With the beginning of each new year, I find myself inevitably tuned into American Idol. Every year, I ask only one thing of the show: human sacrifice night. So far, after watching AI for over a decade, the program has not met my viewing demands. Too bad. Offering up the sacrifice of a bad singer would be a ratings winning family pleaser. Oh, sure, sacrifice is a disgusting, inhumane notion. The fact is, I could be sacrificed for mediocrity. Still, I have a whole President Snow sort of vision of the nation being riveted to a more fierce style of Idol elimination. In my ultimate version of the once relevant singing competition contestants are made to walk up an active volcano, sing and then wait for the verdict on their performance. If they are deemed to have performed poorly, emcee Ryan Seacrest hits the singers in the kneecaps with his tiny microphone until they fall into the boiling lava.Such a simple, quality idea. Life, death and being pummeled by the dwarfish incarnation of Dick Clark until you fall into a pit of molten rock. Oh, and singing. Now that’s a show.
American Idol will never take me up on this idea, probably because the producers have some noble, sane idea of what constitutes moral television viewing. My answer to this is that if wrestling is fake, then reality television shows should be more real. If only TV shows could combine the great elements of Lost, Survivor, and a singing competition. Something involving Christina Aguilera in a loincloth fighting with tigers (while singing), a fiery volcano and Jeff Probst interviewing Nicki Minaj while she yammers about something only surgically enhanced automatons from North Jersey understand. Aw, I ain’t mad at TV. I just want more entertainment for my viewing time. That, and Ryan Seacrest pushing whiney singers into volcanos. And Muppets. I don’t ask for much.
I lift up my eyes to the mountains-where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth. –psalms 121:1-2
I’ve riffed on the subject of running and The Mad Monk Season many times, but the feeling is embedded so deep within my soul to get out and conquer the pavement that writing on it just seems like a natural extension. The Mad Monk Season is that time in running each summer when my focus narrows to life’s basics. Each day I give my all to family, especially my 9-year-old daughter Anna’s acting pursuits (she’s in a musical tonight. Go Anna!), to doing precedent setting work at my job and to meeting all of the strange and wonderful obligations that grown-up life has to offer. I make no bones during the summer training season, however, that my focus is honed in on three basic questions: How can I love God and give him everything each day while helping others be the best that they can be? How many games back are the Tigers? When can I go and run? There is no giving short shrift to anybody, just a paring of life down to the essentials. The idea is to lose weight spiritually and physically.
Today’s running music mix on my phone featured a completely great, but not really good for cadence song by Radiohead entitled “Subterranean Homesick Alien.” I didn’t hit fast-forward, because I love the line
Up above Aliens hover Making home movies For the folks back home,
Of all these weird creatures Who lock up their spirits, Drill holes in themselves And live for their secrets.
Do we? Sometimes, watching out for the cracks in the pavement, I do just let it all go and abandon myself to the gifts God has given me and to the joy of running itself. Sometimes, I’m only training to be human. A mad monk on no mission at all. The marathons will go fine when I get to them. (Lyrics from Radiohead’s “Subterranean Homesick Alien, 1997, OK Computer. Used without permission).
When I was a strapping, long-haired hippy boy of 25, I was pretty smug about the aging process. At that time, I worked with a muscle-bound gentleman who attributed his physique to dietary supplements. One night, he turned to me and mentioned that he was, in fact 51 years old. Prior to that I had no idea.
“You know what keeps me fit?” he asked, in a way that indicated he was also hawking supplements as a sideline. Before I could answer, he held up a canister of bee pollen and told me how much he put on his shredded wheat every day. I read the canister and managed a “Wow! Well you’re really well-preserved. Keep that up!” The guy rolled his eyes and muttered “Well preserved, my a**.” Life went on and I finally now get the inappropriateness of my response.
I started to go gray late last year and my Pauly Walnut hair wings are starting to sport a kind of nice, even pewter tint. The term I’ve always heard to describe the gray-haired man is “distinguished.” This might be true if one was Roger Sterling, rich and able to do…the things that fictional character Roger Sterling does. There are great perks to the arrival of the gray age and the change in my appearance. For instance, Cialis ads are starting to make sense. I’ve asked my wife if we can get a couple of claw foot bathtubs for the backyard. Those commercials are shot through the cracked lens of societal expectations, though. Cialis is built on the 55/35 myth. The ads feature a man of middle age with a much younger woman. Not that I care, because I just really wants some indoor style antique plumbing for sitting around outside in. The Viagra man is an even less realistic expectation for the aging male. Those ads don’t even feature women. What are we now, the Marlboro Man? We ride, we rope, we start fires with rocks. There is the idea of companionship at the end of each commercial, but the time before that is spent alone with animals and cars. This is what it means to be the distinguished man. We can start fires and then go home and…I don’t know. The commercials haven’t explained that part. I may be older, and supposedly distinguished, but the virility supplement and pharmaceutical industries need to really paint by numbers for me. Distinguished my a**.
I read recently that commenting on blogs is a good way to introduce people to your own writing. As a reclusive nut case, I mostly sneak around blogs I admire and retreat back to this particular whateveritis after reading them. If you’ve commented here, or followed, I’ve read your work and enjoyed it before going back into the cave of Mostly Teachable. There is a reason that I don’t comment much, and that reason is the fear of sounding like an argument I read today between two braniacs about whether Mr. T. is pro or anti-Nietzsche in his personal philosophy. Friedrich Nietzsche was a German philosopher who died in 1900 after battling drug addiction, mental illness and syphilis. What a joy he must have been at parties. “Let me get this straight, Fred. God is dead? Geez, you don’t look that good yourself.”
The argument over which side of the Nietzsche school Mr. T errs on is ludicrous. There’s a reason that a group of Hollywood character actors rode around in the A-Team van and not the great philosophers of the last three centuries. The reason is that the philosophers would have never made it out of the van. What a weird scene that would have been if NBC had made an action series in which Nietzsche, Kant, Camus, and Kierkegaard had formed a band of vigilantes who weekly were charged with bringing down banana republics. There’d have been thrilling arguments over the nature of existence and God, of science and reality. Not so much the throwing of hand grenades, but the dialogue would have been something else. Is is possible that Mr. T. is a great philosopher on his own terms? I saw him at Burger King once in Chicago, and he was an imposing figure, but very kind to his fans. That’s really all I ask out of my heroes. That, and an explanation of free will.
(Due to recent bouts of human sensitivity and empathy for the plight of mankind, Mostly Teachable was temporarily postponed. We now return you to our previously scheduled obnoxious, immature blog. Thanks.)
There are two places in the United States that I enjoy driving through for no reason other than the fact that I suffer from stunted brain development. The first is Emlenton, Pennsylvania. The Emelenton Truck Plaza boasts serving the world’s worst apple pie. Pretty much true, but I appreciate the fact that they’ve turned crappiness into a long running tourist gimmick. I plan to change the Mostly Teachable slogan to “World’s Worst Blog.” That would somehow imply that I care, though. My other favorite destination is Effingham, Illinois. No reason. I just really like spending the thirty miles of nothingness before and after the town shouting about effinham. Which brings me to the completely irrelevant, and yet satisfyingly…irrelevant subject of Spam.
I read an article yesterday by some esteemed culinary schmuck about the rebirth of Spam canned meat products as a result of the ongoing economic downturn. The author provided recipes by renowned chefs who’ve created solid entrée offerings using venerable old Spam products. My memories of Spam are vivid, but not entirely sepia-toned and fuzzy with warm feelings. There were no culinary offerings that came from Spam that made it a worthwhile product to continue consuming as an adult. Spam was best fried. It came with its own weird, gelatinous meat sauce and invariably curled up in the skillet, as if to die from meat shame. I enjoyed eating Spam, especially on winter nights when it was accompanied by pancakes. I put Spam into the same category as Patrick Swayze movies and Foreigner albums. Hot at the time, yet best enjoyed on the sly as years pass.
Spam will never be the economic savior rising from grocery shelves to put money back into our pockets. For starters, it’s not a reasonably priced product. A 12 oz. can currently retails for $2.48. My cursory glance at local grocery advertisements revealed chicken breast fillets at $1.87 a pound. Even after trimming as purchased fat/waste, the consumer still saves money on fresh meat. The other, less telling reason is that the calories in Spam are nearly all from fat (a 2 oz. portion is 180 calories, 140 of which are from fat.). Mmm…Crisco. I still live by the old Police line that
When the world is running down/make the best of what’s still around.
Why Spam is still around is beyond me. The economics of fear, or the misty, water colored memories America shares of childhoods spent eating effin ham, I suppose.
I live in a house full of women. To start with such a statement can only mean that this post is probably headed south in a hurry. Hmmm…let me start over. I dwell in a house filled with women I love. For the most part, I’ve loved the women that it has been my great fortune to share the world with. My house is made up of my wife, our ten-year old daughter and our dog. Each of them is going through various stages of the female experience. I can’t even imagine the experiences each of them is dealing with. The Jimi Hendrix Experience was mind-blowing enough for my absurdly male brain. Grace, the foul-mouthed beagle is probably the easiest to understand. She sleeps 18 hours a day and then wakes up for petting and to share her reverse doggy hiccups. I never thought it would be possible, but Grace the menopausal, stinky, hiccupping dog and myself have bonded. A man’s got to keep his friends close, even the narcoleptic, fuzzy ones. My daughter is becoming an adolescent. She’ll be a woman someday, but at the moment she’s living through one of the many difficult portions of emotional development. Oh, and the fact that she has my timing and pitched sarcasm doesn’t help.
I have a corner. A bank of electronic devices to hide behind with a comfy chair in between. If I sneak away from the land of giant, roaming emotions for too long and hide in the humming world of warm electronics, the women in my life start to seek me out.
What has happened to the man who used to live in our house? We have nobody to argue with but each other!
Eventually, I come out of the cave of solitary man and realize that the women in my life truly love and care for me when life gets twisted and spins in directions that don’t make sense. Not just the dog, either. They draw me out not just to get in the middle of biological turmoil, but to remind me that I have a great family. That I did all the right things at various times in life and have been blessed enough to live with two really awesome human beings. The dog is…sleeping. On second thought, that might be the relationship that needs work.
I recently suffered a midlife crisis and decided to become an accountant. This was no light decision. After wrestling with the questions that I suspect keep many middle-aged men up at night, I decided to throw my cozy, safe family life away and roll the dice on the seedy world of bookkeeping. The last few weeks before making the big leap were pure torture. There are big issues at stake. For starters, I wondered how I’d disrupt my routine of entering accounts payable data and dive headfirst into the unknown jungle of profit and loss statements, balance sheets and recurring fixed expenses. Sexy stuff.
During my line cooking days, one of the things that my fellow galley slaves and I would do for fun was to try and decide if certain restaurant patrons were overcompensating in their efforts to keep up with the effects of age. In other words, we stood out back on our breaks and laughed at male pattern haplessness. There was a sort of grudging acknowledgment given to the men who’d conquered time and circumstance. The guys who’d pull up in simple, classic sports cars accompanied by classically simple-minded women. We gave them the nod. No words were necessary. They’d earned silence. The men we disrespected loudly (and often) tended to show up in snazzy Miatas with their kids’ middle school algebra teachers in tow. I never really thought it was a graceful sign of having lived well to grow a greasy gray pony tail and engage in temporary relationships. This holds no appeal to me. No, I’ve felt the call of mathematics, the urge to go and calculate the hell out of something. The male inadequacy industry may tell me that I won’t be happy until I drive an over-sized pick-up truck and make stupid faces at women while drinking overpriced beer. So be it. I’ll have my fun between the spreadsheets.
The other night I attended a semi-mandatory outdoor meet and greet at my daughter’s elementary school. The trick is that in return for attending this event, each participant is given an ice cream bar and the chance to meet the child’s new teacher. These events are excruciating for me. While the ice cream social is always well executed and expertly put together, I find myself shuffling and stamping my feet. The kids in attendance have this kind of cool to them. They’ve met this year’s teacher, who is usually a rested looking woman full of the kind of energy that is reserved for amped up pageant contestants. The students themselves are a bit indifferent to the whole ordeal. They speak casually to each other, smile at their new teacher’s jokes and then inexplicably go and swing from tree branches. Within two weeks, they’ll be staring wistfully out the windows at those same branches and dreading the fact that they were yet again sucked in by the parade smiles of teaching professionals. During the social, though, the kids cling to a last bit of late summer casual and effortlessly mingle in a blase fashion while eating melted ice cream sandwiches in the schoolhouse courtyard.
As a parent, there is no cool, even from drippy Eskimo Pies. We have no casual attitude. Much of what we do is competitive parenting and semi-professional eye rolling. Mom’s and dad’s have a way of overdressing for these events. Yeah, I think the sequined halter tops and shirt/tie combos are neat, but unnecessary. I have no such desire to be a fancy dad. I can sort of manage to stand around and look like a schlub, before some ancient Miss America teacher slaps my wrist and tells me to stop picking my nose. We’ve spent every day since college looking out the door’s and windows of our workplaces wistfully for a tree to climb. Eventually, as often happens, my blissfully calm daughter will give me some ice cream, tell me to shut up and then smile beatifcally. Future teacher in the making, I suppose.
Over the past year, boxing’s former heavyweight champion Mike Tyson has repeated to reporters variations on a story involving his ex-wife Robin Givens and actor Brad Pitt. Apparently, he arrived home one day in 1988 to find Ms. Givens and the soon-to-be world-famous actor in bed together. Moment of pause here while I stop to ponder how Mr. Pitt lived through that situation and managed to stave off the wrath of Iron Mike. Tyson was, after all, the undisputed king of the ring at that time. If there exists a modern ten commandments, this would be right at the top of them:1.) Thou Shalt Not Sleep With Mrs. Mike Tyson. The fact that the boxing legend is still lisping out angry regrets over the affair signals that he is not completely over his grudge with Brad Pitt. I’d love to have a time machine and take some updated commandments back to Pitt and Givens in 1988 so that they’d have been warned about Mike Tyson and his penchant for holding a grudge for 24 years. This is (unfortunately) not possible, so Mr. Pitt will just have to keep looking over his shoulder for aging, face-tattooed boxers. I’ve thought of nine other commandments that rank right up there with staying out of Mrs. Tyson’s bed if you enjoy living:
2.)Thou shalt not appear in advertisements in which you demonstrate the self-lubricating pocket catheter. No matter how much money Satan and Liberty Medical offer you to do the commercials.
3.) Do not make false promises to move out of your parent’s basement while dressed as a Hobbit.
4.)Your team shalt not pay Alex Rodriguez to sit on the bench and pass notes to girls in the stands next season (unless your team is in the public school recreational league, where players are paid in gum).
5.)Thou shalt not marry any stars of Head of The Class ( except for Arvid, from whom all knowledge of good and evil came).
6.)Thou shalt (okay, I shalt) stop using Thou shalt which was lame at least five references ago. Also: stop referring to Head of The Class (because nobody remembers it).
7.) No person should take a time machine back to the 80’s. For starters, the 80’s were boring, and there are over-the-hill bloggers to fill you in on the details, anyway.
8.)Do not speak French to the servers at the International House of Pancakes. Use of multiple languages only makes them more determined microwave your waffles and bring you coffee made from scalding restroom water and gym socks.
9.)Drinking Molson does not make you a hockey player. Actually, these days neither does being signed by an NHL team. After a few Molson’s we could all be professional hockey players. Gotta go. I see a tattooed face in the shadows.
Each day I write my blog, but sometimes I forget about it. There are times when I need to be reminded that the writing is fun and can be taken away as easily it was started. Last night was an old school migraine night. One of those nights when I couldn’t possibly write a blog post. I couldn’t write a check to the Grim Reaper so that he’d take me away. At one point during the evening I got off of my face and out of the bed long enough to say something to my wife. She was watching American Idol, which apparently is a program about Nikki Minaj. The Minaj Mahol was telling some hapless singer about her waffle eating habits. Nikki wasn’t just drunk, she was f-unk. The migraine, along with AI, pierced my eyeballs and sent me back between tossing my own waffles and the bed.
Somewhere in the early hours of morning, long about two o’clock in the morning, I woke up with slightly less of a headache. The headache was momentarily kicking my butt rather than my head (although, they’re eerily similar). The first thing I thought about was writing this weird little blog. Then I fell back asleep. When I got up for the day, the thought of putting some electronic ink down was still with me, though. I kind of missed putting the blog together on a day when I couldn’t do it. Making up Mostly Teachable as I go along is cathartic. Writing the blog is a way of scribbling out the good and bad events of each day and making sense out of them. Sometimes the blog works, many times it doesn’t. Quality and quantity are beside the point. Writing is fun for me, because it’s a way of sorting out life. Nasty migraines, obnoxious reality singing show judges and the rest of life.
This is a response to Michelle W.'s Daily prompt question for 2/12/13 at The Daily post. In this podcast, I talk about how my blog came by it's name, how I became (Mostly) Teachable and the nature of the blog.
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This is an audio podcast response to Michelle W.’s Daily prompt question for 2/12/13 at The Daily post. In this podcast, I talk about how my blog came by it’s name, how I became (Mostly) Teachable and the nature of the blog. Below is a link to Michelle’s original piece:
The life of an aspiring writer is filled with webs of complex doubt. Questions arise throughout the process of committing cyber ink to pixellated page. My biggest question as a neophyte author is
Where will today’s inspiration come from? Do I have enough ideas in the tank to put together something enjoyable?
The thing that I do each day is let life act as its own source of inspiration. Each and every situation in life becomes material for this blog and the novel I’m working on. I keep scraps of paper within reach all of the time. Most of them would appear incomprehensible to anyone else. Papers filled with nonsense words, circled phrases unrelated to anything outside of my own mind. Most days there is a single word that relates to everything I’m writing. Today the word was inspiration. What kind of things inspire and fire my imagination? I wondered this throughout the day, as I have over the past few days. Many times, especially during the 15° days of January, inspiration seems in short supply. The rhetoric of shortsightedness fills the airwaves and it’s hard to find that one act of altruistic goodness that inspires and enlightens. Each day I live with good humor and optimism and look at life for things to write about. I live the long-sighted life. Writing is my aspiration today. A hobby, but one I can look forward to growing in for many years. Instant success has eluded me, but long-term bliss is captured and contained in my pocket as I walk along the road of life. Inspiration for writing is always a conversation away. One moment I have nothing to write about, and the next the events of the day have made me laugh until I can’t help but pour the words out onto paper. I may not have anything in the tank today, but I know that with enough faith and cheer the words will come naturally. They always do.