More Opinion by The Springboard

THE UPRISING OF THE AMERICAN PARTY "Clearly the voters are engaged right now, at least for sure on the republican side, and what they have concluded is that the republican party has not done their job. Thus, Donald Trump gets their vote."

Saturday, April 7, 2018

Stranger Things

DON'T TAKE ME THE WRONG WAY, I LOVE A THRIFT STORE AS MUCH AS THE NEXT GUY. I mean, half my wardrobe is honestly from a thrift store, and it is not because I can't afford to buy new clothes—part of my personal wealth can be closely attributed to my not buying new stuff.

There are times, though, when I walk into a thrift store, that I am left scratching my head a bit. The thought comes to mind as I peruse the racks and shelves, ""Why would anyone donate this?" And then, even if someone did donate this, what moron decided to actually put it onto the shelf and not into the dumpster where it probably rightfully belongs.

OR, maybe I am missing something altogether. Maybe someone out there may actually buy the thing on the shelf you truly believe is fit for nothing but the landfill.

Like this doll, for example. I mean, not only is its face crushed, but it is missing half of its hair which has of course filled the bag, and made this thing into some creepy, hairy monster. I do recall that old show by Ray Bradbury where he would look around the room and think, "What shall I write about today?" Perhaps old Ray would have bought this doll, brought her into his studio, and decided to find a story to write about it.

Either way, I thought it was a funny find, and definitely fits within the category of "random thoughts," which is part of the description of this here blog.

Who the hell thought this was a keeper? Moreover, who in the hell would actually buy it?

Friday, April 6, 2018

Quick Shout: Aluminum Prices Are Down, Not Up

IT MAY WELL BE A SHORT TERM EVENT. IT MAY EVEN BE AN ANOMALY. REGARDLESS OF WHAT IT IS, THE FACT IS THAT ALUMINUM PRICES ARE DOWN, NOT UP, SINCE PRESIDENT TRUMP IMPOSED A 10% TARIFF ON IMPORTED ALUMINUM.

And POTUS is right to tout this, and to point that out, as he indeed did in a recent tweet.

I said a while back, after so much hoopla surrounding the president's decision to impose steel and aluminum tariffs that he knows what he is doing, and that when you get right down to the brass tacks of the matter...

Tariffs are not what this is all about. (If You Think Steel Tariffs Are About Steel Tariffs...You Are Missing the Point)

It is being reported that aluminum prices are down 4% since Trump announced he would impose the tariffs. I also said that you shouldn't be surprised that not everyone gets what these tariffs actually wish to achieve...

And beware anyone selling anything made out of steel or aluminum will gouge you with no foundation whatsoever for what they are doing—that they will do this based solely on the IDEA that all tariffs are bad, and that the only logical conclusion can be that tariffs will drive prices higher.

And yes, there is historical data to suggest that that could well be the case if what Trump wished to achieve was only to impose a tariff.

And as I said, that's not what his intention was at all. In the most basic of terms what I said was that Trump's intent was to level the playing field, force bad players to play fair, and more importantly to open a dialogue.

Like I said before, any prices on the end product are simply false increases. Reactionary increases. And pure gouging. The president has this, and I think it will be clear on all fronts when all is said and done that the market will stabalize, jobs will be left intact, and all of this chatter that we're creating a trade war and sinking our own ship will prove to be...

A pack of jibberish.




Saturday, March 31, 2018

An Interview With Horror Writer R.K. Finnell

writing as Ivan S. Graves

I recently had the opportunity to chat a bit with horror writer R.K. Finnell about her recently released collection of short stories, Grue Tales: Death by Fiction. A lifelong resident of Kansas, R.K. Finnell is the author of two other books; Kickshaw Candies, and The Plague Son. Her first two books are actually part of a trilogy, and she is currently at work on the final book in the series. Primarily hailed as a writer of horror, one thing that separates her body of work from traditional horror are strong elements of fantasy which give her tales a different edge, and is honestly quite refreshing. While you will still find many of the typical creatures and haunts that live in many horror fiction books, R.K. Finnell puts a new spin on them, and makes them uniquely her own. It was a joy spending some time getting to know more about her and her writing, and I hope you will enjoy the time as well.

Q. You recently published Grue Tales, a collection of short stories. Seems like you have been writing for a long time. How far back do some of these stories go for you?

A: I began writing in high school but didn't consider it seriously until later in life. For me it was something I enjoyed and that I was good at, being more of a hobby at the time. I had a teacher who would always give us story writing assignments and I found myself compelled by the experience to do more writing. There was always a story in my head that needed to be put down on paper.

Q: Obviously Grue Tales is horror, but there are also elements of what I like to call dark fantasy. Did you always write in that genre, and what lead you to dark fiction?

A: I've always been fascinated by the horror genre from books, television and movies. It is what I grew up on, so it was naturally something I would write. I love the idea of writing stories that not only give the reader chills, but also make them think. Dark fiction lets me explore the dark thoughts in my head and share them in my writing. I can go as far as my imagination takes me and sometimes even beyond.

Q: Cillian's Story is a very dark and foreboding tale. For me, in a way, it sort of describes the craziness in the world we live in and our constant struggle to keep sanity alive and well, and perhaps even a desperate hope that humanity survives it all in the end. What was this story for you when you wrote it?

A: For me it was not only a story of survival, but also what one is willing to do for those he loves. From caring for his brain damaged Mother in Anything for Mom, to saving the lives of the children. In a way it was a tribute to the caretakers of this world who rarely get recognized for what they do and how often the duty is thrust upon them. I saw Cillian as a character who reflects what many of them go through in the challenges of adversity and what one is willing to do not only for their survival but also for those who cannot care for themselves.

Q: That's one of the things about a lot of horror fiction that a lot of people miss, and I am not trying to pigeonhole you into a genre of course—I know writers hate that. But there's a lot of compassion in the plight of most protagonists, and while evil is strong and always an element, in the end it seems mostly that good always wins over evil. Do you feel that way about your work? About your characters? Are they mostly good people, with good intent, fighting battles over the evil that exists in their lives? Do you mostly want them to win?

A: For the most part I do want good to overcome evil, but there are times when the story dictates a less pleasant outcome and evil triumphs. No matter what may show on the outside, it is the evil within that eventually shows its face. Life is not always a bed of roses and when it is, one must watch out for the thorns.

Q: In reading your bio, you mention a ride in a hearse when you were four years old. What was that all about?

A: We were at a church in Sedalia, Missouri where my grandfather was marrying his second wife. Before the wedding my sisters and I were playing outside when the man who lived next to the church backed his car out of the drive and hit me. I ended up in the hospital with a broken leg and other injuries. When it was decided to move me to a hospital closer to home in Kansas City the funeral director of a local funeral home volunteered. At that time the town only had one ambulance and they didn't want to risk there being an emergency with no ambulance available, so they packed me up surrounded by sand bags and put me in the back of the hearse. As far as I know I'm the only person to be delivered to a hospital, alive, in a hearse.

Q: You often say that a lot of the mainstream fiction that's out there is not so good as their sales might suggest. I tend to feel that way about music too, that there a lot of very talented musicians on the fringe that don't get the recognition they deserve. Who do you like to read, and what makes their work most interesting for you?

A: I have a passion for the classics, particularly Dickens and O. Henry. One of my favorite scenes in Great Expectations is the introduction of Miss Havisham. The dark melancholic description of the character and her surroundings gives one the sense that they are there right in the room and feeling all the emotions that Pip is as he stands gazing about the room.

I get to mention my favorite book, which makes me quite happy! The Elementals by Michael McDowell. It's dark, twisted and has the great line "Eat my eyes." What horror enthusiast could resist loving it?

Q: How does a story usually develop for you? Many writers know the story from start to finish before the first word is ever written. Others like to let the story form its own path.

A: For me it is getting that first sentence written. Once I have that, the story begins developing. I do often let the story and characters guide the way. Sometimes the characters have better ideas of how a story should be told. I think it is the element of surprise that even catches me off guard and makes the story more interesting.

Q: So, what do you have in the works right now?

A: I have some unfinished short stories I've been working on for a second Grue Tales book. I also have the third book of my Kickshaw Candies trilogy to finish and thinking of doing another series based on shapeshifters.

Q: Shapeshifters are always fun. What is this story about, and I have to admit I did not know that Kickshaw was a trilogy. What do you have in the works for either?

A: There are shapeshifters in the Kickshaw Candies series but they are not the main focus of the story. I'm toying with the idea right now on doing another trilogy with shapeshifters as the main focus. Where do they come from and how does one become a shapeshifter? Are they born that way or is it something else? In Grue Tales I explore the idea of shapeshifters in the story "Shift" but I want to take it further.

The third book of the Kickshaw Candies series, The Changeling's Touch, begins where the second book, The Plague Son, left off.

Q: It was a joy chatting with you. In closing, I suppose aside from the books, the readers are quite an important part of any writer's pursuits. Anything you wish to say to them?

A: For all my readers and future readers, thank you. I hope you enjoy my books. Remember, whether you are reading my work or that of another author, please leave a review and let others know about books you have enjoyed.






Links to R.K. Finnell

The R.K. Finnell Home Page
R.K. Finnell on Facebook
R.K. Finnell on Books2Read

Ivan S. Graves is the former editor of the popular monthly online horror fiction magazine FrightNet Online Magazine which was published 1997-2000, and editor of the short story collection Dark Whispers. 

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Don't Let Your Money Leave You Stranded

WHEN IT COMES TO MANAGING YOUR MONEY, THERE HAS ALWAYS BEEN ONE STATEMENT THAT I HAVE STRONGLY DISAGREED WITH, and that is to just simply save it and forget it. In other words, you will hear a good many people, and even sometimes from certain financial advisors, to not watch the daily nuances of the markets—

Lest you wish to drive yourself completely insane.

The truth is that in order for you to fully reap the rewards of any investments you may have, you really do need to keep a good tabs on what's going on with them. Yes, it can be a painful thing to watch your portfolio in the throes of its ups and downs. It can be particularly painful when there are bad days, or strings of bad days.

If you go into the process of looking daily at what you have with the mindset that this is just the way that the market operates, and if you have done your due diligence and have confidence in what your individual investments hold for the long haul, the daily nuances should not have the agonizing impact that they might otherwise have.

Going it blind, to me, just seems like a foolish way to go about things. Perhaps it is a stupid analogy. But imagine driving a car that has no gas gauge. You simply drive around having some general idea of where you need to be and how much gas is left in the tank to get you there. But you have no idea how much gas is actually in the tank.

At some point or another, or at various points, you are going to find yourself on the side of the road trekking to the nearest gas station, gas can in hand, to make up for the fact that you got it wrong. You'll even be filling up when you don't need to.

That's time, folks. And time is money. And it's a cog in the wheel that can throw your whole day off balance.

In order to manage your finances, you need to know how much gas is in your tank so you can make wise decisions about when you need to fuel up, when it might be a good idea to pour a few extra gallons in the tank, or even when you are safe to drive a little bit longer before doing anything at all.

But it does another thing for you when you are watching the daily nuances. It helps you to also make wise spending decisions. Look, let's be real here. We save money not only for the future. But we also save it to have it when we want it to do things.

Watching the money and knowing exactly where you are at any particular time can help you decide if now is the time to take that vacation, or replace the car, or go out to eat one night. If I see I am up for the week, perhaps I allow myself to take a little bit of that money off the table to take it out of the bottom line and do something I want to with it. Conversely, if I am down, I'm not taking money away from it making a bad situation worse.

Money is not the most important thing in our lives. Obviously. But it can certainly have an impact on the quality of our lives.

Again, going into the process knowing the mechanics of money and markets is key, and helps us even to see a silver lining. Remember when the markets lost half their value in 2009? It was a devastating thing to watch really. But, having an idea that we have been to places like that before, and seeing that we not only gained it all back eventually, and then some, gives you great insight into what you need to be doing in times like those.

You could say that back then, in 2009, the tank was running on empty. The choice would have been unwise to just keep on driving hoping you would still get to your destination. The wise choice would have been to put some gas in the car and drive a little less.

And by comparison...spend a little less.

You don't want to find yourself on the side of the road dead while all the other cars whiz past you. You want to be on the road with them, getting to the places you want to, and need to go. Pressing the gas pedal is intent to move forward. But you're going to need gas to actually make the car go.

If you really want to reach your destination, it is best to avoid guessing whether or not you will actually have what you need to get there, or what you need to do in order to have some influence on whether or not you will ever actually arrive.

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Until Death Do China And Xi Part

AFTER READING ABOUT THE FINAL DECISION BY CHINESE LEADERSHIP TO PERMIT XI JINPING TO RULE INEDEFINITELY, it should serve as another stark reminder of the benefits and built in protections of democracy, the power of the people over its government, and that this very thing is at least part of what makes America great. It is also what makes the rest of the world's democracies great. History is full of stories of tyrannical rule, iron-curtains, oppression, and diabolical plots against other countries.

In nearly all instances throughout history, these all have come from communist regimes.

One can only surmise, if you take history into account, that the decision to allow Xi Jinping to rule indefinitely will be fraught with disaster as this sort of thing has been proven to be so many times in the past—and is frankly in the present.

While it is true that this decision by the Chinese government may not pose an immediate threat, I do think it is a development which should be closely monitored by not only our government, but the rest of the free world.

We need to be asking ourselves some critical questions here. What is the direction of China's future role in the world? Do we need to be just a little bit worried about what they may be up to? How much power do they really have? And who might they pony up with in order to form a coalition of force against the free world?

Imagine a world, for example, where Russia, North Korea, and China are all together on the idea of the destruction of democracy.

The real problem with this is that China is in fact a powerful and formidable player on the world stage. It's a big country. They have money. They also have a substantial arsenal of military and weapons.

So does Russia frankly.

And let's face it. You'd have to have been living under a rock to not realize that for a very long time, and perhaps throughout its entire history, China has always been a bit nefarious in its presence.

And so has Russia been, even long after the fall of the former Soviet Union. That all said, I don't want to get ahead of myself or veer too far off course. We're just going to focus on China here.

We have to understand that for all of the Chinese government's effort, while still a primarily communist country, to infuse at least some form of capitalism into its structure, it is still a largely oppressive government that continues to manage the lives of its people and maintain a hold on what they can do.

Like forbidding the citizenry to speak out against the government without fear of persecution. Something that in the United States is extremely foreign to us. Half of us spending our days on Twitter might be dead in a country like China.

Look, we often are divided about who is in power in the White House in our country. We don't always like our president. Sometimes we adore him. No matter what, we should always be thankful that in our country we have presidential term limits. We should  be thankful for the fact that no matter who happens to occupy the White House, good or bad, their time and opportunity to rule is limited. Obviously I am a strong Trump supporter. But at no time would I ever be for Trump's lifelong rule. There is a reason our country began term limits, and there is a reason why, even when it causes us some trouble—Nixon, Carter, and Obama all come to mind here—our system of government works for the people ultimately, and our system of government fully allows for future presidents to undue what former presidents do if they deem it was bad policy for the country.

I may well be just a little bit paranoid here. Who knows what the ultimate outcome of this decision will be? All I can do is guess that it poses serious potential problems using history as my guide. While Xi Jinping may be the "good" guy in this era of China's history, and may not necessarily have any bad ideas or ill intent toward his people or his country's place in the world, it does still leave the door wide open for a really bad actor to succeed him when he dies. There may be forces already in place, preparing for that when that day comes. And because the government has enough control over its people, it presents a timeline open to them to begin the process of shaping minds, and influencing the ideology of the people to inadvertently allow for another guy like Mao to enter into popularity.

What this says to me is that at least we, the American people—the general populace—need to be a bit more suspicious of China, and need to be a bit more aware of what indirect contribution we may make to embolden their monetary coiffures, and fuel their ability to become an even stronger force in the world than they already are.

It's not paranoia actually to think that every time I buy something made in China that I may unwittingly be contributing to a country that may have a dark, hidden interest in world domination, and may one day preemptively launch a major attack against a country like ours.

It is simply being cautionary.

Let's face it. We can be a bit of a complacent lot here in this country. It is one of our downfalls. We view the world from our experiences. We see others through our eyes. We try to see the good in all people. And many times we also think we have the ability to change bad people into good people. It tends to make us turn a blind eye at times and shrug our shoulders a bit.

This is potentially dangerous.

I am not saying that China is interested in world domination, nor am I suggesting that even Russia is. I am not saying that at the heart of this decision to allow Xi Jinping to rule indefinitely is to take the first step toward that end. I am saying that we need to keep a very close eye on this issue—and need to be very much concerned who it will be who ultimately replaces Xi Jinping at the end of his rule over there, and be aware of what would be very slight and almost invisible signs of a future major shift in what China ultimately becomes.

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