DON’T MAKE ANOTHER NEW YEAR’S RESOLUTION! There’s a better way.

Seriously, don’t make a New Years’ Resolution.

Studies report that 92% of all New Year’s resolutions fail, leaving 8% of people that actually complete what they set out to accomplish. There’s a lot of research behind why that is, but I think it comes to a small difference: definitions. When people set New Year’s resolutions, what they really are shooting for is to make change. But look at these definitions:

Resolution: a firm decision to do or not to do something

Change: To make or become different.

See the difference there? While resolutions are “firm”, at their core they are just strong thoughts or statements. The definition doesn’t require action; simply thinking hard about your resolution is enough. By contrast, change is an active process. If you want to change, you’re going to have to get up and do it. That’s why you’ve got to stop resolving to do things differently this year and just…change. How? I have just the acronym: the N.E.W U. program. Follow these simple steps and I guarantee you’ll make some change in 2015. Or at least have a reason to leave me nasty comments at the end of next year.

N.-What needs to happen?

This first step is the most important. If you’re going to accomplish any goal or start a new change in your life, you need to figure out what you have to do to get there. This works for everything from weight loss to writing the next Hunger Games/Tale of Two Cities. For weight loss, you have to sit down and figure out what needs to happen. How many hours do you need to work out? What do you need to work out? What needs to happen with your diet?

If you’re working on the Hunger Games, how many hours a week are you going to spend writing? Who do you need to contact to get that sweet publishing deal? Who do you need to work with to make sure Jennifer Lawrence and Stanley Tucci are in the movie release? Break down every single step.

This may seem tedious, but it’s gonna help so much. How many times have you heard someone make a general resolution but have no idea how to accomplish it? It’s like going to the store and wanting to make a new dish, but not researching the ingredients or the steps needed to make it before I get to Walmart. I mean…before you go to Walmart. In any case, when you are figuring out what needs to happen, it’s important that you do not set a deadline. That comes later.

E.-Encourage yourself constantly.

Have you read the insanely popular self-help book, The Secret? If you haven’t, here’s a spoiler:

The Secret to a better life is positive thinking.

Yep, that’s it. (Saved you a few bucks in having to buy it, you’re welcome. 😉 ) This is critical for what you want to accomplish as well. Why? Because working towards your goals is probably going to suck at first. If you haven’t done pushups since it was mandatory in high school, you’ll probably find pull-ups difficult at first. While you’re writing Hunger of Two Cities, you’ll find that some of your writing is clunky or just plain bad. And sometimes, it may seem like it’s not worth the effort.

And this is where that encouragement will come in! Tell yourself that the one pull-up I…you were able to manage is one more pull up than you did yesterday. That clunky chapter you wrote? More writing that you did last year! It may seem cheap to keep rewarding yourself for little milestones, but here’s the thing: those little milestones will add up. How many times have you seen people give up on a resolution because they aren’t seeing progress? Encouragement takes the focus off what is not happening and puts it on what you are actually doing. It may not be ideal in the moment, but when you look back, you might be surprised to see a wall of accomplishment built out of hundreds of milestones.*

*Wouldn’t this make an awesome fortune cookie?

W.- When do you want to be finished?

Okay, you’ve figured out what you need to do and are staying motivated. Now you just have to figure out when you want to complete your project/achieve your goal. If you’ve done the first step properly, you already know how long it will realistically take. With weight loss, you’ve probably gotten ideas for averages based on your height or body type. You already know the steps to publishing and how long it will take to hear back from companies. The most critical thing to remember:

YOU DO NOT HAVE TO BE FINISHED BY 2016.

Remember, this whole process is about change. This isn’t about cramming a goal into the new year, it’s about taking actions that will lead to positive shifts for the rest of your life. If your plan takes you into the next year, that doesn’t mean you’re failing. Remember, 92% of people who make those resolution things have already given up. Meanwhile, you’re still chugging along, like an awesome flying steam powered train.*

*(I watched Back to the Future 3 recently.

U.-Unite with friends to make your change/goal more than just yours.

This is a going to be a difficult step for a lot of people. Even…no, especially me. After you’ve gone through the first three steps, you have to let someone else know your entire plan. Why? This goes back to the encouragement step. At some point, you may hit a wall. Maybe those last few pounds are being stubborn, or you’re getting writer’s block on that last chapter. Having a second person to remind you of your goals can be a major boost that will get you to the finish line.

You have to determine how often they talk to you about the goal. Do you want a weekly check-in? Maybe you’d like a quick chat every couple of months. I personally like the idea of a bi-weekly message/email/text. The exchange can be as simple as:

Friend: How’s it going with Hunger of Two Cities: The Revenge of the Gatsby?

You: It’s okay. I just can’t figure out how to work Gladys into this last chapter.

Friend: Well, you still have a month left before you wanted to submit it to Harper Collins. If you’ve written most of a book by now, you’ll definitely figure it out.

You: Right. Thanks, broseph!

Friend: No problem, bronut!***

***Feel free to use this in casual conversation.

That one person at your side is going to be the game-changer. Now you’re making your change not only for your sake, but along with a supporter. If you don’t think you have a friend in your life that can fit this role, use me. I’m 100 percent serious. Shoot me an email at: AndrewArete116@gmail.com after you’ve worked through the first few steps and let me know how often you want me reach out. If I fail to live up to this obligation, I invite you to leave angry comments all over my blog.

So there you have it. Throw out those New Years’ Resolutions and start working a brand spankin’ NEW U. Figure out what you want to get done. Motivate yourself to keep working on it, even if it gets hard. Determine when you’re going to get it done. Ask for a little support along the way. If you’re active, I guarantee you’re going to have a more successful 2015.

Or at least a reason to shout at me over the internet. :p.

Silly America, Defying Censorship Is For Cartoons

The average cartoon takes a harder stance than SONY did this week. How? Let’s rewind the clock.

Over the past two months, North Korea has been lobbying threats against SONY’s The Interview. It’s not hard to see why. The plot, if you haven’t heard about it 1000 times in the last few days, revolves around two bumbling reporters being sent to a country to assassinate Kim Jong Un. Ignoring the big problem with that plan (a huge power vacuum, for example), it created a bigger real life issue. North Korea refuses to stand for this movie’s release. As a result, threats were lobbied, movie theaters folded, and SONY was unable to release the movie on its intended date.

Many people, including yourself, had different views of what this meant. I was of the opinion that if SONY truly wanted this movie to happen, it would have pushed past is difficulties. Some of my friends thought that this was just a huge marketing ploy for publicity. (The leaked emails for realism?) And others simply didn’t care. The one viewpoint I didn’t agree with was the one that said America had become too full of “fear” and “cowardly” because of the actions of ONE COMPANY (not completely American owned). To me, it implied that there was no one left willing to make a statement with their art that may be unpopular.

Except cartoons.

This week, Nickelodeon series, “Legend of Korra” wrapped up its series run. The show revolved around a heroine named Korra that could control four elements, and was tasked to saving the world from war and destruction. It was a finale full of explosions, danger and surprises. But the biggest surprise for fans came in the last two minutes.

(If you are a Korra fan that did not view the finale, everything in bold is full of spoilers. I will leave everything clearly marked so that you can avoid them. Watching your back, because I hate spoilers as much as you do 😉 )

In the closing minutes of the show, Korra and her close friend Asami decide to go on a vacation together to another world (Long story). As they head toward the portal that will take them there, they hold hands. Pretty standard stuff for a female friendship. But in the last moments, they face each other, hold both hands and look each others’ eyes longingly before the show fades to black. Based on this description alone, you could easily dismiss it. However, there is a wedding not five minutes prior to this moment in the same finale. And the fact that the two women hold hands like they’re exchanging wedding vows in the last shot would be one heck of a coincidence. Not to mention, the creators just confirmed it. (http://bryankonietzko.tumblr.com/)

So to sum up, they got away with a serious depiction of a non-heterosexual couple on a channel geared towards kids this week. That’s pretty impressive.

SPOILERS END HERE

Cartoons have been doing this for years now. The average episode of animaniacs got away with a whole lot of adult jokes. See this “fingerprints” scene for more evidence:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1xmAC9Qu908 Shrek made a joke about a small guy “compensating for something” and there were no riots. Even Frozen, the biggest animated movie sensation since Lion King, got away with a “foot size” joke without parents going crazy. Yes, compared to the interview, these may seem like small jabs against limitations in comparison. But the main difference? These cartoons got out and were released to wide audiences.

Is that to say you have to play small in your art to get it out? No. Team America got away with killing Kim Jong Il years ago, albeit in puppet form. Back then, there wasn’t huge backlash because the puppets appeared to be juvenile and non-threatening in all the previews. It was only after the movie’s screenings that people realized what it depicted. Contrast that to The Interview, whose marketing strategy was built upon yelling and calling attention to its controversy. Is it so surprising that someone would yell back? The Interview has a lot to learn from cartoons. They can challenge the normal established boundaries and still get viewed. And that viewing is valuable real estate.

Think about where cartoons go. Millions and millions of viewers through Netflix, cable and dvd sales. And most importantly, tons and tons of kids. If you can get more adult messages across in those innocuous mediums, you could be a force for change. This is getting beyond the “foot size” and “compensating” jokes. We’re talking about the comforting message that Korra provided. The empowering messages Frozen can teach. “I’m so ronry” from Team America! When you create for kids, you create for the next generation of builders, thinkers and leaders. And if you push the envelope a little while doing so, maybe those kids will grow to take more risks too.

This week, a couple of comedians failed to release a movie in theaters. Maybe if it had stronger support from its parent company or a subtler approach, it could’ve gotten out. I don’t know for sure. But what I’m sure of is that a children’s cartoon took a huge risk this week that should have people cheering. And if not cheering, at the very least reducing the silly notion that “terrorists” can stop art. If a creator wants her or his content out, they’ll break the rules, operate within the rules or work on the line in between. The cartoon sound effects are optional, but there’s no denying…

An big audience might appreciate it.

Yelling Into the Void-A Message to Artists

This one’s for the artists out there.

To the writers, the painters, songwriters, singers, musicians, actors, dancers, Bill Gates Impersonators, directors, animators. Sculptors, and the many, many other art forms that I haven’t listed here I ask you one question:

This is hard, isn’t it?

You’ve got this talent bursting out of you, wanting nothing more than to be shared. This uncontrollable energy to turn imagination into reality. A drive that cannot be replaced and if repressed, will still find a way to come brimming up to the surface. But despite that eternal flame, you may not have been able to reach a wide audience. Maybe your art just has an audience of one. If you’re in either boat, I say to you:

You’re supposed to be drifting.

When I was in 7th grade, my mom asked me if I knew what I wanted to do with my life. She knew that I had always loved writing and creating new stories and adventures. Yet when my mom posed the question, I remember saying, “I’m going to be a biologist or something. Writing is too hard. And impossible to break into.” My mom showed no disapproval, just a quiet acknowledgment of my decision. From that tiny conversation on, I stopped work on my novels, cartoon ideas and long form yugioh parodies (long story, trust me). Because I used to believe that if my art couldn’t become famous, it was useless to create.

Yep, 7th grade me was a buzzkill.

This is normally the part of the story where I tell you I had an epiphany that got me back into writing again. But that didn’t happen. In reality, I never actually quit. If you found me in the back of AP Bio, I was either asleep or scribbling out my latest story idea. Find me on the train and you’ll see me hastily writing a poem before my next stop. On a weekend you could easily catch me thumbing through old notebooks full of ideas. For me, I could still feel the flame, even if I refused to look at it. And it wasn’t until nearly 5 years later before I decided to lay by the fire and warm myself up.

I tell you this story today because I don’t want you to lose five years of creating art. Or even five minutes. In the world of the arts, it may seem like you’re stumbling through the darkness in a desperate attempt to try and find your place. Let the fire that has been so carefully cultivated within yourself light the way. I guarantee you, even if it’s only a few steps forward, your life will be that much better.

I also tell you this story now because I haven’t had big commercial success. I am not a NY Times bestseller or starring in the next Avengers movie. (IF ONLY!!!!). I’m just a guy that became so much happier by simply putting a pen and paper together and letting my crazy thoughts take charge. Maybe embracing your art will do the same for you. You might do a lot of yelling into empty space before anybody takes a chance to stop and listen. But I’ve heard that yelling is therapeutic.

This may all seem like liberal, new-age rambling. Although it would be appropriate, (they’re calling my generation the new hippies) that’s not what it’s meant to be. This is a milestone to look back on what has been a long journey to get here, and hopefully, a long journey forward. If you’re out there, and you’ve got a paintbrush, dj scratch table or kilne in your basement, maybe it’s time to put them all to use. Don’t think about where it will all end up. The journey, man. That’s what’s important. Oh no, I’m sounding like a hippie again. Okay, let’s close this up before I find a bandana.

I write my fiction to give the characters in my head a second home on the page.

I write to get people to stop and leave their troubles at the first word.

I write in hopes of eliminating the gap between these words and your eyes.

Every day, my writing gets me to stand up and yell into the void.

And it feels pretty damn good.

Jared Leto Isn’t the Joker, Alfred Is.

So I saw this comic the other day.

al

It’s one of my favorite “what if?” panels. But after a little extra pre-Christmas eggnog, I started really considering it. Could the Greatest Detective’s Greatest Enemy be the Greatest Butler? And if so, what motivates him?

I’m so glad you asked.

Here are a few theories as to why Alfred would put on the clown makeup, and how it will be possible to pull one over on the Great Detective. And because I expect that there will be some counterarguments, I shall counter them before you can raise your responses! (It’s what Batman would do)

  1. To Test, but not kill him

We think that Joker never kills Batman purely because of his character. He is chaos while batman is order. If the Joker were to kill the batman, he would become (more) unbalanced and lose his zest to antagonize Gotham. But the reason could be a lot, lot simpler than that. This theory is taken straight from the comic above. Alfred mainly wanted to enhance Batman’s skills for his arguably less deranged enemies. But he also wanted to make Batman doubt himself, in the vain hope that he’ll hang up his cape when pushed too far. So he takes Batman to his absolute limits, but truly wants to increase his strength and fortitude.

  1. Alfred Is Giving Batman Therapy

Consider what Batman’s psyche is like. This is a man who discarded his childhood and sacrifices his impulses to serve a higher purpose. Joker, on the other hand, is a clown. Literally. He is (supposedly) a man who embraces childish whims and indulges his selfish desires-and brings everyone down around him in the process. The simple presence of the Joker is to remind Batman of what he’s lost. A sense of whimsical joy in what life can bring. Freedom from society’s demands. Laughter.

It’s theorized in certain versions of the comics that Bruce Wayne was never allowed to receive therapy. After Bruce starts Batmanning, Alfred realizes that therapy would come far too late anyway. So the only way left is to (literally) beat some sense in to the Bat. And if the Killing Joke is any proof, Alfred, ahem, I mean, the Joker does make batman laugh.

  1. Joker’s Origins are Impossible to Find

Here’s the big dispute. Where did the clown prince of crime come from? Was he a guy pushed into a vat of acid? Was he a soldier of fortune? D. None of the above! Those were all random stories. This is a classic villain technique. You tell exaggerated stories of where you came from so that you get more street cred or fear around your name. All Alfred had to do was slip a few criminals a c-note or two to start talking about the Joker’s past. And it would explain how even the Batman can’t trace his foe’s history.

Now for the Counterarguments:

But the Joker is insane! Alfred has it completely together.

I never said Alfred wasn’t crazy.

Bruce Wayne fools dozens of people with the Wayne act every day. Who says that Alfred isn’t doing the same? I think that Alfred loses it after seeing Batman in the cowl for the first time. He’s isn’t scared of the costume, he’s scared that Bruce might never emerge from it again. His desperate urge to protect The Batman split him into this Joker personality…and a man obsessed with his ward. And I do mean obsessed. After the first Robin left, Alfred had a chance to be alone with the bat again…until Jason Todd comes along. To get Bruce to himself, Alfred nearly kills the second robin. Regretting it, he doesn’t attack any of Batman’s adopted wards again…until Batgirl. And so on and so forth. In short: Alfred’s insanity translates to Bruce’s protection.

But the Joker was (at this place) while Alfred was (at this place)! How could he possibly pull it off?

Multiple Jokers. Like I mentioned above, Alfred could conceivably expand the Joker mythos by paying several people to talk about his story. What if he paid people to play the joker? Or had a rotating set? It could go down like this:

Alfred: Bob, you will need to be the Joker this weekend?

Bob: Why me?

Alfred: Master Bruce and I are going on vacation to Hawaii.

Jimmy: I could cover this weekend if…

Bob: Yes?

Jimmy: Front row seats to the Lakers game?

Bob: Are you serious?

Jimmy: Take it or leave it.

Alfred: Would now be a bad time to mention that the Joker is going to attack a few basketball teams this week…?

Multiple jokers would also explain how the Joker gets into situations where everyone is certain he is dead yet always pulls through at the last moment. Where does this Joker supply come from? Crazy people, of course! Alfred screens them, trains them and then maybe even hypnotizes each of them into believing that they are the true Joker. Then they’ll either rotate, die or be snapped out of a hypnotic trance and benched until they are needed again. This would ensure that Batman would never have to be without his nemesis.

But…no!

But…maybe!

There you have it. Concrete proof that Alfred is the clown prince of crime. If you don’t believe it, that’s completely fine. But isn’t it fun to think about?

Yet Another Rejection for T-Swift-New Opinions on Old Facts

Welcome to New York? Have you heard it? Here it is: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bzr5VtFvSyw

Now, if you’re not from NY< you may find this an inoffensive pop song from T Swift. If you are from NY, especially NYC, the internet believes that you should be frothing at the mouth while raising your torches and pitchforks against Swift in her new Manhattan digs. Oh, and she’s also been named the ambassador of New York. (Whatever that means). So should we hate the song? Hate T-Swift?  Does she deserve to be ambassador? Since I was born and raised in Queens NY, I believe I’m qualified to provide the answers to these burning questions.

The song itself, in my opinion…is remarkably ordinary. If you heard it on the radio, you’d probably zone it out until “Take Me to Church” played for the 19th time today. But many online commentors allege that the song is more than ordinary: it glorifies gentrification. This is a huge sticking point. If you’re unfamiliar with gentrification, it is basically the process where neighborhoods, often low-income neighborhoods, are torn down or renovated to create newer, more expensive housing. As a result, low income residents of that neighborhood are forced to move out, unable to afford rising living costs. Over time this practice can lead to a higher population density of low-income individuals in certain neighborhoods. In turn, this increases potential for crime, deep poverty and even death. So does this song glorify this terrible practice?

No. No it does not.

Yes, T Swift makes sweeping generalizations in her lyrics. The song is told from the perspective of a more affluent New Yorker. She talks about the “bright lights” and that “New York is waiting for you”. I’ve been down a lot of dimly lit streets in Jamaica and I can tell you that don’t exactly like what might be waiting for you there. So I’m going to have to call Taylor out on those lyrics. When she says lines like the above, she ignores all of the social groups and natives of the city. The most egregious line, in my opinion, “everybody here was someone else before.” We native New Yorkers take the most pride in how the city has shaped our individual growth. This is who we’ve always been. Don’t forget about that, T-Swift.

So, despite a couple of missteps, the song doesn’t glorify gentrification any more than the Walking Dead promotes zombie apocalypses. In both instances, the artist took one aspect of something bigger and blows it out of proportion. As a result, they get fans and haters. This song was not made for the true New Yorker. Not for the one who’s been here 10 years+ or their entire life. No, this song is for the doughy-eyed, touristy individual whose blown away by the city’s size and power. You can’t fault T-Swift (completely) for being swept away into that. After all, haven’t you ever vacationed to an amazing place? Me, for example, love Orlando! Palm trees, nice waiters and Harry Potter World? An oasis! Of course, i didn’t see every portion of Orlando, but I liked the surface. Granted, I haven’t written a song about it after becoming a mulitmillion dollar singer, but I understand the feeling. T Swift’s song is only guilty of not capturing more than the shiny metallic surface of NYC. So if you don’t like the song, that’s fine. I’m not a fan of it either. But remember that NYC is so much more than that song.

Since I spent so much time on that song, I’ll answer the other two questions I posed quickly.

Should you hate T-Swift?-Only if you hated her before. A singular song is a shallow reason to hate someone. Unless it’s Owl City’s Fireflies.

Does she deserve to be ambassador?-Absolutely not. Here’s a short list of better options: Jon Stewart, Seinfeld, Louie C.K. These suggestions are not because I dislike Swift. It’s because they’ve actually been here a while. They earned it. (and they’re funny).

In conclusion, Taylor Swift released a song. Some people are going to hate it, some will love it, some will forget about it. But all people need to recognize this: it’s just a song. T-Swift, if you’re reading this, (and i know you frequent my blog), know that New Yorkers are hard to win over. You’ll need more than a song, even if it’s a really good one, before you earn ambassador.

And can you make a 23 song? I just had a birthday, and well, I can’t sing 22 anymore.

Oh, and welcome to New York.