In middle school, I tried too hard to be different. I had a phase where I wore a fake gold chain to be hip-hop, ignoring the idea of learning about the music. Another time I bought a bunch of rock band patches and ironed them horizontally down the right leg of my jeans.
Once a classmate started pulling out random objects from his jacket pockets that he collected at home for one reason or another. I thought it was interesting to be oddly prepared with conversation pieces, so I ran home and threw a screwdriver, a Game Boy game case, and some other crap in my jacket. No one ever asked what I was carrying.
Trying to be cool is cool, right, guys?
I still think I may have had the right idea. I was just following weird examples.
I prefer the weird examples. The problem right now is everything is "so good". You end up not needing a reason past the fact that it is "so good" and everyone else is enjoying it, whatever it is. When it comes to entertainment right now, the buzz is Making of a Murderer. Before that it was Serial. And Game of Thrones. Or Breaking Bad. Or Dexter. I don't doubt they are good by some standards, but there is no shortage of "good" in this world. Why not find your own?
Kevin Smith is a great example. When Smith isn't directing a horror/comedy about a man turned into a walrus, his obsession is professional hockey. Breaking down his appreciation for the sport, you can tell he finds it cool, without trying too hard. He talks about the skill and grace needed to skate around the ice, and the collective goal of, well, scoring a goal. It almost makes you want to dive in too.
This is the Year of Tiny, Interesting Choices. And sometimes being weird and different, defining your own "good", makes for some tiny, interesting surprises.
Every week I want to offer what I find cool. Stringing a narrative through my tiny, interesting choices helps me find significance to my experience. But this week I couldn't wrestle down a narrative beyond the fact that my brain grew a few new wrinkles. I've stretched my body, my eyes, my mind, and my ideas about death. Let's hope I'm not trying too hard.
You'd think Pilates was a routine for older women and you'd be right. Or you'd be right about the Wednesday morning Pilates class at the Powerhouse gym in Redwood City. My roommate Rachel and I walked in and immediately recognized the decades between us and everyone else.
I've been lifting at the local gym for a few months before (minus a short and fat holiday break back East). I stroll to the gym every other day to lift by a simple program called Starting Strength, which essentially requires squats, bench presses, and deadlifts slowly and steadily. I've been feeling pretty strong.
Pilates caught me slipping. I realized how unstable and imbalanced I was. And I realized how boring and simple my workouts have gotten! We were tapping our pointed toes together like Suzanne Somers. Forget about my core, I was flexing everything in my neck. Rachel and I were looking over at each other with flush cheeks and nervous laughter. Ten minutes in I was hoping we were twenty minutes in. But there was no pause. We were locked in. It was slow simple movements for an hour. And the next day I knew I had done some good.
Video games got away from me shortly after mastering NFL Blitz 2000 on Nintendo 64. When the gaming world introduced a second joystick, I bowed down, until recently. A long day of hiking and climbing in Tennessee Valley warmed me up enough to play Rocket League with my roommates. What's Rocket League? Oh, it's soccer with racecars. You drive around like a maniac, crashing, jumping, and boosting toward into a ball in hopes of scoring a goal. It is incredible. It's simple enough to have fun and challenging enough to want to get better.
Freddy Got Fingered / 50 Shades of Grey
Around the time of my gold chain style, Freddy Got Fingered never made it to my VCR. It was hard to ignore Tom Green in those days but I did it. He took over MTV with his odd-ball sense of humor and, of course, the Bum-Bum Song - a song about putting your butt on things.
While I didn't watch Freddy Got Fingered this past week, seven days don't go by without me thinking about it. Roger Ebert originally said of the movie: "The day may never come when it is seen as funny." But I cried with laughter. Between Green getting hit by an eighteen-wheeler and sliding a good hundred yards or singing Backwards Man to himself in the mirror, wearing a suit on backwards, it was hard to be convinced it wasn't different. Then again, that's the point.
50 Shades of Grey did something different too. The polarizing concept of BDSM erotica didn't scare me from watching it one night with a takeout container of thai food. The movie felt true to the book only because I once had a friend read me a page. It felt like fan fiction because it was fan fiction. And, yes, I knew this and watched it anyway. What I like about 50 Shades of Grey existing is that it opens the door to conversation. Was this right? Was this wrong? Was this cult programming? I found it worth the watch. Especially I find Dakota Johnson adorable.
If you haven't seen The Shining, it might not be so impressive. The Chickening is a trailer remix of the classic Kubrick film, including added visual effects, like Shelly Duvall's eyes rolling around in her head and Jack Nicholson in a chicken costume. It's a weird and wild trip and I'm not sure why I tried to explain it. Watch it yourself and be the judge.
Mushroom Burial Suit
Being a godfather to my newborn niece, I've started to do some spiritual exploration myself. I need to be prepared for when she starts asking the big questions. The truth is it's hard for me to believe in an afterlife without any convincing evidence there is one. It was the reason I checked the box to become an organ donor on my California Driver's License. But setting vehicular death aside, TED offered a natural and artistic solution for when we exit this world - Jae Rhim Lee's Mushroom Burial Suit. Instead of pumping our bodies full of chemicals for an open casket, why not offer our innards to poison-gobbling mushrooms?
Stretching beyond what's good offers the opportunity to find something great. Hannibal Buress joked on his new Netflix special Comedy Camisado that you can't fault people for finding things when they do. He made fun of his father for just now learning about The Wire years after it was the hot TV show to watch. And then Hannibal remembered that he once thought he discovered a new talent named Jimi Hendrix after he heard Hulk Hogan walk out to Voodoo Child. (You can hear the bit on his show here.)
My dad once called me elitist because I scoffed when people talked about Harry Potter. Papa Scharch isn't a big fan of magical young adult novels, he just thought my writing off of the subject was pretentious. But there's the gold. We don't need to agree on the "good" stuff, we just need to explore and find what's great.
Because trying to be cool is cool, right, guys?