Monday, October 15, 2007

Yes, Another Blog

I've done this twice before, this starting of a new blog. Once to start American Stranger, and the other to bring my old blog into the 21st century.

Now I think I need to do it again. Why?

- This blog is too vague. What is it about? It's called Truth, for christ's sake. What does that even mean? I review books, movies, talk about baseball, finances, writing, reading, stuff that happens, etc. I need to focus on something more specific.

- It's not organized enough. Whenever I get the itch to post something I do. If not, the blog goes untouched. I want to be more serious about it.

- Not that many people are reading it. This really doesn't bother me that much but when I see other blogs that are getting 2,000–3,000 views a month consistently, it makes me really envious. Why don't I have that kind of readership? No promotion. No part of an online community or network. Why? What am I going to tell other bloggers about my site, "It's about everything!" Not gonna work.

So what's the new blog going to be about? Well, I was thinking of calling it The Writer's Wallet, so I could talk about writing, everything that comes with being a writer, the career choices that need to be made, but also the financial side of it. Saving money and preparing for retirement. That pretty much covers everything I'm really excited about right now. But that blog already exists, here. The weird thing is, the blogger is in her 20s, has an MA in Writing, and lives in Chicago.


Anyway, I'm looking to really take this seriously and do it on my own url name and everything. It's going to be a lot of work but I think it's the right direction to go on.

I'll probably still post stuff on here until I get the new one going. Any ideas for a name?

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Friday, October 12, 2007

Classical Rhetoric in Advertising

My Grad School professor would be so proud . . .

By the way though, seriously, if you ever read some of the classic Greek texts you will hear an eerie echo to all the lawyer shows on TV, it's really creepy. Those guys were doing it throughout their lives, not just in the courtroom. Speaking and communicating effectively was the equivalent of being famous today: everyone wants to be it.

Taking your Bankers for a Ride

This article is short, sweet, and not all that deep—perfect for it to appeal to a mass of readers.

I like it because I'm sick of reading all the articles of how credit-card companies are robbing us and how banks are robbing us with their fees and how "poor us."


Here is what a responsible person can do.

- Pay with your credit card all you want, but pay it all off and enjoy the various rewards programs available (HINT: Cash is always your best option).

- Keep your money in a high-yield savings account that earns between 4-5 percent.

Just those two things. It's a start, so if you don't do this already, master it before you move on to investing that money.

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Wednesday, October 10, 2007


Here is an interesting article on a new way to gauge if/how people like ads.

It seems like a great way to overcome that whole dishonesty that people can have when asked a direct question about a product or experience.

This way what they say can be matched up with what's going on in the brain to find out what kind of reaction the ad/product really caused, thus allowing marketers to fine tune their message/product.

Google Maps brings creepy to Chicago

So Google Maps has finally brought their nifty little Streetview feature to Chicago. It's pretty crazy and I'm sure the stories of people finding themselves on there aren't far behind (no luck yet finding myself though).

Big Brother comes to Chicago!

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Monday, October 8, 2007

Becoming an Expert

So here's a really interesting article about becoming an expert at something (anything, but mostly focused on sports, music, and writing) by practicing it. Not just doing it passively but by something called "deliberate practice:"

Deliberate practice is just this:

  1. performing your skill (or, more typically, a piece of it)
  2. monitoring your performance
  3. evaluating your success
  4. figuring out how to do it better

This is something I've always been interested going back to my baseball days but more recently when I was trying to learn to play the guitar and learning to play golf.

The key part of practicing seems to be making it constructive. That is, monitoring and evaluating to see how it can be done better. But it's difficult when you're doing something "fun" with other people because you want to a) win and b) have fun. So it's tough to get better when you're trying to do those two things.

The article quotes a huge (44 pages) academic study that I printed out and will try to get through because it's just a very interesting topic for me. The guy talks about becoming an expert writer and how writing for that website he gets to practice and by reading reader's comments he can gauge how he's doing in terms of getting better or not.

Which, honestly, is the whole reason why I started a website and then this blog. But it sucks because I haven't gotten enough people to visit the site and I guess haven't compelled them enough to leave comments on the issue or the writing.

I've been thinking of posting some of the stories that I've run through the submission process (for publication) and don't think are going to be pushed anymore. Maybe stories are more likely to stir up some comments rather than inane talk about random subjects.

But we'll just have to wait and see.

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Spreading the Love

A couple of weeks ago I lent DFW's A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again, the book that got me started on his writing.

And today he told me he's done with it and laughed out loud at the title essay of the book, and that overall he enjoyed the book a lot.

It was genuine and he wasn't trying to mollify me or anything.

There's no better feeling than spreading writing that you think is fantastic and having that person enjoy it.


So I was reading Fiasco, which is about the US invasion and occupation in Iraq. I don't like all the rhetoric that is associated with Iraq, no matter which political side it's coming from, but I was hoping the book was something like Imperial Life in the Emerald City, which I really enjoyed.

And I was, for a minute. It's a very thorough book. He goes back and looks at what the experts said in the papers and in the news, so it's very interesting to see how sure they were of their opinions and how that unfolded.

But it was too much for me, I ended up skimming the last parts of it.

I get it: They fucked up big time. They should've paid more attention to the occupation part of the plan, and once they took down the regime they should've been less aggressive towards the Iraqi people.

I get it, and this book hammers the points home with way too much data and information. I just got tired of it after a while. The individual experiences of some of the soldiers are pretty compelling, but for each one of those there is a long, drawn out tiff between two high-level officials: one that was right and the other that was wrong.

So I didn't really read it all the way through. Then I moved on to Confessions of an Economic Hitman, which I had wanted to read for a while because I thought it would help me get into the mood to write this story I've been thinking about.

But it was disappointing. I never got into it and I dropped it.

And, of course, I felt guilty. I don't like leaving books unread like that.

But you know what, it's OK. I realized that when I'm leaving work and not really looking forward to getting home and reading, it's not a good sign. Forcing myself to get through a tedious book or one that isn't meeting my expectations is stupid.

There are too many great books out there to waste time on lame ones.

So now I'm onto How Soccer Explains the World, recommended by Nelson. Just started it, but so far it's promising.

But just in case I have The Braindead Megaphone waiting in the wings. Nothing like a little George Saunders to get me to switch books.

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Chicago Marathon

I was surprised at how many people didn't see the ending to the marathon yesterday. I always try to at least watch the ending of either the Boston Marathon or the Chicago Marathon if that's where I'm living.

And yesterday was a doozy.

Unfortunately, the death of a runner to due heat exhaustion and a pre-existing heart condition, ended up overshadowing the incredible finish of both the men's and the women's race.

The gist:

For the men's, it was down to two men and I was of course rooting for the underdog (U). The U was starting to fall behind as the finish line loomed and then out of nowhere he starts to sprint and they both cross the line at the exact same line. Seriously people, it was a photo-finish to a freakin' marathon! I was yelling at the screen the whole time and after a few minutes finally there was a shot that showed that U indeed took the race.


Then the ladies. It was down to two of them as well. One, the experienced (E) woman who had won several races before and is well known. Running behind her was the Rookie (R), who was running her very first marathon, was keeping up with her.

Now, I don't know what kind of sexual-orientation stereotypes are out there for female marathoners (if any) but with around 15-20 minutes left R took off and left E in the dust. Which cued the gushing from one of the female commentators on TV. She was talking about how perfect her form was, her abs were so perfect, her determination is incredible—she basically had her on the covers of magazines and all kinds of ludicrous stuff like that.

And of course I was cheering on, her being the kind of uber-underdog of the contest. And then reports from further back in the race came that E was hurting and slowing down, that the distance was impossible to overcome.

Ten minutes later another report: she's looking stronger, better, but still, no chance.

Then we get to the last 3-4 minutes of the race and you still can't see E. R is coming down the final stretch and she's HIGH FIVING people in the crowd. Which kind of gave me a little bit of pause, as in, "wait a minute, underdogs don't do that."

Then she starts waving at the crowd.

Then WAY in the back you see what looks like a newborn, uncoordinated (but FAST) horse is barreling down the street. And R has no idea because there are a couple of men also running in the vicinity. And she's coming harder and harder and I'm thinking NO FUCKING WAY!

And then with like 10 yards left R catches a glance to her right and sees E and she panics and tries to sprint the last section but NOT IN TIME! E TAKES IT HANDILY! (then she passed out on the pavement and the look on R's face is one of those that will become Marathon lore for years to come)

I was yelling at the screen NO WAY NO WAY NO WAY!!!

I'm all about the underdog but yesterday I learned there's something I like better: the impossible becoming possible in front of my eyes.

Thursday, October 4, 2007


So yesterday I'm getting out of a cab and I see there's a wallet sitting there that doesn't belong to me. It's a fancy Prada wallet and in a split second I decide to take it instead of giving it to the cab driver.

Minutes later I rifle through it and find a driver's license and a business card. It's a woman's, a lawyer. So I call her up and she has no idea that she's lost her wallet. She seems vaguely concerned about the whole thing but praises my honesty in a a kind of general way. Like maybe she's happy she'll get her wallet back.

So I call her later in the day on her cell phone and she picks up:

Who is this?



Carlos . . . the wallet guy? (and here I'm standing on a crowded platform)

Oh right! Listen I'm having lunch right now with a wonderful friend of mine here in Little Italy and then we're driving around in his spectacular convertible.

That sounds . . . awesome.

Great! I'll come to you then, OK?


(talking to her "date"): No it's the man who found my wallet. Isn't he a lovely person? Isn't that great?

See you later.

So this is the type of person that can actually afford to lose her wallet and not even worry about it and also is the type of person who lays it on real thick. The way people in authority feel they have to treat their underlings (kind of like children) to "keep them happy." They feel they are genuine too, which couldn't be more wrong.

So she shows up in the sports car and a short red skirt (I knew she was at least 50 from her driver's license) but when I see her face you can see she's had major work done. She kind of scared of being in the River North area and kind of nervous talking to me, a stranger who works in that area. She's shy but thankful then waves some money in my face.

Please take it! Please, take some money!

No really that's OK.

No! Please!

(the money is in my face)

So I take it and wonder if she can see in my face that I considered—for a split second—to just take the 60 bucks in the wallet and throw the rest in the trash somewhere, or burn it. But that's just not me.

So now I have a pretty good story to tell and 20 bucks to spare.

It ain't 60 bucks but I'd rather have 20 and the story.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Taxing Marijuana and Morals

Here is a nice little article about a new study that shows how much money could be made from taxing this drug ($31 billion).

The article itself is pretty interesting in that it's a serious study about marijuana, which I think is good. But it reminds me of a book I'm reading right now called Fiasco, in that certain people's morals or convictions just won't allow for reasoning.

In the book's case, officials wouldn't admit that their Iraq strategy is/was wrong and needed to be changed because that would imply a mistake had been made. Instead, they felt that it was more important to portray an image of confidence and strength to the American public, no matter how right or wrong it may be.

Same thing happens with marijuana—it will never be legally taxed or legalized because government leaders feel that it implies that drug use is OK.

That just won't fly in the Bible belt.

So it's unfortunate that sometimes good solutions will never be considered because of moral issues that just fog up the whole deal.

I remember having arguments with people about legalization and I tried to draw an analogy with alcohol. The other person vehemently said that it was different because alcohol was legal, hence OK. That it was an American tradition, and that alcohol was totally different.

What about prohibition, I said?

It's not prohibited anymore, he said.

Letting the government tell you what is legal and illegal is correct, but letting them tell you what is moral and immoral just doesn't make sense.

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Sunday, September 30, 2007

Blades of Glory—Review

It's a Will Ferrell movie.

That's how all his movies are defined and for the most part it's pretty accurate (except for Stranger Than Fiction).

This one is reminds me of Talladega Nights, which I fell asleep an hour into it.

It's not that I'm not a Ferrell fan, but his kind of humor doesn't evolve from movie to movie, from decade to decade. It's like watching Saturday Night Live.

Ten years ago.

There were actually a couple of funny moments here, no thanks to either of the leads (Napoleon Dynamite is the other lead). There is a sequence where the man-on-man partnership on the ice is ridiculed, and one "fan" shows a hot dog bun with two wieners in it and says "It's just not natural," or something like that.

That was pretty funny.

The other moment is reminiscent of The Pamchenko Maneuver from that old-school skating movie where the hockey player and the ice-skating girl get together (this movie is basically a remake of that movie, The Cutting Edge, but with two guys).

Grainy footage shows a pair of skaters in Korea trying to do the move and he ends up decapitating his partner.

That's the other funny part.

The last 20 minutes or so were pretty entertaining because I kept trying to think of a worse movie. I didn't fall asleep, I didn't turn it off, I watched it all the way to the end. So I figured there had to have been something worse.

So those 20 minutes went by pretty fast. Then it was over and Mindy and I looked at each other and gave each other a visual "WOW."

As in, Wow, that sucked.

Wow, that was not funny.

Wow, I may be done with Will Ferrell.

Perfect Stranger—Review

This one is starring Halle Berry and Bruce Willis, so it's kind of like "Ok, I don't really remember hearing a lot of buzz about this movie, but it can't be that bad if those two are in it."


I was shocked when Halle Berry won her Oscar for her role in Monster's Ball, all she did was shoot a pretty crazy fake-sex scene. Other than that, not much to it. This movie really doesn't show how well Halle Berry can act. She is certainly not Oscar caliber in my performance, but she's way better than this. And honestly, so it Bruce Willis.

This movie feels like a midnight-on-USA type movie, only the "fucks" and curses aren't edited out with ridiculous voice acting. The script is terrible, the dialog is cheesy, and the acting is abhorrent.

The whole time I was thinking to myself, "This movie was written by either the female lead (who is a journalist/feminist wannabe) or the male half-lead (nerdy computer guy who never gets the girl but is deep down disturbed).

I settled for the latter. The words that are put into the females in this movie sound like something out of an old comic book. In fact, that's probably where this guy who wrote the story got it from.

Lame lame lame.

The ending is an attempt at a "you'll never guess this" twist, which was successful for the most part, but then I read that there are three other alternative endings that have each one of the other main characters as the "bad guy." So the producers just picked the most surprising ending, figuring that it was the only thing that would make this totally cliche and awful, which it still is.

This is the most fabricated, unauthentic movie I have seen in a long long time. The characters are hollow and the plot is thin. Stay away.