Sunday, September 16, 2012

Sitcom Showdown Finale!!

Looking back, it’s been over four months since I first began discussing the differences and merits of Scrubs and HIMYM. (It’s actually been a month since I wrote that line!)  Since then I’ve encountered many distractions which have put off the writing of the last installment of the series.  But I have finally come to a decision and will put it in print for you, Faithful Reader.  Or whoever is giving me these page views.  Mom?

First, though, here are the links to the first and second installments of The Smackdown!!

So without further ado...

As mentioned previously, I’ve evaluated the two shows based on Characters, Popularity, Story-Telling, Cultural Influence, and Emotional Response.  To recap, Scrubs won Characters, HIMYM won Popularity and Story-Telling.  That gives us a tally of 2-1 HIMYM.  But there are two categories left.

The first, Cultural Influence, is a bit of a challenge.  I chose to look at this category in a variety of ways.  First, which show is more present on the streets, and second, which show was most influenced by the culture?  

For the first part, I think it quite obvious that HIMYM is the more prevalent show in the streets.  When commercials on other channels are using the “Legen-wait for it-dary!” catch phrase in their own promos, I think it obvious that HIMYM has no small popularity and thus, influence.  The show is widely popular which leads to it coming up in everyday conversation.  The “general applause”/”major pain” joke is widespread among those savvy enough to look for it.  Additionally, this show has revitalized Mr. Harris’ career.  I don’t think it too much of a stretch to say that HIMYM has given him a career boost in the last seven or so years it has been airing.  Look at the early 2000s.  Where was dear NPH?  In a crappy comedy cameo (ALLITERATION!!!) called White Castle and the Inane Plot.  But then this show comes up, folks start paying attention, and, let’s face it, Barney is the favorite character even though Lily is waaay prettier.  So NPH starts getting more roles.  Dr. Horrible anyone?  Not huge, but very popular and dear to those who know it.  Hosting awards shows?  He’s an icon.  Due, in large part, to HIMYM.

However, HIMYM, while excelling with an original story-telling device, is not the most original show.  It’s a cast of (presumably) twenty-something characters and their tales of romantic woe.  Friends?  In New York?  Twenty-something?  Sounds oddly similar to another very popular show on a rival network.  (THAT SUCKED, MIND YOU)  Basically, the networks wanted to find something to cash in on the popularity of That Other Show without violating copyright.  Thus, HIMYM was started.  Bob Saget was a brilliant choice though.

Scrubs, on the other hand, was a refreshing new take on the sitcom structure.  It was not a middle-aged portly fellow and his too-attractive wife and their continual shenanigans resulting from miscommunication.  (Oops, sorry I broke the vase and didn’t tell you, I guess our silly kids ratted me out...why I oughta!!!)  Instead, Scrubs brought daydreams and (mostly) realistic characters to the table.  It seemed like a mostly original sitcom.  And Scrubs had its heyday for a bit as well.  While it never did as well at awards shows as I thought it should have, it still made a good showing each year.  

Because of these two facts, that HIMYM is more widely popular, but mired in the dregs of its predecessor, I have decided that Cultural Influence is a TIE.  Neither show will score a point on this category.  If you don’t like it tell me why and I’ll explain, sweetly, why you’re wrong.

Finally, we’ll get to the last category and the one I feel is the most important: Emotional Response.  Being of sound mind and interesting body, I feel it is my duty to point out that I can only measure mine own emotions in response to the episodes of the two shows.  In other words, depending on which show I liked more, they’ll win this category.  And, oh yeah, this category is worth 2 points because I can.

HIMYM is a very funny show; one which makes me laugh on a very consistent basis.  However, as far as evoking other emotions in me, it comes up short.  Let’s face it, I’ll laugh at the drop of a hat, especially if the hat makes a sort of squish sound when it hits the ground.  As far as sadness or anger or anything besides a bit of frivolity goes, HIMYM doesn’t come up with any of that until Season 6.  Even then, there are only a few moments in a handful of episodes that have any impact at all and only one which got me to cry.

Scrubs, on the other hand, is amazing in this regard.  By Season 3, Scrubs’ writers had really found their stride and were cranking out episodes such as “My Screw Up” which, when it ended, had me staring in astonishment at the television repeating the same curse over and over.  My brother was present and I’m sure he would verify the accuracy of that statement.   Then, over the course of the next five seasons, they turned out more gems that had me bawling like a starving vegan in a butcher’s shop.  

Then came the series finale.  The REAL series finale, not whatever drivel they concocted for that med-school crap.  I mean the finale that took your heartstrings, tied them into the emotional equivalent of the Gordian knot, then released you into the world with a smile.  It was heartbreaking and uplifting at the same time.  It was a wonderful pain and yet there’s a part of me that will never again be filled.  I’ve yet to see how HIMYM ends, but I’d be willing to chug the brine from a jar of pig’s feet if it could top the end of Scrubs.  

There you have it.  Scrubs is a better show than HIMYM mostly because its richer characters reach deep within you and evoke emotions that you usually only find at holiday dinners with the family.  HIMYM is funny, hilarious at points, but it simply isn’t the quality programming that Scrubs was and still is thanks to DVDs and Netflix.  And yes, if you read between the lines of that bit, you’ll realize I basically said tv was better when I was a kid.  

That’s it for now, I’m sorry if this is a letdown for you, Reader, but if you watch all the episodes of each show, you’ll realize I’m right and I’ll let you buy me dinner.  I’m that kind of guy.  I’ve also resolved to update this on a much more regular basis and am optimistic that I’ll be able to add something to the collective (un)intelligence of the Internets again soon.  Look forward to writing for you lot again!


Sunday, June 17, 2012

50 Shades of...Something

So recently I was challenged by Dagger Dame to read Fifty Shades of Grey.  Actually, perhaps I imagined the challenge to my masculinity, but regardless the glove was dropped.  I'd been keeping an eye on the library to see how easy it would be to get a copy there, but last I checked there was a wait list 120 folks long on 39 copies.  Then I called a couple bookstores and found one that had a couple copies.  Wisely using my lunch break to go pick up a copy, I found that the store had dozens of copies.

So I got one and the adventure began.

Before I get too far into my review of the book, I'd like to offer a synopsis of the story for those of you that may not know what the book is about.

The main character is a young woman named Anastasia Steele, about to graduate college.  Circumstances force her to interview a wealthy businessman named Christian Grey.  Their first meeting is, um, "electric" might be the right word and ever after they can't get their minds off each other.  Soon, he introduces this young virgin to a world of sexual exploration that she didn't know existed.  Primarily, that of BDSM (which I would link to, but some of the links might be shock-inducing for the older readers).  The rest of the story is basically about them exploring their sexual needs/wants and their emotional needs from a relationship.  So yeah.

Another quick explanation before we begin would be what BDSM entails.  It's an acronym that doesn't really stand for anything in particular but entails the sexual preferences of bondage, discipline, domination, submission, and sadism/masochism.  I think the common perception is that these tastes belong to depraved and twisted individuals.  However, after researching BDSM a little more I think that it's really about a relationship of trust and understanding.  It's not just about getting off, trust is key to the relationship.  Which, incidentally, is a major theme in Shades.

So then, to the good stuff.

Interestingly enough, Shades started as Twilight fan fiction but was redone in order to become publishable.  Bella became Anastasia and Edward became Christian.  The story was originally released in installments, which probably became something close to chapters once the book came out.  The themes in the book are basically shown to us early and often.  Many times the characters discuss the idea of trust, primarily as Christian explains to Ana what his peculiar tastes entail.  She's fairly naive when it comes to anything sexual let alone tastes that run as dark as Christian's.  And lets face it, the tastes are dark, not necessarily bad,  but dark nonetheless.  In fact, the entire climax of the book revolves around trust between the two characters.

Discussing the characters is tricky though.  As I told Dagger Dame, if I wasn't so awesome, reading about Christian might give me an unrealistic expectation of what women find desirable.  Apparently, the most desirable man in the world must be clever, a musician, a philosopher, well-versed in classic literature, tall, curly haired, handsome, super muscular and fit, wealthy, fashionable, and generally perfect.  Oh, I'm sorry, he's not perfect as he's not emotionally available.  However, we are clubbed over the head with the fact that he's a pretty man.  In the first interaction between Ana and Christian, we are told at least six times how "beautiful" and "Adonis"like this man is.

So Dagger Dame asked me if the book also gives an unrealistic expectation of women.  I replied that no, society does that all by itself, this book actually writes a female protagonist that I can believe in.  She's somewhat self-conscious, underestimates her own beauty, and generally has lower self-esteem than I feel she ought.  She's also willful and clever, but also tends to over-analyze whatever Christian says and I know many women with those characteristics.  All in all, I thought she was written fairly believably.

So then, how was the book?  It was enjoyable.  I can respect it, in its own right.  For instance, one of the biggest problems I had with the Twilight series was that it tried to present itself as as vampire/fantasy story (while completely rewriting the many many years of established vampire lore...but that's a rant for another day) when in actuality it was adolescent girl porn i.e. a romance novel.  Shades is very honest about what it is: lady porn.  It doesn't try to masquerade as something it isn't.  I can respect that Shades acknowledges its nature.

Ladies!!  This next part is for you.

There is another theme that runs through the book, albeit not as openly as the trust issue and that is the idea that men are not complicated creatures.  Honestly folks, men usually say what they mean, there are usually no hidden meanings.  Motives maybe, but not meaning.  I sometimes slip up and say something I don't mean but that's because I've been infected with The Ladyness.  I'm dealing with it.  Here's how the book puts it.

"Men aren't really complicated, Ana, honey.  They are very simple, literal creatures.  They usually mean what they say.  And we spend hours trying to analyze what they've said, when really it's obvious."

So, ladies, remember that.

Now, before I conclude, I'd like to address the issue of the degradation and subjugation of women that the book may present.  I suspect there's a lot of folks who think Ana is being degraded when Christian asks her to be a Submissive to his Dominant.  Obviously take this opinion with a grain of salt considering the male source, but I don't feel the book degrades women.  Ana is never forced to do anything she doesn't agree to. There is a very specific contract detailing the rules of the relationship.  Actually, she is the one with the power in their relationship.  The Submissive is the one that controls things.  Ana controls the ebb and flow and very often Christian says how she has "bewitched" or "beguiled" him.  He is "powerless" against her.  Her femininity is never questioned and if anything Christian is a very chivalrous fellow...outside of his playroom at least.

There you go, that's my review.  It's an enjoyable book, explicit but no more than any other romance novel out there, and the BDSM aspect is really more discussed than employed.  There's some spanking and light bondage that occurs, but for the most part it's not that dark.  Hot wax isn't employed, there's no clamping or suspension, just the occasional swat.  My thoughts are that if you can make it through a book with Fabio (or his younger cousins) then you can probably do Shades.  There's two more books in the series as well.

That's it folks, that's my "expert" review for this best-selling book.  If you see me on the street or want to leave a comment somewhere for me, I'd be glad to discuss this further.  I'm quite intrigued with the book and hope some of you check it out.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

It's Tuesday and I like Dogs

Okay...I'm a dog person.  Cats are okay for the most part, but dogs are awesome.  So with that in mind I wanted to share some of my favorite dog photos.  I'll try to make this a semi-regular thing.



Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Bleach Warrior Part 2!!

Check out Bleach Warrior Part 1!! before reading this. Otherwise you may get loster than Hansel and Gretel(er).

In the shouting and the fire and the mayhem, AB2020 and I were separated.  He started and finished ahead of me.  Kudos to him!  The race began with a looooong downhill slope.  I heard several of my heat-mates comment on how they appreciated such an easy start.  I knew we’d have to pay for it later.  And we did.  


We came to the bottom of the hill and then shortly after there was a small uphill.  Small, but mighty.  All ready I noticed several of my competitors beginning to walk and I heard phrases like, “Well, we tried.”  I kept up my steady, if slow, pace and trucked on.  It quickly became apparent that most of these folks would finish before me because many of them adopted a “run at a high rate, walk for a while” philosophy.  I was determined to jog the entire way, without walking.  It would be a first for me and I was going to do my best to accomplish it.  

By looking at the map, AB2020 and I knew the longest stretch of run without an obstacle was the first.  I reached the first .5 mile marker and met the couple that would be my running mates for the rest of the day.  I’m not sure of their names, but in my head they were Nancy and Drew.  They commented on my floaties and I told them it’s because I didn’t know how to swim.  Drew laughed and Nancy said, in a worried tone, that she didn’t know we had to swim.  Then Drew told Nancy that I had a nice “warrior’s beard” as well.  That was my hope, to win best beard of the Dash.  It was a prize, along with Most Ridiculous Costume, and I didn’t see many other beards there.  Thus, the hope.

After we rounded a pond, the group I assumed was a family passed me.  There was a man and two ladies which I named Green Shirt, Lady 1, and Lady 2.  Aren’t I clever?  We ran up the hill to the first obstacle together.  This was Storming Normandy.  Basically, there were lengths of barbed wire strung along a down slope that we had to crawl underneath.  As I had no shirt on, I was careful to get low to avoid puncturing my back.  When I reached the last few strands, I began a belly roll which made Green Shirt remark, “That’s how you do it!  I’m following him, he’s a smart guy.”  After which, he and his group promptly left me in the dust.  

A short while later we came to the next obstacle, The Trenches.  Imagine a rectangular prism carved out of the dirt where the top side is thick, wide boards and the other three sides are dirt.  My claustrophobia promptly screamed at me, but I sucker punched it and stuck it in a trunk as I dropped to my stomach and wriggled through the hole.  I made sure to follow the path of Drew as he was about the same width as me.  I made it through just fine and promptly started my mechanical jogging.

I came to a choke point soon and watched warily for an ambush, but when none was forthcoming, I waved at the cameraman they had posted there for “action shots.”  Then came the Tipsy Tightrope.  This was a large pit of water with two parallel lengths of rope stretched over it in several places.  I believe the idea was to stand on the bottom, grasp the top rope, and tightrope walk over to the other side.  By the time I got there, however, the preferred method was to jump in the water, grab the bottom rope and pull yourself along through the water.  Point to note about this obstacle:  The water reminded me of rotten silage.  It was rank and I did my best not to ingest any.  I think I succeeded.  

On the other side of the pit were two unofficial obstacles: a muddy ledge to get back on the path and then a small dried creek bed which was polished smooth with mud and the pounding feet of hundreds, nay, thousands of runners.  I briefly flirted with the idea of dropping to my rear and sliding down, butt-first, but I decided not to as I didn’t want a random stick or rock to...invade me.  At this point, I was wondering if were were anywhere near the mile marker, but my question was never answered because after (maybe) a quarter mile, we reached the Vertical Limit.  Chris O’Donnell was nowhere to be found as I scaled a wooden “rock wall” and slid down the fire pole on the other side.  My hands were quite wet at this point because between my sweat-slicked head and my mud-soaked swim trunks, I had no dry place.  So I slid down the pole at a very high rate and upon impact my torso tried to exit my body through my crotch.  Not the most pleasant feeling I had, but there was trucking on to do.

Not too much further past Lack-of-Robin wall, was the Chaotic Crossover.  For those of you who remember gym class, imagine a cargo net, only horizontal instead of vertical.  It was on a raised wooden frame and the object was to cross by crawling on the ropes.  Some folks used the wooden beams as support and quickly crossed on those, but I felt that violated the spirit of the obstacle, so I carefully crawled over the rope, destroying the skin on my knees in the process.  After I got off the net, I saw it: Payback Mountain.

This was the hill that repaid the generosity of the starting downhill.  A long, long, uphill slope that was long.  My pistonesque legs went to work, though, and after what felt like several minutes, but was probably only a couple, I reached the summit and faced the Teetering Traverse.  This is a wooden frame in which you go up an inclined board, down a slightly narrower board, cross on an even smaller width board, then up a slightly wider board, before going down the other side on a board the width of the original.  I was somewhat nervous when I first stepped foot on the board, as I heard what sounded alarmingly like wood cracking.  Nevertheless, I crossed at a decent rate of speed for, despite my weight, I have decent balance.  Must be my low center of gravity.

Then we got to a steep down slope at the bottom of which lay Road Rage...or a version of it.  If you check the KC Warrior Dash website for the course layout, you see that Road Rage had cars involved, this was just a mass of tires for, perhaps, 40 yards.  There were two “walls” made of tractor tires that some felt the need to go around, but I powerclimbed up and then jumped off the other side.  One could also call this the Snake Pit as the safety guard at this obstacle (there was one at every obstacle) nonchalantly called out that he had seen some snakes among the tires.  


However, by this point, I was too far in to care.  This Dash was mine.  So I rounded the corner and saw the Giant Cliffhanger.  This was a wooden, inverted V that was probably 20 feet high.  There were six ropes on the incline.  The middle two had wooden beams to assist climbers with them.  Well, at this point, I saw one of the skinny guys who was actually running and who had passed me just moments before, struggling on one of the outer four ropes.  These had no beams to assist.  Just a length of rope and a smooth wall.  I watched his difficulty and resolved to do what he had just done, only better.  How perfectly...male of me.

And I did.  I dominated that wall.  Tweren’t no thang!

Then a short jog away was the second hardest obstacle:  Barricade Breakdown.  There were 8 walls and we had to alternate going over one and under the next until we were past them.  Over.  Under.  Over.  Under.  It was rough.  Nancy and Drew were right in front of me and I could hear a pack of alpha males closing the distance behind me.  But I blocked their testosterone-laden grunts from my mind and concentrated on getting over these blasted walls.  My low center of gravity almost betrayed me at that point.  It results from being vertically challenged so my short legs needed me to give them a short hop before they could climb over the barricades.  Ugh.

But then I was done!  I slapped the last barricade, said some unkind things about its parentage, and I was off up the last hill.  By this time, I could hear the crowd and the finish line emcee.  My spirits were bolstered as I topped the hill and saw the finish line in the distance.  Only four obstacles between me and glory.  Unbeknownst to me, but knownst to God, my nemesis was about to rear its ugly head.

The Great Warrior Wall.

This was a wooden wall with lengths of board every three feet or so.  The object was to use the provided ropes in conjunction with the thin strips of board to climb the wall and descend the other side.  Nancy and Drew both took a rope and I took one next to Drew.  I made it about halfway up before my feet slipped and the rope wriggled free from my hands and I was deposited on the ground.  Drew and Nancy both asked if I was okay, as did the safety dude, and I told them I was fine.  My pride was stung a little, but that is good for me.  I hear, anyway.

So I chose a different rope and adopted a new strategy.  I wrapped the rope around my left arm and used my right to grasp the board supports and kept wrapping the slack rope around my left.  At one point I almost wrapped it around my neck but decided that was a Very Bad Idea should I fall.  But once I got to the top, Nancy cheered me saying, “Way to go Water Wings!”  I smiled at her, flexed my biceps (which didn’t show through the floaties) and then made more unkind comments at the expense of the wall.  Then I got down quickly before it could retaliate.

(As melodramatic as it sounds, at the moment I reached the top of the wall, there was a clap of thunder)

Then came the Cargo Climb.  It was another inverted V, but instead of a strand of rope, we had two cargo nets, one for the up, and one for the down.  I cautiously went through both sides, not wanting to trip and end up suspended by my feet because this obstacle was broadcast via camera to a large screen near the stage where most folks gathered.  But I made it just fine and then were were only two before the finish line.  So I set off down the small hill towards the fire.

Yes, fire.

About the time I rounded the last corner, I heard AB2020 and DD shouting my name along with encouragement.  I also detected several voices I didn’t recognize shouting my name.  I guess DD and AB2020 had talked me up to some of the bystanders so I had a small crowd shouting for me as I put on a burst of speed for the finish.  That’s what high school cross country taught me, regardless the outcome, finish strong.  So I poured it on and leapt over one, then two fire pits.  I almost landed in the second one because I misjudged the length of my first jump and had to stutter-step to miss the second.  The Warrior Roast had been conquered.  The last obstacle was Muddy Mayhem.  Another water pit, this one much more shallow, with barbed wire strung just over our heads.  I approached the pit at speed and did my best cannonball into the murky depths.  My mouth immediately informed me that there was dark, rank water in it.  Wonderful.

I used my fingers to dig into the muddy bottom and pulled myself through the water.  I saw Nancy just ahead of me doing the same and then I emerged, covered in mud for the last few steps to the finish.  These were slick with mud and sloppy with water.  I stumbled several times on my way to the line, but I made it without falling.  I gratefully bent my head as the red-clad volunteer placed a participant medal around my neck.  It was no piece of junk, it was a hefty medal.  I looked up to see AB2020 approaching me, similarly clad in mud and the two of us promptly hugged as DD captured the moments on digital film.  We began our march up to the festival grounds as we compared notes.  AB2020’s long legs helped him in several locations so we had different experiences on the different obstacles.  Overall, we both enjoyed ourselves immensely though.

We reached the line where folks were gathering for pictures.  There was a large Warrior Dash display that you could take your picture with, provided you had a camera.  There was no official photographer at this point.  Upon hearing this, the line emptied considerably and the group behind us asked DD if she would take their picture and email it to them.  I said DD would for 3000 dollars, but DD (being nicer than I) agreed to do it for free, as long as they kept it a secret.  So we got to the display and I struck my best Sexy Model pose after which we promptly went looking for our free beer.  Our time-tracker chip warranted us a free large can of Miller Lite which I drank and then went in search of the delicious turkey legs I had seen so many folks carrying.

With drink and meat in hand, I asked a kind lady if she would take a picture of DD, AB2020, and I as we wolfed down our meat.  She was nice enough to agree and that moment was immortalized.  Moment of note, though, took place at the ticket counter.  Instead of paying cash for the food, you paid tickets which you purchased from the booth with the armed guard.  As I paid for my tickets, I heard a loud chorus of “FLOATIES! You made it!” come from behind me.  I turned with a smile and saw my friends Green Shirt, Lady 1, and Lady 2 standing there beaming at me.  They asked if the floaties helped and I told them those pink polka-dotted devices saved my life twice.  

The festival was nearing its end and the results were about to be announced.  After listening to the emcee announce the winners of each age group, male and female, and the overall winners, it was time for the costume contest.  At this point, there was a light sprinkle coming down and the grounds were emptying quickly.  The costume contest was won by three guys who were clad in dresses, wigs, tutus, and V for Vendetta masks.  Then it was time for the beard contest!  

Alas, alack, and oh noes!  It didn’t happen.  I’m not sure whether the emcee forgot it or whether they pick from pictures, but it didn’t take place at the end.  I’m hoping the latter but suspect the former.  It’s cool though, I ate a turkey leg and completed my first ever 5K!  We hopped on some buses back to the parking lot, I cleaned my feet to prevent foot rot, and we headed back to the apartment where I showered and changed.  My shower resulted in a blackened bathtub, so much dirt came off me.  It was nuts.

In conclusion, I had an absolute blast at the Dash.  I’m considering doing the Rugged Maniac 5K in October, which is the same concept as the Warrior Dash, but with MORE obstacles.  Fun, fun.  I felt a sense of accomplishment and just and overall feeling of worth when I was done.  I set out to achieve a goal and I did.  I did.  It was and is a great feeling.  

I hope you enjoyed my recounting of the Warrior Dash 2012.  I’m going to do my best to increase my posting frequency. Please leave a comment either here or on Facebook telling me what you would like to read me ramble on about. Until then, keep on with your birthday party!!

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Bleach Warrior Part 1!!

Wow, has it been a long time since I’ve posted something or what?  Don’t answer that!  I know it has.  So please consider this a consolation post.  I know some of you are waiting for the end of the Sitcomoff, but this, I felt, was more interesting to more folks.  Therefore, I interrupt your irregularly scheduled post for this:

A Manly Warrior Post!!

As some of you may know, the last couple months I’ve started jogging.  The purpose of this is twofold: to get healthier and to prepare myself for the zombie apocalypse.  The zombie-fighting knowledge in my brain should not be lost to something as simple as loss of breath after a couple stairs.  Zombies don’t lose their breath.  So I needed to find mine.

With that in mind, I decided to start looking at 5Ks in the area that I might “enjoy.”  My roommate, AB2020*, told me about a race his brother competed it called the Warrior Dash.  Part 5K, part obstacle course, free beer, turkey legs, costumes, music, beards...what else could I ask from my initial race?  “Dragons” feels like a selfish answer.  So AB2020 and I decided to sign up for the Kansas City, MO, race.  There were two days, the 5th and 6th of May, but yours truly needed to budget for it and by the time the funds were available (ty tax refund), the first day was full up.  So we grabbed two spots in the 12.30 wave on the 6th.  The idea is that each half hour from 10-2 there would be a wave of about 600 folks starting the course.  To my knowledge, there was no upper limit on the time, you just had to complete all the obstacles to get a participant medal.

Well, AB2020 and I enlisted the help of of Dagger Dame* as our fertergrafer.  Then last night, night before the race mind you, we get an email saying that the weather forecast has hail and high winds listed for the area of our race in the afternoon so they moved up all the start times of the waves.  That’s fine.  Until...ours went from 12.30 to 9.40.  So instead of leaving the apartment at 10, we left at 7.  In the morning.  On a Sunday.  Yeesh.

We get to the parking site.  Parking was in an old airport complex that had a very intimidating “Secure Area: No Access!” sign that threw me off enough that I turned and tried to park at some Air Shuttle business.  They told me I had the wrong place and that the super secure area was where I needed to go.  So we went over there and saw folks parking.  Lots of folks.  Lots of FIT folks.  I immediately hated them.  So I got out my outfit and my ziploc bag of essentials and then AB2020 and DD and I hopped aboard a school bus and headed up I29 to Platte City.  Actually, to a park not far north of Platte City.

The problem with this trip, though, is that the bus driver didn’t really know where she was going and overshot the entrance to the park by, oh, at least three miles.  She actually got pulled over by a sheriff’s deputy that explained to her where we needed to go.  The officer was then nice enough to block the road so we could turn around in a driveway.  Next problem was that the bus was just a smidge too long to really make a great u-turn on this road.  The first time we almost backed into some power lines.  The second attempt ended up with one of our back wheels off the road, well into the shoulder and almost the ditch.  After another shot, the driver successfully got our carriage back in the right direction and we gave her a round of applause.

When we arrived at the course, it was nuts.  There were people everywhere.  First priority, though, was to find restroom facilities.  We found a very helpful row of port-a-johns so we looked for a couple that had green (for unoccupied) on their door.  The first one I opened was green but occupied.  I apologized to the man for interrupting his alone time and quickly hopped in another one down the row.  This one had no occupant.  DD watched it happen and did her best to ignore the man as to not make awkward eye contact when he exited the john.  Silly dude.

Then AB2020 and I found the packet pick-up area and grabbed our race supplies.  We got a numbered bib, a time-tracker chip, a shirt, and a warrior hat.  It was pretty sweet.  Then it was time to don our outfits.  AB2020 chose a very tight shirt (from his days as a hardcore kid), swim trunks, and an eye patch.  He was fierce.  For my part, I went shirtless, with swim trunks, and a pair of pink polka-dotted water wings (floaties).  I did not expect them to be the hit they were.  Almost as soon as I put them on I saw appreciative stares from other dashers. I suppose it could have been my pasty white belly drawing glares though.  After our group figured out where to go, we marched up a hill where we found the race start, a merch store, and several other booths including two for beer but only one for food.  Hmmm.

As DD and AB2020 perused the Warrior Dash store, I stood around gazing at the course, which I could only see a part of, and the other folks gathered there.  Suddenly I heard a voice behind me say, “My floatie lovin’ friend!  I’ve got to get a pic with you!”  I turned to see a man coming toward me with a large smile.  His lady companion snapped a quick picture with her intelligent phone in which I did my best to give my normal smile.  Those who know me, know the smile.

By this time, DD had noticed the ongoings and gave me a motion that said, “Ah shucks!  Look at you making friends and all!”  This picture-taking comrade was perhaps the fourth or fifth to comment on my wings and by this time I had also received several compliments on my beard.  All in all, I was impressed with how happy everyone seemed.  At this point, AB2020 and I decided we needed to stretch and warm up a bit, our heat started in ten minutes.  So we worked our legs a bit then headed to the start.  

The start was basically a pair of railings forming a corridor all leading up to an archway with WARRIOR DASH emblazoned on it as well as the WD logo.  There was some sort of emcee up there as well trying to get us pumped.  I didn’t listen much to what he had to say, I was concentrating on NOT DYING.  Well, we said our good-byes, hopefully not permanently, to DD and then the emcee lead us in a countdown from 10.  At one...we slowly started moving towards the arch.  The sweet part here was that the arch would occasionally shoot fireballs into the air.  They were so massive, we could feel the heat from over a dozen yards away.  It was intense.

Unfortunately, that's all I'm going to post for tonight! There is more to come. Pain! Triumph! Friendship and love! Beer! Smoked Flesh! The fury of Nature and much more! Stay tuned folks!!

*Code names aren't necessary, but they make me feel secretive and spy-like.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Sitcom Throwdown Part 2

It’s time, dear readers, we revisit NYC and Sacred Heart.  In today’s installment, we will look at each show’s popularity and story-telling ability as each has its own unique style and following.  First, though, a disclaimer:  I am not a television expert.  I am an avid viewer of each series and have watched many of the episodes 2, 3, or even more times.  

Now, then, on with the show!

Popularity-  In my mind, the two shows were both fairly popular.  However, they were both popular in different ways.  I haven’t studied it or seen the numbers, but my impression is that Scrubs really didn’t get popular until after its third or fourth season.  It was overlooked at first because of another show on NBC.  A megahit that this particular writer despises.  FRIENDS.  
Friends was ending, an era was ending, and Scrubs was starting.  Many of the best episodes of Scrubs went overlooked because everyone was so focused on the end of Friends.  This still makes me angry because Friends was...well, now is not the time to eviscerate Friends.  The point is, Scrubs didn’t get very popular until after Friends ended.  It was well into its third season before the Scrubs train gathered any sort of real following.  Even then, however, it never had many passengers.  Even in syndication, when, if one knew the channels and times, a person could watch approximately three hours of Scrubs a day, the show never had a huge following.  A large one?  Sure, but not huge.
HIMYM on the other hand is a behemoth.  It, too, started small.  During the first couple seasons, the show was not terribly popular.  However, around season 3 or 4, the show got a large following.  Big even.  By season 6, I dare say that HIMYM is and was huge.  Season 7 is currently on the tubes, (being cheap I don’t have them) and I see articles semi-regularly that discuss HIMYM.  Basically, I’m saying that HIMYM is waaay more popular than Scrubs ever got.  I haven’t looked up DVD sales numbers, but I wouldn’t be surprised if my gut feeling is supported there as well.  Or maybe not considering the shift in the viewing market to a streaming format.  

It could be because of the star power on the show.  Jason Segal, Neil Patrick Harris, and Alyson Hanningan are all known actors in their own right.  Cobie Smulders has been on the screen as other characters too, although not as many as the other three.  Finally, Josh Radnor, the seeming unknown on the show, is an accomplished director. Granted, I've not seen any of his work as it is "good" i.e. entered into festivals and whatnot.  Scrubs could not compete with that.  
To my generation, John C McGinley is Dr. Cox...maybe.  He might also be the dude from Platoon or The Rock, but he doesn’t have THAT role like Hannigan does from the American Pie series.  Sarah Chalke?  Who’s that?  Oh, you mean Stella from HIMYM?  Yeah, I know her.  Judy Reyes?  Ken Jenkins?  Zach Braff and Donald Faison are both in a few other shows, as is the darling Neil Flynn and Christa Miller, but even combined they can’t compete with Dougie Howser or that chubby musical dude from Forgetting Sarah Marshall.
All I can say is that the cast of HIMYM is both more known and more popular than Scrubs is and was.  Therefore, popularity goes to HIMYM...hands down.

Story-telling-  Story-telling is an important aspect in any sort of theatre (which television is part of, however far removed) even one where the primary focus is making the audience laugh.  With that in mind please read the next sentence carefully.  I believe that Scrubs told the better story, but HIMYM told the story better.  Lemme ‘splain.
Scrubs introduced stories with feeling and passion to my sitcom world.  Friends, Seinfeld, and whatever else I watched before Scrubs had very few stories that tugged at the heartstrings.  Now I’m bordering very close to another category, so I’m not going much further down this road, but the point is that the stories Scrubs told were good.  Very good, some were even great.  By comparison, the stories HIMYM told and tells seem trite and recycled.  Boy likes girl. Boy gets girl.  Boy loses girl.  Boy bemoans girl.  Hilarity happens at every step.  I realize that is a very simplified version of the way HIMYM’s story line goes, but it’s essentially true.  Scrubs tells the better story.  
As I mentioned in the last post, the characters in Scrubs are real and vivid.  Their problems are your problems.  They struggle with student loans and postpartum depression.  They aren’t twenty and thirty somethings that, even though they have no job, can still afford to go drinking every night and live in a spacious apartment.
The better story telling, though, is done by HIMYM.  The entire show is a series of flashbacks.  They often shoot forward or backward along the timeline to showcase how a seemingly insignificant event at Point A influenced or was influenced by something that happened at Point B.  Additionally, their flashbacks are, as far as I can tell, always true to the original.  Each time the story is told about when Barney and Ted met for the first time, the characters look the same, the same booth is used, the setting is pretty much exactly the same each time.  There’s no real lack of consistency between the flashbacks.  
One of the best episodes that shows how fluidly the show can switch between flashbacks and the present story is called The Platinum Rule.  The premise of the episode is Ted is preparing for a date while Barney explains what a colossally bad idea it is.  Robin agrees and flashes back a year previous, while the Eriksens tell a story (flashback another year), and Barney caps off with a flashback to a year previous to that.  1 episode.  4 separate stories going on at 4 different periods of time.  Audience understanding: 100%.  Even with a quarter-dozen flashbacks going on, the writers still manage to get the story across in a clear and distinct way.  They may have inferior stories, but the telling of those stories is superior to that of Scrubs.
Storytelling ability, I have to give to HIMYM.  I like the flashbacks, they’re distinctive and unique.  There you have it folks, two more categories this time and each a victory for HIMYM.  That puts the score at 2-1 with HIMYM in the lead.  2 categories left, Cultural Influence and Emotional Response.

That’s it for this post folks, tune in next time for the last two categories and the ultimate winner.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Sitcom Throwdown Part 1

Howdy everyone!!  I hope you haven’t been abducted or turned into a pod person.  I know it’s been a long while since my first (and so far, only) post, but I resolved to change that today.  

Today’s general topic, a topic which I anticipate returning to repeatedly, is entertainment and what defines it.  I like entertaining and being entertained and feel that my experience as a fan/performer allows me to offer opinions that aren’t entirely conjecture.  However, I’m not an expert and am known for...stretching the truth we’ll say.  But whatever, mostly I like to discuss the relative merits and flaws of the shows, books, movies, and games that I enjoy or despise.

Therefore, I decided to share something that I’ve been pondering for some time.  What makes one show better than another?  Specifically, what would make one sitcom better than another?  Two of my favorites are Scrubs and How I Met Your Mother (HIMYM).  I love both of these comedies, but for different reasons and in different ways.  Please allow me to elaborate by comparing the two shows in terms of Characters, Popularity, Emotional Response, Story-Telling and Cultural Influence.

As I started writing this up, I realized that if I were to put all five categories in one post, the post would be the length of a term paper rather than a blog.  Therefore, I will be breaking my analysis up over the course of several posts.

First, the Characters
Scrubs:  J.D., Turk, Elliot, Carla, Dr. Cox, Dr. Kelso, and The Janitor are the main ones.  
HIMYM: Ted, Marshall, Lily, Robin, and Barney.  
To me, I think the Characters of Scrubs are the better, more realistic ones.  The issues they faced are ones I and those I know have also faced.  They dealt with issues of insecurity, personal insignificance, arrogance, friendships, the effects relationships have on friendships, changing relationships, career woes, “selling out,” deaths in the family, depression, mental disorders, pride, and many others.  

HIMYM is primarily focused on dating woes and relational troubles.  Granted, they too touch on many things that Scrubs did: relationships affecting friendships, changes in lifestyles, death, career challenges, and selling out are all topics that spring easily to mind.  I suppose it may have been an advantage of the setting Scrubs had (hospital), but the types of people that came and went throughout the show were more varied than those that appeared in HIMYM.  Ex.) I never saw a veteran with PTSD in MacLaren’s. But there is a lot more eye candy in the bar than Sacred Heart.  

Interestingly enough, I don’t particularly care for the “main” character in either show.  Neither J.D. nor Ted really hold a lot of interest for me.  It’s their friends that make the show enjoyable.  However, both of those fellows have and did grow immensely during the run of their shows.  We can see Ted’s growth a bit more easily since the story arc is comprised of flashbacks.  We see who he is now and who he was.  J.D.’s growth is still present, but not as obvious.   

HIMYM does showcase the growth of the other characters better than Scrubs.  Scrubs was mostly a show about an individual doctor and his journey through the early years of medicine.  The other characters assuredly changed and grew as well, but they were never focused on as much as HIMYM focuses on its characters.  By Season 6 of Mother, the show is mostly about the other characters and Ted’s story is simply the framework that helps organize their tales.  In fact, go take a look at the DVD covers of the most recent seasons.  I bet you find that Ted is not the center of attention in those pictures.  On the other hand, J.D. is entirely the focus of both the DVD covers and the show.  In fact, the episode titles are almost all “My _____.”

“But, but!” you may protest, “Of course Scrubs focuses on J.D.  The show is told from his point of view!”  

You are correct!  The show is, indeed, told from J.D.’s view, but then, so is HIMYM told from Ted’s.  The difference, though, is that Scrubs is shown to us in the “present” whereas HIMYM is told as a historical narrative.  As such, J.D.’s story is salted, peppered, and garlicked throughout with his inner monologue, something we rarely experience from Ted (or any of his friends).  

All of this POV talk is simply to illustrate the maturation process of the characters in each show.  HIMYM’s is a much slower process or at least less obvious, barring that of Ted.  Honestly, though, Ted’s biggest change is that he is married by the end of the series (presumably) but internally he doesn’t seem to grow as much as J.D.  Dr. Dorian, though, we watch grow from an insecure intern to a less insecure doctor.  While his external changes are not nearly as dramatic as Ted’s career changes, his internal development far surpasses Ted’s.

Another point that bears consideration is the relationships the two shows cover.  HIMYM, as I mentioned, is primarily concerned with the romantic relationships of the characters.  The friendships are just garnish to the romantic side.  Ex.)  Ted and Marshall are supposedly best friends, but there are very few things about which they get angry at each other for, resent each other for, or things that simply force a gap in their friendship.  

Turk and J.D. on the other hand, have their tight bond of friendship established in the pilot.  They are inseperable...until Carla comes along.  Ted’s best friend was Lily’s boyfriend almost from the day they met.  The stresses of marriage on the Ted-Marshall dynamic were relatively small compared to the problems the Turk-J.D. friendship faces.  Basically, the writers of Scrubs did a better job than the HIMYM writers in showing the audience a tight friendship and the tribulations that come along with it.  However, Robin-Lily is very comprable to Carla-Elliot.

In the end, I have to give the “better characters” vote to Scrubs.  I think they did a better job of presenting real people and real (and varied) problems.  Score so far: Scrubs 1 HIMYM 0

I hope folks enjoyed this entirely pointless but fun, for me at least, posting.  Stay tuned for further analysis of these two great shows!!

Friday, February 3, 2012

Dream On, Dream Away

Blogging is not something I've ever considered doing before about three weeks ago.  I mean, I like attention, but for some reason the idea of sharing my words in such a public manner was pretty daunting.  But with my Lady Friend leaving the country for a while, I decided I needed to find something to fill the hours other than slaying dragons and...well, eating meat or meat-like products.

So here I am.

I've decided to make my first post one about dreams.  Not dreams like goals or wishes for the future, but dreams that come in the dark of night, the nap on the couch, or the tipped back chair at work when your supervisor isn't looking.  The ones in which anything goes and the sky is the limit...or not.

After waking, I don't remember many of my dreams, mostly just bits and pieces of scattered brain junk.  But some of those pieces have stuck with me for years.  When I was a kid, I remember having a nightmare about a rodeo.  I was in a darkened, greenish stadium.  There was no audience, just me and this enormous black bull with fiery red eyes.  Most of my dreams are in 1st person POV and this was no different.  I don't remember anything other than the bull staring at me and steam coming from his nostrils as my scent filled his hostile lungs.  Not sure what came of that tense standoff, but Dream Me made it out to other things, so I guess all was not lost.  By the by, the bull was probably due to a recent viewing of The Last Unicorn.  (NAME DROP!!!)

Another nightmare I had was after watching Mars Attacks! at my cousin's house.  But that was due less to the movie and more to the fact that my 11 year-old stomach couldn't handle ketchup on pizza.

As I've grown, my dreams have become no less weird than as a kid.  I've had dreams about lighting polar bears on fire with dung in my uncle's barn.  In another, I fought off two attacking Scuba Steve's who rode in on bicycles, harpoon guns firing.  One was from the point of view of a spirit wolf who had possessed me and was using me to wreak havoc on a neighbor.  In yet another, I was in some alternate realm with an army of bipedal rabbits.  We were using their advanced energy-weapon technology to stave off an invading penguin army.  There may have been a troll in there too, but I can't be certain.

Anyway, the point is that a wise professor once told me that all the elements of a dream are really about me. They're pretty good at disguising what they actually mean, but it's there if I care to look hard enough.  In looking back at my previous paragraph about my old dreams, it makes me wonder what part of me is represented by a bipedal, laser-wielding rabbit.

I'm going to attempt to keep a dream journal to chronicle my journeys through the mists of my sleeping mind.  And explain that rabbit thing.

Keep on with your birthday party folks.