Monthly Archives: March 2014

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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