Tuesday, January 17, 2006

TWO DAYS ON THE JOB AND I ALREADY ALMOST DIED ONCE...

For those who don't know, I withdrew from Roberts Wesleyan College for a semester in order to work diligently and pay off my credit card bill, which is rather...big. The first problem with this was that I had no work lined up to be diligent about, and diligent work is no good in this situation if its diligent PAID work. However, Pete's dad came up aces, and had an opening for a janitor at his machine shop.

For those who are always having trouble dealing with ignorant customers, I must say, better a stupid person than a stubborn metal bin with a few hundred pounds of metal shavings in it that you push around a shop for all to see, like the guy from Monty Python's Holy Grail that kept yelling, "Bring out your dead!" It is rather humbling to have a bunch of guys that might have a couple years at a community college laughing at the college guy pushing the bin around like a moron.

Yesterday, I almost died, and I learned a few things from it. Mr. Gallagher came to me as I was cleaning out a machine (which is a real pain, because the coolant in them looks like Mylanta, and can cause you to wretch violently very quickly if you inhale too much of the fumes) and pointed at a random light and said, "That's the night light in here."

I wasn't really sure what he was driving at, so I said..."Oh." (Tyler, that ellipsis is to indicate the pregnant pause that preceded my statement.) So I stared somewhat blankly at Mr. G, and waited for him to inform me of why that was in any way significant to me. He then said, "It burned out. Go grab the ladder from the back and climb up there and pull it out, and we will find another."

So I grabbed said ladder and climb up. It's a 12 foot ladder, and I had to stand on the second rung from the top in order to just barely reach the fixture. I got the light out, and then went on an expedition to find the bulbs, which get changed about once every 30 years apparently. Mr. Gallagher and I went all over the shop looking in boxes, and then ended up in the unheated warehouse, climbing over machinery and metal from pre-World War II, and a whole bunch of munitions boxes from the Vietnam War. Finally he points at a random box and says, "Oh, there it is." So climbing over another large pile of metal and boxes, I pull the box down, which is coated in about 3 inches of dust.

I pull out a new bulb and prepare to climb the ladder again. The layout is thus: To my left is a wall, with a couple metal file cabinets and miscellaneous parts on top of them, to my right is a metal chip bin with a lot of sharp metal, and a machine, with more sharp metal in it. I ascended the ladder, and I made a mistake. I assumed that Mr. Gallagher had shut the power off to the fixture. Because it was not an easy reach to the fixture, I was staring very intently at the 300 watt light bulb I was screwing in. Suddenly there was a blast of heat, and blinding light (probably like the light people see when they are dying), which of course scared the crap out of me.

I jumped, and the ladder started to rock back and forth, as I wisely had no one holding the bottom of the ladder for me. Also, I don't really like heights very much, and I would contend that standing on a rocking ladder 12 feet in the air with the possibilty of falling on to large metal objects with pointy angles is the sort of thing that can really boost one's anxiety when dealing with heights.

After a moment, I got the ladder to stop shaking and cautiously climbed down. I blindly felt around for the door, with my vision rather spotty after peering into a 300 watt light bulb. I poked my head into Mr. Gallagher's office and said, "In the future, can we operate under the idea that giving the janitor a heads up the light fixture is still on is a good idea?"

Mr. Gallagher looks up at me with this slyly unnerving grin and simply said, "Light a bit bright for ya, eh? Gotta be careful on the ladders."

Thursday, November 24, 2005

A memo to all who plan on attending a cinematographic event in the future...

Below is memo to all future movie goers, with an explanation for the directives given. Also, a disclaimer as to my views of country music is included.

To all future participants in a cinematographic* event:

Cinematographic Event- A Cinematographic Event is commonly referred to as a movie. It is a collection of "scenes" that are brought together by a director to collectively tell a story with the idea than an audience will respectfully and silently watch together.

1. If you want to make out, refrain from making audible noises that can be heard five rows up.
I went to see Walk the Line tonight with Joni. She and I were one of five couples there...also, the only non-romantic couple there. Two couples were behind us, one on the left and one on the right, and two couples were in front of us, again one on the left side of the theater, and one on the right. I could actually hear the couples behind us kissing. I think one guy was trying to help his girl get a loogey that was caught in her throat. That's the only way I can fathom that sort of guttural sucking sound...and yes, the sound was definitely from kissing, and only kissing.

2. Never make a phone call during the movie.
About ten minutes into the movie, the gentleman in the couple in front and to the left of us pulled his cell phone out, and made a phone call. He didn't receive a phone call. He MADE a phone call. Not during the previews...he didn't go out to the lobby...he sat in the theater and made a phone call DURING THE FEATURE F'ING PRESENTATION. Seeing that made me want to hoagie slap the guy and jam his cell phone in his colon. At the age of forty-five, shouldn't you have the sense to think to yourself, "geez, it costs $6.50 to sit here and watch this. I suppose it would pretty asinine to make a phone call in here. Maybe I should turn my cell off intstead."?

3. Only answer your phone in the event of an emergency, and keep the conversation to a minimum.
A while later, the guy in the couple in front of us and to the right got a phone call. Instead of doing the practical thing and ignoring the call, he picked up. I thought to myself, well, maybe its his mom and shes dying. That would be a good reason to pick up your phone. The conversation was something to the effect of, "Oh really? That's sweet. Yeah, I'll definitely swing by. What are your plans for Thanksgiving? Should I cut my hair? Does this sweater make me look gay or just fat?" He continued the conversation in regular conversational levels until I finally said in a louder than necessary voice, "Yeah, great talking to you. BYE!" At that point he hung up the phone. If you DO pick up the phone during a movie and no one is dying, hang up. If you pick up the phone and some did die, say something to the effect of, "Oh my gosh, that's such a shame." Then hang up. If you need to cry, get out of the theater...if not, finish watching the movie. If they died, its not like you can do something about it now, and you did pay a fair amount to see the movie.

4. There is never a point when flash photography is acceptable during a movie.
Towards the end of the movie, the couple behind us detached their esophagus' long enough for
one of them to snap off a flash photograph. There is nothing in a movie theater that is so important that you need to snap off flash photography in the middle of the movie. I don't care if your girlfriend has a mole that looks the pope growing on her left breast...you don't need a flash photo of it during the movie.

Disclaimer: There is a single caveat to my theory regarding the crappiness of country music. Johnny Cash doesn't suck. He's so old school. The thing about Johnny Cash style country is that he is just a hillbilly playing the same three chords and singing about life, without having to tell you about all the times his woman did him wrong and how life stepped on his balls. He didn't make any bones about it...he played slow because it was the only speed he could play at, and he sang slow and low because it was the only way he knew how. But to be blunt, Johnny Cash was a bad ass of the first degree and thus above the "crappy" label I give all other country music. It's just a soft spot I have.

* Cinematographic really is a word. Dictionary.com makes no bones about, so don't go think I'm making stuff up here.

Country + Worship = Angry Guitar Player

I have a theory regarding music:

1. Rock music reigns supreme. Not the whiny crap like Staind, or Saliva. Just good old fashioned Rock, whether it be Zeppelin, the Who, old school Petra, or for me nowadays, Switchfoot, Goo Goo Dolls, and U2. Just good Rock music.

2. Pop music is the music that just wasn't good enough to become a rock tune.

3. Country music is the stuff that was so bad it couldn't be made into a decent, mindless pop tune (although there is an exception to this that will be discussed in the next post).

4. And Christmas music is the stuff that was so wretched it couldn't even be made into a "some mean poopface kicked my dog and ran over my girlfriend's vagina with his wannabe John Deere tractor while wearing a straw hat" country song.

5. And then right below that is worship music. (Also, rap doesn't count for anything.)

My mom convinced me to play for church this weekend, and we had practice tonight. It was an interesting practice. The guy that usually leads isn't going to be around on Sunday, so the other worship leader is covering. Here's the thing. The regular leader, whom I will call Bob, though his name is not Bob, is good guy with a good heart that has a smidgeon of musical talent and keeps practices short, but in my mind keeps the quality low. The other guy, Ralph (again not his name) is something of weiner...a nice guy, but still a bit campy, but a fully certified, well trained music teacher, that tends to make practices way longer than they need to be, but allows for some music to reach its potential (limited though it may be). Bob felt like he should still be at practice tonight to make sure it "went well."

The first two songs quickly turned into Country Two-Steps...just the the way Bob likes it. The third song was Forever, by Chris Tomlin. I've done it in the past like a U2 song. I asked if we could try it that way, and told the drummer what to play. He did it just the way I asked, and we were progressing through the song. We get done, and the singers all say, thats just way too slow, it has to be twice as fast. Which was a lie. It didn't need to be a ton faster, it just needed to be tighter...but it wasn't a two step, it was a rock groove, which meant they couldn't just spit lyrics out like a bulemic chick showing you what she had for dinner. Instead, Bob came running up going on and on about the need for this song to be really cranking because it's the third song in the block, and it has to be faster, and do it like this: and proceeded to play a country two step...again.

At that point, I asked why every song was turning into a country tune, and stated an abbreviated version of my theory on music. Surprisingly, it was not appreciated by the collective group of middle aged "easy listening" radio fans. Meanwhile, Ralph looked on in pain, because he liked the U2 feel, and knew why it wasn't working with the singers, but was not allowed to fix it, because Bob was there to dominate the scene. So here's my thoughts on it...

Why is it that in most churches, (not all mind you) the person with the good heart seems to take precedence over the person talent? I understand that you have to be meeting a certain level of agreed upon Christian morality, and that's fine, but all things equal, it seems like the charismatic, good looking guy with minimal talent but a "good heart" is given the reigns to ministry over the geeky, average guy thats got loads of talent and training.

Also, why is it that most church worship teams are willing to settle for mediocre? There are exceptions of course, but by and large, I feel like churches are regularly settling for mediocre. Well, its not 1980's Michael W. Smith Mulletfest, so its an improvement. I gotta be honest, at this point, if you're stuck at Paul Baloche droning key of E in your stylish haircut and chintzy goatee, you're still behind, and if everything has to be country, you don't have to look far to figure out why your church won't grow. I'm not expert on church growth, but when you want to be a church that can reach out to the college across the street, playing music that doesn't suck will help.

Music is such a huge part of our culture, and its something that leaves an impression. I've had friends that visited my church and said, well, it was ok, but the music was pretty hoaky. Hmm...I wonder why they haven't been back. And if you say they weren't focused on the right things to begin with, may I point out that sometimes things actually hinder the ability to focus, regardless of how strong the intention is. One such hindrance is shitty music. Sometimes the music is so painful I want to go trip an old person. That's horrible. It's time for the Church to stop settling for mediocre and start seeking to do what Psalm 33 says, "Sing to the Lord a new song; play skillfully and shout for joy."

Just remember, it says play skillfully, not shittily...

Monday, November 07, 2005

World Religions

I am not a dutiful student. Perhaps that will shock someone, but truthfully, I despise most of the organized learning. Part of that comes from my own intellectual arrogance, and my fear that the ignorance/stupidity of others might rub off on me. Being on Roberts campus, there are a lot of evangelical Christians who are attempting to excercise their intellectual minds. However, I agree wholeheartedly with Mark Noll, who once wrote, "The scandal of the evangelical mind is that there is no evangelical mind." Given that view, my World Religions class irritates me.

Tonight, we had a guest speaker in from the Bahai faith. I am all for the guest speakers, and I think it is fascinating to interact with people of other faiths. Here is where I run into a problem though. Most of the people in my class are evangelicals, and don't understand how to interact with a faith without trying to fit it into the parameters of their own faith. That is, they don't seem to understand that their faith is not one that is necessarily analogous to our own. It isn't like faith has a certain formula, and you just insert your own specifics into the formula.

One girl spent a solid twenty minutes trying to figure out how Bahai's do missions work. The thing is, Bahai is not a faith that attempts to convert. It is a faith that simply tries to accept. Despite the speakers best efforts, he was unable to clarify that to this young lady. How hard is it to figure out that Christianity is not the only way to do religion?

The highlight of the class however came when the guy that has a certificate for Elim spoke up. He started off by talking about how he could respect how the guy came to be a Bahai, etc. Then, he changed tacks and went on the offensive by blasting the guy for blatantly misinterpreting scripture, quoting the verse in John that says that "men will come in the end of times that will claim to be the god of the age...", and then accusing the guy of following a false religion.

I don't disagree with what ElimBoy had to say in theory. I think he is on the money. However, harassing a guest speaker in a class is hardly the appropriate way to do things. Why do so many Christians feel like smacking some in the face with a proof text like a two by four is the best way to "evangelize." Obviously, this guy isn't here to be informed about the Christian faith, nor is he here to have his religious views condemned. However, that wasn't the best part.

After they debated for a minute, ElimBoy started with, "Have you read the whole Bible? What about the New Testament? Have you read the whole New Testament?" At that point James (the prof) invoked the role of the moderator in order to curtail any more harassment from our loving Christian brother...

Seriously, I would consider myself a Christian. Am I a bad Christian for not feeling the need to abuse and harass people of other faiths? How can we hope to impact people of other faiths, if we don't bother to understand them or appreciate them. I'm not saying that we take their beliefs as our own, but I hardly see the need to be abusive or disrespectful. Perhaps in the time of scriptures it worked to just stomp somebodies ass, but in these times, it is much more valuable to respect someone and then over time critique them and challenge them. Feel free to challenge me on this idea.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Facebook: The New Roberts Cult

Danielle convinced me to get facebook. For those that don't know, it's a network that essentially allows you to post your existence on the web, so that people either from college or high school can find you. In theory, I suppose it's a practical sort of service. As Shkins pointed out, he has gotten a lot of information about his friends from high school out of it already.

That being said, I have some qualms with facebook. Before I start, I again remind you all that Danielle convinced me to be a part of this cult, and she did it while sitting in my lap. If you aren’t aware, I have a hard time saying no to a beautiful woman sitting in my lap. On with the qualms…

1. The sheer number of e-mails I get from facebook is ludicrous. The other day I checked my e-mail after classes and had 37 e-mails from facebook. That’s not healthy. Honestly…I would rather get some more spam mail about how I can triple the size of my penis and where I can buy vicodin through the mail. And trust me, those e-mails got really frustrating once they turned out to be bogus.

2. Why are some of these people trying to list me as there friend? In the first couple days I probably got a half dozen “adds” each day from people that I haven’t even seen on campus. Just because we attend the same school does not make us friends. It doesn’t even make us acquaintances. It does make you a tool for bothering me when I haven’t met you. Just wait a couple weeks until I am forced back into Garlock for some asinine reason, and introduce yourself. Then ask if you can be my friend on facebook. I will probably still say no, but at least it was a legit question at that point.

3. The addictive nature of facebook is bothersome. Some people are spending entirely too much time on facebook. I’ve heard so many people saying, “Yeah, my roommate spends a couple hours on there a night.” Good Lord. If you even sort of like your roommate, you should help them out and get them off. Off facebook I mean. Make them not be on facebook for hours at a time. Signing walls and adding friends is a blast…for twenty minutes. Then its time to actually go make friends in the real world.

4. And finally, it seems to me that this is just the latest internet cult for people to get excited about. Once upon a time it was Xanga. Then LiveJournal. Then communication stopped being the important end of things, and it was MySpace. Now people can while away there time by posting a single picture of themselves with some basic info, and then wander through cyberspace poking people at their leisure.

Isn’t it great that e-mail, cell phones and AIM aren’t enough ways to avoid regular human interaction, now we can even set up parties through facebook. Why don’t we just get rid of human interaction altogether by putting a fridge, computer and tv in the bathroom. That way you can do everything you could ever want to do right in the confines of a poorly lit 8x10 room. Mmmm….future here I come.

Monday, September 26, 2005

Disjointed Musings of the Emasculated

It is an incredibly good thing that I am quite secure in manhood. And by manhood, I don't mean my baby-maker, but my general character as a man. Obviously, this is a worthwhile thing no matter who you are, or where you are, but when you are the only guy on a bus full of college girls traveling to Ohio, it is very easy to feel emasculated.

For instance, the movie selection definitely did not lend itself to securing my testosterone. We started the trip off by watching Moulin Rouge. What an awful movie. The music is sweet, but it's such a weird, weird movie. It gave me a headache trying to figure out where it was going half the time. While it's a strange musical love story, that alone would not have been enough to make me feel like I was growing a vagina.

However, they followed Moulin Rouge up with Save the Last Dance. There is exactly one saving grace to this movie. Julia Stiles is hot, and she is seemingly incredilby flexible. If you can't do the math on that, I'm not going to help you out with it. I commented on that to Danielle, and she didn't seem to find it all that humorous.

They had to pause the movie about halfway through because we made it to the hotel. So we had the joy of looking forward to the other half of it's cinematic genius after the tournament. The tournament went reasonably well, and I did have a great time rooming with Gizzy's brothers. They are insane, and made it a great time.

Drew took the roll away cot, put it in the doorway, and slept with his head in the hallway. His brother open hand slapped his stomach so hard that he burst the blood vessels in his abdomen. It was quite a sight.

Seriously though, it was downright painful to have to watch a bunch of chick flicks in one weekend like that. Especially given that a couple of the girls try and censor the movies that are watched, in order to make sure that they are only watching "appropriate" movies. I'm not saying that we need to watch Boondock Saints or something equally violent and vulgar, but come on. It gets a bit old when the first question asked of any movie, is it PG-13? They aren't even cool with most Adam Sandler movies.

If you are so uptight that you can't appreciate something as funny as an Adam Sandler movie, you should probably take a laxative. Freaking out because there are a couple comments about sex or alcohol is a 14-year old homeschooled over-sheltered conservative Christian kid move. Just grow up and let us enjoy something other than your damn vagina monologue movies.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Dungeons and Dragons People Scare Me

Today’s Literary Theory and Criticism Class was certainly an interesting one. The festivities started a bit early. I was sitting here, minding my own business, reading the Sparknotes for Beowulf. Skins made a comment about my professor seeing right through my feeble attempts to make up for my laziness. I pointed out, tongue in cheek, that I am a genius, and thus above being “seen through.”

This was a fairly innocuous, common situation until the new creepy guy in class decided to weigh in on the topic. He noted that it was in fact easy to get by in the class I was sparknoting, saying, “I got a 12 out of 20 on the quiz last class based on a reading two years ago.”

Let me describe the creepy new guy. He looks like the sort of person that just stepped out of a Dungeons and Dragons convention. He has this bass voice that carries a tone that isn’t quite sinister, but its certainly uncomfortable.

So Skins looks at him and says, “12 of 20? That’s not gonna get it done.” Of course at that point I start laughing my booming old man laugh. D&D guy got all defensive and said, “That’s pretty good given that I read it half-heartedly two years ago.” Then the obnoxious know-it-all girl chimed in, in her best therapist voice, “That’s not even passing. How is that possibly good?” Now I was cackling, and Skins was getting a good chuckle out of it too.
And then it happened. D&D got pissed and spoke over our laughter, "I will knock you two out. I swear to God I will. No one laughs at me...I don't like laughing. No one has ever heard me laugh."

At first, we just laughed more. Then all of a sudden we realized he was serious. He really was threatening physical harm on Skins and I. So the Know-It-All says to him, “Well, if you’re going to continue to threaten us, charges will be raised.”

That was less than the appropriate statement to make at that point. I really thought he was going to violently attack Skins and I. Threatening to press charges just took an awkward situation and raised it to a level that just didn't need to be explored.

At this point I applied my best awkward reduction skills: I started the fabled Mighty Ducks slow clap, and started speaking in a sing song voice, "Great work team! Let's raise the team spirit here. Who's psyched for Plato? I know I am. Let's hear it for the Republic."

In conclusion, Dungeons and Dragons people scare me. I feel as though they should have to go through some sort of screening process before being allowed to interact with the general public. It seems to me this would be a great public works project to bring the economy back on pace. Sink money into paying people like me to tell people like him, "Yeah, you know what? You need to take a few more showers, get yourself a shave, and a more reasonable hobby, and perhaps take an anger management course. Come back again when you have seen to the aforementioned issues."

Also, the moral of the story is that when things get really awkward, the Mighty Ducks slow clap is always a safe out...

Friday, September 16, 2005

Sometimes Witty Banter Is a Bad Idea

Ah friends, it has been long since my last post (the one before this is actually back dated. I posted it an hour ago, though I wrote it at the tournament last weekend). Much has happened, and I will tell you of none of it…except last night.

Last night I volunteered at the Todd Agnew concert at school. I have to be honest, I really don’t care much for his music, but a free show is a free show. I worked his merchandise table, and it was quite the experience.

I like to think that I’m pretty good at reading people, and being able to tell when its ok to tease people and pull their leg. Apparently my senses were inhibited last night, because some people didn’t seem very entertained by my jokes. That’s not to say it’s a new thing for me to irritate people, but usually its done on purpose.

Working a merch table is an awkward experience at best because you are standing there, ostensibly to make some sort of social transaction in addition to the consumer transaction. The thing of it is, when people are perusing the merchandise, they literally look through you. It’s frustrating sometimes because I like to banter with people, and if you say something to them it’s like you totally throw them off their game, and then give you this annoyed look and go to another band’s table.

One man came up and asked for a shirt and handed me twenty bucks. I handed him his shirt and then got his change. While I was grabbing his change, he held the shirt up to make sure it was going to fit. I held his five dollars out, but he was off in his own little world. Suddenly this woman who was clearly his wife just snatched the five out of my hand and pocketed. I looked at her and jokingly said, “I’ll trust you that you’re his wife.”

As it turns out, that statement wasn’t funny. I thought it was a good piece of light humor. You know, the sort of thing that she would walk away and tell her other middle-aged soccer mom friends she came with about. “Yeah, there’s a nice, funny guy working Todd Agnew’s booth.” Instead I got the stare that said, “You are here to serve me and keep your mouth shut while you do it.”

That being said, there is one thing that I just don’t understand about these shows. The band’s show up early and set up their merchandise; they hang up all the different t-shirts they have available, lay out the CD’s they brought with them, the wristbands, the stickers, pendants, posters, buttons and any other impulse buy item they can think of to sell. Then people show up early to the show to get good seats. Once they have those seats staked out, these people come out and look at the merchandise. The thing is, they keep coming back. Even if they bought one of everything, they come out after the opening band, and check the tables out again. And then they do it again after the second band. And again after the headliner.

I just want to stab them in the spleen with a spork and yell NOTHING CHANGED! STOP GAWKING AT CRAP YOU ALREADY BOUGHT! And why do otherwise reasonable adults feel the absolute necessity to spend money at shows, as though the concert experience wouldn’t be complete without blowing fifty bucks on useless crap that they might wear once in a blue moon, or when they are out gardening. Go spend your money on something useful…like taking a hungry college student out for dinner.

If you happen to be one of those adults, first, I would be curious as to how you made your way here. Second, I’m serious about the dinner thing. You can leave a message in the comments thing with your contact info and I will get back to you about how you can take the money you might otherwise waste at a concert and use it to take me out to Dinosaur Barbeque.