National Poetry Month: another PAD completed

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2021 is my 10th completion of Robert Lee Brewer’s Poem A Day (PAD) challenge. That’s 300 poems written. I also do most of Robert’s weekly prompts, most of his November PADs, and I write poems on my own, occasionally. A conservative estimate is maybe 80 poems a year (30+30+20) over ten years or 800 poems.

800 poems in a life is a lot of poems. 800 in a decade may seem excessive. Really though, it’s hardly enough. I do not call myself a poet. I write poetry to learn about writing, about poetry but also prose. To me, poetry is focused wording, focused imagery, condensed lyricism. I consider myself a prose writer, and I want to have lyrical elements in my stories, I want strong imagery, I want to tell stories without telling them, all things poetry does.

Usually I am happy with something like a dozen of my 30 poems during these events. This month I was happy with two. Here is one of them.

All Our Futures

It’s not so much he only cared for himself
          some of the greatest leaders, inventors, and innovators were narcissists
it’s not so much his morality was lacking
          even the holiest can have their bad days
it’s not so much he stole all their money
          they would have just wasted it anyway
it’s not so much he lied through his teeth
          who hasn’t told a fib now and then?
it’s not so bad he cheats at golf
          really, who hasn’t kicked his own ball back in the fairway?
what’s so bad is he stole so many minds
          when truth is denied, the future is lost

The prompt for the day was Villain. It employs the rhetorical device called Anaphora which is the repetition of words at the begging of each phrase or sentence. Anaphora emphasizes each phrase and adds effective rhythm. The poem is a commentary on the present day political divide. Of course it’s aimed at #45, but he is such an easy target. Most of the literary world is against him, most who read widely are against him, so of course people liked this poem. I am not happy with the last line as it’s a retelling of the 4th line. But even if I change it, this is still a rather trite poem. I feel no inclination to expand or polish it. It was fun to write, but it will likely die in my cloud.

Most of my poems this month were rather prosaic. I’ve been reading Billy Collins’ poetry and he has a rather conversational narrative style. If you’ve never read him, please do so. He’s inspired my month of bad poems. I am afraid I fail at emulating his style.

I don’t yet know if I am happy with the following poem, but I had fun writing it. I won’t know if I’m happy with most of my poems until I put them to bed and wake them up some months later. Maybe in late summer I’ll discover a line or phrase, maybe a whole stanza, maybe a whole poem or even a series of poems that demand further work. But that time is not yet here. So just read it and feel my brain churn as I wrote this mess. It is an untitled Ekphrastic poem

There is a woman in it
that much I am sure of
the rest of it is, well
a mess is the easy euphemism.

She might be holding a vase
A rat gaping at cherries — or is that a fish?
Or an English hedgehog —  
and leaping from the white glass.

Only the woman and the vase,
the hedgehog, a rose, something
that looks like an otter’s head
and cherries are white, all else is blue

With bits of green, yellow,
and blobs of red. The tall stalagmite —
or maybe it’s a cactus or a stalk —
has two giant strawberries

Not dangling like normal strawberries
but embedded like stained glass
you can’t even see through, any of it
all of it, abstract and senseless.

That otter sniffing the rose
which is held by the red stumpy
watermelon man with no rind
and drips down on two men

Yellow, watching a backwards elephant
sneeze laundry and kites, and a green
elephant at the bottom sniffing Australia
which is also green so you know it has to be not real, But it’s the giant cargo ship
thrusting out of a map Puget Sound
like an alien from a belly that the girls attention.
You know it has to mean something.

The painting I wrote to is by Chelle Stein and can be found at her blog,

There is one poem I am quite pleased with. I am so happy with it, I already submitted it to the 2021 Canada Writes Poetry Contest. When I don’t win that, I will submit it somewhere for publication. Rattle Maybe. I did not post any of it at the PAD site, and I am not posting any of it here. It needs to remain unpublished. It is my practice to not publish my good poems online. It’s immediate disqualification for most literary considerations. Sorry.

I wrote this fantabulous poem to the prompt Waiting. It was April 17th so about ten days after the completion of The Masters golf tournament. I immediately pictured the pro golfers standing on Augusta’s 12th tee looking up at the tree tops and waiting for the wind to let up long enough to put their ball on the green instead of into Ray’s Creek. Oh the drama! The night before I had watched PBS’s Poetry In America episode on Elizabeth Bishop’s poem One Art. I fell in love with this poem, and I had the Villanelle form firmly implanted in my head. I wrote a first stanza, said “Dang, this is strong,” and I quickly opened Rhyme Zone. It then sucked five days out of my life, I quickly sought and found some feedback from the Seaside Scribes writing group I belong to, and I zipped it up tight and sent it off. I think it is a solid poem, a real solid poem, but it’s about golf and it’s about the esoteric struggles a golfer faces on the course with his friends in the wind. A golfer will love it. A poetry judge may just say, “Huh?”

I did not so much have fun this month as push through with my head down. I wrote a poem or two every day, I posted most, and I filled 37 pages of my current poetry journal. As I work away at my novel, I feel myself trying to write richer prose, so in that regard it’s a success.

Hey You! [my personal pronoun]

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I attended a writing workshop yesterday. On Zoom. It was hosted by the University of Manitoba which is, according to that search engine and map, 3,178 kilometers from my home and a 33 hour drive. The proposed route leads me across Quebec from Montréal to Timmins ON, a route I would never consider driving in winter let alone summer. So make that a 40 hour drive. But I digress. I attended a pretty good workshop I probably never could have attended before the pandemic.

I’ve come to love Zoom. I am on calls every week, and it’s my only contact outside my home and Pete’s Fruitique in the City Market where buddy calls me Buddy: “Hey Buddy, is that everything?” I find myself wanting to tell him my name: “I am not your buddy.” Like a woman saying, “I’m not a deer!” And then last week a young lady was in the checkout line ahead of me and buddy said to her, “Hey Buddy, is that everything?”

Over Zoom, I’ve come virtually face-to-face with people in Ontario, Mexico, Portugal, Egypt, New York, Tennessee, North Carolina, Victoria BC, Toronto, Nairobi — I bet nobody else has had a Kenyan Cow bomb their Zoom meetings! — and now Winnipeg (and wherever these participants lived.) *One of them actually lives in my city. I didn’t know them and made friends with them on Facebook during the call. They could literally be my neighbour, met 3,178 km away.

Anyway, the Zoom writing workshop was on poetry and was led by a graduate student who I believe identifies as gay. His bio contained several LGBQ keywords, and… whatever. He seemed qualified to lead it, so I joined. Honestly, I don’t care about people’s sexual leanings. What you do is your business, and what I do is mine. It’s something we don’t need to talk about.

The session had about a dozen participants: the young, gay-identifying leader who had a trim beard, more than a single screen of participants I would describe as female, a couple of pictures with no picture at all but with female names, and me, the now senior-citizen-white-male. I like to know people. I am a people watcher. I am a people voyeur. I want to know everything about everyone. So I typed the full names (some used only their first name to keep stalkers like me off their tail) into Facebook search to see what came up. The first thing I noticed when I began reading the participants’ names were pronouns in parenthesis after their names, such as “Janet Smith (she/her).”

Cute, I thought, but why? I could find suitable pronouns to match their names/pictures, couldn’t I? I acknowledged that my visual cues might be incorrect, that one of these John-identified-females might actually identify as… whatever. Like sexual leanings, your personal sexual identification doesn’t concern me. Then, as my mind tends to do, I played out conversations that might take place where I might use these pronouns. “She said this, but I disagree.” I shook my head. These were conversations I would not undertake.

The leader gave his — his was his chosen personal pronoun, or I would have written their — housekeeping rules. Good leader! I rarely give any rules in my meetings. In fact, I tell participants in my prompt-writing there are no rules. Anyway, he said please pick your personal pronouns. I watched the remaining screen names expand to include “(she/her/they/etc.)”. I wasn’t sure what he was asking. Pick my own pronouns? The Paul Simon song, “You Can Call Me Al,” played through my head. I did not change my name.

This was a new experience for me. I assume the participants who had their pronouns already designated were familiar with this exercise. Extrapolations ran through my head. Is this some new practice being adopted in social media? I haven’t seen bracketed pronouns in any of my social media circles: Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Zoom. Should I look closer? Is this a trend? If I ever get business cards printed, should I add my pronouns to my name and title? John Hanson, Writer. (Male binary he/him/his) My brief research since then indicates this is more of an academia and workplace practice. I am not involved in either.

The leader scanned his screen, probably saw that I had no personal pronouns designated, then went into a spiel about how to change your name in Zoom. And he/him looked right at me on the screen! I bet he/him thought I was the socially ignorant white senior male just getting his feet wet in social media — we will ignore the fact that I began using email around 1987, was a BBS junkie in the early nineties before finally getting on the internet in 1994, and have coded many complex websites and applications in my previous career. I sighed deeply and appended “(hey you!)” to my name. No, I don’t give a shit what you call me. I am the white, senior-citizen mansplainer stuck in his tropes. I have a dozen participants to refer to, to pick pronouns for, but I have trouble finding words to say about subject matter at the best of times. I have no time in a discussion to scan all the names to be politically correct. “I think the volta is this line, and I think… just a sec… her… no, she was wrong.” I have come to use “they” when referring to anyone: they/them/theirs. If they/them/their bothers you, I can’t wait to read your blog.

During the two hours and fifteen minutes, only one reference was made to another participant by a participant, and they used the person’s name. The leader referred to several of us but always used our names or the pronoun you. “What did you think of that?”

Nobody said, “Hey you!” to me.

Black History Month 2021

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I try to read a black-authored book during February., and it bothers me. It bothers me because I have to even protest such nonsense. The nonsense: why we cannot treat everyone the same. But I do. It’s not so much to add my voice to any protest but to reaffirm in myself that racism is a problem and if you’re not part of the solution … I suppose this is my meager contribution to solutions. I have countered many many idiots who claimed I need to watch better news or buy a gun or whatever nonsense they were spewing with my advice, “try reading a book.” I am convinced if we all became regular and varied readers, we’d all by much better off.

In the past few years for BHM I have read Samuel R. Delany’s Dhalgren, Ralph Ellison’s The Invisible Man, Henry Louis Gates Jr’s Colored People, W.A. Spray’s The Blacks of New Brunswick, Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart, and the short story collection Children of the Night edited by Gloria Naylor. I read all but Dhalgren for the purpose of reading black authors. Last year it was the end of February and I said damn, I should really read a black author. Then I stuck my head back into that beast of a book and never minded who wrote it. That’s a good thing, right? When you don’t even notice who the author is? It wasn’t till I got to a part he talked about a gang with blacks and whites in it and nobody cared that I realized he was black and I laughed at myself.

Black authors I’ve read outside of BHM. I think this is an important point to make. I read books for many reasons, and except for BHM, I do not read or pan books based on the author’s demographics, values, politics, religion, or anything else. I read Ender’s Game knowing full well the author was a bigot. I read Ayn Rand knowing full well that she was a nutcase. I am sorry to say I have to search for black authors I’ve read outside of BHM: Andre Alexis’ Fifteen Dogs, Lawrence Hill’s The Illegal, Adwoa Badoe’s Between Sisters, Alice Walker’s The Way Forward Is A Broken Heart, and of course Toni Morrison: Beloved, The Bluest Eye, and Sula. I plan on reading more Morrison this year.

For 2021 I am reading Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Half of a Yellow Sun. This has been high on my TBR list anyway, and I think I can honestly say I am not reading this because she is black. I am reading it because she’s been highly recommended by a literary friend and it’s long past the time I gave her a go. I have also watched a number of her YouTube videos where I have learned things about racism that I did not know. For example, I no longer ask people of color where their ancestral home is. I only did that because of their skin color and accent, but I never did that for new white friends. I know Adichie is a very intelligent and gifted writer and I am really looking forward to this read, especially after reading the first page: … how the bungalows here were painted the color of the sky and sat side by side like polite, well-dressed men … Yeah, this author can write!

The Writing Walls are Crumbling.

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I have had a very hard time blogging over the past four years. It wasn’t just Donny and his insane cabal but his many followers. I have unfriended many people during this reign, and I have blocked many of them. And I did try to listen. I tried to understand the divide, not just in America but in Canada and around the world . I have teased and ridiculed not only Donny but these followers. I knew converting the mindless was not possible, but they were never my target. I targeted the middle-of-the road centrists, the non-partisan voters who see truth above party politics. Unfortunately, these people tend to be more laissez-faire and vote less than the indoctrinated [on both sides]. Biden winning the vote feels like a victory but a tainted one. We are not in a good place.

Now that we have a change on the horizon, can I dump the farcical memes and get back to arguing with logic? I hope I can. I hope we all can. I would much rather see far-righters and far-lefties write out what they believe and openly discuss their arguments. I would hope we can all sit down quietly, read others’ stances on issues, and work to some consensus. It is this back and forth playing with ideas that moves us forward. It is how I move my writings forward. I don’t write knock-out stories in one go. It takes many tries of pushing that theme or pushing this character or pushing that conflict. All of my best writing has come from pushing into areas I never ended up in. The same is true, I believe, for moving forward in social and political discourse. Life is story, and those of us who write a lot of story can attest that what we think is best almost always is not.

I could not write much about life these past four years because so many have adopted views of life I do not agree with. And no, it is not just the righties. I am anti-government. When governments in my Canada want to implement new programs, I cringe, because I know my government’s debts will rise with no compensating benefit. Too many pay no service at all to our enormous debts.

What do I want to Write About?

The list is long, and I don’t claim to be qualified to write about much of it. But the following is a quick list.

  • Socialism
    • what is it?
    • where should social policies fit in a capitalistic society?
    • what do Liberals really want?
    • what are Conservatives afraid of?
  • Competition
    • I am for competition, when it makes sense
    • when does competition not make sense?
    • how do we manage non-competitive units so everyone is happy?
  • Executive Accountability
    • this is currently a critical problem in not only America but in Canada and around the world
  • Taxation
    • does the low-taxation-of-billionaires model make sense?
    • what is the logical management perspective on achieving good government?
    • of course, taxation of expatriates and management of tax fraud.
  • Reading and Writing
    • I work at my writing every day. I have many ideas on making writing more interesting and relevant
    • reading is a forgotten skill. We have millions of experts who do not read anything more than Facebook posts or their favorite news headlines
    • how to correctly punctuate lists 😉
  • Racial Injustice
    • unfortunately, the list is endless!
  • My many other interests: books, fountain pens, inks, poetry, nutrition, diabetes, and more.

There is so much to write about and such little time to do it. I’ve been sitting on my hands for so long, I don’t really know if I can do this. Is Humpty Trumpty falling off the wall enough to get me back into this? But of course I have to write. The only way we’re going to move forward as a civilization is through discourse and debate. I remember when the Berlin Wall started to come down. It was the day my firstborn entered the world. I was so hopeful. The world really did seem to offer a brighter future. But of course we’ve erected replacement walls, and unfortunately we always will. I think the purpose of my writing and many other blogs has to be the dismantling of walls. These ideological walls need to crumble.

Andy Scheer, Leader of the Conservative Party of Canada, IRS Tax Target!

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So Andrew Scheer, leader of the Conservative Party of Canada, is an American citizen. I don’t know the details, but it seems his father was an American citizen and Andy is too by way of birth. He’s a form of what we call an accidental American. Many others are persons born in the U.S. while their foreign parents were working or studying there and who then moved back home. Boris Johnson is one of those, and he got nailed by the IRS.

As an American expat who relinquished his American citizenship – I arrived in Canada in 1970 and will never live in the U.S., so why keep the burden? – I am somewhat familiar with the tax laws Boris and Andrew are facing. Somewhat. I am not a wealthy person like Andrew Scheer. I say wealthy because one internet site has his personal wealth estimated at $961,000 and I’ve seen references that It may be much higher. His government pension alone has him set for life.

That is until the IRS comes calling.

IRS

Yes, the American Internal Revenue Service taxes Americans no matter where they live. You might think it’s silly and wrong, I do, but it’s the fact. Andrew Scheer is required to file income taxes annually to the IRS as well as file FINCEN reports (Formerly FBAR) to the Treasury Department of all his foreign financial accounts and balances. And let’s hope he has; because if he hasn’t, he’ll be making the news for all the wrong reasons. How insane is that? If he becomes Prime Minister, he will have to disclose his entire financial situation to the American government or face severe penalties. He may even be arrested if he crosses their border.

Pause: these American tax practices are wrong simply because American colonists revolted for flimsier reasons, a silly little stamp tax. They claimed at the time it was wrong for a power in a different land to tax its people in another, yet this is exactly what America has done since Lincoln decided traitors fleeing the country could not flee his new income tax. Moving on.

I don’t know Scheer’s salary, investments, or the details of his pension. I’ve seen numbers of $259k, and undisclosed amount in three RELPs, and $3,000k respectively, but whatever they are, he’s still potentially in a mess. I’ll address each of these as parts one, two, and three.

Part one: American persons get to deduct about USD$103.9k of foreign salary from their income. This only makes sense if the majority of your income is salary and if it’s within this modest range. Andy’s salary is roughly USD$195k , so using this deduction won’t help him. He will have to file the long form and deduct Canadian taxes paid from his taxes owed to the IRS. In Canada Andy will only pay taxes on his salary, maybe on some of these part two RELPs, and on none of his pension. Could be a clean wash and he’ll owe nothing to the IRS. Except nothing is ever a clean wash with the IRS.

Part Two point one: I don’t know anything about these RELP investments, but let’s assume the worst. First, Scheer has to include them on his annual FINCEN Form 114. Failure to do so incurs severe penalties. I don’t want to even think about what might happen to him if he’s noncompliant, but he can kiss those RELPs goodbye.

Part two point two: income earned in these RELPs is taxable in the U.S. as the tax deductions are not covered under the AmU.S.-Canada tax treaty. So Andy’s tax savings benefits in Canada are useless. Pay up Andy!

Part two point three: these RELPs are likely considered Passive Foreign Investment Companies or PFICs. I’ve never investigated the ins and outs and I don’t care to. What I’ve heard helped drive me to relinquish as I may wish to create my own corporation. Basically, and this is anecdotal from memory, Andy will have to pay 2% excise tax on the value of these investments biannually as well as pay the maximum 35% tax rate on all income, basically making the investment worse than worthless, if deemed PFICs. If not, he will merely have to add the full income of these devices to his American income.

Sigh. Not double-taxation, but clearly serving two masters inhibits one’s ability to minimize taxes and save for retirement.

Part three: pensions not registered with the IRS are likely considered PFICS as well. I don’t know these rules either, and it is possible, though not likely, the Canadian Federal Government pension plan is registered with the IRS, but in a worst-case scenario, Andy will have to include all government contributions as income, pay the 2% excise tax twice a year on the value, and 35% tax on all earnings. If the value of a government pension after 14 years in parliament is $3,000k, then basically Andy will go bankrupt to the IRS while serving our country. Oh, and he also has to include these in his FINCEN report or else.

There are other considerations too. His free living at Stornoway might be considered a tax-free benefit for a leader of the opposition, but is it under American laws? Tax, tax, tax!

Finally, Andy is planning on renouncing his American citizenship. Good call, but he will have to become compliant with the IRS before they will let him go. Then, any net worth over $5 million USD will be subject to a 35% exit tax. He might be there and suffer even more draining from his retirement funds. Renouncing will incur at least a USD$2300 charge from the State Department. Funny, acquiring citizenship only costs $700. Apparently the security risk of leaving America is three times that of joining.

Oh, by the way, I write for the satire magazine The Manatee, but this is not satire. This is the truth as I know all too well. A million American persons, many also Canadian citizens, live in Canada and are subject to these outrageous laws. And our (Canadian) government has done nothing to stand up to the bully. So far, the IRS has not come after private pensions. But Andy is a public figure. They have to press him. They can’t set a precedent for the rest of those to escape from this stupid net.

No wonder Andy has tried to hide his American citizenship.

 

 

Learning New Words

I pay attention to words, but I haven’t always. While my literary friends were tossing around vocabulary in high school, I was tossing around baseballs, footballs, and hockey pucks. My time would have been better invested in reading and writing, but what do kids know?

We learn many words in our day to day lives. Media mostly but also interacting with people. Or we used to, back when people used larger vocabularies. I cannot remember the last time I learned a new word from a person, or from television, or radio. I now learn my words from reading and studying.

Yes, I study words. It is not easy learning something you know nothing about. Yeah, we’ll just plunge into this forest and find our way through. Nope. To study words, chance does play a part. Read Mordecai Richler or John Cheever, and I can almost guarantee you’ll learn a new word.  Cheever throws words that don’t seem to belong, at least he did in his first story, Goodbye, My Brother: That beach is a vast and preternaturally clean and simple landscape. I have seen preternaturally before, but I couldn’t define it. I was not sure what the sentence meant. So, as a lover of words, I looked it up.
Preternaturally

Definition of preternatural
1 : existing outside of nature
2 : exceeding what is natural or regular : extraordinary
wits trained to preternatural acuteness by the debates—G. L. Dickinson
3 : inexplicable by ordinary means; especially : psychic
preternatural phenomena

I take Cheever’s intention to be exceeding what is natural, as in no ordinary beach is as vast and clean, no driftwood, no people, no garbage, now beach paraphernalia. The trouble with harvesting words from other sources like reading and television is you will never build your vocabulary unless you read vast amounts. I am lucky if I learn a new word in a story, and those stupid Facebook tests all say I know some 40,000 words. Sounds like a lot, but is it? Estimates are as high as 300,000 distinct English words. Sources say that fiction readers know more words than non-fiction readers – yeah! – but it is still too slow.

My primary means of study in at Vocabulary.com.  Great, you might think. Just run through the tests and learn. That’s the theory. Inculcate yourself with various forms of questions, make your mind sort through meanings and possibilities, even force yourself to investigate further. I always have a dictionary handy, and I often search for new words in media. If I can read them in a real story, I have a much better chance of remembering them. At my age, my brain’s first order of business is forgetting, not remembering. Half the words I’ve learned — I have about 1.5 million points there — have drifted away.

Preternaturally won’t. I can almost guarantee that. There’s no better way to learn a word than to write about it. The same with inculcate. You can look that one up yourself, but recently learned it.I wrote a poem this morning called Learning New Words. I wanted to use this word, but I couldn’t remember what it was. I did write its meaning in my notebook, but I failed to write the word. Another sign of a slipping mind. But now that I’ve used it in a poem and a blog, I’ll not likely ever lose it. Enjoy!

Learning New Words

You cannot learn a new word by rote.
If all you had to do was inculcate,
an auto-play dictionary is all you’d need.
Your vocabulary would grow at incredible speed.

You need to live a word to understand it,
or you’ll end up a master of sublimate.
New words are fresh paint too easy to abrade.
You need to work them, feel them, tie them in a braid.

 

The fateful moment Walter Pidgeon and Louis B. Mayer both realized they were from the same far-flung town in Canada

Where I live.

The Film Colony ♛

Walter-Pidgeon-with-child-actor-Christopher-Severn A sweet moment between Walter Pidgeon and child actor Charles Severn on the set of Mrs. Miniver (1942).

Happy heavenly birthday to Walter Pidgeon who was born 120 years ago in Saint John, New Brunswick, Canada. The same city my great-great grandparents, Sarah and Jacob Mayer, settled in after leaving Ukraine in the late 1880s, and where they raised their children, Yetta, Ida, Louis, Ruben, and Gershon.

It is amazing to me how one far-flung Canadian community would create these two towering talents. Walter would go on to appear in well over one hundred films and Louis B. Mayer would, of course, head Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.

Both held industry leadership positions too and were recognised by their peers. Pidgeon was on the board of directors of the Screen Actors Guild for 33 years and served five as president. In 1974, the Guild gave him their…

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The Ray Bradbury Challenge

 

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So we decided to try this challenge. Write a short story a week for 52 weeks.

It’s hard.

It’s very hard.

I don’t know how it can be done.

Sure, I can write a short story in a day, but we all know it won’t be finished. I have written several this year within a week. None of them were complete. Pick them upa  week or two later, a month later, and three months later and you discover how unfinished they are. I honestly don’t know how Ray did it.

I’m going to go out on a limb here and say people of Ray’s ilk, writers in the 1920s, 1930s, and up to the 1960s were not inundated by television, computers, smartphones, the internet, and the global village. Their life was books, books, and more books. They read and wrote and read and wrote. Their skills at as writers 18 were light years beyond ours at the same age.

I work at my writing. I claim to understand most grammar. Yet, as I edit a piece for the fiftieth time, I still find issues. If was spelled of and I never saw it. Generalizations. Inconsistencies. Neoplasms. Weak verbs. Echoed starting sentences. Loss of agency. You name it, I do it.

I don’t know if this year’s efforts will yield publication credits, but I sure have grown. Not only am I writing short stories [all the time] but I am reading them too. My current collection is Joyce Carol Oates’ Telling Stories, an anthology for writers. The two biggest activities writers can do to improve their skills is write and read. That’s what 2018 is for me — the year of the short story.

And I have grown. It’s hard to explain how. A sense of agency in a story might be the biggest thing. And I don’t recall anyone or any book ever teaching it. This year I discovered the concept in Alice LaPlante’s The Making of a Story and then later at a writing workshop. Maybe I just missed it before; maybe it has been worded differently; but it’s now something I try to feel in every story I read and write.

The second thing is this nebulous concept of imagery. I have written a story called Grandpa’s Hat. It’s about my grandfather cheating on my grandmother. Complete fiction, no real names. “The end isn’t logical; the middle doesn’t lead up to your ending.” Interesting; because in my mind it did. Oh, those mid-west, small town values I included but barely showed. Oh, those things I see but nobody else did. Oh … I see now. I can’t explain any better than that, but now when I read it I feel the ending and say, “Oh my!”

So I am busy writing. I am getting there. I can feel it. I am writing stories — I wrote a new one this morning — at the rate of about one every ten days. I have returned to 750words.com and find myself writing down a new story idea about once every three days. And I have a collection started. I have a theme and many of my stories are falling in line. Need maybe six more, depending on a decision. This is a collection I never would have dreamed of writing two years ago. Thanks to keeping one’s eyes and min open. Thanks to social media. Thanks to Ray Bradbury.

Going to try to write more blog posts, but it’s hard. I’m scared of what I might write about the political scene.

 

 

 

National Poetry Month, PAD #7.

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This is my seventh year of writing a poem a day (PAD) during National Poetry Month, April. I wrote a poem every day; though I think a couple times I didn’t post until the next day. I participate at Writers Digest Poetic Asides blog run by Robert Lee Brewer, the poetry editor for the magazine.

Robert usually gives a one-word prompt every morning. Often they will be posted at 6AM or earlier; though some days he obviously sleeps in until noon. As poetry editor, he certainly has the right. He at least has my permission. Robert likes us to name our titles after the prompt: pick a bug, title your poem with its name, and write the poem. I of course ignore such direction. For me a prompt is a trigger. I let it trigger a memory, an image, or a vague sensation, and once a word, a phrase, or an entire line takes hold, I write. It usually takes me about ten minutes to write my poems.

This was not a productive year. This is my year of the short story; which is largely why I haven’t posted in a while.. Also it’s because of #45, for I am afraid of what I might write. But back to important things: poetry. I wrote maybe 33 poems, and I did write every day. The thing is, my wife and I bought a new home in late March. We hadn’t planned to, but a house we had our eyes on dropped significantly in price. We said what the hell and bought it. We closed within two weeks, before our rent was up, and we took most of April to move. Our furniture arrived April 20. The house is a mess, and it may be years before we’re settled. It’s 29 years old and needs work. The electricians have been in and will be again. Plumbers replace all the copper tomorrow. New dishwasher, washer, and dryer have been ordered. A new Fridge might be ordered. We painted the entire place. We floored the basement (was cement). We ripped the basement steps carpet up and the steps still reek. The NB Power inspector comes this week to see if we qualify for rebates on improvements — the air exchanger is shot, the ducts need cleaning, and we want a heat pump. Not much time available for reading and writing. Not like I want.

here is a poem I wrote from two prompts. The first was the senses (one or all six) and the second prompt was write a response poem (to an earlier poem if possible). This poem is about a non-believer (in God/Jesus) who tries this nonsense and ends up staring at the ceiling lights while convulsing; the response is the pastor’s version (who we are led to believe in part one has no faith himself) who paints the person as a hopeless case as only the faithful can be slain (and evidence suggests that being slain is nothing but a self-fulfilling prophecy). But God has other plans, and both are humbled. Enjoy!

Slain
*if you don’t know what Slain in the Spirit is, watch this

You can feel it inside you
The command of God to fall and flail

You can smell his cologne wafting
Strong enough to knock you over

You can taste the after-service sandwiches
Eggs whipped to a frenzy, held together with mayo

You can see the fear in his eyes
For he knows neither of you believe

You feel his push and you laugh
Was he expecting miracles?

You stare at convulsing lights
In that fashion that says you missed something

A Gentle Touch

You stroll up here full of doubt
Want to see what it’s all about

No expectations to fall or speak
Slinking through life with no left cheek

All you really want is to turn and leave
To mingle with the women on this summer eve

Your eyes are empty distant shells
Your fingers caress your Samsung cell

I touch you gently for your fear is real
You fall and flail, and I bow and kneel

 

 

NAFTA – Financial Services Excluded

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International financial services need an overhaul. The first North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) did diddley for competition in this area — any restriction already in place was to remain in place. Fine. Makes sense to some degree. Nations should have control over their own tax systems, retirement programs, and investment incentives. Unless of course it is deemed as an unfair restriction of U.S. sales, then it’s evil.

Some examples.

  • Americans cannot buy Canadian mutual funds.
  • Americans cannot buy Canadian Life Insurance
  • Americans cannot buy Canadian stocks
  • Americans cannot participate in Canadian private pensions
  • Canadians cannot buy American stocks unless protected by a registered plan
  • I am not sure if Canadians can buy American mutual funds. I think we can, but generally such investments are hidden from us as those of us who purchase such things tend to bury them in registered plans and buy them through management companies. My financial advisor is Sun Life, and I have no idea which funds I own. Some of everything. But as they live in an RRSP, the IRS cannot touch them.

These might seem abstract concepts and do not affect you as a Canadian or American. After all, why would an American want to buy life insurance from London Life or participate in a provincial government pension plan?

In reality, these policies do not affect the everyday Joe or Jane, but they do affect at least one million American Persons living in Canada, maybe more, maybe double that. We do not have an accurate count of active Canadian citizen green card holders (those people who were resident in America but returned without cancelling their card. And why would you cancel it as they are so hard to get in the first place, especially if you have any hints of non-white or non-Christian ancestry.) now resident in Canada.

It affects us because the U.S. taxes its citizens and green card holders no matter where they reside. A cash value on a whole life insurance policy that is not registered in America is treated as a savings account, and it does not grow tax free. That private pension plan we may participate in (often we are required to as a condition of employment) is nothing but a savings account, It does not grow tax-free in the eyes of the IRS. Investments into non-American mutual funds are subject to harsh PFIC taxation rules making them prohibitive. Dividends of American stocks by Canadians and Canadian stocks by Americans are exempt from favourable dividend tax credits*; so if you want to invest your millions in foreign dividend generating companies for whatever reason, you won’t because there’s no way to benefit as much as even a marginal company of your own country, For Americans in Canada who are subject to both the CRA and the IRS laws, what one grants the other takes away. We cannot benefit from any dividends. Again, RRSPs grow tax-free, so as long as your money is buried in one (not a private pension plan) these laws don’t matter much. *I won’t get into the mechanics of dividend tax credits.

What this all means is

  • the majority of people do not have a full range of choices. These are protectionist policies and only the major corporations benefit. Individuals do not.
  • Americans living in Canada are severely restricted when it comes to investing, protecting their families, and saving for retirement.
  • The major financials are in no way impacted.

Let me rant about the banks. Canadian charted banks operate in the U.S. They are major financial players. The services they offer in Canada are offered in America. They can sell American things to Americans and Canadian things to Canadians. They are happy and are not raising a stink.

The real people impacted here are Americans living in Canada, and we are being hurt by the U.S. policies.

Does this rant matter? Not int he least. President Obama was the American Expat’s worst enemy; Trump is too stupid to understand the problems (and he has other, more important problems); Prime Minister Trudeau is a two-faced ******* who promised to help us fix these problems but now brushes us off; and because the financial institutions are not really impacted, they couldn’t care less. After all, it’s all about their money, not ours,