A Thought for Every Thursday – Soul Food

Welcome to my weekly series, A Thought for Every Thursday.

Every Thursday I’ll pose a question (or several) regarding a specific current event, a modern moral issue, or a philosophical conundrum. Instead of answering it myself, I’ll look to you for the resolution.

It’s all in good fun.

Here we go…

 * * *

Soul Food

First, a few definitions:

Soul – sōl/ (noun) – the spiritual or immaterial part of a human being or animal, regarded as immortal.

Mind – mīnd/ the component of a human being or animal that enables them to be aware of the world and their experiences.

Despite our many technological advances, one thing science has yet to define and/or locate proof for is the existence of souls.

Also hard to define are the processes of thoughts, feelings, and perceptions.

So which is more likely?

Souls and consciousness are physics-based, and will one day be completely explainable by science?

Or

Souls and consciousness operate under separate parameters and are not bound by any known laws of physics?

* * *

Past A Thought for Every Thursday entries are right here.

If you like these kinds of questions, try these on for size.

If you prefer something gentler, go here.

See you next Thursday!

J Edward Neill

Resolutions, 2017

It’s gone… just like that. 2016. That bitch of a year that saw so many artists and creatives who touched our lives through various mediums pass on… it’s really only a couple of days left now. And it comes to me that I need to write my look back and then look forward for the new year.

And what I’ve learned is that the old saying “best laid plans” and all of that doesn’t always mean that you actually hit all the goals or even enough of the goals to feel like the year might have been a success.

But I feel like I’ve been creative. I feel like I’ve pushed some projects forward, but the madness of not quite getting to where you want to be, what you wanted to have produced is there as well. I can only blame myself for (most of) the things I haven’t managed to finish. So there while be boxes unchecked for this past year which will slide to 2017.

Writing Dark

The Look Back – 2016

The White Effect

The goal was to send it out. To try to find someone who might take a second or third look. Maybe, possibly, perhaps find a crack in the business.

I spent most of the beginning of the year sending out queries to various agents, and when that failed, looked to contests that might get me in front of editors. The ones who responded decided to pass.

That’s a little bit of a dagger. Death by a thousand cuts as it were. I was mentally prepared for that, but I’m not sure I was emotionally prepared for it.

The Edge of the World

Nope. Didn’t finish a second draft. Didn’t hire an editor. Didn’t do anything…

But I am in a different place with it than a year ago. I want to send it out. I want to see if maybe this one is the one.

Maybe I’m a glutton for punishment.

S.O.U.L. Mate

About 1/3 of the way through the first draft. This is both my big accomplishment and also another failure as I wanted to be done with it as well.

Where the hell did the year go?

The Dark That Follows 2

No update on this one.

The Crossing Comic

No update on this one.

Mystery Comic

Never got off the ground. Such is the way of these things…

Blogging

This is still on-time, every week. I’m not the machine that Mr. Neill is, but my hope is always that I make myself an asset for Tessera Guild.

Mystery Book

I did write a book this year. It was a present for my wife, and it took the majority of December to pull it off, but I got it done. I’m proud of that.

Short Stories

I continued to work on a handful of shorts, but didn’t get any of them to the finished point. Sigh.

blue-five

The Look Ahead – 2017

So in light of a year where not as much writing was done as should have/could have been… what’s the plan for 2017? Do I pull back a bit on the expectations? Do I try to set things up as being more realistic?

Nah. I need to push. I need to push myself.

The White Effect

Hire editor. Get published this year. Enough is enough. Time to polish this one and put it out there.

Edge of the World

Draft 2. Query Letters. It no one bites, find some other options. Worst case… hire editor. Get published by end of the year.

S.O.U.L. Mate

Finish 1st draft. Finish 2nd draft.

That seems realistic.

The Gilded Age

There is talk of a Kickstarter to help with the print costs in the Spring. Talk about maddening… this project shouldn’t have taken as long as it has. Could it be? Can it be? Done?

We shall see.

Short stories

See under blogging, but I need to finish up the few I have which are very close.

Veronica Mars Novella 2

Got delayed and pushed back. We’re soooo close at this point. So close. It will be published.

blogging-image

Blogging

Obviously I want to continue to not miss a week. The best thing about Tessera is that it provides me with an absolute reason to sit my butt in the chair and get the work done. It puts me on a schedule. Yes, the hope is that someone likes what I blog about and maybe checks out a book, but it’s as much for me as it is for anyone else.

This year I’d like to push it a little more. Find a way to have some regular columns. Maybe try to do a Kickstart the Comic once a month. Maybe a Behind the Comic every month.

I’d like to get some of my fiction writing on here. There is no reason not to possibly serialize something for Tessera. Maybe I just need to set my mind to it.

 

As per normal, I’m probably biting off more than I can chew, but… but… you never know. Maybe this is the year that I hit all my goals and some.

 

***

John McGuire

John McGuire is the author of the supernatural thriller The Dark That Follows, the steampunk comic The Gilded Age, and the novella There’s Something About Mac through the Amazon Kindle Worlds program.

His second novel, Hollow Empire, is now complete. The first episode is now FREE!

He also has a short story in the Beyond the Gate anthology, which is free on most platforms!

And has two shorts in the Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows anthology! Check it out!

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com.

A Thought for Every Thursday – Angels vs Demons

Welcome to the latest installment of my new weekly series, A Thought for Every Thursday.

Every Thursday I’ll pose a question (or several) regarding a specific current event, a modern moral issue, or a philosophical conundrum. Instead of answering it myself, I’ll look to you for the resolution.

It’s all in good fun.

Here we go…

* * *

For this week’s thought, let’s get a little personal. In modern society, there’s a tendency to label things (and people) as good or evil. No shades of grey. Just good or bad with little leeway.

Only…that’s silly.

It’s likely that in the history of humanity, no one has ever been 100% good or 100% evil. Even the best of us have done questionable things, while even the lowest and most corrupted of us have probably (even if accidentally) done something to help another person.

Now the question is: which of your voices is stronger?

How good and evil are you?

To solve this riddle, I designed a simple exercise called ‘voices.’

*

Voices

Imagine a little angelic version of you lives on your right shoulder. This mini-you represents all that is good, wise, and optimistic in your life.

Now imagine a devilish version lives on your left shoulder. This little demon represents your impulsive, dark side.

Give each one a voice.

If they could talk, what would they say?

*

* * *

Past A Thought for Every Thursday entries are right here.

If you like these kinds of questions, try these on for size.

If you prefer something gentler, go here.

See you next Thursday!

J Edward Neill

Ultimate Wish List

When I was a kid the Christmas Catalogs were the end all be all of what might be available for the holiday season. I’d spend hours flipping through the pages, looking at the various Transformers I could never deem to actually ask for. I mean it was one thing to ask for multiple $5 or $10 or even a $20 toy, but I want to say that this:

omegasupreme

Cost over $100 easy. Didn’t matter that it might have been the coolest thing EVER.

Now that I’m older we call flipping through the catalogs Black Friday ads or at this point just going to Amazon.com and seeing if anything strikes my fancy. And sure, these days if I really wanted that $100 toy it wouldn’t break the bank. So like everything else we must aim a little higher. If money were no object… maybe a Brewster’s Millions situation or say I won the lottery tomorrow, but maybe it wasn’t a lottery win where I could buy an island, just enough to get some higher end toys and see how the “other half” lives.

(Note, this is about “stuff” not experiences. Yes, I’d love to travel with my sudden imaginary wealth. This isn’t about that.)

brewsters_millions

3D Printer

$3-8,000

Years ago CD Burners were this mythical thing. Having the ability to copy someone’s cd directly instead of saving it on a tape? Having that extra space for easily transferring files back and forth. These were the pipe dreams of a younger day. But I spent about $200 on a cd burner while I was in college because no one else had one on the hall. And it got used to make copies of anything and everything.

This item though… what would I actually do with one? Probably dick around with it. Maybe make miniatures. Maybe make game pieces. I’m sure I could figure out something once I actually had it.

That’s not the point of the list. I don’t have to have an actual purpose designed for it.

avengers-4

Avengers 4

$6,000

For the uneducated, this is the Silver Age debut of Captain America. After spending two decades trapped in ice, a fledgling team of Avengers finds and revives him. What you might think of as the “core” team really comes to fruition in this issue. An idea that a lost relic from another age of comics could not only come back, but eventually be the heart and soul of that team…

While I own just over 10,000 comics, I’ve been in the process of trying to collect a full run of the Avengers books. The oldest issue I have is #9, and the bulk of my run really begins in the 130s and up. This would really be a true linchpin of any collection.

wsop-logo

Entry into the World Series of Poker Main Event

$10,000

We (my wife and I) play poker once a week at a restaurant. I have no illusions that this makes me anything other than someone who likes the game enough to play every week.

However…

There are stories all the time about some person no one ever heard of before suddenly has a nice run in the tournament. I’m thinking “I could be some person”.

 

Superbowl Tickets

$6,200

I know I discounted experiences above, but this is one of those that I could never justify the money other than within this blog. Vacations, even to exotic places, can still happen in my real life.

Mostly this is about experiencing the atmosphere, seeing a game the whole world is watching…

And maybe cheering on the Dolphins?

R2-D2 Moving Frig

$8,000

Because sometimes the real refrigerator is too far away.

***

John McGuire

John McGuire is the author of the supernatural thriller The Dark That Follows, the steampunk comic The Gilded Age, and the novella There’s Something About Mac through the Amazon Kindle Worlds program.

His second novel, Hollow Empire, is now complete. The first episode is now FREE!

He also has a short story in the Beyond the Gate anthology, which is free on most platforms!

And has two shorts in the Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows anthology! Check it out!

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com.

 

Change Out The Calendar

new-years-day-2017

When I was younger I did the same thing every New Year’s Eve. As the clock began its approach to midnight, I’d start to get melancholy about what the previous year was leaving behind. I felt like I had to internally verbalize them. I would walk through every major accomplishment for myself and anything that had captured my attention in the world that year (to various degrees as when you are 8 or 9 you don’t really know much about the “goings-on” of world politics).

In this I was able to say my goodbyes, somewhat convinced that if I didn’t do this that the people and places and events might not mean as much to me in the future. Imprinting some aspect of those memories deep within the well of my brain’s knowledge. That somehow I was beginning to see Time with a capital “T” as this freight train rolling along and most of us its passengers for as long as it will have us.

So while many people were looking toward the future with hope and joy and just that tingling sensation because “This year is the year!” I was this kid who fretted and worried that because the calendar had changed it meant everything before no longer mattered in the same way it had only a few minutes before. That somehow the tether was broken and nothing could get it back.

Change is worrisome no matter if you are 6 or 60.

father-time-and-baby-1909

Those images of the Old Man and the New Baby troubled me. Everyone was ready to discard the old man. He’d had his life in the sun, but he was past his prime. It was time to embrace the new.

I always felt bad for that old-timer. Just by virtue of not being shiny and new it meant that his day in the sun was long since passed? Somehow that couldn’t be fair. He should be honored for what he gave, what he accomplished, and that meant taking a small amount of time to recount those things – if only to myself, well then I was going to show the proper respect to the passing of another great man.

I continued doing this for a long time during my teens. Year after year of saying this weird form of prayer by cataloging exactly what had come before. For me this was entirely about the past and not the future. Anyways, my future was marked by the end of the school year, something which didn’t occur until June.

Something changed in my twenties though. I don’t remember doing the mantra much during that decade. Maybe I did it once or twice, but that’s a complete guess. And I’m not entirely sure why it happened (or more to the point, didn’t happen). Perhaps it was because I was out and about many of those midnights with friends and the distraction was enough to  keep me from focusing on that negative of the calendar turnover. Maybe when you are on your own the world looks a bit different. Maybe because I was in a different school which didn’t have a clock measuring the days before I was gone (unlike high school).

My habit returned in my thirties, not every year, but enough that I notice them. Days long gone suddenly have a meaning that I wasn’t expecting.  You start creeping to the tipping point where you are closer to death and birth and again Time wants to crush you. It wants to figure you out, make you its bitch… if you’ll let it.

I think they really kicked in during what my wife and I called the black year (even if that year was stretched out over about 18 months). Multiple deaths with grandparents on both sides passing, our first pet as a couple dying (after 7+ years), and both of us getting laid off from our jobs (though, thankfully not at the same time).

When it came time to say my mantra during those years it was with a bit of hope and disgust. Finally, I wanted to kick that Old Man out on his ass. I wanted to forget everything about the bad and good of the previous year. As if not doing the mantra would make it so that these things would not have happened. The mantra was to look forward at potential possibilities.

2016 has been noted for the many celebrity deaths where the people were, in some cases, icons of their industry. I think for many of us this might be the first time we’ve ever had that happen to people who were a part of our lives through their music or their work on the various large and smaller screens. People we “grew up with” are now gone from the world. A true reminder of our own mortality.

california-highway

In the next couple of weeks it’ll be time to say goodbye to 2016. And while for most it will be done with a middle finger, I think I’m going to let myself take those moments again. Speak my mantra, and try to really record what I saw and what I felt leave us throughout the year. Not in an effort to hang on to the past, but in order to truly move on to a new path.

***

John McGuire

John McGuire is the author of the supernatural thriller The Dark That Follows, the steampunk comic The Gilded Age, and the novella There’s Something About Mac through the Amazon Kindle Worlds program.

His second novel, Hollow Empire, is now complete. The first episode is now FREE!

He also has a short story in the Beyond the Gate anthology, which is free on most platforms!

And has two shorts in the Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows anthology! Check it out!

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com.

The Ultimate Get to Know Someone Trivia

So you say you want to know your friends and significant others better?

You say you want to understand them?

Easy.

Just make them answer all the questions below. And then, after they reply, send them all your answers.

*

It’s The Ultimate Get to Know Someone Quiz

* * *

What is your favorite nickname?

And your least favorite nickname?

Were you bullied in high school? Or were you the bully? Explain.

How old were you when you had your first alcoholic beverage? And what was it?

Have you ever been arrested? If so, why?

And if not, why not?

What’s the most embarrassing thing you’ve ever done?

And what’s the thing you’ve done you’re proudest of?

well-thats-embarrasing_o_1198717

Ever won a fight?

Ever lost one?

Ever wanted to fight someone really badly, but walked away? (Details!)

Pretend you have to explain human reproduction to a ten-year old. How would you do it?

What’s the worst movie you’ve ever seen?

How upset would you be if a friend told you a harsh truth about you? (About your appearance or your personality.)

What’s the nerdiest thing you’ve ever done?

And what’s the most badass thing?

Ever done something truly charitable?

And how did it feel?

hand-serving-soup

Is it ok to lust after someone?

To what degree?

What’s the sickest you’ve ever been?

If you could fight anyone in the world to the death, who would it be?

Be honest. Would you win?

As a little kid, what was your favorite pet’s name?

And how did they die?

Describe how you feel about sports in three words or fewer.

Describe how you feel about video games in five words or fewer.

Coffee or tea?

Beer or wine?

On a scale of one to ten, how artistic are you?

If higher than a 7, explain.

What was the last concert you went to and how much did you enjoy it?

Name your least favorite food of all time.

giphy-facebook_s

In how many minutes could you run one mile?

What about a kilometer?

…yes, those were actually math questions.

Name a historic war whose purpose and outcome you would have supported.

If the zombie apocalypse happened tomorrow, state how many days (realistically) you would survive.

Justify your answer. ^^^

How many TV shows do you need to watch every week?

On a scale of 1-10, how emotionally involved in politics do you get?

Also on a scale of 1-10, how much are you willing to discuss your religious (or non-religious) affiliation?

Are you a humble person?

Explain. ^^^

What’s your personal comfort food?

How many countries in the world have you visited?

Can you say a curse word in a language other than your own?

Do you believe in luck? Good? Bad? Or both?

ht

If you can, name two awesome things about your home town.

And two not-so-awesome things.

What one law you’d like to see repealed?

Who’s one person you’d like to see brought back to life?

Have you ever won a contest, a sporting event, or a televised game show?

What’s one word you’d feeling very uncomfortable saying out loud? (use asterisks if you don’t want to type it.)

What skill do you possess that you’re probably better at than most people?

If someone wanted to corrupt you, what’s something they could offer to turn you to the dark side?

If you can, name one thing you’d like to see banned in your home country.

easter-banned-title

You’ve been put in charge of creating a new national holiday. Name it and assign one day of the year you want it to be observed.

Do you think you’re smarter than the average person?

Stronger? Faster?

Is it sometimes ok to be loyal to someone even when they’re doing wrong?

How long (in minutes) do you spend in your average shower or bath?

Describe the perfect day in terms of temperature, climate, wind, and appearance of the sky.

If you could afford to hire a maid to do most of your cleaning, laundry, and cooking, would you?

Is it ok to judge someone’s character based on one or two of their deeds?

What’s the best book you’ve ever read?

If you could master one skill (any skill in the world) in just one day of study, what skill would it be?

Name one thing that disgusts you.

Which of your family members is most likely to embarrass you?

Name one item on your personal bucket list.

If a famous author wrote a book about your life, what would the title be?

* * *

The Ultimate Get-to-Know-Someone Quiz is now a book released under the same name.

If you prefer deeper, darker questions, satisfy your quiz & questions fetish right here.

J Edward Neill

A Thought for Every Thursday – How far are you willing to believe?

Welcome to the latest installment of my new weekly series, A Thought for Every Thursday.

Every Thursday I’ll pose a question (or several) regarding a specific current event, a modern moral issue, or a philosophical conundrum. Instead of answering it myself, I’ll look to you for the resolution.

It’s all in good fun.

Here we go…

* * *

Two Worlds

 *

Human beings experience some pretty strange phenomena.

Things like déjà vu, synchronicity, placebo effects.

Despite the belief (or hope) that these effects are spiritual or otherwise outside the realm of explanation, most of them have causes rooted in science.

And yet…

A few phenomena exist that have yet to be fully explained.

Things like ghosts, past-life memory, ESP.

Which leaves us with three distinct possibilities:

These things don’t really exist. People make them up.

These things do exist, but have scientific reasons we’ve yet to find.

These things do exist, but have causes outside the realm of science.

Which one do you think is most likely?

And why?

Walk to the light

*

* * *

Past A Thought for Every Thursday entries are right here.

If you like these kinds of questions, try these on for size.

If you prefer something gentler, go here.

See you next Thursday!

J Edward Neill

My Mother: The Horse Diver

Another month, and a little more insight to my own family’s past. I only wish that I had an actual picture of my grandmother to show along with the following…

***

My Mother: The Horse Diver

By: Mickey McGuire

 

My mother was the best cook who ever lived. I also knew her to be the most critical person whom I have ever known, and, in her later years, one of the most fearful and paranoid. On her good days, she liked to laugh and joke. She loved to fish- both salt and fresh water; she was the first to drop her line and the last to leave. She wrote short stories, poetry, and a book about life in the Okefenokee Swamp.

She tried to be a good mother- nurturer to me she was not. In all fairness though, I saw her warm and fuzzy side as a grandmother to my children. Although our relationship was complicated at best, I never doubted her desire to see me succeed at a level which surpassed hers.

On the days her demons rose to the surface, she drank vodka- sometimes a weekend binge a month, other times many months would pass without any drinking. The realization of her drinking for the day assaulted my nose and sensibilities as soon as I opened the door in the afternoon after school- Momma asleep/passed out in the bed and the rest of the house a cold vacuum where sadness and pain lived.

I never saw her take a leisurely walk or do any form of formal exercise. Does pulling a wagon with fishing equipment count? She smoked two packs of Kent cigarettes a day, ate fried Southern food on a regular basis, drank off and on her whole life, and still lived to be 79.

That was the mother I knew. Married already for twenty years, my parents adopted me in their forties. I was the baby who would surely fill that void in my mother’s life.

***

But there was another person I never knew. Families have their share of stories and legends, and my mother had a crazy one- she was a horse diver in Atlantic City, New Jersey, in the summer of 1933 when she was seventeen. At that time, the diving show on the Atlantic City Steel Pier had been in existence since 1928. The horse diving show had been the creation of William “Doc” Carver in the 1880s. Originally a traveling diving show, it had become the primary attraction of many carnival acts on the Boardwalk.

 

horse-diving

 

This was a show not for the faint of heart or spirit. A pretty girl sat on the back of a huge horse and dove 40-60 feet into a 12 foot pool. That depth was just enough for the horse to reach the bottom of the tank and push-off to swim to the surface. Different horses dove four times a day, seven days a week for the price of a one dollar admission to see this remarkable feat- definitely meeting the criteria of an extreme sport by the standards of that time. Divers made $50- $125 per week, a fortune compared to the normal $15 per week in a department store.

How would a seventeen year old girl from Waycross, Georgia, ever be a horse diver in Atlantic City, New Jersey, you might ask? That summer my mother had gone to stay with her older brother and his wife in New Jersey, a place where my uncle had found better job opportunities as a welder in the shipyards. My mother’s cousin Marie was already a temporary diver for the show. The star diver Sonora Webster Carver- also a Waycross girl- had been blinded on one of the dives in 1931, and, according to her autobiography, had needed rehabilitation and time to learn Braille. So the summer of 1933 could have very well been a period of transition where many different divers were used in the shows. According to Sonora’s sister Arnette French in the autobiography A Girl and Five Brave Horses, “If you rounded all the riders up, we’d fill Convention Hall- we were the stars of the Boardwalk.”

circa 1955: A diving horse and her rider disappearing in to a swimming pool with a splash. (Photo by Three Lions/Getty Images)

circa 1955: A diving horse and her rider disappearing in to a swimming pool with a splash. (Photo by Three Lions/Getty Images)

According to Momma and Sonora Carver’s autobiography, you had “to keep your head tucked to one side, so that when the horse raised his head as he jumped up at the bottom of the pool, you wouldn’t get smacked in the face.” That would have been the least of my worries. How would you have the nerve to jump on the back of that gigantic animal and then jump off a stand 40-60 feet in the air into 12 feet of water? What about being thrown off or kicked in the head under water? There were documented bloody noses, black eyes, broken cheekbones, collarbones, and teeth. Amazingly, no diver fatalities ever occurred. Sonora Carver’s blindness was the worst of the injuries, and she continued to dive despite her blindness for many years.

***

How does one person meet adversity and thrive despite it while another is haunted by her/his demons?  How did my mother evolve from having this courageous spirit and complete recklessness of youth to being beaten down from the disappointments in her life? If she could be a horse diver, she could have accomplished anything. I do believe life is about choices and consequences. She could have taken that job with Western Union and had her own career. She could have moved to a big city. She could have divorced my father. She chose to stay in the marriage, to live in the small town, and be a housewife. The life she chose would eventually lead to her becoming my mother, all the good and the bad of it. She was the mother I was supposed to have. I am who I am because of it.

I wish we could have had a different relationship… but we did not.

Instead of thinking about what might have been, I love to think about my mother dressed in that sequined bathing suit, waiting for that nearly one ton animal to reach the top of the ramp- her red hair flying- fearless and carefree- her future ahead with so much promise.

 

Credits: Carver, Sonora. A Girl and Five Brave Horses. Amazon Digital Services LLC, 2016.

***

Mickey McGuire is the mother of published author John McGuire, a registered NICU nurse, retired high school teacher, an artist, and passionate student in this game of life.

Sadly, There Is No Easy Button For You

Spam has taken on a new meaning for me ever since I decided to publish The Dark That Follows and start writing a weekly blog. Then again, spam has probably morphed over time regardless to what I’ve done. It just seems I’m paying attention to some of it more than I might have been in the past.

no-junk-mail

“Click here to sell more books today!”

“Learn how to drive more traffic to your blog!”

“The only way to write 10k words in a minute!”

“Make her excited-” erm… OK, maybe not that one. But you get the point.

According to when and where I actually come across these potential articles/blog posts/click-bait/random something else all determines as to if I’ll actually click on them. Yes, many times I stumble across them while I’m in the midst of some other internet rabbit hole, but most of the time I search these damn things out.

Why?

I mean, I’m not dumb. I get what they are doing. However, I also am in this weird place whereby I want to learn the secrets they supposedly have to share. I keep thinking that while I might not be Shakespeare or Twain or insert your favorite author here in talent level, there are literally hundreds of authors who have figured all of this out while not… well, they try, but…

OK, let’s face it. A lot of them aren’t very good at actually stringing two words together. Ask them to put more than four or five in a row with punctuation? Well, that’s the end of that idea.

But they have it figured out. Right?

easy-button

They’ve found the magical EASY BUTTON! So I click on their link and read and try to find that nugget of information which will blow my mind. That knowledge where just prior to it I was only a monkey and now afterwards I am able to use tools and make a fire. This is the type of stuff I’m looking for.

It eludes me.

I do everything wrong. Or in the wrong order. Or I’m impatient. Or I’m too patient. I don’t have enough time to write. I have too much time to write. I goof off. I don’t goof off. I should reach out to more people. How do you reach out to more people? Get involved with a group. I did that, nothing’s changed.

My mind becomes a barren wasteland full of left over billboards which say the above… dotting the horizon with their mocking attempts to “HELP” me.

***

A side story – When I applied to go to Georgia Tech there was a little spot on the form where you could put a Major or you could put Undecided. Now when I filled this out, I was in the midst of thinking I wanted to be a computer programmer. As such, during my senior year in high school I took a Computer Programming class. I’m pretty sure I was doing well in the class (well enough), and the last thing I wanted to do was put Undecided. That might make it seem like I didn’t have my shit together (I was 18… of course I didn’t have my shit together). So I put Computer Science down.

Fast forward to my first quarter at Tech. I’ve long since given up the idea of going into computers. By the end of the year I just didn’t feel like I “got it”. It was hard to explain, but I figured out I wanted to go into Civil Engineering.

And that’s when I found out that because Civil Engineering was “Full” I couldn’t transfer in. However, I could have done so if I had been Undecided.

<Slaps head.>

So I went and talked to the head of the department during the Fall. He told me to come back during Winter Quarter. So I went during Winter Quarter… still no openings. Come Spring I was beginning to wonder if I needed to escalate this foolishness. Maybe reach out to someone else (not sure who I was going to reach out to, but something needed to be done!).

I knew the classes I needed to take. Nothing prevented me from taking them. As long as there was an opening in them, you could enroll in pretty much any class. When I went to talk to the new head of the department he gave me more of the same song and dance.

<I wonder if this was the same game the insurance companies do when they immediately deny anything you apply for thinking that most will stop there?>

At that point I’d had enough of the run around. I remember shaking his hand, thanking him for his time, and letting him know that I would see him that Summer to have the same conversation. Furthermore, I knew the classes I needed to take to become a Civil Engineer, and that was the path I was going to head down. So whether he let me in then or in a year I was going to get in.

He blinked. Asked me if I was telling the truth about my classes that quarter (I was). There was a pause, and then he asked to see my form to transfer into the School of Civil Engineering.

***

wall-crack

I wrote the above to remind myself that this writing gig is just the same.

I’m stubborn.

This is my gift. This is my curse.

I will bang my head against that wall until the wall collapses.

***

John McGuire

John McGuire is the author of the supernatural thriller The Dark That Follows, the steampunk comic The Gilded Age, and the novella There’s Something About Mac through the Amazon Kindle Worlds program.

His second novel, Hollow Empire, is now complete. The first episode is now FREE!

He also has a short story in the Beyond the Gate anthology, which is free on most platforms!

And has two shorts in the Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows anthology! Check it out!

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com.

How to spot and ignore fake news stories

Can we talk?

Look…

I don’t know whether or not fake news influenced the election.

I don’t know…and I don’t care.

But what I do know is this: an incredible amount of otherwise intelligent-seeming people have started a trend on the internet: posting (and believing) news stories that are so obviously false, it injures everyone’s eyes to see. They’re doing it at a higher rate than ever. It’s gone from one fake story per week to several every day. It’s obnoxious. And more than that, it’s sad.

No, Conor McGregor didn’t retire due to some random scandal.

Will Smith didn’t assassinate Trump.

The President didn’t ban the Star Spangled Banner at all sporting events.

All the stay-at-home moms in Connecticut didn’t rake in $20,000 per week using some ‘weird trick.’

It’s getting exhausting. And embarrassing. And by embarrassing I don’t mean for the people and sites who post the fake drivel. Those people, classless as they are, are just trying to earn money. No, by embarrassing I’m talking about the people who believe in clickbait and fake news stories. The people who click on it. The people who share it and try to spread it as though it were gospel.

It feels like some of us are able to spot fake news at a glance, but others have no idea that they’re getting worked up by stories that aren’t even close to being true. People are gobbling this stuff up. And while it’s not as if lies and propaganda are new things, the existence of the internet changes the game. It means everyone is exposed. Always.

More importantly…

Facebook and other sites aren’t going to meaningfully crack down on fake stuff. See, Facebook gets paid to run these ads, and the content doesn’t appear to matter. For example, I sponsor business ads on Facebook and Twitter to promote my books, art, and other materials. But when I flip over to my personal page and glimpse the kinds of ads that appear, it isn’t cool, creative stuff I see. It isn’t interesting at all. It’s spam. It’s how some douchey guy made millions because of his non-existent genius. It’s how some celebrity died tragically (they didn’t) or some congressman murdered his dog (his dog is fine.) It’s fake news, usually some politically polarizing junk or straight up scammy garbage designed to get a click, spread a lie, and earn the offending website cash.

It kills me that people believe this stuff. It hurts my human sensibilities. How are we this dumb, this unable to see through super transparent BS? How is it people aren’t able to distinguish between satirical articles and maliciously fake trash?  I think I secretly know the answer (some of us want the fake news articles to be true, particularly the political stuff) but I’m willing to reserve judgment.

No. Actually I’m not. I’m totally judging.

Here’s just a splash of recent fake news headlines people actually believed: (These are the actual headlines, some of which have 10,000 or more Facebook ‘shares.’)

BREAKING: Hillary Clinton files for divorce.”

Remember the voting days: Republicans vote on Tuesday, 11/8 and Democrats vote on Wednesday, 11/9!”

Tens of Thousands of Scientists Declare Climate Change a HOAX!”

“President Obama Signs Executive Order Banning the Sale of Assault Weapons!”

“IT BEGINS: Watch Cops Drag Girl out of NC Bathroom for not Looking Like a Woman.”

* * *

Presently, there’s an article out there listing 130 sites that either promote fake news or use misleading, clickbait-ish headlines. Whether or not every single site listed is actually fake or not isn’t important. What’s important is that from several of these sites, dozens or even hundreds of articles are poured into the internet every day. Misleading articles. Biased articles. Editorials masquerading as journalistic truth. Fake stuff that people you know have read and consumed as if it’s 100% factual.

Here’s what’s up:

You can’t rely on the internet to week out fake news.

It’s not going to stop. It’ll probably get worse before it gets better.

It’s on you to stop it, not Mark Zuckerberg.

There are several articles out there (here’s one) discussing methods of outsmarting fake news. They’re good articles in spirit, but ultimately they’re not simple enough. The kind of people who need to learn how to spot fake news aren’t going to read an ad-riddled, image-filled epic novel about the topic.

It’s really not that complicated.

It’s actually pretty easy.

To eliminate fake news from your consciousness, what you need to do is:

Stop getting your news from Facebook and Twitter. Just stop. Right now

Be automatically skeptical of anything (not just news) you read anywhere on the internet

If something is obviously inflammatory toward a public figure, assume it’s BS until proven otherwise

Especially when using social media, assume anything other than cat pictures and cute photos of your friends’ kids is fake

*

Being an honest, conscientious citizen in the modern world involves more than just basic knowledge of how to click through the internet.  You need to step up your game and double down on your critical thinking skills. It isn’t being pessimistic or paranoid. It’s not cynicism. The skills you need to defeat fake news are skills you probably already possess.

Do your homework.

Trust your gut.

Seeing is believing.

*

I don’t know what else to say. While I’m aware there are plenty of people who either don’t care about fake news or actually think it’s cool to spread lies, I want to believe in my heart most of us want it to end. If that’s true, if that’s really true, people need to stop looking to others to solve the problem. Crushing this problem isn’t the internet’s problem. It’s not Facebook’s fault, nor Twitter’s.

It’s on YOU. 100% on YOU. Always has been. Always will be.

Now…

Go forth and click less. I’m counting on you, yes YOU, to never share another fake news headline again.

🙂

* * *

I usually never write about this ^^^ kind of stuff. I write about this kind of stuff.

And stuff like this, too.

J Edward Neill

 

 

A Thought for Every Thanksgiving!

 

It’s holiday season here in the USA. Christmas, Thanksgiving, New Year’s, and blah, blah, blah…

For various reasons, families are gathering, football is being watched, and liquor is being poured.

Suppose you had a little more control over this whole thing.

Imagine you’ve been put in charge of creating a new national holiday. You can call it whatever you want. You can use it to celebrate anything you like. It’ll be a national paid holiday, observed by the government and appearing on every calendar.

So…

Name your new holiday, tell us what it’s all about, and assign one day of the year you want it to be observed.

turbacon-_-daily-meal

* * *

Past A Thought for Every Thursday entries are right here.

If you like these kinds of questions, try these on for size.

If you prefer something gentler, go here.

See you next Thursday!

J Edward Neill

What’s the best way to get to know someone?

It’s obvious. Get my book. Available now

It’s the very first of my books with cover art straight from the paintbrush of my five-year old son. (<<< That’s actually true.)

It’s…

The Ultimate Get to Know Someone Quiz

The most entertainment you can squeeze into 101 pages.

Pass it around to friends and family. Bring a copy to your breakroom at work. Crash a party with a few copies in hand.

Inside you’ll find a ton of fun, quick (and ridiculous) questions designed to shine a light on your friends’ and loved ones’ hearts and minds.

The best part? It’s only $5.99. Snag your copy today!

gtksq-front-cover

With cover art by Garrett Alexander Neill.

And questions by me…

J Edward Neill

Ten Courses Every College Should Offer

I’ve been thinking.

Dangerous, I know.

In universities across the globe, professors teach math, science, language, and philosophy. Trade schools give students the gift of mastering a specific skill. Liberal arts universities offer so-called ‘well-rounded’ class structure. Schools teach many things, most of which are probably forgotten the moment a student walks out the door.

Let’s be honest. In most cases, college isn’t really about learning stuff. It’s about socializing and introducing students to a way of life they’ll never actually live outside of school. Unless a student learns a very specific skill-set, college seems to be mostly not worth the money we pour into it.

And so…

I propose a different kind of schooling altogether. One that teaches real-life skills. One that prepares students for the catastrophic transition from ‘living with Mom and Dad’ to ‘living in a one-bedroom flat with an obnoxious roommate who refuses to wash their dishes.’

I give you:

Ten Courses Every College Should Offer

* * *

breaking-up

Breaking Up with Someone 101

We ALL have to do it at least 30 times a few times in our lives, so why not teach it in school? Ok, so there’s no super-easy way of dumping someone’s heart in the trash. But there are definitely ways not to do it, up to and including: stalking the other person, publicizing every detail on Facebook, or dumping them only to come crawling back for a second chance. This class is more about what to avoid doing during a breakup, which ex-lovers worldwide could probably stand to learn.

If just one little university would sponsor this class, I volunteer to teach it. For free.

*

cash_air

The Art of Floating Checks

Ah, newly-grads. No marketable skills. No direction in life. No money. When bills are due, but payday is still a week away, what’s a kid to do?

The answer: float that check. And do it well. This course will teach the ins and outs of researching which companies cash checks quickly, and which ones you have a little wiggle room to work with. With any luck, you’ll become an expert at just barely remaining financially alive.

For extra credit, students can also take the Paying Your Mortgage Late, But Not Getting Penalized elective.

*

middle

 

#Winning at Social Media

These days, this class should probably be offered in early grade school. In it, students will learn when to post memes (never) when to use hashtags (almost never) and the best time of day to post relationship status changes on Facebook (never!)

For students who want to do something online other than annoy people and leave their friends scratching their heads, #WinningAtSocialMedia is the class to take!

*

35-512

Advanced Emotional Distancing- Class 502

This class will almost surely be a mandatory addition to every college program. In it, students will learn advanced techniques to help them be happier via having nearly no emotions. Because honestly, the universe doesn’t care about feelings, especially those of young people.

The techniques studied will include:

Shrugging

Caring less

Caring less while not talking about caring less

Never complaining

Histrionics avoidance

Ego removal

How not to cry while everyone else around you falls to pieces

Students who hope to pass this class will intern for a minimum of three months in an emotionally unstable relationship while maintaining the facial expression shown above.

*

s-l300

Understanding Satire 101

Think you know what satire is? If you’re asked to take this class, odds are you have no idea. Class US101 is designed to help clueless students gain a full grasp of reality. Ideal candidates for this class include students who believe everything they read on the internet, graduates who habitually share clickbait on Facebook, and students who have never heard of Snopes. While primarily for college enrollees, this class is also available as a vocational study group for angry, aging white men.

The final exam in US101 will involve a complete study of the website TheOnion.

*

karen-meangirls

Honors Reading Between the Lines

While available to all students, Honors RBTL is geared for the student who has no idea what a woman means when she says, “Oh nothing’s the matter.” All males are encouraged to attend during their very first semester, while  females are encouraged to attend the similar class, Manipulating Men’s Feelings 101.

Both classes will instruct students in the eye-roll/disdain ratio, the true meaning of ‘nothing,’ and the length of time you should sleep on the couch. Male classes will focus on avoidance, while female classes will primarily teach advanced techniques to counter everything the men learn.

Good luck!

*

rs_3463ec66edb459bd1dd

 

Remedial Sarcasm

Due to the large influx of students who either don’t understand the true depth of sarcasm or are easily offended by it, universities across Americas have been asked to include a remedial class as a mandatory elective.

Because…honestly…we all know someone who can’t handle the ‘casm.

This class promises to eliminate all the negative aspects of not understanding sarcasm, including: crying, standing with your mouth wide-open, getting angry, getting butthurt, and not knowing what butthurt even means.

Remedial Sarcasm professors get paid at double the rate of other teachers. Sign up now!

*

Metaphors and How to Use Them

Honestly, if students haven’t figured out what a metaphor is and how to use one, they probably shouldn’t go to college.

This class has been cancelled. It’s dust in the wind. It’s bones in a grave. Oh never mind.

*

ud

Urban Dictionary Study Hall

This class isn’t what you think it is.

Students will not be taught the meanings of various modern slang, insults, and acronyms. (It’s assumed students with any value already know these terms.) Rather, class attendees will be instructed in the prized technique of being able to distinguish which terms are funny or appropriate from terms that are…ahem…stupid.

Examples include:

How and when to use ‘bae’ – only when making fun of someone else using ‘bae.’

How a kitten dies anytime anyone uses the terms ‘LOL’ or ‘YOLO.’

The subtle difference between ‘WTF’ and ‘WTF?’ – I’m kidding; there is no difference.

For extra credit, students may also take the sub-course: Sounding Ignorant on Purpose to Appear Cool 101

*

scammerIntroduction to Online Dating

If college life has one similarity to real life, it’s that people don’t actually talk face-to-face anymore. Cell phones are god and texting is all-powerful.

To help students face the nearly insurmountable task of finding easy hook-ups a long-term mate, Intro to Online Dating is now offered as an elective. Students will learn the finest methods of making themselves appear slimmer, taller, and less out-of-shape than they actually are. Male students will learn why it’s best to wait at least ten minutes before sending unsolicited d**k pics, while females will be instructed in the subtle techniques of ‘ghosting,’ ‘catfishing,’ and not starting every single conversation with, “Hey.”

Seriously though. This should actually be a class.

*

*

Other classes soon to be added:

How NOT to use Tinder

Snapchat Filters and the End of the World

Why The Walking Dead Sucks

* * *

*I’m thinking this book should be a standard college text.

This one, too.

Seriously.

J Edward Neill

 

 

 

A Thought for Every Thursday – The Omega Project

Welcome to the latest installment of my new weekly series, A Thought for Every Thursday.

Every Thursday I’ll pose a question (or several) regarding a specific current event, a modern moral issue, or a philosophical conundrum. Instead of answering it myself, I’ll look to you for the resolution.

It’s all in good fun.

Here we go…

* * *

The Omega Project

Imagine you’ve been elected to lead all of humanity.

Your goal: bring every living human together for the purpose of completing a singular, grand project.

The project can be anything imaginable, so long as it’s scientifically plausible.

What will you lead humanity to do?

p011gyw7

More pyramids?

*

* * *

Past A Thought for Every Thursday entries are right here.

If you like these kinds of questions, try these on for size.

If you prefer something gentler, go here.

See you next Thursday!

J Edward Neill

A Thought for Every Thursday – Thunderbolts from Above

Welcome to the latest installment of my new weekly series, A Thought for Every Thursday.

Every Thursday I’ll pose a question (or several) regarding a specific current event, a modern moral issue, or a philosophical conundrum. Instead of answering it myself, I’ll look to you for the resolution.

It’s all in good fun.

Here we go…

* * *

I call this little series of questions The Adversary.

In most major religions across the world, the primary god or goddess is typically a benevolent or sometimes even an actively good figure of power.

They care. They want the best for their creations. They have positive feelings toward humanity.

But…

What if that assumption is completely off-base? What if humanity, in its infinite fallibility, has mistaken the intentions of its creator(s)?

With that in mind:

If there is a god or gods responsible for the creation and guidance of the human race, do you suppose:

…it’s possible this being is less than the benevolent deity described in several major religions?

…it’s possible this being might not have humanity’s best interests in mind?

…it’s possible this being might one day reject its creations?

…it’s possible this being has a dark purpose in store for us?

*

Well? What are your thoughts?

divine_vengence

Squish!

* * *

Past A Thought for Every Thursday entries are right here.

If you like these kinds of questions, try these on for size.

If you prefer something gentler, go here.

See you next Thursday!

J Edward Neill

My Beef with all the Quotes on the Internet

Quotes, quotes…everywhere.

We see them on our Facebook feeds, on people’s T-shirts, on bumper stickers, and on the walls of houses and offices across the land.

Some are funny. Some are dull. Some have a grain of truth, while others are contradictory. And many quotes are credited to people who never said the quoted phrase to begin with. But no one really cares. If it sounds cool, it becomes cool. And that’s all people really want. Right?

I get it. I get the allure. People like mottos. They enjoy direct, easy-to-understand life-messages they feel are attainable. People want goals. They crave wisdom for themselves and their families. And maybe more than anything, they want something simple. The more bite-sized a quote, the better. Fewer words implies fewer opportunities for the meaning of something to be mistaken. Also, having a short and nifty quote really helps when you want to hang a framed version of it on your living room wall. Or stick an inspirational magnet on your fridge. Or stamp your Facebook feed with something awesome someone might have said.

But I’m here to tell you something:

Internet quotes suck.

*

Actually, let me rephrase:

Almost all quotes suck.

Is that crude? Yeah, probably. Maybe, “Internet quotes suck,” is my internet quote. Whatever. I’m pretty sure no one will frame it and slap it above their fireplace, so it’s ok. Where was I? Oh, right. I was just about to explain why quotes suck and you shouldn’t try to live your life using words someone else said.

Let’s go over a few examples:

famous-quotes-18

Since no one really knows what the future will hold, it’s pretty much impossible to truly prepare for it. Yes, it’s possible to get ready for tomorrow’s day at work or to plan for a specific event a few weeks or months down the road. But sometimes, a lot of times, even the best-laid plans change drastically or fail miserably. And then what have all our preparations wrought? The answer: nothing. It’s a cool sounding quote, but until we perfect time-travel, the future will devour us all.

3-famous-success-quotes-entrepreneurs-should-l-mainiw

Suppose someone is trying to become a man of value, whatever that is. If they achieve it, isn’t that success for them? Meaning, they tried to become a man of success after all?

famous-quotes-by-famous-people-07-2

Thanks, Eminem. But what if you stood up for something awful? What if your enemies are people you’ve betrayed? What if the only reason you have these alleged enemies is because you’re an A-hole, not because you stood up for some greater cause?

*

*

Maybe you see what I’m talking about. Maybe not. While some of these quotes might have virtue in specific situations for specific people, they’re hardly wisdom for the masses. Besides, how many people actually follow the quotes they slap on the internet, on their cars  and on their walls? Not many. People who get stuff done in life spend more time doing than talking. Right?

thomas-edison-famous-quotesYeah right. Tell that to slaves. To people who work three jobs for paltry pay. To the guy who cleans the toilets. To the teacher who busts her butt only to get cursed out by her students’ parents. Or just read the evil sign posted outside Auschwitz that once boasted Arbeit Macht Frei…aka ‘Work sets you free.’ I think I know what good old Edison meant (if he actually said this.) But then again, some people believe Edison stole several ideas from Tesla rather than work on them himself.

ansel-adams-famous-photographers-quotes-860x688

While I’m not definitely hating on photographers (because it’s a beautiful art form) let’s be clear about something:

The camera made the photo. Nature made the photo. The universe made the photo.

The photographer may have captured it, but he didn’t create it.

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Nelson Mandela was an awesome dude who suffered immeasurably in life.

But this quote (if it was really his) really just bolsters the idea that humanity is innately powerful.

Here’s a hint: we’re not. We’re floating on a tiny blue dot in an ocean of darkness. Our fear is definitely that we’re inadequate. Because in so many ways, we are.

*

*

Ok. So maybe I’m a little cynical. Or maybe I’m just having fun tearing down a few quotes. Or mayyyybe I’m just exhausted of seeing humanity speak a few eloquent words only to completely ignore the message in the end. Fine. Whatever. Since we’re already here, let’s do a few more.

14463291_581690542016394_6664521756873294265_n

I know quite a few dedicated religious folks. And while I love and respect many of them, the terms unsinkable, undefeatable, and unshakeable are not the words I’d choose to describe them.

Plus, did anyone ever hear of the Crusades?

138

Love ya, Harry. But that’s not what those two words mean. At all.

famous-quotes-and-sayings

What if you died? What if you’re flat broke and there’s no one to help you back on your feet? What if you honestly gave it your all, but were defeated utterly in the end?

It sounds poetic to say failure only happens when you quit. But sometimes people just fail because…life. And sometimes there’s no poetry to it.

famous-abraham-lincoln-quotes-on-slavery-leadership-life-civil-war

It’d be nice if the world worked this way. And sometimes it might.

But as long as such things as politics, war, and religion exist, there are just too many enemies who have no interest in ever becoming friends.

I mean, just consider this year’s election. Nuff said.

*

*

Quotes, quotes…everywhere. But the fact is: life’s wisdom isn’t earned by a photo and a few clever words on the internet. It’s measured in terms of experience, knowledge, and a willingness to endure heartache, triumph, and change. It’s earned throughout the long, slow decades. It isn’t clicked on, retweeted, or posted on walls.

Our wisdom is inside us. And words, no matter how smart they sound, will never quite capture it.

* * *

 

Want to coin your own quotes instead of using someone else’s? Try this.

Prefer to think before you speak? Go here.

J Edward Neill

 

 

A Thought for Every Thursday – Gotta Love It

Welcome to the latest installment of my new weekly series, A Thought for Every Thursday.

Every Thursday I’ll pose a question (or several) regarding a specific current event, a modern moral issue, or a philosophical conundrum. Instead of answering it myself, I’ll look to you for the resolution.

It’s all in good fun.

Here we go…

* * *

This week, I’ve got two relationship questions for you. Both involve the complicated matter of people being hesitant when getting into new romances.

swipe

Hey you! Slow down with the swipe-rights!

The first question:

You’ve met someone. You like them. A lot. So much so that you’re afraid of getting your heart broken.

The catch is; you’re not quite sure whether or not your feelings are mutual.

Which of the following are you most likely to do?

End the relationship now before they break your heart

Stay with them and take the risk

Try really hard to make them fall in love with you

Or _______________

*

And the second question, which involves skeletons:

 We all have them in our closet. Maybe they’re childhood traumas, bad exes, fetishes, phobias, or *gasp* maybe even cats.

At what point during a relationship should someone let their skeletons out?

Immediately

After the 3rd date

Before things get serious

The very moment things get serious

Lock the closet door and throw away the key

*

Well? What are your thoughts?

* * *

Past ATFET’s are right here.

If you like these kinds of questions, try these on for size.

If you prefer something gentler, go here.

See you next Thursday!

J Edward Neill

 

10 Questions for When You’re Tipsy

jd-girl

It’s late. You’ve had a few adult beverages. You’re with a few friends. Or maybe you’re alone.

It’s time to break out ten questions you might not ask if you were sober.

* * *

Let’s Get Physical

 Assuming one-on-one combat, what percentage of the world’s population could you handle in a fight?

*

Unshackle the Chains 

Consider the laws in whichever country you call home.

Choose three things you want to no longer be illegal.

*

Buying Love

 You have $10 with which to build your ideal romantic companion.

Spend wisely:

$5 – Fantastic in Bed                       $5 – A Great Parent

$3 -An Amazing Body           $3 – A Great Sense of Humor

$3 – Highly Intelligent         $2 – A Specific Skill ($2 per Skill)

$1 – Has ________ in Common With You ($1 Each)

$3 – Morally Solid             $5- Wealthy

$7 – Will Always Love You

*

Silver Tongues

 What is the worst lie you’ve ever told? 

If you’re reluctant to answer, then…

…what is the worst lie someone has ever told you?

And why?

*

The Heist 

If you could steal any one thing in the world and make it yours forever, what would it be?

It can be an object, a person, a life situation, a place.

You won’t get in any trouble for taking it.

No one will ever know.

Well?

*

On a Scale of 0-10…

…in which 0 is ‘not at all’, 5 is average, and 10 means ‘highly’:

How intelligent are you?

How physically attractive are you?

How charming?

How artistic?

How generous?

 And how narcissistic?

*

Three Drinks Too Many

 People in relationships can answer this one, too. (just make sure their significant other is cool…or not present.)

 So…

It’s Friday night.

You’re out with your friends, no date.

You’ve had a few drinks too many.

If you were to text or call any one person from your past, who would it be.

And why?

*

Let’s Just Hope They Shave  

 Think about romance during previous generations.

The Roaring 20’s

The Sexual Revolution

The Renaissance

Suppose you got a chance to sample a bit of romantic life in one of these time periods.

Which one would you pick?

And why?

*

Fight Club Time Machine

 Suppose you’re given the chance to travel back in time to fight any one historical figure to the death.

If you defeat them, the course of history will be changed in accordance with their absence.

The fight will be hand-to-hand. Your foe will be in their prime.

Whom will you fight?

*

The Ultimate ‘What if?’

 If you could be a member of the opposite sex for one single day, would you?

Assume no one but you will ever know.

If yes, what would you like to experience?

What age would you want to be?

What situation would you want to be in?

If you’re not interested, why not?

* * *

These ten questions were pried from the pages of my Coffee Table Philosophy series.

In these books, I pose more than 1,000 questions to people.

Some of which are here.

And sexier ones are here.

J Edward Neill

A Thought for Every Thursday – How or Why?

Welcome to the latest installment of my new weekly series, A Thought for Every Thursday.

Every Thursday at Tessera Guild I’ll pose a question (or several) regarding a specific current event, a modern moral issue, or a philosophical conundrum. Instead of answering it myself, I’ll look to you for the resolution.

It’s all in good fun.

Here we go…

* * *

Finally, a Simple Question

In past ATFET’s, we’ve been pretty wordy.

This week we’re keeping it quick and easy.

So…

 Given the choice, would you rather know HOW the universe works, meaning you’d understand all the hard science behind each and every interaction taking place in our existence?

or

Would you prefer to know WHY our universe and all the individual objects within it exist, meaning you’d grasp the purpose behind everything?

Explain your reasons.

* * *

Past ATFET’s are right here.

If you like these kinds of questions, try these on for size.

If you prefer something gentler, go here.

See you next Thursday!

J Edward Neill

 

Nine Weird Things About the Internet Today

One-hundred years from now, I’m convinced most of the modern world will have almost no reason to walk outside their front door. Ever.

Just think about it.

The internet (if it isn’t already) will be all-powerful. Every consumer good will be deliverable instantly. Anyone will be able to contact anyone FTL (faster than light.) All services will be available always. If we think communication is fast today, imagine where it’ll be a century from now.

Pretty crazy, right?

But for now we’re still kind of in the internet’s adolescence. The net survived its www.infancy and it’s gotten just big and smart enough to be dangerous.

Consider, if you will, these nine observations about the strange state of the modern internet.

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Observation 1Each social media hub has its own personality

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I’m not sure anything can illustrate the differences better than this graphic. But what I’m really not sure of is just when it was each site evolved into its own little solar system.

Examples: Twitter and Facebook, though wildly different in interface, are for funny stuff, news bytes, porn, and marketing (some of which I’ve been guilty of.) Instagram seems to appeal to younger crowds, artists, and photographers. The Pinterest fan base is mostly female, while pretty much no one uses Google+. Obviously I’m generalizing a bit, but it’s undeniable how the quirks of each social media site have attracted user bases that are so very different from each other.

I think it’s pretty cool. Except for LinkedIn, which pretty much sucks. 🙂

Observation 2 – People still argue about politics online

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If you added up every occurrence of a political debate in the history of the world, you’d probably have a hard time finding ten instances in which someone’s mind was actually changed for the better. In polite society, political debates in conversation are verboten, but no so much on the internet. A quick scan and breakdown of my own personal Facebook feed reveals that 60% (not kidding) of the posts are political in tone. And no, it’s not open-ended, objective stuff taking place. It’s hostile, “I’m right! You’re wrong!” incendiary warfare. Personally, I find it obnoxious. But perhaps more relevant is that everyone on the net is happy to say lots of stuff, but rarely does anyone actually do anything about it.

Why is that?

Whatever.

Observation 3 – The ascension of spam and clickbait

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I despise clickbait with such passion I wrote a big piece on it. But let’s be serious for a moment. Spam and clickbait are existential threats to our beloved net. They crowd out marketing for actual, quality goods. They take up space that might otherwise be inhabited by cool, interesting content. Despite these facts, most people struggle to spot spam or clickbait at first sight. And the real trouble is that since the internet has no singular governing body, there’s no one-stop elimination strategy to get rid of this junk. It just keeps spreading.

What does it mean? Well…we’d better prepare ourselves for sneakier, smarter, and more diabolical clickbait. Because while we’re busy going nuts on Amazon Prime, the spammers are out there designing better ways to siphon money and time from the rest of us.

And I think it sucks.

Observation 4 – Free porn for everyone

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More than anything, I just really, really want to know how pay-for-porn websites stay in business. I mean, with literally thousands of free porn sites out there, it feels like the entire triple-x pay-per-view industry should collapse. Right? Imagine if a bunch of companies started giving away free, high-quality cars, TV’s, and houses. Wouldn’t all the legitimate industries dry up within weeks? But no…not with porn. Making it free seems only to inspire more and more videos to be created.

I guess even when sex doesn’t sell, it sells.

Observation 5 – All the @#$%*&! memes

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In my web series Anti-Meme Fridays, I surmised that one day in the future everyone on Earth will communicate solely via memes, thus eliminating the need for actual spoken language.

Ok, maybe that’s a little heavy handed. But in all truth, memes are everywhere. They’re not stopping anytime soon, even though 90% of them are misspelled, unfunny, cheesy, or annoyingly motivational in tone. What I can’t figure out, and what I need your help in solving, is how it is we arrived at this point. I can’t imagine anyone on this planet who actually likes a bunch of boring pictures and quotes crowding out everything else on their social media feed.

And yet….here we are.

Observation 6 – The prevalence of perverts

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Based on the tales pretty much all my female friends and family have told, nearly 100% of the adult male population has sent unsolicited photos of their anatomy to a woman at least once in their life. But seriously, there are way more creepers among us than we ever could’ve guessed. They’re everywhere, and the internet makes it easy for them. I’m willing to bet we all know several dudes who are like this, but we have no idea what they’re up to. And it’s not just the rapey dudes spamming junk pics to every woman they can, but also other creeper types, not limited to but including: guys who threaten violence, guys who get irrationally angry when rejected, and guys who get extremely insulting in everyday social media forums.

Gentlemen, we’re better than this, right?

Guess not.

Observation 7 – Everything is based on opinion

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The headline tags for several major news websites are as follows:

CNN – ‘Breaking News, Latest News and Videos’

Fox – ‘Breaking News Updates, Latest News Headlines’

Huffington Post – (Their description is too long to type, but it’s pretty much similar to CNN and Fox, while admitting a sprinkle of ‘entertainment.’)

And so and so forth…

As a kid, I remember learning about this little thing called Journalism. I was taught such terms as “unbiased” “objective” and “factual.” I remember the days when news reporters were calm, serious, and almost indifferent in most scenarios.

Those days are dead. Scour the blogs, articles, and links of every major news outlet on the internet these days, and what do you mostly see?  Editorials.  Not that the articles in question typically identify themselves as opinion-based, but that’s what they are nonetheless. Objectivity appears to go as far as reporting names and body-counts, but that’s where it stops. Everyone has an angle, especially the reporters. Media isn’t where one goes to find truth. Nowadays, it’s all about entertainment.

Observation 8 – No one knows how to use hashtags

Seriously. Just stop.

Observation 9 – Artists around the world have a home

Jeremy Neill. Honest.

…even this douche.

 

By and large, it’s a good time to be a writer, painter, graphic designer, or any other kind of artist. The modern net allows things that just weren’t possible as recently as ten years ago. Authors can self-publish via dozens of outlets. Artists like this awesome lady here have a home to display their work without needing to hunt down big, pretentious galleries. I mean…these are good times.

But there is one little drawback: piracy. No, not Blackbeard holding a cutlass to our necks. If you’ve ever posted a cool piece of art, uploaded an awesome song you’ve created, or written something digitally awesome, it’s likely (even probable) that many other individuals have downloaded it illegally, plagiarized it, or otherwise distributed your work against your wishes. Some won’t care about a few pirate raids. But for others (me among them) piracy is seriously bad for bizniz. It sucks.

Seems no matter what infrastructure a society settles into, there will always be those who nip at the edges, seeking an advantage. Digital society is no different.

* * *

Be assured, there are darker (much darker) corners of the internet than the things I’ve touched on above.

But that’s a list for another day…

If you like dating on the aforementioned web, this is for you.

But if you prefer seeing your friends face-to-face, try this.

J Edward Neill

 

A Thought for Every Thursday – Walking Contradictions

Welcome to the latest installment of my new weekly series, A Thought for Every Thursday.

Every Thursday at Tessera Guild I’ll pose a question (or several) regarding a specific current event, a modern moral issue, or a philosophical conundrum. Instead of answering it myself, I’ll look to you for the resolution.

It’s all in good fun.

Here we go…

* * *

Walking Contradictions

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This week I have several questions for you.

All have a similar theme: why do humans exist in a state of near-permanent contradiction?

For example:

Why do Americans lash out against the two-party system, yet few ever vote for a third party?

Why are people so willing to criticize and denigrate others, but so resistant to criticize or improve themselves?

Why do people kill in the name of their ‘peaceful’ religion?

If rush-hour traffic is so detrimental to public safety (and sanity) why do most businesses open and close in the same small window of time?

Why are people who condemn drama (in social situations) usually the most likely to start the theatrics in the first place?

How is it that the people who admit they have the least amount of knowledge are often the wisest among us?

Explain if you can.

And take your time.

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* * *

Past ATFET’s are right here.

If you like these kinds of questions, try these on for size.

If you prefer something gentler, go here.

See you next Thursday!

J Edward Neill

Where the “Ways Cross”

For so many of us, we wonder about our lives, constantly looking to our pasts and the past of our family. Anything to glean some knowledge about our potential future. Today, I’m excited to take a look back with my mother as she gazes back.

***

I grew up in the Deep South in a railroad town forty miles north of the Georgia/Florida line- Waycross, a small town with a population less than twenty thousand. Peculiar name, but, originally, it was called “Old Nine” and then “Tebeauville” until 1935 when the leaders of the community decided to change the name to reflect more of the town’s true identity. This sleepy town was the “cross-way” of the railroad lines traveling through the state of Georgia, and, at the time of the name change, these group of business men thought a new name was needed to identify the junction of the existing Savannah railroad line and the new rail line which connected Brunswick and Albany. Legend has it that they toyed with the idea of Eastcross and Northcross, but finally settled on Waycross, probably over breakfast at the local diner. Waycross is also the point of intersection of five major highways in southeast Georgia, and it is the only town with direct access to the beginning of the Okefenokee Swamp, its claim to fame.

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I lived the quintessential Southern life. To me, growing up Southern meant drinking sweet tea the color of the Satilla River, sitting on the front porch watching it rain during a thunderstorm, and then smashing the air pockets in the dirt road with my bare feet after the downpour was over. Summer started June 1st after school ended the last day of May, and shoes were forgotten until school resumed the last week in August. Even now I can outlast any of the tenderfoots in my family on hot beach sand. Nights meant mosquitoes, fireflies, air so thick you could cut it with a knife, trying to sleep with a window fan and praying for any breeze-however faint- and the sound of the trains over at the Rice Yard. I spent many days in July shelling peas and butter beans out of our garden in big tin dishpans on my lap. Once that last bean spilled out of its shell into the pan, it was hallelujah until the next round was picked.

Although I was the only child of a critical mother and an angry father, for the most part, my childhood was sweet and kind. I raced grasshoppers with the neighbors, caught dragonflies off the clothesline, and caught tadpoles out of the ditches with my cousin Robert. My Aunt Lucille would actually let him keep his tadpoles in a pan on their back porch, and we would watch them grow into frogs and hop away. I had the same best friend throughout childhood and teenage years, including crushes on boys and many nights with her at her aunt’s skating rink. I learned how to fish in the swamp ditches with a cane pole at about three and could throw a child’s rod and reel at about four. Our vacations every year consisted of a week fishing at Harriet’s Bluff in Kingsland, Georgia, a fish camp on Crooked River, and Saturday day trips to fish off the salt water pier at Fernandina Beach. ( I can still out fish anyone in our family.) On Labor Day weekend, we drove to the Smoky Mountains to visit my father’s oldest brother at his cabin.  I had an Aunt Dot, that aunt who loved to laugh and have a good time- also the aunt who introduced me to flying, the symphony, and the finer things in life. We weren’t rich, but we always had good food and nice clothes. My parents expected me to always do my best, and the measure of character according to my Daddy was whether that man was willing to work.

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Although I have lived in the Commonwealth of Virginia for more than twenty years now, I still think of Georgia as my true home. Just the mention of “Southernness” and living in Waycross evokes deep feelings of nostalgia. When someone teases me about my Southern accent, I just smile- they never knew what they missed. I will always be a swamp girl.

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When I think about it, where the “Ways Cross” is a metaphor for my life, as it is for humans trying to navigate this shaky path of life. We all face forks in the road, a new path which has to be embraced, a change in our circumstances. In my own life, each decade had its share of upheavals and stability:

My tumultuous twenties as I figured out relationships, marriage, and motherhood.

Thirties a blur as a raised three children.

Forties when I completely flipped and went back to school for another degree and changed careers.

And now fifties where there has been much reflection and floundering as I figured out my identity apart from being a wife and mother.

This upcoming January I will experience my 60th year on this earth-sobering to say the least. Funny thing is, if you talk to ANY sixty year old person, they do not see themselves as an old person. We still feel the same on the inside; it is only when we look in the mirror we realize Old Man Time continued to march on.

So as the big 6-0 fast approaches, here I am again at another junction where the “Ways Cross.” What do I do with the rest of my life? I know I am much wiser than that seventeen year old who left for the big city of Atlanta to attend nursing school in 1974- the first fork in the road. It is my hope with this blog I will entertain some of you youngsters with stories about my life and the people in it- some funny, some sad, and some completely absurd- as I came to each crossing and navigated through. Other blogs will be reflections concerning life and my ponderings as I face the future me.

***

Mickey McGuire is the mother of published author John McGuire, a registered NICU nurse, retired high school teacher, an artist, and passionate student in this game of life.

Ten Eccentric Movies Everyone Should See

There are Hollywood smash hits.

And there are bombs.

There are formulaic rom-coms, predictable horror cheese-fare, and various deadly serious films starring Matt Damon.

But as most of us know…

There are films that defy convention, break from the mold, and flip movie-goers’ expectations upside down. Many of these, you might not have watched or even heard of. They’re not quite mainstream, but not quite indie either.

Please enjoy my list of ten eccentric movies, all of which are worth viewing:

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Perfume – Story of a Murderer

It’s possible I’m starting this list with the best movie of the ten. Perfume – Story of a Murderer is among the most eccentric, most gripping movies ever to hit the screen. It goes like this: a young man with a gifted sense of smell decides he wants to capture the scent of all things. Only…that’s impossible. So rather than continue trying to capture the odors of copper, glass, and dead cats, he steps up his game and makes it his life mission to make the most powerful perfume the world has ever known.

I won’t spoil it more than that.

Featuring Ben Whishaw, the late, great Alan Rickman, Dustin Hoffman, and narrated by John Hurt, Perfume is a powerful tale of the dark places obsessions can go.

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Moon

One must be careful when describing Moon, lest one reveal spoilers.

So I’ll say only this:

A lonely, lonely man named Sam (played by Sam Rockwell) exists on the far side of the Moon with the sole purpose of mining Helium-3. Sam’s only companion is an AI named GERTY. His journey is haunting, sometimes grim, and always mysterious.

Moon’s atmosphere (no pun intended) is different than any movie I’ve ever seen, while the soundtrack is flat out beautiful and chilling.

Just see it.

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My Blue Heaven

Let’s go old school for a minute.

My Blue Heaven is my personal favorite Rick Moranis movie (other than mayyyyyyyyybe Ghostbusters.) And Steve Martin definitely has the best hairdo of any dude ever.

So…when Vinnie (Steve Martin) falls into a semi-ridiculous witness protection program, it becomes Barney’s (Rick Moranis) job to protect him. As expected, Steve Martin’s performance is over-the-top absurd, and Moranis plays it pretty deadpan throughout.

Plenty of critics will say My Blue Heaven’s premise is way better than its execution. To them I say, “Pfffffffft.” My Blue Heaven is good, silly fun.

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What We Do in the Shadows

Speaking of fun movies, What We Do in the Shadows is among the best of them.

The setup: four vampires living in New Zealand must cope with the everyday challenges of the modern world. This includes: wrangling new victims via a third-party, dealing with dirty dishes, bickering over whose turn it is to clean the house, etc. Each of the vampires is from a different era of history, meaning their interactions are flat-out bizarre and hilarious. It’s shot in a reality TV/documentary format, and it’s insane.

See it now.

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Ex Machina

Everything you need to know about this movie appears in my thorough review – right here.

But seriously, most people I know still haven’t seen this instant sci-fi classic, which baffles me. It’s probably among the best sci-fi movies ever made. It’s that good.

The quick and dirty premise: a megalomaniac scientist creates a powerful AI, which he lures an unwitting young man to perform a Turing Test on.

Big mistake.

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RockNRolla

Ever seen Snatch? What about Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels? Or…ever seen any Guy Ritchie movie ever?

If so, you’ll love RockNRolla. The plot is too complex to explain in just a few sentences, but I’ll try anyway:

When a Russian real estate magnate pursues big-time property in London, the worst of the city’s criminals close in for a piece of the pie. Meanwhile, the mobster’s son, a drugged-out rocker named Johnny Quid, is the key to the whole deal working out or completely unraveling. And meanwhile, meanwhile, a gang of thieves (played by Gerard Butler, Idris Elba, and Tom Hardy, to name a few) gets in wayyyy too deep.

I’ll just leave it at this – RockNRolla is top-notch Brit crime comedy.

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Pan’s Labyrinth

Guillermo del Toro, fantasy and horror genius, sets the stage for something truly beautiful in Pan’s Labyrinth.

In it, a little girl seeking refuge from a horrific civil war stumbles into a web of dark secrets surrounding her (sadistic) stepfather’s mansion. In typical del Toro fashion, we’re sucked out of the usual Hollywood fantasy tropes and thrust into something eerier, crawlier, and more visceral.

It’s not really a fantasy movie in the typical sense. Nor is it quite horror. It’s about a little girl trying to escape her awful reality, meaning it’s a step above most of the fiction fare you’ll ever see on the big screen.

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The Big Lebowski

You’ve maybe/probably heard of The Dude. At least, I hope you have.

Mashing up Jeff Bridges (mellow) John Goodman (insane) and Steve Buscemi (obnoxious) to star in a movie about a missing rug, a cheating wife, mistaken identity, and bowling, was pure genius from the start. And to call it a cult classic is easily an understatement.

My favorite parts: when John Goodman goes off on John Turturro’s (playing Jesus the bowler) teammate. And then of course the big fight with the nihilists (one of them is played by Red Hot Chili Peppers’ Flea) at the end.

It’s a total mess. It’s weird. It’s almost without a tangible plot. And it’s awesome.

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The Prestige

“Are you watching closely?”

The Prestige (Christian Bale, Hugh Jackman, Scarlett Johansson, Michael Caine) is among my all-time favorites.

The plot: when a stage magician’s wife (Piper Perabo) is accidentally killed during a dangerous trick, a cold war begins between her husband (Jackman) and the man (Bale) who may or may not have been responsible for her death.

Everything about The Prestige is a bit dark, a bit tragic, and shadowed by questions about what’s really going on. It’s not really about the stage tricks the two warring magicians pull off. It’s about the rivalry between them, and how much damage the whole concept of revenge can do to everyone involved.

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Kubo and the Two Strings

I figured I’d tie in a kids movie, because…well…so many of us have kids, and kids love movies, too.

Kubo was one of those films I didn’t know anything about when I sat down in the theater to watch with my son. We’d seen exactly half of one preview, and we didn’t really know what we were getting into.

What we didn’t know – Kubo and the Two Strings is an elegant tale about a little boy, a monkey, a giant beetle, and a tiny paper man…and all their adventures as they try to escape the boy’s dreaded (and all-powerful) grandfather. The fight scenes are somehow bloodless AND intense. The subject matter is full of quiet wisdom. And the movie itself is beautiful. My son was riveted during the action, and full of sharp questions about life, death, and love afterward.

What more can you ask for in a kids’ movie?

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Honorable mentions:

Dragonslayer – The coolest old school fantasy film you’ve never heard of

Strange Brew – Max von Sydow versus Rick Moranis? Count me in

Memento – A classic head f**k

The Machinist – Christian Bale lost a million lbs. for the lead role

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If I were to make one of my novels into a movie, I’d choose this one.

…and this one, too.

Until next time,

J Edward Neill

A Thought for every Thursday – So Many Opinions

Welcome to the latest installment of A Thought for Every Thursday.

Every Thursday at Tessera Guild I’ll pose a question (or several) regarding a specific current event, a modern moral issue, or a philosophical conundrum. Instead of answering it myself, I’ll look to you for the resolution.

It’s all in good fun.

Here we go…

* * *

But Are We Really?

The old saying goes, “Everyone is entitled to their opinion.”

Let’s explore that a little deeper.

When people talk about opinions, they’re not really talking about truth. They’re talking about their personal feelings as they relate to various topics. They’re talking about emotions, instincts, and impressions. But most importantly, they’re talking about themselves.

Perhaps they don’t like a certain kind of food.

Or the way a car looks.

Or maybe it’s more serious, and the person really dislikes something going on in our society, sometimes to the point of being enraged by it.

Generally speaking, opinions are emotionally driven. They’re often formed when a person achieves a limited understanding of something and associates a positive or negative emotion in regards to it. Typically, though not always, the person with the opinion (regarding something important, not something frivolous) feels the need to express the opinion.

Loudly.

To anyone willing to listen.

And sometimes to people who aren’t so willing.

So now let’s talk about that saying again. When we talk about entitlement, we’re talking about something that a person has an inherent right to possess. And when we talk about opinions, we’re talking about feelings and emotions, something that doesn’t always mix well with truth and reality.

So…

Is a person truly entitled to their opinion?

Always?

What if it’s ignorant or based on misinformation?

And are people who possess a wide variety of powerful opinions narcissistic?

Or are opinions inalienable no matter what the circumstances might be?

And when someone says, “I respect someone else’s opinion,” regarding something they strongly disagree with, are they really telling the truth?

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* * *

Past ATFET’s are right here.

If you like these kinds of questions, try these on for size.

If you prefer something gentler, go here.

See you next Thursday!

J Edward Neill

How Playing D&D Reshaped My Entire Life

Christmas Eve 1987.

I was eleven years old.

As far as gift-hauls go, 1987 was a reasonable year. I raked in some fresh NES games, unwrapped a new pile of GI Joe action figures, and rolled my eyes at the requisite stack of clothes for school. I would’ve been satisfied if that’s all it had been. Toys, games, and clothes…what more could an eleven-year old want?

And then my Uncle John rolled into town.

You see, I lived in Chicago with my grandparents at the time, and the snows that winter were brutal, particularly that night. We’re talking piles of white powder in the yard and dirty grey slush on every road. We’re talking fifteen hours of night, and no real breaks in the clouds for weeks. Uncle John had to commute all the way from downstate, which normally takes two hours, but that night it took him pretty much triple the time. Either it was the snow’s fault, or he dreaded Christmas Eve at my grandparents’ house.  I guess I’ll never really know for sure.

The hour was late. Ok, maybe not that late, but late for an eleven-year old who’d just spent the entire day begging his grandparents, aunts, and uncles to unwrap a few of all his gifts early. Having succeeded at tormenting them into a massive gift-release, I sat in my bedroom, surrounded by wrapping paper and happiness, content with my life. I could’ve died a happy child right then and there, drowning in a sea of blue inter-connectable racetracks, NES cartridges, tiny plastic rocket launchers, and socks.

But I didn’t die. I heard a summons from the living room, and out I shambled. If I was slow, it’s because my belly was stuffed with Circus Peanuts and Orange Crush. I was sleepy. I was dragging. I just wanted to be left alone for the next three months to fully soak up my gift-haul.

“Jeremy, your Uncle John has one last gift for you. Do you want to open it tonight?” I remember someone asking me.

I halted. Of course I do! I screamed in my head-movie.

“Yeah ok,” I grunted in real life.

Uncle John handed me a wide, flat box. You know the ones. I think it was from Macy’s, and it had all the hallmark signs of being another box full of clothes. It wasn’t gift-wrapped, but it did have a single red bow on top. One. Red. Bow. Uncle John wasn’t a sentimental dude, which I could (and still do) understand.

When I took the box, I had the same sinking feeling every kid does when he sees a box like that.

Great. More clothes.

I thanked him and padded back into the hallway. No one thought much of my departure. I wasn’t two steps away before all the adults (I was the only kid in the house) started talking politics again. Not even Uncle John seemed fazed by my apparent disinterest. Untended to, I plunked down in my bedroom doorway, sighed with all the weight an eleven-year old could muster, and pried the top off the box.

I guess I should’ve realized the box was too heavy to be full of clothes.

And I should’ve known my Uncle John was too cool for sweaters and school shirts.

What was inside?

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Mind. Blown.

Before that instant, I’d never heard of Dungeons & Dragons. I’d never heard about role-playing, tabletop gaming, or rolling dice to kill undead lich lords. As I picked up the first tome (the Dungeon Master’s guide was my favorite) I felt as if a sharp breeze blew away the memory of all my other gifts. It stunned me, and made me shiver both literally and figuratively. Also in the box: a set of sparkly green polyhedral dice (which my players would learn to hate) and a stack of PC stat sheets, but I didn’t yet comprehend their meaning. I couldn’t see it yet.

I was lost, but in a good way.

Winter deepened. Chicago frosted over for most of the next three months. I didn’t care. Even though I lacked local friends to game with or a real understanding of what I was getting into, I consumed the books Uncle John had bought me. When I say ‘consumed’ I don’t mean to imply I merely read them a few times. No…I memorized them. I gobbled up the D&D dialect, became a master at its mechanics, and plotted for the day I’d actually be able to run a campaign.

But more than this, more than just learning the game, I felt a door open inside my mind. I’d always had a vivid imagination, but this was something different. It changed my perspective about what creativity could be.

And in doing so, it changed the course of my life in a very real way.

* * *

Let’s fast forward a few years.

Far removed from frosty Chicago, I found myself in a hot, heavily-wooded part of North Georgia. My parental unit had remarried and shipped us to the deep south, where summers were forever and winters were but a few weeks of rain in late January. I missed the frozen wastes, but thawing out felt nice. And more than the weather were the chances to meet new friends.

Friends who would game with me.

Friends who shared my passion for deep, dark storytelling.

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…friends who would fight this guy with me.

And so it began. In eight grade, I met The Kube, a friend who was willing to spend endless hours rolling dice with me. He created the legendary characters Silverleaf, Black Dragon, and the wizard who became a prime character in my epic fantasy series, Dank. Then in my freshman year in high school, I met Egg, John McGuire, and the devious Chris Griner.

And it was ON.

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map-3 map-5 map-4

I was a dedicated DM, going so far as to create my own 200-page hardcover campaign setting…

*

We spent thousands of hours role-playing.

We downed hundreds of pizzas, killed barrels of Mountain Dew, and endured sessions lasting upwards of 15 hours.

My players learned to hate my dice, but I like to think (in my head-movie) they enjoyed the fact our games were about more than slaughtering imaginary monsters. We told stories. Deep stories about sacrifice and suffering. Legendary stuff that no video game can capture, that not even the longest, most profound novel can duplicate. If you’ve ever played our style of ‘storytelling’ D&D, you know what I mean. The players are a part of an epic tale, not just dice-rolling treasure fiends. The dungeon master is merely a blank page, ready to turn whichever direction the players want to go.

But the best part?

It didn’t stop there.

It began

Many years after my last epic session, sometime in the early 2000’s, all the storytelling lessons I’d learned flashed back into my mind. I missed (desperately) the feeling of sitting down with friends to weave a deep, dark tale, but I knew at the same time I probably wasn’t ever going to recapture it. We’d all moved apart and built our own lives. Some of us were married, and others were exploring new careers. Lacking a way to play the game I loved, I had to find a new outlet for my unbridled creativity.

And so I started my writing journey.

I sat down in the dark, my brain brimming with an entire childhood’s worth of ideas.

And the stories, many of them birthed a decade or more earlier, began to pour out of my fingertips.

Over the next fifteen years, I wrote fantasy novels, sci-fi tales, spooky novellas, and other fictional fare. I couldn’t stop. I was (and still am) a man possessed. Looking back at all of it, I know I never would’ve done it if not for those endless nights of dice-rolling and gold piece counting. I might’ve done other creative stuff, but the depth wouldn’t have been there. The story-telling skills I learned during a decade of D&D’ing were irreplaceable stuff. The seed had been planted on Christmas Eve 1987, and had grown into something I never could’ve anticipated.

Those three little books changed the way I thought. The way I imagined. The way I wanted to create. And after thousands of dice rolls, hundreds of hours spent preparing stories for my players, and countless nights at the gaming table, I wasn’t the same person I’d been. I’d grown to appreciate the art of a story without an end, and I’d learned to love all the crazy thought-collisions that happened while playing this simple little game.

There are those who will mock D&D. They’ll say it’s a game for nerds, introverts, maybe even losers. Some will even claim it supports anti-social, anti-religious behavior. Nonsense…all of it. Done right, D&D is a vehicle for allowing people to take part in a story. It’s better than TV, which isn’t interactive. It’s better than video games, which confines players to a controller and some pixels. In many ways, it’s the most imaginative game ever created. It was for me. And I’m willing to bet, it was for many, many others.

So here’s to The Kube, Egg, Griner, Nicky P, Jeremy II, John, and all the rest. These fine friends were inspirers of more characters than I can recollect. AD&D First Edition forever!

And here’s to Uncle John. He gave me three little books that rocked my world.

…and inspired twenty-four books of my own…and counting.

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Published in 2015….conceived in 1992.

If I had any advice to modern parents, it’d be something like this:

Take your kids’ phones away. Give them a D&D book. And walk away.

🙂

J Edward Neill

Author and Artist

DownTheDarkPath

 

 

 

A Thought for Every Thursday – What’s in a Heart?

Welcome to the latest installment of my new weekly series, A Thought for Every Thursday.

Every Thursday at Tessera Guild I’ll pose a question (or several) regarding a specific current event, a modern moral issue, or a philosophical conundrum. Instead of answering it myself, I’ll look to you for the resolution.

It’s all in good fun.

Here we go…

* * *

What’s in a Heart?

What’s a gesture worth?

What’s the value of symbol, an image, or an idol?

If you think about it, we’re surrounded by symbols. They’re on our cars, on our sports team logos, on businesses, roads, and flags.

Some of these symbols appear to be of more importance than others.

Like how the McDonalds arches are more widely known than the Maserati ‘M’.

Or how the US flag is always hoisted higher on the pole than the others.

Human gestures can also be symbolic. Like remaining silent during a somber moment, flipping someone a middle finger, or standing (or not) during a ceremonial moment.

These symbols and gestures are obviously important to many people, otherwise no one would be up in arms whenever someone else didn’t observe the popular protocol.

Let’s talk about that.

If a person remains silent during a somber moment, does it really, truly imply their respect for the moment? Given how our thoughts are our best-kept secret, is it possible many (or even most) people are thinking about something completely unrelated to the moment at hand?

What about symbols such as military standards, sacred buildings, and flags? If a person stands at attention (or otherwise appears to pay their respects) does it really reflect what’s in their heart?

Is it possible that many of the people giving apparent respect don’t actually give a damn? Is it probable?

And if it were true that some of the people who appear to give respect don’t actually care much about whatever’s happening in the moment, does that mean we’re kidding ourselves when we praise the appearance of respect and turn our noses up at the apparent lack of it?

Because it’s what lies in the heart that really matters, right?

Gestures and symbols are nice things to have, but do they really have the meaning we think they do?

Also…when’s the last time you stood at attention before a symbol (a building, a flag, etc) when no one else was looking?

I don’t know the answers.

Which is why I’m asking you.

* * *

taco-bell

I’m willing to bet a LOT of people worship this symbol…

Past ATFET’s are right here.

If you like these kinds of questions, try these on for size.

If you prefer something gentler, go here.

See you next Thursday!

J Edward Neill

Dragoncon 2016 – The Good and Other Thoughts

Last week I talked a lot about the bad stuff that went down at Dragon Con this year. These are obviously not crazy problems, and I completely understand that. More it was as much about having that moment where you just say “this is going to be one of those weekends” and it happened to be this particular one.

That said, I do have some thoughts about the convention below that occurred to me as I was waiting in the fabulous Line Ride(s).

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But first, The Good

On Saturday we saw the Legends of Tomorrow panel where I got to see a man dance like he might have been Michael Jackson in a previous life. Considering he plays Hawkman, a character whose whole gimmick is reincarnation, it was somewhat fitting. I discovered that the man who plays Vandal Savage (Casper Crump) might actually be Vandal Savage in real life (or more to the point, just frickin’ owns the role!). I realized that the cast realized they might have a drinking game on their hands with the number of times Kendra (Hawkgirl) says “But I was a barista only 3 weeks ago!” Something Robert had brought up the day before (that I hadn’t really noticed).

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Oh, and the complaint about not getting the line in quick enough from last week? Apparently that was not a problem for this panel as we got moving 15 minutes before the panel started and were seated by the time things got started.

Maybe it is a hotel thing?

I sat in a number of writing panels where I either learned something or it helped to reinforce some things I knew, but haven’t yet put into proper practice. I like to think of those panels as a nice way to get recharged for the rest of the year. You have all these people who just want to get their ideas out there, tell their stories, and hope someone enjoys them.

It’s refreshing.

Even on Sunday, we had no problems getting into the vendor’s room, and the extra floor really helped to let things breathe a little bit more. That’s probably the single best thing from the convention expanding into the America’s Mart buildings these last couple of years.

Like I said before, while it might have started out rough, we came home on Sunday with smiles on our faces, already looking forward to next year.

The OTHER

I do have a couple of thoughts about Dragon Con and where it might need to go eventually. Again, I’ve been going to Dragon Con virtually every year since 1993. And I know I’m probably in the minority on this, but during those moments when you can’t move due to the sheer amount of bodies in a building, where you can’t get into a panel without having to wait an hour plus in a line, and where there is even discussion about what a Fire Marshall might require.. it might be that Dragon Con is TOO BIG.

Dragon Con 2016

I’m not sure of the attendance numbers, I do feel that Dragon Con has gotten bigger and bigger over the last 4 or 5 years. When it gets unpleasant for people to be there, that’s not really the goal, is it?

Maybe they should consider a couple of things:

Capping attendance. Not sure if that is through only having pre-sale 4 day passes or something. I know they want to be able to serve everyone who wants to come, but enough is enough.

Or maybe this Con needs to move to a bigger venue. Yes, we all love that it’s in the hotels. It means that when you are sore and tired (and have a room), you can go upstairs and take a rest. But one of the things hotels create are choke-points. The sky bridges are natural choke points. Everyone is in costume, and it’s awesome, but I can’t move from one building to another because there is no flow. So many times it becomes salmon swimming upstream.

This year we were lucky to not have rain most of the weekend. When it rains no one walks the streets and the hotels cannot handle it. It becomes a complete mess.

Now used to be, before the Chick-fil-a Kickoff game didn’t exist, I thought “Hey, move to the World Congress Center, we’d have the space and everything would be in ONE BUILDING (effectively)”. Currently the Con is now in 6 buildings over like 5-6 blocks.

SIX BUILDINGS!

Come on. That is far too many.

Now that the football game exists, I don’t think being over there would be the best idea. We’d be on top of the football tailgaters. And while I love the looks on the people from out-of-town as they gawk at the cosplayers, we’d just be over crowed somewhere else.

So my solution, assuming the World Congress Center would work otherwise, is to move the date of Dragon Con. It’s not unprecedented. Used to be it was in mid-July. If you moved it, you’d be asking people to take that Monday off (instead of having the built-in holiday), but I’m not sure that would really be the issue. Monday is kind of hit or miss most years (we normally use that day to recover, but maybe we’re in the minority). Find that weekend where you are the only BIG THING in town.

Now maybe that would mean a slight dip in attendance, but I’m saying that may not be a bad thing. If there were 5-10% fewer people there… just something to think about.

And there is another benefit, more hotels available for the con goers. You wouldn’t be competing with the football people for rooms. Heck, could it be possible the prices might drop slightly (probably not, but I can dream).

Note, this is not me dreaming of the “good old days”, just trying to make it a little better before it becomes too big (an odd statement to be sure).

Again, maybe I’m just being grumpy. It’s always possible.

***

John McGuire

John McGuire is the author of the supernatural thriller The Dark That Follows, the steampunk comic The Gilded Age, and the novella There’s Something About Mac through the Amazon Kindle Worlds program.

His second novel, Hollow Empire, is now complete. The first episode is now FREE!

He also has a short story in the Beyond the Gate anthology, which is free on most platforms!

And has two shorts in the Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows anthology! Check it out!

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com.

Three Little Sunsets in Florida

Recently I took a little vacation to the Gulf Coast of Florida.

In contrast to some of my lavish vacations of yesteryear, I did this one quick and cheap.

Which turned out just perfect.

This is my journal for four days and three nights in Palm Harbor, Florida.

Please enjoy.

* * *

Tuesday, Sept 6th – Morning and Early Afternoon

On a sunny, warm morning, I drove my kid (the G Man) to his school. After releasing his groggy, five-year old self into the waiting arms of his cranky teacher (she always gives me stink-eye) I wandered back to my car. Decisions, decisions… I knew a 7-hour solo drive awaited me, and that if I didn’t get some exercise, I’d regret it. You see, my body rebels at long car drives. Without space to move around, my muscles tense up and everything starts to hurt. It’s pretty much the worst feeling ever. So instead of immediately settling in for the long drive to Florida, I went on a four-mile run.

It’s probably worth mentioning I never get to run in the mornings. And after Tuesday’s little sprint, I remembered why I love early running so much. It’s cool outside, usually mildly breezy, and in the deep woods of the Suwanee Greenway, I get to be alone under the trees. This particular run was especially wonderful. I mean…not having to instantly go to work afterward meant I got to stand under the leaves and breathe deep.

…and then drive seven eight-and-a-half hours to Palm Harbor.

Some of the billboards seen on the way:

“Only Jesus can stop the Zombie Apocalypse!”

“Wind Turbines kill Millions of Birds Every Year!”

and my favorite pairing:

“Jesus is the Only Answer!” ….right next to…. “Strippers! We Bare All!”

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Wow. Just wow.

Tuesday Mid-Afternoon

After a loooooong drive, during which I listened to the Mad Max – Fury Road soundtrack at least twice, I arrived in Palm Harbor at about 5:30 PM. I was half-starved, having consumed only a Muscle Milk and a Babe Ruth bar since breakfast. 🙁 Luckily, my buddy Danish Mike (more on him later) arrived from Fort Lauderdale at nearly the same time. We met for an early dinner, and the eating was on.

Now, the thing about restaurants in Florida is this: if they’re anywhere near the beach, they’re all the same. They look the same (weathered pastel paint and crumbling roof) their clientele is the same (tanned seniors) and the menu is pretty much the same (crab cakes and rum runners.) The place we chose was exactly like any other place we could’ve chosen. The food was cheap and hot, and the drinks were cheaper and cold.

I sat down with Danish Mike (think Arnold Schwarzenegger with a tan and long hair) and our buddy Greg (local musician and philosopher.) We slurped down about 4,000 calories each while catching up and planning a three-evening destruction of Palm Harbor. It was the perfect way to start a relaxing trip.

Oh, in case you wondered, Palm Harbor is a mostly residential town wedged between Tampa and Clearwater. It’s flat, crisscrossed with narrow waterways, and quiet. Not sure any of this matters. Just thought you should know.

Tuesday Evening

I wish I could tell you we immediately leapt into scuba diving, deep-sea fishing, or massive senior citizen orgies. Nope. Didn’t happen. My long-haired European friend and I simply skipped to another bar, where we ate again, sipped some really mediocre beverages, and enjoyed a three-hour conversation about the meaning of life. If you know me, you know I love philosophy. And so it went: deep drinks and deeper talks. Niiiiiiiice.

Wednesday, Sept 7th – Morning

So there’s this restaurant on the Gulf Coast of Florida. It’s in Clearwater, about 100 yards from the shore. Clear Sky Café – not quite a dive bar, not quite high end. It’s pretty much a mandatory go-to spot every time I’m in town. After rising early, Mike and I hopped in my truck, turned up some realllllly loud, obnoxious death metal, and sprinted down to grab some breakfast. We planned on a quick meal and then whatever, but naturally, as it always happens, we stayed at Clear Sky for about two hours. Nope, not chasing local girls. Nah, not drinking. Somehow we started talking politics.

And it turned out we did so in an ocean of hardcore Trump fans. Yay!

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Clear Sky Café – home of amazing mojitos, top-notch food, and vigorous political fury.

Wednesday Late Morning through Early Evening

I suppose some people’s idea of relaxation is different than mine. Most of the people I know would define relaxation on the beach as: lying in the sand, wading in the ocean, reading by the pool, and generally chilling completely out.

Me and Danish Mike…not so much.

For about nine hours on Wednesday, we played volleyball, swam in the ocean, ate more food than an entire third-world nation, and…played more volleyball. Now, when I say we played volleyball all day, I don’t mean to imply we found eight random people to play five versus five. Nah. Not our style. We scoured four different beaches (and four different bars) to find some hardcore competition. We found and played against: an Italian woman and her Andre the Giant-sized Brazilian husband.  A group of super friendly weekend warriors. A beautiful South American girl and the overbearing guy trying to impress her. And a bunch of young dudes eager to destroy us. We played them all, and for the most part, we won….despite being sauced with rum & beer and playing with full bellies.

It’s true. We’re addicted to volleyball.

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The Gulf Shore is home to (not kidding) thousands and thousands of volleyball courts.

Wednesday Evening

Exhausted and covered in a pretty gross sunscreen/sand lather, we drove back into town, ate our sixth meal of the day, and collapsed. What a day!

Thursday, Sept 8th – Morning

It’s turns out Clear Sky Café isn’t the only good spot to get breakfast on the Gulf Coast. There’s also another chain called First Watch, a little family-friendly spot with tons of offbeat breakfast and brunch fare. After Wednesday’s high level of exercise and consumption, we decided to play it healthy. If you’re ever in the Palm Harbor, Tampa, or Clearwater area, I suggest First Watch. While it’s true most of the wait-staff is either high or realllly high, the food is fantastic.

Plus, I really like pancakes. Sue me. But theirs were amazing.

Thursday Late Morning – Midafternoon

Our musician/philosopher friend, Greg West, had the perfect solution for our mid-Wednesday malaise. He suggested ocean kayaking, which…if you’ve never done it, is really a transcendent way to spend an afternoon. So it’s kayaking we went. We loaded up between three little islands (Holiday, Caladesi, and some other island I can’t remember.) It was just three dudes and a buttload of sunscreen out in the relatively shallow water between islands.

What’d we find out there in the beautiful blue water?

We came across a ship marooned on a sandbar. We speculated the ship’s captain must’ve been drunk as hell. The boat was pretty big, and yet somehow Cap’n Genius McIdiot managed to pilot it into two-feet deep water, where it’s been stuck ever since. The cool part: some pretty cool fish made a little reef out of the ship’s far side, and it’s there I plucked out a handful of beautiful shells to bring home to my kid.

We saw a shark (black – about 5′ – 7′ long) feasting on fish near a patch of stumpy mangroves.

We rowed within five feet of a dolphin pod. They didn’t mind us at all. We approached them calmly on our little kayaks and watched them jet through the shallows. Meanwhile, everyone on shore lost their minds. Based on their over-the-top screaming, I’m not sure any of the screaming teenage girls or drunken frat dudes had ever actually seen a dolphin before…or any wild animal…ever.

We spotted two manatees. They’re faster than you think.

Greg stepped on a crab, which bowed up at him as if to challenge him to a claw fight. Lacking claws, Greg backed down. A wise decision, we all agreed.

And then the tide rolled in. Somewhat reluctantly, we rode the rising waters back to shore and treated ourselves to beers and snowcones. Honestly, kayaking in the ocean was the most fun we’d had all trip. After proposing to our server, eating a buttload of fresh shrimp, and trying to force feed Greg in order to make him gain weight, we fled the islands and crept back onto the mainland.

Thursday Evening

So it’s true. A while back I committed to not watching any NFL football all season long. And yet…on Thursday, game one of the season (Panthers vs Broncos) happened to be playing on every TV everywhere. “Fine,” I thought. “We’ll watch it. Let’s go. Just don’t tell anyone.”

And so it went. A group of us (our clan had somehow swollen to five people) shambled over to a local Taco Mac-like spot to listen to Greg jam and to torment the waitresses. We watched Serena Williams lose badly, the US hockey team spank the EU team, and the Panthers blow a 10-point lead. Somehow we did this while barely drinking or spending any money. I think, being a local celebrity, Greg’s presence allowed us to camp out without emptying our wallets. It’s good to have friends, people. It’s even better to have friends who play guitar. Remember this.

In the middle of the football game, the bar fired up some trivia. We didn’t play (we should’ve; we’d have won easily) but we did witness one table cheat over and over again. You see, there were these five meatheads who busted out their phones for every question, and yet…somehow…didn’t win the trivia tourney. My theory is that if you’re gonna cheat, you’d better win. Just my two cents. Mediocre, meatheads. Mediocre.

Exhausted from rowing, waitress-tormenting, and talking about the end of the world, we retreated to sleep once again.

Friday, Sept 9th – Morning

I suppose the hardest part of any vacation is dealing with the fact that at some point, it must end. This is doubly true for short trips, and triply true when a looooooong drive awaits at trip’s end. When I awoke Friday morning, I let out the world’s longest sigh. I wanted to go kayaking again, to play volleyball all day, and to go back to the bar with the rubber ducky racing lagoon. Yes, I’m serious. And yes, I’d picked the purple duck to win. And yes, he lost.

So after a quick breakfast, Danish Mike and I headed down to Clearwater Beach to fit in some last-minute volleyball. But it turned out our hearts just weren’t in it. We knew we couldn’t commit to a full day of fun, and so, much like pouty kids, we just lounged in the ocean and judged all the people walking by. It was pretty relaxing, at least until Captain Blonde Dude McWhatever hopped on his waverunner and tore off into the deeps at 500mph. I’m not afraid to admit we both wished his waverunner would explode.

But it didn’t.

We crawled out of the water. We listened to Greg play a few songs at the Rockaway (another bar filled with tanner-than-everyone seniors.) And we drank the nastiest pineapple juice ever.

And then, after a hug and a fist bump, we got in our vehicles and drove away.

Friday Evening – The Drive Home

There’s something about driving solo over long distances. After a while, it becomes a meditative experience. To pass the time, one tends to fall into one’s thoughts. For the first few hours, I listened to loud music and drove wayyyy too fast, but after a while I slowed it down. I dreamed up a few offbeat book plots, not unlike this and this.

But then I started thinking about new marketing strategies. You see, on the long stretch of road between Palm Harbor and Atlanta lies a string of quiet (and mostly dead) towns. And clustered around these towns are some of the most entertaining billboards I’ve ever seen. They range from simple and poorly-worded to straight-up weird.

I seriously need to invest in some of these billboards. Can you imagine, sitting between a thousand signs for pecans, adult toy shops, and Jesus, a huge banner for a crazy dark fantasy novel?

I can.

Here. Enjoy a small sample of awesome billboards:

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Pure, raw entertainment right there…

Exactly how a vacation should end.

* * *

I’m back home now. I’m listening to music on my couch and contemplating what flavor Ramen noodles to eat. As for my time in Florida, I loved it. I’ll not soon forget kayaking on the clear blue water, eating pancakes while discussing the end of humanity, and zombie-Jesus billboards.

These are the things vacations are made of.

J Edward Neill

Author and Artist

The search for badass bloggers!

artists%20wanted

Hey you.

Are you an artist? An author? A photographer? Or someone with something awesome to blog about?

Yeah. We bet you are. 🙂

We think you should know; Tessera Guild is looking for someone like you.

Did you just finish a rockin’ painting? Cool! We want you to blog about it.

Did you publish an epic novel or a smooth little short story? Nice! We want to interview you about it.

Or maybe you want a weekly platform from which to write or podcast about art, life, and the end of the world? Yeah. We can help with that.

Tessera Guild is looking to grow its readership and help fresh new artists and wordsmiths get the exposure they need. We have primary openings on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and weekends.

There are no strings attached. We don’t charge any money to anyone. We’re not in this for the cash.

Seriously.

We’re looking for full-time contributors AND one-time interviews, blogs, and press releases.

Interested?

Good. It’s easy. Just reach out to us via the comments section or send an email to JEdwardNeill@Downthedarkpath.com.

Tessera Guild gets thousands and thousands of hits every single week, and has been for more than two years now. Seems like a no-brainer for you to join us.

See you soon,

Team Tessera

Dragoncon 2016 – The Bad

This year I think I’m playing the Grumpy Old Man.

That’s how I felt on Friday of Dragon Con. The little things adding up to just annoy and bother me. I’d like to think it was just a combination of things, but regardless of the individual pieces there was still enough there to last me until about 4:30 on Saturday. Luckily it all turned around shortly after that, and I was left with a positive taste in my mouth after the weekend was done.

But let’s start from the beginning…

Actually, let’s start about two week’s earlier, because that’s when I tweaked my ankle, aggravating an old Achilles strain. Come Dragon Con, it was still hurting. Good thing I wasn’t going to have to do much walking or anything!

But, I digress…

Friday morning we gathered the last of what we’d need for the trip to downtown Atlanta for the day. I had a couple of copies of my books and comics just in case (in case of exactly what, who knows, but I need to have them on hand more than I normally do). I go to the drawer in our desk where every other year I’ve placed the postcards Dragon Con mails out (effectively your ticket).

Not there.

I checked another drawer and then another and then another. At some point I could only say, “I’m starting to panic here, Courtney.”

After another 30 minutes of looking with no luck, I checked the web to see what the procedure was, and while it wasn’t on the FAQ, it was on a Reddit thread from like two years ago (just present your Driver’s Licence and you’re good to go). So we drive down, find a parking spot, and then go over to Registration… where they can’t find that we’ve paid.

Eh?

So now we have to go to the far side of the room where it seems one of the places didn’t turn in their registration forms last year. We don’t have a receipt because we’ve never needed to have a receipt. And I’m starting to wonder if maybe we didn’t preregister last year…

A minute later we have our badges and it is off to the Vendor’s hall.

Except, we get stopped about 8 people from being able to get in. It seems that they were already experiencing, at 2:30 on Friday afternoon, capacity issues and don’t want the Fire Marshall to shut them down, so we have to wait. Now this isn’t a big deal except that the Vendor’s room has been open for only 1 1/2 hours and they are having this issue. On Friday.

We make the pack not to bother to come this way on Saturday as I could only imagine how long the line to get in might have been.

30 minutes later we get in, do a quick walk through of one floor of the vendor’s room, before we have to go upstairs to the CDC Panel that I’m actually a part of (second time I’ve been on any kind of Dragon Con panel!). The panel was focused on the motion comic web series I helped write KABI Chronicles (check out all 7 episodes!).

(I plan on doing a full post about that whole experience soon.)

As to the panel, other than wishing more people had turned out, it went well enough. And afterwards we did another pass of the vendor’s room before heading out to eat.

All these people coming to Atlanta during Labor Day Weekend!

Now, here’s the thing. In Atlanta on Labor Day weekend, you have tens of thousands of people descending on downtown due to Dragon Con, the Chick-fil-a Kickoff Football game, AC-DC had played on Thursday night, and probably a bunch of other things I’m forgetting at the moment. So normally getting into a restaurant can be a bit of a pain. But not this night. Somewhere, the convention gods smiled down on us and said that Hooters would get us seated in about 15 minutes.

And then 45 minutes later we had to inform a manager type person that we still hadn’t gotten our food.

Why didn’t we tell the waitress? Oh, that could be because she’d disappeared for most of that time. And then, after the manager offered us free deserts to smooth things over, she tried to charge us for those as well!

That was enough for us, so Court and headed home, where I began to realize that I wished we’d actually had a room downtown so that I didn’t have to make that 40 minute drive again.

Saturday started fine, but nearly the last straw was trying to get into the Flash/Arrow panel. We decided not to try to play the epic game of “where does this line actually begin” but instead just wait until those people got inside, and then if there was room we’d go in (not wanting to screw anyone over here).

Dragon Con 2016

The problem is that Dragon Con puts these panels 30 minutes apart. But instead of loading the room as soon as the previous one is cleared, they waited until 5 minutes before the panel’s start time to start letting people in. By minute 20 of the panel people in that line still hadn’t finished entering.

What the fuck!?!

Had I actually been in the line and missed a third of the panel because of incompetence, I might have lost it on someone. As it was, we opted to go and check out something else for a little while.

Oh, and to the lady who was taking her time walking in the line… not hobbled or anything, just acting like she’s got all the time in the world – you’re not only holding up the rest of the line, but you are going to see a panel featuring stars from the FLASH, not slow-poke Magoo! Pick up the pace!

Then things took a turn for the better…

But that is a story for next week.

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John McGuire

John McGuire is the author of the supernatural thriller The Dark That Follows, the steampunk comic The Gilded Age, and the novella There’s Something About Mac through the Amazon Kindle Worlds program.

His second novel, Hollow Empire, is now complete. The first episode is now FREE!

He also has a short story in the Beyond the Gate anthology, which is free on most platforms!

And has two shorts in the Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows anthology! Check it out!

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com.