I just read the following article about Hasbro's desire to modernize the playing pieces for its best-selling game Monopoly:
Will the shoe get the boot? Board game fans to vote on next Monopoly tokens
The article was amusing for me to read, and I was reminded of the many years throughout which I have played that game with family and friends.
To be honest, despite my admitted sense of nostalgia where this game is concerned, I couldn't care less whether Hasbro decides to update the game tokens; this change will not affect how the game is played, and it might help to attract a new generation of players. I am certainly not one of those people who feels honor-bound to voice their opinion that everything should remain the way that it was in the past.
However, there is one point that the article's author has completely missed: the playing piece in question is not a "shoe," it is a "boot," and the distinction - however small it may seem - is somewhat profound.
A shoe is just that - nothing more. But the boot has a subtle, underlying meaning which most people do not see. When you look at the boot, it has a small loop on the back, which is called a "bootstrap." It is from this appendage on a boot that the English language obtains the word "bootstrapping," which means to "pull one's self up from their current position;" in other words, to take charge of your destiny and to make your life better. This is one of the main points in Monopoly; all of the players are attempting to pull themselves up from their common, humble beginnings, to build their respective real estate empires, and to crush their competition.
The entire principle of the game of Monopoly is condensed into that single playing piece, and it represents one of the deepest metaphors in any board game. However, Hasbro might replace the boot with a T-Rex, which represents... um, let's see... a dinosaur... which is a metaphor for... well, I guess... nothing more than an old, dead, bird-like reptile.
As a long-time Star Trek fan, I watched this newly-released trailer for the latest installment in the rebooted Star Trek franchise with a great deal of anticipation:
Star Trek Beyond - Trailer (2016) - Paramount Pictures
This trailer brings up an interesting point: I once read that all good science fiction must challenge something and/or push society to be better, which is why all of the individual Star Trek television series dealt with issues of war, morality, science/technology, racism, power struggles, etc. If you go back to classic Science Fiction like Ray Bradbury, Isaac Asimov, Philip K. Dick, etc., they all challenged similar subjects.
However, the most-recent Star Trek movies have not challenged much of anything; they are simply action flicks. At the moment this latest movie seems more like it's going to be "The Fast and the Furious with Aliens." That might not be so bad if all you're interested in is two hours of mindless fight scenes, chase scenes, and sex scenes, but that's not good "Science Fiction" in the traditional sense.
So at the moment I am unsure about this upcoming Star Trek movie; I will have to wait until next year to know how it turns out.
June 22, 2016 Update: I found the following article rather insightful about what makes good Science Fiction:
10 Laws of Good Science Fiction10 Laws of Good Science Fiction
While I realize that true creativity follows no rules and knows no boundaries, I still agree with a lot of what that article has to say.
I saw a would-be motivational poster today with the following quote from Norman Vincent Peale: "Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you'll land among the stars."
I don't mean to be nitpicky, but if you fall short of the moon, you're still going to be light years away from the stars, although you can ardently admire them as you burn up on re-entry.
But if you really miss the moon, and by that I mean hideously overshooting your intended target to an exponential degree, your long-dead corpse might one day make it to the stars, although that will still be thousands of years after you choked to death due to lack of oxygen.
Like many people last week, I was appalled when I read about the treatment of 14-year-old high school student Ahmed Mohamed in Irving, Texas. Ahmed was arrested for bringing what several people thought was a "hoax bomb" to school, despite his repeated assertions that it was simply a clock which he had invented. When I was Ahmed's age, I loved tinkering with electronics, and I brought my own creations to school several times, so I was understandably incensed when I read about Ahmed's plight.
However, there is a big difference between what Ahmed claims to have done and what he actually did. Ahmed did not - in fact - build a clock from scratch. As multiple websites and YouTube videos have shown, all Ahmed did was remove an existing clock from its plastic case and mount the unmodified electronics inside a pencil box. As someone who actually built things from scratch when I was Ahmed's age, this was insulting to me, because it means that Ahmed is a fraud. While his motives are unclear, the fact is undeniable that Ahmed actually did bring a hoax to school; but he didn't bring a hoax bomb, he brought a hoax invention.
As I looked at photos of the clock which Ahmed was supposed to have built, I couldn't see where he had done anything to merit "inventiveness." The jumble of wires appeared largely intact to me; the only thing which seemed out of place was the 9V battery connector, so I wondered if Ahmed had soldered a battery connector to the main board after the transformer in order to allow the clock to work when it wasn't plugged into the wall. If so, that would have been a cool idea. But my theory proved untrue when it was later revealed that the 9V connector was the built-in battery backup for the clock memory in the event of a power failure. So once again, Ahmed appears to have done nothing to warrant all of his new-found fame and accolades. (By the way, what is truly embarrassing about this situation is that Make Magazine, which is one of my favorites, completely failed to notice that Ahmed did not actually build his own clock. That's a really big fail, guys. You should have known better.)
I realize that everyone who pursues a career in electronics has to start somewhere, and the disassembly of an existing electronic product is the perfect place for Ahmed (or anyone else) to start. When I was a teenager, I was an avid electric guitar player, so I started out with electronics by taking apart existing guitar effects to see how they worked. When I didn't understand something, I went to the library to check out books about electronic theory, and I dutifully studied the subjects which were foreign to me. Eventually I moved on to repairing other people's broken guitar effects, and finally I moved on to building guitar effects from scratch. (Craig Anderton was my hero.) So when I brought a creation to school, it was something which I had actually created. But even more than that, when I was a little older than Ahmed I actually created a digital clock from scratch by wiring together all of the parts by hand. That is a far cry from what Ahmed did; Ahmed took someone else's work, slapped his name on it, and asked to be recognized as its creator. What Ahmed has done constitutes fraud. Period.
Nevertheless, even though Ahmed is a phony as an inventor, at least in this situation, he probably did not deserve to have been arrested for bringing his hoax invention to school. I will admit that the jumble of wires and the large LED screen certainly resembles a bomb which you might see on a low-budget television show, so I should at least acknowledge the good intentions of the safety-minded school officials who thought the situation was worth investigating. (Note: Can you imagine the uproar if a student had actually brought a bomb to school and the school officials did nothing about it?)
However, once the facts of the matter were made clear and everyone knew that Ahmed had not actually brought a bomb to school, the academic and police officials overreacted, and Ahmed was humiliated as he was handcuffed and paraded before his peers as he was led away by the police.
But the overreactions didn't stop there, because everyone in the community - myself included - quickly overreacted to show our support for Ahmed. Many people were angry at the close-mindedness of the investigating officials; we all wanted to take this young David's side as he took on the Goliath of insensitivity. "@IStandWithAhmed" and "#IStandWithAhmed" became instant Twitter sensations. Mark Zuckerberg invited Ahmed to drop by Facebook for a meeting. Microsoft sent Ahmed a treasure trove of goodies to encourage his inventiveness. The Google Science Fair invited Ahmed to drop by and bring his clock. And President Obama asked Ahmed to bring his clock to the White House.
I have come to realize that these overreactions are equally as wrong as the original overreactions by the school officials; perhaps even more so - because Ahmed is being heavily rewarded for being a charlatan. Everyone needs to step back and think about this for a second: if Ahmed brought his clock to Facebook or the Microsoft Garage or the Google Science Fair, he would be a laughingstock, because his "invention" is a fake. When Ahmed is done being praised by the press and exalted by social media for being the underdog in this story, sooner or later he will have to stand in a room surrounded by people his age (or older) who are actually creating cool things from scratch. When that happens, Ahmed desperately needs have something better to show than an off-the-shelf digital clock that he stuffed into a pencil box, because real teenage inventors will immediately identify him as an imposter.
So I have changed my opinion in this matter from being upset over Ahmed's treatment by the authorities to being upset over Ahmed's treatment by the community, because we are rewarding his dishonesty. If Ahmed had copied the answers for an exam from one of his classmates, everyone would immediately recognize him as a cheater. Yet that is essentially what Ahmed is doing with his clock; he is taking someone else's creation and claiming to have created it, and therefore he is being deliberately deceitful. And through our collective overreactions our country is sending a terrible message to the youth of Ahmed's generation: "If you lie to America, not only will you get away with it, but you'll win big prizes and get an invitation to meet the President."
OK – I have to make a shameless admission: I really like Jonathan Coulton's music. Jonathan's style is sort of like modern-day-Internet-geek-cyber-folk-pop, as if that's a real genre.
Anyway, years ago he wrote a song called "Code Monkey," which became something of an Internet hit. (Hey, I'd call over one million downloads a hit.) If you're curious about the song, you can browse to http://youtu.be/MNl3fTods9c in order to see it with the lyrics.
That being said, fans of "Code Monkey" might not be aware that Jonathan teamed up with Greg Pak and a few additional artists, and together they converted "Code Monkey" and several of Jonathan's other songs (like "Skullcrusher Mountain," "Re: Your Brains," etc.) into a weird little graphic novel.
Truth be told, I'm not a graphic novel kind of guy, but I love the song - so I ordered a copy through Greg Pak's online shop.
My signed copy of the graphic novel just arrived, and it was a great read; it was fun to see the characters from so many of Jonathan's songs brought to life, even if it was just for a hundred pages or so.
For those of you who are familiar with the song, you're probably wondering to yourself, "Does Code Monkey finally tell his manager to write that @#$% login page himself and win the heart of Matilde, the girl of his dreams?"
Well, you'll just have to order the book and find that out for yourself.
(FYI – The graphic novel was a Kickstarter project in 2013 which was fully-funded in just 12 hours; it eventually reached $340,270 of it's original $39,000 goal.)
Today my wife and I are celebrating our 30th Wedding Anniversary, which is the single-greatest and most-important adventure upon which I have embarked in my life. I remember when my wife and I were newly married and we would meet couples who had been married 30 years; I would think to myself, "Wow – that's such a long time." But now that I'm the one who has been married that long I think, "Wow – that sure went by fast."
But truth be told, I cannot take credit for the length of our union - I married someone who is an infinitely better person than myself. Seriously. Anyone who can put up with me for a mere afternoon is a miracle-worker, which probably elevates my wife to sainthood.
That being said, sometime around our 25th wedding anniversary I started getting questions from younger couples like, "What's your secret?" and "Why has your marriage lasted so long?" Let me be very clear - I am not an expert on marriage, and in general I am not a person who should be emulated; I am wholly aware of my many shortcomings as a human being, and I am overtly cognizant of my failures as a husband with regard to holding up my half of our relationship. (I always mean well, of course - but I am just as flawed as the next guy. Some days I simply forget to take out the garbage, or empty the dishwasher, or whatever. [Darn. I'm so ashamed.])
However, if I can't be a good example of a husband to anyone else, perhaps I can share a few of the things that I've learned from being a bad example. To quote the good people at Despair.com, perhaps my purpose in life is to serve as a warning to others:
With that in mind, here are some of the reasons why our marriage has endured, what has helped us over the years, and some of the lessons that I've learned the hard way.
I'd like to start things off by answering the question that I seem to get the most: "What is the secret to a long-lasting marriage?" Okay, if you're taking notes, you might want to write this down, because here it is:
Point #1 - Don't Get Divorced.
That's it. Period.
You could stop reading right now because you've already got the main takeaway from this blog. Now in case anyone thinks that I'm making light of this situation, I'm actually being perfectly honest. If you decide that divorce is not an option, it affects every part of your partnership. In our journey together, my wife and I have gone through incredible peaks and valleys - surviving both good and bad times - and many of these situations would have ended other relationships. In the past 30 years we have gone through everything we mentioned in our vows; we have endured sickness, health, prosperity, poverty, joy, adversity, etc. In the end, facing these seasons together and surviving side-by-side to live another day as husband and wife has bonded us together in ways which resemble the closeness of combat veterans. Collective perseverance yields intimacy.
I understand that there are situations where divorce is the only option; for example, when your spouse walks out on you, or your spouse is abusive and refuses to get professional help. When I talk about refusing to get divorced, I am speaking to those of you who get up one day and decide that you don't want to be married, or you claim that your spouse "just doesn't understand you anymore." When these feelings happen, you have to work your way through them. It takes conscious effort, but you made a commitment and you should not quit simply because you are wondering whether the grass is greener on the other side of the fence. Walking out on your marriage because you're bored or you don't want to do the work is little more than cowardice.
To be honest, the fact that my wife and I are still together is a much greater testimony to my next topic:
Point #2 - Christ.
Yes, I know - invoking the name of Christ is considered "Politically Incorrect" these days, but it is a simple statement of fact that my wife's and my faith has helped us weather countless trials and tribulations. So I don't care if it's an unpopular to talk about Jesus, because faith works. Don't argue with success.
Over the years I have learned this next valuable lesson:
Point #3 - Fighting Is Not Worth It.
I have to be brutally honest about whether my wife and I ever fight, and I sincerely wish that I could say we never quarreled. But the truth is - we used to bicker. A lot. In the early years of our marriage we fought like cats and dogs. And on that note, the unfortunate reality of our situation at the time is inescapable: I was 19 years old when I married my high school sweetheart and best friend, who was only 18 years old at the time. We went from kids to couple overnight, but only in the legal sense - maturity didn't show up until many years later. (Perhaps it still hasn't. Hmm. Probably best not to digress on that point.)
I would love to say that my statement about how "fighting is not worth it" was due to some grandiose epiphany which I arrived at through years of soul-searching and mature contemplation of our relationship. But the truth is much simpler, my secret to avoiding arguments boils down to one single concept: laziness. Seriously, fighting took way too much effort, and we eventually learned that it was better not to fight. Here's what an argument looked like in our house - we would disagree about something, which would escalate into a maelstrom of heated and hurtful words thrown back and forth between us. Eventually we would reach some form of resolution, but once the dust settled from the actual argument, we had to endure days of coldness as the two of us figured out how best to rebuild all of the trust which we had destroyed during the argument. It dawned on both of us that it took a great deal of effort to work up the anger for an argument, and the emotional trauma that we experienced was exhausting after our disputes had ended. Once we had realized that valuable lesson, both of us learned to recognize when we were hurtling toward another squabble, and we'd agree to skip over the major conflict part. It sounds easy enough, but it took us years to figure that out.
Now please don't get me wrong, I am not suggesting that we never disagree, nor am I insinuating that we do not defend our opinions passionately when we hold opposing positions on important topics. The truth is - we still differ on any number of subjects, but we both realize that nothing is worth losing our marriage. Together we have endured destitute poverty, years of work-related separations, the births and deaths of several family members, and raising three children to adulthood.
Throughout all of our combined experiences, I have vividly retained the following critically-important fact:
Point #4 - Always Remember Why You Married Your Spouse.
My wife and I were friends for several years before we ventured out on our first date. In fact, by the the time it occurred to either of one of us that we should be more than friends, many of our friends already thought that we were dating and were rather sick of the subject. (They're probably still sick of the subject, but after 30 years I really don't care. :-P)
Kathleen is my best friend, and we still hold hands when we walk together in public - which is how life should be; she has been the predominant character in all of my experiences as an adult, and she has been a major part of my life for almost 35 years. My wife is truly my better half, so why would I gamble all of our collective memories and life experiences by failing to remember the simple fact that I am sharing my life with the most-important and most-loving person whom I have ever known? If I fail to keep these thoughts in mind, I risk destroying everything. And that would make me a pretty selfish jerk. (Feel free to quote that to my face if it ever looks like we're headed for trouble.)
Point #5 – Be Self-Critical.
Believe it or not, you are not the perfect spouse. The folks at Despair.com got it right when they published a demotivational poster which reads, "The only consistent feature of all of your dissatisfying relationships is you."
While they were just making a joke, it should be noted that there is a lot of truth to that statement. More often than not, you will find that the source of unhappiness in your relationship is your attitude and not some shortcoming on your spouse's part. Every once in a while you need to step back and take a good look at yourself before lecturing someone else about their behavior.
I should probably mention one last thing before bringing this blog to an end:
Point #6 - A Good Marriage Takes Work. A Great Marriage Takes More Work.
Somewhere around our seventh year of marriage I decided that I wasn't content to have a 'Good Marriage,' I wanted a 'Great Marriage.' Unfortunately, I had no clue as to how we should go about creating such a thing. With that in mind, I decided to read at least one book about marriage each year. Some of those books have been great, and others I've tried hard to forget. A few books I have re-read years later; this has usually been an amusing experience for me, because I often discover that some part of a book which I thought was silly and chose to ignore at the time was eventually learned the hard way. In any event, there are a lot of good books on marriage out there, and you may think that some won't apply to your situation, but you have to be willing to try.
Two books which have been life-changing for me have been The Five Love Languages and The Five Languages of Apology by Dr. Gary Chapman; these two books probably changed all of my relationships with everyone I know - spouse, kids, parents, extended family members, friends, coworkers, etc. There are lots of other great books which I have read, but those two are a good start.
In closing, I may not be the best role model for a husband, and I have made more than my fair share of mistakes. But I have learned a thing or two along my journey from the cradle to the grave. I take no pride by admitting that most of my life lessons have been learned the hard way, so you can consider my advice from two perspectives: if I have been an idiot from time to time throughout our marriage, perhaps my advice isn't worth anything. On the other hand, if I've made enough mistakes as a husband to finally realize several of the most-important things to remember in a relationship, perhaps you can learn from my errors.
One of my cousins posted the following chart to Facebook, and I think that most people would tend to agree with it:
Growing up in Arizona, I learned a simple rule for dealing with spiders: kill them all. Seriously. They all must die.
My philosophy for dealing with spiders was formed when we moved into a house on the northeast side of Tucson in 1978. At the time, our house was on the outskirts of the city, with little more than desert beyond our neighborhood. As a result, we had lots of creepy, crawly things roaming about. Between toxic spiders, toxic scorpions, toxic millipedes, toxic lizards, etc., we adopted an easy-to-remember motto for what was poisonous and what wasn’t: “If it crawls, it kills.” With that in mind, we generally killed anything that resembled an insect.
However, the worst of our lot was: an infestation of Black Widow spiders. I make no exaggeration – our house had hundreds of Black Widow spiders crawling about. As a paperboy, that meant checking very carefully when I exited the front door of our house around 5am every morning, because there were almost always 3 to 5 Black Widows hanging from webs in front of our door. If I didn't survey the area with due diligence, that meant that I would be wearing those Black Widows.
At first I used Raid or some other insect killer to dispatch my arachnid antagonists, but I eventually decided to use a can of Lysol and a lighter to create a miniature flamethrower. (Note: Do not try that at home.) Just in case you were wondering, Black Widows simply melt when you attack them with a flamethrower. (Which I found savagely gratifying.)
Jumping ahead a couple of decades, my wife and I moved to Seattle, Washington, where we purchased a house on a hill which backed up to a small forest. Part-way down the hill on our property was a small storage shed. We didn’t need it for storage, so we decided to give the shed to our young son as a club house. With that in mind, one misty Seattle morning my son and I headed down the hill to the shed to clean it up for him.
As we pushed open the door, the musty odor from years of neglect and rotting debris was strong enough to force a hasty retreat from the average explorer. But we were determined, so we soldiered on. As we were cleaning out some of the accumulated rubbish from the shed, I noticed that the aging edifice had a drop ceiling, which was odd. Since it looked like the shed had been wired for electricity at one point, I decided to remove the ceiling panels and see what lurked behind them.
As I removed the first ceiling panel, I made a startling discovery: spiders. Millions of them. All shapes, sizes, and species. Some were crawling around, but most seemed to train all eight of their eyes on me as if to say, “Well, biped boy? What are you going to do about it?”
As I continued to examine the situation, one alarming fact became painfully clear: our storage shed was obviously the breeding ground for every spider in the Pacific Northwest. Recalling my years of childhood training, my immediate thought was – they all must die.
With that purpose in mind, I headed down to my local Home Depot to pick up some spider killer. Much to my amazement, the Home Depot does not keep spider-killing chemicals in stock in Washington state. I could not locate any, so I asked a salesperson, who was quick to remark, "We don't kill spiders in Washington; we like them. They eat the other bugs."
This answer was unacceptable to me, so I resolved to make do with the best that I could find: I bought a case of industrial-strength fumigation bombs and I brought those home. I placed the first bomb on the floor in the center of the storage shed, pressed the release button, then I hastily exited the building and closed the door. On the next day, I repeated this process. On the following day I examined the carnage: as I removed the remaining ceiling panels, the corpses of millions of dead spiders spilled past me and littered the floor of the shed.
After sweeping up the remnants of my fallen foes, I checked behind the walls to make sure that no spiders were hiding behind the drywall and planning their counter-offensive. I found no spiders, but I discovered that the shed was infested with black mold, so I was forced to inform my son that the shed was off limits for health reasons.
Throughout my years in the Seattle area, I continued to deploy a fumigation bomb every year, and by the time we moved away I seldom saw any spiders near our house. I guess they learned their lesson. Or perhaps they simply relocated to a more spider-friendly house down the street. Either way, I was happy to never see them.
My wife and I moved back to Arizona this past year, and the former owners of our new house failed to take care of the property. As a result, I saw a few spiders loitering about the place when we moved in. This is obviously an undesirable situation, so I headed down to my local Home Depot, where I was thrilled to see dozens of different products which proudly displayed their ability to kill any species of spider.
As I was reading the labels and making my choice, a salesperson asked if I needed any assistance. I replied no, but I felt obliged to share the attitudes of his Home Depot colleagues in Washington state. We both laughed out loud with incredulity that anyone would actually try to save their spiders. Once I had selected my weapon of choice, I brought home my new-found arsenal and proceeded to dispatch my eight-legged tormentors to the arachnid abyss.
Perhaps it's because the media is going through yet another season of what seems like a never-ending parade of Hollywood awards programs, but I was thinking the other day about all of the awards that I will never win. For example, I will never win a Golden Globe. I will never win a People's Choice Award. I will never win an Oscar, or a Tony, or an Emmy, or any award that is named after some person who might not be real. And despite a lifetime of playing music, I will never win a Grammy or any other award that the music industry is giving out these days. This may be my reality, but to be perfectly honest, I am never saddened by this, nor do I generally give this concept a second thought.
That being said, the most-recent awards show made me think about the reasons why we even care about those kinds of awards. I can't name who won Best Actor or Actress from any of the awards shows that have taken place in the last several years, and that's really not an issue for me; I'll never meet any of the people who win those awards anyway. What's more, I'm not sure if I would want to meet most of the people who actually win those awards, seeing as how the evening news and morning talk shows are always spinning stories of their latest transgressions. I think the part that gets me the most is how - after throwing their lives away on one selfish pursuit after another - the world eventually calls them "artists," and everyone waxes poetic about how these artists have suffered for their cause; as if they woke up one day and consciously chose to take the road less travelled in Robert Frost's famous poem. When I was younger, I think I bought into that illusion, too. But the older I get, the less I am impressed by their actions - and perhaps I should explain what I mean by that.
If a man whom you knew personally walked out on his wife and family, in most cases you would probably think he was acting like a selfish pig. But if it was a famous actor from Hollywood or a legendary singer from Nashville, you might think to yourself, "Gee, that's too bad...," as if their fame has excused their adverse behavior for some inexplicable reason. You might even go so far as to feel sorry for said person; after all, it's just so sad that their family doesn't understand how hard an artist's life must be.
But why do we feel this way? Why do we put these people on some sort of undeserved pedestal? Is it because they're artists? The more I think about it, I don't believe that they've chosen the road less travelled - I think they've chosen the easy path; they've chosen the path that's all about them. Perhaps that's why they need so many awards shows; they need the constant reassurance that all of the suffering they cause is for a noble purpose. But I just can't bring myself to see it that way.
Let me briefly tell you a true story about my life, and this is difficult for me because it is always dangerous when you open up your life to public scrutiny; you never know what people are going to think. When I was much younger, I faced one of those situations where it seemed like two roads were diverging before me and I had to pick which path I would travel.
I had just celebrated my 19th birthday, and my rock band was starting to do really well. We weren't great by any means, but we were just coming off a series of really great gigs when my fiancé told me that she was pregnant with our child. I had a lot of options before me: we could get married, we could put the baby up for adoption, etc. (My girlfriend had additional concerns: what if I suddenly became some sort of jerk and told her that it was her problem and left her to face this on her own.) Once the news began to work its way through the grapevine to all our friends and family, I heard a lot of advice from a lot well-meaning people - all of whom listed off suggestions that were much like the choices that I just mentioned.
But I didn't take anyone's advice. Instead, against everyone else's counsel, I married my girlfriend. We had a baby girl, who is now almost ten years older than I was when I made my choice to keep her. But this decision on my part didn't come without cost; my days of playing long-haired lead guitar for a rock band were over. In fact, my entire youth ended almost overnight - it was time to put aside my personal ambitions and accept the responsibilities that lay before me. My wife and I spent many years in abject poverty as we fought side-by-side to build a home together and raise our children as best we could. Despite the difficult times, my wife and I recently celebrated our 28th anniversary, and we raised three great kids along the way.
However, my life might not have been this way; I could have chosen the other path when I was given the opportunity to do so. I could have chosen something selfish that I wanted just for me, and I could have left my girlfriend to deal with it on her own. Some years later, I could have written a heart-wrenching song about the hard choices that I had to make. Perhaps that could have become a hit, and I could have sold that song to untold scores of fans. Maybe I could have written a book about my life and my admirers might have said, "That's so sad - look at everything he gave up to become who he is."
Every year people walk out on their responsibilities in the hopes that the scenario which I just described will happen to them; they hope they'll be successful despite the pain that they cause to others. What is worse, however, is that popular culture applauds such actions. Songs like Bruce Springsteen's Hungry Heart attempt to spin public opinion in support of egocentric behavior by unapologetically suggesting that a deadbeat dad was simply "following his heart."
Yet in my personal situation this delusion would have been far from the truth; I would have been a selfish punk who left his unwed 18-year-old girlfriend to face the world alone with a newborn baby girl. Perhaps I might have become a successful 'artist' and sent generous child support payments to take care of my daughter's every need, but that's just not the same. Children need parents; they need both a father and a mother to be there to love and raise them.
There is no way that I can say this so it won't sound overly-judgmental, but I think it makes someone a coward when they choose their own selfish desires over their family and their responsibilities. When I chose to become a father, I gave up everything that I wanted for myself; I gave up my personal hopes, dreams, and desires for my life. I sacrificed everything so my daughter would grow up with both a mom and dad. My choice was much harder to live with than I ever could have imagined, but my daughter's life was worth the cost.
So in the end, when I finally shrug off this mortal coil, I will not have won any awards for what I have accomplished in my life, and I'll have no golden statuettes to adorn the shelves in my study. I am sure that I will never win father of the year, but my three children will have had better lives because I chose to be their father. I did not choose the easy path for my life - I chose the road less travelled, and I pray that for my family it has made all the difference.
Here's a weird but true story for you: my wife and I went to the movies tonight to see Zero Dark Thirty, (which was a good movie in case you were wondering). Right at the point where the Navy Seals [spoiler alert] pull the trigger on their main person of interest, a man in the theater started yelling, "VIOLENCE ONLY BEGETS VIOLENCE!!! VIOLENCE ONLY BEGETS VIOLENCE!!!", and he ran out of the building while continuing to scream that phrase like a cultish mantra.
This leads me to the following quandary: it was publicly and deliberately advertised what the subject of this movie was about ahead of time, so there can be no question that everyone in the auditorium knew before they walked through the theater doors that they were there to watch the CIA and Navy Seals take down the principle terrorist who planned the tragedies of September 11th, 2001. So why would anyone go to this movie expecting anything other than violence?
This movie has an "R" rating because of the violence; and there is a lot of violence in this movie. But oddly enough, the person in question did not run screaming from the theater when [spoiler alert] a lot of European and American lives (both combatants and non-combatants) were premeditatedly and violently killed throughout the two hours of the movie which preceded the brief actions that were the cause of his outburst.
The whole affair was surreal, and I am sure that several people (not just me) were nervously wondering if we were about to see a repeat of the tragic theater shootings that took place at the Batman premier last summer. I'm beginning to think that I'll just wait for everything to come out on Netflix before I watch it in the future.
Back in the 1980s I was a big fan of the Canadian Power Trio named "Triumph." As far as arena rock was concerned, few bands could put on a show that was anywhere near as entertaining as a Triumph concert. It wasn't just about being a fan - there are any number of great bands out there who could put on a good show if you already liked them; but Triumph put on a killer show whether you liked them or not.
At the height of their popularity, Triumph recorded what was to become one of their greatest hits, which was a song that was titled "Fight the Good Fight." Many guitar players - myself included - spent a good deal of time learning that song, and I always enjoyed playing it live in the various rock bands that I played in throughout my teenage years.
As the first official day of Autumn is just around the corner here in Seattle, the opening lines to "Fight the Good Fight" seem to take on special meaning:
"The days grow shorter,
And the nights are getting long.
Feels like we're running out of time."
As I look out of my office window, that's exactly what I see:
Our short-lived Pacific Northwest Summer appears to have come to a close, and the clouds seem like they're here for the duration. The sun is setting a little earlier each day, and within a few months the choleric combination of miserable mists and depressing dusk will shorten the average day to six hours or less of daylight. And yet the most discouraging fact that I have to wrestle with today is the knowledge that the weather will be this way for the next nine months.
[I exhale a deep sigh...]
Three months from now is the Winter Solstice, at which time we will confront the shortest day of the year; after that, we will at least have the small consolation that each day will be a little longer than the last, but we still won't see much of the sun until sometime next June or July.
[I heave another deep sigh...]
I wonder how much a plane ticket to Hawaii would cost in January?