Tuesday, August 7, 2018

E Pluribus Unum

Real News doesn't care for you either.

The descent into madness continues.  I’ve never been a big “Freedom of Press” kind of guy. I mean, why fight for something you already have? But since I’ve started defending the press against the attacks of the President—you know, the guy who swears to “preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States”—and especially since he labelled them the “Enemy of the People” its been a bit worrisome.

Let’s be clear.  No one used that phrase before Trump tweeted it, and it followed a meeting with New York Times president A.G. Sulzberger who felt he had to draft an entire statement to better frame his confusion and the conversation with President Trump:

I told him that although the phrase “fake news” is untrue and harmful, I am far more concerned about his labeling journalists “the enemy of the people.” I warned that this inflammatory language is contributing to a rise in threats against journalists and will lead to violence.

I repeatedly stressed that this is particularly true abroad, where the president’s rhetoric is being used by some regimes to justify sweeping crackdowns on journalists. I warned that it was putting lives at risk, that it was undermining the democratic ideals of our nation, and that it was eroding one of our country’s greatest exports: a commitment to free speech and a free press.

A.G. Sulzberger, July 29, 2018

There certainly is an "Enemy of the People" here.
Seeing the hatred Trump has engendered and his incitements to violence is too much. A lot of what Trump has done can be undone. There is hope in that thought. Reviving the diplomatic corps, reversing decisions that will impact the environment, renewing our relationships with our long-standing allies, and rebuilding the bridged Trump has burned will take time but all are manageable.

The fear and hatred of the press will take generations to untangle.

Worse, it allows anyone with an opinion fueled by fear, hatred, racism, and xenophobia to justify their actions. Trump is practically inviting violence. I don’t like to give into hyperbole, but I’m concerned we'll see journalists killed for no better reason than their profession.

Even Fox News’ Shep Smith couldn’t sit by and allow the administration’s attacks on journalism in general to go un-remarked:

Trump isn’t the first Republican, or even the first US president to attack the media—that’s a dance that is older than the country. His demonizing of any journalist who disagrees with him has driven the knife into the back of public discourse over and over again. His supporters have so willingly drunk and bathed in Trump’s language of hate, their belief of a dishonest press, that they can now handwave away any disparaging remarks, no matter how well founded, researched, and supported by evidence.
He didn't even sing it.

This last is the most troubling of all.  When facts, which have no political party, are thrown out because they conflict with the “truth of Trump” and journalists have to legitimately fear for themselves and their families, we’ve gone beyond mere “problem” into a full crisis.

To paraphrase Abraham Lincoln: A house divided against itself, cannot stand. I believe this government cannot endure, permanently, half evidence-based truth and half Trumpian lies. I do not expect the Union to be dissolved — I do not expect the house to fall — but I do expect it will cease to be divided. It will become all one thing or all the other.

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

The Dark Archer by Robert Cano

Dark, but also purple.

My buddy has a book out, and you might like it.  Here’s an excerpt from The Dark Archer:

Bene had lived a life of service to those whom he deemed worthy.  Preju was the most powerful kingdom in Aariad.  West of The Spine, largely unknown, had long been relegated to myth. 

But Bene had been betrayed by the one he had given everything for.  And now he was immortal.  Under his new form, he suffers without feeding off of the living, but he also has no desire to kill.  He soon finds that his powers are mostly beyond his control.

All he wants is the chance to die like any mortal.  He wishes only for an end to his torment.  And his becoming a wraith only makes this desire that much stronger.  His is a story of darkness, but not of evil, but that of sorrow and despair...

About the Author
Handsome devil!
A writer or a storyteller? A poet? An artist who has chosen to paint with words, Robert Cano began a journey some years ago which has finally culminated in him finding himself in a position to see the journey gain momentum. Having spent many years studying the art of the written word, he now seeks to share his worlds and mind with the world.

A magus with a staff in the shape of a pen and a sword of paper, he weaves his magical worlds. The world of Arduil awaits you.

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

It's True, Collusion Isn't A Crime

Well that's what I heard!

This reminder keeps coming up, so I’m saving it here for easier use:

“Collusion is the descriptive word the news media has settled on to cover many potential illegal actions by the Trump campaign, which could range from aiding and abetting (18 USC 2) to conspiracy per se (18 USC 371) to conspiring to violate several potentially applicable laws like: 18 USC 1030—fraud and related activity in connection with computers; 18 USC 1343—wire fraud; or 52 USC 30121—contributions and donations by foreign nationals. Also, 18 USC 2381—for, contrary to a widespread belief that there must be a declared war, the Justice Department as recently as 2006 indicted for “aid and comfort” to our enemies, the form of collusion better known as treason. Collusion is the perfect word to cover such crimes, pejorative and inclusive.”


Tuesday, July 24, 2018

And Then There Was Racism

Yep, that happened.

I was shocked today when an online friend made a blatantly racist statement about black doctors.  I was even more shocked when he claimed I held the same beliefs, and simply wasn’t honest about it.

I know racism exists, and I know that in the Trump Era its been allowed to come out from under the dark stones where it festered and rotted, into the sunlight to openly march.  Whether or not Trump is a racist hardly matters anymore.  His failure to immediately openly decry the associations with White Supremacists, and handwave away their bigotry was all the fertilizer they needed.

I know these things.

But I’ve never faced it so blatantly.  I’m a white male who grew up in a relatively middle-class suburb.  Being an American from the West, I’m also a bit naive about the evils of the world.

So shell-shocked barely begins to describe the sensation when I was told, pointblank, “You think that, too.  I’m just honest enough to say it.”  That’s where, in retrospect, I drew the line.  I couldn’t have consciously made the decision right then. I had the sensation of a poodle who’d been struck with a ball-peen hammer.  I’ve never had such a blatant disregard for basic human rights directed at me.
Yep, that happened too!

Again, naïve, but I’m aware of it, and actively work against it.

So, it was with very little fanfare that I cut ties with the following:

I’m sorry [Redacted], I like you, I've enjoyed engaging with you and exploring your point of view but you’re far too intelligent for me to overlook such blatant racism. I'll admit I'mm shocked that someone who holds this country in such high esteem—the Land of the Free—would ever want to take away any kind of freedom based on skin color alone. You might laugh this off, let it feed into your narrative and reinforce your stance—but you really shouldn’t. It’s my hope (small, but still there) that this lost connection serves as a real wake-up call, and it should underline in bold red the fact that I DO NOT hold with your racism. I stand opposed to it so much that I would rather not be your friend. Wrong is wrong, and racism is always wrong. It’s great that you’re a Christian, because that means there’s still a chance for you to follow Jesus’ teachings: “Stop judging by mere appearances, but instead judge correctly.” (John 7:24) You should be the first one in line to accept people for who they are, not how they appear, nor to judge them based on preconceived notions before you ever meet them. The idea that, based on a single physical attribute alone, you can determine the worth of, and discredit someone, without knowing anything else about them is completely antithetical to the Christian ethos. I hope that you eventually come to realize how disturbing this is, and if you ever do, feel free to friend me again.

That is that.  I have little hope that my mini-rant will actually result in any meaningful actions—especially in the Trump Era.  A little hope, but still, it would be nice.  If nothing else, though, I’m a little more awake about the world, and as Maya Angelou said, “Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.”

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Wake Up!

Jeff's problems may have been deeper than simple exhaustion.

The biggest problem with an opening is all the pressure that is on it from the start. You have to introduce the reader to a compelling character (not necessarily the MC, but still compelling), ground the reader in the setting, and entice them to read on. That's a lot to cover in a short period of time.

A waking character may actually be the best way to start things, but keeping in mind the checklist of items we have to cover to create a story that people will want to continue reading, it OFTEN (not always, just mostly) isn't the best way. No one is at their best when they wake up. They may not be at their worst, but usually they're groggily grasping for a reality while trying to figure out how, if not why, a non-existent cat coughed a hairball into their mouth. Waking up also suggests that this is just another day in the life of that character. Unless the world is already well-established, and the character is well-liked, it's unlikely anyone wants to stick around while Rob has his morning Monster energy drink (because he hates coffee) brushes his face, shaved his teeth, and whatnot. If you handwave past that, because it's not important, than why didn't you handwave past the waking up too? If something exciting is happening upon waking, then it's more likely you could have just slipped ahead to that, rather than going through the effort of creating a realistic, albeit boring, wake-up scene.

A "rude awakening" might work, but you have to couch it carefully, otherwise it becomes exactly what it is: an attempt to create tension and conflict when it doesn't actually exit in a world readers don't know with characters that aren't fully-formed yet.

So, yeah, a "wake up" scene isn't necessarily the worst thing that you can write, and if you can write it well and meet all the opening criteria, then go for it. The writing will stand for itself, and any decent editor/agent will see that. You do run the chance the an editor/agent even slightly off their game will read the first few lines and send you your rejection notice.

Monday, June 11, 2018

MoviePass and the Case of the Ticket Stubs

The Force is NOT strong with you!

Dear MoviePass:

Taking pictures of ticket stubs is an unnecessary burden for those of us using the service as intended.  If there are issues with fraudulent behavior, tag those accounts and require THEM to take pictures of ticket stubs.  Cancel or place those accounts on hold.  Contact those account users and try to ascertain what the problem is.

Alternately, just FIX your system. 

What you don't do is place the burden of multiple extra steps which can cause all kinds of failure points on your users.  This is just like when Netflix tried to divide their streaming from their DVD service.  You're placing multiple barriers of entry on users who aren't abusing your system, and just want to go see a movie.  If you truly are interested in making MoviePass "sustainable for the entire community" then definitely don't threaten "irreversible termination of your subscription" of users when no suspicious activity has ever been noted.

Thank you for your kind attention!

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Wedding Cake Confusion

Let them eat cake, just not from Masterpiece Cakeshop!

I keep having to repeat this, so I’m posting this to my blog with all the necessary details for my own benefit.  

This is not an invitation to argue.

Yesterday, June 4, 2018, the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) made a ruling on a case between a baker, Jack Phillips of Masterpiece Cakeshop, and the Colorado Civil Rights Commission.  Phillips refused to bake a wedding cake for David Mullins and Charlie Craig.  His stated reason is that making a cake for a gay couple is a violation of his religious beliefs.

The Colorado Anti-Discrimination Act prohibits businesses open to the public from discriminating against their customers on the basis of race, religion, gender, or sexual orientation.

It seems pretty straight-forward.

However, SCOTUS decided in favor of Phillips.

This makes it seem like business owners can now discriminate against people if something about them goes against their religious convictions.

It does not.

The decision was incredibly narrow, threading the needle between the legality of the Colorado Anti-Discrimination Act and Phillips’ First Amendment right to religion.  The Colorado Commission, when executing its anti-discrimination law, came down so heavily on Phillips that it created an obvious bias.  Legally speaking, they weren’t wrong, but they were so extreme in the application of the law, that according to the majority decision written by Justice Kennedy, “[Phillips] might have his right to the free exercise of his religion limited by generally applicable laws . . . [but] the State’s obligation of religious neutrality” is still required.

That is, the State has to at least make the appearance of being impartial when walking the line between anti-discrimination and Constitutional exercise of religion.  This does not mean that businesses can discriminate, but rather that the State of Colorado erred when showing extreme hostility toward Phillips.  Kennedy’s decision also affirmed that that the protections for same-sex couples remains in place and enforceable under various state laws like those of Colorado.

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Tristan is 8

Hey, my man, my Tris-tan!  You're eight today, and I'm thrilled to see the boy you've become and excited for the person you will be  This is my favorite photo of you (so far)!

Perfect day, perfect model.

Monday, April 23, 2018

Technically, I'm Not Famous

Except I'm not NEARLY that attractive!

Years and years ago, so many that even historians have now lost count, I helped administrate  an online forum community.  The moderator staff was great, and I would buy any one of them a beer if I ran into them.  That was never the problem.  The joy of discussion with interesting, like-minded individuals from around the world quickly waned as I had to deal with all kinds of blah-blah and drama and hate (even a few threats) on every level.  Finally, a minor issue arose and it became the straw that broke my back.  I was bleary-eyed and sallow-skinned from so many hours inside, on the keyboard, explaining yet again that calling other people names is NOT a valid argument strategy.  After the dust settled, I resigned my position.

Suddenly, I didn’t know what to do with myself.

I went outside, and discovered the sun still shone, birds sang, children played (and not just with electronic devices).

I vowed to never administrate another online group!

Well, that worked really well for about ten years.  After I published my first group, I joined all kinds of Facebook communities to try to learn, gain assistance, and (hopefully) promote.  I stumbled into a group—Fantasy & Science Fiction Writers—and . . . nothing.  The group was kind of dead.  There were a few stalwart members, but nothing of note was occurring. There was no drama, no hate, no angry arguments dealing with the Nth degree of pedantry. Days or even a full week would pass where no discussions happened.

The thing was, there were a couple of very smart, very dedicated, even professional, writers in the group.  If I had a real problem, I could post my question, and count on them to actually answer it!  The only trouble was that the guy running the place wasn’t the original founder, and he didn’t really have time to manage it effectively.

One day, he posted that he was going to shut it down.

This never gets old.
I wasn’t too heart-broken.  There wasn’t much community to the group and there a ba-jillion other groups where similar information can be had—after sorting through all the folk who tell you why it can’t be done the way you want to do it.  But I did like the intimacy of posting and receiving a direct answer.

I made a mistake.  I spoke to the guy directly, offered some of my administrator advice and lessons-learned.  Stupid, stupid, stupid.  The guy offered me a job.  I’m pretty certain I turned him down flat the first time.  He offered again.  He talked me into it, the jerk.

That was some four years ago, almost to the day.

This morning, as I was going about my duties, checking flagged posts and whatnot, we suddenly had an influx of nearly 100 new members.  That never happens.  At most, we get twenty, and that’s if none of the other moderators have done any work over the weekend.  Turns out, we’re internet famous, and it’s exactly how I would want to be described:

Fantasy & Science Fiction Writers
Are you into Sci-Fi and world building? Then you’ll love the Fantasy & Science Fiction Writers group on Facebook. You can post small pieces of work for critique and exchange ideas with other like-minded writers. You’ll get valuable feedback without ridicule or sarcasm. They like to focus on the actual writing part, not on promoting themselves to the group. Spam and promotion are anathema, so only join this group if you’re a serious Sci-Fi / Fantasy writer who wants to learn the craft from other, more experienced authors.

It's not me.  I can assure you.  Anyone who knows me will attest to this in court.

It’s all the hard work and dedication of the other moderators that we’ve added over the years, and the core of dedicated writers who work very hard to answer questions that are being asked.  It’s a really nice feeling to be part of something that has been recognized in this way.

Friday, April 6, 2018

And Jesus Said, WTF DUDE!?

Cherry-picked for your convenience!

This keeps coming up, and rather than re-write the same argument over and over, I’m putting it here so I can more quickly reference.

This meme is making the rounds and while the Bible quote is correct, it is also cherry-picked completely out of context.  Jesus explains his reasoning for buying swords in the next line, which, for some unfathomable reason, always gets left out. After ordering the purchase of the weapon, Jesus says:

"It is written: ‘And he was numbered with the transgressors’; and I tell you that this must be fulfilled in me. Yes, what is written about me is reaching its fulfillment." 
Luke 22:37

And clearly, the swords were only procured for that reason, as they come back with just two.  Two swords against a mob, let alone Roman soldiers, is a recipe for suicide and massacre.  It’s clear, that’s not Jesus’ thinking at all, as when they show him the swords Jesus says, "That’s enough!” (Luke 22: 38) Meaning any weapons found among Jesus' inner circle would be enough to make an accusation against him so he could be taken and the process of his sacrifice could begin—which is exactly what happened.

But for those who remain unconvinced, there is the later incident when Peter actually draws one of the swords and strikes.  Jesus sharply rebukes him, “Put up again thy sword into his place: for all they that take the sword shall perish with the sword.” Matthew 26:52

And that’s where we get that line from, which is in concert with Jesus’ previous sentiments throughout his ministry.  Consider his Sermon on the Mount, and his explanation of the Beatitudes: “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.” (Matthew 5: 9).  It has been pointed out that there is sometimes a peace that can only be found on the other side of war, but that’s clearly not at all what Jesus was talking about, and what Matthew was writing about.  The rest of Matthew 5 is a message of non-violence, culminating in the oft quoted:

You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. Matthew 5: 38-39

And finally, lest we have any doubt whatsoever, Jesus addresses the entire concept of violence carried out by any of his apostles/disciples in the use of their “armament”:

Do you think I cannot call on my Father, and he will at once put at my disposal more than twelve legions of angels? But how then would the Scriptures be fulfilled that say it must happen in this way? Matthew 26: 53

Anyone who doubts that Jesus preached peace should probably review Matthew 5 in its entirety, “But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven.” Matthew 5: 44.

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Pooh On You Too!

I see it's been awhile . . . Mr. The Pooh.
A couple of years back, I ran across a piece of “Calvin & Hobbes” fan-fiction that really got me—it got to me enough that I re-worked it for my own edification.  Either I’m getting older and all nostalgic, or the impact of a beloved character is truly impressive.

Maybe both.

I took my boys to see A Wrinkle in Time and I’m not going to offer any opinions on the movie just yet.  But as we were watching the various trailers that accompanied the film, one started that I thought for certain was Mary Poppins Returns.

It was not.

It was this trailer for Christopher Robin:

Winne-the-Pooh appears for, maybe, ten seconds in the entire trailer, but DAYUM if that wasn’t enough for me.

Pooh and I go back quite a ways.  Not as much as Christopher Robin, but he was certainly there when I was a babe-in-arms.  As my mother tells it, I was being quite a handful at the local theater in Hawthorne, NV.  The unique thing about this particular theater is they had built in a “cry room” for parents with children such as me.  My mother can probably tell you what movie they were there to see.  I was less than one at the time, so my own thoughts are a bit . . . vague.  Still, as my mother tells it, the short “Winne the Pooh and Tigger Too” came on, and I was immediately hooked.

I don’t think I’ve ever had a strong affinity for A.A. Milne’s character, but I certainly can relate to him, and his various adventures.  Seeing a grown-up Christopher Robin, played by the excellent Ewan McGregor, who is only a few years older than me, is . . . yeah.

Let’s put it this way: I don’t know why theaters can’t keep invisible, onion-cutting ninjas out, but they had all massed near my seat.

Well done, Mr. Milne.  Well done, Mr. Disney.

Thursday, March 22, 2018

The Check Is In The Email

Which books? Ohh, THE Facebooks!

If you aren't paying for a product, then YOU are the product.  That is the business model that Facebook has been built around, and that has never been a secret.  Facebook's corporate bottom line is no different from any other business—profits generally supersede most other considerations (although those considerations are still . . . well, considered).  In this case, pursing that bottom line goal, Facebook was able to be deceived.  They did not deliberately deceive their users.  They were themselves deceived, and their model allowed that deception to take place. 

This is not to say that Facebook isn't at fault.  They are.  Or maybe it's better to say that they're responsible.  They learned about the deception and then did nothing, because . . . profits. It was a simple matter to deceive them, and their corporate culture balanced that deception against their profits, and profits won out, which is why it took an insider leak to the media to bring out the story.

But their entire model is based off personal data that we willingly give to them, and the sale of that data to analytics companies who can then sell us stuff.  Anyone who thinks differently should ask themselves how Facebook pays for all this?

Before I was picked up by my first publisher, I was pulling back from Facebook.  Those people who wanted to connect with me had other avenues to do so, and in those earlier days it was much, much easier to offend and lose friends—which I have.  But as an author, I take advantage of the vast reach and depth that Facebook offers me to connect not just with friends and family, but with other writers, potential readers, and experts in various fields who can assist me with my end goal—telling good stories.  I've met some wonderful people and engaged with some great readers.  I wouldn't have been able to do that without this platform.  I'm certainly no more or less tech-savvy than the next average Facebook user.  I am, however, always a bit skeptical when it comes to the information that various apps are asking me for so that I can play their games or, in this case, take their personality test.  I could stand to be more skeptical, and less apt to give away all my various secrets.

So, understanding all the aspects of this particular set of events, and weighing the benefits I gain against the potential for manipulation, I will for the time being remain a member and active user of Facebook.  What I have gained and continue to gain using Facebook as a primary social platform remains worth the trade-off of information that I provide on a daily basis.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Great Mills High School in Maryland

No words on this one. Sorry.

This is not my argument. It was made by a friend of mine.  It so accurately sums up the issues that I’ve stolen it and provided it here:

Guns don't kill people, people kill people. So we're told gun control isn't the answer. You can't sue the gun makers or make it difficult for people get guns, even if there are signs that they'd be dangerous.

People don't kill themselves, the opioids are killing them. So we're told we need to take the opioids away. We should go after the drug makers and doctors, and make it very difficult for people in pain to get relief.

So... we have to take something that can be useful away from you, because you might use it to harm yourself.

But we have to make sure you can get all the guns you want, even though they're useless unless you're hurting someone.

This isn't logic, it's twisted moralizing.

In the overall scheme of firearm death/violence, “mass shootings” are not, in themselves, that big of a problem—they only account for a small percentage of the overall death.  They do, however, quickly underline in blood and tears and loss the exact nature of the problem.  Humans are now and may always be too emotional, too irrational, too prone to violence to be responsible enough as a species to be trusted with firearms.

Monday, March 19, 2018

Queen Mary's Daughter by Emily-Jane Hills Orford


Emily-Jane Hills Orford’s “Queen Mary’s Daughter” is a historical fiction that poses and answers the question, “What if Mary, Queen of Scots’s daughter had survived childbirth and become a time-traveler?”  Initially, readers might be worried that they don’t have enough historical background on Mary Stuart or the events surrounding this time period in Scotland and England.  Orford reduces the intricacies of this period of history to make it understandable for almost any audience.

Orford’s story is the adventure/romantic tale of Mary Elizabeth Stuart, a young, attractive American woman of Scottish heritage, and James “Jamie” Stuart, an equally young, attractive Scottish native.  Traveling to Kinross, Scotland, at her grandmother’s request, Mary Elizabeth finds herself suddenly some 450 years in the past, taking part in events with very little understanding of their impact.  She learns that her grandmother was actually a time-traveler, and she also has this same ability.  The possibilities of changing the course of Scotland “for the better” becomes the crux on which the plot revolves.

Orford creates interesting central characters that are fun and engaging.  She has a good sense of the historical events which surrounded this time period. The exploration of what might have occurred, should Mary, Queen of Scot’s had produced a living heir is interesting.  Orford condenses or ignores some of the historical intricacies, but she does so to the benefit of the plot.  In a few places, the time travel was a bit too convenient, but it was always used in an attempt to move the story and characters forward.  Any clichés built around Mary Elizabeth, Jamie and their adventures can be forgiven for Orford’s conceit of revealing the outcomes of her central conceit.

In “Queen Mary’s Daughter,” Orford is able to craft a romantic adventure around a nice bit of historical fiction that is a fun exploration for genre-readers and fans of “Outlander” and “Reign”.  The life and times of these time-travelers is an exciting distraction, in an interesting story of “what if”.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

It's, Like, The Very First One

If only we knew what they meant!?

Posted without commentary:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

Thank you for your kind attention.

Monday, March 12, 2018

Once More, From the Top

Arrgh, these kids and their fancy "trophies"!

For the past ten years or so, I’ve been a volunteer coach at John W. North High School.  Speech and debate are my thing, although I’m better at speeching than I am debating. 

No, it’s true.  Look it up.

I was not the best competitor (high school and college), but I enjoyed the process.

Anyhow, this weekend was the State Qualifying Tournament.  I’ve been focused on a single tournament this year, one that pays out cash for first, second, and third place, so these quals tournaments weren’t even on my radar.  One of my students insisted on going, so I worked with her, got her speech in shape, and sent her on her way.

She broke to finals.

This is her first year on my program (she’s a sophomore) and her second tournament ever.

Once again, it looks like I don’t get to resign anytime soon.

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Wanna Play Piano?

He knows ALL the notes!

Have you wanted to learn piano?  I have a buddy who is looking to teach you:

To whom it may concern:

My name is Humberto Olivieri. I am a pianist, composer and educator living in New York. I have taught music in Florida, Venezuela and New York, both privately and in schools. I have taught all levels and a fairly wide range of ages, from 6 to 50 years old. I would like to offer my services as a music educator and lecturer. Back in my hometown of Venezuela, I worked both as a Piano Educator and a Lecturer, to introduce the concept of Jazz Music and Jazz Harmony to the Venezuelan people. These Lectures served as workshops, where the students could ask questions, and also, they were invited to play some music as well.

Teaching has always been important to me, because my own piano teacher, Bruna Monestiroli (a student of Alfredo Casella) was a major inspiration both from the performance and the teaching point of view. Sharing the passion of music with other people, and giving them tools to express themselves musically has been as inspiring to me, as being able to perform and compose music.

My personal philosophy about teaching music to children, is first and foremost to show them that music is fun, and welcomes exploration, humor and individual expression. And since young children have a strong difficulty remaining focused for long periods of time, it is especially important to make the lessons as interactive, entertaining and stimulating as possible. I believe music, when taught properly, can help children develop their brains and acquire better cognitive and social skills that will shape their personalities for the future.

You can watch a sample of me teaching a lesson. This is a lesson for advanced students, but nonetheless, it gives you a better idea of my teaching approach:

Let me know if you have any questions

Humberto O.

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Five Important Things Every New Writer Should Know!

So . . . where do you get your ideas?

Welcome Newling!

First things first, the fact that you're writing is a good thing.  Don't doubt that you have some level of skill and ability.  You were drawn to writing, you’ve written, someone has given you a compliment on your skills, and you enjoy some part of the process

You, Newling, are a writer!

Improving that skill is certainly important, so here are five things you can do to start the ball rolling:

1. Find a beta team—Tet two or three people who are willing to work with you, read your early drafts and offer you honest, critical feedback.  Make it very clear what you want from them, the kind of commitment you need, and don't be upset if you get turned down.  A LOT.  I've built mine up over the years, and now I have two main betas with four others who come in and out depending on the point of view I want/need. 

2. Join a critique group—This can be alternately or in addition to a beta team.  Too much criticism isn't a good thing.  You can't please everyone all the time.  But a good crit group can really help.  I always recommend Critters.org.  You have to put in effort with them, and they're brutally honest, but your writing will be better for it.

3. Join writing groups—Facebook has become the author’s harbor.  There are groups for every kind of genre, sub-genre, and genre-trope.  Find a relatively small group with active participation and limited-to-no tolerance for ads and join.  Ask questions, ANY questions.  The only dumb questions are those that you don't get answered.  They may have been asked and answered before, but not by you, so go ahead!  The only way you can learn is to get that information.

4. 10,000 Hours—It's a bit of cliche, but the more you do a thing, the better you get at it.  You may not be the BEST at it, but you will certainly be better than competent.  It does take time and effort, and certainly practicing the right kinds of things.  Hence the above and below advice.  Write, write, and keep on writing. Stretch yourself, try writing in new genres, submit to contests—ESPECIALLY those that offer feedback—attend conferences, take up writing challenges and writing prompts.  Above all write, write, and keep on writing.

5. Reading as Research—You probably already do this, but if you're not reading in your genre, and in related genres, START.  Read the classics, read the most popular stuff, read the most influential stuff, read the very obscure and highly recommended stuff.  It's all a manual on how to write what you want to write.  If you find authors your truly admire, follow them, subscribe to their newsletters, pick up their guides, read their essays, watch their panel discussions on YouTube.

Most writers who have been at the game for some time know that a candle loses nothing by lighting another candle.  There are always going to be a few curmudgeonly or better-than-thou souls who find new writers and their questions annoying and frustrating.  Avoid them, don’t engage, and move on.  In the future, you may find yourself sitting next to them at an awards banquet or a convention panel!