4/30/13

Scary Movies . . .

I should clarify, right up front, that this post is in NO WAY a criticism ON or judgment OF people who enjoy horror/slasher/thriller/murder films and is, instead, merely my thoughts on why they may be so popular. Everybody relax. 

I was just sitting at my computer and I, out of boredom, surfed over to IMDB.com and clicked on the trailer gallery. As it is almost officially "summer movie season" (Iron-Man 3 will kick it off Friday, if I am correct in my impression) and I wanted to see what else was coming and I was sorta' shocked to see SO MANY horror/slasher/thriller/murder films in the gallery . . . The Evil Dead gets a remake. Carrie gets a remake. The Ring gets a not-so remake (The Lords of Salem) and there are "new" films like Mama, The Purge, The Conjuring, Dark Skies, and You're Next and ALL of them have come out recently or WILL come out in 2013.

I should clarify - I quit watching "the evening news" and TV in general a long time ago. A major reason was all the blood, gore, violence, and pain, and suffering. I don't go see horror movies. I've never enjoyed them - an embarrassing/true story for another post has a punchline of "I saw the movie The Grudge and did not sleep for THREE nights and STILL don't like to think about it. I didn't watch TV on 9/11. I didn't look at or watch or seek out any photos/video of the Boston bombings a few weeks ago. I don't like violence, death, chaos, or pain . . . real or simulated.

I guess my question is WHO DOES? Let's be clear - LOTS of people. Saw movies have made a "gagillion" dollars. They are up to, what, Paranormal Activity 431? They keep rebooting and remaking and re-imagining and doing origins and sequels to every horror/blood movie ever made and they do it for a simple reason . . . profit.

But WHY? The question is still "why." Especially this recent "brand" of horror movies where families are attacked in their homes and where sons and daughters turn on parents (possessed or otherwise) and where spouses face "them or me" decisions, etc.?

I remember once seeing an interview with the guy that made the original Night of the Living Dead and he said that the rise of horror films in the 60s and 70s, like the rise of comic book heroes in the decades before, is a reflection of us feeling unsafe in our world. That we have enemies and that we want to believe that either a hero will save us or we will save ourselves/outlast the threat. Am I alone in presuming this wave of "domestic horror" (my term - but use it if you like) movies where families are attacked in the home is a further reflection to where we feel that danger happens? In a federal building in Oklahoma City? A school in Colorado or Connecticut? An office tower complex in lower Manhattan. Twice? Times Square? The finish line of a marathon? Our own homes daily?

Will anything end this trend? Will "we" decide one day we've had enough? Will our securities be buoyed or our confidence improved? Will we find peace in the bloodshed in the real world and not pay $10/ticket to consume it?

These are the things that keep me up at night and out of the trailer gallery at IMDB.com.

4/29/13

Lag b'Omer . . .

Get some marshmallows and all-beef franks, yuns. We're
having a bonfire and celebrate being kind to each other.
It's time for another "Jewish Holiday You've Never Heard of, Non-Jews" primer - today, we're talking Lag b'Omer.

Lag b'Omer is the 33rd day of the counting of the Omer which is a daily recognition of the 49 days between Pesach and the handing down of the Torah to the Jews (aka Shavuot). Why does the 33rd day get a celebration? There was a plague that set upon and killed 24,000 students of Rabbi Akiva during the counting of the Omer. The plague, which lifted on the 33rd day, left five students including Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai who went on to be the greatest Rabbi of his generation and wrote many lasting documents like the Zohar.

The plague was believed to be divinely sent and was put upon the pupils because they were not being kind enough to each other. Simple as that! There is an old cliche that you can recite the entire Torah while standing on one foot: "Do onto others." and things like this plague and Lag b'Omer are good reminders of that mandate. Apparently the last five students got it or there were just not enough of them left for infighting and pettiness.

FUN FACTS:

  • Lag b'Omer sounds like two random words but Lag is actually L (lamed) which has a value of 30, an "a" to help with pronunciation (the Hebrew alephbet has no vowels) and G (gimmel) which has a value of 3 and b' ("of") and Omer (Omer) so it is literally the 33 of Omer
  • General "joy" and "happiness" is frowned upon in some communities during the time between Pesach and Lag b'Omer. This includes weddings, parties, and the stand up comedy styling of Gallagher. Okay. Maybe not all that
  • In observant communities, men typically won't shave and no one gets a hair cut. Lag b'Omer of a boy's third year of life is often when he has his first haircut. Some women will recognize Lag b'Omer with a donation of their hair to locks of love
  • Bonfires, archery, and grilling festivities are common celebrations to mark Rabbi Shimon (see carob below) and his brilliant (as in bright, strong fire) scholarship on Jewish mysticism (aka Kabbalah
  • The rainbow became part of Lag b'Omer celebrations in the 80s with the rise of Print Shop software. I kid - it is a nod to Noah's Big Boat and the fact that the world would never know suffering like that particular flood again.
  • Carob (a crappy chocolate substitute, by the way) is frequently eaten in honor of a rabbi and his son who spent 13 years in a cave, buried up to their heads in sand, and studying the Torah surviving on carob alone
Anywho, the holiday is over (it went from sundown Saturday through sundown Sunday this year) but I thought you might still appreciate a little overview as I certainly did when I learned about the occassion. 

Be NICE to each other! 

4/28/13

Learn Something EVERY Day . . .

I am doing a little "consulting" to fill my days lately (keeps the brain sharp, gets me out of the apartment, allows me to drone on and on and on) and I'm very much enjoying it. But this post is not about my freelancing ways . . . nope. It is about HELIUM!

WHY? You may ask (although probably not in all caps) are you going to make an entire post about helium? Simple . . . we're running out of it. The world (depending on who you ask) - in about 25 years - will have NO more helium left. Think about that for a minute. In our lifetimes (besides you, Great Ma-Ma, you old bag (DISCLAIMER: I have no Great Ma-Ma but if I did I would love her and never want her to die) we will see a day where we can't have helium balloons, we can't use helium to make our voices crazy, we won't be able to perform several medical procedures and the Disney/Pixar movie Up will make no sense to children (DISCLAIMER: The balloon-lifting-the-house premise of Up should make no sense to adults or children TODAY either).

To get back on point . . . we're going to run out of helium. I ONLY know this because I was doing some brainstorming and one of the participants mentioned it. I was overwhelmed by this. Too many questions, too many confusions, etc. So I dug deeper (then and since). The foot race is on to replace it or advance past it in all of the contexts we current know/use/presume it and that will require great ingenuity (in some cases) and why? Because we can not make more helium. Know what else we can't make any more of? Curiosity (see what I did there?).

We have a cliche that we "learn something new every day" but do we? I start every post-school conversation with my daughter not with "What did you DO today?" but "What did you LEARN today?" and she, even in a formal education setting will reply most days "Nothing." Imagine if we asked our fellow adults the same question? And yet I can PROUDLY say that I do learn something new every day. Even if it is something I do not want to know or don't think I have any actual value for. It still gets in my head because I'm curious enough about the surface of my brain that I poke at it and look around for something that can/will crawl in there.

Do me a favor - turn to your spouse/child/significant other/physician/arresting officer/butcher/baker/candlestick maker/whomever else might be next to you and ask them "What did you learn today?" and if they say "Nothing" . . . tell them something you find interesting and ask them to do the same for you.

4/27/13

Big Fish . . .

Was on Twitter (Facebook?) last night and there was someone looking for a movie suggestion so I threw out one of my ALL TIME FAVORITES and I was sorta' shocked at how many folks have not only not SEEN Big Fish but have never even HEARD of Big Fish.



If you're among them - you should fix that. Immediately. It streams on Netflix so all you need is a few mouse clicks, a few hours, and a few facial tissues (Kleenex is a registered trademark, kids. Show some respect.). A truly beautiful movie from Tim Burton about fathers, sons, facts, fictions, love, and . . . fish.

Splendid movie (yeah - I just said "splendid"). Also splendid? Jessica Lange!

4/26/13

Get Less Fat . . .

My new kicks, complete with "high contrast"
filter for dramatic effect. Taaah-daaaah.
Six years, one month, and 10 days ago, I weighed 533 pounds (that was DOWN from my heaviest weight, six months earlier, of 551). As a new father, I made a decision (in careful consideration with my (then) wife) to have gastric bypass surgery.

I knew that I had tried and failed at every diet the world had ever known and that exercise made me want to punch someone in the face BUT I knew that if I could get an aggressive push on the weight loss, my body might allow for some exercise and I could finally be a "normal" person (goal was never to be skinny, by the way, but to be around 200 pounds and "healthy").

It worked. I lost 300 pounds in a little over 18 months and I lost an additional 25 in the three months that followed getting me to 205 pounds where I stayed for over a year. I have HUNDREDS of blog posts about the adventure, if you're interested.

Here's the ONE thing gastric bypass (as simply A TOOL in the battle against obesity) can't do for you (it will take away your stomach, the ability to eat modified/processed sugars, will help you beat a number of medical conditions and will help you lose more weight than you thought was possible (with diligence and hard work)) - it can't fix your brain or your emotional connection with food.

My surgical program and everything I read made it clear if you do NOT cure the mental ills that drove you to food (and NO ONE GETS SUPER MORBIDLY OBESE WITHOUT A MENTAL PROBLEM, by the way) . . . you will ultimately fail in your quest to be healthy.

And fail I did. The minute my marriage officially imploded, I started eating and stopped moving. I do NOT blame my ex-wife (I've never blamed anyone but myself for a single pound on my body) but I DO blame myself for not coming up with a better way to deal and cope. That was about three years ago now and I took a new job about 22 months ago that really started the acceleration (it was a very anxious time and a lot of uncertainty during my entire tenure) and the months since losing my job . . . fuhgeddaboud.

BUT here's what I am doing - putting myself on the PUBLIC RECORD that I, Sean C. Amore, will pull myself up off the grocery store floor, throw away all fast food paper wrappers, exorcise all deep fried potato wafers from my home and fight on to FINALLY get a mental health plan that will allow me to get less fat again (it's ugly how much I've gained, folks) and to find a new respite from my mental quirks that doesn't involve chewing.

I've got some ideas - knitting and nymphomania among them (I kid, nudity freaks me out) - I'm going to:

  • Dust off my gastric bypass cookbooks
  • Lace up the new kicks I bought
  • Strap on my little tiny iPod (complete with Girl Talk music) and some shorts and walk. Regularly. 
  • I'll eat NO MORE than 1,100 calories a day (while getting 75g of protein and no more than 25g of fat)
  • I will drink NOTHING but water, iced tea, and fat free milk
  • I will no longer eat anything that is served to me in paper wrappers or bags more than 1x/week
  • I will do at least 300 calories worth of exercise five days a week (ideally seven)
  • I will not buy any clothes bigger than the ones I have now
  • I will not rage out at any one or any thing NOR will I eat my feelings
  • I will look better (be thinner, healthier, and happier) one day from today
IF you see me violating any of the above - you can have all the cash in my wallet and/or my frequent customer cards at several food establishments (punch status may vary). 

NONE of this is ANY of your fault but I'm going to publicly go on the record asking you to help me out and support me . . . ONE MORE TIME. 

THANK YOU!

4/25/13

4/24/13

Nudity and Modesty . . .

Something remarkable happened at my home last night. No. I didn't see aliens, clean out the 'fridge or actually clean the closet I've been simply cramming stuff in since move in day last August. Nor, I might point out, did I spend my usual 3.5 hours (once my child was asleep) on Twitter, surfing the web, and otherwise distracting myself with the evil that is our digital world. Nope. What happened was far simpler and far more confusing . . . kiddo made me close the bathroom door while she took her bath.

Yeah. Weird. I have seen Ava naked nearly daily since the second she emerged from the womb. Literally. I can remember a good chunk of time where Ava would just compulsively strip down and run around the house naked . . . for hours at a time. Yet here we are - MODEST.

I should clarify I'm a "never nude" and can not imagine a phase where my parents would bathe me or have me bopping around naked (I blush just thinking about it) and I try to be naked as little as possible to this day. I have ALWAYS been this way. I think it is shame over being a fat kid (was never mocked for it but I could see other boys shirtless at the pool and know I had some "issues"). I was probably younger than my daughter when I first decided I should have privacy for all naked times. I can count on two hands the entire universe of people that have seen me naked - yes - I would change before/after gym class in a stall and changed only once my roommate had left the room all through college. I don't resent this new development in my parental challenge. I'll accept it. I knew it would eventually come.

I guess I'm just left wondering WHY now? WHAT happened? Did someone say something? Is this just part of how the brain develops? Was there something she saw on TV, heard at school, or overheard in conversation? Did someone tell her she should be modest in front of her own father (her mother claims nudie-time is alive and well there)?  Is this a thing where once she loses a magical number of baby teeth she realizes that "her body is her own and is not for sharing"? How can I be sure that she's really getting her hair properly washed and conditioned if I'm not allowed in the bathroom anymore? What does this mean for trying on new clothes at the store? Will she still change in to her bathing suit with me in the "family locker room" at the Y?

Yes. These are the deep questions that haunt my brain. I need to get back to work . . .

4/23/13

Navy Blue Blazer . . .

I wanted to talk with you for a minute about the navy blue Hopsack blazer. No. This is not turning in to a "fashion" blog (not that there is anything wrong with those, if you are so inclined). I, instead, wanted to talk with you about the navy blue blazer as a metaphor. BUT I have to talk about it as an article of clothing first (indulge me, dear reader).

Picture, if you will, a seven year old Sean Amore. Not that much different than the current one only he had a lot more hair. Now picture him clothes shopping for the second grade. Yep. Just my mother and me (my parents took us all clothes shopping individually for sanity's sake) at my favorite store (even then), JC Penney. She's trying to show me the best in current fashion 1983 and the "husky" section of America's department store had to offer . . . I'm distracted this beautiful, bronze buttoned bastard over in the corner. I begged, I pleaded, I negotiated, I threw one of those "rolling on the floor" fits and BAM - she bought it for me. And with that, my fashion fate was sealed.

Almost thirty years later, I can honestly tell you I've never NOT had at least one navy blue blazer in my closet (I've toyed around with the fabrics and the textures over the years but the navy blue, two button blazer remains a staple). There are a handful of other things I "must" have in my life . . . chinos, white, button-down collared oxfords, penny loafers, argyle socks but the MOST important is the blazer. Why?

Simple. You can wear it anywhere. With anything. For any reason. Walking your kid to school? Navy blazer. Going to a client meeting? Navy blazer. Running to get milk at 3 AM in your pajamas? Navy blazer. Blustery fall day? Navy blazer. Funeral? Navy blazer. First date? Navy blazer. Meeting with your divorce lawyer? Navy blazer. You get my point. It looks good with everything, it doesn't require too much affection or care (a dry cleaning every six months and spot cleaning when you filth it up is it) and it will never make someone look at you thinking you're "over" or "under" killing anything by wearing the garment.

Okay. Fashion lesson adjourned. What is the point of this? You have to have a mental or emotional "constant" in your life (Like Penny was for Desmond on LOST) and you have to have something physical in your life that you care about, that gives you some sort of comfort, that gives you solace, and that helps you in every situation you face. I'm not talking about your spouse, cat, or children. I'm talking about some trinket. For some it is a rosary or crucifix. A wedding ring. The tattoo on your calf. A Star of David on a chain. A broach from your mother. An AA "chip." It could be a travel coffee mug. It might be cigarettes, booze, or heroin (and if it is shame on you (smile)). A stick of gum. Gummie bears. Smart phones or tablets. Those Addidas sneakers RUN DMC wore. Maybe the Quran/Koran. It is a personal thing. It means something to you and you alone or perhaps you know a person or 300 that have the same bond with the same "thing." Raise your hand if you love the navy blue blazer . . . NONE of you? Really? Fine. You do your thing, I'll do mine. And look GOOD doing it.

4/22/13

DonaSean UPDATE . . .

No. I don't know these folks but they brought a cat to a
public place and had a photo take so I love 'em anyway.
Wellllllll . . . My friends at KMUW took a few hours more than planned (appeals on Monday morning vs. ending on Saturday, as hoped) BUT they have reached their very ambitious goal of $300k in listener pledges. More impressive? They did it with the utmost professionalism. KMUW staffers and volunteers did the RIGHT THING to allow breaking news, updates, social trends, and general decorum to interrupt the planned effort and supersede social media pushes, on-air calls for pledges, and even the way the "gravity" of public radio funding was positioned against death and chaos in Boston and Texas. To that I say BRAVO!

Slight housekeeping note: with MUCH thanks to everyone that participated in DonaSean, we were able to help make a difference and add $1,625, if my notes are correct. That is a 25% improvement over Seandraising last fall and it nets out to about .5% of the total amount raised by the station. Clearly I'll take no credit for the overall success nor imply or pretend they are lucky to have my involved (they are very kind to indulge me though . . . ).

The success of the DonaSean effort means there will be another six month drought (if only for ME and my anxieties) of "boob" talk on The Social Mediums (?) and a crayon party with some snacks and beverages for everyone that participated.

THANK YOU for your donations and, more importantly, THANK YOU KMUW for the amazing effort and the great programming you fill my earholes with.

4/21/13

No More Spoilers . . .

The MPAA recently announced it has a plan to curb how kids are exposed to violence and other "adult" themes in movies. You ready? Here it comes. It is super, super smart . . . they are going to PROMOTE the content that might be objectionable so parents, too busy with the rest of their lives to actually research the movies their kids might see, will KNOW what's awaiting them. Based on the words and lettering in those boxes during trailers, on posters, etc.

I'll wait a minute for your eyes to roll back to the front of your heads. We ready? Sure? Good.

Here's my position on this . . . and it is simple. Does anyone really think the movie big screen, at $10/ticket and with the logistics and challenges of getting to/from the theater for a lot of kids, is really where our kids are getting their little eyes peeled open with things like violence, nudity, sex, murder, blood, drugs, and sexuality?

Kids today (who won't even stay off my lawn) are increasingly subjected to these themes - and more - in the world in general and for free. Did you log on to Facebook in the last week? See any blood, damage, destruction, or negativity? Ever Google ANY WORD in the English Language and click on the "images" tab? Ever see what your kids follow/RT/share on Twitter? Have you seen the way news outlets have become the hack spoilers of the world with sharing of bold/shocking images as a way to compete? Ever notice how often "shocking" is put in a headline for stories that, a decade ago, would have been bland and ignored? Ever clicked on any of the above just because you were bored?

I've said it before - I'll say it again - if the Internet was available to me in 1992 the way it is to 16 year olds in 2013, I'd have failed out of high school, never even considered college, had no idea how to have any "nomal" social relationships, and I'd be the most well read conspiracy theorist and un-practiced sexual protege of my generation. Easily. I'd have NO clue (versus the vague one that currently governs me) how to navigate the real world and I would not pretend to care.

Of course NONE of that is true because my parents would have never allowed such lunacy. My parents, I think, struck the right blend of "We'll buy you a keg of beer, teenaged son, if you promise to only drink it here at the house and if your friends will surrender their car keys in exchange for a Solo cup." and "You will never see a set of boobs and you will never know what a "joint" is so long as you live under my roof." . . . and by that I mean they never bought me a drop of beer (I didn't want it - late bloomer) and they never actually brought me boobs or drugs. But they put themselves in the conversation around these subjects and more. They initiated. They asked questions. They answered questions. They would overhear us talking or see us watching and they would weigh in. There were no taboos in the house. There were no boundaries or topics off-limits.

Most importantly, they did not need the boxes and content disclaimers on movie marketing to help them decide what movies we could and could not see . . . they were just sort of aware, they asked and considered, they trusted.

None of their sons have ever hurt or harmed anyone, including ourselves, beyond repair. There have never been moments of introspection where my parents had to acknowledge they failed. We have never had a family hug in a moment of crisis and wondered how we got "there."

I wish groups like the MPAA . . . and all these other groups desperate to presume (or, in fear of lawsuits and liabilities presume) that THEY have to do the work of parents. No movie ever consummated a child (okay - MAYBE a few carrying the fictitious XXX rating). No movie has ever handed anyone a means to a violent end. But plenty of parents have been lazy and absent and head-in-the-sand enough that, over time, our society has decided that the MOVIES have to tell THE PARENTS what MOVIES the CHILDREN can see. Can we, as parents, do better? I bet we can.

4/20/13

Bland Soup Recipe . . .

A soft, opinion free, sure not to offend (unless you dislike Italians, weddings, or soup (or a combination of the aforementioned) - at which point I should clarify I'm offering no personal opinions on any of the three anyway) post on a day that folks might just want a nice, warm bowl of comfort on the table. Please to enjoy a pot of my (recipe modified from one I got on Food Network years ago . . . may have been Barfeoot Contessa's, originally) Pork-Free Italian Wedding Soup . . .

INGREDIENTS . . . 

MEATBALLS - 
3/4 pound ground chicken
1/2 pound chicken sausage, casings removed
2/3 cup Panko bread crumbs
2 cloves minced garlic
4 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley leaves
1/3 cup freshly grated Romano
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan, plus extra for serving
3 tablespoons heavy cream

1 extra-large egg, lightly beaten
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

SOUP -
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup minced yellow onion
3 average sized carrots, cut into 1/4 inch pieces
3 stalks of very average celery, again cut into 1/4 inch pieces
10 cups chicken stock
1 cup small pasta (you pick the shape)
3 tablespoons minced dill
12 ounces baby spinach, washed and trimmed


DIRECTIONS . . . 

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

For the meatballs, place all the ingredients with about 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper (adjust to your personal taste) in a bowl and combine gently with a fork. With a teaspoon, drop 1 to 1 1/4-inch meatballs onto a sheet (you'll get about 40). Bake for 30 minutes, until cooked through and lightly browned. Set aside.

While the balls are cooking -  heat the olive oil over medium-low heat in a large heavy-bottomed soup pot. Add the veggies and saute for about 5 minutes. Add the chicken stock and bring to a boil. Add the pasta to the simmering broth and cook for 7 or 8 minutes (tender pasta will be your cue). Add the dill and meatballs and simmer for about three minutes. Taste. Adjust seasoning (salt and pepper) if needed. Stir in the fresh spinach and cook for 1 minute, until the spinach is wilted. Portion in to bowls, garnish with cheese, eat. 

There? Don't you feel better? Real post coming tomorrow. In theory . . . 

4/19/13

All Retch and No Vomit . . .

A TOTALLY fair question: What would you do if money was no object?

If you did not "need" money and you were guided, instead, by ANY other variable (you choose, really - women, fame, power, sleep, binge eating, joy, passion, men, blue ribbons, smiling faces, etc.) what would you fill your days doing and why . . .



A rejoinder: What would you do if your motivation was that your children (or their children) would not have to worry about money? What would you do if your spouse could put money out of their mind? Your parents? Your favorite non-profit? The kid down the street that has nothing? Seriously.

What if your "obsession" with money is not so much about YOU hoarding dough but it is about you being able to provide for, protect, nurture, further, and empower the things you love. The things that fulfill you in ways money cannot? The happiness that cannot be bought (if you will)?

Why is working 5 long days per week, 50 weeks per year, for 40 years of your life so frowned upon? Why is considering money such a taboo? I find myself apologizing in interviews that I have an EXACT number that is based on actual math and need vs. want in mind and I tell would-be employers this number (a SIZABLE cut, I might add, over what I've been making the last few years).

I don't WANT a high salary. I NEED to honor my financial commitments to my daughter and my ex-wife. I NEED to pay my bills (student loans, housing, utilities, insurance). I NEED to eat. I NEED to have some fun with friends and family. I NEED to see my family back east. I NEED to put money away for my retirement, for my daughter's college education, to insure my life and her life, to ensure that I can travel with her and show her the world the way my parents showed me and she might show her children. I NEED a certain number on my pay stub to do all that. I NEED to know that I'm empowering myself and the women in my life to have the best life possible and I'm willing to absolutely, positively work my ass off to provide that.

I WANT to not feel bad about knowing all these things cost money and my time, energy, talents, passions, and outcomes are what I have to leverage for that money. I WANT people to understand that working  hard IS what I WANT to do. That 12 hour days (if my daughter is with her mother) are fine. I WANT people to agree that having my phone (and e-mail) on me at all times is good form. I WANT to not have to do the math to show there is still have PLENTY of time to knit, read, study, watch television, talk trash, have fun, go for walks, and sleep.

I NEED to sleep that I might dream of a better life for me and my child than my parents (who were public educators and far from wealthy) gave me. I WANT to make that happen. That is why I WANT NEED to work. Why I don't begrudge work. Why I resent having to make apologies for it.

4/18/13

Sup? . . .

No time for an actual blog post this morning (no school today, daddy-duty, two interviews, some job hunting, some volunteering, and some phone calls ahead) but - this is my kid at the Dentist a few moments ago. 

You provide the commentary. Be back tomorrow. Probably.


4/17/13

Find Some Happiness . . .

Some of my favorite crap to watch when I feel a little "sadsy" (that is the clinical term) . . . they all have bravery, courage, inspiration, kindness, love, hope, and - in some cases - a good soundtrack.

Everyday, Dave Matthews Band . . . 




Opening Credits, Love Actually . . . 


The "Hearing" Scene from Scent of a Woman . . . 


"Last Day/First Day" from Pursuit of Happyness . . . 


The Finale of Glory . . . 


Undefeated (this is the Trailer - watch the whole movie, please) . . . 


The Rewards at the end of The Wizard of Oz . . . 


Susan Boyle's Audition (pretend you don't know what's going to happen) . . . 


Better, Regina Spektor . . .


Kodak's Live Forever . . . 


Full version (also worth the watch) . . . 


ALL of the above, on the right (wrong?) day can reduce me to tears. See? And you thought I had no heart, soul, or ability to feel.

4/16/13

The Finish Line . . .

I got some praise and some chiding for my reaction to people's reaction to the Newtown massacre but fast forward a few months and I can't help but get back on my soapbox and just ask everyone to stop. STOP. S-T-O-P.

No. Not with the empathy or the compassion or the personal reflections of appreciation for your safety or the safety of friends and family in Boston but STOP with the need to make this personal for you. If you were not in Boston at the time of the blast - specifically within the blast zone you should not be trying to make the horrific explosions "yours." I don't care that you once ran a/the marathon. I don't see how your one time residence in Boston matters in this context. I can't see how your dreams to eventually run a marathon need to be shared with the world at this moment. I just don't.

People DIED and more people were injured and some people had a day they have dreamed of/worked
My (least) favorite example of compassion.
toward for years ruined. People were scared. Some may never, really feel safe again. Your day wasn't messed up at all. The people who heard/saw/felt the blast were either in the immediate afterglow of running one of the world's most famous marathons or they were there to support those running. They were doing it for themselves or their families and friends and maybe for a cause or issue that matters to them. They were not doing it so that you could turn their tragedy in to your most recent Tweet you hope gets "favorited" or "re-Tweeted" nor for your Facebook post that people could "like" and if you're one of the people railing against those doing the above or, even worse, sharing the links to photos and videos of the explosions . . . you're no better. We all have Google. We can find those things for ourselves if we want or need them.

Here's what we SHOULD be doing in times like this as relates to the specifics and the judgement and the finger points . . . waiting. It takes time. It takes clarity. We (as a people) got so many things "wrong" with 9/11, the first World Trade Center bombing, Columbine, Columbine again, Newtown, etc. etc. etc. because we all had to share what we thought we knew and it is just created confusion and noise. So I might suggest this in the meantime . . .

  1. Talk about the people running TOWARD the problem. PRAISE the first responders, volunteers, and people who felt compelled to see if they could help in any way, those who finished the marathon in the moments immediately before or after and helped keep some hint of peace. APPLAUD those that, as has been reported, ran directly from the finish line to a local hospital to give blood. GET ON YOUR HIGH HORSE for the people who hugged and held a stranger in crisis and helped reassure them it would be okay.
  2. Do SOMETHING other than talk. GO donate blood (we truly never know when/where shit like this will happen again). Call your entire family and all your friends and tell them you love them NOT because of what happened today but because you don't do it enough and it is the right thing to do. Stay off social media and avoid the Internet (see the fact above about all this taking time) and spend more quality time with people you love who are going to go back out in to the world tomorrow and could easily get caught up in something like this (or YOU could). Get yourself mentally prepared that if there was ever a crisis in your vicinity you'd pitch in and help and - for the love of G-d - next time you see someone in crisis (in this blatant capacity or far, far more subtly) HELP THEM!


I say these two things as a tandem and they are both important. Why? Because from what I'm seeing this morning (facts more clear than they were yesterday) this was an act of terrorism (from whatever people or individuals that may have put it together) the key take away to cowardly muhfukahs like these cowardly muhfukahs is that we won't be destroyed or beaten. Our resolve is too strong, our humanity and sense of it too intact, and our genuine love for our common man and woman is far, far too intrinsic and natural for us in terms of how we might respond. This is not the last time someone(s) - domestic or foreign - will test us on our soil. This is not the last time people will be injured and/or die senselessly while trying to just have a day. We are in a world where stuff like this will continue here, there, and everywhere. The only thing we CAN "do" is to unite around situations like this and prove that we're the citizenry of the United States of America. We are a group. We are not a bunch of isolated, selfish, self-centered people who must make/take everything "about" us. We won't be defeated by shitty little people and their bombs, guns, threats, and cowardice because there are millions more of us than their are them.

People died. People were gravely injured. People's lives were thrown out of whack. We worry about and for them. We care about our country and what happens in it. That is "it" - that is your storyline. Enough with the rest. We should HONOR those that were directly effected (and their friends and family who may never get back what they sent out in to the world Monday morning) by not taking away from their personal loss and making this personal for us. We should ENCOURAGE those who really did pitch in but not pretending our jog around the neighborhood is the same as what they did.

Before one of you gets in a bunch . . . Grieve. That is natural. Be fearful (if you must - if this was terrorism, that is what "they" would want). That is acceptable. Find the positive. That is encouraged. Reflect. That is proper. Learn. That is important.

With my rant over - my thoughts, prayers, and best wishes go out to everyone effected by Monday's blast including the marathon participants and the city of Boston. My thanks, appreciation, and respect go out to anyone that ran toward the blast and helped in any way, manner, shape, or form. My apologies are extended to anyone offended at my reaction (Tweet and Facebook about it, naturally (grimace)). My thumbs up to anyone who feels (like I do) and wants us to go back to being an empathetic nation of people who don't need everything to be about "me."

4/15/13

Parenting . . .

I once read that, ultimately, "successful parenting" is simple. As simple as two rules:

  1. Be present.
  2. Be consistent in your presence.
So, to break that down . . . it is about time spent and being consistent in that time. Seems simple enough, right? Just be there and be the same person you are at all times.

So if you are a parent that reads for an hour a night . . . do that every night. If you are a mother that prepares individual meals to the exact preferences of each of your children . . . keep cooking. If you are a father that is teaching your children how to play an organized sport . . . coach them each season. You can apply this to nightly homework, life lessons, developing vocabulary, teaching numbers, letters, animals, and body parts, and even how kids should behave and interact and develop a sense of self as a tween/teenager. SIMPLE.

Yet is an alcoholic that smokes two packs a day and is verbally abusive to spouse and child not equally present (in their own disgusting way)? Is the parent that will listen to a child asking for help but ignore them because it is not their strong suit to help with whatever problem not consistent? Does a mother that breast feeds until the age of 12 not just being completely repetitive in their parenting? The father that works until 9 PM each night (by choice) and is gone again by 7 AM each morning (by choice) not showing that he is a man of ritual and habit?

Yes. Technically under the above two rules every one of the parents I just described (some of them may even overlap (quizzical grimace) would be a success. But note that the definition of "success," in and of itself, has a million different interpretations - the most accepted of which is that someone accomplished something.

Let's presume (in some melodramatic, stereo-typical way) that the parents in the first 'graph will raise kids who go on to be doctors and lawyers and the parents in the second 'graph will grow up to be at best socially awkward, at worst resentful and broken people. But those parents will have ACCOMPLISHED what the mandate is - keeping your kid alive long enough to leave the home and take their place in society (whatever place that is). 

Here's the only way I want my parenting to go if I see myself as successful . . . my child will grow up to believe in herself, her intelligence, her instincts, her abilities, and her delights. She'll have a good heart and a giving way. She'll have friends that enrich her, a partner that completes her, and a family that delights in all that she's become. And I think all those things would be success if she were a janitor or President of the United States of America, a career woman or a career mother, a Christian, Jew, Muslim, Buddhist, Agnostic, or Mormon. If she were "drop dead" beautiful or barely lookable, if she were thin, fat, tall, short, blonde, brunette, child-birthing hipped or "small up top." 

That is how I am parenting. I'm consistent in what I say to her, and how I say it (yes, even in my overuse of the "f-word"). I am careful about what I say in front of her and whom/what/when/where/why I talk about. I act in a way that I'd like her to emulate. I carry myself as someone who is sure of himself and has very little doubt, fear, worry, or shortcoming. And I do that every minute I can. It is different now that we're eight months in to separate homes for her - I might argue it is "better" for me to be consistent because I have 50% of evenings and weekends, on top of the regular work/school hours, that I can be sad, mad, grumpy, petulant, bitter, small, and crass. And 50% of evenings and weekends when I can be a "Prince Familiar" and a consistent father - even with the faults that implies and leaves in play. 

4/14/13

A Dozen Things I Love This Very Minute . . .

I'm phoning in today's post. Don't like it? Go troll your Facebook feed (which will be on my next lazy post titled "Things I Hate  ALL the Time . . . "). For NOW - 12 things I love right now . . . 

1) My Kid . . . 
She's all the challenge I need right now. We're currently knee deep and elbow high in gymnastics, dollhouse play, clothing stubbornness, teeth  missing, summer planning, and soccer playing (yes - my daughter makes me play soccer with her . . . ) and all of it combines for the perfect reminder that the problems I'm having right now are very, very temporary - parenting is forever.



2) My Roku . . . 
I actually resent my Roku at this point (it is so outdated I don't even have the best remote for my particular model and the new Roku3 blows my little mind) but I still love my Roku way, way more than I could possibly explain and I feel truly bad for anyone out there who is still paying for cable like a sucker when this fits-in-the-palm-of-your-hand device is all you'll ever need.


3) Kite Weather . . . 
There are few things I enjoy about the "Great Outdoors" - let's be honest it is always either hot or cold, windy or still, cloudy or sunny, enticing or upsetting, etc. and yet 99% of the world is OUT THERE. And we are told we MUST enjoy it (or at least embrace it) so there are a few things I'll do outside . . . walk, play Frisbee, miniature golf, go from point A to point B, see Drive-In movies, camp in a tent, and . . . FLY A KITE! You don't like Kansas winds? You're crazy. Get a kite. Seriously.




4) Summer Movie Season is Coming . . . 
I typically prefer the late year, Oscar/Awards bait time of year for films because, well, I'm a snob. But this year (as I will every three years or so) I shift my focus to the late Spring/early Summer popcorn joy that is "Summer Movie Season" because somewhere in the stack is the latest Fast & Furious installment (six). This year I'll have The Great Gatsby, too. Then I'll shut it back down until November. 


5) Knitting . . . 
I've knitted for nearly four years - mainly for stress relief, focus, and to step away from the things that make me anxious. I've never actually KNITTED anything (or kept what I made, for that matter) but I've just started making a pair of slippers. If I don't have a new job by the time I finish them - I will never leave the house again but, for now, I'm enjoying having an actual goal with my knitting.


6) Jew School . . . 
There are people who criticize religion as being a "crutch" for the "needy." I hate to say it but I'm the child on the poster they point their finger at when they say these things. I'm at my best each week for the 2 - 3 hours I'm in conversion classes or at services and I'm most engaged the other hours of the week I spend reading, learning, practicing, studying, and trying to get better at my Hebrew and my general understanding of the faith, culture, people, and history. I'm also thrilled to be joining the congregation I am joining - they are all wonderful, welcoming, friendly people that have made me feel very much at home.
 

7) My Weekly Flower Purchase . . . 
On the every growing list of things I do that make people ask questions, buying fresh flowers every Sunday while grocery shopping may be the top of the inquiries and the peak of my happiness. This is the best season for my indulgences, too. Tulips and daffodils at their cheapest and the rest of the options not much more expensive.






8) Tiny Houses . . . 
I have been obsessed with a smaller residence for years and living in 400 square feet of apartment for eight months has me sure that I can easily live in 700 or so square feet of a home for the rest of my days on this big, bouncing ball. I've been looking at designs, interiors, efficiency tips, propane generator/hot water/heat devices, and even ways to beat local codes for better building options. A time suck? You betcha'!

9) Monk on Netflix . . . 
I have had Monk in my Instant Queue on Netflix since the day I got my Roku (Christmas, 2011) and yet I just - a week ago - started my binge. There were too many other things ahead of it (Psych, Murder She Wrote, Wings, Poirot, House of Cards, Felicity (to name just a few of the TV shows - say nothing of the movies) but it is NOW Adrian Monk's turn and I'm regretting putting it off this long. Truly. There are 125 total episodes. I'm 12 deep and I am craving the last 90% of the collection. So good.




10) Free Time . . . 
I DO want to get back to work. Badly. Every day I pray that "today" will be "the day" that I get the offer or get the opportunity or get assigned a cubicle or - at this point - a register to man. But I've got to say I sorta' like being able to say "yes" to every coffee, lunch, or hang out opportunity. I'm enjoying meeting new people, catching up with "old" (?) people, spending some time doing the things I all too often neglect and just being able to pace through the day knowing there are, in fact, enough hours for everything I NEED to do and even for everything I WANT to do.



11) Atlas Shrugged . . . 
I've owned a copy of Atlas Shrugged for nearly five years. I started to read it the day I bought it. And I made it five pages. I've picked it back up a hundred times and set it back down a few pages later but in the last few months, I've done WORK on this book. And it is fantastically challenging to a moderate liberal like me and it is well written and worth the time, care, and attention it requires. If you have the time - reading this book is far from a crime (heyyyyyo!). Just get it read by Summer 2014 when the final part of the film adaptation trilogy hits the big screens.




12) Nag Champa . . . 
I think I'm secretly a hippie who just likes to dress normally and bathe. I eat increasing organic and basic foods (mind you when I don't eat "well" I eat HORRIBLY), my home is paraben free (cleaners, personal care items, etc.) and at any point in time there is an active and aggressive campaign afoot to limit the use of electricity, oil, gas, etc. and I obsess over waste and recycling lately too. But how do I know I have a problem? Incense. Specifically Nag Champa (just the basic/original - don't give me the dressed up crap). Smells so good. SO good.

4/13/13

Classic Take on the Classics Part I: Bohemian Rhapsody . . .

Presented without comment because . . . well . . . it doesn't really need any comment. Please to enjoy.

4/12/13

Peanut Butter . . .

Is there ANYTHING in the world as innocent in form and stature and yet as hated/feared/loathed/demonized than peanut butter?

I happen to love peanut butter. I know, I know. I'm "lucky" - I can eat peanut butter. There are people in this world that are so allergic to peanut butter and its less smooth parent, the peanut, that the mere whiff of this savory/sweet legume can put them six feet in the dirt (religious and personal preferences for postmortem handling of the earthly vessel presumed). I get it. I have allergies. Dust, dirt, pollen, hard work, differing opinions, homophobia, and adult women running errands in pajama pants ALL make me twitch, sneeze, rant, and convulse (in varying combinations). I digress . . .

Allergies to peanuts/peanut butter are serious business. That's why there is a huge, booming sub-sector of the  economy dedicated to allowing those with peanut aversions to still enjoy a nice, smooth sandwich every now and again. Almonds, sunflowers, soy, , walnuts, carrots, and even entirely manufactured chemical compounds have all been mushed, flavored, salted, colored, and jarred to sub in for and be made as widely available as peanut butter. And I say "harumph" to this ingenuity.

But where is the follow up? When well Hershey/Reese's make almond butter cups? When will those fine monsters at Smucker's Goober that make a sunflower pre-mix? What will it take for bakeries everywhere to give shelf space to the to soy butter cookie? What's that? Huh? Say again? NEVER? Oh. Okay. I get it. And WHY? Because peanut allergics (not their real, respectful label) are in the vast MINORITY in this land of ours. They are the flukes. They are the outliers.

Yet we prevent other children from even bringing peanut butter in to a school out of respect. We don't let airlines serve bagged peanuts anymore for fear of air born AND airborne allergic reactions. We label foods with all caps and bold lettering if there is even a CHANCE of peanut exposure to the food inside the packaging or on the plate. And I'm fine with that. (I'll bet you thought I was going to RAGE here - but . . . no.) Because if it can help keep that 1:135,765 safe - I'm okay with that. Truly.

We need to protect those in need. We need to keep those who can't help themselves safe. We need to provide for the fluke. Respect the fluke. EMPOWER the fluke. This goes for kids/passengers with peanut allergies, the developmentally disabled, the "differently" sexually oriented, the blind, the deaf, the threatened, the fashion challenged, the fans of dub-step music, and the frustrated.

It's bad enough these folks will never (safely) know the joy of a tablespoon of peanut butter with a squirt of canned whipped cream upon it in a kitchen lit only by the refrigerator's glow at 3 AM - they don't need to fear the world around them on top of it.

4/10/13

DonaSean . . .

About six months ago, my favorite radio station in the world, KMUW-FM, was doing their semi-annual fall "pledge drive" (oddly enough the state's 5-digit funding of the arts and culture is not enough to keep allll the stations fully afloat). I decided that I should put my blog and social media presence where my mouth was and HELP with the fundraising beyond the little bit of money I could give. #Seandraising was born. And it was successful. Perhaps too quickly/easily.

Well . . . as it has been six months common sense might indicate it is time for the SPRING half of the semi-annual "pledge drive" and I wanted to come back and raise the stakes and see if I could help again so . . . without further build up . . . I give you . . . Are you ready? . . . I hope you are. . . . Ready? . . . Wait for it . . . wait for it . . . DonaSean (pronounced like "donation" but with the Sean vs. Shun at the end.) Brilliant right? HIRE ME if you think so. Seriously. For real. Totes (Are we still saying "totes"? Even for irony?) not kidding.


Simple set of rules again this drive . . .
  1. You can donate to KMUW anytime between now and Friday, April 19, 2013 to participate in #DonaSean.
  2. You can donate by going to KMUW's website (www.KMUW.org), calling (316) 978-6700 (starting at 6:15 AM on Thursday, 4/11 and between 6 AM and 6 PM daily through the end of the drive), or stopping by the KMUW-FM offices (3317 E. 17th Street, Wichita, KS 67208 (just east of Hillside on 17th and across from the WSU campus)) during business hours between now and end of day Wednesday or between 6 AM and 6 PM daily throughout the drive. 
  3. You must TWEET at @SeanCAmore with the hashtag #DonaSean, comment on this post, or e-mail me (seancamore-at-gmail-dot-com) with the dollar amount you are donating for your donation to count.
  4. You MUST actually DONATE the money (not "pledge" - I pledge to get skinny, do a handful of mitzvahs, and swear no longer each day . . . how's that working out?) and your fulfilled donation must be verifiable with KMUW-FM staff (I'll take care of that part . . . you just give). 
  5. You can not be PROMPTED by any third party to give/participate. I must "know" you (or at least of you) and it must be my own efforts (or trickle down) that gets you involved. 
  6. You must provide me the information for fulfillment within one week of the close of the drive (I'll admit I feel short on some Seandraising stuff in the fall but I was in the throws of my divorce and a little overwhelmed . . . it won't happen again, promise).
  7. Enjoy the fact that your contribution to KMUW-FM is the right thing to do for ALL of us. And chide the cheap bastards in your "circle" that listen but do NOT give. 
IF we collaboratively reach the following dollar amounts, the following things will happen:

$1,000 - I'll go ANOTHER six months without a single mention of boobs (or euphemism) or silly pet names of any women on Twitter. Many of you claim this is "sexism" and should be avoided anyway. Agree to disagree?
$1,500 - We'll find a time to get together and we'll put out a few thousand Crayolas and some coloring pages and some blank construction paper and maybe a few other colored wax-ready surfaces and we'll have a little coloring party complete with some snacks and a KMUW magnet to hang your artwork on the fridge.
$2,000 - I'll add all of you to my Facebook network (currently a very exclusive club of KMUW-FM staff, volunteers, donors, and the various randoms from the corners of my life) and I'll resist making fun of any/everything you say and post . . . except YOU, Katie Grover!
$2,500 - I'll not make fun of Katie Grover for the next six months. Publicly or privately. Okay . . . fine . . . I'll stop doing it PUBLICLY.
$3,000 - Everyone who participates will be invited to a very exclusive CD-release party (artist and album TBD) with KMUW's own Jedd Beaudoin  (he doesn't know this yet but he's a very agreeable guy) and Wichita's hottest morning show hosts - Zippy Dip and Noodle (you don't know who these guys are YET . . . but you will).
$3,500 - I'll break in to KMUW's offices after hours (Mission Impossible style . . . but not as dramatic on a one-story building, clearly) and get a box of coffee mugs and we'll all meet up under a bridge (spanning the Arkansas) on some warm spring evening and drink some cheap hooch out of said mugs and you can take the mugs home with you after (or we can just return them, unwashed (evil laughter)).
$4,000 - You will ALL be invited to our "Fast Five" marathon . . . one Saturday where we watch all five of the "Fast" franchise. You're thinking that sounds horrible. You're wondering WHO might EVER want to do that? You are sure that you would never clear out a Saturday for these films. In response . . . you're wrong, us, yes you would - and never regret it. Snacks and beverages will be provided. BONUS - I'll do my best to get Jim Erickson to not only ATTEND but to REVIEW each movie as we go.
$4,500 - I'll mow the lawn, one time each, of every person that participates (you provide the mower) sometime in the HEAT of the summer. This is a true sacrifice as there are few things I hate more than a) the outdoors b) mowing c) summer d) mowing outdoors in the summer.
$5,000 - I'll buy every song Beyonce has ever recorded (including the EARLY Destiny's Child stuff) and I'll listen to all of it and I'll find the silver linings and I'll praise the talent that is . . . just give the money and I'll finish the statement.
$5,500 - For the next six months I'll answer "good" to every time I'm asked how I'm "doing" or "feeling" or whatever else you SHOULD respond to with "well" or I'll do it as OFTEN as possible and I'll certainly stop correcting people or visibly cringing when they say "good."
$6,000 - I'll set all of you (that are single) up on a date with a legitimate match for you and promise you a mutual good time (I mean you'll enjoy each other - I can't promise a "goooood time") and I'll try to match you couples with another couple for a lovely evening out. I'm a Yente/Shidduch in my free time. Trust me.
$6,500 - I'll fix alllllll your LinkedIn profiles. And this is a needed thing because MOST of your pages are weak sauce with a side of poorly executed. We'll get you SEOed and properly set up for happiness and joy.
$7,000 - We'll all get together at one of those "paint your own pottery" places and we'll laugh and paint/glaze and I'll pick up the tab (within reason) for your pottery piece and for some pieces of pizza after. We'll have Jedd pick out some music for us to enjoy while painting/glazing, too. I'm telling ya' - he's a GOOD EGG!
$7,500 - (Just 2.5% of the station's fundraising goal . . . for context) You all pick (majority wins) between The Hunger Games, the Twilight series, 50 Shades of Gray, The Hobbit/Lord of the Rings books, and the Harry Potter series and I'll read every page in the chosen set and blog about each book in the series with an earnest and heartfelt review that focuses on the positive.

Give early - give often . . . and don't forget . . . #DonaSean! THANK YOU!!! (The triple ! means I'm really, really excited and abusive of good punctuation.)

DISCLAIMER: I give JUST enough to get my mug coffee mug each drive and to feel like I'm at least helping a little bit (this drive I donated just under 0.0333% of the total goal, for context).
DISCLAIMER 2: I had originally said that if I got a $15,000 donation, I'd get a tattoo. Then I realized that if I do that, I'll likely not be buried in a Jewish cemetery and my love of KMUW is only of this life . . . not of eternity. 

4/9/13

Lost and Found . . .

I was digging through some crap last night (I need a job - I've run out of random things to do to fill the idle time while my child is in school, with her mother, or doing that snore thing she does so well) and I stumbled across a tape I made for my high school friends and I (about 19 years ago this time of the year . . . I don't know the exact date) and I thought it would be fun to sit in my car and listen to it long enough to pull a track list. Why is this fun? Simple - I left the car running in the garage, with the door down to encourage speed. I kid. And suicide by car fume is not funny. So now I apologize. And digress. Oh - yeah - why is this fun? I was GOING to just put up a play list of songs I am currently listening to.

So here is the 2013 mix . . . you'll note that there is a nice variety of genres and ages of the music but it still has my signature crappy pop tune or two thrown in and you can pick up traces of parenting (like the Disney song to kick it off) in the mix as well. I settled on a theme of "kite flying" while making this mix. Hope that comes through. Please to enjoy:



And THEN I put a mix together that digitally replicated my tape. Coupla' notes before you dig in to the high school mix (originally recorded on an actual cassette in a double-deck cassette player INCLUDING a dub-of-a-dub-of-radio-recording on the Big Mountain track (last song . . . which cut off about 1/3 of the way though but . . . you'll get the picture). Why YES! There are TWO tracks on the 1994 mix from the Beverly Hills 90210 Soundtrack. I don't see the problem . . . and there is ONE song missing . . . "In the Still of the Night" by Boyz II Men. I could not find it on Spotify. Please accept my humblest apologies.



So . . . I cautiously ask . . . which Sean had better taste in music? 1/2 A Lifetime Ago Sean or Today Sean? Third person always makes me feel less self-doubtful.

4/8/13

Love, Love, Love . . .

I was perusing my iTunes library while working on a mix "tape" (CD/playlist) this weekend. I was not really sure who the  mix was for or what the point of the mix was . . . which, of course, violates the first two rules of a good mix:

  • Know thine audience
  • Know thine theme
  • Get as close to 80 minutes as you can knowing you can't go one second over
(I digress. A LOT.) but I stumbled upon "Love, Love, Love" by Of Monsters and Men.


I really enjoy Of Monsters and Men. They have a great sound and a pretty unique style and I'm not entirely sure if this song is auto-biographical or not (let's assume "yes" in the spirit that EVERY song ever written - including (may G-d have mercy on their souls) "C'mon Ride It" (aka Ride the Train) by the Quad City DJs - comes from a place of honesty) but it is that sort of song . . . not much unlike "Top of the World" by The Dixie Chicks (it's okay to stop being mad at them, folks) that makes me feel really bad for the subjects (real or imagined) of the song(s).

Both songs deal with the same basic theme . . . love. Specifically the inability to give/receive/share/build it in a happy, healthy, honest, partnered dynamic. Of course, as is the case with anything that pulls at your heart strings, both songs imply that just ONE person is at fault. The OTHER person is probably fully adjusted, well natured, brushes, flosses, AND rinses for two minutes, twice a day. The OTHER person votes, even in local-only, off-year, primaries with unchallenged ballots. THEY get it. THEY deserve better.


Which one are you? The "better" or "worse" half of your world?

By the way - I never actually finished the mix. I blame the lack of a recipient and/or theme. Rules are rules, people. Respect 'em.

4/6/13

Craziest. Night. Ever. (High School) . . .

A loyal reader asked me, a few weeks back, to tell some of my legendary tales (all of which are only subtly exaggerated and with no malicious intent) under the umbrella of my "Crazies Night Ever." I figured I would take a twist and categorize them under phases of my life. That being said this was the craziest night of my life . . . the high school years.

Picture it: Upstate, New York in the early spring of 1994. A group of nine high school seniors, and two high school juniors including the Salutatorian and several over high ranking upper classmen/officials (class president, student council president, TWO mathletes, band drum major, captain of the wrestling team, remedial reader, etc.) are barely scratching the surface on their senior year Spring Break. How are they celebrating? Pft. Parrrrr-tay. My friend Guyk (a modification of his French class name (Guy - pronounced gee) and the letter k because the kid was bound for Drexel for a degree in Engineering and an eventual second masters in mathematics theory) had the house all to himself (his sister was at college, his parents divorced, his mom . . . I don't know where she was. Not my business.) and we were going to take advantage.

I know what you're presuming: kegger, underaged smoking, illicit drug use, maybe some inappropriate physical activities. Pft. Right! Sure! Here is how the night actually went down . . . hand. to. G-d.

We all arrived at Guyk's mid-afternoon. We hung out in the lawn and played frisbee, soccer, and catch while talking trash about each other and our classmates. We ordered pizza for dinner. SEVERAL of them. With diverse toppings, I might add. And we went to the grocery store to play frozen turkey bowling, roam the aisles, load up on soda, snack foods, and various fruit cobblers (don't ask . . . ). We ate a nice dinner, enjoyed the sounds of Prince (Greatest Hits and B-Sides) and Digital Underground (Sex Packets) and debated going bowling. Crazy, right?! I know. I know. We watched a Monty Python movie (I don't remember which one) and it got to be about 10 PM. This was, of course, the witching hour for a few of our female friends with parents who doubted the safety of their little angels with a bunch of virgins, academics, social awkwards, and hilarious vulgarians. We hugged them all goodbye (giggle, giggle) and debated what was next. And what was next was where things got awesome.

Growing up in the beautiful, idyllic hills between the fantastic Finger Lakes was the best and worst thing I could have hoped for. It was small, peaceful, quiet, and beautiful. It also closed at 8 PM. Seriously. Like all of it just shut down and the world went to sleep. But not us. Nay. I say NAY!

We loaded up in to three separate cars (including one friend's mother's station wagon) and set out in to the night. Three syllables, fools . . . It. Ha. Ca. We drove down to The Commons (PS - if you click on that link, my orthodontist's office is on the second floor of the building on the right) and we walked around and played some billiards and laughed at some of the street performers. Around midnight we decided to raise the stakes, head up the hill and take Cornell University by storm (literally - we had my father's Geo Storm with us).

We drove on campus (like we were entitled), parked the cars, walked to Barton Hall (pictured above) and old military armory and current home of the Cornell ROTC, the University's security detail (more on that later), the facilities for the indoor track team and a place where actually, paying Ivy League STUDENTS are welcome to play basketball just about any time. Hmm. Doors are all locked (we walked ALL the way around and they were ALL locked). No matter. We will just force this door here open and walk on in, to the  pitch black building. And we did.

And we made our way through a locker room, up a flight of stairs, and on to a pitch black flat with a track, several basketball hoops, some bleachers, and chairs and no one in sight. So what SHOULD we do? Turn on the lights. Clearly. And we did. And those among us with athletic prowess began playing some hoop. The rest of us sat and talked about physics and literature (I swear this was our actual topic of conversation) and this was great for about 10 minutes. Then security showed up. And they were less than thrilled that we helped ourselves to their building.

So we all get dragged downstairs and we're put in various rooms and we're asked who we are and what we are doing and the security guard seemed as skeptical and bemused by the details of our evening as you are, dear readers. We had to fill out forms and give ID (those that had driver's licenses - not all of us did) and we were put in some book and they were getting ready to call all of our parents when one of the security guards noticed something curious . . . the last name of one of the kids in our group. It HAPPENED to be the same last name as this guy's best friend in high school who happened to be the uncle of the kid. And on that (I told you Upstate was the best and worst place in the world) we were all released with a stern warning and a verbal vow to "never set foot back on campus" (awkward considering one of the the few girls still in the group was enrolled to start at Cornell in August).

We drove DIRECTLY to the grocery market (I threw up, thrice, outside of the security office and needed some Pepto (I was an angst written little man even then)) and bought more junk food and we fretted and stewed all the way home. What would happen if "people" found out? Would we lose our college admissions offers? Would we lose scholarship money? Would we have to resign as student leaders? Would we still be able to participate in the math Olympics? Would people think less of us? Would anyone even care?

We went back to Guyk's. We stayed up until just about sun up. We all went home (I was heading directly to Connecticut for a final visit to Quinnipiac) and we all told our parents in our due time and own, special way. Our Salutatorian even made a joke about the adventure in her Commencement speech (oh the laughter from the good kids).

I avoided Cornell for about nine months. I didn't hesitate to go back on campus during my Freshman year to see a hockey game and spend time with my friend who studied there. We walked right by Barton Hall. I didn't even throw up. College had changed me. And I'll tell you the story of my best night of college next time, kiddos.

4/5/13

Get Outside . . .

I spend a LOT of time (40ish hours/week) with this EXACT view (okay, fine, there may be a 52 oz. QuikTrip cup of iced tea, a notepad, the corpse of a vagabond, some color pages, a few Triscuits, some knitting, my probation officer, my "to do" list, and/or a burning candle or two in the line of sight but this is APPROXIMATELY my "exact" view). I don't want it to be this way. I hate it, candidly. Until I get back to work though . . . this is the best I can do.


I want to approximate a work day and some work/life balance in my 400 square foot home/world. I look for work, I touch base with my network, I light candles to romance myself (I don't DO anything about it, relax. I'm a gentleman.), I handle e-mail, I try to do my part to speed the sale of the old house, I lie about my tendency to kill vagabonds, I pretend I have a probation officer, and there are bills to pay, etc. But I've never agreed more with John Mayer (sorry, Careen, Jill, Andrea, et al) than in the last few months . . . I just want to leave the "great" indoors.



It feels small, cramped, pessimistic, cold, isolated, and lived in. It looks bright, colorful, and (generally) sunny. I have a playground across the street where I can watch children (no, NOT in "that" way) including my own daughter run, hop, jump, and play during their recess time at school. I have music (current favorite is Olafur Arnalds) and podcasts (current favorites are Tablet Magazine's Vox Tablet and PTI (the ONLY sports knowledge I have comes from this podcast) to keep me company. The mail guy brings me daily delights and torment. But man . . . I miss having some place to go, a challenge waiting for me, and the reward of coming home after a long, full, productive day.

If you hate your job . . . find a new one. If you hate your home . . . move. If you hate your family and friends . . . get some help. If you hate being indoors all day . . . get outside. If you feel like your world is tight and cramped . . . watch THIS:



No matter what you do though - try to separate your lives in to some compartments of work (be that a full time job, volunteering, running your kids around, muling heroin for a cartel, managing a pornographic production company, etc.) and life (parenting, playing board games, watching Netflix, reading, growing, walking, running, biking, acting in pornographic productions, etc.). I'm three months in to this blur and I've never been more aware of how much I hate the blur.

4/4/13

The Killing . . .

AMC's The Killing (canceled yet now back for a third season in early June) is one of my favorite TV shows of the recent past. Much like many of my other TV shows of the recent past, is not really "about" what it claims to be "about."

For those who missed seasons one and two (don't worry - no spoilers here) The Killing is the story of the investigation in to the murder of a 17 year old girl, Rosie Larsen, who lived in Seattle, Wash. The show picks up the morning after the murder in early October . . . just weeks before the city will vote for Mayor. The investigation quickly gets twisty-turny as everyone from Mayoral candidates, to Rosie's teachers, to even her own family are suspects. There are back stories from the Polish Mafia to Indian Casino corruption to statutory rape by a high ranking official. There's murder and suicide and mental ward lock ups and custody suits and paternity questions. It gets nasty. But it is EXCELLENT (in my never humble opinion) because it is so twisted and complex and dark and light and hopeful and sad . . . much like life.

I choose today to blog about The Killing because I've just finished a re-watch binge of Season 2 on Netflix and it struck me just how differently I watch each episode knowing how each story arc will end, what each character will and will not do, how everything will net out (those things that DO net out - they leave plenty of juice to squeeze in Season 3) and, of course, who DID kill Rosie Larsen.

Not to get all deep on you (fret not, dear reader, I'll probably be back to boob and older-woman lust posts by the end of the week) but it made me sort of think about life. There's no way Stan and Mitch Larsen knew their daughter was going to be killed in early October. Yet we learn they had been estranged from her for months before. There's no way Stan Larsen knew that Rosie knew of a secret between them (I told you no spoilers) yet she did. There's no way the Larsen family could be any more dysfunctional than mine at the start of Season 1 but, as Linden (the lead detective and center of the show) remarks one point - they only SEEMED normal. There's no way any of us know anything that's going to happen or how it is going to happen. As one character in the show even points out . . . "If you want to make G-d laugh, tell him your plans."

But we make plans. We set goals. We interact with our family, friends, colleagues, wait staff, bell clerks, postal delivery people, strangers, and foes in a way that implies we know the dynamic, balance, right- and wrong way, and intentions of every person and interaction. We all too often act like we went back and re-watched Season 2 of our days and nights and then went through them with that knowledge. We do it anyway. We do. Every day. I am doing it now in my job search and my stahled divorce. In my parenting and in my eating and exercising. In how I treat my family and friends. In how I don't treat them.

I sat on my couch at 1 AM this morning and realized something. I'm EVENTUALLY going to find myself in a situation of true jeopardy. I'll be in a situation, like Stan Larsen, where he's got a dead daughter, an unhelpful/lost to mourning wife, a sister-in-law at home, an older son stomping birds to death on the playground, a younger son deep in depression, a business in jeopardy, a debt to be paid, a friend gone, a prison sentence looming, and no one to turn to and no one for relief so he'll simply shout "Do you think I want to be here? Do you think I don't want to leave?" But I hope, like Stan Larsen (and PLEASE, if you're listening, Universe's Forces, don't allow me ever be anywhere NEAR his actual situation) I'll shout that out, swallow hard, exhale deeply and say "Get in the truck!" and drive the kids home and start making dinner.

I hope. I fear (quietly) what I'll really do is tell the situation to "Wait right here." and I'll run home and fire up my Roku and Netflix and try to watch what comes next to make a better decision now. Luckily (?) I won't have that option.