January 30, 2008

Special: Hip-Hop Videos of the 90s, Volume 2

This is part of my sparsely ongoing series chronicling the Golden Age of Hip-Hop: The 1990s. Special thanks to Craig, my homey. (Link for those reading on Facebook)

When I posted my first Hip-Hop videos of the 90s feature, featuring Public Enemy's "Give It Up," I had no doubt that I would create a wildly insatiable appetite for not-so-long-lost hip-hop lore. I was right: The world changed. Now, some might call that an overstatement, but I tend to disagree. I created a firestorm rivaled only by the Hannah Montana/Miley Cyrus Identity Mystery. (I am about to blow your mind: I suspect they are the same person.) I am well aware that the addition to my hip-hop series, this addition in particular, will feed the aforementioned firestorm into a dangerously riotous frenzy, but I am dedicated to my art. Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you the second installment of the Hip-Hop videos of the 90s phenomenon:

In 1995, Chicago-born Antoine Roundtree, aka Skee-Lo, rocked the world by introducing the short-lived epoch of self-deprecating hip hop. The 5'4" rapper's underrated single, "I Wish" embraced its status as a historical benchmark by featuring samples from Buffalo Springfield's "For What it's Worth," which featured the lyrics "Stop, children, what's that sound, everybody look what's going down," The song is often used as a symbol of change (mostly in nostalgic 60s movies) and Skee-lo was well aware of the change that hip-hop needed. Thirteen years later, due mostly to Skee-lo's brave leadership, modern hip-hop is no longer the puffed-up egocentrist hodge-podge of money and women it once was.


Well, I did say it was a short-lived epoch, didn't I?

Okay, so Skee-lo didn't exactly stem the tide of bling-and-ho hip-hop, but his humility was earth-shattering. The rap world has yet to see someone else who can rap not about how awesome they are, but about how awesome they genuinely aren't. Among other things, Skee-lo raps about how he wishes he:
-Was a little bit taller
-Was a baller
-Had a girl who looked good, he would call her.
-Had a rabbit in a hat, with a bat
-Had a '64 Impala.
Skee-lo also laments his lack of height, and his miserable ride.

I tell you, if Skee-lo's song isn't refreshing, I don't know what is.

January 19, 2008

A troubling and hilarious Skittles commercial

Yesterday, I was watching bland and uninspiring afternoon television when I came across this gem. My question: How did this poor man come across this, the most delicious ailment ever? The people who make Skittles have to be involved. No one just comes down with the Midas-touch of Skittles. I could see maybe coming down with a Midas-touch of gold, or ice or pudding, but certainly not a brand of manufactured little candies. The Skittles people were involved, mark my words, and they should be held accountable. They've basically seized this poor man's life. If there are more people afflicted, there could be a class-action lawsuit.

But in all seriousness, the tradeoff of not being able to hold your newborn son and having an inexhaustible supply of skittles is more than fair. I wonder if he just turns things to original skittles, or if there are tropical skittles in there, too. Maybe he can choose. That would win me over.

January 17, 2008

Pet Peeves, and Exceptions

I like to think of myself as someone who isn't easily bothered. I don't understand people who allow anything and everything to piss them off. That can't be a fun way to go through life. "These peppercorns are NOT cracked enough. Please take them back or I'm leaving." (Can you tell I don't really know what peppercorns are?) Nevertheless, I do have a few pet peeves. Incidentally, "Pet Peeve" comes from the word "peevish," which means irritating. I can't tell you where the pet part comes from. If you know, share it with me.

1. Lemon anything - There might be nothing more disappointing finding that the dessert you've awaited while struggling through a sub par meal is lemon-flavored. The worst offender: Lemon cake. Lemon and cake have never paired successfully, as best I can tell. Why choose lemon cake when there are fo-sho slam-dunks like, I don't know, things that people actually do like? How about chocolate cake? Or yellow cake? Why take the chance with something that you know people don't like? You're not going to turn anyone onto lemon cake.
Exceptions: Lemon skittles, lemon cake if the Ace of Cakes is involved.

2. Yappy dogs - This should be self-explanatory. In Orlando, my neighbors had a yappy dog. From the second I stepped outside to, presumably, well after I was out of sight, they yapped non-stop. It's my belief they did this for everyone and everything. I don't understand why people choose to bring these things into their homes, I really don't. "You know I can't stand? Peace and quiet. Let's get a dog that barks at everything." I guess if you think that, you deserve it.
Exceptions: No exceptions. Not even dogs that yap to wake their owners during a housefire.

3. "Hundo" as in hundred - Don't use this. You're not saving any syllables, you're only saving yourself from respect. "How much for the ticket?" "Six hundo."
Exception: As a synonym for 100% certain - "Are we going to Taco Bell?" "Hundo."

4. Not being done when I think I'm done - I might hate this more than anything else. I've filled out lots of online applications lately, and nothing bugs me more than when they ask you a question or two, have you submit a resume, click submit, and then have you fill out countless more pages of questions. I hate it when I'm doing dishes and people leave more dishes. Nothing enrages me more than finding there's more work than I thought.
Exception: Finding that there is more chocolate cake than I thought.

5. Adding "-gate" to every scandal - Since G. Gordon Liddy broke into the Watergate hotel for Tricky Dick in the 70s, every single scandal has ended in "-gate." Bill Belichick cheats with cameras, and it's spygate. Three San Fran police officers steal a bag of mexican food and it's Fajitagate. Janet Jackson's boob comes out on national TV and it's Boobgate or Nipplegate. We can do better. How about a little creativity? How about we add "-Hullabaloo" instead. That's much more fun to say. Like, say the stroller company Bugaboo starts making their stuff with lead, we could call it the great "BugabooHullabaloo." Who's with me?
Exception: When the prefix rhymes with gate. "Skategate," "plategate," are both acceptable.

6. Using "hot" for anything other than physical attractiveness - Corporate America took the word over to sound cool back in the early 90s. See: "Hottest deals." Now, it doesn't mean desirable, it means stolen. Or "we can be cool, too."
Exception: When something is served very spicy or warm. As in, dig this hot sweater.

7. Customers who call without knowing any of the following: Their number, their address, what they want to order, how they're going to pay, or all of the above - This happens more than you can possibly imagine. At Papa John's, this happens everyday. Example:
"Thanks for calling Papa John's... How may I help you?"
"I would like to order a pizza."
"Okay, what would you like."
[pause] [Screams:] "Hey Lurlene, what do you want on a pizza?"
"While we wait, can I get your phone number?"
[pause] [Screams:] "Hey Lurlene, what's your phone number?"
Needless to say, this person doesn't know where they live, and they probably don't have enough cash, and they'll probably have to dig an expired credit card out of their wallet. Please, please, please, know what you want before you call. If you want a special, ask and then call us back or clip coupons like normal people.
Exceptions: When you're at a sit-down restaurant and everything looks good. Take your time.

January 15, 2008


You need to know your candidates, because a lot of people do not.

Don't vote for names. For the love of all that is righteous and holy, do not vote for a name. Voting for names helps people buy elections. If you want the person with the best ad agency, vote for a name. If you want the best president, don't vote for a name.

Don't vote single-issue. Don't vote on abortion or gay rights.

Don't base your vote on someone else's religion, especially if they're a mormon or have a muslim name.

Vote for the person who is going to allow you to keep your life the way you want it. Vote for who will keep America the most influential country in the world.

Vote for the person who will keep us from speaking Russian or Arabic.

Michigan has been in what's called a one-state-recession. I love my state and I hate to see people leave it. This state doesn't deserve to struggle. The qualifications of our own leadership aside, the same recession is heading for the rest of the country. A year from now, you may have less money. Vote for the person who isn't going to take even more of it away from you.

We have more than nine months before we elect the person to lead our country through a recession, and you have no excuse to vote for a name.

January 9, 2008

The Hardest Thing in the World...

...is probably iron. Or titanium. Or calculus.

Or maybe not.

From our earliest Sunday School lessons, we're taught that to get to heaven, you have to ask Jesus into your heart. Finding chapter & verse for that is a little tough to do ("...confess with your mouth and believe in your heart that Jesus is Lord," Romans 10:9, comes close. I guess.), but it's something generally accepted, something no Christian is really going to dispute. You won't hear anyone advise a toddler that he's woefully misguided in believing it. We can pretty much all agree that asking Jesus into your heart, in other words asking him to be your boss, is where salvation begins.

The simplicity of it is astonishing: The key to immortality is simply to believe. We're dead and doomed until we do it. And while I'm not a fan of oversimplified Christianity-as-a-ticket-through-the-pearly-gates theology, belief in Christ is essential to Real Life. To be frank, the simplicity is necessary in dealing with kids, but becomes a big problem when dealing with adults. It's a big hangup. It is the hangup of all hangups. It's the sultan of snags, the colossus of clogs, the - okay, no more Babe Ruth analogies in my theological discourse.

"You mean to tell me that to live forever, all I have to do is believe Jesus was who he said he was?" It's all too simple. There's no way that's all there is to it. There are lots and lots of excuses for people to reject Christianity, and this is a big one. I've had to stop at this point countless times when trying to straighten this whole thing out in my head. It just can't be this easy. There has to be something I can do. There has to be some amount of money I have to donate, some number of souls I have to save, some vast and confusing code of conduct for me to follow. Right? There's no way all I have to do is just believe something.


Except, it isn't simple. It's the hardest thing in the world to do. Ever since Adam took a bite of a watermelon (I like to picture it as a very large watermelon and I think I'm allowed to) it's always been all about us. That's what sin is: It's putting ourselves in front of others. Ingrained from birth is the desire to serve ourselves. It's all about personal achievement and self-serving opportunity. We have to compare ourselves to others, and find some way to elevate us over them. This is where the simple-sounding confession becomes the hardest thing in the world: Inherent in believing that Jesus is who he said he is is the confession that we are not who he said he is. Following Christ begins when we stop following ourselves. That's the point at which God says, "Okay, it's not about you anymore. Now we're cool." It goes against countless generations of believing it is all about us.

It always comes back to pride and humility. This is why we find it so hard to apologize, to fess up for wrongdoing, to admit our own shortcoming. We simply cannot allow the flaws and chinks in our armor to show. The myth is, sadly, perpetuated even in the church. And the church and Christianity and all of this are simply not engines that can run on self.

(Don't get me wrong, Christianity isn't completely void of achievement. God built us to want to achieve things, I think. Otherwise, nothing would ever get done and none of use would ever move out of our parents' basements.)

The world finds Christianity so hard to buy because they think something is simple when it is anything but simple. It's actually really, really hard.

January 1, 2008

Happy New Year.

December 31, 2007
4:00 pm - I am at work. There are 10 more drivers at work, because it is New Year's Eve. New Year's Eve is like Christmas for Pizza Guy. People are generous, everyone orders, Pizza Guy makes lots of money, it's good. I worked until close last year, and rang in the new year in some family's foyer while mom wrote a check and her kids dug into the pizza, ignoring the ball drop on TV. The money was okay, but I would rather have a life. I am determined not to repeat it this year. I told the boss a few weeks ago that I didn't want to work the closing shift this year. He scheduled me through 10:00.
4:30 pm - No one is calling. I know why no one is calling: It's 4:30 pm. People don't order dinner at 4:30 pm. Especially on New Year's Eve. People will order later. Eleven drivers stand around doing nothing.
5:30 pm - I take my first delivery. There are lots of drivers and not a lot of people in need of drivers. I am not going to make any money.
7:00 pm - The managers start to send other drivers home. I try to decide where I will go after work.
9:45 pm - All of the drivers are gone except me and the two closers. There has been a small rush, but nothing special. I hope the real rush will not come. I have taken four deliveries.
10:00 pm - The real rush comes. There are three drivers and two managers. I will not leave at ten. I tell myself I will be able to leave at 10:30. The snow is falling and the roads are getting covered.
10:30 pm - Still busy. I tell myself I will be able to leave at 11.
11:00 pm - Even busier. I might not make it. Now, the battery light icon on the dash turns on.
11:30 pm - Still busy. Three drivers. 11 deliveries on the screen. Battery light still on. Going to spend another new year with Papa John, and I am not happy. In fact, I am angry. I stew. But I don't know who to blame for this. The managers, the customers, myself, no one really fits the blame. I want to blame the customers.
11:45 pm - I leave the store with a triple. One of which is a free order, usually a remake for a mistake. I choose to go to him last, he won't tip. I try to find a radio station that will tell me when the ball drops, to make it official. None of them seem to be up for it, but that's okay. It's just a stupid ball.
11:59 pm - I am on 28th Street. Paul calls me.

January 1, 2008
12:00 am - I hear the people in the background on the phone count it down, and I am alone in my car, even though I planned it so I wouldn't be. Paul asks me if I'm coming. I tell him I'm delivering a pizza. I use another word, too.
12:02 am - I knock on another person's door. I'm not wearing my unhappy-ness very well, she tips me $2. I leave and decide I don't like the next guy, the guy with the screwed up pizza. I decide he's a slacker who asked us to leave the onions off his pizza, but we put them on there anyway. I decide he's going to be a stingy post-college drunk with a messy apartment, and that he's going to lay into me for being late. I work out my defense. I'm going to tell him I'm not having a good night, that I don't want to be here and he shouldn't complain.
12:10 am - I get to his house, an hour or more after he ordered. He's smiling, thanks me for the pizza, gives me a buck even though he doesn't have to. He tells me to have a good 2008. I am speechless. A buck seems like a lot.
12:20 am - I get back to the store, I've taken 19 deliveries. They're closed now, no more orders. They cash me out and I have made 82 dollars. $82! That's a lot. I go to Bethany and Jon's, I tell Paul I'll go to his place too.
12:39 am - I get to Jon and Bethany's. I eat some cookies, have a can of diet squirt. I catch up with a few friends. I beat Jon at Evenflow on Guitar Hero III. He played the hard setting, though.
1:10 am - I leave Jon and Bethany's, I tell Paul I'm coming. He says they're still there. The battery light icon is still on.
1:19 am - On Chicago Drive, my lights flicker and dim, the radio fades out. The car starts to lurch. The car has lost its electricity. I coast as far down Chicago Drive as I can, because I know I will have to walk. I call Paul and tell him I won't make it. He tells me it's my alternator, which I replaced (yes, I replaced it) in the Spring. He offers me a ride, but I decide I'm close enough that walking is just as fast as it would be for him to get there. I lurch over to the side of the road and sit in the quiet as the snow falls around me.
1:21 am - I get out, watch a few cars go by, and feel sorry for myself. I am a lone guy on the side of the road. I wouldn't help me if I was them, honestly. So I forgive them. A few of them slow, none of them stop. I watch three more go by, I stare them down. Then I walk. Down the hill, through the snow, across the railroad tracks, up the embankment, down it, and into the quiet streets of suburbia. I run a block, but decide that's not going to last. On the mile walk home, someone heckles me. I decide he doesn't know what tonight has been like for me. I decide to forgive him, too. I walk the mile home through four inches of unplowed, freshly fallen snow. I am wheezing from my asthma, my left knee is hurting inexplicably, and my socks are wet. The snow falls into my ears, and it tingles. I call my sister to see if she is at home, awake. She's somewhere else, wants to help, but is too far away. I tell her not to bother. I will have to wake up dad.
1:43 am - I get home, I wake up dad. He tells me he'll help. He doesn't really give himself a choice. I brush off his car and wait.
2:02 am - Dad finally emerges. I wonder what has taken so long, but I realize he's down one shoulder after his surgery. He changed all his clothes, put on boots and a jacket. In a middle-of-the-night fog, no less. I forgive him, too.
2:10 am - We jump my car. More people drive by, really fast, I worry about them. It's cold and my socks are wet and i want to be in bed. I tell dad I'll follow him in my car. He says No, he'll follow me. He's wise.
2:12 am - My car dies around the corner on my street. We jump it again.
2:15 am - My car dies, sitting halfway in the driveway and halfway in the street. Dad pulls in, we jump it again for the final twenty feet.
2:20 am - Mom is waiting inside, watching. She tells me that this is what family does for each other. I am thankful for my family. They don't have the whole story yet.
2:30 am - I am in my room, and I want pity so I blog about this. My socks are wet, and I scratch open a scab on my hand. It bleeds all over the place. I realize that I never ate dinner today.