Category Archives: Impressive People

People I’ve met or followed who impress and inspire me

Why Weird Al Is My Hero

Weird Al

Every week I wonder if this is the week I stop. The week I stop this writing nonsense and get back to more practical things. But it’s not going to be this week, because of my hero, Weird Al.

I don’t pay much attention to Twitter, but Al got my attention this week with this tweet:

That’s right, Al’s still at it. It’s happening tonight at midnight, so tomorrow’s going to be a great day.

Preparation Meets Opportunity

Al should be a hero to all Manic Impressives. He started out in life a smart little nerd. Took his first accordion lesson at age 6, skipped second grade, finished high school at age 16 and made valedictorian of his class. 

He got good at the accordion and loved musical comedy, so he combined the two into an unlikely art form.  Inspired by his idol, legendary comedy radio host Dr. Demento, Al started writing and singing parodies of pop songs, accompanying himself on accordion.

In his senior year of high school, Al’s moment arrived. Dr. Demento came and spoke at his school, and Al gave him a tape of songs he had recorded at home. Dr. Demento aired one of the songs on his show immediately.

Yankovic continued to write and record parody songs and cultivated his relationship with Demento.

Rejection Of Practical Things

After high school, Al went to Cal Poly San Luis Obispo to pursue a career in Architecture. But as Manics are wont to do, he got distracted along the way. Though he did graduate with a BA in Architecture, he never worked in his field of study.

By his senior year in college, Al was a star on the Dr. Demento show. When he turned the song “My Sharona” into “My Bologna”, Dr. Demento put it on the air and Al had a bona fide hit on his hands.

It took hard work and persistence, but Al earned a recording contract, built a band around himself and headed out on the road.

Surprisingly, his parents were okay with Al’s career choice. His father believed that the key to success was doing for a living whatever made you happy. So they encouraged him to pursue his passion and forget about architecture. What cool parents.

The Weird Al Legacy

Al’s career success and longevity are amazing. 15 Grammy nominations, 4 Grammys, 4 Gold and 6 Platinum albums. All with clean language and parody that was never mean-spirited.

You’ve probably heard his Michael Jackson and Madonna songs, but even more brilliant are his parodies of artists like Lady Gaga, Coolio, Robin Thicke, Pharrell, and this one of Frank Zappa. His comedy is clean and timely and matched only by his uncanny ability to capture the sound and essence of another artist.

And though Al is known for parodies, his original songs like  Stop Forwarding That Crap To Me and First World Problems are genius in their own right.

Weird Al Gets It,  Gives It Away, And Gets Even More

After a successful 32-year run with RCA, Al’s career hit a snag. RCA didn’t want to continue paying for his elaborate video productions.

So Al reinvented the music business. He got companies like Nerdist, Yahoo, Funny Or Die, and College Humor to cover his production costs in exchange for exclusive launches on their websites.

Then he launched one video a day for eight straight days, all completely free to the public. He created a huge buzz but didn’t take any revenue from any of it. He worked for free in exchange for the production costs of his videos.

Why? Because Al gets it. He knew his generosity would come back to him.  His album, Mandatory Fun, sold twice the number of his previous release. It also earned him the first number-one album of his career, made him just the third artist besides Michael Jackson and Madonna to have a Top-40 hit in four different decades and gave him more online exposure than Jay-Z, Beyonce, and Justin Timberlake combined.

That’s musical and marketing genius.

Why Weird Al Is My Hero

Yes, I love his musical comedy. And Al is a very skilled musician and marketer. But it’s his humanity that makes him my hero.

In 2014, his cool supportive parents, who purchased accordion lessons for him from a door-to-door salesman and encouraged his decision to go into show business, died in a tragic accident. They suffered carbon monoxide poisoning after lighting a fire in their fireplace.

Can you imagine the shock and horror Al must have suffered?  He was on tour at the time, and hours after getting the news from his wife, he had to go out on stage and perform despite his grief.

“Since my music had helped many of my fans through tough times, maybe it would work for me as well,” he said, then added that it would “at least … give me a break from sobbing all the time.”

Al’s music has helped me through many tough times. He kept me from quitting today and turned my day of frustration and worry into an evening of fun and anticipation. He is my role model and my hero.

And he’s dropping a new parody video tonight, and I can’t wait.

It’s Happening Less Than Two Hours From Now

So get ready folks. Weird Al is about to bust out another parody polka tonight at midnight.  And rumor has it, it’s going to rip the frock coats right off of Hamilton…

How To Profit FromThe Legacy of Richard Bolles

“The key to a happy and fulfilling future is knowing yourself. This self-knowledge is the most important component of finding the right career.”    

Richard Bolles was responsible for coaching laid-off ministers to find a new line of work. He was a minister ministering to ministers who could no longer minister. To help his clients, he wrote a little pamphlet with tips on how to move on to another calling.

The pamphlet had strategies that went against all conventional wisdom. It taught job seekers to stop relying on want ads (Craigslist postings for you Millennials), and network their way into jobs created just for them.

Instead of waiting to be interviewed by companies, Bolles coached people to go out and interview the companies they wanted to work for. Very disruptive strategies. Perfect for Manic Impressives. Continue reading How To Profit FromThe Legacy of Richard Bolles

I Have A Dream

I Have A DreamDr. Martin Luther King Jr. had a dream. To live in a country where all men were treated as equals. A country where his children would be judged by the content of their character, not the color of their skin. “I have a dream”, he said, to over 200,000 people on the mall in Washington DC in 1963.

Dreams Into Reality

America has come a long way since 1963. I like to think that Dr. King would be excited and proud of how much progress we’ve made. How African-Americans have prospered since those early days of the Civil Rights Movement. How our government, in time, came to protect the rights of all Americans.

Yes, we have a lot of work still to do. The Black Lives Matter movement is evidence of that. There are places in America where fear breeds hatred and discrimination, and black men are still not safe. Places where all men are not created equal.

The Weekend

But we do have cause to celebrate. Because there has been great progress. So much so, that we elected an African-American man to two terms as our nation’s president.

Now we’re coming up on a long weekend. A national holiday in honor of Dr. King. A holiday that came about because of the sacrifice of a man who fought tirelessly to fight injustice.

A man named Stevie Wonder. Continue reading I Have A Dream

You Don’t Know Squat About Squanto

The First Thanksgiving

You know the story they told you in Kindergarten about the  First Thanksgiving? The Pilgrims were thankful they survived their first year in America so they threw a big party. They invited as their guest of honor a helpful Native American named Squanto. He taught them how to grow their crops and they all lived happily ever after. Aside from this, I’m guessing you don’t know squat about Squanto.

This story isn’t a complete a bunch of hooey, but there’s a whole lot they left out.

The Real Story

Squanto was a real person, but that wasn’t his real name. His name was Tisquantum and he was a member of the Pawtuxet tribe that lived in the area for 10,000 years before the white folks arrived.

Typical American white people, the Pilgrims couldn’t pronounce his name correctly and called him Squanto instead. He was a hero for helping them survive the winter, but he was a far more complex and shady guy than they led us to believe in Kindergarten.

Squanto did teach the Pilgrims to tap trees for sap, to plant Indian Corn, and to use fish to fertilize their crops. This, according to Wikipedia, is what he looked like: Continue reading You Don’t Know Squat About Squanto

How To Be Impressive

Stephen King“Talent is a dreadfully cheap commodity, cheaper than table salt. What separates the talented individual from the successful one is a lot of hard work and study; a constant process of honing. Talent is a dull knife that will cut nothing unless it is wielded with great force.”

I know I’ve been going on a bit on the Manic side of late – how to not lock your keys in the trunk, how to stop comparing yourself to others, how to not give up when things aren’t easy, etc. Manics struggle with these things so it’s important to deal with them. But just as important is the creating. Creativity is where we get to be Impressive.

This is the gift of the Manic Impressive. We are very talented in the creative arts. We can entertain, inspire, amuse and sometimes even awe. We just struggle with the process of getting our creativity out into the world and turning it into cash.

Have you read Stephen King’s book, On Writing? I’m reading it now and am delighted to report he’s a self-professed Manic Impressive. Here’s him on himself from page 51:

 “I tend to go through periods of idleness followed by periods of workaholic frenzy”

If that ain’t Manic Impressive then I’m a shy little wallflower with no opinions on anything. Continue reading How To Be Impressive

The Greatest

Ali Atlanta IIIIn 1996 the Olympic Torch was run 1300 miles by 800 people across the country of Greece, then flown to Los Angeles. There it began a 16,199 mile journey across the United States to the Summer Olympic Games in Atlanta, Georgia. Over 12,000 Olympians and American citizens ran a flaming torch across 42 states, on bicycles, boats and trains, to the opening  of the games.

4-time gold medalist Al Oerter ran the touch into Olympic Stadium to begin the opening ceremony. He handed it off to bronze medalist and reigning heavyweight boxing champ, Evander Holyfield, who passed it to swimmer Janet Evans. Winner of 3 Olympic gold medals and 4 world records, Janet had been given the honor of running the torch the final lap around the track.

Janet finished her lap and headed up the final ramp to the Olympic Flame, symbol of the games. But she did not light the flame. Instead, she lit the torch held by another Olympian, hidden in the wings, perhaps the most respected and beloved human on the planet.

Muhammad Ali.

He stood there a moment holding the torch, arms  shaking with the palsy of his disease. Millions of us stood in front of our TVs, cheering along with the crowd in the stadium, in one of the most inspiring, poignant, and emotional moments in Olympic history. Then, in his final Olympic appearance,  Ali lit the flame and the games began.

Last week, 20 years after that moment and a decades long battle with Parkinson’s disease, Muhammad Ali died at age 74. Continue reading The Greatest

Confidence is Contagious

Stepan Curry 2016 MVPSteph Curry won another league MVP award this week. The vote was unanimous for the first time in NBA history, though he hadn’t played a game in weeks. After spraining his knee in the first round of the NBA playoffs, Steph had to cheer his teammates on from the sidelines.

Monday night, after missing 5 playoff games and nearly 3 weeks of playing time, Steph comes off the bench in the second quarter. His team is getting killed 16-2, but the moment he trots onto the court, they perk up. Bit by bit the Warriors crawl back into the game. They rally, even though Steph is having a terrible shooting night.

Curry can’t get his 3-point shot to drop. He is 0 for 9. The man who set the NBA record with 402 3-pointers in a season, can’t make a single one now. He misses nine, 3-point shots in a row.

Nine. Missed shots. In a row.

When most of us go 0 for 9 in anything, we run home, crawl in bed, and pull the covers over our heads. Most of us would think it wasn’t our night and we should stop shooting.

But not Steph. He just keeps grinding. Continue reading Confidence is Contagious


“Today’s the kind of day where, no matter what else you planned to talk about, you’re going to end up talking about Prince” – Rachel Maddow

How right you are, Rachel. I had planned to tell you all about my latest hospital adventure. I was going to be all clever and do a play on the Princess and the Pea. You know, the fairy tale about the spoiled little royal who couldn’t sleep because of a tiny irritant buried under her 20 mattresses?

I was going to call it The Aging Prince and the Kidney Stone. You may have an argument as to whether I am princely material, but no doubt I am aging, and even less doubt that this thing that emerged from my body and plopped into a strainer was a massive kidney stone.

I was even going to post a picture of it andStone tell you how this little pea left its gestational home in my left kidney at 1 in the morning, and how by 2 am I couldn’t sleep for the pain (just like the princess)  and I drove myself to the ER .

Turns out 2:30 am on a Monday night is a great time to show up at the ER. I was the only patient, so in moments I was checked in, banded, gowned, bedded, blanketed, and hooked up to a fabulous i.v. bag full of Dilaudid, my new favorite opiate analgesic. Continue reading Prince

Don’t Let The Practical Hold You Down

Joy Miracle MopThere are times when even the most confident among us begin to doubt ourselves. Times when we can’t see our way through the tangle of mortgages, bills and day jobs. Times when we can’t imagine our dreams coming true because we have to live in the real world.

In 1990 Joy Mangano was a 32 year old divorced mother of three, scraping by as an airline reservationist while supporting her kids, her ex-husband, both of her divorced parents and her grandmother, all under the same roof of a broken down old house. That alone would be enough to crush the spirit of most of us. But Joy had several things going for her:

  • A creative and an inventive mind
  • An insatiable desire to better herself
  • A stubborn streak of resilience and grit
  • A grandmother who nurtured her talent and told her she would become a strong, successful woman who would create things

So what did Joy do?  She used her creativity to solve a common household cleaning problem. Then she went out, got a patent, built a prototype and tried to sell her new product to anyone who would listen.

But nothing came easily. Stores wouldn’t stock her product, she didn’t have the money for a production run, and both her business partners and her family blatantly sabotaged her efforts.

This woman struggled through things that would stop most of us in our tracks. Yet she persisted, and  during one of her darkest times, when it looked like her fledgling business was about to crash and burn, she got some powerful advice: Continue reading Don’t Let The Practical Hold You Down