Category Archives: Everything I Know I Learned From Television

3 Important Reasons Why You Need To Watch Fight Club Again

Fight Club

Fight Club is a movie you need to watch over and over. Because Tyler Durden, played by Brad Pitt, says brilliant things you should be thinking about. Sure, you’ve all heard, “The first rule of Fight Club is you don’t talk about Fight Club.”  No doubt you’ve heard about the second rule too.

But all that is just a vehicle for the message. It’s not about fighting in the literal sense. It’s about fighting the values of modern society that are killing your dreams. About fighting Materialism, Perfectionism and Authority.

The Genius of Fight Club

The genius of Fight Club is the language Tyler uses to rally his tribe of disaffected young men. His words inspire them to examine the direction of their lives and take action. He’s not just speaking to the disaffected, though.

He’s speaking to you.

Here are some brilliant quotes you might not have remembered from watching it just once.

On Materialism

“Reject the basic assumptions of civilization, especially the importance of material possessions.”
“The things you own end up owning you. It’s only after we’ve lost everything that we’re free to do anything.”

This reminds me of a conversation I had with a woman from my son’s school. I hadn’t seen her around for a while, so I blurted out an insensitive question (where the hell you been?) and received an amazing answer.

They had to leave town and hunker down in their in-laws’ guest room, because they’d gotten in over their heads and lost their home to foreclosure. They lost everything.

I was mortified. But she wasn’t. She told me it was the best thing that could have happened to her family. They were on the wrong path. They got off the materialism merry-go-round and re-focused on their values because of the setback. It brought them closer as a family, and had a powerful, positive effect on the kids. I was amazed.

But I shouldn’t have been. Materialism is a toxic force in our society. Sometimes a financial loss leads to a huge gain. Therefore, we should embrace these opportunities that look like failure. They can lead to better things. And make us better people.

For more on this, see the movies Larry Crowne, Everything Must Go, or The Jerk.

On Perfectionism

“On a long enough time-line, the survival rate for everyone drops to zero.”
“I say never be complete, I say stop being perfect, I say let… let’s evolve, let the chips fall where they may.” 

There you go. All the permission you need to start letting go. Let go of the need to be perfect, to have all your ducks in a row, to be fully ready for the next item on your list. Tyler thinks you should start before you’re ready and adjust on the way.

Because you’re going to die. Hopefully on a long time-line, but you’re going to die. So forget about perfect and get out there and live. Though to do that, you need to change your mind on whose rules you’re going to follow…

On Authority

“Warning: If you are reading this then this warning is for you. Every word you read of this useless fine print is another second off your life. Don’t you have other things to do? Is your life so empty that you honestly can’t think of a better way to spend these moments? Or are you so impressed with authority that you give respect and credence to all that claim it?
“Do you read everything you’re supposed to read? Do you think everything you’re supposed to think? Buy what you’re told to want? Get out of your apartment. … Quit your job. Start a fight. Prove you’re alive. If you don’t claim your humanity you will become a statistic. You have been warned.”

Tyler challenged authority at every step. He set a good example for us all. We should fight authority much more often. Maybe not how he did it, though, since the dude was bat shit crazy. Perhaps we can fight the power in a more effective way.

And we should always ask “why” before we follow along. We should question our leaders, and they should answer without retribution or shame. There needs to be constant dialogue about what we’re doing, how we’re doing it, and most importantly, why we’re doing it.

Yes, challenging authority has its price. Manic Impressives pay this price all the time. But the price of blindly following even the most beneficent leaders is too high. Blind obedience produces results that are blind to reality. It spreads blindness. And causes catastrophe.

Watch It Again

So listen to Tyler. Watch this movie again and again. Let it inspire you to ask why, and come up with a better way to accomplish your mission. Just don’t go around blowing things up. Please.

Now I leave you with my favorite quote of the movie. Sorry, but you’ll need to analyze it on your own:

“Sticking feathers up your butt does not make you a chicken.” 

Amen to that, Tyler.

 

Vibrant Life Lessons from People of Earth

Alien Dickery AfootPeople of Earth is a sitcom on TBS that just launched its second season. Wyatt Cenac (The Daily Show) plays Ozzie, a journalist interviewing a group of people who claim to have had alien encounters. He starts out mocking them, but finds repressed memories of his own, and soon becomes a member of the group.

I think I am going to join them.

Alien Encounters

No, I have not been abducted and probed. But something weird is going on in my life right now that I can’t explain in normal terms.

As Ozzie and his new buddy Jerry are piecing together clues of an alien presence on Earth, Ozzie coins a term that’s been stuck in my head all week. I think it will be my new explanation for all of the mysterious forces at play that make life so hard. Ozzie blurted out…

“There is Alien Dickery Afoot”

I know, the language is a bit coarse, but it got past the TBS censors so I’m thinking it’s okay for this blog. Ozzie and Jerry add up the clues, realize what’s going on, and call it out for all to hear.

Alien Dickery. Afoot.

This could explain what’s been happening to me.

We’ll start with afoot. Monday, I woke with a sharp, piercing pain in my foot. Friends suggested it could be gout or plantar fasciitis, but whatever it is, it’s killing me.

I couldn’t get a doctor appointment ’til next week, so in the meantime I’m popping Ibuprofen and hobbling around with a cane.

Worse, it’s gotten into my head, and made everything in my life look and feel bleak. Really freaking bleak.

But Wait, There’s More

Last week I was in a strange souvenir shop in Kissimmee, Florida, looking at alligator heads. Actual alligators, chopped off at the head, their eyes replaced with marbles. Even stranger, I was actually considering buying one, when my phone rang.

It was my therapist (yes, I see one regularly) and I picked up. But it wasn’t my therapist – it was her colleague. Suddenly I knew there was alien dickery afoot. The colleague broke the news. My trusted coach and counselor, the one person who always gave me validation and encouragement, had come down with flu-like symptoms two weeks ago.

Then she died.

It was some sort of bizarre infection that led to renal failure. I’m mourning the loss of her, and the huge help she’s given me the last four years. I’m having a good cry right now.

Who’s Mocking Who?

But it occurs to me that there is some form of dickery afoot. Because this renal failure happened to a very important person in my life.

Named Rena.

Yes, let that sink in. Rena died of Renal Failure.

Tragedy or a New Beginning?

At first I thought it was some cosmic message that her time had come, and now it was time for me to sprout my wings and fly on my own. To the next level. To greater success and happiness. So I won’t be Rena’s Failure.

I’m crying again, knowing that a good woman, who helped me and many other people, was cut down in her prime, while she was still healthy and very productive. If this is a new beginning, why does it feel so bad?

Because that’s not what this is. I now know this for what it really is.

It is Alien Dickery Afoot.

So What Now?

All we People of Earth can do at this point, is band together, forget our differences, and fight off the pending invasion. Laugh and cry at the alien dickery afoot that fills us with encouragement one minute, and despair the next.

That, and follow along on TBS Monday nights to find out what Ozzie and friends will do to save themselves. Have yourself a good laugh.

Meanwhile, I’ll have a good cry. For Rena. She taught me Yiddish and how to go easy on myself. My mentor and cheerleader, Rena saw  my humor as my greatest weapon to fight the battles in my life.

She’d approve of my irreverent tone here, and encourage me to find the humor in all of life’s pain. It’s what I’ll need to do now to get by without her. I’ll cry for a while, then I’ll find a way to laugh.

At those fucking aliens, their dickery, and my foot!

5 Strong Manic Impressives You Should Know And Love

I’m often surprised when people who seem much different from me (together, disciplined, grown up) admit to sharing my Manic traits. Since it’s sometimes hard to identify someone’s style, I thought I’d give you some examples. So for purely academic reasons, here are 5 strong Manic Impressives you should know and love.

Popeye The Sailor Man

Popeye showed several strong Manic Impressive traits. He was an advocate for others with a strong sense of justice.  He was assertive, and would take action when others wouldn’t. While they cowered and ducked for cover, Popeye stepped up to take down the bully.

And he had a strong sense of self. With his own personal branding statement, “I Yam What I Yam,” Popeye was a strong, confident, somewhat existential, working class poet-philosopher.

He was also a bit forgetful and got in his own way. Ever watch him babysit Sweat Pea? Constantly allowing that tyke to wander into traffic, construction sites, and other life-threatening situations.

And yes, he was a substance user. Possibly an abuser. But like all Manics, Popeye needed to be inspired to perform. It may seem like a weakness, but let’s face it, when Popeye downed his spinach, he always kicked ass. He made no excuses for it either – it was right there in his theme song – “I’m strong to the finish, when I eats my spinach, I’m Popeye the Sailorman!”

Peter ‘StarLord’ Quill, Guardians Of The Galaxy

“Starlord” as he wants to be called, models Manic behavior in several ways. He is a rule breaker. He is a smartass. He starts out as a delinquent and falls into his role of Guardian by accident. He usually means well, but often falls victim to his bad habits and dysfunctional childhood.

And like Popeye, he relies heavily on inspiration. But instead of using a substance to trigger his inspiration, StarLord’s trigger of choice is music. This is an extremely Manic trait.

But not just any music. The R&B pop hits from the 70’s, the favorite music of his mother, who died when StarLord was just a kid. There’s a reason Manic Impressives can never seem to get enough attention, and it’s often rooted in childhood abandonment issues.  This guy is a classic Freudian fuck-up hero.

But like most Manics he is completely loveable. Even when he’s breaking all the rules, you just want him to win. Because he’s a scamp, he’s audacious, he thumbs his nose at authority, and he loves his mama. All the qualities we love in a hero.

Anthony Dinozo Jr., NCIS

You may not have realized this one because he’s in the by-the-book field of law enforcement, he’s a former jock and, yes ladies, he’s extremely handsome. But look at his behavior on the job. He’s a classic smartass constantly needling his co-workers and getting slapped in the back of the head by his boss.

Tony is irritating.  He gets under people’s skin with his constant razing and hazing. But he’s impressive. Not as a specialist like his computer geek sidekick or martial arts badass love interest. He’s a generalist who uses his intuition and perception to solve murders and identify the killers.

He too uses the arts as inspiration, and often makes breakthroughs in a case with his extensive knowledge and obsession with cinema, often to the great annoyance of those around him. To them it looks like he’s screwing around. But he’s actually using his knowledge of popular culture to think outside the box, in a highly imaginative way.

Tony, though often inappropriately playful at work, is a strong leader. But his antics lead others to underestimate his work ethic and intelligence. A true Manic Impressive, he never lets the seriousness of his profession get in the way of a good time.

Deadpool

Wade Wilson, former Special Forces badass turned super-antihero, is a vulgar smartass. And like most Manic Impressives, he uses his biting, dark humor as a weapon, and also as a shield, to protect his tender feelings and insecurities.

He is one seriously fucked-up dude, having become a mutant in an effort to cure his terminal cancer. But the disfigurement caused by his treatment creates incredible self-doubt, a trait common among Manics. So he covers it up with his costume and his raging sarcasm.

Deadpool’s need for revenge drives him to do regrettable things, and to many people he comes across as a total a-hole. But underneath his mask is a deeply misunderstood soul that longs for the intimacy he constantly pushes away in his relationships.

But oh is he impressive. Not just in his fighting ability and his quest for justice. He is impressive with words. His profane, guttural, wicked humor puts him in a class all his own. This guy is hilarious, with a wit sharper than his weapons of choice  – two razor-sharp Japanese katanas. Deadpool is a deadly smartass’ smartass.

Captain Benjamin Franklin “Hawkeye” Pierce, MASH

Hawkeye Pierce, an amazingly skilled physician, was the heart and soul of the team at the 4077 Mobile Army Surgical Hospital. Though an inveterate rule breaker and prankster, Hawkeye was a dedicated, conscientious, and deeply caring man.

He just found the conditions of a field unit in the Korean War too much to bear at times, and did what any good Manic Impressive would. He attacked the stupidity of the army rule-makers and installed a moonshine martini still in his tent.

He never lost sight of his mission, to care for the sick and wounded, but he went out of his way to poke fun at his leaders and make an untenable situation  as human and compassionate as possible. This meant taking on every chance to seek justice, and making a pass at every attractive woman in sight.

Without Hawkeye’s brashness, the downtrodden and low-ranking personnel would have had to suffer in silence. But he was their champion and took his role seriously, in true Manic fashion. He mocked, ridiculed, pranked and shamed anyone who put rules above logic, and order above decency.

Hawkeye was a strong leader, and a huge smartass. But everyone loved him for it, and the show (and movie) would have been unwatchable without him.

Leading By Example

All five of these fictional characters were strong leaders, and constantly put themselves in the spotlight when it mattered most. They sacrificed their own comfort to make life better for others, and took advantage of every opportunity to seek justice and punch lines.

If all of us can just channel their energy, bravado and humor in our daily lives, the world would be a much happier and funnier place.

 

 

 

How To Find Lost Things

How To Find Lost ThingsManic Impressives often struggle with things. Organizing them. Keeping track of them. And often, finding them. It is estimated that the average Manic Impressive will spend 7.2 years* of his or her life searching for lost things. (*Okay, I totally made this up.) Which is why we need to know how to find lost things.

The answer can be found in the second act of the cinematic gem, “Dude Where’s My Car?” Ashton Kutcher and Seann Willam Scott play stoner party boys that come out to the curb after a night of fierce partying to find their car is missing.

After Ashton delivers the movie’s title line, Seann gives him the solution that all of us need to use whenever we lose something:

“We need to get back into the state of mind we were in last night. That way we can retrace our steps. Sense memory, simulated perception, altered conscious memory retrieval. Discovery Channel.”

Yes, Discovery Channel indeed. Continue reading How To Find Lost Things

Always Think Before You Move

Always think before you move - Cuba Gooding Jr. as Eugene BrownEugene Brown screwed up bigtime. He landed in prison for 18 years for sticking up a bank. But in prison he got lucky. He had a mentor who taught him to play chess, and to always think before you move.

This became the metaphor Eugene used to earn his redemption.

He used it to reflect on the decisions that led him to prison. He stopped blaming others, took responsibility for his actions, and began to work on himself. Playing chess helped.

He learned to see all the possible moves on the board, then to make moves based on smart decisions. Which moves would strengthen his position? Which sacrifices were worth making? Which gambits could he afford to offer or accept?

Always Think Before You Move

I learned about Eugene Brown lying on my couch watching the movie of this life story, Life of a King, starring Cuba Gooding Jr. It was pretty damn inspiring.

Every move in a chess game, like every move in life,  has consequences. Continue reading Always Think Before You Move

Time To Count Your Blessings

Count Your BlessingsA major tragedy hit the Bay Area last Friday night. A fire broke out in a warehouse with 36 people trapped inside. Known as the Ghost Ship, this building was home to a collective of young artists and musicians who’d built a community to support the arts. Sadly, this was a preventable tragedy and there will be plenty of blame to go around. But while this community mourns its loss, it’s time for you to count your blessings.

Major events like this cause us to check ourselves, and be grateful that we aren’t the folks suffering the loss. But the idea to count your blessings has far-reaching benefits beyond the momentary display of empathy for others.

Successful people make a practice of looking back each year to acknowledge where they’ve done well. They feel gratitude and give thanks. But they don’t do this because they’re touchy-feely types trying to game their way into Heaven.  They do it because when you count your blessings, you receive more blessings.

What?

Yeah, that’s right. The more grateful you are, the more you’ll have to be grateful for. There are two ways to see this:

1) The more you focus on the good things in your life, the more good things you’ll see. This will put your mind in receive mode for good ideas and opportunities.  Next thing you know you’re coming up with all kinds of good ideas, and your confidence and positivity will attract people to you. They will tell you YES.

2) Sometimes we get so focused on what we’re not achieving, we get down on ourselves. We don’t see what’s right with things, and while we’re bemoaning our poor fortune, good fortune passes us by. Because when a pissy attitude leaks out, it will repel people from you. They will tell you NO.

It’s Like That Febreze Commercial

Continue reading Time To Count Your Blessings

The Reverse Of An Idea Almost Lost the Series

The Reverse of an IdeaAll Hail the Chicago Cubs. After more than a century of futility and broken dreams, Cubs fans are dancing on Waveland Avenue. Their team finally overcame the curse of the Billy Goat and Steve Bartman to win their first World Series title in 108 years.

Last night’s Game 7 was a nail biter for Chicago fans. The Cubs blew a 3-run lead late in the game. Closer Aroldis Chapman made a mistake, throwing low and inside, right into Rajai Davis’ wheelhouse. Davis hit it out of the park, sending the game to extra innings and Chapman to the bench.

Fortunately for him, the Cubs rallied in the 10th, and from the dugout Chapman watched his teammates pull out the game and win the series.

The same thing happened in the 1957 World Series. In the 9th inning of Game 4, Hall of Fame Braves pitcher Warren Spahn was trying not to blow a 3-run lead. With two men on and two outs, Yankee slugger Elston Howard stepped to the plate. Braves manager Fred Haney came out to the mound to give Spahn this helpful advice: Continue reading The Reverse Of An Idea Almost Lost the Series

From Goat To Hero in 5 Innings Or Less…

sfworldseriesringcpIt’s the MLB playoffs and I have to give a shout-out to my SF Giants. They beat the NY Mets last night in a one-game wild card playoff, their first step to getting back to the World Series. Madison Bumgarner pitched a complete game shut-out and Conor Gillaspie hit a 3-run homer to win it in the 9th. It was a very exciting finish.

I write this mainly to get a rise out of my cousin, a die-hard Mets fan. But I also write this because of a Manic Impressive baseball moment I witnessed 30 years ago.

On September 14th, 1986, San Francisco Giants’ manager Roger Craig made a fateful decision. He asked his catcher, Bob Brenly, to cover third base for an injured player in a game against the Braves. This set the stage for one of most stunning personal performances in Major League Baseball history.

To that point in the season, Bob led the National League with only 3 errors in 101 games as a catcher. But in the fourth inning, Brenly tied a Major League record. He committed four errors on just three plays, allowing the Braves to score 4 unearned runs. It was the lowest point in his 871-game MLB career.

Back in the dugout Bob did not hang his head. Nor did he lose his temper like his teammates expected. “I was known to take my anger out on the bat rack,” Brenly said with a laugh. “I think they were expecting a snap.”

What happened next was pretty strange. Continue reading From Goat To Hero in 5 Innings Or Less…

4 Advantages Olympians Have Over You And Why It’s Okay

OlympicRingsNo matter how cynical I’m feeling about the world, when the Olympics come round every fourth year I get fired up. Those athletes living out their dreams on my TV gets me shouting USA, USA, USA!

Sure, their stories of sacrifice and triumph can seem cliche. But don’t you love seeing hard work get rewarded on the world stage like I do? Of course you do. Just make sure you don’t compare yourself to them, because it’s just not fair.

Olympians have huge advantages over you.

They have incredible athletic genes. You’re built for comfort, not speed. They look good in skin-tight spandex no retail clerk should ever be allowed to sell you. And besides their natural talents, Olympians have four huge advantages over us Manic Impressives.

1) Super Successful Parents – No offense, but your parents are kind of lame compared to the parents of Olympians. These parents get up early to take their kids to practice, work two jobs to pay for gear, and are disciplined, motivated role models.

Many are stud athletes like Michele Carter’s dad. Michele was the first American woman to win gold in the shot put since 1948. Her dad Michael Carter won the silver in shot put back in 1984, then won 3 Super Bowl rings with the San Francisco Forty Niners.

Your dad’s got a league bowling trophy, does he? Sorry, not in the same galaxy. Stop embarrassing yourself. Continue reading 4 Advantages Olympians Have Over You And Why It’s Okay

How Visualization Saved Me From Failing

airport+parking+free+parking+generic+lotManic Impressives are brilliant with words and ideas. But we often struggle with things. Especially the organization of things. Given our special relationship with time, showing up on time with everything we need is something we can never take for granted.

Which is why my recent trip was challenging all my weaknesses.

After 15 minutes trolling the gigantic airport lot, I found a parking spot, gathered my things and headed toward the shuttle bus. Backpack over my shoulder, suitcase in one hand, the other hand swinging free. Halfway from my car to the shuttle my free hand signaled my brain – “Hey, where’s the thing I’m supposed to be holding?”

Crap, left my horn in the trunk! How could I? I was heading to a gig and had spent hours practicing. How could I forget?

I hustled back to the car, grabbed the case, and made it to the shuttle feeling a bit stupid. But then I started feeling smart again. I hadn’t failed. I had remembered. But how had I remembered? Continue reading How Visualization Saved Me From Failing