Some People Like Being Offended and/or Taking Advantage of Pointing Out a Person’s Perceived Faux Pas So They Can Correct Them and Feel Empowered by It

There’s more than one way to say, “You’re wrong and I’m right.”

I admit that part of the joy I get in reading the online articles of other writers who are much more popular and commercialized than I am is from skimming through the hundreds of opinionated comments that people leave at the bottom of the post: People on both sides of the issue trying to prove both the author and/or each other wrong.  Here’s an example I effortlessly found this morning: http://articles.moneycentral.msn.com/Insurance/AssessYourNeeds/weston-7-insurance-myths-that-could-cost-you.aspx

And it often starts with one person who slightly takes the author’s words to an extreme context to where they can become offended.  Therefore, they’re happy because now they get to leave a comment to tell off the writer, which indeed draws a flood of other commenters disagreeing with the first person.  And so the snowball grows. 

For many people, their desperation for a sense of power is so strong that they make themselves a sort of victim, offended by the slightest opinion of someone who does have some amount of control or influence over others- in this case, an online author.  A website where this tends to happen regularly is The Grio.  Here’s an example:

http://www.thegrio.com/specials/be-well-be-healthy/how-obesity-has-become-a-part-of-black-culture.php

Of course the easily offended don’t just get their kicks from the Online World, they practice their form of self-psychosis in the real world too.  Not too long ago I offended someone when I bought a snack for them (they gave me the money for it up front) and I didn’t bring it back to them in a separate container from the one I got for myself.  It all worked out because they ended up giving me theirs without me paying them back- but still, the person made a scene over something very petty, in front of several other people.  So I felt compelled to apologize- if for no other reason, because I felt awkward.  (But if anyone should have been offended, I’d like to think it should have been me- for the sense of slight public humiliation I went through in the process.)

Events like that have taught me to apologize less.  It’s not always my fault when a person is offended (though it often is).  I’m learning to be better about sorting out the people who I indeed hurt through my lack of sensitivity and those who are simply chronic Glass Joe’s.  So hear this, people who are offended way too easily:

Sorry, but I’m just not that sorry anymore.

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Movie Guy, at Your Service: My Top Ten Favorites

With great power comes great responsibility.

I have accepted the fact that I am a “movie guy”.  Sure, everyone loves movies.  Just like everyone loves music, and food, and oxygen.  But some people are so intuitive (extremely picky) when it comes to movies, that casual movie watchers learn to go to these “movie guys” to ask about how good a certain movie is that just came out.

I have literally heard this sentence more times than I can remember in recent years: “Hey, you’re a big movie guy.  What did you think of (names a movie)?”

Of course I am always happy to help out a friend or family member in choosing how to spend 90 minutes of their time.  But part of being a Movie Guy is knowing which movies not to watch in the first place. 

Basic “Do Not Watch” Criteria:

1)     The movie is rated G or PG but is not a cartoon.

2)     The word “heartwarming” has been used to describe this movie.  Or the word “movie” is part of the title of the movie.

3)     Stars of the movie include, but are not limited to, any Country Music star, Dane Cook, Jessica Simpson, or Larry the Cable Guy.

4)     In the trailer for the movie, the last scene shows a muscular man with an angry and serious look on his face, walking away from a building or car that blows up, while the man just keeps walking towards the camera, unaffected and unconcerned.

5)     Simply by watching the trailer for the movie, you fully understand the plot and possibly the resolution.

However, there is the other side of the token:

Basic “Do Watch” Criteria:

1)     The movie is rated “PG-13” or “R”.

2)     The words “clever”, “groundbreaking”, and “genre defying”, have been used to describe this movie.

3)     Stars of the movie include, but are not limited to, Paul Giamatti, Tom Hanks, Johnny Depp, or any Jewish comedian (besides Gilbert Gottfried or Pauly Shore).

4)     In the trailer of the movie, the words “Rolling Stone”, “4 stars”, “brilliant”,  and “Peter Traverse” are all flashed on the screen.

5)     After watching the trailer for the movie which includes a song clip by Genesis, Electric Light Orchestra, Simon and Garfunkel, Tom Petty, or Pete Yorn, you don’t fully understand what the movie is about, but are still intrigued.

Of course, no basic formula can absolutely predict whether a movie will be good, or even more importantly, whether or not I will like the movie.  Because who cares what Siskel and Roper say.  The question is, how worth my time was the movie?  Time I’ll never get back.

I know I was supposed to like it, but The Blind Side just really didn’t do it for me.  The previews showed everything that happened in the movie.  It didn’t make me feel all warm inside.  The movie was predictable, familiar, and too long.  The kid annoyed me.  And both the acting (except for Sandra Bullock) and the writing came across to me like a straight-to-DVD Christian movie.  Sorry, rest of the world, The Blind Side wasn’t for me.

It would be an overwhelming, intimidating, and daunting task to officially conjure up which movies are truly my top 10 favorite movies of all time.  And most likely, only a few of them would match most other peoples’ favorites.  But just off the top of my head, just because I’m curious,  I’m surprisingly going to give it a shot…

#1) I Love You, Man

#2) Trains, Planes, and Automobiles

#3) Garden State

#4) Sideways

#5) Vanilla Sky

#6) Fight Club

#7) 500 Days of Summer

#8) Forrest Gump

#9) Castaway

#10) Rocky 3

Yes, it’s true.  In the likeness of how a connoisseur often is with wine, I am a movie snob.  For what it’s worth, I can help others by giving them my self-proclaimed professional opinion about any movie I’ve seen.  But what if I’ve never seen the movie before?

Then, chances are, it’s probably not worth my time to watch it.  Or it hasn’t arrived yet from Netflix.

A Storytelling of Snake Charmers (or Escapists)

Sometimes there’s no way to get around or over a problem; the only way to get past it is to just go through it.

This past Saturday my friend Tommy and I embarked on our second annual canoe trip on The Harpeth River in Nashville.  The same river that just a month ago flooded much of the western part of the city.  I would love to paint myself as this avid outdoorsman, compensating for the fact (as I’ve established before) that I’m no athlete.  But really, it’s just that I can’t turn down an activity with a friend that allows me to spend several hours breathing fresh air, getting sunburned (just my knees, very badly), and getting to see wildlife.

Especially one that I deem as a lazy adventure (Manspeak, Volume 8: Relaxation).  With the water being as high as it was, very little power was needed on our part to get the canoe moving.  Just basic steering away from rocks and into the best currents.  Like most male oriented social activities, canoeing  kept us from awkwardly facing each other the whole time (Manspeak, Volume 4: Stance).  And gave us something to do when there was nothing to say (which never really happened, because of our mutual love for Super Mario Bros. 2, McGee and Me, and fatherhood).

Two hours into our journey, after relatively no stress whatsoever, I had to do it.  I had to, in typical 1980’s sitcom fashion, speak a line of ironic foreshadowing: “This has been a really laid back trip.  No problems at all.”

Instantly, we look up and ahead.  Two trees had fallen from the flood; one from both sides of the river, blocking the entire length of passage, doubly.  But even in that moment, we didn’t realize that this puzzle ahead was more complicated than just getting past two fallen trees.

We decided the right side of the river promised the easiest and quickest clearance.  I had learned from our last trip that where there was thick, abundant, yellowish foam, it meant there was a decaying animal trapped alongside the river.  As we got closer to the foam, both of us smelled the corpse before we saw it.  A large dead fish, head and tail missing.  Still the size of the pillow you sleep on every night.  Meaning that passing through would ineviditably mean we would have to step in the water to lift the canoe over the fallen tree, we opted to check out the left side of the river blockage as to not get funky fish foam on our sunburning legs.

We steered to the canoe to the other side, seeing right way that the depth of blockage was even greater.  In our strategy forming minds, we both came up with our own idea of how to get through.  Tommy wanted us to stick to our original plan; to step in the water and lift the canoe over our heads and over the trees, then place it back in the water and hop back in the canoe.

I, however, saw a different means of escape.  Shaking the tree and its submerged limbs further in and out of the water, I came to the conclusion that if I crouched down low in the boat, Tommy could stand on the tree, pushing the canoe through the limbs as I helped keep them pushed down to make way for our path.

Tommy is an easy-going guy.  Or maybe it was my natural older brother demeanor, but I convinced him to do it my way.

And right as he said, “alright, let’s do this”, I replied with “Oh, there’s a snake right there!”

I picked my oar up, placing it on my shoulder like a rifle.  “Look five feet away from the end of my oar.  There’s a black snake wrapped around that branch.  He blends in almost perfectly.  His head is up, and he’s looking at us right now.”

It’s not that he didn’t believe me, it’s just that my head was in the way for a few minutes before he could finally see the thing.  And when he did, he jumped in to “crisis mode” with me.

Of course, a man in Crisis Mode is not a man who gets nervous or noticeably excited.  He is a man who speaks lower and slower as he attempts to play the situation in slo-mo, in order to figure out the best practical solution for the potentially dangerous and deadly problem.

After another five minutes (which seemed like 20) of deliberation, after realizing our wishes of killing the snake with a flame thrower were not part of reality (thanks a lot Contra), that we had to meet this problem head on, we went in to Action Mode, while of course, simultaneously remaining in Crisis Mode.

Keeping our eyes constantly scanning the weather, the bank (filled with a good amount of visible snake holes), and the canopy of tree branches over us for more snakes, we carefully lifted the canoe out of the water and over the fallen tree, sliding in the mud (he was wearing flip flops, I was wearing my ten-year old New Balance cross country running shoes), only to realize that once we set the canoe back into the water, another 12 feet ahead was another (this being the third) fallen tree blocking the entire width of the river.

The snake, now behind us, had slithered off of his resting (preying) place on the branch.  Was he in the water now?  Were his friends waiting up ahead of us?  We tried not to think about it.

We hoisted the canoe over the final tree.  The only way into our vehicular escape module was to hop down a few feet from the tree we were standing on at that point, which meant possibly tipping the boat over.  Thank God, we both landed it and got out of there as fast as we could.

The final hour of the trip involved a lot of head turning at every threat of another lethal animal.  We did end up seeing a doe that froze once it saw us.  I was convinced I would see a great beast out there, like a mountain lion or a blank panther.  Never happened though.

The thing is, I’m typically the last person to ever spot any kind of creature in wildlife.  And despite me being so close to the snake, I’m still amazed I spotted it.  We talked about the possible ending this story would have had if I wouldn’t have miraculously seen the snake.  I would have remained in the canoe as Tommy pushed us through, the snake would have been inches away from my nose- either biting my face and falling into the canoe with us.

When I bought my mountain bike back in April, the girl who sold it to me told me that when her brother was working at Bonnaroo last year, he got bit by a water moccasin.  He had to be airlifted to the hospital and given a $40,000 antidote.  Now he was to pay off that debt on a $30,000 a year salary.

But in that moment encountering the snake on the river, what else could we do?  We couldn’t go over or around the problem, we just had to man up and go through the problem.

Myself and Tommy back in 2008

Lowercase Punishment

“Cruel and unusual punishment” is a relative term.

Today as I was driving back to work from my lunch break waiting at a red light at a major intersection consisting of 3-lane roads, there was this guy in a big pick-up truck who basically ran a red light in the midst of a lot of traffic. And I thought, “If only a cop was here to catch him…”.

Then I thought, “What if I had the power to obtain and punish him myself?…” The way I would want to punish him is by annoying him, for his crime of causing a potential wreck that could have affected a lot of people.

What if I could punish him without taking anything away from him? What if I could simply freeze his mind for one nanosecond in real-time, but in his mind, it would be for any amount of time I choose? Like I could freeze him for 20 hours in his mind, and everything he saw in that nanosecond would not move at all, like an annoying skip on a DVD? It would not affect his body or future at all. He would not miss anything.

Think of it this way: Sometimes you’ll wake up from a dream and it feels like you were dreaming for hours, even all night- but in reality, most dreams only last less than a minute. What seemed like hours was only seconds.

Now imagine having the power over someone to control their unconscious state for only a second, but during that fraction of a second, it would feel like however many hours, days, or years as you wanted. But the person’s eyes would be open so they had to look at the same thing during what felt like a long time.

The criminal would not age any faster than the rest of us. But if someone did something very bad, you could freeze their mind for a nanosecond in real time but 30 years in “dream time”. It would kinda be like purgatory, except the criminal couldn’t move around and nothing in sight would move neither. It would bore them out of their mind.  But we couldn’t let this power get into the wrong hands. Good thing I’m not a mad scientist.

For a similar post by the same author, read Capital Punishment, In Theory.

“Help us someone, let us out of here. Living here so long undisturbed, dreaming of the time we were free. So many years ago before for the time when we first heard ‘welcome to the Home by the Sea’. Sit down, sit down as we relive our lives in what we tell you.”
-Genesis/ “Home by the Sea” (1983)

“In the delusionary state, no wonder he’s been feeling strange of late. Nobody here to spoil the view, interfere with my plans…Steady, lads…and easy does it. Don’t frighten him! Here we go…”
-Paul McCartney/ “Mr. Bellamy” (2007)

“Such a mean old man…”
-The Beatles/ “Mean Mr. Mustard” (1969)

Why Do Bad Things Happen to Good People and Good Things Happen to Bad People?

Slight of hand and twist of fate.

One of the most frustrating questions for people who are curious, yet skeptical, about Christianity is the fact that bad things happen to good people and good things happen to bad people.  I can’t claim to have the answer to that impossible question, but I can at least take a stab at it. 

Throughout the history of humanization, “man” has struggled to bring glory to himself- if it means conquering and killing, abusing others, taking them as slaves, and any other hellish action that can be filed under the category of “Greed”.  Man has become rich, by taking from others.  Man has become rich, and refused to share with others.  But in the end, it works for man.  Because he gets what he ultimately wants- glory. 

Ultimately, being rich and famous isn’t about knowing that you’ll always have all your needs and wants fulfilled.  It’s knowing that you’re above others, in a carnal sense.  That you are special.  That you are envied.  That others want what you have.  That’s the glory of man. 

What a waste.

I equate the glory of man with bringing hell to Earth.  Literally raising hell.  Instantly, I can think of three Biblical examples when man tried to bring glory to himself, he ultimately was cursed by God.

Adam eating the fruit from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, after Satan telling Adam that he could become like God.  Cursed.  The future of man would suffer death, evil, and pain.

Moses using his staff to draw water from the rock for all the people to drink.  Then instead of saying this miracle was by the grace of God, Moses himself took the credit.  Cursed.  He didn’t get to live in the Promised Land.

King David taking a military census with the intention of realizing how powerful and successful he was.  Cursed.  God brought a plague and hundreds and hundreds of people were killed.

In all three instances, God wanted the glory, but man took it from God.

Why do good things happen to bad people? God is blessing them (with power, wisdom, intelligence, money, health, etc.) and they are taking the glory for themselves.  By taking the glory, they are refusing God’s true blessing.  And that may mean that  instead of blessing the people that the bad person influences, the bad person now brings on an earthly curse to them instead.  Of course, in the end, the man who refused to give God the glory will be the one who is cursed in the worst way.

Why do bad things happen to good people?  Because in the end, if that person is willing to glorify God through it, the person will be blessed.  I equate glorifying God with bringing down heaven to Earth. 

God wants glory.  And so does man.  Good things happen when God gets it.  Bad things happen when man gets it.  But right now, God is allowing man to do what he likes.  Yes, God may choose to intervene.  But often He does not.  Because it’s possible that through a bad person’s bad actions, God can be glorified through an affected good person’s good actions- those actions include bringing glory to God through it, however they can find a way.

This concept even sheds light on why “you shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain” is so important that it’s one of the Ten Commandments.  We can chose to use God’s name to sound cool (“Oh my God!”, “Jesus!”, “Lordy, Lordy, Tammy’s forty!” etc.) or we can chose to use God’s name to actually reference Him in a purposeful, postive way (“The only reason the Nashville flood didn’t get my house is because God spared me”). 

Because even everyday good people like us still run the risk of taking glory from God.  In our everyday, ordinary events.  I try to keep that in mind at all times.  For me right now, it’s about my wife and I trying to sell our house. 

We work hard to keep our ads active on Craig’s List twice a day.  And we keep a good looking “for sale” sign out front with a plastic sleeve containing colorful, creative flyers.  We keep our house in immaculate condition.  Plus, we know for a fact that our asking price is thousands less than everyone else in our neighborhood. 

Yet it’s all the other houses that are selling.  All around us.  Because they’re going through realtors and we’re not. 

Everyday, throughout the day, together and while we’re apart, my wife and I pray not only for the right person to find our house, but also that God will be glorified through it.  Because as opposed to us saying, “WE sold OUR house!” we can say, “Thank God!  He brought us the right person and they bought our house!”

But even if He doesn’t bring someone to buy our house, if He doesn’t bless our solid efforts to sell our house without a realtor, and we have to throw in the towel and pay thousands to a realtor, God will still be glorified through it. 

Our lives ultimately are about one of two things- raising hell (by taking the glory) or bringing heaven to Earth (by giving it to God).