MODERN MANTRAS

Modern Mantras in Aged Fiction: Crichton’s Formula for Success

Hidden away in a forty year old (mainstream) fiction novel—a potboiler, a seemingly shallow tale, prime facie—lies the secret formula for life’s success. I almost couldn’t believe it when I read it. It was so simple, so perfect. See, I’ve perused business books and self-help guides, written by CEOs, millionaires and pastors; all these people with too much time on their hands, penning “how to succeed in life.” And I’ve read them, too, because that’s what leaders do. We read books and make mantras and talk about them on our blogs. But the lessons learned in business books often dissipate faster than tweets, and we’re again left with just ourselves, curious and conspiring.

But these two sentences said everything—articulated in a cold, simple language, a language that only Michael Crichton, the master of logical and academic science fiction, could accomplish.

You went out and you hunted, armed with your maps and your instruments, but in the end your preparations did not matter, or even your intuition. You needed your luck, and whatever benefits accrued to the diligent, through sheer, grinding hard work.

Take a second, and read it again. For me? And take it slow, because these are two damn-good, well-constructed sentences. Drink them like you would an overpriced glass of wine, and when you’re done, close your eyes to impress your friends.

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Right? The quote appears in Crichton’s The Andromeda Strain (p. 197), a novel first published in 1969. The book follows a team of scientists looking to prevent an outer-space bacteria strain from wiping out the entire human race. You know, typical motivation source-material for aspiring young professionals.

According to the cover, Andromeda was on the NY Times Bestseller List for 30 weeks. For me, it was not Crichton’s best. Too heavy handed and dry on the exposition, his signature short sequences of action and tension were few to be found. I was desperately looking for a way out at page 197.

And that’s when Crichton subtly implanted his thought nugget. His inception egg. Two pages later, it hatched. I returned to the passage and reread the lines, underlining, pausing, thinking.

“That’s it,” I said. “I found it!” (more…)

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Maine & New Hapshire (2)

Weekend (Ultimate) Warriors: New Hampshire & Maine

Originally, we had decided to cancel this road trip. See, we’ve been traveling like bandits this summer, and though a budget has kept us in line, we still couldn’t justify another weekend getaway on our current funds.

But then an unknown monster broke into our apartment, and we said, “Hey, now’s as good a time as any to get out of town.” Sometimes you just need to leave.

There was no way we could swing Boston, the original destination, on our budget. So we had to think of somewhere new and cheaper. Megan was craving the ocean, and I didn’t blame her. Neither of us had ever seen an Atlantic beach town before. Ocean towns are generally cheap, since beaches are free (usually). We also decided to save on hotels and sleep in the car, i.e., the Walmart Parking Lot Express.

New Hampshire and Maine were both on my East Coast bucket-list, Maine especially (Stephen King fan, ova heer!). New Hampshire was intriguing because their state motto is “Live Free or Die,” so… As it turned out, New Hampshire has a small sliver of ocean-front property, just below Maine. Perfect.

Massachusetts

While we didn’t necessarily “do” anything in Massachusetts, we did drive through the entire the state. This was exciting for me because I have fantasized about visiting Boston for years. My California friends and I used to host “Boston Night” every Tuesday at my old apartment; we would watch a Boston based movie, eat Boston Baked Beans, and swear a lot. Just being in the state was enthralling. My big purchase? A slice of pizza and soda at a rest-stop. Go Sox!

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New Hampshire

Besides the motto, we didn’t know anything about the state. We Googled “Walmarts near coastal New Hampshire” and the results returned a town named Portsmouth. (more…)

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Source-ry: Today’s Most Annoying Internet Sensation

The internet is like an annoying friend, an acquaintance we put up with because we’ve known it so long. But given the choice between spending two hours on the internet or doing something fun in the world, the world would win every time. We ditch the internet faster than we do soccer after the World Cup. “Internet who?” I am outside!

The internet, however, is our fall-back, our weapon to kill time, our tool to fluff our segmented lives. It is on the verge of replacing TV as a primary means of entertainment; certainly, many TV viewers are using the internet to watch “TV.”

But with the Internet becoming so common place, so comfortable, there’s no doubt that us users are letting our guards down with fact-checking, sourcing, and the questioning of content.

Sure, Net Neutrality is a big concern for all internet users whether they know it or not. But I’m here to argue that there is (possibly) a greater concern negatively affecting the internet’s saturated user base, i.e., the world, on a longer scale, individually.

Lack-checking

The old saying, “Don’t believe everything you hear,” or as my grandfather would say, “Don’t take any wooden nickles,” is as an important a warning as ever in today’s over-stimulated society. The dark arts of the internet age are upon us; word sorcery, (uhem… source-ry) is everywhere: posters posting garbage, a severe lack of fact-checking, massive amounts of assumptions and gullibility. It has all left the internet much like a chaotic and wild Cable Guy basketball game.

Prison Rules

That is, Prison Rules

Social media, Facebook specifically, has created a culture of instantaneous reaction to stimuli. It’s an immediacy that we are all beginning to crave. Fast-food awareness. The information behind this stimuli is often bogus, creating an aura of bullshit. And it drives me crazy.

On whose fault can we blame this madness? Yours, mine, the readers, the posters, the believers. Those who mean well. Those looking to start a fight. Everybody. Unfortunately, when it comes to information submission, there is just no barrier for entry. (more…)

Monster Screen

Open Letter to the Mysterious Animal Hiding in My Apartment

Dear Mysterious Creature,

Welcome. Out of all the windows in Rochester, you chose mine to climb through, and that is an honor. Thank you. My wife heard your ruckus in the living room, the other afternoon, during her day off. I’m sure you weren’t expecting us home. Anyway, the next day, I came across your marking on the window screen which revealed your entry and exit point.

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I guess you could say the gig is up.

Nevertheless, since we now share living space there are some ground rules to cover.

1. My wife is not a fan of mysterious creatures. That doesn’t mean she doesn’t like you; it just means she doesn’t know you, and that you two should avoid each other for the time being.

2. I, on the other hand, am a HUGE fan of mysterious creatures, proven—of course—by the sweet hum of The X-Files theme song, sweeping out of my bedroom nightly, and—no doubt—into your ears as you watched us from outside, below our bedroom window.

3. Label your food. Don’t eat mine, and I won’t eat yours.

4. If you want to borrow any of my books, please ask. It is polite. Also, I’m weird about the aesthetics and order of my bookcase, so don’t just return titles willie-nilly.

5. The bed is off limits. Though if you prove yourself, we can revisit this rule in time.

I’m curious, monster, where do you come from? Are you a cousin of El Chupacabra? Friends with the Jersey Devil? Are you on your way to visit Champ, the lake monster of Lake Champlain?

And I wonder what you normally eat. I found no food missing from the kitchen, which adds to the mystery. Can I get you anything from Wegmans? No doubt, we are almost out of Ben & Jerry’s; I can pick up your favorite ice-cream pint. Let me guess, Late Night Snack(more…)

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Confessions of a Former Dashboard Confessional Fan

Many pop/rock bands from my youth are reemerging. Weezer, Brand New, Blink 182, mewithoutYou and Jimmy Eat World have all embarked on album reunion tours (Jimmy Eat World just announced one for FUTURES, which is pretty great). For me, this year marks the tenth anniversary of something even more nostalgic and silly, that is, my high school graduation.

I think about where I was ten years ago and who I was listening to. Oddly enough, it is a lot of the same music I listen to today. Adding to the list up top we have Death Cab for Cutie, Beck, Denison Witmer, Lovedrug, Ben Folds…

I’m okay with still liking all these bands. Their music is sustaining, and I’m proud to say that they helped shape my younger ears.

But there’s other bands from my past, that when they pop up, I’m not so okay with. What I’m getting at is that sometimes certain music reminds me how creepy I was in high school.

The Bands You Have Come to Fear the Most

Remember Dashboard Confessional? That emo acoustic-rock band lead by Chris Carrabba out of Further Seems Forever? I’m asking but, really, I know you do. Odds are if you are around my age and listened to indie/emo you probably owned two or three of his EPs; the MTV Unplugged DVD/CD combo; you wore the D/C pins on your denim jacket; and you shouted his lyrics like hell, in angst, when relationships broke (and really, even when you were happy).

Yeah. That Dashboard Confessional.

What was it about this band that was so gripping? I mean sure, he sang about falling in love and break-ups and getting cheated on, which captured the essence of dating in high-school, but there was something else. Something that just connected.

Maybe it was the time. One of those rare things, you know? A perfect storm, fueled by emotion-hungry MTV rebels who were looking for a genuineness than rock radio couldn’t provide. And Chris Carrabba sang from the heart. He was always truthful on stage, and I think that’s what we loved. He was the genuine, earnest article. He was the folk-voice of my high school generation, and, to be honest, it’s totally embarrassing.

But before I get ahead of myself, here’s a quick recap for those who honestly don’t know about Dashboard Confessional.

Kevin’s Dashboard 3 Point Recap

1. Cheated on by his wife, he poured his heart out on some angsty acoutsic EPs

2. Those EPs made him super popular. Then he made more of the same

3. He eventually pulled a ’65 Dylan and went electric, earning a couple big MTV hits.

I was a REALLY big fan of Dashboard. The extent of my obsession was a bit much. You can tell I was a big fan because I drop the band’s last name when I refer to them. We were that close. Like Chris, I now need to confess. I need to brush embarrassing memories off my chest, so I can finally move forward, like an adult.

(To the tune of Buzzfeed)

Vindicated?

1. I had a questionably handsome poster on my bedroom wall of Chris on the cover of SPIN

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2. I used my friend’s dad’s eBay account to consistently bid on Dashboard merch. mlRflFAMpCcNczhbPF_fKhg (more…)

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Weekend (Ultimate) Warriors: Lake Placid, NY & Burlington, VT

Lake monsters, teddy bears, camping and ice cream—watch out, folks, this was the quintessential Number Kevin weekend. Megan and I have road-tripped and explored many new lands this summer, but this trip (I know I say this every time) was easily my favorite. It was my first time in the Adirondak mountains as well as in Vermont. Believe it, guys and gals, believe the hype.

Lake Placid

Our weekend began in Rochester, NY, where we live. Megan had Friday off, and I took a half day. This afforded us the extra time we needed to get into town and set up camp before sunset. From Rochester, Lake Placid is a five hour drive without hitting traffic or giant alligators. I’m referencing the monster movie, Lake Placid, of course, which was a favorite of mine as child. Sadly, the town seemed more interested in its Olympic history than its cryptozoology.

SIDE NOTE: IMDB told me the movie was actually filmed in British Columbia. Lucky for me, a neighboring lake held its own monster legend (but I’m getting ahead of myself).

As it turns out, the 1932 and the 1980 Winter Olympics were both held in Lake Placid, home of the “Miracle” USA Hockey Team which I found pretty endearing. Also, I found a bobsled.

Not yet sponsored...

Not yet sponsored…

The town itself was quaint and beautiful; its downtown strip was among one of my favorites yet. We filled up on candy-by-the-pound, got some coffee, and did a little magnet shopping for our travel fridge. Because cheesy married couples need magnets. We’ve accepted it. Moving along…

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Main Street, Lake Placid

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Workplace Skill

Today’s Most Important Workplace Skill (#Jefejuice)

I was recently approached to write a story on “Today’s most marketable workplace skill” by Webucator, a leader in online business training, which was weird because I already had a blog brewing on the subject. At the start of summer my job gave me a raise and a new title. And while I’m no “Big cheese,” I was given free reign to write my own job description and set my own hours.

To be honest, this is nothing new. Every job I’ve ever had has gone this way. A raise. A promotion. An offer. The funny part is how easy it is to get there. And I don’t just mean for me. I mean for you too, for everyone. Climbing the office ladder is as simple as taking a step (and having a little patience). I’m often surprised at how many workers fail to get there.

Jefejuice

So, how can you equip yourself to succeed in today’s workplace? Well… I promise I have a definite skill in mind. It’s just hard to put it into words. So, instead, I think I’ll create a word: Jefejuice. You know? You’ve got to have jefejuice!

This puts me in an awkward place because jefejuice can’t (necessarily) be taught in any classroom, conference, or online training platform. The good news, however, is that jefejuice isn’t some innate trait, passed on like mojo, that only the lucky few have. Jefejuice can be learned, usually in the field, but you need to be hungry (or thirsty) to do so.

“Kevin, what the hell is ‘jefejuice’ already?”

Geez, okay. Alright.

Jefejuice is a skill that means everything you do, you do as if you were the boss. It means that you are always thirsty to succeed, thirsty to do your best in every project no matter how small or unimportant it may seem at the time. (more…)

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10 Amazing Toronto Animation Artists from TAAFI 2014

Last weekend, my wife and I were searching for coffee while walking along the Toronto waterfront. We were attracted to a building bustling with life, but instead of coffee, we found something much sweeter. We found TAAFI. What the heck is TAAFI? Great question. We asked ourselves the same question after stumbling into an amazing animation art festival.

TAAFI (Toronto Animation Arts Festival International) is in its third year. The four day festival includes screenings, lectures, exhibits, life drawing, workshops, and who knows what else. It’s a visual playground for anyone who loves animation, drawing, comics, or art.

TAAFI’s lectures, or talks, were tempting to attend: “Compelling Character Design,” “Indie Gaming,” “Comedians in Animation,” “State of the Industry,” and lots more.  But we showed up on the last day and spent most of our time walking the exhibits and meeting the artists.

Here’s a list of my favorite artists from TAAFI. All of whom I met, and all of whom were incredibly kind and gracious. All of whom, also, are from or are living in Toronto.

SIDE NOTE: I’m using these pictures without permission. If you’d like me to take it down, just ask! Also, all artist’s websites are linked in their names.

10 Amazing Animation Artists from TAAFI

Bobby Chiu might have been the most famous artist I met that day. He’s worked for Disney, Sony, and Dreamworks on a handful of films. He’s also designed toys and currently teaches at Schoolism.com. His website has a plethora of strange, amazing art (like the one below). It was hard to pick my favorite.

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Bobby Chiu

Ally Rom Colthoff is an artist that seems to do a bit of everything. She’s working on an online comic that posts every Monday and Friday. In addition, she also has great landscape paintings, as well as these wonderful, glorious things. She also leads a fun art blog.

Ally Rom Colthoff

Ally Rom Colthoff

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Rochester2

Starting Over in Flower City, NY

Lately, it has occurred to me that Rochester and I, maybe, perhaps, have got off on the wrong foot. It’s no secret my wife and I have been detesting where we live. We moved last August from the West Coast, and it’s just been… well… it’s been…  it’s been exhaustingly frustrating: rabies scare, smoke-ridden apartment, under employment, Polar Vortextation, stranded for hours because of shoddy mechanic work, knee injuries, rude strangers, us leaving every other weekend just to feel normal, underwhelming food…

And we’re not pessimists, I promise. We moved here with positivity and high hope. Like breakfast, we prefer the sunny side. Unfortunately Rochester had other plans. There’s this cycle. Every time we begin to think positive about where we live, we look up, smile at the sky, and then get crapped on by a metaphorical seagull (i.e., Rochester), crapped on right in the kisser.

But that is neither here nor there.

Like a rat in a maze hitting his head against the wall over (and over), I need a fresh start. SO here it is. I’m starting over. I’m giving Rochester another shot, a fair shake, a second chance, some water under the bridge, a lumberjack handshake, a cough syrup detox and other clichés…

And why not? It’s summer, the first day of summer; this is when you get to go outside.

Lake Ontario–give it another chance!

I remember the first time I saw Lake Ontario, my first Great Lake! What a sight. Immense and infinite. I couldn’t look away, and like an ocean, I desperately yearned to know its secrets. But then I smelled Lake Ontario. And then I saw the grossly polluted Genesee River endlessly dumping into it. And then I said, “Hmmm, that’s too bad. Guess I’ll never come back here again.”

Well, nearly six months later, Megan and I took a trip up to the lake, and, I have to admit, I had a wonderful time. The smell wasn’t bad (we weren’t as close to the Genesee), and I enjoyed the lake’s serenity. I skipped rocks like a boss (that is, a boss who skips rocks), and Megan found some neat “ocean” glass. The sun was out and the breeze was perfect.

photo1 (20)photo1-6The Food–give it another chance! (more…)

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Kevin’s Ultra Hip (Hella Sick) Summer Book Club

Recently, I made a pact with my brain. That over summer I would spend more time reading than Netflixing. Netflix, my best fake friend, is a great tool for relaxing, especially after a 23 credit semester, say, by me. And, oh, I wanted to veg-out on Netflix more than my hipster neighbor wanted rollerblades. But I made a pact, and pacts are serious.

Previous post-semester breaks have included many veg-out TV series marathons (8 seasons of 24 and 9 seasons of How I Met Your Mother come to mind). To be Frank, I’ve still been enjoying Netflix in moderate occasions: a Sherlock episode here, a Comedy Bang-Bang there. But moderate is where I’m trying to keep it.  It’s time to take a break from marathon Netflix summers and, instead, marathon some books.

And the readings have been excellent so far.

If you are looking for some great books to read, then please, read these. We can talk about them together and start a cool kid reading club. Maybe you’ve read a few. Maybe you’ll have a little catching up to do. Maybe you can pick and choose. Either way, join my club. It will be ultra hip and hella sick. We’ll watch The Pagemaster together at the end of summer, and it will be fun.

Kevin’s Ultra Hip (Hella Sick) Summer Book Club

 The_Stand_cover1. The Stand by Stephen King – Completed

I just finished this one the other night, and I had never felt so accomplished. 1200 breathtaking pages. Technically though, it’s sort of cheating. I started the book back in December. The Stand is super long, and I had to wait till my semester was over to read most of it. But it was worth it! Also, Hollywood making a big budget movie. You could be ahead of the curve! (more…)