The End of Scrubs, the Sequel

Following up on my original, hopeful take on whether Scrubs was really going to end two years ago, another is-it-or-isn’t-it the end episode aired last night. First and foremost, give the cast and crew of Scrubs and ABC (yes, the network) all the credit in the world for ignoring the absolutely awful, rather pointless seventh season and believing in the show enough to give it one last go. The entire eighth season was strong, beginning to end, and the fact that the lead actors took turns being MIA in some episodes due to cost-cutting, showed that the writers still knew what they were doing, even after two weak seasons.
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Not pictured: the Janitor. And 8 years worth of wrinkles.

It’s still up in the air whether the show will continue sans Zach Braff, whether they’ll focus on the interesting-but-not-quite-interesting enough interns, or whether they’ll simply end it last night.

Let me officially place my vote for “simply let it end.” The finale was all-but perfect. They took the risky direction by not wrapping up the stories, and even calling out the fact that endings really are just beginnings, and life isn’t all-about simple wrap-ups. There’s the dramatic decision to make a change, but after it happens, there are simply more unknowns to be faced, some even scarier than the original moment of “conclusion.” JD’s “what if” fantasy at the end worked a lot better than some sort of tacked on “20 years later” third act, a la Will & Grace.

****½

The End of Scrubs, The Sequel gets four-and-a-half stars. Funny, poignant, dramatic, and the classic Scrubs’ depressing in a happy way non-resolution. And they picked a Super-Duper song for the last “dramatic montage over indie music” which I knew beforehand! [Peter Gabriel’s cover of “The Book of Love” originally by The Magnetic Fields.] Coming full circle, one of the reasons this site was started stems from hearing a really good song which I stumbled across in 2005, then heard when I was watching the third season of the show en masse in 2006 and patted myself on the back for knowing it before I saw the episode… then I found out that the CD which was playing that song when I heard it was from a playlist consisting only of songs played on Scrubs. That’s right. The mirror is facing another mirror which is facing me. And I’m not smiling. Anyway, minus half of one star because the show could continue which would make this a “very special episode,” not a firing-on-all-cylinders, pitch perfect series finale.

The finale of the finale.

Empty Bookshelf’s First 100 Reviews


Oh, those kids. Always at it. You guys really shouldn’t’ve.

So here we are at the first of what may be a few reviews of our first milestone, 100 reviews. Not only is this the first review of this milestone, but of what could be very many milestones. We here at the Bookshelf like the word “milestone“, and don’t believe in Thesauruses. So here we go, our first hundred in a nutshell.

The first actual review happened way back in October of 2005… remember that time before the Steelers won the superbowl, before “Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire” movie, before Dick Cheny accidentally shot his friend while hunting, and before Bristol, United Kingdom celebrated the 200th birthday of Isambard Kingdom Brunel (actually April 9) by relighting the Clifton Suspension Bridge?

Dan’s first review was aimed at complaining about post-game hype surrounding an extremely long baseball game. Of course our readers probably care about boring Astros-Braves baseball games as much as they seemed to care about my terrible review of the dictionary. Even though that picture was good, it was nowhere near the five star quality of this image. I too tried my hand at reviewing food, but it was an utter failure. On the plus side, my review of the letter to the editor is one of my favorites, and my first review actually got eight comments, including this link. The few following that grilled chese review focused mostly on music, my opinion of “Good Night, and Good Luck”, a particular episode of Trading Spouses, and Dan’s opinion of My opinion of “Good Night, and Good Luck”. Dan also said that the Colbert report wouldn’t last, which seems to have been proven false.

October seemed to be us finding our footing.
***

November saw Dan’s Cleveland Trifecta, a diatribe against horses, a road that he liked, an episode of “Coach“, and his complaints about how much he aches, now that he’s an old man. I started the month strong with the Beth review, but struggled through the rest of it, with lame reviews like Thursday, a type of tooth”paste” that doesn’t work for me, and an insightful, yet completely unnecessary complaint about my nosebleeds. My FAO Schwarz review kinda made up for them, but the highlight of the month involved Dan and I sparring about how Christmas is coming earlier every year, and something about me being a time-traveling sheep.

November didn’t see much improvement over October, but the Christmas stuff was entertaining.
***½

December got a bit better, even with a few less reviews. I busted out the old NES games, for a few reviews that I swear are not trying to copy off of XE, another personal favorite, Christmas Cards, Adam’s first review, Dan throwing the hate down on Pitchfork media, and a suprising amount of people commenting on Roger Ebert’s take on video games. The biggest advance in December was the pop-ins, that added added some clarity to our parentheses-obsessed-writing.

December was a highly engaging and entertaining month, even with only nine reviews.
****½

2006 rolled around, and January saw Dan get political, review half of a book, not like warm winters a lot. I only contributed three of ten reviews that month, but all three of them were relatively alright, mostly because “Where In Time is Carmen Sandiego“, and “The Simpsons” after season 9 is so easy to complain about.

January’s topics fell off a little.
***½

February, while being the shortest month, was also a monster for us, as far as number goes. A whopping twenty-one reviews. To be fair, 17 of them came in our envelope-pushing live superbowl reviews, the biggest stunt pulled in the history of reviewing anything and everything on a five star scale. The only other reviews of any substance were my Gauntlet Review of the Beatles albums, and Dan’s digging up of our one-issue underground high-school newspaper.

Despite the big stunt, and two good reviews, February was kinda lacking.
**½

March just plain sucked. Four reviews total. One by me. Three megareviews by Dan.

½

April was slightly better, with another of my top five of my reviews, Legacy of the Wizard. The other four I would give an average of 3 stars to, but since there were only four during the month, that’s going to cancel out the Legacy of the Wizard bonus and take it down a half star.

**½

For my money, May was our best month yet. Dan’s contribution was the lengthy three-part TV landscape review. I threw out quality stuff with my Songs for Silverman, and Degree Navigator reviews. The shorter American Dreamz and Davinci Code video game reviews were serviceable, but my immense LOST season 2 review tops everything.

*****

June fell off a bit. Four reviews total. Split two and two. Mine were based on a ridiculous news story, and anger at other people for coincidentally coming up with the same ideas as me. Dan tried to put everything into perspective by seeing how well the entire history of human ingenuity and artistry stacked up in the interstellar community, and complained a little about how the national geography of roadways isn’t designed to suit his needs.

**

July was filled with the (I gotta admit my ignorance as to the relevance of this phrase… and wikipedia does nothing to help) Navel Gazing set. I was had for a few minutes by a Jimmy Kimmel hoax, and I thought the critics were a little too harsh on Shayamalan. Despite the mediocre numbers for the month, I’d give it a 3.5

***½

This gives us a per-month average of 3 stars, which isn’t too shabby.

In my first ever review, I reviewed the concept of this website. I claimed that we wouldn’t be able to keep it fresh, that we’d run out of ideas, and that we wouldn’t be able to stay somewhat funny at least. I believe my exact quote was “It has the potential to provide hours of entertainment for readers, and shape their lives for years to come. However, the downside is that it could get old real soon, and provide us with nothing but an excuse not to get real jobs.”

Well, I think we’ve significantly proven wrong every single point that I just brought up. We have 29 categories, 19 subcategories, and even two sub-sub categories. We’re still writing about reasonably different things, and while we may have slacked on the funny in recent months, we still bring the ‘A’ game on occasion. As far as my quote goes, I’d be willing to bet that we’ve provided maybe a few hours of entertainment for a handful of people, which probably did nothing to shape their lives for even the near fututre. On the upside, it hasn’t gotten old, and we have gotten real-ish jobs.

For all of these reasons, I’m willing to up our star rating by half a star, over the average rating of 3. I’ve also realized that my method of calculating the rating might not be the best, so I’m gonna throw in another half star for a final rating of 4 stars out of five.

****

And for those of you playing along at home, yes, this technically is the 100th review and so therefore should be included. This review receives 3 stars for not having much to offer in the way of witty musings, and for having a faulty overall rating method, but for packing so many subjects and links into one review.

***

Navel Gazing Part 2: Sneakers as Temporal Landmarks

Now that is a triple-word-score $5 title!(all ridiculousness aside, stick with me, I’ll explain what I mean by that later. I really couldn’t think of a more condensed name for the concept.)

Those that know me and read the website (I’d wager the two are almost mutually exclusive — except for the ragtag bunch of misfits that Nate drags in) know that my Youth was marked by complete, abnormal interest in a variety of subjects. I’m not sure of the exact order, but it went something like this: dinosaurs, space, birds, Star Wars, airliners, fighter jets, and what I’ve sort of landed on now, computers and cars. That’s all well and good as it could be, and until very recently (yesterday, to be exact), I thought these phases were the be all and end all of “where I was” at a particular time, the landmarks (or buoys) on to which everything in my past had been tied. As in, when I’d page through my old, binding-suffering-because-of-overuse copy of Audubon’s Field Guide to North American Birds (1994 edition, of course), I’d remember X, Y, Z that happened around that time. Same thing when looking through my old space books, the binders I put together about airplanes, my dinosaur toys, etc, etc. I had thought that those were it for “way back when.” I think the reason for thinking in these terms is that each stage stands alone as a very discrete point in time. I can’t put my finger on exactly when I was interested in airplanes, but it was after such-and-such and before other such-and-such. Obviously, this isn’t how life goes, it’s rare for there to be a finite and complete “end” to something. Sure, I still remember bits and pieces from each “stage,” but I’m not usually adding more to whatever it is that I know and remember about each. I hadn’t put much thought to it, but these academic pursuits really only have memories about the particular subject associated with them: sitting in the cold, convincing myself that I was always just one more roll of film away from taking a picture good enough for Birder’s World with my crappy camera, and on and on. That’s the sort of thing I remember when I look through my old bird books. That’s all well and good, but as I’m looking at it now, I must not have been a very interesting kid, only remembering things related to these rather niche interests. So that leads us into yesterday.

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Oh, the memories. Sort of.

I have a bit of a soft spot for sneakers; my Oakley Twitch review might’ve shown that, but being that I limit my purchases to the shoe in question, it’s quite under control. Recently, the Nike Free 5.0‘s have intrigued me. I have one pair of what I’ll call not-sitting-around sneakers, so I definitely don’t need these new sneakers, but I think they look nifty, and having tried them on, they’re very comfortable in their own, unique way (just like Nike would have you believe). So, this sneaker-centric internet browsing led to a corner of the internet I knew existed but didn’t realize quite how serious they were. The sneakerheads/shoeheads. All things considered, that’s fine. There’s no better place than the internet to complain about how “Nike’s reissue strategy really screws over the collectors because they claim a colorway will be limited, then change the packaging and sell it to everyone.” God bless the internet. Anyway. All this led me to this exact page, a history of all the Air Jordans. At first, there’s little significance there, I’ve never owned a pair of Air Jordans, they were way out of what my mom decided my sneaker price range was and by the time I was buying sneakers myself, they were still way too expensive, and more importantly, I wasn’t really into basketball sneakers anymore. But where this comes together is how big a deal sneakers were for elementary and middle school boys (that’s not a universal thing, but consider it a blanket statement). Looking through the list of Air Jordan’s, the first ones I remember as being “the new ones” were the Air Jordan 5’s, released in 1990. I was 8, but I can remember who the first person I knew that had them and how much I wanted them. I remember seeing the kids wear them for intramural basketball games at the East Side Youth Center, and on and on. And these aren’t people or things I’ve even thought of since then, way back in 1990. Oddly enough, going through the rest of the Air Jordan’s up until 1996’s Air Jordan 12. I had no intention of purchasing a pair then or now, but I remember talking about the new colors that would come out every month or so with my more athletic-minded friends at the time, many people I hadn’t thought about since then (until randomly looking at pictures of sneakers online), and oddly enough, the first time I really thought about the interior details of my middle school, something I thought I had forgotten since the day of my 8th grade “graduation.”

It goes on and on, looking at any of the high profile sneakers from 1990-1997, lots of stuff I didn’t realize I remembered. But it ends there in 1996/1997. Sneakers after that don’t elicit anything. I thought about it for a while, and I realized why. That’s when simple things like sneakers were phased out by a more serious interest in music. Like anyone “young,” I had always enjoyed TV, movies, and Top 40 radio, but around 1996/1997 (14 or so years old) most everyone has had a couple serious years acquiring his or her own personal taste in music. Before that point, oddly enough, sneakers provide those “temporal landmarks,” but after that time, it’s really music that reminds me in that same way. Of course it’s not just music, there are all sorts of “touch points for memories:” textures, smells/scents, pretty much anything, even the way a Chevrolet Lumina’s steering wheel feels. But none of this is news to anyone, we’re all simply interested in different things at different times in our lives. I had sneakers, but I’m sure other guys (and girls) have video game “sponsored” memories (I have some of those, mainly from being at friends’ houses, what with my mom associating video games with some sort of figurative devil) or memories when you find a Goosebumps book in the basement of your house.

***½

Navel Gazing Part 2: Sneakers as Temporal Landmarks receives three-and-a-half stars due to its main point’s obviousness as the review went on. The hyper-ambitious title perhaps hinted at possibilities left unanswered and avenues unexplored. Also, I’m a firm believer in sneakers being the ultimate artifact of contemporary design for point in time (heck, look at that Air Jordan overview, and see how the shoes from the early 90’s, with their neon colors, which were the new hotness™ way back when — my goal for the too many pairs of Oakley shoes I have is that they’ll be a bit more long-lasting in terms of style), and I’ve not touched on that concept one bit above.

Other People Stealing Your Ideas Without Ever Having Met You or Knowing that They Stole Something

Longest. Title. Ever.


If only they could save the baseball team from utter anihilation.

I’ll try not to make this like Dan’s “Half-Inventing Stuff” review, even though there are some thematic similarities.

What spawned the idea for this topic was actually two events hat occurred in the past month, both of which involved people doing things that I had already done. Chances are that both of these events might turn into “Nate Stories”, and since I don’t believe in editing for content, other than adding to it, just be warned.

So I got a disturbing call a few weeks ago. Nothing’s wrong, and it wasn’t sickening or anything… just upsetting. You see, my sister was at a Philadelphia Phillies baseball game. The fans (the few, the proud), the ones who don’t like to throw batteries that is, (although maybe if J.D. Drew was around), have started a sort of tradition over the past ten years. Groups of people would come and buy seats in the wide expanse of the Veteran’s stadium 700 level… that’s right, back when stadiums had 700 levels. Up there they found the space to spread out, dress up in costume, and display large signs usually featuring the group’s made-up name. This might sound a trifle confusing, so I’ll give you the most prominent example, and probably the one that started the fad. Randy Wolf had just made his MLB debut and a group of fans were looking to come out to support the first of the crop of minor league pitchers that would eventually be considered the saviors of the franchise. (Over the next 6 years, through the ranks came Brandon Duckworth, Brett Meyers, Gavin Floyd, and Cole Hammels. This was supposed to be the rotation of the future, but Duckworth was a minor bust and was shipped off to Texas or somewhere, never to be heard from again…. update, he just started pitching for the Royals I believe and didn’t do so well, and Floyd is back in the minors.) A group of fans looking to show support for Wolf showed up wearing wolf masks, with a huge sign that said “Wolf Pack“. Whenever Randy struck someone out they all did a dance in unison that kinda looks like the lawnmower-starting dance. Eventually other groups began to crop up. What else was there to keep you interested in the upper deck and following a losing team? There was the Duck Pond (for Duckworth), the (Vincente) Padilla Flotilla (a group of guys in sombreros with oars pretending they were in a boat. Whenever he got a strikeout they began to row), once there was (Pat) “Burrell’s Girls”, and the most recent high profile incident was two competing groups out to support backup catcher Sal Fasano… yes a backup catcher. The groups paint their faces to match his trademark moustache and call themselves, “Sal’s Pals” and “Fasano’s Pizanos”. Incidentally, Sal was apparently so overwhelmed with the cheering section that he once ordered them all pizzas.

What this has to do with anything is this: When my sister called me on the phone, she told me of the newest group of supporters, “Flash’s Friends” or something like that. The Flash that they speak of is the new closing pitcher, Tom Gordon. How do they get the Flash from that? Well, he’s nicknamed from the 1930s sci-fi serial character, Flash Gordon. But these “friends” didn’t realize that, or I guess they thought that nobody would get it if they dressed up like Flash Gordon and his friends, because they decided to take it one step even further and dress up like the superhero The Flash, and his other superhero friends. It would be enough for me to say it was stupid that there are two jumps in logic to get from The Flash to Tom Gordon, and that people who aren’t from the area probably wouldn’t understand…. but my major problem with this is that WE DID IT THREE YEARS AGO. There is video and photographic evidence (see above) that not only did we use this gimmick first, but we used it better.

The people in this group had really shoddy costumes, most of them partially storebought, and there were people in the group that weren’t even superheroes. So they did the costume thing poorly, the sign wasn’t as good as ours was… and they didn’t dance after strikeouts, but the biggest problem was that they didn’t think their plan through enough. In order for the pitcher that they were supporting to actually be involved in the game, the team would have to be winning by less than four runs going into the final inning… lucky for them it happened and he came in, but by that time, most of them were tired of standing around in their costumes, and were partly disrobed by the ninth inning anyway. When they finally got on TV, they just like a bunch of half dressed-hooligans, not following through with the bit.

So all of these things led me to being not as affected by it. I suppose that my main issue with this scenario is how it made us look in hindsight. Not only was that experience very important for us, sort of serving as the capstone achievement of my highschool friends buffoonery, but we were proud of both the fact that we were the first ones that we had ever heard of doing this, and the fact that we actually followed through with one of our hair-brained ideas… and were mentioned by the TV coverage as the “Fans of the Game”. This gimmick infringement would’ve definitely sullied the memory and sapped all of the originality from it.

As far as the second incident goes, a little more than a year ago, my friend Adam and I completed our senior video project. Capping off this twenty-six minute opus, was a perfect final sequence/shot, that when seen for the first time with the song that Adam had found, literally gave me chills (literally!), and made me want to watch it over and over and over. I knew that if nothing else in the entire thing worked, that this last part would win people over. You can see for yourself here… it’ll probably give you a better idea as to what I’m talking about. The song is by a group called Thirteen Senses, titled “Into the Fire”.

Needless to say, I was pleasantly surprised to hear that song coming out of my TV a few months later, in the long-form ads for FX’s second season of “Rescue Me“, a show about firefighters. The song fit even more perfectly in that than it did in our project, mostly because of the lyrical contents talking about walking into the fire and such. Also, the ad came and went without much fanfare, and I’m sure that it won’t be remembered in years to come.

Just a few weeks ago, a friend of mine was asking me for names of songs that she might like, and I passed along this title. Little did I know that hours later I would hear the song used in a montage of Jim Carrey’s dramatic moments at the MTV movie awards, a show seen by millions of people per year, and aired about the same amount of times. I hastened to the internets to email my friend to say “THEY STOLE MY SONG!!!1!” The next day, I decided it wasn’t a big deal, and pretty much let the whole thing go…. until about two days after that. I came home late and decided to catcha replay of the season premiere of The 4400, a summer show on USA that that somehow was the most watched basic cable series of last year (or at least last summer?). It was two hours long and started at midnight, and by the end was half asleep, when suddenly, I hear familiar piano chords. Chords I’ve heard hundreds of times. I couldn’t believe it! They were pulling out the end-of-the-episode-montage, and using the song! I was impressed that they actually used the entire thing, and put it to good use, but it was probably the absolute strangest timing ever. Recently, I aslo found out that the song was used in the pilot of “Grey’s Anatomy”, a show that I’ve never watched, and probably never will, but is watched by millions and millions nonetheless. I guess I should just be glad they didn’t use it on American Idol

It reminds me of how way back in 2002-2003, the new Coldplay CD came out, and the WWE/F was the first that I had seen to use a little-known song called “Clocks” to do an absolutely great film/video montage about one of their wrestlers, and my olympic hero, Kurt Angle getting a very dangerous neck surgery and training to come back for the fans and for his family. Soon enough, the song was EVERYWHERE, including the trailer for the movie Peter Pan and a sound-alike version for the New Jersey travel bureau, mostly because they couldn’t afford the rights due to how much they suck. When I showed people the video, all impact was lost because the audience had no idea when this thing was made. The use of the song went from “complelety innovative and perfect”, to “completely trite, cliche, and therefore worthless”. The entire impression of how great the video was was tarnished by the fact that other people used the song after them, rendering it completely useless as any sort of art or entertainment. By that time people had gotten so sick of the song that they probably wouldn’t even watch it just because of the musical selection alone.

What I’m getting at is that now I’m put in this position. This song stands poised to be the next “Clocks”, used in every video that people can put it in, make its way to the radio and soon enough, be so engrained into our public consciousness that you wouldn’t ever want to hear it again. In the event that I would show this video to someone in way to be original, lame-o“. Without having done anything, the value of the piece is decreased tenfold. Sure, you can say “We made this before the song got popular, scuzz-wad”, but that’s like telling a jury to forget a court outburst that’s been stricken from the record via objection. You’ve already seen it, so there’s no letting it go.

You could make the case that every person/group that uses the song in the same manner from now on is just copying off of a set television precedent and therefore should be subject to the same criticisms that I’d get, but it doesn’t matter to them. The song is nowhere near its peak popularity, nor even into the public’s SUB-conscious, and neither do the companies/groups care. If they continue to use the song, what is people saying “that’s already been done before, dill-wad” going to do to them? They’re in a position where if it fits, go for it, because it’s not like the CSI audience is really going to stop watching or feel less inclined to see a Jerry Bruckheimer movie/show.

The people who would be watching my video would be people whom I know, or maybe people I just recently met, but in any case, probably people I want to impress, or at least show that I didn’t go to Hollywood Upstairs Medical College. Having the most impressive part of the video be undermined because of a collective overexposure to the song is something that I would rather do without.

Of course, I could be totally overreacting, and in two years the song could be less remembered than Fastball‘s second single. I also suppose that I could always go back and change what song we used, but that would be like re-doing the end of “Return of the Jedi”, a whole lot of work for something that wouldn’t serve much of a purpose.

How does this relate back to the baseball game? Well, if these people/groups can use this song without knowing that I’d used it previously, and if these Flash’s friends can go dressed like superheroes, what’s to say that our attempt at 30 seconds of JumboTron fame hadn’t been tried before, and done better? What if we were inadvertantly copying off of some other group even though we didn’t know them, and had never seen what they’d done? That would just ruin the whole event for us, and the uniqueness of it.

Personally, I think we should fight these so-called “Flash’s Friends”, because three Frankensteins and a Spongebob are no match for teh Hulk, Superman, Flash, Wolverine, ummm.. Thor, and some girl with an exposed midriff.

Other People Stealing Your Ideas Without Ever Having Met You or Knowing that They Stole Something gets zero stars. It is somethig that will happen over and over in life, and it’s best just not to notice it. The problem is that it gets to you when you no longer can honestly take credit for an idea you had and did, even though there’s evidence you did it before the other person. Rather than feeling good about yourself that somebody else in a higher position than you thought of the same thing that you did, and feeling good about the fact that you’re “on the level”, you tend to feel like you’ve been devalued. The trick is to keep going and come up with something even newer because then you can just show that off to other people instead. Other People Stealing Your Ideas Without Ever Having Met You or Knowing that They Stole Something also makes us look inside of ourselves to determine whether we at any point were guilty of this, and if so make the necessary reparations to those we offended. I encourage all of you to think about this and what it means to you. Until then, Goodnight, and Good Luck, and take care of yourselves, and each other. I’m Andy Rooney… Jon?

When Your Reach Exceeds Your Grasp (aka “The Husky’s Bite”)

For those unfamiliar, please peruse this PDF of the first (and only) issue of the publication in question. Feel free to right-click and “save as” on that file so that you end up reading both it and my review. If you’ve used the internet before, you probably already have Adobe Reader installed, but if you don’t, you’ll need to download it here.

The year was 1999. It was sometime in early Winter. It was also just about the end of the “good old days,” and arguably, our little foray into journalism accompanied the starting of what are now known as “the bad old days.” Similar to what kicked off this very site, I (and the “others”) were feeling very opinionated and somehow disenfranchised for disenfranchisement’s sake. We were fed up with our high school’s policies and felt like we were getting the short end of the stick. We also had free time. Lots of free time.

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Don’t we all. click the image for a picture of the whole first page (it’s the same as the first page in the pdf)

Being that we have now conquered all media (similar to the “King of all Media,” Howard Stern), it’s important to remember that there was a time when the only conquered medium had been VHS tape. And by conquered, I mean “Let’s write a review entitled, ’13 and Oblivious: The 8th Grade To Kill a Mockingbird Video’.” Anyway, 1999. I said, “Why don’t we make an underground newspaper?” Yeah, no one’s done that gem of teenaged rebellion before.

We rounded up a crack team of writers and gave them free reign on topics. As always, the topics seemed wonderfully, well, topical for the time, but needless to say, they haven’t aged well and bare a striking resemblance to the articles found in any “underground” high school newsletter. Topics ranged from complaining about the (then new) ID policy, complaining about the prospects of having to do a High School Graduation project (that’s basically just what it sounds like), complaining about the cafeteria foods (way to go, me. very original), complaining about obnoxious teachers/security guards on “lunch duty,” and finally one senior student complaining about his fellow gifted/honors classmates.

As you can see, none of these are pressing issues; in fact most none of them are particularly, well, anything. The issue would be that we really thought we were getting something done. As if the principal would read it, and say, “ahh, so that’s the pulse of the students.” In fact, we thought it/we would be/were so important that we devised pseudonyms, for, you know, “just in case.” Hindsight makes it obvious that not only were our points of contention of the “tough sh*t” category, some were just complaining for the sake of complaining, any remaining legitimacy lost due to the “editor in chief’s” name being Jarvis P. Fundlebottom. My (er, Jarvis’) take on school lunches is probably the worst offender if only because it’s a topic that’s been beaten to death since the invention of the tray/plate combo. What makes it worse is that I wrote pretty much the same article when I was in 5th grade, except in 5th grade I didn’t bring up Chaos Theory incorrectly (read the article in the PDF to see me butcher Jurassic Park).

Little of the “expected” controversy manifested itself with the “publishing” and distribution: keeping in mind that we used fake names (though we were so proud of our accomplishment that we gladly told everyone and anyone, teacher or student, of our involvement, usually at great detail) and, again, to anyone that would care about what we thought was “controversial,” what we wrote about was simply inconsequential. BUT, what did cause some controversy (according to the word on the 1999 street) was the opening article, titled, “Skip the IQ Test, We’re All Dumb Anyway.” Ian Cofre (under the “Spike Spiegel” alias) wrote the article, but I’ll very much take credit for the headline.

Now, at the time (and in very different way, now) comparing the intelligence of the student body to that of a fictional canine boarding school in Wisconsin was hilarious. I’d hate to think of myself as being “politically correct,” but I would think twice about “publishing” something with all of my accumulated maturity. I don’t mean to speak for Ian (and I’m sure that he hasn’t put much thought to it since then– heck I only re-read the whole issue because I recently re-discovered it on one of my backup CD-Rs), but I’d assume that he (or anyone, really) might think twice about the content. In his article, aside from the references to the MCOS (Milwaukee Canine Obedience School), he very much and very directly called out his classmates. Granted he was probably right, but (again, 1999 word on the street), it didn’t go over well with said classmates. Obviously it’s beyond water over the bridge for everyone at this point, and even then, it probably wasn’t a big deal. The significance is that as sort of “editor” of the whole thing, I didn’t think twice about why that might not be the best sort of thing to include in a “publication” we really thought was going to “make a difference.” I didn’t even think in terms of “most of our articles our less than five paragraphs; that doesn’t sound like in depth, hard-hitting commentary.”

Nate, as “Martin Stephenson,” wrote two features, one of which detailed the (then new) graduation project process and actually did contain some disturbing facts about how different school districts and even schools within districts interpreted the “state-wide” guidelines differently. Nothing wrong with including that article, but it’s just funny that back then, we really thought it would affect something. Now we look at it and say, “of course it didn’t, why would it?” but they call it hindsight for a reason. In classic move common to inconsequential journalism, his second article about cafeteria “issues” managed to highlight the supposed unfairness in having students and teachers follow different codes of conduct (namely: a student yells, he gets in trouble; a teacher makes a lot of noise, no big deal). Again (more of that “hindsight” stuff), of course this is the case, but back then, we thought we wouldn’t stand for it. No, I’m not calling out the Junior Staff’s article; if I remember correctly, we had jointly brainstormed ideas for that article, and I definitely didn’t see any issue in that very immature/uneducated/etc. line of thinking; maybe it was even my (bad) idea, and I’d think that Nate would agree that the “angle” of the story was merely a product of being a subjugate in an high school environment.

Wrapping up the articles discussion, Josh Shaffer (spelling?) wrote a well-organized, very coherent (click on the link on his name to understand why I’m including that adjective) take on having to wear ID’s while in school that pretty much covered all of the issues, and showed how ridiculous and reactionary the policy was. Naturally, my 10th grade self decided that was by far the most boring of the articles, while it would be the first one I’d hand to someone if I said I was involved in an “underground newspaper” in high school.

The first issue of The Husky’s Bite was also the last issue though we promised future issues and even future years of it by including not only “issue number” but “volume” on the header. The last page of the issue included a call for submissions, which generated one actual article the very same day we distributed copies and one promise of an article about the Jr. ROTC program. Needless to say, the publishing of something about Jr. ROTC probably wouldn’t have been a good idea (and we were never given an article anyway), and the first/only article submitted was a vulgarity-filled and particularly detailed rant about how all the cheerleaders were sluts. Needless to say, the author (hey, we respect our promise of anonymity!) had been wronged (in his opinion) recently by his cheerleader (ex)girlfriend. I can’t remember the details of the letter, but I do think it included this gem: “All [the cheerleaders] are good at is spreading there [sic] legs and yelling ‘Yeah!'” No, that wasn’t going to make it into issue two.

Of course, there was no issue two. Not long after distributing the copies of the first issue and the “buzz” had left, we realized that we were basically just looking for something to complain about, and we hit pretty much all of the big, non-complicated, non-nuanced ones in that first issue. I don’t remember if we even got to the point of discussing details of what would be in the second one after we realized we didn’t have anything easy to complain about anymore and recognized how much work putting together an issue was. Sure, a lot of that work was waiting for the “writers” to be done writing their articles, but having been tasked to put the issue together, that was a “not wanting to have to do this again” amount of work. Not that it’s the most demanding program in the world, especially in its Office 97 form, but I learned to use Microsoft Publisher while I was laying out the issue, and as we’ve learned, some companies don’t like to hear that you’ve learned to use a program by teaching yourself as you’ve worked on a project. Making the charts (well, chart), headlines, etc. all took considerable effort (check out the barfing stick figure on page 3!), so made me understand that future issues would not be released in any short, regular length of time.

**

When Your Reach Exceeds Your Grasp (aka “The Husky’s Bite“) receives two stars due to the ridiculousness of the content that made it into the debut issue: whether the use of pseudonyms, general concept of the articles, or the “just plain dumb in hindsight” highfalutin attitude we had about it. (To be fair, we got past that within a school week or two of distributing it.) Much of my current opinion on the newsletter can be attributed to hindsight, but that doesn’t mean it’s unfair. Part of the whole “reach exceeding your grasp” thing is that you don’t realize it until after the fact. With that in mind, the font selection is uninspired (there’s an obscene number of different fonts throughout it). When I couldn’t figure out formatting, I just let it go. Check out the sexy horizontal rules that just plain cover-up some lines. All that isn’t to say that we didn’t finish it or that we didn’t have some measure of fun while doing it. It’s what we use as our “newspaper example” when we call ourselves “Kings of All Media.” Simply, it was once. It was fun. It was done.

Meeting/Seeing Celebrities

I want to make this review as “non-braggy” as possible, so I’m gonna refrain from giving a list of famous people of whom I’ve been within 100 feet, but just to warn you all, to give examples, I’m still probably going to have to drop a few names.

naomiwatts.jpg
A picture I took of Naomi Watts and Heath Ledger, back when they were still dating in 2003. Hopefully he didn’t break her nose like he did Jake Gyllenhaal’s.

So, I’m sure you’ve all heard me give examples or tell stories about “When I was in California”, and I’m sure you probably cringe every time I mention it. I actually do when I find myself saying that phrase. The problem is that for people that I haven’t talked to in a while, it makes good conversation, and is probably the most intersting thing I’ve done since senior year of high school. People (who haven’t heard it before) like to hear my “glamorous” stories about the time where I stood in a crowd of hundreds on Hollywood Boulevard, watching dozens of people take pictures of Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston making kissy faces at each other at the premiere of her “instant classic” film “Along Came Polly”. Honestly, I was bored. Everyone around me is trying to get a glimpse across the street to the dimly lit figures about as big as if I hold my index finger an arm’s length away from my face and close one eye, and I’m there wondering what the big deal is. I suppose it’s good for “bragging” rights, as anyone who’s seen my “You can kind of make out the back of his crew cut” pictures of the event knows. Yeah, I took some pictures…. yeah, my lense doesn’t zoom…. It was my first time around at an event like that (it actually was the first night I had gone into the hollywood area) and I just happened to have my camera on me. But I was the tourist, and those other people lived there, so I’d hope that grants me a pardon. You’d think that after living in the area for more than I had at least, that the other onlookers would get tired of staring at people for no purpose other than that. Maybe there were a lot of other tourists in the group. I don’t know.

Moving on… working at the tv show that I worked at, I had daily run-ins with notable people… mostly b-list celebrities, and while I was excited going in to see what they looked like close up, most of the time it wasn’t a big deal or I was totally let down. The “beautiful people” as we’re led to believe, usually are no more or less attractive than any moderately attractive person you’d see in everyday life, and in fact, many times are less so. Elisha Cuthbert and Eliza Dushku are the biggest examples of this. Elisha Cuthbert (as well as Avril Levigne) is so remarkably short that you wouldn’t even recognize her if they walked past you. Eliza Dushku just wasn’t very attractive at all in person. Kelly Clarkson looks nothing at all like she does on TV or movies, or album covers without being very heavily made up.

The bottom line is that watching things like red carpet coverage where we learn to worship the idols of TV and film, we de-humanize them, and in that humanizing instance where they’re getting gas at the pump next to us you realize that they’re just above- average-looking people with a good amount of money, and unless they’re total coked out divas, or fried has-been rappers, they’re usually really normal and humble.

**

Meeting/Seeing celebrities gets two stars as the only real positive that can come of it is being able to tell other people and hope that they actually care (and don’t perceive you as unjustly gloating your “fortune”). Expectations usually will not be met because the media have set such a high standard, making people larger than life with us supposed to care about every little detail of their private lives. In the end, they’re just moderately attractive people who like to play dress-up, or dance around like idiots…. Rob Schneider, I’m looking in your direction on this last one.

Sudoku


The best Japanese import since…. ummm…. my DVD player?

So recently (maybe a month ago?), the Morning Call let us all in on a supposedly huge new puzzle game trend that’s popping up everywhere. Called Sudoku, it’s a Japanese puzzle game in which a nine by nine grid is presented (sub-divided up into nine three-by-three square groups), with a select few of the squares filled with numbers from one to nine. The object is to fill in the entire grid with numbers from one to nine, so that no number is repeated in the same row, column, or sub-grid. The puzzles really don’t have much to do with numbers at all; they just serve as symbolic place-holders. You could use anything from letters, to roman numerals, to colors, to chinese symbols, it’s just that numbers 1 to 9 are a lot easier to recognize and see which ones are missing, etc.

Rather than going into great detail on methods to solve the puzzles ( I usually use the process of elimination to determine which squares in a subgrid could possibly contain a certain number, or if there’s enough numbers filled in in a row or column, i’ll look into which numbers are missing from them and where each could go), i’ll just say that the wikipedia site on Sudoku has more than you’ll ever want to know on possible methods for solutions.

Anyway, it is important to know how addictive these puzzles are… if you’re into logic puzzles. Considering that simpler (probably story problem style) versions of this basic premise were the main subject of the logic problems that I had done in (say it with me) El’-e-men-AR”-y school, this is the sort of thing that I just can’t stop doing. Weekly you can find them in the Sunday comics section of the paper, or on Fridays in the little “Life” magazine inset (those puzzles tend to be easier, but the boxes are generally too small to make markings in, other than final answers). Also, occasionally you can come across an advertisement for the Sunday puzzle on a weekday. Those ads usually contain a full-size puzzle, but unfortunately don’t come with a solution.

Websudoku.com is probably the best for online Sudoku “puzzling”, and it keeps your time and tells you how good you are compared to other people, provided you don’t make a mistake. There are difficulty levels ranging from easy to evil, although they don’t have any of the super-puzzles pictured on the wikipedia site, which I would like to try sometime.

I used to have crossword puzzle thing, but I got to the point where I realized the same clues were being used over and over again. Not only that but you can get to a point in a crossword puzzle where you have no leads on where to go next, and you’re completely stumped, possibly because you’ve never heard of a word they’re using, and you don’t really feel like picking up a dictionary to look something up if you have the first letter. The thing about the puzzles is that there’s always a next step, it’s just a matter of figuring out where it is. Usually, that one breakthrough will create a sort of chain reaction that should lead to the end of the puzzle, and even if takes an hour, it feels extremely good to know that you just tackled something this challenging, even though you just wasted an hour that you could be spending eating, sleeping, or sitting at the computer.

****

Sudoku gets four stars for being a rather addictive and rewarding waste of time. It is much more interesting and challenging than a game of Carmen Sandiego would ever be, and it’s portable. You can get stuck, but there’s always a way out, and even if it takes walking away from it for fifteen minutes and coming back to it, it’s worth it.

Getting Older

I’ve realized recently that I’m rapidly approaching fogey-hood, and I have nothing to show for it. I’m simply older; not wiser, not more experienced, not more distinguished. Just older. As I rapidly approach the beginning of my 23rd year, it’s more and more obvious that it’s all going downhill from now on. Why now instead of my 22nd or 21st year? Well, it all started when I fell, just like when someone refers to an “old” person falling. There’s no good reason (I tripped on a baseball bat too many days ago, a product of my halcyon days of youth, a not too metaphorical symbol of the way my youth consistently laughs at me.), and just like with old people, my shoulder, which was what broke my fall, still hurts. The pain will go away but not the memory of practically being on my way to re-enacting an “I’ve fallen, and I can’t get up” commercial. In fact, I should probably invest in one of those emergency signal senders for when it happens again.

(Not so) Slowly Going the Way of the Buffalo
Hunter with Gun = bat, dead buffalo = me. That’s right, it’s metaphor week at emptybookshelf.com

And of course, There are the inevitable “hair” issues, whether its turning gray or being on its way to Costanza-itis. Gray isn’t distinguished, it’s just gray, especially in splotch form. Granted, it’s not there yet, but it will be. Next is arthritis; being that I already have a re-made knee, it will likely be ground zero for the future infestation. Even for my (also aged) peer group, the now less-than-annual football games create nothing other than increasingly serious injuries and weeks of recovery instead of the day or so of not that many years ago. (In other news, if anyone wants to see or participate in an age-based train wreck, come out to the South Mountain/Dodd athletic field on the Friday after Thanksgiving. That’s Nov. 25 for those of you who don’t believe in taking advantage of Indians.)

*½

Getting Older receives one-and-a-half stars due to its inevitability, intransigence, and, uh, in-sucktitude. Why not zero stars? Well, I’m sure that something as omnipotent as aging has a lot of say in the karma department, so I don’t want to make it mad this early in the game.