Come and See Me Actually Being Me

If ANY of you still have this blog on your blogrolls or feeds, and care what I have to say, I’m now writing at my own self-titled site, sans pseudonym.  I haven’t done any administrative stuff there, but I have put up the first post.

Please add the new site to your blogrolls, feeds, etc.

Thanks,

Tom Landers (Slartibartfast)

There Are 10 Types Of People In The World…

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It Wasn’t So Bad, After All

I guess I should join the chorus of those saying good riddance to “the worst decade ever”.   Lord knows, on the surface it would appear I have good cause, I guess.

But, every setback I have encountered, no matter how heartbreaking, has brought me blessings beyond measure.

I will dwell on the laughs and the joys. There were many.

Happy New Year everyone. Here’s hoping that the coming year will be blessed.

Thanksgiving Manifesto

No, I haven’t talked to you much lately – mostly because the nature of blogging requires one to come across in self-assured pomposity (even when proclaiming doubt), and lately I have been feeling anything but self-assured.  Having two teens (or teenager-like beings) in the house will do that to you.

However, I thought I’d throw you all a curveball and post something longer than a Twitter post.

Let me first say that I give thanks to God for all things.  I don’t deserve a bit of it, and I spend a good amount of time in wonder that I have been bestowed with such bounty – in material things, in love, family and friendship, in purpose.  In a truly just world, I would have none of it. 

God is good, all the time.

However, in the deep breath before the yearly holiday craziness, I’d like to address the controversial issue most pressing in my mind:

Dressing or stuffing?

Now, I try to address issues of food from a utilitarian point of view, because, according to my faith, I have been freed from having to ponder the morality of every food decision I make.  Being programmed otherwise, I still struggle with seeing certain foods as ‘good’ or ‘bad’.

(As an aside, the only good thing that comes out of the fact that many people view food choices from a moral point of view is that often we get to see naked or near-naked skinny women protesting the eating of this or that animal.  Being a fan of the female form, who am I to argue with that?  Although I would prefer meat-eating naked protesters, because meat eating produces, for me, the ideal female form, beggars can’t be choosers)

Anyway…even our doctors seem to approach our food choices from a point of view that sure sounds like morality to me.  But, I digress.

Yet, this is one food issue in which I am willing to take a moral stand.

Let me be clear:  stuffing is an abomination.

It dries out the turkey, it introduces harmful bacteria, and it’s a serious misuse of breadcrumbs.  And I’d really rather not stick my arm up the inner cavity of a bird any more than I have to.

Dressing, more specifically cornbread dressing, is one of the greatest foods ever created.  Done right, it is moist but not soggy, flavorful but not pungent, and compliments the turkey perfectly.  It’s good as a leftover, and I even like it cold, right out of the refrigerator.

It is by far the best use for the spice sage.  In fact, besides fried chicken breading, I can think of no other decent use for the strong green spice.

Anyway, since I wish you and yours the happiest of Thanksgivings, of course I hope you have a day filled with cornbread dressing and sweet tea.

I will be having turkey tomorrow, so if any of you lovely vegan ladies would like to come to my house to protest in the buff, my 13-year-old son would really appreciate it.  I’ll even make a batch of green beans without animal fat for you (even though that, too, is an abomination.  Crunchy cooked vegetables?  Weird.)

Seriously, I hope all of you have a wonderful Thanksgiving.

We Will Become Monsters

Dirty Old Sexist Pig

One reason we absolutely have to stop this not-so-subtle attempt to purge Mexicans from our city:  if our Spanish-speaking neighbors leave, most likely we will lose Telemundo.  And if we lose Telemundo, we lose Muy Buenos Dias.

Shut up.

I get up at 4:45 every moring, and I need evermore assistance to get the blood flowing.  And with some things in life, the language barrier just doesn’t matter.

Lately, I wake up, get a cup of coffee, let Lelan Statom tell me the weather, then flip the channel and take a little time to learn what’s hot in spanish-language music.

If you are up at 5 in the morning, I highly recommend the show.

Speaking of me being a sexist pig, here’s where I reveal a secret that will definitely make you think less of me.  There’s been one thing that has been bothering me about this whole Miss USA, Carrie Prejean dustup (besides the fact that it reminds me that Perez Hilton got famous with no discernable talent). 

It bothers me greatly that the producers of these pageants feel it neccessary to interject “issues” and other things of importance into what is essentially an entertainment show focusing on female beauty.  I’m speaking only as a “consumer” here.

I love and prefer the company of women who are smart and knowledgeable.   I also am not ashamed to admit that I appreciate female beauty.  I am extremely lucky that the woman I married 22 years ago is both highly intelligent and beautiful.

But, as a man, my mind just won’t let me concentrate on both at the same time. 

Apparently, I’m not alone.  According to an article in the NY Times about Miss America’s decline (from 2005):

Broadcasters show data proving that the talent show and the interviews, the pageant’s answers to feminist criticism, were the least popular portions of the pageant, while the swimsuit part still had the power to bring viewers back from the kitchen. 

Sorry.  I know many women get very upset with the compartmentalization that occurs in the male mind, but I really was born this way. 

Granted, some of it is just about context.  When I’m watching basketball, I would be highly upset if someone stuck a microphone in Lebron James’ face and asked him his opinion on TARP right after a slam dunk.  Not that I wouldn’t want to know his opinion, just not at that moment.

But anyway, back to important matters.  Politicians of Nashville, consider yourselves put on notice.  If your actions result in Telemundo being pulled from the air in our city (meaning no more Muy Buenos Dias), I will support your opponents, regardless of party.

Some things are far more important than politics.

We Will Get Through This

There is a chill in the air, which is certainly not unusual for this time of year.  But there is something else, something I have not sensed on such a scale in many years: fear.  There is, of course, suffering as well, the suffering of those whose fears have already come to pass.  But above all else, there is foreboding.

Most of you already knew this. Unfortunately, I am not as blessed with a makeup that allows me to see facts and come to an immediate conclusion.  I am one of those who rely heavily on intuition and reading the emotions of others.  I have to feel something before I know it.

I recently was away on business, and it was there that I fully felt the magnitude of the situation in which we now find ourselves.  I learned that what’s been going on at my place of business has been going on at almost every place of business throughout the country, maybe the world.  Mostly I sensed the worry beneath the surface of every conversation; no one was spared – it was universal in every region and every field.  Even our instructor was caught up in the events of these troubling times. 

Seeing their eyes, I finally understood.

However, I can tell you that this dependence on intuition that plagues me also gives me a certain insight.  Take it for what it’s worth, but that insight tells me something for sure:

We will get through this.

Make no mistake.  The worst is yet to come.  We are entering a dark time, and before it is over, we will grow so weary of bad news that we just won’t pay attention anymore.

But we will get through this.

Americans, for all the world to see, appear fat, and selfish, uneducated, materialistic, prone to bigotry, and rudderless.  We have invested so much in this appearance, we have begun to believe it ourselves.

But I think something incredible is about to happen:  we are going to rediscover who we are.

There is a spark within us, now barely an ember.  We will hold onto this spark like a precious jewel, and it will cause us to, above all else, just hold on.

We will summon a strength we didn’t know we had, and we will somehow, miraculously, hold on.

We will find a mercy, the kind of which we had forgotten that we were capable , and we will help one another.  In another time many of us might have been rivals, or even thought of ourselves an enemies, yet we will pull together and ensure that no person starves, no child is without clothes, no sick person is left out in the cold.

In headier days, we might have had arguments over the best way to do these things – and we will once again – but during this time in the desert we will take care of First Things.

We will, in defiance of a world convinced we are fat, selfish and lazy, somehow,impossibly, hold on.

We will get through this.

And then something else will happen.  I have no idea what shape that Something will take. I don’t think our imaginations can yet see what it might be.  But, with God’s help, it will lead us out of the darkness.

Do not look to the Halls of Power for this Something: fate does not work that way, nor history.  From what I can tell, God does not work that way.  Want to shake the foundations of history?  Do not look to the gilded palaces of kings or rulers, but to a humble home’s first floor where animals are kept, in a dirty place where the goats are fed.  God seems to take delight in bringing salvation from such surprising places.

Whatever this Something is, we probably won’t even recognize it until our children write the history of the time.  Our dreamers will somehow envision it, our more grounded will take the Dream and design it, our workers will supply sweat and muscle and build it.  No, I cannot see what shape this Something will take, whether it be a movement, or a new economy, or some new technology, or even a new way of thinking.  But it will be glorious.

We will still have our malcontents and cynics who will constantly harp about how the Something cannot possibly work, and once it does, how there’s no way it can continue.  They will not be heard.  We will be so weary from being in the darkness for so long, once the spark within us becomes a flame, there will be no stopping us.  We will shock the world with our sense of purpose and drive and optimism.  The world will get caught up in our wake and follow.

Our faith, so often ridiculed, will save even those who do not share it.

This Something does not necessarily have to emerge from America, but I sense that it will.  For all of its faults, America is by far the country that most tolerates dreamers.  America has exported many things throughout its history, but its number one import has always been optimists.

From this fertile ground will arise those (maybe they have not yet been born) who will take the spark within us that we jealously guard, and fan it to a flame.  When others have succumbed to the thought that just holding on is all we can do, these visionaries will let us know that there is a change in the wind.  Then, we’ll take heart, and get to work.

I know that things are bad, very bad.  I also know that they are going to get worse.  I ache, knowing that so many will feel so much pain that they will grow weary of it.

But I also see that the day is coming that the weary world will rejoice.  When we want to despair, we must hold on and wait for a change in the wind.  When it is darkest, we must look for the dawn.

And what do you know?  Yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.

Merry Christmas, America.

Important (Part 2)

How in the world did my parents get to be old?

Well, OK, they’re not THAT old (Dad turns 65 in October), but you have to understand that my folks have always been “young” to me.  That’s what happens when your mother gained that status at a very young age.  At family gatherings, they were always the youngest in their generation (they were both “babies” of their respective families). 

But, at a recent family gathering, I took a good, long look at them.  They no longer looked so much younger than everyone else.  Dad will soon be 65, and is getting around a little slower.  Mom has had a series of illnesses and injuries that are starting to seem more than just coincidence.

You guys know, my “feeling” side is more dominant than my “thinking” side.  For the first time in my life, I am starting to “feel” my parents’ mortality.

In fact, the other day, I had one of those unbidden thoughts that rips your heart out; the kind you curse your subconscious for presenting it to you, even if only for a brief moment. 

For a split second, I could imagine my father on his deathbed.

I immediately squashed the thought, but the damage was done – my heart had sunk to my shoes.  I was literally shaking.

I realized in that terrifying moment, maybe for the first time, that I love my parents more than I might be able to express.  And, in that light, I also realized that I have not been a very good son.  I had pushed them to the margins of my life as I had built my own.  I had relegated them to a phone call – maybe every other week.  If I am totally honest with myself, I know that my life has become so busy, so self-involved, that they have become an afterthought.

That sucks.  They deserve better.  From now on, I WILL do better.  If Tim McGraw will pardon the plagiarism – I intend to live life as if my parents were dying.

I will do right by them, I will give earnest effort to earning the right to one day be able to walk them down that long, lonely road with grief, but not regret.  I want to have the moral authority to one day be able to tell the story of their lives.

Because who would we want to tell the story of our lives, but our children?

To be continued…

Feel Good Friday – Something A Little Different

Thank God for “Embedding disabled by request”.  If not for that, I would have never found this bit of awesomeness.

I love choral ensembles.  I love Hanson’s MMMBop.  So sue me.  Make a great Friday!

I Survived A Japanese Game Show

With all the turmoil in our lives lately, my family has found joy in two diversions recently.  The Joe Cocker translation video, and ABC’s new hyper-silly reality show I Survived a Japanese Game Show.

I know what you’re thinking.  It’s got to be stupid, right?  Certainly the premise is cruel – certainly the show is all about making fun of someone from a different culture?

As someone who has been in more multicultural situations than he ever thought he’d see (and not through some contrived Celebration of Cultures one-time event), I can tell you that this show strikes just the right tone.

It’s silly.  It’s downright bizarre.  It makes fun of all of us.

The show is filled with a kind of joy, a celebration.  There’s the whole “show within a show” aspect (during the Japanese broadcast parts, the quality of the HD actually changes – this is by design).  The Japanese audience most definitely is laughing at the loud but clueless Americans.  We, the American audience, are supposed to be laughing at the very strange entertainment culture of many Japanese.

I have a confession to make: I LOVE Japanese game shows.  Ever since the first time I saw MXC (or Most Extreme Elimination Challenge) on Spike, I have been hooked.  Of course, the funniest part of the show was the American English overdubbing, but there was still something loveable about the crazy underlying Japanese show Takeshi’s Castle.

By the way, the lead-in to Japanese Game Show is Wipeout, and Americanised version of these type of shows.  It’s a little crueler than the originals, and not done in the same spirit of fun, but we still watch anyway – it’s like a train wreck.

But Japanese Game Show is just so much fun – both because we get to see an (almost) real Japanese game show, Majide (which means “Seriously?”), but we also get to see the reactions of the hapless Americans, who were not told what they would be doing when they signed up for an un-described reality show (why would anyone do that?)

An example of one of the contests on Majide: Big Bug Splat On A Wind Shield  – Contestants in bug suits carrying a goo-filled balloon on a chest-mounted pouch had to jump on a trampoline and accurately place markers on three separate targets on a target area decorated to look like a car windshield.

The audience is screaming and banging drums, and the host is as hammy as David Lee Roth.

The only part of the show I don’t like is the typical reality show cliches: everyone lives in the same house (with a tough mama-san, no less).  Characters give “confessionals” throughout the show (yuck), and a camera follows the contestants backstage.  There seems to be contrived conflict, and that’s many times no fun to watch at all.

All in all, though, it’s good, silly, intra-cultural fun.  My kids absolutely love it.

As far as the uptight folks who are afraid to laugh at our world’s cultural differences (in a non-condescending way, of course), well, they tend to run in pretty homogenous circles themselves, so I pay them no nevermind.  Life is too short to walk around offended, especially for other people (who may not even be offended themselves)

Check the show out next week, or watch it online at ABC’s site: it’ll be more fun than you think!