John F. Kennedy – A Liberal Definition

John F. Kennedy, on what it means to be a liberal. And for the record, I consider myself liberal. Also for the record, liberal certainly does not equate to Democratic, or any other party.

http://www.dailykos.com/story/2011/09/22/1019343/-A-Liberal-Definition-by-John-F-Kennedy?via=siderec

But first, I would like to say what I understand the word “Liberal” to mean and explain in the process why I consider myself to be a “Liberal,” and what it means in the presidential election of 1960.

In short, having set forth my view — I hope for all time — two nights ago in Houston, on the proper relationship between church and state, I want to take the opportunity to set forth my views on the proper relationship between the state and the citizen. This is my political credo:

I believe in human dignity as the source of national purpose, in human liberty as the source of national action, in the human heart as the source of national compassion, and in the human mind as the source of our invention and our ideas. It is, I believe, the faith in our fellow citizens as individuals and as people that lies at the heart of the liberal faith. For liberalism is not so much a party creed or set of fixed platform promises as it is an attitude of mind and heart, a faith in man’s ability through the experiences of his reason and judgment to increase for himself and his fellow men the amount of justice and freedom and brotherhood which all human life deserves.

I believe also in the United States of America, in the promise that it contains and has contained throughout our history of producing a society so abundant and creative and so free and responsible that it cannot only fulfill the aspirations of its citizens, but serve equally well as a beacon for all mankind. I do not believe in a superstate. I see no magic in tax dollars which are sent to Washington and then returned. I abhor the waste and incompetence of large-scale federal bureaucracies in this administration as well as in others. I do not favor state compulsion when voluntary individual effort can do the job and do it well. But I believe in a government which acts, which exercises its full powers and full responsibilities. Government is an art and a precious obligation; and when it has a job to do, I believe it should do it. And this requires not only great ends but that we propose concrete means of achieving them.

Our responsibility is not discharged by announcement of virtuous ends. Our responsibility is to achieve these objectives with social invention, with political skill, and executive vigor. I believe for these reasons that liberalism is our best and only hope in the world today. For the liberal society is a free society, and it is at the same time and for that reason a strong society. Its strength is drawn from the will of free people committed to great ends and peacefully striving to meet them. Only liberalism, in short, can repair our national power, restore our national purpose, and liberate our national energies. And the only basic issue in the 1960 campaign is whether our government will fall in a conservative rut and die there, or whether we will move ahead in the liberal spirit of daring, of breaking new ground, of doing in our generation what Woodrow Wilson and Franklin Roosevelt and Harry Truman and Adlai Stevenson did in their time of influence and responsibility.

Nathan Bransford Launches #ThankAWriter

Writing can be a very lonely thing. So why not make it less so for your favorite author(s)?
via Nathan Bransford, Author.

None of us would be who we are today without the influence of the books we’ve read throughout our lives. And for those of us who are writers, books have shaped us so much we have chosen to write them ourselves and hopefully leave behind works that resonate with a new generation of readers.

As a way of giving thanks, I’m going to hand write thank you notes to five authors for the impact they’ve had on my life.

I’m so excited to kick off the #ThankAWriter project with my good friend Maggie Mason, who blogs at Mighty Girl, and is one of the cofounders of Go Mighty, a site built around making a list of your life goals, finding people who can help you achieve them, and sharing your stories as you complete them. My profile is here.

What if Star Wars was a 1980s John Hughes movie?

This is great. You really have to click through to see the lovely watercolor paintings. I particularly love the one of Marty McFly as Luke Skywalker, viewing the sunset.

Amazing Italian comic artist Denis Medri is back, with even more beautiful Star Wars art. Last year we featured a collection of his images of Star Wars recast as 1980s teen drama characters, and now he’s back with actual scenes. It’s simply brilliant.

The Tatooine backyard sunset, the Millennium Falcon as a van with a Falcon airbrushed on the side, Darth Vader as the school bully. Someone needs to make this movie right now. Or at the very least drum up a fake trailer, please?

via What if Star Wars was a 1980s John Hughes movie?.

Intangible (A Piece of Flash Fiction)

This is my guest writer entry for the contest going on over at Lascaux Flash. I’m pretty happy with how it turned out, even though I’m ineligible to win. This is posted over there as entry #121. Feel free to comment over there, or here, or for bonus brownie points both places!

Intangible

She writes her number on the back of my hand with a black magic marker.

Then she says hello.

We dance the way people at parties dance, a fast slow dance of an excuse to press our bodies together, to what passes for music at these types of things. Stuck in the middle with you.

When she speaks, she leans in close, the black tips of her blonde hair tickling my face, her hand soft on my shoulder.

I’ve read when a girl is really into you, she’ll take any chance to make physical contact.

I’ve only read.

I fetch her a drink, standing in line for an eternity, glancing her way, worried should she leave my sight she will disappear, ethereal.

I return.

I don’t go here, she says, between sips of her beverage. I’ll transfer, I say, joking, but not really.

With nods and a smiles, my friends leave. Her friends linger, inspecting me as they embrace her goodbye.

Time passes. We find our way into the cold.

Our night ends at the threshold of her friend’s building. Call me as soon as you wake, she says.

I tell her this is not the end of our tale. She nods.

I spend the remainder of the night in my bed, watching the minutes flick by.

Morning light peeks through the yellowing blinds of my bedroom and I clutch my phone, finding myself paralyzed by the idea of blemishing the perfect of yesterday with the unknown of tomorrow.

Advice on Writing Flash Fiction

I’ve been reading a bunch of flash fiction in the past few days, so I thought I’d share some of my observations on what works for me as a reader.

First of all, what is Flash Fiction? To put it simply, flash fiction is just a piece of fiction that is just really short. From Wikipedia:

Flash fiction is a style of fictional literature or fiction of extreme brevity.[1] There is no widely accepted definition of the length of the category. Some self-described markets for flash fiction impose caps as low as three hundred words, while others consider stories as long as a thousand words to be flash fiction

Let’s frame this a bit more. Let’s stick with really short fiction, say 100 to 500 words.

  1. Grab the reader’s attention right away. Flash is meant to be bite sized nuggets of story goodness. Don’t make me choose the other dessert.
  2. Tell me a story. A complete story. Yes this can be done.
  3. Don’t be so nebulous–the reader shouldn’t have to wait until the last sentence to know what the heck is going on.
  4. Show don’t tell. You hear the rule all of the time for a reason. Don’t tell us the protagonist is scared. Paint the picture.
  5. Easy of the flowery prose. Flowery prose can be good, but in flash fiction you only have so many words. There’s no sense in using them all to describe the supporting character’s jacket.
  6. Easy on the murder, rape, violence. There are other ways to create tension and drama. And with so little words to work with, it is really difficult to do murder, rape, violence that doesn’t seem just cheap and gratuitous.
  7. Surprise endings are overdone. Surprise! Those two people you thought were in love were newts the entire time. (I’ve written a bunch of these in my day and they are fun to write, but do feel a little like the easy way out to me now)
  8. Make me feel. A good piece of flash fiction should make me feel happy. Or sad. Or nostalgic. Or anything other than meh.
  9. Seriously, though. Take it easy on the violence.

Anybody else have thoughts on what makes good flash fiction?

Pixar’s 22 Rules for Storytelling

via boing boing, a list of “rules” by Pixar’s story artist. I think there is some great stuff here, but my favorite is #4:

Once upon a time there was ___. Every day, ___. One day ___. Because of that, ___. Because of that, ___. Until finally ___.

I think if you can fill in those blanks, you are well on your way to telling your story.

Here is the full list:

These rules were originally tweeted by Emma Coates, Pixar’s Story Artist. Number 9 on the list – When you’re stuck, make a list of what wouldn’t happen next – is a great one and can apply to writers in all genres.

  1. You admire a character for trying more than for their successes.
  2. You gotta keep in mind what’s interesting to you as an audience, not what’s fun to do as a writer. They can be very different.
  3. Trying for theme is important, but you won’t see what the story is actually about til you’re at the end of it. Now rewrite.
  4. Once upon a time there was ___. Every day, ___. One day ___. Because of that, ___. Because of that, ___. Until finally ___.
  5. Simplify. Focus. Combine characters. Hop over detours. You’ll feel like you’re losing valuable stuff but it sets you free.
  6. What is your character good at, comfortable with? Throw the polar opposite at them. Challenge them. How do they deal?
  7. Come up with your ending before you figure out your middle. Seriously. Endings are hard, get yours working up front.
  8. Finish your story, let go even if it’s not perfect. In an ideal world you have both, but move on. Do better next time.
  9. When you’re stuck, make a list of what WOULDN’T happen next. Lots of times the material to get you unstuck will show up.
  10. Pull apart the stories you like. What you like in them is a part of you; you’ve got to recognize it before you can use it.
  11. Putting it on paper lets you start fixing it. If it stays in your head, a perfect idea, you’ll never share it with anyone.
  12. Discount the 1st thing that comes to mind. And the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th – get the obvious out of the way. Surprise yourself.
  13. Give your characters opinions. Passive/malleable might seem likable to you as you write, but it’s poison to the audience.
  14. Why must you tell THIS story? What’s the belief burning within you that your story feeds off of? That’s the heart of it.
  15. If you were your character, in this situation, how would you feel? Honesty lends credibility to unbelievable situations.
  16. What are the stakes? Give us reason to root for the character. What happens if they don’t succeed? Stack the odds against.
  17. No work is ever wasted. If it’s not working, let go and move on – it’ll come back around to be useful later.
  18. You have to know yourself: the difference between doing your best & fussing. Story is testing, not refining.
  19. Coincidences to get characters into trouble are great; coincidences to get them out of it are cheating.
  20. Exercise: take the building blocks of a movie you dislike. How d’you rearrange them into what you DO like?
  21. You gotta identify with your situation/characters, can’t just write ‘cool’. What would make YOU act that way?
  22. What’s the essence of your story? Most economical telling of it? If you know that, you can build out from there.

A Cough In The Night: A Parent’s Nightmare

I’m a light sleeper. This needs to be said upfront. If there is a noise in the night I hear it. Except for my own snoring.

One of the most frightening noises in the night I’ve found, as a parent, is the child’s cough in the night. Not just any cough. THE COUGH. The one where you hear it and your think to yourself, “whelp, looks like I’ll be doing laundry at 2:30 AM”. That cough.

You are usually okay if it’s just one cough. I mean, hey, humans (yes, kids are humans) cough. But if you hear a bunch of them, strung together, and that last one sounds a little…wet? You better get yourself on your horse and in that kid’s bedroom. Oh, and on your way, grab whatever trash can, bucket, snow boot you can get. What you catch now, you won’t have to clean up later.

This happened last night, which is why I’m writing. I hear my 4 year old son in the other room, cough, and fight or flight kicked in. I got there in time, only without the bucket. That’s when I called for my wife for backup.

To be honest, though, I think I’m a bit lucky in this regard. I have a co-worker who has this happen like once a week and all night. Ours are more like twice a year and one and done. Stuff happens. Kid feels better. I wrote that last sentence because I don’t believe in jinxes. Fingers crossed.

So, whatever. I’m a bit tired today, but my wife has it worse. She’ll be home with both sickies today, most likely watching Disney all day. Maybe they’ll watch Wreck it Ralph again. That’s a good flick.

(note: this post also appears at my main blog paulliadis.com/blog I’m posting here as well because people actually read my stuff here)

The Rainbow Connection Controversy

John Scalzi last night mentioned a controversy with the Kermit the Frog song The Rainbow Connection, a controversy I never realized existed because I thought Kermit’s meaning was obvious. Judging by the comments in that post, however, I’d have to say that I was wrong. Not in my interpretation, but in my faith in humanity to get this right.

First, let’s let Mr. Scalzi explain the problem:

My wife and I have a disagreement about a line in the song “The Rainbow Connection.” The line is:

“Why are there so many songs about rainbows, and what’s on the other side?”

I am of the opinion the line is two independent ideas, i.e., Kermit asks why there are so many songs about rainbows; independently he muses about what’s on the other side of rainbows.

Krissy, on the other hand, believes the line asks about songs about rainbows and also what’s on the other side of the rainbows, i.e., that the songs in question must refer to both.

I posted the following in the comments over there, but I thought I’d share my thoughts here as well:

Aren’t there 4 interpretations, though?

  1. Why are there so many songs about “rainbows and what’s on the other side of said rainbows”?
  2. Why are there so many songs about rainbows? What’s on the other side of said rainbows? In this one Kermit is first asking about the prevalence of songs about rainbows and then wondering what is on the other side.
  3. Is a variation of #1, except “what’s on the other side” refers to a question of what happens after death. This one is most likely to not be what he’s talking about. I mean, are there really a lot of songs about rainbows and death?
  4. Is a variation of #2, asking about the rainbows, then wondering about death. Kermit is really jumping around in this one.

I’ve always interpreted it as #2. Kermit is wondering why there are so many songs about rainbows. In the next breath he is wondering what is on the other side. All the other options just seem silly to me.

(if you like what you see here, why not visit me other blog paulliadis.com/blog)