February Recap

In case you missed a post or two this month, here’s a quick recap of what I wrote about during the month of February:

Questions I Asked –

Why Do We Say “Piece of Cake”? – Answer: Because cake is delicious and we should always be talking about it (kinda).

Why Does Stepping On A Lego Hurt So Much? – Before I looked this up, I expected the only results to say, “because they are hard and pointy, dummy.” Turns out I was right…but there is a little more science behind it.

Why Does Gum Lose Its Flavor? – Much like Pavlov’s dogs, the answer has to do with our saliva.

Things We Learned –

Why We Should Keep Making Anyway – Brad Montague, the creator of Kid President, is back with another excellent video. It is one you will not want to miss.

Another Reminder of Why I’m Thankful For Hollywood – Despite the fake noses, hairpieces, and boob jobs Hollywood will never be perfect. They may be able to create a utopian world, but if they think they can live in a world without mess ups, they are living in la la land.

What We Can Learn From Lady Gaga – Given that I go on dates about as often as there’s a lunar eclipse, I am probably not qualified to dish out relationship advice.

The Kind Of Love We Should All Be Looking For – There are many different ways that love has been expressed in pop culture. I’d like to suggest a new one.

How To Overcome Publishing Fears – Many times, I will read something online and immediately think, “that was great, I wish I wrote it.” I may not have written it, but I can still share it. Here’s the latest.

An Example of Great Writing From Norm MacDonald – In case you weren’t aware, Norm is a fantastic writer. Here’s an example of why.

Fun With Numbers –

5 Things We Can Learn From Gum – One dollar is good. One hundred dollars is much better. Doesn’t work that way for gum. Why not?

5 Lessons From My Hollywood Story – If you thought that post was to simply generate some Oscar buzz, you were mistaken (and you greatly over estimated the affect this blog has on award season).

5 Good Things – A reminder that not everything is rotten in our world.

Top 10 Lines From Stephen King’s On Writing – King wrote a book about writing called On Writing. It is really good. Here’s why.

Top 10 Lines From Stephen King’s On Writing

If Stephen King readers started their own country, it would have the 3rd largest population in the world. One of the most successful authors of all time, his books have sold more than 350 million copies.

If you have ever wondered how King became such a great writer, you are in luck. His book, On Writing, details his experiences with the written word and he offers advice for aspiring writers. The memoir is full of great nuggets that can help writers at any experience level.

Here are what I found to be the top 10 lines from Stephen King’s On Writing.

#10 –

When you write a book, you spend day after day scanning and identifying the trees. When you’re done, you have to step back and look at the forest.”

#9 –

Write with the door closed. Rewrite with the door open.”

#8 –

One of the really bad things you can do to your writing is to dress up the vocabulary, looking for long words because you’re maybe a little ashamed of your short ones.”

#7 –

Fear is at the root of most bad writing – the more intense the fear the worse our writing can become.”

#6 –

While it is impossible to make a competent writer out of a bad writer, and while it is equally impossible to make a great writer out of a good one, it is possible, with lots of hard work, dedication and timely help, to make a good writer out of a merely competent one.”

#5 –

If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot.

#4 –

John Grisham, of course, knows lawyers. What you know makes you unique in some other way. Be brave. Map the enemy’s position, come back, tell us all you know.”

#3 –

Dialogue is a skill best learned by people who enjoy talking to others — particularly listening, picking up accents, rhythms, dialects, and slang of various groups.”

#2 –

Shit, write upside down if you want to, or do it in Crayola pictographs. But no matter how you do it, there comes a point when you must judge what you’ve written and how well you wrote it. I don’t believe a story or a novel should be allowed outside the door of your study or writing room unless you feel confident that it’s reasonably reader-friendly.”

#1 –

Let’s get one thing clear right now, shall we? There is no Idea Dump, no Story Central, no Island of the Buried Bestsellers; good story ideas seem to come quite literally from nowhere, sailing at you right out of the empty sky: two previously unrelated ideas come together and make something new under the sun. Your job isn’t to find these ideas but to recognize them when they show up.”

Another Example of Great Writing

The world is full of great writing. So I have decided I will highlight some examples whenever I stumble on them.

Here’s one I came across from Norm MacDonald’s book Based on a True Story: A Memoir

Death is a funny thing. Not funny-haha, like a Woody Allen movie, but funny-strange, like a Woody Allen marriage.”

Norm is telling a story about the time he granted a dying child’s wish. The above sentence comes when Norm enters the child’s hospital room. The book is very lighthearted and you wonder if Norm is going to be able to keep that humor while talking about a sensitive subject (full disclosure, the kid’s wish ends up being that he wants to kill a baby seal, so I don’t think the story is 100% truthful).

An average writer would have said something like, “death is like a buzzing alarm clock — you just want to smack it off the nightstand once it starts.” A good writer would have said something along the lines of, “death is nothing to laugh at, much like the rest of my material.”

Norm topped both of those by making a death joke that is both funny and not insensitive.

That is some great writing!

Why Does Gum Lose Its Flavor?

In my recent post titled 5 Things We Can Learn From Gum I used the example of how gum loses its flavor to illustrate the point that nothing lasts forever. I mentioned how Fruit Stripe gum had a fantastically fruity flavor but it only lasted for about a minute.

This got me wondering — why does gum lose its flavor? Let’s find out in today’s edition of Wonder Why Wednesday…

Why Does Gum Lose Its Flavor?

Much like Pavlov’s dogs, the answer has to do with our saliva. According to ScienceMadeFun.net, the saliva in our mouth does not digest the gum base, but it does digest the sweeteners and flavors added to gum.

As you swallow while you chew, the digested sweeteners and flavorings move through your digestive system to your stomach. Eventually, you digest all the sweeteners and flavorings.”

It is at this point that we recognize that the flavor is all gone and we are just left with the gum base. No word on why some flavors last longer than others.


How To Overcome Publishing Fears

Many times, I will read something online and immediately think, “that was great, I wish I wrote it.” I may not have written it, but I can still share it. Here’s the latest…

But What If They Hate My Book?  by AMarketingExpert.com

This two part article discusses a very important topic for writers — how to get over the fear of writing and publishing a book. I can admit first hand that this fear never goes away.

I am working on my forth children’s book and I have just as many fears (maybe even more) than when I first started. If this fear is something we all experience, how do we deal with it?

AMarketingExpert.com has some answers, but first it asks some important questions:

  • Why should we go for it?
  • What to do when you get a negative review?
  • How is publishing a book like sending your kid to college?

They answer all those questions and more in their great two part article. Check it out…

What If They Hate My Book – Part 1

What If They Hate My Book – Part 2

5 Good Things

Having a rough week? Feel like there is nothing but negative stories online, on TV and in the newspaper? Looking for a little pick me up?

Here are 5 good things going on in our world…

  1. After Girl Scout Stand Is Robbed, Police Buy All Remaining Cookies And Donate Over $1,000 – A girl scout stand outside of a Union City, CA, supermarket was robbed by a gunman. Thankfully the girls were okay. To lift the girls’ spirits, the Union City Police Officers Association purchased all of the girl’s remaining boxes of cookies and gave them a very generous donation.
  2. Boy Battling Cancer to Receive 1,000 Valentine’s Day Cards – An Ohio community is coming together to send 1,000 Valentine’s Day cards for a 5-year-old boy battling cancer, all in the name of love.
  3. Dad Builds Ninja Warrior Training Course To Teach His Daughter Confidence – Gavin MacCall created a mini Ninja Warrior training course inside their home, using his sofa as a warped wall. And amazing thing happened when his daughter started using it.
  4. 2nd Grade Class Raises Money For Injured Dog After reading “Sheepdog in the Snow,” a book about some kids who find a stranded sheepdog with a broken leg, one 2nd grade class decided to put the lesson they just learned into action.
  5. Flying Actually Got Better Last Year For all you frequent fliers out there, I have good news…flying is getting better. Airlines are cancelling fewer flights and losing less bags.

Valentines Day Special: The Kind Of Love We Should All Be Looking For

Shakespeare fans have said, “I love you like Romeo loved Juliet.”

Selena Gomez said, “I love you like a love song, baby.”

50 Cent said, “I love you like a fat kid loves cake.”

There are many different ways that love has been expressed in pop culture. I’d like to suggest a new one.

I love you like I am your second in a duel.”

Huh? Let me explain…

Today, we hash out our disputes via text message, twitter or when the internet is down, in person. Back in the day, when men were really men, disputes were settled with a gun fight.

Duels were a common way to solve a problem. A guy was looking at your woman…challenge him to a duel. Someone was looking funny at your horse…challenge him to a duel. A horse was looking at your woman…challenge it to a duel.

Men had reputations to uphold and what better way to solve problems than by shooting erratic guns at one another from a short distance, while women and children watched?

We’ve all heard about some famous duels: Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr, Andrew Jackson and Charles Dickinson, The Three Musketeers vs. Almond Joy. But what is often left out of those stories is the involvement of some very important people.

These people were called seconds.

Seconds were friends of the duelers and their role was to try resolve the dispute by avoiding bloodshed, all while preserving everyone’s honor. Basically they were the cooler heads trying to talk their buddies out of killing one another.

In 1842, Abraham Lincoln, an Illinois state legislator at the time, was talked out of a duel with state auditor James Shields, by his second. In 1864, a second helped Mark Twain avoid a duel with a rival newspaper editor, by over exaggerating Twain’s skills with pistol.

If a peaceful resolution could not be found, the seconds ensured that the duel would take place on a level playing field with equal weapons. They would make sure the parties all agreed on the same terms and they would make those terms as least deadly as possible. Kinda like event planners whose job was to do everything they could to keep everyone alive.

The seconds took all the work off the plate of the two angry parties. They would decide how long the duel would last, what conditions would end the duel and which doctor would be on hand. They would make all the arrangements so that the duelers could just practice their skill of not dying.

Sometimes, the seconds would even take the place of their friend if the primary dueler was not able to finish the fight.

So basically seconds were like the best friends anyone could have. They would try to talk you out of being killed, set the stage so you were not likely to get hurt, and then if you did get hurt, they would take your place and risk their life so your honor remained in tact.

If that isn’t love, I don’t know what is.


Valentines Day Special: Featuring Lady Gaga

Given that I go on dates about as often as there’s a lunar eclipse, I am probably not qualified to dish out relationship advice — I’ll stick to other important topics, like telling you what kind of life lessons we can learn from gum. However, I recently noticed something during the Super Bowl that I felt compelled to comment on. Don’t worry, this post won’t feature 5 things we can learn about love from the Falcons collapse (although, don’t you doubt for a second that I couldn’t come up with at least 5).

In addition to her flying around the stadium accompanied by an army of drones, Lady Gaga’s halftime performance was lauded for it’s music. Imagine that, a performer actually singing her songs during an in-game concert. The fireworks we great, but her ability to not only sing but also keep her breath with so much movement and action taking place really stood out.

I know very few of Ms. Gaga’s songs. Sure, I hear them at the gym while I am at a workout class with a bunch of middle aged women (middle aged women love Lady Gaga and hate planks), but I don’t think I could tell you the words from many of them. One song in particular caught my ear, so I decided to look up the lyrics.

The song is called Million Reasons and it begins like this:

You’re giving me a million reasons to let you go.
You’re giving me a million reasons to quit the show.”

We don’t have to be Sherlock Holmes to realize that this song is about someone or something that is not treading Lady G right. It could be a boyfriend, a manager, or her Netflix account, who knows. But we know that things are not right.

The song continues to repeat that there are a million reasons for this relationship to end.

I bow down to pray.
I try to make the worse seem better.
Lord, show me the way.
To cut through all his worn out leather.
I’ve got a hundred million reasons to walk away.
But baby, I just need one good one to stay.”

Wait, what?

Now we are up to a hundred million reasons to leave. Things are bad. But it will only take one reason to stay? Don’t get me wrong, I love the rhyming. And it sure does sound good with a piano playing dramatically in the background, but that seems like pretty terrible advice.

Let’s start with all the reasons to walk away. A hundred million, really? That is probably a slight exaggeration. I doubt anyone has 100 million reasons for anything. We can all agree that Morgan Freeman’s voice is better than Gilbert Gottfried’s but I doubt we have 100 million reasons why.

So let’s just reduce that number a little. Let’s say 100 reasons to walk away is more realistic. I would consider that to be a red flag. On the light side it is nudge, perhaps. On the strong side it is more than enough evidence to put this relationship on death row.

I don’t know about you, but I’d need more than one reason to stay. I’d need at least 7.

I am sure there is more depth to this song that I am just not getting. And who knows, maybe this song is about more than what it appears — kinda like how I don’t think The Beatles ever really lived in a Yellow Submarine. But that being said, I would like to offer some advice on this Valentines Day…

If you have 100 million reasons to do anything – eat ice cream, throw away your collection of pogs, or walk away from a relationship — you should probably do it.

5 Lessons From Yesterday’s Story

Yesterday I told the story of how the successful film La La Land almost never got made. If you thought that post was to simply generate some Oscar buzz, you were mistaken (and you greatly over estimated the affect this blog has on award season).

The post was to highlight a few important things that we can learn from a Hollywood success story.

5 Lessons We Can Learn From Yesterday’s Story

1. Small Can Grow

La La Land went from a budget of $0 to $1 million to $30 million over the course of its life. It wasn’t easy, but the small guy can become a giant.

2. No Idea Is Too Odd

In a world with eight Fast and The Furious movies and three Expendables films (yes, I did just refer to that movie-explosion as a film), a jazz musical seems odd. But there is room for odd.

3. We Can Benefit From Working On Many Project

In the story I mention how writer-director Damien Chazelle was working on Whiplash while improving La La Land. That was a huge reason why La La Land came to li li life. Chazelle knew not to put all his eg eg eggs in one basket.

4. Take Advice But Don’t Compromise

As long as Chazelle and Justin Hurwitz were in charge, they were going to make the version of La La Land that they had always wanted. They would let their movie be picked apart and improved, but never compromised.

5. There Are Examples Like This Everywhere

There are examples everywhere of things just like this. All we have to do is look for them. Who knows, the next example I write about could be you.