18Sep
foot_on_shovel_digging_backyard_620x350

The Existential Value of Digging Up Your Yard

I dug my yard up last night. Not for anything weird. Don’t be like that. It’s because the area around our deck is a mud pit and mud + kids / a door to the house nearby = not great things. So I’m trying to cover it with pavers. Whatever. Who cares. I didn’t mean for this to become Pinterest but with words.

As I dug out the section I was working on, not going to lie, I was pretty thrilled and happy with my progress. But I was also confused at this self-satisfaction. After all, I was literally just digging up dirt. I had a semi-retarded dog in college who did this on the regular and it’s not like anyone celebrated her for it.

And then I realized why I was so pleased with myself; because I could step back and be like, “I did that. There is evidence of my effort right there for THE WORLD to see.”

My life isn’t normally like that. My days consist of me writing in various forms for money and this is a dream come true in many ways because I get money for something I enjoy doing.

But as with everything, there’s a downside and it’s not just in the awkward conversations I have with strangers about qualifying to them what I do for a living.

“You what now?”

“I’m a writer. I write…things?”

“Like what? You write books?”

“I have written some books, yes.”

“Like what?”

“Nothing you’ve read. But my agent is pitching…”

“So how do you make money?”

“Well, see I get paid to…there’s lot of different things I do to…you know what? (gets out laptop) Let me show you my Google Drive Spreadsheet that breaks down my monthly income….”

My work day can tend to have a nebulousness to it. I get home and I don’t have any animals slung over my shoulder, nor do I have blisters on my hands or dirt on my shirt from all the WORK I’ve done all day. Sometimes I do get barbecue sauce on my shirt, but mostly, my back is a little stiff and my contact lenses are dried out. Hashtag Blue Collar.

Most of the projects I work on take months to come to fruition. This isn’t bad and please, save your tears for literally anyone or anything else. What I’m saying is that most of my workdays lack a sense of immediate value.

I suspect that this isn’t completely unlike most people. Our lives are filled with things that are mostly Sisyphean: work, marriage, faith, parenting, etc. We do them largely out of some sense of institutional obligation and for the most part, there is no point of discernible reward in sight with any of them.

What this has all made me realize is that everything has another side to it. There is no holy grail, no zero calorie donut, and no point of abject perfection that dovetails with simplicity. Everything is layered. Upsides and downsides abound.

This is not a lament about the universe, rather  a realization of it. There’s a certain freedom in learning to recognize and understand the reality of things and this is one of them: the point at which I stop pining for sublime contentedness will be when I’m closest to it.

In this sense, I suppose that contentedness is all perspective. And I suppose further that sometimes, getting there is as simple as digging up your backyard.

16Sep
thisiswhereileaveyou

Movie Trailer Tuesday: This Is Where I Leave You

It’s a rule. If you read the book and the book is made into a movie, everything is great. The sun is brighter, your pillow is softer and brownies taste more brownier. Why? Because even if you read it after you knew it was going to be a movie, seeing something you’ve read as a movie is some kind of subconscious affirmation. But also, because it’s just generally lovely to see a visual interpretation of something that existed solely in your head.

This is why I’m pretty psyched to see This Is Where I Leave You based on the book by Jonathan Tropper.

It’s been one of my favorite books of the year and the cast is pretty much on point so what could go wrong, right?

HOPEFUL: Tina Fey. I just like her. I just like everything she does be it hosting award shows or American Express commercials. She’s got the rubber stamp from me in all things. Did I see Admission? Yeah. Was it not great? Yeah, it wasn’t very good at all. But hey, that’s fine. The woman gave us Jack Donaghy and by extension this so she gets a little rope.
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12Sep
seven

7 Things I Think 9.12.14

1. I think Glenn from The Walking Dead doesn’t make it out of this season alive. (Bonus: I think I love Andrew Lincoln’s attempt at a southern accent.)

2. I think I don’t know whether to pity or admire these dads at a One Direction concert. Regardless, these pictures capture the cow-eyed dad look that I feel destined to have one day with my girls.

3. I think that if you aren’t making John Oliver’s Last Week Tonight a weekly watch, you are missing out. This week, he took on Student Debt.

4. I think this read is English major porn and a big thinks to my friend Jacey from The Balanced Wife for passing it along to me. It talks about TV, culture, adulthood and all kids of other things that are pretty much completely up my alley.

5. I think I didn’t know that the demand for a Christian Mingle movie existed.

 

6. I think my friends Bryan and Tyler just released a product that could change the nature of how you travel if you like traveling on airplanes for free.

If you are good with money and paying off credit card bills, these guys can help you capitalize on points programs. On a smaller level, I’ve done with they are talking about and it allowed me to fly my family of (then) four to Disney World last December for less than $50.

7. I think I’m legit worried that this will not only not be Silver Linings Playbook 2, but it will also not be good. Like, at all.

11Sep
football

How To Not Be The Worst At Watching Football

So it’s football season. How do I know? Because white women are beginning to post their PSLs on instagram and social media, in general, is more insufferable than usual as people assign tangible value to what teams they root for and how these teams fare.

In other words, it’s the most wonderful time of the year.

Because of this infusion of good feelings and hope, people get the bright idea to not just watch football, but to watch it with others. On paper, this sounds super great.

“We can invite our FRIENDS. There will be FOOD. It will be loud but in a GOOD WAY that makes us think that we are a part of a larger collective.”

But this mindset belies the true nature of what it is to gather many humans together in a small place.

Watching football in a group setting is like being on Survivor. I mean honestly, everything in a group setting is like Survivor isn’t it? Except maybe Survivor itself because in that context, Survivor is really more like Lord of the Flies, but instead of kids, it’s adults and instead of adults intervening at the end, it’s a studio audience and Jeff Probst and wow, not going to lie, this analogy really got away from me in a pretty huge way.

The point is, there are roles and you have to understand your role. Are you the Alpha fan who takes up all the space both physically and emotionally? Great. We love that you still wear football jerseys as an adult human man and you should totally never ever question that decision.

Are you the provider and you bring all the awesome snacks and drinks? Great. Then you are the best, although spinach dip? We’re watching football, not doing pilates. Less spinach, more cheese.

Are you super hot and no one cares what you do because your presence just makes things seem more hopeful in an ultimately shallow way? Great. Do this as much as you can because soon you will have to use your words.

Are you insightful and analytical and bring an intellectual component to the table? Great. But remember, if you find yourself talking about your fantasy team, you’re obligated to leave. Forever.

Are you hilarious and make perfectly timed jokes that don’t undercut the action? Great, but honestly, its better to leave them wanting more than to make 3 too many jokes about Taco Bell. Trust me on this.

If you aren’t one of these roles, chances are that you are one of those people on Survivor who get voted off having had 48 total seconds of camera time. But you know what? Who cares? Those people are people too.

As such, I wanted to lay out some strategies for you to blend in and make the most of your ill-advised decision to go watch something you inherently do not understand.

+ Know who has the conch.

Extending the disastrous Lord of the Flies analogy from earlier, you have to understand the room. By and large, most football viewing groups have a consensus team that is being rooted for. In the rare event that this is not clear, default to who is hosting the party. There’s no great reason to ride or die for the team opposing the consensus team or the host’s team because all it does is make you look like a Douche-Casserole.

Moreover, being the lone dissenter does two things:

A) Causes your presence to annoy everyone else

B) You will become a monument to their frustration or antagonism. Neither is a great look so just don’t do it.

+ Be the Anti-Ricky Perry.

The best strategy is to treat yourself like an intellectually lacking political candidate, so give yourself vetted and rehearsed talking points…

“Man, that offensive line is pretty thick in the britches across the board, am I right?”

…and parrot complicated concepts in a simple, relatable way that cannot be challenged.

“That zone blitz is really keeping their offense off-balance today.”

If challenged on one of your statements, either repeat it in a different way…

“I just mean that you can tell how off-balance their offense is because of the zone blitz.”

…or divert attention…

“Who brought the spinach dip? What is this, Whole Foods? And it looks like it sat under a prison shower drain for two weeks. BRB guys, I’m going to get to the bottom of this.”

+ Ask a question or state a statement.  

There’s no time for nuance. Ask a question and people are happy to help.

“That stupid looking guy on the sideline is Peyton Manning’s younger, more incompetent brother, right?”

Or make a worthwhile statement that contributes to the running commentary.

“Wow, that linebacker is blitzing like a real Streisand today” or “Peyton Manning’s head looks like something Krang would design to put himself into.”

The atmosphere around a football game is like a river and the best way to blend in is to never do anything that dams up the flow.

+ If asking a question, know when to ask what question.

If it’s a quick, informationally-seeking question, sure, fire that off during the game.

“Have we thrown it deep yet?”

But for the bigger, existential questions like…

“What’s Nick Saban’s deal?”

or

“Does Tom Brady represent the new Enlightened Masculinity because he promotes the Ugg brand and celebrates his wife’s greater earning potential? Or is his declining performance indicative of an internal and existential struggle to maintain happiness in the face of these realities?”

…save those for halftime, commercial breaks or never ever. Speaking of never, ever…

+ No one on the football field wears “outfits”. 

Referring to anything the players are wearing as outfits will betray your ignorance. Similarly…

+ Don’t ever say fair or unfair. 

Saying something is fair or unfair is just a fundamental misunderstanding of how football works. This is football not a PTA meeting.

Is it fair that winning the Big 10 conference for Ohio State is like winning a Hunger Games involving Katniss and a contingent of Special Olympics athletes? No, friend, it is not. But that’s football. Watch it, celebrate it and may the odds be ever in your favor.

Got any other tips? Lets hear em in the comments…

10Sep
tom cruise

The Popcast Episode 56: Pop Culture What Ifs

In this week’s episode of The Popcast, Jamie and I dive deep into the alternate universes of pop culture where we discuss:

– What if John Travolta never accepted the sweet embrace of Scientology?

– What if Britney had never cheated on Justin?

– What if Oprah had never provoked Tom Cruise to outburst?

– What if John Hughes and Molly Ringwald had never had a falling out?

– What if OJ Simpson never became a murderer?

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9Sep
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Movie Trailer Tuesday: The Drop

I owe a debt of gratitude to James Gandolfini. Watching him as Tony Soprano kind of sent me into a personal tailspin as I tried to find other shows and characters who were as vivid and compelling as he was. As such, I was pretty much ride or die for anything he did after Sopranos so I’m sad that after his death, we’re coming to the end of his projects.

This truth, combined with how movies with hints of organized crime elements in them are basically my catnip, means that I’m definitely seeing The Drop. The question though is, will this be something I do as a monument of appreciation or because it’s just a good movie? Let’s break the trailer down and find out…

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5Sep
seven

7 Things I Think 9.5.14

1. I think my good friend Amanda wrote this post on Buzzfeed and that you should read it and be better for it.

2. I think I’ll never ever ever get tired of people reading mean tweets about themselves. Never.

3. I think I just don’t get GE’s “The Boy that Beeps” commercial.  I want to though. A for effort and everything, you guys, but just give me a little something else.

I watched it and felt like I’d just seen a PT Anderson movie, which is great I guess if you are film auteur or whatever, but these are the commercial streets, son. Ain’t no body got time for nuance and layers. Just give me Flo from Progressive and tell me what to do.

I like to think about what Jack Donaghy would say if this commercial had happened on his watch with GE.

dongahy

4. I think that this post from Nish Weiseth about depression…just whoa. I know she wrote it a few weeks ago, but go read it right now as it is violently impactful in both its beautiful simplicity and profound clarity. And if you’ve already read it? Read it again.

5. I think that we’ve been working on these over the past few months and they launch next week. We’re really hoping they don’t suck.

6. I think this is a real thing that seemed like a good idea. (thanks to Laura McClellan)
Screen Shot 2014-09-04 at 11.58.29 PM

7. I think that apparently good ideas are really, really hard.
saving christmas

2Sep
skeleton

Movie Trailer Tuesday: The Skeleton Twins

I have the softest of soft spots for ex-SNLers. Have I seen MacGruber? Yeah, I guess I have. But do I have any regrets? Not one, my friend. Not one.

So you can imagine how I felt when I saw the trailer for The Skeleton Twins starring not one but TWO former SNLers. And it’s two good ones too as in not Horatio Sanz or Rachel Dratch (no offense Dratch and Sanz).

(SIDEBAR: Doesn’t “Dratch and Sanz” feel like a show? If we have Rizzoli and Isles and that’s meant to be a serious show ((I think. I’ve never actually seen it)) couldn’t we have Dratch and Sanz too and it be not serious? Like they are employees of the local pound and instead of them being bad guys hunting down innocent animals, they are actually the good guys hunting down a**hole animals that have been messing with people? You wouldn’t watch that? Ok, I probably wouldn’t either.)

Regardless, after watching the trailer, these are my feelings…

HOPEFUL: C’mon. Wasn’t Hader destined to play a gay character? This character feels like Stefon but in a strait jacket and that’s not a bad thing because what would even happen with 90 minutes of this:

HOPEFUL: And Ty Burrell! Weirdly, I totally buy him as a gay character. Also, I’m excited to see what he’s like outside the Modern Family universe. Is it more that he exists BECAUSE of Modern Family or does Modern Family exist more because of him?

NOT HOPEFUL: Did they get the right Wilson brother? Probably. Did they get the right person for this role? I don’t know.

I have no beef with Luke Wilson, you guys. I loved his work in the Royal Tenenbaums and he has a lifetime pass from me for Old School. THAT BEING SAID, I’m just not 1000% that he’s great here.

What would Eric Bana look like here? Or are they going for the thing where there’s so much happening between Hader and Wiig that they need the Luke Wilson character to just be there and not creep for your attention?

Come to think of it, is Luke Wilson the perfect complement when including kinetic, comedic types? It’s almost like he needs to exist in a world where something else (Wes Anderson films / setpieces) or someone else (Vince Vaughn / Will Ferrell) is doing all the heavy lifting.

HOPEFUL: the power of understatement. The common denominator with all the casting, seemingly, is that this is a film trading on understatement. Everyone is turned way down and we get to see what happens when Gilly, Stefon and Phil are told to go to their corners. And I love that.

Some of the Robin Williams stuff that was dredged up in the wake of his death reminded me of some of the nuanced genius he was capable of when asked. The problem with brilliant, over-the-top comedic actors is that there is a tendency to defer to that over-the-topness because it’s a known, accepted quantity. But ultimately, leaning on that too much is limiting. So I appreciate the potential of what is possible more than I want what has already made me laugh.

NOT HOPEFUL: The problem with understatement though is that it puts more emphasis on subtleties. Are we sure Wiig and Hader can do that? Wiig probably, but is there evidence that Hader can not get blown off the screen when he isn’t doing a bit?

HOPEFUL: But that lip-sync of Nothing’s Going To Stop Us Now though.

 

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