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MasterClass Review

May 4, 2018

For Christmas I gave myself the gift of an annual membership to MasterClass.com. For those who haven’t seen the copious ads on FaceBook, LinkedIn, and the web, MasterClass is a company who hired the masters of their field to teach a recorded online course in a series of short videos with workbooks and other PDF learning materials.

I have taken the courses of Aaron Sorkin, Shonda Rimes, James Patterson for different aspects of writing (I took a couple of R.L. Stine’s before deciding he wasn’t worth it), Martin Scorcese and Werner Herzog for filmmaking, Samuel L. Jackson for Acting, Steve Martin for Comedy, and plan to take David Mamet’s Dramatic Writing course, and Ron Howard for directing (looking forward to that one), and a few others.

That is, I’ve taken enough to comment.

First, without arrogance, I’ve had a lot more training than I realized, and my college degrees were a lot more comprehensive than I was aware. Steve Martin’s course was by far the best because I knew the least about it. I didn’t learn anything new in the other courses, though perhaps what I did know was reorganized.

All of the courses are best learned by doing. That said, what MasterClass is good at is creating a shell for what you learn by doing. They can’t teach you how to write, but they can help you know what to expect. Creating a framework for knowledge is as important as the knowledge itself. It gives you a place to hang and organize what you learn from doing it.

I’ll be honest, here, James Patterson may be the most successful writer of all time, but I don’t read him. I never know who is actually doing the writing, him or his co-authors. His books are up and down in quality and without knowing who actually wrote it, I have no guide to quality. He actually defended this practice, and we can agree to disagree. Patterson is clearly out of touch with modern publishing. The advice he gives beginning novelists is laughable. Didn’t get much out his course.

R.L. Stine is a hack. He doesn’t write out passion or care, but for the almighty dollar. Fine, if that’s what you want to do, but I align more with Sorkin, who values story. His and Rime’s were good courses, if not very in-depth.

What is overwhelming was the personal journeys of the instructors. They tell you how they got started. In almost every case (Patterson and Stein not so much), they were born in the right place or knew the right people (Sorkin’s first project was writing the play A Few Good Men. He knew the right people to make that his first project 0_0). Another instructor’s roommate was Denzel Washington.

To me, the classes are “The Masters Teach You the Basics.” I was hoping for advanced “master” classes. I think Ron Howard’s class will be just that.

You can also learn basketball, cooking (not sure where I get a black quail’s egg, Mr. Ramsey), chess, conservation, music, dance, and more.

Is it worth your time?  Depends on how much you know AND if you’re committed to digging into the community and course materials. I wasn’t. I am glad I signed up for a year. If I’d paid $90 for Sorkin’s course I’d have been angry, but $180 for all the classes I can take? It’s been worth it and I’ve got several more to take. I’m also experienced enough to know when something is wrong, which helps.

As far as I can tell, all comments under each course are positive and affirming. I didn’t leave many.

If you’ve taken any MasterClasses, please comment below. I think it’s a good thing for beginners; not so much for more experienced artists.

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Books and Stuff

April 3, 2018

In case my followership doesn’t cross pollinate from my other blogs, I’ve written another book! And re-shod the first one!

Me and the Maniac in Outer Space, a sci-fi, time travel opus with fun and deep themes. Check it out!

Let’s not forget my first novel:

They have in common the amazing cover artist, Matt Davidson, a man of incredible talent! Check them out in paperback, Kindle, the lending library or Prime Reader.

When you read them, PLEASE leave a review on Amazon. It helps tremendously!

International Women’s Day

March 8, 2018

All who know me and my amusement with the pink hats and assertions of dubious statistics that make women believe they are second-class citizens might think this post is going to be a jab at feminists.

It’s not.

I have been blessed with some truly amazing women in my life. Starting from the past and working forward:

  • My momma, who was a phenomenal person, great nurse and even better mother; she opened my eyes to the wonder of women. She was hard working, strong loving and I miss her every day.

    Image result for womandhood

    Scrubbing my mind of all the things I saw looking up “womanhood” on Google.

  • My sisters, all of whom are strong, warm and positive examples of peoplehood, as well as womanhood. My oldest sister was a second mom as I was growing up, always looking out for me and letting me know that someone loved me no matter what. My middle sister works tirelessly for children everywhere, giving time and energy to education and care, and puts up with her opposite-politically leaning brother. My youngest sister (but older than me), who was my first best friend and now accomplishes more in a morning than I do all week. Every time I think Seattle is floating in a twilight zone of its own making, I remember they all live there and know there is hope.
  • My friends who happened always to be feminist girls and made me respect girls as a teenager (who knew?). Many of whom are now friends on Facebook, which means they are either full of grace or have bad memories.
  • My nieces—the first babies I got to watch grow into amazing women, each in their own right.
  • My wife. The most long-suffering woman ever. She puts up with me, mostly. She is responsible for at least 80% of my happiness. She is my definition of beauty and grace. She keeps me on-track, properly chastised, and encouraged. Every other woman in my life to this point helped me almost be the man she needs. She’s working on the rest.
  • My daughters, who continue to stun me to this day with their beauty–derived from their mom–their intelligence, artistry and dreams. The future is well in hand with them as the vanguard. They make my manly chest swell to bursting with the good kind of pride. They make me want to stick around until I’m old(er), bald, liver-spotted, and memory-deprived, just to see what they do with the world.
  • My Christian sisters—you know who you are—who provide me strength when they don’t know I’m weak, encourage me even when I’m hiding my fear, and serve as examples of what people are supposed to be.

In the future, I’ll watch granddaughters (I hope) grow up and dream.

Women deserve their own international day. Several of them. I can’t imagine life without them (if I could it would smell of corn chips and beef jerky).

I do believe women and men are different. I do believe they should have been treated better in the past. I do believe the Third Wave of Feminism is ridiculous and more harmful than good, but as free people, they get to do that.

To every woman who has made me a better man and human being, to every woman I haven’t treated as well as I should (sorry) and those I’ve treated OK, I raise my glass of white wine to you. Cheers!

I Am the Pineappler

February 27, 2018

Fifteen years ago, we planted a confused orange tree in the back yard. It was a bitter orange, which is a hearty plant that can handle Florida conditions. Spliced into it were sweet orange, lemon, and lime. Firmly planted in the sand, a few fruits did try to struggle forth. The lemons were huge and tasted odd because they were actually grapefruit. The oranges were bitter, not sweet, and the limes might have been lemons, who could tell?

My thumb was the opposite of green (which makes it blue, right?). I like the idea of See the source imagegrowing things, except for the dirt, sweat, and work of tending them. We’ve talked about planting a garden, but it never happens.

Then a few years ago, we bought a pineapple, hacked off the top, ate the guts and for some reason planted the top out front. It actually grew!  A year later, it gave forth fruit and spawned a few other pineapple plants. The next year, a few more plants, and now we have 9 or 10 plants. Typically, we’d get two or three pineapples a year, staggered across months. We lost two to a varmint with big teeth and a penchant for hollowing out fruit, so with this last one we built a cage around it.

That grapefruit grew for MONTHS, right through the hurricane, through the cold, getting bigger and bigger, but not getting yellow. I took to talking to it each morning, encouraging it to ripen. When it finally did, we picked, partook, and loved it.

But now in the mornings I had no plant to talk to. I missed it. All those plants, no pineapples. Friday was more of the same. No pineapple babies.

Sunday, though, oh Sunday! SEVEN pineapple babies! All at once! Count ‘em, SEVEN!

I’m late to work from talking to the babies.

We have one cage. Gotta come up with a new method to cover all of them, let in the sunshine, not look too unsightly to the neighbors, things to do.

I am the Pineappler!

(Details may be misremembered from more than a few years ago, the point was, I can’t grow things. The other point is that I still can’t, but it’s my yard and that counts. Thank you, God!)

Moody Blues

February 2, 2018

When I was a kid, I was fascinated by mood rings. I had one that was a silver band and a big moody bubble on top.

It was always black.

Black, according to the lore, was depression. It was also poor circulation and reacting to the outside temperature as well as your temperature.

Image result for mood ring

Remarkably like my old mood ring.  No wonder it went in a box.

Mood rings are supposed to be attuned to your state of mind, but it was really clued in to your heat. A mood ring is constructed from thermochromatic crystals. They change color based on temperature. Black is cold (it isn’t really black, it’s infrared, which we can’t see, so it’s black to us), red is angry, orange is simmering, yellow is mellow, blue is HAPPY.

I was always black.  In truth, I was skinny and had no fat or muscle in my fingers so they were always cold. But, yes, it was still accurate. I was a melancholy child.

And the ring was gaudy and uncomfortable, so it went quietly into a box.

Perhaps you’re familiar with Amazon Add-Ons. They’re cheap little things that you can add to your order. A few weeks ago, there were add-on mood rings. A dozen of ‘em, and they weren’t gaudy bubbles, but attractive bands. I figured they might be fun for my Sunday School kids.

But one of them fit me. Most were very small. I’m blessed (?) with small fingers, though, so it fits the ring finger of my right hand, except in the morning. My fingers swell at night and the ring is a half-a-size too small for morning wear (the left hand is taken and will be forever – I wear my Dad’s gold wedding ring now, and I am amazed it is the perfect size, all day and night).

Now my mood ring is always blue.  That’s because I live in Florida, have a very little fat on my fingers and slightly high blood pressure. Occasionally, it will slip towards green and lately, in the cold, to yellow, but there are always streaks of blue.

The new one. Purty.

And it’s true, mood wise. While I will always ride just a little higher than emotionless, that emotion is joy. I have very few detractors in my life and a typically bright sun in the sky (as opposed to grey, drizzly blankets in Seattle). I’ve relaunched my publishing company to a wider market, feeding my spiritual gift, and my family is wonderful (my dogs smell, but they just need a bath and better hygiene habits; and my pool is green… hmmm, maybe I have a mood pool), but life is grand.

Why not have a ring that says so?

 

 

Fun in a Public Bathroom

January 30, 2018

THAT’S a scary title, isn’t it?

Tough, I must share: Being on blood pressure medication, the little boy’s room is my second home (thank the dear Lord for indoor plumbing—my heart would have exploded in the days of out-houses).

See the source image

Engineers are funny people. There’s a guy to takes meeting in the bathroom. Business meetings. Fortunately, there’ a stall with a door, so I don’t know if he has the video part of the video conferencing on. Then there’s the guy who talks on the phone while doing his business. Another Facetimes.  There’s the dude who whistles while he “works,” while I’m holding my breath. Trips to the loo are often an adventure at work. Twice I caught a woman walking out of the Men’s room. In other instances, she’s described child labor, so I’m fairly sure she actually is a woman (either/or, if I didn’t have to use the men’s room, I wouldn’t. Men are pigs).

Church is often fun. There’s a guy who sneaks in for a smoke, and when anyone walks in, he holds his breath, as if the smoke he’d been puffing out would disappear.

But this Sunday was my favorite bathroom adventure. Let me paint the scene…

…I was washing my hands, another guy was doing the same beside me, suddenly the door slams open. Very small boys rush in, the smallest bellying up to the bar and singing out, “Don’t look at me!”

We adults laugh.

Moments later, another one says, “ohhhh, that feels so gooooood!”

Again we laugh, and I add, “Leave it to a kid to say what every man is thinking.”

Y’know, for years I thought urinals had leaky pipes… the floor is always wet.

As I said, men are pigs.

 

Goodbye 2017

December 31, 2017

2017 was an interesting year. Lynette graduated with her degree, I finished a novel (and halfway through the next book), Alyx is getting better after years of pain, Ben is a semester away from his  BA and was accepted into the MBA program. Charli is gainfully employed.

And yet it felt like a quiet year. We got a new roof, new plumbing, survived a hurricane, and got a little older. I had big successes at work, yet still… quiet.

Lynette and I are entering a new phase of life. She’ll be entering the workforce (prayers that she finds a good job, please), I’m tackling a new venture that won’t make money but will fulfill my motivational gift (more on that with a press release soon). And the kids are all adults now. A week into 2018, we won’t have any teenagers anymore.

See the source image

I like both the sentiment and the irony of a good advice with a comma fault.

2018 will be laying a lot of groundwork. It’s a year for positioning for greater opportunities occupationally, avocationally, and spiritually. I suspect it will be another quiet year, one of planting for the future.

I know for a fact that the biggest issue I will have is saying “no.” Perhaps if I didn’t have to work 8 or so hours a day, I could say “yes” to more things (and I will still say “yes” to many things). I just have to recognize that saying “yes” to one thing means saying “no” to other things. I have been seeing how saying yes to the wrong things has cost me over the years.

When writing a story, the first thing I establish is a spine for the story. Once you know the spine, you know what scenes to include and which scenes to discard. I have not been good about establishing the spine of my life; for many years I wandered in the vocational desert, accepting anything to pay the bills. I have a glimmer of my life spine now and aim to work toward it this new year. Partially through more training in certain areas to see how I respond to them. Partially in asking trusted advisers. Funny how raising a family can cloud the spine. It doesn’t have to, mind you, but I allowed it to. That’s not the fault of my family, of course. In fact, they’ve been an amazing “consolation prize.”

Cheers, 2017; hello 2018. No resolutions, just some intentions. I look forward to it unfolding.