This is Epth Nation

Epth is a state of mind, not a place. Reading this will give you a virtual drivers license in that state, but you'll still need to be 21 to purchase alcohol. And you can't get any there anyway, so stop asking.

Friday, March 25, 2005

My Night of TV Last Night

The Money Problems took the lustre off my night of TV, but I still got to watch the end of Badder Santa and the American Office. First, Santa: Pretty Good, I must say. It's strangely touching, even though the main characters are all scum. It's almost like The Ladykillers, only funny. My favorite moment was when Samir from Office Space attacked Santa in the parking lot of a mall and punctuated the fight with an "A__ clown!". I laughed out loud. More movies should give shout-outs to Office Space, and involve Samir.

Speaking of Offices, the American Office was hard for me to judge, since it was basically a scene-by-scene remake of the British pilot with different actors. The things that worked for me:

The Boss: He's not David Brent by any stretch of the imagination, but Steve Carroll is pretty darn funny. He's played as more clueless somehow -- not that Brent had any sort of clue, but he was not just a stereotypically dumb character. Steve Carroll excells at playing the stupid, so my fear is that he will overplay that part of the boss and underplay the...pettiness, for lack of a better word. My wife brought up the fact that Gary Cole, who played Lumberg in Office Space, would have been perfect for the role. Or Gary Cole-man -- that would have been different. Anyway, the boss was funny last night, so I give him a tentative thumbs-up. i think he would have been funnier if I hadn't seen Brent do everything better the first time, however.

The look/feel of the show: Looks like the British version, and not sitcom-y at all. It very important to the show that the audience feels like it's a documentary. I could imagine someone not familiar with the original to mess this point up. So far, so good, though.

Tim, er, Jim: My wife didn't like him, but I thought he could be ok in the end. He seemed to start out doing almost a Martin Freeman impression. I watched him and saw Martin, only not British. It was very distracting. I found him to be likable, though.

Pam: Way hotter than Dawn was. Way less dignity, though.

The black guy who will end up playing the Boss' main foil, like that bald dude did in the British show. He was funny.

My complaints:

The overexplanation of everything because the show's producers don't trust the intelligence of the American Public: This is my main gripe, and it really detracts from the natural feel of the show. The Jim-Pam tragic romance already feels forced (especially the yogurt bit -- that writer should be fired immediately), and it's only been one episode. Some of the dialogue (the one thing I can think of right now is when the Boss is at Pam's desk, and they introduce Pam, and the Boss throws the fax in the trash. In the British version, the line is something like, "I told you I've got a special file for those", and nothing else. Last night, the boss felt compelled to explain that the special file was, "The waste paper basket," as if we couldn't tell he was throwing it out.) seemed unnatural for just regular office talk. I guess it's to be expected.

We didn't see enough short cuts of regular office bit-players milling about, and so we don't really know them at all yet. You have the black guy who calls the Boss out in the meeting, you have the girl who's afraid for her job, and then a bunch of blank faces. We need to get to know these people.

Wyatt, the "Gareth" character, isn't nearly as funny. Mackensie Crook just looked like a total freak, and (consequently?) was my favorite character on the show. This American seems a little too straight-laced. You knew instantly why Tim was making fun of Gareth -- with Wyatt, it almost seems like Jim is needlessly cruel. We'll see how this plays out.

And like I said, I didn't laugh very much since I had seen the jokes before. Will episode two feature a pornographic picture? Wyatt Keenan Investigates? "Porno laughs"? The American equivalent of Finchy? The Boss' best friend's hot daughter? "Softly, softly, catchy, monkey"? The mind boggles.

All in all, I give the pilot 3 out of 5 overpriced popcorns, but I am admittedly just popping popcorn in the dark here.

Equal Time

I just realized that I had two posts in a row that ragged on Democrats/Liberals. In an effort to be as fair and balanced (has Fox News spoiled that phrase or what?) as possible, I will now rag on some Republican/Conservative issue:
Well, many of them can be described as pompous...Republicans, I mean. Also, they constantly protect corporate interests over individual interests, causing unnecessary crushing of the Little Guy.

See? Fair and Balanced.

Liberals, Get Conflicted

Ralph Nader and some other dude have put out a press release pleading for Terry Schaivo's life. Liberals: Do you believe us now? Does Bill Clinton have to come back from the dead and give you a message about this? This isn't about the "rights of the spouse" or "state's rights", it's about life and death of someone who can breathe and speak english words. Nader has spoken. Dare you follow?

This post makes me seem like I hate Liberals, which I don't. I just don't like killing. As this whole Schaivo thing keeps going on and on, I have been sucked into her plight. I still don't think that this is some sort of slippery slope or anything, but the tube should be put back in.


I have money problems all of a sudden (I won't get into it, but let's just say any attempts to get me to believe, like many democrats do, that taxes are too low, are going to fail). I don't know what this means for my blogging, but I will be very busy. I'll probably use blogging as a release, so get ready for some rants.

It's Good Friday today, the day us Christians celebrate the death of our Lord Jesus Christ, which saves us from our sins. I live because he died. This time of year is always the most meaningful for me as I think about that sacrifice. These money problems don't really mean anything compared to the death I have been saved from.

Thursday, March 24, 2005

Sports Guy Intern Contest, Round One

The Sports Guy at ESPN's page 2 is currently in the final stages of his intern contest. He is choosing his new intern based upon contestants' responses to his writing challenges. Even though I am not eligible for the contest in at least three important ways, I think writing exercises are good.

The following would have been my submission for Round One.

In 400 Words or Less, Why I Should be the Intern for the Sports Guy:

Name: Michael D. Pape
College: Concordia University Wisconsin (who?)
Residence: Dallas, TX
Current Job: Parts Coordinator (what?)
Age: Withheld

Well, I shouldn’t, according to the ageist draconian RIAA-esque rules the Sports Guy himself has set up: I’m above the maximum age (18-25), I have an actual job (2 actual jobs, actually), and I don’t live in or have any plans to even visit the hallowed media mixmaster of the Northeast until they apologize to us here in the middle of the country for being such snooty tools during the last Presidential election. So I am disqualified just because of who I am – this feels like 1963 all over again, doesn’t it? Not that I could compare my plight here with the Civil Rights Movement (or was even alive in 1963), but I just did. We need a 30ish Employed Texan PAC to get our interests pushed through Congress. Then Sports Guy will have to let us all in his contest, and we will make his eyes bleed with our horrible, out-of-touch, not-exactly-what-he-was-looking-for entries. He will promptly throw out the submissions of all those who are not under 26 or not freeloading, and we will be right back where we started. This Civil Rights stuff is harder than I thought it would be. Dang.

But just so you know what you'll be missing, I will let you know, Mr. Sports Guy, that I love the Big Three sports (even that evil baseball, which has wronged me so) and know just enough about the others to mock them. I hate the Yankees and their sports-penthouse-dwelling fans. I can rattle off lines from movies that you love (either the lines or the movies, I mean. It doesn’t matter which way you read that), and some lines from movies that you’ve forgotten you love. For every situation in life, I can reference a Simpsons episode. I’m acerbic, bitter, tender, clever, and I will pursue great internet links until there are no more great internet links to pursue.

I will not make you coffee, though, because I’m an intern, not your little errand-boy. Ahh…I now see why you need somebody under 26. Easier to push around.

I hate you, Sports Guy. Hire me.

What I'm Doing Tonight

Tonight represents for me an unprecedented night of watching things on TV. The things I have to watch are:

The UWM game, if on in Dallas, is at 6:27. If they end up showing the Louisville/Washington game, I'll probably watch a bunch of that, especially if it's good at the end. But I have so much else to watch...

That (American version of) The Office is at 8:30. I will do a recap/review of this in the next couple of days, since I am a huge fan of the (now just the British version of) the show. I'm afraid this show will suffer in comparison, but the previews look ok. A radio commercial just came on that said the show is "edgy". Do people watch shows because they're "edgy"? "Honey, look in the TV Guide and see if you can find something edgy for me to watch tonight." No, I don't think so.

Around these 2 events I will have to fit as much of my backlog of entertainment as I can. This is the first night I can really begin to catch up after losing last weekend in relaxation and basketball. I have the 2nd half of the 2nd season of Curb Your Enthusiasm from Netflix, as well as Bad Santa (I have the last hour or so left to watch) and Spider-Man II. I want to do a Netflix diary of that one as part of Project: Recap Movies People Have Actually Heard Of. In addition to the Netflix, I have the last 3 episode of Alias to plow through and at least one Arrested Development. I also intend to watch more of this year's season of The Simpsons.

It's not good to watch that much TV, I know. If only I could watch TV at work...

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

News: Pathetic Fox Ratings Grab

The Fox TV Network made a huge "mistake" last night, giving out the wrong numbers for people to vote for three of the contestants on its hugely popular and vapid "American Idol" show. Now, they get to run another episode tonight and do a re-vote. How interesting. Whatever you do, don't notice that a totally ridiculous and easily caught mistake is causing Fox to run the #1 show in America three times in one week instead of the normal two. The sad part is, the teenage girls who are the main voting bloc probably view this as an opportunity, not as the rip-off it actually is.

In personal news, I'm still the number 4 all-time Freshman runner at Milwaukee Lutheran High School. See? I am special. I'm also the number 9 all-time sophomore runner, but don't ask about my junior and senior years. Two words: anemia failure.

Aww, man, we missed it...but can I still eat an animal?

Ok, Now the Real News

Barry Bonds has said the media is responsible for, among other things: him taking steroids, the notion that taking steroids is cheating, racial hate crimes, speculation about the size of his head, and him being black. Now he is accusing them of causing his possible season-ending injury. Is he truly insane or just totally fixated on himself? You, readers, can judge for yourselves.

Does anyone else think this AP writer is just trying to make the "creationists" look foolish? Nice 6-sentence story about an incredibly nuanced issue. Way to cover all your bases. Sheesh.

Once again, an outsider screaming to everyone around him for help is ignored with tragic consequences. This Minnesota school shooting is such a sad story. It recalls the sadness of Columbine in many ways. It's a living horror movie. Can't we reach out to these kids? I guess I'm addressing that question to myself, too -- we can't just ignore problem kids and let the government sort them out. We need to love them, just like we love the great/famous people.

Shifting Gears: I don't usually care about business news, but I thought I should mention this. You know that thing that the Federal Reserve did in the late 90's that sent us spiraling into a recession in 2001? It's doing it again. There is no inflation, people. For there to be inflation, people would have to have money. Astronomically higher gas prices do not mean that inflation is a problem, just that gas prices are a problem.

"Ned" from "Ned & Stacy" gets to be Spider Man's next villain, although we don't know what villain that will be. Let's see: The Lizard (maybe -- he is slightly reptillian)? The Sandman (too big)? Mysterio (again, maybe)? Kraven the Hunter (not likely)? The Vulture (too old)? Venom (ok, please stop this nonsense)? Carnage (oddly, that one fits)?

Affordable medicines, schmaffordable medicines. India says "yes" to the draconian patent laws that are required to join the World Trade Organization. Who cares if some AIDS people die -- the patent holders must be paid! It's like the copyright craziness we have here in the U.S., except this time people will actually die from overzealous copyright laws.

Tech News: Apple declared war on their ITunes customers, and made them upgrade their program to a new version to combat a version of ITunes (named PyMusique) that allows you to download non-broken songs, i.e., without copy protection. Several hours later, a new version of PyMusique was released that defeated the upgrade. The revolution will not be televised, but it may happen on the internet.

editorial aside: The real problem with this whole copyrighted music issue is: The labels and many of the artists don't trust their customers. I challenge you to name me one successful business that doesn't trust their customers. A business should be trying to meet the customer's needs and wants, not suing them and calling them criminals for what they need and want.

More news later, as I notice it...

Intermission: News Wednesday!

It's that time of the week again, and I know you love it. Here are the compelling news stories of the day:

I'm not going to link to a story because its everywhere, but Terry Schaivo's feeding tube stays out because 3 dudes said so. Ok, fine, here's an example of a news story on the subject, from the flagship of our democracy, the New York Times. Registration is required to view the flagship, I'm sorry. So, America's courts once again err of the side of death. If there's a question of whether something is alive or not, the courts will invarably choose not, because they are the arbiters of life and death in our society, apparently. Curse the lawmakers for putting this in their hands. But as I said in my last post, I just can't get worked up over this, even though we're seeing a very loved woman die in slow-motion via state-sponsored neglect. Survival of the Fittest, right? This is so indicative of our society. We turn the other way each year as millions of fetuses have been killed -- why should this be any different. We don't value life, and it gives me tired head.
Of course, the real issue here is the actual condition of Ms. Schaivo -- is she conscious in any real way? If she is, everyone involved in this is guilty of being an accessory to murder. Of course, since they probably don't care or believe in any sort of universal right and wrong, they won't ever realize it. Here's a fun quote from a "news blog" I found on Google,
When the handicapped start mewling about not being killed, my response
is this: can you express yourself? Then write a fucking living will and
go about your lives and leave this man and his wife alone. No one wants
to kill you, this isn't Nazi Germany. You keep talking about how
capable the disabled are, well tell people what kind of care you want
and when to end it. Don't be afraid to share. Don't glom on to this
tragedy like we have a gas chamber waiting for you at the sanitorium
or euthanasia is legal.

Alright, since the font seems to be changed by blogger after pasting this crap in here, I'm ending this post.
Also, word wrap seems to be broken. It is entirely possible that Steve Gilliard's insanity broke my blog.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

My Weekend, Part I

What I did this Weekend and why I haven’t had Time to Blog.

By Michael “Wunderkind” Pape

As you may have guessed from my many mentions of this the past week, I am borderline obsessed with the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament. I have to specify Men’s, because I don’t want you to be confused and think that I also like the Women’s Tournament, which I don’t. Nobody does. Ok, that’s not true, but let me put it to you this way: like the rest of male sports-loving America, I view women’s basketball as a totally different sport from men’s due to the relative lack of athleticism and ability on display by the women. Major women’s college basketball looks a lot like NAIA Div. II Men’s basketball to us. Note how high the ratings are for NAIA Div. II. They don’t exist.

(side rant: Why are ESPN,, etc., all trying to sell us on the fact that Pat Summit of Tennesee is the “greatest college basketball coach of all time”? They’re two different levels of sport. I’m sure she’s just as talented a coach as Kryzewski and Dick Bennett – but it’s like comparing apples and smaller, better looking apples that can’t dunk. She belongs in a different discussion entirely.)

Having sufficiently alienated my female audience (not really, since the only female I can say for sure reads this blog is my wife, and she’s way less patient with women’s b-ball than even I am), I will now address the topic at hand – why have I not updated this blog for real since early last week. You see, my obsession with the tournament led me to do something that I virtually never do: fricking relax*. I just sat in front of the TV and watched games. Sure, Jill and I went to breastaurants and watched games (and other things) there too, but the point is, I wasn’t doing anything productive and I didn’t care. I wasn’t thinking about: either job and how insane the bosses are; blogging some entertaining crap; Terry Schaivo (and I still can’t bring myself to really get emotionally involved in this issue, for reasons I may or may not get into); making the most of my time; shoehorning loved ones into the remaining time we had free; starting a new business involving computers; book distribution methods. I was just thinking about the next play, and maybe what I wanted to eat next. It was great.

The preceding paragraph may seem a little narcissistic, but I’m telling this to you, to help you. You know the saying, “You just need to chill”? Well, turns out it’s true. Our chilly friends are on to something. There is no substitute for having nothing to do. It’s like in Office Space, when the question is asked, “What would you do if you had a million dollars?” Peter, the main character, answers “nothing”, which reveals him to be a type of person much reviled in the business world today: one whose heart is ultimately committed to the idea that he or she is working not for the company but to be free of the company. Part of the reason that movie is so funny is it exposes the truth that so many people (probably the majority of people) feel trapped by their jobs and lifestyles. I am, totally. Let me take a second to explain this to you.

My wife and I have a certain quality of life we lead right now. With me working two jobs and my wife working one job, at least when we have money troubles they are usually caused by us trying to pay down our debt, and not because we just have no money. We live pretty well, actually, in a nice apartment in an ok area of town. We have expenses, though, and they add up. Cable TV, cell phones, a water cooler, washer/dryer rental, DSL internet, Sunday Brunches with Cheese Eggs, Starbucks, soda, and other unmentionables are things that we don’t need, but we somehow can’t live without. The thing is, if we gave all that up, it seems to me that life would almost be too annoying to take, and it wouldn’t really make that much of a dent in our relative monthly bills anyway. So we stay in this luxurious life and alternately feel powerfully blessed and powerfully trapped.

The real problem is our debt, which makes us the same as everybody else. With all the good jobs in other countries now, it makes it hard to just work one job and pay the debt down. Now, we got ourselves into this mess for the most part (although credit card companies/consumer culture share some of the blame as well – just don’t suggest that to them, because they will totally freak out), but it doesn’t change the fact that we are paying huge amounts of interest to these scum with no end in sight. If I would say, quit Papa John’s, these companies would have even more of a grip on us than we do now. My wife wouldn’t allow it, and I couldn’t do it. So I continue working for these lunatics, having very little time to look for any better jobs. How is this good? I’m wasting my life here to pay down my debt, little by little. It’s depressing.

Also depressing is the fact that everyone around me seems to want to scam me in some way to get money from me for doing as little as possible. You may call that economics, I call it declaring war on your fellow citizens. Companies of all shapes and sizes are hiring salesmen right now to separate me from as much of my hard-earned money as possible. I hate salesmen, which I why when I had to opportunity to sell even something as ultimately helpful as insurance and financial packages I turned it down. Even government agencies are trying to get my money to use on whatever crap they choose, as the City of Richardson proved when it charged me $170 for going over the speed limit in a tunnel with no cars around me and no intersections within a quarter mile in either direction. It’s just evil.

And don’t get me started on identity theft...the FBI is wasting valuable resources on finding out who is providing copyrighted songs to people on peer-to-peer networks (songs that the downloaders either will purchase in the future or would not have purchased anyway), meanwhile thousands (millions?) of people are having their lives ruined by scam scum. Ok, I got started on this subject, I’m sorry. Moving on…

So this weekend I realized that once a week I need to take a day to do nothing, especially since I don’t have kids to muck that whole plan up. Is it selfish? Maybe. Is it going to create friction with people? Probably. Is it necessary? Only in the same sense that DSL internet is necessary. If I’m going to be trapped in this life and these jobs, I might as well enjoy them at least once a week.

*This seems like a good place to mention the fact that my only other annual time of real relaxation besides the NCAA Tournament is my video-game-intensive trip to St. Louis. Yeah, work prevented me from attending that last year for scummy reasons (that if I think about them now I will scream), so I had been would very tightly for a very long time. Perhaps that’s why this year’s Tournament weekend seemed so refreshing.

Next: Part II – The NCAA Tournament Games and You