Friday, June 29, 2007
Once we arrived in Nashville, we headed first for the Nashville KOA. There were probably hundreds of RV's parked there. Some people just had pop-ups, but that doesn't mean we thought we were better than them. They had a freakin' huge arcade in the main building. All my favorite games were there, including Gyruss and Tempest. And lots of food. This was gonna be cool.
The next day, we headed out to the Opryland amusement park. They had a crapload of music shows to see, but also quite a few rides like the roller coaster, merry-go-round, etc. I remember being flabbergasted at how many people my age were wearing these shirts:
I wish I could have been as cool as they. One other thing I remember about that day is my sister getting sick and throwing up. My parents kept an eye on her the rest of the day. Incidentally, the Opryland amusement park closed its doors in 1997 mostly because they didn't have any more room in which to put newer rides to keep up with the times.
While in Nashville, we also went on a bus tour through some of the notable areas in town, including the Parthenon, a full-scale reproduction of the original Greek one.
On one of the evenings, we went into the KOA campgrounds' concert hall. We listened to some good ol' country music and actually had our picture taken with one of the singers. That singer ended up being...get ready...Vince Gill.
Just kidding, but wouldn't that have been something?
We also went to the Grand Ole Opry. I was into pop music at this time, but it was a pretty good show.
Next, we were off to Memphis and Graceland. Graceland had just opened a year or two prior (Remember that in 1983, it had only been 6 years since the King had passed on). We saw his tennis courts, his living room with 3 tellys, his gold albums, even his grave. The only place we couldn't go is upstairs where he actually passed.
After that, there was another amusement park to go to. It was called Libertyland and upon arriving at the park, my sister threw up again. Can you believe it? And she hadn't even gone on any rides yet. Oh well. This park has also since closed (in October of '05), again in large part due to not being able to keep up with the bigger parks.
It wasn't long before we headed back home to Minnesota. The following summer, we again went to Nashville, this time without my mother (she was living on her own now), but with my dad's business partner and her friend.
Inspired by my travels, I wrote a short song about our adventures down south. I called it "Nashville Tours" and for backing music, used the piano theme from the movie "Ghostbusters". I recorded it one afternoon while living in the trailer that my family resided in (don't ask). The chorus went like this:
Nashville Tours, those good ol' Nashville Tours,
Let's Go to Nashville, those good ol' Nashville,
Let's Go to Nashville, those good ol' Nashville
Wednesday, June 27, 2007
Needless to say, some of the happiest moments of my childhood occurred while I was living in that house.
Tuesday, June 26, 2007
Monday, June 25, 2007
In an adjacent room down there was a relatively sizable JW library along with a table and chairs. I found out later that this is where many "strayed" Witnesses were counseled and sometimes disfellowshipped. I can't even begin to think of all the pain that people experienced in that small room, but as a child, I had no idea. I do recall one evening my mom pointing out a man who had been disfellowshipped. He regularly attended meetings, but no one was allowed to talk to him. After a certain period of time (if he was a good boy), he most likely was reinstated. I remember thinking that he must have done something pretty bad for the congregation to treat him that way.
One summer, the Witnesses had a get-together at a place called Farmer's Park (it was located about 10 miles from Winona). This is probably gonna shock the shit out of a few of you, but they actually had water balloons there. A bunch of kids (including me) grabbed one and proceeded to try to hit someone, anyone. It didn't matter. We just wanted the simple pleasure of getting somebody wet. There was this one guy who was a regular speaker at our Hall. I wanted to get him wet in the worst way. I got as close to him as I could and threw the balloon. God damn it! He dodged the balloon just as it was about to hit him!
I drowned my sorrow by grabbing a few hot dogs. I wasn't sure where my parents were, so found a picnic table to eat said weiners. I could've sat on either side of the table. One side faced all the Witnesses having fun and playing games, the other, just grass and trees. I chose to face the quietude of nature.
They saw us struggling with the couch and asked if they could assist us. I knew what they were thinking and quickly declined. They probably coulda helped us get the couch in faster, but it wouldn't have been worth the earful that we would've received.
She then dealt each of us 10 cards and we proceeded to play. She told me that if she won more than $50, she would split it with me. Cool! I wanted to take my time with them (maybe open one every 5 minutes or so), but she just ripped through 'em. All of hers came up dry as I continued opening mine. Damn, I really thought that her feeling lucky would get some type of win for us. Oh well. I only had a couple left. I tore one and noticed some marking on the bottom that wasn't on the others. It appeared that we had won a dollar. As Anakin Skywalker would say (in Episode I), "Yippee!"
My girl looked at the card and said she thought we had won more than that. I then noticed that there was a red line that went through all three "bars" on that same ticket (I hadn't seen it before). I turned the card over and it said that particular pattern was a $100 winner. Very nice! I asked her what the next step was. She said to go up to the bartender to collect her (our) winnings. She strode up there with quite a smile on her face.
The barkeep looked at her tic and did some paperwork for it. My babe looked back at me (still seated) and said she thinks it is actually a $200 winner. That would be sweet! From the table, I heard the bar boy giving her the money. 20, 40, 60, 80, 100, 20, 40, 60, 80, 100. Oh yeah! As promised, she gave me half ($100). She "invested" $20 and got $200 back (a 1,000 percent return!) We were both quite happy as we put the cash in our wallet/purse.
I said that if we did the same trick every weekend, eventually we would lose money (how else would the machine stay in business?) We won't make a habit of hitting the tabs regularly for this reason. As the night went on, about 5 people went to the tab machine to buy their own tickets. My girl commented that they most likely wouldn't win and, indeed, none of those patrons went up to the bar to claim any winnings that we saw. No, we were the fortunate ones that evening.
She felt lucky, acted upon it, and I got laid. No, I mean, she felt lucky, acted upon it, and because of that, we now have lots of cash money to take us through the rest of this month. High-five!!
Friday, June 22, 2007
Struggling Blockbuster Eliminates Rental Fees
Let me tell you right now that I don't feel the least bit sorry for Blockbuster Video and their current woes. Why? Well, several years ago, when it was still fashionable to rent movies, I would go to Blockbuster looking for videos of independent movies. I would rarely find them there. Sure, they had 50 copies of "Gladiator", but what of the smaller stuff?
Turns out Blockbuster refused to stock movies that were unrated. Now, I'm not talking about pornos. I'm referring to indie movies that were a bit too hard to get an R-rating or were from overseas. I had to go to a non-corporate video store (Premiere Video) to get an unrated (the version preferred by critics) copy of "Requeim for a Dream".
Blockbusta did this in order to ensure their rep as a "family" store. However, they were fine with stocking DVD's that had unrated extras on them (such as "Fight Club").
Around this same time, Blockbuster struck deals with some movie companies in which they would be the only place to stock various lesser-known movies (stuff no one had heard of). They would stock 30 copies of each of these titles and then people, seeing the vast amount of copies, would wonder why they had never heard of the movie and, feeling that they had missed something, would rent one of 'em (they were mostly crap).
Suffice it to say that Blockbuster sucks and I am quite pleased that the last BB in town a few months ago.
Wednesday, June 20, 2007
"How do you pee with a hard-on?"
Tuesday, June 19, 2007
We want our politicians, business leaders, physicians, prosecuting attorneys, and love partners to own up to their errors and bad decisions, without weaseling. More important, we want them to correct their mistakes and learn from them. But before they can do that, they have to be aware that they actually did make a mistake or a bad decision. How come we can see their mistakes so clearly and not our own? As decades of studies in cognitive science have demonstrated, the brain is designed with blind spots, psychological as well as optical, and one of its cleverest tricks is to confer on us the comforting delusion that we, personally, do not have any. We have no biases, we know why our small immoralities are justified and theirs are not, we know that our beliefs are valid and theirs are full of holes. These hardwired, self-serving habits of thinking are why everyone can see a hypocrite in action except the hypocrite, why husbands and wives can see the partner’s stubborn unwillingness to change but not their own, and why the most villainous despots on earth sleep soundly at night.
When the fundamental belief that we are smart, moral, and kind crashes into the accusation that we did something stupid, immoral, or hurtful, we have major cognitive dissonance to resolve. Did I just commit an unethical act? I’m a good person; therefore my action was trivial, didn’t hurt anyone, and besides everyone does it. Did I make a decision that proved disastrously wrong? I’m a smart person; therefore that decision has to be right, even if it will take a few decades to prove it. In this way, the brain sees to it that the very need to maintain the belief that we are kind, smart, and moral can keep us stuck in a course of action that is cruel, stupid, or immoral.
Understanding how self-justification works helps to explain the mystery of George Bush. Why can’t the man ever admit that any of the specific predictions he and his administration made about Iraq were flat wrong? There were no WMD, there were no happy Iraqis pelting American soldiers with flowers, the “mission” was not “accomplished” in a short time, oil revenues did not subsidize the cost, and no united pro-Western government arose from the Saddam’s crushed regime. Indeed, political commentators across the spectrum have not only called upon Bush to admit he was wrong; they even wrote face-saving speeches for him. In 2005, Jonathan Rauch predicted that Bush would have to withdraw from Iraq or he would lose both houses of Congress in the 2006 elections, and what sane politician would risk that?
A self-justifying one. And that is why Alberto Gonzales is no George Bush. Gonzales may justify his ethical lapses and failure to uphold the Constitution as acts of loyalty to his president, but he undoubtedly knows what he is doing and what he has to do to protect his job. Bush’s actions, in contrast, suggest a man whose religious and political ideology has cocooned him in self-justification. He has systematically demoted or fired anyone who had the temerity to disagree with him, a sure sign of a leader unable to hear any information that might create dissonance about his decisions.
After the 2006 midterm elections, with Iraq in chaos, Bush no longer had an external incentive to “stay the course”; he could not run for reelection and the majority of the country wanted an end to the war. If Bush were acting pragmatically, he now had the perfect opportunity to accept the recommendations of his own Iraq Study Group and his top generals, who were telling him the war was unwinnable. But by then Bush had convinced himself that the invasion of Iraq was not a mistake. “I’ve never been more convinced that the decisions I made are the right decisions,” he told a delegation of conservative columnists. The only “mistakes,” he told the country in January, had to do with tactics. Ergo, if we are not winning, we need to do what we have been doing, only with more troops and more money.
Self-justification has benefits. It allows people to sleep at night, untroubled by regrets over roads not taken or by memories of embarrassing failures. But for those in positions of power, some sleepless nights are called for. When self-justification blinds them to evidence that a decision was wrong, disaster usually follows.
Monday, June 18, 2007
Some of you may be wondering why JW's aren't allowed to celebrate holidays. From the official website of the JW's:
"Jesus never commanded Christians to celebrate his birth. Rather, he told his disciples to memorialize, or remember, his death. Christmas and its customs come from ancient false religions. The same is true of Easter customs, such as the use of eggs and rabbits. The early Christians did not celebrate Christmas or Easter, nor do true Christians today. The only two birthday celebrations spoken of in the Bible were held by persons who did not worship Jehovah. The early Christians did not celebrate birthdays. The custom of celebrating birthdays comes from ancient false religions. True Christians give gifts and have good times together at other times during the year."
We also weren't allowed to do the Pledge of Allegiance, but looking back, I have absolutely no problem with this one (pledging allegiance to a flag strikes me as a tad too jingoistic and, dare I say it, fascist). When the teacher asked the class to do any type of Easter, Halloween, Thanksgiving, or Christmas art, I was assigned to do something else. It's something I just grew to accept. I also wasn't allowed to drink milk just before nap time. Stop rolling your eyes. There's a good reason for this. No, I'm just shittin' ya about the milk thing. I did have to drink chocolate milk, however, since I was (and still am) lactose.
Once or twice a year, our family went to JW conventions. We typically had to travel several hours to get there. The conventions would consist of 2 or 3 days of mostly "talks". But it wasn't all boring. Usually once or twice during the convention, there would be a play, or "drama", performed by Witnesses. They would re-enact some key passage of the Bible wearing period clothes. These presentations helped break up the monotony a bit. One other good thing about going out of town was being able to eat out every day (something I enjoy to this day). I can remember many occasions going to Bob's Big Boy and having a delicious hamburger.
As I headed to our seats, this colored teenager asked what I was doing walking alone. I explained to him what happened and was about to say that I knew where my seat was, anyhoo, but before I could, he was leading me to the Lost and Found (person) section. He told me to sit and wait in a folding chair, that my parents should be along shortly. As I waited, I watched all the other families walk about, food in their hands, smiles on their faces. I stuck out my lower lip from time to time to try to get some of the passerby to feel sorry for me. "Look, an unhappy boy at a Jehovah's Witness convention. He can't be one of us."
Perhaps 45 minutes later, I saw my dad walking through the now-relatively-empty concourse (the afternoon session had now started). I saw relief come across his face as he saw me seated in the lost and found. I explained how I had been dragged to L&F, that I knew the whole time where our seats were. He smiled and we headed for our section, happy Jehovah's Witnesses once again.
I will continue with more of my Witness experiences next week.
Lester Burnham: Mine. 1970 Pontiac Firebird. The car I've always wanted and now I have it. I rule!
It's difficult to describe my favorite movie of 1999, "American Beauty". I'll have to let someone else do so. Starring Kevin Spacey and Annette Bening, the movie won Best Picture and Spacey Best Actor at the 2000 Academy Awards.
The movie was getting fantastic reviews, so one fall afternoon in '99, I headed to the Galleria Theatres knowing I was going to see a good movie. I just didn't know how good.
Ricky Fitts: It was one of those days when it's a minute away from snowing and there's this electricity in the air, you can almost hear it. And this bag was, like, dancing with me. Like a little kid begging me to play with it. For fifteen minutes. And that's the day I knew there was this entire life behind things, and... this incredibly benevolent force, that wanted me to know there was no reason to be afraid, ever. Video's a poor excuse, I know. But it helps me remember... and I need to remember... Sometimes there's so much beauty in the world I feel like I can't take it, like my heart's going to cave in.
The movie just built and built to a transcendent finish that took place on a stormy night and as mentioned previously, I was shaken, taken to a place that movies rarely go.
Lester Burnham: How's Jane?
Angela Hayes: What do you mean?
Lester Burnham: I mean, how's her life? Is she happy? Is she miserable? I'd really like to know, and she'd die before she'd ever tell me about it.
Angela Hayes: She's... she's really happy. She thinks she's in love.
Lester Burnham: Good for her.
Angela Hayes: How are you?
Lester Burnham: God, it's been a long time since anybody asked me that... I'm great.
Angela Hayes: I've gotta go to the bathroom.
Lester Burnham: I'm great.
Exiting the theatre, I was on cloud 9. This is why I go to the movies. In a few months, 1999 would turn into 2000, but on that day, everything was perfect, exactly the way it was meant to be, and I believed in life and love and eternity.
Lester Burnham: [narrating] I had always heard your entire life flashes in front of your eyes the second before you die. First of all, that one second isn't a second at all, it stretches on forever, like an ocean of time... For me, it was lying on my back at Boy Scout camp, watching falling stars... And yellow leaves, from the maple trees, that lined my street... Or my grandmother's hands, and the way her skin seemed like paper... And the first time I saw my cousin Tony's brand new Firebird... And Janie... And Janie... And... Carolyn. I guess I could be pretty pissed off about what happened to me... but it's hard to stay mad, when there's so much beauty in the world. Sometimes I feel like I'm seeing it all at once, and it's too much, my heart fills up like a balloon that's about to burst... And then I remember to relax, and stop trying to hold on to it, and then it flows through me like rain and I can't feel anything but gratitude for every single moment of my stupid little life... You have no idea what I'm talking about, I'm sure. But don't worry... you will someday.
Friday, June 15, 2007
Thursday, June 14, 2007
Here are some of their beliefs:
Heaven is only for select Jehovah's Witnesses
Heaven is limited only to 144,000 Jehovah's Witnesses
Jehovah's Witnesses are the only true Christians
There is no Hell (it is simply the grave)
Jesus is not to be worshiped or prayed to
All churches (non-JW's) are of Satan
You cannot take a blood transfusion
You cannot salute the flag, stand for the national anthem, or own a flag
If one does not follow the rules of the Watchtower, they will be shunned
You cannot celebrate any holidays (Christmas, Easter, etc.)
You cannot celebrate your birthday
You cannot have friends who are not Jehovah's Witnesses
You cannot understand the Bible without JW literature to explain it
A child abuser is reported to Watchtower elders and not the police
Men cannot wear beards
You are forbidden to use any tobacco products
You cannot read any anti-Jehovah's Witness material
If you see another Jehovah's Witness breaking the rules, you must turn them in to the elders to be interrogated
You cannot celebrate Mothers or Fathers day (it may produce pride)
God only speaks through the "Governing Body" in Brooklyn, New York
JWs in times of crisis, are strongly discouraged from consulting with family counselors, including mental health professionals who are not Jehovah's Witnesses
God will destroy all non-Jehovah's Witnesses at armageddon
You can never question what is printed in JW literature
My parents woke me up on a Sunday morning a few weeks later and said that we were going to the "Kingdom Hall". Being 5 years old, I imagined that we were actually going to be meeting a king. Scary. Instead we went to a house of worship that had no crosses or stained glass windows.
As I grew older and time went by, I learned more about the religion and accepted it as the truth (If my parents believed it, there must be something to it). I was a very good reader at quite a young age, so my dad asked if I would be interested in giving a short "talk" (reading from the Bible) at one of the Thursday night meetings. Let's see...go up in front of more than 100 God-fearing folks all decked out in a zoot suit and read a chapter from the Good Book. I didn't have the vocabulary at the time, but if I did, I woulda said, "Fuck off, Dad, and your circumcised donkey dick!" I said I'd give it some thought. He eventually convinced me to give it a shot.
So on one Thursday evening, I went up to the podium for all to see. I was definitely intimidated looking out at all the people, but fact is, most had smiles on their face and wanted me to do well. I did my reading (followed by a short commentary that my dad had put together) and as I left the stage, was greeted with a smattering of applause. Hearing all that clapping directed at me felt quite good. After the meeting, several people came up to me and said that they enjoyed my talk and looked forward to more from me in the future.
Tuesday, June 12, 2007
A few years ago, one of the managers gave me a laminated card so that I could get 10% off every time I ordered something. I hadn't used it much until recently. Instead of my meal being over 5 bucks, it's usually unda (I put the change in one of those charity containers). While eating, I'm either reading the newest TIME or Entertainment Weekly (I have scrips to both) or looking through the paper. After I finish my meal and have had enough Vault to make my eyes water, I am satiated once again...until the urge returns about 18 hours later.
Monday, June 11, 2007
But let's get to some of the really good stuff. One weekend in the late summer, I went to a supernatural movie called, "The Sixth Sense". It was getting great reviews and making a lot of money. As I sat in the Galleria Theatres watching the movie, I have to say it was quite good, but not excellent.
Now it was on to the fall movie season. Another spooky movie came out called "Stir of Echoes". It starred Kevin Bacon. No "Sixth Sense", but a good, gripping thriller, nonetheless. Then there was the freaky "Stigmata" (not very good, but I did like the plot point that the Catholic church suppressed the Biblical verse, "The kingdom of heaven is within". It's what I believe, that no church is necessary for "salvation").
I saw Ashley Judd's "Double Jeopardy" in Winona with Art and his wife. Formulaic, but it did have its moments. The projector conked out about 7 minutes before the end of the movie and couldn't be fixed, so we were all given free passes. One evening in late September, I decided to go see "Fight Club". I had the strangest reaction to it in that I didn't know whether or not I liked it as I exited the theatre.
Tyler Durden: Man, I see in fight club the strongest and smartest men who've ever lived. I see all this potential, and I see squandering. God damn it, an entire generation pumping gas, waiting tables; slaves with white collars. Advertising has us chasing cars and clothes, working jobs we hate so we can buy shit we don't need. We're the middle children of history, man. No purpose or place. We have no Great War. No Great Depression. Our Great War's a spiritual war... our Great Depression is our lives. We've all been raised on television to believe that one day we'd all be millionaires, and movie gods, and rock stars. But we won't. And we're slowly learning that fact. And we're very, very pissed off.
This one also had a big twist at the end.
Next, I went to see the psychological comedy, "Mumford". Another fantastic movie came out in early October, Clooney, Wahlberg, and Ice Cube in the early 90's Persian Gulf-set film, "Three Kings". The movie actually shows what happens to a body when it is struck by a bullet. Not pretty.
For shits and giggles, I saw Molly Shannon and Will Ferrell in "Superstar" (I got more shits than giggles). Dori and I went to see Tobey Maguire in "The Cider House Rules" (very solid, nominated for Best Pic) as well as Cage in "Bringing Out the Dead" (also good). November came and it was time for Kevin Smith's satire of his Catholic faith, "Dogma". Alanis Morrissette was fabulous as God. "Toy Story 2" was nice. Johnny Depp in "Sleepy Hollow" was a cool one to see as the nights turned colder. I loved the tagline on its poster: Heads Will Roll. Indeed. "Deuce Bigalow" was passable. Ralph Fiennes and Julianne Moore were fantastic in the longing "End of the Affair"
Friday, June 08, 2007
First you "be" the thing called "happy" (or "knowing," or "wise," or "compassionate," or whatever), then you start "doing" things from this place of beingness--and soon you discover that what you are doing winds up bringing you the things you've always wanted to "have."
The way to set this creative process (and that's what this is . . . the process of creation) into motion is to look at what it is you want to "have," ask yourself what you think you would "be" if you "had" that, then go right straight to being.
In this way you reverse the way you've been using the Be-Do-Have paradigm--in actuality, set it right--and work with, rather than against, the creative power of the universe.
Here is a short way of stating this principle:
In life, you do not have to do anything.
It is all a question of what you are being.
For now, and to illustrate this, think of a person who just knows that if he could only have a little more time, a little more money, or a little more love, he'd be truly happy. He does not get the connection between his "not being very happy" right now and his not having the time, money, or love he wants. On the other hand, the person who is "being" happy seems to have time to do everything that's really important, all the money that's needed, and enough love to last a lifetime. He finds he has everything he needs to "be happy" . . . by "being happy" to begin with! Deciding ahead of time what you choose to be produces that in your experience.
Happiness is a state of mind. And like all states of mind, it reproduces itself in physical form.
Therefore, whatever you choose for yourself, give to another.
If you choose to be happy, cause another to be happy.
If you choose to be prosperous, cause another to prosper.
If you choose more love in your life, cause another to have more love in theirs.
Do this sincerely--not because you seek personal gain, but because you really want the other person to have that--and all the things you give away will come to you.
The very act of your giving something away causes you to experience that you have it to give away. Since you cannot give to another something you do not now have, your mind comes to a new conclusion about you--namely, that you must have this, or you could not be giving it away. This new thought then becomes your experience. You start "being" that. And once you start "being" a thing, you've engaged the gears of the most powerful creation machine in the universe--your Divine Self.
Whatever you are being, you are creating.
The circle is complete, and you will create more and more of that in your life. It will be made manifest in your physical experience.
This is the greatest secret of life.
Tuesday, June 05, 2007
For a couple years, Main Street had a store called Tom & Sandy's. It was kinda like a super-mini version of Kmart. They had an aisle of toys which I would peruse from time to time.
Across the street was a beauty shop that our neighbor, Pam Wood, opened. I recall my brother, Brian, and I walking there one winter evening to get haircuts. I had just purchased a handheld game and played it while waiting to get my hair cut. It looked like this:
Right by Schell's was the laundromat. On many early evenings when she was running late, Mom would ask me to take her waitress outfit there to dry (the dryers were much more powerful and faster than the one we had at home).
We also had 2 bars which were fun to go to once the arcade craze started in the early '80s. The Fireside Inn had Donkey Kong & Monaco GP (a racing game). The Rollin' Inn had Journey (yes, a video game based on the Steve Perry-led group!) and Gorf.
Further down the road was the 1st State Bank of Rollingstone.
Monday, June 04, 2007
Alison (Katherine Heigl) and Ben (Seth Rogan) are at his place and trying to have sex, but Ben is weirded out when he's on top because he feels like his penis is all up in the baby's face. Could she please get on top? Alison gets on top, but then feels all ugly as she thinks he's staring up at her double chin and her boobs are all squishy and flying everywhere, "so National Geographic". He asks her to do it doggy style, but Alison says she's not a dog and so they do it in a different position, but when the baby kicks, Ben gets weirded out again and Alison gets upset and says she won't ask him to have sex again.
The laughs were plentiful and though not as gutbusting as "Borat", was a nice break from the effects-heavy sequels that have swarmed theatre screens over the past month. I recommend "Knocked Up" to all but the most sensitive souls. If you dug "Virgin", you'll most certainly dig this.