Wednesday, December 30, 2009

The Official 2009 Post-Christmas Letter!

Dear Friends, Family, Stalkers, and random people who land on my blog after Googling "Why people hate country music,"

Greetings.  As several of you know, this is the first official Post Christmas Letter in two years, since there was no entry for 2008.  That is because 2008 sucked.  I went to a lot of concerts and I went on some cool trips, but I also experienced two major family deaths, got laid off from my job, and was asked to vacate my longtime singles ward, so when late December rolled around, I had no desire to relive all the crapness.  But I'm back now, so relax.

Honestly, even though there haven't been any major family deaths this year, 2009 has largely sucked as well.  Just not quite as much as 2008.  Most of the year has been spent in an existential haze, marveling at the curious chain of events that led me to my current position instead of the future I had so clearly envisioned in 1988: married to Meg Ryan, owner of three Super Bowl rings, fighting crime as a vigilante super-spy on the side.

Here are some of the more notable moments of 2009, organized in convenient month-by-month bullet-point format:

-January: I formally leave the University 32nd Ward to return to the world of traditional family wards, landing in the Bountiful 7th Ward at the end of my street.  Everyone is very kind.  I hate it.  Later in the month I take a quick road trip to Denver, Colorado, where I enjoy a Killers concert with my buddy Fabian, two nannies and Senator Bob Bennett's great nephew.

-February 2009: Thanks to my old KJZZ contacts and my new part-time spot as a Utah Jazz video editor, I shoot a Jazz-Bobcats game from the baseline and put together a game promo that marries Rick Astley to an 18th Century sea battle starring Russell Crowe.

-March 2009: A computer at the gym tells me I have the health of a 43 year old.  I also bought a mop.  March was kind of a slow month.

-April 2009: VCU rejects my application for the Media, Art and Text Ph.D. program, blaming the economy.  A month of daily blog entries fails to increase readership or comment frequency.  Vigilante Super-Spy begins to look like a more reasonable career path than professional writer.

-May 2009: I fire an M-16 at a machine gun range in Kaysville.

-June 2009: After nearly two and a half years of parties, group dates, and Zombie Fests, I vacate the 1200 South house in Bountiful, determined to move on in life...and move about a mile away into West Bountiful.  I also shoot my first wedding.

-July 2009: When my old roommate Brandon decides to get sealed in San Diego, I decide to turn the event into a mega road trip and spend 10 days on the road, swinging down to San Diego through Vegas, cruising up the Pacific Coast Highway to San Francisco, then cutting across I-80 to home.  Definitely one of the highlights of the year.

-August 2009: I realize that making money would be a good way to curb my depleting bank account, and sign on with Salt Lake Community College to teach my first sections of English 1010 in two years.  By the end of the semester I have busted seven students for plagiarism, graded five papers on marijuana legalization, and used clips from "Saturday Night Live," "Raiders of the Lost Ark," and "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre" to illustrate composition principles.  It is good to be back.

-September 2009: I pay a mechanic in Pocatello $400 to fix my alternator on the way to Yellowstone for Labor Day Weekend.  Less than a week later Salt Lake City's answer to Ponch and John bust me for speeding on Beck Street on the way to class.

-October 2009: I play in a band for a bunch of 3rd Graders and their surprisingly animated teachers at a charter school in North Salt Lake, and later, thanks to the inspired nature of my immediate family, I get Giordano's Pizza shipped in for my birthday.

-November 2009: During a co-ed pick-up flag football game in Centerville, I get kicked in the chin to the tune of 11 stitches, leaving me with a substantial scar and the unanswered question of why the majority of my sports-related injuries always take place when I make an extra effort to play defense.  Later that month, a local publisher rejects my memoir manuscript...blaming the economy.

-December 2009: In the middle of another meaningless browse through Facebook, I discover that my third greenie Elder Joshua Clark--who was hit by three cars in the three months we served together in South Chicago--is alive and well and married with five Australia.

...which brings me here: technically employed, sort-of technically dating, living in West Bountiful with a military software programmer and two robots that perform the majority of our housework.  In a sense, it is the zenith of my bachelor existence.

Hope all is well at your end.  Here's to 2010.


Monday, December 28, 2009

Kool Funk

I think I may have posted this several months ago as part of a larger musical entry, but I came across it again last night while browsing through YouTube, and I think it deserves center stage.  A little heat to warm up your week:

I wish I could make this my theme music for whenever I walk in a room. You know, if life were more like the movies and stuff.

Brick-Wall Theory, or "Looking for SSMUB in all the wrong places."

Some people are happy to go through life ignoring the things they don't understand.  Other people analyze the crap out of them...and still don't understand them.

I am one of the latter.

Seventeen years after entering the enigma of the Dating World, I feel about as much in the dark as I did when I started.  I've learned that bringing red roses on the first date is a bad idea, and I've figured out that girls aren't all that impressed when you destroy them at bowling, but that's really about it.  Often I find that the questions turning over in my mind late into the night are the same ones that left me befuddled and clueless at the height of the Grunge Era.

(Hold on...give me a second while I finish filling out my AARP application and stabbing it through my chest repeatedly.) that time I've often tried to make sense of my circumstances, to try to figure out the great mystery that was standing in the way of Ultimate Success.  Of course, the definition of "Ultimate Success" has always been a bit of a moving target.  In 1992, "Ultimate Success" was Meg Ryan.  In 2009, it's more like getting a text response within 24 hours.  The game has changed a lot over the years, and in that time, my analytical efforts have tested a lot of theories, and I've harbored a lot of philosophies...

...and none of them really hold water.

One might.  I call it "Brick-Wall Theory." Actually, it's more of an observation than a theory.  The basic idea is that we all operate on some kind of vast Dating Spectrum, trying to progress though a series of check points ("First Date," "Marriage," "Non-Contractual Making Out," etc.) to advance from one end to the other.  But along the way, we keep getting stopped at our own custom brick wall.

For example: over the years, some of my friends have consistently moved from serious relationship to serious relationship.  Getting a girlfriend or boyfriend was a matter of routine, but there was always a wall between that serious relationship and the next check point: "Engagment."  Others struggled to turn off SportsCenter and actually ask a member of the opposite sex out on a date.  Their brick walls lay between "Fundamental Awareness of the Opposite Sex" and "Verbal Contact."  Still others have made it past the "Engagement" threshold on multiple occasions, yet have never crossed the "Marriage" barrier.  (Keep in mind, "Marriage" is not necessarily the definitive end point of the spectrum.  Just ask Tiger Woods.)

For whatever cosmically comic reason, my brick wall lies somewhere between "First Date" and "Consistent Dating."  There have been several times I have gone on multiple dates with the same girl, and I've endured my fair share of DTR's*, but the majority of my efforts hit the fan well before anything serious gets going, at least in any official capacity.  Sometimes I give the abort code--which gets me accused of being a Serial Dater--and sometimes she does--which gets me accused of chasing "The Wrong Type of Girl." Either way, sometime after the first date with Girl X, one of the following scenarios usually plays out:

1. Josh gets bored and loses interest.
2. Girl X becomes unresponsive to texts, e-mails, voice mails, and/or smoke signals.
3. A national crisis intervenes...then Josh gets bored and loses interest.
4. Josh forces himself to take Girl X out one more time even though deep down he knows he is not interested, subsequently has a miserable time in spite of a fine batch of chile verde from Red Iguana** and an impressive display of European Mormon Folk Art down at the Church Art Museum, and only realizes years later that he should have gone after Girl X's roommate Girl Y instead.

It would be a lot easier to paint myself as a victim if all my efforts over the years had met with universal rejection.  Then I could tell myself I was like Thomas Edison, just puttering away at different combinations until he managed to invent the light bulb.  The trouble is that Thomas Edison never passed on viable filament options because even though the filament had a really great personality, he just didn't want to make out with it.  If marriage was just about finding someone who liked you, we'd all be locked up by 25.  But the real goal is to get married to someone that you like who likes you back, and that makes things a little more complicated.

Like I said, I've seen a number of my friends encounter similar obstacles in their efforts, and even though each of them has eventually overcome their own brick walls, few if any can tell you why or how (though most will feign some sense of enlightened perspective).  Eventually things just work out, and the spaghetti of love sticks to the wall of commitment where it never did before.   Sometimes after years of futility, two people meet at the Halloween Dance and get married before Christmas, and sometimes people just wake up and realize that they've basically been married to their best friend for the last decade, so they officially start dating and happy-happy, joy-joy ensues.

This suggests that success in matters of dating and marriage is largely dependent on the Lord's Timing, and I think that's probably true.  The trouble is that misunderstanding this idea can lead to a certain feeling of futility, that no matter how charming you are or how many sketchy blind dates you accept, nothing is going to work until the timing is right.  This is especially problematic for Mormon males who are responsible for taking the initiative in the whole process, yet always have people telling them asinine things like, "I found what I was looking for once I stopped looking."

As such a Mormon male I've determined that the whole thing comes down to one central question:

"Am I doing what I am supposed to, only waiting for the inevitable intervention of The Lord's Timing to deliver me from Single Person Purgatory, or am I actively doing something to inhibit the delivery of Spiritually Sanctioned Marital Uber-Bliss?"

Until we get over that wall, I'm not sure any of us will really know the answer.


*DTR = Define The Relationship talk.  AKA, "The State of the Union Address," AKA, "What Michael Corleone had with Carlo before he had Clemenza strangle him in the car outside."

**Now available in two fine downtown locations!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Merry Cleesemas

Early this morning, sometime between the moment I reached up to turn off my alarm and the moment where I actually regained consciousness, I dreamed that John Cleese was hanging out in my parents' living room.

I don't remember much of the incident, outside of a couple of minor--yet intriguing--details.  I remember that he wore a single gold hoop earring, kind of like a pirate.  I also remember that at one point he pulled out a copy of the Bible and sang the 8th Psalm.

Yeah, I know...doesn't make sense to me, either.

What does make sense is that the idea of meeting John Cleese has been knocking around in my subconscious.  In the last three years, I have met two of the most important creative muses of my childhood, and if I were to pick a third, it would probably be Cleese.  (With honorable mention going to Dan Aykroyd.) 

I think most of my regular readers are familiar with Cleese, but for those of you who arrived at my blog from Asia after Googling "Mongolian Death Worm," John Cleese was one of the infamous Monty Python boys, the comedy troupe that brought us "Monty Python and the Holy Grail."  They were the Beatles of British Comedy.  He also played Nearly Headless Nick in the Harry Potter movies.  If Ray Bradbury fostered my love of writing and George Lucas fostered my love of film, Cleese did it for comedy.  Heck, I named this blog after a Python sketch.

Actually, maybe his rendition of the 8th Psalm does make sense.  As I think about it, Cleese is partially responsible for one of the fondest memories from growing up in the Bountiful 19th Ward, the wonderful day Rob Nish played the Python TV theme on the organ in Sacrament Meeting. 

So I guess there is a connection after all.  If I ever do get to meet Cleese, I'll have to tell him the story.  I'm sure he'd appreciate it.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Dances With Smurfs: An Irony-Filled Review of James Cameron's "Avatar"

First things first: I didn't come up with the "Dances with Smurfs" joke.  I read it somewhere.  It's just that I can't come up with a more concise way of describing James Cameron's new film, "Avatar."  I sometimes joke that "Gladiator," "Braveheart," and "The Patriot" are all the same film, just set against different historical backdrops and stunt-butts.  "Avatar" is really just a futuristic version of "Dances With Wolves," only with neon blue 10-foot CGI extra-terrestrials.*

For those of you unfamiliar with "Dances With Wolves" or the "Avatar" pre-press, here's a quick summary: Somewhere out in the universe there is this beautiful jungle planet that has generous quantities of some element that humans need to make money.  The planet is inhabited by neon blue skinny 10-foot animated people with big yellow eyes, and in order to convince them that it's OK for us to take that element, we humans infiltrate their culture by piloting skinny neon blue 10-foot clones with our brains.  Kind of like "V," only in reverse, and without the "by the way, we also plan to harvest your people for food" subplot.

Anyway, one of these clone pilots--the guy from "Terminator: Salvation" who thinks he's human but is really a machine (insert irony)--starts getting sympathetic to the native population, partially because his clone body lets him experience walking again--he'd lost his legs in some accident connected to his prior military service--and partially because he thinks this neon blue animated skinny 10-foot native chick is really hot.  Hijinks and CGI explosions ensue.

As you might imagine, the publicity for "Avatar" is not based in its Imperialistic America is Raping Our Planet and Destroying All Native Culture allegory.  Nope, this is a James Cameron movie ("Aliens," "Titanic," "Piranha Part Two: The Spawning"), thus the hoopla is all about the special effects.  "Avatar" is billed as a game-changing leap in CGI and motion-capture technology that is supposed to reinvent the way movies will be made forever. (This is also ironic, because Cameron uses high-end technology and over-the-top dramatic action violence to send an anti-war, anti-technological message.  Kind of what George Lucas did with the Ewoks.)

I agree and disagree.  The CGI is really incredible, especially when you focus in on the jaw and mouth areas of the animated characters.  They interact pretty seamlessly with the real people, too.  The trouble is, in spite of all the advances, it doesn't look real-real, it just looks like really good animation.  Maybe it's just because the CGI characters are a really obnoxious blue color instead of something a little more "Earthy," but in terms of real-world depth and realism, even though I'm enjoying the movie, I'm still thinking that I'm watching a really advanced cartoon.  Luckily, I'm the kind of gullible twerp who can get sucked into animated and live-action films equally.  It's just that when I'm watching a "Shrek" movie, I know it isn't "real," and when I watch a romantic comedy with Drew Barrymore, I know it is.

(That last bit was a joke, incidentally.)

To me, the most effective integration of CGI and live-action is still the "Lord of the Rings" trilogy, which is--wait for it--also ironic, because the same people who did "LoTR" also did "Avatar."  In the Tolkein movies, the CGI was subordinate to the live action sets, both in the visual and the narrative, and I think it worked better for that reason.  In "Avatar," (and the "Star Wars" prequels, incidentally) the live-action is subordinate to the CGI, hence the final product leans more towards the animated end of the spectrum.  Both results are entertaining, but only the former feels gritty and "real."

What I actually enjoyed most about "Avatar" was noting all the visual cues and themes from Cameron's past movies: the lumbering machinery and buzz-cut roughneck military characters, the scenes when people sit around peacefully and gaze in wonder at something shiny that floats in the air, the bit where the clone pilot sketches the 10-foot blue chick naked.


Really, I don't mean to bash on the film.  I enjoyed "Avatar."  I just think that CGI still looks like CGI.  Still, it's nice to get a hopeful message about human brotherhood and cultural identity without having to look at Kevin Costner's butt.


*I say "extra-terrestrials" instead of "aliens," because since "Avatar" takes place on another planet--a planet us angry humans are invading--we would technically be the aliens.

Friday, December 18, 2009

The Tiger Thing

I've been debating whether to weigh in on the Tiger Woods thing.  The topic has popped up in a surprising number of discussions with friends and family in recent weeks.  I say surprising, but maybe that's just because I'm a cynic who assumes that fidelity among professional athletes is the exception rather than the rule in our enlightened times.  (Meaning fidelity between the athletes and their spouses, not between the athletes themselves...uh...yeah.  Just thought I should clarify.)

It would be easy to make a bunch of high-handed observations about Tiger and make fun of all my friends who are avid golfers, but who am I to point the finger of moral accusation?  I mean, I shop at Wal Mart.  Plus I eat at Del Taco sometimes.

Anyway, I came across a little something this morning that says pretty much everything that needs to be said.  I found the image below on one of my new favorite blogs, Awkward Family Photos.  It pops up regularly on my little blog roll on the right, and if you haven't looked at it yet, you should do so.  Immediately.  I mean, right now.  You know you have an hour to kill, and's Friday.


Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Solicited Advice

One of my fellow bloggers has put out a general inquiry on behalf of her brother, who is currently serving an LDS mission somewhere out there in the big wide world.  It's kind of rare that I actually get asked to share my mission stories/wisdom, so obviously I have to answer the call:

Name: Josh

Mission: Illinois Chicago

Language: English...basically

My favorite part of serving a mission was: Wandering freely day-to-day in places I would never feel safe visiting as non-missionary, interacting with people and characters I would never approach as a non-missionary.

The hardest part of my mission while I was out in the field was: Dinner appointments. Seriously, it's sad. I was a notoriously picky eater pre-mission.*

I overcame this hardship by: I sucked it up (no pun intended) and ate whatever was put in front of me. I also found that with a little practice, often you can transfer food from your chosen utensil to the back of your throat without letting it touch your tongue. Of course, there is still the issue of choking, but if you make sure to cut your food into small manageable bites beforehand, this shouldn't be a problem. When in doubt, apply generous hot sauce. That way, if you accidentally taste bad food, people will assume you are yakking because you used too much Tobasco.

My one piece of advice to a missionary is: Live in the now. You are doing something that is extremely cool (both in a spiritual and a secular, "I can't believe I am riding my bike through the ghetto and shooting the bull with crack dealers" sense) that you will never be able to experience again. And no, it will not be the same with your wife when you go out as a couple in fifty years.  Plus, life as an RM is not nearly as idyllic as people might have you believe.  Enjoy the opportunity you have to focus on a single worthwhile subject (helping people find meaningful happiness in this life and the next) instead of worrying about a whole lot of irrelevant rubbish (the outcome of "American Idol").

*Offended parties can direct all complaints to  Really.  I'm not blowing you off.  It's a real address.

Mosquito Vision

Imaginary Interviewer Person: So I hear you're starting up a new blog.

The Professor: Yeah.  It's going to be a photo blog.  I call it "Mosquito Vision."

IIP: A photo blog?

The Professor: Yep.  I'll mostly use it to display my recent work, but I'll also be able to include funny captions to create clever photo essays and stuff.  I want it to be more than just a gallery.

IIP: So it's going to have a specific theme, instead of wandering aimlessly from topic to topic like some blogs I know?

The Professor: Yeah.

IIP: Didn't you already try that?

The Professor: Kind of.

IIP: What happened to those blogs?

The Professor: Well, they're still out there.  Technically.

IIP: So why is this new one going to work when the others didn't?

The Professor: Well, this one is going to be specifically associated with my photo business, so I imagine there will be more consistent opportunity for updates and such.  Plus I can't display all my pictures on my business site, and I want them to get more exposure than just sticking them on my Facebook page, so a photo blog seemed like a nice compromise.

IIP: That's marvelous.  I'm sure you're going to be a striking success.

The Professor: Thank you.

IIP: Really.  I mean, someone as talented and good-looking as you are...well, how could you possibly lose?

The Professor: Are you being sarcastic?

IIP: You tell me.  You're the one trying to pimp a new blog in the third person.

The Professor: True.  Then I guess you're not being sarcastic.

IIP: Whatever.  Anything else you want to tell us about the blog?

The Professor: Well, it's a work in progress, so it will probably evolve a bit over time.  I've been busy with a lot of stuff lately, so it's not exactly where I want it yet, but I figured it was probably best to just get it out there and let it grow organically.

IIP: This isn't just an excuse to put off grading final portfolios, is it?

The Professor: Not entirely.

IIP: You've been posting to this blog a lot more frequently in recent weeks.  Are you just trying to avoid your real-life responsibilities?

The Professor: Yes.

IIP: Maybe you should get back to them, then.  Final thoughts?

The Professor: Go check out the new blog.  Comment.  Be a follower.  Achieve Nirvana.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Welcoming Ron-Ron

The other night I was driving home from a Jazz game with my buddy John when we started debating who was crazier: Dennis Rodman or Ron Artest.  Rodman's NBA career was legendary in the "crazy" department, for his hair alone.  But there was always the suspicion that he was just playing a role for attention.

Now, Artest on the other hand...well, let's just say that if I were a betting man, I'd put my crazy money on the guy who charged into the stands to throw down with drunk Detroit Piston fans.

On to my point...

Turns out that the Lakers' newest boxer-clad shooting guard has a blog.  When I learned this, I immediately added it to my roll, just on the slightest chance that it may feature a quote like this:

(referenced by Basketbawful after a recent game against the Houston Rockets)

"Well what happened was…obviously I didn't know his shoe would come off that's the first thing conservative reporters. I didn't know his shoe was gonna come off. I don't speak to his feet so I don't know what his feet are thinking, I don't know what his toes are thinking, I don't know what he’s thinking. Then his shoe comes off and I'm like okay a shoe is not supposed to be on the basketball court without somebody standing inside of it. So I said alright, I'm just gonna buy me some time. I really didn't know whose shoe it was, but I said it has to be one of the player's shoe. As soon as I toss it off the court, not throw into the stands which some people said, it'll buy me some time. What happens is I come back down, Trevor is trying to put his shoe on and I politely hit a three in his face."

Wow.  If that's any indicator of things to come, then I am thrilled for the future.  Let the good times roll.

The Road to Cleveland

This morning I was lying in bed, trying to find the will to get up and start grading final portfolios, when those cheerful morning people on my radio announced this year's nominees for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.  Pretty much every one of them has made a connection with me over the years, and not just because of their pretty little outfits:

Abba: Of all the nominees, I'm sure Abba will draw the most press, mainly because of the "Mamma Mia" thing. I've never seen "Mamma Mia," but Abba still sparks a fond memory for me. When I returned from my mission to Chicago, I found two unlikely musical genres flourishing: swing and disco. Any time I went to an Institute dance, you could be guaranteed to hear two songs. One was "Jump, Jive an' Wail" by The Brian Setzer Orchestra; the other was "Dancing Queen" by Abba.

The Hollies: Most of my musical upbringing came through the tutelage of my Baby Boomer parents, who underscored our numerous drives around town with a series of oldies stations and mix tapes. One of these mix tapes featured an upbeat number from The Hollies called "Bus Stop." Most music people will remember The Hollies as the British Invasion band that eventually brought Graham Nash into Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young. For me, The Hollies evoke memories of standing at bus stops in the rain sharing umbrellas with random women.

Genesis: With my parents running the tape deck, I didn't get a whole lot of exposure to contemporary music as a child, unless it came on the soundtrack to one of my favorite movies, like "Ghostbusters." (Here's to you, Ray Parker Jr.) My mom had "Thriller" and the Pointer Sisters' "Break Out" albums, but the first contemporary band I discovered on my own was Genesis. I loved the "Invisible Touch" album, especially for the video to "Land of Confusion," which used puppets from one of my favorite TV shows at the time.

The Stooges: I can't remember exactly where I first discovered The Stooges. It may have been during my Rock and Roll History course at the University of Utah (also the course, I might add, where I first considered the idea of teaching college classes). Either way, Iggy Pop's first band represents raw proto-punk at its finest.  Plus they've got one of my favorite band names of all time.

Jimmy Cliff: When it comes to reggae, most people rarely venture beyond Bob Marley's Greatest Hits. That's too bad, because as great as Bob was, Jimmy Cliff really put out some fantastic stuff. To me, he's the Sam Cooke of reggae: a great voice and a really great vibe. Cliff's music covers a classic spectrum, from hopeful optimism to simple romanticism to gut-wrenching, soul-stirring balladry.

*   *   *

Not a bad lineup, I'd say.  Actually, considering the influence my mom has had on my musical tastes over the years, it's only fitting that the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame was built in her hometown.  With the Browns reeling and the Cavaliers enduring constant "LeBron-to-NY" rumors, the people of Cleveland could probably use some of Jimmy Cliff's good vibes about now.

Monday, December 14, 2009

CDIII: Revenge of the White Elephant

In spite of massive traffic and parking headaches, Christmas Date III came off last weekend with nary a hitch. The third episode in the series (spun off a similar concept my ex-roomies up in Logan used to hold) followed a traditional pattern:

1. See the lights at Temple Square.
2. Consume festive dinner at Red Iguana.
3. Drink Hot Chocolate/open White Elephant gifts at my sister and brother-in-law's place.

The cast varies a bit from year to year, but has retained a core membership of the two guys I roomed with in December of '07 during Christmas Date I, plus myself. Since that event, my sister married one of my roommates, and the other one just got engaged two weeks ago, so the whole proceeding is evolving from a single guy group date into a married couple group date.

...not that the metamorphosis is having a staling effect on the photo evidence:



It's going to break my heart if somebody doesn't use at least one of these shots for their Christmas Card.

BONUS RANT: During the Hot Chocolate/White Elephant after party, we were all sitting around listening to a Christmas iPod mix--featuring selections from the Phil Spector Christmas album, of course--when my ex-editor/roommate Mark's girlfriend-turned-fiancee Holly remarked that "Happy Xmas (War is Over)" is the worst Christmas song of all time. I concur that inclusion of the Lennon-penned/Ono-enhanced carol on my Christmas mix comes more out of kitsch than genuine admiration, but my vote for "Worst Christmas Song of All Time" goes to Paul McCartney:

I don't know, maybe Christmas songs are just the Beatles' Achilles Heel. Anyway, "Simply Having a Wonderful Time on My Radio Shack Keyboard" just narrowly beat out Wham's "Last Christmas" for the title.

Feliz Navidad, people.

Friday, December 11, 2009

The Comic Con

Just wrapped up this semester's run of English 1010 classes this week.  As has become tradition over the years, I capped off the experience with an in-class extra credit game, where I mix questions from the course with random questions from popular culture to give my students a chance to scrape together a few last-minute points and hopefully show me that they learned something over the last three months.

Tuesday night, as we were just about to jump into the big event, one of my students raised his hand.

"There aren't going to be any questions about comic books, are there?"

"No," I answered, puzzled.  "Why would you worry about that?"

A short discussion and a raise of hands later, it was revealed that a good portion of my students were under the impression that I was some sort of Comic Book Geek, probably because earlier in the semester I had told them the story of how I drove to San Diego to see Ray Bradbury at Comic-Con 2007.  But I hadn't made so much as a passing reference to anything comic book related before or since.  I had made plenty of pop culture references, and had gone so far as to use clips from "Raiders of the Lost Ark," "Saturday Night Live," and even "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre" to illustrate points in class, but I'd never crossed over into Comic Land.

The brief episode fed fuel into a concept I have been mulling in recent months, an effort to define some kind of a definitive Nerd Spectrum.  I think most of us have embraced some aspect of nerdiness in our time, but endorsement of one category doesn't necessarily presume experience--or even interest--in all of them.  For example, I have waited in line to see a "Star Wars" movie, but I haven't purchased a comic book since I was seven years old.  I wear glasses, but I have never played in a marching band.  I occasionally play Tetris on my cell phone when I'm bored, but I'm so bad at video games that my friend Tyler has been known to force me to play Mario Kart just so he can make fun of me.

I think a true measure of personal nerdiness requires a specific examination of multiple categories, rated individually by depth of participation and weighed against compensatory factors like serious relationships and the number of girls you have kissed.  (Of course, if your only serious relationships come via "Second Life," your Spectrum Score would only increase.)  I have a few ideas about how to break down these categories, but working out the details of such a project will take some time. 

Luckily, as a nerdy guy, I should have plenty of time to do so.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

The Taco Conundrum

Last night on the way home from class I pulled off I-15 at 2600 South and arrived at a moment of decision:

Del Taco or Taco Time?

Rarely has such a minor decision felt so weighted.  On the one hand, Del Taco offered the luxury of economic feasibility, since on Tuesday nights one can purchase three traditional hard shell tacos for a mere 99 cents.  Taco Time tacos, while certainly boasting a higher quality level, come in at $1.25 each.  I would probably opt for six Del Taco tacos and only three at Taco Time, but even with the adjusted quantities I would still be spending more than twice by opting for door #2.

Then there's the Fry Question.  Both venues offer generous portions around the $2.00 range, so the economic matter is a draw.  But while the accordion-style fries at Del Taco have proven to be enticing in recent weeks, they still pale next to the Mexi Fries of Taco Time, not to mention the fond memories of my senior year at Viewmont High School they evoke.  (I spent a lot of high school lunch breaks at the Centerville Taco Time back in the day).

The Mortality Factor is another important item to consider.  While I'm sure Taco Time is just as bad for me, there has always been a lingering feeling that every time I eat at Del Taco, I am reducing my total lifespan by several hours.  Probably more when said tacos are consumed after 10pm.

And what of the Total Value?  Sure, the Del Taco option might cap out around $4.00, but is it better to spend the extra money if the end product is more satisfying?  Or is it better to sacrifice and look to the future with hope for a day when one will no longer need to mull the lesser of two evils?

If I'd been able to follow my original plan, I wouldn't even have been in this spot.  Originally I'd planned on ducking out of the community college well before 9:00pm, in plenty of time to swing by Barbacoa and grab a Burrito Bowl with spicy pork, pinto beans, two scoops of pico de gallo, and a single scoop of the hot sauce, all under the mirage of made-fresh relative healthiness.  But several of my students stayed after class last night, consumed by a last-minute final-day-before-the-last-day-of-class panic that demanded my valued attention, and by the time I pulled out of the Library Square parking lot, Barbacoa was no longer an option.

Instead I found myself in the cold aftermath of one of the season's first major snowstorms, debating which kind of mass-produced pseudo-Mexican fast food would be the best match for a late night viewing of a rented copy of the latest Harry Potter movie.  Not exactly where I expected to be when I dreamed my 12-year-old dreams of Super Bowl championships and mega-mansions, but my lot is my lot.

The day will come that I will set aside my poor nutritional habits, eat healthy food at healthy times of the day, and maybe even get to bed before several late viewings of DVR sitcoms take me into the wee hours of the next morning.

Yesterday was not that day.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

To Decorate, or Not to Decorate...

Last night on the way to the Jazz game, my roommate and I were discussing the issue of whether to decorate for Christmas.  Because, you know, being bachelors and all, we can kind of get away with flying under the radar on such things.

Well, after checking my e-mail this morning, I'm thinking we probably shouldn't bother, cause somebody has us beat big time.  One of my students forwarded me the following picture...

Here is the text that accompanies the photo:

Well, there is good news and bad news about my Christmas decorations this year.
Good news is that I truly out did myself this year with my Christmas decorations. The bad news is that I had to take him down after 2 days. I had more people come screaming up to my house than ever. Great stories. But two things made me take it down. First, the cops advised me that it would cause traffic accidents as they almost wrecked when they drove by. Second, a 55 year old lady grabbed the 75 pound ladder almost killed herself putting it against my house and didn't realize it was fake until she climbed to the top (she was not happy). By the way, she was one of many people who attempted to do that. My yard couldn't take it either. I have more than a few tire tracks where people literally drove up my yard.
Kind of feel like I gave in to the  man by taking him down but my neighbor did confirm to near miss accidents on the busy street next to my house. I think I made him too real this tim.

So it was fun while it lasted!
Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Funny Viral Photo #213A

I posted this random photo I found on the Internets because:

1. It represents the indomitable will of the human spirit.
2. One of my life goals is to crowd surf.
3. It reminds me of this guy in my old student stake who used to spin around in his wheelchair during dances.
4. I think it's so sweet that those kids are helping that handicapped person see the show better.
5. Sometimes dating in your early 30's makes you feel like a geriatric in a mosh pit.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

The Unholy Trinity

As much as I love music, I've always been more of a private dancer.

(Wait, that sounds kind of bad when I see it in print...)

Um, it has been well-documented that I love music, but when it comes to getting down with my bad self, I prefer to do it when I'm not around people I know.

(Yeah...that's even worse.)

OK, how about this: I am a wallflower.  I always hated school dances.  They always seemed like a great idea at the time (the Girl's Choice concept seemed even better), but the reality never quite delivered.  Whether it was a formal dance or a spontaneous victory Stomp in the gym after a big win for the basketball team, my MO was always the same: stand around the perimeter of the event, maintaining consistent conversation with friends and periodically rotating around the gym to create the illusion of involvement.

This reliable routine would be shattered three or four times per event, when the upbeat tones of hip-hop or country swing would fade and the unmistakable opening chords of a slow song would rise above the crowd.  At these moments, my heart would become a train wreck of conflicting emotions: the desire to remain anonymous, the desire to dance with a girl I was into, and the desire to bolt for the door before someone I didn't like pinned me into an awkward five minutes of slow dancing.

Over the years, a number of slow songs gained iconic status for these signature moments.  The strangest was probably "Stairway to Heaven," which I'm convinced local DJ's only played as a joke because they knew that halfway through the epic ballad Jimmy Page would kick in with a nasty guitar solo and leave the gym floundering in confusion.  But of all the classic slow dance tracks, only three can qualify for the Unholy Trinity:

Garth Brooks: "The Dance"

The funny thing about the Unholy Trinity is that I actually like two of the three songs.  As one might imagine, this is the one I don't like.  It's bad enough to have your raging hormones battle it out with your fight or flight instinct while something benign plays overhead.  It's an altogether different experience when Garth's twang is threatening to give you seizures.

U2: "With or Without You"

Of all the iconic anthems written by the band who best represents my generation, this is probably the biggest.  And a good part of that status comes from school dance airtime.  It's hard to think of an opening bass line that is easier to recognize within 1.07 seconds.  Even non-music people recognize it.  The best way to hear this one is to see U2 play it live, cause you get to see Bono drag some hapless girl up on his jogging ramp to give her the ultimate school dance experience.

Alphaville: Forever Young

It would truly take a monster to outdo U2 for the top spot, but I think most would agree that this is the track that would do it.  "Right Here Waiting" may have shone brightly in its time, but Alphaville's signature tune kept right on trucking through the 90's and into the 21st Century.  "Forever Young" has truly risen to school dance immortality.  Its cameo in "Napoleon Dynamite" may have been the most underrated moment of the entire movie.  Unlike most of the bands associated with slow dance anthems, I couldn't name a single other track from this group,* but even if most people only see them as a one-hit wonder, Alphaville's place in music history is secure.**

My angst-ridden conflicted hormones wouldn't have it any other way.


*I know someone who can, though; earlier this semester I asked my students to name their favorite band, and one of them actually tagged these guys.  I laughed out loud.

**My favorite Alphaville story: About four years ago my roommate and I dropped by the Sunnyside Chapel in Salt Lake for our student stake's annual "Music in the Park" activity.  Typically these events are stacked with a series of mellow acoustic acts who don't realize that the subtle passion of their original folk tunes is going to be wasted on a half-interested throng of 300 LDS singles who are more concerned with scoping the crowd for members of the opposite sex, shooting the bull with friends, or grazing fresh fruit from the refreshment table.  But this time a brave soul sauntered out with a portable keyboard and pumped out a solo take on "Forever Young" that would have brought a tear to my eye if I were still capable of crying.  In the wake of his brilliant performance, my roommate--born in the proud class of '75 and a certified child of the 80's--offered his complements:

"That was awesome, man.  Way to rock the Alphaville."

"Thanks, man," replied the musician, "I'm just glad someone recognized it."

"Oh yeah," my roommate nodded.

"I mean," the keyboardist continued, "I was born in '82, but most of these kids were born in like '86, man!"

These are the little hints that tell you it might be time to leave the singles ward.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Max Hall Hates My People

Dear Max,

I'm not much of a college football guy. Didn't go to a lot of games when I was in school up at the U. I was always more of an NFL guy. College ball was nice and all, but I didn't really have much of a passion for it. Didn't have much of a passion for my school, to tell the truth.

Funny thing is, even wilting passions can get worked up when someone's feeling picked on. A persecution complex can be a powerful thing. Just ask Michael Jordan.

I know that you're familiar with the persecution complex, Max. After all, we're both Mormons. Our people got chased out of three different states long before you or I were born. It's pretty much ingrained in us. I feel it whenever I read the Salt Lake Tribune. I feel it whenever the Jazz play the Lakers. Heck, when I was a kid I felt it whenever the 19th Ward played the 53rd Ward in church ball.

There's nothing wrong with feeling persecuted, but how you deal with it says a lot about you. You can't let your complex get the best of you. When you stood up there in front of all those reporters and told everyone how the Ute organization was classless, well, you looked like a jackass. You won the game, Max. That should have been statement enough.

Don't get me wrong, I can understand why you might feel a little persecuted by the University of Utah and its fans. Honestly, I felt kind of bad for you when everyone made fun of all those interceptions you threw last year. And if it's true that some of us poured beer on your folks, that definitely wasn't cool. Nobody blames you for feeling vindicated.  Still, even as a U fan, I don't think all BYU fans are bad any more than I think all Ute fans are good, and I can tell you, you embarrassed a lot of good BYU fans.

I don't know, maybe it was the media's fault. Maybe that's what we get when we stick a microphone in someone's face seconds after the biggest game of their life and ask them to put it all in perspective. That's what was so funny about Jordan. The guy had years to put his career in perspective, and he still came off like a jerk. Maybe with a some time you'll pick up a little more grace. I know I wasn't a bastion of wisdom at your age.

Truth is, I should probably be thanking you. For a second there, you made me proud to be a Ute.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Daydreaming of the Magical Burger Tree

Earlier this week I swung out to the DQ to have lunch with my buddy Randy and his two kids, Max and Olivia (my auxiliary niece and nephew, since Randy has taught them to address me as "Uncle Josh.")

Typically Max's antics take center stage, such as the episode back in September when he spent roughly 95% of a day in Yellowstone National Park staring at the ground, fascinated by the park's curious geology and completely disinterested by the fifty-foot geyser twenty yards away.  But this time, four-year-old Olivia provided the memorable imagery.

My auxiliary niece (who made it quite clear that she prefers to be addressed as a "tough chick" as opposed to a "tough girl" while fastening her own car seat buckle) was about to dig into her DQ hamburger when she paused and stared fascinated at the bun.

"Hey...this hamburger has SEEDS on it..." she said in amazement.

I wasn't sure if this was going to be a good thing or a bad thing.

"...they must be for GROWING HAMBURGERS."

Good thing.  Definitely a good thing.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Potentially Lame Half-Grateful/Half-Griping Official Thanksgiving-Related Post (with links!)

A few thoughts that rolled through my mind as a late meal from Taco Time rolled through my digestive system at 6AM...

-If my dad's side of the family is the Utah Jazz, then losing both my grandparents last year was kind of like Stockton and Malone retiring.  You knew it was going to happen, and you knew that things would never be the same afterwards.  But thanks to a few draft picks and free agent signings (IE, births to my cousins in Oregon, my sister getting married), the team will eventually claw its way back to contention, even if we miss the playoffs for a season or two in the meantime.

-More than ever, I want the real Utah Jazz to win an NBA title, if only because I never want to hear the folks on the radio have to debate whether our state's first major pro sports title is this week's Real Salt Lake MLS triumph or the Utah Stars' ABA title back in 1971.

-It's more important than ever that we find opportunities to laugh at ourselves.  Fortunately, we have the Internets.

-(WARNING: POTENTIALLY SEXIST COMMENT ALERT) I used to think that the most obvious sign of the Apocalypse was a middle-aged woman driving a white Mercedes SUV.  Now I am more inclined to think it is the blond 20-year-old trophy wife driving her only child around in a black Cadillac Escalade.  (And yes, this observation is at least partially based in petulant jealousy...of the wife, not the Escalade.)


-I made a big deal out of getting bumped from my singles ward at the end of last year.  I think the reason I made a big deal out of it was that deep down I knew how socially dependent I had become on the membership, which was not a good thing.  Now, a year later, I think I have officially passed the point where even if invited, I wouldn't go back.  Because that would kind of feel like going back to Prom.

-Leaving the aforementioned ward may have been a shock to the social system, but the aftermath has reinforced the value of my immediate family and longtime friends.  IE, the people I will still know and love ten years from now, as opposed to ten days from now.  Spending less time at ward activities has meant more time with them, and I'd venture to say it's been time well spent.

-I am very grateful to be back teaching again, in spite of the associated hassles.  Still, it might be time to start putting a few more restrictions on student paper topics.  This was never a problem for my first five years of teaching, until one intrepid student decided to write his division/classification paper on the Kama Sutra.  This semester, of 40 persuasive argument papers, a record seven papers have been written on some aspect of drug legalization, including four that specifically advocate the legalization of weed.


Here is an actual comment I made on one of the aforementioned papers:

"To put it simply, if you want to  overcome the stigma attached to pot, you should probably avoid basing half of your evidence on material from a source called 'Half-Baked: a Pot-u-Mentary.'"

-We're only four episodes in, but I am thankful for the return of "V" to prime time television, if only because it serves to remind me that I'm not the only guy out there who can be suckered into supporting a clandestine alien invasion through nothing more than a pretty face and a tailored jumpsuit.

-I'm very grateful for long winding back highways like the PCH in California and Highway's 32 and 34 in Idaho.  There's nothing like getting a little open road perspective at 70mph as the wind whips through your (imaginary) hair and you drive by some of the great back road icons of Blue Highway America.

-Getting laid off from KJZZ cost me some financial security and the chance to get on TV once a week, but in the time since, I've been able to write a book and develop a new career, neither of which would have happened had I still been surviving on four hours of sleep a day.

-Life will always have its frustrations, and I'll always have plenty of reasons to gripe.  But if you understand that life is about agency, and not about justice, the pill is a bit easier to swallow.  Besides, in the end, if you can still relate your existence to a Fine Young Cannibals song, you're probably doing OK.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Burger Wars

The local news has been buzzing in recent months as the long-awaited advances of In-N-Out Burger have begun making their way into the north countries, and yesterday the storied franchise opened its doors in Draper and Orem.   This hoo-ha comes as the pinnacle of a crusade-like invasion of similar burger joints, all based around the concept of a streamlined menu with customizable product.  Five Guys, Tonyburger...same type of deal.

I can't remember the first time I ate at In-N-Out, other than noticing that the fries tasted like actual potatoes.  That was kind of cool, though I'm not a big fan of the "super-skinny, quick to turn into a limp mush" fry concept.  The burgers are pretty good, though nothing I really feel like shouting about. 

I get the feeling the place gets a lot of mileage from long-term market branding.  I was probably in my 20's before I went there, but I'd seen my classmates wearing the T-Shirts since I first set foot in Tolman Elementary School (on the days they weren't wearing TC-surf shirts, that is).  In that sense, In-N-Out is the Cafe Rio of burger chains: decent food, but overrated when you factor in all the hype.  It still falls under Hires and Crown Burger on my local list, and if I'm going to drive 45 minutes to get a hamburger, I'll be driving the Maddox drive-in south of Brigham City.

Now that's a burger...

Thursday, November 19, 2009


Morning, campers.  Today I am making a special guest appearance elsewhere in the vast series of tubes known as the Internet.  My friend Holly, distinguished author of the award-winning blog "if i were really skinny..." asked me to write a guest piece as part of a series on Thanksgiving.  I obliged.

You should check it out, then read some of her posts.  They're quite good; plus Holly has a much more refined sense of style than I do.  If I ever decide to go shopping for clothes again, I will probably ask her advice.

Once you finish browsing her blog, make sure to click the "follow" button on her site so you can officially show your support of quality writer-people.  Then you should come back and click the "follow" button on my site, because chances are you haven't remembered to do that yet (it's just over here on the right).  It's easy, people; fifteen seconds will save you 15% on your car insurance.*


*Not true.  But it will bring good Karma.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Quantifying the Unquantifiable, or "Why I Still Hate Country Music"

The other night I was hanging out with my friend Travis discussing the Great Mysteries of Life.  We talked dating, sports, and debated the merits of The Blue Iguana vs. The Red Iguana.

Then the topic shifted to Country Music.  I don't know how it came up.  It might have been one of my periodic tourettes-like interjections, like, "Yeah, so one time I was at the Jazz game with this girl and--KENNY CHESNEY SUCKS!--eventually she stopped returning my phone calls."

At any rate, I quickly gathered that we were on opposite sides of the fence when it comes to modern Country.  We may both appreciate the sublime performance of BMW automobiles, but when it comes to the car stereo, Brad Paisley is about as welcome in my ears as a rhinestone-covered boot kick to the jimmy.  This may partially explain why Travis has more success with the ladies, though I had always hoped it was his keen fashion sense and laid-back demeanor that was doing the trick.  Because if I'm going to have to embrace country in order to find the woman of my dreams, I'm in for a long nightmare before the dawn.

I tried to explain my reasoning.  I cited a number of the ideas I wrote about some time ago, about false Americana and presumptive purity, the glorification of yokelism and all that.  I told him about how I love old-fashioned country from guys like Johnny Cash and Willie Nelson, and feel like the whole thing went in the can somewhere in the mid-80's, leaving us a rotten watered-down brand of classic rock sung with a twang.

But in spite of all my reasoning, I still couldn't come to a conclusive rationale, and I'm not sure there is one.  As a composition instructor my instincts tell me I have to justify my assertions with reasoned logic, but I wonder if there are certain things that just have to be chalked up under "taste aversions."  There are some things I like (hard shell tacos), and certain things I don't like (reality television), and that's that.  Country sucks.  It just sucks.

The closest thing I can come up with to a definitive reason for hating modern country music is the infamous "Twang," but beyond that, I can't quantify it.  What is the Twang?  I don't really know.  I can't explain it, but I sure know it when I hear it.  I can tell you this: if you took the twang out of the songs I hate, I would probably like them, and if you put it in the songs I love, I would probably hate them.  I think a lot of people are offended by my country-hate because they think I'm rejecting the sincerity or patriotism of the lyrics.  But I don't despise modern country for its lyrics, any more than I hate Mormon Pop for its lyrics.  I hate them both for their execution.

For me, it's like Macaroni and Cheese.  I don't like pasta, and I don't particularly like cheese.  Put them together, and you have a dish that I truly despise.  Can I tell you what it is that I don't like about them?  Kind of, but not really.  Do I feel like I'm missing out on a wonderful slice of life because I refuse to eat Macaroni and Cheese?  Nope.  Do I feel like I'm missing out on a wonderful slice of culture because I refuse to embrace modern country music?  Nope.

My aversion to country is similar to Jerry Seinfeld's aversion to the girl who ate her peas one at a time.  Jerry didn't really care that the girl ate her peas in a peculiar way, he just wasn't into her, and he used the rationale to justify an intangible instinct.  I can come up with all the evidence I want to justify my hatred of country music (and I do mean hatred), but the root truth is I'm just not into it.

Now, does this mean that I'll never go country dancing or show my face at a Rascal Flatts concert?  Not necessarily.  I'm not dumb enough to allow my pop culture convictions to get in the way of my eternal pursuits.  The Code is The Code.  If for some reason I'm destined to ride off into the sunset with a lasso-totin' rodeo mama from Malad, then I'll do what I have to do to keep the peace.  But there's a big difference between tolerance and assimilation.  If that turns out to be the case, I'll be like Tim Robbins in "Shawshank Redemption," confined by physical walls of oppression and persecution while the hope of the human spirit flies free on the inside.

Maybe Garth Brooks could write a song about that.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Death of the Franken-Chin

Got my sutures taken out last week. The Franken-Chin is no more. Now my roommate is going to have to come up with a new nickname for it.



Seems to be healing up nicely, though I guess that means my sympathy window with the ladies is up.  Now the only question is whether I can justify playing in the Turkey Bowl this year.  So where do you think one draws the line between "freak accident" and "God telling you to cut it out?"

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Stat Geek

For someone whose livelihood is based on words, I spend a lot of time stressing about numbers. Maybe it's born of a deep personal insecurity, but I've always been the kind of guy who kept track of his stats.  Sitting here right now I can tell you that I never shot over 50% on my free throws during a season of church ball. I can tell you that the most points I ever scored in a Junior Jazz game is 24, and that my max bench press is probably about 20 pounds less than it was six months ago.

I can also tell you that I've attended 10 LDS temples and dined at 9 Hard Rock Cafes (Call it the "Saint/Sinner Equilibrium"). The first wage I ever earned was 25 cents for every 12 bunches of radishes I picked at a local farm. For years I thought my best mile time was 5:45, until people started casting doubts on the measuring system my Centerville Junior High gym teachers were using in the early 1990's.

I used to keep stats on my dating, too. I know that my first one took place the evening of December 5th, 1992, an unmitigated disaster featuring Spaghetti Factory meatballs, a ceiling-mounted Christmas Tree and a legendary group photo at the State Capitol*. But that one was a girl's choice dance, so my first real date probably took place a week later when I got up the guts to ask a girl out on my own. For a long time I could blast out a complex stat sheet on my total dating career from memory, complete with notations for repeat outings, disqualifications via marriage, and whether I got action at the end of the evening (or just watched the girl sprint for her front door). The precision of those stats has floated into the historical ether, but I can still estimate with some accuracy that since December of 1992, I've taken 200-300 girls out on 300-400 dates. And if you figure I spent an average of $25 on each one--probably a lowball estimate--I've thrown about eight or nine grand at the ladies over the years.**

I think I first started keeping track of my dating stats for the same reason I tracked my Jr. Jazz stats in high school: I felt insecure about my performance, and was searching for some concrete evidence of improvement. Something to point at with pride. If I really wanted to, I could comb back through my journals and get my exact numbers--I haven't missed a daily journal entry since June of 1998--but I don't. Because the bigger those numbers get, and the older I get, the less impressive they become. Now, instead of looking at the totals and thinking, "what a pimp," I look at the totals and think, "what a schmuck." If the goal was to become a player--or a "serial dater," as I have been accused of being--then I have been successful. But that wasn't the goal. The goal was to get married, and thus those stats become a damning measure of futility. Dan Marino's 62,000 passing yards without a Super Bowl win instead of Bill Russell's 11 NBA titles.

My passion for stat-tracking has faded in the last couple of years, as dating has become a different animal. I still talk about it with friends, and obviously I'll even blog about it on occasion. Heck, I even wrote a book on the subject (Still waiting to hear back from the publisher on that one...).  But something feels very different now than it did five or ten years ago. It could be that I've finally matured a bit, or that I just don't care as much. Either way, the Great Mormon Singles Quest doesn't feel the same way it used to, so neither does the impulse to track it.

The first time I noticed this feeling in a tangible way was two February's ago. I was coming off a first date that was an all-timer, and a follow-up that was almost as good. I'd had good dates before, but this campaign truly showed promise and even reciprocation. Then, after wrapping up a broadcast of my morning show, only moments after grabbing some take-out stir fry and jumping in my car, I get a text announcing that my would-be girlfriend is now dating someone else.

I really can't understate this: I thought this one was going to work. The rejection was truly a surprise. There had been plenty of times I had gotten my hopes up, yet known that success was still a long shot.  This one hadn't felt like those.  And yet, I didn't react with anger or sorrow or really anything. I didn't call to plead my case, drive to her apartment to confront her, or immediately call another girl out of spite to convince myself that I was still The Man. Because I'd tried all that before, and none of it made all that much difference. I knew there wasn't much to do besides drive home and enjoy my Teriyaki Grill take-out. Obviously I was disappointed, but I wasn't despondent. If anything, I had become comfortably numb.

I have no idea what that means, but I'm pretty sure you can't put it in stats.


*I should also mention that the unmitigated disaster was mostly my fault.  As in, I probably never should have told my date that I was bored halfway through the proceedings.  Hey, I was a rookie, right?

**It occurs to me that when guys complain about dating, one of the knee-jerk gripes is always the financial investment involved.  I realize it sounds a little shallow and cliche, but there is a certain amplified angst that comes with the realization that not only are you getting your tail whipped regularly in the metaphorical cage fight of the dating game, but that you are paying your opponent to do so.