Life Of Percentages

We, as a society, try to use words like “beliefs” and “positivity” as explanations of how we overcome certain things. I realized recently that it doesn’t matter how positive or how much you believe in something, things can always take a negative turn.

There are thousands of Self Help Books designed to make us better people. Authors like Tony Robbins talk about how positivity can solve your problems. People use literature and research as methods for constructing positivity.

Let’s use the scenario that I have a life threatening illness and there is a chance I may die. On one hand I am the roaring Ra-Ra confidence of the American spirit. Where I believe I can overcome ANYTHING! Let’s say I live…is it because of my positivity or because I took the right things? People will talk about how confident I am and how nothing can take me down because I believe. Not “just” because I took the right things.

On the other hand I am negative and depressed constantly. I feel like I have no value in this world and will die alone. But let’s say I take the medicine still (which I will go into later on) and I live. Do you think it was my negative attitude that rewarded me with life? Again, maybe me taking the right things cured me and not a mindset.

I had 2 life threatening concussions. I had bleeding in the brain and doctors were shocked that I had no symptoms at all and didn’t miss a step. At the same time of my first concussion, actor Liam Neeson’s wife (Natasha Richardson) hit her head on soft snow and died of a head injury. I hit my head on ice so hard that my skull cracked and I was perfectly fine while she died. So did I overcome my injury with my positive sensibility? Did my body say “Heal now” and it did? Or does this reside in the category of “shit happens”?

Jim Valvano gave one of the greatest speeches in history. He was diagnosed with cancer and gave an emotionally roaring speech at the ESPN awards ceremony about how anyone can overcome anything. A few months after his speech he died…..of the same cancer that he made us all believe that he can overcome. Meanwhile people who maybe have a more serious diagnosis of cancer and who aren’t as positive may live.

The reason I put in parenthesis the part about the medicine was because (even though I am mostly bashing the notion of positive attitudes as methods for success) you still have to have a small notion of positivity to want to take something in the first place. If there is a 1% chance that you may live after hearing that you have a life-threatening illness, then you have a chance. I could be a devout Christian and have my heart filled with the Holy Spirit and still die. Meanwhile, I can be a negative atheist who has the same thing and live. Putting my hands together in prayer isn’t going to guarantee success.

Mercer College beat Duke in the NCAA tournament last season. Are you going to make the argument that Mercer College was more positive and wanted to win more than Duke? Or can you make the argument that Duke’s shots weren’t going in and Mercer had a better game plan? There are 68 teams in the tournament so therefore you have a 1/68 chance of winning it all. There are no certainties in sports. If you make it to a tournament, then you have a chance to win. Don’t let odds makers determine outcomes.

We love the David vs Goliath type of stories. Movies like Rudy and Miracle show us how people overcome impossible odds and come out on top. What a better story? How LeBron James has overcome adversity and has finally achieved all he was predicted to or how Bill Russell has won 11 titles in a row because he played on the best team in the league at that time?

I don’t mean to shit on people’s beliefs or positive energy. I trying to be a best-selling author and overcome disappointment constantly. I get rejection letters from publishers and still I send more out. Why? Because it’s something I want to do for a living. There is a big chance that I may never achieve my dream and have to settle for another career choice.

So I believe in being positive because without taking that first step you might not get what you want or take what you need to survive, BUT I don’t believe that thinking positive or reading the right material will automatically solve your problems.

Like I said about sports and certainties, there are also no certainties in life. If you have a 1% chance of living, then you have a chance of living. If you have a 99% chance of living then you still have a 1% chance of dying.

We love to hope that there is some otherworldly force that can help us in times of peril. That our positive energy can therefore challenge the laws of the universe so we may come out on top, but sadly that is hysterically untrue. Sometimes, to be blunt, shit happens. And there are no guarantees with medicine, self-help books and Ra-Ra speeches.

Joe Reyes

 

How To Ruin A Second Season

I want to use the TV show Young Justice as an example for this article. Young Justice is a DC comic’s based show about the Justice League’s sidekicks forming a new team to aid the league. The show started off very well. There was the introduction of a core group of characters that each got their own storylines in some episodes. Robin, Superboy, Kid Flash, Ms. Martian, Artemis and Aqualad were the core group of heroes. There was a main plot that got deeper as the show progressed. Each character evolved and changed as events transpired.

The creators started off the show great. There was a deep enriching storyline. A solid group of characters that all had a big part of screen time. Any filler episodes served to deepen your understanding of the characters. The season ended in a cliff hanger. The final episodes showed the Justice League being controlled by an unknown evil and forced to fight their once sidekicks. You find out that 6 members of the League went into deep space with no knowledge of what happened. Also in the final moments you saw who the main villain was.

They ended the season solving the problem and setting the tone for next season. So what is the problem? I can answer it in 3 words “5 years later”. The new season started off 5 years later from the previous one. Everything changed and the season was mostly trying to answer the questions the audience had.

Robin, a young boy at the time matured quickly and is in charge of the team. He is now known as Nightwing. Superboy and Ms. Martian started a relationship that seemed to abruptly end. Kid Flash and Artemis became a couple and quit the League all together. Aqualad’s one true love died and he became a supervillain and teamed up with Black Manta….who you later find out is Aqualad’s father.

Instead of building to these storyline, the writers decided to ignore all that and just make you accept their idea. You also find out in the first season that the character Red Arrow, who was once team member, was a clone and the real Red Arrow was captured. So the clone Red Arrow set out to find the original. So he has been searching for 5 years and found nothing. Oh yea, he also had a kid with a supervillain that was randomly sprung on him.

There are a huge number of additional team members added to season 2. None of them you learn how they ended up there. The season starts with the new members combating a bad guy. There is no introduction about these characters. It’s just “Here is Blue Beetle and everyone else”.

Not only did each character in the first season get their own episode, you got to learn about their pasts and how they got to where they are now. There is a new Robin and a Batgirl. Along with a handful of other “main characters” to the show that just spring up like they were there all the time.

It the difference between “showing” vs “telling” story writing. One is just “accept it” and that’s it. The other is take it step by step. Show me how Robin became Nightwing. Show me how he took charge and became the leader.

There aren’t simple little changes. These are series changing events that were just sprung on the audience. Good writing is showing not telling. 5 years is 5 seasons worth of material they could’ve put in to the show.

More importantly the second season had a lot of twists and turns, but they were only twists and turns because the audience didn’t know better and you had to just everything as it was presented. That’s not a twist, it’s a lie.

So after a solid core group has been assembled, season 2 diluted it and sometimes you never saw all the heroes. When I write, I make sure all characters are given their proper time in the spot light. One story I wrote had 7 different characters in different parts of the United States.

BUT I cycled through them repeatedly so there wasn’t a long gap between seeing all the characters. More importantly I even had some characters interact with eachother and go on joint storylines. Book 2 I added a lot more characters, but still had the small numbers of storylines because I combined characters and it didn’t spread the story to thin.

Young Justice was a great show, but the writers ruined it by first making the outrageous time gap and then by adding so many new characters without an explanation. Shows can’t that. First of all it’s unfair to the audience and more importantly it is just bad writing. Season 1 was never like that so going off the blue print into season 2 is just an odd idea. This is how you ruin a good show.

Joe Reyes

This Wasn’t Christmas

Today didn’t feel like Christmas. I don’t know what it as exactly, but something was off. The buildup wasn’t there. Maybe because I didn’t want anything and my parents gave me my gift early. We didn’t have a tree on account of my cat. It would be a tossup of how she would kill herself first: hanging herself on the lights or getting electrocuted.

Maybe it was the weather. There was 0 snow on the ground. Christmas Eve was like 50 something degrees out. I like a white Christmas. No, it’s not cliché to want snow. And you can bitch about how cold it is and how hard it is to travel in the snow, but waking up to snow covered trees outside and pegging the first old person you see with a snowball sounds like Christmas to me.

All the radio stations had recycled Christmas songs done by the new Disney Stars of today. That skank Miley Cyrus twerked her way into a holiday album that has been done time after time. Even the Salvation Army seemed to not be in the holiday spirit. I saw one member by the Shoprite ringing a bell for donations. He want even smiling. He was just sprawled across a wood pile staring at the ground. I doubt the money even went somewhere. Probably just buy crack with it. Since he was white it’s not racist to say.

Christmas day consisted of a family ride up to Staten Island to see my family. I looked out the window and saw trees with leaves on them. Maybe that tool Al Sharpton was right about the world getting hotter…or was it Al Gore? Either way it didn’t make any sense outside.

We passed a white cross on the side of the road. Probably some kid cut down in the prime of his youth to an accident…lucky bastard. The sky was bright blue and beautiful. It looked more like the opening to the Simpson’s rather than Christmas in New Jersey.

On the plus side we cut down on the holiday cards in my house. What’s the point of them anyway? To let me know that you survived another year? And if I didn’t get a card would I even worry? If I have to be reminded every year of your existence then you don’t really matter that much to me. I only sent out about 7 “Merry Christmas” texts. No reason for my whole family to send 3 separate messages to the same person with “Merry Christmas!!!”

My uncle’s fence said it all. He had a “Beware Dog” sign on it, but there was a Christmas wreath covering the “Dog” part. So I read it as “Beware Christmas”. Maybe I wanted more this year. Maybe I just wanted to feel some holiday cheer. Maybe I just didn’t get into the spirit. Or maybe it’s a tumor and luckily I won’t have to endure this crap next year.

Merry Christmas Everybody!

Joe Reyes