Wednesday, June 9, 2010

in which i make some harsh observations about a commercial.

Good morning, Clint.

Since you seem to have too much time to blog, I thought that I would do so. And this week, I thought that I would tackle something that is dear to my heart: commercials. Now I understand the cheesiness that is necessary for marketing, but some of these commercials are just...well interesting.

So let's take this Chevy Equinox commercial.

Adorable, right? Yes. However, there is an underlying sadness that you have to acknowledge. What's that? You don't see it? Well let's take this piece by piece.

First, we say, "Oh! A scavenger hunt!" That is so cute that someone would do that for them. We even have a magnadoodle clue! Where do gummy bears hide? That is priceless! Dad is even on the hands free getting them excited for the trip. It's all very warm and fuzzy. Then all of a sudden it comes crashing down.

Where's Dad!?

The glaring unanswered question. Now, maybe they're moving and Dad has been there for awhile working already? No...they don't have any boxes. Maybe Dad had a conference and then continued on to the vacation locale? Maybe. But I'm afraid that the realities of this world in which we live have led me to one sad conclusion: It's Dad's weekend with the kids.

According to a Pew study, of the 2.3 million men that got married in 2008, 1.2 million of those men were divorced. Of the 2.2 million women, 1.3 million were divorced. That is a huge amount of the population. Now, I'm not going to comment on that. That's a choice that adults make. But it is clear that Chevy is marketing to this part of the population. Which makes's a big part of the population!

Hard to believe, I know.

The last line of the commercial is the thing that really drives it home: "It takes you farther, and brings you closer." I'm just sayin'.

Until next time, don't stop believin', Clint.

Monday, May 10, 2010

in which i talk about television...part one...

Good evening, Clint.

As you will be winging your way home somewhere over that ridiculous volcano that's destroying commerce all over western Europe (I'm of course referring to Greece) I thought I would remind you why you miss the United States. I am not talking about our rights and privileges as citizens or our delightful melting pot of a cultural identity. I am talking about, you guessed it, television. As you are probably aware, my sister graduated from college this weekend. This meant that my entire family was together for the first time since my brother's wedding and as you are probably also aware, we speak almost entirely in references to movies. This time, however, I found myself in the midst of a conversation about the best television episodes ever...and couldn't really think of all of them on the spot. So now that I have had some time to reflect, I thought it would be a good idea to make my next list about my favorite episodes of TV. Ever.

Pictured: Greek economy.

I should probably also give a brief disclaimer about the two kinds of TV that I watch. I like really epic shows. Intense, involved themes...characters that engage in the kind of badassery that makes Rambo look like a kitten...and story arcs that make me forget to study for college finals (thanks a lot, Hub). This usually means that Joss Whedon is involved. Hear me might actually like some of this. I also really love cheesy, yet hilarious comedy. The kind of stuff that makes milk come out of your nose, but other people think is stupid. So we'll discuss both...this is a two parter. First: EPIC TV!!!

4. Firefly - "Out of Gas"
Firefly was one on a very long list of shows that Fox crapped all over. They didn't show the episodes in order...which just kind of boggles my mind...but this of course led to everyone wondering who the hell these people are and why they're doing what they're doing...and then they stopped watching. Fox complained about low ratings and then cancelled the show. As I said, this happened to a LOT of Fox shows. This list actually includes Family Guy too. So don't think I'm just a fanboy...Fox has no idea what it has...

...much like NBC.

The show is basically a space western, and I'm sure that you're familiar with it. I don't know if you're a big sci-fi seem to be a little more into the Sopranos-esque stuff...but this show has everything, even up to the point that the physics in space are...moderately realistic. If you want to get a really good feel for the show just watch the first episode. (Thanks, Hulu!) Anyway, getting to the real meat and potatoes here, this particular episode serves a very important function. We find out about a lot of the characters and why they are on board the ship. We also find out what kind of person the enigmatic captain is. One of the beautiful things about Firefly is that the captain is this kind of Robin Hood figure...a criminal/smuggler/thief who has a heart of gold. Cliché, I know. However, Malcolm Reynolds (the captain) is not that character. He never goes all the way good or all the way bad. So you are kind of lost on your traditional view of the "good" bad guy. This episode also does something that I think is really awesome. If you watch the very first episode, the ship's mechanic mentions a part on the ship that is broken in passing, and you don't even notice it at first...and then WHAM it's the thing that causes this to happen 7 episodes later. I love it when things that happen in TV shows have actual consequences later on. I think a lot of action TV shows are like cartoons. You know what I's like the Roadrunner and Wile E. Coyote cartoons...oh, you just get crushed by a boulder several times and get up and are totally fine in the next scene? Yes you are.
SIDEBAR: How tall are those mountains anyway...he was falling for literally a mile...
These consequences make the show seem believable despite being completely and utterly fantastical and technologically impossible. That the episode that I found on the dubbadubbadubbaubeeeeeeee...

3. Kings - "Goliath"
If there is one thing that every show on this list has in common it's got to be a really good idea that was executed really well. This particular show is my exhibit "A". I'm sure that you have at least heard about this show as it was pretty critically acclaimed...although that usually means that nobody watched it. this much the case. But the idea for the whole show was the Biblical story of David and his journey to become king. They took the story though and set it in a modern American kind of place. The thing that really makes the show is the attention to detail and the environment that is set up for the show...that...and Ian McShane as King Saul. I think that this show could have been really horrible...I mean trying to resurrect an old story can totally bomb if not done properly... occurs to me that this is entirely too if you get it, gold star.

I really like the idea of this whole show because it is updated and all that, but the core of the story is still there. You can still see the struggle of a young man trying to be the best he can be but still falling prey to the indiscretions and passions of youth (he says as a 26 year-old self-proclaimed old man) and the struggles of an old man in power trying to be the best that he can to make his country great, but falling prey to the temptations of this same power. Despite the obvious religious connotations, the show is tasteful and interesting and the first episode immediately hooked me in. So enjoy and thanks Hulu, you beautiful TV showin' website, you.

2. Life - "Pilot"
As I was looking through old episodes of shows that I am or have been totally obsessed with, I stumbled across this one again. Just a second ago I was trying to grab the embedding information for the episode of this show and I started watching for about 5 minutes until I remembered I was also posting. It's that good. Like I was saying about Kings, this show just has a really cool premise. Cop, busted for homicide, given life in prison, then exonerated after 11 years in prison and goes back to work! How could you be a cop after all that? Anyway, there's a lot about this show that I like. And one of them is definitely NOT how hot Sarah Shahi sir...
SIDEBAR: She may or may not have been a Dallas Cowboys cheerleader...
All that aside, I personally think that Damien Lewis is a fantastic actor. He's British, but there's no hint of an accent when he does his American roles. You may remember him as Maj. Dick Winters from Band of Brothers which as you know, makes me cry like a little girl who has just lost her dolly every time I watch it.

There are only badasses in this picture.

But this show has just the right combination of the buddy cop comedy, action, and mystery that makes for a show I couldn't stop watching and probably won't. One of the greatest things about this show is this bad guy who comes in early and becomes a problem later. Like with Firefly, something that you think is going to be a one episode kinda thing, turns out to have real consequences later. Fortunately for all of us, the entire series (2 seasons) is on to quote Beck, "please enjoy. Hell yes." ...and less appropriately "got 2 turntables and a microphone..."

1. Deadwood - "Sold Under Sin"
Alas, there is no video for this one. However, if you want to watch it, I happen to have this season on DVD, which I recommend we watch whilst sipping some kind of whiskey. Amazingly, Deadwood is the only HBO series I have on here. I considered putting an episode from Rome up, but I think a selection of the different kinds of TV would be more suited. Also, I don't know if it's right to submit our reader (we have one right?) to the full brunt of my historical nerddom. So Deadwood is a western that takes place in Deadwood, which is in . This place is just ripe for a show because of the ridiculousness that takes place there. The time period itself is dramatic Civil War, expansionist America. The show picks up a week or so after Custer's last stand and as you may or may not be aware, the town of Deadwood was actually in indian territory OUTSIDE of the United States in the late 1800s. It's also the perfect time because some of the more notorious characters of the west show up in Deadwood at that time: Calamity Jane and Wild Bill Hickok to name a few. But getting back to the actual show, the thing that I like about it is this kind of interplay between two main characters: Seth Bullock (Timothy Olyphant) a retired Montana Marshal who just wants to settle down and start up a mercantile with his partner Sol and Al Swearengen (Ian McShane) the local saloon and house of ill repute owner and operator who is prone to cursing the existence of the local Sioux population. The show alternates the point of view between all the main characters, but all the important episodes hinge on the point of view of either Bullock or Swearengen and the last episode of the first season is from both of their perspectives and it is the best. The writers spent basically the entire season setting up the characters and conflict, and the tension between the characters comes to a head at the end of this episode. Clint, we're going to watch this if you haven't already. I have whiskey. Come over.

The mustaches in this show are just...beautiful.

I love these shows. And tomorrow, we will discuss the other shows that I love. The funny ones. Until cool, kid, be cool.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Things that Suck

Good afternoon Tyler,

I'll be back in the States in 7 days and I'm not going to lie to you: I'm scared. Not of flying or the Double Down, but of America. What the balls is going on over there?! Floods, oil spills, Arizona hates everyone, Justin Bieber, car bombs (what are you Belfast?), Keystone Lite. I literally don't know where to stop!

This week's list of things that suck isn't entirely about America though... I just wanted to let you know the reason why I'll be shaking uncontrollably and screaming at the traffic driving on the right side. I'm scared Tyler. I'm scared. In the meantime, here's a list of things that suck:

Those people on Facebook that comment on fan page posts - Obviously I don't mean our fans on Facebook, I love them and can't get enough of them (Seriously, invite more of your friends). I'm talking about the people that comment on the iTunes posts or the other big companies/news agencies posts. There are two types: 1) the dude that writes "first" like 2 seconds after the post has been made, and 2) the person that tries to actually comment on the subject as if they will become friends with Ryan Adams. Both of these kinds of people suck. Big time. Who the hell cares that you were the first to comment on a wall post? Seriously, how depressed and friendless do you have to be to sit around and write "first"? And the other person that leaves actual comments is just as sad and friendless.

People that misspell "ridiculous" - It's not REdiculous, it's RIdiculous. You can't repeat diculous. You can't go back and diculous again. Learn to write you morons.*

TeaPartyers who get offended at the term "teabaggers" - I read that the Tea Party Confederacy - I mean Nation - are asking that Obama apologize for calling them "teabaggers" in an interview last year. As long as that gaggle of angry white people are marching on Washington and calling everyone a Communist and shouting racial slurs at black senators, I'll stick with "teabagger".

Governor Jan Brewer - The Arizona governor that just signed Jim Crowe 2.0 into law in her state. I don't care what side of the aisle you're on, I don't care what skin color you are, I don't care how broken the immigration system is: racism is not the answer. And this law is stitched together with racism. It's not a solution, it is another problem added to the list.

Eyjafjallajokull - I didn't just sneeze on my keyboard. I'm talking about the Icelandic volcano that has been spewing ash for the past few weeks. It's still causing problems here in Ireland and Scotland. I'm gonna be uber-pissed if my flight gets canceled because of a damn volcano 800 miles away.

Canadians - Let's face it, they're just piggybacking on the coolest big brother in the world.

*I realize that the picture for "ridiculous" is a bit random, but I couldn't find any pictures related to the Harry Potter spell "ridikulus"... So I found that lolcat.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Confession Time

Good afternoon Tyler,

I hope the final weeks of the semester are treating you well. I've got plenty of downtime, as usual, here in Dublin so I decided another confession is in order.

-Despite John McCain's sacrifices, I still giggle when he gives two thumbs up.
-I remove anyone from my Facebook newsfeed that changes their status to something extremely vague and/or unarguably emo. (i.e. 'it could have been so much', '37 days!!1', etc)
-The Red Hot Chili Peppers's 'Stadium Arcadium' album is one of the worst purchases I've ever made.
-The Smashing Pumpkins's 'Zeitgesit' is the worst purchase I've ever made.
-The number one thing I am most excited about doing when I get back to America is seeing 'Hot Tub Time Machine'.
-'Ghost Adventures' is one of my favorite TV shows.
-I also love 'Frasier' and I don't understand people who don't like it.
-People who say, 'You would like Frasier' immediately make my black list.
-My black list includes Dick Cheney, Sinbad and U2 from 1994 to 2001.
-As much as I despise Disney, I will voluntarily watch Aladdin if I stumble across it on the television (I think it's a heritage thing).
-I have always confused Ethan Hawke and Edward Norton... What? It's not like one's acting career stands out from the other?
-I've secretly always wanted to go to Broadway in Nashville and buy a cowboy hat and boots and then go to the Wild Horse Saloon.
-That last bullet point was a subtle hint for a summer activity.
-When I worked at Starbucks, I would set up the 'impulse buy' products and immediately become the store's biggest sucker. I was my own worst enemy.
-'I was my own worst enemy' is the kind of Facebook status I'm talking about.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

in which I discover my true calling in the "blogosphere" and discuss YA literature

Good morning, Clint.

I have decided that my role in this whole that I will make lists. I'm very good at lists and I think that if you take a look at the collection (albeit small) of my posts they're basically lists anyway. You have your things that suck and the confessional (which I would like to take part in as well because that is fairly entertaining)...I will have my lists.

Today, my dear brother, I would like to speak to you about young adult literature (henceforth, it will be referred to as YA). Now, before you totally turn off your interest in this particular post, I think that it is a legitimate subject and one that is especially dear to my heart. So what is YA literature? As I've come to understand it, it is basically any piece of writing that is aimed at about 13-18 year old readers. Amber, I'm sure, will disagree with the age range, but I will most likely focus on this age range of books anyway. There are so many good ones to choose, but I have decided that I'm going to give you a list of 5. These are my favorites as a middle school lit teacher and as an adult who reads YA books because they're really good...(confession).

5. The Redwall Series

Yeah, those are rats...and that mouse is definitely holding a sword.

If you are a boy under the age of like...35 you've probably read the Redwall books. Or at least heard of them. Yes, it involves talking animals. Yes, they fight with swords. No, it is not stupid! These books basically allowed me to fall in love with literature. It's why I read now, and why I have a great time teaching lit when I get the chance. As a slightly...let's be honest, ridiculously dorky 6th grader, I think I read every single one of these books that had come out. It actually led me to read Watership Down and later on, Lord of the Rings. The other reason I love these books is because of the world that it created. It was totally and absolutely fake. Which meant that for the first time, I had to imagine what it looked like, sounded like, tasted like...Brian Jacques (the author) does a really good job of describing the feasts. I was able to really experience Redwall Abbey and the forests and areas surrounding it (which was really nice, considering I had no friends and lived in a desert). More and more I am concerned my students don't have imaginations. They don't read, they don't play pretend, they don't even build forts. They just shoot each other on call of duty, go to football/basketball/soccer practice, and then go to bed. It's a tragedy! Books like these create imaginations. Albert Einstein was famous for using his imagination. He came up with his idea that space was curved in one of his, what he called, "thought experiments" which were essentially day dreaming. Imagination creates things. It's so important to our future that kids imagine and day dream! Einstein said, "Imagination is more important that knowledge. For knowledge is limited to all we now know and understand, while imagination embraces the whole world and all there will ever be to know and understand."

Certainly used his imagination thinking this was flattering...

4. The Larry Series

Black nail polish...always a good sign in YA

There are three books in this series and I have read two of them. I taught them last year and it was great, but there is such thing as Larry overkill and I had to take a break after putting both under the microscope in Lit. This is the kind of high school book that I wish that I had when I was there. It's about smart kids, consumerism, activism, and the whole "one person can change the world" thing that is about as cliché as you can get. However, it does it in such a way that is thoughtful, humorous, and even though I almost totally disagree with this characters opinions...I liked him! The character manages to do something that almost every single public figure & politician tries to pull off everyday but fails miserably: share an opinion without getting preachy. It's unbelievable. Later on, it also tackles things like the consequences of becoming "involved" with friends romantically (in a that's-what-she-said kind of way). Like most issues in the book, it's handled in a classy, understanding way (you want to, I know...and you're going to like it at the moment...but this is what happens). But probably one of my favorite things about the book is the way that it paints adults. They aren't static characters. They're not the evil principal or teacher, or the evil cop that won't let them skateboard in front of the mall. I appreciate that Janet Tashjian (the author) wants kids to see that adults are always growing and changing as well. Larry's step dad, for instance, is a big time ad agency/marketing guy who decides that he has lost himself in his career and becomes a house painter to get his life back together. The second book in the series is about a presidential campaign...which politically, makes me want to hurl...but has some interesting lessons about the mandate of the people and constitutional laws. All things together, Larry has some interesting things to say in an interesting way. I finished the books in about a day.

3. The Hunger Games

The Hunger Games is like 1984 for teenagers. I say that because I don't think 1984 is for teenagers...or anybody for that matter (but that's a confession and another post). So, yeah, it's a dystopian let's go down the dystopian novel check list: set in the future? check. something that resembles a current western world power? check. oppressive government that has no problem with "making people disappear"? check. idealistic young person who quietly questions said oppressive government? check. children having to fight to the death each year for the entertainment of the masses? che-wait what!? That's right. Welcome to the Hunger Games. Each year one boy and one girl are selected from each of the districts to fight to the last for the entertainment of the masses and as punishment for a previous rebellion against the government. Think of it as American Idol but instead of getting a record deal and platoon of paparazzi for losing, Clay Aiken actually is shot by a poison dart and Reuben Studdard stands victorious!


While this would certainly liven up TV on Tuesday nights, this clearly creates a lot of strain on the relationships between the districts and the government. The book does a really great job of hiding a lot of political commentary inside of an action packed novel. It's a fast read and even though the main character is a girl, the 8th grade guys love it. I had even planned to use it as my summer reading before I taught Civics. I was going to talk about rights and privileges as citizens and why we guard certain values so highly in a democratic republic...but then we got a job in Saudi and I have no idea what kinds of things I can ask my kids to read. Hunger Games actually is pretty controversial just because kids get murdered by other kids...but then was Lord of the Flies. Which reminds me...

2. The Maze Runner

The Maze Runner basically takes the ideas behind The Lord of the Flies and adds a whole other sci-fi futuristic twist to it. I think I would actually let this book join Ender's Game in the blew my mind category as the twist at the end of each book leaves your head spinning. This book is violent, thoughtful, and engrossing. For much of the book, there are no girls and the boys are trapped in a maze which changes every day. They are trying to get out of the maze, but in the process have had to build a society complete with a government and everything. This is probably the most interesting part of the book. The way that the boys create this society makes sense if you've ever lived on a cul-de-sac with other kids (sorry, Clint). It's exactly what I would do if I was a teenage boy in a situation like that. Anyway, I would totally spoil it for you, but I think you might actually read some of these so I don't want to do that. But suffice it to say, that this book makes you try and figure out the ending from the beginning...but it stays pretty well hidden until late in the book.

1. Pretty much anything by John Green...but my personal favorite is Looking for Alaska

There's a lot to this book. I mean, a LOT. As most John Green books do, it starts out mostly pretty funny...kinda dark humor, but funny all the same. The main character is obsessed with the last words of famous people. Long story short though, the characters in the book experience everything that high schoolers experience: anger, love, lust, loss, strawberry wine, vodka and milk, and a plethora of cigarettes. It's pretty much exactly the way that I spent high school...(kinda...okay not really). But the way that Green talks about a couple of issues makes me really kind of impressed. I mean how do you eloquently express the way that you feel about the first love...or the first lust? I think one of the things that is conveyed is that you kind of don't need to. First love feels perfect...poetic...and that's the way that it is written. But first lust is different. It feels awkward. It feels strange and cumbersome...and there is no attempt to hide this or glamorize lust in any way. It is what it is and that is how it is written. Awesome. It is also interesting the way that while the kids are dealing with loss, they are dealing with growing up. It's no coincidence that the main character is obsessed with famous people's last words and there is a constant existential conflict going on within the main character. However cliché this sounds, it results in a kind of understanding that they're just kids and they have a lot to learn and do. As you might imagine...I'm for this. All in all, I finished the book and...

boom goes the dynamite.

So there you have it. Read 'em.

Clint, until next time...

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Things that Suck: The America! Edition

Good evening Tyler,

So I've been feeling a little blue lately... I'll admit, I'm homesick. However, I found a bit of a cure to this homesickness rather quickly. It came in the form of a chicken. Two chicken filets actually. Yes I am, of course, talking about KFC's new Double Down. A friend made a joke in-passing about it the other day and I thought it was simply a small fad like the Bacon Explosion (sooo 2009). Today I discovered that this was no joke. This is a real menu item available at all KFC chains in America. I'm at a loss of words.

I love that there are two options for the Double Down. Grilled or Crispy. As if one has a bit more dignity behind it. "Hello, I'll have the Double Down Grilled please." Oh he ordered the grilled one, he seems respectable.

This absurd concoction of chicken and American disregard for all things socially acceptable has actually helped deter my homesickness. It is now on the list of the things I do not look forward to coming home to... So naturally, I've thought up a list of other things I am not looking forward to seeing again. Consider this my "Things that Suck: The America! Edition"... Here it is:

Bush 04 and Palin 2012 stickers - I get annoyed seeing these even when visiting for breaks from Missouri. Of course, neither of those people are very popular over here. It'll be harder for me to bite my tongue now.

Jay Leno - I don't think I need to go through this again... he just sucks.

AM/PM - This sounds odd, but telling time by AM/PM is just silly. I've discovered that since my time over here. It doesn't take much time at all to get acclimated to reading "military" time and it's much easier to communicate. On all levels.

White people - Okay, this one is a stretch I know. Even though I am in a white-majority European country, they're just... different here. In America, you get the cliche overtly happy white people that are actually a little frightening. I think the Osteen couple are a perfect example of this terrifying demographic. The Irish and American white people do share something in common though: never make eye contact with them.

Independence Day on TBS - Now wait just one second! Before you all freak out on me and leave hateful comments, you have to understand my meaning. When I left, TBS probably showed Independence Day every 2 weeks. Even for the most obsessive Lord of the Rings or Star Wars nerd, watching a movie (at least) once every 2 weeks is a bit excessive. I know this because I was once that LOTR nerd (you can only say "LOTR" if you're a club member). I mean, sure it's an entertaining movie (and who doesn't love a black man that doesn't frighten the group in my last bullet point), but c'mon Ted Turner! Get the rights to something else please, and something that isn't a Jennifer Lopez movie or another Family Guy season.

Cops - I had a run-in with the law before I left for Ireland and I'm not looking forward to living in fear once again. Over here, the cops are... Chill. Sure, they do their job and if you're breaking the law you're gonna get in trouble... But they're not douche bags. I actually saw an officer and (I'm pretty sure) a police chief posing for photographs on St. Patty's Day... They even let the drunkards wear their hats! That's a police force I can get behind.

Well, I feel much better now. That little list did the trick. See y'all in 3 weeks!

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Confession Time

Good evening Tyler,

As I look out my window onto an oddly colored sky in Dublin (stupid Iceland and its volcano), I can't help but think of my transgressions. I've conjured up another list of confessions for the confession booth, hope you enjoy.

-I don't find The Onion funny.
-I hate orange chocolate, I think it's cheap and distasteful.
-I think Gatorade flavors that include the word "glacier" are even cheaper and more distasteful.
-Orange Gatorade is my favorite.
-English accents kind of make me nauseous.
-I immediately lower my standards for anyone who says they enjoy the television show "Heroes".
-I think testing for all illnesses should involve peeing on some sort of stick, like a pregnancy test. "Oh man, I have strep!"
-Godfather Part 3 was a cinematic masterpiece.
-Drinking Miller High Life out of a glass bottle actually makes me feel more sophisticated.
-I once bought a 12 dollar pair of socks.
-I prefer wearing those socks when drinking Miller High Life out of glass bottles.
-Until the age of nine, I thought Chicago was its own state.
-I hold firmly to the belief that Reese's Cups are vastly superior to Reese's Pieces, and mildly hold a grudge towards E.T. for giving Pieces its second chance.