Sunday, October 27, 2013

Depression isn't an emotion. Depression has no cause. Too often is depression conflated with sadness or anxiety. I came out to my boss over my depression a while ago, and though he is one of the most kind and understanding people I know, he won't mention it. He sometimes asks me how my anxiety is doing. Depression, when it is present, is more like the force of gravity. It is there, pulling down on you under all circumstances. Though I'm depressed I am often very happy- but still there is the unfeeling wet blanket of muddled confusion and writhing frustration seething under it all. Waiting. A creeping numbness that insidiously degrades and diminishes every aspect of conscious life. A storm of screaming and hatred in dreams. A dull apathy in waking. A sinking stomach in the face of joy and a faithless lassitude in the face of hope. Depression isn't an emotion. Depression is a contradiction to every worthy aspect of life.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

TV Scum: The Event

The Event: I Haven't Told You Everything (S01E01)

Leading up to this season's new premieres, The Event had the distinction of being heavily pushed and marketed by NBC, even going so far as to show the pilot at this year's Comic Con. While the consensus so far seems to be mixed, you cannot deny that the establishing episode for the series is ambitious in its ambiguity but then again, a year ago the same was being said about FlashForward and that didn't turn out too well.

Whether intentional or not, I got heavy undertones that were "borrowed" from previous series like 24, Lost, Alias, Fringe and for a balanced act a bit of Sandra Bullock's mediocre film The Net. While it features a fairly large cast of veteran TV and "that guy" actors, Jason Ritter plays our lead Sean Walker who starts the episode embarking on a cruise with his soon-to-be fiancee and ends up brandishing a gun on a commercial airliner trying to stop an attempt to assassinate the president. At least, if things were shown in a straight-forward fashion that's what would have happened.

Taking a page from other non-linear stories, the episode jumps around to focus on different characters at different times leading up to the plot to crash a commercial airplane into the President's not-very-secure retreat. In certain instances, non-linear stories (particularly from director Chris Nolan) are done in a way to emphasize certain plot points or to mislead the audience. Here, the stories do not so much intersect as they crash together at random times, as if to try to build suspense that otherwise isn't there.

The baffling part is that with the various story lines going on, there should be no problem to create a compelling story. There is the mystery regarding 97 unlawfully detained prisoners at a remote Alaskan site, the President's desire to close the facility (such a fantastical plot line), Sean's disappearing girlfriend, and her father's unwitting involvement in the assassination attempt. Most interesting though is a group that manages to thwart the attempt by causing the airliner to literally vanish into thin air. Thus, if you have watched any of the shows mentioned above, you can see where some elements are (at times heavily) borrowed.

The cast is very strong with Blair Underwood as President Martinez, Laura Innes as Sophia, the leader of the group of detainees, and Scott Patterson as Sean's future father-in-law Michael Buchanan.

Just like with any TV series, the pilot is almost irrelevant to the quality of the rest of the series. Hopefully The Event does not fall victim to an overly complicated story and inability to throw the audience a bone now and then as some other failed shows have done. At the conclusion, I had the same thought that surely many had at the end of the first episode of 24 of how can such a premise survive over multiple episodes or even seasons. Only time will tell if this is the current year's Lost or FlashForward.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Reality (Show) Bites: Hoarders

Hoarders / A&E TV
Season 1; Episode 6: Jake / Shirley

There is much debate regarding the affliction of compulsive hoarding, the causes, the adjacent issues, and even the what constitutes hoarding. This can range from the unwillingness to disregard items of no discernible value to chronic disorganization with the potential to endanger the well-being of the hoarder or their family with a myriad of other subsets in between. A&E's Hoarders is a reality show that attempts to assist a chronic hoarder by identifying the problem and clearing away the objects of little value but through a psychological approach to prevent the affliction from returning.

Jake lives in a small, cramped apartment with his alcoholic father. In addition to his father stashing away thousands of empty wine and liquor bottles, Jake is hesitant to disgard anything, even empty beverage containers or clumps of hair from his shedding dog due to a sentimental attachment to anything he comes into contact with.

Meanwhile, Shirley and her husband reside in a modest house that is not only overtaken by trash and other materials the couple has acquired in their years, but as Shirley has become the self-appointed stray savior, she also has at least thirty cats living throughout her house.

The notion of hoarding has always interested me due to the fact that it is mostly contributed as a symptom of OCD, but I have a semi-close family member with the same tendencies that typical hoarders do. In addition to the refusal to trash meaningless items, some hoarders while some at thrift stores multiple times a week, purchasing items with no apparent usefulness because it was affordable or they foresee a possible use in the near future.

In Jake's case, being a gay 21-year-old living in constant clutter with a drunk, inattentive father, his contemplation suicide over the disarray in his life has lead to the intervention of a professional psychiatrist to help him realize the solution to his problems but without pushing him too hard that which may result in a mental breakdown. While Jake is undoubtedly a drama-king (or would that still be queen), it is painfully clear to see the undue pressure that he must endure, not only due to his own problems but also of his father's.

Shirley on the other hand starts the process as all but accepting the lifestyle she, her husband, and their dozens of animals live in. When her locality determines Shirley could be at risk of prosecution for animal cruelty, she is forced to clear the house to save just a fraction of the animals from the throes of animal control. While she is not unhappy to see the mounds of trash removed from the house, the removal of the animals, some alive and some long since deceased, is heartbreaking for the retiree who thought she was merely helping to save the lives of the cats.

In the end, both Jake and Shirley were able to come to grips with their disease. After deconstructing the irrational attachment to the trash and dog hair surrounding him, Jake is able to start over, clutter-free, seemingly on the right track to recover and avoiding relapse. Shirley though, while cleared of any charges on animal abuse, loses most of the cats she wanted due to other medical issues, resulting in grief and hopelessness. At the close of the show, both Jake and Shirley are reported to be undergoing counseling for their hoarding behaviors.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Ultimate Rant o' Cell Phone Customers (Part I)

These are some of my pet-peeves when it comes to people and cell phones. As the original just kept growing with rage, I decided to break it into several installments.

Personally, I have had four different cell phone companies over the course of the past ten years or so. I'd imagine most people have either also had several different companies or a phone for quite some time. Yet, some things that are common with every other company in the industry seem to jump out and surprise people before peeing on their couch and stealing the beer in the fridge. Unless you have an unlimited minute plan, you know you have a set amount of minutes you can use in a given period, roughly thirty days. If you exceed these minutes, you are charged extra. While the price you pay per minute may vary, the basic concept has been around since the advent of cell phones. The same concept has since been expanded to text message and internet usage. Bottom-line, if you’re not paying for unlimited, you take that risk. Plan accordingly.

Rarely do I see people complain that their McDouble was not an even dollar as most people seem to understand that you pay taxes on most things you buy at a store. Unfortunately, these same people don’t seem to apply the same logic to services like cell phone service. If you are upset that your bill is not a nice, round $49.99, you are an idiot and you need to complain to your congressman or other elected official as your beef is with the gummint, not the company that is forced to collect these taxes. The same thing applies to regulatory fees like those to provide emergency services with your location if you have an emergency. You may not use these on a daily basis, but you’re going to be paying for them regardless and you’d probably be pissed if you died in a frozen tundra or were mauled by mutated cannibals in West Virginia because no one found you.

Changing Companies
Certainly you remember when you messed up, your previous company refused to remove accurate charges from your bill, so you decided to stick it to them and go somewhere else. If this seems fuzzy, certainly you can see that your phone is now different and your bill has another company’s name at the top? All of this means what you paid for, what your plan was, or what that last company did is no longer relevant. Your last company may have given you free phones every third day because you were so awesome, but we don’t. You may have been able to go four months without paying a bill before, but now you can’t. Your plan may have included free incoming calls, unlimited text messages included, and complimentary psychiatric service, but you opted to leave that company. I’m not sure why you would, but don’t assume that your current service is just like your last one. As we illustrated before, it’s not.

Monday, December 14, 2009

What's in a EULA?

As I was creating a new GMail account last week for the best movie website ever, I got to thinking about the oft-overlooked end user license agreement, or EULA. You may not know the term, but you've no doubt come across a encyclopedia-type document when installing a new program or signing up for a service account online. Theoretically, this verbiage will let you know what you can and cannot do with the program, what rights the developer has, and all sorts of additional boring information. I say theoretically because I seriously doubt anyone has ever read a single one of these in its entirety.

For the GMail EULA, out of sheer curiosity I copied and pasted the text into a Word document and out came 14 pages! Granted, the paragraphs did have a healthy space in between them so in actuality it may be about nine pages instead. While nine pages isn't War and Peace, it does represent a whole lot more time than I care to invest in setting up a simple email account. Now, there may be pertinent information in there as to how the harvested data is used and secured and if Google reserves the right to your first born if its lust for world domination isn't enough but I don't really care enough to read it. At least there isn't a pop quiz at the end.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

People I Am Sick to Death of Hearing About

There are a very few "news" shows that I watch on a fairly regular occasion as I feel most "news" rarely portray information without spinning it to either a political agenda or for entertainment. The 24-hour cycle of news has lead to a sickening overexposure to everything as there has to be thousands of show hours devoted to stupid crap like the Balloon Boy. As such, here is my list of people I pray will drop off the face of the earth really fucking soon.

1) Tiger Woods. Granted, I care absolutely nothing about golf, but I don't remember hearing this much about Tiger when he first emerged a few years ago. It seems like his whole career has been eclipsed by whatever bullshit is going on. Was he beaten? Was he drunk? Is he going to get a moving violation? Who was that old lady in his house? Who cares? I don't really mind the invasion of his privacy (though I'm sure he does), but I don't need to know every minute detail of the man's life now that he's had an affair or an apparent bad driver. I'm sure there are other celebrities to stalk who have more interesting nonsense going on.

2) The White House Crashers. I am so done with these people, I don't even know their names. I know they come from Virginia (at least Northern Virginia) and they lied about having invitations (or not) and knowing the governor (or not), and they want a reality show. You know, go ahead and give these jackasses a show on Bravo. In fact, send them to whatever cave the great John Gulager from Project Greenlight is hiding in.

3) US Senators and other random politicians. When I was in 12th grade government class, the principles of the workings of our republic system enamored me. That was right around the 2000 elections and I stayed close on politics since. Now, less than ten years later, I am disenfranchised and want to through the whole thing out and start over. Mainly, because I'm sick of people from all walks and all political perspectives bitch about one thing or another. I know nothing will ever change this, but I am sick of politicians. There's a reason they have a bad rap. At least lawyers get you off of stuff from time to time.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Some Ground Rules for Talking to Me

Idiots of the world, this is a helpful guide (a very short part 1 at that) to help you not be a tool and avoid the wrath of talking to me on the phone.

1) I will respect your time, so please do me the same favor. I don't go to your convenience store counter or fast food cooker and stand in front of you, preventing you from doing your menial tasks. However, when you call me and please me on hold or have a side conversation, you are inhibiting me from completing my menial task of assisting you. Get your shit in order before you call so I don't have to listen to you ruffle through a mountain of papers looking for a credit card receipt. And send your little hellions to play in the meth lab while you're complaining so I am not subjecting to "GET YOUR ASS OUT OF HERE BEFORE I KNOCK THE PISS OUTTA YOU!" twelve times in a call.

1a) "Just the facts, ma'am." This quote from Dragnet sums up what any business relationship should be based on: relevant, pithy nuggets of information that will help me help you get off my phone line. I may engage in some light banter if I'm stalling for time while looking up some information, but I really don't need to know what you do in your free time, why your daughter is grounded, how long you've been unemployed (or why you got fired to lead to so much free time), or your personal medical history. There are some instances where these are helpful hints but mostly you are giving me more information that I care to know, or even need to know. So, you will freely tell me your life story, but when I ask you to verify the last four digits of your social security number, which I already have by the way, you refuse because you think someone can do all sorts of nefarious things with less than half of your SSN. If your payment history with us is a good indication, they wouldn't want to steal your identity.

2) Look up the definition of enunciate before you call and adhere to that. For those too lazy to navigate there, it essentially means talk without shit in your mouth and lifting your tongue when you speak. I can't understand garbled jibberish and while its good that you can't see me roll my eyes at your idiocy, that also means I can't get you to scratch out on the back of your betting slip what you really want. If you speak a foreign language more fluently, either slow down and articulate your words or ask for a damn translator so I don't have to ask you five times to repeat yourself state that you want to make a payment. This also goes for giving me series of numbers like a credit card. When you blow through numbers saying, "four-ten, fifty-five, eighteen" at great speeds, your poor speech pattern leads me to type 14 instead of four, one, zero before I have to delete the numbers and try to catch back up. I am hopeful you can count beyond ten, but I don't need you to prove it. Just give me the numbers individually.

3) Understand that your imagination does not apply to me. Just because you are deluded enough to think something can happen doesn't necessary mean it can be. We are not Build-a-Plan Wireless where you can magically pull numbers out of your ass for us to accommodate. If I don't have a plan with 1500 minutes, unlimited text, and free directory assistance calls for $20.00 a month, than you cannot have that. Look at your choices within the realm of reality and go from there. Please know that not all phones are available with all companies. Just like you cannot go into a McDonald's and order a Whopper with a Frosty, I cannot give you a product we don't sell. Sure, just like McDonald's has a Quarter Pounder, I may have something comparable but not exactly the same. Lastly, I don't have a magic wand to fix all of your problems in the blink of an eye so if we have to sit for ten minutes to figure something out, don't get all pissed off. I certainly don't want to be on the phone with you any longer than necessary. And ... you called me, remember?

Friday, December 4, 2009

Yeah, Fees Suck. We Get It

People love to complain. They complain about anything they feel with no regard to if it is a valid argument or if they are merely talking out of their ass. Hell, I complain but I usually try to withhold such activities for things that deserve it, unlike this Gizmodo article crying about early termination fees for cell phone companies.

Fees are seemingly common for most service companies, at least the ones that I am familiar with. After much pressure from the FCC, cell phone companies began prorating early termination fees, or the fee you would pay to break the legally binding document you signed to start service. Apparently that is not enough as more are calling for additional government regulation for these charges. But, I have a real simple solution if you don't like the prospect of an early termination fee: don't sign a g-d contract. Imagine if you were able to switch companies with ease, not having to worry about waiting a predetermined length of time, with no additional fee for switching other than what you pay for your monthly rate. Wouldn't it be nice if there were such a thing?

Now, I'm not a big proponent of fees like paying money to pay a bill, not with a person but with an automated system or online. But, when you agree to do business with a company, you are agreeing to deal with that company, their fees, their policies, and everything else. You can't sign up for a service, wait six months, and then complain about the very thing that was detailed in your inital documentation because it no longer is beneficial for you. Sure, you can go to someone else, but chances are they have the same exact business practices as well. Is it right? Not really. Is that life? Yep.

So, if you want to avoid fees, look for alternative companies if any exist. If none do, start your own. If the previous two suggestions are too terribly hard, then STFU and pay your bill. Maybe if you get enough ill-informed people like you, you can lobby your congressman or a special-interest group and get the government to step in. At that rate, every industry will be regulated to death with many companies going out of business which will then lead to reduced competition and more bitching. So ... choose wisely.