Thursday, December 2, 2010

Memories of an Odd Kid: The Mighty Hercules

When I was a kid, Saturday morning cartoons were an indispensable part of my week. I'd struggle to get up each weekday morning to get to school,only to easily and eagerly get up bright and early on Saturday in order to watch cartoons.

And you had to see them when they were being broadcast, because back in those days, we didn't have no newfangled VCRs, or DVDs, or DVR! Nossir! We had to walk FIF-teen miles to watch television, and we only had six channels and by cracky we were grateful for it, and...

..oh..sorry...where was I?

Oh yeah. Saturday cartoons. Anyways, one of the little gems that I loved was a cartoon called The Mighty Hercules, a product of 1963. Set in ancient Greece, Hercules was your basic muscular good guy, son of Zeus and all that. But his power was diminished on Earth, so when things got really hairy, he put on this magic ring that gave him his amazing power boosts (accompanied by the usual dramatic music and flashing lightning bolts).

Hercules had an annoying sidekick, a young centaur named Newton (first name Fig, perhaps!?), who had this irritating habit of repeating himself, repeating himself. Hercules' arch enemy was this evil sorcerer named Daedalus. Yes, the show took certain liberties with the classic mythology, but no worse than the Great Rogerer of All Our Beloved Childhood Stores and mean, Disney. Hey at least the show featured mythological critters like the Laernean Hydra and the Nemean Lion.

Then there was the theme song. Oh, the theme song. Wow! A real manly-man hero theme song if there ever was one. See for yourself:

Hercules, hero of song and story.
Hercules, winner of ancient glory.
Fighting for the right,
Fighting with his might,
With the strength of ten, ordinary men.

Hercules, people are safe when near him.
Hercules, only the evil fear him.
Softness in his eyes,
Iron in his thighs,
Virtue in his heart,
Fire in every part,
Of the Mighty Hercules.

Wow. Makes you want to slap on a toga and a pair of sandals and start smacking things with a sword, don't it?

And it was sung by someone who you'd swear was Johnny Mathis. I mean, this fellow was so close to Mathis' style, that you'd swear he was going to follow up the theme song with an impromptu rendition of "Chances Are".

Turns out, it wasn't Mathis, but check this out. The singer of The Mighty Hercules was a man named Johnny Nash. You might remember him as the guy who sang about how he could see clearly now, the rain was gone. Yeah, that's the one.

So yes, The Mighty Hercules was one of those beloved childhood memories of mine that, thanks to the vastness of the Internet, has been rediscovered. Childhood cartoons have been in the forefront of my brain thanks to one of those nifty Facebook things where people are encouraged to put up a profile image about something or other.

Come to think of it, I think I'll be devoting a few more OV's to some other childhood favorites (Prince Planet, The Eighth Man, The Mighty Heroes, Frankenstein Junior and the Impossibles, et al). I also have two other ideas in mind, one involves a discussion about Rings, and another involves The Cliched Device of Power Used During Dramatic Moment.

Until next time, keep your feet on the ground and keep reaching for cigars!

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Fruit From The Random Tree, Redux

Every once in a while I enjoy doing the mental equivalent of cleaning out the attic. Let the housecleaning begin.

I know that there are people out there that you meet that you take an instant liking to, but has anyone out there ever met anyone that you took an instant, baseless, illogical DISlike to? I have. There's someone out there who, from the git-go, I irrationally couldn't stand. Now that I've had more time around this person, I can't stand them even more, but still. No worries, this person's not on facebook.

Dear right-wing yahoos who are pissed at Obama because of the bailouts and resulting deficit: You DO know that Dubya is the one who initiated the bailouts, right? Just checking.

And I still feel that the particular vehemence aimed at Obama by certain circles comes from their deep down dislike at having a black man in the White House. Of course, they'll never admit it publicly....

But I do think Obama made a big mistake when he made health care his big priority, and not unemployment.

I have to say, I LOVE the recent new hot buzz-phrase du jour: "Really?" I love, LOVE, LOVE it! One word, but said in such a way that it conveys SO much.

You heard it here: The Office will NOT survive Steve Carrell's departure.

If Derek Jeter was was truly the God-Almighty Ultimate Baseball Sportsman Nice Guy Upright Dude that his horde of worshipers say he is, then he'd refuse the Gold Glove award. His winning it is a travesty, as everyone and their grandmothers know that his defensive stats are mediocre at best. There is no way in Hell he was the best shortstop of the year. Not even close.

And while we're on the subject of WTF baseball awards, Papi got jobbed. He deserved the Silver Slugger award, not Vlad.

Just so it's been said: Fad diets do NOT work. Sure, you can lose 90 pounds in one month on the Hot mustard/raisin/chlorine bleach/goose turd diet, but eventually you'll have to go back to eating real food, and when you do, that weight comes RIGHT back on. Fad diets have NO basis in reality.

Current book I'm reading: Midnight In The Garden Of Good And Evil

Wisdom of the Day: Never take what's not offered, and never stay where you're not wanted.

Every time I think to myself that people are making too much of a big deal out of bullying and trying to protect kids from it, I remember my own high school experience. That's when I find myself wishing that all the angst and "we gotta do something about this" was around when I was a teenager..either that, or easy access to an assault rifle.

Evidence that there's still justice in the world: Stuck in traffic on Route 128 because they've shut down two lanes due to road construction. Watching a few jerks whizz by in the breakdown lane (despite signs posted NOT to!), because hey, clearly those people have much more important places to be than we do....then seeing a Mass Statey positioned up ahead, waving over one, two, three, four cars. Aw HELL YEAH! Justice!

Also, kudos to Massachusetts for adopting laws making it illegal to text while driving. New Hampshire needs that too!

Wisdom of the Day II: Nothing makes a man more sympathetic to a woman's monthly "inconvenience" than to be going about his business and having a hemorrhoid detonate in his pants.

OK, I admit it...I LOVE getting all the compliments I've been receiving over my weight loss. I never get sick of hearing it.

Said it before, will say it again: There should be three options for Friend requests on FB: Confirm, Ignore, and Who The Hell Are You And Why Should I Care?

Speaking of Facebook, here's the answer I've always wanted to give people who rail about it being slow, or whatever. "You're right! I wouldn't take it if I were you! Write to the Facebook powers that be, and demand your money back!"

Sorry, but I don't buy "...but it's for a good cause", as well as its cousin "...but it raises awareness!" as excuses for what I consider tacky, classless behavior.

I kind of like having Shaq on the Celtics.

Nothing is more boring to me than a zealot (be it religious, political, cause-oriented, whatever).

The problem with a hopeless romantic is that the phrase does in fact contain the word "hopeless".

If you're a parent in their 50's, and you're undergoing Empty Nest Syndrome, and you're actually considering having another kid at this stage in life, you should be sterilized then thrown into the loony bin. And if you're still adamant about it, then at least don't add to the surplus population...ADOPT!

Speaking of the phrase "..surplus population" (clever people will know where I'm coming from with this), I think any store that starts gearing up for Christmas BEFORE Halloween even ends, should be picketed by people dressed in the most hideous, gory, disgusting costumes and makeup imaginable...until January 2nd.

Speaking of zombies, I'm really loving "The Walking Dead" on AMC.

Sick of vampires yet? I am....

OK OK, so I found myself actually watching a few more episodes of Glee. Granted, I was a captive audience, but at least I decided to go ahead and pay more attention to it...get a bigger sampling if you will. I've gone from disliking the show to fervently wishing someone would take this show around back of the barn and going all Old Yeller on its ass.

Watched Paranormal Activity recently. Sorry, it did nothing for me nor for Carol.

Joe Morgan was finally fired. Now, if they can only do likewise to Tim McCarver, the baseball world will be a happier place!

Recently watched "The Zanti Misfits" again. Even after all this time, that episode is STILL pretty effed up....and I mean that as a compliment.

There was some MGD 64 left over from our party, so I figured I'd try it. I'm forced to admit it wasn't half bad...wasn't half GOOD either, but it's definitely better than Coors Lite or Bud Light...and it's just 1 WW point!

On a related note, I think that many people aren't aware of the implications of the acronym RSVP. It's not just "let us know if you can make it", it's "let us know if you can make it OR NOT".

Shows I'm currently enjoying: NCIS, Big Bang Theory, Lie to Me, $#%@ My Dad Says.

Shows I'm increasingly not sure about, but still watch: House, The Office

Shows I wish would die a horrible death: Glee, most of Nick's cartoon shows

Speaking of NCIS, hey Carol, feel free to wear that Abby Sciuto costume around the house! No need to put it away just because our party's over!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Supermarket Background Music- WTF?

Sometimes I have to wonder what people are thinking when they choose the background music for shoppers in their store. Presumably, the music is there as a sort of entertaining distraction that lurks in the background, setting a mood for the shoppers, presumably one that makes them more willing to spend a few extra bucks.

I realize that supermarket managers don't pick the songs. Background music is some sort of canned packaged program. It's not like a supermarket has a DJ that puts together a playlist. But as a side note, wouldn't that just rock? Can't you see it? "OK, shoppers, this next selection is the Beach Boys '409'; and speaking of which, we're having a sale on Formula 409 cleaner, available in aisle four!".

But I digress. In any event, this blog is precipitated by an experience I had recently at one of our favorite supermarkets, Market Basket, or as we like to call it, Basket Case. Carol and I have nicknames for all our supermarkets. There's Snausage's (Shaw's), Basket Case (Market Basket), and Try and Save (the local Hannaford's, that use to be a Shop and Save). And yes, that last name is taken from the Simpsons.

SO anyways, there I was at Basket Case, when over the speakers comes that 70's vintage, whiny, self-pitying shitfest known as "At Seventeen" by Janis Ian. Can there be a more miserable song? And yet that is what was playing over the speakers. This is a song they expect to put people in a receptive mood?

And this isn't an isolated incident. They've also vomited forth "Killing Me Softly" by Roberta Flack. When that song came out in the 70's, I recall really disliking it. Now, more than 30 years later, with more maturity under my belt and a refining of my musical tastes, I can safely say I totally loathe it. A miserable, miserable song, in my humble opinion. This song doesn't inspire me to shop. This song inspires me to jam cucumbers in my ears, then go on a homicidal rampage.

There are others as well, but the titles just aren't coming to me. I think my brain is trying to be merciful.

Stores really need to pay more attention to the song packages they buy. The atmosphere of the store should be conducive to make me want to stick around and buy stuff, not vomit on stock boy and hurl myself through the store's plate glass window.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

That's Me On The Toilet- An Open Letter to the Writers of Glee

Dear Sirs or Madames
Lately, through no fault of my own, I have been exposed to your television show. Now, from the little I knew about it before this exposure, I had a reasonable idea that it wasn't something I'd be too interested in. I know that a handful of people whose opinions I respect like it, but that was scarcely reason for me personally to spend time watching it.

Recently, I managed to overhear parts of an episode, in one of those "captive audience" situations. Furthermore, someone close to me recently sent me a Youtube link to a segment of one show where "Losing My Religion" was being featured. I'm a rabid REM fan (that is to say, I rabidly enjoy REM, not that I'm a fan of REM turning rabid). The reason that this person sent me the link in the first place was "Hey, it's REM. You LIKE REM."

Yes. Yes I do. Which is why I disliked the Glee treatment of what is most likely one of REM's most beautiful songs.

But anyways, I'm getting ahead of myself. After being forced to hear a good majority of one episode, I am forced to conclude that it indeed really is not my cup of tea. And some of the songs featured made me want to jam screwdrivers in my ears ("Don't go breaking my heart"? Come on, really?).

However, the biggest issue is the use of REM songs. I don't know who's in charge of giving that kind of permission; whether it's the band, their manager, or perhaps even the record company. But I haven't felt so embarrassed for the band since their ill-advised cameo performance on Party of Five.

So please, I beg you, in the name of all which does not suck: Keep your hands off of REM songs.

As for my friends and associates who like the show, I am mystified as to why they do, but I won't hold it against them. Just like I have friends who for some Godforsaken reason think Sarah Palin walks on water, or some who deny the existence of God, so I apparently can have friends who think this show rules. It's possible that people can co-exist in peace and harmony despite disparate tastes in television and music. It's called celebrating diversity, or adversity, or perversity, or something like that.

By the same token, I hope they will think no less of me that I'd rather hear a plate of beans negotiating its way through the digestive tract of a cow than listen to another minute of your program.

Thank you for your time. Once more...hands off of REM. And if you EVER touch "It's the End of the World as We Know It", I will personally strangle each and every one of you.

Friday, September 10, 2010

A Snapshot of a Moment of Pure Bliss

There are those simple moments in life that you always remember fondly, moments that have left an indelible impression on you, even though the event itself wasn't Earth-shattering. Sometimes, the beautiful simplicity of a moment of pure joy just sticks with you regardless of the passage of time. This is one of those moments.

The moment in question occurred in the late summer of 1982. I was six months into my first marriage, and my wife and I lived in a small apartment in Brighton, near the Chestnut Hill area, just a stone's throw from Boston College.

I was working third shift as a computer operator at the time, so there was always that interesting transitional day when you shift from sleeping during the day to being awake, like the vast majority of so-called normal people.

On this particular occasion, I decided to spend my lunchtime at this small park located adjacent to the Chestnut Hill reservoir. There was (and perhaps still is?) a nifty ice cream and sub shop called the Fantastic Food Factory, located just a few blocks from our apartment. This place had the most amazing ice cream and huge sub sandwiches (although their pizza could be described charitably as "vile"). The place was the favored go-to site for our gaming dinner breaks.

Anyways, on this particular day, I left our apartment with a newly acquired paperback, The Case of Charles Dexter Ward, the novella by H.P. Lovecraft. This book was one in a series of Lovecraft books that I had picked up and was in the process of devouring, having only recently learned about ol' HPL courtesy of a D&D sourcebook called Deities and Demigods.

I went to FFF and picked up a large mushroom, steak and cheese sub (note: "large" as in "about three-foot long", and that's no exaggeration), a liter bottle of Mountain Dew (no, not Diet Dew..the real stuff), and a cup of Apple Pie ice cream. I took my loot and went to the little park off the reservoir, found a nice grassy spot underneath a large oak, and proceeded to pig out while reading Lovecraft.

And that was my afternoon. Pigging out on "not good for you" food, while reading "Charles Dexter Ward" for the very first time, punctuated with the occasional lazily drifting off for a several-minute catnap as the urge hit.

A moment of sheer beauty, never to be forgotten!

Monday, August 30, 2010

How I Got Into Horror/Spooky Stuff

Let's get one thing straight: I owe my interest in horror and the macabre to my Irish grandmother, an untimely death, and Rod Serling. Despite the fact that my last name isn't actually spelled "Terror", the world of the macabre, of horror, of terror, has always been a mere hop, skip and jump away from the neighborhood of normalcy that I dwelt in most of my life. No matter how mundane life was, no matter how Fundy Christian I was, no matter how much of a gaming geek I was, there was always that little something extra, that dark yet somehow benign shadow of the world of horror, always creeping along beside me, keeping pace. I could see it out of the corner of my eye sometimes, but rather than vanish when I turned to face it, it beckoned me with a skeletal hand, encouraging me to join it.

But the whole mess started when I was four years old. When I was at that tender, impressionable age, my mom died of breast cancer at the age of 28. The last (and come to think of it, maybe my only) real image of my mom was when she was carried out of the house on a wooden folding chair by two dark blue uniformed ambulance attendants. I don't know why they didn't have a stretcher or a gurney, but that's not important right now.

What is important is that my Irish grandmother, on my mom's side, my "Nana", if you will, always filled my head about what a saint my mother was, and often took me to visit her grave. Now, when I say that she was my Irish grandmother, it has to be said for the record that she wasn't born in Ireland. No, she was born and raised here in the good ol' U.S. of A. in 1909. I believe it was her mother, my great-grandmother, who emigrated from County Cork, Ireland, to Massachusetts.

And funny thing was, although she was American through and through, she had some Irish mannerisms, including word pronunciation and such. And, true to stereotype, she instilled in me a love and devotion to my sainted mother, who was unfortunately under the disadvantageous condition of being deceased.

Still, in kindergarten, while other kids drew duckies and horsies, during art time, I was drawing my mom's tombstone. I can only guess that this made my stuff stand out a little to my teachers.

And since I visited the grave a lot, I got a good gander at the rest of the cemetery, and my curiosity was piqued. I mean, Cambridge Cemetery is HUGE. I would look around, wide-eyed, at the vast necropolis, and say "This place is filled with dead people!?!?! Wowwww!" This, from an early age, there was a fascination with death and cemeteries.

As if this isn't enough, with my mom gone, my dad would use the television a lot to help keep me entertained. What did I end up watching? Twilight Zone. Outer Limits. One Step Beyond. Alfred Hitchcock Presents. These shows would scare the Hell out of me, I switched channels (in those days, you had to get up and manually turn the channel dial...those were dark, savage times indeed), and yet I'd find myself going right back to them the following night. I couldn't stay away.

Cut to 1969. I'm watching tv with my family. This movie came on that was hosted by that Twilight Zone guy, but now he's doing something that involves portraits of some sort. So, this one vignette, in fact the final one of the movie, involves a guy who ends up crucified on a painting.

Although I try to keep my language genteel in this blog, there's no other way to say it...that ending fucked me up good. I mean, I couldn't LOOK at a crucifix for decades, and I'm not kidding here, without fearing that the little Jesus carving would turn, look at me, and open its mouth in a silent scream, like the ending of that Night Gallery pilot film. Yes. Decades. As in, I finally started getting over it around the age of 30.

So, since this pilot movie traumatized me so much (interestingly, the weakest of the three vignettes was directed by some young was Spielberg or something like that), naturally I didn't watch Night Gallery, right?

HA! What do you think? I watched Night Gallery faithfully, and yes, again, would turn the tv off or change the channel when it got particularly bad. But that didn't stop me from tuning in the following week!

Now, to all of this, add movies like the Creature Feature and Creature Double Feature, usually seen on our local UHF stations. I watched these movies religiously during my high school years, with my favorite program being the movies hosted by a horror host out of Ohio, the Ghoul.

And of course, there was reading...and I'm a voracious reader. Edgar Allan Poe was my favorite author when I was in high school. I also picked up a lot of horror anthologies. Then there were the DC Comics I read, and back then I was a total DC fanboy, and read every title they put out (except for the teen romance titles...they were for sissies). These titles included their extensive line of horror, such as House of Mysteries, House of Secrets, Secrets of Sinister House, The Witching Hour, Tales of the Unexpected, Weird Western, Weird War, etc.

Okay, so what we have so far is a teenager who has a little morbid streak due to past circumstances, and tripping over a lot of horror in book and tv form. OK, so...what do we need to introduce to make this poor boy go completely over the edge?

How about a Conservative Christian Church?

Historic Park Street Church in downtown Boston, overlooking the Boston Common, was my church for almost 20 years. Park Street Church is defined as Congregationalist, Evangelical, Trinitarian. It's also conservative as all get out. A great church, don't get me wrong, but at the time, quite a bit reactionary and very very conservative. I don't know if "Fundy" could be used as a good term to describe it, but in many ways it does fit.

Would it surprise anyone to know that it was directly as a result of Park Street Church that I cultivated my interest in a) historical simulation wargames, b) Dungeons and Dragons (!!!), c) and horror movies?

There was this guy in Seekers (Park Street's college age fellowship) named Steve who was a very very devout old-time Christian. But he also had a weird side (yay!). One night, he and some other members of the group invited me to go out with them to the movies in Harvard Square. See, in the 70's, the Harvard Square Theater (one of those crumbling old-time movie houses with faded opulent decor) would have double features for low, low prices. Usually the double features had a theme ("Help" and "Yellow Submarine", for instance).

On this fateful night, the theme was horror. Steve said "You gotta see this movie, JT! It's whacked!" It was a double feature, but he was referring to the second movie. Both movies were by some guy with the last name "Romero". The first one was this black and white one and had zombie, but the second one..the second one also had zombies but was in color, and...well...let's just say when I saw this zombie guy taking out a chunk of meat out of this woman's shoulder, I practically threw up.

So yes, over post-movie ice cream, Steve said "If you thought Night of the Living Dead and Dawn of the Dead was messed up, wait till you see some of the movies made by this guy David Cronenberg."

As for my love of HP Lovecraft, blame Dungeons and Dragons for that one. They came out with this sourcebook that had the role-playing stats for many Lovecraftian entities. As I thumbed through it going "What's a Cthulhu?", I was grateful for listings of reference material, which made me start reading HP's stuff, adding to my deranged condition.

And that, gentle reader, is how I got involved in the world of spooky things. My fascination with cemeteries never went away. I still get frightened/freaked out when I watch a movie or tv show and see portraits, pictures, and statues move or change somehow.

The most fitting way to end this is to mention that Carol, for all the time she knew me and thought that I was the coolest thing to come along since sliced bread, was never aware of my fascination with horror. But during a day trip to Salem, as we walked through the pedestrian mall area, I happened to mention it to her in response to her own opinions on the subject, and the look on her face was unforgettable. It was the look that made you think she had just won Powerball.

And the rest, as they say, is hysteria...

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

How Carol And I Got Together

A lot of this is actually culled from a very similar blog entry I put together a few years back when I was on Myspace. Read and enjoy!

The date was 1992, and those were heady days indeed. Nirvana released Nevermind, Wayne's World urged us to "party on", Ren and Stimpy were in their glory, war erupted in Bosnia, and Amy Fisher shot Mary Jo Buttafuoco. The saga of Carol and John began at GenCon 25, in beautiful downtown Milwaukee.

For the uninitiated, Gen Con is THE premier role-playing game convention in the country, possibly the world. I had been attending GenCon since the late 80's, and participated heavily in the Role-Playing Gamers Association (RPGA). This was a national group of role-playing gamers that ran games at many gaming conventions around the world. They had a system of ranking players and judges, and held contests, competitions, and tournaments.

I had written a Call of Cthulhu scenario entitled "Wild Weekend at Turner Junction" for the RPGA, and ran it at Gen Con 25. Again, for the uninitiated, it needs to be pointed out that in this case, Call of Cthulhu was/is a paper-and-dice roleplaying game played in the same vein as Dungeons and Dragons, but instead set in the 1920's of HP Lovecraft. The player characters uncover the eldritch horrors of the Cthulhu Mythos, and attempt to stop the Elder gods from destroying the world. Many player characters end up insane, dead, or go insane then die.

Anyways, the scenario I wrote went over rather well, if I do say so myself. Two people were particularly impressed by it: Carol, and her then-boyfriend, who I shall refer to by the very mature nom de guerre of Mister Grumpypants. Carol and Grumpypants loved the tournament and wanted to meet the deranged brain behind it. An RPGA staff member arranged the meeting, and before I knew it, I was on the steps of MECCA (Milwaukee Exposition and Convention Center Auditorium), talking with this affable guy and his very bright, knockout girlfriend. Now, of course, I was married at the time, but holy crap. Never had I met someone like this! The gaming hobby in those days had far less female players than now, and very few of them were what I'd consider attractive women. I mean, I could count on one hand the number of women there who could truly turn heads, and I'd have fingers left over. Now suddenly, standing here before me was this bright, hardcore gamer chick, a species that I thought was as fictitious as dragons, centaurs, and rational conservative talkshow hosts.

When I found out that this charming couple (who seemed quite knowledgeable about gaming and about Cthulhu in particular) were also from Massachusetts (as was I at the time), I was quite surprised and pleased. I invited them to join in on some of our games, if they had the time and inclination.

We said our good-byes and promised to touch base when we all got back to Massachusetts. I walked away basically muttering "HOLY CRAP!" to myself. Here was a woman who was a) intelligent b) socially adept c) a role-playing gamer d) a Cthulhu fan and e) pretty freaking hot. Again, the "married" light went on in my head, and I decided that, hey, I can at least be friends with her and of course her boyfriend as well!

Well, as it turned out, Mister Grumpypants came to the games way more often than she did, though she did put in appearances at some of our social events. Grumpypants actually became a regular in our group, and he was a very very very welcome addition; nice guy, helluva role-player, and just an all-around swell guy.

Time marched on, and Carol broke up with Grumpypants. Hey, these things happen. Since Carol's attendance had really dropped off, there was no awkwardness. Carol and I still kept in touch, via letters, or chatting on the phone, discussing stuff like religion and gaming.

More time goes by, and my first wife and I eventually hit the outs (long story short: don't marry too young, and by all means know yourself well enough to know what you want in a spouse). Right around the same time, I get involved in quite possibly the worst relationship I ever had, and to be frank, the timing of it was a bit dicey, in relation to my failing marriage. This thing had "Bad Decision" written all over it. For the sake of this narrative, let's call the young lady Lady Caca. Caca and I end up not lasting even a year. But we did part amicably, and darned if Mister Grumpypants didn't end up asking her out within about a week of the breakup. Hey, I was cool with it, go with my blessing, my children. Better you than me, I say! But we remained friends, so it wasn't such a bad thing. Lady Caca and Grumpypants even remained part of my gaming group.

As for me, I underwent a series of casual dates, not-so-serious relationships, etc., most of them set during the infancy of Internet dating. All I can say to sum them up is, "The horror..." Good Lord, the number of bad decisions I made was staggering. Even today, I refer to that several year period as My Stupid Time. Meanwhile, Carol was dating as well, but we never seemed to end up free at the same time. Whenever I was free, Carol was seeing someone. Whenever Carol was free, I was seeing someone. In technical terms, our timing blew goats.

More time passed. Carol got a new boyfriend, some lawyer guy who turned out to be a major Richard Head. For the sake of this narrative, let's call him Bozo the Patent Attorney. Still, she seemed happy. Far be it for me to butt in, right? But the key word in this case was seemed.

But as time went by, we would talk, and it became clear that this guy was a bigger jerk than I ever imagined. But she was hanging in there. I got annoyed and shut down contact with her. Part of this was motivated by my frustration over what I saw as her docile acceptance of a bad relationship. Part of it stemmed from a "I don't want to see what's going to happen!" mindset. And yes, part of it was "I want to be the one dating you, dammit!" Yeah, kinda childish in retrospect, I know.... You'll find no claims to perfection here.

More time passed, and I kept up a wall between Carol and me. But then in the summer of 2000, family members on my dad's side began falling sick and/or dying. It was eerie. It was like this large handful of relatives on my dad's side and of his generation suddenly decided to all get sick and die within a few months of each other. All of this sickness and death made me realize that life's too short to hold grudges over silly things. So, I decided to mend fences with the three people in my life whom I was at odds with. Carol was one of them, and I thought "Hey, she's probably engaged to the guy by now, so I can at least wish them well and such." I had hoped we could at least be friendly acquaintances, if she'd be willing to forgive my ill-conceived harshness.

As it happened, I still had Carol's AOL IM name. So I IM'ed her out of the blue. I was scared that she was going to say "Piss off", and she'd have been well within her rights to do so. But no, she was happy and delighted to hear from me. I too was happy, not to mention relieved. I became even happier when I found out that she had had enough and dumped Bozo. She was free!! And as it happened, so was I!! Hey, guess what happened next? We decided to make a lunch date, meeting outside the Target at Peasant Lane Mall (yeah I know it's Pheasant...I like my name better).

We went to lunch, caught up, had a great time, and, as the day went on, we both realized that all of those romantic feelings we had pushed away could now be fully expressed and acted upon. We decided to start dating and see what would happen. It was quite a heady, liberating feeling. It was as if all that crap I had gone through was getting me ready for this relationship.

So yes, needless to say (but I'll say it anyway), that particular instance of fence-mending went rather well. For the record, my other attempts at reconciliation were successful too, but with scarcely as spectacular results.

Unfortunately, this is where "JT's Law of Conservation of Mass, Energy, and Being At Odds With People" kicked in. See, I may have mended fences with Carol and was now dating her, but her ex-boyfriend, Mister Grumpypants, was having none of this. Oh no, he wasn't jealous...after all, he had been dating my ex girlfriend, Lady Caca, for quite some time by this point. I think they were already engaged by this point. No, he cited a huge argument that he and Carol had one night when they were still together, and how she basically traumatized him (though that didn't stop them from remaining together for another year, and then she ended things!). Grumpypants couldn't (well, wouldn't) forgive Carol, despite her attempts at mending fences. He wanted nothing to do with her, which was going to get awkward, considering that I had invited Carol to join our gaming group, and she had accepted.

As a result, Grumpypants and Lady Caca stopped coming to the games. They were willing to hang out with me and such, but if Carol was around, then they wouldn't be. That's when I decided that if Grumpypants wasn't going to even acknowledge Carol's existence, then I really didn't want to hang out with him. And despite the mature, reasonable, compelling arguments put forth ("This is doesn't concern you!" "Why must you always make these things about you!?!?" "You're thinking with your dick!"), I stuck to my guns.

...and Carol stuck with me. And so, after enduring all those years of bad relationships, arguments, misunderstandings, loneliness, alienation, heartbreak, bad decisions, and friends turning into jerks, I know that I finally made the right choice. It's been a long, strange trip. Fortunately, the destination is well worth it.

(Cue Dragnet epilogue music)

MUSIC: Dun-Da-Dun-Dun! Dun-Da-Dun-Dun-DUNNN!

OMNISCIENT NARRATOR WITH IMPRESSIVE AUTHORITARIAN VOICE: Carol and John married in September 2002, in a small surprise wedding ceremony. They are living happily ever after. Rumor has it that they may end up throwing some kick-ass party to celebrate their tenth wedding anniversary in 2012, unless the Mayans have other plans.

MUSIC: Dun-Da-Dun-Dun! Dun-Da-Dun-Dun-DUNNN!

OMNISCIENT NARRATOR WITH IMPRESSIVE AUTHORITARIAN VOICE: Mister Grumpypants and Lady Caca are happily married. Despite the fact that the Terras and the Grumpypants are all on Facebook, and even sometimes respond to the same posts made by mutual friends, there is still no contact, though it's a foregone conclusion that all parties are aware of each others' presence on Facebook. Sad but true.

MUSIC: Dun-Da-Dun-Dun! Dun-Da-Dun-Dun-DUNNN!

OMNISCIENT NARRATOR WITH IMPRESSIVE AUTHORITARIAN VOICE: Bozo the Patent Attorney eventually found someone to marry him. No speculation has been made in terms of the bride's state of mental health. There's been no further contact with him, which suits us just fine.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

My iPod Running Playlist

Music hath charms to soothe the savage breast, so they say. Music also has the ability to alter or moderate one's mood, for better or for worse. Furthermore, music can be used to drown out noises like your idiotic co-worker who sits in the next cubie over and has been coughing and grunting incessantly for the past five years. And music can make monotonous chores and activities tolerable.

I need my music when I run, no if's, and's, or but's. A lack of music is sufficient cause for me to cancel a run rather than try it without my sweet tunes. It inspires me, fires me up, and keeps my brain busy.

The following are the songs currently on my iPod's "Running" playlist, presented in alphabetical order.

Bad Romance/Telephone; Lady GaGa
Hey, these songs have a good beat and you can to them.

Buddy Holly; Weezer
Sometimes, there's a song you like, then time goes by, and you get sick of it. Then eventually, years later you hear it again and remember why you like it. That's why this one's in the rotation. Unfortunately, I'm getting sick of it again, so it looks like Buddy Holly may end up crashing. What...too soon?

Carrie-Anne; The Hollies
From Buddy Holly to The Hollies. Lately, I've been experiencing a bit of a British Invasion re-discovery/obsession. Always liked this one. But...what is Carrie-Anne's game, anyway?

Downtown; Petula Clark
See "Carrie-Anne"

For All The Saints
Hymns can be very stirring for the soul, and this one really does it for me. I particularly like the next to last verse, which talks about how a "distant triumph song" lifts the spirits, renews our energy and helps us to soldier on. Appropriate, no? This is by far one of my favorite hymns.

"...and hearts are brave again, and arms (AND LEGS!) are strong...

Happy Together; The Turtles
See Petula Clark and The Hollies. Now if only I can get the image out of my mind of Mario and Yoshi frolicking through a field then eventually punching each other out...

Head Over Heels/Our Lips Are Sealed; The Go-Gos
Catchy, upbeat, definitely gets the legs going. Also, it has some lines that are fitting for a runner...

"...been running so long; what I need is to unwind.."

How You Like Me Now; The Heavy
Oh, this one's a pure "posturing" guilty pleasure for me. Hey, I started out at 220, and now I'm down to 180. So, how do you like me now, sucker? That, and the pseudo-James Brown funky beat makes this one a good running companion. And I almost never have the image of that damned sock monkey from the Kia commercial running through my head anymore.

I Wanna Be Sedated; The Ramones
Fast, frenetic, and short. Like a good run!

I Won't Back Down; Tom Petty
What's that you say? I'm not getting any younger, the weather is hot, and I should take it easy? Screw that, pal...I won't back down!

"..gonna stand my ground; won't be pushed around; and I'll keep this world from pushing me around..."

It's The End Of The World As We Know It; R.E.M.
My all-time favorite song ever? Not on my running playlist? Yeah right...

Jocko Homo; Devo
The synthpunk industrial beat of this song makes it a perfect running choice, and the mechanical noises in the song's bridge bring to mind pistons and machinery pounding away rhythmically. I find my legs pumping in time with that beat, no matter how tired I am. And if there's no one else on the running path, then yeah, maybe sometimes I indulge in the "call and response" of "Are we not men? We are DEVO!"

Random observation: When Mark Mothersbaugh does the "we must repeat" call and response at the end of the song, he sounds like Ed from the cartoon Ed, Edd, and Eddy. You know, the dumb Ed.

"Okay, let's GO!"

Leaving New York; R.E.M.

Quite possibly the most beautiful R.E.M. song ever. It's a nice slow-down song, helps me maintain a more mellow pace.

Life Is A Rock (But The Radio Rolled Me); Reunion
One of the leftovers from my recent 70's kick. This one's starting to wear out its welcome.

The Mesopotamian s; They Might Be Giants
Sargon, Hammurabi, Ashurbanipal and Gilgamesh! This song from their latest CD is bouncy and upbeat. Never fails to perk me up a little.

Monster Zero March
A very recent addition, this instrumental theme totally kicks ass. No matter what state I'm in, no matter how hot it is, or how far into my run I am, this one kicks me into overdrive. Absolutely love it.

Onward Christian Soldiers; Stretch Arm Strong
A punk version of another of my favorite hymns. Fast, uptempo, and just a lot of fun.

"...we are not divided; all one body we; onward Christian soldiers; on to victorrrrry..GO TEAM!"

Story Of My Life; Social Distortion
I love this song, and it's got a good beat to it.

Superman Theme; John Williams
Do I really need to explain this one!?!?!

Supernatural Superserious; R.E.M.
The guitar work, the fast tempo, and the progressively more complex drum work make this one a good way to get my blood moving faster.

Tell Her No; The Zombies
Another of my British Invasion selections, but this one's starting to irritate me, as I find myself paying closer attention to the words. So basically, the singer is telling this other guy that if the singer's girl tells this guy that she loves him and wants him, he should just tell her no. What a wuss! How about "stay away from my girl or I'll rip your goddam lungs out, chump!"? Yeah, this one may be out the door soon. Love the band name, though...

Tessie; Dropkick Murphys
Hmmm...let's see...anthemic song, extols the Red Sox, and gives you a chance to yell out "Two...three...four!" as well as the ever-popular "Oi!". Yeah, I'm there...

Tubthumping; Chumawumba
This one should be obvious...the heat and the exertion is ready to knock you down...but you get up again! It's never gonna keep you down! Good morale-boosting song.

"...I drink a whiskey drink, I drink a vodka drink; and when I have to pee, I use the kitchen sink!"- H. Simpson

Working Girl; The Members
Obscure punk/new-wave song by slightly less obscure punk band. Good harmony during the chorus keeps this one on as a sing-along, but I think it's time is drawing to a close.

You're My World; Helen Reddy
Funny, but every iteration of my Running playlist has ONE unabashedly mushy song on it. In the past it's been songs like "Somewhere in the Night" by Barry Manilow, or "(I'll Be) The Greatest Fan Of Your Life" by Edwin McCain. Who knows. Maybe it has something to do with the endorphins that get churned up after I hit the "runners wall". I actually tripped over this one because, in checking British Invasion playlists, I initially found an earlier version done by Cilla Black (a protege of George Martin). That's when I remembered, "Hey! I've always liked this song!" I just think that Reddy's version is better. So this one serves as the requisite mush song.

Songs That May End Up On The Playlist Sooner Rather Than Later
The 1812 Overture (Finale)
Whip It; Devo
Twist and Shout; Beatles
Always Look On The Bright Side of Life; Monty Python

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Outed! Yes, We HAVE Been Dieting!

As can be ascertained from recent photos of Carol and me, things are finally getting to the point where the evidence is becoming...well...evident. Carol and I have been quietly engaged in nutritional warfare since the beginning of the year, and it's time to finally come clean about it. The whole truth, now with 20% less fat.

We've been back on the Weight Watchers program for months now, supplemented by exercise.

Those of you who've been paying attention know that we made a similar attempt last year. In an effort to try and stay more accountable, I made a huge deal about it on Facebook, such as posting mysterious numbers (e.g. my current weight) in my status. My reasoning was that, if people knew I was on Weight Watchers again, it'd keep me honest. After all, who likes to screw up in front of friends, family, acquaintances, and such? And since my own profile is public, I surely didn't want to possibly give other people a sense of schadenfreude if I failed.

It was a radical experiment, but with limited success. The problem that Carol and I have found in past attempts at doing a "food plan" is that we eventually get bored with it due to lack of variety, and it just...falls by the wayside. Old habits, as well as the lost weight, return like a Crisco-smeared boomerang.

So, avoiding the loaded language involved in calling it a "New Years Resolution", on January 2, 2010, we embarked on Weight Watchers again. We would've started on January 1st, but it was impractical; too much leftover Chinese food and Mimosas. But we decided to get back on it and this time see it through to the end because hey, eventually it becomes a quality of life issue. Let's face it...extra weight means a greater likelihood of health problems. Getting older also means a greater likelihood of health problems. You can do something about ONE of those, and can't do anything about the other. And so....what will you do about it?

We decided this time around to tell no one. Not a soul. Eventually we relaxed that a little, letting family in on it, plus a few select folks. For as long as we could get away with it, it would be our little secret. We'd just do the Weight Watchers thing....take more walks, and when the weather got better, I'd resume running, and when the time was right, Carol would join a gym.

But how to alleviate boredom? Enter Hungry Girl.

For those not in the know, Hungry Girl is this media figure who, as her tagline goes, is not a nutritionist; she's just hungry! Who can argue against that? We all get hungry! Bottom line, she has come up with a slew of amazing recipes that liven up a food plan and stave off boredom.

And so, that's what we did. We already knew the point values of many of our favorite foods, so it was easy to get back into it. We then simply supplemented our meals with Hungry Girl stuff. And by "stuff", I'm talking about recipes for things like onion rings, chili dogs, buffalo chicken salads, chocolate lava cake, margaritas, strawberry daiquiris, and nachos, all with the common characteristic that it all tastes fantastic, as opposed to tasting like ass.

So, people around you are gorging on restaurant food and you can't? Fine. You hang in there, go home, open an HG book, whip up a huge plate of point-friendly (and once again, it must be noted "good"!) nachos, and a frosty margarita. Really...what have you missed? Thus, you're more inclined to stay on the plan. Morale and appetite are served, and everybody wins.

Thus far, I've lost 40 lbs. Carol has lost more even than that. Our old clothes are fitting again, we're getting new clothes, we've decided that cameras are not hateful curses from Satan's bottom after all, and there'll be times that I'll see my reflection as I pass a mirror and admit that I'm not really that hideous after all!

I'm at a point in my running distance that in previous years I didn't get to until the fall. Carol has joined a gym and is pumping iron. We take long walks at lunch, and sometimes at home we even get up extra early and take long walks in our area.

We still have a ways to go. Clearly, we'll be on this thing right up to the -ember holidays, and very possibly beyond. But we've finally hit upon a formula that works, and we don't feel like quitting now. In fact, we feel better when we're on it. I'm at 180 now, and according to my doctor's height-weight tables (drawn up by drug-addled elves from Unrealistic Land), I'm supposed to be at 160.

I find that laughable. The lowest I've been at was 156, and I resembled a deformed lollipop. Really. A long torso, shorter-than-average legs, and a large head. Lollipop time. I've had to keep nervously looking over my shoulder to see if there was an owl wearing glasses and a mortar board and going "Let's find out..Ah one, ah two-hoo, ah three...CHOMP! Three!"

So the jury's out on 160. We'll see when I get to 170.

Here are some things I've learned/observed so far on our journey of sustained loss:

1. It's amazing how much of our social life revolves around food. It's so hard to get away from it. Best you can do is try to get the point counts for the things you plan on eating. That in fact is one of the best pieces of advice..plan ahead. Bank your Weight Watcher points, eat light leading up to the get-together.

2. One of the best ways to start a diet like this is to admit, right up front, that hey, eating is a pleasurable experience! It's great! And then from there, realizing that you're dealing with a very tempting, very pleasurable, but ultimately very fattening experience, you consciously make the effort to cut back.

3. Which leads to this point: No pain, no gain. It IS hard. It IS a pain in the butt. But if you're someone who feels entitled to do what they want, when they want, or make excuses, or rationalize, you will fail. Eventually you reach a point where you have to put your foot down and say "Enough. No more excuses. No more rationalization. No more 'I've had a rough day, I deserve a treat'. It ends now." And it takes patience. It's a slow process. Crash diets don't work. A slow, 1-2 pound loss a week is ideal.

4. It's amazing how many aches, pains, and instances of soreness, have gone away. My resistance to colds, which has always been pretty good, has gotten better. Many aspects of life have significantly improved, too numerous to mention.

5. On a related note, as hot and nasty as it's been lately, I've somehow managed to tolerate this heat better this year (and I'm notorious for not taking heat and humidity well, as in "Jack Torrence 'all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy'" notorious). Perhaps it's because I no longer have the equivalent of four 10-pound bags of sand hanging off my shoulders anymore? Carrying around extra weight makes you tired, hot, and more susceptible to getting sick.

6. You know what really helps torpedo a diet? Free food at work. Thing to remember is, the food's cash-free, but it's not fat-free. And if you tend to pick, graze, and nibble, then you're in deep trouble. So you avoid it altogether, if that's what you have to do. And when people keep trying to push it on you, you keep refusing. Know your limitations, and work within them.

7. On a related note to that one, nothing stops well-meaning obnoxious food pushers better than saying "Look, I can't eat that, and it's for health reasons." As persistent as people can be, they tend to back off if health is involved. The older you get, the more likely you'll get things like high blood pressure, and such. Being at a healthy weight can help mitigate stuff like that.

8. Females Reacting To Carol Losing Weight, Part One: It's amazing how many "Eat hot death, bitch!" glares I've personally seen Carol get from some women. Hey, if it means that much to you, then take some of that energy you spend in being pissed off at someone for trying to improve themselves, and go do something similar yourself! That's why Carol never begrudges anyone who's worked hard to lose weight because frankly, yeah, the process does suck. It involves self-denial, and self-denial is remarkably un-fun.

9. Females Reacting To Carol Losing Weight, Part Two: I've had some women come up to me and say "Carol looks so good! She's lost so much weight!" When I've thanked them and suggested that they tell her in person, they're horrified, bless them, because they don't want it to be taken the wrong way.

10. Females Reacting to Carol Losing Weight, Part Three: There's a very special, very select group of women, and these are the ones who are currently or who have recently had their own weight loss experience. These ladies are cool. They compliment Carol, and sometimes, when it's an in-person situation, I see Carol and them exchanging knowing glances, the kind of glance that says "Boo-ya, we did it!"

10. Females Reacting To Me Losing Weight: I've had some women compliment me on weight loss, and leave it at that. That's perfect.

11. Males Reacting To Me Losing Weight: Men don't tell other men that they're losing weight, lest they be mistaken for being gay.

12. Males Reacting To Carol Losing Weight: Men like the idea that other men think their wife is hot, and I'm definitely no exception. A few have popped up on the radar recently, apparently only now realizing something I've known for over a decade, namely that my wife is beautiful and hot. Unfortunately, many guys desperately need to take a page from the "woman's book of complimenting the opposite sex on their weight loss". Complimenting is one thing, trying to start a flirtation (unsuccessfully, as it will always end up being), or saying stuff that's getting into "You're crossing the line" territory, is a whole other thing, and one that neither of us appreciate, even if that is not explicitly stated. Look, but don't touch. Compliment, but leave it at that.

13. If you absolutely, positively must fall off the wagon for a day, make it just that: for a day, then get right back on it again. Don't stretch it into two days...three days...a week...a fortnight...a month... It's a slippery slope. The last time we deviated was because of events that involved a death in the extended family. That's how "fascist" we've become with this. Hey, for us, it works. And it's interesting to note that when we deviated for that one day, despite the enjoyable act of unrestrained uncounted eating, we felt like crap afterward, and longed to be back on the plan.

14. Plan..that reminds me. Plan ahead. I know I mentioned it before, but it bears repeating. Carol and I have been taking a look at our social calendar for the next two months, and we're staring down the barrel of a few diet-busting events. In two weeks, there's a gaming convention. Any con-goer will tell you that overeating and overdrinking go together with cons like peanut butter and jelly...and donuts....and pizza....and nachos....and beer...and steak...and cheesecake... And two weeks after that there's a gathering that will entail lots of drinking on a Friday night, with a special dinner the following night, and more chances to drink, snack, and drink some more. It'll be unrealistic to say "No thanks". There's no way in good conscience that either Carol or myself can turn down a big plastic syringe filled with a jello shot that glows like the resurrection serum from Herbert West: Re-animator. We can't, so we won't. But once that weekend gathering is over, back on we go. And believe me, we'll be glad to do so!

15. This one relates to Number 8. Now, some may call us paranoid, but we've seen this happen time and again, during previous diet attempts. You announce to people that you're dieting. Within a week, people who don't normally bring in snacks and food for everyone start doing so. It's the oddest coincidence. Now, we're not saying that every time someone's brought in food it's been as an act of sabotage, in fact, it's safe to say that the majority of the time it's simply motivated by being a nice person, but there are some cases where the timing is noteworthy enough that it makes you go "Hmmmm..."

16. The older you get, the harder it is to lose weight. It's not a cliche, it's the truth. Furthermore, the closer you get to your goal, the harder it gets, because you have less to lose, and you're struggling through weight numbers that you probably haven't been at in years.

And so, yes, it's official: we're dieting again. The so-called secret is out. But this time, we have the variety, we have the incentive, we have options. We're both past our halfway point, but the road's about to get bumpier.

Wish us luck.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Ruminations on Death and Funerals

A few weeks ago, Carol and I attended the funeral of one of my cousins. I hadn't seen the guy in almost 20 years and we never really stayed in touch, so I greeted the initial news with that sort of "oh wow...that sucks. Death is bad", as opposed to the "Oh, cruel fate, who snatched in so untimely a manner such a noble blood relation! Oh death, where is thy sting!?" reaction.

Now, I haven't been to many funerals of late, but from the age of four to about twenty, I went to a humongous amount of them. Then things slowed down for a while, then picked up a little around the turn of the century.

But here's a list of observations about death, dying, funerals, mortality and all that. Read on.

1. First of all, let it be said that I do not fear death. As a Christian, I know where I'll end up, so I got that going for me. My whole thing is, I simply don't want to go too soon, because frankly, I don't want to miss any cool stuff happening here. And for the record, "too soon" falls under the parameter of "before 80".

2. There is one song I will NOT have at my funeral, as it now falls under the heading of "Done to death (no pun intended)": Amazing Grace. While I agree with the sentiment, it's become cliche. The only way I'd ever consent to it would be if it was performed on the bagpipes by the reanimated corpse of James Doohan, reprising his role as Scotty.

3. Speaking of songs at a funeral, definitely on the play list: For All The Saints, Onward Christian Soldiers, Story of My Life (Social Distortion), I'll Be Mellow When I'm Dead (Weird Al), The End of the Tour, Dead, and I Hope That I Get Old Before I Die (They Might Be Giants), Good Night and The Long And Winding Road (Beatles), and It's The End of the World As We Know It (R.E.M.).

4. One of the worst parts of funerals and such: Wakes. Wow. Especially popular among Old World cultures, especially Portuguese and Irish. Basically, you take time to go to a funeral home, stare at a dead body for a few minutes, then sit down and listen to people wail in sorrow. This isn't the funeral, there's no eulogy or stuff. No. This is, mill around impotently and awkwardly, stare at a corpse, and try not to entertain notions of joining the deceased by throwing oneself under the nearest speeding bus.

5. Best funeral I've ever been to? Easy. My paternal grandmother. The event wasn't called a funeral. It was called a Homegoing Service. My grandmother, a good, loving, hard-working, devout Christian woman, had a long and happy life. Although it was sad to see her go, there was also the sense of joy and triumph. Also, the funeral was in Bermuda, home of my ancestors. If your relatives have a choice as to where to die and be buried, I highly recommend Bermuda for your funerary and internment needs. Go for the funeral, stay for the lovely beaches.

6. Isn't it kind of sad when you're so disconnected from friends or family that the only time you see them is when someone dies? There's something intrinsically wrong about that.

7. And speaking about the process of getting your ticket punched for a one-way trip on the Grim Reaper Special, the best way for any of my friends and family to guarantee that they go before I do is to throw me a birthday party where the theme is "over the hill" or something along those lines. You know, black balloons, jokes about you not being as fast/strong/smart/verile/whatever, as you used to be. Stuff like that. Personally, though I recognize the value of gallows humor on occasion, and though I sometimes engage in self-deprecating humor, I find those kinds of birthday party themes to be hideously wrong and awful. Yeah. Ha ha ha..big joke. "Hey, look, dementia is setting in on you! Bwahhahaha! Good times!" "Hey look, your dick's falling off! Bwahahah!" "Yay, osteoporosis!" Pass.

8. Youngest memory of death? My mom, who died at 28 when I was 4. Breast cancer.

9. Maybe it's because of my upbringing and the way my maternal grandmother constantly hammered into my head the whole dead mom thing, coupled with my love of history....but I've always found cemeteries to be a place of peace, quiet, comfort, and enjoyment. During the advent of the Garden Cemetery movement of the 19th century, people would go to cemeteries and read, have picnics, and such. I've found cemeteries to be a lovely place to walk, go for a run, do deep thinking, and stuff.

10. Ever go to a relative's funeral and be all "I wasn't really close to this person, and now that they're dead, I find myself not really broken up about it?" Yeah. You almost feel guilty, as if you SHOULD be wailing, gnashing your teeth, and rending your garments. Then you try to think of something upsetting, like sad music, dead puppies or the success of Jersey Shore, in order to try to make yourself miserable, but it doesn't really happen.

11. One of my worst memories associated with death? Walking in on my aunt and cousin, looting my nana's jewelry box.

12. Most bizarre circumstance of death that resulted in me attending a funeral? When I was a teenager, I attended the funeral of a friend two years younger than me, who died of an accidental shotgun blast to the face. Kids, don't screw around with guns...parents, make sure your shotguns are unloaded before putting them away.

Friday, May 28, 2010

My List of The Most Miserable Songs Ever

When it comes to influencing one's mood, nothing quite does the trick like music. Music can turn you into a pile of romantic mush, or stir patriotic fervor, or give you that little morale energy boost to get you through that five-mile run. It can, of course, also cast you into the pit of depression and self-pity, convincing you that life sucks harder than the combined power of 1,000 vacuum cleaners in orbit around a black hole, while a collection of DVDs featuring the entire run of American Idol floats nearby.

This current generation is convinced that they invented depressing music (as well as video games, sex, and retarded fashion trends). Even the most cursory glance at the history of music shows that manipulative, depressing, hideous songs have in fact been around for decades.

The following songs are the ones that I personally feel are the most miserable, depressing songs out there. I also think they're awful. So no, none of these are the "oh, this song makes me so depressed, yet it's so well done, so beautiful" variety. No. These songs suck the big one, in my opinion. They're manipulative, miserable, and...well you get the idea. They're not in any real order, except perhaps for the last five. Yes, on further reflection, the last five are a pretty good countdown, culminating with what I think is the most miserable song ever.

Read on, if you dare.

10. Seasons in the Sun- Terry Jacks. Written by French folk singer Jacques Brel, this festering turd of depression became a major (s)hit in the US in 1974 by professional whiny singer Terry Jacks. It's being sung from the perspective of someone about to die, though the exact method and reason is unclear (perhaps a torch-bearing crowd is sick of this song?), so the singer says good-bye to a handful of special people (trusted friend, father, some chick named Michelle). After hearing him lament about how "it's hard to die..", you start screaming words to the effect of "then you better get a move on!" at the radio.

9. Shannon- Henry Gross. This song became a hit in 1976, and was about the death of an Irish Setter owned by Beach Boy Carl Wilson. Yes. This song's about a dead dog. A dog that apparently drifted out to sea, but apparently lacked the cranial capacity to swim back to shore. Hokay...

8. Alone Again, Naturally- Gilbert O' Sullivan. No, not Gilbert & Sullivan. There's no Yum Yum here. No pirates from Penzance to be seen. The guy's real name is Raymond O'Sullivan. Some record executive saddled him with the new name. This song was released (or escaped?) in 1972. The singer is miserable, because he's alone. His father died, his mother died, oh, you know the drill. He's alone. Again. Naturally!

Side note: Anyone else notice that the songs thus far have all come from the 70's? Time to change that a little...

7. Patches-Dickey Lee. Huh-huh...his named is "dickey". This little slice of sunshine comes from 1962. OK, so, Patches is about a rich boy and a poor girl. Patches is the girl, in case there's any doubt. The boys' parents forbid their love because, hey, what would the neighbors think? Rich boy, poor girl? It'd never work! So Patches drowns herself. But that's okay, because the singer intends to hurl himself into that very same river once he finishes singing. And if that's not further reason why he should just stop singing right now, I don't know what is.

6. Cats in the Cradle- Harry Chapin. Hey kids, we're back in the 70's again! Sherman, set the Wayback Machine for 1974! This is the best known of the late Harry Chapin's "Story" songs...You know, a song that gives you an entire story, and usually not one of those that ends with "and they all lived happily ever after"? Yeah, that's the one. So, anyways, the singer's wife has a baby, a son. Of course, dad is too busy to spend time with the kid. The kid grows up, but dad's too busy. So, what happens when the dad retires and finally has time to spend with the kid? What do you think the kid says? Are you ready? He says he'd love to, if he could find the time! Oooo! Face! Rogered by karma, mister neglectful dad! Bazinga! So, the moral is, you better spend time with your kids, or else someday, they'll blow you off.

5. Hallelujah- Leonard Cohen/Too Many Artists Worth Mentioning. Let's crank up to the 80's now, specifically 1984. I've heard/read many interpretations of this song, some saying it's joyous, some saying it's a celebration of sex, others saying other things, I guess. To me, it's a depressing song. Just flat-out depressing, melancholy, downbeat, dirge-like. And to make matters worse, it was featured in Shrek and Watchmen, two movies I rather liked.

4. Wildfire- Michael Martin Murphy. Yay, back to the 70's! To be exact, to 1975! Ok, so here's the deal. There's this girl, see...she's apparently the singer's girlfriend. She rides a pony named Wildfire. Well, one cold Nebraska winter, the girl dies during a killing frost. So I figure this means that some serial killer named Frost breaks into the house and murders her, or otherwise, she was apparently made of vegetable matter. So the pony named Wildfire busts down its stall, and the high-strung animal gets itself lost in a blizzard, presumed dead. Nice move, dumbass. Oh, but that's okay, because Michael's convinced that "She's coming for me, I know...". And apparently they'll both ride off on Wildfire. So basically, a frozen undead woman riding a high-strung equally frozen dead horse is coming for him. Yeah, there's a happy ending for you.

3. Rocky- Austin Roberts. Well, 1975 beats us up again. Despite the title, it has nothing to do with boxing, yet I can't help but think that this song and everything and everyone connected with it deserved a couple of upper-cuts. There's this guy, Rocky. Last name not known...definitely not Balboa, Marciano, Horror, Raccoon, or J. Squirrel. Anyways, Rocky apparently has fallen in love with a girl who's lived in a box all her life. See, she's shy and has a fear of things she does not know. The chorus is composed of quoting her as she says "Rocky I've never (fill in appropriate experience she hasn't had) before, don't know if I can do it..." She starts by saying she's never been loved before. OK, sure...that's not too far-fetched. Then as the song progresses and they're married, she says she never had a baby before. Yeah, well, half the population can also lay claim to that, but we'll let it slide, lady, but you're starting to push it. Well, of course, they're happy, then they discover that she's going to die from some terminal disease. So she whines to Rocky that she never had to die before, and OH DRY UP YOU WHINY BITCH!! NONE OF US HAVE HAD TO DIE BEFORE!!!! AARRGGHHGHHHHH!!!!

2. Last Kiss- J.Frank Wilson and the Cavaliers. Back to the 60's again, and a little seriousness creeps into the list. My mother died of breast cancer in 1963. My last image of her was the ambulance attendants carrying her out of our house. For years afterward, her mom, my maternal grandmother, would tell me that she was in Heaven, and that I had to be good, so that someday I'd see her again (Nana wasn't much of a theologian). This song became popular in 1964, and the chorus was fairly close to what my Nana told me. Do the math. Even as recently as the mid-90's, if that song played on the radio (and it was played often on oldies stations, which I enjoyed listening to), it would pretty much tear my guts out. Then Pearl Jam covered it in 1999. That did it. Despite the fact that it was an enormous commercial success for the band, I couldn't help but laugh at it and say "You have GOT to be kidding!" I started singing along to the cover version on the radio, over-emoting and hamming it up. That's when I eventually took a good long look at the original song and went "Wow...what an emotionally manipulative, depressing song!" So now, it doesn't bother me anymore.


1. Run, Joey, Run- David Geddes. Naturally, the worst steaming lump of cat crap on this list had to come from 1975. This is another of those story songs involving two tragic teens. See, you have Joey, and you have his girlfriend Julie. Well, more to the point, Joey was the one who had Julie, so now Julie is going to have Joey's baby. Julie's dad is enraged at this (historical note: In the past, teenagers getting pregnant was considered scandalous and wrong), so he smacks Julie around and gets his gun to kill Joey. Julie tells Joey to run, hence the clever title. So Joey runs...well, drives...right to Julie's place (historical note: the GPS wasn't invented at this time). And of course, there's daddy with a gun. Julie interposes herself, gun goes off, and suddenly there's no more scandal of a teen pregnancy to worry about. The song ends with the singer singing "Run, Joey, Run"..over and over. So..what...the dad just left his daughter and unborn baby lying dead in the driveway and is going to get all Jean Valjean on Joey? Wouldn't the cops be after Mister Julie's Dad? Would the sequel song be called "Run, Julie's Dad, Run?"Who knows? Who cares?

So there you have it. My Terminal Top Ten. Oh, there were some that almost made the list, and I almost included them in an "Honorable Mention" category, but there is no honor to be found here, as Mister Worf would say.


Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Things/People That Suck- Part 1

Hello, Gentle Reader
It's not quite the middle of February. It's's gray...the roads are slippery. Running outdoors is problematic, and the Red Sox don't start their season for another two months. Time to expunge some winter venom. This is the first in an on-again, off-again series of rants about certain things and types of people that, to use the vernacular, "suck". Call it venting. Call it "a more socially acceptable way to demonstrate displeasure than climbing up into a bell-tower with a high-powered rifle and start blazing away".

Do you know one kind of person that really sucks? The kind of person who feels Hell-bent on giving you some bad news (or a doom and gloom prediction) right after you make a positive observation.

For instance, there used to be this guy in my orbit, let's call him Al. That works nicely, since that is in fact his name. You could never make an observation to Al about things going well, because he would invariably reply with some dire prediction that would begin with the words "Yeah, but, I hear that..." and would end with me silently wishing he'd get smacked in the face by a low-flying seagull.

Conversations with him would go something like this:

Me: Hi Al! Man, it's a great day out there, isn't it?
Al: Yeah, but I hear that tomorrow there's gonna be thunderstorms and hail.
Me: Shut the Hell up, you cretin. Why must you continually make attempts to bum me out?

OK, ok, so I didn't say that last least, not out loud. But oh wow, thank God for not being cryogenically frozen for several decades and therefore my Inner Monologue does in fact work.

Problem is, that sort of attitude is common. It's almost like some people we encounter are pathologically incapable of just letting a pleasant thought sit on its own, perhaps even share in the good vibes; no, they have to chime in with something negative, usually an announcement that the good condition is coming to an end very soon.

Seriously, what possible deranged sociopathic brain actually comes up with the idea that such a rejoinder is actually warranted, let alone welcome? I mean, where does it end?

Me: Hey, I got my lab work back, and I'm in perfect health!
Cretin: Yeah, but inevitably you'll get cancer and die. Your privates will fall off, and an army of couples in separate tubs with disconnected plumbing will not be able to help you!

Me: My kid just got accepted to Dartmouth! Wooo!
Cretin: Yeah, but I'm sure that, on the way there for orientation, he'll get hit by a runaway truck. But if, against all odds, he makes it, he will invariably fall in with the wrong crowd, and get busted for heroin possession.

Me: I love my wife! We're so good together!
Cretin: Yeah, but it's only a matter of time before she gets bored with you and runs away with a Wiccan lesbian aardvark terrorist.

And sadly, social networks make it easy for such people to post their doom and gloom, and attempt to rain/snow/vomit on everyone else's parade.

Upbeat Person: Hey, the big blizzard missed us!
Cretin: Yeah, but we're gonna get hit by the next one, in 5.2 days.

You know what, Cretin? Shut the Hell up. Really. Just shut up. Can't you just sit back and let us feel good about something, even for a little while? Why must you unclog your nostrils of negativity all over our tiramisu of happiness?

And that reminds me of a subset of this blog entry's "people who suck": the snow alarmists. They're at work. They're in the stores and restaurants that you frequent. They're on television, disguised as local newscasters. They're online.

Now, I'm not taking to task the people who say "Aw crap, it's snowing!" or something like that. Bitching about the weather (which includes bitching about the clean-up) is the God-given right of anyone who lives in a region where they have weather extremes, hot summers, cold winters, snow, sleet, hail, locusts. In fact, it's even written into the Constitution, if I recall correctly.

So no, I'm not targeting those people. Hell, I'm one of those people! There's a subtle distinction here. I'm talking about the people who are practically soiling their pants because a meteorological condition that they've been familiar with since they were born, is occurring again, like it was magic or something. How long have you been living in the Northeast, genius? Ten years? Twenty? Thirty? FIFTY? And yet here you are, running around in circles, shrieking and waving your arms like some deranged Chicken Little on crystal meth, freaking out because a quantity of frozen water is falling? Something you've experienced every winter now since time immemorial? Something which, somehow, you've managed to live through, time and time again, year in and year out, with no apparent ill effects? It's snow, dumbass, not nuclear fallout!

Still, I suppose some of these people can't help it. They watch their local news, which will exaggerate anything and everything in an effort to rope in viewers. "We're tracking a snowflake over the Yukon. How will that affect your morning commute? Tune into FoxNews at 11 and find out!" And let's face it, it's hard not to panic when the news media starts relentlessly beating the drums of panic, warning us about the next threat to life as we know it, like global warming, Nor'Easters, terrorism, the next Depression, or Sarah Palin.

Now I know some of you may be saying "Aw geez, we better not talk about the weather around JT, or he'll come to our houses, kill us in our sleep, and plant false evidence implicating us as members of Al-Qaida!"

Nah, don't worry about it. I really can't recall any time that my friends or friendly acquaintances have transgressed in this area (that's friends, as in, people I'm friends with...not friends as in "People who've asked me to Confirm them on Facebook but I don't know them first-hand from Adam, but somebody I sort of know, knows them so I better Confirm!").

Next time: Khaki pants, the male analogue of "clothes that are annoying and inconvenient but you're expected to wear them in public, especially at work".

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Facebook: Opinions, Observations, Rants, Bullcrap

For me, Internet socializing has come a long way from my days of being on GEnie network, posting impassioned messages and opinions on R.E.M., Dungeons and Dragons, Babylon 5, and DC Comics on various BBS message boards.

I use Facebook now as my primary means of online communicating with people. In fact, it's even sort of replaced some of my opportunities to use E-mail. But, like anything else that's part of my life for more than five seconds, I've developed opinions, observations, and tactics unique to the subject at hand. Some come from first-hand experience, some from second or even third-hand. Read on...

1. Facebook cannot, must not, should not, replace actual contact with people. Yes, it's a nice way for some of us lazy folk to maintain some form of contact with those people that we don't hear from often, but it musn't be used as a crutch or as a replacement for real social contact.

2. It's just an online service, not the end-all be-all. I've seen people get FB burnout, where they're on it constantly, thinking of it as some sort of ultimate wow experience, only to crash and burn and become disgusted with it. It's simply a means to communicate, nothing more, nothing less. All things in moderation.

3. Show some restraint if many of the people you are friends with in "real life" also read your FB stuff. While I haven't seen this as much on FB as I have on Myspace, this is crucial. Your online presence is probably not the place you want to admit to kinky sexual practices, for instance. It's called WTMI, or I like to refer to it as, "You're being a disc jockey on radio station WTMI, Way Too Much Information, 24 hours a day!" All I know is, if a friend of mine admits on some survey or quiz about what they and their significant other have done in a sleeping bag on a median strip on I-93, it'll be difficult when seeing them in person to not think to myself "Sleeping bag, highway, median strip, 2 am, jar of mayo, duck, windup monkey, UGH!!!" restraint. It's cool to sometimes imply that you can be a little daring, a little naughty, sure, and it's always nice to tell the world "Hey, my spouse and I still have a lot of fun!", but specifics needed, thanks.

4. Don't forget who reads your stuff. This is a corollary to #3. But whereas #3 is about too much information of a personal nature, this observation/rule is more aimed at "Things that aren't inappropriate per se, but may get you in trouble anyway!" While it may make you feel better to "yell" out in a post and say "I'm sick of how often my co-workers belch, fart, and sneeze loudly around me!", well, what if your co-workers are also on Facebook? Or "My family is composed of idiots; it's amazing I turned out as well as I did, and not end up on a clock tower with a high powered rifle", and your parents, siblings, grandparents read it. Again, a little forethought goes a long way. Who's reading your stuff? What if you're posting about how you love to goof off at work and make yourself look busy, and some prospective new employer reads that?

5. Facebook is not going to charge you!!! Really, I'm sick of this. People say "But John, Facebook has 250,000,000 members! You can't tell me that some exec isn't thinking 'If we charge five bucks per person, we're set for life! Mwahahah!'" Yes. I'm sure there are greedy corporate types sitting in a chair, stroking a cat, wearing a monocle, and going "If we charge for Facebook, we'll get sixty bill-y-un dollars!" But do you know why Facebook has a quarter-billion members? Because it's free. As soon as they'd charge anything, I'd guess that the vast majority of people would conduct an exodus that would've made Moses and the Children of Israel proud. And they'd go off to the next hot, happening free social site.

In fact, many of those Facebook-will-charge-you "cause" pages actually have viruses/trojans/other bad things. Not only did you just get suckered into thinking Facebook is charging, your computer now has something evil lurking in it. Nice.

6. Slacktivism sucks. A friend of mine on Facebook turned me on to that word. No, not "sucks", "slacktivism," wise guy! There is an argument that says that, when it comes to worthy causes, there's nothing that can be done for their sake that should be considered useless, ridiculous, lame, etc. And indeed, one faces an uphill battle if one derides an activity being done for the sake of a cause, just because that someone thinks it's kind of ridiculous. All of a sudden it's "What, you WANT people to die in earthquakes?", or "What, you don't like gay people?", or "Oh, so you want women to die of breast cancer?", ad nauseum. Really, you can't win. In matters of emotion and passion, logic is about as welcome as a PETA member at a deer hunting party.

But here's my take, and I feel comforted to know that there's at least one other person on Facebook who agrees with this. While there's certainly people out there whose acts of compassion and charity are definitely not limited to just posting something cute online, I believe that a large number of people would go "OK, this issue is important, so I'll join this cause/page/change my status, and there...I've done my part! I'm all set! I've made the world a better place, even if just a tiny bit."

No. No you haven't. And that is my big problem with slacktivism. Someone can shake their fists and say "By golly, waterboarding torture/abused animals/breast cancer/prostate cancer/AIDS/war/earthquake devastation/evil corporations is a bad thing, and I'm going to do something about it!" So they join a FB page, take part in the latest cutesy status thing that ostensibly raises awareness, and they feel like they've done their part, and need do no more.

That's why I, personally, do not join cause pages, even if it's a cause I feel passionate about (and believe me, I have a few!). For me, it's a matter of personal taste, to each his own, sure, and I certainly don't hold it against those who do participate.

7. You get what you pay for. Facebook is free. Therefore, there are going to be problems that would not show up on a social site that charges and is therefore able to afford better technology to avoid those problems in the first place. It's annoying, but you can't beat the price. And as far as the ads they run, some of them I find aggravating, but since they don't charge me for being on, they have to pay the bills somehow, and they do have bills. So it's a trade-off. Beats the Hell out of Myspace, in any event.

8. Wow, look at all the people from all over! Ever have one of those dreams where you have all of these people you've known from various times in your past, all together, talking to you about something like, oh, I don't know, needlepoint? It's where you go "Yeah I had this dream where my sister, my high-school biology teacher, my rabbi from when I was a kid, my college sweetheart, a former boss of mine, and one of my business partners all got together and were advising me on what sort of curtains I should put up in the dining room! It was weird!" The one thing about Facebook that really strikes me as cool above all other things is the number of people from so many different areas of my life, all together in one spot, people who don't know each other, and yet are having posted conversations together on some of my statuses! It's bizarre, and yet also thoroughly amazing. I've found so many people from so many times and places in my life (or they've found me), and it's really fantastic. For instance, if anyone had told me that a girl I kind of sort of knew in high school would eventually become a friend of mine on Facebook and would advise, nay demand, that I undergo a colonoscopy, I'd say that person was smoking crack. Hey, I consider myself a "people person", and frankly, I love the fact that I'm in contact with so many people from my past.

9. Who are you and why should I care? One of the biggest advantages of Facebook is that it puts you in contact with people you'd thought you'd never hear from again. One of the biggest drawbacks of Facebook is that it puts you in contact with people you'd thought you'd never hear from again. And yes, this is a counterpoint to #8.

We all have those people in our lives that while we never really disliked, we also never really connected with. But, by virtue of you having gone to school with them, or worked with them, or belonged to the same group as, or, and this one's more often the case than not, you and they are closer friends with a common third person and so you all hung out and accepted each other by default, you end up tripping over them on Facebook.

And really, when those people Friend me, I find myself at a loss. While I can't think of any reason why I should turn down the request, I also can't think of any reason why I shouldn't. But, in the spirit of trying to be nice, and to stay open to the possibility that we could become better friends now than we were in earlier times, I accept. And yes, sometimes we have indeed improved contact, and I like to think I've had a second chance of being friends with some people, a chance I may have passed up the first time around.

10. To me, unfriending people is like a company having rounds of layoffs. So yeah, I think I can honestly say I've never turned down a Friend request, provided I had a reasonably clear idea who the person was (or if they know someone that I know). But, while some people love having 1,575 friends, I actually prefer a smaller group, and have been known to winnow down the ranks from time to time. Hey, if you're reading this and are a Facebook friend of mine, then you've already made it through four rounds of cuts! Woo hoo! Don't you feel all warm and special and loved?

Here's the reasons I've unfriended people:

People who Friend me, so I accept and make multiple attempts at talking with them and they never respond, even though I know for a fact that they've been on repeatedly? You're outta here!

People who Friend me, and subject everyone to an unrelenting barrage of "life sucks" and other complaints, PWMing to the exclusion of anything else? You're outta here!

People who use Facebook as a platform to brag about how wonderful their lives are, and how much they're kids are super-geniuses and so superior, and furthermore we've never had any real decent conversations of any sort? You're outta here!

People who Friend me even though my connections with them have been tenuous at best, and we never really talk, and there seems to be no common ground? Sorry, but you're outta here!

It's true that I have a bunch of Facebook friends that I don't speak to with anything even vaguely approaching regularity. And there's also people who I've friended who are actually friends of family members or friends of friends, or perhaps are people who share a common interest (and appropriate real-life group participation) with me, who I may not talk to very often, but that's okay too. There's common ground, and the knowledge that eventually, there'll be stuff to talk about.

At this point, I can say that I'm happy with everyone I have on my Friends list, and don't see myself doing any further "winnowing".

11. There still are some weird situations... OK, so you're friends with some people on Facebook. And they're friends with some people that you have unresolved issues with, sometimes up to the point of there being mutual non-speaking terms, people who in fact used to be real life friends with you. That is weird. A friend posts some comment, or link, and you chime in, and this other person who used to be a friend until a falling out, chimes in as well. You know he's there, he knows you're there. But neither talks to the other. It's like being at a party, talking to people in a small group, yet you and two other people in the group are at odds, so you just ignore each other even though you're all standing right there, talking about the same subject to the same people!

That to me is one of Facebook's biggest disadvantages. Before the advent of social networking, if you and someone were at odds with each other, you just stopped talking, and simply avoided each other. You could confidently say that you'd never have to deal with this person again, or have any reminders, or even the most off-handed contact. But watch out! Now there's! Now they're always there!

Happily, there's not too many people that fall in that category for me. And even that small number would dwindle by a couple if only I left Carol or at the very least, turned a blind eye to the fact that a former friend bears an irrational grudge against her and doesn't want to even acknowledge her existence. Yeah, that's all it'd take. Fortunately, I'm not alone in this; all Carol would have to do to get back into contact with this other couple would be to leave me. Again, small potatoes, a trifle really.

So yes, Facebook has the chance to be a little awkward sometimes, especially for people like me who don't like leaving things unresolved, or bearing grudges, or harboring dislikes. Alas, sometimes peace and co-existence comes at too high a price, and you have to put your foot down, make a stand, and in your best Gregory House voice declare, "You're an idiot!"

Another example of Facebook weirdness is those people that you know in real life, most likely have some sort of history with, and who know that you're on Facebook, and vice versa, and yet neither of you have made a move to friend the other. Furthermore, you have little if any contact with them in any other circumstance. It's almost like there's this mutual, unspoken message of "Yeah I know you're there, but I really don't want to be your friend, because when you get right down to it, I really don't like you and/or have much to say to you".

The final example of Facebook awkwardness is the "I thought we were closer friends than this" syndrome. That's where you find out that a friend had a party, and you weren't invited (even though you live less than an hour away, for instance). Or if a friend from out of state visited your area and got together with mutual friends, and you weren't even aware that they were in your area until you read the posts or saw photos on Facebook after the gathering. That's when you go "Hm. Well then. I thought we were better friends than that. Guess not. Thanks, Facebook, for illuminating my path with your online truths!"

So, like many other things in life, Facebook is a mixed blessing. And, like things such as guns, cars, free speech, or stuffed badgers, it's a tool that can be used for good or evil.

Be good...