I fully support gay marriage being a constitutional right that’s enacted as soon as possible. Gay marriage is a noble cause and I applaud everyone who fought, protested and lobbied to give couples in same-sex relationships equal rights as heterosexual couples. My only fear is that after we enact same-sex marriage, the list of things left to protest is going to get pretty lame.
I’m not trying to take anything away from gay marriage. I just mean that compared to ending slavery, women’s suffrage and the civil rights movement, we’re running really low on good problems we need to fix. The previous generation fought for equal pay in the workplace, women’s rights and the end of the Jim Crow era. The generation before that fought across Europe to prevent the spread of Imperialism. The generation before them gave the vote to women. What are we going to have after gay marriage? Exactly.
As it stands right now, we’re left protesting wealth inequality and sex slaves overseas. The protests are already starting to blow. Occupy Wall Street turned into an adult version of a college drum circle. It had nothing on the sit-ins from the civil rights movement. Back in the Jim Crow south, nonviolent protesters were sprayed with water cannons. Now we have a trust-funder with dreadlocks who wants to legally smoke pot in the financial district. Protests are only going to go downhill from there.
If we keep clearing civil rights at a steady clip then future generations are going to have a sorry lot of available protests. There will be movements to let people marry the robot they made in their garage. Violent clashes to give flying cars the right of way. Marches in the street to ensure transgender people can have their own bathrooms. Are they good causes? Yes. Are they good protests? Lame, lame, lame.
Most people spend their free time at work getting distracted by Internet videos. Whether you spend your down time at the office looking at cute cats, skateboard crashes or hardcore pornography, the Internet is there for all of us. When my soul is wasting away at a day job, I find solace in watching videos of happy North Koreans.
It’s mostly out of jealousy. Here I am, trapped in front of a computer for 40 hours a week, yet there is an entire nation full of people who have no choice but to cheer with joy. There is no other option for them in life. Whenever someone says the names Kim Jong-il or Kim Jong-un, it’s like the secret word on Pee-Wee’s Playhouse: everyone goes ape-shit. If they don’t, they’ll die, which is an enviously easy choice.
North Koreans aren’t dragged down by the trappings of middle age in America. They don’t have mid-life crises, identity issues or career setbacks. They are happy or they’re dead. Who wouldn’t want that? I have the same conversations every time I walk into work: “How was your weekend?;” “What’s new with the family?;” “It’s almost Friday!” Do you think North Koreans care about any of that sort of drab crap? Hell no. When I watch them on YouTube, their conversations look amazing. “I’m so happy because I love Kim Jong-un!” “I’m even happier than you!” “Oh my God, we’re all so happy!”
North Korean videos make it look like the entire population consists of teeny-boppers who got backstage at a Justin Beiber concert. They are crying with joy at the sight of their leader. That’s how happy they are. We don’t cry for joy over anything in this country anymore. Can you imagine if we rallied around our President the way they do? We wouldn’t have Fox News or the Westboro Baptist Church. We’d have organizations like the I Love the President So Much Club getting into fights with the I Love Him More Than You Society.
North Koreans storm into the water to chase after Kim Jong-un because he makes them so happy. If I spill a drop of water on my shirt at work, the day is ruined. They give him hour-long standing ovations. They march in unison. They sprint and dance and sing and cheer. We write political blogs.
Can you imagine how much more pleasant Fox News would be if we were all as happy as North Koreans? “Y’know what I think? I think the President is doing a perfect job.” “I agree with you.” And then instead of a mindless 24-hour news program that digs for the whisper of a story to sensationalize, the TV could go black and we’d have to be outside like those joyous North Koreans.
I know your first thought is they don’t have any choice. Well doesn’t that sound nicer than waking up every day and having to figure out how to be happy all over again? I’d love it if my options in life were to be happy or die. It would be such a nice motivator. They are happy around the clock and it fills me with envy. And if they’re not happy then they’re dead. They don’t have to see therapists or get in touch with their feelings or go on retreats. They can just be happy or not be around anymore. In America we can pursue happiness and we usually come up short. In North Korea? One hundred percent happiness.
So whatever Kim Jong-un is doing, keep it up. Not only does he have a flawless approval rating at home and a national press that has his back. He also has an ardent supporter across the pond. One who watches the North Korean leader’s devoted followers every day and wishes for the day that he can be as happy as them.
This Spring wrapped another fantastic semester volunteering with the Young Storytellers Foundation. YSF is a charity organization in Los Angeles where failing actors, writers and musicians work with inner-city kids in screenwriting. Over the course of ten weeks, students develop a five-page script. At the end of the semester, their work is performed by actors in front of the entire school. It’s a rewarding, challenging and fun program for students and mentors. It’s also the only place in L.A. where I can have in-depth conversations about soccer.
I look forward to my weekly-YSF session with glee. I come prepared with my notebook, laptop and updated scoreboard from La Liga. I have to keep my soccer fanaticism a secret all week, but when I volunteer with kids in L.A. I can finally have a meaningful debate over Lionel Messi being better than Cristiano Ronaldo.
No one at work appreciates my opinions on Manchester United’s recent match with Everton. But if Chicharito has a good game and I’m volunteering with kids in L.A.? Oh man, it’s on! We go to war over the Mexican National Team. Whether Dos Santos will rediscover his game in time for the next round of World Cup qualifying. If Ochoa is the best keeper in Mexico. The best games of Rafa Marquez. These things make me sound like I’m from another planet when I talk about them at work. But with your average 8-year-old in Los Angeles? It’s my ticket to the clubhouse.
It’s important to volunteer with your spare time. It helps enhance your local community and allows you to connect with new groups of people. That said, I volunteer for the entirely selfish reason of fighting about match-fixing in Italian football.
The only other place to engage such a conversation is the Internet, but I’ll get crushed in debates with those losers. The kids I volunteer with aren’t allowed to have smart phones at school and I come prepared. Little Pablo might say something like, “My favorite player on Barcelona is Pique.” And then, bam, I destroy him with a statistical analysis of Pique’s recent performance. “Oh yeah? Well he conceded five corner kicks and picked up a yellow card against Valencia. Is he your favorite player now?”
The joke is on me when Pablo comes back with, “Considering he lead Barcelona to back-to-back La Liga titles and manned the back-line in the World Cup and Euros, yeah, he’s pretty good.”
It’s only around the kids during my volunteer sessions that it’s perfectly normal to have my walls covered in English Premier League posters. When I wear soccer jerseys to work, I get a lecture. When I wear them to YSF, I get a high-five. When I show-off my face paint at work, I’m called retarded. At school, I compare my war paint to the young writers. My girlfriend keeps telling me to grow up, but my buddies at school consider me the coolest guy to pretend to be in fifth grade.
We’re midway through World Cup qualifying, with the grand tournament slated for next summer. It’s important to have these debates any way you can and I’m lucky enough to find classrooms full of children who validate my opinions. Next time you volunteer, I recommend you too try and find ways for your time to give back to you.
The follow-up book to the bestselling Crazy Girls, F**k My Student Loans is a story of the wrong way to pay for college at every step of the way. A true account of how to accrue over $120,000 of debt at two of the nation’s most-expensive schools, F**k My Student Loans is an examination into the business, history and current state of student loans.
This book puts loan companies and world-class universities under the microscope to examine why the charge so much in the name of a college experience. F**k My Student Loans is a must-read for all current and future college students and their parents. Anyone who wants to know how to pay for college needs to read this book and do exactly the opposite.
Click here to download on Amazon.
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, by Mark Twain, is about a kid and his slave going on an adventure through the bastion of racial tolerance known as pre-Civil War Missouri. It’s the sequel to the Adventures of Tom Sawyer. Watch here or at High School Summary.
I know we visit nature to escape the trappings of work and city life. We want to get away from crowds and people, have time to ourselves, rejuvenate and embrace the silence of a beaten trail. We take a day trip to spot wild animals, see the desert in bloom, photograph spectacular views and hike to distant waterfalls. But if you walk past me and don’t respond to my cheesy hiking greetings, I’m just saying… Watch your step.
I will settle for any kind of acknowledgement that you and I exist together on this dirt pathway. I have pulled out all the stops to welcome your arrival. I offered a high-five, said, “Good morning, super hiker friend,” and held up a sign that reads, Greetings Mountain Man! I expect nothing less in return. If you breeze past me as though I’m part of the shrubbery, you should be very aware that we’re traipsing along an extremely steep cliff.
You can’t be too cool for my warm welcomes because I have done everything in my power to make hiking uncool for everyone. My fanny pack is secured tightly, I have stood in the same place for an hour trying to refold my paper map, my hat was a Valentine’s Day present that says, I love you. And you think that you can walk past this kind of love and not reciprocate my hug?
It’s just you and me up there. I move to the side to let you pass and raise a hand in the air for a high-five. We’re in this together. We’re hiking, climbing, conquering and you leave me hanging? You’re doing to me exactly what the treasonous regiment of the Scottish Army in Braveheart did when they ditched William Wallace mid-battle.
Friday March 9, 2012
8 p.m. Elderberries Cafe, 7564 W Sunset (near Curson in Hollywood).
$5 cover plus $5 food/drink minimum
Tuesday March 20, 2012
8 p.m. Ha Ha Cafe Comedy Club, 5010 Lankershim Blvd. (North Hollywood)
No cover charge, 2 drink minimum
Saturday March 24, 2012
9.30 p.m. Magic Bag, Little Modern Theater, 6476 Santa Monica Blvd. (at the Complex in H’wood)
No cover charge
Wednesday March 28, 2012
8.30 p.m. Joker’s Joint, 8771 W. Pico Blvd (near Robertson).
$7 cover charge, no drink min.
Tuesday April 3, 2012
8.30 p.m. Big Show Comedy, Hollywood Studios Bar & Grill 6122 W Sunset (at Gower in H’wood).
No cover charge, 2 drink minimum ($3 beers available).
Saturday April 21, 2012
8 p.m. Hand Shucked, Moving Arts Theater, 1822 Hyperion Ave. (Silver Lake)
$5 cover includes free beer.
Watching the screeners for the 2012 Oscars and keeping up with the GOP debates makes me feel an identical apathy for this year’s crop of movies and Republicans. Whether they lulled in the race until one hot week or they entered the race with tremendous buzz and landed with a thud, movies and Republicans share a similar dullness in 2011-2012.
Of the hundred-plus movies that came out last year, there are a handful that have any shot at being named the winner: The Artist, The Descendants, Hugo, The Help (because Hollywood likes this sort of schmaltz, see: Crash) and Tree of Life. If you’re considering nominations then you can also loop in Moneyball, Bridesmaids, Melancholia, Midnight in Paris and War Horse if the Academy decides to open themselves up for bribes. Out of all the Republicans who explored the idea of running for president, we are now down to Romney, Paul, Gingrich and Santorum.
Both groups are the same in that no one really loves any of them, but someone has to come in first. Therefore, one movie and one Republican will have to win not because they were most-liked, but simply because they were hated the least. Obama’s opponent and the winner of this year’s best picture will share the title of not being great, but that they had fewer things wrong with them than the competition.
Let’s start with the current odds-on favorites: Mitt Romney and The Artist. Neither rode a tidal wave of support to get to the front of the pack. No one has ever left a Mitt Romney speech feeling inspired. You watch Mitt Romney speak and you’re left thinking, He said everything he’s supposed to say. The Artist is the favorite for best picture because you leave the theater thinking, That’s the kind of movie that wins best picture. The Artist is not The King’s Speech, it’s not The Hurt Locker. No one is going around raving about how they were bowled over and had the wind knocked out of them and were cheering at the screen by a black-and-white silent film from a French character actor. Read more