I’m Still Processing The Death of Robin Williams

The news this week, it was shocking. Shocking. Robin Williams. Dead at 63. I grew up on a steady diet of Robin Williams. I remember when he, bizarrely, showed up on Happy Days and had an epic thumb battle with The Fonz.

And I watched Mork & Mindy almost greedily every week, because–particularly in first two seasons–there was nothing quite so aggressively funny on TV.

My mom even got me a pair of rainbow suspenders, which I wore until the clips gave out and just stopped gripping. (And I’d think they were secure and would go out and then a clip would slide up until it reached the end of my waistband. Once it did, it would indeed fly, be free, right into my face. Oh, embarrassment on the playground fer sure.)

Like so many others out there, I loved Robin Williams for his energy and razor-sharp wit, his lightning-fast ability to find the joke, to make anything (a basket of eggs? Really?) hilarious. And I loved him for his ability to handle dramatic roles, too, bringing human complexity and an astonishing depth of emotion to a character that, in the hands of a different performer, could easily end up being too one-dimensional. I’m looking at you, Dead Poet’s Society.

He was brilliant. He was admired. And now he’s gone. If he’d died of a heart attack or was killed in a car accident…we have mental scripts in place to cope. But Robin Williams took his own life. He’d always been open about his long-standing struggles with depression, and also with substance abuse, so it was no secret that he had some malignant, tenacious demons. But still. In a society that views “success” as the answer–which he had, at least outwardly–Robin Williams’s suicide is inconceivable. 

The commentary surrounding his death has been interesting. I have, for the most part, stayed away from anyone who’s completely vitriolic; I don’t need to read articles written by socially stunted hatemongers to know they exist.  But the one statement that I can’t stay away from, which I’ve seen expressed in various media outlets and have heard from people I know and love, is that his act was selfish. And I recognized myself in that statement; ten years ago I might have said the same thing. I have since moved past it, realizing that depression is far more pernicious and illogical and lying and thieving than those of us who aren’t depressed can understand. Still, I get why it’s part of the public patois about suicide. I just don’t think it’s right or fair. We’re never inside anyone else’s head. We don’t know what’s happening anywhere else except in our own noggins…and even then, if you find me someone who’s legitimately got it all together, I will pass out in shock. Mental illness is so dreadfully misunderstood. As a society, we need to bring the same sensibility to the treatment of depression that we bring to, say, the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis. Both can cripple. Both can kill. But you don’t tell an RA sufferer to “get over it”. 

When I was a little kid–maybe 9 or 10 years old–I was at the beach and got caught in an undertow. I was pulled out in the waves, and slammed back on the beach, and pulled out, and slammed back. Over. And over. And over. I didn’t see a way out, there was no way to break the cycle of being sucked out into the water, and slammed back to the shore. Finally, something solid loomed up in front of me and in desperation I grabbed it; I remember breaking the grip of the waves, and how the waves felt resistant to my release. Luckily, the solid thing turned out to be the feet of a man doing surf fishing. It could have been a shark, it could have been an electrical box that was on fire, it could have been Jason Voorhees in full machete-and-hockey mask regalia. The point is, I didn’t care at that moment what I grabbed, so long as it got me out of the crazy cycle I was trapped in. 

While I don’t claim that that’s what was going on in Robin Williams’s head, I will say that for that split second, for that one miniscule moment in time, I understood what it’s like to not care any more about what the exit looks like. Desperation isn’t selfish. It’s just desperate. We tend not to revisit these moments, since they’re usually unpleasant and force us to contemplate our own mortality. But I’d make the bet that if everyone took a good, long look at his or her past, we could all find at least one moment where logic and presence failed and desperation took over.

That’s a spot from which compassion can grow. I challenge everyone to find it.

 Rest in peace, Robin Williams. 

Need help? In the U.S., call 1-800-273-8255 – National Suicide Prevention Lifeline

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Scenes from the Rail Trail: August 5, 2014

The weather in Lewisburg has been sublime the last few days. Cool. Not terribly humid. It’s been that beautiful sort of “makes you want to go outside and do something hearty and robust” weather, even if you’ve been working your tail off trying to get ready to teach your first Zumba class while brushing up on Silver Sneakers routines, and you really should take opportunities to sit or drive or relax because you’ve literally been dancing for three or four hours a day.

For the record? It takes a staggering shit-ton of work to get ready to teach a class at a gym, especially early on when all the routines are brand new. Never mind prepping for two different ones. Moving on.

One of these recent glorious mornings–Tuesday, if all y’all must know–I hit the ol’ Buffalo Valley Rail Trail and pedaled my way off to work for the best commute ever. It’s summer, so mostly everything is lush and green.

Everrrrrrything.

Everrrrrrything.

Far as they eye can see. This. Green green green. Fecund is, actually, the word that leaps to mind, and I’m fairly certain that that word has never readily leapt to my mind until now.

Do I sound jaded? Like, “oh, lorrrrrrrrrd, everything was all verdant and…yawn…greeeeeeen…“. If that’s the case, I apologize, because it’s pretty fantastic to ride through. I felt like I was in The Shire, or something. (LOTR nerds: represent!). While a prolonged tunnel of greenness doesn’t necessarily make for the most dramatic pictures, I did manage to click one or two… :)

Like this one, of a morning glory, complete with some kind of bug having its way with the flower.

Hey bug, what'cha doing in there?

Hey bug, what’cha doing in there?

Or this, with the tops of the corn against the bright blue sky. Power lines stretching overhead gave a bit of an interesting perspective.

Sometimes, you just need to look...up.

Sometimes, you just need to look…up.

And, city folks, have you ever really looked at the roots of a corn stalk? No wonder they’re so easy to make horror movies about.

These are digging straight in to the bones of the Earth, it seems.

They’re like fingers, man, digging straight in.

I came upon this fuzzy thingie sticking out into the trail and really liked how it caught the light.

Remember making fake moustaches with these things?

Remember making fake moustaches with these things? You must pay the rent!

A tangle of pokeberry bushes… Wait, what? ***A*** tangle? These things are everywhere. The berries are inedible, and more than inedible, they’re poisony. The mature berries make great ink. Legend (i.e., Wikipedia) has it that the Declaration of Independence was written in pokeberry ink; the National Archives puts the kibosh on that tall tale (it was iron gall ink, which was apparently the ink of choice for centuries). But the bushes sure are pretty.

Poke. Poke poke poke.

Poke. Poke poke poke.

The pokeberry bushes intertwined with the delicately-flowered orange touch-me-not. I’ll have to go back and look to see if there’s a mature fruit capsule hanging there, because they apparently burst on contact, hence the name.

Kaboom.

Kaboom.

Then I found the leaf where bugs were making with the love. Avert the children’s eyes.

Bow chicka wow wow.

Bow chicka wow wow.

And remember, fecund? 

This is what that word means.

This is what that word means.

And finally…

A little bit of everything. Some sun, some sky, some green, a barn, a cow, and some early-turning leaves already sporting their fall color. Despite it being the height of summer, autumn is just around the corner.

Welcome to central PA.

Welcome to central PA, a little Nirvana on the Susquehanna.

See you on the Rail Trail!

Great TV Theme Songs, Part 1

In light of the recent death of beloved actor James Garner, I have been reminiscing about my favorite…TV theme music.

Really. It’s not the effect of his death I would have expected. He was an actor, and when an actor dies we normally talk about which of his movies we loved (The Great Escape) and hated (The Notebook, there, I said it, though he was the best part of that crapfest).

James Garner, for those who didn’t grow up with me, was in a scrappy little show in the 1970s called The Rockford Files.

Don't mess with Jim Rockford. From fansshare.com

Don’t mess with Jim Rockford.
Photo from fansshare.com

He played Jim Rockford, a smooth-talking private eye who drove a giant car, had a really nice…answering machine…and loved the ladies. And this show had one of the GREATEST TV theme songs of all time.

I mean, I’m part of the generation that grew up with TV as a babysitter, and make no mistake about it–these shows provided much of the soundtrack of my youth. They’re often more readily retrieved from the inner recesses of my brain than, say, the Preamble to the Constitution. Is that unfortunate? Maybe. But if the most lasting side effect is that I suffer from an abundance of useless information…meh. There are worse things.

On second thought…I can access the Preamble easily enough. It was burned into my brain thanks to the efforts of Schoolhouse Rock!. Saturday morning cartoons weren’t complete without at least one SHR short coming across my TV screen. They were catchy. The songs were peppy. And I learned stuff from them; SHR also taught me, in no particular order, how to unpack my adjectives, how bills becomes laws, and how to determine multiples of 3, because it’s a magic number. Here’s the Preamble, which I used to have to sing to remember; at least now I can recite it in my normal speaking voice.

One of the many things I’ve always loved about the Rockford theme is that it’s purely instrumental. There’s nothing wrong with TV theme songs that tell a story (i.e., The Brady Bunch theme), but to be able to hook the viewer in without chirpy and/or heartwarming narrative? It’s a talent. In more modern TV themes, think of the unforgettable music from Law & Order.

Infectious, right? You’re going to walk around doing that “Boom-boom, doot-do-do-do-DOOOO” thing for the next hour, at least. All day, more likely. Because that’s how music hooks work. They anchor themselves in your head and fuse themselves into your mental DNA like controlled nuclear strikes that irrevocably litter your brain with pop culture references.

There are a few other instrumental theme  pieces besides Rockford that have been bound unto me from my adolescence and are part of my permanent mental loop. One is the bass-heavy, groove-funk theme from the cop sitcom Barney Miller.

Cop shows aren’t funny? Watch Barney Miller‘s legendary hash brownie episode and get back to me.

But if we’re talking about instrumental TV themes that infiltrated the core of my consciousness–and indeed, the public consciousness at large–then no conversation is complete without a celebration of the incredible theme from (non-sitcom) cop show Hawaii Five-0. Performed by The Ventures, this instrumental theme helped define surf-rock and set a new standard of TV-based awesome.

It wasn’t unusual for me to think that Hawaii Five-0‘s theme song was the best part of the show; the show itself could be a little formulaic, but I could always dance to the song.

Added TV show bonus? Jack Lord had the best hair.

Slick. Photo from ctva.biz

Slick.
Photo from ctva.biz

Looking back, I’ve realized…there was a lot of fun music bouncing around the airwaves when I was a wee paisley. I’m just getting started with this; there are family-based themes and women-show-oriented themes and weepy themes…and on and on. These shows worked their way into the fabric of my life, and I’m glad to take a sun-dappled, gauzy, nostalgic look at them. If you were (or are) a TV kid, then the theme music you’ve encountered along the way has informed you too. Don’t disregard; embrace! And tell me…

What’s your favorite theme music?

I’ve Been All Mysterious Lately…

…about my whereabouts and shenanigans, I know. But it’s been a crazy few months, and there’s been a bit of internal philosophizing in the process. I’ve been caught up in a few things. Good things, mind you, but still demanding of my time.

First, I have become licensed to teach Silver Sneakers classes at my local gym. It’s a workout program designed for an aging population, for people who can’t necessarily (or don’t want to) handle high-intensity or high-impact exercise classes.

They might not be silver. But they're sneakers. And they're mine.

They might not be silver. But they’re sneakers. And they’re mine.  Notice the paisley water glass in the background. I have issues. :)

Working on this licensing has prompted me to contemplate how different my life is from anything I would have imagined it to be. I moved to central PA ten (10!) years ago, and thought I’d be here six months. I never imagined that I would meet someone here who’s as fun and fantastic and thoughtful (and single at the time!) as George, and yet, there he was, ready for me. If anyone had told me when I rolled into town with my luggage in tow that a decade later I would still be in central PA with a wonderful and supportive boyfriend by my side, I wouldn’t have believed them for a second. And if you’d told me that on top of that, I was going to end up in the fitness industry…well, “preposterous” isn’t quite the right word. Ludicrous, that would have been more like it. But you know, you break an ankle, you have a bit of a health scare, you realize you’re not bullet-proof. At least, that’s what happened with me.

For the record? It take a LOT of work to get ready to teach a workout class. There are hours of videos to watch (over and over again), choreography to work out, steps to get into your head, notes to jot, that go into every single class. Hats off to the people who have done it so long they don’t have to really get into the prep. In two years, I might–MIGHT–be in that place.  What’s even harder for me to understand in my own internal motivation: I just signed up for Zumba licensing. Like, one discipline isn’t enough? I need to get two? What are they–potato chips? You can’t have just one… :)

Ooh, what else, what else?

Right. So I finished a book. Writing one, not reading one. It’s been a long process! The writing started probably two years ago thanks to a friend and writing partner who had an idea he wanted to bring to life. Between research (because it takes place at a specific historical point in time) and a ride on several heavily emotional, creativity-crippling roller coasters (the loss of both my and George’s fathers, totaling our car), there were large chunks of time which found me staring blankly at my computer screen, kind of like this…

While funny, the pencil under the nose is not conducive to wordsing out a story.

What kind of book is it, you ask? It’s a mystery! No, I’m not refusing to tell you; it’s a mystery novel that’s kind of noir-y and full of disreputable men and tough-as-nails women. And YES! Hooray! It is done, and it’s been pointed out to me more than once that many books are started, but few are finished. The fact remains that I have one of the most patient writing partners in the history of human patience. But we recently made the push to get the final chapters written (hence, again, my lack of presence in blogworld) and are now…

Holy pockets! What did I just say?  Did I say I just finished a goddamned book? Like, it’s here, it’s corporeal, it’s not spinning in the ether anymore?

Shit. Just. Got. Real.

Time to get my editing hat on and make it beautiful before the pitch letters go out.

So that’s why I’ve been decidedly absent from my blog. Philosophizing, writing, teaching a gym class or two (three times a week, what on earth was I thinking?).  And working at a few different jobs in between. I’ve barely even had time to cook; thank goodness George kept me fed, or I would have been reduced to gnawing on dried beans and the questionable contents of those odd jars at the back of the pantry. You know the ones. In back, to the left.

Anyway. I also haven’t been taking many pictures lately, but I’ll leave you with one I snapped on the 4th of July, celebrating with some floating lanterns and some family, down by the river.

Away it goes!

Away it goes!

:) What? I’m not a robot, you know. It hasn’t all been work.

I Love It When Two Things Come Together (in my head, anyway)

Hi blogosphere! It’s been a while. I’ve been insanely busy, which is both good and bad. Good, because some cool stuff has been going on. Bad, because I’ve barely had time to write and I’m chronically sleep-deprived. At least George has kept me reasonably sane and steady, so we have him to thank for that.

More on all this soon.  But first…

You know how sometimes you see two things and you want them to come together so very very much that you make it happen, even if it’s just in your head?  Yup, in the middle of that, right now.

The below video of The Badpiper–the world’s premiere heavy metal bagpiper with pipes that shoot flames–playing AC/DC‘s “Thunderstruck” has been having its way with my Facebook feed lately. Which, you know. Cool. I really do like bagpipes, and there ain’t nothing wrong with a little AC/DC.

Like, HOLY POCKETS THAT DUDE IS SHOOTING FLAMES NEAR HIS HEAD! Right? No wonder he’s got a mohawk. I wonder how often he set his hair on fire before realizing the mohawk was a practical styling option.

Anyway. 

So I watched this and it was awesome, and then I thought, but wait. He could be playing better bagpipes, filled with even more flame-shooting deranged badassery.

He needs this set.

Yes.

Yes.

OMG OMG OMG. Can you imagine this thing shooting flames out its horns? The archetypal trauma alone would be worth the price of a ticket. For what it’s worth, I can picture it all in my head. And it. Is. Fannnnnnnntastic.

If anyone has other suggestions for appropriately mindblowing bagpipes, I’m happy to hear about them! Otherwise…soak in the idea of a little flame-shooting heavy metal goatpipe magic.

See you all soon!  XOXO

Ellis Paul, Wilkes University, June 1 2014

Ellis Paul guesses we didn’t save the LP. Or the 8-track, or the cassingle, or even the CD, as his story about a recently rented car that featured an MP3 port but no CD player will attest. But goddamn it, he’s not giving up an LP (or, in the broader spectrum, non-digital music) without a fight.

Check out the swingin' record player!

Nothing like traveling with a harmonica and a swingin’ record player! I had one kind of like this when I was a kid, but…it also played 78s*. I miss that record player.

*Some of you have no idea what I’m talking about, do you? Add this to the hashtag #whippersnappers.

Not that I can blame him for not giving up the LP…says the girl who has three record players hanging around her house, and regularly has LP-only dance parties in her living room.

Avec l'harmonica!

Avec l’harmonica!

I can’t find a bit of fault for anyone mourning the way the music industry has turned on itself. When everything’s digital, there is no “big picture”. There’s no concept album, there’s no cohesive narrative, there’s no reason to create an album your listeners will play from beginning to end, from the start of Side A to the close of Side B (#whippersnappers, that’s how it was done). There’s not even cool cover art. It’s all short, easily digestible (OK, is debatable) 3-minute bursts of electronica. It’s shortsighted at best, and only provides one tiny sliver of insight into music and humanity and life. For a storyteller…no es bueno.

Storifying us all.

Scoffing in the face of autotune.

See, he said, when everything is digitized and downloadable, there’s nothing to care for. There’s no item that you can hold in your hands, nothing to blow the dust off, no liner notes to read. There’s no fond memories of a tone arm weighted down with a taped-on nickel to ride over the scratches (#whippersnappers).  He did say he’s going to release future recordings on LP, which I will of course be buying. Because it’s vinyl and I can’t help myself.

Speaking of scratches, gearheads, no, you’re not imagining things. There’s duct tape on the guitar. It seems that the appropriately-named (because look at it) guitar, Guinness, had an unfortunate incident during transport, and the airline he was flying on (United, maybe?) cracked it…but of course accepts no responsibility. Saying this guitar has gotten its fair share of dings is an understatement. Maybe there’s a cabal of rogue luthiers trying to boost business by creating unfortunate guitar incidents.  Here’s another picture of it.

Boo boo guitar. Plus rock-star pose.

Boo boo guitar. Plus rock-star pose.

Guinness really is a gorgeous guitar. Want to see it again?

Well, hello, beautiful.

Well, hello, beautiful.

So, Ellis Paul showed up in NEPA and provided a bit of a discourse about the dominance of digitized music. I didn’t expect to have to get all philosophically thinky-like, but there you have it. Inspiration strikes in the oddest places. He did this with a harmonica, a guitar, and a record player for two full hours of storification and musical regalement. And he brought a friend along! Laurie MacAllister from Red Molly stopped in for the least jangly, most soulful rendition of “If I Had a Hammer” that I have ever heard.

Having teh funnies on stage.

Having the private smilies on stage.

All in all, it was a fun evening, though I think I may have set myself up for something. When I went to the merch table (because I’m all cool and in-the-know and say things like “merch”) to get…ummm…merch, I…well, I not only requested (and received!) permission to go on stage and photograph the Official Ellis Paul Touring Record Player….

Record player, with conveniently-placed (not even by me!) non-Guinness acoustic.

Record player, with conveniently-placed (not even by me!) non-Guinness acoustic.

…BUT I decided to toss out a pitch for a song. “Next time you’re in PA,” I began, and he added, “Which is in a few weeks.”

Oh, right. I remembered that as soon as he said it. I mean, he doesn’t normally come back to this area so quickly. But you know? Too late to stop now.

“Next time, would it be possible for you to do “Paris in a Day”? Because I would love that forever.” What I didn’t say is, it would go right next to that little spot in my heart where his 2003, Austin TX, Cactus Cafe performance of “Conversation with a Ghost” lives, and I would blow it kisses and nurture the memory and work it into my mental loop of awesome things that keep me happy. Because it is goddamned “Paris in a Day” and all other arguments are invalid. 

He said, “You know, I was just listening to that song on the way up here today.”

Really? D’oh!  Ahem. So. Looks like I’m going to Bethlehem, because if he does polish up that chestnut and I’m not there? I’m the worst fan ever.

Yeah. See you in a few weeks.

Yes you would be, he seemed to say.

Who’s with me?

I mean, really, if he doesn’t play “Paris…”, the worst that will happen is we’ll see a really good show.

Here’s “Paris in a Day” to play you out. And “Conversation with a Ghost”, for good measure.

Sad but true. And yes, I own this. And it's not an LP.

Sad but true. And yes, I own this. And it’s not an LP.

Meanwhile, At The Restaurant: No, It’s To-Go

The other night, George and I were out at a local restaurant. A family of four came in; Mom, Dad, two little boys who, if I had to guess, were like 4 and 6. It was kind of late-ish for kids to be out eating (it had to be at least 8:00) so the boys were hungry and cranky. Dad was an impatient manly-man, so when the lone waiter working the entire front of the restaurant and seating new diners during this busy night didn’t attend to them in the first minute of them standing there, Dad took matters into his own hands. And sat his family down at the table next to us. Yay.

So they order, and the kids’ food comes out, and then Dad’s food comes out, but Mom’s is delayed because the kitchen was backed up. Ah, well, such is life, right? So the couple will talk and take care of the kids while they wait for Mom’s food, right? And if Dad were so hungry he had to eschew manners and eat immediately, then maybe he’d offer Mom a little bit from his plate so she could nibble too while waiting, right?  Yeah.  Only no.  Instead, Dad proceeded to pull out his goddamned phone and Facebook (or whatever) while he ate. Ignoring his entire family. Ignoring the wife who wasn’t eating yet. Leaving her to contend with two tired, squirrelly kids on her own. While he was sitting right there next to them all. And when her meal came…well, words fail. It looked a little something like this.

The only thing I've exaggerated here is the size of his brow.

The only thing I’ve exaggerated here is the size of his brow.

(Remember, WordPress screwed f*ed us with their photo editing changes, so there is no “open in new window” option.)

That’s right. HE FACEBOOKED THROUGH HIS OWN MEAL, AND THEN WOULDN’T LET HIS WIFE EAT HER DINNER.

And for the record, when the one little boy knocked his water glass over and spilled most of it into his mother, guess who got up to help her clean up, get fresh napkins for the table, and alerted the waiter there was a spill?  Most people would think, oh, it was the other adult at the table, because that’s what responsible, thinking, caring adults in a relationship do for one another, right?

BZZT. Wrong. It was me. I helped her. I helped get her table cleaned. ME.

Sigh. I don’t even know what else to say about this except: If you’re this guy and you’re reading this, then understand that I only have the best of intentions when I tell you, you are a douchebag. Only because I hope you recognize it to be true, and want to change your douchebaggy ways. Your kids deserve a father who’s present and engaged, not some…douchebag, really, it’s the word that fits…who trawls his phone during dinner, exhibits no sign of joy or interest in his own family, who shows such…you know, it’s not even disrespect, it’s total douchey disregard, for his wife. I don’t know if getting your wife’s food to go shows you’re the control freak type of douchebag, or if you’re the sort of douchebag who is douchebaggy thanks to a wretched cavern in your soul filled with cluelessness but dude, when a stranger at the next table and the waiter have more concern for your wife’s well being than you do?

You’re doing it wrong.

So…this happened.

While wasting time on Facebook (which I do way, waaaay too much, and I really need to reign that in, but I digress), I reposted a picture from George Takei‘s FB feed. Kind of funny, kind of saucy, totally double-entendre *tee hee*-ish.  And then my mom commented on said picture. See below.

*tee hee*

*tee hee*

So ha ha and it’s kind of cute and funny, because it looks like my mom doesn’t get the minxy kind of sexyjoking.  Right?  Right?  Oh, naive mother of mine.  Of course, she has had five kids, but who wants to let reality and logic get in the way of personal narrative?

Then I got this text from my mother.

mom rodwork text

D’oh!

o.0

Bow-chicka-bow-WHOA!!!

*cough cough*

Thanks, Mom. Is that my own comedy petard you’ve just hoist me in?

I’m going to be laughing about this for weeks.

The Walking Dead, S4 Ep 9: After

WILL THERE BE SPOILERS? OF COURSE THERE WILL BE SPOILERS! I’M TALKING ABOUT A TV SHOW. CONSIDER YOURSELF ALERTED.

Welcome back, The Walking DeadOh, how I have missed you.  It’s hard to get through the week without a fix of issues-laden zombie mayhem. Om nom nom. Oh, the (lack of) humanity.

Season 4, Episode 9 of The Walking Dead picks up about five minutes after where the mid-season finale left off. Or maybe more like an hour later.  Or whatever, it was soon enough for the zombies to still be shambling anew into the smoking hull that was the prison refuge, and long enough for all the principal characters to have scattered but good.

This is a focus episode that examines the relationship between Rick and Carl, and explains Michonne‘s back story, which flows into her present timeline.

So. First up: Rick & Carl.

And don’t mind the quality of the pictures. It’s…a long story. Anyway.

Carl? Buddy? Son? Hey pal. Buddy? Hey. Carl? Carl?

Carl? Buddy? Son? Hey pal. Buddy? Hey. Carl? Carl?

OK, Carl. I know you’re a child warrior/surly teen who has come of age in the nightmarish hellscape of a zombie apocalypse. But fo’ real, kid. Your dad has a chest full of broken ribs and was strangled to within seconds of his life…could you at least wait up for him? He’s not quite the walking dead (though he’s got that dreadful wheeze down), but he’s certainly the walking barely-alive. So, blah blah, they find a house and hole up in it, blah blah, Carl is cranky and doesn’t want to do what his dad tells him to do, blah blah he has a laundry list of resentments because shit has once again magnificently fallen apart and Rick is always to blame. (I will grant him new rage for the possible-death of baby Judith, about whose fate we are none the wiser. Sadly, Michonne doesn’t have her, so boo! I was wrong about that.) He seems to keep forgetting that the Governor showed up with a tank, took hostages and unleashed a killing spree unto their makeshift family and really, Carrrr-rul (dialect coach: get on that, will you?), it’s hard to point the finger at anyone else except the tankmaster.

But no, go ahead. Blame your dad. It’s nice to know parent issues don’t go out of style.

I kind of get where he’s coming from. Carl finds a teen boy’s room that’s got a stack of video games still in it, and it’s totally the kind of kid he could have been in a world less mad. That becomes metaphoric to his conduct. He doesn’t scavenge successfully, he “wins”. He doesn’t recklessly dispatch zombies; he “wins”. It sounds a little like he’s had some of Charlie Sheen’s tiger blood and a little like he doesn’t get that if he dies in this game, there’s no reset button BUT, more to the point, is he’s totally being an angry teen in the middle of this crazy-ass world.

#winning

#winning
If you can’t tell, it reads: Walker inside. Got my shoe, didn’t get me.

Which is oddly charming. I just wish he wasn’t acting out against Rick when he’s so clearly incapacitated. It makes Carl seem petulant and a little power-grabby (sure, fight your dad when he can’t fight back). At first. Then Carl thinks Rick is dead and reanimating, and suddenly Carl is a little boy again.  A little boy who’s already iced his mom so she didn’t turn zombie. What’s to stop him from taking out the grasping, zombie-sound-emitting Rick, with whom he’s already angry, against whose defenseless, sleeping (possibly dying) form he’s unleashed a barrage of snarling teener rage?

Am I the only one who's getting a little Michelangelo "The Creation of Adam" here?

Am I the only one who’s getting a little Michelangelo “The Creation of Adam” here?

But he can’t do it alone, doesn’t want to do it alone, isn’t ready to be the Alpha dog.  Finally, Carl faces that he’s afraid of being all by himself. It’s a legitimate fear, I don’t know if I could do it either. Afterwards?  They sit down and eat cereal together, because when Carl and Rick bond, they eat things. Which is also metaphoric, I suppose, but at least the things they eat aren’t people.

Now. Michonne.

Since her introduction, Michonne has been a katana-twirling killing machine. Kind of a loner because really, who wants to hang out in the woods with a woman with two armless, mouthless zombies chained to her?

It will create a smell buffer, they said.

It will create a smell buffer, they said.
Image from sciencefiction.com

Alone again and in the woods, Michonne makes a new set of zombie “pets” (that’s what they call them and I hate it, but still) and starts…what…?

On that road to nowhere.

On that road to nowhere.

Aimlessly wandering. Inside a hissing, gurgling pack of zombies. Her placid sort of resignation to a lifeless fate marked by empty wandering kind of reminded me a little bit of the meat grinder scene from Pink Floyd’s ThWall.  

Forward to about 4:10 of the video if you just want to see what I’m talking about.

Michonne was walking, and not dead, but certainly not engaging in anything meaningful or humanity-building. While she was walking with the zombies I kept wondering when and how she would stop. How do you stop to…pee? or eat?…without giving yourself away? And you know she wasn’t always the whirling-blade-of-doom survivalist we’ve come to know and love. In this episode, we find out that her katana-wielding ways came about only as a result of the zombie apocalypse. We already suspected she’d had a past that wasn’t quite as intensely martial-arty.  What we didn’t know was that she had a past that was…well…straight-on arty-arty.

Hey Grumpy Gus! Cheer up; it’s brie!

In a flashback dream-fugue sequence we see Michonne hanging out at home with her boyfriend, his friend, and her baby for an afternoon of fruit and cheese and discussions about what makes art, art. Which then segues into the boyfriend and friend debating whether or not to leave their camp, not understanding their new roles in their unfamiliar world while she discovered her facility with a sword. Which then segues into them, armless, ready to be made into the first set of zombie pets we had seen her chained to, and the baby? Sigh. Out of the picture.

And so she is walking. And walking. And maybe not thinking. And walking. Because what else has she got to live for? Until she sees her twinsie zombie.

20140210_121451

-Well, I am just beside myself…uh…
-Hello, self.

This triggers in Michonne a “George Bailey goes a-killin’, I want to live again” moment, wherein she becomes a dervish of woe, destroys the zombie pack she was losing herself into (because let’s face it, it would only be a matter of time until she let her guard down and then? Om nom nom and see you on the undead side) and hits the road in search of her companions, who can’t be that far since almost everyone is on foot.

May God have mercy on my enemies, for I shall not.

May God have mercy on my enemies, for I shall not.

Bonus: She finds Rick & Carl eating cereal. YAY! We take our happy endings where we can find them, in the postapocalyptic zombie world.

Double-bonus: Next week we see what’s happening with Daryl. He’s in the woods with Whatsherface, the blonde and uninteresting chick who’s Hershel’s other daughter.  Beth?  Yeah. That’s it.

And this song’s a dedication going out to the lovers out there…Michonne and Rick, so glad to see you back together again.

Peaches and Herb, “Reunited”. Take notes if this is new to you. There will be a quiz.

See you all next week!

Life Hack: How to Gym

As 2013 winds down (thank GOD) and New Year’s resolutions come into focus, there will be plenty of people venturing into previously uncharted self-improvement territory.  They’ll sign up for that French class, swear to read books more and Facebook less, scrupulously count calories, chew countless wads of Nicorette.  They will also swell the ranks of gym memberships.  For the first three weeks of the year, my Zumba class is going to be packed, and time on the treadmill or arc trainer will be at a premium.  And then?  Newbies will start to fade away, because gymming it hasn’t worked out as they expected.  I’ve seen it happen the last two years.  I’ve done it myself.

This is all true.

This is all true.
Image from loldamn.com

Working a lifestyle change into a daily schedule is hard enough in the best of times, never mind a change that thrusts you into a new environment where your vulnerability is at its peak. You’re publicly declaring that you’re flawed and want a change, and you don’t know the people around you/how to Zumba (or lift, or Step, or what the hell is an arc trainer?)/your own limits.  And you’re around a bunch of people who seem like they have it together within this strange new world.  What’s not to be scared of?  What’s not to find intimidating?

I get it, I do.  I’ve got a lifetime of avoided workouts under my belt and a bunch of unhealthy living I’ve had to undo.  Thus, I am here to help the intimidated, the uninitiated, the lost-at-sea-in-the-weight-room.  Here are five tips to help you gym it like a veteran and approach this sweaty domain with a more positive, less “I am an athletic freak show”  perspective.

1) You aren’t going to be able to do everything the instructors (and gym/class regulars) do, perfectly, from the start, every time.  And THAT IS OKAY.  It’s more than okay; it’s expected.  That’s why they have instructors, see?  We weren’t born downloading Zumba routines into our brains from the Matrix, and we didn’t spring fully-formed to life in the gym with the innate knowledge of a clean-and-press.  These things take time and practice.  I’ve been doing Zumba for two years so I can rock it with the best of them, but in Step class?  I am the low impact derp.  But I’m getting better every time, and that’s what matters.

Fact.

I know this all too well.
Image taken from pinterest.com

And speaking of Step class…

2) Try everything.  You may think you just want a place with weight machines and a treadmill, and then find you love kickboxing.  Mixing up your workouts prevents boredom, which is an attendance killer.  Plus, different workouts push you in different ways.  I thought I would just want Zumba and for the longest time gave the hand to Step classes.  I broke my ankle a few years ago, I’m a little bit clumsy on the best of days, I was afraid of stepping and jumping and falling and re-injuring.  Then I got talked into Step classes.  Now I look forward to them, and regularly test my limits.  That doesn’t happen all the time; Body Attack still makes me want to stab myself in the face.  But I feel that way about it because I don’t like it, not because I’m afraid of it and haven’t tried it.

p.s. I did fall once, in Step.  And I survived.  I do Body Attack if it’s the workout that fits into my schedule.  And I survive.  Lesson = learned.

3) DO. NOT. ROLL. YOUR. EYES. AT. ME.  Don’t roll your eyes at me, don’t roll your eyes at the instructor, don’t roll your eyes when staring down a difficult exercise.  The instructor’s job is to challenge you.  Your job is to work toward that challenge.  If you don’t like it, go home.  Do NOT try to make me your eyeball-rolling ally, because it will not happen, newbie.  I’m there to work my ass off, not be your sister in snark and give you tacit permission to opt out.  Now go squat.  SQUAAAAAAAAAAT.

Also, don’t talk over the instructor when they’re trying to tell the class something.  They usually have information you’ll want, so listen to their tips on correct form or how to adapt an exercise for skill level, and really?  Do you have to text while you’re on the bike in Spin class?  Really?

If you feel like you’re not getting anything out of going to the gym, ask yourself how much you’re putting in, in the first place.

But you've got to take part to get there.

You’ve got to do your part to get there.
Image from wineandbutter.com

4) Joining a gym with a friend is good.  Making that friend the only thing that gets you to the gym?  Not so much.

Here’s the story: I joined my gym because my friend Amy goes there, and yes, it’s easier to walk into a gym with a buddy at your side than without. But if you walk through those doors solo, nobody’s going to hit you with a stick, I promise.  As life goes, Amy and I have wildly different priorities.  Example: she has kids.  I don’t.  Sometimes, she’s got to go to tae kwon do or Girl Scouts or a birthday party and can’t make it to the gym.  So…if she can’t go, does that mean I shouldn’t go?

The answer, for those playing at home, is no.  Of course not.  When our workouts can coincide, that’s great and we have fun, but when they don’t, I still want to feel great and have fun.  Zumba is ON!  Amy doesn’t have to walk around in my skin, feel my sluggishness when I’ve not gotten exercise, deal with my couch potato bloat.  I do.  And as much as I like having a gym buddy, it’s still my responsibility to myself that should matter most.  Have I relied on friends to get me to the gym when I’m feeling unmotivated?  Absolutely.  But the person that’s gotten me to the gym on a regular basis?  Is me.  It’s what happens when you make yourself a priority instead of a dependent variable.

5) Stop.  Worrying.  About what other people think of you.  About what you think other people think of you.  You know what the other people in your gym think about?  They’re thinking about their own workout, about how their lungs are in their throats or how their arms are reaching that fatigue point.  They’re thinking about their next water break or their form.  What they’re not thinking about?  Is you.  Unless they’re the people who are worrying about what you think of them.  More often than not, we get in our own way.  Stop looking around.  Don’t look at me, don’t look at the guy next to you, and for the love of all that is holy don’t look at the clock.  Look at the person in the front of the room, whose job is to help you.  Let your ego go and be in the moment.  You’ll be fine.

The Oatmeal can explain it all for you.  (Click here for the full comic (this is just the first panel), and you should because it’s worth it.)

the oatmeal gym

Notice, it’s all what we imagine, then impose upon ourselves.
Image from theoatmeal.com

Happy gymming!  See you ’round the arc trainer!

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