Monday, December 30, 2013

Year in review: The very best that 2013 could do ... or so it says

Well, it’s Dec. 30.
For those of us on the Gregorian Calendar, that means while 2013 isn’t completely dead and buried, it is mostly dead and it is in the coffin and the coffin has been placed in the earth and a team of elderly cemetery employees are, as we speak, slowly shoveling dirt on top of it.  
                This could take a while, folks.
                So while that’s going on and before most of the free world drinks itself into a Ryan Seacrest-fueled mania, how’s about a look back at the year we all just endured and hopefully emerged from unscathed? That dark and spider-infested year of our Lord 2013.    
                Here they are, the things that ruled the world in 2013.

Best Movie: "Pacific Rim." Giant Godzilla-esque monsters fighting giant robots and Michael Bay is nowhere in sight? Sounds like and was, the recipe for cinematic heaven.  

Best Song: “Chocolate,” by The 1975. I went from zero to seeing them live in about two months thanks to how awesome this song is. The song is dark and poppy, the band members have interesting accents and weird hair. In a word: British.  

Best TV Show: "Game of Thrones." It takes a lot to get me to follow an hour-long TV drama. It takes even more to get me to follow an hour-long drama on a network I don’t actually have legal access to. “Game of Thrones” overcame those odds, leaving behind hundreds of shows that I’ll always hear are great but will never watch. Sorry “Sopranos.”

Best Book: “Doctor Sleep” by Stephen King. I think I read two books that were released during the calendar year of 2013, this one and “NOS4A2,” by Joe Hill, King’s son. The rest of the books I read were from scattered periods of time. Both were very good, “Doctor Sleep” was better.

Best Food: Sushi. I’m not sure when my nonsensical love affair with sushi began, but it intensified during 2013. I don’t like most fish or really anything that lives in the sea, but man sushi is tremendous. Here’s to many more years together, my tempura-battered – or not – friend.  

Sunday, December 29, 2013

A very, very grown-up Christmas: Action figures and advice for future children

The most important thing that you need to know about me is that I am an adult.
                And being an adult, my wish list this holiday season featured a great many items that appeal to persons of a mature standing in society.
                A subscription to the Wall Street Journal. Ties. Several bottles of finely-aged scotch. Meryl Streep’s entire filmography on tape.
                Also on my list? Many, many toys. Not the dirty, bedroom kind either. The fun kind. Action figures. But you know, for grown-ups.
                I believe collectibles is the accepted name we’ve given to these items, but let’s all be honest with ourselves for a minute. Where I’m from, we call a spade a spade and a toy a toy and those things, as fun to collect as they may in fact be, are still plain old fashioned toys. Just with way cooler accessories.
                I’ve been a big action figure fan my whole life. From my early days, during the golden age of action figures (the 90s), playing with “Terminator 2,” “Jurassic Park,” Power Ranger and GI Joe guys all the way through the modern day.
                These days, it’s mostly “Terminator” stuff that I enjoy purchasing, but I’m open to other merchandise from pop culture mediums I enjoy, as well. This includes your Batmans, your Dexters and so on from there.
                Now, the toy – or collectible if you’re still in that closet – community is splintered into two main groups: those who open and those who don’t. I’m an open guy for the most part. I don’t see any reason to leave all those bad ass accessories locked away in a box, unfondled.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

24/7: Road to Christmas: Musing on Beloved Traditions Before the Sleigh Arrives

It’s that time of year once again. The time where I complain about B101’s taste in Christmas music, watch “Black Christmas” and “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation” over and over and scream The Royal Guardsmen’s “Snoopy’s Christmas” at the top of my lungs when I’m in the car by myself.

As magical as those traditions are – very – they’re not even all that high on my list of favorite Christmas activities.

Of course, I don’t have an actual list per say. That’d take too much work. What I do have is a loose and random collection of things that I enjoy or enjoyed doing during the long, slow slog towards C-Day morning, when wrapping paper bombs go off in living rooms all across this great and god-fearing nation.

  • The family party. Gatherings with the extended family used to be a pretty huge deal when I was younger, but none more than the Christmas party, which my family hosted. These parties got less and less important as I got older until it reached the point where I stopped going to any of them. Things have come full circle now and I enjoy going to them again, but still nowhere near as much as I did when I was a lad. I’ll always remember hanging out with the cousins and playing nonsense games with Nerf guns. The all-time highlight took place during the Christmas party when I was in 8th grade. Both my younger cousin and I were completely obsessed with the WWF and we spent a huge chunk of the night reenacting matches and moves. It all culminated memorably with me locking him in the Mandible Claw complete with sweaty sock, which made both of us crack up. Well, he cracked up after I'd removed the sock from his mouth.

Friday, December 13, 2013

How the Grinch Stole Christmas ... Shoes: And why it's awesome he did

Until today, I’ve managed to avoid a scourge that usually plagues the Christmas music season: “Christmas Shoes” by NewSong  (actual band name by the way, I guess GenricName was taken).
                Now look, I’m hesitant to call “Christmas Shoes” the worst Christmas/holiday song of all time. Not as long as Dan Fogelberg’s “Another Auld Lang Syne” is still out roaming free, taking lives where it pleases.
                While it isn’t definitively the worst holiday song, “Christmas Shoes” is without a shadow of a doubt the cheesiest, sappiest thing in a season chock-full of cheesy, sappy things.
                When it came on the radio this morning, I did the only thing any sane and clear-headed person could do when faced with the prospect of listening to NewSong’s “Christmas Shoes”: I considered cutting the steering wheel hard to the left and plowing straight into a concrete barrier at a reasonable rate of speed.
                Eventually I decided against it. Even more incorrect, I decided to listen to the song. Call me a masochist, but I hadn’t heard it in a year and I wanted to see if it was as much a syrupy nightmare as I remembered it.
                Oh yeah. It’s worse.
                “Christmas Shoes” is the soap opera of Christmas music.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Shut Up, America: Capitalism's Fake War on Truth, Justice and Greed

It’s the week of Thanksgiving and that means two things: Turkeys everywhere have abandoned the Earth’s surface for the foreseeable future and barricaded themselves into their subterranean bunkers to wait out their yearly species-wide end of days. We should see them back out on the streets come the new year.
                And two: Americans everywhere are pouring through news reports about Black Friday, working themselves into a sanctimonious lather, not about the deals or lack there off, but about the hours.
                Surpassing drunken arguments with the family, Lions football, and even mind-blowing amounts of gluttony, America’s new favorite Thanksgiving tradition is complaining about what time the stores open on Black Friday, or Terrible Thursday as it’s become.
                Black Friday used to be about waking up at 2 a.m. and journeying out into the darkness, belly full of stuffing and turkey meat, to wait in line at big box stores to fight tooth-and-nail to save a few sheckles on a big screen TV.
                Now, it’s about the same, only instead of waking up before your neighborhood rooster, people don’t go to sleep. Black Friday has encroached on Thanksgiving, to the point where K-Mart opening at 6 a.m. on Turkey Day and staying open for either 41 straight hours or until employees revolt and burn the place to the ground in a bleary-eyed rage.
                Whichever comes first.
                And so it goes. Capitalism. Uncle Sam’s wet dream. Ain’t nothing wrong with that.
                Except every year anymore people get all cheesed off about it. Petitions get signed, people go on TV and the internet, complaining to anyone or anything who’ll listen about closing retail stores down and protecting the virtues of pigging out together and then kicking some Native Americans in the shins like the Pilgrims did. AS A FAMILY!
                I don’t get that.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Dear memories of a doomed juggernaut: Stuff that I recall from my days as a video jockey

Now that Blockbuster has decided to abandon its place in the physical world and exist solely in some sort of Internet-based, digital ether-land or whatever it is that company thinks it’s doing, (you’re dead guys, get used to it) it’s time for some reminiscing.
                I’ve already mentioned that I worked for Blockbuster for about a year back during mycollege days. Hell, those sweaters that college kids always wear tied around their necks in movies don’t pay for themselves after all
                During my time there, I experienced many things, some good, some bad and some that I just can’t chase out of my brain for whatever reason.
                Here are some of my most memorable memories from my days wearing the Blockbuster navy blue and yellow.
  • First time I ever had the police called on me. I could spend paragraphs detailing why Blockbuster’s no-late fees policy was a giant scam that did the unthinkable and managed to piss off customers even more than their original, yes-late fees policy. The long and short of it is that the company didn’t do a very good job of explaining to customers that if movies were late, they would be charged on their credit card for the full market price of the disc, usually $30 for movie and $100 for a TV show. One lady did not take kindly to Blockbuster’s attempt to destroy her credit score and after yelling at me for 20 minutes or so, she walked out of the store and called the cops. I could see the pain in the poor suburban cop’s eyes as she explained the situation to him in the parking lot. He was living the boring nightmare that his city cops friends always made fun of him for. He came back inside and I explained the policy to him, he nodded solemnly and walked back outside, to presumably tell the lady to f off and rethink his life choices.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Make it a Blockbuster life: Final thoughts on the death of a douchey icon

On Wednesday, Blockbuster announced it would begin the process of shutting down all of its remaining stores, officially bringing about the end of an era.
                This move kicked off a firestorm of Google searches as people around the country looked to see where the closest Blockbuster was to them, having assumed all the stores had already closed like three years ago.
                But no, a few resilient locations of the former juggernaut remained, limping along, refusing to die until this week.
                I worked for Blockbuster for right around a year back during my college days. During my time with the company, I met a lot of amazing people. In addition, I also learned how not to run a company, should I ever decide to start one.
                Netflix gets most of the credit for ending Blockbuster’s reign, but really, Blockbuster did that it itself. It treated its customers like garbage, because, well, where else were they going to go? It had a near-monopoly of the at-home entertainment industry for a long time and so it could basically do whatever the hell it wanted.
                You guys don’t like late fees? We hear you. Let’s get rid of them for good … and replace them with restocking fees! Oh, you don’t like that? Well, I guess you can go to Hollywood Video … oh that’s right, we killed that company. Sorry!

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Review: 1 a.m. going on 1 a.m.: Thoughts on 'Blackfish' (Part 2)

There’s one scene in particular that’s just absolutely terrifying. Spoiler alert, by the way. It’s home video of a trainer during a whale performance at Sea World. At one point the whale, not Tilikum, decides to grab the trainer’s foot in its mouth and drag him down to the bottom of the pool. It holds him there for what must have felt like an eternity before surfacing again, never letting go of the man’s foot.
The whole time you can clearly see this guy’s face and look in his eyes as he faces almost certain death. But he never panics. You see him breathing deeply while stroking the whale and whispering to it and then it goes down again, holds him at the bottom and surfaces again.
Same thing. He doesn’t panic. He keeps breathing slowly and stroking the whale, hoping to convince it to let him go and it does. But then it grabs his other foot and pulls him down again.
As this is going on, other trainers have divided the pool in half with a huge net, the idea being that if he could get away long enough to swim over the net, the whale wouldn’t be able to follow, but that was it. That was the best they could do for this guy.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Review: 1 a.m. going on 1 a.m.: Thoughts on 'Blackfish' (Part 1)

Over the weekend we did that whole Daylight savings time thing and “fell back” as the kids say.
Some people, smart ones, used the extra hour to catch up on sleep.
Not being one of those smart ones, I used my extra hour to get one step ahead of my Netflix queue and watch a documentary about killer whales in captivity called “Blackfish.”
The doc had previously occupied the number one spot on my Netflix DVD queue, but then it turned up on CNN late last Saturday night/early Sunday morning at midnight, so my choice was made for me.
And after watching the movie, I have to say, there’s something deeply unsettling about clicking on the guide button to check what time something ends and seeing 1 a.m. followed by another 1 a.m.
It’s the type of thing that could send you into a psychotic episode in the middle of the night when you’re fending off sleep tooth and nail.
 What about “Blackfish?”

Friday, November 1, 2013

Trick or treating: A journey into the sad death of an American institution

The happy couple. I don't look happy, but I am.

So there’s another successful Halloween mostly in the books.
                I say mostly because I’m sitting here watching my all-time favorite horror movie, “The Blair Witch Project.”
                Once Mikey gets sent to the corner, then Halloween will be officially over for yours truly.
                The first Halloween in our new house was an interesting one. I was pretty psyched out of my mind about greeting trick or treaters, making brief-but -awkward conversation with them and their parents and then sending the lot on its way with a plastic pumpkin or a pillow case or a grocery bag filled with candy.
                You know, just like George Washington intended when he built this country with his own three hands. Fun fact about George Washington, he had three hands.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

My Cat Week from Hell or How I spent $500 on a Halloween Costume

Being paranoid is expensive.
                You might not think it, what with the usual isolation and aversion to leaving the house, but it’s totally true. Just go ask any one of those “Armageddon prepper” people who keep getting TV shows on deep cable for some reason.
                Retrofitting SUVs to run on human feces and training your dog how to run a CB radio both cost a lot of money. A LOT.
                Now I’m no prepper. I have no discernible skills that would be in any way useful should society go belly up. Unless writing business-to-business newsletters and complaining about things on the internet plays a bigger role in post-apocalyptic American than I’m forseeing.
                So why prep? I’m the guy at the beginning of the zombie movie who gets hit by a car while crossing a street as he’s running away from a zombie. You don’t need to prep for that. You just need to enjoy the ride until that Prius slams into you at a cool 60 mph.

Monday, September 30, 2013

People who talk during movies: The FINAL solution

I’m a fairly agreeable person. It takes a lot to really get under my skin.
                Wait a minute, that’s not true at all. Just ask my poor beleaguered girlfriend. I basically have to leave the room anytime she eats anything. Not because of anything she’s doing either, I just can’t stand the sound of chewing. It’s worse than nails on a chalkboard to me. If I don’t leave, then I usually just keep nagging her to chew more quietly until she either finishes or leaves.
                I’m such a joy.
                Aside from chewing, loud or otherwise, another thing that drives me absolutely insane? People who talk in movie theaters.
                The things I would do or have done to these people aren’t fit to be printed on the internet.
                The other weekend, my girlfriend and I went to see “Insidious: Chapter II.” It was a risky proposition because, despite my love of horror movies, more times than not I’ll wait until they come out on DVD.
                Part of that is because my girlfriend hates horror movies. The other part is that people just love to talk during horror movies. More so than any other genre.
And once our movie started, so did some other members of the audience.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Review: 'Insidious: Chapter 2' is kinda sorta a mixed bag

Over the weekend I ventured to theaters to see one of the more anticipated horror offerings of the year: “Insidious: Chapter 2.”
                I enjoyed the first film very much when I saw it many moons ago, so I had moderately high expectations for the sequel.
                Anyway, after a brief opening where we meet young Josh, young Josh’s mom and young Josh’s two psychic pals, we flash forward to the more or less present day and we pick up where the first film left off.
So spoiler alert if you haven’t seen the first one yet, but then why would you be seeing the sequel anyway? Who knows, people are weird.
Anyway there we meet present day Josh (the lovely Patrick Wilson), his present day wife Renai (the lovelier Rose Byrne), their family, some paranormal investigators and one of the psychic’s from Josh’s youth, who is now dead.
Lost yet? Hopefully not.
Back to the aftermath from part one. Josh has just pulled his young son back from the land of the dead, but somehow in the process, his psychic helper has gone and gotten herself strangled. Now dead psychics usually arouse police suspicion and cops don’t usually take “The spirits killed her” as an excuse.
Naturally, everyone thinks Josh killed her, even Renai isn’t so sure. Who spells Renee like that, by the way? Josh isn’t really helping his case because he keeps acting like a crazy robot person.
And since this is a movie about ghosts, more supernatural stuff starts going down, this time involving an apparition in a nurse’s uniform – not the sexy kind either – and most of it is centered around Josh and Renai’s infant daughter.   
Enough with the plot summary, let's get to your biggest question, is part two any good?
Well, if you’re familiar with part one, never fear, the delightful paranormal investigating team of Specs (Leigh Whannell, who’s also wrote the screenplay) and Tucker (Angus Sampson) are back and once again steal the show. In fact, I haven’t seen part one in a bit as I said, but it seems like they have way more to do this time around, nearly splitting screen time with our lovely leading couple.
That’s definitely a good thing. The rest of the movie is kind of hit or miss.
It retains a lot of the amusement park haunted mansion feel of part one, only that movie kept the leash on the campiness a little bit better. The screwiness of part two sometimes overshadows the pretty dark stuff that’s supposed to be going on.   
Wilson especially falls victim to a lot of cringe worthy, over-the-top lines and situations, especially during his robotic, post-trip-to-the-land-of-the-dead phase.
The movie still relies super-heavily on boo scares and most especially on insanely loud musical stings to make audiences jump. Thinking back on it now, there isn’t much tension to be found here, outside of maybe the opening trip to the past and pretty awesome bit involving a tin-can phone the kids build.
There are some other jumpy moments, but nothing that burns like the wall-to-wall tension I remember from part one.
Part two’s storyline seems a little overwritten, too. Part of that is probably to give the paranormal investigators something more to do. There ends up being a ton of stuff to follow and it sometimes gets confusing.
For example at a certain point it  became a chore to remember who exactly was possessing who.
And one of the spirit’s motivations: an abusive mother who imbued a good deal of sexual confusion on him, isn’t all that original. Not only that, but it sort of clashes with the ample humor provided by Specs and Carl, as well as the intentional or not humor of watching Patrick Wilson walk around like a malfunctioning terminator.
Much of the third act is spent in the spooky spirit world which remains the franchise's signature set piece. Lots of creepy rolling mists, endless shadows and the occasional spirit jumping out at you. Although, again, it wasn't really easy to follow how and why the things that happened there impacted the real world.
End result? “Insidious: Chapter 2” is a good, not great movie. It’ll make you laugh, it’ll make you jump, even if the jumps feel a little less earned this time around. I’m right in the middle on it, but I’d recommend checking it out if only to fill the void left by the “Paranormal Activity” franchise this Halloween season.
Grade: C+   

Monday, September 16, 2013

Babies and weddings or what to expect when you put them on the guestlist

So this blog entry is going to be about babies. Again. Sorry, but this is what happens when you start getting old.
            Even if you don’t have an actual human baby to cart around, babies somehow find start playing a bigger role in your life. People you know have them. Those same people expect you to interact with the baby. They want you to hold it, fawn over it, call it cute and such.
            I was at a family member’s wedding the other day. It was a pleasant affair. There was boozing, dancing, cheesy wedding music. Good times.
On the list of cons was the unfortunate church ceremony, but whatevs. To each their own on the subject of religion.
Another con? One of the bridesmaids had a baby. So naturally, this meant the baby had to be very, very involved in the process of helping my cousin and her boyfriend join their lives together as one in the eyes of the church.
Because obviously, duh. Wherever babies go, their parents just assume people want the little monsters involved and heavily.
So really my problem isn’t with the baby itself, more so the parents. What a not-so-shocking twist.

Monday, September 9, 2013

A song of bees and puppy dogs: Township Day 2013

So yesterday was Township Day in the area where I reside.
                This meant a chance to have friends and loved ones over for some BBQ-ing, boozing and all-around merriment.
                It also meant a trip across the street to a nearby park where we’d been told the real party could be found. We were promised the opportunity to view a wide-range of arts and crafts, hob knob with local merchants, and see a variety of live and in-person demonstrations and performances.
                Two items on the list of demonstrations stood out to me in particular. Well three, actually. The first was a wilderness survival club presentation which was supposed to last about 45 minutes. That stood out to me because it seemed about 39 minutes longer than I thought you could sustain a wilderness survival talk in a public park, surrounded on all sides by major road ways. I mean, I watched Bear Grylls show for years and if there’s one thing I learned, it’s that you can’t talk about wilderness survival, you must live it.
                It’s not enough to simply instruct people how to escape from quicksand, you must first throw yourself in headfirst and show them how it’s done. Much like any story teller worth his or her salt, you gotta show not tell, ya’ll.
                So we didn’t go see those guys because meh.
                But we did plan on two others: a beekeeper demonstration and a police dog demonstration.
                The beekeeper one appealed to me because there was the chance that the bees would rise up and attack their cruel keeper. Yeah I know, it’s morbid and ugly. So be it. As much as I try to distance myself from my fellow man at all times, I have at least that one thing in common with the rest of the 7 billion people on this planet: We all can’t help but slow down and stare at a car wreck.
                The police dog thing appealed to me because dogs. Duh.

Monday, September 2, 2013

This date in the history of mankind: The birth of Brag-plaining

I’m weird. No, don’t worry, it’s OK. I’ve made peace with it.
Part of the blame goes to my own unique blend of genes, chromosomes and electrons, all misfiring together in some sort of strange, off-beat symphony.
The rest of the blame? The bigger chunk? Well, that comes from the fact that I’m a person. All people are weird, even if they don’t know it. Especially if they don’t know it.
It’s a subject I’ve covered before and I’m sure I’ll cover again.
Today’s reason why people are weird is something I’ve been noticing quite a bit of recently: People complaining about an issue they have no interest whatsoever in seeing resolved.
Example: “This thing I have to do sucks.”
                 “So, don’t do it. You don’t have to. It’s a volunteer thing. Say you’re sick. No one will care.”
                “No, I can’t do that. Ugh. I just really don’t want to go.”
                “So … don’t?”
                “No I have to. God it’s going to suck.”
What kind of lunacy is this? Any animal in the world that’s ever witnessed one of these kinds of exchanges must just shake its head and ponder how we – people – ever made it to the top of the food chain.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Girls and babies: A match made in heaven or an endless and vicious battle?

I’m an animal person. Not only your usual human companions like dogs and cats, but pretty much every kind of creature that walks, hops, flies or slithers around.
                Well, maybe not so much that slither part. Snakes are fine, just as long as they’re a good distance away from me.
                I like animals. A good deal. I’ve been known to exclaim “Puppy!” anytime I’m driving and happen to pass a person walking a dog. Regardless of whether or not anyone is in the car with me to hear it or if the dog is old enough to be my father.
                It’s just the way I do business.
                One thing I’m not super into? Babies. Human ones.
                I don’t dislike babies, by any means. I just don’t find them as appealing as animals. I respond to a baby in a room the same way I do a coffee table: It’s just a thing that’s there. It’s not adding to or distracting from my life experiences.
                I wasn’t raised around a ton of babies so I don’t really know what to do with one when it’s around or how to interact with it. I’m not quite on the level of Schwarzenegger in “T-2,” but maybe just a hair below.
                Babies and I aren’t on the same page, but like I said, I don’t have a problem with them.
Something I do have a problem with? Girls and babies.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Man battles Nature for claim to ho-hum outdoor dining location

Most days at work I eat lunch at my desk, all alone.
                Whoa, whoa, whoa. Hold your tears, please. I much prefer things that way.
                I’m not exactly the world’s most social creature in most situations and those goes double for when I’m eating. I don’t mind the occasional group lunch, but it’s not something I’ll make a daily habit of.
                When I’m eating, I just like to eat. And listen to podcasts and creep out people in the bathroom. But we’ve talked about that already.
                It’s nice to zone out while eating. When you’re with people, there’s a lot of pressure to be engaging and present both mentally and physically. It’s the mental part that’s tough. My mind is and always will be a drifter at heart. It doesn’t have a heart, but you get the idea.
                So most day I eat lunch alone at my desk and zone out. Wow, we haven’t made a lot of progress yet, have we?
                When the weather’s nice however, I like to venture outside. The office building where I work has a handful of picnic tables scattered around outside. Year-round, these exist mostly to enable smokers by giving them some place to sit and smoke a butt.
                Starting sometime in April, however, they actually get used for their intended, food-related purposes. That lasts until usually early September, when they become the dominion of the smokers again.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Fun with lists: Best Goo Goo Dolls Songs of All Time ... part 2

So here I am, sitting out on my front porch the night before the big Goo Goo Dolls concert, finally delivering the second part of the bestof list I started earlier this week.
It should be noted that the sun has long since abandoned its post, and my porch light burned out many moons ago. Also, the area where I live has a strict anti-street lamp policy. Very strict. We don’t like to talk about just how strict it is, but trust me. Strict.
So I’m sitting here, blogging solely by the light of my laptop screen, just like our forefathers did, feverishly fighting off the endless swarm of moths drawn to the faint blue-ish glow.
You’d think these less than ideal circumstances would drive me inside, where there’s light and many fewer bugs, or at the very least watch my word count and move things along. But no. Here we are. Stalling for time. Talking about my neighborhood and bugs.
Some guy just laid on his horn one street over for a good 30 seconds. Wonder what that was about?
A different guy just walked by, talking to his dog. Did he not see me sitting here? Who doesn’t try to hide it when they talk to themselves or their pets? Maybe he thought I must be crazy too. After all, who sits on a porch in total darkness, pounding away at a laptop?  
                Alright, that bug that just dive-bombed my face was just too big for me to comprehend. I’ve had enough of this, let’s get into the list.
                You know him as the Goo Goo Dolls’ more famous lead singer and guitarist, the voice behind all of their biggest and smallest hits.
                In many ways this was a much tougher list to put together than my Best of Robby collection. Some tough choices had to be made. Some favorites had to be left off. But the top pretty much wrote itself.
Here they are: The Ten Best Johnny (John) Rzeznik Songs … of All Time!

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Funs with lists: Best Goo Goo Dolls songs of all time ... pt. 1

So on Sunday my ladyfriend and I have the honor and the privilege of attending the Goo Goo Dolls/Matchbox 20 (Twenty)/someone else show in the not-so-great state of New Jersey.
                This will be our second time seeing the Goo Goo Dolls live and in person. They’ve been one of our favorite bands for quite some time now and the first time around was quite good … even if it was a bit heavy on subpar “Let Love In” material.
                That show paired the Goos with the Counting Crows, who definitely seemed to have lost something over the years. Like most of their best and most beloved songs, as well as a hefty dose of energy, but hey, it happens. We all get old eventually.  
                Side note, this will also be my second time seeing Matchbox 20 (Twenty), and they were most enjoyable from what I remember of the first time I saw them. No, I wasn’t drunk, it was just many moons ago. I went with my parents. Soul Asylum opened and Semisonic was the second band.
                Anyway, with that concert looming on the horizon, I felt the time was right for a little “best of” listing action.
                But seeing as though the Goo Goo Dolls have a pair of lead singers with two different styles, one best of list just won’t cut it.
                So let’s start with the Goos’ reliable, yet shoe-less bassist, the band’s former main lead singer turned mostly afterthought singer. Well, at least as far as the general public is concerned. I’ve always loved me some Robby Takac tunes.
                For me, Robby’s raspy, grungy voice has always provided a nice little breather from Johnny’s more polished, radio-friendly style.  
                Here it is, the ten best Robby Takac songs … of all time!

Monday, August 5, 2013

Going down the internet rabbit hole: The 1975
The most dangerous part of the internet? Other than the roving gangs of identity thieves, computer-destroying viruses, scheming Nigerian princes and eBay?
The wide range of different and seemingly endless rabbit holes you can easily find yourself stumbling down. Maybe for hours, maybe for forever.
For example, say you read an article about the Los Angeles Kings hockey team. That gets you thinking about former Flyer Jeff Carter. So you head over to Wikipedia to look at Carter’s career stats. While there, you notice Carter was drafted in 2003 with the 11th overall pick. Pretty good player for not being a top ten pick, you think to yourself. So you look up the results of the 2003 draft to see who went before Carter that year. You find out the 2003 draft is widely regarded as one of the two best draft years in the NHL’s history. Before you know it, an hour’s passed and you’re reading round by round through every player selected in 2003, just to amaze yourself with how deep it actually was.
Recently, I went spiraling down a rabbit hole so deep that it carried me beyond the gates of the internet and back into the real world. So yeah, what’s up Donnie Darko? Can your rabbit costume-wearing psycho-babble match that?
I didn’t think so.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Not so fun times with voice mails
One of the many perks of my job is that I get to spend a lot of time on the phone, calling people who have no interest in talking to me.
                Wait perk is not the right word. Oh well, it’ll come to me.
                Anyway, when your job involves making cold calls, it usually means you spend most of your time talking to receptionists and voice mails.
                I’ve got no beef with the receptionist crowd. They’re just trying to do their job: keep hooligans like me from bothering their boss, while I do mine: kinda sorta bother their boss.
                The voice mails are another story.
                Obviously the most annoying voice mail is the tried and true: “Hi! (needlessly long pause, just long enough for me to introduce myself before the rest of the message kicks in) You’ve reached so and so who works somewhere and so forth.”
                It’s 2013. It’s unforgivable people in America still kind this gag funny. If we moved past Dane Cook, can’t we leave this one behind, too?
                So that one takes the top spot, but sliding into second is a phenomenon that’s much lesser known, but still pretty initiating.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

The hidden dangers of walking around at lunch time

I’ve already spoken at length about my oddball bathroom habits and yet somehow I haven’t even managed to scratch the surface.
                Take, for example, this awkward situation I found myself in the other day.
                It all began, as many bathroom stories do, at lunch.
I’m a bit of a loner by nature, but never more so than when I’m eating. If there’s food around me, I’d rather not talk. I’d rather eat. Maybe it’s because I suck at multitasking and this is my subconscious’ way of keeping me from starving to death.
Anyway, because I’m a solitary eater, I take my lunch break at my desk very nearly every day, usually with a pair of headphones on to complete the job of sealing me off from the outside world.
My distraction of choice for most lunch breaks is a podcast, and that fine day I believe I was listening to the latest episode of Dan Harmon’s humorous “Harmontown.”
So after finishing up my lunch, I decided to take a trip to the bathroom, headphones still on.
Now I usually don’t like walking around with headphones on because my workplace has a lot of blind corners and I like to be able to hear when people are approaching. You know, so I don’t bump into anyone or scare the beejesus out of myself.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Surviving in the wilds of America: Not naked, but still very afraid

"Sweet Jesus where's the car!?!?!?"

The other night I watched that sorta-new survival reality show “Naked and Afraid,” where a guy and a gal are dropped off at some exotic location to survive for a few weeks with no clothes, minimal tools and a camera crew taping their every move.
                It’s OK. The participants are indeed naked, but the only truly scary part was during the horribly awkward and stilted conversation the two people had when they first met, wearing nothing but their birthday suits and a smile.
                Tangent alert! The episode I watched broke one of my cardinal rules: It proclaimed to be “Uncensored,” but was, in fact, censored. I saw no boobies or man parts or lady parts. Why? Because they were blurred out. If I can’t hear a lady drop the “F” bomb while waving a nipple around, then you have no right to call your show “Uncensored.”
                Not that I really wanted to see any of those things. Our heroes weren’t exactly lookers, but it’s the principle of the thing.
                Anyway, early in the show, the participants are graded in three areas essential to making it through the show in one piece. They are graded using a 0-10 scale on: Outdoor Skills, Experience and Mental Toughness.
                Those three scores are then averaged together to give you the Primitive Survival Rating (PSR), or how good the person is likely to do on the show.  
                That got me thinking. What would my PSR be? I’m already fairly confident I’d be a complete disaster on the show. I have way too many body issues for me to ever get over being naked in front of a stranger and there aren’t enough poisonous snakes, giant spiders or killer plants in all the jungles to make me forget that.
                But still, let’s see how I’d stack up.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Review: 'Pacific Rim' is an absolute blast

As a young lad, my “Godzilla” toys occupied a good deal of my time. They weren’t my favorites, my “Terminator 2” toys held that crown, but the “Godzilla” crew was high on my list.
                I had a big, sorta-crummily painted Godzilla whose arms and legs you could move, but only in a pretty unrealistic motion. I hate a big brownish pterodactyl my dad got surprised me with one day when he picked me up from school. Even though it was just a dinosaur, I happily pretended it was Godzilla’s sometimes winged-friend, sometimes winged-foe, Rodan.
                One Christmas I also acquired a fun little set of Godzilla’s entire catalogue of co-monsters, although they were much smaller than the other two, which kind of limited cross-over opportunities, but when you’re a kid, you make due.
                All of this is just a wildly long-winded way of telling you that I was pretty psyched when I first heard about Guillermo del Toro’s monsters vs. robots slugfest “Pacific Rim.”
                If there’s one man who I trust implicitly with my beloved childhood memories of wearing out my VHS copies of Japanese monster movies, it’s del Toro, a guy who I’m sure was doing the same thing when he was a boy. Maybe to this day, even.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Reviews: 'Monsters U' and 'Despicable Me 2'

Over the last week or so, my lady friend and I ventured out to our local movie houses to see a pair of kids’ movies.
                First up was “Monsters University,” Pixar’s prequel to its 2001 hit “Monsters, Inc.”
                “Monsters, Inc.” was never really all that high up in Pixar’s catalogue for me. It’s not particularly low either, probably somewhere in the neighborhood of the middle. I’ve seen it once, thought it was fine and don’t plan on seeking it out or avoiding it for that matter.
                And that’s kind of pretty much exactly how I feel about “Monsters University.” It was fine. Occasionally it was very funny, but the story suffered from the prequel curse of predictability.
                It’s essentially “When Mike met Sully.” Spoiler alert … seriously … They don’t start out as best friends. In fact, they’re kind of enemies. Mike is the lovable underdog out to prove himself to the world, Sully is the kid from the famous family. They both wind up in MU’s famed scarer program, start competing with each other and run afoul of the dean and get kicked out said program.
                Of course, there just so happens to be a major scaring contest coming up and Mike bets the dean that if they win, they can rejoin the scarer program. The only catch is they need the help of the dorkiest, least scary frat on campus in order to win.
                Can Mike and Sully turn their lovable bands of doofs into terror machines? You’ll just have to watch the movie to find out.  

                If there’s one lesson I learned from “Monsters University” --- see what I did there? --- it’s that Charlie Day needs to be in everything. The fact that he’s not the most in-demand comedic actor out there right now is one of our nation’s greatest shames.
                Day makes everything better. He plays a lower case “n” shaped monster that’s in Mike and Sully’s frat. Not surprisingly, Day can lay claim to nearly all of the movie’s biggest laughs. Without him, I’m not saying this could have been “Cars 2” territory, but who knows? I won’t say it officially, because I never actually saw “Cars 2,” but I heard stories.
                “Monsters University” doesn’t live up to some of Pixar’s heavyweights, but it’s OK. I think my lady friend liked it more than I did.
It’s funny enough and well-paced enough that, even though it’s predictable, it never crosses over into boring. Also, Billy Crystal and John Goodman are back as the main monsters and they’re pretty awesome too.
                But Charlie Day, ya’ll. Charlie Day.  
                Not long after we saw “Monsters Unviersity,” we checked out the sequel to a movie we both really loved, 2010’s “Despicable Me.”

Monday, July 1, 2013

Workplace hazard: The perilous world of the fist bump

I wonder if Howie Mandel has this problem?
                The reason I bring up the star of “Howie Do It” and “Bobby’s World” is because the famed germaphobe knows his way around the fist bump, and this simple act of tapping your knuckles against those of another man – or sometimes woman – has been causing me a lot of headaches recently.
I’ve got a light dusting of OCD, so washing my hands is a pretty important thing for me. I do it a lot. Not to the point that it holds me back from living my life such as it is, but I still think I wash my hands more often and more thoroughly than the average man.
Anyway, one thing I don’t do thoroughly is dry my hands. I prefer a good air dry. I’ll use paper towels if they’re available, but I tend to get carried away. Before I know it I’ve gone through a couple dozen of them, and somehow my hands are still not 100% dry. Like the Great Pyramids of Egypt, I can’t explain this, it just is.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Flaunting the rules of the road at every turn

First come, first served.
                That’s the essential protocol that exists both in day-to-day life and on the road.
                Of course, there’s always someone who just has to do their own thing. That one little goose who decides “to hell with it, south is too crowded, I’m headed north.”
                The area where this defiance is most troubling is with the nation’s stop signs.
                Common sense tells you when two cars approach opposing stop signs, it’s the one who gets there first that gets to resume its journey first. The other is compelled to sit back and wait its turn.
                When two cars reach those stop signs at the same time, well that’s another matter entirely. That just becomes an ugly war of attrition where the owners of both vehicles end up pointing wildly, cursing the other to the depths of hell, each inching forward until someone finally snaps and speeds off into the distance, likely with one finger raised proudly in the air.
It’s not perfect, but by god it’s the best modern man can do, unless you want stop signs on every intersection. First come, first served. It’s written in our DNA, ground into our very being since kindergarten. 

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Who are you? Nothing like a man or lady in uniform
                Whether they’re for a sports team, a nation’s military or even a corporation, they make things easier.
                When uniforms are in the equation, you always know who’s on your side and who’s there to help. Barring some sort of undercover spy situation, of course.
                Also, public education be damned, uniforms make getting dressed in the morning to go to school ten trillion times easier and they eliminate a huge chunk of social stigma. After all, you can’t tell who’s poor or rich or whatever when everyone’s dressed the same way. Well, you can, but it takes a little more looking.
                When I walk into a store and see a person in uniform, I know who to talk to whenever I finally come around and decide I need help finding something. It’s nice, it’s comforting and everyone’s happy.
                Well, not everyone, apparently.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Christmas lights: Now for every day of the year!

People are getting weirder. Maybe dumber too, but definitely weirder.
                Consider this brand new social phenomenon I’ve been observing for the last several months.
                I've never seen this before in all my years, but suddenly it's everywhere.
                It seems some folks have decided to buck tradition and societal norms and not only leave their outdoor Christmas lights up well into June, but they continue to illuminate them as well.
                Now look. I’m a lazy man in many aspects of my life. A lazy, oafish man. So I understand these folks’ disinterest in spending an entire Sunday afternoon outside un-decorating their home, when to be honest, they’ll only be right back out there redecorating ’em in a scant six months.
                I get that. On certain days I might even respect it.
                What I can’t understand is the blatant thumbing of one’s nose at society that goes along with lighting up the greens, reds and clears every night.  
                Just from a purely practical perspective this makes no sense. Are you people so well off that you barely bat an eye at the year-round bloat your electrical bill is forced to endure because of your odd commitment to celebrating Jesus’ b-day?

Thursday, June 13, 2013

The Goo Goo Dolls: An unexpected journey there and back again
Apparently CDs are getting harder and harder to track down these days.
               My journey to purchase “Magnetic,” the tenth studio album from my beloved Goo Goo Dolls, took me through three stores (!).
               Admittedly, the first stop in my travels is mostly known as a book store and the second was Target, which can be a crap shoot, but still. Three!
               I realize the cool kids today are all getting their entertainment via the internet, but come on. Is there so little love for a guy looking for music from a classic 90’s band on a classic 90’s format?
               I’m a browser too, by nature, so shopping with me can be a bit of an ordeal. I’m not one of these get in and get the hell out male shoppers. I like to look around. Peruse the shelves.
               See, it’s all about the thrill of the hunt. Sure, I could just ask an employee if they have a certain product, but where’s the fun in that? I’ve got to look around, try to track it down myself. Corner it and stab it in the heart with a spear, sling it over my shoulder and carry it to the counter. Just like our forefathers shopped.