Monday, December 31, 2007

The Great Pretender

Yes, I'm the Great Pretender,
Pretending that I'm doing well.
My need is such
I pretend too much
I'm lonely but no one can tell.

Yes, I'm the Great Pretender,
Adrift in a world of my own.
I play the game
but to my real shame
You've left me to grieve all alone.


One adjective that will never, in any circumstances be used to describe me is 'inscrutable.' I do not play poker, because I cannot bluff. In fact, even when I'm trying very, very hard to be tactful and polite, my face pretty much gives away "God I hate everything about this" more often than not.

So, it's somewhat strange to me that I've been going through the most hellish three months I've had since at least college, with no real, in the flesh friends to confide in regularly, and practically no one has noticed. At work, my hallmarks as an attendant remain my constant smile and sense of humor, my near endless resources of patience, and my high, some might say frenetic or manic, energy levels. All of my coworkers knew about the disastrous ending to my relationship with Rachel, although not all knew the full extent of it, and all of them know about the neverending run of troubles I've been dealing with since then. Everyone thinks I'm fine, and that it's amazing that I'm doing so well and keeping so positive. The only coworker who truly knows what's going on is Kelli, who is pretty much my best friend these days, and that's because she cared enough to ask me about it, early and often.

So I've been wondering why, when everything else in my life appears to be falling around me, practically no one at work is aware that something serious is going on with me. Why can't anyone figure it out, when usually people can practically read my mind simply by looking at me?

And it hit me. I'm happiest at work. By far. Home consists of lots of pacing, lots of calling people to see if anyone is up for me to talk to, and lots of frantic searching for something, anything to occupy my time.

(Quick plug: ChessMaster 9000: Available for $10 at your local electronics store, featuring hours and hours and hours of chess strategy lessons by international grandmasters, including a course in competitive psychology by the guy that Searching For Bobby Fischer was about. Plus, dozens of AI Personalities of all skill levels to practice against. Practically guaranteed to keep your mind off of everything if you've ever wanted to learn to play chess.)

At work, though, I've got people to talk to, problems to solve, residents to counsel, on occasion pretty women to flirt with, and I love every second of it, and everyone at work likes me. And by everyone, I mean everyone. Even people I thought did not like me, like me. "Accepted" might not be the word to use; I'm still looked at as a ways off from the norm, and probably always will be, but since I'm a friendly and effective crazy, people tend to like me.

And so, for the first time in my life, I'm able to go through a slight depressive episode without everyone looking at me and asking me what's wrong with me, or if I'm doing all right, or telling me I look like crap and should probably go take a nap. Which sort of makes me think it's not really a depressive episode at all. It's just a temporary hole that needs to be filled with a friend or two. Now it's just a matter of finding worthwhile candidates.

Monday Morning YouTube

Thursday, December 27, 2007

The Best of Jackson Browne

Here's what I knew about Jackson Browne about 6 months ago:

1. He sang "Stay" and "Running on Empty".
2. He collaborated with Warren Zevon semi-regularly.

Upon repeated listenings of Running On Empty, I've decided I really like it. While shopping for Christmas presents for my family tonight, I found The Best of Jackson Browne on sale for $6. For six bucks, why not? asks I. You can't miss, I reply. So, here's my running thoughts on The Best of Jackson Browne, while I kill time until my mechanic opens at 7. This might not actually be interesting to read, since no one else can hear the album unless you happen to own it. It will, however, take a long time, and that's the goal at the moment.

1. Doctor My Eyes: Hey, I know this song! So this is Jackson Browne too. I could probably recognize his songs more easily if his songs weren't the archetypal example of baritone singer/songwriter. You know, the theme of people going to doctors to solve their emotional issues is not a new one in rock and roll. Except Jackson Browne wrote this one, so it's like that, only done better than pretty much everyone else who ever did it. Favorite line: "People go just where they will. I never noticed them until I got this feeling that it's later than it seems."

2. These Days: Not much to say about this one. It's a nice, moody ballad, pretty much exactly how you'd expect a nice moody ballad to sound. This one I don't relate to as much, as when I'm moody and down about my life, I tend to be more extroverted to try to jump start me out of it.
Favorite line: "Now if I seem afraid to live the life I've made in song, it's just that I've been losing for so long."

3. Fountain of Sorrow: Man, Jackson Browne has not lived a happy life. He's like an anti-rock star. Or like Emily Dickinson, if Emily Dickinson had ever been within a thousand miles of Cool. Actually, perhaps in past lives, Jackson Browne dumped Emily Dickinson for being a whiny whiner, and their future selves couldn't stop writing poetry about it.
Favorite Line: And while the future's there for anyone to change, still you know it seems easier sometimes to change the past.

4. Late for the Sky: I think everyone has sleptwalk through a relationship or two, just automatically saying easy things, and realizing there was nothing there except that both people wanted something to be there. Jackson Browne, however, seems to have done this with every woman he ever dated.
Favorite line: How long have I been dreaming I could make it right if I closed my eyes and tried with all my might to be the one you need?

5. The Pretender: You know, sad, reflective love ballads don't really move me too much. Yeah, yeah. Love ends. It's sad. Blah blah blah. But this... this... ok, now I'm depressed. Congratulations.
Favorite Line: Say a prayer for the pretender, who started out so young and strong, only to surrender.

6. Running on Empty: Ah, the Springsteen Gambit: Disguise your moody lyrics that might not make people feel good when they sing along with them by using an upbeat tempo and driving chords. I personally find this song to be completely awesome.
Favorite Line: In '69 I was 21 and I called the road my own. I don't know when that road turned into the road I'm on.

7. Call it a Loan: Apparently sometime in the late '70s, Jackson Browne discovered he could get more radio play if his songs had choruses. The regrettable side effect is that it cut into his lyric writing freedom. I can't really find any gripes about this song, but I can't find any particularly favorite lyrics either. It simply could be that I'm ODing on break-up songs too.

8. Somebody's Baby: I know this song too! I've never been particularly impressed by it when I've heard it on the radio. It's one in a million songs that do not prompt me to change the station, but don't prompt me to run out and buy an album or even worry about who sings it. Now, however, it makes much more sense in the context of Jackson Browne's body of work. Even the really attractive people that everyone wants to date are consigned to lives of loneliness becomes everyone assumes they're taken, to the point that they try their hardest to not notice them.

9. Tender is the Night: At some point in every rock career, you begin to say "I like the earlier stuff better." I think we've arrived here. Jackson Browne is straying from his tried-and-true "I'll just do what everyone else is doing, only much much better" plan, and trying to incorporate the pop sounds of the early 80s. It's not a good move. Not at all. The lyrics are stil pretty solid though.
Favorite Line: I can't walk back in after the way we fight when people outside are laughing, living lives we used to lead.

10. In the Shape of a Heart: Hey, uh, just re-read that last paragraph. Good lyrics, but I'm just not a fan of the instrumentation. I mean, I was ok with The Cars in the '80s, because they at least went all out with the electro-pop sound. This folksy synth mix doesn't work for me.
Favorite line: "[People] Speak in terms of belief and belonging, try to fit some name to their longing, People speak of love."

11. Lives in the Balance: Wait a minute, this isn't about breaking up with a girl and feeling really bad about it. In fact, this isn't about anybody breaking up with anyone at all. And it's not even a depressing acknowledgement that you'll never be as cool as you wanted to be. Are we sure this is Jackson Browne? Of course, the really depressing part about this anti-war, anti-crappy media anthem is that it could be written about pretty much any time in U.S. history.

12. Sky Blue and Black: Out of the 80s, thankfully, and Jackson can go back to his original style, only a little mellower. In case you were wondering, Jackson is still breaking up with people, and still feeling really bad about it. In fact, he wants to be friends and make her feel better. This, I think, is a bad idea almost 100% of the time.

13. The Barricades of Heaven: Also, Jackson is still coming to terms with the fact that he's not as cool as he always hoped he'd be.

14. The Rebel Jesus: This isn't really a true "Best of Jackson Browne", rather, it's a new song tacked on to the end. It deserves to be included; I like it better than the last five or so. It's a nice little anti-hymn about how not Christlike actual Christianity is, and how the real purpose is to make people feel good about themselves. Very ethereal sounding.
Favorite Line: In a life of hardship and of earthly toil, there's a need for anything that frees us.

15. The Next Voice You Hear: Hey, I know this one. I don't know how. I think it must be the radio, as it was released in 1997, which puts it way too late for me to hear it via one of my older sisters. Despite the moody and generally depressing tone of all of Jackson Browne's songs, this is the only one with what I would call a dark sound. Most of the others are simple mellow grooves.
Favorite Line: Throw down your truth and check your weapons.

Hmmm, I've still got four hours. Time to watch The Godfather Part II, I suppose.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

A Jolly Happy Soul

One More Time

Pause it after 6 seconds. See that T-shirt? That's what I want for Christmas next year.

Monday, December 24, 2007

The Godfather (1972)

Hey, I finally saw The Godfather. My expectations were tempered, because I'd already read the book, and I really liked it, so I pretty much assumed the movie wouldn't be anywhere near as good. Well, I was wrong. The Godfather is pretty much as good as everyone says it is, and most of the parts they cut from the book were parts I didn't care for anyway, like the Nino and Johnny in Hollywood parts and the Johnny wants his ex-wife back parts. Those were pretty boring, and I didn't miss them in the movie.

Now, I do want to address the part of The Godfather that annoyed me ten years ago when I read it and annoyed me again when I watched it. This would be the "Michael is exiled to Sicily and gets married only to see his wife murdered by his traitorous bodyguard" part. It annoys me because Appollonia has somewhere in the neighborhood of 5 lines in the movie and possibly less in the book, but I'm supposed to believe that Michael is close enough to her to fall in love with her while at the same time he's engaged to Kay Adams (at least, I think he was in the book; he wasn't in the movie). This part irked me in the book because it had no bearing on any other part of the plot, and is never even mentioned again. After Appollonia's car explodes, the very memory of her existence vanishes. The entire episode struck me as senseless; killing Appollonia off so that she won't have to be written into the rest of the plot is lazy, but there was no reason whatsoever we had to know what Michael Corleone did while exiled if it was going to have no bearing at all on the rest of the plot.

But the rest of the movie is really good. Hell, even that part is pretty good, just completely superfluous and mostly senseless. Update the Board, and move on.

Monday Morning YouTube

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Platoon (1986)

First, a big thank you to everyone who wished me birthday greetings, including Casey, Mom, Dad, Lindzy, BerryBird, Nadine, Liz, Galen, Tavis, Nando, Kelli, Walter, and anyone else I might have forgotten.

Now, on with the review. I'll admit I was not very pumped to see this one. It's about the Vietnam War, and I feel The Deer Hunter covered this territory as well as any movie ever could. I got a little bit more pumped when I read the opening credits and saw lots of familiar names in addition to Willem Dafoe, who I thought was the star of it and also is fricking awesome.

I genuinely liked this movie, but it suffered from my biggest pet peeve when it comes to movies of any kind: pretentious, preachy dialogue that no one in real life ever actually says. In this movie, they try to pass that stuff off as Taylor, the main character, narrating letters he's writing home, but it still doesn't work for me. I'm plenty smart enough to figure out that the soldiers are fighting themselves as well as the NVA, and that the conflict between Barnes and Elias is a physical manifestation of that struggle without Taylor telling me that's what's happening. I've not seen enough of Oliver Stone's work to know if this is a regular tactic of his or not, but it really needs to go.

As I said, I liked this movie, I'd recommend it, and I probably wouldn't mind seeing it again. It suffers from the fact that The Deer Hunter, a movie that I'm not going to see again because it almost traumatized me, preceded it by 8 years and forever set the standard for movies about Vietnam. However, it is helped by the fact that it deals more with the atrocities of war as opposed to its effect on its participants, and because 19 years later, Crash would come along and take preachy, pretentious dialogue that nobody says in real life to new levels of ridiculousness, which makes the few instances of it in Platoon seem much more forgiveable.

So, in all, good movie. Excellent acting, good directing, a bit heavy-handed writing.

Also, what are the odds that two stars of this bleak, dark drama about the atrocities humanity is capable of would go on to star in popular, light-hearted sitcoms? Probably better than the odds that two stars of Predator would go on to become governors, but still doesn't seem likely.

Time to update the Board.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Saturday, December 15, 2007

One reason I love my job

Conversations like this:

Client: Who cut my fingernails?
Andy: I don't know.
Client: Who cut my fingernails?
Andy: Um, Santa Claus?
Client: Noooooooo.
Andy: Um, Jesus?
Client: (scoffs) Jesus can't have scissors.

Things that aren't worth their own post

1. Flirting: It turns out I've upped my game. This was not hard, because if my game was Super Mario Bros., I went from the first level where you might have to jump on a couple slow moving enemies or over some small pits, and which can be completely bypassed via pipe, to that crazy Bridge Level where all the fish come flying toward you and you have to dodge them all and the flying turtles while not falling off the bridge, and everything is much more exciting. Does this make any sense? Ok, well, the point is that today I flirted my way to a free drink, a free order of fries, and a free brownie. Before too long, all of my meals at Hardee's will be completely comped! And who knows, maybe flirting is useful in ways not related to getting free food that is terrible for me. Only time will tell.

2. "Do They Know It's Christmas?" is still the best Christmas song. "Christmas Shoes" is still the worst, but it now has some serious competition.

3. Movies: taking a bit of a break from the Best Pictures to watch more Christmasy fare. Also, I watched The Iron Giant again the other night. I'm thinking if you don't like The Iron Giant, you just simply don't have a soul. Also on the movie front, a coworker brought in Black Dog for the clients to watch today. Why? I don't know. But, ever since that fateful day in 2004 when I saw it for sale in Wal-Mart headlining the acting talents of Patrick Swayze, Randy Travis, and Meat Loaf, I've simply felt compelled to watch it. I don't understand how I've not seen it. I mean, it's about truck drivers, and the cast consists of a dancer, a country singer, and, a rock musician. It strikes me that the appeal of this movie might not be universal, but I cannot imagine a reality in which this movie is not awesome.

4. eHarmony. During my spending binge on Tuesday, I decided to take advantage of a super low 3 months for the price of one dealie from, and it's already bearing fruit. After doing whatever it is the eHarmony RoboMatcher 9000 does, it has found a cute social worker who sounds really cool in her profile that appears interested in me. Granted, it had to extend its search to the outskirts of St. Louis in order to find this woman, but you can't say it's ineffective. Plus, I already have a friend in St. Louis, so if this works out, I've got a vacation to plan and save up for. Then, in maybe another year, I'll have enough time saved to take another trip to see her. Go team.

5. The Wizard of Oz: Don't you think it would be much more entertaining if Dorothy actually sounded like she was from Kansas? "Wayle, I's a fixin' to see the Wizard! I reckon if he can get me on back to KANzass, he shore can get you a brain."

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Can't. Stop. Pacing.

What the crap. It's 6:00 am. I've been walking around my apartment building all night long, up and down stairs, doing 6 loads of laundry. In between loads of laundry, I've been tearing up and down my hallway, back and forth, all night. And I'm still not tired.

I think my toes are getting calloused from all the walking I've done tonight. Seriously. Somebody pass the Ambien. Where's The English Patient when I need it? Or maybe a copy of The Old Man and the Sea would do the trick. I don't know.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Thoughts on Songs I Heard on the Radio

Today I was positively bored out of my mind. After being awake for 2 hours, I realized that I had already done everything I wanted to do, and was facing the prospect of at least 10 more hours of consciousness and little else. So I decided to go spend some money, since I have some extra cash to do so for the first time in months.

It was awesome, and I'm in one excellent mood. I felt the urge to get Waffle House hasbrowns at one point, and since there are no Waffle Houses in this area for reasons beyond my comprehension, I had to cross the Ohio line in search of one. Due to my ridiculously high spirits on this gratuitous excursion of capitalism, my radio comments were a little more manic than usual.

"Homeward Bound," Simon and Garfunkel: You know what's more than a little creepy? What Paul Simon says his "loved one" does while he's out touring: Sitting around silently waiting for Paul Simon to return while listening to Paul Simon's music. I suppose that's possible. I think, given Paul Simon's track record on marriages, that it was far more likely that she was having affairs.

Also, current and aspiring rock stars: you may think someday that it's a good idea to write a song about how hard it is to be a rock star. Unless you have Paul Simon's talent at writing lyrics, I don't recommend it, because you'll just sound whiny.

"99 Luftballons," Nena: I really like this song, but I'd never heard the German version on the radio before today. I had quite the wonderful time pretending like I could sing along in German and waiting for a few words I recognize: krieg, minister, kriegminister, Captain Kirk. I'm not sure I understand why the radio went for the German version other than, "Hey, we're Mix 107.7 and nothing we do makes any sense, ever." I suppose there's probably a rabid Nena fanbase that denounces the English version as derivative drivel that doesn't compare to the original German, or something. At any rate, I think we can all agree that there's not nearly enough nuclear holocaust on the radio these days.

"Bohemian Rhapsody," Queen: I think I need to reevaluate how I decide if a band is good or not. Has this song ever been covered? Because I cannot imagine anyone ever doing it and it not being a complete train wreck. But somehow it's awesome when Queen sings it, because they're that good. But, just for fun, try to imagine what Bohemian Rhapsody would sound like if Creed tried to cover it. Just try.

"Summer Nights," the cast of Grease: Apparently the radio station was giving away a free copy of High School Musical 2 to the third caller after they played Summer Nights. This, I'm afraid, is not nearly enough justification to play the Grease Soundtrack on the radio. If Grease is coming on the radio, the prize in the accompanying contest should be at least a new car. And if you simply must play something from Grease in the middle of December, wouldn't there be something a little more appropriate than "Summer Nights"? Although I always chuckle at "We stayed out until ten o'clock!" Crazy kids.

More disturbing than the simple fact that the radio was playing this, however, was the statement that "Summer Nights" is the most popular karaoke song of all time. The thing is, it takes two people to sing it. I'm now having mental images of annoying, overintoxicated couples slurring through this song, messing up all the harmonies in the duets, missing all of the key changes, and forgetting most of the words except for "Tell me more, tell me more," much to the dismay and horror of everyone else in the bar. The world is a frightening place sometimes. God. Whoever won that copy of High School Musical 2 better enjoy it for putting me through all this.

"Storybook Love," Willy Deville: Hearing this on the radio made me think, "Hey, what year was The Princess Bride released? Because, assuming it was not 1988, whatever movie won that year probably did not deserve to win Best Picture." It turns out it was 1987. Since I haven't seen The Last Emperor yet, I'll try to withhold judgment. As it is, it merely joins The English Patient and Around the World in 80 Days on the list of movies I'm already pretty sure didn't need to win Best Picture. Meanwhile, "Storybook Love" lost out to "I've Had the Time of My Life" for Best Original Song, ensuring that 1988 joins pretty much every year the award has existed that the Academy screwed it up.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Monday Morning YouTube

A Conversation From Work

Kelli: So what movies did you watch while you were off?
Andy: One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest and Unforgiven.
Kelli: How'd you like Unforgiven?
Andy: Good. Really good.
Kelli: Yeah, I thought you'd like it. What's next?
Andy: The Sting.
Kelli: Never seen it.
Andy: It's from '73, and it's got ragtime music.
Kelli: Um, ok.
Andy: Should be awesome. I'm considerably more pumped for the '70s than any other decade.
Kelli: Why's that?
Andy: More movies I've heard of, more movies that sound cool.
Kelli: What do you have to watch still?
Andy: Hmm, 70 is Patton. Meh. I've got it, so I'll get it out of the way soon.
Kelli: Yeah, I don't want to see that.
Andy: 71 is The French Connection. I've heard it's cool.
Kelli: Yeah.
Andy: And then we have The Godfather, The Sting, and The Godfather Part II.
Kelli: Man, I wish I could watch those with you.
Andy: Then I've already seen Cuckoo's Nest and Rocky. Network should've won in 76.
Kelli: Hey, I like Rocky.
Andy: And 77 is, is, is... Annie Hall.
Kelli: I don't know how I feel about Woody Allen.
Andy: And 78 was the Friggin Deer Hunter. ::shudders and twitches:: And 79 is Kramer vs. Kramer.
Kelli: Oh my god. I love that movie. Have you seen that one?
Andy: Nope, but I've heard it's really good.
Kelli: Wait, wasn't that from 81?
Andy: No, 1979. 1979 was Kramer vs. Kramer.
Kelli: Oh.
Andy: 81 was, was, Chariots of Fire. 1981 was definitely Chariots of Fire.
Kelli: Guess I was confused.
Andy: Yeah, 1979 was definitely Kramer vs. Kramer. Because 1980 is Ordinary People.
Kelli: Hey, calm down. How many minutes until Wapner?
Andy: (checks watch) Oh no. It's 6:16. I'm definitely supposed to be on break. Definitely going on break now. Can't talk to Kelli while I'm on break. Gotta go to Hardee's on break. Hardee's. (wanders off talking to himself).

The Sting (1973)

I'm really glad The Sting won Best Picture. People in Best Pictures suffer from mental illnesses, get traumatized by wars, get shot up by mobsters, lose boxing matches, and witness genocide. It all gets very draining after a spell.

Here's what I knew about The Sting going in:

1. It's about confidence men.
2. It takes place in the '30s and features a Scott Joplin adapted score.
3. It has Robert Redford and Paul Newman in it.

And somehow, it managed to be even cooler than I thought it'd be. Everyone walks around with sinister mustaches like Mark Trail villains and pull slick shenanigans while delivering slick lines. Even Eileen Brennan is cool in this, and the only thing I've ever seen her in is Clue, when she played the hopelessly annoying and dorky Mrs. Peacock.

All in all, it's an entertaining and engaging little show that I can't find any reason to dislike. Nothing too deep, but it's a nice change of pace from the dark, dire, and depressing that usually dominates this list.

Time to update the Board. I'm now 1/3 of the way finished with the list. Next up: People get shot and killed in a war. Should be a good time.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Unforgiven (1992)

I'm tired, and I have to wake up in time to go to a party tomorrow, so I'll do this really quickly.

When asked about the criticism surrounding the thematic material of Million Dollar Baby, Clint Eastwood remarked, ""I've gone around in movies blowing people away with a .44 magnum. But that doesn't mean I think that's a proper thing to do."

Unforgiven is a movie made by a man who was in too many movies where he ran around blowing people away with a .44 magnum. Every character in this movie is exposed as a fool for trying to solve their problems by shooting people. I didn't like it as much as I liked Million Dollar Baby, but I liked it enough that "Directed by Clint Eastwood" is all the endorsement I need to see a movie. "Directed by Clint Eastwood" + "Starring Morgan Freeman" = "I better have a damn good reason why I haven't seen this movie yet.

Time to update the Board. And then time to sleep.

Friday, December 7, 2007

All in all, an awesome day.

My car is fixed. I took it to Weesner's, the local garage in town, and the mechanic regretfully told me that I won't be able to get it in until the 18th. Since I can't drive it anywhere else, I agree, and go to drive it home, only to have it die completely in front of Dollar General, half a block away.

Just when all hope was lost, however, Boomhauer came out of Dollar General, helped me push the car into a parking lot, looked at the engine, and found the problem: a missing belt that powered the alternator and power steering. Then he offered to take me to buy a new belt, all the while talking very very fast in a strong hillbilly twang. We arrived at the part store, and lo and behold, his good friend Bill was working. Bill, not being a regular employee at the store, which apparently has no organizational system whatsoever, got lost while repeatedly asking what kind of car and engine the part was for. Then we found the belt, which cost $30. I pull out the debit card, and Bill informs me that he doesn't know how to work the card reader, so he needs cash. No problem, says Boomhauer, who then runs me to my bank to get the money. Along the way, I learn that Boomhauer's daughter worked at the Burger King that adjoins the Shell I worked at. We pay for the belt, tax free because Bill couldn't add up the tax, and then Boomhauer and I rush back to my car to install the belt.

Regrettably, the belt proved to be tough to install. Even after I went back to my apartment to get my deluxe tools, Boomhauer couldn't get it attached, and I was my usual automotively-useless self. So we hatched a plan: Boomhauer jumped my car, and we drove into Dublin to his friend Dale Gribbel's garage. After a long conference, Dale decided to take the tenser wheel out completely and burn the stuck bolt off. He then berates Boomhauer by saying "I can't believe you didn't think of that one." I keep mostly quiet. Dale then installs the belt with no further hassle, and no one accepts any payment. I pay them $20 anyway. I gave it to Boomhauer, who gave it to Dale.

So my car was fixed for the low, low price of $50, parts and labor, plus two hours of entertainment provided by some rather overfriendly blue collar types. But, since they fixed my car, please understand that my tone is respectful mocking, not to be confused with malicious mocking.

Now I'm doing my laundry, and it turns out that I forgot to put a couple of packets of parmesan cheese from a dinner at work into our condiment drawer so we have them when we need them. Instead, they stayed in my pants pocket, and as a result all of my jeans smell faintly of baked pasta.

One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (1975)

One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest is one of three movies to win all five major Academy Awards (Picture, Actor, Actress, Director, Screenplay). Since I saw the play in college, I knew the story and knew what to expect, so I was mostly watching this one for the acting, which was stellar without exception.

Louise Fletcher's portrayal of Nurse Ratched, in particular, was amazing. According to the special features, the cast and crew were encouraged to spend most of their time getting to know the patients and staff at the hospital it was filmed at. Fletcher must have paid close attention. I recognized many of the tricks she used to manipulate the patients on her ward. For instance, taking a vote is always a surefire way to stop an upstart. On my unit at work, we have on patient who will say no to everything, another who will say yes to everything, one who always insists she's watching the show but cannot name a single thing that happened, and two more who will throw conniptions if they don't get to watch their programs but will leave the room until it's over. Staff can control any vote, and it's difficult for patients to argue with them.

I liked the play when I watched it in college. I watched it a little differently now that I've worked in a mental hospital myself.

Also, Jack Nicholson in The Departed isn't worthy to be Jack Nicholson in One...'s understudy.

Nothing left to do now but update the Board.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Thoughts on Songs I Heard on My Mom's Van's Radio

"My Hands," Jewel: I heard this on the local Christmas station. They added a backup choir and some chimes, and all of a sudden, "My Hands" is a Christmas song, despite having no holiday themed content whatsoever. That move is so brilliant that I'm surprised most soft adult contemporary pop stars don't try similar hijinx.

"Here Comes Santa Claus": You know what's awesome about this song? Very little, BUT, the last line "Let's give thanks to the Lord above 'cause Santa Claus comes tonight!" is certainly awesome. If there's one thing I do not do enough of, it's thanking a being who may or may not exist that a fictional character who everyone above the age of 12 knows does not exist is coming tonight, even though he's not because he doesn't exist. That sounds like a productive use of my time, right there.

"Hey There Delilah," Plain White T's: I like this song, and probably would not make fun of it if I were in a better mood, but that line about how the singer will be making history, well, I'm just not seeing the world being set on fire by three chord acoustical guitar and a five note singing range.

That's Totally Messed Up, Dudes.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Of course, I'm an excellent driver.

I got a late start to work today, and in an attempt to make up time in bad weather, lost control of my vehicle and ended up in a cornfield.

Then I got to pull myself out of the car and stomp through snow banks looking for someone with a phone. After three houses, I finally found someone who was home. It was a mean old lady who refused to open the door for me, even when I made the universal "I really need to make a phone call" hand signal. I was soaking wet, and it was freezing outside. Evil, evil woman.

Luckily, some friendly dudes were moving into another house a few houses down, and they called a tow truck for me, who succeeded in pulling me out of the cornfield. In the process, some dude didn't see us, didn't slow down in time, and ended up driving into the cornfield himself. I felt bad.

Now the poor car has electrical problems of the "no power steering or lights" variety. Not only that, but the radio isn't working, killing off at least 80% of my blog's content.

Obviously, my car might have made it TO work, but driving home in bad weather at 10:45 pm without any headlights seemed a task I was not up for, so I had to turn around and go home, where I epically failed to find a car to use to get back to work and had to burn my last, precious sick day. I'm going to have to dip into personal days now. Luckily, the timekeepers allowed me to reschedule the holiday that I was planning to use for something fun from my birthday to tomorrow so I can try to get my car fixed with my new paycheck, which was going to be the first paycheck in almost two months that I was going to be able to keep.

And that's the crushing part. I had made it. I had lived for two months in abject poverty, but had managed to cover the bills without bumming any money off of my parents, and now I was going to be able to do things again. Except my car needs to be fixed now, and the next paycheck is going to go toward rent and utilities. My hopes of having money are dashed before I can even pick up the paycheck. The fact that these wounds are all self-inflicted doesn't make me feel the least bit better. Argh.

The Bridge On the River Kwai

Movies about war frequently irritate me. A lot of them like to preach to the audience about how noble and selfless and courageous the soldiers are, and characterization is frequently one-sided: the noble Americans take on the evil Japanese, or Germans, or Vietnamese, or Russians, or what have you.

Thus, my expectations were not too high with The Bridge on the River Kwai. First, it's a war movie. Second, it was written in the fifties. Third, well, I don't have a third, but the fifties were pretty dang annoying, so it should count twice. My fears were pleasantly proven wrong.

TBOTRK works because it does not fall in the trap of painting good guys and bad guys, and every major character is portrayed sympathetically. About half an hour before the movie was over, it occurred to me that there was no possible ending available that I would like, because I felt invested enough in every character to care about what happened to them. Also, the message I took out of the movie was one about the inherent lunacy of war, and that the officers who run it are rather nuts and not heroes at all. This is one of only two possible messages that make for acceptable war movies, and I already watched "War is mind-breakingly terrible and utterly destroys everyone involved with it" in The Deer Hunter.

Finally, I'm not really old enough or enough of a classic movie buff to be familiar with the works of Alec Guinness outside of Obi Wan Kenobi. I made several hilarious jokes to myself early on involving Jedi Mind Tricks.

As for other complaints, the only female of note in the movie is Nurse Screws The Male Lead, so I could critique the utter lack of women in this one, but I'll give it a pass since it was made in 1957, when it was illegal for women to leave the house without the permission of their husbands. That's completely true. You can trust me; I was a history major.

So yes. Excellent movie. Well worth the buck I spent renting it. Time to update the Board.

Monday, December 3, 2007

The Best Idea I've Had In Months

Oh man. Oh man.

It's rare that I have an idea that I like this much. And let me tell you, I like most of my ideas quite a bit.

I was reflecting on Casey's advice in the last non-YouTube post, about how maybe I should meet women outside of work. The trouble is that I don't actually belong to any organizations of any kind, and not being available from 2:30-10:45 every night sort of kills any interest one could have in joining one, so going places to meet women who I don't work with is tricky, since I'm not much of a clubber.

But then it occurred to me. The idea. The best idea I've had in months. I do, in fact, know a highly entertaining woman that I do not work with. I haven't spoken to her in about 20 months or so, but suffice to say that I'm planning on contacting her to see if she is available to hang out some time. My blog will become approximately one million times more awesome if this plan works, too. More than this I cannot say in case the plan falls through. If the plan works out, I'll make sure to write a post bringing everyone up to speed.

Stay tuned.

Monday Evening YouTube

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Some Very Random Observations

1. I had a dream last night. I dreamed the sanitation department came into my apartment and took all my garbage out. It was about the best dream ever. You can imagine my sadness when I awoke to find that there was still garbage in my apartment.

2. Prior to typing this post, I was idling away time by reading other blogs and clicking a click pen. Then I read the click pen, and it says "Minnesota State High School League" on it. I don't have the damndest idea where it came from or why I have it.

3. I watched The Departed tonight. Since I haven't seen any of the other nominees for 2006, I can't tell you if it should have won or not. The only post-Oscar hype I remember was, "Hey, Martin Scorsese finally won," so I guess there was no big controversy. I can tell you that DiCaprio was pretty good in it, Matt Damon was Matt Damon, Jack Nicholson was Jack Nicholson, and the plot and dialogue were good enough to suck me in for the whole two and a half hours. I can also tell you that acting-wise, the supporting triumvirate of Alec Baldwin, Martin Sheen, and Mark Wahlberg were superb.

As far as how good it was, it regrettably had the misfortune of following The Deer Hunter, a movie which left me with a severe case of second-hand post-traumatic stress disorder. The Departed was not quite that powerful, you could say.

Finally, if there was ever a movie that did not pass Bechdel's Rule, this is it. I think the only female character had all of 20 lines, all of which were said to either DiCaprio or Damon, and got credited below Mark Wahlberg. At any rate, time to strike it off the Big Board, and plan my next move.

4. Just as an indication to how not awesome my week was, up until today I considered the highlight working with Paula Who Stood Me Up A Few Months Back on Tuesday and keeping enough dignity to not ask her out despite her heavy flirting with me. Then today, I got asked out by a different coworker, and said yes, because I desperately need people to hang out with.

5. I think my life would only improve if I could somehow take it upon myself to stop going on dates with coworkers.