The Adventures of Ren LaForme and the Great 28 (and some from the Grand 27)

Last year, I wrote about how my friends Tara and Hannah started a tradition of exchanging challenges for their birthdays. They gave me 27 challenges for my 27th birthday... and I totally failed to meet them all. 

Seriously, I didn't even complete half of them. I am the worst.

So, this year, I'm planning to finish my 27th birthday challenges and the new ones for my 28th! It's ambitious, but I know I can do it all. Here we go.

  1. Play a team sport.
  2. Take the Florida train somewhere (one more chance).
  3. Fail big. Then rebound.
  4. Walk through an orange grove.
  5. Conquer a fear.
  6. Decidedly determine one good thing about every person you meet this year.
  7. See one personal project through to the end.
  8. Pick a fruit or vegetable. Eat it every week.
  9. Do a photoshoot or video with one of the dogs.
  10. Go fishin'.
  11. Marry a girl named Keeley.
  12. Forgive a grudge.
  13. Improve your baseball swing.
  14. Leave a permanent, physical mark in 3 places on Earth.
  15. Say yes to things you might normally say no to. So no to things you might normally say yes to.
  16. Color a picture and mail it to someone with no notice.
  17. Do something you can't experience any other time or place.
  18. Do two outdoor activities a week. (Drinking outside at a bar doesn't count.)
  19. Mic drop.
  20. Pick a place to travel and go.
  21. Write something satirical. 
  22. Read five new authors.
  23. Make a toast.
  24. Identify five people who serve as sources of inspiration for you.
  25. Run a 5K.
  26. Visit a new place and leave technology at home. Enjoy.
  27. For every drink you buy, match 50% of the cost and put it in savings. See how much you have at 29.
  28. Take a selfie with a wild animal.

Here's what's left from last year:

  1. Attend a performance of the Florida Orchestra.
  2. See a Broadway show in Tampa.
  3. Perform five acts of kindness toward strangers.
  4. Read three new books. (It was 20. I read 17.)
  5. Make a video with Ming and Finn.
  6. Eat an entire meal you caught/created yourself.
  7. Drink at three new-to-you bars with historical significance. (It was five. I went to two.)
  8. Take pictures with two famous people you meet. (It was three. I met one. Sorta.)
  9. Talk with a different accent for one entire day.
  10. Choose your top five beers and host a tasting.
  11. Catch the sunrise and the sunset on the same day.
  12. Give Hannah an assist on her list.
  13. Take the Florida train somewhere.
  14. Picnic at a park in Tampa.

The Adventures of Ren LaForme and the Grand 27

My friends Tara and Hannah exchange the gift of a series of challenges every year on their birthdays. Last year, they let me in on the fun. 

In honor of my 27th birthday, here are 27 challenges I must complete before Oct. 4, 2015 (a year from the date they issued the challenge). Acts toward completion are listed under each one. Assistance is encouraged... I'm not doing well so far.

Ten Christmas song suggestions for the humbuggers, the non-believers, and the over-it-alls

I'm an unabashed Christmas music lover, but I understand that "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" might seem a bit grey in the hair after 65 years of play. 

That "O Holy Night" might be a bit much for the atheist in your life. 

That "Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer" is annoying on the first listen, let alone the 1,000th. 

For all of the sick-and-tired, here are a few Christmas-ish songs that might suit your holiday a bit better. From me to you. (Check out the Spotify playlist below to listen right from your browser.)

The appropriateness of context

A friend recently shared a curious email from our mutual and beloved professor, Bob Dardenne, who passed away a few months back. In it, Dr. Dardenne mentions downing three bloody marys and the worst-played hole 17 ever.

Curiosity drew me to the archives of my own email, where I found this passage from Dr. Dardenne. It's a fine example of one of his defining concepts: In a fast world, we must slow down and consider.

I think we ought to consider the appropriateness of context. A couple of you said the current book could be done in 30 or 40 pages; or, it could be as effective as a synopsis. This, of course, is the same thing I'm hearing about news itself; that is, the Tweet is enough, or 200 words is enough, or whatever is enough. We ought to talk about "enough for what"? Do we argue that we all come with our own contexts, so all we need are facts? Or that we don't require contexts for some other reason? Or that our contexts will develop with enough facts? Or what?

If all information and data are becoming "content," does it matter what kind of content it is? We used to say that TV programs were, essentially, "content" to fill in the time slots between ads. I guess all of this gets to the question of what is the role of news and do we need it? Is news just "content"? Does news require context?

Supermarkets are hives of interesting people and homes to some of America’s best stories

I wrote this piece for an undergraduate editing class with Charles Anzalone a few years back. It was heavily influenced by Gay Talese's short story, "New York Is a City of Things Unnoticed." Anzalone turned me on to Talese, whose work became influential on my writing.

Supermarkets are hives of interesting people and homes to some of America’s best stories. They are given attention only when refrigerators and cupboards run empty, ensuring that many of their most interesting aspects go unnoticed. They are a place where counterfeiters hone their skills, major health violations go unnoticed, and strawberries and bananas end their thousand-mile trips, only to wind up in rusted shopping cards and plastic bags. Nobody notices that the fruits have come from far-off Caribbean shorelines or that they have been injected with stabilizing chemicals to keep them alive during their travels, just like nobody notices the teenagers that make love in the break rooms or the man who uses the same tired joke on every cashier.