February 10, 2016

Age of Ultron revisited - Why you're in it determines who wins it!

I find its good practice to check out movies I've reviewed after seeing them in theaters a second time once they come out on video to see if my opinion has changed and why. Not only does it help to keep perspective, but I have a firm belief that the process helps me improve my own skills as a story teller.

For instance, while I did not review Mad Max: Fury Road, I did enjoy it in the theater. At home though, a two hour special effects laden, over the top car chase just doesn't hold up. While it was somehow nominated for best picture (all the evidence the #OscarsSoWhite crowd needed), there were many folks turning it off without finishing over how ridiculous it all seemed to them, and I'm hard pressed to disagree.

Avengers: Age of Ultron was a film that apparently worked for me a whole lot more than most, especially the critics, who'd basically equated it to a C-. My review produced heated debate between those giving the thumbs up, and others who either wanted or expected much more, or don't understand the serial format in which all comic books and television shows are created. 

During the re-watch, there were absolutely segments that forced me to step back and admit, 'OK, that was cheesy'. And like a yo-yo on a string, I was snapped back to my original impressions of 'hey, this is pretty damn good' during others. 

But the lasting impression that it gave me, against the backdrop of conversations I've been having with a friend who'd recently released his first novel (excellent so far, by the way), had very little to do with the story itself, but with the characters, the process of creation and what it meant to my own work moving forward.

I don't quite know whether or not anyone who is not a writer or artist can truly appreciate what a mammoth undertaking and accomplishment it is to create an entire universe as comprehensive as the one Marvel Comics has. For 75 years thousands of creators have poured their souls into bringing this Universe into being. And Stan Lee is personally responsible for a large portion of the heavy hitters. 

The victory of films like Avengers: Age of Ultron doesn't rest on the success of an individual movie, but in how they breathe life into this expansive world one installment at a time. 

And that brings me to the point of this piece. While writers like my friend sweep people off of their feet with beautifully poetic prose, I bash them over the head. Down and dirty, raw grit; pulp fiction. But  as we saw with the treatment of comic book films at last years Academy Awards, there's this sense that if a piece is not the utmost artistic endeavor refined beyond the capacity of simple tastes, it is somehow less; lacking, wanting. 

In the same way you don't go looking for love in a brothel, it's important to know what you're in it for. Those out there who want to write the next great novel, go for it, do everything you can to emulate Hemingway. But I refuse to be judged by those standards. At no point have I ever desired to be then next Charles Dickens....  

I've always wanted to be the next Stan Lee..... 

Come create a Universe with me.

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October 14, 2015

Comic Con! Those Personal Connections and a free preview!

The 2015 version of New York Comic Con is raging as I type this, and I find myself missing it again sitting here in South Florida. I can't really complain much though, this area of the world has at least three conventions now that Wizard World brought their Ft. Lauderdale Con entry into the field, even if none of them are what we'd consider "major" shows like NYCC.

But is missing the "major" shows necessarily a bad thing?

The first job I ever had was working tables at card and comic shows in the early 90's as a teenager. They were everywhere at the time, a different show a night from Friday through Sunday in VFW halls and church basements. The big draw was always some older star like Wrestling legend Bruno Sammartino. And maybe you were lucky enough to catch a "Creation Convention" at a venue as illustrious as the NY Penn Hotel where you could possibly meet Frank Gorshin, the original Riddler, and Adam West at the same show. But that was about as big as it got. This was way back when Doomsday killed Superman but you couldn't actually read the issue unless you bought two copies so that you didn't lose your books value by opening the bag. I still have that damn bag and it's only worth about 17 bucks.

I loved everything about those shows though, especially the personal connections you made "working the circuit". To this day it's still the most fun I've ever had working, and it inspired things like the scene I wrote for my novel which I've left at the end here for you to enjoy. 

Just the other night a buddy of mine, and the inspiration behind the now infamous Roberto Vega, sent me a text saying "There was nothing like that first NY Comic Con we went to". That was the 2010 installment, and he was right. But it was specifically that personal connection that I had mentioned that made the show such a highlight. That show I met Ross Richie of BOOM Studios!, who still takes the time to give advice, and Lauren Francesca, one of Playboy's 25 Hottest YouTube Stars. And I'm not talking about the paying a hundred bucks for a picture and an autograph type of meeting, these are people I still talk to from time to time.

Me with Lauren Francesca

By the next year, 2011, while I did get a lot of great material to write about in this space, such as 2011 Comicon - Personality.... it goes a long way.... or one of my personal favorites, what NOT to do.... Being remembered the wrong way, the place had gotten so packed that you could barely walk the show room floor anymore, and forget about actually meeting professionals in the business.

In 2012 I was there with my wife, who was five months pregnant at the time, and things had grown so out of control that we couldn't even take in the entire show due to safety risks. After all, who wants their wife and kid stampeded so that they can get a gander at an unoriginal print? Not this guy, and probably not you either.

Look at how packed that is. You can't move in there!

Later on in the day I half joked with Lauren that I had wanted to introduce her to my wife, but didn't want to subject her to that. The 'that' which I speak of was mob that surrounded the booth she was working. It was so deep the only way through was with a snow plow, and that wasn't unique to her, it was the same everywhere you went inside the convention center. There gets to be a point where too much becomes, well, too much. And so I stopped subjected us both to that.

Just recently I had read that the major studios such as Marvel and DC had stopped using any Cons outside of San Diego to promote their upcoming events. Apparently, between the huge costs involved and their ability to go right to where the fans are all the time, at home, it didn't make much business sense to keep up the practice.

Armed with this knowledge, and the desire to introduce my kid to something new, something that gave me so much joy over the years, we took a shot and checked out the Florida Supercon. There were no enormous displays, no studios trying to blow away the competition, just comics, and collectibles, and fans. Plenty of stars came out for the event, a ton of them really, but they weren't inaccessible. You could reach right out and grab them, as I did wrestling star Tito Santana. And it reminded me exactly of all those shows I worked and loved in the hallowed halls of the Knights of Columbus, only on a much larger scale.

Dean Cain

My kid had such a good time that she went on about it for weeks on end afterwards. So much so that I took her to Wizard World Ft. Lauderdale where my two and half year old was able to see Superman (Dean Cain) in real life, yell "Goonies Never Say Die" at Sean Austin, and the highlight of the day, say "Hello Highlander" to Adrian Paul, Duncan MacLeod himself.

Adrian Paul

Adrian Paul sent a tweet of MY daughter to his entire fan base later on that night. I was a HUGE fan of the show, and now a huge fan of the man for taking an interest in my kid when he didn't have to. I mean, how cool is that?

And it was there that I was reminded, that personal connection is what keeps us coming back; that connection to the books and the shows, the connection to the stars and characters they brought to life, the connection to the shop we buy our books from and the community that's built around it. It's our connection to each other, and dressing up like our favorite heroes, taking pictures and sharing moments with others just like us.....

The Picture of my kid The Highlander Tweeted

And it's always, always been building that same sort of connection with you that's made me love writing and creating stories and characters of my own over the years. It's something we can share and enjoy together. It's something lost in the crowds of those jam packed "major" shows.

Don't get me wrong, I still would have loved to be there, but I can't really complain much. Now enjoy the piece below. Tell me if it reminds you of anything. And buy a copy if you feel so inclined. 

Excerpt from
Book II Chapter 7

The comic book show where Roberto and Mike were to meet with Jeremy was being held within the confines of a church basement, not a ten-minute drive from the school that they had just left. One blunt, two wrong turns, getting lost for a few minutes in their own neighborhood, a bout of forgetfulness, and a little more then an hour later, they found themselves walking down a flight of wooden stairs which ended on a tiled church basement floor. It was 9: 47 in the evening and just before new entry would be denied. Vega was NOT happy about the ten bucks that he had to shell out for admittance.
 “This shit is comin’ right out yer pay!” he told his partner.
“That’s great!” Mike responded. “That means you’re gonna have ta PAY me.”
Brown and beige tiles checkered the floor of a cavernous room, it’s ceiling supported by large pillars spaced evenly along the side walls. They entered at the left of this room. Another door was set in the right corner. Exactly at the middle of the right wall was a kitchen where food and beverages were being served. At the far end sat a stage elevated some five feet above the ground. A set of steps led to the top of it from either side.
There was a large display atop the stage, which appeared to hold the wares of a single vendor. Tables were set along the other three walls with just enough space between to allow comic merchants room to work. There were more placed at the center of the room in a large enclosed rectangle, separating the buyers from the sellers.
“Look at all these clowns!” Vega exclaimed, “How the fuck we gonna know one slob from anotha, much less pick out yer boy?”
In the five minutes since they had walked through the door they had already spotted numerous comic book heroes, a few Jedi, a couple of incarnations of the Highlander, and the entire crew of the starship Enterprise…. from every one of the shows. And this wasn’t even a major convention. Oh, yeah, there were a few normal looking people walking around as well.
“Let’s just take a look around an see what we find.” Mike said. “There may even be somethin’ worth pickin’ up.”
“I knew ya were one a these cocksuckas!”
Mike just shrugged his shoulders.  

They moved from table to table, Mike seeing almost the same exact product (newly released issues available at any store or newsstand) at almost every stop. Vega shook his head the entire time in disbelief.
“What the FUCK?” Vega wondered, staring at a half ton man in green face paint, pit stains two feet long. “Look at this fat green fuck ova here!”
“Klingon.” Mike told him.
“Fat Klingon fuck.” Mike explained. “He’s a Klingon.”
“He’s a dirty piece a shit is what he is.” Vega responded. “An he smells like one too!”
“Do ya see this?” Mike asked, ignoring Roberto’s insults and pointing to the tables around them. “This is exactly the reason I stopped collectin’. Used ta be ya go to a show ta try an fill in yer back issues, ya know, get a couple deals, find somethin’ ya neva knew was out there.”
“Ugh” Vega grunted. He didn’t give a shit, but once Mike started ranting, the bullshit had to fly, the buffoonery run its course.
“Every single one a these people are sellin’ the same exact shit!” Pellegrino continued. “An ya’d think, since it’s all still on the shelves, that they’d discount the price some, but no, cova price, same as the guy next ta him an the one next ta that. Ya know what I’m sayin?”
“Yeah, yeah” Roberto told him. He lied. Vega had already stopped listening.
“An the comic companies themselves aren’t any better.” Mike went on. “They almost put themselves out a business. Continuous eight comic crossovers forced ya ta buy titles ya didn’t want just ta get one story arc. Poly-bags that ya can’t open cause you’ll ruin the value, so ya have ta buy two if ya actually wanna READ the book. An if that’s not enough, slap a chromium cova on the fucker an charge five bucks for a single issue. Not that it matta’s anymore, everythin’s three dollas’ a book now. Who can AFFORD ta collect anymore?”
“What are ya fuckin cryin about, man?” Vega asked. “Quit bitchin.”
“Dukes a Hazard lunch box?” Mike said to Roberto quizzically, holding the tin pail in his hands. It was stained and rusted. “This guy wants a hundred bucks fa this piece a shit, an it’s all fucked up.”
Pellegrino turned to the vendor selling that particular product. “Hey guy”, he asked “does the dirt come with this too?” The man mumbled something beneath his breath with a snarl as the investigators walked away.
Vega began to laugh out loud. Very loud. So loud in fact that it turned the odd looks on HIM. How’s that for some role reversal?
“Ya know, ya can really be an asshole when ya wanna be.” referring to the five customers that walked away from the table where Mike had inquired about free filth. “That’s some funny shit.”
“Yeah, well, that guy deserved it, hundred dolla lunch box. He’s gotta be up on the stage, it looks like the only place that’s got anythin’ worth lookin’ at.”
“Good, cause I wanna get this shit ova with an get the fuck outta here.” Vega finished.

You can find the book here for just $1.99 - The Mad Doser Presents #1: VPI – the Saga Begins.

Join my fanpage John LaSota - Writer
Or our creative team's page The Mad Doser Presents

August 9, 2015

Movie Critics are completely full of .........

You know what I'm talking about. For the longest time now I've been telling anyone who would listen how completely horrible professional Movie Reviewers are, but if I needed any further evidence, they certainly gave it to me with the critical acclaim given to "It Follows"

It wasn't that the film was completely terrible, but massive plot holes, loose associations and poor editing gave a completely amatuer feel to a decent concept that didn't quite get it done. Before seeing the Rotten Tomatoes page I said it was about a 67, you know that grade you get in school when you passed by the skin of your sack, but not really?

Low and behold, the "Pros" couldn't get enough of it's "clever" concept, which wasn't particularly all that clever and killed by its multiple misteps, to the tune of a 96 score. The fans nailed it though, right in its left cheek.

In the following post I'm going to point out to you in no uncertain terms precisely what a joke that is. Above we see Arnold's go at the Zombie apocolypse got a 34 from fans, which I can understand given that they were all looking for gore and flesh shredding, but got an emotional human spirit story instead. What can I say, people are simple.

But if people are simple and thinking outside of the box in a genre is too much, then how can the ones who are charged with guiding the clueless masses have such a discrepancy in rating the "thoughtfulness" of these two films? Especially when Maggie was by far the better movie. There were no plot holes or major editing issues, and that alone should have made the difference.

If you wanted to say "eh, bad example, Maggie was trash", though, ok. Then what about the Tom Hardy/James Gandolfini drama The Drop? This movie was great and Tom Hardy was outstanding, his character alone a piece of art. The 89 critics score is about right, and yet not close to the 96 for "It Follows"

Not really a Tom Hardy fan though? Ok, that happens. How do you feel about Academy Award nominees? J.K. Simmons won best supporting actor for his role in Whiplash because he was sick! No, literally, his performance may have carried the film, but it left me thinking there has to be something seriously wrong with that guy.

Great film, everyone says so right? Well apparently it wasn't as good as "It Follows". The 94 score given to Whiplash couldn't quite top that 96.

Or what about Birdman, which won Academy Awards for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Screenplay and Best Cinematography to go along with nominations for Best Actor, Best Supporting Actor and Best Supporting Actress among others?

Well the Academy must have missed something, because according to critical acclaim, "It Follows" was the better film in 2014.

Indie films aren't for everyone though. While I loved Birdman and Whiplash both and still can't decide which I thought was the better film, I will only actually go to the theater for the kind of flick that you HAVE to see on the big screen.

I went crazy for Jurassic World. Part of that was due to nostalgia; it reminded me so much of the original film that it put me in a different place and time and reminded me of a different, well, me. According to the critics though, Jurassic World was barely watchable. The main complaint was that it was too much like the original. Remember that line as we get to the end, Jurassic World was crap because it was too much like, but not better than, the original.

By the way, as of this writing, Jurassic World became the third highest grossing film of all time behind only Titanic and Avatar. If only it were even close to as good a watch as "It Follows"......

Everyone love comics these days. Well, everyone except "serious" movie people. I've never heard comics killed so much as I had watching the latest award shows, but Age of Ultron passed $1 BILLION at the box office, so apparently the fans don't agree with the "experts". 

That 87 fan rating is probably about what we gave it, and coupled with the sales figures Marvel must be doing something right. That's not the story the "professional" movie watchers would give you though. They gave it a 74, just barely passing. "It Follows" then, logicially, is the WAY more entertaining piece, 96 rating and all. 

FINALLY!!! We've finally come to a film, after all the films that we've looked at, that the critics thought was a better watch than "It Follows". Mad Max: Fury Road comes in with a 98.

A 2 hour car chase through the desert with over the top villains came in at a 98. Remember when Jurassic World was too much like the original that it failed to even register a C on the test? Well then what in the hell would you say about Mad Max? That is was so much different? That it was better than the orginals?

Look, I loved Fury Road, but how about a little consistency please.

But all you have to do is take a look at the image above and it's pretty clear how very little professional critics represent the tastes and opinions of the people who actually pay to enjoy these movies, and ultimately, who they're made for.

This isn't to say every one of them are hacks. There are some great film critics who's opinion's are usually very close to mine, and I love to read their work. But just like your friends, some you agree with constantly, others just have no clue of what the hell they're talking about. So your best bet is to find people who you generally agree with and hear what they have to say, disregarding the rest. At the end of the day, none of this is any more than some persons Opinion.......

And you know what they say about Opinions.....
Everyone has one and they usually stink!

You can see what we thought about all of these films here at The Mad Doser Presents fan page on Facebook

June 11, 2015

What if Vader took over Manhattan?

What would we do if Darth Vader showed up in our world?

That was the question that set off my first book, The Mad Doser Presents #1: VPI – the Saga Begins. It was the Summer of 1999 and Episode 1 just came out, the hype alone made every fanboy like me go crazy, and I was on vacation in Virginia reading Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman in the car when something in the pages made me stop and ask myself in all seriousness, if a Sith Lord were to try to take over the world right now, what the hell would we do?

Kevin Smith was huge at the time and my buddy and I were doing the sort of things in real life that Jay and Silent Bob were in the movies, which opened up a world of possibilities in the type of story you could tell. So I kicked the idea around for a while wondering exactly what a couple of idiots like us would do to stop something like that.

It really only started out as something to do on my lunch break to entertain my friends at work, but every day when I’d write a little more they’d laugh and laugh, so I kept it going. Before I knew it I was at the first turn and everyone wanted to know where I was going and how I would end it and things just grew from there.

I wanted the story to move like the Timothy Zahn Thrawn trilogy, which were just some of the most entertaining books I’ve ever read, they never get boring. Flow is important to me in storytelling because once I get bored and put it down I won’t pick it up again, and if don't like that then I refuse to do it to my readers. So I wanted a lot of characters to weave in and out of the storyline and come together at the end the way Zahn had so masterfully done it, while opening up storylines for things that I might want to try down the road. But at the heart of it there still had to be that goofy, not too serious fun that Kevin Smith gave us, albeit with a harder edge. After all, we were a lot cruder, and a bit rawer.

The funniest real life detail that makes it into the main characters, how I settled on two pothead private detectives, was how everyone everywhere actually thought that we were undercover cops. I guess it was in the way we dressed, and that certain swagger that we carried ourselves with, but even cops thought we were plain clothes cops. It didn’t hurt that I think Sam Spade is the coolest cat ever written.

Writing them became all too easy, a good deal of the scenes involving Vega and Pellegrino actually happened, or close to it, which in a sense not only makes it an homage to the creators that always inspired me, but to my buddies as well. There isn’t anything written in the book that wouldn’t sound like it would come out of my mouth, so it’s pretty natural and has a real feel to it because of that.

There are so many things that I love about this book. It taught me who I am as a writer, and you can tell that I get stronger and stronger as it goes on. But mostly, I really had a good time doing it, and so many people have told me what a good time they’ve had reading it. It’s just a fun story, with a lot of places left open to take you in the future, and I know for sure, if you’re a fan of Kevin Smith films, a fan of Star Wars and comics and don’t take yourself too seriously, well I know you’ll love it too.

You can find the book here for just $1.99 - The Mad Doser Presents #1: VPI – the Saga Begins.

Join my fanpage John LaSota - Writer
Or our creative team's page The Mad Doser Presents

March 3, 2015

GET PUBLISHED!!! Our schedule and how we do things

By now you've probably seen our ads offering percentage pay for writers submitting short stories to be published in our collections, and if you're reading this, they've at least piqued your interest.

If that's the case it means that you've considered writing professionally. Ask any writer though, and they'll tell you if you can do anything else, you should. The reason for that is how impossibly difficult it can seem to break out, and the borderline insane dedication it requires to make that happen.

86% of all books fail and 95% of all fiction writers never make any money. Even those who do happen to procure an advance from a publishing house only do so after showing how they'll use that money to advertise. Advances are NOT your money, and often must be paid back.

There's nothing more crushing to your dream than putting your soul into 60-100,000 words and years of your life into a manuscript, actually getting it published, only to end up spending more money advertising it than you make back in sales. And yet, that's exactly what what happens to the majority of us.

Does that mean you should pack it in and give up? NEVER!
It just means you have to change your approach.

It's a proven fact that people don't buy your books, they buy your name. Even Stephen King had a hard time selling under the name Richard Bachman until people found out Bachman was Stephen King. You have to get people to know who you are BEFORE your novel hits the stands. King sold short stories to magazines.

Take a moment to think about what's popular out there right now. AMC and HBO have HUGE hits and followings with shows like The Walking Dead, Mad Men, Breaking Bad, Game of Thrones and so on. FX has American Horror Story and Sons of Anarchy; Showtime Shameless....

Comic book movies, while once taboo, are enormously successful to the point where it's become not only accepted, but mainstream. And what is a single episode of television or issue of Detective but a one-shot, short story that's part of a larger series using characters we love to create vast worlds?

Rather than pour everything you've got into the crap shoot that is novel writing, wouldn't it be more constructive to develop your characters and skill in small monthly installments, all while practicing your marketing techniques and building your fan base?

It's important to keep in mind that some of the giants in story telling made their mark in just this way. Charles Dickens is remembered for great novels, but those novels were originally printed as shorts in monthly publications, just as we're proposing to you now. Dickens was able to use fan feedback to change direction and mold his tales into something memorable.

The first modern detective story was "Murders in the Rue Morgue", a short story with two sequels that later became the basis for Sherlock Holmes. The Holmes tales themselves were short stories, as were the radio serials and comic strips that launched other iconic characters such as The Lone Ranger and Flash Gordon. No Flash Gordon, no Star Wars.

What we're proposing here is a proven method that allows you to freely try new techniques while simultaneously getting new fans through cross promotion, and using the feedback from those fans to help your characters and worlds grow.

You don't even have to write a full story to pull it off, Pulp Fiction was a bunch of disjointed, bad ass scenes. Let's face it, if you can't put down one bad ass scene a month then you probably shouldn't be doing this, should you?

Now that we've gotten the pitch out of the way, let me explain how it all works. Throughout this post you'll have seen several sample covers with an example of the type of tales that we're looking for for each. These are the books we're looking to produce in the coming eighteen months, though we're always open to suggestions. The purpose of the themes is to focus your creative energy.

We publish the book for Kindle and set the price at $0.99, of which you get 2% per sale for each of your stories that we select. Upon release, you market your work. Sell yourself. No one but yourself. Sell to your friends, go on podcasts and radio shows, practice all the techniques it takes to get the word out for when you DO drop that novel. While you're doing that, each author in the collection will be doing the same, bringing THEIR audience to YOUR work by doing nothing but selling themselves.

Payments come in $10 increments, meaning 500 copies would have to be sold for every ten bucks you get, but the money isn't the point, it's getting as many people to read your work as possible. You just have a chance to get some money out it. Due to the prohibitive costs, we wait until 5,000 copies of the eBook are sold before going to the print version, which will be available to contributors at cost.

Now, before you scoff at that 2%, here's the part that makes it enticing for you. The average royalty for a novel is 6%. At $7 per book that's $0.42 per sale. Even at the low end, 60,000 words for a novel, that equates to 20 entries our way, which comes to $0.40 for the same amount of work, except that you'll have been marketing your work for 20 months, with a number of other authors SELLING FOR YOU, in the time it would take to put that novel out.

And it doesn't stop there. This is the best part. Once you've written 10 stories or bad ass scenes of your own we release an "annual" comprised of just your work using stories you've already written and set the price at $2.99, of which you get 40%, or $1.20 per sale. Hell, hold back scenes that connect the dots so fans HAVE to buy the annual if they want the whole story.

We create multiple streams of income, multiple avenues for finding new fans, all while providing quality entertainment to those fans at a low, low price. And all you have to do is the minimum amount of what you SHOULD be doing if you want to write for a living. Build up your fans and bounce so we can help bring along more talent. It's a win-win for everyone involved.

All it takes is one short story a month.

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August 5, 2014

Feeling August 4th 2014

In - Spirit

I'm all blocked up. I'm having the hardest time getting loose enough, free enough, to dream up my stories. Nothing is coming easy and free.

Free and easy.

Some people eat their feelings. I was getting fat again as it is. Can't do that again. The one benefit of my current situation is the shape that I'm getting into.

Some people cover it all up, drown it with drugs and booze. I can't do that anymore. I freak the fuck out.

The Law of Attraction says to stay positive, stay grateful, and I try. Every night I pray to God; I say "Thank you for my daughter. Thank you for my wife. Please keep them healthy. Please keep them happy. Please keep them safe. Let them shine their light, and shine yours through them, so that they may be a light unto the world."

Then I ask for the same for myself. I could really use a miracle right now, but recognize too that what's most important to me is my family. It's the one thing I've always wanted above all else. A man isn't a man without a family. So I end my prayers with "but give me those first few for my wife and daughter, take care of my family, and we're good."

I'm not religious. I AM spiritual. Every time I've needed a miracle, somehow, some way, it always comes through. It just takes a while.

You don't have to believe what I believe, so long as you believe in something. I believe that God is right where science and soul meet. I don't much trust anyone who doesn't believe in anything. What keeps them honest? What keeps them true? And true to what?

I write my feelings. Then I share them with you. Maybe you can relate. Maybe you feel the same.

Maybe tomorrow will bring a story.
But I've got to go.

Until then....

February 14, 2014

Valentine's Pooh Pooh

It's Valentine's Day and I'm stuck in my house, all but bed ridden, with an enormous hole in my leg so deep that you could stick your fingers into that bad boy knuckles deep.

How it happened is anyone's guess, I was mowing the lawn when something shot out and I was struck by what the French call a certain I don't know what. The day was off to a miserable start already, I had just been turned down for a job that I had really wanted, only for this to happen. As I lay on my bathroom floor with no health insurance, bleeding everywhere and slipping into shock, a strange haze and darkness taking over me, my last thoughts were on the ever easy negatives... "why me?", "how does this even happen?"

 Honestly, "man killed mowing lawn" is something you hear on Stupid News....

And then my wife threw freezing cold water over me, and I instantly snapped to attention, back from that bad place I was falling into.

So today is Valentine's day and I'm hobbled. I don't know how I'm going to give my wife her gift, if you know what I'm saying....

You Stole my Mojo!

And here is where you come in, and why I'm writing, why I'm talking to you.....

There will no doubt be tons of things flying around today about the horror's of Valentine's, scores of lonely souls crying out "Why ME?", just as the picture below suggests. And I can't say that I blame you, while I don't think we celebrate nearly enough in life and as such, should have MORE holidays rather than less, Valentine's Day is nothing more than a greeting card holiday, one trumped up to guilt trip you and apply social pressure into spending money you don't have on things you don't need to do something you should be doing every single day for your loved ones anyway; showing them how you feel about them.

Taken from the Daenerys Targaryen Page

And let's face it, 364 days a year you treat your lover like part of the furniture and a box of candy is supposed to reverse it? Not likely.

What it DOES do is make lonely people feel all the more so, pulling their focus on to just how lonely they are. So yes, generally I'm against the holiday. When you love someone, every day should be Valentine's Day.

But despite every single word listed above, I am in no way shape or form in a negative mood. Not at all. Not one bit. My spirits are currently higher than they've been in some time, and the reason is the point of what I write to you today, the message of love I give you as my Valentine....

Late last night, stuck on the couch with no way of going anywhere or doing anything, my wife and I watched The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. While it's a sad movie, the messages there couldn't have been clearer, and I'm a full on believer of Universe sending you the messages you need, when you need them, and from the oddest places..... if you listen closely.

There's a brilliant sequence in the film that shows, better than any other I've seen, how a series of small seemingly random things can coalesce into huge, sometimes catastrophic events in our lives. And that's how the Universe works, how things are brought into being. And while the film shows how much sadness there can be in life, how much pain, disappointment, missed opportunities, it also makes it very clear that it's precisely those pains that show us what's important, how we tell how very good things are when they're very good. So we must learn to embrace these hard times and events, and use them to help us focus on what's important, on what we're grateful we DO have.

Brad Pitt as Benjamin Button

So I had a freak thing happen to me and got really badly hurt mowing the lawn, but I'm lucky enough to live in a place where the weather is beautiful enough to do so in February. My friends snowed in in the North East would LOVE that about now.

So I'm hobbled by a chasm in my leg large enough to throw coins in and make a wish, but a few inches one way and what ever did the damage would have torn through my tendon, a few inches the other and it would have completely destroyed my knee cap. Had either of those happened I'd be on the shelf for six months followed by toms of physical therapy, instead, I was hit in the one and only spot I could have been that wouldn't do any real, lasting damage.

I can't give my wife the night she deserves tonight, but I have a beautiful woman who loves me enough to take care of me when I can't take care of myself.

Star Wars: The Force
your focus determines your reality

The message here, and one I needed very much to be reminded of, is that what we choose to focus our thoughts, our minds, our energy, our emotions on, is precisely what the Universe continually brings to us. But you have so much more than just that dark side, so much to be positive about; to be thankful for. There's so much for us to love. All of us do. Everyone one, and you do too. You just have to remember what it is, and often it can be the worst things that happen to us that remind us of what they are. So when you ask, "why did this happen?" or "why me?".... well there's your answer.

As I went to bed the sudden thought, fear, came into my head, which is very understandable and easy to happen at times like this.... "what if I bleed out, what if I don't wake up in the morning?"

Towards the end of the film, Benjamin Button, who is rapidly growing young, looks at his daughter and makes the hard decision, "She's going to need a father", and so leaves.... and at that moment before bed I thought of that little girl, and I thought of my own little girl..... and I answered my own question. "I have to wake up, my little girl needs her father."

My Daughter

I think about all the inconsequential things that I allow myself to get wrapped up in, that I allow to throw me off course, something we all do; I think about myself lying on the bathroom floor bleeding, going into shock; And then I think about my wife and my daughter, and the people that I HAVE made positive impacts on in my life, and what it would mean in real world terms if I wouldn't be here any more..... and it all comes clearly into focus, and the nonsense melts away. I realize my importance, my significance, and I'm happy again. In fact, I couldn't be happier.

And you can too.
You IS kind....
You IS smart....
You IS important....
You just have to think about it, and refocus.

And no, you can't date my daughter, lol.

Happy Valentine's Day!

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December 15, 2013

For my Father on Christmas

When I was ten years old my father took me to a baseball card signing to meet Willie McCovey (HoF 1986), Willie Stargell (HoF 1988) and Johnny Mize (HoF 1981) at the New York Penn Hotel. It was a day that I think about often, even now as a man grown, because of the way that these stars went out of their way to make it a special experience for me. Hundreds of people waited in line with their countless wares looking to make a big score in that world of memorabilia speculation, but when I approached the table at which McCovey sat, the former great brought me around to his side of things, pulled up a second chair, and spent fifteen minutes while he signed pictures and whatnot for others, talking to me about baseball.

Some time later in the afternoon, when I came to meet Willie Stargell, "Pops" did the exact same thing.

I'm sure you can imagine, for a young boy who never wanted to do anything but play ball, what an incredible series of events that had to have been. Needless to say, as if I needed any kind of push at that point, I was hooked. I would be a baseball fan forever. Even now, in a life full of highs and lows, it continues to be one of my best days.

My father and I have never had what you would consider a close relationship, but what can never be explained to masses of people flocking towards the newer, more exciting games the likes of NFL Football or NBA Basketball, and away from America's Past-time, are the unbreakable bonds formed between the first pitch, and the seventh inning stretch, and that last strike in the bottom of the ninth. For whatever disagreements we may have had, whatever ills during a lifetime of struggles and mistakes and miscues, for whatever hurts may have pulled us apart, my dad and I could always talk about baseball. So when I pulled his name for our family's first Christmas Secret Santa, and thought about what I could do, my mind went instantly to McCovey, and Stargell, and my first love, the New York Yankees.

Way back, before they were the Evil Empire, when the Mets ruled the city and the fans in the upper deck seemed more interested in the cartoons on the big screen than the game on the field, it didn't matter to me that the Yanks would lose close to a hundred games a year. What I remember was my father, trying to get me to a game at least once for every homestand. I remember him taking me out of school for trips to the Stadium for opening day, and the magic that hung in the air of the place. I remember the Yankees as my father's way of telling me that I was special. For all the winning that I've seen them do since, there's not a thing on the earth that compares to that; something the legion of Yankee haters will never be able to take away from me, and maybe few can understand.

So what can I do for my dad on Christmas? The best I can figure, it's to honor my favorite memories of him by teaching my own children the lessons about life that he taught me through the game we both love, those universal truths we can all understand, whether a parent, a child, a Hall of Famer or a 10 year old kid. It only takes one. Keep fouling them off till you get your pitch. As long as you've got a strike left, we can pull this one out. If you only succeed 30% of the time... you're in the Hall of Fame.

And most importantly, in that way that the long marathon of a baseball season most resembles life, because you play it every day.... if you lose this one, as my dad always told me, "Tomorrow's another day".

I love you Dad.

Let's Go Yankees!!!