New Look, Same Great Taste

Welcome to the new home of my blog!

I have never been a huge fan of change, but I have learned through experience that change is necessary, and most often beneficial.

First, I want to draw your attention to the new title, Thoughts of a Post-Grad TwentySomething.  I decided to change it from English Major to TwentySomething because I believe it describes my current situation more accurately.  I am a twenty-four year old seeking a life of purpose, more than I am an English student.  This doesn’t mean I am losing any passion for words.  If anything, my love of words has increased since graduating over a year ago.  I hope you approve of this change.

Second, there is a new tag-line under the title.  It reads, Analysis of pop culture, politics, religion, and a dash of thoughtful nonsense. I have been trying to capture the spirit of the blog, and I believe this brief sentence does a decent job of it.

Third, you will notice the new format.  This blog exists through WordPress, as opposed to the original provider, Blogger.  I made the switch after doing a little research and speaking with some influential individuals who know about blogs.  I have nothing against Blogger.  Blogger was great.  But WordPress is the way I want to go.

Fourth, I have added some new tools to help you navigate through past entries.  There are now five categories: Nonsense, Politics, Popular Culture, Religion, and Everything Else.  And under those you will see a number of tags to help you in your search.  I was able to import all of my past entries from the old blog into this one, and I have put effort into categorizing them for your convenience.

And Finally, I hope that as I continue to write,  you will continue to read and be entertained, informed, and even moved from time to time.  It is a pleasure to write, and whenever I get feedback from those who take the time to read I am extremely grateful.

Our time is precious.

I hope to be worthy of yours in the days, weeks, and years to come.

The Obligation of Artists

How influential can a writer be? How about a director or a singer? How about a painter?

I’ve been thinking about why I’m so interested and involved in popular culture. When I say popular culture I’m referring to mainstream movies, books, music, and television. Why does it matter what people watch or read or hear?

Looking at what the people are investing their time in can tell you much about those people. When a movie makes $150 million in one weekend it is like the people lifted it up on their shoulders. Then the movie makes it into everyday conversations, and the kids have all the toys. Or, the song is number one on the charts and the people are humming the same tune. Almost without us even noticing these popular forms of entertainment invade our lives. As a culture, we choose to raise up certain artists and their work. And who we choose to elevate says much about who we are.

Artists, I believe, have a serious obligation to produce works that will benefit those who are influenced by them. What do I mean? I mean that artists need to understand that their work has power, or at least potential power, to shape those who witness it. Shape our thoughts, our language, and our perception of the world.

Unfortunately, much of what I would deem popular culture does not appear to come from thoughtful individuals aiming to improve society. Just read the lyrics to California Gurls (Or however it’s spelled) or Tik Toc. Also, look at most of the major comedies to come out of Hollywood in the past years. They are, many of them, so filthy and wildly inappropriate that I have trouble enjoying them, never mind recognizing any value for society as a whole. I often find myself laughing with reservations at movies like The Hangover, Superbad, Role Models, and the like. And Family Guy is largely about cheap laughs without substance.
It’s such a relief when anything comes along that is either thought provoking, honest, or morally grounded. Christopher Nolan is an artist that produces great thought provoking films like The Dark Knight and Inception. I was thrilled to find a moral center in The O.C. And I love Muse partially because their lyrics are honest about their views on politics, love, and religion.

Artists, be responsible. Your power is great. Your influence is vast.
Society, be responsible. Think about what you’re lifting up with money and attention.

Let me leave you with a quote from V for Vendetta.

Evey Hammond: My father was a writer. You would’ve liked him. He used to say that artists use lies to tell the truth, while politicians use them to cover the truth up.
V: A man after my own heart.

If I Were A Billionaire


If you had many billions of dollars, what would you do? Of course there are those things that any selfless humanitarian would do, but for the sake of indulging outlandish fantasies let’s put those things aside for now. If you weren’t limited by money what would you really do? This is a topic that I have put much thought into. As you will see.

My first order of business would be to make my friend, Chris Cavalieri, my financial advisor. I once approached him with this offer. His response went something like, “My first duty as your financial advisor would be to hire a much more qualified financial advisor.” At that point I replied, “That’s perfect. Only a great financial advisor would be so wise.” Chris is my advisor. Hopefully he lets me do the things I want to do.

Chris told me I should purchase about 100 Dunkin’ Donuts franchises. This seems like a great idea as it would give me financial security if I happen to live another ten thousand years.

I wouldn’t buy a mansion. Instead, I would buy or build between four and six houses, all near each other. A few of the houses would serve as temporary housing for anyone whom I first approved. I would charge very low rent, and encourage community dinners and cookouts on a regular basis.

I want to cover an entire beach with smooth colored rocks. Then I want to scatter small chunks of gold throughout the rocks. I would then invite the public to participate in a gold scavenger hunt. They would receive little bags to place the gold in. In the end, the people can keep the gold, but the one with the most gold also gets $500 dollars. But, if a child brings back a bag full of colored stones and says to me something like, “I like these stones because they are pretty,” I will pay for their college education. Plus I would give their parents like $1000 dollars.

I would throw a massive Great Gatsbyesque cookout for my family and friends and probably everyone I’ve ever come in contact with. It would last 72 hours and include multiple volleyball, wiffleball, and ultimate Frisbee tournaments. There would be meals of all you can eat Chinese, Italian, and of course limitless hamburgers and hotdogs. There would be swimming pools and water slides and obstacle courses. Of course there would be prizes galore. Guests could stay in any of my nearby houses throughout the duration.

I would open a flower/candy/ice cream/bait/book shop. From time to time I would work in each section, but I would mostly leave the work to my friendly employees. They would receive a minimum wage of $20 an hour. Once in a while I would pay to have a famous author do a book signing in order to attract business. Everything would be fairly priced.

I would build a Friendly’s restaurant near my houses. Once a week I will pay for one lucky family’s meal. Anyone who orders the Honey BBQ Chicken Supermelt will get a numbered ticket, and once a month there will be a drawing for a year of free ice cream.

I would not build a movie theater in or near my houses. I want to go out to the movies. I might buy out a theater from time to time, but never on an opening weekend. That would suck for everyone else.

And last, but certainly not least, I would devote weeks at a time to writing my book. You know, the post-apocalyptic love story dealing with free will. When I’m not writing that, I would write for whoever would take me. I would even start my own magazine dealing with American popular culture. And another magazine focusing on the Christian perspective. This would be my work.
Writing.
If I had billions of dollars. If I were poor.

For any loyal followers, I am planning to write a response to Elizabeth Gilbert’s, Eat Pray Love as soon as I have finished it. This will likely carry into multiple posts. After reading the first few chapters I think it’s safe to say my response will be… impassioned.

Celebrating Existence

Twenty-four years ago, I was born. This was the first and only time in history that it happened. Twenty-four years later, I reflect on the impossibility of my own existence.

How many people had to live in order for me to have life? The right people first had to exist and then they had to find the right people to have children with. Not only that, they had to time it right. The right egg, the right sperm, the right conditions. And this happened for thousands and thousands of years. If the universe started over, the odds of any of us existing would be so small that we would have to deem it impossible.
How much tragedy and injustice led to my existence? Certainly my ancestors weren’t all happily married and in love. Many suffered at the hands of tyrants. Many died prematurely. They would never know that their lives would result in my own.

Was it all chance that led to my birth? Chance that led to a life that believed it had a purpose? Or was it by design? This one will live.

Whatever you believe, you have to celebrate existence. The odds are stacked against us. 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000+ to 1. None of us should be alive. But we are. I am.

It’s my birthday.

How can this be?

Willy Wonka is a Fine Wine


How often have you re-watched a television show or movie that you loved as a child only to be awfully disappointed? I have experienced this tragedy countless times, and I’m sure you have as well. But once in a great while…from time to time… a childhood favorite becomes far more moving and meaningful after we’ve grown up.
Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory is one of these movies.

Why I Used to Love It: Every kid loves candy. To watch a movie about a magical candy factory is quite a…treat. Sure, the scenes in which the naughty children are maimed and tortured were slightly disturbing, but they deserved it. And of course I loved the songs, “I’ve Got a Golden Ticket” and “Pure Imagination”. Charlie is the good one, and he wins in the end. This is how it should be. I was well pleased. Except that “Cheer Up Charlie” scene sucked. I always fast forwarded through it.

Why I Love It Now: After watching the Tim Burton remake, I discovered a new reason to love the original; Willy Wonka is an adult. Johnny Depp portrayed Willy Wonka as an immature man with daddy issues. Gene Wilder portrayed him as a man who at first seems eccentric and perhaps untrustworthy, but in the end reveals that he was in control of himself and his factory. He is worthy of our respect and adoration. He is worthy of Charlie just as Charlie is worthy of him and his factory.
There are a number of moving scenes that I never appreciated as a child. When it is reported that the last golden ticket has been found, the Bucket family discusses Charlie’s certain disappointment. Grandpa Joe tells them not to wake the boy so he can have one last dream. And Charlie is shown to be listening in his bed with tears in his eyes.
The “Cheer Up Charlie” scene means more to me as well. After Charlie expresses to his mother that he has no chance of winning the ticket (“You can count me out!”) we see a mother’s hope for her son.

Look up, Charlie
You’ll see a star
Just follow it and keep your dreams in view
Pretty soon the sky is going to clear up
Charlie,
Cheer up Charlie,do
Cheer up Charlie
Just be glad you’re you.

By far, the most powerful scene in the film comes at the end. Charlie and Grandpa Joe have reached the end of the tour and expect Wonka to give them the lifetime supply of chocolate. Unfortunately, Wonka informs them that they broke the rules.

Watch this clip from 6:20.

http://www.youtube.com/v/vWMspsSzRWI?fs=1&hl=en_US

All hope seems lost. Grandpa Joe reacts as any adult would. He even calls Wonka an inhuman monster. “How could you build up a little boy’s hopes and then smash all his dreams to pieces?”
And finally, he tells Charlie, “If Slugworth wants a gobstopper, he’ll get one.”
Charlie has nothing. His family needs the money that Slugworth promised. So, when he gives Wonka his Everlasting Gobstopper it is an entirely selfless act. He gives his wordly life to Wonka, and then Wonka gives him everything.
You have to see the theological implications here. Slugworth is the devil with his promise of worldly pleasures and comfort, but Wonka is concerned with the heart of the children (just as God is with His children). Charlie loses his life to gain the kingdom (Wonka’s Factory). Wonka even calls Charlie, “My Boy”. The relationship between father and son.

I am now able to appreciate this film on all of these levels. It is a true classic.

Short People Got No Reason To Live

Take it away Randy Newman

http://www.youtube.com/v/1NvgLkuEtkA?fs=1&hl=en_US

This song pissed some people off when it first came out. They didn’t understand that Randy Newman was commenting on how ridiculous our prejudices are. It’s not like short people are actually discriminated against. Right?

Here is a link to a study that finds that tall people not only earn more on average than short people, but it also claims that tall people are smarter. (Short End)
Apparently, for every inch gained in height a person earns an average of 2% more.

Here is a link to a study that claims that tall people are happier on average. (Why Tall People Are Happier Than Short People)

It seems even nature has it out for short people. This study finds that short people are at an increased risk for heart attacks. (Short People 50% higher risk of heart attacks)

And here is another one that once again says taller people earn more, and also get more respect. (Workplace Rewards Tall People)

I found another source that reported the #1 complaints of short men and women. For women, it was a lack of respect in the workplace. For men, it was difficulty finding a romantic partner.

So what am I getting at? I’m not the shortest person in the world, but I’m certainly not the tallest. On a good day I’m 5′ 6″ and most of these studies consider short to be 5′ 3″ or less. That being said, I still deal with being short, or at least shorter than the average 5’9″ male. So here are some thoughts and observations I have regarding short people.


The first thing I’d like to address is the issue of the Napoleon Complex. This basically says that short men try to compensate for their inadequacy by being overly aggressive. Little Man’s Disease applies to the same concept. So when a short guy gets all red in the face you can chalk it up as some deep seeded insecurity about his stature. Like the Native American belief that inside a corn kernel is a tiny man who gets super pissed when you heat him up until he eventually explodes (I heard this once a long time ago, so I can’t verify that Indians actually believed this).
Anyway, what this implies is that if a short person (especially a man) were to express frustration at being short and discriminated against, he would not be taken seriously. Even now, as I’m writing this, I’m thinking, will people draw the conclusion from all this that I’m simply insecure about my height and therefore cannot be taken seriously? Hmm.

The truth is, I’m usually perfectly content with my stature. It’s not something I think about often. But, when my shortness is called out by someone, or when I have to accept that I’m not tall enough to accomplish a task that a taller person could, I do have to deal with insecurities.

Another thing I’ve noticed is that some women seem especially insensitive to how a man views his own stature. For instance, when a woman comments on how she is attracted to a tall man (the classic tall dark and handsome type) it’s the gender equivalent of a man telling a woman with small breasts that he prefers a woman with large breasts. In my own experience I’ve dealt with many unintentional slights.

With the findings from these studies and my own experience I want to give a voice to my vertically challenged brethren. Victims of discrimination on all fronts, yet afraid to speak out and be labeled a little Napoleon. Caught in a cultural Catch-22.

Height is relative. Tell that to the short, lonely, sad, poor man dying of a heart attack.

The Silver Lining of Singularity


It’s safe to say that this will be the most personal of all my posts to date, so if you’re into that kind of thing… you’re welcome.

Of course there is much that I have on my mind day to day that I wouldn’t want to write about publicly. Being human, I imagine this is common to most. We all have our secret thoughts and imaginings. But I do want to write about this. Think of it as a well thought out sigh.

There are times when I want to complain. And then I am reminded that there are many in my position, and many more who are worse off, and the fires of frustration die down a bit. What is this position? Singleness, or singularity as I like to call it.

I know what you’re thinking, cry me a river. Or maybe that’s just what I’m thinking. Good family, many good friends, faith, food, clothes, a home, a job, and the ability to read, write, and post it all for people to see. I have a good life for sure. And I have reason to hope for a good future. So what’s the problem?

When I was very young, about preschool age, I wanted a girlfriend. Back then it was just a silly thing of course, but that silly thing never left me. As I got older I always felt it deep down, below my ever changing thoughts and outlooks and physical body. And I never went through that “girls are icky” stage.

Skipping over much, we come to the present. In my 23 years I have had one relationship that lasted under a year. That was five years ago. Now you’re up to speed.

The other day I was filling a propane cylinder for a girl who looked about my age. We made the usual “Nice weather, but hate the humidity” small talk. Then, the smallest thing caught me off guard. She said, “Thank you” and smiled and looked me right in the eye and kept it there for more than a moment. To any observer I’m sure it was nothing. And it probably was nothing. But just that extra little moment. That little tiny unsubstantial fleeting moment. That smile that said, “I see you.” That little bit of female recognition. That mustard seed of a glance that became a tree in the fertile soil of my hope. Well, it made me smile.

Similar things have happened before. And when it does, one rain drop seems to quench the vast desert of unsatisfied longings.

So that is the silver lining. Many drink their fill of love and remain forever thirsty. For the son of singularity, a small drop of water brings life to barren lands.

It is no evil thing to want a good woman.

Eternity is Terrifying

A few of these posts began as Facebook status updates. (Quick aside:we should never stop making fun of people who use Facebook. Even if we use it all of the time. Once it has become fully accepted as a part of our normal lives I fear a piece of our humanity will be lost forever. But I digress) What I should say is that I thought of something short and sweet that someone else might get a kick out of. And at first I intended it to exist as a status update. But, after some consideration I decided to expand on whatever it is I was thinking. Plus, whenever I try to write something thoughtful as a status update it is usually squashed by a sarcastic response. (Once again, keep it up people. If you let me get away with stuff like that who knows what repercussions it will have for humanity.)

Just recently I was going to write, “Eternity is the most terrifying concept imaginable”. I almost wrote it, even though I had just written that Inception was stuck in my head. I’m guilty of multiple postings over a short period of time. That’s the drawback of using status updates as a creative outlet. And that’s part of why I started this blog. If you’re going to express yourself, why not use your words in a way that couldn’t fit on Twitter?

Eternity is terrifying. As a child I recall thinking about this concept for the first time. I became fearful of the endlessness. And I was thinking of endlessness in Heaven! Greater than the greatest thing we can imagine. Greater than a million Chuck E Cheeses and Christmas mornings. But forever? Forever! Nate King came to this realization around the same time and we discussed it together. This helped somewhat, but ironically it was time that eased my anxiety.

Some time later (young teenager) I considered eternity in hell. Worse than the worst thing imaginable. Forever. You burn your hand on a hot stove and you instantly take it away. That sucks. But hold it there for 10 seconds. Hold it there for 10 years. Hold it there for 300 trillion years and it doesn’t scratch forever. Hell is awful, but it’s the forever part that gets you.

You can think of eternity another way. In this life we always have a sense that we can escape. Worst comes to worst we can die. Or for a less intense example, think of how often people hide from things. They hide from their own fears by putting up walls both physical and psychological. There are no walls in eternity. No escape from the truth. Whatever that truth may be.
There is no running from eternity. No denying it. If forever is your destiny, you cannot escape yourself.
How many people drink to escape themselves? How many use drugs or any other substance for a vacation from their own conscience?
Maybe the most terrifying aspect of eternity is yourself. You are trapped with you forever.
You should probably be someone you wouldn’t mind spending forever with.
There’s your job for the day. Become someone you wouldn’t mind being with forever.
But how do I do that?

Twenty-Three

Twenty-three is an interesting age.
Some people your age are getting married.
Some people have never been in a relationship.

Some people are pregnant and raising children.
Some people still party all of the time.

Some people are living at home.
Some people are living together.

Some people are embarking on their careers.
Some people are still working at their old summer job.

Some people are still in school.
Some people are teaching in a school.

Some people travel the world.
Some people remain in their hometown.

Where am I in this?
I’m George Bailey sitting at the dinner table with his father.
Start watching at 8 minutes.
http://www.youtube.com/v/67xfvL7T8rk&hl=en_US&fs=1&

Pa Bailey: I know it’s soon to talk about it.
George Bailey: Oh, now Pop, I couldn’t. I couldn’t face being cooped up for the rest of my life in a shabby little office… Oh, I’m sorry Pop, I didn’t mean that, but this business of nickels and dimes and spending all your life trying to figure out how to save three cents on a length of pipe… I’d go crazy. I want to do something big and something important.
Pa Bailey: You know, George, I feel that in a small way we are doing something important. Satisfying a fundamental urge. It’s deep in the race for a man to want his own roof and walls and fireplace, and we’re helping him get those things in our shabby little office.
George Bailey: I know, Dad. I wish I felt… But I’ve been hoarding pennies like a miser in order to… Most of my friends have already finished college. I just feel like if I don’t get away, I’d bust.
Pa Bailey: Yes… yes… You’re right son.
George Bailey: You see what I mean, don’t you, Pop?
Pa Bailey: This town is no place for any man unless he’s willing to crawl to Potter. You’ve got talent, son. I’ve seen it. You get yourself an education. Then get out of here.

I’m Luke Skywalker gazing at the sunset.
http://www.youtube.com/v/wEUGF3NGbPg&hl=en_US&fs=1&rel=0

But I’m also Richard Gere in An Officer and a Gentleman.

http://www.youtube.com/v/T575Pbo4eWM&hl=en_US&fs=1&rel=0

At least I’m not pregnant. I’m just not ready for that.

As I Get Older

As I get older I’m learning some things.

Cavities are expensive.
People with young children never sleep, and especially not past 8 AM.
Exercise is rewarding both in the short term and the long term.
“True love” is a myth, but it’s not as good as the real thing.
George Lucas has lost his soul.
Constant advertisements and network news stations do much more harm than good.
God will not let me go.
I can’t save anyone.
Not all peace is good.
Not all division is bad.
Not all feelings are right.
Not all impulses are wrong.
Never take for granted the meaning of words like good, bad, right, and wrong.
In general, the closer you are to someone, the less likely you are to say “Bless you” when they sneeze.
Worrying is useless.
And
Less is more, more or less.