Thursday, December 22, 2011

A man provides


I am never going to be a millionaire.

It's just not going to happen. And I could blame it on the government, or the fatcats hoarding all the wealth, or the foreigners taking all the jobs. But the truth is that I'm scared. The thought of that much money scares me. I'm convinced that the more money I earn, the less I will sleep. Whether it's what I would have to give up to come by that money, or what risk I would have to take, my fear is what holds me back from going after it as hard as I could.

This wouldn't be much of a problem if I didn't have a family to put food on. The standard line of thinking for a breadwinner goes like this: the more money you make, the less time you get to spend with your family. You hear it over and over again: "I don't get to see my kids much, but those kids live well." Presumably, the lifestyle you are able to provide for your family is supposed to make up for all the time when you're not around. I don't think that necessarily follows, but that's not what bothers me.

What bothers me is this hypothetical scenario: What if you hardly get to spend any time with your family, but they don't, in fact, live well? Are you still a good man? If you work as hard as you can but don't bring in enough to afford a particular standard of comfort, can you still be considered a good provider? Or are you limited by your circumstances?

I don't have an answer to this any more than I have a million dollars. But I know I would do anything for my family, including stuff that depresses me and hours of my life that I know are not worth it (not that any of that is relevant -- it's just, if I had to). They are the priority, not me. The truth is, I don't feel like any amount of money I could ever make would be enough for them. I would give them all my money just for existing, because there's nothing I could spend it on that could equal what they've given me. I don't care how corny that sounds, this is real talk. But if no amount of my money would be good enough for them, then no amount of time would be good enough to spend with them either.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Star Wars for girls

The one thing that all boys from my generation have in common is that we all loved Star Wars growing up. I don't know if that still applies to all boys, but I do know that a shared fanhood of the original trilogy was pretty much the only thing we all had in common.

(This isn't to say that Star Wars can only appeal to boys; obviously Leia is one kick-ass chick and Han Solo is God's gift to the female gender. But Star Wars love was universal in my pre-prequels age group, and almost nothing else was.)

What I've always wanted to know is, what is the female equivalent of Star Wars? What is the one pop culture thing that all the girls my age grew up loving? I've raised this question with different women before, and I've heard suggestions ranging from Little Mermaid to The Last Unicorn. But I have my own guess: I think it's Grease.



Face it: If you were a girl growing up in the early-to-mid-80s, you loved this. It pushed all of your female buttons and taught you what you were supposed to be like. I have not encountered a single women in this category who has disagreed (except for my wife, but I'm going to consider her a sole exception for now).

Of course, I'm probably totally off base. But if I am, what would be a better choice? It pains me to think that all the little girls growing up today are going to share an undying love for Twilight in common. So there had better be something good that women from my generation all loved.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Should alternate endings exist?

Some of you may have seen the news that J.K. Rowling supposedly almost killed off Ron. While this would have definitely made for a stronger ending in my opinion, I can see why she pulled back. You don't want to risk pissing off your fans, unless you're someone like Joss Whedon and killing off Wash in Serenity is apparently no big deal.

This relevation led to a rather interesting discussion with my wife: Is it ever a good idea for authors to divulge the endings they didn't write? Wendy thinks that Rowling does her fans a disservice by revealing what could have been, because Harry Potter fans are so attached to the characters that to suggest the story could have unfolded any other way is to make the whole affair seem somewhat arbitrary.

My first impulse is to disagree, and say that offering a glimpse into the author's decision-making process does no damage to the finished product. But upon further reflection, I'm not sure what purpose it serves to even discuss the different possibilities. An ending is an ending, and you can only pick one. Sure, she could've killed Ron. She could've killed Harry too, or the entire Weasley family, but she didn't. Writing is the process of whittling away all the different story possibilities until you (hopefully) end up with the best one. While I'm on record saying that the Harry Potter series should've ended differently, I respect the author's decision to end it the way she did, and appreciate that she must have been under enormous pressure to deliver a satisfying denoument to those hordes of weird, obsessive fans. That doesn't mean I think it was a good idea for her to open up about what other endings she contemplated. Wendy's right -- it does seem like something of a slap in the face to fans who take this stuff so deadly seriously.

I doubt that Rowling intended any malice with her statement. More likely she just enjoys the attention (Dumbledore is gay, anyone?) or somehow still doesn't fully understand the power her work has had over people. I'll put it this way: If Shakespeare had come out and said that he almost let Romeo and Juliet live, would it have given any of us a deeper appreciation of the actual work?

Friday, October 28, 2011

Rules for trick-or-treat houses

1. Please, give out the good stuff. The following candies are acceptable: Butterfinger, Baby Ruth, Snickers, Peanut M&Ms, Reese's Peanut Butter Cups, Milky Way. Everything else is getting either tossed in the garbage or stuffed to the bottom of a sad months-old halloween sack where it will never see the light of day again. Reduce candy waste; give us candy that will actually get eaten.

2. Turn the light on. Don't make us guess whether you're home or not. There are kids walking up to your porch unsupervised; would you want your kids wandering alone into some stranger's darkened abode? If you want to create a spooky atmosphere, decorate. If you want your house to be skipped, good job.

3. Don't comment on every costume. If you see one that is unique or clever or otherwise deserves mention, go ahead and take a moment to point it out. Otherwise, throw your candy in the bags and move on. It's a busy night.

4. Don't ask me if I'm too old to be trick-or-treating. I take offense to that question. For all you know, I have a rare disease condition like Robin Williams in "Jack" and I age 20 years too fast and I'll be dead and old by the time I'm 11.

5. Remember: you are the greatest hero in America. You are keeping the best holiday tradition that we have alive. Take pride in what you do, and never forget your importance. After all, the little trick-or-treaters of today are the future trick-or-treat givers of tomorrow. You are making the future better for everyone.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Thoughts on being a father part 2

(part 1 here)
Having a girl is totally different and I'm not even sure why. With Holden, I feel a
sense of responsibility, that need to step up to the plate as a role model and set a decent example for what it means to be a man. With Nadia, I feel like all I can do is worry about her.

It's not all bad. I feel protective of her on a whole other level than I did with Holden. I guess this means I'll be even more conscientious of how I act and present myself, since after all she's going to form her entire idea of the way men are from me, and the whole "role model" thing is still important, just in a different way. The difference is that with Holden, I know he's going to have his challenges and his hardships, but I trust that he'll be OK one way or the other -- in fact, I'm going to make sure of it. With her, I have no idea whether she'll be OK or not, nor do I feel like there's anything I can really do to affect the outcome.

If this sounds despairing, it's only because I (admittedly) can't put myself in the place of a girl who's growing up and I don't know the first thing about what she would be looking for when she looks to her father. It's my own limited capacity to think beyond my own shallow experience that robs me of the confidence I need to be the right kind of person to raise this girl. One thing I know is that I feel more love for both of my children than I ever imagined I could, and I'm willing to do absolutely everything in my power to give them both the best life possible. And if things still don't turn out totally perfect for either of them, in spite of my best efforts, then I guess they were never going to anyway.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

People who don't know how to quit

I made a post recently about one of my all-time favorite bands breaking up. I was feeling sentimental about it that day, but there is something to be said for sensing when one's time has passed and bowing out gracefully as opposed to dragging it out beyond the point of self-parody.

Surely most of you have read about the drama over the Simpsons contract negotiations. A lot of the commentary I was reading online was from people that were openly hoping that they ended the show over this. There's no reason why anybody needs new episodes of the Simpsons anymore, and yet they just keep coming, for at least the next two years, apparently.

Speaking of beloved cultural institutions that everybody has been totally sick of forever, Paul McCartney just got married again. While I would never say anything bad about Paul, I sincerely hope that this is the one relationship that brings him so much joy and satisfaction that he decides to never play another note of music again for as long as he lives. It's too late for him to go out with any dignity, so the best he could do at this point is pull the plug before he is literally dead.

I hope that whatever great thing I end up doing with my life, I'm able to sense when the time is right for me to stop doing it. It's easy to see why attaining the status of McCartney or the Simpsons would be something that is difficult to let go of, but surely there comes a point where that's more of a crutch than anything else. All I want out of life is to achieve something extraordinary, and then realize that it's OK for me to be ordinary again.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Leftovers

I don't believe in leftovers, and I know exactly why.

My dad grew up in a big family that never had enough money. In his words, if you didn't run to the dinner table right away every evening, all the food would get eaten and you'd starve. To my dad, every scrap of food that makes it to the table is precious. I can clearly recall several instances where he would protest "No-no-no-no-NO" if I ever tried to throw any food away.

I grew up in a big family with more than enough money (most of the time). My father is a compulsive food-hoarder, and my mother is an extremist grocery-shopper. Everything is so cheap at the Comissary, how can you not load 3 full shopping carts full of stuff on every trip, especially with so many mouths to feed. When you cook for 11 other people each night, it's very easy to make too much food. When you make too much food, half of it ends up in the fridge. And the fridge at my parent's house is like purgatory for food. It might make it out one day, it might not.

This leads to a nightmarish situation where almost everything that's in the fridge has gone bad. That's why if I ever end up with too much food for dinner, I just keep cramming it in my face. The refrigerator is for storing food that we haven't eaten yet, not for saving food that we weren't hungry enough to finish. I would rather throw stuff away than to hold on to it for a later date on the off chance that one night I'll be craving something that isn't quite fresh anymore. If this makes me a spoiled first-world person, so be it. Take a look at my parent's fridge one day, you'll understand. Do you have any idea what a potato looks like six months after you buy it? And the smell, that's the worst of it. So please don't feed me any leftovers. All it makes me think about is a green potato with three arms growing out of it.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Goodbye R.E.M.



This sucks. R.E.M. broke up today. They've always been around. I'm 28, so they've been a band for as long as I've been alive, plus three years. They were maybe the only transcendent rock band of their era, along with U2. They were the one sure thing in life, along with death and taxes. I took them for granted for so long because their existence was a given. Now they're gone and I'll never get to see them live (at least not until the washed-up reunion tour in 10 years). It sucks whenever a band you've loved and followed for years comes to an end. It's like losing a friend. Surely everyone has had it happen to them at some point. Today it's my turn.

(I know some of you don't like them, so I posted some of their best songs below. If you don't like these, there's nothing else I can do. If you do like them, there's plenty more where this came from. I could easily fill up several more posts with their stuff)





Sunday, September 4, 2011

My videos

Like everyone else in this ridiculous generation, I've made a bunch of videos and stuff and posted them on youtube. Here are some that I am not ashamed of:

1. A DATE (this is me following my brother-in-law Randy around with a camera while he goes on a date with his then-girlfriend, Suzie. I also asked them intrusive questions and they answered them or didn't.)

2. THE MOVIE GOERS (a short film directed by and starring my friend Pierce Barney. I worked as director of photography and 2nd unit A.D. or whatever. The movie got accepted to Radio From Hell's first short film festival, which means a lot of people have watched it all at once)

3. BORING POLITICAL CRAP (Michael Steele town hall, health care, blah blah blah. Homework assignment)

4. OMG LOL WTF (The amazing Alex Caldiero making noise and movement)

5. CARTOONIST SEMINAR (The guy who created the webcomic Schlock Mercenary came to my school and I made this video out of it. He then proceeded to post it on his blog because he's a very nice man, and that is why it has more views than anything else I ever did)

Friday, September 2, 2011

Rules for songwriters

1. No song should go on longer than 5 minutes without a good reason

If you've got a killer coda ("Hey Jude"), a multi-part epic (Pink Floyd's "Echoes") or a whole bunch of different lyrics to sing (some Dylan and Joni Mitchell songs), go ahead and stretch it. Otherwise, you're wasting everybody's time. The human attention span isn't meant to listen to the same melody forever.

2. A chorus should sound like A CHORUS

After all, the word "chorus" derives from "choral" singing, implying a sense of unity and plurality. If you can't imagine 120,000 people singing the same words in unison, your chorus is a fail. Keep it simple, but inclusive. In other words, make us want to sing along.

3. Sometimes notes should be held, for eeeeeeemphasis

I always knew Chad Kroger of Nickelback was a lousy singer, but I just recently figured out why. The dude doesn't hold his notes for shit. Sing one of their songs in your head ("How You Remind Me" or something) and notice this. He's just talking a bunch of words in a raspy monotone. Dude might as well be rapping. If your melody has nothing in it that's held longer than a quarter note, your song will sound stupid.

4. Lyrics are important

They don't have to be smart or make any sense. They just have to sound like you care, one way or another, what you're singing about. You can get away with totally stupid lyrics if it's just a fun party song, but not if you're trying to make us feel something. In other words -- write lyrics that are appropriate for the situation.

5. Don't be a drag

You can tackle serious subject matter without bumming everybody out. All the best songwriters know this. We are doing you a favor by listening to your song. You owe it to us to show us a good time. Or at least trick us into thinking we had a good time.

6. Don't write the song "Hallelujah"

Just don't do it.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Recurring dreams

This is a partial list of the dreams I have over and over again:

1. Zombie attack. I rarely have nightmares, but when I do they're either about this or trying to escape from an insane killer (I used to have nightmares about Jesus, but those don't happen anymore). One thing that always happens in my zombie dreams is I have to kill a zombie, or horde of zombies without the use of firearms. I have to bludgeon their skulls in, or cut their heads off, with whatever improvised item I find. And it always takes more than one swing to kill a zombie.

2. Back to school. Everybody pretty much gets this one. Where it's the end of the semester and you're in some class, and you realize you stopped going to this class after the first week or so, and you have no idea what's going on in it, and you're about to fail the final? What's unique about me is I've actually done this, several times. I had a Tuesday-Thursday English class that I could've passed in my sleep, except it was at 7 a.m. so I rarely if ever got up on time. Ever since I graduated, I've been dreaming that my diploma is actually invalid, because of this one class I failed to complete.

3. My brother pisses me off. And I always lose all my patience with him, and I try to punch him in the face, but my punches are weak and they rarely connect. It's like when you're trying to run in your dreams, but your feet have turned into lead. And yes, this is probably because I've done this in real life, too.

4. Stuck at church. In this one I'll be at my old church house, and I won't be able to leave for whatever reason. Sometimes I'm waiting for a ride, sometimes my parents are there and they have meetings. Most recently, I was playing basketball at church when a congregation suddenly came in and set up all the chairs for men to sit in and sing "My Girl" in a choir. After the song, I was waiting for them to clear the chairs so we could keep playing.

5. Eating/drinking something nasty Unlike the others, I actually know why I have this one. I breathe with my mouth open when I sleep, so it gets all dry in there and tastes like boiled ass. So when that happens and it's morning, I'll have dreams that I'm eating or drinking everything I can to get rid of the taste, and it doesn't work. Everything tastes like my mouth. Milkshakes, handfuls of bugs, KFC Famous Bowls, a cup full of wet cement, doesn't matter. The taste gets worse and worse until I wake up.

So, what do you think these mean? What scenes does your subconscious replay over and over again?

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Firsts part 2

These are way too specific to apply to anybody but me. But I enjoyed reading yours, so if you have any other firsts you'd like to share, or if you want to know any more of mine let me know.
First favorite movie: Back To The Future

First movie to make me cry: Willy Wonka And The Chocolate Factory

First video game I ever bought with my own money: Donkey Kong for the Game Boy

First CD I ever shoplifted: The Crow: City of Angels Soundtrack

First song I learned to play on guitar: Red Hot Chili Peppers - "Under The Bridge"

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Firsts

First movie I ever saw: Return of the Jedi (according to my mom. I would've been 5 months old)

First cassette single: Color Me Badd - All For Love

First CD: Boyz II Men - II

First video game system: Atari

First favorite musician: Michael Jackson

First Halloween costume (that I chose): The Flash

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

The persistence of memory



Of course I always knew that time would seem to accelerate exponentially as I got older. What I didn't expect was that things that happened so recently would feel like they happened forever ago. The cliche I heard the most about growing up was that everything feels like it happened "only yesterday". That's not been my experience.

What I didn't forsee was that my life would split into two phases. I can draw a clear line between Before I Found Out Wendy Was Pregnant and After I Found Out Wendy Was Pregnant, and everything B.I.F.O.W.W.P. seems like it came from an entirely different life than A.I.F.O.W.W.P. And I realize now that this is how I will view the rest of my life. My memories from before that time will always seem far, far removed from where I am today, no matter how vivid they are or how closely they resemble my current life. And my memories from after will always seem like they just happened, even though so much has changed since then.

I'm kind of OK with this. I can pinpoint the exact moment where I became old, or at least where I came to terms with the age I am. And my life changed in so many ways that it's not even recognizable with what it used to be like. There are times when I miss my life B.I.F.O.W.W.P., but I had plenty of that life, I know what it was like, and it's impossible to go back to that, so there's not a whole lot of point in dwelling on it.

What this is all saying is that I'm now in the second phase of my life, and I'm only now just realizing it. There may be more, but this is definitely a distinctly second phase. Maybe there will be a time someday where this phase feels like it happened much longer ago than it does now. It seems like it would take something pretty drastic to transition into another phase, though. It took having a kid just to have more than one.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Why Harry Potter would've failed

In an imaginary world where jelly beans taste like boogers and people actually sit still to watch a stupid game where all the players are flying around on brooms, there is one conceit that stretches credulity to its breaking point: the friendship between Harry and Ron. In real life, Ron would've turned on Harry after the 3rd book or so, and not for the reason you think.

In the books, the rift between Harry and Ron begins to develop because Harry has a crush on Ron's sister, Ginny. Fiction loves to pretend that men care so deeply about preserving their sisters' purity they'll kill their best friend if he makes a move on her (see Scarface for a particularly asinine example). This is old-fashioned, out-of-date thinking, though it would definitely alter the relationship permanently.

The real reason Harry and Ron's friendship is the most unrealistic part of the fantastical Hogwarts saga is this: No guy stays best friends with the same dude from ages 12 through 21 (or however old they are when the story finishes). There's a simple reason for this: One guy always matures faster. When you have that growth spurt and start realizing how much fun it is to try to get girls to sleep with you, you can't be seen hanging out with the dude who still looks prepubescent. In real life, Ron's voice would've dropped first, and he'd be picking on mudbloods with Draco Malfoy in no time. He'd probably pull down Harry's pants in front of all the girls and laugh as Crabbe and Goyle dumped him upside down in a trash can.

Then, since Harry still hasn't hit puberty, he'd have to go make friends with the lowliest social class: other kids who haven't sprouted yet, or kids even younger. He'd probably still have Hermione as a friend, since nobody likes her anyway, but they'd be joined by scrubs like Neville Longbottom and Luna Lovegood: the weird and pathetic.

But Harry would still grow up eventually. And when he did, his quest would not be to stop the Dark Lord or whatever, it would be pure and simple revenge. He'd probably still date Ron's sister (specifically to break her heart), but he'd be training and honing his skills simply out of hatred for all Weasleys. Voldemort? Who cares? Killing a guy's parents is one thing, but the wounds suffered from social humiliation in adolescence burn longer and deeper.

So the final chapter would be all about how the Death Eaters come back into power, and Harry's one of them, and he kills Ron while Snape nods in silent approval, his transformation into the new Dark Lord complete. I mean, what teenager has the ability to see beyond his own selfish perspective? Fight evil, save the muggles? No. I see him taking the easy way out 9 times out of 10. If you disagree with me, you, like J.K. Rowling, have never been a teenage boy.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Thoughts on being a father

As a dad, I have only one job: to prepare my children for independence. Being a dad is one big balancing act between staying out of the way of your child's development and keeping them from overstepping their boundaries. This is somewhat counterintuitive at first, because children start off totally helpless, but it is a role that they themselves help you transition into. Every new development a child makes is a parental test. Depending on what that development is (crawling, talking, trying to eat the ant traps, taking off his own diapers), the parent's job is to respond correctly -- either encourage it if it's something good, or teach them not to do that if it's something bad.

And really, this is a trivial concern for at least the first few years of life, because there are very few things a child can learn to do that are of any consequence at all.

What the child is really doing for these first few years is preparing you. It is the developments they will make when they are older that are significant. As the child grows, their behavioral and physical changes multiply exponentially. Every parent reaches that point in their child's life where they just don't recognize the person anymore. That is the very point I want to avoid. I want to be able to chart every level of my child's progress, by taking an active hand in it.

This is probably a pipe dream. Perhaps some division between the generations is necessary in order to bring about that aforemention "independence" that a child must attain in adulthood. The comfort I can take in this is the possibility that my son will one day have a child of his own, and will begin to understand our relationship from my perspective. Until then, I have to let him be whoever he is.

Monday, June 13, 2011

The Decision

It's settled. I know what song I'm gonna sing at Ari's wedding reception tomorrow. You no longer have to worry about me ruining any of the songs mentioned in my previous post. It's none of the above. I'm gonna play "Everlong" by the Foo Fighters.

What I like about this choice is that it's one of those songs pretty much everybody likes. Maybe it rocks a little too hard for a wedding, but my sister likes it, so I don't care. And it fulfills all my silly restrictions. There's one part in the song I don't know how to play, so I just have to fake it through that. But otherwise this choice is looking pretty nice.

Now the next question: Should I ask my brother Jaren to back me up on the drums? We could tear it up on this track, me and him.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

What song should I sing for my sister's wedding?

Help! I have a week to decide this. These are the 3 pointless, arbitrary guidelines I've come up with in selecting the song:

1. Nothing from before the year I was born (1982)
2. The lyrics must be unambiguously pro-love
3. Something "everybody" knows (this can mean a lot of things)

Here are the choices I've come up with, along with reasons I can't do them. Feel free to suggest something else, too.

(Not "everybody" knows this song.)

(Good choice, I just need to learn it.)

(Nobody remembers Hanson anymore)

(Is this song pro-love or anti-love? I can't actually tell)

(This song is almost certainly anti-love)

(It's from 1964)

(I can't think of a reason not to do this song other than it doesn't feel quite right)

Ari, if you're out there, feel free to weigh in.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

My impression of every job application I've ever filled out

Tell us where you worked before, because we would never hire anybody who hadn't worked somewhere in the past. It's kind of like how it's a good idea not to date anybody who hasn't already had several meaningful relationships. It's just good common sense.

Are you willing to work really terrible hours, including overtime with no pay?

Are you willing to move wherever we tell you to, since it's not like there are a billion other jobs your could be doing if you just stay where you are?

Tell us about your education. It won't make any difference whatsoever, but we want you to feel like it's making a difference and you haven't wasted your life or anything.

Do other people think you're a decent person? We'll totally take their word for it.

Tell us what you think we should pay you. Because we are not going to tell you what we'll actually pay you until it's too late. This is completely fair.

Are you an illegal immigrant?

Sunday, May 29, 2011

By the numbers

This is a writing exercise I found in this book I'm reading. It's where you create a list of numbers of things that apply to you, and in the end you're supposed to have a portrait of who you are or something. Let's go.

Number of times I woke up from a dream only to find myself in another dream last night: 3
Percentage of playoff basketball games I watched in the past week: 100
Number of songs in my iPod: 5780
Percentage of songs in my iPod I'm actually familiar with: ~46
Pictures I took at the beach yesterday: 15
Views of my most-ever-watched youtube video: 640
Different shades of color my son's hair has had in the year since he was born: 4
Times my facebook statuses were about basketball in the past week: 5
Odds I would set for Dallas defeating Miami in the Finals: 1-6
Number of times I spent New Year's away from home: 3
How sure I am that I want to name my daughter either "Dallas" or "Maverick" if they DO beat Miami: 1000%
Number of books I've read in the past year that feature Hobbits: 3
Age when I first learned how to whistle: 1
Age I taught myself to play guitar: 15
Number of problems that I have that are not a bitch: 99
People who read this blog that will get that joke: 1, maybe

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Nostalgia is solipsism

So I was reading this stupid list that I clicked on for some reason. It's called 40 things that will make you feel old.

Now personally, I've seen a lot of these types of things lately. Lists that are just a bunch of "omg, can you believe how long ago this was?" xkcd did one. My personal favorite was this cracked.com list.

But this one was stupider than most. I mean, supposedly I'm the target demographic for this list, because I have clear memories of "Tha Crossroads" being a #1 jam and the premiere of Family Guy, pre-cancellation/comeback. But none of this stuff makes me feel old at all. Like, am I supposed to look at this and be like "Wow, I can't FOR ONE SINGLE SECOND believe Macaulay Culkin has hit the big three-oh!" or "It seems like just yesterday that people knew what the Macarena was!!!!11" When I look at those facts, all I can say to them is "Yeah, seems about right." (Although it did surprise me that Elijah Wood was only 18 when he did the LOTR movies; I could've sworn they used young-person makeup on him, still.)

Then I looked at this list and realized, this is only stuff that will make you feel old if you can't possibly conceive of any other experience than your own. Just because you were young when Seinfeld was on the air does not mean everybody was. There are people who were not born when the show ended, and guess what? They are going to grow old too. Lots of people were already old when that show even premiered. Did you think they were going to keep making new episodes forever? That only happened with the Simpsons.

You know what does make me feel old? Being married for six years. Having a one year-old child and another on the way. Watching my parents become grandparents. Watching my grandparents become corpses. Seeing my little brothers graduate. Seeing my little sisters get married. Having to spend money on my student loan. Working out at the gym and feeling sore for the next week. Eating a ton of sugar and feeling like crap afterward. Looking for work, any work. Blogging about stupid lists like these.

Pop culture? That stuff has a shelf-life that can be measured in weeks. I'm surprised that stuff isn't actually older than it is. So screw the Taco Bell dog. I feel young because he's dead and I'm not.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Youth is wasted

Some old guy once said "Youth is wasted on the young." This is supposed to imply that it's impossible to truly appreciate youth until you no longer have it. I would challenge this assumption, and even argue that the opposite is true: no one is better-suited for youth than the young.

As evidence, I would cite observational data: Have you ever seen a young person? They're running all over the place, trying to experience as many fun things as possible in the short amount of time they have. Children know instinctively they won't be young forever. That's why whenever you see a child at church, or in school, or some other place they don't want to be, they can't sit still. They have no patience. Every precious minute they're not playing and enjoying their childhood to the fullest is like torture to them.

"Towelie"
is a season 5 episode of South Park that features a pot-smoking anthropomorphic towel. One of the running gags in the episode is the four kids calculating the number of consecutive hours they can continue playing video games before they have to go to school, or do any other activity that doesn't involve video games.

This desire to whittle one's life down to only the activities one enjoys most is emblematic of childhood. Only someone who has experienced so little time as a child can see the flawed logic in this approach to time management. For an adult, instant gratification all the time only brings eventual disappointment. Only children know how to appreciate that, because they intuitively understand another epigram that needs a few words cut out of it: Time flies.

Friday, April 22, 2011

We hates it forever

I have just read The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien to prepare me for reading all three LOTR books. These are my thoughts on it.

- Gollum is easily my favorite part of the book and he's way too good a character to only appear in one chapter here, which I guess is why Tolkien decided to make him such a major player in the trilogy. In fact, when I first started to read the book as an 8th grader, I think I stopped reading after his chapter.
- Bilbo is such a better character than Frodo. More resourceful, less whiny, and just more colorful in general. I can't see why Frodo even needs to exist in the first place. It would've been better to just have Fellowship take place shortly after the events in The Hobbit, and have Bilbo be the one who takes the ring into Mordor. It really sucks that Frodo is appearing in the upcoming adaptation from Peter Jackson, because this story has nothing to do with him.
- This must've been a pretty groundbreaking book at the time, right? I know it didn't invent the fantasy genre or anything, but I can't think of too many other books from around 1937 that did the whole "build the world, than have an epic adventure in it" thing which every fantasy series nowadays does. Or at least, I doubt there was any book that did it as well as Tolkien does here.
- The prose style is one that would bother me if I were reading a non-fantasy book, but somehow it fits perfectly here. I love how all the characters take ten sentences to say something that could be said with one (especially in the dialogue between Bilbo and Smaug) and the long-winded descriptions of what time of day it is or what that part of Middle-earth looks like really gave me a sense of being trapped in that world, with the characters.
- I'll admit, I didn't see the final battle at the end coming. For some reason I had the impression that this book was a much "smaller" story than the trilogy, just a simple "there-and-back-again" narrative about stealing from a dragon. Instead it's about the very nature of war itself, about how the actions of very few can lead to conflicts between many. That was a smart turn to take, especially since after the dragon died, I had no idea where the story could go from there.
- Has anyone ever seen the old cartoon movie based on it? I used to have an old VHS that had this and The Secret of Nimh copied from TV, but all I remember about it is what Bilbo looked like. I wonder if it's worth going back to check out.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Pump it up

I started lifting weights a couple of weeks ago, so of course I had to start finding songs that would complement that activity.

Weightlifting is a strange activity. It makes you want to hear music that doesn't sound like it's being played so much as it's being forced into your system with the crushing power of a billion decibels. Obviously your standard "rocking out" will not suffice.



And at the risk of going all old school on you:

Saturday, February 26, 2011

What Beatles song would you kill yourself to?

I recently read "Killing Yourself to Live" by Chuck Klosterman and now he's the only guy I want to read. There's a part in the book (which is roughly a memoir about him driving across the country visiting the locations of famous rock star deaths and tragedies, while reminiscing about women he slept with) where he brings up a section from Elizabeth Wurtzel's own memoir "Prozac Nation", about how she would soundtrack her own suicide with "Strawberry Fields Forever".

In the book, this leads to a debate with a co-worker (Chuck was working for Spin magazine at the time) about whether the truly suicidal would bother picking out a song to die to. Chuck thinks that he would, and decides to go with "Tomorrow Never Knows", though he doubts it leaves him enough time to bleed to death.

So we know Wurtzel's and Klosterman's choices. This leaves the rest of us to answer the question for our own selves. I would probably be lazy and just put on my favorite Beatles song "Long, Long, Long".

But this presents a problem, because when I hear this song, I want to never die. So I'd chicken out. I would have to pick one I don't love quite as much. Maybe I'd go with "A Day In The Life". A little clich├ęd, with that line about a man who blows his mind out in a car, but what Beatles song isn't?

And I know it's got happy lyrics, but I've always found this song to be unbearably melancholy. It'd work.

Of course, if I wanted to go for the ironic/prankster-type suicide, I could always put this one on repeat:

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Tony Hawk + Napoleon Dynamite = Jacob Jake

So apparently,

+

=

At least, according to the students that I substitute teach. Agree or disagree?

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Boom shaka laka


If you haven't played the new NBA Jam game for the Wii yet, you're probably wondering how different it is from the classic SNES home version. More importantly, do these differences improve on an already classic game? Here's Jacob's breakdown to the rescue:

IMPROVEMENTS
- They added a crossover dribble move which players can use to blow past defenders while avoiding shoves and swipes. It is difficult to execute, but worth it.
- Teammates can now throw alley-oops to each other. This is by far the biggest improvement on the original, as it's basically unstoppable once you get it down, although it does require a modicum of planning if you're doing 2 players co-op.
- There are several different game modes, including 21, Domination (where you must shoot from certain spots on the floor to build up points) and an incredibly fun shatter-the-backboard game.
- It's a lot easier to block shots (which unfortunately, means it's also very easier to get your shot stuffed).
- Naturally the NBA is a whole lot better today than it was in the mid-90s (the era of Jordan's first retirement), so there are more good teams than the original, which had some teams that just flat-out sucked.
- You can play on actual simulations of a team's home court, complete with coach and bench players on the sidelines.
- The announcer is a lot more chatty than he used to be. Whether this constitutes an improvement depends on your tolerance level for non sequiturs and endless puns on the word "dunk". I like how he names specific players in his commentary and it just wouldn't be NBA Jam without a cheesy voice shouting out "Boom shaka laka!" every few minutes.

NOT IMPROVEMENTS:
- In the original game, shoving was a lot quicker, so if you missed you could still keep up with your man. In this one, shoving stops you dead in your tracks, so you better get it right or your opponent will soon be taking a dunk on your face.
- As mentioned above, it's a lot easier to get your shot blocked.
- For some reason, classic campaign is really REALLY hard (unless you play it on easy). I don't remember getting blown out by 20+ points every game in the original.
- It's harder to make your CPU opponent shoot because they moved that action to the extra button on the Wii remote. In the original, simply tapping the shoot button while your teammate had the ball caused him to hoist it. Now that just causes your teammate to commit a turnover.
- Apparently you can't shove a guy while he's in midair. That used to be my entire defensive plan.

STAYED THE SAME:
- Three straight buckets still causes your guy to be "ON FIRE!", at which point the dunks become ridiculously insane (or insanely ridiculous)
- The graphics are still pretty low-quality for the system (but who cares)
- The gameplay is still incredibly repetitive (like most classic arcade games)

Overall I feel they kept enough of the things we loved about the classic version while adding several improvements to make this game worth renting. But I don't know how much people who don't know the original would be into it. Nostalgia is a big part of the appeal. Still, it pretty well represents what us classic gamers loved about the era of classic games.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Chillax music

I'm a really mellow guy most of the time. People have to push me over just to see if I'm awake. One thing I like to do is listen to music that just sounds like it's tired. Like the people who made it were tired at the time. Or stoned, if you prefer to think of it that way, which I don't because I've never thought marijuana was THAT relaxing. Anyway, this type of song comes in all different flavors.

indie rock:


electronic:


soul:


reggae:


jazz:


rap:


even metal:


So when you're done listening to music that makes you want to throw things at people or dance like a spastic dinosaur, listen to some of these. Maybe you'll find out what it's like to be me.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Resolution

In 2011 I want to finish the book I'm working on.

I'm not big on resolutions in general. But I like to make one every year just to give myself something to do. And I never make one unless I'm absolutely positive that I can do it. That's why I've had such a good track record with keeping them. This year's one is a little more difficult than previous years, but I still know I can do this. Just need to not be so lazy.

Yours?