Monthly Archives: December 2019

Best of 2019

Best of

It’s been a year of growth around here at ACCIDENTALLY INSPIRED.

It seems like barely twelve months ago subscriber numbers were hovering around the 500 mark. Now inching closer to the 3000 milestone, word is finally spreading about what some of us veteran readers have known for a long time – Matt’s beastly fine little corner of the blogosphere is the place to come for swashbuckling great reads, supreme writerly insights and thrillifying analogies and turns of phrase.

Here’s a sweet sixteen collection of his finest posts from the year –


# 1. Wordsmithery and Feelings of Inadequacy (July 19)

Pav’s sister said something to him many years ago that lit up his brain like a candelabra. It stuck. It grew. It played on loop. It shaped him. What did she say? You’ll need to read this acclaim-worthy post to find out.
Remember it HERE.

# 2. A Spring Thaw (February 12)

Is he a kindergartner refusing to eat his vegetables? Is he an adult wracked with doubt after reading one too many writing advice books? Either way its tools down for our budding pro-author while his path up Novel Mountain is temporarily halted by the feeling maybe he’s not doing it right. Holed up at base camp with his tent flap bared open for all to see, our momentarily oxygen-deprived story explorer confesses, in a moment of delirium, it may actually be comforting not trying to write every day. We don’t believe him. We know it’s not true. Fool us you don’t! Wrestling with your inner critic you may well be. Yet we know all the while you’re busy fitting steel crampons to your hiking boots and reaching for that trusty ice-axe. The next stage of the climb awaits…

This simply brilliant post includes what surely must be a strong contender for ‘Analogy of the Year’“I feel better when I write. It cleans out the mental pathways like running a Neti-Pot through your sinuses”.
Remember it HERE.


# 3. The Dawdle (July 8)

Pav treats us to an original short story about an author who puts effort – a lot of effort – maybe too much effort – into setting up the perfect writing conditions. This includes having on-hand a 78 hour long, personally curated playlist of songs. Guaranteed to bring a knowing smile of recognition to every writer and would-be writer’s face.
Remember it HERE.

# 4. On Writing Advice (August 10)

For those who’ve ever been tempted to flip the middle finger at writing advice from successful, published authors and regard rules as something made merely to be broken, this thought-piece will provide pause. In a post-truth world where regard for authority and expertise is not as it once was, Pav wisely recommends the path of “assimilating a little bit of knowledge from the people who have gone before you along the way.” He analogizes about the perils of people deciding to throw the road rules out the window and drive on the left hand side of the road. In my region of the Planet, sorry to be the one to tell you Pav, that’s completely normal. Yet I know what you mean!
Remember it HERE.


# 5. That’s A Wrap – Kind Of (September 21st)

Always one to consider the feelings and wishes of his loyal readers, Pav explains the reason he’s been feeding us all mere breadcrumbs on the blog of late (posting less) is that he’s been devoting all that writing energy to a higher cause – namely putting the finishing touches on his novel masterwork. Ok, sounds like a reasonable excuse. You’re forgiven – for now! There are greater crimes, I suppose, than moonlighting from your own ‘blarg’.
Remember it HERE.

# 6. Story-Matic #46 (October 17)

Nothing interesting happens in libraries? Wrong! This little short story gem from our master writer features librarian Alise, homeless Gary, and a stoop. Not only that… you also get a twenty year mystery about an unpublished novel that turns up in someone’s backpack. Breath in the musty air of this veritable mind-boggling boulevard.
Remember it HERE.

# 7. Anti-Social Socialites (June 15th)

The next sentence is true. The previous statement was false. But for a real paradox read this post. Pav deems the act of writing to be a type of self-imposed solitary confinement. Yet, as he points out, writers have to know, and know intimately, how people think and act. And in order to do that they have to get out amongst real people and mix with them. Hence the very apt title of the post.
Remember it HERE.

# 8. The Hideout Needs a Name (July 31)

What’s this? A sample passage from his novel-in-progress dangled unannounced for we readers to pour over like cheese morsel thrown to hungry mice? Well… yes it is! Features a character called Dina who opens a bag of tortilla chips by ‘gashing’ it with her ring.
Remember it HERE.


# 9. The Pill Problem, Revisited (April 25)

The reasoning goes like this: when you have a headache you take a Tylenol. You then have a lie down and the pain goes away. Logically after the pain has gone you don’t keep on taking the Tylenol. All on solid footing so far, right? And yet… he’s getting the skeptical eyes from his wife, which, as he puts it, “is usually a sign that I need to pump the brakes.” Should he take his thumb off the scales or leave it on? Are these bathroom scales or kitchen scales? And will he opt for name brand or generic? The answers to all these questions and more are contained in this fascinating and as usual, brutally self-honest post.
Remember it HERE.

# 10. Early-Man Ennui (June 24)

Two caveman, Dag and Thop (both with British accents) contemplate the very possibly ‘spiritually icky’ meaning of life. Hunger takes over and their stone-age navel-gazing comes to an end. They go out and hunt for antelope.The whole shebang is downright pre-hysterical if you ask me!
Remember it HERE.


# 11. Story-Matic #63 (October 20)

Two body builders in a gym. In the right light, both with enough popping veins to make them look like human road maps. One’s named Dimitri. The other is Kurtis. Kurtis decides to play a trick on his buddy Dimitri. The trick involves superimposing a certain image over the weights on each end of a barbell Dimitri is lifting in a video. It’s kooky. It’s funny. This fiction piece has ‘Personal Best’ written all over it.
Remember it HERE.

# 12. The Theory of A-Holes (October 15)

We’ve all traveled that rough stretch of human highway; the one populated with inconsiderate, self-centered mooks who irritate like sandpaper. Its part of what it means to be human, no matter what part of the world you live in. Pav puts forward an anthropological theory to try to account for why there seem to be more annoying nitwits around these days than ever before. His thesis references big fish, small ponds, the film A BUG’S LIFE and toilet paper. Searching for profound meaning? The Dalai Lama has nothing on this.
Remember it HERE.

# 13. The Inevitable Pain of Football Season (August 31st)

As a writer, Pav and pain have naturally been companions for some many years. His life as a teacher has no doubt also brought him face to face with a variety of… ahem, for want of a better word… pains. Yet it is the highs and lows of footy season fandom that occupy his thoughts on this occasion.
Remember it HERE.


# 14. A Superpower You Didn’t Know You Had (July 4th)

Episodes of The Handmaid’s Tale have Matt questioning “Who’s driving the bus?” Who indeed. The answers are bona-fide bristling and certainly worth the re-read.
Remember it HERE.

# 15. A Quick Monologue (August 24)

He feels the need to spell out to his readers that this bit of spice is ENTIRELY fictional. Read it and you’ll see why.
Remember it HERE.

# 16. Signs, Signs Everywhere (February 23)

When does a restroom sign look like a dude putting a baby on a grill? When it looks like this….
Remember it HERE.


Terrible Reviews: (The Ending of) The Rise of Skywalker

I want to talk about the end of “The Rise of Skywalker”, so rest assured, there will be spoilers ahead in this post.

Not a lot of them, mind you, and certainly not wide-ranging. In fact, the spoilers are really limited to one, and that to a specific moment. Specifically, I want that specific moment to be the final moment of the final movie, itself the final moment of the most recent trilogy, itself the culmination of a trilogy of trilogies. The previous nine films (let’s leave Rogue One and Solo out for the time being — and perhaps for good) all build up to this particular moment.

It must be said first that I was a Disney Star Wars skeptic, but now I’m a convert. Taking on a new trilogy in and of itself was a tall order to say the least, but I think that Disney not only stuck the landing, but they did it in a way that somehow threads a wicked-tiny needle: the new series is awesome, it preserves and reinvents the magic of the original series, and it lays to rest the fear that the prequels gave us that new Star Wars movies were doomed to be crap. The new Star Wars are not crap. Probably not least of which is because the franchise was pried from the grasping clumsy fingers of George Lucas.

But enough preamble. Let’s get to the spoiler and that all-important culminating moment.

The war is over, the fighting done, the survivors gone home, the obligatory LGBT inclusion included and summarily fast-forwarded over. Rey returns to the scene of the crime, the iconic planet of Tattooine, specifically Luke’s hut on said dust mote, to entomb the light sabers belonging to Luke and Leia. She’s approached by an old crone who demands her name.

“Rey,” she says.

“Rey who?” the crone replies.

And after a brief but poignant gaze into the middle distance, she replies, “Rey Skywalker.”

And then we get a lovely bookending shot of Rey and BB-8 silhouetted against those bloody twin suns over the desert world.

And when I first saw it, I was mad. It felt like a whiff on a perfectly good opportunity, a lame attemt at fanservice, a copout to justify the movie title, a phone-in in lieu of something actually clever.

See, there’s this moment near the end of the first act of RoS where the story is actually starting to get some legs. Rey gets approached by this kid in a crowd who asks her for her name, and Rey’s all, “Rey,” and the kid goes “OK but Rey who” and Rey’s like “just Rey,” and it’s a sad moment for her but also a growing one, because Rey has spent the better part of the last two films sort of tied up in knots about her parents, and she seems to be coming to grips with it there, though she still has some feels. So having a parallel moment at the end of the film seemed a perfect time, to me, for her to answer back “Just Rey” again, but with a bit more sass and certainty. “Rey Skywalker” felt … well, just wrong, on first look.

But the more I thought about it, the more I liked it. And the more I continue to think about it, the more I think it’s the perfect ending to the movie, to the trilogy, and to the trilogy of trilogies. And it’s for much the same reason I didn’t like it at first.

See, by the end of episode IX, Rey has been through it. Faced certain death, become a jedi or whatever passes for a Jedi now that the order is gone, learned the truth of her bloodline, lost friends and mentors and … yeah. Wringer 800, Rey 0.

But the Galaxy has been through it, too. Planets wiped out. Spirits broken. Kids kidnapped and forced into service. A loss of hope. The spirits of the average sentient creature in the galaxy are broken. (This is a huge motif in the new trilogy.) And what rallies people together in hopeless times? A symbol. Something to believe in, something to throw their energy and, for lack of a better word, faith behind.

I mean, in the original trilogy, Darth Vader and the Emperor are out there scaring the hockeysticks out of everybody and it takes the arrival of a new Jedi, a nobody from nowhere named Luke Skywalker to pick up the mantle and a lightsaber, go get trained by a fuzzy little green guy in a swamp and give Vader what for.

Then, in the prequels, the Jedi Order is there, you know, being inept as they strive against the Sith but there’s all this babble, this prophecy, about the One who will bring Balance to the Force (randomly capitalizing words is fun). And they find this podunk kid, this nobody from nowhere, who’s force sensitive, and holy crap his MIDICHLORIANS (let us never speak of them again) are off the scale, and could he be the one?YES HE IS, and his name is Anakin Skywalker and he carries all our hopes and dreams until Ben’s all “YOU WERE THE CHOSEN ONE” and cuts him in half.

So in the new trilogy, we have … what? We have Luke but he’s in the wind, took his lightsaber and his fancy force powers and fargo’d off to a nowhere that wasn’t even on the map. He’s gone, the Resistance is in disarray because of it, everybody’s looking for Luke to save the day, but he’s off drinking green milk straight from the beached whatever-the-heck-that-thing-was and putzing around with porgs. He can’t be the symbol people rally around anymore; he’s old, he’s disillusioned, he’s SCARED maybe.

But then — but THEN we have the end of TLJ, where Luke becomes the legend again, where he single-handedly faces down an entire squadron of First Order walkers and Kylo Ren himself, and the Resistance has their minds blown in real time and the legend spreads and at the end of TLJ that kid force-pulls the broom over and you see that silhouette where he looks like a Jedi and HOLY CRAP the end of TLJ is so damn good.

Except now Luke’s gone again. Dead for realsies, or as dead as a Jedi ever is in this series, which is to say only as dead as he wants to be, but as far as being a symbol, he’s toast, because he can’t exactly go appearing to the galaxy in his little blue outline, can he? No. Ghosts can’t be symbols. The galaxy needs a new symbol.

The galaxy needs … a Skywalker.

Rey groks this. She knows how important Luke was, not just to her for her training, but also to the entire Resistance and to everybody who was too scared to stand up to the Empire. She feels the void left by Luke’s passing, probably more acutely than anybody who’s left alive, and she knows. There has to be a Skywalker.

And it has to be her. Who else is left?

“Rey who?”

“Rey Skywalker.”

God, it’s so poetic and awesome and simple. George Lucas said in that interview that Star Wars is like poetry; it rhymes. That quote is dumb and it pretends to be deep even though it isn’t, but there’s still truth in it, in that while the history of Star Wars doesn’t necessarily repeat, there are those elements that keep coming back. The galaxy needs a Skywalker, and Rey, like Luke before her and Anakin before that, sees the mantle there, abandoned by the one who came before, and says “guess I’ll put this on then.” Never mind she’s not a Skywalker by blood. Hell, Luke even tells Rey in RoS that some things are more important than blood.

But that only leads into the other reason that I love this as the last moment of the saga, which is that my wife read this moment in a completely different way than I did and she still loved it just as much. To wit: as I mentioned before, Rey spent the better part of the past two films in various stages of despair and disillusionment over her parents and not knowing her identity. And the more she learns about her parentage, the less she likes it. First it’s the gut punch that she got abandoned in the first place. Then it’s the big reveal that her parents were … nobodies. (We learn that in TLJ, even though we later learn that it’s only half-true.) And then there’s the haymaker of the truth that comes in RoS.

The parentage, or rather the lack of parentage, that has haunted Rey from the word go turns into the most catastrophic news Rey could hope to learn.


Along the way, she has also gained a family that she never had. First there’s Finn, who “helps” her even though she doesn’t need it, then Han Solo, who recognizes her potential and takes her under his wing, and then Leia who does the same but also bonds with her over Han’s passing, and then Luke who becomes her mentor, and finally her … what, her romance? Weird sibling rivalry? … with Kylo Ren, nee Ben Solo. This is her family. In the strangest of ways, she has become the child of Han and Leia and Luke (that’s a fan-fiction I will not be writing) and so she *really is* a Skywalker.

Rey who?”

“Rey Skywalker.”

Again, it’s all so bloody poetic and beautiful that I could almost cry manly tears if my heart weren’t frozen and shriveled like a womp rat’s testicles on Hoth.

The fact that the new trilogy (and by extension the trilogy of trilogies) manages to end on a note that echoes and reverberates and boomerangs back on itself and on all the movies leading up to it is a master stroke, in my not-so-humble opinion.

Then again, here I stand, having an opinion about Star Wars on the internet, so rest assured I must be wrong.

But you know what? Wrong or not, I don’t care. I got new Star Wars in my lifetime, and I got to re-capture some of that joy that the original movies brought me, and the new movies are good, dammit. Yes, all of them. And yeah, Disney is a horror conglomerate that’s assimilating all of our entertainment like the Blob with Mickey Mouse ears and that’s, you know, that’s a thing that might be a problem that we’ll have to deal with one day. But for now, for today, we have Star Wars, and it is good. Perfect? No – but I promise you, the original trilogy is far from perfect itself. These movies are good. And that’s enough.

The Force will be with us. Always.

Could I Be Happier?

Somehow or other, my subconscious belched up the old Mickey Mouse Club song lyric: Hey there, hi there, ho there, we’re happy as can be!

Which is a statement that’s always true, right? Especially if, like me, you doubt the existence of libertarian free will. (Let’s not dive too deep into rabbit holes or anything, but studies suggest that free will doesn’t exist. Of course this doesn’t absolve us of blame for our actions and it’s not that simple, but it seems most likely that on a moment-to-moment basis, we don’t control our actions the way we think we do.) (In fact, while typing this very paragraph, I committed a few typos. When pondering the question of free will, one must wonder: if I believe in a lack of free will, must I not therefore conclude that I was predestined to commit those typos — and further, to spot them and to fix them — from the moment of the birth of the universe? Making typos isn’t a thing I chose to do, after all. It just happened. And when you pause to consider the sheer number of things that just happen in your day-to-day existence — the things you said without thinking, did without thinking, etc — the question of free will can become really scary really fast.)

But anyway, the moment I thought of “we’re happy as can be,” I thought: is that true? It’s kind of depressing to consider, isn’t it, if we’re as happy as we can be? Not to sound nihilistic or anything, but there’s a depressive trend in our culture, a bent toward the unhappy, the dissatisfied, the everything-is-awful-let’s-burn-it-all-down.

Could we be happier?

The question sounds dumb on its surface, but take this moment. This one, right now, with these photons streaming out of whatever device and striking your retinas, while your brain interprets the signals and constructs meaning out of them. Or this moment, the breath you’re taking, the things happening around you, the synapses firing in exactly the pattern they’re currently firing in inside your brain. It’s the electrical impulses moving from one part of your brain to another that create your emotional state, that force you to feel one way or another. There’s no getting around that. At bottom, we are simply biology, simply chemistry. Given all of that, considering that your emotional state right now is a result of electrical signals which are themselves a response to stimuli in the environment, could you feel any differently than you do?

It seems impossible.

But at the same time, to say I couldn’t feel any happier seems untrue, too. Of course I could be happier than I am right now. Isn’t that what makes life worth living, the attempt to make things better than they are? Yet to say that I could feel happier seems to suggest that I could, if I chose, not feel the way that I feel. I could feel some other way. That’s choice. But is it the case?

On some level, it’s equivalent to the old nonsense statement that “if things were different, then things would be different.” Which is obvious, and gets you nowhere. Obviously if things could be different, if I could choose to feel a certain way instead of this way, I’d have that choice. But things are what they are. Can we change that? Much as we might like to (and certainly depending on your personal political leanings), we can’t alter the facts of the world we live in.

So, could I be happier? No, I don’t think that I could.

End of analysis. Right? Well, no. Because to say I couldn’t be happier is a bit too dark for me. Free will in the classic sense may not be the way the world works but that doesn’t mean we have no control over our experience at all.

I can’t be happier in this moment (remember, this one, right now, which is of course a different moment than the one we were in a few paragraphs ago and carries with it its own truths and circumstances). But what I can do is learn from the present state of affairs, our current state of happiness (or lack thereof) and attempt to effect changes in myself and in my perspectives to cultivate more happiness in the future. In other words, I can’t be happier right now, but that next moment just coming around the bend? I can be happier when that moment gets here.

That part is easy.

Make some simple baseline realizations about the world and my place in it, and have a good hard look at the paradigms shaping my course through the world, and I can inflict happiness on myself almost immediately. For example:

  • Sure, it’s raining today, but I could also have had a flat tire on the way to work.
  • Sure, I slept later than I planned to and had to hurry to get together for work on time, but at least I have a job to go to, I have a paycheck coming. And I made it through all right.
  • I have a family that loves me, friends that care for me. Maybe not as much or as many as some, but certainly more than I could have (if things were different).

The truth is that I have things better than I feel like I have them, as long as I measure that life against the right set of standards. This is true for almost anybody living in Western civilization at the moment, I would wager. The culture wants you to be dissatisfied, to compare yourself to those who are better off, to keep striving for the things you don’t have. This is a broken way to live. (Say you pull even with those people who are better off — aren’t there even others still you could set your sights on? Say you get those things you desire — won’t there always be more things?)

Take those things that feel like shortcomings and see them in a different light.

I’m not a millionaire, but I’m also not destitute.

I won’t retire by the age of 45, but I could retire by the time I’m 60.

My kids misbehave sometimes — okay, often — but on the whole they’re pretty darn awesome, and they certainly don’t seem to have any disorders or conditions or other impediments to functioning perfectly well in society one day.

My car isn’t the nicest or the newest, but it gets me from A to B without a fuss.

My house may not be the fanciest one on the block, but the roof doesn’t leak and there’s room for us all.

A simple shift in perspective can make for an immediate increase in happiness.

Could I be happier right now? I don’t think so.

But could I be happier tomorrow, next year, five minutes from now?

No doubt.

(This post was inspired at least in part by this video, which is totally worth your time.)

Also, upon further review, I have discovered that the actual lyric to the Mickey Mouse song was Hey there hi there ho there, you’re as welcome as can be, which absolutely destroys the entire premise for this post. Sigh.

The Urge

I feel the urge to get on the ol’ blarg here and post something, despite the fact that it’s been…

*checks watch*

*not enough, checks day planner*

*nope, still not enough, checks calendar*

…something like two months since I made a post?

Dereliction of duty.

But I feel the urge to post, and that’s probably because I actually do have a fairly big task I have to finish this morning, and my procrastination is tricksy. I can put off working on a thing for days, weeks, months at a time, but suddenly when it’s time to work on something *else*, something that I really don’t want to do, then the thing I’ve been putting off suddenly seems not just appealing, but downright irresistible.

Which is to say, there’s a post coming later today.

Not this one, another one.

Hi, by the way. Missed you.

bom dia hello GIF

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