The U.S. Just Got Punked By North Korea and George Clooney’s the Only One Who Seems to Give a Shit

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I haven’t written on here in a while, partly because I’ve been busy with my new job, partly because I’ve been working on my new novel, and partly because I haven’t really had anything blog-worthy to write about.

That isn’t to say there aren’t a bunch of social issues out there that I’ve got an opinion on and that have people losing their minds all over  the country. But it’s been years since I really talked about anything on here other than my own shit (and it’s my blog, that’s to be expected, DON’T JUDGE ME!), so I figured I’d let everybody else vomit out their opinions all over the place and I’d just “do me”, as I’m prone to do.

Yet, as a well-documented film enthusiast (read: super ultra movie nerd), I feel like I’ve got to at least throw my two cents in on this one issue, especially since I’ve been raving about it privately for days to friends and family alike.

I’m pretty sure everybody’s heard about the issue with Sony being hacked, the Seth Rogen/James Franco movie The Interview, and North Korea’s involvement with all of it.

Last night, Deadline posted an interview conducted between columnist Mike Fleming Jr. and a pretty ticked-off George Clooney, in which Clooney states that he tried to start a petition supporting Sony’s plans to release The Interview anyways, despite numerous cyber-attacks and physical threats demanding the movie’s cancellation (theaters will be attacked, the terrorists said). A noble, righteous cause by Clooney, though totally unsurprising since this just seems just like something he would do.

Only, Clooney’s petition was quickly shot down by nearly every top-tier name in Hollywood. Which is disheartening but a bit understandable, considering the collective emotional state of the industry: people are scared. To be attacked in any way–whether it be through hacking, the silver-tongue of the media, or physically through the efforts of the North Korean government–is not the type of thing anybody would voluntarily wish on themselves.

However, George Clooney’s response to this fear–and to Sony’s resulting decision to cave and cancel The Interview’s release–was great:

“Stick it online,” Clooney said. “Do whatever you can to get this movie out. Not because everybody has to see the movie, but because I’m not going to be told we can’t see the movie. That’s the most important part. We cannot be told we can’t see something by Kim Jong-un, of all fucking people.”

Which brings up two points:

1) George Clooney is still the man (and has been for years, pretty sure most people can agree on this point).

2) He’s absolutely right.

And this isn’t just me supporting a guy who I believe is an expert when it comes to matters resting at the intersection of politics and entertainment. It’s something I’ve been saying all week, a point that goes beyond the subject matter  of The Interview.

The Comedy Central Roast Of James Franco - ShowI am a fan of Seth Rogen and James Franco, and I did plan on seeing The Interview next week if it had been released. But I knew what to expect going in. Rogen and Franco are the same two people that made–whether individually or as partners–Pineapple Express, Neighbors, This is the End, The Green Hornet, and Knocked Up. Their careers are deeply associated with the likes of Judd Apatow, Jason Segel, Kristen Wiig, Jonah Hill, and Michael Cera. Despite the few names on that list that have gone out and done serious work (Franco and Hill are the only two I can think of off the top of my head, with Wiig’s Skeleton Twins hopefully marking the beginning of her quest for higher-caliber performances), for the most part these people are not known for their cutting-edge sense of social responsibility, or their expert use of political satire. They’re known for really good on-screen chemistry, a knack for comedic improvisation, and a fascination with dick and vagina jokes. I guarantee The Interview is no different and–while probably hilarious–I doubt that there’s even the slightest amount of political value within the film itself.

But this has never been about the movie.

Why this sits so uneasily in my stomach (and apparently George Clooney’s and whoever else is in agreement with him) is because of the overall progression of events these past couple of weeks, and what it means to us as Americans. Because essentially what just happened to us is another country–a nuclear-weapon-armed communist government run by a psychopath who’s the same age as me (I can barely balance my budget, much less run a violently oppressive dictatorship)–told us “You can’t watch that movie. And if you do, we’ll beat the shit out of you.” And we just held our hands up and said:

“Okay. Just please, don’t hurt me.”

00000868There’s an underlying tone of cowardice here that is unsettling for many reasons. Because while this is the movie industry we’re talking about today–not even the movie industry as a whole, but a single movie released by a single company for a demographic that typically doesn’t give a shit about politics outside of whether or not marijuana will be nationally legalized anytime soon–our response to these cyber attacks and physical threats have opened a door that should have never even existed.

By allowing North Korea to win in this situation, the U.S. (and yes, Sony does represent the U.S. in this instance, whether it wants to or not, at least when it comes to worldwide perception), we basically just allowed communism to impose its will on our way of life, possibly for the first time since the Cold War and Joe McCarthy left the country annoyingly paranoid. Which is–I thought–the last thing the American people wanted again.

Which leads to the real question: How does this end now?

What happens when a major electrical company gets hacked and sabotaged, accompanied by a strongly-worded email demanding they shut down servers or “We’ll blow up all your power stations?”

What happens when officials at shipping companies like Fed Ex and UPS walk into work one day only to find a message splashed across their computer screens: “Stop all shipping now, or we’ll start blowing up trucks and planes”?

What happens when a New York Times columnist gets an order to cease writing that controversial exposé or “We will make 9/11 look like a 4th of July fireworks display”?

Previously I would’ve said the result of all these situations was a given. U.S. organizations–both government and private–would collectively hold up their middle fingers and shake their heads no, adamant in their advocacy of a single, unalterable American principle: We Do Not Negotiate With Terrorists. And we do not give up our rights, to anybody, for any reason.

Except now, apparently we do.

3366563115_9466d16e02_zThe first amendment is important, arguably the most important amendment in our constitution. Yet I feel like many people like to tout this fact even though they’ve forgotten why it’s true. It’s not just so cocky internet trolls can have a defense to toss around while they’re busy posting comments about how Mike Brown should’ve been shot in the face, or Darren Wilson and all police officers should be rounded up and dropped off the side of the Grand Canyon (both detestable statements I’ve actually seen, the former one multiple times).

The first amendment ensures our right to disseminate information freely, which in turn serves as a natural deterrent to the very oppression and murderous mentality we see present in the governments of countries like North Korea, Cuba, and China.

There’s a reason media is the first thing dictators confiscate when they’re installing their new regimes. Control what the people read, watch, and hear, and you control the people.

The first amendment is meant to keep the words and voices and non-violent actions of Americans untainted by outside influence. It’s our livelihood, our patio and backyard, a crucial piece of our country’s landscape that we maintain and protect and admire, simply for its sheer beauty and accessibility.

And we just allowed North Korea to waltz on our property, scream at our frolicking children, and take a shit in our pool (albeit in the shallow end).

While The Interview is hardly the sophisticated satire people would’ve proudly rallied around in the ultra-socially-conscious 60’s and 70’s, it is an essentially American film, indicative of an American way of life most citizens would agree is eons better than the alternative.

Yet we just took the first (small) step in sacrificing that way of life, placing ourselves on the wrong side of this particular fork in the road.

I just hope we reverse enough to get back on the right path.

Definition of a Dysfunctional Human Being

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Many of you have noticed the activity on the site lately, the five essays I published over the past two months:

“Blurry”

“Clutch”

“Look”

“Represent”

“Open”

Simple concepts, universal themes that I hoped everybody could relate to while still acknowledging that this is meRaw. Uncut. Digging beneath the surface to reveal the true self, dealing with restrained demons, accepting me for who I am, [insert any of the other psychobabble phrases/cliches I’ve had to listen to over the years].

Basically, five pieces of nonfiction written by me for the exact reason I ever picked up a pen and paper in the first place: to figure out why my head is so screwed up.

I wrote these essays over the span of four years between undergrad and graduate school, and until now have had them sitting on my computer just–quite literally–taking up space (not a lot of space, obviously, but space nonetheless).

Never sent them out to magazines for potential publication, never even really considered trying to have anybody look at them other than the few of my colleagues who helped me revise them over the years.

And sure, these essays are creative nonfiction. On some level they’re meant to entertain, yes, but they’re also meant to be an outlet for issues I can’t talk about candidly in real life (which pretty much applies to all my issues).

In other words, these essays were/are therapy. My actual thoughts, the inclinations and ideas and memories that make up who I am, make me tick from day to day. Which therefore made them much too personal for public consumption.

So I filed them away and didn’t really think much of it. Set to work on the marketable stuff, the funny stuff, the suspenseful stuff, stories that would entertain people. Make them laugh, not cry.

And so it went for years, these essays tucked into a folder deep in my portfolio, collecting the equivalent of digital dust.

Then one day, a month and a half ago–couple of days after Quarter Life Crisis was published, actually–I was in a nostalgic mood and decided to go back and read one of the essays, “Open”, the story of my two friends who were murdered in cold blood one night when I was almost nineteen.

I wrote “Open” as an undergrad at Florida State about three years after the incidents in the story took place, a couple of months after I was made to testify in the trial of my friends’ murderer, Jonathon Nodal. “Open” was written, initially, for a nonfiction workshop class, and when my professor–Ned Stuckey-French–read it he immediately told me to revise it and send it out. He had connections, he said, and I  should come to him when I was ready.

Which seemed like not too bad an idea at the time. I mean, this was what I was aspiring to be, right? A Published Author, capital P and A (also my initials. Coincidence? …Yeah, definitely, but still kind of cool). And sure, I considered myself primarily a fiction writer, but a publication is a publication.

Work went on throughout that semester and the next, and–along with my other works–I kept tinkering with “Open” (titled “Knock at the Door” back then), hoping to be able to hand it over to Ned one day and see where it ended up.

Yet, after months of messing around with structure and details and the exact progression of my memories, the essay was still affecting me in a way that made it hard to put in front of other people. I’d print it out and be ready to mail it off, then leave the manila folder sitting on my desk and never make it to the post office, or I’d look at a magazine’s submission requirements and find something small that made me sure they’d reject the story outright and that I should just not send it to them at all. Eventually I had to admit to myself that I just wasn’t ready to put the experience out there.

The beginning of my senior year at FSU, there was a writing contest in the English department, a categorical competition leading to the presentation of Spring writing awards given to undergraduate and graduate students every year.

At the announcement, Ned urged me to enter “Open” in the nonfiction portion. I was skeptical at first, having already figured out that putting that particular essay out there for public viewing wasn’t an ideal situation for me.

Sit and wait around while people pored over it? Analyzed it, dissected it and, ultimately, told me it wasn’t good enough?

Hell no. Karen and Justin deserve more than that.

But Ned was enthusiastic, and he was (and still is) a renowned professor in one of the most recognized creative writing programs in the country; if he said “Open” was good enough, then I’d take his word for it.

The day I won the George and Ruth Yost Award for Best Personal Essay, I was happy. At first. I got the email notifying me I’d won, that I’d be receiving a plaque acknowledging the award and a check for $100–not a lot of money, but definitely a decent chunk of change for any college  student (at the time it was a common thing to find me digging for coins in my couch just to buy some ramen noodles). I was elated. Not just that I’d won an award or that I got some money for it, but that I had won an award for my writing.

You see, up to that point, I’d been writing in the dark. Sure, people had told me that I had some talent, that I had passion (whatever that meant). But I had been at it for years by that point and had yet to get anything published. I’d written story after story and even made a three-hundred page effort at writing a horror novel, and all I’d received were rejection letter after rejection letter.

After my recent failed attempt to get into various graduate programs across the country (rejected by every single one that first time around), the industry was starting to get to me. I still had another two semesters of undergrad left, and a couple more workshops to refine my ability, but I was crashing. I seriously needed some motivation, a kind word, anything.

And I got it when I won that award. And it really helped. For like…a day.

Then I deposited the check, used it to pay part of my rent–I lived in Tallahassee, rent was like $350 a month or something crazy cheap like that–then sat down in front of my computer to look over what had just won me that money. I started to read the essay again, this time in a new light, with validation and a sense that my future as a writer had become very promising. Then I finished it, and I was suddenly so dejected that I couldn’t really do anything but just sit there crying at my computer with the blinds in my apartment drawn while I read the words I’d written about my friends and ex-girlfriend over and over again and thought about how my first bit of recognition as an aspiring writer would occur because of their death.

I decided right then I wasn’t going to publish that essay. I wasn’t going to send it out and risk rejection letters, risk critiques, risk succumbing to the ever-present anger that I’d been doing such a good job (or a better job) of keeping control of up to that point.

So I filed it away. For years. Came back to check on it every once in a while, read the words and remind myself about what had happened (not exactly necessary, seeing as there’s not a day that goes by that I don’t think about them), but ultimately keeping it to myself.

Cut to a few months ago, staring at the essay once again on my computer. Thirty years old now, an author with a published novel and a dozen or so published short stories under my belt, and I’d suddenly had an entire paradigm shift.

Suddenly, I wanted nothing more than for people to read about my friends, read about what had happened to them, read about how it had and still does affect me as a writer and as a human being. How it shaped me, motivated me, depressed me, nearly killed me, and ultimately brought me into adulthood in the most violent way possible.

But the fear of rejection still sat inside me, the thought that I wouldn’t be able to handle the inevitable form letters I’d receive if I sent it to a mainstream magazine.

So I figured I’d do it myself, on this medium here, this blog I’ve been using to promote my work for over two years now.

It was then I realized I had done the same thing–filed away for sentimental reasons–to a couple of other essays I’d written over the years, essays that had started out as me trying to tell a true story, essays that turned into declarations of the heart and ultimately helped me get over some crucial moment in my life, gaining so much emotional weight that the thought of them sitting on some apathetic editor’s desk (not a knock against you editors; I’ve been there, I know how daunting that slush pile can be) made me sick to my stomach.

So I decided to publish them all on here, and once that was done I’d compile them into a single short eBook. And since these essays define who I am, I would call the eBook Definition, and give it away for free.

Because I don’t want to be angry about this shit anymore.

Because I don’t want to sit alone with my own thoughts in my head anymore.

Because one thing I’ve realized over these years of rehabbing on society is that you’ve got to open up to the people around you if you ever want to grow into a functioning individual.

And I don’t really know any way of opening up more than this.

_____________________

Download Definition for free by clicking on the cover:

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Quarter Life Crisis is Here! (In a Good Way)

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It always baffles me how the human mind works in certain situations. I’ve been talking about/promoting Quarter Life Crisis for so long now that it’s become something of a myth to me. Even though I can pull it up on my computer whenever I want and look through it (which I’ve told myself not to do anymore because if I find any mistakes I’m going to lose my shit), even though I just recently had a reading where I read a couple of chapters and sold a number of copies, even though I’ve seen the pre-order statistics laid out in front of me, it still seems like Quarter Life Crisis is just a figment of my imagination (which…I guess, technically…it is HAHA! Smh).

Anyways, it’s here. Quarter Life Crisis. Today. Right now. And I’m urging everybody to order it today so we can raise those first day sales stats, moving Quarter Life Crisis up the charts.

Head over to http://GetOverCollege.com for all the links to the various bookstores selling it and order one–eBook or print–then get to reading and let me know what you think by leaving a review on Barnes and Noble or Amazon or Goodreads or all of the above or some other site I may or may not have heard of. Just make sure to get involved in the discussion, throw some feedback my way. It’s the only way I can gauge the reaction of the general public when it comes to this novel, which is also one of the few ways I can see what I’m doing right and what I’m doing wrong when it comes to both writing and marketing.

Either way, I hope you all enjoy this thing I put roughly four years of my time into. It’s been a process, an arduous but fun one, and I’m glad you all are here with me at the apex of it all.

Thanks again. See you on the flip side.

-PAJr.

Quarter Life Crisis Book Launch

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First of all, I’d like to thank everybody who came out to the Quarter Life Crisis book launch on Friday.

Ended up being a really good time. Ate some food, read a couple of chapters from the novel, sold and signed about forty books. Overall a great way to begin the process of getting this thing out there. I’ve got pictures up right here, or just click on the photos tab in the menu bar above.

The book officially comes out on Tuesday, and in case you haven’t ordered your copy already, head on over to GetOverCollege.com/Preorder to get yours.

Thanks again to everybody who helped out and made this thing a success, and hope you guys enjoy.

-PAJr.

My Own Quarter Life Crisis

slumbering old manAt 30, I can’t very well claim to be having a quarter life crisis, unless I plan on living to 120 years old (a cool thought, but that sounds…just…exhausting).

I do, however, vividly remember my own quarter life crisis, mostly because it didn’t end too long ago. Also, (surprise surprise) it pretty much mirrored the crisis of Sean, one of the main characters in Quarter Life Crisis: A Novel.

What I remember most about it wasn’t the physical circumstances of the situation (though the image of me staring aimlessly at a computer screen covered in job prospects with my resume opened on another screen while I sat in my underwear in my old bedroom at my parents’ house drinking vodka not-so-discretely disguised in a Sprite bottle does sort of strike a chord).

It’s really the mental repercussions that come with being thrust into a world that claims to be doing everything for the kids, but never really defined its feelings for people who are still children at heart.

The indecision. Insecurity. Inability to make a move in any direction for fear that I would be setting myself up for a life filled with regrets.

What resulted was me coming to a standstill–for years actually–until about ten months ago when I just started…doing things. It’s like I woke up one morning, realized I was turning 30 soon, and that any decision I made would be better than doing nothing.

So I did whatever I felt like doing (hence quitting teaching at Miami Dade College to become a bartender…there’s a method to my madness, even if I’m making up the method as I go). And I’m still doing whatever I feel like doing. And so far it’s worked out for me, the ultimate representation of that Working-Out manifesting itself in the four year project that is Quarter Life Crisis, which will officially be released in less than three weeks (August 5th homies).

cerro_patacon_on_fireThe point is, I know a lot of people who are in a state of flux right now. Various things get thrown at us on a daily basis, shit that piles up over the years and turns into a mental landfill that you can’t do anything but stare at, marveling at its immensity while trying wholeheartedly not to have a panic attack at just the thought of trying to sift through all this crap.

I’ve found that the only way to deal with it is burn the whole fucking thing down, leaving only the raw core of your personality, your wants and needs. The you that is really you.

You know yourself better than anybody else can, and often our initial choices in life are the right ones. For us.

In other words, don’t stagnate. Nobody feels the pressure of their looming lives ahead of them like somebody in their mid-twenties, when the future can seem both wide open and restricted to a certain set of possibilities. The trick is to just do somethingAnything.

Its-Never-Too-Late-To-rewrite-your-story-picIn a sense, life choices aren’t that much different than the writing process. Revising something you wrote in a moment of inspiration is hard, because it’s the most blatant way of admitting to yourself that you can and will make mistakes. It’s also really hard to know if you’re rewriting your words in the way you originally meant them to be written, conveying the abstract thoughts in your head in the best, most concrete way possible.

The beauty, though, is that you can keep trying until you get it right.

Which is something you definitely can’t do if you never wrote anything in the first place.

—–

Hope your summer’s been good, and that the rest of your year will be awesome.

If you’re in the Miami area on Friday, August 1st, look me up. I’ll be having a release party for Quarter Life Crisis in the conference room of the Palmetto Golf Course on SW 152nd street and US-1 at 7:30pm.

Otherwise, pick up a copy of Quarter Life Crisis on Tuesday, August 5th.

Help me make this thing a success, and in turn I promise to keep trying to entertain you for the rest of my life (keyword: trying).

That’s the purpose I chose for myself, and I have no regrets. And neither should you.

Peace, love, and cheese pizza (yeah…it’s lunch time).

-PAJr.

Quarter Life Crisis Gear

Alright. First of all, it’s been a while. Hope everybody’s summer’s going good. If you live in South Florida, hope these summer storms haven’t drowned or electrocuted you yet (seriously, it’s been like a daily Armageddon out here).

Down to business:

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The above picture is a glimpse of the final results for the Quarter Life Crisis Bookreads giveaway that ended yesterday. Congrats to the people who won those ten autographed advanced copies of the book, and thanks to the 730 people who entered the contest (can’t really put my head around that, so I’ll just state the number and move on).

Appreciate the love, the interest, and hope the 720 awesome people who didn’t win a copy of the book will still pick one up on August 5th, read it and leave a review on whichever site they fancy (because apparently those are the types of things that matter in the publishing industry nowadays. Shrug.)

It’s gotten to a point in this wait for Quarter Life Crisis to release (August 5th!) where I’m actively trying not to think about the goddamn book, for a few reasons:

1) I feel like it’s all I’ve been talking about, and I still have a whole month and some days before the damn thing comes out, I’M BORED ALREADY!

2) thinking about Quarter Life Crisis and its release inevitably reminds me of the dozens of promotional things I still have to do before and after August 5th rolls around, which leads to normal reactions like hyperventilation and itchy skin and a desire to bash my head into a wall; and

3) I’m steadily chipping away at the next novel (working title: About That Life, working summary: a college adjunct professor and his ex-Marine best friend decide to fix their mounting financial issues by taking up a side job as thieves and end up robbing the biggest drug dealer in Miami…no it is not autobiographical) and it’s a lot easier to focus on my next project if I can get myself to stop thinking about the last one. Any suggestions on how to do that are welcome.

That said, some more news on the Quarter Life Crisis front: we’ve got shirts now!

qlc gear

I mean, we’ve always had shirts…Quarter Life Crisis isn’t being published by people sitting bare chested at their computers (though I’m pretty sure it wouldn’t make a difference if they were).

Rather, we have Quarter Life Crisis shirts now, at the Quarter Life Crisis Gear store. Two designs, various styles/colors/sizes/etc., along with a slew of random items like buttons and phone cases and coffee mugs and other shit people tend to buy when buying’s as easy as clicking a few buttons.

So click the pic above, or the link right here to go to the store and start representing.

And, once again, BUY QUARTER LIFE CRISIS ON AUGUST 5TH! (or just click here to preorder it right now).

Peace, love, prosperity, and sanity.

-PAJr.

Everything Matters

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There’s really not much that can be said about this book that hasn’t  been said already in the seemingly million reviews it’s gotten. Yet I join the flock of fans when I say that this is probably one of the greatest pieces of literature I discovered while in grad school.

Imagine you were born with a voice in your head that told you things about people’s pasts and futures that nobody could/should ever know. And imagine if that same voice has been telling you since you were in the womb that the world is going to end in 30+ years when an asteroid slams into earth. Would be a very odd life.

That’s the premise in Ron Currie Jr.’s novel,  Everything Matters, in which the main character–Junior–is both blessed and cursed with the gift of semi-omniscience. But the novel itself is so much more than an apocalyptic tale. If you like action, romance, science fiction, philosophical implications, and some serious character development, check out Currie’s book.

And as usual, click here to preorder a copy of my novel Quarter Life Crisis, out August 5th.

Keep it classy peeps.

-PAJr.