My primary Writing.com blog.
Logocentric (adj). Regarding words and language as a fundamental expression of an external reality (especially applied as a negative term to traditional Western thought by postmodernist critics).|
Sometimes I just write whatever I feel like. Other times I respond to prompts, many taken from the following places:
"The Soundtrackers Group"
"Blogging Circle of Friends "
"Blog City ~ Every Blogger's Paradise"
"Take up Your Cross"
Thanks for stopping by!
|It's the end the month of writing a blog post a day (or, more accurately, 30 blog posts in 30 days... some days I had to double-up (or more) to catch up). Overall, it was a surprisingly rewarding experience. Not because I think a ton of my blog entries are particularly great, but because - between this activity and NaNoWriMo - I got back into a daily writing habit for the first time in years and I really felt like I've started shaking off the rust and lethargy. I feel like I'm at the point in working out where you finally get into a groove and start to notice the first signs of not just being totally out of shape and lethargic anymore. A little more energy, a little more excitement...
I really don't want to lose this momentum. It's been a long time since I've prioritized my writing and it feels good to make it a daily focus again. I might focus on a screenplay in December, and I'm definitely going to compete in "I Write in 2024" to keep active and make sure that I'm regularly putting stuff out there again. I might try to pick up a few more other activities and challenges to keep me on my toes.
I'm happy with all the writing progress I've made this month and look forward to seeing what I can accomplish next month.
|Today at work we were finally notified of what our end of year bonuses were going to be. They weren't great... but not as bad as they could have been considering the company went through layoffs, austerity measures, and two labor strikes in the past several months. Still, it's kind of a bummer to work really, really hard all year and have the bonuses be underwhelming. It's becoming a bit of a trend too... each of the past three years the job has gotten harder and the total compensation (including bonuses) has been less and less.
It's a bit of a bummer, but I'm grateful to have a job with relative security, and that provides bonus compensation at all. I'm just hoping that next year is a little better and that we have better-performing projects that will result in improved financial rewards next year. One of these days, I'd love to actually be able to afford to buy a house...
|I'll admit, I enjoy getting Spotify's end of the year "Wrapped" report, which summarizes listeners' habits for the year. With the caveat that my Spotify is also used by my family as our primary music-listening service at home, here's how my 2023 sorted out:
I listened to music in 56 different genres, the five most popular of which were: Christian Contemporary, Movie Tunes, Pop, Alt Z, and Rock.
The place that my musical tastes most identify with is Lynchburg, USA apparently.
I played a total of 3,365 songs.
The song I listened to most was "This Is How I Thank The Lord" by Mosaic MSC, which I played 76 times.
The other four songs rounding out my Top 5 were: "Since You Been Gone" by Rainbow, "Psycho" by Taylor Acorn, "Every Hour" by David Leonard and Josh Baldwin, and "Surrender My Heart" by Carly Rae Jepsen.
I listened for a total of 33,370 minutes this year and peaked on August 8 at 384 minutes that day. That puts me in the top 10% of all listeners on Spotify.
There were 2,155 different musical artists I listened to last year, and Taylor Swift was - by far - the artists I listened to most with 6,113 minutes (almost 20% of the total amount I listened all year!). The other four artists in my Top 5 were Elevation Worship, UPPERROOM, Taylor Acorn, and Phil Wickham.
Taylor Swift had 16 of my top 100 most listened-to songs of 2023.
I guess we're a family of Swifties...
|I know I'm late to this topic but apparently Patrick Dempsey is People Magazine's "Sexiest Man Alive" for 2023. And there's really only one correct response to the choice:
That would have been an understandable choice during the early 2000s when he was playing leading man characters... or in the early late 2000s/early 2010s when he was at the height of his "McDreamy" era on GREY'S ANATOMY. But what has he done since he left that show in 2015? A whole lot of minor roles and not much else. Probably the biggest role was reprising his ENCHANTED character in the 2022 Disney+ sequel DISENCHANTED.
So why now?
Were more-relevant-to-2023 handsome celebrities like Henry Cavill, Jacob Elordi, or Ryan Gosling not available?
I've always found People Magazine's choices for "Sexiest Man Alive" each year a little oddly-timed, but this one really takes the cake. Nothing against Patrick Dempsey, but it's strange to be naming him a good 10-15 years after his prime.
|While I've been noveling this month, I've been thinking a lot about my screenwriting. That tends to happen a lot (yearning to write something else while I'm in the middle of an existing project ), but it really has been a long time since I've written a screenplay. It's been years since I've developed anything new and, after listening to a bunch of screenwriting podcasts and behind the scenes content for work, it's made me nostalgic for the times when I was focused on that medium, both writing and producing my own projects, which was my passion long before I started to become aware of the possibilities of novel writing and self-publishing.
I'm considering taking the month of December to decide if I want to flesh out a new screenwriting project, maybe even a short film or something similar to produce. It's been an even longer time since I've produced a short (almost since film school), so I feel like I'm overdue for a low budget short film project that I can really immerse myself in for a bit and see where it goes.
That also makes me wonder if I should resurrect "The Screenwriting Group" here on Writing.com to have a place to explore it...
|There was an article in Fortune Magazine's website today titled, "Starbucks new CEO reveals his favorite coffee order after spending 6 months working side by side with baristas " that caught my attention. Not because I particularly care what Starbucks' new CEO Laxman Narasimhan's favorite drink off the Starbucks menu is (spoiler alert: it's a Doppio Espresso Macchiato with hot skim milk on the side), but because the other part of that title caught my attention. He's allegedly spent six months working side-by-side with Starbucks baristas at their stores.
Apparently, this was the deal:
Narasimhan honed his varied taste through the 40 hours he spent training—and six months he spent working—as a barista alongside Starbucks partners while gearing up for the CEO gig.
And while some Starbucks employees pointed out on social media that they don't need the CEO of a coffee chain with just under 500,000 employees across nearly 36,000 locations to learn how to make lattes as much as learn how to solve grander-scale corporate issues like paying a living wage, unionization efforts, etc., I can't help but think while that may be true, spending a substantive amount of time in the trenches with employees is actually a great use of a C-suite executive's time when he's first starting the job, to better understand the good and bad elements of the public-facing aspect of the company. Of course, if it's just a PR stunt or a token amount of time (a lot of CEOs will spend, like, one day every so often with the rank-and-file for a photo op or bragging rights), that's different... but 40 hours of training followed by six months working in stores (although no word if it was full-time or not) is a real effort to get to know your employees' day-to-day successes, struggles, and concerns.
I kind of wish this practice was required of all mid-to-senior level executives. Before starting a job, you should spent a significant amount of time learning about the rungs in the ladder below you and how they contribute to your job. I'm in a position now where I'm volunteering in a fairly high-level position at our small church (President of the Board of its nonprofit community development organization, and Director of Operations for the church itself), and I couldn't imagine hiring someone beneath me to do a job that I wasn't familiar with. Obviously there's a certain amount of tradeoff (it's hard to, say, learn an entire accounting system just so you can process payroll for a few weeks... or to learn how to send all-organization emails and maintain the organization's social media presence if that's not a core bit of knowledge that will be useful later), but actually getting to know what your employees' day-to-day experience is like is critical.
At my day job, it's incredibly stratified. Within my own business unit of Marvel, which is much better than Disney as a whole, there are still situations where direct supervisors don't actually know what their direct reports do, and wouldn't be able to cover for even a day if something happened and someone was out. At Disney, there are some departments where supervisors only speak to their direct reports once a year (for their annual performance reviews), and go years without speaking to someone two levels below them. To me, that's a less than ideal way to run an organization, so I'm always happy to see articles like this where some new CEO or other higher up is taking the time to get to know their business on the ground level. That feels like time well spent and relationships well cultivated.
|I just finished The Creative Act: A Way of Being by Rick Rubin and while it was... not really what I thought it was (full review is forthcoming for the "Book Brothel" )... I did find one particular piece of it really useful. Rick Rubin put together a list called "Thoughts and habits not conducive to the work" which I thought was worth posting here.
THOUGHTS AND HABITS NOT CONDUCIVE TO THE WORK:
1. Believing you're not good enough.
2. Feeling you don't have the energy it takes.
3. Mistaking adopted rules for absolute truth.
4. Not wanting to do the work (laziness).
5. Not taking the work to its highest expression (settling).
6. Having goals so ambitious that you can't begin.
7. Thinking you can only do your best work in certain conditions.
8. Requiring specific tools or equipment to do the work.
9. Abandoning a project as soon as it gets difficult.
10. Feeling like you need permission to start or move forward.
11. Letting a perceived need for funding, equipment, or support get in the way.
12. Having too many ideas and not knowing where to start.
13. Never finishing projects.
14. Blaming circumstances or other people for interfering with your process.
15. Romanticizing negative behaviors or addictions.
16. Believing a certain mood or state is necessary to do your best work.
17. Prioritizing other activities and responsibilities over your commitment to making art.
18. Distractibility and procrastination.
20. Thinking anything that's out of your control is in your way.
For anyone who struggles to write or otherwise complete creative endeavors... see anything that hits home? There are a lot of them that apply to me, but #6 and #9 and #13 and #17 and #18 are things I really struggle with. I think #6 and #17 are probably the core underlying problems, and the other three are manifestations of how those underlying problems play out. There are some other ones in there that I also definitely struggle with, and it's easy to see how one or more of these could quickly derail someone's ability to create art.
One of the things I've been thinking a lot about this month as we head into the end of the year is what I want to accomplish next year. Every January, I think about goals for the new year and what I want to accomplish, and they're always some lofty thing that's tied to specific achievements (see the first part of #6). In preparation for next year, I'm trying to think about where I'm at right now, and an achievable goal I can reach that isn't some nebulous or arbitrary thing like, "Finish writing a book" or "Write X number of pages, words, etc." ... I'm thinking about how to go from near-zero to "back in shape."
The same is true for me and physical exercise. I'm not at the point where I can think about wanting to run a marathon, or lift a certain amount of weight; I'm at the point where I'm severely out of shape and need to get back into healthy habits. The thing I like about lists like the one Rubin provided, is that they often name the hurdles we struggle with. And naming things can take away their power. Rubin's book is definitely one of those "take what works or makes sense to you and discard the rest" kind of nonfiction title, and this list is probably the best thing I've taken from the book. I anticipate referring to it a lot in the future, whenever I need a reminder of the habits I'm falling into that aren't conducive to what I'm trying to accomplish with my writing.
|My wife and I just finished binge-watching a show called Undercover Billionaire (Season 1 was released in 2019). The basic premise is that Glenn Stearns, the show's eponymous "billionaire" ... although I put that term in quotes because it appears he might be just a multi-hundred millionaire ... decides to test whether the American Dream is still possible by getting dropped off in a random city somewhere in the country with only $100, a cell phone with no contacts, and an old pickup truck. His challenge? To build a company worth $1,000,000 at the end of 90 days. The bet he made was that if he couldn't build a company valued at a million dollars, he'd invest a million dollars of his own money in to ensure it had stable funding to give it a fighting chance.
He's dropped off in Erie, Pennsylvania and the first ten days or so are more about survival: figuring out how to get more money so he can afford food and a place to live, trying to get a job, etc. This to me was interesting, but felt like it should have been for a different show (a how to build yourself up from rock bottom challenge, or something like that), but it detailed how he got his feet on the ground, basically investing all of his capital on ventures that would give him a positive return on investment, allowing him to invest more in the next thing.
That's the part of the show I found most interesting. Not how he went from $100 to $3,000 to afford to live, but how he went from only having living expenses to getting capital to start investing in the business. The show repeatedly highlighted the value of motivating good people with helpful skills and convincing them to invest their time and energy in growing the business to the point where they could all benefit in its success.
I don't want to give away too many more details about it because it really is a good show worth watching, but I had some thoughts in the whole thing.
First, I actually know the guy (well, know of the guy) who was featured in the show. Stearns Lending was a leading mortgage company coming out of the Great Recession, and I recognize the name because their headquarters is about five minutes from my house. I see the company's logo on their building as I drive by it almost every day.
Second, I learned a lot about local resources that entrepreneurs can use to help them with their businesses. There's actually Small Business Development Centers (SBDCs) that operate (though the United States Small Business Administration) in many cities around the country, and they can help you with market research, putting together a business plan, access to computers, and even offering up meeting and/or office space as needed. It's an amazing resource for people who are just starting out, and I had no idea such a thing even existed. There's an office less than ten minutes from me.
Third, I learned that there's a lot of risk and setbacks involved in pretty much every aspect of running a business. Not that I didn't already know that, but when you're watching someone actually try to build a business in realtime from scratch, it really highlights the unpredictability of the process. As much as I have a real issue with the income inequality in this country, I definitely think people who pull themselves up by their bootstraps and build a successful company from nothing deserve to enjoy the fruits of their labor after such a rollercoaster of a process.
Overall, I really enjoyed the show and it got that entrepreneurial part of my brain working again. I've always wondered if I'd be good at running a company. I have a really diverse skillset and I think I've got pretty good problem-solving abilities ... but I'm also really risk averse and have yet to really take a leap and put myself out there investing in something that might not make it (I've always preferred the security of jobs at established employers, and the few times I've gone to work for startups, they haven't panned out). At the moment, I'm on the board of my church's community development nonprofit corporation, and it definitely got me thinking about how to invest in that organization and take more risks to see if it can succeed.
I definitely recommend this show to anyone who likes SHARK TANK or any other business-type shows.
|In my last blog post, I took a somewhat critical look at America, so I suppose it's only fair that at least one of my other blog posts this month also takes a critical look at somewhere else. No country is perfect and, while the UK certainly isn't, I read an article this this morning that shined a light on a very particular and disturbing quirk of the UK's system of government:
How Royal Estates Use Bona Vacantia to Collect Money from Dead People
In short, bona vacantia (Latin for "vacant goods") is the process whereby the government can take assets for themselves from private citizens, if there is no will indicating where those assets should go, and no next of kin can be located. And without getting into the "well how hard is the government really looking for next of kin if they stand to benefit should no one be found?" of it all, this sorta makes sense on its face. If nobody can be found to pass the assets onto, then the government can claim them.
Here's the problem in the UK. There are two places where that money doesn't go to the Treasury, but rather into the pockets of royals. The Duchy of Lancaster (owned by the current monarch... currently King Charles III) and the Duchy of Cornwall (owned by the heir apparent... currently Prince William). Which means that, in addition to all the wealth and assets the royal family has access to through the monarchy, King Charles and Prince William also have this additional income (which is considered their "private income" but not subject to any kind of taxes or other income-based regulations of other people) that they receive. To give you an idea of the scope, it's estimated that King Charles III's annual payout from this income was £26 million last year.
Since the 1980s, the Duchies have maintained that the money collected from bona vacantia has been donated to charity, but this article from the Guardian which says, "However, only a small percentage of these revenues is being given to charity. Internal duchy documents seen by the Guardian reveal how funds are secretly being used to finance the renovation of properties that are owned by the king and rented out for profit." So, I suppose the "charity" they're donating to is... themselves? To minimize expenses and maximize profits? The article goes on to say:
Three sources familiar with the duchy’s expenditure confirmed the estate was using revenues collected from dead citizens to refurbish its profitable property portfolio, making considerable savings for the estate. One said duchy insiders regarded the bona vacantia expenditure, which has until now not been publicly disclosed, as akin to “free money” and a “slush fund”.
I don't know about you, but when the people doing the actual shady money stuff call what they're doing a "slush fund" that's usually not a good sign that what they're doing is on the up and up. And, as usual, it's become problematic because it's been taken way too far. It's one thing if the laws of a country have this bona vacantia rule specifically for the Duchy of Cornwall and the Duchy of Lancaster. That is what it is. But then they had to take it a step further and misrepresent how those funds are being spent, claiming they go to charity when they're really being reinvested in the organization that's supposed to be sending those funds to charity instead.
It's really sad to me that corruption is so rampant among the wealthy. That "because we can get away with it" is an apparently acceptable rationale for doing unethical (or in some cases blatantly illegal) things in the name of increasing one's wealth. Our socioeconomic system is already set up in a way that unfairly benefits the wealthy; it really riles me up when I read articles like this that show that all that privilege and access still isn't enough and that wealthy people have gone to even more extremes to maximize their income and net worth.
The monarchy has come under a lot of criticism lately, and this seems like yet another bad news cycle they're about to (deservedly) endure for sketchy practices that should not be a thing.
|I thought this would be an interesting blog topic because, if I'm being totally honest, there's a lot of stuff that I don't love about America right now. Despite being an optimistic for the most part, there's a lot of stuff happening in this country that I find really discouraging.
I don't love the fact that our courts seem hellbent on the broadest possible interpretation of the second amendment to allow unfettered access to guns (even while the number of annual mass shootings continue to increase), while simultaneously offering the most limited interpretation of personal and voting rights to deprive people of access to legal recourse against those in power who make the decisions.
I don't love the fact that income inequality is so pervasive that the middle class is slowly disappearing and it's becoming increasingly harder for average Americans to do basic things like save money, or buy an affordable home.
I don't love that fact that corporations have more protections and mechanisms for bailing themselves out of trouble than people do, and that private equity firms are buying up resources and, in some cases, entire industries left and right and, by and large, making them worse consumer experiences in the name maximizing return on investment.
I don't love the fact that American exceptionalism is so rampant that criticism of the country is often conflated with being unpatriotic, or even anti-American. People wave American flags around (or wear them on their lapels in the case of elected officials) as a symbol of the things this country stands for, without actually working to uphold those ideals. Or the fact that we apparently have entire "days" like this, dedicated to encouraging people to affirm and celebrate the greatness of America (often while avoiding the tough conversations about bad things that have been done in America's name over the years).
With all that said, I can't really imagine living anywhere else. There are a lot of things that I do love about this country, like the fact that you can pursue pretty much any life you want. That's not a guarantee you'll succeed of course, or that it'll be easy... but there are very few hard restrictions on the kind of life you choose to pursue. Somewhat related, but I also love the fact that you can pretty much start over anytime. You can be twenty years down the road of a particular career and there's nothing stopping you from moving across the country to start a completely new one. While I think there are a lot of qualifiers and a lot more hurdles than there used to be for a lot of different types of people, I do still believe in the American Dream, and I believe in the independence that this country grants its citizens to (by and large) live the kinds of lives they want to live.
I also love the fact that this country is so diverse. From its geography to its people, to its industries, there are few places that have more variety to choose from. You can visit mountains, oceans, deserts, plains, forests, swamps, and any number of both natural and man-made sights without ever leaving the country. You can find communities of people from dozens, even hundreds of other countries all around the world. For me personally, I love living next to a large city where there isn't just a variety of ethnic foods to try, but there are a variety of ethnic communities to try that each of dozens of restaurants, retailers, houses of worship, and other features that truly allow you to immerse yourself in another culture without having to go anywhere farther than a different neighborhood. And America is a leading contributor to so many different industries, from finance to technology to entertainment to medicine to real estate to manufacturing. No matter what your profession, you can probably find an employer in America that's near the top of the field.
America is a place that I really do love. It most definitely has its problems, and I have a real problem with people who pretend like it doesn't, or who ignore fair criticisms and aren't interested in making improvements... but as a whole, I'm proud of the things this country has accomplished and the things it could still accomplish. That's why I still vote. It's why I still care passionately about who my elected representatives are, and what they stand for. It's why I get frustrated or even angry when I feel like we're taking backward steps politically, culturally, financially, or in any of a variety of other ways. Just like the "dream" that America lends its name to, success and upward mobility are possible if we can just figure out how to stop doing the stuff that's holding us back (and in some cases, hurting us).