Saturday, December 22, 2012

It's the Little Things

Just a few random thoughts during this holiday. With Christmas just a few days away I am always mindful this time of year that it is the little things that count in life. It’s not about gifts and decorations, it’s about the moments that you share with others. A laugh, a smile, an encouraging or complimentary word.

It’s been a long year for a lot of people. The economy still sucks. In my region the main economic driver is the energy sector and thousands of families are out of work during this holiday season. Recently the school shooting in Newtown, CT reminded us that there is evil in this world and that life is precious and sometimes cut way too short.

I got a package in the mail yesterday that emphasizes this point. I opened the box with a kid-like excitement and smiled and laughed at every trinket in the box, things for ages 3 and up. Oh, and some really great hot chocolate powder that I refuse to share with anyone! But I was reminded again that it is the little things that count. There could have been a $500 gift inside of that box. But nothing compared to the fact that someone thought about me and gave me some gifts to keep me chuckling. Just being thought about was priceless. I called to say thanks for the gifts and probably spent over a half hour laughing over the phone. A great conversation is a gift that lasts forever because it is in your memories going forward. Something as goofy as a socket monkey night light brought a lot of joy.

So remember this holiday how it’s the little things that matter. My older sister is going through chemotherapy for breast cancer right now. Spending some time with her goofing off is priceless. Sharing some laughs and some funny gifts with someone special is priceless. Remember those things that money can’t buy and that’s where you’ll find the best gifts of all.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Top 10 One Hit Wonders of the 80's

When I think back on growing up in the 80's I remember mostly how dynamic and fun the culture was. It was a time of excess on all levels. "Excess" is a word I use a lot in my book The Ultimate 80's (available for all eBook formats at online retailers). Excess in fashion, excess in movies and television, and mostly in music. The 80's kicked off with the new wave phenomenon and the rise of MTV and its impact on the culture at large, and on the politics of the day.

I cover a lot of fun topics in my eBook, including a ton of personal top ten lists in the world of fashion, music, television, and movies. You'll find a lot of interesting trivia in the book. But one topic I didn't cover in much detail was the one hit wonders of the 80's. There were a lot of them! So I thought I'd toss in my personal top 10 one hit wonders of the 80's. Got a few of your own favorites, feel free to share them.

10. Eddie Grant - "Electric Avenue"
9.  Nena - "99 Luft Balloons"
8.  John Parr - "St. Elmo's Fire (Man In Motion)"
7.  T'Pau - "Heart and Soul"
6.  The Outfield - "Your Love"
5.  Rockwell - "Somebody's Watching Me"
4.  Gary Numan - "Cars"
3.  Modern English - "I Melt With You"
2.  Big Country - "In A Big Country"
1.  Flock of Seagulls - "I Ran"

Saturday, December 15, 2012

NOOK and Kindle!

Since I am in the process of writing a new novel, I thought I'd take a moment to share with you the link for my author page on Barnes & Noble's website. (At the bottom of this blog).

So far I have 7 books available online for eReaders. Four are in a horror series (Legends and Landmarks), two are short story compilations. Those short stories are kind of like horror meets the Twilight Zone. The other book I have is a humorous nostalgia book about the 80's.

Also, I have a short story available for free that is titled Game, Set, Match. I wanted to make something free for readers so those who haven't read my work can get a fun sample before spending your hard earned money. Everything is under $10, no need to charge high prices for something that has no overhead or uses physical materials like paper and ink.

My books are available in all eReader formats. Thanks to those who have bought my work. If you haven't, take some time to at least get the free download and see if you like it. eBooks make a great Christmas gift! I appreciate all of my readers, and thanks again.


Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Hooray Beer!

According to a Yahoo news article, the consumption of beer can help fight off the common cold. It seems like a chemical compound found in the hops provides the human body with the ability to fight the virus behind the common cold. The study was conducted by a Japanese beer company, but I’ll still consider this bit of news the gospel until told otherwise.

Did you know that studies have also shown that beer consumption can also help with bone density and reducing the risks of heart disease and Alzheimer’s? It’s true. So next time you decide that having a few beers with your pals is a good idea and your wife wants to complain about it, just tell her that you’re drinking for your health so you two will have many more years together.

Who was it that said beer is proof that god loves us? Well, whoever said it was a wise man. Enjoy some famous quotes about beer and drink up! For your health!

"I would give all my fame for a pot of ale and safety."
-Shakespeare, ‘King Henry V.’

"Who cares how time advances? I am drinking ale today."
- Edgar Allan Poe

"Always remember that I have taken more out of alcohol than alcohol has taken out of me"
- Winston Churchill

"I am a firm believer in the people. If given the truth, they can be depended upon to meet any national crisis. The great point is to bring them the real facts, and beer."
-Abraham Lincoln

"24 hours in a day, 24 beers in a case. Coincidence?"
–Stephen Wright

"Sometimes when I reflect back on all the beer I drink I feel ashamed. Then I look into the glass and think about the workers in the brewery and all of their hopes and dreams. If I didn’t drink this beer, they might be out of work and their dreams would be shattered. Then I say to myself, "It is better that I drink this beer and let their dreams come true than be selfish and worry about my liver."
-by Jack Handy

"Beer, the cause of, and solution to all of life’s problems."
- Homer Simpson

"You can’t be a real country unless you have a beer and an airline – it helps if you have some kind of football team, or some nuclear weapons but at the very least you need a beer."
- Frank Zappa

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Top 10 Power Ballads of the 80's

The power ballad was a staple among 80’s hard rock and hair metal bands. Once Motley Crue released Home Sweet Home from their Theatre of Pain album, it was pretty much expected from then on that every hard rock and hair metal band had to include at least one song and video of their own power ballad. It’s a good thing those became popular because it was those songs that brought out most of the girls to the concerts. Personally speaking, it was nice to have some eye candy at every hard rock show I went to during those years.

I’m a big fan of Top 10 lists, so here is my own personal Top 10 of power ballads during the 80’s. This list is only for hard rock and hair metal bands. I don’t care how good Survivor was during the 80’s, they don’t make the list because they weren’t hard rock or hair metal. So here’s the list (always subject to change depending on my mood).

10. Dokken---Alone Again
9. White Lion---When the Children Cry
8. Tesla---Love Song
7. Kix---Don’t Close Your Eyes
6. KISS---Reason To Live
5. L.A. Guns---The Ballad of Jayne
4. Faster Pussycat---House of Pain
3. Aerosmith---Angel
2. Cinderella---Nobody’s Fool
1. Motley Crue---Home Sweet Home

Way too many honorable mentions for this list, but Lita Ford’s “Close My Eyes Forever” would be on there. So would Queen’s “Who Wants To Live Forever.” I think the only band that never did a power ballad was AC/DC. Could “Whole Lot of Rosie” be considered a love song? Hehe, don’t think so. “The Price” by Twisted Sister suddenly comes to mind. That was a great song. W.A.S.P.'s "Forever Free" was another great song that was very underrated.

Of course, no one could ever forget Poison’s “Every Rose Has It’s Thorn,” or the ballads by Guns N Roses, Warrant and Whitesnake. What a fun decade.

All of these bands and more are highlighted in my eBook, The Ultimate 80’s. You can find it for your Kindle, NOOK, and all other eReader devices. Hope you take some time to check it out. And tell your friends to check it out, too.

The Ultimate 80’s by John Schweingrouber

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Ahhhh, Autumn!

This is my favorite time of year. There's nothing lip a cool nip in the air to make someone feel more alive as the seasons change once again. It's especially nice for me because of the change of colors throughout nature. I'm colorblind, so for about three weeks in the Fall all the colors seem to come alive for me for the first time all year.

It's kind of hard to explain to people what my colorblindness means in the scope of everyday life. I probably see things much the same way, just a shade or two different. But when it comes to nature, the green (which I don't see as everyone else does) seems just as bland to me as a dry winter day in many regards.

So on this great Autumn day I had the chance to spend some time with friends and my sister, and spent some time talking to others that mean a lot to me. The only thing that would make it better would be to spend some time at the lake enjoying the beauty of nature with someone special. I hope you enjoy the season as much as I do.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Caruso-Cabrera vs. Energy Independence

So I’m sitting around on this overcast Friday pondering topics to blog about and a few ideas come to mind. I thought about going a bit in the gutter by comparing the babes of CNBC vs. those of Fox Business. Or maybe a top ten list of the hottest ladies on all news channels combined. Can anyone say Michelle Caruso Cabrera? Wowzer!

But I settled on a topic that is a bit closer to home when it comes to our wallets. I’m watching CNBC and listening to an oil analyst at Oppenheimer discuss the risks in the Middle East that could impact the cost of oil. There is a possibility that the unrest in other parts of the region could spill over into Saudi Arabia, although slim. However, let’s consider the result if it did happen. Currently the U.S. gets just under 20% of its oil from Saudi Arabia, according to various web sources. If that country came to a standstill it would certainly throw a shock to the system.

If Saudi oil production stopped then most analysts seem to agree that oil prices would double very quickly. If that happened then how would you, Joe Citizen, feel about another war in the Middle East involving American troops while those of us at home are paying $7 a gallon for gas? Let’s assume the perfect storm happened over there and Iran develops nuke’s and halts oil shipments out of the Strait of Hormuz. Israel and Iran would be on the brink of war, and that would also lead to American military action. How about $250-$300 per barrel of oil and $10-$12 per gallon of gas? This isn’t outside the realm of possibility.

The thing that bothers me most about our energy situation is that we have so much energy here in America that we don’t need to spend a dime in that part of the world. It sucks that when we fill up our tanks some of that money goes back to that region and falls into the hands of governments that hate us. Some of that money falls in the hands of terrorist groups that are hell bent on killing you and me.

It sickens me that since I was a kid every politician for high office has promised American energy independence. Every single one of them has lied to America. Their reward for lying and pushing our country to the verge of economic collapse…they continue to get paid for life even long after being booted from office. Isn’t it ironic how someone gets elected to congress as a middle class attorney, getting a salary for elected office of around $130,000 a year but miraculously are worth untold millions when they are defeated for re-election or retire? Corrupt bastards.

With all the oil, coal, and natural gas we have we have no excuse to not achieve energy independence within two years. But, no political will. Hell, no one can even get a permit to drill for oil back in the Gulf regardless of their safety record and the current administration has shut down over 100 coal fired plants since coming into office. No wonder heating our homes in the winter is breaking the bank of the middle and lower income families.

Oh, sure there are a handful of the newer elected congressmen that want the same thing. I thought my previous congressman who served nearly 30 years gave a crap about the issue, but turned his back on his district that is comprised of families relying on home grown energy. His votes during his last term put families out of work, put our country at risk, and then he moved back to D.C. after losing to take a job with a lobbying firm…or so I have read.

Does anyone really think the current administration or the one that will come in in January do anything to actually make us energy independent? I certainly don’t.

Maybe I should have blogged about Cabrera and the other CNBC babes. At least I would be in a better mood now.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Joan Jett Is Still Bad Ass

53 year old Joan Marie Larkin, an 80’s rock icon, began her professional career as a founding member of the all-girl group The Runaways in 1975. It wasn’t until the 80’s that her career finally hit stride when she went solo. Larkin is known for classic hits and great live performances including hits such as Do You Wanna Touch, Bad Reputation, Crimson and Clover, Cherry Bomb and I Love Rock and Roll. She also did the title track for the 1987 movie Light of Day.

Larkin is still rocking to this day and sounding better than ever. Of course, we all know her as Joan Jett. She turns 54 next month.

Maybe I should do a top 10 list of the coolest 80's Ladies. Jett would easily make that list.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

80's Hard Rock

I have had a couple of songs stuck in my head the past couple of days so I thought I’d admit my kinship with hard rock and heavy metal music. In my latest book, The Ultimate 80’s, I have an entire section dedicated to this genre of music during that decade. I still keep those CD’s handy for road trips and try to never miss an episode of That Metal Show on VH1 Classic.

Growing up I used to go to concerts with my big sister as often as a rock band would tour in our tiny neck of the woods. Most concerts I saw in Johnson City, TN…a two hour drive from where I grew up. Despite the long drive I would seldom miss a hard rock show.

One of my first concerts was David Lee Roth. He had just released the video for Stand Up from the Skyscraper album. Poison opened up for him and it was a heck of a fun show. Speaking of Poison, I saw them headline four or five times. They were a good live act and the shows were always fun. I remember seeing a lot of different bands opening for Poison in their heyday. Bands like Bulletboys, Danger Danger, Warrant, Slaughter, and Winger were among them.

One of my favorite bands from that era was Cinderella. They had a mixture of some bluesy rock and roll tossed in with their hair metal and sounded great live. Their debut album Night Songs is still one of the best albums of that era.

Another great live act was the Scorpions, absolutely loved their music. I saw them in Knoxville right about the time they released their classic hit Wind of Change. I have never heard a Scorpions song that I didn’t like. Great White and Trixter opened up on that tour. All great bands and all were great live. I was fortunate enough to see Great White a couple more times before MTV killed rock and roll.

Even though I saw a lot of bands, two still stick out after all these years…KISS and Van Hagar. Not only does KISS sound great live, but when you see them you get one hit after another and the show rivals the 4th of July. Their show is worth every penny. I’ve been to a lot of concerts where the band didn’t sound very good live and the overall show was dull, but with KISS I always get my money’s worth.

I remember seeing Van Halen supporting their album For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge. Van Halen is another one of those rare bands where every song is good, not one clunker on any of their albums. I still wish I could have seen a lot of other bands live, but when you are a kid you can’t afford them all. Unfortunately I missed AC/DC, Ratt, L.A. Guns, Guns N’ Roses, Kix, Metallica…and the list goes on.
A lot of these bands still put out great music today and I think we hard rock fans should still support them by bying their newest material…but only after you buy one of my books!!! Heh!

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

The Brat Pack, Jennifer Beals, and The Ultimate 80's

I thought I would take the opportunity today to share a sample of my book, “The Ultimate 80’s” in a blog post. I absolutely had a great time writing this book! What a fun decade and I’m glad I grew up during that time. I think most young guys enjoyed it mostly because of Jennifer Beals. Have you seen her lately? Wow, she is still a mega babe and it was fun mentioning her in the book as being influential during the 80’s.

The Brat Pack was also incredibly popular, as well. Below is a sample from the book, part of a section specific to them.

The Brat Pack

I had to put a specific section in here to highlight this group of young actors that defined our decade on the big screen. The Brat Pack came together in movie after movie, often appearing together, to make our teen years in the 80’s pretty damn fun. If you are a true Child of the 80’s I bet you can name every member. If not, then here you go: Emilio Estevez, Anthony Michael Hall, Judd Nelson, Molly Ringwald, Ally Sheedy, Andrew McCarthy, Demi Moore, and Rob Lowe. There you go…that is probably the same list our favorite actors during that decade.

It’s public knowledge that the group hated the nickname, but who cares. We loved it, and made them all rich by making most of their movies huge hits and the actors themselves A-lister’s. Most of us remember the Brat Pack mostly from the two iconic movies that defined a generation for us, The Breakfast Club and St. Elmo’s Fire. If you are a Child of the 80’s then you absolutely have to own these movies or you are likely a dirty commie. Seriously.

The term “Brat Pack” came about by a 1985 story appearing in New York magazine referring to the cast members of St. Elmo’s Fire. At the time they were all in their mid-twenties and most of them at the peak of their careers.

It is likely that the Brat Pack films influenced the way teenagers in the 80’s viewed the world including on issues such as friendship, fashion, love, sex and music. Aside from a few of the music artists of the decade, they were probably the most influential group of pop icons on the young culture.

Outside of St. Elmo’s Fire and the Breakfast Club, there is no official list of Brat Pack films. So let’s make this a first for all readers. This list of films will include films that have at least two members of the core Brat Pack listed above. There are many other actors that are considered “close contributors” to the core Brat Pack. There are some movies that have only one Brat Pack member and a close contributor. So let’s make sure to separate the two concepts here.

Trivia: Many consider Red Dawn to be a Brat Pack movie despite the fact that it has no members of the core group, but stars a ton of close contributors to the group. No cigar! This is not a Brat Pack movie no matter how bad some critics want to claim it to be.


I hope you liked the sample and hope you stop by Amazon to get your copy and get a few laughs from the book. The link to view it at Amazon is below. Thanks!

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Legends and Landmarks: How the Horror Series Began

How the “Legend” Began

Recently I have spent some time online trying to promote my two latest books, “The Ultimate 80’s” and the short story compilation “Dark Nights.” As you may know, I am an independent author. I do not have an agent or a publishing company with a marketing budget. Instead, to try to inform readers about my books I post bulletins on Facebook and other social media and hope others share the links with their friends. Obviously this is slow and time consuming process.

So in this update to the Ritter Files I wanted to go back and revisit my first experience into becoming a writer and share with you how I developed my writing style and came up with the idea for the Legends and Landmarks horror series. Writing those four books was a huge learning experience with a lot of ups and downs. Despite the obstacles this project was incredibly rewarding personally and I’m proud of the journey it provided into becoming a writer as well as telling a great story.

In 2000 I moved to Cincinnati for a job with a nationally known brokerage firm, but mostly because I’m a Reds fan. Before moving I had about four months between jobs. Idle time is absolutely maddening to me. At the time I had considered the idea of writing a book hopefully sometime before I die. So I figured that while sitting around waiting to hear back from potential employers why not start writing a book now. Hell, we only live once, so I sat down on front of my old bulky computer and began to write about a pretty spooky story that had been bouncing around in my head. Unfortunately that story went nowhere. After 20 or 30 pages I ran out of room to write, so to speak. I couldn’t figure out what was next. I had no structure to the writing process and gave up on that story. Hopefully that story won’t be lost forever, but my lack of a plan to write that book was the same as planning to fail.

Once I got settled in Cincinnati a friend of mine took me on a tour of the area. Along the way we drove through an enormous and beautiful cemetery, Spring Grove Cemetery. As breathtaking and peaceful as the place was, I couldn’t help but wonder what it would be like to be stuck in a horror movie about the place as something ancient and evil still lurked there. But what would lurk there and why? As I let my imagination dwell on these questions I took notes on the possible answers. And soon I came up with the answers and the characters for the movie playing in my head. Only this time I had a plan to write the book and a loose structure to keep me on track. I wrote a one page summary about what each chapter would be about. That summary gave me enough artistic flexibility to tell a story and develop strong characters as well. I sat down one Friday night after work in the Fall of 2000 and began to try writing again. Legends and Landmarks, Volume I: The Night Walker was born.

The book description on Amazon for each book is below.

The Night WalkerEric and Todd, two crime reporters for the city news, discover an age old legend of evil as they work on a book about legends. As they come to find out, some legends are true. This one may kill them. While researching the history of Pleasant Hills' most famous attraction, one of the oldest cemeteries in the country, the duo discover a horrific legend that ripped the founding settlers apart. Living among them in Pleasant Hills is a hidden evil centuries old. It will stop at nothing to satisfy its lust for blood and fear. Eric and Todd find themselves fighting for their lives in what can only be described as a living nightmare.

Freedom’s PathEric Young and Todd Montgomery continue their horrific journey into the unknown as they uncover a legend of purgatory and shame surrounding the small all-American town of Fuson, Missouri. Freedom's Path, the second installment of the Legends and Landmarks series, explores the ghosts of the past as Fuson's shameful history of slave abandonment comes alive after a body washes up on the banks of the Black River. Eric fights with all he has to hold on to his humanity and sense of right and wrong after his near death brush with pure evil at the hands of Slade, the infamous Night Walker that rattled the security and psyche of the citizens of Cincinnati. Todd finds himself in an epic struggle of survival while Eric finds himself in a battle for his very soul. Legends and Landmarks, Volume II: Freedom's Path sets the wheels in motion for a terrifying journey that leads our characters to New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Volume III of the series, titled Demon Wind.

Demon WindThe "Legends" series continues in this third installment of the four-part series. Eric Young finds himself in the tattered city of New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Following the chilling call from the shadows, Eric descends into the dark underbelly of the ravaged streets as something dark in his own soul is raging inside of him for control. His best friend, Todd, follows his tracks into the darkness to confront the evil that has plagued them. Slade resurfaces in this tale of horror and destruction and brings with him the rage that only Hell can create.

Devil’s CaveIn this final installment of the "Legends" series, Eric and Todd find themselves in Roanoke, Virginia facing a showdown with the demons that have stalked them. However, as they approach their twisted enemies they find that Slade and Corey aren't the only diabolical forces conspiring against them.

What makes me most proud of the series is the journey I took as a writer. When I finished The Night Walker I was so excited to rush through the self-publishing process and see the book available online. What I had on my hands was one heck of a good story. What I also had was a piss-poor edited book. So a couple of nice readers bought the book and met me through social media and were kind enough to tell me they loved the book but wanted to know who the hell my lousy editor was. Oops!

I was big time embarrassed. Actually, I felt incredibly unprofessional for putting out a book with so many mistakes. But a few readers decided to edit for me and I have since updated the book a bit more to my liking. I learned the lesson of patience from that experience and can say that I grew as a writer during that series. I also managed to put a few twists in the series that the readers didn’t see coming.

I’m sure there are still a few spelling mistakes here and there, but I decided that my editing of that material had to come to an end. I’ve become somewhat of a stickler with my writing that I had to learn that not everything needs a rewrite. Even things I wrote last week…if I were to read it now I’d find some reason to rethink good material. Now, I feel it is important to leave the series alone because it is a great story. Also, it is already a part of me as an author and shows the reader, if they pay attention to style and detail, that there is a clear growth path for every writer. And even YOU, the one sitting there reading my blog, if you are considering writing a book. If my work and story can help others in their writing journey then that is great.

In reality I have probably lost money self publishing that series. So in hopes of maybe breaking even I hope Kindle users like the series. It is available at Amazon if you are looking for something fun to read. This series will always have a place in my heart for the journey and for those that bought a copy and loved the story as much as I do. So check it out and let me know what you think.


Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Was Penn State Punished Enough?

Did The Punishment Fit The Crime?

That’s the big question since the NCAA came down with its punishment on Penn State University following the investigation about the scandal and cover-up of the sexual molestation of over 40 children over the years. By now the details of this terrible story can be found on most news sites so I will not rehash the details here. I wanted to share some overall thoughts on the issue and point out why this punishment will never fit the crime.

Regardless of the amount of the fine against Penn State, the loss of scholarships, and banned from post-season play for the next four years, is that really enough to repair the lives, scarred memories, and broken psyches of the young boys who were raped by a monster that used the football program and activities to feed his sickness? No it is not. You can’t fix those lives that are broken. One can only hope they have moved on as best as they can.

No one wins with this decision. A lot of good athletes who work hard and live honorable lives will be punished for something they did not do, nor even about until we all learned of it. Many students and families will have to disrupt their lives and education as they change schools. Even the non-athletes at Penn State lose. Imagine four years of hard work and you graduate. You know that every interviewer for their first job will see Penn State on the resume and the first thing they will think about is how kids were molested and how a so-called man of integrity enabled a monster and did nothing about it. How embarrassing.

What Paterno let happen was evil. His name is forever soiled. I am not sure if the public will ever see him as anything but the enabler of a dirty old man. Just to protect a football program?

I love football. However, suddenly football didn’t seem to matter. My guess is that a lot of people turned a blind eye over the years. If Penn State never recovers so be it. I hope their student athletes all transfer today. Their university betrayed them and their costly investment to go there. In fact, if I were a student I would want my money back.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Doesn't Feel Like an Economic Recovery

2012 College Graduates: Welcome to the Great Recession
After nearly fourteen years working in the field of investing, and sprinkling a bit of experience in banking, economic theory, and small business development, I can say that one of the things that brings me some long term satisfaction is knowing that I helped a lot of folks that left college and started their first job understand more about the importance of having a 401K or an IRA and saving for later in life. It makes me happy to know that those that I have helped college graduates over the years think about the bigger picture, about long term financial goals, and the short term things they can do now to achieve their dreams and goals.

I remember about four years ago, when I worked at another firm, that a client had I had worked with years ago had called up the company and had actually tracked me down to the specific department I was working in dealing with mostly high net worth clients. He had called to simply say “thank you.” I had forgotten working with him because it had been so long. I left work that day knowing that I had made an impact on a young man and his wife a few years before and advised them on how to save for college for their little girl. Well, that little girl grew up and got accepted into several colleges and chose one of the more costly ones in Ohio. Teaching them the value of a bit of sacrifice and discipline at the time meant that they family didn’t have a huge financial burden when that young lady went away to college.

That conversation only reaffirmed my reason for working in this business. It is about helping others to achieve things and learn the value of vision, goals and discipline. I thought of that family recently as I went through the usual economic reports on economic growth and unemployment. Today’s college graduates face a daunting economic challenge. They are facing what will likely be the highest unemployment rate in history for college graduates.

This years’ graduating class has an underemployment rate of nearly 20% according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. There are 20.1 applicants for every job opening. There were about 1.7 million college graduates hitting the labor force this year, on top of all those with experience that are still out of work. I hate to stick with the same issue that I’ve harped on all year in these commentaries, but what the heck, I’m going to do it anyway. Debt is going to dictate the employment picture for the foreseeable future.

Before writing this I did some digging around on the Internet to find some information on what college graduates are facing this year. I found even more staggering data about graduates in 2010 who are still living at home with mom and dad because they can’t find a job. Take a moment to imagine what these kids are going through. All their lives they are spoon fed that they have to go to college to find a good job that pays well so they can save and buy a house with a two car garage and start a family of their own. They go through four years and come out with a diploma in a field they want to work in only to find that they are waiting months for a job and have over $100,000 is student loan debt, another $5,000 in credit card debt, the collection calls are coming in and they have to wonder why they started their adult lives behind the eight ball.

If I were a high school student today I’d be wondering why in the hell I would go to college if the result was to come out with a pile of debt and no significant prospects for a job in my chosen field. One thing that is lacking in education today, be it at the college or high school level, is the ability to be a free thinker with motivation.

Monday, July 2, 2012

The Life of an Independent Writer

My Story: The Life of an Independent Writer

I remember a few years ago when I finished writing my first novel, Legends and Landmarks, Volume I: The Night Walker I was excited to have actually finished writing a book and had an overwhelming sense of accomplishment. It was over 300 pages of a story that I was actually happy with. Not a bad job at all for my first try at writing a novel.

So I felt great about the accomplishment and began to send query letters to agents in hopes of finding traditional representation. After about forty or so rejection letters (I mailed over 100. 50-60 agents didn’t even bother to respond.) I decided there had to be another way to get the attention of a good agent. I was no Stephen King or Dean Koontz, but I have read my fair share of books that made me wonder how the hell that writer found an agent. I was reading some updates on the website for one of my favorite mystery and suspense writers back in early 2002. I decided to click on the contact button and ask the guy what advice he gives to writers with my dilemma. Certainly there had to be a lot of writer’s in similar situations. I won’t disclose who the well known author is, but his less than friendly reply was to find an agent, piss off, and stop bothering him with dumb questions.

At that point I decided never to pose a question to any published author again. I really enjoyed his books but I haven’t spent a dime on his work since. I told myself then that if I were ever a successful and well known writer I would never talk to anyone that way, especially someone seeking a little advice. Kind of hard to sell a book if you treat your readers like jerks.

I really wanted my work to be read so I decided to self-publish through I do not recommend anyone use that company, however. After a ton of rejection letters I self published The Night Walker with a corny generic stock book cover and smiled with anticipation when I saw it available on Amazon and other online book sellers. I was excited to soon see myself on the best seller lists!! The only problem was that I barely sold enough paperback books to cover the costs of self-publishing.

One lesson I learned from my first novel was that I had a great imagination but I was a piss poor editor. Thankfully I was contacted by a few readers that really enjoyed the story but wanted to know what was up with the bad editing. A few great folks agreed to help me edit my other works for free simply because they liked my work. I was flattered and humbled. They found me on social networking sites and I am glad to say I made some new friends from that experience.

Since then I have self-published seven books, most available only for e-reader devices. I publish these days on Amazon because I have a reasonable assumption that they report sales correctly to me. I cannot assume that with the previous company I used for print books for very specific reasons. Besides, as much as I love holding a book in my hand it’s nice to save a few trees as well.

I am often asked by new writers if self-publishing is worth all the hassle. My answer is simple: Yes, if you want people to read your work. Don’t expect to get rich and make sure you have a day job. I still receive rejection letters to this day, mostly because an agent seldom bothers to promote Indie Writers. It does happen, but so does winning the lottery. If I waited for an agent and a legit book deal then I would have been writing for over a decade without the pleasure of a reader enjoying one story.

Being an Indie Writer does have its pitfalls. For starters I know little about marketing and have no budget for it even if I did. So any kind of success has to be by word of mouth. Patience is a requirement and I have very little of it. Also, you are at the mercy of the publisher you choose and hope they don’t rip you off. Once you decide to publish, traditional agents seldom even return an email.

On the flip side, being an Indie Writer means that you work at your pace and don’t have to be held hostage by corporate red tape. Your success as a writer, financially as well as your personal successes, depends on you instead of an agent and publisher that may not have you high on their list of priorities.

I don’t sell a lot of books mostly because not many people have heard of me. I hope that changes over time because I would love to focus on writing full time. However, I still get that giddy feeling whenever I sell a book. That makes all the work and worry worth it. If you know an Indie Writer I suggest you pay him/her a nice compliment on their efforts once in a while. It’s a lot easier to get frustrated and quit on a dream than it is to keep struggling. Your kind words or few bucks spent could make all the difference to a great writer that may have a big future ahead.

If you would like to check out my work then go to and search my name, John Schweingrouber or copy and paste the link below. Thanks for stopping by The Ritter Files.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

How Is Your Economy?

How Is Your Economy? I’d like to be a fly on the wall to hear how half the people answer that question. How is the overall economy in this country? Well, it sucks. So I thought I’d share a few thoughts. First of all, I think I’m going to follow this post up with a few thoughts later on about the economy and about investing.

However, let me get this little tidbit out of the way first. I am not an investment advisor any longer. Most of my background is in investment advising. I started out in the 90’s with an Edward Jones office before moving on to work for Fidelity for a number of years. After that I went into the business with a colleague and was an investment advisor for a Virginia company. Yes, the economy sucks and I no longer do that for now. I decided to chase some other opportunities such as trying to promote my novels and currently my web store.

I’m watching T.V. last week and this commercial comes on to advertise for an investment company. It first addresses the fact that the economy is still bad, but it goes on to ask how the economy is in your home. It’s a pretty clever ad and makes the overall economic question a very personal one. So I thought I’d take a few moments to ask you…How is your economy?

When you think about it, that question can be answered from very different points of view. Someone who watches that commercial will think of it in terms of how their 401K is performing or their other retirement and non-retirement investments, or that variable annuity they have that will help supplement their income in a few years. Someone else may hear that question and consider the answer in terms of job security or if they have enough benefits offered at their job to help the family with insurance or medical costs. Still yet, another person who is reading this and between jobs may consider the local job market and their particular skill set when they ask themselves this question. Maybe their economy isn’t so good and they need additional income to pay the bills and hopefully have a few bucks left over.

I thought about some of the different ways that people would answer this question. A growing number of analysts are suggesting that our country is edging closer to slipping back into another recession. If you ask me, I didn’t know we ever really got out of the last one. Now for you folks out there who follow the markets and the economy closely, I’m well aware of what the definition of a recession is and yes, the economy has been growing. But it hasn’t been growing at the rate needed to replace the jobs lost during the recession and for many people out there, slow economic growth feels about the same on the wallet as no economic growth.

So with the economy still disappointing many people who are unemployed or under-employed, I was a bit taken by surprise when I recently read an article stating that the growth rate in new entrepreneurs was slowing down. In America we are surrounded by opportunity. We only need our imaginations and a little bit of hard work to actually become a business owner. America has always been robust with people taking advantage of their own abilities and becoming their own boss.

One would expect that with so many people out of work for so long we would see an explosion of small at home businesses. After all, not a day goes by that I don’t hear the same ad on the radio telling me to go to go to a web page for Income At Home to be my own boss. I checked it out and had a couple of phone calls to discuss selling Herbalife vitamins and products. It wasn’t for me.

The point is, if your economy is lacking there are opportunities out there to become your own boss and even work from home. Do you love reading books? Did you know that there are companies out there that will pay you for a book review? Are you a new student in college needing a few extra bucks and are good at math? Why not tutor high school students two or three times a week. Maybe your time is worth $15 an hour. A small group of 5 students for a two hour session just made “Nichole’s Tutoring Service” an extra $150 for one session. I personally set up an online Amway store called J.C.’s Place as something to do on the side to supplement my own economy. My sister did the same.

There are any number of things we can do to help out our own economies at home and improve our lives and lifestyle. If you are interested in improving your economy and want to be your own boss then do some web research and come up with some ideas. One place to start looking is There are numerous websites that will offer you a free website for a year for trying them out. So don’t be afraid to think outside of the box. If you do something very well the chances are that there are some people out there who would be willing to pay you for your knowledge and time. I’d be interested to know how you answer the question in six months from now. How is your economy and what are you going to do about it?

Monday, June 11, 2012

Top 10 Dead Comedians

There’s nothing like sitting down on the couch and watching a funny movie or some stand up comedy or improvisation. A classic Saturday Night Live episode or someone tearing up the crowd on a Comedy Central half hour special or Roast. Some of the greatest comedians have graced us with some classic lines, amazing movies, and video footage we’ll never forget and that will never see the likes of again. Some comedians are just so genius at what they do that they are truly one of a kind and we should feel grateful that we got to witness the best these comics had to give before they passed away.

Although there are a lot of great comedians out there, this top ten list is to pay homage to the greats. There should be many more on this list, but this is just a personal list of my favorite comedians that are no longer with us. So let’s get on with it. Feel free to let us know who your favorite dead comedians are!

Top 10 Dead Comedians:

10.Greg Giraldo--Who the heck is Greg Giraldo?? That’s a good question! And one that many of his fellow Roasters busted his balls about the entire time he was a Roaster for Comedy Central. However, for those that have seen him on the Roasts or doing a stand up special on TV, this guy was pretty unforgettable. He was the very one who asked the same question that every struggling comedian asks, but only he asked it at the Roast of Larry the Cable Guy. “You’re Larry the Cable Guy. How did that bit make you $50 million dollars???”

Giraldo checked out way too young and before most people got a chance to laugh at his act. But I don’t think it was an act with Giraldo. The guy was a natural. He died in 2010 at the age of 44 by an accidental overdose of prescription medication.

9. Richard Jeni--The thing about Richard Jeni is that his stand up comedy specials will never get old. His mannerism and delivery of a joke or story was such that it drew an audience in. I have watched the same stand up specials at least a dozen times each and find myself laughing every time and stealing those jokes to tell to others. Jeni died in 2007 at the age of 49 by a self inflicted gunshot to the head.

8. George Carlin--Carlin delivered his humor with a bit of anger and angst. Although he had a way of being offensive to some, they way he told a joke or made a comment about a controversial subject still kind of had to make you laugh. One of my own personal philosophies I learned from this master of comedy. I remember watching one of his HBO specials and hearing him say that he had two major rules in life. He never trusted anything the government said, and he never trusted anything the media said. They were both equally full of s**t. Well said, Mr. Carlin. I’m still laughing at your wit and wisdom.
Carlin died in 2008 at the age of 71.

7. John Ritter--Ah, one of my favorites of all time. Ritter was never into stand up comedy, but if you have every watched his movies or Three’s Company, you’ll get the reason for John Ritter being on this list. His list of comedies include Real Men and Skin Deep.

Actually, the reason I call this blog The Ritter Files is because of this comedian and classy guy. When I set this website up I wanted to be clever and witty once in a while and since I’m a writer, all I could think about at the time was the movie Skin Deep. Ritter’s character was also a writer and struggling to find his place in life and write the next great novel. Hence, The Ritter Files.

John Ritter passed away in 2003 at the age of 54.

6. Gilda Radner--Radner was one of the original cast members of Saturday Night Live. She was on the show from 1975 to 1980 and created such classic characters as Roseanne Roseannadanna that would tell gross stories about celebrities on the show’s Weekend Update segment. Another hilarious character was Baba Wawa (a spoof on Barbara Walters). Remember the character Emily Litella, the hearing impaired woman that gave news updates on the news segment! Hilarious…”flea erections in China.”

Who could forget her role in the movie Haunted Honeymoon! Great film. Radner died of ovarian cancer in 1989 at the age of 42.

5. Johnny Carson--Carson was a master of his craft and entertained America for decades before retiring from The Tonight Show. Since his departure, late night television has never been the same and his two heir apparent to the throne of late night (Leno and Letterman) have failed to live up to the standard that Johnny Carson set.

However, with such a high bar did anyone really expect late night TV to ever be the same after he left? He was a once in a lifetime comedian that wore shoes that will never be filled in the world of comedy. To say that Johnny Carson is a legend would be a gross understatement.

Carson died in 2005 at the age of 79.

4. Richard Pryor--Pryor thrilled audiences on stage as well as in films. But it wasn’t just his “colorful” language that set him apart at the time, it was the way he told a story and the appeal that he had to a wide audience in the 1970’s. I think proper credit has to be given to Pryor because if it wasn’t for him paving the way for a lot of other black comedians we very well might have never seen the rise of stars like Eddie Murphy or even more recently Chris Rock. Pryor could deliver a clean joke just as easily as he would a joke about drug abuse or racial issues. You had to laugh.

Pryor was in some classic movies such as See No Evil, Hear No Evil, Moving, Critical Condition and Harlem Nights. Pryor also wrote for the television shows Sanford and Son and the Flip Wilson Show. Pryor died in 2005 from a heart attack. He was 65 years old.
3. Sam Kinison--Most of America was introduced to this former preacher turned comic when he had a short role in the movie Back To School starring Rodney Dangerfield. He played the part of a psychotic history professor that took his job a bit too seriously. However, Kinison quickly rose to the top of the A-list of comics with his loud and abrasive act, and his angry comedic style. It was a role that fit his perfectly. He even went on to have a hit video on MTV with the remake of Wild Thing. The video featured Jessica Hahn dressed scantily and dancing and rolling around the star studded cast of rock stars. Leave to Kinison to throw fire on a controversy involving a church.

Kinison was killed in 1992 by a 17 year old drunk driver. Kinison was married 5 days before his death. He was 38.

2. John Belushi--Belushi is still considered one of the greatest comedians of all time. To see why all you need to do is watch the Blues Brothers or Animal House. Even though he didn’t have many lines in Animal House, he showed just how important physical comedy is in making a good movie or skit. He is still considered the ICON of the Saturday Night Live alumni and was multi talented in more ways than just his alcohol and drug consumption, which is what many recall when they think of Belushi. I prefer to remember the Samaria Chef, Bluto, and Jake Blues.

Belushi died in 1982 at the age of 33 by a combined injection of cocaine and heroin, also called a speedball.

1. Rodney Dangerfield--I put Dangerfield at the top of this list because the guy deserves nothing but respect. His stand up acts were riotous and his movies (although he considered himself a piss poor actor) were hilarious. Look up some old YouTube clips of Dangerfield and hold on to your hat. Even his appearances on the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson were rip roaring. You could tell that he was a crowd favorite.

However, although I he was a master of comedy, I think Dangerfield should be remembered for his efforts at giving other comedians a chance at the stage. He owned a comedy club called Dangerfield’s where he would give chances to little known comedians and help them along with their careers. Maybe you are familiar with a few of the comedians he helped along the way: Jerry Seinfeld, Andrew Dice Clay, Sam Kinison, Jeff Foxworthy, Jay Leno.

Dangerfield died in 2004 at the age of 82.

Final thought: It sucks that so many great comics are gone. Whew, I’m glad the Dice Man is still around. I’m holding out hope for Ford Fairlane Part II!

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

MTV Killed Rock and Roll

Since this blog is supposed to be a bit about fun and opinion, I thought I’d ask the question many of us rock music fans have been asking ourselves and scratching our heads about for years. Why the hell did MTV kill rock and roll?

I have read a few posts on the web that are nothing more than apologies for MTV, claiming MTV did nothing of the sort. In fact, they claim MTV promoted every kind of music and helped a lot of bands and musicians, etc… Well, that’s true. MTV was my favorite channel when our little town finally got it added to the list of cable networks available. And MTV promoted ALL kinds of music. They were fresh and innovative and had a lot of programming that was right up the alley of our youthful generation. But then something happened, and those that defend MTV now are just full of crap. Seriously.

I actually read a defense of MTV not showing videos on I’m not picking on the person that wrote it, but they said MTV doesn’t show videos because the majority of music these days is so full of vulgarity that they try to protect kids from hearing the foul language. That argument is about as stupid as the Jersey Shore. First of all, watch MTV for a day and see how many times the F-bomb gets bleeped out. Also, kids hear this kind of language at school all day. And third, MTV is not a protector of morality. If they were then they would avoid all things controversial that deals with morality such as the heated moral debates about homosexuality and abortion/teen pregnancy. They don’t shy away from those issues, so I’m pretty damn sure that MTV could care less about kids hearing some foul language.

MTV stands for “music television.” When was the last time you saw a music video on there? Maybe at 3 or 4 in the morning…I don’t know, I’m never watching television at that time. Other than some obscure hour in which they perhaps show a video (I have no proof they do), then I’m guessing the last time MTV showed a video might have been in the 1990’s or something. Who knows. And at this point, who cares! What MTV originally was compared to what they are now is about the same difference as night and day.

MTV used to have great shows, including the daily call in request show called Dial MTV. They would show the top 10 most requested videos of the day. That was cool. Then they changed the name of the show until it eventually became called “Total Request Live,” later shortened to TRL hosted by lame ass Carson Daly. MTV decided that it would be better to only show brief clips of the videos that were requested and replace it with Carson Daly trying to act like the cool heart throb he was not and packing the small studio with kids off the street so that all we heard before we got twenty seconds of a top video was, “Hi, my name is Amanda and the number four video today is Backstreet Boys. Whoooo, whoooo, whooooo, arrrgghhhh, ahhhhhh, whooooo, ahhhhhh!” Continue the useless psychotic screaming and the rest of the small crowd joining in so that you actually couldn’t hear the first five seconds of the twenty seconds they gave you of the song. The show sucked and eventually if was in existence no more.

MTV brought out a show called “The Real World” way back in the early 1990’s or thereabouts that was their first stab at reality TV. It took complete strangers with nothing in common and put them in an apartment to see how long it would take them before all hell broke loose and it was a dramatic argumentative soap opera for kids. Well, the first season was entertaining so they made season two with all new people. It was a popular show but after a while they were all just the same, just like every other reality TV show. However, I guess the powers that be at what used to be the coolest channel on the dial decided it was cheaper to produce shows like that than to actually work with artists and show videos.

So, from the perspective of the viewer, MTV killed rock and roll in order to become a reality TV network for high school kids. Also, they appear to be a political partisan network during years of presidential elections with their “Rock the Vote” garbage. Of course they claim to be non-partisan as they parade celebrities back and forth that encourage young first time voters to vote for the democrat. It was the same when I was 18 and they obviously favored Bill Clinton. And they have favored one party ever since.
Personally I don’t care what party they favor. I just wish that they would admit it and file “Rock the Vote” as a political action committee. However, that is just my opinion. I don’t do politics on this blog, but I don’t mind pointing out the obvious.

So why would MTV sell out the same music fans and cool-ass artists that made them what they are? Well, if you could produce a much cheaper programming model (reality TV) and get mind numbed 15 year olds to watch and think that you’re still the cool channel you used to be and pack each hour with way too many commercials----yep, MONEY. MTV is no different than all the other “greedy” corporations out there. They just don’t want the angry 15-25 year old crowd to know it.

MTV killed rock and roll for a new programming model to make more money. That’s fine, and who doesn’t like to make a buck. I’m all about capitalism. But it flies in the face of their fake fa├žade and makes them a complete sell out to what made them all successful in the first place. That’s not what the rebellious spirit of rock and roll is all about. You guys can rock and still make tons of money. Instead, you’re just a bunch of sell outs with about fifteen different music channels. Even VH1 is just as bad. VH1 Classic…I’ll still watch that channel until it sells out, too. At least you can see some videos on that channel.

So my suggestion to MTV. Change your name. You don’t show videos. You have little to do with music, so it just seems like false advertising. And why bother having the MTV Music Video Awards. What videos? Drop the show.
Could someone out there please borrow MTV’s early business model and bring back rock and roll? Kids everywhere would appreciate seeing some new music videos. It’s sad that so many music fans have to go to YouTube to find the latest videos of our favorite artists.
MTV, you suck. And there are millions of rock fans, rap fans, grunge fans, R&B fans, and alt rock fans that would like to tell you exactly what they think you do suck. Of course, this is all just my humble opinion.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

How Many Ghost Hunting Shows Do We Need???

I spent some time channel surfing today and it struck me as kind of funny how many television shows there are that are centered on the paranormal. I’m not sure how many there are. Ghost Hunters, Ghost Hunters International, Ghost Adventures, Paranormal State, Haunted Collector, Extreme Paranormal, Ghost Lab and a half a dozen others. Hell, I’m surprised that there is room for more than a couple of these shows on TV, but ten or twelve?

If you spend enough time on Facebook or YouTube you’ll find a lot of groups that call themselves “ghost hunters.” Although I watch some of these shows, I never take this stuff too seriously. I don’t believe in ghosts. Kind of odd for a guy who writes horror, eh? I had to laugh when one of these “paranormal” groups sent me some kind of online friend request. Seriously man, just because you like the shows doesn’t mean you need to go buy a mini recorder and a video camera and recruit your drinking buddy to be “lead investigator” or the “equipment tech.” What the hell is an equipment tech, anyway?

Like I said, I watch some of these shows. They’re entertaining. GHI is cool and they have that one girl who is pretty easy on the eyes. I think the show has probably run a bit too long, though. I’ve seen every one of these ghost hunting shows at Waverly Hills at least two or three times. I guess they ran out of haunted places to investigate. So what’s next for the Ghost Hunters show? Ghost Hunters Canada or Ghost Hunters Kentucky? Seriously, there is probably a group of meth-heads in Nitro, West Virginia that call themselves professional ghost hunters.

After a while, all the episodes just kind of seem the same. Unless some really cool startling evidence comes up like a full body apparition or something diabolic jumping out at these ghost hunting groups on television, I think they need to spice it up a bit. Maybe a drunken ghost hunting episode. Or maybe a few more celebrities coming along. Actually show the guy on tape who loads his pants when he gets scared. At least we could get a good laugh. Or maybe hire the cameraman who used to follow the ladies around on Club MTV. That guy gave us all a lot of thigh! At least I’d tune into GHI a little more with to watch the good looking gal.

I guess my favorite of the paranormal shows is Ghost Adventures. It was more entertaining at first, but now it’s more like watching a guy who enjoys showing off his biceps as much as Johnny Bravo running around in the dark dropping F-bombs and cursing at ghosts. That show would be a heck of a lot better if they did a few episodes drunk!

These shows are still mildly amusing, but I guess when it gets oversaturated to the point where your neighbor thinks he’s a professional ghost hunter then maybe it is getting a bit too stale. Reality TV has sucked for a long time and just keeps getting worse. These shows still have potential but they sure need to shake things up a bit to keep it interesting. But I’ll still watch until I get bored and start looking for something else to watch…hopefully not in the category of reality TV!

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Between the 80's and a Dark Place

It has been a busy past couple of months working on the two latest writing projects. As you know from my previous post I recently published "The Ultimate 80's" for e-readers. What a fun writing project. I think I had more fun writing that short book than any other book I have written to date. Mostly because of the nostalgia. What a great decade for movies and music. And remembering Jennifer Beals shaking those hips in the Flashdance video certainly put a smile on my face. Seriously, Jennifer, if you read this or the me. Hehe.

If you haven't read the book yet, you can find it here:

For those of you that have bought it so far, thanks! For those of you that plan to buy it I say thank you ahead of time. I think you'll get a few laughs out of this one. The Ultimate 80's was a far cry from the type of writing I usually do.

Most of the time I focus on the horror and suspense genres. I have published a four-part series called Legends and Landmarks (also found online), a short story compilation called To the Edge...And Back Again, and my latest release this week Dark Nights, another short story compilation. If you like Twilight Zone type stories then you'll like the short story compilations. Happy reading!

Monday, April 30, 2012

The Ultimate 80's

It's been a while, but I'm back today after finishing up a couple of writing projects over the past couple of months. For all of us Children of the 80's, I have just published a fun book called The Ultimate 80's that is now available on Kindle. It will be available for all other e-readers within the next couple of weeks.

I hope everyone gets a chance to read this and has as much fun reading it and strolling down memory lane as much as I enjoyed writing this book. It has a little bit for everyone, no matter what click you fit into during the 80's. It covers the great music of the decade, the movies, the television shows, the growing technology and how the Nerd's took over the world, and all the fashion icons and fads I could cram in.

Before I forget, this book includes a section of commentay on one of our favorite groups of the 80's, the Brat Pack. How could we ever forget The Breakfast Club, St. Elmo's Fire and all the other fun movies they gave us?

Anyway, pop on over to Amazon (or whatever online book retailer you prefer in the near future) and do a search for The Ultimate 80's. Go back in time with me and have a few laughs along the way.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Unfortunate Celebrity Overdoses

This week we learned of the passing of Whitney Houston, one of the most talented singers of this generation, and a pop icon that ruled the charts in the 1980's and 1990's. She was considered America's sweetheart before Jennifer Aniston came on the scene and took that mantra. However, despite her raging popularity and talent, and despite her good girl image, she married someone considered very much her opposite (Bobby Brown) and later in life admitted to her crack cocaine addiction. Despite the rumors surrounding her death, her family said today that her death was a result of drugs and alcohol, according to TMZ.

It makes me wonder why some of the most talented people throw their lives away and check out way too early like her. As you think about the excesses of famous people, just remember that we have seen this before.

Here is a list of some of the best talent in years that tossed it all away because of drug and alcohol abuse:

John Belushi: There were stories that after SNL rehearsals, Belushi would walk unannounced into nearby homes of friends or strangers exhausted, scrounging for food, and often falling asleep unable to be located for the next day's work. He starred in the Blues Brothers and Animal House.

He was found dead on March 5, 1982 due to a speedball, the combined injection of cocaine and heroin.

Jim Morrison: Lead singer of The Doors. Having struggled with with both drug and alcohol abuse throughout his life, Jim Morrison died of a heart attack triggered by an accidental heroin overdose at the age of 27.

Brittany Murphy: Actress in films such as 8 Mile, Girl Interrupted, Sin City, and Clueless. She collapsed in her bathroom on December 20, 2009. The primary cause was pneumonia, with secondary factors of iron-deficiency anemia and multiple drug intoxication.

The drug overdose is what did her in, as vomit was found all around the surrounding areas where her body was discovered.

Chris Farley: Famous SNL alum and star of multiple comedic hits such as Tommy Boy, Black Sheep, Beverly Hills Ninja, and the Wayne's World movies. He died December 18, 1997 at the age of 33 from cocaine and heroin overdose...just like John Belushi.

Dana Plato: The lead female role of Differnt Strokes in the 1980's, Plato fell into a life of drugs and pornography. She overdosed on prescription medication on May 8, 1999, a couple years after she was found with no work in Vegas and having gone to jail for robbing a video store.

Jimi Hendrix: Everyone probably has a copy of his album "Are You Experienced." A drug-drenched life of rock and roll finally led to a respiratory arrest caused by alcohol, barbituate, and vomit inhalation on September 18, 1970.

Corey Haim: The star from the 1980's was in hit movies such as Silver Bullet, The Lost Boys, Dream A Little Dream, Lucas and License to Drive. He was later just as well known for his drug abuse and angry tirades as he was for his movies. He died on March 10, 2010 from pneumonia, with many believing his past drug addiction caused a weakened immune system.

There are too many talented comedians, musicians and actors that have checked out way too early because of their own excesses, too many to list here. You would think that lessons would be learned, but alas we'll only have the chance to wonder who's next in line for a sad ending.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

What the heck happened to the "Home Alone" kid?

Today, ET released a photo of Macaulay Culkin strolling along the streets of NYC with a can of Red Bull in his hand. But from the looks of this guy, I wouldn't have been surprised to see a bottle hidden in a paper bag instead of an energy drink. I'm sure anyone who grew up in the 80's that stumbles across this photo (seen here: will wonder if the former child actor has been hanging around in the gutter or maybe ran into Whitney Houston's drug dealer. The guy looks a wee bit sickly.

I'd post the photo on here, but I think ET has the only photo and that is probably copyrighted. So click on the link above. Wow, what a differce a few years makes! Or hard drugs---just wondering out loud.

It's kind of sad that every few months we have to read about another child star who grew up to become a complete mess. Some have grown up and have fallen to the allure of drugs and alcohol that comes with stardom. Take a look at the public struggles of Britney Spears who found it necessary to hang out with Paris Hilton and learn the habit of leaving her panties at home so all the camaera on her can get a photo of that. Or Lindsay Lohan...the lush. Or Corey Haim (RIP). For some people I guess it's better to burn out than to fade away.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

What's Holding You Back?

I’ve spent some time recently lost in thought, pondering my future, and seeing changes in the lives of friends and family (even very simple changes). I have become a bit philosophical about change and the stresses in can bring into our lives. And I’d bet a dollar that every day everyone of us talks with a person we know that wants a better life and feels that they’ve worked hard for it but seems to be stuck in place. Stuck in place…sounds like a jail sentence, huh? I’d feel the same way if I were stuck in place.

What got me to thinking about this today (enough so to write about it) was a video that a friend and colleague emailed to me yesterday. It was a video about entrepreneurship, and what kind of person becomes an entrepreneur. For the record, I am one of those zany entrepreneurs. But I think that our own happiness comes down to a simple question. How do you define your own success?

By success, I am referring to anything that would make our lives better, not just the financial and work-related successes. Most of us may be generally happy even considering the lousy state of the economy, but do we feel successful? Even I struggle with that more than I’d care to admit. And if we’re not, then what is holding us back from changing our lives for the better? To find that answer we only need to look in the mirror.

So as I ponder this, I think what holds most of us back is either the fear of failure or the fear of success. I’d guess that for most people it is the fear of failure. The fear of failure is the reason why many people (even a lot of folks that I know) continue to sit in a cubicle and earn just enough money to keep them from looking elsewhere for employment, but not enough to give them the financial success they’ve likely earned. I was caught up in that situation a few years ago. I worked for one the largest investment firms in the country (actually, one of the larger ones globally).

But it didn’t take me long to figure out how disgusting office politics in the corporate world can be. Childish, actually. And how most of your “managers” were not qualified to do the job you were doing, and that they judged you at. And it didn’t take long to figure out that the corporate America demands loyalty from their employees, including many of your Saturdays away from your family. But when trading volumes drop (referring to where I used to work) a bit they quickly escort those that have occupied the cubicle long enough to make more than the average salary at the place and replace you with someone new that can be hired and trained for under $30,000 a year. What can I say, that business model works…keeps the owners with their expected minimum of a 12% profit margin.

So, instead of looking out for opportunities, I guess most of us just see the difficulty of changing our environment and see nothing but uncertainty ahead. It’s a lot easier to tolerate a job you’re not satisfied with, a relationship that is stale or miserable, or staying put in your daily routine instead of putting energy into setting some personal goals for yourself.

Taking risks can be painful. Failure can hurt. What if you strike out to achieve those goals or start your own business and fail? You will undoubtedly be judged by friends and family, and those are the stings that hurt the most. No one likes criticism or to be told “I told you so.” That is equal to being called an idiot. But if you listen to those words, those are the same kind of people that kill the human spirit and have you sitting in a cubicle, stuck in a bad relationship, or afraid to reach for a personal goal in the first place.

After years of working for corporations, a few years ago I decided to leave that job and strike out on my own with a few business partners. I figured “nothing ventured, nothing gained.” Is it easy? Heck no! I have failed more times than I can count at the goals I have set for my professional life. There is no steady paycheck and a 401K with what I do. Sometimes it gets downright brutal, financially. But there are rewards that go beyond the financial aspect. Freedom is the best reward. I am responsible for my time, not a mid-level manager, not some guy that tells me that if I don’t put in significant overtime on weekends that it will impact the already lousy quarterly joke of a bonus paid to workers (yep, have had managers tell me that, too).

I have failed a lot of times. Failed at work related things, failed miserably at relationships, and failed with personal goals I have set for myself. But if you ask me, there is no way to find success unless you’re not afraid to fail. Things might be greener on the other side of the track. They could be worse. But do you really want to be sitting around in a couple of years wondering “what if?” Me either.

Here is the web address for the video that got me to thinking, just in case you want to check it out.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Trump Endorses Romney

The Donald has made it official. He will not run as a third party candidate for President if Mitt Romney is the Republican nominee. Since this will hit the 6:30 news shows tonight, and since this man is as much a celebrity as he is a real estate mogul, I thought I’d take a moment to share a pet peeve of mine. I absolutely hate for celebrities to mix up in politics and then tell the rest of us how we should think and vote. And that goes for celebrities on both sides of the political aisle. And more and more that aisle seems to get blurry to the point where it’s hard to tell any difference between the two parties unless you’re hanging around at the fringes.

Before I go on a rant about Trump endorsing Romney, allow me to get the kudos out of the way first. Trump is a gutsy businessman, not afraid of risk, and is a winner. He’s outspoken, usually the smartest guy in the room, and can work the world of marketing and advertising like no other. I own a few of his books and learned a few things from them. That being said, didn’t this guy just threaten to run for President as a Reform Party candidate in 2000, and a few years before that claim he was a democrat and threatened to run for the big office then, too? Yes, he did. So which side of the aisle is it, Trump? Are you just that hungry for attention?

I don’t mind the endorsements of celebrities, but the constant preaching and complaining is a big turn off to the public at large, or so I suspect. We all have our political opinions. But there is just something about celebrities that look down their noses and tell us how to vote as if they are smarter than you and I.

Take for example the rock bands U2 and R.E.M. Incredibly talented bands. I bought a few of their CD’s and cassettes back in the day. I own nearly every album made by U2, the music is great. And when musicians involve themselves in humanitarian causes I think it’s great, a great example. But when you stand up with your microphone and tell me to vote for a candidate…well, that’s my decision. Not yours. And when celebrities become too involved it’s a downer for me. Politics always gets dirty. Are you endorsing dirty campaign tactics, too? If you endorsed Obama are you endorsing 8% perpetual unemployment or are you going to be his cheerleader or still blame Bush? If you endorse Romney are you going to stand by the unethical negative campaign ads that distort someone’s records or take their statements out of context? Ads like that are nothing more than lies, if you ask me.

I missed the entire season of Sunday Night Football (NFL) during the 2010 season because NBC had Keith Olbermann as a host. I love football, but I refuse to put a dime into anyone’s pocket who is so smug as to literally call half of America “idiots” because they did not vote for his candidate. It doesn’t mean that the guy hasn’t made some good points on his show or been clever and funny when he was on ESPN. I just don’t like the divisiveness.

A celebrity runs the risk of alienating the very people who made them what they are when they go political. It’s just a bad mix. Sean Penn is a great actor and I’ve seen a ton of his movies. He’s probably a cool guy to have a cold one with and talk sports and movies. His last movie might have been the best work he’s ever done but I’d never know. When he started hanging out with dictators and telling me how I should think I decided that I’d given Spicoli enough of my money.