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FemaleThis post is dedicated to the finer gender, endowed with prudence, grace, beauty, and compassion.
May the world mirror your shining example.

Tonight I finished watching the first (and now only) season of Amazon Video’s Good Girls Revolt.

It has been an excellent viewing experience: captivating, fun, poignant, reminiscent, educational, and above all, feminist.

The period drama portrays varied and realistic (if dated) female characters cast against the backdrop of a weekly, national news magazine chronicling the tumultuous end of the sixties, the then-endless Vietnam War, and a historic push forward for the advancement of women. Over the course of 10 engaging episodes, these women struggle, grow, and eventually unite around a call for equal opportunity that, sadly, still rings true 47 years later.

I suppose, then, it is no surprise that Amazon cancelled the series. Read the rest of this entry »

I’ll admit I know very little about the machinations within the House Democratic Caucus. I have no doubt the strings and chains of its internal workings are beyond my comprehension and it would likely disgust me to understand them.

That said, I’m really upset that Pelosi has retained the post of Minority Leader. Even more so that my congressman, a ranking member of the Progressive Caucus, supported her in her bid.

So I wrote him today. Read the rest of this entry »

I heard my first Bill Cosby album when I was five.

Memorized my first Cosby routine when I was seven (it was the “Noah…Right!”).

Performed it before an audience of hundreds at age eight (I received Honorable Mention).

Once I heard those early stories of reckless go-cart racing and playing buck-buck in the projects of Philadelphia, I was hooked.

I credit much of my interest in performing and comedy to the childhood laughs that overwhelmed me as I sat in my bedroom listening to those 33rpm records on a tiny shoebox turntable with a mono speaker. I recited the routines in my head until they flowed out of me without thought or concentration, at-the-ready for a passing neighbor, my parents’ dinner guests, or a visit from extended family.

I have vivid memories of sitting in my PJs on Saturday mornings, cup of dry Froot Loops in hand, crunching away on sugary mouthfuls, just happy as a clam, while the infectious intro music of “Picture Pages” imprinted itself on my brain.

Picture Pages, Picture Pages, Time to get your Picture Pages.
Time to get your crayons and your pencils!
Picture Pages, Picture Pages, Open up your Picture Pages!
Time to watch Bill Cosby do a picture page with you!

To think of all those boyhood hours spent worshipping—glorifying, even—an alleged serial rapist now sickens me. Read the rest of this entry »

Forty.

40. 4-D. Two score. Four dimes. Over-the-hill. The mid-point. Intermission. Halftime. On the flip side. The start of Act II. The third quarter. Entering my fifth decade. Coasting downhill. Past my prime. The dawn of middle age. The beginning of the end.

Yes, it’s true. I recently passed the arbitrary milestone that carries with it enough gravitas and gloom to bring even the most spry and vigorous traveler to at least a brief period of introspection, if not melancholy.

Truthfully, becoming a quadragenarian did weigh on me some. Not so much for the age or the number itself (such trivialities as round numbers do not impress me), but rather in examination of my life and how, on the surface at least, I largely am right where I was a decade ago.

I entered my thirties living in the same house in the same city in the same job with the same company in which I find myself now. I had an unfinished novel at the time, and I still have one (albeit, a different one). And while I have much to show for that same decade—in knowledge, and love, and friendship, and maturity, and wisdom, and experience, and even writing—it is also a stone cold reminder how fleeting time can be and, when our daily schedules and surroundings remain unchanged, how quickly we can lose awareness of its passing.

In addition to that realization, it also was just over a year ago that, creatively charged after my trip to the Writer’s Workshop, I boldly purposed to have this novel drafted as a 40th birthday present to myself.

Well, the best laid schemes o’ mice an’ men… Read the rest of this entry »

It took me a while to get in the Christmas spirit this year.  It’s not that I was down, or reluctant; I’ve just had a lot going on and it seemed like all of the build up evaporated before I hardly had a chance to acknowledge it.

We put up the tree a week later than usual, so that didn’t help (yes, it’s artificial and just the right size for our little house).  And we’ve been in such a “doing” mode all fall, it kind of perpetuated into the holidays and didn’t leave us much time for sipping cocoa (with Bailey’s) and singing carols in the living room.

The sad thing is, I recall having the same notion last year, that Christmas kind of snuck up on me, and quite possibly the year before that. I’m not certain, but it wouldn’t surprise me. That made me wonder if this is now going to be the norm.

I mean, ten years ago, the month between Thanksgiving and Christmas felt much longer. And thirty years ago it felt like an absolute eternity, sprawled out like an endless barrier between me and a host of irresistible presents sure to ceaselessly delight and entertain me for the rest of eternity, if only I could ever reach them.

As I’ve grown older my perception of the passage of time, of course, has sped up, as I’m sure will continue to be the case. But in regard to the month of December, it seems it has doubly so. No sooner has the last piece of pumpkin pie made it into my belly, than I am thawing the Christmas kringle to greet us on the morning of the 25th. Thrift! Thrift, Santa Claus! The Thanksgiving-baked meats do coldly furnish forth the yuletide tables. Read the rest of this entry »

I just spent an incredible week at a fiction writer’s workshop and I’m exhausted.Pen

See, I’ve been having some trouble plotting lately. No, not my nefarious plans for world domination, my novel. It’s not that I don’t have ideas for my plot; I have plenty. It’s that I don’t typically have a lot of confidence when to comes to those ideas. I get all caught up in my own head worrying that what I’ve laid out is uninteresting, or cliché, or weak, or inconsequential, or mundane, or lacks sufficient buoyancy to sustain an entire novel.

Yes, the age-old writer’s curse—self doubt—seems to have grabbed hold of my former amateurish confidence and choked it out like Royce Gracie on a championship night. I’ve been stuck. Floundering in a lack of self-confidence, I would stare blankly at my noble and approachable characters, unable to craft any tasks and challenges that I deemed worthy of them, or worse, of my potential readers.

So on a whim, I trekked to Iowa City for some writer’s respite and much-needed instruction from the “sages of the Foxhead.”

I went hoping that I would acquire some methods and tactics to eventually formulate a plot that could sustain a novel. Instead, I left with an actual sustained plot for my novel!

Granted, it’s a rough one, but when my incredible instructor helped me drop the last significant piece into place, the floodgates opened and a newfound clarity caused the rest of the story to flow out of me so quickly my fingers could barely keep up.

What started as a half-dozen key plot points quickly became a comprehensive outline, which then evolved into a full scene index with several dozen installments. By the end of the week I had all of my milestones laid out before me (well, most of them) and I couldn’t wait to start writing my way down that winding road.

Yes, it was a very rewarding, invigorating experience and for any writers out there, I highly recommend it. Much can be said about just the opportunity and environment: taking a week off to be away from work, home, life, and its responsibilities and dedicating that time instead to writing, thinking about writing, and surrounding yourself with writers who are doing the same. Cliché though it may be, it’s magical.

So with this renewed sense of purpose, and a wee bit of validation to bolster my confidence, I’ve got a roadmap for my newest literary project and frankly, I’m stoked about it.

Why am I telling you? The reasons are twofold. Read the rest of this entry »

I’m going to tread on dangerous ground today. It’s likely to garner more dissension than anything I have posted about heretofore. Mired in controversy and known to provoke extremely emotional responses, I am already bracing myself for the backlash that will likely result from this post, and others to follow on this same, touchy subject.

It’s not abortion, nor same-sex marriage. Nor is it school prayer or the role of government in society. No, this is something much more polarizing and tempestuous. Today I’m posting about Star Wars.

Interestingly, I actually was going to publish a post on the current status of gun control; but Star Wars, I fear, will produce even more vitriol and ire, into which I shall now dive.

Here it is: Simply put, the Star Wars Prequels suck.

And I don’t just mean they’re bad, I’m mean they are so tremendously horrible that they have now successfully poisoned my 35-year enjoyment of the Original Trilogy (Episodes 4-6).

There! I said it. God that feels good! Why, now, am I making this proclamation? Glad you asked. Read the rest of this entry »

PrintUsually, I try to concentrate on new writing projects. But every now and again, I am compelled to crack open my musty folders full of unpublished stories of auld lang syne and pore over them once again, full of reminiscence and longing.

In many ways they have withstood the test of time. They are still relevant, for the most part; I still like them and believe in them. I typically still like the characters too. And in feeling as much, I find I experience some regret, if not sorrow at their never having been published. And once that starts, I get sucked in.

“Why didn’t it get published?” I wonder. “Can I do anything to it to make it better?” After all, some of these tales are 10 or 15 years old and I freely admit that I’m a better writer now, by leaps and bounds. That being said, what if the story was great, but my talents were simply not up to the task at the time it sprang forth? Sure, I gave it my best, but now that the older and more experienced me has applied his scrutinizing eye, I can see scores upon scores of editorial notes that I know would make it read better. So out comes the red pen and the markups begin. Since they’ve never been published, what’s the harm in touching them up a little? No one would know but me.

But here’s the quandary, these stories have a certain sentimental value in their original state. As their creator, it is now somewhat painful to read them and hear the voice that I once had, laden with crudeness and amateur phrasings. Yet they are still reflections of who and where I was at the time they were written. And certainly they serve as a literary photo album, offering glimpses of past milestones on the road of my maturation as a writer. It occurs to me that, though they might not have been good enough to be published, they still have value, if none other than a stepping stone to the next story, and the next, and so on.

I don’t try to sell my short stories anymore; there just isn’t much of a market for them it seems. And what market does exist is inundated with submissions, slow to respond (if at all), and often governed by ridiculously low word counts. So in the end I suppose my time is better spent on other projects, but the question remains: is it wrong, a betrayal of sorts, to revisit old, unpublished writings from the past and try to remold them with the words from my inner voice of the present? Do an unsold story and its crafted characters deserve the finest presentation I can give them, the best shot possible at ever seeing pages of print? Or is it nobler to preserve the scribblings of my past persona, errors, clichés, and homespun howlings all included, and retain them as souvenirs of the writer I once was?

Perhaps someday I’ll publish a collection of my short stories and an editor will finally help me decide what to fix and what to forget. But until then, I fear I shall be tempted again and again by calls from my past yarns, yearning to be re-spun with the shinier tools I have today.

What’s your persuasion? Should I shine them up or shove them aside?

As I have said before, I really love Christmas. Unlike so many Americans, however, it isn’t the gifts or food that warm my heart; nor is it the religious origin of the Christmas holiday, the birth of Jesus and the mythology that now surrounds it. Sacrilegious, I know, but over the last couple of centuries the culture of Christmas has evolved to carry a message entirely its own.

In my heart and mind, I have come to appreciate my own definition of “the true meaning of Christmas,” a meaning with which I am certain you are already familiar. I casually refer to this as “the Scrooge lesson,” or the “Dickensian Christmas Spirit.”

I love “A Christmas Carol.” It has such great characters, images, and lessons to appreciate and it never, ever gets old. And what I consistently take away from it are the very themes that a sorrowful Jacob Marley desperately urges his old partner Ebenezer to embrace: the common welfare, charity, mercy, kindness, forbearance, and benevolence. I also receive the lesson in Scrooge choosing to dine with the friends of his nephew Fred—sharing warmth in the company of others to thankfully appreciate the blessings of fine food, drink, and camaraderie.

Perhaps most importantly, and more subtle, is the general theme of A Christmas Carol that, in addition to charity and revelry, Christmas should also be a time of self-reflection, a time to ponder our lives and how we choose to live them. In Scrooge’s own vein, Read the rest of this entry »

About every six months or so, I write myself into a corner. And I don’t mean that I get caught up in plot or dialog, or while formulating a concise argument; yes, I sometimes have those problems, but that’s not what I am referring to. What I’m talking about is an unreasonable trap in the English language, the lack of a singular, androgynous pronoun for an individual.

“What?” you ask? I don’t blame you. Let me demonstrate.

“The problem with formulating simple-yet-sound education policy is that we’re trying to write a single, universal plan to address every student’s needs, but any given individual student is not the average, or median, or norm. ???? (insert third person, singular pronoun) is just that, an individual, containing thoughts, emotions, experience, and a frame of reference entirely specific to ???? (insert third person grammatical object).”

In the above example, there is no accurate, androgynous, and grammatically correct pronoun to replace the question marks, and that drives me insane!

Think I’ve got options? Let’s look at them: Read the rest of this entry »

The first four years draw to a close. And between a fractured and disjointed Democratic minority, obstructionist Republican lawmakers, and a campaign year of gridlock and Executive foot-dragging on long-since approved regulation, we don’t really have a lot to show for them.

Sure, one of the big cuffs has now been taken off—reelection—but the truth is, what we’ve seen from our “golden prophet” isn’t anything less than we should have expected. After all, the Left has been so hell-bent on finding a figurehead for the Progressive Cause, we kind of didn’t bother to firm up our identity, develop sound policy, or decide how best to disseminate it.

In other words, we found our spokesperson long before we had a product to sell, much less a path to market.

The Right, however, doesn’t have this problem. If there is one thing we know for sure, it is what plans and machinations will be cultivated when the Right plows in a new field of political power, be it Executive, Legislative, or Judicial. We all know what the platform of the Republican party is: supply side philosophy, tax cuts (with the bulk of the benefit going to corporations and the top 1%), deregulation of corporations and industry, reducing the scope and life of social programs, weakening environmental and consumer protections, and finding a way to manipulate policy for their own political gain. Why is it any surprise to us that policy on all of these fronts is already waiting in the hopper and springs to life the day they take office?

Take Wisconsin, for example. After winning the election, yet before taking office, the Walker administration Read the rest of this entry »

Back in the 80’s, I was into sports cars in a big way.

I’m not talking about the average gearhead’s dream of Corvettes, Camaros and Mustangs. I’m talking the real McCoys, the top shelfers: the Lamborghini Countach, the Lotus Esprit Turbo, The Vector W8, and the much-hallowed Ferrari F40. I was a loyal subscriber to Car and Driver and though I didn’t yet know how to drive, my dreams of one day operating such a magnificent piece of machinery would enchant me as I poured over the pages.

Of course, it was all a pipe dream. I knew I’d never have $250,000 to spend on a sports car, and even if I did, what a wasteful purchase it would be. But it was the 80’s, the pinnacle of materialism, affluence, and ridiculous narcissism. It was inspiring to fantasize about the untold spoils that may lie ahead in my lifetime.

I recall my parents’ dreams of that time, their own hopes for the future. Nothing too greedy, and certainly more realistic than my visions of sports cars: worldly travel in later life, a small A-frame on a lake somewhere, spoiling their grandchildren at Christmas, possibly an early retirement. Those expectations hardly seemed to be unrealistic to me or to them. Back then the promise of Reaganomics and supply-side policy seemed destined to be profitable for everyone.

What they didn’t know at the time was that wages had reached their apex Read the rest of this entry »

Recently, I talked with a friend about behaving responsibly.

As the years have piled on, I continue to focus on responsible behavior. I readily see the link between making “poor” choices (perhaps “immediate” is better) and the extension of those choices delaying, prohibiting, or outright negating the possibility of me attaining certain goals: health, financial independence, physical fitness, harmony with nature, and so on.

Each year, each month, each day, I consider and eventually enact changes in my behaviors that propel me towards these simple-yet-lofty goals. After all, “You must be the change you wish to see in the world,” and I’ll even add, “in yourself.”

Image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net

You see I really love cookies. I mean, LOVE them. To emphasize, my first word in this life was “cookie.” Previously, my personal performance of the bedtime routine opened with a few (sometimes more) cookies and a glass of milk, followed by a fervent tooth brushing and the inevitable slumber. I firmly believe that warm cookies and cold milk are good for the soul. So much pleasure and joy is contained within those crude little discs of love, how can they not be?

But recognizing their empty-caloric nature and my languishing metabolism as I age, I’ve been actively suppressing my desires, breaking with my evening custom, and oft replacing my beloved baked goods with less-than-sufficient celery and peanut butter, or worse, nothing. Read the rest of this entry »

I don’t write much poetry, though poems are one of the few things I’ve had published. But in these troubling times, we must explore new methods and mediums. So I’m branching out a bit.

I wrote this little ditty for a work event about a year ago and then performed it as a beat poem, sunglasses and all. It was meant to be a call to arms for great minds to get cracking in the hopes that we can innovate our way out of this mess we’re in. Today, the call is greater than ever. So here is my:

Ode to Innovation

Innovation, bold creation, mind gyration,
How shall I quest for thee?
In the sly, dry, suburban countryside
or in a midnight tide of lazy apathy?
Don’t wait, or abate our fateless world of greatness!
Your sultry eyes can hypnotize and make huge tasks feel weightless.
Great brains and willful souls, fraught and bought with the wild fire of desire,
once plagued with doubt and mired in bouts of ignorance and frustrated ire,
can find in you the spark to start with pounding heart down the path where
none have ventured
to lurk and work to shirk the jerks to whom we’re all indentured.
For the mind that finds no kind of light as he cuts the rind from his rightful life,
a glance to you, and effort true, gives one so blue a reason to concoct a means
to end his strife.
‘Tween the boring, plain, and outright mundane lies the lifeless pain of everyday
and the death of ingenuity.
Without a nod from you, the hearts of few would find the drive to right themselves
to success in perpetuity.

Hark!

Harken here Creative Spark and make your mark upon the hearts of those who sit before you.
Bump and grind within our minds to move along our crusted spines; we swear we won’t ignore you.

Do you hear us? Do you fear us? For we fear not you!

Don’t hide as though your petty goal is to deprive our lives and mortal souls of finding drive to boldly strive against the humdrum, which defeats you.
But show yourself in broad daylight, from the cobweb corners of bromidic night,
apart from all the hapless doubts, and you’ll find us there to meet you.

© 2011

Sunday is the 42nd anniversary of the creation of Earth Day, a remarkable movement founded in Madison, WI by then US Senator and former Governor, Gaylord Nelson.

Earth Day has one central purpose: to encourage people to consider humanity’s impact on the environment and act in ways that reduce the negative effects on all ecosystems and species.

It is a simple goal, but has far-reaching implications and can be summed up in their most-recognized slogan, “Think Globally. Act Locally.” It was Senator Nelson who coined this idea, insisting that local action and education be the central method of Earth Day rather than protests and sit-ins.

“Act Locally” does not just mean in counties or municipalities, it means in our homes and businesses, and most importantly, our lives. Sure it means big things like urging local, state, and federal governments to pass laws that protect our environment, but it also means smaller things like being realistic about what we need to consume, Read the rest of this entry »

I find myself disgruntled lately.

Shocked? I’m sure not, if you’ve read most of my other posts. But you’re probably asking, “What’s got you this time?” So here it is: our ridiculous two-party system of government.

I’m sick of Democrats. I’m sick of Republicans. I’m sick of party politics constantly trumping public policy. I’m sick of bickering, and empty promises. I’m sick of gerrymandering, and stalwart tactics, and of the threat of filibuster (because they don’t actually filibuster anymore you know). I’m sick of misleading 8-second sound bites by majority/minority leaders that exemplify denial and puerility more than reason and cooperation (of course, our attention spans and inane media have a lot to do with that – but that’s for another time).

On issue after issue, threat after threat, problem after problem, the whole idea of passing laws and enacting public policy expeditiously is secondary, if not tertiary, to protecting “The Party” and weakening the opposition. Read the rest of this entry »

Congratulations, President Obama, you finally found your Presidential voice! Such a shame that it came so late.

It was a great speech-probably your best SOTU-employing powerful, statesmanlike language and stroking progressive ideals to the brink of political orgasm. Yes, it was a terrific speech; and it should be because the way things are looking, it’s likely to be your last.

This year, it’s easy to throw out a bunch of great ideas and bold initiatives, backed with powerful rhetoric; you’re talking to a congress that has already vowed to do nothing. But beyond the applause and standing O’s, past the bright Source4 spotlights and television cameras, there are legions of lamenting liberals, a plethora of pissed-off progressives, and an assload of angry Americans who are having trouble pairing the leadership in your language with the awkwardness of your administration.

For three years you’ve portrayed yourself as stumbling buffoons, unsure of your agenda. Your message has been fragmented and murky. Your communications have been guarded and timid. Your domestic policy wandering and perfunctory. We have come to expect very little from you in terms of actual leadership, and it shows in how easily Republicans have been able to effectively frame every – single – issue, successfully derailing your game plan before you’ve even left the huddle. Read the rest of this entry »

It seems we’re looking at yet another legislative session, in both state legislatures and congress, where partisan gridlock will be preventing any effective, relevant, or necessary legislation from passing. Just read about what’s going on in Wisconsin, Colorado, and the upcoming congress (here and here).

Most Americans have been screaming for three years for our legislatures to do something to help us, the common citizen. And despite hollow promises of “a laser-focus on jobs” and “reaching across the aisle” from legislators, it seems all of their time is spent arguing over non-job-related bills with obvious political motivations and assurances of furthering our political and ideological divide.

Naturally, this has me frustrated, pensive, and reflecting back on a different time.

There have always been political and ideological divides, to be sure. But at a time of such crises, with such a struggle occurring in so many households across the country, one might think that a few, maybe even a small majority of lawmakers, could actually push aside the inflexible and overbearing will of their parties and simply start to do something.

Perusing recent legislative history, bipartisanship seemed to be more commonplace. Look at Nixon’s Impeachment, the Reagan-O’Neill cooperation, the bipartisan vote to censure President Clinton, or the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act (McCain-Feingold).

We’ve worked together before, even amidst other bitter ideological divides. So why can’t we seem to do it now, especially in light of the dire circumstances of so many Americans? Read the rest of this entry »

Yesterday, the Montana Supreme Court upheld a century-old law banning corporate spending in state and local political campaigns, thereby ignoring the US Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling from almost two years ago.

This is a remarkable ruling by the Montana High Court (a 5-2 decision in a conservative state, no less), and it lends credence to the arguments against Citizens United that have been made by the majority of Americans, legal scholars, and many members of both parties for the last year.

It will likely be overturned, of course. If the plaintiffs appeal, the US Supreme Court naturally will simply rescind this ruling, likely with another 5-4 majority decision. But for the first time, a notable panel of jurists has openly written in a majority opinion that the US Supreme Court’s ruling last year was, in essence, a steaming pile of feces artfully molded to appear as though it stood on legal grounds.

The Montana Court’s decision is useful and important, but not really a surprise to us, right? I mean we, the uneducated masses and wanna-be lawyers of the nation who love to wax legal on the weekends, have been calling “Bullshit” on Citizens United for two years! Read the rest of this entry »

Ever since my youth, when I began to define my moral, ethical, and political philosophies, there has been an aspect of conservatism that I’ve never understood and have yet to hear a reasonable, rational explanation in its defense. It is, in essence, a fallacy and a blatant refusal to accept the reality of life.

The aspect of conservatism to which I am referring is the notion of adhering to tradition, of keeping things back, of holding on to “the way things were.”

**NEWSFLASH** – There is but one constant throughout history, and that is Change.

I cannot think of a single incidence in history where any attempt, by any entity, at holding firmly to a traditional practice, belief, or ideology succeeded in keeping change at bay forever. It may take longer, it may be more difficult or even violent in process, but in the end change always occurs, whether those in power like it or not. Read the rest of this entry »

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