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!