Sunday, January 20, 2013

A little piece of the Remix

I can't make any promises.  I was actually not sure that I had a blog anymore until earlier tonight, but I am going to try to give it my best shot and blog on this thing sometimes.

So, this one is for your Craig.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Guys Guide to the Bachelorette: Episode I

I know what you are thinking, and, yes, I am so thankful that the No. 1 comedy in America is back on the air! Seriously.

I have a good friend who makes fun of me for watching trash TV. He is probably right, but, man oh man, he had no idea what he is missing. See, the key to enjoying TV is not to take it seriously. Enjoy it for what it is. It is the kind of suspended consciousness you use while watching wrestling or any romantic comedy in which a guy falls for Drew Barrymore - deep down you know better, but you want to enjoy it.

So, here is my guide for how to enjoy The Bachelorette....

Ashley Hebert, the dental school student/dance enthusiast, was brought back after the Brad Redux Season as this year's Bachelorette. As only the most hardcore fans remember, she kind of flaked out on Brad last season when she ran out of platitudes and lost her mojo from her early season dates that had made her the front runner. Luckily, she is back this season with a new hair color and ready for some fun. Remember, the key to being a good time is a new hair color and wardrobe provided by ABC.

(Sidenote: what kind of dental school lets a student out long enough to appear on not one but two realty shows? Does she go to ITT Tech School of Dentistry?)

I love this show for a couple of reasons. All of which can be summarized as nothing is what it seems.

First, it is a game. The key to the show is ignoring what they are saying and figuring out how they are trying to play the game strategically. In this way, the Bachelorette is superior because the guys are much more blunt about what they want to do. They want to "win" and by "win" I mean get married....sort of. This franchise has a worse marriage record than Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton.

Second, this show runs on cliches. One of my favorite parts of the show is the use of certain cliches as signals of what is going on. With the girls on the Bachelor, they always say that they are "falling" or some derivative of that phrase (Ex. "I might be falling for you" = I want you to pick me over that skank Starlight.....). My personal favorite with the Bachelorette is that the guys always have to justify that they are "here for the right reasons"... I want just once to hear a guy be honest and say they are their for the overnight date in the mystery suite...The real reason anyone comes on is to further an alterior motive - making it fun to guess what these motives are. A couple of seasons back wanna-be bad boy Wes bragged to other guys he was there to help his music career - only later to reveal that he only knew one song which harmed him irreparably. Ignore the love part. It is fake anyway. Its about the game. Think of it like wrestling. Enjoy the story and the skill. Pretend it is real. It is entertainment.

Finally, the unintentional comedy is off the charts.  This show has little to no self-awareness which is just how it should be. Here are people talking about being in love/falling in love while their potential boo is over in the jacuzzi making out with four guys and the lady holding the boom mike. Call me romantic, but that is true love.

One thing to never forget:

Everyone is there for the wrong reasons - they appeared on TV in hopes of finding their soul mate. We might each have our own journey, but I doubt you want to have the convo with your son about how you knew his mother was the one when she made out with you before and after another Fernando and the fact she re-applied her Bert's Bees lip balm before coming back for more smoochin' told you it was for real.

Some Useful Lessons Displayed in Episode 1's Standouts
  1. Screen Test: The Butcher: I have never seen someone so completely miscast for a show. Anthony aka The Butcher proved once and for all that you cannot impress a lady by acting like an extra from the Sopranos. He spent the whole night rattling off monologues like he was at an audition for Goodfellas. The worst part was at the end when he acted like himself and actually seemed like a cool dude. Whoever suggested he act like a Ray Liotta wannabe gave you bad advice. The lesson learned from this is that guys play roles on this show like they are straight out of Central Casting and usually do so poorly. So next time a butcher gives you advice about anything other than a T-bone, politely decline
  2. After School Special: Need a Designated Driver Much?: One of the single greatest moments in reality TV history happened Monday night, some guy named Tim who by profession runs a liquor distributorship became so intoxicated that he could not stay on his feet or stay awake. In one of those awkward moments clearly staged for reality TV, Ashley had to go wake the drunk Tim up and then had him carried to a cab by four of the other beau hunks. As if that was not enough. Ashley, who had not spoken to sober Tim for more than three minutes, at the most, pontificated about whether or not Tim was an alcoholic. One truly bizarre afterschool special! The moral of the story is that reality TV has a hair-trigger for truly bizarre The More You Know!
  3. Mama's boy: Here is another thing you will only hear on the Bachelorette: "I love a mama's boy." Exact quote by the lovely Ashley! Long story short, one of the contestants/bachelors called him mom from his cell phone to let his mom talk to Ashley. The only thing that pulled it out for Loser #1 was the fact that the mom was pretty funny. Things turned super awkward when the mom admonished them to use protection on the overnight date. Don't worry mom, the awkward phone call definitely ensured he will not be getting into any Situations.... Can anyone imagine this in real life?
  4. The Mask: This season's big twist is that one of the contestants is voluntarily wearing a mask. Well not like one of those weird Richard Nixon masks worn by robbers and Patrick Swayze (see Point Break), but one like you wear to a masquerade ball. The funniest part of this is that the other contestants are infuriated by this. In the normal world, you would ignore the guy as being a weirdo. However, on the Bachelorette, this somehow makes him the biggest threat. They took it seriously. I guess it was because, wait for it, he was there for the right reasons.... Reality TV is the gift that keeps on giving
  5. Cellphone Salesmen = Damaged Goods: Every season, someone seems like a real catch but they have a mysterious past that usually includes having their heart broken for an inexplicable reason. This season the guilty party was William the cell phone salesman from Ohio. Ashley even said it - he seems perfect. In the world of reality TV, this should be a giant red flag. If a guy is on this show looking for love as if this show is his last and only option, he is probably damaged goods. For you viewers out there, when you see this, you should look carefully for the flaw because it will show itself eventually. In this case, Will proceeded to do a lackluster Sean Connery impression and followed it by his riff on how he never wants to grow up - ode to Toys 'r' us! You might as well have had a sign over his head dinging while flashing damaged goods. But hey, it's all good.
  6. Tugging the Heart Strings: Go West Young Man: In a teaser preview of the contestants, one of the dudes - who happened to be named West - instantly endeared himself to the loyal audience when he shared the tragic loss of his wife of 7 years who died in an unfortunate accident a few years ago. In real life, this would have been a touching story, but in the world of the Bachelorette, this was currency. The minute ABC played that clip he was guaranteed a 5 episode arc. Undoubtedly, he will roll along with his charisma playing up jokes based on his names only to reveal his true past and earn two more episodes and the possibility of an episode to be named later. Long story short, in the world of reality TV, human interest stories are like the golden ticket from Willy Wonka. But he was there for the right reasons remember!
Lesson Learned

In the end, the real lesson of the Bachelorette is encapsulated in Bentley. Bentley an entrepreneur from Utah who it appears from a teaser clip owns a Bounce-around and calls that a business venture. Anyway, from contestant interviews, we know that Bentley is admittedly on the show to promote himself and ultimately to trick poor Ashley. The dramatic twist to this is that Ashley was warned beforehand by a former contestant who knew of the plot. Despite the forewarning, Ashley decides that she is going to give him a chance and later in the show we see a preview in which she proclaims her love for Bentley.

From this, we learn two things that are the ultimate lessons from the show:
  1. All girls know each other - no one on the show even flinched when Ashley was told before the show even started to film - both the identity and intentions of an unnamed man. This just confirms my suspicion - girls are part of a secret network guys don't know about similar to the one the dogs had in 101 Dalmatians that was so mysterious yet made so much sense.
  2. Finally, even on TV girls go for the jerks - this show confirms what we have known all along - girls go for awful guys. This is case in point - Ashley was told what he was going to do, he did it, and she fell for it. Yet, we feel sorry for her. Some call this lame, I call it compelling TV.
Long story short, watch The Bachelorette and enjoy it for what it really is. Ignore the emotion and the "love." Realize it is like wrestling, people play roles and are really working to make a few dollar bills and hopefully retire in Florida.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Why I Can't Explain What Calling the Hogs Means to Me...

"Breathes there a man with soul so dead
who never to himself hath said
This is my own. My native land!
Whose heart hath ne'er within him burned
as home his footsteps he has turned
From wandering on a foreign strand..."
- Sir Walter Scott

When I left Little Rock to move to D.C., my mama told me never to forget where I came from. Little did she know that I would spend most of my first two months in my new home missing my old one. It is not just missing something familiar, family, or friends. It is that longing deep down that Sir Walter Scott was talking about. It is that intangible connection to where I'm from.
As one might expect, the problem with intangible connections is they are usually hard to define. Fortunately for me, I just have to point to a simple answer and that is by watching Arkansas Razorback football games. See, it was in my four years of college, watching those games that I learned something about who I am in this world. I'm an Arkansan.

Growing up in Arkansas, I watched the games because it was what I was supposed to do but mostly wanted to know if my Sunday School teachers would be grumpy the next day. It wasn't until I went away to the University that I started to realize that those games were more about my life than I could have ever imagined. I read somewhere that Bill Clinton once said that he was afraid Razorback games were a metaphor for life - I'm afraid he was too right.

To the untrained eye, a Razorback football game is no different from any other college sporting events. Two teams, fight songs, cheerleaders, people living vicariously though 19 year old kids, and alot of concession stand food. But the truth is, that game represents life for an Arkansan - the bad and the neverending hope for good.

In a state that is perennially 49 of 50 in everything good and in the top five of everything bad as ranked by the people who rank things for the purpose of humilating us, the unofficial state motto is "Thank God for Mississippi." Which by the way, Thank you God and Ole Miss for taking Houston Nutt off of our hands... (As my college advisor used to say, "Poor lil' ol' state." True story, she meant it nicely)

However, as I have learned, the one time those stats, the jokes about being poor and incestuous, and generally being stupid don't matter, and everyone has to respect us is when our football team wins. That is why the game matters. Becuase, that is a group of some 100 young men standing up for us and saying we matter.

The games teach us about hope.

Think of it this way, everytime we get down, we stand in unison and Call the Hogs. As unpretentious as the state itself, Calling the Hogs is by no means high and mighty. In fact, it is kind corny. Of course, you only think it is silly until the first time it works. Honestly, there is nothing quite like Calling them with 70,000 people. [Legend has it that in the Great Shootout of 1969, the crowd was so loud that it shook the field knocking the ball off of the tee. (Yes, seeing that happen live is on my bucket list).]

The point of all this is to say that no matter how dark things get. No matter, how far behind we are, somehow we truly believe that Calling the Hogs can change that. Like I said, doubt me all you want until the first time it works...

But in my four years at the University, I learned that there was another one of our traditions that explained why this mattered. During pregame, after the band comes in and the Hogs are called, the student section (and I guess everyone else if they want to) stands to sing the alma mater. While it took me the better part of four years to learn it, it only took me one game to learn the last line... "Mother of Mothers we sing unto, YOU!"

The tradition is to turn and point to Old Main (the oldest and original building on campus which I will probably write more about one day) as we sing this line. Old Main is signifcant not just for its age, but the fact that it is the starting point for the Senior Walk where each alumnus has their name engraved in the sidewalk to always be remembered by future generations. Old Main is an appropriate way to recognize our past and our future. It symbolizes our pride and our hope.

I loved to start the game that way because it always reminded us that all of us, students, alumni, and fans were in this together. We shared the same pride and tradition. We shared the same passion and most importantly the same hope, now and for our future.

Now that I have gone on to other places and the Ozarks are not my home, I think about the rest of the alma mater that always reminds me of where I am from.

"Pure as the dawn on the brow of they beauty
Watches thy soul from the mountains of God
Over the fates of they children departed
Far from the land where their footsteps have trod
Beacon of hope in the ways dreary lighted
Pride of our hearts that are loyal and true,
From those who adore unto one who adores us
Mother of Mothers we sing unto you"

If Razorback football is a metaphor for life, I think the most important lesson might be that wherever we go, our home never leaves us. We are always Razorbacks. We are always Arkansans. Even better, Arkansas waits patiently for our return, cheering us on. Hoping for our best.

The funny feeling I have had the last few weeks of missing home has not so much been a sad one but a steady reminder of who I am and the pride of the state and home I represent.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Rewriting my story

By any measure, it was a beautiful morning. Cool blue skies were a welcome relief for Virginia and the nation's capitol. The lazy days of summer were beginning to give way to the fall and a return to normal. For a region defined by hustle and bustle, there was a certain serenity to the moment.

That was this morning.

I woke up in my apartment just blocks from the Pentagon and couldn't help but think about how my story has changed dramatically in the last 3,287 days.

The first Sept. 11th happened my junior year of high school. Not just that year, but while I was on our junior class trip to Washington D.C. That was another idyllic morning in D.C. Clear blue skies, on a cool fall morning, it was a perfect day. The highlight of our trip was the tour of the White House that was supposed to start between 9:30 and 10:00 that morning.

When we arrived at the White House, one of our group got a call from her dad asking to talk to the trip leader. At first, I was surprised that someone had a cellphone they brought with them since roaming charges were crazy, but I was soon more concerned with the look on our leader's face. From what I could eavesdrop from the conversation, a plane had flown into one of the buildings of the World Trade Center. This was odd, but I knew that happened sometimes with skyscrapers - in my mind nothing would stand in the way of my dream of visiting the White House.

That all changed when I heard them discuss a second plane. Everything went too fast from that point. Guards began to scramble into and out of the buildings around the White House, shotguns, bulletproof vests, then assault rifles... About that time we were encourageed to clear the grounds - by running, not walking, running. Our group fled to our bus and headed out of town but had to pass by the Pentagon on I-395. By then, we had heard what had happened and sure enough, there was a hole and billows of smoke. Problem is we had to drive past on a road that was being shut down. Thankfully a firefighter spotted our bus as a school group and made us one of the last vehicles to pass by.

We made it home to Little Rock the next day, still unsure of what all we had seen and what had happened. None of us knew the gravity of the situation until we pulled into the church parking lot to find everyone we knew and tv camera crews ready to greet us. We weren't quite sure what, but we knew we had survived.

The next few weeks, the story was all we talked about. Everyone wanted to know how it felt, what we thought, and what it was like. But as always happens with time, the story started to fade. It got shorter. Fewer people wanted to listen. Or maybe I got tired of telling it.

College came and went. Then seminary and grad school. Memories came back last summer when I lived up here while working at my internship, but it was a short trip and life got back to normal. Since moving up here in August, I have thought about just how much things have changed and today of days it is worth considering.

It has been nine years since that day, but I am on a path that is no doubt impacted by what happened. After all, it was the process of coming to grips with how my world had changed that I became interested in politics and government. I majored in political science, got my masters in public administration and now am working on a law degree. I may not have thought about that last September day on a regular basis in class, but it was no doubt the driving force behind where I am today.

My trip has brought me full circle. Not just to D.C., but even to the place I live. See, my apartment building is on the otherside of where I sat on I-395 watching smoke pour out of the Pentagon. On my right that day, a burning building symbolized a change in my future. I geuss i should have just looked to my left to see what exactly that might mean.

Nine years later, in exactly the same place, I look back to where I have come from wondering where it is taking me next.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Step 1: Try not to look like an idiot

"Back to school, back to school, to prove to dad I'm not a fool..."
- Billy Madison

During our law school orientation, one of the professors turned motivational speakers told us that law school was more like high school than we could imagine. Not withstanding his years of wisdom, I'd have to say that it might be alot more like junior high. See, I am now two weeks into law school and feel that I still spend 80% of my day trying not to look like an idiot - just like junior high. Here's why...

First, I have a locker with a combination lock that I use sparingly because I end up carrying around all of my belongings like a hobo riding trains cross country. I mean you never know when you will have 30 seconds to go to your locker that is literally 4 feet away from your classroom where you have back to back classes. I mean, why play with fire? Have I mentioned that going to law school has made me lose all sense of reason? More on that later.

Second, I become irrationally nervous about stupid things such as walking down the hall. To my credit, picture this, you have 75 to 100 people in each of the first year sections getting out of class at the same time and having to walk through the same narrow hallways to get to their next class. Add to that the fact that all of us have the nervous disposition of a rabid chipmunk. Oh, and don't forget that we are all carrying everything we own in massive backpacks. People don't come out alive. True story. In another lifetime, called high school, I used to make fun of junior high kids for doing the exact same thing. They would break into a sweat running to their next class like they were the only ones on the Titanic to get out of the lowest decks. I now call that Thursday.

Third, I quit using deoderant and inexplicably starting wearing my hair in a different style that involves a cowlick-flip in the front. Ok, not really, but it could happen. I am only two weeks into this thing.

Updates to come...

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Real People I've Known #28: Softball Nomad Part 1

To be honest, I will probably never remember how we met. Really, I can't think of anyone who was sure where he came from. All I know is that one day he was there and that is really what matters.

It all started my junior year of high school when I agreed to play for the church softball team during the summer. Judging by the tarnished trophies around the church, the team had been really good at one point but had fallen on hard times. The season I joined was special because it was the first time in four or five years we had fielded a team.

We got together for maybe one practice before league play began, nothing major. After all, I knew pretty much everyone who was on the team.

That all changed at the first game when he showed up - the Softball Nomad....

I was warming up with Brian, my brother-in-law and soon to be de facto coach of our squad, when the Softball Nomad ambled up to our team. Having no idea who he was, I asked around for someone familiar with him - no one had a clue.

No one knew what to make of him. I mean, here, standing before us, was the 45-year-old incarnation of David Wooderson, Matthew McConaughey's mustachioed character from Dazed and Confused, wearing jean shorts an old t-shirt and neon Nike running shoes. Everything was there including the slow Southern drawl and the boyish twinkle in his eye. He was wiry and tanned. The age showed at times.

We were friendly to him as we would be with anyone else, but I think that deep down we smiled and nodded waiting to see another middle-aged guy who was good at softball once.

If you have played on a non-competitive sports team, you will understand that when someone tells you they play a certain position, you have to take their word for it. You might have a sneaking suspicion that the 300-lb slug you just added to the team is not in fact a wide receiver... Anyway, Softball Nomad said in no uncertain terms that he wanted to play Centerfield. We had no choice. When Softball Nomad tells you something, for some weird reason you listen.

There was nothing very memorable about the game (with the exception of me throwing the ball over the dugout...twice) particularly because the other team scored about 100 runs an inning. Seriously, it looked like that old Bugs Bunny cartoon.

Then something amazing happened. A soft line drive hit towards center looked like it was about to fall in front of Softball Nomad.

All I remember was the flash of neon Nikes flying through the air and the Nomad going down in a heap. The team let out a collective groan that said "dang, I hope he signed his insurance waiver". Fifteen guys and our three fans all had that split second of gut wrenching anguish knowing there is going to be a mangled middle-aged man out there. Before we could grasp the gory scene though, Nomad jumped to his feet threw in the ball and ran back to his position. No harm no foul.

Collective silence.

After the game, the self-effacing Nomad would only say, "Well, it's like I always say, 'As long as nobody got hurt that was as good as a victory.'" With that, he evaporated into the darkness as silently as he arrived.

Fortunately, the Nomad would magically turn up for every game. Always arriving an hour early to go through a stretch routine only qualified yogis are capable of pulling off, the Softball Nomad appeared and disappeared without warning. At the end of the season, he drifted into the ether only to return each spring.

Over the years, we got to know him better - as well as you could know him - but on some level he was always just the Softball Nomad.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Goodbye Neil Diamond...

"There are two types of people in this world: Those who like Neil Diamond, and those who don't. My ex-wife loves him"
- Bob Wiley, What About Bob

I would have to respectfully disagree with Bob. There is a third type of person - people whose car is named Neil Diamond....

My life changed forever August 1, 2010. That was the day I left a sizeable part of me in Little Rock as I left for the East Coast. When most people say they left a part of themselves, they mean something vague and abstract like a heart or a memory. No, in my case, I mean I left a literal part of me, some might say the best part....Neil Diamond.

For the first time since the summer of 2003 when I left for Fayetteville, I don't have my wingman by my side. For the last seven years, I have torn up the countryside and stolen the hearts of young ladies driving my surface-of-the-sun-yellow Jeep Cherokee. In seven years and 100,000+ miles, I lived a 1,000 lifetimes with Neil Diamond.

But the road came to an end two weeks ago.

That morning, we drove Neil with one final load of cargo to meet Steph's parents with our U-Haul. After we made it back to my boyhood home (aka my parents house, I decided I am going to start calling it so when I am famous it doesn't sound so awkward), I made up an excuse to stay outside while Stephanie ran inside. Once I was alone, I took a moment to listen to the Neil Diamond cassette tape in the tape deck of the Jeep which gave Neil his name. One final time, I blasted "Forever in Blue Jeans." I hate to admit this, but I didn't cry. I wanted to, but the lyrics were too uplifting.

Anyway, after one last goodbye, I handed over the keys to my mom. Neil sat in the driveway like a champ waiting for me with the look in his eye Old Yeller had before he got capped by the older brother. Neither of us wanted it to end, but it was time to go our separate ways.

After a final family lunch and a round of goodbyes, we hit the road on our long trip to DC. Now, two weeks later, a day has not gone bye that I have not just wanted to climb behind the wheel of that two-wheel drive stallion and drive off into the sunset.

My day will come, but until then I hear the words of our final song ringing in my ears:

"I'd like to say, We do okay, Forever in Blue Jeans...."