I feel like such a sellout (read the previous post if you’re confused why). But what can I say, I’ll go where the Benjamins are, and Vick’s has brought me some Benjamins. To welcome in the new era, I thought I’d just throw out some random thoughts I have. (Editor’s note: The following is a shortened version of Bryson’s post. The content taken out was far too extreme for both our ownership partners and our proud sponsor Vick’s Vapor Rub)
• I love the show “Survivor.” I hadn’t watched it for ten years up until this season, and I forgot just how addictive the show is. The concept of voting people to leave is brilliant. If only they implemented this idea in the workplace, we’d all be happier. Well, all of us except that lunatic in accounting who we’d all agree to send packing.
• In fact, it is now my goal to either get on “Survivor” or get a close friend of mine to get on the show. While we’re here, I have a strategy to get on the show: Act like a crazy person. Convince the producers that you are genuinely deranged and completely self-oblivious, and you have a decent chance at getting on the show. In my audition tape I think I’ll hunt down my neighbor’s cat, skin it, and sacrifice it to the “Survivor Gods.” Then I’ll claim to have better people skills than Tom Hanks, better athleticism than LeBron James, and better leadership skills than Gandhi. Your telling me the producers don’t want to see that guy on the island? They’ll think I’m reality TV gold.
• The sad truth is that I would stink on Survivor. I would overanalyze everything. I would be paranoid. I would offend everyone there since I won’t have my editor there to censor me. Knowing this, I think I would use my time on the show to become famous. Naturally, the best way to become famous on a reality TV show is to act like a crazy person. I’m not sure what I would do, but it for sure involves screaming at contestants who ask where I’m from, claiming Jeff Probst is my biological father, and carrying around a rotten banana everywhere I go and claiming it’s an immunity idol. Once I’m the established crazy person on the island, people won’t vote me off for a long time (since they’ll know I can’t realistically challenge them to win it all), and I’ll have weeks to win America over with my trademark wit and plump physique. It’s a win-win.
• After rereading that last paragraph, I think I might actually be a crazy person. However, this works since in Survivor the people who are true to themselves have a good chance to win it all. So, I guess I could win Survivor. Hmmm, I wonder what I’ll do with the million dollars I get when I win. All that comes to mind are fancy linens and rare vinyl records ...
• I love Vick’s Vapor Rub. It’s just so good. And useful. Like if you’re sick, and maybe you need some vaporizing action, I can’t think of a better solution than Vick’s Vapor Rub. Vick’s Vapor Rub: Got the rub?
Wednesday, December 15, 2010
(Editors Note: Bryson’s blog has taken on new ownership. And we are pleased to announce that Vick’s Vapor Rub has agreed to be our first corporate sponsor. As part of this new era in the ABC blog, we have asked Bryson to tone down his writing, and we have forbid him from writing any more radical or controversial posts. Furthermore, as the editor of this website, I now have the final say on what is posted. No more midnight “I’m going to throw a grenade at the way you view the world” posts by Bryson. For now on this blog will be designated for Bryson’s light humor and anecdotes. And since Bryson always took too long to figure out which letter comes next, we have ended the alphabetical theme—for now. Sorry, Bryson. You’re welcome, World. Sincerely, Chief Editor B. Rodriguez)
Sunday, December 5, 2010
I know this may be a little late-coming, but just so you know you won. Yep, you won. You got us. The day you crashed your planes into the World Trade Center was obviously a success from your standpoint. You scared the dickens out of us. The WTC, or Ground Zero as we call it now, became a haunting reminder to us that this world we live in is evil and mankind is capable of terrible things. Good job on that. I’m being sarcastic, of course when I say good job, but I gotta’ give credit where credit is due.
You won that battle between thousands of innocent civilians and a plane. This you know. But I’m not sure if you realize that you won the war, too. Did you know that? Well, let’s recap. You wanted us to acknowledge you and your beliefs. Check. You wanted to send us into a frenzy. Check. You wanted to destroy our nation. Check.
Since your pathetic attempt at bravery our nation’s leaders have used your actions as an excuse to slowly take away our liberties one piece at a time. You obviously love oppression, so this has to make you happy. (By the way, those of you who actually flew the planes, how is hell treating you? Can you even feel any form of happiness there? Just curious.) Regardless, you deserve to know that your mission—albeit a despicable one—was accomplished. You wanted us in bondage, and our leaders have saw to it that we are in it.
Our executive branch has taken enough authority upon itself now that there is no longer any semblance of “checks and balances”. All they have to do is claim that they are fighting you guys, and they can do whatever they want. Ever read Lord of the Rings? I assume your answer is no since you suck so bad, and sucky people rarely read it. Anyway, in the books, there is this ring of power that distorts the mind of anyone who possesses it, and makes them do horrible things with their power in the name of good intentions. Well, the embers from 9/11 somehow forged a ring of power that our leaders have been putting on ever since. (While we’re here, I mean no offense when I say you suck. I mean, surely even you can acknowledge that you do.)
(BTW, who are you? Some people say you aren’t virgin seeking radical Muslims from the Middle East at all, but someone more local. There is evidence both ways, but I am curious. If you don’t want to tell me, that’s cool. I’m just a normal American citizen, so I’m obviously not prepared for the truth. . . . And while we’re here, how did you get the buildings to fall so quickly by means never accomplished before in history. After just one hour of the planes resting in a small portion of the gigantic towers, the whole building collapsed in a manner eerily similar to planned demolition. How did you pull that one off? And how did you get the two other planes to completely disintegrate? Did you use some sort of Middle Eastern magic? And if you could use magic, why bother with the planes at all? I’m so confused.)
Since your attacks, the laws of our country have changed so much that anyone who actually believes we live in a free country is as delusional as a member of Al Qaeda.(No offense by that analogy, but seriously, you thought you’d get a bunch of virgins in heaven if you rammed a plane into a building? Yikes.) Not only is the very law of our nation now subverted into some prettied up version of socialism (A big no-no in the old America), but the rest of the world hates us.
No, really, they do. See, what happened, is after you attacked us, we decided somebody had to pay. Sure, we’re Christians, but not when it comes to politics. At least this is what I have gathered from reading the papers. Anyway, so we decided to go into Afghanistan (where we supposed you were), and also Iraq (same reason . . . sort of). Well, it turns out the rest of the world doesn’t like it when we start policing other nations. Something about “their liberties”; I can’t remember the whole story. Anyway, they especially hate it when it turned out our “intelligence” on Iraq was doctored and our reasons for going there were hazy. In fact, our going there got you more recruits than anything else you’ve done. Talk about a backfire.
Speaking of backfire, eventually the Americans caught on to the trickery from our administration. So their answer was change. I don’t want to get into semantics but the “change” they were looking for was merely a political party thing. So, to end the reign of liberty-stealing politicians, they decided to appoint leaders who were even more inclined to take away liberties in name of the "greater good." Whoops! Have you read the book 1984? Wait—sorry, never mind. You wouldn’t understand. Again, no offense.
Today the matter of American civil liberties is virtually irrelevant. It’s a sad story, really (Well, for us it is—not for you, of course). The hijacked planes of 9/11 now symbolize America itself. The course once set has been derailed, our rights once held with vigor and reverence have been stolen through treachery, and while some passengers are trying desperately to right the ship, their efforts are thwarted by the men with more weaponry (and more camera time). Bet you didn’t see that coming, huh? Well, neither did the rest of us. We now live in a country that is ruled by an all-powerful, all-seeing federal government that is allowed to send us to prison without due process, invade our privacy without cause, tax the living hell out of us, and even touch our children’s privates at airports. All this because of you. Because you won. Touché scum bags, touché.
Grieving American Citizen
Today's recommendation: My new comedy group, Left Field Stand Up, is recording a DVD with Excel Films next month (January 14-15) at the Wagner Theater in downtown Salt Lake. If you're interested, go to http://leftfieldstandup.com. If you go to purchase tickets, use the promo code "Humor U" for half off.
Saturday, September 18, 2010
Like many people a few years separated from pre-adult life, I have regrets. I regret many things I have done in my life. I look at my youth and see good times and great memories, but I also see so many wasted days and missed opportunities. I see so many lessons either not learned or learned too late. But there is one lesson I think I may have learned just in the nick of time: Failure is a good thing.
Follow me here for a minute (or ten). I want to briefly tell a story of my greatest failure. And I want to explain to you how it was also one of the best things I ever did.
In the summer of 2006, after months of planning, my good friend and I hastily set out to open a pizza restaurant. We were called Wooden House Pizza, and we specialized in wood-fired pizza. After hastily finding a location, hastily procuring enough funds to start up the company, hastily tearing the building apart and hastily building it again from scratch, we made our very own pizza restaurant. It took months of sleepless nights to prepare for, but by September we were ready for our grand opening.
By offering 25 cents per slice (with a limit of two slices) and providing free music (from performers like Joshua James and Kid Theodore), we were able to get roughly two thousand people to come to our grand opening. People lined up for what seemed like miles to eat our pizza and enjoy our digs. We were the talk of the town, the cock of the walk. And I distinctly remember thinking, “I’ve made it.”
But when the dust of the grand opening settled, and we faced the realities of sustaining a restaurant, all of our hastilies caught up with us. By Thanksgiving the company was on life support, and by Christmas we were dead. The hastily put together pizza place was hastily put to bed. End of story. I was left broke, humbled, tired, and depressed.
It was an epic failure.
I had to borrow money from my parents to pay my bills, and I was literally eating little to none (especially once the pizza ran out). And I distinctly remember thinking, “I’ve made it . . . to hell.”
I wasted my youth with what I’ll call a failure phobia. Growing up, if there were two options—one easy and one hard—I always chose the easier path. Even if it meant spending most of my days bored and unsatisfied. I just didn’t want to deal with failure. When I finally went for it—as they say—my phobias were realized. I tried to do something special and I failed miserably. And the side of me from my youth that feared failure so much said something to the effect of, “I told you so.”
Sad, but true.
Well, a little after the pizza place died, I got an email from Square Magazine. They had apparently been planning a piece on Wooden House Pizza and our live music shows. Since the piece was now useless, they were emailing me to see if I would like a copy of a picture they made of Joshua James performing on our stage before they scrap it. I accepted the artwork, and on a whim I asked if they had any job openings. They said yes, and within a couple weeks after that, I was doing ad sales for them. People scared of failure don't usually take sales jobs. I was on the right track.
After I had been with Square for a few months, I got the itch to write for them. I had always liked writing, but . . . wait for it, wait for it . . . I never really pursued it (surprise, surprise). At first I was met with resistance, but after a couple minor pieces, I was given the green light to become a full-fledged writer for the magazine. I even got heavily photo shopped pictures of myself in the magazine, all of which came across as “funny”. Except everyone else besides me was laughing. But I digress . . . .The point was that my pizza failure humbled me enough to not worry as much about failing to write well. I mean, I had found hell—I might as well try to enjoy it.
Once I started writing frequently, I developed a style (as all writers do). Aside from my trademark poor grammar, I noticed I was always getting urges to drive my writings towards humor. I could occasionally say something useful, but I spent most of my time trying to make the reader laugh. I usually settled for making myself laugh, but regardless, I found the act addictive.
Before I knew it, I was writing material for a stand up act. My early stuff was really, really bad. For example: “I used to wear Polo clothes because I thought it was cool—I don’t even play polo!” Yeah, I was a regular Cosby. Frank Cosby, the idiot cousin of Bill. However, I was writing comedy, and I loved it.
Months later, after a few attempts at performing stand up for my family, I followed another whim. I heard of a stand up group at BYU called Humor U, and I heard that they had an open mic audition. With the urging of a supportive wife, and before it registered in my brain that I might be making a complete fool of myself, I went and tried the open mic thing.
And the weirdest thing happened: I didn’t fail. In fact, people laughed. And they clapped. And I even heard one guy say "he was alright". Before I knew it, I was performing in front of hundreds of people with a group of very talented comedians, and I was realizing a dream I never consciously knew about. And a part of me that I always ignored as a kid said “I told you so.”
I have since performed dozens of times for thousands of people with Humor U and elsewhere. Most recently, I have seen doors open that I never imagined. I am not actually at liberty to discuss details, but in the near future, I will be get opportunities to succeed in ways that are—to me—very fulfilling.
All because I tried. But perhaps more importantly, all because I failed.
The part of me that saw a failed pizza place and said “I told you so”—that same part of me that made all my decisions in my youth—couldn’t have been more wrong.
My epic failure really sucked. But if I hadn’t at least tried to create a successful pizza place, I never would have gotten the email from Square Magazine. And If I never tried the pizza thing, I never would have been brave enough to pursue writing at Square. And if I never pursued writing, I never would have gotten into stand up. And if I never got into stand up, I wouldn’t have the opportunities that are now presenting themselves to me.
I’m not going to pretend to know a ton about life, but I do know that all truly worthwhile things come through hardship. And hardships are synonymous with failure. I regret a lot of things from my youth. But I regret most of all that I didn’t fail a little more. Because for me to have failed a little more, it would have meant that I tried a little more. And even if you disagree with me, and even if this blog post is yet another failure, I am perfectly okay with that.
Friday, July 9, 2010
Deciding what to do with the letter X is like deciding what to do with a morbidly obese person. Your choices are limited because they simply can’t do much. I’ve mentioned in my stand up act before that I am convinced that the only reason X is in the alphabet is because it is kind of cool. And I stand by that assessment. For example, go ahead and cross your arms to make an X. Seriously, do it. See, cool.
Anyway, I also learned in seventh grade algebra that X can mean anything. After failing to decide between x-ray and xylophone, I decided to just pretend X means any unknown variable. In other words, I’m just going to start typing and hope good things come of it.
Here are five things I've learned in recent weeks.
1) I love the World Cup. I do. I could watch World Cup action nonstop for the rest of my life. If you watched the USA/Algeria game or the Ghana/Uruguay game you know that the World Cup can rival anything else in sports. In fact, I’m devastated that it only occurs once every four years. World Cup soccer in HD is nothing short of amazing, and I can’t believe that by the time I get to watch it again my toddler daughter will be in elementary school. Tragic.
2) I’m getting fat. My metabolism has apparently slowed down. Or something. All I know is that I have always been a medium shirt kind of guy. Now, I’m a large shirt kind of guy. It’s a sad (and awkward) day in the changing room when one realizes this; trust me. I didn’t used to have to cup my breasts when I ran down the stairs in order to prevent excessive bounce. Now I do. See, fat.
3) My wife will never love sports. For the first three years of our marriage, I was convinced that if she just watched more sports, she would eventually understand why they are so great. We’ve now completed the full cycle (NBA, NFL, MLB, Summer and Winter Olympics, all four major tournaments in tennis and golf, March Madness, College Football, and the World Cup) and she still doesn’t seem to care. Proof? Well, she told me she doesn’t. Plus, the other day she saw a headline that read “LeBron James and Dwyane Wade to Discuss Free Agency” and she said, “Wow, they’re really going to just discuss the principle of agency?”
4) Monkeys would be the best pets. My daughter recently started to give me big hugs around the neck. They instantly became my favorite thing ever. But in the back of my head, I know she’ll grow old and the perfect hugs will end. Right now she is just the right size to hug me while I hold her in my arms. She will hopefully always hug me, but the perfect size will only last a couple more years, tops. However, if I got a pet monkey (his name would be Charles The Candid), I could teach it to give the neck hug. And since I can get a monkey that won’t grow too big, I won’t ever have to give up the perfect hugs. Or I guess we could have another kid . . . hmmm.
5) Kobe Bryant is the luckiest athlete of all time. He was born the son of an NBA player. Out of high school he demanded he be traded to the Lakers, and got his wish. He played second fiddle to Shaq in three championships and inexplicably gets full credit for them now. He—well, you know—and then everyone collectively agreed to completely forget about it. He continuously acted selfishly on and off the court with his team, went so far as to demand a trade (ahem, all things LeBron never did), for the first time ever didn’t get what he wanted, and then got bailed out when the Lakers inexplicably got Pau Gasol for nothing. He pulled the all time biggest NBA Finals Game 7 choke job, and got an MVP award for it. And then, thanks to LeBron’s decision to have a one-hour special called “The Decision,” he became known as the loyal team player and a class act. If somebody can show me a luckier athlete, I will army crawl up a mountain in nothing but a swimming suit.
Friday, June 11, 2010
When I was a kid, I didn’t believe in soccer. I thought it was a game that we sometimes played at school, and while it was it fun enough, it was just a temporary diversion from the real sports we played.
It wasn’t until years later that I learned the truth. I learned the truth about soccer around the same time that I realized there is a difference between patriotism and xenophobia, America isn’t the center of the universe, the government is filled with crooks, and my television set doesn’t really care about my well-being. It came as quite a blow.
What am I getting at? I’ll be blunt: Americans have been deceived. Not only does soccer exist, and not only is soccer a real sport, it’s THE sport. (Now, I’m not saying it has to be YOUR sport, but it is without question the world’s favorite sport.) Despite the smear campaign against soccer that has been put on by American sports media since forever, soccer is the game that the rest of the world reveres the way Americans revere basketball, football, and baseball . . . combined.
And it’s not just because they’re “all a bunch of stupid foreigners.” Trust me. I used to think that too (By the way, foreigners think our disliking of soccer is proof that we are hillbillies. . . . Oh, the misperceptions). It took me years to clean out of my head the hate ingrained in me by my culture and to accept that soccer is really, really cool. And the World Cup? It is nothing short of the best sports tournament in the world. So, to help all my readers who know little about soccer or the World Cup, I have made a list of ten things to know going into this year’s tournament.
1) Everything I just typed is true. Soccer is cool, and the World Cup is the best sports tournament in the world. Let that sink in for minute. . . . Are you letting it sink in? . . . Okay, let’s move on.
2) Like all sporting events, it’s only fun if you care. There is no better way to care than to realize that to most of the countries involved these games are way more important than the Olympics. For all the reasons we love the Olympics, we should really love the World Cup. These games literally impact international relations (more on that in a bit). And if nothing else, keep in mind that these nations take the results of every game very seriously. Many foreigners don’t call soccer “THE sport,” they call it “everything.” Sad but true.
3) The best (and usually most exciting) team in the world is Brazil. They play soccer the way the Harlem Globetrotters play basketball, and they have won more Cups than anyone. However, this year they are playing a more defensive style, which is making their country irate.
4) If you’re betting on the Cup, it is usually a safe assumption to assume that Brazil and Germany will go far. Since 1950, either (or both) team has been in the final of every World Cup except two. And those two times, one of them took third. This year, Germany doesn’t look as solid, but that hasn’t mattered in the past . . .
5) The best teams to have never won it: Netherlands and Spain. Netherlands is notorious for being super-talented and then underachieving in the tournament (having failed in two finals). Spain is a favorite this year alongside Brazil.
6) Even though England has won it (1966), they act like they are the most cursed team in the world. Their famously over-excitable media goes nuts during the World Cup. While England has a great team this year, they always expect to blow it in the big games. Think city of Cleveland multiplied by ten. Preparing for their opening game against the U.S., the English media has been especially arrogant. Much like they were the last time these two teams played (1950), the Brits are belittling the Americans every chance they get and they expect to beat us easily. By the way, the U.S. won that game 60 years ago.
7) America’s soccer program is on the rise, but we aren’t there yet. Remember how Butler got to the National Championship game this year during March Madness? Before the tournament, it wouldn’t have been inconceivable for them to go there. But do you know anyone who actually put them there on their brackets? Me neither. US Soccer is the Butler of the World Cup. They could, but they probably won’t. U.S. players to watch: Landon Donovan, Clint Dempsey, Tim Howard, Oguchi Onyewu, Jozy Altidore, and Michael Bradley. Possible surprises: Jose Torres, Herculez Gomez, Edson Buddle, and Robbie Findley. (By the way, my favorite American player is Clint Dempsey. Check him out below.)
8) The World Cup is always controversial. There have been multiple incidents involving “shady” refereeing. Too many to detail in this blog, but just know that many teams have had good reason to feel cheated—because they were cheated! Also, there was the time Maradona used to his hand (um, that’s illegal in soccer) to score the winning goal. There was the time Germany lost on purpose to screw over Algeria. Then there was the time a Kuwaiti official stormed the field and demanded a French goal be overturned (and remarkably it was). And there was the time Mussolini had the Italian players stand and hold the fascist solute until the French home crowd stopped booing them. Remember, this isn’t just about soccer; for many it is about it’s everything—politics, country, pride, everything.
9) Lionel Messi is a househould name everywhere but in the States. Why? Because he is the world’s best soccer player. This also makes him the most famous athlete in the world right now, believe it or not. Sorry Tiger, LeBron, and Usain. Other stars to make yourself acquainted with: Wayne Rooney (England), Christiano Ronaldo (Portugal), Kaka (Brazil), and almost everyone on Spain’s team.
10) The host nation has advanced out of group play in every World Cup in history. Never before has the streak been in more doubt than in this tournament. South Africa is on a roll right now, but few believe they can advance. Speaking of a team with little hope, let’s discuss North Korea. A country that has kept itself isolated from the entire world (not to mention reason), North Korea come out to play in the World Cup. Because of the nature of the country, nobody really knows what to expect from them. They are in a group that has three other very good teams (including the 1st ranked Brazil team and the 3rd ranked Portugal team), so they probably won’t advance. But you never know. While we’re here, the format of the tournament goes as follows. 8 groups of 4 teams. Everyone in a group plays each other once and the top two go on to a single elimination tournament.
My Prediction: I think England or Spain will win the tournament, and while I expect the U.S. to advance out of group play, they will at most win one more game. And I hope more than anything I am wrong.
Today’s recommendation: Immerse yourself into the World Cup and have some fun this next month. If you want more, here are some things to Google: the significance of the number 10, Argentina’s coach Mardona, and key World Cup injuries.
Thursday, June 10, 2010
I have no idea how this idea of Virginia being for lovers came about. Nor do I think it makes any sense. Regardless, I decided to play a game where I take a spin on the old adage, cutting and pasting 40 different places with their own themes. My biggest goal is that someday a bumper sticker maker will see this post and take some of my ideas. I, of course, will then expect some royalties in return.
Virginia is for lovers.
West Virginia is for loners.
Las Vegas is for seedy people.
North Dakota is for winters.
Madagascar is for children.
Florida is for old people and alligators.
Hollywood is for sale.
Philadelphia is for affectionate siblings.
England is for pale people.
Texas is for big things.
Kenya is for runners.
Columbia is for drug lords.
Nebraska is for passing through.
Maine is for lobsters.
Paris is for buttheads.
Gotham is for villains.
New York is for haters.
Seattle is for nerds.
Alabama is for hillbillies and Reese Witherspoon.
The Internet is for predators.
Ireland is for leprechauns.
Arizona is for orange people.
Canada is for insecure people.
North Korea is for the oppressed.
Provo is for Mormons.
Detroit is for unions.
Georgia is for friendly people.
Hawaii is for men with flower shirts.
China is for workers.
Idaho is for white people.
San Francisco is for the different kind of lovers.
The Shire is for drinkers.
Washington D.C. is for liars.
Polynesia is for eaters.
The Vatican is for popes.
Wisconsin is for the morbidly obese.
Alaska is for men.
Delaware is for real—no really, it exists.
America is for Mexicans.
Tuesday, June 8, 2010
Hello faithful readers,
I am desperately trying to get to ‘W’ by Friday. So, as I prepare for the most important blog I’ve ever written (my World Cup preview), here is something to satiate your funny bone and hopefully make you think. I do stand up with a group called Humor U. This clip is from a set I gave in April.
While we’re here, I would like to formally announce that I will focus my efforts on my novel. Thanks to all of you who gave your two cents. I almost got enough to buy a hamburger.
Today’s Recommendation: Start studying up on the World Cup. If you love sports, there is no reason to not make the most out of the best sports tournament in the world.
Wednesday, June 2, 2010
Since I haven’t decided yet on which book to work on (see “S”), I think I’ll spend some time with my blog. And since we all love lists I decided to make my top 20 albums list. However, after 15 it became kind of a crapshoot; I couldn’t decide which albums to include and which to leave off. So, while the title of this post clearly reads Top 20, this is only a Top 15. Sorry to disappoint.
Rules of the list:
1) This is a favorites list, not a “best of.” If I were stranded on a tropical island (really, who wants to be stuck on a desert island?), these have to be the honest-to-goodness albums I would take with me. While I’d love to include a Miles Davis or a Bob Dylan album on here to make myself sound impressive, I’d be lying.
2) No Best ofs or Greatest Hits allowed (or any compilation album for that matter). Sorry Simon & Garfunkel, Bob Marley, The Clash, and Steel Pulse; know that you’d be on this list otherwise.
3) It has to be a complete album. In other words, if I’m constantly skipping songs in the album, it shouldn’t be on this list.
4) No more than one album per artist. Otherwise, this wouldn’t be nearly as fun.
5) No female artists. (This rule isn’t real, but at least it explains my lack of the opposite sex. Before you call me sexist, remember that Lisa Hannigan does a lot of background vocals for Damien Rice. Also, Natalie Merchant and Dixie Chicks weren’t too far off this list . . . sort of.)
6) Finally, the music must be written by the artist performing the music in the album. Sorry 90% of famous musicians today. Rules are rules.
The Beatles - Rubber Soul
They were out of the teeny-bop, girl screaming days, and not quite immersed in the drugs and psychedelic phase. And the sound is good.
Favorite three songs: “In My Life,” “Girl,” and “I’m Looking Through You”
Radiohead - Pablo Honey
Incredibly impressive and very listenable.
Favorite three songs: “Stop Whispering,” “Anyone Can Play Guitar,” and “Creep (Acoustic Version)”
REM - Automatic for the People
This was my all time favorite when I was like 14 years old, and somehow it still remains a personal favorite.
Favorite three songs: “Drive,” “Nightswimming,” and “Find the River”
Coldplay - Viva la Vida or Death and all His Friends
Coldplay is for some reason one of the most polarizing bands ever. People either love them or hate them. I have to admit I am on the side of love. I feel like those who bash Coldplay are like Apple lovers who bash PCs vehemently. (Really? PCs suck? You had a better idea in the 90’s to revolutionize the home computer? Huh.)
Favorite three songs: “Death and all His Friends,” “Lost?”, and “Viva la Vida”
Tom Petty – Wildflowers
My favorite road trip album.
Favorite three songs: “Crawling Back to You,” “Wildflowers,” and “It’s Good to be King”
Pink Floyd - Wish You Were Here
Great when played in the dark. Creepy, but true.
Favorite three songs: (There are essentially four songs on this album; let’s not point out my least favorite)
Iron & Wine - Our Endless Numbered Days
I had a real hard time deciding between “Shepherd’s Dog” and this one. So I went with the one I fell in love with first. Besides, any album that is almost entirely about death has to be on my all time list. This is also a made up rule.
Favorite three songs: “Naked as we Came,” “Each Coming Night,” and “Sodom, South Georgia”
Wilco - Yankee Hotel Foxtrot
One of only a few on this list that I would seriously consider for all time favorite. (For more info, see “H”)
Favorite three songs: “I am Trying to Break Your Heart,” “Jesus, Etc.,” and “Kamera”
Jack Johnson - Brushfire Fairytales
Simple, yet beautiful music. (By the way, I dig his new album)
Favorite three songs: “Inaudible Melodies,” “Posters,” and “Flake”
The Shins - Chutes Too Narrow
Chalk full of tunes that will get stuck in your head (in a good way).
Favorite three songs: “Gone for Good,” “Pink Bullets,” and “Young Pilgrims”
Counting Crows - August & Everything After
This album answers the question: What would have happened if Da Vinci’s first painting was the Mona Lisa? Apparently, it doesn’t help to start your career with your masterpiece. Regardless of what Counting Crows have become, this album is proof they were once brilliant. This is a classic autumn-time album.
Favorite three songs: “Raining in Baltimore,” “Rain King,” and “Round Here”
Damien Rice – O
Passion + passion + folk music = Damien Rice.
Favorite three songs: “Delicate,” “Blower’s Daughter,” and “Cannonball”
matt pond PA – Emblems
This is our surprise entry for sure. But what can I say? I listen to it abundantly, there are a handful of songs I love, and the title of my novel was taken from this album. 2 & 2.
Favorite three songs: “The Butcher,” “New Hampshire,” and “Bring on the Ending”
U2 - Joshua Tree
As with Iron & Wine, I struggled on which album to include here. I usually would say “All That You Can’t Leave Behind,” but if I’m stuck on a tropical island, I've decided I want this one. Which is ironic if you consider the title of the album I decided to leave behind.
Favorite three songs: “Where the Streets Have No Name,” “Running to Stand Still,” and “In God’s Country”
Joshua James - The Sun is Always Brighter
I am pretty sure I was present when about half of the songs on this album were performed live for the first time. My friends and I used to go to “house shows” where Joshua would perform in someone’s basement or living room. There would be anywhere from 20-100 people at each of the shows. But regardless of the size, Joshua would always give it his all. He puts his heart and soul (and demons) in every number he writes and performs, and his music is as “real” as anything you’ll find anywhere. I have a handful of memories of watching him perform and thinking, “Wow--this man has it!” You know, “it.” I honestly believe that if Joshua wanted to make “hits” and sell tons of records, he could be as big as anyone, but because he chooses to write about the stories untold, he’ll only make it big slowly (as he is already doing).
Favorite three songs: “Commodore,” “Geese,” “Lord, Devil, and Him”
Today’s Recommendation: Hate the Lakers.
Wednesday, May 26, 2010
I’ve been neglectful with my blog. Not that anyone else cares, but still, I have been. I’d like to explain why.
I recently decided to turn an idea I’ve had for years into a book. So I started writing a book about a 20-something single man living in Utah. Sounds stupid, doesn’t it? Trust me, it’s only kind of stupid. A couple weeks later, while driving to work, I had an idea for a joke book. So then I started writing a joke book too. I’ve told a few people about it and they all agree it’s a really stupid idea. One stupid book idea + one stupid book idea = two stupid book ideas and an absolute waste of a sentence. Anyway, between the two books and writing my regular stand up material, I have become, as Bilbo Baggins so eloquently put it, “like butter scraped over too much bread.” And I need your help.
I’ve come to the realization that I probably need to just pick one of the two books and write until it is done, and then move on to the other book. But which book do I write first? Do I go with the joke book that won’t take nearly as long (hopefully only a few months)? Or do I go with the real book that will take years to do properly (especially with the schedule I have), but will be more fulfilling? Or should I scrap writing altogether and focus on ping pong? I mean, both book ideas are stupid . . .
Please give me your feedback. I know a lot of you email me your thoughts on my blog. You’re welcome to do that or post a comment. Either way, I could use some help deciding which route to go. That way I can spend more time on my true love, this blog.
Today’s Recommendation: I saw an edited version of Slumdog Millionaire this past weekend. I don’t know what exactly was taken out, but I thought it had one of the best film endings I have ever seen. If nothing else, I recommend you watch the end. And to understand the end, watch the rest of the film, too.
Tuesday, April 27, 2010
A few weeks ago I recommended the book The Road by Cormac McCarthy. I have since decided the book deserved its own post.
When I first read the book, I thought, “Wow.” But as the past few weeks have rolled by, and as I’ve thought more and more about it, I’ve come to think, “Double Wow.” (That’s right, double wow.) It’s hard to quantify why I love the book so much, other than to say it felt different than any other book I’ve ever read, and McCarthy is nothing short of brilliant. The imagery and lessons beautifully rendered in this book have forever changed the way I view the world, and I am confident it will be a staple of my bookshelf for the rest of my life.
The Road is a story placed in a “barren, silent, godless” world; the end of the world. There is no hope. None. And yet, in the shape of one father and one son, there is goodness. And that’s it, that’s the book. You never know the father’s name, and you never know the son’s name. And all they do is make their way down the road in hopes of getting to the coast.
It’s a book filled with mystery, and you are left with far more questions than answers. What happened that made the whole world on fire? How did things get so bad? How many people are still alive? For heaven’s sake, what are their names? And perhaps the biggest question of all: How do the father and son maintain their goodness in a world literally gone to hell?
The answer to the latter question is probably found in their love for each other. The father’s entire existence is to protect his son, who he loves unfailingly. And the son—very likely the most endearing character in all of literary history—simply follows his father. In his life, the son has only known a world where men have degenerated to something less than beasts. And yet he carries only virtue in his heart.
Man has a great propensity for evil. History has shown that when push comes to shove many resort to tremendous evil. But history has also shown that despite the evils of the world, there is still goodness. And in that goodness, there is always hope. Even when the world offers none. And that is why I love The Road.
“Do you remember that little boy, Papa?”
“Yes. I remember him.”
“Do you think that he’s all right that little boy?
“Oh yes. I think he’s all right.”
“Do you think he was lost?”
“No I don’t think he was lost.”
“I’m scared that he was lost.”
“I think he’s all right.”
“But who will find him if he’s lost? Who will find the little boy?”
“Goodness will find the little boy. It always has. It will again.”
Thursday, April 15, 2010
When I was 18 years old I went to a U2 concert. After camping out for approximately 24 hours before the show, my friends and I secured a spot in the front row, right in between Bono and The Edge. There I was, just feet away from the favorite band of my youth.
U2 have been renowned as arguably the best live band in the world, and as far I was concerned, they were. Not only did my throat become hoarse with the screaming, but so did my ears and eyes. I was thoroughly over-hoarsed and over stimulated by the visual and audio bonanza. Picture Kevin from Home Alone screaming in the mirror for three straight hours—that was me. I had seen some good shows before, and I have seen some great shows since, but nothing has ever come close to my front row experience with U2 in their prime.
My favorite moment from the concert came during the song “One.” The song was especially poignant at the time since the concert was not even two months removed from 9-11. During a brief moment of quiet in the song, I realized that I couldn’t here a single peep from the crowd. In an arena jam-packed with people who had been acting like a particularly excited brand of Pentecostals all night, there was absolute silence. The calm of the moment completely overwhelmed me, shooting goose bumps through my whole body.
Somehow, amid the smorgasbord of sound and revelry that I had enjoyed all night, the one moment that left me completely in awe was one of silence.
Since that time I have come to appreciate the quiet more and more. I have come to love art that captures the sounds of silence (to steal a line from Paul Simon). A good artist can use a lot of words or images to create a vivid picture, one that is easily comprehended. But a great artist can do the same with far less; they can say a ton without seeming to say anything at all. Because once you can connect the dots on your own . . . well, good things happen.
About a month ago I was at a music festival in California. A man who is highly esteemed in musical education was there as a clinician, and he made two points that stuck with me. The first was that here in America we tend to celebrate the beats in our music. We love repetitive beats that are predictable and obvious. He then pointed out that in places such as Africa, they tend to celebrate everything in between the beats. We’re so caught up in getting to the next link in a chain of sound that we fail to appreciate the silence in between.
The second thing he talked about is how moments of silence in music are often times as powerful, or even more powerful, than the music itself. He implored his pupils to embrace the silence, and not be afraid of it. In these moments, he explained, we allow for the music to move in us, for our thoughts to form and comprehension set in. In a subtle way, these two connected thoughts were very profound to me.
I think this idea can be applied to literature and film as well. Art moves in us, and comprehension sets in, best when our thoughts have space to move around. And this occurs in the quiet. Many call this type of art boring. Sometimes it is. However, perhaps it is only boring because it requires something of us: our minds. And if we’re not willing to give the effort, it seems lacking.
But it’s not just art, it’s everything. It’s those moments during a deep conversation when nobody says anything for long stretches of time, seemingly letting it all sink in. It’s those moments when you find yourself in a grove of trees, and all you can hear is the breeze moving in and out of the wood. And it’s those moments when the soft breathing of a sleeping loved one inexplicably reminds you how much you love them.
It’s even in the scriptures. Scriptures teach us to “be still.” I think we are told to be still because there is something significant in the quiet waiting for us, something profound. And you don’t have to go to a concert to find it.
Today’s recommendation: One song that I think captures silence beautifully is “All the Wild Horses” by Ray Lamontagne. Try it at least a couple times, preferably when you are in a place where you can listen to it without distraction. My wife admitted to me that at first she thought it was just boring. Now, it’s one of her favorite songs. She loves it so much that she made an arrangement of it on the piano.
Tuesday, April 6, 2010
Did you know that Tiger Wood’s private yacht is called “Privacy”?
Gives you a pretty good idea of what he values, I think. And if Tiger values privacy so much, it seems safe to assume that these past five months have been nothing short of hell for him.
Three months ago I wrote that “sports culture has become a dichotomy of virtue and vice, a constant highlight reel juxtaposed with both the David who killed Goliath and the David who had an affair with Bath-sheba.” When I wrote that it didn’t occur to me that I was succinctly describing the story of Tiger Woods. But I was.
The other day I was discussing Tiger with my wife, and I was trying to think of somebody in history who has had to pay as severely as Tiger has for his sins. After I failed to think of anyone, my wife said, “What about David?”
Oddly enough, it fit. David came from relative obscurity to become royalty. Just like Tiger. He became too famous, too adored, and his sense of reality became skewed in whatever direction he wanted it to be. Just like Tiger. He ultimately decided that his “needs” were greater than others’ and took whatever he wanted, including Bath-sheba. Just like Tiger. But when his actions came to a front, he dropped mightily from his throne. Again, just like Tiger. (Granted, Tiger hasn’t played an implicit role in the murder of anyone, but then again, David only had one Bath-sheba)
Think about it: I had to go back 3000 years to find somebody who has suffered in a comparable way. Tiger Woods went from king of the sports world to the butt of every joke in a matter of days. A man who desires constant privacy had everything about his life (Everything!) put into a worldwide microscope in an especially derisive manner. (It’s too bad Tiger isn’t an eloquent writer, because I think his Psalms would be an all-time best seller. Right up there with—dare I say it?—The Bible.)
My point? The Masters are this week. David had the Valley of Elah, and Tiger had The Masters in Augusta, Georgia. Just as David decapitated Goliath at Elah, propelling himself to greatness, Tiger decapitated everyone at the Masters as a young man propelling himself to greatness. But here’s the thing, David never got a chance to return to Elah and prove himself once more. This week, Tiger gets to try to do something unprecedented.
I don’t want to say that Tiger can redeem himself this week. That’s simply not true. But in an entirely unique way, Tiger has the opportunity to live out a real life epic at the grandest stage of the sport that made him as big as Michael Jordan, Muhammed Ali, Babe Ruth, and apparently David.
Tiger can’t receive full redemption on a golf course. I think we can all agree on that. But he can receive a type of redemption. And small victories lead to bigger ones. I’m not certain what a victory this week entails, but at least by showing up and giving it his all, he has achieved something. As somebody who cheered on Tiger before he won a single professional tournament, I have a vested interest in his career. And simply put, I hope he can be redeemed.
David’s story is one that haunts us all. The idea that one so high and favored of God could fall to the point where redemption cannot take its full effect on him is a scary thing. We all have those hopeless moments when we wonder if we’re good enough, and only thoughts of redemption pull us out of the periodic despair that inevitably comes with life. We probably don’t talk about it too much, but I believe our private thoughts reveal this vulnerability. And maybe that is why Tiger has held on so firmly to his privacy. Privately, he has been tormented to the degree that he lived in sin. And that degree is pretty high, in case you haven’t heard.
And as Tiger (like most “heroes”) has acted for us all, given us an avenue for our own daydreams, and shown us the tremendous potential of the human will, he has also shown how low we all can fall. Just like David. He has, without consent, represented all of us. And for this reason I hope he can be redeemed. I hope he can look in the face of the world that has made a mockery of his struggle and decapitate the idea that redemption doesn’t exist. His real redemption will ultimately come off the golf course, of course, but a part of that may just begin in the confines of Augusta this weekend.
It is still sports, I know. But what sports represent, not the actual sports themselves, has always been why we draw towards it, why we care. It’s mostly drama and entertainment, but there is a reality that sports provide that other theatre never can.
If Tiger comes out victorious this weekend (however you classify “victorious”), it would be something special. It would be two cups of good drama, and two cups of tantalizing entertainment. But it would also be one tablespoon of real hope for everyone. And maybe even a sprinkle of redemption.
Privately, I think you agree with me.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Today’s Recommendation: While we’re discussing David, I have a musical suggestion. You’ve all heard the song “Hallelujah.” There are, after all, about 342 versions out there. If you’re going to listen to that song, listen to the best ever version performed by Jeff Buckley. Now, I know art is subjective, and it’s impossible to claim anything is the best. However, this is an exception to that rule. Sorry.
Tuesday, March 30, 2010
It’s been said that one is the loneliest number. After spending a weekend alone in New York City, I tend to agree.
For work I travel to different destinations across the country and help run music festivals for high school choirs, bands, and orchestras. This past weekend I was assigned to go to New York. As it turned out, the other people from work I went with brought their daughters, so they had plans to shop and do other “mother-daughter things.” So, I spent a couple days sight-seeing in Manhattan, alone.
Don’t get me wrong, I had a great time, and I actually think New York is pretty cool (sleaze and Yankees aside). However, I recognized that I would have had much more fun had I been able to do the sight-seeing with somebody else. In addition, I learned of three pitfalls that come with sight-seeing alone. Here they are.
First, when you’re alone, there isn’t anyone to tell you you’re doing a stupid thing. On Saturday night, I had just finished a cruise that (mostly) circled Manhattan, when I needed to return to my hotel. I started to look for a taxi, already tired and weary of carrying my forty pound briefcase, when a mysterious black car pulled up next to me. The gentleman—who claims to be from Guinea—assured me that he was driving a legitimate taxi. So, I hopped in the car. Mistake #1.
I won’t bore you with every detail, but the man (who claims to be from Guinea) drove like a drunken 12 year old boy. It was the craziest ride I’ve ever taken, hands down. When we got to the hotel, which turned out to be a lot closer than I thought, he turned around and said “$25.” “For what?” was my response. I don’t know a ton about cab rates, but I knew that he was pulling the ol’ screw job. I thought quickly and said, “Do you accept credit cards?” He said no. (I learned earlier in the week that all “legitimate” cabs are required to accept credit cards. Hmmm . . .) I thought quickly and countered (dishonestly) with “I only have $12 cash.” He then, without hesitation or brain-function, proceeded to swerve across the street (narrowly avoiding about five accidents) to where some ATMs were. “Crap,” I mouthed to myself. I got out and pretended to withdraw money. When I came back I said, “Do you give receipts?” He pulled out a sticky note and said “Sure do” (in what sounded less and less like a Guinea accent). I then handed him two obviously not crisp-out-of-the-ATM-bills with the numbers of 5 and 20 printed on them. He had an all-too-knowing look on his face and said “Good doing business with you.”
I begrudgingly then stalked to my hotel. Mistake #2. As I walked into the lobby, it occurred to me that I felt light. I stood and started reaching for my briefcase when I realized it wasn’t on my shoulder. Not a big deal until you consider it had everything in it—including my wallet. Pure panic shot thru me like the cold of a lake swim in December. I immediately ran outside the hotel and, without hesitation or brain-function, started running. I literally got into the middle lane of 7th street and just ran in the direction the cab was going. Praying that he didn’t turn, I did my best imitation of a younger version of myself that ran track in high school. After a block, nothing. My panic was rising. But then I saw it, the mysterious black car about a block ahead. So I kept running, hearing faintly in the background honking and laughing. There I was running in Time Square amid taxis and busses, chasing down the crooked taxi driver supposedly from Guinea. Thanks to a fortunate red light, I caught up to him, and got my bag, but not without learning that you always go with the yellow cabs, and you always make sure not to leave anything in a taxi. It helps to have someone with you to remind you of this.
Second, the world can be tough when you’re all alone. On Thursday afternoon, not too far from the Empire State Building, I was walking along the sidewalk eating a lamb gyro (which I very highly recommend). In front of me a few feet, I noticed a pigeon starting to takeoff. As it started to ascend, I noticed something: It wasn’t ascending. The pigeon ran headfirst into my shoulder. Seriously, a pigeon flew into me! I’m telling you, if I was with somebody, there is no way that happens.
Third, if you’re all alone, you are the designated cameraman (and that can lead to weird situations). Everywhere I went, people saw me all alone, and asked me to take group photos for them. I honestly didn’t mind. So when I was leaving the Manhattan LDS Temple on Friday and walking down Broadway, I didn’t even blink when the casually dressed man asked me to take a picture of him and his friends in front of the Lincoln Center. It is a renowned venue of the arts, after all. However, I did blink when, after giving me a professional camera, the man and his friends proceeded to take their clothes off.
That wasn’t a typo. They took their clothes off, and then put on diapers. Again, not a typo. They got in grownup diapers and started posing in various positions. Positions that inexplicably brought images in my mind of some perverse wall hanging with babies dressed like flowers. What was I to do? What would you do? Don’t answer that. Anyway, I had told him I would take the photo. And I do change diapers at home every day. So, I took their pictures (one after another, after another). They, of course, drew somewhat of a crowd. A crowd that, no doubt, assumed I was part of the Depends Gang. My point? If you ever find yourself alone in a place where lots of pictures are taken, be prepared to be the cameraman. And maybe ask what the picture is going to be of before you agree to take it.
Remember, one is the loneliest number, and it can lead to problems. Just a few words to the wise from me.
* * * * * * * * * * * * *
Today’s recommendation: Well, I already recommended lamb gyros. But if you’re looking for more, I have a book I would recommend. But only if you can handle a book that is, well, depressing. While in NY, I read The Road by Cormac McCarthy. Like I said, it is a very depressing book. But it is also beautiful; a truly amazing piece of literature as far as I’m concerned. And if you’re looking for something less depressing (and lighter), try another book about the world after the “end of the world”: Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. Whereas The Road may just change the way you think about things, Hunger Games will keep you entertained for hours to come.
Tuesday, February 23, 2010
I understand that we are almost done with February, but since the letter “N” has offered very few good options, I decided I would give some predictions for this year. By the way, in case you missed it, last week I predicted you should follow USA Men’s Hockey team, and then on Sunday they gave us one of the more memorable hockey performances ever against Canada. So keep in mind that these predictions just might be worth paying attention to. Might.
* LeBron James will be the NBA Finals MVP. On a related note, Kobe Bryant will not. The Utah Jazz will then select John Wall for the first pick of the draft (and I will continue to daydream).
* Brazil will win the World Cup behind a legendary performance from Kaka. And by July you will know the meaning of what I just said.
* Alabama will not repeat as national champions, but the BCS will repeatedly suck the life out of sports fans across the country.
* Tiger Woods will come back to golf, it will be a bigger story than the Presidential Election of 2008, and he will reach the Britney Spears Zone (where you hate someone simply because you keep hearing about them over and over again, regardless of whether you actually cared before).
* Britney Spears will return to the Britney Spears Zone.
* James Cameron will begin initial photography for his next film called “Gaudy Spectacle!” The film will release in 2031.
* Twitter will be replaced by “Stocker,” a new program that allows you to put a camera on yourself 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
* Barack Obama will be nominated for a Golden Globe after an especially dramatic State of the Union address. He will, of course, win the award as well. Speaking of which . . .
* The politicians in Washington D.C. will continue to spend more and more money that they don’t have, and they will continue to bicker with each other like high school cheerleaders in a coming of age high school film.
* The same Americans who continue to accept the above status quo will continue to belittle anyone who advocates actual change.
* By December, my mood regarding politics will be even more bitter than it is right now.
* The same scientists who renounced Pluto’s status as a planet will openly question the validity of the color cyan.
* The housing market will make a fantastic turn for the better as builders tap into the vastly underutilized tree house market.
* Thanksgiving will be cancelled and replaced by a second Halloween to accommodate all the horror film releases.
* By December, my readership will triple in size (to a whopping 15 readers)!
Today’s recommendation: Whenever I eat at Gandolfo's I get the "Knickerbocker". And I always enjoy it. If you like vinegar in your sandwich, I think you'll like it too.
Wednesday, February 17, 2010
(By the way, I am writing today about American Sports. I’m pretty sure Russia wouldn’t agree with this post in the least. Actually, while we’re here, I’m pretty sure Russia hates my blog. Canada too.)
The Vancouver Winter Olympics are here. I love the Olympics for many reasons. The biggest reason I love them is for the incredible moments they provide. I wish I could tell you I didn’t cry when Keri Strug stuck the landing in ’96, but I’m pretty sure I did. I'm also pretty sure I have cried enough during the Olympics for an entire funeral. Sad, but true. There's just something about the combination of sports, country, and festivity that turns me into a fanatical weirdo during the Olympics (but in a good way).
Sports works in superlatives. Every game, tournament, or season is the worst or best of something. There is no normalcy in sports because that doesn’t make for a very good headline (“Game Goes as Expected” isn’t exactly a great hook). And the Olympics exemplify this. So, when I hear somebody refer to something as the greatest moment in sports, it doesn’t really mean that much to me. However, when I hear of the same moment being called the greatest moment in sports over and over again? Now that’s a miracle.
You probably know where I am going with this. 1980 Olympics in Lake Placid, New York. USA Men’s Hockey defeats the goliath Russian squad to pull off the greatest upset in hockey (and debatably sports) history, all at the peak of the Cold War. Herb Brooks. Mike Eruzione. Al Michael’s call of “Do you believe in miracles?!” You know the story, and you’ve likely seen the movie.
This year is the 30th Anniversary of those games. Herb Brooks has since passed, the Cold War has ended, hockey’s popularity has waned, and yet it is still generally acknowledged as the greatest sports moment in history. Why? Because it deserves to be.
In an industry chalk-full of superlatives, the “miracle” of the 1980 Winter Olympics provided a backdrop that would have made sports writers of today’s heads blow up. USA versus Russia, young college kids versus the most dominant team in the history of the sport. It’s more David and Goliath than . . . David and Goliath.
Bible analogies, political parallels, and other superlatives aside, it is really just a story about the incredible power of the human spirit. In a time when our country was desperate for hope, a bunch of kids inspired a nation. And behind it all is Kurt Russell—er—Herb Brooks: A man determined to create a miracle.
I really don’t know how to write about the “Miracle on Ice” without sounding like an Elmer’s Glue bottle. I've re-written the last four paragraphs like eight times, and no matter what I type, it all sounds gooey. So, let me say this: Watch “Miracle.” Whether you’ve already seen it, or whether you don’t care for hockey at all, watch it. And while you’re watching things, watch the Olympics. I guarantee there will be moments that you will never forget. And finally, watch this:
Today’s recommendation: Did you know that if the American Men’s Hockey Team wins a medal this year, it will be another miracle? They're being called too young and inexperienced. Sound familiar? I recommend you follow them these next few days. Sequels are rarely comparable to the original, but you never know.
Thursday, February 11, 2010
(If you haven’t read “K” yet, I recommend you do so before reading this post)
“When people speak of great men, they think of men like Napoleon – men of violence. Rarely do they think of peaceful men. But contrast the reception they will receive when they return home from their battles. Napoleon will arrive in pomp and in power, a man who’s achieved the very summit of earthly ambition. And yet his dreams will be haunted by the oppressions of war. William Wilberforce, however, will return to his family, lay his head on his pillow and remember: the slave trade is no more.” – Lord Charles Fox
For those of you who haven’t seen the movie “Amazing Grace,” what you just read is the quote given by Lord Charles Fox (played by Michael Gambon) at the end of the film, when William Wilberforce successfully (and peacefully) puts an end to slavery in Britain. The film was set in 1833, and it is based on a true story.
About 30 years later, on the American continent, another group of slaves were set free. And the champion of their freedom was a man named Abraham Lincoln: A man that I have revered from the time I was a young boy. Both William Wilberforce and Abraham Lincoln essentially ended their political careers (and lives) with the abolishment of slavery. However, the irony that I present to you is that Abraham Lincoln is far more like Napoleon than William Wilberforce, regardless of what you have likely been told throughout your life.
I’ve always been taught that Lincoln was akin to our founding fathers. Like them, he was a patriot who fought for liberty with valor. He was the Great Emancipator, and the man who saved the country in its darkest hour. However, after recently studying more about Mr. Lincoln, I have sadly found him to be something else. I recognize full well that if somebody were to tell me this even one year ago, I would have shrugged them off as a loon. Some might call any notion that Lincoln is anything other than a saint a conspiracy theory, not to be taken in the least bit seriously. I know this because I thought the exact same thing. My view had always been that Lincoln set the slaves free, and there is nothing nobler a man can achieve. However, I believe that view blinded me from the real Lincoln.
Any candid look at undiluted history proves Abraham Lincoln is not like our founding fathers in the least bit. They wanted smaller, less powerful government, while he wanted bigger, more powerful government. They wanted the government to serve the people, and he wanted the people to serve the government. Our founding fathers held individual rights to be the most precious things we have, while Abraham Lincoln viewed his mission to “save the union” (and the union itself) far more important than anyone’s individual rights.
I am writing this post because I hold our founding fathers in very high esteem, and I believe the Constitution is an inspired document that was designed for the wellbeing of all mankind. I am writing this post because I want people to understand that the government our founding fathers created was drastically altered by Abraham Lincoln, and because the Constitution has slowly come to mean next to nothing in our nation today—a precedent that President Lincoln established more than anyone. I am writing this post because I want people to see that slavery was not why Lincoln fought the Civil War (and even if it was, slavery could have been ended peacefully as it was in multiple other countries; see Wilberforce, William). I want people to see that the good Lincoln accomplished has given politicians justification to duplicate the bad he did without consequence, and that the implications of this justification explain a lot of our nation’s problems. Finally, I want people to see that Lincoln did save the union, but only after he nearly beat it to death with a crowbar.
I am not going to hash out my political opinions ad nauseam and try to undue a life’s worth of education you have likely endured. I am merely going to ask you to try to answer the following questions. And if you don’t know the answers, I encourage you to find them. And contrast what you find with what our founding fathers fought for. (Hint: Learn what historians who didn't name their son "Lincoln" have to say) And if you never cared for our founding fathers in the first place, or if you think the Constitution is outdated, you are excused from this exercise. Class is dismissed.
* What were Lincoln’s politics? For example, what platforms (economic and otherwise) did he campaign on? What were the political platforms of the Whigs (Lincoln’s first party of choice)?
* Lincoln never stated that the Civil War had anything to do with slavery. So, what were his reasons for going to war?
* Lincoln is lauded as a great politician. Why could he not resolve the conflict with the South peacefully? Did he want, or even try, to resolve things peacefully with the South?
* What were the reasons the South gave for seceding in the first place? (Hint: It wasn’t slavery)
* Were Lincoln’s thoughts about secession (that it was forbidden by the Constitution) consistent with those of our founding documents and founding fathers?
* Many historians (for and against Lincoln) have referred to him as a dictator. What did he do that compelled this analysis?
* Were Lincoln’s actions prior to and during the war (his well-written speeches set aside) consistent with or contradictory to the Constitution?
* What were the reasons laid out by Thomas Jefferson in the Declaration of Independence for our founding fathers’ seceding from Britain and the rule of King George? Do Lincoln’s actions before and during the war share any similarities with those of King George’s?
* What were the long term results of Lincoln’s administration? What were the effects his administration had on state sovereignty, the power of the federal government, the checks and balances of the federal government, federal government’s involvement in the marketplace, and the Constitution?
* Why do many historians view the Emancipation Proclamation as a political gimmick (setting aside what it later became known as)? What were Lincoln’s views on African Americans? Could he be classified as a racist?
* If George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and Benjamin Franklin met Abraham Lincoln in a tavern, which of the three would draw his sword first?
Today’s recommendation: Read the Declaration of Independence, and look for the specific grievances listed as reason for secession (and pay attention to how Jefferson stressed the independence of each individual state). Also, if you want to take your study another step further, read the Kentucky and Virginia Resolutions of 1798. Also, I strongly recommend you not burn my house down for writing this post.
Monday, February 8, 2010
(This post is long. I freely admit it. However, I have a theory about knowledge, and I would like to share it with you. It took me more words to compile my thoughts than I would have liked, but please bear with me.)
As the dictionary claims, knowledge is the “acquaintance with facts, truths, or principles, as from study or investigation.” But think about it. You learn a “fact” taught to you by an instructor or parent, and then store this in your mind as knowledge. But this fact isn’t necessarily knowledge of truth; it is merely a perceived knowledge of truth.
A child can know that storks deliver babies to the doorstep of moms and dads everywhere, but would you call that child knowledgeable? And so it is with all of us. Throughout our lives, we gain a database of knowledge (one that, in many cases, could be full of nonsense for all we know). And this database slowly formulates our perception of reality and the world around us. For better or worse.
Occasionally, we come across something that we know is true, not just in our mind, but in our soul (the discussion of how your “soul” knows something is true will be left for another day). For the sake of this post, we’ll call it certain knowledge. A mother’s love is a good example of this. You can know without doubt (mind and soul) that your mother loves you. You’re simply certain of it. And this certainty compels distinct behavior.
Now contrast this certain knowledge with my knowledge of the solar system. I’m pretty sure Earth is the third planet from the sun. There’s very good evidence in support of this fact; there are pictures and scientific data, etc. But I can’t say that I have ever cared enough about the numerical order of the planets to obtain certain knowledge on the subject. If a war broke out over the numerical order of the planets, I wouldn’t be compelled to join the fight (this is a stupid example—I know—but just go with it). However, if a war broke out that put my mother at risk, I would fight without giving it a second thought. I would even give my life to fight for the cause. Why? Because I have certain knowledge of my mother’s love, and that has truly changed my behavior. Certain knowledge is different from regular knowledge. It is what compels somebody to belong to a specific religion, for example.
I have a theory about the accumulation of certain knowledge we attain in our lives. As I explained in the last paragraph, and as I’m sure you’ve seen before, people will do anything because of certain knowledge they have. But what if their certain knowledge leads them to do things that are obviously in conflict with reality or truth? Take radical Islamist terrorists circa 2001. How did they become so convinced that God wanted them to kill innocent civilians that they learned how to fly a plane, and then hijacked a plane and flew it into an enormous building? I mean, I don’t want to offend any terrorists reading this blog, but they were wrong. I’m certain of it. (Uh oh, here’s where knowledge get’s confusing; two people knowing two things that completely contradict each other.)
Well, here’s my theory. I think because those terrorists clustered certain knowledge they acquired legitimately with other less-worthy bits of knowledge, their overall understanding was diverted to a reality that is far from correct. This clustering effect, I believe, can explain a lot of people’s beliefs and also their perception of what they know. In the case of the terrorists, I believe that they were taught actual truths, but at the same time they were taught those truths—and acquired certain knowledge of those truths—they were also taught erroneous facts (things like, “Christians are heathens worthy of extermination”). And both the actual truth and the fabricated truth came together into a type of knowledge stew.
For example, let’s say someone was taught as a kid that you should be kind to others. This is an absolute truth: You should be kind to others. Let’s also say that same person gained certain knowledge that this is true. Okay, now let’s say that when that person was taught the principle of kindness, they were also taught that the color pink is evil. (Again, this is a stupid example, but I feel I have to use stupid examples since every real example will likely be disagreed upon; and since nobody questions the virtue of the color pink, here we are). I believe that this person would then cluster these too things together, the virtue of kindness and the vice of pink.
Can you see the danger here? Their knowledge is now off-base, and yet they are likely certain that it is not. They could, of course, through study and experience, learn that there is nothing wrong with the color pink. But since they have false certainty of its evil, it will be difficult for them to come to this realization. And once your knowledge becomes off track, it is very easy for it to dissent farther and farther into nonsensical oblivion (ie. Islamic terrorists). Can you imagine what would happen if this person went to a fundraiser supporting the fight against breast cancer? (“Look at all these evil pink ribbons! I’m in hell!”) Before long, they would think breast cancer was evil (and in turn anyone who has breast cancer). It is then possible that when they finally realized the color pink is harmless, and that those who have breast cancer are innocent, they would assume that kindness really isn’t that important at all. Because one part of the knowledge stew turned out to be foul, the whole was assumed foul. Seeing the danger yet? The clustering effect can both prop up false knowledge and take down actual knowledge. While it is frankly silly in the case of the pink hater, it is utterly destructive in the case of the terrorist.
I really hope this makes sense. I believe this clustering effect takes place all the time. It happens in churches, homes, and schools every day. It penetrates every society, in every country, on every third planet. It is, in my opinion, a major reason why we as a human race never agree upon what is correct knowledge. It is imperative that we always be careful when we gain knowledge, to compartmentalize what we learn and not assume everything we hear is true.
What is my point? Well, for one, I have been formulating this theory for a few years now, but have never written about it. For another thing, I want to prepare you for my next entry. Because my next entry is going to question something you have always known to be true; something that I believe was wrongfully clustered into your database of certain knowledge. Consider yourself warned. For now, thank you for reading my words. I hope you have gained knowledge today, and that the knowledge you have gained has more weight to it than the idea that pink is an evil color (although, for all I know it could be evil).
Today’s Recommendation: Check out the band Fleet Foxes. Their music is like medieval indie folk, whatever that means. I especially enjoy their song “Mykonos.”
Friday, February 5, 2010
Being a fan is something that I take very seriously. Regarding the NBA, I’ve always been a Utah Jazz fan. However, I grew up idolizing Michael Jordan. I was always torn when the Jazz played the Bulls, but I eventually cheered for the Bulls because, well, I idolized Michael Jordan. Put it this way, if Moses came down from Mount Sinai and saw me watching a Bulls game, he would have been outraged. I did go a little overboard with my golden statue of MJ. And the whole dancing around the statue while throwing rose peddles thing was just weird.
But I digress. Since Jordan retired and as time has allowed me to gain a little perspective, I have always secretly felt remorse for not supporting the Jazz when they were at the doorstep of the championship. I will always be an MJ fan (and I will adamantly oppose anyone who questions that he is the greatest ever), but the simple fact that he is kind of a jerk has forever changed how I view him. My point? I can never claim to be a die-hard Jazz fan. I would love to go back to 1997 (and ’98) and cheer against MJ when he played Utah, but I can’t. Therefore, I can never claim to be truly die-hard. I sincerely wish I could, but sports repentance is never as complete as real repentance. I am in many ways the prodigal son when it comes to the Jazz, but unfortunately there is no higher power in basketball that can cleanse me of my sports sins (God doesn’t care about “sports sins”). I cheered against the Jazz in the Finals, and that is simply unforgivable.
Having said all this, I do still care a little too much about Jazz basketball. I read up on them every day. I analyze their roster, their schedule, their schemes, their jerseys (I love the green throwbacks), and everything else associated with the team. I yell at my television set as well as anyone, I count how many white guys we have on the court and laugh, and when special things happen (ie Gaines’ last second shot to beat the Cavs), I jump and scream, and frolic about like some bad reenactment of a high school Peter Pan play. I’m essentially a die-hard, but an illegitimate version.
Some day the Jazz will win it all. And I will be euphoric about it. I will likely cry, and hug perfect strangers (two things I frequently do anyway, but whatever). I will talk about it for years to come, and even tell my grandkids about it. But as happy as I’ll be, I will be most happy that people who were with the Jazz through thick and thin will be rewarded for their loyalty. Not so much for me, but for them. Only if I had been there for the worst of the worst could I truly appreciate the best of the best. Sad, but true.
See, I always view sports from the perspective of the fan. And as happy as the athletes are, and as much as they care and deserve success, they are still working for a paycheck (and a ridiculously big one at that). And more times than not, their allegiances will change multiple times during their short careers. Fans don’t have that luxury (at least true fans don’t). We’re oftentimes stuck with who we first fall in love with as a child. Most die-hard fans can’t help that they love team so-and-so. It just becomes a part of who they are.
The Super Bowl is coming up this Sunday. I am neither a Colts fan nor a Saints fan. But the simple fact that I look at things from the perspective of the fan has dictated that I will most certainly be cheering for the Saints. I have to. Set aside that I really respect Peyton Manning and want to see my fellow alumnus Austin Collie do well, the people of New Orleans deserve this infinitely more than the people of Indiana. It’s as simple as that. My biggest hope is that some young boy in Louisiana who loves the Saints but also happens to worship Peyton Manning (gold statue and all) will make the right decision. I really hope he cheers for the Saints.
Today’s recommendation: Here are two trade proposals I created on ESPN’s “Trade Machine.” I really think the Jazz need to dump Boozer while his stock is high, and here are a couple great options (at least they are in my head). http://games.espn.go.com/nba/tradeMachine?tradeId=yzrwlqc and http://games.espn.go.com/nba/tradeMachine?tradeId=yh7z4su. If you have better trade ideas, I’d love to see them (and no, I am not being sarcastic right now). Send them my way.
Tuesday, February 2, 2010
My grandpa took a trip with a friend this past holiday season. They were going to a cabin for a few days. No TV, no internet, no activities planned, no nothing. They were just going to go to the cabin. When I asked what he would do, he explained that he would spend a great deal of his time meditating. He then followed this up by adding that I probably didn’t understand why he would want to do that. And you know what? I didn’t.
Since then, I’ve thought about it some more, and I can’t deny the feeling that I probably should better understand my grandpa’s motives. I recognize a need for meditation and contemplation, unfettered by technological distractions, in my life. But I can’t get myself to do anything about it. I have therefore concluded that I am addicted to technology. And I don’t think I’m alone.
The revolution of the smartphone has propelled our world’s sophistication into something out of a sci-fi movie of yesteryear. If we want to know anything about anything, we can do so—instantaneously. If we want to, we can download a song, email a friend, look up the meaning of the word crapulence, or watch a sports game while taking care of more medieval concerns on the toilet. Kind of gross, but still. Technology has us on our own personal throne, where the kingdom is ours for the taking.
We (as a society) already lack the patience to appreciate good music (see “H”), learn about critical issues that affect our lives (see “F”), be curtious on the road (see “D”), and read long blogs (or so my readers tell me). And technology is only going to speed things up more. What will we lack the patience for in ten years? What about twenty? “Dang it, honey, the robo-cook isn’t working. It made Indian style curry, not Thai.”
Since I got my iPhone a year and half ago, I’ve become the petty kid at the store who won’t stop screaming until he gets his candy bar. Except replace the candy bar with news and twitter updates, email and GPS searches, and replace screaming with sulking. “Come on! No wifi? This is the last time I go hiking here.” In 2030, am I going to whine because the wifi on my hoverboard is squeamish when I am crossing a lake?
I grew up long enough ago that the only way I could know what was going on in the sports world was to wait for the newspaper every day. I would scour through its sports section and imagine each game in my mind. But after a few minutes, I saw all there was to see. So you know that I did next? I would go play sports. I needed an avenue to express my imagination. If I was a kid today, I would probably plop myself on the couch and watch ESPN until my eyes started to bleed; all the while I would be playing with my different iPhone apps. Once I was done there, I would likely turn on my Xbox and play some sports video game that was virtually identical to reality. And all the while, my actual sports skills would have been non-existent, and my imagination broken.
What’s my point? Well, besides feeling really bad for kids today, my point is that I’m pretty sure my addiction to technology is keeping me from acquiring real skills. I am never without a dull moment, but I get the feeling that may not be a good thing. Dull moments may just lead to meditation. Meditation and contemplation may just lead to inspired thought. Being inspired might just compel me to do something very worthwhile and spawn personal growth. Unfortunately, all this would require me to give up my iPhone and other technological handcuffs. And, therefore, I don’t know what to do. . . . I really need technology rehab. Ooh, I wonder if there is an app for that.
Today’s recommendation: Two songs. 1) “Relate to Me” by The Voyces. It kind of speaks to what I am talking about in this blog. 2) “The High Road” by Broken Bells. It doesn’t relate to this entry so much, but it is a side project of James Mercer (the headman for The Shins), and it is choice.
Wednesday, January 20, 2010
People who get to know me, learn that I am very opinionated about the music industry. I don't mean to be, but I am. Upon learning of my opinionation (a cool word I just invented), they ask something like, "Well, what type of music do you like?" And I never know quite what to say.
I usually say something like indie-folk, but since I don’t even know what that means, I really need to stop doing it. Anyway, I found a clip on Youtube that (in a round about way) answers the question of what I like better than I’m usually able to. The clip below is a CBS news piece about one of my favorite bands, Wilco. Like most things Wilco, this clip went largely unnoticed. I mean, have you ever even heard of this show?
I'm not saying my taste in music is Wilco, but if you pay attention to the approach Wilco takes with their music, you'll find the secret to the type of music I prefer . . . sort of . . .
A wise person once said, “That which we obtain too easily, we esteem too lightly.” The answer to what I like isn't "those who work really hard," but those who work really hard are much more likely to create music that means something to me. Those who get record deals and MTV face-time because they have the right "look" (even though they don't have that much experience) are almost always undeserving of any accolades they receive.
In the clip it is noted that Wilco doesn’t have a single “hit”, and yet they have a very devoted fan base (of which I consider myself part of). In a world where most musicians are trying desperately to manufacture an entertaining “hit,” truly gifted artists like Wilco are creating well-crafted tunes that the masses simply miss (both literally and figuratively). And do those artists care? Not in the least.
I’m not saying that Wilco’s lack of hits is proof of their value, or that those with commercially successful songs are of lesser value. But I will say that there is an intrinsic value that comes when musicians write music that isn’t merely designed to impress or entertain others. People who are accustomed to listening to what the radio tells them to listen to oftentimes can’t hear it—at least at the beginning—but that “intrinsic value” is real, and almost all mainstream music lacks it. Trust me, you can like (nay, love) music that at first seems odd to you.
I am not some omniscient music connoisseur, but I can say that when I have strayed from mainstream music I have found art that has become—eventually—my favorite music of all. And Wilco is a great example of that.
For instance, when I first heard Wilco’s album “Yankee Foxtrot Hotel” about five years ago, I felt like I had walked into some weird art studio. I didn’t know what to think. Weird, it was, but there was also something else I was hearing (or thought I was hearing) that fascinated me. So I listened again, and again . . . and again. Before I knew it, I loved the album, knowing full well that it was far from the norm. People like Simon Cowell would have berated it (and they did) for lacking enough “hooks” and “pulls” (and other terms that seem better suited for hunting than music). And yet . . .
That same album was recently rated the third most important album of the past decade by Rolling Stone; a truly amazing thing considering the relative anonymity the album had for the entire decade. What’s my point? I’m not exactly sure. I guess I just want people to look outside the mainstream when it comes to music (and almost everything else for that matter). And I want people to understand me when I try to explain for twenty minutes what types of music I like. I still don't know how to answer the question, but I think I'm getting closer. Thanks, Wilco!
Todays recommendation: If you are interested in learning more about Wilco, check out three of my favorite (more moderate) tunes of their's: “I’ll fight,” “Either Way,” and “When the Roses Bloom Again” (a cover)