Tuesday, December 21, 2010

The Top Ten Albums of 2010

#10 - #2: Who cares.

#1: Beach House: Teen Dream

Friday, November 12, 2010

Robin Hood(s)

Last night, Kevin, Heidi and I watched the new Robin Hood (Well Kevin and I watched it, Heidi just happened to be in the same room where it was being shown for part of the evening). The best part of watching a movie with friends is making fun of the movie, and we certainly had opportunity during this one. While the movie wasn't bad, it is the worst of all Robin Hood movies.

# 1 Disney's Robin Hood is hands-down, the best Robin Hood of all time. I even rank this movie as my favorite Disney film of all time. The reasons why Disney's version is the best are many: Animated animals as human characters is always awesome, I love the voice of Friar Tuck, that Rooster playing the guitar and singing is fantastic, the fair scene when Robin shoots an arrow through another arrow is cinematic gold, and the song, "Robin Hood and Little John running through the forest, hoodalawdy hoodalawdy golly what a day" is a great song, Prince John as a lion, and i love when the whistling song gets stuck in my head.

# 2 Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves is so amazing, that I find it hard to come up with the words to describe it. Kevin Costner is impeccable as an Englishman (accent and all) and Morgan Freeman most likely lists this movie as "Number One" on his resume, The combined awesome-ness of Robin and Marian's terrible hair throughout this movie is something to behold, Robin splits an arrow with another arrow, and Bryan Adams sings the greatest song in the history of humanity. During the summer of my 8th grade year, I listened to this song roughly 4,354 times, and vowed that summer, that it was, in fact, true, that if I ever fell in love, I would fight, lie, walk the wire and/or die for my lady. I stand by my commitment.

#3 Robin Hood: Men in Tights is absolutely hilarious. Well, that might be an overstatement, but it's at least mildly funny. I love the fact that it took Mel Brooks about 30 seconds to decide that a parody of "Prince of Thieves" had to be made. Hell, it took the "Scary Movie" guys longer than that to make fun of Scream. This incarnation of Robin Hood is better than the latest one because it features an arrow splitting a tree (watch end of trailer below)/

4) Robin Hood is not a bad movie. It really isn't. Unfortunately, they wait the entire movie to let you know that this is a prequel. This information might have made the movie make more sense. As Kevin and I traded wits and one-liners throughout the movie about the missing fair/archer competition/splitting arrow scene, we eagerly awaited the comforts of the three previous incarnations of Robin Hood, but few were to be found. I mean even Maid Marian's hair wasn't a travesty. The best part of the latest Robin Hood was Old Man Loxley. He ruled. This movie fails to reach epic status because A) It's exactly like Gladiator, only not as good, B) it wasn't ridiculous enough to mock incessantly, and C) it doesn't have a descriptor like "Prince of Thieves" in the title. I include the trailer for this movie, only so you can enjoy Russell Crowe's furrowed brow, which remain so throughout the entire film.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Real Talk

It's been a dreadfully long time since I have offered up a blog, and it feels like the right time to start throwing some thoughts out for your enjoyment. The last time you heard from me, I was singing along with "Boys II Men" about how hard it is to say farewell, and preparing to move to Chicago.

Well, here it is, almost five months later, and I'm happy to report that I did, in fact, move to Chicago.

It's impossible to report everything that has happened in the past five months, so I won't even try. I have gone from "The College Life" of living in a dorm and eating a 7,000-calorie a day diet of poor cafeteria food, to 12-14 hour days of struggling create lesson plans and maintain some sort of behavior management system to educate students on the South Side of Chicago. In my spare time, I enjoy drinking beer with Kevin, drinking beer with my wife, and drinking beer with other people that I have met in this city (So the 7,000-calorie a day diet has been maintained).

In the time since I last posted, The Reds made the playoffs and promptly were eliminated, while The Giants are currently playing in the World Series since the torturous 2002 Series. The Bengals and terrible, and the 49ers are even more terrible-er. A World Cup happened, and I actually watched a few matches and found myself almost giving a damn about soccer for the first time in my life. Lebron made a decision, and something probably happened in hockey, although everybody couldn't care less.

There has been a disturbing amount of loss in just the past month alone. A current student was killed by a gunshot to his head on a school night because he stepped onto his porch at the wrong time of night. A former student was killed as a result of gang activity and needless violence. One of my co-workers lost her husband (younger than me) to a sudden and unexpected heart complication, and she is now left to deal with the loss of the love her life while trying to raise their one-year old daughter. Meanwhile, Heidi lost her grandfather just this past weekend. October has been a dumb month.

Moving forward, I hope to actually get back to offering my random musings for your reading pleasure. With a wealth of ridiculous slang and teacher stories, I am sure that I can string together a few things of interest. And if not, I am sure I can say a lot of menial things about sports

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Goodbye in Spanish is, "Adios."

I've been saying a lot of goodbyes over the past few weeks. I know that Brian is going to make fun of me for being "too emotional" in this post, but whatever. Just deal with it. I promise to be quick.

I should be able to teach a class in "Goodbye-ology."

Consider that I have lived in the Cincinnati area for 3.5 years, and I've met a lot of people. My job required me to make significant relationships with about 30 kids and their families. Co-workers, friends, family, church folk, etc. You get the point.

You'd think that I would be pretty good at this by now. It's not my first rodeo.

I left my hometown at the age of 22 and said goodbye to my parents and many life-long friends, and youth group kids that I had worked with for three years.

Three years after that I left Los Angeles/Orange County area and said goodbye to many friends, fellow students, co-workers, students that I worked with, etc.

Two years after that I left San Diego and said goodbye new friends once again, old friends, one of my best friends, Duane, who was also the guy I started The Resolved Church with, all the people in the church, a bunch of "foster kids" I worked with, etc.

So here I am again. Saying goodbye to all these people that I have shared my life with. I'm terrible at it. Saying goodbye is when people decide to tell you all the things about how much they appreciate and like you. It feels good, but it's exhausting.

Added to the drama of this move is saying goodbye to a new set of people: My "new" family. I love Heidi's parents a whole bunch, and we have lived next door to them the whole time we have been married. Bonnie and Carl have become my parents, too. And now I have to say goodbye.

Heck, I even had to say goodbye to Heidi yesterday morning at the airport. Sure, she's coming with me this time, but she won't be joining me in Chicago for a month or so. That really sucks.

I'm not good at speaking my feelings on the spot. I'm much better at writing my emotions and sorting everything out. In person, the goodbyes usually feature awkward pauses, strange statements that don't make much sense, forced eye contact even when one or both participants are close to tears, and tenuous handshakes or hugs.

The decision to shake or hug is one of the most difficult moves to commit to in that moment. It's best to go in prepared.

Since I'm no good at it, and since I've had the song stuck in my head for weeks now, I have decided to learn all four vocal harmonies to the following song, and let Boys II Men do the talking for me:


How do I say goodbye to what we had?
The good times that made us laugh
Outweigh the bad.

I thought we'd get to see forever
But forever's gone away
It's so hard to say goodbye to yesterday.

I don't know where this road
Is going to lead
All I know is where we've been
And what we've been through.

If we get to see tomorrow
I hope it's worth all the wait
It's so hard to say goodbye to yesterday.

And I'll take with me the memories
To be my sunshine after the rain
It's so hard to say goodbye to yesterday.

And I'll take with me the memories
To be my sunshine after the rain
It's so hard to say goodbye to yesterday.

If you can't read, then just watch and listen to this classic performance on the Arsenio show:

Thursday, June 3, 2010

The Kid Got Old

I'm not sure what to do with Ken Griffey Jr. I assume that this isn't a quandary that most face, or are concerned with, but I most certainly am.

I have never been a Griffey Jr. fan. I thought that he bailed on Seattle for more money from Cincinnati and I didn't respect that (Pacific Northwest bias. No need to correct me on the details of the contract and such).

As the guy rides off into the sunset, I have been enjoying the highlights of "The Kid" running into walls and diving around to make great plays. I am impressed by his picture-perfect swing and big grin. We all get wrapped up in these things.

Here's the dilemma in brief:

1) Every team that Griffey ever played for got significantly better after he left.
2) The whole "falling-asleep-in-the-locker-room" thing doesn't look to good on him (In his defense, I am 10 years younger and I take naps at work all the time).
3) He destroyed the Reds. I liked to call him "The Albatross" when I first moved here and started going to games, because that is what he was for this organization. For a guy who is renowned as being a "good" and "fun-loving" player, how is it that he seemed to be such a poor influence on the young guys here in Cinci? I don't know the answers to these questions.

1) Just watch the highlights (especially the Mariners ones). The dude was exciting to watch.
2) Never been associated with steroids. This is a HUGE point. The knock against Griffey has always been that he got injured too much and fell apart when his contemporaries were swinging for the fences and breaking records. What we didn't care to notice was the fact that all of his contemporaries were cramming their bodies full of illegal drugs to avoid injury and breakdown, while Griffey was "doing it the right way." I hope that he never gets busted for HGH. I really do.
3) That smile is pretty snazzy.

So I need a little help. I'm going to let the comments of this post determine the point-of-view I take regarding Ken Griffey Jr. Help me out.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Power Rankings

I love Power Rankings. For those of you who don't spend hours a week on si.com and espn.com, Power Rankings are subjective lists that "rank" professional sports teams, usually with a small anecdote to follow in order to justify the ranking of the commitee or individual.

I love Power Rankings because they are succinct, to-the-point, and easy to consume (read) in just a few minutes. Perfect! Here are some Power Rankings for a cornocopia of miscellanious topics:

Fast Food Restaurants (Yes, I know that I shouldn't eat fast food, but sometimes I do. And when I do, I have standards)

1. Taco Bell(Cheap, easy to eat while driving, and underrated when it comes to taste)
2. Wendy's (Again, cheap. That's the ticket. The presence of the Frosty on the dollar menu at Wendy's makes this a perennial stop during the warm summer months)
3. Burger King (Flame-Broiled burgers and a delicious BBQ sauce)
4. Arby's (Curly Fries!)
5. McDonalds (If it wasn't for the delicious breakfast offerings, there is no way McDonalds makes this list)

Just missing the cut (mostly because they don't exist in the Midwest): Del Taco, In n' Out, and Carl's Jr.

Breweries (I love beer more than any other thing that I put into my body. Enough said.)

1. Founders (Solid line up from top to bottom. Special brews like Kentucky Breakfast Stout, and good offerings such as the Reds Rye, Centennial IPA, and a tasty Porter)
2. 3 Floyds (Would be number one, but some of their brews are not that great special. Beheemeth Barley Wine, Dreadnaught IIPA, Alpha King Pale Ale and Robert the Bruce are all outstanding)
3. Stone (Arrogant Bastard was the first beer I truly fell in love with. It's been a love-fest ever since.
4. Dogfish Head (All of the "- minute IPAs" are outstanding, and Dogfish does some crazy stuff with premium ingredients. It's usually way too expensive, but damn, it's good)
5. Tie: Great Divide, Deschutes, Lagunitas, Clipper City, Flying Dog... (A combination of being too overwhelmed to make a decision, and too lazy to think about it anymore leads to the ultimate cop-out of a tie)


1. Apples (Apples are easy to find, easy to eat, and usually pretty solid)
2. Oranges (It's rare that you ever get stuck with a bad orange. The only detractor how messy they are to eat)
3. Berries (Straw, black, blue, cran, rasp... I love berries so much, especially in pie)
4. Peaches (When you get a good one... It can't be beat)
5. Bananas (I used to hate it when my mom would put a banana in my lunch, because everything would taste like banana in the brown paper sack. I don't really like them, but they get the job done. The most efficient of the fruits)

Sports (The order was determined by a very scientific formula that combined 'watch-ability' and 'fun-ness to play')

1. Basketball (My favorite to play, and the playoffs are always a thrill to watch)
2. Baseball (Playing catch is my favorite thing to do in the world. Going to a baseball game is the best sporting event to attend. Listening to games on radio is better than watching on TV)
3. Football (Probably the best to watch, and extremely fun to play, but my mom never let me play in a league, so I don't know what it's like to put on the pads and helmet)
4. Hockey (I only ranked this for my friend, Brian. I've never played and I can't skate, but going to hockey games ranks #2 on the "Best live sporting events" list)
5. Everything else (Golf, tennis, soccer, badmitton, frisbee golf, raquetball, cornhole, bowling, whiffle ball, horseshoes, pool, swimming, curling, gymnastics, snowboarding... If it's an activity that I can play and/or watch, then I like it)

Cars I've owned (I've owned five cars in my life, and never one that was less than a decade old. I don't see this trend changing anytime soon)

1. 1982 Datsun 4x4 (This thing was awesome. An absolute tank. Had to sell it when I moved out of Humboldt County and needed things like A/C and fuel economy)
2. 1988 Acura Integra (First car. The only one I ever put a bumper sticker on (Less Than Jake). This car was actually a pain in the butt, but it had a sun roof, so I thought it was pretty awesome)
3. 1996 Subaru Outback (Current vehicle. It has it's problems, but it's a hatchback, and hatchbacks are the best)
4. 1993 Chevy S-10 (This was the vehicle that Heidi drove around until recently. My father-in-law and I replaced the clutch and it was a terrible process)
5. 1995 Toyota Tercel (It was a good car, until my friend Jeff managed to rip one of the doors off, leading to a lot of heavy plastic and duct tape to keep the rain out)

Friday, April 30, 2010

Double Down

I just turned 30. This is a big deal.

Technically, I am now closer to death than I am to birth (Well, maybe not technically, but you get the point). After my experience last week, I am assuredly much closer to my final breath.

What is a man to do in anticipation of such a momentous occasion? How can such a milestone be celebrated? The following is an account of my mid-life crisis.

While driving down Glenway Avenue on the Westside of Cincinnati on Thursday, April 22(Earth Day), I realized what I must do. I would celebrate and mark this slow march unto death by doing something so outrageous, so dangerous, and so remarkable, that I might not even make it to my 30th birthday.

It was time to Double Down.

I've joked with friends about the new offering from KFC several times since we were first inundated with countless commercials espousing the delights of eating a sandwich that replaces buns with pieces of chicken, but I never thought I would really eat one. I mean, it's absolutely disgusting and completely impractical.

But that's when God intervened. It had to be divine. A ridiculous radio advertisement assaulted me with loud pronouncements of the merits of the Double Down. Convincing statements like, "It will destroy your hunger!" and "So much chicken, there wasn't room for a bun," worked magic on my impressionable stomach and mind at the exact time that I saw the Colonel's establishment ahead on the left.

"Am I really going to do this? I can't tell Heidi, she will kill me (if the Double Down doesn't kill me first). Am I really going to walk into a KFC? I haven't been in one since I was 11 years old. There is no way I am doing this. Why is my turn signal on? Why am I turning into the parking lot? I should stop, but I can't. I won't."

Walking into a KFC on a random afternoon is an experience that I can't quite capture in words. The mauve/pink paint and Monet-inspired impressionist artwork really threw me for a loop... What is the atmosphere KFC is trying to create? I can only assume it's something along the lines of creating a soothing space to allow for melancholy whilst your bowels explode.

The girl working the register looked as surprised to see me as I was to be there. One patron was hanging out at a table near the register, and she was only drinking an extra large pop. I glanced around at the menu above the register, although I knew exactly what I would order. I came here for one purpose, and damnit, I was going to accomplish this.

"What can I get you?"

"I'll take one of those Double Down things," I said with fear and shame.

"You want that friend or grilled?"

"Fried, of course, this isn't Kentucky Grilled Chicken"

"Anything else?" (Apparently she did not appreciate me subtle and charming wit... Most people don't

"No, I'm good."

"You want that in a combo?"

"I don't think so. Not sure I'm man enough." (Again, no response). "But hold the special sauce... What is the sauce?"

"I don't know... it's like that pink salad dressing stuff."

"Yeah, definitely hold the sauce then."

"You gonna eat one of them Double Down things?" shouted the girl with the large beverage.

"I'm going to try."

"That thing looks nasty. There really ain't no bun?"

"That's what I'm told."

As my Double Down arrived in a box on a tray, the big-beveraged girl's curiosity got the best of her. As she jumped up to examine my purchase, she said,

"Damn, that's a lot of meat."

Holding back the "That's what she said," comment I wanted to make, I simply replied, "Yes, yes it is."

As I sat down to enjoy my last supper, I couldn't help but think about how my life was going to change. My friends Kenny, Coates and Russ like meat a whole lot. We often sit around and talk about how much we like meat, and how the only thing wrong with items like hamburgers and hot dogs is the presence of a bun... which is not meat. It has always been a running joke, usually told most while camping, but I never thought anybody was listening.

Apparently the Colonel is always listening, and making dreams come true like Santa Claus or a magical genie.

As I sat down to tackle this dead bird and bacon sandwich, Elton John's "Circle of Life" flooded the room (That's a fact, I'm not making it up. In the words of Bad Religion: "Sometimes truth is stranger than fiction," and in the words of Alanis Morissette: "Isn't it ironic? Don't you think?")

In the circle of liiiife... It's a wheel of fortuuuune...

With Elton giving me moral support, I managed to pick up the Double Down and take my first bite. As a stream of grease spurted out on my beard, I realized that this was going to be a challenge. Although the 3rd degree burn on my face hurt, the pain of feeling my arteries harden was the worst part.

That and the constant reaching for napkins.

If I've learned one thing from this experience, it's that the existence of a bun to hold your sandwich is a good thing. Why was it necessary to eliminate this? Are there people putting comments in the suggestion box at the local KFC that read, "I want to have grease drip down to me elbows and have my fingers stink like chicken for three days. Can you get rid of the bun?" Or, "I bought a bucket of chicken and took it home and made B.L.T.s with the thighs. You should do something like that?" Who's in charge down there at the KFC headquarters? Who green-lighted this idea?

6.5 minutes after my first bite, the last bite was completed. I folded my receipt and placed it in my pocket (just in case I need to provide evidence for a future lawsuit). I contemplated how much damage I must have just done to my body, but the nutrition information was oddly nowhere to be seen (Nutrition stats for the DD: 540 calories 32 grams of fat and 1380 mg of sodium. That sodium level sounds a little high, but I'm no nutritionist).

Standing up, the words of Sir Elton continued to resound:

In the circle of life
It's the wheel of fortune
It's the leap of faith
It's the band of hope
Till we find our place
On the path unwinding
In the circle, the circle of life

I'm not sure what role I play in the circle of life, but I'm quite sure that what I did that day had nothing to do with life/fortune/faith/hope. In fact, I'm relatively certain that my path is winding toward a certain and painful demise. I'm also certain that I will never eat another Double Down for as long as I live.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

From Best to Worst

I have been working on this stupid post, three sentences at a time, for almost a month. Instead of devoting the time to make it good, I'm going to wrap it up and give you a half-baked entry. Heidi discounted everything I said anyway by informing me that as I get older, I make more excuses for why I am falling out of touch with pop culture and society at an alarming rate... . Maybe Heidi is right (she usually is), the other day, Rivers Cuomo himself tweeted: "What could be more natural than becoming irrelevant to pop culture as you get older?" But this is all getting off-topic. This introduction was mean to serve as an excuse for fewer words typed, not more. Below is the half-hearted work that resulted from a text message to Kevin, to which he responded, "You should write a blog about that." So I did. And this is it:

If you ask any reasonable person born between 1977 and 1986 what the greatest album of this generation is, the answer will undoubtedly be "Pinkterton."

If you ask a person born in the same time frame, which movie is the greatest ever made, you will not be surprised to hear the common response of "Terminator II."

Between the ages of 14 and 18, Weezer was my favorite band. I knew every word to every song on "The Blue Album" and Pinkerton. My friends and I would blast the tape (were we using CDs by this point in history? I don't remember) over and over again while singing at the top of our lungs, "I'm tired. So tired. So tired of having sex" (none of us were actually having any sex, but we identified with what it might be like to grow tired of having sex if one in fact ever had so much that it grew tiresome. We were not having any sex because we were losers who chose to drive to abandoned railroad bridges to smoke cigars and discuss how cool we really were on Friday night, rather than going to the 'raging' party that we may or may not have been invited to in the first place).

Terminator II came out in 1991. My friend Nick Gordon and I would rent the movie about four times a week, and watched it so many times, that we actually tried to recreate the Debit Card machine that John Conner uses to rip off ATMs (it didn't work).

That's the introduction. Interest has been piqued, and the reader is now curious where this is going. This is the body of the argument, which will tell you exactly where "this" is going:

In the past year, Avatar was released and has already made more money than any other movie ever made.

Also in the past year, Weezer released another album which is probably comprised of songs about girls and drugs.

I have not seen or heard either of these products, and can assure you that I will not any time soon.

If you question my commitment to boycott things that I deem worthy of such abstinence, ask me how many times I have seen Titanic?

The answer is "0"

This fact has led to many arguments between my wife and I, so I will just move on quickly, without elaborating further. If she doesn't comment, know that she will argue, correctly, that I am pretentious about this, and would actually enjoy Titanic, but I am far too proud to cave in. I would agree, but continue in my arrogance.

While this could just become another blog post where I make fun of others, all the while sharing semi-intimate details about my life in a sarcastic form so as to not reveal to much of my inner soul, I will instead engage in an academic excursion that required research (imdb.com and wikipedia.org) and mental dexterity.

Weezer is the James Cameron of music.

Or, conversely, James Cameron is the Weezer of movies.

Either way, it's meant to be an insult. And more than an insult, this conclusion is meant to point the reader to the epic failure of both a band and a director to sustain what should have become respective Hall of Fame careers.

What makes me most sad about the fall-from-awesome that Weezer and James Cameron suffered, is the sheer sweetness of where they began.

Below is a list of some "major" James Cameron projects:

Avatar (2009)
Terminator III (2003)
Titanic (1997)
True Lies (1994)
Terminator II (1991)
The Abyss (1989)
Terminator (1984)
Aliens (1986)
Rambo: First Blood Part II (1985)

Compare that with a list of Weezer's albums:

Raditude (2009)
Weezer (Red Album)(2008)
Make Believe (2005)
Maladroit (2002)
Weezer (Green Album)(2001)
Pinkerton (1996)
Weezer (Blue Album)(1994)

Notice any similarities?

The answer is a resounding YES.

Cameron was on fire in his early days. Rambo, Terminator, Aliens, The Abyss... These are all super-quality films that deserve to be praised.

Weezer was just-as-on-fire with their start: "The Blue Album" and Pinkerton are just as awesome as Terminator and Aliens.

But then everything fell apart.

For both James Cameron and Weezer.

Weezer has sold more than eight million records in the US to date. That's a lot. But it should be even more. After the splash of "The Blue Album," Weezer was ready to go stratospheric with their sophomore release. This did not happen. In fact, Pinkerton was labeled "one of the worst albums 1996" by a Rolling Stone Magazine reader poll. It was crushed by the media and fans alike, and Rivers Cuomo was either, a) replaced by an emotionless robot, or b) felt alienated and frightened by the rejection of his "intimate feelings" and decided to never write a good song ever again.

I'm not Chuck Klosterman, so I won't try. Suffice it to say, "The Green Album," and everything following has been one turd after another, wrapped in plastic and sold to stupid kids who keep thinking that, "This one will be good. This album will return to former glory."

I don't know what happened to James Cameron.

True Lies is actually a decent and watchable movie. Just like "The Green Album" was not the worst music I have ever heard (that title belongs to Morrissey).

But both True Lies and "The Green Album" represent a monumental shift in the respective careers of Weezer and James Cameron. Cameron and Cuomo have appeared to become so full of themselves, that neither can produce anything worth spending $10 on.

I don't know if Raditude is any good. I don't care. Just as I couldn't care less if Avatar is worth seeing. I get the whole "visually stunning" argument, but it's not enough to sway me. No thanks.

Both are too painful to watch. Both would bring up too many memories and leave me disillusioned in a way that I haven't felt since they killed Marissa on The OC and decided to have another season anyway... just because. Yeah, it was still The OC (the greatest show of all time), but honestly, it sucked.

I don't want to go through that again.

And here comes the conclusion, where I make one final push to get others on board with my irrational hatred of things that don't matter:

So there you have it, James Cameron and Weezer. If it was released after 1996, I want nothing to do with it. I don't trust you. And it's not even that you could ever regain my trust back, because I just don't want anything to do with you. Titanic may or may not be the equivalent of Maldroit, Make Believe or "The Red Album." I wouldn't know because I refuse to let myself be disappointed by either of you ever again.

You could make movies and music forever, as I'm sure you will. But I won't be buying it, and neither will the intelligent, socially-conscious, introspective, and attractive readers of this blog.

One final note, my favorite comparison of Weezer and Cameron was the fact that there are three "Terminators", and three "Self Titled" albums. This seemed perfectly symmetrical and interesting to me, but I couldn't figure out how to fit it in. Thus, this post script.

Friday, February 26, 2010

facing fears

it's been a big week for me.

for the first time in approximately 5 years, i went to the doctor.

if it wasn't for Teach for America making me go to the doctor for a physical and TB test, i would not have gone. my reason for not going to the doctor is two-fold: (1) it's a hassle and i don't like scheduling and attending appointments - it's too constraining and (2) my body takes care of itself.

as i sit here on the couch, suffering from a virus that is somewhere between bronchitis and pneumonia, i regret my decision not to report this illness to the physician that attended to me.

the inability to turn my neck more than 15 degrees combined with the lower back pain that sends shooting pain throughout my body every time i move is also a symptom i should have reported.

why didn't i tell the doctor about these infirmaries? that's a good question, and was the exact question my mother posed to me on the phone the other night. the answer is: i don't know. a sore neck and a runny nose didn't seem worthy of this doctor's time. he was too busy fondling my testicles and taking my pulse.

the trip to the doctor wasn't nearly as terrifying as i imagined it would be, which may lead to appointments with the optometrist and dentist. i haven't visited either of these professionals in the last several years, and according to my mom, this is a big problem (i didn't have the heart to tell her that i only floss once-a-month or so. she would be so disappointed).

a few quick thoughts to send you on your way.

+ set a trap to catch a mouse that has decided to make habitation in our kitchen. when i catch that little rodent, he's going to regret the day that he was born. if the trap doesn't work it might be the perfect time to test out the new shotgun.

+ it appears that the federal government wants me to pay them a considerable amount of money. we made almost exactly the same amount of money last year and everything is the same, but instead of giving me a little cash to spend, the government has decided to come after a lower-middle class social worker and a baker. i blame Obama.

+ the Olympics are all-at-once awesome and terrible. i couldn't care less about speed skating, curling, hockey or figure skating, but find myself watching pretty frequently.

i keep saying this to anyone who will listen: figure skating is the most difficult thing to do in all of sports. hitting a baseball, throwing a touchdown pass, driving a car at high speeds in a circle... all of these are very difficult, but none compare to the level of difficulty found in figure skating. i could devote my life to figure skating for the next decade, and i still wouldn't be able to turn left on ice skates.

+ baseball is coming.

spring training starts next week. opening day is just over a month away.

within the six weeks i expect to: participate in a fantasy baseball draft, attend the Reds Opening Day Parade (with Brian!), pick my annual "dark horse" team, get my baseball gloves and ball out with the hope that someone will play catch with me, and buy enough Big League Chew to fill a swimming pool. i love baseball.

+ watched a MSNBC documentary on Patty Hearst last weekend with my lovely wife. i couldn't pull away from this story. try to imagine what would happen if Paris Hilton was kidnapped and held hostage for 50 days, and then joined her kidnappers and went on a crime spree in the name of some misguided revolution. i can't even begin to imagine what this would look like in today's hypermedia culture. just fascinating.

Stockholm Syndrome is wild stuff.

+ i like that Heidi is writing blogs all the time now. she continues to be the most fascinating and delightful person that i have ever met.

Friday, February 19, 2010

a blog written solely for the purpose of having at least one published in the month of February (completed in less that 25 minutes)

+ Tiger Woods said "sorry" today and i'm not going to talk about it.

i'm not going to talk about it because my computer is a decade old and it can no longer support video content, so i cannot watch the 13.5 minutes that everyone is talking about.

+ i've been on twitter for almost a year now. my account started as a place where my friends and i could post fictitious statements to make fun of each other. for the month or so that we all actually followed through with this intent, it was a blast.

then we got bored, lazy and tired of making fun of the same things about one another's personality over and over again.

twitter is strange. at multiple times during the day i will read several posts by people about what they are doing. it's fascinating to have access to the lives and thoughts of people i will never meet.

through twitter i get notified of interesting articles to read and when podcasts of Bill Simmons go up online. that's helpful.

the rest of twitter is near-obnoxious reminders that a lot of other people are doing a lot of stuff that i am not.

*Bill Simmons is watching a dramatic conclusion to a thrilling basketball game.

*a great show is taking place in Chicago tonight.

*Chad OchoCinco is inviting everybody and their grandmother to eat with him at a cafe in Miami.

*Amazon has amazing deals on DVDs that i still cannot afford.

*a friend is drinking a rare beer and really enjoying it.

*check out this hilarious Youtube clip (again, i can't because of my geriatric computer).


you get the point. why do i subject myself to this? i don't know. this is the part of the blog where i am supposed to come to some profound conclusion or make a witty comment.

i got nothing.

+ i was reading Neitzche, "Beyond Good and Evil," the other day, and he theorizes that there are two types of morality that govern all people: slave and master.

Neitzche talked about people like the Christians, who have swam against the master morality and assumed a slave morality identity. instead of entitlement and power, they (we) subject themselves to everyone else and serve the greater good, rather than grabbing whatever power, pleasure and capital they can.

master morality types take whatever they can and think of themselves exclusively.

according to the commentary i have heard/read about Tiger Woods, up to this point he has operated under a master morality mindset, but has committed to pursing the slave morality lifestyle from this point forward.

(i included the last section only to inform the reader that i engaged in a philosophical and scholarly exercise recently. in fact, the only reason this blog will be posted is to notify you of this fact. you don't care, but i care that you know this. i don't know why.)

+ Heidi and i spent last weekend in Chicago. it was awesome. i had to take a stupid test for teaching, but once that was concluded, we embarked upon a journey of excessive calorie consumption with a few of our closest friends.

i will be back in Chicago in exactly one month, sans Heidi. during this trip, i will be interviewed by several Chicago Public Schools principals who will determine whether i am worthy to be hired to teach their kids how to read and write. from what i hear, it is a "speed-dating" type of set up. my greatest hope is that i land at whatever school is closest to my friend Kevin, so we can move in next door to him. once this happens, we will have dinner parties and grill outs, and Kevin and i will stand in his garage and drink Budweiser as we stare at his motorcycle and talk about master and slave cylinders.

talking about master and slave cylinders will bring me even greater pride than talking about master and slave moralities, because i am of the mindset that manliness is defined by physical brawn and manual prowess, not intelligence and sophistication.

and eating large quantities of food. that's definitive as well. fortunately, i have an excellent wife who delights in my exercise of consumption. thanks, dear.

+ if i ever get cancer, i want to handle it just like Matt Chandler, pastor of Village Church, in Dallas, TX.

+ with at least a half-a-foot of snow still on the ground, let me be the 4 millionth person to state that i am ready for Spring.

hey Winter - it's enough already.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Pain and Suffering: Martin Luther King Jr vs. Pat Robertson

Pat Robertson is an asshole.

I realize this isn’t a shock to anybody.

As I’m sure everyone knows, Pat made the following comment, following the horrendous and devastating earthquake in Haiti last week:

"Something happened a long time ago in Haiti, and people might not want to talk about it. They were under the heel of the French ... and they got together and swore a pact to the devil. They said, 'We will serve you if you'll get us free from the French.' True story, and the devil said, 'OK, it's a deal.' Ever since, they have been cursed by one thing after another."

According to Robertson, this isn’t the first time that God has gotten pissed at humanity and decided to punish thousands of people for it. Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans in 2005 because some women get abortions:

"I was reading a book that was very interesting about what God has to say in the Old Testament about those who shed innocent blood… Have we found we are unable somehow to defend ourselves against some of the attacks that are coming against us, either by terrorists or now by natural disaster? Could they be connected?"

And God is limited to using natural disasters to punish people for poor moral behavior. Following 9/11, he and Jerry Falwell sat around on the “700 Club,” and pontificated on how God allowed the attacks because of moral decay - specifically the ACLU, abortionists, feminists and gays.

Pissed off yet? Wait, there’s more

In 2006, Robertson suggested Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon was given a debilitating stroke because he was trying to make peace with the Palestinians and give them land. "He was dividing God's land and I would say woe unto any Prime Minister of Israel who takes a similar course…God says 'this land belongs to me. You'd better leave it alone.'"

Back in 1992, Pat wrote in a fundraising letter, "The feminist agenda is not about equal rights for women. It is about a socialist, anti-family political movement that encourages women to leave their husbands, kill their children, practice witchcraft, destroy capitalism and become lesbians.”

Pat Robertson’s God is a very little, vindictive, and unmerciful God who acts like a jilted lover when she finds that her man is cheating on her with another.

But instead of hiring Richard Greico and the people at Cheaters, God possesses more power and instead of just catching a dirty adulterer in the act, He will send fireballs from heaven to destroy sinners who do some sins, which according to Robertson, are worse than others.

I would carry an umbrella, Mr. Robertson, because if God is anything like what you think he is, the next round of fireballs should be headed straight for you.

Why do I care what Pat Robertson has to say about natural disasters and terrorist attacks? Robertson is not that different from many uninformed “Christians,” he just has a platform that forces us all to cringe every time the fool opens his mouth.

If God is a general manager, and Christians are his baseball team, it’s time to make a trade. Or just cut him from the roster all together. We don’t want him on our team anymore.

I have a problem with Pat Robertson, and anybody else, who confuse and ignore what the Bible has to say about evil and suffering.

I’m not saying it’s easy. It isn’t. The Bible isn’t written as a “How To” book that answers every one of our questions with a tidy diagram like a car maintenance manual. If it were that easy, we would all agree and that would be the end of it.

Robertson has an opinion, and I suppose he is entitled to that opinion, as we all are, but he is wrong.

Why would Jesus, the Son of God, tell the crowd that gathered to hear him teach, "You have heard that it was said, 'You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same?” – Matthew 5:43-47

Did you catch that? Jesus says that the rain falls on “good” people and “bad” people alike. Sinners and saints bask in the sun and get swept away in tsunamis just the same.

Am I supposed to believe that there is not a righteous man or woman on the island of Haiti? Will we not find any Christians’ names in the shrines and memorials built at the former site of The World Trade Center?

Three days before the 7.0 quake in Haiti, there was a 6.5 one in my hometown of Humboldt County. My mom was in the mall with a friend, who sustained a minor scratch on her arm when a ceiling tile fell to the floor.

Because my parents, and several other close friends live in Humboldt County, and are moral, upstanding, “good,” Christian men and women, should I then conclude that they were spared massive destruction because they read their Bible and say their prayers each night?

Did the devil make poor building codes and a lack of quality building materials in Haiti? Was that part of “the pact”?

Last time I checked, Karma isn’t a concept found in The Bible.

Karma is a clean system of belief: Do good and be rewarded. Do bad and be punished. It makes sense and it feels good to know “where you stand.”

But bad stuff happens to good people and vice versa. You can’t reduce the events of the universe to a simple formula. Why would you even try?

I don’t know if Robertson believes in Karma. I do know that he doesn’t believe in the sovereignty of God. The two are irreconcilable.

Over and over again in The Bible, and in the lives of His people are stories of rain.

Perhaps you’ve heard the story of Jesus Christ. You know, the one where he was murdered by lawless men, even though he never committed a crime.

That’s not fair.

My father-in-law told me tonight that the world is a broken place. I think he’s right.

He and I talked about darkness, futility, sin, and a fracture in shalom (peace).

Bad stuff happens because we live in a broken world. Earthquakes are literally the groaning of an earth that has been “subjected to futility” (Romans 8).

And don’t give the devil credit for that futility, because Romans 8 goes on to say that creation was subjected to futility, “In hope.”

In hope. Imagine that.

Pat Robertson is a victim of hate. Not a hate committed against him, but a hate that corrupts his heart.

Hate will do that to a person. Martin Luther King Jr. knew it well when he said,

“Like an unchecked cancer, hate corrodes the personality and eats away its vital unity. Hate destroys a man's sense of values and his objectivity. It causes him to describe the beautiful as ugly and the ugly as beautiful, and to confuse the true with the false, and the false with the true.”

I don’t expect that every reader of this blog will agree with me.

If God knows all things, is in control of all things, and yet allows evil and suffering to continue… This is a hard pill to swallow. It doesn't make clean and perfect sense, so don't expect it to.

We have to believe, like King, that there is a purpose in the pain:

“The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.”

Every earthquake in Haiti, hurricane in New Orleans or Bali, and every brain tumor and tragic car accident is a time of challenge and controversy for you and I.

How will you respond? How do I respond?

King went on to say that, “My personal trials have also taught me the value of unmerited suffering. As my sufferings mounted I soon realized that there were two ways that I could respond to my situation: either to react with bitterness or seek to transform the suffering into a creative force. I decided to follow the latter course. Recognizing the necessity for suffering I have tried to make of it virtue. If only to save myself from bitterness, I have attempted to see my personal ordeals as an opportunity to transform myself and heal the people involved in the tragic situation, which now obtains. I have lived these last few years with the conviction that unearned suffering is redemptive.”

Don’t be like Pat Robertson.

And the next time you read some asinine comment from him, or someone like him, don’t just call him an idiot and move on.

Every story of pain and suffering - your own, or that of someone else, is an opportunity of reflection, renewal, and redemption.

Be transformed by trials. Perhaps that is their purpose.

P.S. If this post made you feel down in the dumps, go back and read the previous one about Karate Kid. That should cheer you up for a minute.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Text-a-Thon: Karate Kid

The following is a real conversation between two real men that took place entirely via text message. It took place on Saturday morning. This is a precise and exact word-for-word account of what happened:

Justin: Karate kid on vh1! Doing 222 for my point total this weekend

(Kevin and I have been betting NFL point spreads all season long. For the playoffs, since there are fewer games in which we could disagree on, we each pick a ‘total points scored for the whole weekend’ number as a tie-breaker, if it comes to that.)

Kevin: I literally got up to text you about karate kid. Wow. One of the top five re-watchable movies eve. I’m doing 191. 222 is so high.

(While Kevin is right, 222 is a lot of points to be scored in four games, I would like to point out, that at this point in the season, he owes me $35, because I beat him almost every week. He doesn’t have much room to talk.)

Justin: I got burned last week, so I am overcompensating.

Kevin: Daniel could never get a girl like Elisabeth Shue. Let’s be honest now.

Justin: That’s where you’re wrong. She was tired of those so-cal boys who just wanted her for her body. Daniel treated her right.

Kevin: Hahaha. Alli’s a grown up girl. Matured and developed. I’d be surprised if Daniel even has hair on his balls.

Justin: That was hilarious. Best of the day. You won’t top it so don’t try.

Kevin: I love discussing movies from 1984

Justin: Nothing beats watching this shit. Its preserved forever in history as a capsule of a wonderful time.

I already work around the clock!!

Justin: “I don’t know what she sees in him.” “she must be into fungus.”

(This was dialogue between two of Alli’s friends, in reference to how she could possibly be into Daniel. It really is the greatest mystery of the whole movie. There is not an explanation that makes sense. Absolutely remarkable.)

Kevin: I have a 1984 crush on her. Daniel’s such a wuss.

How could you not? What the hell was Daniel thinking there? Poor decision making skills.

Kevin: The water thing? He can’t outrun those guys. They’re prime physical specimens.

Justin: Whose jersey is that he is wearing?

Kevin: Antonio Gates. Duh…

(This is funny because Antonio Gates is the current tight end for the San Diego Chargers who wears number 84, and Daniel is wearing a #84 San Diego Chargers jersey, but it’s 1984. good job by Kevin here.)

Justin: if Johnny lands that kick, Daniel is dead and this whole movie takes a dramatic turn.

Kevin: Hahaha! I think I need to save this conversation.

Justin: I know. I am laughing hysterically to myself this whole time. well done.

(At this point, I started the process of recording the conversation on the computer before my cell phone required me to erase the text messages.)

Kevin: If Daniel dies, do alli and mr. Miyagi join forces, train together, and secretly pick off each cobra kai member one by one in a murderous rampage.

Justin: Isn’t that the plot of ‘the next karate kid?’

Kevin: With hillary swank! Before she was a boy. Or was she a boy in that movie? Does hillary swank even have genitals?

Justin: “you got some nerve old man… I like that”

Kevin: Ahh the scene where we get to see miyagi’s house and wonder how the hell he affords such a posh pad.

Justin: How long do you think you would have played miyagi’s game of free manual labor? I feel like you wouldn’t even make it til lunch

You saying you would’ve? I probably would’ve stuck with it for awhile. He’s a sage. I recognize that.

Justin: I would have never started because I listened to my mother when she said, don’t talk to strangers.

Kevin: Well daniel’s mother doesn’t seem too concerned with his safety. Or that he’s repeatedly getting his ass kicked. All she’s concerned with is getting that hunk of shit car started. Bad parenting.

Justin: We should get sweet bandanas and wear them when I move up there.

Kevin: Ralph maccio was 23 years old when the movie was made. That’s crazy.

Justin: And yet youre (my bad – it’s your, not you’re) comment about hair on his balls probably still applies

Kevin: more than likely.

that guy on the mcdonalds commercial kills me. ‘talk to me.’

(The commercial I am referring to is the one where the guy tells everybody who tries to have a conversation with him, “Not until I’ve had my coffee.” Even when the employee at the restaurant he goes to attempts to take his order, he rudely responds, “Not until I’ve had my coffee.” Once he finds out what she has to offer (coffee), he changes his tune and says, “Talk to me,” with a smirk on his face that makes me want to slap him with a dead salmon.)

(And don’t get me started on the Big Mac snack wrap.)

(Or Luke Wilson on the AT&T commercials every 2.5 minutes.)

Kevin: I feel like I should be starting my day. The motivation’s just not there.

Justin: what would Daniel son do?

Kevin: get in a bike wreck.

Justin: Daniel’s abnormally small nipples disturb me.

Kevin: Haha. Short shorts alli’s too hot.

Is miyagi drunk in that boat scene? Or just jovial?

Kevin: Jovial. The awkward drunk scene is coming up.

Kevin: Johnny’s hair is amazing.

I was just texting you the same thing! Get out of my head!

(Kevin and I have been accused of sharing the same brain on several occasions. It’s not true, we actually are very different, but it’s creepy how many times we are thinking the same exact thing.)

I would like to think that I would not have joined in the laughter at Daniel’s spaghetti incident, but most likely I would.

Kevin: You’re a bad person. How he got it all over him, head to toe, is beyond me. It’s everywhere. A full white outfit may have been a bad choice.

Justin: You have to dress in anticipation of something like that happening. Again, poor decision making shown by larusso

Kevin: his poor decision making fuels this movie. What a fuckup.

Justin: You can’t change your dirty clothes before making a visit to your mentor? Get it together, dan

How would miyagi feel about Daniel rifling through all his stuff? What an asshole.

Why is the crane kick indefensible if done right? Seems pretty silly.

great montage

Justin: Of course he picks the yellow car. But in all seriousness, what a sweet present from miyagi.

Kevin: Imdb tole me that Ralph maccio said, ‘forever my sensei’ at at morita’s funeral. Touching.

(Agreed. Very touching.)

Justin: you want me to drive?” “hey it’s the 80s, why not?”

Kevin: best line of the whole movie.

Justin: You’re the best, around!

(…Nothing’s gonna ever keep you down… What a great song.)

Kevin: God, this sequence is fantastic. Best movie montage ever?

Justin: can’t think of anything better. Rollerblade race down devil’s backbone in airborne? Nah.

Kevin: I’ve never even seen that movie. I suck.

Justin: And you call yourself a westsider. I’m more Westside than you.

(Some clarification for my non-Cincinnati audience: Devil’s Backbone is the name of the street that the final race scene is set on in the fantastic movie, Airborne. Airborne is set in Cincinnati. I used to watch this movie all the time when I lived in California, and think that Cincinnati seemed like a terrible place, but that’s another story. In the movie, Devil’s Backbone is portrayed as some strange hill in the middle of Downtown, but in reality it is the name of a road on the West Side of Cincinnati. This is important. In Cincinnati, which side of the City you grew up on is of the utmost importance. People from the East Side of town look down on the West Side and accuse them of being trashy. West Siders think the East Siders are snobs and way too full of themselves. I could write a whole blog about how fascinating this aversion to the opposite side of town is.

The point of my comment to Kevin, “I’m more Westside than you,” is an easy attack on his pride. I work on the West Side, and was only originally accepted into Kevin’s group of friends (a bunch of West Siders) because I, A) liked Seinfeld, and B) knew all about the streets, stores, restaurants, and people of the West Side. This gives my friends a great deal of pride. It’s like I have been adopted in as a West-Sider, without having been born and grown up there.

I thought that Kevin would be furious by my questioning of his “West Side-ness” but the movie was reaching climax too fast and he did not respond.)

Justin: Did the cobra kai sensei believe Johnny could not take Daniel? Or is he just ruthlessly evil?

Kevin: so dramatic when he claps his hands together. The music starts, the intensity rises.

Kevin: the line sweep the leg, Johnny, is never actually in the movie.

Justin: most intense moment in cinematic history

Kevin: the crane kick is illegal.

Justin: “you’re alright, larusso.” That would never happen.

Kevin: Never happen.

Kevin: Well, Justin. We successfully watched the entire thing. You better believe this conversation is going online.

Justin: I already started the transcription. It will be posted as a blog by the end of the day.

Kevin: Really? Well, I’m posting on mine too. Probably with a different intro.

(And there you have it.)