Sunday, December 27, 2009

D is for Driving

This Christmas season, I’m starting to feel like all I do is drive from one place to another. My dreams are cluttered with cold road. Oh, the road. A smorgasbord of all of us: The hurried, the belligerent, the distracted, the driven (no pun intended), the lost, and the cops. We all use the same black paths to get from here to there. Some of us are adequate drivers, and some of us can’t even spell adequate. (Whoops, thank you spell check)

Ever notice that one guy? You know, that guy who turns into your lane, right in front of you? Right when he is already in your lane, having just—as the kids would say it—cut you off, he does this . . . he turns on his blinker. After he already turned! Are you kidding me!? I often wonder: Does this guy only do this on the road? Or does he walk into his friend’s houses uninvited, then pull his phone out of his pocket, give his hosts a call and say, “Hey, I’m coming over”? Um, thanks for the heads up, buddy.

I’m not a perfect driver. I don’t do what the buffoon in the previous paragraph does, but I’m not perfect. I, just like you, am a bit of a hypocrite on the road. I’m always quick to hold transportative judgment, unless I am the one in need of some mercy. “Come on man, I’m in a hurry.” I can be in the best mood possible, ready to give the shirt off my back to a perfect stranger, but if you drive in a way contrary to my expectations, I will use that shirt to whip you locker-room-style in the face. Why?

Speaking of locker rooms, when you strip everything down, we’re all just trying to get somewhere (Wow, brilliant thought, right?). But in all seriousness, most of us aren’t on the road because we love commuting. It’s a necessary evil. With that in mind, I really wish we all showed just a smidgen more compassion, and a whole serving more of safety on the road. Anyone who has lost loved ones to auto accidents knows that every time we step behind the wheel we’re putting our lives in the hands of machinery, hand-eye coordination, and a bunch of strangers. It’s a terrifying thought.

When my daughter was born, I’ll never forget the ride home from the hospital. Due to the circumstances, we had a 45 minute drive home. Well, it would have been 45 minutes if I wasn’t driving 10 MPH below the speed limit (at least) the whole way. I knew there were far too many drivers on the road like me. A couple days before that, I held my daughter for the first time, and I distinctly remember thinking, “Don’t drop her, you idiot.” She was so fragile! Just like that she was born. And I was terrified that, just like that, she’d be gone again.

I take the same route home from work every day. Included in the drive, I pass the Larkin Cemetery. Residing in that cemetery I have three cousins, two of which passed away in a car crash in 1988. They were hit by a negligent driver and careened off the road. I was five when they were killed, but I will never forget that day. Sadly, I don’t actually remember my cousins, but I remember that day. From time to time I take a quick detour to say hello to my cousin’s gravesites.

It’s amazing how connected I feel to my cousins every time I visit their resting place. Like I said, I don’t actually remember them, but I feel that connection. That connection is admittedly amplified by our blood relation, but I really don’t think it’s too different from the feelings I would have for any other casualties of the road . . . assuming I know them. All it takes is a name and a face (of the victim and their loved ones). You’re not going to believe this, but every person you see on the road has both a name and a face. Well, at least I’m assuming they do . . .

I’m writing this blog on Christmas day. As I often do this time of year, I am thinking about my family right now. Family is a pretty loose term. For me, growing up it meant the six people who lived in my house and made me tuck in my shirt for our family photo. Since then, the number of people in those photos has grown (and I don’t have to tuck in my shirt anymore . . . but I digress). The number of my family exponentially grows more whenever I do my best to pay attention to what seems to be a pervasive Christmas message: All people are a part of the human family. All people deserve compassion.

I submit that the best place to give compassion on a consistent basis is at home. The second best place is on the road; road is the great connector from one home to another. If you’re reading this and still have a long drive ahead of you this holiday season, please drive safe. Practice some compassion on the road, think of your family, and for heaven’s sake, turn your blinker on before you turn.

Happy Christmas! I would have said all this earlier, but I was typing 10 MPH slower than usual. Just to be safe.


Today's recommendation: If you like Jack Johnson, check out his new live concert film "Jack Johnson: En Concert." It was directed by Emmett Malloy, and I love his style. There is also a CD of the same title. Trust me, if a lot more people listened to JJ, there'd be a lot less road rage. Plus, all profits from both the DVD and the CD (not to mention the tour the music came from) are being donated to charities who support the environment, art, and music education. Now that's the Christmas spirit!

Monday, December 21, 2009

C is for "C" Grade Comedy

Navajo Way
White man, rifle

Does that mean anything to you? It does to me. I once laughed so hard after seeing it written on my AP English whiteboard that I had to go to the bathroom in order to avoid an embarrassing situation. Okay, not really, but I did laugh hysterically.

You see, some friends of mine used what was a spare whiteboard for our own games and jokes. We would rank the best NES games of all time (I voted for Tecmo Super Bowl, my favorite), give pretend advice and historical lessons, write jokes, and make drawings of all kinds of nonsense, all the while encouraging other periods to give us feedback. It was basically a prehistoric blog. Anyway, my friend Tyler (who is also known as Meatloaf, T-Bone, Goo, and Pizzazz), a person who has always had a unique sense of humor, is the author of the “Navajo Way.” What the point of Navajo Way is I can’t say I exactly know. But all I will ever know is that, to me, it was comic genius.

My point? Comedy is in the eye of the beholder. Excluding Tyler Perry, incessantly crude comics, and people who just flail their arms and make explosion noises, all comedy is subjective. In other words, excluding those three (which are ineligible of being considered funny), what makes something (or someone) funny is simply their ability to make others laugh. Sure, there is better comedy than others (for example, anybody who isn’t named Tyler Perry is better than Tyler Perry), but my friend Meatloaf’s joke affected me as well as any Seinfeld or Bill Murray joke ever has, as inexplicably odd as I'm sure that sounds.

So, while this entry is titled “‘C’ Grade Comedy,” I’m holding on to the hope that one of the below jokes will make you laugh anyway. Sure, this is a compilation of ten random jokes I deemed not good enough to use in my standup act, but I still like them. Depending on what you think of Navajo Way, the fact that I still like these jokes may not compel you to read them. I don’t know. But read them anyway. One last thing. I’ve changed my mind: People who flail their arms and make explosion noises are kind of funny.

In no particular order . . .

* I don’t drink alcohol.
In fact, I’ve never once even tried alcohol.
Sometimes people tell me that’s crazy.
I’ll tell you what’s crazy: Shooting the president because you think it will impress Jodie Foster—that’s crazy.

* Ever notice those “Mean People Suck” bumper stickers?
They’re nice and all, but I think mean people should counter them with
“Whiny people put ‘Mean People Suck’ bumper stickers on their car” bumper stickers.
And then whiny people could counter with “Insecure mean people put ‘Whiny people put ‘Mean People Suck’ bumper stickers on their car” bumper stickers on their car.
You know what, never mind. Bumper stickers are stupid.

* People are inherently very impressed by others who can get themselves out of a tight spot.
Why else would we celebrate birthdays?

* I’m a conspiracy theorist—but with movies.
For example, have you seen “The Fugitive”?
I think Harrison Ford DID kill his wife.

* I feel bad for people who have common names.
If you’re name is Mike Smith, you meet people with your exact name like three times a week.
I think if I met somebody else with the name of Bryson Kearl, I would demand that he change his name.
He of course wouldn’t—it’s a great name.
I wonder if he would be willing to fight for the name. Maybe we could arm wrestle for it, or joust.
I think if we arm wrestle, I would win, but if we jousted, I’d give him the upper hand.
Is he smarter than me? What if he challenges to me to a battle of wits?
Man, I really hope we arm wrestle.

* You know, I used to love Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers,
But then Candace broke up with me.
And I realized how much it hurts,
And I just can’t support that type of thing.

* What’s the point of the letter “C”? It’s completely unnecessary.
The letters “S” and “K” already cover ss and kk sounds.
I propose we take “C” out of the alphabet.
I also think we should take the number six out of the numeric system.
Completely unnecessary … and satanic.

* My wife told me you can’t believe everything you see on TV.
She’s always underestimating me.

*I love lists. I think they’re great.
I actually made a list of my favorite lists.
#1: Things I imagine Ron Weasley would do if he wasn’t a wizard list
#2: People least likely to be the next James Bond list
#3: Favorite lists list
#4: Races of people who are clearly better at sports than white people list
#5: Different heights that Shaquille O’Neal was growing up list

* I bet a pyromaniac would be really conflicted if he watched a fireman put out a fire at his own house . . .
And the fireman was his wife . . .
And she was pregnant . . .
With somebody else’s baby . . .


Today's recommendation: Check out the comedian Steven Wright. He is my all-time favorite stand-upper (not a word), and he never resorts to "C" grade comedy. The idea of anyone not loving him is poppycock (a real word).

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

B is for "The Beatles"

The legendary Tom Petty (The famous musician Tom Petty, not the Tom Petty I went to school with who was a pothead. Well, I’m guessing both Tom Petty’s have had their fair share of the herb, but that’s not the point . . .) recently said that one amazing thing about music is “the way it enters people’s worlds to become part of the soundtrack to their lives.” One indelible piece of the western world’s soundtrack for the past forty years is an album called “The Beatles,” most commonly referred to as simply the "White Album.”

The White Album is in many ways the defining album of the greatest band of all time. As a lifetime Beatles fanatic, I have always been bothered by one fact: It’s too long. The most famous double album of all time never should have been. In fact, their producer George Martin begged the band multiple times to cut the album in half, but he never won the debate.

Before I go another word further, let’s have a quick pop quiz. Have you listened to the White Album? If you just answered “no,” go listen to the album. Really, stop reading. No, I’m serious, go find the album. I’m waiting. . . . What? You’re still here? Okay, you can stay, but come on! You really should have listened to the album by now. While I’m here on my soapbox, my favorite Beatles album is “Rubber Soul.” Just so you know.

The fact that the White Album became a double album is in my opinion the biggest sign that the band was headed for a breakup. It is in many ways indulgent, scattered, and excessive (or as critics call it, “eclectic”). The band was no longer one unit, but four masterful musicians seemingly stuck in a marriage to appease the kids (their fans). It’s almost as if none of the bandmates dared veto each other’s songs, so they said, “Ah, heck with it, let’s keep them all.” Except (as you’ll see in a bit) they still managed to leave out some of the best songs.

Ever done a group project in school with people you only kind of know? Remember how you accepted someone else’s bad idea because you didn’t know them all that well, you didn’t want to hurt their feelings, and besides, maybe a ‘B’ grade isn’t that bad? Well, that’s fine and all with a bunch of semi-strangers, but they were THE BEATLES. They shared the same room in a yellow submarine for an entire decade. My point? The White Album is amazing, but it is absolutely flawed. Having said that, somehow those flaws have made the album that much more endearing (This is one point where the critics are actually right. Stupid critics.). But still, it’s too long.

Therefore, I have condensed the album to one record (or disc, since I did it on my iTunes). Below is the list. Keep in mind that I am not trying to say these songs are the best, and my personal preferences are obviously displayed, but it is what it is.

One last thing. There are three songs written during the same period that this album was put together that didn’t make the album. Those songs? “Revolution” (The better version:, “Hey Jude,” and “The Long and Winding Road.” Wow. They included “Piggies” and left out these songs? Dumbfounding. Anyway, pretend you never heard the album (Some of you won’t even have to do that. Unbelievable.), and pretend the three songs above weren’t left out. Now look over the following condensed list and answer one question: Is this is the undisputed greatest album of all-time? My answer to this question is found in the following deep thought from Jack Handy. “What makes a perfect stranger dive headfirst into a freezing cold river to save a baby made of solid gold? Maybe we’ll never know.”

1) Back In The U.S.S.R.
2) Mother Nature’s Son
3) Birthday
4) Everybody’s Got Something To Hide Except For Me And My Monkey
5) Blackbird
6) I’m So Tired
7) The Continuing Story Of Bungalow Bill
8) Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da
9) While My Guitar Gently Weeps
10) Revolution
11) Happiness Is A Warm Gun
12) Hey Jude
13) Why Don’t We Do It In The Road?
14) I Will
15) The Long And Winding Road

Today’s recommendation: White Album. My version.

Monday, December 14, 2009

A is for Attempt

I'll never forget the first time I watched “Saving Private Ryan.” I was 16 years old, and up until that point, my images of “real war” were as realistic as the movie “Beauty and the Beast.” My mind was absolutely blown when in the first scene the soldiers stormed the beaches on D-Day and seemingly got obliterated by the German forces. Very “real” images of men getting their brains blown to smithereens, and innards being exposed regularly left my jaw dropped for at least half an hour. My world was never the same.

There's a line in "Saving Private Ryan" where Tom Hanks' character says that looking for Private Ryan is “like finding a needle in a stack of needles” (If you’re unaware of the plot of the movie, they try to find and send home a soldier named James Ryan). I always thought it was an interesting line. They weren’t just looking for a soldier in an army of people (a needle in a haystack). They were looking for a soldier in military garb among thousands of soldiers in military garb. (Am I the first person to say garb twice in one sentence?) It was much harder than finding a needle in a haystack because a needle in a haystack at least stands out. My point? Well, I really hope my blog isn’t just a needle in a stack of needles, and that I actually stand out, as unknown and as obscure as I'm sure I'll inevitably be. I may not get a ton of readers, but I certainly intend to never blend in.

I have zero hope of being a blog that absolutely blows some teenagers mind and forces him to look at the world differently. I don’t have enough pyrotechnics or pretend blood for that. However, I’m a master of subtlety (Just like the devil). I intend to slowly grab your attention until some day you stop and say, “Huh, this blog is okay” (Just like the devil’s blog).

One more thing on D-Day. D-day used to be a military term used to mark any day that a particular mission began. But the enormity and influence of the events resulting from storming the beach in Normandy (June 6, 1944) were so large in scope that the term D-day eventually stood for that one specific incident. The actual mission was called “Operation Overlord.” I never knew this. A similar thing happened to “9-11.” Oddly enough, there isn’t a term for the day Michael Jackson passed away. What would we call that day? W-Day? The “W” of course would stand for “weird.” (“Hey, isn’t he that musician who had like thirty different surgeries to change his appearance, and had little boys sleep with him in a type of fortress?” “Yes, this is the worst day EVER! Let’s all mourn the same way Indians mourned the death of Ghandi!” See, weird.)

Let’s recap. This is my first attempt at my own blog. I will likely talk about sports, music, pop culture, family, politics, and my general view on the world around me. I will likely never be popular, but I will never be a needle in a stack of needles. I will follow an alphabetical order (You know, A-Z) of topics until I (as they say) find my voice. But since “V” (for voice) is like 20 letters away, buckle up. We’re subtly going for a ride, and if this first entry is a sign to come, we could be going anywhere.
Today's recommendation: "Fantastic Mr. Fox" - I absolutely loved it!