Give ‘em Hell Harry! The Greatest Escape of All

Repost from once upon a time…

It’s Halloween. Allhallows Eve. Samhain. The perfect time for a scary story. So bolt your doors, lower the lights and gather ’round children, for a chilling tale of unearthly apparitions conjured by those who seek to undermine the dominion of Death himself. Read on… if you dare…Mwahahahahahahaha!!!!!! Maniacal laughter and so forth!!!!!

Harry Houdini and his wife Beatrice

“When I say ‘conjure spirits’, I mean ‘make a liquor store run’.” Harry Houdini and his wife Beatrice (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A long time ago (today, actually), Our Hero (me) was writing a screenplay, audaciously Dreaming of Cinematic Glories. It was inspired by real historical events about the world’s greatest magician and escape artist, Harry Houdini, and his quest to conjure spirits and commune with the souls of the dead. After the death of his beloved mother, Harry was drawn into the mysterious, cultish world of the Spiritualist movement by his friend, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (the creator of Sherlock Holmes, among other accomplishments). Houdini and his friends swore a solemn oath to return from beyond the grave to visit one another. Harry and his wife Beatrice (Bess) even devised a secret code known only to the two of them, so that they would know for certain that the visitation was authentic.

Houdini died on October 31, 1926 under bizarre and suspicious circumstances. And, for ten years after his passing in 1926, Bess held seances on Halloween night in an attempt to summon the ghost of her dear husband. In 1936, she held her final, unsuccessful Houdini seance (according to her, “ten years is long enough to wait for any man”), but Harry’s brother and other devotees picked up the torch. Every Halloween night, a seance is held in hopes the famous prestidigitator might make one final curtain call, and perform the greatest magic trick of all: escaping death long enough to contact the living.

Publicity photo of David Copperfield from the ...

“Observe, as my virginity… disappears!”.  Publicity photo of David Copperfield. Source: Wikipedia.

If anyone could do it, it would be Houdini, a man possessing abilities some considered to be unnatural. He specialized in cheating Death, by emerging from the infamous Chinese Water Torture Cell, by surviving live burial, by escaping from a locked trunk dropped into the Hudson River. He made magic cool, and enabled teenage nerds like David Copperfield, Doug Henning, and David Blaine to get to second base with actual girls. Since I get to second base on the regular, I would settle for escaping from my cubicle. I’m hoping the renowned illusionist Harry Houdini can help me.

Halloween seances? Raising the dead? Phantom encounters? Shadowy cults? Anybody else getting goosebumps? At least I hope those are goosebumps, and not, say, scabies.

In honor of the man who defied Death for our entertainment, we offer this audio clip, the final Houdini seance that Bess ever held and attended, on the roof of the Knickerbocker Hotel in Los Angeles.

If the ending seems disappointing and anti-climactic, it’s because this recording doesn’t tell the full story. For, as the crowd dispersed without a written message or manifestation to satisfy their paranormal appetites, lightning crashed and a biblical storm erupted and drenched the attendees. Witnesses recounted that the deluge only hit the Knickerbocker Hotel itself, and did not affect the surrounding area. Perhaps this was Harry, reaching out, communicating from beyond. Keeping his solemn oath…

Happy Halloween, Heroes. And pleasant dreams.

Mwaaahahahahahahahaha!!!!! Nefarious laughter!!!!!!!

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My Inner Child’s Resume

I originally posted this some time back, thought it was time for a rerun.

I looked through an old photo album the other day. I guess I was simply feeling Nostalgic, but looking at photos of myself from grade school led to a Revelation.

I used to be absolutely Fearless. Unselfconscious. Almost frighteningly so.

I believed there wasn’t a thing in the world I couldn’t do or be. This often resulted in the unfortunate wearing of a Costume in public.

I wanted to be Evel Knievel for the longest time. He was the definition of Awesome. In fact, everything I wanted to be during that time was Awesome. In many ways the late 1970’s-1980’s were a Golden Age of Awesomeness.

If my Inner Child had become all of the things he had Dreamed of, his Resume might look like this (click image to zoom):


OK, I was a weird kid.

Yes, I wanted to be Michael Jackson. Yes, my parents were concerned.

Still, this is the kind of person I need to become again. Someone that lives in the Culture of the Possible.

What does your Inner Child’s resume look lke?

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Rise and Grind, Little Ones!

Hail, Heroes!

It has been one entire eon since we last chatted. That is about to change. Our Hero is about to embark on a fresh new Quest, similar to the First, but way different.

This effort is in celebration of our new Adventure, and because I am preparing to pitch my second Opus, working-entitled Breaking Kayfabe, to the market. I learned a lot from my first foray into the shark-infested waters of the Hollywood spec scene, so for this Quest, I am doubling down. More of everything. More assertive marketing. More social networking. More blogging. More, more, more.  It’s time to rise and grind, if I’m to believe the motivational video I just watched.

To kick off Heroic Quest 2: Electric Boogaloo, I’ll be re-posting some of my past blog entries. Since only about a dozen or so Courageous individuals read them the first time, I thought I’d dust off a few old (and I’d argue under-appreciated) chestnuts.

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Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evel

“Bones heal, pain is temporary, and chicks dig scars.” –Robert Craig ‘Evel’ Knievel

“Healing is expensive, pain is painful, and chicks dig sensible, steadily-employed guys with a killer cubicle.” –Evel Knievel’s insurance agent, Herbert Nudds

When I was a kid, my hero was Evel Knievel. That swagger. That red, white, and blue jumpsuit. That cape. He was an American superhero: iconoclastic and rebellious.  I even had his action figure and toy stunt bike, dreaming gossamer dreams of flying across the Snake River Canyon on a rocket cycle, cigarette dangling from my lip nonchalantly, as the world’s collective sphincter puckered. Seventies cool.

“All my life, people have been waiting around to watch me die.” –Evel Knievel

“Call me an incurable optimist, I’ve got a really good feeling about this jump.” Evel Knievel doing his thing. Photo source:

As a so-called responsible adult, beavering away in the safety of my cubicle, I came to see Mr. Knievel’s accomplishments in a more cynical light. I mean, who chooses “human projectile” as a career? And he wasn’t even very good at motorcycle jumping. More often than not, he crashed! In spectacular, humiliating, bone-crushing fashion. How are we supposed to feel sympathy for him when he sets up some asinine, terribly dangerous stunt and then, predictably, gets hoisted by his own petard? Tenderizing his already suspect brain matter with the concrete. Breaking every bone in his body until you could spread his insides on a cracker. Instead of standing before an adoring throng, peeling away on his Harley in triumph, he is instead peeled up off the pavement like chewing gum, and unceremoniously hauled away in an ambulance, while his insurance agent’s sphincter puckered. Not nearly as cool as I remembered.

“Where there is little risk, there is little reward”. –Evel Knievel

“Bet you double or nothing I stick the landing.” Knievel jumping the fountains at Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas. Photo source:

But, something happened. My inner Knievel started to rev his engine, imperceptibly at first. Over time, it became deafening. I realized that I avoided risk with the zealotry of an insurance agent, and therefore was not living life to the fullest.

Fear of failure paralyzes many people into abandoning their Dreams. Worse, it makes them circle like vultures, waiting to watch others dare to try. Secretly hoping they will fail. Waiting around to watch them die. And when they do, they pounce. Ridiculing. Trolling. TMZ’ing. Having a Hell of a lot of fun at their expense.

But the vultures, the ones who never put themselves out there, will never know the reward of pursuing audaciously. Of failing nobly. And of fighting through doubt and pain time and again to try again, and keep trying until you succeed. That’s the real lesson of Evel Knievel. His choice of career notwithstanding. As a young man, he was going nowhere, in and out of jail, heading towards a wasted life.

Fun fact: Ironically, Evel Knievel worked in insurance sales before embarking in a career in daredevilry.


“At least I’ve got good insurance. Oh, right. Dang.” Knievel tasting the agony of defeat. And the contents of his pancreas. Photosource:

Finally, he embraced what he loved, and he went at it with everything he had. Designing his own stunts. Building his own ramps. Doing his own promotion. And he, for a brief time, was the biggest star in the world, and hero to millions. Never mind that nobody would sell him an insurance policy. This was pre-Obamacare, after all.

Because he knew, even with his tenderized brain matter, that Reward takes Risk. That failure is temporary. That Daring Greatly usually looks stupid to the unimaginative vultures among us. And that chicks dig scars.

Be a DAREDEVIL! Dare. Fail. Repeat. Reap your reward.



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Once More Into the Fray!

Once more into the Fray…

Into the last good fight I’ll ever know.

Live and Die on this day…

Live and die on this day…

–Jon Treloar

Hail Heroes, near and far.

Have you ever poured your Heart and Soul into something, given your ever-loving all for a Goal or Dream, only to fail? Or be rejected?

It has been ages since I’ve transmitted from my remote outpost. Much has happened, and much has not happened. I fully expected to send this post from a yacht or somesuch, so sure was I about the wattage of my future as a professional confabulator.

When I last sent my signal into the ether, I was on the verge of Victory. The Culmination of a Quest. I had completed my maiden screenplay and had queried some Hollywood heavyweights. Impossibly, many even expressed a strong interest in the material. Several copies of my script sat in the hands of producers and agents, each with the profound power to explode my life. And so, after many months of frantic efforting and Questing, I waited.

And waited. And so on.

Finally, I received some responses. “The writing was strong, but not quite what I was looking for”. “Isn’t Dreamworks developing a similar project?”. “Fascinating, but not for me”. Right.

“Tense, your shoulders are. Deep tissue massage, you require.” Luke and Yoda in the Empire Strikes Back (1980). Photo source:


Frustrating? Yes. Demoralizing? Hell yes.

Failure and/or rejection is a kind of metaphorical death. It takes everything a Hero has got to get back up and try again. And many people never get back up. That is an actual tragedy. Because in the striving and failing and regrouping, we become powerful. It’s our Training Montage, our Proving Ground. It’s Rocky chasing a creepy older guy’s chicken. Daniel-San waxing a creepy older guy’s car.  Luke Skywalker running around a jungle giving a tiny, creepy older guy a piggyback ride in a Baby Bjorn. If you can just endure the pain and repetition and disappointment (and creepiness), soon you will be a Heavyweight Contender/Karate Kid/Jedi Knight.

So am I going to throw in the towel? Not by a damn sight. I’m a glutton for punishment. It’s time to bear down and go twice as hard. So, after some time off, I’m regrouping.

  • First, I’ve negotiated some time off from work to dedicate to my writing. A writer has to write. Every day. Period. Amen.
  • B, I’m returning to the blogosphere. Can’t be shy about getting my wares out there, can I?
  • Nextly, I’m going to set up a website for my screenwriting work. See B above.
  • Also, I’m going to go back and rewrite my script again. Based on reader feedback, the plot is not as taut as it could be. When I’m done with it, you’ll be able to bounce a Spanish dubloon off of it.
  • Finally, I am beginning work on a new script.

It’s like I finally caught a glimpse of my Dream, and it looked me in the eye and whispered, “Come and get me if you can”. I can’t shake it now. It disturbs my sleep. It’s mine for the taking. And if it takes me months or years, I will not stop until I’ve reached my goal.

If you finally take a shot at your Dream, and you fail, are you going to hang your head and trudge home?

Or, are you going to embrace your Purpose, shout your Goal to the heavens, and retrieve your Helmet and Lance and charge once more into the Fray?




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Breaking News from the Dali Bugle!

“Not everyone is meant to make a difference. But for me, the choice to lead an ordinary life is no longer an option.” –Peter Parker

Greetings faithful readership. It has been a few weeks since my last Manifesto. I have been busy tilting at the Windmill-shaped Giants with my trusty pen, and have finally scored a decisive Victory on the Road of Trials.

After finishing my script, I have started putting it out into the universe. Firstly, I joined Virtual Pitchfest’s website. This is a service that allows you to search Hollywood producers, managers and agents, and send them query letters directly. The best part is that these “industry professionals” are required to respond within five days with either a script request or a gentle ‘no thanks’. The other best part is that you can pitch these bigwigs from the comfort of your own breakfast nook, in your Spider-Man jammies. The gatekeepers in the movie business are traditionally difficult to gain access to, particularly for those of us outside of California. This service is great for rookies like me.

"I don't do drugs. I am drugs" - Salvador Dali

“I don’t do drugs. I am drugs.” – Salvador Dali. Photo credit:

And here’s the surreal part. I mean Salvador Dalí , clock-meltingly surreal. I’ve gotten a bunch of positive replies. From major production companies, leading agents, who want to read the script, based on my logline and query letter. An Oscar-winning producer with decades in the business told me that my query letter was one of the best he’s seen.

After a year and a half of hard work, preseverance, and failure, things are starting to happen. I’ve been contacted by seven (so far) of these industry pros and have been on the VPF website “hot list” of most requested scripts for the better part of a month.

Um, holy @#$&!

This was the purpose of the whole Heroic Quest business, the blog, all of this. Before I embarked on my Quest last year, I had dabbled in screenwriting, but never finished a script. I was working a job that I could barely tolerate. So, I used Joseph Campbell’s Hero’s Journey as a Treasure Map to help me find my way. To get in the Game. To find my Motivation. To fight for my Dream. And now I’m off the sidelines. I consider myself a screenwriter now. It’s a remarkable turnaround.

I still have my job. For now.

This is your brain on Sal. Any questions -- Photo credit:

“This is your brain on Sal. Any questions?” — Tick Tock by Salvador Dali. Photo credit:

But these days, I’m leading a Double Life. So, in between conference calls about blahblah blah and various clock-meltingly boring tasks, I surreptitiously check my emails for messages from the producer of <>.  I always used to wonder how Peter Parker used to focus during staff meetings at the Daily Bugle. I mean, he was Spider-Man! He battled the likes of the Green Goblin, while, and at the same time, hurling pithy one-liners at him. You’d suppose he’d think just about anything work-related would be hopelessly trite. I can hardly concentrate on parking meters. Alter egos apparently require considerable acting skill.

Peter had to play it cool, protect his double life. Now I make it a game. Because even though I haven’t sold my script yet, I know it’s just a matter of time. So, I play my role like an Oscar winner and watch the clock melt, one minute at a time.


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Don’t Get Jobbed! Be an iConoclast

While I’m not an Apple fanboy specifically, or a technology geek in general, or a fan of sweatshop labor under any circumstances, Steve Jobs was a fascinating guy. Some people have elevated him onto a pedestal, like some kind of nerdist messiah. Not me. But, I can unironically say that he was a fascinating guy.

Rachel stumbled across Jobs’ commencement speech to the Stanford graduating class of 2006. In it, he offers lessons that he learned in his messianic rise to prominence from LSD trips and ashrams to tech mogulhood (sorry, my iconoclasm is showing, let me adjust my bathrobe). Anyways, it is pretty inspiring stuff:

There are a number of Heroic lessons to be learned, according to the Gospel of Steve:

  • Do what you love. Don’t settle. The only way to do great work is to love what you do.
  • Don’t be afraid to question orthodoxy.
  • The best laid plans often go awry. Be nimble.
  • Feeling secure often suppresses creativity.
  • Don’t waste time living someone else’s life.
  • Trust your intuition.
  • Stay hungry. Stay foolish.

I cannot disagree with any of the above. That’s what this humble blog is all about. His address is filled with very inspirational advice for anyone, from the tens of my loyal followers, to the CEO of a global corporation, to a twelve year old Chinese sweatshop worker putting in 16 hour days assembling iPads for 70 cents an hour.

Sorry for the bile. By all accounts, Jobs was a great guy. It’s just hard not to see the Irony.

But there are other lessons here:

  • Don’t idolize anyone too strenuously. Messiahs are notoriously hard to come by.
  • Be grateful for the freedoms and opportunities and time that you do have, stop making excuses, and realize that many of the barriers to your Happiness are trivial compared to those of millions of others.
  • As you accomplish Deeds of Heroic Excellence, do your best not to do so on the backs of the kind of people you should be helping.

This post was uploaded from my iPhone.

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