Tuesday, May 22, 2012

My Top 10 Complaints About My New Apartment

10. A little over a week after moving to Schenectady from East Greenbush, I haven't seen a single person wearing camouflage. Of course, that could just mean it's working.

 9. When I cook things on the stove, the burner keeps the pots and pans level. When I make omelettes in the morning, I don't even have to tilt the pan to make it come out right. That just seems too easy.

 8. Speaking of the stove, when I turn the burners on, fire comes out of them. That seems extreme.

 7. In spite of all the noise about the great Italian eateries in Schenectady, I've been to at least four of them, used the restroom each time, and haven't found a single gun taped behind a single toilet.

 6. I miss what I liked to call my Leopard-Baby Shower. See, our new bathroom is painted a very pleasant green. As evidenced by my old apartment, I prefer a shower ceiling so infested with mold it looks like the belly of a leopard. Then I can pretend my mama leopard is nursing me while I rinse and repeat.

5. What part of Schenectady are we in? North? South? I have no idea. East Greenbush made it very clear. 

4. I don't know how the hell my girlfriend cleaned her clothes because I can't find the coin slots in the washer.

3. Our apartment's on the second floor, so we can actually leave our windows open without worrying about neighbors seeing us in our undergarments. How the hell am I supposed to sate my exhibitionist cravings now? I mean, I could run downstairs naked, but that's just bizarre.

2. In our last apartment I had an office. In our new apartment, I have an office, but so does my girlfriend. Which seems selfish.

1. Don't know when the people who are supposed to organize all my crap are going to show up, but they're goddamned LATE.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Top 10 Songs I Only Like Because of a Movie, TV Show, or Commercial

10. "God Moving Over The Face Of The Water" by Moby from Everything Is Wrong

Heat felt about 5 hours longer than it needed to be, and the final scene featuring Al Pacino holding the hand of a dying Robert Deniro was kind of...weird. But the music was good.

I wanted to post a video of Heat's final scene, but embedding is disabled. You can watch it here. The music starts about 01:30 into the clip.

9. "My Body is a Cage" by Peter Gabriel from Scratch My Back

Probably the most interesting part about seeing Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows in the theater was the trailer for John Carter. I wasn't particularly attracted to the trailer itself, but was surprised to recognize the lyrics to Arcade Fire's "My Body is a Cage" being sung by someone who was definitely not Aracde Fire's frontman. I looked it up when I got home and learned Peter Gabriel did a cover album called Scratch My Back including the Arcade Fire tune.

I like Gabriel's interpretation though I admit I have no idea what the song has to do - thematically or otherwise - with John Carter. But then again, I don't know the character at all, just like the guy in the theater who, at the end of the trailer, said very loudly so everyone else in the theater could hear, "Who the hell is John Carter?"

8. "Short Change Hero" by The Heavy from The House That Dirt Built

I hunted down this tune after hearing it on a TV spot for Batman: Arkham City. I never thought I would be picking my music from video game commercials, but hey. It's a cool tune. The full song is good, but the beginning is fairly lame. There's an intro including what is clearly supposed to be a cowboy walking meaningfully somewhere in a heroic manner - a saloon, a coral, or some bullshit - but whoever was handling the sound effects didn't seem to know what footsteps sound like. It sounds like someone is just rhythmically dropping sacks of dirt.

7. "My Weakness" by Moby from Play

Not only is this the second Moby song on my list, but it's the first of two songs I only heard because of The X-Files. "My Weakness" was used perfectly in a scene late in the series when Fox Mulder finally finds his long lost sister (maybe) as a ghost running around in the woods. I found the music so heartbreaking I had to hunt down the name of the artist. I think this is probably the first time I learned Moby's name.

The clip above is about the closest to the actual scene I could find online. It's slowed down to include the entire song, but most of the other clips I found were just weird "tributes" to the scene.

6. "I Saved the World Today" by the Eurythmics from Peace

The Sopranos is one of my favorite television series, and the clip featured in the video above is one of the show endings I remember best, and the reason it's so memorable is the song. As I recall, the scene occurs when Tony returns home after cleaning up after his sister impulsively murdered her fiance. When Carmella makes the snide comment about committing suicide, she's alluding to Tony's Russian mistress who attempted suicide earlier in the show. There's something just perfect about Tony returning home after a long night of bloody work and being delivered an emotional knuckle sandwich. And the song is the cherry on top. It's funny, considering the circumstances, and Annie Lennox's voice is one of the absolute last voices you expect to hear at the end of an episode of The Sopranos. Without this episode, I never would've cared about this song. As it stands, it's part of my ipod's regular rotation.

5. "I'm Shipping Up To Boston" by The Dropkick Murphys from The Warrior's Code

The music from The Departed made me a big fan of The Warrior's Code, though I don't know if I can rightly say I'm a Dropkick Murphys fan. I like them, but in small doses. And actually, I wouldn't say "I'm Shipping Up To Boston" is my favorite of their songs.

4. "Sinnerman" by Nina Simone from Pastel Blues

I'm a little embarrassed that I had no idea who Nina Simone was until I saw this episode of Scrubs, was immediately struck by the song, and looked it up (the Internet rocks). I love the 10-minute long version of the song, and it's another one that finds regular rotation on my music player.

3. "Ring the Bells" by James from Seven

The scene above is from the episode "D.P.O.," the third episode of the third season of The X-Files. It was the first time I'd heard "Ring the Bells," and I instantly loved it though, for reasons that become clear about 3 minutes into the clip, I don't often listen to it in the car.

If you've never seen the episode, you should watch the first 4 minutes or so not just for the song, but because the opening scene introduced quite a bit of the world to both Giovanni Ribisi and Jack Black.

2. "Just Dropped In (To See What Condition My Condition Is In)" by The First Edition from The First Edition

I would've lived a long, happy life without ever knowing Kenny Rogers ever sang about LSD if it weren't for The Big Lebowski.

Of course, embedding is disabled on this clip as well, but you can watch it here.

1. "A Little Respect" by Erasure from The Innocents

There is really no reason for me to like this goddamn song. It's a dance song. It's an '80s song. By all rights I should be burning Erasure CDs in big piles in Nuremberg stadium. But after it was used as a common thread in an early episode of Scrubs, it became a guilty pleasure. And every time I listen to it, I think of JD running down the hallway, hoping to outrun his imprisonment in The Friend Zone.

Of course, I never tried to discover a little something to make me sweeter.

Why not?

Monday, January 30, 2012

The Top 10 Songs that Helped Me Survive 2011

There are a lot of good reasons to believe the people who subscribe to the Mayan calendar end-of-the-world theories are too stupid to operate can openers without a football helmet and a court-appointed supervisor. The ending of a calendar does not necessarily equate the ending of actual time. If that shit worked, every employee in the world would be taking hammers to clocks by 10 am. And even if the Mayans did mean to signal the end of the world with the end of their calendar, why in Hulk's name would they know any better than the rest of us? Particularly since they were apparently unable to predict their own demise at the hands of us sadistic Europeans?

But I don't need logic. I don't need brains. I know the world is not going to end in 2012, and I know it because 2011 was such a tower of neverending SHIT, that if the world was going to end, it would have ended then.

For Christmas, my girlfriend ordered custom t-shirts from Cafe Press announcing "I SURVIVED 2011" for me and her family. It was a joke, but it wasn't. She lost her father in 2011 and her mother less than a year before.

By the end of 2011 I would lose two members of my own extended family and an old friend from college. I spent all of May 2011 as a juror in a locally prominent murder trial that filled my nights with horrific images and infected me with an irrational fear for my life and those of my loved ones. A few months later, I was laid off from a job after seven and a half years of employment. 2011 sucked and sucked hard.

So far, 2012 is looking a lot better. I'm organizing a reunion of my old college friends. My girlfriend and I are moving into a new, bigger apartment. I have a new civil service position that pays more than the 7.5 with the bastards who gave me the boot. New year, new job, new home. If 2012 is the end of the world, at least I'll die with a smile.

I rekindled my love for music in 2011. In part, it was necessity. After the lay off I got a data entry job, and without music data entry can be too boring for words. Well, scratch that, with music, it's too boring for words; but it's endurable. And the murder trial necessitated long, lonely bus trips with nothing to do.

Much like my angsty teenage years, music helped sustain my spirits in 2011. But unlike the anger that fueled me and my writing in those days, the music I listened to in 2011 was music of hope. Every once in a while I listened to the old, angry stuff. In fact, somewhere in the middle of 2011 I recall briefly but fiercely reigniting my love for '80s speed metal.

But for the most part, the songs I listened to in 2011 said the same thing: "Things suck now, but they're going to get better." Really, in spirit, they're mostly more modern versions of Journey's "Don't Stop Believing."

10. "We Want A Rock" by They Might Be Giants from Flood

New music was never so important as it was when I got a data entry job a month after the lay off. I began by listening exclusively to my favorites, and soon my favorites became ho-hum. You never realize how long 8 hours is and how short your albums are until you need the latter to survive the former.

Data entry made me not only find as much new music as I could, but explore old albums deeper. Flood is an album I've owned, it seems, forever, but never really listened to the whole way through. I would leapfrog around the album, never really listening to anything past "Particle Man." Data entry changed that, and I'm glad it did. "We Want A Rock," was one of the first of the undiscovered songs to catch my attention. Though I have to say the stark weirdness of "Whistling in the Dark" was very fitting in a data entry environment, in a this-is-the-song-that-will-be-playing-when-the-final-drop-of-your-soul-leaks-out kind of way. I also think the prominence of prosthetic foreheads in "We Want A Rock" struck a chord, as it was around this time I started getting into Star Trek.

9. "The Good Life" by Weezer from Pinkerton

This list will probably a bit more serious than most of my lists, though "The Good Life" is one of the few songs that helped sustain me in more of a humorous way. Around the time I learned about the passing of my friend from college, nostalgia took over. I started seeing the good old days back in college as a glorious, untouched, Camelot-inspired time of happiness and rainbows, and everything after was the result of a steep, dark descent into the pee-stained corner of the men's room of whatever cheap dive Tom Waits's soul will go to if/when he kicks the bucket.

On my morning drive, when I would blast "The Good Life" and scream along to it, I was making fun of myself. I was laughing at my own nostalgic horseshit.

8. "The Cave" by Mumford & Sons from Sigh No More

Mumford & Sons specializes in "Things suck now, but they're going to get better" songs, though I can only take them in small doses.

7. "Letterbomb" by Green Day from American Idiot

I'm not sure why, but I've found the music I enjoy most during data entry is music from soundtracks or so-called "concept" albums. I don't enjoy shuffling, and you can't really stop to pick and choose every few minutes because you risk the ire of the Borg Queen supervisors, so I usually listen to whole albums.

Because of this, I finally broke down and listened to American Idiot, and fell in love.

6. "The Crane Wife Part 1 & 2" by The Decemberists from The Crane Wife

The Decemberists's more recent album, The King Is Dead, was often my very first listen of the morning during data entry. Most of the songs are upbeat, but they don't rock particularly hard so my brain didn't get jostled too early. The tune "Rox in the Box," about hard labor in a mine, is not necessarily the best song to listen to at work, however.

I honestly have mixed feelings about the music. I was introduced to the band by one of the few people from my old job who I both considered a friend and who subsequently treated me like I was a phantom as soon as I got my walking papers, so it sometimes serves as an unpleasant reminder. But whatever. At least the music is good.

After enjoying The King Is Dead I took The Crane Wife and The Hazards of Love out of the library. I loved The Crane Wife, which kind of seems like one half of a concept album, while The Hazards of Love gave me a headache. There's a song in there that's nothing but a conversation between a son and his mother, and it seemed about 80,000 hours longer than it needed to be.

5. "Dog Days Are Over" by Florence + The Machine from Lungs

The first time I heard this song, it made me want to change my life.

4. "All These Things That I've Done" by The Killers from Hot Fuss

Of the things I feel qualified to critique, music is not one of them. There was a time when I read Rolling Stone and Spin regularly, when I felt I had a hold on the music critic lingo, when I could understand when they just slapped two half-words together like "alterna-core," but I am way the hell out of practice. It seems so cliche to say but it's true; when Cobain died I lost interest. I didn't lose interest in music, but in the music "news," the gossip, the critics, the celebrity, and everything else.

But if I were ever called upon to name the best goddamned rock song ever, I think this would be a contender, if not the no-brainer champion. Everything I love about rock 'n' roll is in this song.

3. "This Too Shall Pass" by Ok Go from Of the Blue Colour of the Sky

At my previous job, the one where I was eventually laid off, I'd had a bad day. I don't know what in particular happened on that day and it's not important. I just remember waiting at a red light in Arbor Hill on the way to the entrance ramp to I-90, and crying as I heard the words I desperately needed to hear: "Let it go. This too shall pass." And thank Hulk, it did.

2. "Wake Up" by Arcade Fire from Funeral

A college friend (not the one, thankfully, who passed) suggested I check out Arcade Fire. I took their albums Funeral and Neon Bible out of the library while I was on jury duty. One morning, while I waited for the bus and tried not to look at the bus stop's newspaper vending machines (both of which featured front page stories of the trial, which you're supposed to avoid if you're on a jury, in case you didn't know), I randomly chose "Wake Up."

I'd probably heard it before, in the trailer for Where the Wild Things Are if nowhere else, but I didn't remember it.

It was exactly what I needed to hear. I wouldn't say the trial left me in any deep despair, but it was difficult. I felt the responsibility on my shoulders, and I'll never get the images from the crime scene video out of my head. I would have to look up some of the lyrics to the song later, but I understood enough of them to relate them to what I was going through. When I heard "We're just a million little gods causin' rainstorms, turnin' every good thing to rust," I thought of the images from the crime scene video and wondered what little god turned those good things to rust. When the song started with "Somethin' filled up my heart with nothin'" I knew what my "somethin'" was and I wanted it to end so I could go back to my life.

1. "Fix You" by Coldplay from X & Y

Yeah, yeah, yeah, I'm gay because I like Coldplay. Yep that's funny. If you haven't seen another movie in 10 years. Dick.

Monday, October 3, 2011

My Top 10 Favorite TV Villains

10. Cigarette Smoking Man from The X-Files

I always liked the idea of this guy more than the execution. I found him more chilling in the beginning of the series, when he just seemed like a guy in the background of Walter Skinner's office. Once he started showing up in parking garages all smoky and trenchcoat-clad, two steps away from a modern day Darth Vader (in more than one way, considering how long the creators allowed the gossip to build that he was Fox Mulder's real father), it was a little over the top. He seemed scarier as an - as Stephen King might put it - officious little prick than as the earthly god of black ops.

Still, the character left a sizable mark on the pop culture landscape, and that has to be respected.

9. Q from Star Trek

A good friend is such a stalwart fan of Star Trek's most enduring trickster that she will be both proud Q made the list and disappointed that A) he's on the low end of the totem pole and B) I put him in a list of villains.

And as far as the latter is concerned, she'd be right. Calling Q an out-and-out villain is to miss the point of Q entirely. He certainly rates as "antagonist" and an entertaining one at that, but after watching a hell of a lot more of Star Trek lately than usual I'm convinced that Q genuinely wants to help humanity; even if he can't do it without being a dick at the same time. More importantly, I appreciate the irony that as insufferable as all the various captains find Q, he's really no more condescending toward humanity than the Federation is toward, you know, EVERYONE.

But still, I think he causes enough trouble to rate on a list of villains for enjoyment's sake, if nothing else. He did send the Enterprise into the arms of the Borg, thereby unleashing a deadly engine of death and destruction on the Federation and her people. So, you know, that could measure up as a little villainy.

8. Michael Scott from The Office

No, no, no. Michael Scott is a villain. He was certainly more sympathetic than his English counterpart - and I would argue the slow decline in quality of The Office over the years coincided with more stories that made Scott out to be The Hero - but if The Office ever had a bad guy, it was Michael. The fact that we all love the dumb bastard is just part of the show's genius.

7. The Chicken from Family Guy

Last year I had the opportunity to see The Daily Show's John Oliver on stage in Pittsfield. I was laughing so much and so loudly that at one point, I swear to Hulk, he looked right at me and said, "Could you possibly laugh a little less?" Which, of course, just made me laugh more.

And it's that kind of near-religious level of almost dangerously long and hard laughter that accompanied my first viewing of one of the epic battles between Peter Griffin and the Chicken on Family Guy.

Occasionally on Family Guy, in the middle of the story and for no apparent reason (there is apparently some narrative explanation earlier in the series, but I don't remember), Peter Griffin and this Chicken Man start beating the hell out of one another. The fight starts off like a bar brawl and inevitably reaches Hulk Vs. Thor levels of destruction. The fights are usually uninterrupted for at least 5 minutes, stop-and-start about a half dozen times, and end with half the city in ruins. If you ever saw Roddy Piper and Keith David fight at the end of They Live, it's kind of like that except intentionally funny and stupid.

6. Caleb from Buffy the Vampire Slayer

Among Buffy the Vampire Slayer fans, the seventh and final season is generally held in very low regard, and for a lot of very good reasons. But Nathan Fillion's Caleb was a bright spot. A bright spot of brutal, violent, and depraved death, but still a bright spot. Of all the Buffy villains important enough to last more than an episode or two, I'd say Caleb was one of the most disturbing and intimidating. He was a bad guy so genuinely scary that you actually believed he might snuff out a few of the headlining good guys. He didn't, but not for lack of trying. He's the reason why Xander Harris looked like Nick Fury for the rest of the series.

5. Sylar from Heroes

There was so damn much wrong with Heroes and it's a real shame. The first season was certainly better than what followed, but it had its share of bad.

Still, say what you want about the rest of the series, I can never fault Zachary Quinto's portrayal of the show's brain-eating bad guy. Like Buffy's Caleb, he was so freaking chilling you believed he might really kill some of the main characters. Unlike Buffy's Caleb, he goddamn did.

Unfortunately, true to its comic book roots, Heroes decided to ruin their successful bad guy by making the audience believe he wouldn't be a bad guy anymore. And then that he would. And then that he wouldn't. And then that he would. Etc.

4. Benjamin Linus from Lost

Benjamin Linus made me feel dumb. As jaded and pop-culture-worldly as I like to consider myself, that Machiavellian bastard fooled me. When they captured him, brought him down to the hatch and kept him prisoner, I really, really, really wanted to believe he was the rich, bored jerk whose hot-air ballon crashed on the island, just like he claimed. He convinced me more than once that he had nothing to do with the engimatic Others.

And of course, eventually he proved to not only be one of them, but that he was their leader.

Just as the case was with Sylar from Heroes, even though Lost was not always the best show, Michael Emerson consistently did a fantastic job as the morally ambiguous Benjamin.

3. Tony Soprano from The Sopranos

There is something particularly haunting about The Sopranos. For me, it has something to do with what it taught me about where we let our sympathies live. If there is such a thing as evil, Tony Soprano lays claim to it. He's funny, charismatic, loving toward his family (sometimes), and maybe even just a teeny bit more thoughtful than your average TV gangster, but he's also an evil prick. And I don't think the creators ever tried to sugar-coat that. They never tried to make him a gangster with a heart of gold. They showed his deception. More importantly they showed the ramifications of Tony's actions on others.

Still we cared about Tony and we wanted him to succeed. We certainly didn't want the Uncle Juniors or the Richie Apriles of Tony's world to gobble him up.

And the reason I think is simply because Tony Soprano was a part of our life. If the show was called The Leotardos and the main character was Phil Leotardo, then it would've been Tony Soprano we would have seen as the bad guy in those last two seasons. It would've been Phil we would've rooted for. We want the people in our lives to be protected and to succeed, which is why we were behind Tony no matter how much of a satannic prick he was. And that's a little interesting considering that's always the gangster's justification for doing what he does: to protect the people in his life.

2. Gustavo Fring from Breaking Bad

If an episode of Breaking Bad is halfway to the end and I haven't seen Gustavo yet, I start getting genuinely goddamn angry.

I don't know what it is about the guy. I've seen Giancarlo Esposito in stuff for years, but I've never so viscerally enjoyed his work before his portrayal of the cold, calculating drug lord of Breaking Bad. His quiet viciousness, his manipulative - yet somehow genuine - civility, and that deadly stare are just lots of fun to watch.

I remember thinking Jack Nicholson's Joker was so funny I almost didn't want Batman to win. I don't think Gustavo is very funny, but otherwise I kind of feel the same. I know eventually it will probably come down to either Walter White - Breaking Bad's main character - killing Gustavo or the other way around, and I don't look forward to that.

1. Walter White from Breaking Bad

Believe me, I'm as disappointed as you are that I've been forced to break one of the cardinal list-making rules. You need diversity. In the case of this list, I shouldn't have two characters from the same show and if I absolutely HAVE TO have two characters from the same show, I certainly shouldn't place them back-to-back.

But I can't help it. Actually, choosing between Walter White and Gustavo for the #1 spot was the toughest part of this list.

Walt won for one main reason: I believe in Walter White more than any other villain I've seen in film or television. I believe that guy is out there or that he will happen, or could happen. I believe his story. I never imagined the father from Malcolm in the Middle would play such an affecting character.

I also like the fact that Bryan Cranston seems to genuinely appreciate the gift Breaking Bad gave him. AMC had one of those commercials where they showed clips of the various actors speaking about the series as if they were being interviewed by someone other than the people signing their paychecks, and Cranston said something along the lines of "This is the role of my life." And I just thought, you know...good for you. Good for you for not bitching about typecasting. Not that the David Duchovnys and Sarah Michelle Gellars of the world don't have reason to bitch, but man it is nice when they don't.

Not to mention that I think Cranston is talented enough he won't have to wait for 20 years to be ironically cast in comedies.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Top 10 Things I Hate About Star Trek: The Next Generation

Before going on, please note, I don't hate Star Trek: The Next Generation. After reading a twitter exchange between me and another blogger that was critical of The Next Generation, a friend listed 21 episodes of TNG that he found impressive and still enjoyed watching. I decided to take his list as something of a challenge and committed to watching all the episodes he mentioned and blog about them.

You can read what I had to say about those episodes over at Superheroes, etc. But here at List SMASH! I wanted to talk a little bit about all the things that bothered me about TNG and what's kept me away until now.

10. This guy.

9. That Guy.

8. The Holodeck.

Yes, I think the idea of the holodeck is very cool. Yes, I want one for myself. Yes, if I had one I would use it for things that would require age verification and a credit card.

But the thing never works like it's supposed to. Ever. Ever. It always tries to kill everyone. It always almost destroys the ship. I love my XBox but if it threatened to blow up my apartment twice a month I think I'd find a way to let go.

7. The races.

First, they're boring. You pick a single defining quality and presto, you've got a Star Trek race. Warlike? Klingons. Greedy? Ferengi. Logical? Vulcans. Annoying? Long Islanders.

Second, all non-human characters are defined by the fact that they aren't human. You never see Picard or Riker pounding their chests and proclaiming, "We! Are! HUMAN!" But if a new Klingon character shows up and doesn't roar "We! Are! KLINGON!" within the first five minutes, the FCC fines Gene Roddenberry's estate.

Third, all of this is particularly annoying because of the recurrent themes in Star Trek: The Next Generation. I mean, it's one thing to watch or read Lord of the Rings and realize that an elf is an elf and that's really all you need to know about him. But it seems to me a series as preachy about tolerance and diversity as Star Trek: The Next Generation should be a bit more imaginative when it comes to conceiving alien races.

6. Time travel.

There seem to be a lot of Trek fans who don't have a high opinion of Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home. Say what you want about Leonard Nimoy's not-remotely-subtle animal conservation message, Star Trek IV treated time travel with respect. It was treated as something unique, something tough to achieve, something incredibly risky, and something not to be undertaken lightly.

I wondered, back when the Trek spin-offs were doing well, why they didn't produce a time-travel-specific Trek series. Star Trek: Journey Through Time or Star Trek: Future Imperfect or Star Trek: Oh Crap, My Watch is Wrong. I quickly answered myself: because, starting with TNG, time travel became so commonplace in the franchise that a time-travel-specific show would be redundant.

More importantly, it seemed eventually time travel became the only way for the writers to actually do something interesting with an episode. When I think of the TNG episodes that genuinely impressed me, they're usually time travel episodes like "Yesterday's Enterprise" and the series finale "All Good Things..."

5. Lights.

What's futuristic or advanced or even particularly functional about having little itty bitty lights that fit in your palm? Sure, the Star Trek creators can't foresee some things. Maybe it isn't their fault that it took them 4 series, 8 movies, and 5 different incarnations of the Enterprise to bring motion sensor activated bathroom sinks into the distant future when rest stops and shopping malls had them for years. But little flashlights? They didn't even try with that one.

4. Morality plays.

Maybe this is a criticism you could easily level at the original Trek series. I couldn't say, I haven't watched it in years. Maybe you could even level it at most television series.

Regardless, I'm not a big fan of TNG's preachiness, in spite of the fact that the beliefs promoted are usually in line with my own. Maybe it's because I want TNG to feel less like other TV. Maybe it's because I just want more spaceships going boom and fewer speeches about intervening in other cultures or why sentient piles of slime shouldn't have to use separate water fountains.

3. TNG's less adventurous spirit compared to the original series.

Kirk fought lizard men hand-to-hand.

Picard mediated trade disputes.

The Borg would never have worked in the original series. Well, okay maybe that's not true. The Borg may have worked in the original Star Trek, but they wouldn't have been as memorable. The Borg would've been a dime-a-dozen in Kirk's rogue's gallery.

But in TNG? With its diplomatic intrigue and Holodeck explorations and its ruminations on the nature of reality? As a race that could not be negotiated with, that would not end the episode by turning the other cheek and admitting that maybe they had something to learn from the Federation too, that would simply kill or consume any jerk in bright tights it came across; the Borg were something truly unique in TNG.

I think this is part of why I've recently found I enjoy Star Trek: Voyager more than I ever liked TNG. Because of Voyager's premise, I feel like there's a constant sense of peril that was also present in the original series but lacking in TNG.

2. The notion that I should care whether or not automated people are real people.

And I don't just mean that in reference to Data. Over and over again, there's this question of whether or not characters in the freaking holodeck are real people with individual rights. I just am not sure how the question of whether or not a hologram facsimile of Sherlock Holmes's fictional nemesis is a real person with the right to exist holds any weight in my life. You know, I think BioShock is a really nifty video game, but I'm not going to march for the characters' rights to vote.

1. Tasha Yar.

The Tupac Shakur of Star Trek. Sneaky minx figured out a way to show up more after she was dead than while she was alive.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Top 10 Reactions To Being Laid Off

10. A lot of people talk about how social networking sites make things more treacherous for employees or potential employees; how people are less productive or how they tend to unwisely post things their employers shouldn't see and almost inevitably will see. I found that yesterday, after being laid off, as I walked from my recently-former job to a bus stop downtown, social networking helped more than it could ever hurt. I was upset and I wanted comfort. I posted what happened on twitter and facebook, but since I didn't want to come off as whiny I forced myself to be funny. The result was that as the well-wishes and support arrived, forcing myself to be funny also forced me to look at things objectively. I was upset and wanted to vent, and who couldn't understand that? But I knew I had two choices: I could hide under the covers for a month and bemoan my lot in life or I could hit the ground running. I don't know if that positive attitude would have settled on me so quickly without the communication with my friends on social networking sites. So no, I don't think calling your boss things that rhyme with "Rock Trucker" on your facebook is wise, but social networking has its uses no matter how easy it is to make fun of.

9. As far as my former employer is concerned, I am content to take the advice of Vince Neil who sang:

Girl, don't go away mad.
Girl, just go away.

In this case, I want to be the girl.

And that's the last time I ever write "I want to be the girl."

8. Being laid off reminds me of how well things work out when I act on my feelings. What I mean is that when I decided to lose weight, I didn't do it because it would help me live longer or because it would help stave off debilitating medical conditions. I didn't do it because it would make me more physically attractive. I did it because, physically, I felt like shit and I didn't want to feel like shit anymore. Same situation when I quit smoking. No one would criticize me for quitting smoking because of all the horrible conditions it can cause, because of the smell, because of the expense, or because of the ever-growing social stigma. I did it because smoking made me feel, physically, like shit and I didn't want to feel like shit anymore. Now, I was obviously very upset after the lay-off, I'm quite active on social networking sites and blogs, and it would have been very easy for me get trigger-happy with my former employer and vent all over the place. There are a lot of good reasons for me to not do that. It would burn bridges. It would certainly not look good to potential employers. It would probably make any former co-workers on Facebook and twitter take me right the hell off their lists because what good would it do them for me to poison their wells? But when it comes right down to it, the reason I didn't do it is that I knew vomiting ill will all over the Internet would just prolong the anger and humiliation. It would just make me feel like shit that much longer. I wish I could say I'm a pragmatist, but when it comes down to it I don't have a Machiavelli bone in my body. I would make the worst Sun-Tzu in the world. I have no mind for strategy. I just don't want to feel like shit.

7. Less than an hour after the lay-off, my phone rang. It was a call for a job interview.

6. Here's how that phone call really made me question my atheism: the job interview is scheduled for Thursday morning. If I had not been laid off, my job duties would have required I drive to Glens Falls - a 45 minute to an hour drive from Albany - Thursday morning. Getting out of the trip to make the interview would have been difficult if not impossible, particularly since I was already supposed to leave early Thursday afternoon for a doctor appointment.

5. For about 2 years I've taken every civil service test I could. I've been to so many tests, I'm surprised the test proctors don't know me by name and give me high-fives on the way in. The tests are held in local high schools on the weekend. I can't believe there are high schools left I haven't taken tests in yet. Albany High, Troy High, Schenectady High, Rensselaer High, OH! By the way. Local High Schools? Make your damn desks bigger already. Don't you know there's an obesity epidemic in this country?

4. When I chose to "hit the ground running," what was most miraculous about the choice was that it was, in fact, a choice. I pictured myself venting and sulking. I pictured myself spending days and and weeks and months fantasizing the epic speeches I would give my former employers; how I would tell them off and make them feel bad. I pictured how miserable every drop of it would make me, and it somehow occurred to me that I could choose to not do that.

3. My job was my job. It helped me pay for food and rent and doctors. Eventually, I came to believe it didn't have much of a future. I felt like I had nowhere else to go; that I was at a dead end. I would lie if I said that right now all I feel is freedom. What happened hurt and it will hurt for a bit, I think. And who wouldn't, in the same situation, want to leave on their own terms? But that job is not my job anymore, I think this is mostly a good thing, and I predict that in time all of me will come to agree with that.

2. Man, there is so much to do.

1. I know all of my friends and loved ones mean well. You've stepped up to comfort and support me in what certainly counts as an hour of crisis and I appreciate that more than you know. But please, you know that I'm just not going to agree to become a male stripper. Yes, I know I got it, but flaunting it feels so...well, frankly it's a little breezy.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Top 10 Thoughts On Highlander

10. For the first time, I browsed the films available for streaming on Hulu. Somehow, I managed to resist the pull of classics like The Adventures of Galgameth and Bloodsport IV: The Dark Kumite to find Highlander, one of maybe 6 movies whose titles I goddamn recognized. My preliminary review is that it's possible Hulu Plus is not worth the extra money.

9. Apparently, the screenwriter of the Twilight adaptations is working on the Highlander remake scheduled for 2014. I look forward to the "I'm On Team Connor!" and "I'm On Team Raped-By-The-Kurgan-In-The-Rubble-Of-A-Tower!" buttons.

8. Speaking of Connor's wife getting raped by The Kurgan, am I the only one who had the thought that - right before The Kurgan attacked - Sean Connery was trying to get it on with Highlander's wife? I'm pretty sure he was trying to get it on with Highlander's wife.

7. While it's customary to bitch about how "They just have to remake everything," I think Highlander is one of the few films that would be served well with a remake.

6. Once Connor kills The Kurgan, that's it. Highlander II, Highlander: Endgame, and every other movie or TV show bearing the name Highlander are considered rogue states in the Republic of Mick. My ambassadors will not acknowledge their legitimacy. Connor killed The Kurgan, Freddie Mercury sang some shit, and the world was a better place. Fade to black.

5. Is it me, or did Connor's first wife seem downright happy when he inexplicably came back to life and was accused of witchcraft? She didn't seem upset at all. She wasn't crying in anguish "NO! My poor husband is possessed by witchcraft! Woe is me!" She's all "Witchcraft! I knew it! I KNEW it! See! SEE?!?!" Don't ever use an ipad around that bitch, or she'll burn you alive.

4. When different Immortals first came in contact with one another, they experienced intense physical pain. Does this mean that me and most of Bravo's programming are Immortal warriors?

3. If I were one of these Immortals, I think I would have developed a much simpler and more effective plan. Part 1 of the plan would involve making money by selling antiques, like Connor. Part 2 of the plan would involve purchasing bazookas.

2. I knew a guy in college - a compulsive liar who often related the real-life kung fu epics that took place in his grade school playground - who watched Highlander every single day. While attending college he was paying alimony and child support to the Russian wife he had ordered through a catalog. I knew him through the campus radio station, and if memory serves he was kicked off the station staff after threatening another DJ with a samurai sword. You know, no matter how far you fall, there's always room for more.

1. If a vampire tried to turn Highlander into a vampire, would the world explode?