in from the yard and set his frosty beer on them, they’ll be hard to read. Maybe it’s a high tech goodie like an air brush you want to use to get more color or definition into your work. Did you rip it from the packing and toss the directions?

Tremble not, most of the time you can find that owner’s manual online. You’ll probably have to pay for it, but then getting something to work right has to be worth a few bucks.

Or you could just do it right the first time. Open the box, take out the directions and read them cover to cover, even the insulting safety section which tells you not to put a running lawn mower into your mouth. And then, file them carefully away so that when you need them they’ll be where you can find them.

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