Wednesday, December 31, 2014

2014: A Year in Review and The Drakie Awards
You know what people never do around this time of year? Recap all of the best stuff that happened over the course of the previous 12 months. Oh wait, I’m sorry. I’m confusing “never do” and “always do” again. God, this happens all the time. It’s just like that day at the Natural History Museum. So embarrassing.
                Let it go, man. Remember, it’s a new year. Ok, whew. Moving on.
                2014. It was a year when hackers literally hacked everything. Go ahead, take a bite out of that apple. Taste funny? It should because it’s been hacked. Steer clear of the banana, by the way. Also hacked. Twice.
What else happened in 2014? Oh, America learned either we might be getting too fat to sit on our phones or our pants are getting too tight or both. A bunch of states finally got around to declaring “Love is love, baby. It don’t matter who you love, it’s all the same.” A couple of states even decided to get off stoners’ backs and just let ’em toke. In what I’m sure is a totally unrelated story, Grumpy Cat got a movie.
                Taylor Swift staged a currently-still-bloodless coup of the music industry.  
                It was a year of engagements. Both in the romantic and the militaristic sense.
                We learned that almost all of our favorite athletes are probably dicks and then America lost its mind about Ebola for like two weeks but quickly forgot about it once it stopped being our problem.
                We also had the unfortunate task of saying good bye to Robin Williams, one of comedy's all time greats, an event that hit me harder than almost anything else negative that happened this year, which is confusing but no less true. 
                Oh yeah, the ice bucket thing happened. Jesus Christ. Lesson learned. Don’t ignore charities unless you want them to start irritating viral campaigns that clog up social media for two months.
                Well that was fun. Now for our next segment on this, the final Cheese Life post of this sad-yet-danceable Year of our Lord 2014. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the Drakies. This is the award show founded by my friend and business partner Drake Stone, who hasn’t been seen since 2008. Some good news on that front, I found a postcard in my mailbox this Christmas that was jet black on the front and totally blank on the other side. No warm wishes, no return address. It wasn’t even addressed to anyone actually so I’m not sure how it came to be in my mailbox, but I assume it was from Drake or one of his unknowable minions. Happy Holidays, buddy!
                Anyway, years ago Drake entrusted me to carry on the Drakies and give out awards to what I deemed to have had the best year in a number of different categories. Without further ado, let us begin the show. 

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

The Decision: What I'm Going to Do About Santa and Why
In my previous post I shared my awkward and disconcerting history with Santa Claus. In case you missed it and don’t feel like scrolling down to it or clicking the link, I was one of Kris Kringle’s most devoted acolytes until the fourth grade when I found out it was all bumpkiss. From there, the post turned into a debate about whether or not I would even go down the Santa road with my future kids or just let them know right off the bat that the big guy in red ain’t real.
                As I sit here, an adult on a lunch break from his adult job, closely monitoring NORAD’s Santa tracker, I think I have my answer. I know, I promised mounds of scientific data based on intense psychological research performed on my cats, but I think I found a shortcut and shortcuts are always worth taking. Another lesson for the future kids.
                Anyway, my answer is “Yes, Internet, I will be telling my kids about Santa.”
                I mean, of course I am. Let me repeat, I’m a grown-ass man with no human children who’s been following the Santa tracker all morning and getting mildly annoyed because it doesn’t show Santa stopping at every single town in every single country. I want my high tech fairy tale-tracking system to be 100% mythologically accurate goddamnit!    
One reason for my decision is that I want to have my turn playing Santa. I want to sneak around, putting presents under the tree, taking a few bites of some cookies and carrots, maybe leave a candy cane floating in the toilet and some muddy boot prints from the chimney to directly outside the kids’ room, shake the handle of the door angrily a few times just to freak ‘em out. You know, all the classics.  

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

To Claus or Not to Claus, That is the Question

People always ask me “‘Cheese List Guy,’ what are you going to tell your kids about Santa?” Actually, no they don’t. The only thing people ever ask me in regards to kids is “Would you mind standing somewhere else, just anywhere away from my kid? You’re freaking him out. Thanks.”
                But if people did ask me the Santa question, well, boy. I’m not sure how I’d answer it. There are a lot of pros and cons to the situation, as this LifeHacker query I stumbled upon today indicates.
                Now, my own personal Santa narrative lasted a little longer than most … a little lot longer. An embarrassing lot longer. Fourth grade is when I learned that Santa doesn’t travel from the North Pole to deliver presents to all the good kids in the world (mysteriously skipping over the poor kids’ houses) in a single night.
                I remember it well. I’d just written an impassioned manifesto in Computer class to a kindergartener in my school explaining to him/her how Santa was a real thing. This wasn’t something I just did out of the blue, it was a project. All of the older kids were supposed to write letters to the younger ones to back-up the Santa story. Little did I know that almost everyone else in the class was doing it to humor the little grubby kindergartners. For me, it was serious business. I had a goddamn job to do. Without me, those kids might think Santa wasn’t real and as we all know, not believing in Santa is the first step on the slippery slope to the naughty list.
                To back up my assertions about Santa’s validity, I used this rock-solid evidence: My family’s dog Sadie slept on my parents’ bed with them. Sadie was a Beagle. Beagles, by nature, are prone to loud fits of barking when they’re startled, when they’re happy, sad, bored, content, etc. In my fourth grade mind, there was no way they’d be able to sneak out of bed in the middle of the night to put presents under the tree without setting off a Beagle barking spree. I mean, how could you argue with that? It was the Chewbacca defense of the holiday season.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Christmas Song Dissection: The Worst Christmas Song of All Time is Put on Trial
We’re still early enough in December that Christmas music hasn’t fully taken a stranglehold over my car’s radio. While I’ve been listening to it, it hasn’t become an unhealthy obsession quite yet. Check back with me next week as it will usually happen somewhere around the month’s midway point.
I’m not one of these people who start listening to Christmas tunes while they’re carving Jack-o-Lanterns. When it comes to seasonal commodities, I have a few simple rules I like to follow: 1) No pumpkin beer before October. 2) Seasonally festive Reese’s Cups ALWAYS take precedent over standard issue cups. 3) Christmas music is not permitted until after Santa arrives at the Thanksgiving Day parade.
Those are the big ones.
Anyway, so since I’m still in the beginning stages of Christmas music fever, I’m happy to report that I’ve only, ONLY heard NewSong’s “Christmas Shoes” one time on the radio. When it came on, as per government mandate, I immediately changed the station, shoulder-rolled out of my still-moving vehicle and forcibly took refuge in the nearest basement I could find for about four and a half minutes. Stay alert, stay alive.
Sure, that brush with the schmaltzy was horrifying, but it could have been worse. There’s one song that I haven’t heard yet this holiday season, a holiday staple which, despite pleas for sanity from the World Health Organization, radio stations continue to put in heavy rotation this time of year. Dan Fogelberg’s “Same
Auld Lang Syne.”
Now, I know. I’m taking a great risk even typing that title into my Word doc. Sure the urban legend says you need to type it or speak it thrice in order for Dan Fogelberg to appear guitar in hand, but urban legends can be wrong and I don’t want to push my luck. From here on out, we’ll stick to vague descriptions instead of actually naming the song or artist, but you’ll know who I’m talking about.
If you’re not familiar with this vile, murderous musical travesty, (God has smiled upon thee) I’m going to break it down for you here, on this very blog. Keep in mind, even though I’m only reading the lyrics to the song while doing this, I’m still subjecting myself to trauma akin to what astronauts endure during a long space flight. There will be gravitational swings and forces which I can’t begin to comprehend, let alone prepare myself for. I’m stalling now. Let us begin and hope it goes quick. 

Monday, December 1, 2014

Good & Bad: 'The Walking Dead' (11/30/14)
Season 5, Episode 8: “Coda”
Plot: After last night’s mid-season finale, it’s safe to say that “The Walking Dead” just got 68% less adorable. If it wasn’t for Maggie, Daryl and the prospect of that dog Daryl met last season showing back up, well, I shudder to think what the adorable meter would have looked like this morning.
                Last night, Fr. Gabe went in a literal and figurative circle: he “escaped” the church which no one was holding him prisoner in, ran to the school, saw Bob’s half-eaten leg, got chased by a herd of walkers back to the church, begged Carl and Michonne to let him in, they let him in and the three of them escaped (or in Gabe’s case re-escaped) from the church using Gabe’s tunnel and then trapped the walkers inside. Abe and company show up and the plan is to go to Atlanta to help Rick rescue Beth and Carol.
                Meanwhile, in Atlanta, Officer Lamson knocked out Sasha at the end of last week’s episode and now he’s on the run! Will he get back to the hospital to warn … oh wait. That ended fast. Nope, all Lamson was able to accomplish with his dastardly escape was hurting Sasha’s feelings and getting slowly chased and then run over by his own squad car – which Rick was driving. When Rick tells you to stop, smart money says to listen.
                In the hospital, Beth and Dawn are locked in this crazy dance where they don’t seem to like each other, but keep doing each other high-stakes favors because they sort of have to, or something. Dawn covered up Beth’s killing of Mean Cop because she needed a new helper and then Beth kills New Mean Cop because he overheard their conversation and attempted to kill or overthrow Dawn, which Beth determined would be a step backwards in the leadership department.
                Rick and half the team (Abe’s gang is still in transit) arrive at the hospital with their two cop prisoners to trade for Beth and Carol. Everything goes surprisingly well, too well, and then BAM! Dawn demands that Noah (formerly “Everybody Hates Chris”) be returned to her as her ward. Rick says “Na-uh, wasn’t part of the deal,” Dawn retorts with “Nuts to the deal, I need someone to help me murder people around here” (not in those exact words, but that was the gist). Unlikely political football Noah elects to sacrifice himself, but before he can, Beth steps in, announces that she “Gets it now” and stabs Dawn in the chest with some scissors. Dawn responds by shooting Beth in the head. Daryl responds to that by shooting Dawn in the head. New Lady Cop says enough is enough, Rick says any of the wards are free to join him, only Noah does, everybody’s crying, they go outside where they meet up with Abe’s gang who’ve just arrived. For the first time all season, Maggie is bummed out not to have a sister. 

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Turkey Day Gloom: A Few Things I’m Not Grateful For This Thanksgiving
Maybe it’s because the second pre-Thanksgiving snow of the year is falling fast and hard and terrible outside my window and even though my commute is short, on days like today no commute is ever short enough. Or maybe it’s because the dour queen herself Grumpy Cat guest-hosted Monday Night Raw last week. I can’t say for sure why, but despite the impending holiday festivities, I’m feeling a little grumpy right now.
                Now, traditionally bloggers don’t have a ton of options at their disposal to celebrate Thanksgiving. We can make lists of things we’re thankful for, talk about our favorite traditions or foods. That’s all well and good. I’ve got a lot of things to be thankful for. I’m alive. Whether by birth or by choice, I’ve been able to surround myself with a fantastic group of people and animals. But like I said, gloomy. So instead, I’ve decided to exercise another option this holiday season. One which only the edgiest and coolest bloggers dare to explore. Even though I’m neither edgy nor cool, I don’t think those who are will mind because no one reads my nonsense anyway.
                So, here’s my list of A Few Things I’m Not Grateful For This Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 24, 2014

Good & Bad: 'The Walking Dead' (11/23/14)

Season 5, Episode 7: "Crossed"

Paste Magazine
Plot: For the first time all season, the gang was all there last night. Except for Bob, who’s no longer with us. Come to think of it, I don’t remember seeing the baby, but I assume she was there somewhere. For all intents and purposes, the gang was all there.
                In no particular order, Daryl returned with “Everybody Hates Chris” to raise an army to go rescue Carol and Beth from the clutches of the evil hospital. Rick and the gang – minus the ones he sired, Michonne and Fr. Gabe leave for Atlanta. In the church, Carl tries to teach Fr. Gabe to fight, Fr. Gabe loses interests and secretly escapes the church like it were Shawshank prison, if Shawshank were the easiest place in the world to escape from.
                On the warfront, Rick is all gung ho to storm the compound and start killing some dudes, but Ty is like “There’s another way” and Daryl agrees. Instead, they capture some cops and plan to conduct a prisoner exchange. Things go mostly according to plan until one of the cops headbutts Sasha and escapes.
                Elsewhere, Eugene is still unconscious and Abraham has stopped doing anything other than knocking water bottles out of the hands of pretty Latina gals. Maggie gets left behind to babysit them while Glenn, Rosita and Fist Bump girl go to get water, which they do and on the way, they find a yo-yo. So that worked out. Eventually Eugene wakes up and Abraham decides that making love to Rosita is probably enough to fill the void no longer needing to drag a mulleted weirdo across the country has left in his life.
                Finally, Carol is also unconscious, but the cops decide to pull the plug on her because she’s an older gray-haired lady. What could she be good for? Secretly, leader cop lady tells Beth to keep Carol alive because this hospital is just the world’s biggest failed marriage where everyone hates each other and each of them will stop at nothing to undermine what the other says or does.  

Monday, November 17, 2014

Good & Bad: 'The Walking Dead' (11/16/14)
Season 5, Episode 6: “Consumed”
Plot: This week opens with Daryl and Carol in hot pursuit of the mysterious car with the white cross on the back, which they suspect will lead them to Beth. Said pursuit leads them back into Atlanta, but before they can do anything touristy (like visit the spot where Daryl’s brother was be-handed and left for dead), their car runs out of gas and they’re forced to travel through the walker-infested city on foot. After a few brief pauses for Carol backstory, they find a clue that leads them pretty much right to the hospital where Beth is being held. Also along the way, they have multiple run-ins with “Everybody Hates Chris” who manages to successfully steal their stuff but who then can’t seem to stop accidentally following them, which leads to them stealing all their stuff back. “Chris” lets it slip that he knows Beth and she is, in fact, in the hospital. Before they can storm the gates and heroically rescue her, Carol is hit by a car and taken to that hospital and Daryl and “Chris” head back to the church to gather an army.


Bad: Carol deleted scene dump. This episode features several flashbacks to things that have happened to Carol since Rick booted her from the group for burning a couple of sick people alive. Usually I’m on board with flashbacks, but the bits and pieces we get here really don’t matter or accomplish anything. For example: After her banishment, we see Carol being upset, then surviving in a nearby town, then seeing the smoke from the burning prison and going back. I could have guessed that. I did guess it. In another clip, we see Carol burying the bodies of the two little blonde girls who died while in her care. Again, that’s cool, but it’s not adding anything. It feels like this episode clocked in a little short and so to pad the run time, the producers put in all of these extra scenes featuring Carol which had been cut out of other episodes for being unnecessary. Presto! Instant “back story.”

Good(?): There’s an English major take on the reason why these clips were included that I guess needs to be addressed. You could, if you really think about it, make the case that these clips showed her dealing with the consequences of her actions: crying alone in the car after the group cuts her loose, burying the two girls, umm ... having to wipe walker guts off her face with and then subsequently throw away a formerly good poncho. Ok, well, maybe that last one really was just a deleted scene. Unless we find out in the next Carol episode that she had that poncho since she was a little gray-haired girl.

Bad: Worst pursuit ever. Now look, I understand some leaps in logic are occasionally necessary in order to keep the plot moving along and that this isn’t a documentary and so on and so forth, but seriously, people? The guy driving the car with the white cross didn’t notice there was exactly one other car moving on the roads in the state of Georgia and that said car happened to be like 20 feet behind him? C’mon, guys. C’mon. Maybe it would have been better to have the car break down and then Daryl could use his expert tracking skills to follow the driver back to town? You’d think that would be a long walk, but remember, “Walking Dead” has pretty much already established that all of these locations are all on the same street.

Good: Did love the shot of the burned out, rumbly mess that is Atlanta. Very reminiscent of season one when Rick rode into town proudly on horseback.

Bad: This shelter seems significant to Carol, but I have no idea why. Oh well.

Good: Who could this mysterious stranger lurking in the shadows be????

Good: Walker camp-out on the skywalk. So while Carol and Daryl  are making their way from building to building, they come across a group of people who’d decided to camp out in a skywalk … then things took a turn and everyone died somehow. Now the skywalk is full of walkers trapped in tents, in sleeping bags and it is awesome. The tent walkers were an especially nice touch.

Bad: Oh it’s “Chris.” Yay.

Good: Carol hasn’t learned why she can’t kill people yet, Daryl has a giant hillbilly heart of gold. “Chris” is gradually getting away with almost all of their supplies and Carol is all, “Well, guess I gotta shoot this punk kind in the back, yawn, another day in my life,” and Daryl is all “Na brah, live and let live!” and stops her. I don’t love this pairing like I love Baryl (Beth+Daryl), but I guess Dar-ol is pretty good.

Good: Carol explains it all. So the shelter was a place where she went to escape her abusive husband, Christ remember when that was a thing? With her daughter! Remember when that was a thing? Also, she was leaving the group because she didn’t want to see people die. This is good characterization. Her tossing the poncho … less good. Unless that poncho comes back into play later. I reserve the right to change my mind.

Good: Carol and Daryl go to investigate a van hanging off an overpass marked with the same white cross. It’s tense, you know they’re probably going to be fine but I don’t know and then it falls! AHHHHH!

Bad: Boy that fall, somehow landing on all four tires, so anticlimactic.

Bad: “Chris” is the worst ever. He can’t help accidentally following the two people he just ripped off and his big secret hiding spot is like a block from the place he just escaped from. Dude needs to expand his horizons a little bit. Get out and stretch his wings.

Good: Switching gears. Carol almost gets killed saving “Chris” then Daryl tackles him into a bookcase, which then falls on “Chris.” Daryl’s ready to leave Chris to a nearby walker, but Carol is a learning computer (“T-3” was on AMC a lot lately, so I’m just going to carry on with these “Terminator” franchise references) and now understands the value of human life so she goes to kill the walker when out of nowhere…

Good: Maybe the most badass moment in “Walking Dead” history. Daryl, bathed in shadows with a cig just hanging out of the corner of his mouth, casually offs the walker, saving “Chris” and behold a new partnership is born. By the way, at some point “Chris” mentioned he knows an adorable blonde girl named Beth, so there’s that.
Good: The trio is one their way to save the day when SPLAT! Carol gets run over by a car with a white cross on it. She’s taken to the hospital, Daryl and “Chris” head back to the church to gather their army and get ready because another “Walking Dead” battle sequence seems to be coming. Let’s thin the herd a little this time though, huh? We really don’t need ALL of these characters.  

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Good & Bad: 'The Walking Dead' (11/9/14)

Season 5, Episode 5: "Self Help"
Plot: Alright, so I’m way behind schedule on this, so let’s all try to refrain from turning this into one of those long and meandering recaps that takes about the same time to read as it would to actually watch the episode, yeah? I’m looking at you people, it’s not my fault. I’m usually nothing if not brief. See there you go, distracting me already.
            Focus. Focus.
Luckily, this week’s episode of “The Walking Dead,” contains about 1/90 of the story that was crammed into this past week’s Beth episode like ground up people parts into an intestine casing which Gareth would then have eaten for breakfast had he still been with us.
On Sunday, we learned: a terrible secret from Abraham’s past, a terrible secret from Eugene’s past/present, an awesome secret from Abraham’s present (from his POV) and, AND, Rosita (formerly Latina Sarah Connor), Glenn, Maggie and Fist-Bump Girl all get to be mildly-functioning people. In the case of Rosita, for the first time!

Engaged to be Married: The Nuts and Bolts of Popping the Question (Part 2)
Part two of a two-part series. Read part one here.

Having now also struck out in person, I went back to where I could at least be safe from badgery salesmen: my beloved internet. Since my encounter at the mall, my opinion on the major jewelry stores had soured. I headed off onto the slightly less beaten path of craft jewelry sites and eventually found a ring inspired by Harry Potter which featured no diamond. It was perfect. I guessed my girlfriend’s ring size, purchased said without being hassled, and asked the lady who was going to make the ring to rush ship it.
                My plan was this: Get the ring by Halloween, dress up in full costume, come to the door posing as a trick or treater (maybe with a baby stroller if I could acquire one easily to reduce the fear that seeing a lone adult-sized trick or treater could inspire) and propose that way. It was a brilliant plan, the only problem was, the ring didn’t make it on time and so I had to spend Halloween night with pumpkin beers, board games and horror movies. But no engagement hoopla.
                The ring arrived from Canada the following Wednesday and I devised a new plan: My girlfriend and I used to go to a small air field near my parents’ house to watch the planes take off and land. We’d sit in the grass, eat water ice, it was like something out of a WB TV show … save for the big office complex behind us and the roadway which cut in front of us. Still, it could be very scenic.  
                The thing was though, we usually did that in the summer time. When it was still light out at night. And warm. Not in November. When it’s dark. And really cold. But what the hell, I thought, I’d already come up with two ideas, a third was pushing it. The trick or treater thing already seemed a little creepy before, but doing it a week after Halloween would almost certainly end up with the cops being called.
                After dinner on the big night, I mentioned going to get ice cream. Now, I wanted the air field thing to be a surprise for a couple of reasons: one, surprises are fun and two, if she knew about it beforehand, she’d almost definitely try to talk me out of going there since it was cold and dark. In order for it to seem out of the blue, we had to go get ice cream somewhere in the vicinity of the air field. Driving twenty minutes to go get ice cream and then driving all the way back, plus another fifteen minutes past our house to go sit in the cold, well that seemed at best suspicious or at worst likely to be something that started an argument because it was so wildly impractical. So we had to be close to home.

Review: 'Interstellar' isn't Nolan's finest, but it ain't terrible

I’m what you'd call a Christopher Nolan fanboy. That admission should give you some context on how to take it when I say that I thought his space and time-hopping epic "Interstellar" was a bit of a mixed bag.  
                The long and short of “Interstellar” is that the Earth is dying. Some new disease is wiping out all of our crops and humanity needs to find itself somewhere else to go. A few years back, NASA sent manned probes through a mysterious wormhole to see what they could see in the way of habitable planets in far off galaxies. Now, it’s time for a new crew to go out, crunch the data from those probes and settle on a place to restart humanity.
                The new crew consists of hotshot pilot-turned farmer Matthew McConaughey, science person Anne Hathaway, the bad guy from “Ghost Rider” who is also a science person and an African American science person. Don’t think I’m being dismissive of the rest of the crew. Their back-stories and in some cases present-stories are treated as pretty inconsequential by the movie. The rest of the crew is just sorta hanging out in the neighborhood of the action.
                The movie's main story follows the crew as they inspect three planets which seem like they might make for a good place for humans to put up their feet. We also cut back to life on Earth, which isn't going great for McConaughey’s kids what with the ever-present massive dust storms kicked up by the fading planet and the lack of food and so forth. I won’t go too in depth on the kids as their situation plays out as one of the movie’s better surprises, but there’s a daughter who’s quite bright and an aspiring scientist and a boy who is also quite bright, but who’s being shoehorned into a life of farming because people need food not intellectuals.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Engaged to be Married: The Nuts and Bolts of Popping the Question (Part 1)
After a brief nine-year courtship, my girlfriend and I got engaged this past Friday night. If you’re thinking: “Only nine years? Why are these two speed racers in such a hurry?”  you can just go right ahead and keep that to yourself. I don’t need you judging me and my whirlwind romance.   
                Now, I could, and maybe will one day, bore you with long stories about how much I love this girl and so forth and all of the reasons why I’m prepared to make her the official mother of my two cats in both the eyes of the law and the Lord. But for now, let’s focus on the engagement process itself. This was an adventure, at least by my standards.
                Like so many adventures, it all started on Columbus Day. I was off from work and my girlfriend’s father was over at the house helping me install some outdoor lighting. Of course, by helping I mean he was up on the ladder doing all the hard stuff while I stood idly on the sidelines, occasionally holding the ladder to make myself feel important. He’d just made some crack about how I was never going to marry his daughter and I saw my in. Essentially, it went like this: “Har-har, funny you should mention marriage … can I marry your daughter?” It’s graceful transitions like that which have endeared me to this family for nine years.
                Amazingly and for reasons totally unknown to myself, he said yes. As far as I could tell, the next part of this process involved me actually buying a ring. I considered bringing my sister in on this step, but I’m a bit of a lone wolf when it comes to many aspects of my life, so I elected to forge ahead solo. I did what anyone my age does when they need some: I turned to the internet. I went to the websites of all of the major jewelry stores whose commercials I could remember, but I wasn’t happy with what I was seeing.
                I didn’t just want your average diamond engagement ring because that wouldn’t be me or her. We’re both far too weird and socially awkward for something as traditional as a diamond. And hell, it might be nice to put something on her finger that some poor African guy didn’t get an arm cut off over.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Good & Bad: 'The Walking Dead' (11/2/14)
Season Five, Episode Four: “Slabtown”

Plot: Short answer is, we found Beth and she’s alive. Long answer? Eesh.
So, while Beth may be alive, she’s in a bit of a pickle, pickle in this sense meaning a hospital full of rapists, murderers, and people pretending not to notice any of the above. All of said people are dressed like cops and doctors. Some of the cops found Beth fending off zombies after she got separated from Daryl; they picked her up (in that mysterious car with the white cross on the back) and bought her to the hospital. Apparently, as we find out later, things used to be pretty cool at the hospital but then the old leader made some mistakes and bad stuff happened. As a result, new leader Lady Cop has put a system in place based on taking and give back. They saved Beth’s life so she has to become an orderly in the hospital and tend to the other patients. Not so bad, except occasionally, you have to pay off what you owe in other, rape-ier ways.
Beth befriends the hospital’s only doctor, named Doctor or something, who she’s assigned to assist. She also befriends the kid from “Everybody Hates Chris,” who works in the laundry. Doctor handles backstory duties and fills her in on the hospital culture; “Everybody Hates Chris” fills her in on his plan to escape because things there suck.
Then an overwhelming amount of things happen. Most importantly, I think, a guy comes in that Doctor claims is a lost cause. Lady Cop insists he save the man. Doctor does so and then orders Beth to give him some meds. The guy has a seizure and dies and the Doc tells Beth she gave him the wrong drug.
Beth gets slapped around by Lady Cop for this, so she decides to join up with “Everybody Hates Chris” and escape. After narrowly avoiding getting raped by A-Hole Cop by feeding him to a nearby walker, Beth meets up with “Everybody Hates Chris” and they lower themselves down an elevator shaft using an honest to god rope made from tied-together towels. Just when they seem to be home-free, walkers attack them in the parking lot, a group of cops descends on the scene, “Everybody Hates Chris” escapes, leaving Beth behind.
After all this, Beth confronts Doctor and says he intentionally told her the wrong drug to give to the guy. She says he did this because the other guy was also a doctor which could have made Doctor expendable. Doctor agrees to all this and basically says “Gotta do, what’cha gotta do.”
Right before Beth can kill him, Carol rolls in on a stretcher and everyone is all DAMN!

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Trick-or-Treating for Dummies: Best & Worst Candy Power Rankings

Conventional wisdom says you should stop trick or treating long before you get to the age when most of your peers have children who are old enough to start trick or treating. Then again, conventional wisdom also says you shouldn't wear white socks with dress shoes, so as far as I'm concerned, conventional wisdom can suck an egg. So whether you’re an adult, a child, or stuck in one of those ghastly ages in between, my cap is off to you if you plan on venturing out into night on Halloween to hit up your neighbors – politely – for some free candy.

I won’t be out on the streets with you, comrades. I’ll be indoors as the lure of a night-long pumpkin beer and horror movie binge once again proved too great to resist. I’ll still be dispensing candy, however, because I just so happen to love George Washington and I refuse to allow his sacrifice to be in vain.
If you are planning to trick-or-treat this year, it’s important to have an air tight game plan, which I’m sure you already know and have. But I’m not just talking about picking the right neighborhood, although that is a crucial step. Once you’re out there, you have to make sure you’re getting the right candy as compensation for your efforts. When faced with a giant bowl of assorted goodies, it’s easy to make a panicked decision and next thing you know, you’re coming home with a metric ton of gum and those weird, too-busy Take Five candy bars. Basically, you’ve wasted your evening.
I don’t want anyone of any age to have to experience such a thing and so, as a public service, here’s my official Best and Worst Halloween Candy Power Rankings. Commit this list to memory so when you’re going door-to-door, you’ll know what your primary target should be, what you can safely fall back to, and what you need to avoid like it’s guaranteed to be chock full o’ razor blades.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Good & Bad: 'The Walking Dead' (10/26/14)
Plot: Well that was fast. The remaining Terminus folks had an emotionally busy episode. One minute they’re chowing down on Bob, all happy like. Then they find out poor old Bob had been bitten by a walker, meaning that dinner could repeat on them in a nasty, nasty way. So they ditch Bob back to where they found him and set their trap. See, they know Bob will tell Rick and company where to find them and they further know that Rick will storm over there with the intention of killing all of them dead. And all goes exactly according to plan. A skeleton crew headed by Carl is left behind to guard the church and Rick’s gang goes off to find the Terminus folks, who are actually waiting to attack the under-guarded church while Rick is off hunting them. Of course, Rick is suddenly a master at sniffing out traps and so he leads everyone right back to the church just in time to save the day and massacre all the Terminus people once and for all.
                Along the way we learn Gabriel’s not-so-shocking backstory (hid in the church while his congregation got eaten alive outside), Bob dies and Ty stabs him right in the head for it. Also, Abraham and Rick yell at each other and at the end, Glenn, Maggie, Abraham, Eugene, fist bump girl and Latina Sarah Connor head to D.C. to save the world, Rick and everyone else decide to hold up in the church. Daryl shows up in the middle of the night and acts all mysterious and brooding and handsome when asked about the location of Carol.

Good: Bob’s reveal. I did not see that coming. A couple of friends of mine predicted the reason Bob was such a weepy mess last week was because he’d been bitten, but I thought he was just reminiscing about the good old days. In hindsight, the fact that Bob wasn’t long for the world should have been clear for a couple of reasons: a) He became the group’s conscience. This is a bad spot to be in, ask Dale and Herschel. b) Fr. Gabe is a black man and “The Walking Dead” has a long and suspicious history of offing one minority character to make room for a new one. Still, I totally missed it.

Bad: Gabe’s backstory. Not that it was bad, per say, more just predictable. Thus far, I still think this should have been a one and done thing.

Good: Abraham vs. Rick. I’d watch this match. Abraham has the guns, but Rick will do literally everything to win. I’m not sure Abraham is prepared to stab Rick to death with a porcupine after chocking him out with a sock puppet wearing a feathered boa. These are things that Rick does every single day. Muscles, numbers, they don’t win in a fight with Rick. You need to fully embrace the crazy. 

Good: Should we stay or should we go? In terms of this argument, I probably side with Rick strictly for the “We need to wait here for Daryl and also Carol and so we should probably make the area safe.” I mean, you can’t ever leave Daryl and the only reason the entire group isn’t hamburger right now is Carol so you kind of owe it to her. And that’s not even factoring in the potential of Beth which they don’t know about.  

Bad: Latina Sarah Connor. Can we give this girl something, anything to do? At all? Her just lurking in the background and occasionally yessing or noing along with the group is getting distracting.

Bad: The double cross? Triple cross? Was it actually a cross of any kind? I don’t know, but I was not thrilled with it. For one thing, I wasn’t ready to say good bye to Gareth. Yes, I know last week I said not everything on this show needs to happen in eight episode arcs, but I wouldn’t have minded this particular story going eight episodes. The Gabe thing, that I could take or leave. There was so much untapped potential with the Terminus people. I’m not sure this show has ever really nailed a villain. Either they last way too long (Guv, Shane, Laurie, Andrea) or not long enough (Joe, Gareth). Either way, how did Rick know the trap was set by Terminus peeps? Why did he come back? Was he winking the entire time he talked about getting the Terminus people at the school and I just missed it? Even if you didn’t want to let anyone get taken hostage, you could have had Ty go full beast mode and rip a few of them apart before Rick storms back after hearing their screams. I’ve said it before and I’m sure I’ll say it again, I don’t like Rick as the all-knowing Jack Bauer of this show. He doesn’t need to be an emotionally-shattered mess again either, but stop having him be 15 steps ahead of everyone else. It makes him less interesting.  

Good: “This is a church!” says Fr. Gabe after Rick and the gang beat the Terminus people to death. Ok, first of all, talk about brass balls. You, the man who hid in the church while his congregation was eaten by walkers outside, don’t get to judge anybody for doing anything anywhere. Also, it gave us this great, nothing-is-sacred-anymore line from Maggie, who is still in this show in case you forgot: “No, it’s just four walls and a roof.”

Bad: Way to dodge the question of whether eating an infected human will make you a walker, “Walking Dead” writing team. Inquiring minds want to know.

Good: We haven’t done the sad walker turn in a while. Was Laurie the last one? Oh wait, no I think it was Herschel’s head. Still, been a while.

Bad: Really? We put Ty in charge of killing Bob when he comes back? Ty? The last person Ty was supposed to kill ended up eating Bob’s leg like two days later. Ty seems like the worst possible person for this assignment. At that point, I would have trusted Judith to take care of business before Ty. Judith was at zero whereas Ty was in negative numbers.

Good: Michonne gets her katana back. Seeing her with a gun just felt off. It’d be like seeing Daryl trying to kill someone with Rick’s porcupine.

Good: Yay, we're all split up again and some of us are on the road. Fantastic decision. Something for everyone here.

Good: You all got lucky. Oh, hey, Ty, welcome back to doing stuff all the way through. Feels good to check off boxes again, right?

Good: Sup, Daryl, man of mystery? We get to spend all of next week with you? We better.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

We’re Talking About Playoffs: The Actual End of the Whole Mess

The playoffs began and ended for my team last night. By virtue of our less than impressive regular season, we’d been granted a one game playoff against another team who had a less than impressive regular season with the right to go into the actual playoffs and likely get smoked by a bunch of professional amateur athletes on the line.
                There was some concern as to whether or not we’d actually get the chance to play last night due to looming thunderstorms, but as 6:30 rolled around, we bravely took the field, ready to thumb our noses at Mother Nature and dare her to do sumptin’ about it. Well, that’s not exactly true. My team took to the field. I, on the other hand, took to the bench. That’s right, an astonishing five games into my return to softball, my team finally realized what many a gym teacher and little league coach had long since known: I was most valuable defending the dugout and offering words of encouragement to my teammates.
                For the first time all season we had an extra player, which meant the guys on the team would have to rotate, one person always sitting. Wisely, I was the first person chosen to sit and the team got off to a good start. I was also listed at 10th in the batting order, right near the bottom, another smart strategy.
                Let’s talk about the offense first, because this is the part that’s least interesting. First at bat, I work a five pitch walk. This is shocking because I have honestly no clue what the strike zone looks like and since none of the pitches were over my head or in the dirt, they were all ones I’d usually swing at. My only explanation was that I was momentarily overcome by the magnitude of what I’d done so far that season at the plate and thinking of all those infield singles paralyzed me. Eventually I came around to score when one of my teammates hit a ball deep into the outfield. My next at bat, I ripped a grounder right at the third baseman or shortstop who couldn’t make a play on it, allowing me to safely reach first on what I’ll go ahead and call an infield single.
                And that was it. Two plate appearances, one official at bat. We had kind of a rough night at the plate and in the field last night as a team, so the game I believe wrapped early.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Good & Bad: 'The Walking Dead' (10/19/14)

Season 5, Episode 2: Strangers
Plot: Remember last week when Rick wanted to hunt down and kill all the cannibalistic Terminus people after Carol had blown up their home and infested it with walkers? Further remember when everyone was all “Nah Brah, live and let live” and talked him out of it? Well, I can think of one person in particular who is wishing he changed his vote. But we’ll get to that. 

Rick and his gang have left the train tracks behind them and struck out on a pleasant, if somewhat introspection-heavy, walk in the woods. Everyone’s got issues, everyone’s got regrets oh and to make things worse, Daryl is pretty sure someone is following them. The gang thinks they found out who that is when they find a priest scampering atop a boulder to avoid a pack of walkers who are trying to eat him. They rescue the priest, and he takes them back to his church in the middle of the woods. He explains he hasn’t killed anyone or anything and has survived thanks to a well-timed food drive prior to the walker outbreak. While most of the rest of the gang follows Father Gabriel into town for supplies, Carl finds evidence that the good priest may be less good. After a brief tussle with some water walkers, everyone comes back to the church, gets plastered on some Communion wine and Bob goes outside to have himself a good cry for some reason.

Elsewhere, Daryl and Carol wander off to a random car in the middle of the road and at that exact moment the car that stole Beth (and is presumably still being driven by that dog Daryl met last season) drives by. Daryl and Carol hop in the other car and tear off in hot pursuit.

Of course, Bob is attacked by someone and that someone turns out to be all of the Terminus people who aren’t dead. They share with Bob a little secret: He doesn’t taste too bad and then we see that they’ve cut off and begun to eat at least one of his feet.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

The End Of Softball (And No, I Didn't Play So Poorly They Canceled The Sport)
Another softball game went in the books this week without me completely 100% embarrassing myself and, as far as I can tell, society has yet to crumble. Although to be honest, the fact that this Ebola thing has coincided with my rise as a below-average softball player has me a little concerned. Makes wonder what would happen if I ever hit, I don’t know, say a double.
                Last night’s game was the regular season finale and, considering I’m not currently slated to play in next week’s playoff game, it could be my last game of the season. Or, potentially, my last game ever, depending on whether or not the team makes the tactical mistake of allowing everyone in the company to play again.
The potential finality of the game was something I hadn’t considered until literally just a few minutes ago. Had I known, you can rest assured I would have put a tremendous amount of pressure on myself, failed to even come close to meeting my own expectations, and spent most of the game caught in a tidal wave of nostalgia over events both great and small. “This may be my last ever at-bat.” “This could be my last ever time taking the field.” “This could be the last time I ever sit on this exact bench.”
                Instead, I went out there last night and did pretty much what I’ve done for most of this season: Be perfectly mediocre. Sure, last week’s game was a bit worse than mediocre, the week before was a little better, but when you take the whole thing into consideration, I’m hovering around the middle.