Monthly Archives: August 2012

The positive aspects of negative thinking

It’s always like, global warming, things are about to get a lot hotter folks. Or it’s gas prices. Get ready to pay everybody. Don’t forget about that late night mugger. Keep those doors locked. Oh yeah and an economic crisis. Oh yeah and a war. Oh yeah and your toothpaste is toxic. Oh yeah and we just discovered eight new types of cancer that you didn’t even know you were probably infected with.

What’s it all about? What’s the idea behind generating all of this fear? I know it doesn’t work on me personally, because all I wind up doing is getting really anxious, and then I go drink a cup of coffee, which gets me even crazier. And I end up not trusting anything. If I were in charge of the media and I really wanted to get people to go along with whatever it is that I’m trying to say, I’d go about things completely differently.

Everything on TV and in the news would be smooth and calm and relaxing. This just in, breaking news, things are about to a whole lot better folks. Scientists have just discovered that tomorrow is going to be even better than today. Great job everybody! Keep up the good work. And I’d stare at the computer all hopped up on caffeine and think to myself, “Who the hell do these knuckleheads think they’re trying to fool?” Because nobody acts that calm and happy in real life. And so I’d automatically assume that something was off, that there has to be a threat looming in the background, and the TV just doesn’t want me to panic, so it’s coddling me, giving it to me like I can’t handle the truth, like I wouldn’t be able to come to grips with whatever new plague or assault is right about to crash my reality.

It’s like whenever I’m walking down the street, every once in a while I’ll pass by somebody and we accidentally make eye contact. I usually try to hang my head as low as possible, but every now and then it happens. I usually just twitch my head violently to the other side, to let the person know that I didn’t mean to make eye contact, that I’m not looking, and usually the other person does this also. It’s common courtesy not to get so involved in each other’s personal space. But sometimes that person will just smile. And I’m like, what the hell is there to smile at? Didn’t you check the ozone levels today? They’re terrible! And then I’m always forgetting if ozone levels are supposed to be low or high, and I’m concentrating on that and then I’m thinking again about this weirdo still smiling at me, so I make a run for it.

A lot of people have these ideas about smiling, about positivity, like if you give it to the world you’re going to get it back, or spread it or something. But I don’t think it’s like that at all. I think it’s like money. You give it up, you throw it away and then it’s gone. You start smiling at random strangers and all of the sudden whoever you’re smiling at is totally weirded out, and they do that head twitch thing that I was talking about before, and you notice it and feel stupid for putting yourself out there, for letting some of your positivity or niceness out to the world, it’s in you and then it’s out there and then it’s gone. You’re like a balloon, filled up with whatever you’ve got, and once you let it out, like if it’s helium or something, it’s really not going to be possible to put it back in. It just floats up to outer space, just dissipates, totally wasted. Or maybe it’s better if I describe it like lighter. You hit that lighter with your thumb and eventually it just runs out of gas. Or it gets really hot, so hot that your thumb starts burning and you can’t hold it anymore. What happens after that? No more fire. Well, unless you throw the lighter into an already blazing fire, then, well, yeah, or, if you use that lighter to set the curtains on fire, you could burn the whole neighborhood down. Yeah, I guess if it’s like fire than it’s a little bit easier to think of it like spreading. But I’m not talking about it spreading. I’m talking about it wasting away. So go back to the balloon. Helium, right?

Basically, what I’m trying to say is, the people who are the most cranky, mean, negative people in the world must only be that way on the outside. Inside that miserable exterior they have to be the exact opposite, filled with joy, happiness. You just can’t tell because they don’t go around wasting even an ounce of their positivity. They’re filled to the brim with it inside. Yes, joy is measured in ounces. I think the British invented the ounce. Ask somebody in England. But just think about your happiness, what little you might have of it, and never let it out, you don’t have to share it, waste it. And then, what was I talking about before, fear, right? Yeah, so if we’re all busy pushing each other out of the way and giving each other the finger and averting our gazes, the world would be a much more angry place, but only on the outside, which would really mean that the world would actually be a much better place. Inside. Right? Get it? You are nothing more than a nasty shell for your hidden, hoarded positivity. Hide your light from the world, keep it secret, keep it safe, because it’s yours, all yours, and the next time somebody smiles at you, tell them to fuck off. It sounds harsh, I know, but it’s all perfectly logical. I should be a life coach.

The Trilogy: Part four of three

Please, I hope nobody tries to tell me that they saw this one coming, because nobody did. I’m catching everybody completely off guard here. I’m pretty sure that this was already the world’s first ever blog post trilogy. Don’t quote me on that. I’m not saying that, I’m just throwing it out there, that I’m pretty sure. Well now I also have the distinct honor of writing history’s first ever four-part trilogy. Right here on my blog. It’s incredible. I just feel so special, writing it, putting it up on my web site for dozens of people to read. I can only imagine what you are all going through as readers, staring at this block of text, reading it, leading the charge with me right here at the frontlines of the Internet.

I’ve talked all about the roles of each part of a trilogy. It’s all very formulaic. Part one: setup. Part two: action. And part three: the inevitable disappointment (again, I’m not talking about Batman here, the Dark Knight Rises is obviously the only exception. And you know what? I’m wondering if they might not make an Inception trilogy. I’m going to call that as not applicable either. Inception was sick. Avatar, on the other hand, is almost definitely going to follow the trilogy formula to a T. I wouldn’t be surprised if the N’avi also wind up having to get rescued by Ewoks at the end.)

I was so excited about my blog trilogy, but looking it over, I realize all too well that even I am susceptible to the limits of the genre. I’m no Chris Nolan. How do you do it Chris? Tell me the secret to your powers! Just as things got going, I looked back at my part three and thought … eh. So I do what I always do when I look back at something that I’ve written and I’m not happy with: I cry a little on the inside but just put it up anyway, because trying to get one of these things out every day has pushed my standards super, super low. And I thought to myself, how can I fix this? Specifically, how can I fix this without having to go back and rewrite anything? And part four seemed like the perfect solution.

I’m considering this part four to be like a cast for the broken leg that were my parts one through three. We’ll just leave it on and six weeks later, yeah it’ll smell a little funny, but … yeah, I don’t know where I was going with this whole cast metaphor either. Is it metaphor or analogy? I always get those two confused. And by always, I mean only when I had to take that one English test in high school where one of the multiple-choice questions asked the difference between a metaphor and an analogy. I think I got it right. I can’t remember.

The thing is, I keep writing sentences, but I don’t feel like anything’s really happening. I was so excited by my idea of a trilogy, excited that I would call it Trilogy, capital T, excited about this part four nonsense. Haha! Trilogies don’t have four parts! Haha! But the further along that I get, I come to see that all I’ve done is taken an idea for one everyday blog post, thrown in a ton of filler sentences, like this one right here, with a lot of commas, unnecessary words, more words, a few more, and I’ve stretched it out for four days straight. I think I could have actually and more appropriately condensed all four of these posts into one paragraph:

I love trilogies. Trilogies are made up of three parts. Remember Star Wars? I liked Empire the best. Remember Back to the Future? I liked Part II the best. I don’t like Ewoks. I did like Inception, but I didn’t like Avatar. Actually, that’s not true, I loved Avatar, I’m just anticipating not liking their sequels. But I’ll probably see them anyway. And I like Batman.

Man, that wasn’t even a full paragraph. I mean, I guess technically it met all of the requirements of a paragraph, but my paragraphs are never that short. And it’s not even that well written. But what can I do? That’s basically all that I’ve been talking about for the past three days straight. Man, this is going to ruin me. I’m trying to ground everything I write here based on universal appeal, but I feel like I’ve somehow sunk myself lower than some sort of Internet fanboy.

I’m so screwed. I’ve already invested three days in this. You know what? I’m not that screwed. This can’t be that big a deal. I’ll just put something up even funnier tomorrow, funnier than anything I’ve ever done before. A five-part trilogy. Is that funny? No, no, forget it, it’s not going to happen. Unless … No, I can’t allow myself to even think about this any further. Wait, unless …

The Trilogy: Part three of three

And then you get to part three of your trilogy and you probably realized that you bit off a little more than you could chew. What happened to the beautiful optimism of part one? If only there were some way to go back and maybe make the ending of part two a little less sensational, a little easier to write or explain your way out of. But it’s too late. And your audience is expecting something huge. They’ve lined up around the block for the better part of a day just so they can experience your grand conclusion, in IMAX, and those tickets cost close to twenty bucks, and it’s a midnight showing, like people are basically giving up their Friday so they can stay up until four in the morning just to say that they saw your finale first. Gulp.

That’s the problem with trilogies. The wrap-up. It better be good or else it cheapens the success of the first two parts. Whereas part two is your constant high, ever upward, oblivious to the fact that even this story is going to have to reach some sort of a conclusion, by the time part three shows up, it’s obvious that there’s going to be a letting down of sorts. From the moment part three starts, we’re already in the business of having our expectations lessened, maybe gently, maybe not as delicately, but it’s plain to see what’s going on. Even the most successful trilogies suffer from this inevitability.

Let’s look at Star Wars again. Empire starts out with this crazy ice planet battle and culminates with the big reveal, with Luke getting his hand cut off, and with Han Solo trapped in carbonite. And how do they pick up where they left off? Back in space? Nope, we’re right back on the desert planet, right where we started, right back with the droids, a really slow build up to, let’s be real here, a half-assed Jabba the Hutt scene. Leia’s in a gold bikini. Boba Fett’s there. OK, fine. But it doesn’t really have anything to do with anything from part two. What about the Empire? What about Darth Vader? Where’s Lando?

And they try to reconnect with whatever made the first two so magical, but nothing sticks. Luke goes back to Degobah and it’s not the same. There’s another Death Star, but it’s not the same. Lando’s back, finally, but totally not as cool as he was in part two. “Luke, I am your sister,” doesn’t even come close to packing the same wallop as “Luke, I am your father.” I could go on and on, but then I’d have to start mentioning Ewoks and I’m afraid everything would just spiral out of control and I’d have to finish up with some sort of weird musical number.

But whatever, I mean, this is part three of this blog post trilogy. I’m being honest, it’s going to be a let down, it just has to be. You make a trilogy and you’re bound by certain laws. Unfortunately, the third part of any trilogy is going to invariably disappoint on some level. I could go emo for a little bit, maybe have a jazz dancing scene like in Spider-Man 3, but everyone hated that. I could go back to the Wild West and turn an old locomotive into a time machine, but everyone knows that Back to the Future Part III was god-awful. Whenever a TV station airs an entire trilogy, nobody sits around to watch part three. It’s always such a waste. And let’s not even talk about The Matrix. Please. Let’s not get into that guy in the white suit, or whatever the hell happened at the end. I wish Neo and I could have switched places, so I could’ve had my eyes gouged out, so I wouldn’t have had to actually see such a disappointing finish.

I’m obviously not talking about Batman here. The Dark Knight Rises was sick, and as far as I’m concerned, is the only exception to this rule. But I already wrote about that, so I can’t really borrow any of that Batman magic to spice up this part three. Hmm. What else can I do to wrap things up here? Is it too early to start thinking about how I’m going to package all three together as a whole? Maybe draw up some cool artwork? How am I going to market this trilogy now that it’s all but complete? Maybe I should actually finish first. Hmm.

Well, I guess that’s it. Trilogy complete. That was kind of fun. Part two was definitely the best.

The Trilogy: Part two of three

Part one left you breathless. Even though you knew it was a trilogy, you still got to the end and couldn’t believe there wasn’t anything else. It left you completely enthralled with its gripping narrative, and just as you thought it couldn’t get any more exciting, it was over. The end. To be continued. And you had to wait. But you couldn’t wait. You’re heart was racing and the adrenaline was coursing through your system and you hit the end and that was it. And the comedown from the excitement was too much for you to bear. You scrolled back to the top and reread the first part in its entirety. And it was still amazing, still everything that it once was, but as you got closer to the end that second time, you panicked. You knew what was coming, a huge cliffhanger, a ton of unanswered questions. How many times are you going to put yourself through this?

And here it is. Finally. Part two. You’re shaking. You can’t even wait. That is, unless you’re reading this way in the future, like you’ve come across this trilogy already completed, already finished. And so you immediately read the first part and then it’s just a matter of jumping right to the second part. It’s like when I was a kid and I watched the Star Wars trilogy. All three films were already available on VHS before I was even born. All I had to do was pop in the second tape and I was ready to see Han Solo cut open a mountain yak’s stomach and crawl inside with his buddy Luke so they could survive the nighttime’s subzero temperatures on the ice planet Hoth.

In fact, I don’t even remember ever seeing Star Wars for the first time. I had fleeting memories of being a little kid and watching some of the tapes at my grandparent’s house. But I was too young to really get anything, or to understand what was going on, or to sit still for two hours. By the time I really watched Star Wars, I already knew basically everything that happened. By the time my brain really became conscious, it was already preloaded with Star Wars. It’s like you don’t remember meeting your mom and dad, you just think back as far as you can and they’ve always been there. Unless you’re an orphan, of course.

What would it have been like to walk out of the movie theater in 1977 and say to yourself, “Wow! That was so cool! I can’t believe I’m going to actually have to wait a bunch of years to see how this story continues!” And you have no idea about Yoda or Jabba the Hut or Luke kissing his sister or Luke I am your father.

A lot of people make the case that part two of a trilogy is always the best part. I can see the arguments. There’s no wasted time setting everything up. All of the characters have already been introduced. There’s no laying out any story, no big exposition about who’s doing what and why they’re doing it. It’s just jumping right into the action. It’s like ready, set, go, except they don’t even say that. They just go right to go. Ready and set were part one. Go is part two. And you’re rolling.

Look at the Back to the Future trilogy. Part II is easily the best movie. Why? Well, there’s obviously a hoverboard, and that’s just sick. But more importantly, you don’t have to spend so much time setting everything up. Who are you? I’m the Doc. What’s this? It’s a time machine. A time machine? I don’t believe it. Well, believe it kid. I still don’t believe it. OK, meet me at the mall. Oh no! Terrorists. Oh no! I’m dead. Oh no! I’m in the car. Oh no! I’m in the past. The movie’s been on for like half an hour and we’re just finally getting to see some actual time travel which, if I’m not mistaken, is the whole point of the movie.

Part II starts with the time machine automatically flying out of nowhere, ready to take them on another adventure. No nonsense this time. In fact, Part II is so ready to roll, that it doesn’t even wait for the beginning of the second movie, it starts at the end of the first. Genius. By the way, if I remember correctly, the Doc got the plutonium from the Libyans, right? And Qaddafi was in charge then, right? So if it weren’t for Qaddafi, Marty would’ve never gone back to the past and his dad would still be a huge loser and Biff would still be giving him noogies and making him wax his car. Is Qaddafi the secret hero here? What does it all mean?

Sorry, I’m getting distracted. But there’s no better place to get distracted, to run your mouth, to set up some truly crazy shit than in part two. Seriously, not only are you jumping head first into the action, but you have to heighten the suspense, the drama, you have to escalate based on your fans’ expectations. So throw in everything you’ve got. A crazy twist that you haven’t even begun to think of a logical solution to? Go ahead. Just write it. Write everything. Don’t hold back. This is part two we’re talking about here. You’ve got plenty of time after it’s out there and after everyone reads it and scrutinizes it to think, OK, I’ve really done it this time, I have no idea how I’m going to end this, but it doesn’t matter, I’m not going to think about that, I’m not going to try to work out a solution, I’m just going to milk part two for everything it’s got. Sure, there’s no way I’m going to be able to top all of this, but who cares? Let it ride. Luke, I am your father. Why so serious? Whatever they say in the Godfather Part II. Khan!

Check back tomorrow for the epic conclusion. Unless, like I said, you’re just finding this now and it’s already written. In which case, just go for it. It’s right there. Part three. Read it immediately.

The Trilogy: Part one of three

Things are about to get a lot more awesome around here. I’m talking about the trilogy. This trilogy. This is part one. I’ve always wanted to do a trilogy. Some of my favorite things in life are split up into three. You obviously can’t write a trilogy without at least acknowledging the most influential trilogy of all time: the Blade trilogy. I’m just kidding. Blade 2 was cool, but that’s about it. Everyone knows I’m really talking about Star Wars.

How great is Star Wars? Great enough that I shouldn’t even really be talking about it. Everybody’s already said basically everything there is to say about Star Wars. Personally, I think it would have been a little bit more interesting if Uncle Owen refused to buy R2-D2 and instead stuck by his original purchase of the inferior R5-D4. You remember, that red one over there? Maybe then we wouldn’t have had to hear C-3PO complaining about R2 so much. That got old pretty fast, didn’t it?

Trilogies are great because each part of the story is perfectly compartmentalized into just the right proportions of a perfect story. Part one’s are always the best. We’re just starting out. Not only do we have this whole first part in front of us to enjoy, to take in and to savor, but we’re left with so much to look forward to. The worst part about anything great is the ending. That’s it. It’s over. We’re glad you enjoyed it, but now it’s done, and the enjoyment is over, and all you’re left with is a hollow, sinking feeling of finality, of everything. Part one, while it ends, it’s not really an ending. You’re not even halfway done with the whole trilogy. The ending is just the beginning.

Everything’s new in the first part of a trilogy. You don’t have any established rules to abide by, because everything’s unfolding for the first time. Remember how cool it was to see Batman train to become Batman in that first Batman movie? I’m talking about the good Batman movies, with Christian Bale, not those lame ones that started in the 80s. And then he got his whole Batman outfit? And the first time he appears out of nowhere and everyone’s just like, “Who the hell are you?” and he’s like, “Call me the Batman.” Epic. Just absolutely epic.

I love trilogizing. I try to break up everything that I do into three parts. If I’m at work and I’m waiting on a table, I really like to only make three appearances. Part one: “Hey how’s everybody doing today, ready to order?” They better be ready to order, because I’m not coming back until Part two: the serving. That’s when I serve the food. I then disappear as the customers come to grips with what they’ve ordered and realize that I’m not coming back to check up on them, and so they’d better just make the best out of their meals. And then, finally, Part three: the check. Pay up mothafuckas.

Life is basically one huge trilogy also. You’re a kid, then you’re an adult, then you’re an old person. I’d have to say that the first part of this trilogy is definitely the best. That’s why I’ve been reluctant to embrace the part two of my life. Every time that I feel like I’m acting too old or that I’ve lost a little of my whimsy or whatever, I like to throw a huge temper tantrum, throwing stuff, acting like a huge baby, crying, screaming, everything. And then when I settle down, I’ll look at myself in the mirror and say to myself, well Rob, you’ve sure got a lot of growing up to do. And I’ll feel better, like I’m still wrapping up the part one of my life. And it’s true. It’s all about expectations here. I plan on living to be a hundred and twenty years old. So based on simple arithmetic, I still have over a decade left of acting like a self-centered entitled brat. I’ll grow up eventually. Unless I get hit by a bus while I’m doing something completely irresponsible, like running across the street with a huge lollipop in my mouth, and I start choking on it, because you’re not supposed to run with candy in your mouth, and I’m panicking from the choking, and I turn to my left and the Q69 is right there and, well, I hope that doesn’t happen.

The best part about the first part of a trilogy is that you never have to wrap things up. Coming up with a satisfying ending is the hardest part of any storytelling task. You could have the best idea for the coolest story on the planet, but if you don’t know how to end it, if you can’t think of a convincing way to answer all of those giant questions and gaping plot holes that you’ve posed to your audience, then everyone’s going to be pissed, and nobody’s going to let you do anything else ever again. Like that TV show Lost. J.J. Abrams couldn’t deliver on the finale, and since then, his career has been total garbage. Didn’t he have some prison show? I have no idea because I’ve completely written him off. Maybe if you kept Lost to three seasons the laws of the trilogy would have worked in your favor. But no, seven years on the air. Great job buddy.

What was I saying about not having to wrap things up? Check back tomorrow for the answers to these questions, and even more questions, and even more hints at possible answers, and hopefully enough distracting nonsense that you won’t remember all of the bad parts about this first part, you’ll just be looking forward to part three, but that’s not until the day after tomorrow, because tomorrow’s part two.