Nickelback-ing: Why do we hate them so much?

When it comes to pop culture:  music, sports, fashion and movies, there is a question that often gets answered but rarely ever asked.  The question is: “why are some things so easy to hate?”  People have many different reasons for loving or admiring what they do in popular culture.  However, hatred of a pop culture symbol, icon, cinematic display or sports team, is often born of an obvious singular flaw.  Thus, a social chorus slowly grows as this flaw becomes accepted into the pop culture mainstream; making it safer to agree with the “dislikers” than the likers.  Whether the perceived flaw is based upon ridiculousness, success or maybe failure, the flaw is generally the accepted reason for a large part of society to, at least express, how much they hate something.

A few examples of denigrated pop culture include: George Clooney as Batman, any more superhero movies in general, movies starring The Rock, Jar Jar Binks of Star Wars Episode One fame, the New England Patriots, Alabama Football, Justin Bieber, Miley Cirus, people that post many selfies on social media, social media in general, the Macarena, cut-off jean shorts (again), and the Kardashians; to name a few.

There are many more associations in society, whether they be fame related or not, that generally draw an enormous consensus of prejudice and contempt among the masses.  By writing a blog about things easy for society to hate, I understand it will come across as an exercise in pointing out the easily distinguishable; a waste of time at the least.  But I was generally curious enough to delve into the reasons for the undeniable hatred that polarizes the rock band Nickelback.  I mean….I hate them too, don’t I?  I figured I’d find out why rather than regurgitate the standard talking point: They Just Suck!!!

To lend some credence to this blog I decided to do some homework, which will make it more of a “blog report;” even if it’s only myself who reads this.  Doing homework on Nickelback didn’t really excite me, either.  However, as I write this I have digested about a dozen record reviews of their albums, watched a good amount of band interviews, read about the origin of the band and, in perhaps the most astonishing of the tasks, listened to every Nickelback album from start to finish.

Let’s start with the widely accepted variable: most people hate Nickelback. And of those people who hate the band, they will either espouse their dislike for Nickelback straight-forwardly or via sarcasm; insinuating that the band is terrible.  This includes but is not limited to: reposting Nickelback memes on social media platforms and rhetorical phrases such as- “can’t be as bad as Nickelback.”  Nonetheless, eventually one knows, or lets be known, that they are of the ilk whom doesn’t like Nickelback; a stance which is rarely met with peer conflict. Despite what seems like the clear majority falling into the “hate Nickelback” category, they obviously have millions of fans that like them.  We know this based on record and concert ticket sales.  Those fans may even be a majority; befuddled equally by the number of haters hating.

The reasons for disliking Nickelback are, indeed, pretty obvious for those of us who have always existed under that assumption.  They basically epitomize the post-grunge, cheery rock sound, using generic riffs and lyrics that generally leave nothing to be discovered.  Right?  And if we’re being honest, the lyrics hold most of the weight as to why they’re so disliked; their most recognizable singular flaw.   If it were Rob Zombie penning lyrics and singing over some of Nickelback’s riffs, we may not be so “not ok” with the songs.  I say that with some authority now because as I listened my way through Nickelback’s catalog, occasionally I came across songs that can be ok rock songs, if one can overlook the whole lyrics thing.

It’s generally true that a good lyricist draws from experience and emotion.  Or at the very least, he or she tries to mask the lyrics with a certain level of ambiguity, so as to leave some of the fun up to the interpretation of the listener. Countless Nickelback songs, however, are merely about how to drink, what to drink, who they’d like to bang and how, and when it’s ok to get in a fight.  The problem is, despite the less-than-creative lyrics, it’s just not believable. Their image doesn’t fit with bad boy qualities and that is highlighted by the fact that they feel compelled to tell us outright about their partying ways with conspicuous lyricism.

Ironically, the band’s first two albums, Curb and The State, are much different than the albums thereafter.  No doubt Nickelback were influenced by the grunge scene of the early 90’s on these two albums, as they have that unmistakable Seattle, copy-cat alternative sound; complete with mostly one-word song titles. For other examples see: Creed, Seven Mary Three, Days of the New etc. The real irony is that the lyrics were at least a little less lucid in content but much less discernable due to the deep-throated, mumbling style of singing that plagued so many Kurt Cobain rip-offs.

In my opinion, the Nickelback decline into becoming the “cilantro of music,” as they call themselves (either love it or hate it), began just after the third album, Silver Side Up.  This is the album with the song “How You Remind Me,” which was their first, and still perhaps their biggest, hit song.  Their sound began to become more defined riff-wise on this album and Chad Kroeger (singer) went away from the gargling vocal style to a rougher, rock style.  It still resembles the post-grunge sound to a degree but it was certainly the turning point toward becoming more of a rock band and less of a grunge-take-off.

Most of their albums, from this point on, do have some driving and hard rocking songs coupled with some not so bold attempts as ballads.  Unfortunately, the sappier radio hits that sprinkle throughout are what they are defined by.  If we were to pinpoint the exact moment Nickelback became synonymous with putrid, I’d have to suggest it was with the album All The Right Reasons.  This gave us the song “Photograph,” with it’s opening verse asking, “what the hell is on Joey’s head?”  That opening stanza has put Nickelback into a death spiral they may never crawl out of.

I feel compelled to conclude in at least coming to some defense of Nickelback. Why not?  Although I fully understand the relative animus that exists toward the band, after listening to the full catalog and seeing interviews, I have come to find a few bright spots in the dark web that’s been weaved around Chad and the boys.

I’ll start with the guys in the band, themselves.  Watching interviews with them I come to find that they are exactly what we thought they were; which isn’t really bad a thing.  They’re nice, humble men that really like music.  And to boot, they’re not bad musicians.  They do try to front an image as bad boys, which is quite transparent, conceivably to appear worthy of rock star status.  But really, it’s hard to hate the kid that just wants to fit in, isn’t it?  Unlike many of the Rock Gods I grew up admiring, they respectfully answer questions and never come across as arrogant in an interview.  Nerdy maybe, but no real signs of self-importance.

As far as the music goes, I have discovered a few Nickelback songs I’ll be adding to playlists. You read that correctly.  Like I’d mentioned earlier, some songs are good and have a cool and edgy groove to them.  And not all the lyrics are lousy, just a lot of them.  It’s not a crime to be a rock and roll party band and write music in that spirit.  I grew up in the 80’s and I certainly listen to that era’s glam rock with childlike fervor still.  However, if that’s going to be the content, it’s better to sound like you’re part of the party and having fun rather than that person at the party telling everyone how much fun you’re having.  Unfortunately, the latter is often how Nickelback comes across lyrically.

I don’t think they’ll ever buck the trend that has seen them slowly become a bit of a punchline to many music fans.  And that’s not the fault of the music fans.  But I think if a listener can accept what it is that Nickelback are, instead of comparing them to Aerosmith or Foo Fighters, they can be worthy of some listens.  If there’s one thing I can’t be accused of it’s music snobbery.  I certainly don’t mind a small amount of cheese in my music.  I can get over it.  What bothers me more are artists who think what they’ve created is worthy of everyone’s praise.  Good music is in the ear of the beholder; there is no doubt.  And criticism is fair game as well.  But I’m not so sure Nickelback deserves rock’s citation as the “cilantro of music.”  I guess I should have seen this conclusion coming however…..because I really like cilantro.  My next blog I’ll seek to answer the question that appears as unbelievable as being apathetic toward Nickelback: “Are there really people who hate cilantro?”


Boxing up dinner

I used to love the sport of boxing.  Even before my time, the history of boxing was filled with big names and marquee match-ups.  I don’t need to list the names or match-ups but there is no doubt that it was a sport with much drama, flair and excitement. Good fights used to happen and they had passionate fans.  And there were actual knockouts, not quick stops by the referee when the fight becomes an actual fight.  But for the last 20 years or so, boxing has had very few great fighters and even fewer match-ups worthy of a pay-per-view audience.  It’s become more about the money and less about the fight. Unfortunately boxing now more resembles an elegant dinner party, where there’s a lot of money thrown around and very little excitement.  In a lot of ways, politics has taken a route very similar to boxing.

For years now…check that…for decades, conservative voters, like me, have been perplexed, puzzled, and frankly, pissed off at the lack of political punch by Republican elected officials and their dinner party pals (a.k.a the establishment).  For as long as I can remember, and my political cognizance started in 1992, the elected right and the elitist right have been cowering away from real rhetorical sparring with their leftist counterparts, save for very few who have.

What this has done is allowed the very powerful media on the left to control the political narrative when it comes to political talk, ideas or scandal.  Now, enter the heaviest “right-handed” hitter in some time, Donald Trump, and predictably those who have stood in the ring for us on the right are now afraid to admit what he’s doing is quite effective; he’s actually punching back.

Before my digits meander down the keyboard road in complete defense of Donald Trump, I must admit that not only did I not think he’d get the nomination, I wasn’t a huge fan of his lack of political style or his oral blunders (which I now might call courageous, even if not intended as such).  I allowed myself to be directed by the usual crowd of self-ascribed cerebral political thinkers on the right.  These are the “large vocabulary but small knowledge of real-world” people on my side of the isle. They were distracting my instincts to stand up and applaud Trump for not only not parsing his words through a politically correct strainer, but for not apologizing for calling out the media, the liberals and the hierarchy of conservatives (the ones that think they know best what works for people they know the least about).

I must also admit that I think Trump could have benefited from, and could probably still, shaping his rhetoric to be less flaky sounding and more pronounced with his denouncement of ridiculous Democrat solutions; but I’d say he should certainly keep his sarcasm and iron chin.  What Trump has been able to prove is that if only the Republicans would have fought back at the outlandish, hypocritical nonsense that they were often labeled as having said, wrote or had once thought about, they would be in a much more mainstream and unbeatable position politically. But when faced with any kind of adversity, Republicans always went back to their corner and ceded that round to the left.

Look no further in the past than the candidacy of Mitt Romney.  The left successfully exploited very small and out-of-context utterances on his part about “liking to fire people” and the infamous “47 percent” of people who would vote Democrat because of a dependence on government.  Unfortunately, neither Romney himself nor his dinner party Republicans thought to maybe double down on that because, well, why not?  Yes, fire people that aren’t good at their jobs and admit what even most left-leaning people know in their heart of hearts: there are too many people dependent upon the public dispensing of money.

What the dinner party folks failed to realize is that while they find machismo in telling the waiter to take back a dinner that’s not to their liking, the people eating most of their meals at home want someone to step up and defend their paychecks.  There is simply no reason to have 47 million people on food stamps.  None at all.  That money is free to people who purposely live a life under an inflated threshold of what the dinner party folks call “poverty.”  (It’s so nice to feel sorry for those who cannot spend $1000 on a dinner….at any time).

There is no doubt that Trump has been taken completely out of context often.  And to be sure, he has at times set himself up to be.  However, the issues need not be pussy-footed around.  Everyone knows there is a problem with immigration, for example, but they’re afraid as hell to say it.  Because by saying it they are immediately thrust into the category of hating browner people, or people with less opportunity.

Most people are good people and don’t want to be labeled as elitist themselves, and by agreeing that immigration needs to be addressed, they’re labeled.  Thus immigration is an impossible subject, until now.  Trump has not only addressed it, but done so in a way that is uncomfortable.  And I don’t mean that he’s racist, as the media has tried to portray him, I’m simply referring to his tone and his boldness in not wanting to address it with white gloves on; rather with boxing gloves…as it should be.

I’m not so naïve, however, that I don’t understand the initial uncomfortable feeling some on the right had or have with Trump.  I was there. And I understand why those on the left, on the working left, might be led to think that Trump is some kind of radical, racist buffoon; he’s been successfully labeled as such.  The difference for most conservatives this time around is that the buffoon is not only not afraid to address really touchy issues with a sledgehammer, he’s unwilling to apologize for things he ought not apologize for.

As well, I know why the conservative brain-powers are jumping like grasshoppers onto the wagon that allows only Trump haters to ride. They don’t like Trump’s simplicity and are frustrated that he doesn’t care to capitulate to liberal emotional finger pointing.  Thus they jump on board with the overreaction to out-of-context (and some in context) quotes the media takes from him.   They’ve spent all of their political energy trying to out-intellectual liberals into understanding why conservative politics makes more sense.

But the secret is that you can’t.  Liberalism isn’t based on result oriented logic as much as it is in image-oriented effort.  In other words, liberal politicians use the resources produced by a few to outsource their appearance of do-gooder.  They don’t really care that Obamacare is a complete failure, the fact is the merit is in the act of acting noble; again with other people’s money.   So there is no arguing logic with them, they’ll use emotion to shut down conservatives every time; and until Reagan and now maybe Trump, it doesn’t work as planned.

For Donald Trump, saying things a little off-the-cuff and not so politically correct does not make him an incompetent candidate. Obama had very little political experience and zero capitalist market experience.   In fact Trump’s Trumpisms makes him a darling among mainstream conservatives who for too long have seen candidates like Packwood, Lott, McCain, Romney, and Bush, to name a few, go down in flames over similar issues or utterances that have been glossed over by the media from people like Bird, Clinton, Biden and Reid on the left.

As conservatives we want to hold our candidates to a high standard, I get that, but some of the things that our folks have been crucified for fall far short of an out-and-out scandal; certainly not worthy of the hype the media gives it which ultimately ends in the shaming of the candidate.  So as Trump says some things that make the squeamish look away, the way some might a blood-drawing right hook in boxing, some of us conservatives are saying “it’s about damn time!”

It’s that time; the time when conservatives bring a glove wielding boxer to the dinner party.  We want a candidate that will be bold and get away with it. We need a candidate that can “stick and move,” instead of being jabbed or laughed at to the point of political annihilation for no other reason than they allow themselves to be.  It’s time that real change came into the world of politics.  Change that hearkens back to a time when passionate people got into politics, not just the over-educated crowd that looks at politics as yet another intellectual badge.

Politics used to be a heavy-hitters game until former lawyers and social workers started becoming congressmen and presidents.  Real passionate people fight, they don’t compromise and then duck and run. We’ve seen the political landscape turn into a giver’s game with the end result being reelection and not results.

It absolutely took Obama’s administration to bring about the “hope and change” we all knew needed to happen. It’s just ironic that the realization of such has become apparent only after a very typical politician-like presidency we have now with this president.  Win or lose for Trump, the Republican elites and the squeamish, intellectual right-wingers should learn what it looks like to fight back. It’s a much better tactic when the left hits us hard with phantom punches.

Why I may actually vote Trump….

I have to admit, the Donald Trump candidacy for president has forced a very dynamic opinion of this prospect for me. Initially, I was like many, both left and right, who thought Trump was doing a very Trump-like thing to garner some attention, ratings, eventual television appearances and frankly to suffice a rich man’s ego by running for president. And his initial “rise” in the polls wasn’t really a big surprise; I remember Herman Cain made us believe that governing could be as easy as making pizza just a few short years ago. But to be honest, simplifying the government is a wonderful prospect and noble effort; it’s just that Cain wasn’t the man to do it. He didn’t have what I’m beginning to see Trump might actually have; that is actual tenacity when dealing with liberals. Not to mention the myriad of reasons I’d vote for Trump if only to watch liberals pull out as much hair as us conservatives have the past seven years. Nonetheless, here’s a few reasons liberals hate him…in other words…reasons to vote Trump:

1. The Liberals think he’s a racist and he’s not. Trump is and can be accused of being a lot of things, but I’m certain that racist is not one of them. A brash man, a man who likes to be sucked up to, but he’s not a racist man. Yet liberals and their media mouthpieces will latch on to this notion of racism because they refuse to speak in terms that are logical; lest they be scared of offending. To say that there is a problem with illegal Mexicans and Hispanics in general crossing the southern border, and to further the notion that some who will are not doing so with wonderful intent, is a pretty logical observation. To point out that blacks are not killed by white police officers in epidemic proportion but rather the bigger problem to solve is black on black crime, is also fairly pragmatic. To shed light on the fact that certain factions of Muslims, even some right here in America, have murderous intent and should be watched, is very practical. It’s just that liberals only speak in poetic terms as white Democrats hide behind the appearance of nobility and hand out government subsidies to shield what is the more appalling position; keeping poor folks believing they have no chance but through government and that only politicians have the knowledge to tell us what is right and what is wrong.

2. The Liberals think he hates women. Look, he doesn’t hate women. Bill Clinton hates women. I actually think Trump loves women, as witnessed by his model wives and girlfriends of past (That’s sarcasm). Unlike Clinton, he’s not been accused of rape and sexual assault. Trump is a sarcastic man who only really dislikes Rosie O’Donnell. And that I will not hold against him.

3. The Liberals don’t like that he stands up to the media. For eons, Republican voters have been frustrated by the lack of spine that is shown by Republican candidates and office holders. This angst, from what I gather, dates back much further than my own era of political cognizance. The exception being the great Ronald Reagan of course. But time and again, Republicans back down from liberal pressure because they’re afraid of what they will be branded. The ability to escape life altering scrutiny by Democrat politicians and liberal media figures, when they themselves utter the most offensive rhetoric, has baffled almost everyone who pays attention. Harry Reid, Democrat Nevada, invokes the term “negro dialect” when speaking of the candidate for president, Barak Obama, and he’s still in office and leader of the Dems in the Senate. A number of years ago, Republican Senator Trent Lott spoke in vague terms about “problems” that may not exist if Strom Thurmond, a former Dixiecrat candidate, were elected in 1949. A simple utterance of nice words to a very old, retiring Southern politician, with no direct mention of his recanted stance on Civil Rights; and yet Lott is forced to quit the Senate because his words got misconstrued intentionally.

The double standard over the years has been palpable. Trump has now come in and laid a blueprint for how to disregard the liberal media, the Democrats and even his “fellow” Republicans for saying things that need to be said. And for defending himself when he’s attacked for things he says. He’s been nowhere near as controversial as Democrat politicians have with their sly racist actions and remarks, and yet he’s being branded a racist, homophobe, chauvinist and a “fake” Republican. To see candidates like Jeb Bush, the ultimate “establishment” Republican, trying to take down Trump is laughable. The appearance of nobility by means of government assistance has given Democrat politicians a shield around their verbal shortcomings. And Republicans have always been scared to point this out. Trump is simply stating what’s obvious, even though his sentences can sometimes be easily contorted by those whose existence is based on how much of other people’s money they can either give away or suck up. Myself, I love what he’s done to both the liberal media and the Democrats. The hope would be other Republicans follow the lead and don’t back down when speaking hard truths.

Trump understands better than almost any politician, Republican or Democrat, that people are capable of becoming successful on their own. Though perhaps not to the level of hotel ownership, but people can become successful enough not to depend on someone else for the basics in life. He doesn’t believe in the hyperbole of political correctness nor does he subscribe to the belief that people cannot do for themselves. And when he sees what all of us plainly see, though some too scared to verbalize, he says it; albeit sometimes in not the most elegant way. But I, for one, won’t dock him any points for a lack of elegance, for it’s walking on eggshells which is what the Republicans have been doing for so long.

Trump has a simple message. He’s not a politician and he’s not a bureaucrat. Though we’ve seen this ride before, most recently with the aforementioned Herman Cain, Trump is different. Cain , as the former CEO of Godfather’s Pizza, made some economic sense as he simplified government procedure down to the art of making pizza. What he lacked was his ability to tell those in the media where they can go when they question his ideas and ridicule his person because they believe only academic elites can comprehend the People’s Government; not every day, successful, Americans. Even Ross Perot, who was the ultimate “outsider,” oozed logic when talking about simplifying government, but he too fell prey to being branded by the media. Too bad it didn’t happen earlier, before he was a viable candidate, then we would never have had to deal with Clinton.

There is nothing that says experience in “political procedure” is a must when choosing a president. The government has frankly suffered under that notion for far too long now. Service in government is not seen to be as much a privilege anymore as it is a “burden” for those who have walked the path of law school and elections. Most candidates make me feel like we should be thanking them. Trump makes me feel like he’s thanking America for the opportunity to run. I’d like to see what a “non-politician” can do and Trump may or may not be the one to do it.

I’m not so naive that I don’t see who or what Trump is in the eyes of the media. I get it….he’s a “reality t.v.” guy. But he’s arguably more successful than most presidents have been. I also understand he is sometimes too impulsive and brazen. And that does worry me a little when dealing with military strategy and foreign affairs in general. But juxtaposed to Obama’s arrogance and aloofness, Trump will look more like the type of President the United States ought to have. I may not ultimately vote for him, but I certainly would.

Too Deep For (a) Fall

When one looks at a calendar the starting point is January and the end is….well, December. “No Shit,” you no doubt just thought… The New Year begins on January 1st and for some people it’s the time to start fresh; the time for new beginnings. That’s an easy and widely accepted custom that began sometime before I was in existence and will undoubtedly continue long after all of our existences. On January 1 it’s been tradition that we assume the year has abruptly ended and the New Year is in its infancy. But it is this time of year, when the sun is perched a little lower in the sky, the shadows a little longer on the ground, the weather is still nice though changing and the leaves are still around though noticeably fewer, that should be the most reflective on the past year. At least it is to me, and since I’m doing the writing, let me say why….

Fall, or Autumn to the more gifted linguists, brings with it a sense of “out with the old and in with the dreary.” We know what lies ahead from here. It’s going to get progressively colder and more bland looking, scenically speaking. By comparison, winter is far less conducive to being outside in most places; thus less exciting. (I don’t live in Florida). Fall feels more like the year is ending and we are headed toward completion. It’s this time of year when I tend to reside in a more meditative state of rumination. In my opinion it’s the best time of the year because it leaves us wanting more but deep down inside we know we have to appreciate where we’ve just been. Sounds pretty over-thought for some dude who finds football as often as I do such contemplation in September, doesn’t it? But let’s use a musical anecdote to find my point and see if I’m just bored or not….

Take for instance a really great song, one that is anthem like in its structure, chorus and notoriety. If it starts out with a great hook or guitar riff, that is like its January; where there’s initial excitement about the prospect of a new year, or in this case, hearing a gnarly song. As is usually the case, the song then hits the first verse and doesn’t usually give us that “pop” again until that all too familiar chorus begins for the first time. That’s those first few days of spring, in our song. Then another verse is like the inevitable return of April showers before the next chorus…and that’s summer! From the second chorus through to the guitar solo, the anthem lover is in full sing-along mode and loving the song; such as we do with summer right about July.

Now we get to the part of the song that I’d argue is the most important, whether or not you the reader thinks so. It gets overlooked but arguably it’s when the most fervor comes out. Sometimes there’s a slight bridge to get us there, musically, but it’s coming…. It’s the first chorus out of the bridge, solo, breakdown of a song that we realize the end of the song is near but we don’t want this feeling to end. This is when the crowd erupts the loudest (if there is indeed a crowd singing along). Envision yourself at a bar with a hundred people and they’re all stinking drunk. The song “Living On A Prayer” comes on by Bon Jovi, and of course everyone knows the lyrics. It’s the “ohhhhhh we’re halfway there…” coming out of the solo that brings on the most goose bumps. That’s Fall, though we’re now more than halfway there, calendar-wise.

When the sun perches low, we should be the most high. We’ve just made it through and awesome year and it’s time to reflect on the great times and begin the fade out. As the leaves fall, the song of this past year is slowly getting softer. This time of year is my personal “final chorus.” I love the feeling it gives me, both as a moment of reflection and being thankful for the great times just had. Now I must admit, this random thought was brought on by the shuffle mix on my IPod as I drove down a sunny but shadowy street today. Pure chance, not fate….Yes, Living On A Prayer came on. And as often is the case, when two things merge my brain, I get overly introspective; to the point of oddball connections by way of thought consolidation. But you should know that the next song was “Hit The Lights” by Metallica, which starts with what sounds like an outro. It messes the whole calendar idea to shreds. The song is fast and heavy and away flew my retrospection and deep thoughts; replaced by an aggressive look toward winter and a mindset that screamed “bring on that dreary winter you motherf**ker!”

God is foxy

I recently read an article about a Republican presidential candidate, one of the many who have entered, and to be sure, among the many still to come. It’s going to be that kind of election…conservatism will be popular and everyone on the right is anxious to vote; myself included. The article, written by a conservative woman (who I think is pretty foxy), was about Mike Huckabee. It was more or less a commentary on his qualifications and his likability among the field of candidates. But, in the article she referenced something that, though not completely surprising, made me a little upset.

Now I must admit, the reason it made me upset has everything to do with my perception. That is to say, I want my foxy, conservative women to think like I do. Thus, when she saw fit to mention that this candidate is unlike her by way of his spirituality, her foxiness receded a bit. In essence, Huckabee is a devoted Christian and she is a non-believer. I know there are many non-believers out there and I don’t get too uptight about it. I am not a denominational cheerleader either. In my opinion, however, to publicly deny the plausibility of creationism, in an otherwise intellectual journal piece no less, makes someone look like they’re trying to be smarter than they actually are.

Here’s where I’ll turn the corner and make my case. I know that for many people the idea of a God or a Creator is becoming less and less a reasonable argument. The reason, I think, is because we humans, in general, are beginning to think we are smarter than we actually are. In other words, when it comes to God, we tend to over-think it.

The human being is capable of some pretty amazing things. We can build large buildings that don’t fall over, very large jets that fly through the air and small devices called “smartphones” that can do hundreds of tasks that used to require a warehouse full of equipment. I think we are beginning to look at human achievement as a way to throw ourselves on top of a pedestal while ignoring the essence of the human experience; which resides in the most complex of all machines, us. We are beginning to believe we’ve become better than any Creator.

I understand that science wants to use the model of Earth to define the existence of life, but if one is logical, the probability of a perfect planet, capable of sustaining life and descended from a large explosion, should in itself seem….too scientifically improbable. Thus, when people espouse publicly that God does not exist, or cannot exist because science says He can’t, it makes them look too narcissistic; and in her case, less foxy.

Do I have the answers? No I do not. And I don’t know why dinosaurs existed, but I know that if I can make my kids believe in the Tooth Fairy, God can explain dinosaurs to me later. I’m not a “verbatim” Bible believer, as evidenced by my not having gouged an eye out when foxy women cause me to sin internally. I think that God is something different to every person that understands the human specialness. My interpretation of Christianity is just that:God is not the same to all persons. As I observe human behavior, I think that is true. But the larger argument is whether there could indeed be specialness to this planet and to human existence.

For those who claim to be non-believers, and especially those who want the rest of us to know that, I think they struggle with justification of the heartache that accompanies human life. “How could a God be wonderful and allow such tragedy?” Science removes blame and places the seemingly unexplainable in the hands of galactic collusion. They are looking at it from a surface standpoint and trying to make sense of it from eye-level. I believe they want to believe in the specialness of humans and in a “reason” for their lives, but they can’t get past the discrepancy of life on Earth. Hence, many will vocalize their disbelief as a means to create self-importance in a world which they cannot explain.

I’m a conservative, but my politics do not guide my spirituality; or vice-versa. I like to believe I look at things logically, which in my life has helped me gravitate to the theoretical confines of conservatism. I really enjoy this lady both as a writer and a commentator. Intelligent, conservative women are foxy….unless they publicly denounce the plausibility of God. Then they become un-foxy; but I still like them.

Finding Joy In Repetition

‘Tis the season, after the seasons, in which life has a tendency to mask any anticipation or excitement with the veil of redundancy because the hype of the holidays has passed and life is work until that first warm spring day. The waning days of winter offer little titillation as the cold air sticks around, the trees become completely bare, and winter seems endless. As a result, the other day I was struck with a sense of repetitiveness and, frankly, disinterest as I drove to work-again-on a sunless and leafless morning. Yes, it was another day at work, the same as the last and the same, no doubt, as the next. But then…something happened.

In the midst of anti-climactic wallowing I remembered a cell phone video that was taken on Christmas morning of my four year-old which captured an excitement that can only be categorized as heavenly. I couldn’t remember if I’d saved it or not, so I thought to myself that I ought to check on that first thing when I get to work; and then I kept driving.

It was cold and foggy and I was thinking that only trolls and really hairy animals ought to be out in this weather. Of course, my job being what it is meant that I’d need to fit into one of those categories before long. Sad to say I’d shaved that morning so hairy was not going to work. But perhaps my downtrodden attitude about the monotony of the next few months, coupled with almost no desire to strive for anything but survival based on rote memory, justified my being but a troll that day.

I was getting caught up in a “woe is me” that morning because I get bored easily if I don’t feel like I’m being stimulated. I’m a pretty simple person but I need to know that my actions, my work, and my life have focus and purpose otherwise it can be no fun to “troll” through the day, wondering what better things I could be doing than my obligations. Why go to work if work is boring? Why do I get up every morning and do virtually the same thing if the same thing is not over-the-top exciting? Why make just enough money to get by?

I know that one might be thinking that the nearest eight-story building was where I was headed that day, but alas…we can complain internally without contemplating the darkest of endings. In truth, I was just having one of those days when the world seemed like a boring, repetitious ball of obligatory duties; and I’d just spent a small fortune on Christmas so the obligation of work was not going to escape me anytime soon. Wait…Christmas. That’s right, there’s the matter of that video.

When I pulled up to work, again, I parked in, of course, the usual spot. I strode into the building, as I always do, and gathered my things I’d need for the day. I got to my office (work vehicle) and I sat in my usual seat (the driver’s seat). I pulled out my phone and I shuffled through the pictures and videos until I found the one I’d been thinking of. Then I played it again; a monotony, unbeknownst to me, that would become a troll’s undoing.

The video starts out really dark and one can only hear voices as my son and daughter make their way down the hall to check to see if Saint Nick had come. Upon reaching the living room, my son does indeed notice that Santa had been there and he says a few “wow’s!” My 18-month old daughter notices that Santa didn’t eat all the cookies. My son scans around more and the video gets progressively brighter. Just about the time you can make out his small frame he notices the one thing that he really, really wanted….he got. He shouts out “yes!” in a manner I’ve not heard from his young chords yet. True elation is the only way to describe it. I cried and then I asked myself some questions. Do I wake up every morning to hear myself complain about redundancy? The answer was “no.” Do I go to work and do the same job everyday to hear myself whine about dull and ceaseless labor? Again, “no.”

I wake up every day, shower, shave, make breakfast, make coffee, get dressed, get the kids dressed, take them to school, go to work, work, get off work, go home, eat dinner, play for a few minutes and then go to bed to start it over again 6 hours later because it allows me to hear my son scream “yes!” Justification for my repetition.

Suicide Solution?

I don’t want to live in a world like this any longer. There is an ever-growing sentiment about society which is causing me great pain; the acceptance of this sentiment by so many is at its root. Perhaps I can cast some blame on myself for clinging to, and taking part in, the verbal clutter and cloaked rhetoric of social media. Too often the things that should be viewed as a human letdown are immortalized by quick snippets made to sound like compassion. I’ve had it. I can’t live like this any longer…

Yes, I’m talking about suicide…but not thinking of killing myself. Instead, it’s quite the opposite. My love of life is what is making me feel so empty when I see the continuous outpouring of sympathy for those who choose to end their lives prematurely. In the magazines, on the television and everywhere on social media there is a sentiment that suicide is an acceptable human choice, the same as any other that affects only the decider. Well, it doesn’t. Even people I wouldn’t know from Adam cause me pain when I read about their decision to kill themselves; exacerbated by others who don’t know them willfully putting out messages of support.

I have known people who have killed themselves and it kills me emotionally to think of the thought process and their mindset on that fateful day. I grieve for them and for their soul. I know depression well and I’ve known those who hurt. There is a mental make-up much different than mine in this world and I won’t ever pretend to understand it. Severe depression or intense physical pains are not things that plague me but that doesn’t mean I can’t hate suicide. I do indeed hate suicide. But what I hate worse is those who take to Twitter or Facebook or to the airwaves to tell the rest of us we don’t understand. We’re human…we understand.

Is suicide a selfish act? Yes it is. But that moniker won’t stop people from killing themselves. I’m not sure anything could if someone is set on doing it. It’s a thought process that everyone has had but only a few can fathom doing. And thankfully only a few of those will ever go through with it. But it should remain a social taboo for those of us who are not going to commit suicide. For the more we come to accept it as a “life decision” the more those who teeter on the brink will come to see it that way as well.

Most recently it was Brittany Maynard that garnered the suicide spotlight; a young woman who was seemingly unjustly made to be terminally ill. She chose to end her life with medical assistance. They call it “death with dignity.” I’m not down with that designation. To be sure, I can’t imagine the heartache, not to mention the pain, this woman went through. It seems patently unfair and cruel that she should be taken away before she could enjoy the rest of her life. I wonder if anger played a part for her and her decision to medically end her life. I know I would be angry. I know she was suffering. I felt so much anguish for this woman. If I had her diagnosis I would be crushed. But I couldn’t kill myself.

Life can be cruel and unfair and we’re not given any explanation as to why. Not even God really explains to us why. The reality is, however, that there is so much good to outweigh the negative. But good is harder to recognize because it feels like the natural state of existence; everyday is mostly good. If one doesn’t believe in the human soul, so be it. But the good is found in the human uniqueness of seemingly unnatural emotion…and it should be recognized; if only to better our lives for what time we do have. In some people’s cases, what precious time.

Before Brittany it was Robin Williams. We were inundated with unsolicited “R.I.P” messages from those who meant well but perpetuated this social acceptance of suicide. Mr. Williams was no hero for ending his life. I enjoyed his professional career as much as anyone, but the decision to kill oneself is cowardly. That may sound harsh and there are those who will say that I just don’t understand. And they’re right…I don’t. Thus I will never find acceptance in calling it a “life decision.”
Everyone, yes everyone, has heartache. Everyone has stress. Everyone, to some degree, deals with depression. The fact that we don’t have answers for the bad times should leave us longing to survive; for what lay on the other side may be made to be worse if ventured into by way of suicide. Suicide cannot continue to garner the sympathy it does socially because people are special. And just because it’s a “personal decision” doesn’t mean we should accept it.

Ms. Murphy was put on the covers of magazines as was Mr. Williams. I suppose in each circumstance there was some newsworthy reason to do so. But for me, I don’t want to live in a world that considers such decisions tragic. In my mind, this type of premeditation is not worthy of being called tragic. My children will inevitably feel the social tides of acceptance and that is certainly not a world I want them living in. I won’t help to maintain this growing sentiment and I will use my voice to stem its growth as best I can. Not because I hate those people who end their lives, but because I love the people who are hurting…but still alive.

I Miss 1955

I miss 1955. I say that as a 41 year old man living in the year 2014. So, if you’re good with math, you’ve figured out I wasn’t alive in 1955. Actually even if you’re terrible at math you still would have figured that one out. I was born almost twenty years after 1955 but from everything I perceive about 1955, I wish I could experience just a taste of life in America then. That’s not to say that I don’t love my iPod, my SUV, craft beer or even the swimsuits of 2014. I do and I can’t much imagine life without them anymore. But there is something about the ideals, the innocence, the accountability and the attitude of 1955 America that summons my eyes to fixate on every old photograph I see; imagining myself walking around and taking in 1955 America.

Ideals, Idealism…Idealists. Is it possible to be at or near perfection with anything? Why, you might ask, does 1955 seem to be my perception of near perfection? The short answer is: because I want it to. It’s an arbitrary date I’ve assigned to crest the greatness of American life; a time when ideals were simpler. Being able to envision my ideals gives me a place to run to in my mind when I experience what I perceive to be a failing or defect of modern day. When, for example, I witness the types of people reality television shows exhibit, I want to zoom to my 1955 when Beaver Cleaver’s boyhood peccadilloes were what constituted zaniness.

Before any internal “yeah, buts…” begin to manifest in your mind, be sure that I’m not naïve to the extent that I do not know what social norms have changed for the better since 1955. The attributes that I assign to my version of 1955 only acknowledge the injustices in passing; meaning if I were to time travel to 1955 I’d be aware of them. But what most intrigues me is not the historical aspects and as much as the perceived ideals of the time. Social norms be what they were, in my 1955 people were friendly and neighborly to all.

I miss the 1955 that’s portrayed on the television programs of the day, knowing full well that’s not necessarily what life was like then. Nonetheless, the ideals that were generally acceptable to be put on t.v. and radio had to be close to the norm by which people perceived themselves. Otherwise I have no doubt the Hollywood elite would have pushed the envelope as far as they possibly could, even in 1955.

That brings me to the point I’m trying to make. 1955 has a different feel in my mind than does 2014. As a father of two I hate that I have to eventually explain to my kids the hopeless absurdity of reality t.v., the preposterous notion of welfare and food stamps and living off of other people’s hard work, the bizarre interactions of parents and children in which one cannot tell who’s trying to be younger, or the smugness of the radio deejay as he or she frolics around the obscene language habitude in an effort to be cool. Dads in 1955 didn’t have to worry about that.

In 1955 I’d get up at 5 o’clock in the morning to get ready for work, slippers next to my bed. The coffee would perk until done and I’d read a little more of the last evening’s newspaper. I’d clean up and get dressed as the kids ate their breakfast mom cooked. To be sure…it would be at the kitchen table. Off to work I’d go…

In 1955 I’d come home from work to kids doing homework, mom happily fixing dinner and the latest evening newspaper. The neighbor might swing by unannounced, because that’s o.k., just to chat about bowling or baseball. After dinner the family and I might stroll down the street to the ice cream shop where people ate ice cream and….talked to the other customers; instead of having one hand on their phone.

Bedtime stories, baseball games, and neighborhood barbeques are as essential as breathing. Customers are not rude to the store clerk and drivers of vehicles would never flip the bird to another driver. Policemen visited schools for workshops and talks instead of being assigned a school to deter would-be student murderers. There were no obscene bumper stickers, panhandlers, run-down houses, hold-ups, beat-downs, moms with 500 tattoos, dads with 30 piercings, music lyrics that degrade, honking horns, or shouting road rage matches.

Idols were moms. Idols were dads. Idols were teachers. Idols were not on American Idol. Idolizing was reserved for those in society who worked hard and proved worthy of idolatry by way of diligence. Children had reasons to respect their parents and parents in turn were blessed with the patience to implant their ideals to willing minds. Neighbors held neighbors to account and people challenged one another to be better. And church, which if nothing else gives humans a consequence, was a social mandate.

No one was in a hurry to get through life. Conversely, no one wanted to waste time on fruitless actions like playing video games or watching reality t.v. Chores were a grace because it meant you were making your life better. It meant your ideals were being kept up. In my 1955, ideals trumped just about anything that didn’t further one’s humanness. Sure, I may becoming outmoded and corny in my 40’s, but darn it…..I miss 1955.

Our Antonymous Failures

Every adjective, noun or otherwise descriptive word has an adversary. In the world of grammar these adversaries are called antonyms. They are the opposite in meaning to the word being used. It’s really unfortunate that some words have such antagonists because that means for every positive word like: happiness…there is a rival whose meaning breaks down the positive nature of the word. Of course on the flip side words like sadness are contested by their own foe that shines light on their otherwise dark meaning. As we journey through life many of us encounter the antonyms of success and they seem to be heavy burdens…or so it seems. But the reality is that the antonym of failure is simply much harder to recognize because we expect more from ourselves than may be humanly possible; not because life has it out for success. The truth is our lives are full of successes with very few failures; we just have to recognize them as such.

For one to recognize their successes it often means being happy with the things in life which seem less like success and more like chores. Fixing up the yard, for instance, on a warm Saturday afternoon is a success. The antonym of a nice yard is one full of weeds and dirt and most likely met with some dirty looks from the neighbors. It takes real perspective to understand that back-breaking yard work, on a warm Saturday when everyone else is out at the lake, is success. One may not have a boat, which is often a social symbol of a degree of success, but taking enjoyment in the fact that the lawn’s edge is sharp can yield the same satisfaction of success through hard work.

When the piles of laundry wane into a few odd socks to match up, that is success. The antonym to cleaned and folded laundry is a bedroom with a path through it and dirty underwear ornamenting the bedroom ornaments. Again, it takes a unique perspective to understand that a bedroom with clean and folded laundry is a great success. It’s easier to label such tasks as chores because we do them over and over again…day in and day out. But if one can see these chores less as…chores, and begin to see them as daily successes, then the antonym to success, we will find, happens much less frequently than does the antonym to failure.

For those with children, their successes are ours. The first steps they take, the first words they say and the first time they understand the meaning of antonyms…those are all successes. Things like: finishing a workout, cooking a meal, washing the car-success, success, success. When we break down our day, we can plainly see that the successes far outnumber the failures. The difference is that the foe to success, due to its relative infrequency, tends to feel much heavier because we don’t always understand that the ratio is much in our favor.

For every small failure there are a thousand small successes to be recognized. However, when we’re told we didn’t get the new job we wanted so badly, it can erase the recent memory bank full of all of our other successes. Or when the meal we cooked for the family gathering gets overdone, the fact that no one raves about the taste may ruin our night. And when one shrub in the yard doesn’t make it through to bloom, we focus on that one failure and forget that 14 other shrubs look amazing. It’s far easier to get upset over one small failure than it is to relish in the countless successes. Ironically, if we measured our daily successes in piles of laundry our inner bedrooms would be brimming with dirty underwear.

Why is it so much easier to remember the failures and forget the successes? I don’t know…that’s a question that may only be answered after we’re gone. But we’re human and for some reason it’s easier. It shouldn’t be, but it is. To be sure though, taking time to change one’s perspective a bit as it pertains to life’s little successes may help us understand that mowing the yard and folding laundry are in fact synonymous with success; and they happen much more often than we think. I myself am often guilty of latching on to the failures and forgetting that, despite not getting everything perfect, life has many more antonyms to failure than it does to success. And on those warm Saturday’s, after the yard work is done, I’ll meet my neighbor out at the lake…on his boat. The neighbor whose yard, if put into words, is the ‘antonymy’ of mine!!