Wednesday, May 25, 2016

The Pit That Cannot Be Filled

Dear Ramon,

I was happy to read your letter. As far as your question is concerned - whether moving to The States would be a good move for you - let me tell you a few things.

If the question is whether to travel or not, my answer will always be the same: travel. You have to see the world with your own eyes. Life is meant to be experienced.

To move there? Why not? Give yourself a year or two at the most, and journey as much as you can while you are there.

And as far as happiness is concerned, I don’t think that it is something that you will find there, nor in any other place.

Fist of all, happiness is an illusion, it is a trick of Nature to keep an individual struggling and struggling to obtain more and more. It is a pit that cannot be filled, because it was so designed.

One is wiser to search for Realization. The difference? Simple: Happiness is based on what one can obtain from this world, while Realization is based on what one can give to the world.

These are my thoughts. I hope they give you perspective.

Take care,


Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Re-Reading George RR Martin

Game of Thrones... Three words which are enough to erupt fervour in any fan of the series. From binge-watchers to cos-players, Game Of Thrones has spawned a legion of followers who know and either love or hate every detail about it. Hell, the show even won at the Emmys while I was writing this blog!

I first came across Game Of Thrones years ago. I was living in L.A. at the time, working at a Best Buy in Porter Ranch, when I wondered into the break-room to see my colleague Micah reading a book. I had a lot or respect for Micah because he was an extremely smart and charismatic scholar, so seeing him so absorbed in this huge tome which he was reading could only spark my interest.
"What are you reading, man?" I asked.
"Why don't you take a look?" Micah offered me the book.
I then did what I usually do when appraising a potential read, and that is to open it on a random page and start reading it from there - spare me the cover, the summary, the endorsements and the intro; I like to jump straight into the middle of a book and let its style and substance persuade me on their own. And it did.
I started reading where Micah had left off, and it was that brutal scene where Tyrion falls in love with a country girl only to learn that she was a whore who had been paid for by his older brother Jamie ( If you have not read the books, then you probably don't know what I am referring to - sorry). I was so riveted by the prose that Micah had to interrupt me a few times and literally pull the book away from my hands. I purchased myself a copy that same day. Three days later, I had finished reading it and I was out to purchase the next book in the series. I was literally falling asleep with the book in my hands only to wake up and continue reading. So enthusing was the discovery of George RR Martin.

The impact this work had on my life cannot be understated. First of all, having grown complacent and cynical after years of watching predictable big budget movies and reading cheesy over-emotional fantasy novels, discovering this gritty and utterly volatile epic was like being born again as a spectator. The descriptions were so lavish, the character so human and the plot so counter-intuitive, that it was impossible to predict what would happen as much as it was impossible to stop reading to find out.
Secondly, this book found me at a time when I was giving up on music. At the time, things were not working out for me and so I had decided on a life change. Reading Georg RR Martin, I remembered my own naive efforts at writing when I was nine, efforts which I revisited and then abandoned once and again along the course of my adolescence and adulthood. It gave me hope that 'good stories' were possible, and so it spurred me to - once again - revisit my naive efforts at writing, but this time with a vengeance.
I began to write even as I continued to read. I remember I got into the habit of underlining every word that Martin wrote which I did not know or did not understand. Then I would sit down with a dictionary, pen and paper, and search for the definition of each, writing these down as I went. I can still remember sitting at a café in North Hollywood, where the waiter, seeing me with the dictionary, came up to me and said, "I am sorry, but I have to ask, are you reading a freaking dictionary?!"
I only laughed.
He did not know about Game Of Thrones then.
I bet he knows about it now.
Part of me misses the days to follow when - while travelling through Scotland - I would run into a fellow traveller with a copy of Game Of Thrones in his hand. We would then engage in an exciting and passionate conversation to which only a few were privy.

Seeing the expansive growth of Game of Thrones fans after the début of the HBO series has left me with mixed feelings. In a way, I suppose that I suffer from the Black Album syndrome as suffered by the fans of Metallica when - upon the release of their Black Album in 1991 - everyone and their sister was singing along to the lyrics of Enter Sandman.
And please don't misunderstand me, the production executed by HBO is unbelievable. Not in my wildest dreams could I have hoped for such a truthful adaptation, and I believe most fans of the books feel the same way.
And - by the way - this 'truthfulness' to the source material in this production has everything to do with Martin having worked in network TV before. He was fully aware of all the artist traps which producers and studios lay out before unsuspecting writers. He bid his time, turning down one offer after the other, until the producers David Benioff and D.B. Davis convinced him to meet for lunch... A lunch which lasted long enough for the diner crowd to begin to flock into the restaurant.
But back to the fandom. Practically everyone who has had a chance to watch at least one episode of the HBO series is now a fan. And that is saying something. They go round saying things like, "Winter is Coming," or "Khaleesi," at which part of me wishes they had a chance to know more about the characters and their back stories. The books are so full of them. So I ask them, "Have you read the books?"
"You should."
Now, I do not want to be that bitter Metallica fan who accuses the band of selling out. I rather chose to approach it as George RR Martin himself approaches it in his interviews, that is, "The books and the show are two completely independent animals."
With that perspective in mind, it is easy to accept the differences between one epic and the other, as well as accepting fans from one media to the other. I think that HBO fans are extremely lucky to live in a time when HBO Game Of Thrones exists. I am happy for them. That being said, I whole-heartedly encourage them to take the time to read the books. They are awesome.

I have already re-read the first book in The Song Of Ice And Fire series - Game Of Thrones. Only last year did I read the latest instalment - A Dance With Dragons - and currently I am re-reading the second instalment - A Clash Of Kings.
From a writer's point of view, the craft of Georg RR Martin is nothing short of exquisite. His choice of words, his sentence and paragraph structure, his weaving of plot and flashbacks, are all carefully laid out like a flawless tapestry. For as much as his readers complain about him taking too long to publish his books - and I am one of them - it must be said that once his work is published it is nothing short from perfection.
Secondly, from an HBO fan point of view, there are dozens of sub-plots and details which the TV series had to inevitably leave out, just because of the sheer time-constraints of video production. There is so much richness to the world which Georg RR Martin created that, if a fan loves the TV series, reading the book will be nothing short from orgasmic.
Thirdly, even as an original reader, then TV fan and then re-reader, it is fascinating to peruse the epic with knowing eyes. There are so many clues, so many insinuations and so many back-stories and motivations which eluded one's attention upon the first read, and yet they are so obvious upon a second read when knowing of things which are still to pass.
For example, the opening of A Clash Of Kings tells us how Maester Cressen tried to poison Melissandrae with the Tears of Lys... The very poison used to kill King Joffrey at the Purple Wedding. Also, while sitting at court with Bran in Winterfell, we are exposed to the entire back-story of the Bastard Of Bolton, long before his appearance and prominence as Theon's torturer and his eventual occupation of Winterfell castle. Upon a first read, this back-story blends with the many back-stories narrated for characters as they stepped into the plot, and easily forgotten. But, upon a second reading, we can see how meticulous George RR Martin was to plant each of these seeds in place so that they would germinate and flourish later.

In conclusion, the craft of George RR Martin is something that goes beyond the simple telling of a story. It is art in its purest form, and as such, it can be appreciated over and over again, with more understanding each time, and with more admiration each time.
If you have not had the chance to read the books, do yourself a favour and purchase/download a copy today. It will change your world. I know, because it changed mine.


Thursday, August 6, 2015

A Writer As A Storyteller

When I arrived in Prague, while looking for work as an ESL teacher, I came across an ad for Mysterium Tour. This company - a night tour company narrating tales and legends of Old Prague - was looking for a narrator in English to guide tours round Old Town.

Having learned already of the thriving tourism business in Prague, and reading about the Gothic-themed experience which Mysterium offered, I was very excited to apply.

I met with the owner, Andrea Arciacona, one afternoon for a brief interview. Liking what he saw, he then invited me to take part in a tour alongside him - a tour guided by a Russian storyteller of his - and then invited me to take the next step, which was to study and learn a script which I would later narrate to him.

I studied the script intensely for a few days, knowing how much my situation relied on this offer. I had no acting training whatsoever even though in my head I fancied myself capable of the craft were I to dedicate myself to it. And I was not far wrong, though I had not counted on the difficulty of memorizing as script word per word.

I met with Andrea in one of Prague’s many twisting, cobblestone streets, and there I narrated for him the tale of the headless horseman - a Bohemian legend. It was fun. And Andrea was impressed. I then decided to show off (cocky man that I am) and asked him if I he wanted to for me to narrate some of the other stories which had been narrated during the tour which we had followed a few nights before. I did and he was even more impressed.

So began my career at Mysterium Tour Prague. It was slow at first, with many tours led for a mere romantic couple or two, all in the cold of the winter in Prague. But with each tour I better remembered the scripts and further improved my delivery. Then came the point when I could recite the stories so well that I could take a step back and analyse them as stories in themselves.

Enter the author. With years of research and practice under my belt, I took a good look at these legends and realized that many of them were missing something... a certain spark which might not have been necessary to folk sharing these tales in the dark of a lantern lit tavern, but which was necessary for the sophisticated audiences of today.

I returned to the source material to ensure that I did not digress from the originals, and then began to fill in the plot holes with character flaws, laws and beliefs of the times, and vivid descriptions to bring the stories to life.

So the legends which were humble paragraphs on the page became tales of riveting dynamic when told during the tours. Our guests engaged in them much more and could relate to them much better, identifying with the human element which has been the common to every great tale since the beginning of time.

As an author, I could not be more elated to enjoy this experience. Telling stories on paper - that is, on word processors - and telling them live to an intimate audience are two completely different experiences, and yet each of them benefited from the other. As a story teller, I offer pauses and decoys which keep the people in suspense, just like as a writer I make us of the element of detail and improvisation to make my prose all the more engaging.

-Georg Freese
Senior Storyteller

Enter this code for a discount when booking:



Wednesday, June 3, 2015

The Thirty-Eighth Milestone

Well, many people have asked for another milestone blog entry. I am flattered. Yet the interesting thing to me is that you get to read both of these posts in one evening while for me it has been a whole year since I posted 'The 37th Milestone.'

And a lot has changed in that year.

I now live in Prague, Czech Republic. I am learning Czech. Its a cool language.
I now live in a flat with two awesome girls, one from France, the other from Tennessee. I play piano at a hostel, I tell stories at night tours, and I teach English. And all of these together sustain my living. It is awesome - Every one of these "activities" I love, and I get paid for each one of them!

Also, I've met a lot of girls since I arrived here.  I had a brief romance with a Czech girl who is now  one of my closets friends. In fact, all of my friends here are girls, including my BFF from Budapesht.

And yes, I am still single.

I am now spectacularizing the flat where I live. I am pimping out the bedroom and bathroom. I love doing home-improvement stuff like that. I love to cook as well, and in Prague I have cooked often and for many people.

I've gotten to know every winding street and vista in this Magic City.

I watched a 'fight club style' tournament of medieval armoured fighters in a list surrounded by crowded stands. I was in the front row.

I've rowed a boat round the Vltava River with an adorable friend.

I've been to Budapesht.

So, truly, much has changed since I was living in Upstate New York. Ha! I can't say that I had predicted all of this, but Prague has been everything that I could have hoped for... And more.

I sincerely wish that all people get to experience fulfilment like I am doing now.

The Thirty-Eighth Milestone.
38 years old.
Man, it feels weird to write that number.
Even more so to read it.
Am I supposed to feel old?
Because I don't.
Not at all.
I am exactly where I want to be.
And I am exactly who I want to be.

na zdravi

-Georg Freese
June 3, 2015

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Little by Little, my first day in Prague.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014. 14:00.
Hostel common room. Empty. Sunny outside.

Dear Aleksandra,
In keeping with the tradition introduced last summer, I will tell you of my adventures in diary-entry format.

My first day in Prague was not pleasant. Czech people are very reserved and have no apparent sense of humour... taking my cheekiness for rudeness. This type of cultural mistranslation I expected, but it was lame to experience all the same.

I checked into the hostel, took a shower and went out to see Eva's flat [ Eva being a person whom I had contacted the week before regarding the rent of a room ]. The flat was surprisingly close to downtown and not too difficult to find - though maps are impossible to follow in a city where there is not a single straight street to be found anywhere!

Eva was nice, but the flat not so much so. The room was old and dusty. There was no living/dining room and the kitchen was quite small. Still, I would have considered it for the convenience of its location and immediacy, except for that Eva was asking for 10,000 Ck deposit on top of the 7,600 monthly to move in. I told her I would think about it, because whipping out 17,600 CK would leave me with very little to live with until I can secure an income.

I took a lonely walk along the riverside worrying about money, rent and work. As I smoked my cigarette, I was haunted by feelings of regret, fear and existentialism.

When I got to the old town square I was starving so I bought myself a bratwurst from a stand. I tell you, Spanish food does not hold a candle to Czech food. Czech food is fucking delicious - the mere scent of it is mouth-watering. The lady there then tried to cheat me from my change. I knew that she would, because I had done my homework and learned that this is what they do to tourists regularly. When she saw me counting the coins suspiciously, she thought better of it and gave me the rest of my change (20 Ck.). Bitch.

Old Town square was full of titi bar peddlers, tour guide hustlers and pickpockets. I did not enjoy it because it felt like a field of tourist traps and, even though I do not consider myself a tourist, not speaking a word of Czech pretty much made me one.

I walked into a random bar for a pilsner beer. This was a local's pub where no one spoke any English. The most awkward transaction followed where I asked the lady behind the counter for a beer, she gave me a receipt for 42 Cz, I handed her a 200 Ck note and she gave me 358 Ck change. I tried to tell her that she gave me too much change - which was weird, since I was prepared to haggle over being short changed, not over changed. The woman said I had given her a 500 note, which still would not have made sense mathematically. I insisted in giving her the 200 note back but she only accepted the 100 one - presumably as a tip. So basically, I was paid 58 Ck to drink a beer at that bar. Sweet.

I returned to the hostel in low spirits, checked my emails, found no replies to my work applications or flat rentals. I then balanced my funds and decided to go for Eva's flat. Unfortunately, Eva replied saying that she had decided for another applicant with whom she had met the day before. Whatever.

Everything was coming to shit quite quickly, so I decided to do what I do best: meet, charm, learn and explore.

I started with the girl at the reception - because talking to girls is always fun. Her name was Hanna and she was incredibly cool and helpful. After confirming some of my views about Prague and providing me with additional resident's information, she directed me to a hole-in-the-wall pub round the corner where I would find English speakers, weed and a piano... My kinda place.

I found the pub after wondering round the streets for a little bit - god damn it is easy to get lost in a city with nothing but crooked streets! I met a friendly dude at the door - Marcus, from Serbia, who spoke good English and guided me inside the pub. He showed me the piano and then took me to the girl with the weed. I prized him with a pint of Pilsner which, at 35 Ck, was a give away. (US$ 1.62, or EU 1.2).

So we ended up outside the pub with a couple and a group of Germans, smoking weed and drinking pints... Right across from a Police Station! Gotta love Europe.

We went back inside and started jamming at one and then another of the three pianos available. They were all fucked one way or another, and barely playable. Anyhoo, I ended at the smokers patio jamming at the piano there with this German/Czech dude playing guitar and this girl singing. People were loving it and clapping between songs. After a while we ran out of beer, so I decided to go around with my hat in my hand asking for beer money for the band. I got enough Korunas to buy three pints and still had some change! Ha!

So we partied until they kicked us out, sometime round three.

I had forgotten what it was like sleeping in a hostel... people walking in and out in the middle of the night, boys and girls in their small clothes - myself included - and random travellers making out in the hallway. It was hilarious. It was rejuvenating.

I woke up the next day for the hostel breakfast. It was awesome. They eat whole grain bread here in Czech (a concept seemingly unknown in Spain), and their sausages (and I am assuming that these must be the cheaper ones) were delicious. So where the eggs, and the cheese, and the pancakes, and the coffee. No, I tell you, Aleksandra, food in Czech is fucking amazing.

Thereafter I browsed the internet looking for a flat and a job, sent a few applications and then chilled for a bit.

I then talked to Brent, whom I had chatted with briefly during breakfast earlier. I had then overheard him talking with the manager about a new employment arrangement. Brent is a painter from Canada who will be redoing some of the artwork along the walls. He referred me to a guy who will be performing a marionette show here later this evening - Jill, who is from Brazil. Jill is teaching Portuguese and some other language, so I will ask him, once I meet him, if he knows of any teaching opportunities.
It was then that I noticed that there was a piano at the common room. Indeed, Marcus had told me the night before that in Prague there are pianos everywhere. So I decided to try it and, to my surprise, it was perfectly tuned and had an incredibly responsive mechanism. Playing it was a delight.

So after playing for an hour or so, and receiving the praise of the guests lounging round the room, I decided to go to the reception and meet the manager. His name is Jacob and he is super cool. I offered him a deal along the lines of playing for his breakfast crowd in the morning in exchange for accommodation. He was open to the idea so we will give it a try tomorrow at 9am. So there you go, all things willing, I will have my accommodation accounted for during the upcoming week(s) by playing breakfast piano.

Little by little, Aleksandra, little by little. 

-Georg Freese

Thursday, June 12, 2014

How To Make A Simple Sentence Interesting

As an artist, it is not only necessary to have heroes whom to emulate, but it is also necessary to have the critical thinking to analyze what it is that makes them outstanding. In other words, one should always be asking oneself how our heroes did what they did, and why it worked.
One of the many techniques used by my own hero - George RR Martin - is the use of specific words for his sentences, each one of which adds flavour to the sentence individually and to the narrative as a whole.
How does this technique work? Well, let's look at an example:

The boy was eating a bowl of cereal when the phone rang.

This is a plain sentence in every sense. It has a subject (the boy), an action (eating) and an object (cereal). It also has a subordinate clause with its own subject (phone) and action (rang). Notice this 'simple' sentence has no adjectives or adverbs.
Now let's replace.
Instead of the generic noun 'boy' I will call him 'James.'
Instead of the action 'eating' I will write 'spooning' - because cereals are eaten with spoons.
Instead of the generic term 'cereal,' I will use the specific name brand 'Corn Flakes.'
Now we have:

James was spooning a bowl of Corn Flakes.

See? I've not changed the elements of the sentence - I have only specified them. Furthermore, allow me to replace 'phone' with 'Smartphone' and 'ring' with 'buzz.'

The Smartphone buzzed.

We have all heard a Smartphone buzz - which is particularly loud when a Smartphone is laying on a table, as in, sitting next to the bowl from which its owner is eating, yeah?
Now I've not only specified an image, but evoked in you (the reader) the memory of a similar event which you yourself have witnessed.
Compare the two:

The boy was eating a bowl of cereal when the phone rang.

James was spooning a bowl of Corn Flakes when the Smartphone buzzed.

As I mentioned before, there were no adjectives or adverbs in the original 'simple' sentence. Notice that I did not need to add these to my 'interesting' sentence to make it more descriptive. That is the key of this technique: the elements of the sentence remain the same, and so the sentence remains short and tight.
Now you can use the same technique and replace the elements of the sentence with different specific words, creating a slightly different scenery from the same basic sentence:

Magdalena was slurping [ from ] a bowl of Raisin Brands when the Nokia chirped.

Kevin was gulping [ down ] a bowl of Lucky Charms when the Blackberry whistled.

Now, if I wanted to transplant this sentence to the realms of Westeros, I would do it like so:

Jon was spooning a bowl of porridge when the raven arrived.

Now you try it!


Wednesday, June 4, 2014

The Thirty-Seventh Milestone

Today I hold in my hand something which has been a lifetime in the obtaining - a lifetime of yearning. As I hold it in my hand, I look at it and think - it is real, and it is mine - at last.

Today is my 37th birthday, and it was on this very day that I received it. This is nothing less than portentous.

I do not believe in coincidences. I believe in will and I believe in the gods of the heavens and the gods of the earth. That is, I believe that where there is a will there is a way and, furthermore, where there is resolution the gods will lend a helping hand. I believe that factors unimaginable and circumstances unthought-of will all align to aid in the achievements of the individual who has set his heart towards a purpose. I believe this, because I have lived this.

I hold it in my hand now.

Indeed, this gift, delivered on my birthday, is a most providential gift on behalf of the gods. And I am grateful.

This is my birthright, yet I was not given it at my birth. I was denied it again when I turned eighteen and sought to obtain it - nineteen years ago. And I was presented with a score of obstacles when I decided, some seven years ago, to obtain it no matter what.

I hold it in my hand now.

Along the way, there were many who said that obtaining it would be impossible. Impossible they said! On those people I had to nevertheless rely, to obtain help which I needed. I received their help reluctantly, while even then being told that obtaining it would be impossible. To them I apologize, for I have no place in my life for people who are convinced that what I am trying to do is impossible.

I hold it in my hand now.

My life would have been a different story had I been given it at my birth, or when I turned eighteen - the gods know. Yet I cannot help but to think that this was all the will of the gods - a lifelong journey to arrive at the one place where - in my heart - I always knew that I belonged.

Indeed, my life has been a long journey which has seemed erratic to many and inspiring to some. Yet I always knew where I was headed, even when I did not know how to get there. It has not been too different from the ancient epics of an exiled man trying to find his way home, and Odyssey, if I may be so ostentatious. Or better yet, like one of those journeys narrated in the epic of George RR Martin - for there were times when the danger was real, and frighteningly close.

Yet, to all the instances when people asked me why I would not settle down, get a real job, maybe marry? I say this - in my life I have been a seed blown in the wind, reluctant to germinate and grow tendrils until the conditions were right, and averse to grow roots until I found my place. And I do not pretend to say that I have found my place in the world now but, as of today, my thirty-seventh birthday, I can't help but to feel that I am one step away from finding it.

I hold the key in my hand now.

It has been a lifelong journey to obtain it. Everything has been a lifelong journey for me - and it has not been easy - gods know. But it has taken me this long to write a novel ( which will be published later this year), it has taken me this long to become a working pianist ( you can hear me play at the CrossRoads every Friday), and it has taken me this long to weed out all the issues which swathed me during my troubled teens and tweens.

In other words, it has taken me this long to hew myself from the mess which I once was.

This is not a boast of achievement, gods know I still have a long way to go. But it is a milestone - a thirty-seventh milestone. And the gratification which comes from achievements after such a long and dire struggle is the more rewarding because of the possibilities which it enables. And the possibilities are limitless, for I have - against all odds - obtained the key.

I hold it in my hand now!

I feel a sense of peace, or rather, of confidence. When a journey has taken you this far, there are few people left to root for you, and you have only yourself to encourage yourself - only yourself to rely on. And I relied on myself, and it paid off.

There is only one last thing I have to say to the world while standing upon this thirty-seventh milestone - for I must soon move on if I intend to reach the thirty-eighth. And this is:

If you feel that at thirty-seven that maybe I am a little too old to be doing what I am doing, I apologize.

This is only how long it took me to get here.