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A COUPLE OF DAYS BREAK – Marilyn Armstrong

Owen will be here with the dogs while the beasties will be doing their usual fine job of protecting the place from any dogs who might show up.

We’ll be down at the Curley’s place for a few days and back home Friday. I worked very hard to schedule posts for the next few days and I will answer comments when I can, but I need a break. When I get back, I’m going to see what I can do to deal with the email deluge on my computer.

I didn’t read almost anyone’s stuff today. I was working so hard at trying to create three days of posts, I’ve had little time for anything else. But, as I keep saying, I really need a break and it has to start sometime. This seems a good time.

I’ll pop in from time to time when I can, but meanwhile, I’ll just bet the world will continue to have one catastrophe after another, even if I’m not online.

WHAT MAKES A GOOD POST? HOW ABOUT A HAPPY POSTER? – Marilyn Armstrong

I break my own rules all the time. So the most important rule — the ring to rule them all, so to speak — is to do your own “thing,” whatever it may be.

I have to put this note in here. Not everyone who likes writing is a good writer. Sad, but true. If you have a gift, you will get better. The more you write, the better you will get — IF you are tough enough as an editor to recognize when your writing isn’t up to par and willing to rewrite what needs rewriting.

I’ve become a much better writer — at least for the purposes of blogging — than I was at the beginning. My writing is more crisp, sharper, leaner. The good news is the better you get, the less editing you need. But if you aren’t talented, you may not be able to get the response you hope for.

Some people are totally into pictures and writing is mainly captioning — a different story. But at some point, if writing is what you want to do, you need to assess if you have “it” or not. Reality counts, your personal wishes notwithstanding.

Our polling area

That caveat dealt with, as far as I can tell, there are a few things that work for me and pretty much always work.  I suspect they will work for most people.

These aren’t rules, merely tips. You are more than welcome to ignore me. I often ignore myself. For me, the point of blogging is getting to do what I enjoy and “views” be damned.

– Keep posts short

–  Make it funny when you can

–  If we can’t make them laugh, make them cry

–  Good (or interesting) pictures get more hits than mediocre writing

–   Post often

 –  If someone else has written it better than you can, reblog and ALWAYS give credit to the original source and writer. Never ever take credit for someone else’s writing.

One crumpled maple leaf

It’s often said that “Less is more.” In a post, fewer words are good — or more to the point, keep the writing lean — but not fewer ideas. And sometimes, the subject requires you have to write longer. If you need the words, use them.

A pretty picture is always worth a few looks.

Fewer posts are not so good. If you give people more to look at and read, they’ll visit more often. On the other hand, beware of posting so much you become a spammer. I have a “number of fingers on one hand” for the maximum number of posts I’ll put up in a day (sometimes something comes up I didn’t expect, but I don’t want to fill up everyone’s inbox).

There are a couple of other things worth mentioning. Please don’t put a lot of white text on a black background. White on dark is hard to read for everyone but particularly difficult older people.

Dark backgrounds are beautiful for photography, but not for text. Depending on whether you will be mostly photographs or primarily textural, you are better off going with white or nearly white.

Please, nothing vivid. No hot pink or lime green. No orange, turquoise, or royal blue. It’s blinding. People will avoid your blog just because it exceeds their “ugliness” quotient for that day — no matter how well you write. Not to mention how non-neutral color will clash with photographs.

Template Issues

If you are posting mostly photographs, you need a format wide enough to see the pictures. If you need a magnifying glass, rethink your layout. A good photograph needs room to breathe. Moreover, your lovely work won’t look lovely if you cramp in into a tiny space.

Early autumn at Manchaug

Also, know that all WordPress templates will fit in any format: phone, tablet, laptop, or desktop.

Font size is an issue. If it’s smaller than 10 points, I can’t read it. If it’s smaller than 8 points no one can read it. Generally, sans-serif typefaces (like Arial or Helvetica) appear bigger than serif types (Times Roman et al). If you don’t know the difference between typefaces, use Google and look them up. This really is important to readers.

Don’t overload your page with gimmicks and gadgets and badges. Two columns are plenty. Three is merely distracting. If it gets busy enough, your traffic will diminish and I will be one of those who will vanish.

White space is very important online. You need spaces between paragraphs, indents on either side. Do not clump everything together. It’s unattractive and sometimes, dizzying. When you are into page design, less IS more. Your page should be no more than 60% text and graphics and the rest should be white space. Again, less is more, so if you don’t understand formatting issues, do some reading.

Presentation matters even more online than in a book.

Do the best you can, but don’t kill yourself. If it’s not fun, it’s not worth the effort. We aren’t making a pile of money doing this, so if you aren’t enjoying the process, figure out a way to make it more fun … or consider other options.

Use photographs. Write stuff to which people can relate. If people identify with you, they become friends and supporters. Be entertaining, even when your material is serious.

You can make a difference sometimes. When it happens, it is deeply satisfying. It helps to have a bit of luck!


NOTE: The pictures are there because they are pretty and they have nothing to do with the post. Just keeps your eyes from getting bored.

WHICH WAY – SO MANY ROADS, SO LITTLE TIME – Marilyn Armstrong

Which Way Challenge: November 8, 2018


A day in the yellow woods in Mendon. A place I always want to get pictures, but rarely find a place to safely put the car. The road is so twisty, and there is swamp on both sides of the road … and it is hard to see where the swamp begins and the earth ends.

But this time, we got lucky.

And got some pictures. Mostly mine because Garry kept not bringing a camera. I have since given him a pocket camera which hopefully will convince him to take some. He winds up borrowing mine, but two people on one camera don’t work well.

Photo: Garry Armstrong
The Providence-Worcester line through Mendon
The leafy driveway
Railroad crossing, Chestnut Street

ROSES AND OAK LEAVES – Marilyn Armstrong

Roses & Oak Leaves 


A few days ago, our entire property was completely covered by a full carpet of oak leaves. You couldn’t see anything but leaves and broken branches from the trees. The rain and wind have never quit for more than a day or two at a time.

The leaf vacuum crew came and cleaned us up yesterday and while we aren’t completely free of leaves … there are always more up there in the trees … we can see the deck and the driveway … and even the front lawn.

Late roses and oak leaves
Oak leaves in the ground cover

Of course, the rain and the wind are coming back. It’s going to be a bad week. Regardless, we’re going to be away in Connecticut for a few days, so the dogs and the weather are going to have to try and get along without us for a few days.

Leaves and the dog’s rope toy still wet from rain

The weather has gotten pretty weird. It’s hard to explain, but it doesn’t “feel” normal. The weather has always followed a pattern. Not the exact same pattern every year, but typically in late August, you’d see the first yellow leaves. Night time temperatures would begin to drop which triggered the leaf change.

Oak leaves

By mid-September, nights were chilly, even though the days were usually quite warm. By the end of September, at least half the trees had changed color and two or three weeks later, by mid-October, Autumn peaked. When we got lucky, it would linger a couple of extra weeks. If the winds didn’t rise and we didn’t get a lot of rain, you might still see quite a lot of fall right through November.

The last of the woods. Bare now

This year, spring never came. Summer started more than a month late and the flowers that bloom in May didn’t bloom until July. Some never bloomed at all. The dry days of summer never happened and the wind and the rain have continued undaunted and as far as I can tell, are not going to stop. Eventually, it will be cold enough that the wind and rain will become snow and rain.

We didn’t really have Autumn or spring. We’ve had a few days here and there, but mostly, it’s not the seasons. It’s just weather.

PARODY TRA LA, DUM DE DUM DE DUM DUM … – Marilyn Armstrong

FOWC with Fandango — Parody


What is nearly tragic is even though these were written more than 50 years ago, they are maybe even more relevant now. We don’t learn easily, do we?

And who better than Tom Lehrer?

And finally, there’s Monty Python: “”What have you got to lose, y’know? You come from nothing, you go back to nothing. What’ve you lost? Nothing!”

 

 

ROAD TRIP! – BY ELLIN CURLEY

Tom and I are members of an audio theater company, VoiceScapes Audio Theater. We write most of the scripts for our live and recorded performances. We usually do our live performances in our area – within an hour or so from New York City, where most of the group members live (Tom and I live in CT).

Voicescapes performing live

But this weekend we did something different and special. A road trip! Or more accurately, an air trip. Youngstown State University in Youngstown, Ohio, invited us to perform a ninety-minute show for them in a beautiful theater that they rented for us.

They would pay all the travel expenses for all eight members of our group. On top of that, they would pay us a fee that was more than we’d ever been paid before. So accepting this gig was a no-brainer!

Members of the group at the airport

The planning of the trip turned out to be mind-boggling. Sande, our President, took care of the logistics. She said that it took 62 emails back and forth between our members, the university and the theater, just to come up with a date for the show! Kudos to Sande for her perseverance and stamina!

We’ve all been very excited about this trip. A week before we left, we had a rehearsal at our home studio of the pieces we would be performing. We felt good about our show. Now we just had to get to Ohio.

Hanging out at the airport

We met at our gate at La Guardia airport for our 5:15 flight on Friday, November 2, 2018. There was lots of schmoozing and chatting before we boarded the plane. The flight itself was quite choppy but otherwise uneventful.

Sunset from the plane

We landed, rented our two vehicles, piled in and headed to the hotel. By the time we met for dinner, it was late. But we were stoked that we had started our thespian adventure. So dinner at the hotel restaurant was loud and lots of fun. And also quite good. I had beef bone stock Vietnamese Pho soup for the first time and loved it. We shared a Banana Custard Pie with a pistachio nut crust for dessert and it was truly delicious. It was close to midnight when we got back to our rooms.

Tom and me (on the right) with others at dinner

We were supposed to get into the theater at 9:00 AM on Saturday so we would have all day to set up and rehearse. At the last minute, there was a scheduling problem and we couldn’t get into the theater until noon.

After that, it took three hours for the technical set-up. That’s because our show involves lots of microphones, wires, sound mixers, computers as well as live and recorded sound effects.

We usually have to do this set-up ourselves, meaning Tom has to do most of it on his own. But in Youngstown, Tom had a union crew of three professionals to help him. Tom was in pig heaven! The guys were nice, accommodating — extremely competent and knowledgeable.

Empty Stage
Tom with part of his crew

I particularly enjoyed watching the sound effects guy, Tony (a friend who drove six hours from Indiana to perform with us) set up his live sound effects table. He is awesome! One of our scripts calls for a gun to cock. So Tony brought several guns to choose from because they all make different sounds.

Tony doing live gun sound effects

We didn’t start to rehearse till 3:30 and kept going until 7:30. We still had time to repeat pieces or parts of pieces that required extra work or choreography.

The choreography comes in when actors have to switch mikes, handoff telephones, or cross behind another actor. We also realized that we had never rehearsed taking bows – which requires coordination and timing.

rehearsal

Dinner Saturday night was at a recommended Barbecue place that looked like a real dive. The front room had two pool tables and old arcade video games.

The back room had a tacky bar, wood tables, and generic chairs. But the barbecue pit master is an award-winner from Austin, Texas. The food, which you bought by the pound, was terrific. So was the beer. I usually don’t like beer, but I ordered my own beer and drank most of it!

Saturday Barbeque dinner

Sunday, the day of the show, we met for breakfast at the hotel and headed over to the theater at noon, the earliest we were allowed in. The performance was at 2:00 so we didn’t have much time. All we could do was a quick run through of the beginnings and ends of the pieces and the transitions to the next piece.

Sunday run through

We had to put carpets down on the stage to minimize feedback. One of the stagehands got out a vacuum cleaner and actually vacuumed the oriental carpet for us. Now that’s service!

Stagehand vacuuming our carpets!

The cast went back to the Green Room (the waiting area for actors backstage) to wait for their cue to go on stage.

We got a wonderful introduction from the Dean of the College of Creative Arts and Communications. And it was SHOWTIME!

We sailed through the show with our usual enthusiasm, skill, and professionalism. The audience laughed at all the right places and seemed to love us. The applause was prolonged and gratifying.

After the show, we had time for a quick toast before we had to head to the airport for our flight home.

Toasting ourselves after the show

Overall, it was a smooth and successful weekend. It was good to spread our wings professionally. We traveled together to a gig for the first time and we performed a ninety minute show for the first time in a while (our shows have generally been one hour). It was also a unique opportunity to hang out and socialize as a group over a two day period. And everyone had lots of fun.

So, here’s to the next Voicescapes road trip!

Nothing Has Changed Since Winston Churchill Said It – REBLOG – The Shinbone Star

That is what I have been saying. I know it isn’t a total victory, but we didn’t get to this place in a single election either. There’s a lot of work remaining to be done, but this time, at least, American came out of their holes and VOTED. That’s the beginning of the next chapter. Voting always is!


 

THE SHINBONE STAR

The Midterm Election’s warm glow of victory and its cold agony of defeat last Tuesday night lasted until Wednesday morning. That’s when formerly besieged, belittled and begrudged Democrats, who took back the House of Representatives from the raging Red Staters, swore to move the country forward despite Trumpian politics.

Incensed Trumpleforeskin threatened to retaliate against the Dems if they dared investigate him. For emphasis Trump fired Attorney General Jeff Sessions and temporarily replaced him with Matthew Whitaker, the former legal counsel of a shutdown company the Justice Department said swindled ordinary people out of almost $26 million.

The Reds think he is a fine addition to the Trumpian swamp lizards’ inner circle. How the swindler’s mouthpiece managed to obtain work in the upper echelons of the Justice Department desperately needs to be plumbed. How he got to be the Acting Attorney General of the United States can only be the…

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