Friday, May 17Give Life Back To Music.
(I was not compensated in any way for this review. I wouldn't do that.)
Guess what? Random Access Memories is awesome.
RAM is the smoothest, funkiest, chillest, sexiest and most beautiful Daft Punk album to date, and easily the best album I've heard all year. A game changer that lacks cohesive description (having the best marketing campaign in recent memory didn't hurt, either).
While the tracks flow seamlessly, each seems to speak to a different specific feeling (every reviewer seems to have a different favorite track, which is almost unprecedented). It's not so much a Daft Punk album as a love letter to the last six decades of Pop Music. More soul/jazz than EDM/techno, it's a masterwork of audio engineering and (ironically) human emotion. I came in with unrealistic expectations, and they were completely turned on their ear with the throwback direction taken by our beloved robotic Frenchmen. I loved it in a way I couldn't have predicted, which as a music fan, is all you ever ask for.
A new Daft Punk record is sort of like a new Daniel Day-Lewis film or Beastie Boys album; they show up once every six years if you're lucky, and it always kicks ass. The soundtrack to the Summer has arrived early, yo. Go pick up this album and enjoy your weekend.
Thursday, May 16The Finale.
A few thoughts on tonight's Office series finale. It's a bit jumbled, but whatever.
In 10 short days, the Netflix gods will smile upon us when they bless us with 15 brand new episodes of Arrested Development, one of the funniest, sharpest and most critically-acclaimed comedies in recent memory. A show that some believe wasn't given enough chances in their three short years on FOX. Not given enough time to flourish and gather an audience.
While I'm excited to see AD back, I feel it always got exactly what it deserved. Arrested Development was just a little too smart, self-referential and groundbreaking to ever be a ratings darling, and the move to Netflix where it can be digested by hardcore fans at whichever pace they choose (binge, probably) seems to be a compromise everyone can agree with. AD was never going to do anything to pander (unless they were satirizing the notion), and the depth of their world was so deep that even Lost seemed more understandable at times. AD was never going to be Everybody Loves Raymond, and I think we all realized that from the get-go.
The problem with what Arrested is doing lies in what we think we want as fans, versus what's best for the legacy of the show (as well as our memories of it) in general. AD seemed destined to fade away with legions of fans wondering what might have been, and sometimes that's better than sticking around and overstaying your welcome. In just a few days, we'll have a rare opportunity to see a resurrected series give the fans exactly what they asked for; whether they enjoy it is left to be determined.
This, of course, brings us to The Office.
Nearly every longtime fan of The Office agrees that the series should have ended on April 28, 2011, the date of Steve Carell's final appearance as Michael Scott. While The Office has always been boosted by an ensemble cast and relatively deep character development (for the main players, at least), Michael Scott was clearly the comedic and emotional lifeblood of the show. He was arguably the whole reason The Office survived past its six-episode Season One order. In Michael Scott, The Office did something that almost nobody predicted it would do; break from the looming shadow of the British version to blaze a new trail of cringe humor and documentary-style sitcoms in America. In Scott, we had perhaps the most memorable (and certainly quotable) sitcom character of the new millennium. Where he went, the show went, right?
However, by Carell's exit, The Office was a ratings hit and NBC Thursday night staple, and it's hard to bring new viewers to new sitcoms. They decided to ride it out without him, lasting another 50 episodes before tonight's finale. The fans and critics unanimously declared the show dead (Robert California?), yet in terms of ratings, everyone continued to tune in. NBC's gamble paid off.
You also have to remember that when The Office premiered in 2005 (on Tuesday night), the only remaining fragments of NBC's 'Must-See Comedy' lineup were Will and Grace and Friends spinoff Joey. One was a traditional sitcom on the way out, and the other was a flop to begin with. They both had laugh tracks. Now, there isn't a single comedy on NBC Thursdays that doesn't employ the modern, single-camera style with no canned laughter to speak of. It shaped the new landscape of NBC's Thursday nights, so by all accounts, they deserved whatever they asked for.
Again, The Office had a six episode first season. Nobody expected it to succeed. Nearly a decade later, and not only did it become one of the most influential comedies of the last 15 years, but we're actually debating whether or not it was on for too long. Quite the reversal of fortune.
Series Finales are intensely tricky, but I think we all know what we're going to get when The Office signs off. 30 Rock, for example, came from the 'no hugging, no learning' school popularized by Seinfeld, and unlike Seinfeld, they targeted comedy gold in their finale with one of the funniest send-offs in TV history. The Office's roots have always been in emotion and how we feel about the characters, so we probably won't see too many laughs tonight. We're all gonna cry like bitches, and we're gonna love it, and we're gonna proclaim it a perfect send-off, regardless of the last two seasons that none of us particularly asked for or wanted. All will be forgiven, I'm sure.
As fans, we've been through a lot this season. From the reveal of the documentary filmmakers (which I disliked), to an emotional tease between Pam and boom mic operator Brian (which I disliked), to the entire show-within-a-show aspect becoming the centerpiece of Dunder-Mifflin's excitement (which I disliked). I really had a logistical problem with the breaking of the fourth wall. I mean, you wouldn't do this on Modern Family, would you? No, because it would expose that the whole premise makes no sense, just like in this circumstance (which seemed to cause a lot of scrambling and suspension of disbelief this year). I've let most of this go, however, because I've accepted it and focused on the same thing they want us to be focused on as the finale draws near: The future of Jim and Pam Halpert.
The Jim/Pam courtship ranks among the most realistic and expertly-played in all of sitcom history. Jim's pining for Pam was flagrantly Emo, yet handled in a way so much more delicate than other comedies. There were hardly any laughs drawn from their early storyline; it felt real. As a guy, I felt for Jim in every misstep, every time he had to watch Pam kiss Roy as they planned for a wedding that neither of them really wanted. The missed opportunity after missed opportunity. It was raw. And in Pam, we felt the hesitancy of what it truly means to follow your heart, and the potential disasters that may follow. Even now, after years of marriage and two kids (also handled quite well, I might add), they still managed to add a wonderful new element to their storyline in Season 9, as Jim once again made it clear that he hasn't forgotten what he fought so hard for (after a while, that is). It's an incredible love story on its own; how it managed to wedge itself so nicely into a mockumentary sitcom is borderline phenomenal. It's also why we stuck around.
Tonight's finale takes place six months after the airing of the 'documentary,' as the Dunder-Mifflin gang (past and present) reunites for Dwight and Angela's wedding. It's an hour-long epilogue (with an hour-long preshow), and we can reasonably assume that some of the current Scranton Branch employees will no longer be working where we last saw them. I'm sure Dwight and Angela will. Kevin and Creed? Sure. Stanley and Phyllis? Potentially. Hell, I wouldn't even be surprised if Michael and Holly paid a visit to the East Coast.
But all that really matters is where Jim and Pam end up, and in last week's episode, Pam asked Jim the question we were all asking: "Are you really happy here?" When the series began, Jim and Pam were a bit younger and more apathetic, neither of them thinking that Dunder-Mifflin would be the place where they would be employed for the next decade. And yet, that seemed to be where they ended up, although in a perfect world, they have moved on to a place where they are both happier. Perhaps Pam has a new career in art, while Jim finds a way to continue working in sports marketing in Scranton.
This is also a microcosm for the cast and crew themselves. Surely nobody thought that The Office would be their place of business for nearly 10 years after their invisible first season, but here we all are, excited and optimistic of what the future holds. I guess it all worked out.
The issue of bringing back Arrested Development lies in what we think we want as fans, versus what's best for the legacy and our memories of the show itself. With The Office, we thought we wanted it off the air two years ago, but what we're going to get will remind us that it's nice to not always receive what you asked for.
Tuesday, May 7The Great CD Swap Of 2000.
(CDP Headquarters CD collection, present day.)
By January of 2000, the Missus and I were a young couple, but not in a way that either of us really wanted to admit. Sure, we had smooched a few times and exchanged around ten letters a day at school, but this was all prefaced by the notion that we were merely enjoying each other’s company and nothing more.
By no means (none!) were we boyfriend/girlfriend; neither of us wanted to be in a committed relationship at that particular point in time. Celia had just broken up with someone, and I had been single for about a year and quite enjoyed the freedoms that accompanied the status (as many bacheloresque freedoms as a 17-year old could logically have, mind you). We treated our relationship as one would treat a gentle new friendship, and took careful steps to preserve its fragility and not scare the other away.
(Celia is wearing her school band uniform; she didn't make a habit of wearing tuxedos to school.)
As you can tell, this was a damp load of horseshit and we both knew it. Whether we ‘wanted’ to be in a committed relationship at the time was completely out of our hands. This was the woman I was going to marry, after all; we only continued to spout nonsense like ‘let’s just see where this goes’ because we were both justifiably terrified of the avalanche of emotions we were feeling for each other. We fell in love hard, but we held back as a courtesy during the feeling out process to test the ice a bit, before we inevitably clasped hands and fell straight through. We didn’t have a prayer.
I’m sure she still has the letter I wrote to her when I came clean. It was manic. Probably one unbroken sentence with reckless disregard for punctuation as I feverishly told her how I didn’t want to be just friends with her and I could no longer pretend that we were just acquaintances that made out all the time and I wanted to spend every waking moment with her and I’m sorry if this scares you away but I needed to tell you because these feelings were killing me and I’m hopelessly desperately and wholeheartedly in love with you forever and ever until the end of time and I want everybody to know.
She concurred. So far, it’s worked out quite well. We got cats and stuff.
One of the initial things that brought us together was our mutual love of music. After all, this courtship all started when I begged Celia and her friends to come see my band play MxPx covers in someone’s backyard. My friends all listened to the same music that I did, but I always felt that I listened to it differently. More passionately. My motives seemed distinctively purer. I understand how egotistical and judgmental these thoughts were, but it appeared from the onset that Celia functioned on a similar wavelength as well. I have no doubt that she felt the same divide between her close friends when it came to the way she consumed music and how it legitimately shaped her life. We were always elitists that way. Still are.
And even though I’m holding 90’s punk rock in an almost supernatural regard, you have to remember the context. I was 17, Celia was 16. This was indeed the driving, defining force of our existence. All of my income went to music and concerts and new drum heads and cargo pants. All of her time was spent in her room dissecting lyrics, scribbling in notebooks and forgetting to feed her goldfish (I began to assume it was immortal after awhile). At that specific point in time, there was no better way to learn about who we were as people than to learn about the music we liked the time.
And that’s exactly what we did.
In a move that I still feel was equal parts clever, romantic, risky, potentially voyeuristic and possibly unprecedented for its time, I proposed a full, 100% swap of our CD collections for one full month. For as much time as we were spending together, we still couldn’t spend every waking moment together, and the Great CD Swap would fill those quiet moments while turning us on to new music (and each other). What better way (besides sex, I suppose) to pull back the curtain and reveal yourself entirely to the person you love?
I cannot remember where this idea came to be, but like most good ideas at that time, I believe it happened in my car. We would take turns playing CDs for each other (I had a blue Discman with a cassette adapter for the first couple years), sometimes appreciating, but usually arguing merits in a way that we both mutually enjoyed. During those early years, I wasn’t interested in Twee and dense, female melodies (Go Sailor, Tiger Trap, The Pooh Sticks, etc.). She had a specific hate for songs about ‘leaving town’ (Less Than Jake, Less Than Jake, Less Than Jake, etc.). I thought the Swap would curb some of these musically xenophobic thoughts where we could find more common ground.
I recall thinking this was a good idea right up until the night I drove all 400 of my CDs to her house. It wasn’t the OCD (“She’s gonna break ‘em. She’s gonna break all of ‘em.”). It wasn’t that I’d miss them (“How will I live without Monkey Kong?”). It was the sudden realization of just how personal a CD collection can be, and how this could potentially affect our relationship in a negative way.
Until this point, she was unaware of my penchant for early 90’s gangsta rap, which was littered with misogyny, violence and homophobia. Would she think this was how I defined myself? Or how about all the George Carlin and Bill Hicks albums, comedians she simply thought were vulgar and substanceless? After several long nights sifting through my past and present, would she start to piece together a synthetic version of me that didn’t quite match up with how I was presenting myself? Could it be that my CD collection subconsciously spoke more about me than my words could ever accomplish? Even though it was too late to back out, I started to seriously believe that this may horribly backfire.
But hey, Celia had skeletons of her own. For her rigid, punk rock exterior, her collection (of about 200) was loaded with a surprising amount of boy bands and female pop vocalists. For every Mr. T Experience or Zoinks! album, there was a 98 Degrees or O-Town there to throw me off. Furthermore, I knew that she made no secret about her Christianity (at the time), but I couldn’t believe just how many Christian punk and ska bands existed on Earth. I swear she owned every Christian 3rd Wave Ska album ever recorded, because after all, how many of them could there have been? (Answer: A shitload.)
Any apprehension I was feeling melted as soon as I got Celia's CDs back to my house, and for this next part of the story, you have to remember something extremely important: It was the year 2000. In the pre-Napster/iPod/streaming music days, you rarely came upon 200 brand spanking new albums to listen to. It was an embarrassment of riches. If you wanted to trade music with someone at the turn of the Century, you still had to trade physical property, and if you had friends like mine, you learned not to do that pretty goddamn quick. For a music lover, it was a buffet of new and interesting sounds that were more or less already on my taste wavelength.
Also, the fact that these were exclusively Celia's made it all the more special; it was like digging directly into her brain. When I listened to each album, I thought about what her mindset was when she decided to purchase it. "Oh, I'm sure she bought this one the day it came out. I bet she bought this one at a concert for the sole purpose of getting to talk to the cute lead singer. She probably bought this album because it was listed in the Thank You section of this other album." Again, this was 2000; the best way to find music was to look at the influences and labelmates of bands you already liked by checking liner notes, a process I miss way more than I thought I would.
I also paid attention to the shape that some of these CDs were in, which was a more CSI-level approach to understanding her tastes. For example, Love Is Dead was scratched to pieces and skipped uncontrollably on a few songs. And her copy of the Angus Soundtrack (easily the greatest film soundtrack ever in both of our opinions) was literally unlistenable by the time it got to me. This pleased me; everything on my end was working out perfectly. I was learning about awesome bands and my new girlfriend at the same time, and more or less reveling in the genius idea that was the Great CD Swap.
Over at Celia's house, there was a bit more filler for her to sift through. I had this idea that in order for me to be a better DJ at parties (something I ended up never actually doing), I needed to consistently buy more Pop and Top 40 records- records I didn't even necessarily like. I was probably the only person who actually played by the rules with Columbia House and BMG, scoring such 90's classics as Cracked Rear View and Jagged Little Pill. I also liked to buy albums on a complete whim under the most bizarre criteria. For example, I once picked up an Acceptance record because I thought they looked like nice guys.
Tell me they don't, though!
But hey, this was inadvertently a better snapshot of my personality than I could have created purposely. I'm like that; sometimes I'm superficial and can't explain my actions, and do things out of spite and pity and because there is absolutely no way I'm leaving Camelot Music without a CD and I don't care what it is. If Celia was going to accept me weirdness and all, she might as well know about my love for Polysics and Softball right off the bat (I really miss Softball).
Celia's foraging tactics were a bit different than mine. Instead of looking at my CD collection as an extension of myself, she looked at it as a way to find more common ground (ie: she played by the rules). For example, in early 2000, I was listening to Saves The Day so much that anyone within a mile of me probably hated them only because of their constant rotation in my car. Celia tolerated my obsession, but their style wasn't exactly in her wheelhouse. However, once she discovered their acoustic EP I'm Sorry I'm Leaving, in particular their cover of Modern English's 'I Melt With You,' her thoughts changed.
Another band she plucked out of sheer curiosity was Republica. I bought the album after seeing the 'Ready To Go' video on M2 during a sick day from school (watch the video and you'll get it), along with a list of other albums scribbled down following an afternoon discovering new, Alternative music. Again, this was literally the best way to find new stuff at the time; the Internet was slim picking and MTV still mattered a tiny bit. Why Celia decided to listen to Republica above any other band is anyone's guess, but she must have found it endearing, because it was the first thing she quizzed me about once we traded everything back and started discussing our findings.
It wasn't long afterward that a noticeable change began to take place when Celia and I would drive around and listen to music. Every now and again, she would ask to listen to one of my albums, or I would request she bring along a few of my favorites. Our tastes began to meld in a way I could have only hoped for, and it's a good thing, too. No less than two years later, our CD collections became permanently intertwined when we moved in together, and that's how they have stayed. The Great CD Swap Of 2000 was a rousing success, and so was our decision to jump head-first into an emotional relationship.
Even now, 13 years later, remnants of the Swap still exist. We'll sometimes find ourselves singing along to an album during an evening drive, when Celia will look at me and inevitably ask: "Is this one yours or mine? I can't remember anymore."
Neither. It's ours.
Tuesday, April 30Where A Kid Can Go Bankrupt & Explode.
Last weekend, the Missus and I went to Toys-R-Us and saw the above game. I'm a longtime Jenga fan, so I picked up the box for a closer look.
Whew. Glad they cleared that up.
Monday, April 22100 Lost Essays.
Still here, still super. Here are a few CDP-related things to start off the week:
1. You'll notice that the archiving in the sidebar has changed from monthly to weekly. A while back, I noticed that the monthly archiving was omitting several posts for some reason (probably because there are nearly 1300 of them), which meant that when you clicked on a monthly archive link, you were missing out on a lot of essays. With weekly archiving, everything appears to be back to where it's supposed to be.
So check it out! You may discover that there were dozens of 'lost' CDP essays you didn't read simply because they weren't listed in the former archives. Even I discovered quite a few things that I had completely forgotten I had written because I was also used to the bizarrely-edited monthly archives. Pretty neat.
2. The next chapter of the 'Let's Go To The Hospital!' saga will arrive soon. Essays have been scarce due to a abnormally large time away from my computer. It's like, real life or something. Either way, it's scary and I plan on remedying the situation as soon as possible.
3. I was initially working on allowing Facebook comments on here, but it's become a formatting nightmare. If you think you would comment more if FB comments were enabled, please let me know. Otherwise I'm keeping it the way it is, and you can just comment on my actual Facebook page.
4. Podcast, podcast, podcast! Yes, I'm considering it.
Sound off in the comments section and enjoy your day.
Monday, April 15Let's Go To The Hospital! (Part 1)
I got sick on Easter. It was a day of shaking hands, eating potluck food and hanging around with people (and immune systems) that I normally wouldn't fraternize with. By the time I was driving home that evening, I felt that little tickle in the back of my throat; the warning sign that whispers, "You're about to feel like wet garbage for the next three weeks, and there's not a gall garwshdarn thing you can do about it."
My inner voice sometimes sounds like a grizzled prospector.
Right on cue, I woke up the next day with my (severely) sore throat swollen almost completely shut, and my nostrils following suit. I had practically sweat right through the mattress of my bed (moreso than usual), and the Missus said she got about two hours of sleep due to the horrible noises I was making.
"Sorry about that," I tried to say with as much conviction as possible, but 10 straight hours of coughing had turned my voicebox to static. I sounded like Harvey Fierstein.
I called in sick. Not because I couldn't drag myself into work and just sit there motionless for the day, but because I knew that once they heard me, I would be chastised and thrown out of the office for being a compassionless turd who didn't think of the health and well-being of others. If you develop a cough in a white collar environment, you might as well have your rotten limbs and digits falling off in clumps, because you're the Office Leper until further notice. It's pointless to go to work when you're clearly infectious.
I tried to take care of myself with a combo of NyQuil and Aleve 'Cold and Sinus,' a drug that you can no longer get over-the-counter due to meth addicts, I guess. You now have to ask for it by name at the pharmacy, show your Driver's License and literally sign a contract that says you won't use the medication to produce meth.
I've had to go through this process a few times now, and it always gives me an anxiety attack. I only need this stuff when I'm scraggly and sick out of my mind, so I can only imagine what I look like when I'm asking for the medication while frantically tapping my debit card on the counter. I'm certain they have never once believed I was going to use Aleve 'Cold and Sinus' for its intended purpose. Their problem, but it's still an annoying Catch-22.
For the entire week after Easter, I alternated between going to work and taking sporadic afternoons off. I wasn't getting better, my voice was thoroughly trashed (phone calls and speaking at meetings was an impossibility) and I was falling asleep at 7:30 each night to no avail. I didn't want to go to the doctor, but I feared pneumonia or bronchitis, so early the following week, I finally caved.
I've only had pneumonia once, and from what I heard from my mother, it nearly killed me shortly after I was born. Health-wise, I think it's the closest I've ever been to actually dying due to illness. Bronchitis was something I've had once or twice, and each time I let it run its course with limited medication (which is stupid). It was time to get proactive, albeit nine days after the fact.
I drove myself to Urgent Care at 10am on a Tuesday, which is something I've done exactly one other time in my life. My wife, on the other hand, is an Urgent Care VIP. If hospitals had a Preferred Customer Club, she'd have accumulated enough frequent flier miles to take us straight into the Sun. I'm quite stubborn when it comes to breaking down and seeing a doctor for something, but when green shit is propelling itself from my lungs, I'm not dumb enough to sit around and be passive.
When I checked in at the hospital, they asked me what my problem was. I told them I had a bad cold, a bad cough and wanted some antibiotics. The word 'cough' triggered immediate action from the clerks, who handed me a surgical mask to put on, as to not potentially infect anyone else in the waiting room.
Me, being sort of a narcissist (even at the hospital), didn't listen. I sort of said "uh-huh" and walked away stuffing the mask into my pocket. I was fine, and furthermore, I was a grown man. I could go 10 minutes in a waiting room without having to cough. I wasn't going to bother anyone; it was no big deal.
At the next hurdle of the check-in process, I was handed a clipboard with some questions on it. One of them was: "Were you given a surgical mask to wear?" Now, I didn't want to get someone fired by lying, so I checked "Yes" and handed the clipboard back to the receptionist when she was distracted by a phone call, hoping that by the time she put two-and-two together, I would already be back in my car and halfway to the pharmacy.
I quietly sat in the corner of the waiting room and felt fortunate that there were only two other people in there. On the multitude of occasions where I've had to bring my wife in, the place is usually stacked to the rafters with plague-infested Walkers. I played Minesweeper on my phone and patiently waited my turn.
Then my throat started to tickle. I had to cough.
I contained myself for the first couple minutes, but there's apparently nothing more difficult than suppressing a cough (much to my idiotic surprise). I coughed quietly into the crook of my arm a few times before I started to worry that I would be caught without a surgical mask on. I fantasized that some silent alarm would go off behind the reception desk, triggering a wave of CDC agents to swarm and toss me directly into quarantine. As clandestine as I could, I snuck into the bathroom where I proceeded to invite a coughing fit that lasted the better part of five minutes. I coughed so hard I nearly peed my pants. Thankfully, they didn't call my name while I was indisposed.
When I got back to my seat (still not wearing my mask), I noticed a mother and her daughter seated nearby. The little girl was adorable; probably about 4-years old with a Spring dress and a bow in her hair. I watched her and her mother interact for a few minutes; she was very reserved and well-behaved. Then she coughed.
The noise that emitted from this child was other-worldly. I was convinced that she was recently retrieved from some South American coalmine disaster. There was simply no known disease on the face of the Earth that would make someone sound like this. In a panic, I strapped on my crumpled surgical mask as fast as possible. You win, urgent care; whatever this 4-year old had would've most certainly ended my life.
When my name was finally called, I sat with a nurse for a few minutes and did the whole questionnaire thing you have to do before seeing an actual physician. This is my favorite part of the hospital visit, because I like being asked questions and I know I'm giving them the right answers.
"Do you smoke?" "Nope."
The exact opposite of this is the Dentist, where everything I tell them is either incorrect or a lie.
Just before the nurse left, she told me that the doctor was going to listen to my lungs, so I had to take my shirt off and put on a gown. I have no problem taking my shirt off, but I find the gown (for a man) to be pointless. Why can't I just sit there shirtless? I'm assuming it's for the emotional well-being of anyone who has to see me, but I find it far more palatable than having to impossibly navigate a hospital gown. It's like an MC Escher sketch; no reasonable configuration makes sense.
For the next 20 minutes, I sat there in my gown and mask waiting for the doctor. At one point, another nurse popped in and told me that they "hadn't forgotten about me." All I could think about was how there were no other people in the waiting room but myself and Zombie Coalmine Girl; what was the holdup?
Nonetheless, the doctor finally showed up and started listening to my lungs. Whenever a doctor uses their stethoscope on me, I instinctively revert to Manual Breathing Mode and become incredibly hyper-conscious of how I inhale and exhale. I'm certain I always skew the results. She said my lungs "sounded great," though, and started rubbing around on my temples and oily T-zone.
"Does that hurt?" She asked as she was massaging the bridge of my nose.
"Um...actually that feels pretty good," I said, a little too honestly.
"It's a sinus infection," she said. She prescribed me a "bungload" (medical term) of amoxicillin and sent me on my way. As I was leaving, I could hear Coalmine Girl hacking up a lung in an adjacent room. I shuddered and quickened my pace.
As I write this, it's Saturday, April 13. It's been nearly two weeks since I first got sick, and I'm still having all sorts of (thankfully dissipating) symptoms. Either this was one hell of an infection, or I'm getting older and my immune system is becoming weaker to such volatile intrusions. Since turning 31, I've sort of declared myself legally dead to the world, so perhaps it's more of a psychological anti-placebo than anything. All I know for sure is that these pills are the size of water softener pellets and digesting them requires complete disregard of my gag reflex.
I'm lucky, though. If this is the thing that sends me to the hospital, I'll deal with it. Just a few hours spent watching TLC will remind you that there are millions of people worse off; I could have been born with tree limbs for arms, for Christ's sake. Or a parasitic twin growing out the base of my spine that does nothing but chain smoke and tell racist jokes all day. Pretty sure I've seen both of those.
More than anything, I'm just hoping this will get me out of attending Easter next year.
Thursday, April 4The Walking Dead Friday - 'Welcome To The Tombs.'
Season 3 - Episode 16: 'Welcome To The Tombs.'
The Season Finale of The Walking Dead Friday is upon us. We have much to discuss.
I know everyone's going to have their own personal opinion about this episode, and as a viewer, I always attempt to differentiate between what I want as a fan, and what I feel would be good for the show as a whole. With that being said, I wasn't all that satisfied as a fan, and I'm having a hard time understanding how Sunday's finale was good for the series as a whole, either.
In my head, it sort of seemed like a cut-and-dry finale that would have satisfied everyone: Rick and the Governor go to war, there are a couple of high-profile deaths, the Governor meets his fate and Rick's crew are forced to hobble out of the prison and into their next adventure. That's what we expected, and I also believe it's what we wanted. The last thing Walking Dead fans want a flashback to is the eternity spent hanging around Hershel's farm in Season 2.
But yet, here we are. Andrea and Milton are dead, but that's not going to keep anyone up at night. Rick and company are still at the prison, now with a few dozen more mouths to feed in the form of women and children that will serve them no protection in the event of another invasion. Oh, and the Governor's still out there, but it's anyone's guess if we'll ever see him again. It was vague, anticlimactic and didn't excite me one bit for Season 4. In fact, I feel that almost nothing was accomplished here in the grand scheme of things.
Character-wise, Rick's in a better place (he's not seeing Lori anymore), and he's attempting to bring some sort of human domesticity to Carl before he goes completely psychotic, but that doesn't always make for riveting television. Maggie and Glen are going to get married, Carol and Daryl might get closer as they bond after losing Merle, and Michonne and Tyreese will probably get to know each other better as well (if the comic has any say in it).
But is this what we're interested in, first and foremost? Not me. I wanted to see justice for a Governor that slowly descended into madness, slaughtered dozens of innocent people and put Rick and company through hell. I wanted to see someone, anyone that had a reason (and there were plenty), inflict some backwoods justice on one of TV's great bad guys. I wanted to see a change of location. You'd think that at least one of these things would happen, but nothing did.
Not even Andrea's death was all that surprising. I said last week that her character had fallen so far outside the realm of being accepted back into the good graces of the fans, that nothing short of killing the Governor would save her from dying this week. And I was right, but being right didn't make the episode any more or less interesting. Sunday's episode ran five minutes over, and my friends didn't know that, so they were nervous as 10pm was approaching, afraid that we were going to get some sort of 'To Be Continued' ending. I told them not to fear, and that we'd surely get the closure we thought we deserved during the five minute overrun. Nope.
So, what do we do now? Where does Season 4 take us? I'm not sure, but I have a pretty good idea of where it's going to start: Back at the same prison we hung around in all last season, with no firm resolution in Woodbury and more hypothetical scenarios than actual action. The tension and action that picked up once Rick and company left Hershel's farm was what made The Walking Dead the most popular show on television (literally). To hit the brakes with such a lackluster final ten minutes seemed like quite a misstep, if only in the short-term.
But shit, what do I know? Maybe the Season 4 premiere will be Rick, Daryl and Michonne sitting around a wooden spool, bringing the fans up to speed on the last few months of storyline:
"Boy, we sure killed the Governor good, didn't we?"
"Yup, and remember when all those Woodbury refugees just up and disappeared in the middle of the night? That sure helped in regards to our supplies."
"Absolutely. And remember when we ditched the prison for Woodbury, because they had water and beds and shit?"
I don't know.
Let’s take this episode behind the shed and put it out of its misery, because it’s time for The Thick And Meaty!
Despite all the work he put into his snazzy torture chamber, the Governor leaves the murder of Andrea up to Milton for some reason. When Milton refuses, the Governor mortally wounds him, leaving Milton to turn and (presumably) attack Andrea while she’s all tied up and whatnot. Upon leaving, the Governor says, “In this life now, you kill or you die…or you die and you kill,” which is one of the better catchphrases I’ve heard this season.
Meanwhile, Rick and company are preparing for war. In Woodbury, they do the same. Tyreese and Sasha tell the Governor that they’re going to hang back at base camp to protect the women and children (that’s the job I would have volunteered for, too). The Governor, who seems to be slowly losing his patience with anything and everything on Earth, reluctantly agrees.
The Governor and his people storm the prison, using all manner of weapons to decimate the exterior (a rocket launcher?!). Once they get inside, it appears to be abandoned, until they are ambushed by Rick’s crew and hastily flee. And hey, say what you want about the Governor, but he’s not hanging back like a coward; dude is in the front lines, looking to kill people. I admire that in a leader.
A Woodbury teenager encounters Carl and Hershel in the woods while fleeing. Carl asks him to drop his weapon, but then decides to kill him anyway before really seeing what he was going to do. Carl later justifies his actions to Rick by saying that the teen didn’t drop his weapon, a claim that Hershel disputes…but not me. I feel that this was war and the teenager didn’t act quickly enough. Carl had every right to be afraid and defensive. But I understand that they’re trying to drive the plot point that Carl is becoming cold and detached, and Rick needs to create some sort of domesticity so he doesn’t snap completely, so I’ll go with it.
In the chamber, Milton lets Andrea know that he left a pair of pliers behind her chair. Then he totally dies.
Outside of the prison, the Governor orders his convoy to stop. When they almost unanimously express desire to return to Woodbury and leave Rick’s group alone, the Governor goes on a shooting rampage and kills most of them (except for a couple of his right-hand men). Karen plays dead and is spared when the Governor runs out of bullets, and he leaves her behind. This, right here, is the Governor in his purest form. He went from a justifiably bad guy to a complete lunatic in the span of this season, and I think it was a commendable performance by David Morrissey, even if I don’t really want to see him return in Season 4.
Rick asks Carl about the teenager he killed. Carl mentions that Dale, Lori and Merle all died because they didn’t seize the opportunity to kill potential threats when they arose. Point taken, Carl.
Rick, Michonne and Daryl head off to Woodbury to finish the job, when they encounter the massacre the Governor left behind, as well as the surviving Karen. Meanwhile, Milton reanimates and advances on Andrea, who gets bitten just before killing him for realsies. Rick’s group shows up just in time to realize that Andrea isn’t going to make it. Andrea apologizes for her actions, then promptly shoots herself in the head (off-camera).
The episode ends with Rick’s group returning to the prison with a school bus full of the women and children that were huddling at Woodbury (including Tyreese, Sasha and Karen). Carl’s pissed. Oh, and because of all this closure (to Rick at least), he’s no longer seeing visions of Lori.
Smash cut, season over! Now let’s Break It Down!
1. Regardless of if I thought this was a good episode or not, the ratings were predictably massive, drawing an all-time high of 12.4 million viewers. This makes it not only the most-watched episode of the series to date, but the most-watched drama in the history of cable TV. Every single week, this show is making history in one way or another.
2. This episode was written by the (now departed) showrunner/executive producer Glen Mazzara. Good luck in Season 4, Scott Gimple; expectations for success are more than a little high.
3. AMC sent a press release shortly after the finale to let people know that David Morrissey would be returning as the Governor in Season 4, so don’t expect him to stay M.I.A. for very long.
4. This episode marks the final appearances of both Andrea and Milton, and although Michael Rooker was credited, he was the only main cast member to not appear (cuz’ he’s dead, you know).
5. With Andrea’s death, Carol (of all people) becomes the last surviving female from the original Atlanta group. Furthermore, Andrea’s death also leaves only five members of the original Atlanta group remaining (Rick, Carl, Carol, Daryl and Glenn).
And with that, we’re done with The Walking Dead for Season 3. Sound off in the comments section and enjoy your weekend. The CDP will return shortly with regularly-scheduled essays and pop culture goodness all the way through Spring, so stick around.
Wednesday, April 3The Wild Stallion 5.0.
My first car was a 1986 Buick Somerset (shown above). In 1998 (at age 16) I paid $200 for it with my own money as a bartender (I've told this story before). It was massive, it was embarrassing, and as most cars go, it housed some of my most cherished memories. Even when I eventually sold it (for $50), it still worked as perfectly as you could hope for.
The Somerset was unique for its age in that it had a fully digital dashboard. The mileage, speedometer and fuel gauge were all LED displayed, and there was even a button that allowed you to toggle over to metric. I liked switching it when I drove my younger sister around; I'd drive 70 MPH, and it would display 113, which always seemed to terrify her.
Eventually I hit a deer with it (with the Somerset's hulking front end, it didn't stand a chance), but as parts for this car were impossible to come by, I had to compromise by zip-tying the headlights into an ill-fitting replacement grill. From that day forward, I couldn't see anything when I drove after sunset; the tops of the telephone lines and the ditch were plenty illuminated, but that was about it.
That was The Wild Stallion, and like most First Car Relationships, I cherished it.
Like I said, I eventually had to sell the Somerset and 'upgrade' to a 1993 Ford Tempo in 2001. All I really remember about this car is:
1. It had well over 250,000 miles on it before I even turned the key on.
2. Every single thing inside of this car was broken.
Everything. Every light, every knob and every button was faulty. Nothing worked, nothing. I would blow a fuse every time I tried to jury-rig my CD player in there, which led me to keeping a spare hundred or so fuses in the glove compartment.
It never broke down, though. As legend has it, some still see this car rolling around the streets of Winneconne with a Mediocre At Best sticker on the trunk, odometer creeping closer and closer to 1,000,000 miles.
Upon moving to Madison, I purchased 'The Wild Stallion 3.0' in 2004, which was a 1997 Escort Wagon. I really quite enjoyed driving a wagon: I'm never one to be too self-conscious about the cars I drive, and it held all my groceries and corpses and whatnot. The only reason I sold it was that my in-laws wanted to sell me their old vehicle at a price I couldn't refuse (more on that in a second).
The Escort allowed us to move to two different apartments without the assistance (and fees) of professional movers. I strapped the mattress to the roof; the whole nine yards. However, there were some costly repairs that begin to become commonplace, so I had to see it for cheap and start over again.
In 2007, I bought a 2002 Mercury Sable that I drove until about two weeks ago. It was roomy, it had Climate Control (and a cassette player!) and a kickass engine. It belonged to my father-in-law, a auto enthusiast that good very good care of it, and was always kind enough to share knowledge on repairs and certain behaviors. Unfortunately, time was not on the 'Wild Stallion 4.0's side, and the amount of repairs and fixes once again became insurmountable.
The Missus determined that we needed a new car. I was leery, not only because cars are sort of expensive, but also because I've never purchased a 'new' car in my life. I didn't understand the process and I didn't know if we could afford one. When the Missus gets an idea in her head, though, it expands with life until it completely transcends argument and logic. By the time she was done with me, it wasn't so much "How can we afford a new car?" as "How could we afford not to?"
The Wild Stallion 5.0 is a 2013 Ford C-Max hybrid. It's astoundingly energy efficient, runs on a combination of gas and electric, and can get nearly 45MPG under normal circumstances. I think it's purty, but it blends in nicely with society and doesn't drive or feel like some of the earlier, flimsier hybrids. This car is roomy, heavy and fast.
There are a ton of settings that allow you to monitor how efficiently you're driving, which is pretty cool, although I have no idea how to change my driving in order to be 'better' at it. The Sync system allows for hands-free everything, and to my surprise, it's actually quite receptive. And even though satellite radio is completely unnecessary, I know I'm going to keep subscribing to it for the all 90's channel.
I've never driven anything even close to a vehicle like this, and I almost had to re-learn the art of Driving in order to properly manhandle it. There seems to be a whole lot going on at once behind the wheel of this thing, but after an hour or so of tooling around the neighborhood and forgetting to look out the windshield for minutes at a time, I think I've got it mostly figured out.
So after 15 years of used relics, I can finally say I have a new car. The wrinkled hand of Fate will probably put me in an accident by the end of the week that throws me back to square one, but that's a risk I'm going to have to take. The Wild Stallion 5.0 is go.
Sound off in the comments section and enjoy your day. The Walking Dead Friday arrives in less than 48 hours.
Monday, April 1The Walking Dead Monday - Caption Edition.
("Excuse me, miss? Would you happen to know where...nevermind. Goodbye.")
("You know what? This is fun. I never get to take you out to the park anymore.")
(Dale launches into Hour 3 of his story about meeting Adam West.)
("Allow me to illustrate our intimate future by tightly clasping my hands together. Got it?")
("ADMIT IT! While the Blue Album was more commercially successful and musically accessible on a Pop level, the themes, songwriting and musicianship of Pinkerton make it the better album in the long run, when you take critical acclaim, personal resonance and genre influence into account. ADMIT IT!!!")
(“If we don’t live together, we’re going to die alone. Come on, didn’t any of you losers watch Lost?”)
(Lori returns from the grave just to tell Rick she’s still having sex with Shane in Hell.)
("I should buy a boat.")
(Michonne watches in horror as Rick begins to slow dance with a walker.)
("You know what I really like about this place, Carol? The fact that my skull has exactly the right number of holes in it.")
(The front row of every Mumford and Sons concert.)
("Hello? Could you please…AAUGH! It's Rick Grimes! Get me the hell outta here!")
("WE'RE OUT OF THOUSAND ISLAND IS FRENCH OKAY?")
I'm still sort of busy, but things are smoothing out as we speak. I should have something for you on Wednesday, followed by the Season Finale of The Walking Dead Friday to round out the week, kicking off a whole bunch of new essays as we barrel into Spring. Sound off in the comments section and enjoy your day.
Friday, March 29The Walking Dead Friday - 'This Sorrowful Life.'
Season 3 - Episode 15: 'This Sorrowful Life.'
The penultimate Walking Dead Friday is upon us. We have much to discuss; I’m limping all over the house.
A couple of days ago, I started experiencing pain in my left instep. I’ve been doing a lot of general walking around over the last week in a feeble attempt to stave off the Reaper for another pointless year, so I figured I just overexerted myself a bit and it would heal on its own with adequate rest. Then I promptly forgot all about that and spent the entirety of Wednesday afternoon briskly sauntering around downtown Madison.
I’m an idiot when it comes to pain. Once something that was hurting me stops hurting me, I sort of assume it will never come back again, and that’s how I treated my foot on Wednesday. I was pinwheeling, grapevining and Electric Sliding my way through the city (as is my custom), eating expensive cupcakes and sampling the most disgusting of cheeses. It’s how I prefer to spend my afternoons alone.
When I went to sleep Wednesday night, I felt okay. When I woke up and stepped out of bed Thursday morning, my entire leg nearly collapsed as if it were ravaged by termites. My left foot was nearly useless, and I had to spend the entire day Tiny Tim’ming it up just to get from place to place at work.
I guess I tore a muscle in my instep or arch or something. All I know is that it hurts like hell and my limp is borderline scary to see; if I went to the doctor they’d probably give me crutches, or in true Tiny Tim fashion, one short, crudely-cobbled crutch. Oh, and one of those adorable newsie caps that old people and lesbians wear.
“Wow,” my wife said on Thursday morning. “You’re really limping around.”
“Yeah, I think I tore a muscle.”
“That happened to me once. In both feet.” (Advantage: Missus)
“Oh yeah? What did you do for it?”
“Nothing. Just rest and aspirin.”
So, that’s where I’m at. If you happen to see me gangster-leaning down the streets of Sun Prairie this weekend, please don’t make fun of me, and please don’t ask me to run down to the Poulterer’s and buy the prized turkey that’s ‘as big as me whole body.’ Let’s move on.
This week’s episode of The Walking Dead was fairly unexpected (to me, at least). In a season filled with the predictable (the death of T-Dog) to the pleasantly surprising (a phenomenal episode centered around Morgan), we got a set up for the finale that we wanted, but not in the way we predicted.
I mean, we knew that Rick was going to have a change of heart regarding giving Michonne up in exchange for a truce (although I cannot believe he actually thought it would work). We knew that the battle lines would be perfectly set for a final showdown between Rick and the Governor (although there are others who have a bigger gripe and justification for being the one to actually murder the Governor).
What we didn’t know that this would be the week we not only mourn the death of a major character, but get one of the all-time best TWD acting performances from a Mr. Michael Rooker. And goddamn did he deliver.
Henry: Portrait Of A Serial Killer is one of the bleakest, rawest and most disturbing serial killer movies ever made, but it’s also probably the best (I say ‘best’ considering the subject matter). If you’ve seen it (and you should for historical purposes), you’ll understand immediately why there was nobody else on Earth more equipped to play Merle as Rooker. I remember renting the VHS from Express Video as a kid (they didn’t give a shit about ID in my hometown), and it broke my brain for a few days. Good movies do that sometimes, although I don’t own it nor do I have any intention of ever watching it again.
Rooker’s filmography is absolutely massive, but I still don’t understand why he hasn’t been handed more critically-acclaimed and potential award-winning roles (the Mickey Rourke parts, if you will). This man seemingly does well in everything he touches, and I’m hoping his time as Merle Dixon refreshes the collective memories of casting directors the next time they’re looking for a demented older guy. On a zombie show that somehow put together a classically-trained group of powerhouse actors, Rooker could roll with any of them in any circumstance.
RIP, Merle Dixon. In your honor, I drank straight from a bottle of Jack Daniels last night while blaring Motorhead from my 1986 Buick Somerset (I would’ve done this regardless, however). Now let’s get to The Green And Leafy!
Smash cut, whiskey drank, episode over. Now let’s Break It Down!
1. Sunday’s episode did a 10.99 rating, which is still astronomical but lower than their all-time series high of 12.26. Even in the face of March Madness, this show is still watched by more people than any other on cable television. To once again put this into perspective, WWE Monday Night Raw normally pulls in a rating of 3.5, which until the premiere of The Walking Dead, was enough to make it the highest-rated show on cable nearly every week. It’s a statistical anomaly to say the least.
2. ‘This Sorrowful Life’ was written by Scott Gimple, who will serve as the showrunner next season, replacing Glen Mazzara (who replaced Frank Darabont). Mazzara was heralded for being the guy that finally got Rick and company ‘off the farm,’ and here’s hoping that Gimple keeps things moving at a breakneck pace once they flee the prison and hit the road.
3. Andrea is the only main cast member to not appear in this episode, which by proxy makes it the greatest episode of any television show in history so far.
4. This episode also marks the first death of a main character since Lori Grimes bit it (and got bit) in Season 3, Episode 4.
5. The Season 3 finale, ‘Welcome To The Tombs,’ will air on Easter Sunday, which I find highly entertaining for a number of reasons. First off, on a weekend where no other new shows are airing (for fear of a holiday ratings hit), The Walking Dead couldn’t give a shit less. Secondly, I like the connotations of a ‘dead rising from the grave’ show airing on a holiday where that supposedly happened in real life.
That’s all I have for you this week. Sound off in the comments section and enjoy your weekend. Next week on the CDP, I’ll have more new stuff and an extra Walking Dead Friday post as we celebrate the Season 3 finale.
Season 1 - Episode 1 Review.
Season 1 - Episode 2 Review.
Season 1 - Episode 3 Review.
Season 1 - Episode 4 Review.
Season 1 - Episode 5 Review.
Season 1 - Episode 6 Review.
Season 3 - Episode 9 Review.
Season 3 - Episode 10 Review.
Season 3 - Episode 11 Review.
Season 3 - Episode 12 Review.
Season 3 - Episode 14 Review.