On Politics 2: Open Letter to a Fighter

Dear Secretary Clinton,

I know. I know, I know, I know.

Okay, I don’t know. I don’t know what it’s like to devote so much energy, so many decades towards a goal, to log achievement after achievement only to have the Electoral College say “Nope. We’d prefer a record of actual literal fraud and hate speech and also Internet yelling to a record of leadership. Now let’s see how long it takes for him to go full Berlusconi on the U.S.!” This is who will represent us in the event of a crisis and, if we are lacking crises, will manufacture them for us.

There was a time, call it 1999, when I’d started to feel the way many people do. There weren’t enough differences between the 2 parties. My views were not represented, not in the absolute fashion I would have liked anyway. I felt like politics were increasingly irrelevant to my increasingly busy existence. I was an adult, and the passions that drove my early political involvement felt like childish things.

Then George W. Bush took office and, in a short 8 years, I watched the international respect that your husband had built for our nation dissolve, watched the international economic system nearly fall apart in the wake of a crisis enabled by the W. Bush administration’s absolute faith in deregulation. And of course, I watched our country go to war in several regions nearly simultaneously– wars that destabilized much of the globe while also not representing our international best interests.

I was slow to learn to the lesson, but I learned it. Competence matters.

When I voted for you in the general election– I voted for Sanders in the primary, but I didn’t feel shocked or agrieved when he lost– I was voting for competence. Not for someone I would always agree with. Not for a perfect candidate, but a smart and able and competent one who would move forward on the progress of the last 8 years. Someone with experience and courage and mental toughness– as Donald Trump called you during one of your debates, a fighter.

You won everything that should count. You won 3 debates– easily. You won the popular vote by over 2 million votes– almost 1% of the total electorate. Maybe this is what your opponent meant when he said Americans would be tired of winning? So tired that they wouldn’t pick a winner? But we both believe in the rule of law, you and I and I don’t know about that other guy, and the Electoral College is our nation’s law. We will grumble– well, I will– but accept what’s happened because the alternatives are so much worse.

I don’t know. I really don’t. It must be so frustrating– you’ve weathered a smear campaign that continued unabated since the early ’90s. You’ve managed to tolerate invasions into your privacy, insults to your daughter, and bizarre conspiracy theories that frame you as a murderer, a traitor or worse. It’s never been enough for your opponents on the Right to attack your beliefs, they’ve always come after you as a person. You’ve seen the rise of misinformation, replacing reality in American minds as surely as carbon monoxide replaces oxygen in human bloodstreams. You’ve not always been perfect, but you’ve weathered so many storms with poise that you make the Gorton’s fisherman look soft.

Sometimes you even dressed the part.

Sometimes you even dressed the part.

In your place I woulda just stabbed a fool on national TV, woulda just looked at those jiggly white faces that love to make up facts about your family and said “I will cut you.”

I don’t know what will happen next. I don’t know what kind of president you would have been, or what kind of president Mr. Trump will be– as I will reiterate here, we are what we do, and other than garner attention and declare bankruptcy he has done so little. I think our nation missed an opportunity. I think your presidency would have mattered and not just for symbolic reasons. I think we are bleeding from the hole we shot in our own foot. And I’m scared for what will happen next.

You’ve always been a fighter. Please don’t give up now– I mean, yes, don’t challenge the electoral results or anything (even though I kinda want you to). But we’re going to need leadership in the days to come, going to need that fighting spirit– many fighting spirits. Thank you for fighting, and thanks for not giving up on America. Our next act will be painful– self-inflicted wounds always are. Just think of the recovery, though, of the lessons we’ll learn. This is what I have to believe, anyway.

Moving Forward and Fingers crossed,

M.Z. Wood


Philosophe Stupide

On Politics 1: Open Letter to a Landlord

Note: I have briefly interrupted my novel writing to compose a brief series of letters. I will be sending each of these letters to the politicians in question. I want to make each of them laugh and I want to be gracious.

Because it’s too easy to be bitter and angry right now, and that combination has never helped.

Dear President Elect Trump,

Those words I just wrote… they are not the best words. I hope you’ll forgive me saying this but I think it’s better that I’m forthright about my feelings. Right now my feelings are as follows:


“Doom looms, dearly beloved, doom looms.”

I’ve followed your career in public life for 30 odd years; you’ve made me laugh, early and often, but I’m not a fan. I’ve typically thought of you as a high-end confidence man, preying on the weak; more recently I’ve seen you as a bully, busying himself with finding scapegoats for what you see as your inevitable failures.

So prove me wrong. Please. I don’t want you to be a bad president; I don’t want you to be impeached by a Republican congress and– even though a lot of words on the Internet disagree with me here– I don’t want you to die in a fire. I love my country; those things would hurt my country.

I want good things for you. I want you to be America’s greatest president. This is something we have in common– if for no other reason because this is where our self interest collides. If you do a good job, lives all over the world get better. American lives get better. I will spend less money on booze.

I’m a nobody and I know you don’t put a lot of stock in nobodies. That said, I’m a dad and I make people laugh, two of the highest callings in life. Two things that we share. Arrogant as it is, let me offer a little bit of inspiration. You can do a lot of good in the next four years and I’d honestly like to help.

First, leave your gut behind.

You’re not being chased by a bear and you don’t have to make fight or flight decisions.

Ask for facts and make decisions based on those facts. The purpose of laws has never been to prevent imaginary things or ‘what if’ scenarios. All things are possible; not many of them are likely, and most things are stupid and annoying. Laws exist to deal with real problems, and the only way to know where your problems are lies in asking questions and looking at boring-ass numbers until you get your answers. That is maybe the only way that governing is like running a business– they both need a solid foundation, they need plans that are based in reality. And if you’re fighting an imaginary fight then you’re ignoring the real one– America has some very real fights in the offing. Please don’t let this happen.

Second, stay inclusive.

We have a big country and it’s deeply divided. Right now, if I could make this country better through the power of kickpunching or yelling on the Internet then I’d do it. It’d feel good. Maybe my main job in life isn’t to feel good, though, and maybe picking fights and whining aren’t good long term strategies for me to pursue. Instead, let me urge you: please reach out to the communities you’ve used as rungs in your ladder to the White House and let them know you’ll listen. If you’re really interested in stopping Islamic Terrorism in the U.S. then reach out to the countless patriotic American Muslims and ask for their help, ask them to look for signs of trouble in their communities. Give them every reason to trust their government, to trust your judgement, and they will respond.

To this end, focus on hate crimes as an early target. I don’t know why violent White Nationalists don’t get labeled as terrorists in the media– terror is their obvious goal– but they don’t. If you start calling the Alt Right “terror babies” then you will gain millions of supporters. I know you’re not afraid to offend people and this is a great place to put that skill to use. You’re welcome.

Third, take responsibility.

Noted conspiracy Mormon Glen Beck has identified you as a historic threat to the United States. He’s also called our first black president a possible anti-Christ, so, you know, grain of salt. He gave a remarkable interview with NPR’s “On the Media” recently and I urge you to seek it out. I think you’ll enjoy listening to him squirm. He comes off as a bad guy, even though he’s saying a lot of things that I want to hear, and it’s because he won’t take responsibility for more than a decade of conspiracy theories, made up facts and borderline hate speech. He blames himself for your rise to power… but all he wants is his interviewer’s praise for agreeing with him about something. “I’m going against my tribe!” he insists, but no part of me respects a half-brave man.

If you end up being the best American president– hell, the best person!– things are still going to go wrong. Lots of things. Huge things. The best things. When that happens, don’t look around for a bus to throw someone under and don’t start building the bus. After the sixth or seventh time, people will sense a pattern and– as distractible as we are– they’ll see the coward in their midst. Not that you are a coward, just that we are what we do. Republicans will eat their own, Mister President Elect, and some of the most powerful people in your party are ready to see you fail. If you start trying to sacrifice your potential enemies– we’re all potential enemies– then they will see you as a threat and unite against you. When people are watching, scapegoats are a trap. Think of the great scapegoaters of the 20th Century and the bunkers they ended up huddled in. Billions of people are watching you, and millions of them aren’t going to blink.

In summary, I know I’m going to continue to disagree with you about a lot of things. Barack Obama is the president I voted for, twice, and there are a ton of things he and I don’t see eye to eye on. Drone strikes, for example, and Spider-Man comics– which I like, but I haven’t really read any since Busiek’s Untold Tales of Spider-Man and of course Bendis’ early Ultimate Spider-Man books. These are deep-seated divisions, y’know? A big reason I’m going to disagree with you, though, is that I don’t know best. I’m a mistake-maker; I make the best mistakes.

I’m a fact-based guy, though, and I believe in results more than rhetoric. Be a president I can be proud of and you’ll win me over. We are what we do, Mister President Elect. You can do great things.


M.Z. Wood

MA, MLS, Philosophe Stupide

On Writing 1: The Stupid Guide to NaNoWriMo


A few minutes ago, I made my commitment to complete my first novel.

I made a big geographic move in May, and in the process gave up my money-making career so my wife could pursue her dream job. She’s killing it, so no problems there. In that time I have started this blog, increased my presence on social media (some… a lot of folks say Twitter is a dying format, but it seems to work for me), completed one satirical short story, and rewritten the introduction to my novel about 6 times.

It’s time to move forward. It’s not like I don’t have hopes of turning my pseudo-philosophical essays into a print collection, but the novel– for people who write, it’s the dream, the goal. It’s how you know you are Getting Shit Done. And since we live in a world that is filled with Shit, Shit that needs to Get Done… well, best get to it.

The name of my novel is Comatose: The Life and Crimes of the Coma Kid. It’s a darkly comic YA novel about a teenager who, despite his best efforts to do good, becomes the world’s greatest supervillain after he kills Superman– who is a godlike lady named The Imperatrix who comes from an alternate timeline where the Roman Empire was eternal, but you get the picture. It’s a solid concept, and sometimes it’s a lot of fun to write. But, amazingly, it isn’t perfect, either in conception or in execution, and this irks me. So I start again.

So, not only am I making my commitment to its completion, I am also writing myself this guide, so that I can finish my work and feel good about it.

  1. Don’t Worry About Finishing It

The alleged goal in National Novel Writing Month is to write a 50,000 word novel. That’s a 200 page book. So, is finishing the book in the designated time frame the most important thing? If I do not reach this arbitrary goal, or reach a different arbitrary goal, have I failed?

Of course not. This is not about failure or allowing for the possibility of failure. This is about building good habits, about creating something new and strange, about learning new skills and not undermining myself. If I move forward on my novel every day then I succeed.

2. Lower Your Standards

One of the great challenges in writing is finding out that your ideas, so beautiful inside your head, turn into sludge on the screen– the written equivalent of lukewarm oatmeal. It happens to me almost every time I write.

This means I have taste.

If every time I wrote a sentence I looked at it and said “Perfect!” then I would have no business writing. I am not a literary Mozart, my words need a lot of help. A lot of drafts.

Do them tomorrow. Today you are going for distance, going for speed. You are going to write a story, and you’ll judge it and change it and break it later. That’s not November’s job or November’s problem.

Most writer’s use about 10% of their first draft in their finished novel (and about 10% too many apostrophes). Sure, I’m better than most writers, but I’m not going to prove it in my first novel’s first draft.

3. Prepare for Failure

I don’t mean set yourself up for failure. Never that. I mean don’t let the setbacks stop you. There will be days when you write nothing, or you simply hate everything you wrote. You will get sick, your daughter will get sick, Netflix will release a new show that you need to binge. You will get bored, and you will get angry at yourself, both for your terrible writing and for your terrible lack of writing. Please know this, though: unless you’re playing punk rock, self loathing will not help you. It is masturbation; it wastes time and gets nothing done.

4. I Should Be Writing

Is there a new show on TV? That’s cool, I should be writing. Is there a Pokémon that needs catching? Well, yes, obviously– but I should be writing. Is everything hard for me, and when I feel that way does it feel like it will last forever? Definitely– but wallow later. It’s time to write.

I’m a diabetic who writes and whose wife is supporting him (as I supported her through years of PhDing). So my daily checklist is as follows:

1) Love my wife, daughter, friends and family. Make sure they know I love them. Do the Nice Things for them and also get the wuggle child to school.

2) Work out once a day. Walk if you can’t do anything else. Eat well. Do kung fu and Tai Ch’i, do some pull-ups, squat-thrusts, lip-ups if you can figure out what those are.

3) Read, of course.

4) Write. Writewritewritewritewrite.

This message brought to you by the Center for Admitting We Are All Stupid. Now shut up and write.