Tuesday, July 29, 2014

How To be More Productive in Your Personal and Professional Life

Isn't There More You Could Be Doing?

It seems that we're all busy people. We always have someplace to go, something to do, a phone call to make, etc. And yet, for all that hustle and bustle, we never seem to get caught up. We are never quite as productive as we'd like to be.

With that in mind, it makes sense to take stock of how we are spending our time, and look at things we can do to be more productive.

Quit Your Second Job: Turn Off the TV
Most Americans have a second job and don’t even know it. It’s called watching TV. Believe it or not, the average American watches approximately 34 hours of television per week. 34!

That’s a lot of man-hours – practically enough to work full-time somewhere. (Now you know the reason I referred to it as a second job…) That’s why one of the first steps in being more productive – and I know it’s hard – is turning the television off. Right now, most Americans are like addicts; they have to get their television fix or they feel like they’ll go bananas. But trust me, after you turn it off and get used to having it off, you’ll be shocked by what you can get accomplished.

That said, I know most people won’t be able to shut television out completely. However, it’s an epidemic, much like obesity. Thus, you need to curb your appetite for television – take in fewer broadcast calories. I would suggest you try to limit yourself to a maximum of 10 hours of television per week. Thus, you need to pick the programs you absolutely must watch, and jettison the rest. (And with television now being a rare treat, you can justify watching your programs on a nice set.)

Make a List of Goals and Things You Want to Accomplish

Statistics have shown that people who write down their goals come a lot closer to achieving them than those who do not. Therefore, your productivity is likely to increase if you make a to-do list of things you want to accomplish.

In short, no matter what your goal is – whether it be losing weight, competing in a triathlon, or writing the great American novel – you stand a better chance of making it happen if you write it down.

Keep the list close – maybe in your wallet or purse – and review it a couple of times each week. And as you accomplish the things you’ve written down, check them off. (And maybe add some new objectives.) And the goals don’t all have to be lofty; they can be simple things, like baking a cake for a friend, finally getting around to cleaning out the garage, and so on. You’ll find that after you complete a couple of the items on your list, that feeling of accomplishment and success is something that you’ll want to experience again and again.

Exercise for Energy
Studies have shown that regular exercise not only increases your energy level but also fights fatigue. Wouldn’t you be more productive if you stayed energized? If you didn’t get tired very easily?

Thus, you should adopt a regular exercise regimen. It doesn’t matter if it’s lifting weights, riding a bike, walking or pilates. The important thing is to do some form of exercise. Moreover, after you make it part of your regular routine, you’ll soon find that you feel out of sorts if you somehow fail to exercise on a day when you were supposed to.

In retrospect, it can be fairly easy to become more productive. Cutting down on your television viewing will give you gobs of time. Making a to-do list will give objectives to shoot for. Finally, regular exercise can give you the energy to get the job done. In brief, this is a workable plan for becoming more productive. (And once you’re more productive you can turn your hand to other things you may be interested in.)

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Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Television Shows I Can't Believe Were Greenlit!

I'm just going to put it out there: these are TV shows that I can't believe got a green light. I'm not trying to say that all - or even any - of these shows were bad. (In all honesty, I watched them all.) I'm just saying that I can't believe some studio honcho gave the thumbs up to them, because on paper I'd think they sounded wacko. That said, without further ado...

Bigfoot and Wildboy

Okay, this show always made me think that somebody wanted to make a Tarzan series, but with Tarzan being from the U.S. Since great apes are not indigenous to North America, and the boy-raised-by-wolves thing was being done on the show Lucan (read below), who did that leave? Bigfoot! Yes, Bigfoot gets to raise a kid!
Set in the Pacific Northwest, Bigfoot and Wildboy is supposedly premised on the concept of Bigfoot finding a lost kid and raising him. (And raising him right – with morals and ethics and all that jazz. Pretty cool for a creature that couldn’t speak!) To be frank, I’ve always wondered what was going through the head of whoever said, “Yes” to this show. Of course, it was from Sid and Marty Krofft, who practically owned Saturday morning television back in the '70s. Those guys could get anything they wanted on television. (They never even bothered making pilot episodes; they just went in with sketches of what they wanted to do, and the bigwigs just seemed to always say, “Okay.”) Plus, I actually enjoyed the show, although some of it is laughable – especially the intro. Still, if the opportunity presents itself, you should check it out.


This was a boy-raised-by-wolves adventure series that aired during prime time in the ’70s. The premise of Lucan centered on a boy found in the wilderness after having been raised by wolves the first 10 years of his life. He is brought back to “civilization” for study and indoctrination into society. Although feral at first, he gradually – over the course of the next 10 years – becomes civilized while living (and being studied) at a research institute.

Source: http://ctva.biz/US/Adventure/Lucan_ad.jpg
One of his doctors is basically a father-figure to him, and when it seems that Lucan is in danger he encourages the young man to leave and try to find his true identity. He becomes a David Banner (Incredible Hulk) wanderer type, going from place to place and helping people along the way. Lucan has certain wolf powers: his eyes turn red when he’s angry, and he can see and smell with the senses of a wolf.

Basically, this was The Jungle Book transplanted to America. (Notice how U.S. studios have to Americanize everything?) The show only lasted a season, but again it’s one of those that you wonder how it got the go-ahead in the ’70s disco era. (Hmmm, maybe if Lucan occasionally cut loose in a club in a white bell-bottom suit – or if they had the BeeGees write a theme song – the show would have lasted longer.)

Anyway, I’m probably making it sound worse than it was, because it memory serves it was actually an okay show. You can see the intro here.


In Manimal, wealthy Jonathan Chase supposedly learned the secrets of shapshifting in deepest, darkest Africa while he was a boy. Now, he uses his abilities to help the police solve crimes.

To be honest, I thought this was a pretty cool series. I can only recall the guy shifting into one of three animals – a hawk (nice), a panther (cool) and a slow-moving snake (huh? What’s the purpose of that?). However, according to the promos, I think he was supposed to be able to change into any animal he wanted. (Of course, this was almost 30 years ago when the series aired, so maybe I just don’t remember.) Anyway, it’s another series that didn’t go the distance – but it was fun while it lasted!

The Man from Atlantis

Before he became a heartthrob on the mega-hit Dallas, Patrick Duffy was an amnesiac called Mark Harris, whom scientist believed to be from the lost city of Atlantis. He had webbed fingers and toes, and gills in addition to lungs so that he could breathe underwater.
To be frank, this was actually a neat series. I just can’t believe anyone in Hollywood was gutsy enough to get on board with it, because the premise was a little different. The lead character gets found in the ocean (I think he gets caught in a fishing net or something) and when they examine him they discover that he has all these marine attributes.

Hmmm…  Now that I think about it, this would probably make a great feature film.  (Of course, I hear an Aquaman film is already in the works, but that hasn't kept Hollywood from releasing similarly-themed movies before - eg, in a few weeks I think we'll get the second "Hercules" movie of 2014.)

Regardless of whether you think they were good or bad, I'm really happy to see that shows like this were actually being made.  It showed (or at least makes me think) that someone in Hollywood had an imagination.

Friday, July 4, 2014

Book Review: Logan's Run

I don't think it comes as a big surprise to anyone that I'm huge sci-fi/fantasy fan.  Therefore, I'm occasionally asked what's my favorite book in that arena. But like most avid readers, there's no single novel I could point to and say with absolute certainty that it's my all-time favorite (and that goes for any genre).  However, there is one book that I always thought was an incredible read: Logan's Run, by William F. Nolan and George Clayton Johnson.

Let me be perfectly frank: the book completely blew my mind.  I've never read anything like it before or since.

First of all - before the story itself even begins - there was the incredible dedication page.  On it, the authors list a host of individuals, characters, and even other books, dedicating the novel to everyone from Frankenstein and Jiminy Cricket to the Marx Brothers and The Most Dangerous Game.  I interpret this as the authors thanking those people (factual and fictional) and stories that inspired them.  Like the rest of the book, I've never come across anything else like it.

The novel itself was originally published in 1967 and takes place in a future when human society seems to have achieved Utopia.  Everyone is young and beautiful.  (And if you don't like your appearance, you can easily change it.) You can have anything you want, go anywhere you want, do anything you want. In short, it's a sex-drugs-and-rock-n-roll culture where personal bliss can be obtained either naturally or artificially. There's only one catch: you have to die at age 21.    

In the world of Logan's Run, everyone has a crystal flower embedded in their palm at birth that tracks their age: up until age 7, the cyrstal is yellow.  From 7-14, it's blue.  After age 14, it becomes red.

On your 21st birthday, the crystal starts to flash, alternating between it's normal red color and black.  This means that you are on "Lastday" and have twenty-four hours before reporting for mandatory "Sleep." After twenty-four hours, the crystal goes permanently dark.  If you haven't reported for Sleep by that point, you are said to be "on Black" and are considered the worst kind of criminal - a "Runner." Agents of the Deep Sleep organization - popularly known as "Sandmen" - rigorously enforce the law by hunting down and mercilessly killing all Runners, with no exceptions. 

Logan is a Sandman - one of the best. But when his own crystal starts to blink he has a critical decision to make. By almost blind luck, he stumbles across information about a legendary place called Sanctuary, where people can allegedly live out their lives in peace and die of old age. Eventually he teams up with another Runner named Jessica, and they decide to seek out Sanctuary together.

In terms of characterization, Jessica is a fairly straightforward individual whose motivations are easy to understand: she wants to live, plain and simple. Logan, on the other hand, is clearly a tortured soul.  He's dedicated and devoted everything he is to being a Sandman and upholding the law, but at the same time he clearly has reverence for his own life.  For much of the novel - as he and Jessica traverse an exotically dangerous futuristic landscape that includes everything from undersea cities to arctic prisons to killer cyborgs - it's not entirely clear whether Logan wants to find Sanctuary in order to save himself...or destroy it.  Further complicating matters is the fact that the two Runners are being relentlessly pursued by Logan's friend and colleague, Francis (whom even Logan admits is probably the most competent Sandman alive).

Of course, the novel can be seen as an allegory of contemporary society in a lot of ways.  In the book, almost nobody cares or seems to understand that they're living in an oppressive culture.  Few are attentive enough to see that they are under the control of a dystopian regime until they're on Lastday, at which point it's too late. (How much societal change can you realistically effectuate in 24 hours?)  

Likewise, in the real world, people often don't realize that they're part of an oppressive society until they experience that oppression themselves.  Even worse, in Logan's Run there are constant signs that the current system - which is run by a gigantic computer known as the Thinker - is corrupt (in the sense of decaying, as opposed to being dishonest) and breaking down, but  no one seems willing to do anything about it.

Now that it's pushing up on 50 years of age, you don't hear a lot about Logan's Run these days. However, the novel was popular enough to have spawned two sequels, a major motion picture (which I personally consider a sci-fi classic), a television series, a comic, graphic novels and other adaptations. A remake of the movie has supposedly been in development hell for years, but hopefully it will eventually get the green light.  (On a side note, I penned my own version of a Logan's Run screenplay years ago, but that's a story unto itself.)

In essence, the novel is a depiction of a world that had to deal with an ever-expanding population in the face of limited resources.  The result is a society where mandatory death is the only way to ensure that everyone has at least a chance at life - even if it's greatly curtailed. Thus, one of the fascinating things about the novel, I think, is the question that it silently proposes: Would you be willing to die at a designated time in exchange for a life of constant pleasure? Is the trade-off worth it - no worries in exchange for cashing in your chips on a date that you can circle on the calendar? 

And, in a completely hedonistic society, do you eventually tire of it all? Also, what motivates you to do anything when almost everything you want is at your fingertips?  (I  think this is the issue that some people see in the concept of inherited wealth. I believe it was Warren Buffett who said that you should leave your kids enough money so that they could do anything, but not enough so that they can do nothing.)

In short, Logan's Run is an absolutely fantastic piece of science fiction and probably the best dystopian novel I've ever read.  It can certainly be viewed as a representation of some of the problems in the modern-day world, but I think you'll get the most enjoyment out of it by treating it as the exciting, action-packed yarn the writers seemed to have wanted it to be.

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