This past week, Weird Al came out with his 14th album of his ridiculously long career, Mandatory Fun. In doing so, he released eight music videos from the album in eight days through eight different video distribution services (e.g. Youtube, VEVO, Yahoo! Screen, Funny or Die, and several more I hadn’t heard of.) He linked them all on his website, and they’re pretty good, so check them out! My favorites are Word Crimes, Handy, and Mission Statement, but Tacky and Foil have also grown on me. Inactive doesn’t have a music video, but it’s also pretty good.
On a different note, I’m looking forward to my family visiting Boston in August. I’ve started to think about what we’d like to do with which of my friends, like who to go see a Red Sox game or eat dim sum with. It’s a somewhat complicated problem to try to pair up all of the different combinations, since I want them to meet all my friends while doing fun Boston things together with them.
I also recently got back from a leadership retreat with the Graduate Christian Fellowship. As a small part of the retreat, I got plenty of feedback on how the large groups that I had organized had been. We had found the top 11 “Burning Questions” topics the fellowship was asking and found pastors and professors from a variety of backgrounds to cover those difficult issues.
How are these three things related?
One aspect is that they all have the same fundamental matching problem, which I’ve found I really enjoy trying to work out by hand. I’m reminded of the most successful small group bible study I led through the Sermon on the Mount, which finished with different people going around and summarizing what we had learned in each of the previous weeks. There’s a certain magic I feel around perfectly executing a matching like that.
There’s also a more important aspect of my family visiting that I seem to fundamentally enjoy: It will bring people together from different aspects of my life. I’m reminded of the Super Bowl party I hosted this past year, where I invited friends I knew from at least three or four different communities I’m a part of. In GCF, there’s a tradition of some people hosting massive birthday parties with friends and labmates all together, and while I haven’t done that myself yet, I expect I will this coming November.
Weird Al also brings to mind one more thing that I like to do of similar flavor. Most of his parodies both pay tribute to the original song and poke fun at some other aspect of society. In some cases (e.g. The Saga Begins, Ode to a Superhero), he rewrote a classic song (American Pie, Piano Man) to describe the plot of a recent movie (The Phantom Menace, Spider-Man). The combination of the parody and the movie recap make those a couple of my favorite songs of his.
In a sense, parodies like that are a way of repurposing those classic melodies. It’s somewhat analogous to the basic idea of many lifehacks: Use one household item to solve another household problem.
Where have I started to repurpose things like this? Well, I’ve invented a couple new games to play for long car rides:
- Price is Right ThisIsWhyImBroke.com: This website posts six new intriguing items each day that you can buy somewhere online. It’s where I found the ideas of the Christmas gifts that I bought my family this past year. It can be made into a game by asking people to guess the prices listed for those items, scored Price-Is-Right-style, where you want to be closest but not over the listed price. Protip: Rotate who guesses first between items.
- Jeopardy TL;DR Wikipedia: This tumblr posts a snarky one-sentence description of something, written in the style of a Wikipedia article. For instance: “An umbrella is a canopy designed to protect normal people from the rain and insufferable people from the sun.” Like Jeopardy, you can read the description and have people answer, “What is an umbrella?” after you finish reading. Some of these are easy to guess, while others are more clever or obscure. This basically amounts to telling a series of jokes where the punchline is sometimes a bit of a puzzle.
As with anything, these depend a lot on the crowd, and will last varying lengths of time, limited by how long you all continue to enjoy it. I access both websites via Feedly, which makes it easy to swipe between entries on my phone.
Anyways, besides reducing the boredom from long road trips and providing an alternative to word games like Unmentionables (the app version of Taboo), Contact and Convergence, I seem to fundamentally enjoy combining and repurposing sources like these to make something more out of them.
Next thing you know, I’ll be playing Wheel of Fortune with Weird Al song lyrics…
Here’s what my to-do list chart looks like now: