Mercedes Benz shoulda hired an English major

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This is the latest commercial for Mercedes Benz:

Ouch!

I’m not sure how much money they spent on the special effects, CGI or any of that, but they should have spent more on copywriting. The only copy in the commercial is painfully grammatically incorrect.

It should have said “fewer doors” not “less doors.” Of course, they could have said “less door space.”

While the misuse of “few” and “less” is grating and painful to my ears, I’m sure few others noticed. But if Mercedes Benz is a premium brand that buyers trust to handle all the small details on the car, shouldn’t they also handle the details of their commercials with the same care and fanaticism?

Its brand promise of “the best or nothing” to their customers insists it does.

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A monkey with a loaded typewriter

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right margin typewriter A monkey with a loaded typewriter

I read this short post by Nathan Bransford about tinkering with e-books after they have been “published.” At first, I was deeply conflicted. On the one hand, being able to correct typos easily and make updates seems like you would be giving your readers a service they could not get in print books. On the other, my English degree (my old, tattered one) says that once a writer releases the work, it is no longer his; it belongs to his readers, warts and all.

But then my old newspaper background reared its ugly head and reminded me square on that in print, there are no do-overs. If you miss a typos or make some other mistake during the editing process, it will get replicated 200,000+ times and be forever archived AS IS in the Library of Congress, the Newseum and as clippings in scrapbooks for generations. If that kind of pressure does not force you to become very, very good at the craftsmanship of writing, you should perhaps look for another profession.

Endless tinkering does not force us to hone a craft. Imagine if a plumber could get your pipes done good enough to build the house and then come back in a few weeks and fix something he didn’t get right. Or a bricklayer can just fix that wall later.. or a concrete guy can pour that footer better next spring…

Why do we view writing in less earnest? Why is the “artistry” of writing celebrated more than the craft?

Good writers — like all good artists — are exceptional craftsmen first. Otherwise, they are just slinging words around hoping to make a few stick together into sentences. That is not writing; that is a monkey with a loaded typewriter.

The medium in which you are publishing should not dictate the level of craftsmanship you put into the work. Only the very best for which you are capable should be the starting line.

Measure twice, cut once. Move on.

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The I Could Do it Better Syndrome

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invisible people The I Could Do it Better Syndrome

You know them.

They’re the people who yell at the television on Monday nights, insisting that they could have caught that pass or avoided that tackle. They’re the ones who can’t attend a conference or event without telling other people how they would have made it more interesting. They’re the people who believe they can do everything better than anyone else, whether it’s blogging, forging a career, making choices, having a relationship, or even serving a charitable cause.

The I Could Do It Better Syndrome seems to affect only a small percentage of the population, but they’re a persistent and vocal minority that demands not only to be heard, but somehow validated. It’s not enough to address their criticisms — they want nothing less than complete capitulation. Yes, you are right and I am wrong. How may I serve you? What can I do to make you happy? Until they get the attention and agreement they want, the I Could Do It Betters won’t let up, at least until they find a new outlet for their hostilities.

There’s a man online who has been doing a remarkable job of bringing light to the issue of homelessness. It was his vision, his idea and his efforts that resulted in a mission that has gathered steam, sponsors and many, many supporters. And while I’ve been neutral in the past about social programs that “raise awareness” — believing that direct, one-on-on support is more critical — Mark Horvath’s InvisiblePeople.tv has gained my respect. His pinpoint focus and tireless travels across the United States and Canada have resulted in more than just awareness and sympathy. His interviews with homeless people have spurred real offers of help and assistance. Further, in giving the homeless a direct opportunity to tell their stories to the world — to look into the camera and in their own words talk about their situations and feelings — Mark has given a powerful voice to those “invisible” people whom society has often ignored or dismissed.

I’ve followed Mark’s journey online for about a year. While it doesn’t surprise me that his mission has been attacked recently by a group of I Could Do It Betters, what I do find disturbing is how far they’ve been willing to go to get other people to jump on their hateful (and I must say, seemingly jealousy-driven, bandwagon). They’ve tweeted his sponsors and threatened to never do business with them. They’ve made YouTube videos questioning his ethics. They’ve accused Mark of exploiting the homeless for his own gain, of being a limelight seeker, of not answering questions to their satisfaction — even of passing out the wrong kind of donated food. Their claims have gotten ridiculous and out of hand — they’ll criticize anything from Pop Tarts to socks — but they seem to delight in any opportunity to assail Mark’s “motives”, his tactics and his character.

Having followed Mark’s mission for over a year, I know that not even one of the accusations are even partially true. This is a simply a bold case of I Could Do It Better by people who, hypocritically, are seeking attention for themselves. They seem to resent the (well-deserved) praise InvisiblePeople.tv has received and believe they could do a better job with the resources Mark has gathered.

My question to the armchair critics would be — if you believe you could do better, why don’t you? Instead of all that energy spent denigrating one person’s efforts, why not build your own mission from scratch? What’s stopping you from rallying support for your own better ideas and solutions?

The answers are, of course, apparent. Lacking their own will, drive and ideas to actually affect change and improve the world around them, the I Could Do It Betters would rather imagine that they could — if only they were Mark. If only they had had the idea and put the work in. If only they had spent the great amount of time and care that Mark has gathering support. If only they were given the opportunity.

However, the I Could Do It Betters have to know that Mark wasn’t given his mission — he created it out of his own vision and ideals and then worked very hard to make it a reality. There’s nothing to stop others from doing the same (or even better) should they ever choose to leave the comfort of their armchairs and take the real-world actions they believe would be an improvement.

You can learn more about Mark Horvath and his mission to help homeless people by visiting InvisiblePeople.tv, or by following @hardlynormal and @invisiblepeople on Twitter.

Today’s post is a guest post by the novelist and essayist, Jane Devin. We’re delighted she stopped by to bark and walk in our back yard and welcome her any time she wants to wander in. If you haven’t already, buy her book, Elephant Girl. It is nothing short of amazing.

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Posted in American Culture, Great Recession, Guest Post, Local politics, Political thoughts, Pop Culture, Serious Stuff, Thinking out loud, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , | 34 Comments

You are wrong, Barack Obama!

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Look what I just got from the Barack Obama campaign in my inbox! They are so wrong about me not being a dog!

dogleash You are wrong, Barack Obama!

Seriously, I want a leash. Not that I walk on one anyway, but sure beats another crappy tshirt!

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A chat with the character Saxon Henry about Adroyt

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saxon henry adroyt A chat with the character Saxon Henry about Adroyt

You might think that the last thing the world needs is another Social Media consulting company, but Saxon Henry of Adroyt would tell you you are wrong. Saxon is re-defining what it means to craft and run a social media program for a brand or company.

I hope you enjoy listening to this short podcast as much as I had speaking with Saxon. She has an insanely cool point of view on what it means to “be on social media.”

MP3 File

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From my point of view or yours?

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church steeple From my point of view or yours?

I saw this church across the parking lot of a Morris furniture store in Dayton. I was being dragged to go shopping for a new sofa that I didn’t want and I don’t really need, so I was in a somewhat goofy frame of mind. It’s how I handle my reality when I’m in a situation I don’t want to be. Everything gets funny.

As I looked up at this really sharp, point steeple and mused, “From God’s point of view, that is a thumbtack on a chair.”

But when the funny wore off, I started to think a bit deeply about why people build steeples on churches. It occurs to me that the best church would be built around this really cool-looking garden sanctuary so that when God looked down, he would see a place that invited him in instead of poking him in the eye… or the nether regions, depending on which direction he was facing at the time.

People build churches in God’s name, but everything about them satisfies their needs, not His. They reach toward the sky with steeples in hopes of being closer to God; they put the tower bells up high so that God’s voice can call to them. They line the inside with statues and gold candelabrae. (Lutherans also make sure there is a kitchen for coffee and donuts after the service. But they also put roosters on top of the steeple, so I don’t know what that means.)

I wonder if God looks down at us and thinks, “these people sure are a selfish bunch.”

This post isn’t really about God or religion or any of that. (If you comment about religion below, you are warned that I am a cantankerous Recovering Catholic and you should be prepared to suffer the slings and arrows of an unfiltered opinion.) It is, rather, a introspection on the relationship we have with one another. When we extend out an invitation, do you point the thumbtack pointy end out or in? Do we see ourselves from the other person’s point of view? Should we?

I don’t have the answers, but I now have the questions. I suspect that is a lot more than most people get looking up at steeples.

This blog post is part of a blog-off series with a group of bloggers from different professions and world views, each exploring a theme from his/her world view. This was about exploring the theme, Thumbtacks To explore how others handled the theme, check them out below. I will add links as they publish.

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Posted in American Culture, BlogOff, Clever Stuff, Just thinking out loud, Pop Culture, Random Stuff, Serious Stuff | Tagged , , , , , , | 11 Comments

Jobs

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barack obama Jobs

I was going to skate past Thursday and not comment on this big jobs speech that President Obama is going to deliver tomorrow, but then @caroljsroth tweeted this morning:

I want to know what #jobs creation efforts/policies you are looking for as a small business owner. What would incentivize smallbiz to hire?

Oh, crap! I took the bait and replied:

Guaranteed customers. Seriously, that’s what I want.

I know, I know, it was flippant and snarky but it was what bubbled up on my brain at that exact moment. And I just blurted it out. I think a lot of other small business people are thinking the same thing. Washington and the media keep asking the wrong damn questions.

Here is the small business reality: Yes, we know that by hiring someone, that person will then spend money into the economy and eventually, when there are lots of other small businesses hiring, that will create more demand for the goods and services we provide. We get that. We really, really get that.

Theoretically.

But on a practical level, we’re all sticking our heads out the store front, not seeing any potential customers and saying, “I’m not gonna try it; you try it.” just like the Life cereal Mikey commercial.

In the back room, the banks — who have nothing to lose because they will get bailed out — are pressuring us for personal guarantees on any loan we sign. If I am the first to stick my neck out and nobody else follows, it is MY house and MY car and MY retirement fund that I will lose. And my government will not give a puppy’s pooch about me. Same with the SBA and other government-backed loan programs. Modern-day natural selection.

But back to the original question.

The president will most likely do some tax policy deal. Ugh. Tax policy tinkering never works for small business because the only thing we hear is the ear-piercing screaming of our CFO who just got back from a workshop learning about all the changes to the tax code from the last time Congress messed with taxes. Yeah, we all hate paying taxes, but taxes are a sign of success. If you make money, you pay taxes. If you spend money, you pay taxes. If you are neither making nor spending money, taxes don’t matter; even if they are set at 100%. 100% of $0.00 is still $0.00! Congress can’t give us a big enough tax incentive to hire anyway, so just quit trying. Please quit trying.

Policy change #1: Quit farting around with the tax code. When you make these “deals” it only sounds like someone is getting screwed somewhere. And that someone be us. Leave it.

Put your money where your mouth is. US government, YOU hire people to do stuff. Start with writers, artists, sculptors, filmmakers and musicians to create works open to the public. If we see that work, chances are people you are paying will start buying our goods and services and we’ll have to hire people to staff up. Pretty soon, the private industry employees every other small business is hiring will start spending money on our stuff and Uncle Sam can quit hiring people. We’ll probably offer better wages and benefits anyway and then those government jobs will just dry up.

Policy change #2: Direct hiring. Do not give money to the states and private contractors to hire people. They will just use the cash to shore up their bottom lines and bloat their stock prices.

That’s pretty much what I want to hear tomorrow. I’m not going to, but that is what it will take.

Otherwise, it will be the same ol’ waiting game we’re all playing right now.

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What dogs call work on Labor Day

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We take this very seriously.

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How to deal with a bully

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bully How to deal with a bully

Warning: This may be offensive to some. I don’t care.

When I was about twelve years-old, there was this family of ne’er do-wells who moved into a rental house on Dale Street, between Lafond and Blair in St. Paul. You can look up the neighborhood using Google Maps and take a gander at the kind of neighborhood it is.

Four decades passing has gentrified the area by leaps and bounds, but if you can imagine a row of unkept houses where drug dealers hung out on the concrete steps that abutted up to the sidewalks with front doors open leading to dark hallways that smelled of human filth… passing in front of them was my path to and from school every day.

For some reason, one of the boys — who must have been fifteen or so — targeted me to chase and beat up. I tried taking a different path home — risking even worse neighborhoods behind Mackubin and Van Buren. I would get a few days reprieve before he found me and was even madder that I made him work harder to beat me up. I learned to run pretty fast so most days I got away. But when I didn’t, he would pummel me.

One day, I decided I had had enough. I grabbed an old wooden bat, drilled through it and drove several wood screws though the end so the tips came out slightly through the other side. I put this is my bag and went to school. (You could take a bat to school in those days.) Later that day, he chased me down but before he could grab me, I pulled the bat out of my bag and swung. I got lucky and the shot landed on the side of his ribs. He went down and I just kept swinging. He had a thick winter coat on so luckily for me, not many blows drew blood. But the few that did stained the snow red.

I didn’t stop swinging until he quit moving.

All his friends saw me beat the living sh*t out of him from their stoop and they did not move. I probably looked like a crazy m*ther-fu**cker who had nothing to lose. They were right.

It was premeditated. It was rage*. Some may even have called this unprovoked assault. But the cops did not come to get me. My parents never knew what I had done. The bully never came after me again. Shortly afterwards, they moved away. Probably because they got evicted.

In hindsight, things could have gone very badly for me. I could have missed that first shot. He could have overpowered me and used my weapon against me. I could have killed him. He could have had a gun. But things didn’t go badly for me. I engaged him with nothing to lose and kept hitting him until he could no longer get up.

I watch the bullies in Congress (Mitch McConnell, John Boehner and now Joe Walsh) get more and more brazen and President Obama using all the tactics that school psychologists tell us to use against bullies. Use your words, avoid engagement, try reasoning with them, tell the authorities. None of this works. Really, it doesn’t. They just tell you this stuff so they don’t have to deal with the bloody bodies of bullies.

I’m watching this play out with all the stomach knots my twelve-year-old self remembers. I know this will not work.

What does work is:
1) Decide when you’ve had enough
2) Engage with conviction
3) Land that first blow hard enough to drop the bully and
4) Keep hitting hard so he never gets back up.

Sorry, kids. It’s not fair when bullies target you, but no other tactic will work, no matter what the politically correct line is.

You could lose the fight, but unless you engage and fight to utterly destroy the bully, you will never get the bully to leave you alone. Ever.

*Even as I am writing this, I feel my cheeks getting hot, my breathing deeper and my pulse racing… Wow… I’ve never been in a fight nor have I beat anyone else up since. Being that angry was terrifying.

A special note to the Secret Service and FBI: I’m not advocating violence against any member of Congress. The pummeling is a metaphor.

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First came the rib, then the chicken, then the egg; Waffle House humor

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bolts ribs chicken sign First came the rib, then the chicken, then the egg; Waffle House humor

A few weeks ago, I drove by the Bolts Sports Café in Englewood, Ohio (not really a café… more like a local bar with sorta good ribs, wings and no loud music like the BW3 across the street) and saw this sign. I took a picture of it thinking that would make a really good follow-up joke to my earlier Waffle House post about which came first, the chicken or the egg.

As it turns out, I was wrong with my earlier conclusion and Bolts had the answer all along, not Waffle House. The chicken was actually created from a rib. The chicken then created the egg which then started that whole cycle. All the signs are there; Sunday, rib, chicken. It’s in the Bible; just look it up.

That was the joke part. I know, it was a long stretch around to get there, but it was really just an excuse to get you to read the lower part of this post. And to think just a little deeper about some of the more common parts of this country; the bedrock people who are its foundation, who we may find too easy to take for granted.

Today, Paul Anater sent me a tweet about a Waffle House story in the WSJ and how they rush to open their stores after natural disasters. The more cynical capitalist nature would rub that it is to try and make money as quickly as possible. But having spent more time in a Waffle House than I will ever admit to my hoity-toity well-dressed friends, I know that is not the reason.

The reason is exactly what Reggie Smith said at the end of the article.

“They’re displaced from their life,” he said. “This is a brief bit of normal.”

He knows that in his soul. It is exactly why Waffle House has fiercely loyal customers, despite the jokes made at their expense. It is what renews my faith in the American People in spite of the childish, ignorant and stupid behavior we see on tv day after day.

Congress, take a moment, order some coffee and hash browns and listen to Reggie — really, really listen — and you listen to us all.

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Look ma, my books report are done #letsblogoff

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books Look ma, my books report are done #letsblogoff

There is no one best book, so I’m not even going to try. In fact, the best books aren’t even the best books, but only contain best parts of books. But I’m sure if you put all the best parts together, it would make one really crappy book.

So, at the risk of writing one really crappy blog post, I am going to put some of the best parts of my favorite books together below and tell you why. However, I warn you that for you to understand why all these parts matter, you will have to read the books in their entirety.

You have the rest of the summer. Labor Day is this coming Monday.

I’d get crackin’

Grapes of Wrath, Chapter 3 — John Steinbeck
For illustrating the greatest human attribute is tenacity and by writing a skillfully metaphoric narrative about the indomitability of the human spirit.

The Awakening, Chapter 28 — Kate Chopin
The medium is the message. Chopin’s chapter illustrates how the desire once attained is almost always anti-climactic to the anticipation and thrill of the chase. Stay thirsty, my friends.*

The Secret Sharer, Chapter 1 — Joseph Conrad
For teaching me the importance of dotting the i and crossing the t. Because small details like typos can sink a ship, they matter immensely.

The Scarlet Letter, all of it — Nathaniel Hawthorne
For showing me that even in the most austere conditions, the human spirit seeks out the aesthetic. Read the book again (because you haven’t since high school) and pay attention to Hawthorne’s use of color. Genius.

Life on the Mississippi, Chapter 8 — Mark Twain
Steer the boat that is your life with what you know in your heart, not what you see with your eyes. Most things seen in the present are merely illusions or the product of wishful thinking.

I was going to dig into some contemporary books I read recently, but maybe those will be more complete book reports. The classics above is enough reading material for you get through before Labor Day.

*I borrowed that from Dox Equis beer commercials and the most interesting man in the world. Seemed appropriate.

This blog post is part of a blog-off series with a group of bloggers from different professions and world views, each exploring a theme from his/her world view. This was about answering the question, What’s the best book you’ve ever read? To explore how others handled the theme, check them out below. I will add links as they publish.

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The real voting fraud in America

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About two months ago, my 20-year old daughter needed to get a replacement driver’s license. I didn’t ask why because she came home, very excited and told me “I registered to vote. Now I can vote against SB-5.”

A few weeks later, she received her voter registration confirmation card letting her know where to vote and her specific precinct. All set, right? That was all she needed.

Not really.

About a week later, she gets this letter in the mail from the Montgomery Country Board of Elections.

electionsletter The real voting fraud in America

This almost went unnoticed by her and me. Apparently, they could not verify her last name by her Ohio BMV records. The same BMV that issued her a driver’s license and maintained her identity for the past six years could not verify her last name which means she would not have been allowed to vote when she showed up at the polls in November unless she returned the “card.”

Seriously?

While I would not go as far as accusing the Montgomery County Board of Elections with purposely stalling adding a young, first-time voter to the rolls because she is likely to vote Democratic in a very Republican county, this sort of thing gives me pause.

A lot of pause.

Add to the fact that the letter was sent in a non-descript, non-official looking envelope, the letter looked like it was run through a copy machine several times and the “card” that needed to be sent back was just printed on the bottom of the letter, without perforation.

They are either trying to frustrate my daughter from voting or the State of Ohio is staffed with some incredibly inept employees. Either way, as a taxpayer of this state, I’ve got some serious questions.

And I need answers.

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Posted in American Culture, Dayton Ohio, Local politics, Ohio, Political thoughts, Pop Culture, Serious Stuff | Tagged , , , , | 4 Comments

Letsblogoff with Paul Anater

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paulanater Letsblogoff with Paul Anater

Twice a week, all the #letsblogoff characters get together and share their viewpoint on a particular theme selected by the super-secret committee at the LetsBlogOff compound, apparently offshore in a secure location.

We were lucky enough to get in touch with one of those members, Mr. Paul Anater, editor of the insanely popular blog, Kitchen and Residential Design. He also acts as the editor-in-chief and LetsBlogOff pilot every other Tuesday when he is not jet-setting around the world for his day job as a Super Agent of Design.

Here is a short conversation with Paul. We hope you enjoy it as much as we did walkin’ and talkin’ with him.

MP3 File

The next #letsblogoff is this coming Tuesday where the gang will explore the theme: What is the best book you ever read?

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Irene updates from Dayton, Ohio

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As a public service, I am posting an update of what hurricane Irene looks like from Dayton, Ohio. Anyone can give you live updates from the eye of the storm, but very few news organizations are reporting on the storm as it looks about 700 miles away.

You’re welcome.

Here is a short video of the ancillary wind at the dog park. Notice the havoc it is wreaking on the leaves of that poor, defenseless tree.

And here is a photo of the NE sky — the same sky that is over New York City right now — as it appears in Dayton, Ohio. Horrifying.

irene Irene updates from Dayton, Ohio

All in good fun. For my friends on the East Coast, stay safe. I know you are all taking this as seriously as we take tornados.

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When we fail as readers, we fail as writers

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music reading When we fail as readers, we fail as writers

I read this article in the NY TImes this week about e-books adding music to the “experience.” Champions of this technology justify it by saying it adds to the experience, enhances imagination, meets readers where they are, blah, blah, blah.

I have not yet worked out all the feelings I have about this, but I am down to one thing: Parents and teachers need to teach young readers how to hear the sounds that words on the page produce through the ear of their own imagination. Readers need to be able to create the characters and the settings in their minds through imagination. They need to learn how the cadence, rhythm and rhyme of the words produces the “soundtrack” that propels the reader through the book.

I’m often amazed at how some teachers and parents “give in” to their students by rationalizing they are “meeting the students where they are” by allowing them to choose the works they will read and by allowing the gamification of the skill of reading. Certainly you don’t start a young reader with the complete works of Shakespeare but you don’t dumb down the process either. All learning is gained through frustration. The harder the frustration, the deeper the learning. Young readers need guides and a hand to help them along, not someone who removes barriers or court jesters to provide entertainment along the way.

Young readers need teachers and parents to show them how to unlock and develop imagination that produces original human thought and kindles the spark that will create the next Rainbow Connection.

When we give up our imagination as readers, we willfully discard the skills needed to be writers. This I know for certain.

*Check out Dani Shapiro’s blog post for additional inspiration.

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Posted in American Culture, Creatives, Just thinking out loud, Pop Culture, Random Stuff, Serious Stuff, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , | 4 Comments