The Mute Button (Laryngitis)

 I have become Larry N. Gitus.

There were certain plot devices that seemed to be especially rampant in sitcoms and movies of the 1980’s.  Like quicksand.  Good thing there was always conveniently a drooping branch or vine hanging off a nearby tree in which the sinking character was could grab onto, often thanks to the assistance of a timely passerby or a heroic Labrador Retriever. 

Another one was amnesia.  Began three minutes into the episode and lasted until three minutes from the end of it, when the character would get hit on the head and instantly remember who they were and gain their normal personality back. 

The third exhausted plot device of the 1980’s that comes to mind is the one I’ve been suffering with for the past two days: laryngitis.  Whenever the weather goes through an extreme change (it’s been cold and rainy for the past two months, then finally, this weekend, Nashville switched gears to a hot and sunny climate again) my body suffers some sort of random condition. 

Like painful sinus pressure in my teeth.  Or sensitive body aches.  Or lack of appetite. 

But this time, I lost my voice.  Yesterday all I could do was whisper.  No vocal tone whatsoever.  As for today, my best moments have been the phantom groups of 15 minutes where I could talk, but sound like Brad Garrett (the Jewish actor who played the Italian character Robert Barone, Raymond’s older brother on Everybody Loves Raymond).  I sound like a victim of scandal being interviewed on 20/20, having my voice disguised with a voice modulator.  But that’s only when I’m lucky.

During my usual bike ride through the park during my lunch break, a guy ahead of me was walking while talking on his Blue Tooth, in the middle of the path.  There was no way to warn him I was coming up behind him.  So I just moved to the edge of one side to stay out of his way.  But I still really scared him as I slowed down to ride past him.  Too bad I didn’t have a bull horn. 

Then I could have scared him even more.

Losing my voice has only happened to me one other time, and that was only for half a day.  I’m hoping to be able to speak by the end of the week.  It’s very frustrating as the event planner of my family (my dad is the mechanic/carpenter, my brother-in-law is the computer whiz) not being able to call everyone to make plans for Memorial Day. 

Text messages and emails are a good thing, but still there’s nothing like being able to use words out loud.

But until I get my voice back, I least I can write.  It would have been a horrible week not to, with the finale of LOST and the premiere of Ali Fedotowsky’s Bachelorette season in the same week.

Like a young child just learning to speak but who is frustrated because they can only get certain phrases out that make sense to other people, so am I.  Not to mention the frustration I constantly try to manage amidst all the well-meaning people around me who think it’s funny that I sound like Donald Duck or a big dumb ape.  

And the irony is, I’d laugh with them all as they tease me.  If only I literally could.

Advertisements

Rubik’s Cube Syndrome: Preventing Death by Boredom

So it turns out, there is a such thing as dying of boredom.  Therefore, I always have to be thinking.  Because seriously, there is always a new puzzle to solve.

Being that I’ve been writing for a website since August 2005 and have been averaging around 3 or more new posts a week, I have been routinely asked, “Where do you come up with this stuff?” and “How do you always have something new to write about?”.  The answer, my mind never really shuts off.

Some people’s minds never shut off because they continue to be overwhelmed with all the things they have to get done.  Some constantly worry about all the things they have no control over.  Not me.  I, instead, am constantly entertaining the random thoughts that float up to the surface.  Then I get near a computer.

But if I were to sit down in a therapist’s chair and really let my guard down and spill my guts, the psychiatrist would learn that I have a fear of being bored.  It’s more of an obsession of staying constantly entertained so that I can never enter a second of boredom.

I have these boring dreams sometimes where I realize I am dreaming and tell myself to wake up.  Seconds literally seem like hours in a dream. Usually, if I tell myself in the dream to lift my head off the pillow in real life, it works, and I wake up from the boring dream.

Maybe this is common knowledge, or maybe it’s an epiphany, but boredom is totally motivational.  Popular games and sports, great inventions, and stupid crimes are often born out of boredom.

For me, it all probably started when I was a small kid.  Kids have to do a lot of waiting around.  A couple of the children’s day care centers I attended were torture.  The ones without good, organized activities.  It must have been then that I learned to keep myself entertained under any and at times.  I never realized that until this exact second.

I wasn’t at all surprised last week when I came across this article saying that a new study shows that boredom can be just as dangerous to a person’s health as stress.  It is pretty easy to think of examples of older people who died shortly after they retired.  The first 2 that come to mind:

Paul “Bear” Bryant died on January 25, 1983.  That was 28 days after he retired from coaching the University of Alabama’s football team.  And actor Peter Boyle, who played Raymond’s dad on Everybody Loves Raymond, died the year after the show ended.

And surely we can all think of a senior citizen who died only weeks or months after their aged spouse passed away.  It’s sweet to think about, that one couldn’t go on without the other.  But it’s even more interesting after reading this article:

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/35328113/ns/health-heart_health/ns/health-heart_health/

I’m starting to realize that I evidently have a subconscious goal to memorize Wikipedia.  My regurgitation of the knowledge I learn there helps keep me entertained at all times.  Even while I’m being entertained.  Like the ultimate “picture in picture” experience.  Or Pop-Up Video.

For example, Friday night I watched the first 20 minutes of Meet the Fockers when ABC aired it (to whet peoples’ appetites for the next sequel, Little Fockers, which comes out this December).  During the opening credits/first 5 minutes of the movie, I pointed out to my wife all the Jews associated with making the movie:

*Note: If there is a “?” next to the person’s name, it means I am not yet able to verify for a fact if they are Jewish, but based on their name alone, they most likely are.  In other words, Jewish until proven Gentile.

Actors: Ben Stiller (Jewish), Dustin Hoffman (Jewish), Barbara Streisand (Jewish), Blythe Danner (mother of Gwenyth Paltrow, was married to the now deceased Bruce Paltrow, who was Jewish)

Music by: Randy Newman (Jewish)

Directed by: Jane Rosenthal (Jewish?) and Nancy Tenenbaum (Jewish?)

Written by: John Hamburg (Jewish?), Jim Herzfeld (Jewish?), and John Hyman (Jewish?)

Distributed by: Universal Studios- which was founded by Carl Laemmle (Jewish) and Dreamworks- which is headed up by Stephen Spielburg (Jewish), David Geffen (Jewish), and Jeffrey Katzenberg (Jewish?)

And this is interesting because less than 2% of Americans are Jewish.  To get a better idea of what a small number that is, Asian-Americans make up 4% of our nation’s population, and African-Americans represent 12%.

http://wp.me/pxqBU-kY

When I watch a movie, I am constantly seeing numbers and words surrounding each actor.  The actor’s height, hometown, and ethnicity.  I get an enhanced experience.

Recently I watched Hope Floats with my wife and here’s what I saw on the screen as soon as I saw Harry Connick, Jr:

6’ 1”

New Orleans, LA

Half Irish, Half Jewish

That is a glimpse at how my mind works.  And how I see everyday life.  Kinda like those Bing commercials about information overload.  When I hear a noun, my mind instantly pulls up the most notable memory from my own life and combines it with other interesting, random facts about it as well.

Last summer, a guy I graduated high school with named Kenneth Snipes, told me in a facebook wall comment that I could take the word “phone book” and write an interesting post about it.  I’m open to the idea.

In the 5th grade, one of my many favorite TV shows was The Dick Van Dyke Show (via Nick at Nite).  I remember an episode where Buddy (played by Morey Amsterdam, who was Jewish) told some people at a party that he could tell a joke with any word someone gives him.  So a lady said “horse”.  This was his joke:

If everybody in America owned a horse, the nation would be more stabilized.

If Buddy can do it with jokes, then I can do it with my writing.  I take requests.  In the form of a comment, just list a subject that you would like for me to expound on.  If I personally know you, I will attempt to also incorporate a memory I have of you in the writing.

See what my Rubik’s Cube of a brain spits out.  I will turn it into a story that will arguably be interesting and educational.

And one more thing… Now that you’ve read my take on boredom, why not read my perspective on being a dad?  That’s right- parenting from a dad’s point of view.  I have been documenting my thoughts as a dad since the week we found out my wife was pregnant.  I formally invite you now to read my “dad blog” by clicking on the link below:

dad from day one

The Jewish Influence on American Entertainment

As we all know, the Jewish race has been persecuted throughout history. And that it is a complete understatement. While that is not news to anyone, there is an amazing fact that peripherally I always knew, but it wasn’t until this week it become obvious. An earth-shaking discovery like the ending of The Sixth Sense.

The discovery is that there was a major redemption for the Jewish people once they reached America. A people group that for so long had been cursed by the rest of the world now suddenly started to become famous and funny. The bottom line: It is dang near impossible to find a sitcom without a Jew.

Sure, there are the obvious Jewish sitcoms like Seinfeld and Friends. But then you find out that Bob Saget is Jewish and suddenly the head of the Full House-hold is not simply an all-American guy. And while so much emphasis was placed on how Italian that Tony Danza was on “Who’s the Boss?”, no one noticed the whole time that Judith “Light” Licht (“Angela Bower”) was Jewish. And all those Saturday mornings and weekday afternoons watching Saved by the Bell, sure enough both Jessie and Screech turned out to be Jewish too.

Below is a “tip of the iceberg” list of successful sitcoms and their Jewish member(s):

Growing Pains: Jeremy Miller (Ben Seaver)
Friends: Lisa Kudrow, David Schwimmer, Paul Rudd (Mike, Phoebe’s husband)
Mad About You: Paul Reiser, Helen Hunt
Seinfeld: Jerry Seinfeld, Julia Louis-Dreyfess
Taxi: Andy Kauffman, Judd Hirsch
Roseanne: Roseanne Barr, Sara Gilbert
Happy Days: Henry Winkler (The Fonz)
Everybody Loves Raymond: Doris Roberts, Brad “Garrett” Gerstenfeld
Three’s Company: Norman Fell (Mr. Roper)
Blossom: Mayim Bialik
Scrubs: Zack Braff
King of Queens: Jerry Stiller
Cheers: Rhea Pelman (Carla Tortelli)
All in the Family: Rob Reiner (Meathead)
The Wonder Years: Fred Savage (Kevin Arnold), Josh Saviano (Paul Pfeiffer)
The Cosby Show: Lisa Bonnet

Step By Step: Stacy Keenan

The Golden Girls: Bea Arthur, Estelle Getty

The Three Stooges: all of them

So I did manage to find a few exceptions. I felt proud of myself for that accomplishment. Until I realized who was the executive producer of those shows:

Step by Step, Family Matters: Miller-Boyett (consisting of Thomas L. Miller, who was Jewish)
The Simpsons: James L. Brooks (Jewish)
The Brady Bunch, Gilligan’s Island: Sherman Schwartz (Jewish)

In fact, the more I researched, the more I realized that basically all the original pioneer studios of Hollywood were started by Jewish people: Warner Bros., Paramount Pictures, Columbia Pictures, Samuel Goldwyn, and Universal MGM. So even if you don’t see a Jewish person on the screen, there is one behind the scenes, pulling the strings. Once I realized that the American sitcom is consumed by Jewish people, I basically just accepted the fact that Jews are the backbone to American entertainment as we know it:

Jerry Springer, Barbara Walters, Howie Mandel, Chelsea Handler, Joan Rivers, Bill Mayer, Jon Stewart, Mel Blanc, Sarah Michelle Gellar, Whoopi Goldberg, Seth Green, Paula Abdul, Rob Schneider, Adam Sandler, Andy Samberg, Jon Lovitz, Max Weinberg, Paul Shaffer, Paul Reuben (Pee Wee Herman), Natalie Portman, David Copperfield, Mel Brooks, Robert Downey, Jr., Bette Midler, Lenny Kravitz (who ironically married Lisa Bonet, who is also half Jewish, half African-American), Simon and Garfunkel, Bob Dylan, Pink, Billy Joel, Lisa Loeb, Harry Connick, Jr., Sasha Baron Coen (“Borat”), Harold Ramis (the nerdy Ghostbuster), Jon Lovitz, Jack Black, Billy Crystal, Rachel Bilson, Barbara Streisand, Corey Haim, Corey Feldman, Kirk Douglas, Rick Moranis, Zac Effron, Jeremy Piven, Seth Green, Sarah Michelle Gellar, Billy Joel, Joaquin Phoenix, Elizabeth Taylor, Jake Gyllenhaul, Mandy Moore, Richard Dreyfuss, Ben Stiller, Jeff Goldbloom, Rodney Dangerfield, Sammy Davis, Jr., Woody Allen, Jack Albertson (Grandpa from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory), Mel Blanc, Gilbert Gottfried, Pete Yorn, Kiss members Gene Simmons (Chaim Wetz) and Paul Stanley (Stanley Eisen), the 4 main organizers of the original Woodstock, the man who owned the farm for Woodstock, the producer and sound mixer for Woodstock, Mark Zuckerberg (the creator of facebook), George Burns, Neil Diamond, and Stephen Speilberg.

Not to mention the most relevant movie director/writer/producer of this decade, Judd Apatow, who is responsible for Freaks and Geeks, Anchorman, The 40 Year Old Virgin, Talladega Nights, Superbad, Knocked Up, Forgetting Sarah Marshall, Step Brothers, and Pineapple Express. Which sky-rocketed the careers of Paul Rudd, Jason Segal, and Seth Rogan, who are all Jewish.

So what? A lot of Jewish people work in entertainment.

But  Jews make up only 1.7% of the US population. There’s not that sort of massive representation from any other minority (or majority, for that matter). Asians make up 4.4% of the country’s population. How many Asian-American actors can you name? Compare that to Jewish actors.

It’s a given that if a person is successful in the American entertainment industry, then that person is beating the odds. In a market that’s so hard to crack, with such a high pay-off for those who do, Jewish people are the most successful.

I have a theory. The Bible has a reoccurring theme that the Jews are God’s chosen people. Jesus was born as a Jew. He preached to the Jews before he preached to any other people group. His followers and disciples did the same thing after Jesus died, came back and ascended to Heaven. The Bible also talks about the Jews being given a second chance to believe in Jesus at the end of the world.

America is basically the only country I know of that has openly accepted the Jews. We took them in from whatever country they were escaping from at the time, whether it was Germany, Russia, Poland, and gave them a new start. We knew, to some degree, what it was like to be religiously persecuted and that’s why we escaped the forced religion of England. We accepted the Jewish people when throughout the history of the world, no one else really has.

Definitely I realize that the economy is shaky and the future is unclear, but America is still the most powerful and most influential country in the world. This country has been blessed with not only abundant natural resources (which ultimately have a whole lot to do with a country’s economy) but also a general mindset of its people to work together and get the job done.

While I do believe a lot of that blessing is because, as a whole, we have always been a Christian nation, I can’t deny the importance in the role we play in regards to God’s chosen people. There are currently 5,393,000 Jews living in Israel, which is their homeland. And there are currently 5,275,000 Jews living in the United States. I did the math: We only have 118,000 less Jews living here than live in Israel. And because those are educated estimates, it’s very possible there are actually more Jews living in America than in Israel. In a way, it’s like America is becoming another Israel. (For the record, France has the 3rd largest number of Jews with just 490,00. So it’s apparent, the majority of Jewish people live Israel and America.)

Obviously God has blessed the Jewish people in America, in so many ways. And obviously God has blessed America in so many ways. Is that a coincidence? I have a tendency to over-think things, but really, what are the chances?

Bad Things, Man

There are a lot of “bad things” you can do and be, and for the most part, people will overlook it. Ironically, one of the few things I have found that our American society finds unforgivable and unacceptable is someone who is judgmental of others. Atlanta Braves pitcher John Rocker is a prime example. He had notable talent and a great career going for him. Then he opened his mouth.

In a 2000 interview with Sports Illustrated he revealed himself to be a racist, sexist, and “homophobe” by comments he made in just one paragraph. It cost him his career. Think of all the crimes that athletes have committed and walked away with just a slap on the wrist. But it was a judgmental mindset, regardless of his athletic ability, that cursed him.

Seinfeld star Michael Richards (“Kramer”) officially ruined his career in 2006 when he lost control of an audience at a comedy club while doing a stand-up routine, then began shouting racial slurs at the people he believed to be causing the disruption, in a desperate and pitiful attempt to gain control. This was captured on a cell phone, uploaded to YouTube, and the rest is history. His career will never survive this, despite his many public apologies.

John Rocker and Michael Richards are easy targets though. The annoying thing about it is every person alive today is judgmental of others, no matter how small the degree. There is a natural tendency to create somewhat of a list of degrees regarding “bad people”, or at least “people I’m better than”. Not that anyone wants to or means to consider ourselves better than other people, but the truth is, it happens everyday.

I realize there are several degrees of separation between gossiping about co-workers and being an open bigot, but where is the line drawn? Both examples involve a person publicly assessing either the private matters or character of another person. Both involve a person making an call that another person is somehow sub-par. At what point is it no longer innocent and harmless to judge another person?

The highly successful sitcom Everybody Loves Raymond had an episode in which the twin sons befriended a kid at school whose dad was a sanitation worker (a “garbage man”). The comedy of the episode was when Raymond’s wife acted uneasy when the “Garbage Man Dad” visited the household to pick up his son. The episode showed that secretly she looked down on garbage men, compared to other occupations like writers or high school teachers. Like the way people look at a truck driver differently than compared to a doctor, though both men work hard to support their families.

Many reality shows totally play on the concept of enticing its viewers to come back each week to watch how stupid a person is going to be. I think that’s why Dennis Rodman stayed as long as he did on The Apprentice: Donald Trump knew that viewers were annoyed by Dennis and would keep watching in hopes he would be fired on that episode. Maybe it’s the satisfaction in knowing that though we’re not perfect, or at least we’re not as messed up as “that person”.

I remember the pastor of my church, Mike Glenn, saying how when he meets a new person out on the golf course and Mike is asked what does for a living, the demeanor and vocabulary of the other person often changes instantly. Whereas the first 30 minutes of the game they revealed their true selves to Mike, anything after that was a different version.

To some degree, he must feel frustrated that he is seen as “the holy man”, the one others have to straighten up around. I’m sure to some degree he must be tired of being judged- so many people can’t see past his profession. But why do people react that way to the pastor of one of the biggest churches of the biggest city in Tennessee?

Maybe because they’re afraid they will be judged. What a paradox. In fear of being judged, they judge the pastor. They assume he looks down on them because they’re not “tight with Jesus”. The ultimate irony of it is that he doesn’t care that they just dropped the “f-bomb”. He genuinely just wants to be their friend.

People forget that Jesus was friends with prostitutes, beggars, and plenty of other people who had no future. From what I’ve heard, one of the biggest issues that atheists have with Christians is that at some point or many points in their lives, they had an experience where a Christian was judgmental towards them.

I think it’s weird that God leaves it up to faulty human beings that mess up everyday like everyone else (and also struggle with being judgmental) to show the rest of the world the love of God. If a person could be made perfect the moment they became a Christian, it would be much easier for non-believers to believe. But instead God chooses to use instruments that are often out of tune to play the music.

Sometimes when I’m driving home from work I get behind this car with a bumper sticker that says “Jesus, save me from your followers!” I’m always irritated at first when I see it. But I can relate. I wish Jesus would save me from myself sometimes.