A Quick Guide to Surviving Snowstorm Nemo

Well, now, seems like the sky’s decided to barf out snow. This is actually my favorite kind of weather, when everything looks so pristine.

Snowstorm Nemo New York

Nemo chillin’ in Brooklyn.

However, it’s cold out there and will be in the Northeast for a bit longer, so I thought I’d share three tips for surviving Nemo (lame name for a snowstorm too; as threatening as snowstorm Percy).

1)     Tender Vittles

Unlike some folks who did their shopping in preparation for the storm, I went out during Nemo and bought all of the ingredients for garlic shrimp in coconut milk. Hey, if I turn into a Spanish tub of ice cream, I want the medical examiner to find something good frozen in my stomach. 🙂

Full disclosure: this is not what it would look like in my stomach.

Full disclosure: this is not what it would look like in my stomach.

So make sure you’ve got some good food to fill your belly with during the storm.

2)      Heating Brick

Soooo, the powers that be in my apartment building have decided not to give adequate heat (hence my fear of freezing to death, lawl). However, I was lucky enough to find a small heater that looks like it was designed during the Nixon administration.

I am not a crook . . . but I will steal a lot of electricity.

I am not a crook . . . but I will steal a lot of electricity.

Keep warm, my friends.

3)      Mind Lube

During the storm, which is still going on outside, I plan on watching The Walking Dead reruns until Season 3 starts up again tomorrow at 9. Gotta keep my mind occupied!

How would zombies deal with a snowstorm I wonder?

How would zombies deal with a snowstorm I wonder?

Don’t go all The Shining, friends. Guard your minds by keeping them occupied!

So what tips do you have to make the best of a snowstorm?

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Time Is On My Side

Oh, time. How are we supposed to think about you? Are you linear with a firm past, present, and future? Or are you cyclical, repeating yourself occasionally?

 

This past weekend, I watched another great episode of Breaking Bad, which is in its fifth (and, lamentably, final) season. Every time I watch a new episode, I try to pinpoint exactly what it is that I love so much about the show. It grips me in a way that few other programs can, and the usual analysis of acting, character development, plot progression, and more can yield potent reasons for why it’s such a fantastic show.

However, I realized that one of the many reasons why I enjoy the show so much is how it handles time.

Most shows provide a very linear progression to their plots. You meet the characters, find out their motivations and goals, and watch them try to achieve those goals. Sometimes they succeed, sometimes they fail, but events are pretty straightforward. Sure, there are some flashback sequences, but for the most part, things progress linearly towards a climax sometime in the future.

Not so with Breaking Bad.

Walter White, Breaking Bad, Final Season

Each season begins or at some point includes a glimpse into the future:  a scene introduces us to an event that won’t take place until the middle or end of the current season. A season might open with destroyed objects—burned toys for instance—and as the season progresses, we try to figure out what exactly happened: why are those items destroyed? Was there an explosion? Was someone killed? Maybe a major character?

It creates a unique kind of tension because you know that something bad will happen, but you don’t know when, how, or why. Everything you see on the show is framed by that one event: is THAT person going to cause the explosion or whatever destroyed those objects? Is THIS why they decided to go there? You just don’t know!

It’s a storytelling technique that has absolutely captivated me, and I find myself testing it out in my own writing. It’s a tease, a “hey, this is going to happen, but you don’t know why, and whatever conclusions you come up with now are going to be challenged as you read/watch more!”

But I’ve also read many books on writing that frown upon these kinds of techniques. Flashbacks and scenes set in the future take readers out of the present action, they say, and thus have the potential to bore and/or disorient readers who want to know what’s happening right now.

Well, if you’ve been following my blog for a bit, you already know how I feel about some of these “rules.”

But what do you think? How do you enjoy time in books and movies? Do you enjoy flashbacks and scenes in the future, or do you prefer linear storytelling?

Focus & Discipline in The Idea Factory

Discipline.

I’m starting to think that perhaps I’m lacking a tad bit of it.

Not the discipline to sit down and write mind you. I’ve been doing more and more of that lately (pats self on back). Rather I lack the discipline to stick with one idea and run with it. It’s like the opposite of writer’s block (writer’s flood?).

My brain is a factory that keeps churning out ideas, and as soon as a new one pops out of my noggin, I feel an overwhelming desire to write about it. And I do.

Recently, while working on my zombie novel, I came up with ideas for two completely different novels: one deals with a group of teens who dive into dreams and memories (memories have been a recurring theme in my last few blog posts). Their shared dreamworld is a sanctuary from the outside world, which is pretty harsh on them.

The other is a novel that takes place in a world where mythological creatures of all kinds coexist. The main character is called a Judge who keeps the peace between all of the differing factions of beasts. This novel speaks of my love of mythology (especially Norse mythology).

The descriptions above are the barebones version, of course; I’ve fleshed each out in a document. But the more time I spend on them, the less time I spend on my main novel.

So, for all the writers, painters, musicians, filmmakers, or anyone else who feels the pull of opposing ideas, how do you stay disciplined and work on just one idea at a time? Or have you come up with a way to multi-task and dip into all of those freshly minted ideas? I need to get all of the lil’ homunculus in my head working towards the same goal. 🙂

Listen, Watch, Read . . . Repeat

The more you experience something, the less of an impact it’ll have on you.

Movies, music, books, food, you name it—repeatedly experiencing a single one, even one of your favorites, lessens its enjoyment until you’re saying “meh” instead of “WOW!” Try eating the juiciest lobster every day for two weeks, and you’ll know what I mean.

But, this post isn’t about lamenting over what was once enjoyable and has lost its power over us.

Instead, I’d like to make a short list that includes a song, a movie, and a book that break this trend; they have the same (if not stronger) effect on me the 20th time I experience them as the 1st.

A Song

Shine On You Crazy Diamond

Pink Floyd

Album Cover for "Wish You Were Here"

No matter how many times I listen to this song, I can’t help but get all contemplative.

The words are just so haunting; if you’re unfamiliar with the song’s origin, it’s supposed to be a tribute to one of Pink Floyd’s former members–Syd Barrett–who pretty much lost his mind to the point that he would stand on stage and play one chord or just stare blankly at the crowd. Some say he had schizophrenia, others that he just took a lot of LSD that damaged his mind. He was eventually removed from the band.

The song has the somber feel of nostalgia for a better time (“Remember when you were young / you shone like the sun”) and resignation that everything comes to an end (“Pile on many more years / And I’ll be joining you there”).

Truly a song that hasn’t lost any of his power, even after multiple plays.

A Movie

The Godfather

Mario Puzo/ Francis Ford Coppola

The Godfather: Connie's Wedding

There isn’t another movie in the world that I own multiple copies of yet I’ll STILL watch a television marathon from beginning to end no matter what else is on.

Maybe it’s my fascination with The Mafia that helps keep this movie perfect in my eyes (I have a lot of shelf space devoted to true crime books). But it’s much deeper than that.

Every scene is a work of art, from our introduction to the Godfather at his daughter’s wedding to Michael’s insistence that he personally murder a rival gangster. Al Pacino, Marlon Brando, and James Caan lend a life to their characters that makes me want to watch them again and again. And each time I notice something new.

That’s all I’ll say about that . . .

A Book

Harry Potter

J. K. Rowling

Hogwarts in Christmas. Yeah, I'd like to live here too.

It has to be the world Rowling created.

I grew up watching ’80s movies; many were empowering for kids (The Never Ending Story, The Goonies), so I always felt that longing to go on an adventure and save the adults for a change.

Harry Potter lets children discover a place that is different from—better than—the mundane one we live in; it’s  a world where kids matter too. It’s a place where an eleven year old and his friends learn magic, confront evils that no one else can, and save the world–a world that makes school seem COOL.

I’ve read the series multiple times now, and I haven’t read a line and said to myself “Ugh, again?!” or felt the desire to flip forward a few pages to get to the “good parts” (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo had that effect on me).

Every part is a good part, and I fall deeper in love with this world every time I pick up a Harry Potter novel.

Alright, you’re turn! Share a song, a movie, and a book that you can enjoy again and again . . . and again . . . . and again.

Three of the Most Interesting Film & Television Characters

One of the reasons why I read books or watch movies is to get lost in another world, to escape the mundane and taste the exotic.

However, another equally powerful reason is to meet interesting people. Just like a good story will make you want to escape and live in another world, a great work fills you with the desire to meet the characters that inhabit that world.These are the people who you’d like to hang out with, talk to, pick their brains if possible.

This list was in danger of being dominated by a single movie (The Godfather is my favorite movie of all time, so the top 3 slots would easily be filled by quite a few of the cast).

But, that’d be boring! Instead,  I thought hard about the characters on the big and small screens that have left a significant impact on me. These are three of the most intriguing and characters I’ve come across.

 

Walter White

Breaking Bad

There’s just something about a good man going bad that intrigues the hell out of me.

Walter White is about as average a Joe as you can imagine. He lives in a New Mexico suburb, teaches High School chemistry, and has a loving wife and son.

Yawn, right?

Well, that life is soon turned on its head when Walter is diagnosed with cancer and decides to start manufacturing and selling crystal meth with the help of one of his former students to pay for his chemotherapy and to provide for his family once he’s dead.

Try yawning at THAT.

Walter’s transformation from nerdy chemist/father/husband . . .

. . .to hardcore gangster . . .

. . . is a delight to behold. I know it sounds like overhyped hyperbole, but I truly believe that Breaking Bad has the best writing on television.

The characters, plotlines, and dialogue are THAT good.

 

Dr. Gregory House 

House

There isn’t anyone quite like Dr. House on television. Sure, you may run across characters that are jerks, characters that are intelligent, and characters that are amoral/immoral.

But rarely do you get a jerky, intelligent, and amoral character who you can’t help but respect.

Dr. House is damn good at what he does. The absolute best. And because of his skill as a diagnostician, he’s able to tear into the people around him with near immunity.

But it isn’t just that he’s a good doctor; that’d be selling him short. It’s that he makes sense whenever he’s treating other people like idiots. He constantly questions societal norms, and he’s willing to say what other people are too afraid to admit.

Dr. House will call people out on their bullshit constantly, whether it’s a patient who’s making a stupid/selfish choice or another doctor who is naïve in thinking that everyone is honest.

 

Captain Jack Sparrow  

Pirates of the Caribbean

Ok, this one is certainly a guilty pleasure.

But come on, watch Captain Jack Sparrow for just ten minutes and tell me he isn’t a unique and interesting character.

From his surprisingly vast vocabulary (for a pirate) to his unmatchable savvy, there isn’t a situation that Jack Sparrow can’t talk his way out of.

His elastic swagger and slurry British accent are icing on the cake. His enemies (and friends) might hate him, but they can’t help but respect his ability to turn any odds in his favor and come out victorious in the end.

Maybe he’s making it all up as he goes along; maybe he’s a master tactician who thinks two steps ahead of Black Beard and Davy Jones. Either way, his motives are usually a mystery (does he really want to save the damsel in distress or just get rich?), which keeps me wondering if he’s a good or a bad guy.

 

So, yeah, I tend to like anti-heroes best when it comes to characters. The more morally ambiguous, the better. 🙂

 

What are some of your favorite characters in film or television?

A Life Lesson From The Godfather You can’t Refuse

To me, The Godfather is probably the perfect movie. From its fantastic dialogue and dramatic plot to its cast of deep, round characters, The Godfather represents the kind of masterpiece that can emerge when you pay attention to every detail.

(And cast Marlon Brando, James Caan, and Al Pacino in the same movie)

Believe it or not, a movie that involves mafia families trying to whack each other can actually teach you quite a bit about people and life in general.

Plenty of life lessons exist within the movie’s 175 minutes or so, but one in particular stood out to me as I watched Coppola’s classic the other day. It’s an especially powerful lesson since all of the conflict in the movie exists because someone violates this one, simple rule:

“Never tell anybody outside The Family what you’re thinking again.”—Vito Corleone.

Vito Corleone (aka the Godfather) meets with a Turk named Sollozzo. Sollozzo seeks money and political protection from the Corleone family to start and maintain his drug business in New York City. In return, he offers 30% of his profits (about 3-4 million dollars the first year alone. This was in 1945 mind you).

He tells the Corleones that one of its rival families guarantees police protection, and Sonny, Vito’s son, blurts out his enthusiasm and delightful disbelief over the deal.

Vito corrects his son for speaking instead of listening and refuses Sollozzo’s request for money and protection.

The unforeseen result of Sonny’s big mouth? The Turk tries to murder the Godfather in order to deal directly with Sonny, who was more willing to negotiate and who The Turk knows will be next in line as head of the family.

A single sentence from Sonny leads to conflict, tragedy, death, and vengeance.

Honesty is a great virtue to follow. However, there are times when it’s best to censor your thoughts or keep them silent, especially around people who aren’t close to you because you never know the consequences of sharing too much.

Vito isn’t saying we shouldn’t trust anybody or lie; he’s trying to teach Sonny that you need to have discretion when the people around you aren’t your family or your close friends, who you know (or hope) won’t use that information to hurt you.

It seems like common sense, doesn’t it? Yet I’ve tripped over myself a couple of times when enthusiastically speaking to someone, and I’ve also witnessed friends and family share a bit too much information with strangers.

It seemed harmless at the time, but we eventually learned that people can either treat you differently based on what you tell them, or they may use that information to their advantage.

If you’ve ever worked in an office or other workplace, you know what I mean. 😉