Saturday, December 21, 2013

Our Empty Streets (pt. 3)

Yes, yes, we're all excited. Part 3 is here. This might be longer than I thought. You can find Part 2 here, and Part 1 from there.

           Erin and Marilyn were the first to show up, only about 90 minutes later. Of course, I was already there waiting for them, and they worriedly checked the time for fear they were much later than they thought. After the initial confusion, we introduced ourselves. We all shook hands. Erin removed hers from the hoodie’s sleeves long enough to limply grab my fingers and twitch her wrist, while Marilyn’s eyes never left mine and she gave a firm shake.
            “Paul Danny,” I said, well aware that I have two first names. I thought about changing my name to something cooler- more end-of-the-worldsy- after everyone I knew died, but you know how time gets away from you.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Our Empty Streets (pt. 2)

Here's the second part of what I started a couple days ago. I'm posting slowly 'cause I'm trying to stay ahead. Part One can be found here.

            One morning, I eyed the Navy Pier’s Ferris Wheel, and wondered if I could turn in on but still get into a cab before it rotated too far. I never rode the damn thing before: it always seemed like a tourist trap to me. I was an immigrant to the Chicago area fresh out of college, and the last thing I wanted to do was look like I didn’t belong. My Southern accent gave me away often enough, when there was still anyone around to hear it.
            A control panel was in front of me. Where I hoped would be two buttons, one green and one red, was a myriad of levers, lights, and knobs. I poked and prodded at the panel, moved a lever back and forth, but nothing happened. I looked around sheepishly, like an employee was going to come chastise me at any time, but of course that employee was long gone. I slid my pack off of my back, and dug out my water bottle. July in Chicago was hot and humid, even on the pier. I sat and tipped the bottle to my mouth, almost laying down in order to catch the top of the wheel in my sight. Birds alighted upon it, probably building nests on the now dormant structure. I sighed and rethought my plan, not wanting to disturb their hard work. After all, it was more their world than mine now.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Our Empty Streets (pt. 1)

Here's a story that might not end up so short, and it might not end because I'm bad at these things. Whatever, you're reading this for free.

            The apocalypse happened. Then, just as suddenly, it was over. We had been reading tales of the dead taking over the Earth for years, and in fact it had been quite the trend in my younger days. It was all in good fun. The only people you could unrepentantly shoot in video games were Nazis and zombies, so that’s who they cast. But let me tell you this: When it’s your girlfriend clawing at the bathroom door with the trademark black irises, you’re not thinking about power-ups and high scores.
            No one knows why it started. Airborne virus, parasite, evil demonic possessions, whatever. Everyone who was in charge of telling us this type of thing stopped checking in. One day in early May, something like 98% of Americans and 80% of others around the globe suddenly woke up wanting to partake all the normal zombie stuff. Of the 2% that didn’t wake up infected/a host/ possessed, 1.5% woke up next to another person who did. Luckily I always woke up before my girlfriend did, and was in the shower for her… episode.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

The Asexual Leather Anniversary

            This blog has been around for three years. That blows my mind. Complied correctly, like how Tupac should have made “All Eyez On Me” the best single album in hip-hop history (hip-hopstery), the blog would be around 2 years, but I’m not one to judge. I have to recuse myself from this imaginary trial. I’M PLAYING BY THE RULES, OKAY?

            Anyhoo, thank you for occasionally checking out this blog whenever I write something. I know I don’t do it very often, but there’s times when I get an idea in my head and if I didn’t have some place to shove it into people’s faces, I’d go crazy. Like the piece about WWI being a high school drama? I had that in my head for weeks before I made ya’ll read it. Without this blog, it would either be in a journal to be read by even LESS people, or blasted into the side of a mountain. Come to think of it, I’m diggin’ this “Giant Excavation” method of explaining crude analogies…

            You guys might have to bear with me for awhile, I’m not sure how much I’ll be producing. I’ve been kicking around short story ideas in my head but here’s a fun fact about writing: It’s terrible and I hate it. Have you ever sat down to write something creative and thought “Weeee! This is fun!” No. It’s all “UGH WHY DO I DO THIS TO MYSELF” as you open another word document. Whiny train aside, I might be running some length-unknown short story bits on here in the future as a method of motivation for me to actually finish stories for once. If it wasn’t 95 pages and over 500,000 words, I’d post the novel-ish thing I’ve been “working on” (read: talking about) for the past 2 ½ years, even if they did make a movie that steals its basic plot. Update on that whole thing, by the way: turns out it was more about nuclear war than Fascism, so I think I’m safe.

            I know I’ve been talking like I have some sort of cult following or invested fan base, but really, the fact that sometimes people read my stupid stuff is enough for me, so thanks to the both of you that do.

            As always, here’s my favorite GIF. It's Ghostface Killah eating an apple in the music video for "Gravel Pit" while wearing a fur coat and matching fur hat. It's basically my child.

Monday, November 11, 2013

What's Your Russia?

            Today, at least as I start writing this, is Armistice Day, or the anniversary of the end of World War One. I know that I already talked about the origins of World War One and how absolutely high school they all were, but since this is the last Armistice Day before we start recognizing the 100th Anniversary of a bunch of WWI stuff (that’ll be huge in Europe and I hope I get a chance to see it) I’ll share one of my favorite stories from the war. No, it isn’t about the Christmas Truce, although that’s a pretty awesome story on its own. It’s about how Germany changed the world for centuries on a bid to kick Russia out of the war.
            I know that, when it comes to World Wars, we tend to blame Germany for just about anything and everything. I mean, WWII in Europe was pretty much Germany’s fault, let’s admit, but you’re no better than the Conference of Versailles if you think the first war was solely on Germany’s shoulders.
            HOWEVER. The beginning of the USSR is a pretty great story, and Germany has a pretty front-and-center role in the whole thing. In case you didn’t know, Russia wasn’t very good at being a country, since, like, ever. It came to head in the extremely costly Eastern front of the war headed into 1917. Russia was falling apart economically and militarily, and there was no real relief in sight. In early March (they called it late February because they were on the old calendar, once again, not very good at the whole country thing), a peaceful protest during International Women’s Day turned into a full scale rebellion, centered in the capital.
            It accomplished quite a bit. The February Revolution (that took place in March) kicked the Czar out, ruined the reputation of International Women’s Day, and set the stage for the underappreciated animated film Anastasia. But now without the Czar and the rest of the Russian Monarchy in power, a provisional government was set up shortly after, lead by moderate socialists. The brand new government did a lot of great reforms for the people of Russia.
            They missed one pretty important sticking point in the minds of soldiers, though. They forgot to pull out of the war. This is pretty important.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Truman: Now a Major Motion Picture!

            Why isn’t there a movie about Harry S. Truman? We could call it Sassafras for goodness sake, and the world needs more of that word in its life, believe me. In a time of biopics and adaptations, we should make a movie about Harry S. Truman.
            He was the 33rd President, but you’d never know that if you were friends with him early on. Dude was a shoe salesman something like 10 years before he became President. It’s the perfect rags-to-riches story, Al Bundy finally strikes gold type thing. He successfully runs for Senate, works his way up, and is asked to be Franklin Roosevelt’s running mate.
            The most popular president in history, FDR, is asking Truman to be his VP for his unprecedented fourth term. Of course he takes it. Even as a head man in the higher house, this is FDR we’re talking about, and Truman is a little cowtowed.
            They win in the back drop of an almost sure victory for American in World War Two, and Truman is the least powerful man in the country: the vice president. But as Americans and British get closer and closer to Berlin (maybe cool Indiana Jones-style maps?!) FDR dies of strokes and Truman is now president. End Act One!

            Remember: at this point, FDR has been President for over a decade, and fundamentally changed the face of America. He had succeeded on a personal connection with Americans, brought the country out of the Depression, weathered Pearl Harbor, and would have won the war for the nation, had he survived. What I’m saying Truman has some big shoes to fill.
            Meanwhile, Truman, now president, has to travel to Potsdam, in England, to meet with the other parts of the Big Three allied leaders: Winston Churchill and “Evilest Man Outside of Berlin” Joseph Stalin. FDR had a great relationship with Churchill and managed to work adequately with Stalin, which was no small feat when you consider their mutually exclusive ideology. But now Truman’s got to take his place, an outsider to what was effectively a tight-knit confidante. Oh, and remember, Truman was elected to the Senate based on being a strong anti-Communist.
            Needless to say, he doesn’t get along with Stalin. “Damnit, I made my name hunting down Reds, and now I’ve got to be friends with one!” Movie Truman would say.
            Real history lesson: The Potsdam Conference takes place in July of 1945, a month after the Germany surrendered and the war in Europe ended. The point of the conference was to set up the reconstruction and administration of Europe, and also to kinda finish the other half of this “war” thing. The U.S. still had Japan to worry about, and was going to make sure the USSR helped out.
            But back to the movie: It’s a day before the conference, and Truman gets a call and a briefing. A general and man in a suit (with one of those tiny ties, since it’s the 40’s) walk in.
            “There’s something you should know, sir. It’s about a technology we’ve been working on,” the General would say, setting up an easel. Movie Truman lifts an eyebrow.
            “It’s a new weapon, and after four years, we’ve finally completed it. It’s called the Atom Bomb, and it works.” We zoom on the large picture sitting he’s placed on the easel. It’s the quintessential mushroom cloud.
            He was the vice president, high ranking Senate official, and employee of the month four non-consecutive occasions at his shoe store (a regular Double Grover Clevland), but no one thought to inform him of the Manhattan Project.
            And now he’s got to go to a war-planning meeting with that knowledge. Can you imagine the tossing-turning montage on the eve of the conference? Oscar bait.
            Now Truman’s in Potsdam, and he’s a little cocky about the effectiveness of this super weapon. Churchill already knows, so the satisfaction of telling him that juicy little nugget is robbed from him, so who’s left?
            Truman couldn’t tell him everything, of course, but he had a trump card, and his poker face wasn’t that good. He saunters up to Stalin, and explains he’s got this weapon, and now that Europe is won, we might beat the Japanese with it, I don’t know if you know, it’s pretty powerful, blah blah blah.
            Slow zoom up on Stalin’s mustachioed faced. “использовать его,” he says, sarcastically and tauntingly. Subtitled, we read, “Use it.” It’s a dare! Stalin pretty much already knew way earlier than Truman. “использовать его” he says again. Scene! End Act Two.

            We see the U.S. closing in on Japan. Montages of Marines dying and whatnot. But mainland Japan is going to be costly. Truman weighs the options, and in our climax, decides to use the A-Bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. We keep the moral grey area in the movie- don’t make Truman be 100% right. Our dénouement is the celebration of V-J Day and the end of the war. Maybe a montages or black screen/white text explanation of Truman’s future success and more presidential terms.
            He ended his time mostly hated, but has risen quickly through the ranks to be one of the top presidents of the 20th Century. The End!

            But who do we cast? It’s easier to play old than young, so we need a young Truman. Michael Fassbender is hungry for an Oscar, let’s give it to him. Mike F. Assbender may be British but he can play a role.

            For Churchill we can sub in literally any white baby.

            Stalin’s a tough case. He was super handsome in his day:

 but ended up like this. I mean, we can probably just pick any Russian Grandfather of two off of the street.
"Dah, I am very proud of you doing cannonball in pool."
            FDR will be played by the guy who played the Penguin on the old Batman TV show.

            And Eisenhower… Ed Harris I guess?

            The newspaper will play itself.

PS: I broke 20,000 views. Eat it, people who rightly say I should stop writing!

Monday, October 7, 2013

Let's Start a Band

            I wrote this almost four months ago, but seeing as I’ve had nothing else come out of my stupid head and fingertips for that time, I figure I’ll post it. It’s just a list of band names, and how I figure a pun-heavy reviewer at a magazine would react to their freshman album. Yeah, I’m doing great. By now we all know about Rollerskates-A-Million, but I think these guys sound better, since they're a little more underground.

Pepe le Pow (They stink, hard!)

Remembering Sunday Morning (I wish I could forget!)

James Monroe and the Whigs (I wouldn't vote for these guys)

Sweet scarf, bro.
Scissorgrip (Cut it out, everyone)

The Old Man a Boat (They're sinking!)

Mead Five Stars (Were they just looking around and named their band after a notebook?)

Hunny Bunny Baby Bunch (It makes me want Hunny Bunny Baby Punch)

Signs and Cymbals (Whoever Signed these guys needs to crash!)

Between Our Toes (These jams really stink!)

Crown Follows Cross (Oh Jesus, crucify me.)

Blank Page After (I'd tear their page out of the book!)

Skinny Blue Lines (Are we still on notebooks? Is this a fad?)

The White Haired Professors (Hopefully these guys dont get tenure)

The Clock Strikes One (And one record is all they'll get)

Sans and the Culletes (I'd prefer to be sans this band)

The Third Estate (What, first notebook references and now French Revolution names?)

Late to Class (Wait a minute…)

Power to the Point (Is this all just one guy, bored in a class?)

The Corsican Generals (A French Revolution class?)

21st Century Luddite (Oh, we've moved on to the Industrial Revolution)

Been Zoning Out (Stop coming up with band names, kid, pay attention! Value your education!)

Devalue Your Education (Wait, can you hear me?)

Speak Up! (But, I'm a magazine reviewer, how are you seeing this?)

Borrow My Full Metal Jacket (That's... more of a album title than a band name)

Everyone's a Critic (Well that's my job, I mean, I work at Rolling Stone)

The Rolling Stones (That's pretty firmly taken)

You Know, Whatever (Pretty sure you can't do that)

Any Questions? (How are you doing this? What's happening?)

See You Next Week (Is class over?)


(Why am I still here?)

Assembly Line Killers (I actually like that one.)

Monday, July 8, 2013

The Not-So-Great War

            In my (admittedly very questionable) study of history, I’ve come upon one fact: wars would be hilarious if it weren’t for the part about crazy amounts of people dying. That’s kind of a downer and I wish it didn’t happen so often. I’ve already written about how the Civil War was more like a break up than a serious political issue, and I’m sure Robert E. Lee’s Ghost loved it. We don’t talk much, me and Bobby Ghost-Lee (see what I did there?) so I’m just guessing. America is pretty susceptible to stupid wars. James K. Polk’s Mexican-American War was basically the childhood “I’m not touching you” car ride game. World War One began with pretty stupid reasoning, and that was in Europe, so America’s not the only country out there. Europeans… we all know, those are all some crazy characters.
            Now, this is going to be an actual history lesson for a bit, so I’m sorry if that’s not your “deal”. Philistine. The main reasons for World War One can always be remembered by the acronym MAINS. Militarism, Alliances, Imperialism, Nationalism, and Serbia. You may recognize that last one as the best country on that side of the Atlantic (sorry, Luxembourg), but the rest are mildly hefty terms. Militarism is the build-up of armies and navies and sometimes, for sandtable purposes, tiny little plastic cannons. Militarism was tied heavily with the Second Industrial Revolution which introduced steel, gasoline, and replaceable parts to the “Killing Each Other” parts of society. The Alliances we’ll cover later, because it’s the funny part.
"We'll attack here, next to the drawing
of a tiny sea monster!"
             Imperialism might as well be called “Ugh, White People.” The conquest and exploitation of Africa is no laughing matter, except in sheer disbelief at how straight-up-evil people can be. The Berlin Conference of 1884 had European Powers dividing up Africa amongst themselves, completely ignoring the fact that people already lived there. Remember that movie Hotel Rwanda? It was a true story about ethnic violence and genocide between Husus and Tutsis, who only live in the same country because way back in 1884 some white guys decided that’d make exploitation easier. Ugh.
            On that light note, Nationalism is the sociological equivalent to alcohol. A little is good for enjoying the World Cup or talking to strangers, but too much can cause loud yelling and stupid fighting. Nationalism grew from “I like my country!” to “Therefore I hate yours” faster than any other mindset in history.
            So about these alliances. World War One can be summed up as a whole heap of drama. World War One is so ridiculously high school, it’s almost unbelievable. Germany is this new student, with his leather jacket, tight jeans, and Nate Ruess-ian hair style. He starts becoming the cool kid in class, making easy friends with Austria-Hungary, since they’re cousins. Sure, they had some troubles growing up, but that’s in the past. Germany even manages to make friends with Russia, the rich kid that still has a Playstation 2. Together, they formed their little clique and everyone called them the Three Emperors Alliance, cause there were three of them. Not everything in history is tough, folks.
            Britain and France, meanwhile, like the catty women they are, say “This Germany kid isn’t even cool, or hot, and people should know that.” They put away centuries of drama, and sign the Entente Cordiale, basically a document that says “We’re totes besties now, OMG< I luv you XOXO #luckytohaveyou,” but, you know, teen girl slang added for the purposes of dramatic story telling.
You just know France is the slutty one.
            Tensions begin to develop when Russia and Austria-Hungary both begin courting Bulgaria, part of the Balkans clique. Basically, the Balkans is that group of theater girls that are really hot and seem down for a lot, but you don’t think about as often as the popular ones. Serbia is the guy friend in the group, but he’s destined to be a late bloomer and doesn’t have the muscles or social skills to date any of them, like he wants. 
            So Russia and A-H begin the First Balkan Crisis about who gets to date Bulgaria and win influence over the clique. Naturally, Germany sides with Cousin A-H, although reluctantly. With a hardy “Not cool, man,” Russia still wins Bulgaria’s heart.
            This makes Serbia mad and the Second Balkan Crisis happens when he gets in Bulgaria’s face about dating a loser, but you know it’s just jealousy. A-H backs up Serbia in the short war, and Germany once again backs up A-H. Russia has had enough, so he leaves the Three Emperors, and goes off to hang out by himself, enjoying GTA San Andreas and trying to convince his parents he needs to modernize his industries. He decides that he hates Germany as much as catty Britain and France do, and signs onto their Triple Entente.
            Now that Russia’s won Bulgaria’s heart, A-H starts to annex Bosnia, Serbia’s neighbor and best friend, who he’s kinda been put in a friendzone by. In a fit of frustration because he’s not getting the respect he deserves, Serbia basically trapper-checks A-H in the crowded lunchroom on June 28th, 1914 (I guess Europe doesn’t have summer break). That’s right, assassinating the heir to the throne will now be known as “Trapper Checking” in allegorical-analytical geopolitics, a field I just made up.
            In real life, a Bosnian Serb named Gavirilo Princip, destined to never be recognized by spellcheck, shot and killed Austrian Archduke/pop-punk band Franz Ferdinand while the Archduke was visiting Sarajevo, a thing that was silly for both of them to do.
            Back in my strained high school metaphor, Serbia realizes what he’s just done to the big bad bully, and begins to stammer out apologies. But Austria Hungary isn’t having it and gets in his face, demanding Serbia pick it up and apologizes. Germany actually steps up and tells A-H to calm down, bro, don’t start nothing or he’ll lose that scholarship, but A-H doesn’t listen, and pushes Serbia down, declaring war on the Balkan state. Well, Russia’s right there in the lunchroom, and runs over to push A-H, who he never liked, declaring war on him! But Germany’s got to stand up for family and legally-binding international defensive pact treaties, so he declares war on Russia. And here come Britain and France, who have their trail of less popular girl colonies like India and Indochina following them, and begin to scratch at Germany, who never wanted this to happen.
"Guys, we can get along, let's just beat up on
the Jews! Come on, it was fun before!"
            At the end of the lunch room fight (broken up thanks to Britain’s boyfriend visiting from another school, the U.S.), all the participants are sat down in the principal’s office in Versailles. Austria-Hungary is given detention, but he deserved it. Russia didn’t come to the office, because he ran away from the fight after realizing some important things about himself. The real crime is the punishment leveled on Germany- a full three weeks of in-school suspension!
            Or you know, twenty years of terrible economic depression thanks to obscene reparations demanded by France and Britain, giving a swell environment for the creation of National Socialism (say what you will, at least it's an ethos) and the school’s new bully of Adolf Hitler.
            Basically, what I’m saying is, no one (save Gavirilo Princip) can actually be blamed for World War One. Everyone was tied to everyone else in a big ol’ pit of Alliances, and started preparing for war thanks to their overactive Militarism, fueled on the back of Imperial conquests, and supported by Nationalism. That's what makes it kinda funny, it was a team effort to start such a terrible war. From what I hear, it was the War to End All Wars, so at least we’ve got that going for us.

            What? There’s another one?! That explains the name…

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Western History: A Book Review

            Sorry I haven’t posted in awhile. I seem to be saying that a lot lately, whether on blogs, to my diaries, or even for Keebler Elf fan-fiction sites. I’ve just been lackadaisical. I wish I could pretend it’s because of some over-arching project I have in my life that’s consuming the rest of my time, but really it’s a combination of a lack of ideas and Reddit. Robbing me of creativity is probably the best thing that site has done for the world, and I’m counting all of the charity drives those internet curmudgeons are guilted into.
            So in my stupor, I decided I’d choke on someone else’s creativity in order to jump start mine, like some sort of necromancer with a ring of (+5) Pop Culture References. I looked for books like a crook, and mistook all these rhymes for a good, funny… juke? Anyhoo, I found a book that really caught my attention, and I think you guys should give it a try. It’s a huge beast of a book series called Western History. It’s endlessly compelling, although I know most can’t quite get into it, so I thought I’d review it here, just for ya’ll to check if you’re interested or not.
            Like I said, Western History is a major undertaking. The author writes an incredibly deep and complex story, stretching over a huge number of generations. The scope of the entire undertaking puts writers as highly revered as Tolkien and George “Rail Roadin’ ” Martin to shame. It’s the complexity that can keep many readers away. For instance, the intriguing character of Julius Caesar (who could carry volumes of spinoff works in his own right) has to share screen time with the divisive Jesus Christ. But every character has a part to play in the grand works, and even the love-him or hate-him Christ grows into a much larger influence than readers would first think- No spoilers!

The fan's depictions are a little off, why
did they color the guy white?
            It’s that sort of thing where Western History really shines. The foreshadowing in these books is simply amazing. Parts of the tale seem petty at first, yet surface later in the story as major plot points, like when the fun yet boorish Henry the Eighth inherits his dead brother’s wife, a Spanish princess, the creatively named Catherine of Aragon, it seems abrupt and unnecessary, but Henry’s reaction to the situation spins his land off on a completely new tangent. It’s really a masterpiece to weave such intricate fibers into a web of politics and deceit. Or perhaps when Europe tries to wrap itself into a series of alliances during the chapters concerning the years 1812 till around 1821 and immediately spirals into war concerning a state (Greece) in the Baltic Peninsula fighting for independence from a conservative empire (The Ottoman Empire). It’s the same thing that will happen almost exactly a hundred years later, with Serbia, Austria-Hungary, and much more disastrous results.
            Or when Germany ruins France’s, and much of Europe’s, economy in the Franco-Prussian War of 1870 by requesting ridiculous reparations, and France turns around and ruins Europe’s economy right back by doing the same thing in the next war forty years later.
            Unfortunately, some of the characters make unrealistic decisions, and frankly, are unlikeable. I’m sure you’ve seen the hateful reactions to the character of Marie Antoinette on Twitter and other internet sites, but you really have to read the books to get a handle on her character. I know that she was probably designed to be unlikeable by the author, since nobody would ever really act that unempathetically to the plight of the poor, but it doesn’t help the books when I can hardly read them between fits of anger at characters like her, the American Andrew Johnson, or late-in-the-game Adolf Hitler.

Ugh, THIS bitch, amirite, readers?
            Hitler, oof, the biggest baddie of Western History since the middle book’s villain of The Black Death (who frankly was a little unrealistic and mystical), brings me to my next point. Sometimes characters, often the antagonists, make such poor decisions that it breaks your immersion. The author had to go so far to get some of these to fall from grace, it often stretches belief. For instance, Hitler’s on top of Europe in Act Two of The Modern Age, but schedules a boneheaded invasion of another land that, honestly, we had seen only a hundred and fifty years earlier. It seems to me that the author is beginning to run out of ideas when a man as important as Hitler can make the exact same mistake as another character from earlier in the same book, Napoleon. The end books become a little repetitive.
            However, the moral grey areas of this series make for some of the best reading in my life. Hitler versus Stalin, who should you root against? They’re both awful men, but someone has to win! And the whole over-arching subplot of rights of the masses to rule over themselves, and failing repeatedly, had me questioning if aristocracies WEREN’T the right idea.
            Although often overlooked in adult literature, stories can still hold morals that speak to the child in all of us. Listen to your elders, respect the rights of others, don’t get involved in a war the far-off and fancifully-named land of Afghanistan, they’re all great lessons that we can take to heart. Sometimes, the morals can be slammed into your head a little bit too unsubtly, although the characters don’t seem to get the memo. The illogically terrible treatment of some characters that only differed in ethnicity frustrated me as major characters and supposed good guys like George Washington or Winston Churchill failed to heed their own author’s lessons. The citizens of the land of England, for instance, fought a war against a man who persecuted the characters known as Jews, yet turned around and began to incite violence against the very same peoples inside their own borders. I suppose it’s the author’s weakness with likeable characters, down to the most minute of individuals, that brings out this quality.
            The author has these troubles in the macro scale sometimes. The land of France is widely unlikeable, and save a brief period the author has creatively nicknamed “The Enlightenment,” does not have any of its business in order. We’ve already discussed Marie Antoinette, and in fairness to the author, the citizens of France seem to hate her nearly as much as the reader. She and other extravagant nobles clash with the plight of the poor almost cinematically, leading to a bloody revolution.
            The character that rises to power, the amazingly named Maximilien de Robespierre, is conniving, brutal, and ultimately doomed, leading to another miniature revolution in only three years. What do the citizens of France do after this? Appoint another Emperor, the classic character of Napoleon, who follows the familiar literary path of the rise to power, the pride, and the fall. Then we see the return of a weak republic, who is overthrown for a monarch, who is overthrown for a republic, and it’s just… tiresome. You find yourself rooting against them at almost every turn.
            Every once and while, a phrase dips into the text. “History is written by the victor,” it reads, and although it seems apt when the protagonists seem to win almost every war, it bothers me. The breaking of the fourth wall can be fun and exciting in some contexts, but here, the author’s self-insertion just bugs me. We know you wrote it, you don’t have to tell everyone you were there.
            I know my review wasn’t quite ringing, but I promise the positives make up for all of its shortcomings. On the plus side, we have an incredible scope, amazing plot foreshadowing and pacing, and important moral lessons. Things that don’t quite work as well are unlikeable characters, repetitive plot points, and poor decision-making by supposedly important statesmen. Not to mention the recurring bumbling of France and its inhabitants, who drag the story down whenever they come up.

Western History: A strong B. Catch it on HBO.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Thoughts on Boston

            I know that I’m seriously the last person in the world who should be serious about any topic. Your neighbor down the street probably has more poignant words for you. Hell, any time I write a story, characters have to say “I don’t know what to tell you” when a tragedy occurs, because I don’t know what they should be saying. That being said, I am having severe trouble dealing with all of this Boston news, and if I’ve learned anything in twenty years, putting things down in words means organizing them in my head first, so that’s what I’m going to do.
            When I was young, my grandmother and dog died within the same week in late October. I received the news, neither of which were very surprising, and filed it away inside. Later, I went trick-or-treating with my brother, who was home from Chicago because of my grandmother’s death. That Halloween night is one of my favorite childhood memories. Several days later, lying in bed, the full weight of their deaths hit me, and I busted into my parent’s bedroom, bawling my eyes out. It was the first time I had shed any tears over either of the deaths, and it took me almost a full week to do so.
            I was in fourth grade during 9/11. I was told by a friend of mine (I still remember exactly who it was and where in the school he told me), that the Philippines had run a plane into the World Trade Towers. I did not know what the World Trade Towers were. I remember the awkward moment of trying to cover up my ignorance on the issue by explaining that it was no trouble, we’d simply nuke their entire island. I went through the rest of the day, surrounded by stunned adults. My mother took me and my older brother to a gas station, and I remember them discussing how it felt like something out of a Tom Clancy novel while I walked silently behind them, not even coming close to grasping the events. You can’t blame me, I was only nine years old, how does a kid deal with that?
            You can blame me, however, that when I heard about the Aurora shootings of this last summer, I felt a momentary sting of sadness for the victims as I read Twitter, but I quickly got into a car and continued my vacation, filing away the event as a piece of information. I remember watching TV in a McDonalds, waiting for my breakfast food, and shaking my head and wondered who would do such a thing. But then, again, we packed up, and got back in the car, and I went right back to reading a book.
            I don’t even remember where I was when I heard about Newtown. It’s just something that at some point, I found out about. As a future teacher, I worried, but beyond “Who would do such a thing,” I spared few thoughts on the matter. Once again, I simply filed away all news into my brain, cataloguing and recording what had happened. I got mad at people trying to begin conspiracy theories about the whole thing, chastised those that made jokes a little too harsh and too soon, but I felt little to nothing about it. I’m not a good person.
            But for the first time in my life, hearing about a tragedy, the entire thing hit me at once, and I don’t know what to do. I’ve written about 600 words by this point, and it’s taken me half an hour because I keep staring off into space. A load of laundry, half folded, sits at the foot of my bed. I gave up. How am I supposed to fold socks when parts of Boston are on fire? When I woke up this morning, my biggest hurdle of the day was finishing a stupid paper on the Presidents. Right now, it’s unlikely I’ll get to that. I’m glad I don’t have to work, I wouldn’t be a very good server in this state.
            Through all this, it’s important to remember a couple things. There are people who are much braver and better people than me that are helping, professional and volunteer alike. I saw a series of pictures from unrelated photographers that show the same man in a black cowboy hat transporting several injured people away from the site. He’s just a person, and he’s doing his best to help. I don’t know who (if anyone) did this, but I know that they’re nothing compared to the tidal wave of those that will come to the victims’ aid. I know that the world has recovered from more and grown from it. It’s tough to remember at a time like this, but I know that the world is better and safer now than at any other time in its history. We’ll get through this, even if it just means finishing folding the laundry.

            I’ll go back to fart jokes sometime soon, I promise.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Spring Break Day 6: Portland, Animated

           Today was our full day in Portland, and I spent the large majority of it on my lonesome. Pat had a visit of his own to attend to, and I assumed that he took the key. So when housekeeping came in and presented me with an unacceptably awkward situation, I hightailed it out of the room with only my shoes, wallet, and cell phone. Three hours I spent walking around Portland, and I saw a couple of things that changed my perception of it.
            For one thing, that area I thought was downtown Portland was actually the outskirts of the downtown. As in, the crappy part. The actual downtown is really, super nice, and abundant in food trucks. Even better, I have a list of things that happened to me, without much commentary. So, in order to fill space and use a backlog of reaction .GIFs, here’s my day and how I felt about it.
            1. I decided to try my hand at local coffee. Walking into the shop, I realized that there was no menu from which to panic select from. 
            I promptly left.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Spring Break Day 5: My Baby Takes the Morning Train

            I left Seattle this morning at 7:15, bound for Portland. It was amazingly romantic to see the clouds go from night black to slightly lighter back, then a fully day-bright medium grey. Then we were out in the Washington countryside, which looks exactly like the Iowa countryside, but damper. Not as many fields, I suppose, but the exact same number of surfacing killer whales in Puget Sound DESPITE WHAT I WAS PROMISED BY TOURISM FOOTAGE. Although, about halfway into our three hour train ride, we did see a killer rainbow, which Pat promptly slept through.
Took the window seat too, the bastard.
            For all those of you who haven’t traveled by train, let me just say- Keep it up. Trains are like planes (automobiles) but without the awesome take off and landing thing. Or the speed. Or the flying part. So really, they’re nothing like planes save uncomfortable seats and jerks surrounding you. I know that my entries have been much less exciting ever since I blew my load with poetic descriptions of unknown cities beneath me, but to be fair, I said that was only because planes put me in that mood. Trains do the opposite. They inspire boredom and uncreativity in me and practically shank any sort of muse I have.
            The only thing poetic I could think of to talk about on that train ride was the large wooden docks that had long since broken down, with only the piers remaining. Whether they were signs of a better time, their support towers the last remaining piece of history after a flood, or just the Pacific Northwest’s equivalent of a dilapidated barn, I couldn’t quite figure out. Instead, I put my foot on my knee and hoped I wouldn’t lose all circulation.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Spring Break Day 4: See Ya, Seattle

            Hey, guys, it’s my last night in Seattle before headed to Portland. How did I spend the day? Doin’ nothing. It was everything I, and Peter from Office Space, thought it could be. For the morning I went for that run up the hill. Somehow, I recovered from that heart attack and continued to the market and back. It was only around 45 minutes, but occasionally during the run I would break out in a huge smile. I was in Seattle. I was running. I was running in Seattle like it was nobody’s business. The most downtown area of my new favorite city during business hours, and here I am sweating and giggling like a mad man.
            After the run, Pat was out doing his business, so I was home alone. Instead, I tried my hand at Thai food. Guys. Delicious. Then it was to a café for an hour to write a bit, and further back to the fountain from yesterday, on full blast. I laid on my back in the strangely sunny Seattle weather for half an hour. This is my vacation. I couldn’t be happier about it.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Spring Break Day 3: Queen Anne of Green Gables

            Sorry about not getting this out last night (that’s what he said). I was just too tired and didn’t quite feel like putting in the effort (that’s what she said). No, but seriously folks, I got back to our room after a night walk and got into bed, which was a mistake. The beds at this hotel are the third best thing about it, after the amazing sheet set and the fact that I can see the Space Needle less than 500 yards away out of my window. When the hotel was subtitled “By the Space Needle,” they weren’t lying.
            In my post from Sunday, I talk about going to Pike Place market, which was awesome and amazing and incredibly expensive. Not on an item to item basis, but an “Oh look this jam jar has my name on it and I’m going to buy it because of that,” kinda way. On top of that, using several $2.25 busses to get to the University District Sunday night for St. Patrick’s Day racks up the dollars. Add to that the numerous townie bars we found (I recommend 5 Points in Denny’s Triangle immensely, if only for the sticker they had saying “I F**K NUNS”) and you’ve got yourself a pretty pricey day.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Spring Break Day 2: Transit, the Opiate of the Masses

           If you haven’t read about the first part of my trip here, I highly suggest you do so. It’s quite literally the first part of this… well… trip. So, that’s important.
            Moving on. I woke up around 9:00 o’clock Iowa time which translates to a handy 7:00 Seattle time. That, if you don’t know, conflicts heavily with the 1:00 AM posting time of the previous entry. I laid in bed for a bit, denying that I had woken up, but eventually I had to conclude that what was done, was done. I got up and opened my computer to find that Seattle had a St. Patrick’s Day parade, beginning at 9:30 AM. I waited patiently for Pat to wake up.
            Then I continued waiting.
            Eventually, I was tired of waiting, and went to go get doughnuts at the local gas station, because that’s real Seattle cuisine. Unfortunately, by the time I got back, some sort of 5k was done and the festivities had ceased to my knowledge. Pat was awake, and we made plans for the day. By “we made plans” I mean we casually walked in a certain direction, hoping to find one thing or another to catch our fancy.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Spring Break Day 1: The Begininning

            I left for Seattle today for Spring Break. Beantown, they call it, on account of all the coffee they grind here. They also have a Big Apple sculpture in the middle of downtown, which gives Seattle its other nickname, The Windy City. Note: I’m writing this part of the post on the plane and have never been here before, so any factual errors are beyond my control.
            Basically what I’m thinking for this week is a mini-travelogue. My reasoning is that 1. I can’t think of anything else to write and 2. I’ve never done one before and they seem easy. It has to be one of those things that’s harder than it sounds, right? Or else everyone’d be doing it. Show up, do things, write about it, profit. Of course, there’s one major problem- doing things. This is the first vacation I’ve ever been on that wasn’t pretty meticulously planned out, so I’m starting to get a bit terrified that I don’t know what I’m doing tomorrow. It’s St. Patrick’s Day, so we’ll probably head to the UW campus and see if we can’t find ourselves some “Irish” friends.
            But that’s for tomorrow’s entry, if I get around to doing it. Today’s is about the journey, man. Suffice it to say, planes rule, and cars drool. I had to get to Chicago from my hometown, which is about a four and a half hour trip. Luckily, I had my main man and hetero life partner Pat to keep me company. Unluckily, the big man fell asleep about halfway there, as soon as I took over the driving. It is probably more for his benefit though, as Illinois drivers are pretty nonchalant about the whole speed limit thing. I think they believe for every lane in the road, you get to 2.5 mph faster than the speed limit. Two lane? I’ma go five over. Four? Ten over. Luckily, the way into Chicago is eight lanes after you hit Aurora, so we made great time at 20 over. Don’t look at me that way, person-who-is-probably-not-my-mom! Studies show conforming to traffic peer pressure is actually safer. It’s like I’m back in traffic high school!
"Illinois drivers... I HATE Illinois Drivers."
            We got to Chicago a good four hours before our flight was set to board, so we dicked around at my brother’s place for the time. Here’s a fun fact: Little kids are great, especially the ones I’m related to, but holy cow are they bad at telling stories. But look who’s talking, eh? Shut up, peanut gallery.

Monday, February 4, 2013


      There are many reasons to like the English language, the foremost being that I wrote a post about it awhile ago. There are also many things to hate about it. Many, many, many things. But the failing I’m here to discuss is the distinct lack of situation-suitable words. Sure, English may use defenestration, meaning the act of throwing someone out of a window, but does it have backpfeifengesischt, a German word roughly meaning “a face badly in need of a fist”? Because we all know those people. Every country on Earth has them, but apparently Germany has enough of them that they coined their own sneeze of a word to easier identify these people.
"I don't know what it is about your face... I just wanna
deliver one of  these into your suck hole." -Step Brothers (2008)
Everyone knows schadenfreude (except Microsoft Word), or the pleasure of seeing other people’s misfortune. Another German word. Sorry for picking on you, Germany, but if you saw someone you didn’t like get punched in the face and you felt good about it, you’d have a much better constructed sentence to write than this monstrosity. What I’m going to do is try and pick a couple of universal situations that people can all attest to, and then create some words so it’s easier to tell a story to your disinterested friends later. You’ll get it as we go along, believe me. My blog posts are like a card game: only my family plays along! Heyoooo. What? Oh, yeah, this whole thing starts now.

I’ll start with one that I've been using for years (thanks to Brian T.):
Combrumption: (cum-brump-shun) The feeling of a large friend group splitting up without knowing the specifics of where they will be reuniting. “Jeeze, guys, we've been talking about two different Wendy’s parking lots for five minutes now, this is just one huge combrumption.”

Seletoma: (sel-ah-toh-mah) The awkward silence after a large laugh where nobody has anything new to contribute. “The date was going really well until this huge seletoma set in, and we just looked at each other.” (Also acceptable: “I swear, sometimes it feels like my life is just one long seletoma.”)

Gryphyll: (gri-full) A moment of brief indecision where you try to decide if additional minimal work is worth the minimal reward. “I accidentally ate after brushing my teeth last night, and woke up this morning with pieces of carrot still stuck in my teeth. I guess I went the wrong way on that gryphyll last night.”

Creent: (kreent) The silent look that two drivers share about a third driver behaving oddly. “This guy ahead of me went straight from the left turn lane. I met eyes with a lady across the intersection and there was major creent.”

RELATED: This is more of a concept than a word but I want to introduce the Right On Red Paradox: When a fear of running out of time prevents you from acting with what, upon reflection, was ample time. Named after waiting to turn right at a stoplight but refusing, fearing oncoming traffic, only to realize that if you had turned when you had originally decided not to, you would have had plenty of room. This effect is recursive, and you commonly think, upon the Nth time deciding not to go, “Even if I had left the (N-1) time I decided not to, I would have had enough time!”
            -Also called the Candy Thief Paradox for when someone leaves the room, forgetting something, such as candy, money, or an unlocked Facebook account, and you don’t take advantage for fear of them returning too quickly.
                        -Also also called the Roommate’s at Class Paradox for reasons I’m not going to delve into here.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Laugh Tracks Galore

            I hate the Big Bang Theory. Not the physics model, describing the rapidly expanding Universe, which was interestingly named by an opponent of the theory. I mean the TV sitcom, airing on CBS, or ABC, or whatever. The bigger one. You can probably tell from my ignorance of what channel it’s on, that I’ve never seen a full episode. I don’t want to. I've seen enough just over holiday break when I wasn't the one in control of the TV, and WAY more than enough promos while I'm trying to watch football (Sidenote: Screw ND. Roahl Tahde). There’s one joke to the entire show, and the joke isn’t funny. This is the joke- “Look at these nerds.”
            You might say “Mick, that’s not even a joke! The entire premise of humor is designed on subverting the expected to produce a reaction of minor shock- the punchline!” and I’d say “Why yes, that’s exactly what humor is and that’s why the Big Bang Theory is a terrible show.” Say, in the joke, “What’s brown and rhymes with Snoop?” you’re most likely expecting me to say “Poop!” But instead if I say “What’s brown and rhymes with Snoop? Dr. Dre!” I’ve challenged your expectations and given you something you weren’t expecting. Obviously, this joke is hilarious because of it.
            Even understated “anti-jokes” play along this same formula. “What’s brown and sticky? A stick!” Now, I promise that not all of my jokes have to do with things being brown, but the point to this joke is that a stick is SO obvious that you aren’t even considering it, and are surprised that that’s the answer.
            All the Big Bang Theory does is perpetuate your exact expectations for what nerds are. Most “jokes” on the program aren’t even jokes, and instead exist only as mentions of things that people know are associated with nerds. Other people turn in to see the “smart jokes” that they think would go over those other mouth-breathing network TV viewers. What they fail to realize is that a joke referencing a smart thing is not a smart joke. “I wish I could be as skinny as her, she has less mass than the Higgs-Boson!” HAHAHAHA THAT’S NOT FUNNY. That’s just a vocab word you put in the script so that people could clap their hands and feel like they were smart. Hell, it doesn’t even make sense.
            I don’t have time to deconstruct why the concept of a “nerd” is quickly disappearing in today’s society. Actually, I have waaaay more time than is needed to settle that, but absolutely none of the inclination. Just earlier today, I figured out I could write an entire episode of the Big Bang Theory, and that’s what I’ve set out to do.  I don’t know any of the character’s names besides Sheldon, and I only know his because he was the knight in Garden State.
Cold Open: Int.- The Gang’s Apartment
The Indian One: You guys, I have run out of groceries. I must now do the worst thing imaginable: (Pause) Travel to the store to buy more!
Sheldon: Again? You ate just yesterday!
Bowl Cut: I will go with you! We will be like Frodo and Sam!
Indian One: Yes! The Fellowship of the Groceries! (Uncoordinated high five)

Title Credits