Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Speaking of let downs...

Ahh, what a great title! So much possibility. I could be talking about several things, including: my own personal college frustrations, the Packers losing to the Chiefs last weekend, a challenging disappointment from my childhood, Classic Brian's viewership statistics, my family, or any of a number of other wonderful bloggable topics!

But, you see here, I'm taking the Two and a Half Men route. Fuck that show.

Two and a Half Men was what Charlie Sheen did before he went crazy. It's also a show about a crude man and a prude man living with a growing boy, and how their influence affects him growing up. From afar, it seems pretty awkward that uncle Charlie just fell off the face of the earth and equally crude uncle Ashton Kutcher came in as a handy-dandy replacement for this over-aggregating piece of shit series.

Give me Tyler Perry. Seriously.

It's apparently America's favorite comedy, according to the Nielsen rating system, which is either really fucking dumb, or panders to the really fucking dumb, because Two and a Half Men is a dumb sitcom with dumb jokes for dumb people. I used to get Charlie Sheen and George Lopez confused. But George Lopez is waaaay too good for a show like Two and a Half Men. And George Lopez isn't all that funny (though his stand-up used to kill me; I say "used to" because I haven't seen it in a while, not because I've outgrown it, although maybe...).

Eventually I got tired of living in the dark and Googled "Why I love Two and a Half Men," just to see if there was some reason behind this supposed phenomenon. My most successful results:

Actually, jokes about farts make me laugh everytime. That's why I love Two And A Half Men so much. That's why I'm farting whenever I can (in private).

Somehow, being inside a cloud of my own farts makes me feel at home whereever I am..."

That's a quote from username Doc Sanchez, recorded on, and oh boy this is ironic, Hard to tell whether Doc Sanchez was serious, based on the source. That punch just lost some power either way. [Edit: I looked further and I don't think it's ironic. Punch power restored!] Anyhow, another one:

"Why I love Two and a Half Men

Alan:: I'm sorry, I'll go get some Chardonnay and assume the position!
Charlie: Hey! Don't be letting your mouth write checks your ass can't cash!

*gloms* I luff them lots and lots."

That's from Saifai's blog, whoever the hell Saifai is. Slash whatever the hell it means to glom.

"one of the reasons why I love Two And a Half Men isn't due to the exorbiant amount of sexual stuff, but because I enjoyed the torture and crap that the Allen Harper character has endured since day one of the series."

Thanks, darkwolf007 of Also, what a weird reason to watch a show. That happens in other shows. Does he know about other shows? darkwolf007, there are other shows.

"I'm A Fan Because It Shows The Same Relationship I Have With My Brother Strong But Love One Another, Its Fun And Makes You Wonder What Will Happen nex't, The Actors Are Great And Not Boring, I Enjoy it Like I Did With The Golden Girls." (Source)

"This is why I love Two and a Half Men.
Alan: How many zero’s in a million, Jake?
Jake: M-I-L-L-I-O-N. One." (Source)

Okay, as that well runs dry, I figured I'd balance the scale a bit, and try Googling Arrested Development in a similar fashion. The results were slightly more robust, we'll say. Perhaps the most perturbing thing of all is that no one in my search for 2&.5M fans came out and said the show was funny. And it's not. It's a classic sitcom; laughtrack, single serving plots, fourth wall — everything. And worst of all, it invites shows like Whitney to come along and find a niche for NBC. Shitty television is a bad thing, and you just have to consider yourself lucky when a show like 30 Rock or The Office Arcade Fires its way into a public limelight in addition to having garnered more intelligent viewers (note: I definitely realize "Arcade Fire" was not the best choice to verbize for that sentence, (perhaps "Democracy" would be better) but it's 6 a.m. and I ain't about to give no fuck). I just can't figure out which demographic is skewing the American idea of funny and proclaiming shows like Whitney and Two and a Half Men better than shows like Arrested Development and Community. I think it's old people, because middle-aged folks are generally more receptive these days to progressive shows such as these.

Is the American public really stupid? Who are they? I don't think I've met them. They must be the people I ignore on my way to class, not wishing for the chance to meet and interact with them. Maybe I avoid this Nielsen power-constituency altogether, and maybe I'm lucky because it seems that they aren't really good at learning the ropes of advanced humor.

Let me take a moment to catch my humility; unloading all that pretentiousness is just kinda tiring, you know? (Said Eliot while using a semi-colon.)

Doesn't mean I'm not right. I don't know if the public will ever get smart enough to realize that teeny-bopping pop stars make shitty music, and that bands like Daughtry and Nickelback are only good at what they do because what they do sucks. Movies see less of this problem, Twilight series grossing numbers notwithstanding.

So wherein does the let down lie? Is it with the product or the consumer? Who am I really supposed to be disappointed in? Because while, yes, pop-culture exploits the sheep that provide the wool for its warm blanket known as mass appeal and those sheep have alternative choices awaiting should they elect to exercise conscience and intellect, we could simply be staring at a more formidable base of pop-culture had we the will to eliminate mind-numbing projects that seduce swarms of simple-minded viewers.

In other words: which sucked first, the chicken or the egg?

And the optional lengthy part of this post is that this effect carries over forever. Politics, school systems, fucking food, everything is best executed independently. I will like the music that I like, I will like the television shows that I like, I will like the food that is made specifically the way I like it, I will like the politician who shares my agenda the exactest, and I will learn better from the education that accommodates my brain the best. But unfortunately, that's not America. America's all-inclusive. Fortunately for us, its all-inclusiveness includes us who hate the all-inclusiveness aspect and want our own tastes.

It's sad. America was founded with hails of independence, and yet now it seems like convention is more befitting an adjective. The exemplary entity of this horrible regression is Two and a Half Men. Fuck all two and a half of them.

--Eliot Sill

Monday, December 19, 2011

Nick - Let Down

I'm going to tell you guys up front; this is a post about my semester. Exit's that way, if you're in the wrong room.

My semester is best summed up with one word: disappointment. It's a beautifully succinct word. It implies expectations, followed by a lack of reward. It describes a hole where there should have been fulfillment. When the day you've waited for for weeks finally arrives, and you spend it in your room listening to music, that's disappointment.

The semester, much like the song First Few Desperate Hours by The Mountain Goats, started out on a high note before delving into more depressing subjects. There was the rush of coming back; the excitement over all that was going to happen this semester. We had improv auditions coming up; we were going to find a house to live in next year; we were going to party like nobody's business.

We found a house, I found a girlfriend, and I didn't have to take chemistry classes anymore. Things were going well, until we lost the house. Problems came up with the lease; one of our housemates pulled out of the deal. Meanwhile my professors were turning out to be crazy and their classes very weirdly set up. This weird rhythm, once established, persisted the entire semester.

But, good news! We found another house! This was the best part of my semester. Living in the dorms started to grate on my nerves after that. I just wanted to have my own room and live in our house. I just wanted the year to end.

Then I got mono. I was really sick for over a month, and I felt shitty in general for a long time before and after that. I pushed through. I pushed hard. I dragged myself to classes when my tonsils were too swollen to talk. I made myself keep moving by focusing on the future.

I got better just in time to miss CU Improv Fest. I still felt awful and tired, but I never once let myself crash. Then I got to spend time being unable to drink, having difficulty staying up past 10pm, and watching as all the good times blazed past me.

Finally, an end is given; finals week approaches quickly. Only one more week. One more week and I'm done. I see light at the end of the tunnel, just as my relationship launches into the final stages of its slow, agonizing collapse. Boom, crash. All that effort wasted and gone. Suddenly the end of the tunnel doesn't look so light.

Here's the part where I spend the day I waited for for weeks in my room listening to music.

I drag myself to my Thursday morning stats final. I hadn't studied. I hadn't really slept. I pushed through, tried hard not to cope with reality for the rest of Thursday, couldn't sleep again, and blasted through my last final on Friday.

Get me the hell out of here.

The worst part is that I don't think I would do anything different if given the chance. I was dealt a shitty hand, and I played it out to the bitter end, card by agonizing card. I was tired and angry, I hadn't learned anything, and there wasn't a damn thing I could've done to prevent any of it.

It's an asshole thing to say, but I was disappointed in everyone but myself.

At least I still have that, I guess.


Sunday, December 18, 2011

Robert - Travels to Colorado

The road to Colorado from 1111 Williams Blvd in Springfield IL is a long and very straight one, not counting the northern detour to Iowa City, Iowa to pick up fifth passenger. My lovely lady friend Hannah and her lovely precious family reluctantly agreed to let me tag along with them to the big square mountain state (not Wyoming) after they discovered me hiding in the midst of luggage piles in the back of their rented Chrysler suburban. I hopped up to the backseat, put on a blanket, read my book, and vicariously watched silent Parks and Recreation on Hannah's laptop screen from across the way for 7 hours of Saturday and 7 hours of Sunday.

Admittedly, I ignored most of Illinois. We've seen it all, really. In snowless December there was a preamble to the Midwestern journey in the form of unrelenting flatness of long since harvested cornstalks. Hundreds of thousands of thin brown rows exploded past the rear window at somewhere around 80 mph speeds, marking our progress field by field, cow by cow. That was to be the theme everywhere until Colorado, when mysterious green and brown lands (also harvested) began to roll over on top of the spears of dead cornstalks.

Iowa, surprisingly, has a number of sizable hills, particularly in the southwestern corner where it spills its highways into Missouri and Nebraska. That number is around 6, and all of them provided a beautiful change of pace. Entering Iowa City, our big ass suburban was greeted by San Francisco-esque hills that turned houses on their sides and threatened the bouncy balls of every kid in town. I've never been to San Francisco, so doubtless its actual hills were nowhere near in comparison, but it felt that way in respect to lands I've known in the past — lands where the geological zit Centennial Hill is established as a local landmark.

We started Day 2 in some nameless town past Lincoln, Nebraska — it had a Hampton Inn and that is all I know. Nebraska is the oft-ridiculed driver's nightmare that extends for hellish miles across the rectum of the Midwest. If the Mississippi River divides the East and the West America for wagon settlers, it's Nebraska and Kansas that separates it for the automobile traveler. This is, however, a place I've only traversed once, and, not having the responsibility of chasing an infinite horizon at the wheel of the car, I was free to drift off as I pleased and peacefully observe the surrounding countryside as a new experience to me.

Winter is nature's dressing room, and I drank in all its naked trees and barren earth, all with lascivious eyes. Something about winter landscapes, even without snow, no especially without snow, is captivating. It's earth in the raw, with ice that creeps up against the edges of the more still-watered ponds and gives off two different reflections — the clear light blue one of the sky off the liquid water, and the dark royal blue against the ice. The rest of the view is brown; brown earth has by this point given up all attempts at photosynthesis and waits in frost for a layer of clean snow that hasn't come yet. So it's a transition period — from green summer and fireworks autumn to winter, from foraging mammals to long hibernation, from birds to no birds.

Nebraska wasn't all that bad, then. There was one picturesque scene. Over an endless expanse of wheat clipped at the knees was scattered a few groves of leafless trees, and beside the highway a wood and wire fence, behind which was a small manmade pond, around which grew cattails and the like. Prepositions. And off a little ways in the distance, a freight train chugged across the landscape carrying a hundred million red and yellow boxcars. It was so perfectly American Gothic that I almost puked up corn and nearly choked on chunks of hard-working industry. What a bastion of all-American progress. While I was witnessing that and thinking about the giant mountains I'd eventually see, it struck me as incredible how credible we consider the incredible extent of flatland to be. Those of us who grew up in the Midwest expect to see nothing different, and I imagine many people of the world might be plopped down here in Nebraska by a giant Magic Hand and not know what the hell to do with themselves, looking in every direction and seeing nothing to mark themselves with. They might assume they've fallen into purgatory, with no way out except to convert immediately to the cold religious extremism that governs much of the area.

Cows were a frequent sight. We all know how I feel about cows. I don't like them. How is it that our mental stereotype for a cow is the black and white dairy cow? Every cow I see is bull-colored. Dark black or dull brown or dirty off-white. Not a lot of multiples of color on individual cows. In early Nebraska I saw a couple of cows grazing up ahead of me in a golden-brown harvested field. It looked like a pretty plain sight to me — a boring cow being really lazy in a comfortable patch of earth. But if I turned my head and looked straight ahead down my own lane at the rows of wheat whizzing by, I saw the ground actually covered in a film of snow, and I saw that maybe the cow's ground was not as comfortable and lazy as it appeared, despite its hooves. Maybe I should give cows a touch of respect; perhaps they suffer in their fields all day. They're like timid horses, really. Or aloof horses. Or apathetic horses, who are fat. Fuck cows.

Nebraska is so flat, even if it's interesting. Nowhere is a land more placid and predictable than Nebraska, except maybe for Kansas, and Oklahoma, and Illinois, and Iowa, and Indiana, and Ohio. The only human element to break it up and make it hideous are the sloppy low-rise billboards that poke out of the ground every few miles with bright reds and yellows, the typical ones that advertise for porn shops and steakhouses and food-fuel-lodging on Route 39 just of Exit 179. The one element that surprised me though was the neverending stretch of manmade ponds that littered the side of the road. I mean, there was one that was at least two miles long and no longer than 200 feet wide, whose water level went directly up to the front steps of houses. Let's hope that never floods ever.

The thought of mountains, or the idea of mountains, is a horrible thing, because the horizon is a billion miles away and mountains will never show up no matter how far you drive, and when they do you will never reach them no matter how far you drive, because they are on the horizon which is a billion miles away. This trip promises mountains, though. That is where we are going. Once you have the promise of something, you'll start to look hard enough to where you'll start seeing things you didn't before, probably either mirages or air pollution, says Mrs. Kolkmeier. You do get to Colorado, though, and even though you can't even see the faint outline of mountains yet, a victory line has been crossed. You've made it through the infinite wheaten gateway to the west.

The west is a very strange place to me. Even the road seems foreign, with its chalk-gray surface and black and white midlines. Its grazing fields that don't even look comfortable to walk on from two miles away. But here we are. Boulder, CO, where somehow the sun shines bluer and yellower on everything in sight and it's 50 degrees in December and everyone is prettier and nicer than they are in the rest of the world. Time to snowboard.

(Dedicated to Charley Field.)