Why I Write

Posted by on September 29, 2010 in Augusten Burroughs, Bill Bryson, David Sedaris, Douglas Thomas Wallace, Funny Authors with Comments closed |

I write because I can. I write because I want to. I write because I have to. I have ideas in my head that if I don’t write they will drive me insane. I write to release my demons.

I’m often asked where these ideas come from. Often I don’t even know, they just come and I have to write them down. I don’t pretend to be profound, or wise, or as articulate as other writers. I’m not Prost or Virginia Wolfe, not that I’ve read any of their work, then I’d have to realize how crappy my writing actually is.

I’m not a high-brow philosophical kind of writer. In fact I’m often juvenile, brash, loud and obnoxious, much like I can be in real life. But I do try to write funny. It’s different to be funny and to write funny. I think you have to be funny in order to write funny. Someone once told me that trying to teach someone to be funny is like trying to teach someone to be tall, you’ve either are or you aren’t. I’ve been told that I’m a funny guy since I was a little kid; probably making up for some insecurity that I’m not aware of, nor do I care to know about.

I write because I want to express myself, my feelings, my views of the world and I want to share those views with as many people as possible. Writing allows me to quench my thirst for knowledge and impose my own sense of twisted humor on the world. Right when I thought I was getting good at it, I read authors like Twain, Bill Bryson, Dave Berry, David Sedaris, Augustine Burroughs, and Kurt Vonnegut, these are people who I consider masters of the craft. They made me realize that I’m not as good as I thought I was.

I write when an idea hits me. This can be walking down the street scrambling for a piece of scrap paper, napkin, or my trusty left arm. Sometimes I write in the car and have to pull over so I don’t kill anyone. But many times I write when it’s late at night—often waking out of a dead sleep with an idea that wants to come out and I know if I don’t get up and write it down the idea will be lost forever. I keep a notebook and pen by the bed for these times. I rarely look at it even when I do write something down. The thing is I have to get the idea out or I’ll lay there in bed and won’t be able to sleep knowing the world may have missed a funny story. As if the world would really miss out or even care.

There are dozens of reasons why I write, but the real reason I write is I do it for myself. Long before I dreamed of getting paid or having any fans—and I use those words loosely, I wrote for myself. I wrote when it was just me, a pad of paper and my pen. Even when my wife, close-friends, and teachers were my only fans, I wrote because I liked the process of putting together a story. I’m not so narcissistic to think the world would stop turning without me, but I like to think I contribute something to the world. Writing helps me do that.

I write because I can. I write because I want to. I write because I have to. It’s just what I do. I’m writer.

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Ah-Ha Moments and Million Dollar Ideas

Posted by on September 24, 2010 in Uncategorized with Comments closed |

Ever had a problem you just couldn’t figure out, then after a couple days of brain-racking frustration you’re in the shower and the answer hits you like a giant right hook to the face? It seems so obvious. Why didn’t you think of this earlier? These moments in life are what I call Ah-ha moments.

Ah-ha moments are one of the most exciting times in life. It’s when the world is full of optimism and possibility. Your problem feels so small, and the answer so obvious, that nothing could go wrong.

Usually not too long after this epiphany you do some research and find out that the answer is not always exactly what you thought it was. Then you come crashing down like a jack-knifed truck and resume your ordinary life. But for that brief moment in time, life is exhilarating.

I was listening to a podcast of a NPR show called This American Life. If you’re not a NPR fan let me bring you up to speed. This American Life is a fascinating radio-reality-before-reality-was-mainstream kind of show. The producers pick a topic, and then they find and interview normal everyday Americans who have something to do with that topic. This particular show was on “Million Dollar Ideas.”

Pet rocks, fake snow, and Chia Pets are just a few stupid ideas that have made millions. I’ve had so many million dollar ideas that I can’t even count them. Insulated water bottles (like a thermos but fits in your cup holder), or a website with nothing but cool gifts for guys, or a book on How to Make a Million Dollars in the Next Week, which would sell on the title alone, are all million dollar ideas that I’ve had and never did anything with. For the record, the first two ideas went on to make millions and the third probably has a deal in the works as we speak.

I’ve got a whole notebook at home where I keep my million dollar ideas, but they will probably never be followed up on mainly because I can’t focus long enough on one idea before I’m off to another one.

Most of my ideas won’t be followed up on because of lack of money or time, or pure disinterest. I mean, who wants to live their lives making the world dog-poop free? I know there are some people who will do it if it makes them enough money, but I want to focus on helping the world with what I consider real problems and dog poop just doesn’t rank up there in my world; that is of course unless I just stepped in it.

So how do we get Ah-ha moments and million-dollar ideas?

Ah-ha moments are when the intellectual mind, the emotional mind and the physical body all com to an agreement at the same time,” says Wendy Piersall former CEO (Chief Extraordinary Officer in Business and in Life) of Sparkplugging, an online resource for home-based entrepreneurs. We also get them by creative problem solving and leaving our minds open to solutions. We might not be able to think of the answers right off hand, but once we give it time to cook, our minds often come up with the answer.

I don’t really know where I was going with this topic, but maybe I’ll give myself some time and I’ll come up with my Ah-ha moment and get back to you. Until then, please feel free to help a brother out and give me some of your million-dollar ideas, especially if you’re not going to do anything with them. Or better yet, let this be your motivation to get off your ass and doing something with it.

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How Long Do We Have to Apologize?

Posted by on September 16, 2010 in Apologizing for history, Douglas Thomas Wallace with Comments closed |

On Monday, the Japanese Foreign Minister apologized to a W.W.II veteran group who had survived the Bataan Death March. The 90 year-old leader of the group was not satisfied with that. He wanted an apology from the private companies who, “used and abused,” prisoners in their mines and factories.

My grandpa is a W.W.II veteran so I’m not saying this lightly, but I wondered if all the Japanese families in Hiroshima and Nagasaki wouldn’t mind more than just an apology for having their entire city destroyed in a matter of seconds. I know, I know, they started it. I’ve been to the U.S.S Arizona memorial and have seen the oil that’s leaking out. But war is the ugliest thing on Earth and you can’t just apologize for it later, especially if you had nothing to do with it personally.

I was listening to the radio a few days ago and I heard two people arguing over the use of the “N-word.” One person arguing was a white lady, the other person was a black man, but both people were actually saying the N-word—on the radio!

So the white lady said what every white person says to each other when a black person is not around, “So why can you use the word so freely and we can’t?” The black man’s response was, “Well when you go through 150 years of slavery, then maybe you can use the word.”

There are some things that will probably never be ok to joke about: slavery, the holocaust and 9/11 are a few that to come to mind. But here’s my question, how long do we as people have to apologize for something we weren’t around for? I am 36 years old. World War II was over 30 years before I was even born and there hasn’t been slavery in the U.S for almost three times as long as W.W.II has been over. So why do we have to keep apologizing for things our ancestors did? You shouldn’t be required to apologize for history that you weren’t apart of. It’s like apologizing for your second-cousin selling drugs. The situation has nothing to do with you or your character.

Were these situations bad? Yes.
Am I responsible for them? No.

When I was growing up in Hawaii a friend of mine, who is Hawaiian said, “You haoles—white people—told us to look up to heaven for God and as we were looking up you stole our land.”

“I didn’t. I was born in 1974,” I said.

“Well your family did,” my friend said.

“My family’s from Missouri and has never even been to Hawaii. Well, except my grandparents who has visited Waikiki.”

“Well your ancestors did, way back,” he said.

“My ancestors are from Ireland and Scotland. They migrated to Maryland in the late 1600’s and the last I heard, the Scots-Irish are not the ones who stole your land.”

“Fine, maybe they didn’t steal our land. But they stole the Indians.”

“Can’t argue with that,” I said.

But do I have to apologize for it? Do I have to say I’m sorry for everything my family has done before 1974? History is messy people. But it’s history, learn from it and move on.

A person I know says, “It’s called history. Or his-story, everyone’s is different.” But I’ve also been told that there’s three sides to every story, his story, your story and the truth. History needs to be studied or we’ll be doomed to repeat it. But my plea is please learn from it, and then let it go.

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Last Minute Push – 100th post

Posted by on September 8, 2010 in 100th post with Comments closed |

I have always been a procrastinator. When I was in school I always did reports the day before they were due. And I’m not talking about just the writing part of the report, I’m talking about the research part too.

I’ve been out of high school for over 15 years. I don’t procrastinate as much as I use to, but occasionally I slip back into my sloth-like ways. And when I finally emerge from my procrastination-cocoon I think, What are you waiting for? Your fairy-freakin’-god-mother to come down and wave her magic wand? Get your ass in gear!

So now that I’m in a M.F.A program as an adult, trying to learn to write on a serious level, I realized that I’ve been procrastinating again. Two things that I’ve been putting off is trying to get my work published and promoting this blog. These are two things that will help get my book published when I finally finish it.

Right now I’m in a class called Writing for Publication. I’m three weeks away from finishing the semester and I haven’t submitted any pieces to any publications except two Letters to the Editor of Rolling Stone, which is like trying to get into the Presidential Ball by severing people dinner and drinks. Yeah you can say you were there, but does that really count?

So I’m putting this out there for my viewing public because that’s the only way that I can think of to be held accountable for what I’m doing. I’ve got a lot going on in the next month, but a few things I want to add to the list is submitting at least two pieces in the next month to some sort of publication and doing at least two things to promote this blog. I’ll keep you informed when it’s done.

The last thing I’d like to leave you with is something I heard from a music producer that I thought was interesting. He said, “If you want to make something your hobby, then treat it like it’s your hobby. If you want make it your career, then treat it like it’s your career.”

P.S. As I was getting ready to publish this, I realized that this is my 100th post! That turned my self-loathing into a small self-congratulatory moment. Hopefully in the next ten years I can say I have 100 in-print articles published and maybe 1/10th that amount of books in the next 20 years. But in order for me to do that, I need to start following that music producer’s advice and start producing. Thanks for reading the first 100.

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Things that happened on September 7th

Posted by on September 7, 2010 in September, Uncategorized with Comments closed |

There have been a lot of things that have happened on September 7th throughout history. Here is a quick list of things I found interesting.

1813 “Uncle Sam” was 1st used to refer to U.S. in print. (Troy Post of New York)
1822 Brazil declares independence from Portugal (National Day)
1880 Geo Ligowsky patents device to throw clay pigeons for trap-shooters (This is what you do if you don’t have a thrower.
1889 Start of Sherlock Holmes “Adventure of Engineer’s Thumb”
1896 A. H. Whiting wins 1st automobile race held on a track in Cranston, Rhode Island
1914 New York Post Office Building opens to public
1915 John Gruelle patents his Raggedy Ann doll
1963 Pro Football Hall of Fame dedicated in Canton, Ohio
1995 12th MTV Awards
2004 American military deaths in the Iraq War reach 1,000

There are many other events that happened on today’s date. If you’re interested in what else went down on this date, click here.

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High-Five World Record

Posted by on August 30, 2010 in Guinness Book of World Records with Comments closed |

Josh Dueck set a new Guinness Book of World Records record on Saturday August 28 for the most high-fives slapped in one 24 hour period. Dueck a silver medalist in the Paralympics Games slapped the shit out of the old record, which was 3,131 and is now 9,307 high fives.

Dueck did this to bring attention to workplace safety, which is great. But what I want to know is how do people come up with these nutty ideas for World Records? Who decides, “How many times do you think I can get slapped in the face for one minute? Or better yet, how many times do you think I can slap you in the face in one minute?” The answer my friend would be, 46 and 628—and no I’m not joking.

Here are some other crazy records: Tandem knee slaps in one minute: 592
Most times saying, “Hey,” loudly in 30 seconds while jogging in a grocery store: 41
Most times kissing a dog while wearing a Groucho Marx mask: 77
Most times asking, “Where are my glasses,” to someone tuning a guitar in 30 seconds: 28
Oldest piece of wood used to make a guitar: 35,000 years

When I was growing up Guinness was the Official World Record recorders, now apparently there are two World Record companies. The second called is called The Universal Record Database. These guys, in my opinion, don’t seem as official as GBR, but they do seem more accessible for someone who wants to set or break a world record.

My officemate and I thought of three World Records that we are going to set or break. I won’t tell you exactly what all of them are because we don’t want you to steal our ideas, but I will give you a hint. One involves spelling Mississippi on the Mississippi River, the other involves hugging, and the final record will put Josh Dueck’s high-five shenanigans to shame. But it won’t be the amount of high-fives; it will involve how far the high-fiver starts away from each other. The current record is 2.05 miles away. I ran 19 miles on Saturday so I’m pretty sure I can blow that record out of the water. The only problem is you have to run with one hand raised in the air, so we might look like two eager kids who’s trying to answer the teacher’s question while running down the sidewalk, but it’ll totally be worth it.

Now it’s your turn. Give us some ideas and we might decide to do yours too. You’ll find that thinking of something to try, that hasn’t already been done, is much harder than breaking the actual record.

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News of the Wierd

Posted by on August 26, 2010 in Muslims, Wierd News with Comments closed |

America is one of the craziest places in the World to live. In the U.S we hear about insurgents in Iraq or robbers in Brazil, but the rest of the World hears stories about the stuff below about us.

One of the hot new news-stories is that a preacher in Southern Florida plans on burning Qurans on September 11th. If that happens, you know the World is going to look at all of us like we all are a bunch of ignorant Americans. Well, they already do that, but you know it’s bad when an armed right-winged militia named Right Wing Extreme says, “We’ve decided against helping them because it doesn’t glorify God.”

In other news from the weird:

Least Competent Police
In March, four NYPD officers, acting on department intelligence, went to the home of Walter and Rose Martin in Brooklyn, N.Y., looking for a suspect, and broke a window as they worked their way inside. The Martins, retired and in their 80s, were clean, and a police spokesman later admitted that officers had wrongly visited or raided the Martins’ home more than 50 times since 2002 because of a stubborn computer glitch. When the software was originally installed, an operator tested it by mindlessly typing in a random address, but that happened to be the Martins’ house, and thus the visits and raids began. The Martins say they have been assured several times that the problem had been corrected, but evidently their address has wormed its way too deep into the system. [New York Post, 3-19-10]

Government in Action
A Treasury Department inspector general reported in June that, out of 2.6 million applicants for federal mortgage relief, 14,000 “home buyers” wrongly received tax credits and that in fact, 1,300 of them were living in prison at the time of filing, including 241 serving life sentences. Sixty-seven of the 14,000 received tax credits for the same house, and 87 more potentially fraudulent tax-credit applications were filed by Internal Revenue Service employees. [ABC News-AP, 6-23-10]

Things That Shouldn’t Get Backlogged:
California requires that if a sex offender’s GPS tagging device signals that he’s in a prohibited area, parole agents must immediately respond, but that law was easier to pass than to implement. As of June, according to a San Diego Union-Tribune investigation, the state had fallen about 31,000 responses behind. [San Diego Union-Tribune, 6-16-10]

Thank Goodness for Researchers
After surveying 374 waitresses, professor Michael Lynn, who teaches marketing and tourism at Cornell University, concluded that customers left larger tips to those with certain physical characteristics such as being slender, being blond or having big breasts. Lynn told the Cornell Daily Sun in May that his study was important in helping potential waitresses gauge their “prospects in the industry.” [Cornell Daily Sun, 5-7-10]

And Finally
Perhaps more usefully, University of Central Lancashire (England) researchers writing in a recent Archives of Sexual Behavior reported that women achieve orgasm more often during foreplay than intercourse but that they more frequently emit orgasm-signaling “vocalizations” just before, or simultaneously with, male ejaculation. [PubMed (National Institutes of Health), 5-18-10]

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Triathlon

Posted by on August 22, 2010 in Douglas Thomas Wallace, Uncategorized with Comments closed |

A triathlon is a combination of swimming, biking and running. There are various distances one can do: there’s the Sprint which consists of a 4-500 meter swim, a 13-16 mile bike ride and a 5k-or 3.1 mile run. Double those numers for an Olympic Tri, and keep doubling the numbers for a Half-Ironman and Full-Ironman.

Today I will be doing a Sprint and my goal is A. To finish and B. Not to finish last.

Wish me luck.

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Buckeyes Are Boring? Says Who?

Posted by on August 20, 2010 in Hall of Fame, Ohio with Comments closed |

Ladies, today is a day in history that most of you probably hate and don’t even know it. That’s because today, in 1920, seven men came together and discussed establishing a professional football league at the Jordan and Hupmobile Auto Showroom in Canton, Ohio. One of these seven men was the legendary Jim Thrope.

I wasn’t aware that the first four professional football teams were in Ohio, but apparently there are a lot of things about Ohio that I didn’t know. Did you know that Ohio is actually the, “Birth place of aviation,” not North Carolina? And did you know that Ohio is also the birthplace of the domestic tomato? And you probably thought Ohio was just another boring state that you never even thought of unless you’re from there, like Iowa or Wyoming. But now, every time you bite into a pizza and taste that yummy tomato sauce, you’ll be forced to remember Ohio. You should also probably fall to your knees and thank the great State for domesticating the elusive, willy-and-wild red tomato.

What’s weird is when I was looking up useless facts about Ohio, I found out that a crazy amount of famous people are from the Buckeye State. Here’s a brief list: Neil Armstrong, Halle Berry, Drew Carey, Dean Martin, William McKinley, Paul Newman, Thomas Edison, Clark Gable, James A. Garfield, Steven Spielberg, John Glenn, Ulysses S. Grant, William Howard Taft, Arsenio Hall, Warren Harding, Ted Turner and Pete Rose*. The reason there’s an * next to Pete Rose’s name is because that’s how it will look like if they ever let him into the Baseball Hall of Fame, which is not in Ohio.

So I jumped from football to famous people, so what? If you want to see what I think the best part about Ohio is, even though I’ve never been there, click here. If you want to see where my wife went in Ohio, and totally left me and home while she had a blast, click here. And I will say in her defense, it was “work” trip and couldn’t be helped.

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Friday the 13th

Posted by on August 13, 2010 in Friday the 13th |

Today is Friday the 13th. It is the only Friday the 13th of this year, but it can happen as many as three times per year. It all depends if the first of the month falls on Sunday.

There are many superstitions surrounding Friday the 13th. One of these superstitions is that if there are 13 people sitting at a dinner table, all of them will die within a year. Another one is that having 13 letters in your name is unlucky. The most famous serial killers have thirteen letters in their name: Charles Manson, Theodore Bundy and Jack the Ripper. One could argue that these names have been manipulated somewhat—Bundy was called Ted, not Theodore and Jack the Ripper obviously isn’t the killer’s real name. But people’s beliefs aren’t always logical. This is why superstitions are around in the first place.

Friday’s, for many cultures, is an unlucky day. Thirteen is seen as unlucky in many cultures because the number 12 is considered complete. There were 12 apostles, there were 12 Tribes of Israel and there were 12 gods of Olympus. Therefore 13 is upsetting that traditional good-luck number by one, making it unlucky.

Believe it or not, most superstitions are rarely referenced in history before the 1800’s. But Friday the 13th can be traced all the way back to October 1066 when King Harold II made the decision to lead his troops into battle the next day instead of letting them rest after a long march from a battle three weeks prior. The day he made that decision seems to be the earliest reference to Friday the 13th being unlucky.

But the best thing about Friday the 13th is the movie. It has scared the bejeezus out of tens-of-millions of kids. The hockey mask, the chainsaw, the screaming girls who run back into the house when you know they should run into the scary woods, or the girls who runs into the scary woods when you know that that’s not going to work either, you got to love it. Here’s a clip.

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