My Two Cents: Drama and Debate (D)

Many of my Facebook friends were up in arms this week over a controversial decision involved the Nebraska School Activities Association (NSAA) and small town kid who won a state speech contest.

The Cliff’s Notes version:

Michael Barth won a state speech contest for poetry.  As a state champion, he was invited to perform his winning reading for a “Best of the Best” show to be aired statewide on Nebraska Educational Television (NET).  However, Rhonda Blanford-Green, executive director of the NSAA asked Barth to perform a different reading for the broadcast.


Barth’s performance drew from three poems, all of which deal with gender identity.  Blanford-Green was concerned that  Barth would be using “Best of the Best to promote personal agendas” and sought to “avoid any negative connotations for individuals within this statewide production”.

Predictably, this created a firestorm of controversy.  Blanford-Green and the NSAA were under attack for stifling free speech on a performance that was deemed appropriate by judges throughout the course of the year.

(If you want more, the Omaha World-Herald has a good article)

Without knowing any of the players involved, my belief is that Ms. Blanford-Green had good intentions by asking Barth to perform a different piece.  I do not believe she was trying to restrict his right to free speech.

While his performance (which can be viewed here) was deemed okay by his coaches and judges in the speech community, a statewide broadcast brings in an entirely different audience.

What I’m trying to politely say is that Blanford-Green likely knows the audience of “Best of the Best” – a completely nondescript program that I had never heard of until Wednesday – will likely contain the type of people who are unfamiliar with speech competitions and will raise a holy stink about “deviant lifestyles” being promoted to children, by children, on NET.

In other words, I believe Blanford-Green was trying to protect Barth (as well as herself and the NSAA) from cranks who are looking for an excuse to be offended so they can display their moral outrage – especially when the program is scheduled to be aired on Easter morning.

I can understand why Ms. Blanford-Green would want to avoid having that conversation with these folks.  I know I wouldn’t want to talk to a bunch of ignorant old cranks who think Fred Phelps had a point.

But in her haste to cover her ass, Ms. Blanford-Green made two crucial errors:

  1. Wanting to avoid talking to nut jobs is not a good enough reason to censor Barth.  (Besides, the NSAA could have invited somebody else to perform in the Poetry portion of the program).
  2. You don’t want to get into a debate with a bunch of speech and drama geeks.  Because you will lose.  Every.  Single.  Time.

Predictably, the NSAA reversed their decision and Barth was allowed to perform his original speech, but the damage was already done.

*   *   *

(Author’s note:  Wondering why there is a random letter in parentheses in the title of this post?  Not sure how this post corresponds to the daily letter in the April A to Z Challenge?  Like clicking on links?  These questions are all answered here.)

How Original is Original?

The blogging platform I use (WordPress) has a number of very cool analytics, including the ability to see the search strings people are typing into Google that leads them to this site.

As I’ve noted before, some of these are rather…um…unique.  But I’ve noticed that there is one search query that shows up quite often:

“Write an original 40-60 word poem about your current or most recent job.”

A little back story:  In 2011, I was applying for different jobs, which meant I was filling out a lot of online applications.  One of those applications requested an original 40-60 word poem.  I found that request odd – especially for a non-creative, technical position – so I did a quick post about it.

Ever since then, that post gets multiple views every single week, and is probably my most searched post.

I find it ironic (and rather sad) that when asked for an original poem, many people turn to Google to (presumably) find something they can copy and paste, otherwise using some custom writing service.

Roses are red Ctrl + C is blue. Writing poems is easy When Ctrl + V is through

Maybe I shouldn’t be so surprised.  After all, the internet likely contains millions of term papers, book reports, and job application poems.

To those who would borrow my job poem, please know two things:

1.  If you can find a poem online using Google, your future employer can (and will) to.

2.  Feit Can Write is a freelance writing service, ready and willing to assist with all of your writing needs – including employment poetry.  Contact me – I’ll work cheap.

Old Dogs

For those who are expecting my usual snarky, quasi-comedic stylings: you will not find them here.  Today would have been my beloved beagle’s 14th birthday.  However, due to his decreasing health (and a desire to have him avoid pain and suffering) I had him put to sleep on April 8.

You may read on if you wish, or you can hold tight for something Like-worthy down the road.  No hard feelings.

An Autumnal Yawn

An Autumnal Yawn

It has been
a very long day.
Stretching over the course of minutes
and months.

Mother Earth awoke early
and put on her bright spring colors.
Life sprang from every corner.
Beautiful, new, and full of potential.

She basked in a warm, and fruitful summer.
The glory of endless day and sunshine
nourishing her creations and growing them strong.
But now is the time to reap her bounty.

She slips into her autumnal gown
colored in warm hues of red, orange, and gold.
The colors of sunset;
of the end of the day.
She yawns
and knows the long night will soon be here.

Mother Earth walks to her garden
Green grass browning at her feet
Daylight is growing short.
She must harvest before the cold winter sets in.

Her work complete, Mother Earth heads home
She will celebrate the day
with a feast of Thanksgiving
And then settle in
for the long, cold sleep.

She dreams of a new day.
Where she can put on her
bright spring colors
and face the warm sun once more.

Odd Job Application Question of the Day

In my current job search, I’ve filled out quite a few online job applications recently, and the flow is usually rather predictable:

  1. Personal Information and Contact Data
  2. Previous Employment History
  3. Education History
  4. Skills/Certifications/Honors/Etc
  5. References
  6. Upload Resume & Cover Letter
  7. Optional EEOC questions (gender, race, vet status)
  8. Check the box saying you’re being honest and click Submit.
  9. Receive auto-generated confirmation email
  10. Wait for somebody to contact you, knowing your sole point of contact with the company is jobs@xyzcorporation.com

Sure, every so often they mix it up.  Maybe they’ll ask something like “What did you like best about your last job?” or “What was your least favorite task?”  Some companies want to know the name of your supervisor in 2005 or the job duties of the entry-level position you took out of college so the student loan folks wouldn’t repossess your Blind Melon CD.  But this morning, I came across one that was brand new.

“Write an original 40-60 word poem about your current or most recent job into the text field below:”

Now, I can see where this would be an excellent and important exercise if I was applying to Hallmark or wanting to work as a creative in a traditionally creative field.  Which is why this question really threw me:  it appeared on an application to be a “Technical Analyst – OEM Services”.  Therefore, I am officially caught off guard.

What do I do now?  I would guess that since graduating from college almost 15 years ago, the number of poems I have written would fit on one hand.  It would likely fit on one finger.  Heck, even my collegiate attempts at poetry were rather sad (and “highlighted” by my poetic tribute to Jim Beam & Coca-Cola).  Let’s face it – the majority of my writing abilities live on the Prose side of the street.
I ponder the blank screen, and consider my options:
a) Make it rhyme.  Poems are supposed to rhyme.
b) Riff on the “Roses are red” template.
c) Free verse
d) A parody of Cat in the Hat (thanks to my 2 year old, I have it pretty much memorized)
e) See if McDonald’s is hiring and lacks a poetry component

This is followed by a wave of secondary questions:  Do I try to be funny?  I wonder if they can tell how long I’m sitting here with this blank screen?  Do I criticize my former employer?  Will this page eventually time out?  Will I not get an interview because my sonnet lacks proper meter?

What did I do?  I’m not afraid to say that I chickened out and went with c) Free verse.  In other words, I typed up a good, P.C. interview response, broke it up into multiple lines, broke some capitalization and punctuation rules, and continued on to the EEOC questionnaire (Male, Caucasian, Not a Veteran).

I would reprint the poem here (I keep a file with my stock answers to common application questions that I can copy & paste for speed and accuracy), but since I intend for this site to be a virtual commercial for my writing abilities, it’s best if that one stays offline.  If you need me to write mushy greeting card poems, I’ll give it the old college try*, but there are some jobs best left to the professionals.

*Wow the Internet is awesome.  I thought for sure I’d have to type that reference out instead of dropping a link to a cartoon from 1995.


Since we’re all hear, let’s take a shot at options A, B, and D above.

Rhyming Poem About My Last Job
My last job, it was a hoot
Fortunately, I didn’t have to wear a suit

It took seven months and a dozen interviews
Before I got the phone call with the news

The office was at 56th & O
Home for lunch, I could go

My bike, to work I would ride
I always wore my helmet, screw my pride

I was mad when they took away my salary
But the OT bought my plasma TV

At some point we ran out of space
So we moved to a new place

Downtown was our new home
There was a guy who played the xylophone

I had an office, I was all atwitter
Until I found out it was by the bathroom

I won’t be critical, it wouldn’t be cool
I did like working with many a school

At last, my time it had to end
I just wish my income didn’t have to suspend

“Roses Are Red” Style Poem About My Last Job
Roses are red
Violets are blue
Private and faith-based K-12 schools,
Catholics, Christians, Muslims, and Jews.

“Cat in the Hat” Parody Poem About My Last Job
Hmm..glad I didn’t go this route, this one is tougher than I thought.  All I’m coming up with is:

Sometimes it seems like
My career is shot.
My wife said, “Do I like this?”
“Oh no, I do not!”

In conclusion, you ever find yourself faced with a request for spontaneous poetry in order to acquire a job, your best bet is to go with a traditional rhyme as what I tossed together above is far better than the free verse B.S. I submitted this morning.

Live and learn.

*EDIT – Sept 2013:  If you arrived on this page via Google search, take a moment and read this.

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