“2020 is Satan’s Mattress”

Breonna, protests, brutality, pandemic, BLM, police, …breathe, I can’t breathe…

Say their names. No justice, no peace. Mask up. West coast fires.

And please get back behind that line, please, sir.

Sounds like an R.E.M. song, doesn’t it?

It’s like The Wolf of Wallstreet without flying midgets. Or the fancy cars. Or boobs.

It’s like the Joker, Pennywise, and the Killer Klowns from Outer Space are on the loose and they’re coughing in everyone’s eyeballs and licking everyone’s toilet seats.

If WWII was Satan’s wet dream, then 2020 is the mattress he sleeps on.

But it’s odd, you know? I’m sitting here on my living room couch with my son drawing pictures of books and ice cream cones at the dining room table. The windows are open to let the fresh fall air in and I’m watching the cars drive by. (Though no car drove by last night between the hours of 9 P.M. and 6 A.M., I’ll tell you that. We’re under a strict curfew here in Louisville due to the Breonna Taylor ruling.) We’ve also been enjoying the hell out of Jurassic World: Camp Cretaceous.

If I had no internet or news or connection to the outside world, I’d have no idea what was going on. Unless I was back in California, I’d be dying by the minute breathing in all that smoke (wildfires to coronavirus: “Hold my sparkler.”).

This isn’t to say that ignorance is bliss, but I’m sure it is. Here’s what I’m getting at:

We’re all spending so much time scrolling and trolling on Facebook and Twitter, sharing our views, our thoughts, and whatever agenda we’re choosing to follow. The louder the video, the better. And if you’re morbid like me, you’re glued to live streaming of the protests hoping to see some blood.

Yet…

We’re fixated so much on what’s going on in the world, outside of our state (of if you’re like me, just a couple of miles away), that we’re neglecting to focus on the stuff inside. You know, our character and feelings and crap like that. I have a feeling that most of us aren’t keeping our anger and fear in check. We need to understand that we don’t know all the details, because the only details we get are what the media chooses to share, and even then, we get to choose which media we pay attention to.

I’m not saying we shouldn’t be passionate about anything or stand up for things… I’m just saying it’s a good idea to stop and examine the stuff in our hearts and guts instead of merely spending our days and hours judging and criticizing the world around us every chance we get. And with that I leave you with three things:

Fight for justice without making her put in overtime to rule over your actions.

Stand up for what you believe in, but know your facts first, lest you look like an idiot.

Remember that if drugs were legal, we wouldn’t be in this bad of a situation. Until then, don’t get caught. If you get caught, don’t resist arrest. If you resist arrest, you better have an awesome phrase to go out with, because the body cams will be recording it all.

For instance, if I got shot by a cop, I’d go down singing the Punky Brewster theme song, because that show needs to come back.

Let’s Talk Stephen King!

Several years ago I undertook a challenge: to read every book by two of the biggest American authors of our time. The authors? John Grisham and Stephen King.

As of the writing of this post, I’m about halfway through both of their bibliographies.

And since it’s pretty cold here in Louisville this morning (fall weather!) I’m going to talk a little about Stephen King’s books that I’ve read so far.

Now, I’ve only read 21 of his books, so I’ll be focusing just on those in this post. They’ve taken me from Carrie to Insomnia. I’m still just a hundred pages shy of Rose Madder now. I’ll be frank with you: You might be disappointed in many of my summaries because I didn’t think to jot down my thoughts after reading the books over the last five years, so many of my recollections of the books may be a bit hazy, especially with the books I wanted more than anything to just be over.

  1. Carrie. 4.5 Stars. I remember feeling so bad for Carrie. This book was more of a tragedy than anything else. Being among the earliest works I read from King, I was shocked that it was scary at all, or even attempt to be. I can see how, after this little book, audiences wanted more from this up and coming writer.
  2. ‘Salem’s Lot. 2 Stars. Like Dracula, the story as a whole did not draw me in. Sure, some scenes were creepy, Bram Stroker’s early work, but over all, it did not leave much of an impression with me. I know that’s a super unpopular opinion, because people tend to really like this book.
  3. The Shining. 2 Stars. Speaking of unpopular, I know The Shining is to Stephen King as E.T. is to Stephen Spielberg. But this book was so dry! It was the first Stephen King book I’d ever read, and I expected it to be scary, and it just wasn’t. The movie, though? Not bad. But here’s the thing, I do plan on going back and giving this book another try now that I know what to expect and what not to expect. I blame my boredom of this book purely on made-up expectations.
  4. The Stand. 3.5 Stars. I love – I just love a good apocalypse story. Especially all of the events leading up to the apocalypse, where we as the audience get to observe, through the teller’s eyes, how the population would react to the end times and their coming doom. And this book – this gigantic book – delivered on my insatiable desire to read how it could all come to an end. I connected to the characters, their plights, their fears and struggles, but the book lost a whole star because of the anticlimactic ending. I’m fine with anticlimactic endings so long as the rest of the story is overflowing with tension (War of the Worlds, anyone?), but the way this story was told, everything hung on that ending which just didn’t deliver, nor did it seem to attempt to.
  5. The Long Walk. 4 Stars. To walk until you die, that is the goal. I love the concept, I love the execution, I love this book. It is rich with phycology, and brimming with a Hunger Games type of suspense.
  6. The Dead Zone. 2.5 Stars. I don’t remember much from this book, but I know one of the characters crosses over into Needful Things to become a main protagonist. Even though this book didn’t stick with me long-term, I remember still liking it when I read it, and I was deeply moved by the character’s tragic end (???). Another one I’ll have to go back to a re-read.
  7. Firestarter. 4.5 Stars. Like Carrie, this one’s another tragedy with explosive results. I must connect with misfit girls going through puberty.
  8. Cujo. 5 Stars. Yeah, this book got the 5-star rating from me. I loved loved loved this book! I’m a sucker for man vs. animal storylines. This one has a very Jaws-like feel to it, only instead of a shark, it’s a rabid Saint Bernard, and instead of the Orca, the victims are trapped in Ford Pinto.
  9. The Dark Tower: The Gunslinger. 1 Star. Stephen King sucks at fantasy, as proven by this book. Pass. I refuse to read another Dark Tower book. Sorry.
  10. Christine. 3. A teen adventure/drama about a killer car coming to life. Righteous! This would be like if a kid from The Breakfast Club discovered Megadon instead of Bumblebee and the kid’s whole life goes to shit because of it.
  11. Pet Cemetery. 3.5 Stars. Don’t let the cover of this book fool you, it’s not about a cat. But it’s still a supremely fun and engaging read about a cemetery that brings people – and animals – back to life. And that’s not always a good thing now, is it?
  12. The Talisman. -1 Star. Again, Stephen King cannot write fantasy, or whatever the crap this was. I couldn’t tell you one word that was written in this awfully boring and dry book. A Chemistry textbook would have been more enjoyable, and I hate science.
  13. It. 5 Stars. A book so good I read it twice! This enjoyable and engaging work promotes Stephen King’s finest character developments to date. As cool as all the clown stuff is, it’s really the characters that make this such a supremely great read. Along with Cujo, this book is considered King’s pinnacle of storytelling. No wonder there’s been thee movies made about this book.
  14. The Eye of the Dragon. 3 Stars. I know, I know, “Stephen King can’t write fantasy.” I’m not so sure he wrote this one, though. That, or he reverted to his child self and wrote a simple little fairy tale. That’s what this book is: a simple little fairy tale that you could read to your children. It was a nice change of pace.
  15. Misery. 4.5 Stars. A simple story about being stuck. Or trapped. Or kidnapped. You’ve seen the Kathy Bates/James Caan movie. The book is just as good.
  16. The Tommyknockers. 1 Star. Here’s me reading this book: Nice start…cool…huh?…what?…the fuck?…zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.
  17. The Dark Half. 1.5 Stars. Like The Dead Zone, I know I read this book. I also know I didn’t hate this book, but I just don’t remember anything about it. So I gave it a .5 because I know I didn’t hate it.
  18. Needful Things. 3.5 Stars. Perhaps a bit longer than it needed to be, but I felt like this book was probably King’s most focussed of works. Usually I feel like he abruptly stumbles upon his endings, but with this one, he really had to map it all out in order to lead directly to a very specific showdown. The tension really does get cranked up for the first 78% of this book.
  19. Gerald’s Game. 4 Stars. For a book featuring basically one character, and hardly any dialogue at all, this was highly suspenseful. It’s a lot like 127 Hours, except instead of a mountain biker trapped inside a crevice in the earth, this is about a scantly-clad woman handcuffed to her bedposts.
  20. Dolores Claiborne. 3.5 Stars. An enjoyable read that I didn’t expect to get sucked into. It’s one of King’s shorter books, and by the end, you really do come to love Dolores Claiborne. She reminds me of Francis McDormand’s character in Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.
  21. Insomnia. 2 Stars. This book was a chore. First off, insomnia is simply a cause to take place for the rest of the story. And the rest of the story was boooorring. After the halfway point, I was tempted many times to put the book down and move on with my life (something I’ve done less than five times). The problem I had with it was that it all became so damned supernatural, something Stephen King can really botch up if he’s not careful with it. And man, did he botch it up in this book.

So there you have it. I’ll be doing a follow-up to this post in about five years when I finish King’s library of works. Wanna rank and talk King with me? Leave your thoughts and comments down below!

A Collision of Worlds: Almost Every Pixar Movie Mentioned in The Office

Dr. Crentist.

I want people to be afraid of how much they love me.

Don’t drop the soap!

That’s what she said.

If you recognize any of the above lines, chances are you’re a huge fan of the American version of The Office. And thanks to DVD box sets, syndication, and streaming, chances are that you’ve watched all nine seasons more than once. Or twice. Or, if you’re like Sarabeth and me, you’ve lost count, but you’re always looking forward to the next episode.

Also, mega fans of the show have likely listened to the No. 1 podcast by Jenna Fischer (Pam) and Angela Kinsey (Angela Martin), Office Ladies. Or Brian Baumgartner’s (Kevin Malone) one episode of An Oral History of The Office. (Sure, there’s only been one episode posted for almost two months, but it’s a damn good episode.) And did you know there’s also a book about the making of The Office by Andy Greene?

All these fun making-of’s and behind-the-scenes goodies about the beloved show, and not once have I found someone making the claim I’m about to make. Pixar fans and Office fans alike, get out a towel and bucket for your loved ones, because your minds are about to be splattered all over the walls (luckily you’re supposed to be six feet away from anyone if you’re reading this article at a Starbucks).

Here’s my big claim:

Nearly every Pixar movie was referenced in one way or another during the show’s run up until 2013.

That’s right. Whether directly, or indirectly, almost every Pixar movie from Toy Story to Cars 2 found a way to tie into the world of The Office.

So here’s how we’re going to do this. I’m going to walk through the Pixar movies in order of release and I’ll point out which episodes they’re referenced in. Ready? Good! In the conference room, now!

  1. Toy Story 1 and 2: Of all of the Pixar movies most prominently mentioned in The Office, Toy Story makes the most obvious cameos. The first mention I found is in “Niagara Part 1” (6.4), where Michael lists off all the Pixar movies that made him cry. Toy Story is mentioned by name. The next mention of the beloved toy franchise comes just four episodes later in “Koi Pond” (6.8): One of the office characters, while making fun of Michael for falling in a koi pond uses Toy Story as a way to mock Michael (after he attempts to name all of the Pixar movies) by calling it Koi Story. And then Woody himself makes an appearance in arguably the best Christmas episode of the show, in “Classy Christmas” (7.11), where Michael (playing a Sid-type role) dunks Holly’s Woody doll with coffee out of jealousy. But don’t worry, he redeems himself later by playing the toy doctor and fixes Woody up.
  2. A Bug’s Life: This one’s a good one, and a very curious one. It’s curious because The Office was put out by NBC. Now stay with me on this. I was always under the impression that NBC was the parent of Dreamworks Animation SKG (you know, those other animated movies – the ones you might rent for your kids on a desperate weekend, but would never pay a ticket price for). But after doing a bit of research, I discovered that NBC didn’t buy Dreamworks until 2016. However, the fan favorite episode, Threat Level Midnight (7.17) aired early in 2011, long before NBC bought Dreamworks. So they were free to have Michael state that A Bug’s Life was better than Antz. But it’s still curious because Disney and NBC, as far as I’m aware, have been competitors, and with Spielberg being tied to Dreamworks, you’d think that NBC (Universal) would show preference to Dreamworks over Disney/Pixar. Don’t worry, I wrote in to Office Ladies to see if they can clear all this up for me. So maybe we’ll get some answers from them in the future.
  3. Monsters, Inc.: Okay, this one’s a cheat. But remember, at the beginning of this article I stated that almost every Pixar movie is directly or indirectly referenced in The Office. And of the ones referenced, Monsters, Inc. is definitely the most indirect and I admit, probably not even conscious, reference. But if you think about it, the entire show is like how Monsters, Inc. would be run after Sulley took over and generated power by making kids laugh. After all, that’s Michael’s entire goal, isn’t it? To make people laugh? He believes laughter and entertainment are the backbone of the paper industry. Also, Mike/Michael do have a hard time hitting the funny bone, right? Okay, I won’t cheat again until the end. Let’s keep moving.
  4. Finding Nemo: With this fish tale being just as good as Toy Story, it’s fitting that it would be mentioned in the same episodes Toy Story was. In “Niagara Part 1” (6.4), Michael calls out Finding Nemo as a Pixar movie that made him cry. And it’s also called out by Creed in “Koi Pond” (6.8) when he asks Michael if he “found Nemo.”
  5. Incredibles: This one’s a little bit loose, but it’s also the very first Pixar reference in the entire show. It’s early on, in the episode “Halloween” (2.5) where we see Kevin dressed up as Mr. Incredible, except instead of an “I” on his chest, he has “Dunder Mifflin” stitched on the big red suit. Sure, it can be argued that it wasn’t a conscious reference, but consider these three arguments: 1) Incredibles was still a fairly new movie when this episode aired, 2) IMDB points it out as a genuine reference, and 3) The Office was obviously dedicated to making as many Pixar references as possible, as you’ll continue to see. Read on.
  6. Cars: There are a lot of people, Pixar fans included, who only saw this movie once and then swore the franchise off. But to those of us who actually enjoyed this movie, we were rewarded by being able to catch this reference in “Employee Transfer” (5.5) when Michael and Darryl drive Holly back to her home branch in Nashua. Trying to kill time on the long drive, Michael tries to sing along (hilariously) to the Rascal Flatts version of “Life is a Highway,” which was prominently featured in and remade for the movie Cars.
  7. Ratatouille: Similar to the other greats (Toy Story and Finding Nemo), this Pixar gem gets two references. The first one is in “The Delivery” (6.17) where Kevin makes ratatouille. And the second one is… in my memory somewhere. Okay, so I picked up on this Pixar trend in The Office years ago as I was watching it for the first time. And I have this very vivid memory of Michael Scott saying that he saw Ratatouille and it put him to sleep. I remember this, because at face value it sounds like a knock against the movie, but it’s really an underhanded compliment, meaning that Michael went into it expecting a kid’s cartoon movie, but it was really too deep and mature for him to follow, so he fell asleep. And, I’m sorry to say, I can’t recall where this talking head is. It very well could be a deleted scene. If you can find it, please leave a comment below.
  8. Wall-e: This one’s very obvious. In “The Seminar” (7.14), creepy Gabe is trying to decide what slasher-horror he and Erin should watch after work. Erin tells him she wants to watch Wall-e.
  9. Up: This one’s so good it got mentioned twice as well, and I can name both sources this time. One is (again) in “Niagara Part 1” (6.4) as one of the movies that made Michael cry. And two, in “Andy’s Play” (7.3) when Phyllis looks at Michale’s balloons and says, “That’s like in Up.”
  10. Toy Story 3: This could also be a reference to Toy Story 2 as well. In “Promos” (9.18) Jim and Darryl are meeting with Ryan Howard (the athlete, not the temp), and he’s telling them about the book he wants to write, and he says he wants it to be “Toy Story sad.”
  11. Cars 2: I’ve got to be honest. This movie was so bad that I assumed no one would want to draw attention to it, but Jim not only draws attention to it in “Test the Store” (8.17), he calls it out by name in his presentation. “From Chuck to Cars 2,” he says. Of course, it was a very bad presentation, so maybe that was part of the joke.
  12. Brave: Brave, which came out in 2012, the year before The Office’s series finale, was not mentioned or even given a passing nod. Perhaps they couldn’t find a way to shoehorn it in like they did with many of the others, or else they had already finished filming much of the final season by the time Brave was released. I’m not sure. But Brave, unless you count Monsters, Inc., is the lone dead fish in the pond in The Office universe.
  13. Monsters University: This movie was released after the show’s beautiful and heartbreaking end. However, I want to draw attention to it, because a piece of The Office lives within this movie in a small way. One of the monsters was voiced by none other than John Krasinski (Jim).

And it didn’t end there. Phyllis Smith (Phyllis Vance) and Mindy Kaling (Kelly Kapoor) went on to voice characters in Pixar’s Inside Out, and Rashida Jones (Karen Filippelli) had an early writing credit on Toy Story 4.

So what are your thoughts? Do you think it was intentional for The Office writers to include as many Pixar references as possible throughout the duration of the show? After all, according to Office Ladies, Craig Daniels dedicated a whole storyline to Call of Duty simply because he loved that game. Let me know your thoughts below!

Horror of July: Part 1

This past Fourth of July started off as normal as could expected for the year of 2020. Except it turned into a nightmare that my therapist strongly urged me to write down. Sarabeth assured me it would help, and a friend said it would be like purging. I want to get past this. Forgive me for any grammatical or spelling errors, as I did not go back and proofread this.

I just took a moment of silence to reflect on a very horrific thing I witnessed exactly a week ago on 9:33 on the quiet and peaceful morning of Fourth of July. It was an experience that shook me to my core, and one that is incomparable to anything else I’ve ever witnessed.

I was being cranky that morning at home. For some reason or another I just wasn’t feeling very patriotic, even though Fourth of July is my second favorite holiday behind Halloween. I was upset that everything was going to be closed this year because of the stupid pandemic that I still can’t believe is still a thing. I wanted to go to the park and eat junk food and listen to the hokey jamboree band and keep the kids out late to gaze at the fireworks.

But, you know, COVID-19 and paranoia and all that. Sorry America, your birthday party’s gonna suck this year.

Sarabeth said she was going to take the kids for a walk before it got too hot. Not wanting to be a killjoy, like I was already being, I said I’d tag along. She asked me not to go because I was being a jerk, but I insisted. It was Fourth of July, damnit! We were going to celebrate it like one big frickin’ family. This was, of course, the first step that led to the horror I was about to face. It was probably around 9:15; eighteen minutes before the world darkened significantly.

We walked down Kennedy St. to see if Wolverine, the neighborhood cat was out. He was, and the kids pet him for a couple of seconds before Sarabeth urged them to move along. Usually we let them pet her for a few minutes, but not this time. We unknowingly had just about seven minutes left of calm and peace before everything changed.

“Let’s go down one more street,” Sarabeth said. One more street. I wanted to turn down Franck Avenue, just before the firestation. The firestation I mentioned in my article about the tranquil quiet little street of Frankfort Ave. Alongside the entire road were volunteers who had woken up early to clean up the sidwalks and pick up trash and tend to the flowers. What sweet and good people to give up their Saturdays to help make our community a better and safer place.

Only, it wasn’t so safe for all of them.

I relinquished, because I was enjoying the walk. I would have been happy to go down several more streets; it was such a beautiful morning. I was walking just slightly in front of the kids and Sarabeth, I think, when I was thinking about how lame it was that Frankfor Avenue held an Easter parade each year, but not a Fourth of July parade. How fun it would have been if there were floats and beeping buggys and large crowds of people waving to their neighbors’ kids in the marching bands.

At this point we were just nanoseconds from everything changing. And I’m struggling with writing it down because that means I have to willingly go back there in my head. I’m not ready to do that right now. I’m stopping here for now.

We Got a Kitten!

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A surprise landed on (close to) our doorstep. And when I say I’m not a cat person. I’m not exaggerating in the least. I’ve never liked cats, never cared for them, and in fact, they always kind of freaked me out.

But then I saw this little girl, and I knew I wasn’t going to let a terrified kitten go hungry or get killed on my watch. I’m sorry, but no way.

So it took me a long time to lure her to me because I didn’t want to startle her by lunging at her. So I went inside and grabbed my daughter’s tuna sandwich she didn’t eat and I was able to safely and slowly pick our kitty up for the first time.

I walked her to the front door and yelled inside, “Sarabeth, I need you to come here. You kids need to stay inside, but Sarabeth, you need to come out here right now.”

We had just witnessed a horrifically traumatic nightmare three days prior, so for poor Sarabeth, it was like, Oh, crap. What is it nowWhen she came outside, she looked at me in absolute stunned awe. I wasn’t quite ready to adopt a cat, of all things, but as Sarabeth told me later: “I saw the way you were holding her close to your chest and the pitiful look in your eyes.”

So… what’d she do? She called the kids to come outside to meet their new kitty. Forget any discussion about taking her to a shelter before the kids find out. Call it a snap decision, but I think it’s one we’re all quite glad to have made.

And yes, we’ve taken her to the vet and we checked everywhere online for missing kitten reports. I may have seen her parents, but there was no cat as cute as ours who’s been reported missing.

Anyway, check out our video. I think you’ll find it just purrrrfec- What the hell’s happening to me?