Monday, July 29, 2013

How Nerdy I Am . . .

When the Improvables perform, the show rarely ends when the last improv game is played, the audience goes home, and the theater doors are closed. Quite often, in fact, it is just the beginning.

Such was the case Saturday night when, following another performance at Playbills' Theater in Clearfield, we congregated over at one of our two local greasy spoons and ended up playing a game we called "Wanna Hear How Nerdy I Am?" - something we made up earlier during our warm-ups for the show - for most of the rest of the evening.

"Wanna Hear How Nerdy I Am?" basically works like this: Each person takes a turn telling a story about his/her own nerdiness, first asking the question "Wanna hear how nerdy I am?" The other members of the group reply, "How nerdy are you?" The person then tells a story that answers both questions.

Some of the more interesting stories told included tales of sewing Hobbit costumes, staying up late to read the latest Harry Potter book during the last week in the mission field, the extent to which someone went to meet her favorite rock star, and having the neighbors call the police because someone was loudly singing showtunes at 2:00 in the morning.

As far as covering all of the nerd bases goes, we discussed everything from Star Wars and "Star Trek" to superheroes and "Saved by the Bell" trivia.

Speaking of which, some of my own admissions included:

 -My LDSJEDI license plate, which was the result of an attempt to impress a girl I was dating (and a fellow Star Wars fan). When she saw the plates for the first time, she remarked, "That's a little extreme, isn't it?"

 -Dressing up in my Jedi robes to attend the midnight premiere of Star Wars: Episode II - Attack of the Clones and then being interviewed by a radio DJ about the film on my way out of the theater

 -Taping every episode of "Saved by the Bell" over four VHS tapes

 -Writing plot summaries of "Transformers" episodes in my journal when I was nine and 10 years old

 -Dressing up in my Superman costume day after day when I was a toddler

And so forth. There are plenty more stories where those came from.

My concluding thought: It's okay to be nerdy about nerdy things. There's no shame in it . . . unless the thing you're nerdy about is Twilight, of course. After all, the geeks shall inherit the Earth, or so I have been told.

Chances are, there are many others who feel just as nerdy about the same things.

"It is one of the blessings of old friends that you can afford to be stupid with them."
   -Ralph Waldo Emerson

Friday, July 26, 2013

Stubborn as a Mule

"A mule will labor ten years willingly and patiently for the privilege of kicking you once."
 -William Faulkner

Stubbornness . . . long sigh . . . is today's topic. The thing is, I'm not exactly sure where to start. It seems like I've been dealing with stubborn people all week long, so maybe that's why this is coming out on a Friday afternoon and I just need to blow off a little steam.

Even an Angry White Loner needs to do so every now and then.

Stubborn people tend to share a certain set of characteristics: They do what's best for themselves rather than for the group as a whole. They either refuse to or are reluctant to compromise, believing that their point-of-view or way of doing things is the best way. They leave important things undone because they believe someone else must do them. Quite often, the stubborn are slaves to routine.

In a very real sense, stubbornness is just another manifestation of selfishness. Stubbornness is not a trait I look for in a friend. In a romantic relationship, it is a deal breaker.

On the other hand, stubbornness can actually be a positive trait. I admire people who stick to their principles and values and refuse to compromise them. The same can also be said for people who dig in their heels, work hard, and don't quit until a project is completed.

That kind of stubbornness, however, is not the kind of stubbornness that has driven me to the point of frustration this week. The stubborn creep into our lives very sneakily. They sneak in among our friends, co-workers, neighbors, etc. Like the body snatchers, they are claiming new victims and increasing their number on a daily basis.

With a devil-may-care attitude, they shoot off extremely loud fireworks until 2 or 3 a.m., showing little-to-no regard for the noise they are making or for your safety. They carry on long conversations on their cell phones as they drive, slowly and recklessly weaving in and out of their lanes of traffic. You make repeated requests from what you thought was a trusted co-worker to do something simple for you, and those requests are repeatedly ignored or cast aside for their convenience or for other petty reasons. Friends receive invitation upon invitation to participate in activities with you, yet they never turn up . . . and then they wonder why nobody wants to hang with them. Your improv troupe has a relatively new second home on Saturday nights at a fledgling theater, and rather than support that theater, many people would rather not go there at all than offer to help out.

Sigh . . .

I could go on, but I won't. Suffice to say that the stubborn, like so many mules, belong in the glue factory.

*The AWL will be back in a day or two with a more cheerful subject. Maybe.*

Sunday, July 21, 2013

The Angry White Loner's High School Reunion

Last night, I attended my high school reunion, which was held at the Little America hotel in downtown Salt Lake City. As many high school reunions go, it was an event I both looked forward to and, at the same time, dreaded.

How many years has it been since you graduated from high school? you ask?

I can't make myself say how many years it has been, unbelievable as the number is to me. I just can't make myself type it. But we were the Bountiful High School class of 1993. I'll let you do the math.

In spite of my apprehension about attending, two main ideas stood out:

1) Being one of the few single people at my class reunion was not as bad as I feared it would be. I met some old friends right at the check-in desk, including Andy and Scott, and they agreed to let me sit at their table, get to know their spouses, and catch up with them and their families' lives. Many others also went out of their way to talk to me and to say "hello."

Included among that group of people was one of my seventh-grade tormentors, whom I referenced not long ago here on this blog in my review of the movie Bully. He was the one to approach my table and to initiate a conversation. Not only that, but he seemed genuinely interested in my life and spent 10 minutes chatting with me as if we were old friends.

I want to believe there is such a thing as water under the bridge. Perhaps the hatchet can finally be buried on that matter. I have hope that it was last night or soon will be.

I even had a good, long talk with someone who served as a studentbody officer during our senior year but whom I did not know very well back then. I have a knack for remembering faces and names, and recognizing that person and saying "hello" was all it took for us to become friends.

2) Some things remain exactly the same, while other things have changed.

By and large, people sat at tables and snapped photos with their old high school cliques and social groups. Some people have changed very little physically and were instantly recognizable. Old friends were the same good-natured people I have always known. The girl who (unbelievably) agreed to go with me to the senior prom is still drop-dead gorgeous.

The flip side of that thought is that time and experience seem to be the great equalizer. No matter how popular or important some people thought they were in high school - and that is one of the few unfortunate things about that time in our lives - things such as baldness, grey hair, *ahem* slowed metabolism, and other signs of getting older, as well as challenges and heartache, seem to have affected most everyone to one degree or another.

As the saying goes, into each life a little rain must fall.

Overall, it was a very positive experience. But I can wait for the next reunion.

Monday, July 15, 2013

She Just Changes Her Mind

She takes care of herself. She can wait if she wants; she's ahead of her time.
And she never gives out, and she never gives in; she just changes her mind.
   -Billy Joel, "She's Always a Woman"

Before I go into the subject of today's post, I think I should state for the record that I think women, collectively speaking, are fascinating creatures. They are the far better gender by far.

After all, men have nothing I want. I'm not above pandering.

I'm paraphrasing Dave Barry with the above paragraph, but I really do believe that. Women are the nurturers and the peacemakers and have so many innate qualities that I lack.

Having said that, I must admit that women, as amazing as they are, are quite often a mystery to mankind and to the AWL in particular. The other day, a friend and I got into a discussion about dating and the way women and men communicate with each other. I was asked what types of things specifically I find to be mysterious. I responded that, for one, I would love to find a woman who acts the same way two days in a row. Asked to elaborate on that statement, I am therefore writing today's post.

One phenomenon that has puzzled me over the years is the ever-changing, or indecisive, if you will, female mind. For one thing, it has been proven in social studies that women - not all, but collectively speaking - tend to be driven more by emotion than by rationale. I can't speak for the individual, let alone females as a whole, and pretend to know what she/they mean by her/their actions; I can state only my observations a case study that I feel illustrates my point and then say how those actions have affected me as a male trying to date them.

Case Study: A few years ago, there was a girl in my singles ward upon whom I developed a liking. I got to know her a little bit and, somehow, it seemed that she liked me, too, so I asked her on a couple of dates, and we had a good time getting to know each other better.

I asked her on a third date just before I left for a weekend away in California, and she accepted. I returned from my trip the day before our scheduled date, and I happened to see her at our ward's family home evening activity that night. Unfortunately, "see her" was about all of my interaction with her that night, as she appeared to me to spend most of the evening talking to and flirting with another young man in the ward and essentially ignoring me. I was never so tempted to cancel a date - remember, it was scheduled for the next night - as I was at that moment. Nevertheless, I went ahead with our plans and mentioned nothing of the perceived slight to her on our third date.

Not surprisingly, she went on to spend much more time presumably ignoring me and hanging out with the gentleman from the FHE activity at other ward functions thereafter. In fact, she and the aforementioned gentleman ended up officially dating. They even, intentionally or not, cuddled right in front of me at a friend's movie night a couple of weeks later. (How's that for tact?)

I soon gave this girl up as a lost cause. However, a month or so later, this girl and gentleman broke up, and everyone in the ward soon knew about it. Not long after that, she began paying attention to me again at ward activities. In fact, it was like she and the gentleman had never dated; we got along just as we had before their relationship started. Once bitten and twice shy, I proceeded cautiously. She even took the initiative and called me up for a ride to a ward activity, which I took as a sign that she might even want to give dating me another attempt.

I figured the time was right to put myself out there again and try for another date. It was about this same time that another young gentleman showed up at church, and I once again felt ignored as I had been before. The girl and this second gentleman, in fact, dated steadily for the next few months and ended up getting married, which is the only really positive thing to come out of it all for the people involved.

All the while, I remained constantly confused as to whether I should get on or off the merry-go-round. I remember telling a friend about my observations on the matter, and he responded, "That's just dating."

I've come to find I may never know;
Your changing mind - is it friend or foe?
   -Duncan Sheik, "Barely Breathing"

Conclusion(s)? I'm not sure that I have one/any. But I would like to say to any women reading this post: Please be kind to the men pursuing you, whether or not you return their affections. If you must turn someone down, please be as gentle as possible but also clearly state that this relationship is not going anywhere so that there can be no confusion going forward.

If the man turns into a psycho-crazed stalker, I also realize that all bets are off and that more drastic measures may be needed.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Religion, Politics, the Great Pumpkin . . . and Misery

Like it or not, Facebook has become a part of pretty much all of our lives. Chances are, you are reading this post right now because I posted a link to it on my Facebook profile.

Facebook is great in that it is a good way to keep in touch with long-lost friends living on the other side of the world or those who may be too busy with the many comings and goings of their spouses, children, careers, etc. to visit with in person. Some of the cons include all of those Farmville invitations I keep getting on a daily basis, people who still use the "poke" option, and, admittedly, discussing politics, religion, and other hot-button topics, which usually never turns out well for everyone who becomes involved in the discussion. I've not yet stuck my foot into a political discussion in which a person on the other side of the argument has concluded: "You're absolutely right, and I was wrong. I am making a 180-degree turn and now see things your way." It just doesn't happen.

In the perennial Halloween special "It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown," Linus sums it up well: "There are three things you must never discuss with people: religion, politics, and the Great Pumpkin."

Though the AWL sometimes delves into matters of politics and religion, that's not what today's post is about. Sometimes, he reads a Facebook post that just ends up making his blood boil. That, or he just ends up feeling sorry for the person who wrote it. A post he read tonight ended up causing both reactions. The post in question was made by a friend who referenced a well-known Old Testament story, and the friend then wondered aloud why a "God of love" could care so little about His creations.

Over time, it has been sad for the AWL to watch this friend slowly drift away from the LDS Church and its principles. Little by little, this person's posts have grown more bitter, more angry, more difficult to respond to - the AWL finds himself ignoring this person more often than not in order to keep the peace - and, above all, more miserable. It is not uncommon for this person to post status updates about how sad and depressing his life is in addition to all of the angry questions and rants. Not only has this person drifted from the LDS Church he grew up with, he also appears to be drifting toward atheism and abandoning Christianity as a whole.

Not coincidentally, this person's other common posts deal with, for one, such matters as his love for a recent Broadway musical that directly and openly mocks the LDS Church and its members (hint: Its name rhymes with "Nook of Norman"). The language in his posts is often crude and vile, and the words are frequently sloppy and misspelled even though they come from what I know to be a sharp mind. I saw a recent photo of this person after not having seen him in person for more than a year, and it has become apparent that his hygiene and personal grooming habits have become about as lost to the world as the 116 pages of the Book of Lehi. From what I know, he doesn't socialize or get outside of the house much, either.

The AWL sees a direct correlation between these behaviors and this person's misery and feeling of being alone in the world. If this friend happens to read this post, the AWL would even go so far as to suggest that reading the real rhymes-with-"Nook of Norman" would go a long way to making this person happier than would listening to the songs of the sad, pale imitation lauded by the people of the "great and spacious building" and now selling out to capacity audiences on Broadway.

The truth is, folks, that the AWL doesn't know that much, but he does know that happiness comes from keeping the commandments, prayer, scripture study, kindness, gentleness, seeking good and wholesome entertainment, cleanliness of body and mind, and so forth - the very basics we first learned about in Primary - while misery and sadness result from not doing those things (see Alma 41:10). Further, I would have to add that picking an obscure story or point of doctrine and complaining or fretting about it, pretending to know God's motivation(s) involved, is not a good use of one's time and effort.

As Nephi said: "I know that he loveth his children; nevertheless, I do not know the meaning of all things" (1 Nephi 11:17).

Even though this friend has lately proven himself to be just about one curse word away from being de-friended, there is something inside the AWL that still thinks this friend is worth keeping and encouraging to hold onto the Iron Rod. I honestly don't know the answer. But I do know where the answers that truly matter can be found.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Love Poetry for Dummies: "The Fifth-of-July Blues"

"The Fifth-of-July Blues"

The summer is for barbecuing,
And this one's no exception.
Extended friends and family gather,
And all is near perfection.

Soccer game on the lawn out back,
As the boys chase a chicken around;
But the party isn't over yet
As the sun goes down.

The sky lights up brightly
In a wondrous glow;
People in blankets and chairs
Sit back to enjoy the show.

Someone runs out to the circle
And lights up another cone;
Dozens of people surround me,
and yet I am all alone.

I am not a smart man,
But I know this much is true:
The only thing missing from my yesterday
. . . was you.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

I (Don't) Love a Parade

'Tis the season for celebrating our freedom and our collective pioneer heritage with fireworks, barbecues, family get-togethers, making your own gravy (i.e. sweating profusely out in the hot summer sun), and, last but not least, parades.

Call me the Ebenezer Scrooge of Independence Day if you will, but I am not a big fan of parades. I don't enjoy them. In fact, I came up with a short list of 100 things I'd rather do than sit out in the hot sun on a 100-degree day and watch people slowly walk by over the course of several hours' time, not to mention the traffic logjam that follows driving home from a parade and that bloody fisticuffs that can often ensue when people get into a turf war over saving seats along the parade route.

Here are the first five items on my list:

#1. Sit at home and watch a "Honey Boo-Boo" marathon.

#2. Call up the dentist and volunteer for an untried and experimental procedure at his office. No need to compensate me for my time! Happy to do so. I also don't want anesthetic of any kind.

#3. Count the holes in the ceiling, using binary code to keep a tally.

#4. Give a cat a bath.

#5. Collect my belly button lint in a Mason jar. Then, knit a sweater with it. Give it to an ex as a Christmas present.

Okay, so maybe I exaggerate. Just a little.

Another reason why I avoid parades: Clowns tends to appear in them. And clowns are rather frightening to me. I also do not enjoy it when fire trucks burst the crowd's collective ear drums with their horns.

If any of y'all out there in the AWL's fan land - and there are literally a dozen or so of you - please don't take offense if you yourself enjoy parades or you attended one today and enjoyed it. They're fine for many people, just not for me. Plus, I do appreciate that parades give our military and law enforcement officials, for example, an opportunity to be publicly applauded, because they certainly have earned that right.

I also realize that if three spirits happen to visit me in my bedroom tonight and show me the error of my ways, then all bets are off.