Thursday, March 20

You Have No Idea What 'Having No Idea' Means.

You Don't, You Know.

When I was an criminally underweight Freshman in high school, there was this girl that I spent a large amount of time with, we'll call her 'Margaret.' My friendship with Margaret was solid and rare; we cheated off of each others' tests, we exchanged idiotic notes throughout the school day and advised each other through short-term relationships, crushes and obsessions. It was a pretty decent and worthwhile arrangement; one of those situations where everyone naturally assumed that we were a couple, and we would just nod and play along, certain that our platonic agreement was cooler and stronger.

Now that I'm older, I know for a fact that platonic relationships are impossible. You cannot be friends with someone of the opposite or desired gender without wanting to sleep with them in some capacity.

So, as these stories go, our solid friendship was to be short-lived, thanks in part to the contents of my pants. I eventually fell hard for Margaret, far outside the reaches of what a strong friendship could provide, and felt it necessary to destroy the good thing we had going for the chance at a more physical and advanced form of bodily communication. I knew going in that it was sabotage, but something had to give. I couldn't look at her anymore without wanting to tell her. I couldn't hear another story about a bad date without begging her to let me make things right. I couldn't even eat or listen to the radio. Surely, a friendship this strong would only be strengthened by this revelation, right?

I actually believed that. I also listened to Marilyn Manson, so... yeah.

As detailed in the classic CDP essay, 'No Scents Whatsoever,' my attempt to cross into this forbidden territory was tragically shot down by what could be accurately described as a gaffe of Shakespearean proportions. Margaret turned me down in the most unexpected way possible, our friendship hit the wall and I almost ended up getting arrested for indecent exposure.

'No Scents Whatsoever' is also featured in 65 Poor Life Decisions, which you should order right now. In fact, you should read that essay in order to get all caught up. Go on, I'll wait.

Ready?

'No Scents Whatsoever' only told the funny part of the story, though. The 'let's all laugh at the poor kid who whizzed everything down his leg at the football game' part. What happened the next day was far more interesting, deep and somewhat damaging.

Upon returning to school, I knew I had to do something, say something, to hopefully justify my actions and attempt to get things with Margaret back to the way they once were. We almost instantly ran into each other; the once-simple transitions and conversation now awkwardly vacant. We both had some serious explaining to do.

ME - "Hey. We should probably talk."

MARGARET - "Hey. I know."

ME - "Look, I'm sorry for messing everything up by trying to mine something that wasn't there. I didn't think it through, and I know it's going to be impossible to go back to the way things were, but..."

Margaret cut me off.

MARGARET - "I just...I can't go out with you right now. I'm really sorry."

The tone in her voice suggested that she wasn't necessary believing the words she was saying. This conflicted me, but more than anything, it pissed me off.

ME (still frustrated and embarrassed) - "Well, why the hell not? Because I know your secrets? Because my jaw clicks all loud when I eat? Because I wear the same stupid cologne that your dad wears? Why can't this work?"

MARGARET (incredulous and saddened) - "Ryan, I can't go out with you because you don't believe in God."

My eyes got wide, and I shut down. Right there, in the middle of a crowded high school hallway, the two of us hit a moral and emotional crossroads that was still probably years out of our league to correctly tackle. Somehow, through our several months of wonderful friendship and happiness, we never allowed a massive topic like religion butt in and ruin the party with its polarizing attitude and smug grin. However, this was clearly an issue that Margaret took seriously. Seriously enough to turn down a relationship with someone close to her.

MARGARET - "I...I just can't do it. I'm sorry. It's not like I don't want to...I just can't."

I didn't know what to say. Part of me wanted to beg her to shake it off and give this oily heathen a chance. Part of me wanted to hold her and praise her for being so deeply rooted and mature in her faith. Yet another part of me wanted to know how she was so sure I was an Atheist. I had never mentioned my beliefs to her explicitly; I'm assuming she simply took a cue from all my terrible jokes and constant mocking of organized religion. Either way, she jumped the gun.

If you asked me if I believe in God right now, I'd say 'not really.' Had you asked me at the age of 14, however, I probably would have said yes. In any case, how do you respond to a statement like that? It's not like Margaret told me she disliked my haircut, or that I listened to terrible music. I couldn't remedy the situation by saying 'I'll try harder next time!' or 'I can learn!' This was serious. An issue of faith that had no room for a guy like me. I could be her friend, we could even grow to love each other as friends, but she would never be mine unless one of us drastically changed their spiritual views.

I was dumbfounded. I had reached the Boss Level with no cheat codes. It was over.

ME - "Are we going to be....okay?"

MARGARET - "Yeah, we're cool. We just can't...you know."

ME - "Yeah, I know...I think."

Wow. All that stuff I did for her to show that I was quality best friend and boyfriend material wasn't even close to cutting it. She didn't need someone who was willing to borrow her a shirt after a lunchroom food fight covered her own with pineapple juice. She didn't need someone that bought her an ice cream cone every day after school. She needed someone to pray with. Someone to attend church with. Someone to court her. A jock or preppie guy was the usual sort of challenge I was used to overcoming when it came to women, but this?

Jesus Christ, why didn't any of this come up earlier?

As previously stated, I knew I wasn't possessing the mental facilities to properly re-evaluate my entire stance on spirituality during my Freshman year. If you need proof of my immaturity, know that at the time of the argument, I was wearing a shirt that said '69' on it. All I knew was that I wanted to go out with her, and this new roadblock driven between the two of us wouldn't go away until our friendship was completely off the rails. I had to do something to keep Margaret close, protect our bond, slap God directly in the face and prove to everyone that I was able to go to the next level for her.

For most women, this would be a show of gratitude; like meeting her parents or ceasing communication with ex-girlfriends. For Margaret, this meant church.

And I was in.

There was a teen-centered church service that Margaret liked to go to every Wednesday night in the city. It was one of those places where the minister wore blue jeans, boasted a goatee and desperately attempted to phrase the words of Jesus in a way that apathetic teens would understand and care about. Decent music was played. Coffee was sold. Candles were lit in the darkened, small conference area, and I was there with Margaret, wondering just how far I'd go to prove a point or see her in her bra.

I tapped my feet and hands simultaneously under the table, trying to ward off a panic attack as claustraphobia and religious anxiety sank in. I looked over at Margaret, who was saying hello to friends and placing her order.

MARGARET - "Coffee?"

ME - "Uh, no. I don't drink coffee."

MARGARET - "Wow, I had no idea!"

I thought to myself, "You clearly have no idea what 'having no idea' means. I'm sitting here, waiting for Mr. Biblepants McGee up there to start blowing smoke up my ass about the paradise of accepting God's love, when all I really want is yours."

Instead, I just said:

ME - "Well, you learn something new every day. I'll take a bottle of non-blessed water, please."

MARGARET - "Oh, you're hilarious."

Fun Fact for you. I was raised Catholic. Catholic mass, for those out of the loop, is basically an hour-long punishment every Sunday morning. You show up, exclaim to the world that you're a worthless and flawed human being, beg forgiveness and give thanks to God for allowing you to live. At the age of 14, this was the only religion I knew, and I was preparing for more of the same as I chewed my nails to the marrowbone and wondered if this was all really worth it.

I've done a lot of things to win the affection of women. I've written beautiful songs and poems. I've driven hundreds of miles and talked for hours on end. I've spent money I didn't have for gifts I didn't understand. I even got punched in the face a couple times. But none of that compared to the uncharted, uncomfortable waters I was wading into. I peeled the wrapper off of my water bottle and the service began.

Of course, the night went well. The pastor did a good job of reminding me that Jesus was a fairly amazing guy, and no matter what I believe concerning my mortal soul in the hereafter, it wouldn't hurt to try to remember some of the interesting teachings and words of the Big J. Same goes for other visionaries, like Buddha or even Martin Luther King. That, I could honestly handle, and even now as an adult, I hold a certain amount of faith in the words of prophets, just not the way they are perverted, twisted and used as a weapon by some of his closest followers.

I feel the same way when an e-mail floats around that was incorrectly attributed to George Carlin or Kurt Vonnegut. Stop disgracing the name, people!

Throughout the night, I was on my best behavior. I bowed my head when everyone else did. I shredded my napkin to bits when I got bored. Each time I heard something that I wanted to dispute with every fiber of my cynical and humanistic being, I just looked over at Margaret and thought about what I'd be missing out on by being an asshole. "Get your mind right," I reassured myself. "It's for the greater good."

I ended up going back to the church with her for most of the Summer after my Freshman year. Our friendship bloomed back into the rare and wonderful thing it used to be, and we both settled into the harsh realization that we're better friends than lovers. By the time Summer was over, we were both seeing other people, and we were happier for it.

I'm glad that I was pushed out of my comfort zone, even if it was for all the wrong reasons. I knew that she knew, too, and she made a point to let me know that she appreciated it. We both knew that I'd never be the guy to complete a successful courtship. The guy to save his virginity until marriage. The guy that voluntarily gave his time to organized religion for any reason other than a friend's companionship. At the end of the day, we both emerged a little smarter, a little further apart, and a little more aware that we were absolutely horrible for each other. When Sophomore year started, we were too busy and preoccupied to speak to each other.

Six years later, while I was working at the hardware store, Margaret walked in. We exchanged a few words and e-mail addresses, with the mutual promise that we wouldn't lose touch with each other again. That was the last time we spoke.

Wednesday, March 19

It's Business Time.



I'll have a new post up tomorrow.

But today...today is Business Time.

Monday, March 17

Lost Monday - "Ji Yeon."

Episode 7 -
Season 4 - Episode 7: "Ji Yeon."

Another Lost Monday is upon us. We have much to discuss; this relationship is suffocating me!

After a busy and relatively somber weekend, it feels good to be back home and settling into a rhythm. The NCAA tournament is shaping up to be one of the best in recent memory (and Florida/Illinois-free), there's only one more episode of Lost before a four-week hiatus allows us all to catch our breath, and I begin pre-production on my second book in 15 days.

As I've stated before in interviews and the like, I have at least 25 brand-new essays that I already have begun outlining for the follow-up to the wildly successful cult classic, 65 Poor Life Decisions. My goal is to have it all wrapped up on my end (some funny jokes and a decent font selection, mostly) by the end of 2008. Stagnation is my only unforgivable sin, and I'm not waiting any longer to write more poop jokes and drag my family's name through said poop.

By the way, personalized copies of 65 Poor Life Decisions are selling fast, and I will no longer be offering the direct-mail order deal once they run out. So if you're looking to order an autographed copy through me, you'd better do it quick, because I honestly have less than a handful of books left that aren't already reserved. Get cracking.

Muffintop Radiator Pants!
("Muffintop horseback radiator pants!")

Now, it's time to talk about Lost. One of the reasons that we dig Lost so much is due to their surprise endings, crazy revelations, trendy island fashions and their respect for the intelligence of the audience. Even though the single biggest gripe on the series is "I don't get it," the writers and producers of the Greatest Television Drama Of All-Time refuse to go the Heroes and Friday Night Lights route and dumb it down for a few more ratings points and that all-important "idiot" demographic the networks are constantly clamoring for (Why, FNL, why?).

That being said, last week's episode was, in my opinion, a twist ending for the sake of twist endings. A plot device used to cover up the fact that they didn't want to give away everything just yet, and in doing so, jerked the audience around for no good reason. In Lost history, Jin and Sun always collaborated on their flashback episodes, mainly because their separate storylines weren't interesting enough to carry an episode on their own. Furthermore, their story as a couple was always more intriguing and parallel to what they happened to be experiencing on the island at any particular time.

What happened in 'Ji Yeon' was interesting, surprising and shocking, but somewhat unnecessary and deceptive for no other reason than to pad out a lackluster 48 minutes of events.

Don't believe me? Take it up with The Thick & Meaty!

Thick And Meaty!

IN FLASHBACKS:

Jin is rushing to the hospital to deliver a present for his boss, Mr. Paik. This flashback appears to run parallel with the events of the soon-to-be-discussed flash-forward, but not so fast, Tough Guy. You're about to look like an ass in front of all your friends.

Oh, and that's it. That's the entire flashback. He successfully delivers his stuffed panda on time, and life continues as planned. Quite possibly the most unnecessary flashback in Lost history.

Todd McFarlane did it, and it rules!
(Jin searches in vain for a Korean videogame that isn't violently pornographic.)

ON THE ISLAND:

Sun realizes that she doesn't have a lot of time left before her pregnancy begins to end her life. Hey, most women get to at least give birth before the child ruins the rest of their life, but not poor Sun. Regardless, she doesn't trust the Boaties and she doesn't trust Juliet, so she wants to head off to Locke's camp where she can at least die on a comfortable mattress. Jin blindly follows, like any husband unwilling to step into the sputtering gunfire of an unnecessary argument would.

Juliet, trying to convince Sun to stick around and attempt rescue, spills the beans to Jin that Sun had an affair with that one guy who's head was shaped like an egg. Jin grits his teeth and decides to go fishing with Bernard, who pops in simply to remind us that yes, he's still a character on the show.

While fishing, Jin snaps and tears Bernard's head off. This seems to calm Jin somewhat, who heads back to Sun, accepts her apology and makes nice.

Wow, Jin forgave that affair in near-record time. He didn't even try to snag a free night of anonymous sex for himself or anything. He didn't even let Maury get involved, for God's sake. This only makes sense for one reason, and one reason alone, which leads us to our Question Of The Week!

Question Of The Week.

"What Is Jin Hiding?"

A - His own private affair with a jug of Dharma Ranch Dressing.
B - A crippling Pachinko addiction.
C
- That he was kind of an asshole up until about three weeks ago.
D - A prehensile tail.

Of course, the correct answer is "The largest collection of Korean pornography the island has ever seen." Thanks for playing, let's continue on.

God damn, that's awesome.
("God damn, it's awesome to be me.")

ON THE FREIGHTER:

The crew of the freighter are dropping like flies every time they get near the island. I personally find the idea of the energy surrounding the island being so great as to cause insanity followed by suicide to be absolutely awesome. What a neat way to properly illustrate just how much power this place has. At least you did something right this week, Television Show.

The 'spy' on the boat sends a message Desmond & Sayid's way, claiming that they shouldn't trust the captain. Of course, if this spy is working for Ben, who does not want the island to be discovered, it would be theorized that we should trust what the captain has to say when it comes to a certain egomaniacal nebbish named Benjamin Linus. The spy keeps turning the boat towards the island, presumably in an attempt to drive everyone on board loopy.

RAAAAAALLLLLT!
("WAAAAAAALLLLLLLT!!!11!!")

When Desmond and Sayid finally meet up with the captain, he validates what Benjamin said in that Charles Widmore is behind the freighter and eventual discovery of the island. He also ties a few loose ends by stating that the Flight 815 crash was staged to pull one over on a global scale, and that Benjamin might have been to blame.

Whadda douche.

The revelation is that we see Michael Dawson on the boat, posing as a janitor named Kevin Johnson. Sayid and Desmond play along, but you can be assured that they will get some answers next week; particularly due to the preview footage that shows Sayid screaming "I want answers!"

Now, Michael popping back up after 28 episodes away was pretty awesome, albeit a little expected. This got me wondering if there are any other Lost cameos that would be even more awesome.

5 Awesome Things.

5 Awesome Lost Cameos By Former Cast Members:

1. Ana Lucia - Shows up drunk and crashes her PT Cruiser into the island's temporary breakfast nook.

2. Charlie - Pops in to briefly to remind everyone that he's nailing Evangeline Lilly in real-life.

3. Tom - puts on that fake beard and acts all creepy, just for old-times sake. Maybe someday they'll fully explain why the Others liked to play dress-up so much.

4. Paulo - Strolls into frame, is immediately shot in the face by Sawyer, and the episode continues as planned.

5. Two words: Zombie Eko.

Dat's it, bitch.
("Bitch said what?")

IN FLASH-FORWARDS:

Sun, off the island and recognized as one of the Oceanic Six, successfully gives birth to a baby girl named Ji Yeon. A short time afterwards, Hurley flies in to see the baby, and visit Jin's gravesite, where it is shown that he is being portrayed as someone who died in the Flight 815 crash. I had to pause the DVR and read it about four times, but yup, there it is.

Smash-cut, episode over.

It took me awhile to wrap my head around the ending, mainly because it was so unnecessary that it caught me by surprise. Nonetheless, this episode raised a lot of new questions, for which we must Break It Down!

Break It Down!

4 - The date on Jin's tombstone reads that he died on the date of the Flight 815 crash. This not only proves that he is NOT one of the Oceanic 6 (only 5 have been revealed), but that Sun is also following the story that only 8 survived the crash, and 6 survived for the rescue. There must be a damn good reason why Hurley, Sayid, Kate, Jack and Sun would all commit to something to emotionally draining.

I'm assuming they were offered free Cousin's Sub sandwiches for life in exchange for their silence. What I wouldn't give for that.

Cousin's Subs. Better Bread, Better Subs.

8 - So, how did Jin die? Well, it would appear that Jin is not buried where his gravesite is, and that he merely didn't make it off of the island. If he was killed or is still hanging around the island is anyone's guess right now. Same goes for Claire, who has become so irrelevant in the face of her potentially amazing backstory that I almost feel bad for her.

15 - In the scene where Sun begins to feel labor pains, she is watching a Korean-dubbed episode of 'Expose,' which is the soap opera that Nikki starred in prior to the crash. Way to throw that in there; that Sun would want to watch a rerun starring a woman that she helped bury alive.

16 - As usual with Jin & Sun episodes, the on-island tension mimics the off-island revelations. In this case, Jin is making the case for himself that he is no longer the selfish, angry, scary dude that he once was. This was a great clue for the writers of the episode to prepare you for the swerve, considering that his behavior in purchasing the stuffed panda greatly mirrored the 'old' Jin that he no longer was. Also, the Year Of The Dragon (as mentioned by the toy store clerk) was around 2000 or 2001, so nerdy scholars of Asian calendars could have made that distinction, as well.

Of course, there were also PSP consoles in that toy store, which were not available in 2000 or 2001. I'll let that blooper go, but it was worth mentioning that I was paying close attention.

Please kill this man dead, Lord.
("Jin, did I ever tell you about the time I caught the ferry over to Shelbyville? I needed a new heel for my shoe, so I decided to go to Morganville, which is what they called Shelbyville in those days. I tied an onion to my belt, which was the style at the time. Now, to take the ferry cost a nickel, and in those days, nickels had pictures of bumblebees on 'em. 'Give me five bees for a quarter,' you’d say. Now where were we? Oh yeah—the important thing was that I had an onion on my belt, which was the style at the time. They didn’t have white onions, because of the war. The only thing you could get was those big yellow ones...")

23 - This was the first episode to have a flashback and flash-forward at the same time. Let's hope that they don't do it again unless they have a better story to use the plot device on. I mean, flashbacks typically are shown as a direct result of the castaway thinking about them and subsequently reflecting upon them on the island. You can't tell me that while Jin was going about his day, he was daydreaming about the time he almost didn't get a stuffed panda to a hospital for his boss.

42 - So, Michael didn't make it very far from the island. And where's Walt? Next week should get to the bottom of most of that business, followed by a month-long hiatus while the remaining 5 episodes of the season are filmed. Will this season end with an honest-to-goodness rescue of the Oceanic 6, along with the reasons why their off-island fiasco continues to roll on? Yeah, probably.

Look at it this way: Season 4 is all about the Oceanic 6 getting off of the island. Season 5 will be all about why they need to get back to the island, and the final sixth season will be all about what happens when they get back. This is awesome to me, because it hints that Season 5 will be an almost-exclusively off-island drama, containing plenty of on-island mythology as to how it came to be. How cool is that going to be?

Spoilers ahoy! Duck and cover! It's time for The Preview!

Episode 8 -

1 - The eighth and final episode of the first half of the season is titled "Meet Kevin Johnson." It will be Michael-centric, and probably a little Waaaaaallllt-centric as well.

2 - The episode will be told in flashback mode, detailing everything that has happened to Michael from the point that he sailed away at the end of Season 2. We'll see what sort of deal Michael made with Ben, and how far-reaching his power is. If you recall, Michael is one of the worst decision-makers that ever set foot on the island, so I'm hoping for whimsical folly on a grand scale.

3 - The press release from ABC reads: "Sayid confronts Ben's spy on the freighter, and Ben urges daughter Alex to flee Locke's camp in order to survive an impending attack." It would appear to me as if the freighter will be making it to the island, and some sort of hell will break loose. ABC's promise that "someone will die this week" never sits well with me, as this usually means that a slew of extras or secondary characters are going to bite it.

In the extremely rare chance that a main character were to die next week, I'd put money on either Jin, Claire or Michael, none of which will need to hang around much longer.

He looks nothing like me!
("Wow Sun, she looks just like me!")

4 - This spoiler comes to us from someone who worked as an extra on this episode: "I can confirm that it is a Michael-centric episode that takes place between the time he left up until present time on the island. I was one of the extras in NY where Michael ends up and meets Tom. On the set there was a lot of talk about how Tom could be there."

Interesting. Thanks, Random Spoiler Guy Who Will Never Be Hired For Extra Work Again!

5 - Pac-Man is now collecting dust in my office, as I took advantage of some free time last week to purchase an electronic drum kit. For me, this is a chance to continue drumming without getting evicted from my apartment or having to join an actual band. Furthermore, it should come in handy during extended periods of Writer's Block, where Jameson whiskey used to fill those lonely voids. I've been trying to cut back on my drinking, so I figured I'd caulk the gap with a worthwhile vice that's slightly less annoying than being an alcoholic.

That's it for me, folks. Thanks for checking out another Lost Monday. Sound off in the comments section, send any erotic photography to communistdance@yahoo.com, purchase my book here and enjoy your week. As always, here are links to every Lost Monday so far this season. Bye.

Lost Monday - Episode 1 Recap.
Lost Monday - Episode 2 Recap.
Lost Monday - Episode 3 Pop Crunch Recap.
Lost Monday - Episode 4 Recap.
Lost Monday - Episode 4 Pop Crunch Recap.
Lost Monday - Episode 5 Recap.
Lost Monday - Episode 6 Recap.