Thursday, December 31, 2009

On 2009

A reflection on the year gone by, in list form.

Things I liked about 2009:
- went the first 10 months of the year without using an alarm clock
- rediscovered the joy (and agony) of daytime television
- got my foot in the door of the freelance writing and editing world
- didn't go totally broke in the process
- somehow managed to find a full-time job that pays well
- proposed to the girl of my dreams
- received a 'yes' answer to said proposal
- had a kickass Christmas filled with family, friends, and Beatles Rock Band

Things I was disappointed by in 2009:
- didn't write as much as I would have liked
- didn't stick to the dietary changes I made in the early part of the year

Things I look forward to and/or plan to do in 2010:
- getting married
- losing at least 60 pounds
- spending more time writing

I don't really have any complaints about 2009. I still sort of can't believe it's almost over. Here's hoping 2010 is just as great. Cheers, everybody.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

This blows my mind.

When I read about this, I figured it would be mildly amusing. But no. I am not amused by this. In fact? It gives me the fucking creeps. You know I bet there were people in the audience who did not realize that that was not Neil Young. Without the video, I probably would not have known it wasn't him, either.

Bravo, Jimmy Fallon. Your second career as a Neil Young cover band awaits you.

Thanksgiving: Contributing to Obesity Since 1621

As you know, Thanksgiving is this week. And even if you didn't know it, chances are someone has told you about it. Or, even if they didn't tell you specifically about Thanksgiving, they told you about the main focus of the holiday. No, it's not being thankful for all of the good things in your life or any of that nonsense: it's food. Or, more specifically, gorging yourself on delicious, delicious food. I listen to NPR in the morning while I'm getting ready for work, and then some more while I'm on my way to work, and I heard no fewer than two stories about food this morning. The first story was about 'traditional' Thanksgiving deserts (most of which sounded disgusting, except for the skillet apple pie, which sounded amazing), and it was a pretty fun story. You can listen to that one here. The second was about how Thanksgiving is celebrated by immigrants to America. The person interviewed is the chef at a Greek restaurant in New York, and he talked about how his family would always eat Greek food at Thanksgiving, and how he has carried that tradition on with his own children and wife. His wife is Italian, and their Thanksgiving dinner is a mixture of Greek and Italian foods, and it sounds awesome. You can listen to that story here.

The idea of eating cultural food during Thanksgiving is somewhat foreign to me. For as long as I can remember Thanksgiving dinner has been the following: turkey, sweet potatoes, pumpkin pie, and other things that I can't think of at the moment, but those are the standouts in my mind. To me, those things are entwined with Thanksgiving. It's not Thanksgiving without those things, and whenever I have those things in another setting I always think of Thanksgiving (mostly the sweet potatoes and the pumpkin pie - if I thought of Thanksgiving every time I made myself a turkey sandwich, I would be thinking about Thanksgiving a lot of the time). The thought of throwing lamb and other things into the mix just seems odd. It also sort of makes me wish that my family did it, too.

What are you planning to eat this year? Regardless of what it is, happy Thanksgiving. Enjoy the delicious, delicious food.

Friday, October 30, 2009

"You're embarrassing me in front of my fancy band."

The quote above is from one Mr. Ben Folds. He's what the kids today call a "musician," former member/leader (by virtue of his name being in the band name) of Ben Folds Five, producer of Bill Shatner, Amanda Palmer, and Weird Al Yankovic, and all-around nerd icon. At least to me, he is. Ben Folds is kind of my favorite musician ever. There are others whom I really like, and whose music I may even think is better than Ben's, but he's still my favorite. His lyrics are playful and sometimes thought-provoking, and his piano skills are incredible. Plus, he puts on an amazing live show. He's not just out there to play songs - he's there to entertain his audience, and he does it perfectly, from the stories he tells between songs to his use of audience participation. I mean, what other musician are you going to see who has the audience since in three-part harmony? I've yet to find another one. These are just some of the reasons that I love Ben Folds.

Last week Jennie and I saw Ben perform with the Columbus Symphony. I'd seen the DVD of his performance with the Western Australian Symphony, so I had an idea of what to expect, but nothing could've prepared me. It. Was. AMAZING. The orchestra provided a fullness to the songs that I didn't even realize was missing from the shows I'd been to with just Ben and his piano. Songs like "Zak and Sara," "Effington," or "Stephen's Last Night in Town" were lighter and more playful than they already were, whereas others like "The Ascent of Stan" or "Brick" seemed to carry an extra layer of pathos. Many of the songs gave me chills, and, while I'd heard a version of the song with strings before, hearing "Smoke" live with the orchestra actually made me cry. Either I'm just that lame, or it was just that good.

I'd heard other bands perform with symphony orchestras before. Most notably for me was Metallica's album, S&M, on which they performed live with the San Francisco Symphony. While the album is excellent, there is a DVD of the performance, and you can isolate the symphony from the rest of the band. Doing this reveals that, for the most part, the orchestra just sits there while Metallica plays their songs. Sure, there are flourishes of notes here or there, but they're basically accompaniment to the band. I had that in mind going in, and it was an incredible experience to hear the orchestra, as Ben described it, actually act as the band. If you have the opportunity to see a performance like this, I highly recommend it.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Dear Current Love

There's nothing I can say here that can even begin to describe how I feel about you. I love that we laugh at the same stupid things. I love that we like the same music, the same books, the same TV shows, and that we get the same pop culture references. I love that we think of the same things at the same times, and that I never have to explain anything to you because chances are really good that you already know what I'm talking about. I love that we grew up blocks away from each other, so we already know all of the same places and neighborhoods. I love how instantly comfortable I was with you, and how instantly comfortable you were with me. I love that I can say whatever comes to mind, no matter how ridiculous or inappropriate, and I feel no self-consciousness about anything (though maybe this is a bad thing). But mostly, I love how I feel when I'm with you, when I hold your hand, when I look at you. I love feeling like my heart might burst because it just can't hold it all in, and I love being able to see in your eyes that you feel the same way.

I love everything about you and everything about us. I wouldn't change anything. My life is the best it has ever been, and I have you to thank for that. So, thanks.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

At least I have my health.

As anyone who has been following this blog for any amount of time knows, I lost my job about ten months ago. Since then I have been either unemployed or underemployed, and while I'm now working a 40-hour full-time job, it's a temporary position and I don't know if it's going to amount to anything other than having paid for the Wii I bought a few weeks ago.

The first thing I did after starting to do freelance work in March was to look for health care. The coverage that was provided by my former employer was great. It covered just about everything I could want it to cover, and my prescription copays were always very low. I decided that I wanted to stick with the same insurance company that I'd been using for years. I found a website through which I could apply, filled out the application, and sent it in.

A few weeks later I heard back: my application had been rejected. The reason had something to do with some doctor's visits I had made almost a year prior, and it didn't make any sense. I wasn't seeing that doctor anymore, so why should it affect my coverage now? So I applied again. This time I tactfully and skillfully left those previous visits to the doctor whom I was no longer seeing off of my application. Was this wrong? Maybe. But I needed insurance, and since I was no longer seeing this doctor, I didn't think it would be a problem. And again, a few weeks later, I received another rejection. No mention was made of the doctor whom I was no longer seeing. This time the reason given was my height and weight. Fun fact about me: I'm 6'5". I carry a little extra weight around my midsection, but I am by no stretch of the imagination obese. I'm a big guy, and I'm built like a big guy. My weight has never been an issue before medically, so why should it be an issue now? I was convinced that, if they could see me, they would have accepted my application.

Now I was frustrated. I had seen an ad in the paper for a local insurance agent with the company that I had been applying for coverage from, so I called him. We talked for about an hour and I filled out yet another application and he sent it in for me and told me he would let me know what he heard. So I waited for about a month, maybe more, I don't remember exactly, and then I heard back. Rejected yet again. This time, it was because of a prescription that I've been taking on a daily basis for a while now. In other words, I have a pre-existing condition. I don't see a doctor for this condition. I don't have to undergo expensive medical procedures because of this condition. Once a month I go to the pharmacy and have my prescription refilled, and that is the extent of the care that this pre-existing condition requires. The cost of the prescription without insurance is a little over $100. That's just over $1,200 a year. The premium that I would've been paying to the insurance company would probably have covered most of that. And yet, they wouldn't give me insurance.

So I decided to go a different route. Referred by a friend to another website, I filled out another application and was soon contacted by a very friendly woman who helped me compare my options and choose a plan that I could afford and that would cover what I needed. My prescription copay was a little more expensive than it had been before, but I wasn't paying anywhere near the full price so I was fine with it. All was fine with the world. Until this past weekend. I went to pick up my prescription, and my copay had almost doubled from $45 to $83.30. That's just $20 less than the cost of the prescription. Monthly the insurance costs around $140, plus the now $83.30 copay for the prescription, which makes the monthly total around $223.30. It would actually be cheaper for me now to just drop the insurance and pay for the medication out-of-pocket than to continue with it.

Since this past weekend I've contacted the woman who helped me set up the insurance, and after doing some digging she informed me that the copay increase wasn't a mistake (as I thought it surely must have been). It's just a tactic of the insurance company's in an attempt to get me to sign up for a mail-order program that is supposedly cheaper than going to the pharmacy. She also mentioned that her own insurance company has been pressuring her to make the switch from pharmacy to mail-order service.

I just really don't know what to say about any of this, nor do I pretend to know everything about the current health care debate that is going on around the country. I do know, though, without question, that the current system is broken and that something needs to be done to fix it, and soon. I also know that I hope I don't get sick any time soon.

Friday, August 28, 2009

"Anyone who can't make money on Sports Night should get out of the money-making business."

If you ever want to know if a show is going to get cancelled or not, just ask me if I like it, and if I say yes, then you know that it's not long for this world. I have a tendency to get attached to TV shows that end up being cancelled for one reason or another. I'll start watching a show and it will be really good and I will like it a lot, and then it will get cancelled because no one else is watching it.

This has been happening for years. Fox's Andy Richter Controls the Universe was a brilliant, imaginative, damn funny series that was cancelled only to be replaced by a show called (I kid you not) The Stupids. The live-action version of The Tick was just as funny and just as cancelled, and while I think that shows like it and ARCTU would survive today, they just didn't have a chance ten years ago. Of course, it's well-documented that Fox doesn't know how to treat new shows. It's truly a miracle that Arrested Development somehow managed to hold on for three seasons. And I'm only talking about shows I watched when they were on the air; there are plenty of other series (Firefly, Wonderfalls) that, had I watched them when they were originally aired and not years later on DVD, I would've been crushed when they were violently removed from the schedule after only 11 or 4 episodes, respectively.

And it's not just a Fox problem. Over on ABC, they're just as clueless. Sports Night limped through two glorious, low-rated seasons before getting the axe. The Clerks animated series, a direct precursor to the style of humor that Seth McFarlane has run into the ground and easily ten times as funny as the best episode of Family Guy, aired only two episodes before being cancelled. And after debuting its first season with very strong ratings, Pushing Daisies lost its viewership and was canned, though this was not ABC's fault, as PD was a clear casualty of last year's Writer's Strike.

This problem that I have is not strictly limited to TV shows. Invariably my favorite comic book series are always the ones that no one reads and that end within a year or two of their start (Hourman, Manhunter, Gotham Central, Nextwave, Sleeper, Spider-Man Loves Mary Jane, Breach...I could go on). Even the toy lines that I collect seem to hobble along until finally they just fade away.

It doesn't always end badly, though. NBC's Chuck came close to suffering the same fate as Pushing Daisies, but thankfully was granted a third season, and I couldn't be happier. I think, though, that that's the most stressful part of watching TV for me at this point: worrying about whether the shows I love are going to get picked up. Sure, we all know The Office isn't going anywhere, and The CW will absolutely never let Smallville die (I will stick with you until the end, Clark, no matter how bad your adventures are), but everything else is up in the air. I love Chuck and I really got into Dollhouse towards the end of the season, and I am ecstatic that both are returning for another season, but I sincerely hope that their ratings improve next year, not only because I want to make sure they can come back for more, but also because I just cannot handle the constant stress of not knowing whether a show I enjoy is going to be unceremoniously killed. When the announcement came that Pushing Daisies had been pulled from the schedule, I was sad, but I have to admit I was also a little relieved. I had closure, and no matter how heart-broken I was, I could at least move on. I suppose watching these constantly on-the-bubble TV shows is a lot like being in a really unstable relationship.

And yet I'm magnetically drawn to these shows, for one reason or another. Sure, they hurt you sometimes, but the good times are so good that it more than makes up for the bad. At least, that's what I tell myself. Really I think I might just be a glutton for punishment.

Thursday, August 27, 2009


It's TV Week over on The Collective, and in yesterday's post Kat mentioned her love of The Kids in the Hall. This led me to reflect on my own enjoyment of those lovable Canadian scamps, and I decided to look up my favorite sketches on the interwebs. So here are three of my favorite Kids in the Hall sketches:

3. What's all the hoopla?

2. My favorite zombie chase scene ever.

1. The Eradicator!

Thirty Helens agree: The Kids in the Hall are awesome.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Death, Threes, and Celebrities ("That was an unfortunate rhyme, but still...")

I'd like to talk about something that's very important for a moment. Five days ago, Ed McMahon died. Then, a few days later, both Farrah Fawcett and Michael Jackson followed suit. Celebrity death comes in threes. This is not news to anyone. It's an odd phenomenon that, whenever one celebrity dies, two more are soon to follow, and it almost always rings true. I say almost, because when David Carradine died, no one else did, but that's neither here nor there.

Well, apparently last night or this morning Billy Mays died. Not the soccer player, the pitchman. This is a guy who, whenever he came on TV, always made me turn the volume down because he was just so friggin' loud and so excited about whatever he was selling. The ShamWow and OxiClean are probably his two most famous products, though I would have loved to have seen what he could do with a Snuggie. Alas, though, he's gone.

I notice that people are saying, 'Oh no, Billy Mays is gone, who's next in the set of three?' And to this I must object. Is Billy Mays really a celebrity? Sure, people know who he is, but only because he's on TV every twelve minutes telling you who he is and to buy some useless product. Is that the definition of a celebrity? What exactly makes one 'famous'? McMahon, Fawcett, and Jackson all had careers as late-night sidekicks, actors, or musicians. I don't think anyone would question their celebrity status. But is a commercial pitchman, albeit a recognizable one, who doesn't make his own product, whose sole purpose is to get you to call 1-800 number to order what is essentially a knife that will cut pennies, really to be considered a celebrity?

I don't have any answer to this question. I really want to know, though, because if Billy Mays is considered a celebrity then I think it's time that we, as a people, rethink the definition of that word. Being a celebrity used to mean something. You had to be John Lennon, Katherine Hepburn, Cary Grant to be a celebrity. Now you just have to be annoying and visible. I suppose that in a world where Paris Hilton, a talentless, unattractive brat whose only defining quality is the fact that she comes from a rich family, and where those two idiots from The Hills (I honestly don't even remember their names, but you know who I'm talking about), are considered celebrities, then the sky's the limit for a guy like Billy Mays. At least he was moderately likable.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

What man? Which man? Who's the man? When's a man a man? What makes a man a man? Am I a man? Yes. Technically, I am.

I'm procrastinating right now, and the ladies on The Collective filled out a survey this week. Seeing as I enjoy filling out surveys, and seeing as they're excellent time wasters that don't at all feel like a waste of time until they're over, I thought I'd go ahead and fill it out, too. Here it is.


I have several scars on my fingers that resulted from toy customizing accidents.


To be finished with my work. And to not have a cold anymore.


I think I was born around 1:00 AM, but I could be way off. I feel like I missed being born on Valentine's Day by that much.



Sports Night. Hands down.


I talked to Jennie while she was stuck in traffic on her way home from work. Talking to her is often the only human contact that I have during the day.




It was probably myself for some reason. I couldn't tell you for sure, though.


All of them.


I don't have a favorite. Right now my favorite smell is Vick's Vaporub. Mmmmm.


No preference.


You can be smart without being funny, but you can't be funny without being smart, so I would rather be funny, because if I'm funny then the chances are good that I'm also smart.


Coffee. But not regular coffee. I like froufy coffee with lots of sugar and chocolate and whipped cream and stuff. Judge me if you must.


You remember the cookies that they used to have at Wendy's? They were big cookies and they were really delicious. I would eat one of those.


I have no idea. Probably Jennie, though she is hesitant to tell me when she's mad at me.




*blushes* yeah....


No. Funny story, though: I once fell in love knowing that I was leaving. Okay, not really funny so much as awful.




Bad drivers.




Kryptonite. Canada. Vintage toys.


I would not have this done. I prefer nature the way it is.


The Collective tells me what to think.


I used to be, but I'm not anymore, though I sort of hope that I'll never have to ask anyone out again.


My height, which is great, since I work so hard at being tall! Seriously, people. I know I'm a giant. Get over it.


Continue living my life as if nothing had changed.


None right now, thank you.


My first name is my dad's middle name. I don't know who he was named after.


My eyes regularly water if the Sun is in my eyes for any sort of period of time. So probably the last time I looked in the direction of the Sun.


I'm a collector. I will go on little sprees where I try to buy up as many of one type of thing as possible (usually it's toys, but sometimes it's comics).


I would like to think so.


A few people, yes, of varying degrees of celebrity.


Everything matters. It really just depends on how much each thing matters.


I rant sarcastically.


I simultaneously trust and distrust people immediately. There's a window of a few hours where that happens and then I subconsciously make my decision one way or the other.


"Think About It" by Flight of the Conchords.




"Make it work," as said by a robot of Tim Gunn.

Friday, May 1, 2009

WARNING: This is a post about toys. My next post will be a movie review. You can look forward to that if you don't want to read this one.

I was going to give Jennie crap about how she hasn't written on her blog in a week, not really because it bothered me but because I like to give Jennie crap, when I realized that I haven't written on my blog in longer than that, so I thought I would go ahead and write sometime. I'm taking a well-deserved break from writing many many math problems. At some point I will get back to that later on this evening, and then I will be going to help Jennie and Heidi (new character! Jennie's roommate) move from one apartment to another, better one. Awesome.

So recently I've been spending my money on toys, which is not a shock to anyone, but the interesting thing is what I've been buying. Ever since I was very young I've been enamored of a series of toys from the '80s called The Super Powers Collection. Considered by many geeks to be the best toyline ever (seriously, ever), this was the first truly comprehensive series of toys dedicated solely to the DC Universe characters. Over the course of three years collectors not only saw figures of Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman, but also of Green Lantern, Dr. Fate, and obscure characters like Mr. Miracle, Plastic Man, and Samurai. Each figure was a unique sculpt, and very, very detailed. There are a couple of websites devoted to the series - ToyOtter's archive is my favorite, and Mike Mensinger's site has great stuff on it, too.

I've had a collection of these figures loose for years, but a few months ago I decided I wanted to collect them on their cards, too. I love the art on the packages, and pretty much all of the art associated with the series. It's a really clean style, and it reminds me of the art in comics that I read when I was really young and first getting into comics. The whole thing is a nostalgia project for me, but I'm having a great time. Anyway, this morning I took some pictures of my collection, and I thought maybe I'd share them. I don't know if anyone reading this really cares, but I'm pretty proud of it.

Here's my loose collection of all 34 figures in the series, along with one of the figures in his package. On the top shelf is the Hall of Justice, the headquarters of the Superfriends (naturally!), and a carrying case that went with the series of figures. I really like the art on the cover of the carrying case.

Here are the figures still in their packages that I've picked up so far. I've got a few more coming, but I really like how these guys look. On the shelf below those is a board game that came out in the '80s that tied in with the series of figures, as well as the Batmobile, which is the first toy from this series that I actually remember receiving as a child. The main thing I remember about it, aside from the fact that it was a birthday gift, was the box. It was so vibrant and it displayed the features of the toy so perfectly. The Batmobile is my single favorite toy from this series.

I've also been collecting items that were related to the series and that showcased the art of the toy line. On the wall is a mail-away poster that was offered with proofs of purchase from the figures. On the top shelf below the poster is a related comic, a mail-away record, and the materials for the Super Powers Fan Club, which are really scarce nowadays, considering that they were offered to kids in the '80s and most kids probably destroyed them. In front of all of that is a series of drinking glasses that came out featuring art from the series. On the far right, next to the Flash glass, is a box that I made that displays the mini-comics that came with each figure from the first two years of the line. Some of my first comics were those mini-comics.

Here's the weird stuff. There was a promotion at Burger King in the '80s that tied in to the toy line. There were four different kid's meal boxes, and four different toys, which were just cups with Superman, Batman, Darkseid (big bad villain), and Wonder Woman for handles. So those are all there. Then there are four VHS tapes bearing the Super Powers label, three of four 'Choose Your Own Adventure' books that also bore the brand (those books are AWESOME, by the way), and three book-and-record sets that were also Super Powers branded. I like the weird stuff because it showcases the art of the series and because, well, it's just weird. I mean, book-and-record sets? How awesome are those!

Sometimes when I'm talking about toys Jennie just gives me a sideways look, like I'm from another planet or she has no idea what I'm talking about, and that's totally cool. I know not everyone understands stuff like this. The best explanation I can give is that collecting toys reminds me of my childhood. I have extremely fond memories attached to everything on these shelves, and it makes me happy. I don't know why other people do it, but that's why I do it, anyway. Also, it's just a lot of fun. And it's cheaper than being addicted to drugs or alcohol.

Thus ends the geekiest post yet on my blog. More to come? Who knows.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Identity Crisis!

About a month ago, on a Friday night, I got a call from my credit card company telling me that my identity had been stolen. Well, they didn't say that exactly, but they asked me to verify some charges that had been made, and I verified that I had, in fact, not made them, which meant that someone else had done so, which meant that my identity had been stolen. No big whoop. I went to the bank the next day and we went over the list of charges (the card that was used was a check card), and they sent the list of fraudulent charges to the boys in Fraud, and I wasn't out a dime. It was actually pretty great how easy it was to fix everything. While I was there I probably could have told them that a bunch of stuff that I'd bought online in the previous week was fake, too, and they wouldn't have had any idea. Except then I would've been essentially stealing my own identity, and committing my own fraud, and the boys in Fraud don't take too kindly to people what commit fraud.

A week or so later, packages started arriving. I didn't think anything of this, since I'm a fairly frequent eBay shopper, so I usually have a package or two a week of stuff that I've bought of the old internet. But the packages that were arriving were frequent, and they were things that I hadn't ordered. The first thing I received was a DVD detailing how to become a grant writer and make millions of dollars. I didn't watch it, but I probably should have, seeing as I'm barely making thousands of dollars now, and a million is a lot more than a thousand (I write math problems for a living!). The next thing that came was some make-up. Confession time: being a straight man, I don't wear make-up. I know, it's a shocker. I have worn make-up in the past, but only for the sake of theatre (I'm a straight man, I swear), and never for the fun of it. Okay, there was that costume party that I went to where I wore gold make-up all over my face, but that's it. The make-up that I'd received was age-defying cosmetic make-up, meant to make me look years younger than I am. It was basically Botox in a jar, and if I'd used it I was guaranteed to look like a 15-year-old again, which doesn't sound at all pleasant considering how pimply I was back then.

To make a long story short, the thieves who stole my identity, in their infinite wisdom, ordered a bunch of stuff online using my credit card and then had all of the stuff shipped to me. For what purpose, I have no idea. Minor inconvenience, perhaps? It would've been, if I'd had to return any of the stuff that I'd received, but after speaking to the people at the bank I learned that I was under no obligation to do so. So not only did I get all of my money back, but I also received the aforementioned DVD and make-up, plus a box of crappy books from Doubleday (which I not only did not have to pay for but ended up selling at Half-Price Books for a small profit) and a pair of earrings (which I gave to my mom, since Jennie doesn't wear jewelry and my mom really liked them). But my favorite thing that I received was a box from FTD: flowers. What had my identity thief sent me? Had he or she done so out of appreciation for my letting them use my credit card for a day? I opened the box with a great deal of anticipation, and I found a bouquet of lilies and pink roses. They were nice flowers, for sure, so I decided to display them. Unfortunately, not having any sort of a vase in my apartment, I had to make due with a water jug.


My favorite part about the flowers, aside from the fact that someone had sent me flowers and that has never happened before (and will probably never happen again), was that they came with a card. What would these dastardly criminals write? Would they reveal anything about their identity, or taunt me with the fact that they would probably never be caught? No. It was something far more touching than that.


Of course you do, you wasted a full day spending my money on useless crap that you didn't even have the brains to have sent to yourself.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

A Review of Watchmen

Before I start this review, I thought I would mention, for the three people that don’t already know this about me, that I am a huge comic book fan. I’ve been reading them for most of my life, and I love them. I first read Watchmen when I was in high school, and I enjoyed it, but I didn’t think it was the most amazing thing ever. Then I read it again when I was older and I loved it. There’s a cinematic quality about Watchmen the book that is fairly common in comics now but that I’m sure was astounding at the time of the release of the series. I look at reading Watchmen now like watching Citizen Kane now: you have to consider the time period in which the work was created in order to fully appreciate how ahead of its time it was.

So let’s talk about Watchmen the movie. As a movie adaptation that remains faithful to the original book, it was amazing. After years of missteps and averted disasters, and after master filmmaker Terry Gilliam called Watchmen the book unfilmable, director Zack Snyder has created a near-perfect Watchmen film. Shots were framed to exactly match panels of Dave Gibbons’s nine-panel grid, and dialogue was lifted directly from Alan Moore’s scripts. I expected this of Snyder, though, after 300 came out and was extremely faithful to its source material (so I’ve been told, as I’ve never seen that nor do I particularly care to). Snyder is a director who respects his source material, and who adheres to it almost fanatically, and that respect shone through on the screen. There were aspects of the book that had to be removed for the sake of time, but overall Snyder managed to pack so much story into just under three hours that I more or less forgave him for it. My favorite part of the film was probably the opening credits, which are spectacular in their simplicity. You can watch them in their entirety here. Each of the snapshots shown in the credits has a full story behind it, but knowing that full story isn't essential to understanding the movie. Despite the parts of the book that were left out, watching Watchmen the movie was like watching the comic book come to life.

So why did I leave the theatre with such an empty feeling?

Maybe it’s because, where Watchmen succeeds as an adaptation of a graphic novel, it fails as a movie. Watchmen the book was slow. There’s not a lot of action in the book. It’s mainly about character development and the relationships between them. Therefore, there’s not a lot of action in the movie. Unfortunately, though, a lot of the wonderful character development that makes the book so enjoyable is lost in the translation to the screen because of time limitations. As a result, I had a hard time relating to any of the characters in the movie, which is strange, since I already had a relationship with them as a result of having read the comic.

When the film ended, I just sat there. I had no idea what to say. Sometimes that’s a good thing, but this time I really wanted to have something to say. The story of the film was exactly the same as that of the book, but I didn’t think it had the same impact on the screen as it does in the book because I didn’t feel any attachment to any of the characters. The performances were all very good, save for that of the actor playing Ozymandias, who couldn’t seem to decide if he wanted his character to have an accent or not and so decided to have it both ways, which was distracting, especially during Ozy’s monologues towards the end of the film. The film was very well made. It was well-acted and well-shot. The choices of music were brilliant. And yet I still felt like it was all a little flat. I needed to connect to the characters, and I could not. I found them fascinating, but not relatable. I go to the movies because I want to feel something, and I didn’t feel anything when Watchmen ended.

All of that said, I’m still extremely conflicted about the whole thing. I thought that writing down my thoughts would help me to sort them out, and it did, to a degree, but I still don’t know what conclusion to come to. I think I enjoyed the movie. I really do. But I think I enjoyed it mainly because of what a faithful adaptation of the book it was and because of how well-made it was, not because any of the characters were engaging or because of the pace of the story. As a book, Watchmen is still a masterpiece. As a movie, Watchmen reaches for the stars but falls just a little short.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Missed It By *That* Much

Back in 2004, it was announced that Conan O'Brien would be leaving NBC's Late Night to replace Jay Leno as the host of The Tonight Show. This was a huge deal for me, as I spent many a night in the '90s and nearly all of the nights of the '00s up until that point falling asleep while watching Conan. I was excited for him to move to The Tonight Show, where I would be more likely to stay awake for the whole show.

I was also concerned about who would be taking the reins of Late Night. For weeks I thought and I thought about who should take over that job, until I came to the perfect solution. The person who took over as host would have to be comfortable performing in front of a live audience, be able to think on his or her feet, and be able to work with a staff to write new material five days a week. So who better to do that than someone who was already doing that on another NBC show, one Saturday Night Live? After all, early in his career Conan was a writer for SNL. It made sense that Lorne Michaels would pick from that tree again to find a new host for Late Night.

My favorite segment on SNL has always been Weekend Update. It just made sense to me that one of the anchors of Weekend Update should become the new host of Late Night. Think about it: writing for Weekend Update is basically like writing a monologue for a late-night talk show. My decision was made. The person I selected to replace Conan was qualified. This person was intelligent, was able to improvise, and, most importantly, was really damn funny. The choice was clear.

Tina Fey would replace Conan O'Brien.

It was (and still might be) the best idea I had ever had in my entire life. It made perfect sense, and it would be groundbreaking - the first female host of a late-night talk show. You have to remember, too, that this was in the days before Barack Obama. It was 2003 - the 2004 Democratic National Convention, Obama's star-making moment, hadn't even happened yet. The idea of a woman taking over a high-profile hosting job formerly occupied by a man was, at the time, akin to the idea of an African-American becoming President of the United States. It was ahead of its time. But I was set on it. If anyone could do it, Tina Fey could do it. I was convinced that she would knock it out of the park. Tina Fey was change I could believe in.

I attempted to rally people to the cause. I told all of my friends about the idea, and they naturally agreed with me. I decided that the best way to ensure that this brilliant idea came to fruition would be to begin a grass-roots campaign. Just as Barack Obama's presidential campaign utilized the internet to raise funds, I would turn to the internet to garner support for my idea. And thus, Late Night with Tina Fey in 2009 was born. The petition was a sensation, earning itself 120 signatures. Surely that would be enough to convince the NBC bosses that Tina Fey was the right woman for this job.

Of course, a lot can happen in five years. How was I to know that Tina would leave SNL to create and star in her own show, the completely hilarious 30 Rock? But still, even after that happened, part of me hoped that the show would fail in time for Tina to embrace her true destiny: as the heir to the Late Night throne. As the show continued on and proved itself to be both wildly entertaining and moderately successful, I saw my idea slip away. It was sobering, but I accepted it. Conan would still be on The Tonight Show, and Tina was doing well on her own. I was sure that whoever they chose to host Late Night would be a fine selection.

That was when the rumors started. And then it was confirmed. Jimmy Fallon would be the new host of Late Night.

A little piece of me died when that was announced. Jimmy Fallon might be the most unfunny person on the planet. He has no on-camera charisma. He's not smart. He couldn't write his way out of a wet paper bag. This is who they chose? The guy who laughed in the middle of every sketch he was ever in?

Alas. Late Night with Tina Fey was not meant to be. Perhaps some day America will be ready for a female late-night talk show host. In the meantime, I look forward to tonight, when Late Night with Jimmy Fallon premieres. Maybe, if the world is lucky, a light will fall on Jimmy Fallon's head, knocking something loose in his brain, and he will suddenly become funny. The odds of that are unlikely, though. It's more likely that he'll crash and burn harder than anyone on television has ever crashed and burned. I think I'd enjoy seeing that, too.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Unemployment, Day 30: LOST

Last week Jennie and I watched the season premiere of LOST. Jennie has been watching the show from the beginning, while I had never seen an episode before in my life. Strangely, the two of us seemed to have about the same understanding of what was going on (though that was nice, because it made me feel smart, or something). Having watched three episodes of the series now, I can safely say a few things about it.

Thing #1: I love the crap out of it. I like it because it makes no sense at all, and because the few characters that I've met are interesting and entertaining. I'm eventually going to go back and watch the whole series, but for now I'm really enjoying being confused (though, based on conversations that I've had with other people who watch the show, even if I go back to the beginning, I'm still going to be confused).

Thing #2: Jennie likes it a lot, and I enjoy watching her reaction to it. She gasped no fewer than three times during the episode we watched last night. During the premiere last week, the utter confusion on both of our faces was very amusing. As enjoyable as the show is, watching it with someone that is invested in it and clearly enjoys it as much as Jennie does makes it even more entertaining.

Thing #3: I think Grant Morrison is secretly behind the whole series. A button you have to push every 108 minutes in order to save the world? An island that (spoiler alert!) moves through time at apparently random intervals? And that's just the stuff I've seen! The only other thing that I know about is the polar bear (A POLAR BEAR?!), but I don't know how or why it's on the island. Whatever the reason, though, only a mad genius, a practicing magician, a former hallucinogenic drug user, and the author of ANIMAL MAN could be behind this, and luckily we get all four of those things in Grant Morrison. I'm telling you now, if you watch LOST and you've never read anything by Grant Morrison, you should check him out.

So those are my thoughts on LOST. With more to come, I'm sure.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Unemployment, Day 24: Storytime! the third

It was with a heavy sigh that I undertook the maneuverability challenge that lie behind me. I backed up cautiously, cutting the wheel as I did, attempting to maneuver the tail end of the Cadillac into the space between the two cones behind me. At the last moment, I realized that I had cut the wheel too hard. I stopped. "That's one," the instructor said, marking something on his clipboard, still refusing to look up. I pulled the car forward and reset in the starting position. "That's two," he said again. What? I exclaimed in thought. You can't count that as two stops! That was only one stop and then one reset, which doesn't count as anything! Jackass. From that moment on, I hated the examiner, and I vowed to make this the most unpleasant experience that he had ever had in his life. And I would do that, just as soon as I finished the maneuverability portion of the exam.

Slowly, deliberately, I backed the car up again, cutting the wheel just as I had done before - too far. This time, however, I didn't realize it until it was too late. In a flash, I remembered that I had a rear view mirror, and I looked into it just in time to see the tail end of the car strike one of the cones and knock it to the ground. I stopped.

That was it. I was dead. A downed cone was the end of the game. You knock a cone over, you fail automatically. I looked at the examiner and waited for him to say something.

"That's three," was all he said, and he marked something on his clipboard and did not look up.

He hadn't noticed! Now I was stuck. There was no way I could get out of this without failing. As soon as I finished the course he would notice that the cone was down and he would fail me. Nevertheless, I pulled forward again and stopped. "Four," he said.

My mind raced. I looked in my side mirror and saw the cone lying there on the ground, so lifeless, so still, yet accusatory, as if it had been betrayed by me and my inability to maneuver. It was then that I saw him.

I don't know who he was. I don't know where he came from. All I know is what I saw. And what I saw was an African-American man in his 30s wearing a stocking cap and a heavy coat walk up behind the car, pick up the cone that I had knocked down, set it back where it was supposed to be, smile at me, and walk away.

All of this, of course, was lost on the examiner. He hadn't seen me knock over the cone, and he certainly hadn't seen the stranger replace the cone. And there was no way in hell that I was going to tell him.

Backing up a third time, I finally remembered to use my mirrors, to cut the wheel the appropriate amount, and to not hit any of the cones or stop along the way. I finished the maneuverability test with a score of 80 points, and I went on to complete the road test with a score of 90 points. I received my driver's license that day, and said goodbye the days of bumming rides from my parents.

After completing the maneuverability test, I looked around the parking lot to see if I could find the stranger who had picked up my cone, but he was nowhere to be found. Over the years, I have begun to doubt the truth of my story. Had it actually happened, or had I simply imagined the whole thing, having been delirious with anxiety over the test? Perhaps the stranger was a guardian angel, stepping in at my time of greatest need, or perhaps he was a homeless man who decided to help out a kid who couldn't drive very well. I have no evidence to prove the facts of my story, nor do I believe I ever will have any such evidence. I leave all judgments regarding the story to you.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Unemployment, Day 23: Storytime! Part Deux

Having corrected my course, I made my way towards the maneuverability course, which was nothing more than five cones set up in a deserted area of the parking lot. I stopped before entering the coned rectangle, and wiped my hands on my jeans. My palms were sweating like it was their job. My confidence was shaken by my inability to follow simple instructions like 'go to the right.' Would I be able to do this activity which I had so adeptly completed several weeks before? It was do or die time, and I was about to find out just what I was made of.

"Pull forward and go to the right and stop," the examiner said flatly. "Don't forget, you lose five points for every time you stop without having completed the course." He seemed helpful, although he never looked up from his clipboard. I imagined that I must be the ten thousandth kid to which he had given a driving test, and that all of this must be dreadfully boring to him at this point. I thought that I would get this over with quickly and perfectly, and that he would be so impressed with my ability at maneuvering what was surely a boat of a car that he would tell me to skip the road portion of the test and simply give me my license right there. My confidence had returned. But for how long?

I pulled the car forward and to the right with ease, maneuvering past the cones smoothly, like a duck gliding across a still pond, my hands spinning the steering wheel, my feet caressing the gas and brake pedals as if the car was an extension of myself. I was one with the Cadillac, and the Cadillac was one with me. The instructor simply grunted. "Okay," he said, still not looking up from his clipboard. "Now go back."

This was the challenge. To back up through the maneuverability course, one had to draw upon everything that he had learned as a driver's ed student. Hand positions on the steering wheel. Awareness of the location of all of the cones. And, above all else, mirrors. One could successfully maneuver the course with ease by relying solely on his or her mirrors.

It was at that moment that I forgot how to use my mirrors. I forgot that I even had mirrors. The car was an extension of me, and I do not have mirrors, so why should the car? It was preposterous to think that mirrors would help me in any way whatsoever. It was also at that moment that I realized that I had never completed maneuverability in this behemoth of a car. The car that the driving instructor had driven was a Honda Civic, which was at least half the size of the car I was currently driving. Finally, I realized a third thing at this moment. I realized that I had no idea what I was doing. I was screwed. It was going to take one thing to get me through this. I needed a miracle.

Next: the miracle.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Unemployment, Day 22: Storytime!

Today I'd like to take a slight detour from relating my escapades in unemployment. Yesterday Jennie asked me to tell her a story, so I did, and it was a pretty good story, and it was all true, so I thought I would share it with you today. It's in three parts. Here, then, is part I of the epic tale of how I failed my driving test but still got my driver's license.


It was a cold day in February, 1999 that my parents and I ventured out to the Bureau of Motor Vehicles in search of vehicular independence from each other. No more would they have to take me everywhere I wanted to go, and no more would my mobility be limited by lack of a small plastic card with my name, address, and picture on it. I was going to get my driver's license. It would be a day long remembered.

I had been practicing for months, naturally. I'd been on the road many times with my parents, and a few times with an instructor. My final outing with the instructor lasted about fifteen minutes. The instructor decided to have me practice maneuverability first thing, and I did it perfectly in one try. It was a thing of beauty. He looked at me and asked if I wanted to do anything else, and I said no. I wanted to go home and watch cartoons. I didn't tell him that, but it was true. So that was the end of that lesson. I figured, given the ease with which I had completed the final practice of the maneuverability test, the actual exam would be a breeze.

I took the written test and missed one question, though what they were and what the correct answers were escape me now. I'm sure it was something trivial having to do with school zones or what to do when you accidentally get caught in a funeral procession. Having completed the written section, it was time to get behind the wheel. The car: a 1987 Cadillac, my dad's old car, and the largest car ever built at the time (this was in the halcyon days before the rise of the SUV). Or at least it felt like the largest car ever when you were driving it. There were no fewer than 27 blind spots, and as I slid into the driver's seat, I could feel them all glaring at me, laughing, daring me to forget about them, to make one false move.

The instructor buckled his safety belt and said, "Why don't you go ahead and pull out of this spot and go to the right. We're going to do maneuverability first." I smiled and nodded. Maneuverability was my bitch. It was time for me to take it from behind until it begged for mercy. I placed the car in drive and proceeded to pull out of the spot, and I got halfway out before the instructor yelled at me. I had gone to the left instead of the right. Oops.

Next: The Test!

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Unemployment, Day 14: What I Did on My Unemployment Vacation

At 5:04 today, I plan to drink a toast to The Mazer Corporation, for it was two weeks ago today that the following e-mail went out to all of its employees:

Date: Tue, 30 Dec 2008 17:03:56 -0500
Conversation: Creative Services Closure
Subject: Creative Services Closure


To: Our Employees
From: David Mazer, CEO
Re: Closure

Please be advised that there are on-going negotiations with a potential buyer of the Creative Services Division. As of the end of the day today, all Creative and Corporate employees are terminated. We hope that the business will be reconstituted with a new owner who may ask you to return as early as next week.

The Mazer Corporation began 44 years ago and has provided service to the community of Dayton, its employees, customers, suppliers, and the youth of America since that time. A combination of events in the publishing market and the state of the general economy has taken their toll on Mazer Corporation. The Mazer Family still believed in the company's potential and recently increased its investment to continue operations but could not secure additional future funding.


David Mazer
The Mazer Corp.

It's important to note that the second paragraph is more or less a form paragraph that was included in an e-mail that went out not ten minutes earlier informing employees that the Printing Services Division of the company was shutting down. It's also important to note the complete lack of any sort of human emotion evident in the e-mail. This simply reinforces my long-held thought that David Mazer is, in fact, a cyborg, sent from the future to kill John Connor and to screw the employees of The Mazer Corporation with their pants on.

Honestly, I'm not bitter. I'm not even a little angry. I'm mostly just amused that it happened the way that it happened. Also, that Mavericks, the comic book store I have been frequenting for the better part of my life and that is run by an insane old man who seems to be doing everything in his power to run the store into the ground, outlasted The Mazer Corporation. Bravo, Mavericks. Bravo. And bravo to you, Mazer Corporation. Your dedication to screwing your employees at the eleventh hour knows no bounds.

Days that I have been unemployed: 14
Jobs that I have applied for: 7
Jobs that I actually wanted from those that I applied for: 1
Jobs that have been offered to me: 0
Days on which I have gotten out of bed at 10:00 AM or later: 4
Days on which I have showered at 4:00 PM or later: 1
Days on which I have not showered at all: 0 (but give it time)
Days on which I have compulsively cleaned my apartment: 3
Movies I have watched: 5
Books I have read: 1
Comics that I have read: dozens
Parties I have hosted: 1
Fun I have had during my two weeks of unemployment: a lot

Tomorrow, I'll talk about all of the problems that this abrupt closure has caused, and about all of the things that the Mazers did wrong (spoiler alert: there are many, many things).