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The Years. Examining History A Year At A Time

I’m a sucker for history. When I went to West Point, back in the Old Corps days, when men were men, we ate rocks for breakfast, and the sheep ran scared, they said the education was like trying to take a drink from a fire hydrant turned full blast. I think I averaged around 22 hours a semester in academics; on top of parades, inspections, being on the marathon team, military training, intramural, etc. We had classes six days a week. Despite that, we didn’t graduate with a specific major, just a concentration.

Mine was in psychology, so when I went back to graduate school, imagine my surprise to find out I couldn’t get a Masters degree without an undergraduate major. I discovered, given the hours I had at West Point, the quickest way to that, was to take a couple more undergraduate history courses. Apparently I took a lot of history at West Point. They were big on it. Also, though, growing up, going to the library constantly, I not only read a lot of fiction, I also got the old Dewey Decimal System pretty much memorized and was always drawn to the 900 section. I have a brain full of weird stuff, yet can’t remember what is in the refrigerator that we bought the other day. Seriously. Deb just has to put it behind something and I’ll never find it or remember it was there.

I use to upload my keynote/powerpoint presentations. I’ve got most of my ones I use at conferences on writing uploaded, along with ones on my various books. This morning I just pulled together 28 years of history on 28 separate presentations and managed to link them all. Quite tedious and I’m not good at tedious, but it’s done.

So for those of you who likes history and facts and weird stuff, here is the master slideshare for all of it:


Doctor Strange. A wild trip.

Yeah– remembering the days of black lights, Pink Floyd and the guys on the track team in the basement of an apartment building, smoking oregano. Cause, you know, a nickel bag in the Bronx, who knew what you were getting? Seriously. I assume there are no “nickel” bags any more? We also used to go to Woodlawn Cemetery and do keggers. Did you know that’s where the money drop for the Lindbergh baby was set? I digress, as I am wont to do.

Anyway. We watched Doctor Strange last night and it was pretty crazy. Definitely whoever did the effects in Inception had a lot of fun with CGI.

But that’s not what I liked about it. First, there was some good humor. The movie, and the characters, didn’t take themselves too seriously. Even the bad guy. I liked Benedict Cumberbatch. And seriously, that can’t be a screen name. Has to be his real name. He found that hard balance between being serious and not overdoing it.

Tilda Swinton? Seriously? That was an odd casting choice, but it worked. My favorite with her, though, was Michael Clayton which ranks up there as one of my favorite all time George Clooney movies. The bad guy, Mads Mikkelsen– is that a screen name, pretty cool– did a great job; oh yea, Hannibal on TV– knew I’d seen him. I was a bit disappointed in Chiwetel Ejiofor, but he worked with the part he was given– for me, he made Serenity work a long time ago as the bad guy.

More importantly, the core message of Doctor Strange was solid: “It’s not about you.” In this day and age, that something that we seem to have lost a lot. I know I have to be reminded almost every day by my wife. One of the by-products of my brain disorder is it comes off as narcissism at times– even was diagnosed by one shrink as “brittle narcissist” but that didn’t quite fit. So I have to ground myself in the real world and remember that it’s not about me. Maybe I need a magic cloak?

The way Strange solved the problem at the end was perfect for not only the plot, for who he was. I was wondering, as a writer, how they would “show” him changing. Since that’s a key rule in character arc. Loved what the writers came up with.

Overall— Cool Gus recommends it!



BTW– if you’re a writer and interested in what I mean by character arc, I’ve updated all my free writing writing slideshares recently and here’s the one on character. Also, we will have dates for Writing Scenic, our new writing workshop at our new place, up shortly.


Dark Neighborhood: Watching Your Life Play Out On Screen While Sitting in the Audience?

Ever feel like that? As if you’re just an observer in your own life? As if you’re not really engaged in the actual living?

I was outside power-washing the driveway today (I’m a lousy power-washer; lots of streaks etc. but hey, most of the dirt is gone) but my mind was all over the place and all over time—forward and back.

There are variations. Being the person on screen, but feeling like your real self is out there in the audience. Of course, there’s being both people at the same time, but let’s not go there now.

Some of it has to do with being able to be in the here and now. I have a hard time with that. My brain seems to jump around a lot. I remember being a kid in the Bronx and I used to just get on my Stingray bike with the purple banana seat and just go out riding around. Nowadays I imagine that would be frowned upon, but times were different then.

I’d bike all over the Bronx. But my mind would travel much further afield in space and time. I also spent a lot of time in the library. So much so that I felt like I’d exhausted the closest one and had to go further afield to another branch. Books were my world. BTW, there I am next to one of the two lions in front of the main branch of the NYPL in Manhattan. Did you know they have names? Patience and Fortitude. That one is Fortitude, when I probably could use more Patience.

One of the coolest moments was finding this hardcover with this weird image on the cover: the Hobbit! (anyone remember the cover to the left?) And then seeing three more books by the same dude! Of course, I didn’t know then that Tolkien had compressed 3 movies into that first book; such arrogance. And left out the elf-dwarf love story! That awareness would come later.

But back to watching life play out and not being engaged. It bothers me. Sometimes I really wish my brain wasn’t broken because it seems like people without broken brains are happier, but that could just be bluer grass. On the flip side, it has its plusses. I have no doubt that it’s an asset for being a writer. And really, what a cool job!

It helped in the military. I could do really hard things and it wasn’t that hard to me. I always found it weird when others would collapse or give up and just not be able to handle it. To me Special Forces was the norm, not special. Jump out of a perfectly good airplane at night off the ramp at 500 feet AGL, wearing over 150 pounds of gear? Sure. Why not? I wouldn’t do it for fun. But for pay and mission? Sure. Move through a blizzard at 12,000 feet altitude carrying a lot of gear with the temp well below zero? Sure, because part of me wasn’t really there. I was watching this other guy do it.

But engagement is hard. To be in the here and now. The brain in tune with the body and in tune with the environment.

There are things that are broken and there are things that are learned. The line between the two isn’t clear cut, because they intermingle as we grow up. So now, it’s focusing on what can be relearned. Or unlearned and relearned.

So that’s the Dark Neighborhood for this weekend.


Oh yeah—quick note—today only, Saturday, The Rock, one of my favorite books is free if you’d like.

Also, if you’re not on my newsletter, please sign up. I’m going to do an intense giveaway of audiobook giveaways in the next month via the newsletter only, especially now that Ides, D-Day and Independence Day are live in audiobook and Nine-Eleven will be done next week.

Nothing but good times ahead in the cinema!




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