Living In A Movie

One of my favorite (and highly underrated) movies ever is Last Action Hero. It’s the story of a boy named Danny Madigan who gets his hands on a magical movie ticket that unexpectedly transports him into his favorite action movie. Pretty much every boy’s moist dream. He gets to experience car chases, gun fights, explosions, and uses his knowledge of “movie rules” to help the hero save the day. What I love about this movie, besides the fact that Arnold Schwarzenegger is parodying himself, is that they constantly point out and make fun of the stark differences between the rules in real life and in movies. So I thought about some of the things that consistently happen in movies that would never happen in real life….

…and then I wrote them down. In a list. Below this sentence.

  1. Most people with little purpose or significance in the main character’s life work in accounting.
    Accounting accounts (see what I did there?) for 78.3% of all tertiary character careers. Go pop in a random movie where one of the main characters works in an office. Guaranteed someone will bring up “Bob (they always have names with 3 letters like Bob, Pam, Tom, Jim, Tim, or Ann) from accounting.” Bob never gets more than 2 lines and is always a loser.
  2. Safety standards don’t exist
    Don’t hit that curb too hard, cause your car is liable to flip over and blow up. It amazes me that manufacturing safety standards are so poor in movies. Every car is seemingly coated with nitroglycerin and kerosene and a bullet is capable of turning anything into a huge fireball. Seriously, I’ve seen cars, planes, trains, buildings, computers, televisions, cell phones, pencils, chairs, vinyl records, composition books, and sharks explode. Glass might as well not even exist cause it breaks at the first sign of resistance. Any door is easily opened with a swift kick. Deadbolts are powerless. Tables? Yeah, they can’t support any human’s weight if someone is thrown at it, but if a hero uses them as cover, they can somehow repel any type of bullet.
  3. Women lose their ability to execute basic motor commands while being chased.
    Is there anyone clumsier than a woman being chased? How you just gonna fall down in an open field like that? Then the man has to come back and hold her hand while they run since she’s incapable of keeping her balance. Oh, let me guess, that bee that landed 10 feet away sent a ripple of air that knocked her over. Looking like someone lesioned her cerebellum. *rimshot* Amirite? #NeuroscienceHumor
  4. No one marries the person they’re engaged to.
    One of the most common plotlines of shitty romantic comedies is:
    Generic Womanstein is engaged to nauseatingly perfect, but secretly grade-A douchebag, Reginald McPerfecton. She’s happy and filled with glee. Dysfunctional, yet inexplicably attractive high-school janitor, Dan Cheatingisokayifyoureattractiveington, accidentally meets woman at a flea market. Generic is intrigued by Dan’s musk and his reluctance to share any feelings with her. They immediately become best friends and Generic tells Dan her private feelings about everything, including Reginald, even though he doesn’t ask. Generic starts to feel more and more unsure about marrying Reginald culminating with Dan revealing a piece of his traumatic past with tears. They end up doing it. The wedding goes on, but just before the vows are read, Dan confesses his love for Generic and Reginald is left at the alter. The audience tells Reginald to suck it up.
  5. It’s extremely easy for an athlete or entertainer to instantly spot a loved one in a huge stadium/crowd.
    It’s the last play of the game. Down by one score. Time is ticking, but there’s always time for what seems to be a 15-minute emotional glance at your mother/father/brother/girlfriend/best friend/mentor/butler/barber. Where’s the delay-of-game penalty? Even if you know where your loved one is sitting, it takes longer than a second to spot them unless you’ve got Steve Austin‘s bionic eyes. On top of that, how awkward is it as a player to see your quarterback staring into the stands with such an important play approaching? Get your head in the game!
  6. All aliens have one language, government, religion, and outfit per planet.
    Humans are apparently the only race to develop different cultures on their planet. Although to be fair, if we had been capable of interstellar travel for centuries, different cultures would’ve just moved to other planets to have all for themselves. Okay, this would make sense in real life.
I could go on forever, but what are some of the things you guys notice in movies and television that wouldn’t make sense in real life?

Being Superman

“You’re not Superman, you know?”

After a shitstorm of a day today, I sat in my apartment staring at my phone wondering how this simple statement made me feel as naked as the day I was born. Wondering how this short section of a conversation over text messages just revealed all my personality flaws to the world. My imperfections. My pain. My loss. My stress. My weaknesses. My doubts. Everything was out in the open.

“You’re not Superman, you know?”

The crazy thing is, sometimes I don’t. The crazy thing is, I try so hard to be Superman and sometimes I believe it. No, I don’t think I came from Krypton, but I do try to convince people that I don’t bleed. I try to convince people that I’m not human.

Pain is in the mind and, throughout my life, I’ve chosen to let it stay there. I’m not one to wear my heart on my sleeve. Unless I want you to know how I feel, you won’t. It’s that simple. Trying to read my body language or hoping for subconscious cues are useless. I’m like Mike McDermott from Rounders and you’re Teddy KGB. There are people who’ve known me for years who have never seen me angry, sad, or upset. A lot of times, I legitimately don’t get upset or sad. Some of the things that happen to me aren’t that big of a deal to get upset over. Other times, when I do find myself at odds with certain emotions, I choose not to display or, sometimes, even acknowledge them to myself.

Why am I hiding? Why the shell? That’s a good question. Part of the problem is my twisted perception of weakness. Every now and again, I’ll have a conversation with myself that goes something like this: “You’re feeling overwhelmed/stressed/upset? So what? How many other people have problems too? Get your head out of your ass.” I don’t have time to cry over spilled milk. The problem is, sometimes I just ignore the milk altogether and don’t clean it up. Then later, I slip and bust my ass on the milk that I should have dealt with before. Now I have milk on my pants.

I’m also reluctant to “accept” sympathy or comfort. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve said some variation of “I’m good” when someone was trying to comfort me. It’s almost a natural reaction. It’s not that I don’t appreciate or desire it. I just don’t want a pity party. And quite honestly, I find myself not wanting to be a burden to others. My problems are my problems. No need to get you involved in my mess or emotions. I want to find a solution myself or just deal with it. I guess it’s just me trying to seem strong. Which brings me to the reason why I won 2009’s Biggest Hypocrite Award…

I’m not Dr. Phil, but if you need someone to talk to about your problems, odds are I won’t turn you away. Odds are, I’d welcome it. I enjoy being there for people almost to a fault (actually, precisely to a fault). Oh, my insults and assholery threw you off? They often do. Seriously, not only does it make me feel good on a moral level, but on an intellectual level as well. Reading people is one of my most favorite things to do and when people talk to me about their problems or issues, I get a chance to do a, albeit crude, psychoanalysis on them. The problem is, sometimes sympathizing with someone becomes an attempt to “save” them. To help them out of their rut and carry some of their baggage for them. The only benefit that I get is knowing that they feel better, which is usually more than enough for me. The only hinderance is that my emotional load gets that much heavier, which is a sacrifice I’m always willing to give for those who need it.

The funniest thing about this is that Superman is actually one of the superheroes that I like the least. His extraterrestrial origin and near-perfect qualities make him almost impossible to sympathize with. Impossible to connect with. It makes me wonder how many people feel that way about me. The guy who never seems to admit to being angry or aggravated. Scared or sad. Depressed or doubtful. How can anyone connect with someone who doesn’t acknowledge that they bleed?

“You’re not Superman, you know?”

Yeah I know. But sometimes, I take the bullet anyway.


My First Time At Red Lobster

Going to Red Lobster was #2 on my “Things Black People Do That I Haven’t Done” bucket list right after “watch The Color Purple and Roots all the way through.” So luckily for me, my friend got a $10 off giftcard in the mail for Red Lobster and suggested we go. Score.

As we neared the restaurant, my friend gave me some directions that were less than accurate. Not way off, but enough where I felt the need to remind myself aloud that this was the reason why I didn’t take directions from women (I’m sexist. You didn’t know?). She quickly pointed out to me that she just didn’t have a clear memory of the last time she was there and that she has a great sense of direction. Fast forward to the end of the evening as we’re leaving the restaurant. She proceeds to walk in the opposite direction of the exit, not knowing she was going in the wrong direction until I pointed it out to her. TDA – 1. Women – 0.

As we waited for our table (you like how I just Tarantino’d this story right there), we saw that America’s Funniest Home Videos was playing on the televisions and we discussed how funny that show used to be. I chalked it up to the fact that everything is funnier when you’re a kid, but I couldn’t deny the fact that, as a whole, comedy has gotten cruder and more violent and that innocent type of comedy doesn’t get people to laugh a lot anymore. Immediately after that, I bust out laughing at a man accidentally getting hit in the face with an oversized mallet. Classic.

We get a table and order an appetizer. It was some kind of chip and dip thingamabob that our waitress suggested for us. When we got our appetizer, we noticed that either someone had sprinkled crack on our chips in an attempt to setup the only black people in the restaurant or one of the staff had a really bad case of dandruff. Later on we found out that the snowmaggedon nesting on our chips was actually salt. We tried to scrape off what we could and enjoy our chips, but it was no use. We ended up asking our waitress to bring us some chips that didn’t look like Tony Montana sneezed on them.

Later, the moment I was waiting for had finally arrived. The real reason I wanted to go to Red Lobster. All I’d ever heard about were the cheddar bay biscuits and how great they were. You automatically dedicate your life to Christ after eating them. So I was really excited when the waitress brought some out for us. My friend was cheesing the whole time. Then we both took a bite from our biscuits.


They were okay. Definitely not as amazing as everyone claims they are. My friend assured me that it was just those biscuits in particular that taste average and not an indication that all Red Lobsters are this disappointing. I’ll be the judge of that.

Now to the entree. I got some crab legs because, again, this was my first time at Red Lobster and I’ve never eaten crab legs. Yes, I’m from Maryland and have never eaten crab legs. I’ve also never been in the Washington Monument even though it’s 15 minutes from my house. Bite me. The crab legs were great though. I have to admit, I was a bit gentle with the crab legs at first. Cracking them slowly and trying to keep my area tidy. After 20 seconds, that ended. I think some enate caveman reflexes kicked in and I just started ripping the legs apart mercilessly. A piece from one of the legs flew off and hit an old lady in the next booth. It was fun in a sociopathic sort of way.

Anyway, my first time at Red Lobster was decent. Still disappointed that the cheddar bay biscuits didn’t bring me to orgasm like many had told me they would. Regardless, I feel a little blacker today than I did yesterday. Now to tackle the next thing on my list: get pulled over for DWB.


What Did You Want To Be?

The other day, I had the urge to change my desktop wallpaper. I usually do this every couple of months (even though I usually have so many windows open on my computer that I never see my desktop, but I digress). I was casually looking at a collection of wallpapers when I came across some that were illustrations of outer space. Depictions of planets, stars, asteroids, nebulas, and black holes. As soon as I saw these pictures, I heard the same thing that I hear whenever I see pictures like these:

What do you want to be when you grow up?”

You see, I’m sure we all remember being asked this question many times during our childhood. The world was rich with possibility and potential then. We could be anything we wanted. Some wanted to be scientists, singers, doctors, sports players, police officers (just kidding, I lived in a black neighborhood), engineers, politicians, or lawyers. But I wanted to be an astronomer.

The mystery of the universe always fascinated me. Maybe its just the Aquarius in me, but Earth has always felt too small. It started as an interest in science fiction movies and tv shows. Futuristic spaceships whizzing about the galaxy, using their warp drive to travel at light speed, shooting enemy vessels with laser beams and photon cannons, and exploring strange worlds. Then my interest manifested into an awe about the beauty and infiniteness of space and a respect for its power and mystery.

During the summer before 8th grade, I was accepted to participate in a summer program that was pretty much a summer camp for nerds. Kids got to spend 10 weeks on a college campus and take an upper-level course of their choosing. I naturally chose the Astronomy course they were offering. It was an awesome experience because it provided me with my first in-depth look into astronomy. I learned about the life of a star, the strength of a black hole, the vastness of our universe, and the physics behind it all. I learned about this environment that covers our planet. This environment where millions of truly amazing and breathtaking phenomena occur. Phenomena that are physically impossible on our little planet. Space is a place where the “impossible” is often shown to simply be the “improbable”.

But during high school, my dreams of being an astronomer fell by the wayside. There weren’t any astronomy courses that I could take & our physics class barely touched on the subject of stellar bodies. Instead, I became interested in computers and programing, which had its own track of courses. After that I majored in Computer Engineering in undergrad & am currently enrolled in a PhD program studying Bioengineering. I enjoy what I’m studying now & feel passionate about the impact that my research will have, but my interest in the cosmos remains as bright as it was before. LaLa’s post yesterday also had me thinking about alternate career choices. How different things might have been if my interest in astronomy had been nurtured more.

Anyway, as a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up? And I’m not talking about in the 2nd grade when you wanted to be a Power Ranger or Cinderella. What was your first serious career goal? Are you still interested in that career goal or have you moved on? Zip it up and zip it out.


Music Saved My Soul

This past Sunday night, 60 Minutes did a story on a gospel music program in Harlem called Gospel for Teens. Vy Higginsen started the group five years ago as a way to teach the art of singing gospel music to teens from 13-19. The teens have to go through auditions to get into the group, but they accept a large number of the kids and keep it free to encourage kids to try-out. During the story, you see & hear these beautiful voices come together with power and grace, but you also learn of the struggles that some of the children face in their lives, most of which are unknown to Higginsen until the latter part of the program. At one point, Higginsen asked all the teens to raise their hand if they had lost a loved one recently. Most of the kids raised their hands and began sharing stories of how they lost loved ones who were still in their youth to street violence. It wasn’t isolated to those in rough neighborhoods or single-parent homes either. One of the teens, who seemed very detached and aloof during the entire program, later revealed that her attitude was a response to her parents’ neglect. She took her pain with her to rehearsals so she could sing it out. All these kids were dealing with stress, fear, and rejection not just from the outside world, but in their own households as well. But the music and the atmosphere created by the Gospel for Teens program was a place of serenity for them.

Music was their strength. Singing was their peace.

The story really resonated with me because, just like those kids, music isn’t just music to me. Singing isn’t just singing. They aren’t just entertainment. They’re my therapy. My heart skips a beat when I hear a choir crescendo in harmony. I get chills when I hear a drummer flip the fuck out on his drums. I wince when I hear a guitar cry. I melt when I hear a soloist passionately ad-libbing. I can’t tell you how many times music and singing have been like a therapist, psychiatrist, and whatever Dr. Phil is. Baxter Music knows how to cut to the core of me. There’s a peace when I sing that I couldn’t explain to you. A feeling that words can’t accurately describe. The thing is, I would never call myself a connoisseur of music. I don’t always care about the underlying meaning of a song or its lyrics. I can’t read sheet music or play an instrument. And I don’t have an intimate knowledge of the societal impact that certain artists and periods of music have had. It’s a lot simpler than that for me. I just love being in the presence of music.

There have been days when I’ve felt discouraged. Not good enough. Not smart enough. Loved ones pulling away. Opportunities disappearing at every turn. But when I sing to some Fred Hammond, Israel & New Breed, Kirk Franklin, Marvin Sapp, or Jonathan Nelson, I feel lighter. I’m not carrying as much weight on my shoulders.

There have been days when I’ve felt angry. Upset at a situation or person. Ready to scream or throw something or use the Five Point Palm Exploding Heart technique on them. But when I play some Linkin Park, Rage Against The Machine, or System of a Down, I channel my aggression into the songs. I rock my head to the sounds of the distorted guitar and bass drum until my hostility is subdued.

There have been days where I’ve felt overwhelmed. So much work. So much studying. So much time and so little to do. (Wait a minute. Strike that. Reverse it.) But when I play some Coldplay, John Mayer, The Fray, Kings of Leon, Esperanza Spaulding, John Coltrane, or Miles Davis, I start to mellow out. Life slows down a little and I can relax long enough to breathe.

There have been days where I’ve felt scared and intimidated. Psyching myself out before the fight even begins. But when I play some Kanye, J. Cole, Common, The Roots, Lupe, Rick Ross, or Jay-Z, I get a little pep in my step. A little more swagga in my style.

There have been days where I’ve felt guarded and untrusting. Convincing myself to stay closed and to not be vulnerable. But when I sing some D’Angelo, The Foreign Exchange, John Legend, Erykah Badu, Lauryn Hill, or Corinne Bailey Rae, I feel an urge to take the walls down. To love without boarders and without fear.

Music and singing continue to be a place of strength and peace for me1, just like it is for the students in the Gospel for Teens program. What about you? What activity/hobby in your life saves your soul? Is it working out? Is it reading? Prayer? Cooking? What do you consistently go to when you need therapy or to release some negative emotions? Just let your soul glo glow.


1Except for the next 17 days since I gave up listening to music for Lent *playground slides*