Tuesday, January 31, 2012

23 Random Thoughts on Television

Because this is what happens when I read Uncle John's Bathroom Reader Tunes into TV.

The average American apparently watches 28 hours of TV a week. I'm assuming this means the average American is not self-employed and owns Rosie the robot.

2. Everett will never experience the wonder of getting out of bed to be greeted by blessed Saturday morning cartoons. Of course, he will grow up in a world with about three or four 24 hour cartoon channels.

3. How many more months will it be before our cable systems announce the newest channel, 24 Kardashian ("Because You Want a Guarantee There Will Always be Crap on TV").

4. I've wanted to catch Alcatraz, because it looks like it could be a crazy weekly hour of sci-fi/fantasy TV. It might make up for the fact I totally missed out on the LOST craze, but I'm afraid the show might just turn into another catch the criminals series until the writers decide to throw in a smoke monster or a polar bear.

5. The M*A*S*H series finale is still the most watched scripted show in history despite it airing all the way back in 1983. Can that record ever be broken? I think it is possible, but it would have to be something that not only captures the imagination of several generations but it would need to create a feeling that it was "must watch TV" at the very moment it airs.

M*A*S*H had the advantage of being around during a time that network television was still king and there was a limited number of cable channels to choose from. It was also during a time that the VCR was still a relatively new product and the DVR was almost 2 decades away from even existing. You also didn't have the same level of other media to compete with such as the internet and more advances video games (video games were huge in the '80s, but they're even more accessible now). The competition was far easier, and it was more likely that the viewer would grow and get attached to a show (M*A*S*H had an 11 year series run). Network shows still garner the best ratings, but they don't get close the viewers they did in the 70s and 80s, because there is just so many more channels to watch shows on. Even if you had a show that captured the imagination like M*A*S*H, you'd probably have a huge group that would just either DVR it or track it down on the internet. Our society doesn't have the same "must watch it now" mentality unless it is a live sporting event (I'm assuming not too many people will have "DVR the Super Bowl and watch it later" parties).

6. I know some people complain there are far too may product placements and corporate sponsors have too much control over television. But currently on TV, we don't have news broadcasts controlled by cigarette companies that demand pro smoking oriented telecasts and end with a close up of a cigarette burning in a clean ashtray.

7. Imagine what the response would be if there was a "Very Special Episode" of The Office or How I Met Your Mother.

8. So, why the heck did I love ALF so much? I knew I shouldn’t have eaten that paste in Grade 1.

9. Based off the fact I'm still over a month behind on several of the TV shows that I've wanted to follow, I think I'm officially putting Hell on Wheels in the pile of permanently unwatched shows. Of course, I'm still willing to listen to last minute arguments to convince me this is a must watch show.

10. McDonald's has this new commercial where they go on about how they have 100% pure beef and how everyone loves some of that magical beef deliciousness (yeah, I hear vegetarians raving about it all the time). In this commercial they show a guy wolfing down a steak. A steak. Isn’t this unfairly raising expectations by showing someone devouring a juicy steak in order to sell their "well, they say this thin patty is beef" burgers?

11. Everett will grow up in a world where there won't be the "Network Television Event", also known as the cheaply produced made for TV movie that also is a failed pilot.

12. The Ropers, The Tortellis & Joey alert: There are serious talks of a Dwight Schrute spin off, where he works on his beet farm. This is exactly what The Office needs to take off one of its key characters so that he can go on a show that will be cancelled after 4 episodes.

13. It has been 35 years since the Roots miniseries captured the attention of the North American viewing audience and became an instant ratings juggernaut. Yet TV executives still hesitate about fully backing a show with a largely African American cast (unless it stars Bill Cosby -- which Roots didn't have, by the way).

14. Speaking of Cosby, he really needs to start to work on a sitcom pronto, because the '00s marked the first decade since the ‘50s that a Cosby network TV show did not grace the airwaves.

15. The Seinfeld finale was the '90s equivalent of Bobby coming out of the shower after Pam was dreaming for an entire season.

16. Of course, I say the above without ever watching Dallas and not have seen that Seinfeld finale since it first aired. I think the buildup is what made it a huge let down, and there is a chance I'd actually love it today.

17. A decade later and I'm still bitter Freaks & Geeks got cancelled after half a season.

18. I'm not a Trekkie but I also would never be one to downplay the amazing cultural significance the entire franchise has played. The original a series has one of the first ever onscreen interracial kisses (and the first lip to lip kiss between a white male and a black female). This is major considering just a few years prior there was an unwritten rule on network TV that blacks and whites interaction should be kept to a minimum (if allowed at all).

19. I still think The Arsenio Hall Show was one of the best talk shows ever. Now, I haven't seen it since it got canceled and I've been disappointed many times after rewatching once beloved shows (thanks a lot TeleToon retro for ruining my childhood), but I'm positive it was still hundred times better than The Chevy Chase Show.

20. In the '80s, my family watched Magnum P.I, on a weekly basis and I think my mom wanted to marry Tom Selleck's mustache. This is the reason that I actually thought that 1970's blockbuster superstar Burt Reynolds was actually a Selleck wannabe. Sorry about that, Bandit.

21. The Honeymooners may be one of the most well-known (next to I Love Lucy the most rerun during lunch) of all 1950s shows, but as its own series it actually only ran 39 episodes. A crazy fact you probably couldn't care less about, but I find that astonishing (though it used to part of several variety shows, and so I'm not sure if reruns come from those episodes as well).

22. The OJ Simpson trial was such a cultural touchstone that I remember our high school classes were interrupted so that the verdict could be announced. But it appears they read it wrong, because they said he was innocent.

23. What does Happy Days, Good Times, Family Matters, West Wing, Seinfeld, M*A*S*H, That 70's Show, Saved by the Bell, ER, and Friday Night Lights have in common? In each show, at some point aliens abducted a character and then erased their existence from the memory of every other character on the show. Of course, this scene was also left off on every single one of these shows.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Stephen King's Night Shift: Does the Early Works Still Have a Place in his Literary Empire?

I've been promising a review of Stephen King's first collection of short stories for several weeks now, and I thought I better write this thing before I completely forget about each story. I did a review of King's second short story collection, Skeleton Crew, over a year ago. I absolutely adored the anthology and thought it was huge proof that King is an extremely talented writer who can compose compelling works in various genres. Night Shift doesn't span as many genres, but rather sticks to mostly supernatural horror stories (with a few exceptions). This also makes sense since the majority of the stories come from the period that King was just trying to scrap by financially and he found a small niche in writing horror stories for the "skin mags" (which paid a really good rate back then). This collection also spans close to 15 years as he included stories written in the ‘60s up until 1976 (collection was published in 1978).

Even though it is easy to peg this as a horror story anthology, it is an unfair label – which is always my stance when it comes to King's stories. He does a great job of exploring the emotions and personalities of the average person and exploring how they respond to supernatural and horrific circumstances. In the end, his stories aren't really about the monsters but rather the humans who are experiencing these events. He is great at creating multi layered, believable people, and with these individuals, he explores a variety of deep issues. I know the literary snobs would disagree that King's work is profound and explores thought provoking issues, but they'd likely not want to admit they’re snobs to begin with. Yes, King admits his works is the fast food of the literary world but it is high end fast food that is delicious and you can still find nuggets of nutritional value (after all, the Big Mac uses real lettuce).

Here is my quick look at each of the stories contained in Stephen King's Night Shift. A collection that contains some of his oldest works, but also has some of his most classic and enjoyable stories to this day.

Jerusalem's Lot: This would have been one of the last stories written that was included in the anthology (may have been written exclusively for the collection), and it provides some background to the eerie village that is the focus of his vampire novel, 'Salem's Lot. Even though this particular story doesn't contain any vampires, it is written in a similar style as the most popular vampire novel, Dracula (it is written completely in the style of diary entries and correspondence). I really enjoyed how this story leaves the reader to doubt if there really is supernatural horrors taking place or if it is just the collapse of one man's sanity (this is why the diary and correspondence style is so effective -- you don't know if it is all coming from a deteriorating mind). Of course, the novel this story is providing a background for would answer the insanity vs. reality question, but I felt the story does a fantastic job of giving you some doubt. Especially since the story ends with an entry by a descendant who seems to question the truthfulness of the prior entries, while also alluding to a possible history of family insanity (or is it the curse that lives within this family home).

The story is legitimately scary. I read this story while my wife was sick and I slept in a separate room to avoid the illness. There was only a lamp on and the room was shrouded in shadows. I got spooked reading it. The walls seemed a little less quiet that evening. It is a good scare, but also an incredibly well written story that pays homage to some classics. The story is mostly based in the 1800s but sets the stage for the novel based in the 70s. I feel the time period allows for the story to become that much darker but also causes you to question what is real because it is happening during a time of great superstition. If you enjoy gothic fiction than this one is a real treat (and if you like sleepless night then read it in the dark right before bed time).

Graveyard Shift: This is an example of how King just uses his "monsters" as a back ground or a way to drive the more important human stories. On the surface this seems like a story about a textile mill that is plagued by giant mutant rats that dwell in the basement. The mutant rats play an important part in making this story disturbing and uncomfortable. The real story is about a drifter who takes on a job at this mill and his volatile relationship with the cold hearted boss. The thing that really makes this story intriguing is that there isn't a clear hero in this tale. The boss appears heartless and maybe even a little corrupt, but the "protagonist" reveals a dark side when he starts to feel like he is being pushed around. I think many readers will get disturbed by this story and not necessarily just because it contains rats the size of large dogs. I enjoyed this story that reveals that there are vile monsters that are hidden in many dark places (including inside the soul of some human beings).

Night Surf: This is actually a "prologue" to King's epic novel, The Stand. A huge portion of the world's population has been wiped out by a dreadful virus, and this story is a small peak at the life of a few survivors. Unlike the novel, this isn’t about warring factions or the attempt at rebuilding society, but rather it is just some young kids trying to make sense of this new world and trying to make the best of the relationships they have left. The strength of this story is the window into the emotions and fears of the characters, and being able to see their authentic and honest deep thoughts on how they must cope and survive. I enjoyed it because the characters are incredibly flawed and in many ways very selfish. It isn't about humans rising above their circumstance or becoming heroes, but just about some people trying to enjoy what they see as their last days on Earth.

I Am The Doorway: One of the original covers of this anthology shows a hand that is covered with eyeballs. This is the story that cover is depicting. It is another story that plays the "insanity vs. reality" card for a long while, as a majority of the story is a character describing some dark events to a friend. This was a written during a time that space travel was a big part of the culture, and there were still lots of debate over what could possibly be contained in the planets surrounding us. This tale talks about a rather nasty side effect an astronaut experienced when he landed on Venus and took home something that would haunt him for the rest of his life. It is yet another dark and disturbing story that might make you queasy at times, but sometimes that exactly what is necessary for a good story. Life is full of unexplainable and nasty things, and it can be relieving to get that cathartic experience from the relatively safe confines of fiction.

The Mangler: They actually tried to make a movie based on this story, and I hear it was absolutely awful. What really were the chances that a movie about a possessed industrial laundry press machine would be of any type of quality? Well, you may answers with, "The same chances that a short story about a possessed industrial laundry press machine would be any good." And you'd be wrong. This is actually a really great story and one of the stand outs in a collection full of fantastic (but horrifying) tales. The big difference is that a movie needs to have constant visual actions and can't properly explore the inner thoughts of a human. A written story can be compelling without constant action and can delve into the inner psyche of a human being. Once again, the strength of this tale is based on the emotions and thoughts of the character. The detective is especially interesting as he tries to solve this bizarre case of a seemingly fine machine causing the most horrid of accidents. The synopsis of this story is over the top and ridiculous, but it is King's ability to create true human emotion that makes it an engaging story. I also know that I never wanting to work at an industrial laundry facility.

The Boogeyman: If you sense there is a dark force or monster, but you do nothing about it, then were you responsible for the death of your children? This is the question posed by this short story. It may seem like a ridiculous question, since we know there isn’t a boogeyman residing in our closet. Even though this is a story that deals in the supernatural, I still think it presents an interesting question. Are there times that we can protect our child, but we fail due to doubts or insecurities? Or what do we do when we fail to protect our children and how do we survived the ever lingering guilt? I find this such an intriguing story, because the main character isn't that likable. He is a bit of a racist and sexist, and he is definite blue collar. The man is flawed. He is forever tormented by his inability to protect his children from the boogeyman. This is something fathers can relate to -- the absolute need to protect your child. This story resonates with me more now that I have a son that I instinctually feel driven to keep safe. I feel this story is more powerful because the character isn't a saint but still loved his children. There isn't any qualification to becoming a father, but also there isn't any requirement to be ingrained with a sense of protection for your child. It is a reminder that you’re a protector of your children even when you're not the world's definition of a hero or even a good person. I feel the story resonates more when the character really is flawed and even weak, and now forever tormented in the feelings of failure as a father (something that many father will wrestle with even if it isn't due to attacks from a boogeyman).

Grey Matter: After reading this story, I've decided it is of paramount importance that I check my beer to make sure no seal has been broken or any evidence of grey residue around the bottle/can. This story was written during a time when there was some widespread panic in America over contaminated food. This is a fear that still exists among some groups. I've never heard of beer or any food items turning someone into a cannibalistic monster, but some of the messages of this tale will still play to the fears of many. This was another one that made it just a little bit harder to be able to have a sound sleep after gobbling up the dark tale right before bed time (and again, I was alone in the guest room while consuming this horror story). It is a fun little story, as long as you feel comfortable using the word "fun" when describing a tale about a man who is slowly turning into a horrible blob-like creature thanks to some bad brew.

Battleground: Not all stories contain a hero. In this story, the "protagonist" is a hit man who just killed off a toymaker. I know the hit man was doing his job, but can you ever really cheer for a guy willing to kill off a person who brings joy to thousands of children? Well, the mother of the toymaker sure isn't a fan of the guy because she sends a rather nefarious package. She created the battleground as the hit man fights for his survival against the most dangerous army toys known to man. It is a creative and exciting little story that not only thrills but also gives you a few laughs. It definitely provides for a different kind of feel and atmosphere compared to many of the other stories in this collection.

Trucks: Another example of an amazing short story that doesn't translate into a good movie. King used the premise of this story (and actually several parts of this actual story) for his directorial debut (and also his directorial finale), Maximum Overdrive. I actually like the movie far more than most critics, but also realize the appeal comes more from the B-Movie style of film watching (how bad can this things truly get?). The short story is a great "group of strangers trapped together and must coexist in order to survive" sort of tale. King perfected this type of story with his 1980 novella, The Mist, (included in Skeleton Crew), but this is an incredible first effort. Actually, the two stories go into very different directions, and this tale works with a much smaller cast of characters. The characters aren't dealing with an unknown entity like in The Mist, but rather are fighting the machines they've controlled and used for years and years. The unknown fear comes from the question of why have the trucks suddenly got a mind of their own and decided to unleash their hellish fury upon their former owners. I also am a big fan of the ambiguous ending and feel it adds some extra oomph to the message. This was being written during the oil crisis of the 70s, and at the time there was a real fear the way transportation existed was going to change drastically. Though demonic trucks seem like a silly concept, the fear and emotions and response of the characters seems genuine and that is what drives this story. It is another favourite of several from this great collection.

Sometimes They Come Back:
This is a story about how eventually your past is going to come back to haunt you. This is a scenario that many could relate to such as a criminal record that gets in the way of a job hiring or a colleague you harmed that now may play a role in your job advancement or a traumatic experience that refuses to leave your mind at night or numerous other events that sneak back into your life. Of course, it is unlikely that the teenagers that murdered your brother would come back from the dead to haunt you and eventually try to kill you. This would also be why this is a short story about supernatural horror fiction rather than real life. The protagonist is one you can relate to you, and he has a past he wants to be able to erase. He can't, and it returns to haunt him. This is something that I know many can relate to, even if the actually scenario is hopefully something no one has gone through. This story has a message you can discuss and ponder about, but it also provides the necessary action to be incredibly entertained. I don't want to spoil this story, but the ending was excellent and maybe the most disturbing "happy ending" you could imagine.

Strawberry Fields: It has a harmless title, which of course means it is one of the darkest tales. An intriguing and well written tale (which is about a series of serial murders) that will definitely get you thinking.

The Ledge: Not all "monsters" need to be supernatural. This is the tale of cold hearted crime boss who seeks revenge on the man who was having an affair with his wife (he wants revenge despite the fact it is pretty clear the marriage was entirely loveless). This story reminds me of a classic short story I absolutely adored as a kid "The Most Dangerous Game" by Richard Connell, which (along with "The Lottery" by Mary Jackson) is what got me hooked on wanting to write fiction. The concept is similar in that the villain makes a deal with the protagonist where the protagonist will be able to survive (and in this case, walk away with money and his wife) if he can win the challenge. In this case, the challenge is navigating around the building on the ledge. The story does a great job of capturing the human fear of extreme heights while also playing to the despair of trying to effectively accomplish this bet so that the protagonist can survive the fury of the gangster while also return to the arms of his lover. Of course, the whole time the protagonist has to question if he can trust the mob boss and hope that his girl did get safely away. It is the type of plot with some additional elements that could make a more than thrilling popcorn muncher, and is the type of story that is able to capture the type of emotions and peril that has made me fall in love with fiction. The story mixes playing to the type of nightmares I am tormented with but also the type of scenario that I would pretend I was in as a child (of course, I always came out the victor in my little imaginary world). I love this story, and one day will definitely write something that is a tribute to this (which I feel is a tribute to the awesome "The Most Dangerous Game").

The Lawnmower Man: You might read this and think, "Oh, they made an awful movie about this short story too." Well, that isn't exactly true. They made a movie that used the title of this short story and even deceptively called it Stephen King's Lawnmower Man, but the movie has absolutely nothing to do with this awesome story. This is actually one of the stories that initially made me a Stephen King fan. In Grade 9, a friend of mine recommended that I check this story out and kept on going on about how awesome the ending of it was. I think he may have even spoiled the ending. I won't do that to you, even if this story is now over 35 years old.

I fell in love with this short story back in Grade 9, because I loved the vivid and dark imagination while also the fact it could create authentic humans. This really is the power of Stephen King. The protagonist isn't virtuous or some super hero, but your regular and flawed average person. He gets thrown in this very scary and very supernatural situation. I love the balance of characters who are incredibly realistic along with situation that is absolutely absurd (a lawnmower company owned by the god Pan). This is another really fun story -- as long as you find guts and entrails to be fun, of course.

Quitters Inc - There really isn't a villain in this story. It isn't exactly horror. But there may be characters you despise and there are events that will make you gasp. You have a character that feels his addiction to cigarettes is ruining his life, and so he joins this program with can't miss results. Let's just say the techniques are a little controversial, but would definitely make most promise to never use a cigarette again. It is another story that will cause some heated discussions, and in this case, question how far should a company be allowed to go even if it has been agreed upon by the customer. Can you justify evil means if it leads to positive ends? This really is what the story is asking and I like that it doesn't necessarily try to give you a straight answer. I am sure the reader will think it gives an answer, but that is more an example of one's beliefs rather than what the story truly presents. I think a great story should have a message, but should also allow the reader to decide for themselves based off how things play out. This is exactly what is allowed to happen here, and this approach creates a strong story with a more effective message.

I Know What You Need: You ever see a close friend in a relationship that you know is completely bad for her but she can't see it because she is clouded by the emotion of being in a relationship? Well, this story is exactly like that except more Stephen King than 90210 -- likely because it was written by Stephen King rather than produced by Aaron Spelling. You can definitely see analogies to girl who traps herself in a dangerous relationship despite protests from friends, but it is wrapped into a supernatural mystery story. You'll be busy trying to figure out how this nerd was able figure out all the girl’s thoughts and desires while always having luck end up his way rather than bother analyzing the issues the story is trying to present. That is what a good story should do, get you wrapped into the story while you read and then leave the message to be debated after the fun has all been had.

Children of Corn:
This is a pretty well-known short story, and has been made into about 2 billion awful B-movies (and one decent early 80s big budget film starring Linda Hamilton). I am sure you can find a message about the dangers of organized religion or extreme ideologies, or you can just decide it is a message about why you shouldn't have kids. No matter what message you want to debate, it is a pretty chilling story. I also like the fact that the entire build up is a dissolve of a marriage and that both are in emotional ruin even before the horror begins. Again King takes the time to really develop the characters and flesh them out rather than just make perfect cookie cutter versions of something that resembles humans. You get involved in their relationship before you get thrust into the horror that is this cult village known as Gatlin, Nebraska. This story is popular and considered a classic for a reason, and has inspired many other interesting stories about cult like towns.

The Last Rung on the Ladder: Though Night Shift isn't as diverse as Skeleton Crew, there are a few stories that prove King can write more than just horror. This sad and tragic tale about a brother reflecting upon his once close relationship with his sister is evidence of the range of stories King can create. It is a sentimental tale, but not written in an overly gushy way. The characters are still fleshed out in a realistic way and it creates a believable situation you find real people could get into. The man reflects upon a day in his childhood where he saved his sister's life, and then starts lamenting how he allowed their relationship to drift apart. It is a great story about the importance of family without being preachy or didactic.

The Man Who Loved Flowers: You're either going to despise or love this story. You may be able to finger out what the story is about, but I think it still provides an interesting message on how human's tend to view each other.

One for the Road:
A return to a story about Jerusalem's Lot, but this time with far more vampires. It a cautionary tale about why you should never stop your car in an abandoned town in the middle of a blizzard in a Stephen King story. Luckily, most of us are not in a Stephen King story. Or so we think.

The Woman in the Room: Stephen King wrote this while his mother was dying from cancer. I am pretty sure this fictional story was a way for him to cope with the loss and pain he was experiencing. I read this just weeks after Emily's dad passed away. I found this was a beautiful but emotionally draining story to read. This is proof that King has a softer side. It is definitely one of his more powerful and emotional pieces, and you can just feel the passion that must have gone into this story.

This is a collection of some of Stephen King's oldest works. He has written many masterpieces since this collection. I think, this anthology still stands up to almost anything he has written since. It is a great showcase of his talents and contains some of the scariest stories he has ever written. This is a definite must read for anyone who wants to see why Stephen King has become a mainstream literary icon.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

My Most Viewed Blog Posts of January 2012

Back in the summer, I revealed my most viewed blog posts of all time. The rankings have changed slightly since then, but not by a significant amount. But I'm a geek when it comes to these types of statistics and my ego is large enough where I think there are a few readers that might give a rip about them too. So, I wanted to present the top viewed articles of this past month along with my usual ramblings and thoughts.

RIP Macho Man Randy Savage 1952-2011 - It is kind of crazy that a blog post I wrote over six months ago was viewed almost twice as much as the number two most viewed post. And that my loyal readers, is why this post is by far the most read ever on this blog and will likely always be in that position (unless I stumble upon creating some amazing internet meme). All the credit goes to that little search engine called Google, and the fact this post ranks really high when people go looking for almost anything with the name "macho man". Sites will rank high if they are considered an authority on the particular topics that are being googled, and much thanks to the wrestling sites that linked to this particular post thus giving me credibility for all things macho man.

Craig Kielburger: Inspiring Others For Greatness - This one is over a year old, and is beating out all the fresh content from this month by a significant amount. I mentioned this back in August, but I think the main reason it ranks so well on Google is that Kielburger is a minor celebrity that promotes causes people care about but he isn't well enough known to be written about to an extensive degree. It means several people track him down on Google, but there isn't a huge amount of competition when it comes to content on him. My site benefits from this, and gets more eyeballs than it would without this post.

The Greatest Boxing Day Surprise Ever: AKA The Most Wonderful Excuse for Not Blogging for Several Days - This is more proof that babies equal web traffic. This post snagged a huge amount of views from links on various social media sites (mainly Facebook) thanks to casual friends and acquaintances patiently waiting for the big baby announcement. I used this blog post to announce Everett's arrival, and so it got a massive amount of hits thank to that fact. Actually, it gained so many views that it is now in a comfy spot in the all-time viewed posts rankings. So yes, I use my son to superficially inflate my numbers -- I'm turning out to be a great father.

Debunking the Latest Crazy Internet Meme - I'm actually really touched by this blog post achieving so many hits. Usually my blog posts will rank high because I put the link up on various sites that I feel will have readers that would be interested in it. In the case of this post, several of my readers liked this post enough that they gave the link out to several site, and the post became a bit of a meme itself. This is probably the highest blog post I've ever written that doesn't contain babies and I did not do any extra promotion for other than the usual Twitterfeed links. It also seems people are questioning the validity of the meme targeted in this post, because I've got some hits from people on Google looking for info on "Miguel Carano" or facts of the sentencing of Kim Schmitz. Kudos to those who didn't mindlessly listen to a photoshopped picture!

About Those Christmas Photos I Vaguely Promised. .... - A post that promises cute pictures of dogs, cats and babies will never fail to attract the masses.

My Observations of My First Two Weeks of Fatherhood Plus Pictures!!! - What?!? I promise baby pictures and it gets several views? But how could this have happened? Oh yeah, that whole babies equals web traffic thing. You'd almost think I would be counting on that kind of thing when I promise things like pictures.

Oops! Sorry, Your Marriage was Just Pretend - Another post that did really well despite the fact I didn't promote it outside of the usual link I have programmed to show up on Twitter and Facebook. This post actually attracted a group of Libertarians, and I can only assume this was due to the fact that I mentioned that political affiliation in the post (because it really wasn't a post that focused on that particular political views). I also tend to get many hits from the social media sites when I promise rants on things like sex and marriage (probably because it sometimes can lead to babies).

So, How is Summit with Everett? - A picture of a baby and a cute dog. You know the drill by now.

My Thoughts on SOPA & PIPA - Yet another post that helped feed my ever growing ego, because the promotion and links largely came from my readers rather than me. Most of the views came from the day it was posted and it hasn't had much life outside of "Black Wednesday." Of course, a lot of that comes from the fact the acts were scrapped shortly after the mass internet protest.

Introducing Pregnancy & Newborn Magazine's Newest "Dad's Eye View" Columnist. . . - My ego got much more food, when the large amount of views for this post was proof that people actually care about my writing career. After this announcement, I got some really nice emails from people congratulating me on landing this job. I also know that I've landed several new regular readers for my "Dad's Eye View" column, and my actual blog has increased in daily views ever since I became the columnist too. This job has been a nice boost for my career, and I'm glad I've been able to snag a few more readers thanks to it.

And so those are the Spicer ramblings that grabbed the most eyeballs in the month of January. As always, I am incredibly thankful for every single one of my readers. You folks are the awesome.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Today's Not Exactly Profound Thought

If you're outside in the winter and you're sweating, then you're working way too hard.

Unless you live in a hot climate.

Then you should go inside and turn on the air conditioning.

But if you're not in a hot climate, then you probably shouldn't turn on the air conditioning. Especially when you have dinner guests. They hate it when you do that.

Friday, January 27, 2012

11 Reasons Why Last Night's Parks & Recreation Rocked Off My Socks

I've been watching Parks & Recreation off and on ever since it debuted. I've laughed and enjoyed episodes, but it has always just been something I waste a half hour before The Office comes on. Don't get me wrong, there have been moments of brilliance, but it has always been swimming around number 4 or 5 on my top sitcoms I must watch. For a guy who doesn't have a lot of disposable time, that isn't a good place to be in if you’re a show wanting to be watched. But last night I had some time to check out the newest episode of Parks & Recreation, and it looks like we've got ourselves a show that wants to start pushing up the rankings of not just sitcoms I must watch but anything on TV.

Here are 11 things that made last night's episode awesome. Why 11? Well, why not?

Oh yeah, it is filled with spoilers of a show that has already aired on national television.

1. There is something extremely fitting and perfect to the character of Leslie Knope that not only did she suggest bowling as a campaign awareness strategy but she happens to be awesome at bowling too. I'd love to see the upcoming Presidential elections filled with bowling tournaments rather than high priced gala dinners.

2. In a fundraising phone campaign where the objective is to raise the most money in order to win cinema tickets (which in itself fits perfectly with the small town charm of this show), Andy informs a willing donator that he doesn't think you can give more than a $50.00 donation.

3. Ron puts down Anne's name for the bowling scoreboard as "Girl".

4. Tom bowls with two hands, and is awesome. Much to the cursing dismay of Ron. A classic episode is always one were poor Ron get incredibly frustrated and would I really spend time jotting down 11 things I love if this wasn't a classic (yeah, probably).

5. Ron reveals his favourite restaurant is the snack bat in the bowling alley. It serves hamburgers and hot dogs. And that is it, according to the menu.

6. April actually tries to win the phone pledge drive (and for the first time actually acts cheery) with the sole purpose of crushing Chris' happiness. But then when Chris gets dumped and is sad for the first time in show history, April actually gives him the tickets (and invites him to go to the movies with Andy and herself) to lift his spirits. This scene totally demonstrated the magic of Parks & Recreation as you’re bursting out in laughter over April's awkwardness but also touched by her sweet gesture (a possible first for her on this show). It works because April still kept to her character despite actually being nice.

7. Ben goes totally out of character (but still totally believable at the same time - - confused?) by knocking out a guy who called Leslie a bitch (and also happened to be the guy Leslie spent all night trying to woo into voting for her). It was another awesomely funny but also sweet moment -- or at least, as sweet as punching out a guy can be (he did it to "protect" his girlfriend). A classic scene that reminds everyone not to mess with a nerd's girl (all that pent up rage over Battlestar Galactica's cancellation).

8. Tom telling Ben they both had "hand owies". Of course, Ben got his from knocking a guy out and Tom got his by pinching his hand against a bowling ball.

9. Leslie holding a public apology conference for her boyfriend punching out the guy, but instead declares she isn't apologetic and proud her boyfriend punched out the jerk. In an awesome twist, it causes the voters to appreciate her more since she stood by her kick ass boyfriend (who owns a rocking Batman suit too). It is yet another scene that had me laughing out loud but also did a great job conveying human emotion. I'm rooting for Leslie to get voted in council, but this show isn't necessarily known for things turning out positive.

10. Champion the dog. It is physically impossible to not love a three legged dog.

11. Jerry uncomfortableness around the oblivious Chris and his daughter who has arrived just to break up with Chris. Jerry is easily the most underrated character on this show when it comes to delivering comedy.

I loved this episode and looking forward to what they have in store for sweeps month.

What is Worse Than Pushing for Two and Half Hours in Labour? Well, Having to Stop Pushing

That is exactly what my warrior of a wife had to do as we transferred to the hospital after our failed attempt at a home birth. This sounds like quite the story, doesn't it? Well, it is and you can read the exciting fourth chapter on my "Dad's Eye View" column over at Pregnancy & Newborn Magazine. It is just the type of adventure to kick off your Friday properly. Just in case you're a little behind on Everett's birth story, you should skim around the archives and find all the crazy stuff that led us to this point. After all, what else would you do at work on a Friday morning?

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Apparently, My "One Month Old" Pictures Were Too Old, So. . .

One Month Old

It is crazy to think it has already been a month. Though it is also pretty amazing to think it has also only been a month.

I love you, Everett.

Debunking the Latest Crazy Internet Meme

This lovely little photoshopped poster has been making the rounds at all the major social media sites and forums. It usually is followed by the commenter spewing out moral outrage over how a guy sharing digital content could get a far stiffer sentence than a savage who brutally murdered a woman. It usually leads to a bashing of the American legal system and how it shows the courts care more about money than protecting lives.

I actually think this little meme demonstrates something completely different. It shows how people get their "facts" from photoshopped posters, because apparently, if it has pictures, has words, and is on the internet then it must be true (the information is further validated when it makes its way on Facebook).

This poster is hyperbole at its very best and is clearly designed to try to make a point. The point being that the courts care more about keeping the big corporations rich rather than protecting innocent individuals. It is a nice sentiment, but that doesn't actually make the poster factual. The irritating thing is that many folks have decided to take this internet meme as a news report and are spreading it around like it is fact.

The reality is that Megaupload founder Kim Schmitz (also known as Kim Dotcom) was only arrested last week and the trial has not even begun. I've never heard about someone being convicted and sentenced before the trial. From the various articles I've looked at, the sentence seems to be for 20 years rather than the purported 50. The courts are charging him for running a site that housed countless pirated copyrighted material, but there are also charges for racketeering and money laundering. I'm not trying to deny that the main charge isn't for the web site, but the length of the sentence (20 years) is likely based off all the different charges.

I've made my stance on artist's rights to their material a few times on this blog, so I'll keep my babbling to a minimum. The fact is an artist has the right to protect their creative works, be able to decide what to do with their works, and be able to make a living off their hard work. I'm someone who relies on copyrights to make a living and support my family, so you're going to have a hard time convincing me otherwise.

The thing that makes me laugh (not out of happiness though) is the people who try to paint Schmitz as a benevolent soul who is just trying to allow the free exchange of media. The arguments is the big government and corporations are doing away with him, so that all the fat cat CEOs and millionaire musicians can buy more sports cars and own more mansions. I realize it is easier to paint copyrights as something that just make major corporations and millionaires even richer, because then you have the emotional edge to sway people over to your side. Yeah, copyrights do benefit the rich. It also benefits people who could never afford a Porsche and are just trying to support their loved ones. Copyrights also protect the musician making music in his garage who sells the occasional track on iTunes or the starving author who works a year for a five thousand dollar advance. Actually, there are far more artists who are just making enough to squeak by than there are those lighting their cigars with hundred dollar bills.

Don't forget that Schmitz is a millionaire. He made that money off of various artists who never saw a penny from his site (though there seems to be a belief he did pay off some bigger artists to garner their support). Of course, he also made some of that millions from Ponzi schemes and other scams. The man isn't a saint, and I question if the free exchange of media is his top concern.

Do I think that Megaupload.com is an evil site that deserves to be destroyed? No. YouTube isn't facing any heat, yet it is abundant with copyrighted material. You could argue Megaupload's entire popularity and purpose was to share copyrighted works. YouTube claims to try to monitor copyrighted material, and it is pretty clear Megaupload didn't even make a token effort. But it would be completely unfair of me to claim that all material on their site was copyrighted, because it likely wasn't. I do think that the artist does have the right to have their material removed if they asked, and it looks like that never happened. I don’t support a blacklisting of the site, but I do have less respect for a site that profited from the works of artists who were not compensated.

I say all this without agreeing with the 20 year sentence. That is a little harsh, especially when he was just providing the site for the sharing of the copyrighted media rather than actually distributing it. The major issue with me would come from the fact he knowingly profited from pirated material. I would think a fine and lesser jail time would be the more reasonable sentence (it would be great if the money actually went to the artists who lost out on revenue). I also don't know the entirety of the case and what every charge entails.

But 20 years would still be the same as a convicted killer. So, this still shows how messed up the court system is, right? Well, I'm not here to argue the perfection of the court system, but let's look at this convicted killer.

First of all, I tried Googling Miguel Carano and he didn't show up. I found it odd for it to be so hard to find a convicted killer since that is sort of the thing news site jump all over. I did some more research and realized the guy's name is actually Miguel Carcano. It would have been nice if the photoshopped poster had tried to get the name right. I also found out that the man lives in Spain, and he committed the murder in Spain. The trial was conducted in Spain. They had tried for a sentence of up to 52 years, but it did end up going down to 20 years. He was also cleared of the rape charge. On top of the sentence, it does look like he was forced to pay a fine to all the victim's family members (a small consolation to be sure).

The important part to notice is this was a case in Spain. You can't use this conviction as an attack on the American judicial system because it has as much to do with them as European football standings have to do with who goes to the Super Bowl. The comparison is incredibly flawed in making the argument the meme is trying to prove because they're using two totally different legal systems. Of course, the one person hasn't even been convicted yet and is still in New Zealand, and the extradition hearing to bring him to the US for a trial doesn't begin until February 22.

The meme is wonderful to get one all huffy and puffy, but you're also not bursting into an uproar over actual facts. It is a meme that it is just as realistic as those dancing hamsters. I understand the point is to show a flaw in the legal system and try to demonstrate how big corporations are controlling the court. If you're going to try to make that argument then you probably should not use a millionaire huckster who is yet to be convicted and compare his case to a guy convicted in a totally different country. But then again, what fun would the meme be then?

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

A Boy & His Dog

Well, a baby boy. And it isn't exactly "his dog." But let's not get into semantics, but rather just marvel at the massive level of cuteness contained in the photos below.

But how about one with the boy and his beautiful mommy?


And this just seems like the perfect way to end a Wednesday (or start a Thursday, depending on when you view this).

Today's Daily Dose of Irony

In today's "Dad's Eye View" column I discussed how my wife really despises admitting to pain and will do whatever it takes to mask it. I think I did a pretty good job of conveying how tough my wife is, and that the fact she showed any sign of pain during labour really proved how painful it truly was.

Yet I was greeted this evening by, "Your article was really exaggerated."


"You said I screamed. I didn't scream."

"Well, you may not have let out a banshee cry, but you made some noise."

"I was grunting because I was pushing. I liked the pushing. It didn't hurt."

"I saw differently. I did write that you were really tough and mentioned it must have been unbearable for you to ever admit to pain."

"It made me sound like a wimp."

"No, it didn't. Did you at least like the article?"

"It wasn't as good as your other articles."


"Because you lied and made made me sound like a wimp."

So, there you go folks. I write an article about how my wife doesn't like to admit to any sort of pain. She tries to refute it by not wanting to admit to any type of pain. I like it when I can get real world examples to support my claims.

Did I mention how much I love my wife lately?

Now Time to Resolve the Baby Birth Cliffhanger

So, my last "Dad's Eye View" column left you with a bit of a cliffhanger. The midwife couldn't find the fetal heart rate, and I had been instructed to call 911. Things now got pretty scary in the great Spicer Home Birth of 2011. Now, considering most of you have already read my blog post introducing Everett into the world, you may have a pretty good idea on if the heart beat ends up being found or not. But do you know exactly what happened right after that fetal heart beat disappeared? No? Well, then you better check out today's "Dad's Eye View" column over at the very fine Pregnancy & Newborn Magazine site.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

"Review Much?": A Plethora of Thoughts on Things I've Read and Watched This Past Year

I did a few review round ups at the end of last year, but I still epically failed at covering all the different things I've watched and read over 2011. I'm still not going to catch everything here, but I've got a few thoughts on some of the stuff I've read/watched this year.

And if you checked out one of the above collection of reviews, you'll notice I promised a full in depth review of Stephen King's first short story collection, Night Shift, and I do intend on writing that up still. For today, it is a grab bag of assorted review of things that I vaguely remember watching and reading.

Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone:
I jumped on this train a few years late. I didn't read this book for the first time until 2007, when I had to do it for a University course. I steered clear of the novel up until that point for two reasons. One was the fact it was so popular at the time and I was just sick of hearing about it constantly. The other reason was that almost everyone who had read it kept telling me how much I'd love the novel. I have had a bad experience with entertainment that is heavily hyped and people "guarantee" that I'll love it. I remember people promising that Napoleon Dynamite would be a nonstop laughfest and Gladiator was one of the most epic films ever (and since I love Braveheart, I'd be amazed). Well, I ended up hating both movies, and I think a lot of it was due to super raised expectations going into it. I've since re-watched Gladiator, and I did end up really liking it -- so, I realize a lot of the original hate just comes from people promising it will be an all-time favourite.

I'm happy to admit that Harry Potter was the exception to the rule. I fell in love with this book instantly, and gobbled it up in less than two days (it helps the first book is really short). I love entertainment that reminds me of the magic and excitement I had as a child. There were certain works that had the power to sweep me off to far off worlds and lands, and it would cause my imagination to soar to amazing heights. This novel had the ability to do this to me as an adult, and filled me with fond memories of my childhood. I sort of wish this book existed when I was a child, because I'd have had a blast creating my own versions of the Potter universe in my backyard.

J.K. Rowling does an unbelievable job of creating this fantastic world with its own mythology and history. It is the type of world building that most fantasy writers wish they could do as half as well. The scope is remarkable and the depth of characters is unparalleled. You're going to have to look at epics like The Lord of the Rings to find a universe that is so meticulously constructed and filled with such fascinating creatures.

I tried to come up with some criticisms of the first novel, but any I found were quickly squashed when I realized, "Oh yeah, this is a kid's book." The writing can be simplistic in parts, and the storytelling has a habit of going "this and then this and then this." It is also being written for people in elementary school and so you'd lose them if you went too in depth or complicated. The fact that I have to remind myself it is a "kid's book" shows how this novel does a fantastic job of appealing to several generations. It is one of the all-time classic works of fantasy despite not even being 20 years old yet.

You may be wondering why I'm reviewing a book that I read back in 2007, but that is because I did reread it in 2011. And I'm sure this will be a book that will get reread several times over the next several years and decades (and I can't wait for my son to start reading the series either).

Once Upon a Time: And now for another series that shifts from the "real" world to the "fantasy" world. I missed a few episodes at the end of 2011 due to spending a ridiculous amount of time typing in front of my computer, but I've been able to catch up with the new batch that has been served up this year. I'm really loving this series, and enjoying the "flashbacks" that are slowly revealing each fairy tale characters' history. My favourite was the episode that spotlighted Rumpelstiltskin, because it actually showed him as a sympathetic character and revealed that his "evilness" came from making a bad decision (which was done in an attempt to "protect" his son). I like when characters are "shades of grey" rather than pure good and pure evil, and this series has done a great job in showing some sympathetic elements in their main villains (there was also an episode that showed the evil queen's love for her father, but she sacrificed him due to her obsession with getting rid of Snow White). I'm also enjoying the twists on the well-known fairy tales, and how they've tried to incorporate all the characters into one main universe.

If the writers are patient and they plot out well in advance, then this show has potential to go strong for several seasons. It may take some "writer gymnastics" to continue to have Emma not fully believe Henry, especially when he continues to turn out to be right. I also think they can continue the series long after Emma finds out the truth, because if she knows there is a curse doesn't mean she'll instantly be able to vanquish it.

I'm also intrigued by the writer character that just mysteriously showed up in the last episode. I wonder what exactly his tie to the fantasy world is. Did he write the fairy tale book that Henry had that told him about the other world? Is this man the creator of the other universe? Did Emma basically talk to the fairy tale god? Or is he just some schmuck carrying a typewriter (dude, it's the 2010s!) who just happened to stumble upon the crazy town of Storybrooke (which then means Henry is wrong that no visitors ever come to the village). I'm not sure what direction they will go, but I do know I'm hooked.

Inglourious Basterds:
I really like Quentin Tarantino. I want to throw that out there right away. Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction are too of my all-time favourite films and are examples of why he is a brilliant film maker. I also think he has now created a rep of being a quirky and "70s grind house" style filmmaker, and he feels he has to live up to that standard. It means he'll add some elements that aren't necessary to the story or film. He'll put in symbolism that actually hampers the message. I liked this movie; I really did. I felt the Tarantino style was actually a detriment in parts. He added "camp" that should have been played serious. He threw in his "charm" and "quirk" at times that made the film a mess rather than make it feel original. His style isn't original anymore -- that is the problem. He wants to continue to be an innovator in film making then he needs to break away from his "style" and actually try to something unexpected.

This movie was completely mistitled. The Basterds were around for about half of the film. It should have been called A Little Jewish Girl Who Buys a Cinema and Uses It to Exact Her Revenge on the Nazis. Okay, that title sucks too, but it would have at least given me a better idea of what the movie is about. The Basterds main purpose seemed to be to screw up the girls plans, and prove they maybe weren't the amazing fighting machines that we assumed they were. I found it frustrating that we were lead to believe they were this elite Nazi hunting force, yet they were so easily tricked and duped at the climax of the film.

I also think the film would have played better if they kept the camp to strictly when the Basterds were on the screen and played things more seriously for the girl's scenes. It would have been a nice juxtaposition and also displayed Tarantino's message better. Then you could have the two elements and styles crash together at the end of the film. I also want to throw in that I felt it disappointing that they did all this hinting at the Nazi general possibly knowing about the girl's plan but never gave the proper pay off to that storyline. I felt the film was a mess in parts, and critics and awards shows may have given Tarantino the benefit of the doubt due to his reputation.

I also want to make it clear that I really did like the movie. Tarantino is the master of atmosphere and creating unique dialogue. It was a fun popcorn mucher. I just felt it could have been much better, and it was Tarantino's need to follow a certain style that hurt the film.

A Time to Kill: I'm a big John Grisham fan, but after all his novels, I still think his very first book is the best. Grisham had a message and a story he passionately wanted to tell, and he didn't have the reputation of legal thrillers to hamper his style. It allowed for a raw and rough book that wasn't afraid to show the dirty and horrid side of society. It doesn't paint the Deep South in a flattering way, but it also doesn't make most of the characters appear straight evil either. It has lots of grey. The novel doesn't even try to resolve all the issues or allow good to full triumph. It leaves you a little unsettled. It presents "protagonists" that you don't totally feel comfortable with. This is why I love this novel so much. It reflects the real world with all its grime and skeletons in the closet. Grisham has a message he really wanted to tell, and he does it the most compelling and engrossing way possible. Grisham is a fantastic novelist, but his best story will always likely be the one he first published.

What happens when a black man kills two white boys that brutally raped his daughter? More importantly, what happens when this was done in the Deep South where racial tension still exists? It is a story that works on many levels. I am sure many fathers can relate to the rage the character felt when his child had been violated and he wasn't able to protect his precious child. I've been a father for less than a month, but I still already have an ingrained instinct inside that tells me that I will protect my son at all costs. Then this novel throws in the race card, and makes us look at the racism that still exists. Yes, this novel is set in the Deep South, but the reality is, racism doesn't just reside there. It doesn't just plague the United States. This story often made me think about the many issues and tensions that exist right here in Brantford. This book from the mid-80s about the Deep South still resonates with a Canadian living in the early 2010s.

I also find this book fascinating by the behaviour and dialogue that slips in. I am pretty sure Grisham would never write a protagonist to talk and behave this way in a novel written now. The characters constantly throw out the vile "N" word and most of the times are driving while chugging back a six pack. The novel really is a window into a decade that truly is long past, and shows how much our society has already changed. I also recently read John Grisham's The Confession, which is another great book, and it really jumped out at me how different the characters are despite dealing with similar matter. His recent novel also explores racism and how the convicted was unfairly treated likely due to his skin colour, but the language and behaviour is so different compared to A Time to Kill. The difference is likely due to the novels being written in different decades that contain very different mindsets.

Hell on Wheels: I never totally got behind the main character or engrossed in the story of this AMC series set right after the American Civil War. I stuck to the show, because I thought the setting and atmosphere was fantastic. I am a history buff, so I really wanted to like this show. I've now got several episodes behind, and I'm wondering if it is worth trying to catch up. Does anyone watch this series? Did it start to get better after the first few episodes?

Horrible Bosses/30 Minutes or Less: I'm lumping these two movies together, because they both had the same problem. I wanted to see them both, because they had actors that I'm fans of and who usually have pretty funny movies. The trailer looked amusing for both of these films. The problem is that Hollywood has fallen into a comedy film formula that they've decided makes money and gets asses in the plush cinema cushion seats. This formula has essentially created films that are passable, but don't stand out in anyway. You walk away thinking it was fine, but you also end up forgetting everything about it before you fall asleep. There wasn't any major laugh out loud moments or anything that sticks in my head for 5 minutes. The movies were okay, but I don't want okay. I want hilarious and memorable. I wanted the actors to do something crazy and create characters that you'd laugh about many years later. Instead, it was two movies that were just sort of there and pulled off the same type of jokes I've been watching for years. The comedy film is getting stale, and it is time for a director to be brave and present something very different. You know, something that is funny -- but not something that was funny two years ago. I know those jokes. I want something new, and something that will make Coke shoot out of my nostrils. My nostrils haven't had a good dose of Coke in a long time.

A Complicated Kindness: Miriam Toews novel about a teenage Mennonite girl trying to cope in her small community with her father after both her mother and sister left is really unique. I know this novel with no clear plot and from the perspective of an angsty teenage girl isn't for everyone. I'm sure someone will get frustrated with the nonlinear storytelling and the fact Nomi jumps all over the place with her thoughts. I thought, Miriam did an amazing job of making it seem like the authentic journal of a girl who is wrestling with her beliefs and trying to understand what is going on with her family. I didn't see the novel as an attack on religion, but rather one that questions ideologies and mindlessly following dogma. It is an extremely deep novel, especially for one that retells numerous tales about smoking up and chilling out in the back of a truck (not what you peg for profound storytelling). I was compelled by the book because it really seemed like the authentic thoughts of a teenager that is rebelling against the conformity of a religion that has been pushed on her by the community. It isn't just all rebellion and anarchy. There is sweetness, especially in the deep relationship between Nomi and her father. There is also a unique bond and love between the entire family even if the mother and sister are long departed. It is definitely one of my favourite novels, and something that dares to try something unique and different.

Speaking of something that dares to try something different, this is a sitcom that actually is fresh, funny, and original. It has done a fair balance of tackling real issues while also not being afraid to be a little off the wall. The characters in this suburb are ridiculous and over the top, but somehow the writers are still able to make them relatable and people you care about. It helps that Tessa and her father are strong characters and realistically portrayed (and have a wonderful relationship), and thus helps to hold the whole thing together.

I find that How I Met Your Mother and The Office have started to get a little stale and are stuck on a treadmill. I watch them more out of the fact I've been committed to them for so many years and that they do have their occasional classic episode. Meanwhile, Suburgatory has consistently been able to present fresh stories and you know, actually make me laugh. It is nice to actually laugh during show that claims it is supposed to be funny. I still think Modern Family owns the crown for best sitcom, but Suburgatory is a worthy challenger.

Wasting Light: I didn't watch or read this latest album by the Foo Fighters, but I did love it. As most of the bands I've grown up with have either disbanded or stuck to the occasional reunion tour, it is nice to have the fighters of foo to consistently knock out high quality albums. I can't think of an album from them that hasn't at least jammed half the CD with blow away songs and the rest with stuff that eventually grows on you. This album is no exception, but this time I fell in love with almost everything on this disc. The songs have a nice mix of super hard rocking anthems to some sweet little ballads to songs you can't properly define but love anyway. It's perfect Foo Fighters and a CD that would have got way more play this year if we didn't hide all our CDs away during renovations earlier in 2011.

I've got way more books and CDs and films that I'd like to babble on and on about, but this should be enough to fill you up for today.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Life Lessons Learned from my Wife's Moans

Okay, maybe I didn't learn things specifically from any moans my wife ever did. But she did moan on Boxing Day, and on that day I definitely did learn a few things. What were they? Oh, you'll have to check out today's "Dad's Eye View" column to get the answer to that. So, why don't you do exactly that? Serious, why not? I promise your work will still be here when you get back.

Go read Part 2 of the ongoing adventure that is Everett's oh-so-exciting entrance into this world.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Thursdays Don't Seem Like a Good Day For Blogging, But are a Fine Evening for Pictures

I was quite occupied today, so the blog was left desolate and deserted.

But to make up for that fact, I offer you pictures of pure cuteness.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Before You Go Hugging a Panda, Check Out My Latest "Dad's Eye View" Column

I know, I told you most of the internet was blacked out and so you should go find something else to do, but of course, I meant after you moseyed on over to Pregnancy & Newborn Magazine where my latest "Dad's Eye View Column" has been published.

You'll really want to check this one out, because it is the start of my several part story about Everett's entrance into this world. It is quite the adventure, and so you'll not want to miss out. Today I reflect upon that Christmas Day where we thought we had some "fact contractions" and then early Boxing Day morning lets us know what they really were. Check out the column and discover what we were doing early Boxing Day morning (it was likely more exciting that what you had on tap).

My Thoughts on SOPA & PIPA

I've made my stance on copyright infringement and "piracy" clear in the past.

A person who creates art and entertainment has rights to that created work. There is a moral and legal obligation to protect those rights. A creative person puts a lot of hard work and time into their creation, and so they have the right to choose how their creation is presented and used. The artist deserves to maintain their rights and get their proper compensation. I am also saying this because my very livelihood and ability to support my family hinges on copyright laws. I create works and sell it on a daily basis, and I rely on my ability to maintain the rights to what I've created.

Despite saying all this, I think SOPA & PIPA are some of the most harmful and dangerous legislation that has ever threatened to be passed.

I compare it to the equivalent of me looking in the mirror and noticing a zit is on my nose. I then decided to fix this problem by beheading myself. Yes, I got the zit off my body, but now I'm also dead. It is solving the problem by causing far more.

I haven't decided if SOPA & PIPA are just really extreme acts to control copyright violations and internet piracy (Yar!) or if the copyright portion of the act is a disguise to help push forward governments' long term wet dream of finally controlling the internet.

This is the problem. These acts are a direct violation of freedom of speech and the exchange of ideas on the internet. It allows the mass blacklisting of websites without almost any just cause. It'll allow major corporations and entities to block sites that they don't agree with under the disguise of the site violating some type of copyright law. It is censorship to the highest degree and will harm all the things that make the internet a worthwhile endeavor.

Under how these acts are currently written, my own site would be blocked and blacklisted. This act will do a rather nasty job of crushing any other media start-ups. It will actually absolutely suck dry any form of free speech and free exchange on any of the social media sites. The internet will become a police state.

Some people want to paint SOPA & PIPA as the protector of artists and copyrights. As I've said before, I am totally in agreement with protecting copyrights, and feel artists have rights to their creation. But these acts are not the way to do it. The language is too lazily constructed and the measures are far too extreme. I actually think these acts will harm the potential for new artists to be discovered and rise up through the internet. These acts will actually be harmful for the creation of creative and innovative works.

Copyrights are not some construct that just protects the fat cat media heads of entertainment conglomerates. They're extremely valuable to the small artist who create works in their basement and are just struggling to get by. I'm far from rich, but I rely on copyright laws. But this act actually is beneficial to your big billion dollar entertainment conglomerates, and essentially nobody else. If there is any benefit to these acts, then they are left worthless by the censorship that is being imposed.

I think the biggest proof of SOPA and PIPA's harm is demonstrated by artists that are allowing their sites to go black in protest today. These are talented individuals that rely on copyrights to protect their works, but they don't feel SOPA and PIPA are going to be worth anything to them.

I encourage you to follow some of the links on those sites and sign the petition if you agree these legislations are harmful.

And if you have no clue what the heck SOPA or PIPA are, then well, read up on that too.

Since most of the internet is black today anyway, you mind as well go find a panda and hug it (or do something else non-internet related).

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

12 Wondrous Ways to Celebrate Betty White's 90th Birthday

1. Make a vaguely funny, pop culture laden tribute to Betty White on your blog, because a fan begged you to do something for the television icon (or maybe that is just me?)

2. Re-enact your favourite The Golden Girls moments with the '80s Golden Girl action figures. I think, the one on the top right is Rose.

3. Head down to Cleveland and wander the streets in nothing but a Speedo and constantly moan, "It is so hot here." It's Cleveland, so likely no one will notice.

4. Challenge a team of elderly ladies to a game of football, but arm them with nothing but Snickers bars. If TV is anything close to reality, they should do fine.

5. Find a person from different generations, and get them to describe the character they most associate Betty White with playing. Then sit back and enjoy as they tear each other apart for "describing the wrong character." Here is to Betty White for never getting type casted and playing so many different roles (just compare Sue Anne Nivens (The Mary Tyler Moore Show) to Rose Nylund (The Golden Girls).

6. Go to Lake Placid and find some nice, older ladies. Then offer to help do some chores for them, but do them in the worst and most incompetent way possible. Keep messing things up until you get them to start swearing at you. Come home and say, "Lake Placid is okay, but there is far too much old lady swearing."

7. Go on YouTube and watch this kind of comedic awesome.

8. Go on a road trip to find St. Olaf, Minnesota, so you can see how many stop lights they have now.

9. Make an ice sculpture of Betty White (or buy one on Kijiji), and then start saying really sweet and romantic things to it until it melts.

10. Play the "Try to Find a Funny Show Betty White Hasn't Made a Guest Appearance On" game. If that is too easy then play the "Try to Find a Guest Appearance by Betty White That Isn't Hilarious" game. If that is too easy then play Balderdash (it is fun).

11. Make a cake of a clown and call it Chuckles, and then feed it to an elephant.

Walk your dog in the rain (this really isn't a pop culture reference to anything regarding Betty White, but I did it today and it seemed like a pretty good way to spend her birthday).

Monday, January 16, 2012

Now, a Moment Where I'm Petty and Vindictive. . .

I hope you enjoy your golfing season, Green Bay Packers.

I know, I know, my Chicago Bears have been perfecting their golf game for a few weeks now. Ever since my Bears decided to fart all over their last few games, I had to come up with something different to keep me entertained for the remainder of the football season. This meant it was now time for me to root against the hated rivals of the Chicago Bears, the Green Bay Packers. It was my duty as a Bears fan to cheer against the Packers and earnestly hope that they didn't pull off a repeat Super Bowl win.

And now I'm very satisfied to see them booted before they even get to compete in the NFC Championship. Way to blow the playoffs, Packers.

I actually had a few discussions over the previous weeks how I was sure that the Packers would not be able to win the championship again even though they had an absolutely stellar regular season (looked like it would be an undefeated season almost right to the end). They had a lot of momentum and they're a championship calibre team (obviously), but an amazing regular season doesn't always translate to a championship run in the NFL. Of all the major American sports leagues, it is the NFL that the playoffs perfectly fit into the whole saying of "playoffs are a whole new season." It is a single elimination playoffs, which opens up huge opportunities for big upsets. It is also the sort of sport where you can do some pretty serious shuffling of your play calling and play style, and figure out what did and didn't work during the regular season. There are a few cases where you end up looking at some pretty different teams come playoff time (because they've drastically revised their style).

Plus history shows that sometimes the team that dominated the regular season takes a losers exit come playoff time. In 1970, you had a powerhouse Minnesota Vikings getting knocked out by the massive underdog team of the San Francisco 49ers. In 2005, you had a hot Indianapolis Colts team with a fantastic 14-2 record but ended up being shown the door by the very team they thumped in the regular season, the Pittsburgh Steelers. But back '95, Colts were the mediocre teams that squeaked out a shocking playoff win over the super powered Kansas City Chiefs. In 1997, the second season year old baby Jacksonville Jaguars sneaked into the playoff and then completely shook things up with a massive upset over John Elway's powerful Denver Broncos. So yeah, there is a pretty solid history of a powerful regular season team being knocked out in the playoffs. It happens enough that I was almost sure it would be the end results for the Packers. Or at least, I was really, really, really hoping.

The sweeter part is the big win by the Giants over the Packers is eerily similar to what the Packers did last year. Both teams went into the season as Super Bowl hopefuls, but had some pretty rocky stretches throughout the regular season (Packers last year and Giants this year). Both teams didn't clinch their playoff spot until the final week of the season (sadly, last year Packers clinched their spot by beating the Bears, which would then come back to haunt my team in the NFC Championship). Then they both made a remarkable and dominant run in their respective playoffs. It really hurts me to admit that the Packers played marvelously last year in the playoff. It makes me feel much better to note that they just got kicked out by a team that is following their formula. Giants were expected to have a good season but it wasn't anything spectacular, but they've had a hell of a playoff run so far. They've got some white hot momentum going into the NFC Championship, and I wouldn't be shocked if they have some pretty rings at the end of these playoffs.

This blog post isn't about the Giants' Super Bowl chances. No, this blog is about gloating over the Packers not being able to win a single playoff game this year. This blog post is about my joy that there season is done, and I don't have to hear any more Packers fans cheer and celebrate their dreadful team. The Packer talk is now done until next season.

Yes, I'm petty. Yes, I'm vindictive. But unlike most Packer fans today, I'm also really happy.