Writing Advice – Wil Wheaton

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Wil Wheaton is one of my favorite writers, nay people. I don’t agree with everything he espouses, I don’t think anyone can agree with everything anyone espouses, but we’re on the same wavelength more often than not.

He is a writer’s writer. When he finds something that works, he doesn’t hoard or hide it; he shares it with the masses and he believes you can be a good writer too.

In this blog post, he shares the three books that have made him a better writer. I have read Stephen King’s On Writing, and have highly recommended it. I now have the two other books on my to-read list because Wil’s advice is usually spot on.

And while you’re taking his writing advice, read his work as well!

Tragedy

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We were at a work event for my son’s job this afternoon when I found out that the Cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris was on fire. Just the view on the computer screen with the white smoke, the bright orange flames licking the stones and rising higher and higher was speech stopping; it was mind-numbing to me. I have a sensitivity to viewing buildings burning. I think it brings me to 9/11, it brings me to California wildfire devastation, and with television and social media it brings it literally into our fingertips.

As of this writing, I believe the two towers have been saved even though the spire collapsed. One of the rose stained glass windows was destroyed, but three remained. The statues that had been on the spire were removed four days ago as part of the renovation. The art, artifacts, and holy relics were saved after being removed during the fire. These are all good things.

This church is nearly one thousand years old. The person who laid the first stone was not alive at its completion. As it has been before, it will be rebuilt because like the church of people remains in perpetuity, the building will be repaired, rebuilt, and it won’t be the last time. The idea, the ideal of the church family lives on in the people who will return to Notre Dame.

In the meantime, we can mourn the physical building as we mourn the death of a loved one and know it will rise again.

I have never been to Notre Dame in Paris, France, but my son visited while on a school trip in his senior year in high school. Knowing how close I am to my own local church and my Catholic devotion brought this home for my souvenir from his visit, ironically also during Holy Week. It sits on my bookshelf where I look at it every now and then, and after seeing the cathedral burning, upon coming home I took this pewter replica in my hand and turned it over, touching the carvings, pressing on the spire, tracing the cuneiform. It was sad and comforting at the same time. (c)2019

Where Are My Bootstraps?

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​Unless you live in Massachusetts where it’s Patriot Day, today is Tax Day. If you’re just filing your taxes now, you’ve realized just how much the Republican Tax Scam screwed you over. Sure they raised the standard deduction, but they’ve taken away most of your itemizations through limits. We somehow managed to do okay despite our taxes rising by over one thousand dollars. In fact, married filing joint is only $100 less tax due than a single person making nearly the same amount. I believe the only reason we didn’t owe was because we were already having too much withheld. Our motto is live on less, so we can repair our house and car in the spring.

We reached our health insurance’s maximum out of pocket in 2018, and we still couldn’t deduct our medical. Or our taxes, mortgage interest, or the little we give to charity. Good thing we don’t give to charity for the tax deduction; we give because it’s the right thing to do when you have more than someone else (even if it’s not that much more).

We have two kids at home and in school and one out on his own, and while he’s been pitching in with his own expenses for quite some time now, his moving out didn’t lower our expenses. He is still on our phone plan, our automatic toll payments, our AAA, our health insurance, and we don’t begrudge or judge him for any of those things. One, it’s cheaper for all of us, and two, it’s what a family does. One day I’m sure I’ll be on his phone plan.

The main point isn’t that I don’t want to pay taxes; I do. It’s my responsibility as an American citizen to pay my share. What I don’t understand is how we allow the wealthy to avoid paying their taxes. I don’t understand how teacher are not allowed to claim school supplies on their taxes, but if you have a private jet, the gas is deductible. It’s absurd that we continue to allow this to happen.

So that’s my rant. Despite it, my taxes were mailed last week, and with no savings, now we’ll struggle until our refund comes and I can pay back the private loan I took out, maybe I can get a pair of glasses that I’ve needed for over a year, pay for half of my hearing aids before they decide to send those to collection, but there will be no new roof (again, this is year 3 of waiting), no smooth driveway (which isn’t as luxurious as it seems – the more it sinks, the muddier it gets, the icier in the winter), no toilet in our upstairs bathroom (a necessity in a family of five), no oven for another six months to a year, no fridge which should have been replaced when we moved in and were lied to about its age.

We have it good, but it still hurts to say no to your kids for something as innocuous as a trip to McDonald’s or a candy bar for no special occasion. I don’t want to spoil them with European vacations, but it might be nice to take a long weekend to Niagara Falls or Washington, DC.

I truly am grateful for what we do have, and appreciate how lucky we are, but sometimes it’s important to let the people who don’t understand “real life” know what is going on in most of America – your neighbors, your friends, your kids’ classmates. I wish the Republicans in Congress would see this, but I’m not sure they’d care to be honest.

I’d like to close this with a link to a 2014 article that is still relevant today about how the realities of living inn bootstrap America and how most daily annoyances are catastrophic for many people living paycheck to paycheck.

Writing Advice – Stephen King

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Stephen King is one of the most prolific writers in the world. I’m embarrassed to admit that I have never read any of his fiction. Not one. I’ve also never seen the movies except part of Stand by Me. His genre of horror has never been something in my wheelhouse, but I did admire him as a writer and a person. I follow him on Twitter and he wrote a magnificent essay on JK Rowling for Time magazine.

The one book I did manage to acquire and read was his memoir/advice for writers book, On Writing. I found it engaging, brilliantly written and so beautifully in his voice. Writing this reminds me that I should re-read it just because.

Here are a few of his quotes that I feel drawn to: 

  • The scariest moment is always just before you start. After that, things can only get better.
  • Let me say it again: You must not come lightly to the blank page.
  • You go where the story leads you
  • If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot.

  • I’m convinced that fear is at the root of most bad writing.

Stephen King’s Writing Toolbox is a strategy after my own heart. I love the idea of tools and toolboxes to get us through everyday life – that specialized item that is exactly what we need right at that moment in time.
Two Interviews with Stephen King

with The Independent (from 2017)

with The Atlantic (from 2013)

Meet the Democratic 2020 Presidential Candidates

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Between exploratory committees and official Presidential candidates, as of this writing, there are 18 20 21 24 25 (I think) Democratic candidates*, and to be perfectly honest, almost all of them are better than the situation we have right now in the White House. Obviously, those running for President have their own policy priorities and while everything should not be seen only as a mirror to the Trump Administration, we cannot lose sight of what is at stake. The last two years have been frightening; horrifying at times, and undemocratic with our civil rights at risk.

With that in mind, I have compiled a list of the candidates’ official websites as well as their full interviews on Crooked Media‘s Pod Save America podcast. Most of them can be seen on several news shows offering their policies; I have found that PSA has a very good track record of tough questions while remaining fair.

I have a few of my favorites who I am supporting. I will probably express that in future posts. However, I have decided that I won’t include links for candidates who have not officially announced (VP Joe Biden and Stacey Abrams) nor will I include announced candidates that I feel are wholly unqualified (unless there is an interview with Pod Save America). After 2016 I think it’s important to maintain a level of expectation of our candidates, and while we have a big tent, and all are welcome, I don’t think we should pretend that all candidates are equal. I think two years of inexperience and incompetence is enough. We need someone who knows what they’re doing. I will update this as more announce. A link will also be included on my We the People Page for updates as they happen.

Michael Bennet WebsitePod Save America interview

Cory Booker WebsitePod Save America interview

Steve Bullock WebsitePod Save America interview

​Pete Buttigeig WebsitePod Save America interview

Julian Castro WebsitePod Save America interview

Kirsten Gillibrand WebsitePod Save America interview

Kamala Harris WebsitePod Save America interview

John Hickenlooper WebsitePod Save America interview

Jay Inslee WebsitePod Save America interview

Amy Klobucher WebsitePod Save America interview

Seth Moulton WebsitePod Save America interview

Beto O’Rourke WebsitePod Save America interview

Tim Ryan WebsitePod Save America interview

Bernie Sanders Website, Pod Save America interview

Eric SwalwellWebsitePod Save America interview

Elizabeth Warren WebsitePod Save America interview

Marianne Williamson Website, Pod Save America interview

Andrew Yang WebsiteLovett or Leave It interviewPod Save America interview

– – – – 

Websites/No Interviews Currently

Joe Biden

Bill deBlasio

John Delaney

Tulsi Gabbard

Mike Gravel

Wayne Messam

Joe Sestak

Tom Steyer

– – – –

* This number changed literally after I set this up to post. I will continue to change it if it needs changing.

Pope Francis’ Prayer for Countering ‘Fake News’

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This prayer is part of a message Pope Francis offered for World Communications Day in January of 2018. At the very least, it gives us something to think about when we’re offering our views with one another. Separating fact from fiction is essential is today’s media, and we must never forget that while a variety of opinions are valid, facts and truth are non-negotiable.

I would recommend following the link above and reading the Pope’s entire message.

Lord, make us intruments of your peace.

Help us to recognize the evil latent in a communication that does not build communion.

Help us to remove the venom from our judgements.

Help us to speak about others as our brothers and sisters.

You are faithful and trustworthy; may our words be seeds of goodness for the world:

Where there is shouting, let us practice listening;

Where there is confusion, let us inspire harmony;

Where there is ambiguity, let us bring clarity;

Where there is exclusion, let us offer solidarity;

Where there is sensationalism, let us use sobriety;

Where there is superficiality, let us raise real questions;

Where there is prejudice, let us awaken trust;

Where there is hostility, let us bring respect;

Where there is falsehood, let us bring truth.

Amen.