Monday, August 27, 2012

Your Mental Survival Kit

When you live in a place at high risk for hurricanes, earthquakes, blizzards, or other natural disasters, it's often a good idea to have a survival kit handy. It should to have enough food and other emergency supplies, such as a first-aid kit and a battery powered radio. You want to be able to last a week or so in case it takes a while for power to be restored and the store shelves to be restocked. (In a disaster, only the passive voice is used.)

However, survival isn't just about food and potable water. (Yes, I used the word potable. It's a real word. I know it's a real word because I didn't get a squiggly line underneath it when I wrote it. No, the spell-checker isn't acting up. When referring to water as potable it means the water is suitable to drink. Yes, I know you have an altogether different category of things suitable to drink. Can I get back to my original topic?) Survival is also about keeping the mind supplied as well. You need a mental survival kit.

Monday, August 20, 2012

When Did Salt and Vinegar Chips Become Delicious?

When I was a child I took a bite of a salt and vinegar potato chip. It was, quite simply, the most disgusting thing I've ever eaten. I couldn't understand why grown-ups liked these things, and I chalked it up to the fact that adults were weird and that any time one of them encouraged me to try something new, something they liked, then I was to run away as fast as I could.

After all, if there was one thing being a child taught me, it's that adults lie. A lot. You go to the dentist or doctor, and they tell you it won't hurt a bit. They drag you to the ballet and tell you it will be fun. And, of course, they tell you to try it, you might like it. As kids, we developed a very good sense of when adults are lying to them, and the more they wanted us to do something, the more we knew they were lying to us. Especially about the fact that salt and vinegar chips counted as potato chips.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

This Relationship Corner: Alone Time

There's an old adage that familiarity breeds contempt. Too much time around a person can turn them from someone you love sharing your life with to someone whose very presence irritates the snot out of you. (And that's even less fun during allergy season.) While many couples struggle with trying to get any time together, because of kids, work, or other responsibilities, other couples have the opposite problem: too much time around each other.

My wife and I have both of these problems, and it's always due to work. Some times of the year our work schedules mean that I'm gone in the morning and afternoon, and she's gone until late in the evening. Other times, however, I'm always home when she's home. She likes it at first because we have more time together. After a few weeks, however, her attitude shifts.

"I love you," she tells me. "Now get out."

Sunday, August 12, 2012

I Love the Second Draft

Have you ever watched a movie or a television show and realized that you could have done it better. With a little rewrite, you'd turn it from terrible or mediocre into something spectacular. Yes, you're falling into the hindsight is 20/20 trap, with a little bit of armchair quarterbacking to boot, but that doesn't mean you're wrong.

I wrote earlier that the key to writing a book, or a play, or a screenplay, or anything, really, is to get the first draft written. Don't worry about making it perfect, just get through it. That way, once you're done, you can then apply all that hindsight onto what you just made. The best part is that unlike the movies or television shows, you can make those needed changes and make it better.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Truth, Justice, and the Muppet Way

I recently watched Superman vs. The Elite, the latest DCU animated movie, and it raised an interesting question. In this day and age, is a boy scout like Superman relevant? It's a compelling subject, especially when we seem to relate more to anti-heroes than we do the boy in blue. As I've written before, anti-heroes are nothing new, but is there also room for the idealist, the noble hero who grants mercy, doesn't kill, and believes that everyone, including the bad guys, deserves a second chance? Can we relate to a hero who wants to see the best in everyone, who embodies the ideals of truth, justice, and the American way?

One of my favorite movies from last year was The Muppets. It not only brought our felt friends back to the big screen, it posed a similar question. In today's cynical world, are the Muppets still relevant? Are we still looking for the Rainbow Connection? Can we sing along to "Life's a Happy Song?" Do the purity and goodness of the Muppets have a place in this world?

Friday, August 3, 2012

Is Seinfeld still a good pop-culture reference?

I didn't watch a lot of Seinfeld during its original run. Sure, I watched the occasional episode, but it wasn't until the reruns and marathons that I got caught up and learned to appreciate the creativity, intricate plotting, and nuances of the show. If I ever watch to watch an episode or four, I just have to wait a few hours and then some channel will be running it. Like The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, Seinfeld has never been off the air since the 90's.

So is it still relevant as a pop-culture reference?

The last new episode, not counting the Curb Your Enthusiasm reunion, aired May, 1998. It's been 14 years, and there are people in this world who weren't alive when Seinfeld was part of Must-See-TV. We've had two Presidents since then and a lot has changed in the world. Yes, we have reruns, but is it still something we can reference in conversation? Can we still say "yada yada yada" or "serenity now!" and people will know what we're talking about? What about "low talker" or "They're real and they're spectacular?" If we rant about double-dipping, claim we work for Vandelay Industries, or say hello in a weird accent, will anyone understand what we're doing?

Thursday, August 2, 2012

This Open Letter to Strawberry Ice Cream

Dear Strawberry Ice Cream,

To me, you are the greatest flavor of ice cream ever. Others may prefer vanilla, chocolate, or chocolate-chip cookie dough, but for me, there's nothing like a scoop, cone, or bowl of strawberry. It doesn't even matter who makes you, because whether you come from Blue Bell, Breyers, or the local supermarket brand, you are always delicious. You are great with pie, cake, or in a milkshake. You are practically perfect in every way.

Even as a young child, I always preferred you over all other flavors. I was never actually a fan of chocolate ice cream. I know, a child who doesn't like chocolate ice ream? I also didn't like chocolate milk, so you can see that I've always been a little strange. You didn't judge me, you accepted me for my quirks.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Anti-heroes of the Bible

If there's one thing a geek loves, it's an anti-hero. We like the tough-as nails protagonist who plays by his own rules, takes no guff, and gets the job done even though the authority figures never give him an ounce of support. It's a fantasy of ours because we can relate to being an outcast.

As geeks, we do play by our own rules. We don't do what normal people do, watch what they watch, listen to what they listen to. But unlike the anti-heroes, when we go our own way we catch flack for it. That's why we like seeing people who get away with what we can't and say what we wish we could. We admire people who turn the world upside down, because that's what we'd love to do. That's why we love us some anti-heroes.