Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Embrace the creative you


I've long been fascinated by the beautiful and completely perplexing world of modern art and culture. Our world seems like such a better place to me with art in all it’s many forms; painting, sculpture, architecture, writing, film making and design, to name only a high-level few. 

Now maybe it’s because I spent most of my formative years drawing and painting (I had some wonderfully imaginative dinosaur drawings from age 7), spending my Jr high-school years trying to perfect drawing ‘Naked chicks’ (hey it was the early 80’s, don’t judge) an spending most of my high school non-class time, participating in plays, creating animated films, painting building-sized murals and airbrushing.

Boy do I miss those days. 

Next was five+ years of art school. I loved it! Every grueling, demanding, painful minute of it. Why? Because it wasn’t about what was right or wrong, about performance quotas (at least not in the traditional sense), it wasn’t about paying to learn crap you’d never use in the real world. No, instead, it was theory, subjection, analytics, design principles and historical events that helped shape art and societal trends. From Ancient Greece, The Roman Empire, Feudal Japan, from the depths of Africa to the heights of Egypt. It was an overwhelming and vastly exhilarating part of my life. 

These early formative experiences inform why I could only work as a professional creative. Its why I always will. Oh I have tried, believe me, to do other jobs, it is NOT possible. I have held the following positions:
  • Cook
  • Ice Cream Parlor Server
  • Maintenance Tech
  • Corporate Furniture Mover
  • Roof Painter
  • Mail Room Clerk
  • Employment Manager
  • Cashier
None of those jobs were bad. Not one one of them. They all simply showed me that I was not cut out for any of them. Sure you can ‘do’ a job. But I was NOT fulfilled by any of them–and would never be. My mind would not accept doing those jobs, its the wiring of 25 years of professional knowledge, 18 years of schooling and a lifetime of knowledge and that this is what I am meant to do. 

It’s not for everyone. 

While my daughter fully embraces a life that includes a place for creativity and art and another son who loves to write, my other two sons have no interest whatsoever. And that's just fine. 

And lastly, while I'm on the topic, I've learned creativity is a facet of how we go about our job, whatever it may be. I know what it means for me but I recognize it means different things for different people. I encourage my children to learn and do and see as much of the world and consider as many diverse cultures and careers as they can. 

It’s how they will begin to embrace their own creative personalities. There could be no more important life lesson than one that helps you know who you are. I'd explain further, but I have some more creativity to explore... don't you?

Monday, June 30, 2014

The truth about stupid

Forrest Gump nailed it when he said, "Stupid is as stupid does." I'm always at amazed at how little people seem to know.

I am going to warn you now, this post is for people who already know stuff. Because those that are surprised about things that should be common knowledge, seem to have little-to-no interest in gaining more knowledge. No one knows everything but there are something people should just… you know, KNOW.

Seriously. 

Now I can often come off as a snooty intellectual or history buff or trivia nerd. There is more to the world that I don’t know than what I do. But I revel in learning new things. So you can imagine my dismay when I learned of some of the following facts about common knowledge:

  • 23 % of Americans today thinks the Sun revolves around the Earth
  • 12% of adults in the US think Hamburgers are made from Ham
  • Almost 30% think Ben Franklin was once a US President (including some Congressmen and women!)
  • 18% of movie-goers in 2001 had no idea Pearl Harbor had even happened and over 20% of movie watchers didn’t know there was an actual Titanic that sunk (that’s MILLIONS of people!), and thus shocked by the movie’s ending
  • As of 2008, almost 14% of 10th graders couldn’t identify where the United States was on a map of the world. 
What the hell is going on? Who are these people and how are they able to even graduate the 4th grade let alone high School? My God these are facts that the poorest children in the poorest parts of the world know. 

Look I get it. “History is boring,” or “I’m just not good at math” or my favorite “i just don’t test well.” How many excuses for stupid are we going to tolerate in this society? For crying out loud people, WE HAVE THE INTERNET!
Now commonly, I am prone to rant in this blog but in light of offering something new, I offer some incredible tidbit meant to enlighten my fellow citizens. Now I am well aware that most of them don’t read and are likely not going to see this, but indulge me, dear reader.
  • The Mona Lisa painting doesn’t have eyebrows or eyelashes.
  • Honey is the only food that doesn’t spoil. 
  • Buttermilk does not contain any butter. It’s usually a simple recipe containing lemon juice, white vinegar and milk
  • Japan is commonly thought of as a tiny island nation, but it's actually about the size of California. In fact, it's larger than many European countries.
Sure, these are all arbitrary but look at what the internet can do for us. And now, I am just that many facts smarter and I can go to bed forever more knowing my honey won’t spoil.

Wish I could say the same for the intelligence of some of my countrymen.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Five Signs that the Zombie Apocalypse has begun


Unless you’ve been living in a cave or a deserted island over the last 15 years, you know Zombies are big. The story of the dead rising to plague the living is the stuff of nightmares. Since George R. Romero’s Night of the living dead, the 1968 horror cult classic that depicts waves of ‘undead’ terrorizing a small town of clueless townsfolk, have kept us on edge and wondering when this all begs for decades. The pulse-less fiends are in search of one thing and one thing only; brains. These mindless ghouls have infiltrated our movies, books, video games and TV shows. But it’s all just make believe right? 

Wrong.

Here is a verifiable list both factual, and op-ed, that reveal 5 indicators that confirm the Zombie apocalypse is heading to a hometown near you:

1. Brainlessness is alive and well As the numbers of texting-while-driving fatalities rise all over the world, Teen Mom shows see ratings explosions in a culture that reveres a lack of accomplishment as a badge of honor. Texting while driving? Phhhfftt! Amateurs. Why not paint oil paintings, watch TV, make a sandwich or even take a nap while driving on the freeway. 

2. People are trying to eat other (literally) Real life news events such as a Florida homeless man being attacked by a guy literally trying to eat his arm, or the man in Texas who was killed by his roommate and partially eaten. ‘What the hell is going on’ you say? Your answer is two words that rhyme with Flomie Scholopolypse. 

3. Zombie and post apocalyptic story lines are more popular than ever. The walking dead is by far the most popular and talked about TV show. If you aren’t watching well, again… cave dwell much? Show like The Ship show a world where mankind’s downfall is at the hands of a killer infection. Television programing aside, movies like I am Legend, Resident Evil, World War Z, 28 Days Later and even the new Dawn of The Planet of the Apes all portray a world where some infectious disease wipes out most human life and civilization as we know it. 

4. The US Government has a real-life contingency for a “Zombie Outbreak” It’s true. The United States military has to draw up plans for every potential threat to the eel-being and sovereignty of the United States. The department of homeland security has a zombie outbreak contingency in the works in case the population balance between the living and the dead walking around main street dramatically shifts. 

5. Common sense and general knowledge is at an all-time low. Don’t take my word for it, look at non-paid general access television. Have you counted the number of brainless, no-value-tomorrow programs there are on the big four networks? We elevate racist and misogynistic idiots to star status (Kim Khardasian, Honey Boo-Boo, Duck Dynasty I’m glaring at you), and we wonder why kids today can’t identify more than 4 countries on a world map or can’t spell worth a damn or don’t even know how many World Wars the world has endured. The dumbos are multiplying and their brainlessness is spreading. Like an infection. 


Yep, pretty sure my brain will be top of the menu on Zombie’s top sought-after yummiest brains. We are so screwed. 

Friday, May 23, 2014

I figured it out!


To anyone who knows me, you know I am a huge movie buff. Yes I do co-write an amateur (but fast gaining readership) sci-fi review blog called the Boxed Office. While I'm usually a general lover of cinema; from foreign films to the occasional Rom Com (Romantic Comedies) to documentaries, I enjoy my projected-light story time. And if you know that you also know that I have had it up to here with the movie-going scene. While I absolutely LIVE for the big screen experience, I absolutely LOATHE being in theaters with people who talk, text and generally act like inconsiderate butt-heads once the lights go out. 

Gone are the days when moviegoers were courteous to others and would just STFU when the movie (or trailers) began. Ushers even used to walk the isles to remind all the disorderly dimwits the show is about to begin and it's time to shut your pie-hole. What’s worse, is the reality of pulling out phones and texting, talking or (gulp!) even gaming during the film. Who the hell ARE you people?

It was about a week ago when the answer to this quandary suddenly occurred to me. 

Generally, I am NOT a violent guy. Few things are worth getting in someone’s face over but really, I paid my admission fee, so I’m entitled to enjoy the movie–preferably without having to hear the BS details of of the so-called lives of inconsiderate rubes. Yeah that’s right I said it. I’ll say it again. Rubes.

Four easy words are the solution to decades of frustration for millions of people who only want to go and watch a movie in peace—and it makes the movie-watching experience that much better to boot. Are you ready? 

Pump up the volume. 

I’ve witnessed it firsthand. When the volume goes up, the shenanigans get drowned out. When the volume is high, the ding-dongs can’t think. They don’t pull out their phones, they don’t comment or talk and I don’t have to hear them hork-down their crunchy salty over-priced buttery snacks. It’s downright magical. So, Hollywood, here’s my proposal: 

Don’t fight these fools. They have no manners and no common sense. Just drown them out. No one will complain that the volume is too loud. No one. If a few little old ladies in Tulucca Lake bitch to the manager, you can tell them about the master plan and give them a free extra-small popcorn (a $13 value!). Everyone wins. No one will get into fights, get shot or beaten up over rude behavior or have to suffer through some idiot’s critique of every trailer and major plot development. Since you won’t ask your ushers and staff to tell the troglodytes to knock it off, the least you can do is to do me the common courtesy of helping me to enjoy the film. After all, its at least the pretense to why I'm there in the first place. Better yet, it won't cost you a dime.

Make it so. 


Tuesday, May 6, 2014

When should kids answer the “Call Of Duty”?

When’s the perfect time to introduce kids to volatile, highly emotional gaming? When they’re ready.

[Nearly] every parent faces a question thought unimaginable with past generations. When should my child learn to slaughter other people–albeit virtually–online? Game franchises like Battlefield, Call Of Duty, Tom Clancey (RIP) and a host of others including Gears of War, Metal Gear Solid, BioShock and Halo all contain adult-themed video game experiences that are at best inappropriate to young minds,  especially under the age of 11 or 12. 

I speak from experience. 

I remember my boys were aged 6 and 8 years old when I put the controller in their hands to begin taking down alien baddies in games like Halo. What’s the harm right? They’re ugly, dog-faced savages that growl and spew blue blood (not the affluent cape cod estate kind of blue blood, but) they actually sprayed blue hemoglobin when shot between the eyes. What could be the harm be in that? 

Turns out, a lot. 

At age six, my twin boys began to show increased aggressive tendencies (should of seen that one coming) and began having minor but persistent nightmares. Even while playing the games they would get audibly loud and severely agitated at anything that would not go their way. 

So was I a bad parent for subjecting these young minds to this kind of animated violence? Probably. Make no bones about it, we went to parks, played in backyards and pools, went to (kids) movies and played board games, rode bike and the whole nine. I sincerely wanted my kids to enjoy gaming like I did, but they just weren’t ready for what I was introducing to them.

My kids are well (enough) adjusted these days but I would say this; when it comes to introducing kids to more violent video games, the later the better. A tough prospect for a gamer-dad, but a necessary one. Each parent has to decide for  themselves. Your kids will hit you with all the classics; “Dad it’ll be fine it’s just a game” or “I already played it (which IMMEDIATELY should become another conversation) and my favorite; “All my friends are all playing it already!” So what? If I was their Dad I would ban them from playing it, too. 

Technology plays such a critical role in the lives of our kids’ generation, way more so than in mine. Its a necessary evil. Just remember, you’re in control of the controller, making you the ultimate level boss.

Arthur Milano (Gamertag Arth Vader) can be found on the XBOX LIVE & Playstation Plus networks. He is a hopelessly addicted gamer, writer, designer, artist, movie reviewer and most importantly, father of four. He can be frequently found sharing thoughts on parenting, gaming, career and work-life balance on blogs like New Dadventures, writing Sci-Fi movie reviews at the Boxed Office and co-hosts a parenting video-game podcast and blog called Controller Issues

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

I’d buy that for a dollar

How long can we last? Long ago while living in my home state of Massachusetts, I bought a can of men’s shaving cream. It wasn’t some weird impulse buy and I wasn’t being particularly finicky about brand loyalty so any can would do. This can of Old Spice was a buck.
Sold.
Hey, I had to shave and I needed to do it cheap. The can (pictured above) was as good as any to me. So I plunked down my $1 (plus applicable tax) and I was good to go. Little did I know this can would be with me, through thick and thin, through good times and bad. 
Let me explain. This can survived New England snow storms, two trips across country, the humidity of Atlanta and the blistering heat of Arizona. My marriage, the birth of my four beautiful children, my divorce, two dogs, several cars and jobs. When I needed a close shave for a job interview, this can was there. Sure I used others, but none lasted as long as 'old red'.

While my kids were growing up and my beard was growing out, this little can of shaving foam kept me clean, looking good and smelling fresh. Two weeks ago, it pumped it’s last foamy lather. 

I winced. 
My inner hoarder wants to keep such a sturdy and unbelievably durable item forever. I won’t, though this can has been with me through some of the most exciting times of my life. And for the hundreds of shaves it’s provided over the course of the last 20 years, this durable little can has been there, even when other people–and things–in my life came and went. 
You can’t put a price on that kind of stick-to-itiveness. That kind of dependability is worth it’s weight in gold. I’m glad I bought it for a dollar.

So long, 'old red.' 

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Life Lessons In The Brackets

So what can the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament teach us about life?

It’s that NCAA Final Four time of year once again. And once again we're all a flutter over filling out brackets and trying to anticipate who will win–and when. It makes us all pseudo-basketball wizards. 

Many in the basketball world believe that tourney hoops is some of the best basketball ever. The passion and emotion exhibited by the fans, the players and even the commentators far surpasses that of the NBA or international rules basketball. Some believe it's because those kids are playing their hearts out for those pro scouts in the stands. Million-dollar contracts are on the line and every shot, every free throw–possibly every dribble–brings them that much closer to a giant payday with the coveted NBA rookie contract. 

That’s the complex and business side of college round-ball. There is something else, though. In tournament play, it's one-game elimination. One and done. Every game matters. No series, no best of five or seven games. Snooze you lose. Just like in life. Arguably, a powerful lesson for college hoops players and college-bound players alike as well as students of all ages (kids, I'm looking at you). 

But wait! That isn’t even the best part.

The best part is that a # 14 seed can upset a # 3 seed. A number one ranked team (or seed) can be toppled by a relative unknown, a nobody. And you know what the lesson is there, don’t you? That there are no guarantees, no such thing as a sure thing. No matter where you’re ranked, you have a shot at the big time. You have to be a giant-slayer and the road ahead is wrought with the toughest obstacles—but it can be done. Because it has been done. 

The best part of the NCAA tournament is that we can–even secretly–route for the underdog. Since the beginning of this nation’s history, we have been the underdog, the one least likely to succeed, the16th seed. It lifts our hearts and gives us hope that, even the least of us, can be champions.

And there is something pretty damn reassuring about that. 

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