What’s the meaning of the song “They Dance Alone” by Sting?

The heartbreaking history behind Sting’s “They Dance Alone”

Many artists, actors, and musicians use their talents to give voice to their personal views on world event and to provide a voice for those who can’t speak for themselves.  Sting has done this with several of his songs. One of Sting’s most famous songs called “Russians” was famously about the Cold War. He expressed his feelings that the things that divided us weren’t as important as what made us alike.

Few know that he started his career as an English school teacher.  It comes as no surprise when you listen to the poetry and literary references in his lyrics. He sings and writes about highly intellectual concepts and uses words that evoke thoughts of beauty and pain.

Sting released “They Dance Alone” on his 1987 album entitled Nothing Like the Sun.

Both the video and the song lyrics are linked to significant historical and cultural events in Chile between the 1970s and 1990s.

Sting wrote this song in protest to the actions of the Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet. During Pinochet’s dictatorship, thousands were killed between 1973 and 1990.  The song is about the mourning women of Chili who lost husbands, fathers, and sons to Pinochet’s regime.  They would dance to Chili’s National Anthem, the Cueca, with pictures of their lost loved ones pinned to their clothes.

Many other singers did different versions of the song with Sting. The version above features Ruben Blades,  who added additional Spanish vocals.

Music has the ability to provide us with a wealth of emotions and meaning. It can give us peace when we listen to it to relax us. It can get us dancing and inspire us to have a good time. And on rare occasions, it can inspire and educate us on history and cultural events that we otherwise would never have known about.

A Rare Video of Helen Keller with Anne Sullivan

This is a truly fascinating video. It makes you think about the things we take for granted. I remember reading about Keller when I was a child. One story always stuck with me. Anne Sullivan struggled to teach Helen the word “water.” Anne put water in a cup and had Helen dip her hand in the cup. But Helen kept signing “cup”, not “water.” Finally, Anne ran Helen’s hand under running water. It clicked for Helen that Anne was trying to teach her the word “water.” Helen Keller wrote many books in her lifetime. Here was a woman who was blind and deaf and started out unable to speak. She became a well-respected author and one of the first advocates (perhaps unintentionally) for disabled persons. She remains an inspiration today and proved that even a disability can’t hold a writer down.

A little about Best Selling Author Nicholas Sansbury Smith

 

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Photo and copyright by nicholassansburysmith.com

 

Nicholas Sansbury Smith has got to be the busiest author I’m aware of at the moment. He is a USA Today bestselling author and has several popular book series under his belt. He wrote a six-book apocalyptic series called “Extinction” in less than 4 years.  The premise of the series was that mankind tried to protect itself but ended up destroying itself. Literally. Most of the humans on Earth died from a virus made by the U.S. government. It was two viruses that were blended into one. The results were horrific. If it didn’t kill you, it would change your DNA into something completely inhuman. Only a small percent of humans remained unaffected by the virus itself. The mutated humans used the remaining humans for food.

The first book of the series, “Extinction: Horizon” was released in December 2014. The last book, “Extinction: Aftermath,” was just released this year.

Each book in the Extinction series is rich with well-developed and likable characters that you find yourself rooting for throughout every book. It’s the main reason it was such a success. Smith knows that without well-developed characters, you can’t write a good story.

It was such a beloved series that now the Kindle World program and Smith have teamed up with other writers to continue the series. These new and talented writers fill in back stories for characters that we haven’t learned a lot about or create new ones who live in the same universe.

“Hell Divers,” another sci-fi post-apocalyptic novel, was released in March 2015. It is expected to be a trilogy.  This one takes place two centuries after World War 3 had destroyed planet Earth. The only survivors are on airships that are breaking down.  The only thing keeping them afloat are the team of Hell Divers who plummet to the planet and search for ship parts. They also hope to find an inhabitable environment.

His latest work titled “Trackers” will be released shortly. I’m personally very excited about this series because it involves an attack with the use of an EMP. An EMP is an electromagnetic pulse that can fry anything electronic. No cell phones, cars, electricity, and anything else that relies on electronics is destroyed. Thus, our country’s entire infrastructure is destroyed.

I first read about  EMPs in the book “One Second After.” It was written by William R. Forstchen and the forward was written by Newt Gingrich. I believe this book kickstarted the public’s fascination with EMPs. I highly recommend this one because it scared me in ways that I couldn’t even imagine were possible. It takes place in a midsized town in a southern state. In one moment of time, everything stops. Cars, phones, lights and all electronics are rendered useless. We read as this town tries to keep order, avoid disease, and keep outsiders from invading to take what they have created.

So why am I telling you all about Nicholas Sansbury Smith’s books in the first place? They are well written, character driven, frightening, page turning and cover my favorite genre – apocalyptic fiction. I read a lot of books in this genre and his are some of the best that I’ve read. And I also highly recommend “One Second After” if you are interested in EMP storylines.

Click Nicholas Sansbury Smith to reach his page.

Also, click Once Second After for more on this book.

 

“Welcome to Wiloughby” – A Twilight Zone Episode that is Still Relevant and Why I Hate Cell Phones

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I never really appreciated this episode of the original Twilight Zone. It’s about a man who is tired by the pace of modern life (in the late 1950s). His boss is a jerk, he’s overworked and his wife is a rather cold, uncaring wife who cares more about money than her husband. He repeatedly dreams of a town called Willoughby, where he learns that you can move at a “peaceful, restful pace, where a man can slow down to a walk and live a life full measure.”

After a breakdown at work and when his wife leaves him, he finds himself on a train and eventually arrives at a town named Wiloughby, which is exactly like the one he dreamed about. It’s a 19th-century town where time was slower, people were nicer, women wore corsets (not feeling that part) and he feels at peace here. SPOILER: It turns out he died in his sleep and Willoughby is the name of his funeral home.

I have friends who outright refuse to talk on the phone. Only through text or facebook. A family member (gen x) doesn’t call me. He only emails or uses facebook. I have to be set on fire for another family member (gen x) to call and one of my friends returns most voice messages with a text.

Why won’t anyone talk to me? I know it’s not me. I’m super fun to talk to. It’s this new technology that has people completely disconnected. I’m writing right now to people I’ll never meet in real life. Why does the price of technology that saves lives and creates jobs come at the cost of social isolation, emojis and social media interaction only? No wonder we are depressed, socially stunted and lonely.

I almost ran over a man last week because he was looking at his phone and not at oncoming cars. I’m disgusted by all of it.

I’m also reminded of a quote by Philo T. Farnsworth, the inventor of television, who said that he thought his invention would “wipe out misunderstanding.”

I wouldn’t mind living in a place like Willoughby sans the corsets and the dying part. Where cell phones didn’t exist. Where I can sit at a restaurant and look at someone and have a conversation without them checking their phones every 25 seconds.

I’m not an old lady saying this. I’m 33, a millennial, and even my mother, a babyboomer, is addicted to her phone. She’s so addicted that you have to yell at her to get her attention off of it. And no, it’s not a hearing problem.

Am I the only one seeing this? Am I the only millennial who literally hates the cell phone?

Grammarly, your personal proofreading app

 

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Photo by PDPics on Pixabay.com

 

I kept seeing ads for Grammarly but put off using it because I figured I didn’t need it.

Then I remembered a proofreading test on a content site that I write for that I’ve tried to pass three times. I failed miserably 3 times. To pass the test, you need to get 9 out of 10 short proofreading assignments right. I kept getting only 2 or 3 right.  This frustrated and astounded me at the same time. It also illustrated that not all writers can be proofreaders.

But I got curious. I downloaded the free version of Grammarly and ran the proofreading test through the program. Grammarly got 7 out of 10 right.  I would bet money that the upgraded version would have passed the test.

I decided to keep using Grammarly for all of my writing. I use it for emails, Facebook posts, blog posts, and cover letters.  The software catches errors that my naked eye likely would have missed.  It checks grammar, spelling, sentence structure, comma usage and more. You can download the app to function in your browser and in Microsoft Word. The upgrade has plagiarism software and catches more advanced linguistic errors.

When you hover over an error, which is underlined in red, you can correct that one error or enter the Grammarly workspace.  This workspace shows all of your errors and offers corrections.

Grammarly also sends you a weekly progress report and shows you how you compare statistically to other Grammarly users. My report is below.

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My report stated that I wrote more words than 98% of Grammarly users. I also had a 98% larger vocabulary and 27% better accuracy.

But the progress report isn’t only to pat you on the back.

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The report also tells me where I can improve and provides links to finding more information about my weaknesses.  My areas in need of improvement include missing commas in compound sentences, using squinting modifiers, and unnecessary ellipsis.

What began as an experiment turned out to be a discovery of a new tool in my writer’s toolkit to catch errors and improve on my weaknesses. In the near future, as I get closer to taking on larger writing projects, I will invest in the upgrade. I believe it’s $19.99 per month but don’t quote me on that. Check it out for yourself. Give the free version a try and see if it can help you be a better writer and act as your proofreading helper.

George Orwell & Empathy

A timely post by wordandsilence.com.

 

I’m familiar with George Orwell, specifically “Animal Farm,” but his 1937 book “The Road to Wigan Pier” is one that I never read. Orwell’s timing is remarkable. He writes “if war breaks out it (coal) is needed all the more. In time of revolution, the miner must go on working or the revolution must stop, for revolution as much as reaction needs coal.”

 

A year and a half after this book was published, WW2 began, despite some conflicts on smaller scales prior to 1939. I can only imagine from a miner’s perspective, suspecting that war was on the horizon across Europe.

 
Even at my strongest, when I played tennis for 5 hours a day every day in school, I know I still couldn’t be a coal miner, let alone a pregnant one. I don’t think I ever had that kind of stamina to work in a dark, dank environment, as my lungs slowly died each day.

 

Also a very timely post by wordandsilence.com given the controversial commentary of Mrs. Clinton on dismantling the coal industry.

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As usual, George Orwell says it better than anybody. Here he is in his 1937 book The Road to Wigan Pier, asking his readers not to give up using coal, but just to recognize whose labor is providing them with coal. Nowadays I would only add to the coal miner all the people behind all of our conveniences; because if we aren’t willing to give some or all of the dependence and enjoyment derived from technology, infrastructure, culture, fast food, sports, and so much else, the least we can do is empathize with those behind the process who (like us) would rather spend our days doing something else.

The entire text of the book can be found here; the following comes from chapter two. And if his faith in Socialism in the second half of the book seems unfortunate nowadays, his description of coal miners and the unemployed…

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A Lesson on Writing from “Supernatural”

 

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Photo by Ramdlon on Pixabay.com

 

If you are a writer AND you are a fan of the show “Supernatural”, you may get a lot out of this post.

If you are a writer and have no idea what “Supernatural” is, you’ll STILL get a lot out of it.

I’ll do my best to avoid spoilers and will edit dialogue when necessary to avoid them.

I love this show, have since day one. And I was just re watching the episode titled “Don’t Call Me Shurley” from Season 11.  It’s actually a great depiction of the struggle that some authors and editors can have with each other.  I also realized that Metatron, the editor, gives some great advice to Chuck, the writer, that all of us writers should actually consider.

Quotes and explanations to follow:

Chuck: There are chapters, it’s a loose structure, but something’s missing. I’m stuck.

This is Chuck, the author, referring to his autobiography. He wants Metatron to edit it.

Chuck: Every writer needs a good editor.

This is very true. So few of us have the skills to be both.

Metatron: Details are what make a story great.  This is lacking in some details. Like all of them.

Even the simplest of writing styles need details.  And show, don’t tell. There’s a big difference between “the homeless man cried” and “He cried, wiping his tears on his torn and dirty coat that he found just yesterday in a dumpster.”

Later on after finishing reading the memoir:

Metatron: I tell ya there’s some great bones in there. I’m thinking what may be missing is less about detail and more about balance. You’re giving the wrong stuff too much real estate.

Metatron advises Chuck to consider editing out unnecessary parts of his life and adding more about things readers would really care to read.  A power struggle ensues. Sound familiar to anyone who’s worked with an editor or client?

Metatron: Every great hero is defined by his or her villain.

There needs to be a villain in every story. I remember first learning about writing and was told of three hero and villain archetypes: Man vs Man, Man vs God or nature, and Man vs Self.  These still hold true in every fictional story I have written.

Metatron: There are two types of memoir. One is honest, the other not so much. Truth and fairy tale. Now do you want to write “Life” by Keith Richards? Or do you want to write “Wouldn’t It Be Nice” by Brian Wilson?

Remember this quote if you want to write a memoir.  It can be true to the core or truth mixed with fiction. Your call.

I think this next quote is perhaps the best advice to any writer.

Metatron: Hold up a mirror. Show us who you really are. Warts and all. Write for an audience of one – you.

Sometimes we writers worry so much about how our writing will be received. Will anyone like it? Will anyone read it? Write for one. Write for yourself. Let the pieces fall where they may. Besides, there’s always an editor close by to kick your ass in the right direction like Metatron.

I included a link to the performance by Rob Benedict, who plays Chuck, in this episode. I include it not for writing reasons.  But it’s such a great performance that I think it deserved some real estate in this post.

 

 

 

 

 

And you thought universities cost too much

 

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Photo by Robtowne0 on Pixabay.com

 

The funniest not-really-funny part of my day:

Got an email about Grace Hopper Academy, that markets itself to women of ALL economic levels who want to become web developers.

Tuition you ask? That’s the best part: Zero… they say

But there’s a 3k deposit required after acceptance and you pay tuition after your get hired as a developer – 22% of your first year’s salary paid over 9 months. Or you could pay 16k up front.

Beginning developers make between 35-45k. If your salary is 40k, you pay them $8,800. Or pay 16k up front. Either way you fork out a refundable deposit of 3k. For ONLINE EDUCATION with no teacher in front of you to ask a damned thing.

“Inclusivity and diversity matter. We want this experience to be open to women of all economic backgrounds. High upfront costs can prevent talented students from attending — it’s our hope that this payment model eliminates those financial barriers and makes this opportunity available regardless of your financial situation.” – directly from their website.

Or you could do the smart thing. Go to community college and get a certificate or associates for a third of the cost. Or use Codecademy with 2 options – free or $20/month depending on what access you want.

Most of the integrity and usefulness of sites like Grace Hopper Academy and the myriad other places that promise you a fantastic web developer education are under scrutiny, as they should be.

 

I can vouch personally for Codecademy. I’ve been through 2 classes with them and get exceptional help from their chat teacher when I’m stuck. It’s an easy to use platform and worth the $20/m. But I would never pay 16k for it. And neither should anyone else for unaccredited learning from fly-by-night sites.

Do your homework on any site offering web design and development education. Check reviews. High price tags are a RED FLAG and you should keep moving.

 

Red Legs of the Bulge

 

 

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Photo of C.J.Kelly’s book cover published with author’s permission

 

What started out as being an artillery soldier, viewed as the cushiest job a man could have in the war, became one with a high casualty level.

“Red Legs of the Bulge” is a fantastic book by C.J. Kelly about the complicated jobs of the artillery men in the war. They were at the front line of the Battle of the Bulge.

When the Air Force couldn’t take Northern Europe, it was the brave men of the artillery that stepped up. This book also tells the story behind the rapid advances in science that equipped soldiers with weapons like never before. Check it out and pick it up on Amazon!

In order to write, you must read.

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Photo by Unsplash on Pixabay.com

I get my best ideas just before bed as I’m getting ready to sleep. It’s great to get a superb idea but inconvenient when you’re really tired.

I keep a notebook by my nightstand to write down the idea or I quickly open a Word document and write a sentence or two so I can come back to it later.

I’ve been a fiction writer my whole life. Short stories and poetry mostly. Anything I write that’s nonfiction is in an article or a blog.

This recent idea was for a nonfiction book with a different angle on the popular debate. I have ideas about this area that I haven’t seen anyone else come up with.

But how do I write a nonfiction book? Where do I start?

I started by typing my ideas out as fast as I could. But I knew I would need references from the news, journals and experts in the field. Maybe even do a few interviews.

Luckily I have the best resource a first time nonfiction writer can have: an uncle who writes nonfiction.

Use every resource at your disposal, but above all please remember:

In order to write, you must read.

It doesn’t matter what type of book you want to write. You have to read  books by other authors in your genre of choice and preferably about the same topic. As unique as I think my idea is, I still need to find books with similar ideas on the same topic. I also need to find books by authors who disagree with me. You need to acknowledge other perspectives when writing a work of nonfiction because your audience may have similar ideas or concerns about the topic.  Here are a few other things that you or I can do to write any work of nonfiction:

  • Talk to other writers about their processes and how they organize their ideas
  • Read what the experts in the field say
  • Read what those you disagree with say
  • Read respected newspapers like the Wall Street Journal and try to use unbiased sources
  • Find blogs on your topic, especially if it’s a topic that’s relevant now.
  • Learn how to cite your sources using APA or Chicago style books
  • If you can, reach out to an old professor who teaches on the subject and ask for their honest opinion

As you can see,  most of my bullet points involve reading  similar works. It is by far the best thing you can do to prepare to write anything worth reading. With any luck, you’ll see my name on a book on Amazon one day in the near future.

Do me a favor and read it. Comment that it’s awesome (even if you think it isn’t).