Sunday, October 27, 2013

Victim of Circumstance

"I never said I was a victim of circumstance."
 -Billy Joel

Sometimes, you just end up in the wrong place at the wrong time. It's an altogether unavoidable fact of life.

Case in point: On Friday night, I arrived at the theater for our weekly improv show a few minutes earlier than I normally do. Upon entering, I discovered that the children's theater group was using our usual stage, the black box, for a Halloween performance that would conclude in plenty of time for us to set things up for our own Halloween performance at 10 p.m. Dressed in my costume as Teddy Roosevelt, 26th president of the United States, I had shaved my usual goatee down to a Teddy-like mustache.

The mustache part is vitally important to the rest of my story.

Because the black box was occupied, I ventured over to and walked into the green room, planning to wait out the end of the show there while my fellow improvisers arrived. Only it wasn't the green room I had become accustomed to, per se. I was confronted by an angry parent and/or chaperone who asked me to leave at once, because the green room was being used, in her words, as a "little girls' dressing room."

Keep in mind that these people had no I idea who I was other than what may have appeared to them to be a creepy guy in a mustache.

Well, obviously, I had no idea that the green room was being used as a little girls' dressing room that evening. After all, no one had posted a sign outside indicating this fact, and it's not like we hadn't used that green room on every other Friday night for the past two years (we, in fact, had).

Incidentally, if you missed the show that followed that night, then you missed seeing what turned out to be the Greatest Halloween Improv Show of All-Time.

Not that I am biased! I guess you had to be there.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Right or Easy

Admittedly, I am far from being the world's biggest Harry Potter fan. I have read only one of the seven books, and I found some of the movies in the series to be rather unmemorable. Visiting the Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Florida and drinking a glass of Butterbeer ranks somewhat low among my idea of an ideal vacation. Perhaps most telling of all, I once took an online Sorting Hat quiz, and it turns out I belong in Slytherin.

Nevertheless, I will be the first to admit that the franchise contains many memorable characters who either join Harry or take the opposite side in the fight between good and evil, and it also contains some profound teachings through them.

One of these is in the fourth book/film, The Goblet of Fire. Following the death of Cedric Diggory, which allowed "actor" Robert Pattinson to go off and star in a far-less memorable movie franchise, Hogwarts Headmaster Albus Dumbledore tells Harry: “Dark times lie ahead of us, and there will be a time when we must choose between what is easy and what is right.”

As it applies to us muggles, I believe that we are now living in a time in which we face two important choices, and they are certainly choices between what is right and what is easy. The distinction between the two is clear, and the divide will continue to grow as times get even darker.

Remember the friend I posted about here on the Angry White Loner a few months agothe one who was falling away from his faith and was, not coincidentally, also utterly miserable? The latest Facebook post by this friend, sadly, reflected only more of the same. He now believes that the Christian God is uncaring and unloving. I've offered to help this friend on many occasions and to take him to institute with me, but he refuses to do so and seems to continue to choose to become consumed with vitriol and skepticism.

It's very saddening to watch friends or loved ones fall away from those principles and teachings that would make them truly happy, and unfortunately I've seen it taken place now several times over the years. One of the most disappointing was one of my mission companions, someone who (at that time) once was a positive influence on me and who pushed me to become a better missionary. The saddest part of it all is that these people don't ever seem to end up in a better place but, rather, what Dumbledore would call an "easier" placeone with fewer responsibilities and expectations for themselves but also with less joy and no growth. If there's one who's truly in a better place and I have missed it, I would be happy to be proven wrong. They also, with few exceptions, seem to become the Church's most vile critics and detractors. As President Hinckley once said, "They leave the Church, but they can't leave it alone."

I believe our Heavenly Father truly loves and cares for us and wants to make us happy both temporally and eternally (see Moses 1:39). Sometimes, He has to use tough love to teach us what He wants us to learn, and it's difficult to see so much suffering in a world in which people can be affected so adversely by both other people's choices and natural disasters. But, like any parent, He wants the very best for His children.

That's just the AWL's opinion. And now, off to play LEGO Harry Potter.

Monday, October 21, 2013

The Curse of Captain Caveman

Unless you grew up in the late '70s or '80s, chances are that you don't know who Captain Caveman is.

If you don't remember this classic cartoon, you're not really missing that much. I remember watching reruns of "Captain Caveman and the Teen Angels" on Saturday mornings as a kid. Captain Caveman was a hairy dude who looked like either Robin Williams with no shirt on or Cousin Itt from "The Addams Family." (Take your pick.) This gang went around solving crimes together, just like all other teens in Hanna-Barbera cartoons.

The main thing I remember about this show was Captain Caveman's battle cry whenever he sprang into action. He didn't yell out anything like "Shazam!" or "Let's get dangerous!" but, rather, shouted out his own name, using a deafening cry that traveled up and down through multiple octaves on the musical scale: "Captain Cave-maaaaaaaaaan!"

It's been many years since I last watched an episode of "Captain Caveman," but I am still reminded of his battle cry when I hear many modern "singers" sing songs, or at least pretend to do so. These singers travel up and down multiple times on certain notes and all throughout their songs, metaphorically flexing and kissing their vocal muscles in the process, making their performance not about the song that they are singing but about their own voices.

Some of the biggest offenders of this type of singing are Mariah Carey, Christina Aguilera, and nearly every contestant on "American Idol." Even Utah's own sweetheart David Archuleta, who seems like a nice kid but also sings this way, is not immune from the Curse of Captain Caveman.

It's extremely tough for me to listen to a song sung by a Captain Caveman-like singer. It makes me want to rip the radio out and throw it out the window. It's almost unbearable to hear one these singers warble and trill his or her way through "The Star-Spangled Banner" at sporting events, which I'm sure causes Francis Scott Key to turn over in his grave every time it happens. And it happens a lot.

"Just sing the freaking song!" I've heard people say.

I couldn't agree more.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Nowhere Men and Women

Not long ago, I was out on a date with a girl, asking and answering those get-to-know-you questionslike you do. "What do you enjoy doing on the weekends?" I inquired.

Her answer, to say the least, surprised me a great deal. "I prefer to stay at home and relax," she said.

Certainly, there's nothing wrong with enjoying some R&R at home. It's good to take a break from our frenzied schedules now and then and to decompress from the stresses of life. But I was amazed that she named this and nothing else as her preferred hobby or thing to do in her free time. I must admit that it was somewhat of a deal breaker for me and also had a good deal of influence in my decision not to continue to date her anymore.

The thing is, the older I get, the more friends and associates of mine seem to fall into this category of what the Beatles called a "Nowhere Man": "sitting in (their) nowhere land(s), making all (their) nowhere plans for nobody." Other than perhaps going to work each day and then coming back home in the evening, they don't really seem to have any ambition or goals or hobbies or any kind of social life at all.

And it doesn't seem to bother them at all. They seem to be pretty content living this way. "(They) don't know what (they're) missing."

When you've been performing improv locally for more than five years, for example, you notice that some friends go out their way to attend your shows, as occasions permit, while others fail to appear time after time and continue to make the same excuses. Part of you looks for them in the audience and feels sad not seeing them there.

Not that I am bitter! Ha ha!

Another unfortunate example of this is some of the friends with whom I used to attend the singles ward. When the axe came down and there were 29twenty-nine!of us who were judged to be "unclean" (i.e. over 30 years old), one of the only options left for us to continue to socialize together was a mid-singles institute group based in Centerville. I immediately joined this group and discovered several new friends, all the while continuing to reach out to my 28 friends and inviting them, time and again, to participate along with us. Yet I can count on one hand the number of those 29 who show up to these activities on a regular basis. I wonder what happened to the rest of them and what they are doing instead, and I miss seeing them.

Of course, no one can really know the thoughts and intents and certainly least of all the heart of another person. Everyone has their own demons to fight and their own difficulties to overcome. But once you've invited someone you thought was once a friend to participate in one, two, and soon it's 50 or more activities with you, and that person continues to fail to show up or respond, always claiming being busy or whatever, it makes you begin to wonder what that person is really doing with his/her life and makes you sad that you don't enjoy the friendship and trust you once did.

I try to give my friends, both old and new, the benefit of the doubt. I hope the people I may be referring to this post will prove me wrong and will reach out and make contact and let me know they are still alive and kicking once in a while. It's nice to know y'all are out there somewhere playing "Candy Crush," and I see your scores when you post them on Facebook, but it's definitely no substitute for good-old-fashioned, face-to-face human interaction.

Well, that's how I see it, anyway. Now, I'm off to watch a few hours' worth of late-night infomercials before retiring. 'Cause that's how I roll.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Do Something Funny!

Some friends of mine who know that I perform improv on the weekends get the wrong impression, I think, that I am or am supposed to be a walking, talking, 24/7 comedy machine, which is certainly not the case. Some others who actually attend Improvables performances might, on the other hand, wonder if I have ever succeeded in making someone else laugh. I certainly have more than my share of moments that fall flat.

But that's a post for another day.

Like all people, I have my mood swings and my ups and downs. And like many other males, I tend to compartmentalize according to the social situation.

At church, for example, as I am still relatively new to my ward, I tend to be somewhat more quiet and reserved, though I am more than happy to talk to people who initiate conversations with me. I am fortunate enough to belong to a ward in which there are many people who fit this description and who have gone out of their way to fellowship me, an over-30 single member who would have to sit in the outcasts' and lepers' section in some wards. These people are rather surprised when I tell them that I perform improv, as they don't see that side of my personality. I also have 9 a.m. church this year, and the fact that I am not at all morning person contributes to my acting this way.

Some friends and I were recently at the house of one of my friends who falls in the former category, apparently believing (for whatever reason) that I just need to show up and people will instantly begin to drop dead from laughter. After a while, she came over to me and said, "How come you're being so quiet tonight? Do something funny!"

In spite of all of my improv training, I was completely unprepared to "do something funny" on the spot upon this request.

Instead, I mumbled something about feeling tired and then asked if she could please indicate where the nearest bathroom. It seemed to be the perfect excuse to get out of an uncomfortable situation.

On my way down the hall, I tripped over my own shoelace and fell forward. The resultant loud thud and my scream caused a great deal of laughter from my friends back where I had left them.

Mission accomplished, I guess.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

That's a Deal Breaker!

What are your deal breakers?

It's a question that got me thinking a couple of nights ago when I watched the latest episode of one of my favorite TV shows, "Studio C," and saw the music video posted here.

A deal breaker, in this sense, then, is defined as "something that makes it impossible to continue dating someone else." At least, that's how I define it.

Some of the Angry White Loner's major deal breakers include:


 -Inability to be honest with me

 -Clinginess/high maintenance

 -Major baggage

 -Publicly or privately insulting or disparaging members of my family

 -Wanting anything less than a temple marriage, and/or supporting principles or causes that go directly against Church doctrine and teachings

 -Refusal to support my interests or hobbies (sometimes, this involves merely giving me time and/or space to pursue them rather than participating in them)

 -Voting Democrat

 -Cheering for the U. over BYU

 -Preferring cats over dogs

 -Preferring country music to "good" music

 -Not liking Star Wars

 -Not liking "Weird Al" Yankovic

Just kidding about those last six. Only partly.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

*Do* Be Ridiculous!

Lately, I have finally been "getting with the times" and have slowly been coming into the 21st century. That's right, folks! I have jumped onto the "Downton Abbey" bandwagon and have been watching episodes of everyone's favorite TV show.

Because, you know, you never know when "Downton" will come up in a conversation with the cool kids. And you've gotta be prepared for when that happens.

Okay, so, if you hang out with some of the same people I hang out with, you know that's not really a necessity. At any rate, I have found "Downton Abbey" to be a decent show, as long as it's not featuring storylines involving such silly things as Ouija boards.

In an episode I watched last night, I found a line uttered by Violet Crawley (Maggie Smith), who is basically the comic relief in almost every scene in which she appears, to be particularly insightful. Her granddaughter having been called "ridiculous" by a detractor, she replies, "Life is a game in which the player must appear ridiculous."

I like this comment because I feel that being ridiculous is one of the things I do best---or, at least, it is when I am most comfortable being me.

Appearing ridiculous is certainly an important part of performing improv, something that I have been doing semiprofessionally for the past nine years now. It is not uncommon for me to have a conversation with friends who, according to their reckoning of time, have literally not had one free night to come and see perform in a show during that nine-year period and who have no idea what an improv show is like. Also, these people tend to believe that I have just made up the word improv (which is funny, because improv is all about making up things on the spot!).

"I basically make a nincompoop out of myself on stage," I tell them. To tell the truth, that may very well be the most accurate way to describe an Improvables show. There's really no other way to explain what we do each week.

Indeed, one of the ground rules of comedy is making the ridiculous to seem normal and the normal to seem ridiculous.

Off stage, however, it is also comforting to have family members and good friends with whom I can feel comfortable by being my ridiculous self. In dating, I have found that I have enjoyed myself most when I have found others who can be their silly selves along with me.

At their house, my parents have a collection of home video tapes of my siblings and me acting silly in our younger years. Even though my initial attempts at both acting and filmmaking are a somewhat of a mixed bag as I look back on them today with some degree of embarrassment, there are many good memories associated with those movies, as well.

Don't ask me if you can watch them, though. They're just one accidental arson incident away from being destroyed and lost to the world forever.