In 10th grade I had a physics teacher named Mr. Just. He was straight out of 1955 with his slickly side-parted (but thinning) hair, button-up short sleeve white or plaid shirt tucked into dark slacks. Every day. He was very tall with a booming voice that would at the very least grab the attention of us unruly kids long enough for him to give instructions. When he gave us quizzes or tests we were never allowed to use calculators, we always had to write our answers in exam books similar to these, and we had to write using these old school blue boy pencils that had no erasers which forced us to use those even older school erasers that did more smearing than erasing.
I had another teacher for AP Chemistry, Mr. Luce. He was pretty much the opposite of Mr. Just – a lot younger, always wore jeans and a t-shirt (although tucked in), more unkept (but still thinning) hair, and walked into zero period with a 7-Eleven Big Gulp of Diet Coke. Every day.
What’s my point? One day Mr. Luce tells us a story about Mr. Just coming into the faculty lunch room every day with a bag from Wendy’s. Another teacher notices that he has Wendy’s every day and says, “Why do you eat Wendy’s every day? Don’t you want to live longer?” to which Mr. Just replies, “Would I be living, or surviving?”
I’m not entirely sure if Mr. Luce told us that story, or if another teacher did (it was almost 20 years ago), but I think if any teacher told us that story, it would’ve been him. That story always stuck with me — not because it validated my horrible teenaged eating habits, but because it helped me realize even at a young age that life is to be lived, not tolerated.
There’s a lot of debate in this country about income inequality and the “One Percent”, but we often forget that to the rest of the world, we are the One Percent. Even if you’re sharing an apartment with three people eating instant ramen every day (which I have done), you’re basically living the dream because 1) you live in an apartment and 2) you’re eating every day. It’s hard to be appreciative of anything while people are throwing balls into baskets and punching faces for millions of dollars, but it’s all relative. I’m not saying you should just accept the three-roommate-and-instant-ramen life forever and I’m not saying it’s okay for CEOs to be making 354 times more than the average worker (yes, really), However, I am saying that many people on earth have no choice but to tolerate life. We are lucky enough to have the opportunity to live it.
When I was in eighth grade our middle school got a new principal, Mr. Chu. From what I remember, he had double bridge thin-rimmed glasses, a pretty hefty pornstache, jet black hair parted on one side, and always wore a suit. He a little bit like a shady car salesman, but despite his authoritarian position, I always remember him as a cool guy. I don’t remember the circumstances of said words of wisdom, but I must’ve been between classes, when he would always be walking amongst his subjects, making sure kids were getting to class and not getting into trouble. He said to me, “Always reach as high as you can. Even if you don’t get there, wherever you end up will still be pretty good.”
Whatever goals you have, just be sure to appreciate and be content with how far you’ve come because one day, that might be where you end up. It will probably be better than when you started…and if not, then well, shit.
P.S. The title of this entry comes from one of my favorite moments in Juno when Juno is fighting with her stepmom, Bren (YouTube failed me, so I resorted to screenshotting that scene in the script):
It took a while to write this one. Not that I don’t have any struggles, I have plenty. By “took a while”, I mean that I just sat on this one for a couple of days before starting. How much do I really want to share? How much would you want to share? How much can you write about yourself and your feelings without it being self-indulgent or self-pitying or just plain too narcissistic? I guess that would be my struggle. It’s a fine line to tow. I hope it either gets easier to the point of me not thinking about it too much or that it becomes clear that I shouldn’t do this anymore and I can just find another hobby. Netflix binging is a hobby, right?
Some people are more into the lyrics of songs and some people are more into how the song sounds. I fall into the latter category. I have a friend who actually pays attention to lyrics and I’ll tell him a song I found and after listening to it, he’ll immediately comment on how dark the lyrics are or how nonsensical they are and I won’t even have noticed. I mean, I do pay attention to lyrics, but usually way after I’ve gotten into the song. Not all of these songs are necessarily new songs, just songs I’ve been listening to a lot for whatever reason. I lit-tra-lee listen to all kinds of music, and I think this list reflects that.
1. “Let It Happen” – Tame Impala
[embedyt]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-ed6UeDp1ek[/embedyt] Why I like it so much: This is just an epic song. I hadn’t heard of Tame Impala until recently when they played at Coachella and I saw them play this song live on the live YouTube stream – and the song sounded even more epic live (you can see a shortened live version from when they performed on Conan). It clocks in at nearly eight minutes, but it’s always an eight minutes well spent. Thing to be doing while listening to this song: Riding a unicorn
2. “Feeling Ok” – Best Coast
Album: California Nights [embedyt]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vOhLbA-B-bE[/embedyt] Why I like it so much: Even with driving guitars and beat, this song manages to feel chill. I’m imagining this band playing in some small venue while all the kids are just bobbing their heads in chill agreement. Thing to be doing while listening to this song: Bobbing head in chill agreement
3. “Do You – Spoon
Album: They Want My Soul
Why I like it so much: Of all the bands I’m a fan of, they put out the most consistently great music with every album. I’ve yet to see them live, but videos of them performing live makes me wish I could. This is a good road trip song that makes the drive feel a little more purposeful and cool. Thing to be doing while listening to this song: Driving on any open road
4. “Can’t Deny My Love” – Brandon Flowers
Album: The Desired Effect
Why I like it so much: If you listen to this album, it sounds like Brandon Flowers was influenced by everything ever – synths, percussion, carefully placed drum machine sounds, great bass lines, staccato, and martial arts movie flute sounds. Most songs have just one of those characteristics, but this song has all of them. Usually, that would just mean a cacophony of instrumentation, but somehow, he pulls it off here. Thing to be doing while listening to this song: Interpretive dance
5. “Wild” – Beach House
Why I like it so much: Whenever I hear this song, I kind of zone out. Listen to it and you’ll know what I mean. I listened to this album a billion times when it came out three years ago, and I just started listening to it again. All the parts of the song blend together into an ethereal mix of dreaminess and puts me in a state where my wife would say “Hellooo….It looks like there’s nothing going on up there…(pointing to my forehead)” Thing to be doing while listening to this song: Zoning out, but in the best way possible
6. “Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood” – Santa Esmeralda Album: Kill Bill Vol. I Soundtrack
Why I like it so much: I recently re-watched Kill Bill Vol. I (and Vol. 2), and I had totally forgotten about this song. Quentin Tarantino is a master at pulling the perfect song out of obscurity and thrusting it into the pop culture mainstream (the Jackie Brown soundtrack is full of them) and this song is no exception. When you hear the soul clap right when O-Ren Ishii pushes off her sandals and steps to fight Beatrix you’re like, “It’s about to GO DOWN.” The original version clocks in at 10 minutes, so even if you can’t listen to the entire thing (even though at one point I was repeatedly), try to find something badass to do while you’re listening to it. Thing to be doing while listening to this song: Preparing to eat a massive breakfast burrito
7. “Human Nature” – Michael Jackson Album: Thriller
[embedyt]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7Y3dsAY_a_I[/embedyt] Why I like it so much: Since Michael Jackson is G.O.A.T. status, pretty much any of his songs are awesome, but I never get sick of listening to this one. I don’t know what it is, but this song is somehow tied to my memories of being 8 years old and sitting in my parents’ car driving somewhere around LA at night. Thing to be doing while listening to this song: Anything
8. “Times of Your Life” – Paul Anka
Album: The Best of the United Artists Years 1973 – 1977 [embedyt]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VCnlU-92sn4[/embedyt]
Why I like it so much: There was a promo for the final episode of Mad Men which used this song and for some reason I got obsessed with it and started listening it to a lot. For one, it was the perfect song to use (it was originally a song for a Kodak TV ad in 1975 and became so popular that Paul Anka recorded the full song). It also reminds me a lot of the kind of music my dad loved, so whenever I find a song from this era that I also like, I hang onto it for dear life. Thing to be doing while listening to this song: Looking through old photos and sobbing uncontrollably
9. “Gun” – CHVRCHES Album: The Bones of What You Believe
Why I like it so much: I recently came back to the songs on this album after not listening to it after listening to it a lot and this is the song I came back to the most. Lauren Mayberry’s voice kind of floats over the punchy ocean of synths and I haven’t tired of it even after a good year of listening. Thing to be doing while listening to this song: Trying to pronounce “CHVRCHES”
10. “When I’m Away” – The Colourist
[embedyt]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bnTp_z1j3Og[/embedyt] Why I like it so much: It took a little time for me to warm up to it, but the intro manages to work its way through this song and pulls you into the other parts and then you’re hooked. Like “Can’t Deny My Love”, this song includes everything I like about music. The Colourist are really good at combining upbeat sounds with lyrics of sadness or longing, a trick that all great bands master. Thing to be doing while listening to this song: Driving to the beach on a weekend this summer (because you work during the week)
This one is a little weird for me, because men’s hearts aren’t usually won over. It’s the guys who have to do the winning over of the girl’s heart at the end of the movie (tell me the last time you saw a girl holding a boombox up outside of a guy’s house). Also, I don’t often think about ways that people can endear themselves to me. Maybe I can reframe this as “List five ways to endear me to you”.
Nope, still weird. Anyway, here are five things that make me want to be your friend.
1. Make me laugh What good is someone to you if they don’t make you laugh once in a while? Of course, that’s not the only reason why you’d be someone’s friend, but really, it’s a biggie. This goes both ways, by the way. If I’m not making you laugh, I never will and just cut me loose now.
2. Talk about food
I’m lucky enough to live in a culture where it’s acceptable to watch a show on a network devoted entirely to food while eating food while planning your next meal. I’m not good at sports, but I’m good at food, so food is my sport. I will debate with you if guacamole with peas is a bad idea (despite never having tried it) or whether you can taste the difference between Pocky and an off-brand chocolate-dipped cookie stick (you totally can).
Okay, I don’t know if I’m breaking any 30 Day Writing challenges or not, but it’s really all I could think of. If I think of more, I’ll update this, but really, the above two items are roughly 90% of what is best in life. For whoever is reading this, what are ways to win your heart? Oh snap, I just flipped it on you.
It’s been a long time since I’ve contemplated places I really want to visit. Having a kid kind of tempers those thoughts, so I actually opened up Google Maps and stared at it for a while wondering if I still have any drive to visit anywhere. My house is pretty comfortable right now, and I see nothing wrong with hunkering down and catching up on my ever growing Netflix queue for the next few years. For the sake of my current and future children though, I should show them that the world is a ginormous and amazing place and it should be explored as much as possible because we only have one chance to enjoy it.
1. New Zealand For years, I really wanted to visit Australia. I had friend who had been there and said it was awesome. Then the Internet showed all of us that the entire continent is basically trying to expunge humanity from its borders. I haven’t seen any Buzzfeed articles like that for New Zealand, so I think I would rather visit Middle Earth. My friend Bobby has been photographing and Instagramming its beautiful lands for over a year and I want to go there instead of getting bitten by everything.
With views like this, there is no need to be a venomous animal seeking to destroy all in its path
2. The Grand Canyon I really should’ve visited the Grand Canyon by now, but it’s just one of those places I never got around to going. It’s one of the natural wonders of the world, it’s eight hours from my house, and I really have no excuse.
3. Venice, Italy When my wife and I went on our honeymoon, we only had about a week to explore Italy, so we made a fateful decision to see Cinque Terre instead of Venice. Cinque Terre ended up being my favorite part of the trip, but I would still like to see Veince just because of its status as such a unique city of the world.
4. South Korea In an earlier post, I betrayed my own heritage to declare my love for korean food over japanese food. To take this love to its logical conclusion, it would be really cool to visit South Korea and eat my way through it. Despite the constant threat from North Korea, I would gladly risk military action to eat some legit galbitang (or anything, really) while surfing on the best Internet in the world.
5. Gundam Statue So yes, I have been to Japan and yes, I have seen the Gundam Statue before. However, it was but a fleeting glance while on a bullet train and it was at that moment that I swore an oath to one day actually visit that statue and take a selfie with it (side note: do they make selfie sticks that long?). Pacific Rim is one of my favorite movies, and there’s just something about giant robots that capture my imagination.
One day not long ago, I sat down and wrote down all of my interests and figured out whether or not I could pursue them and still make enough of a living to support a family. The immediate answer was no. This was my list:
Web Design and Development
Anything Pop Culture
Writing/saying/doing something funny
As you can see, my list of interests is not very lofty. There is nothing altruistic about this list at all. I grew up allowing myself to be enveloped by America’s cultural machinery, which ultimately created the above list. The first thing I can definitely make (and am making) money from, but the rest, not so much. If you are interested in pursuing anything creative or related to the entertainment industry, prepare to be poor for a long time and have your ego destroyed repeatedly. In retrospect, it might have been good I did not take that path initially because I don’t think I could’ve taken it.
Chris Hardwick is pretty much doing everything on my list with the Nerdist empire that he has built over the past five years. He hosts podcasts where he gets to interview pretty much everybody and anybody, moderates panels at Comic Con that would make any nerd weep with joy, hosts a multipleTV shows where he makes a living from what the rest of us just do with our friends on Facebook anyway, and generally gets to bathe in all things nerd.
Hardwick is probably most known for being the co-host of the 90s MTV dating show Singled Out, minor roles in movies and TV shows, and his stand-up comedy. He openly talks about how his recovery from alcoholism (now 11 years sober) enabled him to get to where he is today. Fortunately, I haven’t had to climb out of such a life hole, but we all have our life holes, whether it is something as serious as addiction or just self-doubt. I think if I can achieve 10% of what he has achieved with Nerdist, I’ll be very fulfilled.
If you’re reading this, you’re probably lucky enough to only have first world problems – getting zero likes/favorites/retweets/comments on your carefully crafted social media post, having a jackass cut you off on the freeway, waiting in a particularly long line at Starbucks. The following three things may or may or may not fall into this category, but calling something a “pet” peeve already seems to reduce its importance or significance. Anyway, since the challenge wasn’t “What are all of your pet peeves?”, here are three.
*Side note: Is the phrase “may or may not” redundant? I feel like it is.
1. Weak handshakes
When I was an impressionable young lad, my dad told me, “Always give a firm handshake” so I always do. A firm handshake signifies that you actually care about the person you are meeting. It also increases the chances of the person you are meeting will actually care about any subsequent words that come out of your mouth. If I am going to risk touching germs or a finger that may or may not have picked a nose earlier, I at least got it from a firm handshake instead of an 18th century aristocrat hand. A quote from Sarah Silverman explains this perfectly:
“If someone gives me a handshake like this [holds out limp hand], I go, ‘I’m going to change your life forever.'”
So if you give weak handshakes, I’m going to change your life forever. If you don’t care then your life won’t change and that’s precisely the point.
2. Not using turn signals If not for changing lanes, merging, turning right, or turning left, then when DO you use turn signals, you uncivilized heathen?? When you accidentally meant to turn on the windshield wipers? This blows my mind especially living in southern California where a car is pretty much an appendage. Not using your blinkers is like refusing to use prepositions or the word “the” when you speak – don’t be surprised when people didn’t know what hell you were trying to say. We might not be able to prevent the earth form warming two degrees anymore, but we can at least reduce the collective stress of the world by at least 10% by using turn signals.
3. People who use the off-ramp lane as a way to skip ahead of traffic Dude, just don’t. The reason why that lane exists is to let people off the freeway, not for you to shave 30 seconds off of a two hour commute. My commute home involves a freeway interchange that people always use to get ahead of the traffic but really end up blocking all the people trying to get off that freeway. If you want to witness the physical manifestation of rage, block a line of cars from getting off the freeway while you are trying to cut back into traffic at the last possible minute. Even from the relative comfort of your car, you will feel the heat emanating from everyone behind you like japanese honeybees on an invading hornet. If you’re someone who does this, I’m going to change your life forever.
Write something that someone told you about yourself that you never forgot.
In 11th grade, I was in a trigonometry/pre-calculus class in preparation for taking AP Calculus my senior year because nerd. I don’t remember what was happening, but two of my classmates got into some argument about a math problem we were working on and I was trying to broker some kind of agreement on either side. My teacher, while trying to settle the matter herself told me “You’re going to work for the UN (United Nations) one day, because you’re always trying to make peace.” That really stuck with me because I later in life I did realize how concerned I always was (sometimes to a fault) how okay everyone else was with the situation. If I’m in a group of people I often sense the person who is not really feeling it or not having as good a time as the others. I don’t know where that came from, but maybe in one of the later writing challenges, I’ll figure that out.
If anything, I am a lazy person. Even if the task is six inches in front of me and will take one minute, it might as well be a mile away. Despite this laziness I do realize it’s good to have goals outside of the kinds related to your family and home (namely being good at taking care of both). One of those goals is to be a good at writing. I’m a huge comedy fan and usually the most successful funny people write their own stuff. If you can create your own opportunities through writing, you always have a chance to succeed. I ravenously devour podcasts, stand-up specials, TV shows, and movies hoping to absorb any morsel of insight. Every night after I finally have an hour or two of free time, I tell myself I’m going to write something, but often end up watching Netflix, but then often end up with Netflix paralysis and actually watch nothing. Even when I do get to writing, I’ll write just a little bit at a time, put it away, read it weeks later and decide it’s crap and then close the browser. I lather, rinse, and repeat until months later I have something that I’m not totally ashamed of posting.
However, I do know that one will never become better at anything without actually doing the thing many times, so I am taking a cue from my friend over at bookreviewsandhaikus.com and doing this 30 Day Writing Challenge. Looking at this list, there are a few things that don’t seem that interesting to write about or are too personal to write about, but sometimes you just have to force yourself to do it and hopefully learn from it. Do, or do not. There is no try.
Day 1: List 10 things that make you really happy
I know after I write this I’ll come up with 20 more things I wished i thought of, but these are the things that came to me, so there.
Coming home to my family: Every day after work, I get to come home to my family. My son either runs at me full speed to give me a headbutt hug or gives me a side hug and kiss while watching Octonauts or Justin Roberts on the iPad. I then proceed to snarf down dinner, give my son a bath, read him a story, put him to bed, and spend time with my wife while we mostly ogle at pictures of our son before the house goes quiet. People nowadays tend to be anti about that suburb life with the wife/husband and 2.5 kids, but having my wife and son to come home to every day gives me great comfort and joy.
Making people laugh: Scoring a laugh from people is one thing that makes me really happy. I’m sure there’s some deep-seeded psychological issue it stems from, but there are worse ways for issues to manifest itself. It’s kind of like crack, but without the sad Behind the Music ending and I will use any means necessary to achieve this, from gifs to cat keyboard videos to just plain ol’ words.
Making my wife laugh: This deserves a separate item from the above because relatively speaking, making my wife laugh is like hitting a 10 chain combo in Puzzle Fighter. I am often laughing to myself like an idiot over some joke while said joke makes me less appealing as a partner, but once in a while the planets align and I can make her laugh. On purpose.
Drums: Ever since high school I dreamt of tearing it up on a drum set, but for some reason I never just thought to seek it out. None of the friends I hung out with were musical, and neither was I, so it just seemed out of reach. Not until after college did I finally join a taiko drum group just so I could scratch this 10 year itch i had and only after leaving the taiko group did I start playing on rock drums regularly. I don’t get to play much nowadays, but even though I’m not very good, sitting behind a set makes me feel at home.
Finding new music: My philosophy on finding music is that if I find something I like, I’ll keep looking for something that’s more boundary-pushing until it’s too weird and then pull back. I can waste lots of time on Spotify jumping from related artist to related artist until I find one new song or artist that I like. Next to comedy, music is most dear to me. If given the choice, I would rather go blind than deaf, because a world without music would definitely suck.
Prepping food for cooking: This one may seem strange. I do like to cook, but one thing I like even more is having this spread of ingredients that are all ready to go. Before I dice/slice/julianne/cube/peel/seed anything, I usually try to look up the best way to do it on YouTube first. Nothing beats seeing a pile of perfectly brunoised vegetables.
A freshly vacuumed carpet: Something about hearing all the dust and debris being cleaned off the carpet is so satisfying. And no, I will not come over and vacuum your place. I have enough to do.
Comedy: You may sense a pattern here, but for as long as I can remember, I have consumed mass amounts of comedy in all forms. The 80s and early 90s were firmly ensconced in the comedy boom when there was SO much stand-up comedy on TV. I would religiously watch shows like Evening at the Improv, Carloine’s Comedy Hour, VH1 Stand-Up Spotlight just to name a few. I probably started watching these shows at way too young of an age and as a result, it has informed the way I think and look at life. The Oscars almost always dismiss comedy, but I think it’s way harder to do good comedy than good drama. I have so much respect for people who can professionally make me laugh.
Korean food: Sorry to betray my heritage and pick korean over japanese food, but I could really eat korean every day. Japanese food is all about simplicity, subtlety, presentation, and precision, and I love it, but korean food includes all that while spanning a way bigger flavor spectrum. As much as I love ramen, I could not eat that every day. I could eat my wife’s kimchi chigae every day though.
Good company: Put me in a party with 20-plus people and I will freeze up like a Windows PC, but nothing beats making the dumbest jokes and laughing hard with a few good friends.