Tuesday, March 27, 2012


This video is not at all what my blog is about, but as soon as I sat down to write it, this moment came into my head.  So, watch and laugh.  In case you're wondering, I think my favorite part is right around 2:44.

Anyway, I hope now you've had a good laugh and a good reminiscence of the greatness of The Cosby Show.  Now, please read my blog which won't be nearly as funny, but hopefully will be interesting.

I don't know if it's because I'll be turning 30 in a few short months, or because my little brother and his girlfriend just had a little baby, or because I just got a rejection e-mail from the Abu Dahbi Education Council, but I feel as if I'm having a little life crisis.  I nearly said mid-life crisis, but I hope I'm not old enough for that yet, and I think that has different connotations than what I'm going through here.  I have no plans to buy a sports car and try to pick up girls half my age.  College ladies are still fair game, though.  "So, babe, should we go back to your dorm or my parents' house?"  It could work.

Or, maybe it's none of those things.  It may have stemmed mostly from this book I'm reading.  It's called Consumer Republic and it's by Bruce Philp.  I picked it up in a little bookstore in Oak Park when I was up in Chicago.  Now, this post isn't really about the book, but the book is important to what's going on here, so let me give you a quick synopsis from the 3/4ths I've read so far.  The basic premise is that there needs to be a consumer revolution in the U.S.  Like many other people, Philp dislikes "american-style consumerism."  However, like me, he doesn't think consumerism is totally a bad thing.  He doesn't want to destroy brands and huge corporations.  In fact, the center of his argument is that brands are central to we consumers taking control of the market, holding those big companies accountable and getting what we want.  Another big point in the book is buying/owning fewer higher quality things instead of more cheaper things.  There's a lot more detail and nuance in the book that I won't get into here, but I would highly recommend the book.  I would also recommend Cheap by Ellen Ruppel Shell, which Philp references when talking about the downsides of too much bargain hunting.

Like any person advocating a revolution of any kind--which he really is doing--Philp calls on the general public to make changes to their lives, to think more about what they do, and in this case, buy.  It fits very well with the Thoreauvian edict to "live deliberately," which is one I've been a fan of--and done a horrible job of following--since I read Walden the first time back in high school.  (Bye the way, I'm not sure if Thoreauvian is as proper as Dickensian or Kafkaesque, but I think it sounds damn good).  In one section of the book, Philp gives 3 little guiding principles to keep in mind when shopping.  Each is embodied by a philosopher/great thinker.  They are Buddha, Ruskin and Morris.  I really liked the quote attributed to William Morris: "Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful."  Tied with Morris in this section is the less famous Dave of guynameddave.com.  In pursuit of a better, less cluttered life, Dave started his 100 Things Challenge.  You can read about it on his blog.  Or, at least try.  I found the blog to be totally useless for actually finding any details about his rules for the 100 things or his challenges with it.  Maybe it's because he did it a few years back and is now more focused on other things.  But, I'm getting off track.  This is not about whether I like Dave's blog or not.  The concept of the 100 things challenge is not hard to grasp.  Can you live with 100 things?  The end.  Dave did it for a year I believe.  Or that was what he challenged himself to from what I understand.

So, I want to do it, too.  Already, I've come up with a few stumbling blocks.  For example, I have more than 100 books, probably more than 200.  I also have more than 100 CDs.  And clothes?  I don't have a huge wardrobe, but when you talk shirts, pants, undershirts, ties, belts, socks, boxers...well, that adds up quickly.  I may have to exempt those things, or make some special rules for them somehow.  We'll see how it goes.  I already have ideas for some things to get rid of, but I'll save those details for later.

About this time you might be wondering why I want to do this, why I think it's important to me.  Well, I could tell you, but I think it would be more efficient wait until I explain the other challenge I'm taking part in.

Challenge 2:  Riding my bike for 30 days.

So, in the newspaper the other day I saw a little article about a 30 day bike ride challenge.  Again, very simple premise--and one that doesn't involve me name dropping any books or authors.  Oh, except for the author of the article, the lovely and talented Andrea Zeek.  Ok, that's out of the way.  As I was saying, simple premise: ride your bike every day for 30 days to help promote better health, a better environment and even, and to save a little gas money perhaps.

I've said many times in my adult life that I should start riding my bike more.  It usually lasts for about a week.  Or I'll go through a summer of riding my bike once a week or so.  LAME.

So, now I get to tell you why I'm doing these things.  I want to get into riding my bike more because I'm getting way out of shape.  I'm getting a beer belly and I figure pumping the pedals for a few miles might help with that.  Also, I've never really committed myself to anything for 30 days in a row.  I mean, I've had jobs of course, and I've played sports and I've done theater things, but none of those things happened every day for 30 whole days.  It's a good way to start some new habits and hopefully get rid of some bad ones.  You know, habits like sitting in my house on my computer being lazy and getting fatter.

Both of these challenges are ways for me to refocus my life, to move toward "living deliberately" instead of just letting the days go by.  It might help me figure out what I really want to do with my life, what I think is important and to really go after those things.  I know some things I like to do, but often get so mired down in clutter--mental clutter, emotional clutter, and the real physical clutter--that I don't pursue them.

So, the challenge really becomes this.  Can I hold down two part-time jobs and be good at them both--which really is a challenge in itself--and make some real life changes?  In some ways it seems like piling on too many changes and challenges at once.  But, on the other hand I think it's kind of an all or nothing.  In fact, in my mind the things I want to do and have talked about here get so connected that I'm having trouble explaining it without repeating myself a lot, and I don't have the time to do the editing work required to make my writing concise.  Look for more later, though.  I plan to update my progress on here, and hope for thoughts/encouragement/connection from anyone who takes the time to read this.