Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Post-A-Day: Victory Haikus

November blogging
Many lessons learned throughout
Thirty days of growth

That is, as far as I can remember, my first ever haiku. I may have written one in elementary school or something when I first learned, but this is definitely the first one I've written in my adult life.

Poetry is probably the only form of writing/expression I've purposefully neglected my entire life. And it - like many forms of abstract art - was something I probably rejected at an early age not knowing any better and just never bothered to ever revisit. So I figured I'd end this successful month of blogging every day with something I've never done before, just for fun. Here are some other, probably technically and artistically subpar haikus:

Gaming time is fun
Shelter from the cold winter
Mental warmth, you dig?

And finally:

Delicious cookies
Melt all my troubles away
So, sorry salads!

This month has definitely been a great experience for me - I've written some stuff I'm really proud of, pulled out some posts I didn't know I had in me, and as a result I'm sure I'll do it again sometime in the future. I even had a few more posts I left on the cutting room floor which I'll probably get back to at some point. For now though, I'm going to turn my attention to some bigger projects I've been wanting to work on.

Thanks for reading guys - I'll back soon (but making it a point to take the day off tomorrow)!

-Matt

Monday, November 29, 2010

Post-A-Day: How I Never Met Your Mother, Or Why Sitcom Characters Are Never Able To Grow

I'm a huge TV fan - I love a good drama, I love a good comedy. I end most nights winding down over something on my DVR, both for pure entertainment, and to keep it from reaching 100% capacity. A few years ago (almost 2 years to the day, as a matter of fact) I wrote a post describing my love for serialized dramas, and the beauty of a multi-year story arc being paid off for the audience. At the same time I lamented that comedies unfortunately do the opposite - its characters are trapped in an endless cycle of all their (hilarious) flaws. Before I was speaking to all shows needing an expiration date - which I still agree with - but recently I've come to the conclusion that sitcom characters are, in fact, by their nature incapable of any sustained growth, and as long as they remain in front of the camera their lives can never truly improve.

"Please, let's talk about this anger rather than lashing out - haha, tricked you - POKE!"

It's an obvious reason, of course - a well adjusted person who learns from his mistakes and is intent on improving his life does not lend itself to many laughs. Comedy is all about tension - and if after 10 minutes the characters on The Odd Couple learned to play nice, or The Three Stooges all agreed that they'd respect each other's personal space there wouldn't be much of a show. But what's interesting is more modern sitcoms are on the air for so long, it starts to seem strange if the characters stay exactly the same as they are forever. There are the usual sitcom tropes that often alleviate this somewhat - characters get into serious relationships, they get married, they have a baby (which many also regard as the nail in the coffin for any good sitcom), but those are actually mere scripted sleights of hand - characters can still remain just as needy, neurotic, emotional and catty as they've always been, just under slightly different circumstances. The real problem at hand is that these characters often go an entire series learning the same life lessons over and over and over again only to forget it by the opening credits the following week.

Case in point: Barney Stinson had an interesting shift as a character last season in How I Met Your Mother when he started dating love interest (and principal character, which is always key) Robin Scherbatsky, something the writers had been teasing and building up to for some time. Robin finally tamed the testosterone-laden pickup artist, who until that point had treated every other women as a mere object of his desire, a trophy to be won. He finally cared about a member of the opposite sex, a major change for the character. So what happened after a few episodes? They broke up, naturally - and the writers fully admitted it was so they could get old Barney back. Now Barney is back to his old self, without a hint of self-reflection.

Michael Scott of The Office  is still just as clueless as he was 7 years ago, but, speaking from nothing more than personal experience, it's definitely starting to feel old. The most recent episode I've seen involved him getting upset over a night at his boss/coworker's (the fact/question that this character was being called his boss being the reason for his attitude) apartment to have a Glee party. His tantrums and desperate attempts to win over his coworkers have happened so many times I can almost immediately spell out how his scenes are going to play out throughout the episode (he'll get upset, try something small, then fail, try something bigger, fail bigger, he'll pout, he'll have a heart to heart, then he'll say something honest and heartwarming but also inadvertently dumb to camera). Inevitably you lose interest - but of course, having said all of this, I don't want to see Michael Scott having woken up one morning, realized how ignorant he's been for this long, and coming to work being a hard working, quiet and respecting boss.

In a sense there's a sort of inevitability built in with great characters like him - you start off loving them from a distance whenever you see them, like your fun drunk uncle, but over time they become the embarrassing alcoholic uncle you wish you didn't have to see so often. In any event, the silver lining is now that Steve Carrell has decided to move on from the role, the character actually has an expiration date, so it should be interesting to see how they conclude his story.


One last example: Jeff Winger routinely learns on Community how important his friends at the college he's reluctantly attending are to him, and how his career as a lawyer was actually not the rockstar life he thought it was. The show even had a moment where he pretended to be "old Jeff" last season after coming back from winter break, a nod to the classic rubber band character trait seen on sitcoms since time immemorial, only to go "just kidding, give me a hug you guys!" seconds later and actually be the changed Jeff he grew to be over the course of the season (the show, if you haven't seen it, is really good about turning these tropes on their head). But this season, to the extent its needed by the plot he actually snaps right back to the un-ironically selfish, vain jerk he was once was (and of course, he'll relearn his lesson to the extent he's unlearned it by episode's end).

There's clearly a balance these shows are trying to strike each week: having a nice, convenient reset button that allows them to start new stories each week and to continue having fun with the characters, allowing their personalities and quirks bounce off of each other, while at the same time acknowledging the experiences they've all been through together and not ignoring major events in their collective lives. Its a fascinating conundrum, and I'm very curious to see if and how they all pull it off.

It's funny - yesterday I spoke about comedic actors having something of an expiration date on playing big, larger than life characters as leads in movies. I think I just realized (I actually didn't mean to connect these two articles at all initially, I swear!) there's a connection here too - with sitcom characters also eventually wearing out their welcome, especially the more emotionally stunted ones. Look at me, inadvertently creating and finding themes!

-Matt

PS: Final day of 'Post-A-Day: November 2010', where I try something I've never done before!

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Post-A-Day: Jack Black's Lament - The Law of Diminishing Returns for the Man-Child


Recognize this guy? That's Jack Black. You're probably familiar with his body (to forgive the pun) of work. And if you've seen a few of his movies, you probably have a strong opinion about him, one way or another. And if the internet and box office sales are any indication - there's a good chance that by now it's a negative one. It's certainly not a guarantee (I personally am still fine with him, though I prefer him in small doses), but I've noticed that a certain subset of comedic actors, specifically ones that play a 'man-child' character regularly - men who are either inept, immature, lazy, or moronic, or some combination of the four - ultimately find themselves out of luck as leading men in a relatively short period of time.

Actors like Denzel Washington, Harrison Ford, Jack Nicholson and Robert DeNiro can pretty much play the types of characters they're known for (the strong, silent type, or the strong, loud type, take your pick) forever. Audiences expect it, they get it, they're happy. But comedic actors who play very heightened characters - Will Ferrell, Mike Meyers, Adam Sandler, almost anyone who's come from SNL really - start at a distinct disadvantage. They can enjoy success with a handful of movies, but once audiences learn their schtick, they seemingly have three choices: go dramatic (/tone it down), go animated, or go home.

Jim Carrey is perhaps the best example of this trend. Consider his career, which started on a sketch comedy show, In Living Color, which lead to his first lead in a motion picture: Ace Ventura, (who was, to date, his most ridiculous human character on the big screen), followed by The Mask, Dumb and Dumber, Batman Forever, The Cable Guy, then Liar, Liar. These characters were all either largely comedically flawed, or put into circumstances in which they became something ridiculous. Cable Guy was considered Carrey's first big misstep, having flopped at the box office, and it was shortly after this film that he started to go dramatic - starring in The Truman Show, Man on the Moon, and The Majestic (his second big flop). And while he has gone back to comedies since the late 90's, his successes ares mostly limited to voice-over work in animated comedies (Bruce Almighty being a notable exception).

You could argue that this was Carrey's choice - he had done comedy for over 10 years, and wanted to show off his acting chops in more serious, dramatic roles. And it's certainly possible his desires lined up with what needed to happen for him, career-wise. But either way, I'd argue that if he continued to play only comedic roles similar to where he started, his name would be nowhere near as well known as it is now. Let's return once again to Jack Black, who actually has a pretty fantastic resume, playing a supporting role in a LOT of movies and television shows over the course of 20+ years. But his leading man status shows that since his first big lead role as Shallow Hal in 2001, he's been in more flops (Year One, Tenacious D, King Kong, Be Kind Rewind) than successes (Tropic Thunder, Nacho Libre, which IMDB hails as a success, to my surprise). Black is the best example to my knowledge of a known comedic actor who for the most part has stuck to his guns long term, for better or worse. His only notable recent success as a leading man comes in the form of an animated feature, Kung Fu Panda, (and likely, it's forthcoming sequels).

Will Farrell's post-SNL movie career has had similar ups and downs, though his only major attempt at a more dramatic role, Stranger Than Fiction, met with mixed success, and he's since had his biggest box office flop with the comedy Land of the Lost. Of his two most recent films The Other Guys and Megamind, the former live action, the latter animated, Megamind is the much larger success. Ferrell is another actor who most people seem to have made up their mind about at this point - they either love him or they hate him. Animated films offer a small filter that can hide the initial gut feeling seeing an actor on screen might elicit.

Looking at other comedic actors who play less man-child, and more "impish adult", you have your Ben Stillers, your Owen/Luke Wilsons, your Vince Vaughns. These actors have either mixed up their resume from the beginning, playing a combination of dramatic and comedic roles, or they've generally played characters who, at worst, just need a shave, a kick in the ass, and/or an attractive female lead to get their act together, thus avoided the potential comedy pitfall from the beginning (as a side note - as far as I can tell, Vince Vaughn is generally playing either a more irritable or a hornier version of himself) To his credit though, Ben Stiller has both pretended to have his penis get caught in the teeth of his pants zipper and allowed fake semen to appear hanging from his ear, so certainly some credit goes to him.

Other actors worth mentioning - Chris Rock (who I personally love as a comedian but can't stand as an actor) has stopped playing some of the larger-than-life characters he once played in UB4 and Pootie Tang to much more muted characters in I Think I Love My Wife and Death At A Funeral. Adam Sandler has followed a path similar to Jim Carrey, though he's certainly stuck to his comedic roots more than him. Having said this, his characters from his past few comedic roles have all been night and day from his time playing Billy Madison, Little Nicky and The Water Boy.

It's possible that it's just an age thing. Audiences may be willing to accept the man-child performance from an actor in his early to mid 20's, and less if they're older (though I think most of the actors I've listed were doing it in their early 30's, in fact), where from a believability standpoint, its just harder to buy these men surviving in a world so mentally and emotionally stunted. I recently saw David Spade in a scene in Rules of Engagement deflecting all common sense about a woman blowing him off, and seeing him play a middle aged man so completely in the dark struck me as less comedic and more sad than anything. Having said this, Steve Carrell, who I personally love to death, got big in his 40's playing a 40 Year Old Virgin, very recently played another man-child in Dinner For Schmucks, and continues to play one of the most emotionally immature men on television in The Office every week, so he may very well be the exception to the rule.


These actors are of course all adept at their craft, and with the exceptions I've listed I personally still enjoy most of their work - but I find it fascinating to see how audiences slowly turn on them. Often the ridiculous characters these actors play in movies start off as supporting characters - a la Jack Black in High Fidelity or Saving Silverman, so when these characters/actors come to the forefront, it's interesting to see if and how they tone it down.


It's still a bit too early to tell where Michael Cera, Jonah Hill, and Seth Rogen (soon to appear in his first semi-dramatic role in The Green Hornet), and many other of the younger, budding post-Apatow comedic actors will wind up eventually, but I'm certainly interested to see if this trend continues.

-Matt

PS: My mother's always a good litmus test for where the actor stands with the general public - if she likes him: "he's so silly!", if she doesn't: "I like that other guy more," or...silence.

PPS: Wow, weird timing of this post - I wouldn't have ever thought to mention Leslie Nielson, and I'm not sure where to fit him in my thesis, but for now I'll just say he definitely used to make me smile, and for that I'm grateful.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Post-A-Day: A Look Into My Inner Soul (Via iPod Shuffle Mix)

I've seen a few people online do this thing where they share a selection of their iPod shuffle songs from their music collection, and through it I've discovered a few new fantastic songs, as well as the knowledge of what I did and did not have in common with them, which both bonds friendships and firmly establishes taste enemies, or "tastenemies," as I've dubbed them (in either case, the clarification is a good thing). So I figured I'd take the time to share my own list for the masses. Here goes:

Matt's iPod Shuffle Playlist - 11/23/10
(I know I'm supposed to list exactly what plays, but I made a couple of small tweaks to duplicate bands and swapped in some songs that came up later instead)

1) 'Mrs.Potters Lullaby' - Counting Crows
Love this song, from their greatest hits album "Films About Ghosts" - through which I firmly established my love for the band in general.

2) 'She's A Rebel' - Green Day
I somehow went 15+ years never buying a Green Day album, despite liking so many of their songs that I knew. It wasn't until playing Green Day Rock Band that I finally bit the bullet and got American Idiot, which is great.

3) 'Attractive Today' - Motion City Soundtrack
I'm admittedly poor when it comes to describing music I like, or why anyone else should listen to it, but I can safely say I love this band to death. This track opens their second album, which may be my favorite of theirs.

4) 'Sell Out' - Reel Big Fish
Almost everyone's heard of this song - and it's actually far from my favorite of theirs. I've seen them in concert a number of times, and they're a lot of fun. Check out "Our Live Album Is Better Than Your Live Album" is you're in the mood for some funky ska.

5) 'Fight' - Unwritten Law
I discovered this song playing Burnout Revenge. Fun fact about me - I discover an embarrassing number of songs/bands from video games, which I only say is embarrassing because it limits me mostly to songs that sound good while killing other people, racing against them, or quickly jumping through menus waiting to get back into the action.

6) 'Surrender' - Cheap Trick
Guitar Hero 2, I think? Ah yes, I suppose I forgot to put this category above, which at least lends itself to a more respectable catalog/knowledge base of music.

7) 'Uncle Walter' - Ben Folds
Ben Folds is my other big love besides Motion City Soundtrack - though he's night and day from them in almost every way. I've written more specifically about him in the past, if you're interested in knowing. This song specifically isn't my favorite, but I love the emotion behind it, and the lyrics are really funny if you're paying attention.

8) 'Saturday' - Fall Out Boy
Saying you love Fall Out Boy un-ironically is like saying you love McDonald's hamburgers better than anyone else out there. People can probably understand it on a certain level, but they can't help but think that perhaps you haven't really tried a lot of the burgers that are out there. Well, here this people: I've listened to a lot of music - and I still love these guys (and I hope they don't stay broken up forever)!

9)' Last Night' - Motion City Soundtrack
Them again? You guys, reminder -  they are still AWESOME. This one's a somber, melodic song from their third album. Wait a minute, melodic? Did I just use a word that describes every song? I think I did! You see why I don't do this, people??

10) 'Final Fantasy IV SNES Battle Medley' - aneurysm, Warmth
Whoa whoa whoa - wait, don't skip past this one just yet! If that's all gibberish to you, that's fine, but if you've ever heard an original song in a video game (say, the critically acclaimed Final Fantasy series), there's a great site called Overclocked Remix that houses tons of mixes from fans that sound great. Also - for the record - this is some great, classic 16-bit era battle music.

11) 'Your Petty Pretty Things' - The Get Up Kids
You may or may not have heard of these guys, but they broke up for a while, and now they're back! They recently put out an EP, and this actually happens to be my favorite track from it.

12) 'Someone Else's War' - Dan Mills
I talked about this guy before too - I saw him perform earlier this year, and I thought he was great. This guy knows his way around an acoustic guitar. Is that a thing people care to be known for? Anyways, he has a free
album online, you should check it out!

13) 'Lovefool' - Cardigans
Got into these guys randomly from a random gmail status, which I suppose is as good a source as any. Everyone knows this song - so check out "Sick & Tired" if you're looking for another great song by them.

14) 'The Rockefeller Skank' - Fatboy Slim
"Right about now, the funk soul brother"
"Check it out now, the funk soul brother"
Remember Fatboy Slim? Yeah, his legacy is pretty much just this song, but boy do I still love it!

15) 'The One You Want' - The Get Up Kids
Another classic - these guys have transformed over the years, and I've dug most everything they've done.

16) 'Landed' - Ben Folds
Hmm - neither of the Ben Folds tracks that have come up have been my favorites. Check out "Ben Folds Live" for a nice mix of tracks. He's another terrific live act.

17) 'In The Garage' - Weezer
LOVE LOVE LOVE this song, to this day. I must have played it every morning before school for a month back in the day, despite never really learning all the words until fairly recently (I had no idea "Ace Frehley" was a person). The Blue Album will always have a place in my heart. Every else past Pinkerton? Not so much.

18) 'Move Your Feet' - Junior Senior
This song almost shouldn't exist without the video. So watch this video, PLEASE:




Mesmerizing, isn't it?

19) 'Absolutely' - Nine Days
Ok, so a lot of my stuff is from the 90's if you haven't noticed. This is another gem from my not-so-angsty teens. I've never known a girl like this (a girl who looks so sad in photographs, but at the same time you absolutely love her when she smiles), but I can totally imagine loving her!

20) 'Reptilia' - The Strokes
Rock Band 2 - or was it 1? Either way, great song - tough solo to play there too, at the end.

Not a bad mix, if I may say so myself.

-Matt

Friday, November 26, 2010

Post-A-Day: FAQ-Tastic

So...I've been meaning to write a FAQ for the blog for some time now. Gonna use today's post to finally write it and set it up. I'll be linking to some older posts, so those of you who may be newer to the site may find some interesting tidbits worth checking out.

(UN)PAUSED FAQ
(by blog author Matt Shafeek)

1) (Un)Paused? What the heck is this blog all about? 

Glad you asked, frequently asking questioner. You see - my whole life I've always been a pretty big gamer. And as such, I made it a point to always carve out a significant portion of my free time to play video games. In 2007, I'd gotten busier than usual, and had to the point where I was barely playing anything at all, and I felt pretty productive, and good. So, on something of a whim, I decided to see if I could go a whole year without playing video games of any kind. And so I did! I went from January 6th, 2008 (a few days after my birthday/one final 'hurrah') - January 6th, 2009 without playing a single video game.

What did I do in the meantime? Well, to make good use of my free time during that year, I opted to read more, write more, exercise more, travel more, and cook more. I managed to run the NYC Half Marathon in 2008, I read a book a month, I managed to do a fair amount of travelling, cooking and of course, I wrote in this blog regularly (which I started the day I gave up games) and has been going strong to this day.

If you interested in more details on my year off from games - I was interviewed about it by a gaming site, and a  gaming-related (that's a great listen even for non-gamers) podcast that I think will cure what ails ya, which in this case, is clearly Matt Shafeek info-starvation.

2) Ok - but this was a while ago - what are you blogging about now? 

The blog has always been more of a general life blog - not so much about my day to day, but more just about my personal musings. I live in New York City, and I write To that end, I've got a large variety of post topics that I've dabbled in over the years, such as:

-Gaming-related stuff, as seen here, here, and here
-Silly lists and bits, as seen here, here and here
-Videos I've done or been featured in, seen here, here and here
-Personal stories, seen here and here and here
-Storytelling, which I've recently started doing, and can be found here, here and here

(Side note - the word "here" just starting becoming "her-e" to me for some reason, and it's freaking me out)

3) So you're playing games again now? I thought you were getting so much done before!

The year I took off from games was a life-changing event, no question. And while, for the first half of 2009 (during which time I was also unemployed) I gorged quite a bit on games, making up for lost time - since then I have cut back quite a bit, and have made gaming something that I indulge in when I have a bit of spare time, but will always take a back seat to some of my bigger projects and goals, something that was flipped in the past.

It's important to me that I not give up this hobby that I truly enjoy because it can be a time sink and its considered a huge waste of time by others. So that end, finding the right balance of game time is something I'm still working on to this day.

4) Very interesting. You seem like a pretty cool guy, Matt Shafeek. Who are you, anyway? And surely you must have other fascinating creative outlets besides this blog.

My oh my - flattery will get you everywhere, my frequent-asking questioneer. I'm a New York native, currently residing in Queens, NY, where I've spent most of my life. By day I work a day job I specifically avoid naming or discussing here (not because I hate it, but just to avoid the possibility of it ever getting me into any kind of trouble), and by night I study, teach and perform at a local improv hotspot known the Magnet Theater several nights a week. Besides gaming, comedy is my other, bigger passion, and I truly love the thrill of performing in front of an audience with no script and no idea what the hell is going to happen. If you're even in town and want to check out one of my shows, I perform with a team called Phooka once a week (usually) on Wednesday nights.

5) I have more questions that I can't think of right now. What do I do!?! Help!!

No need to panic, friend. I'm easily reachable at matt (dot) shafeek (at) gmail (dot) com. Feel free to contact me at anytime. You can also follow me on twitter at @mattshafeek (though as of right now I'm really bad at posting anything other than links to this blog, and spam from contest entries) And thanks for reading!
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

If I did it right, this should now be a separate page on the blog. If not, well. There's always the next time I decide to post once a day for a month and opt to use one of those days to do some site upkeep.

-Matt

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Post-A-Day: Happy Thanksgiving!

Hey guys - real quick post today. Three things I wanna say about Thanksgiving:

1) I'm incredibly grateful for all the love and support I have in my life, and to anyone reading this blog - you know who you are - thank you for being a part of my life. I don't know where I'd be without you.

2) One of the things I'm most thankful for is not having to do any more commuting than a subway right this Thanksgiving. Holy crap does flying sound annoying this time of year - and traffic is probably a bitch too.

3) Finally, while most people look forward to gorging on all kinds of delicious food today (and that is certainly a bonus for me too), the thing I look most forward to gorging on is the huge stockpile of media I've been building up for months - specifically my slowly filling DVR, my 360 (which I keep buying games for without finishing the others) and the Netflix subscription I barely use anymore. Here's to getting good use out of my TV this weekend!

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

-Matt

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Post-A-Day: Garbage Car (By Special Guest Jarret Berenstein)

(Today I'm happy [and thankful, for the day off] to present my first ever guest blog post from my good friend and comedian, Jarret Berenstein. We saw this car while we out the other night and it stopped us dead in our tracks. Truly a fascinating specimen. Enjoy!)


Garbage Car: A Tragedy.
-by Jarret Berenstein

I don't understand garbage car, and I don't think I ever will.  Garbage car is full of garbage.  It is FULL of garbage.  No room for passengers.  No room for a driver.  Just packed to the roof with a shit ton of garbage.

I know what you're thinking.  "Jarret...a car FULL of garbage?  Surely there is at least some room in the back for a baby seat.  How are they going to transport babies around if not?"

Go ahead and examine the photos.  This car is full of garbage.  








Full disclosure - We did not examine the trunk, so we cannot say with any certainty what it was full of.  But based on the evidence at our disposal however, I comfortable offerring this educated guess: Garbage.

The mysteries surrounding garbage car seem endless.  Who owns garbage car?  Why is it so full of garbage?  Isn't there a better place for garbage than every square inch of the inside of a car?  Can a car that is so disgusting and full of garbage even been called a car, as it surely is garbage itself as well?

I'm fine with all of those questions.  I really am.  I can accept any crazy explanation of garbage car that one could come up with.  Aliens?  Sure.  Government conspiracy?  Fine.  Petty divorcee?  I'll take two.

But there is one thing that drives me crazy about garbage car.  And that is that it is parked in lower Manhattan, and there is no street parking in lower Manhattan during the week.

Garbage car, what are you thinking?  What happens when you have to be moved on Monday before 9am?  If you had at least left some room for a driver, then I would understand.  You could be moved to somewhere non-ticketable.  A parking garage, or landfill for example.

But you are driverless, garbage car.  It is impossible to move you, lest we disrupt some of the garbage that gave you your name.  

Why, garbage car?  Why did you decide to exist on a street that gives you only temporary sanctuary?  In a scant two days you will be ticketed, or towed, or emptied of some of your eponymous garbage.  City ordinance has sealed your fate.  You have an expiration date, and it is rapidly approaching.  You are only a moment.  A whisper in the cacophonous annals of time.  You are drawing in smoke.  Garbage car, you have signed your own death warrant.  Your very existence is assuring your inevitable destruction.

Why, garbage car?  Why go through all that work to be so repulsive only to be enjoyed by a handful? By a courageous few?

I have not been back to see garbage car.  I don't think I could bear it.  Either it has sold out and moved some garbage to make room for a driver, or it just sits, awaiting its end like a political prisoner at the steps of the gallows.

Whatever your fate, garbage car, know that I will always remember you.  Not as an anomaly.  Not as a phenomenon fading with time, like a snow man in the spring.  

I will remember you as you are.  A car that is 100% full of garbage.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Post-A-Day: Day 96

(Was gonna do one more Gil entry today, but I've decided instead to mix it up with something different for my last day of blog-related storytelling.)

Day 96

"No gunshot. He didn't do it."

Those were the last six words Sam wanted to hear. As if they didn't have enough shit to deal with already. Now, instead of re-securing every window and door inside the house he had to take care of Burke. Instead of boiling a few gallons of water so everyone would have safe drinking water, he had to deal with that cowardly son of a bitch. Instead of taking a goddamn minute to look himself in the mirror and maybe shave the gnarly beard that was forming on his chin, he had to go into the basement and shoot a man who was no longer a man right between the eyes.

Sam took the necessary precautions - safety goggles and a surgical mask (blood splatter from killing others had been a concern after some of it flew into Kelly's mouth recently - she's still under close watch for signs of infection), as well as his Louisville slugger and his trusty Smith & Wesson. He put Wesley in charge of lookout while he was away. He told him he wouldn't be long - mostly because he didn't want Wesley in charge of lookout any longer than necessary. Wesley seemed like a nice enough guy, but Sam certainly didn't trust him with his life. Hell, he probably wouldn't have even trusted him to handle his stocks, or whatever the fuck he did before.

The plan was to get in and out of there as quickly as possible. He should still be chained to the radiator, where they last left him. There should be a Baretta on the ground, still fully loaded. A lantern, and a sheet paper with whatever the bastard's dying words were. Probably some cockamamie bullshit about his regrets, what he wanted to remembered for. Sam was so pissed off right now that he was tempted to add to the bottom of whatever he wrote "PS: He couldn't pull the trigger." But that'd probably be a new low, even for a son-of-a-bitch like him. Not that it mattered either way. Who was ever going to read the damn thing?

He came to the basement door and pressed his ears up against it. Silence. He knocked on the door. Nothing. This meant one of three things - he was dead but not yet turned, he was turned but not one of the loud ones, or lastly, he was somehow still alive and too ashamed to answer him. Sam prayed for anything but that. He didn't want to have another conversation with Burke. Another argument about what the most humane way to deal with his situation was. If he had had his way, this would all have been over and done with 24 hours ago. But the votes did not swing that way. No, he had to be given a choice. Hell of a lot of good that did.

He opened the door slowly. Still quiet. He called out into the darkness: "Burke?" Finally, from deep down below, off in the distance, he heard a familiar moan. He had turned. Sam breathed a sigh of relief - no more talking. Now it was just a matter of finishing the job. He turned on his flashlight and made his way carefully down the stairs. He reached the bottom and shined the light on him - first on his arm, which was still handcuffed to the radiator, then his face, which was staring directly at him, mouth agape and dead, glazed-over eyes staring up at the ceiling.

As Sam started to make his way towards him, the zombie lurched forth, realizing its purpose for the first time. It met resistance at its left wrist and began to sloppily angle itself forward as best it could. Sam briefly studied the monster, wondering both if there was any trace of Burke left in the husk of the body that once contained him, and if there was anything left to learn from the zombies that they didn't already know. Maybe they could poke and prod this one for a while, see if there was any other weaknesses they had, or how long they could last without feeding. They could break its teeth out, or tape its mouth closed and prevent it from ever being a threat.

He quickly realized none of this was practical, so he pulled out his gun, aimed and fired a carefully placed shot right into Burke's brain. The zombie fell back and hung awkwardly over the radiator, twitching slightly.

Sam turned to leave but realized he forgot about Burke's note. He turned his flashlight to the floor and found the note neatly tucked inside one of Burke's shoes, which must have made sense to him at some point. Curiosity getting the better of him, he unfolded the note and was surprised to see that it was mostly blank, save for the following words, which were bolded and inked over many many times:

"Wish I were as strong as you, Sam. I'm sorry."

"Yeah, I'm sorry too, Burke," Sam said, as he folded up the note and headed back up the stairs.

(Fun week! Back to blogging tomorrow)
(Matt)

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Post-A-Day: Gil (Six)

(What's this post all about? See where I started off here)

GIL

Dear Mr. Malhotra:

Northwestern University would like to congratulate you on your recent success, and we'd also like to take this opportunity to ask you to contribute to the Alumni Fund.

Last year, alumni contributed $19 million through the Alumni Fund, 12 percent of our entire operating revenue. In tough economic times, such generosity is as essential as it is impressive, because we employ these gifts to sustain the values at the core of the Northwestern enterprise.

No value is more central than educating outstanding students without regard to financial condition. We now
provide financial assistance to one of every two students, and last year we were able to increase financial aid
(the only budget area we increased) to meet the rising need of students and their families. Alumni Fund gifts
enabled us to do so without compromising other essential educational commitments.

Nearly 560,000 alumni - seven out of every ten - give to the Alumni Fund each year. Those gifts range from $1 to $100,000 and, taken together, make the essential difference as Northwestern defines the standard of quality education.

Please consider donating some of recent winnings to help future Northwestern University students achieve the same level of success you have received in your life.

Sincerely yours,
Mark McNerney '87
Chairman
Northwestern Alumni Fund


"Amir, you know I love you, but why are you coming to me with this nonsense?"

Asha was in no mood to hear Amir complain about his so-called 'problem.' That he had the audacity to come over at 6:30 in the evening, right as she was preparing dinner for her family, told her everything she needed about how much in his own little world he was, unaware or unconcerned with those around him.

"I'm happy to help," Amir offered. "Want me to set the table?"

"Fine, fine. The plates are in that cupboard over there." Asha lowering the flame on three different pots and finally turned to face Amir for the first time. "So you're having difficulty deciding how to spend all this money? This sounds like that movie we saw as children, with that black comedian who passed away."

"Huh? Oh no, it's not Brewster's Millions," Amir smiled, remembering exactly when they saw the movie together. "I don't have to spend the money or anything. I also don't have to give any of it away, technically. It's just - the seed got planted, and now I can't decide what I want to do."

"What are you going to do with 127 million dollars, Amir? You don't need that much money."

"Do you want some of it?" Amir pleaded.

"Hah!" Asha had been anticipating this question in one form or another. "Are you really going to tempt me like this? If you want to give us some of the money Amir, we'll happily accept it. As will our mother and father, and auntie Oshma and uncle Fahad. You want a simple solution, there it is. But ultimately it is your decision Amir. I will not make it for you."

Amir studied his sister as she gave her speech. She had matured quite a bit in just the past few years. Marriage and kids (twins, one boy and one girl, exactly what she wanted, if not at the same time) were certainly something she'd been planning since she was young, but Amir couldn't help but wonder what would have happened if she allowed herself a few more years of freedom before settling down. He later realized he was fantasizing about putting his sister into an ambiguous life position, similar to himself, for the purposes of solidarity and self-assurance. She was clearly happy now, despite the bags and stains on her clothes.

"I choose...naan." Amir, chuckled to himself as he took a bite out of the fresh bread. "Mmm, this is good. You added garlic?"

"Yes, and onion and chili powder. You know, you've always been indecisive Amir, you know that, right? How many colleges did you apply to, eleven? Twelve?"

"Um, it was nine, ok? Ten if you count my safety school, Albany." Amir mumbled with a mouthful of naan, as he dove into the fridge for something to drink.

"Right - you don't know how to make decisions and stick to them. You're so afraid of making mistakes, so you choose nothing." Asha stated very matter-of-fact. She was slowly starting to sound like her own mother, they both realized and hated.

"Hey - I did go to college, remember? Northwestern." Amir rebuffed, with as much school pride as he was capable of mustering.

"After you missed the deadline for early decision at Princeton, which father will never forgive you for."

"I would have been miserable there."

"But you also kind of hated Northwestern, right? Didn't you say you hated every class you took after freshman year?"

"Ah, it was fine. I was just complaining because all of a sudden everything got harder. And not just the classes. The weather was shitty that entire first semester. Girls were all a sudden rejecting me left and right too."

"Maybe they all started to realize what a lazy bum you were."

Amir shrugged. Asha felt a tiny bit guilty for being so blunt, but she knew that particular comment would wash right off of him. Just then two little bolts of energy shoot into the kitchen. Asha's children, now 3, were hungry and also eagerly awaiting their designated one hour of television they were entitled to shortly.

Amir immediately picked them both up, one with each arm - quickly realizing this would probably be one of the last times he'd be able to pull it off. "Well, well, well, look who it is. Hello Hari, hello Anisha."

"I'm Hari!"
"I'm Anisha!"

Amir loved this bit - mixing up the children even though they both non-identical and increasingly more easily distinguishable. He was also sure Asha was sick of it.

"Sorry, sorry. So - who wants to play with my iPhone, hmm?"

"Me!"
"I do!"

Amir took his phone out of his pocket, all the while sporting a devilish grin. He loved being the fun uncle.

"Hey kids, maybe Uncle Amir will buy you guys your own iPhone...or an iPad!

"What's an iPad?"
"Yeah...what's that?"

Asha had to intervene now before things got out of control. "It's nothing, uncle Amir is just being silly - kids go wash up."

The two children immediately do as instructed. With a frown on his face Hari dutifully hands over the iPhone before he scampered away.

Asha turned to Amir again, this time with a stern look on her face. "Do me a favor, Amir. Don't make empty promises to my children."

"Empty? But I..."

"No, ok. Fine. Don't make any promises, period, for now, ok? You don't realize it but offering 3 year old children a $500 electronic device on a whim has repercussions. Think before you act in the future, please."

Amir nodded, then took the plate of naan into the dining room. As he sat down, the children came back in and started to seat themselves as well. Sensing and opportunity, Amir turned on his 'iFart' app and let one rip just as Hari began to sit down.

"That wasn't me!!!" Hari screamed.

They all laughed. Even Asha, still in the kitchen, couldn't help but smile.

(More tomorrow)
(Matt)

Friday, November 19, 2010

Post-A-Day: Gil (Five)


(What's this post all about? See where I started off here)

GIL

The second Amir started spending the money, he knew he'd be opening the floodgates. He'd be leaving behind the life of a comfortably middle class Brooklynite and 'golden jetpacked' into the world of the wealthy - a world he felt he both didn't belong and he'd be rejected from. The latter was something he was dwelling on at the moment. He didn't have any knowledge or proof of it other than perhaps the parodies of it he saw in episodes of 'The Simpsons' or 'My Name Is Earl', but surely it must go without saying that a man who leapfrogged into his current tax bracket through a stroke of luck (brilliant as his number selection process was) wouldn't be welcomed with open arms into high society? 

More than that though, there was that nagging feeling that with all the challenge removed from having to earn a living, Amir would simply grow complacent and never challenge himself ever again. He'd become the perennial slacker his father always accused him of being, whenever he watched television for more than a half hour, or came home from school with anything less than an A. Sure, he'd resist it at first, insist he was going to use the money to enrich his life, to travel, take tango lessons, finally learn to cook something other than pasta and ramen. Maybe even do something big - something important. But on some level, he felt the transformation was inevitable. He was cognizant enough to know he didn't want to be a spoiled, lazy brat, but simply being aware of the traits and pitfalls wasn't enough.

He couldn't help but be reminded about the first time he got high. He was a late bloomer when it came to drugs and alcohol, drinking a bit in college but never really getting drunk, and trying pot a few times unsuccessfully in college, a friend finally devoted a night to popping his cherry one of the first nights after he moved into his first apartment. As the effects of the homemade gravity bong finally started to take hold, there was a strong initial resistance to the effects. Then, slowly but inevitably, he started going through every one of the stereotypes he'd witnessed before from the side of the sober observer. 

First, there was the paranoia - wondering if his neighbors would hear his loud laughs or see smoke coming out from under the door. Then he was confounded - lost in thought for minutes (that felt like hours)  at a time, his eye barely open, and when he finally attempted to speak, nothing but absolute nonsense came from his mouth. Of course the giggles came next. His situation, everything around him, life itself became such a silly little thing. Finally, the munchies hit. Midway through his third mind-blowingly delicious peanut butter and nutella sandwich, he realized how much of a caricature he'd become, going right through the checklist of cliches. Despite all the knowledge and advance warnings he had, he was powerless to stop himself. For the next two hours, the high stopped being fun, and he sat on his futon with his head hanging down, lost in thought, constantly grounding and reminding himself over and over that his feelings were fake. 

He rarely indulged ever again - the loss of control didn't sit well with him (it was similar with drinking, and by now he had perfected the art of drinking slowly enough to stay mostly sober throughout the night) - and the incident creeped into all areas of his life - strong feelings of love, lust, happiness and sadness were heavily scrutinized. Any heightened emotion put him on the defensive. Even his revenge fantasy against Bergstrom was questioned at times because of the pleasure it brought him, just thinking about it. He justified the whole experience rationalizing that letting Bergstrom go unchallenged brought even worse thoughts into his mind, hence some sacrifices needed to be made.

This was another strong argument in favor of giving away the money - on top of all the good he would be doing in the world by donating it, seemed like more than enough justification for giving it all away. He also would be able to stay a semi-hip Williamsburg resident, living paycheck to paycheck (of course, once he found the means to getting a paycheck again), the lifestyle he knew, was comfortable in, and where he belonged. He also wouldn't be tempted to do anything stupid. Getting rid of all the money, as crazy as it sounded, was clearly the most logical solution. He could even keep a tiny portion of it, enough to last him a few lean years, and no one would begrudge him for it. It was a win-win-win situation. Easy-peesy. 

He continued to add items into Column B, but no matter how lopsided the comparison looked, the single  item (rather, the single concept contained with the few items) written in Column A still tipped the scales in its favor. Emotion was still trumping logic. This frustrated Amir to no end.


Soon after he finished his coffee, he decided to put off the decision for yet another day. Unfortunately for him, a new complication would arrive.


Her name was Cherie.


(More tomorrow)
(Matt)

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Post-A-Day: Gil (Four)

(What's this post all about? See where I started off here)

GIL

Dear Mr. Malhotra:

Congratulations you on your recent winnings! We here at CityLiving Real Estate would be more than happy to assist you in your search for a new home to accommodate your new life. We have a number of apartments all over the Manhattan area that we think would be perfect for you - and yes, we'll be sure they all have French maid service and clawfoot bathtubs! Please give a call as soon as you're ready to set up some appointments.

Sincerely,
Jill Clement
Licensed Realtor
CityLiving Real Estate


"Uh, how much longer is it going to take for my drink? I had the salted caramel hot chocolate."

While Amir was extra sensitive to the behavior of those around him, he was quickly starting to realize he needed to check in with his own behavior every now and again. Minutes earlier, inside a Starbucks in the West Village, he found himself tempted to offer a homeless person he saw on the way in $50 to wait on the line for him, which was exceptionally long for this time of day. Just after that he wanted to offer $100 to the woman on the phone who had no idea what she wanted once she got to the cashier, just to never come back to that Starbucks ever again.

He always dismissed these thoughts quickly - actually doing them was clearly ridiculous, and would probably do more harm than good in the long run. But he couldn't help but think them now, because he actually used to think in those terms even before he won the lottery.

Back before he quit, Amir would take a few minutes every now and again during the work day to calculate his value per minute, "vpm." He took his biweekly paycheck, and calculated how much he was being paid per day, per hour, per minute. Then that number, ($0.53/minute the last time he checked) became in his head the conversion rate of a sort of clock ATM, a machine he visualized that dispensed cash but would advance forward every time it did. He had successfully turned the phrase "time is money" into an actual fully realized device.

From there he factored in all the costs he had over the course of the day. He was able to figure out how many minutes of his life a sandwich at Pret-A-Manger cost him (12.75), or his monthly gym membership (94.33/mo). He could also calculate it in reverse, noticing the minutes of his life saved if he only ever gave the old standard 15% tip instead of the new, expected rate of 20% (~196.23/year), or getting a pair pair of jeans for 50% off (56.60). Amir realized there were a lot of logistical and practical flaws involved in this line of thinking, but he was still proud of the system, even if it did make him a bit more frugal than he probably needed to be. Oddly enough, he spent as little time as possible looking at his bank statements, as well as his credit card, phone and utility bills, plus his student loans. He figured he was already doing enough.

Now of course the entire equation was thrown out of whack. For all intents and purposes, he had a near endless money supply. Time was the only factor in the equation, the only thing of value. It made sense to do whatever he could with his money to save as much time as possible, even if it was only a minute or two here and there.

So why couldn't he bring himself to spend any of it yet?

(More tomorrow)
(Matt)

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Post-A-Day: Gil (Three)

(What's this post all about? See where I started off here)

GIL

Tom wasn't sure what Amir expected to happen, but he definitely had his own hypothesis. Although he hadn't yet admitted it to him, Tom could tell Amir had been looking for an out with her for some time, and this stunt might finally give him what he needed. Tom liked Bonnie well enough, but he knew ultimately the relationship was headed in one direction, so he preferred not to see it dragged out.

Bonnie walked in looking a little disheveled, but after she located Amir and Tom and she threw down her bag, ran into the bathroom, and after a quick five minute makeover looked good enough to turn some heads that didn't even notice her on the way in. As she pulled up a stool to the boys, Amir glanced at her long, flowing red hair, and was briefly reminded of how attracted he was to it once upon a time.

"Hey guys. I heard the most amazing joke today, are you ready for it?"

Amir quickly snapped out of his trance and remembered he was supposed to be testing her. Wanting to get his story out first, he wasn't biting.

"Ah, another awful standup? I don't think I'm in the mood for another terrible joke."

Tom, on the other hand, couldn't help but take pleasure in delaying Amir's gratification.

"No, no, I wanna hear this. Was this that smelly, dirty, disheveled guy who had all the jokes about masturbating in his mom's house?"

Bonnie was waitressing at Comic Strip Live, which she hated, but she decided early on that rather than complain about her job she'd repeat some of the terrible, terrible jokes she heard told.

"No no, shh shh, come on, just let me tell it. Ok, here goes, let me just get into character here..."

She lowered her shoulders and pulled an imaginary microphone up uncomfortably close to her mouth while staring down low to the ground. She also put on her favorite "man" voice, which on any other day would be a total crowd-pleaser.

"So, um, you guys know Super Mario, right? You think that guy ever has trouble getting it up? You think he's like, about to put the throwdown on Princess Peach's...pussy (she elongated the word, as the standup did, but lowered her voice, which he did not), and suddenly he realizes its all like brunk brunk brunk..."

Tom interrupted: "Wait, what is that?"

"You know, like when Mario is big and he gets hit and he shrinks: brunk brunk brunk. Duh! Come on, don't stop me now I'm getting to the best part - So, his dick is all limp, right? So he has to go and hit a powerup box, you know those question mark things, and a little mushroom comes out. He runs up to it, and whips it out, and puts his dick on it. Then it's like: brang brang brang, you know? It's like viagra, only it also makes his dick bigger too."

Amir was perplexed. "I don't get it."

"Exactly! You guys, that was his joke. He spent the rest of his set just making that stupid noise over and over again while he air-fucked everything on the stage. Can you believe that?"

"Anything's possible on amateur night."

The other half of Bonnie's audience was much more receptive - Tom was in stitches.

"Unbe-fucking-leavable. I love it." Tom bellowed, making sure to slap Amir on the back as he did. "You really need to get up on stage sometime and just redo some of these bits, saying "people really said this hoping to get a laugh!"

"Hah, you know I thought about that, but I think there's some standup code or something that says you don't make fun of other people's joke. Definitely material for my blog though!" Bonnie said, as she pulled out a notepad and scribbled down some notes.

"Definitely." Tom was now glancing at Amir, letting him know it was finally his turn to share.

Bonnie was ready to hear the news as well. "So what's up with you, sourpuss? Didja play the lottery and only get second place today?"

"Well, uh, I quit my job finally." Amir said, starting off his mini-con.

"That's great! So did you punch Douchestrom in the dick?" Bonnie asked, bringing his fists dangerous close to Amir's crotch.

"No, actually. I did something dumb, and then he called me out, and I wanted to be better than him more than anything in the world. So I told him I was going to donate all the lottery money to charity, in front of the entire company. And eventually some members of the press."

There was a long pause. Bonnie's eyes got as wide as they could possibly get, then, inexplicably, they got even wider. In the intervening milliseconds before she responded, Amir decided no matter how she responded, it was going to be the wrong thing to say.

(More tomorrow)
(Matt)

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Post-A-Day: Gil (Two)

(What's this post all about? See where I started off here)

GIL

Dear Mr. Malhotra:

My name is Debby Ferguson. I'm the tour manager for Arcade Fire. Congratulations on your recent lottery win, I certainly have fantasized about being in the situation you're in right now ;). The band is very flattered that you would reach out to them.

With regards to your inquiry, Arcade Fire does not normally perform private concerts for fans, however, after reading your letter they were very amused and they decided that given your location in the heart of NYC it would be possible to perform at a smaller venue (not an apartment or home though, for a number of reasons) if you were able to rent out the space, secure a hotel space, and pay their standard performance fee of $35K for a full set.

Let me know if this offer sounds agreeable to you,

Sincerely,
Debby Ferguson


A million thoughts were racing through Tom's mind. He didn't know whether to console him or punch him in the face.

"You're the dumbest person alive, you know that, right?"

"You're absolutely correct."

Normally, Amir was quick to defend himself to Tom in a situation like this. He'd explain his logic, the situational circumstances, elements beyond his control. Today he had nothing to say, so he just hung his head low. He ordered the second of what was sure to be many rounds from the bartender at McManus. He turned back to Tom, who was just getting warmed up:

"No, man, I mean it. How did you go from enacting your ultimate revenge to being down ONE HUNDRED THIRTY MILLION DOLLARS?!"

"Technically it's one hundred twenty seven point five..."

"Don't you correct me, I'm not done yelling at you!"

"You think I don't already feel enough like an idiot?"

Tom was one of the few people that didn't change his behavior or the way he spoke to Amir in any way since he won the lottery. It was a combination of his incredibly longstanding relationship with him, and the fact that as an investment banker, he was already making more money than he needed. When Amir asked him what he could buy him as a lottery present, Tom told him he wished he had won the 'time lottery,' because he wanted his 20's back.

"So wait, why exactly do you have to follow through on this? Did you swear on a stack of bibles or something?" Tom asked.

"I told you. I got interviewed after I did it. There's gonna be a story in a hundred newspapers tomorrow about 'the most altruistic guy in the world' donating all his lottery winnings."

"You promised to donate ALL of it?" Tom was voicing was getting louder, and he was gesticulating madly, almost consciously begging the rest of the bar to join in and berate Amir.

"Well, I think I backpeddled a little bit, saying I still had some student loans I probably wanted to pay off..."

Amir almost couldn't believe it himself. Could he actually commit to doing that? And would it actually be anything close to a good deed, if it was done as an act of one-upmanship?

Tom wasn't letting up: "Of course you commit to this the same day you quit your job with extreme prejudice."

"That's the long and the short of it." Amir wondered if he should flat-out apologize for his poor life decision to his friend that actually had to suffer none of the consequences.

"But what about all of our plans? What about buying the Red Sox and then disbanding them as a team? What about organizing the world's longest topless conga line?"

"Forget all that crap - I was gonna buy a kick-ass apartment right here on the upper west side. And a car! I could walk in to a Ferrari dealership right now and buy a car IN CASH, crash it immediately, and then go back and do it again!"

Just then Amir saw a familiar face coming in through the entrance. He turned to Tom and gave his first smile of the night: "At least this'll be a fun little relationship test for Bonnie. Ready to see some conflicting emotions?"

(More tomorrow)
(Matt)

Monday, November 15, 2010

Post-A-Day: Gil (One)

Hey guys - so this week in honor of Nation Novel Writing Month (which I chickened out of fully committing to) I'm gonna start posting some stuff from a story that's been riding around in my head for a little while. It won't necessarily be completely linear, mind you - I'm probably going to jump around a bit, so keep that in mind. I have no idea what I'm gonna do with it, or how long it's even going to be, but despite not knowing all the details I'm just gonna go ahead and dive right in starting today. It's called "Gil," and away we go:

GIL

Dear Mr. Malhotra:

Thank you for expressing your interest in Virgin Galactic, the world's premiere commercial space travel program. Attached you will find a pamphlet that addresses all of your questions regarding reservations and travel. To clarify your specific question - the package we offer only travels into the outer edges of the earth's atmosphere, also known as 'suborbital flight.' As of this time no commercial space program currently travels all the way to the moon, or Mars, where man has yet to set foot in any capacity.

Any further questions can be forwarded to your local accredited space agent, Frank Ciccarelli, who operates in our NYC branch. His business card is also enclosed.

Thank you again for your interest, and we hope to see you aboard one of flights soon!

Sincerely,
Stacey Warner
Virgin Galactic Mission Control


The way Amir saw it, the big pendulum had swung again. This time it was his options. He went from thinking he had way too few of them, to thinking he had way, way too many. That always seemed to be the problem with his life. He always felt he was barely scraping by or overflowing with stuff he couldn't make room for. He started his freshman year of college weighing 132lbs, very underweight for someone his size and build. By the end of his sophomore year he was 170lbs. He'd gone from being rail thin to having a double chin and a paunch seemingly overnight. His education was the opposite - graduating at the top of his class from a highly rated public school in Brooklyn without breaking a sweat, then going to Northwestern and finding out he wasn't as smart as he thought, regularly getting C's and D's in classes, pulling all nighters and doing what he thought was his best to keep up.

Finally, he couldn't get laid to save his life growing up until after he got out of college, when he finally figured out exactly when to talk to women and when to shut up and just rely on his disarming smile. Recently he noticed a girl was actively flirting with him after he mentioned meeting up with his girlfriend later. Naturally, Amir complains about this particular pendulum swing the least (so long as it stays on this side for a while), though he couldn't help but wonder if it was that old cliche about women being more attracted to "attached men" or if it was the $127.5 million dollars he won in the lottery six weeks ago.

Balance - that's what he wanted more than anything. Though of course he knew he'd be a fool to complain about his literal embarrassment of riches. Initially that was why he was still coming into his job, weeks later. Still sitting as his desk. Still opening and closing every IT request ticket that came in, as if the job didn't have even less meaning to him now than it did before, when he already couldn't stand it. But it wasn't the guilt that was keeping him at his job at this point. The guilt had worn off 2 weeks ago, almost as quickly as it came, once his coworkers suddenly stopped seeing him a peer and more as a lucky brat who was keeping someone else who needed the job from having it.

Amir was still at his desk, clocking in and out right one time every day because he can hold a grudge better than anyone he knows. And he had a score to settle with the company CEO, Kevin Bergstrom - or "Dr. Bergstrom," as he insisted on being called. "Mister Douchestrom" or worse, "Kevin" - as he always made it a mental point to address him mentally - was currently Amir's least favorite person on the planet. Living or dead, fictional or real. Amir proved this to himself one time by trying to create a more hate-able monster. No matter how hard he tried though, even the axe-wielding, baby murdering, boob-shrinking minotaur would up having a single redeeming quality: that he was self-aware enough to know what he was was (also that he wasn't real and thus couldn't do all the terrible things he was supposedly able to do).

Bergstrom consistently and unapologetically treated everyone around him like a disposable handi-wipe, and Amir often got it worst of all. Being far too dignified to ever learn a single necessary piece of useful information regarding proper care for his computer, Amir was constantly being called in to address a new problem on his boss's computer. And his personal laptop. And his blackberry. And his printer. None of this would be a problem of course if Amir wasn't regularly berated for doing a terrible job and making the situation worse, only to be called in again for his help.

Even before he won the lottery, Amir was always debating ways to enact revenge on Bergstrom. He was particularly enchanted with the way Ed Norton quit his job in Fight Club, beating himself senseless while alone in a room with his boss to create a narrative that was somehow less ridiculous than the truth - though he knew he could never commit as hard as Norton's character did to self abuse. The lottery just upped the ante, and for better for worse, gave Amir way more possibilities than he could ever fully realize. Some of his favorites ones included:

-Offering everyone at the company 100K to quit all at once on the same day, but in order to receive the stipend, they would have to each one by one go into his office, offer their letter of resignation, and punch Bergstrom right in the dick.

-Hire an incredibly gorgeous, expensive prostitute to seduce Bergstrom, and bring him back to a hotel room. Get him to strip off all his clothes, take a picture of his ugly, naked body, and then punch him right in the dick and leave.

-Using his IT access, he could alter the company website and have embarrassing facts and photographs of Bergstrom placed all over the site, which would of course be unveiled during the regularly scheduled Board of Directors meetings. After the website was unveiled, it would be presumed that each board member would naturally, go right for a punch to the dick.

While all of these options made Amir smile from ear to ear, ultimately he realized his pen was mightier than his sword. Or more specifically, his particular skill set was mightier than his dick punching ability.

(more tomorrow)
(Matt)