The Incredible Dork-i-ness of Being

I admit to being a dork, and truthfully, I don’t exactly mind it. There is a lot of fun allowed in this world to the dorks, nerds (smarter versions of dorks) and generally unappreciated members of society. Bart Simpson himself is a dork – he gets bullied at school, hangs out with Milhouse (and, at times, Martin) and is a failure at being a rebel because he cares too much. Coincidentally, that would be the first piece of evidence of my dorkiness; my ability and desire to discuss deeper philosophical issues from the Simpsons. But part of what makes life so much fun is relating most everything to the krazy karacters headlining Fox’s Sunday night animation domination (Peter Griffin, is still second to Homer).

The topics of deep discussion move forward from there, but not necessarily upward. One of my favorite debates is the swallow’s ability to transport coconuts. Before you ask me whether I am talking about African or European swallows, let’s make sure we stay on track. And was it really that hard for Lois Lane to not catch Superman hiding behind Clark Kent’s glasses? I will always side with Aragorn’s story over Frodo’s and am honestly glad that the movies did not include the 27 more endings for Return of the King that the book did. I enjoy having my opinions and arguing their basis for insight on human nature; after all, how would we know not to skip immediately to ludicrous speed if not for Dark Helmet’s mistake?

As I’ve aged, the naysayers that laughed at me during puberty have all fallen into silence. It’s incredible to note that more people seem to discuss Glee in public circles today than the Philadelphia Eagles’ plummet from the ranks of the NFL elite. By the way, I do not in any way endorse Glee – I have never seen an episode and do not intend to – I would still rather watch an Eagles’ game (despite me NOT being a fan and their dismal play of late). Being a dork isn’t really made fun of anymore – it’s glorified, respected; even admired. This is unlike one of the other labels I have been living under.

In media, culture and even some individual chatter, being a Christian is becoming more and more a joke. Not a Peter vs. the Giant Chicken kind of joke, but a serious offense against the rest of the world. As humans, we are all in this together, and though we each have our own opinions and beliefs on what is best and how to move forward, we still occupy the same space with each other. Whether or not there is room enough on this planet for all the differing opinions does not matter; we are all stuck here on this planet and all life (thus all opinions) have a right to exist.

As a Christian, I hold to certain opinions (the content of those opinions is not important here). This is where most people get angry, as they see those opinions as intolerant and aggressive towards other worldviews. Why? Look at this first part of the sentence: “As a Christian…” This means that I have chosen to live under a certain set of principles. My opinions are held for those who choose to live under the same set of standards. If I were to say, “As an American, I believe in taxation with representation”, that would be a belief held by those who choose to live under America’s standard; regardless of how they became a citizen. That may not be the opinion in another country, but I have no right, rhyme or reason to judge the citizen of another country that does not espouse that belief.

People who have chosen to live under another faith, or no faith at all, have ultimately chosen a different set of standards and principles to live under. That is their choice. Do I believe that my faith has something to offer other people? Absolutely, and I’m not afraid to share that. But it is still their choice to follow. If they choose not to, then they are free to live with whatever opinions they see most desirable. Tolerance is allowing them that decision. There are those inside my same faith who believe it is their duty to push their rules onto other people. Those people also exist in every faith, nationality and world view. In the end, each individual is accountable for only themselves.

I cannot nor will not answer for the inquisition, Holy wars, or even Jimmy Swaggert. What other people have done in the name of their country, their faith, or even themselves is a problem for every race and creed. What I can answer for is myself. Are my acts friendly, loving, and full of grace? After all, if you sum up everything in the Bible it comes down to one thing: love.

If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing. 1 Corinthians 13:1-3

It’s incredible being a dork.

Reality TV Bites

I decided that I’m going to do something purely in the interest of cultural edification. And not solely for the tax-deductibility reasons either! You may be asking yourself if I have completely gone whacko or if I’ve finally decided to grow up and do something for the good of humanity. You’re thinking I could do something like donate my savings to charity, become a volunteer coach at a boys’ club, or join Green Peace. If you guessed any of those options, you don’t know me at all. Those of you who know me a little better are probably hoping that I’ve decided it would be in the public’s best interest if I took a rocket to Mars. I’m sorry to dash your dreams, but I’ll be staying on this planet until they figure out how to transport us to Saturn. I’ve always wanted to get a close look at those rings; plus, I’m dying to ask someone there how they mastered the art of low pressure car sales!

Instead of giving my time and money to a cause that merely helps people, I’m going to do something that will impact this world on an even larger scale. I’m going to write a television show! Don’t go all negative on my idea yet; just because you’ve read my writing doesn’t prove that I’m a horrible writer. Besides, thanks to the wondrous invention that is reality TV, creativity and the art of writing are no longer necessary! I have a wonderful idea, too, and it’s a ton better than any show Fox (Any Show You Can Do, We Can Copy) can put out. Most people are beginning to think that ideas for reality shows are being quickly exhausted and are becoming wary of shows that pay people to eat bugs, pay people to make fun of them, and pay brides to let people watch them get dumped while standing on an Alaskan shoreline. At least those shows are better than the ones that follow a neurotic cosmetics owner whose lesbian daughter just got dumped by the man of her dreams while at the same time finding out that she got pregnant by her girlfriend’s husband. The woman later finds out that her daughter isn’t really her daughter; but her long lost half-sister who is out to avenge the murder of their estranged father. I apologize to any All My Children fans for giving away the story.

Despite the gruesomeness of many reality television shows, it is currently a very popular genre; thus it is a very profitable genre. Consider some of the reality shows on TV this season: So You Think You Can Dance (which Fox stole from a Saturday Night Live skit starring Chris Farley), The Gauntlet (MTV may have created the original reality series—but they killed it with this one), and Fear Factor (poor Joe Rogan must have become afraid of acting). After careful consideration, I have developed my idea into a stunning presentation for any of the major networks, except for Fox. They’ll just steal it a year later anyway.

My idea came from a very simple revelation. I was in a meeting with my new boss and all of a sudden I thought it would be funny to dare him to sniff paint fumes. I thought he might go for it, considering he had recently moved to Iowa. Unfortunately, we didn’t have any paint in the office, because he was actually interested! Since then, he’s encouraged me to be creative in the ways that I make fun of him. One time I asked him for payment if he wanted to hear my latest crack; he pulled out his wallet. This got me to thinking, what if there was a show where people come on it and pay money to get made fun of? You may not think that will work, because who would want to pay to go on television to get made fun of? You probably wouldn’t come on my show, but you probably also wouldn’t go on the Jenny Jones show and tell the world about your compulsive shoplifting addiction either. I’ll tell you who will come on my show: Canadians. There are nearly thirty-three million people living in that country and each one of them would pay handsomely to come on my show. We’ll tell them there is a prize for whoever is the butt of the funniest joke. That’ll work, and they’ll take up at least a few seasons. Minnesota will be right behind them.

In order to prepare for the creation of my show, I am going to have to perform many hours of pain-staking, tax-deductible research doing grueling tasks such as going to comedy clubs, reading books by funny authors and watching hour after hour of The Weakest Link. I’ll make sure to keep those pesky IRS agents busy by keeping meticulous accounting records with the help of my administrative assistant and pet fish, Cash. I’ll also receive countless applications from my readers in hopes they will get to take part in my show. The application consists of three questions:
•Have you ever paid anyone to make fun of you before?
•Are you able to count all the way to ten?
•On average, how many beers do you drink in a five minute span?

If you would like to be considered for the show, please mail a self-addressed, stamped envelope along with your name, your answers to these questions, and a cashier’s check for five hundred dollars to Phil Stalnaker, P.O. Box 3862, Omaha, NE 68105. Anyone who laughed at my column need not reply. And rest assured that all profits I receive from the success of this show will be donated to the charity of my choosing: it’s called the “Phil Fund”.

Skewers, Popcorn, and Other Things to Tar and Feather

Lately I feel as if I am in a rather intense malaise. There’s nothing right now to fight for; nothing to stand up against. Of course, I could choose to fight the good fights, against such evil foes as world hunger, terrorism, or the boy band epidemic, but to be honest those topics have become a kind of “old news”. What I need is something I can sink my teeth into—something more interesting than the zany exploits of the late Rosa Parks (I believe she’s scheduled for a sit-in at Nebraska Governor Dave Heineman’s house), but not as controversial as the European dollar (I’ll show them what they can do with their multi-colored money). No, I need to pick up the fight against something that really matters; something that will make people stop on the street when I pass by and say “Who is that?” I’m going to stand up for the fight against the terrible injustice of fiction.

Recently, an alert reader sent me an article from Fox News about the upcoming movie, The Da Vinci Code. “Anger over ‘The Da Vinci Code,’ premiering Wednesday at the Cannes Film Festival, escalated Tuesday as Christian groups from South Korea, Thailand, Greece and India planned boycotts, a hunger strike and attempts to block or shorten screenings”. It appears that numerous Christian groups are attempting to block the viewing of that movie in their respective countries. To them I say “Who are you?”

In some countries, they have even gone to the courts to try and force this movie out of the theaters. I think it’s wonderful that these groups have found something so worthwhile to spend their time on. Since the story is fictional, thus made up entirely in the author’s head, it should be banned from all places public and Dan Brown (the author of the book) should be strung up by his code-breaking fingertips to be tarred and feathered. I’ll be there, standing in the front row eating popcorn. But not the plain kind, I prefer my popcorn with salt and extra butter.

And I won’t be coming alone to the lynching either, I’ll be bringing the real culprit of this movie fiasco—Richie Cunningham. To some of you he might be known as Opie Taylor, Ron Howard, or that annoying guy who directed Russell Crowe in that movie about a crazy mathematician who won a noble prize for being a boxer during the Great Depression. But then again, Mr. Howard’s just the director. I’m personally outraged that Forrest Gump would abandon the flattop and don a shoulder-length poof as main character in The Da Vinci Code. Besides, who’s going to believe that Forrest is actually that smart? “Breaking Bible codes is like a box of chocolates; you never know who’s going to get tired of this movie quote.”

As disturbing as that news is, there are even more important things to fight against, such as the growth of the evil empire known by the public as Fox News. It’s owned by a man named Rupert Murdoch (a.k.a. Darth Vader), who is known internationally as the only man who can belch the entire alphabet while bankrupting millionaires, and break-dance to a Justin Timberlake song all at the same time. Then again, no one is really sure whether he is actually break-dancing to the song or undergoing a series of violent seizures due to intense shudders from hearing something so unmusical. Yet it’s common knowledge that Mr. Murdoch is very multi-talented. In fact, he has been very busy these days acquiring the rights to own things such as the personal web-page phenomenon Myspace (“Satisfying the porn market for the age 6-12 demographic”) as well as purchasing Hillary Clinton. The transition from Democrat to Republican just got expensive.

According to the Seattle Times, “Media mogul Rupert Murdoch, whose Fox News Channel and other conservative news outlets have been skewering Hillary Rodham Clinton for years, will host a summer fundraiser for the Democratic senator, mystifying some observers and enraging others.” This absolutely drives me batty. Who does a skewer anymore? Everyone knows that barbecue is all the rage today. If his fundraiser is going to be successful, he better take the skewer off the menu. Concerning the choice of menu, Liberal blogger David Sirota complained: “The brazenness of this move is almost too much to stomach.” Oh well, I guess that’s what you get from a man who break dances to Justin Timberlake.

Now that I think about it, my malaise is simmering down to a low-level boredom, yet which can easily be brought up to a boil at the mere thought of getting on another airplane. Where else are Americans willing to pay so much to be herded in and out of tiny cylindrical tubes with wings, all the while at the leisure of the flight attendant? This topic may just be enough to make me explode, but that would cause quite a mess. I’ll save that for another column, but before I go, let me persuade you to join the fight for the most important cause known to humanity—something that effects more Americans than can be counted: spontaneous combustion. It can happen anytime, anywhere, and for seemingly no reason at all (yet I would avoid lighting a match near Aunt Betty after she spent two hours in the bathroom turning her hair into a permanent sculpture). It could even happen to…..BOOM