Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Smile, Darn Ya, Smile

Do you ever stop and take a look around and realize that there are plenty of miserable people out there? Judging by many people's facial expressions, you'd think that most folks are, indeed, very unhappy with their lives or their jobs or the stock market or any number of things that can cause a person stress or unhappiness.

From the point-of-view of someone who lives with depression, I sometimes feel like it is not possible for me to get as chemically depressed as some others choose to be emotionally.

As I was out running errands today, I couldn't help but notice the frowns or general lack of any kind of positive emotion or expression on the faces of many people I interacted with. Is it something in the water in my neighborhood or city? While that's a possibility, I tend to notice the same tendency among people most everywhere I go.

At the same time, those few with smiles on their faces were, not coincidentally, also those who seemed to be happiest doing whatever it was they were doing, be it drawing my blood (I donate plasma on a semi-regular basis) or pumping their gas or whatever their task may be. I would also argue that these people aren't necessarily devoid of trials or stress in their lives, but in spite of those things - because we all have them - they choose to remain as positive as they can and to pass that feeling along to everyone they meet.

Let's face it: Happy people are more fun to be around. Because they are happy and they know it, not only do they clap their hands, but they also draw others to them because of that happiness. Their smiles are not feigned or forced and come from their very souls. A smile makes an unattractive person attractive and an attractive person downright foxy.

One of my favorite Old Testament verses is Psalm 118:24, which reads: "This is the day which the Lord hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it."

That's good advice. As someone else put it, "Any day above ground is a good day."

Friday, February 22, 2013

Movie Review: "Red Dawn" (2012)

Up until now, do you feel like movies have really failed to capture the excitement of a half-dozen guerrilla warrior teenagers robbing a Subway sandwich shop at gunpoint?

I know that I certainly have felt that way. Fortunately, Red Dawn accomplishes this and much, much more.

The plot is quite similar in nature to the original Red Dawn - which was also, for you trivia buffs, the first PG-13 film in film history - that came out in 1984. Without warning, communist soldiers from a foreign land parachute into a small Western town as part of a nationwide attack. All heck breaks loose, but a group of high school students, aided and advised by one of their older brothers, who is a Marine, band together to wage guerrilla war and to take back their town.

The differences? It's North Korea invading us and not Russia; the setting is Spokane, Washington, instead of Colorado; and Chris Hemsworth (aka Thor), rather than Patrick Swayze, plays the older brother/Marine. Also, there's no Charlie Sheen in this one, so that's a plus.

In addition to the aforementioned scene of Subway pillaging, there's plenty of good actions sequences this time around - a lot of urban warfare in and around Spokane, if that's your idea of entertainment. Even so, it doesn't quite measure up to the original, Charlie Sheen's absence notwithstanding. There were a couple of times when the people around us were chuckling at a few unintentionally funny bits.

At one point, I actually expected a cameo from one of the Wolverines from the original film. Picture, say, Charlie Sheen throwing grenades at North Korean commies while shouting out his catch phrase: "Duh! Winning!" Well, at least that's what I half-expected.

It's definitely a feel-good movie (you know, when people aren't getting blown up and stuff) that makes you think about this country we live in and the freedoms we enjoy here. I would even dare say it's a patriotic film, as the group of high school kids have to think seriously about what it means to be free and learn to cherish those who, in the past, fought for the very freedom they inherited at birth.

Also, as clips during the opening credits attest, Obama is still the president when this all happens. (Insert your own punchline here.)

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Post-Valentine's Apocalypse: Seven Days Later

Valentine's Day was a week ago. Have you recovered yet?

As for me, I'm suprisingly doing well. But Valentine's Day wasn't always that way.

Around December 2010, I met a girl I in whom I was very interested. We shared many things in common, principal among which was the fact that we were both copy editors and loved books. She was beautiful, cheerful, witty, outgoing, had a good sense of humor, and, further, she even showed up at some of my improv shows to watch me act like an idiot and would then still speak to me afterward!

She even had a first date with me and told me she looked forward to a second and a third. I do not favor texting as a principal means of communication per se, but she and I lived an hour apart, and we frequently communicated by phone and text in between our face-to-face meetings. I remember thinking something along the lines of, "This is either going to turn out great, or it is going to hurt a lot."

It turned out to hurt a lot. In early February, the phone calls and text gradually stopped. I chalked this up to her being busy with work or something akin to it. Finally, after a week with no communication, I wrote her an e-mail - the only way in which I felt I could properly express myself - basically telling her that I enjoyed her company a lot but that I could see a familiar pattern of withdrawal emerging and that she didn't have to go on ignoring me. I hoped beyond hope I was wrong, but you never know, and I try to always give people the benefit of the doubt.

My suspicions, unfortunately, turned out to be correct. According to the response she sent on February 12, she had received my message on the very day that her ex-boyfriend of "more than a year ago" (her words) was getting married to someone else. It had been a hard breakup, she explained, and though she thought she was over it, it turned out that she wasn't, and this was her way of telling me that it was also now over between her and me with those fateful words: "I'm just not looking for a relationship right now."

More than a year ago! For me, that was the worst part of it all. I read that phrase over and over and wanted to scream all the way down to Provo, just so she could hear it, "Get over it then! He's obviously moved on; why shouldn't you? There is someone who wants to be with you now."

I actually did write a second message back to her, expressing these frustrations as nicely as I thought I could do so, but that was really the end of it. I never heard from her again.

Valentine's Day that year was a terrible time for me. My brother ended up taking the ticket I had intended for her to use and went with me to a benefit concert on Valentine's Eve. While the performers sang about romantic things, and couples in attendance held hands and danced and gazed into each other's eyes longingly and all of that good stuff, I wanted anything else but to be there. What I really wanted to do was to punch a hole in the wall or drop-kick a kitten or anything that would make me feel even the slightest bit better or less bitter about things.

I also let myself sulk about things basically all February long. In time, I found that a break-up had, indeed, left me unable to pursue a healthy relationship with someone else and that I had to get over it and move on with my life.

Sound at all familiar?

Believe it or not, though the AWL may have a reputation of being an angry loner, he is something of a romantic. By that, I don't mean that I am Rudolph Valentino or Brad Pitt or - heaven help us - the equivalent of what Edward "the mopey vampire" Cullen is to teenage girls and 40+-year-old women. I am also not a guy who causes women to pass out when I walk in the room.

I have more than 4,000 songs in my music library, and among them you will find many cheesy love songs, including every decade from the 1940s to the present. I am also not afraid to admit that I have, on more than one occasion, wept at the conclusion of a romantic story or movie. I still root for the guy to end up with the (right) girl. I even read a lot of poetry in college as part of my English literature minor studies, and among my favorites are the the poets of the Romantic era (early 19th century): Keats, Shelley, Wordsworth, etc.

Above all, I believe our Creator has endowed each of us with a want - nay, a need - to love someone and to be loved in return; someone we will choose to be fiercely loyal to and will do anything for and will sacrifice any and all comforts to make happy. I want someone to confide in, to lean on, to cry with, to laugh with - whatever may come. I want to have all of the gooey-ness that the couples at the Valentine's concert had to share with each other. And I want that someone to feel the same way about me

In spite of me being in my 30s, I have not given up hope that it will happen someday - but I have to move on. I have to keep trying and try again. I may meet someone who even makes me feel that "this is either going to turn out great, or it is going to hurt a lot." But that's a chance everyone has to take at one point or another.

Monday, February 18, 2013

The Angry White Loner

Am I an angry person? Most people who know me well would say no. I don't really think that I am angry by nature, but like you, certain things do make me angry from time to time. One of my college professors once remarked that my blend of wry, dry humor tends to reflect a bit of aggression, and I don't know if he was completely wrong about that.

As for the "loner" thing, well, that may not be so much of a stretch. We males tend to compartmentalize ourselves according to social situation, and while I can be extroverted on the improv stage and with those who know me best, I can also be my introverted self at church, at work, at the store, etc.

As I wrapped up 2012's picture-a-day/Project 366 endeavor at the end of December, I came to realize that perhaps there are at least also two selves on my blog: the one who posts photos, family news, and basic observations about events I attend throughout the year - cotton candy, if you will. The other side of me - call it the writer - has, for as long as I can remember, perhaps as far back as when I was given my first journal at age nine, needed a creative outlet for my thoughts and feelings in addition to said journal.

With two, sometimes three people logging in to view my posts, the demand was indeed high to create a second blog for this second side of me. Thus, from henceforth, Disconcertingly Choppy will be devoted to those "cotton candy" happenings, while the AWL will be focused on what I hope will be thought-provoking reflections and issues that we face in a latter-day world that seems to get nuttier by the day. In essence, it will be a lot like the column I used to write for The Century magazine when I was in college.

Sometimes, I will focus on gospel themes, while other times I will write on social or political matters that I feel are important. I would appreciate and would also encourage any feedback that you, my friends and readers, would like to give me.

The title "Angry White Loner," by the way, actually sprang from a recent improv show in which we played the game "Press Conference." In the game, we are supposed to portray members of the local media, and, on the spot, I came up with a blogger called "The Angry White Loner" and a blog address of the same name. When I registered for this blog on blogspot.com, I was surprised to find that nobody had claimed it.

Can you believe that? So, there you go.