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?