Friday, January 26, 2007

100 Coolest Things... #20 - 11

Making our way to the Top Ten Coolest Things of 2006...

20. Kourtney, Kandice & Jaci Graduate
Some of my past WalkAbout students have already graduated, like Scott, Lori, Jana, Laura and others, but in 2005, Lindsay Fine was the first person to send me a graduation invitation… unfortunately I couldn’t go. So when Kourtney and Kandice Kelley, and Jaci Gresham sent me invites to their graduation in 2006, I wouldn’t have missed it for the world. Three of the biggest stars I’d had in the teams history were, four years later, moving on to Carsen-Newman, Samford and Alabama, respectively, and I was so excited to watch them grab their diplomas. We even started a tradition, having former WalkAbout students over for dinner before graduation… this year, we look to have a full house because I’m seeing about six of my kids off… or at least, the ones who send me an invite. You can read the full graduation play-by-play, including the fun time I had with some of the names, here (including my fascination with Sammy Jane Funkhauser).

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Not only did I get to see Jaci, Kourtney & Kandice walk the graduation aisle, but who can forget Sammi Funk?

19. LeAnn Womack’s “I May Hate Myself in the Morning”
Yes, yes, everyone knows that colossal hit “I Hope You Dance”, the inspiring song that became wedding anthems and prom themes everywhere a few years back… but a few years later, country singer Lee Ann Womack, still riding that success, put out an album called “There’s More Where That Came From”, and on it, a little treasure called “I May Hate Myself in the Morning”. Sung atop a pickin' guitar and a double fiddle, it’s a melodic song about a woman, lamenting what to do with a man she shouldn’t want, but does. All the country marks are here—drinking, cheatin’, lovin’—as she talks to the guy on the phone, after a few shots, and thinks, “Once again we wind up in each others arms and pretend that it’s right… I may hate myself in the morning, but I’m gonna love you tonight.” She knows, “…its wrong, but it ain’t easy moving on.” Then she tries to justify herself by saying “Why can’t two friends remember the good times once again?” One of the finest, most underrated and underplayed songs to come out of Nashville in a long, long time.

18. “The Death of the WCW”
I’ll admit it. I’m a wrestling fan. I’ve been watching it since the heyday of Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat taking on a much younger Ric Flair in the first Clash of the Champions in 1988, free on TBS. Even before that, I was familiar with Hulk Hogan’s Rock & Wrestling, and names like Andre the Giant, Big John Studd, Bam Bam Bigelow and others. And as the NWA became the WCW, I got hooked, watching the newer guys like Sting emerge. Suddenly, wrestling became a huge event, as WCW and the WWF began to go head-to-head on Monday nights, and by 97, I watched in wonder as the WCW brought in Scott Hall & Kevin Nash, formed the nWo and ratings skyrocketed. By the time I moved to Birmingham and into The Deuce, we were getting the pay-per-view events… and watching the WCW fall apart and die. So enters this book, which I found this year and finally bought. Its fascinating, reading about the behind the scenes power struggle that took place, first to shoot the WCW through the roof, and then the bad decisions that led to its downfall (did you know that the WCW turned away Stone Cold Steve Austin?).

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Scott Hall, Hulk Hogan, Kevin Nash... three guys who saved, and then helped to destroy, the WCW

RD Reynolds and Bryan Alvarez, who also churn out the newsletter “Figure Four Weekly”, write in an entertaining, sarcastic style, and don’t hold back discussing what an ego-maniac Hulk Hogan was, and what a bad business man Kevin Nash was, forgoing the new guys like Steve Austin and The Rock, but instead pushing over their buddies and partners. What’s more, it was great to read the hilarious take on events that I actually remember watching on TV years ago, everything from the ridiculous Stacy Keibler pregnancy storyline to the idiotic renaming of Booker T to “GI Bro”. He’s black. Get it? Good book, quick read, if you are into that kind of stuff.

17. “United 93”
Movies like “Saving Private Ryan” and “Schindler’s List” are so moving, so real, so heart wrenching, its hard to watch them more than once. I’m glad I’ve seen both of those films, I think both were incredible movie-making, but that said, I’m not sure I’ll watch them ever again. I’m trying to decide if I’ll ever see “United 93” again, because it cuts so deep. Here’s what I previously wrote about it:

Never has a movie pumped me up and ticked me off at the same time. This film is brilliant. I went to see it last April when it came out, all by myself, because I knew I couldn't watch it with anyone, not even Stephanie. It deals almost exclusively with United 93, and its passengers that took back the plane (crashing in Shanksville, PA), and the FAA. Some of the air traffic controllers and administrators actually play themselves, and even though you know the outcome, you are still just as shocked as everyone slowly discovers what is going on around them. And in one thing you've not seen, you see the terror in the terrorists eyes... they believe in what they are doing, but then again, they are still scared, especially when the passengers stage an uprising.

And in a funny moment, if you can find one, one single passengers begs the other passengers to just sit, and perhaps talk to the hijackers, to understand whats going on... a total "just sit back and they'll leave us along" mentality. The funny part? The guy is French.

16. WalkAbout
So, in 1999, we started a middle school drama team. Some of my kids on that team are now seniors in college. Kept going for a few years, took a year off, came back, and in the fall of 2005, I decided that I wanted to make the leap to high school. So, I did. And though it was fun, it felt almost unproductive, as obstacle after obstacle came at me in doing anything with the team. I took that as my cue to come back to middle school, and I’m glad I did… my kids are awesome, possibly the best team I’ve ever had, and there are two or three on the team that rival Kourtney, Andrea and Haley (three of my biggest stars) in talent. We’ll see.

15. Emily Taylor sings “Voice of Truth”
Emily is the wife of Jonathan, and both are in our Sunday Sch… er, Life Connection… class, and in our class, we have a number of great vocalists, including Emily, Meredith and my wife Steph. One particular Sunday morning, Emily sings. She doesn’t even feel that good, and her voice is a little strained, but she belts out “Voice of Truth” by Casting Crowns, with the Valleydale Church (an sbc fellowship) choir behind her, and its amazing. I sat, staring in wonder, mouth slightly open, transfixed by a voice that was perfect for the perfect song for that same voice. Out of all the songs I’ve heard, year after year, this will be one of the few that will stick out in my mind. Simply pure.

14. “White & Nerdy”
It happens every five to ten years… Weird Al hits a home run. Sure, he’s a funny guy, his music makes me laugh always, but every now and again, he’ll come up with something so brilliant, that not only are fans loving it, he creates a whole new group of fans because of it. The last time was Amish Paradise, back in the mid-90s… this year? “White & Nerdy”. The song is awesome, but video is not just great, its smart. Featuring cameos by Seth Green, looking at the “cherry action figures” and a dancing Donny Osmond, Al touches on all the nerdy topics—segueways, D&D, editing Wikipedia, MC Escher, fanny packs, soldering guns, names on underwear… and there’s even a few things to watch for.

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When he's on his game, Weird Al is unstoppable

Al did a song called “You’re Pitiful”, a parody of James Blunt’s “You’re Beautiful”, and though Blunt was happy with it, Atlantic Records wouldn’t give Al the rights to release it. So, in the “White & Nerdy” video, that’s the Atlantic Records Wikipedia page he’s typing “YOU SUCK” on. If you look closely on myspace page featured, you’ll see Screech, Bill Gates, Napoleon Dynamite, Frodo, Mr. Peabody, Einstein, Pee Wee Herman, and of course, Tom. When he brags about being good at trivia, look closely and you’ll such amusing questions on the card like “FDR, was he faking it?”, “On what page does Harry Potter die in the next book?” and my favorite, “What’s the deal with Lindsay Lohan? I mean, seriously?”

Camillionaire, who did "Ridin' Dirty" from which this song parodies, actually posted "White & Nerdy" on his own MySpace page, and it got more downloads than the original did. Favorite part? Handing the gangsta the money in the alley, getting a package which contains… the Star Wars Christmas Special. That truly has me ROTFLOL.

13. The Hoover Public Library
Did you know that not only can you check out books, you can also check out DVDs, CDs and audiobooks? Like, no kidding! For free! I have added about 8 gigs of space on my iPod just from audio books alone. And if you lose a disc, its only $7 to replace it. I love the library.

12. The Rammer Jammer Blog
The Sporting News apparently had students from different colleges around the country submit blog postings, and Scott Latta did just that for the University of Alabama. And his blog became the most popular college sports blog in the country. It was a blog that ran for eight months or so, and ended up having over 275,000 hits (and mind you, this is the Sporting News, not Sports Illustrated or ESPN… I mean, I’m sure there were thousands of people like me that only went to the site just to read Scott’s blog). He has an irreverent style on things, both praising and criticizing his favorite teams in love (Dallas, the Braves and of course, the Crimson Tide) and it was always enjoyable to read. He even ended up on Finebaum once, with Finebaum saying “I’ve had dozens of listeners tell me to check this guy’s page out.”. Of course, he never gave my page a shout-out or anything, but I guess that’s understandable… anyway, the Rammer Jammer blog ended in August, taking with it one of the few blogs that I personally would check daily. Scott now writes for, and honestly, being an Auburn fan, I can’t say I followed him there, but it was fun while it lasted.

11. Paneling at Starbucks
To be a manager at Starbucks, you have to panel. Paneling is the interview in which you sit in front of three district managers and they ask you manager type questions to determine whether you, in fact, would be a good manager or not. Apparently, they liked me, as I passed, bringing it with the hope that within 12 months I’d have a store, a much bigger salary (I currently make well above what they were underpaying me at NBC), bonuses and more responsibility. And love it. The interview wasn’t that hard, but it was a little taxing preparing for it… plus, the first question they asked me? “Give us an example of a time when you failed to meet a customer expectation.” Um… I rock, so never? (that wasn’t my answer, by the way).

And finally... the Top Ten Coolest Things of 2006...

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