A Thought for every Thursday – Not the ending you expect

Welcome to A Thought for Every Thursday.

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

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For the next few weeks, we’re going to approach a few deeper-than-normal topics.

Science. Religion. Meaning of life type stuff.

Speaking of meaning of life type stuff, what if…

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Not Quite What You Were Hoping

 There exist numerous theories regarding the meaning of life.

Some predict a divine afterlife.

Others believe in infinite recycling of our souls.

Some believe in very specific versions of heaven and hell.

And still others say there’s no meaning at all.

Everyone is guessing.

No one really knows.

Even so, the most common perception is that if there is a meaning, it’s probably a positive or at worst a neutral one.

But…

What if humanity one day learned our purpose is nefarious?

That perhaps humanity (or even all life) was engineered for a negative purpose?

Is it possible?

If you learned such a thing were the truth, what would you do?

Run!!!

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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

40 Things You Might Not Know About Me

I passed by the magical/terrible 40 year mark this past weekend. The point in your life you are surely supposed to question all your decisions and really hold onto your regrets until they eat you up from the inside.

Right?

Oh, and buy a sports car, and go nuts in about 1 million other cliché ways.

Sadly, that sounds like a lot of work, and I don’t want to do all of that.

Instead I thought I’d provide some nuggets of information (whether you wanted it or not). A peering into some of the events, 40 of them, that put me in front of this computer typing at this exact moment on this exact night.

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1 – From around the age 7 to the age of 11 I was sick every year on my birthday. For a while there I dreaded the day.

2 – At some point growing up my Mom baked me a strawberry birthday cake. 30 some years later and my wife still wonders if I might want to have a different cake this year (the answer is always NO).

3 – By the time I was in the 8th grade, I’d moved 6 times that I was old enough to really remember. I thought this was a ton of times… and it probably was, but when the teacher asked the class who had moved the most I raised my hand and said 6 thinking I’d “win”. Sadly, there was another person in the class who’d moved over 10 times (I’m guessing it was some sort of military family). That actually bummed me out (losing, not that they’d moved so much).

4 – One of my biggest What If moments will always be not making the 8th grade basketball team. At the time I didn’t understand it, and if I’m being really honest, I still don’t understand it. I still don’t know how it happened as I know I was one of the top 12 or so players in my class. There was some kind of weird point system the coach used over the course of the week tryouts and on Thursday morning I was in 1st place, and by Friday I wasn’t in the top 14. Thursday afternoon’s tryouts went poorly IF you were only looking at points scored. If you looked at blocks and rebounds (I played center), then even if I slipped in the standings a little, it shouldn’t have been by so much. Not making the team crushed me. And I think that not making the team put me at a disadvantage going into high school tryouts the next year (if only by having the extra practice time/game time).

5 – My parents had me when they were 19 years old. They had my brother 11 years after me. In between they divorced and then remarried about 10 years later. It is because of this that I believe Love never truly dies between people. It can be lost, but it is always there… waiting to be rediscovered.

6 – I started reading comics almost 30 years ago. I now own just under 10,000 comics. I don’t think I had any clue of what stories lay ahead of me when I walked into that convenience store and bought those first copies.

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7 – The only reason I ever worked at Kroger was to get my parents off my back about getting an after-school job. It was literally the first and only place I went to. I had the interview that day and started the following week.

8 – Once I became a cashier at Kroger, I was often stuck on the Express Lane. And yes, I hated when people who had 50 items tried to check out through my lane (read the damn sign!).

9 – I met my wife while working at Kroger. Yes, we are high school sweethearts (awww).

10 – I was one of two baggers to win the bagging challenge at our Kroger and got paid to go participate in the district competition.

11 – I don’t drink alcohol (though I had a taste of some over the weekend… and by taste I literally mean 2 swallows). While some of my circle of friends did drink, my future wife couldn’t because of medicines she took, and other friends were effectively “Straight Edge” (and therefore didn’t do drugs or alcohol). So it really was a reverse sort of peer pressure that caused the decision.

12 – I had/have a Kermit the Frog hand puppet. Senior year of high school I brought it out in Computer Science class. The words “John, put the frog away.” might have been heard for the first time ever at Parkview High.

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13 – In all of high school I only skipped class 1 time and only had detention 1 time. I was/am definitely a rule follower.

14 – I was a Jehovah’s Witness for much of my pre-college life. I have gone around at 9 in the morning on a Saturday and knocked on doors. I also didn’t want to be awake if that’s any consolation.

15 – When I started college I tried to keep my high school “after school job” at Kroger. However, they wouldn’t allow me to have 2 to 3 weeks off to get settled in. So I was “forced” to quit. Not really sure why I thought keeping that job was a good idea at the time since it would have required me driving back and forth from school.

16 – I was a DJ in college for my freshman year. But I don’t mean in the club. I worked a couple of shifts at the Ga Tech radio station where I learned that lots of the stuff we played was not very good. But the ones I liked, those got played every chance I could.

17 – I maintain I was screwed out of housing my senior year at Georgia Tech. When you co-op, you’re not taking classes and so are a little out of sorts with campus life. This is less noticeable during the winter months (I co-op’d Winter and Summer quarters), but during summer it truly hits home. In an attempt to be aware of the due dates for the various payments needed for classes and housing, I called at the beginning of summer to find out the due dates. Wrote them down in my planner. And when the time came, called up to pay for school… and was told I’d missed the deadline by a week or so. I wrote down what they’d told me. Tried to be responsible, and still got hosed.

18 – I have had the distinct pleasure of walking in on college roommates while they were… being intimate with their girlfriends… twice.

19 – My landlord (after the Georgia Tech housing SNAFU) actually became my boss about 1 1/2 years after I moved in. He was a civil engineer as well.

20 – I am not good with tools. And while I can follow instructions when putting things together, there was a long time that I didn’t know what a Phillips Head screwdriver was (why don’t they just call it “the not flat one”?).

21 – I know absolutely nothing about cars either. Another one of those “guy” things where I just have to smile and nod and hope no one sees through my half-hearted smile and asks me a question about it.

22 – However, I do love sports. I can bond with my fellow guys over football, baseball, or basketball. But never soccer.

23 – My one fear is probably heights. Luckily it is the one I don’t have to test all that often.

24 – I think I have a mild form of OCD. If I misplace something, I cannot focus on anything else until I find it. I can’t do anything else, and I certainly can’t go to sleep.

25 – The old saying that nothing good happens after midnight is wrong. I believe that nothing good happens before noon.

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26 – I saw Limp Bizkit open for Korn prior to their big breakthrough. I’m still unsure at what moment it became uncool to listen to them. It still feels like one week they were cool(ish) and the next everyone had sworn they’d never liked them in the first place.

27 – I like a myriad of different music. If you were to search my iPod you’d find Slayer, Bryan Adams, Pearl Jam, Boys II Men, and the Misfits among many others. Though if I had to pick the music I listen to the most would either be Grunge or Nu Metal.

28 – I love music for the lyrics more than the instruments. While everyone else is trying to figure out the beat or the chords or whatever, I’m trying to figure out what the meaning of the song is supposed to be conveying.

29 – I love stage magic. I love the idea that someone is trying to show you something which you know is not true and yet you want to be true. And I hate the fact that when you know how the trick is done, a piece of that hope is dashed.

30 – I’m not always the best friend I could be. I don’t always pick up the phone to call someone else, but instead wait for them to call me.

31 – However, I’d like to think that when the shit hits the fan, I’m the person you want beside you. At least, I hope that’s true.

32 – In the last year I have fallen back in love with watching wrestling. I blame my nephew.

33 – I started wearing glasses in the 3rd grade. However, in those first weeks I would forget them at home and my Step Father would have to bring them to me. After I finished writing “I will not forget my glasses at home any more.” about 500 times, I stopped leaving them behind.

34 – After my senior year of high school my parents moved to Richmond, Virginia. But since I was going to go to Georgia Tech and the house wasn’t sold, I effectively lived by myself for much of that summer.

35 – I am a Professional Engineer, which means that I have the ability to actually stamp plans saying they are good to be constructed. However, I have only stamped 1 set of plans so far (and I’ve had my stamp for about 10 years now).

36 – Before I started dating the girl who would eventually become my wife, I’d never been on a real date with a girl before.

37 – When I was in 4th and 5th grade I had a Rat Tail. I still maintain it made me cool.

38 – I am a sap. Give me a tear-jerker scene or anything with an animal dying and I will lose it (no, those aren’t tears, I just have dust in my eyes).

39 – I once saw The New Kids on the Block with a friend. No, we were not being ironic. He had an extra ticket, for some reason, and I said I’d go (must have hit my head). I remember the squealing of the teenage girls more than any of the music they played.

40 – My all-time favorite concert was Pearl Jam at the Fox Theater April 3, 1994 (the one they broadcast). Sadly, I didn’t get to see those whole show as we left when the house lights came on not realizing they were going to play one more song that way. Since then I stay a little longer than I probably should at shows to ensure such a thing never happens again.

41 – Turning 40 isn’t as scary as people make it out to be… so far.

 

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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.

What if… Last Action Hero was a Good movie?

I told J Edward Neill that I was going to steal his blog one of these days and today is that day. But I am going to do it in a way that would make him proud. I’m not going to use this blog for good but instead for evil.

That said, I wanted to look at a movie that could have been something more, but was tied to an aging actor and an annoying kid and only wanted to be tongue in cheek about the whole “Cop” movie thing.

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So What If…. Last Action Hero was a GOOD movie?

I know what you’re thinking: “John, there is no way to salvage anything within that movie!”

And you know what, random person talking to their computer screen, you’re probably more right than you are wrong… but let’s give this thing a try anyway.

Note, the one thing I am not touching is the soundtrack. Say what you will about the movie, Alice in Chains (2 songs!), Anthrax, AC/DC, Megadeth, Def Leppard, Aerosmith, Cypress Hill, Tesla, Fishbone… it is one of those albums that I still listen to from time to time.

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For those of you who don’t remember, the movie was supposed to be a parody of the 80s action movies (anything with Schwarzenegger, Stallone, Russell, Gibson, etc). A kid manages to get a magical movie ticket that puts him directly into the movie he’s watching. Eventually he brings Arnold back into the real world where suddenly Arnold realizes that the rules here are not the same as they were. And worse yet, his arch-enemy has somehow made his way into the real world as well!

That’s actually not a horrible idea on the surface. That core concept of what is real and what is fantasy. And that’s what my version would focus on as much as anything else. Those little moments that appeared in the movie, but were glossed over due to the need for another catchphrase or yelling boss or even cartoon cat.

My version would still begin with Danny watching the movie, getting the magical ticket, and then getting sucked in. But our hero, Jack Slater, wouldn’t be a goofy parody spouting one-liners left and right; no, this would be someone who had seen the worst in people and still managed to keep going (think Se7en for an idea of the feel I’d be going for). He’s a person who is barely holding on to his sanity and is constantly wondering why all these terrible things always seem to happen to him.

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So when Danny reveals that he’s a character in a movie series our hero lashes out. The idea that someone has been dictating the horrors of his world, tearing his marriage apart, killing his son, keeping him estranged from his daughter… that would be too much for him. And even though Danny would try to plead with him to follow through on his latest mission, Slater ignores the kid and then goes on a spree of his own. If the world is always going to be terrible, then why bother with it, why bother with saving anyone… let it all burn… and he uses half of the ticket to go into the real world (Danny rushing in after him)…

While the second piece of the ticket manages to fall into his enemy’s hands, Benedict. This is a man that has stood by and watched Slater destroy his boss’s empire, and only by luck was Benedict able to escape. Once he finds out about the ticket he sees it for what it is – a way to go to other worlds than these – to recruit like-minded people to his cause, giving them the freedom in the real world that has been severely lacking for any of them.

In the original Benedict has a monologue where he talks about the real world being a place where the bad guys can actually win. He talks about going to get the villains and bring them out. But we never get to see that moment in the original. And I believe that is a huge missed opportunity. So in my version we not only see some of it, but these villains coming out are not treated as just randoms… no, Benedict would have begun to research who might be able to help him.  And freed them. And the Ripper would be one of them.

Now the real world is suddenly going to Hell and somehow Danny still believes in the HERO that Slater was. He convinces him by telling him that while it is terrible that all those horrific things have happened, he always knew that Slater would still try and do the right thing. That he could still be the man Danny always knew him to be.

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And that would set up an ending where Slater not only has to deal with Benedict, but with the random assortment of baddies that are out in this world. It gives Danny a chance to assist in figuring out those characters who Benedict might have contacted in the first place (what the people are like, what their weaknesses might be, etc.).

We end with Slater and Benedict squaring off, Slater run through the ringer, but somehow finding enough strength to finish his enemy off. A beaten and bruised Slater limps back to the theater with Danny helping him, ready to go back to his movie life again… Danny fires up the movie, but instead of Slater IV, it is something nicer – perhaps a romantic comedy. A just reward for the life that Slater has led.

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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. Each episode is only $0.99. But you can go ahead and purchase the full novel (all 6 episodes) right now for $4.99 with the above link!

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

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

Oh the Weather Outside is Frightful

This cold has got me discombobulated, scattered, wondering if I’m getting sick or just need more sleep (like a bear).

I’m not a fan of winter. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mind the actual time of year in and of itself. I like the holidays, having time off, spending some of it with family, and using it as a good time to simply recharge.

But the cold… ugh. I cannot stand the cold. And yet I know that some people love it so that they can drink their hot chocolate and snuggle in front of the fire. It allows them to wear jackets and scarves and layer up until they don’t even know what to do with themselves.

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And I live in Atlanta, so it pretty much never gets as bad as those in the north have it (seriously, why do you do that to yourselves… move south). But even a little bit of it where we are touching freezing at night is more than enough for me.

However, thanks to a wonderful wife, I spent this last weekend in warmth. I was able to wear shorts in December. A cool breeze whistled past me and I didn’t run for shelter from it, but embraced it as an old friend.

The benefits of being in Miami, apparently.

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On the list of items on my personal bucket list, if I actually took the time to write it out like Mr. Neill did a few weeks ago, would be to see a Miami Dolphins game in their home stadium. At 38 years old I finally got my chance to do just that.

I’ve been a Dolphins fan my entire life, yet it seems odd when people ask me if I am from Florida… as if I’d have to be from the place that the team resides to root for them. My old college roommate harassed me about that very thing many a weekend. Regardless, I always end up telling them the same thing. That when you live in south Georgia for much of your early life the one AFC team you get to see was the Dolphins. This was well before Jacksonville ever had a team, so week in and week out those were the games I got to see. Almost the same time I started watching the NFL, Dan Marino became the quarterback of the Dolphins which meant that most years they were in the playoffs – easy to root for. And the Atlanta Falcons were mostly awful during this time, so why bother with the team that was going to lose most of their games. I mean, today the NFL is the most popular it has ever been and much of that is due to the passing game – Marino was doing all of this 20 years ago.

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But that wasn’t the only story.

You see, in a parallel world to this one there is a version of me typing up this exact same blog, but with one startling difference – that version of me is a (hated) NY Jets fan.

How do I know that is happening in this other world? Because the very first game that I ever remember watching took place on January 23, 1983 when the Miami Dolphins placed the New York Jets in the AFC Championship game. In my world, the Dolphins won the game 14-0 and became MY team. A silly decision made over the course of a few hours one afternoon when I was 1 week before turning 8.

So I know that in the parallel world the Jets ended up winning. And I have nothing but sympathy for that version of me, because the Jets are a train wreck and pretty much have been since that day. They’ve made a couple of runs here or there, but it always seems they quickly slide back to being awful. And while I was watching Marino break records, that version probably couldn’t have watched very many of the Jets games in the first place – needing to be content with the small blurbs in the local papers to figure out who was even on the team.

Another little thing, another weird decision by a younger me, that caused me to fly south for the winter, even if only for a weekend.

Sadly the game didn’t turn out the way I would have liked it (with a Dolphins’ win), but I sat there in the stadium among my fellow Dolphin fans, yelling and even singing a little of the Dolphins song (a terrible thing that once you have it in your head can never be extracted). So I thank my wife for the gift.

Even if it did add another item to the old list: to see them Win at home.

 

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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. Each episode is only $0.99. But you can go ahead and purchase the full novel (all 6 episodes) right now for $4.99 with the above link!

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

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