Saturday, December 11, 2010

The Game

Since being in college, the old Classic has passed away and been replaced by a new, more cynical Classic. He has been infused with the very essence of evil itself...spite. Yes, spite. He is not exactly sure from whence it comes, but it seems to emanate from Room 112 Blaisedale, Pennsylvania Avenue Residence Hall. He also feels it faintly drifting in from the far off lands of Missouri and Oklahoma. Is there no escape from this menacing threat that threatens the very core of Classic's moral fiber?

"Could you hold this?". Sure. *Drops wallet immediately after being handed it*. "No one should agree with Robert just to make him feel unloved." *Immediately post something stating total agreement with Robert*. "Use your quickenings!" *Refuse to ever use quickenings again, even if at some point it finally IS a good idea*. "I hate when people do that!" * mean THIS?!?!* "I love Cake!" *Immediately display immense dislike for Cake, despite knowing how good they are*. (I'm looking at you here, Schribnizz. And speaking of Roy....possible dark knight candidate for most spiteful person on earth?) "I'm not gay, I swear!" *Kiss the bastard until he's the fucking gayest*. "I fully expect you to make this joke here." *Make a different joke, despite it being much less funny. Or neglect to make a joke at all. Or tell the joke anyway because they thought you were going to change it out of spite*. Double spite.

What's the point of the game? Fuck everyone over. Why? Why not, bitch? If you don't participate, you're a lesser being. You are weak, a weed waiting to be pulled up. Only the dominant survive. There's no time for being cordial or "nice". Ha! Whatever that is... No mercy, especially if you're a girl. How else will they learn the harsh nature of humor? Because that's what spite is. The darkest, deepest, and only true form of humor. What's funnier than a joke at someone else's expense? A joke at someone else's expense, specifically for being at someone else's expense, that's what.

That's our crowd. If you don't like it, get the fuck out. Go listen to more Justin Bieber, you pansy. We listen to indie music here. Of course you've never heard of them, you fool. That's the point. We weren't all the "cool kids" in high school (except that one homecoming king guy....what a jackass), but we were the coolest kids in high school. Of course you've never heard of us. Our indie power cloaks us from your vision. My point in this paragraph? Fuck you. I was gonna explain, but just for asking, you can figure it out yourself.


Friday, December 10, 2010

Conor - I Hang Out With Losers

The fog is thick, and the darkness is overwhelming tonight. I can't see 15 feet in any direction. Under normal circumstances our party would never go through the Dark Forest during these weather conditions, but after what we learned from the Princess, it's obvious that our circumstances are anything but normal. Time is of the essence, and the Paladin has insisted that we set out tonight. I understand, and as always, I believe in our leaders decisions, but... There's something cursed about these woods. I've heard one too many tales...

The Paladin is taking point, followed directly by Dr. Magic. He's casting a strong luminescence spell, but it's as if the woods themselves were swallowing his Mana whole. I wouldn't be surprised if they were... I follow close behind the crafty magician, and behind me is our Dwarf. He's clinging his axe tighter than usual, and his eyes dart from shadow to shadow. I'm glad to see that I'm not the only one frightened by all of this, but there's something in the Drawf's eyes that scares me. Something's wrong with him. I've always thought so, but he's saved me from one too many Chimera for me to criticize him. Behind him is our archer, watching for anything that might be following us. It's times like these that I feel useless, I feel like a burden, even. As an agile Thief boy, I know that I will have my time to shine when we reach the Omega Fortress on the other side of these damned woods, but still... I feel helpless. I jump at every sound, and I've dropped my dagger twice, due to my sweaty palms.

As we move farther into the woods, it seems to get even darker! Impossible! I hold onto the wizards shoulder, and run into his back when he stops abruptly.

"Gats! What's the big idea?" I shout.

The Wizard shoots me a dirty look and motions to the Paladin. The Paladin has become completely still and is looking over to our right, behind a pair of thick Fruskaberry trees. I creep up to him and ask him what he sees. He doesn't respond. As I open my mouth to ask him again, all of the sudden, a hulking figure lurches out into view. I can't believe my eyes.


I scream - I can't help myself!- and he looks our way. He looks straight at me! An Owl Bear is a thing of legends, no, no, nightmares. Men say it can tear even the most powerful warrior limb from limb, rip the flesh right off the most experienced adventurer, and it's roar! Oh god it's roar. They say it can drive a man insane from miles away.

It only manages to take one step forward before an arrow hits it in the shoulder. A cry of pain erupts from its beak, but before it can do anything else, the Paladin and the Dwarf are upon it.

It all happens so fast. The Paladin cuts off one of it's legs with one slash of his Holy Blade. Blood, everywhere. The Owl Bear's cry grows louder as it topples and hits the ground. The Dwarf brings his axe down, again. Again. Again. He doesn't stop. All I can hear is that sound, that sound of the Dwarf's axe and the Owl Bear's cry. It's not a cry of anger. It's not calling more of it's kind to come kill us, it's just -

The Paladin hacks off an arm now. I can't look away for some reason. Blood's covering everything. I start to count the arrows in its side when the Dr. Magic sets it on fire, melting all of the wooden shafts. The fire burns the nerves. The cry is louder than ever. I want the cry to stop. I can't possibly imagine the pain and I don't want to even try so stop making that sound will you please stop making that

And then the sound stops. It's just thump thump thump now, as the Paladin and the Dwarf keep hitting the burning corpse.

There is silence, for a moment, before I hear another cry, to my right. Two cries. One is full of fear, the other sadness. I turn to face these smaller sounds. Two baby Owl Bears hide behind a tree. I can see their eyes by the light of the fire. I wish I couldn't. I look away. I look at my companions. The archer awkwardly tries to retrieve some of his arrows from the dead animal, and starts chiding the Magician for ruining his brand new Unicorn Arrows. The Dwarf is just smiling, cleaning off his axe. The Paladin - the supposed paragon of justice! - sheathes his sword and tries to find the path again.

Maybe we're the true Owl Bears, guys. Maybe we are.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
"Every day is a gift. That's why they call it the present." - Something hanging up in my Aunt's bathroom


- Conor O'Brien

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Not Your Average Christmas List

16 reasons I like Christmas...

...because I couldn't come up with 25. Conveniently for me, there are 16 days until Christmas.

by Brendan Cavanagh

Of course we all appreciate Christmas for a variety of reasons- family, friends, togetherness, presents, food, the usual. I'm going to try to stray away from those aspects, focusing instead on some of the more tangible facets of Christmas present in pop culture. Here are 16 songs, movies, and television programs about Christmas that give me that warm, fuzzy feeling during the frost-bitten month of December:

16. Jingle All the Way (1996) - I'll admit, this is not a holiday classic for many, and it's pretty cheesy. I mean, it's a family Christmas comedy starring Ahhnold Schwarzenegger, Sinbad and that kid who played Anakin Skywalker in the Phantom Menace. But it's a movie I grew up with, and I honestly think it's pretty funny, especially a scene in which Terminator dukes it out with about a hundred Santa Clauses. Arnold is actually not bad at comedy (think Kindergarten Cop ["IT'S NOT A TUMAHH!], and a lot of his action movies are kind of laughable today).

15. Stereomood - A buddy of mine just pointed this site out to me a couple days ago. It has a plethora of playlists designed to match a specific mood, such as "It's Raining," or "Just Woke Up" or "Afrodesiac (sexy African rhythms?)." But it's not necessarily a bunch of Bing Crosby and Irving Berlin and all that jazz, rather favoring more independent and lesser-known artists. For instance, on the "Christmas playlist," one may find original holiday songs by Canadian songstress Feist, masters of suburban ennui Arcade Fire or even hip-hop group Run D.M.C.

14. Target's Christmas Playlist (2010) - I noticed early this year that Target's decided to market much more independent music, explaining why Vampire Weekend can be found littered along the shelf among Garth Brooks and Mariah Carey. So it is with Target's annual seasonal playlist celebrating the magic of Christmas, targeting (so to speak) the little things in particular. Notable appearances are made by Best Coast/Wavves, Guster and Coconut Records- a moniker for actor Jason Schwartzman's solo project.

13. Tift Merritt, "I'll Be Home For Christmas" (2010) - Tift Merritt is a laid-back, female singer-songwriter in the same vein as 60s/70s folk artists Joni Mitchell and Emmylou Harris who has recently come to my attention. A burned copy of her latest studio album, See You on the Moon, was presented to me a while back with a bonus Christmas track included. It fits in really well with the general atmosphere of her record- a mellow approach to the holiday standard that gives it a little bit more of a somber, real feel. "I'll be home for Christmas, if only in my dreams."

12. Holiday Inn (1942) - An old black-and-white musical film about two guys, Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire, who decide to convert Bing's farm into a concert venue only open on holidays. It's a feel-good story with plenty of romance and charm, and it features the song "White Christmas," classically mistaken to originate in the subsequent film, White Christmas. The movie is one that I distinctly recall appreciating as a kid, and it's definitely one to revisit at Christmas time, as it is a very seasonal movie that practically demands to be watched alone on a late winter night.

11. The Band, "Must Be Christmas Tonight" (1977) - It's always fun when I discover that a favorite band of mine has a Christmas song out there somewhere. This one in particular was included on The Band's final studio album, Islands, but it has an even better an alternate take appended as a bonus track to the end of Northern Lights - Southern Cross. It's simply a fast-tempo description of Jesus' birth in the stable from the point of view of a mere shepherd, featuring Rink Danko on vocals, lending the song a little more sincerity and soul.

10. Home Alone (1990)/Home Alone 2 (1992) - A lot of people forget amidst all the comedic sabotage and hijinks set up by the movies' lonely and haunted protagonist, Kevin, that these movies are centered around Christmas. Not only do they depict how Kevin's family accidentally desert him on two Christmases in three years by traveling to another country, but they also focus heavily on commonly-experienced familial themes like love, unity, forgiveness and comfort. Take the scene in Home Alone when Kevin walks around his neighborhood and wistfully observes other families enjoying their night together, or in Home Alone 2 when Kevin prays to God under the giant tree on Rockefeller Square that all he wants, if nothing else for the rest of his life, is to see his mom and tell his family he's sorry. The first two installments of the Home Alone series are, as one Youtube member described, "touch warming" accounts of the importance of family, though personally, I always related more to Kevin's younger cousin Fuller.

9. It's A Wonderful Life (1946) - Yeah yeah, I know everyone always lists Frank Capra's holiday masterpiece as an essential component of Christmas, but hey, it's a wonderful movie, and it takes place on Christmas. But what's brilliant is that, although it's hailed as a Christmas classic, most of the movie doesn't even take place on Christmas! It features a suicidal Jimmy Stewart and his guardian angel, Clarence, revisiting scenes in Jimmy's past that proved to be crucial, demonstrating how drastically they would be different if Jimmy had never lived. At the end, though, Jimmy breaks down and realizes how important he truly is and rushes home on Christmas Eve to find his family and friends all gathered together to celebrate the festivities as well as their appreciation for him. The final, almost heart-rending scene features Jimmy's brother leading the crowd in an anthemic recitation of "Hark the Herald Angels Sing," followed by the movie-closing "Auld Lang Syne." Can we do that sometime, guys? I want to sing that song with a group of people.

8. Trans-Siberian Orchestra, "Christmas Canon" - I don't know if I have such a strong attachment to this song because it's a beautifully haunting amalgam of children singing over an adult orchestra, or because Pachabel's "Canon in D" is the best song I've ever played and memorized on the piano. In any case, I always strain to hear this song played on the radio between Thanksgiving and Christmas because it's so rarely played and it's so pretty. I used to have visions of performing this song as a student body at my grade school's Christmas program, settling instead on bizarrely doing White Christmas in the spring, which we really did.

7. Bob Rivers, "The 12 Pains of Christmas" (1988) - Now here's a song that never fails to be played at least ten times a day on any given Christmas radio station, but I love it anyway. Bob Rivers is a bit of a comedian when it comes to creating music, and here he takes a modern, pessimistic spin on the traditional "12 Days of Christmas." Who doesn't relate to frantic adults dreading dinner with their in-laws, or to the people who are driven mad by countless charities, or to their dad, literally and figuratively, blowing a fuse trying to hang festive lights? "FINE *whack* YOU'RE SO SMART *whack* YOU RIG UP THE LIGHTS!"

6. The Office Christmas episodes (2005, 2006) - The Office is not one for spicing up typical daily office life with a few holiday-themed episodes sprinkled into the schedule. Seasons Two and Three in particular featured incredibly funny Christmas specials that are, at times, difficult to watch. In Season Two, for instance, Michael Scott is frustrated after receiving a hand-knit oven glove Phyllis makes him for the office's Secret Santa, so he proposes a "YAN-kee SWAP" instead, although each gift was picked out for a specific person. Season Three took things to a more depressing level, as Michael brings a pair of waitresses from Benihana to the office Christmas party, attempting to make one of them his girlfriend. The problem is, he can't tell which one is which (as he claims Asians "all look alike"), so he tags one of them with a permanent marker. What's great about the Office's Christmas specials is that, though they may start out sad and miserable, they always end with a raucous drinking party that allows the staff to let loose and learn to appreciate each other.

5. Meet Me in St. Louis (1944) - This movie focuses on a sexy, young Judy Garland and her family living in St. Louis as they anticipate the opening of the 1904 Louisiana Purchase Exposition World's Fair. The children soon learn that the family will be relocating because the father's job to New York City, causing them to miss out on the Fair, as well as new found romances and friends and their familial roots in St. Louis. On Christmas Eve, Judy Garland's character, Esther, encounters her younger sister, Tootie, sullenly waiting for Santa Claus to arrive, to no avail. They begin discussing the upcoming move to New York, which has Tootie in tears of reluctance, so Esther attempts to comfort her by singing "Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas," which immediately became popular after the film's release. This only further depresses Tootie, who runs out sobbing into the yard to bash in the heads of all of her snowmen in a distressed rage. It's enough to make you cry your eyes out, you feel so bad for her.

4. Bing Crosby and David Bowie, "Peace On Earth/Little Drummer Boy" (1977) - In one of television's most bizarre collaborations, David Bowie appeared on Bing Crosby's last annual Merrie Olde Christmas special in 1977 to sing a song with old Bing. Apparently, he hated the song "Little Drummer Boy," which is what Bing ended up singing, so he co-wrote "Peace On Earth" with Ian Fraser, which he wound up singing over Bing's part. The song turned out quite lovely, and you'll find yourself singing Bowie's part over Bing's because the music swells and makes it so damn pretty. I can recall countless Christmas mornings watching this video in wonder as I simultaneously creamed my dad in Battleship.

3. The Jackson 5 Christmas Album (1970) - This is my favorite collection of Christmas songs of all time. It catches the Jackson 5 right in the middle of their insane popularity and success, and Michael on the very cusp of his beginnings as a solo artist with Motown Records. The album contains eleven songs, all of which are good, I believe, and some of the 5's renditions of popular Christmas songs themselves became standards, such as the energetic take on "Up On The Housetop," which has Michael listing all the things he and his brothers would like for Christmas. Others are a little slower and more conventional, featuring brother Jemaine on lead vocals, but are memorable nonetheless- one of my favorites being the album's opener, "Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas."

2. ABC Family Harry Potter Weekend - It seems as if every other week is Harry Potter weekend these days. I believe, in all honesty, that I've experienced three of them while I've been away at school. Not that there's anything wrong with that. Although Harry Potter weekends are usually sporadic and arrive unpredictably throughout the year, Christmas is the one time of year that demands one to be included in ABC Family's 25 Days of Christmas. Harry Potter, though admittedly a bit of a favorite of mine, like the aforementioned movies on this list delves heavily into commonly-understood themes of family, friendship, and affection, feelings typically evoked over the holidays. The movies even feature some memorable Christmas scenes, like the first time Harry gets real presents, or that time Harry and the Weasleys celebrate the holiday and Mr. Weasley's health at 12 Grimmauld Place. Unfortunately, none of these scenes are found on Youtube, so help yourself to a deleted scene from the Christmas portion of the Sorcerer's Stone.

1. Bob Dylan, "Must Be Santa" (2009) - Yes, Bob Dylan, a Jewish-born folk singer well-known for his late 70s/early 80s born-again Christian zeal, released a Christmas album last year! I actually went out and bought it, not only because I'm a fan of Dylan, but also because all of his royalties from the album's sales would go to Feeding America in the USA, Crisis in the UK and the World Food Programme. I don't actually own a lot of his albums, so I figured I could make a little contribution here for a worthy cause. And you know what? To be honest, it's not half bad. It just sounds like an aging musician singing a bunch of popular Christmas carols, nothing outrageously jarring about the vocals. Although Dylan took a rather traditional approach to these songs (they sound more like they came out of the 50s than the 2000s), he decided to turn "Must Be Santa" into a frenetic, fast-paced polka, and it's pretty darn catchy (what other song blends a list of reindeer with a list of past presidents [both share Nixon]?). But then shortly afterward, Dylan released a video for the song- his first video in about ten years- and it's insane. Throughout the entire video, which takes place at the uproarious, drunken Christmas party you wish you could attend, Dylan awkwardly dances in and out of frame, even defying the laws of physics at times. Interspersed is a short sequence of a man inexplicably trying everything- throwing vases, swinging on chandeliers, jumping out windows, etc.- to evade a group of guys. At the video's close, as the man sprints past the front porch to freedom, Dylan and Santa, side by side, exchange shrugs and knowing glances that seem to say, "Some guys can't handle Christmas." It's the zaniest Christmas video out there, and it's one of the main reasons I'm excited about the holiday's imminent approach.

The Life of a Year

-Eliot Sill

Now today I was going to write another good piece about something or another, but I'm really f&%king tired, so we'll save that for another day.

Thats the other blog I wrote today. I was busy as shit for 15 straight hours. For my sigh of exhalation I get to do this.

As December rolled around, I noticed an immediate change. Something was different about the month. It was cold, like last week. There wasn't any snow yet, like last week. Yet something was inherently different. It was more... peaceful.

December is a month of reflection on the year's best and appreciation and commemoration to how far we've come in the last 12 months. That got me thinking...

Thinking back to January.

January is a rebirth on so many levels. New Years Resolutions, new trends to look for, everything that's new is identified with a new year. But you don't really have a grasp yet on what's in store for that year. You just kind of lolligag along, waiting for the next event to come so you can pass time. The weather is incoherent, being cold, being snowy, but often not at the same time. It just kind of comes and goes. Januaries are hard to remember. They're not usually notable, but they're cold and generally unpleasant.

A new year is born.

That's right. The year is a lot like the human life. Some seem shorter than others, some seem longer. Some are better, some are worse. Each one is memorable for certain things, but never is one a repeat of another. January is the outset of life. The infantile stage. The year is just a baby. It's not what you want to be, but it happens every year. And some years it's beautiful, other times it's forgettable.

Turn the calendar a page and you'll find February, the shortest stage of life. The toddler stage. The year starts to utilize its legs and you sort of can start thinking in a true perspective, but at the same time, you know there are a whole ten months before your year will wane. So much time, hell you don't even start that New Year's Resolution yet. You can drop that twenty by the end of December. Sure. You can do anything you want.

Then, all of a sudden, March appears. We think we know the year by now. What kind of year is it going to be? Hm, well since we're a quarter of the way through let's predict things that are ridiculous and random. This would be the equivalent of the young stage, when you first enter school through about fourth grade. You think you have friends. You think you love some girl. You think you can tell that this year's going to suck. Or that we'll still care what Xavier did in the NCAA Tournament at the end of the year. Little do we know then, it'll all be forgotten. You forget those things, what you did when you were little, as you grow old. The same's true with the following: the Saints and Colts in the Super Bowl, Butler nearly beating Duke in the NCAA championship, Alabama winning it all in football? And you may be thinking that I can only think of sports for this analogy. Well eff you. Maybe I'm only using sports because they're cyclical and go by years. Like years do. Like life does.

By the time April comes, you're out of the mindset of it being a new year. Just like when you hit middle school you're through believing that you're a little kid. You're a big kid now. you go back and visit your elementary school (for those of you who were raised in Catholic schools, suck it, this part clearly isn't for you) and act like a big kid who's making a name for himself, when in reality, you still look to dominate on the playground, just as you did then. You're not older, and the year's not old. The best of's haven't come out yet. Quit trying to claim you've heard the best album you'll hear all year. But at the same time, on another front of this analogy, the weather is warming up. You have a clearer idea of what is going on in the world. The skies are clearer, there's a bit of rain here and there, but hell, at least it's bearable to even BE outside. The weather allows you to expand your activities outdoors, just as middle school allows you to go hang out with friends and even (gasp) talk to girls.

When May hits you can taste it. Independence. Freedom. Summer. This I equate to high school. It's maybe the prettiest month of the year, on it's better days. Just like some high school days can be the funnest you have. On it's bad days though it's still rainy and at the end of the day you still have a curfew. Whether you obey it or not just depends on how much of a bitch you are. F&#K PARENTS. YEAH. (Except the ones who read their kids' blog posts. Must I include this disclaimer every time I make a shot at adult living? Cleeearly I'm joking people, cool your jets.) May is a beautiful thing. High school can be. You're still innocent. Everything that happens that is bad is a learning experience. You're not at the point yet where you can start fucking things up. (That time I said it. I only do so when I mean it, guys.) It's a sort of carefree world. It's nice. It was nice.

Then June comes. SUMMER. FREEDOM. INDEPENDENCE. All in the palm of your hands. In my life, it's June. You can act without having to answer to your parents, but at the same time, you have to watch out. Because this is where you can start to dig yourself a hole. The weather is lovely. Not too damn hot. Just good enough to go sleeveless with shorts. The world is yours for the taking. This month is the most open month of the year. Kinda like how these college days are the most open years of my life. You see how this is matching up quite decently?

Now with the rest of the year from here on out, I lack actual experience. So it's time to guess a little bit I suppose.

July. July is the twilight, sort of June's reflection. The best days are behind you, but it's still damn good. I mean out of college until you're like 34. Or 35. You are making your way in the world and don't yet have a clear path in life. You realize that your life has taken shape, much like the year, but that there's still plenty of time left to change the way things are. The weather is like last month, but slightly worse. Just as the feeling of having your own apartment and a job is similar to having your own apartment and a ton of classes. And a job. Only difference? You're no longer going up, but rather lofting at the peak of your arch. And by peak of your arch I mean your life. Get it?

This is followed by August, a worsening of those previous years. You start to feel your feet weld themselves to the ground. Your life is set. If you aren't finding a niche now, you need to get in gear. I consider this ages 35-49 (we'll see what I consider it when I get there). The age where you're still kind of young, but you feel old. You can still do most of the same things you could when you were younger, but just not as well. Kind of like how the weather in August sometimes burns as if the atmosphere had turned to magnifying glass, but other days it feels nice and reminds you of June. Somedays, during this period, ya feel old, other days, you feel young.

September is a beautiful thing. It's typically warm. But at the same time, it's comfortable and you can the feel the decline beginning. I consider this 50-65 anymore (as the average age keeps increasing), you can still run, maybe, when you need to. But let's face it, you need a new mindset. You're an old guy. Hyperbolize. Call yourself a geezer and folks will give you credit. Just how people say the year's almost ending in September before some poor sap reminds them that there are three valuable months left to be had. This time is one of comfort and yet freedom. PEAK midlife crisis age. You aim for that last gasp of freedom before you become stuck in the decline towards your death.

That decline, friends, is what October is all about. Almost. It's the golden years. The trees turn the color of a sunset, fittingly, and you start thinking on what a year it's been while simultaneously living out the remainder of bearable days left. (PS to the people out of the midwest reading this, your weather's different. I get it. Forgive me.) You're not fully in look back mode yet, but you know that these days are the last nice days of the year.

Then November comes. November is cancer. It's whatever it is that makes you never the same. It's that horrible rotten disease that leads to your downfall and makes your last days painful and full of stress. You wish everything could go back to how it was and don't understand why these types of months exist. The weather becomes frigid and you haven't adjusted body temperatures yet so it's doubly worse. Doubly doubly worse. And you can't get past the fact that just two months ago the world was so bright and now a constant smearing of gray covers the sky like a blanket pinned up to your ceiling that blocks the light that you know you have installed up there. You know it's supposed to be bright. It usually is. But it's not. By the way, I have no doubt in my mind I will die in November. One year I'll just quit. I will run out of things to live for and cough myself to death. It will be painful, but I will look back to this post and emit a warm smile as I spitefully take in my last breath.

So where does that leave us with December? At peace. The birds are done complaining about the shitty weather, they've all moved onward. The earth is still, and the snow falls daintily enough to make you forget that your ears hurt from being frozen. It's funny, how still the world becomes on a frozen December nice. Almost like a picture, or a commemorative portrait. (Every sentence in this blog post, if read in reality to somebody, would end in an elbow bumping and then me saying, "eh? Ehh? C'monn, you see what I'm sayin'?" and whoever was listening want to punch my face until it changed colors. I don't blame you for disliking this post.) There's this funeral we give for the year. The best of's, the worst of's. We label everything so we know each aspect of this year's life. We don't want to forget it, so we chronicle it. But during the last couple days of December, you hear whispers through the wind... "I hear father time is pregnant with another year.."

Well, folks, let's just hope this next one's a girl.

No context. Just hope it's a girl.


--Eliot Sill

Monday, December 6, 2010

Nick - Merry Christmas!

You're probably starting to think about Christmas, right? It's coming up fast. Let me tell you, you don't know how lucky you are.

I was thinking about Christmas in August when I was unwrapping Christmas ornaments, and fixing each one with a price tag. Yeah, in August. That was before I went to college. I was still living in Springfield, still doing Easily Amused Teen Improv Troupe, hadn't met anybody I've met in college. Unwrapping Christmas ornaments.

And it's not even Christmas yet! When I worked my first Christmas season at Jeffrey Alans (henceforth referred to as "JA"), there was a girl who looked me in the eye and said, "I've worked here for three years. I've hated Christmas for three years." I heard tell of a couple of employees who would spend Christmas season picking out which ornaments looked most fun to smash. Then, when everything went on clearance, they would wait for a slow day and smash a couple of ornaments.

I'm sure you've heard before that Christmas is over commercialized. (Or maybe that's just a Catholic school thing?) Well, that never really bothered me... until I started working at JA.

Let's get some perspective here. I go into work at noon, and work until nine. I wake up, go to work, come home, and it's dark. I made ~65 dollars for the day after tax.

And then, all day, women coming in and buying 200 dollars worth of wreaths, ornaments, unneeded things which could be purchased for much, much cheaper elsewhere. And all day, every day, I would hear, "My husband would kill me if he knew how much I was spending!"

Well, if I were your husband, you had better believe I would be unhappy. Some deal he got, where you shop while he works. Fat old lady.

And then there's the Christmas trees.

Don't get me wrong, I totally understand Christmas shopping, and that you want a nice tree. What bothers me is the sense of entitlement. You continually ask me snappy questions about the lights and the price; fine, I get it, that's my job. You pick out a tree, and ask me to bring it to the front for you. Again, that's my job. Where you cross the line is when the box I bring to the front is not good enough for you, and I have to go back and get a different one. And then usually I offer to carry it out for you, you tell me how to get it into the car, snap at me for not doing it right, and then drive away with a curt goodbye.

And people bring the trees back, because they're broken, and the customers are very very unhappy. Only guess what? They're not broken most of the time, you just decided you didn't want that tree or else you were too dumb to put it up.

And let me pause to mention that the "too dumb to put it up" category is my absolute favorite. I once had a customer bring back a huge tree, tell my friend Lucas that it didn't work. He explains that she has simply mistaken the bottom piece for the middle piece, and she snaps at him and gives him a good talking-to. Only guess what? He was right. I enjoyed watching her face as we set the tree up in front of her.

Lucas later points out to me that she had tried to get the two sections together with a hammer.

There was even a lady once who left one small item on the counter after I checked her out. I helped her to her car with her bags of things (~$250 worth). She never says thank you. Later she calls to demand that I drive the item left on the counter over to her house personally, because it was my fault she forgot it.

It wasn't all bad, though. Probably more than half of my customers were normal people, and most of them very polite; I even got a few tips, and I will remember those people forever for their generosity. It's just that so many customers I had to deal with were rude, self-righteous people. I think that everybody should have a minimum wage job at some point. Maybe then they would understand the benefits of being considerate.

Speaking of entitled people, I wish that we lived in a world where beauty was inversely proportional to sense of entitlement. But that's a rant for another day.

I guess the moral is that I've worked at JA for two years, and I've hated Christmas for two years.

Bah, humbug,

Robert - A New Shade

It was just another gray, cloudy day. The humidity was a little higher than normal, and it was about the time in the early morning when houses begin slowly flitting open their blinds to let the sun in for the day. Newspaper boys had long finished their brief rounds; they had so few targets anymore, anyway. A thick flock of black crows layered the sky in shifting, formless swarms, all presumably searching for a fresh patch of green after another unusually long winter.

At once Rick woke with a start and an unsettled stomach. Still? It had been so the night before, and he’d swallowed enough of those soft little chewy tablets to satisfy a small field of cattle, or so it seemed to him. The stomach felt like it was going to rip him out from the inside. Typical, for him. There was never nothing wrong with everything, and today was no exception. There were more clouds, for instance. There were always clouds, but it never rained. Rick wondered how anything grew here with such dim lighting and scant water. He also felt bad for the next town to the east that was probably underwater every week. Pain or no pain, though, Rick had a presentation at work that day, so he was going to have to either get the knives out or sink them deep enough to keep them from coming out. Neither was very appealing. He threw up.

In the corner of the room above the sink there sat a dark, unlit area where some spider had taken on the task of crafting a massive, brilliant web. From his bent posture over the counter, Rick could see it in full. It was grotesque in nature, and various insects lay imprisoned upon it, exposed like trophies of a poisonous system, bored and awaiting death. Nonetheless, Rick hadn’t the heart to sweep the web away. Despite its eyesore appeal, it was unarguably elegant in its pattern and weave. Besides, it got the job done, clearing out pestilent flies and moths that snuck their way inside. There was something in the mystique of such an intricate pattern that kept a violent hand at bay.

After completing his purging, he faltered for a moment to clear up the ensuing dizziness and lightheadedness from the recent exorcism. Feeling adequate, he walked over and flicked on the TV before heading back to clean up the spillings in the kitchen sink. They were green and red and brown and orange and required his immediate attention. The TV flickered static and buzzed, and then went black.

“Damn it,” mouthed Rick, and he doubled back to turn it on again and absorb some news before work. He fixed the antennae a little bit to make the picture come through clear, and he reached into the closet to grab his one dark suit coat for the day. He must have been the only person in the world that still used a dial TV. He was just fixing his tie when he heard from the background noise:

“...And today, our top story: a scientist, Mark McElroy, claims to have discovered a brand new, never before seen color. Imagine that. He says that, through refraction, prism alignment, and hyperpressured particle diffusion, he’s essentially invented a new color to bring to the world. We’ll have more on that later. But first…”

‘Impossible,’ dismissed Rick, but he was thoroughly interested. He had a long time before his presentation, so he sat down and waited for the news to run its typical cycle through mindless entertainment, human-interest and political sports stories to finally get to the lead story. Once it finally did, he watched intently, practically ready to take notes.

“…McElroy, a leading scientist in the field of color technology, is already being hailed as one of the most important scientists in modern history for his discovery. Unfortunately, we don’t have an image of the color yet, as no press or photography has been let into the laboratory. Of course, it’s difficult to verbally describe a color to a public that hasn’t witnessed it, but reports so far are indicating it is a bright, vibrant, warm color with a very distinct shade. Obviously.” The anchor laughed. “Let us emphasize that this is not merely a new shade of yellow or red or any preexisting element of the rainbow as we know it. It is, we are told, radically different than anything occurring naturally on planet earth. A remarkable fascination…”

‘A hoax. It must be a hoax.’ Rick remembered stories from an entry-level college journalism class, like one in particular of a fecal drug, planted in the media as a joke and spread by gullible outlets to the viewing public as a serious story. It must be a hoax. It must. Rick didn’t want it to be true, for no particular reason other than to secure his grip on a familiar reality. It was a hoax.

Rick turned it over in his mind. He knew he didn’t know any more about modern science than the average person. He knew simply that it was echelons beyond his own understanding. If they can find a planet with life on it, or measure the ages of stars, why couldn’t they have created a new color? Is it really impossible? He couldn’t believe it. The stabbing in his stomach increased. He was going to die, he knew it. The dizziness was thickening now. He stumbled back across the hallway into his bedroom to grab his suitcase. The drapes hugging the window were a paler shade of red than he remembered, and he moved to close them and shut the blinding light out.

It was no use. He wasn’t making it to work today. Still he continued his morning rounds in an attempt to carry out the day as usual. He managed to sloppily shave amidst bouts of vomiting that mixed with the wet hot white shaving cream in the sink. He kept his suit bright and clean, though, as to keep the appearance that nothing was wrong. Nothing was wrong. He wasn’t too sick anyway, just a little under the weather this morning. It was a hoax. He couldn’t go outside looking like a mess. Nothing was wrong.

His blood was on fire. It was boiling in his arteries and freezing in his veins. His heart was screaming and his nerves standing still. The room was spinning, and the colors blurred. Everything was happening at once, and he couldn’t control it. He grabbed more chewy pills and shoved them down his throat. Within a couple of minutes they were forced up. He took more. Rick gritted his teeth and blocked out the pain, as to keep the appearance that nothing was wrong. It was just a hoax, he knew. It was impossible. The pain started to loosen. He couldn’t feel his extremities. At least it didn’t hurt. ‘Yes,’ he thought. There was power in true grit. There was control. He felt the pain leave in waves. Everything was going to be fine. He started thinking about the logistics of his presentation, and how to best impress his boss. He reached for the suitcase by the television and stood up to go. It was a hoax. It had to be. How could there be another color? It was impossible.

Rick stumbled outside and fell down on the lawn. He noticed his grass to be of a sicker shade than normal. He puked. His nerves were exploding. He stood up cautiously, using all of his limited ability. Looking off into a spring haze, he could make out nothing more than a blurry landscape of busy cars, sprawling concrete, and winding sidewalks. There was smoke in the air from the local power plant, or were those more clouds? There was no way to tell. In the reflection of his car window in the driveway, Rick noticed the small splattering of stomach waste on his lapel from his last ejection. ‘Good god,’ he thought. ‘I can’t go to work now.’ He looked like ruin.

He wandered deliriously back inside and clumsily cleared the kitchen table with the sweep of his arm. He felt his organs shutting down. It was impossible. It was simply too much. Rick collapsed upon the floor and reached for the pills on the countertop. He ripped off the plastic-wrap seal and took them all. The pain began to lift. It was just too much. Rick looked up and saw the spider web in the corner again, barely visible despite its intricate weavings. He looked intently as he could at it, his light head weaving back in forth. He searched in vain for some kind of pattern in the web. There were too many strands, and he was too dizzy, and it was too dark anyway. There might as well have been no pattern. He gave up now-colorless puke. There was no pain now. Something was wrong.