Thursday, January 31, 2013

And the Rain Came Down

You ever have one of those days where you sit back and look at the power of the world around you and realize just how small and insignificant you really are? I kind of felt that way as I drove home last night.

I knew the weather people were predicting rain for yesterday. In fact, I knew that rain was coming. That last part, the part about my own knowledge, came from the fact that I looked outside before driving to work yesterday morning and saw that it was raining. It wasn't much, but water was falling from the sky.

My plan for the day was to go to work, as I normally would, then drive into Roanoke for the afternoon and/or evening. I had things that needed to be done. The trip yesterday really revolved around the fact that I needed to get the oil changed in my car. I'm sorry to say that I was about 4500 miles overdue. If you know anything about cars, you're probably facepalming right now and shaking your head in disgust in my general direction. I know, I've been doing the same thing to myself since about 4000 miles ago.

But oil changes are funny things. In order to have them done, you have to be willing to pay for them. Beyond that, you have to be able to pay for them. Unless you know how to do it yourself, and even then you have to buy the oil and the drip pan and some other car related doohickeys of which I have little to no knowledge. Finally having a little bit of extra disposable income afforded me the ability to take care of my car. A little. Of course I wouldn't be able to fix the other problems that the maintenance guys would inevitably find. But this isn't even supposed to be a post about my oil change or the other random problems with my car. This is about the weather.

I know, interesting people are not supposed to talk about the weather. The weather is a topic that exists for boring people and the elderly. They are also known to discuss random health problems. But I've never claimed to be interesting. I mean, I am... but that's beside the point. I'm trying to make the point that I was kind of in awe of nature last night. Would you let me finish!?

So I'm sitting at the dealership waiting for my car. And it had been raining. It still hadn't been much, but it was a light, steady rain that lasted most of the day. And then the heavens opened up and dumped both cats and dogs upon southwest Virginia. I would later find out that the system tossing out those cats and dogs did some serious damage all up and down the eastern seaboard. It's not often that you hear about tornadic activity in late January.

I didn't particularly feel like driving back to Radford in the deluge. Not without having prepared by building a large ark out of gopher wood, anyway. And that extra disposable income that I had leftover after the oil change afforded me the chance to do something else that was long overdue. I went and got my hair cut.

But the haircutting did not take as long as I had hoped. Well, I wasn't hoping for a haircut that would take up the rest of my night. I was just hoping it would outlast the passing storm. But this was a big friggin' storm. Between the beginning of my haircut and the ending of the shampooing that occurred, the rain did not let up. Not even a little bit.

So I made the long drive back to Radford. Typically, the drive between Roanoke and Radford really isn't that long. But in a torrential downpour, it becomes kind of long. I've driven in storms before. And I've driven like I did last night before. You know how when you drive into a storm while the storm is traveling in the opposite direction and you kind of expect to come out of it at some point? Yeah, that never happened. That rain kept falling just as heavily with each passing mile.

I heard the warnings, that flooding would be a real issue. Duh. Any idiot would know that, simply by using one of their five senses to experience the sheer volume of rain that we received. When I woke up this morning, I got a chance to see some of the flooding first hand.
This little scene is about 20 or 25 yards from where my car was parked all night.

There's supposed to be a greenway under that water. It might be there again in a few days. I hope it is, I'm supposed to be training for a 10k.

Just to help with the perspective a little, the edge of the flood water is in the foreground. The building where I live is in the background.

I realize that flooding is a lot worse in a lot of other areas. I do consider myself very lucky to have avoided the river's fury. But I was a little concerned about the common sense of some of my neighbors.

Most of these neighbors are college students. Okay, there's a good chance that all of my neighbors are college students. They don't have a lot of the real life experience that one may gain after being out of college for 10 years. So when the university sent everyone a message warning them to move their cars out of our apartment complex's parking lots, the panic set in. I've never seen so many cars move out of here at one time. There was an actual traffic jam on our very small, rarely traveled road.

I think when the university sent out those messages, they painted a picture of a tsunami in a lot of kids' heads. Yes, there was some concern over a dam in Wythe County breaking. As far as I know, that did not happen. Though I'm not entirely sure, I haven't seen any news about it since this afternoon. But even if that had happened, I don't think the water from said dam burst would come down the New River Valley and wipe Radford off the map.

I left my car right where it had been all day. And you know what? It's still there. I'm comfortable with my decision.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Big Head! Big Head! Big Head!

No, I'm not talking about my ego.

I have a fairly large cranium. I know there are people out there with bigger heads. I've seen people out there with bigger heads. But in the scheme of things, I can't imagine there are many. I should probably go to a doctor and have them measure the size of my head and figure out what percentile I fall into. I've got to be in the 80s, at least.

I look in the mirror and I see a large head staring back at me. And it's not an overweight thing. I've lost some weight in recent months. I've been told that people notice the weight loss in my face. Notice they say "face" and not "head." That's because my gargantuan skull remains the same size.

But I treated myself to a haircut today. It's not something I often do. Every other month or so. I should probably do it more often. Because my hair gets thick. It doesn't get long (after a certain point), it just gets thicker. Like it's building from underneath. And I think that only serves to make my head look larger. Trust me, it's not all an illusion of massive hair that makes it seem big. But getting rid of all that hair can make it seem smaller.

I got home tonight and took a look in the mirror. The haircut really worked wonders. It's like I got a head transplant. Almost like my head is a normal size. Maybe I'll finally be able to pull off that fedora I've always wanted to wear.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Shut Up, You're Bothering Me

Do you work with someone who has a tendency to annoy you? Does this someone annoy lots of people? Let me assure you, I feel your pain. Lots of people, I'm sure, feel your pain.

See, in the workplace, people from numerous walks of life are thrown together for anywhere from 6 to 10 hours a day, give or take. I'm trying to be as vague as possible with that, 'cause I really don't know how long you happen to work in a given day. I'm at work for 7 hours in my current job. But that's neither here nor there.

Anyway, unless you happen to be a hiring manager, you don't get to choose the people with whom you work. So you're not always going to like some of those people. If you're very lucky, you'll find that you get along with your coworkers, and may even become friends with them. But, chances are, there's gonna be one or two that just get right under your skin and take up permanent residence there.

Would you like an example from real life? Of course you would. I work at a school. And we all know that teaching is a noble profession. Those who choose to teach deserve our undying respect. Most of the time. Working closely with teachers has allowed me to get to know a number of them. I've come to know likes and particular dislikes. Especially where other teachers are concerned.

More often than not, I choose to eat my lunch in the teacher's lounge. It's nice to hang out with the adults every now and then. Used to be I would eat lunch with one or two of the kids I work with each day. While that works out great when I need to clock some time, it meant that I was unable to get a decent break from the job during my day. You can learn a lot when eating with teachers. And I'm not talking about the various subjects they teach.

I've learned that there are certain teachers who love to talk. One in particular, I'm convinced, might just be talking to hear herself speak. She may be in love with the sound of her own voice. Not a lunch period goes by without some kind of input from this particular teacher. Others in the room could be having a genuine conversation about some pressing matter. She will cheerily interrupt with her thoughts. But not her thoughts on the subject being discussed. These could be her thoughts on her current living situation or her latest imagined illness or why she likes the color purple.

I'm a quiet person by nature. I sit and listen. I observe. I see a lot of eyes rolling. I hear a lot of sighs. But no one seems willing to tell this woman that she gets on their nerves. I would, but I really don't feel like it's my place. Yet. I may get there some day. Just not today.

But I was close today. In the afternoons, I join the teachers outside as the children load the buses to go home. As is the usual, I stand there quietly, not speaking unless spoken to. For some reason, this afternoon, this was interpreted as an open invitation to the teacher mentioned above to walk up to me to talk about the weather. I was polite. I kept up my end of the conversation for as long as I felt was necessary. And then I walked back into the school. At which point several other teachers decided to point and laugh in my general direction.

I understand their annoyance. But I do believe, at times, they bring it on themselves. One morning I mentioned to a friend that I woke with a headache. At lunch, she asked if I was feeling any better. This opened a can of worms for that other, talkative teacher to go off on a tangent about her own headaches and how bad they can be. Once she left, I turned to the others, "Why would you even bring that up? You knew that would happen. If you're concerned about my well being, you wait until she leaves to ask." That should be the rule from here on out.

This legendary tale from the teacher's lounge is a true story. The names have been omitted to protect the innocent. More importantly, the names have been omitted to protect the not-so-innocent. Oh, by the way, if you don't know someone at work that annoys the crap out of you, there's a good chance that you are that person for someone else.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Question of the Week: Friendly Honesty

If you had a friend who spoke to you in the same way that you sometimes speak to yourself, how long would you allow this person to be your friend?

We'd probably be friends for life. Because that would mean that person is able to be brutally honest with me. I appreciate honesty. I may not always appreciate it at the moment it's delivered, but eventually I'll get around to appreciating it. Oscar Wilde said, "A true friend stabs you in the front." I've always taken this to mean that a real friend will be willing to say the things we need to hear, rather than say them to others behind our backs. A real friend is someone who won't just be there while we're smiling and having a swell time. A real friend is there for the worst of it too.

Sunday, January 27, 2013


It had been a long day for Bobby Christopher. He wasn't exactly living the dream as a telemarketer. But times were tough and a job was a job. For the last four months, he had found himself day in and day out sitting in a small cubicle, attempting to sell HBO to cable customers all over the country. It wasn't physically demanding, but some of the things he heard from people could be psychologically draining.

The polite ones simply said no and hung up on him. But those weren't the interesting ones. He found the rude customers much more entertaining. These are the ones that would cuss at him over the phone and tell him to get a real job. If only they knew, this wasn't his real life.

Bobby's real life involved the real estate market, which pretty much tanked a few years back. These days, there wasn't a lot of money to be made for a real estate agent. At least, not in the area where he lived. So to make ends meet, he picked up some part-time work for the cable company, making calls and selling HBO.

The computer automatically made another call. In his earpiece, he heard the ringing, then he heard the familiar, "Hello?"

A name was displayed on Bobby's screen. "Hi, may I speak with Mr. Thanatos?"

"You've got him."

"Hi, Mr. Thanatos, I'm with your Cableville and I'm calling with a special offer of--"

"--Offer of HBO at a discounted rate," Thanatos interrupted. "Yeah, I know why you've called, Bobby."

Bobby blinked several times and stared at his computer screen. Had he mentioned his name already? He didn't remember mentioning it. But he must have, right?

"That's absolutely right, Mr. Thanatos. I'm sorry, have you already received a call from another agent?" Bobby asked.

"No, Bobby. I haven't spoken with anyone at Cableville before now. No, I've been waiting for your call all day," Thanatos said with a tone that frightened Bobby.

He was still staring at his computer screen and had broken into a cold sweat. He couldn't explain why he felt so afraid. Something about this Thanatos guy struck Bobby as off.

"Are you still there, Bobby?" asked the man on the phone.

"Yes, sir, I'm still here."

"Good. Now, I want you to listen to me very carefully. Are you listening, Bobby?"

"I'm listening," Bobby said, as if he could choose to ignore what Thanatos was saying.

"Do you know what Thanatos means? It's Greek. Means death."

"I think I remember reading that somewhere, yes."

"Then you understand that I am Death," said Thanatos, his voice sounding more ominous with every passing moment. "You were fated to contact me today, Bobby Christopher. It is your destiny to meet with Death on this day. The question is, will you choose to meet Death face to face or will you try to flee from Death?"

Bobby stood up quickly. The wire from his headset pulled him unexpectedly back down.

"Don't panic, Bobby! Calm down! We're just talking right now. Besides, you can't go until you sign me up for HBO. I definitely want to subscribe."

Bobby was confused. The confusion did nothing to abate his fear. Why would Death incarnate want to subscribe to HBO? Was it for True Blood? Game of Thrones? He pointed the mouse and clicked a few times. And just like that, Thanatos was connected to HBO.

"You've got HBO, Mr. Thanatos. Does this mean you'll spare my life a bit longer?" Bobby asked, trying to sound light.

"I'm not so sure about that, Bobby. Can't you just pretend you didn't talk to me today and go about your life as if you don't know when I'm coming for you?" asked Thanatos.

With that, Bobby ended the call. The customer got what he wanted. He suddenly felt sick. He logged out of his computer and made his way for the door. His shift wasn't really over, but he was certainly done for the day. He ran through the parking lot and got to his car in record time. Leaving work, he drove recklessly down the road, narrowly missing a parked car. He nearly collided with a car when he ran a stop sign. In his panic, he drove more dangerously than he ever had.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

AFI 44 - The Philadelphia Story

The Philadelphia Story
Directed by George Cukor
Netflix sleeve: Socialite Tracy Lord (Katharine Hepburn) prepares to remarry, but her ex (Cary Grant) and a tabloid reporter (Best Supporting Actor Oscar-winner James Stewart) have other ideas as they converge on her home for a fateful visit. The three stars form an incomparable trio in one of the most tantalizing screwball romances ever. And under the direction of George Cukor, this once-urbane Broadway comedy springs to life with precision and wit.

Movies with a love triangle are a dime a dozen. This little film is different. It has something of a love pentagon. As confusing as that sounds, it kind of works. This particular old school rom-com has a lot of funny moments. I thoroughly enjoyed it, and I'm not even a big fan of Katharine Hepburn. Don't think it'll make my own top 100, though.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Getting Animated

Most of my readers are probably not severe comic book geeks, like myself. But I'd be willing to bet that more of you happen to spend time watching movies from time to time. Chances are, you don't watch or obsess over quite as many films as I have, but I'm hoping you won't just click away when you discover what the subject line is really all about.

I've mentioned a number of times that, when it comes to comics, I consider myself a hardcore DC, not so much a Marvel. If I were made of money, I'm sure I'd invest some cash in more than a few of Marvel's monthly titles. As it is, I can barely afford to keep up with my DC stories. But I do. And I love them. I love the characters and have since I was old enough to hold a comic book in my hands.

If you're a Marvel fan, then you've been really excited over the last few years by the quality and quantity of amazing movies that have been released featuring your favorite super-heroes. If you're a DC, like me, you've probably been disappointed by the lack of stellar films. It seems that, in the DC Universe, unless you dress like a bat, your fate is to fail at the box office (if you're lucky enough to make it that far).


The Wonder Woman feature film lost momentum somewhere along the way. And, for a while, it was supposed to be written and directed by lord of the geeks, Joss Whedon (of Avengers and Buffy fame). If anyone could have given a super-heroine like Wonder Woman an awesome movie, it would have been him. But now he's turned to the Marvel side. Lost to DC forever.

Green Lantern had a shot at box office glory. But that light sort of fizzled under too many special effects and not enough quality story. Let's not even talk about Halle Berry's Catwoman or Shaquille O'Neil's Steel.

Then we come to my favorite. The super-hero that started it all. Superman. He had a good run there in the late '70s and early '80s. Then Richard Pryor headlined Superman III and it hasn't exactly been uphill for the Man of Steel since then. I'll admit, I enjoyed Superman Returns, but it wasn't a great movie. It had a lot of problems. It certainly didn't run as smoothly as Christopher Nolan's Dark Knight trilogy. Superman's getting another movie this summer with Man of Steel. I'm trying to be optimistic, really. But I can't help but wonder what happens if it fails.

Justice League as drawn by Jim Lee. Via
Here's the thing, DC Comics and Warner Bros. are basically under the same roof, right? That means a major movie studio has access to an incredible stable of heroes with stories that stretch back 75 years. That should give them a proverbial cornucopia of movies for years to come. But they just can't get it right. Unless, again, it's a movie about the Batman.

But I've noticed something interesting. In the last couple decades, Warner's animation department has been doing something right. If we start with Batman: The Animated Series and move from that success through their most recent endeavors, things are looking pretty good. Over the last few years, DC has released a number of quality straight to DVD animated features. Several of them are Superman- or Batman-centric, but there are others that focus on other heroes, like Wonder Woman and Green Lantern. There are also several which feature the heroes working together as the Justice League.

And then there's the DC Nation block of programming on Cartoon Network. This is an hour of TV that has me looking forward to Saturday morning cartoons, something that hasn't been true since I was a kid and we actually had good cartoons on Saturday mornings. Cartoons, these days, suck. There's Green Lantern: The Animated Series, which, despite being CGI, has a feel that's very similar to the '90s Batman series. The second half of the DC Nation is filled in with Young Justice, which I consider some of the best super-hero storytelling outside the comics themselves (and better than some of the stuff DC is currently putting out).

As I said, I want to be optimistic about Man of Steel. And I want to be optimistic about the announced Justice League film that's supposedly coming in 2015. But there's a chance that things will just fall apart again. Because, despite having these awesome characters to work with, Warner Bros. seems completely unable to do it right. At least, when it comes to real live action.

If live action fails, why not lean on your animation department? Why not release your animated super-hero films to wide audiences instead of immediately putting them on a disc? Just a thought.

And hey, if you're looking for a good animated super-hero movie and happen to have Netflix, check out Superman/Batman: Apocalypse, Justice League: Doom, Batman: Under the Red Hood, or All-Star Superman (which is possibly the best Superman story ever written). In the meantime, I leave you with the trailer for Man of Steel (which better be awesome).

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Ideas for J.J. Abrams' Star Wars

Earlier today, it was announced that J.J. Abrams would be directing the new Star Wars movie, due out in 2015. Of course, this film would be listed as Episode VII in the Star Wars saga, but there's been a great deal of speculation as to what the movie would actually be about. The numbering of the episode suggests that it would take place after Return of the Jedi. The only thing that George Lucas has said for sure is that the upcoming trilogy will not be based on any existing books or comics, but will be an original story. With what we know thus far, I've taken some time to think about a few possible directions that the space opera could go.

Pitch 1 - During the celebration on Endor, after the destruction of the second Death Star, Han Solo writes a touching, if mysterious note in Princess Leia's yearbook. Based on his written words, Leia gives up her dreams and her future plans and decides to follow her crush all the way across the galaxy to attend the same space flight academy. Leia, of course, has no interest in learning to fly spacecraft, but she convinces herself it's worth it because she thinks she's in love. No? How about...

Pitch 2 - During the celebration on Endor, after the destruction of the second Death Star, Leia is approached by a mysterious man in an Alliance uniform. She's informed that she has been chosen as a recruit for a special division of Alliance Intelligence (AI). Despite the death of the Emperor and the destruction of the most powerful weapon in the galaxy, there are still remnants of the empire out there that need to be eliminated. Leia accepts their offer and immediately begins her training on Coruscant. When she becomes engaged to long-time love, Han Solo, she decides to come clean and tells him of her secret agent double life. Upon learning of the fact that she spilled the beans to Han, her superiors order his assassination. It's only then that she realizes she has been working as an agent for the remnants of the empire, not against them. She is then recruited by the true AI and tasked with taking down Empire Intelligence from the inside. The story then gets kind of convoluted with the involvement of obscure ancient Jedi and Sith artifacts that seem to have no real connection to the story at large. Yeah, I'm not sure about that one...

Pitch 3 - After the celebration on Endor, all of our major characters hope on board the Millennium Falcon and decide to take a well deserved vacation. Unfortunately, they crash land on an uncharted planet that they initially believe to be uninhabited. The Falcon is beyond repair, so our fearless crew can only hope for rescue but make the best of their situation in the meantime. Han makes speeches about living together or dying alone while Luke goes on and on about it being the will of the Force that they crashed on that planet, and that they were all there for a reason. It isn't long before they discover that they really aren't alone and that there's more to this planet than meets the eye. Stay with me, I've got another one...

Pitch 4 - What we didn't know at the end of Jedi is that when the second Death Star was destroyed, it created a singularity in space. The singularity grew and eventually engulfed the entire forest moon of Endor. The moon (and everyone on it at the time) emerged on the other side in an alternate universe. Our classic heroes did not become aware of this until they flew the Millennium Falcon away from Endor and realized that none of the stars looked familiar. It is then that they encounter the crew of the U.S.S. Enterprise, members of the United Federation of Planets. Skywalker and the gang mistake them for a part of the imperial fleet (in spite of the vast design differences). This misunderstanding leads to action and hilarious hijinks and finally merges two of the most popular science fiction franchises of all time.

All right, all right... It's not likely that J.J. will ever even see any of these ideas, much less use them. But if one of these turns out to be the Episode VII that we see in theaters in two years, remember where you saw the plot first. And I will expect a pretty big royalties check.

100 Days

Today marked the one hundredth day of the school year. In some ways, it's hard to believe we've already reached this point. In others, it's hard to take the fact that there are still 80 days left.

It's been a somewhat eventful school year. My own job has seen a lot of changes. I've picked up new clients, discharged some for ridiculous reasons, shifted caseloads only to have caseloads shifted back. It's been kind of nuts.

I've observed as 7th graders studied the election process. I've watched as 1st graders have learned to spell wurds that I've been taking for granted for more than 20 years. I've sat in the back of the class as 2nd graders have explored ancient cultures from Egypt to China.

I've survived a couple strains of the common cold and managed to dodge about a dozen other illnesses. I've been witness to digestive explosions, hundreds of bathroom breaks, and more than a few emotional meltdowns.

There were plenty of 100th day celebrations throughout the younger grades. Many teachers took the opportunity to involve their students in activities involving the number 100. In the 1st grade classroom, the children were asked to imagine what they would be like at the age of 100. Each of them was given the chance to draw a picture of what they might look like when they reach 100 years. So I did too.

You'll notice that I went with a Doc Brown kind of look. Also, I'm missing my left leg below the knee. I decided that it's highly likely I had to have it amputated at the age of 65 after a tragic time traveling accident. But, if I'd thought ahead, I'd probably have realized that in 68 years it's likely that I'll have a very lifelike robotic prosthetic leg.

Now, 80 days remain until the legendary summer break. I'd love to believe it's all downhill from here. Somehow I don't feel I can afford to be that optimistic about it.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

The Poopsmith Strikes

It was thought that Tuesday would be a fairly simple day. The faculty and staff of the local elementary school returned to work after an unexpected break thanks to a quick winter storm. The school system even helped to cushion the blow of going back to work after a four day weekend by announcing a two hour delay.

But it was not to be an easy day. As it turns out, easy days are a true rarity in an elementary school.

On Tuesday afternoon, someone made a disturbing discovery in one of the boys' bathrooms. A student walked into a stall to find that someone had removed feces from the toilet and smeared it all over the walls.

Whoever committed this disgusting act of vandalism was not very good at covering his tracks. He had gotten some of the fecal matter on his own shoe, thereby tracking it back into the third grade classroom. According to authorities, this narrowed down the list of suspects dramatically.

Every boy in the class was escorted into the hallway and lined up along the wall. Each shoe was expertly examined to find who had stepped in the poo. By this time, it was difficult to find adequate evidence to properly accuse one of the students of the crime.

At this time, no one had been willing to step forward to take responsibility for the incident. The principal, angry that such an appalling thing would happen in her school, stepped in and told the boys that, if necessary, they would take samples from each of them, do some lab work, and match someone up to the crap that was on the wall.

We may never know if the principal was bluffing. Whatever the case, it worked. The alleged Poopsmith confessed to the crime. When asked why he would do such a thing, the Poopsmith had no comment. He currently awaits sentencing pending notification of his parents.

True story.
The Poopsmith is property of

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

The Following

I like to talk a big game. A new television season starts in the fall or networks begin airing their mid-season replacements in the winter and I inevitably say that I don't want to start watching anything new. And then, inevitably, I start watching something new. And I get hooked.

That's the thing about these new dramas that hit the TV. I'm sure Lost wasn't the first television program to cause addictions, but it's the first one that I really felt like I couldn't miss on a weekly basis. And it seems like, since Lost's beginning, so many new shows try to recapture that magic. They come up with their hook, their mystery, that attempts to get people to come back for every new episode. It's worked for some shows (Once Upon a Time), not so much for others (The Event).

When Fox started showing ads for their new Kevin Bacon drama, The Following, I knew it would be one of those shows. So I was hesitant to watch it, even though I thought it looked awesome. Of course, I decided to watch it.

The pilot episode aired last night. And I missed it. But that's what miracles like Hulu are for. My initial impression? This show is freakin' awesome.

How do I describe the new series? It's a mystery/thriller that kind of plays out like you're watching a movie. At least, that's how the first episode felt. There's a lot of back story that was not revealed. But what they do reveal is enough to get you through that first hour.

Kevin Bacon plays Ryan Hardy, a former FBI agent who single-handedly brought down serial killer Joe Carroll, played by James Purefoy. Purefoy, you may recognize from A Knight's Tale, in which case you know that his word is beyond contestation. Bacon, of course, you would recognize from the classic game Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon. Both play their roles very well.

They set up the series in a fairly grand fashion by playing out pieces of these characters' pasts. When Hardy was still an agent, he caught Carroll, nearly dying in the process. While Carroll has been rotting in prison, he's been plotting. He's been building a fanbase of psychopaths via various social networks. And now he has a cult of followers who are willing to do his bidding. Carroll was a college professor before being convicted of his many murders. That teaching bug never really went away now that he is grooming a flock of killers.

I won't give away any more of the show. It's not fun to watch. It's creepy, but it's very well thought out and very well written. I'm hooked. So if you happen to be looking for a new cop drama that isn't a typical cop drama and don't mind getting involved in a week to week whodunit, check out The Following.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Question of the Week: Silent Lies

Is it possible to lie without saying a word?

Absolutely. According to psychologists, 93% of human communication is non-verbal. That means that most of what we say to each other is based on body language... a look, a tilt of the head, a roll of the eyes. I'm really good with that last one. I use the eye roll without even being aware that I'm doing it most of the time. It's gotten me in trouble with some of the kids I work with before. I underestimate a child's ability to read facial cues, 'cause most of the ones I work with can't. But then there are the ones who do and they know a rolling of the eyes is not a positive thing and usually indicates that I'm kind of a jerk. Anyway, none of that has anything to do with lying via body language. What was I saying? Oh, yes... it is possible to lie without saying a word. But it's harder. Like with my involuntary eye roll, a lot of our body language is reflexive. Our bodies say things that we wouldn't necessarily say with our mouths. But those who have a great deal of self control can probably lie very convincingly without speaking.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

The Church Search

Some time ago, I decided I was done with church. Let me back up. I didn't really decide that I was done with church. To say that makes it sound like I had chosen never to attend church again. That's not what happened. Not really. A more accurate statement would be that I decided to take a break from church. I didn't need or want a break from my faith in God, I just needed a break from His people.

This decision came after years of disappointment and disillusionment. I won't go into detail about what those disappointments were, I've written them out before (and if you have questions, I welcome your comments or emails). Again, my disappointment wasn't in God, it was in His people. The people of the church are, at best, flawed. More often than not, they're hypocritical, prideful, selfish and self-serving. Basically, they're just people. I feel I have a right to say these things because, I too am a part of the church. I should probably type that with a capital C. I'm not a member of any particular church at the moment. However, being a believer in Christ makes me a part of the Church, which is the body of Christ.

I've missed church. I've missed being with a group of people who have similar beliefs. I've missed sharing my concerns and my questions about my faith with people who won't judge me for having those concerns or questions, simply because they probably have the same concerns and questions. I know it's hard to find that kind of group, but I have to believe they're out there.

See, I've had this picture in my head of what church should look like or be. I don't think it's too complex or elaborate. But that could be because it's in my head. So, to me, it's fairly simple. Church should be a body of individuals who come together to make the whole. They do this by loving each other unconditionally. They love the way Christ loved. They lead by example. They serve one another. They serve the community. They are unselfish and put others before themselves. They are unbiased and non-judgmental. They are warm and welcoming of all who enter their doors.

Maybe that is a bit complex. Those things, while they seem really nice, are difficult to find. Maybe not if you're looking for one of those qualities. But to find more than one in one place, or to find all of them... I'm not sure that's even possible.

So I've come to another decision. It's time to stop looking for all those things. Yeah, if I find them all, great. But I'm building up these high expectations of flawed and imperfect people. I know for a fact that I can't be all of those things at all times myself. What gives me the right to expect them of anyone else? It makes me just as hypocritical as the people I've been trying so desperately to avoid for the last three years.

I attended a church in Blacksburg today. It was actually my second visit in as many weeks. I like what I've seen and heard so far. The people seem friendly enough. I have no doubt that disappointment is lurking just under the surface, but I won't be the one who goes looking for it. I'm not going to place these people up on a pedestal and pretend that they're something they're not. I'm going into this remembering that they're flawed. They are fallen and broken, just like me.

I've decided that I shouldn't just sit back and let things happen. If I find myself in another situation like the situations I've experienced in the past, I won't run away like I did before. You can't effect change or fight against wrongdoing by sitting at home and ignoring the fact that it's Sunday morning.

It's been too long since I've been connected to a ministry that I can believe in. I've seen that kind of ministry through friends' churches. I've seen the way they're plugged in and making a difference in the lives of others. I want that. I want to become involved with people who are working to make a difference in the community and the world. But it's not about wanting to feel good about myself. I've come to realize that I'm only in this world for a little while. I want my time here to be worth something. It's not worth a whole lot when I find myself sitting at home, not only ignoring Sunday mornings, but ignoring the world that God has laid out before me.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

AFI 45 - Shane

Directed by George Stevens
Netflix sleeve: Amid stunning vistas, this Oscar-winning Western from director George Stevens follows a reformed gunslinger whose determination to avoid a fight is tested when greedy cattle barons threaten the community of homesteaders he's joined.

What a great classic western. The kind where you can tell the good guys from the bad guys based on the color of their hats. Also, you know the kid is crazy annoying, due to the fact that he just won't shut up with his sing-songy inflections with every thing he says! This one is from way back when Jack Palance was credited as Walter Jack Palance. He shows up on screen and you just know he's the bad guy. Not just because he's wearing black from head to toe (And really, who does that in the wild west? It's always hot!), but also because the dog in the deserted saloon walks off with its head hanging and its tail between its legs. I have to question the sound mixing on this one. When Shane shoots at a target picked out by the kid, it sounds like he's firing a bazooka. Did you know that Shane is an early debate over gun control? When Shane tells Mrs. Starrett that a "gun is as good or as bad as the man using it," she responds that "we'd all be better off if there wasn't a single gun left in this valley." I thought the whole thing was pretty good. Other than the annoying child. Seriously, every line he delivered was like nails on a chalkboard. And the movie leaves us with one of the great Hollywood mysteries, is Shane alive or dead in that final scene as he rides off into the distance? The answer probably depends on how you saw the end of Inception, does the top fall or keep spinning?

Friday, January 18, 2013

Welcome to the Four Day Weekend!

How does one manage to capture the mythical unicorn known as the four day weekend? It's simple, really.

First, one must look at the calendar and choose a weekend that is already labeled a three day weekend. For example, the United States government has seen fit for a number of years to give its employees the day off on the third Monday of every January. This is in observance of Martin Luther King, Jr.'s birthday. I don't remember Dr. King's speech about dreams having anything to do with federal holidays or sleeping in on a Monday, but I'm grateful for the observance just the same.

Now that the three day weekend has been properly chosen, it helps to have working knowledge of meteorological conditions. No, you don't necessarily have to have the ability to read weather patterns, though it helps. Typically, you can just turn on your local news and, if your local weathermen/women are somewhat competent, you should get a fairly accurate prediction of what sort of weather you can expect for your upcoming three day weekend.

For the four day weekend thing to work right, you really need an accurate forecast of snow. And I'm not just talking about a light dusting that makes the trees look pretty. You need the kind of snow that grinds traffic to a halt. It has to be the kind of snow that causes employers and especially school superintendents to say, "Waitaminute! We have got to close everything down, right now!" They shout these things because they have a genuine concern for your safety and the safety of the children that attend their schools.

Now, looking at those steps, you probably need to choose MLK day as your three day weekend of choice. It's not likely that you'll see a wicked snowstorm around the time of Columbus Day. That mostly depends on where you live, though. I'm sure there are a number of localities that see snow regularly during the first half of October. Southwest Virginia isn't usually one of those localities.

If you're insistent on your four day weekend occurring in October, or some other non-wintry month, you may need to spend a great deal of time in prayer. Be prepared to present a very convincing argument for why it should snow enough to grant you a day off, 'cause the thing is, God's got a plan for these things and I'm not sure He likes it when humans try to control weather patterns.

Anyway, here we are. This perfect storm of perfect timing has hit and the four day weekend is upon us. Well, it's upon any of us that happen to work in one of any number of schools in the area where I live.

After a week of torrential downpours and some pretty severe flooding in many areas, things got really chilly and the rain turned to sleet and then into snow. Because of the exceedingly wet road conditions, the road crews were unable to pretreat the roads, making it difficult to prevent the coming snow from sticking and making things more treacherous than they already were. Thus, when the snow began to fall, it began to stick to everything. Quickly. And then it built up. Heavily.

The heavy, wet snow has a tendency to mess things up for a lot of people. It makes for a dangerous evening commute, especially for folks who are not used to maneuvering in the wintry weather. It also has a tendency to break tree branches and tear down power lines. Sadly, that very thing happened somewhere near me. Around 6:15 yesterday evening, my power went off. Thankfully, it didn't go off until after I saw the wonderful news that school had been canceled for Friday. At that point I didn't care what happened. I didn't care if the snow melted immediately. I didn't care if I didn't get power again 'til Monday. I just knew I had four days of relaxation ahead of me.

But then the reality of no power sank in. No power meant no TV and no internet. No power meant that my phone would soon be dead, with no way to recharge the battery. And, being winter, no power meant a good 12 hours of near total darkness. I wasn't so concerned about the milk going bad, I was more worried about what would happen when I inevitably had to go to the bathroom. There are no windows and we have no candles. I have a new found respect for the blind.

Then I remembered a gift that I received from my sister at Christmas. A very small, very bright flashlight. I was saved! I could get the flashlight and read to pass the time until I was tired enough to sleep through the blackout! But wait... the flashlight was in my car. Cue the "duh-duh-duh" suspenseful music. So I did what any bored, yet wired individual would do in a snowstorm induced blackout. I snowsuited up and made the long trek to my car. The huge flakes of snow fell heavy upon my brow as I trudged through the slush to the parking lot. It sounds worse than it really was.

My power outage didn't last long. I'm one of the lucky ones who only had to endure the darkness for a few hours. But my joy was short-lived as I realized that the power had somehow damaged the cable and internet being fed into my apartment. Cue the "duh-duh-duh" suspenseful music once again. This morning I called our provider and they said they would have everything working again at some point today. Since you're reading this blog, you can go ahead and assume that everything is working again, otherwise I'd have been unable to post it.

I took out the trash just before lunch. I surveyed the roads from the dumpster and decided that I could handle a trip to the store. The snowfall had already come and gone, so I knew the store would be the last place in town that would see a lot of crowds. People only show up there before the snow hits so they can raid the eggs, milk and bread. The walk from the dumpster to my car proved to be problematic. This is the part where I fall flat on my back.

I was being careful. It's not like I was looking for patches of ice so that I could tempt fate. Fate, it seems, was looking for me. There wasn't much happening at the apartment complex. There were a few of the college kids out at someone's truck, clearing it of snow. I walked up the sidewalk, my own car was in sight. I remember thinking how embarrassing it would be to fall with those kids watching me. And then it happened. I stepped on an icy patch that really just looked like a normal part of the wet sidewalk. Thankfully, my center of gravity only shifted slightly and I was able to catch myself.

But then I got cocky. "This ice won't get the best of me," I thought to myself. And it was as if the universe decided that I needed to be taken down a couple pegs. Suddenly my feet flew out from under me, my spine had cracked on the sidewalk and I was looking up at a beautiful blue sky. I lay there for a few seconds which felt like several minutes. I then hoped that the kids were not only watching when I fell, but had a camera that recorded the whole thing. It would have been YouTube gold. I imagine I looked something like Daniel Stern and Joe Pesci after walking on some strategically placed Micro Machines in the foyer on Home Alone.

Yeah, I probably looked like that...
I chose not to cancel my trip to the store and the post office. After all, I'd come this far. If I went back to my apartment now, it would have all been for nothing. I wasn't gonna go out like that!

The rest of my day was uneventful. When I got back home, the walk from the car to my front door was a lot more careful. I remember thinking, very specifically, "I don't wanna fall again!" Next time I go out, I'm tying a pillow to my back. Just in case.

I'm looking forward to another three days of relaxation. I'm probably going to need it. I have a feeling my back will be killing me when I wake up tomorrow morning.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

New Tales From Old Navy: And I Do Mean Old

I realize that I'm now well into my 30s. My body reminds me of this fact every time I sit down after working a shift at the store. Mentally, there's a part of me that fails to grasp that concept.

More often than not, I still feel like I'm in my early 20s. Even if I look in the mirror and see that I've aged 10 years, it's hard to accept. I guess that's good, though. 'Cause they say you're as young as you feel. I feel young... -ish...

I was happy that I got hired to work at Old Navy. Most of that happiness stemmed from the fact that I would be receiving an extra paycheck every now and again. But I knew there would be other benefits. At least, I assumed there would be. And I don't just mean the discount.

Being in close proximity to two large universities, I assumed there would be a great number of attractive women walking through those doors. Yeah, yeah... "What a sexist thing to..." Shut your faces! I'm young and single. Sue me for noticing attractive members of the opposite sex.

It's not that my assumption was completely wrong. I just noticed a strange phenomenon when I worked last Saturday. When I looked around the store, there wasn't a single woman under the age of 60. This went on for a few hours. Not that there aren't beautiful 60 plus women out there. Look at Jane Seymour. But Jane Seymour did not come into the store that day.

So where were all the young shoppers last weekend? Better things to do? Better places to be? I'm working again this Saturday. Feel free to make an appearance. I promise not to stare. At least, not blatantly.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Pen Pal

Last year, on the Bucket List that I made up, I mentioned that I'd like to have a pen pal. Specifically, that's number 31 on the list. I've never had a pen pal before. And now that we live on the world wide web, sending letters through the mail is almost unheard of.

Letter writing can be considered a lost art form. And that's understandable. Email is very convenient and you don't have to spend 45 cents to send each one. Also, it helps our society with our need to have instant gratification. We live in a world where heating up a burrito for a minute in the microwave takes way too long. Who wants to wait for a letter to arrive in the mail?

But I'd love to get a real letter. I'd love to open my mailbox and see something other than bogus loan checks and coupons for places I've never been. I'd like to look forward to opening that mailbox. I'd like to get excited about driving to the post office to see if anything good is waiting for me.

So I'm looking for a pen pal. Any takers? I'm pretty decent with a pen and some paper. And I'm told my penmanship is very nearly legible. Come on, I've got a whole book of forever stamps just waiting to be used.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Thank You, Number Sixteen

The jeans I wore this weekend I've had for several months now. But I pulled something out of the back pocket that I did not know was there. It wasn't a big deal. It's not as though I reached in and found a $20 bill, though that would have been awesome. No, it was a tiny sticker with the number 16 on it.

As a kid, I found those stickers on my clothes quite often. Dad explained that the number represents the person who inspected the clothes to make sure that particular article of clothing was acceptable for consumption.

So I'd like to say thank you to Sixteen. I know that's not a proper name, but I probably can't properly pronounce your proper name.

Thank you, Sixteen. You made sure my jeans were safe for me to wear. I'm not sure how they could be unsafe. Then again, I don't really know much about Vietnam, where my pants were made. Maybe some jeans contain broken glass in the pockets. Maybe the denim is infused with SARS. But you, Sixteen, have guaranteed that my jeans are okay.

Not like Eleven, who inspected my khakis. Eleven left a hole in my right pocket. Not cool, Eleven. Not cool.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Question of the Week: Joy

What does your joy look like today?
This is a hard one for me. It's no secret that I'm not an emotional person. There are times when I wish I could easily express emotions. But don't mistake that for a lack of emotions. I absolutely feel things. Those feelings just aren't apparent externally. As far as joy goes, it's always there on some level. I've always thought of joy as a state of mind, more than a feeling. Sometimes it can manifest itself in the form of happiness, which is a fleeting emotion that is often based on circumstance. Someone may not always be happy, but that doesn't necessarily mean they're lacking joy. Today, my joy looks like it usually does. It's under the surface of all the things I have to do today and my concern for a coworker who will have surgery this week. But I'm thankful that the source of my joy doesn't come from my circumstances, or from anything I can control. My true joy comes from God and it's always there, even when life tries to get in the way, or when I attempt to put life in the way.

Sunday, January 13, 2013


Grandpa always said that Paradise was the place where dreams could come true. He told me that it was the place where you could visit any place in the world, or even beyond. He insisted that in Paradise, I was only limited by my imagination.

The Paradise Theater was a magical place when I was a kid. But now I'm an adult. Grandpa isn't here anymore. Since he passed away six months ago, the Paradise Theater has been officially mine. And so are it's problems.

As an adult in Paradise, I'm no longer limited by my imagination. I'm limited by money. Rather, I'm limited by a lack of it.

Some of my earliest memories in life take place within the walls of the Paradise. I remember the theater being filled to capacity night after night. I remember watching Grandpa as he ran the projector. I remember sitting on his shoulders as he stood in the dark while a classic movie played on the big screen.

The Paradise has been on the decline for a lot of years. After all, I only have one screen. It's hard to compete with the multiplex at the mall with 18 screens and digital projectors. I'm still showing movies on celluloid. Kind of makes it hard to make money when every new movie comes out in 3D.

So I'm thinking it's time to change. As of today, I've closed down the Paradise Theater. We aren't closing permanently. Hopefully that will allow my five employees to breathe a sigh of relief. But we will be closing to rethink how we do things.

The first step will be to remodel. The look of the lobby has not been updated since 1983. For the record, that was before I was born. 1983 was when Grandpa first began running the place. That's when he decided the Paradise needed a new look. Once he finished his remodel, he reopened just in time for the 50th anniversary. I figure I can do the same thing in time for the 80th anniversary of the Paradise.

As part of the remodel, the lobby won't just be a lobby. We won't just have a concessions stand with popcorn and Jujubes. We're gonna have a full service coffee shop. Tables, chairs, live music when the occasion calls for it.

Finally, to complete the retro feel of our historic landmark of a theater, the Paradise will show only classic movies. Why should I show the new movies that can be seen in much higher quality for twice the price across town? No, the Paradise Theater will feature old movies that probably have not been seen on the big screen in many years. Admit it, wouldn't you like to feel like a kid again, seeing Raiders of the Lost Ark in a dark theater?

So be sure to come back to the Paradise this July for our grand reopening and our 80th anniversary celebration.You'll be able to come out and enjoy coffee, pastries and a local band, yet to be determined. And then you can stick around for our first double feature: the 1933 classic King Kong (the first film ever shown at the Paradise) and 1983's Trading Places (the first film shown after Grandpa's original remodel). No, those movies don't really go together, but we just wanted to celebrate the Paradise's previous milestones.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Harry Caray From Beyond

It's been a while since I posted a decent hilarious video. Here's Will Ferrell as Harry Caray on SNL. Have a great weekend, kids.

Friday, January 11, 2013

New Tales from Old Navy: The Post Holiday Non-Rush

The holidays are over. For many people in the world of retail, this means that things have ground to a halt. For me, I notice the slowness in my lack of a work schedule.

That's a bit of an exaggeration. I'm still on the schedule. But recently, it's only been for one or two shifts per week. But the nights that I've gone in have been kind of dead. I'd use the term "silent as the tomb," but we still have music playing over the loudspeaker.

I led myself to believe that things would stay busy for a little while after Christmas, what with all the returns and all. Funny enough, there haven't seemed to be as many returns as I thought there would be.

I worked tonight and last night. On both of these nights, I walked into a store that was about as perfect as it could be. I was given the task of straightening up the women's sections of the store. To keep myself busy I ended up folding and refolding clothes that already looked okay to begin with.

Tonight I found out that I was one of the few holiday hires that will be staying on the schedule on a permanent part-time basis. That's a relief, knowing that I won't have to seek part-time employment elsewhere to help me out when the snow days eventually come and I can't work at the school. And the snow days will come. I will remain optimistic on that point.

Not everyone that was hired for the holidays will be sticking around. And some of those grapes are a little sour. So I'm just keeping my mouth shut while I'm in the store. No point in bragging that I get to keep working 10 hours a week while their jobs are disappearing.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Why Daniel Should Have Lost

That title should really read, "Why Daniel Should Have Lost Twice."

First, I want to start by saying that I love The Karate Kid. It's got to be one of my favorite movies of all time. I'm not exactly sure where I would rank it, but it's probably somewhere in my top 100. Also, in my opinion, part 2 might be just as good, maybe better. That being said, I have a sort of problem with the way those things turned out.

Okay, it's not a problem, per se. I do enjoy the happy ending of seeing the underdog win against seemingly impossible odds. But I just don't think Daniel-san should have won either of the fights that he participated in at the climax of both of those films. It should go without saying, I will be spoiling the endings to Karate Kid, parts I and II. If you haven't seen these movies, you might want to go read something else. Actually, don't read something else. Find these movies and watch them right now. You're long overdue.

In the first one, Daniel makes his way through the tournament, taking out black belts left and right. And this is perfectly logical, since he's been learning karate for about three months. Meanwhile, the kids who have been training for years drop like flies. But it's very easy for the audience to suspend their disbelief that a kid from Newark with no martial arts experience can rise in the tournament ranks during a brief montage while listening to an inspirational song.

So Daniel gets to the semi-finals where he faces the only halfway decent kid from the Cobra Kai squad. I mean, he's still a dirtbag, but he's a dirtbag who has been shown to have a conscience at several points throughout the movie. He basically destroys Daniels knee because Sensei Kreese ordered him to do so. He felt really bad about it, but the damage had been done. The doctor on the scene informed Daniel that the tournament was over for him. But then Mr. Miyagi works his magic and Daniel's knee is miraculously better. This means he can fight Johnny in the title match. Of course, he wins, but he really shouldn't.

Johnny goes for the bad knee. This is all thanks to Sensei Kreese's advice to "sweep the leg." When Johnny sweeps the leg, that should be the end of it. But Daniel gets right back up. Then he starts to get into the Crane position, ready to deliver that final blow. I never took karate a day in my life, but I can't imagine that this is actually a good move. I mean, think about how long it takes Daniel to set this up. Yeah, it's a matter of a few seconds, but any fool can see what's coming. Unless you're the bad guy who's supposed to lose so the underdog can win and make the audience cheer. When Miyagi first introduces Daniel to the Crane Technique, he tells the kid that "if do right, no can defense." We find out that that's not exactly true in Part II.

In the sequel, it makes no sense for Chozen to antagonize Daniel throughout the movie. But he does. And it begins the moment they meet. There's no logical reason for it. But our underdog needs a villain to take down in the final act. So there you have it. But as Miyagi points out, their fight isn't about points or who walks away with the tournament trophy. The fight between Daniel and Chozen is life and death.

Chozen is the kind of guy who will not hold back when his honor is on the line. He was described by Daniel's love interest as "Sato's best student." Daniel's been training with Miyagi for a year at best by this point. Chozen has been training with Sato (who would have been teaching the same techniques) for his entire life. At least, that's the most likely scenario. And if Chozen has that much experience and is looking to take Daniel's life, logic dictates that Daniel should not have survived his own sequel.

Of course, Daniel begins this fight by leaning back on the Crane kick. Makes sense, right? I mean, it won him a trophy at the end of part I. Why wouldn't it save his life this time around? Well, that's because we find out that Miyagi's "no can defense" thing was way off. Chozen blocks it like he's been blocking that same kick since he was three. We see the fight progress and we watch as Chozen lands blows that break a stone statue. This means that each hit that lands somewhere on Daniel's body should break bones and cause some severe internal bleeding. Just when Daniel is down, probably about to lose his life, the citizens of Tome Village begin banging their pocket drums and the Karate Kid is suddenly inspired to get up and win the fight.

I get it. The audience wants a feel good ending. I'm just putting it out there that, in reality, Daniel should have lost both of these fights. But please, don't allow my cynicism to stop you from enjoying these classic films. They're still excellent movies and I watch them any time I get a chance.

Wednesday, January 09, 2013

Snowy Memories

Right now, the area in which I live is expecting unseasonably warm weather in the coming days. The expected high during this coming weekend will be in the 70s. This is not what January is supposed to feel like. January should have us bundled up with heavy coats, knit hats, gloves and scarves. Now, I'm not much of a scarf wearer and when I've tried, I've basically failed at it. But I'd be willing to give it another shot if it meant that we could get some actual cold weather.

Working in an elementary school, I hear a lot of people longing for some snow days. And when I say people, I don't just mean the kids who want a day off from school. Teachers seem to want the days off as much as, if not more than, the students they teach. I know we've only been back in school for three days since the Christmas vacation, but I'm sure each faculty and staff member would enjoy a day to sleep in again.

But those snow days are not coming any time soon. After last winter's mild climate, I'm not optimistic about receiving any significant snowfall. There are a lot of people who suffer from seasonal affective disorder in the winter due to a lack of sunlight. I think I'm suffering from the disorder due to a lack of snow. So I'm allowing my mind to carry me back to colder days; days when the snow fell freely from the skies over Bluefield College.

Before I began my education at Bluefield College, I was told that the town of Bluefield, Virginia experienced a total of two seasons: winter and August. This report came from people who lived in the area that has also been described as Four Seasons Country. So is it four or two?

Okay, after living there for five years myself, I can say that Bluefield does experience four seasons. But winter tends to last a little bit longer and summer doesn't seem to start as soon as it does in a lot of other places. I've seen snow arrive as early as September and fall again as late as May. That latter snow made for an interesting graduation ceremony in the spring of 2002.

When the snow fell heavily, it meant good times at Bluefield College. It meant snowball fights. It meant sledding at one's own risk down the treacherous Rish Hall hill. It meant a gorgeous blanket of white that laid out neatly across an already beautiful campus.

I remember being playfully attacked by a group of girls during a heavy snowfall my freshman year. At least, I hope it was a playful attack. My face was buried in the snow more than once that night. It may have been more brutal than I choose to remember. I've been told my sarcasm would get me punched in the face before. May have been my sarcasm got me shoved into the snow and ice on that fateful night.

Each year I took advantage of that treacherous hill behind Rish Hall. How could I not? It was steep and slick. Now, I did try to avoid any ramps that had been built in the snow. I'm no daredevil. And after seeing a kid on a snowboard attempt a back flip and land on his head, I avoided ramps at all costs. I will say this: going down was wicked fun, but the walk back up was a pain. It's not easy walking up that steep hill when it's covered in dry grass. Two feet of snow doesn't help in the slightest.

And then there's the view. I'm sure not everyone feels that Bluefield is as beautiful as I consider it. But that's how I think of it. Throughout most of my years living in the dorm, I was able to look out the window at the sight of East River Mountain rising on the not too distant horizon. Time after time, I could see the clouds literally rolling in over the mountains and seemingly falling into the town. Seeing the trees on that mountain covered with snow is nearly as breathtaking as a sunrise over the Atlantic.

I remember the excitement of walking around campus at night. The excitement came not just because there was already a foot of snow on the ground, but because the snow was still falling. It was incredible seeing those big flakes falling past the lamps throughout the campus. And you know the way the new fallen snow tends to muffle the sounds around you? Even that lack of noise caused me to get excited. That kind of snow usually meant that classes would be cancelled the next day. Snow days at Bluefield College certainly did not come that often. So we didn't take them for granted. We slept in. We got bundled up. We played in the snow like we would if we had been 1st graders enjoying a day off from school.

Tuesday, January 08, 2013

The Single Guy and the Fish Bowl

Remember how the Single Guy recently took a quick trip to the Richmond area? Well, the trip consisted of more than just making fun of the Charlatan's new ride.

On Saturday evening, the Single Guy was given the opportunity to hang out with the Charlatan, his fiance and a couple of their close friends. The night began with dinner at Noodles & Co., where the Single Guy experienced the most amazing Coca-Cola fountain machine in existence. It's the kind with a touch screen that allows you to not only choose a particular beverage, but also lets you add one of about ten different flavors to that beverage. The Single Guy's Cherry Vanilla Coke Zero tasted like liquid candy.

After dinner, the quintet made their way to the Charlatan's apartment, where they spent a short time trying to decide what to do to pass the time and entertain themselves. The Charlatan and his fiance decided on a game known as Fish Bowl. This was a game that the Single Guy had heard of, but never played before.

Before game play could begin, each participant was responsible for writing down a whole lot of random things on tiny little pieces of paper. These pieces of paper would each be thrown into a fish bowl, to be drawn out as part of the game. The Charlatan did not have an actual fish bowl, so he used an ice bucket. Saying that the things written on the slips of paper were random is something of an understatement. They ranged from objects such as Superman's cape to phrases like, "You stay classy, San Diego!"

Despite the uneven number of players, the teams were divided up as boys vs. girls. That made it three vs. two, each side arguing that they were the ones with the disadvantage. This minor disagreement did nothing to hinder the awkward fun that the group would end up having.

The object of the game involved one teammate drawing a clue from the bucket and attempting to get the rest of the team to guess what's written on the paper. In round one, players could use any words to describe what was written, as long as they did not use the actual words written. Round two was basically Charades. The third and final round allowed the players to use only one word to describe the clue. These progressive rounds allowed for hilarity to ensue. Especially when the Single Guy drew "pubic hair" during the Charades round.

At the end of three rounds, the teams were tied up. The group eventually decided on a fourth round tiebreaker, consisting of sound effects to describe each of the clues. This became difficult when so many of the clues were silent objects. How does one come up with a sound effect for "crossword puzzle?" In the end, the guys won the game. But then they all sat around wondering what would have happened if round four had also ended in a tie. And they came up with other, more difficult and humorous ways to get people to guess the clues.

The group spent a great deal of time reading clues by only pronouncing vowels. You just don't know how important consonants are until you're forced to leave them behind.

Monday, January 07, 2013

Question of the Week: Remember

Have you done anything lately worth remembering?

Anyone who reads my blog would probably realize that I think just about everything is worth remembering. The good, the bad, the exciting, the mediocre. Everything in life should be considered a learning experience. If we don't remember the events in our lives, we can't learn anything from them. This would be why we sit through history classes throughout school.

Sunday, January 06, 2013

The Single Guy and the Station Wagon

Volvo station wagons have an excellent reputation. More often than not, when someone thinks of a Volvo, it is easy to free associate the word safety right away. These cars have a history of being safe and, therefore, are seen as good family vehicles.

Recently, the Charlatan was forced to leave behind the Ford Escape that he has been driving for many years. In its wake, he made the grown up and responsible purchase of a Volvo station wagon. This, of course, leaves the man open to ridicule from all his friends.

While the Charlatan is recently newly engaged, he does not yet have a family. It isn't often that you see an unmarried man with no children riding around in a wagon.

This weekend, the Single Guy rode along with the Other Single Guy for a brief trip to Richmond. On the way to Virginia's capital, these two discussed the Charlatan's choice in vehicle. He was not coerced. No one twisted his arm. He freely chose to buy his new Volvo wagon. In return, the Single Guy and the Other decided to come up with some good jokes. It was determined that they needed to give the Charlatan a hard time.

But then the Single Guy drove the Volvo. The Charlatan asked the Single Guy to take the new car on a quick trip to the grocery store while he finished setting up for a program at his church. The Single Guy happily obliged. And, in his humble opinion, that new car handled amazingly. He was pleasantly shocked.

The Single Guy returned to the church with groceries in hand and quickly got in touch with the Other Single Guy. "Can't mock it," he said, "the thing drives like a dream."

Of course, the Single Guy said he would not be able to mock. But reality kicked in later when he got into the passenger seat as the Charlatan began to drive to dinner. "So, did the mom jeans come standard with the car?" asked the Single Guy.

The Charlatan just laughed. He then said, "That's good, keep 'em comin'!"

The Single Guy confessed that he and the Other had worked on a bunch on the long drive to Richmond. The plan was to pepper him with the jokes throughout the evening. Some others include but are not limited to:
  • "If you decide to get paper instead of plastic, how many grocery bags can you fit in the back?"
  • "Are the other moms in the carpool jealous of the new car?"
  • "Do you have to pick up all the soccer equipment by yourself, or do you have some help?"
  • "Are we picking up the stuff for the PTA bake sale on this trip or later?"
That last one came from the Other Single Guy and was a particular favorite of the night. The Single Guy still has a hard time envisioning the Charlatan in a station wagon, but cannot deny the appeal of the vehicle. Please note, the Charlatan's car is not the model pictured. His is newer, classier and more of a dark grey in color.

Saturday, January 05, 2013

AFI 46 - It Happened One Night

It Happened One Night
Directed by Frank Capra
Netflix sleeve: Runaway socialite Ellie Andrews (Claudette Colbert) is en route to the Big Apple to elope with a fortune-hunting flyboy. Along the way she meets a crusty newspaperman (Clark Gable), who's just been sacked and--unbeknownst to Ellie--plans to sell her story to get his job back. But a string of zany misadventures leads them to realize they're madly--if reluctantly--in love. It Happened One Night swept every major Academy Award.

I haven't seen all the movies that Capra directed. But after seeing the ones that I have seen, I'm beginning to wonder if he ever made a bad one. I had actually seen this once before. A few years ago I got on a kick of wanting to see every Oscar winner for Best Picture. I started at the beginning of the Academy Awards, but didn't make it very far. I did get to 1934's It Happened One Night, though. As rom-coms go, this is a pretty good one, and follows that basic romantic comedy formula. You know, boy meets girl, boy and girl have a couple days of wacky adventures, boy and girl fall in love. You don't see a lot of romantic comedies winning a Best Picture Oscar. But there was a depression on. Maybe this kind of movie was just what the American public needed. I don't recommend every movie I see on this list, but I do recommend this one.

Friday, January 04, 2013

Movies I Want to See This Winter

A few months ago I comprised a list of all the movies I wanted to see that were coming out in the fall. I saw a total of one of them. The rest will have to wait for the Redbox or the Netflix. As for the movies I want to see over the next few months? Well, I've already seen one of these winter flicks. The rest will be up in the air, depending on the cash flow.

Currently showing:
The Impossible

Django Unchained

Promised Land

January 11:
Gangster Squad

Zero Dark Thirty

February 2:
Warm Bodies

February 15:
A Good Day to Die Hard

Safe Haven

March 1:
Jack the Giant Slayer

March 8:
Oz the Great and Powerful

Thursday, January 03, 2013

New Tales from Old Navy: Melting Pot

I'm a big fan of the melting pot that is the United States. We're a country that was founded on the idea that anyone in the world can come here and become a citizen, seeking a better life than the one they may have had in the old country. I won't get political with this post, but I will say I lean more toward the idea that there's a proper way of doing these things. There's a system that was put in place that I don't fully understand. And so, in my ignorance, I believe that folks crossing our borders should do it legally. That's probably not an incredibly popular view these days, but it is what it is.

On the flip side of that, I couldn't care less what language our immigrant neighbors speak. I know there are a lot of folks out there who believe that if you come to America you should speak American. But here's the thing, 90% of all communication is non-verbal. True story. Yes, it's convenient when everyone you interact with on a daily basis speaks fluent English. But I ask, is it fair for us to expect every foreigner arriving on our shores to speak English, but for them to not expect us to speak their native language when we visit their home country? I once heard a kind of funny thing... If you speak three languages, you're trilingual. If you speak two, you're bilingual. If you speak one, you're an American.

That being said, I see a greatly diverse group of individuals where I work part time. It kind of blows my mind how many ethnicities and nationalities I've seen in the last couple months. And Christiansburg isn't exactly a bustling Metropolis. I worked at a bank in downtown Raleigh for three years and I don't think our clientele was as diverse as Old Navy's customers.

As I said, I'm all for it. And I'm cool with the multiple languages I hear on a regular basis. I just hope these customers are okay with the fact that I won't always understand them. Nor will I always recognize exactly what language they're speaking. Spanish is a pretty familiar one that I can pick out. I've heard Italian and French. I'd love to hear some Portuguese, but alas, I have not. Yet. I can't be sure, but I'm pretty sure I've heard conversations in Farsi, Hindi and German. I've also heard a language that has to have originated somewhere in Eastern Europe. Though I have no idea which language or dialect it may be.

I've decided that there are a number of foreign language speakers who have the same sort of sense of humor that I have. These are the folks who will waltz into a public place and ask questions of the naive American dude running the fitting room. But they don't just ask an average, every day question. They lay on the thick accent and ask in broken English. I don't want to be rude and ask, repeatedly, "Huh?" So I try to pretend I understood what they said and go with it. Then the practical jokester's spouse comes by and says, "He's trying to be funny..." At which point we all have a good laugh.

Laughter, by the way, is multi-national. Everyone understands a laugh. See? 90% non-verbal.