In Anticipation of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

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I was warm for Star Wars growing up. I hadn’t been introduced to the far away galaxy until I was in middle school when theaters around the world re-released the original trilogy in anticipation of the newer films.

I liked them, but I never really loved them. In fact, I always thought, even in middle school, that all the humans were really bad actors, except of course, for Han Solo (queue any songs about a possible man-crush).

Don’t get me wrong. I liked Star Wars. A lot. I just never got around to reading the endless spin-off novels or collected the C-3PO Pez dispensers or dress up as a storm trooper and go to comic cons (I did get the soundtrack, though).

But then my whole mindset was changed nearly a year ago with the release of The Force Awakens. That movie made me a die-hard Star Wars fan. That movie was like the answer to an impossible riddle. It was like the mayonnaise on my sandwich, the ice in my tea on a hot day, it was enough to make me join the fictitious resistance, as it were.

And now, judging by the trailers and poster of the newest (albeit unofficial) Star Wars installment, we’re in for another treat this year.

Personally, I love that the Star Wars universe is bringing in lead female protagonists. That’s because I have a daughter and I’m glad she can now be emotionally invested in the movies for upcoming family Star Wars nights. Rey is a great role model for my little girl as I’m sure Jyn will be just as kick-ass.

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And can we please give a huge applause to Disney for getting the galactic saga back on track with the original 70’s look? I swear the first second I saw they were doing that last year, that got me hyped up just like the Cars 3 trailer took me  (and the rest of the wordl) from eh to HOLY CRAP FREAKIN’ YES I CAN’T WAIT!!!

(Seriously, whoever’s doing the marketing at Disney/Pixar/Lucas Films needs to run for president because they clearly know how to do their job extremely well.)

So who’s excited about this unofficial Star Wars installment? What are you most excited about? Who loved The Force Awakens as much as I did? Also, to address a small point of contention between almost every couple in America, what’s a good age to start showing Star Wars to your kids?

Twenty-Seven Ways You Can Die

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI love hearing a good sob story. Like stories about when you found out Santa isn’t real, or pathetic reasons you got fired from your job. Or how you found out that everyone will die. Here’s my story.

I was maybe six or so. I remember my family and I took a trip to some historical park. I don’t remember where. Over the years I’ve accepted that we drove up from Southern California to Washington State. I don’t remember that trip if it ever happened, but I remember being behind the backseat of whatever station wagon we were driving through whatever historical park we were visiting.

The following moment was so surreal that all else faded from memory.

I just remember my mom, dad, and sister were in the car. And maybe my grandparents.

The historical park (or wherever we were)  had several bronze statues of historical figures. You know, those eleven-foot statues set up on brick cylinders? I remember looking up at one of them (probably of Thomas Jefferson, or some colonial figure because he had the ruffles and the tricorne hat) and wondering how a statue is made.

I was curious enough to ask about it in the back of the car. “How do they make those statues?” I asked. “Who are they?”

“They’re of famous people who’ve died,” came the response from the front.

Now, before I go any further, I need to explain the difference between what parents say and what children hear. Observe:

Parent says: “Don’t touch that glass doll.” Child hears: “Touch any other glass doll.”

Parent says: “If you pull on the Christmas tree it will fall over and kill you.” Child hears: “If you pull on the Christmas tree it’s going to make a mess and there might be blood!”

So when my parents said that those statues were of famous people who died, I heard, “When you die, you get turned into a statue.”

Immediately I imagined being encased in an iron cast for all eternity. Then I asked the next fatal question: “How did they die?”

The answer: “Some got sick, some got old, some died in wars.”

(At this point, I need to remind you that I didn’t know yet that death was inevitable. I thought those were just really unlucky bastards who struck out big time. Like, don’t go to war, duh. Go to the doctor, duh.)

Then I said, “That’s sad.” I didn’t mean it was sad that they died. I meant that it was sad that they were encased in an iron shell, tormented by eternal stillness and stiff muscles for all eternity like Han Solo.

Then someone said: “It’ll happen to everyone sooner or later.”

At this point, the violins I was hearing were interrupted with a scratchy record and my eyes popped open. “What?” I asked.

“Well, everyone dies.” I wished adults really did sound like the Peanuts grown-ups so I didn’t have to hear that.

“Everyone?”

“Everyone.”

“You mean, you’re doing to die, Dad?”

“Yup.”

“And you, Mom?”

“Yup.”

I asked everyone by name if they were going to die. And then I asked the inevitable: “Am going to die?”

“Someday. But not for a long, long time.”

I didn’t care that it wasn’t going to be for a long time. All I cared about was that one day I was going to be turned into one of those statues, helpless as I watched people walk past in droves pointing at me, birds pooping on me, being left out in the cold every night.

So the violins started back up in my head and I burst out in tears. That’s pretty much all I remember from that whole trip.

You know what I did next?

After my family told me everything would be okay and that people don’t turn into statues when they die (unless you’re in Narnia), I then started counting all the possible ways people could die.

Sickness. Old age. Getting hit by a car. Flying into a window (because my knowledge of death was limited to dogs, squirrels, and birds apparently). I also included drowning and holding your breath too long for the fun of it and stubbing your toe so bad that you die.

I came up with about twenty-seven ways a person could die. And these were twenty-seven things I tried to avoid doing from then on out.

You know what I should have done instead? I should have thought about all the different ways to live.

Twenty-seven years later I guess I still have time to change my thinking. You know, before I turn into a statue. So here’s my new list:

Ways to Live:

Breaking the Adult Shell

I marvel at how open kids can be. My two-year-old son, for instance, will just go up to anyone at the park and hug them. The awkwardness never simmers. And my almost three-year-old daughter will become best friends with anyone that has hair the same length as her and smiles.

When you’re a parent, you often reflect on your own childhood and marvel at how different you once were. I know I do.

I remember the first day of third grade, I sat across from this kid named Arty. We just kept staring at each other the whole class and kept seeing who would break and laugh first. We were inseparable that whole year and I blame him for not learning my long division.

Now, as an adult, I avoid eye-contact as much as possible with the guy that sits across from me at work.

It used to be that a new kid moved in next door and you’d go over and introduce yourself with a ball and glove. I just ran into our new neighbor for the first time last weekend and simply smiled and nodded. He’d been there for about a month.

Getting old means losing your edge. If you’re like me, it means getting bitter and growing more and more insecure. My shy and acne-infested high school self was Bruno Mars compared to who I’ve grown up to be.

My best friend of sixteen years has the same issue. So he came up with the idea of challenging each other to do out-of-the-box things every day. Ask a stranger for money, buy our wives flowers, fart in an elevator and own up to it, whatever.

So that’s what we’ve been doing. It’s an attempt to make us a feel a little more alive than our adulthood wants us to be. It’s an attempt to not be crushed by conformity. To not lose the luster of trying new things or be found ball-less when a challenge presents itself.

Last week I was challenged to give the Thanksgiving prayer. Not being one to pray, it was awkward and never-ending. The end result was that I sincerely hoped that “our bellies will be filled with this food.” It worked, but the prayer was a complete mess.

I used to love talking in public and sharing stories, but the fact that I almost lost my lunch when I was given that challenge just shows how much I’ve lost myself.

So that’s our challenge: To push each other to do things we would have done in high school but are too wimpy to do now. What do you do to keep yourself spry and spontaneous? What kinds of challenges would you issue your friends?

Click here for a coupla great books for your Christmas shopping budget. 

This Thanksgiving There Will Be Blood

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This Thanksgiving falls sixteen days after the presidential nomination.

Some rejoice the results while others bemoan the abomination.

 

Verbal shots will be taken and friends will fall prey

to the slander and abuse that will take place on this day.

 

No longer will just the blood of turkeys be spilled

but those of our family and friends as our bellies are filled.

 

Instead of giving thanks around the table this year

Americans one and all will incite loathing and fear.

 

“You tree-hugging liberal skank,” some will abhor.

And on the table’s opposite: “You racist republican whore.”

 

They’ll start off as groans and hard-to-hear mumbles

as the potatoes boil they’ll become audible grumbles.

 

Eye-rolls will turn into daggers shot hard

as all await the first to play the dreaded Trump card.

 

The stuffing will be dished with fingers stiff and pointing

mocking the cabinet Trump is appointing.

 

But let’s not forget those who voted for a party third

They’ll be blending in while cutting and also flipping the bird.

 

Whispers will give way to talk then raise to loud shouting

and the expletives will become part of the verbal spouting.

 

“You voted for that blood-spilling, lying bitch?”

“Do you not value me as a woman, or do you have a brain-glitch?”

 

On it will go no one having the time of their lives

“Pass me the garlic, the onions, and chives!”

 

Phones will be passed in lieu of toasty gravy,

sharing videos of Hillary bashing the NAVY.

 

More videos: Hillary bowing toward Mecca!

More videos: Trump groping my friend Miss Rebecca!

 

Trump has too much hair! Hillary’s eyebrows too bushy!

Hillary’s just reaching for power! Trumps grabbing…well, he’s pushy.

 

Some will say, “Throw Hillary in jail!”

Others say it’s to Trump we should heil.

 

Hillary loves terrorists! Trump loves Putin!

(My face is bloating, do these yams have gluten?)

 

All the while there’s a corpse on our table who had a shot at more life

But today’s president did not pardon this bird from the knife.

 

I ask you, how is that fair and how do we fare?

We still bicker and fight though we still get to breathe air.

 

So when you look at that turkey and slice its gullet

think back to a time of Game Boys and mullets.

 

When you were a kid at the Thanksgiving table,

the peace was so nice it was almost a fable.

 

Don’t judge your gay neighbors or steal your uncle’s guns.

Just laugh with your friends and have fun

(and don’t forget to grab some buns).

 

Happy Thanksgiving Americans one and all.

 

Let’s Be Honest About “Cars”

I don’t need to open my mouth even a little for you to know that I’m a ginormous Pixar fanatic. Everyone is a Pixar fan, but I’m a fa-na-tic. If my wife would let me, I’d decorate the house in full-sized Pixar posters. With frames. Backlit.

Most people knew that Pixar was making a third installment of the so-so Cars franchise.

And most people groaned inwardly.

Personally, I loved Cars, but I don’t blame anyone who can live without it. I stepped over the threshold onto the haters’ side, thought, when Cars 2 literally put me to sleep more than once in the theaters. We bought it only to own the full collection. I haven’t watched it, I don’t think.

But then today happened.

Less than a week before the release of the highly-anticipated Moana, Pixar released the teaser trailer for what we assume is going to be titled Cars 3. 

To be honest, I’ve been inwardly excited about this movie for a while. My take on the news was that Pixar was going to take the dreaded franchise in a different direction, sort of a redo, or like a “Wait, hold on, watch this one instead. We were just playing around with Cars 2, you know, being silly.”

To say that this is possibly the darkest teaser trailer ever may be an understatement. It’s intense, it’s unexpected, it’s …so far from being anything remotely related to Cars 2 (and Mater for that matter …madder, mater,Madder), that just one look at social media, it’s clear that people are actually excited about this movie now.

What a turn of events!

I think I speak for everyone when I say that I hope the rest of the movie carries this same tone throughout, as John Lasseter eluded to about a year ago:”It’s very emotional and his relationship with Doc Hudson, and his memory of Doc Hudson.”

Could Cars 3 join the ranks of greats like Ratatouille, Up, Toy Story 3, and Inside Out? 

I think it will. But what do you think? Leave your comments below! Will you be seeing this? (And based on the trailer, I can tweak this question: With or without your kids?)

Is It Worth Being a Conformist?

When did we start to conform?

I’ve been trying to rally local foster parents to bring change to the foster program, but the response is usually, “It is what it is.” “There are laws in place for a reason.” “It’ll never change.” (All this despite a poll I did where basically everyone polled was unhappy with the system.)

Are we not civilians of a free and democratic country? When did we just get so complacent that we forgot that we can enact change (even small changes) in our surroundings? When did we go from authority-challenging kids to hands-in-the-pockets-heads-down yes-people?

I’ll tell you when it was for me.

When I took on a mortgage and had kids.

Those aren’t bad things. I don’t regret them. But I regret conforming.

As a teenage I used to often cry in private because one of my biggest fears was being just another face in the crowd. Oh, the thought of that seriously kept me up at night. I didn’t want to be One of Them.

And now I am.

I put on my slacks, hug my wife and kids goodbye, and drive to work each day. My music selection is as chipper as can be because I know I will be spending the next 8+ hours conforming, submitting, and dare I say it? selling out. Making people happy whom, quite frankly, I don’t give a crap about.

Working hard to please men and women who get paid higher salaries and complain that they’re bored all day at work.

Why?

Because I need to pay the mortgage and make sure my kids have Juicy Juice in the fridge.

So my question is this. We’ve got to do what we do at work to pay the bills. That’s fine. But once you clock out, are you still conforming?  Or are you figuring out each day how to live a little? How to have fun? To be spontaneous?

Make sure, when you clock out for the weekend at the end of today, you also mentally clock out. Once you get back in your car, you don’t belong to anyone anymore. The rules you follow are not rules at all (be good, stay quiet, blend in).

Do something this weekend to challenge yourself, to push yourself. Even if it’s embarrassing.

Clock out and un-conform.

 

 

What My Three Favorite Movies Have in Common

Pixar and Disney movies aside, I have three ultimate favorite movies that I can’t ever get enough of and they all have one thing in common.

Aside from the fact that they’re all based on true stories and were nominated for best picture (one won), there’s an underlying theme that drives stubborn dreamers like me back to them time and time again.

My three favorite movies of all time are The King’s Speech, Frost/Nixon, and Moneyball. 

One is about the ascent to royalty, one is about the descent from power, and the other is about a guy who just wants to make a good living doing what he believes he’s good at. On the surface they can’t be any different from one another.

But a closer look will reveal that they are each about men facing the impossible. They are about men stubborn (and stupid?) enough to go after what they believe is best for themselves, their family, and their people, even though their treks defy all logic and even saneness.

Let’s look at The King’s Speech. King George VI had two things going against him: His name (reminiscent of Washington’s own Mad King George), and his tongue. He stuttered like a madman. He couldn’t get through a speech to save his life. He didn’t want the throne. He didn’t want the responsibility because he didn’t think he could handle it with his impediment. But when his lovesick brother abdicated, King George was left with no option but to learn to overcome his lifelong problem and take the crown.the-kings-speech

In Frost/Nixon, we find ourselves in the wake of Nixon’s resignation. But a British entertainer and talk show host, David Frost, is the only man crazy enough to elicit a confession from the crook’s mouth. He lays not only his reputation, but his money and career on the line to bring the darkness to light.

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And finally, Moneyball. You don’t have to be a sports fan to appreciate this brilliant movie about baseball, numbers, and ultimate risk. Billy Beane, the GM for the Oakland A’s, is determined to bring his team up the ranks from their rock-bottom status, just not the way his co-managers would prefer. His method is nontraditional, unproven, and unfounded. He lays everything on the line to test out his theory of selecting the best hitters, despite how they play in the outfield.

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Something about ultimate risk just makes sense to me, it calls to me. The way I see it is, if you have it all on the line, failing is literally not an option. I’d recommend you check these three movies out. They’re perfectly acted, they’re funny, and above all inspiring in a non-Hallmark way. Nothing about these stories is sappy or cute. They’re about real men storming the ups and downs of their lives and careers, not satisfied with the status quo. Willing to pioneer innovation in their fields.

Maybe one day I’ll get the guts to be like these guys. Because of their tenacity, bravado, and just plain awesomeness, we saw the business of baseball do a complete 360, we got a confession out of a crooked ex-president, and quite possibly the new world was saved by the steadfastness of a king with a twisted tongue.

What would your impression on the world be if you dropped all pretense and caution? What are your favorite movies and are they because they inspire you to be a better person?