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May 26, 2005

Thursday Thoughts

I am tired. Tired of work, tired of being alone, tired of the state of the world, tired of people being idiots, tired of politics, tired of secrets, tired of lies, tired of truths, tired of being sick, tired of bills, tired of being tired.

I would like to take a vacation, but most of what I am tired of will still be with me on the vacation and will still be draining my soul even while I attempt to relax. And all of it will still be there when I return from vacation.

Everything is electronic and cookie-cutter and bland these days, which does not help.

I used to sit down and write a short story or a poem when I reached this level of dissatisfaction. Or I would sketch, draw, or paint something to take me away. But the sameness of things has even invaded my arts and everything I do seem puerile and stunted; as bland as what I see everywhere else. I have started three separate stories or ideas in the recent past and had each one just sort of slink away from me within a page or less of brainstorming and writing. I have not gone beyond doodling in quite some time, let alone painting. It is like I have a form of writer's block that has wormed its way into the darkest reaches of my life, far beyond just writing.

Every now and then something crops up, like a small candle in an otherwise dark room, that sparks my interest for a moment. A phenomenal story (whether book, TV, comic, or movie) or a passionate thought or something innovative and unique motivates me for a brief moment until the malaise creeps back.

I was sitting at a red light on my way to work the other day. I glanced around and every vehicle looked roughly the same. Glancing at those driving, I found myself surrounded by a mob of blond women who all looked pretty much the same; long, straight, unnaturally colored hair, overly tanned faces, gold necklaces, and sunglasses. Blah, blah, blah. Where is the sexy, pale, red-head? Where is the sultry raven-haired seductress? Where is the brown-haired, wide-eyed professional?

Most of us have passions that burn within. Some use it as a foundation and impetus for a job, and others have passions that seek outlets in hobbies or activities. These passions need stoking both from inside and outside. We all go through periods of lassitude and it is at those times that people need an external flame to help stoke the fires of their passions. I guess I am in that situation now; my light is nearly out and I am seeking some external source to get it burning steadily once more. Nothing I do seems to help. If I had my mom's faith, I would pray. If I had Chris' doggedness, I would push through it with my eye ever on the future. If I had a woman in my life and/or children, I might be able to find that passion within the relationship. Or I could be like Jennifer and seek solace and solutions in the past with the goal of reinventing the present and future.

Of course, the irony is that I read over what I have written and all I see is a sea of blandness and whining, the same things that I hear from everyone else. And I just want to crawl back into my little cave.

May 19, 2005

Bowling Tournament Follow up

Steven, the gentleman who convinced me to bowl in the tournament I spoke about a little while ago (Reference here and here), just came by my desk at work and presented me with a check for $21.00. Apparently my team did well enough to move into 12th place, which was the last place to score money. Since most of us bowled well that day (and I bowled out of my mind!), it is nice that we were able to move into money.

Now, I spent $60 to enter the tournament, so this is obviously not the best return on my investment, but I cannot place a value on the experience I gained and camaraderie I felt that weekend.

May 16, 2005

Finding Neverland

Sometimes a movie (or book, or other creative work) expresses the truth better than the truth itself. It expresses it so well that people no longer remember the real facts and the movie’s truth becomes the only truth.

I just finished watching Finding Neverland. It is the poignant tale of James Barrie’s love affair with a family and how they inspired his greatest work, Peter Pan. Now, I am aware that the Barrie family has problems with the story and thinks it glosses over the realities as they know them.

What they feared, I’m certain, is that the movie would replace their history. And, with as beautifully made as the film is, I am sure they are right. Because, for me, it has. I now do not care about the circumstances of Barrie’s first wife leaving. I do not care about the circumstances wherein Barrie created Peter Pan.

What I do care about is that they got my vision on the screen. As a somewhat creative person, I have a hard time explaining to people how I see what I see. This movie shows what the reality for many creative people is: the way our world can fade away and we can literally see another world, other people, and different events.

I care about the relationship Barrie had with young Peter, who did not believe and who grew up way too fast.

I do feel for the Barrie family, though. History has been rewritten by the film industry a few times. It does not matter how accurate Saving Private Ryan is or is not, that is now an entire generation’s idea of that war. The wild west is now somewhere between Unforgiven and Dances With Wolves. Jaws made an entire country afraid to swim and ruined many resort town’s economies for years afterward. It is hard to separate the fact from the fiction in Titanic.

In the end, does it matter? If the story impresses us enough, we will seek out further information on it and research the reality. But, while those who make these types of films have an obligation to be accurate, they have a stronger imperative to tell a good story. For they are doing just what Barrie does in Finding Neverland… taking the realities of life and making something beautiful and lasting from them.

May 10, 2005

Burger Heaven

I haven't eaten a hamburger from a fast-food restaurant in, well, I can't even remember when. Probably over a year or longer.

See, I had a bad experience a few years back. I ordered two cheeseburgers from In 'n Out and both appeared cooked, being brown and sizzly on the surface. I took a great big bite of first one, then the other, and found them both to be not only raw but also still somewhat frozen on the inside! No matter where I went from then on, the memory of that disturbing day colored my preference for a hamburger.

I have, on occasion, bought meat and made my own hamburgers at home. But these culinary delights, still very infrequent, were known to be thoroughly cooked.

Today, as I walked to my vehicle to go grab lunch, my tastebuds actually suggested that a burger would be good. I headed to the local Jack in the Box and got an "ultimate" cheeseburger and a breakfast Jack (love these!).

After liberally applying some taco hot-sauce to both, I took a great big bite of the burger.


I don't know what about the meaty goodness of America's favorite lunch item that I was craving, but you would have thought it was made of ambrosia from the way I responded to it! At first I wolfed it, and then I tried to savor it, which never works out. I scarfed that meat like it was the last food on the planet. Yummy.

I guess maybe my distrust of the burger has gone away. Now, I'm not generally a burger sort of guy (more of a sandwich dude, really), but it is nice to know that I can put that item back on my menu of possible choices.

Man, it was so good, I may have to grab one on the way home!

May 9, 2005

CNN on Relationships

Last night on CNN the moderator presented the following statistic: (paraphrasing) in cases where one or both partners committed adultery, got divorced from the existing relationship, and then married the object of their infidelity, 75% of those marriages ended in divorce.

What does this tell us?
  • Once a cheater, always a cheater.
  • People who believe the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence will continue to look in the next yard over after jumping the fence.
  • It is better to make it work with who you are with because cheating won't lead you to any more happiness.

The moderator of the program ended with this: while men who are slightly to moderately overweight have about the same opportunities to cheat as more-fit males (which surprised me-- you always think of the young, fit people as those more likely to get offers), they are statistically much less likely to. One conclusion reached by researchers is that these slightly overweight men are much more statisfied in their marriage/home life and this is why they don't cheat even if the opportunity presents itself.

So, women, be thankful for that little gut your man is growing, it may be a physical representation of his happiness with you and your relationship.

May 4, 2005


I've never had a nickname. When put into situations that involve other Johns, I am always the one who winds up being "John" while the others gather the nicknames, pet names, or use their middle/last names. Because of this, I've always wanted a nickname.

The closest I think I ever came was back when Melanie used to call me "Mr. C" or "J.C." For awhile, my bowling team called me the Rock-- ostensibly because I was so steady and consistent as the anchor of the team. Of course, knowing that Dwayne Johnson uses that name professionally in his wrestling and acting careers makes it all the more amusing-- I am pretty far from the image he presents, as I am of average height and weight. We do have bald heads in common though.

I tried to convince people to use "Jaz." I liked this one and it had a simple explanation: It was the first letter of my first name and the last two letters of my last name. But, like all great nicknames, you cannot force one on people. Nicknames have to evolve naturally. I'm fairly certain the fact I sing about as well as a cat being burned alive has nothing to do with this nickname's failure to catch on.

At one point in my life, and my mom would have to tell you exactly my age but I would guess when I was around 5 years old, I made everyone call me "Ken." Don't ask. I was just tired of being another John in a sea of Johns.

Maybe, however, I should look on the lack of nickname as a sort of blessing. Maybe I am one of the quintessential Johns on the planet. So many of us do gather the nicknames, pet names, and other appellations that we need a few "representatives of the name" to enforce the rule.

Not only am I a John, which is derived from Hebrew meaning "God is gracious" and has come to mean a down-to-earth sort of person, but I am also a Year of the Boar (1971) and a Taurus (April), two more signs of my inherent John-ness. All signs point to the steadiness of my nature and earthiness of my demeanor.

In some cultures and fairy tales knowledge of a person's true name can either give you power over them or grant one access to his own inner power. In Dune, by Frank Herbert (not to be confused with my favorite horror author, James Herbert), the inspiration Moadib provides the people of Arakis (sp?) changes his name into a word of power. Even when dating, my girlfriends haven't referred to me by pet names. I would occasionally get a "Sweety" but, beyond that, I was always just John.

Maybe my "John-ness" is at the heart of who I am? To paraphrase the Bard, would this John by any other name be as sweet? And there is always the argument that I define the John I am as much as I am defined by being a John.

I think I will take a queue from the movie The Doors. When asked to state his name and occupation (within the band), Jim Morrison answered simply, "Jim." Of course, Jim is derived from James, another of the most popular names, so maybe this is a bad example.

Maybe someday a nickname will float out and stick. Until then, here's to all us Johns out there. Our name may be common, but we don't have to be.


You never know when a realization will strike you. For some reason, yesterday I realized one of the primary reasons for the negativity in America: information overload.

We are all so interconnected by various mass media that we now know what is occuring throughout the entire world. More specifically, every single day and every single hour we have access to the violence, disasters, and economic woes happening everywhere.

Until the internet boom and the advent of 24-hour news outlets, people didn't know everything that happened in the world instantly. It could be days or weeks before news of a war in a foreign country would reach us. It would be even longer before the rumors of genocide would be unearthed. And, even then, only those circumstances of particular malevolence or interest to our country would get more than a blurb on the local news or in the newspaper. We were, in many ways, shielded from the woes of the rest of the world. This sheltered life allowed us to focus on our immediate surroundings and the issues that most affect us: our job, our family, our immediate community. Inbetween the world-shaking events, people had the time to find happiness in their immediate community and activities. This time also gave the mass media outlets a chance to provide people with perspective on the issues.

Now we must deal with all the troubles in our town, county, state, country, and the rest of the world. We are bombarded daily, hourly, with these images and the knowledge of these events. We don't have any surcease from this constant barrage. Where before we could breathe a little between events, now there is the constant pressure from all sides. Just as we finish dealing with the education money crisis in Irvine, we are made aware of the emergency room/hospital crisis in Orange County. Even before we can figure out what we are dealing with there, we are forced to reexamine the continuing budget and energy crises in California. During all of this time, we are being fed the rancor between Republicans and Democrats, the fears over the flat economy, and the woes being caused by the war, outsourcing, and trade deficits. We don't even catch our breath from this stress when the news is showing us images of the genocide in certain African nations, the terrorism happening in the Middle East, the death toll from the tsunami in the Indian Ocean, and the fears over nuclear attacks from Iran and North Korea. We are suffocating on the information overload provided to us.

While I believe in freedom of the press and in an American's right to know, I also think the mass media has certain obligations in its presentation of the news. We need a chance to breathe, take stock, and gain perspective. We need help digesting the information provided and people to show some of the pros and cons of the information to help us come to our own conclusions and act on the information provided.

And, maybe most importantly of all, we need time away from this overwhelming deluge of information. Time to sit with our back to a tree and a soft breeze on our face and watch our children play on the grass and gain some perspective on the truly important things in life.