Wednesday, December 31, 2008

2008: The Scott In Review

It's the last day of the year! Time to reflect, via utterly arbitrary web-meme questions. Here goes:

1. What did you do in 2008 that you’d never done before?
Went to India, danced in Qatar, dabbled in ShortStory-oke, realized that my job is no longer how I define myself, stopped a driver-less minivan from rolling into a gas station.

2. Did you keep your new year’s resolutions, and will you make more for next year?
I had to go back to see what my resolutions were last year (nice, right?). I kept Two and Three, but am unsatisfied with One, which is really my main goal for 2009: get fit by cooking more at home (which will probably be easier with a roommate, which 2009 will bring) and finding a physical activity that I enjoy and will look forward to.

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?
Yes, a couple somebodies. Katie had a Monkey, and Sandi had a Peanut. And we're gearing up for Beth to have a Deuce.

4. Did anyone close to you die?
Yes.

5. What countries did you visit?
India, Qatar (airport), almost Mexico (but we stayed on the Yuma side of the border).

6. What would you like to have in 2009 that you lacked in 2008?
Greater self-confidence and financial abundance.

7. What dates from 2008 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?
None, really. I typically don't remember dates, and since no blood relatives were born this year, no dates really stick out.

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?
Accepting what is, and planning for what will be.

9. What was your biggest failure?
Broadway United Methodist Church.

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?
No more than normal.

11. What was the best thing you bought?
Hmm, my new cell phone, I guess, since that's the only thing that stands out as a thing I bought.

12. Whose behavior merited celebration?
Madelynn, again. She's awesome.

13. Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed?
See #9.

14. Where did most of your money go?
Rent, car payments, eating out.

15. What did you get really, really, really excited about?
The fact that I can do Whatever I Want right now.

16. What song will always remind you of 2008?
Let It Rock
by Kevin Rudolf or Dare To Live by Andrea Bocelli and Laura Pausini.

17. Compared to this time last year, are you:
a) happier or sadder? WAY happier
b) thinner or fatter? About the same
c) richer or poorer? WAY poorer

18. What do you wish you’d done more of?
Free things. Exercising. Working toward the goals that were important to me, not to others.

19. What do you wish you’d done less of?
Worrying about what other people think.

20. How did you spend Christmas?
Semester Family Christmas was the week before actual Christmas. We went to my brother's house and had a nice dinner and traded presents and watched Madelynn play with her new stuff. Christmas Eve was with my folks -- we had a nice dinner and then went to church. Christmas Day was at the home of my brother's in-laws -- we had a nice dinner and played Wii.

21. Did you fall in love in 2008?
Yep, with a minilop rabbit named Milo, who is awesome.

22. What was your favorite TV program?
Probably It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia or Criminal Minds. Not NUMB3RS, as others may attempt to lead you to believe.

23. Do you hate anyone now that you didn’t hate this time last year?
Nope.

24. What was the best book you read?
The Practice of the Presence of God by Brother Lawrence.

25. What was your greatest musical discovery?
The soundtrack to the Broadway musical [title of show].

26. What did you want and get?
Independence, and a better sense of myself.

27. What did you want and not get?
A jackpot lottery ticket.

28. What was your favorite film of this year?
The only movie I remember seeing this year was Mamma Mia, so I guess I'm going with that. The movie I wanted desperately to see but didn't (but the DVD is pre-ordered, thanks to an awesome Christmas present from my brother) is Shark In Venice and I cannot wait until January 29, 2009, when it is scheduled to arrive.

29. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?
I turned 35, and on my actual birthday (a Monday), I took the day off from work and saw a movie (the aforementioned Mamma Mia) and made a list of the 35 things I've learned so far.

30. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?
See #27.

31. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2008?
Aging preppie, same as 2007.

32. What kept you sane?
New friends through Twitter and Smaller Indiana, an always-open invitation to have dinner with my parents, and the view of the pond lake loch from the condo.

33. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?
Last year the theme was "alliteration." This year, I'll go with "A.B." Ashleigh Banfield (Canada) and Alexandra Burke (UK).

34. What political issue stirred you the most?
Landscaping in the Hidden Bay condo complex. (Just kidding, mostly, sort of.) I think U.S. international leadership was my hot button this year. We've got a lot of stuff to work on here at home, but we can also do a lot (with a lot less money) overseas, and I'd like to see us grow back into the positive side of being the superpower again.

35. Who did you miss?
My St. Luke's family. I'm glad to be back and looking forward to getting more deeply involved again.

36. Who was the best new person you met?
KT's nephew Trevor, who is seven years old, almost 8.

37. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2008.
Put your own oxygen mask on before helping others with theirs.

38. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year.
I'd rather be 9 people's favorite thing than 100 people's ninth favorite thing.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Your feedback is important to us.

Dear potentially crazy potential web-stalker:

Thank you for your (choose one):
  • Utterly context-free response to a post on this blog from nine months ago.
  • Unsolicited out-of-nowhere MySpace friend request.
  • Random comment which, while written using actual English words (albeit with creative capitalization), does not actually contain complete English sentences.
  • Letter from your lawyer indicating my allegedly libelous characterization of you and/or your business.

At "All I'm Saying..." we strive to provide a superior blog experience, assuming your blog expectations are especially low. Your feedback is important to us. In your note, you indicated (choose one):

  • A spontaneous diatribe regarding your college experiences with marijuana and mescaline, including your contention, citing the US Constitution, the Federalist Papers, and the Second Vatican Council, that naturally-occurring substances should not be illegal.
  • An alleged description of how you think you know me from elementary school even though I have both total recall of seating charts from first through eighth grade AND all my yearbooks from 1980 to 1989.
  • Your familiarity with the words "asshat," "ketchup," "kumquat," "yeast," and "Renaissance," although your familiarity with their appropriate usage is, at best, marginal.
  • The degree to which my creative flippancy and slackerly research damaged your current and/or future income potential.

Please accept this response as proof of receipt of your correspondence. However, this should not be construed as (choose one):

  • My agreement with your theories regarding the legalization of drugs.
  • My acceptance of you as a friend on MySpace, Facebook, Twitter, Smaller Indiana, LinkedIn, or any other virtual social network.
  • My understanding of what the hell you're talking about.
  • My admission of guilt for engaging in libel or slander.

But I do hope you will continue to visit the ol' blog. Even though Because I make no money off the blog, I do appreciate your continued patronage.

In conclusion (choose one):

  • Thanks for writing, but I'd advise you not to hold your breath on a personal response.

Yr pal,

Scotty

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Hallelujah

I'm continuing to experiment in this new mixed-media (karaoke track + essay) thing. I know it needs work (I need to learn Audacity and get a better microphone), but here's the latest karaokessay...








The little boy and his mother walked out of the church and sat down on the steps. It was almost 7:00 at night, so the church’s food pantry was closed. It was two days before Christmas, and they’d been on the street for more than a week now. They didn’t have anything to eat.

They closed their eyes to pray together, and when they opened them, the little boy and his mother saw three young people walking toward them, each carrying a neatly wrapped present. She didn’t have the heart to make one more request for help, but it turned out she didn’t need to.

The three kids were on their way to their family’s big Christmas party, and Momma never let anyone in unless they brought a guest. They’d been looking for someone to invite all day, and they decided to invite these two strangers to come along. As they all walked the short distance to Momma’s house, they sang.

****

When they arrived, the party was already in full swing, and the little boy couldn’t believe his eyes. Tables and tables of food all around the house, just waiting to be devoured. He looked up at his mother, who was working hard to contain her awe at the spread before them: meats and cheeses, fruits and vegetables, casseroles and pasta dishes and desserts.

As they were introduced around to dozens of family members and their guests, Momma noticed that the little boy and his mother were especially hungry. So, even though three cousins, an uncle and two grandkids hadn’t made it yet, Momma suggested they gather and get started eating.

And in a beautiful chorus of harmonizing voices, together they shared grace, a song of praise to God.

****

After dinner, the kids gathered in the living room to dance and play and produce the talent show they’d perform later for the adults. The little boy’s mother busied herself with the pots and pans for a while and, when that was done, she dried her hands and found her way into the room where the adults were wrapping gifts.

While the little boy was enjoying himself singing Christmas carols and making parents’ presents with the others, his mother’s heart was heavy. She had nothing to give her boy this Christmas, nothing but all the love in her heart.

A pat on her shoulder startled her, and someone handed her a beautifully gift-wrapped present. And in neat handwriting, the tag proclaimed the gift to be TO: the little boy, FROM: his mother.

****

After the talent show and gift exchange, the little boy and his new friends continued their game of cops and robbers. His mother, overwhelmed at the generosity of this family of strangers, stepped onto the front porch for a breath of cool December air.

She had no idea what their future held, and she didn’t want to think about what would happen to her and her little boy when they walked out of this Norman Rockwell painting. But she realized, right then, all the things they had – and, most importantly, that they had each other.

She looked up into the stars and said another prayer. And as she offered thanks and opened herself to what might be next, she heard a choir of angels singing down to her.

****

When it was time, she collected her little boy and they said their goodbyes. They were unable to express their gratitude for such a wonderful evening, for the generosity Momma had shown in loading them up with leftovers – and even a bag of unopened groceries to help.

The little boy and his mother thanked their hosts. And Momma also thanked them for joining the family that evening. The little boy and his mother stepped out onto the front porch for the walk back to the shelter and saw that one of the uncles was waiting to drive them. They didn’t remember his name, but they remembered Momma joking with him about being late for dinner.

As the little boy and his mother got in the car, they could hear the love flowing out of Momma’s house – a love that could not be contained by four walls or by family ties.

Fake Thundercats Trailer

If, like me, you grew up in the United States in the 1980s, then the Thundercats played an important part in your childhood. But your and my devotion to the Thundercats is nothing compared to YouTube user WormyT, who lovingly crafted a FAKE Thundercats feature-film trailer, digitally altering, frame by frame, footage of Hugh Jackman as Tygra, Vin Diesel as Panthro, and, in the role of Lion-o, Brad Pitt.

Watch closely and you'll see computer-animated Garfield as Snarf and the kids from Spy Kids as Wily Kit and Wily Kat. (Which, if Lion-o's body aged during the 10 galacto years in transit to Third Earth, why didn't Kit and Kat? But whatever. Just watch.)

Monday, December 22, 2008

2008 Giftgivers Bring Their "A" Game

Christmas Gift Update!

My friend Myrna had her cousin Tina visit a Muji store in New York City and ship back four Muji Chronotebooks to Indiana for me, creating what I thought was the Best. Christmas Present. Ever!

BUT!

It turns out we have co-winners this year...so far. For, you see, my brother JJ pre-ordered the DVD of "Shark In Venice" and presented the receipt to me during our family gift exchange on Saturday. It will arrive in January, at which point I will be planning the viewing party.

Simply...awesome.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

"Outdoorsy." Definitely "outdoorsy."

Today, I read an article by Neal Taflinger. It's about building and maintaining your "personal brand," which is a concept I've been hearing a lot about online but have never really thought about in terms of applying to myself.

Neal (or "Taffy," as he and his team of marketing professionals have dubbed his personal brand) writes about his process for identifying his core message -- his identity, if you will. Ultimately, they came up with "Taffy is the relevant voice of Indy’s young professionals," which is both a descriptor for people who are unfamiliar with Taflinger's work and a guide for him as he decides what to do and what not to do in developing and spreading his message about himself and Indy's young professionals.

It's given me a lot to think about, this business of developing the core message / identity / whatever. In this time of transition, I've been doing a lot of thinking about who I am and what I do, and, of course, I've always been interested in how others perceive me. I was on a staff at IU one year where we did an affirmation exercise that involved the whole group closing their eyes and three or four group members being selected to open their eyes and stand up. The facilitator would read off traits or characteristics and the people who were standing would touch on the shoulder the group members who fit those characteristics.

"Touch three people who are trustworthy."
"Touch two people who are kind."
"Touch four people who are wise."

After a few traits were read off, those people would sit down and close their eyes and three or four more people would be invited to stand up and affirm the others in the group. It was a great exercise, and I've used it with other staffs that I've been in charge of.

But the thing that blew my mind -- which, 15 years later, I still remember -- was that someone touched me for "Touch someone who is outdoorsy."

Friends, I am many things, but outdoorsy I am not.

It is possible that my mid-90s penchant for flannel shirts wanged around my waist sent out a message of outdoorsiness, a certain rugged*, Ranger-Rick appeal ... but anyone who knows anything about me at all knows that I am not outdoorsy. I made it to Eagle Scout in spite of the camping activities, not because of them. And I still think twice before going to Symphony on the Prairie.

BUT!

What this illustrates for me is that some of our personal branding is out of our control. With my flannel shirt tied around my waist, I intended to convey the message, "I am down with the grunge aesthetic of my Generation X brethren," but what I was conveying to at least one person was "I am outdoorsy." I guess the advice would be to control what you can control and be intentional about it, carefully observing feedback from others as you go.

Now, my online presence (my blog, Facebook profile, Twitter account, etc.) is all over the place with funny videos, poetry and music, comedy, photography, theology, tales of heroic derring-do and so forth. And my life in general has been like that -- lots of people know different sides of me from lots of different experiences, with very little overlap. I'm not really sure how it all fits into my personal brand. It's definitely something for me to think about. That article has helped me to understand why some people's online identities are the way they are, and it has helped me confront my own image of myself and my nearly-neurotic refusal to specialize.

Perhaps 2009 will be the year that Scott Semester™ emerges as a solidified concept...
* Nope, I'm not rugged, either. I am fragile, and I am indoorsy.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

I spent an hour, just now

Hey, kids! It's Poetry Corner! Click the player below to hear me read this one:







I spent an hour watching the snow falling on the partially frozen pond just now.

The tiny flakes aren't sticking to anything, really; they just add silent energy to an otherwise frozen morning.

The geese have gone, and the pond is toiling to tuck her every inlet, from shore to shore, under a thick, frosty winter blanket, when just last week a thin icy sheet was plenty.

I spent an hour watching the snow falling on the partially frozen pond just now, listening to "The Christmas Song" over and over and over on repeat -- a karaoke version, mostly piano, but with light, sexy percussion and soulful, jazzy clarinet. The tune invited me to the Holiday Place, where someone always waits to celebrate with you, where a cup of cocoa undoes the worst the world can throw your way.

I spent an hour watching the snow falling on the partially frozen pond just now, wondering what the future will hold, what grand adventure the universe has in store for me, for us.

I spent an hour watching the snow falling on the partially frozen pond just now, grateful for the hour, grateful for the snow, grateful for the pond, grateful for Now.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Sick! (In the way the kids now use "sick" to mean "exceedingly cool")

Remember Colin Clark? I tweeted about how Greg Grunberg, star of TV's "Heroes," had proclaimed me Local Hero of the Day on account of the runaway minivan at the gas station incident, and I think (though I don't know for sure) that led Colin to check out the ol' blog here.

Anyway, despite the fact that Colin and I have never met in person and have only corresponded via Twitter and Smaller Indiana, he saw that I was a fan of the song "On the Bayou" and decided to record an impromptu live version. Here it is, y'all:



This really cool unexpected surprise helps me see that gifts need not be expensive, monetarily -- it didn't cost Colin anything to make that video, but it sure was cool to see!

Therefore: What can you do or make or write or create or paint or sew or grow or whatever for free and give to someone else?

Sick.

I just ventured out of the house for the first time today a couple minutes ago, to get the mail. I have been fighting off a sore throat, runny nose, pounding headache, etc. It sucks.

BUT!

Today was actually a good day, as I had an opportunity to get caught up on some organizing and bill-paying and some future planning (from immediate, such as making a Christmas list to shop for Semester Family Christmas this Saturday, to long-term, such as figuring out how to go on a Cunard World Cruise in January to April 2010).

I'll keep you posted on how it all turns out.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Colin Clark's Social Media Song: "I Follow You"



Colin Clark, of the IndyAwesome blog, has written and performed this song that embraces all the hullaballoo over Facebook, MySpace, FriendFeed, and all the other social-media thingamajigs out there these days. Pretty awesome -- check it out.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

The pond lake loch tonight at sunset

My spidey sense needs a tune-up

In which the blogger saves the day, sort of

I went to lunch today with my friend Tom, the facility manager at the church where I used to work. As we headed up to Sam’s Gyros on 54th – please don’t tell Mr. Gyros on 38th that I was unfaithful – Tom mentioned that we needed to stop at the gas station at 30th and College on the way back, so he could get one of his workers some gizzards from the Gas Station Brand™ friedchickenry they have there.

When lunch was over, we pulled into the generic gas station. There was no parking in the official parking spaces, so I pulled up parallel to the front of the building, perpendicular to the gas pumps (which is important). Tom hopped out and went to grab the gizzards, and I turned the car off. Immediately, my brain went to Red Alert and I had visions of carjacking. Don’t ask me why; I’d been to that gas station countless times in the year and a half that I worked at the church around the corner, my little white car was known in the neighborhood, and there really wasn’t anyone loitering carjackily about. (Of course, I’ve mentioned before my curiosity in re carjacking, so who can say, really?)

Anyway.

I was sitting there waiting for Tom and kind of watching what was going on at the neighborhood gas station. In the right sideview, I saw a car pull into the station, but it stopped in the middle of the entrance because the red minivan at Pump 8 was pulling out, away from the pump and toward the building. It was moving very slowly, which I think was beginning to piss off the person waiting to comeinfillupandgetthehellout.

I didn’t think anything of it until I realized how vvvvvveeeeerrrrrrryyyyyy slowly the minivan was moving. I glanced at the driver’s seat, mostly to satisfy my what-kind-of-jerkhole-is-driving-like-that curiosity. But I didn’t see the driver; all I could see were the two kids – a toddler and an infant – in the wayback. My mind dismissed it as the driver sitting low in the seat until the minivan started gaining speed and getting head-on closer to the building. Traffic all around the station was kind of frozen as the minivan moved.

I took another look at the driver’s seat and realized that there was, in fact, no driver -- there. Was. NO. DRIVER! Turns out we were on Red Alert not because I was, in reality, getting carjacked; rather, we were on Red Alert because I was, in reality, being called upon to stop a runaway minivan from running into a gas station.

And I am not kidding.

I slipped off my seatbelt, hopped out of my car, and sprinted (for me) the 20 or so feet to the coasting minivan, hopped in the driver’s seat (luckily the door was unlocked), slammed on the brake, put it in park (it was idling in neutral), asked the kids in back if they were okay (no response), left the damn thing in the middle of it all, and went inside to proclaim, heroically:

“Um? This minivan? I just? It was? Rolling? Toward the station?”
The woman whose vehicle it was walked out past me without saying a word and drove away, leaving me flush with unexpressed adrenaline and a mental note to get my Red Alert crisis detector serviced at the next available opportunity.

In retrospect, I guess I should maybe have gone carnival-freak crazy on her for leaving her unlocked car on, in neutral, with kids in the back. But I did not, I could not...

With great power comes great responsibility, indeed. Sometimes I wish I’d never discovered these superpowers.

Monday, December 08, 2008

Just Elfing Around, 2008

Dear reader,

There is a chance that you do not think this is as funny as it, in reality, is. This would be because you have never attended a wedding reception with me. Those of you who have attended a wedding reception with me know that, in fact, this is, almost exactly move for move, how I would appear.

Trust me when I tell you, this is hilarious:

Send your own ElfYourself eCards

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Image Synchronicity: Children of the World

I have seen this image online three times today. But I only realized that it was important that I was repeatedly seeing it on the third go-round. The first two times seemed coincidental. Is the third time a more-than-coincidental charm?



What do you suppose it means?

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Bartlett, Illinois, and Brunswick, Ohio?

I have installed a new widget at the bottom of the left-hand sidebar. It tracks where people are visiting the blog from -- don't worry, it's all anonymous and whatnot. And it's actually kind of interesting.

What I wonder, though, is who is logging onto the ol' blog from Bartlett, Illinois. I don't think I know anyone in Bartlett, but it continues to pop up... So if you're so inclined, give me a shout-out in the comments.

Ditto Brunswick, Ohio. (Although Brunswick appears to be in northeast Ohio, where a number of my extended family members live, so maybe that's just a relative.)

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

While I am guilty of more than one of these videogaming facial expressions...

...I have never -- not even once! -- uttered the phrase, "Come back here and let me stab you!"



This video is called "Immersion," by New York Times photographer Robbie Cooper, and it captures several young people as they play a variety of video games, exhibiting a variety of facial expressions from "horrified" to "gleeful" to "Ted Bundy in Training." It's actually pretty compelling -- though often difficult -- to watch.

Now, putting aside our feelings about video games and their Violence and/or Sexuality Quotient, think about this: What facial expressions would be captured if there were a camera behind your TV screen?

Friday, November 28, 2008

This was a good day.

I woke up this morning with a massive headache and almost went right back to bed. I am glad I did not. For, you see, today was the day I had plans with The Coolest 7-Year-Old I Know, one Mr. Trevor Tracey. And also The Coolest Boss I Ever Had, Ms. Kathryn Tracey, AKA "KT."

Trevor is KT's nephew, and he is awesome. In fact, he is my best seven-year-old friend.

I got to see Disney's new movie, Bolt, with Trevor and KT this morning. We saw it in 3D, which is getting amazinger and amazinger. We also saw Speed Racer in 3D earlier this year, but I think Bolt was even better: the story is great, the art is beautiful, the 3D effects were cool, Susie Essman as Mittens the Cat is hilarious, and Rhino the Hamster is "...beyawesome" and steals the show.

After the movie, we went to Trevor's favorite, Steak-N-Shake, where I had a fantastic double steakburger with cheese and a Cherry Diet Coke. Seriously, is there a better meal? Not for under seven bucks, my friends...not for under seven bucks. Throughout the meal, I quizzed Trevor on NASCAR -- who drives what number car, what color their car is, who their sponsor is, etc. He knows it all. This boy is the Encyclopedia Nascarica. (And did I mention he's seven?) I predict a future in either auto racing, sports commentating, or art & architecture for this guy -- he drew me a picture of the racetrack at Daytona, too. Either that, or some sort of superheroism, because "Trevor Tracey" is an awesome secret identity name.

When I got home from lunch, I didn't have a plan. I logged on to local social network SmallerIndiana.com (remember my beef with them? I'm over it.) and found some craziness about Dinosaurs and the Bible, courtesy of one of the nicest, but slightly crazy, SI members. I downloaded a two-and-a-half-hour video on her recommendation, just, you know, to see, and about 30 minutes into the video, I fell asleep. Friends, believe me when I tell you: if you're running a video about the Great Flood, dinosaurs, the Dawn of Man, and the Garden of Eden while you're sleeping, you're going to have some weird dreams. And not all dinosaur-related, either. But just trust me on this; your dreams, they will be odd. (Also, I remain unconvinced that dinosaurs coexisted with humans, but I suppose that's another blog post altogether.)

After waking up from my freaky-dreamed nap and convincing myself that I wasn't in eighteenth-century Spain waiting to ride my electronic pillow-chariot in the race for the grand-prize hot fudge sundae (I told you), I took a shower, made some dinner, and chilled out for a bit. Then I watched "Air Force One" on Hulu, which brings us to now. I am enjoying the post-holiday quiet, watching Milo hop around, reading Haruki Murakami's "What I Talk About When I Talk About Running" and reflecting on a pretty good day.

How was your Black Friday?

FOR THE RECORD: Yesterday was a good day, too. I had Thanksgiving dinner with my family -- awesome deep-fried turkey, and Aunt Charlotte's rice, and all manner of other starches, and a delicious apple pie prepared by my sister-in-law, Beth. And then I went over to Will and Carolyn's and we watched "Tropic Thunder" with Earl and LuBea (Carolyn's parents) and all of us except Earl played a couple rounds of Apples to Apples. I was exhausted when I pulled into the garage at half past midnight, but it was a great day!

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving!

Hope it all works out for you the way you want it to!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

That's ... um ... specific

I somehow found myself on GotCast.com this afternoon and was browsing the casting notices just in case they were looking for, you know, an unemployed, mid-30s goofball, fluent in Spanish and Starbucks, for a new reality-show pilot about a former Eagle Scout who turns to a life of crime. (Not that I've done that ... yet ... but I could be persuaded, if the price is right and there are cameras to follow my every move.)

Anyway.

I was browsing and saw the harmless headline, "Host for Hot New TV Pilot." I saw that it was only open to people who live in California, so I was about to click away, but then I saw even more requirements that I did not meet. To wit:

In case you're having trouble reading and/or embiggening it, let me transcribe:

YOU: Midget with contractor's license. Must have car, own tools. No dopers, scammers or whiners.* Irish accent. Tagalog fluency a plus.

* It was really the "no whiners" part that wouldn't allow me to make the cut. The rest of it, I could fudge.

Now then. I don't know what kind of "hot new TV pilot" this is going to be, but I. Want. To. See. It. So if you know of any midget contractors with Irish accents who are also fluent in Tagalog, please to be referring them to the aforelinked page.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Jambalaya (On the Bayou)

When I was growing up, I remember very specifically a Carpenters tape (which seemed to be copied from, perhaps, an LP) that I enjoyed playing over and over and over again. And though I have downloaded "The Carpenters: The Singles, 1969 - 1973" on iTunes, there are some songs I remember which aren't on that masterwork. One of them is this one:



I have no idea why I enjoy this song so much, but I think it has something to do with the way it calls out to the communal, we're-all-in-this-together, caveman part of my brain in a very strong way. They may not have much (although jambalaya and crawfish pie and filé gumbo do sound quite filling), but what they do have will see them through. These Bayou people know what they're going to do and they know how they're going to do it: together, and with song.

I kind of think that would be part of my own brand/motto/perspective on life: "Together, And With Song."

Sunday, November 23, 2008

"Mascelle" is Italian for "Jaws"

Shark in Venice is the movie I have waited my entire life to see...



My friends, I have never been more serious about something in my life than right now. Not only do I want to see this film, but I want to own an autographed copy on DVD, and I want to rent out the Dolphin Pavilion at the Indianapolis Zoo for a special underwater showing in the Dolphin Adventure Dome, to which I will invite, in addition to my 30 closest friends, actor Stephen Baldwin for a pre-show talk and post-show prayer circle. We will have an authentic Italian Olive Garden meal, complete with unlimited salad and breadsticks, and together we will marvel at how this film so deftly combines The DaVinci Code, Deep Blue Sea, and BioDome.

If you think I am kidding, then you do not know me very well.

UPDATE: My brother got me the Shark in Venice DVD for Christmas!

UPDATE UPDATE: The DVD has arrived!

UPDATE UPDATE UPDATE: There seems to be some debate as to whether it's Shark in Venice or Sharks in Venice. I will tell you that the DVD is labeled Sharks in Venice, and the title sequence confirms it. Should I label that a spoiler alert?

Memo to Dad: Don't Forget 24 Tonight!



In the year and a half since the finale of the sixth season of 24, the story of the wacky adventures of four old ladies in Miami the story of the wacky adventures of four boarding-school students in upstate New York the story of the wacky adventures of six young people making their way in life and love in mid-90s New York City the story of the wacky adventures of five children forced to live on their own when their parents are killed by a drunk driver the story of the wacky adventures of Counter Terrorist Unit agent Jack Bauer filmed in real-time, my father has had no adrenaline outlet, no weekly rush of excitement, no regular jolt of vicarious energy.

Truth be told, this has been good, as Dad has channeled his energy into other constructive projects, such as building residential wheelchair ramps for the less fortunate, re-tiling the kitchen floor, and watching House. In a way, though, it is clear that tonight's brief return of 24 and the new season's beginning on January 11 are very positive steps for the Mom-and-Dad household. Dad will soon be back to carving out an hour each week to shush Mom so he can "help Jack" and Mom will soon be back to having an hour each week when she can watch QVC uninterrupted. It's win-win.

Tonight's 24 minibite is but a prelude leading up to the season opener on January 11 -- ahem, "24play," if you will -- but it looks good. Apparently it takes place over two hours when the first female US president (timely! topical! sort of!) is about to be inaugurated while, at the same time, an imminent violent coup ("How imminent?" "Very.") with the potential to lead to genocide is about to take place in the fictional African state of Sangala (also timely! also topical! mostly!). Fortunately -- I mean, come on -- Jack is in Sangala and we get to see how he spends those two hours saving the world...or does he?

(See what I did there? Now you have to watch it.)

Friday, November 21, 2008

Tree-based-graphic memo to self: Here's what's important


Hollywoodizing my life

  • If my life were a Will Smith action comedy, right about now is when the CIA would show up and call on me to serve my country in some far-fetched, yet ultimately redemptive and endearing fashion. Something involving, perhaps, stand-up comedy on a cruise ship, say, or driving a cab in London (on the wrong side of the street!). BUT the CIA has not knocked on my door yet.

  • If my life were a season of 24, I wouldn't have to be concerned about receiving my last steady paycheck from my former workplace tomorrow, because there would be a plot already written out that would resolve that...and who knows if I'll even make it to the end of the day? Also, I wouldn't need to bathe, go to the bathroom, stop for groceries or gas, or get the mail. BUT I do, in fact, still have to do all that stuff. Because, luckily, it's likely that I'll make it to tomorrow.

  • If my life were a chick flick starring Sandra Bullock and Queen Latifah, I would have a wise-cracking, yet supportive, friend who would help me see the silver lining and encourage me at this difficult time. BUT I have about 17 wise-cracking, yet supportive, friends who are helping me see the silver lining and encouraging me at this difficult time.

  • If my life were an episode of Law & Order, I'd have stumbled over a dead body or two on my newly-initiated morning walk-jog. BUT the only dead things I've seen recently have been a cat and a squirrel. Still, that's pretty sad, right?

  • If my life were a sitcom, I would be having wacky, inconsequential adventures, sometimes on my own, sometimes with one or two trusted friends. BUT -- oh, well, wait. That's kind of happening.

  • If my life were a movie musical, right about now is when I'd break out into song in place of dialogue. BUT -- oh, yeah, that too. I do that now.

How would your life be different if it got the Hollywood treatment?

Thursday, November 20, 2008

New Rule: No Death Songs, Please

When I die before you, dear reader, you are not, under any circumstances, to write a song about the circumstances of my death, nor about any does-heaven-exist death pact which we may or may not have made with one another.

And you sure as hell are not to tell our story on the Fourth Hour of the Today Show. Honestly. If neither of us is famous enough for at least the Second Hour by the time I die, then what's the point, really?

Enjoy Broadway (the musical theatre capital, not the church where I used to work) singing sensation Cheyenne Jackson, as he musically tells the story of this dude (seated on the couch next to Kathie Lee Gifford, nee Epstein, who wrote the song in question) who made a pact with his mother that whichever one of them died first would indicate the presence of heaven by sending a red balloon to the living one within 24 hours. (Got that? Me neither. Just watch.)



via Best Week Ever

Giving Water

If two of your five best friends didn't have a sanitary place to go to the bathroom, you'd probably do something about it, right? You'd let them come over and use yours, or you'd work with them to build something suitable for their own household.

Over on the new Giving Water site, I just learned that two out of every five people in the world don't have access to basic sanitation: a sanitary place to go to the bathroom. And over a billion people in the world don't have access to clean drinking water.

Now. Say what you will about "GO WHERE THE FOOD IS!" and its applicability to the global water crisis, this strikes me as a pressing issue for humankind today. Giving Water was founded by the head of Ethos Water -- the water you can get when you go to Starbucks -- with the mission of helping people around the world in need to gain access to safe water, improved sanitation, and hygiene education.

I learned about Giving Water when I was bootlegging live-streaming the annual Blackbaud Conference and boning up on the latest in philtech (that's "philanthropy technology" to you and me). Peter Thum, founder of Giving Water, announced this new initiative at BBCon and I think it's something that we can all get behind.

Giving Water focuses mostly on East Africa -- Kenya, specifically, which seriously must have the best voluntourism marketing ministry of the entire developing world because, my God, it's all happening in Kenya. My own experience of water scarcity stems from my experience last year in Sierra Leone and Liberia and, five years ago, in Ghana (all located, for the geo-impaired, in West Africa). Seeing how precious the resource was -- and feeling a little guilty for having an almost unlimited clean-water supply for our team's use -- really made me think differently about how I use water here at home.

Whether you make a donation to Giving Water (which you should) or not, one thing you can do to make a difference is think critically about how you use water. Here in the US, we're probably good to go, water-wise, for our lifetimes -- and, probably, for a long time beyond that. But around the world, that certainty isn't true. Think about what it might be like if you only had clean water after hiking two miles (uphill, both ways, in the snow, barefoot, ha ha -- but seriously) to get it. Think about how you might live differently if the bathroom was a latrine out back instead of the restroom down the hall from your office. Think about how you would wash dishes differently or bathe differently or care for your garden differently.

Just think.

That's what's going to make the difference: thinking about how and why we do the things we do and making intentional choices about doing them in the way that makes the biggest positive impact with the smallest negative trade-offs.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I am afraid of heights and will be stepping down off my soapbox. :)

Oops.

I attended a webinar (and -- come on -- "webinar"? I hate that that's a word now...) about blogging this afternoon.

The guys at Compendium Blogware (Chris Baggott and Doug Karr) shared a ton of information about why blogging should be a part of any company's marketing strategy, how to measure return-on-investment for corporate blogging, etc. One of the things they shared was Doug's 200 Blog Post Ideas, one of which struck a chord with me: What's the latest mistake your company made? How did you recover?

From a personal perspective, this is an interesting question to me right now, as I recently left my job -- and while my departure was mutual, it wasn't, shall we say, entirely voluntary.

Looking back, I can see a lot of mistakes that I made, but I think the biggest error I made was not trusting my own instincts better. I allowed distractions to get between me and the job I was hired to do -- distractions like embracing the talk that I wanted so desperately to walk, like providing a listening ear to those who hadn't been heard, like letting personalities get in the way of my more effectively asserting myself for the good of me or the good of those we served. I knew there were things we needed to be doing to move my job forward, and I allowed others to distract and intimidate me away from those things.

There's a whole lot of stuff I could share, venting-wise, about my experience, but that really doesn't have a place here. I've tried to keep the negative work stuff off this blog (except for a couple times and even then I didn't get specific). If you would like the whole story (from my side, of course), you may invite me to dinner (on you, seeing as how I am currently unemployed).

BUT! The question from Doug Karr's list is a two-parter and, much like a Dallas cliffhanger or a stuffed-crust pizza, it's the second part that makes the difference. How did I recover? is a question that is probably more appropriately worded How am I recovering? for, you see, at this point I still am recovering -- and from a couple standpoints.

From the career standpoint, I'm working on finding a next thing, and in the meantime, I've been fortunate to find a couple freelance writing projects to keep me in frosting and Nilla wafers for a while. I'm not exactly flush with cash, but I do think that I'll be able to Tarzan this vine until the next one appears. If you know of anyone seeking an organized, talented project manager or writer or editor or fundraising guy (events and annual campaigns, because I'm giving myself a vacation from capital campaigns for a while), let me know.

From a personal standpoint, I'm doing a lot of reflecting. Questions of doubt and ability plague me, but that's really nothing new.

One of the greatest things (for me, not for where I used to work) is the number of people who know me and know that place and wonder at how long I was able to last there. I feel like the way I was experienced there -- and, correspondingly, the way people treated me there -- was so different from anywhere else I've ever worked, served, or whatever, that the problem certainly couldn't have been all me. And sadly, I've had a fair number of folks share with me their experiences with my former workplace that have had a similarly negative tone as my own. Some have stuck around; some haven't. I pray every day for the people who've shared their negative experiences with me, and also for the folks who, though troubled and flawed humans (just like all of us), are just trying to do their best for that place and for each other (just like all of us).

How am I recovering? I'm doing a lot of forgiveness work (myself, others, myself, myself, others, myself, myself), and I'm spending a lot of time writing. I've got a couple ideas for new adventures, including a new web concept that will offer you the opportunity to give me lots of money. So, you know, ha ha, watch for that.

In the meantime, I'm focusing on the silver lining around this cloud. I've learned things, I've grown, and I did a lot of good stuff in the almost-two-years I was there.

The reality is that my working there was not the right thing for that place, nor was it the right thing for me. There were too many other issues getting in the way of my (me, specifically) success there.

And sometimes it just doesn't work out. If you had asked me three years ago if I could forge and maintain a working relationship with anyone, I would have told you, "Absolutely." Now, I know that's not true, and I know that that's OK. It's not the end of the world not to be able to break through to one or more individuals ... it just means the fit wasn't right.

So, what was my latest mistake? Not trusting myself. What were the consequences? Missed opportunities and regrets, lost time and hard feelings. How did (am) I recover(ing)? By learning from the experience and keeping my eye on the lessons and the positive achievements, not the remorse and the letdowns.

And, really, I guess the next 40 or 50 years will tell the rest of my answer to How did you recover? And in that context, two years in the wrong job for me doesn't seem all that bad, after all...

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Hmm. Well, OK. One Child Left Behind.

Again, via BWE

"How big is Will?" ... Will is HUGE

via BestWeekEver



I love this spontaneous group response to this little boy. It shows that both great love and great sense of humor can emerge from a crowd of humans.

We need more "Yay!" mobs.

Friday, November 07, 2008

I am NOT Extreme Anything

There is absolutely nothing that you could videotape? film? visually record me doing that would look impressive when backed with a techno soundtrack. To wit:



The sad truth is that, even after 35 years on this earth, I am not pierced, I am not inked, I cannot jump over things or use things on wheels to perform daring acts of derring-do...pretty much, I can only do that thing with my tongue, which is a genetic trait anyway.

So is there a place for me in 2008? Is there an opportunity for a man to live the simple, non-body-modificationalized life these days? Is there any "normal" any more, or is "normal" the new "abnormal," is "crazy" the new "sane" now?

Video: "Contact Juggling" via Uncover the Internet

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Best Escaped-Rhino-At-A-Zoo Drill Ever

In which we learn what to do if we're at the zoo when a papier-mache rhinoceros, with two men inside, escapes

McCain Fine Gold on QVC

In which Cindy McCain potentially clinches the election for her husband, in spite of him and his running mate

Friday, October 31, 2008

It's gettin' churchy up in here, again.

For the All Good Gifts stewardship program at Broadway, we include a devotional reflection (scripture, reflection, prayer) each week in our bulletin.

We've had folks write about the Gift of Presence, the Gift of Conversations, the Gift of Service, and Financial Gifts. This month we're talking about the Gift of Prayer. But somehow November surprised me, and we were without a writer from the congregation for this week's devotional -- so I did it. It appears below. ("The Gift of Prayer: Wrote a devotional about it. Like to hear it? Here it goes...")



Are you hurting? Pray. Do you feel great? Sing. Are you sick? Call the church leaders together to pray and anoint you with oil in the name of the Master. Believing-prayer will heal you, and Jesus will put you on your feet. And if you've sinned, you'll be forgiven—healed inside and out.

Make this your common practice: Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you can live together whole and healed. The prayer of a person living right with God is something powerful to be reckoned with.

James 5: 13-16 (The Message)


I come, O God, wondering. As I prepare to approach you, God, I wonder why your presence fills me with both boundless hope and awesome fear. My human mind can’t know how your love for me flows over me without ceasing, but my heart feels the embrace of your warmth and my soul hears the silver lilt of your welcoming laughter.

I come, O God, wandering. The path before me, God – before us, you and me – is not straight, nor narrow, nor smooth, nor flat. It bears twists and turns, hills and valleys, highways and byways. Sometimes I take a shortcut, sometimes the long way ‘round. But we keep finding our way back to each other … although you find me more than I find you.

I come, O God, trembling. Entering into conversation with you, God, can be overwhelming – you, who know and see and create everything. I tremble with the uncertain trepidation of one who does not know. I tremble with the angry heartbreak of a disappointed friend. I tremble with the anxious anticipation of a child on Christmas Eve. I tremble because my whole body knows that something – something big, something beautiful, something challenging, something scary … something! – is about to happen. It always does when we talk.

I come, O God, for you are here. In prayer, my God, I open myself to you so that you can open me even more. I give myself to you – my attention and intention, my hopes and my dreams and my fears – so that you can find even more of me to give to you and to others. I am fully present to you so that you can make me more fully present to myself and to others.

I come wondering, wandering, and trembling, O God, for you are here.



Loving and patient God,
Thank you for the infinitely powerful and eternally renewable gift of prayer. Help me to remember that prayer can take many forms, occur in many places, and happen any time, for you are with me, ready to talk and to listen, wherever I am. Amen.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Oh! Now I get the American economy.

You may keep your spreadsheets and your charts, your hifalutin talk of collateralized debt obligations and credit default swaps, your Dow Jones Industrial Averages and your Standards & Poor'ses.

In 60 seconds, I can explain how we got into the mess that led to a $700 Billion-with-a-B economic bailout rescue bill that who even knows if it's gonna work. Friends, I give you, Why The American Economy Is In The Crapper:



If we had any self-control, as individuals and as a nation, we'd be a lot better off than we are. That's all I'm saying.

Postscript: I had dinner with my parents the other night and they tried to explain to me the above clip, which they had seen in its original airing. Let's just say I have great respect for the restraint and compassion my father showed in describing this unfortunate fellow using only the adjectives "idiotic" and "overweight."

Video via BestWeekEver.tv, which you ought to be reading every day.

Facebook Deja Vu

This Facebook malarkey has gotten out of hand, with all the worlds collidin' and the friendin' and the plinkin' and the plunkin' and the Jello puddin'...

But!

I have identified three groups of friends whom I would like to connect with: the aforementioned Orientation kids, the aforementioned Ghana kids, and the unaformentioned kids I spent seven weeks in San Luis Potosi, Mexico, with in 1990 as part of a foreign-language immersion program for high school students run through IU. So, if you happened on to this blog and you fit one of those categories -- or you know someone who might -- e-mail me at the address above, because come on, man, let's be friends!

And here's the weird thing...because you know there's always got to be a weird thing. The weird thing is this: I just went through my high school class on Facebook and friend-requested Sara Cassetti and decided if she confirmed me as a friend (fingers crossed!) I would ask her if she remembered anyone's full name from when we were in San Luis together. Within 15 minutes of me sending that friend request, Jason Hazelett, the guy whose host family lived right around the corner from mine in San Luis, friend-requested me!

AND! THEN!

Afi Eframian, a friend from the Carmel H.S. Orchestra, confirmed me as a friend and said, "How totally bizarre....I was just thinking about how I needed to 'add' you as a friend today to see what you have been up to.....great minds think alike, I guess."

!!!

It's like I'm directly plugged in to The Inter-web-o-tron this evening! I can almost feel the Nigerian scams coursing through my veins, I can almost hear the dozens of hot women in my city begging me for a date tonight, I can almost see my ... [ahem] ... enlargening.

I feel so webby.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Commemorative T-Shirts

In which the blogger toots his own horn through the words of others

When I was a younger adult (that is, five to fifteen years ago), I worked in a number of short-term teamwork situations and established a tradition of having my co-workers sign, with multi-colored Sharpies, a t-shirt representing our experience when it came to its conclusion, much like one would sign a yearbook at the end of a school year. I recently had occasion to re-discover these t-shirts and read through them again. I'm going to transcribe those t-shirts for you here. ("Wrote a song about it. Like to hear it? Here it goes...")

Shirt from IU's Summer Orientation Program 1996, when I was one of the student-staff supervisors
  • It has been fabulous working with you this summer. I have had the best time and I learned a lot. So, watchagonnawanndois* stay in touch! ~ Kate
  • Scott - Honestly the bestest boss in the whole wide world, thanks for making a difficult job FUN! ~ Gretch
  • Scott, It has been an absolutely wonderful experience working with you this summer. To use your words, Scott, you're cool! Have a good rest of the summer!! ~ Kim
  • Scott, Thank you for being such a good example for us all to follow. You are a very good person and I will never forget you! ~ Maurice
  • Scott, Thanks for a great summer! You really made it so much better, with all the scavenger hunts, cookouts, and groovy messages. I really appreciate everything you went out of your way for. Even though I lost my watch, I look at it as a sacrifice because you have one now. Love you, Sue
  • Scott: Thanks for a great two years of fun with Orientation. You've been with me when I struggled at BW-3's (Blazin's) and in the Forest Dining Hall (The "Vulture"). Thanks for being the biggest role model of our Orientation experience. You truely made this program the way it is: friendly, fun, and always exciting! Take care, Greg
  • Scott -- Just wanna say thanks for being such a great leader, motivator, and all-around person. Keep your eyes peeled + watch for "taco-stick days!" ~ Brandon
  • Scott - Wow, what can we say. You are just one of the most awesome, creative individuals I have ever met. I have learned so much from you. Thanks for it all. Whatchagonnawannadois* stay special and keep in touch! [Heart}, Sarah
  • Scott - You Rock!!! I've already told you a thousand times before, you're great. Truely, it's been a great honor to work with someone who is as wise as you. ~ Rob
  • Well, Scott, what can I say...Thanks for everything!!! Kings Island, When I hit my head, When I was sick, Being a great friend and leader. Keep in touch, Chris A.
  • Scott, I don't know how to thank you for all of your enthusiasm. You kept me going. I will never forget this experience. ~ Liz
  • Thanks for an awesome experience, killer scavenger hunts, and for being yourself (which means being hip)! ~ Dave D.
  • Scott, You are totally awesome. You were a great leader. Thanks for everything. ~ Scott
  • Scott: It's been fun knowing you! Thank you for giving me this wonderful opportunity! You're a great leader. ~ Tasha
  • Scott, I learned so much from you in so little time. You did a great job. ~ Darrell
  • Scott, I had a fantastic time working with you the past two years. You are a fabulous, wonderful person. Best wishes always! ~ Andrea
  • S. S. Semester, Thanks for an awesome experience! You are a great motivator and mean so much to me! Whatchagonnawannadois* Ha! Always remember that what you do best you do most. Kings Island Forever! 3 outfits are best and quite impressive! Thanks! ~ Southern Comfort [Me: Who? Oh, Courtney.]
  • Scott -- You are the most positive person I've ever met. I'm so happy I had the opportunity to work with you. You are a wonderful person! You will do well in anything you choose to do. Thanks for being a great teacher and friend. ~ Susannah

* In the summer of 1994, the first summer I worked on the summer program staff, we invented the word "Whatchagonnawannadois" because "What you are going to want to do is..." took too long to say when we were giving lost parents directions to get caught up with their children students. This became instantly ingrained in the culture of the student staffs for the four years I worked with the program, including 1996, my third year on the team and first year as one of the supervisors.


From IU's Summer Orientation Program 1997, when I was again one of the student-staff supervisors

  • Scott, working with you has been a pleasure! Orientation did not even feel like a real "job"! This mainly is due to you and your leadership style. Scott, you're the BOMB! (unsigned)
  • Scott, Thanks for everything! That's the best way to sum up my thanks to you. Best wishes, Jo'el
  • Scott, Do you have any more gum? That is correct. Thanks for your example. ~Stan
  • Scott, you are a wonderful person! I so enjoyed working with you for the past three years. Keep in touch, Andrea
  • El Capitan, you did a great job this summer! -- Shay
  • Scott -- You make me think, you make me laugh. I'm so glad you've been a part of my life. ~ Melanie
  • You make me giggle! [Heart], Shannon, or "Schwannian the Sheath"**
  • Scott S. - Ooohh! Your inspiring words and encouragement have meant so much to me....You are MY role model. Good luck! [Heart] Keisha
  • Scott, You are awesome! Orientation was the best job I've ever had, and in large part it was due to you! Good luck @ the Disco (also known as Briscoe)! ~Jenni
  • Scott, Keep up that laughter journal! Oprah could call any day! ~ Mo
  • Scott -- You are truly a good friend and inspiration to me. I love your sense of humor and you rock as a leader and boss. You will rock in whatever you do! Stay in touch! [Heart], Rachel PS - Where did you get the butter?
  • YOU ROCK! Scott, You are the greatest! Have fun at Briscoe and at WQ! ~ Scott
  • "Hi, guys!" Thanks for not attacking first and asking questions later! You've been a real role model to me! See you in the North Tri-Quad! ~ Sean
  • Scott -- Thanks for all you do. We couldn't have made this program a success without you. Thanks for your smiles, feedback, and encouragement. Good luck! Take care! ~ Jen
  • Hey Scott, I'd still die for you guys. ~ BR
  • Scott -- Thank you for everything. You are a great friend and an awesome boss. You rock my world with your ghetto ass!! You make things happen! ~ Ro
**My co-supervisor was named Shannon. We used WordPerfect97 for all our premillennial word-processing needs, and the WP97 spellcheck did not care for the word "Shannon." It always suggested the word Schwannian, meaning "of or relating to the Schwann cells," which form a protective, insulating myelin sheath which covers peripheral nerves. Hence, "the Sheath."


From Cross-Cultural Solutions's Ghana Program in June/July/August 2003, when I was the only one over the age of 22 with a group of American and European volunteers in West Africa

  • To the most amazing man with a million and one talents -- ¡Thank You! [Heart] Darcy
  • Croutons forever -- the Garlic kind. Love, Danielle
  • I am so impressed with everything you touch for it all turns to gold. Love, Sarah
  • It's time for ... Key Number!*** You're my favorite game-show host ever! ~ Katy
  • Remember Ziavi -- the most peaceful & hectic place ever. I loved sharing it with you! [Heart] Sonya
  • A voluntre man work with faith. ~Kwaku
  • You have done an excellent job. We shall all miss you. Come back again - and soon! ~ Ellen
  • Here's a tip!*** Do not eat the skin of a grasscutter! Good luck in Canada! [Heart], Hope
  • To the master of fun, the entertainer, the king of cream. ~ Sam
  • SCOTT: Special, Caring, Old, Terrific, Talented. I would touch you for all of these! ~ Abby

*** Since there was nothing at all to do after dark in Ho, we had to get creative. I invented the game show Key Number, which was sort of like "Outburst" and "Name That Tune" all rolled into one. (We should play it some time.) I also started my own improvised cooking show. Based heavily on what I had seen on the Food Network, my catchphrase was "Here's a tip!" and I would then drop some helpful-hint knowledge on the younger kids -- stuff like how to get the skin off garlic easily or how to make a double boiler for melting chocolate. (BTW, grasscutter is a large rodent that is found all over Ghana. Ghanaians can eat it. You should not.)

Liveblogging the BarackOmercial

Barack Obama has bought some time on network TV tonight. I'm gonna liveblog his infomercial.



8:45 I wonder what the BarackOmercial will be like in other time zones. Will Barack, et al, do the live campaign event four times throughout the evening? I wouldn't if I were them, but will 3/4 of the country feel ripped off?

8:29 The Florida crowd loses its collective mind. I wonder how the rest of the country feels, as The West Wing music comes back to the forefront. Joe Biden and Barack smile together and send us to watch Howie Mandel try to give away a million dollars.

8:28 Crap! There's only six days left until the election. What are we going to talk about after Tuesday?

8:27 Barack will not be a perfect president, but he promises always to tell us what he thinks and where he stands and be honest and listen. The West Wing music swells again as he invites us to be involved in our own democracy again, as we cut to a live event in Florida.

8:26 Gov. Bill Richardson (New Mexico) also endorses Barack.

8:25 Barack clowns around with women in hairnets.

8:24 Brig Gen John Adams endorses Barack.

8:24 Barack will rebuild the military for the 21st century. FINALLY sharks with lasers and cyborg monkeys! No? Just me?

8:22 Mark and Melinda are struggling to make ends meet. I wonder if there's anyone who's really excelling financially right now.

8:21 Barack talks highly about Biden. Does anyone remember when Biden called Obama the first "clean" and articulate African-American candidate? I'm just saying...

8:20 Sen. Dick Durbin (Illinois) and Sen. Claire McCaskill (Missouri) and Sen. Joe Biden (Delaware, also Barack's VP candidate) tell us what Barack has done in Washington.

8:19 Michelle makes an appearance to humanize Barack. He has read every Harry Potter book with the girls and calls them every night. (Awwww!)

8:18 Back to the NotOval Office, where Barack talks about access to education and healthcare. Then, we get Sensitive Barack talking about his mom's death from cancer.

8:17 Back to Denver for more speechifying. He's really good at that.

8:16 We learn more about Barack's family.

8:15 An on-screen graphic indicates a live Obama event later in the program. (This is only a half-hour program, right?)

8:14 I knew we should have taken that left turn in Albuquerque. We meet a woman who is a special-needs educator working two jobs and attending classes.

8:13 Barack cares about the American working man, like Dan Aykroyd's character in Tommy Boy.

8:12 Eric Schmidt, the CEO of Google, and Gov. Tim Kaine (Virginia) endorse Barack.

8:11 Barack will go through the budget line by line for savings, and he specifically addresses Iraq. Cut to a clip from one of the debates, and then a town hall meeting.

8:09 Barack addresses us directly -- not just short-term, but long-term solutions: $15B a year in alternative energy, five million new green collar jobs, work with Big Auto, tap natural gas reserves and expand domestic oil production. He'll also call on every American to join in conservation efforts.

8:08 We meet the Stevenses, who live where blues music plays all the time. Mrs. Stevens takes lots of medicines for her arthritis. When Larry retired, the cost of her medicine was so great that Larry had to go back to work (at Wal-Mart, if his nametag is any indication).

8:07 Gov. Ted Stevens (Ohio) and Gov. Kathleen Sibelius (Kansas) and Gov. Deval Patrick (Massachusetts) all talk about Barack's Midwest roots and leadership.

8:06 A nice older man talks with Barack about getting screwed out of his pension, and then a necktie-less Barack addresses the issue.

8:05 Barack outlines his financioeconomic plan to grow the economy and keep people on the job.

8:04:30 Barack: The Financial Rescue Plan is a step in the right direction, but we need a Middle-Class Rescue Plan.

8:04 I see they got the music director from The West Wing to score this.

8:03 Barack (because, come on, he's voicing over this as though he's a trusted friend) says he's met a ton of people just trying to figure out how to pay their mortgage.

8:02 Rebecca Johnston is all about her family. Her MASSIVE family.

8:01 Obama greets us in an office that is Totally Not the Oval Office. (But it sure looks like it, but homier.)

8:00 He's Barack Obama and he approved this ad.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Bloggy Birthday, Dear Scotty, Bloggy Birthday To You!

Hey, you guys! Guess what? It's my Second Bloggaversary!

Actually, it was two years and two days ago when I first started the blog as a way to keep Jon's, Nat's, Spike's, and Mike's (and later Jenny's) inboxes free from breathless "OHMYGOSHDIDYOUSEETHIS!" e-mails. They have not yet thanked me for this...mostly because I still send them random link- and video-containing e-mails with the same frequency as before, and also because I think they only seldom read this blog.

In 845 posts over the last two years, I have tackled such pressing topical issues as leprechauns, zombies, and zebras. I have made acquaintances in Michigan and danced in Qatar. I have liveblogged until my fingers bled and updated from Colorado, Sierra Leone, and India.

As I've been sidelined with this sore throat and (un)common cold yesterday and today, I've been reflecting on the last couple years and spent some time reviewing what I've written here. Here's an interesting Wordle, made of the 225 most common words that have appeared among the 131,636 words I have written on the blog in the last two years:


So, anyway, Happy Bloggaversary to us! Here's to another (at least) two years!

Scary-as-hell little girl -- did she start the fire?

Here I sit, fading in and out of sickness-and-generic-Nyquil-induced sleep, clinging desperately to the hope that I might, in the next few minutes, find my binkie, and I'm wondering how I'm going to spend the next 20 hours or so of self-imposed quarantine here at home. I click over to Best Week Ever (of course) and find this sparkling gem of internetica:


It is unclear from my (nonexistent) research whether this girl actually started the fire pictured. But come on -- is there any question, really?

BuzzFeed has invited The Internet to create other "Disaster Girl" pictures. Check 'em out.

And if you've seen my binkie, send me an e-mail...

Monday, October 27, 2008

Andrew Lloyd Webber? I don't even know 'er!

The first musical I remember seeing is West Side Story, when, in eighth or ninth grade, Mrs. Smith showed us the movie so that we might compare and contrast it with Romeo and Juliet.*

But the first musical I committed fully to memory, without even having seen it, was The Phantom of the Opera. Something about the tortured genius must have resonated with my teenage angst.

This all came flooding back to me when I, for some reason, downloaded an album called "The Very Best of Andrew Lloyd Webber." It has 30 songs from a bunch of ALW musicals -- Cats, The Phantom of the Opera, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, Evita, etc. -- recreated by some random people who came together to make a record. I like most of the songs, but there are some that I just can't take. For some reason "Starlight Express" makes me physically gag, and the way the woman, who is totally not Madonna, sings "What's new, Buenos Aires?!" makes me laugh hysterically.

But the Phantom songs take me back to a simpler time...a time when I could listen to the same original cast recording over and over (and subject my parents to it over and over on the way to a family visit in Akron, OH) and really live through the music to create a production in my head. A time when I could sit on the floor of my friend Natalie's living room with her and her mom and her sisters and Jon and Jason and sing along to the soundtrack at the top of our lungs. A time when I could make up stories in my head about what the plot would be like from the point of view of the guy who worked at the box office, or one of the Opera Populaire's audience members, or, like, what if you were one of Raoul's friends, and he told you he was going to try to trap this psycho musical genius in a mask (the Opera Ghost who signs his mysterious letters "O. G.") who had this stalkerish crush on his girlfriend as a result of some weird mentor/mentee relationship. ("You're going to whatnow? Dude.")

Talk about suspension of disbelief.

But, you know, to me, that's what makes the world of The Musical so special. It's like this alternate universe where it's totally acceptable to break out in song as you explain how you're going to get the bad guy or win the girl or, I don't know, run errands and go get lunch. Ah, but that's the difference, isn't it? Entertainment is entertainment -- to me -- exactly because it's not about doing laundry** and buying stamps and getting your oil changed; rather, it's about the extraordinary events -- so extraordinary that they cannot be experienced in spoken word but must be lived through song.

While a traditional play might move me to think or to cry or to laugh, musical theatre, for me, adds a layer of imagination that just plain drama doesn't have. It's like seeing the world in a different way and embracing the most absurd possibilities -- gang members who dance? a disfigured opera ghost? puppets that swear and have sex? -- as just that: possibilities.

The point -- and I do believe there is one in here somewhere -- is not that I long for my life to be like a musical (I gave up on that 12 years ago), but that I am thankful to all those who create musical theatre for us because they can lead our minds and hearts to wonder.

And wonder is a resource in short supply these days.



* You know, even though I've derided crappy internet essays you can buy online, I really think I must have gotten my "Compare and contrast Officer Krupke with [Establishment Character from Romeo & Juliet]" essay outline almost directly from the very-analog Cliffs Notes. Hence, I cannot remember which character I had to compare and contrast to Officer Krupke. Everybody else got, like, "Compare and contrast Juliet and Maria," or "Compare and contrast Romeo and Tony," or "Compare and contrast Riff and Mercutio," or whatever. How the hell did I get Officer Krupke? But I did.

** Unless it's Doctor Horrible's Sing-Along Blog, in which case it is awesome.