Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Actual Life Changes and Good & Bad: 'The Walking Dead' Returns!

The long President’s Day weekend was one of those weekends for yours truly. You know the type. On Saturday, the pipes on one side of our house froze due to the extreme cold, thawed, and then re-froze again by Sunday. As of press time, they are not currently frozen, but who’s to say what the future will hold? Also on Saturday, my car slipped into a coma from which it shall never emerge. When I dropped it off at the mechanic’s, I did the move where I tore open my shirt and yelled “Take what you need! Just leave me enough to make it home!” Everyone was very confused by this and I was ushered out quickly. Also, I failed to win a spot in the Broad Street Run.
                Things weren’t all bad, however. The wife and I spent a pleasant Valentine’s evening at sea. Then, the writing team of “The Walking Dead” finally managed to liberate me of my Sunday obligation to watch “The Walking Dead” by airing an episode so terrible, that I’ve given up on the show. Never again shall I spend a Sunday evening sighing loudly and arguing with characters on the TV while my wife sighs quietly to herself in another room.
                Long time blog readers will remember I once cribbed the format of a popular wrestling blog and used that to write up a season and a half of “The Walking Dead.” That stopped when I actively began to hate the show and all who dwelled within it. My relationship with it has limped along since – until this most recent episode, entitled “No Way Out.” Please, allow me to dust off my borrowed format for reviewing episodic television shows one last time and explain what has lead me to finally stop watching “The Walking Dead.” Warning: Spoilers abound.
  • Bad: The past few seasons were something, yeah? Well forget them! They’re all gone! “The Walking Dead” writing staff is basically a kid on Christmas morning, stomping all over old toys to get at the new stuff. There’s a new big bad on the horizon which means now is the time to throw out all of those pesky storylines that have been simmering for the last two half-seasons. In the span of barely two minutes, Blonde Lady and both of her kids were killed off. So much for all that time we spent building Carl’s tweeny rivalry, Rick’s love interest, and Carol’s bizarre, cookie-and-gun based rivalry with a child. All gone.
  • Bad: Also, bye bye, Wolf Guy. He had a momentary face turn and was gunned down before anything could come of it. Got to get rid of him. New baddies coming.
  • Bad: Rick & Crew hit their five moves of doom. Oh yeah, forget about that highly dangerous walker hoard we spent all of last half season talking about. Half of one of the largest hoard of walkers ever shown on “The Walking Dead” broke off and headed right for Rick and company’s door. Then, the Wolves let them in. This massive collection of walkers seemed destined to force Rick and everyone else to give up Alexandria and once again flee for their lives. HA-HA. JK. No, all it took to completely eradicate that threat was for Rick to get really, really mad. Carl gets shot and so Rick walks out into the swarm and just starts offing walkers. This inspires maybe 8-9 others – many of whom rank among the show’s “most likely to be eaten” contingent – to also wander out and start hacking at walkers. This motley crew, armed with renowned WMDs such as screwdrivers, the butt ends of rifles and hatchets, lay waste to the swarm. Our heroes suffer ZERO casualties. Basically, “The Walking Dead” writing staff just John Cena’d the show’s walkers. They completely torpedoed them as a threat by making them so easy to dispose of that Rick can show up with the D-Team and kill thousands upon thousands of them without breaking a sweat. The next character killed by a walker is going to look like the biggest, dumbest asshole ever. I just watched Eugene hold his own against an army of these things. I just watched Nameless Alexandria Victims 1-5 hold their own against them. I hope Negan is a good enough bad guy to last the rest of your series because the walkers just got AA’d into oblivion.
  • Bad: On that note: Rick and company, holed up somewhere, repelling assaults from a much-hyped, mustache-twirling super villain. What a novel concept, “The Walking Dead.” Wow.  
  • Bad: OMG. He’s dead. PSYCH! I suppose “The Walking Dead” writing team is unfamiliar with the concept of the boy who cried wolf, wherein, if you trick people enough times, eventually they won’t listen or care when you come to them with the truth. We’ve now done two “Glenn is 100% dead, there’s no way he’s surviv… oh he survived it” gags in two half-seasons. Amazingly, this most recent example was even more brainless than the last. This episode also featured the second instance of “Carl is dead, no he’s not.” Hell, it opened with Sasha and Abe being on death’s door until, miraculously, they weren’t. Writers, you do realize that when you finally get around to killing any of these people, no one will care, right? You’re burning people out with this crap. Just kill them or stop pretending to kill them.
  • Bad: Carol. Deranged Psycho. Murderer of reformed Wolves. Haunter of Children’s Psyches. At what point do the other characters need to have a talk about her? I mean, the plan has to be to attempt to rebuild a society eventually, correct? Carol, what with her constant need to proactively eliminate all threats (perceived/imagined) is no longer meant for society. She’s worse than Daryl was that one time he went full-feral. Sure, this iteration of Carol may seem helpful now, but what happens when she’s pulling knives on jaywalkers or giving mandatory detailed guest lectures at elementary schools on the horrifying realities of mortality?     

                Goodbye, “Walking Dead.” It’s been … frustrating. 

Monday, February 1, 2016

The Wife & I Survive A Brush with a Major Life Change

tumblr.com (Not the actual pooch)
My wife and I had a bit of a scare this weekend. Late Sunday afternoon, we found ourselves eye-to-eye with one of those life-altering changes that always seem to come up unexpectedly. It was one of those moments when all of the planning and precautions went out the window and we were left staring down a hard life turn that had arrived much sooner than we’d ever expected.

We nearly adopted a puppy.

I know. It’s one of those things you hear about happening to other couples and you think you’re being careful to avoid it. Then, next thing you know, you’re in a pet store staring at a little black pit bull mix and contemplating how to best alter the next eight to ten years or so of your life plans.

There are 100 reasons why the wife and I shouldn’t have a dog right now. We already have two cats, one of whom likes dogs and the other of whom does not like dogs. Our backyard isn’t fenced in and many of our neighbors are shiftless good-for-nothings which means at least 45% of the sidewalks in our neighborhood are buried under around a foot of snow. This would make walking our new bundle of joy a life-threatening chore. Oh, also, we have multiple trips planned for this year and beyond. Even though the airlines have embraced service dogs, I’m not sure pit bull-style dogs are welcomed with open arms. That means finding someone to provide the little guy with the near-round-the-clock attention puppies need. Speaking of around-the-clock attention, my wife and I both work and I’m not sure the cats, even the dog-friendly one, will be up to entertaining a puppy all day. This would mean me bolting home from work at lunch time to let the doggie out to do his business and get some exercise. In turn, this would seriously cut into my nonsense blogging time.

Despite the mountain of reasons why not to get a puppy, there was an equally compelling argument to be made for adopting the puppy, i.e., “But still. Puppy. I wants.” 

Monday, January 25, 2016

The Official 10 Commandments of Winter Weather

My friends, winter has come to Pennsylvania. If you don’t live here, you may be thinking something
to the effect of: “Get with it, old man. It’s been winter for over a month now.” My initial response to that would be: “Cool it with that old man business. I just bought a Meghan Trainor album off iTunes. Does that sound like something an old man would do? I don’t think so.”

               That aside, this winter had been a fairly mild one until this past weekend when much of the east coast was buried under unfathomable amounts of snow. So much snow that Woolly Mammoths would fall into a fit of hysterics just thinking about it. This sorry state of affairs is what led me to proclaim that winter proper has come.

                If we’re all going to get through the next few months, those of us who live in places prone to honest-to-god winter conditions need to stick together. That means following the Official 10 Commandments of Winter Weather. Now, I’ve already noticed a few of you breaking some of these, so I thought a refresher might be in order. Remember, these commandments are literally the only thing keeping us from going full Donner Party or Revenant on each other. 

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

5 Personal Wilderness Experiences As Trying & Life-Affirming As Anything in 'The Revenant'

Over the weekend, the wife and I saw The Revenant. This decision was driven mostly by my love of Leo DiCaprio, Tom Hardy and a fondness for much of director Alejandro G. Inarritu’s back catalog. Set in 1823 (minor spoilers follow), the movie, which is quite good, tells the story of a wilderness guide named Hugh Glass who is horrifically mauled by a bear, witnesses his son die a tragic death and then is abandoned by his compatriots and left for dead. Glass, contrary to what his name might imply, doesn’t die. In fact, he sort of recovers and sets off after those who wronged him and his family, dead set on revenge. Along the way even more horrible stuff happens to him involving waterfalls and cliffs and the like. The movie runs about 2 ½ hours and really the only time Glass looks even remotely happy for that entire time, even while his son is alive, is when he’s catching snowflakes on his tongue with a new friend. This part doesn’t really turn out well either.
                Glass’ experience in the woods got me thinking about some of my own wilderness excursions. Now, sure. Old Hugh might have me beat a little bit in terms of what he endured out there. However, I’ve had a time or two out there as well, let me tell you. Consider the following: 

Monday, January 11, 2016

Complaining About the Good Deeds of Others: Fundraising 101

Each year around early November, office break rooms around the country turn into Willy Wonka’s Site B. One possible explanation is that deals were cut with the chocolate magnate to store all of the candy that couldn’t fit in the Chocolate Factory proper until room cleared. Another possible explanation? A more likely one? The candy influx is the result of health-conscious parents trying to keep kids from eating their weight in Halloween candy.
                The thing is, Halloween rolls into Thanksgiving which then rolls into Christmas, each holiday bringing more and more treats. All the while, fitness-focused parents are siphoning sweets off from their kid’s stash and leaving them in the break room for adults to gorge themselves on. This never-ending supply of free candy makes every trip to the water cooler or microwave an extreme test of self-control. This dance occurs every year, but this year I discovered a new wrinkle. 

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

The Cheese Life Presents The 2015 Drakie Awards

Here we sit. Christmas is in the rearview. A new year looms ahead and with it comes roughly three or four months of unrelenting bleakness capable of crushing the spirits of even the most stalwart of individuals. Before we get to that joy, however, there is something which must be done first. We must look back at the year that was 2015.
                Ladies and gentlemen, the 2015 Drakie Awards.
                If you’re unfamiliar the Drakies (here are the 2014 Drakies and the 2013 Drakies), they are the awards founded by my friend and business partner Drake Stone. Depending on who you talk to, Stone is either hiding in a concrete bunker in the Rocky Mountains avoiding the former members of the Doomsday cult he founded and misled, or serving as president of a small island mostly populated by seagulls. Wherever he is and whatever he may be doing, he’s entrusted these awards – which he’s often referred to as the least relevant portion of his legacy – to me.  
Despite Stone’s feelings on the awards, I take them very seriously. Before I lock in my selections, I lock myself in a dark, windowless room and spend a week ruminating on the year. What I liked, what I didn’t. Depriving myself of food, water and bathroom privileges. It’s a whole thing. The point is, these winners were not selected lightly. So, without further stalling or ado-ing, I take you to the 2015 Drakies.

Friday, December 18, 2015

The 10 Dumbest Christmas Songs Ever Written

It’s become a bit of a tradition on this blog for me to set my sights on a beloved Christmas song and then nitpick it to absolute death. It’s fun. We all love it. However, I won’t be doing it this year. I’ve already covered the two biggest, easiest targets (Here & Here) and, with those two off the board, there really isn’t another Christmas song out there I can muster 800+ angry words about. The good news is, there are plenty of songs I can muster a few dozen angry words about. Lo, I give you: The 10 Dumbest Christmas Songs Ever Written.

(Editor’s note: In the name of making this a comprehensive list, I had to include a few old friends in the mix.)