Little Help From Friends

This post is a response to the Daily Post prompt below:

When you do something scary or stressful — bungee jumping, public speaking, etc. — do you prefer to be surrounded by friends or by strangers? Why?

Source: Witness Protection | The Daily Post

When doing something risky or dangerous, I’ve found the nurturing encouragement of friends can help. In this photo I am jumping off a ladder into my friend’s pool. We’ve also swung from a rope on his tree into the pool. I recall just after graduation repelling down a rock with the support of a hiking team. It was awesome getting their words of encouragement. Strangers can be so impersonal.

By the Dots

As a writer who started serious endeavors back in college earning his BA and MA in English, I’ve had a lot of experience with the elements of style. There are so many things I’ve picked up along the way but one thing stands out as personally significant.

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “By the Dots.” We all have strange relationships with punctuation — do you overuse exclamation marks? Do you avoid semicolons like the plague? What type of punctuation could you never live without? Tell us all about your punctuation quirks!

I had grown to overuse parentheses to signify asides in my writing. I noticed it not after writing but years later going through looking for good stuff and finding out I was doing this in an exorbitant fashion. Here’s an example:

I had lunch (my favorite meal of course) with my brother (I have one and two sisters).

I see this over usage with many bloggers. I think it’s tempting to do it because in blogging you are simply relaying a diary to your readers. There aren’t the usual trappings of MLA or APA and certainly no one giving you a grade per se.

I think about the silent readers, the ones who never comment. The best way to consider them is to read my work before and after it’s published making changes if needed. I decided to self-impose a ban on parentheses for a while. That was almost 3 years ago. I guess I realized they were almost never necessary. For asides, appositives, and extra notes I want put in a sentence I no longer use parentheses. Now I just use the comma appositive sort of format. I feel this has made me a better writer and hopefully a more palatable one for my reader.

Netflix Search – a Game of Groans

maxresdefaultToday’s blog prompt was: “Think about an object, an activity, or a cultural phenomenon you really don’t like. Now write a post (tongue in cheek or not — your call!) about why it’s the best thing ever.”

Samsung’s Smart TV Netflix app is awesome! I love it. All you need to have is the exact title for a movie and it will search for it. Why didn’t IMDB think of this ingenious system? On there you can limit searches by genre, year, release date, and any number of popular tags. That’s all so unnecessary. With Netflix, it’s actually not even possible to search for anything other than a movie’s name. And then there’s the browse function. The best part of this is they pre-plan how the browsing will go.

They place the lowest ranking movies in the browse so you are sure to get some “diamond in the rough” films like “Mimic 3.” and B movie relics from the 60’s. These are great when you run across them simply searching for one movie you want. You usually get worn out looking and settle on a one star for the evening. I’ve heard the iPhone app is needlessly “helpful” in that it lists movie by genre as the PC app does. Going sheerly by the tv app, you are assured to not find what your looking for unless you are prepared with a title, which for true Netflix experts, is never a problem.

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Game of Groans.”

Those are “the Snarkies Nominees” and the Winner is …

I have no hope for modern music, I have hope for modern music.

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Snark Bombs, Away!.” Try your hand at parody or satire — take an article, film, blog post, or song you find misguided, and use humor to show us how.

“Stitches” by Shawn Mendes. Holy smokes in my life I’e never heard such atrocious and shallow lyrics. It’s as if his teacher assiged him the job of writing what it’s like to fall and slice yourself up in front of a car. I suppose I am getting older now at 46 and I should give some grace to the acts out there making tunes these days. I get it that love can mess you up. I also get it that it can be painful. How old is our Shawn though? I’d gamble 15 or less. Can he know the good parts of suffering and learning through love at his age? I know I didn’t at that point.

There are many more examples of stupid lyrics out there. For the record, I love the melody to “Stitches.” It’s just the lyrics that have me pressing “FWD” on Spotify. Meagan Trainor is another gross offender with lines like “Momma told me men want a big booty to hold at night.” I won’t disagree but dear me, such a crass approach to songwriting. The other day I heard children singing, “Sex you like Marvin Gaye.” Oh my goodness, I’m about ready to punch my ticket when I hear spoiled brats getting paid to put this stuff out. I keep hope open for new stuff. One band that I actually really like is “Lonely the Brave” from Scotland. Check this guitar and vocal driven song out.

Scares Outside Your Front Door

I’m easily scared by horror. Still, I’ve seen just about every one ever made. There are some parts of that horror that scare me the most. Usually, it’s killing and violent acts portrayed with good effects. Those two things would probably freak me out more than any “tricks” kids might do outside my door.

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Trick or Trick.” Let’s imagine it’s Halloween, and you just ran out of candy. If the neighborhood kids (or anyone else, really) were to truly scare you, what trick would they have to subject you to?

I think seeing kids kill animals would freak me out more than anything. I get squeamish watching shows like “The Walking Dead” where people kill with reckless abandon. Have you seen that episode in season 5 where they line Rick and his cohorts up bent over a metal sink and slit their throats? That’s probably one of the scariest pieces of television I’ve seen. Mind you, I am still a fan of the show.

I don’t know, a prank involving dog fur and fake blood would scare me as I opened the door. Seeing kids with guns would surely do the trick. No child with a gun pointed at me would not be funny or cute in any way. Besides that, there are certain masks that freak me out. Last year there was an evil clown who really scared my daughter. I could see why, his mask was heinous. He was nice though and took his mask off to show Julie he was just a regular 16 year old. It didn’t matter though, she was still scared. I wonder what kind of freaky stuff we’ll see this year.

The Riley Coyote Tattoo

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Tattoo….You?.” Do you have a tattoo? If so, what’s the story behind your ink? If you don’t have a tattoo, what might you consider getting emblazoned on you skin?

This is my right shoulder tattoo, my only tat for that matter. I got it when I was 30 in 2000. I was not in a relationship and got it to impress a girl who was in my teaching certificate classes. She had a few and was always talking about them before class. Did I get a date? Nope. 

The tat has remained for 16 years. It used to have colors that have faded. I chose Wile E Coyote because he’s always making schemes and plans that don’t work out. I admire his diligence though in that he always gets up and keeps trying. I’m now married to a much hotter woman. Lucky for me, she likes my tattoo. I feel bad for these people who tattoo ex lovers names on their bodies.

The Gen Letter Monsters

“I bought the books, the records, and the politics. I gave all I had I was supposed to give and there were times when I felt like a human being.” -Mike Peters of The Alarm, “Majority

The-Alarm-The-Deceiver-216949That my friends is a kickass song. Few people know it because it was a B-side to a 45 of a now scattered post punk band of the 80’s called The Alarm. They were/are my favorite band. I chose this quote because to me it sums up social science propoganda like naming generations names so well.

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Generation XYZ.”

gen-x-yJust like a traveling medicine show, generations come through the great timeline we are all on while we’re alive. Their appearance is different but their impact the same. Generation social science thinks it’s on the cutting edge with real answers but the human condition never changes and being labeled as a generation provides no real comfort or connection.

I want to sit down with more 90 year olds and talk about WWII. I want to have a beer with a Vietnam vet and see what he knows. I just watched “American Sniper” and learned that though the weapons have increased in tech, they still drift drop to the bottom of a bottomless lake when we get shot by them.

Hello? Are listening Gen Y? Gen Z? I’ll bet Gen X is more or less unaffected by Generation letters anymore. I wonder if Y and Z care much. I’d hope we get more open minded as the years progress. I know for almost certain there is no more place for Christianity. Any generation can deconstruct it now as ignorant. Many still use it to their ends but judging those who don’t isn’t Christ-like. Bee part of the human timeline that doesn’t behold itself. If the labels help, fine but seek to feel without the books, the records, and the politics. Only then should you attempt to label yourself or ever dare go to church. The answers lie within and we are the only night lights to keep away the gen letter monsters.

How the Face of Poverty Helped me Grow Up

Poverty is something most young people can’t comprehend until they experience it or even just see it. Seeing it transformed me on a trip I took to Mexico at age 18. I was forced to grow up in an instant (or a series of instants).

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “When Childhood Ends.” Write about a defining moment in your life when you were forced to grow up in an instant (or a series of instants).

This is me graduating with my first degree, AA General Education. That's my Grandpa with me. My experiences at a Tijuana orphanage at 18 influenced my desire to be college educated.
This is me graduating with my first degree, AA General Education. That’s my Grandpa with me. My experiences at a Tijuana orphanage at 18 influenced my desire to be college educated. I’ve gone on to get two more degrees and a teaching credential. Every day I seek to help children of all socioeconomic backgrounds as a teacher.

When I was 18, I went with a group of Southern California kids and adult leaders to give food and supplies to an orphanage in Tijuana. I had the opportunity to give a child a bike. The place was actually situated behind a dump. It was regular practice for the kids there to trash pick for food and other items. The leaders gave me a rebuilt bike to give to a boy who they told me had just discovered his parents stabbed and dead in the dump. It was sobering and sad.

I learned a lot on that trip. As an OC brat, I took a lot for granted growing up. That experience really made me grow up in an instant. I saw that security was not granted for everyone as it was for me. Poverty is real. I think all children growing up in the lap of luxury with Disneyland right in her/his backyard should spend time in poverty. It made me thankful for my parents and my family. It made me realize that I was always just a couple paychecks away from being in poverty myself and that I needed to invest in myself in college and savings to ensure a life far from poverty. I also learned that Tijuana poverty is far below any poverty I had seen in Southern California all my short life.

When in the Valley, Look to the Mountaintop

I would call my second year as a Pizza Hut Manager a valley that I rose to a mountaintop from. I left teaching because I was overwhelmed and the result was a valley I thought I’d never rise above. I control my destiny, I decided where my career would go, twice.

The Daily Post writing prompt: Describe a time when you quickly switched from feeling at the top of the world to sinking all the way down (or vice versa). Did you learn anything about yourself in the process?

Damien Riley Jet Propulsion Lab WrightwoodFrom 2000-2002 I managed the Pizza Hut in Dana Point, California. I had 10 years prior experience there and I was bilingual and highly educated, perhaps beyond necessity. They took me in and made me a manager. The first year was exciting, it was different from teaching and I liked that. The second year was drudgery. I couldn’t make the numbers they set for me and I didn’t have much time off. I felt lower than low. I was living alone and dreading each day walking into the place. I think they could tell as well. After some highly revelatory personal experiences, I knew that teaching was for me so I quite Pizza Hut, started subbing and within months has several interviews. In August of 2002 I was hired as a 5th grade teacher, I was 33.

I think what makes me proud of my valleys is that I looked up at the mountaintop and I didn’t let despair take over. This is an important life skill: When down in the valley, look up at the mountaintop. If you can see it, don’t take your eyes off it as your destiny and you’ll get there. I’ve been a public school teacher now for 16 years. ALL my experiences, especially the valleys make me the great teacher people recognize today.

Definitely Literally and not Figuratively

People have been overusing and hence misusing the word literally for many years now. It’s literally reached a point of no return.

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “No, Thank You.” If you could permanently ban a word from general usage, which one would it be? Why?

Literally is a word that signifies the opposite of figuratively. If you use a similie, metaphor, idiom or other form of figurative language, you do not mean what you say. For example: I am starving to death. This is a phrase to emphasize ones hunger, not ones nearness to the undertaker. It would be correct to say “literally” if one had gone weeks without food and the literal distinction could be made.

Literally is a word that should only be used as a colorful distinction when a figurative statement is in fact true. People in our world use the word literally incorrectly and too much. It has become an adverb to signify intense degree. Example: I am literally going over there to complain to the manager. Before the grammar books start bending this usage and making it acceptable, I vote we scrap it altogether, for the good of English communication.

On Being a Listener More Than a Talker

The best advice I ever got from my father and others but didn’t take, through much of my 20’s and 30’s, was to be a listener more than a talker. You give more to people that way than you will ever know. I started to get it in my 30’s and am now still working at it in my mid forties. The challenge marches on.

Damien Riley ListeningAll people in my circle from my family to the strangers I see in the supermarket could use more of a listening ear from me. Can you listen when someone is silent? Yes, it’s called giving someone your attention. This advice is really about being focused on someone and giving them your attention. Listening to someone’s words is just one way to give that attention, it’s not always easy. You can listen to people’s body language, their clothing, their mannerisms, gestures and more. You can even listen to the way people walk by you. For my purposes, the most important way to listen is through listening to other people’s words. This doesn’t come naturally for most people, and I certainly need a lot more patience in this area.

I’m learning more and more that the quotes like: “A closed mouth gathers no foot” and “I would rater remain seated in a group and be thought a fool that stand and speak removing all doubt” are among the most profound. I see every day as a chance to do a listening experiment. At the same time, listening is an act of love because it embraces someone else’s perspective if only for a moment of consideration. It’s not important that you agree with the other person but that you listen and attempt to comprehend what she/he is saying. If I could offer one piece of advice to those seeking a fulfilling life, I’d offer the advice to be a listener more than a talker.

Is there any advice you should have taken through the years from Dad or anyone else?


This post was inspired by Mama Kat’s Writer’s Workshop, prompt #3. It is also a response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Take It From Me.”

DIV Class Movie Meta – Brought to you by the word divide

I write quite a few movie reviews every week here on my blog. I’ve spent several years developing ideas on how to structure them and I am beginning to repeat some traditional stuff that “sticks” long after I’ve posted. One of my reviewing mentors is Roger Ebert. I read every thing he wrote when he was alive and even now, I visit his blog frequently to steal technique and presentation ;)

After seeing “The Witch” a few days ago, I realized I wanted a more professional layout so I checked out Ebert’s site once again. Turns out, he had a really cool effect there with his meta movie info. He was using css shading for some subheadings just under the movie poster. Rather than try to explain it, check it out below:

Notice the title in Ebert's meta data is white font on a black line. I got to thinking these could be achieved by simply adding a little Css to the style sheet and then wrap that text under the poster photo through  short code.
Notice the title in Ebert’s meta data is white font on a black line. I got to thinking these could be achieved by simply adding a little Css to the style sheet and then wrap that text under the poster photo through [caption] short code.

I added the following CSS div classes to try the effect on my theme “twenty fourteen”:

<div class=”movie-meta-title”><b>The Witch (2016)</b></div>
<div class=”movie-meta-subheading”><b>Cast</b></div>
<b>Anya Taylor-Joy</b> as Thomasin
<b>Ralph Ineson</b> as William
<b>Kate Dickie</b> as Katherine
<b>Harvey Scrimshaw</b> as Caleb
<div class=”movie-meta-subheading”><b>Directed by</b></div>
<b>Robert Eggers</b>
<div class=”movie-meta-subheading”><b>Written by</b></div>
<b>Robert Eggers<b>

I was so excited when I achieved an effect I liked even better than Ebert’s. Of course, I thank him and his webmaster for the inspiration! You can see how the DIV style looks on my site below:

Click on this image to see the full review and how the effect fits in.
Click on this image to see the full review and how the effect fits in.

Here’s the writing prompt that inspired me too write this post today. In other words, blame them:

Write a new post in response to today’s one-word prompt. Not sure how to participate? Here are the steps to get started.

Source: Divide | The Daily Post

The Smelly Zombie

The Smelly zombie next door needn’t be a bother anymore.

This post is in response to:

Turn to your co-workers, kids, Facebook friends, family — anyone who’s accessible — and ask them to suggest an article, an adjective, and a noun. There’s your post title! Now write.

Source: Mad Libs | The Daily Post

If it’s been months or even years since you’ve been hearing that tapping or banging snarling sound, chances are that smell is a zombie who’s chained up or otherwise trapped in an abandoned house.

For an affordable price, Orkin exterminators will come into the house, approved by the city, drill a hole in its brain, and discreetly remove the cadaver on a stretcher. This will appear like a normal death has occurred to avoid zombie looky loos and camera crews.

The smelly zombie that’s been making the cul-de-sac putrid will be gone. The smell will disappear soon thereafter. As for her/him? Don’t worry, she/he won’t feel a thing: It’s a zombie!

Writing Prompt and Diary Entry Rolled into One Post

Writing prompt starts here:
The Daily Post asks:

What’s the most significant secret you’ve ever kept? Did the truth ever come out?

Source: Evasive Action | The Daily Post

I was late coming back from a pizza delivery and my new boos asked me what took so long. I made up a lie about how I helped some kid who had fallen and hurt himself. I claimed I too him to the ER with his mom since they had no car.

Satanic, I know.

I’ve learned through the years it’s usually easier to tell the truth. There are situations though when telling the truth, or oversharing, is not wise and can hurt you irreparably.

That’s life kiddos.

Diary entry begins now:

I have been tested and found to be a personality type that is always selling itself short when it is doing at least as well as everyone around it. It sucks being this way. This week I have been taking things easy to test that theory and I can actually see that my half-ass efort is still better than people around. Awesome. As you can probably read between the lines, I’m tired.

Thank good next weekend is a three dayer. I need that incubation time to recover rom this funk malaise I seem to have fallen in. I’m getting a massage Saturday so that should probably start the process toward awesome well. If you’re reading thise post I hope you don’t write me off as a liar. My daughter says I can tell no lie. I’m a realist though and I stand by what I said. What do you think?