Sunday, April 17, 2011

A Glimpse of My Story

There are certain films that come along where you can identify with specific qualities or themes of a character or a situation. Included are those kinds of movies that affect you personally, whether it involves a disability, a death of a family member or relative, or a triumph of the underdog, to name a few. A movie I watched recently was Adam, a film that not many people saw in 2009. It stars Hugh Dancy (Confessions of a Shopoholic, Ella Enchanted) and Rose Byrne (TV's Damages, Knowing) as a twentysomething man with Aspergers Syndrome and a young teacher who moves in next door to him. The story chronicles the growing relationship and struggles between these two completely different characters as well as the lessons they learn from each other along the way. The latter even questions her role in this man's life, uncertain if a relationship will work between them.

Here is a trailer for the film to give you an idea.

Watching the film, I couldn't help recalling personal struggles I had growing up in school. Many of you don't know this, but I, as well, have Asperger's Syndrome. I was diagnosed at age three. Before I go any further, I should mention that Aspergers (for those of you unfamiliar with it) is a form of autism that consists of high-functioning abilities but a lack of communication skills. I used to think I was the dumbest kid in my class, growing up in elementary school. During my sophomore year in high school, I found out about my condition while playing on my family's Quiz Wiz handheld game. I also recall my mother telling me that, when I was younger, she thought that I wouldn't be able to communicate with anybody.

Like I said, I haven't shared this with a lot of people, but to those I have, I had mentioned that it has hardly affected me since I started going to college. And since then, I have learned that it is not (and should not be) the disability, or whatever type of handicap or disadvantage, that defines us. It is the spirit of the person. It is who they were created to be. I have also come to value uniqueness, as well as creativity and honesty, which are very important qualities to live by.

I do have occassional struggles and blame my condition at times, I'll admit. One thing that helps me, though, is remembering where I'm at right now, how far I've come, and the hope I have for tomorrow and the next day and the day after that and so forth. Recently, I graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Platteville with a Bachelor of Arts degree. So that's something to be proud of. In addition, there are other movies that inspire me and give me hope regarding character and purpose. Some of these films include Forrest Gump, which I look at as a story of a mentally challenged man whom no one saw any greatness in, yet goes on to do so many extraordinary things in life. Another is Up, a poignant and bittersweet story about an elderly man who learns about the important things in life, as well as the notion of letting dreams go. And another is Chariots of Fire, a compelling true story about two 1920s Olympic runners with completely different motivations but worthwhile stories.

As you can see, movies are one of my strong suits. As much as they have the power to entertain, they also have the power to enlighten, to inspire, and to show us glimpses of ourselves, of our lives, and of the world. They can even suggest the promise of a greater life and a greater future for us. And I hope that with my story (at least, with what I've written here), I have inspired and enlightened some of you, and have hopefully shown you that there is value and life in every human being, regardless of any disability or disadvantage they may have.

If there's anything else that any of you would lime to know about me that you don't know, don't hesistate to ask.

Still here,

The following is a song that was featured in the closing creditis of the movie Adam. I posted it on here because, for one thing, it recalls a status update I posted on Facebook last week regarding said valuing of people. It's called "Somebody Loved" by the Weepies. It has a beautiful and poignant melody. Enjoy.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Standing for Purity, with Tools to Help

PluggedIn online recently re-posted an article on their website about an interview that writer/editor Bob Smithouser had with recording artist Rebecca St. James in November of 2008. The interview focused on the topic of sexual purity in a culture that has become less innocent and more, shall I say, amped up. To put it simply, we are definitely living in a very different culture and society nowadays. Many things, especially in entertainment (movies, TV shows, music) have been amped up - profanity, violence, sexuality -, but not for good reasons. The same goes for magazines one finds in stores. Generally, you can't pass a checkout aisle without seeing a magazine rack with some cover issues containing some or more skin and some or less clothing. (This doesn't apply to every magazine, mind you, but it has become pervasive in many today.)

One of the things I hate about the entertainment industry (being the discerning man I have become in the last several months) is how things have become sexualized. You look at many recording artists in music - people like Britney Spears, Lady Gaga, Katy Perry, even Miley Cyrus - and you can't help but think that it's not only apalling regarding their sexual-related choices, it's also sad in many, many ways. One of the things Rebecca St. James talks about in the PluggedIn interview is when parents should begin talking to their children about these types of issues and topics.

I think the age is getting younger and younger because there is so much exposure to sexuality at a young age. It's coming from movies and television and the Internet. It's what the kids are talking about at school. Parents need to focus on getting in before the culture does. I hear stories about children 6 or 7 years old hearing about stuff at school and I wonder, What happened to innocence? (my emphasis)

Again, it's a very different culture and society we live in nowadays.

I mentioned above that I have become a discerning individual. And I am honest about that in large part, regarding the kinds of movies that I watch and the kinds of music I listen to. I will also be honest in saying that I have been hearing music and watching films within the last couple years that have had questionable content. I even ponder at times if someone were to ask me why I put myself in such a situation. Well, for one thing, to test my discernment, and also, to prepare myself to have a conversation with other people about it. My philosophy is that you shouldn't just watch or listen to something for the sake of watching or listening to it. You should really think about it and talk about it. You should discern what makes it good or bad, what makes it worthwhile or not worthwhile, and so forth. (I obviously won't see and can't see every movie there is, so not all movies, or songs or art, apply to this.)

Anyway, what does this have to do with sexual purity, you may ask. Well, a whole lot and more. It says in scripture, as Rebecca references, that we are to "protect our minds and fill them with things that are honoring to God" (read Phillippians 4:8). When I'm faced with a sexual temptation at times (yes, I can still be tempted), I try to think of something pure, something positive, something that reminds me of where I've come so far as a growing individual today.

One thing that helps me is knowing that there are positive, pure, and Godly examples in the entertainment industry who are really making a difference. Some great examples in music include Rebecca St. James, and the band BarlowGirl. So the next time you watch a movie or listen to music, don't just listen to it. Think about how it's affecting you. Above all, guard you heart and mind so that it doesn't corrupt you. And don't ever think to yourself, "It's just a song," or "It's just a movie." These things have more impact than you realize.

The PluggedIn article mentioned above can be found at

Monday, April 11, 2011

Experience, Transition, Progress

Experience has many names. But I guess what it comes down to is that everybody knows only so much. Another way to put it: Everybody knows a lot of some things, but nobody knows everything.

Screenwriter William Goldman is famous for quoting, "In Hollywood, no one knows anything." In other words, he's referring to the fact that there are no perfect filmmakers or celebrities or movies or ways of making movies in Hollywood. Yet, there have been landmarks within the industry throughout the past century in terms of the technology that has developed and become useful. Along the lines of only knowing so much at a given point, this is where I'm at far as my experience with job searching, working, and applying goes.

For those who are in a similar area, remember that this is a process. Don't merely look at it as a series of end points and new beginnings (which isn't entirely a bad thing, mind you), but as a transitional and learning experience. Look at what you can learn from previous experiences, whether they involve family, work, social time, recreational activities, or what have you.

Here are a few transition-related quotes I found on

Nothing is secure but life, transition, the energizing spirit.” ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

We live in a time of transition, an uneasy era which is likely to endure for the rest of this century. During the period we may be tempted to abandon some of the time-honored principles and commitments which have been proven during the difficult times of past generations. We must never yield to this temptation. Our American values are not luxuries, but necessities - not the salt in our bread, but the bread itself.
~ Jimmy Carter

The best performance improvement is the transition from the non-working state to the working state.
~ Unknown

Still here, and progressing,

SpongeBob Revisited

Lately, I've been revisiting the fictitious undersea world of Bikini Bottom. For all you animation/cartoon peeps out there, I am, of course, referring to the world of SpongeBob SquarePants. Since its debut in 1999, it has become one of the most popular cartoons on television. It has spawned several DVDs as well as a feature-length movie, numerous toys and products, and an iconic place in popular culture. I consider myself one of those fans. I've always enjoyed the sheer silliness and ridiculousness, as well as the equally silly animation and exaggerations and such in many, many episodes. This is not to say that every episode is worthwhile, but overall it's just a series with those types of characters you can't help but grin at and enjoy yourself along with. Never before (and probably never again) will we ever see such a brilliantly unique blend of silliness, optimism, weirdness, and craziness/zaniness in an animated series.

Coming soon: All-time favorite SpongeBob episodes

Til then,

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

47 degrees F + Bike riding (or anything active-related) = Great Outdoors

Today's forecast was 47 degrees F in the southwestern part of Wisconsin, so today I decided to take my bike out and ride downtown all the way to Wal-Mart. I know I'm repeating myself when I say, What a perfect day to do so. And what a perfect day to be active outside. I use the word "active" to suggest simple things as walking, running, or in my case, bike-riding.

Words of encouragement I hope I can offer: Have fun, but not too much fun. Don't overwhelm yourself. Make sure you get rest.

(I'm speaking for myself, on one side.)

Sunny with a chance of mild wind,

Monday, April 4, 2011

Job Interview Relection

So, last Friday, my interview in St. Paul, Minn., with Admission Possible went really, really well. It was les stressful than I thought it would be, which is always reassuring in such cases. The teaching portion I had to present for five minutes was the one I was probably most nervous about, and it went okay. But I think everybody else had a stronger approach to the material each of them presented. But more importantly, everybody, from the volunteers who interviewed to the other applicants, was just terrific. All in all, it was a great experience, regardless of whatever the outcome will be. I should be hearing back from them by the end of this month. I'll keep you all posted. I'm crossing my fingers and praying, and well as kind of taking risks at the moment, regarding what may happen this summer and this coming fall.

More info coming soon,

"You Are Here"

There's a song I've been frequently hearing over the intercom radio at work that has intrigued me. However, I couldn't find the artist or the name of the song online until recently. I googled the song lyrics on my Blackberry yesterday morning and sound a "Song Meanings" link with the song and lyrics on it. The name of the song is "You Are Here" by Sam Bisbee.

What intrigues me about this song is the notion of peoples' existence and presence in the world ("I am here/You are here/We are here/They are here/Everyone is everywhere/No one is nowhere/We're all somewhere/There is no out there/You are here"). The second last line, I'm not sure I fully understand. Anyway, looking at and reading the lyrics, the song is very poetic in how it describes what various people are doing at a given moment, including a flight attendant on a plane, a little girl who sees the same plane and wonders about its size, a female DJ who wonders if anyone is listening to the music she's playing, and so forth. The song (for me, at least) echoes similar elements from Paul Thomas Anderson's movie "Magnolia" and Bob Dylan's classic song "We're All Gonna Serve Somebody."

Check out this song.