Monday, June 30, 2008

Movie Mon. - Violence!

Funny Games (U.S.): American remake of the German film about two well-dressed, unceasingly polite psychotic youth who terrorize a well-off family, forcing them into a series of increasingly dangerous "games." An incredibly faithful remake, which is a bit surprising considering how dark the film's plot is, but the fact that both the original and the remake had the same director explains it. This is not necessarily an easy film to get through; even though pretty much all the violence is done off-screen, the tension of the actions leading up to the violence is enough to keep you squirming and uncomfortable throughout, all of which was the director's intention, as he sets the film up to be a commentary on our desire to observe violence, having one of the antagonists break the 4th wall repeatedly, making the viewer feel more complicit in his torturous acts. Not for everyone, and at least one of the 4th-wall-breaking moments will surely make the majority of movie goers yell "What the [insert expletive of choice] ?!?!?!?!", but for those of a dark and twisty bent*, this one would be well worth the time.

The Signal: Well done horror film about an unexplained signal that takes over all TV, radio, and phone services, driving anyone who listens to it for too long insane. The film is split up into three interconnected vignettes, following an adulterous wife trying to survive a world gone mad in the first; her cuckolded, borderline abusive, and signal-infected husband whose own brand of craziness causes him to keep mistaking other women for her in the second; and her semi-heroic lover who is struggling to overcome the signal infection and save her in the third. My favorite of the vignettes was the second one, which had a much more humorous tone -- dark, twisty, off-kilter gallows humor to be sure, but humor nonetheless. Out of the three films I watched this week, this was by far my favorite.

Wanted: Very loose adaptation of Mark Millar's comic book series of the same name; both the book and the film follow the adventures of Wesley Gibson, a virtual nobody office worker who suddenly gets pulled into the world of the organization filled with superhuman killers known only as The Fraternity after he's informed of the death of the father he never knew. The major difference between the two is that in the comics the Fraternity is a cabal of super-villains who have killed off all the super-heroes years before and now rule the world, while in the movie it is a group of super-assassins who believe they are serving as the hand of fate, killing one person to potentially save the lives of thousands. And as dark and violent as the film may seem, compared to the total amorality of the characters in the book, it's practically sunshine and lollipops. On the whole, I enjoyed the film; sure, the whole "curving bullets" thing violates tons of natural laws, and they don't really give any rational explanation as to how it can work, but instead just sort of hang a lampshade on it, but I just sort of ran with it because, let's be honest, being able to curve bullets is cool**. All in all, an entertaining big screen popcorn film with some cool effects, fun action sequences, and just enough plot to make you feel like you haven't totally wasted your time. Plus, it has a cameo by Chris Pratt as Wesley's so-called "best friend," and I gotta support anything that gives work to my favorite character from Everwood.

*Waves to Li'l Random and Miss ArkanSass
**As we were leaving the theater, PigPen overheard some guys saying "Dude, we have to go out to the shooting range tomorrow!" making us think that the amount of shooting injuries among the mentally feeble is just about to take a huge spike up.


Friday, June 27, 2008

Frazzled Friday - Over-Thinking

I, my dear, dear blog monkeys, am physically, mentally, and emotionally exhausted. For the past, oh, two weeks or so, my usual amount of over-analyzation, recursive introspection, mental compositions*, and other paranoid and and neurotic tendencies have been amped up by a factor of 15 or so. Why is that? Heck if I know. All I can tell you is that my brain has been going practically non-stop, sometimes focusing on good stuff, sometimes focusing on bad; it hasn't all been doom and gloom, surprisingly**, but neither has it all been sunshine and lollipops. Been a little bit of a roller coaster ride, and I don't know if the ups and downs are more exhausting than just continual downs, but either way, I am ready for a break.

I do think part of what has gotten me in ultra-contemplative mode is the fact that there are some changes coming up in the next few months that I'm not looking forward to, the end result of which is that there's a good possibility that by October my four closest friends will be removed from my regular life due to moves and deployments and life-changing career choices. Over the last couple of years I've come to rely on these guys for a lot, and the thought of not being able to just call up Shack-Fu to see if he wants to come over, or spontaneously pick a fight with PigPen when I'm feeling froggy, or not being able to hang out with Cap'n Peanut while he waits at our place for PigPen to get ready for their weekly hijinks, or not being able to leave Li'l Random a voicemail and see if I actually get to see him face to face before he gets around to returning my call . . . yeah, it's got me a bit discombobulated. I know that's not the only factor, mind you, but I think it's a pretty big one.

One of the problem with having my brain running ninety to nothing nearly non-stop is that it keeps me from sleeping effectively at night, which makes me sluggish and loopy the next day, which just allows the runaway mental processes more leeway in their never-ending rampage behind my eyes. The compulsion to carry these thoughts through to completion and the barrage of other thoughts that have swarmed up to take the place of the complete thoughts has left me too distracted to do much of anything requiring an attention span, including reading or watching movies/TV. I have managed to get the storm in my head to quiet down on occasion; when my parents were visiting I was fine as long as I was with them, but as soon as they headed back to their hotel, wham! Mental overdrive again. Probably the best cure for this so far has been my judo class; kind of hard to have all of the worries of the world swarming in your mind when you're trying your best not to get thrown on your head.

Quick semi-digression: last night I had to randori while the whole class (around 20 people) was watching, and yet somehow I managed not to be horribly self-conscious. In fact, as I was sparring with another white belt, I could see him getting incredibly frustrated at not being able to take me down, and he finally let it distract him enough that I was able to get the take-down on him -- quite possibly the first time in my life that during some sort of athletic competition I kept my cool and did what I needed to while the other person melted down. Gotta say, it was a good feeling, wouldn't mind feeling it more often.

The reason the above was only a semi-digression is that I think me being able to shed my self-conscious about performing in front of the group, being able to be aggressive and finish off my opponent, and even being willing to volunteer when they asked if anybody wanted to go again*** gave me enough of a mental boost to escape the more negative tendencies of my hyper-driven mind, and I was actually able to use some of the relaxation techniques PigPen showed me many moons ago to clear my mind and go to sleep last night.****

With luck, I can now get my brain to drop back down into it's normal amount of paranoia, composition and neurotic over-analysis; much more of this and my brain will be well and truly fried.

*By that I mean composing emails and hypothetical future conversations and the like . . . there's a reason this is my 5th full blog post of the week
**Cap'n Peanut even commented that my rambling missive to him early last week was surprisingly lacking in the self-loathing department
*** Didn't do quite as well the second time, but I was going against the higher belt I usually train with, so he knows all my tricks . . . all two of them.
****Twas not the first night I'd tried the techniques this week, just the first time I got them to work.


Thursday, June 26, 2008

Thinking-Back Thursday - There's a Reason I Switched My Major to English . . .

I've often heard that smell is the most powerful trigger for memory, and there have been a few times in my life when a certain odor will transport my mind to an earlier time, like how the smell of damp hay and horses at the State Fair took me back to my childhood playing on my Papaw's farm. Well, today while I was on the main campus for a meeting I encountered a scent that took me back to my very first job, a far less pleasant mental journey.

I got my first job right after I graduated high school; up until then mom and dad had told me that doing well in school was my job. But since I was done with that, and already accepted at OSU, they encouraged me to take a job offered by a friend of the family working at his place of employment, a chemical plant. You see, at the time, young and foolish Cap'n Neurotic was actually considering going into Chemistry or Chemical Engineering as his major, and this chemical plant would hire aspiring scientists and put them to work doing grunt work.

My time there was split between the R&D department and the Quality Control department. I much preferred my time over in R&D, both in terms of job duties and co-workers. For in R&D there were just a couple of really nice, soft-spoken people, while Quality Control was run by a crass, gutter-mouthed individual, and his demeanor sort of led the way for the rest of the guys there. From the very beginning the head of QC didn't like me, for one glaringly obvious reason: I was not Rigo.

Rigo, you see, was my predecessor in the position, and in the eyes of Mr. QC, Rigo could Do No Wrong. So, every time I would make a mistake, I would be compared to Rigo, and chastised for not paying better attention to the training Rigo gave me before he left. Of course, what Mr. QC failed to realize was that the bulk of the "training" I got from Rigo came in the form of advice on the best places to go take a nap where you wouldn't get caught. But, Rigo was a guy's guy, willing and able to jump into conversations about sports, beer, and sex, and so he was The Golden Boy and anytime I tried to convince Mr. QC that my lack of knowledge was more Rigo's fault than my own, I was treated like a lying incompetent trying to cover his own butt. So, yeah, I preferred the company at R&D, who largely left me alone to do my job.

And what exactly was my job, you ask? Well, I had a few essential job duties which I performed at both labs, and one which was specific to QC. The QC specific task was what they called "Chemical Retains." In a nutshell, the process was this: I would be provided a container filled with lots of granular pieces of chemical by-product left over from whatever it was the company did* and would have to spoon out a specific amount from the large container and into smaller plastic bottles. I would then squirt in a burst of some preservative gas, slap on the lid, tape it shut, write an identification number on the side in marker, toss it in a big drum, and then repeat the process -- all of this accomplished in a tiny, poorly ventilated and stifling hot closet while wearing a gas mask to keep me from inhaling too much of the byproduct. Oh, and about, I dunno, three, four weeks in, I found out that Rigo had neglected to inform me that for every 5th bottle or so I was supposed to remove a small portion and place it into another bottle, which they referred to as a "black lot"; since I hadn't been doing this at all I had to go and open up the sealed drums with my completed work and dig through them to find the appropriately numbered batches to draw samples from.

Yeah, I hated doing retains.

I was also expected to do some basic cleaning and upkeep at both facilities. The bulk of this involved washing out the lab equipment like beakers, test tubes, cylinders, etc., sometimes with regular soap and water, and sometimes with acetone, which invariably gave me a headache. I also was supposed to clean the bathrooms, take out the trash, sweep the floors, and mow the lawns. It was this last task that gave me one of the more embarrassing moments in my life. One day I was mowing the lawn in front of the QC building, and was making a pass right by a rickety old table covered in old rusted parts near the entrance when I heard something clank to the ground. Looking down, I saw an old rusted piece of metal; figuring it had been vibrated off the table as I went by, I bent down to pick it up and place it back on the table so it wouldn't get in my way on my next pass by. I'm not sure how long after I picked it up that it took me to realize that the rusted piece of metal was actually searing my skin, but it couldn't have been too long before I dropped the scalding hot piece of machinery and headed inside to inform the QC guys that I had somehow injured myself. Turns out, it wasn't a rusted piece of machinery from off of the table, but was instead the rusted-up muffler from the lawn mower which had chosen the most inopportune time to fall off. The burn wasn't too bad, and I got to go back to washing lab equipment after a couple of days. Not one of my prouder moments, but hey, I got a free tetanus shot out of the deal!

Another of my least favorite jobs was connected to the washing of the equipment. You see, when I cleaned stuff with acetone, I had to do it over a special receptacle to contain the acetone and the waste it would remove. And, once the receptacle was filled with what resembled nothing so much as the Hollywood version of toxic waste, I would have to cart it out to some big metal drums outside, pry open a hole in the lid, and pour the waste in, all the while trying not to gag at the incredibly noxious fumes that would pour out.

And it was this very smell that triggered my memory yesterday as I entered the second floor bathroom of the main library; I have no idea what happened in that restroom, nor do I want to know -- think I'll have nightmares enough as it is.

All in all, while the chemical factory job was far from my favorite job, I don't know if I'd go so far as to say it was my most hated job either. Sure, I was stuck doing grunt work, surrounded by people who couldn't stand me and considered me a shiftless layabout, and I was constantly struggling not to lose my lunch from the noxious chemicals I was exposed to, but at least I never get yelled at by an irate widow because I was the umpteenth telemarketer to call and offer new long-distance service to her long-deceased husband. Now, that job nearly gave me an ulcer.

*Maybe the fact that I was never really curious enough to find out what the company's major products were should have been a clue that the exciting world of chemical science was not for me.


Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Wrestlemaniac Wednesday - Brothers Don't Hit, Brothers Hug!

I managed to complete a Judo throw during randori (sparring) for the first time last night, which was a pretty big thing for me; even better, it wasn't just a regular throw. I went in for o-soto-gari (the most basic throw), and my sparring partner blocked it and sort of trapped my leg; instead of panicking and trying to free myself, or beating myself up for not being able to catch him with my first throw, I actually remembered a move they showed us last week, pivoted on my free foot, and threw him. I wasn't able to catch him with any more standing throws the rest of the night, although I did manage to do something similar to wrestler's fireman's carry and toss him on his back later on. All in all, a pretty good night, which has inspired me to make this officially Wrestlemaniac Wednesday.

Sometime within the last couple of months, The Lovable PigPen decided to revive the time-honored tradition of testosterone-fueled males everywhere known as "two for flinching," a tradition which gives him endless delight because he gets to practice it on yours truly, one of the jumpiest fools on the face of the planet. Well, the other night while he and I were wrestling around he got me to flinch, doled out the request couple of punches, then got a strange look on his face and said "I saw you flinch too!" and punched me twice in the chest. I just stared at him as he started babbling about not talking back and how he was going to beat Tony Stark's ass; it was at that moment that I realized he was directing his comments towards the Iron Man t-shirt I was wearing . . . a t-shirt, might I add, that PigPen got me as a birthday present. Next thing I know, PigPen has tackled me and is raining blows down on the pictures on my shirt, calling out threats to Tony Stark the whole time. "I hate you Tony Stark! Hate you! Don't make kick your iron butt!" Things like that. I, meanwhile, am more ineffectual than usual at protecting myself because I'm laughing too danged hard at his antics. Sure, he may be a soulless ginger bastage hell-bent on destroying me, but he's a funny soulless ginger bastage hell-bent on destroying me, ya gotta give him that.

In addition to the good news about the FBI, Cap'n Shack-Fu also told me that he should be back in our area pretty soon which is cool, since I haven't had a chance to hang out with him for about a month and a half. Not telling how long he'll be around before they try to ship him off again. I'm sure I'll goad him into at least one sparring session before he heads off again, although with the amount of pent-up aggression he's probably developed over the last month and a half on deployment, I might be sorry. Then again, what else is new?

Now, while I've been able to goad The Lovable PigPen, Cap'n Peanut, and Cap'n Shack-Fu into full on wrestling matches, I have not yet managed to draw out the more violent tendencies of Li'l Random McEvil. Now, I know they're there; I've seen him dole out plenty of punishment to his friend B.B. But Li'l Brother informs me that he likes to keep his violent tendencies confined to just one particular individual, and sadly B.B. has apparently beaten me to the punch, so to speak. This of course does not deter me from trying to awaken the sleeping giant that is Li'l Random's violent side, but so far he has been able to resist responding in kind. Part of the fun of picking on Li'l Bro, though, is seeing which if a zillion random reactions will result; sometimes he'll just curl up into a semi-fetal position, other times he'll clutch onto something and holler "base, I'm on base!*" Occasionally he'll take the "gee, I think I just felt a gnat land on my arm, but I'm not sure, because it was as if I hardly felt a thing" approach, which is always delightful. Probably my favorite of the old stand-bys is his motto "Brothers don't hit, brothers hug!"; I maintain they do both. Monday night he pulled the "see, I would retaliate, but I would hate to embarrass you in public like that. That's how good a friend I am" gambit, which was new. Not so new is the fact that if PigPen is around when I'm picking on Li'l Random he transforms into The Ginger Avenger, coming to the "rescue" of "poor defenseless" Li'l Random**, a fact that somehow Li'l Random didn't clue into until I mentioned it recently; he then decided to test it out Sunday night, tattling on me to PigPen, who then came after me while I tried to use Li'l Tattletale as a shield.

*One time he declared a water bottle as base when Shack and I were ganging up on him; we weren't really sold on the validity of a mobile base, especially when he tried to convince us the next day that the bottle he had was the same one, even though it was a different brand and design. We did not fall for his tricksy ways.
**Apparently PigPen doesn't want any competition for the title of "Group Bully" . . .


Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Shack-Fu -- Phase II

Earlier today my best bud Cap'n Shack-Fu gave me a call while he was out running errands on his lunch break. We'd only been visiting for a few minutes when he got another call and asked if he could call me back in a few. After about 10 minutes or so I heard back from him; turns out the call was from the FBI, letting him know that he has been selected for one of the Phase II Testing slots at the end of July. What does that mean exactly? Well, if he passes the Phase II test, then he's pretty much a lock for employment as with the FBI pending the successful completion of a background check. In other words, he's one step closer to becoming Special Agent Shack-Fu.

Congratulations, Shack ol' buddy ol' pal; we're all proud of you, bro.


Orange Power vs. The Moody Blue Pt. 2 - Savor the Irony

Y'know, it's been a while since I've had a really, truly, neurosis-fueled rambling blog post . . . I think we're well overdue, don't you, my blog monkeys?

Not counting my parents, I currently have 4 individuals who get to regularly bear the brunt of my most neurotic ramblings, which I generally convey in the form of horrendously long emails which enable me to make sure I touch on every point I want to cover; however, 25% of these individuals (i.e. PigPen) prefer to have these conversations face-to-face in order to respond in real-time. Last week, I had some stuff that had been bothering me which I was wanting to cover with PigPen, and I had been having trouble finding a time when we could both sit down and hash stuff out, so I emailed him one morning asking if he could set some time aside that evening so we could talk, and he said sure. However, that conversation didn't take place because not too long after PigPen got home from work, he got a call from Li'l Random and went out to do something with him instead, only acknowledging the fact that he was skipping out on our planned conversation as he was halfway out the door, an acknowledgment that I assumed at the time only came because he saw the perturbed look on my face and suddenly thought "Oh, crap." I was not too happy with him, not so much because he went out instead of staying in and talking -- I mean, I know I would rather go hang out with Li'l Random rather than listen to me spew neurotic crap for the zillionth time -- but because it felt to me like I was just an afterthought. However, once I began to think about the fact that one of the things I had wanted to talk to him about was the fact that I had started to feel like he was always blowing me off, and now I couldn't talk to him about him always blowing me off because he had, in fact, blown me off, well, you just have to savor the irony, y'know?

Anyway, PigPen and I got to sit down and have our talk the next evening and straightened everything out*; I've decided that pretty much every serious conversation I have with PigPen boils down into the following Paranoia Resolution Formula:

Me: Hey, bud, it bothered me when you [insert action here].
Him: Well, when I [insert action here], it's because [insert basic reasoning here]
Me: Well, to me it felt more like you did it because of [insert paranoid interpretation of action here]
Him: No, it's because of [insert basic reasoning here]; you see, [insert expanded line of thought and additional situational information here]
Me: Okay, that makes sense, but do you see why I thought [insert paranoid interpretation of action here], since I didn't know about [insert expanded line of thought and additional situational information here]?
Him: Yeah, sorry, didn't mean it to come across like [insert paranoid interpretation of action here] at all, it really was because of [insert basic reasoning here].
Me: Cool, glad we got that straightened out. Moving on, it bothered me when you [insert next misinterpreted action here] . . .
And so on and so forth. Sure, there are variations along the way, but most of the time what it boils down to is this: PigPen and I view the world much, much differently. Often, this is a good thing; I really do think that having a close friend who challenges your point of view and makes you think outside your comfort zone is a positive, and out of all of my friends, I definitely find PigPen the most challenging. The biggest problem in those situations is actually remembering that your friend has vastly different thought processes than you do, so you don't ascribe your own motivations to their actions -- a trap I still fall into at times despite my best efforts.

I'll let one example kind of stand for the rest: PigPen and I really don't hang out much at all outside of what manifests as a natural result of us living in the same house: watching TV, playing video games, beating the crap out of each other, etc. And when we do occasionally hang out with other people outside the house, such as when we had weekly lunches at Frilly's with Cap'n Shack-Fu and Li'l Random before PigPen's work schedule made it impossible, I usually feel like a third wheel since PigPen would often ignore me and focus totally on the others, thus triggering Outsider Complex and Disposable Friend Syndrome issues galore. But after we talked about it, it became clear that it was just a case of his extroverted, HyperTwin Orange personality clashing with my overly emotional Blue personality.

You see, PigPen by his very nature craves a variety of interactions an experiences; in his mind, our time hanging out at home more than fulfills his quota of Todd-based interactions, so when he wants to go out and do something, he doesn't automatically include me because he wants to vary his experiences and we're in a group he's focusing on the people he doesn't see all the time. Of course, for me, and my Blue-driven need to develop deep and lasting bonds, when I want to go out and do something, I want to do it with that small group of people I feel closest to because I want to strengthen those bonds with shared experiences -- I'll admit that sometimes this makes me a bit insular, but when it comes to my Best Friends, I could hang out with them practically 24-7 and not get tired of it.

So, taking those Frilly's lunches as an example: for PigPen, that was probably the only time that week he was going to get to hang out with Shack-Fu and Randomino, and so he was more focused on directing his attention and humor and conversation towards them, and not the guy he saw and talked to almost every day. Totally understandable; unfortunately, what would wind up happening is that, by dint of the force of his extroverted Orange personality, all conversation at the table would revolve around PigPen interacting with those two to the exclusion of yours truly, who would sit back wallowing in my very Blue sense of estrangement because I had convinced myself it was a sign of PigPen's growing disdain for me.

Now, while misinterpreting the actions of my friends in such as way that I construe their innocent words and deeds as more negative and harmful than they were intended, I would like to point out that I am not alone in this; I can think of at least a couple of times when PigPen took something I said or did and filtered it through his own prism of personality, ascribing much less friendly motivations to my actions than what I had meant. Of course, I'm much more prone to it than he is -- much, much, much more -- but it gives me some small comfort to know that I'm not the only one who stumbles.

The cool thing about my friendship with PigPen is, even though our brains work in totally different ways -- and even though PigPen's favorite game in the world is "PigPen Wins!" which is the worst freaking game on the planet for anyone other than PigPen and which he plays pretty much every minute of every day -- we're both willing to concede that neither way is the only way, and that there is a need for give and take. Yeah, sometimes we might go round and round for a bit trying to get the other one to understand where we're coming from, but that's become less frequent over time; I think of it like a jigsaw puzzle, where in the beginning you have all of these pieces scattered all over the place and you're trying to figure out how in the world they can come together to make a coherent whole, but once you've develop a base to work from, you no longer have to struggle to get your bearings, but instead just have to figure out how this latest piece you've discovered fits into the whole. I have a much better understanding of how PigPen thinks now than I did when I first moved in a couple of years ago, and vice versa, but as all of this shows, neither of our pictures are quite complete yet -- nor will they ever be, to be honest, but every little bit helps.

When I start to get caught up in the trap of paranoia and Outsider Complex and the like, the one thing I have to focus on is this: PigPen is my friend. And while he may not consider me one of his Best Friends like I think of him, he still does consider me a good friend -- the biggest evidence of this is the fact that if he didn't, he wouldn't have put up with even a tenth of the crap he's had to wade through while thanks to my neurotic tendencies. And when he says or does something that triggers my paranoia, I can't give in to my self-doubt and assume the worst -- that I've managed to damage the friendship, wear out my welcome, overwhelm him with so much neurotic crap that he's ready to run for the hills -- but instead approach him and run through our familiar Paranoia Resolution Formula until we're both one step closer to maybe never having to run through it again.

Yeah, I know, fat chance of that, but a paranoid and neurotic freak of nature can dream, can't he?

*Yes, he explained his reasoning behind the earlier night's blow-off to my satisfaction; hopefully I was able to explain the reasoning behind my perturbed state to his


Monday, June 23, 2008

Mix-It-Up Monday - Invasion of the Parental Units

Since I didn't put up a Fragmented Friday post last week, even though I promise Miss ArkanSass one was forthcoming, I figured I'd do my rambling summation of last week today, rather than wait until this Friday.

Zinger just got back from a week in Alaska and spent a good portion of his morning getting caught up on all of his daily online reads. Zinger remarked how much he hated trying to play catch up on everything, although he was quick to point out that reading through CoIM was incredibly easy . . .

My mom and dad were in town for several days since they hadn't seen me since Christmas, and my vacation leave balance was practically nil making any potential trip on my part rushed at best. Plus, they never had gotten a chance to meet many of the Singles outside of Maverick, Biz-Z, and Cap'n Shack-Fu, and were really wanting to see just how accurate my descriptions of everyone were. Last time they were down we tried to do quite a bit of stuff, but this time we mainly just sat around, visited, watched TV, and went out to eat. Not very exciting, perhaps, but it was relaxing.

Saturday evening while mom and dad were relaxing back at the hotel, I went out to the park with PigPen, Cap'n Peanut, and Maverick to throw around the football and Frisbee. It was one of those times when something kind of clicked in my head in terms of the mind/body connection, because I wound up doing a better job catching the football than pretty much any other time I can remember -- up until I kind of jammed my fingers, that is. Three guesses which finger got the brunt of it. That's right, the crooked right middle finger caught the ball head on; I tried to shake off the pain and keep playing, but after a few more catches the paranoia of "Oh, crap, did I screw it up again?" was a bit overwhelming and I had to bow out of any more passing/catching. Didn't feel too bad on Sunday, but is a little stiff and sore today; hopefully that will go away soon.

About the most touristy thing my folks did while they were down is stroll around The Square. We went to Recycled Books, had lunch at Denton County Independent Hamburger Company, had dessert at Beth Marie's Old Fashioned Ice Cream and Soda, wandered into one of the antique stores -- surprisingly my dad's suggestion and not mom's -- and then had to come back a couple of days later so dad could take pictures of the courthouse.

A few weeks back Cap'n Peanut and I were wrestling around and I had to take a very literal breather because I had been around too much cigarette smoke that night and was having trouble getting enough oxygen; early last week I sent him a couple of emails clamoring for a rematch, to which he never responded; in fact, we were around each other quite a bit on Saturday and it never came up. Until, that is, we got back from the park; while PigPen went in to take a shower, Peanut calmly walked into the living room, shoved the coffee table up against the couch*, and called me out. He kicked my butt pretty handily of course, thanks to his crazy gorilla strength, but I almost caught him in a choke . . . man, am I sick of almosts. Next time, Peanut, you're going down!**

I was not the only person with parental visitors this weekend; Li'l Random's parents also decided to come to town for a few days, although none of us ever got to see them. I gather that this is because as soon as his folks arrive, Li'l McEvil chains them to his yard, forcing them to weed and plant and chop down trees and such, until he's worked them near to death and allows them to escape back to Arkansas before their next round of enforced labor. . . although, since I never have seen hide nor hair of his parents even after many, many visits, I have started to suspect that they're just figments of his imagination, and that Li'l Random was not born like a normal man but just sprang randomly from some dark and twisty hole in the ground.

I was hanging out at Li'l Random's place on Thursday afternoon as we were both waiting for our respective parental units to arrive in town when a contractor he had called to inspect the hail damage on his roof rang the doorbell. When The Random One answered the door, the contractor asked "Is Li'l Random home?" I immediately suspected that the contractor's question was due to his assuming that Li'l Random was actually the teenaged son of the house's owner; when Li'l Random told him that he was Li'l Random there was a pause before the contractor blurted out "No way you're old enough to own a house." I cried out "I knew it!" at which point the contractor poked his head around the corner to see me, recognized that I was most assuredly not teenaged, and asked if I was really Li'l Random, assuming that we were trying to prank him. Somehow the joy of mocking Li'l Babyface lost a little bit of its luster with the realization that I was visibly recognizable as being "the old guy"; didn't stop me from doing it, though.

That last bit reminds me; my former college roomie The Old Man recently started up a Facebook page; after I added him as a friend I told him that I was now in the same position he was in in college, surrounded by a social circle who are a few years younger and who insist on rubbing it in my face -- I told him I thought that was probably what they called "karma."

I had been planning on introducing Cap'n Peanut to my folks as "one of those bad influences you always warned me about," but dad went up and introduced himself before I got a chance. However, when Li'l Random met them, I was able to reference the fact that a while back mom had asked if my adopting him as my Li'l Brother meant that he was replacing our old cat that we always referred to as my little brother when I was younger by introducing him thusly: "Mom, Dad, this is Itty Bitty."

Last night my parents capped off their visit by taking my best buds PigPen and Li'l Random out to dinner with us; wish Cap'n Shack-Fu could have been there to make the set complete, but at least they got to meet him when he was deployed to Miamuh. As it was, I had a good time seeing two of my Best Friends interacting with the parental units. I really enjoyed seeing just how often my mom was able to fluster Li'l Random; the best was probably when the waitress was about to take his order, and mom interrupted to ask if he'd found anything on the kiddie menu. Don't think she ever really managed to get PigPen, sadly, but he is pretty hard to fluster, and she was on good behavior and didn't bring her full complement to bear.

*Shoving the coffee table up against the couch is pretty much the universal sign at our place that someone's about to get their ass kicked; 99% of the time it's me.
**Note to self: update the will.


No-Movie Mon. - Hard to Review What You Haven't Seen

I'm afraid that I have not watched a single movie in the past week, so there won't be any Movie Monday today. I will have an extended blog post detailing some of the things that kept me from getting anything watched (including neurotic episodes and a visit from the parents) before the end of the day. Just wanted to post some sort of "Yes, there will be content today" notice before Zinger and Miss ArkanSass start hounding me for my tardiness again.


Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Writen Word Wednesday - A Few Reviews

A few quick reviews

Midnight Tides: The Malazan Book of the Fallen, Book 5 by Steven Erikson: The fifth book in the projected 10-book series introduces the final of the three major storylines Erikson has planned for the series, which results in a book populated by a cast of almost entirely new characters. Having to plunge in and learn about all of the new characters and cultures and pantheons and mythologies and such had the potential to be off-putting, but Erikson's skills as a writer made sure that I wasn't feeling disconnected from the book for long. Following the brief stumble of the second book (which was probably only a stumble because the character of Felisin annoyed the heck out of me through most of the book), I feel like each subsequent volume has been an improvement over its predecessor. I'm definitely looking forward to book 6, The Bonehunters.

The Colorado Kid by Stephen King: Very quick read (got it done in about an hour and a half) that was marketed as part of a hard boiled detective line, but which really doesn't fit the bill at all. Won't say this is my least favorite of King's books, but will say that it's probably there towards the bottom of the (really massive) pile -- the character's never really gelled with me, and for a book that's primarily three talking heads sitting around discussing an old unsolvable mystery, not being able to identify with the talking heads is a bad thing. King himself admits that this is one of those "love it or hate it" books, although I'd have to say that I didn't feel that strongly about it, and was in more of a "meh" mood towards it.

The God of the Razor by Joe R. Lansdale: Collection of horror stories by Lansdale (probably best known as the author of Bubba Ho-Tep) which were either inspired by or cribbed from his early novel The Nightrunners, which is also included. Since so many of the stories here were pieces taken from The Nightrunners while he was waiting for it to be published there's a large feeling of "been there done that" at times. Still, I enjoyed The Nightrunners --which introduced the concept of "The God of the Razor" -- quite a bit, as well as the two stories which were the least cribbed from it, "King of Shadows" and "Incident On and Off a Mountain Road," the latter of which I was first introduced to when it was made into one of the better episodes of Showtime's Masters of Horror series. I enjoyed it enough to start trying to track down the other God of the Razor related works, including Lord of the Razor, an anthology with stories from several different authors using the character; Blood and Shadows, a mini-series from DC Comics; and, perhaps the most odd choice, Tales of the Batman, another anthology, this one of Batman-related short stories, one of which is Lansdale's "Subway Jack" which pits the Dark Knight Detective against a minion of the God of the Razor.


Monday, June 16, 2008

Movie Mon. - It All Goes South

Wasn't in much of a movie-watching mood this week, and the following two mediocre films I watched might be part of the reason why.

The Last Winter: Disappointing eco-horror flick about a group of oil workers whose arctic expedition goes south when one by one the crew start to die of mysterious circumstances. A top-notch cast of solid, if not necessarily marquee-name, actors (Ron Perlman, James LeGros, Kevin Corigan, Connie Britton) helped keep this one afloat for a while, but by the end it was just a muddled mess with an ambiguous ending that is almost guaranteed to split people into "love it/hate it" camps; I say "almost" because I neither loved nor hated it, but was really left with an "eh, who cares?" attitude.

Botched: Over-the-top horror-comedy about a thief for hire (Stephen Dorff) whose latest job in Russian goes south when he and an elevator-full of passengers (including the annoying British addiction sponsor from Dexter sporting a faux-Russian accent) get stranded on a hidden 13th floor of a building owned by homicidal descendants of Ivan the Terrible. I picked this one up because it apparently won a whole bunch of awards at some film festivals, but wow, was this not my cup of tea at all; the film's sense of humor didn't mesh with mine hardly at all. Oh, sure I chuckled at a couple of things --the main killer's odd ballet dance as he was chasing a victim down the halls was sufficiently odd-ball to amuse me, as was the bumbling security guard's "alpha male" speeches -- but all in all, I just wanted the movie to end so I could get on with my life, and that's never a good sign.


Friday, June 13, 2008

Happy Birthday, Mr. Voorhees

As I mentioned last week, Dr. Pester and another co-worker have been discussing ways to commemorate Friday the 13th. While the original plan was for people to dress up as characters from horror movies, it was finally decided that we would just have makeshift Jason Voorhees hockey masks. And, since Jason was born on Friday the 13th, what better way to celebrate than a birthday party?

Yours truly

The Mask Maker

Our student assistants

Dr. Pester herself, complete with "Happy Birthday Jason" party hat

The full complement of Jasons

From Jason Voorhees to lightning-bolt eye-browed Mighty Duck in one fell swoop!

The flip side of the mask
Our aisle was also decorated with lots of balloons bearing a mini-headshot of me with eyes colored red and fangs drawn on; another coy of the picture was pasted on my chair, with the label "Vlad the Librarian." Sadly, the headshots are too tiny to show up well on my cell-phone camera, so you'll just have to imagine Dr. Pester's handiwork yourselves.


Wednesday, June 11, 2008

I Hereby Dub Thee . . .

There have been a couple of requests for blog monkey nicknames recently, and while I haven't come up with nicks for all, I thought I'd mention the two I have decided upon until something better comes to mind


Monday, June 09, 2008

Movie Mon - Super Rad, Bodacious, Tubular, Wicked, Far Out '80s Movie-Thon

Early last week a game of 80s Trivial Pursuit led PigPen, Li'l Random, and myself to decide to have a nostalgic movie flashback weekend where we partook of some of our favorite childhood films from the 80s. We each came up with a list of Top 10 80s Movies We Wanted To See Again.*

The lists were as follows:

Li'l Random's Picks:

Evil Dead
Fright Night
3 'O Clock High
Best of the Best
The Gate
No Way Out
Pink Floyd: The Wall

The Lovable PigPen's Picks
Flight of the Navigator
Little Monsters
The Monster Squad
Enemy Mine
Howard the Duck
Summer School
The Dark Crystal
The Goonies
Full Metal Jacket
Golden Child

Cap'n Neurotic's Picks
Ruthless People
Better Off Dead
Stand By Me
My Science Project
Revenge of the Nerds
Last Starfighter
John Carpenter's The Thing

After some discussion PigPen came up with the idea to narrow it down to 6 films, with the first three being ones that all of us pretty much agreed upon and then each of us picking one on our own with no input from the others. We got all but one watched -- Li'l Random got a phone call not too far into our last film and had to go take care of some stuff -- but we'll probably start off with it next time. And, oh, yes, there will be a next time -- although I think we all agree that 6 movies may have been a bit too much for one sitting. Anyway, here's my thoughts on our marathon -- which The Lovable PigPen dubbed in one of his emails the Super Rad, Bodacious, Tubular, Wicked, Far Out '80s Movie-Thon, --in the order in which we watched them.

Little Monsters: Also known as "The Film That Made The Lovable PigPen the Big Little Monster He Is Today," this was the only film that made the cut which I had never seen; I'm guessing that since it came out in 1989 teen-aged Cap'n Neurotic found the trailers featuring Howie Mandel as a wise-cracking monster under the bed befriending Fred Savage a bit too juvenile and goofy. Or, maybe I saw this ad and decided I'd rather stab out my eyes rather than see the film

Anyway, yes, the film was juvenile and goofy, and I often found myself wishing they had barred Howie Mandel from watching Beetlejuice before filming so that his antics didn't feel quite so derivative, but all in all, a fun little movie, with darker over-tones than I had expected.

Bonus "hey, he was in that?" actor: Frank Whaley, a.k.a. Brett from Pulp Fiction, as the leader of the monsters, Boy.

The Gate: Li'l Random's pick was a horror film that I had last scene 21 years ago, on my 12th birthday, one of many strange horror/sf films I forced my mother to endure on the day of my birth. This one centered around a couple of friends who accidentally open a gateway to a hell dimension in the back yard. I remembered very little of the film outside of the scene where they knock an attacking figure over and he splits into lots of tiny demons; that was the scene in the trailers that made me go "I've got to see this, it looks awesome!"

Still surprisingly entertaining, sometimes intentionally, and sometimes on accident, such as when one of the boys asks the other "Have, want to come over later and mess around?" Poor choice of words, kiddo, poor choice of words. But the film did give us the great line "Why don't you suck my nose until my head caves in?" and the sequence where the two vapid girls proclaim they know which Biblical passage to recite to get rid of the demons because, and I quote, "We went to Sunday School," and will be fondly cherished for those moments and many others.

Bonus "hey, he was in that?" actor: Stephen Dorff, a.k.a. head vampire Deacon Frost in Blade as the main kid, Glen.

Troll: My individual pick is another one of which I had only vague memories; I recalled the general plot (evil troll takes the shape of a little blond girl and starts transforming the tenants of an apartment building into magical creatures), recalled one of the tenants turning into a giant pod, and recalled that there was a witch living in the building who happened to have a talking mushroom which uttered the phrase "Party hearty Harry" in an all too cutesy voice. What I didn't recall was that the Harry in question's full name was, I kid you not, Harry Potter, that the first tenant to get turned into a pod was Sonny Bono, and somehow -- and believe me, I don't know how I ever could have forgotten about it -- I did not recall this sequence, which really gets going at about the 1:06 mark

Seriously, how I blocked that out, I have no clue. Plus, did you notice? Man-Bear-Pig!**

Bonus "hey, he was in that?" actor: In addition to Sony Bono and Michael "Law and Order" Moriarity as the kind of clueless dad, we have Noah Hathaway, a.k.a. Atreyu in The Neverending Story as the kid hero.

Monster Squad: The first of the group consensus films, I think there's one scene I can pretty much guarantee every child of the 80s who saw this remembers:

Yes, indeed, Fat Kid, Wolf Man's got nards. While I remember enjoying this when I first saw it back in the day, somehow this one never really got onto my super-cherished memory list, which is odd, because watching it again I remembered just how funny and cool it was. Excellent suggestion, PigPen, excellent suggestion.

Bonus "hey, he was in that?" actor: The non-wolfed-out Wolf Man (listed in the credits as Desperate Man) was played by Jon Gries, a.k.a. Lazlo, the freaky genius who lives in the closet in Real Genius, who also happens to have played Ben Linus's dad on Lost. Also, Andre Gower, who plays Sean, the head of the Squad, will live forever in my memory as the character Rimshot on Mathnet***

Stand By Me: If you'll notice, this is the only film so far on the list that isn't border-line horror, although it was written by Stephen King and has a dead body in it, so I guess it's not a total departure. One of my all time favorite movies, and one that I saw countless times as a kid, but haven't stumbled across in ages. PigPen and I were quoting right along with it countless times, which I'm sure only enhance Li'l Random's viewing experience, right Li'l Brother?

Bonus "hey, he was in that?" actor: Besides the eternal "man, I still can't believe Vern was Jerry O'Connell" surprise, about the only real "hey, he was in that?" was more of a "hey, who is that kid, I know I know him from somewhere" moment, as we all stared at the character of Charlie Hogan and tried to figure out where we knew him from; it was Li'l Random who pegged him**** as one of the two horror-movie aficionados from another classic 80s film, Summer School.

And, last but not least, the one movie we barely got to start -- which just so happened to be the one movie I was most looking forward to watching, wouldn't you know -- was this one:

Ah, House. What a great, tongue-in-cheek horror-comedy you are. I so look forward to seeing you again soon.


They Live: The night before the marathon, Li'l Random came over while PigPen and Cap'n Peanut were out apartment hunting, and he and I watched the tongue-in-check Sci-Fi paean to crass commercialism starring Rowdy Roddy Piper and Keith David. Now, this movie has always held a special place in my heart because of the infamous over-four-minute-long fist fight between Piper and David; I can remember watching this with my dad back when I was a kid and thinking "This fight is never going to end! Awesome!" Unfortunately, you fast-forward about twenty years and you find that the reality pales in comparison to the nostalgic memories. Still, an entertaining, if goofy, film.

Friday the 13th Parts 1-8: Yes, that's right; I watched the first eight Friday the 13th movies in two days, you gots a problem with that? Although I will confess that I fast-forwarded through parts of A New Beginning because (a) it doesn't really feature Jason and (b) I had seen it not too long ago. But the others I watched in their entirety, including parts 6, 7, and 8, which I had never seen before; in the case of parts 6 and 8 I almost wished I could still say that, although there were plenty of unintentional comedy moments in both to make them at least partly worth my while. The biggest thing that stood out to me in the progression of the films was how different the concept of Jason was back when it all began; he went from poor drowning victim in part 1 to murderous hillbilly in part 2 to implied kidnapper and rapist in part 3 until finally he started to become more of an unstoppable force of nature Michael Meyers clone in part 4 . . . at which point he gets offed by young Corey Feldman. It's not until part 6 that we truly have the version of Jason that everyone thinks of when they hear the name, which is kind of odd if you stop to think about it. Anyway, I've moved part 9 up in my Netflix queue, and after that I'll probably rewatch my favorite installment, Jason X, and then follow it up with Freddy vs. Jason . . .both of which I own.

*And not "Top 10 80s Movies of All Time" since there are several movies that we all love but which we have seen so many times that there really wasn't a need to see them yet again.
**That one's for you Zinger, courtesy of PigPen
***Sadly, YouTube has embedding disabled on all the Mathnet clips, but you can see a sample of his work here; the two things that have been burned into my memory forever can be found at the 2:58 and 5:35 marks.
****As a matter of fact, several of the "Hey, isn't that . . ." moments came courtesy of Li'l Brother, who correctly identified Atreyu, Lazlo, and others.


Breathe at Last, Breathe at Last, Thank God Almighty, I Can Breathe at Last!

After a week of illness that robbed me of all energy and ability to breathe unobstructed, I am finally feeling human again, and am definitely looking forward to having the energy to start working out, going to judo class, and picking fights with PigPen again. I should have a Movie Monday post up before the day is through detailing my weekend movie viewing experience during what PigPen dubbed the Super Rad, Bodacious, Tubular, Wicked, Far Out '80s Movie-Thon.


Friday, June 06, 2008

Fragmented Friday - Keeping Up With the Spawn

  • The other day I noticed that Cap'n Bubbles' roomie, Brown-Eyed Girl, had changed her Facebook status to indicate she had gotten a call-back, leading to the following instant message exchange
    ME: I'm out of the loop: what did you get a call-back for?

    : The summer musical at Denton Community Theatre called "Lil Abner". My sister got the lead female role!

    ME: She gets to be Daisy Mae? Cool. Who you trying out for, Stupefyin' Jones?

    Stupefyin' Jones in the middle, Daisy Mae on the right

    BEG: haha, yeah she's Daisey Mae. Stupefyin' Jones doesn't sing or speak, so hopefully that's not my part. I'm amazed that you know about Lil Abner, no one else younger than my parents seems to know

    ME: Don't forget, you're talking to someone who is both a comic book/comic strip geek* AND a theater geek

    BEG: good point
    Just heard from BEG a few minutes ago, she just got cast as one of the Dogpatch wives.

  • Recently Flunky and Flunky Lover have started up a blog to chronicle the exploits of their two spawn** which is cool because it not only helps me keep up with what's going on with Clan Flunky, but because it also give me ample opportunity to take part in one of my favorite hobbies, which I've neglected far too much as of late: taking pot shots at my best bud Flunky. Flunky Lover posted that she was surprised at how much she enjoyed getting comments, to which I replied
    Oh, and I'm with you on the comments thing; I think I was much more inclined to blog regularly when I got more comments from more people; nowadays I pretty much only get feedback from you and PigPen (and Zinger, but only in a "stop being such a lazy bastage and actually write something" sort of way), which makes it feel like I'm writing for an audience of two or three, which saps my will to write.

    Well, that and the fact that Zinger is right and I am a lazy bastage.
    A couple of days later Zinger messaged me saying how sad it was that he now had to go read other people's blogs to see stuff that I had written.

  • My biggest regret with being sick this past week is that I missed out on judo twice; I probably could have gone last night, but I really didn't want to push my luck, since it was proving to be a pretty hard illness to shake. Feeling much better today, and am glad that this is one of the weekends when I don't have to help anybody move.

  • A couple of my co-workers are trying to talk me into dressing up as my favorite horror movie character next week for Friday the 13th; somehow I doubt this would go over well with the higher-ups. Plus, since one of the major proponents of this idea is well known for trying to mess with my mind, I can't help wondering if it's all part of a massive plan to shower me with pigs blood, metaphorically speaking. At least, I hope it's only metaphorically speaking . . .

  • My folks are planning on coming down to visit in a couple of weeks. Hopefully this trip will turn out better than last year's planned excursion, which went from "mom and dad coming to Denton for my birthday" to "me flying to Tulsa through stormy weather after a huge delay that occured with me stuck in-between two large gentlemen while nursing a bruised tailbone so that I could get a new car after my old one suddenly bit the dust."

  • Our pastor's son has decided to buck his family tradition of attending Baylor, and is instead heading off to my alma matter, OSU. This past Sunday when they honored graduating Seniors during the service, the youth pastor made sure to mention that Dr. Jeff was wearing orange and black. I was sure to go up to him after the service and tell him that orange and black were good colors for him.

*Honestly, when I was a kid I practically read the cover off of the Li'l Abner collection from the Miamuh Public Library; one year mom actually had to make me stop reading it so I could read other stuff for the March of Dimes Reading Olympics.
**Think the second story in this post could be one of my favorite "Spawn say the darndest things" stories ever.


Thursday, June 05, 2008

I'm Even Neurotic in My Dreams

I've been fighting off some sort of bug for most of the week, which is part of why there hasn't been any posting this week; the other part is, of course, that I am horribly lazy. Anyway, last night was the first time all week that I slept soundly enough to have any real dream time, which was cool in that I actually got some rest for once, but not so cool in that they were pretty much all stress dreams, with me finding myself in one anxiety-causing situation after another. I don't recall all the particulars but I do recall (a) doing a zip-line over a huge chasm with no safety harness; (b) being the subject of an impromptu underwater rescue drill in white-water rapids with little hope of being actually rescued; (c) fearing that a stubborn Shack-Fu's refusal to give budge in his position while arguing with law enforcement officials on some rinky-dink point was going to get us all thrown in jail; and (d) having the geeky cast of The Big Bang Theory do experiments outside in a garden. That last might not sound all that stress inducing, until you consider the ramifications of fussy, germaphobic Sheldon being in lots of dirt surrounded by bugs and birds and other living things. This was the section that ended my dream, as something got on Sheldon's leg, and he shouted out, jumping up and swatting at it . . . at which point I promptly woke up and shot out of bed, grasping the same leg which was contracted in a painful muscle cramp. Quite an odd example of the mind-body connection, no?

It is a sure sign of my illness-and-medication addled state of being that it wasn't until I was done relating the story to Gemini this morning on the way to work that the ramifications of me having even partially identified with Sheldon in my dream dawned on me. Looks like I may need a bit more sleep after all.