Thursday, April 5, 2012

Letters To Famous People


Hey guess what? My friend, NAY, my soul sister Tyler Tarver has a new book out. Do you know what it's about? Famous people. Guys, I love famous people.

REAL TALK: I will read an US Weekly from any time period with no problem.

But Tyler takes the fascination to a different level. He writes famous people letters. That's write. OMG. Do you see what I just did there? Tyler's book is so inspirational that the idea of writing is infiltrating every aspect of my being.

But Tyler hasn't JUST written a book for you. No, my naive friend. He's done so much more. He wants to GIVE you things as well. In addition to writing us a book, he's also giving away tons of cool things if you would help promote his book.

To find out more, click it over to his blog and read the details.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

So Evidently I Look Creepy?


*(Note: Congrats to Erin Moon for winning the Steven Curtis Chapman giveaway from yesterday. Erin, send me your info and I'll pass it along to EMI.)

Thanks to Bryan Allain, I had the extreme pleasure of going to the Killer Tribes conference this past weekend and it was great. I got to meet people who are now friends and not "friends," I was finally able to meet Tyler Stanton who I'm running a site with and have exchanged 14,000 emails with over the past few months, and I even had the good fortune of melting down in front of a large group of people when a microphone was put in front of my mouth. Basically, par for the course of my life.

But one recurring theme reared it's ugly head much to my surprise: Apparently, people were quite varied on how I looked.

Off-handedly, I'd chosen a singular picture for my online identity because I was too lazy to take a picture with me smiling giddily while wearing a cardigan, holding a cup of hot coffee and frolicking with a majestic Golden Retriever / Yellow Lab.

This is that picture:

Here are some of the comments I received at the conference about this picture:

"You look like you were too busy playing WoW to look at the camera."
 

"You look like you are sitting in the basement of a mental hospital."
 

"You look like you are either on friendly terms with or are a child molester."
 

"You look like you are wearing those glasses that are shaded because you are blind or have terrible taste."

Fair. They are all fair. But now, I'm having an identity crisis. So if you see me changing pictures at will, you can blame yourselves. All of you.

What's the best insult you can make about my old picture?

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Sponsored Post: Steven Curtis Chapman Giveaway


If you're like me, you grew up listening to tons of Steven Curtis Chapman. If you're not like me, now is the perfect time to start listening to him because, today, he releases Volume 1 of his #1 hits, which is a pretty appropriate title because the list of his #1s is pretty voluminous. 

Also, to celebrate this release, he's playing an online streaming event where there will be good music (duh) and pretty sweet giveaways.

Click here to see the album in iTunes.

The good people at EMI have given me one CD to giveaway, so in the comments, leave me your favorite SCC song of all time and we'll pick a winner at random. I'll go first and I'll totally keep the CD if I get chosen at "random."

Thursday, March 29, 2012

So Is Technology Evil?


I heard someone recently talking about how technology is the root cause for all the wrong in the world  and I instantly became defensive. Mostly because I'm naturally condescending, but also because a lot of what I do involves technology. So beyond being condescending in my thought process, I was also being self-serving. I'm a diverse person, you guys.

But still, deep down, I truly don't think that technology is as violently evil as people say. Is there a tremendous capacity for evil with technology? Sure. But I look at it like Taken. There are good people (Liam Neeson), there are bad people (everyone involved in the sex trade and taking of Neeson's daughter) and there are people poorly cast as gawky teenage girls (Maggie Grace).

The point is, with every thing, there is a possibility for good or bad. Sure, there are some things with a higher propensity for bad, but I could give my son a banana to eat a nutritious snack or I could try to peg you in the face with it. Our intent with the medium seems  to be what matters and who am I kidding all you can think about right now is me pegging you in the face with a banana. Probably in slow motion.

The people who REALLY get me are the ones that think ALL progress is evil like indoor plumbing or women who wear pants. They are the worst and they're totally not highly concentrated in the south or elderly populations.

I don't know. But what I do know is this:

- I have a lot of "friends" I'm going to meet this weekend whom I've had the pleasure of meeting solely because of technology.

- I also hope that I can finally stop having to asteriskize the word friends because I've never spoken or met these people beyond the internet. I love telling people I'm going to a blogger conference to meet internet friends. They are probably picturing a Renaissance Fair only nerdier.

- Technology has allowed me an outlet for something I love doing. Some may argue that this is part of the evil argument and I would probably agree with that.

- On a personal level, whenever my wife and I get in a verbal tussle, sometimes technology is the most helpful way to ease simmering tensions because resuming a  conversation through text or IM filters out the angry hand gestures (me), condescending tone (me) and eye-rolling (me).

I don't know. I'm probably naive though.

What's the best way technology has affected you?

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Will Going To The Movies Make You An Alcoholic?


The following is a guest post from Mark Hughes who is one of the most well-known figures in marketing. He once flipped a company (Half.com) and sold it to eBay for $300 million in a matter of months, renaming a small town in Oregon in the process. I know I'm usually pretty unreliable fact-wise, but that's actually true.

His last book Buzzmarketing was an international bestseller, translated into a dozen languages and his current book Sons of Grace is a collection of ten moving stories about tough guys who have turned their lives around.

I'm actually in the process of reading it and it's very good. I highly recommend checking it out. But enough about me. Mark, take it away...

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Researchers from the German Institute for Therapy and Health Research recently published a study linking movies to alcohol abuse. The claim is basically that young people are more likely to engage in abusive behaviors like binge drinking if they’ve seen a lot of onscreen drinking.

Of course you take a study like this with a grain of salt, but the report underscores that movies and alcohol abuse are probably the two most popular and widespread forms of escapism available in this country.  My friend Tim Donnelly, a Marine Sniper, became an alcoholic and tried to escape by suicide, but we’ll get to that later.

While alcohol and Hollywood may be the two most widely available means of leading people into trouble, it’s important to keep in mind that these are two branches of a larger and more dangerous beast known as escapism.

A certain amount of escapism is definitely healthy to recharge the soul. Nowhere are the benefits of a little escapism more evident than in this country, which owes its very existence to people who came here to escape oppression.

Maybe that’s why America would come to be home to the most elaborate and frantic expressions of escapism. Our culture prizes liberty and the pursuit of happiness more than anything else, and sometimes we get so caught up in the pursuit that we forget about the actual happiness. We start to constantly search for something that will make us better, rather than resting firm in what is already good. And this is when escapism starts to get scary.

Tim Donnelly, the Marine Sniper who initially approached me with the idea for Sons of Grace, knows escapism about as well as anybody. This excerpt from his story hits it right on the nose:

“I decided to make another move, clear cross-country to Missoula, Montana where no one I knew would be on hand to watch me dive back into the bottle.  I proceeded to hook up with a woman eight years older, and just as dysfunctional.  Our relationship was based entirely on alcohol abuse.  And of course we made the addict’s time-honored mistake of thinking our mutual need was the same as true love, and tied the knot.  But, as usual, it wasn’t long before I was ready to run again.  I left her and the marriage flat in the middle of the night, to join the Marines.”  

Tim would be the first to tell you that his escapist impulses did not end well for him. In his case, alcohol ended up getting the best of him to such a degree that he ended up needing an escape from his escape.  He tried suicide.  But eventually, he was able to find escape, thankfully, by turning his life over to God.  Killing his old self.

Tim was lucky enough to find something in his relationship to a higher power that is constant, fulfilling, and inescapable. Devoting himself to God was the escape to end all escapes—a path to peace and happiness (which still has its everyday potholes).

It isn’t always easy to tell when we are using something as an escape, and can be harder still to notice if we are beginning to depend on this escape to an unhealthy degree. Just because your chosen form of escapism may not be as all-consuming as Tim’s was, it doesn’t mean you could be better off without it.

Next time you find yourself fixing an extra drink, watching another Law & Order marathon, or doing whatever it is you do to give your mind a little vacation, ask yourself:  

"What am I trying to escape? With silence, we inevitably arrive at the basic questions in life which often make us uncomfortable:  Who am I?  Why am I here?  What’s my purpose in life?"

What are some ways you indulge in escapism? 

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Book Review: Building A Life Out Of Words


There's theme in my friend Shawn Smucker's newest eBook Building A Life Out Of Words that resonates throughout. I had the distinct pleasure of being able to read this newest book, which is a collection of journals and other pieces chronicling his time in 2009 when he first began trying to make a living as a writer.

The theme that resonated (at least with me) was the idea of pursuing a life that was rich, but also practical - and not in terms of financials. In terms of experiences. It's so easy to shrink that idea into a pithy sentence, but put into practice, it's infinitely more difficult. Shawn's book tackles the notion of having both and sometimes having neither -- and it's excellent when discussing both circumstances.

I think most of us feel compelled to always project success and happiness to those around us. Our lawns are always green, our bank accounts full and our relationships harmonious, so it's refreshing to read Shawn's honesty when none of these things were true.

Though writers will probably identify greatly with Shawn and get lots of mileage from his successes and failures, this book is more about the process and career of writing. It's about love. It's about faith. It's about family. And it's about not  falling blithely into the process of life and forgetting what you want out of it.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Jesus As Your Wingman


I've got a couple of posts in different places today so I wanted to link to them in case that was something you might be interested in. If not, it's COOL. Hakuna Matata and Namaste and all kinds of non-conflicty stuff like that.

If you want to read about the girl who used Jesus as her Wingman, click here to go to The My Bad Project.

If you want to know why you should be watching Justified (and you really should be watching it) click here to go to TV Asylum.

That's it. High five.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

My Only Thing With The Hunger Games


So I loved the first book of  the Hunger Games trilogy. LOVED it. I've been on a kick about reading non-fiction lately, but my wife blew through it and I like being able to talk about books with her, so I read it too and it was one of those books that grab you. Like you can't put it down almost as if it's like a bag of jelly beans or bacon bits or maybe I just have problems saying no to food.

The one thing that kept coming up between my wife and I was the end of the Games. (Obviously, if you haven't read the books or don't want to know about them, I'd stop reading now.)

For my wife, the part about the muttations was the most vivid part of the book. She described it as very vivid, very horrific and just generally unpleasant. She didn't like the scene at all, but it resonated with her because of it's awfulness. For me though, I hated that part. When I say hated, I mean I felt like that was the weakest part of the book.

Why?

Because for me, the book had created this very relatable world, but with sensationalized qualities. Things like a dystopic America, genetically engineered aspects of nature, formalized barbarism etc. are all definite departures from the world we know now, but they are realistic enough that we can make the leap in logic. In large part, this is what made the book so good to me.

A book about velociraptors that have been cloned and now work exclusively as singing waiters in upscale restaurants would be fine, but I don't think it would ever resonate with me. This is why I enjoyed Hunger Games so much because it's not that out of the realm of possibility for this eventual world to exist.

So when the scene with the muttations happened, I was kind of thrown for a loop because I felt like a pattern had been established and all the sudden we have those monster puppies that have been altered to appear like dead tributes? I get the horror of it, but it just felt too rambunctious for a book that found it's strength in being very subdued and purposely in the construction of it's fictionalized context.

Maybe  that was the point; to cash in all that subduedness for a big frothy climax of Cato getting his hair whipped back and forth. But from my limited and ultimately probably ignorant perspective, it didn't work. I know that's SUPER nitpicky and probably obnoxious coming from a guy who writes about zombies and The Bachelor, but I'm really just wondering whether or not I'm totally misreading that. Obviously, the book is still fantastic, but I'm just curious if anyone else felt like I did.

What did you think?

What was your most/least favorite moment from the book?

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

The Walking Dead Recap: We're All Infected


When we last left the Grimes' Gang, Rick had just killed his best friend and master cuckolder, Shane, and Carl had just headshot Zombie Shane. Also, there's like a kajillabillion zombies shambling towards Carl and Rick just out of eyeline so there's about to be a major situation.

Opening Shot
A helicopter piques the interest of  a gaggle of zombies who are dining on something. (Rick's original horse from the pilot? How bad does that decision look in retrospect? "Durr Durr, I'll go ride a horse into ZombieVille. Durr De Durr." That's like me riding a float made up of KFC into a zoo) and they travel for miles and miles and miles and as they do they begin to assemble into a super army of zombies. They are in the area when Carl blows Shane's head off and this makes them want to investigate. (Though to be fair, wouldn't Shane's errant shot have also done this?)

Also important to note: the helicopter. Clearly this teases something down the road and I like that they just let it sit there and don't feel the need to fill out that storyline yet.

After opening credits, everyone is in the house and they're all like, WHAT is going on? Darryl and Glen enter scene and explicate things for the sake of exposition telling the other characters that Rick and Shane are alone, a shot was fired, and Shane totally probably just broke Randall's neck.

Lori is pissed and tells Darryl to go look for Rick and Darryl from a few episodes ago would have been like EXPLETIVE no, but this is a kinder gentler Darryl I guess and he's like K fine.


To read the rest of this recap, CLICK HERE...
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