Read if you want (to succeed)

I am going to brag a little bit. Not that it is really important though as I am just one of 7.5 billion people on this earth and there are probably a billion or more people who could boast greater feats that I am about to in a moment; however, I think it’s okay to take a moment and be proud of something you managed to do. In a way, what I am about to brag about is not even that significant as it was something I achieved years ago and something I have maintained — at times, not all that consistently — and I am making an extra effort this year to even grow in this area. Alright, if you have read this far and your curiosity has peaked, I will not hold back:

In the fourth grade, I scored a reading comprehension level of post-high school on a standardized test.

That’s right.

I did that.

This guy.

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2013 me. No recent pictures capture this kind of magic.

Now, I know what you’re thinking. “Cool, you can read, so can I. No biggie.” And you’re right, it really isn’t all that impressive. I mean, at the time, I felt pretty cool. Sure, it could have been as easy as circling B when I wasn’t certain of the answer but I actually was and still am a pretty decent reader. It may have been my mother reading to me at a young age or encouraging me to learn how to read books like, Nate the Great Detective and See Spot Run. (Where was Spot going? Why was he going? These questions still haunt me to this day.) It could have been my desire to create stories at a young age. I would draw my own Garfield comics and I think at one point I even attempted to write my own Star Wars fan fiction at six years-old.  Maybe it was just boredom and a lack of good cartoons on television at all times. Maybe I only read because I was home schooled for the first three years of my education and it was a requirement.

The act of reading can feel, at times, so unremarkable. We do it all the time. Whether it’s reading street signs as we try to find our way to a friend’s house for the first time or it’s reading your boss’s angry email about how you forgot to restock the coffee,  it is something we do and a skill we must have to even taste a little bit of success.

I think as adults though, reading is something we should cherish. In school we were tasked with reading books that may have held no interest but as an adult, you get to choose whatever the hell you want to read. (I mean, you could do that as a kid but for many, when you’re required to do something for school it can become a chore to try to do it for fun.) This freedom gives us opportunity that we may not have had elsewhere. We can learn new skills from reading; we can explore different universes; we can use that decaying imagination to curb cynicism. When a book is in your hands (or ears, audio books are cool, too), the world becomes your oyster. We take it, we pry its dirty, unassuming shell open with a sharp knife of wit and we gleam from it a priceless pearl that would otherwise go untouched.

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My favorite book. The only book I’ve ever read three times.

There is a growing and seemingly popular idea that reading is an act of snobbery. That to be well read is to be elitist. I don’t read because I want it to be a means of being better than someone else. I read because I want to just be better. I read to escape as well as learn something about who I am, what makes a hero, what I can do to show my love to those around me more.

There’s another idea, perhaps less popular, that reading is a path to success. Read if you want to succeed is a simple assumption. I don’t necessarily think it is true. Not everyone who succeeds is well read and not everyone who is well read succeeds (at least by worldly means).

I think one thing lacking in our current world of information is a desire to learn. In school, I did not even share a smidgen of this desire. I did my duty. I wrote papers at 3 a.m. the day they were due. I signed my name and the date and sometimes reaped unjust rewards and other times blatant, warranted critiques (with red marks included). There’s talk about how kids are growing up so entitled, how this coming generation knows nothing of hardship and then we test them as if checking their knowledge somehow gives them understanding. We don’t teach them how to learn; we teach them how to give answers to questions.

Read if you want to succeed, sure; however, learn if you want to be.

Before 2018, I wrote down a list of books I wanted to read throughout the year. Books that interested me, ranging from Star Wars to The Idiot. I did not do this because I want to succeed through some magical conspiracy of words that is reading. I did it because I wanted to learn and enjoy it.

Alright, I am done bragging.

For now.

My 2018 reading list (so far):

Star Wars: Lost Stars
Annihilation (Part One of the Southern Reach trilogy)
Authority (Part Two of the Southern Reach trilogy)
Acceptance (Part Three of the Southern Reach trilogy)
Of Mice and Men
Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?
The Martian
The Idiot
The Road
The Dispossessed
The Book of Strange New Things
The Expanse Series
Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy




Growing Cynicism and Decaying Imagination

I played with Beanie Babies until I was fourteen. I would tell epic tales of bravery, of courage, of a teddy bear wearing overalls wanting to rule the world, etc. There would always be a climatic battle and then when the heroes won, I would go on to a new story. My imagination was a non-stop machine and I operated it as if I had known nothing else.

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Nanook, he was the hero of many of my stories, but most importantly, he was my friend. ❤

It wasn’t until I managed to hit 5’2″ at 14 and a half and develop a fluctuating-in-pitch voice that I discovered there was a larger world outside the one I imagined.  Mostly, girls. I mean, I knew of girls and I had various crushes up to that point. It was not that I just started noticing them, rather I thought they finally began noticing me. With such a dramatic change, I realized Beanie Babies and stories made up in my room were better served as something from my childhood — a funny anecdote to show that despite being a man (really a boy, but my perception was that I was a man) I still had a child-like spirit. Once I realized there was a larger world outside of girls (and I got married to an amazing one), my mind turned back to stories and my love for them grew even more.

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We be cute and the best story I’ve had the privilege of living. (Photo by Julie Richardson)

Though my imagination never truly died, I have noticed a growing cynicism in today’s culture. The availability of information, the growing cinematic means of serialized storytelling on television and the constant barrage of terrible news has caused us to be abrasive of many things including the art and language of storytelling. Imagination, I don’t think, is truly dead but the language it breathes is becoming that of Latin — a romanticized idea that has given birth to new languages, ones more clumsy and syncopated. This is no more evident than the growing cynicism towards the medium of cinema and stories that once were its lifeblood.

One of the more recent examples is Star Wars: The Last Jedi. While I believe there are valid arguments for execution of the story its telling, I believe the story itself is very well-thought out (and I personally love it). One of the biggest plagues to storytelling with films like The Last Jedi is that modern audiences equate plot with story. Plot is not story. Plot is like a road that takes you somewhere; story is the actual journey. There may be pot holes (get it, like plot holes) on the road but not often do those detract from the journey.

Unless, of course, you focus entirely on them.

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Vice Admiral Holdo is one point of contention for many fans.

Modern audiences have become so fixated on plot holes that they allow the whole journey to be ruined. Often the plot holes they are so obsessed with are not even plot holes because they forget they are seeing the whole picture of the journey of the characters. The characters are meant to reflect humanity. How often as humans do we make a mistake, look back and then reflect on how hindsight is 20/20?  When a character makes a choice that is problematic or another character withholds crucial information, the audience screams foul. They do not accept it as a means to an end especially when the mistakes lead to a dead end. Their lack of imagination does not fill in the blanks for them. They want to be told despite the movie showing them reasons for their actions. Otherwise, if it is not explicitly said why certain things are occurring, they feel as if the road was bumpy the whole time.

Another issue I have seen creeping up in various comment threads on Facebook and Reddit is the matter of originality. There seems to have always been a cry in the Aughts and this current decade that cinema is lacking originality. My wife and I recently went to see Lady Bird, an original story written and directed by Greta Gerwig. I love when I love a movie and I was excited to read other people’s remarks on such a touching story about a mother/daughter relationship and the departure into adulthood. The first comments I read shook me.

“Such a cliche story.”
“Not original at all.”
“It was like any other coming of age movie.”

While those sentiments may be true to some degree (Lady Bird isn’t the first to explore a woman’s coming to adulthood and it won’t be the last), it was the attitude of those that made me distraught. Something only becomes cliche when it comes from something true. If true storytelling has become cliche and thus, it must be dismissed then hopefully no one will ever pick up a pen, a microphone or a camera again.  The cynical attitude towards cliches may seem romantic in some regard.  I, myself, dabbled with the idea of avoiding cliches in my writing. There are some authors who have been wholly successful in their art of storytelling by subverting cliches and genre tropes (see George R. R. Martin); however, it is not the use of cliches that are of a detriment to a story rather it is how well they are used.

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Saoirse Ronan and Laurie Metcalf as the titular Lady Bird and her mother respectively.

Lady Bird could be bursting through the seams with cliches (it’s not) but the story itself, the characters and their journey, are entirely unique. Just as we experience similar things through life whether it is bullying, the loss of a loved one, the dissolution of friendships or the reuniting of old ones — all life cliches that don’t mean your life is inherently bad — so does the language of storytelling. Yet there is an audience, a growing one, that sees cliches and automatically dismisses it as a distrustful source of art. They dismiss the story as pointless.

It is one thing to not like a story; it is an atrocity to dismiss a story as pointless. It is one thing to like a story but dislike its execution; it is a misnomer to call it lazy. You may not understand a character’s actions or reasoning but that does not make the character weak or a plot hole. Truly, imagination is what is needed sometimes to fill those holes, to create a backstory for someone, to create a reason for a character’s motivation. The plot, the characters, the motivations are all constructs to serve the journey — the story.

With the growing serialized nature of television, it is easy to approach films as if they are to be above that medium. In many ways, television has an advantage of exploring characters in such a way that film does not. In some ways, this advantage, I believe, has caused certain audience members to feel spoiled with the riches of information and then when a film expects a viewer to imagine a reason for something or a character’s history, they feel as if they were robbed.

This growing cynicism is cultivated by an attempt to solve stories rather than listen to them. I believe imagination is one of the most amazing human abilities we have. It needs to be cultivated through learning; it needs to be watered through embracing stories and it needs to grow by freeing itself of the weeds of a cynical nature. Imagination may not be dead but if we don’t tend to its garden soon, we will become complicit in its death.

2018 Update Review

The 2018 patch update launched on January 1st at midnight and so far the patch, while containing promising potential, feels vaguely just the same as last year’s horrendous update that was version 2017. Of course, there were very mixed reviews for the 2017 patch and 2018 really does not address many of the users’ concerns with the previous update. Version 2018, however, does have the promise of changes in the middle of the year dependent upon a user poll. Of course, not all users will be happy with any type of user-feedback based update.

Let’s breakdown some of the potential the 2018 update has over the 2017 update.

User Optimization

As with any previous update, users have the opportunity to update their avatars or pursue new endeavors. Most users begin this process within the first couple of weeks but many abandon this feature as the daily grinding required can be tedious. The opportunity provided though from such an update is an always welcome one.

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Users have an unlimited amount of options. Most opt for donuts and continuing couch activities.

Item and Equipment Updates

Of course, with every update comes improvements to various items and equipment that can be obtained through acquiring a daily skill trade (more on that later) in exchange for currency. The downside to these updates is that they are premium content and don’t just come with the update. If you plan on upgrading your Apple Devices in your inventory, for example, make sure to save a good amount of money for something with little added benefits from the previous rendition.

Social Interface

There is not really a major change in any of the social interfaces. With each update, users seem to have more of a difficult time participating in social functions outside their designated spaces; however, as a result of the item and equipment updates, some social meters can be temporarily satisfied through social applications. Unfortunately, these stimulates tend to leave the user feeling isolated and in a state of despair. Certain users have been known to disconnect themselves from such interfaces in hopes of expanding their community parameters. However, they always come back. Always.

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Some users use their social interfaces while occupying proximate spaces.

No Scandals

The 2018 update has been in effect for less than 24 hours and there have been no scanda–Wait. What’s that? Famous Youtuber Logan Paul did something awful. Well, never mind then.


  • No quick money cheat codes that do not result in potential permanent user ban or temporary restrictions
  • Users seem to just be getting more dumb and worse with each update
  • Culinary options to keep your energy meter going may actually be depleting your life’s HP
  • No Half-Life 3
  • 2018 to feature Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again as if we did not learn from
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    Just, no. Please Developer in Heaven, no.

    the 2008 update

  • No update to NPCs that software regulations that fail to provide users with enjoyable experience (potential to update during 2018 user polls)
  • Still no hover cars despite being promised for the past 30 or more updates
  • That skill trade promotion went to Derrick Smith, that total kiss ass from marketing




The 5 Stages of The Last Jedi

SPOILERS WARNING. Turn back now if you have not seen The Last Jedi. A lot this won’t make sense.

You are sitting in your car. Your emotions are in conflict. You feel like Kylo Ren, except you have spilled popcorn kernels on your shirt and you aren’t shredded like him.  You start your car, you just need to drive. The process has begun and you will not be the same man once it has ended. You stop at a gas station. Lord knows you need some comfort food to get through this. They’re all out of Cheetos though so you settle for some Cool Ranch Doritos but it’s just not the same.

You are experiencing the 5 stages of The Last Jedi.


That can’t be it. There is so much more that you were expecting. You wanted, no, NEEDED a thirty minute expository scene that revealed one of your countless Snoke theories to be correct even if it did not impact the story in anyway. And Rey just being the daughter of some junk traders? How then, a girl, could she be good at anything? It’s like as if she had to find ways to survive on a barren planet for ten or more years of her life? Surely, she wouldn’t have had developed skills!  And Luke, he was infallible in the original trilogy! Like how he dismissed Yoda, or almost killed his father in a fit of rage!  He would NEVER even have a moment of temptation to do something terrible, even if he thought in that moment it would save millions of lives! Not my Luke Skywalker!


You suck some of the Cool Ranch Dorito dust off your fingers as you turn up the Dashboard Confessional song that is just hitting home in that moment. You sing a long to the words, out of key. The words carry a heavy weight in your heart as you sob silently about how Leia could never use the force even in a desperate situation. Also, you always thought that people just blew up in space despite science stating otherwise.


You find yourself on Twitter, reading hashtag posts about how Rian Johnson and Disney have destroyed your childhood. You write out a tweet about how you feel personally betrayed that Snoke bit it and that the movie dared to have humor in it. How dare Poe Dameron, a serious space pilot toy with the enemy in such a manner!? And then there’s Rose… you contemplate how to tackle her character and you settle by comparing her to the oft rightfully hated Jar Jar Binks despite the characters sharing no inherent qualities and actually being kind of a neat, world-expanding character in the Star Wars Universe. You chastise “fans” for liking the movie and you make sure the director of this travesty knows how much you hate him and his movie. You laugh to yourself as you wipe Cool Ranch Dorito dust off your touch screen. It is really stuck on there as if it became a paste while you typed furiously.

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Your face may have permanently contorted in anger similar to the picture above.

And then you remember Luke and how he thinks the Jedi tradition should end. You realize that somehow undoes the original trilogy despite the fact that stories are not static, they continue on and evolve as real history does. How could they have Luke experience a character arc without him having a real, full fledged lightsaber fight!?   Just then, you remember the Porgs and how they were marketed as a big part of the movie and though you hated them before, you hate them now because they weren’t a big part of the movie. You also think that Chewie should have ate that Porg. Chewie deserves to eat a good Porg, you say as you stuff your face with the last two Cool Ranch Dorito chips.


Some reddit commenters have the right idea, you think to yourself. One person said it should have been Admiral Ackbar, your favorite internet meme, on that kamikaze space ship. That would have made that already cool moment exponentially better, right? You also think the hacker guy should have been Lando. It would have made so much sense that the character who lead the second Death Star run was just at some casino while the rest of the galaxy was fighting.

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“Save us Ackbar, you’re our only hope.”

You also start to say, “If only they had cut the casino part of the movie entirely, that’d make the movie better.” You ask yourself what the point of that whole thing was because they failed their mission in every way. It couldn’t be that the movie has a whole theme about failure, you say to yourself. You also fantasize about how Rey should have turned to the dark side, leaving Luke to become the hero you once loved despite the story being about the new characters and not the old. You start an online petition, asking Disney to remove the movie from official canon and let George Lucas remake the new trilogy. “George would never allow such a character like Rose, the new Jar Jar Binks, to exist,” you write in the petition’s description.


You arrive at home. You sit in silence for a little bit. Your heart is broken. The movie you made in your head shattered. You look out the window of your car and you see an empty, vacant world. You shake the bag of Cool Ranch Doritos at your face, hoping for any remaining crumbs to bring you satisfaction. All you wanted was Luke to fight Snoke and die trying. Yet, that was not given to you. So many movies have cool moments that you always imagined and yet, your favorite space movie gave you different ones. You contemplate writing poetry, only to realize the only thing that rhymes with Yoda is “soda” and that does not fit the tone of it all.

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This world, you don’t recognize it. It’s a cruel, pale imitation of something familiar. You contemplate going to an island, thinking maybe that will be the only way for the truth you now know to come to realization. That it is time for Star Wars…to end. You realize that is a bit too extreme as you still love the Original Trilogy and Rogue One (because that movie didn’t add or subtract anything from the original trilogy).


You get out of your car. You realize as you walk into your home that everything you love is still there.  You find a bag of Cheetos in your pantry and now your fingers are covered in both Cheeto dust and Cool Ranch Dorito dust. You wonder why no one has ever combined the flavors. You go online, buy another ticket for The Last Jedi as you are obligated to see the movie at least three more times to validate your deep hatred for it. You drink the remaining Root Beer that you bought before the movie. It’s watered down and tastes how you imagine The Last Jedi should have tasted: a watered down version of the movies you had loved since you were a child.

You realize in that moment that maybe it is okay if other people liked the movie. Maybe they are still true Star Wars fans just as you are even though you didn’t like it. Maybe there are more than one type of story that can be enjoyed and just because it is not your cup of tea does not mean it is an invalid story to tell. You put your phone down and you put on the movies you adore just as a small child embraces a stuffed Porg, smiling from ear to ear as he walks out of a theater.

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I live in a constant state of self-doubt. I put so much value into social media affirmations (likes, comments, reactions, etc.) and when I see my wife and my mother are only liking something I poured myself into I get discouraged to the point I don’t try anymore. I have decided this pursuit of affirmation through social media is a waste of time, a waste of energy and it will keep me stagnate.

My wife has asked me from time to time what I want to accomplish. It is easy to get into the mindset of creating something that will go viral and then riding off on that success for the rest of my life. However, I have noticed more and more that those who go viral fade out of the public consciousness even faster.  Their audience came for one thing and once that one thing has ended, you either need to up the stakes or just accept you were only one thing. I have decided that is too small for me. I don’t want to be a temporary thrill via a viral sensation. I want to be a lasting success. I want to be able to do what I love for as long as I live.  To do that, I need to work hard and set goals.

I don’t need affirmation from social media. That doesn’t pay the bills. I need clients. I need to become a resource for people to provide services that they value; that they are willing to pay to get. My goal is that by the end of the year, I will be in a place that I can devote myself full time to multimedia production (video, graphic design, photography) and be in an even better financial situation as a result. I am writing this blog post as a contract with myself; that this goal is not only obtainable but also a must. There is no other option.

I answered my wife’s question by saying this: I only want to be able to do what I love.

Cannibals Eventually Eat Themselves

A pungent stench lifts from your shirt. It’s all you have left – or so to speak.

As a child, you had dreams and they consumed your flesh and bones. Nights filled with thoughts, ideas and the light beamed from the moon brighter than any other time.  You drew, you wrote, you played and you loved. Then the world catapulted itself into you with a force to be reckoned.

Cartoons became dull; songs became unimportant; movies you loved as a child became full of holes. You complained about what did not work, about what could have worked, about what should have worked – all the while, the dreams dwindled and became passing memories.

In the wake of your reality waking up, a part of you went to sleep permanently. A hunger awoke in its place.  You became a cannibal. Devour those around you to build yourself up. Only thing you never considered:

Cannibals eventually eat themselves.


If Not Now, When?

There are two types of people in this world. Those that are confident in their assertions and – well, there could be more than two types, right? I mean, how could I even say there are only just two types? 7.5 billion people and only two types?

When talking about types, what does that even mean pertaining to people? As if a person can be summed up, calculated like division and multiplication and then understood completely. There are days – perhaps weeks, or months – where I feel like a type of person or rather robot. Work, eat, eat, eat, work, eat, sleep, repeat (I am working on cutting back on the eating part).

Wall-E, the classic and perfect (THAT’S RIGHT, PERFECT) movie, has a lot to say on this. Wall-E, a robot, teaches humans from his pure love of E.V.E. how to be human. The human captain yells at the real robot captain thing-a-ma-jig that he doesn’t want to survive anymore, that he wants to live! In that moment, my fist always involuntarily raises in triumph – as I lay on the couch, eating buttery popcorn and my fourth (really, sixth) piece of pizza.

Where is the disconnect? I am inspired, moved by stories of great achievement to try to achieve my own. Yet even as I write this, I am stifled by fear. I want to write a short film but I want it to be good. Not just good, I want it to be seen by all and loved by all – by first draft. I have these immense expectations for myself that everything I write has the Midas touch. By paragraph three, my mind wanders and the wrath of the Writing Demagogue manifests. His malevolent whispers slip in through my ears.

“Your characters are flat and one dimensional.”
“No one would really do that.”
“How would they get away with that? You need at least three more chapters explaining how that works.”
“That sounds so pretentious.”
“You should stop writing and draw what a Writing Demagogue looks like.”

He wins again. Dammit.

The Writing Demagogue is ruthless and poignant with his critiques. His buddies often show up when I try other tasks. Want to work out? Netflix-ogogue shows up. Want to eat better? Donut-ogogue makes an appearance.  How can one combat such tact creatures? Their ultimate purpose is to keep us from our dreams, to limit us to a type of person rather than an individual with dreams and ambitions.  To keep us just surviving.

The musical Hamilton, written by the wonderful Lin-Manuel Miranda, has been my most recent source of inspiration. There is a line sung by George Washington that reads,

It’s alright, you want to fight, you’ve got a hunger
I was just like you when I was younger
Head full of fantasies of dyin’ like a martyr?
Dying is easy, young man. Living is harder.

Are we going to live or just survive? Are we just going to throw away our lives? There’s a Hebrew saying that has stuck with me as of late: If not now, when?

If we are not going to live now, when are we?