Not So Miserable Anymore, Huh?

les mis posterI was originally going to author a New Year’s Resolution blog in this space. After examining the massiveness of that cliché, I thought better of it. That, and one of my resolutions was to actually blog once a week.

So here I am, two weeks into the new year, writing my first blog. And it has nothing to do with resolutions. Instead, let’s talk film.

The Golden Globes are happening as I type this, and we know all about the Oscar nominations from earlier this week (I’m sure there’s a great story behind the name “Oscar,” but why not something cooler – like “D’Brickshaw” or something?).

I’m not going to pretend I’ve seen all the films out there, but it’s definitely a strong class in 2013. I believe Kathryn Bigelow, based on her previous work and current media buzz, got snubbed for a Best Director nomination. I was a proponent of Flight for a Best Picture nomination. And I certainly don’t think anything will beat Wreck-It Ralph for Best Animated Feature (though who knows — those numskulls at the Hollywood Foreign Press gave the award on the Golden Globes to Brave).

Also, I have to give fair warning. You’ll be able to cover a mountain of chips with the cheese I’m about to spew in your general direction. But I sincerely mean what I’m going to say. So grab a napkin and buckle up.

Now that we got the standard conversation out of the way, let’s talk about something miserable. See what I did there?

I was familiar with the basics of the story behind Les Miserables, but didn’t really get to experience it until seeing it on stage recently in San Francisco with my theater-obsessed lady friend.

Needless to say, the theater performance was incredible. But you never know how that will translate to the big screen. That being said, I’d like to present a case for Les Miserables as Best Picture:

*Spoiler Alert – if you haven’t watched the Golden Globes yet, that’s your own fault, so don’t yell at me when i tell you this very next thing!*

Les Mis won Best Picture (Comedy or Musical) at the Golden Globes this weekend. Therefore, it was not up against Argo (which won Best Picture for Dramas), Lincoln or Silver Linings Playbook. But it gives a glimmer of hope to people like me.

See, it’s not just a film. It’s a book-turned-performance-turned-film-turned-musical. And though the story is exceptionally dramatic, over the top, and depressing in most parts, it is one of the truest, purest stories of love and hope one will ever read, watch or witness.

Call me cheesy if you want, but I’m a sucker for stories that bring out emotions in people. And if you understand the narrative (it’s pretty self-explanatory, really), you would not leave that movie theater unaffected.

Don’t get me wrong, you don’t have to sob and weep at the precision of Anne Hathaway’s version of the epic song “I Dreamed A Dream.” You don’t have to shed a tear for Russell Crowe’s internally twisted Javert. You don’t have to grab a box of tissues to get through Eponine’s sacrifice and heartbreak.

hathaway jackman les mis

Where this film differs for me from other contenders (Lincoln, Django Unchained and Argo are really the only three I can fairly make comparisons to, as they are the only other of the nine films nominated for the industry’s greatest award that I’ve seen in theaters), is in its well-rounded execution.

I was shocked into another world watching Daniel Day-Lewis, the leading candidate for Best Actor, portray Abraham Lincoln. I was left in awe of his performance and the overall technical perfection of the story and film.

And Argo was a jaw-clenching ride about a terse, political event that I also thought was extremely well put-together, and especially well-directed by Ben Affleck (one of the bigger snubs, in my opinion).

Yet where those films succeeded, so did Les Miserables. With one slight improvement.

I can praise all three films (likely, the three leading candidates for Best Picture if the Golden Globes are any indication – I assume Django, Silver Linings Playbook and Zero Dark Thirty will all get strong consideration as well) for the story, the acting, the directing, the cinematography, and everything in between.

But one thing that Les Mis excels at is creating emotion in a viewer. Not only was it one of the most untouchable stories of all time — which, according to the girlfriend, was made into a mediocre non-musical film years ago — but it required the exclusive use of music and singing to get said story across.

Watching and listening to the story of lost hope, self-discovery, love, war, hate, revenge, regret, doubt and incredible human kindness unfold on the big screen left me feeling, as my sister said at the end of the showing, like “my heart just got ripped out of my chest.”

As unnatural as this sounds, that’s a good feeling to have after seeing a work of fiction – no, a work of art – take place in front of you. I did feel like a hole had been punched right through me, but I was beaming from the happy ending of the film and the overall dedication of the actors and characters to making their lives livable in such a desperate time.

Those are the things I reward artists for. And if I understand correctly, that is what artists live to be rewarded for. Making a difference, no matter the size, in the audience’s collective minds and hearts. oscar statue

While the other films I mentioned were not easy projects by any means, Les Mis gets my vote for its sheer power in telling the strongest, most legendary story of them all through musical theater.

Director Tom Hooper took on a monumental task, that had even the biggest Les Mis fans primed for a let down. Instead, what those theater nerds got was music that brought them to their knees, and a film that made tear glands burst.

You have to understand that for people like that — for people like my girlfriend — this film living up to the massive expectations is akin to the Dodgers going 162-0 and sweeping their way through the playoffs to a World Series title for me.

Perfection. Pure perfection. It was…no, IS, the Holy Grail of musical theater. And the fact that Hooper, Jackman, Hathaway, Crowe, and the rest of the cast did it justice at all is a feat worth celebrating.

And in this otherwise unimportant blog’s opinion, it’s worth celebrating with a shiny, gold Oscar on February 24.

Agree? Disagree? Just want to talk about your feelings? Hit Jeremy up on Twitter @Jamblinman. Thanks for reading!

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Practicing What I Preach: On Newtown, CT

This is a real letter that will be put in the mail on Friday, December 21st. I decided instead of screaming via social media that “things need to change,” I’d actually send something to someone who can make things change. This serves as a petition, too – once you read through, if you feel inclined to support what I’m saying and be a part of it, comment with your first and last name (and any other comments, of course) either on this page or via Facebook/Twitter. I will add those names to this before sending an electronic copy. 

Dear President Obama,

I am writing this on a plane. I am on a cross-country flight from Chicago to San Francisco, where I live. I’ll be honest; I was always terrified of flying. I don’t like heights, and I’ve never trusted a gigantic hunk of metal, piloted by a bunch of people I am forced to trust without ever knowing, to get me safe passage to a desired destination.

Yet tonight, I’ve never felt safer. I know there are no guns on this flight. September 11th, 2001 assured me that as long as I live, airport security will be far too tight to allow such things to take place again.

The same cannot be said when I’m back on the ground. Below me, it is realistic to assume that at least six people were murdered by gunfire during my five-hour flight, somewhere in the United States.

I know this, because it’s derived from simple math. We know that ever year, there are over 10,000 murders-by-gun in this country. That is about 30 per day. In one-fifth of my day, six people have been killed.

When I land in San Francisco, I will take public transportation from the terminal to my hometown. I’ll be on a crowded train with limited security for over an hour. On my way, I will pass countless malls, two movie theaters, multiple hospitals and my own elementary school.

Those are places I once considered fun, or safe, or beneficial in some way. After the events in Newtown, CT last week, which closely followed the events in Clackamas, OR, which followed the massacre in Aurora, CO, which was one of over 50 public shooting sprees since Columbine…I no longer feel the same way.

These days, when I take my girlfriend to the mall I feel what it must be like for a gazelle in the sights of a lioness. Eyes constantly scanning, thinking worst-case scenarios and my best escape route if a psychotic surprise were to come running into the mall, guns blazing. Take the fire route to my left? Throw her down on the floor and shield her with my own body? Sprint away, and run until I can’t hear the screams anymore?

With the frequency of death-via-gun in this country I’ve always called home, I am legitimately terrified for my life on a daily basis. It’s no longer “it can’t happen to me.” In Clackamas, someone I know was working inside the mall that day. In Newtown, one of my close friends was getting ready for work, ten minutes down the road from Sandy Hook Elementary School.

In my mind, it’s no longer an impossibility. Rather, it’s a likelihood that sometime in my life, my family and friends will be threatened by a mentally disturbed, mass-murdering psychopath who wants to be thrust into twisted martyrdom like Eric Harris, Dylan Klebold and Adam Lanza.

I don’t want to go outside anymore. I don’t WANT to go shopping, or to the movie theaters, or to a baseball game. I don’t like taking public transportation, 35 minutes each way, from home to work every day, exposed in public places. I don’t like that I’m becoming paranoid at barely 24 years old.

I don’t like, that as a young man who hopes to have a family of my own someday, that I will be forced, by the nature of a few sick people in our country and our unwillingness to fix a flawed, 200-year-old law, to home-school my children. To stream movies from a laptop, to shop online and never let them experience the joy of adventuring through San Francisco on a summer weekend, or buying my son his first suit and tie at the mall, or sending them to a midnight movie premiere.

I want to make sure my future kids receive the basic liberties – those same liberties that gun control opponents claim would be denied them if restrictions increased; liberties that the young children in Newtown had taken from them. Do some people have more of a “right” to own a gun than I have to feeling safe enough that I will survive an average day in my hometown?

Twenty kids, murdered in class would disagree. So would the six adults who were forced to play the part of hero, because our government won’t.

Sending “thoughts and prayers” is a noble deed, and much-needed. But how will the victims and their families be assured that something similar may never occur again?

Since I can’t physically prevent the violence, I’m using my greatest strength to put in my greatest contribution, in order to show how many people really, truly care about this issue.

There is desperate need for better research and support for mental health, and I surely endorse that. But there are changes that can be more immediate in a time when we really need instant impact.

What we do know as fact is that guns themselves are designed to kill – whether it be hunting, protection, law enforcement, military, or recreation, the entire point of the entity of a weapon is ultimately to make something once living, dead.

In the timeframe of one short week, we have seen a shooting at a mall, elementary school and hospital, not to mention Aurora, earlier this year. A movie theater at a midnight premiere, an elementary school, a hospital and a crowded shopping mall. Four places in which a shooter knew, regardless of mental stability, that the volume of people would be large and the ability for defense would be minimal.

If only the teachers in Newtown, CT held pistols in holsters while teaching five-year-old kids. If only the midnight movie-goers had the necessary training to unleash their weapons in the dark, see through the tear gas, and fire a fatal shot at a heavily armored psychopath before he got the chance. Where’s the logic?

I mourn for the innocent dead. I am furious at the murderous killers. I am disappointed that the greatest country in the world refuses to acknowledge a problem staring down the barrel of a gun, right in our faces. I am disappointed that we refuse to change.

So what do I want? Certainly not the complete abolishment of firearms – some people rely on rifles to put food on the table. This letter you’ve undoubtedly received by now outlines my thoughts quite nicely.

I want anyone carrying a hand gun to be doing so under extremely tight laws and certifications; even retired law enforcement officers. For example, it should take a thorough background check, a psychiatrist’s clearance, and yearly certification to buy a gun. Hell, make people take polygraph tests first.

It should cost illegal traders and buyers years in prison if caught. Every provider should be pre-cleared and regularly monitored. Make trafficking weapons a federal crime, instead of aligning it with similar punishments doled out for illegally moving livestock. Appoint a serious director to the ATF. Release relevant records to the public.

Require every citizen who carries a concealed weapons permit to renew their license once per year, demonstrating mental stability and knowledge of proper use and safety. Ban assault weapons completely – they serve no protective, recreational or non-military use for a regular citizen in the street. They are simply designed to inflict fatal damage on a large population in a short amount of time.

Continue to pull violent songs from the radio, and increase movie, television and video game ratings again. Enforce a law that requires gun owners to have their weapons locked up at all times when they aren’t being used, to help prevent accidental shootings at home. That way, nobody can break into a home or steal a gun to use in a pre-meditated manner.

Lastly, put metal detectors and trained security in every sports and concert venue, school, hospital and movie theater.

Yes, people would still find ways to get guns. Criminals would still exist. But using that as justification for not trying is absurd. Don’t wear seat belts because crashing with them on could still kill you? Surely everyone can see the flawed logic here.

We have seen the results pay off in other countries (In 14 years after a gun ban and buy-back was instituted in Australia, murder and suicide rates dropped significantly and there was not a mass shooting spree in that time). And we regulate everything else in our country – cars, food, homes, even children’s toys – so why not the most dangerous weapon in the world?

I leave you with this thought: Twenty innocent school children will never go to prom, or break curfew, or experiment with energy drinks before a college exam. They will never get a job, lose a job, attend a wedding, and have children of their own. They will never see a life-changing film, read a life-changing book, or explore a life-changing country.

Six-year-old Olivia will never get to play an angel in the school play. Six-year-old Jesse will never master the art of horseback riding. The least we can do is make sure they did not die in vain. We can work towards ensuring that no other child or adult suffers the same fate.

Please, President Obama. Prove that you care about the lives lost. Prove that you actually want this country to change. Prove that you want to try.

Everyone else: stand with me – whether you support better mental health research, gun control, or both. Even if you don’t, sign this petition and make a stand in honor of the victims of Newtown and Aurora and Columbine and prove that you are willing to sacrifice your own convenience for the possibility of preventing such horrific events in the future.

Sincerely worried,

Jeremy Dorn

IF YOU WANT TO ADD YOUR NAME TO THIS PETITION, COMMENT FIRST AND LAST (WITH ANY OTHER COMMENTS) BELOW, OR ON FACEBOOK/TWITTER! I WILL ADD YOUR NAME BEFORE SENDING AN ELECTRONIC COPY TO THE WHITE HOUSE.

Let’s Get Presidential, Shall We?

I’m not nearly as bad ass as Wyclef Jean. If so, and if I was President, I too would getelected on Friday, assassinated on Saturday, buried on Sunday, and back to work on Monday.

Alas, I am not the President. And good thing, too. Because once I returned to work on Monday, everyone would have nothing to argue about. I’d make this country damn near perfect with my plan.

Isn’t that what everyone with an opinion on politics thinks? I know it’s easier said than done to fix a country with problems as monumental as ours, but can we agree that the last four years have been a large improvement over the preceding eight?

I’ll start this blog with a disclaimer – I am officially registered as a Democrat and voted as such in 2008. That being said, I align myself with certain ideals of each major party, and despise certain aspects of both as well.

The most important issues to me will never be decided by a debate. Candidates have far too much at stake to be completely honest with the public. I would pay attention to the political banter on TV that so rudely interrupted New Girl a couple of weeks ago, as long as the candidates were being fully truthful.

I understand that they can’t be. They have to appease multiple demographics of voters and ooze political correctness. But any insight on the issues I care about might as well have been answered in Swedish; it was like sign language to a blind man.

Again, I know that politics have come to this. It’s the only real way for candidates to survive. But can we get a little honesty out of these guys, please?

Regardless of who you are voting for or why, just make sure to exercise your right to go to the polls tomorrow and make a difference. The results will directly affect you and your family, whether you like it or not. And if you DON’T go vote, then you have no right to complain about how unfairly the government is treating you.

I wrote this blog simply to outline the six issues I personally feel most strongly about in this election. I know who I’m voting for, and I might move to Canada if he loses, mostly because I’m a sore loser.

Just kidding, it’s because I think the other guy will ruin this country. Now that I’ve had my moment of extremism, let me get to the meat of this blog:

Gay Marriage

I’m not going to harp on this one too long, because I just wrote a full blog about marriage equality a week ago. Please go through and read that if you want my full take on the issue. All I will say is that I believe denying the LGBT community a basic human right is more than selfish. And regardless of what anyone says, it is the same as racism and prejudice were during the Civil Rights era. African-Americans were persecuted for their skin color, something they had no choice in, just like homosexuals are being denied their rights for their sexuality.

Education

I have been fortunate enough to go through pre-school, elementary school, middle school, high school, and four and a half years of college without paying  a dime of my own money. My parents saved up for years to put my sister and I through school because they knew the value of a good education. Both of us are looking at B.A.’s in our desired fields and are slaying job interviews along the way.

There are a ton of families who did not save enough money, or more likely, COULD not save enough money for that same opportunity. If these politicians truly want to improve this country’s education and start catching up to all the nations who have surpassed us, they should stop forcing the firing of teachers, cutting of school programs, raising of taxes and tuitions, and the emphasis on testing.

Economy

Oh, boy. Everyone’s favorite topic of discussion. It is my understanding, as a human with common sense, that if you have a certain amount of money, you can not spend more than that limit and go unpunished. The United States have certainly kicked that rule in the nuts and laughed over the years, huh? When you are zillionbillionkatrillions (it’s a number now…) of dollars in debt, you’d think the process of re-paying would be much more urgent. Yes, there are hundreds and thousands of things that government money needs to fix, but you’re telling me in a trillion-dollar annual economy, our government can’t stash away money in order to get us back in the black? Where has all the money gone? Damn you, A-Rod. Damn you.

Defense

Don’t forget, people. George W. Bush got us into Iraq, Barack Obama is getting us out. That doesn’t necessarily get the U.S. off the hook in my mind, though. Since when did we become everyone’s way-too-overprotective big brother? We have troops in nearly every country in the world, and we wonder why the U.S. is hated. Spending money on the military is great, as long as they are protecting us at home and abroad – nobody in their right minds wouldn’t appreciate what our troops do for us. But as the most powerful and dangerous military in the world, do we really need to test the limits of this? I want to be safe, but I don’t want to build a barbed-wire fence around a croc-infested moat, around a wall.

Global Warming

There is no denying the facts; hurricanes and storms have gotten bigger, faster and more devastating in the past few years. Ocean levels are rising, polar ice caps are melting and nobody seems to give a damn. Was the environment a topic even touched on publicly by any candidates this fall? It is our responsibility as citizens of this planet to make sure there is a livable home for future generations. Stricter measures on clean energy, reduced use of oil and pollution must be taken. Ignoring that the Earth is changing and getting sick is like being an elderly who visits the doctor for a check-up, gets diagnosed and prescribed for multiple illnesses, and goes home saying “Ah, it’s natural. It’ll cycle out. I’ll be fine.”

Healthcare

If I had it my way, everything would be Canadian…er…free. But I know that’s never going to happen in America. I’m not saying insurance policies should be more lenient or that healthcare should be less expensive, but am I supposed to believe the people who say they care about American citizens, and then don’t go to the greatest lengths possible to protect them? What is more important than your people’s’ health? All I’m saying is somehow, some way, healthcare needs to be affordable for anyone.

I’ll spare you my thoughts on abortion, gun control and immigration, which I also consider huge issues. You’re welcome. You could finish the entire Harry Potter series twice before I would be done with that.

Anyway, that’s just my take on the issues that I read into the most. I’d like to compare our country to the plight of my alma mater’s football team. Bear with me here.

In 2002, Washington State University went to the Rose Bowl. By the time I arrived in 2007, they were struggling to win two games, let alone be in the bowl conversation. After last season, along came Mike Leach to coach, and it all changed.

The 2012 version of the Washington State Cougars is still pitiful, but much improved. We used to lose 69-0 (no joke – at home to USC my sophomore year). Last year Stanford beat us 44-14. This year, we came within 10 seconds and one play of beating them.

Leach brought hope and a YES WE CAN attitude to that team, and they are finally, slowly climbing their way out of obscurity. Yes, there are bumps and bruises along the way, as with any rebuild. But he’s done a great job so far with what he was given.

If you don’t get the allusion here, I can’t help you. When a team has hit rock bottom, you can’t expect a new coach to come in and snap his fingers to suddenly fix everything in one season.

Have patience, people. Eventually, under this coach, we will return to glory.

These are my opinions, nobody else’s. Feel free to agree, disagree or argue with me. No matter what you do, get out to the polls tomorrow and exercise you right to VOTE! Follow Jeremy on Twitter @Jamblinman and follow this blog if you like what you see.

Shouldn’t Men Be From Venus Since it Rhymes With…?

I’m not going to lie…I only titled this blog in such a fashion because it forced you to think the word “penis.” Hah! Suck on that! Wait. No. Don’t really su–oh god, what have I done?!

For some reason I write about things I can’t personally understand or identify with. My first novel, which has been started and stopped more than your car in a friendly Los Angeles freeway commute at any given hour, will be from the point of view of a 20-something female.

I don’t know if you’re aware of this, but I’m not a girl. I do have a sister and a mother and a girlfriend and plenty of other female friends though, from whom I can draw inspiration and make educated guesses. So you may wonder how a straight guy is really going to write a blog advocating gay rights and get you to buy in, believe in it and change the world one opinion at a time?

Insert “lives in San Francisco” jokes here. Now insert joke about the association of the word “insert” to that previous sentence…done? Okay, good.

Let me start with an admission. When I was younger, I knew I was a boy, but I didn’t realize there was anything wrong with enjoying Shania Twain and The Secret Garden. When I was about 10 years old, walking around the house singing the only part of Shania’s song I could remember (“MAN! I feel like a woman. Dun dun duh nuh nuh DUN DUN!”), my Mom stopped me and said:

Jeremy. Don’t sing that part. It’s…weird.

Boom. Just like that, a dawn of realization hit. Society says NO!

It took me a while after that to realize I just didn’t care. I like that song, I liked Kelly Clarkson, I still like Call Me Maybe. I can out-quote anybody, white, black, Lebanese, male, female, gay, straight, or Mormon when it comes to Mean Girls.

Whatever. It is what it is. But even minor differences and preferences like that are considered “queer” or strange. Yet, I’m the most stereotypically average human being on this planet. So why are homosexuals and other LGBT individuals considered so different that they shouldn’t get to enjoy the basic, lawless human right of falling in love and being wed?

I’ve yet to see a good reason from anti-gay groups on why gay and lesbian people shouldn’t marry. The most common “reasoning” I see goes like this:

1. The bible prohibits it.

2. Because it’s weird and doesn’t make sense.

3. It’s bad for children.

4. It’s like a gateway drug.

5. It’s against nature.

Allow me to enlighten. First of all, it’s okay to admit our past generations were ignorant. They won’t be offended, trust me (They are dead; sorry not sorry.).

In the bible, which is a completely fictional (Okay, really? Prove me wrong then.), yet very important and relevant (There. HAPPY?) collection of stories, other “rules” would outlaw speech by women, eating a ham sandwich or seafood (People in New Orleans and Boston read that and went Oh, HELL no!), and football. 

How many people just read that sentence and thought “Screw that, dudes can marry dudes as long as Adrian Peterson keeps dropping 25 points per week for my fantasy team!”? That’s what I thought.

The bottom line is that LGBT individuals are among a large group of people who are getting pushed around because they are a minority to those who believe in whatever God is.

In America it’s the “norm” to be a white, Christian family. Yet we have the most diverse, multi-cultural community in the entire world. Out of the 312 million citizens in the United States, about 9 million are LGBT. So what I’m hearing is that even though nearly 4 percent of Americans are a part of the LGBT community, that group does not qualify for basic human rights.

THAT law of God can be accepted and enforced. But we can ignore those silly rules about football and ham because it’s fun to watch or eat.

Right. That makes sense.

And you know what else is “strange,” “confusing,” or “weird?” A black President, a CongressWOMAN, people skydiving from space, volcanoes, how Hunter Pence physically functions, why flapping the Airhead in the wrapper until it’s a tiny square makes it taste better, Christmas music before Halloween, why Nicolas Cage still lands acting roles, and public transportation in major cities.

Shit happens. Things change. Adapt, as you do with your fall fashions and taste in music.

The argument that it’s bad for children infuriates me for many reasons. Yes, a “standard” upbringing is a mother and father for the child. And in more than half of these “standard”  marriages, the mother and father end up separating.

Possibilities of divorce in a homosexual marriage is also there, but they will take their chances. The argument that children need to be raised in a standard family is completely moot, given how often that standard family is ripped apart – forget if a child is born from birth, test tube or divine intervention…as long as the parental guardians devote themselves to loving and raising that child, I see no problem with it.

The fact that I even have to dispute the gateway argument is a bit disturbing. If people truly think that pedophilia and bestiality would suddenly have a shot for legality based on gay marriage being legalized, they are more insane than I thought. Having sex with animals and dead people is, arguably, rape. It sounds silly, but seriously, where’s the consent?

Lastly, being gay is not unnatural. Different? Sure. But I won’t take it back to the minority argument; I’ll simply leave you with this list of common animals that have been scientifically observed to display homosexual or transgender behavior:

Cats, dogs, giraffes, elephants, dolphins, lions, horses, salmon, lizards, frogs, snakes, chicken, ducks and penguins.

Try explaining that to your straight, religious, “normal” children as they cuddle with the family cat in bed, clutching a stuffed penguin.

To anyone who believes religious doctrine suggests gay rights should be denied, talk to one of your own HERE. Point, set and match.

Now that I’ve successfully proven that the anti-gay marriage reasoning is stupider than trying to surf in Hurricane Sandy, enjoy trying to come up with more excuses as to why a basic human right is being denied to millions of people.

I’ll be waiting. And when those people realize that they are essentially telling LGBT couples not to breathe, maybe…just maybe…it will change.

You don’t have to listen to me, but take my opinion for what it’s worth. Vote for marriage equality and gay rights in any aspect of the upcoming elections. You can follow Jeremy on Twitter @Jamblinman.

Public Service Announcement: Thumbs and Driving Don’t Mix

This is a friendly reminder to not pick up hitch hikers, no matter how friendly they look. Even if he or she has a six-pack of Bud Light, obliging the thumb is a move that will likely result in an axe to your head, then the car cascading off a cliff into a fiery mess at the bottom of a canyon, suicidal hitch hiker laughing menacingly all the way down.

Then again, it could go right – you could make a new buddy from picking up a wandering soul on the highway. Hell, you could even meet the love of your life. It’s happened before.

Since I literally have nothing else to write about hitch hikers, let’s stop easing into a sensitive topic and get on with the real meat to this blog sandwich: Please. Please. PLEASE. For the love of human existence, stop thumbing your phone while driving.

Yes, I used to be guilty myself. There was a time when a well-timed “LOL” to a girl I liked was far more important than my health, let alone anyone else in my general driving vicinity. I was convinced I was so good at texting, I never even had to look at the phone because I knew where the numbers were.

Problem is, you still have to read the text that you got in the first place and then double-check yours makes sense before sending it off through cyber space. You may think it only takes a second, but it’s long enough. And no, the “LOL” to that chick didn’t pay off; thanks for asking.

I can’t even pull the “older and wiser” card on you guys here. Technically I’m older, the wiser part is debatable, but I’m still only 23. I just know better. A story I got in an email was what changed my ways for good – whether or not it’s true is irrelevant. The story went that a guy in a smart car was texting, swerved into oncoming traffic, and died instantly due to being sliced in half by a big rig. I’m assuming he never got to send that text. Here is one of many pictures of the aftermath, according to the email (WARNING: VERY graphic, please ignore if you expect rainbows and butterflies…lots of blood, metal and body parts).

My mom sent the email to me in her desperate attempt to make her son a well-rounded citizen (it worked…I’m freakin’ awesome). As if it wasn’t worrisome enough that there are human beings and fire hydrants and mailboxes and deer everywhere we drive (readers in or around Walnut Creek – how fearless are those damn deer that are trying to re-stake their claim to the land we built our neighborhoods on? I see packs of them driving home every night. What if they were zombie deer? Holy shit. I’d never leave my house after dusk. There are hordes of them standing in ditches and on sidewalks everywhere, just waiting for the chance to jump into my windshield or shit on my lawn. THEY FEAR NOTHING. Blood-sucking little Bambi’s…sorry…got carried away there).

Where was I? Right! As if it wasn’t worrisome enough that all those obstacles exist on a normal day, we have to worry about other drivers on the road. On highways there are gigantic, loud, terrifying trucks everywhere you turn.

If you think looking down at your phone to send a pointless text is worth slamming into the back of one of those trucks and leaving your head stuck to the bumper, leg to the axle, and ass to the exhaust pipe, you’re sorely mistaken. Keep challenging the facts. Keep laughing in the face of emoticon-fueled danger. Have fun in prison.

Just ask this guy. He’s one of the lucky few who you COULD ask.

When I see people scrolling through a text, tweet, Facebook message, email, etc. on their phones while driving, I want to give them a not-so-friendly bump with my right headlight just to make a point.

You know what I do when I get a text while driving? One of three things: I ignore it until I’m done driving, I give it to my shotgun rider/navigator/partner in crime (title pending, based on who is sitting there) and ask them to respond for me. I can dictate a quick sentence to them and keep both hands and eyes on the road. Or if it’s really that urgent, give them a call on speakerphone.

Honestly, I’m no angel. I still do it once in a while. I lose focus. But it’s like training yourself to do anything else: eating vegetables, flossing your teeth, chewing with your mouth closed, not picking your nose, only farting in front of your family and close friends. You know, normal stuff. Mind over matter. Make a concentrated effort to stop. 

You can’t make this stuff up. Students were asked to navigate a driver’s ed course while texting in a study done recently. The results were conclusive – driving while texting is equal to driving with a blood alcohol level of 0.08. Or the legal limit. The number all tipsy drivers fear.

Do you really need any more convincing proof than that? Ignoring a statistic of that magnitude would be an ugly display of priorities…and make me hate my own species a lot.

Look, all I’m saying is texting is a dangerous activity while behind the wheel of a car. The only time there should be something so urgent is in a legitimate emergency situation. And in that case, if you’re texting, you suck at urgency. That’s why god invented speed dial.

This is how people get cut in half. It’s no joke. And next time this blogger sees you texting and driving, there will be a pre-meditated fender bender coming to a highway near you.

Try LOL’ing at that, sucka.

Humans Are Screwed Thanks to Guys Like Me

How to operate Facebook:

1. Log-in.

2. Make sure to update your status, so everyone knows you are alive.

3. No matter how well you know the people in the upper right corner of your home feed, make sure to wish them a Happy Birthday! God forbid you run into one of them at the grocery store and they throw a kumquat at you for forgetting they turned 26 last December.

4. Check. Your. Notifications. Do NOT let somebody’s GIF of a random dude shimmy-ing and accompanying message comparing you and her/him to a hypothetical situation in which said dude was inspired to shimmy, go unnoticed.

5. CRITICAL: Scroll down the news feed at least until it reloads once – any further, you are creeping. But any less, and you clearly don’t give a shit about your friend’s pictures.

6. Click “Like” on any pictures or links that make you smirk. If you are feeling especially peppy, type “LOL” into the comment box! It will make those people feel loved.

How to Operate Twitter:

1. Log-in.

2. Scroll down on the timeline. Anything interesting, funny, or controversial? The answer is yes, unless you are super lame and don’t follow anyone that fits in the above categories.

3. Retweet anything and everything that is funny, regardless of how offensive it is to entire cultural groups.

4. Click “favorite” on any of your real-life friends’ tweets, to signify that yes, you do still love them. And yes, you have nothing worthwhile to tweet in return so this gold star will have to hold you over as an emblem of my affection for your magnificent phone-thumbing abilities.

5. Check your mentions. If anyone is still arguing with you about last night’s high school curling match on ESPN2, shut…them…down. Something like, “DUDE, check the stats before you talk to me – Goldstein is leading the STATE in adjusted brush technique this year! #Dumbass” should do the trick!

6. When addressing your adoring public of 250 followers (most of whom are porn bots anyway), make sure to start your farewell tweet for the night with “Well, Tweeps,” and then say something absurdly profound and original like “tomorrow’s another day. I’m gonna get thru this! #SelfConfidence #Potential #HopesNDreams”.

How to Use Instagram:

1. Log-in.

2. If you think it’s artsy or funny, it’s probably not. Take a picture anyway.

3. Make sure to use one of those filters that makes it look like the sun is about to bump into the Earth, creating a weird glare on the top of the picture.

4. You absolutely MUST hashtag “#nofilter” at the end of your message, even though you used a filter and it looks exactly the same.

5. Speaking of the message, it better have some kind of title to go with it, as if you just captured a work of art in your iPhone lens.

6. Share to Twitter and Facebook. You wouldn’t want the people stupid enough to not yet Instagram their lives to miss your pictures.

How to Use Foursquare:

1. Don’t. It’s really freakin’ creepy. (Says the guy who uses it daily)

How to Interpret this blog:

I’ll admit it. I’m part of the problem. There is no getting around it, no excuses to be made. Does that mean I’ll stop? Probably not.

My pupils can dilate into hashtags, my hands can turn into big, clunky thumbs-up signs, my brain can start processing images with an array of glittery filters…I just don’t care. I’ll probably still check my robotic self in at whichever cafe I happen to be perusing FourSquare in, though I may not even realize I’m at a cafe until the GPS tells me so, because my little Twitter-eyed, Facebook-handed, Instagram-brained self is a zombie. Not one of those cool zombies either. Just an annoying, nerdy, sometimes hip, apathetic zombie who only preys on flesh when his iPhone battery dies (every eight hours, I might add).

Yes, I’m completely, totally, unequivocally hooked into social media. I can think of any number of reasons why, but I’ll just go with the basics: it’s fun, it’s easy, it’s interactive, and it’s a totally free platform for personal expression.

I’m not going to unplug, either. I like being hooked in to people around the world. I like being able to turn on my phone and start a three-day debate with a random guy in Columbus over whether high or low socks look better on a baseball uniform (for the record, the answer is high socks – feel free to tweet me if you disagree).

I like being able to write a blog that normally only my parents and myself (at least thirteen times, just to make sure my number of reads doesn’t look too pathetic) would read, and then posting to Reddit and suddenly having a couple hundred strangers appreciating and/or making fun of my ideas and passions.

And I especially like being inspired by other people’s ideas or pictures or thoughts. Now that I’ve effectively pinned my opinion on social media to your brain and tumbled through all the ways I love it, let’s get down to the nitty-gritty here:

Humans are screwed thanks to guys like me.

Seriously. Social Media is a dangerous weapon, and I’m openly abusing it. The difference is, I know how to use it. I haven’t lost my ability to interact face-to-face with a living, breathing person. I’ve formed relationships via conversation and physical touch. I’ve felt the real, stinging emotions that humans feel – not the radiating glow of a computer screen slowly digging into your skin and infecting your bones.

People need to realize that social media is what it is. It’s media. A social form, yes. But it is media. It’s not real, tangible contact.

So don’t take it so seriously. If we aren’t friends on Facebook, that’s not a reflection of my opinion on you as a person. Hell, if we ARE friends on Facebook, it doesn’t mean we are actually going to meet up and chat about politics and the stock market and the new secretary’s affinity for filing her nails at her desk (that sounds awful anyway – note to self, don’t ever talk about aforementioned topics).

If I unfollow you on Twitter, it means I don’t want to read your tweets. It doesn’t mean I just subliminally told you to fuck off. Once I’ve followed you, I have not made a legally binding vow to keep reading your angry diatribes about life, love and the pursuit of retweets.

Let’s just put it this way: I have 300 followers on Twitter. Most of them are NOT my real friends. They are people who liked something I said at one point or another. Maybe they felt obligated to follow me because I followed them. Whatever the case, if you have 30,000 followers, you are not 100 times cooler than me.

It means you Tweet 100 times better than I do. Congrats!

Just please refer to the above user guidelines for social media…and then completely disregard them.

My friends are the ones I can call on Skype from thousands of miles away and hold a conversation for hours with. Or the people I can meet up with on a random Wednesday night for beer and wings.

The people who don’t care if I like their status, favorite their tweets and comment on their check-ins. Please use social media responsibly. And don’t let it take over the human race – we are all WAY too interesting to let that happen.

End, rant. Goodnight #Tweeps!

Hey America! Batman Doesn’t Use Guns

What can we do to change the world?

Since when is going to a movie, paying for entertainment, watching a superhero movie a dangerous endeavor? If only Batman was real and had seen the bat signal high above the Aurora, Colorado movie theatres at his own premiere last Thursday night.

The world would be less one criminal, plus 12 innocent movie goers.

In my opinion, the answer is NOT “prayer.”

Look, I’m not religious, but I’m also not against religion. I think for people who are religious, prayer is a great way to cope and a way of sending their best regards to people affected in tragedies such as Aurora. Or Columbine. Or Virginia Tech. Further, religion is a way for someone to direct their lives in a positive way.

That being said, praying for the victims of the Aurora shooting is not going to miraculously cure all future killing spree candidates of whatever insanity resides in their skulls.

Without stealing my friend @DanSharp‘s Facebook status outright, let me paraphrase and summarize for you, because he perfectly put the way I feel about situations such as these:

Let’s actually do something about what happened in Aurora. Whether that be stricter gun laws, gun abolishment altogether, higher security at public places…prayer won’t do it. Because when we pray, it leads to grief, acceptance and forgiveness. And how can we forgive something like this? Something unforgivable?

I’m not here to tell you that the NRA is at fault, or that Marilyn Manson inspired this man, or that movies should be less violent. But the fact that anyone with a WiFi connection, a little cash and a bad attitude can inflict so much damage on so many people is, frankly, disturbing.

The suspect in the Aurora shootings, James E. Holmes, was an honor student and scholarship winner. No matter how good he was, how smart he was, he had access to many deadly weapons, as evidenced by the sheer amount of heat he was packing upon entering the theatre.

Holmes got two handguns, a shotgun, an AK-47 rifle and two canisters of tear gas, according to police reports. How long until every kid outside the suburbs realizes they can save some allowance money and get a gun to carry around?

So…pro-gun law folk argue that if gun laws were more lenient, the people in the theatre could have potentially defended themselves. They even point out that the owner of the theatre enforced a no weapons policy inside.

Oh, the humanity! How could this owner live with himself now, knowing those patrons at the midnight premiere could have potentially defended themselves? Well, first of all. Nobody would bring a gun to a movie. That’s not even an argument.

Secondly, if anyone there could have dodged tear gas and a barrage of sprayed bullets and taken out a heavily armed gunman with a gas mask and bullet proof vest on, they should immediately be drafted into the Special Ops division of the U.S. Marine Corps.

The fact of the matter is, those people were completely helpless. And the root of the problem is not that they didn’t have guns to fire back with. The issue is that Holmes allegedly did have guns.

If gun laws were tightened up, if online purchases of firearms were more closely guarded, if punishments were stricter, if security at public places was better…if, if, IF we could actually do something to change the way our country has become, we wouldn’t have to pray for victims and their families, after the fact.

There is no coincidence that the United States has ten times as many murders by gun than any other country in the world on a yearly basis. We lose nearly TEN THOUSAND people to gun violence per year in our country.

Ten thousand. That’s everyone on my Facebook, multiplied by five. The sheer volume of human life lost at the pull of a trigger on a weapon that gives the holder power and protection and potentially, a sense of invincibility, is absolutely staggering.

According to JustFacts.com, 83 percent of Americans will be the victim of an attempted or completed violent crime (assault, robbery, rape) at some point in their lives. People are killed in accidental shootings, petty arguments, and carefully meditated murders. So how do we bring this number down and improve the safety of the general American public?

Easy. Ditch the guns. Require metal detectors and security at all large public places (look, I created more jobs!). Increase the penalty for illegally carrying a weapon. Track online ordering of weapons as if our lives depend on it. Because they pretty much do, now.

(Womp, womp Bill of Rights yadda yadda, I know…that’s like telling me not to wash my dirty face when pimples appear because I was born with smooth, spotless skin. When things change, we need to adapt with them, and I hardly expect that our Founding Fathers were predicting nearly 10,000 deaths a year via bullet when they drafted the Declaration of Independence. Otherwise, my face will look like a battle field and everyone will hate me and I’ll die a slow, painful death. Please understand this metaphor so I don’t have to explain any further. Pimples are gross.)

So keep the prayers coming – it’s a way to cope, it’s a way to send respect. But if whatever God you pray to heard us the first million times, things would have already changed. The only people with the power to change this is the government, unfortunately.

Allow hunting rifles. Allow law enforcement officials to have weapons. But every person with a power streak does not need to have a magnum tucked into their belt line.

What will it take? I’m honestly afraid to go to my local MLB game – the Oakland A’s stadium is in a bad place. Oakland in general is one of the most dangerous places in the country. Who’s to say the next game I go to isn’t infiltrated by a crazy, bullied kid like Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold with a machine gun well-hidden on his person?

That would open over 25,000 people in a very confined space to the threat of immediate and lethal danger.

Unless something changes at the top, people will continue to find ways to acquire weapons. They will continue to hold grudges and take it out on hundreds of innocent citizens in movie theatres, school cafeterias, shopping malls and office buildings.

So keep the prayers coming, but don’t forget to actually take a physical stand to gun violence. Help the effort on limiting violence by writing local congressmen, using social media to attack gun laws, until the general public’s wave of fear and disappointment washes over Congress and forces a chance that will keep our country safer than it’s ever been before.

Aurora will thank you. Columbine and Oklahoma City will thank you. Most importantly, ten thousand future strangers might thank you. Victims of real, unforgivable crimes that all shapes and sizes of Gods completely ignored.

Don’t simply accept, forgive and move on from this tragedy. Because it’s unacceptable. It must be stopped.

You can be the real life superhero.