My Digital Universe, Portfolio

Influence of Framing Theory in Public Relations

What is framing?

Framing plays an important role in the age of media overload. Yet, there is a lack of a clear definition for framing theory. However, there are quite a few academic studies that analyze how framing is used by public relations professionals and the news media. In news media and public relations practices, frame holder’s strategically attempts to influence and shape how audiences perceive and comprehend situations, events, and products through persuasion, inclusion or exclusion of facts (Hallahan, K. 1999; Lim, J., & Jones, L. 2010; Lundy, L. K. 2006;Waller, R. L., & Conaway, R. N. 2011; Schultz, F., Kleinnijenhuis, J., Oegema, D., Utz, S., & van Atteveldt, W. 2012).

“Frames are designed to deliberately reconstitute selected aspects of reality surrounding deliberation of a public issue. In essence, a frame binds together carefully chosen ideas, information, judgments, arguments, claims, and value statements into a tightly compressed noetic narrative that guides the frameholder’s interpretation of events as well as discourse related to a given topic (Entman, 2007; Price, Tewksbury, & Powers, 1997; Schlechtweg, 1996)” (Waller, R. L., & Conaway, R. N. 2011, p. 87).

Framing and interpretation

Since frames carry the framholder’s interpretation, parties with different points of view and values can use framing to propagate, justify, and defend self-interests. This “adjustable” nature of framing makes it a very influential and sought out tool in communication strategies.

Framing operates through cognitive, rhetorical, and ideological processes. In cognitive processing, framing includes ideas and facts that are beneficial to the frame’s core theme, while excluding ideas and facts that are negative. The  rhetorical process suggests and hints at how the idea should be interpreted using similes, metaphors, descriptions, and illustrations (Hallahan, K. 1999;Waller, R. L., & Conaway, R. N. 2011). Finally, “On an ideological level, frames contain information on how a society works—or should work—as well as the proper relationship among its members; frames contain fundamental assumptions regarding social priorities and problems (Kendall, 2005; Schlechtweg, 1996)”(Waller, R. L., & Conaway, R. N. 2011, p. 87).

Framing theory and mass media

As the power of the media empire continues to expand with each new technological innovation, organizations are constantly in a battle with external actors such as the news media and activists to frame a company’s actions, especially during a crisis. Since communication is an integral part of effective public relations, framing is used in crisis communication strategies and marketing campaigns to defend, promote, and expand organizational interest.

“Implicitly, framing plays an integral role in public relations. If public relations is defined as the process of establishing and maintaining mutually beneficial relations between an organization and publics on whom it depends (Cutlip, Center, & Broom, 1995), the establishment of common frames of reference about topics or issues of mutual concern is a necessary condition for effective relations to be established” (Hallahan, K. 1999, p. 207).

The public relations strategies employed in the Nike sweatshop scandal and the BP oil spill crisis provide practical insight into how framing can be used to frame and counter-frame a crisis.

Framing Nike – Public Relations

Nike came into dominance in the sports shoe market ousting its competitors through a well-developed marketing strategy. Nike continued to expand through outsourcing jobs to Asia and soon came under fire by labor unions, activists, and mainstream media for its questionable labor practices. Nike’s first response was to reject the accusations but initiatives to protect the brand image led to the creation of a counter strategy: “That is, the Eitel team had to counterframe the debate on the labor practices of the company’s Asian contractors as well as the treatment of the young female workers employed in those Asian factories in order to preserve and enhance its reputation for social responsibility and, thereby, to protect its brand equity”(Waller, R. L., & Conaway, R. N. 2011, p. 94).

The news media continued to frame the issue using injustice and identity frames which targeted the Nike CEO and portrayed a corporate giant that had little regard for the plight of its poor workers: “The three major frames in the anti- Nike campaign were identified as follows: negative identity frames, collective action injustice frames, and negative consequence frames”(Waller, R. L., & Conaway, R. N. 2011, p. 96). Nike countered the process using positive identity frames, collective action remediation frames, and positive consequence frames.

Eventually, Nike recovered its image and won over media and its stakeholders by reframing the debate. In this case, the anti- Nike campaign’s framing was defeated by Nike’s counter-framing strategy: “Under Nike corporate Vice President Eitel, the company adroitly counterattacked with thematic frames that greatly reduced the emotional intensity of the whole debate on the company’s labor-related issues” (Waller, R. L., & Conaway, R. N. 2011, p. 103). In this framing war, Nike took on the offensive to counter the allegations and framed its approach using a variety of methods that highlighted the company’s positive actions and dedication to enforce fair labor practices in its Asian production facilities and avoided discussing negative aspects of its past practices.

The BP oil spill crisis is yet another example of a framing battle between the news media and an organization. Here, BP oil frames the company as an agent that is dedicated to solving the crisis and purposefully leaves out and downplays its involvement and responsibility for the oil spill (Schultz, F et al. 2012).

BP time and again brought new technological solutions with symbolic and impressive names (“top kill”, “static kill”) to the front, creating a perception that these initiatives could help stop the oil spill. By that, and by not relating other actors (e.g., the White House) to the cause and problem itself, BP presented that they could become solution providers. “This strategy of decoupling the problem from the corporation’s activities, from the solutions, and furthermore from solution providers, can be described as a “decoupling strategy”(Schultz, F et al. 2012, p.103).

Here, the decoupling strategy is used to reframe the crisis in a way that will portray the company as an agent that is dedicated to fixing the oil spill rather than operating under the news media frame that depicts the crisis as a consequence of corporate greed and mismanagement of natural resources by giant corporations.

In the context of framing, organizations sometimes must compete with opposing forces to determine how the news media frames the organization amidst a crisis. However, news media can be swayed over by strategic public relations campaigns that counter the opposing forces such as activists. While news media is a much stronger force when it comes to framing, it is also susceptible to third party influences. In the two cases discussed above, both Nike and BP attempted to influence how the news media framed the issue while those who were accusing the companies attempted to frame the issues and facts in a way that will further their agenda. There was a well-established coalition that wanted to influence the media coverage in a way that would favor Nike’s opposition (Waller, R. L., & Conaway, R. N. 2011). On the other hand, “Crisis managers will strive to define the situation, that is, whether the events that occurred actually constitute a crisis (situational framing). Certain attributes of a crisis might be emphasized or de-emphasized, such as the steps being taken to correct a problem (attribute framing)” (Hallahan, K. 1999, p. 229).

Framing during a crisis

Furthermore, in crisis situations public relations professionals must be prepared “to address the underlying issues behind the crisis (issue framing) as well as the cause and potential explanations of responsibility (responsibility framing)” (Hallahan, K. 1999, p. 229). In the BP oil spill crises, the company avoided addressing the responsibility frame and focused on issue framing and built a campaign highlighting the actions the company took to solve the issue.

“Frame competition indicates that different frames with varying degrees of magnitude are present in reality so that individuals consume those competitive frames simultaneously” (Lim, J., & Jones, L. 2010, p. 296). The competing frames affect the public as well as the news media and knowing how to work with competing frames and influencing the news frame with the organizational frame during a crisis will enable an organization to bounce back after a major crisis.

How a company handles a crisis will determine its future. Therefore, crisis management is an important aspect of public relations and framing plays a major role in how the public views and understands the crisis. By entering the arena where issues are framed and presented to the public, an organization has the opportunity to compete with factors that will determine how the company’s role is portrayed to the public. The importance of paying attention to the news media frame of an issue and being able to influence it in a way that will benefit the company is easier said than done. However, as Nike and BP have demonstrated, framing can be used to a company’s advantage if the public relations department plays the right cards at the right time.

References: APA 6th Edition

Hallahan, K. (1999). Seven Models of Framing: Implications for Public

Relations.Journal Of Public Relations Research11(3), 205-242.

Lim, J., & Jones, L. (2010). A baseline summary of framing research in public

relations from 1990 to 2009. Public Relations Review36(3), 292-297. doi:10.1016/j.pubrev.2010.05.003

Lundy, L. K. (2006). Effect of framing on cognitive processing in public

relations.Public Relations Review32(3), 295-301. doi:10.1016/j.pubrev.2006.05.021

Schultz, F., Kleinnijenhuis, J., Oegema, D., Utz, S., & van Atteveldt, W. (2012). Strategic

framing in the BP crisis: A semantic network analysis of associative frames.Public Relations Review38(1), 97-107. doi:10.1016/j.pubrev.2011.08.003

Waller, R. L., & Conaway, R. N. (2011). Framing and Counterframing the Issue of

Corporate Social Responsibility. Journal Of Business Communication48(1), 83-106. doi:10.1177/0021943610389752

Book Reports, Portfolio

News Flash: Journalism, Infotainment, and the Bottom-line Business of Broadcast News (Book Report)

Cheran Jacob Ratnam

News Flash: Journalism, Infotainment, and the Bottom-line Business of Broadcast News

By Bonnie Anderson

February 18, 12

 

In her book, News Flash: Journalism, Infotainment, and the Bottom-line Business of Broadcast News, author Bonnie Anderson depicts the controversial state of modern journalism. She describes the controversial trends in vivid detail as a “systematic shift from responsible journalism to infotainment” (Colowick, 2004).

 

Bonnie Anderson’s experience as a former vice president of recruiting for CNN and a print reporter at NBC news- along with over twenty years of experience in the field allows her to draw compelling examples to support her cause of demanding honest and fair news reporting (Colowick, 2004). The author’s first hand experiences and exposure to controversial issues enhances her ability to persuade the reader with credibility.

 

The book’s nine chapters and the conclusion are filled with statistics and quotations from interviews, speeches and conversations. The author uses this information effectively and creatively to convey her dismay, while informing the reader of the controversial state of broadcast journalism. Her writing is compellingly charismatic and provocative.

 

Anderson consistently questions reporting practices of major news corporations. When discussing the validity of certain live interviews, she poses the question of trust from an ethical standpoint: “But are these practices, at the end of the day, all bad? While they might make the lives of reporters and photographers easier, they deceive viewers. If we’re not honest about something so basic, how can we expect the public to believe us on more major issues?” (Anderson, 2004, p. 100)

 

In the article, The Precarious State of Television News, author Rebecca MacKinnon states that she agrees with Anderson regarding the controversial ideals of CNN and confirms the money seeking infotainment ideals of CNN described in Anderson’s book. Furthermore, MacKinnon also states that Anderson fails to recognize the advancing technological changes that continue to change and invent media. She also points out that journalists’ would not be able to recreate the idealized form of journalism, mainly due to the ever-evolving technological influences.

 

The author provides many examples of questionable reporting practices of major news corporations such as CNN, NBC and FOX. Through the use of numerous examples of discrimination and malpractice, the author emphasizes the urgent need for change. The book also sheds light into what it is like to be a journalist working for corporations that compromises ethics in order to harvest profits. Furthermore, she emphasizes the ethical responsibility of a journalist over and over again throughout her book.

 

Over all, the book contains valuable insight for students that are interested in broadcast journalism. One could become overwhelmed by the author’s repetitiveness due to the high volume of examples provided throughout the book. The author paints a rather negative picture of news corporations and their hidden motives, while encouraging the reader to stand up for true journalism.

References (APA 6th Edition)

Anderson, B. (2004). News Flash : Journalism, Infotainment, and the Bottom-line

Business of Broadcast News. John Wiley & Sons, Inc. (US).

Anderson, B. M. (2004). Journalism’s Proper Bottom Line. Nieman Reports, 58(4), 51.

Anne Beck.  (2005, October). An Age-Old Problem. Broadcasting & Cable, 135(44), 12-

13.  Retrieved February 20, 2012, from ABI/INFORM Global. (Document ID: 920440401).

Colowick, S. M. (2004). News Flash: Journalism, Infotainment, and the Bottom-Line

Business of Broadcast News (Book). Library Journal, 129(11), 79.

MacKinnon, R. (2005). The Precarious State of Television News. Nieman Reports,

59(1), 88-90.

Book Reports, Portfolio

Edward R. Murrow and the Birth of Broadcast Journalism by Bob Edwards (Book Report)

Cheran Ratnam

Edward R. Murrow and the Birth of Broadcast Journalism by Bob Edwards

February 11, 2012

Edward R. Murrow and the Birth of Broadcast Journalism by Bob Edwards is a brief yet colorful biography of the prominent broadcast journalist Edward Murrow. As Cressman (2006) describes, “Edward R. Murrow and the Birth of Broadcast Journalism is a sort of broadcast version of Murrow’s life story, complete with sound bites and written in the conversational style that evokes for the reader Edwards’s familiar baritone” (p. 160).

The author, Bob Edwards is a former NPR Morning Edition host. According to Cressman (2006), “Edwards writes with the authority of someone who knew Murrow” (p 160).” Even though the author never knew Murrow personally, he was a student of Ed Bliss Jr., who wrote for Murrow while serving at CBS as an editor. The author acknowledges that he acquired most of the information about Murrow from Ed Bliss Jr. through conversations that spanned over thirty years.

The book contains the highlights of Murrow’s career as a journalist. The ten chapters chronologically outlines Murrow’s rather adventurous and extensive carrier. The Inclusion of Murrow’s broadcast reports word for word bring life to Murrow’s charismatic character, while adding flavor to the narrative. As Smith, D (2004) points out; the author firmly points out Murrow’s desire to use television and radio as promoters of education throughout the book.

Edward Murrow holds a heroic status in this narrative. The great dangers Murrow faced in Europe during his World War II coverage aids the author in painting a picture of a die-hard reporter. Murrow’s deadly encounters during the war described in vivid detail keeps the reader in a state of awe. The author tries to engage the reader furthermore by shedding light into Murrow’s personal and family affairs.

In the article ‘The Man Who Invented Truth’: The Tenure of Edward R.

Murrow as Director of the United States Information Agency During the Kennedy Years, Cull, N.J (2003) discusses controversial issues that surround Murrow. Here, the author tries to present controversial issues in an unbiased manner, while focusing on presenting factual information to the reader.

The reports and direct quotes of Murrow speeches included in the book enables the reader to engage with Murrow’s personal interpretation of media. Murrow criticized his contemporary media saying “I would like television to produce some itching pills rather than this endless outpouring of tranquilizers..” (Edwards, B 2004, p. 134). Here, we see a summary Murrow’s dissatisfaction of how popular media used its influence.

When I picked this book I was not aware of the iconic status Edward Murrow held in broadcast journalism. Here, the author provides a concise account of an influential contributor of broadcast journalism. Historical events such as World War II, the Cuban missile crisis and the red scare surround the tale of this passionate journalist.

I would recommend this book to anyone interested in news media because of the inspiration one can derive from Murrow’s fearless passion for reporting.

Broadcast journalism has come a long way since Edward Murrow. However, the importance of Murrow and his ideals are impossible to ignore if one were to dig into the history of broadcast journalism. Bob Edward’s attempt at capturing the role of Murrow in shaping broadcast journalism has produced a delightful book packed with history, passion and charisma.

 

References

Achter, P. J. (2004). TV, technology, and McCarthyism: crafting the democratic

renaissance in an age of fear. Quarterly Journal Of Speech, 90(3), 307-326. doi:10.1080/0033563042000255534

Cressman, D. L. (2006). REVIEW AND CRITICISM: BOOK REVIEW—Edward R.

Murrow and the Birth of Broadcast Journalism. Journal Of Broadcasting & Electronic Media, 50(1), 160-161. doi:10.1207/s15506878jobem5001_9

Cull, N. J. (2003). ‘The Man Who Invented Truth’: The Tenure of Edward R.

Murrow as Director of the United States Information Agency During the Kennedy Years. Cold War History, 4(1), 23-48.

Edwards, B. (2004). Edward R. Murrow and the Birth of Broadcast Journalism. John

Wiley & Sons, Inc. (US).

Smith, D. (2004). Edward R. Murrow and the Birth of Broadcast Journalism (Book).

Library Journal, 129(8), 122.

Book Reports, Portfolio

Nickel and Dimed by Barbara Ehrenreich (Book Report)

Cheran Jacob Ratnam

Nickel and Dimed by Barbara Ehrenreich

February 26, 12

Barbara Ehrenreich’s book, Nickel and Dimed, takes the modern day human on a much-needed journey to places that some people only take when comfortably staring at a flat screen television at their own convenience. The average low-income workers become stars in this experimental journey, to explore low-income survival techniques.

A celebrated author, with a PhD in Biology decided to disguise herself as a low-income worker, to explore how she could survive on the wages earned from the available low-income jobs, from Florida to Maine. The author shares a fraction of the reality of those who are forced to drive through life in poverty. The author also describes how she had ensured protection throughout this journey, which is a privilege those who actually live through these circumstances do not have.

However, she is able to paint a picture of the material reality of low-income workers through her personal experience of living on the limited possibilities available to a white-female-American in this cross section of underrepresented society. In a way, the author decided to play the role of a typical low-income worker, in order to explore what it feels like to actually live this role in real life.

The author’s method of immersing into her subjects’ reality in order to capture experiences is a commonly shared fantasy. However, those who fantasize, always fantasizes grandeur and luxury, rather than living on dimes. Thus, the author is appealing to those that tend to forget about the poor, caught in a race to be the biggest hoarder.

She describes her experience of being a low-income worker saying, “It’s not just the work that has to be learned in each situation. Each job presents a self-contained social world, with its own personalities, hierarchy, Customs, and standards” (Ehrenreich, 2002, p 194).

Author Casson. J expresses her view of the book in her article as follows: “Her experiences and observations shed needed light on this important yet neglected segment of the workforce. They also make it difficult not to be sympathetic to the struggle and supportive of efforts to improve the life of the working poor” (Casson, 2002). Here, Casson gives an un-biased opinion of the book, which states its strengths and weaknesses.

The book takes the reader on a journey. For those who have worked similar jobs, taking this journey may result in an unpleasant reminder that may emphasize the need for a reality check. For those who have had the privilege of not having to experience life in the shoes of a low-income worker, this book may seem fictional. Either way, the author’s adventurous experiment, recorded in vivid detail is alarmingly though provoking. This book is a great read for those interested in Journalism as well as social sciences.

References:

Casson, J. J. (2002). Nickel and Dimed (Book). American Economist, 46(1), 78.

Daniel, L. (2001). Nickel and dimed: on (not) getting by in America. Christian

Century, 118(22), 30-31.

David Ng.  (2006, October 18). Nickel and Dimed. The Village Voice,p. 135.  Retrieved

February 25, 2012, from Research Library. (Document ID: 1157094581).

Ed Kaufman.  (2002, September). ‘Nickel and Dimed’. Hollywood Reporter, 375, 24.

Retrieved February 25, 2012, from Research Library. (Document ID: 279857721).

Ehrenreich, B. (2002). Nickel and Dimed. Holt Paperbacks.

Munoz, R. A. (2005, January). ‘Nickel and Dimed’. Clinical Psychiatry News, 33(1), 83.

Retrieved from http://go.galegroup.com/ps/i.do?id=GALE%7CA127978016&v=2.1&u=txshracd2679&it=r&p=HRCA&sw=w

Book Reports, Portfolio

Tech Savvy?

Cheran Ratnam

Journalism next: A practical guide to digital reporting and publishing

Mark Briggs

April 1, 2012

Tech Savvy?

“What do you do?” is a very common question I get these days, especially given that I have to catch up with old friends as well as make new ones. Most of the time I give a generic answer like “I am in graduate school”. I get mixed reactions when I tell people that I am doing a master’s in journalism. Some ask me with a frown, “What do you hope to do with that?”

I have started to notice a pattern in these conversations regarding my choice of majoring in Journalism. Often, I find myself trying to defend my choice against gloomy attitudes people express about the future of journalism. In his book, Journalism next: A practical guide to digital reporting and publishing, author Mark Briggs attempts to encourage current journalists as well as students by giving a positive outlook on the future of journalism.

The author addresses the issues of the gloomy out look that surrounds journalism and provides advice and motivation by encouraging journalists to embrace new technology in what he considers to be an evolutionary stage in journalism. The author is a former interactive news manager for the Tacoma News Tribune, and a Ford Fellow in entrepreneurial journalism at the Poynter Institute. (http://www.aejmc.org/topics/archives/2356)

“Eleven chapters appear in three parts or units. Basics include the role of web workers, advanced blogging, crowd-powered collaboration, microblogging, and going mobile. Multimedia turns to visual storytelling with photographs, making audio journalism visible, and telling stories with video. Finally, editing and decision making adds three final chapters on data-driven journalism, managing news as a conversation, and building a digital audience for news” (8. JOURNALISM. 2010)

The author provides valuable insight on a variety of tools that can be useful for journalists. His ability to relate to varying age groups and experience levels enables the reader to realize the knowledge that one might already posses and helps find ways to better one’s journalistic effectiveness. “Twitter is the most popular microblogging service. In fact, the platform is so popular that probably more people have heard of Twitter than have heard the term “microblogging” (Briggs, M. 2009 p 95).

The book can be used as a useful resource for those who aspire to become tech Savvy. The author gives basic step-by-step directions and suggestions on how to improve one’s online presence in the ever-changing arena of social media. The simple language and the easy to use structure of the book add to the value of the book’s use as a comprehensive handbook for digital journalism.

It can be said that one can get a startup crash course in digital journalism from reading the book. However, it has the potential to be out dated, given the rapid technological change that we are experiencing today. The author provides the old-fashioned journalists ample encouragement and evidence to start using the freely available online tools to keep up with a tech savvy generation.

While most of the information and the tools discussed were nothing new to me, I admire the level of journalistic insight that the author provide when discussing the advantages of using these resources. Therefore, I would recommend this book to those who are both tech savvy as well as those who “struggle” with technology.

References: APA 6th Edition

Briggs, M. (n.d). Journalism next: A practical guide to digital reporting and publishing. United States of America: CQ Press.

BULLARD, S. (2011). Journalism Next: A Practical Guide to Digital Reporting and Publishing. Journalism & Mass Communication Quarterly, 88(1), 215-216.

Journalism Next./The Digital Journalist’s Handbook. (2010). Journalism & Mass Communication Educator,65(2), 193-195.

JOURNALISM NEXT. (2010). Quill, 98(2), 11.

8. JOURNALISM. (2010). Communication Booknotes Quarterly, 41(3), 137-141. doi:10.1080/10948007.2010.486646

http://www.aejmc.org/topics/archives/2356

Poems, Portfolio

Beautiful confinement.

Beautiful confinement...

A box that contain memories, of bittersweet realities,
The only thing that knows the inner walls of a desolate heart.
No one can open it- there is no key,
As the heart closes its eyes to embrace its forlorn reality,
Memories flood into the box painting painfully beautiful imagery.

At the core of the box lies a garden- exclusive,
Where the mind can create memories all-inclusive,
Not bound by that which bounds the external realm,
The mind admires beauty and wanders off.

Invisible but strong, undetectable yet true,
Beyond emotions, gestures and fantasies or any poetic imagery,
Desires whisper secrets that acknowledgment will never hear,
Wordless melodies, utterly meaningless to the world outside the box,
Not out of fear, rather,to avoid subjugation of inadequate means,
The only visitor and retriever…keeps the box alive.

My Digital Universe, Poems, Portfolio

Tale- the bitter old man.

You meet them, you talk to them.

It’s like talking to a brick wall. Your voice just bounces back, except these wretched walls can actually talk.

High and important are their attire, but I unravel them with my satire.

Oh good one old man!

Old man? You little fart! You think you know so much! You think you can just conquer and build and re-produce all you want?
Life will tease you like a fly
Unclothe you and leave you out to die.
Too late! Too late! Then, say I,
And leave a wet fart … with a smile!

Mr. whatever your name is, I have heard jolly well all your old dragon mysteries and boogie-boy adventures. I think it’s finally time for you to start reading some “real” books with “real” knowledge. And just for the record, my old man was once cursed. They said he would never have offspring … Was I dropped from the sky? Or I am some devil?

Ya, ya, ya, chew on that goat marrow,
Maybe it’ll rid away your sorrows.
When the gate opens tomorrow.
And of course your gates must be all rusty! Oops!

You disgusting little rat! If I can find my glasses, I will come show you what this rusty old man can do to your virgin gates, when my foot …

Ha ha ha old man Tail still has some hate left in that rotten mouth of his. Get him another Beer! And gentlemen, this one is on me.

Old and wretched, filthy and drunk,
Drags his soul like a miserable skunk.
Shunned by love, disowned by his own,
He’s lost hope, yet he refuses to bow.

Opens the door and reaches for the light,
There’s not a soul on his weary sight.
Walks over to his old wooden chair,
Mutters a few words, then lets out some air.

He lived alone; no one knew where he came from or what he did. He would always go to the market and buy the freshest fruits, fill them up in his frowzy old basket. All the venders say he is a regular, who likes his veggies.

Family or visitors, his neighbors have never seen,
They say he lives his life like a messed up human being.
If you talk to him, he sometimes replies,
And everything you know he persuades you to deny.

He was best known for his stories of old,
With great enactment and excitement he told.
They were made up of creed, greed and pure gold,
The more you listen, the lesser you feel bold.

It was a mystery why people despised him and yet couldn’t resist the senile laughter he brought to their senile worlds. He looked healthy for his age, but people always exclaimed that he must have weary heart.

It was past midnight and the Shimmy’s Beer House was once again filtering out. The regulars were in their regular chairs and the non-regulars were aware of what was going to happen soon.

This was never planned, but it happened these nights. It was spontaneous, yet it happened. No one knew what time or what day the old man might show up to Shimmy’s for his regular glass of beer.

There he was, in his regular clothing. Nothing too fancy nothing too shaggy. His clothes fit him like his wrinkly old skin. He seemed to be in his expected attitude. Minding his own business and concentrating on eating his food. Rarely, he would turn around to see what has happened around him or to see something that he thinks is utterly stupid or outrageous! It was understood that one shouldn’t take offense to the words of the old man or take them seriously. He was to laugh at and to criticize. He got another beer, he didn’t even have to ask, it was right there.
He had been waited by the same waiter ever since he moved into town. He had never had any conversations with the waiter other than about something on the menu or ordering food. The waiter didn’t complain and said that “he leaves you a good tip, I remember during the recession he would leave the same amount. He used to complain the first couple of times, but after a while, I think the crew figured out how he likes his food. So now, he simply nods his head after he tastes it and you know you’re good to go”.

In came a figure, in his eyes he showed no fear.
His pride filled the room, while his stature took up space.
He looked around condescendingly, and made his way to the table.

Hey old man! How are you?

He grins, but doesn’t bother to look up, and says “what do you want? You fancy pantsie? If you don’t move, you will get your ass kicked!”

Tail Grinch! I can’t believe you turned out to be the real Grinch!

You look well. Waiter, get me two beers and this tab is on me.

There he was that fateful day,
Made of useless knowledge, covered up with clay.
Life he thought was a thing he could play,
But there he was acting like a chick with a brain delay.

Was he startled? No! He seemed to be back in his zone.
As the stranger adjusted his chair and thought of a tone.
For he knew the old man from old, till the day he was gone.
Adjusting his voice, adjusting his stature, as the old man’s eyes shone.

“To let go is to free your hands,
Let it go, remember the falling dance?”
Those were the words that echoed inside the old man’s head. Who said them and why, is a mystery. One thing was clear, the old man was not going to confront his peer.

I Spoke to your folks yesterday. They say you’re still unbearable. They don’t seem to be very fond of you, Tale. Tale doesn’t stop his rhythmic chewing; he just keeps chewing as if nothing was said.

How do you survive on your own? You have no one to take care of you. Your stubbornness still seems to be driving you. Pride and arrogance, my friend, shouldn’t be your companions!

Ya, keep ignoring!

The more you ignore others, the more they ignore you.

You are nothing!

Look at you!

You are still wearing your same rugged old clothes and your wretched attitude.

You think you’re loved in this place?

You think all these people listen to your groans and stupid stories because they secretly love you?

They don’t give a flip about you!

In fact, they think you’re some old man with a retirement … a messed up old log!

Who has nothing! Who means nothing! Is that what you want?

Tale!

would you say something?

Look, I don’t know why you refuse to even acknowledge my presence, but just so you know, I quit man!

I quit this damn life! I have no one.

No one to talk to, and no one to care for.

Tale?

This day is new, but the sun is old,
Let’s go dig for unknown gold …

You remember we used to sing that song when we started our quests?

Life seemed worthwhile back then. I am going to find that spark again man. Yes!

I will!

Are you with me?

Talk to me!

He was still there. His mouth still kept the same rhythm,
Not a beat did he miss, not a smile on his face.
He was alone again and kept looking straight ahead,
In his own world, in his own misery, words are what made him a mystery.

Nice seeing you Tale!

Take care! If you change your mind, come to my place and dine!

Picks up his jacket, tips the waiter,
No one knew that they wouldn’t see him later.
He has not always been mean and bitter,
Now, he’s just an old rag, awaiting none, but litter.

Lost everything he ever wanted,
Trying to gain what he lacked.
He threw away his life he had stacked.
Hands on the wheel, his death was now packed.

No one knew where he went. There was no way to track him. His house was burnt down and was found by a wild hound. The passers by picked up the left-over gold in pounds.

It’s the bitter old man’s house, where he lived like a dead mouse.

Now it is ashes falling on the audiences’ eye lashes.

The news said that he burnt his house down, in remorse.

A thief! They said. He was living in the out skirts of popularity, deserving no charity other than the death penalty.

His parting was a mystery and it was said that he was nothing but a misery. But the contents he left behind showed signs of wealth and prosperity.

It looked like a pile of dirt, except for the melted gold,
Which was only available for the fit and the not so old.

There were many who made their way to look at the burnt old house. The one’s who got their first, said the gold was pure and true.

One thing was certain that eventful day, where many a man got new clothes from the old man’s gold.

Smiles were on people’s faces and no one bothered to write a thank you note.
On a boat, sailing with nothing on, except an old coat.
There he sat smiling and singing as he got away from the coast.
Years went by, till one day a boy found a leg, it was roast!
He picked it up, since he knew that it’d give him something to boast.

The boy took the leg, it was stinky and foul. He took a picture of it. His mom thought he was nuts, his dad … Well he’d like to know if there was another one. He said he will give it a burial.

These words were written boldly on the old man’s leg, and he memorized them with all his might:

“There’s a fat guy you’ll never see,
The world you see is His make believe.
He laughs and farts as often as you breath,
Since Life is something that he writes on a sheet.

If you ask him what are we to do with life?
He’ll give you a list, to do till you die.
He’ll label some to be nice and some to be vile,
And say: Life is a joke! It’s your turn to make me smile!”