Sunday, August 3, 2014

Walking Through Auschwitz

It has been far too long since I have posted. In this inexcusable time of absence I traveled to Europe, gallivanted in California and enjoyed some other wanderings here and there. My first book I’m Trying Here has been out almost three months and is having moderate success on the e-book circuit. But now it is time to move forward. I have been working on several projects and have simply been waiting for one to take some form of momentum.

My moment of clarity has arrived, and I am 11 pages into my second novel. It will be a cross-breeding of genres type of book. It will be a true account of my experience visiting Auschwitz in Poland. Part of it will be historical context, the other part will be motivational/philosophical i.e. what can we learn from studying or experiencing tragedy? What benefit can come from learning about evil and hatred? These are questions that have hibernated in my mind for years, and now I wish to better articulate my inquires, and posit them for all who wish to read.  I don’t want to give away too much yet in terms of motifs and plot structure, but like I said, above all it will be about the Holocaust, and my personal dealings with history. Below I will mention a few salient experiences from my trip to Auschwitz.

I have read dozens of books on the Holocaust, and about concentration camps. There are few things I don’t know about the general history of the Nazi regime and their accompanying plans of horror and destruction. Alas, there is no way to prepare for entering these camps. There is no way to understand the gravity of the events taken place without walking in the paths of history, and experiencing it with your senses. Listening to things about life and the world is important, reading about these things is imperative, but being there, experiencing them is an unparalleled sensation. A man can learn a lot by listening to a suave Casanova ramble on about dating, maybe even more so by reading a book on the subject. But you will learn exponentially more by asking girls out yourself, or by going on a double date with this putative master of dating. This principle holds true for almost any area of learning. Experience, and presence trumps all else.

At Auschwitz, where literally millions of innocent people died decades ago, I myself paid money to enter the horrid gates. At the entrance, engraved atop in iron with ironic morbidity are the words Arbeit Macht Frei (Work sets you free. Our tour took many hours, and yet I was rather upset that it ended so quickly. The camps are vast and overwhelming. I was maniacally taking pictures and trying to take in the moments, all the while trying to imagine the impossible hardships of those who walked those barracks, gas chambers and fields some seventy years ago.

Certain things touched me in a way that will resonate with me forever, in a way no book could ever provide. The exhibits that displayed the things that the Nazis seized from the Jews and other prisoners upon arrival were absolutely harrowing. I knew they would take all of their personal items, their shoes, their glasses, their prosthetics, and even their hair, but seeing it up close, behind glass was something that left my stomach unsettled and my eyes full of water. Specifically the hair; the hair that was violently shaved or cut off by Hitler’s henchman was hard to look at. You could see tiny ponytails and little piles of hair that were clearly that of children. It made my heart churn and weep.

I could go on for pages, but I will save my narcissistic mutterings for my book. All I know is that visiting those haunted grounds changed me in a beautiful and existential way. And though you may not ever have the opportunity yourself, I hope you can have similar experiences that change your view of the world, and inspire you to do good, to do better. 

I am working hard on this book and hope to have it finished within the next few months. Thanks for the support, and let me know if you have any questions. As the book progresses I will post periodical excerpts like I did with my first work. Cheers & adieu.

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Why Are We So Unsatisfied With Life? How to Rid Ourselves of Insecurities

The last few years of my life, for whatever reason, I have become more keenly aware of a flawed human tendency. It seems that everyone struggles in some capacity with insecurities. This is normal, right? Of course it is, but I would posit that we can eliminate the majority of our insecurities by doing one thing.

Pastor Steven Furtick said it best, “The reason we struggle with insecurity is because we compare our behind the scenes with everyone else’s highlight reel.” Now it is human nature to compare ourselves with other people. People are annoyingly ubiquitous and there is no getting around it. In our quest to become better individuals and progress in society we look at what we are accomplishing or doing, and juxtapose it to those around us. But as Furtick opined, perhaps this is a perilous practice if we are not careful. Don’t get me wrong, it can be a very positive thing to compare ourselves to others with the goal of self-improvement. Oh the wondrous things we can glean from the amazing souls around us. Wherein lays this insidious problem then? The problem is we rarely see the struggles people go through. We do not know who is furtively depressed. We do not know who feels utterly pummeled by the cosmos. This is of course mostly because people do not usually broadcast there woes. And if they do, we usually find these proclamations as pathetic and a little woe-is-me in nature.

Generally people post about the great things in life through social media. Scrolling through Facebook and Instagram we see vacations, great food, and timeless friendships. We see love and magnificent activities. But do vacations and fancy eats equate to felicity? What about the other side: What about the hard times we all go through? People do not usually advertise their broken hearts, their weary minds and their cracking moods. We don’t see everyone’s lonely nights. We don’t see everyone’s indecision and muddled thoughts. We see the glory, and the good. But do hard times equate to a poor quality of life? Do difficult moments make our life inferior to another’s?

Truth is, we all go through things. We all have dark alcoves that we don’t like visiting. We all experience hurtful things we don’t want publicized. But it is so easy to look with envy at those luxuriating around us, those seemingly bereft of stress or any notion of sadness. Again, this is a flawed practice. We are being slightly ridiculous if we think people are not out there struggling like we are. The problem is we don’t know fully any one person’s struggle, yet we know all too well the intricacies and gray corners of our own trials.
In an attempt to rid ourselves of at least a modicum of our own insecurities, let’s remember the following: It is a sign of great maturity and a progressive mind to be unsatisfied with the status quo, to be uncomfortable with conforming and disdainful of mediocrity, but sometimes we take that desire too far.
One more time for repetition…

“The reason we struggle with insecurity is because we compare our behind the scenes with everyone else’s highlight reel.”

Wednesday, May 14, 2014


After 2 months of writing, another month of editing and countless vacillating over comma placement, my book is finally finished and available for purchase. I am still in the process of sending it to traditional publishing houses, as I am much more fond of physical books than e-books, but in the meantime I decided to self-publish and try to get the word out about my book, and maybe make five or six bucks. 

The book is available on Amazon and Kindle. This does not mean you have to own a kindle to access my words. You can simply download the Kindle app to any of your app-capable devices i.e. Tablet, iPad, smart phone, Nook, Kindle, etc. It can also just be downloaded and read on your computer through Amazon. If you are having trouble accessing it, or are not particularly tech savvy, contact me and I will send you a link. But you shouldn't have any trouble just clicking on the My Book tab. Once again thank you for the love and support. It has only been out 2 days and already I have received countless messages of congratulations and love. 

I have already started work on my second book, so stay sharp, in the upcoming months I will post any updates I have, along with the occasional excerpt. Please help me spread the word about my new book by telling friends, and sharing my links. I don't care about the money near as much as I care about getting my words out there. And with the internet, the amount of influence a book can have is limitless. So if you like it, please share it with your fellow bibliophiles. Grazie.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

The Joys of Cinephilia

Writing Update
It has been some time since I have blogged. No, I have not been a victim of writer’s block. Quite the contrary actually, I have been editing and finalizing things for the publication of my first book, I’m Trying Here: A Memoir of love, Loss, and Misadventure.  I am still sending it to publishers, but since the average publisher promises to respond in 2-3 months, I decided to self-publish my work as an e-book on Amazon and Kindle in the meantime. I am simply putting the final touches on the cover, and then it should be available online within the week. Stay tuned on my social media outlets, where I will make more official announcements of release dates and any other pertinent information. Thanks for the love and support for my highly lucrative writing career. Post script: The book will likely be available for 99 cents. So sacrifice one Diet Coke so you can afford my book when it comes out. Grazie.

A few months ago I reached a landmark in my personal history of film watching. I hit 1,000 films viewed. This seemed significant if not trivial, but I was in the middle of finishing my book, so a blog post that would entertain me more than anyone else was put on the backburner. Thirty movies later I have decided to revisit the topic ever so briefly. Let’s first rewind to the moment I decided it was a crucial practice to record every movie I had ever seen. Circa 2001, I am 14 years old and for whatever reason decided that my progeny needed to be privy to the movie titles that had been absorbed throughout my life. I started with all the movies in my house, and then attempted an alphabetical list to help remind me of random movies I had seen over the years. Within a few hours my list grew to several hundred titles. Obviously there are movies from my childhood that I will never remember, but that is okay. Ever since that fateful day, I have not gone to the cinema, rented a Redbox, pirated a movie, or seen a documentary without recording it.

I know what you are thinking. Besides satisfying my own maniacal urges to write down everything that happens in my life, what is the bloody point? To me, the purpose of this practice is threefold. One, as with anything else, the more I write things down, the more I remember them. Ergo, anytime I hear a movie title thrown out there, I am rarely wondering if I have seen it or not. When others are quibbling about which sub-par movie Nicholas Cage was in last year, I am usually able to recall the title, and elicit a warning concerning the terrible plot and mediocre cinematography.

Besides my ability to recall titles and miscellaneous movie trivia, I find it motivates me to watch new movies. Everyone has their favorites, but I learned long ago that there are so many movies out there it is silly to repeatedly watch the same movie over and over again. So when faced with the option of watching Dumb and Dumber or some obscure French film, I am almost always going to side with the subtitled unknown. This is not because I am a Francophile or an especially avid lover of foreign flicks, but rather because it could be a great movie, and whether it is or is not, I will never wonder. And at least I will be able to add it to my list, and perhaps bring it up in a pretentious conversation in the future.

The last reason for my OCD-like list making is my ever increasing cinephilia. I love movies, plain and simple. On more than one occasion I have been to the movie theater three times in one day. A nice matinee and enough popcorn to instantly destroy my health, brings me joy. I love the previews and I love discussing symbolism and parallelisms. I love researching movies after I have seen them to find out how the script came into existence, what actors were originally considered and what anachronisms were committed during filming. Just like my restaurant ritual makes me want to eat out more, writing down each movie I see only makes me want to see more movies.  

Despite my love of avant-garde productions, I am no movie snob. I love chick flicks and have been guilty of enjoying movies from the Oxygen channel. To me the best movies are the movies the make you think, and that tug at your emotions. Below is my current Top-5 Movies Ever List (in no specific order).

1.       High Fidelity
2.       Braveheart
3.       The Shawshank Redemption
4.       Legends of The Fall
5.       When Harry Met Sally

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