I Am Jack’s Nostalgic Narrator

September 14, 2011 at 10:19 pm , by 

Nine months.

Am I a gifted writer? I don’t really think so. My blogging abilities do not necessarily mean that I am halfway decent at crafting a professional, structured, magazine quality article.

Instead, I see myself as a modern day philosopher who happens to be an engaging storyteller. In other words, if I’m good at anything when it comes to writing, it’s knowing how to be a captivating narrator.

Fortunately for me, I’m never short on material. I’m a dad; therefore, something new and exciting (and exhausting!) is always going on in my life. I laugh at the foreign concept of “writer’s block.” My journal is full of blog titles just waiting to be written. My only threat is battling “time block.”

I would say my love for narrating life has something to do with the second best TV show ever, The Wonder Years. (The best show ever is Lost.) I sort of grew up thinking that I was Kevin Arnold. As a kid, I looked like him and had the same mannerisms as him. Even today, there’s still a strong resemblance. I easily related to his sentimental and awkward life stories. And man, the soundtrack- Bob Dylan, The Byrds, Nick Drake…

But the strongest connection I always felt to the show was actually the narration, as performed by Daniel Stern. (Yes, Marv the Burglar from the movie Home Alone.)

The narration of each episode of The Wonder Years perfectly built on the idea yearning for the past. Unsurprisingly, the word “nostalgia” loosely translates from a Swiss word meaning “homesickness.” Another favorite TV show of mine that contains flawless narration is Scrubs, as done by Zach Braff, playing the character of J.D. Dorian.

In both of these sitcoms, there was always some understated lesson to be learned from life, as it pertained to the particular story being told. That is the exact format I keep in mind with every Dadabase post: Every story is ultimately summed up by some sort of paradox, revelation, or moral.

Since high school, I have been known as a guy who is “stuck in the past.” I guess it’s a necessary trait for me so that I can be engaging in my writing; it helps create a universal sense of familiarity.

Sure, I’m stuck in the past. But I’m forced to live in the present. And the present instantly becomes the past. So it all works out.

Right now, the most complicated phrase that my son, Jack, can regularly speak is “to-gaht, to-ghat, to-ghat, to-ghat, to-ghat…”. Therefore, I must do his talking for him, by telling his stories through my “grown up” perspective.

I am Jack’s life witness and adult voice.

I am Jack’s nostalgic narrator.

How Race and Religion are Connected and Why Isaac and Ishmael are behind It All

This is me in a video I made for you, which explains all this in a 5 and a half minute video, in case you prefer that over reading the 1378 word blog post below it, which I wrote 7 years ago.

Meet your great-grandfather Isaac.  Or Ishmael.  Or maybe even both…

How do you determine who ethnically is a “white person” and who is not?  Are Jews considered to be white?  What about Greeks and Italians?  And though Central and South Americans typically have tan skin, why is it there something about them still seems sort of white, as opposed to a person from India or China? These are some of the “side effect” questions that will be answered as I explain my theory on the origin of race and religion.

No, this theory doesn’t start with Adam and Eve.  Nor does it start with Noah and his family repopulating the world after the Great Flood.  It starts 20 generations after Adam, and 10 generations after Noah, with Abraham (the father of the Jewish and the Arab people), being promised by God that he would have a son in his old age.  After waiting and having no sign of this coming true, Abraham’s wife Sarah convinced him to sleep with their Egyptian maidservant Hagar, in order to have a son to carry on the family lineage.  At age 86, Abraham goes with his wife’s plan (like the way Adam ate the fruit after Eve convinced him to) and has a son with his maidservant- the son is named Ishmael.  However, 13 years later Abraham’s wife Sarah gets pregnant with a son, as God promised, and this son is named Isaac.

Hey, like this snazzy Dharma Initiative t-shirt? Click here to get it for the best price on Amazon!

dharma

Abraham eventually sends away his maidservant Hagar and his son Ishmael into the wilderness (Genesis 21:14), and raises Isaac his as true first-born son.  Today, thousands of years later, it is through Ishmael that Arabs and Muslims link their heritage through.  Accordingly, Jews and Christians trace through heritage back to Isaac.  Now we are in the meat of my theory.

As generations passed and both families migrated from their Middle Eastern homelands, the descendants of Ishmael moved south and east- to Africa, Asia, and America (becoming the Native American Indians in North America and the Aztec Indians in Central and South America).  In fact, the angel of the Lord told Hagar that Ishmael “will live east of all his brothers” (Genesis 16:12).  Meanwhile the descendants of Isaac moved north and west- to Europe, Russia, and eventually to America (killing off, running off, or marrying the Native American Indians).

Notice how today the countries that are represented by the descendants of Ishmael are generally practice religions that do not involve the Judeo-Christian God (worshipped by Christians, Catholics, and Jews) but instead are tied Hinduism, Animism, Taoism, Buddhism, Communism (Atheism) and Islam.  And of course the descendants of Isaac are matched to the Christianized nations: For example, Scotland is mainly Protestant, Ireland is mainly Catholic, and England is mainly Anglican (Presbyterian).

Almost 2,000 years ago thanks the Apostle Paul’s missionary journeys to preach Christ where the Jews had already settled (in Europe, specifically the Mediterranean areas) and also the birth of Christianity as a whole, the countries that were already familiar with the Judeo-Christian God were basically the first to get introduced to Jesus as the Messiah.  As far as all the Ishmael-descended areas, like modern day Africa and Asia that were less familiar or not familiar at all with Christianity, they were not and have not typically been as generally open and accepting to “our God” as Isaac’s descendants.

The Ishmaelese Middle East

Ishmaelese Africa

Ishmaelese Asia

I do believe that whether or not a nation (or individual person) is a descendent of Isaac has much to do with their religion, race, and culture.  However, there are obviously exceptions.  One of them is Russia, which had been mainly Christian up until the point of its embrace of Communism.  Another exception is African-Americans, whom most identify with Christianity, as opposed to most Africans living in Africa.

And then there’s the “half breed” nations that make up Central and South America.  For the most part, their blood is mixed of Indigenous Americans (Native American, Aztec, etc.) who migrated from Asia through modern day Alaska, and European lineage from those who “discovered” America.  So in essence, the inhabitants of modern day Central and South America are half Isaackian, half-Ishmaelese; though they have accepted the religious beliefs of Isaac’s descendants (largely Catholic).  Read more about this here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Indigenous_peoples_of_the_Americas

Yes, I did just now make up and use the words Isaackian (to describe the descendants of Isaac who are prone to believe in the Judeo-Christian God) and Ishmaelese (to describe the descendants of Ishmael who typically do not).  And now that you hopefully understand what those terms represent, I will begin using them frequently.

What started much of this thought process was when I recently began “Climbing the Family Tree” and realized that so many of my ancestors had last names that are Jewish (Schell, Klaar, Ullman, Wiseman, Vite) yet there is no solid proof that I actually am- only family rumors and tradition.  If I assume that none of the people in my family tree were Jewish, well, still, I have Jewish names in my family tree.  So that got me thinking, Jewish people and “white people” are essentially the same thing, coming from the same common ancestors.  Whereas someone who is Japanese (Ishmaelese) wouldn’t have last names in their family tree that would resemble a Jewish last name.

So going back to one of the questions I asked in the beginning, are Jewish people considered to be white?  Yes.  Though their homeland is Israel and though they are a Middle Eastern people group, they blend in with us Americans so well.  And that’s part of my fascination with pointing out which celebrities are Jewish.  Half the casts of Friends and Seinfeld are Jewish (The Ethnic Backgrounds of the Cast of Friends and Seinfeld) as well as The Wonder Years (The Ethnicity of the Cast of The Wonder Years), but the fact that most of us don’t know which ones are or aren’t shows that despite most of us being a mix of European blood, those Middle Eastern descended Jews are still our cousins.

Of course ultimately, it doesn’t matter which of us descended from Isaac or Ishmael or how much blood we have of either (I’m around 12.5% Ishmaelese); it just predicts the tone of our skin and our traditional religion, according to my theory.  By no means do I see the Isaackians as superior to Ishmaelese for the fact that I myself worship the Judeo-Christian God.  But what I do recognize is what God himself proclaimed to Abraham regarding Isaac and Ishmael:

But God said, “No, but Sarah your wife will bear you a son and you shall call his name Isaac, and I will establish my everlasting covenant for his descendants after him,” (Genesis 17:19).

“As for Ishmael, I have heard you; behold I will bless him, and make him fruitful and multiply him exceedingly.  He shall become the father of 12 princes, and I will make him a great nation,” (Genesis 17:20).

What’s most important from those verses I just quoted is that God promised to establish his covenant through the line of Isaac.  In other words, the savior of the world would come in the form of a Jew.  Not to mention that the Isaackians coincidently would hold the responsibility of sharing their God with the Ismaelese- that’s why Christian missionaries exist.  That’s why Christianity is now the largest religion of the Ishmaelese country of South Korea, for example: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/South_Korea#Religion

We all have the same great-grandparents at the tops of our family trees.  I try to imagine how different the world would be if Abraham wouldn’t have had a son with Hagar, if he just would have waited another 13 years for his own wife to become pregnant.  But he jumped the gun and changed the course of history (for him, it was the future) forever.  Though if he didn’t, I wouldn’t exist, being that my grandmother is Mexican.  Not only would I have not written this and you wouldn’t have read it, but there wouldn’t have been any of this to write about.

Like this funny Jewish t-shirt? Click here to find it on Amazon!

jewish

The Ethnicity of the Cast of The Wonder Years (Plus, Who Did the Voice of Kevin Arnold as an Adult?)

The classic All-American drama/comedy was played mainly by minorities: Italians and Jews.

Fred Savage (Jewish) as “Kevin Arnold”

Dan Lauria (Italian) as “Jack Arnold”

Alley Mills (English) as “Norma Arnold”

Jason Hervey (Jewish) as “Wayne Arnold”

Olivia d’Abo (Italian but raised in England) as “Karen Arnold”

David Schwimmer (Jewish) as “Michael”, Karen’s boyfriend/husband

Josh Saviano (half Jewish, half Italian) as “Paul Pfeiffer”

Danica McKellar (half Portugese; Scottish-Irish-French-German-Dutch) as Winnie Cooper

Ben Stein (Jewish) as Mr. Cantwell

To learn the mysterious setting of The Wonder Years, read The Wonder States- Using Deductive Reasoning to Determine the Setting of The Wonder Years, My Name is Earl, and The Simpsons.

And lastly, who did the voice of Kevin Arnold as an adult?

Daniel Stern (Jewish)

He’s probably most familiar from Home Alone (1990) and its sequel two years later, as Marv, the more idiotic burglar.

One of his first major acting roles in a movie was Diner (1982).  After the first Home Alone, Stern did City Slickers (1991) and its sequel a year later.  Mostly recently he starred in the TV show Monk and the Drew Barrymore movie Whip It! both in 2009.

Lastly, if you’re hoping for The Wonder Years to be released on DVD set anytime soon, keep hoping.  Remember all the awesome music from the show?  Red tape, legal issues, and a very high price tag associated with the soundtrack may indefinitely keep us from ever buying the show on DVD.  Sadly, The Wonder Years may simply remain a part of our own “wonder years”.

The Wonder States- Using Deductive Reasoning to Determine the Setting of The Wonder Years, My Name is Earl, and The Simpsons

Where exactly is Anytown, USA?

Location, location, location. The setting of any movie or TV show is always important to me, as the culture of a place definitely shapes the people who live there. Some shows have made a point to specifically avoid stating the setting, classifying it as “Anytown, USA”.  That’s not good enough for me. Today I am directly targeting three shows I am a fan of, in order to properly “out” where they take place based on unique tips.

First is a flawless sitcom/drama, except for that weird last season and final episode. The original ‘70’s show: The Wonder Years.

Accent: flat/neutral. Therefore, this show does not take place in South East, Midwest, or New England.

Ethnicity: Dan Lauria, who plays Kevin Arnold’s dad, Jack, is full Italian. Though this is never addressed in the show, there is no denying that Kevin and his sister Karen (who actually was Italian, but British) could pass as Italians as well.

Therefore, The Wonder Years had to take place in a state that has a decent amount of Italians living it. Italians don’t just live anywhere.

Also, the state has to have a decent amount of Jews as well. Paul Pfeiffer, Michael (Karen’s boyfriend/husband played by Friends star David Schwimmer), and Mr. Cantwell (Kevin’s science teacher played by the legendary Ben Stein) are Jewish.

There is no ocean in sight. The climate is not especially cold or hot.

The result: Pennsylvania. Thirteen percent of its population is Italian, and Jews represent 4% of the religion there, which are both actually high percentages compared to most states. The Wonder Years takes place in Pennsylvania.

Next up is a show that for its four years on the air has received great reviews and ratings but suddenly was cancelled in May 2009: My Name is Earl.

Accent: Southern. When the show comes on, with title card displayed, there are palm trees visibly displayed in the background. It has been stated they are on Central Time.

The only state that fits this mold is the panhandle of Florida. Since the city isn’t specified as a “beach town”, I rule out Panama City.

The result: Pensacola, FL. Not far from the Alabama border, this would explain the small town feel and heavy accent. My Name is Earl takes place in Florida.

Lastly, everybody’s favorite show to try to figure out. A show that for 20 years specifically makes sure the location is vague. Yes, Springfield is the city. But Missouri is never listed as the state: The Simpsons.

Accent: flat/neutral.

I can rule out the states of Utah, Colorado, Kentucky, Ohio, Tennessee, Missouri, Michigan, Florida, Hawaii and Alaska because on at least one occurrence a Simpson character has made a reference to these states regarding them as a different state from their own.

Geographical traits: Tall mountains, farmland, and a coastline.

The creator of the show, Matt Groening, is from Oregon. There is a Flanders, OR (which most likely Ned Flanders gets his name from).

The result: Oregon. The Simpsons takes place in Oregon.

With just a few clues, I can always crack the case of “The Missing Setting”. It’s easy, with a little help from Wikipedia and a 4th grade geography class.

And a little help from my friends…
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-CZRudxD-NQ

dad from day one: The First Time Dad at Age 29 Club

At 8:37 tonight, I will turn 29 years old.

I can think of three 29 year-old first time dads right off.  John Krasinski playing Jim Halpert on The Office.  Zack Braff’s character, Michael, in the movie The Last Kiss.  And Kevin Bacon playing Jake Briggs in the movie She’s Having a Baby.  And now I shall be among them.

Of course, I’m not an actor or a character in a movie or TV show.  But it’s natural  to look at them and think, “Hey, I can relate to them. And if they can pull it off… so can I.”

I have a habit of subconsciously giving myself reassurance based on the lives of actors and fictional characters.  The truth is, we all do.  I admit I used the characters of Stephanie Tanner (from Full House) and Winnie Cooper (from The Wonder Years) as the standard of the girl I wanted to marry.

Mission accomplished.  My wife is a fun-loving all-American middle child from northern California (like Stephanie Tanner) and sweet, respectful, and passionate (like Winnie Cooper).  I can’t deny that my personal life is affected by fiction.

So I put myself in the shoes of the average guys I see on my TV screen every week.  I am average, like them.  Arguably normal, like them.  Clueless to fatherhood, like them.

And from what I’ve learned so far about being a first time parent is this: Being clueless is sort of the whole point.  No one actually knows what they’re doing.  It’s a character building experience, just like marriage.

I think of this banking commercial that was airing a few months back.  A first time dad brings his newborn home and holding the baby up to his eye level he says, “I know.  It’s not about me anymore.”

Yes, my life as I know it is ending.  In November I will begin Life: The Sequel.  I will instantly be transformed from Married Guy to Married Guy With a Baby.  Totally cool with me.

Because I can easily admit that the transition from Single Guy to Married Guy has done nothing but make me a better person.  I’m less self-centered and more easy going because I have less personal expectations to be met.  My expectations revolve around someone else, as a Married Guy.  I am a helper and a partner.  I don’t mind those roles.

So how much more will I improve in my journey of becoming a more giving person once the baby gets here?  I can only imagine: that much more.

Born into this world as a baby who was completely dependent on others for everything, I have spent 29 years learning to do things on my own, having no choice but to realize it’s not all about me, more and more each day.

I had nay sayers trying to warn me before I got married how much I would miss the single days of answering to no one.  But almost two years into being married, I don’t feel that way at all.  I was not cut out to be a Single Guy.  So glad those days are over.

While I am fully aware that having a baby changes everything, I welcome this change.  What good would it do to spend the next five or ten years just trying to save up money to try to afford to have a kid? I would never reach that point of affordability or personal readiness.

I was married at age 27, the average age for an American man to be married.  And I couldn’t find Internet research to back it up, but I would have to assume that it’s safe to say that age 29 is the average age of a married, first time dad.  Despite my overawareness of my own quirkiness, I live a pretty normal life.

And that’s what I want.  A normal life.  Dirty diapers and all.

All pictures with the “JHP” logo were taken by Joe Hendricks Photography:

Blog- www.photojoeblog.com

Website- www.joehendricks.com