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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.

Why No One Should Want To Be President

There is a game that is highly popular with my family that I absolute refuse to play. Some of you may have heard of it. It’s called Apples to Apples.

Now the reason I refuse to play is very simple. It’s because the game is stupid and it’s rigged. If the group of individuals playing includes multiple women, a man is guaranteed to lose 98% of the time. Now I suppose the outcome might be different if I played with a group of all men, but in that situation, I think the more likely outcome would be that each of us would look at each other and in unison we’d ask ourselves why we are playing such a stupid game when we could be a) golfing, b) watching sports, or c) any of the 1.9 million other things we could be doing that would be more fun than playing Apples to Apples.

So why would I mention this? Because I think we as the American people have created an Apples to Apples type situation for those who would seek the presidency of our country. A situation where no matter the issue, it’s impossible to win.

Case in point: Last week, President Obama suffered a crushing defeat at the hands of his own party with regards to trade policy. In short, what he wanted was the ability to negotiate trade agreements with other nations in good faith. He wanted to be able to assure foreign leaders that what they mutually agreed upon would be guaranteed a straight up or down vote from the U.S. Congress without a bunch of add-ons or changes that would leave the originally negotiated deal looking more like a Jackson Pollock painting than a trade deal. Shockingly, labor unions in our country are very much opposed to this. They, and their Democratic supporters in Congress, believe they should have final say over any trade deal negotiated with any other country. Which in my opinion, is a very bad idea. Any group that is singularly capable of destroying a city like Detroit the way labor unions have should not be granted one whisper of input when it comes to trade policy. Period!

So in this instance, I am very much in line with President Obama. And so should be every other Republican. Especially those individuals who love to eviscerate the President on Facebook or Twitter or Fox News. Each of us bearing a voter registration card with an (R) on it should be lining up to support President Obama on this issue. It is that important.

But we aren’t.

Because in today’s political climate, we are not allowed to give anyone we consider an opponent any credit or support whatsoever. It is simply not allowed. And anyone who might choose to break this sacred practice had best be ready to suffer some form of castration, crucifixion or forced viewing of Two Broke Girls.

And don’t thing Republicans are the only ones guilty of this. Democrats gave George W. no credit for being the first president to provide funding for AIDS relief in third world nations. He also got no credit for Medicare part D nor letting Democrats have such extensive input on his Education initiative. Instead, for his efforts he became the most reviled president by the left we have ever had.

Now don’t get me wrong. I disagree with President Obama on many things and I would certainly never vote for him, but c’mon. When somebody works hard for something you agree with, they should get your props and your support. But unfortunately, in the world of U.S. politics in the 21st century, that’s not possible. Instead, we would rather conduct our political discourse in such a fashion that it is devoid of rationality and common sense. In other words, we would rather play Apples to Apples.

Avenge Me Now, Or Avenge Me Later

The movie, Avengers 2: The Age of Ultron, has only been available for viewing here in the United States for 11 days. And yet, assuming from the vast amounts of money that have already been spent on tickets for this motion picture, I think it is safe to assume that as one who has not yet seen this picture, I am rapidly becoming part of the minority in this country. To be quite frank, the box- office numbers for this flick are insane. (Apparently not quite as insane as they were for the first Avengers, which in some people’s eyes makes the billion + dollars this movie has already made worldwide somehow disappointing, but that is a topic for a different blog post.)

So with each day that passes, the likelihood of the question, “Have you seen the Avengers yet?” turning to “You haven’t seen the Avengers?” grows exponentially. In about a week, I expect the level of incredulity accompanying the second question to hit defcon level. But in short, whether it be this week or next week or even next month, my answer will be a short and unequivocal, “No!”

Now, I can already see some of you beginning to nod your heads in sympathetic understanding as you ask, “Is it because of the sexual innuendo, graphic violence and use of profane language?” To which my answer would be, “No, I’m perfectly fine with all of those things in a movie geared towards teen and preteen children.” (I’m kidding, I’m kidding. Relax.)

But no, that is not the reason I will not be seeing The Avengers this summer. However, my reasoning is just as idealistic if not as morally guided. You see, my goal this summer is to not see one movie in the theater that is a sequel or a reboot or a rebooted sequel or a sequel with everyone wearing cowboy boots of any kind. Bottom line, I don’t want to spend money on a film that provides some variation on characters I have seen before.

“So,” I can hear some asking. “Is this a movement you are trying to start? Are you boycotting Marvel and hoping that thousands will join you in your cause?”

Oh My Heavens NO!!!!!

I own Disney stock. If anything, I want each of you who has seen Avengers to go see it at least three times more. I mean seriously, bump that closing stock price right through the roof.

No, my little financial rebellion is mine and mine alone. Don’t get me wrong, I love a good retelling of a story or a new concept on an old idea. But frankly, I’d like to, in my own little way, suggest that enough is enough. I don’t need to see a reboot of Full House. It was stupid the first time around. I’d be willing to bet my next two paychecks it won’t be any better this time. I also don’t need to see CSI or NCIS: Barnyard Squad. Come on, come up with a new concept. At this rate, some genius will come up with the idea of creating a show centered around a Latino Archie Bunker or, heaven forbid, remake Ghostbusters with women.

Wait, What!?!? Are you seriously telling me that both of those concepts are currently in the pipeline? Really!!! Then consider my point doubly made. Oy!!!

So, anyway, there it is. My declaration of summer. NO SEQUELS OR REBOOTS!!! And may the force live long and prosper.

(Now, to be clear, I do intend to rent The Avengers when it becomes available on Blu-Ray. Also, this sequel thing is only good until September 22nd. I mean, c’mon, the new James Bond movie is due out this November and it’s titled, Spectre. FREAKING SPECTRE!!! I may be strong, but I’m not made of steel. Plus, I’m not going to lie. I, along with the rest of the world, am dying to see if J.J. Abrams has make the first decent Star Wars movie since the ’80s.

When One Door Closes

Although I have been given no concrete verification, I just have a feeling that my time as a member of my ward’s bishopric is coming to an end. All of which is fine and good and as it should be. I mean, seriously, we hit our six year mark in April. It’s time.

(Again, I haven’t been told anything so don’t take this as anything more than the ramblings of a hopeful man. It could still be months away for all that I know (in which case I would look incredibly foolish) it is just that these thoughts have been very much on my mind so I am putting them to paper, or rather to screen, now.)

So, if all holds to form, some time soon, we will arrive at sacrament meeting and the stake presidency will be there. The new bishopric will be announced and then both the new and the old bishoprics will be invited to share their testimonies. So my question is, how do you possibly wrap up six years worth of service into one testimony?

The answer is, you don’t.

In fact, my comments should be short and concise so that I will leave plenty of time for the outgoing bishop to express his thoughts. So instead of being “that guy” who takes 20 minutes in sacrament meeting to self-indulge and in the end says not much more than if he had shut it down after five minutes, I will be “that guy” who self-indulges here and share some reflections of my last six years.

It is hard to believe that I was 35 years old when I received the call. I had lived in Thatcher for four years and had been in the teacher’s quorum for the entire time. I didn’t know that anyone outside of the current bishopric and Rhett Dodge knew my name. It is hard to believe that I lost my mom two weeks later. Much like this calling, it doesn’t feel that long ago and yet, at the same time, it feels so much longer.

Now, I am 41 (staring down 42 in just over a month) and I feel much older.

During these six years, I wrote a book. Our family welcomed another baby. And I somehow got roped into making an idiot out of myself not once, but three times, all for the sake of making a trek exciting for the youth of our stake. (Whose brilliant idea was Baby Got Hat anyway?) In short, a lot has happened.

I am so thankful for so many of the experiences this calling has blessed me with. One of the first that comes to mind is the role I was able to play in the open house of the Gila Valley Temple. I was asked, along with Kimble Hansen, to be the local point of contact for the media and be a part of the Public Relations committee. I’m not sure why being on a bishopric mattered for this assignment, but apparently it did. Nonetheless, it remains one of my greatest memories to be there for several shifts overseeing the tour guides. Also, the experience of being there with the press (all two or three of them) right near the cornerstone when President Monson came out to put the final mortar in place was beyond words.

I have been thrilled at the opportunities I have had to spend time with the young people of our ward. I will never forget the evenings spent in the garage of the Dodge cabin up in Nutrioso where Phil Oliver and Hal Skinner would be cooking while the rest of the adults would sit around talking. (In actuality, it usually ended up being the rest of us listening to Calvert Allred share Border Patrol stories…which were AWESOME!!!) During the course of those discussions, the boys would often drift in and hang around in the background. After two or three nights of this, the hour was getting later when some of the boys began to ask when we were headed to the garage for “man talk.” Man I hope we didn’t say anything too destructive to the mind of an impressionable teen.

Of course not everything over the course of six years is going to be positive. I’m going to admit something that I probably shouldn’t, but here goes. I have never made many remarks regarding the Ordain Women movement. Mainly because, although I don’t necessarily agree with their views and methods, I must admit that I am one of those that struggles with certain questions. One of those was made more apparent to me because of my service.

There is no doubt to me that our church is a product of the time in which it was founded. Even with all of the advances made in the last ten years, we are still a highly patriarchal faith. Which brings me to the disciplinary aspects of the church. At a bishopric level, almost everyone we met with in this setting was female. (Melchizedek priesthood holders are handled at a stake level.) In each instance I remember thinking, I will do my best and seek the Lord’s help, but I am not a woman. How am I supposed to relate to her on her level? The whole experience felt very cold and 19th century to me because it was not appropriate for us as men to offer a hug or any kind of physical contact and yet it felt sometimes that a hug was exactly what was needed to convey what the Savior would have done for this person. In short, it felt like we needed the presence of a woman. I hope I don’t come across as a contrarian, it was just one of the things from my experience I will not look back on with fondness.

Another is overseeing six different Friends of Scouting drives. Now, I wrote a book detailing in two different chapters my deep and abiding love for scouting so I will say no more, except this: Real friends don’t make you bum money off of little old ladies.

But the negatives are few and are so overwhelmed by the positives. The people who would bring food for us during tithing settlement; the individuals who accepted callings I know they would have preferred not to have; the answers to calls for service that were met without question by numbers that would bring tears to the eye; and finally, the opportunity to work alongside two of the most God-fearing, humble and extraordinary men I have ever known.

I will miss it. But not enough to ever want to do it again. Because I have missed sitting in church next to my amazing wife and wonderful kids more. It has been an amazing six years. And when the time comes, I will be the first to offer my support to whomever it is that takes our place.

Et Tu, Clock Daddy

This morning, my sweet six-year-old daughter missed the bus.

In and of itself that isn’t a big deal, but when taken in conjunction with several other factors, it managed to transform itself into the catalyst that has ultimately led me into a deep sense of melancholy today.

You see, it actually started three weeks ago. That was when my beautiful wife, who for the last sixteen years has chosen to stay home and raise our kids, succumbed to the financial pressure of life and got a job. Now don’t get me wrong, for all intents and purposes, it’s a great job. She only has to work five hours a day, four days a week. She’s there when the kids leave in the morning and she’s there when they get home from school. And to make it even better, she gets all school holidays and the summers off as well. Plus, I haven’t even mentioned how our older children will get to take up to six hours of college classes free of charge because she now works for the local community college. I mean, it really is a sweet gig.

However, there are so many symbolic things about her taking that job that are hard for me to accept. But I digress.

Because my wife is now working, it was easier for me this morning to be the one to take my daughter to school. When I dropped her off, she had a fairly long walk to the entrance, so I pulled away from the drop-off point and found a safe place a little ways down the road where I could watch her make her way toward the entrance. I don’t know why, I just did. And it made me sad.

She looked too small to be walking by herself into the dangerous world I know a schoolyard can be. I wanted to get out and hug her, put her back in the truck and take her home. It was clear that she needed protection. It was clear that she needed her dad.

Except, she didn’t.

And when it comes to walking solo into a schoolyard, she never will again.

Now this reaction may seem extreme, but let me provide some other extenuating circumstances:

  • One, my oldest daughter turned 16 today. There are so many things to say, and yet, where could I possibly begin?
  • Two, my back hurts. And my knee hurts. And while neither predicament is particularly debilitating, the truth is, neither one is likely to stop hurting anytime soon. If I am to believe some individuals, the harsh reality is that they may never stop hurting. Apparently it is related to something called “being over 40.” Well, if that’s the case, let it be known that “being over 40″ sucks. I’m not sure anyone else knew that, so I’m just passing it on.
  • Three, my baby isn’t a baby anymore. My youngest is now a precocious 19-month-old and can tell me when she wants to dance, (her personal favorite dancing tune is Back in Black by AC/DC, much to her mother’s dismay) when she wants a bottle, and can personally throw her own wet diapers away without assistance. And just this week, she started calling Mickey Mouse by his correct name instead of Pickey. I miss hearing her say Pickey. It was adorable. And now it’s gone. Just like when my older son used to run in circles with his cowboy hat on sideways because it looked like a musketeer hat that way, or when my younger son would call hamburgers, hangaburs. Special memories that will never be duplicated and will never return.

Don’t get me wrong, there are so many wonderful things about seeing my children grow and the things they accomplish. I am in awe of my son’s abilities on the piano. I love to watch age appropriate movies and television shows with my older kids. The list could go on and on.

But just once, I wish I could turn back the clock and hold them as infants one more time. Or hear them say the cute things that once used to warm my heart. Or maybe, just maybe, have them see me for one last moment as the all-knowing giant of a man who can cure any ailment and protect them from everything scary in the world.

Because you see, those are the things that not even eternity can offer. At least not as far as I can tell. And on a day when my oldest baby speeds past one more milestone on the highway to adulthood, that sobering thought makes me a little sad.

An Open Letter To All Current and Prospective Presidential Candidates

Dear Hillary, Ted, Rand, Jeb, Marco, et. al.

SLOW DOWN!!!

I wanted to be certain before I possibly got ahead of myself so I double checked my calendar and…sure enough, it is only April 2015. Midterm elections were held less than six months ago and new office holders haven’t been in place long enough to figure out which bathroom stall is their preferred sanctuary. All of which means one thing. It is too @*$& @*#$&@! early to be thinking about the presidential election of 2016!!!

Now I realize that Fox News and MSNBC have precious little to say in these months following an election (and will have even less to say once the dog days of summer kick in) but don’t let their siren calls dictate your time-line. I’m telling you this for your own good. I, like every other American, may love everything about you as a presidential candidate. But subject me to your smarmy pandering mugs for more than a year and a half and I will despise the very thought of you come election day 2016. I promise I will. And so will everyone else.

I mean really! You Republicans should know better than this. Didn’t the 826 debates you all took part in four years ago not help you realize that less is more and more is just plain suicide? From all that I have read about the HBO drama Game of Thrones, I don’t believe it is a tough stretch to say that the primary cycle four years ago could be compared to watching multiple seasons of that gore fest back to back to back just for the sick pleasure of seeing which Republican candidate would be subjected to a grisly death that week. (Rick Perry having his head caved in right after he suggested that not providing in-state tuition to children of illegals would be heartless, Herman Cain having his appendages tied to four horses and being ripped apart as he screamed, “The 9,9,9 plan will work, I promise.”, or seeing Jon Huntsman’s head explode every time Ron Paul began to speak…oh wait, I think that last one actually happened.)

Meanwhile, on the other side, I am befuddled as to what you are thinking, Hillary. Nobody is running against you. NOBODY!!! Furthermore, you are still dealing with an e-mail scandal, and if that wasn’t enough, now there is this new book suggesting you provided favors to foreign interests that donated to you. (Gee, where have we heard allegations like that regarding a Clinton before???) Let all that stuff die down. Take a low profile for a bit. But NOOOOOO!!! Instead you choose to announce your candidacy like we all didn’t know you were going to run. So now we get to be subjected to that cackle of yours non-stop for not one but two growing seasons here in the agricultural heartland of America. THANKS!!!

I have to admit, I am not surprised. Disappointed, but not surprised. I had hoped for better but had a good idea my hopes would be crushed upon the brutal rocks of narcissism and whoring fund-raising. (Actually, these last three sentences could be cut and pasted elsewhere, minus the fund-raising part, to sum up my feelings about a Ted Cruz candidacy as well.) But I am going to put this out there for any other prospective candidates who might be weighing when to jump into the fray. I, Ryan Rapier, will grant my vote to any person who waits until after Christmas to officially start their campaign.*

There, it has been offered. I don’t expect any politician to accept it, but I had to try. I mean don’t we all deserve just a little break? I know I could sure use one.

*This offer excludes Elizabeth Warren. I mean, c’mon. That woman is bat-crap crazy.

100 Days of Blogging

I am trying something with the title of this blog post that I see happening more and more on Social Media. It’s the practice where I say something outlandish while harboring no real intention of providing what the title suggests. For instance, my title would suggest that I am starting out the New Year (a little late, I’ll admit) by blogging every day for 100 days. The truth is, I have no intention of doing that. First of all, there is no way in Hades I would blog on a Saturday and I simply have no time or desire to blog on a Sunday. And who would read blog posts from those two days anyway? No one, least of all the 16 tried and true loyal readers of this blog. You know who you are and you know full well you wouldn’t read blog posts posted on the weekend.

Furthermore, I am not going to post something every single weekday either. It just isn’t realistic and again, who would want to read that much blather from me anyway? Again, no one.

But the reason for the title is this. I used to blog regularly. I would generally get out one post a week. And I really enjoyed it. Unfortunately, during 2014, I slipped and hardly posted at all. I didn’t make it a priority and as a result, I posted exactly twice in the last six months of the year. I want to do better than that.

Furthermore, I have had several ideas fluttering around in my brain and I need to get them out. So the point behind the title is to challenge myself to blog more in 2015 and get back in the practice of doing it regularly. If any readers decide to get back on the train and come along for the journey, GREAT! If not, oh well.

So let’s begin with the first topic of the New Year, which is…MAN, most of the movies coming out these days SUCK!!!!

Over the weekend, my wife and I got away to Tucson to celebrate our anniversary. While there, we went out and caught the final Hobbit movie. Admittedly, I have enjoyed the Lord of the Rings movies, and to a lesser extent, the Hobbit movies. I think they are very well made and do justice (if not hold entirely) to the source material. However, before the movie began we were treated to six, count them six, trailers for coming attractions. Of the six, all but one featured a scenario along the lines of: the world is in grave danger (will be in grave danger, has been in grave danger or is contemplating the idea of being in great danger) and will be destroyed (is currently being destroyed, or has been destroyed but we can somehow go back and save it, etc., etc., etc.)unless a reluctant hero (or heroes) steps up and, in the wake of a massive amount of property destruction and human death, saves what is left of planet earth even though by the time he/she/they are done, no one on earth would want to live on it anymore. It was frankly, very depressing.

On the other hand, we were fortunately not treated to previews of upcoming comedies. You see, when it comes to comedies these days, unless you have found the newest and most potent way to induce vomiting or have over 1,000 jokes that are not even remotely funny but mention human genitalia, bodily waste or some combination of the two, your comedy isn’t getting made. Also depressing.

Finally, we get the award contenders at the end of each year which tend to put all their effort into just being depressing in the most traditional sense.

Which is why I would say the best picture of the year in 2014 was a movie that won’t get listed among the greats or among the biggest money makers, but for my taste was just about perfect. My favorite movie of the year was The Hundred Foot Journey.

It was amazing. There was one death, but we didn’t have to watch it happen in all its gory detail. There was a hint of a sexual liaison, but in truth, the two individuals involved could just have easily been making out like an engaged Mormon couple. We’ll never know. And I am totally fine with that. There was contention, there was racism, there was romance and there was redemption. But most of all, there was heart.

Helen Mirren was amazing. Much better than her turn in Red 2. But then, what wasn’t better than Red 2. Om Puri, the man who played the Indian family’s patriarch, was a joy to watch every time he happened onto the screen. And most of all, Manish Dayal was fabulous. The perfect balance of self-assurance and humility.

Sadly, I don’t have a vote in the Academy or the Hollywood Foreign Press, and so my opinion will remain here with me in my little rural corner of Arizona. But here’s hoping that Hollywood somehow continues to turn out movies like this one (or The Help, or 42, or Pride and Prejudice) every once in a while amidst the raunchfests and Marvelized worlds that seem to be sucking the very soul out of today’s mainstream Cineplexes. I mean, someday, history is going to judge us as a society based on our art. Wouldn’t we rather they judge us on The Hundred Foot Journey than, I don’t know, take your pick. It’s sad, but there are far too many to choose from.

The Destruction of The Cos and Ferguson

These last couple of weeks have been brutal to say the least. I’ve seen highly regarded individuals brought down a notch or two before, but I have never witnessed anything like what we are seeing with Bill Cosby. This man was one of the major cultural entertainment icons of my youth. For my parents generation, it was Elvis Presley, The Beatles and so on. But for a child of the ’80s, they didn’t get much bigger than Bill Cosby.

And now, everything he built over the course of his professionally distinguished life lies in ruin. And apparently, he has no one to blame but himself.

Now, I will acknowledge up front (like everyone else who dares broach this subject) that Bill Cosby has never been convicted of a crime. And I will further acknowledge that when this issue first started gaining traction, I was among those who hoped that the one or two accusers coming forward were attention-seeking opportunists grasping for their fifteen minutes of fame. But we are way beyond that now, and even the most ardent supporter of Mr. Cosby has to find it difficult to brush off all these allegations with the argument that everyone is lying but him.

However, it still makes me sad. And it makes me wonder what will become of the treasures he gave us professionally. Because much of what he did in the comedic realm is truly priceless. But in this day and age of instant and complete judgment, will all the work of Bill Cosby the Entertainer be deleted from the culture in the name of political correctness? Who knows, but it certainly wouldn’t surprise me-and it would certainly be a shame.

You see, history is replete with examples of greatness being delivered by an imperfect human source. I won’t go into a list of examples because the list would be far too great indeed. I will simply leave it at this: I hope we will be able to divorce the man from his art. Because the world will be the lesser for it if we are not.

But of even greater concern to me is the loss of Bill Cosby as a communicator on race. Now I know I’m not supposed to address this subject because I am a white man with no knowledge of the struggle faced by the African-American community. And I also know that Mr. Cosby’s famous/infamous “Pull up your Pants” speech has been widely rejected by said community. Nevertheless, I’m going to talk about it anyway. And I’m going to start with Ferguson, Missouri. Now, so that I can hopefully address this with some credibility, I will begin with an example from within my own culture.

Where would the Mormon church be today had the followers of Joseph Smith looted and burned down Kirtland/Nauvoo/Salt Lake City every time they were treated unfairly by law enforcement?

Nowhere!!!

In fact, they would be in the exact same “nowhere” that far too many in the African-American community find themselves today. And that nowhere is a tragic place to be.

Because the reality is, despite all the promises, despite all the grand pronouncements from politicians and “leaders” of the black community, no one ever truly comes to save those who find themselves in nowhere. It just doesn’t happen. They are quite literally on their own.

Don’t believe me? Ask yourself this: If these riots threatened to spill over into “white” America, ie. the suburbs or a fashionable retail district, what would happen? Sadly, we all know the answer. The national guard, and possibly other military units, would be called out and the results would be ugly. We would be talking about 80 deaths overnight instead of 80 arrests. This thing would be over today and everyone involved would be subdued or in the morgue.

But it isn’t spilling over. And so what is happening instead? We, the nation at large, are standing back and letting a community destroy itself, and we are letting the innocent majority trapped inside suffer with no hope of rescue. Why? Because we, the majority culture collectively, are afraid of the labels passed around by the “PC” crowd and those who have a vested interest in keeping the folks of nowhere exactly where they are. I know such a suggestion sounds insidious, but it also happens to be true.

And thus it remains. No one ever truly comes to save the people of nowhere. If you disagree, I defy you to look at every inner city in America or look at every Native American reservation spread across this land and try to tell me differently.

And that is where the loss of Bill Cosby as an icon is truly sad. He recognized the inherent flaws undermining the inner-city culture. He understood that the only way to truly save someone from nowhere is not to try and turn nowhere into somewhere, but rather to educate those who will be educated and get them out. For others to take you seriously, you have to present yourself seriously…and you can’t do that with your pants hanging below your butt or your ability to communicate compromised.

Would Bill Cosby have been able to single-handedly deconstruct these problems that grew out of decades worth of racism, family disintegration and poverty? Of course not. But as a role-model, he could have saved a few. And that is where true progress gets started.

But now he’s gone. His potential for good forever wiped away because of a hideous double life he had managed to keep under wraps until now.

So, for those who would see a comparison between the African-American community and the Children of Israel, we have to keep looking for that iconic leader who can lead his people to the promised land. And we can’t let discouragement overwhelm us because yet another possible Moses turned out to be nothing more than a Sampson wearing hideous sweaters.

 

 

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.