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Exit 237. The first step in trying to change the world.

I’ve generally stayed away from controversial topics on this blog.  Today’s post is an exception. I might lose friends over this. I’m prepared for that.  The views herein are mine and do not reflect that of any organization that I am part of or any colleagues or associates of mine.

I recently saw the movie Unplanned.  I went by myself, because I knew a lot of my friends wouldn’t want to see this movie, and also because I felt like this was a story I needed to see by myself.  The movie is based on a true story, and the nonfiction memoir of the same title. The movie is the story of Abby Johnson, the former director of an abortion clinic in Texas who had a change of heart and became an anti-abortion pro-life activist.  Unsurprisingly, the movie has received mostly negative reviews from professional critics, effectively calling it a poorly done right-wing propaganda piece. There has also been a bit of a media blackout of this movie; several major television networks have refused to air advertisements for the movie, because of its sensitive subject matter.  The MPAA gave the movie an R rating, despite the lack of any profanity or nudity, preventing many of the scared pregnant teens who need to know that there are other options for them besides abortion from seeing the movie at all.  In many states, these same scared pregnant teens can get an abortion without parental consent or notification.

To be honest, some of the above is valid, to some extent.  You can tell that this is a low-budget film. And, although I’m not an expert on criteria for movie ratings, the R rating does seem a bit justified because of a few scenes with a lot of blood.  I suspect that, in the case of most people watching this movie, it is doing a lot of preaching to the choir. Those who do not believe that abortion is morally wrong are the ones dismissing this movie as propaganda.  But to me, it is a powerful story that needs to be told, a story of love and redemption and the consequences of our choices.

I believe that abortion is wrong.  The Bible is clear that all human life is precious to the God who created us, even before birth.   I believe that God gave us sex to create life, and as part of the intimate lifelong bond between a husband and wife, and that anyone who is not at least willing to accept the possibility of bringing a child into the world should be taking responsibility for that.  If birth control doesn’t work, the responsible thing to do is to accept the consequences and not end the life of a child for the sake of your own convenience.  Many people out there would be willing to adopt a child and give it a good home.  And I am not disqualified from having an opinion about abortion because I am a man. You can have an opinion about slavery in the USA even if you didn’t live in the South before 1860, for example.  You don’t have to be directly affected by injustice to stand up for it.  And my opposition to abortion has nothing to do with oppressing women. Women have the unique gift of being able to bear children and bring new life into the world. But this gift of creating life is not to be taken lightly. With great power comes great responsibility (Benjamin Parker was right), and both parties involved, the man and the woman, have a great responsibility to use this gift wisely.  I know that this is considered a very extreme viewpoint in this culture, but Jesus didn’t say we would exactly be popular in the world.

I also believe that one can make a secular argument against abortion.  Fertilized eggs, embryos, and feti are all distinct beings with different DNA than either parent, so these have as much value as any other human life.  It is not part of either parent’s body, it is a separate life that has value, so abortion takes a life, which can only be justified if one is willing to accept situations like slavery in which some human lives are more valuable than others.  And abortion is not essential health care. Essential health care makes the body act the way it is designed to when it is not doing so. Abortion is exactly the opposite: the bodies of a pregnant woman and a developing fetus are doing exactly what they are designed to, and abortion prevents this from happening.

Okay… now hold that thought.  The night before I saw the movie, I shared an article from the Babylon Bee (a satire site) referencing the accusations against former Vice President Joe Biden and his habit of smelling women’s hair without their consent.  Someone commented on my post; I knew this guy a long time ago, and he has changed quite a bit in the time since he was in my primary social circle. Pretty much all of our interactions these days are him making some kind of smug disparaging comment on anything even remotely political than I share.  This time it was something to the effect that Donald Trump has said and done much worse than this. I said that it was a straw man argument, because Trump’s misdeeds don’t make Biden’s acceptable, and that he was assuming incorrectly that I was a Trump supporter. That led to a discussion, mostly angry and defensive on my part, in which he accused me of being divisive by spreading one-sided political posts, and thus that I have no right to complain about society being so divided.

He kind of does have a point here.  Even though I didn’t vote for Trump, I haven’t shared things critical of his administration, mostly because the things the Democrats are saying are far more disagreeable and sometimes terrifying to me.  And he calls it being divisive, but I call it telling the truth, and the truth hurts sometimes.

Back to Unplanned.  (Stop reading if you don’t want any plot details spoiled.  Then come back to this post after you’ve seen the movie.) A group of pro-lifers regularly stands outside of the clinic to pray; the movie particularly focuses on one of them, Marilisa, and the man that she eventually marries, Shawn.  What struck me the most about the movie was the way that Abby was generally cordial and friendly to Marilisa and Shawn, and they were cordial and friendly to her. Shawn and Marilisa didn’t scream at Abby and call her a baby killer, and Abby didn’t scream at them and call them sexist bigots or religious nuts.  And as a result, on the day that Abby decided to get out of the abortion industry, she had someone to turn to, and she immediately reached out to them.  (I’ve read that the events of that one day in the movie happened over the course of a couple of weeks in real life, but that doesn’t take away from my point.)  Also, along those lines, Abby’s family disapproved of her work, but they did not disown her, shun her, or continually berate her for it.  They loved her despite what she was doing.

And then it hit me.

This is what not being divisive truly looks like.

I have friends who have had abortions, and there are probably many more of them who have never told me that they have had abortions.  (And I don’t know if I want to know. I don’t want to be too sheltered from opposing views and lifestyles, but I also don’t like the thought that people I know have done this, and I don’t want my feelings about the subject to get in the way of us otherwise being friends.)  It’s really hard for me not to be divisive and accept this, given what I balieve about this. But thinking of these people as heartless baby killers and making derogatory comments about their sex lives isn’t going to change the world or do anything to make the rest of the world think differently of people like me.  Real life is far too complex for such simplistic responses, and women who have had abortions most likely went through a very difficult decision process. They are genuinely doing what they believe is best for everyone involved, as are many employees of abortion clinics.

I can say I’m not divisive all I want, but if I quietly stand by while others are expressing views and lifestyles differently from mine while inwardly calling them names in my head, then I’m certainly not doing anything to help or change the situation.  So, instead of getting angry at the way the world is, what I really need to be doing is seeking to understand why people believe differently from me, acknowledging that there are reasons for this, and caring for them as human beings.  Because understanding where others come from must be the first step in trying to change the world. It isn’t easy, it doesn’t come naturally, but it is what the world needs right now.

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Exit 236. I don’t play that game.

Actress Brie Larson, who plays Captain Marvel in the movie of the same title currently in theaters, has stated that the press covering her films are overwhelmingly white and male (https://www.foxnews.com/entertainment/brie-larson-doesnt-want-captain-marvel-press-tour-to-be-overwhelmingly-white-male).  She has made a big deal of wanting her press corps to be inclusive. So I’m going to write about this movie, specifically because I’m a white male and I don’t play the identity politics game.

It was good.  I enjoyed it. I’ve seen all of the Marvel movies at some point, and since Captain Marvel is going to be in Avengers Endgame, this movie is part of the story.  But since it is primarily an origin story, it mostly works on its own as a standalone movie, for someone who hasn’t seen the other Marvel movies. Occasionally, I felt like Brie’s acting was a little flat, but not nearly enough to make the movie not enjoyable.  When Captain Marvel arrives on Earth, she lands in Los Angeles in 1995, and, of course, I loved all the 1995 pop-culture references. I was 18-19 in 1995. That was my time.

That’s all.  I’m obviously not a professional movie reviewer.

But I think Goose the cat needs to get his own movie.  I’d totally watch that.

Exit 235. Is it worth it for the game to lose its soul?

A couple years ago, I was watching a San Francisco Giants baseball game on TV.  The game was tied in extra innings (for my unbaseballed readers: if the game is tied at the end of the normal game length, they keep playing more innings until the game isn’t tied anymore at the end of an inning).  It is well known in baseball that some pitchers are better at pitching against certain types of batters; for example, pitchers tend to be better at getting out batters who bat with the same hand that the pitcher throws with.  Giants manager Bruce Bochy wanted to put in a left-handed pitcher (I don’t remember the names of any of the players involved here, nor do I remember the opponent) because the next batter was left-handed, but the existing right-handed pitcher would be preferable for the right-handed batters following this one.  Once a player is removed from the game, he may not re-enter the game, and being that this game had gone to extra innings, there were very few players left, especially pitchers, who could enter the game.

Something happened here that I had never seen in all the decades I’ve been watching baseball.  Instead of removing the pitcher, Bochy removed an outfielder from the game, and the right-handed pitcher moved to left field, where the upcoming left-handed batter would not be likely to hit the ball.  After that left-handed batter had finished his at-bat against the new left-handed pitcher, the right-handed pitcher came back to the mound to pitch, and a new outfielder entered the game.

Baseball, especially in leagues where no designated hitter is used, is a game of brilliant strategy.  This part of the game seems to be misunderstood these days by all but the most dedicated baseball fans.  For years, baseball executives have been pointing out that interest in the game is slowly declining, because younger generations see baseball as a slow and boring game.  I wouldn’t disagree with the slow part, but I disagree with the assumption that being slow is a bad thing.  I can go to a baseball game with someone and, because of the slow pace of the game, I don’t have to choose between spending time with my friend and paying attention to the game, as is the case sometimes with, say, basketball, where the ball is constantly moving and scoring happens often.  And, if you know enough to follow the strategy, baseball is not boring at all.  The number of strategic moves required to maximize the team’s chance of scoring, and the excitement of seeing whether or not a strategy succeeds, makes for a very exciting game.

Major League Baseball has proposed a number of rule changes for the 2020 season, and as far as I can tell, the brilliant strategy described above, in which the pitcher briefly moved to left field, would be against the rules for two reasons under the new rules.  Players would be designated as either pitchers or position players, prohibiting pitchers from playing any other position in the field.  This situation that I described would be uncommon, but it is fairly common to use pitchers as pinch runners late in the game, and this would seemingly be prohibited as well.  (For the unbaseballed: this means substituting a player when they are already on base, so if a slow player gets a hit, he might be removed from the game and replaced with a fast player to run the rest of the bases and have a better chance at scoring because of his speed.  I should also acknowledge that there are inconsistencies in the articles I’ve read about the rule changes, and I’m not 100% sure that using pitchers as pinch runners would be against the rules.)

But there is another rule that clearly would affect the game in profound ways: a pitcher will be required to pitch to a minimum of three batters.  In the scenario I described above, the pitcher only pitched to one batter, and this is far more common than any of the other unusual strategies I have described.  And this rule change affects so many aspects of the game beyond on-field strategy, extending to front-office decisions about which players a team chooses to sign and the value of pitchers in a trade or free agent signing.  Many pitchers have specifically built careers around being specialists who are brought in just to get one batter out, typically a batter of the same handedness.  This gives them an additional advantage of being usable in more games, since pitching to only one batter does not wear out their pitching arm or require resting over multiple games before pitching again.  Now, their skill sets will be rendered invalid with the stroke of a pen.

The justification for this rule change is to speed up the game.  Some of the proposals to speed up the game I’m perfectly okay with, like shortening slightly the breaks between innings.  But changing the strategy and the value of certain skill sets will change the game so fundamentally as to render it almost unrecognizable to some of us long-term fans.  And I’m not sure I buy the argument that the young have attention spans too short to appreciate baseball.  After all, younger fans have embraced soccer at levels heretofore unprecedented in the USA, and soccer is certainly a game requiring patience with so few goals being scored.  Or maybe the problem is that fewer kids are playing baseball, with other sports and activities such as competitive video gaming taking up their recreation time, so they never learn all the strategies involved with baseball.

Bruce Bochy and his strategic brilliance will not see these rule changes, since he is retiring at the end of the 2019 season.  But there is another generation of fans for whom the game will not be the same as it was before.  So how does baseball revitalize and reinvent itself for the younger generation?  I don’t know.  The world is a different place than it was a generation ago, and I realize that baseball has been through major rule changes before.  One theory I’ve heard is that MLB owners receive so much revenue from licensing deals that they have little financial incentive to put a winning team on the field, which makes some organizations perpetually not competitive. Maybe we need to look at that.  I don’t have a definite answer.  But is it worth it for the game to lose its soul over this?

Exit 234. No good for an old memory to mean so much today.

The title comes from this popular song from my childhood.

My other blog (on which I use a pen name, in case any of you check it out and are confused by what my name actually is) is an episodic continuing story currently set in 1994 (about a decade later than the song I just quoted, so the song isn’t connected to this story except for the enduring relevance of that quote).  The main character in that story, currently an 18-year-old in his first term away from home at a large university, recently looked up something in a yearbook from high school and noticed some things that people wrote to him inside.  For the purposes of making the story authentic, I used actual words that people wrote in my 11th and 12th grade yearbooks for the yearbook signatures in the story.

When I was in school, the day that the yearbooks were distributed, and the following days when classmates and friends would sign the blank pages in the front and back, were always one of the major highlights of the year for me.  I’ve always struggled with feelings of being an outcast, feeling like no one likes me. And, not to sound like an attention whore, but yearbook-signing time is a way to get it in writing that people really have nice things to say about me.  And now, as a middle-aged teacher, I feel the same way about yearbooks.  I always enjoy and look forward to getting to read students’ wishes for me to have a great summer, and to wish the same to them.

As an example, one of the actual quotes I used in the story came from someone who I had just met during senior year.  A class I was in and a class she was in did a project together, with a few students from each class randomly assigned to work together.  I hadn’t thought of her in years, and I mostly only remember two things about her: that project, and the fact that she wrote something really nice and thoughtful in my yearbook at the end of that year.  It was the kind of message I might expect to read from someone I’ve been friends with a long time, not from an acquaintance two grades younger than me whom I had just met six months earlier.

I didn’t stay in touch with most of my high school friends.  The majority of people who sent me their best wishes for the future, told me how I would go far in life, and encouraged me to be confident and smile more, did not speak to me in my college years.  I tried to stay in touch with some of them, at least, but only a few responded, and after a couple years I didn’t hear from them anymore either.  For years, that left me wondering… did people really mean all the nice things they would write to me in the yearbook? Or did they just write nice things because that’s what you were supposed to do, and they were all empty words?

I don’t know.  Honestly, it was probably a combination of both, depending on the person.  And to be fair to my friends who didn’t stay in touch, it was a lot harder to stay in touch in 1994 than it is now.   There was no social media, no texting, and email was a new (or at least newly mainstream) technology that my friends weren’t using often, if at all.  Although I did try to stay in touch with some people, I didn’t try to stay in touch with everyone. I was even more socially awkward back then. It also felt a little inappropriate to me to make an effort to stay in touch specifically with cute girls who had boyfriends, unless I had been close friends with them for a long time (the girl I mentioned above whom I knew from the class project was in this category).  And I was pretty terrified of using the phone.  I should point out for any of my long-time friends who ever got a phone call from me in the 20th century that I probably sat there for at least 20 minutes agonizing over whether or not I should really call you, and wondering if you really wanted to talk to me, or if your parents answered and things got awkward if they knew who I was, crazy stuff like that.

I’ve lived a lot of life since 1994, and I’ve made and lost a lot of friends.  I have come to realize that, yes, there are a lot of people who will be nice to me to my face but not care about me once my back is turned, or once it takes effort from them to stay in my life, or once they have gotten what they need from me.  But I have also come to realize that sometimes people just lose touch from natural causes. Life is busy and hectic and chaotic and unpredictable. Yes, it is easier to stay in touch with people in the social media era.  And I’m back in contact with quite a few of my high school friends thanks to Facebook and Instagram, and Myspace before that.  But that takes time too, and there is only so much time to go around, especially now that my classmates and I are in our early 40s with careers and responsibilities and (many of them, but not me) children to raise.  There are plenty of good intentions to go around, but not plenty of time.

I like closure.  When someone disappears from my life, I like to know why, so I can learn from the experience if necessary.  But that doesn’t always happen, and that’s ok. I shouldn’t be dwelling on it.  It’s in the past.  Time to move on and focus on the present.

Exit 233. Living for the first time.

A few of you, specifically people who have known me long enough to know all of my obscure little-known favorite movies, and probably not many others, will recognize the title of this post as a line from a song in the 2008 movie The Rocker.

Sometimes, I’ll read a book, or watch a movie, or interact with a work of fiction in some way, and I’ll feel like I want to know more.  I’ll want to know what happened to the characters after the end of the story, or more about the background of the characters or story. Or I’ll just wonder more about a certain minor character in the story, which specifically happened to me recently while watching this movie.

Critics didn’t really like this movie, but then again critics aren’t me.  The film stars Rainn Wilson (Dwight from The Office, the shirtless guy in the picture above, but I never got into that show so don’t ask me about Dwight), singer-songwriter Teddy Geiger (left), some people who became famous later (Josh Gad, Emma Stone, the other two pictured) and other people who were in other better-known stuff (Will Arnett, Jason Sudeikis, Fred Armisen, Christina Applegate, Jane Lynch, Jeff Garlin, Bradley Cooper, and I’m sure I’m forgetting others).  Ex-hair band drummer Robert “Fish” Fishman (Wilson) never got his life together after his friends (Arnett, Armisen, Cooper) betrayed him and kicked them out of their band in 1986. His friends went on to become immensely successful, but the present day finds Fish living in the attic of his sister (Lynch)’s house and struggling to keep a job. Matt, Fish’s 18-year-old nephew (Gad) is in a band with his school friends Curtis and Amelia (Geiger, Stone), and they need a drummer.  After Fish struggles to fit in with the much younger band, the band gets a big break and attracts the attention of a typical Hollywood-weird producer (Sudeikis). Fish gets another chance to live the wild rock star life he dreamed of as a young man, but not quite in the way he imagined. I really enjoyed the story, even if it is a little unrealistic, and the soundtrack is an album that is still in my regular music rotation a decade later.

So about a week ago, this movie came up in a random Facebook conversation with a friend who hadn’t seen it, and I told my friend that it had been a while since I had seen it too, and now I wanted to watch it when I got home from work, which I did.  (In fact, I can remember exactly when I watched it last before last week; it was November 1, 2015, because it was my last date with SN1604 before we broke up the second and final time. She had never seen it, so I showed it to her. But we don’t need to talk about that…)  

Watching it again got me thinking about a certain minor character in the movie.  About halfway through the movie, the band is playing their first gig, and Fish is checking off all of their firsts as a band: first venue, first marquee sign (which has the band’s name misspelled), first sound check, first technical difficulties.  While they are playing, the camera switches to the crowd, where initially unenthusiastic people sitting at tables start paying attention to the music. One girl in particular starts watching the band, nodding her head enthusiastically to the music, and after the show she runs up to the band, blushing, and says “You guys are sweet!” before awkwardly running away.  Fish points out that they have their first fan. The same girl appears in the crowd at several future shows wearing a shirt that says “I ♥ MATT.” At an after-party, Matt tells Amelia that he wants to talk to this girl but doesn’t know how to talk to girls; Amelia gives him some pointers, and Matt goes over to talk to her. At the last concert in the movie, Matt throws his hat into the crowd, and she catches it (again wearing the I ♥ MATT shirt)..

This girl is a minor character in the movie.  No one says her name in the movie, and in the credits, she is listed as “I ♥ Matt Girl.”  But there is an interesting subplot here. In one scene, during the filming of a music video, Amelia gets frustrated at the people making the video wanting to change her look.  She says something along the lines of if they want someone who looks like all the other girls out there, they should just grab one of the girls that are always hanging around Curtis after the show.  But this girl, their first fan, isn’t one of the girls hanging around Curtis. She ♥s Matt, the dorky awkward member of the band. Even the dorkiest and most awkward of us have someone out there who cares about us.

So will I ever have a girl following me around with a shirt proclaiming that she ♥s me?  Doubtful.  Will I ever have someone who feels that way about me, though? I might, I might not. But who knows, it could happen. And it isn’t irrelevant that I have a lot of good friends who care about me.

Exit 232. Pray that God will sort everything out.

I’m not as much into Christian music as I used to be, but I still play Christian radio on Sunday mornings on the way to church, to get myself in the right frame of mind.  This song from 2012 comes on sometimes.  Casting Crowns was never a band I really got into.  I was at a Christian music festival in 2004, and I heard someone from this band telling a story between songs about when he was a kid, and he said that algebra class was of Satan, so I decided at that moment that I didn’t like them.  But this song is really powerful.

And, to be honest, this is something big that I have always struggled with.  Even though I always knew that this wasn’t the point of Christianity, part of the attraction of Christianity for me when I started taking my faith seriously in my late teens was that these were people who also didn’t get drunk or do drugs or sleep around.  And that kind of mentality makes it really easy to be judgmental toward those who don’t have lifestyles like mine.

But that isn’t going to help the rest of the world know Jesus.  Telling people that they’re wrong and that they’re going to hell is not a way to recruit people to your cause.

It’s a difficult balance to strike.  Sin is real and should not be taken lightly.  But love is also real, and all of us are sinners and need to be treating each other with love.  And, of course, these days, with society so polarized, there are debates over what is and is not sin in the first place.

Like I said, it’s easy to be judgmental.  It’s a very real desire to want to be part of a group where I can feel like I’m living life the right way and not like the other people.  But all of that is so different from everything that Jesus promised.  That sounds more like the words of the religious leaders that Jesus condemned so harshly (Luke 18:9ff).

So how do I handle this?  When do I call out someone’s sin?  I don’t know, and there probably isn’t a universal answer.  All I can do is pray for wisdom and discernment, to know what to say to whom when.  And more importantly, I can just love everyone and pray that God will sort everything out, that God will speak to all of us about where we still fall short and how we can grow closer to Him.

 

Exit 231. No. Not a good idea.

About a week ago, I had a disturbing dream.  I don’t remember all of the details, but I do remember hearing somehow that Acrux, the ex from 2011, was back in town.  I don’t remember if it was for good or for a visit or what.  And “town” wasn’t even the right place, because for some reason I was at my parents’ house, which is in a place that Acrux never had any connection to.  But I do remember her showing up there, wanting to talk.  And I remember her being nice.  She brought up the idea of getting back together, and I said let’s see where things go, or something like that that left the door open.

It was just a dream.  It’s not real.  For one thing, she definitely wouldn’t go out of her way to see me.  After all, she wouldn’t even go out of her way for me when we were together.  And I really don’t want to get back together with her.  She wasn’t nice.  She didn’t care about me.  She just wanted someone to tag along while she did her thing.

But I have to admit that there have been times when I’ve thought about getting back together with other exes or women I was interested in.  Sometimes I entertain thoughts of these women coming to me and apologizing, saying that they messed up and realized that I was the best they ever had, and wanting to get back together.

No.  Not a good idea.  And this is exactly why I feel like I’m better off not staying in touch with exes.  Whomever it is that I’m thinking about, I’d get too caught up in the feelings of what things might have been like, based on my initial impression of what she was like before she showed her true colors.  That isn’t reality.  She’s not real.

Just like my dreams.

Or, in this case, maybe it would be better to say nightmares.

Exit 230. I don’t have time.

I don’t have time.

I always have all these great creative ideas, and I don’t have time to work on all of them.

I wrote a novel off and on from 2014-18, more off than on, and it still feels like it isn’t quite finished, like there’s one part that needs to be rewritten.  I started a second blog recently.  I have another fictional universe I’ve done things with in various forms for over a quarter-century.  And I feel like I can’t really commit to any of them.

But that’s okay.  All of these projects are just for fun, and I shouldn’t stress about them.  I’m not trying to make a living out of any of these creative projects.  I have a real job that takes a lot of my time.  But this is also the kind of real job that periodically gives me time off when I can concentrate on things like this.

So I’m just not going to worry about it.  I’ll write what I can, when I can.  Even if no one reads it.  Because maybe when I’m an old man, I’ll look at some of my old writing that I haven’t read in decades, and I’ll get a good laugh out of it.  (That actually happened recently with some poems I wrote in my late teens that have followed me from hard drive to hard drive on five different computers.)

And if any of you don’t know about my other projects and are curious, let me know.  I’ll either share it, or maybe I’ll kindly thank you and explain why I’m not comfortable sharing everything with everyone.

Exit 229. I knew the answer all along.

I was watching Jeopardy! a few days ago.  Jeopardy! and other trivia games have always been huge in my family.  I’ve told people that my hours of reading random stuff on Wikipedia, then clicking a link to something else I read that I’m curious about, and repeating that dozens of times, are just studying for being a contestant on Jeopardy! eventually.  This argument was justified a few weeks ago when something I had read following a Wikipedia rabbit trail actually showed up a day or two later as a Final Jeopardy! question.  (“In 1790 Thursday October Christian became the first child whose birth was recorded on this remote island” — I had read about said remote island on another Wikipedia distraction-fest a few years ago, so I might have still gotten it right had I not read about it again recently.  I’ll let you think about it; click here for the correct response.  It’s also tradition in my family not to give away the answer in trivia games to non-participants who might be watching and playing along.)

Anyway, that isn’t the point of this post.  Another recent Final Jeopardy! category was “Female Singers,” and the clue was “In the 1990s this New York native had 8 of her first 10 Billboard Top 40 hits reach No. 1.”  I’m sitting there trying to think of the answer, and the first thing that comes to mind is, Crap!  In the 1990s I wasn’t listening to female singers who had No. 1 hits.  I was listening to R.E.M. and Pearl Jam and Aerosmith and Toad The Wet Sprocket, and then I had my Pink Floyd phase, and then I became a Christian and listened to DC Talk and Jars of Clay and Third Day.  I might not know this one.  Who could it be… whoever it is, her music probably sucks.

I was staring at the TV, at the words “1990s” and “No. 1 hits,” and I thought of something else.  A meme, of all things, something that I saw months ago.  It said to post the song that was No. 1 on your 14th birthday, and that is the song that defines your life.  Mine was “Vision of Love” by Mariah Carey.  That’s pretty much the opposite of what defines my life.  I’ve had plenty of visions of love, but unlike the song, they never come true, at least not for long.

But, back to Jeopardy!… my 14th birthday was in the summer of 1990.  Vision of Love was a No. 1 song from the 1990s by a female singer.  And it was from the start of her career, and she did have a lot of big hits in the next few years after that.  Could Mariah Carey be the correct Jeopardy! response?  I didn’t know whether or not she was a New York native, and I didn’t know exactly how many No. 1 hits she had or anything like that.  But I didn’t have a better answer.

Mariah Carey was correct.  I had the answer all along.

Literally.  I’ve literally had the answer since I was 14.  Somewhere in my parents’ attic is a cassette tape of Mariah Carey’s first album, the one with Vision of Love on it.  I haven’t listened to it since I was 15 or 16, but there was a brief time when I didn’t think that Mariah Carey sucked.  She had a strong voice with a pretty impressive range, and there were some catchy songs on that album.  Mariah lost favor with me a few years later, when she released another album with a song with banal lyrics and lots of parts where she was just shrieking at a pitch that only dogs and dolphins can hear, and by that time I was pretty much ditching pop, R&B, and hip-hop altogether in favor of classic rock.

So when I heard Alex Trebek telling the two contestants who wrote Mariah Carey that they were correct, I felt pretty proud of myself.  I thought that this question was going to be completely out of the realm of things I know about, but I knew the answer all along.  Maybe this is the case more often than I know.