Friday, August 29, 2003

Look it up...
Let me just say, genius. Pure genius.

Never before (and I suspect never again) has a television show so captured the thoughts and feelings of modern-day Americans, and additionally, external opinions of our society, as one family sitcom. They’ve captured the attention of this and other nations for nearly 14 years in a flawless manner that others have tried, and failed, to duplicate.

I am speaking, of course, of “The Simpsons.”

What a masterpiece! This show boasts oodles of awards, billions of dollars in revenue and millions of adoring fans.

You might say, “So what. Lot’s of show’s have millions of fans. The Simpsons aren’t that special.” My friend, you couldn’t be more wrong, and I’ll tell you why.

I could post nearly as many arguments highlighting the uniqueness of “The Simpsons” as there are lunchbox toting, episode quoting fans, but there is really only one thing that I can say to sum up my case and point: “D’oh!”

That’s right people. On June 14, 2001, “D’oh” was officially inducted into the dictionary making it an official word in the English language. And not just any dictionary: The Oxford English Dictionary! And we all know that Brits are smarter (or at least, they act that way), so accept it, respect it, use it. “The Simpsons” lingo is a part of your English vocabulary now and forever more.

Because “The Simpsons” are celebrating the release of their third complete season this week, I, as a “Simpsons” devotee, feel it necessary to rejoice in my own humble fashion. In light of that decision, I have decided to provide you with a list of what I feel are the top 10 episodes (in no particular order) of the past 14 glorious years:

1) “Radioactive Man” – Milhouse: “We’ve done the Jimminy Jilikers scene. We’ve done it so many times that the words have lost all meaning!”
2) “Who Shot Mr. Burns- Parts 1 & 2” – Where else can you get a murder mystery with such suspense and such an unlikely culprit? Quality.
3) “Bart After Dark” – When Bart stumbles upon a burlesque theatre, it takes a musical number featuring Springfield’s residents to save it.
4) “Guess Who’s Coming to Criticize Dinner” – Homer as a food critic. Lisa: “Dad, don’t eat it! It’s fat-free!”
5) “Tree house of Horror IX” – By far the best in a long line of Halloween classics. It’s the one where Homer’s hair tries to kill Bart, Bart and Lisa get sucked into “The Itchy and Scratchy Show” and it is revealed that Marge was impregnated by an alien (Maggie’s father).
6) “The Great Money Caper” – The whole town plays along in a prank to teach Bart and Homer a lesson in grifting. Then they go surfing...
7) “The Bart Wants What it Wants” – Bart and Milhouse compete over a girl in Canada. Milhouse: “The house always wins!”
8) “Trilogy of Error” – Everyone’s stories are contingent upon the others’. Pure genius.
9) “A Tale of Two Springfields” – Homer becomes mayor of “Old Springfield.” They have no utilities, but survive by bringing in beer and The Who.
10) “Homerpalooza” – Homer goes to Lalapalooza and takes cannonballs to the gut.

Here’s to many more years with Springfield’s finest!

Thursday, August 28, 2003

Good 'ol Ramen...
I uttered a phrase today that I swore would never escape my lips: I miss college.

I miss sprinting to class on two hours sleep, wearing my pajamas and splashing coffee all over myself.

I miss classes being over by noon on Friday and knowing that I had nothing to think about all weekend long, but the party on Saturday night and what type of pizza my roommates and I would consume that evening.

I even miss living in a dorm with 30 of my closest friends living right down the hall or even in the same room as me.

Every college student dreams of life after school. After all, we’d spent all of our recollected lives in classrooms and working grunt jobs just to have money for weekend trips to Taco Bell (and if we were feeling saucy, Chili’s). We fantasized about the day when we would hold our first paycheck and be able to announce aloud, “This round’s on me!”

Now here I sit, my diploma staring me in the face, eight months after I skipped merrily across the stage to the tune of “Pomp and Circumstance,” coveting my Tuesday morning “Mass Media and Society” naptimes.

What prompted my nostalgic attitude towards the good ‘ol undergrad days?

It could be my discussion with a co-worker about wanting to get my Master’s degree “someday” (did I really say that out loud?). Or it could have been the interview I had over at FAU where I listened intently to a student stressing to a professor her need for curriculum advice. Or maybe it’s the Homecoming reunion I am tying to organize with my alumni friends for October.

I think what it really boils down to, though, is responsibility.

I am at a unique point in my life, which friends and family alike have assured me is a passing phase. I am caught somewhere in between being an adult, with freedoms beyond anything I’ve ever known, and being a child, longing for the days of carefree life and irresponsibility.

As a child, I could easily say, “Hey, let’s go get a drink tonight! It’s only midnight!” As an adult, I know the more responsible way to go would be to say, “No thanks, I’ve got work tomorrow.”

At the age of 23, I find myself sitting on the brink of what I want to do and what I have the potential to be.

As I sat in my first self-subsidized apartment tonight, I came to a realization. The first step to being an adult is to realize that I have nothing of myself to lose, and only a lifetime of learning to gain.

I can be absolutely anything I want to be. Knowing that is the greatest freedom that exists in the world today.

Adulthood isn’t about eating ice cream before dinner or having a beer on a Wednesday night- It’s about being free to determine your own destiny and the path that you wish to follow.

I still keep in touch with a few of my teachers who have been supportive of me for many years. I know that they will read my “revelation” and chuckle, because they knew all along.

Nothing anyone can teach you in school can prepare you for the challenges “real life” will throw your way. When my teachers looked at me and my classmates, they weren’t fooled. They knew who would make it and who would be left behind to ponder their place in the world. They gave us all of the tools and then left us to sink or swim.

As a bonafide adult, with rent and utilities due and everything, I feel that I have a true understanding of what this world has to offer and what I have to give in return.

How do I know? Because I have just figured out that the world is a college classroom, and everyone is a professor in the game of life.

I still like leaving dirty dishes in the sink and eating Ramen noodles, though.

Monday, August 18, 2003

Reuniting with the bartender...
High school reunions provide numerous valuable opportunities. The opportunities to reacquaint with old friends, act nostalgic about your “golden years” or even rekindle an old flame are plentiful.

After attending a friend’s 10-year high school reunion this past weekend, it is safe to say that I have assessed the primary goal for all attendees of the prom-like promenade: to show everyone that you are better than you were when they knew you.

Reunions cause a great deal of undue stress amongst attendees. Everyone wants to go looking better and feeling better about their lives. Reunions staged as an event for “reuniting” have a subtle way of turning into a “whose life is better than whose” contest.

During this particular reunion, I knew nobody and had plenty of opportunities to make observations and form twisted opinions of participants as they gathered in droves in misshapen lines at the bar. The combination of long lost friends (and foes) and alcohol made for rather humorous scenery and quite predictable results.

I hung back and chatted with other non-class-of-93 reunion goers. The room was packed with friends, fiancĂ©es, spouses and miscellaneous others who were conned into attending by class members who did not want to arrive on the scene alone. We were of little interest to former students, because we did not know them in high school, couldn’t have passed judgement on them and are therefore not worth impressing.

Many people can be excluded from the generalizations that I am about to make concerning attendees. Some really did attend in the hopes of catching up with old friends and introducing new ones, however those who can be classified into obvious groups, are certainly more fun to write about.

Based on my observations, men go to reunions for two reasons: to reflect desperately upon their glory days and to show former bullies that their hand-picked bodyguards can take them down.

Many of the men I encountered were the guys in high school that got picked on and made to feel inferior. They flocked to the opportunity to show off the trophy girls and designer suits that their rocket scientist salaries have secured them like moths to a flame. The classic example that I noted of this practice was a rather short, gangly looking man clinging onto a 5 foot 10 inch model wearing a “dress,” which covered only the parts of her body required by law. The attraction there is a no-brainer.

On the other side of the room, balding former football heroes slugged down beers and thought they could hang onto some shred of their glory days by slapping each other on the butt and flexing the remnants of their muscles. This practice became even more acceptable the more drinks they consumed.

Women are slightly sneaker in their reunion objectives. They will begin preparing for the event more than a year in advance in some cases. Workout regiments will have been established and conditions will have been set (“I’m only going if I lose 15 pounds by the day of the reunion...”).

Women sidle up to each other under the pretense of a quick hello and nostalgic chat. Before you know it, you are bombarded by baby pictures, have been gaily introduced to a bored-looking husband and inundated with their Cinderella life story that has occurred since your previous meeting. Reunion attendee tip: believe about half of the stories, and you might get an accurate depiction of any given person’s life.

In the end, you realize that it’s all politics. Nobody wants to hear about your life. They only want to fascinate you with theirs. People will even begin their conversation with, “How are you?” in order to get a cookie cutter response (“Great!”). Then when you ask the obligatory return question, that is when the floodgates open.

Overall we had a great time, but not with the crowd we had expected. Old friends completely consumed with informing everyone of their picture perfect lives will prove to be a lot less fun to spend the evening with than strangers you meet for the first time. Conversations with those people typically go as follows:

“Did we have English together?”
“No, I don’t think so.”
“Cool, let’s dance!”
"Right on!"

After all is said and done, you feel good knowing that you caught up with old friends and even better knowing that you don’t have to see them for another 15 years. You bask in the glow of attention from new friends. But most importantly, you go home thinking that you were the best-looking, most successful person in the room, and everyone knows it. At least, that’s what you told them!

Friday, August 15, 2003

The scariest word of all...
Vulnerable is the word du jour being used by media types across the country to describe the blackout situation that effected 50 million people in the Northeastern United States and Canada yesterday. The lights are out, systems are down and we are vulnerable.

Vulnerability is a scary term in this day and age. Before 9-11, a girl would use it to describe her emotional status after a bad break-up. A guy might use it to describe the defense of a pro-team after a notable team member got injured. Vulnerability certainly was not fun, but it was not life-threatening.

Now here we stand, nearly two years since the worst attack on U.S. soil since Pearl Harbor was carried out. Billions of dollars have been spent on “homeland security” by the Bush administration. Hundreds of thousands were shipped away from their families to a foreign land to stamp out a possible, unproven breeding ground of future terrorist attacks.

As a nation we have formed international alliances and pulled together on our own soil to secure our way of life. We have even endured with a begrudging nod the rigors of airport security and the scare tactics they have inflicted upon our society. We have cowered in corners, afraid for our lives, and we have stood tall on the borders and shouted our dedication to our country.

All this, and yet in one swift motion, we are vulnerable.

I’ve been dealing with similar patterns of vulnerability in my own life, and I am sure many others go through these cycles too. Sometimes when things start going well, we consider ourselves invincible. No one can touch us, because we have dotted all of the T’s and crossed all the I’s.

Then something unexpected happens and we are vulnerable.

Someone second-guesses your brilliant ideas or the veracity of your conclusions. Someone disagrees with the way you work or the value of what your work produces. You are vulnerable.

Sometimes it doesn’t even take that much. Sometimes an unpredictable roadblock, such as a financial difficulty or even the death of a loved one can cause you to open your eyes and see that you are human. You have no control. You are vulnerable.

To the millions without power, and to the handful of us who are experiencing the frightening sensation of vulnerability, I say, remember that life cannot be lived by looking backwards. Don’t spend your life in fear that someone or something might come along and break you down. That can only happen if you allow it. Sometimes the greatest thinking, followed by the greatest actions come from a situation labeled as “out of control.”

I’ll close with a brilliant piece of wisdom from an old school classic, The Mighty Ducks: “Don’t be too careless, but don’t be too careful either.” Chew on that today when you have more than one option. Sometimes the path of vulnerability can also be the path to greatness.

Wednesday, August 13, 2003

The boy who cried "traffic!"...
I have occupied a large number of towns in my life. I’ve lived in large, metropolitan cities, as well as tiny, quaint towns.

I’ve come to discover that no matter where I choose to unpack my bags, one issue remains universal throughout every town, city and county in this country: traffic.

Road rage is a disease that plagues almost every traveler that goes head-to-head with routine daily traffic. We are all “warriors of the road,” acting as if we are the masters of our own driving destiny.

I am certainly not exempt when it comes to the subjects of aggressive driving and road rage. It is a commonly known (and should be a widely accepted) fact that everyone on the road with me is wrong and I am right. If everyone else would see things my way, the commuting world would be in perfect harmony, but I digress.

Traffic issues are paramount in the decision making processes of every town. No building, house or road can exist without opposition being voiced based on traffic.

Being a road rage addict, if you will, I can see the merit of these concerns in many instances. If the traffic situation in a community is unbearable and expansion of a town’s facilities will only agitate the situation, I will stand up and cry “traffic troubles!” at the top of my lungs.

What I do not agree with, however, is the usage of the traffic arguments in providing a protective blanket around those who routinely oppose expansion. In essence, these people are crying “traffic trouble!” in a similar manor to the boy who cried wolf.

If people continue to attempt to shield their towns from prospective changes by continuously alleging traffic issues, one of two things could happen to negatively impact their home-sweet-homes.

1) Everyone will commiserate with residents’ traffic woes and no expansion will ever be allowing. Such an outcome would create terrible economic repercussions for the town. Spending would eventually come to a halt as new residents would find the town uninhabitable.
2) No one would listen, assuming that traffic woes are over-exaggerated and “old hap,” and expansion would burst beyond capacity, creating even more dangerous and hazardous traffic situations.

The point I’m trying, in a long-winded manor, I grant you, to make is that traffic concerns are real, and should be taken seriously when considering land development issues. It should not, however, play the key roll in shooting down feasible expansion efforts before they are given a chance to get off the ground.

Monday, August 11, 2003

I'm baaaaaaack...
After a three week sabatical, I am back, and in rare form, posting blogs for your reading enjoyment. I have been extremely busy with my new job, which is awesome, so I fear that I will not be able to post as frequently as before. I will be writing a column for my paper, The Jupiter Courier, and I will post those comments, in addition to random other stories. I hope you enjoy. Please keep checking in if you feel the need to follow my life story!

I apologize in advance for the length of my column below. It's been awhile...
Weekday Warrior...
For most people, the first week of work at a new job involves a lot of tedium. 20 people feel the need to show you where the water cooler is. You learn that Bob in accounting is not the same person as Bob in marketing. And you lie awake at night wondering if you signed away your first-born child in that mountain of paperwork you signed.

When I signed on as a reporter for the Jupiter Courier, I was unaware that I would spend my first week studying 30 years of local litigation, mingling with celebrities and putting my life in mortal danger.

On day one my job was masquerading as a “normal” position. I filled out the forms, I watched the safety videos (“If your phone receiver is causing you discomfort, ask your supervisor to order you a headset immediately.”) and I did the office tour.
I went home that night, my head swimming with random factoids, and feeling overwhelmed by the magnitude of my responsibilities. Being a recent college graduate, I panicked wondering if I would be able to cut it in this high-pressure, no-nonsense profession. Nothing they can teach you in a classroom could have prepared me for day two.

I spent the day wandering around my new hometown with my co-workers, learning, and quickly forgetting, the names of all of my would-be future contacts. My reporting beat extends to everything from crime to court to business, and, as I learned that day, country music.
After racing around learning the ropes during the exhausting afternoon, I was handed my first “breaking story.” I hopped in my non-air-conditioned car (donations to my cause are appreciated) and raced down to the Castaways bar for an exclusive interview with Country Music Television personality Lance Smith.

Now here I am, sitting in a lounge chair next to a celebrity on the beach at a bar in the middle of the afternoon thinking, I definitely picked the right career. Then I went to Jupiter’s Town Council meeting.

Things were moving right along, and I made the mistake of thinking that this wasn’t so bad. Unfortunately, a long-winded speaker caused my fellow reporter and I to take turns snoring and jabbing each other in the ribs.
Day three was fairly normal, as far as a reporter’s normalcy goes. I spent the day pouring through legal documents and making phone calls to attempt to comprehend some shred of what I was reading (I did, in fact inform my supervisor that I am medically in need of a headset. Thanks safety video!).
It wasn’t until day four that the roof caved in. Literally.

I went about my business and was preparing to do some interviews around town when I found myself standing outside in the middle of a torrential downpour.

After hearing on the radio that tornados were tearing up my neighborhood, I decided that going home was not an option.
Seeing as I was already drenched, I pulled my car over and decided to take some pictures of the cars plowing their way through the flooded roads. That is when my life flashed before my eyes.

I took, what is in my opinion, the “shot of the year” of a large SUV splashing quickly through a lake-deep puddle. But the world almost did not know how good of a picture I took, because the tidal wave produced by the bewildered traveler collapsed over me as I turned and ducked, tucking the camera under my sopping wet shirt.

I finally made it home to a dark, damp apartment to change clothes and walk my mystified puppy. I unfortunately could not do anything to tame my water-primed bouffant hairdo, as I foolishly discovered after attempting to start my hair dryer with no electricity.
I hustled as best as I could on the parking lot known as I-95 to the site of a tornado-torn shopping plaza in order to chat with shaken witnesses. The rain was still pounding, turning my window-sealed car into a sauna, and I once again risked my life speeding down the road, talking on my cell phone, receiving instructions from my anxious editor.

I left work at 11 o’clock at night feeling drained, yet exhilarated. After four days of anxiety and self-doubt, I heaved a sigh of relief, knowing that whatever day five had to throw at me, I was ready for. Silly me.

I rolled into work on less than five hours of sleep wearing a Hawaiian shirt (Friday office policy) and deeply anticipating a weekend away from the newsroom. The Miami Dolphins had their first pre-season game, and I was going to be there, barring typhoon or hurricane (since we’ve already established that I can handle tornados).

Hawaiian shirt Friday brought the promise of concealment in the office, typing away at stories and interviewing over the phone. However, who should choose to meet me in person that day for the first time, but the mayor.

I felt ridiculous, and even forewarned Mayor Golonka of my casual appearance, but nothing she could say while wearing her professional, pin-striped business suit could make me feel less cheesy and inappropriate. Well, at least she’ll remember who I am. That kid in the Hawaiian shirt and sandals. What a legacy.

Despite numerous interruptions, I stayed on top of things, blocked out all distractions and got my work done, but anyone who has read this far into my story should know that at 4:30 p.m., a glitch arose and our main system shut down as tornado warnings filled the office.
I finally snuck out and made it in time to see the forth quarter of the Dolphins game. The guard laughed as he waved me into the parking lot, and remarked, “A little late, aren’t ya?” You think?

After all was said and done, I sat with a friend and reflected upon my first week on the job with a beer and a smile. I cannot wait to see what happens next week.