If You Don’t Like It, Why Didn’t You Stop Me An Hour Ago?

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1. “Hey, What’s Going On?”

Not a whole lot. The budget situation in Madison is still going strong, but it’s happening on more of a legal level than a ‘storm the Capitol and get pneumonia’ level, which is fine with me. Tensions are high, stakes are through the roof, and with a State Supreme Court election taking place on April 5, the pieces are in place for one hell of a turbulent Summer here in Dane County.

On the home front, things are great. The Missus is committed to eating healthier, so she’s been cooking up a storm with vegetables and herbs that I didn’t know existed weeks ago (what the hell is ‘lettuce?’). We also got in on a local cropshare with contractual best friends Ben and Sherry, so we’ll be up to our asses in hippie kale and co-op cauliflower for the next 20 weeks. We’re both losing weight (she’s on a diet and I assume I have undiagnosed diabetes), I’ve been playing the drums again so my arms are sexily toned (not pictured), and Spring will be just what we need to get out and stick to the game plan.

The cats have nothing new to report.

2. “Hey, Your New Book Is Too Expensive. Lower The Price And I’ll Buy It, Okay?”

Sounds good to me. From here on out, copies of Aerating The Mashed Potatoes (a book that received no press, no reviews and no feedback to speak of, yet still managed to move a bungload of copies in the first few months of publication from word of mouth alone) will cost $12.95. Digital copies for your Nook, Kindle or iPad will cost an astonishing $4.95.

Oh, and if you order before Friday, enter the promotional code ‘SPLISH305’ at the checkout to take an ADDITIONAL 20% OFF your purchase price. Are you kidding me? Do this now.

Not too shabby, so pick up a copy and add it to your Summer reading list, please. You’ll LOLZ3RZ, and that’s a promise. Help me raise enough money to buy a new car; my Mercury Sable gets three miles to the gallon, and it’s time to sacrifice mid-class, turn-of-the-century luxury and get something more economical. Like a boat.

I’d love to lower the cost of 65 Poor Life Decisions, but it’s available in stores, and if I undercut Barnes & Noble, I’ve been assured that I will be thrown in jail. Best to leave that one alone.

3. “Hey, What Are You Watching?”

The usual. However, we’re less than a week away from Opening Day for the Milwaukee Brewers, as they begin the season with a ton of expectation on their backs. FSN North carries about 140 Brewers games this year, and I plan on watching every one of them, much to the Missus’ chagrin. Her adoration of Prince Fielder, his afro and his wild mood swings will have to pull her through on the lonelier nights.

The Chicago Code is my favorite new show of the season. If you can start from the beginning on the Internet, I recommend you do so.

The new season of The Ultimate Fighter premieres tonight on Spike TV. If you’re new to Mixed Martial Arts and are looking for a gateway into the sport, watch this show. The coaches this year are wrestling powerhouse and former UFC Heavyweight Champion Brock Lesnar, and Brazilian destroyer Junior Dos Santos. Should be good, yet the jury’s still out on which one will speak better English.

4. “Hey, What Are You Listening To?”

Every year around this time, the snow begins to melt and I get nostalgic, listening to some of my favorite albums from my teen years. Current bands making the rotation in my car are The Ataris (Anywhere But Here), The Mr. T Experience (Revenge Is Sweet & So Are You), The Hippos (Heads Are Gonna Roll), Less Than Jake (Pezcore), Lifetime (Jersey’s Best Dancers) and Jawbreaker (24 Hour Revenge Therapy).

When you live in Wisconsin, Spring and Summer are not wasted on musical evolution. It’s spent reveling in the things you already hold dear, and I’ve embraced this sentiment long ago. When you only get warm weather for (maybe) six months a year, you treat it like a vacation, even if you’re an adult.

5. “Hey, Are You Working On Anything New?”

Nothing is ever good enough for you anymore, is it? Apart from the occasional post as we coast through the final year of the CDP, I’ve been scantly (and I mean scantly) outlining a big story I want to tell for my next book. All I can tell you is that A) It’s one narrative (no individual essays), B) It’s ambitious to the point of being bloated and convoluted as all get out, and C) It won’t be done for thirty more years.

The way I see it, I’ve independently published my first two books (like I wanted to), and the CDP will cease to be come February 2012 (as it should), so it’s time to move on and start a new chapter of whatever the hell it is that I’m doing with my writing career. Writing toaster directions on Pop Tarts boxes seems like a lengthy step up, quite frankly.

Sound off in the comments section, let me know what you’re up to and enjoy your day.

You’re Looking Happily Deranged.

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Any longtime fan of the CDP will know that I have spent countless hours ranking, listing, scrutinizing, championing and singing the praises of 90’s television. My love of recent nostalgia knows no boundaries or shame, and thanks to Social Networking, millions of others have also given a digital thumbs-up to similar shows of the era. Advertisers finally saw dollar signs at the prospect of re-airing these shows, and thanks to their greed and lack of original ideas, we now have a whole slew of old (but awesome) television shows to look forward to in 2011.

Here are a few of my favorites.

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WHAT? – ‘The 90’s Are All That’ Programming Block
WHERE? – TeenNick
WHEN? – Fall 2011

When I was a teen, Nick at Nite played I Love Lucy and The Honeymooners. In more recent years, they’ve filled the generation gap with shows like Full House and Family Matters. With ‘The 90’s Are All That,’ we’ll see such SNICK favorites as The Adventures of Pete & Pete, The Amanda Show, All That, Kenan & Kel, Rugrats and Clarissa Explains it All. I’m assuming (and hoping) that if this block becomes a hit, they will expand it with more classics from the era (Are You Afraid of the Dark? and The Secret World of Alex Mack spring to mind).

WHY THIS IS AWESOME – SNICK was good times for a teen. The big orange couch. The Saturday night timeslot. The feeling that you were in on something special; something that was made just for you. The ‘166 hours’ closing always bummed me out, as it reminded me that Sunday was tomorrow and I’d have to prepare for another week of school, but for those few hours, SNICK made everything better. It reminds me of a fun time in my teen years, and if they add some retro bumpers and advertisements (TV Land did this in their youth), it could really be something fun and popular.

WHY THIS COULD BE AWFUL – If they ‘enhance’ these episodes with facts, pop-ups and tidbits, I’ll be a very upset man. If you’re bringing back a nostalgia block, keep it nostalgic. Also, most of the shows they’re bringing back are for a slightly younger-than-teen audience.

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WHAT?120 Minutes
WHERE? – MTV2
WHEN? – Sometime in 2011

In my opinion, 120 Minutes was the best video-oriented show MTV ever had (next to Alternative Nation, perhaps). In recent years, MTV2 has aired Subterranean to fill the gap, but it’s always been missing something (VH1 Classic airs a similar show, also titled 120 Minutes, but it’s still lacking in many ways). With fantastic longtime host Matt Pinfield returning to the helm, it’s good to see that MTV2 is going back to their Alternative roots, even for just two hours every few weeks.

WHY THIS IS AWESOME – The first few years of MTV2 (M2 at the time) were absolutely fantastic. It was as delivered: 24 hour-a-day, left-of-dial videos by up-and-coming bands with extremely limited VJ banter and absolutely no scripted (or unscripted) programming to speak of. Eventually, MTV2 became nothing more than an MTV clone, but with the return of 120 Minutes, we could see an advent of more retro, return-to-basics programming. Okay, maybe not. But this is still cool.

WHY THIS COULD BE AWFUL – While I don’t expect 120 Minutes to fully operate as a nostalgia act, I do hope they air videos from the heyday of the show. Spending all of their time on new bands and videos could instantly alienate the very audience they’re trying to attract (which I presume is former MTV viewers).

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WHAT?Beavis & Butthead NEW EPISODES
WHERE? – MTV
WHEN? – Summer of 2011

When King of the Hill ended, Mike Judge apparently had nothing to do. Fortunately, he decided to revive his two most popular characters, leading to a Summer re-launch of a decade-defining series. From what I can gather, the animation, voices and format will be identical to the original, with B&B riffing on newer music videos as well as whatever else they find on their television (viral videos, for example).

WHY THIS IS AWESOME – Mike Judge. He cannot fail (even when he does). He understands satire better than anyone, and if he thinks he can create something that will compare to what he did with Beavis & Butthead in the past, I will not doubt him for the time being. Furthermore, in an era that has moved beyond a lot of the cynicism and toilet humor that made them popular, it somehow makes Beavis & Butthead more relevant (and needed) than ever.

WHY THIS COULD BE AWFUL – As is the case with any revival, you run the risk of not living up to unrealistic expectations, or just the expectations of your former material. Also, the idea of making fun of new videos seems interesting, but bringing other current material into the mix might be strange and lackluster for fans expecting the same product they got in 1994.

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WHAT?Daria
WHERE? – Logo
WHEN? – Right Now!

Daria, the Beavis & Butthead spinoff, was a more cerebral, female-friendly take on the cliques and cultures of 90’s suburban teenagers. Daria became an iconic anti-hero of sorts, and it’s easy to argue that this was a better overall show than B&B. After airing reruns on The N for a few years, it has found a new home at the MTV-owned Logo Network.

WHY THIS IS AWESOME – I feel that Daria never got its due; an extremely underrated and intelligent show about the sometimes-nihilist world of 90’s teenagers. In a 2010 review of the DVD collection in the website Jezebel, Margaret Hartmann said that at as a teenager, “Daria and her best friend Jane Lane provided me with the sort of social guidance that allowed me to stay true to myself” and led to her keeping a childhood friend instead of dropping her to avoid “social suicide.” “I’d picked up Daria’s attitude that it’s easier to survive high school with one fellow-loser who shares your misanthropic views than to spend four years trying to earn the admiration of girls whose main interests include proper eyeliner application.” She cites Daria as “the most authentic TV nerd… she didn’t look for her fellow students to accept her. She just wanted to be left alone.” DVD Talk’s review referred to the show as “an indictment of everything MTV now embraces.”

WHY THIS IS AWFUL – A lot of these episodes have been shortened for syndication, and nearly all of the original music has been removed and replaced, essentially suffering the same fate that Beavis & Butthead, The Wonder Years and many others have in the DVD age. Still good, though.

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WHAT?The Wonder Years
WHERE? – Hub
WHEN? – Right Now!

One of my favorite shows of all-time, The Wonder Years probably shaped my storytelling and narrative voice more than any book or movie. This show, easily the best series never properly released on DVD (more on that later), holds up wonderfully, capturing a youthful, nostalgic adolescence better than just about anything before or since. Although never released on DVD, full episodes have been brought back to television, thanks to the Hub Network.

WHY THIS IS AWESOME – It’s The Wonder Years. Either you already love it, or you haven’t watched it yet.

WHY THIS IS AWFUL – Just like Daria, the licensing for certain songs kept the show from receiving a proper DVD treatment, and the later episodes with a more grown-up Kevin Arnold are slightly lacking in tone. That being said, it’s not nearly enough to avoid it. I recommend this with every fiber of my mid-life crisis-ravaged being.

So, there you have it. A handful of shows from the 90’s that are either on their way back in syndication, back in new episodes, or already back on obscure cable networks. Sound off in the comments section, enjoy your day, and let me know what show you’d like to see return to the airwaves.

The CDP Wayback Machine – Paranormal Activity Edition.


(Originally published March 16, 2009.)

Well, here it is. The Holy Grail that followers of the Paranormal have been waiting their entire lives for. The indisputable, ironclad photographic proof that yes, spiritual entities walk among us in reality. Gosh, I really should have tipped off the folks at Coast to Coast or TAPS beforehand; this could have been a real media frenzy had I marketed it correctly. In fact, until I saw the photos that I am about to present to you, I thought that correct marketing was all you really needed to make the Paranormal come to life; no real evidence required. Nonetheless, prepare to have your minds collectively blown across the room and spattered against the wall.

…Yeah…

It’s become a lot harder for me to believe in ghosts now that I’ve stopped believing in an Afterlife. After all, there’s not much space for the supernatural to roam if I’ve mentally closed the door on the idea that we go anywhere when we die. Still, I’m relatively pleased with my revelation, remain optimistic about the current (and theoretically, only) life I’m living, and still have no legit proof that spirits are real, despite 20 years of my own personal searching.

It’s a bummer, but I can’t pretend anymore. I’m not going to be like devoted followers of faith healers and mediums, convinced that these con artists have a gift from God, when what they’re really clinging to is the extreme hope that there’s somehow more to life than simply being mortal. It’s comforting as all get out, but…you know, makes absolutely no sense in a logical reality.

For the record, I still hope that I’m 100% wrong about all of this, but I’m probably not. The beauty of believing or denying the Afterlife, however, is that you’ll likely never know if you were right or wrong. While it would certainly be nice to laugh in the face of those who insist on praying for my sinful, Agnostic soul, it sort of defeats the purpose of my beliefs to make it so. Proof in the Pudding, and soforth.

I used to be obsessed with the paranormal, and I have about 60 books and 30 videos on the matter to prove it. There used to be a particular book on ghosts that I would routinely check out of the elementary school library each week until I was told I could no longer read it (in fact, the photograph of the ‘Missus’ in my ‘First Time Here?’ essay is taken directly from it). And while I no longer peruse websites for nights at a time or seek further opinions on the truth of the paranormal, I still find the entire genre interesting on a completely different level than I did as a kid: a Social level.

To me, the question is no longer, “Are ghosts real?” Now, I care more about the question, “Why do people believe in ghosts?” Why do people believe in anything that lacks tangible proof, really? Is the terror of death so great that it inspires faith merely to counteract the thought of the inevitable?

Well…yeah. Totally. Death scares the shit out of me, no question about it.

Once my focus shifted from the non-tangible, theoretical level to the very real, humanist level, did my entire outlook change. Like most, I now know that I believed in ghosts because it’s comforting to know that it’s possible to somehow survive death in a non-human, non-living, spiritual form. Heck, who wouldn’t want to believe that this isn’t all that we have?

Be that as it may (and getting back on topic), we won’t be any closer to solving this little life riddle by examining these upcoming photos, even for several lifetimes in a row.

Here’s how this ‘ghost photo’ stuff all started. Several months ago, a co-worker approached me in the break room of our office:

“Hey, you’re into ghosts and stuff, right?”

“Well…no, not really. I mean, I was, but not anymore. You see, in January I had what you would call a Near-Death Experience, and instead of seeing Heaven, the thin veil of my own mortality fell like an iron curtain, and I was instantly disillusioned and surprisingly free of burden in the face of uncertainty, despair and terror. I saw an infinite nothingness that pretty much changed my entire-“

“Um…yeah. Anyway, I have some neat pictures that my brother sent me of a ghost.”

“Really? Send ‘em my way. I’d love to publicly out your brother as some sort of borderline-insane basket case that photographs rocking chairs for absolutely no reason other than to speculate what invisible things might be sitting in them.”

“…Wow, you’re kind of a jerk. Do you know that?”

“Someday you’ll thank me for my evolved wisdom.”

“I highly doubt that. You just dunked your necktie into your coffee mug.”

So, she sends me the photos, and I’m finally going to share them with you. But a stern word of warning: Don’t expect to see anything that even remotely resembles anything paranormal. I could easily send you a shoebox full of cat crap and tell you it was Whistler’s Mother, and a reader can just as soon send me photographs of a television set and say that it’s a ghost. I’m only sharing them for two reasons. One, to show how quickly we jump at the prospect of the paranormal if it suits our belief in an afterlife. And two, because it’s endlessly entertaining stuff, hoax or not.

Onward!

Here we see Photograph #1. It had been titled, “The Mist Begins.” Begins where?

Some quick, random observations. First off, there is no mist whatsoever, so let’s just move right on from there. Secondly, the claim was that the guy took all of these pictures from his bedroom on a Polaroid camera, which leads me to ask, “What’s a grown man doing with a ceramic horse-drawn carriage on his nightstand…on top of a doily?” To me, this is a mystery far more compelling than anything paranormal that was taking place that evening.

I mean, if I’m being nice, I’ll admit to seeing some off-balance light emitting off of the top of the carriage, but it’s extremely far from being referred to as ‘mist.’ Furthermore, it looks like the carriage is a plugged-in lamp of some sort, so it could just be actual light illuminating from the thing.

Also, if these photographs were taken with a Polaroid camera, why were they scanned and cropped to appear like rectangular, ‘normal’ photos? Doesn’t make much sense to me, but let’s move on, because we’ve just scratched the surface of stuff that makes no sense.

This is Photograph #2, and it was titled “Face Image.” Indeed, it is an image of a face or possibly faces, bathing in a blue, white-noisy hue.

Now, this is a neat-looking photo; certainly the coolest one out of the four that were given to me. Problem is, I was told that these photos were taken in succession within minutes, and all of this was taking place around the bedroom. So remember all that natural light in the first photo? Well, now we’re in complete darkness, and a hologram is apparently manifesting itself above the guy’s bed.

Looks pretty two-dimensional, doesn’t it? Looks like it lacks depth, right? Well, you’d be correct, because this is most likely a close-up photo of a television set. What is being viewed on said television is a mystery, but the pitch-dark, depth-less nature of this image makes it all but impossible to be something that took shape in the vast space between the six walls of a bedroom.

Cool picture, though.

This is Photo #3, and it was titled, “Who Is She?

Okay. Here’s where I begin to feel like my intelligence is being insulted. In an almost identical design as Photo #2, we have another photograph of a two-dimensional object that was claimed to be manifesting itself within a room. This is sort of true, in that it manifested itself onto a television set, when the television set was plugged in and turned to a station that manifested this image during a show.

Not that these photos need any more scrutiny, but do you notice the differences between the first picture and the next two? The first photo is a picture of something that exists in reality. Admittedly, a frilly reality that likes doilys and carousel horse lamps, but a reality nonetheless. The next two photos are of a flat surface, and we know this because our eyes can process depth, even by just viewing a photograph of it.

And again, for a photo that was taken on a ‘Polaroid’ camera, it’s been bizarrely cropped again, this time as a portrait-sized image. Why would someone do that? If you thought you had some solid paranormal evidence on your hands, would you alter the photos at all?

Oh, and if this were a ghost, then it’s the most detailed and well-manifested paranormal entity in the history of Mankind.

This is a long way past shenanigans, but we still have one more to go.

Fourth and finally, we have “A Clear Face Image!

Indeed we do. Indeed we do. In fact, I find this image to be quite beautiful. What an amazing thing to have materialize above your bed one night. I also love how the Angel brought her own illuminated light to reflect off the top of her head, while somehow leaving the rest of the bedroom behind her pitch black. That had to have taken some divine interstellar intervention, not to mention a complete lack of basic physics. Sorry kids, it’s another picture of a television. And hey, what happened to the blue glow? Did the guy change the channel from AMC to TCM?

The final verdict?

Sound off in the comments section and enjoy your day.

It’s Fruitcake Weather.

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A quick heads-up for you. I’m working on a few new essays, but my city’s currently at war and my job (and perhaps yours) is on the line, so I’m prioritizing accordingly for the time being. The Missus and I have boarded up our windows, and have been seeking shelter in our basement since mid-February. Most of the canned peaches are gone, and we’ve eaten two of our three cats. We’re very cold.

Darkness. Imprisoning me. All that I see. Absolute horror.

Long story short, I’m working on it, so hang in there. I promise that Madison and I will hang in there, too. Sound off in the comments section and enjoy your day.