Wednesday, October 01, 2008


I don't pay a lot for haircuts.  It's one of the perks of being a guy.  I don't have to schedule them, I don't have to pay a lot.  I'm probably never more than half an hour away from a Great Clips.  I have a lot of haircut freedom.  It's nice.

Recently my girlfriend tried to convince me that at least once in my life I should pay a fair amount of money and get a NICE haircut.  Wouldn't I like to have someone shampoo my hair, and rub my scalp and pay attention to me for a long time?  No, that sounds horrible.  I want my simple, cheap haircut.

I don't know what I would be paying for if I got a more expensive haircut, because I like my hair fine after I get my haircuts now.  What I want most from any given haircut is for my hair to be shorter than it was, and to not look like some kind of freak.  Very simple expectations.

It's also very hard to quantify what a "bad haircut" looks like.  Barring complete lopsidedness, or a missing patch it's hard to distinguish a bad haircut from a haircut that someone doesn't like.

That's why I can't believe that I rarely leave a haircut with my sideburns anywhere close to straight.  It's one of the very few things that a haircutter can absolutely do wrong.  There's no way that I somehow failed to communicate my desire for straight, even sideburns.  And it's not like they even try, and fail.  Often times they're slanted in different directions.

And it's not a huge deal, because it's something I just fix myself after every visit.  I go home, take the clippers out, buzz buzz, and then take a shower to make sure to get rid of all of the little hairs that end up in your collar and make you itch all day.

In closing, if there is something in your line of work that distinguishes between crappy and average, and that thing is really easy to do, then you should probably do it.  Because $12 isn't too little to pay to get matching freaking sideburns.

Thursday, September 25, 2008


Jelly eating

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Attempt! And videotape! Please!

The whole "Do not attempt" line at the bottom of certain commercials is pretty well-worn territory. A litigation-crazy society has caused advertisers to be overly cautious with their warnings, and so there are a lot of commercials with ridiculous things going on, and at the bottom of the screen, there is a caution to not try and attempt whatever is going on.

I'm not the first person to notice this. Commercials undergo a great deal of scrutiny. People gather socially to watch TV, and commercials can provide awkward in that experience. People feel like they have to say something, and often the easiest thing to talk about are the various stupidities of whatever commercial is on.

But I just saw a commercial for some antiperspirant, and yeah, it was amazing. The premise is that this guy is in Pamplona for the running of the bulls, but instead of bulls, he gets chased through the narrow streets of Pamplona by bears, wolves, and rhinos. And at the bottom of the screen, as CGIed bears snap their teeth at his shoelaces, we're firmly told, "Do not attempt."

Well, I disagree. I say, attempt. If you have the wherewithal to stage a running of the bulls with bears, wolves, and rhinos, I think you have an obligation to do so. That would be pretty darn impressive.

And the last thing anyone would care about was whether or not your antiperspirant was working.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Now With Even Funnier Stories About Food!

I really like Hamburger Helper. It allows me to have some sense of involvement in the meal that i will then eat, but it is also really quick and easy. I get to feel like i did some cooking, without any real effort or cooking skill. It does require certain cooking utensils, but those were easy to acquire.

My favorite dish is actually "Chicken Helper", but it's obviously under the same Hamburger Helper umbrella. It still has the same little anthropomorphized glove on the box. Right now, I'm making legitimate, old-school Hamburger Helper. The actual hamburger-based helpers amuse me, because it's all basically the same thing with slightly different names and flavors. It's basically all macaroni-and-cheese with hamburger meat. But the noodles are basically all the same, it's just a different powder every time. And a slightly different name. Today, it's "Beef Pasta."

Lots of products use the "New and improved strategy."
-"Now with twice as many raisins"
-"Now with an even bigger crunch!"
-"New, longer-lasting!"

But this box of Hamburger Helper has my favorite one ever:

"Now Better Tasting!"

As if to say, "If you enjoyed the crappy old Beef Pasta, you'll LOVE the Beef Pasta that actually tastes sorta OK."

"And you'll get to feel like you cooked something, when really, your skillset is basically limited to browning ground beef."

Friday, October 27, 2006

Bye Bye Birdie

I was watching a crappy policey type movie the other day and there was an exchange of dialogue that went something like this:

Dumb cop: "My gut tells me this was just a robbery that went bad and ended up getting this guy killed."

Kiefer Sutherland: "You know why I don't go with my gut? Because once you let your gut make up your mind about something, you're only gonna see the evidence that supports your gut. This was no robbery. It was... an assassination."

(Kiefer ended up being right!)

For a long time now, I've been making the same mistake as that dumb cop. When I was little I decided that the Blue jay was my favorite bird. That decision made sense: they're pretty cool looking, they're not too small, they're cool enough that they get chosen as the mascot for sports teams, and most importantly they're easy to identify. If I had said that the house wren was my favorite bird, I would have set myself up for some embarrassment:

"Hey look, my favorite bird! The House Wren!"

"Um, that's actually the Carolina Wren. I think you'll notice the subtly different markings on its back and wings. Unless of course, you're not even that familiar with the house wren... but that's impossible, because you just told me it was your favorite bird."


So I think I was justified in choosing the Blue jay as my favorite bird. But since then, I've learned a thing or two about birds (although not as much as the hypothetical bird expert I was hanging out with above). And what I've learned is that the Blue jay is basically the hugest jackass of the bird kingdom. They're loud and they just fly around and harass other birds. They're like the entertainment news reporters of the animal kingdom.

And I learned these things about the Blue jay, but I ignored them, because it was my favorite bird.

But people, that was wrong. It's as wrong as trying to say that something was a botched robbery when there are apparently assassination clues all over the place.

And so maybe it's time for all of us to rethink some of our preconceptions and make sure that we're not keeping ourself blind to the information/assassination clues that are all around us.

And I'm gonna pick a new favorite bird.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Anyone want some free milk?

I have some free time.

One thing that I'd like to do is to purchase a cow. I'd also like to purchase the equipment required for pasteurizing and homogenizing milk. Then I would take some time to learn how to milk a cow, and how to use that equipment to make delicious drinkable milk.

After doing that, I would like to find someone who likes milk, someone who drinks milk every day. And I would like to enter into a longstanding agreement with them whereby every day I would give them fresh, delicious milk for free. I would make it clear that nothing was expected in return, that I merely wanted to give them free milk every day from my cow.

Then after several months or even a couple of years pass by, I would offer to sell them the cow. I would offer to sell the cow at a reasonable price, but I would make sure that the person knew that this was the same cow from which that person had received free milk all of that time. And I would make sure that they knew that if they didn't buy the cow, they would still receive the milk for free.

I'd be interested to see what they'd do.

Question: Is an analogy really valid if the comparable situation has never really existed? Like, I'm sure at some point someone actually counted their eggs before they were hatched. Is anyone else asking these sorts of questions?

Maybe I have too much free time. But I have an inkling that there's at least a chance that my free-milk-receiver will buy my cow.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Post-enlightenment? Post-shmenlightenment!

Things that have me convinced that I'm not an entirely rational human being:

1. I'm convinced that if i am in an emotional state of anger, frustration or stress, I somehow attract cars with idiots driving around them. I am convinced of this despite the obvious explanation that in these times of stress I am more likely to notice/be irritated by other drivers. Also, I am more likely to be in a hurry to get somewhere, and thus more able to be inconvenienced by the actions of other drivers. Nonetheless, I refuse to believe that these facts fully explain my magical ability to attract bad drivers in certain emotional states.

2. I live in an apartment by myself. I moved in basically by myself. Everything in my apartment is where it is because I put it there. In the case of my kitchen, I actually took time to think through what would be the most logical/efficient places for things to go. All of that being said, every time I go to get a glass, I have a 50% chance of opening the wrong cupboard (and there are only 2 choices).

3. About a month ago, I was convinced for several days that a person could see one's reflection in a screened door. Not, it is important to note, that I could see my reflection in some glass behind the screen. No, I was convinced that the mesh of thin metal wire was somehow reflective in a way that a person could see a fairly clear reflection of oneself.

4. In my early teens, after a particularly vivid dream, I became convinced that if I jumped off my parents' bed and flapped my arms, I could fly.

Monday, September 04, 2006

"Internet Fight!" (as shouted by middle schoolers in an online cafeteria)

My friend Chris (not Christ) has alerted me to the fact that I am the #1 google search for Jellytown. What can I say! That's pretty encouraging. What with all of the people searching for jellytown...

However, when i searched for jellytown in google, I was disturbed to find out that the the #2 search result was this mook:
Apparently this guy has the Yahoo! profile name "Jellytown." That, of course, is ridiculous. This man is not a town. He is a person. And he's ridiculous. Under "occupation" he wrote: bald person.


Under Marital Status? No answer. What did you think it was? Some kind of trick question? Is it that hard? Do you have some kind of weird commitment issues?

Perhaps so, because under location? Maryland/Scotland

What? You can't even decide where you are!?!

This guy is lame and he's trying to horn in on my position as mayor of Jellytown. I did not name myself mayor of Jellytown so that I could legislate this dude.

So as of right now I'm throwing down the gauntlet, slapping him in the face with my gloves, and performing any other handwear-based fight instigations that may exist. Next time you're in Maryland and not Scotland, drive down to the real Jellytown (pop: me) and claim the beating that you're owed.

And people? Let's work hard to make sure the REAL Jellytown stays on top. Of google searches. For the exact name of my blog. Seriously, it would be embarrasing if it wasn't.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

A lame excuse to compare myself with God? Or vice versa?

"God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in times of trouble." - Psalm 46

"Meanwhile, where is God? This is one of the most disquieting symptoms. When you are happy, so happy that you have no sense of needing Him, so happy that you are tempted to feel His claims upon you as an interruption, if you remember yourself and turn to Him with gratitude and praise, you will be--or so it feels--welcomed with open arms. But go to Him when your need is desperate, when all other help is vain, and what do you find? A door slammed in your face, and a sound of bolting and double bolting on the inside. After that, silence. You may as well turn away. The longer you wait, the more emphatic the silence will become. There are no lights in the windows. It might be an empty house. Was it ever inhabited? It seemed so once. And that seeming was as strong as this. What can this mean? Why is He so present a commander in our time of prosperity and so very absent a help in time of trouble." - C.S. Lewis, A Grief Observed


Well, which is it? We certainly expect God to be our comfort in times of suffering. If religion is really the opiate of the masses, aren't our times of suffering the moments when it should really kick in? Why can't we click up the doses of spiritual comfort like morphine?

Why is it my own experiences (and those of so many with whom I've spoken) mirror Lewis' account of God's presence in times of trouble?

Maybe it's because we don't know what real suffering is. I'm rich and white and smart and PRIVILEGED in almost every sense of the word. Lewis falls in those categories. Unfortunately, so do the vast majority of individuals with whom I spend my time. Maybe we just don't have a handle on what suffering really is. Maybe our sickness, our frustration, our fear, our pain doesn't add up enough in the grand scheme of things to really count as suffering or distress. Maybe God doesn't comfort us because we don't really need him yet.

But that doesn't ring true. Pain is still pain. And Christianity teaches that God loves each and every one of us.


Recently I've had the same frustrating feeling replayed in numerous situations. I don't consider it boasting to say that I'm funny and fun and I have a gift for making people smile and laugh. At times I've wondered if there is an unselfish purpose for spending so much of my time in a comedy theater working on becoming better at a comedic artform. And the consolation I arrive at (and I still don't have myself 100% convinced of its verity) is that it is a good thing for people to be entertained. If I wanted to construct it in lamely noble terms, I'd say something like, "It's a tough world out there, at least for a little while, I made someone smile." (If the world's so tough, why don't I go out and feed someone instead? Or clothe them? Can you see why i'm not 100% convinced it's not all just selfishness?)

And all I can really do is make people who feel alright feel even better. I can amuse and even distract, but I can't heal. I can't solve things. And that's been my frustration lately - that I've been around people in real pain and each time I am rendered completely impotent. All of my jokes and wit get exposed for the merely silly things they are. They may make life a little easier and a little more enjoyable, but they can't really help anything. And without my meaningless words, I'm speechless.

And so I can't help but imagine my friends in pain not thinking something along the lines of Lewis' words - "When I was feeling fine, I couldn't get you to shut up. If I laugh it only encourages you more. But right now when I truly need someone all you can do is sit there, or lamely touch my hand, or squint and say something obvious and unhelpful like 'I'm so sorry." Where are you now that I need you?"


Does God sometimes feel like I've been feeling? It seems like a really stupid thing to say and I feel like there are a thousand "Bad Theology" alarms ringing off in my head. But I've always thought that good theology consisted largely of asking questions, and so I'll soldier on. For any readers who don't believe in God, and have kept reading in the hopes that there's a punchline in here somewhere, now might be a time to jump ship on this particular post. At least, I don't see the comedy coming yet. And I'm sorry I've dragged you along this far, but I did start out with a quote from the Bible. Feel free to come back later when I eat some more moldy bread.

But certainly for whatever reason (the need for free will? an ability to see the grander plan?), God has seen fit to limit His own involvement in some ways - to constrain His own omnipotence. So without denying the possibility of miracles or the simple truth that many have felt deeply comforted and consoled by God in their hours of deepest pain and need, it seems quite possible to me that there are moments where God is rendered speechless. Perhaps moments when God feels impotent.

Maybe as my title suggests, this is just a lame attempt in a frustrating time to identify myself with God. Maybe it is just a result of my desire to fly in the face of more conservative theologies. Or maybe it's the almost universal fun that's had when things are shown to be the opposite of the way they are. (She's teasing you because she actually likes you! An omnipotent God sometimes renders Himself impotent!)


The quote I borrowed from C.S. Lewis comes from A Grief Observed - an amazing little book in which he chronicles his feelings during the days immediately following the death of his wife. It's insightful in ways that I can't imagine anyone could be at that time, but more than anything it is raw and honest and vulnerable. It's C.S Lewis, perhaps the most beloved and trusted practical theologian of the 20th century, and he is absolutely shaken. He has incredible doubts about God - "The conclusion I dread is not 'So there's no God after all,' but 'So this is what God's really like. Deceive yourself no longer.'" And yet he remains so faithful through it all. I don't know that I can go so far as to say that this is what faith should look like, but I think it's fair to say that it is what faith must look like. It's inevitable that at times our faith will be battered and beaten.

Towards the end of the book, Lewis rethinks the comments I quoted above:
"You can't, in most things, get what you want if you want it too desperately: anyway you can't get the best out of it... 'Now! Let's have a real good talk' reduces everyone to silence...
And so, perhaps, with God. I have gradually been coming to feel that the door is no longer shut and bolted. Was it my own frantic need that slammed it in my face? The time when there is nothing at all in your soul except a cry for help may be just the time when God can't give it: you are like the drowning man who can't be helped because he clutches and grabs. Perhaps your own reiterated cries deafen you to the voice you hoped to hear."

So perhaps in those times besides hurting friends, there is truly nothing I can do. Not through any fault of theirs or mine, but through the simple reality of the situation.

Throughout this piece, I've been struggling with an issue of word choice. I keep wanting to say that I'm helpless in the face of the suffering of others. That seems like the traditional turn of phrase. But what I feel, and don't want to say, is that I feel unhelpful. It is my friend, not I, who is helpless. I'm only helplessly unhelpful.

And in the end, what I may have to realize is that I'm not God. I can't fix everything. I can do very little. And I hate that, but I'm going to have to learn to live with it.

Monday, August 28, 2006

We have recommendations for you! (If you're not Bret Runestad, click here.)

My friend Porter once remarked to me that he thought knew him better than any of his friends. I think this was largely based on the fact that actually knew when his birthday was. But the website also knew his favorite music, the kind of books that he liked to read, his taste in movies, etc.

The "recommendation" feature on commercial websites makes obvious sense. Based on your prior purchases, companies can market products in a very personalized manner. That way, when the new Old 97's CD comes out, they know exactly who to call. Porter. Or me. Their music provides the soundtrack of our friendship.

But sites like aren't my best friends. They're more like friends of my friends that I met at a party one time. And maybe I was really funny that night and I left a strong impression, so when I see them later on, they remember me for the things that I was talking about that night.

But maybe on that particular night, I had gone to a Coldplay concert the night before. And it was pretty fantastic. And so maybe it really dominated my conversation for that particular night.

But then every time I see my friend's friend after that, she makes all sorts of assumptions about the things I'd like to talk about.

"So I was checking out Guy Berryman's blog the other day, because I knew I'd be seeing you."

"Uh, ok..."

"And apparently, he's a big collector of vintage instruments (which I probably don't have to tell you), and he's like some big nerd about old-timey electronic gadgets and stuff."

"Yeah, sure."

"And then I was at the message boards over on, and I was trying to guess what your handle was on the message boards there. I was guessing that you are either MartinFan11 or FixU924."

"Ok, it's just that I'm not sure what you're talking about right now."

"Coldplay! Your... favorite band ever. The only thing you ever talk about."

"No. I think you've misunderstood. I'm... a person. I like lots of things."

"Oh, I'm sorry. I understand. Well, if you like Coldplay, you must also like Keane. We can talk about them too."

So now whenever I go to Amazon, I get treated as though I absolutely LOVE all of these weird things. Because Amazon doesn't just sell music, movies and books. But they apply the same recommendation principles to all of their products.

"Hey Bret! You're just in time! We've got a TON of shaving gel in stock, and right now if you purchase 4, you'll get the 5th one free! And based on your past purchases (1 spatula), you may be interested in our brand new Spatula store - with over 30 brands of available spatulas.

And none of this is to suggest that I don't love I do. It allows me to purchase a spatula with little to no human interaction. In fact, I was reminded of this weird internet phenomenon not because of, but because I recently had some flowers sent to my girlfriend through

And ever since, I've been getting emails advertising their various flower specials. As if the typical flower-buying customer doesn't buy flowers for specific events or situations, but rather because he was able to get a great deal on an Orange and Yellow Lily Bouquet. At 15 lilies for $39.99, occasions for buying flowers create themselves!

Maybe I should start creating arguments with my girlfriend because I have to justify why there are going to be a stunning gathering of creamy, pink-hued celosia, pale pink hyacinths and stunning ‘Aqua’ roses, woven together in an intricate posy shape arriving in a classic square frosted vase the next morning at her doorstep.

Or maybe I'm just a guy who bought flowers online one time because I was out of town for my girlfriend's birthday. And maybe it's pretty likely that I never buy flowers online again. And maybe, if you knew me well enough to feel like you can tell which flowers I might like, then you should at least know that.