My Life As a Gamer

I’ve never had an addictive personality; I can’t stand cigarettes and grew bored of alcohol sometime after college.  For a very long time, however, I was addicted to the pixelated joy of gaming.  The original Nintendo Entertainment System, or NES for short, turns 30 years old this week. I personally haven’t touched a game controller … Read more

The Magic of Wildwood, NJ

  Wildwood has always held a special place in my heart.  As a child it was our annual summer vacation destination where I would explore Dracula’s Castle, eat my weight in ice cream at Duffer’s (BTW if you or someone you know works at Duffers they need to bring back the Volcano Sundae pronto), and … Read more

Return Refocus Renew

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Before I start this post, the first in many months, allow me to explain my hiatus from posting to The Masterpiece Mindset.  As you may know, the aim of my blog is to help elevate the human experience with discussions on a variety of topics, ranging from entertainment to more serious personal happenings.  While away from this site, I have been working on a new vehicle to spread positive energy and help improve your experience, as a reader.  This new vehicle is www.successphil.com – a way to inspire you to be Philtastic !  Make no mistake, the Masterpiece Mindset isn’t going anywhere, it just has a new and improved way to connect to you.

Speaking of returns, I returned to something this past weekend I had also been neglecting- my yoga practice.  While healing from a re-aggravated injury, I have been focusing on my internet business and connecting with other hungry entrepreneurs.  Although this time has yielded a great deal of growth, I had felt the old clouds of past failures and disappointments wander into my mind on a few occasions. I felt disconnected and at times, doubtful about my future.  While examining how to let these negative feelings go for good I realized when these issues were bothering me in the past, my yoga practice had been a ray of focus and positive energy to dissipate the clouds of doubt I was lost in.  I resolved to return to my practice but had apprehensions and was afraid.

The day of class I was so nervous I found every reason I could not to go to class.  I knew, however, I needed yoga and the positive effects of a regular practice in my life.  I hadn’t realized how long I hadn’t been to class when I strolled in.  I was expecting to find everyone warming up but was surprised to see the class was in mid-pose.  I jumped right into a pose without stretching, which is ill advised of course, and began attempting to match the positions as best as I could.  I realized about five minutes into my visit the class had started 30 minutes earlier, I basically barged into a class mid-way.  After the initial wave of embarrassment crested and washed over me, I started to slow down and focus on relaxation.   I found myself connecting with a well of positive energy and self awareness I had not tapped into in weeks.  My mind relaxed and allowed me to slow down to listen to myself so I could allow myself to focus.  If you’ve never practiced yoga, the best example I can think of is getting a good stretch from a tired overworked muscle.  The feeling of relief and freedom is a small degree of satisfaction I felt from my short Vinyasa flow yoga session.

What can one learn from my experience? The person who said you can’t go home had never really tried or perhaps had a compelling reason not to.  Returning to a practice or activity you not only enjoy but is healthy for you is something we should all aspire to do.  When in doubt, do what I did and remember the words of Virgin CEO Richard Branson from his book “The Virgin Way” – “Screw it, just do it!”

Philip A. Maenza aka “Philtastic Phil” is an internet entrepreneur and consumer behavior professional whose interests include art, film, music, stand up comedy, fitness, and comic books. Phil is also a dedicated community volunteer and always open to connecting with like minded optimists.  

Stand Up Comedy: The Last Truth in American Entertainment

Earlier this month Chris Rock, arguably one of the funniest men alive, took criticism for his opening monologue on Saturday Night Live for discussing the 2013 Boston Marathon Bombings and the attack on the World Trade Center.  Although the comedian made it abundantly clear he was not making light of the attacks nor the victims, some chose to criticize Rock claiming his jokes were awkward and insensitive.  In case you haven’t seen the opening, review the video below:

Although this is far from the first time stand up comedy has been scrutinized for taboo subject matter, it seems more now then ever comedy and our freedom of speech is continually under attack.  In most cases it seems the comedians jokes are taken out of context and then re-shaped to aide the argument of a special interest group or the news media.  Although I can give you countless instances where this is the case, I feel the best dissertation on this subject came from the late comic, Patrice O’Neil. Back in 2007 Patrice appeared on Fox News to discuss the suspension of the popular talk satellite radio show, Opie and Anthony,after a belligerent homeless man (a guest on the show) stated he wanted to rape Secretary of State Rice.  By the way, it was clear the man’s remarks were not a joke, nor did anyone construe it so.  A representative for N.O.W (National Organization of Women) saw the radio program’s suspension as a sign the public was sick of brash humor, even siting O’Neil’s act as offensive to women.  Perhaps Patrice put it best when he said, “..PC cops run a muck.”

The core of the discussion lies in freedom of speech, a sword everyone likes to swing through the air until they remember its a double edged blade and like any sharp pointy object one has to treat it with a measure of responsibility.  First, one must realize their message may be offensive to others and exercise caution in the manner they choose to express themselves.  Luckily, stand-up comedy has a sanctuary in the form of comedy clubs across the nation where people can choose to hear their favorite comic’s act whether it be a profanity laced set act or a guy with a puppet (or both). The medium of television and radio allows one to simply change the channel if they are offended or simply don’t want to hear what the comic has to say.  A key fact everyone seems to forget is the reality everyone has the freedom of speech in this country, including those who may not agree with you.  Just as you have the right to make your voice heard, so does everyone else.  Although one can choose to ignore the opposing or offensive perspective, they can also choose to argue it.  By argue, I do not intend to mean call for someone to be fired or be outraged, I’m talking about intelligent adult conversation. This is where stand-up comedy truly shines as the last truth in American entertainment.

The role of a truly great comic is not just to entertain but as Mel Brooks put it in the film, History of the World, the comedian (or as he calls it the stand-up philosopher) is to, “coalesce the vapor of the human experience into a viable and logical comprehension.”

What are comics if not modern day philosophers? Comedy legends like Joan Rivers, George Burns, Benny Hill, George Carlin, Rodney Dangerfield, Bill Hicks, Richard Pryor and Andy Kaufman juxtaposed the realities of modern day life with satire to create a message that was not only entertaining but unlike television can challenge the listeners way of thinking and expanded one’s perspective.  Their work paved the way for generations of comics to inspire and entertain millions.  Today there are some wonderful comics like Louie CK, Jim Norton, Amy Schumer, Dave Chappelle, Nick DiPaolo, Robert Kelly, Vinny Brand, Jim Bruer,and Brian Regan (just to rattle off a few of my favorites) who simply put, take the art of comedy to another level.

Getting back to my original question:was Rock’s monologue out of line? Absolutely not.  His act, as he did point out, wasn’t about making light of the horrible terror attacks rather it was about the commercialization of our history and traditions to suit the needs of big business.  Days once reserved to commemorate important events and people are now used to sell mattresses, cars, and things people don’t need to and can’t afford.  Perhaps rather than focusing on being offended by the Chris Rock’s monologue, some would benefit by re-examining it keeping the commercialization of our nation’s traditions in mind.  If not and you are truly offended by his message, then remember you have the right to be and can choose to ignore it.

Do you agree or disagree? Who is your favorite comic? What do you think of the monologue.  Comment and let me know 🙂

Philip A. Maenza aka “Philtastic Phil” is an internet entrepreneur and consumer behavior professional whose interests include art, film, music, stand up comedy, fitness, and comic books. Phil is also a dedicated community volunteer and always open to connecting with like minded optimists.   Phil’s favorite comedy club is The Stress Factory in New Brunswick, NJ and his favorite comic is Robert Kelly. No I haven’t been paid to say it- it’s a really great place!!! 

Words Never Said – The Story of Fireflies and Flux

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I have a friend I have not seen in a few years. Who or why isn’t important, not to this post at least. I can’t say for sure if I ever will see her again, my heart says maybe my head says probably not. Rather than dwell on uncertainty I choose to make my own future. Let my fate be driven by my actions and thoughts rather than random acts put into motion by others. Still there is a conversation I wish I had with this person a long time ago. Let’s call this person Flux to avoid any further uncomfortable grammar. The rest of the details are irrelevant.

When I met Flux, Flux was very shy especially towards men. Flux had an issue with an abusive man and as a result had a fear of all men, even those in Flux’s family. Overtime Flux and I grew very close. I treated Flux like a member of my family and Flux did the same. One evening we were coming home from a night at the movies. I was in my car and Flux was in another. I didn’t see a “no turn on red” sign and was pulled over. I arrived at Flux’s house about twenty minutes later to find Flux was upset It was obvious Flux had sever separation anxiety and was afraid something had happened to me. A few months later, I was gone from Flux’s life. It wasn’t because of anything either of had done. The reason is irrelevant. I miss Flux a lot to this day and often regret I’m not part of Flux’s life any longer but I know the circumstances which separated us and know I did everything I could. There is one thing I was I had said to Flux. It haunts me now sometimes but I have faith Flux knows this because I have no other choice.

When I was a child and the warmer months were upon us, my sister and I would go outside at dusk and chase fireflies. We would try to trap one to watch their body illuminate before releasing them back into the night. On one occasion we were visiting my Grandmother, as we did weekly, and I had gone outside to catch fireflies. I managed to trap one in a small jar. I ran inside the house excited to show my family my new pet. My aunt and uncle ( brother and sister) sat me down and explained I had to release my firefly. I was only six or seven years old at the time but they explained to me somethings can’t belong to one person. They are there temporarily to appreciate and then are gone. Twenty five years or so later I realized I learned something important about people one summer evening at grandma’s house. People are like fireflies. They come into our life and they may brighten things up for awhile or they may just fly away. What makes them so special is the time we share amazed by their glow, not the time we spend missing their absence.

Flux is a little older now. I hope this is something Flux has come to realize. Every time I miss Flux I think about fireflies and say a quick little prayer hoping Flux is doing well, knowing if we are meant to be in each other’s life again, God will make it so. Until then, Every summer night when I see a firefly glow I will think of Flux and smile. Although I wish I could snuggle up next to Flux and play games like we always used to, I have to settle on this.

The Story of Two Monks – What Does it Mean to You ?

monkAssome of you may know, I regularly practice vinyasa flow yoga tohelp keep my back flexible as well as promote overall wellness.  At the end of one of my recent classes, my instructor read us a short story to meditate on during shavasana.

A senior monk and a junior monk were traveling together. At one point, they came to a river with a strong current. As the monks were preparing to cross the river, they saw a very young and beautiful woman also attempting to cross. The young woman asked if they could help her.

The senior monk carried this woman on his shoulder, forded the river and let her down on the other bank. The junior monk was very upset, but said nothing.

They both were walking and senior monk noticed that his junior was suddenly silent and inquired “Is something the matter, you seem very upset?”

The junior monk replied, “As monks, we are not permitted a woman, how could you then carry that woman on your shoulders?”

The senior monk replied, “I left the woman a long time ago at the bank, however, you seem to be carrying her still.”

Although I later learned this is a classic story from the Tao, it was new to me and I found it deeply interesting on a few different levels  After class a small group of us spoke about how it meant letting go of the past and either accepting situations for what they are or coming to a peaceful resolution.

Although I agreed with this translation of the story, I found as the week continued to march on, the story took on new meaning for me.  In terms of goals and decision making the story of the monks reminded me to focus on the bigger picture.  While the younger monk thinking all the reasons why he shouldn’t help the woman in distress, the elder monk realized this was an opportunity to work towards the purpose he has devoted his life to, the betterment of man.  Although I’m not a monk and have never aspired to be one, I assume the main objective of a monk is to reach enlightenment and commune with nature on a high level of consciousness. I’ve been reading, or more accurately listening, to Grant Cardon’s “10x Rule” lately and found his overall message is not unlike this interpretation of the monks’ story.  Although his unapologetic style meant to rile up the listener with a dose of equal parts inspiration and moxie is a far cry from the peaceful monks tone, both teachings remind us to focus on whats important in life.  Don’t waste your time and energy on coming up with reasons why something won’t work and focus on how you can make it work.

This past week also started and ran a fundraiser to benefit a friend who lost her home to a fire.  I’ve always had an altruistic nature and have been a member of several different charitable and community organizations in the past.  I set a goal of raising $1,000 and proudly touted my goal and my plan online.  I was initially surprised and almost dismayed when some people I had counted on helping out flat out declined to participate. I had to pause and tell myself I’m doing this not for my own benefit but to help out someone in need.  Perhaps these people who didn’t want to help were assisting in other ways and if not, it wasn’t a reflection on me or my friend it was a reflection on that person.  Needles to say, I re-focused on the task at hand and continued to plow ahead.  I didn’t hit my $1,000 goal but at the end I had raised money from sales and donations, which I originally hadn’t considered I would receive at all.  When I collect the donations and deliver them to my friend later this week, her happiness will have made the journey worth it.

Let’s look at this from the other monk’s perspective, one can always learn something new by looking at the other perspective.  In this case, the younger monk was confined by the regulations of his order.  I’m sure we’ve all felt confined by regulations and guidelines at one time or another. That being said, the monk in this situation should have focused more on what he could do rather than what he couldn’t do.  Perhaps he could have procured a boat or canoe to help the woman sail across the water.  Maybe he could have found a way around it by wrapping her in cloth so there was’t any skin to skin contact.  Either way this is a case of ambition, if the younger monk really wanted to help the woman he would have found a way.  The fact he didn’t help the woman doesn’t make him a terrible person; sometimes good people fail to act in good ways, but in his mind he knows he did wrong.  If not he wouldn’t be preoccupied with “would have” or “should have.”  He expected the other monk to ignore the woman as he chose to, the fact the elder monk acted differently bothered the younger monk, not because he failed to act but because he felt the actions of his associate made him appear like less of a person.

In summary, here’s what I took from the story of two monks:

  1. If you have a goal that is important to you, you’ll find a way to reach it or to stay true to your path to reaching it.
  2. Over-thinking, under-thinking,and not taking action doesn’t help anyone. and finally…
  3. When faced with adversity, don’t focus on why not, instead ask yourself how.

What are your thought about the story of the two monks?  What is your interpretation and how does it apply to a challenge you’ve faced or something you want to accomplish? I want to know – comment below and let’s chat.

Philip A. Maenza aka “Philtastic Phil” is an internet entrepreneur and consumer behavior professional whose interests include art, film, music, stand up comedy, fitness, and comic books. Phil is also a dedicated community volunteer and always open to connecting with like minded optimists. Phil is also all about that bass. 

 

 

Pulp Fiction is 20 Years Old: Is It in Your Time Capsule ?

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I’m fully aware I’m getting older but I had a moment this past weekend that really put my age into perspective. I was discussing films with my younger sister Margot, a sophomore in high school but she has a mature appreciation for the arts ( mostly dance) including film. We have had a lot of dialogue about classic films and foreign movies, although I can’t get her to watch any Fellini or Pan’s Labyrinth yet. I Very casually said to her, ” Wow Pulp Fiction is twenty years old this year I remember when it came out.” Them she dropped the atomic bomb on me I naively didn’t expect to hear from her cultured mouth, ” I’ve never seen it before.” “WHAT???” I replied as a rush of memories from my high school years flushed my brain at once: sneaking info the AMC on route 10 with my friends to see them film for the first time, Uma Thurman ( still one of the sexiest woman alive in my book) staring out from the glossy poster hung on the wall of every dorm room in college, wincing every time they bleeped a curse the first the I watched the film on basic cable (still didn’t turn it off though). She must have sensed the wave of panic and nostalgia I was caught in as she said, “We can watch it together one day. I tried to watch it but only got as far as the diner scene” (yes the opening). Margot and I will watch Pulp Fiction one day but our whole exchange got me thinking, if you had to put three items into a time capsule to define my personal taste, rather than representing my generation, on an artistic or cultural level, what would they be? I had participated in a similar projects with members of my art class during my senior year of high school. We had each put in a drawing or something representing our artwork at the time but our items were lost when the janitor mistook the time capsule for trash.

Three items I would include today:

1. An iPod or MP3 player with a mix of U2, David Bowie, STP, Billy Bragg, Foo Fighters, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Metallica, Scott Weiland and some of my other favorites. Some funk too, gotta have the funk. If you’re having a bad day put on some Kool and the Gang, George Clinton, or even Ray Charles. It’s a proven fact you can’t be depressed and listen to funk. I’d have to leave a note explaining good music expired ten years ago. Hopefully the generation before us brought it back by then.

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2. A box set of all the Marvel Films. If this comes as a shock to you than you must have never read this blog before.

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3. Finally I’d include a copy of Grant Cardone’s 10x with a note: I did everything this guy said I should do now so I can enjoy the other two items later. Life is better when you earn it rather than mortgage it from your future.

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I know this was a short one but tell me, what’s in your time capsule? Comment and let me know !

Philip A. Maenza aka “Philtastic Phil” is an internet entrepreneur and consumer behavior professional whose interests include art, film, music, stand up comedy, fitness, and comic books. Phil is also a dedicated community volunteer and always open to connecting with like minded optimists. But where we’re going we don’t need any roads.

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The Death of Wolverine

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It’s been a few days since Marvel official killed off my favorite superhero – Wolverine. I’ve recounted some of my feelings and thoughts on The Death of Wolverine on my Instagram account (@philtasticphil), including how I first became interested in the character as a child. All these years I’ve never questioned why I have such an affinity for the Ol’Canuckle Head. I finally realized perhaps the reason I’ve always been a fan of the character is become the both of us have grown up together; me growing from a child to an adult and Logan as a fully fleshed out character.

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When I first started reading Wolverine and X-Men related comics I was about 13 or 14 years old. The very first issue of the Wolverine ongoing solo series I purchased read like a scene from a high octane action film. It had Wolverine pitted against an army of soldiers with him cutting his way through a tank. Somewhere Stallone is kicking himself for not thinking of this for this scene for his last Expendables movie.

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Wolverine as a character wasn’t terribly complex, he was a short hairy guy who drank heavily, smoked cigars, and was virtually unkillable. I would later realize Wolverine really wasn’t created with a particular backstory in mind, this was recently confirmed in an interview with Len Wein ( the character’s co-creator) which appears at the end of Death of Wolverine issue #1. This allowed for great writers like Chris Claremont, Frank Miller, and Larry Hama to chart the course of the character through actions and events rather than mythos. One of the parts of his past which was established was his unbreakable claws and skeleton was the result of a government experiment. He was also ladened with false memory implants, establishing an air of mystery about the character. He was a soldier in the Civil War and teamed up with Black Widow and Captain America during WW2.

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He had the ninja training and personal tragedies of Batman without the brooding. His stories included him traveling to exotic locations with other popular characters and often coupling with equally exotic women, but only in an alternate reality would he marry the woman of his dreams, Jean Grey, as she was with Cyclops the leader of the X-men. So if you’re a discouraged love lorn team and the object of your affection tells you there’s no way she’d ever go out with you, remember it took Logan an alternate timeline but it happened. ( I’m kidding forget that girl she’s a loser). 🙂 So we have a short ugly character with the skills of a ninja, berserker rage, with a dash of 007, and a pinch of X-files who can’t get the girl he wants because she’s dating the captain of the football team. Is it any wonder Wolverine was able to find favor among the average male comic book enthusiast ?

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I walked away from comics during my college years, for regular comic book fans this was shortly after Logan lost his nose and became a de-evolved beast. I would look online and try to see what was happening with my old friend every now and then but didn’t go back into a comic book store until 2001 when Marvel came under the toolage of Joe Quesada as Editor-in-Chief. Quesada decided he was going to make a splash by announcing a story many though would never be told, the origin of Wolverine. Many had tried in the past with everything from a caveman, to the son of his main at agonist Sabertooth, and even a mutated wolverine. Quesada had assigned top tier talent to the project including one of my favorite artists, Andy Kubert, whom I spent many hours trying to duplicate as a teenager. Needless to say I was all in. The end result was a masterpiece which stands in my mind as one of the best comic book stories to date. It showed the progression of the sickly son of an aristocrat to the early version of the character I’d come to admire as a kid. Like any good stories, it answered old questions and created brand new ones including Wolverine’s real name: Jim Howlett. If you choose to pickup the series please also read Wolverine #176 as it serves as a haunting epilogue to the series.

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The real excitement came years later when for the first time ever Wolverine remembered everything, flowing the events of the House Of M mini-series. This lead him on a quest through his past in the series, Wolverine Origins. The series followed Logan as he tried to come to grips with the good and bad parts of his forgotten history as he tried to make amends for some of his past transgressions. The series included some of my favorite villains Cyber and Omega Red. The Origins series also introduced new characters who would have a huge impact on Wolverine’s history namingly Romulus, the puppet master, and the son he never knew Daken.

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Post origins, Wolverine’s role shifted to a team player, a leader, and an educator. In addition to becoming headmaster of the Jean Grey School he also became a member of several Avengers squads. This was a boom for the character and for avid Wolverine readers as we saw a Logan who approached each situation with the air of experience and caution for this students and teammates.

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In later volumes of his solo series, He became depowered losing his signature healing factor. This brought a series of new complications to Logan including the fact he could no longer pop his signature claws out for fear of bleeding to death or infection. As an adult this new direction for the character appealed to me. Even though the character couldn’t physically be the hero he once was he did it anyway. He went up against the odds and got the job done regardless of the health implications.

WARNING POSSIBLE SPOILERS BELOW

Wolverine I was told by some of the greatest minds of the Marvel Universe his lack of a healing factor would be terminal and to take it easy. In the end it wasn’t his lack of power that did him in, it was his nature. Like the scorpion hitched on the back of the frog crossing a river, he struck against the very enemy who created him knowing it meant certain death. His final adventure took him around the world and included almost all of his greatest foes ( Cyber, Nuke, Sabertooth, Viper, and Ogun). It also included his first protege, Kitty Pryde as a spiritual sequel to the Kitty Pryde and Wolverine mini-series of the early 1980s. I would have liked to see the inclusion of Omega Red as I feel he was a big part of Logan’s rouges gallery. I also would have liked to see other Wolverine allies appear such as Jubilee, Albert, Elsie Dee, and Maverick. That being said, The Death Of Wolverine mini-series brings our hero full circle to face the man responsible for his unbreakable adamantium skeleton. He sacrificed himself to prevent others from enduring the torture he went through and in the end became incased in the very substance he was defined by for many years.

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Wolverine has joined the likes of Superman. Captain America, and other superheroes who have died and come back to fight another day. After reading Wolverine’s swan song I followed it with the epilogues from other comics including: Logan’s Legacy, Storm, Wolverine and the X-men, and Nightcrawler. Nightcrawler was by far the most emotional and impacted story. It spoke from the perspective of a fellow newly resurrected X-man and recounted Wolverines history only as his best friend could. Wolverine will be back one day, it’s inevitable. His absence will ring through the pages of every book Marvel publishes for quite some time. As an adult, who regularly seeks inspiration from art, music, literature and pop culture Wolverine’s death will create a new benchmark for me. How hard will I fight for my beliefs ? When someone tells me I can’t do something will I allow them to impose limits on me? In the 2000 film, Almost Famous, Penny Lane tells William “…and if you ever get lonely go to the record stores and visit your friends. ” Luckily when I miss my friend Logan, I’ve got hundreds of issues of his adventures arranged in long boxes in the spare room of my home. When faced with opposition Wolverine will come to mind to remind me to be the best I am at whatever I what I do and it is not your past that defines you it is your actions. When it gets really rough, when I’m in a position that looks impossible his last words will ring true. What are they? You’ll have to purchase the last issue to find out.

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Philip A. Maenza aka “Philtastic Phil” is an internet entrepreneur and consumer behavior professional whose interests include art, film, music, stand up comedy, fitness, and comic books. Phil is also a dedicated community volunteer and always open to connecting with like minded optimists. His current favorite comics are Ultimate Spider-man, X-Factor, Swamp Thing, and Uncanny Avengers

The Lesson I Learned From George Clooney

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I’m not going to lie to you, I’ve been in a little bit of a rut lately but I’ve successfully worked out of it and I owe it to George Clooney. I’m in a time of transition and change isn’t easy but it can be rewarding. I remain positive by focusing on my goals, associating with positive people, and putting up as many positive vibes as I can via Facebook, Instagram (@philtasticphil), twitter (@pmtick), and of course this blog. Part of change also includes avoiding old bad habits. This weekend I almost tore open an old wound typing up my original blog topic, life lessons I learned from George Clooney movies ( specifically “The Descendants” and “Up In The Air”). I found myself tearing up someone I used to be very close with, something I promised myself I would never do and took pride in the fact I’ve always acted above board. I feel it’s important I share what happened to me this weekend and how I dug myself out of it, in case you may be struggling in your own situation right now.

1. Let it flow – about halfway into my post I realized I took a turn somewhere. It was obvious I struck a nerve within myself and it needed to be addressed or it would have just festered. I let my typing continue until I was exhausted

2. Examine and diagnose – I reviewed what I had typed and said to myself ” why did I say this ?” In this case when the relationship ended there was a lot left unsaid. Part of me wants to say, ” Look I know you weren’t on the level with me and played me for a fool.” Then I remind myself, some things are better left unsaid but everything happens for a reason.

3. Evaluate where you are now – I stopped and thought about what has happened in my life since then. I rekindled old relationships with friends I was not allowed to associate with while in the relationship and cut ties with negative people I was over encumbered with ( most got the picture, two I have to ignore to this day). I started a business which really spawned a flurry of personal development in growth in me. I learned about goal setting and put an action plan into motion. This directly lead into me losing 70 lbs and improving my overall physical health. I also grew more confident by simply dating women and realizing some of my better qualities something I couldn’t recognize while in the relationship. I made new, positively minded friends who support me and help nurture my growth. I become more active and Started studying yoga. I intend on becoming an instructor one day.

I also remembered an incident about six months ago, I was leaving my Elks lodge after an event and was supposed to meet my girlfriend at the time for dinner. I was running late and hurried to my car. As I was getting in I heard a familiar voice in the distance. I peeked out of my window and saw this person, her sister, and the two negatives who can’t take a hint I noted above. I rolled down my window and said hello. This person, a single mother well into her thirties, physically hid behind her sister not unlike a shy child. She had gained a significant amount of weight and was most likely embarrassed. I don’t mention this to sound shallow, she always had an unwarranted fixation with her weight despite constant reassurance she looks beautiful. I only mention it to illustrate the different mindsets we both had in this moment. An honest person has nothing to hide, nor any reason to feel guilty. Then, one of the negatives attempted to pick a fight with me. Understand I know he didn’t want to fight, he was looking for a reaction ( juvenile I know). I smiled. It was at this time I realized how much the group had hampered me, like weeds choking plants in a garden. Without their negative influence I was able to embrace my own value and self worth to realize I shouldn’t spend time with people who devalue me.

4. Have faith – I’m not a religious person, I believe in God but I am not a regular churchgoer. During the really hard time that followed the breakup, someone gave me the best piece of advice I’ve ever heard. “You did everything you can do, now just throw it up to God and trust he’ll lead you in the right direction.” All of this success I’ve achieved since I wouldn’t have been able to accomplish if I was in that relationship because I was with a person who embraced negative thinking and was ultimately wrong for me. God led me away from the negative environment I was in because I wouldn’t have grown if I was still there and there was no way I could ever allow myself to regress.

5. Breathe deep and exhale – this is something I can say I have learned from George Clooney. Understand I’m not a diehard fan but nor will I rush out to see a film if Clooney. As I mentioned at the beginning of this article, there are two films I had in mind when I decided to write this piece, Up In The Air and The Descendants. Both films share an underlying theme: no man is an island. The human experience is enriched by sharing our lives with others. Not everyone we meet will be pleasant or will help us be better than we were before but the people who do should be cherished and the people who deserve our attention. Without spoiling either film, Clooney’s characters go through an arc of personal enlightenment resolving when he accepts his circumstances, even though they may not be ideal. Rather than getting stuck, he breathes deep and resolves to move on.

These aren’t the type of films to have sequels but unlike a motion picture, life goes on. The best part is everyday is an opportunity to write a new chapter, create a new scene, and work towards your ideal finale. You can choose whether the story of your life is a comedy, a drama, or a disaster movie and the part you will play. With this in mind, what films have impacted your life and how ? Please reply and share.

Philip A. Maenza aka “Philtastic Phil” is an internet entrepreneur and consumer behavior professional whose interests include art, film, music, stand up comedy, fitness, and comic books. Phil is also a dedicated community volunteer and always open to connecting with like minded optimists. His favorite George Clooney film to date is Out of Sight.

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Spread Your Luck this Weekend

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In prior posts, I’ve mentioned I have pretty big goals for myself.  These goals and desires came out of wanting to do more, earn more, really just be a more well-rounded person.  There’s nothing wrong with being ambitious or wanting to leave your mark on the world but it’s also important to take a moment and appreciate what you have in life.  About two years ago, I came to a really simple but personally profound realization: I am one lucky guy.  I’m 35 years old young enough to still be on the go but old enough to avoid the pitfalls of youth, I live in a fairly quiet suburb of New Jersey with safe neighborhoods and access to anything I desire, and I’m healthy.  My parents are still with us and supportive of all my endeavors whether they agree with them or not, I have amazing siblings who inspire me in their own ways, and I have a large extended family I’m close with.  I live in a country where I can worship any religion I want, have any political opinion I’d like, and not worry about the consequences.  Don’t believe I’m so lucky? Stop and think about the young kid who has to walk to school everyday through a rough area, think about the millions of people living in poverty and squalor all over the world, and think about those stricken with mental or physical ailments preventing them from living a normal life.  I know it sounds a bit dramatic and heavy but these humbling thoughts help me be more appreciative of my lot in life.  I’ve always been a person who feels obligated to give back to those less fortunate, in the spirit of stewardship.  As a young adult I joined multiple non-profit organizations, some local and some national, with a thirst in my heart to help others.  I’m not as active in any of said organizations currently for a multitude of reasons, but I still look for the opportunity to volunteer or donate whenever I can.  Sadly, an opportunity to help another has come to my attention recently.

The precious baby pictured above is 7 month old Jackson Silva of Garwood, NJ.  Jackson suffers form a terrible disease called Spinal Muscular Atrophy otherwise known as SMA.  Jackson has been diagnosed with Type I, also known as the Werdnig-Hoffman disease.  It is the most severe form of SMA and is the number one genetic killer of children under the age of two.  SMA destroys the nerves in the body by depleting it of SMN protein, essential for motor control.  In Jackson Silva’s case he is unable to move his arm and legs. He also has difficulty holding his head up.  Much of this information I obtained from a flyer given to me by Dave and Maria Silva, Jackon’s Grandparents. I did some additional research on my own and found additional grim and upsetting details about this truly horrible disease.  Sadly of those afflicted by type I SMA, only 10% are known to live into adolescence and adulthood.  Those who do survive have a greatly diminished quality of life.   Worst of all there is no cure for SMA.

Although I don’t know the Silva’s very well their resilience and faith during this extremely difficult time is very moving and a testament to their family and their beliefs. I will be participating in The Steeplechase Distance Walk/Run this coming Sunday (09/28/2014) in Hillsborough, NJ.  If you live in the area, Sunday is supposed to be a beautiful day, come participate in the events or purchase a t-shirt to support Team Jackson and SMA research.  The last time I posted a link to my blog, my page was suspended for a few days but if you’d like more information go to www (DOT) steps-together (DOT) org, do a web search for “Jackson Silva SMA” or better yet- like and share “Jackson’s Journey”on Facebook.  For additional fundraising info or support contact Jackson’s Grandpa, Dave Silva, 908-482-5500 or email ABetterWay2Live@aol.com.

In closing, please consider the following: you too may very well be a lucky person, and I hope you are.  I can’t make you to do something but I’m a firm believer in “paying it forward.”  Even if you can’t attend the walk this weekend, please consider supporting Team Jackson in any way you are able to.  Spread your luck, awareness, and prayers for Jackson Silva and all infants suffering from Type I SMA.  Share Jackson’s Journey posts on Facebook, share this blog post, and really draw attention to this vile ailment.  Whether or not you attend the upcoming event, please share your experience with SMA or ideas on how we can help Jackson Silva below.  In the words of Horace Mann, “Doing nothing for others is the undoing of ourselves.”

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Philip A. Maenza aka “Philtastic Phil” is an internet entrepreneur and consumer behavior professional whose interests include art, film, music, stand up comedy, fitness, and comic books. Phil is also a dedicated community volunteer and always open to connecting with like-minded optimists. Phil supports Team Jackson and hopes to see you at the Run/Walk for Jackson on Sunday Sept 28th in Hillsborough.