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The Official Blog of The Reluctant Blogger

Welcome to the official website of both author Ryan Rapier, and his debut novel, THE RELUCTANT BLOGGER, a story about family, faith, relationships…and other things that can lead to therapy.

Author Carol Lynn Pearson calls THE RELUCTANT BLOGGER, “A delightful gift from a skilled writer and insightful observer of life in Mormondom. THE RELUCTANT BLOGGER invites us to the high and holy calling of laughing at ourselves and loving ourselves pretty much at the same time. Highly Recommended!

Eric Samuelsen, playwrite and former president of the Association of Mormon Letters, exclaims, “Man, I liked this book. [It's] Warm and human and real. I read it in one afternoon. I just couldn’t put it down.”

Get a copy today wherever LDS books are available or by clicking on the links to internet retailers located on the right hand side of this blog.

WARNING: While this blog is the official blog of author, Ryan Rapier, the postings located below do not necessarily focus entirely on his book nor on writing in general. Topics below can range from politics to sports to family life minutiae to…whatever random subject might be on the author’s mind. If you are looking for helpful hints on writing, reviews of other author’s works or anything else in between, there is a large potential for disappointment.

Goodbye, Maverick

When I was eight-years-old, I went to a school Halloween party dressed as a cowboy. At least that’s what everyone else at the party saw. That’s definitely what my fellow eight-year-olds saw. But I wasn’t the rugged, just walked in from riding the range kind of cowboy. I was a fancy cowboy with nice boots, new jeans, a white shirt, a bolo tie and a suit coat. A to top the entire outfit off, I wore a big beautiful black cowboy hat that had been left to me by my granddad who had passed away earlier that year. I looked gooood!

And I was not just some cowboy. I was Bret Maverick.

Earlier that year, a new show had debuted on NBC called Bret Maverick. James Garner starred in the title role as a gambler who, on occasion, delved into the arena of con-artist. It was a return for Mr. Garner to the role that had made him famous back in the ’50s. The original show was one of my grandfather’s favorites and by association became one of the shows that my mother loved during her childhood years. Also drawing my parents to this new show was the fact that both of them had been huge fans of the show, Rockford Files. I remember many evenings spent at my Granny and Granddad’s house with the adults watching Jim Rockford’s weekly escapades.  I was a little too young at the time to appreciate that show, but when Bret Maverick premiered, my mom had me sit down and watch the first episode. That was all it took. I was hooked for life.

So for Halloween that year, there was no other option as to who I would be. The only downside was, I couldn’t figure out how to incorporate the nine different guns Bret Maverick always had stowed on his body in different hiding places, including the one in the crown of his hat. I tried to put one of my toy pistols in there, but it left me with a headache after just five minutes.

I loved that show. It lasted only one year, but I absolutely loved that show. And it started my lifelong admiration for James Garner.

Not long after I was introduced to Bret Maverick, I was further indoctrinated into the “James Garner is the best comedic actor in westerns of all time” camp when I saw Support Your Local Gun Fighter. It’s a silly movie, but again, I was hooked. I wanted to be that basic character, that at the end of the day was really just Bret Maverick repackaged. I would even incorporate him into my childhood play. I once tried the move from that particular movie where he bangs his head into wooden pillars after he loses a fortune playing roulette. It only took once to realize that was not a wise thing to mimic.

My fascination with Maverick, and by association James Garner, then waned throughout my adolescence, but only because there was nothing new to be fascinated with. That all changed when I arrived home from my mission and one of the first things my mother told me was that a new Maverick movie had come out just weeks before I’d stepped off that plane. I was ecstatic. When she told me James Garner was in it, I was obsessed. It was the first movie I saw in a theater after my two-year stint in England. And I fully loved every second of it.

Now I know there are those who don’t care for the Mel Gibson flick. I’ve heard many critical comments about how long it took to end. I couldn’t disagree more. It was awesome. And the final reveal was a culmination of joy that encapsulated my entire childhood. It will come as no surprise to anyone that I own that movie. Not just that, I own the movie poster and it hangs on the wall of my family room/big-screen television escape sanctuary. Two DVDs that sit along side it are Support Your Local Gun Fighter and Support Your Local Sheriff.

So when I heard that Mr. Garner had passed away this last Saturday, it caused me to pause for a moment in true grief. I do understand how ridiculous this may sound, but as long as he was alive, I always held out hope that a sequel to Maverick might get made and my life-long connection to the character could continue. Like I said, I know this is ridiculous, and I pretty much knew it was never going to happen once Mel Gibson shouted anti-Semitic comments at a police officer, but I still held out hope regardless. I mean, it did reasonably well at the box office. And it was perfectly set-up for a sequel. How could they not make one? They made sequels to everything from The Mask to that stupid bird cartoon, Rio. I still struggle to accept that a Maverick sequel never got off the ground.

Anyway, back to Mr. Garner. I loved his style. He was an every-man hero. I think only Harrison Ford and Tom Selleck have ever come close to capturing that “I don’t want to be the hero in this situation, but since no one is going to step up, I guess I’ll do it” persona that he depicted so well. It’s been three days and I’m still feeling the urge to go find copies of all the movies being mentioned in his obituaries that I haven’t seen. And I’ll watch them right after I get finished watching all of my favorites that I have seen.

And if I ever get around to doing that, I’ll make my kids watch them with me. They’ve already seen Support Your Local Sheriff and Maverick and they enjoyed them. I don’t know if they enjoyed them enough to love them like I do, but I don’t care. I’m going to make them sit there with me anyway. Because when they do, it will remind me of those moments when I was introduced to the talent and grace of James Garner by my mother.

And who knows. Maybe when I’m sitting there with my kids, it will be easier to imagine her there with us. Because if my mother were alive today, I know that’s exactly where she’d be.

One Of My Childhood Heroes Comes Through Again

About thirty years ago, I became enamored with a new musical hero known as “Weird Al” Yankovic.

And why wouldn’t I? I was ten years old and songs like, “Another One Rides The Bus” and “I Love Rocky Road” or even “Eat It” were right in my adolescent wheel house.

Through the years, I have continued to enjoy some of Weird Al’s offerings, and even though my tastes have matured, there is no way to suppress a grin when I hear, “White and Nerdy”, “Amish Paradise”, “I Bought It On E-bay”, “A Complicated Song”, and “Perform This Way.”

However, this week my enjoyment of Weird Al intersected with one of my biggest pet peeves in life, creating one giant cataclysmic colliding of two worlds.

So before I get to that, I need to rant for just a second on the just mentioned pet peeve. What has happened to our culture’s desire and ability to: A. Use the English language in the appropriate way it was created, or B. For Heaven’s sake, JUST SPELL?!?!? The number of communications I receive on a regular basis that contain basic grammar and/or spelling disasters is far beyond alarming. So while I don’t engage in on-line grammar policing, I do find myself fuming regularly as I see the language of our culture being decimated on a regular basis.

Thankfully, I have been blessed to have Weird Al present me with an outlet to finally unleash my anger and outrage over what has been happening to English. (I find it interesting that so many Americans get all up in arms over people coming to this country who have to be accommodated because they are not bi-lingual when the real outrage is that there are so many natively born Americans who are apparently not even uni-lingual. Just sayin’.)

So, without further ado, I present a song and video that had me, my wife and my nine-year-old son rolling with laughter last night. Not just because it is funny, but because it is also very true. And if you are offended, please accept my not-so-heart-felt apology. Because, in truth, I COULDN’T CARE LESS!!!

Someone Thought This Was A Good Idea

This week’s entry into my ongoing list of “100 Things That Leave Me Speechless” is a conglomeration of things that make me ask, “Who on earth thought this was a good idea?” So let’s begin.

70. Lifetime’s Newest Reality Series, Born In The Wild - Just when we thought reality TV had reached a low that couldn’t be…topped? Bottomed? Whatever. Anyway, just when we were coming to grips with the fact that a show called Naked and Afraid could actually make it onto the airwaves, the Lifetime network has said, “I will see your fuzzed out full-frontal nudity and unfuzzed backsides and raise you…everything we’ve got.” Premiering in the near future, young couples deciding to forego any medical assistance will have their babies unassisted in the natural surroundings of the wilderness. The show will apparently show fully naked women (certain parts fuzzed out I’m sure) giving birth in the wild’s of nature for…heaven knows what ungodly reason.

My favorite quote associated with this new show comes from Ron Jaekle, MD. “I understand everybody wants to believe we overmedicalize pregnancy and that it’s a natural process. But it’s a natural process that historically has caused an extraordinary loss of life.” Well said, Dr. Jaekle. But what you’re forgetting is that giving birth in a hospital doesn’t allow a person instant notoriety for appearing naked and exploiting their new born baby on television. You really do have to take that into account.

69. We’ll give up five dangerous Taliban members for a deserter, but we can’t do anything for a marine still in good standing in Mexico – Hmmm

68. To punish a rich idiotic white man who owns a basketball team for racially insensitive comments, the NBA is going to force him to accept a $2 billion payoff to go away. Double Hmmm

67. Elio Motors presents the latest in vehicular technology. It gets 84 mpg and costs only $6,800 – Yes, but you have to be seen driving this:elio car 2elio car 1

elio car 3

66. Bravo network sees Lifetime’s Born In The Wild and raises it by 500 icky points – The Bravo network will soon be unleashing its latest reality offering on viewers, Untying the Knot. The series will follow a new couple each week whose marriage is beyond saving and will then subject viewers to the fun process of divvying up their stuff. My only question is, how depraved do you have to be to want to put this painful episode of your life on television? Oh wait, did I mention that mothers are going to give birth in a stream fully nude while the cameras roll? If this were an actual depravity poker game, I’m not sure which hand would win.

65. University of Utah posts this on YouTube to thank their donors for helping them reach their fundraising goal.

Never been more proud of not being a Ute!!!

64. Birkenstock recently released these shoes starting at a cool $1,000 a pair.

Birkenstocks 1kMy only question is; in 2014, is it fashionable to wear them with socks? I would hate to spend that kind of money and then end up looking stupid.

63. Who convinced women that going topless to protest anything is an effective way to use free speech? – Especially in light of the fact that everybody seems to be doing it now. Here’s a hint to any woman contemplating this approach for bringing attention to a cause that matters to them. Boobies don’t bring attention to causes, they bring attention to boobies. And please, may we get this under control before we have “Bear Your Breasts In Church” day from the OW movement? Oh wait, we kind of already did.

62. With the release of a second video showing Justin Bieber using a…no, the racial slur, can we please get someone to give this kid $2 billion to just go away? - And take Selena Gomez with him?

61. Keeping streets in darkness is a safety issue – My one Ryan Rapier for Town Council entry is this: I would like to point out that the Town of Thatcher has an embarrassingly low amount of street lights. Entire neighborhoods have been built within the town limits that do not contain any public lighting at all. To my view, this leads to a variety of safety issues. Pedestrian safety, driver safety, and an environment that fosters criminal activity. My one and only platform in this election is to improve safety and to further enhance the beauty of the town I live in. I believe increasing the number of street lights in our community would be a huge first step.

Campaign commercial now over.

And so is this post.

 

Breaking My Silence With A Big Announcement

It’s been a while since I started writing toward my goal of documenting 100 things that leave me flabbergasted and speechless as recognition of getting 100 reviews on Goodreads and reaching my 100th post on this blog. In fact, it’s been a while since I wrote anything. And so, I am still stuck on number 80 and my blog has sat dark for several weeks. Why would I let this happen? Did I really have nothing to say? Well, the truth is, I’ve been busy. With a number of things. And secondly, some of things I would have written about have been too depressing. But today, I am back with an entry for my list that is a bit more serious in nature and that ends with a major announcement. So, let’s pick up where we left off, shall we?

80. What is it that men have against women? – If I live a hundred years, I don’t think I will understand the mindset of man like Abubakar Shekau. How on earth does it make someone more of a man to kidnap 300 schoolgirls (simply because they were schoolgirls and receiving an education) and then threaten to sell them into sex slavery unless his nation’s government stops providing females a “Western” education? In fact, why is it that this type of barbarism is just the latest example of the type of behavior men have exhibited against women through the ages? Which leads to an even larger question. What is it about human nature that pushes a person to desire power over another? And then once they have it, to act out in cruelty just to maintain what little power they have, whether it be terrorists with a hostage or an abusive spouse in a dysfunctional marriage? This episode in Nigeria has led me to think long and hard about this and I’ve come to conclusion. We should start pounding the message of kindness into our youth the way we pound the message of sexual purity or the word of wisdom.  Don’t get me wrong, there is much to be gained by having our youth internalize the lesson of keeping sex within the bonds of marriage or to avoid addictive behaviors. But when Christ had the opportunity to provide the ultimate words of council, he didn’t say, “No sex until your married.” He said, “As I have loved you, love one another.” That’s it. Yes, he gave other counsel, but that was the big one. And we still, as a culture, don’t give it it’s proper respect.

My prayers go out to those Nigerian girls and their families. I hope everything ends well. But at the same time, my prayers go out to every wife, mother, child and even man who has to live beneath the brutal whip of cruelty. They don’t deserve it. No one does.

79. What has happened with the Benghazi affair is the lowest form of politics I’ve ever seen – Whoever was responsible for not sending help to our people in Libya that night should have to answer for it with their careers and possibly their freedom. But this should not be used at all as a political issue in the 2014 or 2016 elections. Democrats who would try and block investigations should be impeached and Republicans who try to use this for ammunition in their political races should be as well. I know this is a pipe dream, but it makes me quite sad to think of what is coming should Hillary Clinton choose to run for president. The men who died deserve better than that…and so do their families.

78. I thought my LDS church mission was the hardest thing I had ever done until it came to raising my teenager. And I’ve got a pretty good teenager – Do I really need to expound?

77. When you fail your child, it hurts worse than when you fail yourself – As documented, I felt disappointment for a day when I failed to be recognized as a finalist for an award my book had been nominated for. But fairly quickly, I got over it. The other night, my middle child (the one who is so easy going he often gets overlooked) actually received an award for his solid work and attitude in a children’s play he was a part of. He was to be recognized at an awards ceremony and everything. Except his mother and I forgot about the ceremony. It’s been three days and I still feel terrible.

76. People getting their just desserts is not a reason for celebrating – Our local paper yesterday morning ran an article about two local police officers who were let go for behavior and wrongdoing associated with extra marital affairs. Some of these affairs have been common knowledge in our community for a while. And in some ways, it might seem that having this all come to light in the paper and having these men lose their jobs is a just reward for their actions. But both of them have families who did nothing wrong. And I can’t help but think of them today.

75. Elliptical machines are a devil’s invention – I wrecked my knee about three weeks ago and have been forced to give up the treadmill and move to an elliptical machine if I want to continue exercising. I want to knock the ice cream cone out of the man’s hand who invented that contraption. I just do.

74. My favorite columnist, from the time I was in high school until now, is retiring next month – Why is it that reminders of my advancing age seem to come daily now. Casey Kasem, the man my brother made me watch every Saturday as he did his weekly Top 10 countdown show, can’t speak anymore because of his advancing Parkinson’s and he’s missing (oh wait, he’s been found) because he has no control over his own life anymore. The music of my youth is on the oldies station and the singers that my parents loved are getting too old to perform or they’re dying. And Phil Mickelson’s golf game is deteriorating right before my eyes. I don’t want to get older anymore.

73. Why do all the fragrances for men’s deodorant smell awful – I wear women’s deodorant and am not ashamed to admit it. I would rather smell like flowers than some weird spice from the far east that is apparently very manly. I just would.

72. Politics is an awful game and only an idiot would subject themselves to such a brutal punishment – Which leads me to my big announcement and final installment of this post…

71. I’m running for Thatcher Town Council – Heaven help me and my family, but I’ve come to believe that if I’m going to have strong opinions, I ought to be ready to back them up. I truly love this little town I’m living in and want to see it be all that it can be. So here’s to my budding political career. May I keep my integrity and have the good sense to walk away before I ever think that I’m someone of importance.

The Night of Broken Silicon

Up front, I don’t really feel like I have the time or desire to write another word about this subject. In many ways, I feel like I’ve said all I have to say. But because of opinions and beliefs that I have shared on this site, I feel it important to express my feelings about a recent development in this on-going political debate. To be clear, I am not renouncing one opinion  I have shared. If it appears to some that I am, I apologize. Please go back and read those things you think I’m betraying because I don’t believe you’ll find a contradiction. However, if you believe otherwise, I apologize. I have always been about open dialogue and finding common ground through love and acceptance. That’s it. Which is why what happened on April 3rd is so aggravating personally and destructive nationally.

Can we all agree on one thing up front? Regardless of your feelings on gay marriage, or any other form of marriage contrary to the long established “one man, one woman” mantra, the hard facts are that from a purely scientific point-of-view, an argument could be made for the status quo that has existed for centuries. I suppose if taken to its most biological and primate form, you could also make an argument for polygamy (which I am loathe to do and will not be doing) but in the end, the reality is, from a purely biological standpoint, you need a man and you need a woman to create life. Factor in religion, (whether you believe in God or a god or some sort of supreme power greater than humanity or just hold to the belief that religion’s existence is simply an opiate for the masses) and the basic reasoning for the creation of marriage centuries ago would seem to be a desire on the part of society to create an institution that would provide the best possible outcome for humans during their infancy and formative years. And whether or not you agree with that opinion in today’s world, it would be disingenuous to suggest that it is an opinion completely devoid of merit.

Now, to be fair, in the United States of 2014, we are well aware that the plight of the traditional family is far from healthy. And it would also be disingenuous to suggest that gay people or the idea of gay marriage is the reason why. My own personal viewpoint is that children born in circumstances that amount to first world poverty should be of far greater concern to the faithful than what two consenting adults of the same gender want to do with their lives. Furthermore, I would stand up and support the rights of two individuals of the same gender who are committed to each other in a long-term relationship to adopt a child because I believe the life provided to that child by two loving parents in a stable home is so much more preferable to what millions of children are growing up in within the borders of our nation.

But that’s just it. The ideas that I support in the paragraph above are simply my opinions. And I should be free to hold them and support them to whatever extent I deem acceptable within the context of my personal life. Which is where this ongoing political struggle regarding gay marriage took an ugly turn last week.

Brendan Eich is one of the co-founding members of Mozilla, the parent company behind the web browser Firefox. In 2008, Mr. Eich donated $1,000 to the Proposition 8 campaign fighting against gay marriage in the state of California. His donation became public when the opposition to Prop 8 requested the lists of people who donated so that they could make them public. I feel it is fair to say (since many who were involved in this process have essentially said as much themselves) that the purpose of making that list public was to shame to those who gave money to Prop 8. At the time, it had little effect on Mr. Eich. However, when he was announced as Mozilla’s new CEO a little over two weeks ago, certain proponents of gay marriage both within the company and without, made it their mission to get him removed. After ten days, they were successful.

What is so disturbing about this is the arguments that have been used to justify this in the aftermath. The New Yorker magazine stated that he was fair game because his political views on gay marriage were well known. They made no mention of how they became well known and in truth, Mr. Eich was never an outspoken advocate against gay marriage. He simply gave a donation. The only reason his views were well known is because of the “outing” (pardon the pun) of Prop 8 contributors by political foes for the specific purpose to cause damage.

Furthermore, The Los Angeles Times goes on to argue that because Mr. Eich is on the wrong side of history, his personal views, regardless of whether they affect the company or not, disqualify him from holding the office of CEO, especially in Silicon Valley where liberal views and support of gay marriage are the prevailing sentiment.

To this I say…WHAT????

There are several things I want to address, but first and foremost, let’s talk about this wrong side of history argument. The Los Angeles Times compares being against gay marriage in 2014 to being against interracial marriage or racial equality in…2014. It admits it may not be as retrograde, but still suggests that they are the same. The problem with this argument goes back to what I stated earlier. Regardless of whether anyone likes it or not, there is a biological argument that simply does not exist with regards to racial equality. I am not saying I adhere to this argument as being substantial enough to completely deny the benefits of marriage to gay people, but it is an argument that has not been fully laid to rest. Mainly, those who support gay marriage point to the fact that those who have been given the opportunity to enjoy marriage in a heterosexual relationship have not handled their stewardship well and therefore don’t deserve the right to define marriage in today’s society. Divorce rates well above 50% indicate they are right. But that doesn’t fully address the basic biological argument. Especially when it is combined with a religious component. Therefore the argument in 2014 is hardly laid to rest. Bottom line, to say that the “wrong side of history” had been fully developed and therefore justifiable grounds for discrimination is a tad sinister. Could it be that in years to come Mr. Eich is discovered to have been on the wrong side of history? It is certainly possible. But also on the wrong side of history is disqualifying individuals for privately held convictions. Just ask Joseph McCarthy.

Secondly, the argument that he was not fit to serve because the political make-up of Silicon Valley is predominately pro gay marriage is also ludicrous. If those who supported Prop 8 had also publicized the names of everyone giving money to their opposition, would those justifying Mr. Eich’s ouster be so quick to support the ouster of…let’s say the CEO of Cabelas sporting goods. I have no knowledge of Mr. Millner’s view on gay marriage, but if he had given money to fight Prop 8 in California and had then been forced to resign because the hunting and fishing community is predominately anti-gay marriage, the resulting explosion from those justifying Mr. Eich’s ouster would have been heard ’round the world. And rightly so.

Finally, I turned to Slate.com. And here, I found a compelling piece of editorial journalism. Mr. Bouie’s argument is that if Mr. Eich’s removal was unfair, it was only a high profile example of what many who are gay, and live in states that do not have laws protecting gay individuals from being fired for their sexual orientation, face. To this argument I say, okay, I agree with this one. Neither is right and both should not happen. I find no issue with joining Mr. Bouie’s call for every state to work toward non-discrimination laws that extend to sexual orientation. Because as he states so eloquently, “For as much as employer flexibility is important to a dynamic economy, it’s also true that no one should fear firing for the people they love, the identity they claim, or the donations they make.” Now there’s a rational thought in the middle of hysteria.

Bottom line, I believe the world is changing. I believe the realization on the part of religious people the world over that same-sex attraction is not easily explained away is becoming more widespread and is fostering an environment that could be beneficial to all. Should it have happened years, decades, and possibly even centuries earlier? Yes. It should have. But it’s happening now. And while advancements may not come as quickly as some would like, taking actions like those that were taken against Mr. Eich will not help anyone. They will only further divide and foster more anger. Which is ironic since this whole argument exists over the rights of each individual to love whom they will.

Blessed (Not By Elton John)

WARNING: The following post may contain sappiness and does not contain the USDA’s daily recommended dose of cynicism.

Often following a particularly biting post or one where the more negative aspects of my personality shine through, my wife will remind me that she intends to have all of my blog posts printed and saved in a book format.  She did this with my old blog and it serves as a bit of personal history. Her purpose is to keep me on track from saying something that I will likely regret our posterity reading at a future date. It doesn’t always work. In fact it rarely works, but I feel that for posterity’s sake, I should take today’s portion of the top 100 items that leave me in shock or speechless (see previous post for explanation) and devote it to things that I am shocked and speechless to be blessed with.

Now to be clear, as I was contemplating this post earlier in the evening, I had a need to turn on a light and was struck with how blessed I am to live in a time of electricity. Which made me think, Do I have to include that kind of stuff in this post? I quickly determined that no, I do not. For one, I have never lived in a time where indoor plumbing, electricity and telephones have not existed. I did, when I was very young, have to get off the couch to manually change the channel on my parent’s small black and white television, but I hardly think that counts as a major hardship. So with that in mind, I don’t believe I am truly shocked at those kind of blessings. I don’t think it’s possible for someone like me. I have never known a life without them. It goes along the lines of the “How can I know good without knowing evil” kind of debate.

So, the items I will include are only those kind of things that when I sit and ponder, I am stunned at how blessed I truly am.

Ready? Then let’s pick up where we left off with number 90.

90. To Quote Dr. Suess, “Oh, The Places You’ll Go”

Two things, I realize this could actually fit in the same category as those listed above because travel has always been available in my lifetime. Also, I don’t want this next paragraph to come across as bragging. It isn’t meant that way, so please don’t take it that way.

But when I sit back and think of where I have been allowed to go in my lifetime, I marvel. Now compared to others, it isn’t much, but in comparison to millions of people currently on this planet and in comparison to billions who have lived upon it over the course of time, I have seen some amazing things. I served a mission in England. I got to see the rolling hills of Wales and stand where Kings have been crowned. I have seen The Statue of Liberty from across the bay and eaten lobster in Maine. I’ve met Mickey Mouse on two different coasts. And I’ve sat amidst the waves of a storied Hawaiian beach in the early morning hours with not another single living soul in sight. I’ve been blessed to do some truly amazing things in some truly amazing parts of the world, to the point that if I were never allowed to travel again, I would still have to admit that I’ve been blessed.

89. In Case I’ve Never Mentioned It, I Wrote A Book

At this point, over 1,500 people have either read my book or have at least purchased a copy. That means 1,500 people have read the words I put together or at least paid for the privilege to do so. That is mystifying to me and extremely humbling. In comparison to John Grisham or Stephen King, I have a long way to go. But even though I know I probably won’t, how awesome!

88. Never Underestimate The Value of a Good Friend

I am always amazed at the caliber of friends I have. And not just friends who come and go in a year or two, but folks I have been blessed to call friends for decades. Yes, decades in the plural form. And to be clear, as far as decades go, I’ve only been around for four. Why such good people put up with me as the years go by I will never know. But I am grateful for them more than I can express.

87. The Power of the Fork

I am allowed to call myself a proud alumnus (I would probably have used the word alumni improperly here had I attended BYU) of the great Arizona State University.

86. The Old Pueblo Has Never Been My Pueblo

There may have been a day that I would have welcomed the opportunity to be a proud Wildcat from the University of Arizona. But that opportunity would have required me to live in Tucson. And I am beyond blessed in never having had to do that. Speaking of which…

85. Not Everywhere is Ideal for Hanging Your Hat

Along with Tucson, as of yet, I have never had to live in Lordsburg, Deming or any other locale that gets a large portion of their revenue from traffic pulling off of the I-10. I’m sure many of these communities are fantastic, but…no para mi.

84. My Mother Always Prayed For Good Influences

I have been influenced by some amazing people in my life. From a music teacher who showed me how to believe in dreams to a mission president who taught me to believe in miracles. Parents who taught me to expect more, but only if I earned it. Extended family who provided everything from a challenge to my rigid mindset to a soft place to land when the difficulties of life reared their ugly head. A brother who has helped me see the value in welcoming differences rather than requiring similarities. And a wife who sees the real me on a daily basis…and stays in spite of it.

83. Who Are These Little People That Look Like Me?

Yes, I know every parent says this, but suck it up and take it because I’m going to say it anyway. My kids amaze me. It’s funny what you dream about when you are expecting your first child. It’s also funny how often those dreams don’t come true…and that it’s more than okay. After so many years, I still can’t answer the question of which is harder, having a child that is nothing like me, or having a child that is exactly like me. Both provide more learning opportunities than I ever could have imagined. But mostly, I am blown away that I get to be a small part of the lives of these amazing human beings in the making. They deserve better. But I’m glad they didn’t get what they deserve.

82. Workin’ 9 to 5

In my entire adult life, I have never had a job that wasn’t Monday to Friday, with eight hours somewhere between 6 a.m. and 5 p.m. Yes there are days when I might have given this away to make more money. But in today’s world, coming home every night and spending time with my family is one of the greatest blessings I could ask for.

81. I Have Never Failed to Live Up To My Potential As a Constant Disappointment

I doubt I will ever be able to understand why a loving Heavenly Father continues to bless me as he does when I work so hard not to deserve it. Nor will I ever be able to put into words how grateful I am that he does.

That’s it for our trip through the 80′s. We’ll return later for a groovy visit to the 70s.

 

 

 

 

A Century Milestone Deserves…Probably Something Better Than This

Last week, something momentous happened. At least something momentous for someone who has written a book. To everyone else, probably not so much.

The momentous event in question is that I received my 100th rating on Goodreads. As I have probably explained before, Goodreads is a combination of Expedia and Facebook for readers. It is a big deal. And to get 100 ratings is pretty awesome. What makes it even more awesome is that the average rating for The Reluctant Blogger continues to hold steady at 4.19. Ratings are on a 1 to 5 star basis and over the course of the 102 ratings it has received thus far, the 4.19 average indicates that a very large majority of readers believe The Reluctant Blogger is either a four- or a five-star book.

So yes, the whole point of this post is for me to wallow in self-congratulation.

Okay, not really, but maybe a little. Anyway, along with the 100+ ratings my book has received, I also recently passed the 100 post milestone for this blog. (This post will be my 108th.) Supposedly when a blogger hits 100 posts, they are supposed to do a list of 100 something or other that I can’t remember nor care enough about to go research. So instead, I have decided to embark on my own multi-part blog post made up of the 100 things that I believe defy logic, are inexplicably ridiculous and/or leave me speechless with shock. (So speechless, in fact, that I will now devote multiple posts of over 1000 words each to just how speechless they leave me.)

So, without further ado, I celebrate my 100th blog post (actually completed two months or so ago) and my 100th rating on Goodreads by presenting my list of the top 100 things that make me say, WHAT?!?!?!??!

100. The Belief That Greeting Every Customer As They Walk Through The Door Is A Good Idea.

Every time I go to my local Subway, as I walk through the door to take my place in line behind anywhere from 5 to 10 people also seeking a refreshing sandwich, I am greeted by at least one employee (on occasion it has actually been more than one) yelling at me, “Welcome to Subway!” Now this isn’t a greeting that makes me feel special. It’s a greeting yelled by a worker who doesn’t even bother looking up to see if I’m there to rob them at gunpoint or not. It is spoken in a way that says, I hate doing this, but I will completely get fired if I don’t. What makes this horribly unsuccessful attempt at good customer service so egregious is the position it puts me, the customer, in. Do I yell back? No, that would just be really weird. Do I ignore the bellowed greeting? That kinda seems rude. So what do I, and most people placed in this awkward position do? I mumble some kind of thank you that I hope no one actually hears, especially my fellow customers, who in that moment I am certain handled this social disaster much better than I. To make this whole thing worse, I walked into Walgreens this morning and they apparently have adopted this practice as well. I was halfway down an aisle, twenty feet away from the nearest cashier, who then proceeded to scream across the store, “WELCOME TO WALGREENS!” I wanted to turn and glare at them and possibly extend my middle finger. I didn’t because I don’t actually believe extending the middle finger is ever a good idea when not done on the golf course within the confines of a very select group of friends. But needless to say, I was not impressed. So I suggest this. Ditch this idea, Walgreens, before you traumatize some poor soul walking through your door who is there to fill their prescription for anxiety medication. It will just be better for everyone if you do.

99. That Someone Thought This Title Was A Great Idea For A Comic Book Style Information Guide For Children (My Son Is 9 And He Received It) Who Are About To Get Their Tonsils and Adenoids Removed.

Tonsil Comic Book Photo

 

98. That Someone With the Talent Level and Intelligence of Jason Aldean is More Financially Successful Than I Am.

97. That Someone With the Talent Level and Intelligence of Kathy Griffin is More Financially Successful Than I Am.

I realize this could go on all day so we will stop here.

96. That Disney Thinks People Will Pay Gobs More Money To Have Their Family Locked Into A Schedule While Visiting The Happiest Place On Earth.

For those who are not aware, Disney World has just rolled out their latest technological marvel to less than stellar reviews. The marvel of which I speak is a bracelet that can be purchased (for big bucks) that allows a family to pay for everything they want with a wave of the wrist and is preset (based on the schedule created by the family prior to their arrival) with a slew of Fastpasses all set to go so that the family will not ever have to wait in a stand-by line for a ride or not get priority seating for a show. The only drawback? You must stick rigidly to a schedule.

In my mind, the whole point of a vacation is to not be held to a schedule. Apparently, I am not alone in my belief. Many park visitors are politely declining Disney’s latest advancement. Maybe somewhere down the road, this idea of perfectly scripted vacations will catch on, but hopefully not in my lifetime. I want no part of it.

95. That My Two Favorite TV Shows of All Time Are Weirdly Looking More and More Plausible.

Okay, Person of Interest seemed completely unbelievable when it came out. The idea that a machine would be built by the government that could be spy on every citizen using the technology that surrounds us was ludicrous…until it wasn’t. But an airliner just flying into nothingness and disappearing? Don’t tell me there was one person who had watched Lost that wasn’t going, WHOAAA!!!!!

94. That Obamacare Could Mean The End of Hobby Lobby.

93. That Not More Has Been Made By Mormons On Both Sides of the Issue Regarding President Uchtdorf Basically Endorsing President Obama’s Immigration Policy.

92. That Syracuse Did Not Take My Bracket Into Account Before Laying An Egg and Destroying My Chances At Winning Any Office Pool Or Family Bracket Challenge.

This also goes for Duke and Creighton. On the flip side, I would like to thank Villanova and Wichita State for being exactly the caliber of team I thought they would be.

91. That I Don’t Own A Sombrero Like This One.

Sombrero

I know this picture has made an appearance before, but I LOVE that hat. It has the ASU pitchfork perfectly included in the stitching pattern. Someday…

…Someday

So that’s all for today. Look for a much larger chunk of this list in upcoming posts. Or don’t. It might not be worth your time.

UnFrozen At Last

I think up until last night I might have been the only person in America who had not seen Frozen. Don’t get me wrong, I could sing Let it Go word for word without help, but as far as having viewed the actual movie? Not so much.

But last night all of that changed. And I was so moved that I feel the need to share the top 10 things I took away from this latest Disney classic. So, in no particular order:

10: The Controversy

I feel like first and foremost, I should address this up front. A great deal of angst and debate has surrounded this movie and I feel I would be shirking my duty as…what? A blogger read by an incredibly small audience??? Okay, bottom line, I feel like I should just get this out of the way.

I liked Tangled better.

I know, I know, this admission is filled with all kinds of pitfalls and could seriously damage relationships with both friends and family, but it’s true. To me, Tangled is the better movie.

I think I just prefer the more grounded approach it took. The sequences with the trolls and the fact that Frozen had such an incredibly weak villain lost points with me. I think Mother Gothel is possibly one of the most insidious villains Disney has ever created. When you combine that with what I consider two of the most powerful scenes in animated history (the lanterns and the quiet moment with no words spoken between the king and the queen just before they walk out to release the lanterns) and Tangled wins hands down.

Now I’m not saying that I hated Frozen. I actually enjoyed it a great deal. It makes my heart happy that we are getting movies liked Frozen, Tangled, and Wreck it Ralph from Disney animation these days as opposed to Chicken Little, Home on the Range, and…pick any Disney animated movie that wasn’t from Pixar made during the decade of the 00′s.

9. Time for a New Climax

The staple of modern cinema where a protagonist is at the point of death at the hands of the villain, only to be saved by a shot or a beaning over the head by a previously unseen accomplice is probably not going away any time soon. That doesn’t change the fact that it is starting to become annoying. The whole point of this is to make the viewer believe that there is no hope. But it has been played to death to the point that every person watching knows exactly what is going to happen. Admittedly, my favorite show on the planet, Person of Interest, uses this device way too often. But I still love the show.

Anyway, Disney has taken this plot device to a whole new level. It started back with the classics of Snow White and Sleeping Beauty, among others, where it appears the villain’s plan has actually worked, but thankfully, a miracle kiss saves the day. This was taken to a whole new level with Beauty and the Beast, where you actually had the main character die before being resurrected by loves true kiss. I mean eternal sleep is one thing, death is quite another. Unfortunately, I think Disney has played this option out way too far. Both Tangled and Frozen used this device. For the next installment in the Disney Princess canon, I believe they should go for an Ocean’s 12 approach where the villain was undone weeks before the climax, just he nor the audience ever knew it. Let’s not visit the well of resurrection again any time soon.

8. Sidekicks Make a Movie

The one thing Frozen definitely had over Tangled was Otto. While a mute chameleon did his best, the little snow man was pretty darn awesome. Best line? “Stay out of sight.” “Okay.” Moments later, heard off in the distance, “Hello there.” Woman shrieking.

I loved that.

7. Return to the Basics

I think computer animation is looking better than ever for one reason. It is getting better and better at mimicking the feel of traditional hand-drawn animation while playing to the strengths of what a computer can do for you. When Finding Nemo came out, one of the most commonly heard compliments was how real everything looked. I think the look of Frozen blows Finding Nemo away because of how beautiful it looks as artwork as opposed to realism. Just my opinion.

6. New Favorite Broadway Star

Now that I know her name, strictly because of Frozen, Idina Menzel is now officially my favorite Broadway star. I loved her voice in Wicked, but I didn’t care enough to go find out the name of the woman who played Elphaba. Now I know her name and would be drawn to something that she is starring in just because of who she is.

5. One Great Song Hides Mediocre Company

Let It Go is an amazing song. One truly worthy of an Oscar. However, I think its greatness hides the mediocrity of the other Frozen songs. I know Do You Want To Build a Snowman? is getting love now, but truly, none of the other songs are that memorable. Look back to the second golden age of Disney animation and think of the number of classics that came from Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, and Lion King. The full collection of Frozen songs do not measure up.

4. Kristin Bell Has an Amazing Voice

That’s all that really needs to be said.

3. Mob Mentality Intrigues Me

As I mentioned above, Frozen is not my favorite Disney animated movie out of the last three made. If I were to walk in and pick a movie to watch out of the last three, I would, as stated, pick Tangled. Which makes me smile because the biggest Disney hits are all great, but not ones I would watch over and over. Lion King, Finding Nemo, Toy Story 3, and Frozen are now the most successful Disney and Pixar movies financially. However, I would not actively seek any of them out to watch repeatedly. I would definitely choose, Aladdin, Emperor’s New Groove, The Incredibles, Cars, and Tangled for that.  There is no point to this other than I find it interesting what is most successful in the short term versus what has staying power over the long term.

2. The “Other” Controversy

I really resent The Well Behaved Mormon Woman and all other Christian yappers who have forced this “Frozen is a movie promoting homosexuality” garbage on us. Due to having had a brand new baby last September, my wife and I have not been to the theater to watch a movie since last summer. For months I was looking forward to sitting down and watching Frozen with my kids and taking it in for the pure enjoyment of it. Sadly, because of all the ridiculous demagoguery, a cloud hung over my personal viewing of the movie last night because I couldn’t escape the thoughts of, “Where are they getting this? Is this what they are referring to?” or any other countless intrusion my brain kept making on the movie as I watched it. I recognize this is my problem (my wife had no such issue) but it still made me mad. So to all those who want to demonize Frozen, thanks a whole heap for cheapening my viewing experience.

1. But If They’re Right

However, just for the sake of argument, let’s say all the Christian/Mormon bloggers and entertainment personalities that have fostered this are right. This was Disney’s way of trying to “normalize” homosexuality. It still leaves me with one question.

What’s the problem?

Because as I watched this movie, all I saw was a girl who chose to love her sister regardless of what anyone else said or thought about her. Even when she thought that the sister in question had intentionally hurt her, she still cared for her deeply enough to sacrifice herself for her.

So let’s say Elsa is gay. (By the way, I think trying to insert this issue into this movie is absurd, but I wasn’t the one who started this.) If this is the case, the message I got was that we love those closest to us even if they are different (including gay). If you want to take it even further, Anna never “condoned” freezing the kingdom, but she loved and accepted the person doing the freezing anyway. Isn’t that what Christ would have done? Isn’t that what being a Mormon/Christian is all about?

At no point did I see a movie that advocated anything accept showing love to those who are different. So if you ask me, maybe Disney did have a hidden agenda with this movie. A Christian agenda. Except this would be the Christian agenda actually set out by Christ himself. Not the hell-fire and damnation agenda concocted by those supposed followers who are looking for a boogeyman behind every animation cell.

A Partial Recant

I was wrong.

It pains me to admit it, but I fell victim to the same type of problem that I have at times been critical of in others and that I absolutely abhor when I am guilty of it myself. It is the hideous monster known as the knee-jerk reaction.

Yesterday, I heard the story of the New Mexico hair stylist who refused service to Governor Martinez. My immediate reaction was that if it was true, I was infuriated. I Googled the story and came across two different news outlets who were reporting this story as if it were indeed a recent and current news item.

So I took that at face value and ran with it.

Sadly, I should have checked a couple more sites because the story I referenced is, in fact, two years old.

I am saddened that some conservative sites are using this old story in such a way as to imply that it happened recently. It is unfair to their readers and a classic example of shoddy journalism. Unfortunately, I don’t believe journalistic integrity is of a great concern to them. However, integrity, journalistic or otherwise is important to me. And so, I apologize.

I considered removing the post altogether, but instead have chosen to leave it up. The sentiments expressed have not changed. I still believe we as a nation of unique and diverse individuals should be striving for communities that thrive on acceptance and kindness. I still believe Mr. Darden’s actions were wrong, although the timing of such actions does change certain aspects of my response.

So please forgive me. If I whipped up any ill will, I cannot apologize enough. And to any of my friends in the LGBT community who may have felt I was deliberately misrepresenting facts, please know that was not my intention.

And if nothing else, it is only 15 days until March Madness begins. In my experience, that always makes everything better.

SB 1062 Fallout: Finding Common Ground Should Be A Two-Way Street

I love Ellen DeGeneres. I think she’s incredibly talented and possibly the most hilarious female stand-up comedian I have ever seen. (No offense to her, but as far as the best stand-up over all, I’d have to rate Bill Cosby, Jerry Seinfeld and Brian Regan ahead of her. But, I mean, these rankings are the highly subjective opinions of one guy so…) For the first time in years, I tuned in to see a good portion of the Oscars and was highly entertained by her unique hosting style. Again, I think she and Steve Martin would probably qualify as my favorite hosts. And seeing her have the success she has today makes me happy.

Because it all could have been very different.

The first time I ever heard of Ellen DeGeneres was on New Year’s Eve in 1990. HBO was having an all night marathon of stand up comedians doing a half hour show each. I remember laughing so hard my stomach hurt when she came on. Within five years, she had gained enough popularity to have her own television show. And my wife and I watched it fairly religiously (no pun intended here with regard to what follows.)

However, as the show prepared to enter its fourth season, rumors were flying fast and furious that Ellen was a lesbian. She, herself, refused to confirm the rumors for quite some time, but eventually she came out, as did her character on the television show. Within a year, her show was cancelled.

What saddened me was that I never got the idea that Ellen wanted to be the poster child for what would become the LGBT movement. It seemed to me that she accepted that role when it became impossible for her to do otherwise, but doing so was never her first choice. Since that time, she has been outspoken at times, but still seems relatively low key when it comes to her political activism on the subject. I could be wrong, but I get the sense she just wants to be herself and entertain people who are gay, straight or otherwise. Which in a perfect world, is exactly how it should be.

But in the mid-nineties, her gamble at coming out and then portraying a lesbian character on national television could have been career ending. She was brave at a time when bravery truly counted. No offense to those coming out today. I believe it is probably a very difficult decision and something that is very personal, but momentum is at their backs and history is in their favor. It wasn’t that way for Ellen.

So with all that in mind, I was so glad to see Ellen being Ellen at the Oscars. It warmed my heart to know she had come through everything and is now the personification of success. And her sexual orientation doesn’t matter. Yes, I suppose to those who see her as a role-model it probably matters, but to the public at large, it truly doesn’t. Again, in a perfect world, this is as it should be.

Sadly, even in 2014, this is not a total reality. I am fully aware that there are probably many Americans out there who won’t watch Ellen’s show because it “promotes the gay agenda in America.” I also know many who feel that shows like, Modern Family are to be avoided for the same reason. Personally, I can respect that some might not watch that show because it crosses some lines of decency, but holy crap is it funny. And those who avoid it strictly because of its gay characters are seriously missing out.

But either way, the culture has come to the point that both shows, and others like it, have found enough of an audience to be successful. At the same time, if a person holds religious or personal convictions that keep them from watching those programs, that is their right. This is, once again, how it should be.

And this idea should carry over into the public marketplace. If a person doesn’t want to seek the services or products of a company or person for any reason whatsoever, that should be their right. However, I truly believe that business owners are not afforded the same privilege. If an individual seeks services or products from a business owner, they should be provided those services or products regardless of how the business owner feels about them personally. It is part of the package that a person accepts when they enter the marketplace.

Now in my conservative heart of hearts, I actually believe that if a person wanted to refuse service, they should probably be afforded that right strictly because we claim to be a free country. In that same heart, I believe that in a perfect world, the free market would take care of discrimination should it occur. Sadly, we learned in the century following the abolition of slavery, this theory doesn’t always work when put into practice. So, with that knowledge in mind, I have adopted the belief that I hold and espoused in the previous paragraph.

Which is why I was so appalled when Arizona chose to pass SB 1062. At its core, I understand the reasoning behind the bill’s introduction, but that reasoning doesn’t make it right. Proponents of the bill have repeatedly stated that the bill was mischaracterized and in no way referenced gays, but that is a load of garbage. Even the bill’s sponsors were quick to point to lawsuits involving gay individuals in other states as their motivation. I also read the law, and despite what many of its supporters want to say, it did exactly what the opposition said it would do. It was vague and could be interpreted exactly as it was characterized.

Now, to be clear, I think there are some issues that need to be addressed regarding the protection of religious freedoms. Some examples include Hobby Lobby being forced to provide birth control and the “abortion pill” as part of their health plan. That specifically infringes on that employer’s right to practice their religion. If they spend one dime to provide what they view as the destruction of a life, their religious views are being infringed upon.

A second example is not-for-profit charities being forced to again provide for abortions (whether by medical procedure or by a pill) in their health plans or being forced to adopt children to gay couples. While I personally believe children being adopted into loving gay homes is highly preferable to the possible disaster of an upbringing in a dysfunctional home presided over by heterosexuals, I fully respect a religious entity’s right to deny that service based on religious convictions. There are other avenues to adopt children available beyond religious charities and organizations. So if a church believes the traditional family is the best solution for an adopted child, it should be their right to work towards that end. To do otherwise would infringe upon their religious convictions.

But much beyond that, it gets too murky for my taste to legislate. I have used examples of the problems that could arise should 1062 have passed and I will not do so again now. But suffice it to say, if you open a for-profit business, you open a business to everybody. Get over it.

Because this is how I believe, I was happy to lend my voice to those both in the LGBT community and those without that called for Governor Brewer to veto SB 1062. It was the right thing to do. I believed it then, I believe it now. But today, I am wondering where the outrage is now that the tables have been turned.

New Mexico Governor, Susana Martinez, personally believes in the definition of marriage as being between one man and one woman. This belief stems from her religious convictions. As such, she also opposes gay marriage. It is her right to do so. Whether a person believes she is on the wrong side of history or not is beside the point. As an American citizen, she is entitled to her beliefs.

So in light of the events that occurred with SB 1062, I find it very disconcerting that within days, her hair stylist, Antonio Darden, a gay man who owns a salon in Santa Fe, has decided he will no longer provide service to the governor because of her opposition to same-sex marriage.

What???

Is he really that stupid? Does he not understand the extreme slap in the face he just gave to each and every one of us who belongs to a faith that holds a strong belief in traditional marriage but still chose to stand with those who opposed SB 1062? Maybe he does and just doesn’t care. What’s even more disconcerting about his decision is that he has styled the governor’s hair three times previous (all while she still held the same personal and political viewpoint and also while I assume he was still gay) but has decided in the aftermath of SB 1062 that he will do it no more.

The ultimate cake topper on this, if you will, is that one of the lawsuits that prompted SB 1062 occurred in NM where sexual orientation is protected from discrimination. The business owner lost that suit. To me, it seems conceivable that this idiot has opened himself up to a lawsuit as well. But we all know that no politician in their right mind would open that can of public relation worms. So maybe that’s why he’s chosen his victim so carefully. Bottom line, this is bad form and flies in the face of everything that was avoided by Governor Brewer’s veto.

So my ultimate question is this: where is the outrage from the people of the LGBT community? In my humble opinion, he is making you look like hypocrites. And if nothing is made of this, he is ultimately justifying in the minds of many, the actions taken by the AZ legislature. If a business owner in NM can be successfully sued for denying services to a gay couple, but a gay business owner can deny services to a person of religious conviction with no repercussions whatsoever, then all the fear and concern on the part of SB 1062 supporters seems justified.

Now many will point out that he is just one guy and should just be ignored. But sorry, he chose a high profile public figure to make his statement over. He made this a big story. It should be, and must be addressed.

Because at the end of the day, I believe the majority of most people in the LGBT community and a large faction of religious people just want to live side by side in freedom and equality. For many of us on the right, we are still working amongst ourselves trying to figure out how that works. Is that fair to gays and lesbians? Probably not. But many of us are doing the best we know how to achieve what we believe is the common goal. And this man’s actions do nothing to further that aim.

And neither does a collective silence from those he would purport to represent.