Tag Archives: Harry Potter

2016: A Nowtrospective

In his book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People (which I’ve not read, btw), author Stephen R. Covey declares one of the titular habits thusly: Begin with the End in Mind.

Real original, dude. Begin your New Year’s post with a quote from a culture-saturating motivational book.

Hey, shut up. This is my post, and I’ll do what I want with it.

*ahem*

It’s with that idea in mind that I’m doing a New Year’s restrospective, not on the year that has just ended, but rather with the year that lies ahead.

You know this whole “New Year” thing is really a misnomer. It’s just another day. You can make changes at any second of any minute of any day of any month of any year. But hey, yaaaaaaaay inspiration! Tony Robbins, blahblahblah.

HermioneDeathLook

Sorry.

new_year_2016

In 2016, I:

  1. Did All the Things I Set Out to Do.

EndofListLemon

I’m going to admit that this list is not a complete one.  In a book that I actually read this year called The War of Art by Steven Pressfield (lotta Ste(v/ph)ens in this game, apparently), one of the things he talked about was not sharing your goals with everyone. The idea behind that is if you share your goals, dreams, intentions, etc., with everyone, you get a false sense of accomplishment just by laying out that list. I had always thought that spelling out your goals for others to see would make them hold you responsible should you start to slip or pull some much-needed encouragement when things get rough.

The flaw with that plan, besides weighing everyone else down with the responsibility of keeping your divergent butt on track, you’re also surrendering the active ownership of your goals to other people.

Nobody is going to do the work I need to do for me. Nobody else can. I know several people that would love to, have asked how to help, and offered whatever they have in order to help me. The answer is simple.

I have to do the work.

I’ve never been good at doing the work. In school, once I learned how to do something, homework was useless to me because I didn’t see the point. That was from elementary school. It took me many years and thousands upon thousands of dollars in student loan debt to understand the value of doing the work and seeing it turn into good grades, opportunities, and eventually my first published academic paper.

In another book I read this year–

Why isn’t this just the list of books you read this year?

DeanRealization

–That’s not a bad idea. Maybe when I’m done waxing philosophical. On Writing by Stephen King. It’s an amazing read, and I can’t recommend it highly enough. In this guide, the creepiest dude in Maine lays it out like this: “Amateurs wait for inspiration, the rest of us just get up and go to work.”

On Writing and The War of Art have had a great influence on me this year, and what I took away from both of them was that the most important thing is to do the work. Reading these books, I felt like Bart Simpson at the chalkboard scrawling out line after line of “I will do my work.”

“I will do my work” doesn’t just apply to writing, though. I have many goals that I want to see fulfilled so I can look back on 2016 and be satisfied that I did everything I could to make those goals become realities.

One goal I had from 2015 was to read more. Now that the year is over, I’ll share with you the list of books I read in 2015.

  • On Writing – Stephen King
  • The Shining – Stephen King
  • V for Vendetta – Alan Moore
  • The Last Days of Video – Jeremy Hawkins
  • Button, Button / Uncanny Stories – Richard Matheson
  • Charlie and the Chocolate Factory – Roald Dahl
  • Fight Club – Chuck Palahniuk
  • Ready Player One – Ernest Cline (previously read)
  • Ultimate Spider-Man TPBs vols. 1-22 – Brian Michael Bendis
  • Ultimate X-Men TPBs vols. 1-12 – Mark Millar, et al.
  • Tough Sh*t – Kevin Smith
  • Carrie – Stephen King
  • In the Blink of an Eye – Walter Murch
  • Deadpool Kills Deadpool – Cullen Bunn
  • TMNT/Ghostbusters – Erik Burnham & Tom Waltz
  • Gotham by Gaslight – Bryan Augustyn
  • Superior – Mark Millar & Leinil Yu
  • Tales From the Script – Peter Hanson & Paul Robert Herman
  • The War of Art – Steven Pressfield
  • Dancing Barefoot – Wil Wheaton
  • Jaws – Peter Benchley
  • Y: The Last Man Deluxe Books 1-3 – Brian K. Vaughn & Pia Guerra

Jeez, there are sure a lot of comic books–

You read through V for Vendetta and tell me it’s not a novel that happens to have pictures. But sure. Not counting comics, I still read 14 books this year. I started more than that, but I’ve only included the books I finished. I guess that could be a subheading for my one-item list up there:

In 2016, I:

  1. Finished What I Started.
It's too good to use just once.

It’s too good to use just once.

 

I’m off to a good start. I finished this post.

Happy New Year, everyone.

WE’VE SURPASSED THE FUTURE FROM BACK TO THE FUTURE AND NOW I DON’T KNOW WHAT TO DO WITH MY LIFE

Do the work.

6 Things Nobody Gives A Shit About

It’s July. Harry Potter’s birthday is coming up.

HappeeBirthdaeHarry

“Afraid I might have sat on it at some point, but I imagine it’ll taste fine just the same.”

I turned 32 last month, and I’ve always felt my birthday acts in tandem with New Year’s as a semi-annual review and analysis of where I am, where I’ve been, and where I’m going. This mid-2014 review has left me feeling down in the dumps. I made the dean’s list the past three semesters, which is a feat heretofore unheard of for me. I submitted a paper on metahorror to my university’s academic journal at the request of my professor. I won an award for best original score at the film festival, and was nominated in the screenplay and editing categories.

MattFoleyLahDeeFrickinDah

I was also laid off in February. That has dominated a fair amount of my mood over the past five months. I felt discounted. Expendable. Why was I so easy to let go? I’m smart. I’m nice. I’m friendly. I’m lots of adjectives.

The time I’ve had to spend with my wife and daughter has been amazing, but it’s been tainted by this looming threat of no work and no money, compounded by the inevitability of my unemployment running out. Being unemployed, mixed with my complacency and sense of righteous indignation over being (in my estimation) unfairly let go have added nothing but tension at home. Lots of late nights that only ended in frustration, fear, helplessness, indecision, and sometimes, tears.

After our most recent session, I focused on how I had gotten where I was. I remembered a Cracked article I read a couple of years ago entitled “6 Harsh Truths That Will Make You A Better Person“. It’s an excellent article that lives up to its title. It’s harsh. It’s true. And it helps you become a better person. For the TL;DR crowd, or those that don’t like clicking off to other pages in the middle of an article, I’ll boil down the article to its headings:

  • The World Only Cares About What It Can Get From You
  • The Hippies Were Wrong
  • What You Produce Does Not Have To Make Money, But It Does Have To Benefit People
  • You Hate Yourself Because You Don’t Do Anything
  • What You Are Inside Only Matters Because Of What It Makes You Do
  • Everything Inside You Will Fight Improvement

You’re lucky I don’t just repost the entire article here, because it’s worth it. I’ll just link the scene from Glengarry Glen Ross (Foley, 1992) that the author references multiple times. ***Fair Warning*** NSFW language in this clip.

Remember how I said I was a lot of adjectives before? We’re all a bunch of adjectives. People can’t use adjectives. People need verbs.

"Dad... Is this the no follow-through speech?"

“Dad… Is this the no follow-through speech?”

After reading that article, I was struck particularly by the sections titled “The World Only Cares About What It Can Get From You”, and “You Hate Yourself Because You Don’t Do Anything.” I thought about what shortcomings I have as far as who I am versus what I do, and was inspired to compile the titular list of…

6 THINGS NOBODY GIVES A SHIT ABOUT

1. Your Past

I’m not saying a potential employer has no interest or right to perform a background check, or that your sexual history shouldn’t matter to your future spouse. Your past may be sparkling with meritorious efforts that defy human limitation. But that’s not going to matter if you can’t deliver on those expectations now.

Think of it as a what-have-you-done-for-me-lately situation. The Sixth Sense (Shyamalan, 1999) is a taut and subtle masterpiece of terror, isolation,  and uncertainty. The last Shyamalan film I saw was The Happening (2008). The fact that The Sixth Sense is great does not make me want to see the dude’s new films.

Pass.

Pass.

Just because you’ve done great things in the past does not entitle you to do nothing in the future. You must continue proving yourself, or people will discard you.

2. Your Potential

Just like your past, your potential is not a guarantee of the quality of your future. Unlike your past, your potential may be some immeasurable, amorphous, invisible thing to everybody but you. And let’s face it, you may be lying to yourself about your potential. A jet engine has the potential to fall right out of the sky and land on you as you read this. But it’s probably not going to happen.

"You're welcome."

“You’re welcome.”

Saying you have untapped potential is a nice way to feel better about yourself even though you’re not producing, creating, achieving, or trying anything. But nobody cares about all the amazing crap you’ve never made or done for the same reason you can’t buy anything with bars of gold-pressed latinum: they don’t exist. M. Night may not be putting butts in the seats like he used to, but he’s far more likely to get a directing job than someone who’s written and directed 17 different versions of alternate Star Wars prequels in their head.

comic-book-guy

Worst. Star Trek reference. Ever.

You want to have other people realize your potential? You have to at least partially realize it yourself first.

3. Your Insecurities

People are far too busy  to reassure you that you’re awesome, wonderful, pretty, and talented. You have to tell yourself that you’re awesome, wonderful, pretty, and talented.

"Time for our daily affirmation."

“Time for our daily affirmation.”

If you walk into an audition, an interview, a party, or a bathroom and have to ask yourself if you belong there, you don’t. Nobody is going to tell you that you belong there, they’ll just show you the door. Why should they waste time reassuring you when there are tens, hundreds, maybe thousands of people that know they belong there and will gladly and quickly take your place?

One of the best pieces of advice I ever got about interviewing/auditioning/etc. is that everybody wants you to be the one. That director? She wants you to be the perfect person to fill this role. That supervisor? She wants you to be the ideal candidate for this job. Leave your insecurities at the door and let them form their own opinion.

4. Your Opinion 

So you didn’t like Transformers 4? Nobody cares.

"I'll say hi to your mother myself."

“I’ll say hi to your mother myself.”

Your opinion doesn’t hold a lot of weight even when people want it. It holds less when it’s unsolicited. I realize that saying that in what is essentially an advice piece like this might seem conflicting. No one said you had to read this. Stop now. Or don’t. I don’t care. I’m not really doing this for you. BECAUSE I DON’T GIVE A SHIT ABOUT YOUR OPINION.

ISeeWhatYouDidThere

Bottom line: If people want your opinion, they will ask you. And even then, they probably won’t care.

5. Your Hurt Feelings

Has someone made fun of you or something you made? Has someone rejected you, berated you, yelled at you? Has this list made you feel threatened, ridiculed, or hurt? Are you offended?

Offended

That should prepare you for how much someone out there will care that you’re offended. Or hurt. Or overlooked.

I was a senior in high school when a friend of mine ditched me and sold me out. Two years later, a mutual friend asked why it was still bothering me; the ditcher never mentioned it. I explained that if someone steps on your foot, they’re not really affected by it like you are. They keep walking while you deal with the pain.

And that sucks. But it’s the way it is. And the sooner you realize that, the sooner you can stop whining about it and direct that whining energy into something that counts.

6. Your Excuses

This is the big one. Excuses will wreck you. There’s that old adage: If it’s important to you, you’ll find a way; if not, you’ll find an excuse.

Nobody wants to hear:

  • Why you screwed up.
  • Why it’s not done.
  • Why you couldn’t get to it.
  • Why you’re late.
  • Why you’re sorry.
  • That you’re sorry.

That’s a short list of crap that people don’t want to hear. Believe me. I know. People don’t want to deal with the fact that whatever you said would happen didn’t. They don’t want to deal with an excuse on top of disappointment. They want results. Don’t make excuses, make it happen.

Cap'n optional.

Cap’n optional.

The most important person that doesn’t give a shit about your excuses should be you. We have this ability called rationalization that is both great and terrible. The great thing is it helps you feel better about yourself when there is literally nothing you could have done to affect an outcome. The terrible thing is it allows you to justify not doing absolutely everything within your power to affect an outcome.

Ten years from now, if you’ve made excuses not to do things, try things, challenge yourself, or exceed your own expectations, nobody is going to be more affected by that than you.

Ultimately, you should be your own harshest critic because your success is just one more thing nobody else is going to give a shit about.

This list was self-targeted to the point of being therapeutic. These are things I didn’t want to hear when I was younger. They’re things I didn’t want to hear when I was writing them. But they are things that I absolutely believe will benefit you if you let them.

Thanks for reading.

The One About Music

I’m about to fail miserably.

Let me explain.

In the introduction to Scott Miller’s book Strike Up the Band, he writes:

 “[…] Words alone can never have the dramatic power or intensity of emotion that music possesses. The great director and teacher Konstantin Stanislavski said that the abstract language of music is the only direct way to the human heart. And in this modern world where emotions – particularly big emotions – are often considered inappropriate, inconvenient, even impolite, where the expression of full-bodied emotion has been “civilized” out of most of us, the extreme, unapologetic emotionalism of musical theatre offers audiences a much needed release.”

Music has an innate emotional connection to us. That connection speaks to us on a level we are incapable of reaching with words. That’s why we have music. When we can’t explain how we feel, when we can’t deal with how we feel, when we want to feel something specific, or when we just want to feel something… there’s music.

Every film that’s ever made you wipe your eyes on your hands/sleeve/tissues had help. The story, characters, and dialogue undoubtedly had their part in reducing you to a heap of failed attempts at controlled breathing and unstemmable ocular leaking, but the music dealt the killing blow.

“I would use my katana, but my violin solo already killed you.”

That’s why scenes like the possession/friendship-is-awesome scene from the end of Order of the Phoenix…

“Voldemort I can deal with, but these strings…”

…or the dancing bag scene from American Beauty…

The piano might as well be kicking you in the sensitives.

…or The Iron Giant’s “Superman” scene…

Oh, you didn’t cry during this scene? Then you’re a lying robot.

…are all emotional knockouts.

While the above examples are accentuated by their music, there are two examples of films that depend completely upon it.

The first is John Carpenter’s Halloween.

This knife is messed up, and it’s always bothered me.

John Carpenter provided a cut of Halloween to executives before he composed the music. They were unimpressed, didn’t think the film was scary, and were considering not releasing it.

After composing and recording the score, he applied it to the exact same cut of the film. Suddenly, it was the most terrifying thing they had ever seen.

The second film that comes to mind depends entirely on music for a short interlude. That is Disney/Pixar’s UP.

Beautiful, buoyant, sweet, and sad.

If you haven’t seen UP, or if it’s been a while, this sequence alone is worth more than most movies. There is no dialogue. The music is playful, touching, and tragic. It narrates the story of Carl and Ellie’s life with subtlety and grace; I daresay better than any spoken narration could.

Of course these examples are all loaded with angst, terror, and sadness, but if you took the music out, we’d all have much better odds of maintaining our composure.

But that wouldn’t be the point.

These film scores are designed to elicit an emotional response that we might not give willingly because, like the quote at the beginning states, “emotion has been ‘civilized’ out of most of us…”

It’s not just movies that use music to push us beyond our comfort zones, either. We do it to ourselves. When my wife and I work out, we make sure to load up a playlist full of hard-hitting music. It helps us concentrate to push ourselves further than we could listening to the motor of the treadmill and our own quick, shallow breaths. Even if there are only moderate physiological effects from the music, there is still a psychological effect: inspiration.

But you wouldn’t see it because of the shaky-cam.

Think about when you need to listen to specific kinds of music. For me, the list would go something like:

  1. Angry – Metal, Rap, Techno
  2. Happy – Rock, Pop Punk, Showtunes
  3. Sad – Emo (duh), Folk, Alternative
  4. Sexy – Barry White.

Granted, that’s a small example of both emotions and styles, but you get the idea. I may need to listen to something from the Happy section because I’m feeling Sad. Or, in order to achieve a catharsis, I’ll “go around the horn” by hulking out to Tool or Rage Against the Machine. Either way, I’m still using music to manipulate my mental and emotional states.

Music can make us fly or bring us to our knees. It can speak to a part of us we thought was long dead, take us back to an afternoon in high school when we were driving with a car full of friends and the windows down, or simply be something to cut the deafening silence. Some of my experiences with live music vie for the top spots in my life.

Like I said when we started this, I have failed at articulating exactly what I felt when I got the inspiration for this post, but that’s because it was inspired by watching a group of students singing an a capella version of Imogen Heap’s Hide and Seek. It reminded me of performing music in high school and college, how much I miss it, and what kind of power music holds over us all.

It’s enchanting.

It’s disarming.

It’s subliminal.

It’s universal.

One of my favorite things is when I hear a song that was overplayed in its day, but that I haven’t heard in years. Because now it’s like this old friend that I’ve photoshopped (autotuned?) all the imperfections out of, and I’m just happy to be bombarded by all the memories that are attached to that annoyingly catchy “toothpaste commercial” of a song.

Maybe that’s what this post is really about. Remembering how great music is and how much we take it for granted. Maybe it’s nothing you don’t already know, but it’s something we let slip under the radar and we need to be reminded from time to time.

Be affected.

Be emotional.

Be uncivilized.