Wednesday, January 09, 2008

My Top 10 Moments of 2007

Bits of pop culture, personal growth, seized opportunities, and unadulterated fun. This, dear readers, is a list of my personal Top 10 Moments of 2007.

10. "Don't Tase Me, Bro!"

It's a cliché and a cheap laugh at the time of this writing, but I have to admit that I really enjoyed the whole “Don't Tase Me, Bro” episode back in September. After all, few things make me happier than seeing some dumbshit pseudo-revolutionary American college student get what's coming to him. If you watch the video in its entirety, you can tell this guy (Andrew Meyer) really thought he was sticking it to the Man when he started asking his questions. Ooooh, check me out. I'm getting in John Kerry's face about the election! (Lest we forget, the election was 3 years ago.) Oooooh, now I'm talking about secret societies. Look how informed I am about all this clandestine-type stuff. You can tell I've really done my homework! Then a couple of security officers start leading him away and his true colors start to show. All that big talk about the electoral college and secret societies quickly devolves into the Dane Cook-worthy “Don't Tase Me, Bro!” Priceless.
What kills me is the way some people perceive this dumbass (and others like him) as a brave hero who dared to stand up, question authority, and say what needed to be said. No. For the record, he's just an annoying dumbass who tried to make a scene and ended up screaming like a little bitch. Not exactly Sophie Scholl or the guy in front of the tank in Tiananmen Square. And don't you just love the way his like-minded peers just sit around and watch?...Yeah. The Revolution's coming any day now.

9. Organ Donors

So here's the deal. After living as a monk for the past 10 years, a certain unnamed friend of mine has recently decided to make a triumphant return to civilian life. And because we're such good friends, he told ME about this long before he told his superiors at the monastery. He wanted to wait for the right time to break the news to them. In the meantime, though, he had a lot of stuff he needed to start moving out - specifically, a very large, very heavy church organ. If the other monks saw him moving it out, they would know something was up. So, one night in November he and I snuck into the monastery at around 1 in the morning, carried this heavy-ass organ over to a tiny freight elevator, crammed ourselves INTO the elevator along with the organ, took it downstairs, dragged it about 100 yards across the darkened church grounds, hijacked the monastery's bread truck, and drove it to a storage facility about 45 minutes away. On the surface, it's not an incredibly exciting story. But who else can say they've taken an organ out of a monastery at 1 in the morning using a stolen bread truck? Exactly.

8. "Do Not Collect $200" Collects 2500 Fans

On April 14, my ten-minute play “Do Not Collect $200” took top honors at the California Thespian Conference and was performed in front of over 2500 students. Since that time, I've been contacted by 5 or 6 teachers who've used it to teach everything from oratory to history to literature. Obviously, it's very gratifying to see something I've written used in so many ways, and one student even wrote to tell me that the play had made her more willing to read A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man for her AP English class. (Now that's rewarding.) The only thing I'm worried about is whether I'm going to get my other 5 minutes of fame. Time will tell.

7. “Bless Ya Boys”

Speaking of plays, I was really blown away by Le Chat Noir's October production of Bless Ya, Boys. Usually I'm not into plays/writing/humor/whatever that rely on local color and regional stereotypes to get their laughs and make their points (for example, I detest redneck humor...and I'm sure you've all seen me do my “Bad Southern Play” routine), but Bless Ya, Boys got New Orleans exactly right. How did it do this? By focusing squarely on the seemingly-cursed New Orleans Saints and using them as a metaphor for the city as a whole. Hilarious from beginning to end, it was impressive to see how many different types of humor the play managed to encompass. One scene was slap-sticky, the next one was satirical, the next one was ironic, and on and on and on. It was incredible, and it made me realize that regional humor can be funny with the right script and cast. And speaking of the cast – because I know she'll throw a shit-fit if I don't mention this – the only reason I ended up seeing this little masterpiece in the first place is because Kid Sister Jen had a pretty big role. Great job, Jen....I'm even posting your fuckin' picture!

6. The White Stripes, Live in Southaven

Finally! After 4 years of fan worship, I got to see the White Stripes in concert this past July. My raven-haired friend Amanda Todd and I saw them do a show in Southaven – the perfect location to see the White Stripes, given Jack White's outspoken love for the Delta Blues. They started things off by apologizing for how long it had taken them to make it to the South and then launched into a number of Robert Johnson and Son House tunes. Magic, pure and simple. And Amanda, I discovered, is the perfect concert-goer, willing to throw out all her inhibitions when it comes to singing and dancing along to the music. (A goofball like me NEEDS that kind of cooperation.) To cap it off, we got to see the guy in front of us have his digital video camera taken away by the White Stripes' personal security staff. Very Mafioso. Very cool. So figure this out: I watched one of my very favorite bands do a show in the Land of the Delta Blues (holier than the Holy Land) with a black-haired girl at my side. Some days it's truly good to be alive.

5. And Then There's That Whole Employment Thing

Coming in at Number 5 on the Top 10 Moments of 2007 Countdown is my appointment as a writing instructor at Tulane University. It's hard to describe the significance of this job without outlining what I've been doing since I graduated. For two and a half years after I left Ole Miss, I did trivial work at a New Orleans law firm...and knew a lot about writing and literature. After Katrina, I moved home to Biloxi, worked at Barnes & Noble, and STILL knew a lot about writing and literature. Then, very briefly, I worked at the Beau Rivage – and even THEN I knew a lot about writing and literature. Now, five years later, I've landed the Tulane gig where, at long last, the things I know about writing and literature finally matter. It's so nice to find a sense of direction. This, I believe, is the beginning of my academic career.

4. Do You Believe the List You're Reading is True? Why? What Evidence Do You Have for that Belief?

First I read the books of Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Deuteronomy, and Numbers. Then I read The Dark Night of the Soul by St. John of the Cross. Then came The Interior Castle (St. Teresa of Avila) and The Imitation of Christ. After that, I switched gears and read The Bhagavad-Gita (Hindu scriptures) and Siddartha. All the while, I listened to Leonard Cohen, practiced nightly prayer and meditation, and watched a ton of documentaries concerning religion and spirituality...What was the point of all this, you ask? It wasn't that I was a Jesus freak or a “seeker”; I've just always been interested in transcendent/mystical experience. (It's worth noting here that this interest was largely aided and abetted by my love for Salman Rushdie's brand of magical realism.)After about a year of exploring these experiences, however, I decided to be fair and consider the other side of the equation: the absence of spirituality. Enter Professor Richard Dawkins and The God Delusion.

I read The God Delusion towards the beginning of August, and in the four months that have passed since then I strangely haven't felt the need to do any more spiritual reading. It's nothing I could have predicted, but apparently after spending considerable time contemplating the transcendent and mystical, the book which has struck the deepest chord within me is the one that suggests that there's really nothing to them. Some have accused Dawkins of being too shrill and hostile when it comes to religion, but if you take time to read his writings or watch clips from his (frequently hilarious) BBC programs on YouTube, you'll notice that he takes an identical tone when describing New Age spirituality, cultural relativism, post-modernism, alternative medicine, astrology, and any number of other things that people might subscribe to without good reason. Before he is anything else, he is an adamant defender of Logic, Coherency, Reason, and Evidence – all of which I strongly prefer over sentimentality, faux-intellectualism, and idealism.
In one article which I'm particularly grateful for - “Postmodernism Disrobed” - Professor Dawkins validates a creeping suspicion I had that some of the “theory” I learned in grad school wasn't quite as deep as it pretended to be. He is also one of the few public intellectuals who will admit that maybe, just maybe, there is a connection between Islam and Islamic terrorism. No politics attached, he is interested only it what is ultimately true. There should be more public figures aspiring to the same standard.
I had the good fortune to meet Professor Dawkins in Birmingham, AL, back in September (it might have been August.) My friend Stefan snapped a picture for me and was quick to give me hell about my “fat kid smile”. But, whatever. (For the record, though, I was at a weird angle in this picture, and I've lost weight since then. All is vanity.)

3. We Were Students Once, and Young

Breaking into the Top 3 now, I need to show much love to the Biloxi High School graduating class of 1997. We had our 10-year reunion in '07, and if that reunion taught me anything, it taught me that I need to really give people a chance before I make any final decisions about them. People I dismissed as “preps” back in high school ended up being some of the nicest, most well-rounded people I could ever want to meet. And one gal – Marie Punzo – well, let's just say I'm glad I ran into HER again. ;)
One thing I'll always remember about our 10-year reunion. The DJ kept playing songs like “Livin' On a Prayer” and “Pour Some Sugar on Me”, and he seemed kind of upset that there weren't very many people dancing. After a couple of hours went by, I politely informed him that we were the class of NINETY Seven, not EIGHTY Seven. Following my suggestions, he started playing Nirvana, The Smashing Pumpkins, Everclear, Blind Melon, Pearl Jam, etc. I think he might have even rocked “The Beautiful People” by Marilyn Manson. Naturally, everyone went to the dance floor for THOSE songs. It was a neat little generational moment, watching all of us trying to relive our teenage angst...It might also explain why I never learned how to dance. Back in the day, we could just crash into one another and call it a day. :)

2. "And the Embers Never Fade..."

I've already written an entire blog about my trip to Chicago, so I won't rehash all the details here. I just have to say once again that I genuinely fell in love with that city and I know I'll call it home someday. My goal is to finish my Masters, move back to Oxford, do my doctoral work, get my degree, and then move on up to the Windy City. It's officially the “happily ever after” at the end of my little fairy tale. :) Honestly, Chicago and I have chemistry, and I can't say “thank you” enough to Keith, Jerome, Chad, Emily, Gabby, and everyone else who helped to make that trip one of the most pivotal events of 2007. Sing it with me now....“Whoooaaaooo...Baby, don'tcha wanna go?”

1. "The Indescribable Moments of Your Life, Tonight": The Smashing Pumpkins, Live at VoodooFest
Did you even have to wonder what my #1 moment was? I didn't get engaged or buy a house or invest in a timeshare or discover the benefits of yoga or any bullshit like that. No, I saw the Smashing Pumpkins live at VoodooFest! And believe me, you don't want me to get started on it. We could be here a long time. :)

So anyway, those are my Top 10 Moments of 2007. What are yours?


Anonymous Anonymous said...

w00t! I made the cut!!

and you're damn right that I'd have pissed in your cheerios tomorrow morning if you didn't add me in.

I am a bit disappointed that none of my inspirational, life-changing quotes made the list. maybe you should add a no. 11 and just list a random selection of my life-changing can add bryce's too if you like. ;)

8:31 AM  

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