Category Archives: writing

13 states raising pay for minimum-wage workers

USA TODAY: 13 states raising pay for minimum-wage workers.

Here’s how I know raising the minimum raise won’t damage the economy. Look at the map on at the link above and you will see that the minimum wage in Wyoming is $5.15. Obviously MacDonald’s and WalMart want the keep their margins high, that is a universal goal of business. What if they were forced to increase their wages there by, say, a wopping 80%. What a huge burden that would be. Obviously they would have to cut jobs, close locations, why that would be almost $9.30 an hour!

Oh, wait. Look over at Washington. Minimum wage is $9.32 an hour? Clearly there must not be any fastfood or bigbox stores in Washington, how could they survive paying 80% more there than the Wyoming rate.

By the way, the minimum wage in Australia is $15 an hour. She there must not be any fast food restaurants of box stores there either.

Rage wages up to a level that people working full time are no longer eligible for government assistance like food stamps and we will all benefit. Wages paid go right into the local economy for goods and services, unlike excess corporate profits that get invested overseas, or as Apple does with its cash reserves, just stockpiled in banks.

Also here’s a funny joke from Chris Rock: “You know what it says when your job pays you minimum wage, don’t you. It says ‘We’d pay you less if we could, but it’s illegal.'”

The truth about getting customer service help via email.

Here’s part of post I did on Facebook that some people might find useful. Ever get frustrated trying to deal with a company’s email complain system? Here’s a general email of how they work. There’s less need to get frustrated if you know the game they are playing (and why — which is because they don’t want to hire enough people to do the job decently), it takes patience but you almost always get your way. Not kidding about that.

SInce I did this kind of work for months, I know what a bullshit system it is, some I’m prepared. You will never get an answer on the first try. They will send a generic response to answers common questions. That will be useless, because you are a smart person who has tried all that obvious stuff yourself. So you write back. It always helps to be polite, but really, at this stage it doesn’t matter if you are rude or not, because there’s a high likelihood your second email will be answer by an algorithm too. Even if not, the person reading your rate will just paste in the apology scripting and then follow that with the scripting most likely to fit your actual issue. They don’t have time to get upset or sabotage you because they will have a quota that’s impossible to manage by doing anything more than very cursorily skimming for the real issue.

(They started me with a quota of 100 emails a day, when I met that they raised it. And they raised it again. I met that. And again. The only way to get faster is to start taking shortcuts, like for instance, don’t bother trying to access your analytical skills, or really any higher brain functions. Cut and paste, just cut and paste. They would glare at you when you went to take a piss because you’re not going to answer very many emails standing at a urinal, are you? And I met that goal and they raised it again. To 350 email responses in a 7.5 hour shift. (Now, let it be known, that in the two years I worked as a temp for them, both as a phone rep then an email rep, I never received one single raise. I was never offered permanent employment or benefits. I never got a paid holiday. I never got a paid sick day, until Seattle made that illegal. When my new goal of 350 was assigned, I went in and gave her my notice. Enough is enough.).

Anyway, back to the help-y part So this 2nd response will also be useless, most likely, but your next email will likely get answered by a higher-tiered person, who is allowed more flexibility. You keep going up the chain until you get a clear answer, or they give in just to get rid of your. Or until some vice president gets sick of you and bans you from the site, but that only happened once in two years at the place I worked. The thing is, usually unless there is a legal issue, must company guidelines are fake. Only the underlings are required to try and stick to them. Some supervisors, most Directors, and almost all Vice-President can do what ever the fuck they want with the guidelines. Most of the time they just want to get rid of you, and have you not trash them online or to the BBB. All online businesses use email filtering systems like this, because they believe it is cost effective.

Dirty Wars (2013)

Dirty Wars, Documentary.

Depress yourself. Lays out the evidence of the Obama administration’s nixonian covert drone bombings and raids, undeclared wars in most every Muslim country. It may have started under Bush, just as the Indochina adventures of forty-plus years ago began with Democratic administrations and then carried over to Republican ones.

Maybe you don’t need to see it. We all know about these missions, anybody who wants to know knows, anyway. And we all know, because of our common sense and our empathy tells us this breeds new enemies, you can’t kill you’re way out of people hating you.

As the journalist observes in the movie: “The first kill list (the card pack” has fifty-five names on it. Then next kill list has 200. Then 3000.” We know this, but our knowledge does nothing. The truth does nothing. The nightmare feeds itself on itself and still grows stronger.

Dirty Wars Movie Poster

The Ray Bradbury MFA, Day Four

ESSAY:

“Of Death” The Essays of Francis Bacon. Try not to sweat it too much, and anyway, odds are you’ll hardly feel it.

STORY:

“Our Daughter is in Heaven” by Elaine Menge is the lead story in 13 Tales of New American Gothic, an awkwardly titled anthology from Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine. A couple moves from New Orleans to a vividly-described suburban cul-de-sac in the Dallas-Fort Worth “area”, (quote: “Area. They no longer lived in a real town, or a city”) called Brigadoon, a tract of excessive, “mish-mash” mcmansions.

POEM:

“The Hourglass”, Jorge Luis Borges, trans. Alastair Reid, reprinted in Selected Poems . Borges concerns himself with very few themes, mostly fundamental ones: time, space.

In a 2001 talk Ray Bradbury offered a way to fill up one’s head “a thousand nights” of reading: one poem, one essay, on story before bedtime. I’m giving it a shot at least for awhile (although not at bedtime), and when I think of anything to say about any particular day’s lessons, I’ll post about it. Read all posts in the series here.

The Ray Bradbury MFA, Day Three

ESSAY:

“Of Liars” The Essays of Montaigne vol. 2 Like many bloggers, the original blogger can be strident, and hard on people, especially himself.

STORY:

“Dance Girl” by Ed Gorman. A somber, tragic tales closes out the collection.

POEM:

“The Pleasures of a King”, Charles Bukowski. On one of his common themes: the joy of not have a job to go to.

In a 2001 talk Ray Bradbury offered a way to fill up one’s head “a thousand nights” of reading: one poem, one essay, on story before bedtime.  I’m giving it a shot at least for awhile (although not at bedtime), and when I think of anything to say about any particular day’s lessons, I’ll post about it. Read all posts in the series here.

The Ray Bradbury MFA, Day Two

ESSAY:

“Of Idleness” The Essays of Montaigne vol. 2 Montaigne discovers that, now more or less retired and dedicating himself to pure thought, that his new life “creates [him] so many chimaeras and fantastic monsters, one upon the other, without order or design,” that he starts writing the essays for which he is knows.

STORY:

Caitlyn, the narrator of “Those Who Wait Through the Drowsy Dark” in Rachel Swirsky’s 2010 collection Through the Drowsy Dark, Aqueduct Press, might herself be driven close to madness by thoughts. The story is a riveting introduction to the collection, and to Swirsky’s rich and vivid sentences. I found her writing via the Tor website, which has some of her great stories free, including this one.

POEM:

Inviting a Friend to Supper” by Ben Jonson. A vivid and cheerful poem that asks you to enjoy a evening at a pal’s, Jacobian London -style.

In a 2001 talk Ray Bradbury offered a way to fill up one’s head “a thousand nights” of reading: one poem, one essay, on story before bedtime.  I’m giving it a shot at least for awhile (although not at bedtime), and when I think of anything to say about any particular day’s lessons, I’ll post about it. Read all posts in the series here.

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The Ray Bradbury MFA, Day One

In this 2001 talk Ray Bradbury offers a way to fill up one’s head “a thousand nights” of reading: one poem, one essay, on story before bedtime. Since he often talked of spending one’s late teen years in the library as the equivalent of getting to university, maybe this the further regimen qualifies of as post-graduate work. I’m going to give it a shot at least for awhile (although not at bedtime), maybe a week, and if I think of anything to say about any particular day’s lessons, I’ll post it here. I’m pulling these from books I have lying around, as well as from a big folder of free public domain ebooks on my devices courtesy of Project Gutenberg, all without any organized plan.

POEM:

The Shoelace by Charles Bukowski.

From Mockingbird Wish Me Luck (1972),  reprinted in The Pleasures of the Damned (2007), which is where I’m reading it. I certainly read the original collection, but have no particular recollection of this poem. I’m already taking liberties with the course, as Bradbury clearly states we should stay away from modern poetry, which in his view is mostly shit. However, this one is melodic and lovely, as a good deal of Bukowski’s poetry is. I don’t know if Bukowski is as widely read now as he was when I was a young hipster but he might very well be–notwithstanding to 5.5 out of 10 rating this poem received on this site I’ve linked to for it. “The Shoelace”, with it litany of minor woes, really speaks to the 21st century–century of minor emergencies and unsteady income. Prices need to be adjusted for inflation, naturally, and probably “crabs” should be replaced by “bedbugs”. Otherwise, spot on.

STORY:

“Mainwaring’s Gift” by Ed Gorman, in his collection  Dead Man’s Gun and Other Western Stories. This short book contains two very good stories, “Pards” and “The Face”.  I like westerns. And I like Gorman. His blog is full of great anecdotes and little vignettes from the history of publishing.

ESSAY:

“That the Intention is Judge of Our Actions” The Essays of Montaigne vol. 2 The next essay in this volume is called “Idleness”. I have a feeling, based on this reading, that M comes down against it. I may have to pick up a copy of  Tom Hodgkinson’s book.

The Hour BBC

1347725_72659105Very much enjoyed the way the BBC drama “The Hour” began with a rich and assured history of the characters, and admiring the way the show trusts the audience to keep up. Then I realized I’d actually watched season 2 first. Oh, well. Decent show though, once you get past the fact that London in 1956 seems to have been populated with about 8 people all of whom are involved in the same international conspiracy. Though I do appreciate the attempt to dramatize the dirty reality of democratic governance: journalists, media moguls, heads of government, all cultured in the same Petri dish, swimming in the same cocktail glass every evening after work. As true now in my country, as it was then in the UK. Here it’s Yale, Harvard, the occasional Princeton grad. See you at the White House Correspondent’s Dinner.

photo credit: Nadia Meslem

Voyage To The Cloud Planet: A Science Fiction Novel

Voyage to the Cloud Planet: A Science Fiction Novel by Michael Canfield

For ambitious, passionate Kiter Io, a posting to the daring diplomatic mission organized and hosted by a mysterious race known only as The Understanders represents more than a chance to help his people become part of the new enlightenment era, it also represents a chance to make his personal mark on history. A chance to prove to himself that he possesses the skills his people value most: negotiation, determination and empathy.

But when a disaster kills the rests of his delegation—a disaster that seems no accident—Kiter faces an unknown world—host to many cultures and shrouded in mystery—on his own, finding himself forced to work alongside a new delegation, one made up of members of many different worlds, with strange and alien values. Here he must fight to preserve the goal of his original mission—to bring his people—and all the broken vestiges of a once-great civilization spanning thousands of worlds—out of the twin darknesses of ignorance and xenophobia, at last.

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Story: S01E04 “The Language of Monsters”

Posting this free story for a minimum of seven days — probably more, because I usually forget. This one’s a bit longer than most of the freebies I put up on the blog: 7000 words.

I once worried that the story would date quickly. Surely rendition would be long behind us before now? I was overly optimistic. The story, however, does not suffer from the same flaw.

THE LANGUAGE OF MONSTERS

Jason comes to my cell, sets his watch’s alarm. No more than a hour’s exposure at a time, no more than every other day.
In the hour we talk about many things: the world, politics, God—and we talk about light. At opposite corners this cell has two naked bulbs, in sockets screwed into the brick.

“I’ll see the next locale has a window—and natural exposure.”

I thank him. I haven’t felt sunlight in so long. The guards had orders to give me an hour a week here, but didn’t. I don’t trouble Jason with this; he works hard. He holds a responsible position despite his youth; he has more important concerns. Today I leave Egypt for another site anyway, so the matter loses significance.

Instead, I ask about my next assignment.

“You’re worried,” Jason says.

My previous assignment: the black-bearded Saudi, heavy browed, black eyed, yielded no intel. To date none have. I tell Jason I fear if I fail again I’ll receive no more assignments and he will no longer handle me.

“That’s irrational,” Jason waves the notion away. “We’re a team.”

“I doubt my abilities,” I tell him.

Jason frowns, wounded. “You have done everything I’ve asked. It’s on me.”

Before Jason gave me a job, I had no meaningful existence. Meaninglessness make solitude unbearable. I can’t return there. I spare Jason this, but he feels it anyway.

“Look at me,” says Jason. “This is the one. A high-value subject. A driver, from Yemen, detained in Basra. This is the break I’ve … that we’ve waited for.”

Jason checks his watch. He calls it a diver’s watch. It resists water, it shows direction, it does many useful things, and now it tells him our time together draws short. “We should pray,” he says.

Continue reading the whole story free until at least 11/01/11.

Available for purchase at Smashwords, Barnes & Noble, Amazon, Diesel, on iTunes and other sites.

Spinetingler Fiction: Scaffold by Michael Canfield

Read Scaffold a crime short story, free, and only on Spinetingler. It’s a great site, I’m proud to have one of my stories appearing there, in such great company.

Scaffold Fiction by Michael Canfield

Free Story: S01E03 “Time Flies At Elsinore”

Time Flies At Elsinore: Hamlet at Forty by Michael Canfield

 

 

Time Flies At Elsinore


Thanks for coming. Wow—the big four-oh. I mean, right? Who’d have thought. So here we are: H. and H. It’s been too long, man. There’s hardly anyone cool around here to hang with. What are you looking at?

Oh this.

Every year I write down my goals and put them up in an envelope—yes, this envelope—seal with wax, and stamp the seal with my princely signet. The following year I pour out a goblet of the best red, open up the envelope, and see how well I’ve done. Then, before retiring, I write a new list for the coming year. It’s my birthday tradition.

What’s that? Open it? Well of course I’m going to open it—though not yet. Are you in so large a hurry? Have you got another best friend’s birthday party to go to?

Oh, all right, all right, don’t apologize, I’m only kidding. Christ, it’s good to see you, Horatio. You look good. You look as good as a skull can look, I mean. Who’d have thought I would outlive you! I always supposed you’d be standing over me one day, bidding flights of angels sing me to my rest!

Hey, you know what this reminds me of? The time you and I found old Yorick’s skull in the graveyard, alas. You remember poor Yorick, the king, my father’s, jester? He’d borne me on his back a hundred—Oh, I’ve told you this one? All right, all right, I do tend to soliloquize; what is this, like my seventh? No, my seventh glass of wine, not my seventh soliloquy, smarty, and if I am going on a bit, cut me some slack, you’re not holding up your end of the conversation.

Soft! What was that! Listen, Horatio! That thumping! There it goes again!

Never mind. I know what it is: merely a knock within. Relax Horry; there hasn’t been a ghost around here in a decade. My Mom is pounding at this chamber door. She is throwing me a birthday supper, and I’m late. The meat is probably cold, but they can serve it for brunch tomorrow. We like leftovers, here. It’ll be fine. Let’s have another drop.

This vintage well-suits me.

So what’s up with you, Horatio? Seeing anyone?

No, I guess the dead don’t date. Well, it’s not much better being alive, I tell you. It’s impossible to divine what women want. I mean, am I the crazy one? I suppose it’s relative, as they say at university.

What? Who? Of course I haven’t seen gentle Guildenstern; no, nor gentle Rosencrantz neither; have you forgotten Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are dead? Surely, you remember the letter and the pirates and sailing to England and so forth? These ring no bell? Well it did get a little complicated there for awhile and much occurred offstage—so to speak.

No, what I mean is all the world’s a kind of stage …

Oh? Too far off book for your taste, Horry? As you like it; let us turn to my envelope now, while the room still but lightly spins.

I’ll just shove you closer to the candle so you can read along. All right, here we go. Break the wax, remove the paper, unfold, and reveal what lies ….

Ah, right. Six goals. We will take them in reverse order.

Sixth.

Lose twenty pounds.

I think I gained twenty. I’m so fat, Horatio. I hate it. You get to a point where wearing black doesn’t fool anybody and just becomes sad.

Fifth.

Start fencing again.

Well, that would have helped with the waistline, but I never got ‘round to it, either. Though if one’s too fat to fence, no one can prick you with a toison pip—a poison tip, I mean— try saying that five times fast after your seventh goblet. Okay, naught for two.

What next?

Four. Return to Wittenberg, finish degree. Shit.

Well, I mean, what is a degree but a piece of wood pulp?

They’re made of lambskin, you say? Nevertheless, the principle is the same. I do a lot of reading on my own; I don’t need a skin to prove anything.

Pressing on.

Three. Write, produce, and direct new play. And not another didactic little playlet aimed at an audience of one, but the full five acts this time. You know what my “Murder of Gonzago” adaptation lacked? Sympathetic characters ensuring broad appeal. Ah well, but what’s the point? You know what it’s like trying to capture an audience these days, with so many other distractions? Why even try to create? Naught for four. Next?

Two.

Fresh flowers for her grave.

Every day.

Okay, on this, I started well. Never missed a day, for at least the first two months. Things happen; life gets in the way; but I made the effort. Horatio, I tried. I’ll do better this year. I’ll do better. She deserved better from me.

Okay, that’s the list.

What’s that you say? I skipped one? I don’t think so.

Oh. Yeah.

First.

Avenge murder of noble father, parenthesis, kill Claudius, close parenthesis.

Well. What can I say? Work in progress.

Why are you looking at me like that?

You could be more supportive, Horatio. You used to be so good at validation. Would it hurt you to rattle off a bit of verse “we have heard the chimes and midnight, master —”? Nothing like that in the hollow of your cranium?

No, I suppose it isn’t.

We can’t change our natures friend. We can’t.

Full stop.

Tell you what I’m gonna do. Seeing as the bottle’s dry ….

No, not the wine bottle, though it does seem to be so as well; I am referring to the ink bottle. Rather than procure more ink and write out a new list, I am going to carry this list over. It’s a perfectly fine list of goals. I’m going to fold it right back up, and to economize further, stuff it right back in the same envelope. Okay … a little candle wax … and there. Done and done; good as new. If I get through ­­half this by birthday next, that will be a hell of an accomplishment, a hell of job of work.

What do you mean, “Hell is another name for Hades”? I know that.

I have a good feeling Horatio; forty will be my year.

I think I’ll wander over to another part of the castle now; see if there’s any birthday cake left. Mom works hard at throwing me swell parties, and I should at least make an appearance before it gets too late; she and Step-Dad bed early this time of year. It’s been fun catching up. We should do this more often.

No, I am not just saying that.

We should make the time.

However, if I’m to be honest, chum of my youth … well, you know what they say: tempus fugit.

Time flees, Horatio. Isn’t it a tragedy?

* * * * *

Copyright © 2011 Michael Canfield

Published by Vauk House Press, July 2011

 Illustration by Joerg Beyer

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Red Jacket: A Novel with a Superhero

Red Jacket: A Novel with a Superhero by Michael Canfield bookcover

One day you discover your gift, find yourself better than the common strain of humanity—not in some moral way, not in some fair way, or just way, and not because you earned it. Simply better equipped in one, maybe two, measurable ways. You’re smarter. You’re stronger. Or more impervious to injury. Or you can leap, or fly, or talk to birds, or breathe underwater, or run faster than sound. You wonder, you marvel, you exalt. Then, in time, you learn it doesn’t mean much. It doesn’t mean what you thought it meant, anyway. You never asked for it, it came despite your own little desires for life, your small ambitions. Those things belong to yesterday, when you thought you knew yourself. When you thought of yourself as one thing and the ability as something separate.

That stage can go on for years. Some never get passed it, but most do. You are the ability and the ability is you. You have to stop hiding then, stop seeking a cure, because to cure yourself of your power means curing yourself of yourself. You did not ask for the power, but you did not ask to be you either. No one does. The powerless don’t ask for powerlessness, nor do they deserve it—any more than we powered deserve our powers.

So you start to help. Sometimes you mess it up; some superheroes spend their whole careers, long or short, as screw-ups. Those who aren’t that bad, the marginally helpful, the tolerably heroic like me, stick around awhile.
You don’t walk away from what you can do, not in this world. Everyone has a part to play and that’s the story.

New York in the early 80’s. Tough place for a struggling young African-American
superhero like RJ (kinda strong, sorta hard to kill) to fight crime, make the
rent, and hold on to his love life. Tough enough, that is, even before the
city’s mightiest champions enter a trans-dimensional rift, answering a
call-to-arms against alien invaders. Now it’s up to Red Jacket and a handful of
other “rear guardians” to hold the world’s greatest metropolis together.

Or die trying.

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419 Memoirs & Other Strange Stories.

419regsizecover.jpg

My first full length ebook story collection is now available:

An outcast child and a mountain shaman hold the keys to humanity’s survival. A gunfighter steps out of myth and into the twisted realities of the modern personal development movement. One weary universe collapses-and a new one rises. Voices from an all-too real future reach out to one another, desperate to connect. Hamlet celebrates his 40th birthday with an old friend and a to-do list. A television producer descends into madness. The god of sound taunts the god of sight.

Set in impossible pasts, bizarre futures, and skewed-but-recognizable versions of the present, these sixteen stories, and more, from the inimitable Michael Canfield will take you on iconoclastic voyages of the imagination you won’t soon forget.

Includes The Food Processor, Library Rules, They Get Away from You, Once Upon a Time … At the Learning Annex, A Flavor of Quark, The Last Confessions of NinjaBaby, The Whited Child, A Flavor of Quark and nine others. Plus a complete short novel: The Plastic Fruit Museum, excerpts from two forthcoming novels: Red Jacket, and Growing Up Zombie, and many other extras. Continue reading

How To Create a Quick Ebook Cover Using Pages (mac)

Many dedicated graphics programs exist, but writers without a design background find the learning curve steep. Mac users who own the word-processing program Pages already have an easy tool to make an ebook cover themselves.

First, have your art ready. Free and low cost art is available from many stock art sights. Try googling “stock photos”, “royalty free art” etc. Keep in mind that simple artwork without multiple complex elements work best for covers. Much of the art you will choose gets covered by text. Think background image.

In Pages open a document. Choose the “blank” template.

Under the File menu go to Page Setup … > Paper Size.

Timefliescover

From the dropdown menu choose “Manage Custom Sizes.” Create a new custom size. Call it “Book Cover Ratio, set the width to 6 inches and the height to 9 inches. Leave the other fields alone and hit “Okay.” This will give you a page size the correct portions of a standard book, which will look professional when displayed on Amazon or other sites.

Drag your art or photograph onto your open document. Resize the art on the page by clicking and dragging any of the photo’s corners or edges. Use the “Lock” icon on the tool bar (or under the “Arrange” menu) to lock your art down and keep it from moving.

scaffoldscover

Under the “Insert” dropdown menu choose “Text”. This creates a box to type into. Create three text boxes: one for your title, one for your byline, and one for your cover blurb if you want one. (A cover blurb can be anything from a subtitle for the book, a teaser about the contents, or a one-phrase background on the author.) Separate boxes work best, so that you size your various text elements differently. Place the title text box near the top of your cover, and the byline text box near the bottom. Keep the blurb near your title, as seen on most professionally produced book covers. Continue reading