Tuesday, February 24, 2015

First in Friendship, Fourth in Obesity: My Love Letter to Parks & Rec

When I sailed (i.e., drove for six hours) off to Virginia back in ye olde 2008 for my first year of college at that venerable Baptist Institution, I was in a right (i.e., nightmare-ish) state of mind.  If you frequent this blog with any kind of regularity, you know this song and dance quite well.  I was super broody about not getting into the universities of my choice; I was like the Mr. Rochester of my own life, minus the club foot, or whatever, and the crazy spouse locked up in the attic. 

Professionally, I had dreams of running for office someday, and I wanted to enact positive change in the political realm.  It was appropriate, then, that at this time I was still pretty involved with The Office, a show that recognized the futility of life and suggested, rather British-ly (as it was originally intended), to deal with the matter by not dealing at all.  Life is absurd; respond accordingly.  Additionally, I was watching The Daily Show and The Colbert Report on the regular.  I love(d) those shows, but the problem with satire is that (if you let it) it can start giving you a certain smug sense of superiority for figuring out what's wrong with the institution you're targeting before the other guy.  My issue was that I had become that person.  The smug one.  Only, I was worse because my motivation for making "positive changes" was that I had all the answers to the world's problems.  I could do this whole world saving thing on my own. (If you're thinking, "Gee, General, you were kind of an egotistical douchebag," you--unfortunately--would not be wrong.)

So there I was, on the precipice of a new chapter of my life:  pissed off at the world and frustrated that I didn't fit in more with the other students in my government classes.  After all, weren't these the fine young men and women that would be accompanying me into Washington someday to enact positive change for real people?  Yet, it seemed all they wanted to do was debate and argue, and if I recall vividly from right after the 2008 presidential election, chalk the Communist hammer and sickle on the sidewalk in front of our dorms where the "O" in Obama should have been.  To be fair, I have no idea who did that last one, but I'm referring more to the divisive, partisan nature that had infected not just the political climate as a whole, but the meek, Baptist Institution I was attending, too. The whole thing was, to borrow a Liz Lemon saying, totally blergh!

Enter Parks and Recreation

Word got around that The Office was going to get a spin-off.  At that point, I think there was a rumor that it was going to star Rainn Wilson's Dwight Schrute. Everything in me hated this idea.  The Office was already having issues of its own, and to split part of its creative team seemed like sending Old Yeller into the backyard with his executioner, just minus that pesky shotgun.  But I loved Amy Poehler, and I liked Rashida Jones.  Eventually curiosity got the better of me (let's be honest, procrastination got the better of me), and I'm pretty sure I watched all six episodes of season one on Hulu about a month before season two would begin.

Turns out the show was about a public servant--one that was desperate to please (much like Michael Scott), but a public servant nonetheless. And the whole first season focused on a constituent (Rashida Jones' Ann Perkins) trying to get the giant pit in the lot next to her house filled, which is how she meets Leslie (Poehler), who works in Pawnee, Indiana's Parks and Recreation department.  There was also a staunchly Libertarian, borderline anarchist boss, Ron Swanson; the apathetic intern, April; Andy, Ann's simple, yet loveable rock star boyfriend; Tom Haverford, a guy with Diddy-sized entrepreneurial dreams; and Mark Brandanawicz, the architect who doesn't get paid enough to care.

I was merely whelmed with the show at first.  It had funny moments, and I liked how real life, small government issue "The Pit" story line was; however Leslie Knope, Poehler's character, just seemed like she was trying too hard.  But as I kept watching, that trait stopped seeming like the worst thing in the world.  In fact, because she was trying so hard when it came to filling in the pit, Leslie actually manages to get Ann to participate in local government.  And because she tries so hard consistently, Leslie actually managed to earn the respect of her boss, Ron, who has no respect for a single government employee, let alone the institution of government in its entirety.  Although, she takes a lot of flack for her enthusiasm in the beginning, too.  Tom and April poke fun of her behind her back, while Mark constantly thinks the Pit will never get filled because of all the bureaucratic red tape, regardless of Leslie's passion.

As the series progressed, so did my love for it.  As it turned out, Leslie Knope wasn't trying too hard because she wanted people to like her, much like Michael Scott had done in The Office.  She was trying really hard because she believed that, with hard work and persistence, the American governing system could work.  Surrounded by folks that were, for the most part, apathetic toward or vehemently against the system they worked within, Leslie Knope dared to be optimistic about the chances of success when you add teamwork and persistence; she truly had a servant's heart.  She got discouraged, sure--she was, after all, only human--but she was smart enough to surround herself with good people, and she stayed focused on what she was working toward in the first place.  After all, she's the one that said, "One person's 'annoying' is another person's 'inspiring and heroic.'"

In addition to the character of Leslie, the show also portrayed friendships and relationships in general well.  Even though they had polar opposite political beliefs, Ron and Leslie's relationship organically grows into a wonderful friendship and mentorship where both of them aren't afraid to call each other out when they're being boneheaded; yet on the other hand, they'll both be the first to be each other's cheerleader.  Tom and April both go from being directionless and immature to really applying themselves once they find motivation (that just happens to be outside of government).  And Ben Wyatt--dear sweet Ben and his disastrous Ice Town and his calzone hating--is a complete outcast from the group because he dares to do his job when they have to downsize the Parks department, but then everyone from the department ends up including him at the Dennis Feinstein launch party anyway.  And while the romantic relationships on the show have always been beautiful and heartfelt and a delight to watch (e.g., Leslie and Ben; April and Andy), Leslie and Ann's relationship, which I will always consider the primary one of the show, is one of the best portrayals of female friendship I've yet to see on television.  (With the sole exception of Playing House, and that takes a lot for me to even make the comparison--that's how good it is).

Leslie Knope exudes the kind of feminism that makes my heart happy, the kind that Hermione could get behind and applaud uproariously.  She wants to see women excel at whatever they do, but not at the expense of men because she clearly respects and admires the ones she works with, unless they're particular tools (here's looking at you, JAM).  Yes, Leslie can sometimes get stuck in her ways, but it's hard to get mad at a character that just wants to do the right thing so gosh darn badly.

Early on, they decided to write off the character of Mark Brandanawicz, and at the time, I remember thinking that I was just starting to enjoy the sort of sardonic, Jim Halpert attitude he brought to the whole ensemble.  In retrospect, however, it makes sense that they brought Ben and Chris in his place instead.  In the same way that satire only works in small doses before smugness sets in, I believe the same can be said of criticism in politics.  After a certain point, you're spending so much time focusing on what doesn't work in government that you're not doing anything to actively improve it.  The founder of the Baptist Institution I used to attend was fond of saying that if you're going to criticize the dark, you'd better have a light.  I always thought that was an admirable statement, an admirable way of life.  The very thing that sets Parks and Recreation apart from The Office is that there's this unwavering, underlying optimism, and I believe it's this very distinctive American trait.  That trait being that even though life deals you a certain hand, you don't have to just lie down and accept it.  If you work hard and you remain steadfast, you can enact change for the better.  You can be a voice for those who have none.

After six years, I'm being forced to say goodbye to another comedy show I accidentally fell head over heels in love with.  Leslie Knope became more than a just a character to me.  She became my role model.  You see, while I was selfishly coming up with visions of grandeur in which I single handedly saved the American governing system and humanity with it, Leslie Knope taught me that nothing of significance is accomplished with one, single person.  And while I was embittered by the entire political process and partisanship at its core, Parks and Recreation showed me what happens when a group of people with no significance whatsoever get together, work hard, and serve others.

You can call me a sap if you want.  Maybe I am.  (Actually, definitely I am.  Tears have been dripping into my comforter as I type this, and I've been listening to "Wild Horses" on repeat all day in preparation for the end because it still hasn't settled in).  All I know is that this show has made me laugh so much, I've cried.  It's made me so happy, I've cried.  It's made me so cried, I've cried.  Basically, I love all the people of Pawnee, Indiana like they were my own family, and maybe I'm not so dead set on having a political career in my future again, but this show played a small role in reminding me what the true role of a government employee--of a public servant--actually is.  By this point, I haven't had a chance to watch the finale yet because I'm still in denial, and I had to work late.  And if this post is incoherent and ramble-y it's because I just have so many feelings about this show, and it has come to mean so much to me in such a different way than The Office.  In a different life stage, I guess.  In my mind, regardless of how the show pans out, April finds her dream career; Andy keeps being wonderful; Leslie, Ben, and their triplets go on to live in the Governor's mansion of Indiana; while Ron finds peace with his wife and her kids in the middle of nowhere, Indiana; and Donna and Tom keep treating themselves.  Basically, in the perfect words of Kurt Vonnegut, everything was beautiful and nothing hurt.

So, bye, bye, Li'l Sebastian.  You're five thousand candles in the wind.

Kelah Se'lai,

The General

Sunday, February 22, 2015

I Will Remember You, [General Kenobi]

In my frequent dalliances with depression, the best descriptive metaphor (simile?) I've been able to come up with is this:

Imagine going about, living your life as you normally would, until one day, suddenly, you've fallen down into an enormous chasm.  The chasm's not uncomfortable, by any means, but none of your friends or family can join you or even help you out of the chasm, and the sunlight is completely blocked out; however, all of those details are hardly worth mentioning initially.  Because in the beginning, you know that your chasm situation is temporary, and even though it's presently dark as pitch down there, you know it to be bright and sunny outside.  And just because your friends and family can't join you presently, or can't hold onto the other end of the rope that's conveniently in the bottom of the chasm with you for metaphor's (simile's?) sake, doesn't mean they won't be by another day.

The problem begins when, at some point, you've been in the chasm for so long you start to accept your current surroundings as the foundation for truth.  Darkness and Emptiness are all that you know; the sun which you once knew to be the source of light and contentment may as well be a unicorn for how much relevance and impact it now has on your life, on your current situation. What once was a rather lengthy load screen to the next stage of your life has now become an entire season of desperation  with what feels like no way out.  Because remember those friends and family members who couldn't get to you back in the beginning?  Well, they're back in full force, shouting at you to toss that rope up to them, so they can pull you up.  And speaking of that rope, it's super zany!  Sometimes, it's too short to reach the folks up on the ledge.  And sometimes, it's long enough, and you throw it up to the ledge, but no one is on the other side,  and you can't do this yourself.  And sometimes, the rope's not even down in the chasm with you at all.  In fact, it's with your loved one's up on the ledge!  And they're spewing every possible encouraging phrase to get you to grab on to that rope as tightly as you can so they can heave and ho you to safety.

And sometimes...though it's by far the scariest of all...sometimes, that rope disappears altogether.  Sometimes, it's just you.  Just you, and the ninety degree chasm wall without a foothold.  Just you, the ninety degree wall, and your own thoughts--on repeat and shuffle--with 7.1 surround sound.

This kind of desperation begs the question: what next?

Over the course of the last two months, I found myself in the kind of situation I never dreamed of.  Two car accidents (minus one car), the resurgence of my grandfather's lung cancer, money troubles, etc.  It finally got to a point where the anxiety and the tears, much like my worries and the phone calls from State Farm, were on repeat ad nauseam.  In my desperation, I turned to God.

 For the first time, in, I don't know, maybe a year?  I cracked my Bible open and began to read Noah's account from Genesis.  I've read this story hundreds of times, starting from the felt screens in my elementary Sunday school classes.  For those unfamiliar with the story it goes like this:  In the beginning God created the Heavens and the Earth and basically everything else including man and woman.  Adam and Eve sin, thereby passing along their sin nature to the rest of their offspring.  By the time Noah comes along, mankind is totally wicked.  God is so disheartened by the state of his prized creation (with the exception of Noah and his family), he decides to bring about a flood, wiping everything out, thus allowing Him to start over.  Because Noah is the blameless sort, God commands Noah to build an ark for not just the "two of every kind" of animal, but for his family and their family as well.

As I said, I've heard this story so many times (I'm pretty sure I even paid money to watch Evan Almighty), but when I read it this time, I was struck speechless by the opening words in Genesis 8:

"But God remembered Noah..."

But God remembered Noah.  It's a simple enough phrase, but it holds so much weight to those of us that are suffering.  As a kid, I was always under the impression that the flood just lasted that whole "40 days, 40 nights" thing.  But as I was reading through this, that was hardly the case.  That's just the duration of the rain.  If I understand the account correctly, Noah was on that boat for another 150 days.  That's, like, one third of a year.  And he wasn't alone on that boat.  There were the animals, sure, but he was stuck in there with his family, too.  You could not PAY me to go on a cruise with my family (not even one with updated plumbing accommodations).  ESPECIALLY not a safari animal cruise.

Because I'm sure at first, Noah was all honored that God chose him to be the one that got saved from this huge flood, that he was going to save all these animals and stuff.  But I'm betting by about three weeks in, when Shem got into it with Ham about how his snoring was louder than even the Hyenas, Noah was like, "I am so done. Why me?!"

But that's just it.  It was him, out there in the middle of the flood waters, with no one for miles, and there must have been some days where he felt like he was in that scary chasm with no rope.  And I think that's precisely why Moses makes a point in assuring the reader that "God remembered Noah."  Because if God remembered Noah, why wouldn't he have remembered Moses?  Why wouldn't he have remembered those twenty-one slain Christian brothers and their loved ones in Egypt?  Why wouldn't he remember my grandfather?

And more close to home, why wouldn't he remember General Kenobi?

At no point did Noah go through this ordeal alone.  And while, I'm pretty sure, Noah's ideal timeline would have been a heck of a lot sooner than some 200 days, God issued rescue according to his timeline, but he remembered Noah and remained by his side throughout the entire ordeal.  "God remembered Noah."

When I read this passage last Thursday, this seemed like such a revelation, and since that time, this small, but deceitful voice has since then whispered defiantly, "Well, of course, he remembered Noah. He was the only person left in the world."

But since that time, I came across this phenomenal blog post which talked seriously about arming oneself in the armor of God, and the Bible is the sword with which we use to mercilessly flay the enemy.  So in response to that voice, I point to Isaiah 41:9-10a "I took you from the ends of the earth, from its farthest corners I called you.  I said, 'You are my servant': I have chosen and have not rejected you.  So do not fear, for I am with you..."

I have no idea what God has next in store for me.  All I know is that for the first time in a long, long time I can breathe, and I know it's because rather than trusting in myself, I am trusting in Him.  It's not been the easiest path by far, and there are some moments when it has been scary as all hell, but I know when I come out on the other side, bloody fingertips mutilated, having clawed my way out of my own chasm, I will grasp to this promise like it is my lifeline (because it is):

"Though you have made me see troubles, many and bitter,
you will restore my life again; from the depths of the
earth you will again bring me up.  You will increase my
honor and comfort me once again." - Psalm 72:20-21

Keelah Se'lai,

The General

Saturday, June 21, 2014

i can't believe this is the end

I am devastated.

Standing in the middle of GIANT--in between an American flag outdoor chair and a table stacked high with Entenmann's mini muffins--I received a phone call from my dad on Monday at 7:23 pm, informing me that my grandfather had been diagnosed with lung cancer.

I can't breathe.

I've had a week to process, and while the tightness in my chest has died down some, it's still there.  And no amount of distractions (real life or purposely invoked), have been able to stop the sudden, constrictive flashbacks I'll have at the most inopportune moments.  But life goes on.  So it goes, as Kurt Vonnegut was so fond of saying.

This is the way the world ends.

But what Vonnegut and so many Modernists (Post-modernists?) failed to mention was how much death actually hurts.  It hurts so badly.  And it's not as though I'm a stranger to death.  After all, I'm a product of 9/11, and just three years ago, I witnessed my grandmother's final days in hospice, her battle with Alzheimer's finally lost.  I'm not naive enough to think that my experiences measure up to someone who has lost an immediate family member (I can't even imagine), however I've earned my share of battle scars from my grandma's death.

But this is different.

My grandfather was like a stand-in dad for me.  While my father was emotionally distant and physically unavailable (because he had to financially provide for our family), my grandfather was steadfastly available.  Where my own father was quick to wound with his own words, my grandfather was quicker still to tell you how much he loved you and how proud he was of you.  When everyone else had given up on the idea of me ever learning how to ride a bike, my grandfather was out with me every day until I finally learned how.  When my little sister and I missed the bus (because we'd been watching The Ink and Paint Club), it was the first time I'd ever heard him swear, but he came all the way over to our house to drive us to school.  A month ago, at the age of 86, he helped me move when I lost out on my apartment in Harrisburg.  We're talking a man who wholly understood what Christ meant when he said learn to be the servant of all.  Granted, my grandfather smoked for a decent portion of his life, and he was believed to be exposed to some kind of asbestos during his time in the Navy serving his country in WWII.  But he quit smoking cold turkey, and up until maybe five years ago, he would run up to ten miles every day of his life.  He even beat colon cancer close to ten years ago.  The guy's a machine.

And now, he has lung cancer.

This is the way the world ends.

Now, at this point, I have no idea what stage his cancer is at; hell, I don't even know if it's treatable.  I've heard radiation come up, but at his age, is treatment even a viable option?  These are all questions I never thought I'd have to answer at this stage in my life, and given the choice, I'd opt to never have to answer them.  But this seems to be the hand I've been dealt this retched year of 2014.

I know as a Christian, I should view this experience as the the book of Ecclesiastes does.  That whole,  "A time to be born; a time to die" thing.  That he's heading back to his heavenly home, to sit at the feet of his Father.  But realistically, my attitude is far more selfish and, in all honesty, resentful.

My grandfather was supposed to dance with me at my wedding.  He was supposed to be around to meet his great grandchildren.  He was going to be the first person I told when I won my first publicly elected position.

If you'll indulge my petulance for just a moment:  it's just so unfair!

This is the way the world ends.

What really concerns me, though--what truly terrifies me--about the whole situation is the well-being of my soul during this time.  When my grandmother passed away in 2011, watching her waste away in hospice was one of the most difficult things I have ever witnessed.  To watch someone so smart, so capable, and so independent simply waste away, to watch attendants change a grown woman's diaper decimated the very foundations of my faith.  I spent the next six months or so angry with God, wondering why he would allow such a demeaning and humiliating end for for one of his children he claimed to love unconditionally.

My faith has been no stranger to the crucible of life in the years since, but I don't trust myself to be able to recollect God's goodness in times such as this.  And perhaps that's the point.  My depraved nature shouldn't be trusted.  My inability to face death straight on, my weakness, is where God's strength is able to shine most brilliantly.  I am not the first Christian to struggle, to doubt, and I most certainly will not be the last.  But in this moment, in the days following that harrowing phone call from my dad, I will make 2 Corinthians 12:9 the cry of my heart because I don't have the strength to audibly utter the words, and because honestly, I don't have any other options.  "But he said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.'"

Today is my grandfather's 87th birthday.  The irony has not escaped me, nor has it ceased to piss me off.  This is a man who served overseas in Italy during WWII, who worked two jobs to put his two kids through college.  A man who lost part of his finger  on the assembly line at Mack trucks, who cared for his Alzheimer's ridden wife for fifteen years.  This is a man who is my best friend.  And after all that, to celebrate his 87th birthday tomorrow, we're having salads and eating ice cream cake.

Not with a bang but a whimper.

Friday, January 17, 2014

I've [The General's] Got [Has] NOTHING To Say!

For the past two to three hours, I have been staring at a completely blank "New Post" document because I literally have nothing of profound impact to impart to my audience.  ("But, General," you all begin, "you've never said anything pro--" To which I promptly and succinctly shush you all.)  Initially, I had wanted to write something on the topic on Introversion, and I think I still will next week, but I just didn't have the will (or the motivation) to complete it.  So!  That being said!  Rather than trying to impress with my classic witticisms and ethereal prose, I will impart something that God has taught me, ever so quietly, this week.

Last Saturday, huddled under my covers, playing Mass Effect as male, Renegade Shepard, I could barely focus on taking down what appeared to be a whole colony of Rachni.  I was dreading the upcoming work week because I knew--I just knew--it was going to be hell, and what was supposed to be a distraction (i.e., my addiction to video gaming) was only serving to ratchet my anxiety meter through the roof.

It didn't really make sense.  I was no longer working at that Video Game Retail Store.  I had a sweet place of my own now.  I didn't quite understand where all this anxiousness was stemming from.  But as a deep seated Perfectionist from my early days as a zygote, I secretly knew it was all related to my unshakable fear of failure to perform at 100% for others around me.

I'll be completely honest, I don't absolutely not care about people approving of me.  I can tell myself otherwise, but as a naturally introverted person (SELF INSERTED PLUG, j/k, j/k) it is that much harder for me to get to know people, and it takes that much longer for other people to get to know me.  Ipso facto (I think I'm using that correctly, if not #sorrynotsorry), I try that much harder to come across normally because it's just easier in the end, but it's also much more exhausting (I'll get more into this next week).  So, in addition to my boss, there are my co-workers, my family, and then my roommate, and then people I run into on a daily basis, and then on top of all that, God.  By the end of all this people (and deity) pleasing, I'm drained.  There's not a single speck of "me" left, and the parts that are have withered and paled beyond recognition.

This is Psalm 30:5.  It reads:
For his anger lasts only a moment,
but his favor lasts a lifetime;
weeping may stay for the night,
but rejoicing comes in the morning.
I think sometimes I get so wrapped up in the present, in the temporal, that I forget that God transcends the limitations and boundaries man places on his own time and abilities.  I know in the past that I've remarked I don't pick up well on subtlety, but this week was different.  God reminded me of His ability to rescue my weary soul in small, seemingly random moments this week.  Whether it was in a friend dropping off Chipotle for lunch (well within my 3 times per week, thank you), or the trust of my boss to entrust a letter writing assignment to me, there was always rejoicing following the dread of the night prior.

Logically, I think I understand that not everyone will think I am as delightful and charming as I think I am.  But if there's anything I've picked up on this week, it's that even if I'm not feeling it in overwhelming waves, I worship a God whose favor in me is everlasting.  And in comparison, that seems pretty okay, to be honest.

Keelah Se'lai,

The General

Friday, January 10, 2014

Scrub is a Guy Who Can't Get No Love from General Kenobi

About a week ago (or was it two?), a friend of mine, frustrated by my lack of interest in the whole dating scene, came right out and demanded of me, "So what exactly are you looking for?  I just don't understand."  And, to be perfectly honest, neither did I.  I mean, besides the obvious (The Doctor, Coach Taylor, Indiana Jones, Tony Stark, etc.), I always had a list of standards, some more shallow than others (i.e. must love Firefly), but I had never really taken the time to put aside the attributes that really mattered.  So in an effort to have a response to my friend, and in order to understand where my underlying priorities lie, I penned this post.  Leave your gag reflexes at the door, folks, 'cause this is me being real, AND it's nowhere near February 14th!  I've called it:


1.) Love God and Pursue Him -  Above all else, this is a MUST.  While I believe in freedom of religion in the public sector, this is a potential life partner we're talking about.  I need someone who's on the same page with me for the huge doctrinal issues because on the bad days (and there will be bad days) I need to know that this dude will be encouraging me and hitting hard with the same spiritual truths I'd be feeding him on his bad days.  Doesn't mean we'll always agree (far from it), but it does mean that I will never have to hide who I am and what I stand for, and he won't have to worry about that either.

2.)  Treat Others (e.g. Ladies, Family, Service Personnel, etc.) with Dignity -  This is also huge with me.  Working at that Video Game Retail Store, I met some of the scummiest guys imaginable:  guys who were rude, guys who were foul mouthed, guys who wore grody t-shirts with scantily clad women on the front, etc.  They were disrespectful and crass; they were little boys.  It is super important to me that dudes treat their parents, their siblings, and other women with honor, dignity, and respect.  This is especially pressing with wait staff or any other customer service staff:  like Christ's Sermon on the Mount says, it's the meek that will inherit the earth, so it's paramount that the lowest of the low be treated like royalty.  If a dude does this, then I can guarantee that--to quote the philosopher Nicki Minaj--the panties comin' off, off, uh.

3.)  Sense of Humor - Why did the chicken cross the road?  Because if he tried fording the river, he probably would have died like his oxen brethren in The Oregon Trail.  True, that's some quality, grade-A comedy right there, but I'm not so much of an egotist that this dude's gotta think everything  I say is high-friggin'-larious, but there has to be some level of humor similarity in existence there.  If he can't pick up on my sarcasm, and the thought of this dude using one more pun has me driving a screwdriver into my inner ear , then there is a problem. 

This isn't just a superficial issue, either.  Given my proclivity toward comedy writing in some aspect of my future career, I need my future partner to be at least somewhat invested in this endeavor in some way as a supportive player.  If the roles were reversed, I would never want a dude to settle for me when I'm not invested in his future endeavors because they're boring/uninteresting/trigonometry related, etc.  In the same vain, I don't know if I could be with a guy who was also pursuing the comedy field because I feel like there would be a whole clashing of egos thing.  But give me a funny guy?  See the above re: Nicki Minaj and panties.

4.) Similar Political Beliefs - It's not that I'm saying I could never get together with a Democrat.  I'm just saying it's a highly unlikely possibility.  Why?  Because my passion for politics goes far beyond that:  it's a vocational calling, too.  Does it supersede my identity in Christ, and my call to love the lost?  Absolutely not, but it affects the way I vote, the way I speak, the way my worldview looks (or maybe vice versa?).  Either way, it's a topic I don't want to have to censor in the privacy of my own home.  Some couples can make that whole bipartisan thing work, but I don't think I could; I want that common ground.  Again, we don't have to have carbon copy political views--I couldn't possibly expect that--but some commonality should exist. 

Similarly, I am quite passionate about ending the objectification of women and engendering their empowerment.  I will NOT budge on this issue.  Joss Whedon gives me hope that there are other men out there who believe women can pretty much do whatever they want.  I want a dude who's as passionate about (and equally not as threatened by) the empowerment of women to fulfill their God designed destinies, whether that's mothering five children, becoming a CEO of a Fortune 500 company, or doing BOTH because as a woman WHY NOT

The fact that human trafficking is still such a huge epidemic internationally and domestically and that there are still countries where the societal norm is for women to cover their faces should upset this guy about a thousand times MORE because it reflects poorly on his gender; plus, these ladies are his sisters in Christ.  Show me that guy, the one that gets upset about the unjust treatment of ladies, not just when it's convenient for him politically, and I swear I will exercise my first amendment right to protest the need for clothing, stat.

And, finally...

5.)  Chiseled Jaw and Buns of Steel (i.e. Attractive) - Here it is, folks.  The shallow one.  Granted, this is the least important one on the list, but I disagree by how much it differs in importance.  Sure, looks aren't everything, but they are something!  When I picture a guy cherishing me, I picture someone who is so irrevocably head over heels into every aspect of me--physically, spiritually, and emotionally--he's like Tex Avery in those very old, very sexist cartoons, with his eyeballs popping out of his head and the old timey car horn going, foot thumping, only more romantic, and love of my life-ish.  Point is, I wouldn't want a dude to "pity" marry me if he thought I was awesome personality-wise, but just wasn't attracted to me physically.  That would be the worst.  In fact, I'd be super offended.  And if the roles were reversed (i.e., me pity marrying some non-bodacious dude) that dude would be upset, too.  No one likes the words 'pity' and 'date' in the same sentence; it's an absolute bummer.

I made a vow before God to hold off on all sexual activity until after I'm married.  It hasn't always been easy.  In fact, I'd say, like, 87% of the time, it sucks, it blows, it's the worst (puns NOT intended), but most of the time I am okay--even content--with my decision because I know God made the commandment out of love for his people, myself included.  Excluding procreation, God designed sex to be fun.  Call it selfish, but I feel I owe it to myself (and my future spouse) to be super into the way that dude looks.  Because in the event that marriage is something God has in store for me somewhere in my future, I can't imagine in that first year that this dude and I will be doing much else than each other <3

Keelah Se'lai,

The General

Thursday, January 2, 2014

[2014] Came in Like a Wrecking Ball; Or, How General Kenobi [Will Get] Her Groove Back

Long time, no blog, amirite?  There's really no proper excuse for the delay, save for crippling self-doubt and a healthy dose of procrastination by lethal injection.  Soooo...basically, the internal workings of my brain on a regular basis.  But alas!  2014 erupts as as a flaming phoenix from the embittered ashes of 2013, and with it, I plan to redeem many of my regrettably ill-adopted behaviors from last year.  What follows is a General (get it???) list of resolutions I solemnly(ish) swear to abide by in the following months.


10.)  I Solemnly Swear I Will Learn All the Lyrics to My Favorite Songs - Rather than fading off during the parts I don't know, or humming, or else making up my own lyrics.  Boston's "More than a Feeling" has been around for DECADES; there is literally NO excuse.

9.)  I Solemnly Swear to Be More Politically Active for Causes that Matter - As fun as it is to debate Second Amendment rights (not), there are other issues, such as fighting for the unborn, or eradicating human trafficking, that should be taking up so much more of my time and energy.  I swear(ish) to be more informed about the world around me, and, NO, The Onion, is NOT a valid news source (and not just because I can't access it from work).

8.)  I Solemnly Swear to Eat at Chipotle Once a Week - Okay, FINE, no more than three times a week, and that is FINAL.  I'm only human, for goodness sake.

7.) I Solemnly Swear to Lower My Expectations for Video Games This Year - In the first half of 2013, you had Tomb Raider, BioShock: Infinite, and The Last of Us all before the Holiday season, which is when all the amazing blockbuster games are supposed to drop.  You also had LEGO: Marvel Superheroes, which is seriously the most addictive and most adorable game I have ever played.  I have no expectations this year, except for TellTales' The Walking Dead: Season Two.  It had better be AMAZING.

6.)  I Solemnly Swear to Actively Participate in More Physical Excursions - Pushup?  I'm sorry, I've never seen that word not PLURALIZED.

5.)  I Solemnly Swear to Be More Selective in My Netflix Viewing Habits - There's no REASON I should be even remotely TEMPTED into viewing a film titled "Holiday in Handcuffs" when there are at least 156 titles in my queue, and about a thousand others that are just begging to be watched. (Here's looking at you, Scandal and my third watch through of Friday Night Lights).

4.)  I Solemnly Swear to Be More Socially Active - Role playing video games count as socializing, right?  Because otherwise my seventy-five plus hours clocked on Dragon Age: Origins last September would just be desperate and sad.

3.)  I Solemnly Swear to Stop Saying I Want to Be a Comedy Writer and Start Actually Writing Comedy - It's ridiculous, right?  You wouldn't say you're a legislator if you don't pass any legislation (ooooh, Federal Congress BURN!).  Comedy has long since skipped being a hobby for me; it's a passion.  This year, I swear(ish) to start writing some actual jokes or amusing stories, really ANYTHING that could be considered funny.  Here's a freebie I've been working on:  Two-in-one shampoo and conditioner is about as useful and nutritiously beneficial as a deep fried wheat grass shot.  I'll hold for the applause.

2.)  I Solemnly Swear to View and Serve Others as Christ Would - Sorry, Pride and Insecurity, you had too much pull last year.  You get to ride in the trunk along with  flare jeans and crocs.

And finally ....

1.)  I Solemnly Swear to Fall For and Pursue Real Men as Opposed to Fictional/Celebrity Men -LOL, J/K

Here's to 2014!
Keelah Se'lai,
The General

Thursday, May 16, 2013

It's Really Incalcucable - My Love Letter to The Office (U.S.)

When they announced earlier this year that this would be the final season of NBC's The Office, I didn't quite know how to feel.  Deep down somewhere in the recesses of my mind, I knew this day would come eventually, not the exact date, but that the series would one day come to a close.  And while there were many times in the Post-Michael Scott seasons that I desired a mercy killing for the ghost of a series I once loved, there was always a certain comfort in knowing that the show was still around.  It meant that, for the most part, things hadn't changed.  It meant that I hadn't changed.

My love affair with The Office started in late 2005, in the middle of season two.  I accidentally caught some of the Halloween episode in a rerun.  I thought the tall guy with the black dots on his shirt was cute; I stuck around for another two minutes for Steve Carell.  It was meh.   Nothing special.  I had a whole queue of shows I was invested in (in case you need reminding, the 2005 Fall TV season remains the pinnacle of man's achievement, giving us House, Lost, how i met your mother, 30 Rock the first season of Prison Break, and others) so it was no big deal.  But I kept hearing how amazing and hilarious this show was.  The first live episode I watched was Booze Cruise, with the infamous 27 seconds of silence between Jim and Pam.  The second was The Injury, which to this day is my favorite 22 minutes of comedic television writing ever.  Thus began my obsession with The Office, both the show and the fandom. 

The obsession started out by purchasing the first season and watching through that.  Then it turned to watching the commentaries and deleted scenes and finding fanvids (this was the first one I ever watched, and this Battlestar Galactica/Office mashup is one of the greatest things ever; oh, and here), and looking up information on John Krasinski.  And then at some point it took a nosedive into doing research into ALL the cast and crew, and following Pam, Kevin, and Angela on MySpace.  It culminated with me joining an avid community of individuals who wrote fanfiction based on the show (my stories I'm proud of can be found herehere, and here), and eventually I joined fansites like Office Tally and Northern Attack, spending hours on message boards discussing the kiss at the end of season two, or Michael proposing to Holly.

I didn't just find a show I liked in The Office, I kind of found an extended family.  I found my niche. For me, The Office was never just a show.  It was a dear, old friend I spent nine wonderful years with.  When my sister was hospitalized to prevent her from self harming back during my junior year of  high school, The Office helped me escape on countless evenings.  The show saw me through my crushing college rejections at the end of senior year in 2008, and again in 2010 when I watched my Alzheimer's ridden grandmother deteriorate even further.  When I stepped onto the campus of that conservative Baptist college I attended, hating everything and thinking no one would appreciate my "Stewart/Colbert '08" shirt, it was a guy standing in line for the cafeteria wearing a Dunder Mifflin shirt who gave me hope that maybe I wasn't alone in my comedic preferences.

When I started watching it for the first time at the age of 16, I can remember thinking that deep down, in that dark, private place I share with no one (except for the ten of you that read this blog) that I knew that what I wanted more than anything else was to write comedy for a living.  I wanted to create something that meant as much to others as The Office meant to me.  Something that could simultaneously make you laugh so hard that tears and urine freely exited your body and ameliorate, if only for a little while, the pain in your current situation.  And now, seven years later, at the age of 23, that desire hasn't changed.

But what has changed is everything else; time doesn't stop just because you want it to.  Everything must end, much to my increasing disappointment.  Last year marked my graduation from college, and by the end of this summer, I'll officially have my diploma, thereby forcing me into the adult world. As The Office ends tonight, so too does the adolescent chapter in my life, and while I know I have a plethora of opportunities ahead of me, it doesn't make either ending any less bittersweet.  But like Vonnegut, I've always enjoyed my grief with a good flatulence joke, or two.

Dinkin' Flicka,

The General