I can't stop watching this. How in the heck does anyone even figure out that that's humanly possible without first killing herself while practicing? 

As a kid, I had dreams of being a vaulter, treating my parents' bed as if were the apparatus. With a long hallway leading up to the bed, I would regularly sprint toward the bed and then flip over it. Essentially, I was doing speedy somersaults on top of a queen sized mattress, but it sure felt like vaulting. 

When I got running fast enough before the dismount, I felt particularly airborne, even though it was barely true. The goal was always to stick the landing firmly on both feet, but it was actually much more fun on the occasions when I bounced into the wall or fell on my face. The thrill of vaulting - or my version of it anyway - was the fear from that momentary loss of control. 

If only I had kept practicing… that could have been me competing at the Olympics. I've got to know, though: do all gymnasts have squeaky high-pitched voices? I remember that used to be the fun way to mock Kerri Strug, but it seems like the whole team is trying to emulate her with their ridiculous voices. Teenagers don't talk like that, unless that's the side effect of stunting your body through constant unhealthy workouts. Or maybe helium is the sport's performance enhancing drug and the reason for how that vaulter can float so high in the air.

And yes, I cheered for team USA tonight. I wanted to try rooting for another country to challenge my own ingrained patriotism, but it's an awful urge to contend with. How do you support a Russian, Romanian, or Chinese person? Name one memorable pop culture character who has one of those nationalities that isn't super evil.  I don't want to continue that association, but I would still look at the competition and think, "Oh, that Russian bitch!" even though I knew nothing about her. Really, she's just a sixteen-year-old athlete, but I can't shake the feeling that there must be something inherently awful about her anyway. I really need to decolonize my mind… maybe I can vault it out.


Hi, Kevin, Meet Kevin

At a party, I was chatting to a guy who I had been introduced to earlier in the evening. After a while, I realized I didn’t remember who he was, so I said, “I’m sorry, remind me your name.”
“It’s Kevin,” he said.
“Oh, that’s funny becau…” I said.
“Your name is Kevin, too,” he interrupted, adding a bit irritatedly, “I know. I mean, I wouldn’t forget someone who has the same name as me.”
Sure, it would seem that I should more easily remember the name of a fellow Kevin, but it’s quite the opposite actually. I am blind to Kevins. I can’t pinpoint why, but if there’s another Kevin in the world, chances are I’m not going to remember what to call him. Some examples:
  • I saw a bit of The Wonder Years recently, a show I watched a bunch as a kid, and was surprised to discover that Fred Savage’s character is named Kevin.
  • I couldn’t remember the name of an old friend’s husband, so I checked Facebook and… yup, Kevin.
  • More than a dozen episodes into the 11th season of Big Brother, I commented to my viewing buddy that I knew the names of all of the reality contestants except for “that one guy”. We both laughed when, later in the episode, it captioned his diary room session with “Kevin”. 
  • At pub trivia, I was able to name all of the Backstreet Boys… except for Kevin. On another night, our team had to name the bird from the movieUp. I could recall that it is a boy’s name, as that was supposed to be funny since the bird turned out to be a mother, but I couldn’t recall that the bird’s name is Kevin.
  • In a higher stakes game, I participated in a 90s trivia local access television game show. My partner and I got all but two questions correct, one of which asked us to give the name of Screech’s robot. It was… well, you get it.
I don’t have a solid explanation for this phenomenon. Perhaps it’s some narcissistic trait where I subconsciously refuse to acknowledge Kevins that aren’t myself. Or perhaps it’s just because all other Kevins are irrelevant in comparison. Name one better Kevin. Name one better Kevin! See, you can’t. Forget the rest… I do.



Ohhhhhh noooo.

I've barely left the couch today. The Olympics are on, and suddenly I care about sports again or whatever.

I have really mixed feelings about the Olympics. I hate nationalism, which puts me in a weird spot when it comes time to root for the athletes. I'm not going to cheer for the Americans just because they're American. I'd prefer to support the athletes who are the nicest or who have overcome the most. Perhaps the athletes with cancer, or had cancer, or are likely to one day have cancer. Or the underdogs. I'd prefer to support the athletes from countries who only send, like, five people total to represent them. It would mean so much to their countries for someone to bring home a single medal, whereas the USA wins so many medals that you lose track after just one day. 

And yet… I find myself rooting for the Americans anyway. It's just ingrained in me. My subconscious bleeds patriotic juices. I'm not happy about it, but it just shows how deep that kind of stuff runs. So… go USA? 

I'm not sure what to make of the opening ceremonies. Because I was at a restaurant, I couldn't hear most of the narration that might have explained what was going on, but it seemed like a hodgepodge of crap. It's as if they had a brainstorming session where they said "no ideas are wrong", but then ended up using all of the suggestions anyway. Though it wasn't "entertaining", I did sort of enjoy the celebration of Great Britain's national public health care. You mean to say that some countries actually like having their health costs covered by their government? I kept waiting for the participants to start ranting about socialism and death panels, but it was just a bunch of kids dancing on hospital beds. Even more reason to just root for USA, I guess.

In over four hours, the only part of the opening ceremony worth watching was this:

Please give all of the gold medals to this Vermont woman (I mean she's got to be from Vermont, right?) for general awesomeness. I'm going to have sexy dreams tonight of her playing Ryan Lochte's abs as a xylophone.


What's in a Name?

I was chatting with a woman who I had just met at a bar, and since she had a somewhat unusual name, I asked her why her parents chose it.
Well, she explains, her mom wanted to name her after her grandmother, but her dad was insistent on naming her after a former high school classmate of his who he considered to be the “most beautiful girl in the world”. 
Look, it’s not my business to tell other people when to get jealous in their relationships, but I don’t understand how the mom ever agreed to this choice. There’s no way I’d be cool with my spouse naming our kid after a longstanding crush. If my betrothed didn’t think I was the most beautiful person in the world, I’d appreciate not being reminded of this fact ever, let alone having a daily reminder in the form of a human I helped create. If it were a generic name, you could maybe excuse it, but when there’s only one other person you know by the name, how do you ever disassociate it?
“So your parents are probably divorced now, right?” I asked. 
“Yeah, actually, why would you guess that?” she asked back.
Lady, the failure of that marriage was written all over your birth certificate.


Six Weeks Left

Check out this rad photo of me at the cancer ward.
I was visiting a friend while she was being treated with chemotherapy, and when she got up to use the restroom, I got in her chair to pose for this beautifully tacky picture. It would have been even more awesome if the IV and drip stand was in the shot, but my friend had to leave that all stuck in her arm and wheel it with her to the restroom. Boring!
I’ve got to say, the cancer ward is a pretty humorless place. In a room full of people undergoing chemotherapy, my friends and I were the only ones conversing and having a good time. I mean, if laughter’s the best medicine, I wouldn’t say many of the patients have a good prognosis.
Except for my friend. I’m pleased to report that the chemotherapy is, in fact, working in the way the doctors had hoped and the treatment is almost complete. We even got her to go out out earlier this week. On the car ride over, she said that she hadn’t seen or spoken to some of the friends we were meeting up with since before her diagnosis, so they probably weren’t aware of her health status. And given that her hair has fallen out and her complexion is paler, it’s not exactly something she can hide. “It’s all right,” she said. “I’ll just tell them that I have cancer, but that I only have six weeks left.”
There was a long pause. “’…Of treatment’, you mean,” I said. “You have to finish that statement with ‘six weeks left of treatment.’ If you just go in and say, ‘I only have six weeks left,’ it sounds like you’re about to die.” And that’s when the people in our car decided it would be best to just say “six weeks left” and watch the friends freak out momentarily. It seemed like the funniest joke ever! Or, you know, absolutely cruel and awful. Hmm, maybe there’s a reason the people at the cancer ward didn’t find us funny.


Surprise, You're Gay Married!

You know how people defend marriage equality by saying "If you don't like gay marriage, don't get gay married?" Well, I am a homophobe's worst nightmare because I won't give you a say in the matter. In fact, I have been known to gay marry people without their knowledge.

Little known fact about me: I am an ordained minister. It was a long, grueling, ordeal - or maybe just a five minute process on the internet - for me to become a minister of the Universal Life Church. In doing so, I joined the esteemed ranks of Conan O'Brien, Tony Danza, Tori Spelling, Courtney Love, and Hugh Hefner. With a click of the mouse, I am now able to marry you… although I wouldn't be insulted if you went with Tony Danza as your officiator instead.

The problem was, as a freshman in college, I didn't know anyone looking to get married. After having my certification for a while, I got antsy and wanted to put it to use… with or without a couple's permission.

That's when I found two of my female friends lying down in a dorm hallway together, half asleep. I don't know that they were quite "cuddling", but their bodies were touching somewhat, so it looked close enough to love for me.

If I had asked them whether they wanted to be married, there is a strong chance they would have declined, so I just began the ceremony without first informing them. So as not to arouse suspicion, I resorted to mutters and whispers. Unsure of what I was doing, the girls asked, "What are you saying? Can you hear what he's saying? What are you doing?"

Finally I got to the point of the ceremony where they needed to accept each other. For the more artistically inclined girl, I drew a pictogram of an eyeball and blade of grass with an arrow pointing to condensation on the top of it. "What is this?" I asked her. "Eye… eye dew?" she guessed. Then I asked the other girl, the bigger pop culture buff, to remind me the name of that Lisa Loeb song. "Stay?" she guessed. "No, the other one," I said. "I Do?"

And with that, my muttering turned to a loud voice: "I now pronounce you wife and wife!"

There were objections, primarily from the brides themselves, but I explained that it was too late. Though they never signed any legal documents to make it official official, they were now linked in holy lesbian matrimony in the eyes of the Universal Life Church and - by association, I suppose - Tori Spelling.

The legal documents are irrelevant anyway. The law can't tell you who to love. Heck, sometimes even you can't tell you who to love, and I have to decide for you. That's just part of the divine wisdom I received when obtaining my internet certification.

Ten years later, one of those girls is about to get married again… to a man, unfortunately. Talk about a quitter! And a bigamist. Perhaps if same-sex marriage were more accepted, she'd be merrily celebrating her 10th anniversary instead. Courtney Love is not going to like this outcome.

So beware, supporters of "traditional" marriage. You never know when someone might come up behind you and gay marry you without your consent. That's right, gay marriage is coming for you next! BWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!


Hobbling on a Not Quite Red Carpet

A friend posted this photo on Facebook and two people commented to ask if it was a picture of Giovanni Ribisi. 

I'm flattered, I guess? I think they just assumed it'd be a celebrity because we're posing on a red, err, orange carpet that had been left up on the street after an event. But no, no one was clamoring to take my picture, I just demanded to have a photo snapped with Samantha's foot brace to demonstrate how accepting I am of crippled people, as well as to show my new Stella Artois chalice that a Stella babe/model gave me for free… I think she really liked me. 

Maybe this means I could be Giovanni's stunt double. Does he do action roles? I could do something dangerous. I may not have insurance, but I do know someone with a foot brace, so we could work something out.


Chalk Walk

I wrote a piece on last night’s ChalkWalk debacle in Los Angeles for Care2. Read it, sign the petition.

I’ve seen on the internet that a lot of people thinking chalking is a pretty trivial topic, but they’re failing to see the bigger picture. Chalk is not Occupy’s #1 cause. This is about showcasing how the elite, with help from the police, are systemically stifling Americans’ supposedly protected rights to protest. 99% of the time, the police are not going to bother citing chalk users with trumped up vandalism charges. They are selectively arresting to intimidate and prevent dissent.

The police’s vast overreaction showed just how necessary this type of action is. If they’re willing to go to those extremes to deprive people of the seemingly inconsequential right to use chalk, imagine what lengths they’ll go to to deprive you of rights you’d assume you already have… until you try to use them.

Other critics have said Occupy is responsible for the violence because they “knew” that using chalk on the street would result in extreme police force. Firstly, how is that somehow worse than the police firing at a crowd of people for using chalk? And secondly, good for them if they did know, because it just highlights what an oppressive police state we live in, as well as who the police are really there to serve.

The Occupiers weren’t even in a fight with the police in this case. Most had left the scene. It was the unaffiliated civilians who took on the cause. They watched people being shoved and arrested for drawing with chalk and were angered – angered at a police department that has not endeared itself to its citizens in the past decades. Still, there was no riot… until police showed up in riot gear. People then interpreted a peaceful, yet agitated scene as a riotous one and acted accordingly.

The police got the riot they were looking for, and hopefully more people will come to see through it. In the meantime, I’ll be trying to help them see the light by chalking out messages of oppression. Fuck the arbitrary laws that police are inventing. One LAPD officer on the scene said that chalk wasn’t considered vandalism and another guy said chalking was illegal “for right now” as if they were just making up the law on the spot to make some arrests, which – yep, pretty much. They know that many of these charges don’t even stick. So chalk on, my friends. Plus, given my aversion to touching and hearing chalk, you know this is a firm commitment to the cause.


A New National Anthem

Late on the 4th of July, I couldn’t go to bed before rocking out to the most patriotic song that I know: “Party in the USA” by Miley Cyrus. After sharing it on Facebook, Jared suggested making the song our National Anthem. In my post-BBQ haze, I thought I had never heard a finer idea. “The Star Spangled Banner” is not only passé, but gives the impression that we are warmongers – which, although true, is not something for which we should strive. On the other hand, “Party in the USA” mentions important American cultural icons like the Hollywood sign, Britney Spears, Nashville, LAX airport, Jay-Z, the quest for fame, and, of course, partying.

I actually took the initiative and made an honest-to-gosh petition to convince the U.S. Congress to make the switch. When I checked it again the next day, I was surprised to see a number of people had signed it. We’re up to 30 now. I’m not sure whether that’s enough to make Congress reconsidered such a longstanding tradition, especially given the fact that half of the signatures came from people outside of the United States (shout out to the Miley fans in Australia, India, the UK, France, New Zealand, Norway, Netherlands, Andorra, Hong Kong, Belgium, Finland, Portugal, Serbia, Montenegro, and Poland).

But maybe with your help we can get enough signatures. Sign it! Preferably, let’s get this done before the Olympics. How great would it be to see our athletes on the podium shaking their butts to something poppy rather than pretending to mouth the words to a depressing song like “The Star Spangled Banner”? I mean, “Party in the USA” even has some obvious dance steps included in the lyrics like “throwing [one’s] hands up”, “nodding [one’s head like yeah”, and “moving [one’s] hips like yeah”.


Awful Children's Books

My friend Kim is very fortunate to be a children's librarian. Aside from having to deal with children (shudder), she gets to weed funny, dated books from her library collection. It's just like my favorite blog I never remember to read, Awful Library Books!

Kim was kind enough to share some of her more memorable finds with me:

Surprisingly, that computer looks even less modern than...

Woo too, space puppets! If that's not enough puppet action for you, try this peregrine falcon puppet that's trying to raise a chick.

I guess its mother died? Much like this bird...

Great cover art! And it's part of a series...

It turns out there are a lot of books about handicapped kids in Kim's library.


And then there's this book about Jamie. According to the text, he's slow, he doesn't have many friends, and he suffers from an "invisible handicap. [He is] not retarded." So, like, an autism book before autism? Wish I could read the whole thing to know if it's more or less offensive than my other favorite kids' book My Brother Steven Is Retarded.


Like We Was on E

When "What's Luv" first hit the radio, I didn't realize the line, "We be freaking all night like we was on E" was a reference to having sex while on ecstasy.

I honestly thought it was an E! (Entertainment Television) reference. I pictured E!'s coverage of post-Grammy parties with all of the stars sipping champagne and freak dancing. As I saw it, Fat Joe was just saying that they were partying so hard it was as if they were being televised.

Clearly, I was a very sheltered 18-year-old. Maybe if I attended more actual parties rather than staying home to watch late-night cable coverage of celebrities dancing, I'd have had a clue.

I think I'd still rather be on E! than E, though.


So, Are You Guys, Like, Popular?

It was a Labor Day picnic, and I was playing with the other kids my age. They weren't exactly friends, more so friends by association, kids I was made to hang out with semi-regularly because our parents were friends. We probably would have never chosen each other as friends on our own accord. Then again, I'm not sure most of the parents would choose each other as friends again considering that very few of them keep in touch anymore… old people drama!

Given the frequency of our play dates, some of the kids were almost like siblings, particularly in the sense that whether I liked or hated them on a given day was bound to fluctuate, and ultimately it didn't matter because we had to put up with each other anyway. 

However, now we had hit a significant transition period. Elementary school had ended and our parents would no longer be responsible for setting up who we socialized with. In fact, the very next day, we would begin junior high, and several of us who had attended different primary schools would now find ourselves in the same building on a daily basis. I had been wondering what this would mean for our relationships, and it quickly became clear:

"So, are you guys, like, popular?" the pretty, athletic girl asked another girl who went to my same elementary school and me.

I froze. The answer was no. Well, pretty much. In sixth grade (probably the peak of my social life until I hit college, sadly) I was well-liked, well-respected, and considered smart and funny. I was friends with a bunch of the popular kids, even. But in the 12-year-old sense, that's not what makes someone "popular." There's a certain look, attitude, and cliquishness required to be popular, and I didn't fit that mold. 

While I was still unsure of how to explain my popularity status, the other girl, who was slightly more popular than me but hardly high in the pecking order, chimed in. "Oh, we're super popular!" she said, without a hint of sarcasm, while giving me a high-five.

My first thought was, "This girl is delusional! We're not popular!" Even if she was lying on purpose, it's not like the pretty girl wasn't going to figure it out. I could already see the incredulous look on her face as she tried to size up whether we were actually popular. This distinction, I could already tell, was going to determine whether she continued friendships with us in junior high school. 

Well, spoiler: I wasn't actually popular, and so she never once acknowledged me again, acting as if I didn't exist anytime she passed me in the halls. It turned out she wasn't even super popular herself, she just had the privilege of walking three steps behind the popular girls amongst other vaguely popular girls who were indistinguishable from her.

And while the girl who bluffed about our popularity received similar treatment from the pretty girl, we ended up becoming better friends. That was a turning point for us, actually. I mean, how could I not respect someone who refused to take that elitist girl's question seriously? I lost one "friend", but found a better one.


Three's Company

My new roommates planned this photo shoot. Come and knock on our door.


Thinking Critically about Education

Alarming news: Republicans don’t want kids to think critically anymore. That’s not just conjecture - the Texas GOP put that in its official educational platform for 2012. In addition to promoting classroom corporal punishment, wanting to eliminate the U.S. Department of Education, saying that abstinence-only sex education is the only valid approach, and deriding a “multicultural curriculum” as “divisive”, the document said this:
“We oppose the teaching of Higher Order Thinking Skills (HOTS) (values clarification), critical thinking skills and similar programs that are simply a relabeling of Outcome-Based Education (OBE) (mastery learning) which focus on behavior modification and have the purpose of challenge the student’s fixed beliefs and undermining parental authority.
In other words, don’t teach kids how to think. Teach kids how to memorize, how to regurgitate, and how to follow orders, but when it comes to students having original thoughts that come out of their own brains, they “oppose”. And they can mask it as not wanting to stress the “student’s fixed beliefs” (also known as maturation) or undermining parents (also known as typical teenage behavior), but the bottom line is that they don’t want to give people the tools to think for themselves. People who think independently challenge authority and are less susceptible to propaganda. This is an attempt at passive mind control.

When I was a teacher, helping my students to think critically was my number one goal, not to mention the most challenging. You can’t force kids to engage in higher order thinking (particularly kids who have been discouraged from doing so all of their lives) as it is an internal process, but I did my best to put them in situations and give them assignments where critical thinking would be a natural extension for those who were ready. Specifically, I used literature as my medium. At the end of the day, I didn’t care much if the students couldn’t remember the name of any poets, so long as engaged with the poems on a deeper level.

This published policy of limiting thought substantiates my beliefs toward education. You can call it a conspiracy theory, but I think the reason the public education system is failing is because the powers that be have no use for it anymore. Whereas the elite used to need a reasonably educated working force to staff its factories, technology is replacing the need for jobs. So why fund education (hence the across the board slashing of taxes allocated to schools) when it doesn’t benefit the elite like it used to? In fact, if anything, having an educated, unemployed populace will only cause more trouble as the will have the knowledge to speak out against injustice and fascism.

Furthermore, while I think most teachers are still committed to their professions, their jobs are severely restricted by higher-ups. In most school settings, teachers are told very specifically what they have to teach and how they have to teach it. Regulation does not help education, it impedes it. It dilutes learning to a formula – a purposefully unsuccessful formula, I’d argue.

Another item on the Texas GOP’s platform calls for government to stop funding kindergarten. How many studies need to be done showing how crucial early education is in creating lifelong learners before people believe it? While the GOP argues that parents should decide how to educate their kids in their early years, who else is going to be able to afford to pay for kindergarten? This obstacle, just like massive (and rising) tuition rates, is about making education inaccessible to the masses. The rich will always be able to pay for their kids to be educated (and thus maintain their wealth and status), while the poor will have limited options for self-improvement.

I left teaching because, as much as I loved being an educator, I hated being a babysitter. More than half my job was about disciplining and making sure kids were constantly doing what they were told. It was about teaching directly to standardized tests – not teaching them how to write well, but how to write exactly how the test graders were looking for when they spent no more than thirty seconds skimming each essay. No wonder so many kids reject school.

All of this is to say: be wary of a government that doesn’t want to actually educate you. If the government doesn’t want you to think, it has its own best interests in mind, not yours. Education and critical thinking is one of the few tools humanity has to save itself. We need to reflect honestly (and swiftly) to respond to the rising social, political, and environmental problems that face the world. Don’t let them take away critical thought – those who are having it ripped away don’t even know how badly they need it.