What I Learned This Year

We all know that new years resolutions are basically meaningless. Yeah, sure you’re going to start hitting the gym 3x per week. SURE. And you’re DEFINITELY going to finish all those books you’ve started and pay off your credit card debt. I would say good luck but you probably don’t even need it!

I find it much more insightful to ponder the year that has been and take note of the lessons I have learned. That way you can (maybe) feel like you’ve made some progress as a human rather than lamenting the state of your six pack/bank account. Here are some things I learned in the year 2012:

1. Cruises are terrible/kind of fun/definitely terrible

In May I went on a cheapo 3 day cruise to “Mexico” (I say “Mexico” because the town we went to, “Ensenada” was approximately one hour south of San Diego, and as far as I can tell its only notable trait was its location south of the US border.) and it was, uh, something.

I mean, it was kind of fun to do all the cruise ship stuff you heard about growing up from your slightly wealthier cousins (Karaoke! Late night pizza! Comedians!) but on the realz, it was just OK. I’m guessing more expensive cruises are nicer and have more interesting ports of call, but it’s still going to be a giant boat filled with graduating high school seniors, nearly dead medicare recipients, and super gross hill people all waiting in line for the same mediocre-to-disgusting Mexican buffet.

On a positive note, I was able to purchase some allergy medicine for a VERY reasonable rate while in “Mexico.”

2. If you hate doing something that’s good for you, just do it long enough and you eventually won’t hate it

This year I realized that while I’m cool with riding my bicycle, I HATED running for any distance more than from my mailbox to my front door (and even then, only if it was raining). So, as part of a broader health initiative, I started running almost every night this summer.

And guess what? I HATED it. It was terrible. And then, at some point it became less terrible. To my great surprise I found myself LOOKING FORWARD to my runs. I had slowly become one of “those” people who try to figure out the exact angle of their over-pronating ankles and get super jazzed about running negative splits.

I have tried to apply this principle to things less obnoxious than distance running (weightlifting(?), getting more sleep, reading fiction novels) and I can definitely say that persistence is 90% of the battle when you’re trying to develop new (good) habits.

My next self improvement journey is to finally stop drinking Coke Zero all damn day every day, but I’m totally not addicted or anything JUST GET OFF MY BACK OK I CAN STOP AT ANY TIME.

3. Give up on wearing hats already

I’ve always really liked hats, and for my entire life I was convinced that if I just found the right hat, I could wear it and not look like one of those tragic progeria kids. Well, the cold and uncaring hand of logic has finally gripped my heart and I now accept that I just need to give up on the hat thing.

My head is small. Hats look stupid on dudes with small heads. Genetics have doomed me to a hat-free existence. NEXT LIFE LESSON PLEASE.

4. Learn to cook, dummy

At some point you’ve just got to stop eating PBJs and cereal all the time and learn to cook. It’s not that hard! Actually it’s really easy. All you have to do is follow a few very specific and simple preparation steps that are available for FREE on the internet. You can cook any type of food you want! Seriously! If you are over 25 and still making cold-cut sandwiches and  Doritos for lunch like a 7-year-old you deserve a smack in the head. Learn how to chop vegetables. Buy and use a garlic press. Buy and use various hot sauces. You’re an adult for heaven’s sake.

Also, when you make spaghetti, cook the spaghetti until it’s almost done and then add it to your sauce and let it cook the rest of the way. The first time you do this you’ll feel like an idiot for dumping sauce on watery, overcooked noodles for so many years like a total amateur.

5. The More You Learn, the More You Realize You Don’t Know Anything

This is kind of obvious, but the older I get the more comfortable I am with the amount of crap I don’t know. I accept that I will never be an expert on the cultivation and exportation of cranberries. I will never have a deep and working knowledge of entire fields of science, mathematics and engineering. Oh well.

As it stands, I probably already spend way too much time reading wikipedia for curiosity’s sake, learning just a little bit about a lot of different things—accumulating shallow knowledge just to check a box. Maybe I’ll try to dig a bit deeper into the crap that most interests me, and all the rest of the crap can just chill out for a while, you know?

My Favorite Songs of 2012

Due to a change of employment I have have had a 40 minute commute for the past 8 months. It’s pretty much the absolute worst except for the fact that it gives me time to listen to mass amounts of music. In no particular order, here are some songs that I grew to appreciate this last year:

10. Jason Lytle: Last Problem of the Alps

Jason Lytle makes a very specific kind of mopey melodic pop-rock that seems pretty normal at first listen, maybe even slightly boring. BUT THEN you notice how interesting that weird synth part is, or how orchestral parts will pop in and out of his songs like someone scanning through the AM dial. Then after a while, you can’t stop listening to his albums over and over and you start slowly absorbing all of their sad majestic energy until you write long run on sentences about it.

9. The Wave: Miike Snow

Try to ignore the bizarre and slightly disturbing video (or maybe you’re way into it, in that case go nuts I guess) and just listen to this song. Writing catchy pop music that isn’t the same trendy noises over and over (synth heavy dance-pop lately) is something that not many people do anymore for whatever reason, so major kudes to these Swedish producer weirdos.

8. I’ve Been Loving You Too Long: Otis Redding

I’ve been listening to a lot of Otis Redding lately and I think there’s not a more indelible Otis moment than on this track when he sings “You are TIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIRED and your love is growing cold…” The explosion of “tired” compared to the pathos of the rest of the phrase should be beaten into the head of every singer as proof that you don’t have to be trying to blow the doors off the barn with every word.

That being said, the thing about Otis that I love is that he just totally goes for it. He tried so HARD. In fact, I have this hanging on my wall at work and it provides more inspiration than a thousand photos of people climbing mountain peaks or whatever:

try-harder

7. Wood Ox: Jeff the Brotherhood

Jeff the Brotherhood make such willfully DUMB music that it makes me laugh sometimes. Sample lyric:

I didn’t mean to make you mad

I didn’t mean to make you sad

I heard he’s gonna kill me soon

I need to hide out in your room

HAHAHAHA. I still really like this band because their particular brand of early-Weezer-meets-Motorhead-meets-lazy-stoners is just the thing to listen to on a Tuesday morning when you really need a Coke Zero but are still 20 minutes from your exit.

6. Do it Anyway: Ben Folds Five

It’s pretty weird that Ben Folds Five reunited and recorded a new album this year. I mean, I grew up sort of idolizing this band and I figured since they never made it out of the 90’s that the book was closed (similar sounding Ben Folds solo work notwithstanding).

I was not really even looking forward to the new album, but this song in particular really won me over. When Ben Folds plays with Darren Jesse and Robert Sledge the songs obtain a certain jazzy bounciness that is curiously absent in Ben Fold’s solo stuff, and this song is a good example of that. If you close your eyes when you listen to this, it almost feels like 1998 again.

5. 48 Roses: Mariachi El Bronx

I have a friend that kept telling me about some punk band called The Bronx that decided to start playing Mariachi music and that it was really good, and I was all like, “OK.” And then eventually I listened to it and it was super excellent.

I mean, if someone told me that you could successfully combine punk and mariachi and not have it sound like some kind of offensive Mexican minstrel show then I would have thought just the opposite! But I would have been wrong.

4. Just What I Needed: The Cars

I’m sure I’d heard this song before this year, probably lots of times. I think I saw a band cover this song and I realized how just really, really good it is. I then learned how to play it on the guitar (it’s super easy, FYI) and that thing happened where you gain a weird inside-out understanding of a song due to the fact that you’ve played it a bunch and you like it even more and it becomes your go-to karaoke song.

3. Plumage: Menomena

It’s all about the massive FART of the baritone sax (2:08). I live for that kind of stuff.

2. Soda Popinski: Javelin

Sometimes I get weirdly attached to songs (or things) that while I know are pretty dumb on an intellectual level, they get me right where it matters: in the GUT. This is a stupid little song that mostly just samples an old NES score but it speaks to my gut in unexplainable and possibly immoral ways.

1. Apocalypse Dreams: Tame Impala

AHHHHHHHHHH THIS IS GOOOOOOOD. Usually when I hear music, even really great music, I can at least sort of understand how it was created. You write some chords, come up with a melody and some lyrics and boom; song. Sometimes though, songs are just TOO GOOD, and you can’t even think of how a group of humans sequenced all these sounds in the first place.

Am I saying this song was written by super-advanced musical aliens? Probably.

Probably.

My Favorite Books of 2011

Sometimes I feel like other people read books only so that they can tell people about the books that they read so that they can appear to be one of “those people” who read books.  Maybe that’s exactly what I’m doing with this list! Or not. It’s impossible to tell, really.

5. Cultural Amnesia by Clive James

I didn’t “read” this book so much as “read through” it. It’s basically a collection of short essays on the merit of various artists and intellectuals of western humanism. Cultural Amnesia is the sort of book that makes you feel smart for doing nothing. You can flip through it and instantly get a snapshot of the relative cultural importance of Norman Mailer or Sartre or whatever and then you feel like you knew it all along, but really you are the same old dummy, just an ever-so-slightly better read dummy.

You should read this book if: You have lots of friends with advanced degrees and you want to appear smarter than you really are so you can just leave it on your bookshelf and maybe they’ll see it and be impressed.

4. The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt by Edmund Morris

Theodore Roosevelt is one of my favorite presidents for many reasons. He was a towering  and multi-faceted figure who built himself up from a sickly child of privilege to a swashbuckling pugilist, cow-puncher, fearless infantryman, and frontier lawman. He also housed an intellect that often gets overlooked in the wake of his other achievements. He was a prolific author and once wrote a biography of Oliver Cromwell just to pass the time while on vacation. He made contributions to the fields of taxidermy and ornithology and was one of the first major conservationists. In short, he was fascinating and awesome.

You should read this book if: You have the slightest interest in U.S. history/You want to experience the crushing realization that no matter how much you accomplish in your life, it will pale in comparison to any one year period of the life of Theodore Roosevelt.

3. How the Beatles Destroyed Rock ‘n’ Roll by Elijah Wald

The title of this book is completely misleading, but that doesn’t make it any less provocative. In reality, this book is about the fundamental shift that popular music took in the mid 20th century once recorded music supplanted live performances as the dominant form of music consumption. In short, Wald focuses on music that was actually popular from the 20’s to the mid 70’s and upends some long-held beliefs about the evolution of pop music. It doesn’t have THAT much to do with the Beatles. Anyway, it was good.

You should read this book if: You want to impress people at parties with in-depth knowledge about little-known big band leaders from the 1930’s.

2. Born Standing Up by Steve Martin

Steve Martin is a lot of things nowadays. Banjo guy. Playwright. Mediocre family comedy film impresario. He started of course, as a stand-up comedian, THE stand-up comedian of the 70’s really, who could fill entire stadiums with his bizarre and dadaist comedy stylings. I didn’t know much about his act until I read this book, which primarily focuses on the early days of his stand-up career. While I read it, I compulsively youtube’d the various famous bits he created and realized how much of an innovator he was for stand-up comedy in general. I mean, his stuff was WEIRD. And it was impossibly popular too, which compared to the highest grossing comedy acts of today (ahem, DANE COOK) just makes me kind of sad.

You should read this book if: You like laughing and/or smiling and feeling good.

1. Live From New York: An Uncensored Histroy of Saturday Night Live by Tom Shales and James Andrew Miller

This one might not count because I’m not quite finished with it, but this is my list so butt out haters. (Just an FYI before you decide to hate: I let my haters be my motivators.)

I’ve always been an SNL apologist and have found that people who invariably decry the current version of the show to be THE WORST CAST EVER are simply pining for the version of SNL they loved when they started watching it at age 13. (Seriously in ten years time, today’s 13-year-olds will pine for Kristen Wiig’s antics and deem the future hover-cast as “turbo-lame.”)

ANYWAY, this book is incredible if you are remotely a fan of the show. It is a loosely structured oral-history of the show that lets you get a peek into the sometimes insane workings of SNL. Also, it’s like a thousand pages long so I’m guessing only fans of the show would have the patience to wade through the whole thing. The book focuses quite a bit on the early days of the show, which is fine because of the talent of the original cast and because nearly everyone involved in those days were massive drug addicts which makes for more interesting anecdotes.

You should read this book if: You have an extra 30 or 40 hours and like stories about people taking drugs and making a late night sketch comedy show.

Bitlets

I have a few thought chunks (gross?) floating around in my head today so we will use a list format! HAHAHA. WE HAVE SO MUCH FUN DON’T WE YOU GUYZ?

    • Yesterday I assembled a large bookcase that I purchased from Ikea. It was sort of funny how much (misplaced) pride I felt once I finished. LOOK AT THIS AMAZING PEICE OF MODERN SCULPTURE! I, MAN, HAVE ACHIEVED IMMORTALITY THROUGH MY OWN INGENUITY! Never mind the fact that the assembly instructions are literally designed so an idiot could follow them (LOOK, NO WURDZ SO’S THE HILL FOLK CAN FOLLOW ALONG TOO!), yet I still had to scrutinize each drawing like I was decoding the rosetta stone. I think the Swedish are somehow planning an invasion of the United States like in Red Dawn, and they’re using their cheap furniture as stealth I.Q. tests. Anyone who takes longer than an hour to put together a coffee table will be immediately euthanized once they parachute in.
    • I’ve been watching the NBA finals this week (DID YOU SEE THE GAME TWO COMEBACK? I KNOW, RIGHT???) and ABC keeps playing promos for some new Amazing Race style reality show. They play them every. 3. Damn. Minutes. The worst part is that at a certain point in the promo a disembodied girl’s voice says “We’re in the Sahara, yo!” like it’s 1986 and she’s in the music video for Michael Jackson’s Bad. I assume I’m going to have to commit suicide before the finals are over if these promos continue. The ball’s in your court, ABC.
    • I’ve been thinking about what it would be like if I just picked my favorite outfit (yes I just said “outfit”) and bought ten identical ones and threw away all the rest of my clothes. How long do you think it would take for my friends and coworkers to realize I wear the exact same thing every single day? Do you think they would say something eventually or would it just be one of those spinach in the teeth things that goes unsaid? What if said outfit was a denim jacket on denim jeans sort of thing? I wish I were brave enough to test the theory.
    • After some meditation I’ve decided that disliking something simply because you dislike the fans of that thing is kinda dumb. I guess that means I’m going to have to try to play “Ultimate Frisbee” (ugh, just typing that gave me chills) again. Bummer. (The same goes for mini cupcakes, Phish, the word hella, and longboarding.)

The 2010 NBA All-Ugly Team

With the playoffs in full swing, it’s time to announce the 2010 NBA All-Ugly Team. Congratulations to the following players:

First Team

Joakim Noah/Bulls

Ha ha ha. Now that the initial reaction is out of our systems, let’s all just wrap our heads around how bizarre looking this person is. He’s the type of player that most people hate, both because of his sideshow looks and his abrasive personality. However, if he was on your team you would totally love him (see also, Birdman Anderson).

Al Jefferson/Timberwolves

Al Jefferson is…unique looking. He’s a stud, I know. There aren’t very many legit 20/10 guys in the league anymore, but he has a face like a smashed in Chevy. Sorry bro!

Charlie Villanueva/Pistons

Charlie has alopecia and so that’s part of the reason he looks weird (no eyebrows! how would you look?) but he’s still one ugly mamba jamba in my book.

Troy Murphy/Pacers

I think Troy takes the cake, you guyz. To paraphrase Seinfeld, he’s as pretty as all the rest of the players on this list, he just needs a nose job! Really though Troy, I think you have the largest nose in world and I feel bad for you.

Chris Kaman/Clippers

I’ve always thought Chris Kaman looks like some kind of terrifying flesh-eating zombie or Frankenstein monster. He usually has shorter hair now (smart move), but it was awesome how gross he was with the long, wispy, balding blond hairdo.

Second Team:

Brian Scalabrine/Celtics

Oh great, a portly, red-headed Mr. Potato head! You belong in a zoo potato guy! He’s also in the running for the human mascot award, and the worst player to belong to a championship team award.

Luis Scola/Rockets

Scola looks…so Argentinian. I say that with some affection since I’ve known many of them in my time, but still. Gross dude. I think guys with longer hair can look kind of cool, but you’re somehow doing it wrong.

Zydrunas Ilgauskas/Cavs

Big Z reminds me of an extra in a Sci-Fi movie about pod people or maybe a twisted serial killer. I just think he’s spooky. Don’t kill me Big Z!

Michael Beasley/Heat

This guy is just good old-fashioned ugly.

Kyrylo Fesenko/Jazz

I’ve been a fan of Kosta Koufos for a while now, but his constant underachieving has me starting to prefer the other seldom used Jazz center, Big Fes himself.

Now, yes he’s big and ugly, but he’s also the most hilarious Jazzman ever. If you have the chance to go to a Jazz game, just watch Fes during timeouts. Half the time he’s not even looking at Sloan and just staring at the jumbotron so some other player has to physically grab him and make pay attention. He just seems like some overgrown twelve-year-old in a massive body, and thus he’s goofy and funny all at the same time. He also dances quite well:

Quarter-Life Crisis


As many of you know I just turned 25. Boom.

Now that I am old and supposedly grown up and a nuisance to society and whatnot, I feel that I should probably have a quarter-life crisis. Seriously, it’s a real thing people (haven’t you ever seen a Zach Braff movie?).

I think the key to the quarter-life crisis is to do a bunch of very uncharacteristic things. This is what I’m thinking:

1. I will grow my hair long (really long!) and wear it in a pony tail.

2. I will buy a motorcycle and ride it all year round.

3. I will get into a fight with a random person.

4. I will stop playing the banjo and join a death metal band.

5. Tap dancing!

6. I will invest in a pyramid scheme.

7. I will eat vegetables.

8. I will change my name to “Braden.”

9. I will start lifting weights.

10. I will save my money and thoughtfully make prudent purchases that are well within my means.