31 Things About Jack Bauer – Plus Six Bonus Things!

I’m holed up in Vernal, Utah, which is just as exciting as it sounds. As I travel, it becomes difficult to write a full-on blog entry, but I wanted to share a goofy list of Jack Bauer facts that I found online, because they make me laugh. After the crapfest that was Season 6, I was done with 24, but they waited long enough before starting Season 7 that the idea feels fresh again, and shifting the locale from LA to DC has done wonders for revitalizing the whole thing. Maybe it’s because, having grown up in LA, I know you can’t get from downtown to Valencia in a single commercial break.

Anyway, these are the kind of goofy spam statements you find in e-mail chains, but if you’ve watched 24, they’ll be good or a chuckle or two. I found this list here, if you want to check the original source. (I think he found it somewhere else, though, so I’m not sure what the copyright issues might be. But I’ll let him take the heat.)

Anyway, here it is:

1. If Jack Bauer was in a room with Hitler, Stalin, and Nina Meyers, and he had a gun with 2 bullets, he’d shoot Nina twice.

2. Jack Bauer is the ‘i’ in team.

3. If everyone on “24” followed Jack Bauer’s instructions, it would be called “12”.

4. Nobody says ‘hit me’ when Jack Bauer deals Blackjack.

5. Upon hearing that he was played by Kiefer Sutherland, Jack Bauer killed Sutherland. Jack Bauer gets played by no man.

6. If you wake up in the morning, it’s because Jack Bauer spared your life.

7. Jack Bauer once forgot where he put his keys. He then spent the next half-hour torturing himself until he gave up the location of the keys.

8. Jack Bauer’s calender goes from March 31st to April 2nd. No one fools Jack Bauer.

9. Superman wears Jack Bauer pajamas.

10. It’s no use crying over spilt milk … unless that was Jack Bauer’s milk. Oh, you are so screwed.

11. When life gave Jack Bauer lemons, he used them to kill terrorists. Jack Bauer hates lemonade.

12. Let’s get one thing straight – the only reason you are conscious right now is because Jack Bauer does not feel like carrying you.

13. Jack Bauer once won a game of Connect 4 in 3 moves.

14. Jack Bauer is the leading cause of death in Middle Eastern men.

15. On a high school math test, Jack Bauer put down “Violence” as every one of the answers. He got an A+ on the test because Jack Bauer solves all his problems with violence.

16. If you’re holding a gun to Jack Bauer’s head, don’t count to three before you shoot. Count to ten. That way, you get to live seven seconds longer.

17. Every mathematical inequality officially ends with “< Jack Bauer".

18. When Jack Bauer was a child, he made his mother finish his vegetables.

19. Simon Says should be renamed to Jack Bauer Says because if Jack Bauer says something, then you better do it.

20. Jack Bauer’s favorite color is severe terror alert red. His second favorite color is violet, but just because it sounds like violent.

21. When you open a can of whoop-ass, Jack Bauer jumps out.

22. Jack Bauer arm once wrestled Superman. The stipulations were the loser had to wear his underwear on the outside of his pants.

23. Finding Nemo would have been vastly more exciting had Jack Bauer been looking for him.

24. Jack Bauer can get McDonald’s breakfast after 10:30.

25. When the boogie man goes to sleep, he checks his closet for Jack Bauer.

26. There are no such thing as lesbians, just women who have never met Jack Bauer.

27. You can lead a horse to water. Jack Bauer can make him drink.

28. When Jack Bauer goes to the airport and the metal detector doesn’t go off, security gives him a gun.

29. In kindergarten, Jack Bauer killed a terrorist for Show and Tell.

30. There are three leading causes of death among terrorists. They are all Jack Bauer.

31. There is the right way, the wrong way, and the Jack Bauer way. It’s basically the right way, but faster with more deaths.

25 Things About Me – Plus Two Bonus Things!

There’s this weird dealie going around on Facebook where if you’re tagged by your friends “you are supposed to write a note with 25 random things, facts, habits, or goals about you.” So I wrote it, and, not wanting to waste it just on Facebook folks, I though I’d share it with the public at large. However, since many of you who read this blog have already read the same note on Facebook, I thought I’d add a couple of interesting things to it. Or, at least, a couple of things. Whether they’re interesting or not is up to you.

Plus most of this crap I’ve covered in the blog already anyway.
___

1. I won the district wide spelling bee for the Las Virgenes School District in seventh grade. Bad spelling drives me up a wall.

2. When I was three years old, I took a dump in Howard Hughes’ swimming pool in Florida. We were staying there because my dad was working for him, and my brother told me if you pee in a pool, the chlorine makes it disappear. I figured if it worked for number one, it would work for number two, but no such luck.

3. I’m fifteen inches taller than my wife. (And ten months younger.)

4. I’ve found that bungee jumping is the only thing in life where the anticipation is not nearly as bad as the actual experience.

5. I think the word “moist” is funny for reasons that defy explanation.

6. I have no sideburns. I can grow a beard, but it doesn’t connect above my ear. So I usually stick to a goatee.

7. I used to be able to belch the entire alphabet in one belch. Those days are done.

8. I can stick my whole fist in my mouth. That’s even more remarkable when you realize that I have very large hands. And large feet. (That’s as far as I’m going with this.)

9. I have a British driver’s license that doesn’t expire until the year 2038.

10. There is a 44-year-old Navy veteran named Andrew Fullen in Chicago who thinks I am Glen A. Larson, the creator of Manimal, Magnum P.I., and Battlestar Galactica. This man hates me with the white-hot intensity of a thousand suns. I have never met him.

11. I once made Maximillian Schell say the words “wazoo city, babe.”

12. I think a messy trumpet is always funny.

13. About ten years ago, my then-two-year-old daughter once almost ripped the pearls off of Barbara Bush’s neck.

14. As a little kid, I got Jaclyn Smith’s autograph on the set of Charlie’s Angels. I also saw the original model for the Battlestar Galactica, despite not being Glen A. Larson, the show’s creator.

15. I’ve only walked out of one movie in my entire life – Adam Sandler’s “You Don’t Mess With The Zohan.”

16. I grew up in a household filled with incontinent dogs.

17. I once saw Jamie Farr in a supermarket. He was looking at soup cans.

18. For about four years running, I had the high score on Indiana Jones Pinball at the Jackson Hole Arcade. For all I know, I still have it, but it’s been over a decade since I’ve been back to check.

19. I played right field for a long stream of little league T-ball and baseball teams. One coach told me it was because I “had a strong arm.” Yeah, right.

20. I think the Boy Scouts of America is a terrorist organization.

21. If I were on death row, my last meal would be barbecued crab legs from Joe’s Crab Shack.

22. I have been fired four times in my life, but only lost my job twice as a result. Go figure.

23. My first girlfriend ever is now a bisexual polygamist.

24. I once wrote an anonymous love poem to a sheep that got published in a university anthology.

25. I’m not a “huggy” person. Or a “kissy” person. Not that I don’t like hugs and kisses, mind you; I just prefer them in the proper context.

AND NOW, FOR YOUR EXTRA BLOG BONUS…

26. I learned how to play the tin whistle for while walking through Thurso, Scotland for weeks while my car was in the shop. I’m actually pretty good at it.

27. I once walked around the Paramount lot with nothing more than a clipboard and a pencil and gained entry to the sets of Star Trek: The Next Generation and Cheers. You can go anywhere if you look like you know what you’re doing.

GINO can’t end soon enough

I’m watching the rest of the Galactica In Name Only Series out of a perverse sense of duty, and it just keeps getting worse. If you don’t know anything about this series, allow me to elaborate. 

The Cylons were created by man. They rebelled. They evolved. And they have a plan.

Part of the plan involves pushing back the date of their creation by several thousand years. See, when they were created by man, they were clunky and inelegant, like walking toasters. But BEFORE they were created by man, and long before they evolved, they were people, and they started their own colony millions of light years away on a planet called Earth, where they created their own centurions that look a lot like Tom DeSanto’s designs. There they ate fresh fruit and played sweet Dylan tunes and wore power suits before blowing themselves up and forgetting who they were. Then they conveniently show up jillions of miles away in the Colonies and, when things get rough on a Cylon-occupied Iraqi planet, the Original Cylons kill as many New Cylons as possible, but not before one of them kills another one after getting his eye ripped out with an ice cream scoop. The one-eyed Cylon hates Cylons most of all, which is why he boinks a model that is WAY hotter than he is and gets her pregnant, even though Cylons can’t get pregnant unless, of course, they’re in love, which is the same lie millions of high school boys have used on their naïve and in-love girlfriends, only with Cylons, it’s true, unless you’re a one-eyed Cylon hater that’s essentially raping the Hot Blonde Cylon but fantasizing that she’s the Cylon wife you murdered, only in your fantasies, she’s wearing a bad wig that makes her look like a three-dollar, 50-year-old hooker. Anyway, the Hot Blonde Cylon is now holding hands with the One-Eyed Cylon and making googly eyes (three eyes in all) at the ultrasound pics, which ticks off the one-legged gay non-Cylon who only likes chicks if they’re Cylons, but you wouldn’t know that unless you’ve seen the webisodes. One-Eyed Cylon is the number two guy among the Non-Cylons, too, but he’s all mad when another Original Cylon starts making demands that the New Cylons be full citizens in the fleet, even though this Original Cylon is not living with the New Cylons and is too busy worrying about being cuckolded by a guy named Hot Dog, which is probably the only part of this long and convoluted paragraph that makes a lick of sense if you really think about it.

All this, of course, is irrelevant to what the writers are really interested in, which is custody disputes, middle-aged lovin’ with Talosian chicks, political haggling, and universal healthcare.

Gaaaargh.

I know I don’t come across as a big fan of this series, so stating that I’m disappointed with where this show is going carries absolutely no weight at all. But I can’t imagine that anyone who’s been admiring the Emperor’s New Clothes for the past four and a half seasons can be pleased with the direction Moore is taking his little opus for the last ten episodes.

You know all those questions you have? Well, Moore has decided to answer all the questions you don’t have first. Maybe he’ll give cursory answers to the interesting questions, but since he doesn’t have any real answers to those, he’s going to focus on the crap that interests him, not the crap that interests you. So the fact that there’s essentially no difference between Cylons and humans will have to wait while we hear Doc Cottle explain patient/ doctor confidentiality as an inconvenient plot twist is retconned away. We watch Adama pick out his suits for about ten minutes; we hear about Roslin’s euphoric withdrawal from cancer meds, and we listen to Kara as she calls Gaeta a gimp, but fortunately, she respects his lifestyle choices, because she’s a closet lesbian herself, I mean, come on, who are we kidding here?

Then there’s the plot which threatens to comprise the remainder of this series, which is yet another tiresome political machination from Tom Zarek, so we get a council that’s agog and a ridiculously bloated press corps barking questions about everything. None of their questions are answered satisfactorily, either, so Moore is nothing if not consistently inconsistent.

This show is out of steam, folks. It’s floundering. It’s farting in the wind. Pick your metaphor; there’s nothing to see here. In the last few moments of the episode, Adama speaks for everyone when he asks his date from the Wonderful Flight to the Mushroom Planet if she cares about anything that’s just happened in the past hour.

“No,” she answers.

Adama laughs. “Neither do I.”

Got news for you, Eddie. Neither does anybody else.

Not Ready to Make Nice

I finally put my finger on what was bugging me about the inauguration when I read this article, which perfectly summarizes my feelings about today’s political landscape.

If you’re too lazy to read the article, let me summarize. The guy is commenting on the following video, which I provide here for your educational purposes only. You don’t have to watch it if you don’t want to. In fact, I wouldn’t recommend it. I haven’t been able to sit through the whole thing.

The article’s point, and my point, is where was any of this kind of togetherness and love and unity at either Bush inauguration? In 2000, Ricky Martin agreed to sing at an inaugural party and was excoriated by Hollywood for recognizing Bush as a legitimate president. (“He will never be my president,” said Julia Roberts at the time, speaking for legions of Hollywood imbeciles.) You can chalk a lot of that up to the wounds of the Florida recount, I suppose, but I don’t recall any coming together in 2004, either. Bush won the second term of his presidency by a solid, unassailable majority vote, leading Keith Olbermann to lead the charge that he’d stolen the election in Ohio.

Bush, from the outset, was presumed to be a thief, a liar, and a thug, despite the fact that he has been perhaps the most gracious president to his political opposition that our nation has ever seen.

Case in point: Anyone else remember how Bush was dumping arsenic in our water?

He wasn’t, of course, but on his way out, a churlish Bill Clinton issued an executive order lowering the threshold of arsenic in the water supply from ten parts per billion to five parts per billion. The ten-parts standard had been in place for sixty years, including through all eight years of Clinton. It was entirely safe – nobody in the country was dying of arsenic poisoning by drinking tap water. Yet when Bush balked at implementing the new rule due to the massive expense, much of which would be shouldered by small, rural localities, everyone went nuts.

Suddenly, Bush was “poisoning the water supply.”

The Democrats ran ads with little girls holding a glass up to a camera and asking “”May I have more arsenic in my water, Mommy?” Celebrities used the arsenic nonsense to besmirch a president who was too damned decent to fight back. Bush too often was more interested in being accommodating than right, so he relented and applied the standard at considerable cost. It earned him nothing. They hated him then, and they still hate him today.

Bush was constantly apologizing for things he did right, and still he got slapped down and ridiculed by the Legion of Cool People. Remember those famous “sixteen words” in his State of the Union Address that had everyone apoplectic? Here they are again: “The British Government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa.”

There is nothing in that statement that isn’t 100% accurate. But when pathological liar Joe Wilson wrote an op-ed in the New York Times that sort of contradicted this – I say “sort of,” because all Wilson could say was that HE didn’t find any prospective uranium sale in Niger, not that the British Government didn’t, which is what Bush had said in the first place – suddenly Bush was branded a liar who misled us into war, then and forever. This is where “Bush lied; kids died” was born, which the Hollywood crowd still chants in their sleep.

And how did George Bush fight back? He friggin’ apologized.

This became a pattern throughout the Bush presidency. When Bush fired eight U.S. attorneys, it was a huge scandal, despite the fact that U.S. attorneys are political appointments and can be fired for the color of their hair if the president feels like it. Clinton fired ALL OF THEM practically on his first day, and there was nary a peep. But what did Bush do? Apologized again, and then threw his Attorney General to the wolves. And it did nothing to placate his critics, who were already branding him a war criminal.

So here we are in 2009, and now we have all the same Cool People who kicked Bush when he was up and kicked him when he was down and always refused to acknowledge any decency in their political opponents, now they’re badgering people like me to “come together” in “unity” and “give this president a chance.” Watching the news reports, you’d think Barack Obama was elected by unanimous acclaim, not by just 2% more of the popular vote than Bush got in 2004.

Well, guess what. This country has big problems, and if Barack Obama can solve them, then I’ll support him with everything I’ve got. He is my president, and, what’s more, he seems like a decent man. I’m going to give him the chance that none of these same people were willing to give to Bush. But I’ll be damned if I’m going to play kissy face with everyone who called Bush and his supporters – including me – hatemongers and war criminals and bigots and everything else. They are the agents of divisiveness. They have ripped this country apart over and over again, despite Bush’s wasted attempts at courtesy and mutual respect. Now, when they have all the marbles, they want us to make nice. Well, to quote the reprehensible Dixie Chicks, I’m not ready to make nice. I’m not sure if I ever will be.

I conclude with the last two paragraphs of the article that spurred this diatribe, which sum up my feelings better than anything else could:

Remember this video: It is an instructive relic of the era of celebrity decadence and boutique anti-Republican activism under President Bush. It is a sickening display that they want fast and easy absolution for having comported themselves like ill-behaved children for eight difficult and war-torn years.

Good luck, President Obama. The rest of you can go to hell.

Inauguration and the Draper Temple

We have a new president. I don’t have a lot to say about it. His speech was workmanlike; the poem was strange and unnecessary; the closing prayer was racially divisive tripe. “When the Red Man can get ahead, man?” What the hell is that?

I spent all day yesterday as far removed from politics as possible. I was a volunteer for the Draper Temple Open House, which allows visitors to wander through one of the Latter-day Saint temples before it’s dedicated and then closed to the public. Plenty of people wander what the heck we Mormons do in there, and this is their chance to see firsthand that there are no dead goats, volcano virgins or cauldrons/broomsticks/pentagrams. The Draper Temple is elegant and beautiful, and over 15,000 people per day are taking advantage of this opportunity to go inside.

My first assignment was to herd people into buses from remote parking lots and then read a script about the temple over the PA system as they made the six-minute drive to the temple itself. As one of the guys got off the bus, they asked me if that was a recording. No, sir, it was not. It was me, with my professional recording-sounding voice. As far as volunteer tour guides go, there are few more mellifluous than I.

The afternoon, however, was far less fun. I was assigned as the “Temple Rover,” which means it was my job to roam through the temple and make sure everything was “secure.” Except that if anything were to actually happen, I was supposed to radio for help and then run screaming like a little girl. I had the best job of all the security folks. Mrs. Cornell was “Temple Three,” which means she sat in a room off the main drag and waited for any calls for help.

For. Three. Hours.

She was so bored that she demanded I go to the parking lot and smuggle a book into her. (She could have sat and read scriptures, but three hours is a long time.) I let her roam around a little bit in my stead, but the temple is pretty small, overall, and the wandering only takes about ten minutes. I

We had three incidents on our watch.

The last was the most eventful. A pregnant woman fainted right outside the Celestial Room, and we had to go get her some water.

The first was the least eventful. One of the plastic mats on the carpet had bunched up when a wheelchair rolled over it. The ushers called security, so my wife and I unbunched the mat.

The middle one, however, was the most exciting. One of the parents dropped a binky into the bottom of the Baptistry, down by the sculptures of the Twelve Oxen. There’s no public access to that area, which required us to call the Temple Engineer, who seemed slightly displeased to be called into action to rescue a vagrant binky. The Binky Incident, however, will go down in history as my most triumphant success as a Temple Rover.

As I write this, a television is following Barack’s slow drive through DC after the inaugural. I cannot remember anything in either Bush term approaching this level of excitement. Obama is going to be a disappointment to just about everyone, only because God Himself couldn’t live up to this kind of hype.

The End of Bush

I just read PJG’s Facebook status, which says that PJG is “starting the mental countdown until our national nightmare finally ends!” I presume he means the departure of one George W. Bush, but he may be talking about the return of Battlestar Galactica tonight. I doubt it, though. He’s in line with Robert Redford, who, at the outset of this year’s Sundance Film Festival, opened his remarks by saying the following:

“Nerves. Anxiety. Worry. Pain. Panic. Fear. I’m not talking about the Festival; I’m talking about what’s going to be exiting the national scene on Tuesday.”

And then there’s today’s Doonesbury:


Everyone hates him except for me.

Bush is going into exile, almost as much as Nixon did, and, unlike when Clinton refused to cede the spotlight when his successor took office, I’m betting we don’t hear a lot from or about Bush for a good long time once he’s gone. I’m not sure how much of that will be voluntary.

As for me, a guy who proudly voted for the guy twice and would have voted for him again if he’d been on the ballot this last time around, I think Bush’s positives outweigh his negatives, which is hard to do, as his negatives are massive. He has actively presided over the most aggressive expansion of government in the history of the republic, and he’s done so cheerfully and “compassionately.” Bush is, in my estimation, single-handedly responsible for the collapse of the Republican Party, and, more significantly, the entire conservative movement.

Contrary to what his legion of mainstream critics maintain, Bush was the exact opposite of a hardened conservative ideologue. He lurched left on entitlements and education and immigration whenever the mood suited him, with no core political principles to tether him to something greater than himself. So his party followed him and collapsed in the process. It’s going to take years, maybe decades, for the GOP to claw its way back to relevancy again, and that is unmistakably George Bush’s fault.

So how on earth could I find enough positives in the Bush presidency to outweigh all of that?

Well, I should note that the judiciary, notably the Supreme Court, is now filled with people who believe that legislatures should make the laws, not unelected judges. John Roberts and Samuel Alito are perhaps the most lasting tangible elements of Bush’s legacy, and they may be enough to keep the courts from jumping off into the abyss.

But that’s not enough to outweigh the damage Bush has done to his party and his ideology. No, the real Bush legacy is that we now live in a much safer, more stable world.

You don’t believe that? You think Bush lied, kids died? That we’re now loathed by everyone and the world hates us and if only we’d have been nice, life would be so much better?

That’s a load of crap.

Move beyond the slogans and imagine what would have happened, for instance, if Bush had backed down in Iraq when the UN told him to. What kind of world would be living in now, where Saddam Hussein knew that nothing he could do would provoke the nations of the world to action? You think we’d have gone seven and a half years without another terrorist attack on US soil? We now have a solid ally in the heart of the Middle East, which is going to make it a whole lot harder for the Arab world to rally behind al Qaeda. You think that happened by accident? Or that it doesn’t matter? Nonsense. We’ve been at war with these people for decades, and Bush is the first president to truly fight back.

Obama is already demonstrating that he recognizes all of this. He’s not going to shut down Gitmo and yank us out of Iraq and undo everything Bush he’s done. And the world isn’t going to suddenly like us a lot more just because the Cool People have one of their own in the Oval Office. As Obama discovers what it’s going to take to keep the country secure, I’m willing to bet he’s going to develop a true appreciation for just how much George W. Bush sacrificed on behalf of the nation he served without flinching.

People talk about the verdict of history, and that it will take time to measure how Bush will be remembered. Some side with Doonesbury and presume the verdict is already in. I don’t much care. My guess is that the people who write history will never give Bush credit for what he’s done, just as they still struggle to pretend that Ronald Reagan had nothing to do with the fall of the Iron Curtain. The collapse of Communism was a historical accident, just as the safety of America under Bush’s watch is another accident. Bush probably knows this, and decided it was more important to be right than to be beloved.

That’s why, when Bush leaves the scene, the nation will have lost more than it will ever admit.

Southern Utah, Tuacahn, and Mountain Meadows

I’ve been on a road trip for work these last few days, which messes up the blogging rhythm. I’ve been travelling through the state and have come to the conclusion that Utah is essentially unpopulated. Drive from Cedar City to Delta and try and tell me otherwise.

My journey began in St. George, and I decided to spend the evening running in the warm weather. I decided to combine my exercise guilt with a bit of nostalgia, and I ended up running up the Tuacahn road right as the sun was going down, and it was absolutely gorgeous. I then wandered around the Tuacahn campus unnoticed, and it seemed as if every door was unlocked. I suppose security isn’t a primary concern for a place that’s that far out of the way, but golly.

St. George has exploded in size since I moved away six years ago, but the Tuacahn Center for the Arts is almost exactly the same. The school has a few cosmetic differences – the library now looks like a computer lab, for instance, and there’s a new grassy area out front that’s probably used for P.E. classes – but the place is essentially treading water. As the economy sours, that will become increasingly difficult to do, but plenty of people have bet against Tuacahn before – including me – and it’s still there, and I’m not. So make of that what you will.

My jaunt to Southern Utah coincided with my completion of the book Massacre at Mountain Meadows, which chronicles the darkest chapter in LDS history where a group of Southern Utah settlers murdered 120 people in cold blood. I had hoped to swing through Mountain Meadows on my way back up north, but I didn’t have time. I’ve been to the area before, though, and it’s a haunting experience.

I first learned about Mountain Meadows as a missionary, when anti-Mormon literature pinned the whole thing on Brigham Young as part of a secret, bloodthirsty Mormon conspiracy that lingers in our hidden doctrines even to this day. That’s poppycock. The truth is far less cloak and dagger, and therefore far more tragic. If this happened with some kind of grand design, it might have made a bit more sense. Instead, it was the result of a perfect storm of bad communication, paranoia, and small-town isolation.

At several places in the timeline, a single shift of events could have prevented the massacre entirely. If only the leaders in Cedar City had waited, as they had promised, for instructions from Salt Lake before taking action. (Brigham Young’s letter telling the Southerners to leave the emigrants alone arrived several days too late.) If only John D. Lee hadn’t jumped the gun and launched the Paiute attack prematurely. If only someone, somewhere, had stood up, spoke up, and stopped the ball from rolling to its hideous conclusion. Reading the book is a gripping experience, because you know what’s coming, and you’re dreading it the whole time.

The details of the grisly scene linger with you – the parents who were killed along with their infants by a single bullet because they wouldn’t relinquish their children. 17 survivors under the age of 8 were spared because they were “too young to tell tales” spent the night after the massacre sobbing their eyes out in Rachel Hamblin’s house. Two of them were nursing infants. They were all handed over to the families of the people who had murdered their parents. It boggles the mind.

The book itself is a welcome step forward in Mormon history. It was written, unflinchingly, with the full cooperation of the LDS Church, which has previously been squeamish about confronting the atrocity head on. The Church now seems to recognize, especially in the age of the Internet, that all the information is out there, and it’s better to confront it head on than to try and run away from it.

That’s at least one good thing that’s come out of all of this. And it isn’t nearly enough.

What were we thinking?

This is a picture of yours truly, de-Yullified, taken circa 1976:

This photo is disturbing on many, many levels.

In the first place, why did I own a shirt with a pair of smelly old shoes on it? When did my parents pick that out for me? My birthday? Christmas? I can imagine the conversation: “Old, stinky shoes?! This is perfect for Stallion!”

Keep in mind this is a posed photo for a professional photographer. Who thought it was a good idea to wear that particular shirt on picture day? And what’s with the hair – the length, the disorder, the split ends? The only part of the picture that makes any sense is the fact that I’m not smiling. I mean, come on. If you looked like this at any time in your life, would you be happy about it?

What’s so frightening about this picture is that it’s from a formal family portrait, and everyone else in the picture looks just as bad, if not worse. Indeed, I’d post the entire picture, except that I’d probably open myself up to lawsuits from some of my siblings. (My brother’s probably not happy about being in the left hand corner up there as it is.)

Community

Two years ago, My Esteemed Colleague was fretting as to whether or not he should attend his 20th high school reunion. As I’ve outlined in all my references to him on this blog, he’s always been quite the unapologetic Bohemian, and he had little in common with the people he’d meet there, and it had been decades since he’d seen any of them. Indeed, he felt a large degree of contempt for most of the class, and he was trying to get permission to give a speech at the reunion to excoriate his class for failing to live up to its potential.

So I asked him, point blank, why he would want to spend any more time with these people that he so clearly detested.

“I don’t know,” he answered. “I guess I kind of saw the whole thing in terms of a movie. I always kind of assumed there’d be a sequel someday. You know, we’d be brought together again, maybe to perform some kind of task, because that was always what we did for the first twelve years of my life. It’s just been strange that life has gone on without ever having to see any of these people again.”

I was left to wonder what kind of task he’d be called upon to perform, when he summarized the feeling thusly:

“High school,” he said, “was the last time in my life when I felt like I was part of a community.”

This was a shocking statement to me, as I can’t remember a time in my life when I hadn’t been part of a community, sometimes several competing communities at the same time. My identity, in many instances, was and is defined by the groups with which I’m involved. That makes things difficult when the groups’ values don’t mesh well.

As an adolescent, much of my identity was determined by my time with the Kids of the Century, a performing arts group in Southern California. That was essentially my official membership card, but my broader affiliation was with the so-called Artsy-Fartsy Community. I considered myself an Artsy-Fartsy Guy. Like all brooding, soulful Artistes, I thought deep thoughts and Expressed Myself in any way I could. I associated with other Artistes more often than not, as we chuckled at the follies of people less enlightened than we were.

What I discovered, though, was that the Artsy-Fartsy Community wasn’t particularly fond of the Mormon Community. (Or the Republican Community, for that matter, although I didn’t really get involved in politics in any formal way until much later.) I tried straddling the line as much as I could by trying to make the Mormon Community more Artsy-Fartsy and, to a lesser extent, the Artsy-Fartsy Community more Mormon. Neither was too successful. (And by “not too successful” I mean “not successful at all.”)

This tension has ever been with me throughout my career. I went full Mormon as a missionary in the later eighties and came home to find myself being tugged back toward the Artsy-Fartsy. I ended up running a theatre and, later, working at a theatre, both in predominantly Mormon environments. I thought, maybe, that having Mormon artistes would solve the problem, but every Mormon artiste was either struggling with the same tension or had flopped over to one side or the other. This was an oil-and-water thing, and the dream of the perfectly balanced Artsy-Fartsy Mormon never seemed to be within my reach.

What I finally realized was that I would ultimately have to make a choice. What was really important to me? Was it the Church of the Artistes? I chose the former, and as a result, I pretty much got excommunicated from the latter. It didn’t happen in a formal proceeding the way it would have with the former if I’d decided to go to church naked, but the irony is that Artistes are far less tolerant of departures from community orthodoxy than Mormons are.

But My Esteemed Colleague’s sense of community wasn’t a result of shared values – he loathed most of his classmates. His sense of community, then, was simply a result of prolonged proximity. People who live through a war – or high school – for years at a time feel a kinship with others who have shared the experience, regardless of what they may think or believe.

I feel that way about my own high school, too, as well as college. I also felt a lot of that as a missionary, although most of those guys were on the same page philosophically. But even now, I feel closer to those Scottish missionaries and LDS Church members I knew back then who no longer believe what I believe than I do to people who share my beliefs but didn’t share the same experiences. Proximity is more powerful I’d previously realized.

As I get older, my reliance on community increases, even as my need to prove myself to the community decreases. My family provides the primary anchor, with my church in second place. I know these groups will accept and appreciate me in almost any circumstance, and I draw strength from my association with them. I think you only truly become a member of a community when you stop worrying what everyone else thinks of you. As long as you’re still trying to impress them, you’re not really one of them.

As for My Esteemed Colleague, he went to his reunion, and he gave his speech, which was soundly booed by the fragment of people who bothered to pay attention at all.

The Year So Far

State of the world as the New Year grinds forth…

So the Senate won’t seat Blagojevich’s appointment. Neat. But that concerns me far less than the fact that they probably will seat Al Franken the moment he’s certified as the fraudulent winner of Minnesota’s election. This election was stolen in broad daylight, and nobody seems to notice or care. Some few who do will cite Florida in 2000 and say “How does it feel, Bush lovers?” I say it feels amazing that Bush was able to stop Al Gore from doing what Al Franken just did.

I’ve had a number of odd dreams lately. One involved running a political campaign and having the ad guy come up to me and show me a poster with the candidate with the word “Armando!” written in bold, black lettering. Except the candidate wasn’t named Armando.

“Doesn’t matter,” the ad guy says. “It’s a really bold move.”

Apparently, “Armando” was a cool word that the ad guy made up, which would help us with “the kids.” In the cold light of day, that seems very silly, indeed, but I kind of want to try it out and see what happens.

Last night’s dreams involved William Shatner skinning people alive and putting their corpses on a red wagon. It wasn’t really a nightmare; just sort of a matter-of-fact thing. I don’t know what that means.

We don’t watch a whole lot of TV at the Cornell household, but we felt compelled to watch Ashton Kutcher’s “True Beauty” reality show last night that judges people according to their outer and, without them knowing, their inner beauty. We probably shouldn’t have watched it, but we did, and we laughed very, very hard. It’s designed to let 40-year-old schlubs like me feel superior to gorgeous people who are also vapid, ignorant, and, at times, cruel. And, in fact, not many of them are really that gorgeous. The “Chelsea” chick who was in danger of getting bumped last night was actually slightly hideous, inside and out. I hope she sticks around, though, because nastiness is funnier than kindness. Although the show’s elimination process would logically bump off the nastier folks first, which means it will become more boring as it goes along.

My son Cornelius has taken to crawling into bed with us in the middle of the night, which becomes problematic, and he also enjoys kicking us in his sleep. I end up taking him back to his bed when I can muster up the will to do it, but it takes quite a few kicks for me to wake up enough to fully understand what’s going on. I can stomach it, though, because I love my son. It’s when my cat starts to meow about ten minutes after I’ve fallen asleep that my patience is at a very low ebb.

I’m sadly discovering that I don’t enjoy right-wing talk radio anymore. I’ve always liked Rush and Glenn Beck, but now all they do is whine. And Glenn Beck whines very, very hard. I heard about thirty seconds of Sean Hannity yesterday, and it made me sad. On too many issues, all we’ve got are slogans. I don’t think the Democrats are much better on the ideological front, but they don’t need a workable ideology with all the power they have. If we’re going to wrest that power away from them – a daunting task by any standard – we need to know what we stand for, and it can’t just be Ronald Reagan. Folks, I love Ronald Reagan as much as anyone. He’s dead. He left office twenty years ago. We’re not going to find our way out of the wilderness by winning yet another one for the Gipper.

I haven’t mentioned in this blog my great visit with James over the holidays. James is a frequent commenter on this space, and he showed up at my doorstep a few days before Christmas to announce that he was spending the holidays up in Draper, not far from where I live. I got to meet his wife and his daughter, who both seem like delightful folks. I even convinced James to sign up for Facebook, where he proceeded to post a video where he and a Muppet lipsynch to the Blues Brothers. It was fun, but also vaguely disturbing.

Turns out Disney has opted to pass on the next Narnia sequel, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. That’s disappointing but understandable, as that book would be unlikely to stop the franchise’s box office slide. I just want to see The Magician’s Nephew, so I want the franchise to continue until they get there, but I have no interest in watching the dreck that’s going to be there along the way. Walden Media is shopping for a new partner, though, so the film may still get made. They’d better hurry, though, because they need to make it while the actors who play Edmund and Lucy are still young enough to look credible in the roles.

I’ll keep you updated as the year progresses.