Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Lady Liberty, Spring Cleaning and Bikini Tweets

"Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"
These words from the sonnet The New Colossus, familiar to people worldwide, bring to mind the inspiring sight of the Statue of Liberty. Millions of immigrants saw her as a beacon of welcome and hope as they completed one journey across the Atlantic only to begin another one in this great, dynamic and exciting land called "America".
On a blustery spring break day we took our boys, along with two of our best friends and their children, to see Lady Liberty and Ellis Island.  I wonder how many people living in the New York City area have never been there? I know my grandmother, nearly 98 years old, born and raised in Manhattan, has never been*. It seems we often take for granted that with which we become familiar. When we lived in Florida, 10 minutes from the beach, we often didn't get there for a month or more at a stretch, caught up in our daily lives. Have you visited the Statue of Liberty? If so, when was the last time? For me, it was when I was about 11 or 12. Whether it's been years or never, now is a great time to visit with your children to learn about the history of our country and be inspired.
The ferry from Liberty State Park in NJ first stops at Ellis Island. Definitely get off the boat and visit the island. With over 12 million immigrants coming through Ellis Island between 1892 and 1954, it is estimated that over 1/3 of all Americans today are descended from those who entered the United States here. That means if not yourself, than there's a good chance either the person on your left or on your right is one of those Americans (including yours truly). This place holds a special place in American history not so much because any singular event happened here, but because of exactly the opposite. It was a workaday location: processing immigrants day-in and day-out for over 60 years. Unlike a place such as Independence Hall in Philadelphia where the Declaration of Independence was signed, it's a notable location at the personal level by having intimate connections with more than 100 million Americans alive today even if they've never visited. Why? It's the place their ancestors arrived having, at great risk and uncertainly, left their homelands to join the ranks of Americans that have made this country great.  
Because the story at Ellis is at its core about people and not objects, unlike many other museums there's not a lot of "stuff" in display cases. To be sure there are artifacts - suitcases, clothing, and other personal articles to help understand the immigrant experience, however the main story is in the photographs and words of the people. People of every race, creed, color, religion, ethnicity and nationality. You truly see the Great Melting Pot that made, and continues to make, the United States the greatest nation on earth. As Bill Murray said in Stripes: "We're Americans, with a capital 'A', huh? You know what that means? Do ya? That means that our forefathers were kicked out of every decent country in the world. We are the wretched refuse. We're the underdog. We're mutts!"
Yes, I'm a mutt: half Polish and half Irish. And in those photographs of Poles and Irish at Ellis Island I can see the strong ethnic blood lines; they look so much like the faces in the yellowed family photographs we have. In the Registration Hall I imagined how 100 years ago my great-grandparents, excited yet undoubtably nervous, waited to be processed; the same process for them all yet stories so individual. One of my great-grandmothers left her village in eastern Poland when she was 16 years old and walked across Europe by herself to Holland to take a ship to America. And from Ireland, my great-grandparents came with 5 children in tow and one on the way. Yet common to all the stories, of my family and those told at Ellis, was a desire for a better life and the promise America held. 
It's easy see the unique appeal of Ellis Island to the American people. While we visit Independence Hall and gaze in awe at the chairs Ben Franklin, Thomas Jefferson and George Washington sat in during the Continental Congress as our Nation was framed, at Ellis Island I gazed and wondered if the chair I was looking at was used by my great-grandmother to rest her weary feet upon joining this Nation. Visit the Ellis Island research website where you can delve into your own family's arrival.
While Ellis Island may be a more compelling story at the personal level, The Statue of Liberty is the world-famous symbol of all the collective individual stories. The two places complement each other perfectly. Another short ferry ride and we arrived at Liberty Island, home of The Lady herself. Until you see her up close, it's hard to appreciate just how enormous she is. Lady Liberty was often the first recognizable landmark an immigrant would see as he or she sailed into New York Harbor, a symbol that they had indeed arrived in the Promised Land. She has also been a symbol to American soldiers going off to and returning from war, representing all they fought, and died, for. When my father was stationed in England (where I was born) for 3 years while on active duty in the USAF, my mother recounts how she wept tears of joy upon spotting the Statue of Liberty as our ship sailed into New York Harbor (yes, we took a ship back to the States; it was the 1960's). I, being not quite 3, had other things on my mind and asked if the tugboat I spotted was, in fact, one of those "grandmothers" I'd heard so much about.
Given her symbolism, it's fitting that her crown in now open to the public again since closing after 9/11. We can never allow terror to win by curtailing our civil liberties and American way of life out of fear. If you go, be sure to make reservations, either for the monument (the base) or the crown, well in advance (this is required as you cannot purchase passes to get into the base or statue once on Liberty Island). Prices are certainly reasonable: $15 for adults and $8 children 12 and under to visit the crown.
*Technically, my grandmother came through Ellis Island but was still in the womb.
For a great rundown on the firing of Boston College basketball coach, Al Skinner, check out my buddy Dave over at The Savage Truth.
It's springtime (in case you didn't notice) and this weekend is looking to be sunny and near 80. Other than being Easter weekend, this means it's the first real chance (at least the first chance I feel like taking advantage of) to get the yard cleaned up for the warm weather. I've already sourced out a number of bulk mulch providers and need to give them a call for delivery. Here and there after work a few nights I've spent time picking up the piles and piles (and piles) of broken branches and twigs covering the yard from the winter weather. The mystery that confounds me is who moved the piles I put along the curb for pickup off the road and back onto my lawn. Everyone else's piles of broken branches are right where they left them - out in the street along the curb. Go figure.
My celebrity intrigue, don't ask me why but it's Kim Kardashian, has apparently broken up with Reggie Bush and has been Tweeting pics of herself in a bikini. Yes, she's famous for being famous, certainly not for talent; but look, a lot of people watch trashy TV shows or read pulp fiction. This is my equivalent so give me a break.


Wednesday, March 24, 2010

The Value Invested Life....and a pimped-out Franklin.

I took a break last week from this blog. You wouldn't think it, but given that I contribute part of my ramblings to a for-profit website with deadlines, doing this on the side for free can become a bit burdensome week-in and week-out (and before you ask why for free - because it gets me readers). I was starting to feel none-too-balanced. Since creating The Balanced Guy, I've had to examine my own efforts at being one. One insight is that managing your time and energy is a lot like managing your stock portfolio. If you broadly diversify, you eliminate a lot of the ups and downs but you wind up with more-or-less the S&P 500 or Wilshire 5000 return - relatively safe but unspectacular. The same is true of your time - get involved in too much and you wind up doing a lot at a shallow level with pretty average results. It's not that it's impossible to be the complete Renaissance Man, but there's a reason why history has a limited number of Da Vincis, Newtons and Franklins. And while it's nice to fantasize I'd be able to keep up a lively banter around the dinner table with these three as the conversation shifted from science to art to philosophy to politics, I have a feeling I might come up a tad bit short. I'm realizing that probably a lot of people are interested in all the world has to offer, but that they have just decided to focus on fewer of the choices and not become sidetracked by distraction. You are now probably thinking "Duh. What took you so long to figure this out?" And then this discussion is a moot point for you if you don't have the ADD-inspired approach to life like I've had.
It's no great secret of the universe that to be really good at anything takes a significant investment of time and energy (keep your eye on the term "investment"). I'm not saying you have to adhere to the 10,000 hour rule as put forth by Malcolm Gladwell in his book Outliers, but focusing your efforts on fewer things in life will get you overall better results. Consider it the value investing approach to life. I happen to think Warren Buffett is quite the financial guru and his investing style is one worth emulating (not to mention he does a killer Axel Rose impression). Some people might say that he doesn't diversify enough and this can be risky. In response I say Buffett didn't get to be one of the richest men on the planet by being a crappy money manager. Second, which is more risky: owning so many different stocks that you have no chance of having enough time to keep up with every company let alone understand each one in sufficient depth, or owning stock in just a few companies that you understand very well and have the time to keep up with? Third: Life is risky so get over it. If you chose the index fund approach, it requires very little effort; but don't expect anything more than average returns. If you take the value investing approach, you should expect to put in effort and in return see solid, above average (but not spectacular) returns over a long time frame with some ups and downs along the way and you might just wind up very, very comfortable. If you don't want to put in effort, then be prepared for average. Of course, these are both different than speculation, which is essentially a roll of the dice: some spectacular results if you get lucky, some devastating losses if not.
To get back to my point: Life is a lot like investing. Sometimes there are moments akin to speculative stock trading - a trip to Vegas, being the 100,000 customer through the door, or having a winning lottery ticket. But these aren't methods you want to use to pay the monthly bills, let alone build your life around; they're too tied to chance. No matter how often you play the lottery, you can't get any better at picking the numbers to increase your odds of winning. And, since each lottery drawing is a statistically independent event, playing more often does not increase your odds of winning - you're just as likely to win millions the first time you play as the 1,000th time. In juxtaposition, keep playing tennis or create yet another painting and you'll develop real skill and get better. 
As for me, I'm trying to craft my life to be less like an index fund and more like value investing by picking just a few things to learn about in depth and become somewhat "expert" at them (and certainly not at all like speculative investing - waiting around and hoping a pot o' gold falls into my lap). This doesn't mean that I stop being interested in the world around me, but I simply make an effort to be a bit more focused in using my free time. You never know where it might lead, but I'm pretty certain that I'll never be asked for advice or to be a guest speaker or something like that by knowing a little bit about a lot....unless I happen to make it onto Jeopardy. The hard part, as with most things, is putting in the effort on the front end when it feels like you'll never get any better. It's frustrating and we are probably all guilty at some point of giving up out of a fear of failure - if you don't try you can't ever fail. What could be more comforting? However, like the change of the seasons, eventually (and it seems oddly sudden) we find we're actually pretty good at whatever we've been doing all along.
So if you already have managed to cut the information overload, trying to be everywhere, do everything and please everyone all at once, all the time, I applaud you. At the same time, try to remain broadly informed; especially on the important issues (and I don't mean just what's important to the box scores from last night's game). I'll be the first to admit it's a difficult balancing act, hence the reason it's such a challenge to be a Balanced Guy.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Handling the "Restression"

Our current economic woes might be better called a "restresstion" than a recession. Going on for so long, it has certainly caused many people a lot of stress: financially, emotionally, and mentally which can all take a toll physically.
While certainly not the complete solution to managing stress, trying to maintain balance in your life can help stave off problems in the first place. A certain amount of stress is actually healthy (called eustress), distress on the other hand is most certainly unhealthy. So, let's turn to a positive note and "put it up to eleven". Instead of just a few of the various topics I cover each week, I'm going to try and hit all the categories and find ways to help you (or at least me) deal with stress.

The Competitor - I've seen guys get WAY too worked up watching their favorite football/ basketball/baseball/Calvin Ball/disco ball team lose. I mean seriously stressed out about it, way beyond healthy fun. What's a guy to do that loves, loves, loves watching sports? How about this? Try attending a local minor league or college game that really isn't all that important to you. For one thing, ticket and concession prices are usually a lot cheaper compared to major league tickets (less financial stress). It's less crowded (lower people pushing and shoving stress). To top it off, you can usually park close enough that you don't need to buy a plane ticket to get from your car to the arena/field. I remember years ago going to a Durham Bulls game when I lived in NC. It was one of the most fun sporting events I've ever been to. Close to the action, cheap beer, rowdy crowd, drunk women. Does it get any better?
"But why," you ask "would I want to go watch a team I don't care about?" Because it's fun, you still get to see the competition, and being a spectator when you aren't emotionally attached to the team is a whole other ball game (pun intended). And don't think that just because it's not a NCAA Div I, NFL, NBA, MLB, or NHL game that the level of play sucks or the athletes aren't "real competitors". Those folks practice just as much and have all their hearts into it - they just don't happen to have been quite as athletically blessed or as lucky.
________ (the topic formerly known as "Mr. Muscle" but I'm still working on a new title) - Almost goes without saying that exercise helps reduce stress, although the Mayo Clinic says it anyway. The exercise-induced release of endorphins provides you with a major natural high, boosting your mood and fighting off mild symptoms of depression. So if you've not exercised since that office picnic softball game back in '06, it's time to get back in the swing of things. But take it easy at first. As the legal industry has taught everyone even remotely associated with exercise to state "Consult your doctor before beginning any physical fitness program" you're supposed to make sure you're fit enough to get fit? Then the more sensible "Start slowly" into it. Nothing like the weekend warrior mentality to wind up hurt and so sore that you quit three days after starting because you can't move. Pick something you enjoy doing (duh), and give it a regular slot in your schedule.
Your Ride - Car problems? Fix it yourself and experience some eustress through the satisfaction of successful problem-solving. I picked up a used copy of Saturday Mechanic by Popular Mechanics for $1 at our local library book sale and already have a copy of the Chilton's manual for our minivan (the Chilton's manual for your particular car is a critical part of your tool set). While I'm pretty handy with respect to home repair, my auto mechanic skills are limited to tune-ups, oil changes, brake jobs and the like. However, I'm always willing to learn. Nothing like solving a problem by doing it yourself and saving money in the process.

Greenbacks - this is one of the areas where the restresstion has hit almost everyone the hardest (with the exception of those Wall St and banking execs). Scores of books have been written on this topic in the last few years alone, so I'm not exactly going to be able to provide profound financial and/or career insight and wisdom in a single paragraph. But as a way to provide stress-relief, think of three things you're thankful you are NOT. Such as "I'm thankful I'm not homeless. I'm thankful I'm not living under a repressive regime in a third-world country. I'm thankful I wasn't living in Haiti". It may seem hokey, but counting your blessings for the things you're not, is an amazing way to be thankful for the things you do have. Having trouble paying the bills is stressful, I know; I speak from experience during the course of this recession. But when we step back and think about money and career matters in the grand scheme of things, those problems are nothing compared to being attacked and your family massacred by machete-wielding mobs as happened in Nigeria this past week.

Toys - Want to have a crunchy-granola, New Age experience that is relaxing without being illegal, yet high-tech, at the same time? Check out the Wild Divine website, specifically their product called Journey to the Wild Divine - The Passage. I received this as a Christmas present several years ago and have come back to it time and again as a way to relax. In short, it's a computer game you play using biofeedback: Wearing sensors on your fingers, you meditate to control your breathing and heartbeat causing your energy level to rise or fall as required to move on to the next stage. While the storyline and some of the characters you meet are definitely a bit, no...a lot, New Age-y, the computer graphics are top notch and the original music pretty cool. Don't expect to complete "the journey" in one sitting or even to master the ability to control the your heartbeat the first time out. The meditation exercises become increasingly difficult as you move through the evocative landscape which I would compare to some idealized Tibetan monastery. Regardless, I always end a session feeling greatly relaxed and centered no matter how my day went.

Tasty Licks - No doubt you know by now - and if you don't what the hell is wrong with you? - that one of the best ways to create a relaxing environment is music. While one man's trash is another man's treasure, I think it's safe to say that most people will agree on what makes for relaxing music. At the same time I'm not suggesting you open up iTunes and download John Tesh's latest offering. Not always, but in general I find straight acoustic music over something with lyrics more relaxing as I'm not either consciously or subconsciously trying to sing along or figure out what the words are.

Assuming you have an iPod or other MP3 player, put together a "relax" playlist, turn off the TV, send the kids out to play, and forget about the world for a short time. Some of my favorite music for relaxing is baroque (Vivaldi, Mozart, Chopin, etc), some New Age Celtic stuff (John Doan and John Boswell), Sade, Enigma, classic blues and jazz like Ted Hawkins, Miles Davis and John Coltrane (NOT Kenny G...I had a bad experience with him one time while having an MRI done although I'm not sure I could ever have a good experience with Kenny G regardless of circumstances), and on and on. Chill out and stay cool daddy-o.

Arguing - No doubt at some point you've been frustrated by something going on locally, at the state or national level. You bitch and moan about it, saying "Somebody should do something about it!". Well, now's your chance. Send your elected leaders a letter. Get it off your mind! Even if nothing happens as a result of your actions, simply knowing you took action and spoke your mind is a great way to feel better about it. Here are the websites (and contact info) for The White House, The House of Representatives, The Senate, and a page having links for the main website for each of the 50 states, DC and US territories. And last but not least, a website to find and contact your mayor for many cities in the USA. Do your part as a citizen: speak your mind and remember to always exercise your right - and duty - to vote!

The Great Outdoors - Few things relieve stress like being out in nature (other than time in that "special time" with your woman!). At the end of a hard day or if you find yourself feeling overwhelmed, put everything aside, take a deep breath, and take a walk. Get outside. If it's raining, take an umbrella. A walk in the rain can be quite relaxing. If it's sunny...hell, no one needs encouragement to get out on a sunny day. If it's nighttime, look up at the stars and moon. Just get outside.

WWWD? -  Go out of your way to be nice. It'll make you feel good. Helping others is a great way to feel good and reduce stress, especially when they haven't asked for it. You've probably seen the bumper sticker "Commit Random Acts of Kindness"; what you might not have known is that there is a foundation behind it that is "...committed to spreading kindness..." Not a bad way to spend your life running an organization like that when you think about it.

Not that I prowl the streets Boy Scout like and look for old ladies to help across the street, but I do try and go out of my way to help a complete stranger if the opportunity presents itself. I can't say I get a rush out of it but it definitely put a spring in my step afterwards. One of my favorite chances to help someone occurred at the library down in Florida. An older gentleman had a flat tire and I changed it for him. He offered to pay me - which I refused. He then offered to buy me a case of beer - which I refused (reluctantly). He then asked for my name and address - which I gave him. A month or so later he sent me a very nice letter thanking me for helping him. I've kept that letter.

Black Socks and Flip-Flops - Embarrass your kids! My kids have gotten used to seeing me wear black socks and flip-flops - literally. Not that I'm some kind of fashionista or metrosexual, but I do like to look professional and pulled together for work which, on a daily basis, can be somewhat stressful especially if you haven't gotten to the cleaners to pick up your shirts. Thus sometimes when I get home, I really don't care to take off my dress socks simply to put on another pair so that I "match". I'm not going anywhere. It's my house and I'm the king dammit.

I've also gotten to the age where I really don't care if I look cool or whatever when I'm running out to the store to pick up milk or toilet paper or light bulbs. And after 16 years of marriage, it's not exactly like I'm looking to meet some hot babe in the grocery store. I find it incredibly relaxing to more-or-less throw on whatever I find laying around or hanging in the closet, especially if it's one of my favorite ratty old shirts or pair of jeans. What I want to know is where this guy got a pink Darth Vader helmet. This outfit is SO bad that's it's really cool. I particularly like the Hello Kitty touch. Finally, while North Korea is a whacked out country, ya gotta give props to Kim Jong-il for clearly not giving a shit about what anyone thinks of his sense of style or lack thereof.

Honeydew - I'll keep this one short (like the aforementioned dictator). End the personal shame and stress you feel each time you pull into your driveway. We're a week and a half away from the start of Spring for crying out loud! Make the commitment to go out this weekend and finally take down those outdoor Christmas lights.

The Wide World - It seems like many times in life it's the undiscovered spots (and not the "great ones" filled with tourists) which turned out really special and have stuck with me as places where all my cares have slipped away. It's probably because they are not only beautiful but quiet and unfettered by tramping feet of another busload of grey-hairs snapping pics or screaming, sticky kids. These special places can be natural or man-made, but they are places where you simply relax and escape. I've come across a few in my travels across the US, Europe and the South Pacific. In the Republic of Ireland's County Donegal, not far from my great-grandparents' village is The Poisoned Glen. Wild, empty and forbidding, the name itself conjures up magic. It was a cool, windswept July afternoon when I was there and encountered not another soul. I left physically tired from hiking the mountains, yet spiritually refreshed.

Taking things to the other extreme is Burp Castle in NYC. My wife and I chanced upon it about 15 years ago when wandering around the Village. Just down the street from the famed McSorley's, it seemed intriguing enough to venture in. A quiet and small place heavy with incense and signs indicating that whispering only, not talking, was allowed. Behind the bar stood a man dressed like Friar Tuck ready to take our beer order. A superb selection of Belgian ales, compelling murals on the walls, and an unusual atmosphere offered an escape from a busy day in the city. Like most of those special places we come across in our lives, it was a chance find; certainly not a destination.
    Eye Candy -In keeping with the theme of restression relief, I've selected this comely hippy chick for your viewing pleasure to close out this peaceful sojourn.

    Wednesday, March 3, 2010

    Channeling Jim Morrison...

    Trolling for stuff to write about takes time. Whether I'm surfing the web or staring at a blank wall thinking about the need to find something worth musing on, I start on the next week's blog about as soon as I hit "publish" on the one just completed. And I do this weekly. Why once a week? I contribute a portion of my blog to another website on a weekly basis and I need to have my blog updated for the folks who click on through to the other side (to paraphrase Jim Morrison). And...I don't want you to get bored. Although I know in advance I've got to get it done, somehow time seems to slip by way too quickly each week and I wind up scrambling to paste something together at the last minute. I dunno...I guess with three young boys this seems like a metaphor for my life. They keep us so busy that I never seem to have time to complete things before I have to move on to the next. Of course, there is the inevitable "speeding up" of our perception of time as we grow older. I recently heard an interview on NPR as to why this might be.
    In the meantime this challenge raises the interesting question of why I do this when I get neither glory nor gold. I'm certainly not the ultimate purveyor of The Very Important Things Every Man Must Know (although it'd be nice). And at this point, my weekly readership is small (but growing as I've figured how to better inform the blogosphere and world that I'm here). I do, however, appreciate those that read (thanks to each and every one of you) and am amazed at those from the far-flung ends of the earth: so far I've had readers from every continent except for Africa and Antarctica. However, stepping into their shoes for a moment I realize that for them, I'M the one from a far-flung corner of the globe. With much in life, it's all a matter of perspective.
    As I mentioned in a previous posting I'm going to try and direct to you to far wittier and more knowledgeable people if I can. Case in point, The Savage Truth, which usually has commentary on sports but on occasion Mr. Sheridan strays to other topics that are at least
    tangentially connected to sports. I also happen to like The Swell Guy...not too far removed from what I'm trying to do here in The Balanced Guy.  The biggest challenge with trying to be "The Balanced Guy" is that I try and be "fair and balanced" in what I write about and how I write about it...within reason. There's a lot I hold back at times...maybe I should anonymously start a counter blog called "The Unbalanced Guy" where I can lay it out there. But I digress.
    So back to why I do this. I read a lot and do a lot and am busy like the rest of you. So I figure I might as well share some of the interesting tidbits of life I come across and distill them down in a single serving once a week for you to partake. Think of me as the animal parent pre-digesting food and then regurgitating it for your consumption. Lovely visual.
    I'll close this week's intro with a nod to my father who passed away 2 years ago today (March 3). I'm a bit biased but he was a stud. Two full athletic scholarships to college (lacrosse and soccer), fighter pilot, highly decorated Vietnam combat veteran, a solid father who was always there for us (although maybe not always the most communicative), and the most upstanding, honest and honorable man I've ever known. Here's to you Dad.

    The Competitor - Click on the link above (or this one here) to get The Savage Truth about sports. Be warned: this ain't for the faint-hearted or those with delicate ears.
    Mr. Muscle - You know, I've got to come up with a better name for this segment. "Mr. Muscle" just sounds way too much like a nickname some guy might have for his johnson. Either that or some late night/early morning infomercial product. By the way - I've seen this pic around the web a few times...this can't be frickin least I hope not. I can't see how it's physiologically possible but if it is, this guy's a freak!

    Tasty Licks - In honor of Oscar week (since when did this become a "week"? Almost like Super Bowl Week or the week between Christmas and New Year), and in honor of my home state, I'm selecting the most prominent movies set in New Jersey. A bit of clarification is in order. I tend to consider NJ my home state although I wasn't born here but I've lived here longer than any other one place...which is odd because I've actually lived about half my life south of the Mason-Dixon Line, but not the other half of my life north of it due to living overseas for a few years. Oddly enough, about 1/4 of NJ lies south of that aforementioned line. But I digress...again. So here's the list.

    The Toxic Avenger (1984) - This has got to be one of the tops. Funny, funny, funny. Campy too. But why does Jersey always get such a bad name and associated with toxic waste? OK. We've got a lot of Superfund sites but they're concentrated in few towns, counties, ...ok fine...regions. However, the majority of the state is very pretty...really...sweah ta Gawd.

    Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle (2004) -  Simply very funny and written by two guys from my high school. It's a bit geographically-challenged in that I'm pretty sure you wouldn't have to drive all the way from somewhere in North Jersey to Cherry Hill to find a White Castle. Neil Patrick Harris as a deranged version of himself is one of the highlights of the film. A good Saturday night watch - after the kids are in bed. According to the White Castle website, the closest one to me is in New Brunswick, aka Hub City, despite the movie situation of it being closed down. But it made for good cinema.

    The Wedding Singer (1998) - Adam Sandler is pretty funny, although Happy Gilmore is his opus. Having come of age in NJ in the 1980's this movie is almost uncomfortably, painfully funny to watch with regard to the clothes and music.

    A Beautiful Mind (2001) - The mostly (so I've heard) true story of John Nash, the brilliant mathematician from Princeton and his battle with mental illness. He actually lives not to far from me here in the Princeton area. If you've ever known someone who has suffered psychologically this can be an emotionally moving movie.

    Clerks (1994) - Can't leave out this indie classic with Silent Bob.

    Friday the 13th (1980) - One of THE classic teen slasher horror movies, one of the ones that started the genre. I remember the first time I watched it on HBO was a rainy night and we lived on a lake in North Jersey not to far from Greystone Park Psychiatric Hospital. Think I was scared? Nah...more like petrified.

    Desperately Seeking Susan (1985) - If you graduated from high school in the mid 80's you probably saw this one on a date. Also one of Madonna's first flicks. It's time to order it from Netflix and watch it with your kids.

    Big (1988) - Back when Tom Hanks was a younger man - pun intended.  While the whole movie doesn't take place in NJ, a good chunk of it does. The scene with Hanks telling Elizabeth Perkins that she can spend the night but he gets to be "on top" (the top bunk that is), is still funny 22 years later.

    The Godfather Part III (1990) - Hard to go wrong with part of the peerless Godfather trilogy.

    I've listed nine movies here. Yes I know there are a lot more set in Jersey (Jersey Girl, Wise Guys, The Wrestler, Paul Blart: Mall Cop, Cheaper By The Dozen (the 1950 version), and many others). However, that's why I supplied the link above to a list of movies set in the Garden State. Have at 'em. Yooz got a problem wit dat? Cause if yooz do, I know dis guy...

    The Great Outdoors - A good knife. I'm always intrigued by the varied answers people give when posed the following question "If you were stranded on an island what is the one thing you'd want to have with you." Other than a satellite phone to call for help, some of the objects people choose perplex me, others I would give serious consideration to but in the end I always arrive back at the same answer - a knife. Not a butter knife, not a kitchen knife, not even a pocket knife (although useful). I'd want to have an honest-to-goodness survival knife. There's a reason it's called a "survival knife".  I'm not too sure I'd want to be stranded with someone who thinks an iPod is the one object they'd want to have. A water filter is a much better choice, but I can always boil water if need be. And while ideal in terms of providing solace, even a Bible is probably not the best choice in terms of helping you stay alive on a daily basis or if a bear is after you.
    Why a knife? There's not much you can't do with a good knife in a pinch. Now it may be cheating a bit in terms of having only one object but on many survival knives the butt end unscrews to reveal a chamber containing a compass, waterproof matches, and fishing line and hooks. Furthermore, there is often a woodsaw crafted along the spine of the knife (the top edge) and the heavy butt can be used as a hammer. The exceptionally heavy blade of a survival knife is useful for prying and even chopping wood if need be.
    Even in daily life a well-made, sharp knife is a pleasure to use, especially if you match the knife to your need. I carry a small French peasant's knife made by Opinel around in my front pocket at home and it's amazing how often it comes in handy for this and that. If I'm venturing out and about, I frequently have my Leatherman on my belt. This is one of the greatest all-around tools ever invented - better than a Swiss Army Knife, although it doesn't fit into a pocket quite as well. However a Swiss Army knife is a great starter for your children to learn to safely handle and use a knife. Just make sure you stick with either the Victorinox or Wenger brand; they are the original, licensed makers and there are a lot of cheap knock-offs.
    So what's my point? (pun intended) A knife is about one of the handiest tools you can carry around. And while I don't recommend wearing a survival knife to work, a small Swiss Army or lock-blade knife is a terribly handy thing to keep in your desk or car. You never know when you'll be called upon to open up one of those pain-in-the-ass clam-shell packages or free yourself and co-workers from terrorists.
    Eye Candy - I just like Kim Kardashian so I'll throw a gratuitous pic of her on here for good measure. Julia Mancuso too. What's not to like about Julia? Olympic gold (2006) and silver (2010) medalist and smokin' hot.