Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Even His Car Has a Nickname

I feel sort of bad that I haven't talked more about Li'l Dill Wonderboy, even though we've been hanging out quite a bit recently. However, I'm sure Li'l Dill is more than happy not to see his name pop up more often; quoth Li'l Dill, "I'm fine being The Grey Man."* His desire to blend into the background isn't too surprising, since he has demonstrated an astounding propensity for relating the most embarrassing stories about himself in front of the whole group, which then results in even more fodder for nicknames and the like. Why, just in the past week he's earned three more nicks, although PigPen seemed determined to affix him with yet another while we played volleyball on Sunday night, mistakenly calling him by Shack-Fu's real name at least three times over the course of the evening.

Some brief background on the origins of his many nicknames:

  • Li'l Dill: taken from the fact that he once was runner up for the Li'l Dill Pickle contest when he was but a lad, a fact he mistakenly revealed less than 10 minutes into his first time in our class
  • Wonderboy: taken from his college mascot, and not the Michael Chabon novel, nor Tenacious D song
  • Pickle Boy: variation on the Li'l Dill theme, favored by The Anti-Cap'n
  • Whippersnapper: derived from his deceptively young features, which have caused many to think that he was a visitor from the youth or college departments
  • Lazy Bum: a month ago he missed church because he overslept; I called him up to call him a lazy bum, only to find out that he had already left me a voicemail calling himself a lazy bum; such synchronicity cannot be ignored.
  • Dirty Hippie: as a fellow with longish hair working among many military men, this one seemed like a natural fit
  • Blinky: so dubbed by his co-workers for the Bluetooth earpiece he wears there and its constantly blinking light; incidentally, when he doesn't have the Bluetooth on, he never notices his phone ringing because it's set to vibrate -- or, at least that's the excuse he uses when he doesn't want to answer my call . . .
  • Dino: the Breakdancing Intern made a comment that Li'l Dill looked like the singer Dino, but we like to pretend that he was referring to everyone's favorite cartoon dinosaur dog thingy
  • Hypo: as in "hypochondriac," earned after his demonstrable paranoia upon discovering that Squiggly might have exposed us to a stomach virus
  • The Grey Man: actually gave this one to himself, in hopes of avoiding attention; not working so well, eh?
  • Nickname Magnet: by this point, this name should be self-explanatory, no?

Anyway, to make up my blogging neglect to Li'l Dill, I figured I'd provide him with The Top Ten Excuses To Get Out of Playing Paintball, each custom fit for a different nickname!

1. I'm a lover, not a fighter (Dirty Hippie)
2. My campaign for Li'l Dill Pickle was run on a platform of non-violence, and I don't want them to take away my Gherkin Crown. (Li'l Dill)
3. I would have made it out, but I didn't notice my phone ringing. (Blinky)
4. Mommy says I'm too young to play with guns (Whippersnapper)
5. Sorry, I slept in. (Lazy Bum)
6. It's cold and damp, I could catch my death! (Hypo)
7. I don't think it's fair to the others, since they can't shoot mind-bullets (Wonderboy)
8. Oh, I was out there; you just didn't see me. (The Grey Man)
9. Like I'm going to give you guys an excuse to come up with another nickname for me. (Nickname Magnet)
10. Yip-yip-yip-yip! ** (Dino)

There, that should keep him out of the way of flying paint for a while. And, if Shack-Fu doesn't buy any of those, Li'l Dill can just hop in The Night Roller and speed away.

*Sounds like Li'l Dill wishes he could pull a Peter Petrelli and steal my Cap'n Cellophane powers
**Translation: "Sorry, but that Cookies scares me to death"


Monday, January 29, 2007

Movie Mon. - Seven Different Kinds of Smoke (Now with Electrolytes)

You, Me, and Dupree: Comedy about a couple of newlyweds (Matt Dillon and Kate Hudson) whose marital bliss is strained by their new houseguest, the shiftless best man Dupree. Now, I think the statement "This was nowhere near as horrible as I had feared it was going to be" scores pretty high on the "damning with faint praise" scale, but that's probably the best I can say about the film. After all, not a single thing in any of the previews made me even crack a smile; I hadn't even planned on renting this one until PigPen asked if I'd put it in my queue. So, when it actually managed to make me laugh a few times, and cringe much less than I had anticipated, I was pleasantly surprised. My favorite part was Owen Wilson's "I'm throwing off seven different kinds of smoke" sequence with the bodyguard; great stuff. PigPen, meanwhile, nearly keeled over at the "starch his socks" moment; honestly, thought I was going to have to prepare a eulogy, he was laughing so hard. Despite a few pretty funny parts, I still found the movie overall to be mediocre at best, mainly due to characters repeatedly doing stupid things that made no sense.

Raving Maniacs: Very low budget horror flick about an alien drug being circulated at a rave, turning all the tweekers into blood-thirsty killers. Despite the low budget and bad acting, this one showed a glimmer of promise at first, but it took far too long for any action to start, and once it did start, it was poorly written, poorly shot, poorly constructed, and just all around poor. Some funny moments here and there, both intentional and not, but in the end, this one is only watchable for the MST3K treatment you can give it.

The Magnificent Seven: Classic Western that is itself a reimagining of another classic, Seven Samurai. I had rented this once years ago, but the tape had messed up less than an hour in, and I never got around to renting it again until last week. Despite a bit o' cheese here and there, the film still holds up fairly well.

The Night Listener: Supposed "thriller" about an author and radio personality who forms a friendship with a teenaged author over the phone, only to discover that the teenager might actually be part of a hoax. The ads for this one made it look a whole lot more suspenseful than it actually was; when the ending rolled around, all I could think was "Is that it?" Which is too bad, because up until then it had been an interesting film. Maybe if I had had different expectations going in, I would have enjoyed it more, but as is, it left me flat.

Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning: Prequel to the recent remake of Massacre which shows how Leatherface and his family got into the killin' business. A so-so film which failed to draw me in, perhaps largely due to the fact that, as a prequel, I knew that none of the characters were getting out alive and that all of the psychos were. Biggest surprise of the film was my realization that the draft-dodger brother was the guy who played Oliver on The O.C.; nothing in this movie was nearly as horrifying as his storyline on that show.

Mexican Werewolf in Texas: Horribly, horribly, horribly misleading title; yes, there's a monster from Mexico running around Texas, but it's a chupacabra, not a werewolf -- big difference. That bit of misdirection aside, this was actually a pretty entertaining little Z-grade horror flick. The acting was mediocre, but tolerable, and the writing was just random and strange enough to keep me entertained, although I could have definitely done without the "henpecked father wants to kill daughter's Mexican boyfriend" storyline; a bit too much.

Crank: Over the top action film about a hitman who is injected with a synthetic poison, and who discovers that he can only stay alive by keeping his adrenaline pumping. This was the film that started PigPen and my use of the phrase "It had its moments"; some really cool (thought totally unbelievable) action sequences, with some pretty funny moments sprinkled throughout. One the negative side, the ending was a little cartoony and Amy Smart's character was one of the more annoying on-screen presences I've had to endure recently.

The Illusionist: Period piece about an Austrian stage magician (Ed Norton) who becomes involved in a love triangle with a childhood friend (Jessica Biel) and the sadistic crown prince (Rufus Sewell). Watched this one immediately after Crank, and I doubt you could have much more of a grinding gear shift than that; as a result, this one felt like slow going at first, but once I got into it I enjoyed it quite a bit. I still liked The Prestige a lot more, but until that makes its way to DVD next month, this one should satisfy all of your manipulative stage magician needs.

Idiocracy: Uneven satire from Mike Judge about the world's two most average people (Luke Wilson and Maya Rudolph) who are cryogenically frozen and thawed out in a future where, thanks to the constant dumbing down effect of the culture, they are officially the smartest people alive. Definitely another of those "it had its moments" films; felt like there was quite a bit of potential untapped by the time the movie was over. But, there were still quite a few scenes that made me laugh; this one in particular*, where Luke Wilson tries to convince the President's cabinet that maybe the reason their crops are failing is because they're using a Sports Drink instead of water for irrigation, struck a chord

Sara Rue's line reading of "It's got electrolytes" cracks me up every time.

Night at the Museum: Family film about a hapless man who gets a job as the night watchmen at a museum where everything comes to life at night. While the film couldn't compare to the entertainment I experienced on the way to the film, it was a cute movie with quite a few entertaining parts. I did often want to slap Ben Stiller's character around for being a moron, but that seems to have become par for the course in Stiller's films.

*Which, if you've spent any amount of time around PigPen and me in the last week or two, you've probably seen us reference a time or two


Friday, January 26, 2007

Weird and Random Meme

Well, it's been a while, but I've once again been tagged with a blog meme, this time courtesy of former Single and expectant father Cap'n Bumper

Here's the rules kids: Once you have been tagged, you have to write a blog with 10 weird random things, facts, or habits about yourself. At the end, you choose 5 people to be tagged, list their names, and why you chose them. Don't forget to leave a comment that says "you're tagged" on their profile and tell them to read your latest blog. ENJOY!!
Of course, finding 10 weird and random things to list about myself that haven't already been covered in my usual weird, random ramblings (not to mention previous meme tags) could be a bit of a challenge, but I shall give it my best shot.

1. I rarely instigate phone calls unless I have an immediate question or need; if someone calls me, I can yak all day about random stuff (surprise surprise), but I seldom if ever call someone else just to talk. Not that I don't think every once in a while "Man, I haven't talked to so-and-so in ages, I should give them a call"; I just don't follow through. Chalk this one up to my neurotic worry that I could be interrupting people while they're doing something vastly more important than talking with little old me.

2. While I'm not gifted at coming up with original nicknames for folks, I have the odd habit of bestowing some friends (usually guys) with what are essentially bastardizations of their given names -- which is basically what most of my high school nicknames boiled down to (Toddy, Toddly, Toddles, etc.). It's one of those unconscious, automatic things that just pop out of my mouth, and then wind up sticking; occasionally, other people pick them up as well.

3. It's virtually impossible for me to go to bed if there is anyone else up and about in, for fear that I might somehow miss out on something; it was true in Parker, it was true in the house on Knoblock; and it's true now at Benjiman Street. Of course, it was much easier to get away with back in the Stillwater days, since I didn't have to worry about getting to work by 8 the next morning.

4. I am almost pathologically compelled to tell on myself when I do something wrong or potentially embarrassing. I once lost out on a Christmas present because I basically confessed to peeking at it; another time I blurted out to G'ovich that I had written something for my Creative Writing class comparing him to a snake. Heaven knows how many things this blog has been responsible for bringing to light; heck, I'll probably tell on myself about something else before this list is through.

5. Every time I check my mail (be it voice, e, or snail) and find that there's nothing for me, I instantly get the chorus of Portishead's "Sour Times" stuck in my head: "Nobody loves me, it's true . . ."

6. Since I have music playing constantly in my head, I often (when I think nobody's looking) break into random little dance steps as I venture around the office; a couple of weeks ago, I finally got caught by our newest employee, who was hidden in the corner of the breakroom where I couldn't see her, but she could see me do a little Salsa-step up to the kitchen sink.
Her: [amused] "Hi, Todd."
Me: [startled] Oh, hi.
Her: Did I just see . . .
Me: [sighing] Yes, yes you did. You see, I have music in my head all the time --
Her: And sometimes in your feet?
Me: Yes, and sometimes in my feet.*

7. I am horrible at keeping up email correspondence, which is why I'm in much better contact with my friends who frequent Instant Messengers programs than those who don't. An IM is like an informal conversation, due to its immediacy, and so I have no problem just shooting one off to someone when they log on just to say hi. But with an email, I feel the compulsion to give it a lot more weight, and so put off writing them until I feel I have the necessary time and creative energy to compose something worthwhile; sadly, this time and energy never seem to be available at the times when writing said emails crosses my mind.

8. I'm a bit of a pack-rat; I have boxes of old papers and various knick-knacks which I've accumulated since high school, everything from old assignments to drawings Cedric did during our week at Speech Camp to random campaign material from Student Council State to letters and cards from friends and family. Some I keep for nostalgic reminders of my friends, some I keep as a reminder of how much I've changed over the years, and some I keep for no good reason at all other than the possibility that they might, someday, trigger nostalgia as well; these last are the things that get tossed when I get the urge to do my irregular weeding of the junk in my life. I still mourn the many random items which were lost when my parents' house burned down, and the memories that went up in smoke with them.

9. I already have a name picked out for the next pet I get; yes, it's comic book related, and yes, it's going to get as many puzzled stares from people who hear it as Rebel Monkey's decision to name her dog Dakovy**, but I have a long history of naming my pets odd things. As for what the name is, well, if you read In a Cabin in the Woods, you've seen it in use already, and that's about all the clue I'll give you; don't want anyone stealing my pet name!

10. There are currently 24 monkeys displayed in my cubicle at work; I am only responsible for three of them, and come February first they will be there no longer as my Futurama Wall Calendar goes from a Wizard of Oz parody to an "Amok Time" parody.

Think those are weird and random enough?

As for tagging others, I'm going to pick on some new found bloggers who have escaped my previous tags:
my cousin, Penny Arcade
my roomie, PigPen
my former classmate at both Wyandotte and OSU, Delinda
mi madre, Mrs. E.
my favorite cookie-baking paintballer, Squiggly

*See, told you I'd tell on myself again before the list was done.
**Pronounced (and spelling later changed to in order to lessen confusion) Dakoby


The Non-Combatant Chronicles Epilogue: Shutterbug Shack-Fu

While waiting for the full contingent of players to arrive on Sunday, Shack-Fu decided to finish up the roll of film on his camera by having those of us already there pose for some pictures. He started off with a few shots of Tango and Victor moving through the woods

He decided to add Cookies, The Sniper, and me to the mix for some group shots. Even though I was a non-combatant this time around, Shack-Fu loaned me his gun for photographic purposes.

Me, Cookies, The Sniper, Tango, and Victor

Then the others showed up, and the camera went away until the end of the Eagle-One scenario, when Shack-Fu decided to get a few shots of him and me in Sherwood Forest.

Codename: Cap'n Sour-puss

Shack-Fu next to the flag-draped Filing Cabinet of Sherwood Forest

After the final game, Shack-Fu whipped out the camera again, first to capture Team Awesome leader Victor seething over his final kill shot

and then to capture him trying to huff CO2 to dull the agony of defeat.*

Meanwhile, fellow team member Awesome Mike tried to drown his sorrows in paintballs while Bravo stood by haplessly.

*No, he didn't really huff CO2


Thursday, January 25, 2007

The Non-Combatant Chronicles Pt.3: The Waiting Game

The third and final scenario from last Sunday's paintball excursion was a straight-forward elimination game pitting the team of Shack-Fu, Cookies, Tango, and The Sniper against the self-dubbed Team Awesome, comprised of Bravo, Victor, and The Metal Siding Kicker, who winds up with the horribly uninspired nickname of Mike in call-sign speak -- you know what, that's just way too plain a nick for the Metal Siding Kicker, so I shall combine his team name and call-sign name, so that he is now Awesome Mike. To start the game, Team Awesome headed out to their assigned starting point, and once they were set, I, in my newly acquired role as ref, radioed them that the game was on, and then tagged along as Team Fantastic* headed in after them.

I have to say, I enjoyed playing ref, but there's a trick to it I haven't quite mastered, namely being near where the action is without giving away team positions.** I trailed Team Fantastic for a while, trying to stay out of their way, and then wandered around near Team Awesome's home base in hopes of figuring out where they had hidden themselves, but I had no luck. After a bit, Team Fantastic forded the stream by Team Awesome's base, figuring that's where their opponents had set up. Turns out it was a good guess, as Team Awesome opened fire on them pretty quickly.

I held back from crossing the stream for a bit, partially because I didn't want to get in the line of fire (since I was finally able to scope out where one of Team Awesome's shooters was, and crossing at the usual point would have put me right between him and The Sniper), and partially because my feet had just started to dry out from the last time I tried to cross the stream and I didn’t relish giving them another soaking. I spent a couple of minutes walking up and down the bank, keeping an eye on the action while looking for an easier place to cross, but it was for naught. Eventually, Team Fantastic shifted their position, opening up a chance for me to cross the stream without fear of getting hit by friendly fire; unfortunately, my attempt to hop over the stream was even less successful than the first time, as my foot slid in the mud when I braced myself to make the leap, dumping my old, ratty shoes directly in the water, leading to a very uncomfortable and squishy time.

The two teams reached a bit of an impasse, with neither side able to score a hit on the other and neither one being willing to be the first to break cover, so the action died down. Tango's tank had run out of CO2 during the initial exchange, so he decided to make a run for it back to the vehicles to reload, sprinting through the stream and narrowly avoiding Team Awesome's fire. We then settled in for a round of The Waiting Game as neither team felt inclined to make an overly aggressive move. Tango made it back to his team in one piece, informing them that he thought he’d seen motion in Sherwood Forest, so after a little more waiting, they decided it was time to get back into the game. The Sniper had discovered another point at which to cross the stream, so they set off on a course for Sherwood Forest and (they hoped) Team Awesome.

But before they plunged headlong into the woods, Shack-Fu started using his radio to taunt Team Awesome leader Victor, daring him to come after Team Fantastic; Victor, in turn, double_dog dared Shack-Fu to come after Team Awesome instead.*** Shack-Fu made many, many beeping noises with the radio before contacting Victor again to say "Come on, we've made more than enough noise, you've got to know where we are, come and get us!"

Apparently, Victor did, in fact, graduate from elementary school at some point, and thus was able to resist Shack-Fu's insidious psychological warfare tactics; unfortunately, this meant more of The Waiting Game as Team Fantastic crept through the woods.

It was at this point that my rookie ref status was evident, as I was torn on how to proceed; I knew that following them through the woods would more than likely give them away, but we were in a section of the woods that I was unfamiliar with, and I really didn't want to head down one of the paths around me -- not out of fear of getting lost, since pretty much every path winds up connecting with the main one, but out of worry that I would be separated from the action when (or if) it started up again. After a few minutes of inner debate, I finally decided that since Shack-Fu had been so gung-ho about letting Team Awesome know where they were, I may as well follow them -- a decision that almost got me lit up when I tramped up on the alert Team Fantastic members. Shack-Fu requested that I head on ahead into Sherwood Forest so that I wouldn't compromise their position any more than I already had, and I happily complied.

Happily, that is, until more time passed without any sign of action whatsoever, and we moved into over-time of The Waiting Game.

Remember how I said in my last post that I did better with waiting when I wasn't in fear for my life? Well, apparently that flies out the window when my legs hurt, my shoes and socks are drenched, and the sun is going down. How exactly did ol’ Cap'n Squishy-Shoes feel about having to ref The Waiting Game? Wrote a little song about it, like to hear it? Here it goes:

I know all there is to know about The Waiting Game
I've had my fill of The Waiting Game
First your shot misses
So then no one dies
And then before
You shoot anymore
The other team hides

Yeah, I know, it ends on a slant rhyme, not my best work. I suppose I should have just turned to the wit and wisdom of one of the great sages of our time.

I mean, what else needs to be said?

But before the incessant lack of activity made me snap****, Shack-Fu anticipated my impending mental collapse, and suggested that I change the scenario up. So I got out my radio and informed Team Awesome that due to a depressing lack of action, we were now moving to a Capture the Flag scenario.

I'm not sure how fair the switch up was to Team Awesome, since Team Fantastic was already set up with a line of sight on the flag, which was draped over The Filing Cabinet of Sherwood Forest when the call went out, but at that point all I cared about was seeing some killin'. I could see Team Awesome heading our way through the brush, and Team Fantastic soon sprung into action. After shots were exchanged for a minute or two, I finally heard those wonderful words I'd been waiting to hear all game: "Paint check!"

Upon hearing those magical words, it was my time to spring into action, shouting for a cease-fire and holding of positions until I could determine if the player was really out. Upon inspection, I determined that Awesome Mike, who had been point man for his team, was indeed out. As he marched off of the battleground he called out "Hey, Victor - - I found them for you." After Awesome Mike was out of harm's way, I called for the game to resume, and then got to call a halt a couple more times to let eliminated players exit the arena before one team finally emerged victorious.

I guess on that day it was better to be Fantastic than Awesome.

*Hey, I had to come up with something comparable to Awesome, and there were four of them . . . *****
**It all goes back to that whole "not very sneaky" thing

***Personally, I was moments away from triple-dog daring them all to "just freaking do something already!" but I managed to hold my tongue for once.
****Many of you, having just read my weak Weird Al impression, are probably thinking "Don't you mean 'Snap more'?"
*****You know as soon as I made the Fantastic Four connection, I tried to fit each of them into one of the roles – come on, Shack-Fu, say “It’s Clobberin’ Time!”


Wednesday, January 24, 2007

The Non-Combatant Chronicles Pt.2: Eagle-One Has Landed

The second paintball scenario last Sunday had the same general idea as the first, with me once again being the prize both teams were after. The details were quite different, however. First, this time instead of a general I was supposed to be a downed pilot (codename: Eagle-One), concealed near where my "parachute" was draped over the ever-trusty Filing Cabinet of Sherwood Forest. Second, this time I actually got a radio, and was supposed to use it to coordinate with my retrieval team (codename: Rescue-One), guiding them to my hiding place before being found by the other team (codename: Those Other Guys). Unfortunately, I've never scored highly on sneakiness or stealth, so Those Other Guys located my poorly hidden self before I even had a chance to get off the preliminary message I had composed in my head while waiting for Shack-Fu to get things rolling, which was jam-packed full with role-playing goodness.

A pity, I know.

Unlike the first scenario, this time I knew immediately that I had been taken by the bad guys, composed of Bravo, Cookies, and Tango. We headed down the back way to the home base, where we ran into referee Shack-Fu, who expressed his surprise that I had been found already. I explained my general lack of sneakiness, although I posited that the brightly colored "Please Don't Shoot Me!" vest I was wearing probably didn't help the staying-out-of-sight cause much.

We crept slowly down the back path, holding our position for quite some time as my captors anticipated a frontal assault; I’ve discovered that I don’t mind the sitting around waiting aspect as much when I’m not in fear for my life. It was at this point that I could hear Shack-Fu, in his role as Official Pot Stirrer (codename: Sigma Six) radioing Rescue-One and suggesting that they try to contact me, since (a) I was placed at the back of Those Other Guys; (b) wasn't being closely guarded; and (c) still had possession of my radio. Thus began my favorite part of the whole game -- me trying to surreptitiously pass info on our movements to Rescue-One without being called out on it by Those Other Guys. It was a bit difficult, since as soon as Rescue-One tried to contact me, Bravo decided to double back and make sure we weren't being stalked from the rear, meaning I had to keep quiet until he headed back up to the front with Tango.

I will confess to some curiosity regarding how Those Other Guys would react if they caught me on the radio: Ask me politely to stop? Threaten to shoot me if I tried any more funny stuff?* Confiscate my radio? Try to use me to set a trap? Totally ignore the whole thing? Well, I suppose unless their solution was the last one, it’s a moot point.

Not too long after I was finally able to relay our position to Rescue-One, Tango and Bravo decided to lead us back the way we came – coincidence? They kept me at the back of the pack again as we moved through the brush parallel to the path through Sherwood Forest. They soon encountered Rescue One and engaged them in battle - - or, at least, Bravo and Tango engaged them, while poor Cookies struggled to extricate herself from the vegetation which had tangled itself in her hair, crying out "I'm stuck, I'm stuck!" over and over while the rest of her team fought for their lives.

It was right around this time that Sigma Shack, after declining to assist Cookies under the pretext that he had to stay neutral as a ref, began to stir the pot yet again, coaching Rescue-One to coach me into slowly backing away from my captors (who were too preoccupied with their own troubles to pay me much attention) so that Rescue-One could send one of their number around the back way to snatch me away. Being a good little role player, I waited until Rescue-One relayed Shack-Fu’s suggestion to me before I started backing away from the distracted ranks of Those Other Guys. But before I could be liberated, Tango was eliminated, and Bravo sounded the retreat, racing past while urging Cookies and me to follow quickly. Disappointed that the "sneak me out from under their noses" maneuver wasn't completed, I turned and walked towards where Bravo was refilling his gun's hopper, which is when I noticed an unfamiliar figure crouched in the path behind him.

Now, keep in mind, once again I had not been witness to the division of forces before the scenario started, and I knew that at least one player was going to show up late, so I figured that this was him, and that he had been assigned to Those Other Guys.

Well, I was half-right.

While I was puzzling over the new arrival, Cookies was retreating to our position, and also saw the mystery player. However, since Bravo was instructing her to face the other way and back towards us so she could keep an eye out for the other team, she assumed that the figure was on her side, turned around, and started backing towards us until she finally reached the point where the mystery player decided he had a clear shot at her and opened fire. Bravo and Cookies spun and returned fire; I bolted for cover. Bravo and the mystery man** were both killed, leaving Cookies as the sole member of Those Other Guys; clued into this by Sigma Shack, Rescue-One advanced and took her out of the equation, so that once again the forces of truth, justice, and the American way triumphed over the forces of Those Other Guys.

Although I enjoyed this scenario a lot, by that point I was a bit hostaged out, and Shack-Fu’s trigger finger was getting itchy, so I took over as ref for our final scenario of the day, of which I will say this for now: it had its moments.***

*I know that would have been PigPen's solution; heck, he would have been threatening to shoot me regardless.
**Revealed afterwards to be the infamous Metal Siding Kicker from my very first turn as a hostage
***I expect PigPen to laugh at this last line, and everyone else to scratch their heads; the joys of inside jokes.


The Non-Combatant Chronicles Pt.1: Just Call Me "General Confusion"

This past Sunday was earmarked for yet another paintball excursion. Unfortunately, PigPen had to opt out since he had come down with something, and since he wasn't playing, I figured I wouldn't either -- after all, without the possibility of being able to shoot him repeatedly in the head*, where's the appeal?

Actually, my decision not to play had less to do with PigPen's absence, and more to do with the fact that I had screwed up my legs so much from the Muddy March of Doom and constant racquetball play in worn out shoes that I blanched at the thought of walking up and down stairs, let alone running for my life through the underbrush from the vicious likes of killer Cookies and psycho Shack-Fu. But, while I didn't feel up to full-scale involvement, I also didn't want to miss out completely, so I suited up and tagged along as a non-combatant again; however, since I was a veteran of a few campaigns, Shack-Fu put me to work almost immediately this time around.

The first scenario was similar to my first ill-fated game, only this time I was the one playing a stranded officer in need of a rescue instead of The Sarge. Also, this time both three-person teams were in a race to take possession of me and return me to their home base, with one team being my would-be rescuers, and the other being my would-be captors. Of course, since the team assignments were made after Shack-Fu had sequestered me, I had no idea who was on which team, let alone what their allegiances were. Shack-Fu had planned on giving me a radio so I could keep in contact with the Good Guys, but after he gave the go signal the two teams took off so quickly that by the time he got to me, I had already been taken into custody by The Sniper and the lazily-nicknamed** Bravo; where their third member was, and whether they were good or bad***, I hadn’t a clue.

Bravo tried to take me up the side of a hill rather than taking the main path, but we were stymied by a barbed wire fence at the crest of the hill; we headed back down, while I managed to get tangled in more brambles than I thought humanly possible. The Sniper took point as we headed towards the path; when he encountered fire, Bravo decided to head back up the hillside after all, following the fence line until we got to the path. Or at least, that was the plan, until our progress was halted by the appearance of a truck tooling around on the premises on the opposite side of the fence. Shack-Fu slipped into Official Mode and went to tell them they had to get off the land, while Bravo and I held our position and waited for game play to resume . . . except, play had never officially stopped, as Bravo learned when a voice cried from behind us "Surrender, Bravo!"

It was Tango, who had crept up on us all unawares while we were distracted by Shack-Fu trying to direct the joy-riders off of the land. After Bravo surrendered, Tango called out "General, follow me quickly," which was when I realized two things: (1) Shack-Fu had apparently decided to make me a general between the time he hid me and the time he briefed the teams and (2) up until that point I'd been in the possession of the bad guys. So, now that I had been "rescued,' I made my way back down the hill, managing to get caught and tangled on even more brambles than before.

What can I say -- it's a gift.

Tango and I made it to the edge of the path, which is when referee Shack-Fu confirmed that there was only one player left on each team: Tango and Cookies. Shack-Fu decided to allow all of the deceased players to spawn back in in order to spice things up, since nobody had made it very far past the extraction point with me. Soon, I was being led through the brush parallel to the main path by Tango and newly resurrected Victor. We ran into an ambush right before our attempt to ford the stream cutting across our path, so Victor ordered a strategic withdrawal. **** We then cut back into the woods to approach Sherwood Forest from a more circuitous route.

Victor led us to a grouping of felled trees lying amidst a bog of decomposing leaves, limbs, and other detritus. Victor, mindful of my shaky legs, asked if I thought I could traverse the logs, which were to serve as our bridge over the stream; I, foolishly, said "Sure." I then stepped onto what looked like a fairly solid mass of material, but really, really wasn't -- I felt like I had stumbled into one of those mythical swamps from Princess Bride or Krull, and had a brief vision of myself being sucked down into the Bog of Eternal Stench. Victor scrambled onto one of the dead trees and zipped across with no problem; I clambered onto it, and watched it crumble beneath me; apparently, the tree hadn't been cleared for my excessive weight load.***** Once I was able to make it onto a sturdier section of the tree, I did fine -- until I had to maneuver onto a different tree trunk, at which point my feet slipped and I banged the heck out of my shins.

It was around this time I began to wonder why I had thought playing a non-combatant role was a good idea.

We were able to make it past the bog with no further mishaps on my part, and continued our trek to the home base. We soon ran into the enemy forces again; I was placed behind some cover at the back of the unit while the skirmish took place, so I’m afraid I can't provide any details about the engagement outside of the fact that the Good Guys won in the end, and General Confusion was delivered safely home.

We then moved on to our second scenario, which was less strenuous for me, but much screwier -- and thus much more fun.

*Yes, PigPen, I know that I haven’t even come close to shooting you yet, but hope springs eternal.
**To the paintball crew: I am notoriously bad at coming up with nicknames for folks, so if you want to be referred to as something other than a basic call sign, either come up with one yourself, or at least do something horribly embarrassing I can build on.
***If PigPen had been with them, I would have known instantly that they were Eeeeeeeeevil.
****My attempt to cross the stream earlier had resulted in soggy shoes and socks; Tango’s attempt to cross the stream during our retreat resulted in soggy pants as he discovered that the water was much deeper than it appeared at first glance.
*****We’ll try not to think about the fact that Victor was loaded down with gun, tank, and extra ammo and made it across fine, while I only had my dainty self to blame.


In Case You Couldn't Tell, I'm Feeling Much Better Today

The following conversation took place this morning before PigPen and I left for work

PigPen: [strolling out of his room] Hola, que tal?
Me: [sitting at my computer] Bien.
PigPen: [heading to the kitchen] Yeah, que tal . . . but Sue short. [erupts into maniacal laughter] Oh, man, I crack me up
Me: ...
PigPen: [wanders back out of the kitchen] Did you get my joke?
Me: Yeah, I got it.
PigPen: But you didn't comment on it.
Me: Funny, I thought my silence was a resounding comment on your joke.
PigPen: [fixes me with mega-loathing stare]


Tuesday, January 23, 2007

At Times Like These, I'm Tempted to *Not* Post Out of Sheer Spite

So, I've been feeling a bit down the past couple of days for one reason or another; leave it to Zinger to know just what to say to cheer me up:

Can you put a link in your blog to the local obit page so I can tell if you haven't posted because of a tragic accident or because of pure laziness?
Yup, nothing like being called a lazy bum* to cheer one up, right?

*Which reminds me: have I mentioned that Lazy Bum is just the latest in the long line of nicknames that Li'l Dill has accumulated? I haven't? Well, shame on me.


Thursday, January 18, 2007

Cookies' Revenge and the March of Muddy Doom

Earlier this week, while most right-thinking individuals were spending their time huddled in their nice warm homes and offices, I allowed myself to be talked into venturing out into the below-freezing weather to subject myself once again to the torture that is paintball.* I considered trying to weasel my way out of it, but once Ms. "I Should Be Making Cookies" herself committed to going, there was no way I could back out, so I put on multiple layers of clothes underneath my cammo, and headed out with PigPen to the paintball fields.

When we got there, Shack-Fu began parceling out equipment to those of us in need, as well as trying to deal with the minor technical difficulties which were cropping up with the newly acquired equipment of both PigPen and Cookies. After finally getting Cookie's gun slowed down so that its shots wouldn't cut through flesh like a hot knife through butter, Shack-Fu started to get his own gear out -- which is when he realized he had left behind something kind of important: the ammo. He had enough to fill up my gun's hopper, but that was about it, so he set us up on our first scenario and left us to operate unsupervised while he made a paintball run.

The first scenario was basically a hide-and-seek-and-destroy mission; The Ghost and I were sent off to secrete ourselves somewhere in Sherwood Forest, and after we gave the go signal, PigPen, Cookies, and their teammate (who, in keeping with my previous lazy paintball nickname assignments shall be known as Victor) were to hunt us down like dogs. The plus side to this mission was that The Ghost did a really good job of outlining his strategy to me, so that, for once, I actually felt like I knew what I was doing.** The down side was that in order for the strategy to work I had to crouch down, be still, be quiet, and hope to catch the other team unawares -- which would have been fine, except for that whole "be still and be quiet" provision; neither of those are really my thing, y'know? And while I don't know exactly how long it took for the hunting party to get to our position, in my mind it lasted an eternity. Finally, Victor came creeping up the path in-between where The Ghost and I were set up, and the two of them engaged in a firefight, with The Ghost eliminating Victor. He then instructed me to move on Cookies, who was crouched behind a tree on my side of the path. I moved forward and tried to get where I could get a clean shot, but only managed to expose my position to PigPen and Cookies. Lots of shots were exchanged, with most of them detonating on branches, before Cookies managed to nail me right in the right shoulder, eliciting a loud "Ow! I'm out" as I shook off the sting of her souped up machine. She then proceeded to take out The Ghost as well, making her the M.V.P. of her team for that round. We headed back to the cars to wait for Shack-Fu to return so that we could start up another round.

Our second scenario was similar to the first, only this time Shack-Fu joined The Ghost and me in our sneaky movements. The Ghost and Shack-Fu hashed out our plan of action, and we set ourselves up to wait for the others; however, Shack-Fu did some quick scouting and realized they were circling around us, so a quick change of plan was called for as we then cut through the woods to try to head them off at the pass. Shack-Fu instructed me to hang back a bit and make sure they didn't flank us. Cookies got eliminated first, and then PigPen's tank ran out of gas. The decision was made to take a time out and let him go get a replacement.*** After gameplay resumed, The Ghost and Victor played their own game of cat and mouse while Shack-Fu stalked across the road to ambush PigPen; I, taking a bit of initiative, moved up closer to the path so that I could act as a diversion to keep PigPen's attention away from Shack-Fu. I didn't get a chance, however, as Shack-Fu got within range, lined up his shot, fired -- and quickly retreated back to our side of the path due to the fact that the paintball had exploded inside the barrel of his gun. Not long after he got back behind cover on our side of the path, we heard The Ghost call out that he was eliminated thanks to Victor. PigPen was casually firing on our position, and although most of the shots were breaking on the branches, we knew it wouldn’t be long before Victor moved in on us. Shack and I then had the following exchange:

Shack-Fu: Okay, Cap'n, on the count of three we rush Pigpen, all right?
Me: [nod in agreement, glad to be doing something]
Shack-Fu: Okay then. Ready --
Me: [splat!] I'm out!

Yes, instants before we were getting ready to rush him, PigPen managed to sneak a paintball through the trees and into my left shoulder, giving me a matching paintball wound to the one Cookie delivered earlier. After I gave Shack-Fu my gun to replace his malfunctioning one, I headed back to the cars, pausing long enough to holler back "Hey, PigPen?"


"Mega. Loathe."

His laughter followed me back to the cars, until it was drowned out by what I can only assume was the sound of Shack-Fu's suicide run battle cry. Despite the impressive noise he made, Shack-Fu was quickly eliminated.

After regrouping at the cars, we decided to engage in one more scenario. Shack-Fu suggested that the scenario take place around an old junked up car that was in a section PigPen, Cookies, and myself hadn't been before, and so we struck out behind him, past Sherwood Forest, past the area where my horrible first game of paintball occurred, past endless tracts of muddy ground and slippery slopes and water-logged paths, until I finally proclaimed "If I had known we were undergoing 'The Bataan Death March' scenario, I would have stayed back at the cars." The real problem on this extended nature hike stemmed from the fact that neither Cookies nor I were wearing appropriate foot wear for slogging through the mud, which resulted in many, many, many moments of slipping and sliding between us. Cookies had it a little worse than I did, almost falling into the splits at one point and often needing the assistance of PigPen or myself to make it up and down any of the numerous slopes we traversed -- still, she never actually fell on her butt and slid halfway down the slope, unlike some neurotic bloggers I could mention.

In my defense, I was trying to do this while carrying both my gun and hers, which affected my balance.

Plus, I'm a klutz.

Anyway, after what made the eternity of waiting in the first game seem like a nanosecond, we finally made it to the great area Shack-Fu was gung-ho on getting us to -- an area in a little valley which was at least ankle deep in water from all the rain. So, back the way we came, with what I suspect was just a tinge of mega-loathing directed in Shack-Fu's direction.**** We soon came to a fairly nice spot to set up a quick, straight-forward elimination game; Shack-Fu, Victor, and I would set up on one end of the field, PigPen, Cookies, and The Ghost would set up on the other, and when the go signal was given, we would try to pick the other team off. Shack-Fu and Victor bandied about ideas for strategy, with Victor taking the lead:

Victor: I think one guy could go here, one guy could go here and the other guy could go here.
Shack-Fu: Sounds good. [shouting to other team] Are you ready?
Me: Whoa, whoa, whoa! What's the plan?
Shack-Fu: Weren't you listening?
Me: Yeah; "one guy does this, one guy does that," but which guy is which?
Shack-Fu: Oh, yeah.

In the end, it didn't matter, as the strategy shifted, and we wound up just taking up a defensive position on the side of a hill while The Ghost and PigPen tried to advance on us. I did my best to keep The Ghost pinned down, but while trying to reposition myself I once again lost traction, slid down the hill, and was unable to extricate myself before he swung around and popped me in the facemask. The Ghost got Shack-Fu (whose gun had malfunctioned yet again), and PigPen picked off Victor; Cookies, meanwhile, was back at her team's home base, with no idea that her side had emerged victorious yet again.

We trudged back to the cars on a more direct route than before, and most of us headed off to get something to eat; it was on the way to the restaurant that PigPen exclaimed "Hey, I just realized: I didn't get shot today!"

Mega. Loathe.

*Cap’n Cluck’s reaction upon hearing our plan: “Y’all are stupid.”
**Whether this feeling was justified or self-delusion, I will leave up to the audience.
***In retrospect we should have just charged him right then
****After reading the One Crazy Night post, Shack-Fu had expressed some surprise at how positive it painted him; don't think that will be a problem here. . .



While playing racquetball with PigPen*, I often find cause to compliment him on an exceptionally well-executed play in my traditional way: calling him names and expressing my desire that some horrible fate might strike him down.

You know, the usual.

However, a few days ago, following a particularly well-placed shot that afforded me no chance of a return, I co-opted a phrase coined by Dr. Cox on last week's episode of Scrubs, declaring "I mega-loathe you." This very quickly took seed in our personal lexicons, so that any time one of us makes a particularly good (or lucky) shot, the other just shakes his head and mutters "Mega-loathe."

I, of course, wind up using the phrase a lot more than PigPen**

Unfortunately, this has now inspired PigPen to create a new game: the "How many times can I generate mega-loathing in Todd before he finally snaps?" game*** Yes, now most of the time I'm hanging out with PigPen looks like this:

  1. I leave myself open for an insult/slam
  2. PigPen obligingly makes the insult/slam
  3. PigPen looks at me with an expectant grin, waiting for the call
  4. (a) I decline to mega-loathe him at that juncture, which results in a crestfallen PigPen
    (b) I unleash my mega-loathing , which results in a gloating PigPen****
Now, normally I would just wait it out until something shiny comes by and catches his attention, but I'm afraid the Mega-Loathing Game has captured his focus like nothing short of video games and paintball has, and so I'm in for the long-haul on this one.

You better watch out, G'ovich; it looks like PigPen is gunning for the "Most Eeeeeeeeevil Roomie Ever” Award.

*At the time of this writing, my W-L ratio is approx. 1-12, give or take a few losses
** Did I mention that I've only managed to win one game?
***PigPen claims that when he scores a hit, he can feel the "Todd look" burning into his skull -- sadly, he has yet to burst into flames as a result, but here's hoping.
****This naturally increases the mega-loathing even more


Tuesday, January 16, 2007

One Crazy Night Pt. 2: The Hyper-Quadruplets

When last we left our intrepid quartet, they had missed out on the early showing of Night at the Museum in order for Shack-Fu to rescue a damsel in distress.
Following our brief brush with danger, the four of us decided we would while away our time at On the Border until the late showing of the film, a decision that was probably regretted by pretty much the majority of the people who chose to dine there that night. Know how I talked about PigPen and Shack-Fu feeding off of each other's energy? Well, apparently when you add Peanut, myself, and the after-effects of adrenaline rushes, then that energy spreads and multiplies exponentially within the group.

It was a beautiful and frightening thing.

As soon as our waitress reached the table, my more gregarious tablemates began chatting her up, which somehow lead to Shack-Fu commenting on the large number of straws she was carrying at her side. She confessed that they were actually straws she had stolen from a neighboring restaurant, since On the Border doesn't order pre-wrapped straws, but instead has a box filled with naked straws they place in the drinks before bringing them out; she pilfered the wrapped straws because she hated carrying out unwrapped straws in her hands if the customers wanted extras.

"But, don't you have to touch them to put them in the drinks back there anyway?" PigPen inquired, to which she said yes, but since they don't see it they don't think about it. This sent our group on a rant about from now on when we ate there we would refuse to drink from pre-placed straws, instead asking for them to bring out the box for us to select our own, or possibly just wandering into the back to do it ourselves. When we finally got done giving her a hard time long enough to order, PigPen and Peanut both ordered margaritas.* Shack-Fu, still in his military togs, told her "Since I'm in uniform, I won't be drinking any alcohol -- of course, I don't drink alcohol anyway." Somehow, Peanut misheard Shack-Fu's statement and asked "Wait, did you just say, 'Since I'm beautiful'?" Our waitress jumped in: "Oh, yeah, he just said that beautiful people don't drink," a comment which elicited great cries of consternation from our margarita-ordering pals, who gave her a hard time the rest of the evening about calling them ugly.

This kind of set the tone for the rest of the evening.

I've been struggling with the best way to convey our experience effectively; in many ways it was your quintessential "you just had to be there" evening, where things that probably weren't all that funny were suddenly magnified into the most hilarious things we'd ever heard due to our general mind-set. In fact, I can guarantee that most of you blog monkeys won't get even a fraction of the amusement reading about these as we did experiencing them. Still, I have to record these for posterity, I suppose. Some of the more memorable moments of madcap merriment include:

  • I got caught in another of those "You don't know what movie that's from? I thought you knew everything about movies!" discussions that I love so much. PigPen used this as an opportunity to tell the other two about how surprised he had been that I had never seen Robin Hood: Men in Tights, although his message was muddled a bit by his decision to only reference the sub-title, thus making him utter the phrase "I showed Todd men in tights," a phrase which puzzled Shack-Fu, who had visions of PigPen making me look at pictures of men in tights, which then transformed into visions of high-school grappler PigPen in an orange wrestling outfit, an image which would pop into Shack-Fu's head periodically throughout the rest of the evening to the amusement and horror of all.

  • Discussion of the wreck prompted Peanut to relate a story about how he once drove his car into a ditch and had to be rescued by an incredibly hot woman in a pick-up. While helping him out, she happened to mention where she worked; Peanut thought about trying to contact her there, but never followed through. Shack-Fu suggested that Peanut had missed a perfect opportunity to grab her attention by sending her, not flowers, but a Tonka truck, an idea that sparked another of those HyperTwin moments where Shack-Fu and PigPen brains synch up, as PigPen cried out that he could have hooked a toy car to it too, and they then rattled off several suggestions for what he could have written on the card: "Hooked on you," "Chains of love," etc.

  • [anecdote deleted concurrent with Section IV Article 9 Subsection 3 Paragraph 14d of the Guy Code, better known as the “What Happens at On the Border, Stays at On the Border” clause]

  • PigPen was telling Shack-Fu about the origin of the Elmer Fudd nickname, ending the story with "And after I said 'Okay, Elmer Fudd,' he just gave me the 'Todd look**'." PigPen then fixed his face into a scowl, prompting Shack-Fu to exclaim "Ooo, yeah, I think I've got that down too!" before making his own attempt. So, yeah, they're doing mocking impressions of me now. Awesome.

  • When PigPen was contemplating a second margarita, Shack-Fu whispered to the waitress that she should just bring out some lemonade instead; she responded that sometimes they have to do that with her grandmother, which struck me as freaking hilarious at the time, sending me into paroxysms of wheezing laughter, while Shack-Fu kept elbowing me saying “It’s not funny,” but it was too late; I had been consumed with mindless laughter, and there was no return.

  • Every time the staff members would walk by our table (we were seated close to the kitchen) whooping and hollering for a birthday celebration, we would join in.*** At one point, a pretty large group engaged us in a minor birthday noisemaking battle; they may have had numbers on their side, but we were fueled by near-psychotic levels of hilarity. This led to a joking discussion by Shack-Fu about whose birthday we should say it was. Well, partially joking, for as soon as Shack-Fu went to the rest room, PigPen grabbed a waitress and told her "Hey, the guy who just left? It's his birthday today. His name is Shack-Fu, and he's 25." So, a few minutes after Shack-Fu returned to the table, the staff members came streaming out of the kitchen in full birthday mode, and we all joined in again; it took Shack-Fu a second to realize that instead of marching on past, the parade had stopped and encircled our table. How I wish we'd had a video-camera to capture the gradual realization settle on his face. But the best part was when our waitress (who definitely earned her tip that night) announced "Attention everybody! Tonight we have Shack-Fu here, and he's celebrating his twelfth birthday!"

  • I honestly can't remember what I was trying to do or say when it happened; all I know is that I knocked over my glass of Coke, and am now doomed to be mocked for it until the end of time.

  • As we finally left the restaurant, we passed by the group which had engaged us in noisy birthday battle; several of them waved, said goodbye, and the like. One of them was giving us the "Rock on!" hand signal, so Shack-Fu decided to respond with a peace sign -- only instead of holding up two fingers, he held up three. Realizing his error, he then tried to oh-so-suavely cover it up by morphing it into other signs, so I shoved him towards the door before he accidentally flashed a rival gang sign and got us all shot.

Again, that hardly does our time there justice, and I know there’s tons of stuff I’ve left out; maybe if you picture lots of people sitting at the surrounding tables giving us the “Are they all wasted or something?” looks, it will help set the scene better.

Surprisingly enough, when we finally did make it to the movie theater, we somehow managed not to cause a huge disturbance and get kicked out; I think we were all starting to crash a bit by that point. Sure, there was some tomfoolery going in (tormenting the cashiers at the ticket booth) and coming out (much tripping, pushing, and general testosterone fueled horseplay), but for the most part we were good little boys while the movie was playing.

After we got back home, I grabbed my notebook to make notes about the evening for the blog, while PigPen immediately went to work on his own (much less over-blown) account of the night’s adventures.

What started out as simple trip to the movies wound up being a night filled with danger, excitement, inside jokes, manic laughter, and enough ammunition on each other to choke a camel.

All in all, a good night.

*Thus dispelling the myth that Baptists only drink when there are no other Baptists around
**Pretty sure I got that look on my face as soon as he said that.
***Well, except for the first time they moved away from us instead of by us, when Peanut went "Woooooooo!" and the rest of us didn't -- think he called us a few choice names then.


Sunday, January 14, 2007

One Crazy Night, Pt.1: Shack-Fu to the Rescue!

The past few days have been shaping up into quite a Hanging Out With the Guys weekend, with anecdotes and inside jokes accumulating at an alarming rate, some of which I'll explore in a later post. However, nothing that happened Friday night or Saturday afternoon can compare with the adventure of going to see Night at the Museum.

"Adventure?" you may ask, confused at how a trip to see what is nominally a family-friendly movie could lead to adventure. Well, let just me say that any outing can become an adventure when you're riding with Shack-Fu during inclement weather.

But I'm getting ahead of myself.

It all started Saturday afternoon, after Peanut had dropped by our place to hang out. We had gone out to eat, and had headed back home in order to figure out how we should spend the rest of our evening. We soon got a phone call from Shack-Fu (who was returning from drill) inquiring into our plans for the night. It was soon decided that Count Shackula would stop by our place after he got to town, and we would then head to the 6:55 showing of NatM over at the Carmike Cinemark. The Anti-Cap'n got home from work shortly before Shack-Fu arrived, and was a bit nonplussed to discover that we were going out to see a movie he had already seen. I refused to give in to the guilt-trip, countering with the fact that none of us had seen it yet; he replied "Whose fault is that?" We replied "Well, yours, since you obviously didn't invite any of us when you went to see it." Conversations of this type continued until I finally started shoving the gang out the door since we were going to be cutting it pretty close, time-wise. So, Peanut, PigPen, Shack-Fu (still in uniform from drill) and I headed out while The A.C stayed at home, playing Gauntlet: Seven Sorrows on the X-Box, thus insuring that he would stay safe, warm, and out of harm's way, something which I was about to envy him. Since I didn't relish trying to clamber into the back of Peanut's truck yet again -- curse PigPen and your speedy calling of the shotgun seat! -- I opted to ride to the theater with Shack-Fu.

More fool I.

Now, the forecast had called for pretty much non-stop freezing rain all weekend, but that really hadn't been the case in Denton, so we didn't think much about heading out on the roads. Peanut took the lead, with Shack-Fu right behind. We had barely made any distance on I-35S when Shack-Fu noticed a pair of headlights spinning around on I-35N. It was an SUV which had hit a patch of black ice, sending it into a 360 which launched it off of the highway divider. This was followed by several other cars losing control trying to avoid the first incident. Shack-Fu, being a military man, FEMA worker, volunteer fire-fighter, and all-around gung-ho good guy, asked me to dial 911 while he took the first available exit and swung around onto I-35N to see if we* could help out in any way. It was around this time that I first began to fear for my life, as Shack-Fu drove aggressively towards the scene of the accident, while I witnessed a truck pulling a trailer nearly wipe out less than half a mile ahead of us.

Shack-Fu's plan had been to pull in behind the first crashed car we came to -- the SUV which had first snagged our attention took off while we were still with the first wreck -- but the road conditions worked against him, causing us to slide past it. He pulled over to the side, hopped out, and instructed me to get in the drivers seat and keep my ears open for any sign that I need to get the heck out of there. My adrenaline was pumping like crazy just sitting there inside the vehicle, praying that nobody else would spin out of control and ram into me; I can't imagine how Shack-Fu and the unfortunate driver's hearts must have been pounding standing out there in the open. The driver, a recent transfer to UNT, had smelled gasoline after the wreck and so had gotten out of the car; unfortunately, this placed her in the danger zone for any other out of control motorists. Shack-Fu (who had put on his firefighter gear as he was giving me instructions) was heading toward the shaken-up driver when he saw a semi almost jackknife when the driver saw the wreck. It was at that moment that he threw his previous strategy out the window and focused on one thing: getting thimself and the girl out of there ASAP. She, meanwhile, was in the middle of her own call to 911 when she saw Shack-Fu approaching; so excited about the arrival of help, she hung up on them, and probably would have dived into Shack-Fu's arms if her car hadn't been in the way. He got her away from the wreck and into the passenger seat of his vehicle, took back the driver's seat**, and got us the heck out of there, taking the first exit and then backing up onto the grass between the highway and the service road to wait for the authorities.

I stayed in the car with the driver while Shack-Fu headed back up towards the highway to keep an eye on things. She was making calls to friends and family, and it was during this time I discovered two pieces of information: (1) she had just moved to Denton recently and wasn't very familiar with the area, which explains why (2) she kept telling people she crashed on the way to Lewisville, which was in the exact opposite direction -- she had been on her way to church, but had gotten turned around and accidentally headed north instead of south. Seldom has such a minor mistake in directions resulted in such major damage.

It wasn't too long before a cop showed up to take her statement, at which point it dawned on me that I should probably call PigPen and Peanut (who by that point were sitting at the theater parking lot wondering what had happened to us) and let them know what the heck was going on. After I got them caught up on the situation, they decided to head back our way and find us; PigPen called me while they were on the way to find out exactly where we were parked -- or at least that's how the conversation started, before his side of it devolved into a series of expletives (or, more accurately, the same expletive repeated multiple times) as Peanut's truck hit its own personal patch of black ice and fishtailed. Luckily, Peanut was able to keep it under control, but not before giving all of us another nice shot of adrenaline.

Eventually the two of them joined up with us and helped keep the still shaky driver company while waiting on someone to come pick her up. After a carload*** of her friends showed up to take charge of her, she shook hands with Peanut, PigPen, and myself, and gave Shack-Fu a great big hug.

Gotta be the uniform****

Following our mad dash to the rescue, Shack-Fu's gas gauge was suddenly almost on E, so we went to the RaceTrac on University and filled up while deciding what to do next, since by that time it was about 7:40. We decided to head on to the Carmike Cinemark and check out the times for the later shows. Shack-Fu and I got there first, so I volunteered to run up and see the showtimes. When I got back, Peanut and PigPen were parked next to Shack-Fu, and I announced that all of the movies had already started, and that nothing started up again until about 9:30. PigPen replied "Uh, yeah, we know" and then pointed at the row of movie posters adorning the side of the building right next to where we were, with showtimes prominently displayed above each one.

If only that were the most embarrassing thing I did that evening.

But no, there would still be plenty of time for embarrassment left, because the evening wasn't over yet. The adventure portion may have just been completed, but the insanity was just beginning.

*And by we, I mean he, since I would have been more useless than PigPen in a round of The Quiet Game
**My idea, not his; figured our passenger had had enough trauma for one night without throwing my driving into the mix
***Seriously, there were probably about 7 or 8 people streaming out, making us fear for a second that we were about to have a rumble
****I suppose the whole "saving her life" thing might have had something to do with it . . .


Friday, January 12, 2007

That'll Do, Pigpen, That'll Do

Last night, following a perfectly innocent exchange in which I became a bit tongue-tied, PigPen not only declared that I had a new nickname*, but went on to post a blog about it.**

The nerve of some people, just airing their private, personal conversations with the whole world. I mean, would I ever post a humiliating story about my friends? Would I ever go out of my way to mock them or abuse them or call them names? Would I assign potentially embarassing nicknames to my good friends?

I just don't know how anyone puts up with that sort of stuff.

*I'm not looking forward to the moment when he realizes he pegged me with the wrong Looney Toon name, since the one with the appropriate speech impediment is a much less flattering nick. But, I won't tell if you won't***
**He kept muttering something about "turnabout" and "fair play" and "see how you like it," but who knows what that's all about.
***You're going to tell, aren't you?


Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Random Roomie-Related Ramblings

  • On January 2, PigPen started a new job. The upside of this is that the new job is actually in Denton with regular M-F, 8-5 hours, meaning that he's around quite a bit more. Of course, the downside is that he's around quite a bit more . . . Actually, the biggest problem with his new schedule has to do with getting ready in the mornings, since now all three of the Boys of Benjiman Street are trying to get ready at around the same time each day, with a limited amount of hot water to go between us. PigPen, being the sole user of the master bath downstairs, is lucky, insofar as that term "master" really applies; when PigPen has hot water, everyone else must suffer, as I learned to my dismay early last week. So now, I've been having to time my morning ablutions so that I can hop in the shower after The Anti-Cap'n is done, but before PigPen rouses from his slumber, which occasionally leaves PigPen with the short end of the stick, hot shower wise.

  • Last week I was heading home from the gym when PigPen gives me a call, wanting to see if I'll stop by the store and pick up some groceries, including milk. I say sure, and then proceed to have the following exchange:

    Me: So, what do you prefer? Half, whole, what?
    PigPen: [indignant] What did you just say?
    Me: What kind of milk? Half, whole, wh--
    PigPen: Ohhhhhhhhh, "half, whole" -- I thought you called me an [expletive deleted]*

    And thus, a new faux expletive has been added to the repertoire, next to "fudge ripple" and "mother-father-Chinese-dentist": "half-whole."

  • Yes, PigPen and I played racquetball on Monday. No, I didn't win. But, neither did I totally humiliate myself, which I'm sure will come as a surprise to all of those who giggled like Shack-Fu losing his man-card when they asked if they could come watch. If only I could say the same about our game on Tuesday, when PigPen demonstrated his ability to pick up on the mechanics of gameplay quickly, and I demonstrated my ability to self-destruct.

  • You may be asking yourself "Why all the PigPen folderol but little news of The Anti-Cap'n?" Well, while PigPen's new schedule has increased the amount of time he's around the house, The A.C.'s new work schedule has had the opposite effect, so I just don't wind up having much interaction with him these days. Plus, PigPen's HyperTwin powers do lend themselves much more to blog-worthy incidents.

*Even though you all know what it was, you gutter minded blog monkeys you


TV Tues - Only Two Weeks Until New Eps of Heroes and Studio 60!

Following a month or two of holiday-inspired drought in TV land, new episodes and new shows are finally starting to appear. I haven't had a chance to watch any of the new shows from the past couple of days, unfortunately, but there are a few things from last week that I felt needed some commentary.

The O.C. (Fox Thursday 8:00): It's sort of sad that the show has been axed now that it's in the middle of its strongest season since the first, but at least they've been given enough of a heads up that they'll be able to wrap the series up with no cliffhangers or dangling plots.

My Name is Earl (NBC Thursday 7:00): Always love the glimpses into Earl's criminal past, and this Cops-themed ep was no exception. Lots of great call backs to earlier episodes throughout, and Randy's inability to sing the right words to "Bad Boys" was a nice touch.

The Office (NBC Thursday 7:30): While this last week's episode was great as usual -- Dwight trying to comfort Pam was awesome -- it just couldn't compare to the hilarious Christmas episode from a few weeks back; the scene where Michael marked his "girlfriend"s arm with a marker so he could tell her apart from her friend had me cackling at the top of my lungs for several minutes . . . it was probably a good thing that neither of my roomies was home at the time. By far the best sitcom on TV right now.

Scrubs (NBC Thursday 8:00): The House send-up didn't quite live up to its promise, and yet this was still one of the stronger episodes of the season for me. Why? Because they managed to keep most of the truly bizarre stuff confined to J.D.'s imagination, instead of allowing it to bleed into their "reality." A little bizarre is good; Turk making Carla wait on a marching band when she goes into labor, not so good.

30 Rock (NBC Thursday 8:30): Still amazed at how much I'm loving this show, especially considering how much they're still underusing poor Jane Krakowski. But any scene with Alec Baldwin and Kenneth the page interacting is guaranteed to be comedy gold.


The Apprentice (NBC Sundays 8:00): Initial thoughts as I watched the first few minutes of the season premiere were (1) they totally sampled that sound of Trump's baby cooing from that old Aaliyah song "Are You That Somebody" and (2) holy crap, when did Trump mary Julie Cooper from The O.C.? Making the contestants put up the tent that would turn out to be the home of the losers each week was a nice touch, made even better by the fact that they were all working on it in their very nice business outfits; I think the female contestant who was hammering in the tent stakes with her high heel shoe deserves bonus points. Although Martin wass scoring high on my "kick this guy off before he annoys me to death" scale (if he had quoted one more "old" African/Nigerian/Whateverian saying, I might have snapped), I have to say that Frank was a much bigger detriment to his team on this task. But, I don't have to deal with Martin anymore, so that's a bonus.

The Knights of Prosperity (ABC Wednesdays 8:00): New sitcom about a group of losers who decide the best way to achieve their dreams is to rob Mick Jagger. Some laugh-out-loud moments, most of which came by way of big-man Rockefeller. I can see that there's the possibility of intensly uncomfortable moments for me (Donal Logue's attempt to pass himself off as a British doorman had me squirming), but as of right now, this one has earned itself a tentative spot on my viewing schedule.

In Case of Emergency (ABC Wednesdays 8:30): New sitcom about a group of losers (hey, I think there's a theme, here) from the same graduating class who find that when their lives go down the tubes, they have only each other to turn to. The first episode was much better than I had expected, considering the horrible reviews it got from just about every TV critic imaginable, so we'll have to see if later episodes demonstrate more reason for the rampant hatred.


Monday, January 08, 2007

Behold! Comedy Gold!

Hey, remember when I promised to vigilantly hunt down clips from the horrible Wicker Man remake, so you could all enjoy the uninentional comedy gold they represented? Well, the search has born fruit.

Thank you, YouTube, thank you kindly.


Movie Mon. - A Weak Week

The Covenant: Lightweight, but entertaining, supernatural film that basically answers the question "What if we redid The Craft, only with guys this time?" This one is pretty much the definition of "glossy" with its nice looking cast, nice looking sets, and nice looking effects; the definition of "deep," however, it most assuredly was not. Which is too bad, because it felt like there was a lot of potential to be mined -- maybe it showed up in the comic book. Probably worth a rental for fans of the fantastical, although the ending is pretty weak.

Snakes on a Plane: The long-awaited thriller whose title says exactly what it is: an over-the-top, suspend-your-disbelief cheese-fest. Or, so its legion of pre-release fans wanted to believe. The actual result? Not so much. Oh, sure, there's cheese aplenty here, and my disbelief had to be suspended many a time. As for the over-the-top factor, well, they had me at "snakes biting people on their naughty bits." And yet, somehow, I left wanting something more. Could I even come close to defining for you what that something could be? Nope, not a bit. As far as cheesy fun goes, not a bad way to while away the time, but it definitely suffered from the huge anticipatory build-up.

Factotum: Incredibly depressing film about a pathologically self-destructive, alcoholic would-be writer and his endless succession of mishandled relationship and sabotaged jobs. Yes, there were moments of comedy here and there at the different ways the protagonist would find to shoot himself in the foot, but it didn't take long for it to wear on me; the ceaseless failures slowed the film to a glacial crawl for me. Despite some great performances, not one I would recommend to anyone.

Beer League: And speaking of not being able to recommend . . . a not very comedic comedy about a group of losers whose antics have forced them to either shape up their act and win the big softball tournament or get permanently kicked out of the league. Sadly, the bulk of the truly funny moments didn't come along until the last 15-20 minutes of the film. The rest of the movie was filled with broadly telegraphed gags delivered with less than impeccable timing. The fact that it actually had some laugh out loud moments saves it from being ranked as the worst movie I saw this week, but I can't honestly say it's worth anybody's time.


Sunday, January 07, 2007

Now, Why Do I Keep Hearing GOB Bluth Saying "I've Made a Huge Mistake" Over and Over in My Head . . .

Tomorrow evening after work, I’m going to play racquetball with PigPen; as I type that, I can immediately picture my Parkerite pals shaking their heads in sympathy for poor PigPen, who obviously has no idea what he's getting into. After all, very few people outside of the Parkerites have been privileged enough to witness the horror that is Cap’n N. playing competitive sports. The situation puts me in mind of the exchange between my dad and myself after her read my account of my first paintball game and its resultant crippling frustration. Dad sent me an ICQ apologizing for inflicting upon me the Enoch gene for over-competitiveness; I responded that my original draft of that post had included the line "I am indeed my father's son," but that I had cut it for space considerations.

Being overly competitive can be bad at the best of times; being overly competitive at something you're not very good at, however, is even worse. Which, of course, brings us back to my competing in athletic activities.

A large part of my problem stems from the fact that, in most things, I'm a pretty quick study – just ask pretty much any teacher or supervisor I’ve ever had. Unfortunately, agility, coordination, and a basic grasp of game strategy are not included in that broad umbrella of “most things.” Of course, it doesn't help that I never seriously applied myself to any athletic undertaking until my collegiate years, at which point I was trying to overcome 18 years worth of couch-potatodom, which meant that things which were second nature to everyone else were huge obstacles for me, resulting in much inwardly focused anger and frustration at not being able to pick up the mechanics of shooting baskets or hitting a volleyball as quickly as I could absorb the rudiments of classwork. I eventually got to the point where I could partake of certain activities with certain individuals without succumbing to the darker side of my nature, but as my mini-breakdown following paintball shows, you don't have to dig far beneath the surface for it to come bubbling up.

Keeping that in mind, let's consider the upcoming match-up, shall we? In this corner, you have an extremely out of shape, non-athletic geek with a tendency for self-fulfilling negative prophecies who hasn't played a game of racquetball in almost 10 years, meaning what little skill may have been accrued has probably withered up and blown away, unlike his midsection, which has ballooned up and stayed put. In the other corner we have a hyperactive, energetic whippersnapper who has been active in athletic activities since before he could crawl and who demonstrates the innate understanding of the mechanics of physicality that brands him as one of that insufferable lot known as "natural athletes." That doesn't sound lop-sided at all, now does it?

A brief aside to demonstrate a key difference between the likes of PigPen and myself. While watching PigPen play softball and paintball, I've been impressed with his willingness to throw his whole body into the activity -- a trait shared by former roomies G'ovich and Flunky -- diving through the air to snag a ball or make the kill shot. I, on the other hand, am pretty sure I've never dived for anything in my life; if you think you've seen me do so, then you were probably just seeing the end result of me tripping over my own feet.

It's not that I don't want to dive after things; I do, I really do. It's just that, so far, my brain has been unable to convince my body that sacrificing itself for the sake of a game is a good idea. There's a mental block at play, and until I can unlock that willingness to go for broke, then I'm constantly going to have to suffer the reactions that I heard far too many times this morning at church when I foolishly mentioned my plans for tomorow.

"Wait, you're going to play racquetball with PigPen? [intense giggling] Can I come watch? [even more intense giggling] Oooo, can you video-tape it? [giggling transforms into guffaws]."

Yup, I got a real ego-boost from my dear, dear church friends this morning, I tell you what.

So, knowing all of this, why have I agreed to play racquetball with someone who, according to everyone and their dog, is guaranteed to mop the floor with me? Well, there are a few reasons. First of all, it's good exercise; even if most of the action consists of me vainly running after a ball, only to bat at the air where it had been moments earlier, at least I'll be running. Secondly, I have very fond memories of the semester when my friend J.D. and I played three times a week; it was quite possibly the first time I was ever able to just enjoy playing a sport without worrying about winning or losing, so nostalgia's in play. Thirdly, the fact that I played quite a bit in the past means that I have at least some modicum of skill; now, if it were baseball, golf, or any of the other thousands of sports I have no knack for at all, it would be a different story. Fourthly, Pigpen was the first person I mentioned the possibility of playing racquetball to who didn't just say "Oh, we need to play sometime" but instead put forth a solid commitment for a particular day and time; I've learned over the years that you can't let firm commitments slip you by, because they don't usually come around again. And, finally, there's the fact that I'm obviously a masochistic glutton for punishment. Obviously.

Now, after all this buildup, I caution you not to be expecting a detailed write up of the experience. Odds are good that my defeat will be so embarrassing that I won't want to relive it. And, in the highly unlikely event that I do end up winning, I won't want to gloat too much, lest Pigpen redouble his efforts to thoroughly squash me like a bug.

All that being said, I'm going to try to approach the game with a spirit of just enjoying myself, no matter what, a feat which I do believe is within my capabilities these days.

Unless, of course, PigPen indulges in too much trash talking, in which case he will likely be forced to put his many years of high school wrestling experience to use in order to prevent me from feeding him his own racket.