Productive Procrastination

As any language learning guru can tell you, the most important part of language learning is consistency.

The biggest enemy of consistency is procrastination.

Two of the worst ways you can procrastinate is by playing video games and spending time on social media.

So how do I beat my procrastination on language learning? By playing video games and using social media. Let me explain.

A Primer

First, let me explain how I have learned languages. Like Luca Lampariello says, there is no “one way” to learn a language. You need to do several things, several methods, to learn a language. Attack the language from all angles. So when someone asks you what’s the secret and best way to learn a language the best, and most honest, answer is that there are several. There is no one way. You have to try (and fail) at several methods and then find the ones that work for you. For me, that has been Pimsleur.

Pimsleur is an audio only way of learning. Sure, they have some written options to read, but those are weak in my opinion. Actually, I feel they’re not needed. Pimsleur is my go to because it I like to learn like I did as a child; by repeating what I hear.

I do this over and over until it starts to stick. I try and do one, maybe two a day. Do I repeat lessons? If I feel I didn’t absorb the lesson in its entirety. Which means, yes, I listen to each unit more than once. Slowly but surely, I make my way up through the units.

But there’s a problem. I get bored. I need to do something with my hands. If I’m bored and fidgety, I don’t want to do the task. So I give my task–my stick–a carrot.

Before I explain what I do to turn the task from stick to carrot, I just want to emphasize that I am still not learning how to read and write the target language with Pimsleur.

How I Have Fun With Pimsleur

I have a problem. Well, actually, I have several. I have severe anxiety and I have hemophilia. The hemophilia has ruined my ability to walk and my anxiety makes it hard for me to be in a car or train. What does walking and being in a transport have to do with language learning? Well, since Pimsleur is an audio based way of learning, people usually do the units while running or driving, two things I am unable to do at this time of my life.

So what I started doing was playing mindless video games while doing my Pimsleur lessons. I cannot stress this enough, the game needs to be mindless. Like a fidget spinner. Something to keep your fingers and thumbs busy, your eyes focused while able to focus on listening and repeating the lessons.

My go to games are; for PC Euro Truck Simulator 2 and for PS4 Elite Dangerous. If I need to play on my phone, I just do 2048.

For those of you that are gamers, you know that Euro Truck Simulator 2 and Elite Dangerous are transport games. You pick up and drop off stuff. That’s it. Euro Truck Simulator 2 is with semitrucks, Elite Dangerous is in spaceships.

When I turn on these games I always pause my audio lessons when I’m in menus or making decisions. Again, I cannot stress enough that your main focus needs to be listening and repeating the audio files. Once I’m all setup and ready to go, I then begin my drive, either through Europe or Space, and do my lesson. Again, always pausing the audio if something on the screen needs my attention.

I can do three units of Pimselur, no problem, just by transporting fake stuff on a screen.

What if you’re not into transporting stuff? Other famous mindless games are Diablo III and Stardew Valley although I don’t like either. Just a taste preference I guess. A lot of people will play games they’ve mastered. Sports games like FIFA or FPS like Call of Duty. I’ve tried it but I find that I focus too much on the gameplay so I stick to my transport games.

What games are right for you? Well, it doesn’t need to be a game. If you’re an audiobook listener or podcast listener just substitue that time with Pimsleur. Boom. You’re rocking and rolling.

While this has been great to learn how to speak and understand a language (I also listen to podcasts in my target language at half speed but that comes later) I was still stuck on not knowing how to read or write in my target language.

How I’m Learning To Read And Write In French

Social media is bad. Just, horrible. It maybe has a few good things to it but for the most part, it’s just brain poison. And the worst platform is probably Twitter. So, as you might have guessed, I’m using Twitter to learn how to speak and write French.

First thing you need to do is, create a separate account from your personal Twitter account. You want there to be a defined space, especially for your target language. It deserves the respect of you not goofing off.

What’s amazing is, the Internet has made the world so small, it’s great!

Like most American men my passion and love are American sports. Before the Internet, how could I find stuff like that in my target language? Now, with Twitter, I follow nothing but French language accounts that cover American sports. There’s a wonderful community in Europe that love basketball, baseball and American football. These guys and gals wake up super early to watch games and then they tweet about them.

If you’re not familiar with Twitter, it’s a place where lonely people talk to themselves. I’m kidding but not really. It is a public journal that has interaction with it. You can tweet away all day about whatever’s on your mind and no one will care. Then, when you feel comfortable, you can start communicating with other accounts.

Again, my niche is American sports so it’s very focused. It’s a bunch of French people talking about the NBA, NFL, and MLB. Plus, Twitter has a Google translate button on every tweet on my iPhone. Sometimes, I tweet with no Google translate but most times I do. The more I tweet and read, the more I see that I am using the translation crutch less and less.

Now, I also buy bilingual audiobooks with PDFs attached to them in my target language, something I couldn’t do before. It snowballs.

In Conclusion

You can learn a language by making it more fun. Just as people listen to music when they exercise or do chores, I play mindless games or read and right about sports… in my target language. I’m goofing off while learning a language. I’m not some genius who has come upon some secret. Just Google HABIT STACKING and you’ll find tons of articles and videos on this very subject. This is how I habit stack my language learning. I play mindless video games while I listen to Pimsleur or listen to podcasts in my L2 at a slower speed. Or I read and write in my target language while following my niche passion, sports.

What do you do to make your language learning more fun?

Writing Journal for August 2015

phontoAs you may have guessed by now, for the past few years I have been pursuing my dream of becoming a novelist.

I’ll get right to it. What I plan on doing at the beginning of every month is putting out how much I write each day. As you’ll see by the small amount of time I actually write, this is not to brag but more so to keep track and hold myself accountable to writing.

I expect these monthly posts to be pretty short with just the numbers for the most part but since this is my first one, I think I’ll go a little bit more deep into what I’m doing everyday.

First of all, where I’ve been and where I am.

I’ve been telling people that I have been writing my book for about four to six years. I’ve been saying that because that’s just what felt right. More time than not I was not writing. My writing would go in spurts. I’d right everyday for a week (Yay! I’ll be the next Mexican Stephen King in no time!) to not writing a single word for months (Boo! I’m a failure. I suck at everything). This stop and go — sputtering — was what I have been doing for the past two and-a-half years. Yup. I was wrong. I haven’t been writing my stupid book for six years. It’s been closer to half. It’s just felt long.

Actually, I have the exact date of when I took my writing seriously.

My buddy, Joe Daigneault, told me to by a book called Bird by Bird. So I did. I just never read it.

A few months later and a few books more I had a serious talk with myself. I was done goofing around. I needed to stop reading about theory and actually gets some words down on paper. So on March 17th, 2013 on bought a book called The 90-Day Novel (Don’t worry. I’m not some weirdo who has that date memorized, I just looked it up on Amazon).

At first, the first few days were a God’s send. I was actually writing! But then, like always, I just burnt out. But it did light a fire under my butt that I could do this and, more importantly, enjoy it.

So fast forward a few years and I am now nearing the end of finishing my novel.

Feels weird even saying that, but yeah, it’s true.

So, without further ado, here are how the stats are gonna work.

First of all, all these numbers will go towards my work in progress or journaling. Not e-mails or blog posts or anything like that. Just pure writing. And before you say, “But how is journaling writing?” it’s a very important way for me to start writing. I’m actually planning on releasing a (smaller) book made up of these thoughts because I wrote another book while journaling. It’ll be a non-fiction book that will hopefully help people get over their would be dreams and making those dreams into a reality. Sort of a self help book.

Even though I haven’t journaled much in the past few months (I’ve been piecing all the blocks of writing that I had and then filling in the blanks) I know that as soon as I’m done with this book I’m probably gonna be “stuck” and need my journaling to get out of that, so that’s why I’m leaving it there. It’ll make more sense once my non-fiction book comes out but, until then, you’re just gonna have to trust me.

Now, the math. There will be two parts to it. One is editing and the other one is actually writing new words. I can write between 500 to a 1,000 words in about a half hour. So if a normal book is 80,000 to 120,000 words long (average is 100,000) that’s about a little over three months to write a book at just a half hour a day. I look at Facebook more than that.

But what about editing? Well, editing is a bit tricky. You see, all editing is is, reading. That’s it. All I’m doing is just rereading what I wrote. Now, some days when I do my editing I may add a few sentences and erase a paragraph or two here and there, so my “word count” will be extremely high. But again, I wasn’t actually writing for the most part, I was mostly reading.

There are other times that I sit down to edit, start writing, and then don’t stop. The editing has gone to the writing world.

Most times this than not it’s a mix of the two. So the important thing is to actually do it. Now that I am editing, my writing has become better and faster. When you have all this writing that needs to get a pass, it feels as if you have a mountain of a to-do list, so big, you don’t even want to touch it. So now that I am doing this, my writing has improved, both in substance and in speed.

Since I edit faster than I write, here is my new daily goal. My high end goal is to write 1,000 words per day and edit 1,500. My low goal is either or. Either write 1,000 words per day or just do some editing. But at the end, I’m aiming for that half hour mark. And yes, my goal is to push it. I’d love to be able to sit down and write for two hours straight. Hopefully I can get there sooner than later but for now, it’s just skipping a TV show and just writing.

One last thing. I’m also keeping track of the time. I am finding that my usual time to write is about seven pm or later. Right now its eleven at night and I’m having a blast at writing. I find that I can’t write during work hours, even if I have the day off or some extra free time. For some reason my mind feels that my writing isn’t work so I can’t make myself do it during the day without a cloud of guilt hanging over me. So instead I write in the evenings and weekends. I love the weekends the most since I get so much more writing done.

Okay, enough yapping. Let’s get to the numbers shall we? And remember, I just started this so that’s why the numbers for August are so slim.

Do not take WPH into account, just the Daily Count and Monthly Words. WPH is just a speed thing that is attached to this spreadsheet I downloaded.


Start Time Sprint Duration (In minutes) Starting Count Ending Count Daily Count WPH Monthly Words: 7,294 Date
10:52 8 219 219 1,643 26th
17:29 32 939 939 1,761
21:39 24 628 628 1,570
15:18 35 1026 1,026 1,759 27th
22:18 36 1078 1,078 1,797
8:52 12 397 397 1,985 28th
19:39 21 527 527 1,506
20:55 25 576 576 1,382
18:52 15 527 527 2,108 29th
18:09 15 386 386 1,544 31st
18:46 7 163 163 1,397
18:55 15 470 470 1,880
15 358 358 1,432


Start Time Sprint Duration (In minutes) Starting Count Ending Count Daily Count WPH Monthly Words: 8,417 Date
10:35 7 572 572 4,903 26th
21:27 8 1385 1,385 10,388
22:56 14 2,125 2,125 9,107 27th
19:27 11 101 101 551 28th
20:01 4 679 679 10,185
1936 21 801 801 2,289 29th
1957 26 2088 2,088 4,818
2052 3 666 666 13,320

What to Really Expect When the Pope Visits America

The U.S. flag is seen as Pope Francis greets the crowd during his arrival to lead his general audience in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican March 27. (CNS photo/Paul Haring) (March 27, 2013) See POPE-AUDIENCE March 27, 2013.
The U.S. flag is seen as Pope Francis greets the crowd during his arrival to lead his general audience in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican March 27. (CNS photo/Paul Haring) (March 27, 2013) See POPE-AUDIENCE March 27, 2013.

This month, His Holiness Pope Francis makes another visit to the New World, only this time he will visit the most prominent country on the planet, the United States of America.

There have been other Vicars of Christ who have visited America but what makes this one all the more special is that His Holiness will be the first to address the country live from congress.

A congressional address is very rare. The last non-US president to address the nation, that I remember, was of the then French president Nicolas Sarkozy. Usually only reserved for the President of the United States and very few head’s of state, the fact that the Bishop of Rome in the Seat of Peter is addressing the American people is no small thing.

What is interesting, however, is what people are anticipating over what’s going to happen over the reality of what is likely to happen.

There Will Be No Major Announcement 

It’s a hard idea for non-Catholics to grasp but, the Pope won’t be changing any Catholic doctrine. Nor can he. Although the media likes to portray that this Pope is this way on an issue while another Pope might be that way on the same issue, all that is a bit misleading. Yes, of course these men in charge of the Holy See are as different as night and day and they carry themselves differently, yet they all carry the same message. In fact, when a Pope is elected to his post, he is sworn to continue, not change, what those who walked with Christ left for us. There is no change, per se, but more so clarifications.

So don’t expect a change in the Church’s views on things like marriage and abortion. Unless men start giving birth to children and God makes an announcement that, “Thou shall not kill? I was kidding!” everything should stay the same as it has been since the beginning of time, no matter what our warped society tries to say and justify.

He’s a Hippy

I don’t understand why my liberal friends aren’t more excited that this Pope is coming to America. My friends who are lighting their marijuana cigarettes with bras would maybe like to take a time out from watching MSNBC and peak their collective craft beer drinking heads and pay attention to something that isn’t on their phones. This Pope is one of you. Again, the Pope cannot change Church doctrine but can emphasize what he feels is important in our times. So when the Pope does come, do not be surprised when he talks about the environment. My only wish is that he would adopt a shelter dog and announce that he’s vegan. Just so my liberal friend’s heads could explode.

Veiled Anti-Catholicism

Now this is a big one and one that you need to pay attention to. Anti-Catholics are here and they’ve never left. This country was built on slavery, tobacco, and hating Catholics. In fact, some of the first laws of the land were to ban Catholic settlers.

In the anglophone world (fancy talk for English speaking world) one forgets how the Western European Heresy dominated the culture. To this day, you’ll have so called Christians who are not Catholic, rail against the very Church Christ created. And although most people don’t know it, those thoughts and beliefs are still a foothold in today’s many English speaking Christians who have strayed from the Church.

Catholics get called nasty things like “Mary worshipers,” “saint worshipers,” “idol worshipers,” or some other slanderous fallacy.

I have a lot of friends who are not Christian, many of them Jewish or Agnostic, but they all have one thing in common. Although they may not believe nearly all of them are very respectful and understanding of the Faith. What is worrisome, however, is when these same people hear from so called “Christians” who will then spew hate towards the Church and all those that follow Him.

We live in extraordinary times. Gone are the anti-Catholic laws that are still alive in Britain to this day. All the Supreme Court justices identify themselves as either Catholic or Jewish, first time in history that not one of them is a believer of the Western European Heresy. Our Vice President is Catholic and at least two of the presidential candidates are Catholic as well, with Marco Rubio and Jeb Bush being the most prominent. The current governor of Arizona, Doug Ducey is also Catholic and is one of the dignitaries that will go and meet the Pope. When these and other leaders in our nation audience with the Pope, notice the visceral reaction from non-Catholic Christians.

The Westboro Baptist Church’s plan of picketing the Pope will be a clear indication of what the sentiment is, albeit glorified.

Love, Love, Love

So what will we be hearing from the Pope?

A whole lotta talk about love.

Again, people seem to forget that, at the end of the day, this man is a holy man. It’s hard for our proud minds to get over the fact that a man would use the world’s stage and not promote anything more than love, but that’s what he’s going to do.

He’s not going to tell you how to vote.

He’s not going to tell you how right or wrong you are on a political position.

All he’s going to tell us is, to pray for him. That he’s praying for us. And for everyone to love one another.

And isn’t that all that really needs to be said and done?

What Will Be Your Legacy?

I get a lot of slack for being too serious or not having enough fun. I readily admit that I have a stick up my butt the size of full grown oak tree but there are several reasons for that. One reason I can be such a prude is, legacy.

We are all leaving behind a legacy that was never possible before. With the advent of the Internet, we are now leaving a trail that will forever follow us, even after we’re gone. In 2,000 years your bones will be dust but that image of you drinking a beer will live on. And is that how you want to be remembered? Is that the legacy you want to leave here on earth?

“Here lies John Doe. He liked arguing with people on screens. He spent most of his life looking at his phone. His preferred attire were shorts since he enjoyed exposing his legs for the world to see.”


“Here lies Jane Doe. She liked complaining about everything, talking about what she’d like to do and never actually doing it.”

Life is so short, so fast that, as soon as your born, your’e just counting down the days till your death. I don’t mean to come off as a nihilist, but just honest about the limited time we have on this earth and what we can accomplish in that short time. My truth is, we live on this earth for a short time to prove we are worthy to live in the next life for an eternity, but that’s another story for another day. What we are talking about here is, what we are leaving behind, on this earth, once we’re gone.

Before, humankind didn’t need to worry too much about this. Either you were a king or a pauper and the former would live in the eternal hall of fame that we call history. But not so anymore. Now, everyone, from the leaders of the world to those that clean their toilets will have some type of legacy left behind, a record, that shows what that person did with their lives, forever.

Given that we now have this huge, daunting, pressure of legacy that is now on all of us, you would think that mankind would do a better job of reaching for their goals, but sadly, we are not.

I think that it will take about a century or two for people to appreciate the legacies that we are now leaving behind. In a few decades we will all be dead. And at these funerals will be scenes of us holding beer bongs and wearing fake mustaches at weddings. Maybe there will even be a 15-minute slide show to showcase all the food and drinks you consumed that you thought were so important to share.

That’s the legacy we are leaving.

What about children? Yes, that’s how we pass on our genetic legacy but it has nothing to do with what we have actually done. If your proudest moment of accomplishment comes from the fact that you got drunk and horny and forgot the condoms a few times, I’m sorry, but that’s not really climbing Mount Everest.

And while your genes may live on in your children and their children’s children and so on, your memory will be all but forgotten to everyone who knew you since they will all be dead too. All your future decedents will search up who their great-great-grandparent was and see someone who enjoyed taking pictures of their feet while on vacation.

There is so much more to you than that, to all of us. It’s scary, I know, but we have to try. Even if you don’t succeed in reaching your dreams, at least you will be better remembered as someone who tried than someone who just went through life, coasting on whatever path was made for you.

That’s why, for me, my writing has become so important.

For the last two to three years I have rarely gone out. Few parties and nightclubs. I mean, sure, I have gone to them and will continue to go to them, but I’m there for a half hour, tops. It feels like such an empty waste of time. I have spent the last few years writing a novel, particularly, on weekends when I have more time. While it might seem crazy to be “working” on the weekends, it’s actually been fun…for the most part. Trust me, there have been more days of me doubting myself and wanting to stop than those few, special days when I feel “flow” and the words just come out and I feel like a complete human being. Fleeting, but worth it.

My book might sell five copies. I am terrified that it will be horrible, something that my friends and family can throw in my face for the rest of my life. “You worked on this garbage? You do have a legacy all right Tony. It’s called crap.”

But that’s just my inner-critic, my Daily Dragon, doing what it does best. I may not leave a legacy of great work or art, even though that is my dream. My legacy might very well just be that I tried. But that’s good enough for me. More than most can say.

I tried.

We’ve Been Wrong The Whole Time


This week, the National Hemophilia Foundation is having their annual meeting in Dallas Texas. This wonderful meeting is America’s premier bleeding disorder yearly reunion. And it got me thinking about two themes that I have been told nearly all my life as a person living with hemophilia. Those two things are, one, that people with hemophilia are not handicapped or disabled and that, two, people with hemophilia are an inspiration to others. Both are, mostly, false. I say mostly because, the advancements in hemophilia have left the younger generation free from major joint damage. But besides that, many of us are disabled and handicap and all of us are no one to look up to.

Looking at the first distinction, the handicapped or disabled label, people are quick to say that we are not. While we can all agree that being disabled or handicapped is not a goal or something anyone should aspire to, for those of us that do have mobility issues, we should not feel shamed or feel less than the next person just because we have mobility issues.

It took me a long time to realize that and I still fall into the trap every once in a while. It took me forever to get a handicap license plate. Why? Because I was too proud. Because being disabled was “bad.” Well, I am handicapped. I am disabled. I am a cripple. And you know what? There’s absolutely nothing wrong with it. It just is what it is.

On the other side, the bleeding disorder community also promotes a culture of victim hood, as if our pains and troubles make us someone to look up to. It’s a funny balance to hear too since, while people are trying to pass the first belief (you’re not handicapped / disabled) they also try to juggle the second which is, that we’re some type of heroes for what we are dealing with. Which of course, according to view one, is nothing.

These two beliefs have been propagated to our community from a place of well meaning. It makes people disabled with hemophilia deny their disability (making one not feel bad) while making us out as role models (so we can feel good about ourselves). While they mean well they, to me, do more harm then good.

It makes a person with hemophilia feel proud of having a bleeding disorder and there is no greater wrong on earth than pride.

This “you’re not disabled / you’re a hero” is actually creating people who are disabled and anti-heroes ironically enough by living a sedentary life without any goals. After all, why should anyone aspire to anything if they’re already perfect? Not only is nothing wrong with you, you’re also someone people should look up to.

I hear people trying to balance these two views with a myriad of excuses. It’s a delicate balancing act of bull feces that has been ingrained into our heads.

So what are we then?

For some they are disabled. For others, they are not. Regardless if you are or aren’t, that doesn’t make you bad. It just makes you either disabled or not. No biggie.

So then are we heroes? Heck to the no. First responders like police, fire, and paramedics, those people are heroes. People in the military, those people are heroes. We’re just people who walk funny and have owies.

I guess what I’m trying to say is, at the end, we are all the same. People who are physically more healthy than me can be more unhealthy in their emotional, financial, spiritual, or emotional health than me. The old saying that we all have our cross to bear is true. Just because someone might be at a disadvantage to the eyes, doesn’t mean that that person’s life isn’t easier than the so called “healthy one.”

When people mope and complain about their physical ills, they’re more times than not just looking for sympathy. Since everyone is battling their own demons of equal weight this person does get the empathy they want all though not in the form they want it. It comes off as pathetic.

So to all my blood brothers and sisters out there reading this, quit feeling bad for yourself and, more importantly, stop feeling proud of yourself. You haven’t done anything yet. And that’s a good thing.

That means that we still have a lot more to do with our lives.

That means there is so much more to life than just having hemophilia.

That means that we accept that we have our setback, sure, but so does everyone else. And that setback is nothing to be ashamed of.

That means that maybe one day we will be someone that people look up to through our own work, not to what just happened to happen to us.

NWA – A Legacy of the Streets

NWAAuthor’s Note: Please see the video links after reading the post.

Next month, the much anticipated film “Straight Outta Compton” hits theaters around the world. The movie is based on one of rap music’s most notorious and influential musical groups ever, NWA.

NWA, which stands for Niggaz Wit Attitudes, meant a lot to people like me who grew up in the inner-city that the music was targeted for. Growing up poor, a person of color, in the shadows of a major city was a world that few knew about. And the few things that did come out were just the negative side of growing up in such a time and place.

Rarely did the world have a chance to see or hear what people like us went through. Bands like NWA changed that.

I remember having to sneak over to a friend’s house and listen to Eazy-E’s album, “Eazy-Duz-It”. We would have to listen to it low because we couldn’t let my friend’s mom hear the music since it was so foul and people under 18 were not allowed to buy that music.

Albums like that and NWA’s resonated with us. In a world of Bon Jovi and Def Leopard, we had our own musical representatives, be they NWA or Cypress Hill.

As the movie is getting ready to come out, I am nervous that the legacy of something so important be portrayed as correctly as possible. Even now, as the movie gets ready to come out, I find myself nervous. Not because of anything that the film is doing, but because of the reaction that it’s getting right now, which is, mostly positive.

You see, listening to NWA made you part of a small minority who embraced a world that was literally under attack from the government. In some places, such music was illegal and the cries to make the music criminal were loud. Now? Now everyone from all walks of life are excited to see the film, something I would have never thought would be possible when I was a child. The average white American is talking about how great the movie will be, meanwhile, 20 years ago, they would be the same people who would give you angry stares as you played it coming out of the trunk of your Monte Carlo.

Another thing that worries me is, the real story and legacy of NWA, namely, Eazy-E. Do not get it twisted, NWA was and always will be Eazy-E.

Since Eazy-E died of AIDS, the quintet has been cut down to four. Two have gone on to relative success while the other two have not. It seems that the movie is focusing on those that are more successful such as Ice Cube and Dr. Dre, whereas the other two, DJ Yella and MC Ren, are not getting the full stage time that they deserve. It is what it is, but what worries me the most is, will Eazy-E’s story be represented as well as it should be, or will it just be the Dr. Dre and Ice Cube movie with some Eazy sprinkled in here and there?

Here’s the NWA that I knew and that I remembered.

Their most well known song, “Boyz-N-Da-Hood” encapsulates NWA perfectly to a T. Written entirely by Ice Cube, the music — or beat — made by Dre, with the high pitched vocals of the group’s leader NWA Eazy-E performing the entire track. That song captures perfectly the way early NWA was oiled. Not to be forgotten, MC Ren provided some of the best lyrics ever and Yella helped with the production.

Eazy went from the reluctant rapper (he never rapped before until he was thrown into the studio for Boyz-N-Da-Hood) to a huge star with the biggest ego and the loudest mouth of the group.

NWA was a band, a group, made up with different members, but Eazy-E was a star, a straight up character that wanted fame and attention.

One of my more favorite songs was “We Want Eazy”. This song and video captures the sense of how much of a star Eazy came out to be. His was the only solo album upping his visibility. Eazy wasn’t a mere rapper, he was character bigger than life.

In the video, Eazy gets put in jail before a concert. He is upset because he is such a star and the world wants to see he perform. One of his cell mates, Ice Cube, helps him broadcast his performance from jail to his adoring fans.

The video then turns to the concert where the song is introduced by a dual vocal rap by Dre and Ren with Yella in the background, mixing it up. Later, Cube can be seen again, only this time at the concert as an adoring fan. The theme of Cube and everyone else playing second fiddle to Eazy was obvious.

As Eazy came on the screen, the crowd went wild. He was such a star that, even a video of him made the crowd go crazy. And then, in the climax, Eazy jumps threw the screen and onto the stage. He’s even dressed like Elvis from the hood.

I bring all this up because, I don’t want the world to forget how much NWA centered on Eazy. If everyone else were planets, he was the sun.

The next big thing to happen was when Ice Cube left the group.

As a child, I remember everyone saying bad things about Cube and laughing at the idea that he was going to come out with his own album. The word on the street was fast; Ice Cube was a traitor and wouldn’t amount to anything.

But then his album dropped.

It was better produced and the lyrics were insane. He touched on other inner-city issues that NWA hadn’t over some amazing beats.

NWA struck first at Cube. In the song  “100 Miles and Runnin’” Dr. Dre said, “We started with five, but yo one couldn’t take it. So now it’s four ‘cause the fifth couldn’t make it.  The numbers even, now I’m leavin’”.

Ice Cube’s diss to his former crew, NWA, was one of raps harshest disses, captured in the hit track “No Vaseline”.

Not to be out done, in “Alwayz Into Something” Dr. Dre can be heard saying to Ren, “Dre I was speakin’ to your bitch O’Shea,” a diss on Ice Cube’s real name.

After that, Dr. Dre would leave NWA as well and the spat between him and Eazy is well known.

Will the film stay true to all these things that happened? Yella was the only one of the crew to attend Eazy’s funeral, that’s how bad the animosity between the group had become towards the end.

Now, after a few decades have passed, the group is back together and has everyone’s blessing to make the film, even Eazy’s estate has agreed to it.

My only wish is that history isn’t rewritten and that the world doesn’t forget that the real man who changed music forever, Eazy-E, isn’t painted over.


Impatience for the Arts

Sansa Stark at the Eyrie - by Michael Komarck
Sansa Stark at the Eyrie – by Michael Komarck

A few weeks ago, I gave up on watching Game of Thrones, HBO’s televised adaptation of George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series. As a fan of the author’s writing I became incensed when the television adaption went from taking artistic liberties to down right creating its own storyline.

The straw that broke the camel’s back was when Sansa Stark was sent to Winterfell instead of the Eyrie, like in the books. Did I know that in the following episodes she would be raped? No, of course not. But I knew that it was going to get eventful at Winterfell and she was off in safety.

I missed a few seasons of the show, three I think, before I started watching it. During that time I read all of Martin’s books while catching up on the show. I eventually passed the program. It was a wonderful time for me to be inside one man’s world while experiencing it through different mediums.

Eventually, the show began to pass the books, which was fine with me, as long as they stayed true to canon, true to the books. But then things starting going off, way off.

As I read the books, I remember how I had to stay away from all things A Song of Ice and Fire for fear that I may run into a spoiler or two. Finally, when I did finish A Feast For Crows, I went full on into the world the Martin had created. One of the things that I took away from the books was being reaffirmed in what had happened in the books. As all out hell was about to break out in and around Winterfell, it was nice to know that certain characters were safe. Knowing that Sansa was safe in the Eyrie waiting to take back her home was more than just comforting, it felt like a resolution to a story, even if it was open-ended.

But that all changed when HBO and its producers got together and started taking popularity into account. Read: money.

So while all this was going on, there has been all types of sides on this. The books are better; the show is better; they’re both good on their own merit; yada yada yada. The only thing that wasn’t brought up was, why not wait?

As you read that last part of the sentence, it seems like an absurd option. But it shouldn’t be. It should be the one that is first and foremost on our minds.

Art comes in a whole lotta different forms. Paintings to movies, books to theatre, music to dancing, all these different mediums are, at the end, art. And what is art if not to be enjoyed, be that now or later?

I think that the overwhelming desire to rush the product in direct spite of the work is a reflection on how poor we see into the future and our impatience for things. We want it now instead of good and that is such a sad, juvenile mindset.

In forty years when all the books have been written and all the episodes filmed, how will the work stand up? I have fearful confidence that the books will be held in a much higher esteem than the hurried television program, and that’s too bad.

I’m sure the show will go on to please and be considered a success. But it will never live up to its full potential, and that should make all fans of the work, and art in general, a little sad.

An Apology

SCOTUS 04 -- 05-23-06

A few days ago, the United States Supreme Court ruled on redefining what marriage is in this country. My first response was one of anger and I lashed out by posting these words on social media:

“Hatred of God (who is Love) is being veiled as love. Fascinating. Congratulations Generation Kardashian, but Love, real love, will conquer all. Maybe not in this life but definitely in the next.”

The reason I am apologizing and asking for forgiveness is, the first and last sentences. These bookend comments were, and are, wrong. Let’s look at the first sentence.

While sin is a hateful act against God, who am I to judge? I am an unmarried man who has sexual relations with different women. That is an equal sin, if not more so, than homosexuality. They call it “living in sin” for a reason.

The last sentence is true, love will conquer all eventually, but it was a passive aggressive way of me judging and condemning others.

Now, let me just say, for the sake of history, I still do not agree with the Court’s decision. I think government should have no role in religion and religion in government. I am for separation of church and state, and that goes both ways.

Religions may have been wrong and persecuted others, but creating a world and environment that may allow those tables to be turned is just as wrong.

And to be clear, I’ve always been fine with the little m of marriage, the legal side of things. It’s the big M, the religious part, that I do not want to see affected.

So, again, if I hurt anyone with my judgmental statement, I am sorry. Truly, truly, sorry. I have no right to judge others, and, if I look at my own deeds, I’m the last one to judge others on morality on this earth. I was angry that religious freedoms are now under attack and that is not the right response.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church clearly addresses how homosexuals should be treated. In part, 2358 states:

“They must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided.”

I still don’t feel that I discriminated but, I was, lacking the respect, compassion, and sensitivity that we all need.

And for that I am sorry. I hope to have your mercy that I so desperately lack.

Our Collective Suicide

Narcissus (Caravaggio)
Narcissus (Caravaggio)

According to the Ovid, Narcissus was a young hunter who put himself first before everyone else. Enamored with himself and him alone, Narcissus led a vain life filled with doing nothing but loving himself and only doing what he wanted first.

Then one day Echo saw him and fell in love. Echo started following Narcissus. She loved him so much, she would even repeat everything he said. When Narcissus learned of Echo, he chastised her. He didn’t want anyone to bother him and interrupt him from loving himself. Heartbroken, Echo ran away, forever hiding in the small holes of caves.

Nemesis was furious when she found out about this. Nemesis was the spirit who would humble those who affronted the gods.

Nemesis decided to have Narcissus look at a pond. The pond was as smooth as glass and that’s when Narcissus saw himself for the first time. He didn’t know that he was looking at himself, he just thought he saw something beautiful. Realizing that he could never see anything more beautiful, he drowned himself.

And that’s what we are doing to ourselves. We are slowly killing ourselves one selfie at a time. We may be physically alive but our souls are dead.

Our vanity is making us love ourselves so much that we are now destroying our relationships with others. We would rather love the false idea of ourselves than creating new connections. We are so self centered and self involved, we are now pushing away those that would better us.

Water gives life. It can also destroy. Our smart phones can help us get to a gas station, but they can also make us yearn for approval.

Narcissus had water. We have technology. At the end, our admiration of that same reflection will be the demise of many.

Puppy Wars


In the publishing and literary world, there always seems to be some sort of scandal and today is no different. Right now, the biggest talk around town has to do with what some call Puppygate or the Puppy Wars. Whatever you call it, it is a fascinating war of words.

This post will try to do something that others have not, try not to take a side but mainly catch people up as to what the heck is going on.

First, some background.

All this talk of puppies and infighting has to do with the Hugo Awards. The Hugo is an award for Science Fiction and Fantasy (SF&F) given to the previous year’s work. There are various versions of this award ranging from novels to short stories to art. It is one of the most prestigious awards in literature and the fight as to what is and isn’t SF&F is at the core of this very hostile debate.

Voting for the Hugo is a somewhat public affair as all that is needed is a forty dollar membership to World Science Fiction Society. Once you have that, you have a vote.

Okay, so you get that there’s this award for writing and that there’s voting involved with the public. What the heck does this have to do with cute little puppies and the guy who wrote Game of Thrones?

Everything really.

You see, for the last several years, the Hugo has been going to, what the Sad Puppies feel are, left leaning writers and writings.

I know, I need to stop again. What is a Sad Puppy? Well, that’s the self given name of the grass roots group who is trying to shakeup the current system and succeeding. Sad Puppies is a slight towards liberals and their fondness for animals. The original name was Sad Puppies Think of the Children and there’s even another group called Rabid Puppies. For the sake of clarity and brevity we’ll just call the two main factions the Sad Puppies versus the Blue Team.

(By the way, coming up for a name for those on the other side of the Sad Puppies debate was a task unto itself because, as you’ll see, one of the biggest problems with this debate is the name calling. I’ll go for Blue Team since in fake battle simulations there is usually a Blue Team and a Red Team, and since both sides don’t argue that the non-Sad Puppies are more liberal in their views, I’m going with the Americancentric color of blue for them.)

Okay, so where were we? Ah, yes, puppies, and more acurately, sad ones.

So the Sad Puppies feel that the Hugo Award has been given to, not the best writng in SF&F, but to those that are pushing a social agenda. On the other side, the Blue Team, they claim that they are just moving the genre forward and giving it to the best writing as well.

So who’s in the right? Depends on who you ask and what side you’re on. Let’s go over the pros and cons of each side, first starting with, what I call, Blue Team.

Blue Team is the current clique of writers, editors and publishers that have had significant say into who wins and doesn’t win the Hugo. Blue Team’s cause is just, they believe, because before they took over the mantle, SF&F was awarded to low-brow writing and writers. The SF&F landscape was awash with straight white men and their views of what SF&F is.

Since the Hugo has now been in their care, they have given it to a more diverse crowd who is pushing, changing, and challenging what is commonly believed to be the norms of SF&F.

On the other side we have the Sad Puppies. They feel that the world of SF&F has become too academic and trying to push across social agendas instead of doing what the Hugo was meant for; to award the best writing. They feel that they are the Rebellion trying to take on the mighty Empire and bring justice back to the galaxy and the Force.

But even that isn’t a good analogy since Blue Team feels they’re the Rebels who knocked down the Dark Side and are only trying to stop it from coming back. With me so far?

So that’s how both sides see themselves. They both think that their cause is good. But before we get into the cons of each group, let’s go back again to the culture and world that made this infighting possible.

No one on either side will deny that there hasn’t always been some sort of politicking and cliques that have pushed their agendas and writings for the Hugo. It has been going on for a long time and, as we can see with the Puppy Wars, is still continuing. The only difference from days past to now is the Internet. What was once whisper campaigns has now bled out into the public forum that is the World Wide Web.

One of the larger problems I see here is, the name calling and both sides are guilty of it.

If you’re a supporter of the Sad Puppies, there are tons of examples of acronym name calling that I won’t even get into. But even their stance is insulting to the Blue Team. The Sad Puppies paint themselves as rebels fighting for a just cause. That in itself is implying that Blue Team is just a bunch of status quo pushers.

If you’re a supporter of the Blue Team, the name calling has been fierce there too. Everything from homophobic to racist has been thrown at those who are trying to disrupt the system.

So what does this have to do with Game of Thrones guy? A lot since he has publicly come out, time and again, in support of Blue Team.

So that’s Puppy Wars in a nutshell.

What do I think about it? Well, I think that this has been going on for years, with control going from the Sad Puppies (historically) to now Blue Team who are afraid of losing what they thought was theirs.

I understand both side’s arguments and see validity in both their cases. At the end, however, this is about narrative control and more importantly, what is art.

And that’s what’s so strange to me. You can’t define art. Maybe that’s the only real definition of art, it’s undefinable.

The main problem with the Hugo Awards is the way it’s designed. It is done in a well meaning spirit, open to fans of the genre and gives them the right to vote. The problem is, it has become too political. There are now cliques and parties that smear and slander just so they could win.

What needs to be done? I’m not sure but all this infighting needs to stop. So far the only thing that has been resolved by the two sides is that the Hugo’s importance and validity has come into question. And that is something neither side wants.