The Shawshank Songwriter

A reminder to myself not to give up on my dream.

Man vs. Row

Brent Baxter is a hit songwriter with cuts by Alan Jackson, Randy Travis, Lady Antebellum, Joe Nichols, Gord Bamford, Ruthie Collins, Ray Stevens, and more. He’s written a top 5 hit in the US and a #1 in Canada… so far.

If you feel trapped in your day job- if you feel like you’re locked in a prison, I recommend watching “The Shawshank Redemption.” There is an important lesson in there for folks trying to escape their day jobs for the freedom of their dream jobs.

After years behind bars, Tim Robbins’ character, Andy, was finally able to tunnel his way out. No, I’m not suggesting you sneak a breakroom spoon into your cubicle and dig when your boss isn’t looking. The lesson is not about the tunneling itself, but how Andy went about it.

He was extremely patient and radically persistent.

You see, Andy knew he couldn’t just make…

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Jesus the Blogging Songwriter


We’re just freaks in love
Saints above
Shine on our sweet life
Happy is the union
Of fools and freaks alike

And fearless are the idiots
Among the hawks and doves
We’re on the outside looking in
A couple of freaks in love

Freaks in Love, lyrics by B. Taupin
© 2004 HST Management Ltd./Rouge Booze, Inc

Have you read something that makes you think: “how can anyone be that stupid?”  What am I saying?   Of course you have if you read stuff on the Internet!  The Internet allows anybody who is even mildly literate to post anything their dinosaur brain can formulate into letters and words.  Continue reading

She was a Beautiful House

A model house once stood where I stand now
Two stories with stunning rooms inside
The roof and brown shutters
Defended from the outside
Smooth bricks shrouded
Vibrant wallpaper inside
When warm breezes swept across the curtains
Two girls in white dresses and long hair
Burst out of the front door
Spinned cartwheels on the tidy lawn
When the lawn turned brown
The girls wept, and then were gone
Termites buried deep into each crevice
Boring holes that consumed the gentle wood
Angels sang for her crown
At first she resisted
But the tumor persisted
And finally wore her down
There’s a crumbling old shed crouching in back
Screened by an overgrown hydrangea bush
Unpainted and untainted
It stores chairs with sagging canes
And cracked vinyl records
She’ll never listen to again
For Kristine

© 2015 Renata Manzo

Old Man Walking


He’s a grumpy old man but his dog still loves him. Picture by Ed Yourdon

Old man, where do you think you’re going
Nowhere in a hurry, that’s for sure
You don’t have much to do any more
Once you retired, they put you out to pasture
You’re angry all the time that much I can see
But don’t take it out on me
No, don’t take it out on me
Continue reading

Answers in the Sky


You don’t need a prayer
And there’s no price to ask why
Sometimes you’ll find an answer in the sky
Answer in the Sky, lyrics by B. Taupin
(c) 2004 HST Management Ltd./Rouge Booze, Inc.

I am embarrassed to admit that before Saturday, I had never heard of Richard Dawkins and had no idea who he was.  No, not Richard Dawson, the actor from Hogan’s Heroes and Family Feud.  That’s a different guy, and I think he’s dead.

Richard Dawkins is still very much alive, although if the amount and ferocity of hate mail he receives is any indication of his chances for longevity, I’d recommend that he update his will sooner rather than later.

You’ve never heard of him either?  Good, I’m not the only one.  So, who is he?  According to Wikipedia (the oxymoron of accurate information), he’s an ethologist, evolutionary biologist and writer.  He’s also an outspoken atheist.


Richard Dawkins is still alive.

When I tried to read up about him on  Wikipedia, I got very confused.  Here’s an example of what I mean:

In 1982, he introduced into evolutionary biology the influential concept that the phenotypic effects of a gene are not necessarily limited to an organism’s body, but can stretch far into the environment, including the bodies of other organisms.

I had no idea what “phenotype” meant, so I followed that link.  But the explanation of phenotype used more words I did not know, so I had to follow those links, which lead me to more links and so on and so on.  But none of the articles explained him in Plain English.

I know I’m smart, but as a graduate of W&M, I have no illusions about my intelligence. Most of the people I went to school with there were a lot smarter than me.  As a result of that humbling experience, when I enter a room, I never assume I’m the smartest person there.  I wait for other people to start talking before I make up my mind.  As Lincoln said:

Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt.

Fools usually have no problem self-identifying. Of course, I’m probably safe in saying I’m smarter than Kim Kardashian, but considering she’s rich and famous and I’m not, she must have something going for her.  It’s probably her booty, not her brains.

The point is, I did not understand a lot of the evolutionary biology stuff.  No matter, it was his stance on religion that got my attention.  Although he is a scientist, in 2006 he published a book called The God Delusion, in which he wrote that God does not exist, and religious faith is a delusion—”a fixed false belief”.

I understand why he thinks that God does not exist.  According to Dawkins, God’s existence cannot be proven by scientific methods. If science cannot prove that God exists, then God does not exist.

At the same time, science has not disproven God’s existence either.  That’s why a belief in God relies on faith. One of the definitions of the word faith is “a belief not based on proof.” There you go. One has to have faith that God is real.

So I get the part about him saying God does not exist. What I don’t understand is why he cares so much that people believe in God. I kept reading more articles about him, but none of them answered my question. Wikipedia certainly didn’t help.

I went on Youtube and found some fascinating interviews in which he attempts to explain why he is so adamant that people stop believing in God. The best interview I found was here:

Dawkins says religion is bad because it has been used to justify wars over time. He says that dogmatic beliefs can be pernicious beliefs that drive people to do awful things. True. Can’t argue with that.

But what about people like me, who aren’t fanatics? I’m not going to join a terrorists cell and try to blow up a French newspaper I’ve never heard of or a café full of Norwegians. Why would I do that? I have nothing against Norwegians. Most of them are probably perfectly nice people. I wonder how many of them believe in God?

Why does it bother him so much that people like me, who believe in science and evolution, also believe in a divine being?

Dawkins says he’s against religion because it “teaches us to be satisfied with not understanding the world.” That’s not true for everyone. I think a lot of scientists who believe in God would say he’s wrong about that.


Do I believe that the world was created in seven days and is only 10,000 years old? No. The Bible was not written by God. It was written by men inspired by their beliefs in God. The Bible is rooted in the times in which it was written. Science did not exist then, so the authors provided answers as best they could. One has to cull through the historical stuff, pick out the moral code and leave the rest behind.

And consider this. According to some sources, more than half the people in the world believe in God. If religion is so off the mark, how did it get such a stronghold on the world? My dad used to say “50 million Frenchmen can’t be wrong.” Are we all  delusional? Dawkins would say yes.

Even if Dawkins is right about God, however, he seems to be conveniently ignoring a facet of human nature that science will not change. People are looking for something to believe in, something bigger than themselves. Science as a belief, well it just doesn’t cut the mustard. Science doesn’t have angels and water that turns into wine. Just like many of us would like to believe in ghosts, we’d like to think miracles are possible too.

When Jon Stewart interviewed Dawkins on the Daily Show, they discussed the question of how the universe got started. Dawkins said not to think about it as a defined starting line.  He said that some organism started it all.  So Stewart asks:  “where did that organism come from?”  Dawkins did not answer this question.

After their discussion, Stewart summed the topic up nicely:

This is so cool to think about. Do you want to get high later?

At the end of the day, what’s wrong with hedging one’s bets? The way I look at it is this. If I believe in God and it turns out there is no God, then when I die, poof! I’m gone. But what have I lost in the meantime? Nothing.

But if there is a God and I don’t believe, then I could be in trouble when I get to the pearly gates, assuming I even get that far.

Finally, if there is a God and I do believe, then I’m golden.

So it makes sense to me to believe. So sue me. If it makes me a better person, and I think it does, then again I ask, why does Richard Dawkins care so much that I believe in God?

Gloria Steinem Lied to Me


Gloria Steinem how could you lie to me
You told me how my life could be
A worthwhile career
And a marriage too
But what I’ve discovered
Is that it’s just not true
Is it a myth that I’ve uncovered
Or a fantasy from my own youth

Gloria Steinem you defied convention
But somehow you failed to mention
Someone has to keep
The home fires burning
Someone has to be home
When the kids arrive from school
If both of us are out there earning
Who will drive the cotillion carpool?

Gloria I heard what you used to say
But who will to go to the PTA
The girl scout meetings
And swim team practice?
Who cooks the kids dinner
When we both have to work late?
Someone has to help them practice
For their high school debates

Gloria these childhood times are so fleeting
I won’t miss them for a meeting
If I try for both
Will I somehow lose?
Or do I have to choose?
If I put my job on pause
Will my mom have burned her bra in vain?
Will Betty Freidan turn in her grave?

(c) 2015 Renata Manzo

My Renaissance Career

angelousI don’t want this life anymore
Truth be told
I never wanted the picket fence
Or the station wagon
Why did I settle for
The path of least resistance?
Was I lazy or
Was it just expedience?

From the inside looking out I’m
Still nineteen
I’m quick and taut and free and thin
My body still takes flight
No wrinkles weigh me down
When did my maturation begin?
How did I not see
My gray hair and double chin?

Is there still some time left for a
A new career before I’m too old
When I begin again
This time I won’t settle
The steps I will take will be bold
No hesitation
No ling’ring outside the hold

(c)2015 Renata Manzo

We All Break the Rules Sometimes


Rules and Regulations
And real estate are things I’ve left behind
Mandalay Again, lyrics by B. Taupin
2010 Mercury Records Ltd.

The other day I was sitting in the waiting room of my therapist’s office. The receptionist was at lunch, so there was a sign telling patients to check in at the main office. My therapist is located in one building that is part of a complex of medical office buildings. The main office is around the corner.

I don’t walk to the main office to check in. My therapist checks me in on her laptop during our appointment. I am not trying to be difficult, but something irks me about having to go to another office to check in. They are understaffed so I have to walk in the rain? Not that I don’t need the exercise. It’s the principle of the thing. It’s a dumb rule.

Anyway, another patient came in and read the sign. Then he asked me if we had to do it.  Continue reading

Down from the Mountain

Down from the mountain
Out of the storm
Into your car where
The seats were warm
I felt like a puddle
Where the mosquitos swarm
Where did you think
I would end up that day
Did you think I was watching
For you to come this way?
Did you know I’d be wanting
Someone to love
Were you always there waiting
For me to show up?
I leaned on your shoulder
As we drove along
A bucket of beers
On the seat though it’s wrong
Your habits cleaned up
As we traveled in time
I sharpened your edges
And you softened mine
(c) 2015 Renata Manzo