Monday, November 29, 2010

The Joys of Cable

Nahhh, I'm not talking about the heavily-armored, '90s-nostalgia "X-Men" character (although I may devote a future blog entry to his awesomeness). I'm talkin' basic, Mediacom cable TV. Sure, it's nothin' like the DirecTV we started out with up here, but it's still got its perks. The best part is, I've been able to not only see new shows I wouldn't have had the chance to otherwise, but I also get to see reruns of the shows I grew up on! Stroll with me, if you will, down memory (and the occasional modern nugget) lane . . .

First and foremost, I've heard of "House" for years, but I never actually had the chance to sit down and watch it. I've always liked Hugh Laurie, and when I found out Bryan Singer was a producer, I figured it had to be pretty good (the first two "X-Men" films were excellent, although "Superman Returns" was garbage, Kevin Spacey's delightfully evil turn notwithstanding). Goodness gracious, was I underestimating its awesomeness! Dr. House is a curmudgeonly, often unpleasant fellow, but he's got that strange grumpy charm that only a select few fictional characters can command (Melvin Udall from "As Good As It Gets" and Spike from "Buffy, the Vampire Slayer" spring to mind, combining epic douchebaggery with epic awesomeness). The medical portion of the show tends to be fairly predictable, even formulaic at times (none of the allegedly brilliant doctors know what ails yon patient's good humor, until the valiant--if a bit prickly--Dr. House steps in and reveals that he knows exactly what's wrong, and has known for some time: "It's an INFECTION!!"), but it's not the practice of medicine that makes the show; it's the characters. I think the episode that really stands out in that regard is when Cameron and House finally go out on a date, and House explains to her why she's really attracted to him: "You live under the delusion that you can fix everything that isn't perfect. That's why you married a man who was dying of cancer. You don't love, you need, and now that your husband is dead, you're looking for your new charity case, that's why you're going out with me. I'm twice your age, I'm not great looking, I'm not charming, I'm not even nice. What I am is what you need...I'm damaged."

Also of note: "Glee." Heaven help me, that show is one of the most enthralling, enchanting things I've ever seen. The music is cheesy, but oh, so catchy (and not in a saccharine, "I hate myself just for hearing this crap, and I would like to pour sulphuric acid down my ear" kind of way), and the characters are quirky enough to keep it interesting for the long haul. I first heard of "Glee" through my employer at the writing lab, but I didn't really think anything of it. When I finally saw my first episode, though . . . WOW!! It just figures, though, one of the first episodes I saw was the most heart string-twanging of the entire series: Artie performing "The Safety Dance!" 'Nuff said!

"The Boondocks." This show is so very irreverent . . . so very WRONG. And yet . . . it is very entertaining . . . sometimes. Other times it goes wayyyyy too far, which is odd coming from me. Still, the episode with the "24" parody character "Jack Flowers" is truly awesome . . . particularly the bizarre crotch-kicking scene at the beginning. 

Ahhh, TBS . . . you bring me everything from "Home Improvement" to "The Office" to "Conan" to "Everybody Loves Raymond" to "The Cosby Show" on alternating Sundays . . . truly, you are a wonderful network!! That's all I've got . . . TBS is great!

I love getting to see the shows I grew up on . . . the aforementioned "Cosby Show" and "Home Improvement," but also "Family Matters" (I got to see the Halloween episode with Stevil . . . ohhh, what a classic!) and "Boy Meets World." Hmmm . . . "Boy Meets World" . . . that one's kind of a mixed bag. When li'l Cory was but a wee lad in the early seasons, he was clever, resourceful, and likable . . . cheesy theme music notwithstanding, the show was a thoughtful portrait of a child's adjustment to life's milestones. And of course, who didn't think Mr. Feeny was the coolest teacher EVER? Around the time Cory hit puberty, though, the quality of the show went out the window. More and more, Shawn started developing into a thug. More and more, Eric started to go a little bit crazy. More and more, Topanga started to annoy the crap outta me. More and more, Cory started to lose his "intelligent, endearing" kid quality and gained a "typical, stupid high school kid" quality, driven by hormones and his own tendency toward idiotic behavior. Nevertheless, the interactions between Eric and Feeny kept the show alive and funny . . . it's a shame the rest of the show degenerated into crap.

"Chuck." Yep, thanks to one of the most awesome teachers ever, I had already seen it . . . BUT I HADN'T SEEN SEASON 4!!!! Ya gots Rob Riggle! Ya gots Linda Hamilton ("Come with me if you want to live.")! Ya even gots Timothy Dalton, who is surprisingly awesome as Alexei, the weird freakin' arms dealer who pines for Chuck's mom. Oooh, by the way . . . I went to Hastings for Black Friday. They had a special deal: all used items 40% off until noon. Guess what? It was 11:45. I had to run frantically through the store . . . missing out on a lot of stuff I kicked myself for later. BUT I found season 3 of "Chuck." It was the individual disks bundled together . . . each disk was $5.99, and up in the top corner it said the entire set was $29.99. Guess what? The cashier only rang up one disk. That's 5 disks, a COMPLETE season, for $3.59. I kiddest thee not, kiddies who shall not be kidded by any kidder. In a word . . . wow. But seriously, "Chuck" has officially topped "Burn Notice" as my favorite spy show. An excellent cast of excellent characters, portraying a world of deception and intrigue that keeps the audience on the edge of their seats . . . and that's just the stuff that takes place at the "Buy More." The espionage stuff ain't bad, either. Also, check out season 2 to see Yvonne Strahovski beat the snot outta Nicole Richie--not something to be missed!

I also discovered "In Living Color." Y'know, I never thought I'd say this . . . but for the most part, this show is even better than "SNL." Jim Carrey . . . the Wayanseseses . . . David Alan Grier . . . there's some serious talent on that show. Shame it's been off the air for like, 15 years.

AMC is another channel I love. "The Walking Dead" is a great new series, but AMC is about more than just shows, as the acronym will attest. The "Fear Fest" marathon this October was truly awesome, because it allowed me to finally watch all those horror movies I didn't get to see when I was a kid. "Friday the 13th" . . . "Halloween H20" . . . "Thir13en Ghosts" . . . "Ghost Ship" . . . it's a real shame all of these movies suuuuuuucked. The "Friday" marathon was by far the worst, saved only by an Alice Cooper track on the sixth one. Great for a laugh, though. The "Halloween" marathon was better by far, though it was still pretty goofy. Now the theme is action movies . . . meh. I likes me some action movies, but horror movies are so much more fun, simply because they are so bad!

"Family Guy" . . . I'm really not fond of it, but for some reason it's on every channel. *Sigh* . . . VIVA EL BARTO!!

Basically, I really like having cable. It kills so much of my free time . . . and study time . . . and all my other time . . . but still, it's really fun. Oh, and "Robot Chicken" just about every night is pretty great, too! :D

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

You always miss the things you thought you never would

It's ironic, really, how many people I know that hated going to a small college in a small town, only to miss it with a passion once they transferred to the "big leagues." Some of them missed the smaller classroom environment, some of them missed the teachers who actually cared and didn't treat them like numbers, and some of them just missed the people they had met along the way who helped to make the college experience a little more special. Some, myself included, look back at those awkward first years with the excruciating pain of hindsight, wondering why they ever made those dumb decisions and mourning all the opportunities that were irreplaceably lost, either as scholars, as citizens, as friends, or in love. For me, it's those latter two that hurt the most . . . that unbearable question of "what if things had been different?"

Of course, it's foolish to dwell on the past; we all know we can't change what's already happened, wish as we might that we could. Besides, I really do believe that everything does indeed happen for a reason, even though that reason may escape us at the time. Still, we can't help but to wonder about the past, as though there were some way to shoot a "reboot" of the movie of our lives. What if I had never even talked to that one guy, the guy who became my best friend and ultimately the biggest jerk I ever had to deal with? Imagine the pain I could have avoided . . . imagine not having to know the heartache of being betrayed by my best friend . . . and imagine if I had never learned the valuable life lessons that came from it. Moving on, there is also the question of love. I met a girl two years ago, and you know what? I fell in love. As cliche as it sounds, I fell in love. It was slow at first--I'm not one of these people who falls in love at first sight, you know--but it was real. And after a good chunk of time in the "like" phase, I finally decided to ask her on a date . . . only to find out she had just gotten a new boyfriend. So what did I do? I languished in the "Friend Zone" for a long time, that's what, and guess what happened? She became one of the best friends I ever could have asked for, and as I got used to that fact, I came to accept it. But I still loved her, and she never knew. Now it's far too late for regrets and "what if" scenarios, but I still wish sometimes that I had found the courage to say something when I had the chance, because I KNEW she was the kind of person I could have had a legitimate, meaningful relationship with. *Sigh* Yep, that didn't pan out. So now I have to ask the biggest "what if" of all: what if I had gone ahead and graduated after two years instead of sticking around for three? I had the credits--I could have done it! Plus, in so doing I would have again avoided so much pain, because it was that last dreadful year that brought my world crashing down around me. I would have been able to bypass an entire chapter of personal anguish and just move on to a new place, starting fresh. My lost friendships would have remained intact, I wouldn't have had to grow closer to a girl I could never have, and all would be well . . . right?

Not necessarily. Y'see, that last year at my first college was the absolute worst experience I could have possibly imagined, but it was also the very best. I got an amazing job, thereby allowing me to save up for my eventual transfer to a bigger school and also giving me the chance to work for and with some truly amazing people. Even as my pre-established friendships went out the window, my new coworkers became even better friends than I could ever have imagined, and it is they whom I most keep in contact with today. Through my job, I got to meet so many new people, and also got to know other people I already knew even better. And even though my heart never got past the pain of that good ol' Charlie Brown-style unrequited love, gaining a best friend definitely didn't hurt. For that matter, I was able to meet a LOT of truly wonderful, often-eccentric girls, many of whom are among my very best friends today. I may not currently be "in love" (or maybe I am; nobody's concern but mine, haha), but I can say that I now have a lot of people who I genuinely LOVE, on a far deeper level, because I was able to get to know them for who they are as special individuals. As for my romantic life (or lack thereof), yeah, still nothin' happening there, but I'm more confident now because I don't get nervous around women anymore. Who knows what the future will hold? I don't know, but I feel like that third year helped me to get past a lot of self-imposed mental blocks.

Probably one of the biggest benefits to staying an extra year was this: if I had transferred after two years, I would have gone to a school where I would have been miserable. By staying an extra year, I was able to do my homework and decide where I really wanted to go--and, more importantly, where I did NOT want to go. And really, I believe everything is working out the way it was meant to. I'm at a great school--best in the state, if not the nation, for what I'm going into. I'm living in an amazing house with some amazing roommates--not the crappy dorm room I would have been stuffed into if I had gone to the other school. I've got a . . . well, it's not an amazing job, but it's got flexible hours and I'm getting paid; I like my new coworkers better than the job itself, though. Heck, I'm even in a better town now than I would have been, because everything is close by and there is always something to do, night or day. 

Long story short: everything works out for the best, sooner or later . . . usually later. We may not see any benefit to the crap we go through at the time, but ultimately, it's going to be okay. I went through more emotional pain, more stress, more everything . . . than I thought I could handle this past year. But I also had a lot of good things happen, too. So what if it was a crappy year in the short-run? In the long run, I wouldn't change a thing. I am THANKFUL for what my life has become due to the things, both good and bad, I experienced after 3 years in a small town college environment. I am THANKFUL for the school, THANKFUL for the people, and THANKFUL for the memories. It takes both happiness and hardships to mold us into the people we are today, and though we pray for the happiness and try to avoid the hardships, we should still try our best to learn from both when faced with them. I'm still trying to accept the latter . . . still asking "What if . . .?" a bit too often, but still, when the river has been dealt and all bets have been placed, I sit here with confidence in the hand I've got, and I won't even consider folding. I am THANKFUL for my life.

Oooh, by the way, I am also thankful for being able to see so many great friends when I came back into town for the break. Y'all rock, ya dig? :DDDDD

Monday, November 22, 2010

Attack of the Kinfolks

Ahhh, the Thanksgiving season has returned again. The leaves that are green turn to brown, the air turns cold and invigorating, we develop an inexplicable craving for pumpkin pie and apple cider . . . and the relatives come cruising in to clean out our refrigerators and clog up our plumbing. The cats had the right idea--one plays dead on the couch; the other disappears entirely. Clever little rascals, they are!

Don't get me wrong, I love the concept of family, but in reality it can be perilous indeed. Case in point, even though I'm the only person in the family who has even a remote interest in professional wrestling, it is my "innocent" nieces and nephews who see fit to run amok and bounce off the furniture, delivering bone-rattling frog splashes and tendon-tearing armbars to my weary, out-of-shape body. Sure, I have the advantage in terms of sheer power and technique, but no man can stand alone against the furious onslaught of THREE hopped-up children with a taste for human blood. Then there is the issue of trying to play a quiet board game. I assure you, friends and readers all, that there is no such thing as a "quiet" game with these kids, ESPECIALLY when the wee one decides it would be far more fun to snatch the game pieces and cards and play "Keep Away." What the children want, you see, is to play Wii Sports, even though their attention spans are insufficient even to smack the bejabbers out of a golf ball for more than 5 minutes at a time. Their mother does not like video games (she is appalled at how their dear uncle turned out, and as such wants to make sure her children do not suffer a similar fate), and suggests we find an alternative source of fun. The kids also have a certain affinity for action figures, and they are weary of playing with the sturdy old X-Men and Silver Surfer they played with on previous visits; they are far more intrigued by the X-Men's Blackbird jet on display on my bookshelf, or the flimsy little Hobbits and Elfkind that remain locked in mortal combat on the surrounding shelf space. They do not understand the concept of "fragile collectibles"; neither does their mother, who sees me as stingy and curmudgeonly. Indeed, they would also like very much to read my comic book collection, and there is nothing I would like more than to help encourage an interest in comics. Unfortunately, again, I do not think it would be prudent to let them thumb through my vintage collection of Frank Miller "Daredevil" comics . . . call me a self-centered nerd, but this stuff may put me through college when my financial aid runs out.

 Frustrated with her children's incessant demands for entertainment, Mother Dear suggests (ever so subtly) that instead of playing Wii Sports, they should instead go outside with me (re: I should take them outside, and out of earshot). Fair enough, it is a bit warm inside, and I could stand to walk off the fine chili lunch I had eaten earlier (it's not Thanksgiving yet, kids; it's only Monday). So we go outside. The kids, unable to locate Mom's cat, are feeling frustrated (and a little bit violent, as their terrifying need to pester something living has been thwarted by the cat's cunning skill at hiding), but the cool air is helping to temper their base instincts. They are getting pretty hyper, these three children ages 10, 7, and . . . ummm . . . I dunno, 2? 3? Anyway, the wee one starts climbing on hay bales, and is pretty proud of herself, short little legs notwithstanding. She has no fear of jumping off said hay bales, either, and does so with a dismount worthy of a medal, even if only a chocolate one wrapped in gold foil. The others are more interested in forming a pile of leaves to jump in, and as such, they lead me on in search of rakes. We find two rakes and a broken garden hoe (which Wee One wields with all the solemn duty of an Arlington gravedigger) and subsequently set to work on the epic leaf pile. I, personally, am full of chili and care not for leaf piles, so I choose to "supervise," enjoying my lollipop and breathing in the lovely fall air. The kids, however, are indignant at my apathy toward their leaf-gathering ventures, and implore me to scoop up leaves and add to the pile; I decline. Wee One even goes so far as to call me "Lazy Uncle!!" (she has always been perceptive beyond her years, mocking everything from my freckles to my double-chin. It would be hurtful were she not so bloody cute).

Soooo, after a while they get a nice pile of leaves, and subsequently leap into it. They then continue puttering around with their respective garden implements. I, feeling guilty for being a "lazy uncle," decide to be a goober and make them laugh. I turn around and pull my Mizzou hoodie up over my head. I then face them and start acting like a zombie--"GRRRRRRRRR!!"

Naturally, the kids think this is hilarious, and immediately turn it into a game of "Blind Man's Bluff"--only with weapons. I run around "aimlessly" (though unbeknownst to them, I can see a little bit through the material of my hoodie), trying to grab at them, and they sneak around and jab, swat, and/or prod me with their rakes and whatnot. It's all good fun, and they're shocked when I actually grab one of them and pull an epic German suplex to the unforgiving grass below! It's awesome, and I roar my defiance to the cloudy November sky. The other kids look on, awestruck at my awesomeness, and I know I have earned their undying respect. Feels good. Then the kid I suplexed shoves leaves down my hood--yuck.

We goof around for a bit longer outside, playing around in the leaves and having a general good time, until my nephew suggests I "be the blind man again." I am all for that, because I am eager to prove my awesome might to them again. I pull up my hoodie, start making guttural zombie sounds, and start running around, arms flailing. I can see my nephew, and since it was he who essentially demanded more punishment, I feel it necessary to tackle the heck out of him, Bill Goldberg style. But when I plant my feet and start to build up a head of steam, I'm suddenly stopped by something totally unexpected--THE LITTLE $#!+#&@? STABBED ME IN THE GROIN WITH THE RAKE HANDLE!!!! 

Okay, kids, don't worry--it wasn't quite as bad as I made it sound, but it hurt like heck. He didn't break the skin--barely even scuffed my jeans--but the *ahem* skin of my inner thigh was roughed up pretty badly. OWCH!! It could have been a lot worse, because Wee One's hoe handle was all snapped and splintery--it's good that I attacked the nephew instead. Still, I collapsed to the ground in pain, tenderly massaging my battle-ravaged thigh muscle. The kids just laughed their butts off, but after a while they realized I was legitimately hurting. They still thought it was funny, but they had the decency to ask if I was okay. I winced, pulled myself to my feet, and put on a chillaxed face, trying to hide my pain. Then, mercifully, the storm clouds began to swirl and the winds began to blow fierce, so I suggested they put away their weap--er, garden implements--and go inside, where I promptly fell into a comfy chair and breathed a sigh of relief.

The moral of this story is this: if you're going to roughhouse with small children, particularly psychotic little demon children who are related to you, make sure of two things: first and foremost, make sure you are able to maintain visual contact at all times. Do NOT take your eyes off them for an instant, nor should you under ANY circumstances allow yourself to be blindfolded--recipe for disaster, kiddies. Also, make sure they're not packing anything that could be used as a weapon, particularly of the sharp and/or pointy variety--unless, of course, you're not interested in having kids one day yourself. :P



Friday, November 19, 2010

"Bored Now . . ."

Ahhh, this brave, new world we live in, wherein independent thought is highly encouraged until it is voiced, and where marker-huffing adolescents permeate our society with their spaced-out ways . . . this world where everybody wants "change" but nobody wants to work for it. Good times, noodle salad--that's modern life, ain't it? Of course, some of us are struggling just to be able to afford the noodles, so salad may be out of the question entirely. Especially if you're majoring in journalism, if my esteemed professor is to be believed. Myyyy gosh, JRN 1100 has to be the biggest Depress-O-Fest I've ever encountered. All we do in that class is bewail the decline of the modern newspaper--indeed, the print medium in general. No joy is to be found within the dark halls of Middlebush (yeah, I know, "that's what she said"), not with Dr. V. on duty. The material about breakthroughs in technology are viewed with a quirky sort of apprehension, as though the Internet itself is a sleeping bear, and we as journalists are inching ever closer to the honeycomb it guards, steadily approaching our own inevitable doom as the bear awakens and makes its snarling rise to power. Yeah, and I nearly fell asleep in class a few times, too. HA!

I know this is mainly just incoherent rambling, and I do deeply apologize. The fact of the matter is, I am about to undertake the 5-hour journey back home for Thanksgiving break, and I'm just waiting for my roommates to wake up so I can wish them well and be on my way. I'm extremely stoked to be going home, even though I have a veritable crap-ton of homework to burn through before the week is out, in addition to an online economics quiz due this weekend . . . UGH! Anyhoo, please forgive my pointless ramblings--I'm just excited to be going home, for the first time in over a month!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Keg Stand

So, I've heard the term "Keg Stand" for a number of years, right? Here's the thing--even though I was familiar with the term, and had even read a detailed analysis of the specifics and logistics thereof, I still didn't have a mental picture in my head of what it looked like. That changed last week when I went to my first kegger. Let me set the record straight--I don't drink. In fact, I brought a 12-pack of cranberry splash Sierra Mist, and it was oh, so delightful! Basically, I'm saying I didn't personally take part in the keg-related festivities. However, when I ventured outside and saw one of my work supervisors being held upside-down at a 35-degree angle, I fully understood how it worked. A Keg Stand is really one of those things you have to see in person in order to really appreciate the geometry. XD