Three commercials. Five minutes. Many, many laughs and perhaps a little inspiration, too.

I offer you three commercials today, each less than two minutes long that will absolutely, positively brighten your day.

The first is a commercial for Aviation Gin which features Ryan Reynolds, who owns part of the company. It’s a hilarious spot that brilliantly mocks pretentiousness and is further enhanced by Ryan Reynolds’ willingness to make fun of himself.

The next is an ad for a roller skating rink in Reno, Nevada. Here’s the very important thing to know about this commercial:

It’s real. This is not a spoof. Someone made this commercial and aired it on television with the hopes of drawing in more customers.

It’s unbelievably hilarious in a slightly terrifying way.

The last, which you’ve probably seen already, is Gillette’s brilliant and hopeful “We Believe: The Best Men Can Be.”

Here’s all you need to know about this one:

Right-wing, hyper-masculine, small-minded, frightened little man babies are still railing about this ad online more than a week after its release.

It’s that good.

Silver linings can be quite lovely

Storytellers often tell me that they don’t want to tell a specific story because even though the moment was a bad one for them, it was nothing compared to the suffering that others experience on a daily basis.

“Hogwash,” I say.

If we allowed this to be the standard for telling a story, only the people suffering the most on this Earth would have the right to tell their stories. If you’re not starving or falsely imprisoned or being burned at the stake, you don’t get to tell the story about your terrible, no good, very bad day.

Pain and suffering should never be ignored or denied simply because you know of someone in a far worse state. Problems should not be discarded simply because others suffer far worse problems than you.

Our suffering is real, regardless of how it compares to the suffering of another person. Our problems are real, regardless of how they compare to the problems of others. We have a right to those stories.

Admittedly, it might be a good idea to avoid describing your problems and your suffering as the worst on the planet. And acknowledging some perspective might be a good idea, too. But you get to tell these stories because they are real and authentic and true. You own these stories. You need not worry that your suffering hasn’t been great enough and your problems haven’t been large enough to warrant a story.

Sometimes telling them will also make you feel a little better.

That said, I do find great value in learning about the suffering of others, not to mitigate or negate our own suffering or make our problems seem petty and stupid, but to teach us to also count our blessings. Recognize the great fortune we enjoy. Find our silver linings.

You can only live your life, and pain is pain, regardless of the degree. But being able to see that along with our pain and suffering, we are also blessed with great fortune is a way to perhaps feel a little better about our existence.

Find some balance.

Discover some slivers of light in our sometimes (or oftentimes) dark world.

This brilliantly and fascinating little video, entitled Styrofoam, might offer a little bit of that.

Not a single one of them escaped alive

The Lumière brothers were among the first filmmakers in history. From 1896 to 1900, t and they shot several scenes around Paris. Recently, their footage was remastered. Among other things, it was stabilized, slowed it down to a a natural rate, and sound was added.

It’s amazing. A twenty-first century look at late nineteenth Paris.

Amazing, but also, this is what I think every time I watch it:

All of these people are dead. Every single one of them. All of these happy, joyous, productive people are gone forever. Each one of them, at some point, breathed a final breath and then ceased to exist.

Not a single one of these people is still alive.

Including the Lumière brothers. Abandoning motion pictures about ten years later, they went on to become pioneers in color photography. Both brothers lived through both World War I and World War II, but they are gone today, too.

Not a single person in this film or behind the camera escaped alive.

This is what I think as I watch this film. It’s what I think about again and again as each scene changes.

I’m an absolute joy. Don’t you think?

A beautiful act of revenge. Plus glitter.

Elysha and I had a package stolen off our doorstep recently. It was a Nordstrom order, and when Elysha called the company to inform them of the theft, they immediately shipped the item again, no questions asked.

Elysha has now told about ten million people about this outstanding customer service experience, and she’ll be shopping at Nordstrom even more now.

Well played, Nordstrom.

Package theft is becoming a bigger problem as more and more Americans shop online. We reported our loss to the police, and an officer came to our home to collect information.

But when one man was told by the police that they could do nothing about his stolen package, even though he had a video of the theft, he decided to take action, creating a glitter bomb trap for would-be thieves, complete with a recording mechanism and much more.

It’s glitter revenge on the scumbags who steal boxes off our front stoops, and it glorious.

Well worth the ten minutes to watch.

Elton returns.

Back in September, Elysha and I saw Elton John perform in Hartford, CT as part of his “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” farewell tour.

He was fantastic. Both of us left the concert feeling so good.

Then I saw the latest John Lewis and Partners, a high end department store in the UK which is famous for its Christmas ads, and I felt almost as good all over again.

I don’t know how they did it, but it is brilliant and beautiful, and for someone like me who swims in a sea of nostalgia and existentialism, a little bittersweet, too.

Making the ordinary a little more extraordinary should always be celebrated

The knife sharpener at the farmer's market that we visit almost every Sunday morning gave Elysha their card a few weeks ago. Rather than a collection of information on a small bit of card stock, they offered her this.

A band-aid with their name and phone number printed on the wrapper.  

Clever. Right? I always admire people who can turn the ordinary into something delightful. Something ordinary into something a little more extraordinary. 

It's almost as good as the playing card that appeared in the breast pocket of my sports jacket containing the contact information of world renowned magician David Blaine. I met Blaine at The Moth Ball in 2015, and after re-telling my story so he could record it on his phone, he said he wanted to speak to me further about storytelling and "gave" me his card.

It was already in my pocket. The king of spades, with his contact information woven within.

Remarkably, that was the least amazing of the magic that he performed for me after recording my story.  

I'm not a skateboard guy, but I think this is remarkable.

I'm not a skateboard guy, and I've never been a skateboard guy. I've always seen skateboarding as a series of bad equations:

Enormous amounts of time invested in learning and practice in exchange for the ability to ride on an inefficient means of transportation and perform a few dangerous, not-so-impressive tricks.

Hours of potential fun spent on concrete in exchange for the very real chance that you scrape, bruise, or break several parts of your body.

It just made no sense. 

Then I saw my neighbor riding his skateboard to work one day, and I thought, "It still took hundreds of hours of practice to do that, and it's still dangerous, but on a sunny day in May, not a bad way to get to work."

Still not enough to make me want to ride a skateboard, but at least a slightly improved impression of the sport.

Then my daughter and I watched this skateboarding video, which is unlike anything I have ever seen. The combination of outstanding digital videography (which allows you to see these tricks in their true majesty), the latest skateboard technology, and this person's mind-blowing skill on a board mesmerized us.

I couldn't believe what I was seeing.  

I've never been a skateboard guy, and I'm still not a skateboard guy, but I'm a guy who apparently likes to watch people skateboard now.

Or at least this guy. I've watched the video three times already. 

Watch people dance and be happy.

It's 7 minutes long, which can feel like an eternity on the internet, but I haven't seen something this joyous in a long time.

We could really use some joy these days.

It's a supercut montage of dance scenes from more than 300 movies. Admittedly, I might be a little biased when it comes to dancing. Watching my wife dance is one of my absolute favorite things in life. 

Still, it's joyous. The dancing is joyous. The memories that each of these moments bring back are joyous. The whole damn thing will make you happy. 

And the editing is incredible. 

Joy in the small and the large

Some days are harder than others. On those days, it's important to find and embrace joy wherever it might be hiding.

It's usually hiding right in front of you.

Yesterday...

I watched our cat play in a paper bag until he was exhausted.
I listed the irrational dangers of guppies and ducks to my giggling daughter.
I drove home with the windows down, blasting Born to Run.
I watched a student dance riotously in a cafeteria without any music.
I listened to my five year-old son try to explain quasars to me. 
I held my wife's hand while watching a movie on the couch. 

I try to find joy in my everyday. Little things. Minuscule things. Then I write them down - every single day - so I never forget them.

Sometimes you can find joy in big things, too. Things like the Moon.

You should watch this video. It's pure joy.   

One of the best podcast episodes of all time

I started listening to podcasts when podcasts first became podcasts. 

Way back in 2005, as Elysha and I were moving from an apartment on one side of the street to an apartment on the other, I was listening to podcasts. In the beginning, I was listening primarily to This American Life and tech podcasts (which were popular and plentiful back then, given that listening audiences required a background in technology in order to download episodes onto MP3 players and pre-iPhone cellular phones).

After listening to tens of thousands of hours of podcasts, it's impossible to choose a single best episode of all time, but this episode of the very excellent podcast Heavyweight is one of my favorites of all time. 

I cannot recommend it highly enough. 

If you're wondering what Heavyweight is about, it's hard to say. From Gimlet Media's website:

Maybe you’ve laid awake imagining how it could have been, how it might yet be, but the moment to act was never right. Well, the moment is here and the podcast making it happen is Heavyweight. Join Jonathan Goldstein for road trips, thorny reunions, and difficult conversations as he backpedals his way into the past like a therapist with a time machine. 

I killed a whale. Also, I played golf in the snow.

I've been reading Slate and listening to Slate's podcasts for about 15 years. Though I've had the honor of appearing regularly on two of the podcasts, I've always dreamed of writing for Slate.

For years, The New York Times and Slate have been my white whales. 

Yesterday, I killed one of those two whales.

I published a piece in Slate entitled "Batting? Average. - Why I procrastinate by researching the fates of middling baseball players."

It's a piece for their Rabbit Holes series on the nature of procrastination. 

I've published four novels and have four more books on the way.

I've published work in The Hartford Courant, Reader's Digest, The Washington Post, The Christian Science Monitor, Parent's magazine, Seasons magazine, and The Huffington Post.

I've written comic books for Double Take Comics. 

Still, it was a thrill to see my byline on the piece. May I never become jade about these little dreams coming true. 

If you're interested, my latest Seasons column, on the time I played golf in the snow, is also out now. You can read it here, on page 49.  

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Robbery fail leads to great cheer and a smidgen of empathy

As the victim of a violent, armed robbery that began with bricks through the windows of a McDonald's restaurant and led to a lifetime of post traumatic stress disorder, this video gave me some cheer. 

As a human being who understands that not all decisions are made in a vacuum and a person's worst decision should never define them forever, my heart also went out to the man who stood in the wrong place at the wrong time. 

I said this to someone who thought I was insane. "He got what he deserved." 

Apparently I was speaking to an entirely infallible, perpetually righteous human being who had never found himself in a state of desperation.

How lucky for him. 

Women's March 2018

I wasn't able to attend this year's Women's March, which saddened me. Last year's march was one of my highlights of 2017. It represented hope and possibility in a time when all seemed bleak.

My kids loved the march and still talk about it today. 

Last year's march was was also comeuppance for Trump on the day after his unimpressive, embarrassing inauguration turnout and the sad, poorly attended parade that followed. I love it when rotten people (particularly those obsessed with image, popularity, and perception) are publicly shamed and humiliated.   

But thanks to the magic of the Internet, I was able to see photos and videos of the enormous gatherings from all over the country, including some of this year's best signs. 

Below are some of my favorites, but this first one is by far my favorite. A simple promise from a younger generation that all the damage Trump and his administration has caused will one day be swept away by smarter, wiser, kinder, more noble people.   

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Hire that kid today!

According to the story attached to this photo, a ten year old girl is responsible for this bit of genius. Provided that her parents didn't play a large role in the creation of this masterpiece (and from the report, they didn't), I'd recommend hiring her immediately for whatever job you may be looking in the next decade or so. 

A future contract of sorts. 

This girl is going places. 

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Awful human being alert

It's hard to believe that someone could be as lacking in self awareness as the woman who wrote this letter to advice columnist Dear Prudence. 

How could anyone read this letter and not think they are coming across as an classist, elitist, repulsive snob?

Dear Prudence,

Recently my friend Amy made a new friend, Mary. I’ve met her a few times, and while we were polite to each other, she isn’t someone I’d care to interact with more than necessary. I don’t seek her out, nor do I invite her to social events. Mary has slowly become part of my circle of friends. She has made a few comments intimating she’s upset that she hasn’t been invited to some of our get-togethers, but she is in a very different financial bracket than the rest of us. The restaurants and events we choose to go to are pricey. I recently hosted a dinner party for my friends and their plus ones, and Amy brought Mary. I didn’t want her at my house. We’re not friends, and I don’t enjoy her presence. I’m hosting another dinner party for the holidays, and I know Amy will bring Mary. I do not invite people I don’t want to be around to my parties. How do I politely tell Amy to stop bringing Mary?

—She’s Not Invited; She Comes Anyway

You can read Prudence's response to the letter here.