My Musings about the Mid-Term Election on LoneUmbrella.com

One of my former students runs a terrific site called Lone Umbrella, where he does top-notch, fact-based political analysis. I sure wish I could take credit for his brilliance! But alas, he’s just that good. 

He asked me to be a guest contributor on his site and I had the privilege of writing up my analysis of the upcoming midterm election. Here’s an excerpt:

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Mid-term elections are volatile. Almost always. They historically display the cantankerousness of the American electorate with pristine clarity. Mid-term elections are like the shiny new Christmas toy that finds itself dunked in an April mud puddle simply because you’ve become bored with it. That’s what happens. Two years after a presidential election is just enough time for the euphoria of “change” and “hope” and “greatness” and all other election slogans to wear thin to such a degree that the populace brutally penalizes the president’s party to let the other jokers have their turn messing things up. It’s a cynical cycle without question. The numbers back this up very clearly. Let’s take a look at the data before conjecturing their meaning for 2018.

In post-World War II America—which covers a span of eighteen mid-term elections—the president’s party on average loses 24 seats in the House of Representatives. Currently, there are 235 Republican representatives, 193 Democratic reps with seven vacancies.

Piqued your interest? READ the ENTIRE ARTICLE ON LONE UMBRELLA

 

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How to Build a Dictator 2.0

Two years ago I debuted an experimental theatre piece of mine entitled “How to Build a Dictator.” It was directed by my talented former student and theatre wizard Ysabel Loh and it was part of the Penang Performing Arts Centre Black Box Experiments series. It was tremendously fun to put on. We had a great audience and they reacted wonderfully to this unique audience-interactive show.

Now, I’m introducing “How to Build a Dictator 2.0” I start production on it this weekend with a completely revamped script I just finished writing. It’s 25% longer with even more insane stuff happening which will completely confuse (and hopefully amuse) the audience. I held auditions for it last Sunday and I have a dozen great actors ready to roll on this, though they have NO idea what they are actually getting themselves into. And that’s the beauty of it.

I haven’t had a show since April, so it feels good to get working on one. I’ll be sure to post many updates as we go along and get closer to the show dates of early December. But for now, I’ll leave with our mock-up poster – courtesy of Ysabel Loh who designed this for the first dictator show. I feel like the design is set in stone. This is the branding for this show. So here we go. Let the fun begin. dictatorPOSTER.jpg

Fall Giveaway – Gift Cards Anyone?

I’ve teamed up once again with THE KINDLE BOOK REVIEW on a Fall Giveaway which includes Amazon gift cards of $200, $100, & $50.

You could be the winner – AND – help promote my new release THE AFRICAN CONNECTION.  (Book 2 of THE FORGOTTEN CHILD TRILOGY) Thanks for all of the support!

Head on over HERE to enter to win. When you do, don’t forget to click on my book cover to check it out!

THE AFRICAN CONNECTION ON AMAZON

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fall giveaway

Would the Bard Approve?

In my drama class this week, I emphasized one of the most basic points related to the dramatic arts – plays are meant to be performed.

You may think I’m stating the obvious. But the obvious sometimes gets lost in the well-meaning jungle of academic minutia.

Ask yourself, how many plays did you have to read in an English class at some point in your life?

In college, I had the Riverside Shakespeare – the massive volume of all the bard’s plays and poetic works wrapped with hundreds of pages of commentary. It was overwhelming on both the brain and my muscles. And I went to college in the days before backpacks. At least I don’t remember backpacks. I remember carrying books under my arms with my knuckles dragging on the ground from the weight of Lady Macbeth’s scheming. All of those plays I read by myself in my dorm room. Is it any wonder I had trouble paying attention to them.

This is what I have concluded: Plays. Stage. Perfection.

Plays. Classroom. Less than perfection.

How much better is Shakespeare when seeing it live? How about a bizzilion times!

Case in point. This summer I had the opportunity to see “As You Like It” in a small outdoor park venue. The lively performance used the hillside and trees as part of the  stage – a terrific natural setting which added to the imagination of the piece. The actions and language brought the play to life in vivid ways, and hundreds of people sprawling out on lawn chairs and lounging on the natural green grass amphitheater enjoyed a terrific evening of entertainment away from the television or sports or cell phones.

The pages were alive, as they should be.

I’m sure the bard would have approved of the spectacle in Allen Park, though I have to wonder what he would have thought to see his works studied like ancient manuscripts in a static classroom.

Plays are meant to be brought to life.  They are meant to be performed. They are meant to be read aloud. The voice, the emphasis, the cadence, the rhythm, the sound of the varied pitches, the laughter, the growls, the crying, the joy, the humanness.

Lets get the plays out of the classrooms and onto the stage.

But if they must be in the classroom, I hope an impromptu stage emerges with students reading and acting out the words on the page which were never meant to stay there.

 

Supreme Court Confirmations – By the Numbers!

In a topsy-turvy two weeks of high political drama, the US Senate is on the brink of voting on the appointment of Brett Kavanaugh to the high court. If he does survive the FBI background check currently underway, and he is confirmed, it will be by the slimmest of margins. Perhaps even one vote. If he isn’t confirmed, he will be the first judge not confirmed by a floor vote since Robert Bork in the 1980s.

How does Kavanaugh’s possible confirmation stake up against those currently sitting on the bench. Let’s take a look at the intriguing numbers.

Of the previous nine Supreme Court justices confirmed by the Senate spanning three decades and five presidents, five have been nominated by Republican presidents and four by Democratic presidents. Two additional nominations during that time span were never voted upon. Harriet Miers, a George W. Bush nominee, withdrew from the process. Merrick Garland appointed by President Obama in 2016 never had hearings or a vote. With these two out of the picture, there are some voting patterns which are interesting to look at.

Let’s start with the four justices appointed by Democratic presidents: Ginsburg, Breyer, Sotomayor, Kagan.  Their combined confirmation vote tallies are 314 ‘yes’ votes and 80 ‘no’ votes for an overall approval rate of 80%. This clearly shows some broad non-partisan support from the Republic party towards Democratic nominees.

What about Republican nominees? The five appointed by Republican presidents were: Souter, Thomas, Roberts, Alito, & Gorsuch. Their combined confirmation vote tallies are 332 ‘yes’ votes and 166 ‘no’ votes for an overall approval rate of only 67%. However, if Souter, the only one of our list no longer on the Supreme Court, is dropped off this list, the numbers change to 242 ‘yes’ votes and ‘157’ which is only a 60% affirmative rate. Souter also is a bit of an anomaly because, though appointed by a Republican, he was widely viewed as a staunch liberal justice.

So, of the current Supreme Court members, Democratic appointed candidates fly through confirmation at an average of 80% affirmative votes but Republican candidates squeak by at only 60%, and this number will assuredly go down later this week when the Senate votes on Kavanaugh. Even if confirmed, it will likely be by a mere 1 or 2 votes. As a side note, a Democratic appointee hasn’t been rejected since the Grover Cleveland presidency. Yeah, it’s been a while.

What’s the reason for such a voting discrepancy?

Let’s pose a few ideas.

Option 1: Do conservatives have a more literal view of the constitution? As such, their role as “advice and consent” hinges more on whether a candidate is worthy of such a nomination regardless of whether they agree with his or her political persuasion? Ginsburg might be a good study here. She was clearly a judge with a very liberal voting record. She was even a member of the board of directors of the ACLU. Clearly liberal. Yet, qualified—even Republicans agreed by joining the Democrats in approving her appointment with an astonishing 96-3 vote. While something like that won’t happen today, you’ll still notice that Kagan and Sotomayor’s confirmations were much easier than all Republican-appointed justices since Roberts.

Option 2: Are liberals more aggressive in seeking their progressive agenda through the court systems? As such, they purposefully seek to confirm justices who they deem to be progressive and are more contentious with those candidates whom they deem will be a hinderance to progressivism? I think this is doubly true with the Kavanaugh nomination because of its significance related to Roe v. Wade.

Option 3. It’s all random?

Option 4: You make the call!

Here is a list of the last nine justices confirmed to the Supreme Court. What will be Kavanaugh’s numbers – if he makes it?

Gorsuch 54-45 (Trump)

Kagan 63-37 (Obama)

Sotomayor 68-31 (Obama)

Alito 58-42 (G. W. Bush)

John Roberts 78-22 (G. W. Bush)

Ginsburg 96-3 (Clinton)

Steven Breyer 87-9 (Clinton)

Thomas 52-48 (G. H. W. Bush)

David Souter 90-9 (G. H. W. Bush)

Whatever these numbers ultimately mean, Trump is going to have to fight and scrape for any of his nominations to get through, and if he did have to appoint a successor to Ginsburg, don’t hold your breath for 96 voting to confirm. Those days are long gone.

A Change of a Love Story For a Nation

A LOVE STORY FOR A NATION is one of the favorite stories I’ve ever written. It, like a lot of my writings, started as a short play called “Almighty Might.” An audience member, who came to see a production of it, was greatly moved by its story – so much so that this audience member, who also happened to be an artist, drew an amazing picture of its story. I was blown away! I had the chance to meet the artist later that year. His name is Woon Bin Chang. A terrific guy. He was gracious enough to allow me to use his picture as the the book cover for my novel. I was thrilled.

But the picture posed some problems for the cover, and when the novel was published, I decided on another design by another talented graphic artist. I loved it, and I was very happy with the cover.

But three years on, I stumbled back upon this artwork and wondered if I could redesign it in order to give the novel a make-over and to show off this great piece of art which represented the story so very well.

And so I did.

I’ve decided to change the cover art for the novel. I’m very happy with it and I hope it inspires others to check out this moving story.

As always, your thoughts are welcome.

Here it is:

aloveStoryNEWCOVER2018

New Christmas Story Coming Soon!

I’m happy to announce I’ll be publishing a new Christmas short story this year. Unsure of release date, but it will be well early for the season. It even has a cover!

jollyoldsthickSMALL

 

Can you pick up the tone of it? Yes, light-hearted, silly, funny (hopefully) with a warm fire-place-like touch of sentiment – all those things you need to settle into the holiday season. You know, like a cinnamon stick in your hot chocolate or spiced cider simmering on the stove.

“Jolly Old St. Hick” was actually a short play that my drama group The RLT Players performed in their Christmas show “Tales of Wonder II” in 2015. It was a funny and well-received vignette, and last year I got the idea of re-writing it as a short story. I didn’t get very far.

Until now! I turned the 2000 word play into a 6000+ word short story coming your way to a Kindle near you!

I’ve actually not written many short stories in my life. I’ve written more novels than short stories, actually. I’m not sure if that is bizarre or not, but I’m becoming more familiar with the genre. Most of my short stories are Christmas-themed. Why is that? I’m not sure, exactly, but perhaps there’s something comforting about a warm cup of tea, a fireplace, and a 30 or 40-minute sentimental read.

In 2014, I published “If Love is a Crime: A Christmas Story” about a runaway slave in 1852.  Available Here.

In 2016, I published “Christmas in the Trenches 1914” a fictitious account of the real-life truce between the Brits and the Germans in WWI on Christmas Eve 1914. Available Here!

In 2018, I will publish “Jolly Old St. Nick.”

I hope you enjoy, and look out for the release of my new one soon!