Tag Archives: television

“Where Do You Find the Time?” Six Steps to a More Productive Life

The other day, my very good friend Troy sent me a message on Facebook, and in it he asked me (and this isn’t the first time he’s asked this) how I manage to find time to do all the things I do.

As many of you know, I’m a bit of a Renaissance man when it comes to the arts. I’m a published poet who plays a decent hand at DIY filmmaker, with one solid feature-length screenplay written and ready to shoot, plus another in 1st draft mode, and who’s now trying to squeeze an original graphic story into the comic book arena. Oh, and I’m also the author of an upcoming book Crowdfunding for Filmmakers, and that ushers in a whole slew of new titles, from guest blogger to crowdfunding consultant. And I also try to maintain a solid standing as a loving boyfriend and responsible kitty daddy who occasionally enjoys some time at the café or bar with my closest friends, actors, writers, and acquaintances from Facebook, the real world, and beyond.

Sheesh! Now that I wrote all that, I actually do quite a bit, don’t I? So how do I manage to do it all? Well, here are six steps that I live by, which may ensure a rich journey onto a more productive path in life:

Land yourself a job that doesn’t get in the way I’ve been very fortunate (at least for the past ten years) to have an occupation that doesn’t interfere with my writing and filmmaking endeavors –– freelance professor. I teach at an average of three universities across as many counties in my home state of New Jersey, putting in a max of fifteen hours a week and raking in enough coin to cover rent, car insurance, student loans, and cell phone expenses, plus a little extra for food shopping and an occasional dinner with my girlfriend Marinell. The more responsibilities we have at the office, the more money we’ll receive, but it’ll be at the expense of our free time.

Don’t follow what’s on TV When I was a kid, I followed a lot of TV, as outlined in a prior blog post. That was enough to last a lifetime. Today, you won’t catch me waiting with uncurbed enthusiasm for the next season of Mad Men the way I’d once hurry through my homework to stake it up with Buffy the Vampire Slayer. These days, if I catch any shows at all, it’s usually a quick rerun of Big Bang Theory, an episode of Toy Hunter, or the occasional webisode of The Booth at the End on Hulu. Anything else, like The Walking Dead, I’ll catch up with on Netflix a few months later. How can I live without TV, you ask? Easy: I can’t afford it. And when we can’t afford TV, the only station we can tune to is the Productivity Network, Channel 247.

This was before the “Rabbit Ear” revolution, so my signal-less 23″ tube TV isn’t so outdated.

Use guilt to your advantage Like yin and yang, pleasure and guilt coexist in everyone’s lives. Whenever I have too much of a good time, guilt starts to creep up my spine, and I’m immediately pulled back into my realm of intense productivity. That’s really the secret of how I’m able to do so much in the course of a single day –– I’ll feel guilty if I don’t, and I don’t like the feeling guilt produces. If I sit around looking at LOLCats for longer than five minutes in the course of a week, I feel like I’ve wasted much more than that in the course of my life. We’ve only got so much time to do all the things we want to do in this life, so we should spend the bulk of our time doing them.

Plan your day everyday, and never deviate I plan out each day the night before on small sheets of paper or an occasional napkin from my neighborhood café. Once I get up the next morning, and after I stretch, work out, eat breakfast, and shower, I turn on my computer and start red penning each item on the day’s “To Do” list. If I get to the bottom and they’re not all Xed out, guilt sets in. But if I do (and I always do), I’m free to enjoy whatever else I want to do with the remainder of my day. Notes like this can keep us organized enough to get through the things we need to do so we can do some of the things we want to do. (More on needs and wants shortly.)

Red Xed and ready for the evening ahead.

Choose your significant other wisely Have I mentioned how fortunate I am? One of the most wonderful things that’s ever happened to me was meeting Marinell. She understands my writer’s needs and has been super-humanly supportive of me for the past seven years. That said, and since healthy relationships are a necessity to almost everyone, if you want to remain productive, you should choose your significant other wisely. And while it’s true that we can’t help who we fall in love with, if we love ourselves enough to see whether or not he or she is a help or a hindrance to our creative or productive lives, we can make the proper choice to stay in or opt out of a particular relationship if it gets in the way of that productivity.

Understand the difference between need and want I tend to do only what’s necessary in all things, from my eating habits to my writing regimen. I only travel when I need to. For me, writing and telling stories are as essential as food, shelter, and clothing. What I need is time to write, submit pitches, revise screenplays, and create new ideas. Everything else is want, and while it’s nice to get the things we want, it’s more important to focus on the things we need; and when we get what we need, we can more fully appreciate all those things we want when we finally get them and see them for what they are: gravy on our meat loaf instead of honey on already frosted cake.

There are lots more tips that I have, from avoiding Words with Friends to doing one’s laundry once every three months, but perhaps those can be divulged in a later post or in an ebook I’m tossing around in my head, tentatively titled The Martlet’s Guide to a More Productive Life. Let’s see if these tips prove helpful (and if I can find the time to write it!)

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What are some tips YOU can offer that might help keep people on the path to a more productive lifestyle? Share them in the Comments section.

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From Television to Tomorrow’s Vision

Happy 2012, folks!

So the other day, I did something I rarely do. I went to Hulu and watched a show that my good friend Troy Romeo recommended called The Booth at the End, a web series about a guy who sits in a diner and helps people get what they want. I watched the first episode and I was hooked. That night, I watched the remaining four episodes, and for the first time in a long time, I can’t wait for season two of something. This same sort of thing happened once before when I finally made time to watch another web series, The Mercury Men, a short sci-fi series that was eventually picked up by SyFy, about men from the planet Mercury trying to destroy the Earth in the 1950s and shot in a campy, Buster Crabbe Flash Gordon style (only with much better special effects, I must say.)

Sci-fi fans, past and present, will get a kick out of The Mercury Men.

Now those who know me well know that I do not watch TV. This is partially because I don’t subscribe to Cable or DirecTV, but also because I haven’t found anything on TV or the web that can keep me engaged past than the first episode. I tried a few recent shows like HBO’s True Blood during my research for my feature-length vampire script A Beautiful Unlife and the first episode of Californication at the request of an acquaintance; both of these programs had absolutely nothing to keep me wanting to watch.

Then I thought back to when I was a happy, healthy little boy going to grammar and eventually high school, coming home and doing my homework with much interest in every subject, then spending the remainder of my day with my head tucked into A Tale of Two Cities and Madame Bovary. Then right before bed I would read an act of Coriolanus or whatever work of Shakespeare I could take out from the local library (for fun, of course).

Wait––! That’s not how it was. Not. At. All.

I was a happy, healthy kid, that much is true. But everyday I would rush home from school and finish my homework with Flash-swiftness I could so I could adjust the rabbit ears and tune my eyes to Channel 11 for two action-quacked hours of DuckTales, Chip & Dale Rescue Rangers, TaleSpin, and Darkwing Duck. The tops of my mornings through the late 1980s up until 1992 started off with some Looney Tunes, The Jetsons, and the first ten minutes of Conan the Adventurer before I’d journey up the hill toward Weehawken High.

Classic. 'Nuff said.

It’s strange even for me to think that I don’t watch any TV today when, looking back, I watched a lot of TV throughout my entire life. With a television set in every room of our apartment (except the bathroom, of course), I suppose it was easy. I started out much the same as kids today, only instead of Barney and Friends I was taught my A-B-Cs by Cookie Monster and my 1-2-3s by The Count. And even now I can easily recall some of the many cartoons that lit up my living room most –– The Flintstones, He-Man and the Masters of the Universe, Transformers and G.I. Joe; I watched this last show not for the “Real American Heroes,” sadly (Duke and the gang were kind of boring), but for the villains: Cobra Commander and Destro hidden behind their masks, Zartan and his sun-blued flesh, and those strange twins Tomax and Xamot (and let’s not forget about Serpentor!)

Totally bad-ass, 1980s-style!

Saturday morning cartoons have always held an extra special place inside. On certain Saturdays, when my Dad would drop me off at my Yiya’s apartment (yiya is “grandmother” in Greek) whenever he’d have to work the early shift at the diner, I would spend those mornings happily sipping a Nestle Quik chocolate milk from a bendy straw and watching Superfriends, Dungeons and Dragons, Jim Henson’s Muppet Babies and Captain N: The Game Master, plus the occasional episode of The Smurfs, Fraggle Rock, and yes, Pee-wee’s Playhouse.

Eventually, I moved onto live-action TV programming. Early on, my shows of choice were game shows (well, not my choice, as my Dad was master of the remote, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t enjoy them.) Mornings in summertime meant watching classics like The Price is Right (Bob Barker is the only host of this show, by the way), Family Feud with Ray Combs and The Newlywed Game with Bob Eubanks, back in the days when we kids didn’t know what “making whoopee” meant. At dinnertime, my Dad and I found ourselves so immersed in the fist-to-jaw escapades of action shows like Knight Rider, The A-Team and Baywatch, that once the smoke cleared from the explosion right before a commercial break, the smoke rising from our dinner plates had cleared as well.

The original KITT, which inspired so many of my sci-fi tendencies today.

Around the same time I discovered sitcoms, as well. The ones I enjoyed most were Family Ties, Growing Pains, and Small Wonder, but later on I would start staying up extra late in my Dad’s bedroom (he had a better TV in his room than I had in mine) and watch reruns of 1970s classics like All in the Family and Taxi. On many occasions, my Dad and I would sit in the kitchen chuckling away at The Cosby Show, Cheers, Perfect Strangers, Who’s the Boss? and especially Three’s Company. Later on, I would take a peculiar liking to The Wonder Years, Doogie Howser, M.D. and other situational dramedies. But perhaps the only two shows I remember ever making me laugh out loud with every episode were Married with Children and Seinfeld.

When my sister lived in Union City, only a few blocks away from my apartment, I’d visit more frequently and she’d cook us up some chicken cutlets and we’d  watch Law & Order (or CSI –– I can’t tell the difference to this day between any of those crime dramas; even then, I didn’t care for them, but it was about quality time; that, and the chicken cutlet). On weekends, I went through a brief stint in which I sat up with my sister-in-law Patti watching classic programming that originally aired in the late 1950s through the early 1980s on Nick At Nite. Shows like Leave it to Beaver, Bewitched, I Love Lucy, The Munsters and Gilligan’s Island, and even a few episodes of Mork & Mindy and Laverne & Shirley, bounced splashes of grey and eventually Technicolor all along the living room walls until I couldn’t laugh anymore and fell asleep.

And after ten or twelve years watching Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles battle Shredder and Krang while Jason Priestley and Shannen Doherty tried to fit themselves into Beverly Hills, 90210, plus late nights on the edge of my seat as Dr. Sam Beckett tried desperately to find his way home in Quantum Leap, I got hooked on what would become the very last TV serial ever to leave an indelible mark (or two) on me –– Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

Vampires and Sarah Michelle Gellar? 1997 - 2003 were good years.

As you can probably see from the thirty-something titles listed, I’ve spent an enormous amount of my own wonder years situated in front of the tube transmitting images, stories, humor, adventure and even personality into my very being.

Today, there are no shows I feel an all-encompassing kinship with, none that might inspire me with the sudden urge to speed home, sit in front of a flat screen and get my fix. No stories being told in today’s digital TV universe have moved me to that sort of zealous devotion to any one title or writer or story arc. The only show I do “follow” with some interest is The Walking Dead, but even that’s not enough to make me pull together a “boy’s night in” with Doritos and red wine to watch each episode as it happens; I’ll catch up with season two when it’s on Netflix. And while I have a subtle curiosity about HBO’s Bored to Death, mainly because of Jason Schwartzman, it’s remained in the same position on my queue for months. I have no care to play catch-up on Lost, Breaking Bad, Rescue Me, Mad Men, It’s Always Sunny in Philidelphia or any of the other shows that win Emmy Awards for writing or “Best Original Series.” The truth is, TV writing is not what it was when I grew up with television, and no story is original (quirky, yes, but not original.) As a matter of fact, the only shows I will watch whenever I can catch them are food reality TV shows (of all things!) like Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations and especially Man v. Food.

By far the most fun I've had in front of a flat screen to date!

I’ve watched enough television to help me shape, mold and constantly recreate the person I am today: My fascination with vampires comes not only from Hammer Films and Joss Whedon’s Buffy franchise, but from late nights spent with Dracula: The Series and Forever Knight; my penchant for sci-fi stems from following Buck Rogers in the 25th Century and catching a few Twilight Zone marathons on New Year’s Eves past; my predilection for duality and parallelism comes from watching Beauty and the Beast and random episodes of Star Trek and Star Trek: The Next Generation.

So instead of spending any more of my time sitting on a couch or kitchen chair with a remote control in hand surfing for something to sustain my attention, I’d rather spend that same amount of time and energy creating something that will make others give me the benefit of their attention for a change. This is not a trashing of contemporary TV programming, nor is it a song of praise for the shows of all my seasons past; it’s a prelude of things to come, a glimpse into what all those years spent watching TV can create in us, if we choose to let it, that is.

In the epic battle between Man and Tube, this one goes to Tube…and to Man.

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What are some classic (or contemporary) TV shows that have made a long-lasting impression on who YOU are?

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SilverHawks, Ho!

I was inspired to write this up after reading a neat article on ComicVine.com posted by Tom Pinchuk called “A ThunderCats Revival? What About BraveStarr?” As huge a fan as I am of those ‘80s cartoons I grew up with, I wasn’t much into BraveStarr (westerns were never my thing, and Thirty/Thirty kinda scared me as a kid!) I was more attuned to another series that for some reason, like BraveStarr, never enjoyed the commercial success of Lion-O and his prowling pack of intergalactic exiles from Thundera––SilverHawks!

Some of you may remember Quicksilver, Bluegrass, Steelwill and Steelheart, and the Copper Kid with his mime-like musings. Together, they form a bionic superteam of space cops assigned to put an end to organized crime in the galaxy of Limbo by defeating the evil Mon*Star. Now, a lightning fast comparison of ThunderCats and SilverHawks will show that…well, the Cats are much cooler than the Hawks, of course. I mean, you can’t really compare superpowered cat people with cybernetic humanoids labeled as “Hawks” because of some metal wings and rockets built into their silver boots (Val Lewton would agree for sure.)

Despite the simplicity of the SilverHawks themselves, there are most definitely more memorable baddies in the SilverHawks’ mythos than in the ThunderCats’ one. First of all, the fact that the Hawks are hunting down space mobsters and their lackies was pretty innovative for the time. But just look at the names of some of the SilverHawks’ foes: Mo-Lec-U-Lar, Zero the Memory Theif, Windhammer and Melodia. And they each have interesting powers; Mo-Lec-U-Lar makes his way as a shapeshifter by modifying his molecular structure; Windhammer alters the weather by banging a giant tuning fork; and Melodia creates dissonance with her devastating “Sound Smasher.” Compare these hepcats with the merely mutant miscreants of ThunderCats like Slithe, Vultureman, and Ratar-O and there’s no contest. Granted, ThunderCats will always claim the pot, and rightfully so, for it’s the series that introduced audiences to quite possibly the greatest villain of all time––Mumm-Ra, the Ever-Living (Mon*Star’s simply a bargain-basement version of the great demon-pharaoh, as shown in the two videos below.) But at least Mon*Star could afford some more qualified lackeys; I’d put my money on Mumbo-Jumbo in a battle of brawn against Hammerhand and his Berserkers any day!

I’m looking back on SilverHawks not so much because it’s a great series (in truth, it isn’t, especially with its opening theme song!), but because I’ve always been more a sci-fi lover than anything else. Obviously ThunderCats tells more compelling stories, has heroes that are made more of heart and less of steel and circuits, and deals with grander issues on a smaller scale; that is they are fighting for their own survival on a strange new planet, whereas the SilverHawks fight for justice in a vast, seemingly endless part of a dark cosmos.

After five strong years of syndication and the complete collection available on DVD, why on Third Earth would anyone want to wake these sleeping Cats and unwrap the Mumm-Ras of our childhoods?

I’m obviously not the biggest proponent of revivals. If something was done right the first time, there’s no need for a reprise. ThunderCats was the coolest cartoon on TV from 1985 to 1990. Why burden those classic characters with new (and more than likely diminutive) adventures and postmodern animation when Studio 4°C could just as easily brush off the wings of a series that had so much potential during its three months of airtime, despite its inability to reach the Thunderous speed it takes to soar into the hearts and consciousness of cartoon lovers everywhere? Or they could resurrect BraveStarr and let this space cowboy and his trusty (and scary!) steed Thirty/Thirty prance on into the sunrise of a new generation’s HD-optimized living room.

Let sleeping Cats lie, I say, and revive instead the dead, not those who had a great run and now deserve a well-earned retirement.

Obviously the reason for a ThunderCats revival is because there’s no risk for Studio 4°C––it’s bound to be a success. What are YOUR thoughts on revivals? Why are they cool? Why are they not?

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