Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Wonder Woman

So I saw something interesting today that you may have also seen. It's no surprise that I would see it, being the comic book geek that I am. But this new development in the world of Wonder Woman has hit the mainstream media and is causing something of a stir.

What you see to the right is the new look for Wonder Woman. Now, I'm all about seeing change every now and then. But is this really what we want to see from an iconic character, possibly the world's most famous super-heroine?

Back in the 90s, DC Comics thought it would be a swell idea to change the looks of Superman and Batman. Both of these new looks turned out to be temporary. But were the ideas temporary because that's what the story warranted all along, or did the outcry from fans across the nation cause them to go back to their classic uniforms?

Okay, I'll concede the point that it all may have been for story purposes. In Batman's case, Bruce Wayne (as Batman) had his back broken by the villain Bane. Therefore, a new Batman took his place, one who was a lot tougher on criminals than the real Batman. So the new guy designed his own outfit to look more like a suit of armor.

And as far as Superman: Electric Boogaloo is concerned, that was just a weirdly complicated story that, as a kid, I never really felt panned out in the end. Something happened to change Superman's DNA and so his powers went nuts. So for a while he was on tour with the Blue Man Group, but then, suddenly and with no real explanation, his classic powers and suit returned. I never really understood it. And, sadly, I pride myself on how much I know about Superman's back story.

Anyway, the big news is Wonder Woman. Her 600th issue came out this week, so to mark the milestone, she got some new clothes. Believe me, I get the argument for the new duds. What woman in her right mind, Amazon warrior or not, would wear the thing that Wonder Woman has been wearing for the past 70 years? How would anyone be able to fight in it. I mean, as a guy, sure, it'd be fun to watch a gorgeous woman try to fight in that attire, but I'm guessing it just wouldn't be practical.

Also, let's think about it from a modern perspective. Turn on the TV and you see female characters who never wear the same thing twice. I know, that's not real life. But wouldn't it be kind of believable to think that our super-heroes have a somewhat wider wardrobe than just the one outfit? They change clothes when they're living in their secret identities. Why can't they change when they're saving the world from total annihilation?

I won't jump on the bandwagon and start complaining about the princess' new clothes. I think it's a practical change. But, honestly, I don't see it becoming a permanent change. I'm guessing that, just like in the 90s, there will be a massive public outcry and, sooner or later, Wonder Woman will be back in her classic uniform...

Monday, June 28, 2010

The Last Olympian

You know how sometimes you get to the end of something and you're disappointed? Like when you spend years investing in a TV show and then you get to the series finale and things just don't end the way you hoped they would. You just get left with this sense of dissatisfaction. That was certainly not the case with The Last Olympian.

Seeing as how I thoroughly enjoyed each of the previous books in the Percy Jackson series, it was pretty much a no brainer that I would like this one too. But, as I said above, there's always a possibility that you could come into the finale and walk away disappointed. That's not to say I set myself up for disappointment though.

Everything that had been set up over the course of the series came to a head in The Last Olympian. During the course of The Battle of the Labyrinth, it was discovered that one-time Camp Half-Blood counselor and current traito, Luke, had given himself over to become the embodiment of the Titan lord Kronos. So now, basically, Luke was possessed by the evil deity. As part of Kronos' plan to destroy Olympus, Typhon, another ancient monster, was released from his prison under Mt. St. Helens. Zeus and his posse head across the country to stop the ginormous creature before it can reach Manhattan to destroy Mt. Olympus.

Meanwhile, the gods' seats of power are left vacant. With no one around to defend Olympus, Kronos sets in motion his plan to tear it down brick by brick. So who's around to save the day? Percy Jackson, that's who. Percy, Annabeth, and all their demigod pals set up a defense around the Empire State Building and do a pretty good job of holding their line. Several surprises show up along the way, taking each side off guard for a moment or two. But in the end, well, do you really think the Titans are going to be allowed to destroy Western Civilization?

At the beginning of the series, it's revealed that the big three (Zeus, Poseidon, and Hades) made a pact not to have anymore children because of a great prophecy that could bring about the downfall of Olympus. When Percy came along, it was widely believed that he would be the subject of the prophecy. While the fate of Olympus did hinge on the choice that Percy had to make, Percy's personal fate was not wrapped up on the remainder of the Oracle's spoken words. Once all was said and done, that final fate fell to Luke, who found some redemption at the end of his betrayal.

I didn't cry at the end of the series, like I believed I would. I laughed a little. I felt like cheering at some points. But I showed restraint. After all, it's just a book. And I'm looking forward to The Lost Hero, which, I think, is due out in October. I kinda wish it was sooner. But this is the part where I have to exercise patience. I hate waiting.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Life Swap

This is not my life. He thought that over and over again as he sat across the table from the beautiful girl that was offering him a phenomenal job.

Two days ago, out of the blue, Devon got a call asking him to meet Angela Harper for lunch at a pretty swanky downtown spot called Kudzu. He couldn't imagine why anyone would name a restaurant after a parasitic vine, but he knew it would be the kind of place that he could never afford. Luckily, lunch would be on Ms. Harper.

He was a little confused about why they would be calling him. Sure, his resume had been posted online for the last few months, and yes, he had been looking for a new job for a while, but thus far he hadn't had any responses. He was beginning to think that he'd be stuck in the same nowhere job for the rest of his life. He'd say he'd be stuck there until retirement, but he knew that, on what he made, he'd never be able to retire.

And now he was sitting at lunch with a ridiculously gorgeous blond in a ridiculously expensive suit. "I know you have a lot of questions Mr. King. I hope that by the time we're finished here, all your questions will have been answered."

"Please, call me Devon, Ms. Harper."

"Only if you call me Angela." She smiled and took a sip of her water. As Devon ate his salad, Angela explained exactly why her company was interested in him. He learned that she wasn't interested in his resume. She was interested in his writing.

At this he was a little thrown off. The only writing he ever did was on a blog that had maybe six readers. He knew that his stuff was not widely read. How would anyone just happen to stumble onto it and then offer him a job because of it?

"Devon, you have a unique perspective on the world at large. The people I represent would like to see your words reach a larger audience." She smiled again when she saw the look of shock on Devon's face. "We're willing to pay you very well to continue to do something that you obviously love to do."

Angela wrote a number on the back of her business card and slid it across the table. If it hadn't been for the dollar sign in front of it, he may have thought it was her phone number. Good chance he would have been just as happy with that. When he realized exactly what she was really offering him, he nearly choked.

She smiled again. "Devon, this isn't a joke. We're very serious about what we're offering you."

"This isn't my life," Devon said, aloud this time. "I'm not anyone special. Beautiful women don't just treat me to expensive lunches and offer seven figures for things that I've written."

"Devon, this may not be your life now, but it could be." She stood up, causing him to stand as well. Angela reached across the table and took his hand. "My number is on the other side of that card. Call me once you've had a chance to think things over."

Devon picked up the card again and flipped it over. He smiled at Angela as she walked away. He smiled again when he saw her look back to smile at him. He sat back down and sipped his water, contemplating what it could mean to do something that he loved and get paid substantially to do it. If it was a true offer, it was a life he would gladly trade his in for.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

The Battle of the Labyrinth

I said it was a disease. Could be true. A genuine illness. Whatever it is, something took hold of me and caused me to devour not only the fourth, but also the fifth book in the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series. Here's the thing, last Sunday I did a little grocery shopping at the local Super Target. While I was there, I went ahead and decided to buy The Battle of the Labyrinth, which is book four. I finished it Tuesday night. Wednesday morning, I drove back over to Target to get The Last Olympian, book five. I just finished that one about an hour ago. I'll get to that one in another post though.

I'm not what you'd call a speed reader. I know people in my life that could tear through a 400 page novel in a day or two. That's really not something I can pride myself on. I sometimes wish I could, simply because there are so many books out there that I'd love to get my hands on and read through. Speed reading would open up so many doors and save so much time. But alas, I keep reading the old fashioned way. Page by page, word for word. Two books in a week, though, is a little fast for me.

When Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows was released, it was one that I stood in line at midnight to purchase at the Roanoke Books-A-Million. By the time I got home with it, I was exhausted and didn't feel like reading. I heard stories of people who stayed up all night to read it and had it finished by noon the next day. I took my time with it and finished in just under a week. I guess I say that to show that I've never really gotten into a work of fiction the way I've gotten into Rick Riordan's books. And if you're tired of reading about what I've thought of Percy Jackson, don't worry. There's only one more to write about after this one. I promise, after next week, you won't have to put up with any more (until the sequel series is released this fall).

First of all, let me warn you, if you pick up this book expecting it to be anything like the movie Labyrinth, you'll be greatly disappointed. Unless you didn't like that movie, in which case, you may be pretty psyched about it. There are no goblins, no Muppets, and no David Bowie carrying a microphone scepter. Just the same half-blood heroes that we've come to know over the course of the last three novels.

In classic Greek myth, the Labyrinth was an elaborate maze under Crete. It was designed by the genius inventor, Daedalus. You may remember Daedalus from the story of his son Icarus, the boy who flew two close to the sun, causing his wings to get so hot that they fell apart. His father warned him not to go too high, but kids, they just never listen. In this modernized tale of the Labyrinth, the maze has shifted locations. Now it is an ever-evolving, almost living structure that is just under the surface of the United States. If one were to successfully navigate the Labyrinth, he or she would be able to enter or exit at any point in the US. Theoretically, one could go through an entrance in Manhattan and reappear a few hours later in San Francisco.

There's only one problem. With the maze being "alive" and all, it tends to change. So navigating it isn't all that easy. Oh, and there are traps all over the place. It's the kind of place that's designed to bring your worst fears to life and will try to throw you off the right track. Also, there's a little issue of people going insane while they're inside the maze. So if you're looking to go crazy, or possibly die a horrible, claustrophobic death, then a trip through the Labyrinth may be the vacation for you.

And that's exactly where we find Percy and Annabeth in this installment's wacky adventure. An entrance to the maze is discovered within the borders of Camp Half-Blood. This means that if their enemy, Kronos (the Titan lord) were to find it, he would be able to send an army straight into the camp to tear apart the heroes without worrying about the protection of the camp's magical borders. So our heroes decide to go on a quest to find Daedalus' workshop at the center of the Labyrinth. And they have to do this before their old frienemy, Luke, is able to find it. Whoever finds it first would be in a much better position to ask the ancient inventor for help in finding a path through the Labyrinth.

Along the way, Grover, the satyr, finds the lost god Pan after searching for so long. Nico di Angelo, the son of Hades, finds a way to stop blaming Percy for the things that have gone wrong in his life. And Percy is tempted for a short time to live an immortal life with Calypso on a hidden island paradise. In the end, it all ties together for the heroes and we're shown how crucial each choice they make really is.

All in all, it's a very good book and sets the stage perfectly for the final chapter to come. I laughed, I cringed, I figured things out before they happened. That's not to say that the book was predictable. Okay, maybe it was a little predictable. But after reading three of these things already, I can't say that I'm easily surprised by some of the twists that are meant to be shocking. And that didn't stop me from enjoying the heck out of the book. Come back Monday if you want to find out what I think about The Last Olympian. It's pretty good too.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Question of the Week: Infirm

If your parents became infirm and the only alternative to bringing them into your home was to put them in a nursing home, would you do so? What about a sister or brother who suffered a permanently crippling injury and--other than your home--had nowhere to go but a convalescent home?

Well, I did live with my dad for the last few years of his life. I mean, he wasn't really infirm. He certainly wasn't incapacitated. The man still drove around and sang in the choir at church. It's not as if he necessarily needed me for anything. But I liked being there just in case he did. Because in those last few years we really couldn't predict when he'd have one of his episodes. His health was steadily on the decline, so it was good to at least be around for him. So I'd like to think that if the same thing were to happen to my mom, I'd be willing to give her a place to stay. But I can't say that for sure. That's what I'd like to think I'd be willing to do. I'm a pretty impatient person, and all of that stems from having been alone for so long. I've gotten used to doing things the way I want to do them when I want to do them. Having anyone, especially someone with a debilitating illness, come and live with me would completely shake up the life that I'm used to. I foresee one of two things happening: I either get used to this new life, or I go insane and end up dropping the person in a home. I know that sounds horrible. But if the staff at a 24/7 care facility can do a better job than I can, I'll certainly let them. And I promise, I'll visit.

*Question of the Week comes from The Book of Questions by Gregory Stock, Ph.D.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Staring Contest

Who would ever get into a staring contest with a Muppet? It's not as if they ever have to blink...

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Innocuous Super Powers

A couple weeks ago I was down in Charlotte visiting my friend, the Charlatan. That's not a description of the kind of person he is, it's just that he's now from Charlotte, and I don't know what people from Charlotte are properly called. But anyway, we had a lot of random conversations, as old friends tend to do. At one point, the Charlatan started talking about random super powers. Not the kind of powers that would get you membership with the Justice League or the X-Men, but regular powers that could possibly be considered the worst super powers in the world. Like the guy in City Slickers that always knows the perfect flavor of ice cream to follow any given meal. That's not a great super power, but could be impressive nonetheless. Today I bring you the tale of the guy that can always find a parking spot right up close. I give you... ParkMan!

It was another one of those hot, humid days that were always so abundant in the south. ParkMan didn't particularly feel like running errands that day, but he knew that the kids needed milk for their cereal and his wife needed hair color to cover up those few strands of gray that she insisted were really there. So ParkMan left his apartment dressed in civilian attire. After all, he didn't need the whole world knowing about his super alter-ego and his ability to always find the perfect parking spot. Sure, on a scorcher like today, that ability would certainly come in handy for him when he got to the Target. But he knew how it would be if he went in his work clothes. "Hey, Parking Guy! Can you help me find a spot?" He would hear that yelled at him from all over the parking lot. And he would inevitably roll his eyes because, well, his name was ParkMan, not Parking Guy. But, because he would feel the need to help his fellow man, he would point directly at the perfect parking spot for whoever yelled. "Thanks Parking Guy!" the citizen would say. They were always very grateful. But sometimes, he thought, some of these people could really use the exercise that comes with walking halfway across the lot. But it was his sacred duty to find a really great parking spot. It was a task that he never took lightly. And so, ParkMan made his way to the store wearing a t-shirt and jeans, and he found the perfect parking spot. He drew sideways glances from strangers, as if they were thinking, "How did that guy luck out and get such a prime space?" ParkMan, kept safely inside his secret identity, just walked on by and got his shopping done. No one knew that he was secretly finding great parking spots through his peripheral vision. And he knew that, someday soon, he would be sharing those great spots with all the people around him. And he looked forward to the day when he would be able to park in that great parking spot right in front of the Hall of Justice. That's right kids, even super-heroes have dreams.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Legends of the Bank Teller - Episode LXXX

I spend roughly 45 minutes in my car during the drive to work. It has officially been summer for nearly 36 hours, but North Carolina has been feeling the unofficial summer for some time now. I've been feeling a little more than just summer during that drive to and from work each day. You see, my car has no air condition at the moment.

A few weeks ago, on Memorial Day weekend, the fan in my car's ventilation system shorted out. Again. This is the second time it's happened in the past year. I got it fixed just before winter hit last year, so that I could have the luxury of heat and defrost on those frosty, cold mornings. But the guy that fixed it, well, he didn't fix the root of the problem. He just replaced the fan. He didn't repair the issue that caused it to short out in the first place. Thus, it happened again.

And now I'm sorry to say, I'm getting used to not having any air. I'm growing accustomed to sweating profusely as I drive around town with the windows down. As hot and humid as it is, having the windows down does very little to cool things. It merely moves the air around so it doesn't get quite so stuffy. But you know what it's like when you open the oven for the first time after letting it preheat to 450 degrees? That's kind of what it feels like driving around in my car. The air that hits you in the face from outside is nothing but hot air. No, it isn't 450 degree air, but you get the illustration I'm trying to make?

So why don't I get it fixed? Well, that's because I spend all my money (from the two jobs that I work) on little inconveniences like bills and groceries and gas for my car. I buy gas a lot. Especially since I spend about 90 minutes in the car just driving to and from the bank, then spend about 6 hours a week in and out of the car when delivering pizza. All these things don't leave much room in the budget for the luxury of getting a new fan for my A/C.

But Aaron, it can't cost that much to get that tiny little fan replaced, can it? Besides, you're just a Single Guy with no kids, how many bills could you possibly have?

No, it doesn't cost all that much to get it fixed. At least, it didn't last time. But I've lost my connection to the guy that fixed it last time, so that could effect the repair costs. And you know, I really don't have that many bills. My cost of living really isn't all that much. And that's why the amount of money that I bring in from my primary job is so pathetic.

Now, I have no problem with needing a second job to make ends meet. But most of the people I've met with two jobs are family men and women. These are people with more than just themselves to take care of. They're working two and sometimes three jobs because there are kids depending on them to keep a roof over their heads and keep food on the table. I only have myself to take care of. Shouldn't one job be enough?

Not the way I do it though. I have two bachelor's degrees, but barely make enough to get by each month. I have a savings account that I automatically put $50 into every two weeks. But then I just have to turn right around and transfer it back to checking most of the time. Something usually comes up, like the need for food from the grocery store.

It could be argued that I could very well be making more money at the bank if I would just try harder. I've generally accepted the fact that, from week to week, the powers that be will heap on more responsibilities to the people that work in the branches. They raise the expectations, but give little to no incentive to their employees to reach those new expectations.

One of the old expectations, however, is the selling of crap to every fool that walks through the door. Some people are very good at this. Those people see nice little bonuses added to their paycheck at the end of the month. That's what we like to call commissions. I, on the other hand, am not good at selling crap to every fool that walks through the door (and we have a bunch of fools, believe me). In fact, I'm not good at selling anything to anyone. And it's because I'm not very good with the spoken word. Sure, I talk a good game on this here blog. Put a piece of paper in front of me and I can write the crap out of that thing. But when it comes to a real conversation with someone about their personal finances and what products the bank may have to offer them, I draw a blank.

By nature, I'm an introvert. Socially, I think I do pretty okay. I mean, I meet new people, I can hold my own in a normal conversation. Just don't get me to try to sell them something and we're fine. But that's what the powers that be want, nay, it's what they insist upon. Alas, my paycheck, as a rule, fails to come along with any commissions tacked on. Month after month it's the same story.

Mid-year reviews are coming up. Now, I suppose that, if I were to receive perfect scores in all areas, I could expect to receive a decent increase in pay. However, the best I can probably hope for is a middle of the road kind of review. Again, the powers that be have some pretty high expectations of their tellers. Therefore, to achieve a perfect score all the way around would be nigh impossible. I'm sure there are one or two overachievers out there in the country that have been able to reach such heights, otherwise they wouldn't be allowed to set the bar so high. But your average introvert who sucks at selling crap to every fool that walks through the door, we get negligible raises. I was doing the math today, and if I were to receive a 1% raise (which, if memory serves, is being quite generous), that would be equivalent to 10 cents more each hour.

You know, I don't know why I'm complaining. I don't think I'd know what to do with myself if I got that kind of raise. I'd probably start doing crazy things like buy houses and walk into bars and yell, "The drinks are on me!" Maybe it's a good thing I haven't gotten that kind of pay increase. I'd hate to think I'd start being irresponsible with my money.

Monday, June 21, 2010

The Titan's Curse

I feel the need to confess something before I go ahead with my thoughts on the third book in the Percy Jackson series. I think I’m getting too involved in the fictional lives of these characters. At this stage of the game, Percy is a 14-year-old son of Poseidon, the sea god. His friend Annabeth is also 14, a daughter of Athena. Now, normally, just knowing little things about the characters that you read about is an okay thing. But the other night I had a dream that I was Percy Jackson. Scratch that… I was me, but I was the son of Poseidon on a dangerous quest. Little problem with that… I kind of can’t swim. Like, at all. And Annabeth wasn’t Annabeth. She was the Girl in the White SUV. I mean, that part was all right. But I think I should probably take a break from these books.

Now, I have been trying to read other things between the Percy Jackson books. Obviously that hasn’t helped. But enough about my deep psychological problems. This is supposed to be my thoughts on The Titan’s Curse. As I said before, this is book three in Rick Riordan’s series. This time around, we pick up the action in the winter, which is odd compared to the previous installments. Before this, we learned that Percy’s summers are spent at Camp Half-Blood, a place where young demigods learn how to become heroes and defend themselves against the monsters that will inevitably attack them in the real world. But now, Percy and his friends, Annabeth and Thalia (the recently revived daughter of Zeus), must help Grover (a satyr) retrieve two new demigods before they are kidnapped or killed by the series’ villain, Luke.

Complicated enough? Good. It gets crazier. The action begins almost immediately when a battle with a manticore breaks out. Annabeth is kidnapped and taken to an unknown place and the goddess Artemis goes missing while hunting a monster that could bring about the downfall of Olympus. Still with me? Well, try and keep up. One of Artemis’ huntresses accepts a quest to go in search of the missing goddess and she decides to take several people along with her, but leaves Percy behind. Meanwhile, in his growing concern for his missing friend, he dreams about Annabeth being forced to take over the task of holding up the sky, a curse that the Titan Atlas had been tasked with millennia ago. So Percy sneaks away from camp, secretly following the group on the quest and eventually meeting up with them, and helping them to succeed in saving Annabeth and Artemis in time for the winter solstice, at which point the gods of Olympus would vote whether or not to once again go to war with the Titans.

I say that I’m connecting too much with these fictional characters. But I suppose that’s a testament to Riordan’s abilities as an author. As much as I loved the Harry Potter books, I never lost myself in the stories or dreamed that I was fighting Lord Voldemort. These are excellent stories. They’re engaging and exciting. I say I should take a break, but I’m too interested in what happens next to be able to just stop reading. As I write this, I’m about halfway through the next book, The Battle of the Labyrinth. The Last Olympian is the final book in the series, and I think I may cry when I get to the end of it. But there is hope. Riordan is working on a sequel series, the first book of which will be released later this year. It’s a disease… I know…

Sunday, June 20, 2010


Jim wasn't in the delivery room when his only son was born. In fact, as Lara, his wife, gave birth to their first child, Jim wasn't even in the same country. Instead, he was half a world away, waiting anxiously to receive a phone call letting him know that his wife and son were doing just fine.

Sitting on his bunk in Afghanistan, he tried to keep himself calm by staring at the wallet-sized photo of Lara that he kept on him at all times. Unfortunately it wasn't working. His leg was shaking so badly that his boot threatened to put a hole in the floor.

"Calm down, Marine."

Jim looked up at Chase, the only person he had known before either of them began this military life. He gave his friend an extremely nervous smile, then looked back to the image of his wife.

Chase sat down next to Jim and put a hand on his shoulder. "You know, women have been giving birth for a long time. It's a pretty routine thing from what I understand."

Jim tried to laugh, "I know, but something could still go wrong. And it's not routine. It might be something that happens every day, but it's still a miracle."

"Well, yeah, there is that..." Chase stood. "I'll go see if there's any word yet. Be right back."

Jim nodded and closed his eyes. Silently, he prayed for his wife, whose hand he was unable to hold, whose nerves he was unable to calm. He prayed that, in his absence, God would do those things for her.

In the small town hospital in the middle of Iowa, Lara held her newborn son in her arms. She stared into the baby's tiny face and smiled and cried all at once. She wished so badly that Jim could be here with her to see their son.

Just then, her father brought a laptop computer that would serve as the next best thing, considering the circumstances. Within just a few minutes, Lara was looking at Jim's relieved face on the screen. Thousands of miles away, Jim looked into the eyes of his exhausted bride. Through tears they said hi to each other. Lara lifted up their baby so that he could be seen on camera. She smiled and said, "Happy Father's Day."

She laughed when she heard the applause coming from somewhere behind her husband. He laughed and wiped a tear away from his eyes. He only had enough time to tell Lara that he loved her and he loved their son. He told them that he would see them soon before saying good-bye. Lara cried all over again, mixing sadness with joy as she looked back to her little miracle. She kissed little Jamie on his tiny forehead, then laid her own head back against her pillows, ready to finally rest.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

The Kung Fu Kid

I know, here in the States the title is The Karate Kid, but I'm pretty sure the only time the word "karate" was used in the entire movie was when someone incorrectly referred to kung fu as karate. I understand why they called it The Karate Kid. Pretty sure it's simply for the fact that it's almost a shot for shot remake of the 1984 classic starring Ralph Macchio and Pat Morita. There are few movies that are so ingrained in our pop culture as the original Karate Kid. Really, who among us hasn't, at one time or another, repeated the phrase "wax on, wax off."

That being said, I was real iffy about even wanting to see this movie. Even when I first heard that Will Smith's production company was looking to remake the movie with his own son as the new Karate Kid, I was extremely skeptical. First of all, I didn't want to like it because Jaden Smith was way too young. Who wants to go into a movie and watch a 10-year-old get the crap beat out of him. And you just knew that would happen, because it's The Karate Kid. He's got to get the crap beat out of him so he'll have the motivation to learn the necessary skills to come back and be the best around.

And then the trailers hit a few months ago. Time had passed and the Fresh Prince's kid wasn't 10 anymore. He was 12, which makes all the difference in the world. Not really, but I'll give it to him, at least he is an actual kid. Macchio was, what, 24 when he played Daniel Larusso? The differences showcased in the trailers made the remake just different enough to make me want to see it. I was intrigued.

However, there was still a part of me that just didn't want to pay the admission price on principle. I know I've said it before, and I know I'll say it again, but Hollywood just doesn't seem to be trying too hard these days. Look at the line-up of blockbusters that are planned for this summer. How many of them aren't remakes or sequels to previous movies? When was the last time you paid good money to see a movie that was based on an original story? Not an older movie, not a part one, and not a book that's been on the shelves for a few years. And don't say Avatar, because you know just as well as I do that that movie was just a remake of Dances With Wolves and/or Pocahontas.

But my curiosity won out. Today I paid my matinee price and sat down in the dark to watch a movie that I had already seen a dozen times over. I will say this: I was pleased with the end result. Yes, it was a remake in the truest sense of the word. It wasn't as blatant as the Psycho remake that came out in the 90s, but the basic story elements and progression were exactly like Daniel's plight against the Cobra Kais.

Jaden Smith steps into the role of the Karate Kid, a.k.a. Dre, while Jackie Chan does a great job of playing the part of kung fu master to the young protege. But could there have actually been anyone else to play the role of Mr. Han? Jackie Chan is to martial arts cinema what Bruce Lee was to... well... martial arts cinema.

Anyway, Dre is forced to leave the life he knows in Detroit for a life of uncertainty and fear in Beijing when his mother's job is transferred to China. Of course, as is the case in most of these underdog movies, our little hero runs into a nasty streak of bad luck on his first day out when he talks to the wrong girl and chaos then ensues. Basically, he gets his butt handed to him again and again. He doesn't help matters by escalating things, but he can't learn that whole "vengeance is wrong" lesson until Mr. Miyagi Han steps in to save the day and teach him that lesson.

One of the positive differences in this version of the story is the relationship between student and teacher. In 1984, we got a clear picture of what kind of relationship Daniel and Mr. Miyagi had, but Miyagi was never really humanized for us. There was the scene where Daniel walked in on his drunk sensei celebrating his anniversary and we learn that his wife had died many years before in childbirth. But we really don't get more of his back story until the sequel. Mr. Han, on the other hand, is incredibly vulnerable and we learn exactly why he is so shut down and initially has trouble relating to Dre. The teacher/student relationship here is far more give and take than the original version. Both of them have something to learn from the other.

Watching Jaden Smith, if you weren't sure that he is Will Smith's son, all doubt would be gone in the first few minutes of the movie. The kid's facial expressions and mannerisms are a dead giveaway that he is his father's son. I'm not saying this is a bad thing. I think Will Smith is a great actor. So if his son got some of that talent, good for him. I was just really uneasy about how he would do after having seen The Day the Earth Stood Still, which did not impress me at all.

And in the end, the good guy won. That's how it usually works. Underdog stories usually follow a pretty specific formula. This one had a pretty easy task of following a specific, specific underdog storyline. I couldn't help but laugh toward the end when people in the theater began clapping whenever Dre would have a victory in his Kung Fu Tournament. Everyone in the audience had to have known the kid was going to win in the end, but they clapped like they were in genuine suspense, unsure of the outcome. But, as I was told by the Most Awesome Person I Know, it was a feel-good movie. Again, that's how these underdog stories go.

So, as it was, this new Karate Kid was a decent show, worth the matinee price of admission. Thankfully it wasn't in 3-D, another trend I'd love to throw out the window, along with the idea of endless remakes.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Question of the Week: Cheat

If you were having difficulty on an important test and could safely cheat by looking at someone else's paper, would you do so?
I wouldn't be able to. My conscience would kill me later if I cheated. And I just don't think I'd want my conscience going to prison for murder when I could have avoided the whole situation if I'd just done the right thing and taken an F on a test that I really didn't study enough for.

*Question of the Week comes from The Book of Questions by Gregory Stock, Ph.D.

Thursday, June 17, 2010


Have you been watching Glee this year? If not, what's wrong with you? The show is freakin' awesome. To prove it to you, here's the Glee Club's performance at regionals. If you don't like Journey, you won't like this clip. Also, you should never read my blog again. Because Journey is awesome.

BTW, I was kidding about not reading my blog again if you don't like Journey. You can read my blog every day. But I will be secretly judging you.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

999th Blog Post Spectacular

I know what you're probably thinking. 1000 is the big number, what's he doing with 999? Well, I'm trying to buck the system a little. And using the word "spectacular" in the title may be a little misleading. Because there is nothing spectacular about this post. As with any of my other 998 blog postings, it will be nothing more than my own thoughts and ramblings set to the beat of some 30s-era jazz. That's how it sounds in my head when I read it back anyway. I don't know how you hear things when you're reading them. Maybe you like to imagine the voice of Morgan Freeman reading my posts back to you. I'm cool with that too.

So yeah, nine-hundred-ninety-nine individual posts. I've come a long way since I started this little blog. I'm not saying I've become incredibly popular or garnered international attention or fame, but I do have two or three readers overseas. Since this blog's inception, I've gained a number of regular readers and followers, which I'm really grateful for. See, before all of this, writing was something that was very personal to me. Writing down my own thoughts was something I kept in a private Word document that only I was privy to. I never thought I'd reach a point where I would be willing to publish my words on the internet for any and everyone to see. Not that everyone sees it, but the possibility exists.

And yet, I look back at many of the things I've posted and see that I still keep myself somewhat guarded. Maybe that's a good thing. Most of the people that stumble upon this blog, I don't know. But then, there are more than a few people who navigate their way here that I do know. I still haven't decided if it's easier to share your more intimate thoughts with strangers or friends. Either way, I know that there are still a lot of things that I tend to hold back.

I went through a title change about two years ago. At first, the blog was called "The Single Guy," an aspect that I've returned to explore a little more these days. But I changed it to "Carp Dime" to reflect something else. Though I'm not exactly sure what it is that "Carp Dime" is intended to reflect. It could reflect the random nature of this blog. So many sites out there have a particular focus. Blogs about cooking and recipes are a dime a dozen, but they're quite popular. I can't exactly do a blog that focuses on raising kids, since I have none. I can't write about the ins and outs of marriage. I can't even keep a lighthearted blog about life with a pet. I'm just this single guy that has a fairly unique world view. I notice the random things that happen around me and I write about them. I mock them. I share them.

But I think, also, about what "Carp Dime" is supposed to mean. It's a term coined by a rather crazy old lady who was probably trying to say carpe diem. It's a Latin phrase that a lot of optimists like to throw out encouraging us to seize the day. Now, I'm too cynical to be a pure optimist. Real life gets in the way far too often for me to always feel that the glass is half full. But should that stop me from having a Carp Dime attitude?

I'm not trying to get on a Tony Robbinsesque soap box and I'm not trying to start a new way of thinking that will revolutionize the way people live their lives. I'm just starting to think that, if I've got a blog that takes its title from seizing the day, maybe I should start seizing a little more. I complain about a lot of things. Mostly, I complain about work. At the moment, it's my lot in life, but it doesn't always have to be like this. Instead of simply complaining about it, what opportunities am I seizing to change that situation? Things like that should be a lesson to me. I should be more willing to put myself out there, not caring about the consequences of the decisions I make. If I do what I believe to be right and good, then the outcome shouldn't matter, as long as I can walk away with a clear conscience, knowing that I gave my all.

Tomorrow I will post my thousandth installment to Carp Dime. It will be interesting, once I hit number 2000, to look back and see what has changed since number 999.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

The Single Guy and the Giant Mutant Cockroach

Friday represented the culmination of a great deal of stress for the Single Guy. He had only been back from a true vacation for two weeks, but things were still getting to him. Months of issues in his personal life seemed to cave in on him all at once with the proverbial last straw. And, of course, work was just as cheerful as ever. So just as he was getting ready to close down at the bank, he sent a message to his friend in Charlotte.

The Charlottan told the Single Guy to come on down. He could crash on his couch and just relax for a couple days. It was just what the Single Guy needed. So that’s just what he did. Late that night, after he finished up with the second job, the Single Guy packed some clothes and hit the road.

Late on the second night that he was there, the Single Guy was hanging out with the Charlottan in his living room. He glanced up at the wall in the kitchen and said, “I don’t mean to alarm you, but there is an enormous bug crawling up there near the ceiling.”

The Charlottan looked over to the kitchen and freaked out a little bit. To be fair, so did the Single Guy. The insect turned out to be the largest cockroach he had ever seen. Well, the biggest that wasn’t kept behind glass in the carnival freak show. The Charlottan grabbed a pair of swim trunks that were hanging nearby and used them to swat at the Giant Roach. The Single Guy thought it was a bold move considering the Giant Roach could have easily dropped directly below after being hit, landing squarely on the Charlottan’s head.

For a moment, the Giant Roach was lost in the chaos. It was no longer high up on the wall, but the guys couldn’t see it anywhere on the floor either. Then the Single Guy spotted it in the corner next to a dining chair. The Charlottan wadded up some paper towels, assuming the bug was dead, and said, “I will pay you money to go over there and pick it up and flush it!”

“Dude, this is your apartment! Man up!” was the Single Guy’s panicked response.

Suddenly, they noticed movement. The Giant Roach was lying on its back and its legs began to twitch. It wasn’t dead, it was merely stunned momentarily. Using the same weapon as before, the Charlottan swatted the insect again and again until it stopped moving. At this point he decided that the best idea would be to contain it in a large cup. He put the cup over the Giant Roach, effectively trapping it inside.

In wide-eyed horror, a thought crossed the Single Guy’s mind. “If that cup starts moving, I will crap myself. That’s not an exaggeration.”

The Charlottan laughed nervously. It was obvious he was thinking the same fearful thought. He took some more paper towels, planning to lift the cup slightly and slide the paper underneath, still keeping the Giant Roach secured inside the cup. He did this quickly, but as he lifted the makeshift contraption into the air, the Single Guy screamed, “IT’S HANGING ON THE BOTTOM OF THE TOWEL!”

The Charlottan yelled and threw everything into the air. The cup, the paper towel, and the Giant Roach hung in the air for what seemed like an eternity. Each eventually landed in separate places, the Giant Roach resting comfortably on the kitchen counter. It sat there and seemed to be mocking us. It was if it was thinking, My kind will survive the nuclear holocaust that finally rids the world of you humans! What else have you got?!

On the other end of the counter, there was an empty pizza box from that day’s lunch. The Charlottan used it to crush the Giant Roach. He repeatedly bashed the bug until he was certain it was finally dead. In the end, only the Giant Roach lost life and limb. But the Single Guy and the Charlottan would never quite be the same.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

We Hold These Truths

Today was a pretty slow day, event wise, so I was looking for things to write about. Nicole sent me an e-mail that I'll repost here. Along with that, I'm posting another e-mail that my assistant manager sent to me a couple months ago. Enjoy.


1. If you're too open-minded, your brains will fall out. 
2. Don't worry about what people think, they don't do it very often. 
3. Going to church doesn't make you a Christian any more than standing in a garage makes you a car. 
4. Artificial intelligence is no match for natural stupidity. 
5. If you must choose between two evils, pick the one you've never tried before. 
6. My idea of housework is to sweep the room with a glance. 
7. Not one shred of evidence supports the notion that life is serious. 
8. It is easier to get forgiveness than permission. 
9. For every action, there is an equal and opposite government program. 
10. If you look like your passport picture, you probably need the trip. 
11. Bills travel through the mail at twice the speed of checks. 
12. A conscience is what hurts when all of your other parts feel so good. 
13. Eat well, stay fit, die anyway. 
14. Men are from earth. Women are from earth. Deal with it! 
15. No man has ever been shot while doing the dishes. 
16. A balanced diet is a cookie in each hand. 
17. Middle age is when broadness of the mind and narrowness of the waist change places. 
18. Opportunities always look bigger going than coming. 
19. Junk is something you've kept for years and throw away three weeks before you need it. 
20. There is always one more imbecile than you counted on. 
21. Experience is a wonderful thing. It enables you to recognize a mistake when you make it again. 
22. By the time you can make ends meet, they move the ends. 
23. Thou shall not weigh more than thy refrigerator. 
24. Someone who thinks logically provides a nice contrast to the real world. 
25. It ain't the jeans that make your butt look fat.

And from the other list...


1. I think part of a best friend's job should be to immediately clear your computer history if you die.

2. Nothing sucks more than that moment during an argument when you realize you're wrong.

3. I totally take back all those times I didn't want to nap when I was younger.

4. There is great need for a sarcasm font.

5. How the heck are you supposed to fold a fitted sheet?

6. Was learning cursive really necessary?

7. Map Quest really needs to start their directions on #5. I'm pretty sure I know how to get out of my neighborhood.

8. Obituaries would be a lot more interesting if they told you how the person died.

9. I can't remember the last time I wasn't at least kind of tired.

10. Bad decisions make good stories.

11. You never know when it will strike, but there comes a moment at work when you know that you just aren't going to do anything productive for the rest of the day.

12. Can we all just agree to ignore whatever comes after Blue Ray? I don't want to have to restart my collection...again.

13. I'm always slightly terrified when I exit out of Word and it asks me if I want to save any changes to my ten-page research paper that I swear I did not make any changes to.

14. "Do not machine wash or tumble dry" means I will never wash this - ever.

15. I hate when I just miss a call by the last ring (Hello? Hello? Crap!), but when I immediately call back, it rings nine times and goes to voicemail. What did you do after I didn't answer? Drop the phone and run away?

16. I hate leaving my house confident and looking good and then not seeing anyone of importance the entire day. What a waste.

17. I keep some people's phone numbers in my phone just so I know not to answer when they call.

18. I think the freezer deserves a light as well.

19. I disagree with Kay Jewelers. I would bet on any given Friday or Saturday night more kisses begin with Miller Lite than K.

20. I wish Google Maps had an "Avoid Ghetto" routing option.

21. Sometimes, I'll watch a movie that I watched when I was younger and suddenly realize I had no idea what the heck was going on when I first saw it.

22. I would rather try to carry 10 plastic grocery bags in each hand than take 2 trips to bring my groceries in.

23. The only time I look forward to a red light is when I'm trying to finish a text.

24. I have a hard time deciphering the fine line between boredom and hunger.

25. How many times is it appropriate to say "What?" before you just nod and smile because you still didn't hear or understand a word they said?

26. I love the sense of camaraderie when an entire line of cars team up to prevent a jerk from cutting in at the front. Stay strong, brothers and sisters!

27. Shirts get dirty. Underwear gets dirty. Pants? Pants never get dirty, and you can wear them forever.

28. There's no worse feeling than that millisecond you're sure you are going to die after leaning your chair back a little too far.

29. Sometimes I'll look down at my watch 3 consecutive times and still not know what time it is.

30. Even under ideal conditions people have trouble locating their car keys in a pocket, finding their cell phone, and Pinning the Tail on the Donkey - but I'd bet my behind everyone can find and push the snooze button from 3 feet away, in about 1.7 seconds, eyes closed, first time, every time!

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

The Single Guy and the Garden of Children

On the Single Guy's day off, he went with some friends to a local school's kindergarten graduation celebratory event. Mostly, the Single Guy just sat there in an overcrowded, poorly ventilated auditorium and watched as four different classes of rising 1st-graders presented songs that they had learned to perform for their parents and friends. Maybe it's because he has yet to have children of his own, and perhaps it's due to the fact that only one of the roughly 80 performers meant anything to him, but he just didn't see what all of the fuss was about.

During one of the songs done by one of the classes (which did not contain the one student that the Single Guy was there to support), he noticed a great deal of laughter each time the kids got to a certain part of the chorus (which was repeated about two dozen times). The woman behind him, especially, thought that something was hilarious, as indicated by her obnoxiously loud guffaws as the chorus repeated itself. The only thing he can figure is that he was watching the wrong kid. Maybe the people in front of him were blocking his view of the little comedian, but the Single Guy just didn't get it.

But something else happened during the graduation that got the Single Guy thinking. Each individual from each class was introduced to the audience. With each name, the spectators were told what he or she wanted to be when they grow up. There were a great deal of future fire fighters, police officers, and various sports/entertainment stars. There were a few teachers, two dentists, a ballerina, and a handful of princesses. The Single Guy couldn't help but wonder, what will these kids really be doing with their lives 20 years from now?

He wondered if there have been studies that compare the dreams of a five or six-year-old with the realities of a 25-year-old. Of course children don't think about things like money when they choose their dream careers. Really, they have no concept of what proper compensation should be. There's a good chance that when those future fire fighters grow up and understand that those heroes are sadly underpaid, they may go down a different path. But he still couldn't help but wonder how many of these kids would go on to fulfill their dreams to become the thing they wanted to be back when they were leaving kindergarten.

The Single Guy never wanted to grow up to work in a bank. At this point, he couldn't even remember what sort of dreams he had as a 6-year-old leaving the relative comfort of kindergarten for the big scary world of the 1st grade. He takes comfort, however, in the fact that he still doesn't completely feel like a grown up. Maybe there's still time to achieve some of those childlike dreams before he actually grows up.

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

For a long time I've had my mind made up that J.K. Rowling's third installment in the Harry Potter series was my favorite. It's also the last of the books that I've read multiple times. When it comes to books 4-7, I've only read through them once. So my opinion of which is my favorite may change when I get back around to rereading those. As of now, however, Prisoner of Azkaban is still my favorite.

Harry is once again spending his summer vacation in the home of his aunt, uncle, and cousin, all of whom hate our young hero. After some understandably negative events involving Uncle Vernon's sister, Harry packs up his things and runs away from his home away from Hogwarts. But these are dangerous days for a young wizard as famous as Harry Potter to be running around on his own. A convicted murderer, Sirius Black, has managed to escape from Azkaban prison (the place where wizards keep their convicted bad guys).

No one knows just how Black managed to escape since he's the first to ever pull off such a feat. But he's out there, roaming free in the world, and he has a connection to Harry Potter. As the story progresses, we discover that Sirius Black was very close friends with Harry's father, James. Back in their school days, James and Sirius spent much of their time getting into trouble with two other friends, Remus Lupin (the current Defense Against the Dark Arts professor at Hogwarts) and Peter Pettigrew (believed to be one of Black's victims).

Once again, Harry, along with Ron and Hermione, do a great deal of snooping throughout the school year and discover the truth behind Sirius Black's supposed crimes and his escape from prison. Harry learns more about the kind of person his father was and what kind of friend he was to Sirius, Remus, and Peter. Harry once again shows what kind of character he has, as he is faced with a situation to exact swift revenge for the deaths of his parents, but instead chooses to show mercy. As seen in the previous books, this is one more thing that separates him from his enemy, Voldemort.

I can't quite put my finger on exactly why this is my favorite of the series. Maybe it's the introduction of Sirius Black, who turns out to be innocent of all the crimes of which he was accused, and turns out to be Harry's godfather. Maybe it's the introduction of Remus Lupin, a good man with a good heart but with the bad luck of having been turned into a werewolf. Maybe it's because this book involves a bit of time travel, which always makes things interesting, if confusing. Whatever the case, book 3 is still a favorite. But as I said above, that opinion may change once I've read through the latter books once more.

Monday, June 07, 2010

Groundhog Day

Yesterday as I was driving to church, I got stopped at a light behind the seminary that I once attended. Now, I feel like I need to paint a picture for those of you who are unfamiliar with what this area looks like. The light is at a T-intersection. The road that I was on is one that sort of wraps around the seminary's property, but that property is raised up a bit, maybe a couple feet at this spot.

So I'm stopped at the light. Out of the corner of my eye I notice something crawling out of the bushes on the other side of the stone wall/barricade. It was a groundhog, and it was in a hurry. It climbed over the wall and down to the sidewalk next to my car.

In the one or two seconds it took the animal to reach my car, my imagination went a little crazy. I imagined that the animal was going to climb into the open window on the passenger side of the car and ask me for a ride. No, I wasn't high. I've probably just seen Chronicles of Narnia one time too many.

In reality, the groundhog ran under my car and across the road without incident. But it did give me a good laugh for a while. Looking back, I guess it wasn't so much funny as it was odd and unexpected. Maybe the funny part was just my overactive imagination.

Sunday, June 06, 2010


"This is just a mess," said Ellie as she stared at the painting.

Tom just scoffed at her comment and said, "No, it isn't! The artist is clearly expressing his anger in this one!" Tom was doing a really good job of trying to make it sound like he knew exactly what he was talking about. But she knew he didn't have a clue.

"My 3-year-old nephew is pretty good with finger paints. I should sell some of his stuff to a gallery. I could make a fortune."

Tom rolled his eyes. "Let's just go look at another one, okay?"

Ellie really wanted to get away from Tom. It wasn't just the painting that was a mess. The whole night had been a mess. She couldn't help but wonder why she ever agreed to go out on this date in the first place. Her sister, Charlene, had introduced Ellie to Tom as a favor to her husband. Apparently Tom and Rick went way back. But that didn't stop Tom from being a pretentious douche.

Ellie's phone started ringing. She sighed with great relief and excused herself from Tom's presence as she opened her phone. "So, how's it going?" asked Charlene on the other end of the line.

"Kind of a disaster," Ellie said quietly, though she knew she was out of Tom's earshot. "Thanks for setting this up, by the way."

"I'm sorry." Charlene was genuinely apologetic. She knew the kind of person that Tom was, but she was trying to keep Rick happy. Ellie understood this and decided to just let it slide.

"It's okay. After tonight, though, I won't be seeing him anymore." Ellie decided she wasn't being emphatic enough. "Like, ever. Clear?"

"You got it. Never ever again. Not even at a barbecue where we invite all our friends. His invitation will conveniently get lost in the mail."

"Good girl." Ellie laughed in spite of her awful night. "I should go. I need to figure out a way to end this as painlessly as possible."

"Have fun!" said Charlene just before Ellie snapped closed her phone.

She returned to where Tom was studying a painting that looked remarkably like a stick figure playing baseball. That thought made Ellie laugh a little to herself, but she wished she hadn't. All her laughter had done was to get Tom's attention. It also gave him the false impression that she was enjoying herself.

As she stood beside him, he put his arm around her shoulders. Her skin crawled just a little bit. Tom began playing with a few strands of Ellie's dark hair that hung down behind her ear. Her skin crawled a lot.

As she subtly tried to move away, Tom followed closely. It was time to lose subtlety. She grabbed his hand and pulled his arm off of her. "Tom, this isn't working out for me."

The look on his face told her that he had no idea this was coming. The look in his eyes was one of absolute shock. To him, the night had been going swimmingly. He had been saying all the right things. He had shown her just how knowledgeable and well-versed he was. And apparently it hadn't impressed her.

"I'm sorry, Tom. I'm just not feeling it." Ellie felt almost sorry for the guy. But she refused to fall for it. "I'll, uh, just get a cab."

She walked away, leaving Tom standing in the middle of the poorly lit gallery. Ellie didn't want to look back, but she couldn't help it. He ran his hand through his over-gelled hair and turned back to the painting. She exited the building and hailed a taxi. The entire ride home, she tried not to feel guilty, but it was a feeling that kept sweeping over her.

When Ellie reached her apartment she poured herself a glass of wine and sat down on her sofa. She kicked off her incredibly uncomfortable shoes and tried to forget about Tom. She tried to forget about the mess of a date. She figured that all she had to do was fall asleep and it would all go away.

Saturday, June 05, 2010

The Sea of Monsters

You'll have to bear with me. It's been nearly two weeks since I finished reading the second book in the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series, so the details may be a little fuzzy in my head. But rest assured, I did read the book and I am here to give you my review of said book.

The Sea of Monsters, as I mentioned before, is the second book in a series by author Rick Riordan. We pick up nearly a year after The Lightning Thief left off, and Percy Jackson has seemingly grown accustomed to life as a teenage demigod. He's back at home, living with his mother, and going to a new private school that he's managed to attend an entire school year without being expelled. We learn that over the course of the school year, he's become friends with a large homeless kid named Tyson, whom Percy feels needs protecting since he gets picked on so much. Right away, we see that Percy is still a pretty good kid and his heart is in the right place.

The calm that Percy has known since last summer is quickly disrupted as the story begins and adventure ensues. His camp friend, Annabeth, shows up at Percy's school as they are attacked by a group of giants at a monster game of dodge ball. In the midst of this deadly game, the dodge balls become fireballs and Percy's friend Tyson is discovered to be a very young cyclops. Thanks to what's known as "the Mist," the creatures of myth are often obscured from the view of mortals. So while Percy has been in the real world with Tyson, he's only seen Tyson as a normal kid who wears a hat low over his eyes (or eye).

Annabeth gets Percy and Tyson safely to Camp Half-Blood where disastrous events have occurred. The pine tree that protects the magical borders of the camp has been poisoned, allowing all sorts of monstrous creatures to gain access to the camp of young heroes. Because of this lapse in security, there has been a change in camp staffing. Although things at camp are bad for Percy, a series of dreams that he has shows him that his friend Grover, a satyr, is having a worse time. It is determined that a quest must be undertaken to find the Golden Fleece which has been held for centuries on an island in the midst of the Sea of Monsters (found in the modern day Bermuda Triangle).

Percy, Annabeth, and Tyson make their way away from camp and set out on an adventure that rivals that of the first novel. Once again, Riordan is able to take characters and themes found in classic Greek literature and myth and weave them into a tale that makes sense in a modern context. The hero of the series, Percy, shows the kind of strength of character that heroes often have. He also displays a certain impetuousness that gets him into trouble. What makes him heroic isn't his bravery or skill, it's the fact that he's willing to do the right thing, no matter what those in authority may wrongly tell him. He's willing to do the right thing, no matter the cost to himself.

Again, I've always found Greek mythology to be a fascinating subject. So finding an author that takes those old stories and gives them new life is brilliant. This sequel is a fitting follow-up to Percy Jackson's introduction and I look forward to the next installment in the series.

Friday, June 04, 2010

Question of the Week: Party

You are invited to a party that will be attended by many fascinating people you've never met. Would you want to go if you had to go by yourself?

No, I wouldn't. Even if I knew I'd be rubbing elbows with people that I've wanted to meet all my life, I still wouldn't want to be there if I didn't actually know anyone else. I'm too introverted to be able to enjoy that kind of situation. It takes me way too long to get comfortable enough to open up around strangers.

*Question of the Week comes from The Book of Questions by Gregory Stock, Ph.D.

Thursday, June 03, 2010

Legends of the Bank Teller - Episode LXXIX

It never seems like I get hit with anything big to make me hate my job. It's always about dozens of little things. Think of it this way, which would you find to be more maddening: one punch in the face at one time that you know is coming, or thousands of tiny little pin pricks that could come at any time over a long span of years?

I've made it no secret that I don't like the amount of money I'm making at this craplousy job. I'm not saying that, as a bank teller, I should be making astronomical amounts of cash. I just really feel that, as someone with a couple degrees under his belt, I should be making enough to pay my few monthly expenses and maybe start making a dent in my student loans. But that just isn't possible. On this one paycheck, it isn't possible even to meet those monthly expenses without the help of a second job. As a single man with no family, should I really be forced to take a second job? I really don't have that many expenses. I don't spend that much money. I don't even buy much when it comes to name-brand groceries.

So I'm not making much, that subject has been covered. Another problem is that I'm only working 35 hours a week. I'm still called "full-time" but I'm just not getting those 40 hours that many other full-time employees are able to enjoy. For a while, I was scheduled to work 5 days a week, but with two half days worked in. Eventually it became apparent that it would be much more convenient, and would cause me to spend less money on gas each week, if I were to take one full day off instead of the two half days. I found this to be an okay trade-off. I only get my 35 hours a week, but I get a Wednesday off every week.

Up until now, the way I record my time is to go to our online timesheet and just fill in my hours as they're given to me on the printed schedule. I generally go ahead and fill in the entire week as soon as I have the schedule, that way I don't forget to input my time when it's due, because it's already been done. Yesterday I was informed that this was inappropriate and inaccurate.

Inputting my time in this manner gives me exactly 35 hours every week. However, human resources wants us to be accurate, to the minute, with our time. Now, before you start yelling at me about how doing otherwise would be unethical, let me explain that I understand HR's position here. But from the perspective of one who barely makes ends meet as it is, it really feels like the bank is just nickel and diming me out of even getting the pitiful 35 hours that I'm scheduled to get. See, I'm not allowed to go over that 35. But by saying the exact minute that I arrive and leave, it will be nearly impossible to reach 35 either.

Again, I get the ethics of the situation. But, to me, it still just feels like the powers that be try to find new ways of making me want to quit, while simultaneously making me not care that I have no other means of supporting myself.

I just want a new job. I just want a job that doesn't make me dread waking up each morning to face the new day. I just want a job that doesn't make me want to jerk the wheel of the car causing me to careen off a bridge into the Neuse River just so I won't have to go back the next day. I just want a job that doesn't make me hate my place in life. And it'd be nice if I could have a job that allowed me to live my life and not have to stress out about whether or not I'll have enough money at the end of the week to buy groceries or put gas in my car. Anyone out there think that's too much to ask?

Believe me, I understand that I should be nothing but grateful for the fact that I even have a job in this economy. More often than not, I am grateful, even for this going-nowhere-zero-respect job. But there are a lot of times when I'm ungrateful and I just need to vent. And if I can't vent on my blog, where can I vent?

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

The Single Guy and the Haircut

The Girl in the White SUV is a stylist at a local salon. This is information that the Single Guy learned some time ago. But it was information that he chose not to use to his advantage. He argued that it just wouldn't be worth the price he would have to pay at a high end kind of salon, just to get a simple haircut. Sure, it would be a haircut from the girl he'd dreamed of having a conversation with for months, but he had a hard enough time paying money for his usual haircut when he knew he'd be just as happy shaving his head himself.

But time passed by, and the passage of time with a lack of results can do a lot to change a Single Guy's mind. He decided that the next time he saw her at the bank, he would ask the Girl in the White SUV if her salon took walk-ins.

So she arrived. Just the prospect of speaking to her made him nervous. But the Single Guy had to persevere. He knew he needed to push through his anxiety if he was ever to make any kind of progress with this girl. After he ran her deposit and handed out her receipt, he quickly asked if he could ask her a question. Mentally, he kicked himself, knowing that he had just, in fact, asked her a question. But she said sure anyway, despite the fact that she looked like a deer trapped in the headlights. She may have thought the Single Guy was about to try and sell her something.

"Do you all take walk-ins?" he asked, his voice shaking but beginning to calm a bit.

Relief seemed to come over her, as he had asked about something she was comfortable talking about. "At the salon?" she asked.

The Single Guy fought to keep his sarcasm in check when his first thought was No, at the grocery store across the street... Instead, he just said, "Yeah..."

"Well, it's rare that anyone's ever available, so it's better to call and make an appointment." She smiled, then said, "So yeah, just call."

He said okay and wished her a good afternoon. And life returned to normal. He fought the urge to take a break from work to call and set up his appointment right at that moment. Logic told him that he certainly did not want to appear too eager or desperate. Though it had been quite a while since his last haircut, so he was ready.

But he waited. She came to the bank the next day, but still he waited. He gave it an entire weekend, and decided he would call on Monday, his first day of vacation. When he finally called the salon, the man who answered the phone gave him the girl's cell phone number and instructed him to call her directly to set up an appointment with her.

This brought on a whole new level of anxiety for the Single Guy. He was sure it was a business only kind of cell phone, but still, he had her personal number. He wasn't immediately sure of how to proceed. And then he decided that if it was ever going to happen, he just needed to call. He was incredibly relieved to hear her outgoing voicemail message. He left his name and number, then he waited all over again.

He waited two days and received no call. He wasn't sure what to think. He had been so excited when she suggested that he call, but so disappointed when she never returned that call. But he didn't want to give up. The Single Guy was ready to find that fine line between perseverance and obsession. On Wednesday he called again. Once again, he got her voicemail, but this time, her outgoing message was different. This time, he found out that the Girl in the White SUV would be out of the salon until June 15 and would not be returning calls or making appointments until that time.

The Single Guy felt a lot better about things after that. At least, he figured, the lack of a call back wasn't personal. But he still needed a haircut. So he went to his usual place and paid his usual price. But he's willing to go again tomorrow if that's what it takes to get the Girl in the White SUV to cut his hair.

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

I'm Back

Rumors of my demise have been greatly exaggerated. I am, in fact, alive and well and have been living quite happily in the year 1885.

No... that was Doc Brown...

I didn't time travel during my vacation. Unless you count my driving to Tennessee and crossing into the Central Time Zone for a couple days. That's probably the closest to time travel that any of us will ever actually see.

I did, however, spend a lot of time sleeping late, reading books, watching movies, and even got some writing done. As I mentioned before I took my hiatus, I was not writing for the blog. I kept that promise. So that also means I didn't store up any latent blog posts either.

I'll have a few stories to share about my 10 days off, and those will come over the next few days. In the meantime, take some time sit back and relax. I do wish I could do a little more of that. But now's not the time. 'Cause I'm back at work. I'm back to my same old routine. Back to that same old rut that I found myself in before my late spring vacation.

Maybe it'll get a little more exciting later on...