More Clown Than Fool Writing Group

Named after an Invisible Man quote, this is a writing circle for people who need community and accountability for their writing projects.

If you are a writer and looking for community and accountability, this is a space to exercise with a writing prompt, work on a project, and get feedback on your work. Find the inspiration, motivation, and community in this space.

Register here

The 10 Best Books I Read in 2020

1. THE NICKEL BOYS – Colson Whitehead

I have to start by saying I am the ultimate Colson Whitehead fanboy. I have read everything he has written; most of them more than once.  While The John Henry Days is my favorite Whitehead book. The Nickel Boys is definitely in my Top 5 Whitehead books. Writing something fictional about Nickel was pretty amazing. It didn’t have the mystical moments of The Underground Railroad. There is a scene of a boxing match that made me think of the battle royale in Ellison’s Invisible Man.


2. THEMES AND VARIATIONS – David Sedaris

I am not one to read a book and laugh out loud. Somehow, David Sedaris does it to me every time. The book is the shortest book I read in 2020,  but I could not stop laughing.



3. INVISIBLE MAN – Ralph Ellison 

Ellison wrote this book in the ’50s. It is sad, stunning, and soberingly reminds me not a lot has changed since almost seventy years later. One of my favorite parts is Ellison’s homage to Dostoevsky’s Notes From the Underground which transitions into his battle royale scene.

4. THOSE WHO RIDE THE NIGHT WINDS – Nikki Giovanni

If you haven’t read Nikki Giovanni, I feel sorry for you. Her poetry is heartsy, spiritual, and sensual. Reading her poetry is like listening to a Jill Scott song. Nikki is the Jill Scott of poetry or Jill Scott may be the Nikki Giovanni of Neo-Soul.

 


5. OTHER PEOPLE’S TRADES – Primo Levi

This was one of my favorite books of the year. Levi writes beautiful prose and you can tell from his observations, he sees the world in a deeply insightful way.

Our future is not written; it is not certain: we awakened from a long sleep, and we have seen that the human condition is incompatible with certainty.

6. SALINGER – Shane Salerno

This starts with a confession….I have never read A Catcher in the Rye. Salinger is one of the most intriguing Americans of the 20th century. He was part of the New York elite. He saw some of the worst parts of World War II.  He wrote one of the most amazing novels of the 20th century. Then he became an eccentric recluse who had a thing for very young women.

The format of the book is probably as interesting as the subject.

7. THE DEATH OF IVAN ILYCH AND OTHER STORIES – Leo Tolstoy

The novella about the death of Ivan Ilych is an amazing work about a man who has an accident and slowly dies. Tolstoy has such a mastery of the inner dialogue of man. He writes the inner workings of a man like no other.

There remained only those rare periods of amorousness which still came to them at times but did not last long. There were inlets at which they anchored for a while and then again set out upon that ocean of veiled hostility which showed itself in their aloofness from one another.


8. THE SPY WHO CAME IN FROM THE COLD – John LeCARRE

I decided to read the John LeCarre spy novels in chronological order in 2020. My kids were binge-watching Marvel and Star Wars in chronological order, and I decided to binge-read. I read the first four books: Call for the Dead, A Murder of Quality, The Spy Who Came in From the Cold, and The Looking Glass War. The Spy Who Came in From the Cold is by far the best I read. It has the most action by far.

9. AFRICAN FOLKTALES – A. Kwada

A brilliant collection of folktales from all over the continent. The folktales are very entertaining and have some deep wisdom. I found my favorite stories were the origin stories of different animals or ways of the world.


10. THE ADVENTURES OF SHERLOCK HOLMES  – Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

I don’t know if I can say enough about The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes. They are brilliant and Holmes is the character that is the base for so many other fictional characters moving forward. 

One of my favorite stories actually involves the Ku Klux Klan.

10 Thoughts for the Week of February 14, 2021 – The Museum of Dreams and Thick Partisan Politics

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1. TRUMP ACQUITTED

Former president Donald Trump was acquitted by the Senate on Saturday. I watched the trial and the videos and I found myself wondering who could ignore what was being portrayed. I knew how thick partisan politics runs in our country, but if there were a moment for our government to have a conscience, this was the time.

The Senate has never convicted an impeached president; this is the most bi-partisan vote in the history of impeachments.

What is irksome is Mitch McConnell saying one thing and voting another. His statements had some thick partisan politics spread all over it. Sorry not sorry.

I am concerned about how our government spent four years not holding Trump accountable for his actions. I am concerned about the video of the guys saying “next time we’ll bring our guns”.

2. WEEKLY REPARATIONS UPDATE

The Virginia House passes a bill for colleges to make reparations for their role in slavery.

This week the US House of Representatives will vote on exploring reparations.

3. JUSTIN TIMBERLAKE APOLOGIZES…FINALLY

The #FreeBritneySpears movement has made its way to Justin Timberlake’s door. Almost twenty years later, Justin apologized for using Britney to propel his solo career. He also decided to apologize to Janet Jackson as well for the whole Super Bowl incident.

After eighteen years, these sorts of apologies always overflow with insincerity. Very Mitch McConnell.

4. MUSEUM OF DREAMS

I made a trip to the Museum of Dreams in Beverly Hills with my family. The museum is a small installation of three rooms which were breathtaking to see. It would have been nice to have a bench here and there to sit and take everything in. I feel like the trip was a missed opportunity. There were too many people there and the museum is pure bait for people who are looking for something cool to put on Instagram. There were a lot of people taking pics; which takes away from taking things in. There was also one woman who refused to keep her mask on. I understand she wants her pics, but we are all in rooms with more people than she should and this one lady will not keep her mask on.

5. ART OF THE WEEK

Michael Jackson Tears by Dr. WASH blew my mind. It made me wonder who would be in my tears.

6. JUSTIN TURNER WITH THE DODGERS

The Dodgers have made their moves and, with Justin Turner back, they are ready to defend their World Series title. It took a long time with a lot of back and forth for Turner and the Dodger to find the right amount of time on his contract. The Dodgers had all the cards in this game. The loss of Joc Pederson and Kike Hernandez, Turner add the chemistry piece needed for a championship team.

7. BEST THING I READ THIS WEEK

One of the coolest things I read this week was an article about a lake that turns living things to stone.

8. REPUBLICANS TURN ON REASONABLE SENATORS

Last week I was outraged about Wyoming Republicans censuring Liz Cheney for voting to impeach Donald Trump. This week Republicans are censuring Bobby Cassidy of Louisiana for voting to convict Donald Trump of incitement. Thick with partisanship.

9. NBA TRADE DEADLINE BUZZ

I haven’t been able to be all in on the NBA season so far. One of my favorite times of the year is the trade deadline. There is still a month to go until the big day; but there is already buzz. Andre Drummond and Blake Griffin are going to sit out until they are traded.

10. QUOTE OF THE WEEK

“Some people die at 25 and aren’t buried until 75.” ― Benjamin Franklin

10 Thoughts for the Week of the Week of February 7, 2021 – Super Bowl and the Cape Man

1. SUPER BOWL

What I take away from the Super Bowl is Tom Brady may be a Super GOAT. Seven championships is something that you have to tip your hat to. In the end, I have become convinced that Tom Brady sold his soul to the devil.

On a straight up positive note, this is an amazing Super Bowl to think about. There was a black quarterback and three black coordinators representing the participants. Now all we need is some more black coaches. It’s a shame there are no more coaching vacancies this year.

2. BACK TO SCHOOL

My second-grader has gone back to school on a hybrid-basis. There was a certain amount of freedom that made me think this whole pandemic thing may be moving in the right direction.

3. WEEKLY REPARATIONS STUFF

Good news on the reparations front…The Virginia house will vote for colleges to make reparations for their role in slavery. It was slaves who built these schools, it makes sense that the colleges should give back to the ancestors of these slaves.

4. NEW COLSON WHITEHEAD BOOK

I am excited about a new book coming out in September. Yes! I am a Colson Whitehead fanboy. I am unapologetic and very eager to read this book.

5. WHERE IN THE WORLD IS KYLE RITTENHOUSE

In a moment that took me back to the Capitol Coup attempt, Kyle Rittenhouse is in hiding from the Kenosha Wisconsin prosecutors. Rittenhouse claimed he was attacked by protesters and shot them in the name of protecting a friend’s store. His attorneys claim to know his location but will not reveal it at this time. Like the Capitol Coup attempt, can you imagine if Kyle Rittenhouse was black and his attorneys pulled this kind of stuff? Have you ever heard of someone black who is convicted of crime to be released on bail to take a trip to Mexico?

6. COUP CONVICTIONS

This is how the convictions for Capitol Coup breakdown at the present time. Seems like it there is still a lot of work to do.

7. BLM NOMINATED FOR NOBEL PRIZE

For all the drama and political theater surrounding the Black Lives Matter group. What cannot be denied is BLM is movement of peace. So much so they were nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize. Bravo!

8. RIP CHRISTOPHER PLUMMER

We lost a great one. Christopher Plummer had the depth and talent to play Claus Von-Trapp in The Sound of Music and Arthur Case in The Inside Man.

9. MARGARET TAYLOR-GREENE STRIPPED FROM HER COMMITTEE ASSIGNMENT

The House of Representatives voted to strip Margaret Taylor-Greene’s committee assignments. There are those who say this is some kind of partisan move. If you believe that, watch the videos and the things she has promoted and it all makes sense.

Ironically as Republicans back MTG and her foolishness, Liz Cheney was censured by the Wyoming GOP for voting to impeach Donald Trump.

How would one even define a Republican nowadays.

10 JAMES BROWN’S CAPE MAN DIES

Classic material…that all I can say.

10 Thoughts for the Week of January 31, 2021 – Hall of Shame, Fascism and Reparation Beer

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1. BASEBALL HALL OF FAME HAS NO NEW INDUCTEES FROM THE BASEBALL WRITERS

In what I would consider a bad look for the Baseball Hall of Fame, the baseball writers were unable to get enough votes to have any new inductees this year. Curt Schilling got 71% of the necessary 76%. Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens both got somewhere in the 60% range. 

Everyone knows this comes down to PED’s for Bonds and Clemens, and Schilling’s big mouth on politics. All three should be shoe-ins, but the writers have invoked the character clause. I am not saying doing PED’s is not wrong. My argument for Clemens and Bonds has always been that they were already Hall of Famers before their names could be connected to PED’s. 

I also want to call out the hypocrisy of the Hall of Fame, there are a number of guys in the Hall of Fame who would not pass the character clause test. Here is a short list:

  1. Ty Cobb
  2. Kenesaw Landis
  3. Cap Anson
  4. Charlie Commiskey
  5. Tom Yawkey
  6. Gaylord Perry
  7. Orlando Cepeda 
  8. Rogers Hornsby

I could support the character clause argument if they purged some of these guys retroactively.

2. KOBE DEATH ANNIVERSARY

Courtesy of USA Today

Even with the Lakers winning the championship last year, the loss of Kobe Bryant is still very real for a lot of people. It is all complicated for me. It is hard to wrap my head around like reparations

3. VIOLENT DOMESTIC TERRORISTS

As the pursuit of those involved with the attempted coup continues, I am blown away by the information that comes to the surface. I have to call it a coup because people started planning and training for this day right after the election. There were Proud Boys who had plans for making a bomb.

4. FASCISM

The most interesting podcast I listened to this week was from Vox about fascism. The way the terms socialism and fascism have been thrown around, it was eye-opening. 

5. NFL ROONEY RULE AND ERIC BIENEMY

The NFL has the Rooney Rule which stipulates a NFL has to interview a minority candidate during its interview process. It is a good rule to increase the diversity of head coaches. 

What boggles my mind is how Eric Bienemy cannot get a head coaching job. As the offensive coordinator of the Kansas City Chiefs, he has a record of 37-8 with a Super Bowl victory (maybe two). Somehow he cannot get a job. 

6. ROBINHOOD FIASCO

I don’t know enough about the stock market. All I can say is the stock market is not a casino and bad things can happen when people treat it like a casino. What is crazy about Robinhood is they stopped trading GameStop because of what was happening. In Las Vegas, you shut the table down when you catch a cheater. You don’t shut the table down when the cheater is getting his just desserts.

7. DESHAWN WATSON REQUESTS A TRADE

It goes to show the McNair family is not worried about winning. By even trying to trade someone who is arguably a Top 5 football player and Top 5 person, you cannot get equal trade value for Deshawn Watson. The Texans are a hot mess without Watson.

8. REPARATION TALKS

My reparations subject for the week is Temperance Brewery in Evanston, Ill donates a 100% of the proceeds from their Where I’m From beer to reparations.

On a different money note, an Episcopal church in Maryland donated $500K to reparations because they found out one of the founders was a slaveholder.

9. DODGERS LOSE KIKE HERNANDEZ AND JOC PEDERSON

The Dodgers lost Kike Hernandez and Joc Pederson this week. The Dodgers have built the franchise and their farm system to have plenty of talent down the pipeline.  I do worry about the chemistry that is lost with their departures. 

10. QUOTE OF THE WEEK

“Not all storms come to disrupt your life, some come to clear your path.” ― Paulo Coelho, Author of The Alchemist

10 Thoughts for the Week of January 24, 2021 – RIP Hank Aaron and COVID Getting Close to Home

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1. IMMEDIATE ACTION BY PRESIDENT BIDEN

The inauguration was quick and sweet and President Biden got right to work.

On his first official day in office, President Biden signed a number of executive orders to basically try to fix all the things that Trump had broken as president. He rejoined the World Health Organization and the Paris Climate Agreement. He stopped the building of that stupid wall and reversed the. Muslim Ban.

2. 400,000 AMERICANS HAVE DIED OF COVID

The United States has hit 400,000 deaths this week and it is predicted that we will hit 500,000 deaths some time next month. This is actually a week where we didn’t break a  daily record.

3. COVID IS HITTING CLOSE TO HOME

It has been a very long time in this pandemic, but I feel like COVID has finally hit home. My son tested positive and was put in the quarantine dorm. A member of my church passed away as well. It’s late in the game, but it has become more than real to me……

4. RIP HANK AARON

My heart was broken on Friday morning to hear that “The Hammer” Hank Aaron passed away. Hank Aaron was the man who took the home run record away from Babe Ruth amidst death threats. His career encompassed all of baseball including the Negro Leagues. He impacted Reggie Jackson and Barry Bonds.

He was very important to me as a kid. I remember being nine years old and reading a “Legends of Baseball” book. I found a lot of comfort in finding Hank Aaron in a book with all those white faces. He meant so much to me that I lied to my friends and said I was Hank Aaron’s grandson.

It only seemed right that the MVP should be named after Hank Aaron.

5. JAMES BOND DELAYED

Another way that COVID has become all so real to me is that Daniel Craig’s last turn as James Bond has been delayed until the movie company can maximize the profits from this movie. It was supposed to come out last year, and I am wondering if I will see it this year.

There are three things I really want this year:

            1. To travel somewhere for vacation
            2. My second grader to go back to school
            3. Watch No Time to Die

6. RIP LARRY KING

At some point, Larry King was much-watch television. His was the only show Al Pacino would go on. My first real experience with Larry King was when I was umpiring tee-ball. There was an elderly looking old man in the stands. It was not uncommon for grandparents to come watch the games. What was different this time was Larry King came to watch his son play. The nature of being a celebrity is you can marry a woman much younger than you and end up in your 70’s with an elementary school kid.

7. PHOTOS OF BETELGEUSE

I wish there was a lot to say here, I am blown away by just the picture of what a star looks like up close.

8. BEST THING I READ THIS WEEK

I had to give props to this poem. I was super moved by My Girlfriend Killed James Brown by David Kirby.

Nothing good comes from murder. Well, if you murder

Hitler, yeah, but suppose you murder Hitler and somebody

worse takes his place? The girlfriend didn’t mean to kill James Brown,

though. Accidental death’s a whole other kettle of fish

9. NFL PLAYOFFS – CHAMPIONSHIP SUNDAY

Championship Sunday is known as the best day in the NFL. Sunday put a lot of good football on display. Tom Brady’s GOAT status was almost done in by three interceptions. He was saved by Packers coach, Matt LaFluer, going for a field goal on fourth down and goal late in the fourth quarter.

Going for the field goal instead of the touchdown was like gift-wrapping the Super Bowl for Brady. Either way, Brady knew how to close out the game when things really mattered.

What is most troubling, is Aaron Rodgers and his uncertain future.

Patrick Mahomes, Travis Kelce and Tyreek Hill remind me of the 90’s Bulls. They are just straight unstoppable. I am not even sure they have played their best football yet.

Josh Allen had a great season but came up short. He took some very ugly sacks trying to keep pace with the high powered Chiefs offense.

10. RAND PAUL AND THE STOLEN ELECTION

It has been almost 90 days since the election. All the lawsuits challenging the results of the election have been dismissed for lack of evidence. There was an attempted coup on the Capitol and the Electoral College has certified the results.

Somehow someway, Rand Paul, cannot admit that the 2020 election was not stolen from Donald Trump. He wanted to say there are two sides to every story, but there is something indisputable about not having any evidence of election fraud.

10 Thoughts For The Week of January 17, 2021- A Whole Bunch of Stuff

1. MORE COUP STUFF

Last week, I talked about the coup that some people would like to call a protest. If there was any doubt, the revelations of the past week make it fairly indisputable. There were tours given to the insurrectionists by Congressmen the day before. There were people who brought weapons and nooses to the event that were definitely for more than self-defense. There have been 275 criminal cases open against the insurrectionists. What blows my mind, is an article posted by ProPublica which shows all the videos posted on Parler during the attempted coup.

2. INAUGURATION STUFF

The inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden is coming. The FBI has put out warnings of attacks during the inauguration. Everyone is on high alert in Washington and all the state capitals. The National Guard is sleeping on the floor in the Capitol. There have been incidents of people being found with guns and ammunition.

3. 4,400 DIED OF COVID ON TUESDAY

Last week, 4,000 people died of COVID in one day to set a new daily record. This week, after the vaccine being out for a good amount of time, the number of deaths continue to rise. This week 4,400 people died on Tuesday. Sadly these sad numbers are being drowned out by impeachment and insurrectionists.

4. NEW COVID PROTOCOLS FOR THE NBA

The NBA has instituted new protocols to prevent players from getting COVID. Some players have made objections to these new rules. The NBA starting up again feels like a money grab. Everything about the NBA feels like they are going through the motions. The most compelling part of the game right now is the drama created by Kyrie Irving and James Harden.

Both guys have created a stir. Harden did everything possible to make things miserable for the Houston Rockets. He was finally traded to Brooklyn where Kyrie was making things miserable for the Nets.

5. 13 EXECUTIONS SINCE JULY

Dustin Higgs was the thirteenth person on Death Row executed by the Trump administration since July. This is the most executions during a presidency in 120 years. I really need someone to explain why Trump is so zealous about these executions. Are these sadistic acts or are there reasonable logic to the Even as he has lost the election and has less than a week in office, he continues to try to kill as many people as he can. It seems like he would have better things to do with his last days in office than kill people.

6. REPARATIONS STUFF

The cities of Portland Oregon and St. Paul Minnesota had made steps towards reparations. Momentum is building.

7. PRESIDENTIAL MEDAL OF FREEDOM

With all the talk of incitement and impeachment, President Trump tried to move attention somewhere else. He announced he was going to present New England Patriots head coach, Bill Belichek, with the Presidential Medal of Freedom. It was a good idea. The coach didn’t want to play the game. It was an even worse look for the president. Hopefully Trump saved the loss by Toby Keith accepting the medal instead.

8. NFL PLAYOFFS

I was looking forward to this weekend of NFL Playoff football. The divisional round is for all the teams who truly belong in the playoffs.

The battle of the Aarons came down to Green Bay being better on both sides of the ball. The Rams had a championship defense but their offense was not up to snuff. Sean McVeigh is an amazing offensive mind, but he can only do too much.

Buffalo and Baltimore was a hard hitting game which may have ended differently if Lamar Jackson finishes the game. Baltimore is very similar to the Rams. They have a championship defense but they really need to figure out some things on offense.

Props to Cleveland for giving Kansas City a good game. Kansas City was not on their game but they had enough to make it to the next round. Chad Henne did enough in the last five minutes of the game to earn whatever they are paying him.

The battle between Tom Brady and Drew Brees came down to a disappointing performance from Drew Brees in what is probably his last game. There were four turnovers and they resulted in a majority of the points for the Buccaneers. Brady was not great either. He simply didn’t shoot himself in the foot.

9. IPAD STUFF

I got a new iPad for X-Mas. The 11’ iPad Pro came with a new cord for charging. It reminded me of when Apple removed the headphone jack from the iPhone. I hate being reminded of Apple’s money-grabbing efforts.

Not to be totally down on Apple. I am a true believer in Apple products. Here are some cool stuff I have been learning about my new iPad:

10. HAPPY BIRTHDAY BETTY WHITE AND JAMES EARL JONES

Happy birthday to two American legends! Betty White turned 99 and James Earl Jone turned 92.

 

 

10 Thoughts for the Week of January 10, 2021 – A Coup, Tommy Lasorda, and 4,000 Dead

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1. TRUMP MOB STORMS THE CAPITOL

It was a very dark day for our country. After a rally where they were incited by President Trump and his lawyer Rudy Giuliani that they should “never concede” and this is a ”trial by combat”.

All I really want to say about Wednesday’s events are:

  1. Things would have gone completely different if a Black Lives Matter group stormed the Capitol.
  2. Please stop calling this a “protest”. There is way too many similarities between what happened on Wednesday and attempting to overthrow a government than a protest.

2. JACOB BLAKE DECISION

This was not a good week for the nation. Perhaps, what amplified Wednesday’s events, was the announcement that officer Rusty Sheskey, who shot Jacob Blake in the back seven times would not be prosecuted. Officer Sheskey claimed he feared for his life, so he shot Mr. Blake in the back. That was reasonable to the district attorney. Shooting a person in the back seven times doesn’t seem all that reasonable to me.

3. 4,000 PEOPLE DIED OF COVID ON THURSDAY

Amidst all the drama taking place in politics, it is easy to forget there is a pandemic going on. I was pulled away from the distractions when I saw that 4,000 people died of COVID on Thursday. The vaccine is being administered but the surge is still surging. A couple of weeks ago, I talked about COVID confusion and it seems to get more confusing.

4. R.I.P. TOMMY LASORDA

A fixture of my childhood was sitting at Dodger Stadium and watching Tommy Lasorda waddle out from the dugout to yell at the home plate umpire about a disputable call. In those days, a manager taking a trip to home plate was the greatest theater. The whipped cream on the Lasorda Sundae was my dad yelling “Tommy tell him what you had for lunch!” More recently I would see Tommy sitting in his seat by the Dodgers’ on-deck circle nodding off to a nice evening nap at the stadium.

Tommy passed away on Friday and I was happy he got to see the Boys in Blue win the Series one last time. He will be missed.

5. DR. DRE SUFFERS AN ANEURYSM

Last week, after MF Doom died, I said hip-hop was behind the other genres when it came to grieving. Then I heard Dr. Dre suffered an aneurysm last week. It sounds like he will pull through, but I feel like this is another sign I am becoming an old man.

6. NFL WILDCARD WEEKEND

Wildcard Weekend went as expected. The only surprise for me was Cleveland putting a beat down Pittsburgh. Last week Cleveland barely beat the Pittsburgh second-stringers. I figured they didn’t have much of a chance against the starters. I didn’t figure Pittsburgh would turn the ball over and spot the Browns 28 points in the first quarter.

7. A LITTLE HOUSEKEEPING

My housekeeper was exposed to someone with COVID so my family has been on their own to clean our home for the last two weeks. Many years ago, my wife and made a decision that if we were going to work as hard we do during the week, we didn’t want to spend the weekends. We also have two standards of “clean” and the difference in standards was going to lead to some serious marriage troubles.

Two weeks ago, it was cute to clean the house. This past week, I felt like cleaning the house dominated my weekend. I am grateful it was Wild Card Weekend to keep me distracted from my wife’s conflicting standard of “clean”. I am holding my breath until my housekeeper comes back. I know….First World Problems.

8. REPARATIONS FOR SOUTH KOREANS

A South Korean court order the nation of Japan to pay reparations for sex-slavery instituted during World War II. The women were snatched from their homes and forced to work in brothels near the frontlines of the war. They were called “comfort women”. The judge said they needed to compensated for their suffering.

It is common sense for “comfort women”. However, reparations always become complicated when it comes to America.

9. QUOTE OF THE WEEK

The quote of the week comes from Lucille Clifton – “You might as well answer the door, my child, the truth is furiously knocking.

10. ART FOR THE WEEK

The Art for the Week comes from Shawn Perkins and is called “Red Carpet Treatment”. I don’t have to say much else.