Saturday, August 31, 2013

What's in a Name?

Approximately 500 years ago, William Shakespeare wrote the immortal question: "What's in a name?" At least, I am pretty sure it was Shakespeare, and I believe it was asked by Juliet in Romeo and Juliet. Or Romeo.

I didn't pay too much attention to that play when I studied it in school, or at least it wasn't that memorable for me, because I was in eighth grade at the time. I didn't have the appreciation for Shakespeare in those days that I do now. Also, we watched the '60s movie version in class, and it showed Romeo's bare bum, which made a junior high student like me squirm in his seat, look up at the ceiling tiles, and begin to whistle the "Think" music from "Jeopardy!"

The answer to Shakespeare's question, of course, as another British author, Douglas Adams, wrote somewhat more recently, is: "42."

My point, and I do have one, is that names and "what's in them" can - and should - mean a really big deal to a lot of people. Among that number of people, though, I do not include couples who have a child and then appear to either spend only five minutes choosing a name for that child or appear to have lost a bet when they make the name official on a birth certificate.

Examples of these kinds of names include, but may not be limited to: Banjo, Haven'T, J'Adore, Navaryous, Shoog, Twisha, and so on.

All of these, I promise, are real and can be found by conducting a simple Google search. Many of them also sound like rejected names for characters in Dr. Seuss stories.

The moral of the story: Think about it for longer than five minutes, people. Or at least picture your child's future fourth-grade teacher reading the class roll aloud, and if the name would make the other students giggle, don't do it. Don't make your kids grow up and resent you.

Then, picture that child squirming in his/her seat when he/she has to watch Romeo and Juliet in the eighth grade.

You'll certainly be grateful when . . . I don't know . . . when that child is, many more years from now, deciding whether or not to put you into a nursing home.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Easier Than Telling the Truth

For those who are not familiar with the movie Office Space, it features one of the worst bosses of all-time: Bill Lumbergh.

What makes Lumbergh a despicable boss is not that he is rude or someone who is extremely difficult to get along with; quite the contrary, in fact, is true. The man is over-the-top nice and polite when conversing with his employees. What makes him loathsome is that, in his Ned Flanders-esque manner, he tells those who work for him to do horrible things, like coming in to work on both Saturdays and Sundays in addition to the regular Monday-Friday work week.

Over time, I have come to realize that I feel very much like a Lumbergh employee when someone either breaks up with me or turns me down for a date. Have you?

The "Lumbergh" is being as nice and polite as possible while telling you . . . well, horrible things, or perhaps things that still make you feel horrible about yourself even though it has been done in a nice, polite manner. The Lumbergh may say one thing while meaning something completely different, yet the result is still the same: You're being dropped like a rock.

Honesty can be a hard thing to convey, as a recent song by Kris Allen proclaims. Saying the Lumbergh-isms we've all been culturally programmed to say are certainly "easier than telling the truth."

As a result of these kinds of situations, and I'm sure we've all been through them, the Angry White Loner is providing a public service today by telling you what a person really means when he/she is breaking up with you or rejecting you for a date.

No need to thank me!

"I'm just not looking for a relationship right now": I am not looking for a relationship with you, puke nose.

"I'm just taking a break from dating right now": I am not looking for a relationship with you, puke nose. I'll probably be dating some other guy again in a week and will even post about it on Facebook and/or my blog, since we're friends and all and you can read all about it.

"You're a really nice guy, but . . .": Everything that comes after but means that you're just not *that* nice of a guy for me to hang with. Well, I mean, after you pay the bill at La Caille, then you're not.

"I already have plans that night." Can I get a what-what for some Halo?!

"I'm just too busy right now.": I have 24 hours in a day, same as you. But I also have a TiVo full of "Greys Anatomy"s and "American Idol"s and such to watch right now. Plus, as president of the George Clooney Fan Club, I have a lot of correspondence to catch up on. Truthfully, you may rank something like #84 on my list of priorities right now. #83 is changing my cat's kitty litter.

"You're such a good friend - like a brother!": You've been friend-zoned, sucka!

"I really don't feel that much of a connection with you.": I don't want to mace you, but I will if you ask me for my number once more.

"I'll try to come.": I won't come.

"I'll maybe try to come.": I definitely won't be there.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Big Boys Don't Cry

It happened again.

I have now seen the first three episodes of the current season of "Secret Millionaire," and I have ended up bawling like a baby at the end of each one.

For those who are not familiar with "Secret Millionaire," it is a reality TV program that doesn't stink to high heaven. Unlike such better-known programming as "Keeping Up with the Kardashians," "Jersey Shore," "The Bachelor," etc., one of the major things that sets it apart is that it actually features admirable and interesting people who are trying to do worthwhile things with their lives.

In each episode, a self-made millionaire travels to an impoverished and/or crime-ridden neighborhood within a major U.S. city and must live there for a week, residing in the kind of housing that people on welfare inhabit and also living on the same budget, which usually amounts to only $30 or $40 a week such basics as groceries. At the same time, the secret millionaire ventures out into the community to find worthy charities and causes for which he/she can donate time and effort: shelters, soup kitchens, support groups, anti-drug counseling, centers for the disabled, etc. Quite often, these charities are, like to people who run them, operating on a shoestring budget.

At the end of the week, the millionaire pays one final visit to these charities, revealing his/her true identity as a successful businessperson. He/she then presents these charities with a check, which is often for tens of thousands of dollars and is taken out of the millionaire's own pockets. Sometimes, that figure goes as high as hundreds of thousands of dollars.

My favorite part of it is that the recipients of these checks, real salt-of-the-Earth people working at these charities because they have a sincere desire to help others and to make their communities better, have absolutely no clue that this money is coming to them, and their reactions are always priceless. At the end of the episode, you find out what they end up doing with the money they have been given. Quite often, it goes a very long way to helping others who are in need.

It's hands-down one of my favorite things to watch on TV. And, as I mentioned earlier, it always makes me cry.

"Secret Millionaire" isn't the only TV show that gets to me, gang. I am also a sucker for the LDS-produced movie The Last Leaf, which stars Jane Kaczmarek (the mom from "Malcolm in the Middle"!) when she was much younger. I could tell you about the other films that have made me weep, and there are more than a few, but then I fear I would be falling into territory in which I could easily be blackmailed by y'all.

Other TV shows/movies have made me laugh so hard that I have cried, such as the Pod People episode of "Mystery Science Theater 3000" and the YouTube video of the children's orchestra playing Richard Strauss's "Also Sprach Zarathustra," aka the theme to 2001: A Space Odyssey. There was also the time that I discovered our family's golden retriever, Rolley, chowing down on the gingerbread houses we had made earlier that week. She had finished nearly two houses, from top to bottom, when I discovered what she had done.

Let's just say that I chuckled so hard and so long that I had to change my pants when I was finished.

That brings the Angry White Loner to the question: Is it okay for men to admit that they cry?

I can't answer for other guys, but I believe crying can be the outward expression of what are healthy emotions. It can also be a great release of pent-up stress, worry, or heartache when it is not motivated by joy and, thus, can be very therapeutic.

Most importantly, it shows women that we men are sensitive, new-age guys.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

As Good as It Gets . . . ?

In the movie As Good as It Gets, there is a scene in which the main character, Melvin (Jack Nicholson), himself a sufferer of a severe case of obsessive-compulsive disorder, walks past a support group who are in the middle of a session. Not only cursed with OCD but also someone with a mean streak, he asks them the question, "What if this is as good as it gets?"

Enjoying his little joke, he leaves the room as the members of the support group contemplate this question in a stunned silence. This moment is, of course, where the title of the film also comes from.

Do you ever find yourself contemplating the answer to the same question about matters in your own life: Is this really as good as it gets?

I find myself doing so on many a Sunday, as I feel it's certainly an appropriate day and time for self-introspection. Further, when you ponder upon this question, do you ever find yourself becoming frustrated, despondent, or flat-out heartbroken about the progress you seem to be makingor the lack thereof?

We all have things that we need to work on, be they bad habits to overcome, problems to solve, people who use or abuse, loneliness, or any number of other challenges that don't seem to go away, be they emotional, mental, physical, financial, etc. For many people, it's a combination of one or more of these things.

For the record, I believe that there are two types of people, as well as two ways of dealing with life's problems: There are those who "deal" with their problems by not dealing with them at allignoring or avoiding them altogetheraka the truly insane who keep trying the same thing and expecting different results. Then, there are those who confront and fight their problemseven when that fight seems like it may be a losing battle.

Whatever stage you are at in your particular battle(s), I believe that if you are among the latter of these two types of peoplethe one who is confronting and fighting the problemthen you are winning. That may sound like a cheesy line taken from the end of every "G.I. Joe" cartoonyou know, "knowing is half the battle" and all thatbut I believe it to be true. Taking two steps forward and one step backward is still making progress.

On Facebook today, a  friend of mine posted something I originally heard in the October 1999 general conference and also which I have heard many times since. I certainly needed to re-read it again:

“Don’t give up, boy. Don’t you quit. You keep walking. You keep trying. There is help and happiness ahead—a lot of it—30 years of it now, and still counting. You keep your chin up. It will be all right in the end. Trust God and believe in good things to come.”
 -Elder Jeffrey R. Holland

Sometimes, all we can do is put one foot in front of the other and continue to walk down that road. If we even stop and take a moment to look around us when that road is muddy and the sky is dark and stormy, I think we will even discover that there are quite a number of good things around us already.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Road Trip Music, Past and Present

Earlier this week, many of the members of the Angry White Loner's clan, including the Angry White Parents, the Angry White Siblings, and the AWL himself, made our annual August pilgrimage down to southern Utah to attend the Shakespearean Festival in Cedar City. It's a tradition that we've had for several years now and one that Tevye in Fiddler on the Roof would sing an epic song about. 'Cause it's all about acting and theater and musicals and getting more cultured and all of that good stuff.

Occasionally, we will even catch a play written by William Shakespeare himself. Which stands to reason, as he is the namesake for the whole shebang in the first place.

An important part of road trips such as these, or of any road trip, really, is the music that we listen to in the car along the way.

As the AWSs and I were growing up, the music for these road trips was always the AWPs' choosing. We were forced to listen to things like Olivia Newton-John (from her pre-"Physical" and pre-Grease country music days), Roger Whittaker, the Kingston Trio, and an assortment of folk music from the '60s, among other choices.

The siblings and I also delivered a paper route growing up, and, naturally, the AWPs were also in charge of picking the radio station that we listened to in the car. If it wasn't BBC news, then it was usually FM100, which had a "soft sounds" format in those days before it became all modern and hip like it is now. And before they added the "point-three" to the station's jingle. As a result, we became all-too-familiar with such timeless hitmakers as England Dan and John Ford Coley, Dan Fogelberg, the Carpenters, and so forth.

If you haven't heard of most or any of these artists, then you're not alone. The AWPs certainly have had some eclectic tastes in music over the years.

Fast forward to this week's road trip, during which the he-who-shall-not-be-named sibling I carpooled with chose to play country music for four consecutive hours on the road. Don't get me wrong; I don't mind country music if it is taken in small doses. Four straight hours of country music, though, and I would have been more than happy to roll down my window and jump head-first under a semi truck traveling in the next lane.

Thank goodness I brought my iPod with me. I shuffled through my playlists and discovered that - what do you know? - I have a lot of songs on that iPod that are performed by none other than Olivia Newton-John, England Dan and John Ford Coley, the Carpenters, etc.

Of course, I have other tastes. The AWP won't be joining me at a "Weird Al" concert anytime soon. I guess the prevailing thought is that . . . well, history tends to repeat itself.

Or, like the Manchurian Candidate, I have been brainwashed.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Here, Phishy, Phishy

The other day, a honey of a check arrived in the mail:

If you can read the dollar amount on my oh-so-eloquently taken photo, that's $2,900. For about five seconds, I felt I had hit the jackpot.

Then, reality and/or common sense quickly began to set in.

The check was mailed to me partly due to my own fault, or lack of homework on the subject, or call it what you will. I have been doing a good deal of job hunting lately, in attempt to find something additional to my regular day job or what-have-you. A few days prior, I answered an ad to inquire about becoming a "secret" shopper, and shortly thereafter, the aforementioned check arrived in my mailbox, looking legitimate in its overnight mail envelope and everything.

After conducting a good deal of research online,  Googling information on the company behind it all and so forth, I learned that I had been suckered, like so many Home Shopping Network subscribers, into a scam. The idea is that these so-called "secret" shoppers deposit these checks into their bank accounts to then transfer most of the money, while retaining a percentage of the funds as payment, to then test the customer service and timeliness and so forth behind a couple of money-transferring businesses.

Sounds like a pretty sweet deal, right? The only problem is that these checks are fake/forged, and the person who thinks he/she is doing secret shopping actually is stuck with exorbitant fees when the check later bounces.

Suffice me to say that I wrote back to this company, asking them to remove my name and information from their database. The check ended up as confetti and in my wastebasket.

Generally speaking, I believe in trusting others and in giving them the benefit of the doubt. But, at the same time, we live in a world in which we must be "wise as serpents" and yet "harmless as doves" (Matthew 10:16).

If something appears to good to be true, it most likely is. That principle certainly applies to those who would be "phishers" of men.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Karaoke Nerds Unite

As I discussed in a recent post, I am white and nerdy about a lot of things. One of the things I'm especially nerdy about is karaoke.

I have been hooked on karaoke from the first time I tried it. Years ago at a singles activity, there was a room with a karaoke machine in it, and out of sheer curiosity, I signed up to sing Hanson's immortal hit from 1997, "MMMBop." I began singing the song in a lovely falsetto, designed to match that of lead singer Zac Hanson. By the time the song was over, though, my throat began to get tired from that, so I switched my voice to an octave lower.

Afterward, friend of mine approached me to tell me that it sounded like Hanson going through puberty.

At any rate, I had lately been feeling what my friend the Awkward Mormon Girl calls "The Neediness" (assuming I have correctly understood what "The Neediness" is, AMG) and decided to begin organizing monthly karaoke nights at the Karaoke Café in Murray for myself and my friends as a way of reaching my required karaoke quota. There were seven of us in June and four of us in July. This past Tuesday night, I was joined by only two friends out of the dozens who were invited.

Sure, it's the Law of Diminishing Returns in action, but all you really need is at least one good friend with you in order to enjoy an evening of karaoke, so two is an added bonus. In addition to being a fantastic place to work on such theatrical techniques as performing solo songs in front of crowds and stage presence (all three of us are, after all, members of the Improvables), the Karaoke Café is also a great place to people-watch.

There are the showtunes geeks, usually singing selections from Wicked, Les Misérables, or Disney's many animated films. No fewer than five women ever take the stage together to sing and/or shout "Girls Just Want to Have Fun," "I Will Survive," or "Dancing Queen." There are older couples reliving happy memories from their long-ago days of courtship, and there are young adults, teens, and kids. There are often as many tone-deaf people as there are those who can genuinely sing well, but, truth be told, nobody cares if you can sing well or not. In karaoke, it's a win-win deal, as everyone listening cheers on every singer who takes the stage, which is really what it's all about.

On this particular Tuesday, there was even a group of what I can only surmise were either special-education students or a special-needs Primary, many of whom were brought in in wheelchairs. A handful who sang could barely make coherent sentences, but even so, we clapped to the beat along with them and applauded them wildly when they finished, which I am sure only made them feel good about themselves.

It's certainly 10 times better than watching "American Idol," which is basically a national karaoke contest but with far-less interesting people. Especially that Seacrest guy.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Black Holes and Vacuum Cleaners

Over time, I've come to realize the sad truth that some people are, simply put, like black holes and vacuum cleaners.

They just plain suck.

The term suck, in this sense, refers to people who, to paraphrase Bruno Mars, "take, take, take it all but (they) never give." Whatever their motivations may be, they take your time, emotions, goodwill, compliments, money, possessions, etc. and they offer none of their own in return.

Like the lady who, a few years ago, ran past a Yield sign, entered a roundabout I was already in, and collided with my car, they will not only refuse to accept blame for the trouble (in this case, car accidents) they create; they will then turn around and accuse you of being the person who instigated the whole mess.

People who suck are something unfortunately encountered among some supposed friendships. As a result, their behavior tends to be something of a friendship killer. It's also an unfortunate result of some dating experiences - and I think we've all been there at one point or another.

In dating, they are the people who string you along and use you for any number of what amount to be selfish purposes. Dating them is like pumping quarters into a slot machine for hours on end; all the while you dream of some kind of reward or result, but you get bubkes back and end up bankrupt emotionally.

I bring this all up as a result of a conversation I had with a friend the other night. This friend is a mutual friend of someone I went on a few dates with not long ago, and I learned a few things that helped me to understand why this person completely flaked out what I thought was our potential relationship. In a nutshell, someone she had dated earlier, who had acted like an utter tool and whose behavior led to them breaking up, decided he was suddenly interested in her again and wanted to get back together with her. Therefore, even though I had behaved gentlemanly toward her and she had only nice things to say about me, I was dropped like a rock.

I felt, in a word, used. I doubt it was this person's intention to make me feel this way, but that was the effect nonetheless.

Of course, some very good advice was given on this subject 2,000 years ago. The Savior instructed us to "pray for them which despitefully use you" (Matthew 5:28). I know that statement applies in all relationships in which we're adversely affected by people who suck and that it's what I need to do in this case. There's no other sane way to move forward.

It also leads me to reflect whether I have unintentionally ever been a person who sucks, be it in dating or in any other relationship. The AWL has admitted before that he is a work in progress, and if this is the case, he begs for your forgiveness.

At the same time, it doesn't mean we need to keep people who suck around us. What did Nephi and his clan do when Laman and Lemuel had used up all of their opportunities to be good? He put a great deal of (physical) distance between himself and the Lamanites. Though they were his brothers and he still loved them, he could no longer stay around them, or he would perish. He even lived long enough to see wars with them during his lifetime.

Forgive? Absolutely. But forget? Well, that just leads to our being vacuumed up off of the carpet, like so many particles of dirt, again and again.