Sunday, March 29, 2009

What the #!%$ Sheetz?!

Yesterday, I stopped at Sheetz on the way to work. I ordered a croissant with bacon, egg and cheese, a hash brown (is it singular if it's just one chunk?) and a cup of coffee. I got my food, got in the car and left.

As I took my first bite, I was reminded of a story...

Somewhere out in the vastness of space, light-years away, exists a planet inhabited by a sentient, intelligent race of beings much like ours. On that planet, lives a man named Charlie. Charlie was a single guy with no friends and no family of his own. He worked a mindless desk job, saving money, so he could move out of his parent's house. Until today.

Charlie was fired. Fighting tears, he packed all his belongings into a box and left the office. As he stepped outside the building, he received a phone call from his father. "I don't know how to tell you this," Charlie's father said, "so I'll just say it. Charlie, your mother passed away this morning and I have a terminal cancer." Charlie dropped his phone and his box of office supplies on the sidewalk, fell to his knees and wept by the side of the road.

As Charlie wallowed in misery, a small girl walked around the corner. The girl looked to be about six years old and wore a pink dress with an enormous white bow on the back.

She stopped, looked at Charlie. "Hey mister?," she asked with a black stare, "Why are you crying?" Charlie struggled to regain his composure before replying, "My mother's dead... my father, my father is dying and I- I just lost my job."

"Gee, that's too bad," the girl replied with a typical, childlike lack of concern. She glanced up, then down the sidewalk, teetering back and forth on her heels and toes. "I have an idea!"

Charlie, still on his knees, looked into the girl's eyes with sheer desperation. He had nothing, and while this little girl didn't seem to understand his pain, deep down in the pit of his soul, a part of him prayed that maybe, just maybe, what this small child had to say could offer some semblance of relief. Perhaps a childish proverb, maybe even a joke. Something that could bring him a smile, even if only for a second.

"Here!," the girl squealed giddily as she reached behind her back. She pulled out a small handgun, shot Charlie in both knees, stomped him in the nuts, slapped him twice, took his wallet and skipped away.

Charlie never made a sound. Eyes wide, and mouth gaping, he sat in a pool of his own knee-blood. With nothing left in the world, Charlie turned his eyes to the sky. And just as he did, the clouds covering the sun began to part. A shimmering ray of light broke through the clouds and shined down on Charlie. As the warmth washed over his face, Charlie actually began to feel a bit better. I mean, his knees hurt like hell, and so did his nuts, but he found something comforting to grasp onto. Charlie knew that no matter what happened in his life or the world around him (or to his nuts), he would always have the glorious, majestic sun that comfort him.

Then the sun exploded.

That's what it felt like when I realized Sheetz forgot my effing bacon!

Seriously Sheetz, wtf?

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Let It Ride!

You all know that every attempt at humor has a buy in. It's a gamble, a roll of the dice. No matter how well you think you know somebody, a joke, prank or witticism can always fall flat - or worse, offend. It's risky, but it's worth it!

Personally, I like the witticism. That is my domain. I'm not saying that mine are exceptionally funny (or even better than Michael Scott's). I just mean that's what I do. I like droppin' one-liners relating to the situation or conversation at hand. Something happening triggers a humorous (I think) thought and I let it out.

Now, before you get all "OMGIWANNABELIKECHRISCAUSEHESSODARNRADICAL!" and try throwing quips out all willy-nilly, you oughtta know this ain't no nancy-pants, Radio-Disney, Thomas-The-Tank-Engine, Wall-E-finds-a-plant, bullsh-... *ehem*... *ehem*... Suffice it to say, it's a high-stakes game. Part of what makes it tricky is that it has to be quick. So much so, that you hardly have time to question whether it will be effective, appropriate or offensive, because the window is so small! You've gotta think it through, but you need to act swiftly. You don't want the first response to be, "Wow, how long'd it take you to come up with that one...? :rolleyes:"

Another issue is that there's no setup; there's no warning for the audience. If you were to say, "You guys wanna hear a joke?," or "Hey, I got a joke for ya," the listener would know that you were gonna to try to say something funny, and they could prepare to fake accordingly. I mean, looking pitiful is better than looking foolish. But that's a luxury you don't have with the witticism. It puts your pride on the table because you're going to get an immediate, and probably honest response. If the line sucks, you're gonna get blank stares or rolled eyes, if you don't laughed at (the bad kind of "laughed at").

Well... that's enough about the method. Let's just say you succeed. Say you slip in a one-liner or a friendly zinger and the people laugh. Happy happy, joy joy! But it's not over. Now you're faced with two choices: You can cash out, pat yourself on the back and let the conversation return to normal, or... let it ride!

What do I mean by "let it ride?" Follow it up! Strike again while the iron's still hot! Drop another line, or try something based on the reaction your first one. After all, unlike in the casino, the stakes are lower after you win one. It's like they say, "it is better to have laughed and lost then never to have laughed at all" (I am so sorry).

That's not to say it's not a gamble, though. You'll always have your first winner, but you still run the risk of killing the moment. Who knows? You might get two or three good ones in before you fall on your face. You just have to play it smart and know when to cash out.

My problem? I always let it ride! I can't resist. It's like I've got onetoomany disease! I just can't leave funny enough alone, because I always think I can top it. And even if I do top it, I just try to top it again. I keep going 'til I hear the crickets chirping, bringing with them that awkward moment of regret in which I say to myself, "One too many..."


But hey, with any kind of joke, you take a risk at looking foolish. And that's a risk we must take! We're human beings, Bob Saget! And as human beings, wisecracks and fart jokes aren't just abilities, they're responsibilities! Because without humor, we're nothing more than monkeys with iPods. So man up, step up and ante up!

...You know what? I just pictured monkey shadows with iPods dancing to "Viva La Vida," over technicolor backgrounds, and I can't lie, that's funnier than most of the stuff I think up...

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

*Sigh* ...Facebook, Facebook, Facebook...

Yes, yes, I know I'm late on the whole Facebook fiasco. But that's because I just now realized how bad the situation was!

As you may know, Facebook recently attempted to buy Twitter. Well, as popular as Facebook is, the guys just haven't found a way to make much money off of it (if you think Facebook has a lot of ads, take a moment and revisit MySpace). It's my understanding that Facebook offered to come up with the funds by selling off it's own stock, and the folks at Twitter just weren't convinced it was worth enough.

Facebook's answer? If you can't join 'em, beat 'em!

...wait, no, that sounds retarded...

No, no, that's right. Zuckerburg & Friends decided the best course of action would be to mimic Twitter. I guess they figured that if they could duplicate Twitter, Facebook users won't see a purpose in using both services. Sounds good, right? It did to me; I love Twitter. I think hearing about the day-to-day thoughts and activities of others is interesting. I was itching to get my hands on the new layout to see if it truly served the purpose of Twitter.

Unfortunately for Facebook, the layout failed on all counts. It's confusing to navigate, it's no replacement for Twitter and they completely ignored the fact that most Facebook users had no interest in Twitter. As a result, they've thrust updates like "Getting ready for work," "I hate my life," and "I just made cookies from scratch, YUMMM!," into the faces of people who really, really don't care.

Twitter's "follow" system provides a medium for the user to send messages to whoever has decided to receive them. It's a one-way relationship, unlike Facebook's "friends." If a user doesn't want to see updates like "I just farted in class. I hope nobody smells it," then they won't follow people who post those things. What Facebook implemented was pure imitation - good imitation - but in a setting in which it just doesn't fit. Most people on Facebook aren't connected to their "friends" because we want to hear every tiny detail about their lives. Facebook users want an easy way to send messages, network and share pictures and videos with their friends and family, not an up-to-the-minute newscast featuring every friggin' person they know.

"Microblogging" isn't for everyone. It's not for most people. Hell, it's hardly for many people!

But that's enough talk. I wasn't even going to post about this, until it was brought to my attention exactly how epic this failure truly is. A new application, New Layout Vote (not created by Facebook) serves the purpose of a simple "yes or no" poll. I added the app, I posted my two cents in the comment area and I voted. What I saw next was nothing short of stunning:

That fail is about as epic as Superman and Chuck Norris fighting on the surface of the sun...

Despite knowing that most people hate it, I'll still ask: What you think of the new layout?

Thursday, March 12, 2009

"Hey, It's Me... Call Me Back!"

Mustard, mayonnaise, voicemail - to hell with all of them...

Now, while I could spend all day explaining why mustard and mayonnaise deserve eternal damnation (and I just might), I think it's best that I stick to the subject of voicemail, for now.

See, the thing about voicemail is that it started innocently. It was an answering machine for your cell phone. It was intended to be a convenience and, for some, it is. People get to talk to you when you're not able to talk to them. Sounds great!

Wheee! *candy, giggles and playful wedgies*

There are even some people out there who won't even return a call unless you leave them voicemail. "If was that important, they would have left a message."

Well, I'm not that popular.

Frankly, I don't get phone calls every week day (Mom excluded). Phone calls are like Christmas, so I always return the ones I miss and I never turn my phone off (so I get my "missed call" notices). If I see that I have a voicemail, I'll most likely just call you back and delete your message later. That is, unless I'd rather hear your message than actually talk to you. But surely you're not one of those people.

My real problem with voicemail is that rarely does anyone ever say anything important. 90% of my voicemail messages are one of these:
"Hey, it's ____. I was just calling to see what you were doing. Call me back!"
"Hey, it's ____. Call me back!"
or worst of all,
"Hey, it's ____. *story of my day*"

It's enough to make a guy try The Joker's pencil trick on himself.

By this point, you may be wondering why I don't just cancel the service, altogether. Well, despite all I hate about voicemail, there is a justifiable reason for someone like me to have the service. There have been cases (rare, once in a green moon cases), in which people simply call to relay a message. They don't need a response. When I can't answer the phone, they say everything they need to say in a voicemail message. I love these people. I wish nothing but happiness and large tax refunds for these people. They leave the messages I don't mind listening to.

Of course, text messaging easily serves that purpose, and if you have my number, you're free to text me as much as you'd like. Of course, many (if not most) people don't use the service, due to it's additional fees, which is totally understandable.

So, for future reference, just call. As long as it rings, I'll call you back. Honest.

...Unless I hate you.

And for no good reason, I leave you with this:

Friday, March 6, 2009

"It's All Over But the Crying"

The time has come for me to bid farewell to the only drama I've ever cared about: Kyle XY. Last night I watched Monday's episode (the longest I've ever waited to watch it). Things had seemed to have escalated over the last few episodes, so I was excited to see this one. That is, until the TV whipped out its Glock and shot me right between the eyes. After a commercial break, a message popped up at the bottom of my screen.
It read,

You are watching Kyle XY
The Final Episodes

The show's terrible fate was brought to my attention during what was easily it's most emotional, tear-jerking episode. I cried like a baby. Not typical, but I'd like to think it was partly because I just had a cancel bomb dropped in my lap. I've never been attached to a drama like this. I don't really even watch drama's. I like shows and movies that are either funny or exciting. Watching people deal with real-life situations that I can relate to? Not what I would normally consider entertaining. But Kyle XY had me hooked from episode one. It was a mystery story. "Who is Kyle XY?" It made me care. Every revelation was only further whet my appetite. Forget Tivo! Throughout the show's three seasons, I watched every episode, live, with the exception of maybe three or four.


But slowly, Kyle XY turned from mystery-drama into a full-blown teen drama, complete with backstabbing, hook-ups, break-ups, and montages backed by indie rock ballads. What's much more surprising is that the show means as much to me now, as it always has. And now that the show has been canceled and only two episodes remain, I feel... well, I feel violated, to be honest.

I allowed it. I admit that. I accept that. But that fictional world has become a larger part of my life than I anticipated. It's people, stories and relationships don't exist, but they matter to me. I care about the futures of these characters. I'm genuinely concerned about their lives. I share their hopes. I cheer in their triumph. I wince at their pain.

And that's how they make their money.

Kinda sick.

I have to assume, as strange as it seems to me, that this is a common situation for other people. For people to enjoy dramatic stories, they must allow some level of attachment, right? And when that story ends, they have to deal with it. Right?


Wednesday, March 4, 2009

"I Can Be Better. I Will Be Better."

Sometimes, it honestly feels like I'm the last person on Earth who can write...

I should note, as I begin, that this post sounds painfully arrogant. For that, I apologize. There's a humble conclusion, I assure you.

I've just rewritten this letter that somebody at church threw together. I'm shocked that whoever wrote this letter actually has a job writing letters. It looks like the writer decided to string together a bunch of cliche, "feed the children" infomercial lines until she got bored. I sincerely hope the writer was just in a huge hurry. Maybe she was in labor or something...

It reminded me of every English class I ever took, listening to students read their terrible papers in front in classes. They treated the English language like a toddler treats paper - they tore it up and chewed on the pieces while I resisted the paternal urge to run over and pull it out of their mouths before they choked on it.

In middle school English class, I felt like my schedule got swapped with a special needs kid's. High school? Same deal. By the time I got to college, I just decided that no one else was really trying. To be fair, I spent my first year of college at Hood School, where the girls just wanted to get married and the guys' career plans consisted of "gettin' paid," and little else. Now that I'm looking at the real world, reading columns in magazines and newspapers, I'm coming to the realization that the writing world really is full of idiots.

Nah, I'm playin'.

While it does seem that too many writers either don't know what they're doing or they're trying way to hard to sound smart, that's not what this is about. This is all about me. See, for as long as I can remember, I've been told that I was a "great writer," "very talented," or "really blessed," and that my career should be in writing. Now, when you hear things like that from teachers, friends and employers, it only makes sense that you would put special effort into honing that skill. But the truth is, I never did. I never tried. I wrote all my papers at the last minute, did almost no recreational writing, and only made a solid effort when there was a prize involved. One week, my teacher would be reading my paper to the class as an example of excellence, next I'd get a handwritten note telling me that I didn't even try. It didn't bother me, either. They way I saw it, and effortless 'B' beat a hard 'A,' any day.

I called myself the "King of BS" (not out loud, mind you), because I would consistently earn passing grades on research papers without doing any research and book reports without reading the book. Wow the teacher with English and they'll lose their focus on content. Works everywhere but History class (those teachers only care about names and dates).

Enough about that. I'm beginning to sound like a D-bag. My point is this: I haven't been trying and I regret it. I've taken the one craft I truly feel I could excel in and squandered all the time specifically designated for studying it. For the past year or so, I've considered writing as a career but I really don't feel that I'm good enough. Maybe I am "talented," or "blessed." Could be. But I'm certainly not skilled. I've put forth the bare minimum, and shamelessly so.

I feel a bit like Hancock. He was a super-powered person who did heroic things, but he wasn't superhero. He did what he needed to do, but he did so haphazardly, with no concern as to whether he was reaching his potential, being the superhero he could have been.

Now I feel like what I really need is for a professional to sit and teach me the ropes. I want someone who knows what he's doing to look at my work and say, "This is okay but this sucks. Fix this." And as many of you know, I'm mulling over the idea of switching my major to journalism. Don't ask me what they teach journalism majors, but I sure hope is "how to write." If I decide to do that, I swear, I'll try.

Until the time that decision is made, I'm gonna try this: I'm going to try, right here. I'm going to proofread my posts. I'm going to try to write them in more than one sitting. I'm going to consider how they make me look, before I post them. I am going to take everything I have learned about writing and utilize it. It's time for me to start flexing my literary muscles and working them 'til they burn.

"You deserve better from me. I can be better. I will be better."
Stick with me, people. Right around the corner lies a whole new "Box of Peanuts."

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Everything Happens for a Reason

...Or does it? It's a good question. At least, I thought it was. My poll, which plainly posed the question: "Everything Happens for a Reason - True or False," got 11 votes over the course of about 30 days. The results came out 6 to 5 - so they're pretty much worthless :)

Regardless of the small margin, the votes were in favor of "True." I really was curious, because I've heard the statement made a million times. But now that I have the answer, I can't help but wonder, what leads you to believe it?

It's a heavily-weighted, worldview-shaping belief. Your answer to this question is about as big as religion. It affects the way you react to world events, the actions of others, and your own fortune or misfortune. It's not something that should be taken lightly, and it's not a question that should be answered with little consideration.

So I'm going to pose another question:


Whether or not you believe that "everything happens for a reason," regardless of whether you voted in the poll, I'm going ask you to explain yourself. What makes you believe that this old saying is or isn't true?