Sunday, September 23, 2012

Tazi's Corner Issue #12: The Sad State of Writing Proficiency in America

Dear Readers:

This week I had a revelation – I CAN have cheeseburger!  What joyous news!

Yes, little brother, you CAN!

While marveling over this wondrous discovery, my light little heart sunk like a balloon as Mommie started reading the newspaper aloud; the story left me both disgusted and chagrined.  It stated that only 27% of junior high and high school students tested“proficient” in writing – and that was with the help of spell-check and the thesaurus feature. This got me to thinking: Do people really think that cats suffer from a lack of grammatical skills so deplorable that we are only capable of LOL speak?  Sorry, I digress; as I have said in the past we cats tend to slip into self-centeredness from time to time.

I do all the grammar and spelling corrections myself!

As I was saying, twenty-seven percent of our future adults are considered to be “proficient” in writing; this means that 83% are below the minimum standard set by educational experts.  I thought about this and a cold shiver ran down my body as I wondered, “Who will be left to write Cat Fancy once this generation of writers retires?”  I immediately looked to my Mommie, pleading with her to pick up the torch, but she thought I was pleading for a treat and ignored me.  Darn diet! 

As Mommie continued to read to me, I started wondering when – and why – the writing abilities of our youth have plummeted to such embarrassingly low levels of proficiency.  Is it the use of word processing programs?  Have they made us dependant upon spelling and grammar checks to catch our every mistake?  Is it because grammar is no longer taught in schools?  Is it instant messaging habits that have taught us to sacrifice quality for speed?  I decided that this issue deserved further investigation, and planned for a field trip.  To the Tazimobile, Mommie – let’s go!

I like to imagine the Tazimobile as being this cool...

As it turns out, the Tazimobile was in the laundry, so I jumped into my Tazi-Sack (a much snugger version of the Tazimobile) and accompanied Mommie to her school, a place dedicated to academic excellence...or so I thought.  On this particular day the library was buzzing with activity – the perfect setting for a kitty-cat to wander about unnoticed!  I chose to hide under the computer stations so I could peek out and view what people were writing; I am sorry that I did, for it was hard to resist the temptation to scream “GOOD G-D, I’M BLIND!”  Here is but one example of some of the stuff I saw:

I gotta diskribe a seen for dis paper, but I don’t kno what to rite about.  I am chillin at da skewl and hopin dat sumthin good will happin to rite about so my teacha won’t flunk me for fukkin dis up.

Where do I start?  First, I apologize for the profanity, if that really is what it’s a little hard to tell, considering that the entire narrative is profane in my eyes.  I realize that I can get a little creative with my spelling (I like to use the Canadian “-ie” ending rather than the American “-y”) but at least I stay within the realm of proper spelling and grammatical canon!  What truly makes me sick is that my Mommie’s school (skewl?) is a college!  I’d had enough of the horrors, and climbed back into my Tazi-Sack head first, offering my opinion of the situation in the form of my rear-view. 

After returning home and begging for some treats to calm my nerves, I did a little first-hand research on the possible causes of America’s lack of grammatical proficiency.  Cozying up to a school-teacher friend Mommie had invited over for coffee, I learned that in many school systems teachers are no longer allowed to grade a paper down for incorrect spelling or poor sentence structure.  “Ummm….upon what criteria is the paper graded?” I wondered?  Thankfully, so did Mommie and ironically, the answer was “material content”.  So spelling and sentence structure are now considered immaterial to the content of a paper?  Apparently so; because, according to Mommie’s teacher friend who prefers to remain anonymous, “Not everyone speaks [proper English] in the home, so [teachers] cannot expect students to understand what is correct and what isn’t; by correcting them we are criticizing their cultural way of speaking.  Or so we have been told”.  Parents, please correct me if I am wrong but wouldn’t you prefer that teachers criticize your “cultural way of speaking” – as well as pants on the ground and backwards hats – than allow your child to enter the working world completely unprepared to succeed? 

Say no to crack!  Pull up your pants!
Song: "Pants on the Ground" by General Larry Platt
America’s 27% writing proficiency rate is proof that the current methods are not working.  It’s time to try something new and get back to the basics.  It is time to get real, youth of America.  I have heard that the real world doesn’t care about self-esteem; that’s a lesson that will be harder to take if you spend your formative years in a bubble.  Pay now or pay later.

Snuggles to all,

Ask Tazi! is ghostwritten by a human with a Bachelors of Arts in Communications. Tazi-Kat is not really a talking feline.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

To Break Up Or Not To Break Up? THAT Is The Question!

Dear Tazi,

I need your cat-wisdom. I know the human idea of only having one lover at a time seems impractical to your polyamorous feline ways, but it works for some people. I'm having problems with my girlfriend; I feel like I had given so much effort in the past (like above and beyond), not expecting that much in return, but at least hoping for some level of joy and passion I felt in the beginning.

For many of the holidays I've received gifts that reflected her interests more than mine. Mostly they were very thoughtful, but most I could have picked up from the store and given to any of my friends and they would have been appreciative. I'm not being superficial; I just want to know that my partner actually knows what I like outside of what we have in common.

She says I get upset a lot, and that's probably true. But before I bring up a complaint, I try to think about it to see if I'm overreacting, and then I ask her about it. But the issues never feel resolved. I get more questions and doubts.

I feel like a part-time boyfriend. I feel like I disappear when we're not immediately together or that I will never really know about her life outside of what we have together. It's not that I'm nosy; I'm just genuinely interested in her life. But she doesn't really think it's my business, per se.

I know I can be difficult; I'm jealous, over-sensitive, emotional, stubborn, sarcastic, blunt, etc. But I know I'm a great boyfriend; I'm adoring, not high-maintenance, capable of unconditional love, attentive to her needs, supportive, and I make plenty of room for her own space.

I'm receiving lots of outside advice saying I should think about if I'm happy, and if I'm not (which they say I don't appear to be happy or satisfied), that I should break up with her. They tell me I can do better, and that I'm an attractive guy and that there's someone else waiting. I get uneasy when they talk like this, like me even listening to the conversation is making me unfaithful.

I love her, and I'm willing to shell out even more effort for us, but I'm so scared things will never change for the better.

Please help me, Tazi!

Scared & Confused

Dear Scared & Confused:

So many issues all at once! I can see why your outside advice givers are recommending a break-up, but I like to leave the drastic measures as a plan of last resort. From what I see in my mailbag, a lot of couples who break up end up getting back together and riding an emotional merry-go-round as they try to make things work. To me, this is like trying to repair a broken window: all the pieces may fit back together, but there are still visible cracks that remind you of what happened to cause the break; this can put further stress on an already fragile relationship. Since you and your girlfriend have not yet broken up, saving the relationship now will be easier to do than after a break-up; I will try to address your concerns in the order you have written them!

To start, gift giving can be a chore, even for someone who likes to shop. Sometimes, as well as humans know each other, they are scared to stray from the known path and get into a safe but boring gift-giving rut. Something I see humans doing a lot of is list making; you could make a list of “Awesome Stuff I Want (When I Can Afford Them)” and tack it to your refrigerator door or somewhere else your girlfriend will see it. Include different price points from inexpensive (pine scented candle so your bathroom does not smell bad); moderate (CK One cologne so you do not smell bad); to expensive (Beer Brewer’s weekend getaway at the Woodstock Station (NH) Inn and Brewery where it naturally smells of pine and CK One notes). If your lady friend sees something on the list that she likes you can be assured that it will show up at your next gift-receiving event! If nothing more, the list can be a conversation starter between you and her offering insight into your lesser known interests.

Second, on the issue of unresolved issues: If an issue feels unresolved that means it is – at least for you, and unless an issue is resolved for both members of the couple it remains an issue in the relationship. When discussing these unresolved issues, try bringing them up at an appropriate time – like when she is relaxing on the couch, not when she is screaming that the toilet is overflowing and the plunger is missing. Timing is essential. You could also try to use “I Language”, which will help you to frame the issue as something that has you feeling insecure and not as something your partner has done wrong.

Don't you hate when this happens?

You do not say how long you and your girlfriend have been together, but I read that “many of the holidays” have passed in the span of your relationship, so to not know about her life outside of what you have together is disconcerting. Have you expressed an interest in meeting her friends? Has she shown an interest in meeting yours? A sign that someone sees you as a long-term partner is the introduction to the members of their inner circle. (My Mommie was dating my “Uncle” for only a month when her best friend got married, so Mommie did not take him to the wedding although she now wishes she did). If you have met her friends and family, try to let go of your insecurities and ask yourself what exactly she is keeping from you. If she does not talk about work it could be because she likes to leave it at the office; if she does not like to talk about what she and her girlfriends discussed over coffee, be grateful! Trust me; you do not want to know!

If, however, she is closing you out of her life altogether this could be a signal that she is not ready to fully commit – like the woman who hides her engagement ring when an attractive man looks her way, she may be afraid that she is settling.

The personal qualities that you list as negatives – “jealous, over-sensitive, emotional, stubborn, sarcastic, blunt, etc” – are characteristics that many people love (especially sarcastic, blunt, and emotional). If this is a part of who you are, your lady friend should love you because of them, not in spite of them. The positive qualities you list are going to leave my mailbox full of requests for your contact information, which I am sure you already receive from people you meet in person, if you let these qualities show. In the end, you have to ask yourself, “Am I allowed to be myself in this relationship? Does my partner love me for who I am, or for who they think I am? Do they love me because of how I act or in spite of how I act?” Once you know the answers to these questions, the decision to work on your relationship or to let go will be easier to answer.


Ask Tazi! is ghostwritten by a human with a Bachelors of Arts in Communications. Tazi-Kat is not really a talking feline.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Tazi Reminisces On His One Year Anniversary! Let's Celebrate Together!

Dear Readers:

Today is a very exciting day in Tazi-Land – or, as others call it, that crawl space under the end table where Tazi likes to hide. To-MAY-to, to-MAH-to is what I say! I am too excited to argue about how one would describe my Kingdom, because today is the one year anniversary of my advice column!

Who would have thought that a two-week blogging assignment for Mommie’s Writing in Online Environments class would have spawned such fame for me, her little kitten? Aside from me, of course! However, even I am amazed at the success of my endeavor. I persuaded Mommie to continue the column after she started to receive real letters – feel free to send your own! My initial goal for year one was to receive 12,000 page views – an average of 1,000 per month. I thought it sounded ambitious enough – even for a cat – when something important happened: the shy teenage girl who lived next door to me started an international controversy.

Yes, Jessica Ahlquist of the Cranston prayer banner controversy was my next door neighbor – at least she was, until I moved down the street – which is one of the reasons I felt compelled to call people out on the hypocrisy of the threats of violence and death that were being made against this young woman, a pawn in someone else’s larger game of political chess. That desire to add my small voice to the large debate also gave my column world-wide exposure. The column I posted with regard to the matter – my first “Extra Edition” – was my most read column for eight months straight; my rant on payday advance loans recently knocked it from the top spot. The irony of all this is that I printed the original letter as an “Extra Edition” on a Thursday because I thought the whole situation would be blown over and forgotten by Monday. What does a little cat know? The controversy continues still, an entire school year later.

My column isn’t all about controversy, though; many of my most read letters have been about everyday problems – especially relationships between men and women, and problem behaviors that we are afraid to admit. My holiday columns on cultural traditions have also done quite well, so I will continue to have Mommie assist me with my research since you seem to like them so much (I do all the research myself, Mommie just supervises me on the Internet so I don’t look at inappropriate pictures of naked cats!).

For those of you who only recently started reading Ask Tazi to those of you who have been there from the very first column, I thank you for the amazing success you have brought me! As of today, I have over 20,000 page views and counting – almost double my original goal! While I mull over what my next goal should be (50,000 views? 100,000 views?) I will leave you all with TWO lists to celebrate this joyous occasion! The first is the list of my Top 5 Most Viewed Columns; the second is Tazi’s Top 5 Favorite Columns. Enjoy!

Tazi's Top 5 Most Viewed Columns

1. Tazi's Corner Issue #3: Thoughts On Payday Advance Lending Services
This is the column that unseated the prayer banner heard ‘round the world.

2. EXTRA EDITION: Prayer Banner In School A Hot Topic!
I hope this listing will not reignite the hate.

3. An Unmade Bed Leads To Larger Issues In This Marriage
You humans argue over the strangest things!

4. One Need not Be A Woman To Study Women's Studies
I was surprised at the success of this letter; I only printed it because Mommie is a Women’s Studies major.

5. Happy Sadie Hawkins’ Day
I was hoping Mommie would take a hint and ask my “Uncle” to marry her; she didn’t.

Do YOU have a favorite column of mine? Let me know in the comments section! Here are my favorites (so far!)

Tazi’s Top 5 Favorite Columns

1. Laws Of Physics Meet Laws Of Reality In An Unlikely Romance
This letter is special because – as Mommie’s friends correctly guessed – it was the first real letter she received (although not the first real letter printed; that honor went to Michael, the boy who wanted a puppy). Truth can be stranger than fiction!

2. "Diaper" wearing Mom Has Trouble Potty Training Daughter
This was a recent letter, but it is garnering quite a reader following! Who knew Depends could be so interesting?

3. Dad's Assistance With Haunted House Turns Into A Real Life Horror!
Another example of humans complicating things! When I want someone to leave me alone, I hide under the deck!

4. May-December Romance In Limbo As Paths Divide
I think this is the most self-centered, self-delusional letter I have ever received...well, maybe. This next one might top the list. (A Jitterbug phone as a form of child abuse?).

5. Follow-Up Letter: Tea-Partying Teenager Writes To Tell His Tale!
Any time I get a follow-up letter I purr with joy; but this one sent me over the edge. Happy Election Season, humans!


Ask Tazi! is ghostwritten by a human with a Bachelors of Arts in Communications. Tazi-Kat is not really a talking feline.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Tazi's Corner Issue #11: Tips For Better Communication

Dear Readers:

This week I was so mad with my Mommie I almost hissed at her! (Almost; I recognize the hand that feeds me).

Why was I so angry? Did she forget to fill one of my feeding stations? Change my water? Forget to wash my blanket? Clean my litter box? NO! It was (*shudder*) ALL OF THE ABOVE! Granted, I still had three other bowls full of cat cereal; I prefer day-old water (it’s distilled at that point); it’s summer and I don’t use a blanket; and I have a spare litter-box, just in case…but STILL! I felt so ignored!

My first instinct was to ignore Mommie right back when I remembered that she recently went back to that place she calls “school” and has been taking some classes with strange sounding names like “Botany” and “Genetics” and one called “Spanish” because she says she decided it was time to learn it. Thinking on this, I realized that I was acting like a cat should – self-centered and smug. I also realized that many of the letters I receive stem from an inability to view things from someone else’s perspective. I offer as an example the following scenario:

Husband and wife have a much anticipated date for Friday night after work; husband is not home on time, nor has he called to say he will be late. Wife is steaming mad, and when husband finally arrives – two hours late – wife’s response is:

A) Where the [heck] have you been? We’re going to miss our dinner reservation! Did you stop off at the bar with the guys after work?

B) Is everything okay? I was concerned when I didn’t hear from you; you are usually right on time for important occasions!

Realistically speaking, wife’s response will most likely be (A) which puts her husband on the defensive. Maybe he did stop at the bar (which hints at deeper problems than communication), but maybe he forgot his cell phone at the office and got stuck in stand-still traffic; with no way to call his wife – and knowing that she will be angry with him for not calling – his stress levels rise and remain high. Finally reaching home after sitting in nightmare traffic all he wants is the chance to explain to his wife why he is late, and perhaps receive some sympathy for his plight; instead is greeted with an attitude which he returns in kind. The evening is ruined before it even had the chance to begin.

How might this scenario be altered to offer a happy ending? Through the use of “I Language” as opposed to “You Language”, that’s how! If you glance back at the two response choices above, you will notice that Response A focuses solely on the actions of the other person; while Response B focuses first on the emotional reaction of self, then on questioning and complimenting the other person. Response A uses “You Language”, the more common pattern of communication among humans; Response B uses “I Language”, which I will now discuss in further detail.

“I Language” is a way of communicating the same message in a manner that does not lead to a stress response in others. Shifting into “I Language” can be a difficult adjustment because it forces us to focus not only on our emotions, but our reasons for having them. Why do we feel so strongly about a particular subject? “I just do” is not a satisfactory answer. If you are going to be upset with someone over something they did or did not do, you owe it to them to explain why you are upset with them; otherwise you are treating them as subordinate to you, marginalizing their personage through the exercise of your temper. You should not speak to your spouse in the same manner that you speak to your children!

In some cases, such as a parent-child relationship, one person is subordinate to the other. This does not mean that “I Language” is inappropriate, ineffectual, and equalizing; rather, “I Language” can be a wonderful tool in socializing children when used at an age-appropriate level. A five year old is capable of experiencing complex emotions, but not capable of understanding why they are feeling the way they feel. By setting the example through the use of “I Language” the child will grow to learn its purpose and place. Should we refuse to understand our own motives for emotional response, we pass that ignorance on to the next generation.

“I Language” does not mean you must stand there and reason with people; it means you must think before you speak so as to communicate more effectively. Nobody likes to feel like they are being attacked, but that is exactly what is happening – intentionally or unintentionally – when we lay out our stress reactions on someone else. The result is a build-up of defenses and a shut-down of listening skills. By shifting our burden of stress onto another person – through yelling; nasty comments; and worst of all, nagging, we build an emotional wall between us and the person we with whom we seek understanding and cooperation.

For example, getting angry with a teenager because they did not clean their room is not going to result in a positive response; rather, the room will stay messy (teenage rebellion at its most passive-aggressive) or the teen will clean their room but focus their resentment of the chore on the one making them do it – the parent. This is no way to build a trust relationship between parent and child – crucial during the teenage years. Which response do you think would be more effective?

A) How many times do I have to tell you to clean up this den of iniquity you call a room?* If it is not cleaned to my satisfaction by the end of the day you can forget about going out with your friends this weekend! (*Much thanks to the late LCS for this amazing turn of phrase!).

B) I was hoping to find your room cleaned up by now. I work hard to keep the house looking nice and when I look at this mess I feel as though you don’t respect my efforts. Do you realize that?

Rather than rant, explain your anger. Children may fear anger, but they know it quickly passes; disappointment on the other hand stings a lot worse, and is felt a lot longer. By explaining why their messy room upsets you, you are forced to examine your own feelings and pinpoint why you feel so strongly about this subject – or whatever subject it is that comes between you and your progeny – and relieve your stress in a healthy manner. By asking them a direct question, you provide an opening to converse about the issue in a rational manner. These are two of the many benefits of “I Language”. In a case such as this, the response might not be immediate but you will at least find out why your child prefers to live in squalor.

In general, “I Language” not only helps you to communicate better with others; it also helps you better understand your own motives. When you know yourself better others can get to know you better, too. Once people know what sets you off; puts you in a mood; or otherwise disturbs your inner peace they can make an effort to avoid those triggers – while you make an effort to learn and avoid setting off their triggers.

To start you on your journey to better communication, here are 5 Tips on Learning to Use “I Language””

1. When something is bothering you, ask yourself, “Why is this bothering me?” If you feel disrespected, ask why you feel disrespected. Get to the root of the emotion.

2. Find the true target of your feelings and direct your response towards that person/thing. Do not take your bad mood out on someone else; instead, warn people that you are edgy and having a bad day. Some may wish to help you; others may wish to avoid you.

3. Before you speak, ask yourself, “Is my target trying to annoy/anger/hurt me?” If the slight is unintentional, temper your voice accordingly. If you are uncertain, ask them. Nobody likes to be yelled at over a mistake; remember that people do not always realize the effect their actions have on another.

4. When speaking, start by expressing how you are feeling (angry/stressed/hurt/betrayed) before mentioning the offending behavior, keeping the accusatory phrase “you make me” out of the sentence (try “I get angry when…” not “You make me angry when…”). Nobody can make you lose your temper; your emotional response is yours alone to control.

5. Put yourself in the other person’s place and ask yourself what circumstances beyond their control may have affected their actions; give them the chance to explain their side of things before showing annoyance or anger.

An easy way to start using “I Language” is to use it to express positive emotions. Phrases like “I like it when_______” or “It makes me happy when _______”. From there, you can ease into using it to express your less than positive feelings. I will end with this example:

Mommie, I like it when I have a fresh clean litter-box, several full bowls of cat cereal, and a clean comfortable blanket! It shows me how much you love me – not that you love me any less since school has started...right?

Snuggles to all,

Ask Tazi! is ghostwritten by a human with a Bachelors of Arts in Communications. Tazi-Kat is not really a talking feline.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

9/11: Never Forget

Dear Readers:

It has been 11 years since that fateful 11th day of September. In honor of this solemn day, I will not be printing any letters; nor offering any words, for all that can be said has already been spoken by those whose words are much more eloquent than mine. I will just offer a simple reminder to never forget….

Song: "Where were you when the world stopped turning?" by Alan Jackson

But don’t let your rage turn into hate…

No words were needed for the most touching tribute of all...

My Mommie was at Yankee Stadium on 9/9/01, watching the Boston Red Sox play the New York Yankees...and she is forever grateful that al Qaeda chose not to strike there.

For those who seek to do more in remembrance of this sacred day, please visit


Ask Tazi! is ghostwritten by a human with a Bachelors of Arts in Communications. Tazi-Kat is not really a talking feline.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Tazi's Corner Issue #10 - A Lesson On Lists

A few weeks ago one of my favorite blogs, People I Want To Punch In The Throat, published a blog on why people love lists. Not being a people, it took me a while to get around to reading this blog because, quite frankly, I am not fond of lists. Mommie’s seventh grade English professor* called lists fodder of the unimaginative; I tend to agree with him – with one major exception, as I will explain here. (*The man had a PhD, thus earning him the title Professor).

For the most part, lists have no continuity. Even David Lettermen’s famous Top 10 Lists offer no factual thesis statement around which an argument can be built; they are simply short nuggets of inaccurate humor that would create a non-sequiter if strung together in paragraph form. This lack of grammatical structure is thematic to the type of list that I hate because at best it does not require rhetorical talent to write one, at worst it makes everyone think that they can be a writer – if you want proof, check out the blogosphere and see what I mean.

Like reality TV, lists are easy to create and inexpensive to produce; this is why you often find lists on the Internet masquerading as articles. In short, lists are lazy. Regardless of what the topic – from Top 5 Ways To Blow His Mind in Bed to 16 Must Have Looks For Fall – the list in question will generally meet the following criteria:

1. It took very little (if any) research to write it. If the information on the list was not already in the writer’s mental vault of information it probably did not make the list.

2. There is often no follow-up information as to how or why a particular item made it onto the list. How do I know that dressing up a man’s genitals like an ice-cream sundae will blow his mind? Did someone do a controlled study on the subject? If so, where was it published?

3. There is no continuity from one item to the next. Did you notice how my first two items could have been put together into a paragraph, with the addition of segue and the elimination of the second item opening? Did you also notice that this thought came out of nowhere and is followed by something that should have been item #3 instead?

4. The explanatory paragraph following each item on the list will point out the obvious, if such a paragraph even exists at all.

5. The entire list will total some seemingly random number that is not random at all. The number of items on a list will generally be divisible by 5; be an even number; or be a “magical” number like 3 or 7, or even 13 (as in 13 Things You Didn’t Know About Friday the 13th!).

These types of lists – the bad lists – are essentially popcorn for the brain, fun to consume, but hardly nutritious food for thought; they take the extremes and present them as commonplace, as a form of entertainment to the masses – 5 Things You Should Never Put On Your Resume will include suggestions like “Hobbies” and “Family Life”, as if people regularly share this information. As an advice columnist I am guilty of sharing the extremes, but the bulk of the letters I print deal with issues that reach a broader audience (the extremes get printed when mail is slow and the pickings are slim).

Now that I have had my say on what makes a list a bad list, I ask that you read my thoughts on what makes a list a good list – this way I do not receive hate mail from list writers who think I am picking on them!

A good list will, ideally, be part of a larger article; a feature used to organize information that needs highlighting for the ease of the reader. I am not saying this because I do this; I do this because it makes for a stronger presentation of material. Features of a good list include:

1. A natural starting point in the article that features it. Even if the entire article is one big list, there should be an opening paragraph of introduction and a closing paragraph to finish the article. Opening and closing with random thoughts is the sign of a lazy writer and is disrespectful to readers. If someone is taking the time to read your work you should respect them enough to offer a complete piece...hint, hint syndicated, Pulitzer Prize winning columnist that I have emailed with this very complaint! Stop wasting your talent on such schlock!

2. Well-researched information. Writing is 90% research and 10% talent, and yes I just made up that statistic to show how convincing something can sound when you put a percentage symbol next to a number and state it with a sense of authority. A good list is not a part of the web of inaccuracies found on the Internet; a good list offers cited information or learned rhetoric.

3. Follow-up information after each item on the list. A few weeks ago, I published my personal list of 39 Must Read Modern (and Not So Modern) Classics. After each selection, I added the name of the author. This small piece of information might seem obvious, but the point is that a good list does not leave out vital, explanatory information.

4. Continuity and flow. For example, this list of 18 Rules for Raising a Boy starts with the most important rule of all, upon which most if not all will agree (“Teach him what a skank is so he'll never bring one home.), and works its way down to the less urgent rules where there is room for debate and dissent (“Teach him about good pizza”. Huh?).

5. A good list keeps the readers interest while accomplishing the goals of the writer. If, as a writer, your goal is to make people laugh you need to make certain that your audience can relate to the humor in your writing. I personally find the lists on floor-wettingly funny, and several times have had to make an emergency trip to the litter box when reading them; my Co-Mommie (Mommie’s Mommie) thinks they are dumb. Happily, Co-Mommie is not the target audience of

In my research on writing and rhetoric, done over Mommie’s shoulder as she studies the topic for her latest degree, I have learned that people love lists for different reasons. Good lists are appreciated because they offer a focal point and a summary of important information. Bad lists are enjoyed because people have short attention spans and seek to be entertained while appearing intellectual – which, I am told, is why USA Today has such a large circulation. (Ooooh, a needless dig! Sorry, readers, but my heart belongs to The New York Post!).


Ask Tazi! is ghostwritten by a human with a Bachelors of Arts in Communications. Tazi-Kat is not really a talking feline.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Pet Fish Mysteriously Die; Is Family Member Responsible?

Dear Tazi:

I have a very expensive tank of tropical fish that I keep as a hobbyist. I went on vacation to Atlantic City this summer and asked my sister to care for my fish for me, leaving her explicitly written instructions for the feeding and care of my fish. When I returned, two of my most expensive fish (valued at over $50 each!) had died with no explanation. I was livid and demanded that my sister reimburse me the cost of purchasing new fish.

My sister has refused to compensate me for my loss, stating that she was truly sorry that they died, but that she cared for the fish exactly as instructed – without being compensated for her time, efforts, or mileage to and from my house. Tazi, she never asked for compensation; if she had I would have simply hired a professional to care for them while I was away. As it is, I am wishing I had instead of using the extra money to play the slots. At least then I would only be out the cash instead of the cash and my fish.

Tazi, don’t you think that my sister owes me the cost of two new Tropicals? She insists that I am being petty and that her costs make mine a wash; I say she never asked for compensation before agreeing to help me so she has no right to use her costs to offset her financial responsibility to me.

Out Two Fish And A Couple Hundred Dollars

Dear Out Two Fish A Couple Hundred Dollars:

To be completely honest (as if a cat could be anything else), no; I do not agree with you. I am sorry to hear that your fish died while you were away; but since they died “without explanation” they could have just as easily died while under your care. Your sister was generous enough to save you some money by stepping up when you asked her to care for your fish – for free – while you were away on vacation; to turn around and demand compensation from her is truly tacky. Could it be you lost a little more on the slots than you planned, and are really looking to make back your loss by way of your sister’s wallet? I feel a Paw Slap Of Disgust coming on, so I will end my response here before the urge gets out of control.

Too late…here it is.

Sigh...and i have been doing so well lately!
Oh, and my Lady Friend has something to give you, too…

My Lady Friend is a lot less tolerant than me...

You owe your sister an apology for demanding that she pay you for the loss of your fish, and an unconditional acceptance of her apology for the death of your fish. Just because someone expresses sympathies in the form of regret does not mean that they are accepting responsibility for the tragedy.

No Snuggles For You!

Ask Tazi! is ghostwritten by a human with a Bachelors of Arts in Communications. Tazi-Kat is not really a talking feline.