Tuesday, August 25, 2009

TV Tues - My Fall Schedule

It's that time of year again, when the broadcast networks trot out the bulk of their new and returning shows. After seeing Television Without Pity's "Watch, DVR, or Skip" Fall Preview, I thought I'd do something similar to show what my TV viewing schedule is starting to look like.


7:00 How I Met Your Mother (CBS, definite), Heroes (NBC, iffy)
7:30 Accidentally on Purpose
(CBS, iffy)
8:00 Two and a Half Men (CBS, definite)
8:30 Big Bang Theory (CBS, definite)
9:00 Castle (ABC, definite)

DEFINITE: Much like last year, my Monday nights will be dominated by the returning CBS comedies, which shouldn't surprise anyone. I'm also looking forward to the return of Castle, which I haven't talked much about; this one is carried past its so-so premise by the strength of Nathan Fillion's personality.

IFFY: I'm not too hopeful for the new comedy, Accidentally on Purpose, but I'll give it a shot if for no other reason than it's shoehorned into the 7:30 time slot now that Big Bang Theory is being moved to 8:30, although that reasoning doesn't compel me quite as much now in the DVR age. As for Heroes, well, odds are good that I'm going to keep watching it out of a combination of inertia, morbid curiosity, and a never-ending hope that they will finally wise up and bump off Mohinder, but my patience with the show was pushed nearly to the breaking point last season, so we'll see if I can stick it out all season.

MID-SEASON HOPE: This Spring will see the return of Chuck, which should wipe out all the bad taste left behind by Heroes.


7:00: Nothing
8:00: Nothing again
9:00: And yet more nothing . . . oh, wait, no, thanks heavens for cable! Sons of Anarchy (FX, definite)

DEFINITE: TopGun and I recently plowed through the entire first season of Sons of Anarchy, and I can't wait to see how the internal strife of the club manifests this season. Plus, Katey Sagal kicks all kinds of butt as the manipulative motorcycle mama Gemma, and the show is worth watching for her alone.

IFFY: Okay, I might have been a bit harsh above; I suppose there's a chance that the Christian Bale procedural The Forgotten or the Juliana Margulies legal drama The Good Wife might be worth watching, but the first sounds pretty forgettable (pardon the pun), and the latter is only on my radar because its cast includes Christine Baranski.

MID-SEASON HOPE: The Spring will bring the return of Better Off Ted (allow me to do my dance of joy at this show's renewal yet again) and the re-vamped Scrubs, of which I am cautiously optimistic.


7:00 Hank (ABC, iffy)
7:30 The Middle (ABC, hopeful)
8:00 Glee (Fox, definite), Modern Family (ABC, definite)
8:30 Cougar Town (ABC, hopeful)
9:00 Eastwick (NBC, iffy), The Ultimate Fighter (Spike, definite)

DEFINITE: Only one returning show on my radar here; really looking forward to the new season of TUF if for no other reason than to see how Kimbo Slice does. I watched the sneak preview of Glee when it premiered a while back, and I enjoyed it quite a bit, even if it did get "Don't Stop Believing" stuck in my head for months. Meanwhile, the ads for the new sitcom Modern Family have consistently cracked me up, and all of the positive critical buzz has earned it a firm spot in my viewing schedule before having seen a single full ep.

HOPEFUL: Although in many ways new sitcom The Middle feels a bit like a Malcolm in the Middle clone, the online preview did make me chuckle a few times, and I feel obligated to support Neil Flynn in his first big post-Scrubs project. Along similar lines, although I haven't been wowed by the ads for Cougar Town at all, it's generated some good advance reviews, and the fact that it's created by Bill Lawrence, the mastermind behind Scrubs, I'll definitely give it a shot.

IFFY: The previews for new Kelsey Grammer vehicle, Hank, did little for me, but since all the scenes came from the pilot, there's a possibility that the show could grow, right? As for Eastwick, well, you should know by now that any SF/Fantasy/Horror themed show will get at least a token viewing by me, as bland as the premise sounds . . . unless it's The Ghost Whisperer, of course

MID-SEASON HOPE: In the Spring, Glee will be replaced by The Human Target, a comic book adaptation starring one of my fave actors, Mark Valley.


7:00 FlashForward (ABC, hopeful), Survivor (CBS, definite), Vampire Diaries (CW, iffy)
8:00 Grey's Anatomy (ABC, definite), Fringe (Fox, definite), The Office (NBC, definite)
8:30 Community (NBC, definite)
9:00 Private Practice (ABC, iffy), It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia (FX, definite)

And, if you're thinking "wow, that's a lot of TV shows for one night," you aren't alone; have a feeling some shows are either going to drop off the schedule, or get relegated to online only viewing.

DEFINITE: The Office is a no-brainer, as is Fringe, my favorite new drama of last year. Yes, 9 years and 18 season in, and I'm still hooked on Survivor. And while Grey's has its ups and downs, as long as Yang and Bailey are on the show, and have not had total personality transplants, I'll keep watching. As for Community, I thought the pilot was brilliant, and can't wait to see where it goes from here. And, finally, TopGun has got me watching It's Always Sunny, and I am hooked.

HOPEFUL: Although vastly different from the novel which inspired it, I think FlashForward shows a ton of promise.

IFFY: Private Practice was *this* close to losing me last season; the promise of a Bailey-centric Grey's crossover could be all that keeps me in the loop on this one. And while I wasn't planning on giving The Vampire Diaries the time of day, I've actually heard enough positive things about the pilot that I'll give it a try.

MID-SEASON HOPE: Partway through the season, 30 Rock will return, which will bump Community to 7:00.


7:00 Nothing, especially not the horribly painful new sitcom Brothers. *shudder*
8:00 Dollhouse (Fox, definite), Stargate: Universe (SyFy, hopeful)
9:00 Sanctuary (SyFy, definite), Psych (USA, definite)

DEFINITE: I wasn't sold on Joss Whedon's new series Dollhouse for the first several episodes, but as the show progressed and its mythology grew, I became a much bigger fan, especially after seeing the unaired episode "Epitaph One" on the DVD. I recently watched the first season of Sanctuary on my laptop thanks to Netflix streaming video, and enjoyed it enough to want to see where it heads. And while Psych does sometimes make me uncomfortable, on the whole it makes me laugh more often than not.

HOPEFUL: I was a big fan of Stargate: SG-1, and a sorta-fan of Stargate: Atlantis, so I will most definitely give the newest addition to the universe a try, while attempting not to make the inevitable Star Trek: Voyager and BSG comparisons.

MID-SEASON HOPE: Come January, we have the highly anticipated BSG prequel series, Caprica; having loved the pilot, I can hardly wait for the series to get here.


As always, Saturday is not really a banner day for TV watching outside of college football and the occasional MMA match.


7:00 The Simpsons (Fox, iffy)
7:30 The Cleveland Show (Fox, iffy)
8:00 Family Guy (Fox, definite) Dexter (Showtime, definite)
8:30 American Dad (Fox, iffy), Bored to Death (HBO, hopeful)
9:00 Nothing

DEFINITE: Family Guy is one of those polarizing, love/hate sort of shows; I fall on the "love" side. And although I still need to get caught up on the last season of Dexter, there's little doubt that I'll be watching the new season as soon as I do.

HOPEFUL: The ads I've seen for Bored to Death have me pretty intrigued with its quirky cast and premise; hope it lives up to my expectations.

IFFY: It's been years since I've really enjoyed The Simpsons on a regular basis, and American Dad never gelled for me; both of these shows fell off my radar while I was at Benjiman Street, but they might get a reprieve thanks to the DVR. As for The Cleveland Show, I've seen some ads which I've really liked, and others which have left me less than impressed. Will have to wait and see.

MID-SEASON HOPE: Between HBO and Showtime, I'm sure there will be plenty of new programming to keep the DVR busy on Sunday nights.


Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Texting Tuesday, or "Laziness, Thy Name is Neurotic"

As I mentioned before, TopGun and I are doing the P90X workouts now. Because his work schedule is all over the place, we've decided to do our workouts first thing in the morning, which has lead to much zed-word-like behavior from yours truly in the evenings as I adjust to the new schedule. But it's also been the foundation of some mildly amusing texted conversations between my roomie and myself, which I now post here in lieu of having to come up with new material for a post.

First up: a conversation generated by one of many instances of me cursing TopGun's name on behalf of my sore muscles following a workout.

Me: Today's cursing of your name comes courtesy of my biceps, which were apparently sulking quietly yesterday but are now ready to voice their discontent
TopGun: I love it! I read your blog introducing me. I was not impressed with myself at all! :)
Me: So, was that a compliment from The Gray Man, or a complaint from TopGun/Showboater . . .
TopGun: A bit of both my friend! I like to be impressive but not brag about it! :)
Me: Humbly impressive, got it. I'll be sure to work that into the cast page entry I'm working on as we speak
On the second day of our early morning workout plan, I woke up to find a text from TopGun saying he wasn't feeling well, so he was giving me a break that morning. However, since I was already up, I decided to go ahead and work out by myself.

Me: Worst thing about this morning was I had no one to curse but myself. You made me curse my own name, TopGun, and for that, I curse you ;)
Me: Biggest regret of the morning: when you said you were nauseous, I should have said "I know you're scared you might throw up, but you gotta risk it for the biscuit!"*
TopGun: I must work out when I get home tonight.
Me: Damn straight you must, slacker!
TopGun: That word is prohibidabidibido!**
Me: Hehehehehe. I'm just saying . . .***
The next day, we were both back in the early-morning workout saddle

TopGun: Man, I'm tired
Me: You and me both, brother, you and me both.
TopGun: I worked hard this morning, why are [you] tired?****
Me: Trust me, putting up with you is enough to wear anybody out. Jackass***** LOL
TopGun: Shut up Todd. My feelings are in pain. Jerk wad. That's right! I called you a jerk wad. Take it, eat it, put that in your pipe and smoke it! :)
Me: Can't . . . breathe . . . laughing . . . too hard . . . you win this round, TopGun. Well played. Double Jackass :)
TopGun: Yes! I am so doing the running man in my head right now in honor of this victory!
Finally, a conversation that started when I decided to let him know that the dumbbells he had ordered for the workout had arrived, along with something extra.

Me: Your weights arrived, and you got a package from your mom. All I got were bills. You win again, TopGun!
TopGun: Not everything is a competition Todd geez!
Me: That's not what PigPen says . . . ;)
TopGun: But, even still, if we had to pick a winner for this situation, I guess it would be me . . . so I accept the victory!
Me: How gracious of you :)
Okay, that's enough of that; maybe next time I'll have actual content here.

*We had just watched Fired Up the evening before, and that was one of the lines we had been quoting back and forth.
**As was that one
***And that one as well; what can I say, FU was much more quotable than expected
****Yes, he left out the "you" in his text, so it took me a second to realize that I had just been insulted.
*****I'd like to remind all you blog monkeys that, to me, Jackass is practically a term of endearment


Monday, June 22, 2009

A New Plateau

No Movie Monday post today, although I will say that Fired Up was a heck of a lot funnier than I expected; instead, we have what will probably be the first in what I have a feeling will be a long, long series of posts in the new "TopGun and I giving each other crap" genre because, well, we both enjoy giving each other crap.

Earlier tonight while flipping through the channels, I happened upon an episode of COPS. I turned to TopGun and mentioned how it was one of Cap'n Shack-Fu's favorite shows. TopGun said he rarely watched it, and I replied that neither did I, except when Shack-Fu was around and forced it upon me. I related how when he would come over to the house to watch TV and I'd flip past an episode he would start pestering me to change the channel back; I also related that my quickness to respond to his request was proportional to how much I felt like picking a fight with him. I then did a nicely exaggerated imitation of Shack-Fu's threats, followed by the statement "and then he'd kick my butt and watch COPS after all."

"So, he's just a bully," deadpanned TopGun. "Beats you up, then forces you to watch a show that you didn't want to watch. He's just a user, man."

"You're right," I replied. "I'm going to call him up right now and tell him he's a user. And then, he'll raise my rent. And then I'll tell him that you said it first, and he'll raise yours too."

"That's ok," he said with no hesitation, "I'll just beat you up and make you pay my half too.

That caught me off guard and cracked me up; when I stopped laughing I said "You know, that's the first time you've actually threatened to beat me up; we just reached a new plateau in our friendship!"

I hope PigPen and Shack-Fu don't get jealous.


Friday, June 19, 2009

Fragmented Fri - Five Posts in One Week? That's Unpossible!

  • When I was starting to get the blogging bug again last week, I made sure to ask TopGun if he minded me writing about him, what with him being a Grey Man and all; his response was that he would be honored to be included in my ramblings. Poor, naive fool had no idea what he was getting himself into, did he?

  • One thing I neglected to mention in last Friday's Shack-Fu-centric post was the conversation I had with him when I got back to Texas following my Virginia trip. I called him up to see how he was doing, since he had left out super-early that morning to drive from Quantico to Denton. When I asked if he was on schedule, he replied that he had been for a while, but now was having to make up some time. Anyone want to guess what had delayed him? If you said "saw an accident and stopped to help," then you've obviously either met Shack-Fu or read this blog before.

  • Sometime during TopGun's first week at the house, I was talking about my roughhousing around with PigPen and Shack-Fu and the subsequent injuries and made a crack about how for some reason my best friends always try to kill me. He responded that I didn't have to worry about that with him, going on to explain that he only uses violence on those who deserve it. My response at the time was that PigPen would probably say that I did deserve it, but if the conversation had taken place just a week later, when I was fully comfortable giving TopGun a hard time, I would have instead used the first response that popped into my head at the time, cutting him off after the first half of his statement with a wounded "You mean we're not going to be best friends, TopGun?" with maybe some puppy dog eyes and a quivering lip thrown in for good measure. Hate to have missed that opportunity.

  • In my jiu-jitsu class on Monday I managed to submit somebody twice, with two different submission moves, even. The first was a North-South arm triangle choke which has become sort of my go-to move from side control, and one of the few moves I can catch people in on a semi-regular basis; the second was a kimura, administered while he had me in half-guard, which was quite an achievement for me because I always mess up my arm placement when I go for that. Anyway, a nice little ego boost for me; always nice to feel like I'm not perpetually the lowest man on the totem pole.

  • Midway through last week I got a text from TopGun asking me if I would call up an exterminator, as my roomie had had some extra protein in his cereal that morning courtesy of the ants which had infiltrated the box. After asking around, I decided to first try the liquid ant bait traps that Zinger suggested; within a day of setting them out, the kitchen infestation vanished. However, last night TopGun was assaulted by a couple in his room; apparently they know he was the one who ratted them out and were taking their sweet revenge on him.

  • Saturday morning I was being my usual lazy self, lying in bed and wondering if I should get up or not, when I heard the front door open, followed by the sound of TopGun talking to someone else in the living room. Curious, I got up and moved towards my bedroom door, whose handle started to turn. By that point I had recognized the other voice, and so I whipped open the door just as PigPen was starting to stick his ginger dome in. Turns out he had been driving back from crashing at a friend's house, and was passing through Denton when he was struck by hunger and decided to come see if TopGun and I wanted to go grab some breakfast. Thank heavens I was awake; I'd hate to think what evil things might have befallen me otherwise.

  • Figured I should share an example of TopGun's smartassery towards me so you don't all feel sorry for him for all the pot-shots I've taken at him so far. As we were driving to breakfast on Saturday, PigPen and I were talking about our rappelling trips* and PigPen was trying to remember who all went on our first trip. I said it was just him, Shack-Fu, and myself; he said he could have sworn there was a girl with us; TopGun piped up from the backseat "No, that was Todd."

  • Shack-Fu gave me a call on Sunday afternoon, and when I asked how he was doing he said he was doing all right, although he was horribly sore. When I asked why he was sore, he responded "Oh, had a bit of a crash the other day." My first thought: not the Challenger! He then went on to explain that he had crashed his bike and scraped himself up pretty bad; when I told him what my initial thought had been, he responded that if he had crashed the Challenger, I wouldn't have been hearing from him, as he would have had to have killed himself.

  • As I mentioned in my last post, despite only having known TopGun for a little over a month, I have felt unusually comfortable just being myself around him -- this, of course, has lead to me feeling compelled to explain to him several of my neurotic tendencies and try to prepare him for what storms may come. Honestly, I think I might need to just type up a pamphlet: "So You're Going to Be Todd's Friend: 10 Neuroses, Quirks, and Idiosyncrasies to Watch Out For.**" I'm sure it would come in very handy.

  • Last Sunday I got a call from my old pal Papa Lightbulb, who I rarely get to talk to these days since his family moved to Houston. They were in town, and I had seen them briefly after church but hadn't gotten a chance to visit, so wasn't totally surprised to get the call, but wasn't expecting the question he asked: "What can you tell me about Red Tornado?" Seems his son had just gotten a Red Tornado action figure at the store, and had asked Papa L. to call me up for the 411 on the character, since he knew I had been the source of primo Green Lanter intel a few months back. I weighed the pros and cons of illuminating the Lightbulb boys on Reddy's convoluted history, but finally settled for "He's a robot who controls the wind, can fly and blast people," thus maintaining my place as "useful comic geek" and not "horribly pedantic ubergeek." And yes, we did visit about other things besides comic book characters after that; man, I sure do miss Clan Lightbulb.

  • A few weeks back, TopGun let slip the date of his birthday to Slick (formerly MeiMei), and has regretted it ever since, as Slick has been pestering our resident Gray Man about how he wants to celebrate, and won't take "I'd rather just be totally ignored and not have anyone acknowledge my existence" for an answer.

  • At the beginning of the month I travelled to Asheville, NC for the North American Serials Interest Group (NASIG) Annual Conference. Sounds thrilling, doesn't it? It was actually pretty cool in a way, since most of the other conferences I've gone to for work have not had a whole lot of relevance to my job, whereas this conference was directed precisely at people who do what I do. Kinda nice. Plus, while exploring the streets of Asheville one night, we happened upon a drum circle and a huge mosh pit of college kids dancing wildly to primitive beats; don't get to see much of that around here.

  • The one down side to attending conferences is that they force me to try to get outside myself and meet new people, not exactly my forte. After my first night, I instigate the following texting conversation with fellow wallflower TopGun.
    Me: Now I remember why I hate going to conference: MINGLING.
    Him: I'm about to start a workout then just hang out. No mingling for me!
    Me: Just for that, I'm throwing you the biggest birthday party in the history of the Singles department. Mingle *that* bucko!
    Him: Hahaha! You clever bastard!
    Yes, this is definitely the beginning of a beautifully smartassed friendship***
*Okay, actually we were talking about Taco Casa, but that required talking about rappelling.
**Oh, who am I kidding? I could come up with at least 25.****
***Last weekend when TopGun and I were synching up our smartass natures to pester Slick, she looked at us and said "You guys just feed off of each other, don't you?" We both instantly went into wounded innocence "I don't know what you're talking about!" mode . . . I don't think she was fooled.
***Crap; I am now seriously thinking about what my list of 25 things would be. Thanks a lot, creativity-driven borderline-OCD, thanks a lot!


Thursday, June 18, 2009

Move Over, Li'l Random, There's a New "Grey Man" In Town!

At the beginning of May, another poor soul found himself subjected to the psychological torture that is being my roommate. I learned pretty early on that TopGun shares Li'l Random's desire to be the Grey Man and fade into the background; so, naturally, I'm doing a special spotlight post all about him.

When I moved into Shack-Fu's house last November, the arrangement was that after he finished the academy and moved out, I would search for someone to rent out the extra room, a process I wasn't really looking forward to. So, when Shack-Fu called me to say that a friend of his was going to be moving to the area and needed a place to live, I was more than happy accept the excuse to avoid the roommate interview process for a bit longer. I was a bit leery about having someone I'd never met move in; I figured that the Shack-Fu Seal of Approval meant he'd be a stand-up guy, but that didn't necessarily mean that our personalities would mesh well. After all, when I asked Shack about my future roomie, he told me "he reminds me a lot of you, actually," and, well, let's face it: historically I have not always been my favorite person -- luckily, while TopGun and I have discovered some similarities, none have been of the overly-neurotic nature.

One personality trait that we discovered in common on his first night in town was that we are both people who don't do so well being thrust into new groups of people, and both tend to keep to ourselves in the beginning until we get a good sense of the group. Being cognizant of that, I tried hard to be a bit more outgoing in our initial conversations, in order to overcome the awkward zone. Luckily, we found our own ice breaking commonality pretty easily -- swapping Shack-Fu stories. And while that definitely opened up avenues of conversation, I think our burgeoning friendship really began to gel when Shack-Fu came back into town for a week. TopGun and I had been getting along pretty well, but I think the presence of our mutual friend made us both a little more comfortable letting our true selves show, and I quickly discovered another common bond: the bond of smartassery. Granted, thanks to his generally laid-back persona, TopGun's brand of smartass behavior is a bit more dry and deadpan than what I've grown accustomed to after the past few years of hanging out with The Lovable PigPen and Cap'n Peanut, but as they say, variety is the spice of life.

However, while we do have some traits in common, there are also some pretty big differences. First of all there's the whole "Grey Man" thing; as I've noted before, although I am prone to Cap'n Cellophane moments, I actually kind of like being the center of attention. TopGun, on the other hand, is not likely to perform a humorous interp in front of his co-workers or dance his fool head off at a New Year's Eve party or sing the Popular song in a crowded restaurant. But at least that's a fairly innocuous difference, and not one that's likely to cause many problems; some of the other differences though . . . I mean, look, I'm a pretty tolerant guy for the most part, but even I have my limits. Seriously; rooming with a laid-back, self-motivated, productive person who eats healthy food and works out every day? It makes me shudder just to think about it! I frequently accuse him of only working out so diligently because he's trying to shame me into getting off of my butt and doing something, and have threatened to make his nickname "Showoff" of "Showboater"; even worse, it's actually worked -- he's got me to agree to do the P90X program with him. I think he may have gotten some mental-manipulation tips from Count Shackula

All kidding aside, I'm very surprised at how quickly I've felt comfortable just being myself around him; as all the loyal blog monkeys know, it usually takes me several months before I let down my guard around new folks. Whether my new-found openness is a product of our personalities clicking just right, or my feeling generally more comfortable with myself than I used to, or something else entirely, I don't know; whatever the reason, I'm glad that I've been able to bypass most of my neurotic hangups and just let the real Todd manifest, and even more glad that getting to know the real Todd has not sent him off running, screaming into the night.

Then again, it's early days yet -- it took PigPen at least a couple of months of rooming with me to start plotting my death . . .

Welcome to the roller-coaster ride that is being my friend, TopGun; hope your sanity survives the experience.


Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Written Word Wed - So, I'm Slightly Better Read Now . . Slightly

Several months back, I filled out one of those "how many of these books have you read?" surveys on Facebook, once again confirming that in terms of The Classics I'm a pretty poorly read English major, having read only 27 of 100. I asked for suggestions for which of the 73 unread books I should tackle; these are the ones I've gotten to so far.

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time by Mark Haddon: Suggested by a friend of PigPen and Cap'n Peanut. Story told from the P.O.V. of an autistic teenager who becomes fixated on solving the mystery of who killed his neighbor's dog. Really enjoyable book, which I have since heard referenced by at least three different people in different situations.

The Shadow of the Wind - Carlos Ruiz Zafon
: The one book from the list that I decided on all by my lonesome because the synopsis caught my attention. Story of a book-dealer's son who is introduced to the Cemetery of Forgotten Books, where he is tasked to select a book at random to become a caretaker for; his choice is The Shadow of the Wind, a choice which will have huge implications as a shadowy figure begins to stalk him -- a shadowy figure reminiscent of the book's version of the devil. And that just barely scratches the surface of the many plot threads suffusing the book; sometimes funny, sometimes maudlin, but always engaging.

Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck:
Suggested by Redneck Diva, who wanted to know what was wrong with me that I hadn't read it yet. To be honest, I had never read any Steinbeck before this one, mainly due to my mother's long-standing dislike of his work filtering down to me. However, I found that I enjoyed this tragic tale quite a bit. Enough to try some of Steinbeck's other work? We shall see.

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen:
Read this one largely thanks to Flunky Lover's prodding, although I have to admit that the then-upcoming release of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies helped encourage my decision. Out of the books I read for this little exercise, this was by far my least favorite; I can see why people enjoy it, and there were sections that amused me greatly -- particularly any scene with Lady Catherine -- but overall, the plot's focus on Lizzy misinterpreting Darcy's motives and actions just wore me down. Yes, you can add that to the list of things that I don't particularly care for in my fiction: misinterpreted actions. All in all I'm glad I read it, though -- it made Pride and Prejudice and Zombies that much more enjoyable when I read it a month or so later.

A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving: Suggested by Cap'n Disaster and one of my co-workers. My favorite of the books listed here, this novel is the story of Owen Meany, whose brilliant mind is stuck in an underdeveloped body, a fact that doesn't keep Owen from deciding that he is a servant of God with a special mission to fulfill. I think I would have to do a full-blown review to really do justice to this book; suffice it to say that the Christmas pageant sequence in the book was one of the funniest things I've ever read, and that I really wish I could have used part of it for a prose piece back in my Competitive Speech days -- although, how I ever could have done justice to Owen's voice, I couldn't possibly tell you. Anyway, highly recommend this one to any and all.

And that's it so far; I plan on picking up one of the complete Sherlock Holmes collections next time I'm on campus, since Coronela has been championing those stories for almost as long as I've known her. But after that, it'll be time to ask for more suggestions.


Tuesday, June 16, 2009

TV Tues - Ups and Downs

Again, just trying to keep the blogging momentum going, so just some general TV thoughts.

First, things that have made me happy

  • Better Off Ted is one of the funniest shows to come down the pike in a long time; I did a big dance of joy when it was renewed
  • Did smaller joy-dances when Castle, Dollhouse, and Chuck were renewed.
  • Did a much bigger joy-dance when word came down that Futurama is coming back on the air with 26 new episodes, courtesy of Comedy Central.
  • Am beyond happy that the new season of Wipeout has started; can't go wrong with the continual proof of my favorite adage: "People getting hit in the face -- always funny. Always."
  • The penultimate season of Lost started off really strong, lost its way just a tad towards the end, but ended with a massive mind-frak that makes me want it to be 2010 right now so I can see how it all ends
  • Best late night comedy sketch in quite a while: Twitter Tracker!

Things that made me not quite so happy
  • Cancellations of Pushing Daisies, The Unusuals, and My Name is Earl.
  • Continuing decline of Heroes, which not even the return of Bryan Fuller could help
  • Lackluster reboot of Cupid; the original version with Jeremy Piven and Paula Marshall was filled with rapid fire wit and incredible chemistry -- the reboot fell short on both counts, despite too leads I like a lot.
  • Parks and Recreation, the lackluster new show from the creators of The Office. Can't believe just how bland and uninteresting the show is.
Maybe next week I'll get back into more timely reviews . . . maybe


Monday, June 15, 2009

Movie Mon. - Drag Me to FUN!

Just a handful of reviews, to keep the blogging momentum rolling

The Burrowers: Entertaining horror-Western about a rescue party who sets out to save some missing settlers from Indians, only to discover that the settlers were taken by something far more dangerous. Solid script is enhanced by a talented cast (including two of my favorite character actors, Clancy Brown and Doug Hutchison) and the novelty of the monsters and their m.o. Recommended for horror fans.

Paul Blart: Mall Cop: Kevin James stars as an over-weight mall security officer who takes it upon himself to pull a John McClane when the mall is taken over by a band of crooks who take the girl of his dreams hostage. Not one I was looking forward to seeing -- the commercials did absolutely nothing for me -- but had heard enough positive word of mouth that I decided to give it a try. Not one I'm going to be watching again any time soon, and it had a few "Oh, come on!" moments that made me cringe, but over all, better than I had been expecting.

Defiance: Historical drama about the Bielskis, a group of Jewish brothers (played by Jamie Bell, Liev Schreiber, and Daniel Craig) who banded together to protect a community of Jewish refuges in the forests of Russia during WWII. Liked this one; interesting look at a facet of the war that I had never really heard about before.

Darkon: Documentary about a community of Live Action Role Players (or LARPers) who take part in the shared world known as Darkon

Some people will watch this and spend their whole time laughing at the dork in chainmail with padded swords; I confess to doing that a bit, but mainly aimed at those who take it so danged seriously that they can't separate relationships between characters in the game from relationships with the people playing the characters in real life. At the same time, the film shows multiple people who have used the game of Darkon as a way of improving their social skills in a way that benefits them in the real world, and it's much harder to laugh this hobby off when taken in that light. Either way, a fascinating film.

The Curious Case of Benjamin Buttons: Excellent film about a strange boy who was born an old man, and ages backwards . . . kind of like Mearth from Mork and Mindy only a bit more attractive to the lady folk. Great writing, great directing, great performances; an off-beat movie, but one that I think can still hold great appeal to more mainstream audiences.

Drag Me to Hell!: A return to the horror genre from Evil Dead creator Sam Raimi filled with the sort of horror-comedy moments that made him a bit of a cult figure in the first place, DMtH is the story of a young bank loan officer who is stricken with a terrible curse which will doom her soul to hell. Saw this one with Li'l Brother, and we both loved it; at one point early on, he leaned over to me and whispered "Are we the only ones laughing?" And, for the most part, I think we were, and nearly falling out of our seats while doing so; guess not everyone appreciates a good old-fashioned horror-comedy romp these days. So, not for everyone by a long shot, but if you're a fan of Raimi's early work, you should definitely give this a try.

Okay, that's it for now; I'll try to catch up on some other reviews next time around.


Friday, June 12, 2009

Fragmented Friday - Giant Goofball

Yes, I'm back; no, I haven't any good excuses; yes, I plan to post regularly again; no, I don't guarantee it. In order to kick-start the blogging process, I figured I'd devote today's posting to the one man who has provided me with more blogging fodder than anyone outside of The Lovable PigPen: everyone's favorite action hero, Cap'n Shack-Fu.

In my last Fragmented Friday post back in April, I mentioned that I would be heading up to Quantico for Shack-Fu's graduation from the academy. I had a really good trip; would have been a great trip except for this nagging little "couldn't get a decent night's sleep for almost a week and so was pretty out of it most of the time" issue

I will admit to getting a little teary eyed at the graduation, although it was at a sort of strange time; before the graduating cadets even came into the auditorium we got to watch a video about what people at the academy go through, and as I sat there watching it, thinking about all the struggles my best friend had to get through to get to that graduation day, well, I got a bit choked up. Was pretty much back in control by the time Shack and his classmates came in; at that point, all I felt was intense pride in Shack.

Probably the question I got asked most often right after I got back from the trip was if the academy had changed Shack-Fu any; initially my answer was "no." He seemed like the same giant goofball I'd known and loved like a brother for the last several years. But during the week I took off work to help him move, I did get to see that his time at the academy had taught him how to handle stressful situations better -- so, for example, when there was a huge miscommunication with the movers that took several days and several iterations of plans to straighten out, Shack handled it all with great patience and grace instead of turning into Disaster Mode Shack-Fu which, trust me, is never fun to be around. Still a giant goofball, though.

Speaking of changes, as I was riding with him a few hours after his graduation, I asked him if he felt any different; he responded that it hadn't really sunk in yet, and that he really just felt like he was breaking the law because he was going around in public fully armed. Within a week, though, he was so used to it that he felt awkward when he wasn't packing heat. Honestly, if there was any job tailor-made for my gun-loving buddy, it was this one.

During his all too brief time back in Denton getting things organized for his move up to OK, I encouraged him to cover as many of the usual Shack-Fu activities as possible, and I think he did a fairly good job: had at least one meal at each of the usual restaurants; did the usual work-out routine at the UNT gym; had a couple of Guys nights and a couple of All-Singles gatherings; went to the firing range with PigPen; organized a game of flashlight tag; used his inhuman powers of persuasion to make me play flashlight tag even though I don't care for the game; and last but certainly not least, kicked my butt in a wrestling match. All in all, a pretty action packed few days, but what else would you expect from Super-Shack?

About a week or so after graduation, Shack-Fu decided to reward himself for all his hard work by buying a new car -- this car, to be exact.
Yup, that's a limited edition, numbered, 2008 Dodge Challenger. You would not believe how many comments, double-takes, looks of lust and/or envy I witnessed during my brief time riding around with Shack in the new Shack-mobile. If nothing else, the car is definitely a conversation starter . . . because, y'know, Shack needs so much help with meeting new people, shy, retiring wallflower that he is . . .

Shack only stayed at Wicker Way one night during his time off, and that was pretty much just so he could pick up some stuff and head up to OK for his house-hunting trip. When he came back from house-hunting to move his stuff out, he actually stayed at Li'l Random's place. Why? Because a couple of days after Shack went on his house-hunting trip, my new roommate -- a friend of Shack-Fu's who just moved to the area for work, tentatively nicknamed TopGun -- moved in. Things were a bit cramped for a few days as TopGun moved in his stuff before Shack-Fu was able to move his out, but we seemed to manage okay.

I can't tell you how awesome it was to have Shack-Fu around again for most of a week; unfortunately, getting used to having him around again meant that I had to get used to not having him around all over again when he finally packed up the last of his things and drove off into the sunset in his shiny new car. Man, I really miss that giant goofball.


Monday, April 20, 2009

Movie Mon. - Please Deliver Us From Obnoxious Children

Dark Matter: Well done, if bleak, drama (loosely based on a true story) about a Chinese doctoral student in cosmology whose joy over getting to come to the states to study under his idol (Aidan Quinn) turns into disillusionment and depression after he runs afoul of university politics. Interesting, although quite a downer in the last act.

Splinter: Enjoyable horror movie about a young couple whose camping trip starts off bad, turns worse after being taken hostage by a couple of felons, and then goes completely off the rails when they are trapped in a gas station by a deadly creature. Liked this one quite a bit; a fairly original creature, which was nice, plus some interesting tweaking of the usual horror character tropes. Plus, I only really had one "Oh, come on!" moment through the whole film, which is a refreshing change these days.

Slumdog Millionaire: Oscar winning drama about a young man who becomes a contestant on the Indian version of Who Wants to be a Millionaire and attracts police attention because of how well he does despite his humble beginnings. An enjoyable film, although I wish I'd seen it before all of the hype and awards had piled up; with such heightened expectations it was hard not to have a bit of a "That's it?" feeling by the end. To be clear: yes, I liked it, but was not blown away by it.

Bedtimes Story: Sub-par family comedy about a man who discovers that the bedtime stories he tells his young niece and nephew are starting to come true. This one got on my nerves something fierce; I had a few minor chuckles here and there, but overall, something about it rubbed me the wrong way.

Twilight: Adaptation of the incredibly popular teen vampire romance novels about a high school girl who moves to a new town and becomes involved with another student who turns out to be a vampire. Don't really have a lot to say about this one; I've seen better, and I've seen worse. Although, I do have to say that if Edward telling Bella "You're like heroin to me" is what passes for romance in this day and age . . . yikes.

Dead Like Me: Life After Death: Straight to DVD movie continuing the story of Georgia Lass and her fellow grim reapers, although minus group leader Rube, whose absence and replacement by a new reaper (Lost's Henry Ian Cusik) is the driving force of the plot. I was a pretty big fan of the TV series, but didn't really care for the movie, especially the new actress playing Daisy; she just did not fit the character at all.

Special: Off-beat film about a depressive meter maid (Michael Rapaport) who signs up for an experimental drug trial which causes him to believe that he has super-powers; his natural inclination is to become a super-hero, of course.

Some excellent ideas present here, but the overall execution is a bit lacking. Liked it, but not as much as I'd hoped from the trailer.

Timecrimes: Enjoyable Spanish time travel film about an ordinary man who finds himself caught up in bizarre events that send him back in time. Somewhat predictable at first, but that actually works in its favor towards the final act as some twists occur. Fans of time travel flicks will enjoy; those who are horribly confused by Season 5 of Lost, probably not.

Tell No One: French thriller about a man who was cleared of the murder of his wife 8 years earlier, only to have suspicions aroused again after a couple of dead bodies are discovered near the scene of her death, a situation that is further complicated when he received an email featuring video of his wife, alive, admonishing him to tell no one. Well done film with some interesting twists and some engaging characters, particularly the main character's less-than-reputable help in his investigation, and the main heavies employed by the big bad.

Doubt: Excellent film about a stern nun at a Catholic school in 1964 (Meryl Streep) who suspects that a priest (Philip Seymour Hoffman) has been abusing a young student. Powerful performances from all involved -- including the always excellent Amy Adams -- compliment a smart and engaging script. As much as Slumdog failed to meet my expectations, Doubt exceeded them.

The Day the Earth Stood Still: Dull yet annoying remake of the classic SF film about a strange visitor from beyond whose arrival invites aggression and paranoia from humanity. The disobedient kid made me feel borderline homicidal, and the CGI work was horribly distracting. Add onto that the film's inability to engage my interest in any character other than John Cleese during his 5 minutes on screen, and you have a big fat "meh" of a movie.


Friday, April 17, 2009

Fragmented Friday - Easing Back Into Blogging

It has now been over two weeks since I last posted, and even the posts I had done before that were quite anemic -- sad state of affairs, I know. I have no really valid excuse other than a hectic schedule and a lack of blogging motivation.

A few of the things that have been going on in the past couple of months

  • A few weeks ago, Parkerite GMC got married, which led to a mini-Parkerite reunion. The bulk of the Poker Football League crew made it, as did Coronela and Little Man Stud, although Clan Flunky was unfortunately unable to attend, to the disappointment of all.

  • I started taking Brazilian jiu-jitsu classes the last week in Februay at TXElite MMA here in town. Once again I tried to keep it a secret from PigPen so I could try to catch him off-guard with improved grappling skills, and once again I let the cat out of the bag sooner than I had planned. I'm enjoying the class a lot; it has a more informal structure than my karate and judo classes -- no bowing as you enter and leave, the instructor isn't "Sensei" but "Coach," etc. -- which actually makes it a much more inviting learning environment for me, and most of the guys there have been really cool, helpful, and encouraging. I've gone to MMA class a couple of times as well, and while I'm not as big a fan of the striking as I am the grappling -- the whole "have trouble seeing this far in front of my face without my glasses" affects punches and kicks much more than it does chokes and submissions -- it is a great workout, and I plan to attend it at least once a week. I've taken this week off because I hurt my shoulder a couple of weeks ago and wanted to give it a chance to heal up, but I plan on jumping back in next week.

  • Two weeks from today I will be in Quantico, VA for Shack-Fu's FBI graduation ceremony; can't wait. There will be a few other Denton folk heading up for it as well, which is cool, so I won't feel quite so odd-man-out as I probably would have if it had just been me and his family.

  • Tonight the Singles are hosting another Murder Mystery; the theme this time is "Murder Me, I'm Irish." Like last year, we had more people wanting to participate than we had roles, so I created 9 additional characters with clues, plus my own character who will serve as M.C./host. I will be playing Rick O'Shea, well known spiritual medium and host of the cable TV show "Bouncing Back from Beyond with Rick O'Shea." And yes, I plan to speak in an accent all night long, and no, I do not guarantee that it will be stable.

  • I recently informed Li'l Brother that I was instigating a new policy; for every day that goes by without him returning my phone call/email/text/carrier pigeon/etc., he shall incur a penalty: 30 minutes worth of being practice dummy for my jiu-jitsu and MMA. After first being informed of the policy, he responded very quickly, but it's now been over a week since I left him a message which he has not yet returned, so it looks like I'm going to have to prove to him I'm serious . . .


Monday, March 30, 2009

Movie Mon - Guan You, Guan Me, Guan Di

The Last House on the Left: Wes Craven's remake of his directorial debut about a group of criminals who find themselves at the mercy of the vengeful parents of one of their victims. One of those "sorry I paid to see it" films; not horrible, per se, but ultimately feels pointless. There were a couple of scenes that had Li'l Random and I laughing at the unintentional comedy, but there wasn't even enough of that to recommend it for MST3King.

Latest effort from Guy Ritchie about a group of criminals getting in over their heads starts off pretty slow, but by the time the first robbery is pulled, the movie moved into full swing, and I was hooked. The first in a proposed trilogy of films following these characters; while my love for the film isn't equal to my love for Ritchie's earlier films like Lock, Stock, and 2 Smoking Barrels or Snatch, I'm eagerly looking forward to the next installment, especially if it contains anything as genius as this dance scene

Drama based on the true story of a single mother in 1928 Los Angeles whose son is abducted; months later, when the police claim to have found the boy, she refuses to believe it is him, and begins a crusade to find her real child, a crusade that makes her a target for the corrupt police department. Well done film that goes places I hadn't expected.

My Name is Bruce:
Low-budget B movie featuring king of low-budget B-movies, Bruce Campbell, playing himself, albeit a more exaggerated, blowhard version; the plot revolves around a young fan of low-budget B-movies who accidentally unleashes a Chinese god of war (and bean curd) and tracks down Bruce as an expert on the sort of creatures you would find in low-budget B-movies and asks for help, which Bruce mistakes for a birthday present from his agent wanting him to enjoy live role-playing his low-budget B movie role. So, how was it? As far as low-budget B-movies go . . . kind of disappointing. Oh, and it had its moments here and there, but overall, I expect more from Mr. Campbell. Although, I did find the Ballad of Guan Di kind of catchy (warning: mildly bloody towards the end)

Wonder Woman:
Animated movie featuring everyone's favorite Amazonian here -- sorry, Xena -- coming to "man's world" to fight the forces of Ares. I've been pretty impressed with the overall quality of the recent slate of direct-to-DVD animated films from DC animation, and I think that this one is actually the best so far; the chemistry between WW and Steve Trevor (as voiced by Keri Russell and Nathan Fillion) is excellent, and the humor throughout was well done -- really wish I could find a clip of Diana teaching a young girl excluded from playing sword-fight with the boys in the park the proper way to disembowel your opponent; good stuff.

Vicky Cristina Barcelona:
Woody Allen film about two American women summering in Europe who both fall for a volatile artist. I know it won an Oscar or two, and I know people who enjoyed it, but I honestly could not wait for the credits to roll on this one; bored me silly. Might have been a different story if I actually cared about any of the characters.

Rachel Getting Married:
Indie film about a recovering addict (the excellent Anne Hathaway) who is released from rehab in time to attend her sister's wedding. I have to confess, I had been expecting to enjoy this one more than I did after all the raves I'd heard -- although I had heard at least one dissenting opinion from a co-worker* -- but the film felt overlong, and the feuding between the two sisters wore on me. Interesting side note: the actress who plays Rachel, the sister who complains because she feels like her more troubled sibling gets all of the attention, also plays Tara's sister on United State of Tara, on which her character is always complaining because her more troubled sibling gets all of the attention . . . Anyway, I did enjoy the movie on the whole, but I tended to enjoy the scenes centered around Anne Hathway's character more than anything else. She definitely deserved all the praise she received for the role.

Bottle Shock:
So-so drama about "The Judgement in Paris" wine-tasting of 1976 which placed the California wine-making community on the map. A solid cast, but an uninspired script. Not great, not awful, just kind of there.

Nobel Son:
Dark comedy about a selfish scholar (Alan Rickman) whose winning of the Nobel prize in chemistry is overshadowed by the kidnapping and ransom of his son -- a kidnapping that he initially doesn't believe is real and so repeatedly hangs up on the kidnapper. I'd say I enjoyed the first 2/3 of the film at least, maybe even 3/4; but, as it moved into its final act, the decisions and behavior of the characters we were supposed to be cheering for took me out of it. On the whole, would give it a thumbs up, but it would be much more enthusiastic if they had reconsidered that final act.

Let the Right One In:
Swedish vampire film about a bullied young boy who is befriended by a vampiric young girl. A more serious take than the last Swedish vampire flick I watched, this stylish film actually lived up to the hype I had heard about it. Recommended for all you fans of foreign language horror films out there -- yes, all two of you.

Happy Go Lucky:
British film about an overly perky young teacher who decides to get driving lessons and is paired with a curmudgeonly instructor who is her polar opposite. This film was much more character driven than plot driven, and as such, your enjoyment will probably be tied directly to how much you can identify with or enjoy the lead character. For me, she was a bit too perky/quirky/giddy/what-have you for my taste; however, the scenes with the abrasive driving instructor were almost all pure gold, as were the scenes with the Flamenco instructor. Most of my time without those two on screen was spent wondering when we'd get back to them.

Role Models:
Entertaining comedy about two guys (Sean William Scott and Paul Rudd) who have to serve community service working for a "Big Brothers" style charity to avoid prison time and get assigned particularly challenging "littles" to care for. The heart of the film is Paul Rudd's grouchy, sarcastic character developing a friendship with the geeky, LARPing Auggie (played by McLovin), and probably the funniest scenes in the film revolve around the two of them. Not that there's not entertainment to be found in Scott's bonding with Tracy Jr. from 30 Rock; plenty of funny stuff there as well. All in all, a really enjoyable comedy; sure, the plot is pretty predictable, but the humor trumped that.

One day his Facebook status simply read "Rachel Getting Married = Andrew Getting Angry"


Friday, March 13, 2009

Fragmented Friday - Who Watches the Watchmen's Man-things?

Latest diet update: as of yesterday morning, I was down 25 lbs since the beginning of the year.

Last night I went to a birthday dinner at Chili's in honor of Sunshine and Trouble, even though Trouble had declared multiple times that she was not having a birthday this year. Because of the timing of the dinner, I didn't get to watch OSU and OU play in the Big 12 quarterfinals, and had to settle for checking the score regularly on my cellphone. It was probably a good thing I didn't get to watch it, as the close score probably would have given me a heart attack. By the end, I had set the ESPN site to refresh automatically every 15 seconds, and so it was that it popped up the following info: "OSU 69 OU 70 FINAL." I sighed and announced it to the table, saying I was sad but was at least glad that the Cowboys had played them close. About 5 or 10 minutes later, one of the other guys said "Hey, Todd -- OSU won." Turns out he had just gotten a text from our former Singles pastor Freezeout who was actually at the game, and who is a big OU fan. I went back on my phone, and sure enough, the score now read OSU 71 OU 70. I later learned that OSU had gotten fouled with only a couple of seconds left and made two free throws to win the game; ESPN.com had just jumped the gun.

It amuses me greatly that most of the complaints I have heard from people about Watchmen have all centered around Dr. Manhattan's penchant for total nudity and the blue CGI private parts that accompany said penchant; who cares about plot, or acting, or direction or any of that jazz, just don't make us look at Dr. Manhattan's special purpose!*

My first time playing racquetball after the night of multiple buttkckings, I had made my first hit of my first game when Trouble said "What's wrong with your racket?" A quick glance showed that the top strings had broken. I went ahead and finished the game as is, since Trouble herself was playing with a cracked racket and had been for a few weeks, only waiting for payday to go buy herself a new one. Later, I emailed Cap'n Peanut to let him now that I had decided that the only possible explanation was that when he had borrowed my racket to play PigPen he had warped my racket with his crazy gorilla strength, and that a bill for a replacement would be forthcoming; he replied that it was nice to know that it was my shoddy racket that had been responsible for his less-than-stellar play that night.

Have you ever found out a piece of information that you were kinda glad to know, because you would hate to have been kept in the dark about it, but at the same time you kinda wish you didn't know, because that little piece of secret information fills you with concern and worry? Welcome to my world.

Last weekend the Singles had a game/movie night at Mei-Mei's parents' house; as always, the movie was shown out-doors, projected onto her parents' garage door. When the email invite went out, Cap'n Cluck urged everyone to remember lawn chairs and blankets. When I saw that, I decided to do one better than bringing a regular blanket, and instead brought one of my Christmas presents from my mom. So it was that about 20 minutes into the movie, as I started to get a little chilly, I wrapped myself up in a nice warm Snuggie**. The rest of the movie was spent with me looking for excuses to move my Snuggie-wrapped arms around for some reason, as every movement would sent Trouble and Lizard into paroxysms of laughter. One of those "you had to be there" times, to be sure, and I know most everyone else was lost as to what the three of us were dying laughing over.

I know I need to start up with the TV Tuesday posts again, but until I actually get around to it, I'd like to take this chance to say that this season of Lost is shaping up to be my favorite season, and I can't wait to see where it all leads. I also want to make sure everyone who is without the joys of TiVo/DVRs knows that Scrubs is moving to Wednesdays at 7:00. I'm also looking forward to the new sitcom which will be on between Scrubs and Lost, Better Off Ted.

Just looks like my kind of weird, doesn't it?

*Yesterday Zinger asked me if I had heard anyone make a "Dongtor Manhattan" joke yet; I assured him he was the first I had encountered.
**For the record: not only did I not request a Snuggie for Christmas, until I opened my present I had no idea that such a thing existed. It was a week or so later before I finally saw an actual Snuggie commercial.


Thursday, March 12, 2009

Hanging Out

A couple of weeks ago, Cap'n Peanut mentioned that he and PigPen were planning on going somewhere to watch UFC 96 and invited me to tag along and I, of course, said sure. However, a few days later Peanut let me know that the plans were off because his parents were having a birthday dinner for his older brother that evening. In the end it worked out, since I would have had to have left early from the Singles Game and Movie Night to meet up with them, and thus would have missed out on tormenting Trouble and Lizard with one of my Christmas presents while watching Back to the Future on Mei-mei's parents' garage door*, but I was still a little bummed not to get to hang out with PigPen and Peanut. Since I'm trying to be more proactive in maintaining my friendships and not not sitting around waiting for people to come to me, I emailed Peanut earlier today to ask if he and PigPen had any plans in place for this weekend, or if they might be free to hang out with me. Peanut replied that they were both free, and wanted to know what sort of plans I had in mind.

I really wanted to reply "I already said: to hang out. Duh!" but thought that such a tone might be counterproductive to actually getting them to hang out with me.

Peanut's reply asking what I wanted to do is a pretty good example of a difference in mindset I've noticed between several of my friends and myself, with my friends being much more action/event oriented while I often couldn't care less. It happens often with Peanut, who isn't much of a sit-around type of guy; it happens with Shack-Fu, who is very task-oriented at times; it happens with Li'l Random, who is difficult to pin down even with very specific plans, let alone nebulous ones; and it happens with Zinger and Pooh-Bear, who will often meet my requests to come visit with questions of if I had anything special I wanted to do. And almost every time my friends try to get some solid plan out of me, I respond with a "doesn't really matter to me" sort of attitude.

It's not that I don't want to go out and do stuff; it's just that, for me, going out and doing stuff isn't necessary for me to enjoy myself. When I call someone up and ask if they want to hang out, it's because I want to be around them, talk with them, joke with them, pick on them, etc. To me, it doesn't matter if this happens waiting in line at the movies, in the middle of an amusement park, or just sitting at one of our homes around the TV set. As long as I'm spending time with my friends, I'm content. And, yeah, some of my favorite memories stem from going out and doing stuff with my friends: the birth of Hyper Force 3000; Bumper Bowling; St. Valentine's Day Meal of Doom; any number of trips to Texas Road House with Cap'n Shack-Fu . . . the list goes on and on. But by the same token, I have incredibly fond memories of just sitting around the house with my friends, swapping stories and goofing around.

Once upon a time, such a focus on activities would get to me as, in my usual neurotic way, I would turn it around in my head as a sign that people really didn't want to hang out with me without something else going on to distract them from me. But as I've matured, I've come to accept that this is just another one of the personality quirks, much like the True Colors system or the Languages of Love/Appreciation; I may be content to sit at home and gab, but others need more stimulation, need to get out of the house and experience something. And as long as both sides understand that about the other, things can run much more smoothly, and with luck not devolved into "What do you want to do? I don't know, what do you want to do? I asked you first" territory.

So, which category do you fall into, my blog monkeys? Are you a "go-go-go-go-go!" person? Or a "Stay or go, it doesn't matter as long as I'm with my pals" person? Comment hungry bloggers want to know!

Back to my email conversation with Peanut: I did respond with a crack about how if I had to plan things the deal was off, which followed by some ideas about what we could do -- ideas that I had already come up with before my original email because I pretty much knew that a request for concrete plans would be forthcoming.

Who says I can't learn?

*A story for another time . . . perhaps


Friday, March 06, 2009

We Watched the Watchmen*

Last night Li'l Random and I headed to the Movie Tavern for the midnight screening of Watchmen. When I bought the tickets a few days earlier, the guy suggested we get there by 10:30 or 11:00, and that they'd probably start seating at 11:00. I, being a perpetual early bird, got there about 10:15, and there were a handful of people already there and waiting; Li'l Random showed up right at 10:30, which is when the bulk of the people started to flow in; by 10:45 the lobby was incredibly crowded. They did indeed start seating at 11:00, but only allowed 20 people in at a time, allowing enough time in between each wave for people to find seats and possibly order their food. Li'l Random and I wound up barely missing the first cut, but were the lead offs of the second wave and so were easily able to get seats in our regular spot; I think it took most of that hour before showtime to get everyone in and seated.

One of the things I like about going to the Movie Tavern on premiere nights is that there are usually a couple of their wait staff dressed up as characters from the movie; last night there was a Silk Spectre and a Rorschach. I did turn to Li'l Random and remark that if someone showed up painted blue and in a speedo (or worse), I was out of there; when I mentioned this fact to Zinger this morning, he posited that that guy was there, but that I just didn't see him because he was too busy cooking in the back. Thanks for the nightmare fuel, Zinger!

The crowd was pretty lively leading up to the show starting, and Li'l Random wondered if we were going to have to sit through that the whole time; I assured him that from the rabid fangirl conversation I had overheard in line before he got there, there was at least one scrappy female who would be willing to crack some heads if they got in the way of her enjoying the film experience. Still, the concern seemed like it might be justified when the trailers started and the promo for Wolverine: Origins started; have never heard such clamor over a trailer in my life. The noise level continued through the Terminator: Salvation trailer as well, but died off when the movie itself started . . . mostly. There was one idiot who kept making whooping noises early on during the initial fight scene and Rorschach's investigation, but someone near him yelled at him to shut up, and despite a quick rebuttal along the brilliant lines of "No, you shut up!" the troublemaker shut his pie hole, and we made it through the rest of the film with no other incidents -- except, that is, for some distractions provided by the girls seated on either side of Li'l Random and myself.

The girl seated near Li'l Random spent a good portion of the last quarter of the film sounding like she was about to cough up her lungs, which always makes for an enjoyable experience for all involved, but at least her significant other seated in between her and Li'l Random served as a bit of a buffer. The girl seated right next to me, however, was slightly more distracting as two thing quickly became apparent: (1) She was incredibly squeamish when it came to blood and gore, and (2) That said squeamishness took the form of much squirming, squealing, and whimpering for the duration of the bloody sequence. And while the film was far from a non-stop gore-fest, director Zack Snyder definitely didn't shy away from ramping up the brutality factor when violence was called for.

As for the movie itself, well, I don't want to give too much away, but I will say that I thought that on the whole Snyder did a good job adapting a very difficult text. Was it perfect? Hardly, although I can probably chalk some of my problems to being such a big fan of the comic that when Snyder's interpretation didn't quite jibe with my own, I found it jarring; most of those moments revolved around Ozymandias. Not quite sure what it was, but the movie version of Veidt rubbed me the wrong way from the get-go. On the flip-side, pretty much every scene with Rorschach was pure gold, as Jackie Earle Haley (probably best known for his role as the rebellious Kelly Leak in the original Bad News Bears films) managed to perfectly capture the spirit of my favorite character from the book.

Much has been made among the comic geek world about the ending of the film, which differs from the book; I have to say that, from my point of view, the culmination of the villainous plot in the movie works just as well as that of the book, if not more so, but I know your mileage may vary on that one.

On the whole, I enjoyed the movie quite a bit, as did Li'l Random, although it's interesting to me that we came at this enjoyment from two vastly different areas. After all, for him this was a new story, whereas for me it was simply a long awaited adaptation of a work that I have read countless times since I first got a copy of the trade paperback for Christmas of 1988. Yes, that's right, it's been 20 years since I first read Watchmen; if that doesn't make me feel old, nothing will. Anyway, those of us comic geeks who have basically grown up in the aftermath of Watchmen have become a bit jaded to its deconstruction of heroics what with the preponderance of grim'n'gritty books that followed, but to someone whose only real exposure to super-heroics is TV and Movies, the overly humanized heroes here are something of a revelation.

I really hope some more of my non-comic-geek friends see it soon; I'm incredibly curious to see how the bulk of the uninitiated react to it.

*For the record, in my head that title has the word "Watched" pronounced with two distinct syllables: "We Watch-Ed the Watchmen." Why? Partly because the meter better matches the original quote that way, and partly because it amuses me. Okay, mostly because it amuses me.


Tuesday, March 03, 2009

A Dynamic Shift

As I've mentioned before, I often spend great portions of my time dissecting the ins and outs of the interpersonal chemistry and group dynamics of those around me. While my previous posts focused on questions of what forms the basis of such dynamics, my blog post the other day brought to mind an example of a dynamic in which I have observed a sizable shift in a positive direction. Gradually over the last couple of years, I have reached the point that time spent with PigPen and Cap'n Peanut leaves me feeling like part of a trio of good friends, and not just a third wheel tagalong.

It's not that I always felt like a third wheel when hanging out with them, but more often than not, if I was around the two of them for an extended period of time, I would eventually slip into that self-defeating, Outsider state of mind. There were several things which contributed to this, on both ends. On my end of things, there was my natural, neurotic Outsider tendencies, which are really always just a moment away from kicking into full gear in any social situation. But there were a number of factors in the PigPen/Peanut dynamic that exacerbated my neurosis. To start off with, PigPen and Peanut had been best friends for years and years before either one of them met me, breeding a bevy of inside jokes, commonalities, and shared experiences that can be daunting to a newcomer at the best of times, but even more so when you factor in the specifics of the duo's behavior.

For you see, much as the combination of PigPen and Cap'n Shack-Fu results in HyperTwin activity that dwarfs their usual hyper behavior, and the combination of Li'l Random and myself leads to Odd Squodd weirdness which sometimes makes our individual randomness seem logical, so does the combo of PigPen and Peanut result in a ratcheting up of their normal behavior to a sometimes intimidating degree. In their case, the amplified behavior is of the trash talking, insult/put-down humor variety. Once the two of them get on a roll, it's a sight to behold, as they feed of each other's energy and go all out to one-up each other; woe to any outsider who tries to get a shot in on one of them, for they are then hit with both barrels from the united pair.

Adding to the joy was the fact that my status as PigPen's perpetual whipping boy was also usually amped up. So, for example , if Peanut made a crack at my expense, PigPen would jump in and join in the attack; if I were to take a crack at Peanut, PigPen would retaliate on his behalf, even if my crack at Peanut had me taking PigPen's side; can't imagine how that could spark my Outsider complex, can you?

A brief aside: Since people tend to read much more bitterness and vitriol into these sort of posts than what I intend, let me take a moment to state for the record that as far as I'm concerned none of this was malicious or purposeful. PigPen was just trying to zing me like he always did day in and day out, just like I tried to zing him; once again, our friendship is based on mutual antagonism, and I am as guilty of starting crap with him as he is of starting crap with me. That being said, when Peanut got added into the mix, I couldn't help feeling like I was constantly being ganged up on and marginalized. I know that wasn't his intent, but it's how I perceived it, and over time I began to feel more and more like PigPen didn't want me around in general, and resented me impinging on his time with his best friend in specific.

So, what changed? A couple of things.

I think the first and most significant change was that Peanut and I became good friends. You see, even though Peanut and I had known each other for a while before I even met PigPen, let alone moved in with him, we were more passing acquaintances than friends. For the longest time, I thought he didn't like me for some reason; after I moved in with PigPen and got to hang out with Peanut more, I soon learned that what I had read as disdain and dislike was actually a variation of the same misunderstanding that occurred when I first met iamam and Rebel Monkey -- turns out that Peanut wasn't always comfortable when in a new group, and kept to himself until he got more acclimated. Sound like anyone else you know?

Anyway, over time Peanut and I got more chances to hang out one on one, and I gradually began to dismiss the thought that he only put up with me because I was rooming with his best friend, and started to accept that he considered me a friend in my own right. Once I made that mental shift, and began to believe that Peanut actually wanted me around and I wasn't just getting invited along out of pity, that third wheel mentality started to fade. But it wasn't quite vanquished, because I had only dealt with one part of the equation.

The other part of the equation, of course, was my growing paranoia that PigPen really didn't want me around. How did I confront this problem? By employing a radical solution: I talked to him about it. Using my patented Paranoia Resolution Formula, we each figured out where the other one was coming from, and moved on from there. Sadly, by the time I'd finally burned away all of my self-consciousness regarding my place in the group, it was only another month or so before they both moved to Lewisville, and my chances to see them vastly decreased. But at least now that I do get to see them, I can just relax and have a good time, and not question my place in the group.

Although I'd been cognizant of the shift in our mini-group dynamic on some level, it was the day after the evening of multiple buttkickings that I really started to reflect on how large a change there had been. Yeah, PigPen and Peanut still egg each other on to a crazy degree, and yeah, there are times when they gang up on me; but there are also times when Peanut and I gang up on PigPen, and there are times when it's every man for himself, and there are times when we're all united against someone or something else. I no longer let their long standing friendship trigger my Outsider complex; instead I just sit back and enjoy the moments when their long history manifests itself, and spend the rest of my time forging the bonds of the newer friendship I'm building with both of them now.

Amazing what can happen when I get out of my own way, isn't it?


Monday, March 02, 2009

Movie Mon - Craftiness

Haven't really watched a whole lot recently but here are a few brief reviews.

Friday the 13th: Franchise reboot that features a slightly craftier* version of everyone's favorite hockey-mask-clad slasher. Enjoyable enough slasher film; definitely a step above several of the previous installments in the series -- I'm looking at you New Beginning and Jason Takes Manhattan! -- but not one I foresee becoming a "classic" in its own right. Still, it will hold a special place in my heart for the deaths of the couple out water-skiing; both of their demises had Li'l Random and me about to fall out of our seats laughing. Doubt that was the director's intent, but oh well.

Blindness: Allegory about a nameless country which is overrun by an inexplicable plague of blindness, with the focus on several of the first people infected who are quarantined in an abandoned asylum which becomes packed to the gills as the epidemic spreads. Did not like this one at all; I can understand why it got good marks from critics, since it was very effective in achieving the effects it wanted to achieve. But while I can appreciate what they were going for with the film, the crumbling of society and its resultant thievery, violence, and rape were not things I enjoyed watching. While I may be a fan of the dark and twisty, I prefer my dark and twistiness to be either more subtle or more humorous; the stark brutality of Blindness made it a tough pill to swallow. Again, can appreciate the craftsmanship of the film, but doesn't mean I ever want to see it again.

Choke: Adaptation of Chuck Palahniuk's novel about a sex addict (Sam Rockwell) who scams people in restaurants by pretending to choke to death in order to raise money to pay for his delusional mother (Anjelica Huston)'s hospital fees. I had expected to like this one, what with its dark and twisty nature, but somehow the different plot elements never fully gelled for me. My favorite moments all revolved around Huston's character, both in her delusional present, and even moreso in the flashbacks to her younger days and questionable parenting skills.

The Haunting of Molly Hartley: Ho-hum horror flick about a girl who transfers to a new school after her mother goes crazy and tries to kill her, only to soon start hearing voices and seeing things as well. Really not worth the time it would take to critique it; I say give it a pass.

Sex Drive: Teensploitation film about a geeky virgin who goes on a quest to hook up with a girl he met online. Even as teen sex comedies go, this one was pretty bland; there were some amusing bits here and there (the bizarrely over-confident Randy and Andy, James Marsden as the violent older brother) but over all, I was pretty bored throughout most of it.

*Crafty as in sneaky intelligence, and not crafty as in "Oh, look at the nice macrame owl I made in Arts & Crafts." An understandable mistake, since Camp Crystal Lake is known for its macrame owls, ranks right up there with their high body count.


Saturday, February 28, 2009

Of Bro Codes and Buttkickings; or "An Evening With PigPen and Peanut"

A couple of weeks ago, I got a call from The Lovable PigPen asking if I could take off work a bit early on the following Friday afternoon to pick him up from the airport after his return from a business trip. To make it worth my while he offered to buy my lunch and pay for a day pass at his and Cap'n Peanut's gym so that I could work out with them and play some racquetball. Never one to pass up free food and an excuse to take off of work, I quickly agreed; of course, the fact that I don't get to hang out with PigPen too often anymore, and hadn't played racquetball with him since a couple of months before he broke my finger might have had a little bit to do with it.

I got to the airport about 10 minutes before his flight was scheduled to land, which turned out to be excellent timing, as his flight was about 10 minutes early. I was standing by the baggage claim that had been indicated online when I saw PigPen walking out, looking around; he looked right through me and turned to walk the opposite direction. I of course did the only logical thing; sped walk to catch up to him and invade his personal space so that he almost spun around and decked me. When he realized it was me and didn't give me crap for coming up on him like that, I knew something was distracting him. Turns out as soon as his plane landed and he turned on his work Blackberry, he had a ton of missed calls. You see, although he had been out of town on company business all week, he had also been primary on-call all week, and so didn't get a full night's sleep all night from dealing with calls. And, of course, while he was on the flight, some major technical issues sprang up, the end result of which was that his planned afternoon off went up in smoke; bummer for me, who had been looking forward to hanging out with him, and double-bummer for him who had been looking forward to being able to escape from work stuff for an afternoon.

We stopped to get a quick bite to eat at KFC, and then swung by his place so he could grab his car. Luckily, Cap'n Peanut was home, so I hung out with him while waiting for PigPen to get back from work. Well, except for the hour where Peanut had an appointment, during which time I sat around reading their copy of The Bro Code by Barney Stinson*; not surprisingly, I discovered that I am a frequent code violator, but was more than pleased to note that Peanut had a couple of infractions under his belt as well. Anyway, PigPen was finally able to escape from work, and by the time all was said and done, we made it to the gym probably close to 7pm.

It was at this point that Peanut and PigPen tried to kill me.**

Okay, so maybe, that's a bit of an exaggeration; really, they just tried to make my arms and legs fall off with a work-out far beyond my meager capabilities. I would periodically inform workout mastermind Peanut of my intense loathing of him, and how I would do him great bodily harm if I were actually still capable of moving any of my limbs. After they finished breaking my spirit with the workout from hell, we headed to the racquetball courts.

I managed to beat Peanut in my first game***, but had a brief fear of being shut-out by PigPen when he broke out into an impressive lead early on in our first game; I told them afterwards that if he had managed to shut me out after not playing for over a year and a half when I had been playing with Trouble for the last month or two, I would have just walked back to their apartment and then driven off into the night, vanishing along with my dignity. Luckily, this was not necessary, as I finally got my head in the game enough to stage a minor comeback. Not enough to beat him, of course, but enough to keep me from feeling like a total screwup. We kept playing until the gym shut down at 10, at which point we finally picked up some dinner and headed back to their place.

Before we had gone to the gym, Peanut had been giving PigPen a hard time about the previous weekend, when they had stayed up late reliving their college days by playing Tekken 3, during which time Peanut had managed to rack up quite a few more wins than PigPen. After all the trash talking, PigPen of course had no choice but to instigate a rematch. And while it apparently wasn't as one-sided as their previous all-nighter had been, Peanut was still turning out to be a bit more on his game than PigPen, a fact that frustrated the always competitive PigPen to no end. At one point, Peanut handed me his controller while he went to get something to drink, and so after getting my butt kicked by the workout and again in racquetball, I received my third butt-kicking of the evening as PigPen mercilessly took out his aggressions on my poor electronic avatars -- poor because they were being guided by someone who had never played any version of Tekken before and being attacked by someone who had devoted countless hours to learning all the nuances of the game. After several games in which I was barely able to lay a virtual hand on PigPen, I passed the controller back to Peanut with great relief.

One of the features of the Versus mode of Tekken 3 is that it keeps a running tally of how many wins each player has, making it easy to keep track of just how far ahead Peanut was. This lead to the following exchange:

PigPen: "Man, I can't believe Peanut is up on me 13 games."
Me: "Actually, if you subtract the wins you had against me, it's more like 17 games."
PigPen: "Shut up, Todd!"

This exchange was repeated several times over the next hour, with each iteration leading to a more forceful tone of voice from PigPen, as well as threats of physical violence. And so it was that my smart mouth lead to my 4th and final butt-kicking of the evening, as PigPen followed up on his threats and engaged me in our first sparring match since the night he moved out 6 months previously. And while the part of me that had missed our semi-regular grappling matches was pleased, the part of me that was so worn out from the workouts and racquetball that it couldn't move its arms and legs was less so.

By the time my hosts had decided they were ready to call it quits, it was around 4AM. I crashed on their couch, and managed probably three or four hours of sleep before I woke up and couldn't go back to sleep, so I just laid there on the couch waiting for the others to get up. Eventually they both emerged from their respective rooms, and Peanut called out for pizza for lunch. After we ate, Peanut and PigPen headed to Era to pick up a table from Peanut's parents, and I headed back to my place. I was sore from the workout, but both of my tormentors, I mean, friends, assured me that it would be even worse the next day. However, after a brief chat with my mom when I got home, my sleep deprivation caught up with me, and I crashed for several hours, waking up 30 minutes before I was supposed to head to Cap'n Bubbles' birthday party with a massive headache and even more massive pain in my limbs; apparently, my body had taken my three hour nap as a signal to move into second-day-soreness mode. The upside, of course, was that although I wound up having to beg off the party, I got most all of the discomfort out of the way on Saturday, and felt pretty good on Sunday.

To recap: initial plans scrapped, received massive butt kickings at everything I attempted, and wound up feeling pretty miserable the following day. Factor in the fact that I got to experience all of the above while hanging out with two of my best buds who I don't get to see nearly often enough since they moved to Lewisville, and I'd have to say that on the whole it turned out to be one of the best weekends I've had in a while.

Even if the bastages did try to kill me.

*Pretty entertaining little book; I'm tempted to purchase the audiobook version which is read by NPH in character.
**While never explicitly spelled out, I can't help but feel like attempted homicide flies in the face of the Bro Code
***A fact that I would be much more willing to brag about if it weren't for the fact that that night was Peanut's first time to play racquetball ever, and my win was not by a very impressive margin. Cursed athletic, coordinated people, making me look bad!