Thursday, December 29, 2011

Gearing up for 2012

Wintertime in a resort town is a desolate time, and desolate times call for introspective measures. Tonight, I’ve been sitting around thinking about the year that’s coming up. I’ve realized  a frightening amount of what will happen will most likely be completely out of my control (like if the world ends). Other stuff will be at least partially out of my control (like if I’m groping a woman and screaming “World Motherfucking Champions” from atop a tall building at the precise moment the world ends, if/when it does). Some of the stuff, however, will be completely in my control (like how many times I high five or daps random strangers or sign businesslike emails with “XOXO” before the world ends). I want to take control of the things I can; I think that will help me better cope with the other things that might dissatisfy me or throw me for a loop. So, I made a list of some things I'd like to do/accomplish, in an effort to take the power back, or to at least better myself.

Here are some of them:

—Stop worrying so much about the future. I’ve been a worrier my entire life. I worry about things that are plausible, and things that are so unlikely they’re just ridiculous to worry about. For instance: I spend a lot of time worrying about how I will react to or withstand a hostile alien invasion, but I spend almost no time worrying about falling in the shower and injuring myself when I live alone. I try not to worry, because it’s often a waste of time, but every time I tell myself this, I find myself getting all worried again about the same thing or something else about 15 minutes later. If I spent half the amount of time writing that I spend worrying about not writing adequate things often enough, I probably would have something pretty shitty that equals out to the approximate length of War and Peace. If I substituted writing time for the amount of time I spend looking at porn and combined that with writing during the time I spend worrying, I would be a literary force worth noticing. Or maybe Stephenie Meyer’s heir apparent. It could go either way, but the point I'm trying to make is I won't know until I stop worrying so much and address my burgeoning pornography addiction.

—Make out with a woman in a movie theater. People my age don't seem to do that anymore, because we have homes where parents don't live. But I want to do it. It'll make me feel young in a romantic sense, which is something I've been wanting to feel for the last week, ever since I got the feeling like I was out of place because I didn't get engaged this month. Thanks a lot, Facebook.

—Be more of a man. I’ve never put much of a prize on extreme masculinity, because I feel like in this day and age it’s becoming less and less rampant and maybe even less necessary in most cases. I don’t need to hunt, because I can shop. I don’t need to start a fire, because my apartment has an HVAC system and a television I can use to put on that fake fire channel. I don’t need to camp because, like I said, I have an apartment and pretty much anywhere I go will have hotels or friends with an open couch. The extent of my manliness is I read "The Art of Manliness" newsletter, wear flannel and have chest hair. Still, though, just because I don’t need to do these things doesn’t mean learning how and embracing them on occasion wouldn’t enhance my life in some ways. I don’t need the iPod I’m listening to right now, but I think ingesting music adds to my quality of life and overall well-being. The same could, and probably does, apply to chopping firewood or making your own jerky.

—Quit getting drunk and watching YouTube videos until the wee hours of the morning. I’m not going to quit getting drunk, but the video thing. I always come home and do this shit, when I could be getting some sleep or doing something more productive than watching The National perform “Terrible Love” live for the 958,000th time. It's not like I need to rediscover that Matt Berninger drinks a lot of white wine, and watching these things repetitively is not going to make me any more or less emo than I already am. Staying up until the sun rises when you’re drinking can be cool in the right circumstances, but when you’re sitting staring aimlessly at a computer is not one of them.

—Do more random things I think will be fun, and I want to do them for no real reason. I want to yell “Clear Eyes, Full Hearts,” at a bar or gathering of people and then overzealously connect with anyone and everyone who yells “Can’t Lose!” back. I want to hang up the phone without saying goodbye to people, and then tell them that’s how they do it in the movies whenever they call back all pissed off. At 4:58 p.m. on Fridays, I want to queue up “Born to Run” on my work computer and sprint out of the office as it plays.

—Meet and spend some time with some of the people I sort of know, but don’t know In Real Life. Since I’m so far away from the vast majority of my friends and family, I spend more time alone. I also spend more time entrenched in the technological world than I otherwise would. These two things are certainly related. I've also been lucky enough to meet some people who have wanted to talk to me about things I've written online, and then we gChat and Tweet at each other and become pals on Facebook, so that I'll know when it is their birthday and can creepily browse through their photographs and interests. I value these people, and want to make more of a proactive effort to be around them. I need to get away from the computer and go out and actually do things, like high five a girl and then go to a Zumba class with her. (I told a girl I know, but not IRL, that if we ever met by chance at a gym that I would do those things.)

—Walk up to a random girl in a bar who I have never met and I will talk to her...USING ONLY PROPER NOUNS AND LYRICS FROM NELLY SONGS.

—Run 13.1 miles, because I've forgotten what it's like to physically exhaust myself while doing something I really don't even like in the first place. Apparently, doing only what you want when you want outside of the workplace is not the healthiest way to live, especially if your favorite things to do include eating as much as you possibly can.

—Light a cigarette for Sloane Crosley.

—More than anything else, I'd like to stop dwelling so much on the past. There are things in my past I've spent an inordinate amount of time thinking about. These are usually things I wish I could get back in one sense or another, but they are things I cannot reacquire. In some cases, they're things I look nostalgically back on that, if I was being truly honest with myself, I wouldn't want to reacquire anyway.

—Start writing a book.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

A Facebook status sparked a defense of dudes

There's a rumor going around that says boys are stronger then girls [sic]! Oh Please! Can you carry a 7lb baby in your stomach for 9mths [sic]? Can you cook, clean and talk on the phone @ the same time? Can you burn your forehead with a curling iron and not complain? Can you walk all day in 5" heels? Can you cry all night then wake up the next morning like everything is okay? Remember guys, women are only helpless until their nail polish dries :) Put this on your wall if you are PROUD of being a WOMAN!!!

I first saw the above passage a few nights ago on Facebook. A girl who is my virtual friend who I’m pretty sure I don’t even know in real life posted it as her status. Since then, I’ve seen it a couple more times, posted by other girls who I don’t think I really know (instead of writing this I should be cleaning up my friends queue, I guess). On any given day, I see probably at least 20 absurd statuses that make me shake my head with perplexion, but that’s usually the only action I take. I realize I often put up statuses that probably spur a similar reaction from many others, so I try not to be too judgmental.

But I couldn’t let this one go by. Before I go any further, I have to say that I love women, and I do respect them. Many of my closest friends are girls, and I am all about gender equality. I make lots of chauvinistic jokes, usually about how women shouldn’t leave the kitchen, but those are simply in jest. I don’t really mean that. Women need to leave the kitchen for myriad reasons, like to run the sweeper throughout the entire house or to drive cars so automobile insurance has a reason to exist. (Those were also jokes.) I also often comment that I hate women, but I only say this out of spite for a few who have slighted me. I know it’s not fair to generalize, and the fact that I do makes me a douchebag.

When I watch episodes of Mad Men, I’m always astounded at how women were treated mere decades ago, and I’m glad things aren’t the way they were back then. There’s no doubt in my mind that I would be a completely different person that I am right now if my Mom had been like any of those women, and I’m certain my personality would be different in a negative way. The only thing I wish had kept its force from the era in which that show takes place is the commonplace acceptance of drinking hard liquor all day long while at work.

Just because I dig females doesn’t mean I’m going to sit here and let them trample all over me and say they’re better than me for reasons that are, for the most part, purely subjective. So, I’ve prepared a rebuttal to this Facebook status, which is split up into segments and can be viewed right here:

There’s a rumor going around that says boys are strong THAN girls!

--If we’re speaking of physical strength here, then you should know it’s been pretty much proven that men are stronger than women. This is just a genetic thing. Sure, there are exceptions, like Chyna, Marion Jones and this chick who used to work out at the gym I went to in college. And all of these cases are pretty much moot, since I’m almost certain all three have used performance enhancing substances.

Oh Please! Can you carry a 7lb baby in your stomach for 9 MONTHS?
--No, no I can’t, because it is physically impossible. If you’re wondering if I can carry around an extra seven pounds in my abdominal region for nine months, then the answer is yes. In fact, I’ve been doing just that for longer than nine months, like since my sophomore year of college. And I don’t even have back problems yet. Some women constantly use the pain experienced during giving birth as a reason they should be a borderline martyr. I am aware it’s not a walk in the park at all, but there are upsides. You get to eat as much of anything you want that isn’t sushi or alcohol-infused, for one thing.

I have it on good authority that the birthing part hurts like hell, but there’s no way to tell if it’s the most painful thing in the world. Guys don’t know, because not one of us has ever actually done it. I do know, however, that my Mom scared the piss out of me a week before I got my tonsils out at age 21 by saying two of the women she works with (they’re nurses, too) had gone through that experience at the same age, and had also later experienced childbirth. Both told her that the tonsil removal was a more painful experience. I acknowledge that these opinions may be skewed, because it’s not out of the question that a woman might remember less of the pain from having a kid after she ends up with a beautiful baby, whereas getting your tonsils out just leaves you on the couch for two weeks in a constant state of trepidation because you think the stitches might burst and you could die choking on your own blood.

Can you cook, clean and talk on the phone @ the same time?

--It’s called multitasking. Any child of this generation can probably do this simply because, thanks to an overexposure to technology, we’ve learned to do a bunch of different things all at once. Right now, I’m writing this, drinking wine, periodically text messaging and watching a baseball game on television. I can cook, clean and talk on the phone, so I think if I really wanted to I could do all three at the same time. I’ve cooked and talked on the phone plenty of times, but I’ve never added cleaning into the equation. There are two reasons for this: A) It doesn’t make a lot of sense to clean while cooking. It’s a fool’s errand, because once you’re done cooking you’re going to have to clean all of the utensils you used anyway. You may as well do it all at once, maybe even after you eat so you’re better sustained for the cleansing. And B) It’s blatantly irresponsible to leave things cooking in the kitchen to go clean other parts of the house. You know who taught me that? Women like my Mom and my eighth grade Home Economics teacher. This is only acceptable if we’re talking about crock pot use, which is kind of not the same concept as actively cooking. It’s like Han Solo putting the Millenium Falcon on autopilot and going to the back of the ship to bang Princess Leia, then telling all of his friends later at the Mos Eisley Cantina that he made the Kessel Run in less than 12 parsecs while he was making love to a woman of royal cloth.

Also, is it really necessary to write an @ instead of "at"? It's just one more letter, and if you're dedicated enough to cook, clean and talk on the phone at the same time, you can at least take the time to tap one more key.

Can you burn your forehead with a curling iron and not complain?

--If I ever found myself in a scenario where I was using a curling iron (you never know, my hair’s getting kind of long), I’d make sure I knew how to use it properly first, and would take extra care not to burn my forehead or anywhere else with it. Especially not my neck, because then everyone would be slapping me on the back when they saw what they thought was a hickey that I really got one night when I was playing dress-up alone in my apartment. I know lots of girls who have made that mistake, but they don’t often complain about it; they usually don’t say anything about it until you ask them about the mysterious mark on their body, because they are embarrassed they burnt themselves with a tool that’s supposed to make them more aesthetically pleasing. When Tara Reid had botched liposuction surgery, she wasn’t running around lifting up her shirt and being like, “Son of a bitch, they really fucked up that cosmetic surgery,” because things like that are just something you generally don’t want to draw attention to.

Can you walk all day in 5" heels?

--I’ve never tried this, but challenge accepted. I’ll let you know the next time I play dress-up. I stand taller than six feet, and since I assume the reason for wearing heels is to make yourself seem taller, I really wouldn’t ever have a reason to rock them unless I was going on a date with Brooke Shields. If you’re a woman and you’re reading this, you should know it’s not really a deal breaker if you don’t wear high heels. I mean, if we get to know each other well enough, I’m eventually going to be around you when you don’t have them on, and will know your true height. If you think you’re with a guy who is going to break things off with you because you’re three inches shorter than when you’re wearing some shoes that seem pretty uncomfortable, then maybe you should burn him with a curling iron while he sleeps.

But to answer the question: Yes, I think I could.

Can you cry all night then wake up the next morning like everything is okay?
--Yes. I’ve done it. Contrary to popular belief, crying is not something only females do. Neither is rallying to a point where you can completely hide that something is very wrong in your life. It’s called having a gameface, and gamefaces are unisex just like that pair of canary yellow Ray Ban wayfarers I bought earlier this summer.

Remember guys, women are only helpless until their nail polish dries :)

--If this is truly the only time women are helpless, whoever originated this diatribe has done a great disservice to the female population. You just put out in public the best time for a serial killer to break into your house and murder you.

Put this on your wall if you are PROUD of being a WOMAN!!!
--You can probably display your pride in other ways. I suppose I’m happy I’m a man, but not particularly proud of it, just like I’m not particularly proud I have Irish ancestry. None of us have even the slightest control over those type of things, so how can you be proud of something you had no hand in accomplishing?

Friday, August 26, 2011

Me, Myself and Irene

A lot of wild things have happened this week. My work desk shook for 15 seconds Tuesday afternoon from an East Coast earthquake. My Mom got a BlackBerry. Jada Pinkett Smith apparently had sex with Marc Anthony. 

And now, on top of all of that action, Ocean City has had a mandatory evacuation for the first time since 1985, in preparation for Hurricane Irene.

I’m still here, though, in my apartment about 100 yards away from the shoreline. I’m staying to cover the impending natural disaster for the local papers, because covering Ocean City for the local media group is my job. The opportunity to ride out a hurricane on this peninsula was a pretty difficult one to turn down. Just a few weeks ago, my uncle and I were talking about how we’d always wanted to weather a hurricane-level storm. I said that shit was on my bucket list, but you know what? So is making out with a cute Asian girl and high-fiving Ryan Gosling. Can you guess which of those three is the one I am the least adamant about actually experiencing? (It’s the hurricane one.) Serves me right for being that annoying ass dude who always puts up Facebook statuses telling everyone he loves thunderstorms, and for naming my blog “The Calm During the Storm.” We will see how calm I am tomorrow when I’m experiencing floods and wind speeds higher than 100 mph. I’m probably going to piss my pants more than once.

Everyone was supposed to be out of town by 5 p.m., and most were. I woke up from a nap a couple hours after that, and ventured outside to see the sunset and to feel out the vibe of a town that is almost completely deserted. It was the first time since I moved here almost six months ago that I’ve heard crickets. I really wasn’t aware they even inhabited Ocean City, I suppose because they’re typically drowned out by the noise generated by the 250,000 or so people in town during the summer months. Tonight, though, people had gotten the hell out of Dodge, an expression I've heard at least 85 times since Thursday morning. (I had no idea what it meant until I Googled it.) It's kind of a shame, because it was one of the most beautiful evenings of the summer so far.

If you ever want to know what it feels like to be alone, go stand in the middle of a six-lane highway in an evacuated town. I took a few pictures with my phone, then I turned around and walked out to the beach, which looked completely normal except for some waves of the rougher-than-average variety. I took some more pictures, and didn’t know what to do, so I did what I would do on a normal evening: I drank some scotch and I made dinner. A 20 ounce steak my neighbor had given me before she evacuated. She was cleaning out her freezer and hooked me up. Honestly, I don’t really eat red meat that often anymore -- I've got the cholesterol of a 60-year-old fat guy -- but I felt like I needed to amp up my impression of myself as a manly man. Also, my normal dietary principles are out the window until the storm is over and I have electricity back. Last night I bought Vienna Sausages and Cheese Whiz, and I didn't buy those products to look at them.

Now, I wait. That’s the worst part, for sure. This is one of those things you just want to come as quickly as possible, so you can get it over with. I can now empathize with those vapid women who get engaged to Hugh Hefner and have to have sex with him. I’m scared, that’s for sure. I’m not going to deny that, but I think I’m more anxious than anything.

I wonder what it’ll be like when it’s over, what it might look like if I walk outside on Sunday morning when the worst of the storm has passed. It could be the wildest thing I’ve ever seen in my life. I’m also interested in what I’ll hear, though. To my knowledge, crickets can’t really withstand a hurricane. They might get blown away, and then what? What do you say when you walk outside and it’s so quiet you don’t even hear crickets?

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

If you run, they will yell

If you’re ever having one of those days where you’re feeling like you’re extremely sexually irresistible to women and are also very smart, go for a jaunt in some running shorts in an area densely populated by a younger crowd. You will be called a “faggot” and “Forrest Gump” an average of like 35 times each.

These two seem to be the go-to “jokes” for anyone trying to poke fun at a guy who is wearing short shorts in an effort to avoid chafing while he exercises. Sometimes, you don’t even have to have the shorts on. People will just yell, “Run Forrest, Run!” and then cackle like one of those hyenas  from “Lion King” with those other kids they’ve become friends with during their five-year tenure together at George Lopez’s School for Kids Who Can’t Joke Good (and Can’t Do Other Things Good, Either).

Friday, June 10, 2011

LeBron gives two

LeBron James gives two fucks. Separate ones, actually. He gives a fuck about winning, but it’s becoming more and more apparent (judging by his finals performance) that he also gives a fuck about the thing he led us all to believe he didn’t give a fuck about last summer.

I remember when he first made “The Decision.” I remember the ensuing days, when he seemed to genuinely not care about the uproar his choice had caused, which got more media coverage than lots of other, more worthy stuff (that I guess I’m feeding into by writing about him yet again — I hate myself). I remember a point during the season, when the Miami Heat were in a slump and he started Tweeting stuff about how his team was something similar to the armed forces. (If he’s really into comparing the two, then I’ll go with it: Some dudes from the armed forces recently stepped up and performed in what had to have been one of the most pressure-filled and important portions of their careers by offing Osama Bin Laden. James didn’t even reach double figures in an NBA Finals game.)

During all of that, I was under the impression that James’s arrogance prevented him from either realizing that everyone hated him, or from really caring. 

Wednesday, June 8, 2011


If you reach a point in your life where you're coaching a porn star in anything more than how to win back their father's respect and admiration, it's probably safe to say you made a wrong turn somewhere along the way. It's even worse if you're coaching them to lie about something, because I'd bet a few bucks most porn stars have lied at least once or twice about their profession, by calling themselves actresses or performers or something. If you're coaching a porn star to lie in an effort to prevent yourself from getting into some serious type of deep shit, well then you're probably already at least wading in it.

Anthony Weiner allegedly found himself in that last position recently, when people started finding out he was apparently writing sexually-charged emails to  former porn star Ginger Lee that may or may not have included pictures of his dick, like the ones he seems to enjoy taking with his cell phone and sending to women who are not his wife. Weiner gave Lee some pointers on how to address questions about the scandal, and also offered the assistance of his public relations team. Because his team's plate wasn't full enough after their boss accidentally posted a picture of an outline of his junk to Twitter.

Weiner is apparently just like Brett Favre and myriad other famous dudes who don't seem to realize that most people -- especially famous and/or wealthy ones -- really need to use a dick picture to get laid. Especially not when they're sending them to a former porn star or Playmate, respectively. (Those women have probably seen dicks before. Lots of them, like enough to form a pipe organ made out of cocks with their mind's eye.) How anyone can honestly think a straight-up picture of their dong is really going to get them very far with a woman is completely beyond me. To the point I'm not going to even try it, and I'll try almost anything to get laid.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Notes from the Coast: Part 1

When I was born in 1987, Cougars did not exist. The Baltimore Ravens didn’t, either.

Things change.

I started my evening telling myself I was going to stay in. My friend Phil convinced me not to with two text messages. The first asked if I wanted to drink a little bit, and the second said there would be Jungle Juice at his apartment. At 23, I guess by societal norms I should be opposed to the Juice. I should be going to wine bars where I talk to people about how their steady relationship is going while I eat cubes of cheese and talk about work and stuff.

But yesterday was the fifth anniversary of the day I graduated from high school, and that made me feel old. There’s a gray spot in my beard, and I can’t even grow a fucking respectable beard yet. So, in the interest of youth and pure enjoyment, I went to his place. Also, for the drinking.

We played some drinking games, which made me feel young even if it didn’t restore pigment to my stubble. It was fun, but I had to hold back. I had work in the morning, so I told Phil and his friends I had to head home. I’d taken my bike there, but was unable to pilot it home. Nobody wants a BUI (or a David Bowie, as I have just now decided to call it), so I caught a bus.

While I waited at a bus stop, a group of four women had an in-depth discussion with me about the merits of owning and using a vibrator, and also about how their respective boyfriends didn’t accept their desire to pleasure themselves with the aforementioned device, despite the fact most dudes have been rubbing out at least once daily since the day they discovered they were able to. (I told ‘em to keep making themselves happy. If I had a package of double-A’s, I would’ve given it to them.)

Friday, May 13, 2011

Scott gets a pedicure, sustains injury

One night just after I’d turned 18, my Mom, the nurse, was examining my foot while I sat on the floor in our living room. I don’t exactly remember what it was she was checking out, but I think it was either an ingrown toenail or some form of a blister.

Before she bothered to examine the injury, the thing that actually mattered, she decided to have a fit over how disgusting my feet were. They were very calloused from the abuse they were constantly taking from me lumbering around playing too much basketball and not sitting still reading enough. There was also a section on the arch of my left foot where an entire layer of skin had painfully ripped off, for reasons I’ve never figured out.

“You should get a pedicure,” she said, and I laughed, because, well, I thought she was joking. Dudes don’t get pedicures. She wasn’t joking, at all. And, when my Mom gets a notion, she immediately develops tunnel vision and can talk about nothing else. For the next few months, she would continuously mention in passing how nasty my feet were, and she’d then try to sell me on the merits of getting a pedicure.

“It feels awesome, really” she’d say. “And your feet are so smooth when they’re finished.”

Thursday, May 5, 2011

So long, Michael Scott

[In reference to the title: That is a “That’s what she said” if you read it in broken English (see: Engrish)]

I’m not going to say I was ever a big Michael Scott fan, because if I did, anyone who I’ve ever talked with for more than five minutes about “The Office” would be able to instantly label me a liar. I’ve loved the show since it first came out, but his character always kind of irritated me. And yes, I know that’s kind of the point, but I just couldn’t get into it. Whenever he would do all of the stupid things he did, I’d get that feeling you get when you feel true embarrassment for someone else,and that’s my most-hated non-deep emotion. (Deep= when you feel legitimate sadness, depression, loneliness, etc.; Non-Deep=when you feel awkward, realize you forgot your lunch AGAIN, have a love interest halt all communication for no reason and without warning, etc.)

So, it might surprise you when I say I cried during Scott’s farewell episode last Thursday. Granted, if you look at me the wrong way, I’ll burst into tears (it’s just the way I am; Mom says I’m sensitive, but I don’t know, because sometimes I’m also a borderline sociopath), but man, I don’t even like the guy. I started crying during the part of the episode when Dwight Schrute reads a letter of recommendation Scott gave him as a parting gift. He started tearing up, so I started tearing up, and before I knew it I was biting my lip like how when any pretty girl does you instantly decide you would go bankrupt if you could make out with her for 10 seconds. I tried to hold back the tears but I was alone in my apartment, so I was like “fuck it, let’s make it rain in here.”

I wasn’t alone in this. Two of my friends -- who will remain unnamed, especially the male one -- told me they were crying at that point, via text message, and shortly after my Mom told me she began crying as well, even though she doesn’t really even watch the show that often. I’d texted her and told her it was a good thing I’d come home to watch it (my family was visiting, staying in a hotel down the street), because as much as I cry in comparison to normal guy standards, I for some reason hate doing it around other people. I'm also this way with singing and masturbating, though one of the two is negotiable. This is one of the reasons I love text messaging: you can connect with people over something without them seeing you do so, while also concentrating on something else entirely. It's a perfect medium of communication for someone who is both a talker and a coward, like I am.

I was able to hold myself together after my brief crying spell, until the scene where Scott and Jim Halpert have their final discussion. It was a beautiful television moment that they made seem very genuine, which I found to be amazing, because who knew Steve Carrell could actually act in a legitimately sappy scene? When Scott and Halpert talked about Scott’s departure that day, a full 24 hours before everyone else at Dunder Mifflin thought he was going to leave, I lost it. I think this was the first time in the entire series I could empathize with Michael Scott. This is something I would do. I hate goodbyes, so I’d at least consider leaving without having to have one big goodbye with all the people I’d grown so close to. I often thought of doing this at the end of college, when I cried while hugging males more often individually than most people worldwide did during the original “Rent” cast’s closing week on Broadway. I couldn’t ultimately do that, though, because my friends knew where I lived, and I was only moving 40 minutes away from our college town, so.

I knew initially I’d cry, just because of my sentimentality. (I’ve just now realized that next time I cry in front of a girl, it’ll seem much less significant if she’s read this. Also, I just wrote “next time” like this always happens. It’s been a while, okay?) I’ll probably cry during the last episode of “Robot Chicken,” just because I don’t like things that end after I’ve become used to having them in my life. I can find melodrama in anything. This is why I hate break-ups, and probably why I don’t date all that often. If you don’t start it, you can’t end it. But, I get attached to television shows, since I spend all those nights watching them instead of trying my damndest to go out and get laid. But, this wasn’t even a series finale (though it may as well be, this show will not go on much longer without Scott, just like X-Files when David Duchovny left), so I found myself wondering why I was so emotionally affected.

Then, it came to me. I don’t like Michael Scott, but I do like what he has contributed to society, and that is the most popular catchphrase to come from a sitcom since “Friends.” I think we can all agree that “That’s what she said” is much more hilarious than “How youuuuu doin’?” Joey Tribbiani can’t even grill Michael Scott’s bacon in the morning.

I’ve laughed at “That’s what she said” jokes more times than I can even accurately estimate, because I suck at math and because I’ve laughed at them lots. They’re great anytime anybody says them (my little brother has even begun to grasp them, and has produced some pretty solid ones despite having almost no understanding of sarcasm), but they’re best when Michael Scott says them. At the end of the show, I cried and laughed simultaneously. I craughed. Because during his last scene on the show forever as a regular cast member, as he took his mic out of his suit, he said, “I can’t wait to get this off my chest.” Then, you could barely make out a “That’s what she said.”

That’s a hell of a lot better than eating onion rings, or simply laying in some dense foliage and closing your eyes. Michael Scott made a hell of an exit.

So, tonight a new episode of “The Office” will be on, without Michael Scott, and I’m sure it’ll be pretty funny. So, I guess I’m already over the emotions I was feeling last Thursday. Like a girl shunning you, his leaving was a non-deep emotion.

I’m happy with the way he left “The Office.”

I don’t think it came too soon.

...That’s what she said.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

President Obama's climactic Sunday Funday

President Barack Obama had one hell of a weekend. Not, like, one of those I-got-hammered-with-my-friends-and-went-to-a-stripclub weekend, either. It was a weekend, in fact, that probably blows pretty much everyone else’s out of the water. And when I write “everyone,” I include myself and Prince William, even though we both had pretty nice weekends. I haven’t talked to the British Slick Willy, but he got married (ehhh...) and is now sharing a bed with the former Kate Middleton (MY MAN!), so I’m estimating his weekend was cool. I got to hang out with most of my family, and spontaneously heard Nas’s seminal classic “Oochie Wally” on Saturday night at a bar, so mine was good. I bet those guys who got drafted by NFL franchises had good ones, too. They at least had me beat -- barely, though. It’s a catchy song (though very, very vulgar).

But then Obama decided to clandestinely give the go-ahead for a military operation that would, if it went as planned, result in the killing or capture of Osama Bin Laden, a guy who I think we can all agree is one of few in history whose death has actually warranted maniacal celebration. After that, he snagged his wife and daughters and jetted to Alabama, where he attempted to comfort some of the victims of the recent devastating tornados that ravaged the area. After that, he stopped in Florida, where he was initially going to watch a NASA launch that was delayed. He still decided to go, though, so he could hang out privately for a few minutes with Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, of Arizona, who was recently shot by a guy who, much like Bin Laden, sucks.

After that, he gave a commencement speech at Miami Wade College (see what I did there?! Ha!) before heading back to Washington, where he dressed up like James Bond for the White House Correspondents’ Association annual black tie dinner. It was here that he busted on Donald Trump and countless others in a stand-up routine that was even supplemented by a clip from "The Lion King," if you can believe it. His time at the podium lasted 18 minutes. He spent the first 16 being hilarious, and then the last two were spent thanking the armed forces, some of whom were at that time gearing up to merck the world's biggest douchebag.

Trump balked at being cut up on so badly, and took to Fox News Sunday morning to lament that he was the butt of so many jokes. "It was almost like, is there anyone else they could talk about?" he asked, which is kind of a peculiar thing for someone to say who had spent the previous weeks talking about pretty much nothing except a piece of paper. (Also it should be noted here that Trump was recently roasted on Comedy Central. By that dude from "Jersey Shore." Voluntarily.)

So, Obama found someone else to talk about. Sunday night, Navy Seals raided the compound where Bin Laden was hiding, and one of them shot him in the head, twice -- leading me to believe he'd seen "Zombieland" and is an advocate of the "double-tap." The timing couldn't have been better for a few reasons. Of course, all of these are very, very insignificant when compared to Bin Laden actually being killed, and I acknowledge that, but still, the timing of it all was pretty cool. Since I’ve always been painfully awful with good timing, it really resonated. (Read: I always used to have to pee sometime in the two minutes before a basketball game I was playing in was to tip off. Also, my life’s romantic relationship experience is best described as something like a kid playing game after game of musical chairs and always losing because he was either in the wrong place at the wrong time or momentarily quit paying attention.)

-The announcement was made toward the end of "Celebrity Apprentice," shortly after every station went to a live news feed. I doubt this was intentional, but it's nice to think it was. I'm sure Trump, in his arrogance, thinks so, anyway. I'm still not sure who got fired that week, but I hope it wasn't Meatloaf.

-The NFL draft was finished.

-Bin Laden was killed at the end of a weekend that started with the aforementioned royal wedding. The U.S. really stole the thunder. I mean, think about it: England's taxpayers just shelled out $39 million to wed two people who have done just about as much as Paris Hilton to become famous. American taxpayers had the notion reinforced that the taxes they're spending to fund the military are at least partially being used to kill terrorists. This was done by killing the most sought after terrorist in the entire world.

I guess it's a good thing Obama hadn't been at the wedding that took place Friday -- he’d not been invited. He may not have been able to green light the military action if he was in England wearing a penguin suit. It seems like something you don’t do over Skype, like breaking up. (You break up through a text message, obviously.) Again, I'm sure the timing of all this wasn't planned for purposes of vanity, but how nice is it to picture Obama sitting in a hot tub early Monday morning, smoking a cigar, chuckling and saying "haters gonna hate" over and over again while he watches the news coverage of what has easily been one of the best moments of his presidency? I like to picture it with a little audio in the background. Some “Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop” by Young Gunz. You’d better tuck your girl, if she hot, fam; ‘Cause I’m pretty sure she’s a Barack fan. When he gets out, he dons a robe and starts to either crip walk or to do this dance.

I wonder what Aaron Sorkin and Oliver Stone are doing. This sequence of events might make a pretty good movie.


When I first started writing this, I was hesitant about making Obama the focal point. I realize what happened to Bin Laden is a huge victory, and one that was carried out physically and tactically by the military, who deserve mad props. But, I don't think it's too crazy to boo love on Obama right now a little bit, too. Because he's a symbolic entity. On Team America, the dude is equal parts coach and quarterback, the two who always get the majority of the love and hate. You don't hear much about the guys behind the scenes, unless they screw it up. You don't hear about the linemen all that much until the quarterback gets sacked a bunch of times. That's just the way it is, and it's the same thing on the other side of sanity. Bin Laden was once the Taliban big man on campus. He called the shots, and remained the face of the misguided franchise after they learned to operate without him, while he hid in the mountains. Kind of like how Joe Montana is still kind of the face of the 49ers (terrible analogy). It's vastly important to remember that terrorism is still out there, and may not have lost that much strength with Bin Laden's death, and it's just as important to try and recognize the people in the military and the tough work they're still going to have to do. It’s got to be scary and emotionally taxing, and I’m pretty confident I don’t have the fortitude to do some of the things some of them end up having to do.

But, anyway: What a Sunday Funday, am i right? Kids at Penn State took to the streets and partially destroyed the town, which is how they let America know they're really happy with something. Though I still don't understand the compulsion to destroy things in the place you live to celebrate a positive occurrence, I guess I'm glad they're doing it for something so significant that has not one thing to do with football.


Tuesday, April 5, 2011

College basketball is in bad shape

College basketball is in pretty bad shape.

I've thought so for a while, but watching last night’s national championship really convinced me. I would've been better off staying home and watching YouTube clips of Derek Rose breaking peoples' ankles.

Anyone who watched that game after watching many championships before will probably tell you it was the worst Natty-C they’ve ever seen in their lives. It was 40 minutes of basketball that would’ve been almost painful to watch without the aid of Natty Light. It’s just not what you look for at all from what is theoretically supposed to be the most anticipated and entertaining game of the entire season.

Before tipoff, it had the inherent makings of what could be a very good game, if both teams performed as expected. Butler was a noticeable underdog, despite having gone to the championship last year, and UConn seemed to be the athletic goliath you’d expect from a storied Big East team whose coach uses his reputation and myriad recruiting violations to stock up on raw young talent. (Which means virtually nobody was rooting for UConn except actual Huskies fans and those weird people who cheer against the team who beat their favorite team fair and square earlier in the tourney.) You knew going into it that Butler would have to rely on its teamwork, discipline and generally high-percentage field goal shooting, while the Huskies would basically beat the Bulldogs on the boards and in pretty much every athletic aspect of the game while Kemba Walker displayed his ridiculous talents. I thought that if Butler shot well and played their teamwork-based game, they’d have a shot of keeping it close going into the final three or four minutes, when things can go either way and probably favor the team that garnered national championship game experience the season before.

But then Butler shot 18 percent from the field, and with just less than 10 minutes left in the second half, the outcome was a foregone conclusion. Since I was pulling for Butler, I was happy at halftime, when they were up three. Since the score was 22-19, however, I was happy in an unimpressed way, like when I wake up on a Saturday morning to find out my friend Ant has slept drunkenly on the couch through the entire evening without pissing himself. The Bulldogs had scored one two-point field goal in an entire half of basketball. As a team. If you'd like some context, Jimmer Fredette, BYU's NCAA player of the year, scored more than 30 points in one half by himself this season. His high for the year? A startling 52 points, which is one point less than UConn scored in their 53-41 victory, and three points less than the amount of wives Brigham Young had (fact).

Still, though, it was just one bad game, right? Every win isn't going to be pretty, championship or not. I accept that. I mean, I'm a Penn State grad, and the win they had over Wisconsin in the Big 10 tournament was potentially even uglier than last night's game. I guess I don't have as much a problem with that as I do the way the paradigm has shifted in the way college basketball seasons play out.

There is quality of play and team chemistry, still, and there are tremendous athletes -- the best their age in the world, in fact -- but in the past few years it has been rare to see the two combined. I lay the blame for this on the NBA as a direct result of its relatively new rule that players have to wait at least one year after graduating high school to declare for the draft. So, unless you're Brandon Jennings' crazy ass, you end up playing college ball for a year, whether you want to or not. I think this results in schools snagging guys who have it in their head that they'll jump for the league immediately after freshman season, which in turn has them focusing more heavily on individual performance than they would if they'd made the decision to go to school for themselves, to grow as players and win a championship. The dudes who decide they want to be at a school because they want to win and think they may stay for more than one year have more of a team-centric mindset, and that promotes chemistry with the other players who are going to be there for at least four years, with no goals in mind except winning a championship.

Think about Carmelo Anthony. James went straight to the NBA, and Anthony chose to go to Syracuse just before the league enacted the rule. The 'Cuse team played well together and won it all. Who knows? If they hadn't, Anthony would've possibly stayed another year. Florida, the last team to repeat, did so with all five starters returning. Four of those five are in the NBA right now. They came back because they were into winning championships; they were a team, not an individual doing everything he could to get through a year and get his draft stock as high as possible.

That, I think, is the reason John Calipari hasn't won any championships with Kentucky or Memphis. He specifically recruits players who are going to stay for one year, which means he essentially starts over every season, and the nation gets to watch some of its most talented players play a style that slightly resembles a pick-up game. They consistently win lots of games, but don't find much success in the tournament. Then, the emotionally unattached group leaves to make lots and lots of money.

On the other side of things, I think this is the reason teams like Butler, Virginia Commonwealth and George Mason have found themselves overachieving in recent years since the NBA one-year rule. There is no way you can tell me those teams are the best in the nation skill-wise. They are, however, a unit that works together, and that prepares them for success in a high-pressure setting like the tournament. Because of this, Cinderella teams have become much less impressive than they used to be, simply because there are fewer good "teams" in the NCAA for them to really upset.

At the end of the day, UConn won, and they did so by starting three freshman and bringing two off the bench (four of the five played more than 20 minutes). But, they only won by 12 when Butler shot so horribly and played awfully altogether. You're really not going to win many games on any level beyond fifth grade recreational playing like they did.

It's ironic, though, that Gordon Hayward led Butler to the Natty-C last season during his junior year, and then opted to leave for the NBA early -- something unprecedented among Butler's players. In the 2010 championship, Hayward scored 12 points, the Huskies' exact margin of victory. Had he played in the game this year, I've no doubt he would've scored more than that.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Charlie Sheen is (kind of) a genius, and he's (kind of) comparable to Lady Gaga.

There’s a pretty good chance you began reading this because of the title, which is usually a good thing and the object of a title in the first place, but that might not be the case in this particular instance. This time, you saw the title and probably got angry and decided you’d read it just so you could pick it apart and berate me for being an idiot.

I don’t blame you. In light of recent events, it’s a pretty inflammatory title that might seem like nonsense, especially since Lady Gaga is adored so vastly, for one reason or another.

But, if you’re incensed and that’s why you’re reading this, then you’re kind of proving the point I’m trying to make.

Up until a short while ago, you probably would’ve looked at that title, thought nothing of it and then continued looking around for something to read on a topic you cared about. If you were going to read it, it'd be because you were more enamored with Lady Gaga than Sheen. Back then, Charlie Sheen was just some dude who starred on that show your parents might still watch but you gave up on as soon as the half-man’s voice changed (or before, even). I can’t speak for anybody else’s reasoning for opting to just watch “How I Met Your Mother” and then call it a night, but for me it was the redundancy – though I must sadly admit that “HIMYM” is beginning to adopt some of that same redundancy. (Is it redundant to use the word redundancy twice in one sentence? If so, CBS must really be influencing me.) You can only watch a comedy about an aging drunk clad in bowling shirts and loafers who seduces a bunch of women for so many seasons if there’s very rarely any plot progression to speak of.

But then Sheen flew off the fucking handle. And now you care about him.

Charlie Sheen made you care.

The consumption of Sheen coverage is akin to rubber-necking at the scene of a car crash. You want to look away, but for some reason you aren't really able to describe, you can't. And, even though you really, really hope the event won't result in major injuries or death, you're aware either as the final outcome is far from out of the question. We all know it's maybe not the best thing to give Sheen a ton of attention, and for myriad reasons, but we're going to anyway, because his antics are endlessly entertaining.

The thought that he's a genius came to me involuntarily one night last week when I was watching Sheen's interview with Piers Morgan (which was a shame, because Larry King would've tore his shit apart). Sheen was talking all kinds of nonsense and punctuating every other sentence with either "winning," "duh" or something about "tigerblood" or "trolls." It was nothing short of awesome, albeit in an extremely stupid way, and it was television that was exponentially better than anything I'd ever seen on "Two and a half Men."

"This guy is a fucking genius," I thought to myself, much like the thoughts that probably run through his own head constantly, because he only has one setting, and that setting is "go." It was then that I made the decision to relentlessly follow every batshit crazy thing the dude would engage in.

This was also when I started to observe the parallels between Sheen and Lady Gaga.

I should clarify that I don't view Sheen or the lady who’s always talking about monsters as a genius in the traditional Albert Einstein, card-carrying-Mensa-member way, but in that throwaway way the term is now popularly used. Same with Lady Gaga -- though I don’t dispute that both of them are much more intelligent than myself, and may indeed have genius-level IQs. According to Mensa’s website, there are around 110,000 Mensans throughout the world, and judging by Sheen and Lady Gaga’s achievements at young ages, it’s quite possible they could both easily make the cut.

I don’t care about that, though, and you probably don’t, either. I just mean they’re geniuses because they’ve outsmarted us all into paying attention to every single little thing they do, for better or worse. I guess my mode of thinking now is that you have to be some kind of genius to captivate such a broad and vast audience, so fuck it: they’re both geniuses.

A few weeks before all this Sheen activity commenced, I got into an argument with a friend about whether or not Lady Gaga should be considered a genius. The criteria were that she played instruments, wrote her own songs and was unique. Many people attested to me that she was a genius based on these loose qualifications, which I supposed made my older brother, younger sister and Taylor Swift geniuses as well, along with that goofy music teacher whose young students performed at the Academy Awards this year.

The day this argument began was -- coincidentally -- the day of the Grammys, when this chick showed up in a fucking egg. As soon as I saw this, I found a link to a photo online and put it on my friend's Facebook wall, with some snarky comment about how I’d changed my mind, and she truly was a genius. At the time, I was angry that people held her in such high regard.

Then Sheen came along, though, and I realized that my complete adoration of his antics -- which would occasionally make me nearly giddy -- and my discomfort and dismay with Lady Gaga’s made me a complete hypocrite. I spend a lot of time talking about how she’s overrated (which she is, but hey, so were the Beatles -- anybody with that level of notoriety can’t be as good as people make them out to be) and extremely gimmicky. I couldn’t make peace with the fact that she got so much attention because of the ridiculous things she would wear and say.

“I don’t understand why she has to do all of that stuff,” I’d say to girls who would immediately rule out ever sleeping with me as soon as I made a disparaging remark about their Mother Monster. “I mean, if she’s that talented, why can’t she just let the music speak for itself?”

Well, because that’s not enough anymore, if your goal is to be a really, really famous pop star, and I’m going to assume is one of Lady Gaga’s, since both of the LPs she’s released have the word “Fame” in them. Unless you’re one of the most talented musicians to ever live, you have to have a little bit of that David Bowie gimmickery in your arsenal. Just tonight, I listened to Adele’s new album, and I was very, very impressed. But, she’ll never be as big as Lady Gaga. She’ll never have a bunch of little girls and young women freaking the fuck out at her concerts, because she won’t catch their attention. She’ll catch the attention of the girls and boys who just really want their art to come before everything else, which I guess can be good or bad. I guess Lady Gaga knew this, which is why she doesn’t play quiet piano music and go by the name Stefani Germanotta anymore. (This is true in pretty much any kind of media. Almost everyone my age I know can tell me who Tucker Max is, but probably only a handful can tell me who Junot Diaz is, despite Diaz being one of the best writers on the entire fucking globe. Max is definitely one of my favorites, but I think even he would say he’d have some really ridiculously tough competition if Diaz was getting wrecked, fucking girls and writing about it all the time.) With Adele, it seems to really be all about the music. No matter what Lady Gaga says, I’ll never believe that she feels the same way.

I guess it’s the same with acting as far as Sheen is concerned. If the acting process was his real passion and heightened status took a back seat, he may still have banged a bunch of porn stars and done a bunch of blow, but he would’ve stayed quiet about it. Sheen was famous before, and he’s richer than I can even fathom, but he wasn’t on my radar until he started doing obnoxious things, despite starring on what is allegedly the most-watched network comedy on television. Maybe he knew when he started spouting off some of the most absurd quotes and statements I’ve heard since, well, since I was born, that people would pay attention again. Maybe he didn’t. There’s really no way of knowing for sure.

But, it worked. Res ipsa loquitor ("the thing speaks for itself"), to take a favorite statement from the late Hunter S. Thompson -- a dude who was no stranger to the way a bold persona could drastically enhance fame and alter the way people view your work. Sheen has become without a doubt the most popular news story in the country, despite a pretty huge story in Libya centered around Muammar Gaddafi, a man who is probably just as insane as Sheen. The difference, though, is Gaddafi's lack of charisma. He's not entertaining, and Sheen is. Gaddafi is apparently a troll, with something other than tiger blood running through his veins, and I don’t really have any desire to follow him on Twitter.

Whatever condition Sheen’s motivations, mindset or mental stability are in doesn’t matter to me; I will continue to follow him on Twitter and on television and on UStream and wherever else he decides to take his newly-revealed personality. If he does some kind of stand-up comedy tour or show where he simply just talks nonsense, I’ll pay money to go and see it, just like so many people pay money to go see Lady Gaga. If he does another show – preferably a reality show – I’ll watch every single fucking episode.

I'm ashamed of myself, but the man will have my attention for the immediately foreseeable future.

I've heard somewhere that talent always rises. This may be true; I'm not sure yet, but you need more than talent now if you want to rise to the top of celebrity culture.

I suppose geniuses are born, not made, and it kind of sucks to think that if you want to win, and keep on winning, you have to be born that way.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Wake up in the morning feelin' like P. Diddy: A beginner's guide

The next 10 or so posts were from a blog I wrote for the Altoona Mirror. This is my final week at the paper, and I imagine they'll delete the blog when I leave. For some reason, I wanted to preserve some of the work.

*Originally published at

I have always wanted to be a morning person. It's something that has appealed to me for years. It must be pretty rad to be able to wake up to an alarm clock on your cell phone and not want to hurl it across the room before you curl up into the fetal position and start sobbing uncontrollably. I want to be that dude from the Folgers commercials who smells coffee, sits up, stretches and smiles.

But, sadly, I am not of that ilk. I was not wired that way. The beeping sound of an alarm clock severely depresses me. Every time I hear it, I have the exact same reaction as I do when I hear "Soul Sister" by Train. It's like this: "Oh God, not this AGAIN. Why would you let such a sequence of sounds be INVENTED?" And then I shake my fists at the sky.

When I look at that sentence, I think about how I'm definitely looking at things the wrong way. I should be thanking God I get to wake up again, but when it's that early in the morning I'm not usually capable of forming such rational thoughts, especially positive ones. I'm not a morning person, and so by default I'm not a positive person in the morning. Come to me at 8 p.m. with a worry about your girlfriend who hasn't texted you back for a few hours, and I'll say that maybe she's lost her phone or the battery has gone dead; I'll tell you not to worry. Come to me 12 hours later, and I'll probably whip my mobile phone at you and then proceed to tell you she's probably hanging out somewhere with a guy who is much better looking than you, who was probably wearing a shirt with a popped collar...until a few minutes ago.

I'm not sure when I started hating getting up early, but I'd guess it was probably when I got to middle school in sixth grade, when the powers that be thought it'd be a great idea to have a school day for growing adolescents and teens start at 7:30 a.m. If I was going to get the sleep I needed back then, I was going to have to hit the sack before "Smallville" was over, and that was not going to happen. My family -- with the exclusion of my Dad, who often wakes up earlier than I even hit the sheets -- is not a clan of morning people. One of my most memorable mornings from the high school years was one day when I rolled out of bed and crawled into the bathroom to the shower, narrowly beating my older brother. I got naked and was checking the faucet for warmth when he came in and, in his bad early morning mood, decided he would not give up first shower without a fight. He literally choke-slammed me into the bathtub while I was in the buff. If it had been like three hours later, he probably would've just given me a high five and told me to go ahead and take the shower while he fired up the griddle and made some pecan pancakes.

This has gotten worse since college, when I would often arrange my schedule so I didn't have to wake up until at least 10 a.m. It has gotten worse still since I started work here. I don't come into the office until 1:30 each afternoon, which is awesome. But I've found that my pension for sleeping late extends until the moment I have to get up for an obligation, of which I typically have none before work beyond showering.

Many times in the past seven months, I've gone to bed early enough to get a solid eight hours before I'd wake up at the time I specified on my phone's alarm. I'd have plans, too. I was going to go to the gym, then I was going to start writing a novel that'd make Junot Diaz want to be my friend. At some point in there, I'd whip up some egg whites and read the paper.

Usually, though, I'd turn off the alarm. I'd just lay in bed until like noon, then I'd get up, shower and have enough time to really only read the paper while I watched Sportscenter and ate a banana while hating myself for being so lazy. I pushed the limit for the amount of time I could remain horizontal while the sun was up.

I decided recently it was time for a turn around. I want to wake up in the morning and feel like P. Diddy, to quote the great American poet, Ke$ha. I mean, who wouldn't? P. Diddy has clout, and his life is pretty sweet (well, after he beat those murder charges anyway). This is the dude who was able to make a group of hip-hop-hopefuls walk miles to get him cheesecake, because he just wanted some cheesecake. He actually had a reality show that centered around him training for a marathon. That's right, people tuned into MTV to watch a man jog a lot. If I were to start training for a marathon, my Mom might care a little bit, but that's about it.

Also, I bet his linens have a really high thread count, so that probably doesn't hurt.

I'm not big on New Year's resolutions, but I figured it was as good an opportunity as any to start waking up and being a little bit more productive than I'd been in recent memory.

I had to start at the very beginning. There is nothing in the world that will ever make me enjoy the sound of an alarm clock. Okay, that's not true. If it becomes a daily Pavlovian signal that Blake Lively has just shown up at my door with a large order of house special lo mein, I'll probably start to enjoy it. But the odds of that are slim, so I took that stupid noise out of the equation.

"Scott, what sounds make you happy?" I thought to myself. Almost immediately, I came up with two ideas. The first is the song "Circle of Life," from the very first scene of "Lion King." It starts with the sun coming up -- which was fitting -- and some tribal dude screaming, "Nants ingonyama bagithi Baba. Sithi uhm ingonyama." According to (yes this really does exist) it translates to, "Here comes a lion, Father. Oh yes, it's a lion."

Honestly, I don't care what it means. It just sounds nice, so I like it (kind of like a Radiohead song). So I downloaded that as a ringtone on my phone, and set it up as an alarm.

Next, I obtained a compilation of music from the television show "Glee." I threw that in my CD player alarm clock, and set that up. (If you are too cool and don't dig "Glee," I suggest substituting it with the song "You Get What You Give" by The New Radicals. It's probably barely edges out "Mmmbop" as my favorite pop song from the 90's. It's very happy. I don't know how I feel about everything I just wrote in this parenthetical sequence; not very manly, is it?)

I staggered these alarms within 15 minutes of each other. This way, if the music from "Lion King" didn't do the job of waking me up immediately, the kids from "Glee" would chime in a few moments later telling me that any way I wanted it was indeed the way I needed it, and that I was just a small town girl who was livin' in a lonely world. (They were heavy on the Journey throughout their journey to the regionals. Count it.) If I was already awake and reading the paper before I left for the gym, I would get a pick-me-up from that gang of adoreable misfits.

Right before I walked out the door for the gym, I'd fill my new Gatorade bottle with some water or green tea. It was one of those squirtable ones professional athletes use. I figured that somehow I could trick myself into thinking my running on the treadmill was part of some important team activity.

Whilst on the treadmill, I listened to a lot of music by Explosions in the Sky, an instrumental band that plays probably some of the most powerful music I've ever listened to in my 23 years on this earth. (They did all the music for the "Friday Night Lights" film and television show.) I can't explain why, but their songs make everything you're doing seem like it is vastly more important than it justifiably should be. I like to listen to them while I fold my laundry. It makes me feel like the most domesticated man since Michael Keaton in "Mr. Mom." And that came out in 1983.

Next, I'd jump in the pool and try to swim some laps, something I haven't done much since my Mom made me join the swim team in fourth grade. (It ended like piano lessons : I complained until she didn't make me go anymore. Now I regret doing that in both instances.) That'll wake you up for sure.

So then I'd come home and shower and try to write something for a little bit. That novel hasn't really gotten off the ground yet, so Diaz is going to have to wait if he's looking for new up-and-coming literary pals, but I don't think he minds. I do get a lot more reading done, though, and that's good for the mind. Especially those Junot Diaz books. Dude can write. (Yes, I'm hoping he Googles his own name a lot and decides he wants to e-mail me. So what?)

So far, it has worked for me. At least on two-thirds of the weekdays in 2011. We'll call it a start.

A review: Black Swan

*Originally published at

When I was wondering if I should go and see "Black Swan" after work last night, I asked my friend Heather, who had seen it earlier in the week, if it would be a beneficial life decision.

She told me that yes, it would be, as long as I wasn't offended by, um, certain sexual things. I'm no prude, especially when Natalie Portman AND Mila Kunis are involved, so I went to see it. And I'm glad I did. Not for that reason, either. I'm no prude, but I'm no pervert, either.

ANYWAY. Darren Aronofsky ("The Wrestler," "Requiem for a Dream") has earned the hype his films have finally begun to receive, that's for sure. He's one of those directors who never sells out, and works rarely, only whenever he finds something he can really get into. In this way, he's like Daniel Day Lewis (and if they ever did a film together, I'd have to try really hard not to start screaming in the front row like I was a 10-year-old girl at a Miley Cyrus concert). He ends up with big names in his projects, though, because he's become a go-to director for actors who want to be taken seriously and want to win awards. In this way, he's kind of like Joel and Ethan Coen. It's this formula that allows him to make indie-esque movies that deliver complex and serious messages that many people will actually want to go see. His movies become acclaimed by both critics and audiences alike. In this way, he's like James Cameron, if you take away the gimmicks and weak storylines (I didn't dig "Avatar).

I expected "Black Swan" to be dark, since that's just the way Aronofsky tends to get down. It was. I've told a few people that "Requiem for a Dream" is one of the more messed up movies I've seen, and I'd make the argument that "Black Swan" may have even been darker for this reason: In "Requiem," everything takes a turn for the insane because the main characters are all addicted to heroin. In "Black Swan," everything takes a turn for the insane because Nina Sayers (Portman) literally goes insane. Drugs play a small role in a couple consecutive scenes in "Black Swan," but Sayers isn't addicted to them and it'd be difficult to make the argument that they were at the root of her problems. Her problems go on in her head, which makes it all the more frightening.

"Black Swan" takes you into the world of professional ballet dancing, a world most really don't get exposed to. It does for ballet what "24/7: Penguins--Capitals" does for professional hockey, except "Black Swan" deals with pretty and unstable women, while "24/7" deals with goofy, toothless dudes who are much better dressed than one would anticipate (it's a bit more light-hearted). You find out immediately that this world is very demanding, the dancers are very dedicated and everyone involved takes it very seriously, and unapologetically so. This dancing is not the kind of dancing you do for fun on Saturday nights at The Shandygaff.

Portman's performance is very convincing. She's trying to find a way to tap into her reserves of both good and evil in the time leading up to the opening night of her dance company's rendition of Tchaikovsky's ballet "Swan Lake." The pressure from her annoyingly arrogant company leader, Thomas Leroy (a part Vincent Cassel straight kills) seems to be the initial catalyst for the absurdity that ensues. Throw in her strangely close relationship with her Mom (Barbara Hershey) -- they share a tiny apartment in New York City, even though Sayers is somewhere in her 20s -- and her friendship-turned-rivalry with fellow dancer Lily (Kunis), and you've got three strong contributors to the amplification of her pre-existing psychological issues.

Once all of those come together, it gets pretty wild.

The most impressive trait of "Black Swan" is its ability to make a person who may be (at least mostly) sane feel a little bit what it might be like to go insane. The acting, camera work, special effects and writing all contributed strongly to that in some way. There is real life, and there are hallucinations, and after a while it's kind of difficult to discern one from the other. There are scenes in the movie that are genuinely frightening, and not in the way Freddy Kruger or Lord Voldemort are frightening. You walk out of the theater with the eerie feeling that this could have almost been real. It is possible for anybody to go insane, and it must be a horrible thing to have happen to you. If I were a professional ballerina, I think I'd be very legitimately freaked out by what Aronofsky decided to make.

I wouldn't recommend this movie to everyone. It's very serious, and some parts are pretty graphic. It's about dancing, but it's complicated; it is not "Dirty Dancing" or "Footloose." It's the usual Aronofsky jawn, and it's good to know his style going in. If not, you might end up like one of my friends, who said it was a bit too much for her to handle. She "really wanted to like it," though.

I guess that makes it this year's "Juno." An indie movie with famous people that everyone WANTS to like, because it's cool to. That doesn't mean everyone will, but I did.

Let 'Em Play

*Originally published at

I remember playing in a basketball championship game when I was 12 years old. We lost.

(I understand you probably don't want to hear about my adolescent athletic experiences any more than I want to write about them -- especially since it's not even a triumphant one. But trust me when I tell you there is a point I've become surprisingly passionate about and, being the narcissist that I am, I figured a personal anecdote would be my best way to get it across.)

The game was close, and it had to be settled in overtime. In my school district's youth leagues, there was a rule that every player on each team had to play at least one entire quarter, and this didn't change for the playoffs. My coach abided by this rule, and that's one of the many reasons I respect him. To this day, he is still one of my most influential role models, despite the fact that he would put the fear of God in me every time I shot a scoop shot instead of a lay-up by loudly informing me that I was not Allen Iverson. The opposing coach was one of those Dads who was re-living his childhood vicariously through his son's little league success, and found a way to cheat the system. I wouldn't be surprised if this guy was sitting in his home right now polishing his son's trophy, actually.

I'm ashamed to admit that after the game I thought about how we probably would have won if everybody hadn't had to play. This was because back then, for a few days, whether or not I won or lost this championship was of the utmost importance to me. I am deeply ashamed of myself for thinking this way, even at that age.

Now? I could absolutely care less. Winning a basketball title in the sixth grade would have had no long-lasting effect on my life, just like losing didn't. (Actually, I got some sympathy hugs from some of the chicks in my grade who had come to cheer us on. Losing's not always that bad.)

I hadn't thought about this game for years, until I woke up a couple Mondays ago (Oct. 25) to see William Kibler's article about suspending must-play rules for the little league playoffs in the area. There had been a parental complaint from a woman whose son was disappointed when he didn't get to play his mandatory six minutes in basketball playoff games last spring. The Central Blair Recreation and Park Commission upheld the policy, which has been in place since 1988. One of the reasons they gave seemed legitimate to me: teams with more players were at a disadvantage. I guess that makes sense, but I would think the leagues would be able to find some way to work it out so the teams had a pretty consistent number of players. Apparently, when the must-play rule was in place in the area, coaches would allegedly "offset that disadvantage by discouraging lesser players from showing up," the commission staff said.

When I read that sentence, I actually got upset. I think I felt my blood pressure escalate a little bit, like it does sometimes when I'm in a hurry to get someplace and a person is going below the speed limit in the passing lane.

What kind of person is such a loser that they care so much about winning a peewee game that they'll tell a little kid not to show up? It sends the message to me that this coach is a terrible person who shouldn't ever be listened to or taken seriously, but what kind of message does that send to the kid? It can plant the thought in his head that he's not good enough, and maybe he's not, but you really can't know that when a kid is 12. What happens when you do this to a kid because he's tiny and uncoordinated, but then he hits a growth spurt and is standing at 6'7" in ninth grade and doesn't want to go out for the team because some idiot destroyed his love for basketball when he was in grade school? Maybe this was why my high school basketball coach who ran the league kept the must-play rules intact throughout playoffs. You never know when the next Dikembe Mutumbo's going to come your way. Or maybe it's because he is a generally good person.

Now that I'm older, I feel like I can step back and put myself in the position of some of the kids I played with. If they hadn't been allowed to play in that game, then it might have had some negative effects on them in the future. If my coach had in some way tried to encourage them to skip the game, it would have probably been much worse, and I don't think that's something you'd forget about easily. I can't imagine going to every practice and game, and trying just as hard, if not harder, than anybody else on the team (some of us were arrogant back then and didn't think we had to give 100 percent during practice, because we were talkin' 'bout practice, man) and being benched throughout the playoffs at such an impressionable age.

Don't get me wrong. I'm a very competitive person, and I hate losing. I always have. But sometimes there are more important things than winning, and little league sporting events fit into that category. Most kids want to win at that age, but the lessons they learn from playing sports are much more valuable than whether or not they're champions, especially in the long run. At that age, it should be about teaching them the fundamentals of the game, and some of the components of sports that spill over into real life, like gamesmanship, hustle and the ability to work well with others. I can't fathom a coach who wouldn't understand this, but they're out there. I've seen them and been involved with them, and I've heard about them on the news. Some dudes are crazy.

For a minute, I thought I was crazy. I decided to call my old coach, Ed Boyd, and ask him what his thoughts were on the matter. I wish I could adequately describe Coach Boyd, who coached me from fourth to sixth grade and who I've remained very close with since (I've said he's like a second father to me on many occasions and meant it), but it's tough to do. The energy and competitive nature he has exuded for as long as I've known him can only really be called intimidating, but that doesn't really do it justice. Believe me when I tell you that the man does not savor losing, or take it lightly. I remember one time during practice I made a remark about how I thought we were going to lose an upcoming game and he almost shot me. But, instead he sat down the entire team and gave us a very inspiring talk about never giving up or counting yourself out, and remaining confident no matter what. (The next practice he brought us each a sheet of paper that said "The decision between winning and losing is often decided before the game." It's still posted on the bulletin board in my childhood bedroom.) We did end up losing that game, but it doesn't really matter, because the lessons I learned from what lead up to that loss taught me some things I still value today.

When I asked his opinion, he said it was definitely a tough question, especially if you ask a coach in the middle of an intense game, but that he thought every kid in that age group deserved the chance to play at least a little bit.

"You know me, Scotty. I love to win," he said. "But you know what the greatest part about coaching you little guys from the time you were 10 to 12 was? It was watching you guys all grow up together and improve on your own, but also as a team."

The way it is, he said, is that on every team you have a few kids who you think will probably move on to play after elementary school, and you have the other kids who probably won't.

"For those two or three years, all the kids should get to enjoy it, when having fun and learning is what it's all about," Coach said. "They should all at least get into the game, so you can all win or lose together as a team."

Then he told me a story about my friend Jaime, one of the kids who never played another game of organized basketball after we lost that championship game. I'd forgotten all about it, but at one very crucial point in the game, Jaime dove after a loose ball and saved our possesion.

"That was probably one of the best plays he made, and just to see how happy and pleased with himself he was for contributing like that was rewarding," he said.

If there hadn't been a must-play rule, he might not have gotten in at all, but I have a feeling Coach Boyd would've gotten him in there one way or another.

I was a lucky kid. I learned a ton from my childhood basketball coach. Stuff I haven't unlearned and still use daily. I won't say that every coach is going to be as good or affecting as Coach Boyd, because he leaves some tough sweatpants to fill. But I think kids should at least learn a little something from their coach that they can use, and that they should look back fondly on their little league experience. They shouldn't have to recollect that time their coach told them to stay home from the game so the team could win, and they shouldn't have to remember hoisting their first championship trophy when all they did was clap on the sidelines.

Let 'em play. It'll do them some good in the long run, and that's what it's all about.

Obscure costume ideas

*Originally published at

It's officially crunch time. Halloween weekend is only a week away. This is the time when people who don't have their costumes figured out yet start freaking the geek out. They go to countless costume stores in the area, and freak out a little bit more when they realize that, by this time, all of the good stuff is sold out. They can't find anything mind-blowing at the stores, and the pressure blocks their creativity, so they can't come up with anything acceptable they can assemble from a trip to Goodwill and Michael's.

Do you know what happens then?

They settle. For something unoriginal and boring. They lose all hope that they'll get admiration from everybody at the party for their totally rad costume, and they decide to dress up as a vampire (one who doesn't even sparkle) or a white trash person with a mullet wig.

An unoriginal costume was fine when you were a little kid, when you weren't expected to come up with anything revolutionary and related to cutting-edge popular culture. But you can't mess around with that stuff anymore once you reach a certain age. Gone are the days where you could just cut two eye holes in a bed sheet and venture into the night as a ghost with the mission of accruing as many Reese's peanut butter cups as you possibly could. (After many years of intense study and data collection, I can confidently say that there really is no wrong way to eat a Reese's.) These days, if you want to impress that girl dressed up as (insert pretty much anything here, and then envision a more scantily clad version, because that's how the typical girl around my age dresses on Halloween), you have to be wearing a costume that's either really good and well thought-out or is in some way mocking/making fun of something.

It's definitely not easy to come up with ideas, especially when you want it to be a unique costume you won't see many others wearing. And as I said before, it gets more and more difficult the closer you get to that first Halloween party. Sometimes, you even have to have more than one costume, because you don't want to wear the same one on consecutive nights. It's stressful.

But don't worry. I'm here to help. I start thinking of potential costumes as soon as I wake up on Nov. 1. Not because I'm overly obsessive or anything, but because I come up with ideas I would have loved to dress up as for Halloween as soon as it's too late to dress up as the idea. It's like when I go to the video store. I always think of about five movies I've been meaning to see as soon as I get home, but I don't ever think about these movies when I'm on my way to the store.

Here are a few ideas I've come up with.

* The homeless lady who's obsessed with pigeons from "Home Alone 2: Lost in New York": This one would be easy, and it puts a spin on the traditional homeless person costume. All you need to do is dress up like you're a homeless in the middle of the winter and find some fake or stuffed birds to super glue to your shawl. Then you can get some bird seed to throw around periodically throughout the night, and you can also yell "Kevin, run!" really loud at random moments. If you want to go for real authenticity, don't shower for at least a few days before Halloween.

This could be a beneficial costume toward the end of the night, especially if you live in a college town. You can post up near a pizza shop, and kids will probably either get you pizza or throw money at you, because in their drunken state they may mistake you for a real homeless person and be more generous than they would if they were sober.

If you want another twist on the homeless motif, just dress up as former CNN employee Rick Sanchez. He no longer has a way to pay his mortgage, so it's just a matter of time.

* The South Bend Shovel Slayer from "Home Alone": Yes, I really like the "Home Alone" films, excluding the third one that was a horrible idea from jump street since Macaulay Culkin wasn't in it. This one is easy, too. All you need is a black trench coat, big black boots and a snow shovel. If you can grow a beard, do that too, and then dye it gray.

I guess you could be Harry or Marv -- the Wet Bandits -- too. I just thought of that, since I'm apparently in "Home Alone" mode today. All of these costumes will get people thinking about the movie, which will in turn get them thinking about Christmas. It's never too early to start thinking about Christmas, that's for sure.

* Justin Bieber: I know this one doesn't seem to creative (I'm sure lots of kids will dress as him this year), but you just have to tweak it a little bit. All you need really is a wig that mimics the kids absurd haircut (unless you're my friend Spencer or Tom Brady, and you already have this haircut). This is the perfect costume for someone who has a little sister who still goes trick or treating with her friends. You can have her assemble an entire mob of tweens, and have them chase you screaming all over the neighborhood. Then if you see someone dressed as Lady Gaga (which you inevitably will, in triplicate at least), you can get in a brawl with them over who is the more annoying pop singer.

If at some point you run into an older person who doesn't know who Justin Bieber is, you can just tell them you're Micky Dolenz, lead singer of The Monkees. Any costume that comes with the potential to sing "Daydream Believer" at some point is excellent in my book.

* Sarah Palin, except not really Sarah Palin: I saw at least 15 people (not including Tina Fey) dressed like Sarah Palin last Halloween, so that's obviously a little played out. But somehow she has -- sadly -- remained relavant. This is unfortunate, but she also becomes easier and easier to mock on a nearly daily basis, if you can get past the disgruntlement that encompasses you every time you hear or read something ridiculous she has said. She's kind of like Kanye West (except West's music is awesome, and I would opine that Palin doesn't really have any redeeming qualities).

So, since she's just as popular as she was at this time last year, maybe you still want to dress as her, but you need something to make the costume seem unique. So why not dress as Sarah Palin, and drag a parachute around behind you all night?

Suddenly, you're no longer Sarah Palin. You're Parah Sailin'.

Awesome costume idea? You betcha!

* A fast food mascot: This one would be more fun if you got a group of people to dress up with you as different mascots, then just engage in rivalry-fueled activities all night. There are many options: Colonel Sanders, Ronald McDonald, Jack from Jack in the Box, Wendy, Big Boy, the Domino's Noid, Chuck E. Cheese, Little Caesar, Jared Fogle (Subway's weight-loss phenom) and the Burger King, to name a few. (The King is actually genuinely creepy. My friend Evan is legitimately horrified of him.) It'd be very amusing to me to go into a party and see a bunch of fast food mascots arguing over whether the KFC Double Down is better than the Wendy's Baconator (toss-up) and yelling obscenities about how the McDonald's "Secret Sauce" is really just Thousand Island dressing. Hopefully at some point this becomes a physical altercation, because that'd be really funny to watch as well. I'm envisioning the King throwing Big Boy through the wall after Big Boy claimed that Burger King doesn't really flame broil its burgers.

* Four Loko: You and three of your friends dress up as insane people. If you can, get a straight jacket, and if not just dress like you think a crazy person would look. (If you want, I can show you some of my ex-girlfriends. They'd provide a good starting point.) When people ask what you're supposed to be, tell them Four Loko. College-age kids will absolutely love this, because Four Lokos are fruit flavored energy drinks that include a pretty hefty amount of alcohol. I guess they're so potent that they're on the verge of being banned, so naturally people are completely wild about them.

I'm telling you, it'd be a hit.

* Coach Eric Taylor from the "Friday Night Lights" TV series: I just decided today that this is who I'm going to dress up as this year. Coach Taylor is one of my favorite characters on television's most underrated show. This is going to be easy and cheap, so that's a plus. I only had to buy a Dillon Panthers -- the team he coached in the show's first two seasons -- windbreaker and hat that I found online a while ago. I also need to get my hands on a whistle. After that, the rest of the costume is on me. I plan on speaking in a southern drawl the entire night, and walking around blowing my whistle, screaming "Clear eyes, full hearts, can't lose!" and saying a bunch of other motivational stuff. I actually plan on giving a very inspirational pregame speech to my friends before we head out for the evening.