Tuesday, August 12, 2008

The Summer of No Lovin'

You, the few and possibly non-existent readers of this blog, some time ago voted that more embarrassing personal confessions ought to be the subject of our written ramblings.

Unfortunately, since my life is riddled with embarrassment, I cannot elaborate on it here. It would simply take up too much space. Instead, I will reminisce of this summer - the summer of no lovin'.

A man's life is simple really. All I could want is someone to share some of the simple things of life. A sunset, a hike in the nearby mountains, the trees, and the myriad forms of entertainment are those things I wish to share. You see, I enjoy all of these things by myself and find myself staring at the mountains, enjoying music, and going on adventures to new places as my comrade, the good Master Prufrock, has stated. Yet, all of these experiences are bittersweet. It's simple really - the greatest joy I have had, and may be had in my humble opinion, is to be able to share some of the excitement, the experience, with someone else that also values it.

Lest the title of this post be misconstrued as a complaint, I will clarify. You see, it's not that I or my companions in search of significant others have been negligent in said search, but rather that our efforts have resulted nil. A list of activities is in order to illustrate:
  1. Ultimate frisbee
  2. Ward Activities (FHE etc)
  3. Movie nights (at theaters and at apartments)
  4. Spontaneous Slurpee runs
  5. Late night dance parties
  6. Equally spontaneous trips to/on: mountain roads, parks, paths, etc
  7. Game nights
  8. Hot Tubbing
  9. Pool Battling (for those not versed in this noble activity, it involves battling in the pool)
This is a fairly exhaustive list. My point is to emphasize that I, and this can be said of my associates, have been 'putting myself out there'. Now, summer is rich in activities but not in 'prospects', if you know what I'm saying. Thus, when I have time, which is during the summer, there is no lovin', and when I do not have the time, during the school year, the potentiality is much greater.

The summer-gods frown upon me. All my efforts, all is chivalry in the wind.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

An Important Announcement!

I, Chris John, known on this blog as J. Alfred Prufrock, have decided to go solo and make my own album...er, blog. I will continue to post at Chivalry in the Wind, but I feel that I have too much to say that doesn't fit within the topical constraints of this blog. I need a separate outlet for my thoughts, ideas, and feelings.

Without further ado, I announce the launch of my new blog: Rock on, Chris John!


Check it out, if only because it has an awesome name that rhymes.

Summer of Love 2008

It's been one month since I last updated this blog, and I feel like that was a sufficient amount of time to completely absorb and analyze my copious post on Rocky. It's time to move on to bigger and brighter things. In the poll I posted a few weeks ago, I asked what people thought this blog could use more of. Four people responded (myself on of them). I voted for more celebrity guest appearances, but the winner, with a total of two votes, was more embarrasing personal confessions. That's why I'm here.

Let's get down to business then.

I was told, in a conversation with a female friend this evening, "Chris, you need a wife." I agreed, of course, and thought that my friend was merely stating the obvious. "That'd be nice," I replied," but that's kind of skipping a couple steps in the process." You know, dating and all that.

That's what the Summer of Love 2008 is for!

So I can't really say that this is the summer of love yet, mainly because I'm still as single as I am balding, but I hope that the next few months will be memorable and very worthwhile. Know what I'm saying?

What's so special about this summer? Well, it is the first summer since I returned from my mission in 2005 (I'm so old) that I will not be taking classes. Hallelujah! School has always provided me with a convenient excuse for not getting to know girls and dating and all that. (No seriously, I was usually pretty busy. Come on, cut a guy some slack. Get off my case!) This summer there will be no excuses for being anti-social, and that's a good thing because I don't even want to be anti-social. I never have; it's just always happened that way.

The summer months are probably the best time of the year. I love the fall with the return of college football, the return of perfect temperature, the beauty of the changing leaves, and some of the best holidays we celebrate (I'm thinking of you, Labor Day). But the summer just contains infinite possibilities. Want to road trip somewhere? Alright, let's do it. Want to go swimming? boating? hiking? camping? No problem. Hungry? Let's barbeque, or maybe enjoy some delicious fresh fruit and vegetables. The world is covered in blues and greens and everything is alive.

The possibility of anything and everything happening has taken root in me. I plan on exploring the beautiful Wasatch Mountains as much as possible, taking strange country roads and driving into the glorious unknown before me, photographing the splendor with my new camera, familiarizing myself with the many scenic drives and vistas offered in my backyard. I want to buy a season-pass to Seven Peaks, which is just a couple blocks from where I live, and spend many summer afternoons in the wave pool and lazy river. I want to go to Real Salt Lake games, play ultimate frisbee and soccer as much as possible, go on long walks as the sun sets behind the western mountains, eat out at restaurants I've never been to, and so on and so on.

Looks like I got it all figured out, right? All those activities are gonna make for a great summer. But they would make for an amazing summer if I had but one thing: a significant other.

So many things lately have been emphasizing my singleness. I can't listen to music for very long without hearing a lyric that reminds me just how painfully single I am or how much I want companionship. A few examples from songs that I discovered just this past week:

Akron Family - "I'll Be on the Water": Thinking of you, there's lightning bolts in my chest.
The Dodos - "Winter": My friends, they understand me better but don't whisper goodnight.
Black Kids- "Hurricane Jane": It's Friday night and I ain't got nobody. Oh, what's the use of making a bed?

(They work much better with music). And those are the songs that I end up listening to over and over. I am a glutton for punishment apparently.

I've been told that to get a significant other you must be interested in a girl, get to know the girl, date the girl, and then determine the relationship with that same girl. Not so complicated, right? Just a couple steps. My problem is I usually stumble when trying to climb those steps. How embarrassing is it when you trip while climbing a set of stairs?

I find myself in an interesting position. I stand at the bottom of the stairs, not really able to start working my way up, yet I feel a desire to climb each step. I don't know if I can say that I am truly interested in any specific person, but I am interested in being interested in someone. I am open to the possibilities before me.

Unfortunately, I am a suffering coward. I have to get over my timidity, my fear of rejection, my lack of confidence, etc. I have to stop being J. Alfred Prufrock. While changing my character so much might very difficult, I think it's a positive sign that I believe it can (and should) happen during the next few months, the Summer of Love 2008.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

The True Triumph of Rocky Balboa: the Italian Stallion's Enduring Influence on Humanity

Something shocking happened to me in the last week: I learned that quite a few of my female peers have never seen a Rocky movie. You know, Sylvester Stallone’s classic series. Yeah, that Rocky. It wasn’t just that they hadn’t seen a Rocky movie (I can understand not wanting to see Rocky V), but to have never seen a single Rocky movie?! I was flabbergasted, dumbfounded, confounded, and basically KO’ed by the news. I couldn’t understand how you could grow up in America and never see a Rocky movie. The movies always seemed to be playing on television when I was a kid. My family had even taped Rocky IV; I don’t even know how many times I watched Rocky train in the Russian countryside for his monumental fight with Ivan Drago, the tall, blonde Russian steroid-machine. How could someone grow up without “Yo, Adrianne” as an essential phrase in their vernacular? Would running up the stairs of the Philadelphia Museum of Art hold no significance for them?

The story of Rocky Balboa has become a part of the American myth, and I could hardly believe that there were so many of my female peers who had never seen one of those films. After conducting some research on the world wide web, I found that this tragedy is not limited to our specific geographical or cultural situation. IMDB (the Internet Movie Database – a movie nerd’s best friend) shows that the first film of the series, Rocky, has received an average rating of 8.0 out of 10. Of all the different demographics that assigned ratings to the film, only 3,000 of the 40,000 votes were placed by females. Those voting females under the age of 18 (all 142 of them) gave it an average rating of 5.2. I’m not sure what alarms me more: the fact that only 142 girls under the age of 18 have voted for it on IMDB, or the fact that they gave it such a low rating. What is America coming to?

Maybe girls under the age of 18 aren’t familiar with IMDB, and the few that are do not accurately reflect the rest of their age group. Maybe there are large groups of teenage girls that love and respect the Rocky saga.

Probably not. I fear that girls are ignoring this classic piece of American cinema for skewed and twisted reasons. Yes, Rocky is a boxing movie. It is about a man, Rocky Balboa, an underachiever who gets a shot to fight the world heavyweight champion, Apollo Creed. But more than being a boxing movie, it is about the underdog chasing his dreams, it is about knowing what you are capable of and doing your best to achieve it, it is about recognizing the true potential of others, it is about learning the true meaning of victory, it is about the American dream. It is a story of the indomitable human spirit, and it is a story of love.

It is so much more than a mere boxing movie. Yet I fear that it is being written off as a guy movie with no possible appeal to or application for the female gender. Such thinking is unfortunate because Rocky is rife with universal themes. I dare say that Rocky can teach us more about real life than a handful of Disney movies (which all of my female peers seem to revere as sacred).

Though this incident proves that I truly will never understand the female gender, I am campaigning (and blogging) to restore Rocky to its rightful place in American society. Already, Prometheus Rex and I have forced a group of girls to watch the original and open their eyes to the glory and splendor of Stallone’s masterpiece.

Rocky Balboa, in the thirty-one plus years since the theatrical release of Rocky in December of 1976, has become a symbol of determination and perseverance that has inspired millions. His underdog tale has become a part of our cultural heritage, a new archetypal American myth. Rags-to-riches stories have long been a part of our American identity, but perhaps none has ever risen to such prominence and distinction as the story of Rocky. Not only are references to Rocky everpresent in contemporary athletics, but they permeate our entire society. A quick glance at IMDB’s page for Rocky’s movie connections shows that it has been referred to or alluded to in some way in over 170 different movies, videos, or television shows. That does not include any of the numerous times that it has been spoofed either. Rocky is everywhere.

Rocky’s tale is more than the typical rags-to-riches fulfillment of the American dream. Rocky starts, like most tales of this sort, as a poor, humble character. He toils in obscurity, trying to make it as a fighter, but finding it hard to continue believing that, after ten long years of obscurity and mediocrity, he will ever achieve his dreams. Eventually, and quite miraculously, Rocky is chosen to fight Apollo Creed for a shot at the heavyweight title. This swing of events helps Rocky achieve his dream and learn exactly what victory is. A normal mythical tale would have the character vanquish his foe and rise to the top, becoming the next champion. Rocky’s story is different because he doesn’t win the fight. He is successful because he achieves his goal of going the distance, the entire fifteen rounds, without getting knocked out. No one before Rocky had ever achieved such a feat against Apollo Creed. Rocky succeeds according to his own terms, not society’s. He did everything he wanted, everything he could, and that was enough for him. That was the true measure of success for Rocky Balboa.

This contrasts greatly with our typical American success stories. We expect these underdogs to win. We want the improbably paired man and woman to live happily ever after; we don’t want them to be just friends, if they were, we would probably feel unsatisfied (enter the misguided criticism of the Irish musical Once). We don’t want to see the local high school football team lose at the last second in the state championship game (if you do want to see an example of that, check out Friday Night Lights). No, we want to Remember the Titans and their glory. We love these stories when the underdogs go from absolute defeat to absolute victory. Yet, somehow Rocky eschews these conventions and achieves a new kind of victory, one that feels entirely acceptable and true to the core of the story and the characters. Rocky’s triumph is, perhaps, more realistic and a better example of how we ought to approach life, in the end more inspirational, than all of the other underdog stories.

Besides helping us to learn about the true nature of success, Rocky gives us one of the most memorable romances in film history. You read that correctly, ladies! A romance for the ages in a boxing movie? In the left corner, we have Rocky Balboa, a somewhat awkward yet persistent 30 year-old amateur boxer. In the right corner, we have Adrian Pennino, an extremely timid 29 year-old woman who works at a pet shop and cooks and cleans for her older brother Paulie. Both Rocky and Adrian have never really achieved much of anything in life. Rocky is struggling to move up the boxing ranks, and Adrian struggles with a debilitating lack of self-confidence not helped by her brother’s constant verbal abuse. Neither is content or happy. At some point, Rocky sees something in Adrian that he likes, and he begins dropping by the pet shop frequently to clumsily talk to her and tell her jokes, often resulting in awkward situations. He demonstrates the necessity and importance of persistence and never loses hope of one day wooing Adrian. Eventually, Rocky and Adrian do come together. Two unlikely solitary figures come together into an equal relationship, and they find love and happiness in the other.

After watching Rocky this past weekend, I knew immediately that I would blog about it, not just about how everyone should watch and love this cinematic masterpiece, but I also knew that there were some great life lessons that could be pulled from the film, lessons in line with this blog’s purpose and intent. Thus, I have compiled five important life lessons that Rocky has passed down to me. I pass them down to you.


1. Love develops naturally in a relationship in which gaps are filled.

In one scene, Rocky and Adrian’s brother, Paulie, are talking. Paulie, confused by Rocky’s interest in Adrian, in whom he sees very little of worth, asks what he sees in his sister.

“You like her,” Paulie asks.

“Sure, I like her,” Rocky replies in his typical, matter-of-fact way..

Paulie continues, “What’s the attraction?”

“I dunno…she fills gaps.”

“What’s gaps?”

“I dunno…she’s got gaps. I got gaps. Together we fill gaps.”

Rocky sees Adrian as the possessor of qualities that fill in his gaps. He understands that she makes him a better person, just as he makes her a better person. Too often I find myself thinking that I need to find someone who is very similar to who I am, someone with interests very much like my own (especially when it comes to music, books, and films). I realize this might not be the best path to pursue. Besides the difficulty of finding someone else with eclectic interests like my own, I could be looking for all the wrong things. I realize common interests are important, but maybe finding someone to fill our gaps is more important. Also, I personally believe that we shouldn’t necessarily be looking for someone to fill specific gaps in our personalities. One plus one should equal two, correct? When we need someone to fill in large gaps in ourselves, we might end up with one plus one equaling one. We should be continually seeking to improve ourselves so that our relationships can result in two complete individuals, not just one. This is more along the lines of what I see take place in Rocky. Rocky and Adrian fill in their gaps as they help one another become more complete individuals. Adrian inspires Rocky to believe in himself and his potential as a fighter, and he helps Adrian find courage and self-confidence. They achieve victory and love together because of the complimentary nature of their relationship.

2. Humor can work miracles, even when it’s not all that funny.

Rocky visits the pet shop where Adrian works two times every day, once on his way to work, the other on his way home. Each time he visits, he tells Adrian a joke he thought of just for her. His jokes aren’t always funny; they’re often pretty lame and corny. But Rocky’s attempts to make Adrian smile and be happy are successful in the long run. Humor, it seems, plays an important role in relationships. In my sad little attempts at relationships in the past, humor has been very important. I find my attraction to a girl strengthened if she is able to laugh – at me or with we; it doesn’t really matter. If I can make her laugh and she can make me laugh, we instantly have a powerful tool to strengthen our relationship. I am often too sarcastic (a shortcoming, I admit), but a girl who can handle that sarcasm and turn it back on me (playfully, of course) is a girl that I want to keep near me. Who doesn’t want a significant other they can laugh with until you’re out of breath and your eyes glisten with tears threatening to spill over? They (whoever they are) say that laughter is the best medicine, and I think that in relationships it can be one of the essential things that keeps everything glued together. Rocky understands that.

3. We need to be capable of seeing the good already present in someone while seeing their future potential at the same time.

Perhaps Rocky’s greatest achievement in the film is not going the distance with Apollo Creed or successfully running up the stairs of the Philadephia Museum of Art. Maybe the best thing he does is recognize Adrian’s true worth when no one else can see it, not even herself. To the world, Adrian is just a shy spinster working at a pet shop, someone who, as Paulie says, is going to die all alone. Rocky doesn’t see that. He sees a beautiful and kind woman who just needs to be treated correctly. He sees what no one else can or wants to see. Not only does Rocky recognize Adrian’s worth at the present time, he sees who she can become under the influence of civility and love. Adrian sees Rocky in a similar way. Together they see one another’s current worth as well as the future potential that can only be achieved together. I think that their success as a couple depends greatly on this principle. In a way, it’s like enjoying and being content with the present while still hoping for things to get even better in the future. That really seems to me to be a correct attitude to have concerning all things in life, not just relationships. It seems like a formula for happiness.

Likewise, doing the opposite seems like a success for failure. Sometimes in relationships one person sees the other in an unrealistic light. Infatuation makes us vulnerable to this. We only want to see the best in someone, and often we fabricate or exaggerate good qualities. We don’t want to admit that we could be attracted to an imperfect person that isn’t our perfect match, do we? Of course not. That’s why we often fail to recognize differences that will eventually create disunity in our relationships. That’s why someone can turn to their spouse after a few years of marriage and say with disdain, “You’re not the person I married.” Or people will get into a relationship thinking, “He/she will change and then they’ll be the person I want.” We need to see people for who they truly are; we need to be, even while in the throes of infatuation, realistic. Seeing someone for who you want them to be and not who they are is opposed to what Rocky teaches us. I know from personal experience that a relationship in which the other person expects you to be someone else and do the things that that someone else would do cannot (and did not) endure. By ignoring reality, we set ourselves up to fall.

4. Our relationships are what truly make us successful in life.

I’ve already written how Rocky’s victory came in going the distance in his fight with Apollo Creed, and not in actually winning the fight. The film ends, however, highlighting the true source of Rocky’s success: his relationship with Adrian. Once the final bell rings, Rocky begins shouting “Adrian” over and over. Reporters are trying to interview him and ask him about his feelings concerning the fight, a possible rematch with Apollo, etc. Rocky keeps moving around the ring, shouting Adrian’s name, looking for her in the crowd. Everyone around him seems to be celebrating his feat more than he is. While pandemonium swallows everyone in the ring, Adrian tries to force her way to the ring. All the while she is calling out, in her quiet way, “Rocky,” as she gets nearer and nearer the Italian Stallion. Finally, she reaches the ring and is reunited with the sweaty and bloody Rocky Balboa. As they come together, they both say the immortal words “I love you,” perhaps the three most important words in the English language behind “Yabba dabba do.”

It is the love he has found with Adrian that makes Rocky a success. Maybe it was that love that made it possible for him to achieve his dream of going the distance. Maybe if he and Adrian had never gone out that bleak Thanksgiving night Rocky would have gone done in the first three rounds like Apollo had promised. Ultimately, it was the relationship with Adrian that mattered most to Rocky; it was his true victory and success. Even in my short twenty-four years of life, I have already come to understand that our relationships with others are what truly matter most. I have dreams of monetary success, of fame and renown as a writer and director, of seeing my name printed on bestseller after bestseller, but I know that without having meaningful relationships with others and being able to share my life with them, I will have achieved very little, nothing worthy of being considered true success. Until I can yell, “Yo, Adrian” and know that she, figuratively of course, is shouting my name and rejoicing with me, I must continue my quest for true success.

5. Good things can come out of bad situations with the right attitude.

Rocky and Adrian’s first date takes place because Paulie is rude and thoughtless. He brings Rocky home for Thanksgiving without telling Adrian beforehand. She is naturally upset and, with her timid nature, doesn’t know how to handle the situation. Paulie essentially commands her to go out with Rocky. She tells him that it is Thanksgiving and there is a turkey in the oven. Paulie throws open the oven, grabs the turkey (making sure to tear off a leg for him to eat), and throws it into the back alley. This upsets Adrian, and Paulie continues with the abuse. She runs into her room and slams the door. Only through Rocky’s coaxing and awkward and sincere attempts to make her feel better does Adrian leave her room and agree to go out with Rocky. Perhaps she just wanted to get away from Paulie; I can sympathize with her in that regard.

So Rocky and Adrian go out, both nervous and unsure of what to do. They go ice-skating and gradually begin to establish a real connection. In the end, the night ends very well for them, and one thing leads to another and they’re in love. I bring this up because they very easily could have not gone out that evening. Rocky could have left Adrian alone after Paulie’s rude behavior. He could have thought, “Now’s not a good time. She needs her space. I’ll try again some other time.” I don’t think he would have been at fault for thinking any of those things. Adrian likely didn’t feel like going out, not after having the meal she had worked so hard on destroyed by her brother. She could have stayed in her room the rest of the evening, suffering in her quiet lonely way. Nothing could have happened that night between them. The bad situation would have eventually blown over, and life would have continued as normal. But they didn’t accept the bad hand they’d been dealt that night. They chose to make something good happen, and that shows a remarkable strength of will and quiet optimism. Making something good out of the bad wasn’t easy either. Adrian had to endure quite a few bad jokes from Rocky. Rocky had to do all the talking because of her shyness. All awkwardness aside, they successfully managed to create a good situation out of a bad one, and because they were able to get something good out that fateful Thanksgiving night, their lives changed forever.


Rocky is a great movie, a masterpiece of American cinema, and it has had a tremendous influence on our society, whether we are all aware of it or not. It does not deserve to be filed away as just another boxing or guy movie. It is a serious and beautiful portrayal of the human spirit and its nobility and ability to achieve greatness. It can teach us important life lessons if we are willing to watch and listen. To those who have seen and love this film, we cannot let it fade away into obscurity. We cannot be content to meet people who have never seen a single Rocky film and not do anything to remedy that. We may be fighting an uphill battle as we try to open people’s minds and hearts to this great film, but if Rocky has taught us anything, it’s that even if we lose this fight, if we go the distance and stay on our feet, we’ll know that we “[aren’t] just another bum from the neighborhood.” We will be able to hold our heads high and let loose our triumphant roar:


Monday, March 31, 2008

Just Settle

In lieu of recent conversations with my fellow truth-seekers, close study of The Colbert Report (12 march 2008), and the Atlantic Monthly's article "Marry Him!", I have identified one of man's greatest enemies: Disney.

Now, I love "Bambi" and "Dumbo" just as much as the next person, but its not so much those genre-types that I publicly denounce. It's the Disney Princess mentality propagated by the other stories - the stories that girls and young women grow up having ingrained in their mind and wishing to believe, even forcing themselves to believe in some psychological aspect, that distort their sense of reality and serves not only to their detriment but ours as well.

So, it is my proposal here to make a couple clarifications for everyone, or no one, who reads this:
  • the knight in shining armor does not exist because you dreamed him up
  • you probably can't be even half as cultured as you expect him to be
  • soul-mates don't exist and neither do their synonyms
  • you're not a princess (even if your daddy told you so)
  • marriage doesn't solve problems and, therefore, there is no 'happily ever after'.
  • men who try to live up to the almost impossible expectations of 1) making you laugh constantly, 2) fitting your ideal, and 3) flamboyancy to catch your eye or stick out because that's the only way you'll recognize him will ultimately become depressed and you will tire of their constant antics and endeavors to please you.
  • Romance, the kind my mother wishes she has and only exists in her Harlequin romance novels, only exists in those novels....and Disney.
It's not all about you. It's not about landing a big fish. It's not about upgrading your status to 'queen' from 'princess'. It's about responsibility and benefiting society by raising children to contribute and continue to solve the problems that our generation will no be able to. It's about objectivity and realizing that he's going to settle for you, so you might as well settle for him. It's about objectivity. Maybe you'll have to just go for 'Mr. Good-Enough' instead of the non-existent 'Mr. Right'.

Honestly, a good man will have too much to do in life between holding down a good job and trying to be a good father to pamper you as a queen. I personally would much rather have someone to get down in the trenches with, so to speak, and is willing to tough-out life in a way that acknowledges and accepts reality.

In the long run you'll be happier and love will grow and deepen based on that kind of responsibility and realization. This is also not to say that there aren't people that one is more compatible with or that romance, in a realistic way, can't exist. I realize that perhaps the Disney Princess mentality isn't the rampant destroying psychological typhoon that I have made it out to be here, but the absurdity of it's existence begged this scathing criticism.

Refuse the fantasy. All it ever was...was chivalry in the wind.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Love Waxes On, Waxes Off

The Tedious Introduction

Here I am...blogging again. It's been awhile. Admittedly, I have no valid excuse for not writing for so long. Sure, school has been hectic with tests to take, papers to write, and books to read. Yes, writing, directing, editing, shooting, and acting in a mind blowing three-minute film, "The Return of the Three Masters," for the BYU iOscars film competition took a lot of time.

Nonetheless, I should not have neglected this blog. I wasn't even sure that people read it, let alone enjoy it, and the incorrect perception of pointless toiling got to me. For those who are reading this, I thank you for reading it. As an aspiring writer, I am always immensely gratified and grateful whenever someone gives positive feedback. Thank you.

Before I get to my chosen subject, I thought I would explain the noticeable change made to our blog. We now have music. For the time being, I have chosen three songs that I have been listening to a lot lately. "Briony" by Dario Marianelli comes from the official soundtrack for the 2007 film Atonement. The entire soundtrack is great. I've been trying to round up all the soundtracks that were nominated for the Best Musical Score academy award to see if Atonement really deserved the award. I've listened to four of the five nominees, lacking only the 3:10 to Yuma, and I can authoritatively declare that Atonement deserved its win. Both "Briony" and Debussy's classic "Clair de Lune" are on that soundtrack - hence, their inclusion in the playlist.

Now on to what we're really here for:

Love Waxes On, Waxes Off: What the Karate Kid Teaches us about Love

This past Saturday night I was conversing with my roommates, asking them what they thought I should write about in this prodigal blog entry. They tossed a few ideas out, but for some reason, none of them felt right. When I stumble upon a good topic to write about, for a blog entry, essay, or any other creative project, I just know it. I feel that it is the right thing to write about, and I get excited. It was well after midnight, and I could not think of something to write about. I wanted to write something, but I can't settle for mediocrity (though that may appear questionable if you've actually read my writing).

Anyway, I sat down on the couch, frustrated with my lack of inspiration, and turned on the TV. I flipped through the channels until I came to channel 56, AMC (the American Movie Classics). One of my favorite childhood movies was on, 1984's The Karate Kid. I loved that movie growing up, along with the second film. I used to practice the crane kick, you know, the move Daniel Larusso uses to win the tournament at the end of the film. I thought it might come in handy someday (I still hope it will). I watched a few minutes of the film and knew immediately that I would write something about that film. But what?

Then I saw a young Elizabeth Shue onscreen, and I watched as her character, Ali Mills, began to form a relationship with Daniel (who shall henceforth be referred to as Daniel-san). Ah, teenage love. Such a beautiful thing. Then I remembered that in The Karate Kid, Part II Daniel-san goes with Miyagi to Japan and hooks up with a cute Japanese girl. I then asked a question my younger self had never felt the need to ask: what about Ali? I was befuddled. What did happen between Daniel-san and Ali? It was there, in the search for that answer and in the quest for the meaning of their relationship, that this blog was born.

Before I go about answering that question, let's take a look at their relationship and see what we can gleam from it. First off, how does a guy like Daniel-san get a girl like Ali? By all appearances and societal norms, their very relationship is an anomaly. Daniel-san is not the most assured, confident, or desirable bachelor. He comes from a struggling economic situation with his single mother, he's not very popular and gets beat up by the cool kids, and, for most of the movie, he doesn't have an awesome car. So, he's got no money, status, or car, and somehow he ends up with a girl like Ali? She comes from an extremely different background. She comes from wealth, is very beautiful, and has everything it takes to be popular and powerful in high school. (She even hangs out with her ugly friends, ensuring that she will always be the center of attention when the boys are near). Basically, Ali can have whatever and whomever she wants.

Common sense, then, would seem to dictate that these two crazy kids would never have much in the way of friendship, let alone a romantic relationship. Yet they do. How is this possible? The answer to that question is the first important life lesson taught by The Karate Kid:
Karate will get you chicks.
At first, I didn't believe that to be true. Maybe it was because nobody cool did karate where I'm from, admittedly a backwoods smorgasbord of rednecks and giant dinosaur statues. Maybe karate was cool at their high school because there was no football (the type of person Ali would seem to go out with). Perhaps karate was their football.

One good reason that these two lovebirds get together is that Daniel-san repeatedly defends Ali's honor when she is being bothered/annoyed by the karate jerks. Not only does this earn Daniel-san their ire and hatred, it earns Ali's respect and, get ready for it, her heart (aww). Because Daniel-san is willing to sacrifice his personal well-being for her sake, Ali is able to see his true worth and potential. This allows her to see past the obvious differences that had and could keep them forever apart. It is to her credit that Ali is willing to get over the superficial obstacles that would keep someone like her far away from someone like Daniel-san, even with pressure from her parents and their country club mentality.

But Daniel-san is no loser, mind you. He trains diligently with Miyagi and learns how to wash cars, sand decks, and paint fences and houses. He also learns karate, and he uses that karate to kick major booty. In short, Daniel-san is the best around.

(At this point you should cue the song "You're the Best Around" which is, incidentally, from The Karate Kid).

Now I must ask: how could Ali not fall in love with Daniel-san? He is the best around, and he has an awesome theme song, the respect of his enemies, and a giant trophy to prove it. I'm surprised Ali didn't have to fight off other women for Daniel-san's affection. In the end, Daniel-san and Ali achieve something significant. They break down class barriers and prove that money and status don't matter when it comes to true love.

But then the sequel came out.

Ali is nowhere to be seen in The Karate Kid, Part II. Early in the film, Daniel tells Miyagi that Ali dumped him for a UCLA football player. Whaaaaaa? Since when was Ali that kind of person? If she could make it through high school (when status is so important) and eschew the typical life of the beautiful, wealthy, and popular, why would she seem to fall into this trap in her first semester at college? It all seems so out of character, and I'm forced to try and imagine how this could happen. Maybe she couldn't handle Daniel-san's eternal devotion to Miyagi and felt ignored, abandoned, and unloved. Maybe Daniel-san let the fame get to his head and he pushed her away and neglected their relationship. Maybe he drove her to break up with him. I really don't know.

What seems most likely to me is that the filmmakers knew they wanted to take Daniel-san and Miyagi to Japan in the sequel, and they couldn't see a way to make Ali a feasible part of the story. We all know long-distance relationships don't work, and how would you show a long-distance relationship in a movie made in the 1980's? Do you show them writing heartfelt letters back and forth? (Boring). Do you show Ali being scolded by her parents for making costly phone calls to Japan? (Does Daniel-san call her collect?). No matter how much they may have wanted to bring back Ali's character, it was impractical.

Besides, by having Ali dump Daniel-san, he is able to go to Japan and hook up with a cute Japanese girl and remain the good guy we all want to win. Had he broken up with Ali just so he could have a fling while in Japan, he would become an unlikable protagonist, and you can't have an unlikable protagonist in an inspiration 80's film. This way, Daniel remains the sensitive guy, and we're happy when he appears to find love once again. Without the conventional romance thrown in there, how else could the movie aspire for greatness and immortality? We sure love our movie romances, don't we? Yes, we do. Thus, Ali got the boot and Daniel-san got the pretty Japanese girl. And we got a great sequel - I love Daniel-san triumph over the bad guy with his imitation of the spinning drum thing. Classic.

When all is said and done, I am amazed at how much a classic movie can teach us about love and relationships. Perhaps the most important lesson can be learned when we look back at Daniel-san's training with Miyagi. He is forced to do extremely menial and seemingly meaningless chores. He washes dirty cars with just a sponge, sands a very large deck on his hands and knees, and paints a long fence and an entire house. Eventually, Daniel-san explodes with frustration and anger. "When am I going to learn karate?!" he yells. Wise Miyagi (a man with facial hair, I might add) approaches Daniel-san and tells him to perform the motions for each of those various activities. Then he tries to hit Daniel-san, but Daniel-san is able to use the motions for those trivial chores to defend himself. Wow, turns out that while Daniel-san thought he was just doing Miyagi's dirty work, he was really learning karate. This leads us to the second, and greatest, life lesson taught by The Karate Kid:
Learning to love is like learning karate.
We have to do things we don't understand if we are to truly learn to love. That includes dating, the incessant worrying and stressing and over analyzing, everything related to The Game, buying flowers, writing terrible poetry, spending excessive amounts of money on a rock, etc. And after we do all that and think we haven't accomplished anything, we realize that we have learned karate. Or how to love. One of the two.

What is the equivalent of the crane kick when it comes to love?

There we have it, dear readers. The Karate Kid is a fountain of knowledge and important life lessons. How many of you thought that when I announced the title of this entry that I would wax on (pun!) so elegantly and so extensively? Frankly, I am quite surprised by the length of this blog entry, but I know that I learned a few important lessons about life and love. The next time we find ourselves struggling to learn our metaphorical karate and we're fighting the fight of love and relationships, and we find ourselves being kicked in the face or nearly having our leg broken when someone takes a cheap shot at us, we will remember these wise words of Miyagi:
"Wax on, wax off. Breathe in through nose, out the mouth. Wax on, wax off. Don't forget to breathe, very important."
Keep breathing and trust that everything will be okay in the end. I guess I should trust Miyagi more. Does anyone have a fence to paint?

Saturday, March 8, 2008

I Understand

I now understand why so few people actually read our treatises of truth (a.k.a. our blog).

blog readability test

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